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Here are 5 ways blockchain can change media

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Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt existing business models and enable new ones, and the media industry will be the first to feel the effects, a new report from Deloitte reveals.

The report – titled, Blockchain @ Media: A new Game Changer for the Media Industry? – explores five potential use cases with the aim of triggering thinking on how powerful the blockchain concept can be in and for media.

According to Mark Casey, Global Media & Entertainment and TMT Africa Leader at Deloitte, blockchain – the same technology behind Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies – permits the bypassing of content aggregators, platform providers, and royalty collection associations to a large extent, signalling a shift in market power to the copyright owners.

“While some applications of blockchain technology may still seem far-fetched, payment-focused use cases have already been proved to work. Parts of the media value chain are, therefore, already endangered by new blockchain-based payment and contract options. These can fundamentally reset pricing, advertising, revenue sharing, and royalty payment processes,” says Casey.

In Use Case 1, “New pricing options for paid content”, the Deloitte report details how consumers are increasingly demanding an individual, customised content experience, as evidenced by the success of music and video streaming services.

While transaction costs have made it difficult to market low-priced content items or small bundles competitively and profitably, blockchain-enabled micro-payments can help publishers to monetize this flexibility seeking group of customers.

“With the help of a blockchain, individual articles or other pieces of content could be sold for cent- prices without disproportionate transaction costs,” Casey says.

Use Case 2, “Content bypassing aggregators”, predicts that while ad-based distribution models will remain important in the next decade, the intermediaries between the content creator and the potential advertiser will increasingly find themselves cut out of the equation.

“Based on the blockchain, everyone from leading media houses to small bloggers can easily generate advertising revenues,” explains Neville Hounsom, Director: Strategy & Operations, Deloitte SA, who adds that as blockchains permit an exact tracking of content usage, they also enable a direct allocation of advertising budgets.

“Together with new, blockchain-enabled micro-payments, content creators are able to establish direct relationships with their customers. Artists can market their songs independently of big platform providers wherever they want, since a blockchain permits easy tracking of usage and deduction of the associated payments,” Hounsom says.

Use Case 3, “Distribution of royalty payments”, explores another source of income for content producers and explains how the blockchain can enable a far more equitable distribution of royalty payments.

Today, the distribution of royalty payments builds on multiple contracts between artists, producers, and music publishing houses.

“With the help of a blockchain, the distribution of royalties could become more efficient and transparent. This would include a music directory with the original digital music file –  associated with all relevant identities of people involved in the content creation. It is also possible to store instructions in the form of smart contracts that specify how the artists are to be compensated and how sales proceeds are to be divided among all eligible parties,” says Casey.

Use Case 4, “Secure and transparent C2C sales”, unpacks how blockchain has the potential for content rights owners to enable additional revenue streams by leveraging consumer-to- consumer sales.

While illegal file sharing remains a major problem for media companies, the blockchain has the potential to solve that problem, giving content owners full control and visibility of the consumption and number of uses of individual songs and / or movies.

This could create new business models such as consumer-to-consumer marketing of content. “For example, now a subscriber can access their blockchain content and share it with a friend. The subscription holder will then be charged directly with the fee for the specific content they shared. This permits easy and legal sharing of paid content among users, and forms an additional source of revenue for aggregators and copyright holders,” Casey says.

Use Case 5, “Consumption of paid content without boundaries”, tackles a common consumer complaint: The inability to access the contents they subscribed to when they are in another country or region on business or on holiday.

The report points out that the blockchain has the potential to make digital rights management (DRM) systems obsolete, or at least to reduce their complexity, because every transaction or act of consumption is tracked in the blockchain and directly linked to a user. The payment will be automatically initiated according to the underlying smart contract terms for the content.

In light of these use cases and other potential scenarios, Hounsom advises that media players start considering blockchain-based applications and their potential impact on the whole industry. These include micropayment-based pricing options for paid content, a shift of market power caused by content bypassing aggregators, and an improved distribution of royalty payments.

“To ensure timely and appropriate measures, we recommend an immediate review of the individual consequences for the existing business. In addition, companies should lose no time in identifying applicable blockchain based opportunities as a fundamental component of their future business strategy,” Hounsom says.

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The PC is back!

… and 2020 will be its big year, writes CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director at Dell Technologies

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Concept Ori

It turns out the PC’s death has been exaggerated. PC sales grew between 1.1% and 1.5% in the last few quarters of the year, according to Gartner. While those don’t sound like massive leaps, they represent a large market that has been declining for several years. Windows 10 is credited for this surge, especially as Windows 7 is leading towards its end of life (EOL).

But I don’t think that is the entire picture. Windows 10 upgrades have been taking place for several years, and the market has also gotten savvier about managing EOL. Other factors are driving the adoption of PCs.

A specific one is how much closer the PC now sits to smartphones. I recently watched some youngsters work with laptops that had touchscreens. They hardly ever touched the keyboard, instead tapping and swiping on the screen. Yet they were still working on a laptop, not a smartphone. Certain things are much easier to do on a PC than a phone, and users are realising this. They aren’t relinquishing the convenience of their smartphones but applications are now available on PC’s and often easier to use.

Convertible or 2-in-1 machines have closed the gap between the two device types. This is in contrast to tablets. If you observe how people sit with tablets, it’s the opposite of smartphones or laptops. With the latter, we sit forward, attentive and focused. But tablets often prompt people to recline. It’s just a casual observation, yet I believe that PCs and smartphones have much more overlap with each other than pure tablet devices. Additionally, the convertible laptop has become the new tablet.

Chris Buchanan

Why does this bode well for PCs in 2020? 2-in-1 machines break down the barriers between the utility of a PC and collaborative culture of a smartphone. You can now flip a laptop into tent mode and use it as an interactive presentation screen on a boardroom table, or cradle it like a clipboard you jot on with a digital pen.

In the next year, we’ll see more of the market responding to this trend. Premium 2-in-1 devices have a stable and growing audience of users who are now going into their second, third and even fourth generations of devices. Mid-range and entry-level laptops are also starting to adopt touchscreens and flip displays.

2-in-1 devices are also pushing innovation, such as the emergence of dual-screen systems. Dell revealed two such concept devices at CES this year: Project Duet, a dual screen laptop, and Project Ori (for origami), a more compact approach to foldable devices. We also unveiled Project UFO, a prototype Alienware device that puts triple-A PC gaming into a handheld device. All of these reflect the desire for touch-enabled devices that are portable without sacrificing performance or excellence. They definitely point us to the future.

Convertible devices are not a new form factor. I can recall the first flip-over touchscreen designs appearing 15 years ago. Back then they were exotic and the standard laptop ruled the roost. But today, the habits and expectations of users are driving a change decisively towards convertible devices.

Desktop PCs are meanwhile becoming more specialised, yet also more widely appreciated for their versatility. Specialist non-Windows PCs, such as those used by designers, are being replaced by Windows PCs, often for lower costs. Integrated discrete graphics chips and other advancements add a lot of value to modern desktops. The smartphone overlap also appears here: many people use services such as Whatsapp Web on their PCs, and Dell customers use the Dell Mobile Connect app to show their smartphone screen on their PC display.

There is a new synergy between the PC and smartphone, created by users who find the two complement each other. Not everyone has realised this yet, but in 2020 that will be the resounding message. The PC is back and 2020 will be its year.

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Jaguar designs ‘seat of the future’

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Jaguar Land Rover is developing the seat of the future – a pioneering shape-shifting system designed to improve customer wellbeing by tackling the health risks of sitting down for too long.

The ‘morphable’ seat, being trialled by Jaguar Land Rover’s Body Interiors Research division, uses a series of actuators in the seat foam to create constant micro-adjustments that make your brain think you’re walking, and could be individually tailored to each driver and passenger.

More than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which can shorten muscles in the legs, hips and gluteals causing back pain. The weakened muscles also mean you are more likely to injure yourself from falls or strains. 

By simulating the rhythm of walking, a movement known as pelvic oscillation, the technology can help mitigate against the health risks of sitting down for too long on extended journeys with some drivers doing hundreds of kilometres per week. 

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “The wellbeing of our customers and employees is at the heart of all our technological research projects. We are using our engineering expertise to develop the seat of the future using innovative technologies not seen before in the automotive industry to help tackle an issue that affects people across the globe.”

Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles already feature the latest in ergonomic seat design, with multi-directional adjustments, massage functions and climate control fitted across the range. Dr Iley has also issued advice on how to adjust your seat to ensure the perfect driving position, from removing bulky items in your pocket, to shoulder positioning and from ensuring your spine and pelvis are straight to supporting your thighs to reduce pressure points. View the video here.

The research is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to continually improving customer wellbeing through technological innovation. Previous projects have included research to reduce the effects of motion sickness and the implementation of ultraviolet light technology to stop the spread of colds and flu. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Destination Zero; Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner – a responsible future for our workers, customers and communities around us. Through relentless innovation, Jaguar Land Rover is adapting product and services to meet the rapidly-changing world.

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