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Beth Kindig is the Founder of CitizenTekk.

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Smart Terminal's New Age

There has never been much agreement on the definition of a “smart terminal,” though the term has been used for a long time.


Typically any device with a digital display and some kind of network capabilities, with or without a touch screen, is referred to as a smart terminal. Thanks in part to recent advances in consumer technologies like smart phones and tablets, the appreciation for the potential of long-neglected smart terminals to emerge as a market-changing force in the commercial sector, are now very real. With verticals spanning from auto industries to retailers, we will all benefit from the upcoming new age of the smart terminal.


So, why haven’t we yet seen many of these smart terminals around us? Instead, we see shops and restaurants using customized iPads or Android tablets to serve their single purpose needs. Having the power button and home button awkwardly being covered by an outer shell or operated by the owner prevents customers from interacting with a plethora of other applications and settings. There are mainly two reasons we haven’t yet: the inherent difficulty in developing software for embedded devices and ecosystem of hardware production in China.


Most embedded devices run on a modified version of Linux, which comes with very limited and raw libraries for UI development. Source code needs to be cross-compiled on a different device before being burned into the device’s flash memory. This arduous and clumsy process must then be repeated during the development and testing, and that becomes a slow and costly endeavor. Changes are also very hard to make once the software is deployed.


Meanwhile, solution providers who are mostly small companies that design circuit boards, heavily rely on the reference design, device drivers, and OS support provided by the chip manufactures. Every time the DSP makers advance forward with a new generation chipset, they quickly cut off support and, eventually the supply of the older generation chips of which in-market commercial products are dependent. The potential lifespan of these commercial products are thus cut short; similar to their consumer counterparts like phones and tablets. Every upgrade again requires another painful round of software updates and tedious integration work; while consumer products companies have a large, dedicated staff in place to shepherd this ongoing cycle for quickly churning out next-generation consumer offerings. The same support does not and should not exist within individual companies on the commercial side.


In addition to these two challenges, network interfaces for smart terminals is another hurdle. The reason terminals can be called “smart” is because of their interaction with some sort of network server. Due to the wide variety of the embedded applications, the requirements and interface protocols are different for every device. The lack of a common protocol makes development of network interfaces a custom job for every new device configuration.


With the emersion of HTML5 as a viable, customizable front-end engine and powerful SOC (System on Chip,) DSP’s can provide a breakthrough combination for more scalable development of smart terminals. The new HTML5 platform is capable of most UI needs of an application and doesn’t require cross compilation, making the remote updating of embedded devices very lightweight and fast. HTML5 can easily work with standard web services and network protocols; making tomorrow’s embedded smart terminal nothing more than a browser. It will eliminate the entry barrier into the embedded world, and enable anyone who can create a web page to develop an application for his or her customized smart terminal devices. Within the next few years, we expect the unified HTML5 platform to become the application standard for many of the smart terminals on the market; thus substantially reducing the cost of porting application software to each new generation hardware. As a result, we will see more and more of these smart terminals appear around us, as customizable consoles in cars, as electronic menus in restaurants, or as automated control pads in your home.


Mobile Transaction Growth Outpacing the Payment Establishment’s Ability to Self-govern

Payment companies and mobile technologists alike agree — at least in public, to hide the fierce competition going on behind the scenes.


In order to grow mobile commerce and best serve the retailer and consumer, there needs to be better inter-industry cooperation in developing standards and in promoting interoperability between mobile payments platforms. In the meantime, still hurting from the economic downturn of the past few years and seeking to better engage with consumers, retailers are viewing new mCommerce technology solutions as a way to both build its customer base and increase consumer loyalty — to capture new sales while generating more incremental sales.


Mobile Phone Shopping Cart Before Trade Horse


In August 2012, Google, PayPal, Verifone, the US Carriers, Capital One and the major US banks formed the Mobile Payments Committee within the Electronic Transaction Association (ETA), with a stated objective of “Enhanc[ing] business relationships and network interoperability among merchants, card brands, networks, equipment manufacturers, and financial institutions.” Today, the committee has ballooned to 107 members (the next largest ETA committee – Government Relations – has just 41 members) and does not include the payment innovator Square. Within a year, the committee published Best Practices and Guidelines for Mobile Payment Solutions (September 2013), and is expected to continue to advise the merchant-acquiring payments industry as mobile commerce becomes more widespread. But can the trade organization-delivered advice keep up with the fast past of mobile technology advancement and the implications that it has for merchant adoption and consumer behavior?


New technology offerings focused on mobile payment ubiquity continue to pop up, launch and take off at spectacular speed – driven by merchant need and consumer acceptance. After raising just over $123,000 from nearly 1500 backers on Kickstarter, mobile payment enabler Loop raised $10 million in funding (November 2013) and is already offering a $39 fob to consumers that allows you to store all of your credit and gift card data on one device, and to pay wirelessly at the store once the small 2.5 inch fob is attached to your phone. Due out in April 2014 is a more elegant and functional, but also more expensive Loop solution at $99 per unit — a phone charging case that acts in the same way as the fob, but which sits flush to the phone. And of course Square just continues to explode — launched in Q1 2010, the company processed approximately $20 billion in transactions in 2013, and expects to reach $30 billion this year across more than across more than 200,000 merchant locations (including 7,000 Starbucks cafes), and an undisclosed number of Whole Foods nationwide. Significantly, Sarah Friar, Square’s CFO and Operations Lead stated at this month’s Women 2.0 conference in San Francisco that contrary to popular payment industry belief, the service’s transaction size range is quite large – with $1,000+ purchases coming from a diverse set of payees such as landscaping companies, pest control firms and artists.


Restart, After Restarts on the Standards Front


Whilst mCommerce on the retail level continues to grow exponentially, the payments establishment is still tending to practical issues such as the development of uniform security standards. In the UK alone, IMRG and CapGemini’s e-retail index showed that a “tipping point” was reached in terms of m-commerce in 2013, with mobile transactions increasing 135% over 2012 and now accounting for all e-commerce growth on a year with an overall 18% growth in online transactions. In December 2013 alone, 27% of online sales came from mobile devices, equating to approximately $4.96 billion USD. In the larger U.S. market, similar rapid mobile transaction growth is cited, with the most recent Internet Retailer study stating that the top 500 mobile retailers reached $34.2 billion in mobile sales in 2013, up 64% from $20.9 billion in 2012.


At the most glitzy, if not the most well-attended payments conference Money2020 last fall, there was much talk surrounding the development of standards governing key issues such as the storage and transmission of PII (personally identifiable information). Credit card payment verification and ID validation company Jumio (ex-Facebook Edward Saverin is a board member, lending his name and investment dollars) announced an effort to jump-start a member-owned and operated association focused on PII. What is interesting about this development is that the relatively young company Jumio felt the need to take it upon itself to nudge the industry about an important security and privacy issue. When questioned about this, Jumio CEO Daniel Mattes stated that it was there intention to start the initiative in the hopes that the greater establishment would take the subject on and carry it forward.


And the nudge should be well taken. mCommerce security is becoming a more pressing issue, with hacker-criminals migrating to the mobile transaction arena as security and best practices in the online arena become more robust, better understood and widely practiced. At Money2020, Jim McCarthy, Visa’s Global Head of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships expressed a new willingness for Visa to work with other vested players in the payment space, and showcased a new alliance between the company, MasterCard and American Express to propose to the industry the creation of a global token-based standard for making online and mobile transactions safer and easier for the consumer. There’s been no update on the alliance since the press release and announcement last October, but it’s safe to say that the growth of mobile transactions is outpacing the ability of traditional financial institutions to safeguard and govern the m-commerce space.


Startup Real Estate

So you’ve started your dream company, ready to take on the whole world with your market altering product. You have your MVP (or not).You have product-market fit (or not). You have your VC money in the bank (or not).


Startups encompass all the above stages and many others as well. One need, regardless of the size or stage in the lifecycle you find yourself, you and your team need is a place to sit. Or if you want to be trendy, stand. There are a variety of real estate options available for startups. Below is a list and brief description of each option in general order, from early stage to later.


Your garage. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both started there. So did Walt Disney. Now it’s your turn. The garage — or your apartment if you live in NYC — is often the best place for you to start.


Pros: The commute is great and the price is right.

Cons: Car exhaust, no contact with the external world during the work day.


Coworking. Coworking has been the next big thing in office space for most of the last decade. Coworking spaces happen when someone rents a large block of space (usually at least 10,000 square feet or more) and then rents out individual desks or groups of desks on a short term basis. Many of these are month to month; some require a slightly longer term. There are both dedicated and floating desk options. You can office with other like-minded individuals as these spaces have a mix of entrepreneurs, writers, designers, salespeople, bloggers, engineers, filmmakers, nonprofits, and service providers.


There has been a huge proliferation of coworking spaces, especially in cities with large tech clusters. In August of last year, there were nearly 40 different locations forcoworking in New York City. Prices for desks at coworking facilities range from $300-700 per month.


Pros: Coworking is generally very collegial. No more talking to yourself in the mirror.

Cons: Hearing your neighbor talk about his or her personal problems all day.


Executive Suites. Not many startups turn to Executive Suites, because the cost ends up being more than a startup wants to pay. The benefits are there though; you get your own office or offices as well as the flexibility of short term leases. As with coworking, many are month to month and a long term deal here would be a year. In many ways, these are grown-up coworking spaces and they have been around for decades.


Pros: Flexibility! Access to shared conference rooms and kitchens.

Cons: Many don’t have “the look and feel” that startups like.



Sharing space with another company.  This is a good bet once your team grows to more than a handful. A lot of coworking environments aren’t geared towards medium sized teams. This option keeps you from having to sign a long term lease and has the added benefit of being around another startup. Shared spaces can be hard to find, however. The best bets here are to reach out to your network orPivotDesk.


Pros: Short term. Getting to show off your commitment issues in a whole new facet of life.

Cons: You still don’t have the space to call your own.


A lease with your name on it. You’ve made it…by one metric at least. None of the aforementioned options are sufficient to handle teams of any significant size. Once you get past 10 to 15 people, your sharing options are more limited. Though, you have many more options as the other 95 or more percent of the real estate market is now open to you.


Another…err…sub-option here are subleases. These are much harder to come by than a traditional lease. A lot of them never even hit the market and are just passed through personal networks and brokers. Subleases are a nice option as you can sometimes get slightly below market terms and you can find them for shorter durations.


Pros: Signage, a.k.a. your name on the marquee (or door).

Cons: Most landlords will require a 3 to 5 year term…and they will think 3 years is short!


So those are your options. Aside from not having your garage listed, TheSquareFoot aggregates all of the other options. Happy hunting!


Why I Won’t “Buy it Now”

In my book I claim businesses sell 1 of 2 things: services or products.


There is plenty social proof, of course, that enterprises of all sizes can experience success with either offering. Fortune 500 is a smorgasbord of cell carriers (services), gas providers (products), technology companies (products and services), and so forth. So it’s worth arguing that neither products nor services are intrinsically better than the other; they’re simply different and with unique sets of challenges.


McKinsey, a world-renowned management consultancy, is one example of a service company that has a challenge of scalability. First, there are only a few thousand businesses with enough resources to retain McKinsey. Second, the resource of talent (human capital) to serve these clients is limited as well. Third, McKinsey consultants may only be at one place, with one client, at a time. If McKinsey wants more clients, then, the solution depends on more employees and increased global wealth.


Now let’s talk Facebook, the darling of consumer tech.


Laugh if you want, but Facebook can only scale to 2.4 billion users. When that happens they’ll need to a) destroy contraception in developed countries or b) move to the next phase of growth – increasing existing user engagement.


So the idea that some businesses scale and other don’t is simply untrue, because everything can scale. It’s just a matter of how much.


In startup land, however, services get a bad rap for their scaling challenges more so than products because service scaling is often a function of internal controls, whereas product scaling is more often limited by the readiness of the environment (external controls, ie: world population).


As such, startups with service offerings are getting clever with their value proposition by “productizing a service offering.” For example, if the pitch in 2004 was “web design,” the 2014 iteration is “5 simple website fixes for $50.”


But now the clever startup is manually performing backend miracles in an inevitably fledgling attempt to provide the instant gratification consumer expects from products, from their service. Eek.


Psst- This is also one of the biggest secrets of most startups. Customers may receive awesome, automagical, streamlined experiences, but the inner workings of that so-called “high tech machine” are truly broken.


But a business isn’t a website. The moment you think a button on a landing page will fix a broken business model, you’ve already lost. Which is why when I navigate the depths of startup la la land and come across an unassuming “Buy it Now” with a “Starting at $xx,xxx” price point, I start to smell fish. And I don’t like it.

When you productize your service offering, just know that sometimes it works and usually it doesn’t.


Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Enterprise Desktop PC?

The days of the enterprise desktop may be numbered. Traditional desktop deployments, with hundreds or thousands of mid-spec PCs running a usually outdated version of Microsoft Windows, are being displaced by DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) solutions that lower the burden of IT management.


We’re all familiar with the benefits of SaaS and IaaS platforms, but the Desktop-as-a-Service paradigm is likely to have just as much of an influence on shaping the way that companies think about IT deployments.


Hosted desktops are exactly what they sound like: Instead of running standard PCs with their own installed apps, companies provide their staff with low-powered thin-client like laptops or tablets. These are used to access cloud desktops, offering an integrated set of cloud apps that can include productivity software, email, communication and collaboration applications, scheduling, and everything else that the average worker needs.


No More Labor-Intensive Software Rollouts


Managing multiple desktop PCs is expensive and time consuming. While enterprises strive to ensure that their hardware portfolio is as consistent as possible, it’s still extremely complex to manage installations and upgrades across a company: That’s why so many large organizations have stuck with legacy operating systems like Windows XP.


Because cloud desktops are managed from a central location, there’s no real need to ever do “installations” and updates can be continuously integrated with the platform, ensuring that workers always have access to the newest features.


Reduced Support Costs


Support generates a significant chunk of the cost of managing large desktop deployments. The vast majority of workers are not technical experts and many have trouble properly managing their own workstations without support. Cloud desktop platforms are both simpler than full-blown desktop systems and more easily managed by IT staff.




Both malware and phishing attacks are a serious problem for enterprise IT departments. Because cloud desktops are always up-to-date and IT staff has a higher level of insight into the system, the attack surface is radically reduced when compared to large-scale physical deployments.


True Mobility


The idea of the cubicle worker tied to a specific desk in a particular office is becoming outmoded. As companies seek to leverage the benefits of remote working and mobile working, workers become used to the idea of BYOD, artificially constraining employees by insisting that they use “their computer” is counter-productive. Cloud-based workspaces are device agnostic and can be accessed from low-powered desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones anywhere in the world, fostering more efficient work patterns and greater collaboration.


Open source Cloud desktop solutions, like ownCloud and eyeOS, are mature platforms in use by some of the largest enterprises, including IBM, NEC, and Unisys, as well as small and medium businesses that want to save costs and increase the efficiency of IT management. In the future we can expect to see many more companies make the move to cloud-based workspace platforms.


Gates and Chrysler Were Wrong: Choose the Stingy for a Difficult Job

Big Data: Problem and Solutions


Big Data is a concept more related to data processing than to data size in absolute terms. We know we are dealing with Big Data when traditional ways of processing the data don’t work in a reasonable amount of time. Traditional ways mean the most commonly used computing paradigms in the enterprise world, such as relational databases. In order to process this kind of dataset we take different approaches:


-        Use another set of commercial, already built, software packages for Big Data.  You could say that these tools are becoming traditional so this definition will have to be redefined in a few years, but also data size is growing so quickly. (Facebook data grew from 20 Petabytes in 2010 to 30 Petabytes in 2011, and continues to increase at a rate of 10TB per day).


-        Develop our own specialized software with parallel and distributed computing (like MapReduce)


-        Just add more processing power to the current software configuration, and save time until the next problem appears (depends on the budget)


The Budget Variable


The third point of course can be combined with the first two, and it can’t be applied in very complex situations, but it’s no news that a slow database server is often replaced with a faster machine rather than refactoring the entire application.  If you have a number of powerful machines, you don’t need to waste time improving small details of your code or database. Well, that’s not true. That is the really lazy way.


The truth is that there are times when there is no option for a new machine. Small companies with low budgets, large companies with tight budgets, there are so many reasons for the situation.


Given limited hardware, a diligent software developer and a database administrator can do wonders in optimization. If the application is large enough, there is always room for optimizing. And the best of all, when new hardware comes out, the application will perform even better, and it will be more scalable.


A large and growing dataset with a bad structure or a badly optimized application, upgraded with more powerful hardware, can be a huge problem in production environments.


Lazy Quote


There are two versions of the quote regarding lazy people and difficult tasks, apparently the first one by Walter Chrysler “Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.”, and the second one by Bill Gates “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job. Because he will find an easy way to do it.” Maybe Bill Gates applied that, and found that the easiest way to say a memorable quote is to copy another one.


I’m sorry they were both wrong. In the Big Data world, I would assign the hardest task to a stingy person who can solve it with the minimum amount of hardware possible.


The Big Data People: Anything but Lazy


In order to apply the second point (and also the first one), you will need diligent developers and diligent systems engineers. I’ve seen myself that the larger the system is, the less information you will find on the Internet for solving the current outage in your systems that is affecting thousands of users.


You will probably face problems that have never happened before, and you will need fast thinkers. And regarding Big Data and large scale systems, there is hardly ever an “easy way” to solve a problem.


Not surprisingly, in a parallel, distributed environment, the technologies that perform best are the most difficult to learn. Strongly typed languages are your choice if your project will contain hundreds of thousands or millions of lines of code. All of this knowledge is not the typical environment of a lazy person.


This doesn’t mean there is no truth in the quote. We all know of computer science enthusiasts who like to make things more complicated than they are. Sometimes they want to use this new cool library or feature, or apply complicated design patterns for a simple task.


But all of this is removed in a low budget environment. When there are tight deadlines and limited resources, hardworking people will give you the best solution.


10 Tips to Create Robust Social Media Content

If you are a stranger to social media marketing, it can be briefly described as acquiring traffic and attention through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media sites allow a range of social interactions with users, from the short messages exchanged on Twitter to “this-is-my-life” platforms exemplified by sites such as Facebook and Google+.


Social media are the mechanisms through which many people discover content such as news stories, articles and blogs on topics in which they have an interest.


Content is King


If your business isn’t participating in social media marketing, it isn’t realizing its full potential. Achieving that potential through social media requires that you provide engaging, relevant and high quality content because in the world of social media marketing, content is king. Let me take this notion a step further. If content is king, then great content is the emperor.


It’s about More than an Interesting Subject


Yes, it is great to have an interesting subject, but that is not enough to stand out from the crowd. Successful content is composed of a host of elements and subject matter is but one of them. Here are ten helpful tips to push your content to the next level.


1.) Spend the time necessary to create well-edited, superbly written content. In short, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Fewer posts of excellent quality will always yield better results than numerous poorly crafted posts that few people read.


2.) Avoid getting mired down in word counts. While it can be good to be brief, it is almost always better to be good. Longer posts can work if they are sufficiently compelling. In any case, writing content to specific word count targets can often result in boring and redundant content.


3.) Each social platform is unique. Content must conform to the demands and characteristics of the social media site you are using. What works for Facebook will obviously not work for Twitter.  If you are working with multiple social media sites, make sure you have the time to create content specific to each. If you are unable to devote the time and resources necessary, you are better served by limiting your engagement to one or two sites.


4.) When you think of content, make certain you think beyond the written word. Photos and videos are not to be overlooked. Photos enhance written content and videos can stand alone or compliment written content on other platforms. Professionally produced videos are preferred but don’t exclude yourself from video simply because you lack the financial resources for professionally produced videos. There is plenty of help available on the Internet that can enable you to produce amateur video of very good quality. One of many such sites is ReelSEO. Get more bang for your buck by enabling embedding to encourage sharing.


5.) Create a thorough profile. This will add credibility to your content. Efforts made to establish your bona fides as an expert, or an authority, are extremely worthwhile and certain to pay off. These efforts will increase readership and encourage a loyal following.


6.) Review the most prevalent social media sites and make a careful determination of what site or sites are best suited to the goals of your enterprise. They are, in no particular order:


  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Tumbler
  • Instgram
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Flickr


7.) Critically review your content to ensure that it meets your objectives of driving traffic, building brand recognition and converting clicks to sales. There is little point in cluttering the Internet with ineffective content that fails to further these three objectives. In the same vein, make certain that your content is compatible with the social media platform used.


8.) Develop methods for evaluating the effectiveness of your content.  Are you driving the right traffic? What are your conversion ratios? Is your content being shared and to what extent? For example, a heavily shared piece of content indicates that you have hit on something that truly interests your readers. This is information on which you can build future content.


9.) The key metrics to monitor are:


  • Social shares
  • Visits
  • Conversions


10.) Social media is no forum for the hard-sell. Overly promotional content will be spotted immediately and skipped like a flat stone on calm water. Don’t underestimate the savvy of the Internet audience.


The Benefits of Social Media Marketing


In a survey conducted by Social Media Examiner the top five benefits business reaped from social media marketing were:


  • Increased business exposure
  • Quality lead generation
  • Marketplace intelligence (demographics)
  • Improved search engine rankings
  • Reduced marketing expenses for businesses with ten or fewer employees


While social media marketing may not be in the cards for every enterprise, those businesses making a well reasoned commitment, devoting the time necessary and investing the required effort to produce quality content report a very acceptable return on investment.


Why Broadcasters Embrace the Second Screen

People are sick of ads; even the most clever and engaging campaigns seem to outstay their welcome (I’m looking at you Flo.) Broadcasters need a new strategy, and as I have said before, the answer is gamification. The time has come for broadcasters to adapt or fade into obscurity as the advertising norm rapidly transforms into an interactive experience.


The Importance of the Second Screen


To today’s consumer, the term “second screen” may not mean much, but it has already begun to change the way they interact, watch TV, and even react to advertisements.


Here’s an experiment; next time you’re watching television with your friends, take notice of how many times they check their phone. It’s a lot isn’t it? Chances are they are looking up an extra tidbit about that show or tweeting their reaction to a particularly engaging moment. The emergence of the second screen has lead to a major shift in how television is viewed. Consumers eyes are no longer glued to just one screen, some overzealous consumers may even be looking at 3 screens simultaneously.


If Broadcasters are smart, and most of them are, they will know that instead of battling the Internet for the consumers attention they can capitalize on the multi-screen viewing experience by ensuring it is their products and programming that people are interacting with on their devices. This is where gamification comes into play. According to Business Insider, during the first quarter of 2013, 46 percent of U.S. smartphone owners and 40 percent of tablet owners claimed that they used their second screen devices while watching TV almost every day. This is up 7 percent from 2012, when only 39 percent of smartphone and tablet owners reported doing so. This is a golden opportunity for broadcasters to reach their audiences, even when they aren’t looking directly at their TV screens.

Why Does Gamification Work?


The beauty of gamification is that if done successfully, the consumer doesn’t feel like they are being marketed to. People are naturally inclined to avoid ads, but at the same time most of the population is driven to participate in competition-based activities.


Games are addictive, ask anyone who downloaded Flappy Bird. In a culture known for it’s impressively short attention spans, it seems that gameplay is the only thing that can keep people completely engaged (full disclosure: I have spent several hours on Flappy Bird and I have a high score 130.) When playing games, users go through a series of emotions, from excitement to frustration, and then finally elation, when they achieve victory. Broadcasters need to harness these emotions, and design a game based application that will cause the users to associate those strong feelings with their product. This would lead to a loyal and committed consumer.


The Challenges Gamification Faces


There’s no question that multi-platform marketing is now the most commonly used and successful strategy for keeping the attention of an audience, but there are still issues that need to be addressed. First and foremost, one must never forget that as a whole people are naturally resistant to change. The true challenge is getting them to adapt without making them think too much about the changes they are making to their viewing habits.


This is why gamification is essential, it creates an incentive that overrides any potential consumer apprehension. An understanding of game mechanics is imperative. It is not enough to add a point system or throw someone a badge for logging into a certain location. The broadcaster needs to understand what drives people to want to continue playing. For example, offers you real world prizes in exchange for points you gain on the application; the potential to win an iPad acts as fairly potent incentive.


Gamified content is the future of television, and if they haven’t already, it’s time for broadcasters to get interactive if they want to stay relevant in the 21st century.