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Enhancing the Consumer Experience

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iBeacon Technology at SWSX (Austin, TX)

According to the Pew Research report on Mobile Technology in January 2014, 90% of Americans own a cell phone and 58% of Americans own a smartphone. This equates to be about 285.3 million people who own a cellphone, and 138.6 million people own a smartphone. This number of smartphone will continue to grow in the future as younger generations will be growing up with this technology. Who actually remembers having a brick phone?

As this technology industry sector becomes a big player in the future, Apple is working on bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar stores and online customers. As we all know now, when we want to buy something from a particular store, we do some research and comparison online first. Then, we would have to remember the specific item and drive to the store to purchase it (and sometimes have to ask the sales associate, if there are additional questions). That is old-fashion, outdated, or what your “hip grandma” does. Because my grandma doesn’t even know much about computers. 

Apple has introduced this new technology called iBeacons. These devices are powered by Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology to “talk” to nearby mobile devices (i.e, your smartphone or tablet). iBeacons are able to pinpoint your location, like if you are inside of Macy’s department store and show you items that are on sale or special deals that are relevant to you. When they have located you, the app would send you a push notification with an invitation for you to opt-in to the service. After you ave agreed, there will be special promotions and coupons sent to you.

Additionally, these iBeacons will soon eliminate your contact with a sales associate. Questions will be answered by the app since there will be customer reviews and recommended product for you. This program is also capable for you to check out and make purchases on your own. What would this mean for future sales associates…? Technology is going to replace these jobs.

With this iBeacon technology, Apple is hoping to create a seamless customer experience for future consumers. We are very close to this type of technology and bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping is quite important going into the future. Their recent iOS 7.1 update includes updated iBeacon technology which are capable of detecting the beacons even when an app is not open and not running in the background. Hmm, I am sniffing a potential privacy issue here…

There is a goldmine of data in everyone’s smartphone, so why are advertisers going to let that go to waste? That’s my thought.

Mobile Privacy: a Right or a Privilege?

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Looks like there’s a market for privacy phones already.

It’s been less than a year that Mr. Snowden became a household name. The government slamming him for being a traitor, and some claiming him to be a hero. So what does your smartphone reveal about you anyways? What can the NSA track and what can you do about it?

Blackphone vs. FreedomPop’s Privacy Phone 

Tech startups are popping up left and right. Privacy is becoming a big concern now that the world is moving into a digital age. Let’s take a look at the two smartphones that are suppose to “add an additional layer of privacy protection and Internet security from third parties”.

Blackphone 

Pros
– Custom-designed handset by Geeksphone
– Runs on a modified version of Android with added security (called PrivatOS)
– Features a 2-GHz quad core processor with 2 GB of RAM, 4.7 in HD display and supports LTE / Wi-fi
– Unlocked, up to user to choose which cellular carrier
– Pre-loaded with Silent Circle’s own privacy apps — including Silent Phone and Silent Text, both VoIP based
– Disconnect Search and Secure Wireless doesn’t track personal information
– Has a Security center that allows users to pick and choose what each installed app can do — an “a la carte” menu
– Comes with remote-wipe and anti-theft built into the phone’s iOS

Cons
– Costs $629 up front before a carrier pay-as-you-go plan
– Includes subscription fees to a number of highly reputable and secure services, including 2 years of Silent Circle
– Does not have a pre-loaded anti-virus software
– Users can only call or text people with either Silent Call or Silent text apps – this is why they are pushing the 3 one-year subscription app deal to users

Privacy Phone 

Pros 
– Doesn’t use regular cellular voice and text channels
– Done via VoIP (voice over IP) on the phone’s Wi-Fi or 3G connection
– Uses the commercial virtual private network (VPN) client private Wi-Fi network to encrypt and anonymize all traffic
– VPN lets the web bowser to “bypass any website restrictions and connect to any site online” – can get through location-specific restriction, but not paywalls
– Uses the Kaspersky Internet Security for Android anti-virus app to keep the phone safe from malware
– Rely on Kaspersky Internet Security which can remotely lock, locate and wipe a missing phone
– Cost only $189 up front (which includes 3 months of unlimited voice and texting and 500MB of data) – this costs $440 less than Blackphone

Cons
– Operates on a refurbished Samsung Galaxy S II running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (outdated model)
– Specs include: small 4.3 inch screen, 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU and 3G only

Both creators included a disclaimer that their privacy phones are not 100% secure, but then again nothing in this age is. These phones only add an extra layer of protection to your mobile activity. If we put these 2 prototype models side by side, it looks like the Blackphone is more developed in security than the FreedomPop’s Privacy Phone – but we won’t know until these two smartphones come into the market this year.