Technology Archives - Beakbane
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The mind-exploding Higgs Boson

What the Perimeter Institute can teach us about creativity

Does scientific discovery have anything in common with marketing creativity? We would say yes, and there is a lot to learn from the remarkable Perimeter Institute. Here is a post Tom wrote for the Mindcamp blog.

Take a read of Kevin Byron’s comment on the nature of collaboration. He argues that the post overstates the role of teamwork in scientific discovery. With too much and you end up with disasters like the OPERA experiment that showed that some subatomic particles travelled faster than light, which on investigation turned out to be an embarrassing mistake.


Canadian innovation: a crisis of confidence?

Where are Canadian information and communication technology (ICT) companies headed? The same place as Nortel, Mitel, JDS, Alias, Corel, Softimage, Platform and ATI? All these companies were at one time world leaders in their segments – and Canadian. They have all disappeared or been swallowed by larger US players.

Or is Canada still a hotbed of successful innovation?

At a meeting of the York Technology Association (YTA) Wayne Gudbranson, President and CEO of the Branham Group presented a list of the top 25 “up and comers” for 2012. The list is based on “creativity and innovation” which is a subjective criteria, but even so, the list is not reflective of what we are seeing. Some well known and innovative companies such as FreshBooks, HootSuite and Shopify are omitted from the list – along with less well known ones like Side Effects, Intelex and KMI. And others, like CommunityLend, are no longer in business – we know because they were our office neighbors on Adelaide Street.

In aggregate the top 250 Canadian ICT companies had sales of $83 billion in 2012, 17% more than in 2009. This growth rate on the surface sounds satisfactory especially when you take Blackberry into account that makes up 22% of the total, whose sales slid by -7%. However, once you take out the large telcos; BCE, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, MTS, Videotron, Cogeco and SaskTel you are left with only 41 companies with sales of more than $100 million. In a sector of fast-growing global players Canadian companies are getting left behind.

There is a sentiment common among YTA members that it is impossible to maximize a company’s value in Canada. Access to markets, venture funding and technical and business skills needed to grow businesses are not available here.

This attitude is self fulfilling. If business leaders take their ventures out of the country the ecosystem required to enable businesses to succeed will never develop. Our colleges and universities will not understand what innovative companies need and interns will be unable to find rewarding assignments; the investment community will not develop the expertise they need to tell the difference between promising ideas and duds; sales and marketing personnel will not develop the skills needed to grow businesses; and managers who are technologically savvy will depart for jobs elsewhere leaving us without these key builders of new ventures.

Leadership will not be provided by government. They are more in tune with the needs of large established businesses who lobby to protect their existing franchises. Leadership has to come from within the industry. We need to become more aggressive and remind the naysayers that Nortel, JDS, Celestica, Blackberry and others grew to become huge forces using local resources and talent. We all need to do all we can to support the “up and comers” so they become successful global players.

Annual sales of the top ICT companies in Canada. Source: Branham

Full interactive chart of companies available on the Branham300 site.






Proud members of York Technology Alliance

Last year we joined the York Technology Alliance. It is an active and well run organisation – thanks to the executive director, Pat Shaw and membership director, Ryan Ellis.

The aspect that is most valuable to us are the peer to peer networking events where we get together in groups of 5 – 20 and discuss new techniques for sales and marketing. Some of the topics covered so far:

  • How to make sales meetings more productive
  • How to use LinkedIn for lead generation and business building
  • How to make website compliant for disabilities (AODA)

York Technology Alliance


Tablets, Smartphones, Apps. Oh my!

Adaption of communications to digital has never been easier – nor more engaging!

There is no denying that mobile devices have transformed the way we get information and interact. In Canada half of all mobile users now own a smartphone. According to a study commissioned by the CWTA tablet ownership among cell phone users has quadrupled, increasing from 5% in 2011 to 20% in 2012. Three-quarters of them are connected to a cellular network. 70% of smartphone users say they have downloaded apps.

Although companies see these trends in the marketplace many are apprehensive about adapting their websites and print communications to mobile. However, doing so is now much easier and more cost effective than previously. No longer is it necessary to go through a step of programming.

One of our favorite tools is Adobe’s Creative Suite 6 which enables us to re-purposing a document so it can be consumed on a range of devices. We use existing content and transform it to a dynamic digital version that incorporates video, audio, image galleries, online content and interactivity. Creating apps to communicate messages to your customers has never been easier.

Call us to find out how this can be applied to your business.


Fugawi marine navigation software – re-launched

If you own a boat and want to know where you are going Fugawi Marine 5 is the software you need – it makes navigation simple.

Fugawi is a Toronto based digital mapping company whom we started working with prior to the 2001 dot-com crash. They resisted getting swept up in the enthusiasm characteristic of their competitors who over-invested, shone brightly and then disappeared. Instead they have been careful in how they have invested in product development and marketing.

GPS and mapping technology is a challenging market and has been changing with head-snapping speed. Fugawi has had to keep ahead of the changing demands of users who expect software to be easy to use, robust and flexible. They have to compete with Google’s services that are ever more omnipresent and they also need to stay abreast of the constant updates to operating systems including Microsoft Windows 7 and 8.

The latest version of the software has been completely rewritten with numerous improvements. The user interface is cleaner and can run on touchscreen devices. Multiple charts can be used at the same time. It is now easy to import and export data and share routes on Facebook.

The marketing challenge is similar to that faced by many technology-oriented companies. Hundreds of improvements have been made to the product – so the task is to decide what to communicate because a list of features and benefits is unmemorable and yet each has some significance to at least a few of the dealers, installers and end-users.

The number of improvements make the software clearly superior to all competitors but the main benefit is the software’s ease of use and so we developed the packaging to be likewise clean and simple.

However the distinguishing benefit is that Fugawi Marine 5 has industry leading capabilities in how it integrates different functionalities – streamlining them. The software is like a central control room that ties all the different navigational devices and gauges on a boat displaying them on a single screen. The software also links with Fugawi’s charts portal, and also with cloud software, including Google Earth and social media. So Fugawi Marine 5 is a central control device that takes otherwise separate systems and unites them together.

This competitive advantage is communicated by the tagline on the brochure and the packaging which states, “Navigation streamlined” because that sums up how Fugawi Marine 5 is easier to use and it integrates different functions into one streamlined whole.

Fugawi Marine 5 is a complex product and yet we have managed to make the communications strategic and simple. With innovation like this Fugawi has a bright future.

Fugawi, Northport Systems has been a client of Beakbane since 1999 when we developed the Fugawi logo and coined the tagline “Know where you are going”.

See here for case study.




Get ready to connect in multi-dimensions

The internet is about to transform the way we see and interact with the world in ways we could only have dreamed about a few years ago.

The existence of social networking sites and the amount of data collected from them allows programmers to make rich relational associations.  A further step is to associate these associations with what we experience and see in three-dimensional space.

Take Epson’s world-first three-dimensional see-through head-mounted display, Moverio, which has just been launched in Japan.   It connects directly to YouTube for video content and uses a browser to display web pages, and it weighs only half a pound.  The device reportedly will have an initial retail price of only $800.  Eventually, this innovation could be given the capability to allow us to view things on the other side of walls, such as wireless devices.

moverio epson 3d headset display innovation

Epson's new three-dimensional headset display, Moverio.

Eventually, users will be able to see their social links through the headset as well.  The Google+ mobile app already allows users to see posts from other mobile Google+ users nearby. It is a short step for Google to represent this data superimposed on the three dimensional, physical world.

The physical experience of shoppers is already being connected to the internet as retailers embrace mobile payment technology. The Gap Inc. just announced that it will accept Google Wallet payments in the Bay area.

One Millionth Tower, a recently released documentary provides a window into the potential to tie rich sources of data into a three-dimensional representation of reality using open source code.

The movie creates an environment online in which the user can move around in three-dimensions to explore different nodes of information.  Filmmaker Katerina Cizek uses these nodes to present graphics and audio about people who live in Toronto highrises.  The environment also brings in external information, such as the current weather conditions in Toronto, and allows this information to affect the movie.

millionth tower environment 3d graphics webgl javascript html5

In One Millionth Tower, users can move around in 3D space and choose which content they will view.

The project is programmed entirely in HTML5 using WebGL and Javascript which are widely used and open source. More complex implementations will not not require any major technical advances – they simply require imagination.

The movie hints at the opportunities. “What we’ve done with One Millionth Tower is not the future,” Cizek said. “It just points to it.”

Marketers are still trying to figure out how Twitter can make money, but that’s missing the point.  Twitter was and is a revolutionary way of creating, consuming, and re-organizing information online.  The next step will be to hashtag the entire web to improve our collective intelligence, and attach this information into the users’s environment with images and sound.

The implications of these innovations are enormous and will continue to speed up the way that consumers create and share information.

The raw materials already exist.  Google has built tools that enable mobile users to see where media is coming from.  New opportunities like Google Wallet exist to link social media with purchase.  One Millionth Tower demonstrates how diverse sources of data can be presented in an appealing three-dimensional image in a web browser.  Moverio shows how data from the internet can be projected onto images of the real world.  Now all one needs is imagination to link everything together in convenient and fantastic ways.