The Apple Watch will tell you if your train is running late

Apple and its developers are announcing a lot of apps being retooled for its new smart watch, launching next week, but one particular app caught my eye. Crowdsoured public transit app Moovit says it will have an Apple Watch-optimized version of its app ready when the wearable goes on sale whenever that date happens to be.

There are several smartphone apps that will help you navigate the complex train, bus and metro networks of any big city, but the only problem with them is they’re in your smartphone. When you’re rushing to catch a train, or on a crowded sidewalk trying to find the closest bus stop, the last thing you want to do is whip out your device. Putting basic, yet pertinent information you need to navigate a crowded cityscape on your wrist is an ideal use case for a wearable. Moovit says an Android Wear version of the app will also be released in [company]Google[/company] Play sometime in the second quarter.

Moovit Apple Watch 1

 

The [company]Apple[/company] Watch app will give you a tiny map showing the nearest public transit stops so if you’re in an unfamiliar area, you’ll know where to head to catch your bus or train. Tap on one of those icons, and you’ll get arrival times for every train or bus that stops there. While actually planning a trip might be easier on your phone than on the Watch’s limited display, once you have an itinerary entered, Moovit will show you the trip details. For example, Moovit will show you directions to a transit stop and your expected time arrival at your destination.

Also, if you have favorite itineraries programmed into Moovit – for instance, your daily commute to work – the Watch will display the next arrival and departure times of the buses and trains you typically take. Finally, the app will ship alerts to your watch face on service disruptions for those same oft-used transit lines.

Moovit Apple Watch 2

 

This would have been an awfully handy thing to have this week at Mobile World Congress where accessing the Barcelona metro system is a must unless you like 2-hour cab lines. A simple glance at my wrist would have told me where I needed to go to catch my train, and how long I had before it arrived. Instead, I stood around at crowded intersections looking like a rube as I tried to access Google Maps on my phone. ETA information also would have been quite helpful since I often found myself arriving either 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late to appointments.

Moovit, which is often described as the Waze of public transit, has been on a bit of a tear lately. The Israeli company recently raised a $50 million Series C round, and it has expanded into 500 cities in 50 countries while racking up 15 million users contributing transit data to its database.

 

Devicescape offers a Wi-Fi fallback service to mobile carriers

Devicescape has long offered a crowdsourced network of hotspots to carriers that have adopted a “Wi-Fi first” attitude, which aims to move as much traffic as possible of the expensive cellular network onto cheap public Wi-Fi. But Devicescape is now going after a different kind of carrier — one that wants to keep its customers on its 3G and 4G networks as much as possible and use Wi-Fi only as a last resort.

You can think of it as a “Wi-Fi second” attitude, and Devicescape is supporting that strategy with a new service called Coverage Continuity that acts as kind of traffic cop on a customer’s mobile phone. It detects when mobile coverage is poor or the network is overloaded and only then shifts customers over to nearby Wi-Fi hotspots if they’re available.

Coverage Continuity will work anywhere Wi-Fi and cellular are both present, but it’s an ideal indoor solution. The mobile network often has trouble punching through multiple walls, while Wi-Fi is readily available indoors. Once a strong cellular signal is detected, Devicescape then moves the device back onto the 3G or 4G network.

So why not just keep customers on the Wi-Fi network as often as possible, like the Wi-Fi–first guys? Well, Wi-Fi can be a fickle technology, as anyone who has tried to connect to a crowded coffee shop or airport hotspot can attest.

Devicescape’s network isn’t a private network where it can guarantee capacity to a carrier partner. Instead, Devicescape has aggregated millions of free amenity hotspots at stores, offices, restaurants and government networks in its global database and provides a device client that automatically connects to them. There’s a chance that any given hotspot might be more congested than the actual cellular network, so Coverage Continuity gives carriers much more control over when and how their customers connect to public Wi-Fi.

Come see August, Electric Imp and more at our SXSW Hardware House

No matter what you think about South by Southwest Interactive, tens of thousands of people still head to Austin, Texas in the Spring to partake of tacos, barbecue and some decidedly weird tech culture when the second and third weeks in March collide. So this year Gigaom and Stage Two have teamed up to throw a celebratory happy hour to honor those who love and build gadgets and connected devices.

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On Friday March 13th we’ll have an evening event — The SXSW Hardware House — featuring interviews with Jason Johnson, CEO of August Locks; Hugo Fiennes, CEO of Electric Imp; Sam deBrouwer, Co-founder of Scanadu; and Nick Yulman community manager for hardware and design at Kickstarter, all prepared to share their insights and tips about getting your products off the ground and into consumers hands. They’ll have stories to share about manufacturing, crowdfunding, government regulations and finding the right retail partners.

Between each of these interviews we’ll also have demonstrations from some of the most exciting products out on the market, and some that haven’t even launched yet from companies like Leeo, OMsignal, MetaWear and more. We’re still looking for some demos, so if you are interested fill out this form by the end of this week and we’ll evaluate the applications and let you know if we have room for your demo.

The event kicks off at 6 pm at the WeWork space at Sixth and Congress Ave. at the heart of the SXSW action. We’ll have some space set aside for tables and demos on the first floor for smaller startups and then an elevator ride up we’ll have the main event with tacos, beer, the presentations themselves and even live music for the full South by experience. If you’re into hardware and the internet of things, I hope to see you there.

Guardian digital editor is right — ending comments is a mistake

Guardian digital editor and former New York Times staffer Aron Pilhofer says media outlets are making a monumental mistake by ending comments, instead of focusing on how they can use them to build a true community and two-way relationship with their readers

Moovit, the Waze of public transit, rakes in another $50M

The meteoric rise of Waze was a huge success story for the Israeli tech scene, and the country is now aiming to repeat that success with another crowdsourced transportation company – this one focused on public transit rather than individual drivers. Moovit has raised a $50 million Series C round, bringing its total funding to $82 million.

Nokia Growth Partners, BMW i Ventures, Keolis, Bernard Arnault Group, and Vaizra Investments all participated in the round along with existing investors BRM Group, Gemini Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Moovit

Like Waze, Moovit relies on its community of commuters to report on the state of a city’s bus, train, metro and trams systems in real-time. Its iOS, iPhone and Windows apps track users as they navigate the transit system and queries them on specific conditions; for example, how crowded a train car or bus stop is. The techniques it uses are very similar to accident and traffic reporting features on Waze. That not only gives Moovit commuters an idea about delays and possible alternatives to their regular routes, it lets Moovit finely tune its mapping and navigation services for people trying to get where they’re going by public transit.

When we last checked in with Moovit a year ago, it had 3 million members in its crowdsourcing community but in 13 months its grown to 15 million in 500 cities spread through 45 countries.

The year in media: 12 reasons why we should be optimistic

It’s easy to focus on the negatives in media — the mistakes, the downsizing at traditional journalistic outlets, etc. — but there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the media landscape this year, and here are just a few of them

Platforms and crowdsourcing: The office of the 21st century

“Disruption” is one of the most overhyped concepts of the last ten years. A Google Trend search for “disruptive innovation” shows a steeply rising graph, and you can hardly open a professional news website without reading stories about whole sectors being disrupted. Given that “business as usual” is apparently undergoing a profound transformation, how this will impact the people doing the actual work in our economy? One logical consequence is that the way people work and earn money will also radically change. How this will be different is a direct result of the new dominant organization model that is currently emerging.

What do YouTube, Airbnb, and bitcoin have in common that distinguishes them from CNN, Hilton Hotels, and the average bank? The answer is that the former are all platforms. We are witnessing the death of the decades-old industrial organization model, which is being replaced by the organization model of the 21st century: the platform.

What makes a platform a platform? Patrick Savalle’s 2008 book TeamPark: From Crowd to Community lays out the parameters of the platform organization model. It describes how a platform organization provides an infrastructure for crowds of people to create value through an organic rather than a mechanical bureaucratic process. Communication on a platform follows the biological principle of “stigmergy,” which is how ants manage to perform complex tasks without central command and control.

Typically, a platform organizational model has these three features:

Crowdsourcing of resources: Whether it’s a room on Airbnb or knowledge on Wikipedia, the value on a platform is created by mobilizing resources that aren’t necessarily owned or controlled by the organization itself. A major advantage of the platform is that it doesn’t have to invest in all of these resources. Its reason for existence is simply to create synergies between them.

Asynchronous communication: Millions of people simultaneously drive their cars on the road every day without linear planning and direct communication between them. In much the same way, large groups of people can also perform complex tasks on a platform together without having to coordinate their communication in real-time, or even having to meet. For example, Github is home to millions of software repositories, which are often produced by open source developers.

Self-organization: As the behavior on the platform is organic instead of pre-planned, it might create never imagined results. Who could have imagined the incredible diversity in the iTunes App Store, for example?

The direct consequence for the future of work is that the 21st-century office is the platform, without physical boundaries that bind people and teams unilaterally to one location or project. Online platforms are where people will go to add value, and get paid for it. Millions of people are already collaborating productively every day on social networks, forums, Q&As, wikis and other collaboration platforms. This is why mainstream corporations are now heavily investing in “social” intranets, which are essentially platforms to utilize these powerful tools for the internal organization. But companies are generally trying to fit these social technologies into traditional industrial processes and procedures, creating a strict line between inside and outside. Obviously, this is not going to work. 

It’s necessary for businesses to completely rethink their processes and how they reward people, which also means that they should stop rewarding based on linear metrics such as time and predefined and assigned tasks. On a platform, everyone is rewarded based on the actual value they produce. A beautiful example of this is GiffGaff, a U.K.-based telecom operator that pays its customers for running its customer support platform. The company also crowdsources sales from its customers and offers financial rewards for referrals.

The crowdsourcing of labor through platforms is still in its infancy and is not yet at the heart of organizational planning. It is, however, gaining considerable mainstream traction in diverse areas ranging from software development to open innovation, from help desks to content creation. Companies like Google and Samsung are paying serious money to freelancers and to their own internal developers to contribute on the Github platform to open source software projects like Linux. A corporate giant like Unilever uses oDesk to facilitate its flexible workforce policy. London’s top university, Imperial College, uses its community of students and alumni to crowdsource research for corporate clients, and distributes the fees among the contributors using Mobbr’s crowd payment functionality (disclosure: I work for Mobbr).

One of the corporate frontrunners in crowdsourcing labor is General Electric. It has partnered with Quirky to crowdsource product innovation. It uses the data scientist community Kaggle to crowdsource algorithms for air travel flight paths and uses GrabCad to crowdsource engineering solutions. FirstBuild, through its partnership with crowd-based car manufacturer Local Motors, takes crowdsourcing a step further. It uses a crowd of professionals and enthusiasts to ideate, design, prototype, refine, build and commercialize home appliances.

FirstBuild itself is merely the platform that facilitates the entire flow of value. It offers proof that crowdsourcing is not something that is only done online — and shows that it may well be the template for the future of work in the 21st century.

Ernesto Spruyt is chief of growth at Mobbr, the world’s first crowd payments platform for the collaborative economy that makes crowdsourcing online work rewarding for everyone. Prior to joining Mobbr, Ernesto founded Larive Russia, a market entry consultancy based in Moscow, and ran several projects in the Dutch startup scene.