Jan 14, 2022 14 min read

📲 Wiser! #55: iPhone's Birthday | CryptoScams | Google | The Metaverse

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Table of Contents

Wiser! #55: the iPhone is 15; Crypto scammers had a record year in 2021; Kazakhstan is number 2 in Bitcoin mining; Reese Witherspoon is in the Metaverse, so are Ralph Lauren; plus Google.


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An iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator

BackStory:  It is 15 years ago this week that Steve Jobs stood on stage and announced the Apple iPhone. It's hard to conceive that in such a relatively short period of time, this one device has had such a substantial impact on the way that the world works. So much has changed because of the integrated device that Jobs described as “a touchscreen iPod, a phone and an internet communicator”.

It's not just the impact of the iPhone, but also the scale of it. Apple sold around 1.4 million iPhones in its first year (2007). Today, it takes less than 3 days for Apple to sell the same volume of iPhones! Even more amazing when you consider the Ferrari-like profit margins from a Toyota-level scale.

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In the early days, not everyone was sold on the iPhone. There were plenty of naysayers who criticised it for being overpriced, clumsy and of little value. Commentators were also stumped as to why Apple Computers (as they were called back then) would want to enter the "handset" market. Remember, this was Apple's first mobile phone device.

Fifteen years on and the latest iteration of the iPhone is '13'. While not a game-changer, a host of healthy improvements has made the iPhone 13 generally considered to be a hit, in spite of its hefty price tag. And whilst Apple faces criticisms that the most valuable company in the world has been coasting for a while, the world will be watching to see what Apple comes up with next. The Apple Headset maybe? It is the age of the Metaverse after all...

Stay tuned for Tuesday's Insights issue where I will take a closer look at Apple's plans for a mixed reality headset, smart glasses, AR and the Metaverse.

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🚀 Tech Economy Trends, Predictions, Questions and Some Answers
Wiser! #53 (Premium): As we end one year and start another, it’s a great time to reflect, consider and make a few stabs in the dark about what’s to come.

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EthereumMax Scam Wiser Newsletter

Scammers took home a record $14 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021

BackStory:  According to new data from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), investments related to cryptocurrencies and digital assets are the top threat to investors “by far”.

Here's one example. Last summer, around a fifth of all American adults saw Kim Kardashian’s Instagram post that promoted a cryptocurrency called EthereumMax. It was deemed the “financial promotion with the single biggest audience reach in history” by the UK’s finance regulator. As well as Kardashian's Insta post, boxed Floyd Mayweather wore trunks promoting EthereumMax in a fight against Logan Paul last year. And NBA star Paul Pierce tweeted that he had made more money on EthereumMax in a month than he had made in an entire year working at ESPN.

However, some think that this was all just a scam. A pump and dump led by big-name influencers.

A group of EthereumMax investors think so and have sued Kardashian, Mayweather and Pierce. They alleged that the celebrities talked up the crypto’s price in order to sell their own EthereumMax tokens at a profit. EthereumMax, which, BTW, has no connection to Ethereum, has dropped 98% in value, according to the complaint and shows no signs of recovery.

TalkingPoint:  The issue is that scamming is the number 1 form of cryptocurrency-based crime, followed by theft, most of which occurred through the hacking of cryptocurrency businesses.

Scammers took home a record $14 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021, thanks in large part to the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, according to blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis. DeFi is a rapidly growing sector of the crypto market that aims to cut out middlemen, such as banks, from traditional financial transactions, like securing a loan, by using blockchain technology. However, unlike most financial services activities, these are unregulated (for now).

It's the wild west for many and Chainalysis found that losses from crypto-related crime rose 79% from a year earlier. Sources: CNBC, NASAA, Chainalysis, Hollywood Reporter

Crypto hacking is hard to get away with!
Wiser! Essays: The Poly Network hack shows that crypto hacking is very hard to get away with.

Here's a tweet thread I posted earlier this week that has 20 stories and stats about cybercrime from last year.

Did you know that Kazakhstan is the world’s second-biggest mining hub?

BackStory:  Kazakhstan is/was a stable and energy-rich country. It is a huge country, the size of Western Europe, and is well known for its rich supply of oil and gas, its substantial coal production operations, and its domination of uranium production, the basic fuel of nuclear power. Put this all together and it's no surprise to learn that Kazakhstan is an attractive place for Bitcoin miners, especially after China shut them down last year.

However, mass demonstrations and rioting in the streets over the past week have shut the country down. This led the Central Bank of the second-largest nation for Bitcoin mining to shut down the nation's Internet. As a result, as much as 15% of the global Bitcoin network went offline.

Internet shutdowns are more common than you'd think. In 2020, Governments around the world shut down the Internet in their nations over 150 times. I wrote about it here.

TalkingPoint:  After China shut down all of the Bitcoin mining in the country last May, the USA took over as the number 1 home for miners. And Kazakhstan became the number 2. This made sense for 2 reasons. A, it's right next door to China and, B, Kazakhstan has a rich and low-cost energy infrastructure.

But Bitcoin mining has not been universally welcomed into Kazakhstan. The government are due to implement new laws in 2022 that will curb mining activity. Plus, mining has had an impact on the nation's energy supply at a time when, like everyone around the world, Kazakhstan has seen energy prices rise.  

Meanwhile, Bitcoin's price continued to drop throughout the week, although this appears to be more coincidental than direct causation to the events in Kazakstan. The key takeaway is that this latest disruption to the decentralised network has confirmed that resilience exists in the Bitcoin network and it can withstand a substantial, albeit partial, interruption. Source: CNBC

More new crypto developers joined Web3 in 2021 than at any point in history

BackStory:  Web3 developers are at an all-time high and growing faster than ever.

These are the findings in a new study from Electric Capital after they tried to count the number of developers working in either crypto and/or Web3. The study also found that Ethereum, Polkadot, Cosmos, Solana, and Bitcoin are the 5 largest developer ecosystems.

TalkingPoint:  Asking yourself so what? The reason why this study is interesting is that it is a way to gauge the level of actual activity in the sector. How else can you tell if there is real traction for a system, software or new platform? One way is to count the number of people who are now working in the space.

The fact that there are now more developers working in crypto than ever before is an indicator of a growing trend. And a sure-fire way to generate more functions and features as the fly-wheel effect kicks in with more developers generating more code to generate more usage that requires more features and, ultimately, even more developers. Source: Electric Capital


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Metaverse Wiser Newsletter

Oculus 2 had a good Christmas

BackStory:  Consumers worldwide downloaded MetaFacebook’s Oculus app roughly 2 million times globally between Christmas and the first week in January. This put the VR app at the top of the AppStore charts for the 1st time ever.

TalkingPoint:  Vindication of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's commitment to land-grab the Metaverse?

Maybe. Having changed the name of the world's largest social media platform and committing to invest $10 billion in building the Metaverse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg must be satisfied.  The Oculus 2 Virtual reality headset is critical to building a business based on the notion of a virtual world for social networking, gaming and even work. Unlike Facebook, the Oculus 2 gives Zuckerberg some hardware. And with hardware, you own the rails. Sources: TechCrunch, Silicon Angle

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MetaFacebook turn to Android

Meanwhile, it has been reported that MetaFacebook has stopped the development of a new software operating system to power its Oculus VR headsets. The MetaFacebook operating system would have also powered the upcoming AR smartglasses. (Remember the story back in September about Facebook's partnership with Ray-Ban for smart glasses? I wrote about it here.)

The OS project had been running for several years before being canned. It now seems that MetaFacebook is going to proceed with an Android version for its devices.

TalkingPoint:  This of course means playing nicely with Google, whose AR efforts have primarily been focused on developing AR for Google Maps and Google Lens.

However, in 2020, Google acquired the human-computer interface and smart glasses maker called North. The Canadian tech company's most notable gadget was undoubtedly its smart glasses product. This product combined prescription lenses with a projected display seen with the smart glasses. Using a built-in mic and ring controls worn on your finger, Smart Glasses worked like a heads-up display, alerting wearers to incoming notifications or giving them step-by-step navigation as they were walking. It seems the perfect companion to the AR features Google has built for Maps, given that walking and looking at your mobile phone can be a dangerous pastime! Sources: The Information, Android Police

Who said this about a Web3Metaverse future?

“In the (near) future, every person will have a parallel digital identity. Avatars, crypto wallets, digital goods will be the norm. Are you planning for this?”

None other than actor Reese Witherspoon. However, her prediction for the digital future that is part Metaverse, part Web3 shouldn’t come as a surprise. The actor and entrepreneur bought her first NFTs in October and has been tweeting a lot about the next iteration of the Internet.

Luxury brands are playing in the Metaverse

BackStory:  Ralph Lauren has dipped its toes into the Metaverse, launching The Ralph Lauren Winter Escape in partnership with Roblox.

The game features an exclusive gender-neutral digital clothing collection comprised of eight winter sportswear looks. Players can try on and purchase clothing to customise their avatars at Polo Shops within the experience.

It was a record year for UK investment in VR

The explosion of interest in the Metaverse resulted in investors putting more than £150m of capital into UK virtual reality (VR) companies in 2021. This surge in capital made it a record year of funding for the sector. Source: Charged


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Facebook files patent to analyse the images we post

BackStory:  MetaFacebook has filed a patent for a system that will scan user images to identify items within those images. Machine learning algorithms will then estimate the probability that the item is associated with a specific entity, for example, identifying the brand logo on your shirt or your style of clothing.

In turn, this will feed and enrich the MetaFacebook user profile and provide a new way for extracting data about that user, and their likes and preferences. The purpose is simple, to give advertisers greater granularity when it comes to micro-targeting ads to users.

TalkingPoint:  There's nothing new about extracting data from images, but the implications of this latest patent are pretty telling. Because whilst Mark Zuckerberg works to rebrand Facebook and deflect from the growing scrutinity, the advertising model rolls on.

Image this. Every time you post a selfie on Facebook or Instagram, the AI is analysing the photo to work out what you're wearing, where you are, who you're with what's in your background. It may sound harmless enough and even helpful. But remember, Facebook has also shown us how easy it is for bad actors to exploit their systems and cause harm to democracy and society. They have also shown us that it is near impossible to police and prevent exploitation of their advertising machine and that, as a corporation, MetaFacebook are unwilling to put public safety before profits. Source: United States Patent Office

Microsoft, Metaverse, Facial Recognition, Pinterest & the Attention Economy
Wiser! #43: Microsoft takes on Facebook head to head in the metaverse virtual workspace; Pinterest moves for your attention, and Facebook turns off facial recognition (for now).

AI is cleaning up the UK

British tech company Littercam has developed a technology that uses AI and computer vision to detect littering and match it with the offender’s license plate. Litter poses a significant threat to the environment, and the UK spends about £850 million cleaning it up from the streets. Source: FastCompany


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Google Project Soli Wiser Newsletter

Google launches Ripple, an open standard for tiny radars in cars

Google has launched an open-source API standard called Ripple and will bring Google's Project Soli tiny radar technology to devices outside of Google. Project Soli is a miniature radar built to detect and respond to human motions at various scales: from the tap of your finger to the movements of your body. Soli can monitor sleep quality, control smartwatches, count sheets of paper, and is currently found in the Pixel 4 smartphone.

Ripple was released by the Consumer Technology Association, but it is clear that Google is behind the project. Ford is planning to use Ripple as an interior radar to enhance its driver-assist technologies. Source: The Verge

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Wave hello to Soli

Neeva launches a free Search engine

Neeva is the subscription search engine from the ex-Google and YouTube execs who want to shake up Google's dominance of Search. They haven't changed their plan and still want to charge for the Neeva search engine (instead of it being supported by paid advertisements). But, they have to convince users who are used to getting Search for free to shell out $5-7/month for a subscription. That's not easy, so they're offering a limited, but free option of Neeva. I hope that Neeva survives and thrives but it's an uphill battle for anyone to make a dent in Google's market leadership.

Vivek Raghunathan, Co-founder, Neeva: flipping the search engine business model on its head
Wiser! Wisdom: Neeva is a subscription search engine that does not rely on ads. Unlike Google, which dominate Search, which means they’re tracking your every move.
Here's the essay I wrote last year after speaking with co-founder Vivek Raghunathan

Google in a losing battle against French fine

Meanwhile, Google has failed in its bid to overturn a €100 million fine by France's data protection regulators. The appeal hit a snag after an aide to the nation’s top court backed accusations against the search engine over its cookies policy.

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has been embroiled in the court battle since 2020 after the then-record fine was imposed after Google was found to be targeting users with cookies without their consent and failing to offer a simple way to reject the tracking devices. Google was hit with a new record €150 million penalty last week for still not allowing users an easy way out of its cookies. Source: Bloomberg

The EU breaks its own GDPR rules

BackStory:  The European Union’s chief data protection supervisor has sanctioned the European Parliament for a series of breaches of the bloc’s data protection rules.

The decision is a warning to sites and services in the region about the need for due diligence of personal data flows and transfers. This particular case relates to a COVID-19 test booking website which the European Parliament launched in September 2020, using a third-party provider, called Ecolog. The website attracted a number of complaints, filed by six MEPs, last year over the presence of third-party trackers. The test booking website was found to be dropping cookies associated with Google Analytics.

At the heart of this issue is the EU's GDPR ruling known as Schrems II that relates to the transfer of data between EU and US sites (spoiler alert: it's complicated). It seems that the EU has fallen foul of its own ruling. Source: TechCrunch


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