Tag Archives: process

The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 4: Laser Cutting, Plastic Welding

Here in Part 4, the prototype of the mobile solar charging platform starts to take shape. Industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, shows us the tricks of the trade:

– Using a laser cutter on the styrene forms that he vacuum-formed last time, he’s able to get precise shapes in a compound-curved surface

– When cutting out parts that don’t require an entire sheet of material, he uses the opportunity to cut extra test parts out of the extra material

– The versatility of styrene, which he’s even able to fashion hinges out of

– The benefits of wet sanding, and the importance of sanding blocks

– How to solvent-weld plastic with great precision

Check it out:


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 4: Laser Cutting, Plastic Welding

Here in Part 4, the prototype of the mobile solar charging platform starts to take shape. Industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, shows us the tricks of the trade:

– Using a laser cutter on the styrene forms that he vacuum-formed last time, he’s able to get precise shapes in a compound-curved surface

– When cutting out parts that don’t require an entire sheet of material, he uses the opportunity to cut extra test parts out of the extra material

– The versatility of styrene, which he’s even able to fashion hinges out of

– The benefits of wet sanding, and the importance of sanding blocks

– How to solvent-weld plastic with great precision

Check it out:


Core77

The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 4: Laser Cutting, Plastic Welding

Here in Part 4, the prototype of the mobile solar charging platform starts to take shape. Industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, shows us the tricks of the trade:

– Using a laser cutter on the styrene forms that he vacuum-formed last time, he’s able to get precise shapes in a compound-curved surface

– When cutting out parts that don’t require an entire sheet of material, he uses the opportunity to cut extra test parts out of the extra material

– The versatility of styrene, which he’s even able to fashion hinges out of

– The benefits of wet sanding, and the importance of sanding blocks

– How to solvent-weld plastic with great precision

Check it out:


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 2: Final Rendering

Here in Part 2 industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, has just one more step to complete before building a model of his solar charger design: Nailing that all-important final rendering.

Some of you will do this all on paper, some digitally. Strebel has developed his own workflow combining the two for greater efficiency. Here he provides some practical rendering tips including why he starts with orange and 20% grey, why black comes last, how to get gradations on paper without pastel dust getting everywhere, what’s faster to do on paper vs. faster to do digitally, and more. Check it out:

Missed Part 1? Check it out here.


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 2: Final Rendering

Here in Part 2 industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, has just one more step to complete before building a model of his solar charger design: Nailing that all-important final rendering.

Some of you will do this all on paper, some digitally. Strebel has developed his own workflow combining the two for greater efficiency. Here he provides some practical rendering tips including why he starts with orange and 20% grey, why black comes last, how to get gradations on paper without pastel dust getting everywhere, what’s faster to do on paper vs. faster to do digitally, and more. Check it out:

Missed Part 1? Check it out here.


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 2: Final Rendering

Here in Part 2 industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, has just one more step to complete before building a model of his solar charger design: Nailing that all-important final rendering.

Some of you will do this all on paper, some digitally. Strebel has developed his own workflow combining the two for greater efficiency. Here he provides some practical rendering tips including why he starts with orange and 20% grey, why black comes last, how to get gradations on paper without pastel dust getting everywhere, what’s faster to do on paper vs. faster to do digitally, and more. Check it out:

Missed Part 1? Check it out here.


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 1: Ideation and Sketching

This is an eight-part series by industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, where he lets you follow along as he prototypes a portable solar charging unit.

The all-important prototyping process can be different between industrial designers and projects, but one thing that doesn’t change is that you start with ideation. Before you spend any real money, you want to first figure out what’s what by making basic, inexpensive mock-ups and doing a lot of sketching to identify and solve potential problems:


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The Industrial Design Prototyping Process, Part 1: Ideation and Sketching

This is an eight-part series by industrial designer Eric Strebel, founder of Botzen Design, where he lets you follow along as he prototypes a portable solar charging unit.

The all-important prototyping process can be different between industrial designers and projects, but one thing that doesn’t change is that you start with ideation. Before you spend any real money, you want to first figure out what’s what by making basic, inexpensive mock-ups and doing a lot of sketching to identify and solve potential problems:


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Reebok’s Liquid Factory Aims to Eliminate Molds From the Footwear Manufacturing Process

Earlier this week, we received a massive box at the office with the words ‘Reebok Future’ printed on top. Here’s a full run-down of what happened next because it was too interesting to keep to ourselves:

The Tricked-Out Box

As we opened the box to reveal its contents, we noticed a small screen embedded in the top of the box. After a few moments, the words ‘Reebok Future’ flashed across the screen and video of robots drawing with a strange red liquid began to play. There was a control panel below the video allowing volume and play/pause control. A charger sat at the bottom of the box just in case the contraption were to run out of juice. 

Reebok’s Liquid Lab

Let’s get to the main point—the sneakers that were stashed inside the box. The Liquid Speeds are the first result of Reebok’s Liquid Factory—an open innovation lab set to open sometime next year in Rhode Island. Liquid Factory will focus on new, experimental footwear manufacturing techniques, including the 3D drawing that can be seen on the Liquid Speeds. 3D drawing is Reebok’s attempt to take Nike, Under Armour and Adidas’ 3D printed shoes to the next level.

Reebok’s 3D drawing technique utilizes robots to free-hand winged designs with a urethane-based liquid gel—created by BASF—onto a flat surface. After the robots layer the gel to obtain the desired strength and shape, the center of the forms are attached to the shoes’ sole and the wings are wrapped around the sneaker to be laced. The process can be seen in Reebok’s promo video:

3D drawing was inspired by the automotive industry—specifically the red gaskets found on truck door vents. According to Reebok Future head, Bill McInnis, the vents’ gaskets used to be made my mold but have now been handed over to robots that apply them directly to the vents. This process reflected Reebok’s ultimate goal of eliminating expensive molds from the footwear design process—they were able to program robots to draw the entire outsole of the Liquid Speeds without molds.

Instead of being an after thought, Reebok chose to have the 3D printed element function as a lacing mechanism, replace the outsole mold and attach to the sole—making for a powerful triple threat.

Testing the Liquid Speeds

Man, these are comfortable—props to Reebok’s robots! The flexible 3D printed liquid complements the lacing process—the material stretches as you lace, allowing a snug fit. Walking around felt a little weird at first, though. You can feel every ridge in the sole as you move due to the curved nature of the liquid shapes, and the layered gel is surprisingly heavy. This isn’t necessarily negative—just somewhat of an adjustment. 

I’ll sum my concerns up into three questions to keep things brief: How will the 3D printed gel’s traction react to extreme weather, i.e. snow/ice? How will the heavy weight of the gel affect wearability for professional athletes? Will the gel’s relatively thin joints hold up over time? 

These concerns aren’t minor by any means, but with the opening of the full Liquid Factory next year, Reebok should have plenty of space and time to work out any 3D drawing quirks. The Liquid Speeds are just the beginning step in Reebok’s mission to change footwear manufacturing, and we’re excited to see what’s next. 

What do you think about Reebok Future’s UX, Liquid Lab and Liquid Speed sneakers?


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Process and Pattern Inspo: Suminagashi Printing

Marble printing is an ancient way of adding depth and richness to materials as diverse as paper and silk. It’s a time honored art form: we’ve been hypnotized by videos of tight Turkish techniques, parents might remember making food coloring prints with the kiddos, and fancy wallpaper and bookbinders have used twisty marble tones for generations. But have you seen Suminagashi? If current stripy trends in ceramics, textiles and design are an indicator, you might want to look again. 

Suminagashi printing is similar to most marbling techniques: float hydrophobic dye on top of a water bath, then dip your material onto it. Alternate drops of dye and drops of water with a soapy additive to lower its surface tension. Use tools or motion to create patterns, or simply let nature take its course. Hey presto, you’ve got unique and wavy patterns where before there were none.

From Ruth Bleakley’s suminagashi troubleshooting post

But as straightforward as it sounds, the 800+ year old Japanese technique is a bit visually distinct. The most famous and striking examples highlight organic shapes, simple colors, and a wabi sabi blend of intentionality and accident that drives its fans wild.

Sumi by Marta Pia

Though patterning shows up in some artists’ work, irregularity and minimalism are its boldest features. The dense use concentric shapes can feel naturalistic, like tree rings, geologic layers, or topological map markings. 

Look at a print long enough and you might even start to see weather patterns, the layers of damascus steel, or a dazzle paint job. 

One of Natalie Stopka’s Suminagashi printed silk scarves

Whether you want to blame the Memphis revival, or something else, contemporary design has seen a strong increase in this kind of intense print, and I for one am for it. Handmade textures are a humble yet bold addition to all types of object, and the impact is far from 2D.

Suminagashi covered bench made by Andrea Peterson

Whether you’re looking for a weekend break from the computer or a source of more exciting organic graphics, Suminagashi can provide a lot of material without a lot of tools. According to Martha Stewart all you need is a kitty litter tray, some ink and a dream. 

For a long, but soothing how to, check out Crystal Shaulis’ intro:


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Japanese Hospital’s “Disruptive Recruitment Process” for Surgeons: Extremely Tiny Modelmaking and a Countdown Timer

This is one of the craziest tests of manual skill that we’ve ever seen. It’s distinctly different from, say, the masterpiece-building required of German craft students because a) there is no design theory involved, and b) it does not rely on previously-practiced skills and focuses only on raw talent, by sandbagging the test-takers with tasks they could never have possibly envisioned or trained for.

Here’s a video of it. This is the “disruptive recruitment process” used by Japan’s Kurashiki Central Hospital to determine who’s got the hands to become a world-class surgeon:

On its surface, these exercises seem to combine the bizarre challenges of a Japanese game show with the contrived drama of American reality TV, but the end goal has nothing to do with entertainment.

“In daily clinical practice, physicians constantly confront difficult challenges,” said Dr. Toshio Fukuoka, Director of the Human Resource Development Center at Kurashiki Central Hospital. “We would like to evaluate the capability of medical students to stay calm and make correct judgments even under these circumstances. We planned this tryout to reveal the potential and uniqueness of the students, which ordinary written exams and interviews could not show.”

Via Campaign Brief Asia


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Finding a Contemporary Aesthetic Within an Ancient Process

Looking at Patricia Urquiola’s stunning Shimmer collection, launched for Glas Italia during Milan Design Week last year, one would never guess that it was the designer’s first foray into using glass. It is a material she had been avoiding for a simple yet unexpected reason: she hated it. “If you’re working in tableware or little items, it can be very interesting,” she stated, “I hate glass when you have to do furniture. It makes me vomit.”

It seems like that collection was a turning point for the Spanish designer, because this year she’s at it again. At Spazio Pontaccio, Urquiola will launch a line of furniture she has been collaborating on with Federico Pepe, the design polymath and creative director behind Le Dictateur

The Credenza collection—which will include a series of cupboards (pictured below), screens and low tables—draws its name from the Italian word that means both “cupboard” and “belief.” Similarly, the designers are seeking to fuse functionality with the ethereal beauty of stained glass. 

As a process, stained glass hasn’t changed much since it was first developed in the middle ages. Despite Credenza’s contemporary geometric patterns and colors, its production process is steeped in the historic tradition of the stained glass technique. In the images below, we see Italian artisans deftly crafting each piece by hand. The process begins with cutting individual forms out of sheets of glass and laying them out in intricate patterns.


The glass pieces are then joined with lead, an ideal material for this because it is both flexible and very strong/durable. 

The actual term “stained glass” derives from a “stain” of silver chloride that is painted onto the back of the glass, which is afterwards fired in a furnace. This silver stain is used to give a wider range of colors, from pale yellow to a deep red, depending on the glass composition, stain composition, the number of applications, the temperature of the furnace, and the color of the initial piece of glass. It also imparts an even quality so that light can shine through the glass uniformly.  

Credenza will debut at the Spazzio Pontaccio Showroom in Milan, Italy on April 11, 2016. 

More from Core77’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2016!


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Video Demonstrating the Lost Wax Casting Process

Long before there were rotational molding machines, ingenious artisans developed a way to cast hollow sculptures. The lost wax casting method, as it’s called, is something we ID grads went over in Production Methods class, but like many of you I never got to do it myself. So it’s pretty neat to see the process illustrated visually:

The invention of lost wax casting is often attributed to the Greeks, but scholars cannot agree. Another thing that’s stymied historians is why the ancient Greeks so often made casts of Judd Apatow, and how they came to know who he was.


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Shifting Design Process: The Cassiopeia Camera Experience

The evolution of design as a professional practice is one regularly impacted by developments in other fields. As designers, we often sit squarely between disciplines, streamlining and humanizing products for greater usability and appeal in the end result.

Never has the requirement to work between disciplines been as important as it is today. As industrial design becomes increasingly interwoven with service design, user experience design, engineering, manufacturing and more—designers must act as the bonding agent for teams producing innovative products.

In an effort to further understand these emerging hybrid teams of designers, managers and engineers, companies are going as far as studying the trend of co-creation to optimize for social ideation and more collaboration. Likewise, with the speed of technology and pace of product development, having tools and solutions that allow companies to build faster is proving a greater advantage than ever before.

 

In order to research the way teams work from the inside out, Dassault Systèmes put together a creative team to design the Cassiopeia Camera Experience. Cassiopeia is a concept for a connected camera that has the functionality of a digital SLR, and allows the user to sketch over photos and scan objects or textures. The team took Cassiopeia from inspiration phase to design validation, allowing Dassault Systèmes to gather first-hand knowledge of the needs of each team member and design solutions that directly enhance social ideation and creative design among the group.

Cassiopeia Camera Experience

Using this research, it becomes clear as the project progresses through different phases, that the requirements of each contributor change and communication between parties gains complexity. While each phase builds on the next, a well equipped team will be able to regularly come together during each phase for design validation. 

We decided to take a deeper look at development of the Cassiopeia project for unique insight into the inner workings of a team—one that is not only building a product but a holistic experience.

Inspiration Phase

The inspiration phase of any product demands input from a number of key players inside and outside the company. This is often done by compiling references in the form of articles, visuals, sketches and more. A product manager typically leads this phase, however every member of the team can provide valuable input at this fledgling stage.

Team gathers references and inspiration to define key functions of the product. 

Communication at the inspiration phase must support amassing source material and then distillation until a key concept emerges. The inspiration phase is particularly important for connected devices like Cassiopeia. In this case, the design team faces not only the task of designing the camera, but also the connected functionality. The complex use cases and physicality of the product must be developed in tandem during this phase for a unified end user experience.

Ideation Phase

Once the inspiration is clear to the team, the work of narrowing the idea down to a discrete set of requirements is the next step. This ideation phase moves the product from discussion of the concept into a physical form for the first time. For this phase, creative designers are tasked to visualize the product for the team, iterate together and repeat.

Rough sketches gives the product a form factor that can discussed and refined at later stages. 

Sketching in this phase is essential. It allows the team to understand possible variations and begin to make decisions about a number of factors. During ideation, the ergonomic and functional aspects of Cassiopeia merge for the first time into a rough form factor that can be communicated to the team.

Concept Design Phase

Once the product is visualized for the first time using the 3D sketches, the next step is to model the product at scale. An industrial designer will typically model the product in 3D, testing and refining design variations from the ideation phase.

An industrial designer adds scale and refines features of device. 

With Cassiopeia, this is the phase where shapes begins to emerge and the conversation about the product shifts from conceptual to physical. The goals of the design must be clarified and communicated clearly so that the product can seamlessly transition from a design into a physical object that can be considered from a manufacturability standpoint.

Detail Design Phase

Once the industrial designer has taken the design from concept sketch to 3D model, a design engineer takes the model and considers it from engineering and manufacturing perspective. This shift from design of the device to engineering of the device is a careful balance to retain as much of the original concept for the form factor as possible.

Foresight during the detail design phase offers ease of manufacturing and greater success in the final product.

This is a key matter of communication between the engineer and designer in order to deliver a product that not only is aesthetically aligned with the inspiration – but also can be manufactured. For Cassiopeia, this requires a seemingly subtle but highly important refinement of surfaces and geometry.

Design Validation Phase

In the final step, the team must simulate the product in order to engage in discussion and finalize the design. Design validation occurs both in the final steps and at regular intervals during the development. There are two main forms this validation takes, led by a visual experience designer and a physical prototyper. A visual experience designer will create a number of detailed renders, while the physical prototyper will develop physical 3D models. 

Visualizing decisions is essential to engage key players inside and outside the team. 

For Cassiopeia this is a key phase as the camera has a number of complex parts, surfaces and functions. Regular design validation throughout the process gives access to all members of the team to make decisions about the final product. When collaboration is managed well, the multidisciplinary team will arrive at the validation phase having shared expertise at each step of the design process. As a result, the final prototype is a true reflection of their shared vision and is reached more quickly than ever before.

The development process of any electronic device is challenging for teams looking to innovate in their respective spheres. As consumer’s expectations increase for well-designed objects that provide comprehensive product experiences, the ability of teams to collaborate and move quickly will be increasingly valuable. The extent to which teams can effectively collaborate will be a defining factor for success – both for the team and the products they create.

To read more about Dassault Systèmes Solutions and Social Ideation and Creative Design, check out their website and webinar.


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The Design Process of the OCD Drill Bit Organizer

Where do you start when beginning a new project from scratch? I knew I needed to make something to organize my drill bits, but had no idea what it should look like. I poked around on the web to see what others had done, but found only partial inspiration.

So I went back to my old-school ID training and started with the constraints. My circumstances dictated what the thing would be made of, and I knew I’d use the ShopBot to make it. I then looked at two bit-storage tricks I’d previously used to see what I should and shouldn’t do this time around. So then I had 1) Material, 2) Tool, and 3) An Approach to Avoid.

Starting with those guidelines, it just became a series of basic decision-making and form-follows-function, then everything fell into place:

For those that missed the original video, it’s here.


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Change Typography Poster Design

7a2f28e28f932bad5d0b002a79d40cef Change Typography Poster Design
d17cea5a88272279cf7c589157af8548 Change Typography Poster Design
Typographic Poster for Posterama. Create a typographic poster with the quote ‘We Are the Change That We Seek’ by Barack Obama. My idea was to have some letters closed, some partially opened, and the rest completely opened, to symbolize the process of personal transformation.

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DYT friends! Win Fantastic & Beautiful The Bricks UI Pack by Designmodo!

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Change Typography Poster Design

Mulu Combines Content And Commerce With ‘Shop This Page’ Plugin

mulu platform

Online commerce still isn’t as easy as it should be. That’s because many times, consumers find something they want while browsing a publisher site online, but then have to search for and buy it elsewhere. Well, that’s a process that Los Angeles-based startup Mulu wants to change, with an ad plugin that allows users to buy the products they’re reading about directly on the page.

Mulu enables that kind of shopping experience with a plugin for publishers that works by scanning the content of the page and providing links to related products which can be purchased directly. Clicking on a product that’s displayed within the ad unit will take users directly to the product page on any of a number of third-party sites that Mulu has integrated with.

But beyond just providing a better shopping experience for users, the plugin makes life easier for publishers. While linking to products related to the content on a page is nothing new, the “Shop This Page” feature drastically simplifies the process of enabling commerce on publisher sites.

Previously, publishers would have to keep track of multiple affiliate codes and often create links manually to products that they refer to. Not only does the plugin enable one-click commerce on the site, but it enables publishers to benefit even if they haven’t struck up a direct relationship with an advertiser.

“Online content pages are becoming the new retail store,” Mulu CEO Amaryllis Fox told me. She envisions a world where users no longer have to go through the two-step process of finding an object they want to buy in an article online, and then having to search for it through an e-commerce site or *gasp* by shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.

As for advertisers, the “Shop This Page” feature is driving more clickthroughs — and that, in turn, is driving more sales. Since the products that are shown on any given page are relevant to what end users are reading about, they’re much more likely to buy something.

The plugin works with pretty much any type of content, and on any platform. The “Shop This Page” plugin — which is really just a few lines of code — is optimized to be viewed on various different displays, whether on a traditional desktop web browser, or on a mobile- or tablet-optimized website.

With that sales pitch, Mulu’s gotten a good number of lifestyle and fashion brands on board. Clients include Hearst, Conde Nast, and Food Network, with the plugin being featured on publications such as Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Country Living, and others.

And it seems to be working pretty well. A representative from Hearst says that in the publisher’s initial implementation on Seventeen’s site, Hearst Digital Media was seeing click-through rates close to 13 percent. While that is at the high end of the spectrum — Mulu claims click-through rates between 2 percent and 13 percent with its publishing partners — it’s an immense upgrade over the sub-1 percent click-through rate of most standard ad units.

One reason for that might be the social good component of Mulu’s business model. While commerce is at the forefront of its offering, the company also ensures that all publishers give a percentage of the cost-per-click payment to a charity of their choice. Those charities are displayed along with the products, giving consumers an easy way to give back.

Now that it’s gotten a good number of customers on board, it’s looking to accelerate its growth with more tech and sales people and a bit more funding. The Los Angeles-based company currently has 14 employees and is in the midst of raising a Series A round of financing.

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Mulu Combines Content And Commerce With ‘Shop This Page’ Plugin

Bitcoin’s Last Mile Problem

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Joey DeVilla was (and still is) one of my favorite bloggers. Calling himself the Accordian Guy, Joey has been writing cool stuff for most of this decade, and he recently hopped on the bitcoin train by posting a long how-to in the vein of my own guide to mining. His is quite thorough in his process, but it sets an old HP all-in-one to the task, which resulting in very slow mining speeds and, as a result, a tangible waste of resources, including time, energy and computer wear.

For all his hard work, Joey saw between 3.4 and 4.4 cents. He also notes that his post, on his acceptably trafficked site with about 6,000 pageviews a day, netted him about $40 in advertising money. He made more money writing the post – which arguably took more work – than bitcoin mining.

Bitcoin is the perfect expression of Internet riches. It seems free (but isn’t), is easy to enter (but hard to maintain), and, in the end, as one wag pointed out on Joey’s post, it is the perfect example of the old adage “you make a lot more telling people how to make money on the Internet, than you can actually make on the Internet.”

So where does that leave the currency? The recent failure of trader Bitfloor and the recent rough and tumble ride that the market took these past few weeks make the world of Bitcoin a bit daunting. Continued DDOSes and attempts at phishing make it inaccessible and even dangerous, and the average computer user knows little if anything about Bitcoin at all, making it a reserve for the hacker with a bit of pocket money or a lot of powerful GPUs.

The question then is whether the “real world” should care about getting their change in BTC? I would wager they should, but not for the reasons many proffer. Anonymity is not overly important for the average computer user, although they could use a bit more security. Traditional money transfer systems like PayPal are rife with problems, mostly stemming from overzealous customer protection representatives.

The world needs Bitcoins to exist, even if the mass of humanity doesn’t use it. The goal of the currency is to disassociate the old methods of money transfer and to allow people true freedom in their ability to transmit value from one person to the next. A poor grandmother in the home village could receive money quickly and easily from the grandchildren without resorting to fees and trips to Western Union. Those on the move could hold their money in an account that is as liquid as quicksilver, allowing them to perform fee-free transactions anywhere. Refugees would no longer have to carry gold and instead could carry bitcoin. The utopian possibilities are, in a sense, endless.

But then we have the last mile problem. Where can you shop with bitcoins besides a few places that are accepting the currency as a marketing gimmick? Where is my BTC ATM? Will they take Bitcoin at the exchange desk in the airport? All of these issues – and they are essentially issues related to the acceptance of a “value-less” currency in the world marketplace – hurt the general approachability of the currency.

Bitcoin is only worth as much as the market says it’s worth, and without the ability to short without regulation the danger of holding money in Bitcoin is far too great. While the BTC market is one of the “purest” markets in the world, this also makes it one of the most tumultuous. Systems are being built to recreate traditional equities and currency markets, but instant, anonymous transfers don’t instill trust in non-risk takers.

I can imagine a day when Bitcoin will be worthless. That day could come soon. Or the naysayers could be wrong and BTC could be accepted worldwide. In some ways I’d like the latter to be true, but the pessimist in me says it will be the former. However, it’s a blast to watch this New Millennium currency get its legs.

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Bitcoin’s Last Mile Problem

Apkudo Wants To Handle Android Fragmentation So Carriers And Developers Don’t Have To

lab

Baltimore-based Apkudo is debuting its “Apkudo Approved” program this week, extending its existing work with making sure that Android apps and devices perform well for consumers. The company has positioned itself in a growth market, to act as a layer both between developers and devices, and between devices and carriers, to help both parties deal with the fractured and often maze-like landscape of the Android hardware market.

It’s normal for tier 1 carriers to run a gamut of tests on prospective devices before they bring them to market. Most recently, this was made quite public by BlackBerry, which has discussed the carrier testing process around its new BlackBerry 10 devices, but it happens for anything that hits a network. What Apkudo does is offer similar services for tier 2 and lower carriers, who might not necessarily have the engineering workforces or resources to devote to extensive testing.

Tests run by Apkudo include monitoring all types of performance while running around 25,000 apps from developer partners, using techniques like taking photos of screens with high framerate cameras to detect dropped frames, Apkudo CEO Josh Matthews explained in an interview. So far, they’ve tested and can provide results for over 1,700 devices, and while they’re not allowed to reveal the names of any specific OEMs they work with, Matthews says that if you can think of a modern smartphone, they’ve probably had it in their labs.

“There’s so much opportunity for the carriers given that an Android device can target budget and spec points on the full range of the spectrum, which is phenomenal,” Matthews explained. “The flip-side of that is that the variation in quality between devices in terms of performance under different app loads and in different circumstances is also phenomenal, and that can lead to very high return rates and customer dissatisfaction.”

Apkudo’s work can help carriers take some of the mystery out of the process by providing them with data on hardware before it gets released on their network. That has led to a variety of smaller carriers now insisting that devices are first “Apkudo Approved” before they’ll even consider them for sale. Which, obviously, is hugely beneficial to Apkudo. But the company also works closely with OEMs, and can provide them with crucial testing data that helps them upgrade their own devices, too.

Matthews says that his company is better-equipped to handle this task than most, simply because it’s their sole focus. And it does make sense that if the only thing you’re doing day in and day out is testing devices and software, you’d be in a better position than either a carrier or manufacturer to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Being a third party, with less personal stake in the products themselves, also helps.

So far, Apkudo is making around $5 million a year in revenue, but it has just signed on a number of strong customers, including Cricket, Cincinnati Bell and the Associated Carrier Group, which includes C Spire, Alltel and a number of other smaller regional carriers. Its developer product is free, since it uses that to help build the library it uses to help with its lucrative carrier partnerships, so if you’re an Android dev trying to test across a range of devices, it might work better than trying to amass your own collection of Android hardware.

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Apkudo Wants To Handle Android Fragmentation So Carriers And Developers Don’t Have To