Tri-State Defender Technology Stories


Black entrepreneurs develop mobile app that pays students for getting good grades

By Kelley D. Evans, The Undefeated

Editor's Note: This story first appeared on Two black entrepreneurs believe kids could use a little motivation to do well in school. So they started a Pennsylvania-based company that gives them just that. Trevor Wilkins came up with the concept for a student rewards program and garnered the help of Logan Cohen, who suggested using an app. The two developed Kudzoo, named after kudzu, the fastest-growing plant in the world. The app is free to download and allows students to upload their report cards. The students are in turn rewarded with deals, giveaways, scholarship opportunities, concert tickets, and once-in-a- lifetime experiences based on their grades and achievements. “We were able to raise a little bit of money and start building the platform,” Wilkins recently told Ebony magazine. “If we can be that extra sense of motivation, we feel that we can really make a difference.” Wilkins said he and his siblings were rewarded by their parents for making good grades. According to, they received $10 for every A, $5 for every B and they were penalized if they brought home bad grades. “For example, if they got a C, they had to pay their parents $20,” the website reads. Cohen and Wilkins want students to feel good about their education, growing up and taking their place in the world. Since the app was released last school year, it has grown to 500,00 active users.

How your smartphone can help you be the boss you are and destress

By Dr. Imani J. Walker, The Root

Life can be hard enough just getting through your workday with your wits intact. Trying to juggle your business and personal life is hard without an assistant. And even if you’re lucky enough to have an assistant, if you’re a born perfectionist, then you know no one will get the job done better than you. So, instead of becoming frazzled by the constant barrage of items that need to be accounted for and handled, why not let apps on your smartphone help ease your workload and decrease your stress? Are you an entrepreneur or established professional who constantly needs to review or sign off on documents? Electronic signatures are recognized as valid and legally binding in most cases, hence the proliferation of e-sign apps. Be sure to find the right one that works for you so that you can multitask like a boss while you grab your morning latte as you quickly review and sign a document. Once you’ve electronically signed your document, you can either make your way to a fax machine and handle business the analog way, or you can employ one of several apps on your smartphone allowing you to fax your document, all with a few finger taps. Now, you’re bound to encounter a situation where you’re sending sensitive information that you’d rather not have exposed by young, bored hackers avoiding vitamin D in their basements. For example, perhaps you need to send tax documents to your accountant in preparation for tax season. Sending documents securely will require a computer, which may increase your peace of mind, as opposed to sending sensitive documents via a smartphone app. There are several options to choose from that allow for the encryption needs your sensitive documents require. While you’re at it, you may want to make a minimal investment in having your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot so that you’re not compromising your documents by sending them over a public Wi-Fi connection or an easily compromised Wi-Fi connection such as those found in coffee shops and hotels and through other high-use Wi-Fi networks. Faced with keeping track of paper receipts or receipts sent via an email or text attachment? These apps can use your smartphone’s camera to scan documents, which can then be saved and stored in any one of several cloud-based apps of your choosing. Want to really organize your life to decrease even more stress? Why not use apps that help you create to-do and checklists, one of which allows you to collaborate with others? This last one is best for “honey, do” lists or working with a team on a group project. Not convinced that your smartphone can help reduce your stress while streamlining your workload? A recent study (pdf) found that the myth of the “strong black woman” stereotype only serves to worsen stress, which can result in the development or worsening of depression and anxiety. If you start to experience decreased stress from your workload, be sure to take some time for yourself, even if it’s only 15 minutes, and indulge in some quiet solitude, or treat yourself to apps devoted to meditation by way of your smartphone. If you fancy yourself a true boss, you may be driven to try to complete as much as possible. James Brown may have proclaimed that one has to pay the cost to be the boss, but make sure your cost doesn’t include sacrificing your mental health. Hopefully, using these apps and resources to streamline your life will surely place you in control of your professional life and mental health.

Study: Teachers in low-income schools pessimistic about education technology

By Nigel Roberts, NewsOne

Students in low-income school districts face another challenge in closing the digital divide. An Education Week survey found that teachers who are least confident about education technology tend to work in high-poverty and urban schools. The study, based on a survey of 700 teachers, is part of a larger survey on educators’ perspectives on the present and future status of educational technology in K-12 schools. Overall, the main study found that teachers “face systemic challenges in adapting their instruction to new technologies in transformative ways.” Teachers who are less confident about classroom technology are less likely to use a range of classroom technology tools, compared to teachers in more affluent school districts who expose their students to the latest computer applications. The teachers who are dubious about education tech also reported greater barriers to using technology in the classroom. These barriers include too few computer devices in school, a lack of teacher training, and not enough guidance from school leaders. These findings, according to the researchers, “offer yet another reason to worry about the evolving digital divide in K-12.” The Pew Research Center quantified an aspect of the divide dubbed the “homework gap.” Pew estimated last year that about 5 million households with school-age children can’t afford Internet service. With many teachers giving assignments that require internet access, not having broadband at home creates a significant disadvantage, which the researchers say disproportionately affects Black and Latino children. President Barack Obama has proposed an initiative called ConnectALL to address that issue. Education Week’s survey painted a picture of these teachers who have no confidence in classroom technology. Surprisingly, they are no different from the teachers working in affluent school districts: Both groups of educators largely embrace innovation; they have similar demographic backgrounds, and have comparable experience levels. So, what made the difference? It was the teaching environment that influenced the educators’ perceptions, according to the researchers.

How to close the ‘homework gap’ in the digital divide that’s holding back our kids

By Eva M. Clayton, The Root

When Xerox CEO Ursula Burns steps down from her position later this year, it will mark the end of having an African-American woman leading a Fortune 500 company as its chief executive officer. Burns, in retelling the story of her rise to success, acknowledges that her mother “knew that education was [her] way up and out.” Long before Burns graduated from Columbia University and worked her way up to become an executive at Xerox, she keenly understood quite intimately that access to knowledge was the stepping-stone of success.
 As technology is increasingly integrated into every level of education today, students without access to the internet at home find themselves at a huge disadvantage among their peers. This disparity is known as the “homework gap,” and students who come from minority, low-income or rural households disproportionately fall into it. What’s more, this same population is on the wrong side of the digital divide, which is more broadly defined as the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not. African Americans and Hispanics are three times as likely as whites to be “smartphone-dependent” because they lack both high-speed internet access at home and hardly any other means of getting online beyond their mobile devices. These statistics hold true for Americans with household incomes of less than $30,000 per year. 
Closing the homework gap and digital divide is one of the major challenges of our time, since high-speed internet is the modern economic leveler that enables social mobility. As providers seek to attract a younger and more diverse consumer base, there’s a new tool in the toolkit with “free data” programs that, in some ways, help address some of the pressing societal challenges facing underserved and unserved communities—both rural and urban. The concept of free data is simple. Companies cover some of the cost of accessing content (i.e., websites and apps) on mobile devices, leaving consumers with more mobile data in their monthly data plans to use in other ways, including to complete homework, look up health information, explore job opportunities, stay connected with family or simply read the news. It comes as no surprise that consumers are embracing free-data programs. And why wouldn’t they? Who could be against giving people more access to online content for free? 
The opponents of free data ignore the user rates and are focused on trying to influence the Federal Communications Commission to ban free-data programs, despite the overwhelming public support for them. While these groups continue to equate free-data programs with other unrelated tech issues and make erroneous claims about how they could affect mobile services, they continue to completely ignore the potential benefits that free data could have. Closing the homework gap and digital divide is vital to addressing long-standing income-inequality issues in communities that continue to be left behind. Access to quality education has always been a fundamental building block of upward mobility, and for students who have limited options for getting online, a smartphone represents their “way up and out,” as Burns would put it; and free-data programs will open more doors to all the internet has to offer. Regulators in Washington, D.C., can aid the policy discussion of socioeconomic equality and upward mobility by supporting programs such as free data, when applied fairly and equally. This will allow an exciting, new consumer mobile-internet development to grow and expand. For millennials and Generation Z, the future starts now, and in order for our young people to reach their full potential, we need to ensure that more minority and low-income households have access to and utilize technology to advance.

Girls outperform boys in test of tech-engineering literacy

By Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press

Eighth-grade girls are not only as skilled as boys at thinking through problems and using technology to solve them, they may even be a little better, a study released Tuesday suggests. The findings come from a first-of-its-kind assessment of technology and engineering literacy by the Nation's Report Card. When asked to tackle real-life scenarios such as designing a safe bicycle lane or improving a pet iguana's habitat, 45 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys showed proficiency at understanding and using technology, the computer-based assessment found. "The importance here is to use this information to encourage more young women to recognize that they possess these skills, that they should have confidence with these skills," said Bill Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board that oversees The Nation's Report Card. And, at a time when women are underrepresented in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — jobs, it's important that they know "that they can pursue careers not only in the STEM fields but in other fields that require problem solving and critical thinking," he said. The assessment was given to 21,500 eighth-grade students in 840 schools in 2014. It will be repeated in 2018. Among white students, 56 percent scored proficient or better, compared with 18 percent of black students and 28 percent of Hispanic eighth-grade students. Suburban and rural students outperformed students in city schools, the report card said. About 25 percent of students eligible for free or reduced school lunches scored proficient or above, compared to 59 percent of students from families with higher incomes. When asked where they learned about building things or understanding how things worked, nearly two-thirds of the students said family members. About 52 percent reported taking at least one technology or engineering course in school. Whether they learned technology in or out of school, students with some exposure scored better on the assessment, the report said. "But access to these opportunities from place to place is patchy," said Dr. Tonya Matthews, president and chief executive of the Michigan Science Center, where the report was released. "That's a call for communities to create opportunities where needed, from schools to science centers to after-school programming." One of the test scenarios challenged students to consider speed limits and lane width to evaluate the safety of a bike route. The iguana task had them learning about iguanas and modifying the cage of a class pet named "Iggy" to keep the creature from being cold, dehydrated or up all night. Bushaw said the new, interactive nature of the test allowed students to better demonstrate their skills. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Dr. Karen E. Nelson – a game-changing scientist breaking barriers

By Special to The New Tri-State Defender

At the busy intersection where science and humanity connect, Karen E. Nelson, Ph.D., is leading discoveries that may affect the lives of people in every corner of the world. Nelson is president of the renowned J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a world leader in genomic research with more than 250 scientists and staff, more than 250,000 square feet of laboratory space, and locations in Rockville, MD, and La Jolla, CA. A prominent microbial physiologist who quickly grew into the role of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) executive, Dr. Nelson led the team that published the first human microbiome paper. Since then, the world has taken note of the meteoric rise of this native Jamaican in an industry heavily dominated by males. Dr. Nelson’s soaring profile takes on even more prominence as STEM equity continues to emerge as “a critical civil rights concern.” According to Advancing Equity through More and Better STEM Learning, a February 2015 report by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, “only 2.2 percent of Latinos and 2.7 percent of African Americans have earned a degree in the natural sciences of engineering by the age of 24.” Noting that more and more of the jobs being created today require a STEM background, the report concluded that “a scarcity of AP classes, qualified teachers, funding, and resources in underserved schools have effectively locked students out of opportunities in crucial, well-paying fields like computer science, engineering, and defense.” The issue is not just that minorities or women may not consider STEM careers; often it is that they can’t always find the role models and mentors who can guide them toward successful careers, Dr. Nelson says. “There are many people out there with brilliant minds, and we need them all in the STEM field,” Dr. Nelson says. “From a science and biological perspective, when you are talking about diabetes and genetics, you have to have women and minorities to push their own science — so their issues get the attention they need.” Treatment “tailored to the individual” By sequencing DNA from individual cells and studying bacteria and a variety of microbial species that live on and in the body, researchers at J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) are changing the way medical professionals look at humans, prompting them to explore symbiotic relationships and to consider how big and small things — such as organs and bacteria — actually relate to each other. “The scientists at JCVI are engaged in basic science research that has the potential to change society,” says Dr. Nelson. Scientists now know that the human body is teeming with a variety of microbial species, a community that is known as the human microbiome. Everyone is born with trillions of microbes: the central question is how these colonies, which include bacteria, viruses and fungi, function and ultimately affect human health and disease. The National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was launched in 2007. The $175 million, five-year effort aimed to study the many microorganisms that live in and on the human body, such as in our mouths and on our skin. This important body of work is laying a foundation for precision medicine, an approach that will enable health care providers to tailor treatments and prevention strategies to unique characteristics of an individual, such as their genome sequence, diet and health history. President Barack Obama is a true believer in the science. “Doctors have always recognized that every patient is unique, and doctors have always tried to tailor their treatments as best they can to individuals,” he says. “You can match a blood transfusion to a blood type — that was an important discovery. What if matching a cancer cure to our genetic code was just as easy, just as standard? What if figuring out the right dose of medicine was as simple as taking our temperature?” When Dr. Nelson delivered a presentation last year in India, 1,000 people tried to squeeze into the room. And when President Obama unveiled his Precision Medicine Initiative in 2014, she sat in the audience of distinguished scientists and health care professionals at the White House. On the horizon is a game-changing moment, the kind of breakthrough that illuminates the groundwork laid by scientists as well as a seismic shift in daily life. “The idea is that someday everybody will have medical treatment that is tailored to the individual,” Dr. Nelson says. “So that my blood pressure medicine is not the same as your blood pressure medicine because we probably have genetic backgrounds that make us have different needs.” JCVI and similar organizations are providing a glimpse into how today’s science-driven organizations are finding societal solutions, such as JCVI’s sustainable lab on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. Research laboratories — in particular genomic-focused ones — traditionally consume large quantities of energy to run both energy-intensive scientific equipment and for heating and cooling, Dr. Nelson explains. The conservation-conscious facility actually seeks to be “net zero” for electrical energy, which means it seeks to produce as much electricity on-site as it consumes. It also was built to be the first carbon-neutral laboratory facility in the world. “In the end, the goal is to make life better,” Dr. Nelson says. Someone “who will believe in you” Karen Nelson’s quest to understand how things work began at age seven when a teacher assigned her class the task of planting seeds in soil, and then placing the pots in sunny spots as well as shady places to determine how nutrients and sunlight would impact growth. “I still remember doing that, and learning something significant, and just thinking about what it all meant,” she said. That experiment hooked her on science. She went onto to earn her B.S. in Animal Science from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago; her M.S. in Animal Science from the University of Florida, Gainesville; and her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Cornell University. After encountering microbiology, her interests were piqued, and that passion eventually led her to the JCVI’s legacy organization, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). With the help of “positive, supportive mentors, and hard work,” Dr. Nelson emerged as a leader in her field. “I realized early on that education is the one thing that people can’t take away from you,” she says. “Coupled with my curiosity, and a little bit of luck meeting the right people, I have been able to do well.” The author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and the editor of three books, Dr. Nelson is currently editor-in-chief of the international journal, Microbial Ecology. She also serves on the editorial boards of BMC Genomics, GigaScience and the Central European Journal of Biology. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board of Life Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, an honorary professor at the University of the West Indies, and a Helmholtz International Fellow. Prior to her appointment as president in 2012, she held a number of other positions at JCVI, including director of JCVI’s Rockville Campus, and director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics in the Department of Human Genomic Medicine. As president, Dr. Nelson juggles multiple responsibilities, serving as leader, fundraiser, scientist and role model. As she travels the globe sharing JCVI’s findings, she is on the lookout for promising talent. “I represent an organization that is one of the best in the world. People helped me along the way and I want to give back however I can,” Dr. Nelson says. “I can now connect talented individuals with the right people, which means that someone cared enough to make a connection.” Twenty years after Dr. Nelson entered the industry, she still stands out as a woman and a person of color when she attends global conferences. Data provided by Change the Equation, a coalition of Fortune 500 companies focused on increasing STEM education, reported in 2015 that the STEM workforce was no more diverse that year than it was in 2001. “I started in 1996, when there was a huge shortage of women and minorities in the field. It has not improved since that time in my opinion. I still think there is something wrong with the system,” she says. JCVI is not waiting on the sideline for change. It has linked up with high schools and colleges to provide hands-on learning opportunities that pique curiosity and promote discovery. Additionally, its Genomics Scholars Program (GSP) helps smooth the transition from a community college to a four-year college by using a combination of activities. The program has proved beneficial to all stakeholders, according to Dr. Nelson, who adds, “I think community colleges are fabulous!” She sees the mentoring component provided to area community college interns as especially important. Before researchers can succeed, they often fail, and then learn from these failures. “A scientist needs the ability to handle rejection,” she says. “Your paper is not always going to get published. Your grant might not get funded. It is not always going to be perfect. Sometimes it is tough. And you just need someone who will believe in you.” Dr. Nelson looks forward to welcoming the young scientists exiting the pipelines that carry talent from college into the STEM workplaces. “I am really excited about the next generation of scientists,” she says. “They care about social causes. They are really about getting the message out, and trying to educate people.” (This story is a variation of a version that first appeared in the Pathways magazine, produced by Community College of Philadelphia, and is published here with the College’s permission.)

Blacks + Tech: ‘You have moments when you’re the only Black woman in the room’

By Breanna Edwards, The Root

The tech industry has a long way to go in terms of adequately diversifying and incorporating the perspectives of different people from different backgrounds. However, one lawyer is making strides in the often white and male-dominated arena, smashing open gates not only for herself but also for those who will come after her. “You have those moments when you’re the only woman in the room, you’re the only black woman in the room and you kind of say, ‘Should I be here? Is this the right thing?’” Elke Suber, assistant general counsel at Microsoft, where she currently oversees global legal support for the company, tells The Root. Suber says that she started out in digital entertainment and technology being heavily invested in gaming or the interactive side, which she describes as being even more male-dominated when she first got involved. “You have to break through that and realize that you have to take a seat at the table and that you’ve got a background, a difference of opinion, that is going to bring something to the forefront or help add a different voice to the conversation,” she says. “That’s what’s kept me going, and also just wanting to be a role model for others coming behind me,” she continues. “I can’t stress the importance of how role models, mentors and sponsors have been so critical and important to my own career.” For Suber, the organization that’s guided her on her journey and provided her with those role models, mentors and sponsors is the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, which she now, perhaps fittingly, heads as chair of its board of directors, the second woman to do so in the organization’s 36 years of existence. BESLA’s upcoming midyear conference is all about “Succeeding in the Entertainment and Sports Industries.” The conference, which will be held Monday at Fordham University in New York City, will include several panels covering topics from digital media to tips about climbing the corporate ladder. Several big influencers will participate in the conference, with music-industry veteran L.A. Reid as a featured guest speaker and National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts headlining a special luncheon panel. Suber attributes a good portion of her success to the knowledge and support she received at her first BESLA conference. “A mentor suggested I go to [the BESLA conference] to just learn more, and so I attended, had a great time [and] went to so many amazing panels,” she says. “One of the panels was on digital media, and I came out of that panel, out of learning from those industry influencers, and I thought to myself, ‘You know what? That’s what I want to do.’ And really, from that day forward, I literally started looking for opportunities to practice in digital entertainment, digital media, and took focus on copyright and technology issues,” she says. From there, Suber became more and more active in the organization, working her way up through the years until she was invited to sit on the board of directors before ultimately becoming the chair. Suber describes her dedication as being such because of the ability to “give back” to other young lawyers in the same way that she was so deeply influenced. “I have gotten a lot out of BESLA in terms of my career, in terms of development, in terms of networking and relations, and I want to be there just as those lawyers were there for me when I was a young lawyer, and help others find their passion and just really be prepared to succeed in this industry,” she says.

Need to remove racial bias in hiring for tech jobs? There’s an app for that

By Sherrell Dorsey, The Root

The excuse that top tech companies and large firms can’t find stellar, diverse talent will become a thing of the past if Stephanie Lampkin, founder of Blendoor, has anything to say about it. Lampkin announced the app’s official debut at a rooftop party Saturday during South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Blendoor is a mobile job-matching app that helps companies identify talent “based on merit, not molds.” Lampkin developed the app out of the frustration of not being taken seriously in the tech industry despite boasting an engineering degree from Stanford and an MBA from MIT Sloan. Lampkin, who has been coding since the age of 13, worked hard to develop her skills and expertise in the tech field. When she went to apply for a data-analytics role at Microsoft after working for the tech behemoth for several years, she was turned down with the suggestion that she’d be a better fit for a sales or marketing position. “We’re moving the word ‘diversity,’ which has become highly diluted, from our vocabulary and exchanging it with the word ‘merit,’” Lampkin told The Root. Lampkin, like most highly qualified candidates, knows she has the qualifications to be successful in the industry but may not necessarily fit the traditional mode, which has led to the kind of disproportionate representation for which top tech companies are now being criticized. For the last two years, Lampkin has been grinding away to get Blendoor off the ground. She has since developed several strategic partnerships with IBM, Intel and Apple. Blendoor, operating akin to platforms like LinkedIn and Monster, draws companies that pay upward of $400 to advertise available positions for candidates who subscribe to the service for free. Her pitch to partner companies goes beyond increasing diversity to revolutionizing the way big data can drive innovation in talent recruitment. “To date, there hasn’t been good measurement or tracking around diversity as it relates to recruiter behavior,” Lampkin explained. “We will be able to challenge the idea that there is a pipeline problem. There are a diverse number of candidates that are qualified, but they aren’t making it past the phone screen. Our app, which is a ‘blind-recruiting platform’ is positioned to help companies make better decisions at the gate.” So far, Lampkin has won $50,000 from various pitch competitions and another $50,000 from angel investors like Pipeline Angels. She’s also working with Kapor Capital to close a larger round of funding. Her strategy for the remainder of the year is to gain traction with partner companies and work with affinity groups to acquire high-caliber candidates. Recently, Lampkin met with the president of the National Black MBA Association to discuss how Blendoor can add value to the multichapter organization by providing data on conversion and statistics on their members hired to top companies. “We’re getting inbounds daily from companies within and outside of the tech companies,” Lampkin said. “Blendoor’s goal is to also attract people of color 10 to 15 years out of college, working for investment or consulting firms, that may not be aware of the opportunities at big companies. Sign up to download the Blendoor app today at its website.

Super Bowl 50: Nielsen Twitter TV ratings post-game report

By Nielsen

Whether you were watching for the game, the halftime show, or the ads, this year’s showdown between the Broncos and the Panthers made it a Super Bowl to remember. The minute-by-minute excitement could be felt from the field, on screens across the country, and through social media as millions took part in the action on Twitter. 15.2 million people in the U.S. saw Tweets about Sunday’s telecast of Super Bowl 50 on CBS. Those Tweets were seen a total of 1.3 billion times (Twitter TV impressions) throughout the night. The audience reached by Tweets about the event was 53% male and 56% over the age of 25. Fans weren’t just Tweeting about the game and halftime – tons took to Twitter in response to celebrity- filled ads, to participate in contests and to comment on character cameos, whether they be babies, animals or a creative combination. The ads were scoring touchdowns across the board, driving 1.4 million authors to send 4.6 million brand-related Tweets during the TV event. The word “commercial” was mentioned in 590,000 Tweets. Overall Twitter activity peaked at 8:44 p.m. ET, with a total of 162,000 Tweets sent during the minute after the halftime show. Brand activity hit a high at 7:04 p.m., with a total of 49,000 Tweets sent in the minute after Mountain Dew Kickstart aired its “Puppymonkeybaby” ad. The game, halftime show and advertisers fueled the activity. “Super Bowl” was mentioned 2.3 million times. Beyoncé was mentioned in 967,000 Tweets, Coldplay was mentioned in 734,000 Tweets and Bruno Mars was mentioned in 514,000 Tweets. The Denver Broncos stole the show on and off the field: they were mentioned in 1.5 million Tweets, while the Carolina Panthers were mentioned in 1.2 million Tweets. For the Broncos, the top player on Twitter for the night was Peyton Manning, with 1.1 million mentions, while the Panthers’ Cam Newton was mentioned in 487,000 Tweets. The excitement around the TV event didn’t just start on game day. We also took a look at Twitter activity happening on a 24/7 basis in the two weeks leading up to the event, specifically tracking mentions of the Super Bowl, along with related terms (#SB50, @SuperBowl, etc.), as well as mentions of the teams playing in the big game. Fans sent a total of 3.5 million Tweets about the Super Bowl, 796,000 Tweets about the Denver Broncos, and 912,000 Tweets about the Carolina Panthers in the two weeks leading up to the main event. Through the lens of the Super Bowl, we can see how consumers experience live TV events today, with their smartphone and tablets in hand and social media at their fingertips. This immediate consumer response to the game and the ads through social media brings benefits to networks looking to understand audience engagement and offers opportunities for advertisers and agencies to boost earned media for their brands

Are Americans ready for a smart home?

By Nielsen

New technology is everywhere. Auto makers are racing to develop self-driving cars, coffee retailers are hoping you’ll use an app to order your morning coffee before you even enter the shop, and retailers hope to offer home delivery by drone in the not-too-distant future. On the consumer front, many Americans are readily embracing new technologies that help them more easily navigate their busy lives and be more productive in the process. When it comes to the walls in which we live, however, adoption rates for smart home products is still a work in progress. And when we talk about “smart home technology,” we’re not just talking about a washing machine that can sense how big the load of clothing is or a lighting system that dims and brightens as the sun rises and sets. Rather, the broader smart home landscape covers a range of products and services that allow consumers to automate a number of household devices, appliances and functions according to their lifestyles. To date the most popular smart home products are smart thermostats, home security and monitoring systems and wireless speakers, but the category is rapidly expanding into other elements of the home. While smart home technology is widely available and becoming more advanced at a rapid clip, most consumers are somewhat ambivalent about it. A recent study from The Demand Institute found that most consumers aren’t typically interested in technology for the sake of technology. In fact, the study found that only 36 percent of Americans are excited to incorporate technology into their homes, and just 22 percent say having the latest tech is important in their current or future homes. Today, just one in five U.S. households currently have a smart home product. Raising awareness as connectivity needs increase Part of the low adoption and interest may be due to consumers' limited understanding of smart home technology. While knowledge in the U.S. about the latest smartphone and computer technology is relatively high, a survey done by The Harris Poll® found that nearly two-thirds of consumers don’t know much about smart home technology. That’s not to say smart homes will fail to take off. While not a major influence today, connectivity and technology continue to play an increasingly important role in our lives. And to that effect, most consumers say they think smart home technology and connected devices will grow in importance in the years to come. And with that in mind, many—78 percent in fact, according to The Harris Poll® — expect new homes to include smart home technology within the next five years. Much in the way cars built five years ago did not likely include rear-view cameras or blind spot protection as standard equipment, many being built today do. As with many new digital innovations, younger and affluent consumers will be the earliest adopters of smart home tech. And what’s interesting is that interest among both owners and renters is similar. The Demand Institute attributes this to two factors: • Owners are more affluent and have the discretionary means to purchase new technology • Renters are younger and generally more open to new technology Today’s smart home landscape is cluttered and evolving. Numerous platforms, communication and security protocols abound. Marketing efforts touting tangible benefits have yet to truly move the needle, and adoption rates aren’t significant. As has happened with other tech categories, the landscape will likely pick up serious momentum when a company or small group of companies crack the code on smart home tech. That will be the point at which the adoption of these technologies become widespread and game-changing.