Emerging Technology

Bendable display screens for mobiles … DVD boom … Disposable sunglasses … Making the internet work in China

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The highlight of this week’s 3GSM world mobile phone technology conference in Barcelona has got be the Global Mobile Awards, where industry boffins give out gongs to the year’s best mobile gizmos.

The most innovative technology award was taken out by Netherlands company Polymer Vision for its rollable electronic display technology.

The displays are just about paper thin, highly bendable and do not require backlighting. On the down side, they only work with static, black and white images, so they are really only good for reading text.

At present you can buy a reader using a 12 centimetre version of the folding screen technology, but the 3GSM conference win suggests mobile phone based applications aren’t too far away.

Another winner from the conference is the ShoZu multimedia delivery platform. Shozu’s mobile phone platform enables users to download and upload multimedia content such as pictures or video with a single click and makes messaging between phone and computer more straightforward.

Shozu hopes its product will be a hit in the 14 to 30 year-old age bracket, where it hopes people will use the technology to interact more easily with websites such as Myspace.

DVD sales up

Blockbuster movies like Harry Potter and cult TV series Little Britain — and the popularity of plasma TVs — fuelled a turnaround in DVD sales in 2006. Last year sales to retailers rose 14% to 65.2 million titles and revenue was up 15% to $1.02 billion compared to 2005, according to figures from the Australian Visual Software Distributors Association.

The rise in 2006 follows a 2% fall in sales in 2005. AVSDA says the fall was a one-off, and predicts sales to rise again in 2007.

New products for a new hotter world

Climate change could make it easier to sell ice to Eskimos, but innovators are also seeing other business opportunities in the sun’s haze.

The future’s looking very bright for two such entrepreneurs — RMIT university students, and brothers, Chris and Robert Ellis. They’ve developed and patented an affordable, recyclable and UV-certified product for anyone stranded without eye protection — disposable sunglasses.

Developed as the winner of the 2005 Saxton Scholars design competition, an annual competition for students of graphic design and visual communications, the sunglasses will be targeted at the sporting event and music festival markets. Similar products exist for the extreme adventurer, but the Ellis brothers’ design combines fashion with survivalist protection. Their version is expected to be commercially available in the next six months.

How the Chinese have embraced the web

This year it is likely that the number of users in China will break 150 million. How the Chinese are using the net is important for companies wanting to communicate with consumers in the emerging market.

The Edelman public relations agency and the Chinese Internet Network Information Center have co-authored a study for Big Pharma about what internet users are saying about the topic of health. The report is intriguing, both for what it says about how corporations are viewing the internet as a marketing medium, and for how China’s enormous internet-enabled population is driving the formation of new models of cultural discourse, writes Salon.com.

Here’s an excerpt: “China’s millions of internet users are posting to bulletin boards in huge numbers, and one of their favourite topics of discussion is healthcare. Edelman and CIC crunched some ‘1,427,853 user-generated messages from 176,373 unique posters on 13 Chinese websites and 430 health-related BBS forums’ between July 1 and 30 September 2006 to figure out who and what exactly they were talking about.

“Why go to all this trouble? Edelman declares that the era in which industry could manage its branding and marketing messages solely by top-down ‘vertical’ communication through mainstream media are over. Today, it’s all about ‘horizontal’ communication between individuals via the internet. So if you want to get your message out, you have to identify who the key ‘e-fluencers’ are (a word that gets my vote for most ungainly coinage of the 21st century) and figure out how to become part of their conversation. In China, ‘Samar,’ the ‘Tumor Doctor’ and ‘Dao Ke Dao Feichang Dao’ are the new gatekeepers of cancer information.

“Edelman finishes with some do’s and don’ts for pharmaceutical companies looking to work this horizontal conversation to their advantage. Some are obvious — don’t spam, don’t offer money directly to e-fluencers, or you’ll get burned by the backlash. But my favourite piece of advice displays a deep understanding of how the information ecology of the web works: ‘Offer what e-fluencers desire most: unique information and recognition’.”

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