Research Picks – December 2016

Smart phone marketing around the world

Manufacturers of smart phones are constantly on the lookout for new trends in adoption of their products. One aspect on which they must focus is cultural differences, according to a study from Finland. The authors of this paper have looked at differences in smart phone uses across three major regions Uzbekistan, South Korea, and Turkey. They found that social influence was the strongest predictor of behavioural intention to use a smartphone among South Korean participants, this rings true given how other sociological research suggests that country has a highly collectivistic society. By contrast, people in Turkey are apparently more individualistic and this correlates with a lack of social influence on smart phone uptake. For Uzbekistan, internet penetration is still very low and in general only the rich can be adopters of advanced technology at the present time, so economics is the main influence on uptake rather than personal or collective choice.

Sanakulov, N. and Karjaluoto, H. (2017) ‘A cultural comparison study of smartphone adoption in Uzbekistan, South Korea and Turkey‘, Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.85-103.

Young escapists won’t tolerate in-app ads

Advertising embedded in smart phone apps is a common way the developers of those apps make money from users either in addition to any fee they charge to download the app in the first place or any in-app purchases for additional options. A new study from the US of young smart phone users suggests that they are more accepting of in-app advertising if the smart phone application in question helps them in some significant way or provides them with information they deem important, as opposed to offering games, entertainment, or various forms of escapism. Specifically young people enjoy music and video apps widely and find that such apps allow them to develop their personal identity. It is advertising in these apps that is least tolerated by users and such a revelation could help marketers and advertisers adapt their business models.

Logan, K. (2017) ‘Attitudes towards in-app advertising: a uses and gratifications perspective’, Int. J. Mobile Communications, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.26-48.

Head for the clouds during a disaster

Computer scientists in Japan have developed a two-level security and communications system that would be resilient to power outages that might occur during and immediately after a natural or other disaster such as earthquake or terrorist attack. The first tier could sustain communications and information systems for the public without relying on commercial power suppliers by mirroring critical information on cloud servers elsewhere. The second tier takes control of personal computers at the power level so that they can be safely rebooted without damage to hard drives (and so data loss) at the first warning signs of a critical problem such as early tremors just before an imminent earthquake. Again the latter utilizes remote backup to mirror critical data. The system has already been put in place at Ibaraki University in response to the earthquake and tsunami disaster of March 2011 and could be implemented elsewhere.

Noguchi, H., Ohtaki, Y. and Kamada, M. (2016) ‘A university information system made robust against natural disasters by taking advantage of remotely distributed campuses‘, Int. J. Space-Based and Situated Computing, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.147-154.

Library navigation

You can quickly find the book you’re after even in the biggest library thanks to a navigation system being developed for smart phones by computer scientists in Japan. They explain that FeliCa cards (contactless RFID cards) act as indoor landmarks where the global positioning system (GPS) simply does not work and without the need for costly indoor markers such as beacons. The app allows the reader to quickly search the library catalogue, gives them a map showing the shelf position of the book, gets the reader’s location in the library and then displays a route through the shelves to the book they are after.

Li, X., Saitou, O., Zhou, E. and Kamada, M. (2016) ‘A low cost library navigation system by using Android devices and FeliCa cards‘, Int. J. Space-Based and Situated Computing, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.155-164.

Blue skies thinking ready for takeoff

Nervous flyers and crew alike would prefer jet airliners not to vibrate so much at take off. Research published in the International Journal of Aerodynamics points to blue skies thinking that might explain the phenomenon and find ways to reduce the safety and image problems associated with this troubling aircraft noise.

Engineer Stanislaw Raczynski of the Universidad Panamericana, in Mexico City, Mexico, has used a gas flow simulation tool to follow the way in which low acoustic oscillations develop on the underside of an aircraft’s wings as it gains speed ready for takeoff. Aside from being noisy and worrying to some passengers, there is a serious engineering issue that can arise if the oscillations match the resonant frequency of the wings or fuselage. Raczynski’s simulations point to specific vibration patterns, their amplitude and frequency, that arise under certain conditions. Perhaps of greatest concern is that he has identified several low, sub-acoustic frequencies (so-called infrasound as opposed to ultrasound which is above the audible frequency range). Such oscillations can produce forces of up to several hundred kilograms per square meter of wing area.

“The air movement around the wing produces several infrasound frequencies, explains Raczynski, “Those oscillations may not be strong enough to cause damage but these frequencies can enter into resonance with the fuselage andproduce quite strong effects.” He adds, that, “During takeoff, such infrasound frequencies may also coincide with the natural frequency of the air column between the wing and the ground which could multiply the effect.”

While there are numerous design features in place in modern aircraft to reduce audible noise and some vibration, these low frequency oscillations are more worrying from a structural engineering point of view. “Model parameters used in simulations are always charged with some degree of uncertainty,” adds Raczynski. “Perhaps, more useful is the qualitative outcome of the simulations, rather than the quantitative results given that the problem is closely connected to aircraft safety”. He concludes that deeper investigations should be carried out to aid the design of new aircraft and avoid accidents.

Raczynski, S. (2016) ‘Why a jetliner vibrates during takeoff: simulating air oscillations under the wing‘, Int. J. Aerodynamics, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.125-132.

Online advertising compromise

How can the internet balance targeted advertising with privacy concerns?

A novel approach to targeted advertising would allow companies to offer users relevant advertisements without having to expend energy tracking and data mining putative customers and without those customers having to compromise their privacy, according to research published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.

Tracking cookies and automated profile of internet users allow commercial concerns to create targeted advertising for users of social media and other websites. However, the privacy issues surrounding such approaches to marketing worry many people. Researchers in the UK have examined the implications of an alternative approach that would give users back some control of their personal information but allow companies to offer them advertising that would be precisely targeted and perhaps meaningful to the users. The solution lies in what computer scientist Reuben Binns of the University of Oxford refer to simply as a Self-Authored Interest profile.

Binns explains that much of the content we see on the internet, advertising and product and service recommendations in particular are fed to us on the basis of algorithms that track our internet history and behaviour. Needless to say, this causes friction between companies and consumers and has led to the emergence of ad-blocking software, the need for “do not track” and cookie crumblers for browsers. These are perceived as allowing users to take back some control of their privacy.

Many users do not want to see any advertisements at all and many do not want to be tracked. However it is usual that free online services rely on revenues from advertising and would not survive if they could not display advertisements to users. Those sites make more money if the advertising is targeted to users’ behaviour and interests and many run systems that block the advertisement blockers and circumvent the privacy rules.

A compromise is needed with which both company and consumer would be happy. Binns suggests that the self-authored profile might be the answer. He has tested this approach against behavioural profiling and found that it has many benefits. “People respond more positively to product recommendations when they are derived from SAI profiles,” he says. “Moreover, the mere belief that a recommendation comes from an SAI profile is also associated with more positive responses.”

Any advertising system is likely to be imperfect. Non-targeted ads are annoying to many users and do not necessarily result in sales leads. By contrast, targeted advertising works better in presenting offers that a user is more likely to be interested in but they only work if the advertiser has access to more private or personal information about the people they hope to advertise to. If users are given some control over what information the advertisers get to see, then they are, it seems, more responsive to advertisements targeted to them based on that information, Binns suggests.

The next step will be to test whether such an approach can overcome consumer scepticism as well as be effective for the advertisers. Different trusts models will also need to be built to test the legal limitations and the effectiveness of this approach to privacy with targeting.

Binns, R. (2016) ‘Self-authored interest profiles for personalised recommendations‘, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.207-222.