FWM Digital Bytes

FWM Bytes Digital NewsThis week, we discuss why AI assistant Alfred could be ruffling feathers and give a brief run down of the digital crackers and humbugs of 2011. All with a splash of high quality taxidermy…

Google Buy Alfred –Every ‘Pennyworth’?

Google has announced that it has acquired a company called Clever Sense and its digital personal assistant app, Alfred.  Founded in 2008, Clever Sense spent two years creating a platform that gave users tailored information based on their location, the time and the context of their activity. Speculated by some to be named after Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, at Alfred’s foundation is the Extraction Engine, which trawls through large amounts of data using natural language processing, statistical machine learning, and data mining algorithms. Layered on top of this is the context of the user and their preferences, which the app remembers and learns from over time; Clever Sense refers to this element as the ‘Serendipity Engine’. Social interactions, such as check-ins and likes further assist Alfred in returning a personalized result, from which shops to go to and which restaurants to eat at. The parallels between Google Search and Clever Senses’ technology can be seen on the emphasis of personalized, local search results – returning the result most relevant to the user based on a wide variety of contextual parameters.

As it stands at the moment, Alfred acts as a great resource for local information tailored to users’ preferences and location. There has been some comparison to the iPhone 4S app Siri. However, Alfred and Siri differ quite markedly, including in the way that it is accessed; Mashable has reported that the app does not have voice-command capabilities. Android already has voice-recognition software, so one possibility is that Google may apply this personalized search algorithm to its existing Android software to eventually produce a digital personal assistant that could challenge Siri (just as Siri’s capability has been seen by some as a challenge to Google mobile search). But with Google focusing on personalizing search with social and local results, its principal motive behind acquiring Clever Sense could be its interest in the company’s innovative algorithms.

Twitter Rolls Out Brand Pages

As well as undergoing a major face lift, Twitter has finally introduced Facebook-style brand pages. Launch partners include American Express, Coca-Cola and Disney, with other major brands likely to jump on board in the near future. Advertising Age has reported that the brand pages will allow advertisers much more scope for customisation, which includes the ability to make logos and taglines more prominent. Meanwhile, Twitter’s Advertising Blog has said that brands can promote a tweet to the top of the page’s timeline, giving marketers the opportunity to highlight particular content.

Digital Crackers and Humbugs of 2011

So much that’s happened in the digital world in 2011, but here’s a brief summary of some more noticeable points, good and bad:

Steve Jobs – The world tweeted on their iPhones that they were #iSad as the world mourned the death of one of the most charismatic technological innovators of the 21st century, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Whether you loved him, admired him, loathed him, or felt indifferent towards him, he has undeniably made a huge impact on the everyday lives of millions of people.
Rise of M-commerce – With the proliferation of smart phones continuing on its astronomical rise, mobile commerce has been a major focus this year, particularly for retailers. The release of the much anticipated iPhone 4S also caused a stir, in particular its AI personal assistant Siri. And some are speculating that if Siri is used as a search engine of choice, that it could be a major challenge to Google.
SSL Search – The SEO world has been responding with some passion over Google’s decision to encrpyt search results of users who are logged into Google, leaving a significant amount of keyword data falling into the black hole of (not provided). Reportedly done to protect the privacy of the individual, SEOs argue that it will make it more difficult to enhance user experiences, as important data about how users find and interact with your site will be hidden.
Spotify – Although some of us lamented the change in Spotify’s free services in a bid for it to raise cash, 2011 has undeniably been an amazing year for the Swedish-based company. Launching in the US and announcing its app on Facebook, it has gone from strength to strength.
Google + launch – With over 40million sign ups in 3 months, it’s safe to say that Google Plus has been a success, but certainly an odd one. The future of Google Plus will most likely be decided in the next 12-18 months, but opinions are heavily divided as to whether it can ever take on Facebook as a serious challenger.
Social Media – The role of social media in society has been under heavy scrutiny this year, in particular with social media being labelled as a catalyst for the UK summer riots. And ‘The Protester‘ has been named The Times Person of the Year for 2011. There’s is little left that socail media isn’t involved with on some level – the increase in use of social with TV viewing, for example, has lead to a rash of new and innovative social media players, to unite your Twitter, Facebook and TV experience into one. And with Google TV on the horizon, exciting times for social and television are ahead.

Did That Rhino Just Order a Drink?

And finally… as it’s the penultimate week before Xmas, we thought we’d share Econsultancy’s blog post featuring the 10 funniest ads of 2011. Our favourite is definitely Chuck Testa, for the most life-like dead animals around. Period. Which one’s yours?