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How data is shining a light on global property markets

April 14, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, search engines, Uncategorized

The property market, like that of gold and oil, is a rather murky world.

The property market, like that of gold and oil, is a rather murky world.

The prices you’ll see on most websites are asking prices. The value of a done deal – the real price – can take land registries weeks to process, by which time a fast-paced market will have moved on.

So those on the inside doing the deals, such as estate agents and developers, have a distinct advantage.

Could technology help blast open this closed market?

Teun van den Dries, chief executive of Dutch software company GeoPhy, believes his data analytics software program could do just that, starting with commercial property, a global market worth about Ä22.5tn (£15.7tn), according to the European Public Real Estate Association.

His program crunches lots of different data sets – public transport, roads, congestion, location, demographics, local economy, building quality and so on – to calculate an estimated value for a property.

And he has data for 41 countries, from Singapore to Spain, Brazil to Belgium.

“If you look at the current property market, almost all transactions are handled by estate agents that will describe property as being well situated, with great accessibility and beautiful views,” he says. “And that could all be true, but it doesn’t mean anything and it doesn’t allow you to compare.”

Location accounts for 70%-75% of the weighting in the algorithm – a mathematical set of rules – and his pricing is accurate within about 5%, he says.

Estate agents are known for their creative euphemisms when it comes to property descriptions, but data could help cut through the sales speak to arrive at a more realistic assessment, he believes.

But, he notes, “a valuation is never right until someone pays. So, it’s the same price point a surveyor will put their signature on.”

The only difference is that it’s derived from data and a set of comparable rules, he says.

However, there are some valuations it can’t help us to understand – parts of London, such as St James’s Park or Mayfair, home of the £90m mansion, simply defy data analysis.

At present, his customers are pension funds and other large institutions that own property portfolios. They want quick access to property valuations, as well as other data, such as the energy efficiency of their buildings.

But he hopes this type of analysis could also help make the residential property and rentals markets more transparent, too.

So when your landlord says prices are rising in your area and hikes up your rent, you’ll be able to see if that’s really the case, says Mr van den Dries.

 

But not everyone is so sure about the benefits of data analytics in the commercial property market.

For example, a seller may offload a building to make a loss to offset against tax and as such will sell at a lower “rational” price, he says.

And shifts in economies thousands of miles away – China or in the Middle East, perhaps – could suddenly empty money out of a given market, without the data giving any warning.

While many large publicly owned property owners have talked about using data, many “just don’t really know where to start and are only at the start of the journey,” he says. “Commercial property is the last imperfect market.”

“Homes may be better, as they are more homogenous and could be more comparable,” he adds.

Mr van den Dries admits that there is some resistance to this new data-driven approach – a number of property owners have expressed displeasure at having their buildings benchmarked, he says.

But he, and others, remain convinced that better analysis of more data is key to a more efficient – and less mysterious – property market.

What losing the red button means for the BBC

March 28, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Amazon, Apple, Computers, Customer Service, Personal Security, Search Clinic, search engines, Televisions, Uncategorized, YouTube

The BBC is to explore closing its Red Button services as part of £150m of cuts that include a £35m reduction in sports rights spending.

The BBC is to explore closing its Red Button services as part of £150m of cuts that include a £35m reduction in sports rights spending.

What does this mean for the corporation, and the viewer?

In the UK, 97% of people use the BBC and on average spend 18 hours a week with it in one form or another. The BBC also needs to cut around £700m and something will have to go.

Reconciling those two facts is never going to please everybody.

The announcement that in the first £150m of cuts a “phased exit” from red button services is now being considered makes sense if you think the BBC will increasingly be accessed online via the iPlayer.

The red button, for instance, took on what remains of the old teletext service, Ceefax, and offers extra channels for events such as Wimbledon, the Proms and Glastonbury. It looks a bit old fashioned.

The BBC is rolling out its Red Button+, which gives people a chance to see the iPlayer on the big screen and a number of other internet services. The direction of travel is assumed to be towards an online system.

The problem is sport, weather, headlines, alternative commentaries and repeats of popular programmes on the old red button services are still used by large numbers of people.

They are more likely to be older viewers, but older viewers watch more TV and are a growing part of the population. The BBC knows it has to chase the viewers of tomorrow and deliver programmes in the way they want to watch them, but it can’t afford to alienate the people who are the heaviest users of its services.

The £35m of cuts to sports rights will also pose a problem for the part of the population whose viewing is dominated by sport. The loss of the Open Golf Championship is just the latest in a long line of events that have slipped through the BBC’s fingers.

The sport that it has hung on to, for instance Formula One and the Olympics, now look a little less secure.

Given the audience is becoming more fragmented, there is a marked reluctance to cut the size and scope of the BBC. If the corporation wants to reach 97% of people in the years to come, it will have to respond to a rapidly changing technological environment.

It is worth noting that at the moment the BBC announced its latest cuts, Sky was revealing its new Sky Q box that allows viewers to record four television programmes simultaneously and watch content around the house.

Sky isn’t alone. Amazon, Apple and Netflix are all in their own ways changing the landscape of TV with new services and technology.

YouTube has just announced a new kids service in the UK, while Disney is to launch a digital streaming service at the end of the month.
Future of television: big or tiny?

What is perhaps most interesting is how many of the new developments are aimed squarely at the big screen in the living room. For the people who said TV was dying, the future for the big screen is looking very perky.

Things, then, are changing fast, and huge amounts of money are being spent on creating programmes, especially drama, and devising new technology in order to win the battle for living-room viewing.

The BBC is in the midst of a process in which the government is considering its “size and scope” and also imposing big cuts on its funding. That question of “size and scope” is very clearly set as a question about whether the BBC is too big.

Google’s mobilegeddon for non responsive websites

April 20, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Google, Mobile Marketing, mobile phones, Search Clinic, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, search engines, SEO, smart phones, Uncategorized

Google is launching “mobilegeddon” by making changes to the way its search engines ranks websites.

Google’s mobilegeddon for non responsive websitesGoogle regularly changes its algorithms as it battles with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists who try to understand the system on behalf of their clients and ongoing technical changes.

But this is a big change – dubbed “mobilegeddon”- which is designed to prioritise websites that are optimised for the mobile internet.

Google gave plenty of warning, telling developers about the change in a blog post in February and providing a simple tool to check whether sites were mobile friendly.

The search firm is trying to reassure website owners that this won’t be an earthquake which turns their businesses upside down but quite a subtle evolution.

But SEO specialists say this looks like the biggest change since 2011 – and for some that will unearth some unpleasant memories.

For any online retailer, appearing on page one of Google’s search results can make all the difference between a profitable business and one heading for the scrapyard

Google’s move to make mobile capabilities more important in search rankings seems eminently sensible as our smart phones and tablets become the key route to finding goods and services online.

But over the next few weeks we can expect cries of pain from those whom the all powerful search algorithm has deemed less worthy.

And, coming just days after the European Commission accused Google of abusing its dominance, it will be another illustration of just how important a role the Californian company plays in every corner of the global economy.

So if you need help with optimising my website then please contact us now either by clicking the contact us button or ring us 01242 521967:contact search clinic

Yahoo reports quarterly revenues increase

January 28, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Dr Search, internet, Search Clinic, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Results, search engines, Social Media, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Yahoo has reported fourth quarter revenues of £860 million in the fourth quarter, up nearly 2% on the same time a year before.Yahoo reports quarterly revenues increaseA one off accounting charge meant that the fourth quarter net income was £174 million, down by 8% compared to £189 million in the same period 12 months earlier.

In trading in New York the shares in the company gained 4.5%.

About 700 million web surfers visit its website every month, ranking it among the top three in the global industry.

However, it shed more than 1,000 jobs during 2012, and has long been divided over whether it should focus on media content or on tools and technologies.

Chief executive Marissa Mayer was brought in last July from Google to turn the company round, and the latest financial figures are the first full quarter’s under her leadership.

Ms Mayer has been focusing on building better mobile and social networking services.

She said that during the quarter Yahoo made progress “by growing our executive team, signing key partnerships including those with NBC Sports and CBS Television and launching terrific mobile experiences for Yahoo Mail and Flickr”.

Yahoo hired the former Google executive on a pay package of $58 million ( £37 million) which Dr Search thinks is nice work if you can get it.

Facebook announces Graph Search- a social search tools for users

January 11, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Dr Search, Facebook, internet, Search Clinic, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Results, search engines, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Facebook has announced a major addition to its social network – a smart search engine it has called Graph Search.Facebook announces Graph Search- a social search tools for usersThe feature allows users to make “natural” searches of content shared by their friends.

Search terms could include phrases such as “friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter”.

Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg insisted it was not a web search, and therefore not a direct challenge to Google- however, it was integrating Microsoft’s Bing search engine for situations when graph search itself could not find answers.

Mr Zuckerberg said he “did not expect” people to start flocking to Facebook to do web search.

“That isn’t the intent,” he said. “But in the event you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s really nice to have this.”

Earlier speculation had suggested that the world’s biggest social network was about to make a long anticipated foray into Google’s search territory.

“We’re not indexing the web,” explained Mr Zuckerberg at an event at Facebook’s headquarters in California.

“We’re indexing our map of the graph – the graph is really big and its constantly changing.”

In Facebook’s terms, the social graph is the name given to the collective pool of information shared between friends that are connected via the site.

It includes things such as photos, status updates, location data as well as the things they have “liked”.

Until now, Facebook’s search had been highly criticised for being limited and ineffective.

The company’s revamped search was demonstrated to be significantly more powerful. In one demo, Facebook developer Tom Stocky showed a search for queries such as “friends of friends who are single in San Francisco”.

The same technology could be used for recruitment, he suggested, using graph search to find people who fit criteria for certain jobs – as well as mutual connections.

Such queries are a key function of LinkedIn, the current dominant network for establishing professional connections.

“We look at Facebook as a big social database,” said Mr Zuckerberg, adding that social search was Facebook’s “third pillar” and stood beside the news feed and timeline as the foundational elements of the social network.

Perhaps mindful of privacy concerns highlighted by recent misfires on policies for its other services such as Instagram, Facebook stressed that it had put limits on the search system.

Yahoo hires ex Googler on $58m pay package

October 19, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Email, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Click Advertising, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Clinic, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Results, search engines, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Yahoo has appointed a Google executive as its next chief operating officer- paying him a hefty pay package worth about $58 million  (£36million) over four years.Yahoo hires ex Googler on $58m pay packageHenrique de Castro had worked for Yahoo’s new chief executive, Marissa Mayer, at Google. He will oversee sales and operations Yahoo said.

Mr de Castro will get a basic annual salary of $600,000 as well as $36 million in stock options.

Yahoo has been trying to rebuild itself after falling behind its rivals.

Yahoo was one of the pioneers in internet search and email and continues to remain one of the biggest names in the industry.

It has however been losing ground as it has not been able to keep up with Google in the search engine results business.

“This is a pivotal point in Yahoo’s history, and I believe strongly in the opportunity ahead,” Mr de Castro said.

Yahoo’s share of US online advertising revenues fell to 9.5% last year, down from 15.7% in 2009.

Mr de Castro will be eligible for an annual bonus of up to 90% of his $600,000 salary, according to Yahoo’s filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

He will also receive a cash bonus of $1 million within one week of joining Yahoo and will be given restricted stock units and performance-based stock options totalling $36 million over four years.

That compares to Ms Mayer, whose remuneration package could top a whopping $70 milion. Ms Mayer’s basic salary is $1 million a year, but shares and share options, along with other potential rewards, could make it far more lucrative.

She was appointed in July and is the firm’s third chief executive in the space of a year.

Google is demoting websites’ ranking who host pirated content

August 17, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, data security, Google, internet, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Results, search engines, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Google has announced that it is changing its search engine algorithms to crack down on the search rankings of those websites that contain or receive a large number of copyright infringement notices.Google is demoting websites' ranking who host pirated contentGoogle has a web page dedicated to showing how many requests it receives from copyright holders and reporting organizations to remove certain websites from its search engine due to piracy and soon it will start demoting the rankings of those websites that receive high volumes of copyright-infringement notices.

Google’s senior vice president of engineering while addressing the copyright issue, Amit Singhal said in a blog post,

“In fact, we’re now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in 2009, more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone,”

“We will be using this data as a signal in our search rankings.”

Google is moving to mostly penalise those websites potentially hosting pirated entertainment.

It’s positive that Google’s search algorithms are now reranking various websites which appear at lower ranks in search results criteria based on the number of copyright removal notices that Google receives against them.

The search engine said it will not demote the ranking of any of the websites from its search results unless it receives a valid copyright-removal notice from the rights owner.

Google claimed that it has already taken numerous actions against pirated websites- between July and December 2011, it claimed that it has removed 97 per cent of search results specified in those copyright removal notices.

Google’s data snooping hit with record fine

August 14, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Customer Service, data security, Google, internet, search engines, smart phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, WiFi

Google has been fined £14.4 million ($22.5 million) by the US Federal Trade Commission after monitoring web surfers using Apple’s Safari browser who had a “do not track” privacy setting selected.Google's data snooping hit with record fineThe penalty is for lying about what it was doing and not for the methods it used to bypass Safari’s tracker cookie settings- misusing cookies so that a user’s web activity can be monitored.

The government agency launched its inquiry after a Stanford University researcher noticed the issue while studying targeted advertising.

He revealed that the search engine was exploiting a loophole that let its cookies be installed via adverts on popular websites, even if users’ browsers’ preferences had been set to reject them.

This allowed the firm to track people’s web browsing- even if they had not given it permission to do so.

Apple’s browser automatically rejects tracking cookies by default. But Google deliberately got around this block by adding code to some of its adverts to make Safari think that the user had made an exception for its cookie if they interacted with the ad.

At the same time as using the exploit the search engine said on its help centre that Safari users did not need to take extra steps to prevent their online activities from being logged.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch in Google hit by record fine wrote that it was right that Google should be penalised.

“It’s an essential part of a properly functioning market that consumers are in control of their personal information and are able to take steps to protect their privacy,” he said.

“The size of the fine in this case should deter any company from seeking to exploit underhand means of tracking consumers. It is essential that anyone who seeks to over-ride consumer choices about sharing their data is held to account.”

UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism

June 15, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Cyber Security, data security, Email, Gaming, internet, search engines, Skype, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Civil liberty groups have voiced severe criticism over the newly published Data Communications bill aka snoopers’ charter. UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism   The controversial bill extends the type of data that Internet Service Providers must keep to include your emails, web browsing history and social media posts- including Skype.

The government claims that the legislation is need in the fight against criminals and terrorists.

However activists have dubbed it a snooper’s charter.

“This is all about giving the police unsupervised access to data. It is shocking for a government that opposed Labour’s plans on this to propose virtually the same thing,” said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

“It will cost billions of pounds and will end up only catching the stupid or the innocent. Terrorists will circumvent it.”

Dyenamic Solutions also points out the non UK organisations may not be compelled to store your data- thus not only driving a coach and horses through the intended effectiveness, but also forcing many UK ecommerce business abroad.

Publishing the bill, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Communications data saves lives. It is a vital tool for the police to catch criminals and to protect children.”

But Mr Killock argues that knowing where a citizen has been online is equally intrusive.

Drawing a parallel he said: “If I’m having an affair then who I’m talking to is just as revealing as what I say,” he said.

The bill – an update to the controversial RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) legislation – lays out new duties for the UK communications companies.

The new proposals would require ISPs to keep details of a much wider range of data including use of social network sites, webmail, voice calls over the internet, and gaming. Websites you visit will also be recorded.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association said that it would be lobbying MPs in the coming months.

“Ispa has concerns about the new powers to require network operators to capture and retain third party communications data,” said a spokesman.

“These concerns include the scope and proportionality, privacy and data protection implications and the technical feasibility.

“Whilst we appreciate that technological developments mean that government is looking again at its communications data capabilities, it is important that powers are clear and contain sufficient safeguards,” it added.

Please join the Snoopers Charter Petition– it takes just 2 minutes and could have a huge effect against this red tape- which the Financial Times estimates will cost us £2.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Microsoft to go carbon neutral in July

May 16, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Computers, data security, Microsoft, search engines, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Microsoft has promised to help protect the environment by going carbon neutral and reducing its carbon footprint.Microsoft to go carbon neutral in JulyFrom July 1st 2012 its data centres, software development labs and office buildings would all be carbon neutral, the firm announced.

Environmental groups have been calling on the technology company to adopt more renewable energy sources.

Rivals Facebook and Google have already pledged to move away from coal-powered data centres.

“We recognise that we are not the first company to commit to carbon neutrality, but we are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies large and small to look at what they can do to address this important issue,” said chief operating officer Kevin Turner in a blog post.

As part of its carbon neutral plan, Microsoft plans to charge an internal carbon fee to business units responsible for incurring emissions from data centres, air travel, offices and software laboratories.

“The carbon price and charge-back model is designed to provide an economic incentive for business groups across Microsoft to reduce carbon emissions through efficiency measures and increased use of renewable energy,” said Mr Turner.

It also plans energy efficient software solutions at its Redmond campus. It said that it hoped to achieve energy savings of approximately £937,000 ($1.5 million) in the fiscal year 2013.

Environmental group Greenpeace said that it showed Microsoft had listened to calls for a “clean cloud”.

Greenpeace urged Microsoft to follow Facebook’s lead and chose renewable energy when building new data centres.