TechWreck: Madonna’s “Ghosttown” Video Premiere On Meerkat

When it comes to trying out emerging media platforms, Madonna, or rather, her team, has been quite bullish. Back in February, Madonna debuted the music video for her single “Living for Love” on the Discover tab of Snapchat, making her the first mainstream artist to premiere a full video on Snapchat. Last month, she also teamed up with Grindr to promote her new album with fan competitions and sweepstakes on the app. So it seems only natural that her new music video for “Ghosttown” was scheduled to debut on one of the hottest platform right now—live-streaming app Meerkat.

Since Monday, Madonna’s Meerkat page counted down the hours and minutes until the feed went live. Yet, the video premiere never happened—at 10 a.m. PT this Tuesday, fans that tuned in on Meerkat were greeted with either a blank or 500 error page. Outrage ensued. Later, Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin denied any “scalability issues”, and a new stream went live for the video at 10 a.m. the next day.

Nevertheless, the incident does provide an important reminder for high-profile early adopters: new platforms might be popular and shiny, but they probably still have a few kinks to work out. While mobile live streaming offers exciting new possibilities, live broadcasts are inherently less forgiving towards technical glitches. This, however, shouldn’t stop brands and celebrities to stop experimenting with new services. After all, all media platforms have to start somewhere, and only early adopters get to share the newcomer buzz and enjoy the first-mover advantage.

TechWreck: Hackers Hijack Nanny Cams

Nanny cams can be a handy tool for parents monitoring their children; however, they do have their drawbacks if proper precautions aren’t taken. In recent cases, these devices have been hacked, allowing uninvited guests to see into the house and even speak: professional nanny Ashley Stanley was startled when a man began making comments like “Oh, that’s a beautiful baby” and “That’s a really poopy diaper” as she cared for one-year old, Samantha.

But how are these hackers gaining access to these IP cameras that are protected by WiFi passwords? Not only does WiFi have its own security settings, but the router does too. It is important that passwords that are tough to crack are set up for both of these devices in order to ensure security and privacy.

Popular wireless IP camera, Foscam has received a lot of backlash for these technical incidents as they sell 50,000 to 60,000 cameras each month. However, security and privacy issues aren’t limited to cameras. For the connected device industry to really take off, manufacturers will need to address consumer concerns about security, and educate users about taking proper precautions.






TechWreck: #TechnologyAndStuff In Connected Cars

Picture from @ChevyTrucks on Twitter

Every year Chevrolet gifts a new car to the MVP at the World Series. This year, however, an Internet meme was born out of an unexpected gaffe during the televised handover ceremony, as a nervous Chevy spokesman stumbled through his speech and described the new features of the 2015 Chevy Colorado as “class-winning and leading, um, you know, technology and stuff “.

While he did at least manage to point out the new truck comes with “WiFi powered by OnStar, sitting there on the screen”, the speech was unintentionally funny for all its awkwardness. Naturally, “#ChevyGuy,” “#TechnologyAndStuff” were among the top 10 national trending topics on Twitter within an hour. Besides the relatable nerves brought by public speaking, one crucial reason behind such instant virality is that the vaguely defined “technology and stuff” description struck a cord with US consumers, who are just as confused about the technological capabilities of connected cars as the Chevy Guy.

Unlike previous TechWrecks, however, Chevy quickly turned the situation around by embracing the “technology and stuff” line with a hashtag on Twitter and made it a campaign tagline, creating a very effective impromptu viral campaign. To avoid future mishap like this, though, automakers must do a better job at familiarizing the consumers with all the “stuff” connected cars have to offer. After all, no one wants to buy something they don’t understand.

For more in-depth analysis on the present and future of connected cars, stay tuned for our upcoming white paper.

TechWreck: Ten Credit Card Breaches of 2014 (So Far)

Given the well-publicized Target security breach last December, you’d think businesses would have been warned to take extra care when it comes to protecting consumers’ payment info. But alas, news about credit card breaches just keeps on coming. And here is a quick review of ten major breaches in the U.S. this year so far:

On Jan 10, upscale retailer Neiman Marcus announced that it started an investigation on a hacker break-in that had compromised an undisclosed large number of customer cards.

On Feb. 7, White Lodging, a company that maintain national hotel brands including Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton and Westin, issued a statement acknowledging a payment data breach at 14 hotels that exposed credit and debit card information on thousands of its guests.

On Mar. 2, National beauty products chain Sally Beauty became the latest victim of a breach targeting their payment systems in stores, with 15 stolen credit cards sharing a similarity of being used recently at various Sally Beauty locations.

On Mar. 28, Liquor store chain Spec’s announced that more than half a million customers at 34 stores owned by the company may have had critical financial information stolen in a sophisticated computer scam.

On Apr. 17, Michaels Stores, the largest arts and crafts chain in the States, acknowledged that a security breach, first reported back in January, had affected up to 3 million customer credit and debit card accounts.

On July 9, More than 10,000 customers of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa in Texas was notified that their payment cards had been compromised in a “malicious software attack”.

On July 18, financial institutions across the country reported that multiple locations of Goodwill Industries stores have been identified as a likely point of compromise for an unknown number of credit and debit cards.

On July 23, local restaurant group claims in Delaware claimed that an undisclosed number of Delaware restaurants have been affected by a credit card breach that compromised its point-of-sale software.

On July 31, Sandwich Chain Jimmy John’s reported that it started working authorities to investigate a security breach involving its customers’ credit card data. The scope of this breach has yet to be confirmed.

On Aug. 6, Chinese bistro chain P.F. Chang’s confirmed that 33 of its restaurants across the country revealed were affected by the credit card breach, after two months of investigation since the discovery back in June.

Tech Wreck: Do You Need A Hug?

Every now and then, some innovator in the tech scene will come up with an idea that makes everyone wonder if technology has gone too far. This week, it’s The Hug, the dumbest smart-thing we have seen this month.

Created by Finnish start-up Caktus Inc. and currently on Kickstarter, The Hug is a two-part connected device that helps users stay properly hydrated. It includes a sensor band that wraps around your water bottle to track your liquid consumption, and an accompanying iOS app that sends you notifications when your hydration levels are low.

Noble as their efforts are, the geniuses behind The Hug forgot two simple facts in their pursuit of the Water Bottle 2.0. First and foremost, water intake is such a basic physiological need that everyone can recognize thirst without constant external nudges. Even worse, The Hug is simply too impractical to use: normal people typically use different vessels as their locations change throughout the day. Even though The Hug claims to fit “most existing bottles”, it’d still be a major hassle to carry a sensor around every day, put it on every time you decide to drink, and wait for the app to sync up and recalibrate, all before you could just lift up that cup and hydrate your body.

The Hug is just one of the many well-intentioned ideas that got carried away in the tide of Internet of Things. The health-related “value” it supposedly offers is disproportional to the effort it requires, which ultimately renders this product useless. At the end of the day, we all need to calm down, and ask ourselves: do we really need The Hug, or do we just need a hug?

Update: Their Kickstart campaign has failed. Hope everyone there is getting a hug.

Off Target: Retailers’ Big Data Management Fails

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a modern consumer in possession of a retail membership card, must be tracked in collection of purchase data. Privacy and prejudice aside, however, people seems more than willing to offer up their personal information in exchange for some monetary rewards or membership benefits.

But what if your retailer figures out something personal through data tracking and starts doing something with that information without your consent? Starting with the Target pregnancy score scandal, in which a father found out about his teen daughter’s pregnancy through a baby product-heavy mailer, retailers as diverse as J.C. Penny and BestBuy and small tech start-ups like SceneTap have all been caught in the cross-fire of consumers’ indignation over privacy violation. Most recently, Target once again found itself in a comprising position with the media exposure on a widespread credit card breach affecting over 110 million Target shoppers. The incident alarmed a lot of previously unsuspecting customers and highlighted another landmine field of big data mismanagement—security concerns.

All these controversies have sparked several rounds of national debates on privacy and consumer rights. Still, the debates prove to be futile, as businesses continue to collect data from their customers without much protest. The conclusion here is that most people don’t really mind being tracked if they receive some value from it, and if their data remains secure. Retailers must behave responsibly with data and learn to manage it better if they want to remain in the good graces of consumers.

Why Today’s Smart Fridge Is Pretty Dumb

At this year’s CES, it seemed that everything will have a sensor from your dog to your toothbrush. Some of these smart devices provide utility while some…do not. At the top of the list is the Samsung Smart Fridge which could be an amazing innovation when connectivity actually enhances the core product- a unit which stores and refrigerates your food. What we’re actually left with is a refrigerator that can handle a number of functions from answering a call to listening to music, all of which is better suited for other devices.

Touted as perhaps one of the more innovative ways of bringing Internet into the home, it very quickly became apparent that the fridge was made more for the buzz-worthiness of IoT rather than any practical application. The premise is simple: utilize the Internet to give parents and families the best of the Internet on their fridge. And it does deliver on that promise in some ways; the app interface gives users access to Epicurious – which lets users choose recipes based on items in their fridge – and Evernote – which updates shopping lists in real time. But beyond that, the app interface falls flat. It purports to give users music, the news, the weather, and more, via apps like Pandora, AP, and Weatherbug, through what appears to be a familiar tablet interface. Ultimately, the design has resulted in Samsung trying to cram too much tech into too small a space, none of which enhances the basic function of a fridge. Why would someone with the money to buy and install a smart fridge not just play music over speakers, or check the weather on their computer or phone? 

What’s really missing are things like sensor technology to detect the contents of your fridge or when something smells off as well as remote access to see what you have available. Remember when you’re at a store and forgot if you already had milk.  Problem solved. These are real enhancements made through connectivity.