Amazon Go the store without store owners

Hands up who never made a purchase on Amazon!!
No hand up? Everybody is looking away?
Calm down, we expected this. Every now and then all of us Internet users immerse ourselves into the great virtual stores looking for something that cannot be found, trendy or just intriguing. Even only to check the price, color, characteristics or the size.
It is only a small step from the searching to the purchasing, only a few clicks.
The Amazon package has become the symbol of Internet purchases, of something that attracts our interest and after a short waiting it reaches us. The virtual that becomes concrete, right at home.
When we talk about Amazon we talk about concreteness and much more. We get that from the statistics. The annual income, in little more than a decade, rose from 6.92 billion in 2004 to almost 136 billion dollars in 2016. The web shopping doesn’t know consumption crisis, on the contrary, with its endless range of products, often at a lower cost, represents an opportunity.

Longer we use the web, easier seems to be the online purchase; part of our lives.
Shopping online is not the only end point of this process of modernization.

The first Amazon store fully automated in Seattle, Amazon Go, is tracking a further new direction.

You must have activated the corresponding App on your own smartphone, then you enter the new store, you take what you want and exit. No registers, no line, no human touch. An automatic system is following you step by step tracking your operations, what you touch and what you take;  autonomy on movements, swiftness in purchasing, impersonality.

With Amazon Go there is not the Internet with its online stores to look like the real shops, quite the contrary. There is the real shop imitating and replicating the impersonal dynamics of the web. 

The online buying on smartphone application with login and password is instant, direct, anonymous, free of contradictions and human touch.

The first real shop Amazon Go, certainly the first of many, has something of virtual.  There is a “click” materializing.

It’s as if Facebook opened a restaurant where to socialize, obviously not in person but only through displays (maybe this is something that has been already done!).

It is also true that inside the shop there are salesmen, ready to answer to all the customer’s questions and necessities. Some tradition in a high-tech shop doesn’t hurt.

Amazon Go is the end point of a long process that transformed the commercial transaction, where the purchasing is aseptic and not to be shared with anyone.

amazon_go_shop

Using technologies in order to follow every customer’s movement with the aim of making him autonomous and free to purchase, has its nemesis in the trial, and we underline trial, the same that Amazon has conducted on its own employees with an electronic bracelet unable to track the activities and working rhythm.

We don’t want to fall in trivial speculations, but is rather evident that in both cases:

  • Web, communication and data are replacing partly the people (salesmen, cashiers and supervisors) and accelerate the action of purchasing or supervision.
  • Efficiency, immediacy and productivity are taking the center stage, relegating behind the stage the observation, the personal contact, the empathy and emotion.
  • The great freedom of movement offered by the shop technologies finds, through the same technologies, its oxymoron in the production chain, where every inappropriate movement may be evaluated.

Both dynamics are directed on the object and not on the person avoiding distractions.

As mentioned before, this is an attempt at bringing Internet into the real world by automating part of our lives. 

WorldTwoDotZero

 

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Substitutephone: the useful smartphone that does nothing

Internet is a wide and complex universe, hard to describe in a simple way or in a few lines.   In this article we will try to explain it better by using a paradox.

Mr. Klemens Schillinger had a brilliant idea: he invented the smartphone that does nothing.

The “Substitutephone” has the same size and shape of a smartphone, but it does not have a display or provide any kind of service. It is only an empty box.
It is a replacement, useful for those who suffer from Internet addiction.
The cyberuser who can’t get along without the smartphone, can manage the uncontrollable urge of going online by using a substitute, or better, holding a “Substitutephone”.
It’s about a familiar object, analogous to the original one, enriched by tactile elements such as spheres which permit to replicate some movements when touching the screen.
We don’t know if the “Substitutephone” will be on the market or if it will rest only a challenge. What we are certain of is that this is much more than a design exercise. It is the antithesis which demonstrates the thesis; a paradox, an oxymoron which highlights how Internet is changing our lives, our daily routine.
This smartphone, the tool that allows us to communicate almost with everybody and have access to all the contents online, is replaced by a tool practically alike, except one detail: instead of letting us doing everything (or almost) it enables us to do anything.
This nothing which opens another paradox! This useless tool gives us back our space and our time in the real world. This nothing allows us once again to do everything.

It is the apotheosis of the contraiction.
It is the opposite gaining a foothold in order to contrast a strong dependence.
We are talking about nomophobia.

It is “FOMO”, the fear of missing out.
It is a phenomenon that involves millions of people.

substitute phone

Internet, available to all, offers innumerable opportunities, but at the same time distracts us from the real world of which it is the antagonist, the alternative.

There is a further paradox to underline: be unable to disconnect us from Internet, makes the virtual world indispensable, equal with the real world. We are compulsorily present in two adjacent and parallel universes.

The quickness and the instantaneousness which characterizes Internet brings us, more and more frequent, to be online; always up to date.
Which one is the most recent post or tweet or trend or selfie?

What does the future hold for us? We’ll be always online connected? Most likely…

What do we suggest? Use Internet without prejudices but sometimes turn your smartphone off, do it often and start looking around.
And if you can’t do it then get yourself a useful “Substitutephone”.

WorldTwoDotZero

Facebook and Mr.Truman

In the 1998 Jim Carrey plays the role of Truman Burbank in “The Truman show”, an extraordinary interpretation in an apparently simple film. Mr. Truman realizes to be the protagonist of a show seen by million of people. His life is in the window, it is a complex composition of fact and fiction, of real and no real, where nothing is private and personal, but of public interest.

“The Truman show” confirms everyman’s wish to be in plain view, to become a protagonist; a wish taken to extremes and made public. The film inaugurates a new television season characterized by a large number of reality and talent shows that present, not always in a realistic way, people, emotions and small talents found among the common people.

truman_internet

Thousands of people get patiently in line for castings only to have the opportunity to participate, even for few seconds, to a reality or a talent show; a role reversal where some of the viewers become protagonists for the purpose of getting popular, loved by the other viewers tired of seeing “the usual” show personalities to reply similar clichés.

A game of roles with rapid changes, between anti-personalities and audience

Then, actually “in the meantime”, Internet has established itself and everybody turned instantly into Mr. Truman, each of us able to share immediately personal thoughts and daily banalities; an exhibition itinerary posted on social which, day after day, testifies openly our life.

But there is a great great difference! Truman Burbank was forced to be in the window, we cyberusers, voluntarily show ourselves through “the social”

At the heart of this exhibition process of our selves we find Facebook, the social network, the window par excellence.

Just a few days ago Mark Zuckerberg has announced an extraordinary goal reached by Facebook: two billion of users connected at least once a month.

                                                        Two billion of Mr. Truman

The more and more frequent use of multimedia material such as photos, audios, videos, makes the “social” exhibition itinerary more and more immediate. The time of spreading is more and more rapid. Our ID on the ID card, intact for years, doesn’t represent us anymore. It is replaced by the photo of our Facebook profile, a photo we frequently change like our look and mood.

We seek popularity, confrontation, chitchat, consent. We try to assert our uniqueness via web, well aware of being only one among billion of users connected online, no longer mere spectators, not entirely true protagonists. 

The central role of Facebook is confirmed by other statistics:

  • A billion and 280 million of users in the world are daily connected on Facebook (source Facebook 2017).
  • In Europe over 307 million of people use Facebook (Source: Search Engine Journal).
  • A billion and 740 million of people are daily connected on Facebook through mobile phone (source Facebook 2017).
  • The annual growth trends of the users connected via mobile phone is of +21% comparing to 2016 (source Facebook 2017).
  • Every day 300 millions of photos are posted on Facebook (source Gizmodo).
  • Every second 5 new profiles are created on Facebook (source ALLFacebook 2012).

                                         We are Mr. Truman in a world of Mr. Truman:  

Heralds in a world invaded by advertisements,

Replicants in a world of replies,

Supporting actors consciously connected,

Two billion of Mr. Truman in a World 2.0.

WorldTwoDotZero

Analyzing Google

Let’s analise Google, the “center” of the web.

Next month, precisely on 15th September 2017, will be the 20th anniversary of Google’s dominion. It’s been twenty years since two students of the University of Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have completed the first step in the implementation of Google. Twenty years that brought all of us online. Years in which we have learned to entrust our curiosities and our search needs to a specific tool, based on a single field and specific algorithms. social-google

Analysing the course done by Google, we identify,  in these two decades, three distinct stages:

Stage 1: The idea 

In a few years our nephews will read on the history books about Page and Brin and their idea of building “something” in order to instantly collect the network’s informative flow, something like a “shopping list”.

The legend narrates about their wandering from one company to another and their meeting with smart-alecky and short-sighted executives who did nothing but mocking ideas and perspectives.

What remains today of this first stage is their visionary idea, definitely original.

light-bulbs-1125016_640

Google, the search engine, is a tool that feeds itself from the (online) product of human kind. It connects information and people. It is the automaton, the scribe who observes the history and takes notes while everything happens.

All of it inside a model of fruition based on a white page, without invasive advertising and without useless waiting time.

Google doesn’t invade our personal or visual space, on the contrary it suggests us what to do.

 Stage 2: The expansion 

In the early years of its existence, Google on par with a child, keeps growing and learning very fast, gaining billion of web pages.  It analyses them and improves its own algorithms of ranking. The impression during this stage of technological revival is that of a system able to support our knowledge. Computers placed all over the world able to store information, to rapidly acquire, index and draft lists of contents.

At the same time it provides us a service of personal electronic mail, always available, endowed with a large space for storing and without advertising intervals: Gmail.

This stage of acquisition and data supply, through a single search field, has made a crucial contribution to the evolution of Internet. It has become easy, very easy, looking for and being searched.

Stage 3: The regression. The new goals are missed 

The following third stage has started with amazing advertisings, the creation of a universal translator able to bring together people of different origin, glasses able to maximize our reality with additional information, modulated and personalised smartphones, self-driving cars.

It is the beginning of a new era thanks to Google? Absolutely not! At least for now…

To this day Google translator, Google Glasses, project ARA, Google car, attest a lack of growth stage. Probably these research projects were aiming to high with too ingenious elaborations to be carried out by the computers in use till now.

Not even the social network “Google+” has reached the pre-fixed popularity and use, compared to those of Facebook, just to be clear.

These science fiction visions, in the later decade of the 21st century, failed to materialize. There was no further improvement, in either possible direction. Today’s Internet is not so dissimilar than the one of five or ten years ago.

And what about Google’s search engine? 

Neither this did have the evolution we had hoped for. A few years ago on the network were rumors regarding a semantic web, web 3.0, able to offer correlated contents, suggestions, information and intelligent support. None of this happened up till now, at least as far as Google is concerned.

Google’s list result proposes, in the central part, a greater number of advertisements comparing to some years ago. It promotes geo-located contents and popular in certain cases at the expense of the original and cultural contents. It applies “automatic” logical assessment of the contents.

The amount of information available online grown out of all proportion, certainly doesn’t help. The search engine in response to each attempt offers millions and millions of results.

In fact, a completely useless list except the first or the second page, for ten or twenty results characterized by a short description.

The search engine has not become more intelligent or more accurate if not for some trivial aspects of less importance.  

It follows predefined schemes assigning scores based on rules that for the most part have been presumed by computers scientist and copywriters replicating or bypassing them attentively. This leads to a high competition between right information and promotional information aimed at the sale, or worse surrogate information, false and showy.

The network users didn’t become more intelligent.  

Probably they are faster, more connected, but in front of a result list they tend to rely on what is proposed by Google and think less. This paradoxically doesn’t improve the knowledge on the contrary it reduces it to popular elements, already chosen by others; pages and texts that follow syntax and semantic rules appreciated by the algorithms. Many data, a lot of opportunities but only one list of ten results from which the cyberuser more and more passive may choose.

Criticising Google

Multimedia texts and contents shared online are centrifuged and lyophilized up to their essence. Billion of ideas, words, images and videos become a short list with minimal descriptions.  All the information outcome of all our searches is contained inside a “small postage stamp” on which all of us want to leave the signature. The first page of Google’s search result list, the page on which today everyone wants and has to be.

Online information grows and evolves. The cyberusers are faster and faster getting more and more compulsive. Google is becoming the absolute judge of this virtual universe.

For this, for its central role which has assumed in our virtual society Google can and must do better. Its algorithms must become more sensitive and less automatic; more careful in promoting useful contents to the community; more explanatory on the result lists in order to provide to the most receptive users a greater number of information; more careful in analysing the users behavior not predominantly for commercial purposes. It has to be able to understand the user requests and raise his level of knowledge and self-awareness.

It is a very difficult task, almost impossible, but if there is anyone who can do it, that is Google.

WorldTwoDotZero

 

There’s no place like smartphone

Let’s talk about smartphone, innovation, society and, of course, Internet.

To do this, we use the recent study published by Deloitte entitled “Mobile consumer survey 2016 UK”, research available online, which we recommend you, characterized by statistics with nice infographic and easy to interpret.

The subtitle, highfalutin, has captured our attention and encouraged the drafting of this article. “There’s no place like phone” represents a funny way to misquote the ancient motto “There’s no place like home”.

There is more behind this pun, because in a few years the smartphone has become, in UK as in Italy, a reference in the lives of many of us. It is an indispensable object, personal, always on hand, therefore appropriate to compare it to our home, a private place, intimate, where we feel so at ease.

Nine years after the first diffusion of this new generation of mobile devices, Deloitte, through this study, draws up an interesting analysis.

This analysis has shown the great impact on the social, personal and working environment caused by “smart” devices.

Let’s analyse the main points that synthesize the search.

The “Key findings”:

Almost half of 18-24 years olds check their phone in the middle of the night

The young Millennials, and even worse the young generation Y, are always connected. Even at nighttime!
The graph (figure 4) shows that the 50% of the Millennials (between 18 and 24) accesses their smartphone at least once during the night. The data for the other age groups is equally surprising:

  • a 30-year-old in two accesses Internet during the night (25-34 48%)
  • a 40-year-old in three (35-44 37%)
  • a 50-year-old in four (45-54 27%)
  • a 60-year-old in five (55-64 20%),

do the same.
The over 65 are not excluded with the 14% of the approached ones.

Deloitte_mobile_consumer_2016

Giving a quick look, we noticed the reverse trend between age and (nighttime) dependence; in any case a significant trend for the elderly age groups as well.
We are always connected. And we will be more and more, given the indices of the age groups.
Internet is in all these numbers; these compulsive, day and night tendencies.

It is useless to enumerate what benefits bring a proper sleep to our health and in general to our life. Are we developing a “FOMO” (Fear of Missing OUT) mass syndrome? More than likely!
The detail  proves it: 11% of the users wakes up in the middle of the night to check up the instant messages such as WhatsApp, 9% reads on Social Media, 8% reads their personal emails, 6% answers to the instant messages and so on…

We find restrictive saying that these people feel the necessity of “being often online”, they perceive the virtual world on a par with the real one. They are in both places. Even in the middle of the night! It is a continuum space and time between the “real world” and “web”.

27% of smartphones include a fingerprint reader, of which 76% are used

The smartphone is more and more a personal tool; the bond between tool and person is shown by the presence of interactive functionalities, which protect and reserves the access, like finger print recognition. Immediate service aimed to guarantee greater safety and fast usage. New functionalities, closer to our senses, by touch, faster, more “smart” and less “phone”, will become more and more established in the future. There can be no doubt!

Connected home devices still haven’t taken off, with just 2% of adults owning smart lights and smart appliances

The use of Internet by home electronic devices didn’t spread as what one thought.
Household appliances at remote control, video cameras controlled by an APP, smarthome technology, wireless devices and Bluetooth find interest in a small percentage of cyberusers.
The reason is extremely simple, the added value in terms of remote control and automation is, till now, very limited. If there is no clear advantage, the technology which sustains the innovation, struggles to succeed.

As of mid-2016, almost half of UK adults had access to at least one type of connected entertainment product

It is a completely inverse tendency compared to the previous case. In 2016 has increased the number of devices as well as the access quantities to the entertainment services through smart TV, games and videostreaming.
The cyberuser is also cyberviewer or cyberplayer. He chooses on demand and via streaming what to enjoy.
Well-informed he downloads, purchases and visualizes online.

4G adoption has more than doubled in the last year, from 25% to 54%

The net is getting faster every day; this powers the use of it, stimulating the interaction and long-distance socialization and increasing the sharing and the use of multimedia material, images and video.

31% of smartphone users make no traditional voice calls in a given week. This contrasts with a quarter in 2015, and just 4% in 2012

Instant messenger, chat, social network have changed rapidly the way of communication.
The pie chart “A day in the life of a smartphone” on page 36 explains how the smartphone follows us every moment of our day.

a_day_life_smartphone
However the smartphone is much more than a phone after all; it is a computer that provides new ways of communication and information; the users, the network users, are more and more aware.
The new ways of communication, also visual, are competing with the traditional operators offer.  They allow saving and communicating in a much more exhaustive way, visual, faster and at long-distance.

The majority of survey participants have downloaded 20 or fewer apps

The APPs have changed our way of perceiving technology by simplifying it, approaching informatics to the common user.
But this doesn’t mean that every APP is automatically a successful product; and even less, that we have to download hundreds of software applications on our device.
The user is learning to select effectively the useful APPs, necessary for his daily purposes.
The user is learning to manage his smartphone.

By mid-2016, almost two-thirds of UK adults had access to a tablet, but penetration growth had slowed down

The tablets have reached the top of their popularity.  Tools created not too long ago, are already becoming extinct.

The new generation of laptops, both computer and tablet, ultra-light, is replacing them.
Furthermore the smartphone displays are larger and larger, clearly legible. A 5/6-inch smartphone represents a good alternative to a tablet.
The tablets have had a fundamental role being  the first “touch” tools that brought web closer to citizen; they have set in motion a global digital reading process.
But technology runs very fast, inexorable; tools till yesterday innovative, gave space to new tools even more innovative.

How would we end our analysis? 

First of all thanking Deloitte for the great research from which we have taken inspiration, then with our “usual” conclusions. It is obvious, given the statistics, that the binomial person-smartphone is changing our social fabric, minor and major aspects of our life; a complex phenomenon, characterized by different tendencies and patterns of use. A fast-growing phenomenon for a long time to come, of that we are sure…in a World more and more “2.0”.

Worldtwodotzero

The PDF “Mobile consumer survey 2016 UK” of Deloitte is available at the following address: http://www.deloitte.co.uk/mobileuk/assets/pdf/Deloitte-Mobile-Consumer-2016-There-is-no-place-like-phone.pdf