Monthly Archives: September 2013

Spotlight: Phonebloks, an ‘App Store for Hardware’

Just as the European smartphone manufacturing market was starting to look a little empty, a young designer called Dave from the Netherlands has cause quite a stir with a concept called Phonebloks.

The idea behind Phonebloks is that users will be able to customise their handset by attaching component ‘bloks’ – whether it’s a processor, battery, camera or even a display – to a pin-based motherboard.

Concerned that consumers are too quick to throw electronics away when they stop working, Dave Hakken’s idea is that each blok could be replaced or upgraded when necessary. In a swipe at the large OEMs, already critcised forsourcing components from conflict zones and having questionable manufacturing processes, Hakkens also points out that current mobile phones are not designed for repairs or upgrades.

Termed an ‘app store for hardware’, third parties would be able to build their own components for the Phonebloks blokstore, everyone from startups to traditional tech players, with the proceeds split between the store and the developer.

Hakkens is not seeking to crowdfund Phonebloks, or rely on a single investor, and is instead using ‘crowdspeaking’ platform Thunderclap to coordinate a wave of individual support for Phonebloks across Twitter, Facebook and Google+, making any potential investors aware of the demand. The number of supporters has already reached 639,298 – 98 per cent of the target – but the R&D on this rather ambitious idea is likely to take far longer.

The Phonebloks site outlines potential subscription services so Phonebloks owners can get regular updates to hardware and send back their old parts. People with specific needs – solar batteries, a high-end camera or large screens for the visually impaired – can choose their components accordingly. And more blocks means a larger device, so tablets are also on the horizon too.

“The market of electronic devices is growing rapidly, but it feels like we are building disposable stuff,” said Hakkens. “Every time we make something new we completely throw away the old one. Imagine all the good displays, bluetooths and speakers we have thrown away. I love the connected world that we live in and it’s time to set up a universal modular platform that companies work on together.”

It’s unclear whether this technology could actually come into production, at least any time soon, but the idea behind Phonebloks – and Hakken’s mission statement of ‘trying to make the world better by making things’ – is a breath of fresh air for the industry. See an explainer video from Phonebloks below.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here.

Technolotics Added to the Oxford English Dictionary

Just kidding language zealots, unlike twerking (see: Miley Cyrus), selfie (see: yourself, on Instagram, Snapchat) and omnishambles (see: the Coalition Government), technolotics wasn’t among 2013’s most popular new words and so hasn’t yet made it into the OED.

In fact, I’d like to think I made it up. A new portmanteau, created by the joining of the fields of technology and politics, because the phenomenon is visible just about everywhere:

// When Bradley Manning and Ed Snowden made the decision to leak information around US foreign policy and spying – does the whisteblower go to prison, while war criminals walk free?

// How both Google and Facebook are attempting to switch on the internet for the remaining 5bn – greater access to life-saving support networks, or just another 10bn ad-hungry eyeballs?

// Apple’s suicide-inducing supply chain – does our thirst for gadgets exceed our capacity to see human suffering?

// In local activism and political organising – are we Tweeting the revolution or breeding armchair activists?

// Used by regional governments – improving servicesincreasing transparency or just a better way for them to keep tabs?

//Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election campaign – a victory for the American Dream or an industry-standard advertising campaign?

All different. But all textbook technolotics.

There is big money in politics. And even bigger money in technology. The two together can put a 25-year-old solider behind bars, Twitterise a revolution and even help secure US election victory.

Although many see technology as a great liberator, Channel 4 reporter Sarah Smith said last week after an interview with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, that the internet is now the US’ greatest enemy. Machines were supposed to decrease our workload, but many believe they have enslaved us. Prince Charles warned of this as early as 2000 and who can say today that they don’t their smartphone more than their partner?

Technolotics – the merging of technology and politics – affects everything, from the news that’s available to read, to the things we can buy. Definition: Pretty much everything. So here’s hoping it might make the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014.

Until then, we must march through the Eurogeddon, enjoying our Mummy Porn while we still can.

You might need to Google those, but that only feeds the monster…


Photography by Greg White

Written for Let’s Be Brief and published here:

€100m Promised for Future Internet Companies by EU at Campus Party


Neelie Kroes, VP of the EU Commission leading the digital agenda, has announced a €100m fund for European entrepreneurs to create ‘future internet’ businesses during 2014 and 2015.

The M2M market is already worth €34bn, Kroes told the audience at Telefonica’s Campus Party, and it could grow by 30 per cent per year, meaning trillions in global revenues by 2020. But she pointed out that while US and Asian tech company revenues have grown by up to 50 per cent in the last five years, many European companies had seen sales decline. “We need to change that,” she said.

The FI-WARE (future internet) project ‘to make innovative technologies available for all’ is a JV between the EU and major IT companies. The OpenStack, cloud-based resource comes with a library of free, open source tools to speed up the development process for internet-of-things apps across different platforms and sectors. There are already five trials of the platform taking place, in healthcare, transport and logistics, media and content, manufacturing and energy.

“From mobile devices to app stores, software, and IP networks, these are the ingredients that help American companies build a network and snowball to success,” she said. “It’s time we had more of them over in Europe too. Think about security and privacy by design, social connected TV, augmented reality, instant mobility or even smart farming.”

Kroes – a towering figure in the EU, aged 72 – was joined on stage by her 17-year-old advisor Luis Ivan Cuende, a young entrepreneur and winner of the HackNow contest in 2011. He said this project was an opportunity for the EU to create internet companies that respect users’ privacy.

In a final call to arms, the commissioner added: “You are best placed, not just to innovate, but to turn that innovation into real products, real services, and real jobs. Let’s stop with being modest in Europe.”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here: