December 02, 2006
Final Entry 2: Developments
The main developments for phones during the semester were in the area of smartphones, the use of WiFi with phones, and the growing use of VoIP.
New phones have greater access to online websites, with some even allowing website users to track buddy locations by their phone. New technology also makes it easier to use your phone to access restaurant and club information wherever you are. As new features are added it presents benefits and risks to privacy. Potentially, people you are not well acquainted with may be able to find your location. With features like EasyReach, smartphone users can even shop using their phone. It saves your payment information and makes the ordering process quick and easy.
Another young, developing technology is the use of Wi-Fi networks as cell phone reception. This technology is not yet reliable, but with companies like Belkin building this technology into their mobile phones, it could one day replace the necessity of paying a monthly fee to a network provider.
Along the development of that technology is the break through in the mobile communications market with the growing use of VoIP. Voice over Internet Protocol is a technology we wrote about previously that allows users to use their internet connection to call other VoIP users. The most interesting aspect of this technology is the possibility of using a Wi-Fi network to make VoIP phone calls – totally eliminating the entire cell phone network business. Currently there is no company publicly pursuing this development, but with the creation of both technologies as we wrote about, it is a definite possibility.
Even in the short span of this semester, several phone developments have occurred. Phones are moving from single purpose devices and becoming more like small computers. With new technology like VoIP and the growing usage of phones as multiple media devices, the entire industry could change in the coming years.
Final Entry 1: Interesting Features
Instead of using various different websites when bookmarking, we used a few specific sites. CNN, CNet, Business Week, and Slashdot were the ones we visited most frequently. On CNN it was particularly useful for the second half of the project to find information related to our topic, “cell phones.” This site allows users to search the news for specific topics. Also, as the semester went by we found it easier to find technology-related articles since we had more experience bookmarking.
We did not find any delicious users with our exact interest, so we did not choose to track any specific users or blogs. However, we did find that several other delicious users tagged some of our bookmarks. Articles like, Optimus Keyboard and Web 3.0: Web 3.0- You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet! were bookmarked much more frequently (367 and 250 other people, respectively) than our phone articles. People seem to be much more interested in computer-related technology and interactive websites.
WSJ: Online Retailers article in context of Richard Mason
Richard Mason's article summarized the threat that the dispersion of information brings to our society. In reflection of privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility, Mason brings to light the potential harm that the spread and increasing availability of information could bring. Using this as a relative check point, it is possible to see whether online retailers are over-stepping their bounds, or simply bringing a new way of shopping to light.
An analysis of this relative to online retailers follows:
Privacy: It is true that online retailers are acquiring certain demographic information about shoppers without their knowing, and using this to "better market to them". Should this be allowed? Well, often it can lead to price discounts to customers. While it's true customers can face HIGHER prices as a result, nobody is forcing consumers to purchase the product at that price.
Accuracy: Given the example of Overstock.com's method of determining the gender of a shopper by examing the pattern of the movement about the website, it's highly possible that mistakes could be made in this area. The accuracy of customer information is also threatened by the possibility that one household comprised of two males and two females may use one account to do all of their shopping. The question here is, is innaccurate customer information - possibly leading to a male's viewing of an advertisement or promotion from Bath & Body works - truly a major threat to society?
Property: Given that customers aren't really behind the permission of the release of their information (mostly), the concept of the release of this property could be a problem. Untrusting shoppers may not like a company acquiring this property - and then possibly price differentiating accordingly, leading a shopper paying more for an item - without the customer receiving some payment form for providing the information. Do companies pay for the release of this information in some way? Often they do pay in the form of discounts consumers recieve as repeat customers, or through emails the company sends to preferred customers.
Accessbility: The simple question here is, do the organizations have the right to acquire this information? This is up to debate. A simple cost/benefit analysis should lead most impartial users to realize the benfits outweigh the costs.
Companies like Overstock.com, ebay.com, and Amazon.com all have used the acquiring of customer information in some way to better price their products to customers, and logically help make the company more money. Customers ARE given the opportunty for more discounts, but also could be presented with higher prices on products. A company knowing it's customers shopping habits allows them to present more products the customer may not have initially considered, however, the use of this information allows companies to more easily exploit their customer's buying habits.
In conclusion, the use of this information by companies is currently not overstepping any boundaries and presenting serious threats to society. Customers can often benefit from the companies use of this information, and in all reality, this is "gathering of customer information" is just the corporate response to customers "gathering company pricing information". The internet allows customers to compare prices incredibly easily, and now companies are doing the same. Elimination of one rightly requires the elimination of the other. Currently, the use of this information by both sides of the market is just increasing social welfare, and the benefits far outweigh the cost. If customers face a higher price on their "usual" website, they can just as easily find a lower price by searching around a bit more.