Gonzalo E. Mon is a partner in the Advertising Law practice at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and his co-author, John J. Heitmann, is a partner in the firm’s Telecommunications group. Read more on Kelley Drye’s advertising blog, Ad Law Access, or keep up with the group on Facebook or Twitter.

If you work with mobile apps, you may already know that privacy is a hot issue. Regulators are pushing companies to improve their privacy practices, Congress is contemplating new laws, and class action lawyers are suing companies that don’t clearly disclose their practices. In the past few weeks, this focus on privacy intensified as the FTC, the California Attorney General, and even the White House weighed in with new announcements.

Two things are clear from this recent burst of activity. First, regulators are putting pressure on everyone in the mobile app ecosystem to improve their practices, so you can’t just assume that it’s your partner’s responsibility to comply. And with the number of regulators focusing on these issues, it’s going to be a lot harder for companies to hide. No matter what role you play in the mobile app ecosystem, you should pay attention to these developments. Here’s what you need to know.


Increased Focus on App Privacy


In February, the FTC issued a report about mobile apps directed to children. Although these apps can collect a broad range of information, the FTC noted that neither the app stores nor app developers provide enough information for parents to determine what data is collected from their children or how it is used or shared. In some cases, this could be a violation of federal law. The FTC wants all members of the kids app ecosystem to play an active role in making appropriate disclosures to parents.

Shortly after the FTC issued its report, the California Attorney General announced an agreement with the leading app stores in which the stores agreed to add a field in the app submission process for developers to post their privacy notices or a link to a privacy policy. The agreement is intended to ensure that consumers have an opportunity to access pertinent privacy information before they download an app. Moreover, the app stores have committed to provide a mechanism for consumers to report apps that don’t comply with laws or the app store’s terms of service.

And the White House also stepped into the debate by announcing a data privacy framework that establishes a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” Although the framework speaks broadly about privacy issues, several sections discuss issues that are particularly relevant to the mobile space. For example, the White House encourages app developers to collect only as much personal data as they need and to tailor their privacy disclosures to mobile screens.


5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Regulators


Given the quickly changing legal landscape — and the growing number of government institutions that want to play a role in that landscape — it can be difficult for companies in the mobile app space to understand what is required. The following five tips address concerns that all of these institutions appear to share. Accordingly, they should form the starting point for your legal analysis when you develop and launch an app.

1. Don’t collect more than you need.

Because data can function as the currency of the digital age, there is often a tendency to collect as much data as possible. Companies think that even if they don’t have an immediate use for the data now, they might find a use (or a buyer) for it later on. Although this may be true, resist the temptation to collect more data than you need for your app to work. This is a core principle of the FTC’s “privacy by design” framework, as well as the new White House framework.

2. Disclose your privacy practices.

You need to make sure that users easily have the ability to learn what information you are collecting from them and how you are using it before they download your app. (The changes the app stores are making as a result of their agreement with the California AG will make this easier.) Make sure that your privacy notices are easy to read and tailored to the mobile setting. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider the Mobile Marketing Association’s Privacy Policy Guidelines for Mobile Apps.

3. Be careful with children.

If you collect personal information from children under 13, you need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Among other things, COPPA generally requires companies to obtain verifiable consent from parents before they collect personal information from their children. The FTC has challenged app developers for violating COPPA, and the agency’s latest report suggests that the FTC expects all members of the kids app ecosystem to play a role in complying.

4. Consider when to get consent.

Although various bills pending in Congress would require companies to get consent before collecting certain types of information, outside of COPPA, getting consent is not a uniformly applicable legal requirement yet. Nevertheless, there are some types of information (such as location-based data) for which getting consent may be a good idea. Moreover, it may be advisable to get consent at the point of collection when sensitive personal data is in play. Work with your legal counsel to determine what makes sense in your context.

5. Protect the information you collect.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to read stories about major companies who experience data breaches. Data breaches can be costly to address and they may result in lasting damage to your brand. If you are collecting information from consumers, you need to ensure you have physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards to protect that information. For example, certain data should be encrypted and you should limit access to it. Moreover, you should properly dispose of data when you no longer need it.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, akinbostanci

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The New iPad Details Hit Apple.com

 




 

The new 9.7-inch iPad has 2048 x 1536-pixel retina display, 5-megapixel camera (with the same optics sensor from the iPhone 4S) and 1080p video recording. It is available March 16 in black and white, powered by A5X chip (with quad-core graphics) and supports 4G LTE networks. It’s 9.4 millimeters thick and 1.4 pounds.

Wi-Fi only iPads cost $499 for 16 GB, $599 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB, while 4G versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. Pre-orders start today, and the devices will be in stores March 16 in these 10 countries: U.S., UK, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

Credit: Apple.com

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Apple announced a new 4G LTE iPad featuring a 9.7-inch retina display Wednesday, following months of speculation about the company’s next big launch.

Its name? The new iPad.

The company made the reveal on stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, home to Apple’s previous two iPad launches.

The new iPad — which starts at $499 — has retina display, a 5-megapixel camera (with the same optics sensor from the iPhone 4S) and 1080p video recording.

“[It has] text sharper than a newspaper. Photos will look incredible. Fonts look amazing,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, during the event. “[It has] the best mobile display that has ever shipped.”

The new iPad will hit stores Friday, March 16, in the U.S., as well as in Japan, the UK, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. It will be available in both black and white.

Weighing in at 1.4 lbs and 9.4mm thick, the LTE device will work with AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., and Bell, Telus and Rogers in Canada. It will have 10 hours of battery life and 9 hours on 4G.

 

Photos on the New iPad

Images show up sharp and clear on the iPad’s new Retina Display.

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Pre-orders start today. Wi-Fi only iPads will cost $499 for 16 GB, $599 for 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB.

SEE ALSO: Live From the Apple iPad Event [LIVE BLOG]
4G models will cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB.

The iPad 2 will now cost $399 for Wi-Fi and $529 for Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities.

The iPad will also feature retina display with 2048 x 1536 pixels and 264 pixels in each inch. It will have a whopping 1 million more pixels than HDTV.

The new device will also boast 44% greater saturation and A5x quad-core graphics.


Camera


The tablet also comes with significant camera upgrades. An upgraded iSight camera has 5-megapixel resolution with backside illumination. In addition, the camera includes a 5-element lens and a hybrid IR filter. It also includes autofocus and white balance and an edge-to-edge, auto-focus lock. In essence, Apple has taken the optics of the iPhone 4S and put them in the iPad, albeit at a slightly lower megapixel rating.

The camera records video in 1080p, up from 720p on the iPad 2. It includes built in video stabilization, which as iPhone 4S users know, works surprisingly well.

Apple sent press invitations last week for today’s event, teasing “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” Although some believed the “see” alluded to a new retina display for the next-generation iPad others said it could be a reference to two product announcements — and that’s exactly what happened.

Apple also announced a new Apple TV, which features a streamlined interface and supports 1080p video. Movies and TV shows from iTunes are now available in 1080p.

Software updates are also available for iMovie, GarageBand and iWork — starting today. It also released a stunning new iPhoto for iPad app ($4.99) that will allow users to manage and edit pictures.

What do you think of the news? Is it what you were expecting? Let us know in the comments.

 

Apple iPad Event

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Michael Schneider is CEO of Mobile Roadie, the leading self-service mobile app platform. With more than 16 million users, Mobile Roadie powers over 3,000 apps for some of the world’s most popular artists and brands.

You don’t need to own app development software — you just think you do.

Often a business encounters one of two scenarios: Either a company is hesitant to go with a development platform because it’s so much cheaper than building an app from scratch. (“If it’s so cheap, something must be wrong.”) They feel they need to “own” the app and source code. Or companies rely on in-house IT departments for development projects, even when they don’t need to.

When a brand new industry emerges (such as SaaS app builders), it takes time for companies to realize that, many times, it’s not cheaper. Over time, this problem will correct itself, in much the same way that WordPress, Tumblr, Square Space and others have become acceptable solutions for building a website, despite their low costs.

On the other hand, IT departments that think they can do it all can actually be dangerous for the companies that employ them. If you’re a technology company, meaning tech is your main business and not just a function within a larger organization, perhaps it does make sense to try and build in-house. But for most organizations, IT groups simply exist to serve the larger purpose of the business, likely something other than tech.

Saying no to an in-house IT department that wants to build mobile may take courage, but it may be in the organization’s best interests.

Or companies may insist: The price is right, IT agrees that it should outsource app creation, but they want to own the source code. This is equivalent to telling Microsoft that you want to use Windows, but that you need the source code to seal the deal. This often derails otherwise great use of app platforms, and causes the organization to build from scratch when, in reality, the organization does not need to own the source code.

Mobile moves at lightning speed. If you own the source code when Apple and Google come out with new versions of iOS and Android, it’s up to you to build in new features and make sure your app is up to snuff. And with new phones and software versions coming out monthly, this can be a daunting and expensive task.

In these three instances, building an app from scratch makes sense.

  1. If it’s your core business to be in the app market.
  2. If you’re trying to build a game.
  3. If your needs are truly, highly custom.

However, if your app is content-driven, there is no good reason to build something from scratch, or to own the source code. There are many impressive platforms on which to build content-based apps, with great viral sharing features, media, gamification and more — at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to build from the ground up. So, stop your IT department from trying to do it all.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sndr

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facebook-mobile-app-600

When Facebook filed for its IPO earlier this month, it revealed that it has 425 million mobile users. That massive presence on phones and tablets has translated into success for many others, the social network says, since Facebook’s mobile platform sends more than 60 million people to third-party apps every month.

In a post on the company’s developer blog, Facebook’s head of mobile developer relations, James Pearce, says that since Facebook revamped its mobile platform in October last year (which included the launch of its iPad app), it’s resulted in a big uptick of users interacting with apps and games outside of Facebook proper. The 60 million people who visit apps from Facebook create more than 320 million “visits” on those apps.

While many of those visits are to popular games such as those made by Zynga, Pearce cites the social app Foodspotting as an example of an app success story. By letting users sign in with their Facebook login and creating an app that integrate’s with Facebook’s Open Graph, Pearce says Foodspotting has seen the number of visits and activities shared via the social network increase by a factor of three.

As a more recent example, Yahoo built Open Graph into its desktop and mobile web apps, so visitors could see on Facebook which Yahoo News articles their friends had been reading. Since Feb. 14 — not even two weeks ago — traffic to the mobile Yahoo News web app has gone up by 3.5x.

SEE ALSO: Facebook’s Road to IPO
The post comes right before Facebook appeared at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor said the company is working to help create standards to make developing web apps easier. That would help fuel Facebook’s mobile influence even more, since developers wouldn’t need to create separate apps for every platform (iOS, Android, etc.) and just integrate Open Graph with a web app to reach Facebook’s huge audience.

Of course, the one thing Facebook hasn’t yet revealed is how it’s going to tie advertising to its mobile platform. In Facebook’s IPO filing, the company said it didn’t serve ads through any of its mobile products — yet.

What do you think of Facebook’s growing influence in mobile? Is it a boon to developers, or should they be wary of putting so many eggs in the Facebook basket? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ymgerman


BONUS: Facebook IPO: Reading Between the Lines


 

Advertising: 123

As we learned by reading the S1 document, Facebook relies heavily on advertising for revenue. “Advertising” comes up 123 times, matched only by “Mobile” (also with 123 mentions). Interestingly, Facebook is not really making much money from mobile but still considers it a key component for future development.

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QR-Code-Art

Portuguese artist Nuno Serrão wants to make art viewing more stimulating by incorporating music through an iPhone app and QR codes.

The artist’s photography exhibit called Project Paperclip is currently housed at the Centro das Artes in Madeira Island, Portugal. People can walk in and do something usually discouraged at galleries — wear headphones and listen to music while taking in the images.

“It can carry you to a different interpretation of that moment in the frame,” Serrão, who has a background in programming, design and music, told Mashable. “All the pictures are inspired by science, curiosity and imagination.”

People can experience it by downloading the free Project Paperclip app. The app developed especially for this exhibit scans the QR scans very easily, connecting to musical airwaves. Try it online, where a few images from the Project Paperclip are viewable.

“The QR codes are used to unlock the soundscapes so that the viewer has access to the reactive soundscapes designed for that photo,” he said as he explained how the idea evolved.

The experience at the gallery or using the app outside the exhibit will be different for everyone. The soundtracks will change depending on when and where you open the application. Your voice, level of noise in the room, movement, and location will set off different sounds, according to the artist.

This gallery is the first augmented reality art exhibit, revolving around a Cold War theme — chosen because it is interesting from a cultural, scientific and political standpoint.

SEE ALSO: Rooftop QR Codes Aim to Infiltrate Google Maps
“There has been an incredible wave of great feedback, I’ve been following mostly on Twitter,” said Serrão, who hopes to bring the augmented reality art experience to international audiences.

The photos are surreal, especially with the pairing of soundtracks. The artist captured natural sound where photos were taken and incorporated those into original soundscapes co-created with musician Alexandre Gonçalves.

“I think I feel in love with the concept of joining art forms when I read a book [by] Arthur C. Clark called The Songs of Distant Earth,” he said, mentioning the 1986 science fiction novel that eventually was sold with a CD based on the book after 1994.

The 16-photograph exhibit opened Feb. 11 and will be available until April 29. The app is currently only available for iPhone 3 and later.

Image courtesy of DiscloseProjectPaperclip.com

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The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

GetTaxiIf modern technology is a universal language, the world is getting schooled in innovation, especially in the public transportation sector.

The global transportation industry has become a testing ground for new payment systems, as cutting-edge technologies have been introduced to taxis, buses and trains worldwide to streamline your jaunts around town. From reserving and paying for a cab with an app to purchasing train tickets via an iPod, various countries are experimenting with new ways to reach out to travelers and make payment and transport a whole lot easier.


Get Taxi


Israel is already making an impact on the mobile payment industry with an app called Get Taxi, which coordinates cab pickups and payments. Without making a phone call, Get Taxi — which is available for Android, BlackBerryand iPhone devices — allows consumers to get a taxi at the click of a button in less than 30 seconds, as though it were an OpenTable reservation.

Once ordered, users can watch and track the reserved taxi on a smartphone’s map as it comes to pick them up — Get Taxi estimates the time of arrival and displays motion in real time. Much like airline travel, passengers can collect miles for free rides or prizes, and payment can be streamlined by saving your credit card information in the app.

The app has been hailed by Time Out Tel Aviv as app of the year, and the host of popular show Big Brother, Israel Assi Azar, tweeted on Friday that after several failed attempts to hail a taxi, he ordered one through the app that showed up just minutes later.

“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads since the app launched, and the news of the service has gone viral,” says Nimrod May, vice president of offline marketing and strategic partnerships for Get Taxi. “Since you get the driver’s contact information ahead of time, parents feel safe sending their kids in Get Taxi cabs, and passengers also feel less frustrated when waiting for it to arrive since they can see where exactly the taxi is headed from.”

Get Taxi’s innovative concept also benefits the driver, bypassing the need for a dispatcher and welcoming cash, credit cards and business accounts for payment. Drivers are also assigned pick-ups close to their last drop location, so they don’t have to waste time or gas getting to their next location. A five-inch device — which is free for drivers and resembles a GPS system — can be installed in taxis to keep track of the latest reservation requests.

“A main component of the success is that the app is simple, it allows users to get full control over something they didn’t have control over before, and that the experience is optimized and seamless,” May says. “We couldn’t be happier with the results so far.”

Founded in 2010, Get Taxi seeks to reinvent the taxi market in Europe, which is valued at about $22 billion, according to the company. In addition to having a presence in Israel, the app is also available in London. Get Taxi plans to roll out the app in Moscow in March and then has its sights set on Paris, Spain, South Africa and eventually the U.S.

To spread more global awareness, Get Taxi is launching a Guinness Book of World Records initiative called “It’s on the Meter,” which will follow a taxi as it travels three continents, 39 countries, 10 time zones and more than 31,000 miles. Right now, the taxi is in San Francisco and will be headed to New York before it takes a ferry to Europe, Russia and then Sydney, Australia.

“We have already tremendously and positively disrupted an industry that wasn’t being tapped with cutting-edge technology,” May tells Mashable. “We think in the next five years that businesses will either have to keep up with the innovation or cease to exist.”


VeriFone Payment Terminals


VeriFone

In addition to being an early adopter to the GetTaxi app, London is no stranger to being at the forefront of other emerging technologies. In fact, taxi drivers in London were incentivized last year with nearly $5,000 to trade in their old models for newer vehicles that are more eco-friendly and boast state-of-the-art technology, such as back-seat TV sets and mobile payment machines powered by San Jose-based VeriFone that let you swipe or tap credit cards.

VeriFone is one of the most innovative mobile payment providers currently testing the waters with new technologies worldwide. Beyond its experimentation in London, the company recently deployed validator technology on bus systems in Turkey, allowing travelers to tap a pre-paid contractless card, issued by the country’s transportation authority to make jumping on board buses easier and more efficient. VeriFone is also using GPS-tracking on buses, so people waiting at a bus stop know in real-time how soon a bus will arrive.

“The buses in Turkey are equipped with GPS tracking and are constantly reporting their location to Verifone’s system in the cloud,” says VeriFone’s senior vice president of marketing, Paul Rasori. “VeriFone then sends messaging to signage at various bus stops to inform travelers that their ride is only four minutes or so away.”


High-Tech Subway Payment


Taxis and buses aren’t the only modes of transportation getting a taste of new tech. Austrian railway WESTbahn recently rolled out new payment technology onboard its trains with the help of the Apple products and mobile technology provided by VeriFone.

“There is a general trend in mobility with companies taking advantage of consumer mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads and iPods,” Rasori says. “Customer service representatives on WESTbahn trains carry iPods that fit into a cradle to enable easy payments. It takes the customer service windows away, and it also allows people with near field communication-enabled (NFC) mobile phones to tap their devices to make a payment.”

Wireless carrier China Telecom Beijing Limited Company is also testing a new way to pay for its bus and subway systems with its “e-Surfing Traffic Card” program. The service incorporates a radio frequency user identifier module (UIM) card that integrates with China Telecom’s 3G mobile network and Beijing’s transport cards. To pay for a ride, users just need to swipe their mobile phones at designated spots. It can also be used to pay for products at participating merchants.

“Mobile payments technology has made advancements in the past few years across the globe, and it’s only expected to grow,” Rasori says. “What’s happening overseas will eventually come to the U.S. and in some cases, it’s already started.”

Rasori notes that just five years ago, New York City taxi cabs were cash only. Now with the incorporation of credit card systems attached to TV systems, 60% of fares are now electronic, and there could be more innovation on the way.

“In the future, you will even be able to buy lottery tickets from the back seat of a taxi,” Rasori says. “The capability exists and so does consumer interest, so it’s only a matter of time before we see more innovative technology in the public transportation industry.”


Series Supported by BMW i


 

The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

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Researchers are trying to create a better battery with MRI scanning — looking at batteries from the inside out for the first time.

Previously the only way scientists looked into a battery is by destroying it. Now researchers at Cambridge University, Stony Brook University and New York University are adopting the MRI technology that doctors use to look inside the body.

MRIs are not typically used where there are large concentrations of metal. People with pacemakers and metal implants are urged to tell their doctors before getting an MRI because metal makes an MRI’s radio frequencies null.

SEE ALSO: 5 iPhone Battery Cases to Keep You Connected Longer

Researchers are using this limitation to their advantage. For lithium-ion batteries, MRIs may be used to see where large bundles of metal deposits are after charging the battery. These will point to problem areas that lead to battery failure, overheating fires and explosions, according to ScienceDaily.

What will come of this research? Better batties for your phones, cameras and laptops.

“New electrode and electrolyte materials are constantly being developed, and this non-invasive MRI technology could provide insights into the microscopic processes inside batteries, which hold the key to eventually making batteries lighter, safer, and more versatile,” said Alexej Jerschow, a professor in NYU’s Department of Chemistry who leads the MRI research laboratory.

Check out the video above to learn more.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, commorancy.

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Since 2010, New York City has strived to become a global digital leader. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and commissioner Katherine Oliver announced NYC Digital last July, with the mission to create a better civil society and stronger democracy with the use of technology – engaging, serving and connecting New York.

Rachel Sterne is the city’s first chief digital officer. Her goal at NYC Digital is to use technology and digital media to improve communication with residents and business and enhance government transparency.

Alongside Bloomberg, Sterne created Road Map for the Digital City, which outlines plans to make New York the world’s leading digital city.

“The state of the digital city was strong in New York when we began developing the roadmap,” says Sterne, who credits Bloomberg’s administration with digital development supporting efficiency, transparency and public engagement.

“But we are New Yorkers, and we don’t rest on our laurels. That’s why the Mayor decided we need a holistic digital roadmap to help New York City realize its full potential and raise the bar even higher.”

The road map is split into four strategic categories: Access to Technology, Open Government, Engagement and Industry.


Access


This year, Digital NYC provided Wi-Fi to more parks and public spaces across the five boroughs. It also strengthened support for more broadband choices. In September, for the first time ever, six different subway stations began to offer cellphone service.

According to the road map, the next steps will be providing education and outreach. Linking with NYC Connected initiatives, the city hopes to provide high-needs individuals with federally funded broadband.


Open Government


Initiatives for the Open Government platform were fully completed in 2011. NYC Digital developed an OpenData API platform, which supplies hundreds of sets of public data produced by agencies and organizations. You can find visualizations and datasets on New York at the NYC Digital Tumblr.

In addition, nine official NYC apps were created for iOS, including NYC 311, NYC City Hall and NYC Media. This year, the Department of Transportation will release an Android version of its official app, which provides New Yorkers with safe transportation choices.

“The mobile web will be a very strong focus for 2012,” says Sterne, “as it is not specific to a platform and helps us to reach even more New Yorkers.”


Engagement


“Reinvent NYC.gov,” the city’s first-ever hackathon, was attended by developers and designers from across the U.S. Since then, there has been an independent hackathon nearly every week, led by experts at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

According to Sterne, this was one of the biggest milestones in the process of the roadmap.

“As powerful as the digital medium is, there is something special about getting together in the same place with a shared mission. In the case of the Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon, that mission was to imagine the future of how city government can engage with the public through its website.”

Over the past year, more than 250 social media channels were created, resulting in more than 1.5 million followers. When Hurricane Irene hit the east coast in August, the city responded in real time with emergency alerts on Facebook, 311 tweets and live video streaming. During the hurricane, an unprecedented amount of traffic throttled the city’s servers, a range of third-party apps became vital for those in need of locating an evacuation zone.

“By opening up its data, the City enabled developers around the world to help us serve the public, and the results were that we served 10-20 times as many people than we would have otherwise.”


Industry


One of the biggest announcements this year was the partnership between Technicon and Cornell. Together, led by deputy mayor Robert Steel and Seth Pinksy of the New York Economic Development Corporation, a new engineering campus will be built on Roosevelt Island. Sterne says this will be “powering innovation for generations to come.”

Mayor Bloomberg also introduced new immigration services for startups in October at the New York Tech Meetup. The city is currently judging entries from software developers for the best new apps that utilize the city’s open data to help residents, visitors and businesses.

Lastly, NYC Digital forged partnerships that serve the public with Bitly, Buddy Media, Facebook, Foursquare, General Assembly, Google, Tumblr and Twitter.


What the Future Holds For NYC Digital


According to Sterne, the roadmap (as it currently stands) is on schedule to meet all of its goals by mid 2013. However, NYC Digital will continue to introduce new goals as existing ones are achieved, so the timeline will evolve.

The city is starting off 2012 with a comprehensive redesign of NYC.gov, working alongside the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

“We see an opportunity to completely re-think the way New Yorkers interact with their government online, and we are thrilled that we were able to kick off the process in an open, participatory way with the Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon we hosted with General Assembly in August.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rabbit75_ist

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Bouncer scanning software, developed by Google, is designed to search the Android market for software that could be malicious, the company announced Thursday on its blog.

With the success of Android this year, the company says it wants to protect its many users and their devices from harm.

“Device activations grew 250% year-on-year, and the total number of app downloads from Android Market topped 11 billion,” Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of engineering, wrote on the Google Mobile Blog. “As the platform continues to grow, we’re focused on bringing you the best new features and innovations — including in security.”

Bouncer will scan current and new applications, plus developer accounts. The blog post explained how the service will function.

“Here’s how it works: once an application is uploaded, the service immediately starts analyzing it for known malware, spyware and trojans. It also looks for behaviors that indicate an application might be misbehaving, and compares it against previously analyzed apps to detect possible red flags. We actually run every application on Google’s cloud infrastructure and simulate how it will run on an Android device to look for hidden, malicious behavior. We also analyze new developer accounts to help prevent malicious and repeat-offending developers from coming back.”

Bouncer was tested in 2011 and comparing the first half of the year to the second, Google Mobile reported a 40% decrease in malicious downloads.

Google says from the beginning, Android was designed with security in mind. And, although a company can’t prevent malware, it can control the amount of damage those threats can cause with a dynamic security plan.

    Some of Android’s core security features are:

  • Sandboxing: The Android platform uses a technique called “sandboxing” to put virtual walls between applications and other software on the device. So, if you download a malicious application, it can’t access data on other parts of your phone and its potential harm is drastically limited.
  • Permissions: Android provides a permission system to help you understand the capabilities of the apps you install, and manage your own preferences. That way, if you see a game unnecessarily requests permission to send SMS, for example, you don’t need to install it.
  • Malware removal: Android is designed to prevent malware from modifying the platform or hiding from you, so it can be easily removed if your device is affected. Android Market also has the capability of remotely removing malware from your phone or tablet, if required.

Google’s long been fine-tuning its security features for its various products. Although in the past Google’s products have clashed with that of other mobile service providers due to security concerns.

Are you an Android user? What do you think about Bouncer? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto

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Paul Baldwin is the chief marketing officer of Outfit7 Inc., a subsidiary of Out Fit 7 Ltd, the leading entertainment app developer. Paul has more than 17 years of experience developing, marketing and monetizing digital entertainment content.

Spend a few minutes browsing through both the Android and Apple app stores and it’s easy to see the fierce competition for user attention. The number of apps has grown to more than 1 million, each vying for downloads and market share.

The app development world is still very top-heavy, with a very small percentage of developers controlling the majority of downloads and revenue. But that in no way means that a newcomer can’t build a successful app that captures the hearts and minds of consumers, and becomes the next big thing.

Since the app stores themselves control which apps are elevated and highlighted, how can you ensure your app gets time in the spotlight and the attention it deserves? Here are six tips drawn from experience.


1. Focus on Product


The best way to get your app noticed is to build a unique and engaging product. Although that’s an article all on its own, let’s sum it up in a few key points.

Know your exact market and who you’re competing against. This will help you understand your target user — what he expects and likes and who else is offering apps to him.  

Great apps are also usually the first in their category, or apps that completely reinvent existing categories. A big sign that you have a great app is when you start seeing copycat apps. Embrace them and use them as motivation to continue.

Another element that great apps have in common is fun. You want to make your app something that users will come back to again and again, rather than a one-time, disposable thrill. Whether that means creating lovable characters or tapping into the human desire to compete, remember to deliver fun the first time and every time after.

Also, great apps are simple. No user guides should be necessary to participate, and there should be nothing to “figure out” from a user standpoint. They are intuitive and immediately easy to grasp.

Finally, the last big hallmark of a phenomenal app product is the ability for users to make the app personal through customization features. Today’s app audience is constantly wondering what’s in it for them. Allow them to make it theirs and they’ll more likely become instantly enamored.


2. Allow Users to Engage Others with Your App


These days, more developers are using social media as part of the app as a major key to its success. Your customers’ word-of-mouth multiplies your network a hundred times over without costing you a dime, so be sure to put mechanisms in place that allow users to talk about the app and share experiences with friends.

For example, if your app enables users to create fun videos, make sure they can share those videos with others. This type of direct experience sharing will go a long way in spreading the word about your app.  

Caveat: Don’t “over-viralize” your app with too many social features that don’t make sense.


3. Get Media and Blogger Attention: Make It Simple


Media attention and especially reviews of your app can really help to spread recognition. To get that kind of attention, though, you have to have a solid app to begin with, a great story around your app, and it absolutely must be easy to talk about.

The tendency is to come up with the most ingenious, compelling app, filled with loads of features but none that really stand out. This is called “feature creep” and usually spells disaster. Remember, the launch is just the beginning. Successful apps are always adding new content months after launch. If reporters and bloggers (and users for that matter) have a hard time explaining what your app is, what it does or why they like it, they’re less likely to talk about your app. Keep version one simple.

To make your app easier for media to cover, provide materials like press kits, beta codes (if necessary) and reviewer guides. It also helps to identify technology and pop culture trend stories that your app can fit into.


4. Continue Your Marketing Efforts


When your app launches, you’ll definitely want to have a marketing strategy in place to seize your launch window of opportunity, but it’s also important to continue marketing long after launch.

Many developers find pre-launch strategies helpful for grabbing attention. This includes creating a “coming soon” page that teases your app a bit, collecting emails for those interested in the first look, and even extending first invites to target publication audiences.

Make sure you exhaust every “co-marketing” opportunity out there with other app developers. Some major publishers will trade their app installs for your app installs. Everybody is in the same boat, in the same huge ocean of apps. You might be surprised to find that other developers are more than happy to participate in reciprocal marketing.

The important thing to remember is that app marketing windows are perpetual, meaning you should establish marketing vehicles that you can trigger at your discretion over long periods of time. That means plan, plan, plan.


5. Use Analytics 


When developing apps, you have all kinds of data at your fingertips to evaluate how your app is being received. Use analytics to monitor your ranking and as a marketing tool.

Become a student of the Android and iOS category rankings (e.g., entertainment vs. games). Each category has its own nuances for determining “top” rankings, so be sure to evaluate each one. Understand why the app moved up in the rankings in order to iterate and improve your own ranking over time. Additionally, if you have a good sense of what is moving the bar for your app, you can also learn from what the top developers are doing.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that you leverage the wealth of analytics available from your app to make your app better over time. Not only will the data help you iterate and improve your app from a technical standpoint, but it will also allow you to create the right content to which users connect. Once the app is live, analyze the data to update your release schedule and product roadmap.

You can also learn when your customers are willing to “rate your app” or be pitched another app in your portfolio. Analytics can shed light on how frequently you should attempt to cross-sale or suggest another item for purchase.


6. Prepare for Success


This tip may seem a little strange at first — who wouldn’t be thinking about success? But in reality, many apps start strong then fade and fizzle. Preparing for success is as much about your product as it is about the team behind it.

It’s crucial to structure your team in a way that supports hyper growth. It’s good to rely on a more fluid and dynamic network of expertise and project teams than a rigid structure.

Think of your app as a brand that will enable you to leverage brand extension opportunities. Build your apps to welcome future cross-promotion opportunities, rather than intrusions on the user experience.

The best way to prepare for app success is to constantly focus on keeping your users engaged. Give them more than just product updates once they’ve downloaded and become fans of your app. Give them instant fun, addictive experiences that they will want to share with friends.

Whatever your secret sauce is or has been, be sure to nurture it to keep your users wanting more — and deliver your app in a way that surpasses user expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, ItzaFineDay

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