Commerce Apps Revolutionizing Shopping

A couple of nights ago, as I was idly passing time on my phone, I opened up the App Store and proceeded to download four or five new apps. Three of these were shopping-related. When asked if I wanted to receive notifications, I granted the applications permission. I quickly realized the danger of my decision. Less than 24 hours later, I was beginning to receive alerts, tempting me to view discounted items that would still inevitably accumulate to a steep amount if I made purchases every time I was notified of a sale.

This type of interactive commerce may very well be the future of shopping. An article on ReadWriteShop recently outlined three e-commerce tools that are setting the trend.

  • eBay’s digital shopping windows: large digital screens allowing users to view and purchase products on display
  • Zero Effort Commerce: an app that learns users’ shopping habits and can be programmed for different conveniences, such as making purchases before running out of a certain product or offering customized item suggestion
  • eBay Valet app pilot: an app designed for selling products that transfers much of the work to eBay, such as estimating a price, taking professional photos of the item and sending a shipping box and label

Apps such as these will make shopping and selling more accessible than ever. It will be interesting to see how advances in e-commerce shape purchasing trends—particularly apps that monitor spending habits and offer tailored recommendations. For a shopping-lover such as myself, a new level of self-control will certainly have to be developed, but I believe the benefits will outweigh the setbacks.

Midwest Federal Laboratories Looking for Partnerships

Midwest federal laboratories are exploring the opportunity to build partnerships to accelerate and move innovation to private commercialization. To address important issues and prospects involved in collaborating with federal labs, The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) for Technology Transfer is hosting an event in Indianapolis August 19-20.

A number of informative sessions will cover industry trends and key technologies. Attendees will also have the chance to network with industry professionals and learn about the various challenges and benefits involved in licensing intellectual property from federal laboratories. An awards luncheon will be held Wednesday, August 20 to recognize the region’s best industry achievements.

Panels consisting of capital, entrepreneurial and technology-based economic development experts will tackle the pros and cons of working with federal labs. Sue Ellspermann, the 50th lieutenant governor of Indiana, will serve as keynote speaker.

The meeting will provide business leaders with a rare chance to learn more about Midwest federal laboratories and the opportunities partnerships could offer.

Anti-Bullying App Gets Microloan Boost

The current edition of BizVoice® magazine includes a story about the Madison County Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), an after-school program for students in grades six to 12 that helps students learn how to brainstorm ideas for companies, present those companies to an investor panel and secure funding for their ideas.

As part of the YEA program, Pendleton Heights High School junior Brandon Boynton created an anti-bullying app called The Bully Box, which is marketed to schools and allows students to report acts of bullying anonymously, while allowing the school district to collect bullying data to help comply with anti-bullying laws and protect students.

Boynton’s app won the local contest held through the Madison County YEA program, as well as the regional contest in Boca Raton, Florida. He placed in the top six of a national competition at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. in June.

According to a press release from the Flagship Microloan Program, the app has also caught the attention of the microloan organization, which provides small loans of between $1,000 and $5,000 to businesses in a 10-county region of East Central Indiana. The program announced it will make a working capital loan to Most Beastly Studios, which produces The Bully Box app. The Flagship Enterprise Center, a technology incubator in Anderson, is a sponsor of the Madison County YEA program and is a partnership between the City of Anderson and Anderson University.

To raise additional capital for the app, Boynton is running a campaign via crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. His goal is to raise $25,000 by Sept. 24.

Also in Boynton’s toolbox is The Curfew Buddy – keeping parents and children connected quickly about where children are and when they’ll return home.

Kudos to this young Hoosier entrepreneur and the Madison County YEA program for giving Boynton and other enterprising students the experience and opportunity to change the world through their innovative products, services and ideas.

Netflix Vs. Cable TV

Last fall, I studied off-campus in Philadelphia. The first week of the program, they sent us out into the city to find housing and furniture. By the end of that week, I did have roommates and an apartment, but we rented minimal furniture to save money. Our TV ended up being one that we found on the street. We propped it up on a cardboard box that slowly began to sag over the weeks, and often it was a gamble whether or not the picture came through.

Though we paid for cable, I ended up turning to Netflix during those few months. It was much simpler than fiddling with the old, boxy TV, and I liked being able to watch a whole series at my own pace.

This experience has made me curious about Netflix versus cable usage. A recent article on Mashable delved into this topic; specifically, looking into usage during the summer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the article reveals that cable TV is still dominant.

Roughly 99% of U.S. households (which total about 115 million) have a TV, and 56% of those have cable. Netflix only has about 48 million members worldwide. Additionally, Netflix has not reported increased subscribership during the summer months. Its peak months are January through March and October through December. However, there is about a 30% increase in family and kids content viewing hours during the summer.

Now that I have a properly functioning TV, I am once again a happy cable TV viewer, while still a Netflix subscriber. In fact, when I returned home to Indiana in the winter, I had an entire lineup of TV shows recorded on the DVR to catch up on. So while I went a long period of time without watching cable, I know that I would not completely forgo it, either.

July/August BizVoice Building a Buzz

Today, we’re unveiling our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine.

And the headline is actually a joking nod to our cover story about drones… assuming they make some sort of buzzing sound as they fly. If they don’t, well, let’s just ignore it and move on.

This issue covers a gamut of topics. Here are a few of the top stories (but you can view the full edition via our interactive online version):

Apple Reaches Settlement in E-Book Pricing War

Step into my room at home and you’ll find a row of book-lined shelves, stacked atop one another and overflowing onto my desk. When I was younger, summers meant days filled with devouring books. And yes, I was that kid who brought books to school and read whenever a spare moment presented itself, only occasionally hiding them beneath my teacher’s line of sight so I could read during class (but only if it was a book I absolutely couldn’t put down).

As a book nerd, I’ve kept up a bit with the raging paper versus e-book war. Personally, my loyalty remains with paperback books. I enjoy physically turning the pages and have felt a sort of cold detachment whenever trying to read an e-book. On the other hand, I have nothing against e-books and believe the two forms can co-exist peacefully—someday.

But for that day to come, publishers and booksellers need to straighten out e-book pricing issues. In April 2012, the U.S. government sued Apple and five of the biggest publishers for contracts Apple made with the publishers that raised e-book prices. The agreement in these contracts involved the publishers establishing book prices and Apple receiving 30%. The purpose was to force Amazon, who often sold below cost, to raise e-book prices.

Apple has now reached a settlement in this e-book pricing lawsuit, in which it faced up to $840 million in claims. The terms of the agreement have not been made public.

This is only one example of the controversies e-books have caused in the publishing world, but hopefully this is a step in settling pricing issues.

In the meantime, as a stubborn paperback-enthusiast who has not been personally affected by this problem, my biggest hope is simply for the industry to thrive as a whole, whatever that takes.

Starbucks to Offer Wireless Cell Phone Charging

I’ve been accused of having a slightly-obsessive attachment to my cell phone, and justifiably so. It’s the first item I grab when leaving a room, and it typically sits dutifully by my side wherever I’m at. So when I glimpse the battery icon flashing red, warning of its imminent death, I hope that I’m near an outlet to charge it back to life.

Starbucks understands this dilemma. The world’s largest coffee-shop operator is taking it a step further by offering customers the ability to wirelessly recharge their mobile devices, forgoing the hassle of finding an outlet to plug phone chargers into.

Starbucks is teaming with Duracell Powermat to provide this convenient service. Customers will be able to set their cell phones on Powermat Spots located on the counters and tables to charge their devices. The coffee-selling chain has continuously worked to create an ideal atmosphere for customers to encourage them to prolong their stay. In 2010, Starbucks began offering free Internet and has recently looked into a service allowing customers to order items on their phone ahead of time.

No longer will coffee lovers have to hunt down outlets to save their phones from demise. We cell phone enthusiasts will be able to enjoy our coffee in peace, comforted by the steadily-refilling battery.

A ‘Goliath’ Example of an Exciting Engineering Career

Think engineering jobs are mundane? Think again!

Check out this Chicago Tribune story about Goliath, the new roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., set to open this Saturday. It will set three records for wooden roller coasters, and it will be the steepest and fastest wooden coaster in the world.

The road to construction of this roller coaster involved engineering innovation. The article details the work of the engineers, bringing this structure to life.

Go Old School to ‘Game’ the System

I miss the days when game shows dominated the weekday morning TV lineup. Sure The Price is Right still chugs along, and Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are evening mainstays – but where have all the others gone?

I know what you’re thinking: Symone, have you heard of the Game Show network? Joyfully, I have. Sadly, I no longer have the channel.

I fear the demise of board games. I devoted hours back in the day to my favorites: Sorry, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers and Uncle Wiggily (I swear it exists, even though no one but me seems to have heard of it). Uncle Wiggily teaches rhyming, reading and counting as players help a friendly rabbit navigate through the woods to a doctor’s appointment.

Video games, don’t take offense. There’s plenty of room for you in my world. I would boot up my old Nintendo in an instant to rediscover Super Mario Brothers 3. But, you’ll always be my second choice.

Want to know a secret? I didn’t like Life and Monopoly one bit. I remember my siblings trying to play – I thought it was a lot more fun to confiscate the money.

At the Risk of being a bit dramatic (see what I did there? My brother loved Risk), playing board games as a child helped shape my personality. Some were challenging. Others were funny. But all bring back cherished memories of loved ones.

So, dust off Scrabble. Dig out Battleship. Let the games begin!

One in Every Five Central Indiana Jobs is in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is a key economic driver in Indiana. Ninety-five percent of Indiana’s exports are manufactured goods. Total employment in manufacturing in Central Indiana is 106,877. And $69,320 is the average annual compensation of the manufacturing workforce in Indiana.

The issue: in a 2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers and accounting firm Deloitte & Touche found that 32% of surveyed manufacturers couldn’t find enough qualified workers. And more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs are anticipated to become available each year for the next 10 years.

This is great news for Indiana’s workforce! The important step is that we communicate this to students and parents so they understand where the job demand is and understand what the pathways are. The Indiana Chamber Foundation and Ready Indiana are taking a step to help bridge the knowledge gap. The Chamber Foundation has released a study examining the current landscape of school counseling. Fleck Education conducted the study. This will guide The Chamber’s upcoming efforts to connect K-12 education and workforce needs.

See this infographic with Indiana manufacturing facts.