• Shoppers who pass a beacon will be notified about a deal, which they show to the cashier. (Andrew Seale)Shoppers who pass a beacon will be notified about a deal, which they show to the cashier. (Andrew Seale)

    Michael Cohen knows it’s here somewhere.

    The director of development for Air Miles and I are pacing the aisles of a Rexall pharmacy at the corner of Toronto’s Queen St. and University Ave., peering behind stacks of toilet paper and pushing aside bags of chips like two kids looking for treasure.

    “It should be about waist high because most people keep their smartphones in their purses or pant pockets,” he says.

    I’m looking for a bug – the spy kind. I picture a miniature radio the size of a button with a spindle of wires. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for but the button-sized radio is my best guess for what a beacon looks like.

    Here’s what I do know: I know a beacon is a low energy Bluetooth device, capable of pinging information to any smartphone with the app associated with that beacon and I know that the Rexall we’re in is part of an Air Miles pilot phase (which also includes Staples). They’re testing the use of the technology as a way to send its members

    Read More »from I spy: Beacons being used by stores to deliver deals in exchange for tracking you
  • It’s been a rough year so far for people who work in retail. First Target said it would take a mulligan on the 133 stores it had opened in Canada, and then Future Shop welcomes its employees to work this past Saturday with notices telling 1,500 of them they’re out of a job.

    Now a group of workers turfed out by Best Buy’s decision to shut down its Future Shop stores say the severance cheques they were offered are too low, and not in line with Canadian labour practices.

    “What I discovered pretty much consistently amongst all the people that I’ve spoken to is that the offers were completely inadequate,” says Lior Samfiru, a labour lawyer retained to negotiate for higher packages for a number of former employees.

    While Samfiru admits the company may be operating within the letter of Ontario law, the payouts fall well below levels that previous court decisions have established as a fair level.

    “(Provincial law) is only a minimum, and every employee has significantly greater severance rights

    Read More »from Future shop severance packages not up to snuff, says lawyer
  • The CRTC’s decision to mandate cable and satellite television distributors to offer an entry-level service to customers for no more than $25 per month may open the door to increased choice, but it also comes with a dark side for consumers who have been waiting for years for a break on their television bills.

    The new rules, announced Thursday by chair and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais, requires television service providers to make the low-cost packages available no later than March 2016.

    By December of next year, consumers who want more than just the basic package of local and regional stations, public interest channels, education outlets and community channels and services will be able to subscribe to additional channels a la carte as well as via small, affordable packages.

    Consumers will also have the right to retain their existing television services, if they wish.

    Be careful what you wish for

    While consumers have long bristled at being forced to buy channels in bundles, the impending arrival

    Read More »from CRTC OKs pick-and-pay, but it’ll cost you
  • For all the hype being generated by mobile commerce, vendor claims that we’re on the verge of a smartphone-driven retail revolution ring a little hollow.

    While figures released recently by PayPal and Ipsos conclude mobile commerce is growing twice as fast as online, conventional electronic commerce, the consumer migration to mobile may still be a long way off.

    The PayPal research suggests mobile commerce is rapidly taking over the retail landscape as consumers leave e-commerce-based PCs at home and load conventional credit and debit card information into increasingly capable mobile apps.

    From 2013 through 2016, the research says m-commerce will grow at a 34 per cent compound average annual growth rate compared to 14 per cent for e-commerce as a whole. Smartphone-toting Canadian shoppers spent C$3.45 billion in 2013, and are expected to spend 142 per cent more next year.

    A drop in the bucket

    All of this sounds tremendously exciting, but in an overall retail market that Statistics Canada

    Read More »from Why mobile commerce isn't yet ready for prime-time
  • CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais had every opportunity to wow an audience gathered in London, Ont., to hear the first of a number of planned announcements on the future of local television in Canada.

    What attendees heard was decidedly less impressive. Call it Canada’s regulatory version of Deflategate.

    Blais announced three key decisions, and each one of them reinforced the difficulties the CRTC faces in dragging Canada’s television landscape into the 21st century without destroying a still-functioning legacy industry.

    1. Local television stations must continue to maintain their over-the-air broadcast capability

    Despite broadcaster complaints that maintaining their transmitters has become prohibitively expensive just as advertising revenues continue to trend downward amid a wholesale shift to online media, the CRTC refused to budge on this issue. While local outlets would generally love to shut their transmitters down and redirect the money saved into local programming, the CRTC is forcing

    Read More »from CRTC misses the local TV mark, and then some
  • A study released this week by Microsoft Advertising confirms what many have already suspected: Canadians see technology as something of a double-edged sword as they increasingly use online services and mobile devices to manage their finances.

    The technology company surveyed 2,000 people online, and the resulting study, dubbed The Financial Lives of Canadians, suggests consumers have passed a tipping point in terms of their routine use of online tools. Fully 79 per cent of Canadians now use online banking at least monthly, with 60 per cent saying they do so at least once per week.

    The satisfaction gap

    Not all of them are happy with the experience, however. Although two-thirds of respondents agreed it’s important to have a positive experience on a banking website, less than half reported being satisfied with what Canadian banks are currently delivering.

    Less than half of Canadians - 44 per cent - say they enter a bank branch at least once per month. That’s more than those who use mobile

    Read More »from Canadians' financial lives increasingly driven by tech
  • Intended or not, the full impact of the recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment has now gone well beyond the walls of a single, lavish boardroom in sunny California.

    The headline-grabbing hack certainly sent Sony’s reputation into a spiral after a series of embarrassing emails between company executives and its A-list clients were made public.

    Three months later, the company continues to struggle to cap the fallout, while nervous corporate leaders around the world watch the situation carefully and worry about who will be next.

    Canadian companies are no exception. A new report by KPMG tracking audit trends in 2015 suggests companies on this side of the border are taking cyber security and reputation risk management more seriously than ever before.

    Security “is a very real threat to really any organization of any size these days,” saysPaul Hanley, an advisory partner and KPMG cyber security leader in Toronto, in an interview with Yahoo Canada Finance.

    “All organizations have

    Read More »from Cyber crime puts Canadian execs on high alert in 2015: report
  • It may seem like an odd recipe for a marriage, the world’s largest consumer mobile handset vendor and a fallen Canadian icon that’s long been - and could once again be - the darling of the suit-and-tie-wearing set. But investor response to a report yesterday that Korean conglomerate Samsung was in talks to acquire BlackBerry in a deal that could be valued up to US$7.5 billion reaffirms market confidence that the Waterloo-based company still retains significant value. And still holds the potential to attract the interest of global-scale players.

    A known quantity

    We’ve been down this road before, of course. In August and September 2013, when BlackBerry was quite possibly at its lowest point and it was actively looking for a buyer, Samsung was a leading contender. And ever since then, speculation about the two companies possibly coming together in some form has never fully extinguished.

    This largely explains why investor reaction - the stock shot up 30 per cent when the report first broke,

    Read More »from Samsung may need BlackBerry, but the feeling isn't mutual
  • As the thousands of attendees, vendors and media pack themselves up and head home from this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, it’s clear that not all of the 20,000 product announcements were entirely successful. The story of CES revolves around a relatively small number of specific products and broader themes that could influence the future direction of technology, as well as a larger number of announcement that are best left back in Vegas.

    With this in mind, here’s a quick look at some of the hits and misses from this year’s show:

    HIT: Automotive technology

    Given the relatively large number of automotive prototypes and technologies on display at this year’s CES, you’d be forgiven for thinking the North American International Auto Show had instead started a week early. At least 10 automakers, including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota, were there.

    This year’s CES highlighted just how deeply in-dash tech has progressed, and how much the automotive sector now

    Read More »from CES 2015 hits and misses
  • Every year around this time, I find myself both looking back and looking ahead with a curious mixture of expectation and frustration. Expectation because, like pyjama-clad kids top-toeing down the stairs on Christmas morning, you always expect something fresh and new under the tree. On the other hand, I feel frustration because, let’s face it, there are no pyjama-clad kids in the tech space. And lessons from previous years don’t always seem to be learned - or even considered - as the new year dawns.

    So while I have my doubts about whether 2015 will bring revolutionary change, I remain hopeful all the same. Here’s a quick look at some of the major themes that should dominate the tech agenda in the new year:


    Smartwatches may have snagged major headlines in 2014, but reality - and sales - fell far short of the hype thanks to expensive, clunky-looking offerings, ridiculously short battery life and the lack of a true killer app to convince consumers to finally buy in. That might

    Read More »from Top 5 trends in Canadian tech & business for 2015
  • Looking back at the top tech stories of the past year, one thing becomes quickly evident: No single story or theme dominated the agenda.

    While most years are known for one thing - 2007 was the year of the iPhone, 2014 was more akin to a buffet of major tech stories, with no one theme dominating the others.

    Here are some of the highlights:

    Cybersecurity edges haltingly toward the mainstream

    You’d think after the Heartbleed vulnerability snagged global headlines and led to a hacker stealing the Social Insurance Numbers of 900 Canadians that online security would finally become a priority. Similarly, you’d think after hackers brought Sony Pictures to its knees in what is easily the most damaging cyberattack in online history that businesses here would finally start paying more attention to - or simply investing more in - online security.

    You’d think wrong.

    For all the attention that Home Depot, Target and Heartbleed snagged in 2014, Canadian businesses remained dangerously aloof about

    Read More »from 2014: A surprisingly influential year in tech
  • BlackBerry's Q3 earnings report, which capped off the company’s march back to profitability with a small profit amid tumbling revenues, highlighted a year in which it managed to finally bury rumours of its imminent demise.

    Just over a year after John Chen took over as CEO, Blackberry is slowly beginning to put years of negative headlines behind it as it transitions away from a disastrous failure to counter Apple and Google in the consumer smartphone market and toward an enterprise-focused business model that relies more heavily on software and services revenues than outright handset sales.

    The shift doesn’t come without its risks: BlackBerry’s revenues, which at US$793 million in the quarter were were well below analyst expectations of $932 million, continue to sink as its handsets, no longer marketed directly to consumers, become a uniquely corporate offering.

    While the company’s finances are light-years improved compared to this period last year - its return to positive cash flow,

    Read More »from BlackBerry's 2014 sets stage for a better 2015
  • At a time when online security breaches such as the one that virtually paralyzed Sony Pictures last week are becoming increasingly frequent and damaging, just-released data confirms just how behind the curve Canadian businesses are.

    According to Cisco, 60 per cent of Canadian businesses either haven’t bothered to create a security strategy, or have one but aren’t sure it’s keeping up with rapidly-evolving technologies that are changing how IT services are consumed.

    Just over one in five - 22 per cent - of Canadian businesses said they had been threatened, attacked or breached within the past year. Perhaps more frightening is the 8 per cent of businesses that reported being uncertain whether they had been similarly victimized.

    “What is troubling for Canadian businesses is that these results only represent known breaches and attacks,” Warren Shiau, Director, Buyer Behaviour Research Practice for IDC Canada, which conducted the survey, said in a statement. “So it brings up the possibility

    Read More »from Canadian business lacking security strategy: Cisco study
  • If heads don’t roll after the latest security debacle at the Canada Revenue Agency, they should.

    The tax agency revealed yesterday that a spreadsheet containing detailed information on a number of high-profile Canadians, including former PM Jean Chretien, author Margaret Atwood, ex drug czar Richard Pound and media mogul Moses Znaimer, had been sent to the CBC. The 18-page file included names, home addresses, and details of donations made to Canadian museums and galleries.

    In a statement released late yesterday, CRA Commissioner Andrew Treusch attributed the accidental release of the personal information to human error, and said it “constitutes a serious breach of privacy.”

    The CBC said it received the file electronically in response to an Access to Information Request. In a move that surprises no one, Treusch said the agency “has launched an internal investigation into the privacy breach and its security protocols.”

    A disturbing pattern

    Given that the leaked spreadsheet represents the

    Read More »from CRA data breach should be the final straw
  • When it comes to online security, Canadian businesses are playing with fire.

    According to EY’s just-released annual Global Information Security survey, Get Ahead of Cybercrime, while awareness of information security risk to the bottom line is high, compliance is alarmingly low. Fully 92 per cent of respondents to the survey said they recognize the increasing threat of hackers, malware and other information security challenges, but nearly half - 42 per cent - said they‘ll either spend the same or less on security in 2015.

    The gap widens

    The disconnect between awareness and response puts Canadian businesses in an increasingly vulnerable position. As the frequency and complexity of online threats continues to rise, they’re not only more likely to be victimized, but the potential for both tangible financial losses as well as damage to the brand will also grow.

    It’s a situation that clearly worries EY’s National IT Security Practice Leader, Gaétan Houle, who calls the situation not

    Read More »from Canadian businesses failing to respond to cybercrime risk
  • The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s announcement Thursday it was ordering telecom carriers to abolish their practice of forcing consumers to provide 30-days notice before cancelling their phone, Internet or television services sends, a clear message that customer service practices still need improvement.

    Josh Tabish, Campaigns Manager for OpenMedia.ca, said in a statement that the announcement, the first following the regulator’s Let’s Talk TV meetings in Gatineau, Que. last September, is a positive step forward.

    “During the consultation, we spoke with thousands of Canadians who expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of choice and flexibility in offerings from the Big Telecom providers,” he said. “But now we’re able to move between service providers more easily without being penalized.”

    A good start, but more needed

    Tabish called the CRTC’s move, which takes effect Jan. 23, 2015 and follows a similar ban on 30-day cancellation waiting periods for

    Read More »from CRTC serves notice to carriers with wait-period ban
  • Are newspaper paywalls headed for oblivion?

    Barely a year after the last major Canadian daily gave up on unfettered online access to its content and put up a metered paywall to restrict access to paying subscribers, that same wall is about to come down. TorStar Corp. quietly announced this week, as part of its most recent quarterly earnings report, that it “anticipates eliminating the paywall on its www.thestar.com website next year.”

    Paywalls limit web users’ access to a newspaper’s website. If you’re a subscriber, you can read everything. If you don’t pay, you can typically read up to 10 articles per month, after which point you’re stuck going somewhere else.

    The Globe & Mail started the national trend with its paywall in 2012. Last year, the Sun Media chain announced it would gradually introduce paywalls at its papers across the country, while the Toronto Star was the last major national paper to dive in. The National Post first launched a paywall for its international visitors in

    Read More »from As Toronto Star paywall tumbles, industry struggles with what comes next


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