July 21, 2016
I love Amazon almost as much as I love Google. I would have a tough time deciding which of these services warrants more of my affection, trust, and respect. I said to myself “Bummer” when I read “Amazon’s Dominance Is Bad for Your Business.” I recently ordered a paperback from Amazon and noticed that the 150 page monograph was a $1,000, not $10. Anyone could have clicked the incorrect link between the correctly priced volume and the used discounted books. Amazon respected my klutziness, and I think I got my money back after I sent the $1000 paperback back to the outstanding merchant. This firm obviously valued its paperback more highly than the half dozen vendors selling the same paperback for $10. What more could one want? (One of my goslings asked me, “Why does Amazon list certain products at vastly inflated prices? I don’t know. I love Amazon. Love is blind.)
The write up includes a quote allegedly generated by the world’s smartest person, Jeff Bezos; to wit:
“…Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”
I like that. Google’s meat eating dinosaur is, after all, dead unless the team solving death brings T Rex back to life. A cheetah is a here and now creature able to snag small, sickly, or inept prey with a batting average a major league player would covet.
The write up also states:
Amazon has done a very good job with search and discovery on mobile,” BloomReach marketing chief Joelle Kaufman said. “They are capturing the lion’s share of mobile revenue. Consumers said they start on a cellphone and they use it as a research tool. But 81 percent want to buy on that laptop/desktop.”
Google, it seems, is an also ran in the shopping search sector. But what about Amazon’s competitors and merchants who do not want to sell their products via Amazon?
The answer is, according to the write up:
There are still a plethora of avenues to make sales through, and portals to gain consumer attention. Despite Amazon’s utter dominance in the U.S. e-retail market, you can still grow your business, and become highly successful along the way. Just remember the importance of content, social media, and a great attitude. If David had submitted to Goliath’s size before the battle had begun, he never would have realized his own strength and capabilities.
This sounds like Google Adwords, Snapchat, and YouTube videos to me? Those work really well for mom and pop merchants (at least for the small number remaining in the good, old USA), small businesses, and unfunded start ups.
Is what’s good for Amazon good for us or was it “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA”? When will Amazon address the shortcomings I find in Amazon search? Maybe never. If it is not broken, why try to fix it. That’s why suggested prices are irrelevant in the Amazon jungle.
Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2016
July 14, 2016
Amazon offers its clients cloud storage, software development help, and more services via their Amazon Service Works. The global retailer is also taking on electronics and cable TV with the Kindle and Amazon Fire TV, but now, according to Trusted Reviews, “Amazon Now Selling Own-Brand Computer Chips.” Amazon wants to diversify its offerings even more with its own brand of computer chips.
The Amazon brand computer chips are made by Annapurna Labs that the company purchased last year. Amazon recently announced these chips are now available to the open market and the ARM-based processors can be used in home gateways, WiFi routers, and networked attached storage devices. They are meant to be used as cheap alternatives for home smart devices and data centers, nothing that can compete on the scale of Qualcomm.
The purpose of a capitalistic society is to drive competition and Intel has the computer chip marker monopoly:
“However, it does mark a notable challenge to another major chip manufacturer. As Bloomberg points out, Intel currently has the data-centre infrastructure field pretty much to itself, with a whopping 99% share of the server chip market. Amazon’s entry to this one-sided market could start to change that, although it won’t initially be targeting the kind of high-end servers that represent Intel’s stronghold. Amazon appears to be attacking the low-power edges of the market, which could see it powering (or at least helping to power) that hottest of networks, the Internet of Things.”
Great, Amazon is still working on developing other products, but we want to know when they are going to deploy image search.
July 11, 2016
Twiggle sounds like the name for a character in a children’s show. Rather Twiggle is the name of an Israeli startup. It is working on the algorithms and other operating factors to power ecommerce search, using machine learning techniques, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing. Venture Beat shares an insightful story about how Twiggle is not going to compete with Google, but rather Amazon’s A9: “Twiggle Raises $12.5 Million To Challenge A9 Ecommerce Search Engine.”
The story explains that:
“Rather than going up against well-established search giants like Google, Twiggle is working more along the lines of A9, a search and ad-tech subsidiary created by Amazon more than a decade ago. While A9 is what Amazon itself uses to power search across its myriad properties, the technology has also been opened to third-party online retailers. And it’s this territory Twiggle is now looking to encroach on.”
Twiggle has not released its technology, but interested users can request early access and it is already being incorporated by some big players in the eCommerce game (or so we’re told).
Twiggle functions similar to A9 with the ultimate goal of converting potential customers into paying customers. Twiggle uses keywords to generate results based on keywords and it might transition into a visual search where users submit an image to find like items. Natural language processing will also take regular human conversation and turn it into results.
The series A round funding of $12.5 million was led by Naspers with other contributors. Yahoo Japan, State of Mind Ventures, and Sir Ronald Cohen. Twiggle says it is not copying A9 and has powerful search technology behind it, but are the rebranding the same product under a new title? When they deliver the goods, then the tests will tell.
June 17, 2016
Digital assistants are smarter than ever. I remember when PDAs were the wave of the future and meant to revolutionize lives, but they still relied on human input and did not have much in the ways of artificial intelligence. Now Cortana, Siri, and Alexa respond to vocal commands like an episode of Star Trek. Digital assistants are still limited in many ways, but according to Venture Beat Alexa might be changing how we interact with technology: “How Amazon’s Alexa Is Bringing Intelligent Assistance Into The Mainstream”.
Natural language processing teamed with artificial intelligence has made using digital assistants easier and more accepted. Predictive analytics specialist MindMeld commissioned a “user adoption survey” of voice-based intelligent assistants and the results show widespread adoption.
Amazon’s Echo teamed with the Alexa speech-enabled vocal device are not necessarily dominating the market, but Amazon is showing the potential for an intelligent system with added services like Uber, music-streaming, financial partners, and many more.
“Such routine and comfort will be here soon, as IA acceptance and use continue to accelerate. What started as a novelty and source of marketing differentiation from a smartphone manufacturer has become the most convenient user interface for the Internet of Things, as well as a plain-spoken yet empathetic controller of our digital existence.”
Amazon is on the right path as are other companies experimenting with the digital assistant. My biggest quip is that all of these digital assistants are limited and have a dollar sign attached to them greater than some people’s meal budgets. It is not worth investing in an intelligent assistant, unless needed. I say wait for better and cheaper technology that will be here soon.
June 16, 2016
Another Dark Web drug marketplace has gone offline, at least for now. Vice’s Motherboard published an article that reports on this incident and offers insight into its larger implications in their piece, Dark Web Market Disappears, Users Migrate in Panic, Circle of Life Continues. Nucleus market mostly sold illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. Now, the site is unresponsive and has made no announcements regarding downtime or a return. The article hypothesizes about why Nucleus is down,
“At the moment, it’s not totally clear why Nucleus’s website is unresponsive. It could be an exit scam—a scam where site administrators stop allowing users to withdraw their funds and then disappear with the stockpile of bitcoins. This is what happened with Evolution, one of the most successful marketplaces, in March 2015. Other examples include Sheep Marketplace, from 2013, and more recently BlackBank Market. Perhaps the site was hacked by a third party. Indeed, Nucleus claimed to be the targetof a financially motivated attack last year. Or maybe the administrators were arrested, or the site is just suffering some downtime.”
The Dark Web poses an interesting case study around the concept of a business lifecycle. As the article suggests, this graph reveals the brief, and staggered, lifetimes of dark web marketplaces. Users know they will be able to find their favorite vendors selling through other channels. It appears the show, and the sales, must go on.
Megan Feil, June 16, 2016
June 14, 2016
Countless “as-a-service” models exist online. A piece from SCMagazine, Dark web forums found offering Cerber ‘ransomware as a service’, reveals more information about one such service called ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), which we’ve heard about now for quite some time. Ransomware injects a virus onto a machine that encrypts the user’s files where they remain inaccessible until the victim pays for a key. Apparently, an Eastern European ransomware, Cerber, has been offering RaaS on Russian Dark Web forums. According to a cyber intelligence firm Sensecy, this ransomware was setup to include “blacklisted” countries so the malware does not execute on computers in certain locations. The article shares,
“Malwarebytes Labs senior security researcher Jerome Segura said the blacklisted geographies – most of which are Eastern European countries – provide “an indication of where the malware originated.” However, he said Malwarebytes Labs has not seen an indication that the ransomware is connected to the famed APT28 group, which is widely believed to be tied to the Russian government. The recent attacks demonstrate a proliferation of ransomware attacks targeting institutions in the U.S. and Western nations, as recent reports have warned. Last week, the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) released a study that predicted previously exploited vulnerabilities will soon be utilized to extract ransom.”
Another interesting bit of information to note from this piece is the going ransom is one bitcoin. Segura mentions the value ransomers ask for may be changing as he has seen some cases where the ransomer works to identify whether the user may be able to pay more. Regardless of the location of a RaaS provider, these technological feats are nothing new. The interesting piece is the supposedly untraceable ransom medium supplanting cash.
Megan Feil, June 14, 2016
June 7, 2016
I read “Alibaba, the Chinese and Global Powerhouse, Is Investing in Twiggle, a Stealthy Israeli Ecommerce Search Start Up.” I love the stealthy part. Twiggle cannot be too stealthy because Alibaba found out about the system.
I learned in the write up:
Twiggle was funded back in 2013, and its founders were formerly leaders at Google, namely Dr. Amir Konigsberg, previously one of the members of Google’s operations in the emerging markets and former managing director of MySupermarket.com, and Dr. Adi Avidor, a former engineering tech lead at Google. Combined, the two have authored more than 35 U.S. patents and bring a wealth of experience in digital innovation in the fields of search, artificial intelligence and ecommerce.
The system delivers search and discovery. Crunchbase points out that the company has ingested about $20 million since it opened its doors in 2014.
I assume that the heartbeats of EasyAsk and SLI Systems sped up when word of Alibaba’s search proclivities diffused. With this alleged tie up, I assume the heart rates of the principals at EasyAsk and SLI Systems, assorted open source firms, and probably the every ready IBM Watson have slowed.
Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2016
May 24, 2016
The article on Forbes titled eBay’s Next Move: Artificial Intelligence To Refine Product Searches predicts a strong future for eBay as the company moves further into machine learning. For roughly six years eBay has been working with Expertmaker, a Swedish AI and analytics company. Forbes believes that eBay may have recently purchased Expertmaker. The article explains the logic behind this logic,
“One of the key turnaround goals of eBay is to encourage sellers to define their products using structured data, making it easier for the marketplace to show relevant search results to buyers. The acquisition of Expertmaker should help the company in this initiative, given its expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.”
The acquisition of Expertmaker should allow for a more comprehensive integration of eBay’s “noisy data.” Expertmaker’s AI strategy is based in genetics research, and has made great strides in extracting concealed value from data. For eBay, a company with hundreds of millions of listings clogging up the platform, Expertmaker’s approach might be the ticket to achieving a more streamlined, categorized search. If we take anything away from this, it is that eBay search currently does not work very well. At any rate, they are taking steps to improve their platform.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 24, 2016
May 5, 2016
The article on MotherBoard titled Why the US Is Buying Up So Many UK Artificial Intelligence Companies surveys the rising tech community in the UK. There is some concern about the recent trend in UK AI and machine learning startups being acquired by US giants (HP and Autonomy, Google and DeepMind, Microsoft and Swiftkey, and Apple and VocalIQ.) It makes sense in terms of the necessary investments and platforms needed to support cutting-edge AI which are not available in the UK, yet. The article explains,
“And as AI increasingly becomes core to many tech products, experts become a limited resource. “All of the big US companies are working on the subject and then looking at opportunities everywhere—“…
Many of the snapped-up UK firms are the fruits of research at Britain’s top universities—add to the list above Evi Technologies (Amazon), Dark Blue Labs (Google), Vision Factory (also Google) that are either directly spun out of Cambridge, Oxford, or University College London…”
The results of this may be more positive for the UK tech industry than it appears at first glance. There are some companies, like DeepMind, that demand to stay in the UK, and there are other industry players who will return to the UK to launch their own ventures after spending years absorbing and contributing to the most current technologies and advancements.
Chelsea Kerwin, May 5, 2016
May 2, 2016
If you believe the Dark Web was destroyed when Silk Road went offline, think again! The Dark Web has roots like a surface weed, when one root remains there are dozens (or in this case millions) more to keep the weed growing. Tech Insider reports that OpenBazaar now occupies the space Silk Road vacated, “A Lawless And Shadowy New Corner Of The Internet Is About TO Go Online.”
OpenBazaar is described as a decentralized and uncensored online marketplace where people can sell anything without the fuzz breathing down their necks. Brian Hoffman and his crew had worked on it since 2014 when Amir Taaki thought it up. It works similar to eBay and Etsy as a peer-to-peer market, but instead of hard currency it uses bitcoin. Since it is decentralized, it will be near impossible to take offline, unlike Silk Road. Hoffman took over the project from Taaki and after $1 million from tech venture capital firms the testnet is live.
“There’s now a functioning version of OpenBazaar running on the “testnet.” This is a kind of open beta that anyone can download and run, but it uses “testnet bitcoin” — a “fake” version of the digital currency for running tests that doesn’t have any real value. It means the developer team can test out the software with a larger audience and iron out the bugs without any real risk.” If people lose their money it’s just a horrible idea,” Hoffman told Business Insider.”
A new user signs up for the OpenBazaar testnet every two minutes and Hoffman hopes to find all the bugs before the public launch. Hoffman once wanted to run the next generation digital black market, but now he is advertising it as a new Etsy. The lack of central authority means lower take rates or the fees sellers incur for selling on the site. Hoffman says it will be good competition for online marketplaces because it will force peer-to-peer services like eBay and Etsy find new ways to add value-added services instead of raising fees on customers.