Big Challenges are Waiting for PMP Aspirant in 2018

Big Challenges are Waiting for PMP Aspirant in 2018

The first draft of the PMBOK Guide 6th edition was released earlier this year and the book is scheduled to be release in the third quarter of 2017. The additions made to the PMBOK Guide are going to be very significant and we can expect major changes in the new version than ever before.

Some of the changes that we can expect in the PMBOK® Guide are as below:

  1. One of the major changes is the inclusion and incorporation of Agile and iterative practices in all knowledge areas.
  2. Increase in the number of processes from 47 to 50.
  3. Introducing three new processes
  • “Implement Risk Responsesâ€� will be part of the Risk Management knowledge group and Executing Process Group.
  • “Manage Project Knowledgeâ€� will be part of the Integration Management knowledge area and Executing Process Group.
  • “Control Resourcesâ€� will be part of the Resource Management knowledge area and Monitoring and Controlling Process Group.

4. Change in the name of two Knowledge Areas

  •  “Project Human Resource Managementâ€� will be renamed as “Project Resource Managementâ€�
  • “Project Time Managementâ€� will be renamed as “Project Schedule Managementâ€�

5. Renaming Six Existing Processes

  • Renamed “Plan Human Resource Managementâ€� to “Plan Resource Managementâ€�
  • Renamed “Perform Quality Assuranceâ€� to “Manage Qualityâ€�
  • Renamed “Control Communicationsâ€� to “Monitor Communicationâ€�
  • Renamed “Control Riskâ€� to “Monitor Riskâ€�
  • Renamed “Plan Stakeholder Managementâ€� to “Plan Stakeholder Engagementâ€�
  • Renamed “Control Stakeholder Engagementâ€� to “Monitor Stakeholder Engagementâ€�

 

 

Although the new edition of PMBOK Guide will launch in the third quarter of this year, the changes will be implemented on PMP exam from January 2018 onwards. So, if you are planning to go for PMP, here are some reasons why you should take it in 2017:

 

 

  • Availability of Study Material: For any exam preparation, study materials and resources are very important. The PMBOK® Guide 5th edition and the PMP examare very familiar and one can find readily available study resources/materials at their hands. Even though the course will change from January onwards, still there is enough time to study and clear the certification exam based on current version.
  • Tougher Exam based on New Version: Considering the past experience, PMP certification exam gets difficult with the release of every new version of PMBOK. Aspirants need to learn new study area and understand the new set of questions during the exams.
  • Old Reference Books and Online Study Courses: After the launch of a new version of PMBOK, minimum two quarters require to update existing materials and come up with the relevant study material to help PMP® aspirants who missed in 2017, which may delay your career plans.
  • Hike in Cost of Study Materials and Exam Fee: The prices of study materials, simulation exams and PMI exam fee might get higher compared to current cost.
  • Career Growth: With the PMP certification, you can add a significant value to your organization and become a great problem solver. Completion of certification will also increase your reach to local and global job opportunities.

In short, if you are looking to take your career ahead in the field of project management and don’t want to delay your career plans, book your PMP exam today!


Pigs Blood

Pigs Blood

We do have a section on rules of engagement in my book America’s Modern Wars (Chapter 9). In that effort, I ended up coding by judgment the rules of engagement in five categories (polite, strict, restricted, unrestricted, brutal). The telling chart is here:

As one can see, success tends to be at either end of the spectrum, with the counterinsurgents winning around 75% of the insurgencies fought with strict rules of engagements and the counterinsurgents winning around 75% of the insurgencies fought brutally. Anything in between those two points does not work as well.

We ended up doing this for all “83 insurgencies, interventions and peacekeeping operations” (the only category that had the “polite” cases, and they were 100% successful), for the “62 insurgencies” (show above), for the “36 insurgencies versus foreigners” (same pattern as above), and for the “26 insurgent civil wars” (same pattern as above). See pages 85-86 of America’s Modern Wars.

While the results were not statistically significant (see pages 86-87), the fact that the four different tests were all pretty consistent in results no matter which way you cut the data tends to indicate that there is something there. Clearly more work needs to be done, but we were never able to get back to this issue. On the other hand, lots of people have strong opinions on the subject based upon a lot less data. 

This is explained in more detail in this post from 2015:

Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks?

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It has become a common practice for both big and small enterprises to run programs and store information on the cloud. According to a poll conducted by RightScale, in the year 2017, more than 95% of businesses throughout the world and specifically in the Middle East are running apps as well as using cloud storage for an easy access of data and information. There are several types of cloud storage such as Public cloud, Private cloud and Hybrid cloud solutions that are chosen by the enterprises according to their business needs provided by cloud computing services. There are specifically three things to consider when zeroing on which cloud storage to consider.


Tasks at Hand: This is a factor on which several enterprises are considering to shift to cloud storage culture due to an application that is vital to the enterprise but works on a cloud. Thus, cloud storage is an answer to all the doubts and questions.
Storage priority: When storage is the main concern and priority of the individual or an enterprise, cloud storage readily becomes the answer to it. Expansion of the data and up gradation of the infrastructure becomes the reason of choosing a cloud storage system. 
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Tanks With Frickin’ Laser Beams On Their Heads

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Portent Of The Future: This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The MEHEL can shoot a drone out of the sky using a 5kW laser. (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)

As the U.S. Army ponders its Multi-Domain Battle concept for future warfare, it is also considering what types of weapons it will need to conduct it. Among these is a replacement for the venerable M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT), which is now 40 years old. Recent trends in combat are leading some to postulate a next-generation MBT that is lighter and more maneuverable, but equipped with a variety of new defensive capabilities to make them more survivable against modern anti-tank weapons. These include electronic jamming and anti-missile missiles, collectively referred to as Active Protection Systems, as well as unmanned turrets. Manned vehicles will be augmented with unmanned ground vehicles.The Army is also exploring new advanced composite armor and nanotechnology.

Also under consideration are replacements for the traditional MBT long gun, including high-power lasers and railguns. Some of these could be powered by hydrogen power cells and biofuels.

As the U.S. looks toward lighter armored vehicles, some countries appear to going in the other direction. Both Russia and Israel are developing beefed-up versions of existing vehicles designed specifically for fighting in urban environments.

The strategic demands on U.S. ground combat forces don’t allow for the luxury of fielding larger combat vehicles that complicate the challenge of rapid deployment to face global threats. Even as the historical trend toward increasing lethality and greater dispersion on the battlefield continues, the U.S. may have little choice other than to rely on technological innovation to balance the evolving capabilities of potential adversaries.

15 Benefits of Software Development Architecture

15 Benefits of Software Development Architecture

A lot of people underestimate the importance of Software Architecture and some people just don’t know what it is and what are the benefits of software architecture. Although Software Architecture seems to be very tech and a lot of people think that it’s not for them, it’s a mistake! When you are planning to build a house, you want to hire a good architect to be sure that you will get a house with a solid foundation. It’s the same with software architecture, it’s the root of the software. It creates a solid foundation for the software project to ensure that your project will be scalable and powerful. In this article I will be talking explain better what is software architecture and what are the main benefits of software architecture. 

What is Software Architecture?

Software architecture is a blueprint for both the system and the project1. It defines the work assignments that must be carried out by design and implementation teams. The architecture is the primary carrier of system qualities such as scalability, performance, modifiability, security and cost reduction, none of which can be achieved without a unifying architectural vision. Architecture is an artifact for early analysis to make sure that a design approach will yield ...


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From Tether to Integrate: Looking at How Smart Cars Connect

From Tether to Integrate: Looking at How Smart Cars Connect

A majority of car manufacturers today have a model of connected car. How these cars communicate with their environment, however, is evolving per manufacturer and with time; first generation BMW smart cars once embedded its own SIM card to power basic connectivity functions like emergency calling, navigation, infotainment apps, and remote vehicular data access; now, like other smart cars on the market, BMW not only runs smartphone devices on its dashboard but also leverages software and hardware companies to provide smart car drivers seamless connectivity services from infotainment to navigation.

Integrated solutions for intelligent cars

Car manufacturers today often mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Play to attract customers. Volvo, for example, recently announced that its VNL semi trucks will integrate CarPlay, as did Honda for its 2018 Fit models and Hyundai for its 2018 Sonatas. More specifically, they are referring to a vehicle's ability to run in-dash smartphone apps like iTunes and Google Map; in essence, the connected car's embedded software is programmed to connect to a smartphone's network and applications to provide vehicle-authorized services. For example, drivers might use CarPlay or Autoplay to guide them to the nearest gas station or answer driving-related questions without taking their eyes off the ...


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How Accurate is Dunkirk?

How Accurate is Dunkirk?

Article from the History News Network (HNN) on the recently released movie Dunkirk: How Accurate is Dunkirk

We don’t do movie reviews here, but I have seen the film. All characters and their personal stories are fictional. The movie is notable in that there are no American characters in a Hollywood blockbuster.

The article from HNN is more of a history of the battle than it is a movie review.

 

The Impact of Big Data on Social Media

The Impact of Big Data on Social Media

Everything we do can be tracked online from making a purchase viewing products. This is because social media plays a major role in this action. Popular sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram record millions of chat streams, likes, and tweets on a daily basis. The result of this action is a large amount of information that can give companies a keen look into the minds of their clients. The trick is putting that information into good use.

The Social Challenge

Most of the information contained by companies is structured. This means that the can use it immediately. Things like details got from transactional data, reward cards, and the consumers’ details provide when the account is set up on the shopping e-commerce websites.

On the contrary, social media data is always unstructured. Activities such as watching an advertisement on YouTube, liking a page on Facebook, chatting with a consumer company representative, or downloading free applications generate a large amount of digital information.

When information is filed away from the company databases, its usefulness such as social media conversations is less relevant to the company. Firms need to filter that data to cut through the charter and find the right data. For instance, the necessary information ...


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How Big Data Can Stop Gun Crime

How Big Data Can Stop Gun Crime

Big Data is one of those terms that seems to promise much and deliver little. Now frequently talked about by everyone from research scientists to branding analysts, most of the time the term sounds more like an empty trend than a real advance.

Now, though, Big Data might have found a real-world use, and an important one: preventing gun crime. Advocates of collecting even just the most minimal data on gun purchases claim that some recent US massacres could have been prevented by the use of data analysis tools.

Collecting data on gun purchases is, of course, a hugely controversial issue, and even the idea of this is liable to irritate gun enthusiasts. That said, it is worth noting the situation we are currently in, where almost no data is collected at all. There is no national database of gun owners, and measures to implement one have always met with ferocious opposition. Most states don’t require a license to buy or own a gun.

By collecting small amounts of data on gun purchases, and using data tools to analyse this, it might be possible to flag potentially dangerous individuals.

Proponents of using Big Data in this waypoint to several recent shootings, and the purchasing ...


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Then again, maybe it is not 100,000 troops

Then again, maybe it is not 100,000 troops

Article on the size of the exercises in Belarus: https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/heres-know-reported-100-000-173231187.html

Quote from the article: “Either way, that “100,000 figure is pretty off the wall,” Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, told Business Insider in an email.”

This is a follow-up to this blog post:

First Guards Tank Army and new exercises

One wonders if we are in a state of perpetual panic; with North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles about to hit the United States that are neither nuclear tipped and may not be able to reach; and large exercises in Belarus of 100,000 that may only consist of 13,000 troops. I do not know what the truth is here.

Then again, maybe North Korea can’t hit the Continental U.S.

How AI Is Changing Retail Banking

How AI Is Changing Retail Banking

With technological advancement, artificial intelligence is set to touch and modify the financial sector, specifically retail banking in many different ways. It's still the beginning stages of AI adoption for most banks. A Narrative Science survey highlighted that 32 percent of financial executive participants utilize AI technology, such as voice recognition and predictive analytics. Moreover, an Accenture survey noted that 76 percent those surveyed believe most banks will use AI interfaces primarily for customer interaction by 2020. But AI is changing retail banking in more ways than one. Here's how:

Automated Services via RPA

IT costs are a pain point of retail banking, as they can account for as much as 10 to 15 percent of a bank's total annual expenditures. While some of these costs are attributable to improving security or enhancing services, maintaining legacy systems account for 70 percent of banks' IT expenses. However, AI offers an opportunity for reducing these costs via automated services. For example, robotics process automation (RPA) enables you to create a platform that is automated to support functions in various departments, such as front-line operational support for new account entry or back office support for writing off bad debt. An Accenture report notes that RPA ...


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3 Pillars of the Data Economy

3 Pillars of the Data Economy

Our industry continues to see an ongoing upsurge in data volumes. This comes with the insatiable need by industry-leading companies to exploit existing data to foster business development and growth. We can see the data economy expanding as the many barriers that hinder and impede its progress are torn down.

At DataStreamX, we classify the ecosystem enablers into three major pillars, namely creation, assessment, and consumption. All of these are equally important and are critical to enabling a liquid data economy. In this regard, if you’re interested in partaking of the data gold mine that will drive innovation and business profits, then it’s important for you to learn how each enabler of the big data ecosystem is employed such that they provide you with insights on where your work and investments will obtain the most gain.

While building the platform and architecture of the big data infrastructure at DataStreamX and while helping our clients launch their data products, I have learned and gained insights on what works and what does not. In this series, I’ll take you through what I think the future of the data economy is.

In this article, I will discuss the trends that will drive the data product creation process. I ...


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How Big Data And Niche Services Help Customers Feel Important

How Big Data And Niche Services Help Customers Feel Important

Conventional wisdom holds that large corporations view the individual customer as just another number. However, many of these companies are now harnessing the power of big data to turn that perception on its head. Using the extensive market research insights they collect, even the largest enterprises can create niche services that cater to individual customers’ requirements and preferences as never before. 

Big Data Drives Personalization

Forrester Research calls this The Age of the Customer, reflecting the sea change that has occurred in the 21<sup>st</sup>-century marketplace. Business decisions are now determined by the studied behavior of customers, rather than by the corporations themselves. Many organizations across all industry sectors are moving quickly to adapt their strategies to this new reality.

For example, the energy industry is viewed as being particularly indifferent to consumers, who are the end users of its services. However, even these companies are changing their approach. Royal Dutch Shell LPC has recently introduced its TapUp service, which enables customers to order a tank refill from their homes and skip the drive to the gas station. 

Another large corporation embracing more personalized customer services is Disney. Its MagicBand wearable technology allows patrons to design their visit preferences in advance, and to have a personalized, interactive ...


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Military History Publications By Women

Military History Publications By Women

Grace Person Hayes, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War Against Japan, Naval Institute Press, 1982. If you have an interest in World War II, strategy, and strategy-making and have not yet read this, I highly recommend it.

Lists of suggested and recommended books continue to be popular in national security and strategic studies circles. General Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, recently released his professional reading list for 2017. This list covers topics addressing battles and campaigns, the army profession, and strategy and the strategic environment.

While the extended list comprises many relevant and notable works, some readers pointed out that it contains only one work authored by a woman, Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic The Guns Of August, published in 1962. In response, a call went out on Twitter to solicit titles of books by women on military history subjects. The initial version of this list is posted here.

This list of books on military history (and other related topics) is not exhaustive, nor the only one available, but it amply demonstrates that in 2017, there really is no shortage of worthy and appropriate publications written by women available for inclusion on professional reading lists. The addition of any of these titles would provide a broader perspective to any undertaking specifically intended to expand the thinking of students and practitioners.

It also shows that women are publishing works that are interesting in their own right but don’t seem to be getting the recognition that they deserve. Like Eric M. Murphy, I took a look at my own personal book collection and realized just how few of them were written by women. I am reasonably certain that I don’t intentionally avoid buying books by women, but I have tangible proof that I have done so regardless. I have read or am familiar with many of the works on the list cited above, many of which I can and have recommended without reservation. But there are also many titles that I have not yet looked at, so I have some work to do. I can do better at this and if I find something noteworthy, I can pipe up about it. I think we all can.

Big Data Analytics is a Survival Tool for Many Organizations

Big Data Analytics is a Survival Tool for Many Organizations

Today's businesses look at technology to improve their performance. New developments in information technology infrastructures have made available new analytical tools to more and more enterprises. One of them, big data analytics, has turned into a must have capability for any modern business in order to thrive and grow.

Attracting customers and remaining competitive are goals of any business. Having the right information to do it is key. Tools and services are here to collect and analyze the increasing volumes of data that are created from daily business transactions and customer interactions. The Internet has enabled many businesses to have a global reach and to attract more customers who leave a richer variety of data coming at higher speeds than ever before. Smart organizations make use of big data analysis to extract the information that leads to insights that decision makers can use.

What is Big Data and why it's important

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How Blockchain Technology Will Affect the Future of Banking

How Blockchain Technology Will Affect the Future of Banking

Andrey Sharov, a vice president at Sberbanks, a Russian bank, recently told journalists that blockchain technology would render banks redundant within a decade. However, in a recent interview with CNBC, Brock Pierce, the chairman of Bitcoin Foundation, a cryptocurrency advocacy organization based in America, said, although blockchain technology will have a negative impact on some aspects of banking, especially areas that do not offer much value, it will ultimately create new opportunities for banks. Below is some more information on how blockchain technology will affect the future of banking.

An Overview of Blockchain Technology

Brock Pierce comments on the future of blockchain resonate with some players in the banking industry. Specifically, banks generally feel that the technology may have myriad applications in the banking space, from remittances to securities exchanges to improving efficiency. In fact, some of the world's biggest banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase & Co are developing banking products based on blockchain technology.

Blockchain is basically a distributed ledger that accepts input from a group of people. This means that it is a continuously growing list of transactions or data records. The four components of a typical blockchain include an ID ("hash"), hash number from the ...


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B2B Forum’s Special Magic Isn’t an Accident

B2B Forum’s Special Magic Isn’t an Accident

It all starts with intention.

Event planners, take note, B2B Forum’s success all starts with clear intention (and a dash of Ann Handley’s never ending energy).

Marketing Profs B2B Forum is a rare mixture of insight, inspiration and networking that’s focused exclusively on marketers who sell to other businesses. It’s big enough to have tons of valuable content, but intimate enough to spend time chatting with speakers and other attendees. It’s this focus that makes attendees feel like they’ve come home, surrounded by their people. It’s a formula that brings me back year after year.

All of this magic is not by chance. The Marketing Profs team works hard to make each year a can’t miss event.  2017 will be no different. Ann Handley was kind enough to take me behind the scenes to see a glimpse of how the team creates B2B Forum magic.

Ann tells me “I am obsessed with the attendee experience.�  It’s really all you need to know! Ann and her team think through every detail from keynote speakers, to lunch menus, through the lens of the attendee.

Ann wants every B2B attendee to walk away with a better understanding of the context within which we all operate, but equally to be inspired to do new things. When selecting keynotes and breakout speakers they find speakers who can speak to “What is�, “What could be� and “Innovation� – how to get to the future state, and they do it keeping B2B marketing top of mind at every step. In the end B2B Forum takes us through a journey from where we are, to what’s coming preparing B2B marketing to be on the front lines of forward-looking change.

I believe the reason B2B Forum is different does not sit in the content alone. Ann and her team not only want to educate marketers, but they want to “feed attendees as people�.  It’s the honest, reality-based approach to content selection and speaker prep that has touched thousands of marketers professionally, but also propelled their personal journeys of growth.

In fact, from the very beginning of planning a full 10 months in advance, Ann’s team is thoughtful not only about what attendees will learn, but “how they feel�.

It’s this intention to feel, to learn and to connect that makes B2B Forum a worthy event year after year.

Thank you Ann and the entire team for making me feel so much, year after year!

Let’s connect!

B2B Forum holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I launched Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales last October. I might just have to hold a little birthday party to celebrate!

In the interim, I’m working up material for two informative sessions.  On Tuesday I’ll be co-teaching a Marketing Strategy Workshop, followed on Friday by a practical look at technology selection in the  break-out session: A Proven Process For Selecting Marketing Technology That Drives Business Impact.

I hope to see you there.

Need a B2B Forum pass? I’ve got a discount for you.

I hope you’ll join me at this juicy, must-attend conference because it’s dedicated to the challenges and opportunities unique to B2B marketing!

Use promo code: PLANNING17 to get a $100 off the registration fee.

http://mpb2b.marketingprofs.com/

 

 

Then again, maybe North Korea can’t hit the Continental U.S.

Then again, maybe North Korea can’t hit the Continental U.S.

But still might be able to hit Alaska: North Korean Missiles are Hoax

 

How Big Data is Helping Your Commute to Be Safer and Faster

How Big Data is Helping Your Commute to Be Safer and Faster

Driving is a part of everyone’s life and you probably do it every day. It can be fun driving on a road trip but it can be a nightmare when heading to work. The fact that everyone is in a hurry to go to work means everyone is on the road at the same time. You have to admit, a traffic jam is one of the most annoying things you can come across on your journey. Well, fortunately, there might be a solution to all this.

The solution is artificial intelligence. These systems are driven and made possible by the use of big data. Big data is basically a large amount of data collected over time on a specific area. These systems are already in production in some countries. With the coming of the internet of things, life has been made easier.

How Big Data Serves AI

The idea behind artificial intelligence is to make machines learn like humans. The only way this is possible is by collecting a huge amount of data and feeding it to the machine. Big data has all sorts of information the machine needs to understand a situation. As time passes, the machine has analyzed so much data ...


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Why Big Data Has a Lot to Offer for Small Businesses

Why Big Data Has a Lot to Offer for Small Businesses

Even the smallest businesses and newest startups may be able to benefit from the superior insight and real-time understanding that big data may be able to provide. Data analytics is fast becoming a resource that small businesses can no longer afford to overlook, one that may be used in order to improve customer relations, enhance operational efficiency or to gauge the effectiveness of any operational changes that may be implemented. The means to identify consumer trends and the insight that will allow for superior decisions to be made are never concerns that small-business owners can afford to discount.

Analytics Allow Businesses to Implement a Superior Marketing Strategy

While advertising and promotional efforts are essential for any venture, smaller businesses that may be struggling just to establish themselves may be forced to stake a great deal on their marketing strategy. Big data is a powerful tool, one that has enormous potential when it comes to assessing specific customer demographics or assessing the impact and effectiveness of different marketing efforts. Devising and implementing a promotional strategy able to produce superior results may be a much easier undertaking for businesses that possess the superior insight that only the latest analytics can produce.

Making Changes to ...


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Five Challenges of Analyzing Internet of Things (IoT) Data

Five Challenges of Analyzing Internet of Things (IoT) Data

The analysis of Internet of Things (IoT) data is quickly becoming a mainstream activity. I’ve written about the Analytics of Things (AoT) before (some examples here, here, and here). For this blog, I’m going to focus on a few unique challenges that you’ll most likely encounter as you move to take IoT data into the AoT realm.

Challenge 1: The Deceptive Simplicity of IoT Data

With many historical data sources, such as transactional data, it was often quite an effort to gather the source data required for analysis. It was necessary to identify what information was available, how it was formatted, and also to reconcile data from different sources that often contained similar information, but had inconsistencies in how it was provided. Ironically, this is one area where IoT sensor data can seem deceptively simple compared to many other sources.

Most sensors spit out data in a simple format. There is a timestamp, a measure identifier (temperature, pressure, etc.), and then a value. For example, at 4:59 pm the temperature is 95 degrees. The good news is that this makes ingesting raw sensor data fairly straight forward in terms of the coding logic required. So, you can fairly quickly go from a raw feed to a dataset ...


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Skill Acquisition for the Digital Age | Simplilearn

Skill Acquisition for the Digital Age | Simplilearn

The People Matters - Simplilearn study on Skill Acquisition for the Digital Age explores the state of Learning and Development (L&D) function in relation to digital technologies and the inclination of organizations towards online learning methodologies for reskilling and up-skilling of their employees. The study focusses on three asp...Read More.
12 Myths about Blockchain Technology

12 Myths about Blockchain Technology

Blockchain, the "distributed ledger" technology, has emerged as an object of intense interest in the tech industry and beyond. Blockchain technology offers a way of recording transactions or any digital interaction in a way that is designed to be secure, transparent, highly resistant to outages, auditable, and efficient; as such, it carries the possibility of disrupting industries and enabling new business models. The technology is young and changing very rapidly; widespread commercialization is still a few years off. Nonetheless, to avoid disruptive surprises or missed opportunities, strategists, planners, and decision makers across industries and business functions should pay heed now and begin to investigate applications of the technology.

Blockchain is a database that maintains a continuously growing set of data records. It is distributed in nature, meaning that there is no master computer holding the entire chain. Rather, the participating nodes have a copy of the chain. It’s also ever-growing — data records are only added to the chain.

 A Blockchain consists of two types of elements:


  Transactions are the actions created by the participants in the system.
   Blocks record these transactions and make sure they are in the correct sequence and have not been tampered with.


The big advantage of Blockchain is that it's ...


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How Artificial Intelligence Could Change the Medical Field

How Artificial Intelligence Could Change the Medical Field

Recruiting within Data Science and having a partner who is a Surgeon got me thinking about the advances in medicine, and after a lengthy discussion I thought I'd share some of my learnings.

There is no doubt that advancement in science and technology has affected every aspect of human endeavor. Processes and procedures are being replaced with software, apps and the likes at different levels and medical practice is not left out.

It is believed that we are in a sort of revolution that is characterised by new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, these have, in turn, impacted all disciplines, economies, and industries. And it is most certain that one of the major catalysts for the revolution in the medical practice is going to be artificial intelligence.

Years back, who would have imagined the use of artificial intelligence in the medical field? But today, it’s a different ball game as artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are showing promises in performing medical procedures.

For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been able to diagnose the presence or absence of tuberculosis (TB) in chest x-ray images with amazing accuracy. This feat was possible because researchers first “trained� the AIs with hundreds of x-ray ...


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Blockchain and Voting; How to Change the Democratic Process

Blockchain and Voting; How to Change the Democratic Process

Distributed ledger technologies such as Blockchain are a hot topic at the moment. Startups incorporating blockchain technology are raising hundreds of millions of dollars using a new form of crowdfunding called the Initial Coin Offering (ICO). Many of these startups offer new solutions for existing problems or are adapting existing services with Blockchain to differentiate themselves. It seems that almost any industry or service can and will be disrupted by Blockchain. One area that I would like to discuss in this article is the usage of Blockchain for the democratic process, because as it seems using blockchain in our democratic processes could significantly improve the democratic system.

Voting using blockchain could eliminate electoral fraud by making votes immutable, verifiable and traceable and it will make results available instantly, as soon as the election closes. As such, when votes are recorded on a blockchain, it will enable citizens to be 100% sure that their vote is submitted, that it is counted and that it has not been changed while ensuring complete privacy for the voter. One country that has been experimenting with blockchain-based voting is Estonia. Estonia is by far the most advanced country in terms of electronic voting. This is made ...


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The Future of Work – Without the Hype

The Future of Work – Without the Hype

There is an overwhelming sense of the uncanny when it comes to the prospect of Artificial Intelligence taking our jobs. But, dystopian hype aside, the future of work is something that needs to be given real thought and consideration in order to secure a future that works for everyone. This goes beyond being simply a technological problem but a societal one.

We are defined by what we do within our society. Just think, when you first meet someone the question ‘what do you do?’ will always spring into conversation. “I’m a data scientist�, “I’m an engineer� or the like will be your answer, rather than the many other things that you do and find joy in doing regularly. “I’m a gamer�, “I binge watch Netflix� or even “I’m an avid environmentalist� just wouldn’t suffice. So how do we navigate a future where AI takes our defining roles away?

The entire ritual of work has become so ingrained in us. We get up at the same time each day, morning commute, attend meetings, answer emails, leave for the commute home at the same time each day and so on. Alleviating ourselves from this routine could open up huge possibilities for the progression of ...


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How Big Data is Driving Value for Human Resources

How Big Data is Driving Value for Human Resources

Everyone knows that Big Data offers tremendous benefits for businesses, from sales to marketing, accounting, and everything in between. When you think about Big Data, HR is probably not a business function that immediately comes to mind, yet it’s a business function that can reap big benefits.

But Why HR?

Aren’t analytics best suited for helping companies better target their customers, attract leads, and convert website visitors? Yes, but many of those positive customers and bottom-line outcomes are made possible by people. And when companies leverage Big Data to determine the right perks and benefits that foster loyalty, find the right level of flexibility to provide employees with work-life balance, improve the effectiveness of training programs, and predict how likely a particular candidate or employee is to jump ship, they can leverage their human capital in incredibly effective ways.

Streamlining Hiring with Big Data

It’s always been relatively simple to gather certain data on employees, such as salaries, the value of benefits packages, and sales data. But today’s technology puts Big Data at HR’s fingertips, making it possible to readily gather and analyze data before, during, and after the hiring process, empowering companies to make smarter hiring decisions and build a more efficient ...


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Report: The Future of IT Jobs in India | Simplilearn

Report: The Future of IT Jobs in India | Simplilearn

Digitization and automation are transforming the way in which businesses interact with their customers and execute their internal processes. However, this dynamic transformation has and will have an impact on human roles. HfS Research, a U.S based business advisory firm, estimates that automation is likely to lead to a 14 percent decline in India&r...Read More.
Moral Limits of Data: Let’s Shift the Conversation to Good Data

Moral Limits of Data: Let’s Shift the Conversation to Good Data

Consider this. A terminally ill patient has just been told by her doctor that she has just about a year more left to live. She has a life insurance policy of $100,000. But what she needs now is money – for medical care or perhaps simply to live her life well for the last few days. Say an investor offers to buy that policy from her at a discount of $50,000 and to take over the annual premium payment. When she dies, he will be the one to collect the $100,000.

It’s a deal. The dying policyholder gets access to cash, and the investor makes a profit. But there’s a catch. Everything depends on her dying, on schedule. Known as the viatical industry, the instrument guarantees a certain payoff at death, but the rate of return depends on how long the person lives. If the policy holder dies in less than one year, the investor makes a killing (metamorphically, at least). If she survives till two years, his annual rate of return is cut in half, and he has to pay additional premium payments. If she somehow recovers, the investor could end up making nothing.

Sounds too horrible to be true? In ...


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Digital Marketing – An Introductory Guide | Simplilearn

Digital Marketing – An Introductory Guide | Simplilearn

As the marketing world makes a smooth transition from traditional to online, being conversant with the basic aspects of the world of Digital Marketing becomes all the more important. Stay savvy with this eBook that introduces you to the basics of online marketing every professional ought to know. What’s in the E-Book? Introduction to Digit...Read More.
How to Use Data Analysis to Improve Consumer Communication

How to Use Data Analysis to Improve Consumer Communication

Data analysis has played a vital role in helping companies improve their customer relationships. From teaching businesses about current industry trends, to what language consumers prefer, data has helped us leave behind the days of keyword heavy content and over generalized advertorials. As a result, the majority of businesses today rely on advanced data analysis to improve their consumer relationships.

Yet, there is often a period of experimentation, especially if you are new to the data world. As with any tool, it takes time and patience to learn how to use data technology to work in your favor. For those companies that are struggling to see positive results, or who are just introducing data analysis to their business model, here are few ways that you can make sure your data analysis is working to improve your customer communication.

Use data to better understand your industry

Much of the time companies that are looking to improve their performance through data analysis can get a bit stuck looking inwards. It’s easier to forget that there is a whole world of data outside that also greatly influences your relationships with your consumers. While data can effectively highlight internal issues within your consumer communication plan, it can also ...


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Apache Spark – A Basic Understanding

Apache Spark – A Basic Understanding

Before diving deep into how Apache Spark works, lets understand the jargon of Apache Spark


Job: A piece of code which reads some input from HDFS or local, performs some computation on the data and writes some output data.
Stages: Jobs are divided into stages. Stages are classified as a Map or reduce stages (Its easier to understand if you have worked on Hadoop and want to correlate). Stages are divided based on computational boundaries, all computations (operators) cannot be Updated in a single Stage. It happens over many stages.
Tasks: Each stage has some tasks, one task per partition. One task is executed on one partition of data on one executor (machine).
DAG: DAG stands for Directed Acyclic Graph, in the present context its a DAG of operators.
Executor: The process responsible for executing a task.
Driver: The program/process responsible for running the Job over the Spark Engine
Master: The machine on which the Driver program runs
Slave: The machine on which the Executor program runs


All jobs in spark comprise a series of operators and run on a set of data. All the operators in a job are used to construct a DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph). The DAG is optimized by rearranging and combining operators where possible. ...


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How Small Businesses Can Tame the Power of Big Data

How Small Businesses Can Tame the Power of Big Data

Big data is one of the most powerful tools for large companies. Contrary to popular belief, it is also applicable for smaller companies that want to manage massive amounts of data. With the right approach, you can use big data to your advantage, even if you are a smaller firm.

Scope

The sheer scope of big data is often intimidating for little companies. It is important to get into the right mindset when taking this approach. Just because your business is smaller, it doesn't mean that you can't have a large impact. Small businesses are some of the best users of big data because they can focus on it completely. Before you go any further, check the number of visitors to your website on a daily basis. If you are able to understand the sizes you are dealing with, it can help you make the right decision for company.

It is important to recognize that big data implies billions and trillions of bits. Your company will need to be able to handle storage of this magnitude. Fortunately, you don't have to be a massive enterprise to do this. With the least expensive tools on the market, you can harness the power of big ...


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Protecting Your Small Business from Cyber Security Threats

Protecting Your Small Business from Cyber Security Threats

With all of the things that a small business owner has to be concerned about to effectively run their business, unfortunately, one of those things is cyber security. It takes business owners years to build data and years to acquire the proper data that is needed to run their business on each day. To ignore the fact that there are hackers that could launch a cyber attack against your business at any time could not only be a major setback for your business, but you could also lose sensitive information that you've worked so hard to build.

In order to best prepare yourself, there are many things you should ask. Do you have a plan against a cyber attack? Do you have a way to protect the information that could potentially compromise the sensitive information that is in the care of your business? Based on your current security system, could hackers easily gain access to your company's sensitive information or would they hit a brick wall? The answer to these and many more questions will help determine how well you can defend against cyber security threats.

Why Your Business Needs Cyber Security

As a small business owner, you may be thinking that your ...


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How Data Analytics is Being Leveraged by Professional Sports

How Data Analytics is Being Leveraged by Professional Sports

In the age of Big Data, the term analytics gets tossed around a lot, especially in the world of sports. Analytics insights from sports range from the truly strange, such as the fact the pro tennis player who grunts the most effectively tends to win, to the genuinely game-changing, such as NBA teams changing their season long approach to player rest. If so many sports are seen as games of inches, what might seem like a rounding error may in fact be the difference between victory and defeat. Let's take a look at some ways data analytics as a field is being leveraged in professional sports.

Missile-Tracking in the NBA

STATS SportVu is a system that's based on existing missile-tracking technologies, and it's a popular choice across many North American sports leagues for recording the positions of every player and the ball. It has become especially popular in the NBA, where it is being used to track where players take their shots, how they come into the offensive or defensive zone and how likely they are to succeed or fail. Teams decide one-on-one match-ups based on this information, and the teams that process the data most effectively tend to win. It's not ...


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Using Big Data to Improve Law Enforcement

Using Big Data to Improve Law Enforcement

Big data technology allows today's businesses to gather data-based insights and make more informed decisions. For law enforcement agencies, data analytics can help officers lower crime rates and expand social services. Furthermore, big data brings distant communities together, giving municipal officials valuable information on successful protocols. Here are some ways big data can help improve law enforcement and governance.

Prevent fraudulent activities

Fraudulent transactions are costly for consumers and companies; for public officers, they are an unfortunate, common offense. The good news is that big data can help officials pinpoint suspicious activities before they occur. IBM, a leader of big data technologies, explains the how data analytics works to counter fraud: Advanced algorithms are used to characterize and identify risky actions based on past data. Once it spots a potentially fraudulent transaction, it will alert authorities to interrupt the activity, giving security teams ample time to conduct detailed analysis on the event. Finally, machine learning algorithms incorporate that data to enhance its fraud identification system for future frauds. IBM's fraud detection technology helped a large global money-transfer company stop more than $37 million in fraud.

Similar algorithms and analytics can be applied to address cyber security as well. Experts at Teradata say security ...


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Sensitive Big Data Exposure and How to Avoid It

Sensitive Big Data Exposure and How to Avoid It

A few years back, big data was a tech jargon term understood by few outside the industry – but not any more. During the last few years, the incredible potential of mining large datasets of increased volume, variety and veracity and at higher velocity has started to dawn on the rest of high-revenue generating economy sectors; nowadays the challenges posed by big data are on everyone’s minds, along with the high rewards involved. Every pertinent actor, from financial and commerce giants to health and education providers, are either developing processes to utilise big data, or are already there. That is good news, but they must also be mindful of the risks involved and take steps to mitigate them.

Big Data Breaches Can Affect Millions of Users

Big data, by nature, is no stranger to sensitive data exposure – currently listed as A6 on OWASP Top Ten 2017 Release Candidate, an authoritative source for the most critical web application threats out there. Sensitive data falling into the wrong hands is in itself devastating enough, but imagine the multiplying effect of huge datasets of vulnerable information being compromised. Just last November, news surfaced that a hacker was able to access the sensitive data of over 34 ...


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9 IoT Projects That Will Change the World

9 IoT Projects That Will Change the World

In this article I decided to write about IoT projects that will have a big influence on our world. 

Remember fantasy movies with smart houses and cars? That your alarm rings at 7 am you wake up, you switch it off, it conveys to the geyser to heat water at a temperature you prefer and also the coffee maker starts brewing coffee ? That your fridge can identify that you have run out of milk, it contacts the supermarket and orders the quantity you usually need, and also informs you by sending a message on your phone?

Well, now these movies are not fantasy movies anymore, we are this lucky generation which experiences tremendous and radical changes in the way we live and work. We have all opportunities now to make the world better!

Internet of Things is one of the most emerging technologies nowadays and it is starting to be clear for everyone that we move towards smart cities, smart houses, smart houses, smart living! Everything on earth will be connected to each other and we would be living in the world of IoT. 

The main questions now are: how well IoT would make our lives smarter and easier? What would be the innovations ...


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Key Smart City Leaders and Projects to Watch this Year

Key Smart City Leaders and Projects to Watch this Year

Smart city became another buzz word these years but we are going to be hearing a lot more of in the coming years. By 2020 we will be spending $400 billion a year building smart cities.

Let’s start with smart city landscape to see the trend and then look at absolutely amazing smart city projects, that may change our life, make it better! I think now we really reached the point when everyone cares about the planet and when everyone is conscious about environmental and social problems we have. I really hope that this article will inspire others to do something for the planet, for the cities and citizens and at the same time earn money! I will also give you a list of big players & key startups that work on the smart city projects the most. And also I am sure that you are interested in knowing top smart cities in the world, we will look at it also. I found some interesting facts!

Smart City Landscape

Smart cities are no longer the wave of the future. They are here now and growing quickly as the Internet of Things expands and impacts municipal services around the globe.

The smart city industry is ...


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3 Questions for Blockchain, if it is to help Analytics Leaders

3 Questions for Blockchain, if it is to help Analytics Leaders

Ever since completing our popular series, sharing resources from the #CityChain17 blockchain conference, I’ve been ruminating on some fundamental questions for blockchain.

These are questions relevant to Data & Analytics leaders, especially if blockchain technologies are to fulfil their potential of moving beyond pilot stage.

Each deals with a different aspect of the key challenges (facing data & analytics leaders today) and asks, could blockchain help achieve this? My three questions cover: ways to amalgamate disparate data sources; performing meaningful analytics on new data structures; and facing into one of the key challenges presented by GDPR.

As I am no blockchain expert & robust thinking on this topic is still at a relatively early stage (just as most ‘use cases‘ are still pilots), so I have looked to others.

In this post, I share 3 other articles reflecting on the 3 questions for blockchain (that I pose below). Each demonstrates some real expertise and sensible thinking, at least about the work still needed. I hope you find them useful.

Q1: Could blockchain help address the problem of amalgamating the disparate data sources needed for Analytics?

Here it is worth reflecting on both the similarities of blockchain & database technologies (as Gideon shared in our previous post) and also what database theory has learned over recent decades of practice.

Despite ...


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Natural Language Processing Projects & Startups to Watch in 2017

Natural Language Processing Projects & Startups to Watch in 2017

Along with other tech trends, Natural Language Processing became another buzzword in the past years. But not everyone really understands what NLP is and how it can be used to improve efficiency of the process and impact your business in a positive way. In this article I will be briefly explaining what natural language processing is, how it is used, a few benefits on-site search get from doing it and I will mention a some cool startups that are doing natural language processing today. 

What is natural language processing?

Let’s start with the basics. Natural language processing (NLP) is the ability of a computer program to understand human speech as it is spoken. It is a component of artificial intelligence (AI) – actually another big trend these years.

In other words, Natural language processing is a field of computer science, artificial intelligence, and computational linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages. It is a computer activity in which computers analyze, understand and generate natural language. This includes the automation of any or all linguistic forms, activities, or methods of communication, such as conversation, correspondence, reading, written composition, publishing, translation, lip reading, and so on.

In fact, natural language processing is one aspect of machine learning, big data, and ...


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Mapping the Future of Sports with Artificial Intelligence

Mapping the Future of Sports with Artificial Intelligence

Sports events fascinate and charm millions of people around the world, whether it is one of the Grand Slams, the UEFA Champions League, or the Olympics. But in the backstage, there’s a number of things, with technology at the top, that make those events brighter and smarter.  

Indeed, today’s sports world is becoming tech savvy by bringing together athletes’ natural talent, accurate analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). The latter two are also successfully used to enhance decision-making and gain a competitive advantage over the competitors.

This article will discuss various uses of AI in sports, including real time reporting, robotic coaching, and journalism.    

An expert statistician  

In combination with sensor systems, AI is able to analyze players’ performance and provide accurate real time match statistics: scores, speed, distance, strength, percentages of possession, and more — depending on type of sport.

A notable example is Hawk-Eye, a sophisticated vision processing technology combined with an intelligent video replay and a creative graphics platform. This AI-driven tool tracks balls to millimeter accuracy and is adopted in many sports, including but not limited to tennis, football, baseball, and snooker.

At some events, this technology is applied to make the game fairer, safer, and smarter. For instance, in tennis ...


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Using Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Natural Language API and Looker to Work-Out Exactly How Much…

Using Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Natural Language API and Looker to Work-Out Exactly How Much…

Using Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Natural Language API and Looker to Work-Out Exactly How Much Mail Online Readers Hate Me (and my Wifi Kettle)

Back when the incident with my WiFi kettle went viral on Twitter and ended up in the national newspapers, on Radio 4’s The Today Programme and as one of the questions on Have I Got News For You, I scraped the reader comments from the Guardian article that first broke the story along with the Mail Online follow-up article that put a more negative spin on it (“Couldn’t he just flip the switch�, etc).

I thought it’d be interesting to load all the comments in Google BigQuery and then analyze it all using Google’s Natural Language API, their new Cloud DataPrep tool that’s in beta and some geocoding libraries to find out exactly how much, and at what intensity, Daily Mail readers hated me and what parts of the country I ought to steer clear of for a while, or at least be prepared to make a cup of tea using a kettle that I have to walk over and switch on.

Visualizing the data that came out of the exercise using Looker, the BI tool I use day to day in my role as Product Manager for an analytics service running on Google Cloud Platform, the first thing I spotted was the significant difference in sentiment between Guardian readers (green in the chart below) and Mail Online (red), where you can see the Guardian picking up the story first and comments being typically neutral or positive, whereas the Mail’s readers hated the story almost right from the start and hated it even more the next morning.

As the Mail Online lists the reader’s location alongside each comment I was able to generate latitude and longitude map references for most of them, and mapping them onto a Looker map visualization shows exactly which parts of the UK hated me the most that day.

Clearly The Mail Online’s Scottish readers typically weren’t impressed with this English innovation, and nor were the Mail’s ex-pat readers down-under who seemingly felt the same way.

Once the Mail Online readers’ woke-up to the story in the United States they had a whole new level of disgust with that limey and his WiFi kettle.

I was about to blame Piers Morgan for this obvious change of attitude towards us Brits but then spotted, reassuringly, that they seemed to hate the Mail Online even more — all is apparently not lost with our American cousins.

So back to the UK. At postcode area level, then, which parts of the UK are a no-go area for a “Geek [who] buys himself a WiFi kettle then spends 11 HOURS trying to make it boil … to work alongside other devices in his £550,000 home.� — nice touch from the Mail journalist there, my wife was actually more annoyed they quoted the price we paid for it several years ago whereas I was hoping they’d bring in that other Daily Mail obsession about whether something does, or does not give you cancer through the kettle’s WiFi base-station. Anyway, Hampshire’s a no-go area for me now, along with parts of Wales and the West Midlands although I’m safe in North Norfolk and Humberside at least for now.

If it all gets too much for me in the UK I can at least take refuge in Hong Kong, a place where they obviously appreciate innovative kitchen appliances integrated with other appliances through python scripts that work until the first device gets a new IP address when you unplug and then plug it in again to move it across the room.

Though I need to get there via some means other than stowing away on a container ship bound for Shanghai from the ports at Gateshead and Southampton, though they’re still a better option than hitching a ride on a trawler from Blackpool as their dislike for the story was surpassed only by the intensity of that sentiment, another metric that I could get out of the Google Cloud Platform NLP API that helps you understand the strength of the feeling someone had when expressing an opinion, not just the words they used.

So how did this all look when I swapped out Mail Online readers for the five thousand or so Twitter users that retweeted, commented on or otherwise helped spread the story around the Internet those two days back in October 2016? The story started off from the UK, obviously, but with a negative spin that over time, as it travelled around the world became more positive…

… although the Australians clearly still weren’t impressed.

If you’re in London this Tuesday evening and interested to know more about the work I do with BigQuery and Looker in my Product Management role at Qubit, come along to the Conversion Rate, Analytics and Product Unconference Meetup where there’s still a few spaces free at the time of writing and I’m one of the three speakers that evening.


Using Google BigQuery, Google Cloud Natural Language API and Looker to Work-Out Exactly How Much… was originally published in Mark Rittman’s Personal Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Future Technology Will Increase the Reach of the Internet

How Future Technology Will Increase the Reach of the Internet

Nothing in the history of the world has equaled the explosive growth of the internet. It has become an integral part of people's daily lives, expanding from 16 million users in 1995 to almost 3.8 billion by March, 2017. The internet boasts more than a billion websites with more added every minute and is used by approximately 40% of people worldwide. However, the internet's reach doesn't yet extend to every corner of the globe.

Putting the Internet in Perspective

The development and expansion of the world's telephone infrastructure laid the groundwork for the eventual explosion of the internet. Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call in 1876, but for many years phones were only available to the wealthy. Others wrote letters or sent telegrams in emergencies. It wasn't until the early twentieth century that phones became a fixture in homes worldwide. The internet was not widely accessed until the 1990s.

Taking the Internet to Mars

The definition of "remote regions" is expanding far beyond a cabin sitting on a mountaintop. Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial founder of SpaceX, plans to expand the internet to Mars. He plans to accomplish this by placing hundreds of satellites in orbit above the earth.

Satellites - Expanding the Internet

Satellites ...


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Can Big Data Help Reduce Juvenile Incarceration?

Can Big Data Help Reduce Juvenile Incarceration?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “children are our future� more times than you can count. Even if you don’t have children of your own, it’s important to consider our collective youth and help set them up for a bright future. Without preparing the next generation to be productive members of society, we can look ahead to a future with increased crime, homelessness, and unemployment. Intervention before youths commit crimes is a great way to reduce prison populations and help keep people out of the cycle of poverty. But how can we accomplish that? Could big data help? Let’s take a look at its current role in crime prevention, and how it relates to juvenile crimes.

The Rise of “Predictive Policing�

Predictive analytics have been used to great effect by large companies to reduce inefficiencies and bring in more revenue. The number of potential applications for predictive analytics has been growing, however, and has even begun to spread to police departments. In the past, crime prevention has been based largely on cursory study of crime reports, and seasoned officers’ own knowledge of their area to help prevent crime before it starts. Today, algorithms are making that job easier and more effective than even ...


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#SQLDevModeler Tip: From Domain to Database… A Comment Conundrum

#SQLDevModeler Tip: From Domain to Database… A Comment Conundrum

Great tip on creating a custom transformation script in SQL Developer Data Modeler (SDDM) from the awesome David Schleis: Recently on the Data Modeler Forum, I came across this question: Is it possible to mirror domain comments, from Domain Administration into attribute “Comments in RDBMSâ€�?  Would like to mirror these to the ddl so they […]
Virtual Reality: Possibilities for Writers

Virtual Reality: Possibilities for Writers

Virtual Reality (VR) is a genuine game-changer in the world of modern technologies. Earnings coming from the VR industry should reach $40 billion by 2020, which proves the gigantic potential of this hi-tech trend. It will augment or completely change many industries, including the writing business.

Namely, writers will soon have to adapt to new models in computer gaming and embrace solutions that will make game scripts better and more amusing. Although it seems like a distant future to some people, VR is already present and writers will have to offer fresh solutions in their work.

How to pair VR and writing?

VR technology has an enormous application potential and writing is only one of the fields affected by the new developments. Chad Rodden, IT specialist at Xpert Writers, recently stated: “Unlike other industries, gamers realized a long time ago that VR gives them many opportunities. But now it’s time for the writers to step in and provide gamers with some avant-garde script solutions.�

This is not as easy as it may sound but there are a few basic possibilities that writers need to pay attention to. Let’s check them out here.

The 360 environment

The 360 model is growing in popularity in the last few ...


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How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Digital Marketing

How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing Digital Marketing

 

We all know that these days how much artificial intelligence is important for all of us. Without artificial intelligence, life becomes very hard. AI has changed our working style rapidly. Nils J Nilsson, founding researchers in the field of AI “Artificial intelligence is that activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.�

John McCarthy is known as the “Father of Artificial Intelligence�.

Today artificial intelligence is performing multiple tasks in various fields like marketing, entertainment, gaming, education, automobile, learning, visual perception, decision making, healthcare, and finance etc. By using AI you can do multiple tasks in a fraction of a second. AI is changing everything from manufacturing to healthcare.

Artificial Intelligence is a fastest growing technique that is growing across all industries. AI is now used in Digital Marketing. Artificial intelligence in digital marketing lets marketers focus on creating truly personal, relevant connections with engaged customers.

Artificial Intelligence in Digital Marketing

After entering the artificial intelligence in Digital Marketing the marketer's life becomes easier. Now, marketers and consumers are totally depended on artificial intelligence, its latest tools and technologies reduce manual efforts and make the works more accurate.

In the ...


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What to do if Your Information was Part of a Data Breach?

What to do if Your Information was Part of a Data Breach?

The number and threat of cybercriminals is rising, and they are after your personal information. They are attacking you from every angle they can think of. You are getting bombarded with malware, scams and more — all in the attempt to gain enough information about you to steal your identity or steal money directly from you.

But you aren’t the only holder of your personal information. Many businesses and government agencies hold pieces of your information, ranging from your email address to your social security number. Cybercriminals know this and target businesses constantly as a source for information. If one of them does breach a company that has your information, here’s what you need to do to stay safe:

Respond Immediately

The moment you find out that a company who has your personal information has been breached, you need to get to work immediately. Putting off fixing any potential damage caused by the data breach is just giving the hackers and criminals more time to accomplish their goal. The really frustrating part is that they probably already have a huge head start on you too.

On average, it takes about 200 days for a company to detect a data breach. That means that typically, ...


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Simplifying Your Smart Home: Top 5 Essential Smart Products Worth Investing In

Simplifying Your Smart Home: Top 5 Essential Smart Products Worth Investing In

From the emergence of the do-it-all Amazon Alexa to the quick and easy iOS smart home apps, home automation has been on an upward climb in direct correlation with the rapid rise of the technology industry, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication. The main goal of making homes smarter with technology integration has always been to provide homeowners with efficiency, comfort, security, and convenience, regardless of who is or isn’t home.

As of 2013, the smart home market had a global value of $4.4 billion, with a projected $21 billion growth by 2020. However, despite the projections, many homeowners don’t seem to be convinced that smart-ifying their homes should be a priority or is something worth investing in. But how come?

Barriers to Entry

It seems that many of the available products aren’t convincing consumers that they’ll be secure, efficient, or convenient. According to CNBC, “The trouble so far has been the technology itself: Consumers aren’t sure how to integrate it into existing home systems. Plain and simple, they don’t know how to use it.� A 2016 Deloitte UK study found that 48% of consumers are concerned about price, 26% aren’t convinced the technology is where it’s supposed to be, ...


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Meet The Chatbots That Will Make You Feel Better, One Text At A Time

Meet The Chatbots That Will Make You Feel Better, One Text At A Time

There has been a much needed increase in awareness of mental health issues in recent years, and due to the rise in reported cases, there are many companies now looking at ways to deal with the numbers.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are more than 300 million people globally suffering from depression, with almost 800,000 people turning to suicide each year. Unfortunately, the demand for specialist help has been met with decreased health care services. Enter, the new age of therapy.

Whilst there is no getting away from the importance of the human touch when it comes to healthcare, especially mental health. The possibilities that chatbots are opening up for the treatment of mental health are fascinating. Chatbots can treat large numbers of people, in any area of the world so long as there is internet connectivity. This already gives them a huge advantage over a human. Not to mention that as sufferers may deal with social anxiety, talking or texting with a program could be seen extremely favorable as compared to face-to-face sessions in some cases.

There has been increased investment in start-ups focusing on societal good. These young companies are wanting to leave their mark and innovate where innovation ...


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Protecting Information: The Most Effective Practices to Ensure Health Data Privacy

Protecting Information: The Most Effective Practices to Ensure Health Data Privacy

The sheer level of transformation that information and communication technology has had on modern society over the past fifty years is really quite astounding. In the last few decades alone, we’ve witnessed game-changing innovations in the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, digital collaboration, and analytics, all of which have reshaped modern working practices across almost every conceivable industry.

As digital technologies continue to evolve and diversify so does the challenge of protecting the information that they contain. Nowhere is this need more blatant than in the healthcare industry, where data security is a central consideration for any organisation, no matter the size, and whose work involves the sanctity of protected health information (PHI). The prevalence of cybersecurity attacks in today’s healthcare industry is worrying; a total of 37 serious healthcare breach incidents were reported to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) or the media in the month of May 2017 alone.

When it comes to preventing the risk of unwarranted security breaches, the legal framework of data protection is laid out in both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). These guidelines require healthcare organisations to ensure that all relevant physical ...


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The Future of Smart Homes

The Future of Smart Homes

Certain smart technologies are still at the beginning of their development, but they already bring a futuristic feel to homes. The home automation market is growing every day and a big part of this growth is increasing through the tablet market. There are smart home DIYers out there that are making good use of their tablets, turning it into a remote control. As long as people can come to realize that Smart Homes are an investment into the future, the smart home market will continue to grow, while more users will be able to enjoy potential savings.

As the Internet of Things is making way into the homes of many, most of us already understand the basics of a Smart Home. The Smart Home is an automated home system and appliances that can be controlled remotely through a WiFi connection. This sophisticated system allows the homeowner to monitor and control the home's functions. There are many products on the market that can be installed in an ordinary home enabling a certain function to work as a smart system. Homes that are fully smart consist of a main automated control hub that controls all the other systems in the house. Smart Homes ...


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Data architecture in a digital world; empowering the data driven enterprise

Data architecture in a digital world; empowering the data driven enterprise

Several months ago, Daan Rijsenbrij approached me (Ronald Damhof) and Martijn Evers to assist him in researching data architecture as it manifests itself in organisations. 

Daan: "In the Netherlands an international research is performed about data architecture. The purpose of this research is to investigate the maturity in the thinking about & working with data in modern enterprises. You can download a survey from drop box: https://lnkd.in/ghVCqSx The survey consists of a short intro, a scoring list and a list with 12 open questions. Answer only those items that are relevant according to you in your situation. Please return the filled in survey to Daan as an attachment to an email: daan@rijsenbrij.eu." 

The survey is written by me and Martijn and reviewed by a dozen or so fellow data architects. The intro of the survey is copied 1:1 in the next section. We would like to urge architects - affiliated with data architecture - to do the survey, return it to Daan and help us in advancing data architecture.

Architecture

Nowadays, one frequently hears senior executives, management consultants or strategists proclaim the phrase: “Data is an asset.� While not necessarily incorrect, it is usually a hollow phrase because it is often misunderstood and seldom operationalized. With data comes the need and responsibility to manage it in a dedicated and professional manner, both from a liability point-of-view as well as to create the necessary conditions to truly leverage its potential to add value.

Data is not an asset like financial capital, which can be spent. Nor is it like human capital, which walks out of the door when it sees a better opportunity. Data asset are different: they are uniquely yours, closely tied to your business language and processes, full of nuance, always defined in a specific context and it provides the ability to generate new data (assets).

Data is also unique in that it depreciates in a nonphysical and often undetectable way, losing its meaning, accuracy and/or relevance as time goes by. Every organization can use its data in its own way to differentiate itself. When data is consumed in your organization, it will not be depleted nor will it expire (like a patent). No other type of asset has these particular characteristics.

Data defines other assets. For example, it reveals your financial state, it holds a reliable record of your employees or customer behavior. Arguably, data is the ultimate proprietary asset. And unlike technology, it cannot be commoditized. Data uniquely defines the state and meaning of an organization and its intrinsic value, which cannot be transferred to another organisation.

While all other assets are managed consciously by entire departments with ample resources to do so, data is often considered a by-product of information systems, something often perceived as technological. Or as Frank Buytendijk of Gartner put it: “Most companies manage their parking-lot better than their data.�

In all the hype and buzz surrounding #BigData #InternetOfThings #Datascience #MachineLearning #Digitization and the like, technology is perceived as a primary differentiator. Well, it's not.

While technology is essential for any business, it is usually of lesser importance in terms of competitive advantage. Technological innovations may give a company a competitive advantage, but the effect is only temporary. Sooner or later, innovations will be copied by competitors. Technology tends to become commoditized over time.

Ignoring the hype that surrounds new data-related technology, the common (success) factor is always data that is relevant, reliable, consistent and timely. Investments that neglect data quality requirements are doomed to fail.

The technological evolution continues to accelerate, yet ultimately it’s not about the technology. “IT does not matter�. What does matter is architecture. We need to understand the data, how it’s used, and to build a supporting data infrastructure. This requires fundamental thinking, not buying. It requires a holistic approach, not a siloed approach. You cannot buy your way out of the data misery you are in - it takes blood, sweat and tears. Or in other words: stamina, discipline, trust and courage, especially by senior management.

How well an organization is able and willing to incorporate this approach ultimately determines how well it can leverage its data assets for the benefit of its customers and operational excellence. It is this approach that we need to focus our energy on, instead of indiscriminately following the latest fad, promise or glossy brochure, with an unfounded belief that this new technology will solve our data issues.

There is no quick fix!

It is imperative to realize that data is a foundational element that drives and leverages innovation, business transformations, acquisitions and other organizational-critical events; data architecture is the guardian of this foundation.

Five Challenges to IoT Analytics Success

Five Challenges to IoT Analytics Success

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an ecosystem of ever-increasing complexity; it’s the next wave of innovation that will humanize every object in our life. IoT is bringing more and more devices (things) into the digital fold every day, which will likely make IoT a multi-trillion dollars’ industry in the near future. To understand the scale of interest in the internet of things (IoT) just check how many conferences, articles, and studies conducted about IoT recently, this interest has hit fever pitch point last year as many companies see big opportunity and believe that IoT holds the promise to expand and improve businesses processes and accelerate growth.

However, the rapid evolution of the IoT market has caused an explosion in the number and variety of #IoT solutions, which created real challenges as the industry evolves, mainly, the urgent need for a reliable IoT model to perform common tasks such as sensing, processing, storage, and communicating. Developing that model will never be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination; there are many hurdles and challenges facing a real reliable IoT model.



One of the crucial functions of using IoT solutions is to take advantage of IoT analytics to exploit the information ...


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How Wearables Could Revolutionize Healthcare Through Big Data

How Wearables Could Revolutionize Healthcare Through Big Data

In my last article on healthcare, I talked about the potential for blockchain and big data to save lives. Wearables are another part of the growing relationship between big data and healthcare.  

Not long ago, my attitude was who gives a f#@% about the Fitbit? Consider that attitude changed. The Fitbit and other health-conscious wearables present the chance for the medical community to make a real difference through big data.

First, the data on wearables:


86 percent of health and wellness providers believe wearables and mobile apps “will increase their knowledge of patient conditions�
76 percent feel wearables will “help patients with chronic diseases�
In the first quarter of 2017, the wearables market grew by 18 percent, an increase of 24.7 million devices; International Data Corp. (IDC) believes this is “just a fraction� of what’s to come   


T-Mobile bills this as a wearable tech revolution, one in which you can “stay connected and track your life every step of the way.� Along with Fitbit, the biggest names in tech are vying for a piece of the wearables market, including Apple, Samsung, and Google. That’s because IDC’s prediction on the tech’s pending popularity are a good bet. One reason why it’s a good bet is that ...


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Three Ways AI Will Change IT Operations And Data Center Management

Three Ways AI Will Change IT Operations And Data Center Management

Artificial Intelligence, and machine learning in particular, is predicted to have an enormous impact on many industries over the next few years, not least the industry that builds and manages the infrastructure on which machine learning algorithms run.

Data centers are part of all our lives, whether we know it or not. The services we use for work and in our personal lives, the entertainment we consume, the products we buy, the way we travel — everything touches a data center and creates data that can be analyzed.

There are many areas of data center management that will be changed for the better by the intelligent application of machine learning.

Log Analysis

As data centers grow in complexity and size, the amount of data they generate and log becomes truly astounding. From network hardware to servers to cooling systems and power, every part of the data center generates data that can be logged and used by machine learning algorithms. We can’t analyze all that data effectively without machine learning, which has the ability to spot patterns and regularities that even the most experienced system administrator is likely to miss.

Applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to log analysis will result in faster incident response times ...


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Analytics Bots: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Analytics Bots: What Are They and How Do They Work?

In media, the word “bot� tends to bring to mind a twitter account run by a computer program that spits out mostly nonsensical tweets at other users. Generating basic language may not seem like a big deal, but language generation is really where the practicality of an analytic bot starts and by no means where it ends. Analytic bots are able to analyze the behavior of the people they interact with, which causes them to revise their future communications with other people. In short, analytic bots react to their environment and adapt.

Though there are many different applications for bots, some are much more interesting and impactful than others.

1. Analytic Bots Allow Users To "Talk" with Their Data

As analytic bots continue to evolve, they are able to better understand and analyze human communication, which makes them able to use language with better fluency. Because of this, analytic bots can be used to answer questions posed by business users and consumers. They make data more accessible and easier to interact with, because it is being relayed to people using natural language. Many bots also use charts and visualizations to make data easily understood. They can also provide alerts when data changes. In ...


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How Trading Companies are Leveraging Behavioral Analytics to Win Conversions and Retention

How Trading Companies are Leveraging Behavioral Analytics to Win Conversions and Retention

In the dynamic trading industry that relies so heavily on trader conversions and retention, traders need to understand what drives customers toward achieving their goals. In order to understand this, traders need to be able to analyze not just digital analytics, but digital behavior over time.

When thinking of analytics, it’s not simply Google Analytics. Google analytics is great for a basic understanding of visitors and customers. How many visitors are on the site now at which pages? What geographic region are they in? What advertisement prompted them to click? But these surface insights do not shed light on behavior. This is what I call static data, a one-dimensional snapshot of one single touch point on the website.

That’s where behavioral analytics shapes a whole new future for trading companies. By leveraging this approach, traders are able to go beyond traditional analytics to understand behavior over time.

Behavioral Analytics in Trading Companies

What started out as a business intelligence tool for eCommerce companies has now expanded to dozens of industries - from online games, to web and mobile applications to IoT and now FinTech. For trading companies specifically, behavioral analytics present a timeline of user actions.

This isn’t just about a single trading action, ...


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Digitial Marketing Demo Webinar Run | Simplilearn webinar starts 21-07-2017 17:30

Digitial Marketing Demo Webinar Run | Simplilearn webinar starts 21-07-2017 17:30

Test Test

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Advanced IoT systems provide analysis catalyst for the petrochemical refinery of the future

Advanced IoT systems provide analysis catalyst for the petrochemical refinery of the future

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology trends interview explores how IT combines with IoT to help create the refinery of the future

We’ll now learn how a leading-edge petrochemical company in Texas is rethinking data gathering and analysis to foster safer environments and greater overall efficiency.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

To help us define the best of the refinery of the future vision is Doug Smith, CEO of Texmark Chemicals in Galena Park, Texas, and JR Fuller, Worldwide Business Development Manager for Edgeline IoT at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the top trends driving this need for a new refinery of the future? Doug, why aren’t the refinery practices of the past good enough?

Smith: First of all, I want to talk about people. People are the catalysts who make this refinery of the future possible. At Texmark Chemicals, we spent the last 20 years making capital investments in our infrastructure, in our physical plant, and in the last four years we have put together a roadmap for our IT needs.

Through our introduction to HPE, we have entered into a partnership that is not just a client-customer relationship. It’s more than that, and it allows us to work together to discover IoT solutions that we can bring to bear on our IT challenges at Texmark. So, we are on the voyage of discovery together -- and we are sailing out to sea. It’s going great.

Gardner: JR, it’s always impressive when a new technology trend aids and abets a traditional business, and then that business can show through innovation what should then come next in the technology. How is that back and forth working? Where should we expect IoT to go in terms of business benefits in the not-to-distant future?

Fuller
Fuller: One of powerful things about the partnership and relationship we have is that we each respect and understand each other's “swim lanes.� I’m not trying to be a chemical company. I’m trying to understand what they do and how I can help them.

And they’re not trying to become an IT or IoT company. Their job is to make chemicals; our job is to figure out the IT. We’re seeing in Texmark the transformation from an Old World economy-type business to a New World economy-type business.

This is huge, this is transformational. As Doug said, they’ve made huge investments in their physical assets and what we call Operational Technology (OT). They have done that for the past 20 years. The people they have at Texmark who are using these assets are phenomenal. They possess decades of experience.
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Yet IoT is really new for them. How to leverage that? They have said, “You know what? We squeezed as much as we can out of OT technology, out of our people, and our processes. Now, let’s see what else is out there.�

And through introductions to us and our ecosystem partners, we’ve been able to show them how we can help squeeze even more out of those OT assets using this new technology. So, it’s really exciting.

Gardner: Doug, let’s level-set this a little bit for our audience. They might not all be familiar with the refinery business, or even the petrochemical industry. You’re in the process of processing. You’re making one material into another and you’re doing that in bulk, and you need to do it on a just-in-time basis, given the demands of supply chains these days.

You need to make your business processes and your IT network mesh, to reach every corner. How does a wireless network become an enabler for your requirements?

The heart of IT 

Smith: In a large plant facility, we have different pieces of equipment. One piece of equipment is a pump -- the analogy would be the heart of the process facility of the plant.

Smith
So your question regarding the wireless network, if we can sensor a pump and tie it into a mesh network, there are incredible cost savings for us. The physical wiring of a pump runs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per pump. So, we see a savings in that.

Being able to have the information wirelessly right away -- that gives us knowledge immediately that we wouldn’t have otherwise. We have workers and millwrights at the plant that physically go out and inspect every single pump in our plant, and we have 133 pumps. If we can utilize our sensors through the wireless network, our millwrights can concentrate on the pumps that they know are having problems.
To have the information wirelessly right away -- that gives us knowledge immediately that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Gardner: You’re also able to track those individuals, those workers, so if there’s a need to communicate, to locate, to make sure that they hearing the policy, that’s another big part of IoT and people coming together.

Safety is good business

Smith: The tracking of workers is more of a safety issue -- and safety is critical, absolutely critical in a petrochemical facility. We must account for all our people and know where they are in the event of any type of emergency situation.

Gardner: We have the sensors, we can link things up, we can begin to analyze devices and bring that data analytics to the edge, perhaps within a mini data center facility, something that’s ruggedized and tough and able to handle a plant environment.

Given this scenario, JR, what sorts of efficiencies are organizations like Texmark seeing? I know in some businesses, they talk about double digit increases, but in a mature industry, how does this all translate into dollars?

Fuller: We talk about the power of one percent. A one percent improvement in one of the major companies is multi-billions of dollars saved. A one percent change is huge, and, yes, at Texmark we’re able to see some larger percentage-wise efficiency, because they’re actually very nimble.

It’s hard to turn a big titanic ship, but the smaller boat is actually much better at it. We’re able to do things at Texmark that we are not able to do at other places, but we’re then able to create that blueprint of how they do it. 

You’re absolutely right, doing edge computing, with our HPE Edgeline products, and gathering the micro-data from the extra compute power we have installed, provides a lot of opportunities for us to go into the predictive part of this. It’s really where you see the new efficiencies.

Recently I was with the engineers out there, and we’re walking through the facility, and they’re showing us all the equipment that we’re looking at sensoring up, and adding all these analytics. I noticed something on one of the pumps. I’ve been around pumps, I know pumps very well.

I saw this thing, and I said, “What is that?�

“So that’s a filter,� they said.

I said, “What happens if the filter gets clogged?�

“It shuts down the whole pump,� they said.

“What happens if you lose this pump?� I asked.

“We lose the whole chemical process,� they explained.

“Okay, are there sensors on this filter?�

“No, there are only sensors on the pump,� they said.

There weren’t any sensors on the filter. Now, that’s just something that we haven’t thought of, right? But again, I’m not a chemical guy. So I can ask questions that maybe they didn’t ask before.

So I said, “How do you solve this problem today?�

“Well, we have a scheduled maintenance plan,� they said.

They don’t have a problem, but based on the scheduled maintenance plan that filter gets changed whether it needs to or not. It just gets changed on a regular basis. Using IoT technology, we can tell them exactly when to change that filter. Therefore IoT saves on the cost of the filter and the cost of the manpower -- and those types of potential efficiencies and savings are just one small example of the things that we’re trying to accomplish.

Continuous functionality

Smith: It points to the uniqueness of the people-level relationship between the HPE team, our partners, and the Texmark team. We are able to have these conversations to identify things that we haven’t even thought of before. I could give you 25 examples of things just like this, where we say, “Oh, wow, I hadn’t thought about that.� And yet it makes people safer and it all becomes more efficient.
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Gardner: You don’t know until you have that network in place and the data analytics to utilize what the potential use-cases can be. The name of the game is utilization efficiency, but also continuous operations.

How do you increase your likelihood or reduce the risk of disruption and enhance your continuous operations using these analytics?

Smith: To answer, I’m going to use the example of toll processing. Toll processing is when we would have a customer come to us and ask us to run a process on the equipment that we have at Texmark.

Normally, they would give us a recipe, and we would process a material. We take samples throughout the process, the production, and deliver a finished product to them. With this new level of analytics, with the sensoring of all these components in the refinery of the future vision, we can provide a value-add to the customers by giving them more data than they could ever want. We can document and verify the manufacture and production of the particular chemical that we’re toll processing for them.

Fuller: To add to that, as part of the process, sometimes you may have to do multiple runs when you're tolling, because of your feed stock and the way it works.
By using advanced analytics and the predictive benefits of having all that data, we're looking to gain efficiencies.
By usingadvanced analytics, and some of the predictive benefits of having all of that data available, we're looking to gain efficiencies to cut down the number of additional runs needed. If you take a process that would have taken three runs and we can knock that down to two runs -- that's a 30 percent decrease in total cost and expense. It also allows them produce more products, and to get it out to people a lot faster

Smith: Exactly. Exactly!

Gardner: Of course, the more insight that you can obtain from a pump, and the more resulting data analysis, that gives you insight into the larger processes. You can extend that data and information back into your supply chain. So there's no guesswork. There's no gap. You have complete visibility -- and that's a big plus when it comes to reducing risk in any large, complex, multi-supplier undertaking.

Beyond data gathering, data sharing

Smith: It goes back to relationships at Texmark. We have relationships with our neighbors that are unique in the industry, and so we would be able to share the data that we have.

Fuller: With suppliers.

Smith: Exactly, with suppliers and vendors. It's transformational.

Gardner: So you're extending a common standard industry-accepted platform approach locally into an extended process benefit. And you can share that because you are using common, IT-industry-wide infrastructurefrom HPE.

Fuller: And that's very important. We have a three-phase project, and we've just finished the first two phases. Phase 1 was to put ubiquitous WiFi infrastructure in there, with the location-based services, and all of the things to enable that. The second phase was to upgrade the compute infrastructure with our Edgeline compute and put in our HPE Micro Datacenter in there. So now they have some very robust compute.
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With that infrastructure in place, it now allows us to do that third phase, where we're bringing in additional IoT projects. We will create a data infrastructure with data storage, and application programming interfaces (APIs), and things like that. That will allow us to bring in a specialty video analytic capability that will overlay on top of the physical and logical infrastructure. And it makes it so much easier to integrate all that.

Gardner: You get a chance to customize the apps much better when you have a standard IT architecture underneath that, right?

Trailblazing standards for a new workforce

Smith: Well, exactly. What are you saying, Dana is – and it gives me chills when I start thinking about what we're doing at Texmark within our industry – is the setting of standards, blazing a new trail. When we talk to our customers and our suppliers and we tell them about this refinery of the future project that we're initiating, all other business goes out the window. They want to know more about what we're doing with the IoT -- and that's incredibly encouraging.

Gardner: I imagine that there are competitive advantages when you can get out in front and you're blazing that trail. If you have the experience, the skills of understanding how to leverage an IoT environment, and an edge computing capability, then you're going to continue to be a step ahead of the competition on many levels: efficiency, safety, ability to customize, and supply chain visibility.

Smith: It surely allows our Texmark team to do their jobs better. I use the example of the millwrights going out and inspecting pumps, and they do that everyday. They do it very well. If we can give them the tools, where they can focus on what they do best over a lifetime of working with pumps, and only work on the pumps that they need to, that's a great example.

I am extremely excited about the opportunities at the refinery of the future to bring new workers into the petrochemical industry. We have a large number of people within our industry who are retiring; they’re taking intellectual capital with them. So to be able to show young people that we are using advanced technology in new and exciting ways is a real draw and it would bring more young people into our industry.

Gardner: By empowering that facilities edge and standardizing IT around it, that also gives us an opportunity to think about the other part of this spectrum -- and that's the cloud. There are cloud services and larger data sets that could be brought to bear.

How does the linking of the edge to the cloud have a benefit?

Cloud watching

Fuller: Texmark Chemicals has one location, and they service the world from that location as a global leader in dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) production. So the cloud doesn't have the same impact as it would for maybe one of the other big oil or big petrochemical companies. But there are ways that we're going to use the cloud at Texmark and rally around it for safety and security.

Utilizing our location-based services, and our compute, if there is an emergency -- whether it's at Texmark or a neighbor -- using cloud-based information like weather, humidity, and wind direction -- and all of these other things that are constantly changing -- we can provide better directed responses. That's one way we would be using cloud at Texmark.

When we start talking about the larger industry -- and connecting multiple refineries together or upstream, downstream and midstream kinds of assets together with a petrochemical company -- cloud becomes critical. And you have to have hybrid infrastructure support.

You don't want to send all your video to the cloud to get analyzed. You want to do that at the edge. You don't want to send all of your vibration data to the cloud, you want to do that at the edge. But, yes, you do want to know when a pump fails, or when something happens so you can educate and train and learn and share that information and institutional knowledge throughout the rest of the organization.

Gardner: Before we sign off, let’s take a quick look into the crystal ball. Refinery of the future, five years from now, Doug, where do you see this going?
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Smith: The crystal ball is often kind of foggy, but it’s fun to look into it. I had mentioned earlier opportunities for education of a new workforce. Certainly, I am focused on the solutions that IoT brings to efficiencies, safety, and profitability of Texmark as a company. But I am definitely interested in giving people opportunities to find a job to work in a good industry that can be a career.

Gardner: JR, I know HPE has a lot going on with edge computing, making these data centers more efficient, more capable, and more rugged. Where do you see the potential here for IoT capability in refineries of the future?

Future forecast: safe, efficient edge

Fuller: You're going to see the pace pick up. I have to give kudos to Doug. He is a visionary. Whether he admits that or not, he is actually showing an industry that has been around for many years how to do this and be successful at it. So that's incredible. In that crystal ball look, that five-year look, he's going to be recognized as someone who helped really transform this industry from old to new economy.

As far as edge-computing goes, what we're seeing with our converged Edgeline systems, which are our first generation, and we've created this market space for converged edge systems with the hardening of it. Now, we’re working on generation 2. We're going to get faster, smaller, cheaper, and become more ubiquitous. I see our IoT infrastructure as having a dramatic impact on what we can actually accomplish and the workforce in five years. It will be more virtual and augmented and have all of these capabilities. It’s going to be a lot safer for people, and it’s going to be a lot more efficient.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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How This Startup Could Make IoT Gadgets More Sustainable

How This Startup Could Make IoT Gadgets More Sustainable

There’s one specific problem with IoT gadgets and their internal hardware. Actually, it’s an electronics problem as a whole.

The circuit boards, motherboards and components inside these devices are not easy to scrap. Some of them can be pretty bulky, so shipping or transporting the waste is expensive on its own.

Then, you need to account for taking them apart which can be a long-drawn-out and costly process. That’s because many circuit boards are fused with precious metals and materials that are extra conductive.

A lot of times you cannot just throw the boards out like regular scrap or trash — you need to separate the materials first, at the least so they can be recycled and reused.

This severely impacts the sustainability of the IoT market, especially when devices have reached end-of-life.

A New York startup, however, may have found the solution to help e-scrap companies deal with printed circuit boards and components in a much more viable way — in other words, the entire process can be made a whole lot less complicated and less expensive.

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2017: Employee Advocacy Impact Study

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Marketers have a lot in common when it comes to employee advocacy. Sometimes it feels like the same, predictable employees share company news and insights. Other times we have a huge win and it feels like the whole company is engaged and fully supporting our efforts.

“Employees who are passionate about their workplace are typically much more highly engaged. Passionate and engaged employees are your best customer advocates. Research shows that companies with very high levels of employee engagement can have 3x higher customer satisfaction ratings.”

Mark Somol Founder, Zeal

Most of the time, however, employee advocacy efforts hit limits we’d all like to overcome.

In fact, LinkedIn reports “In an average company, only 3% of employees share company-related content but they are responsible for driving a 30% increase in the content’s total likes, shares, and comments.�

The Marketing Advisory Network set out to find out what’s holding employees back, and more importantly, what can be done to break through the barriers and drive more engagement. To achieve that goal, we went right to the source – surveying 499 employees from a wide range of organizations.

We found some remarkable truths.

  • Just like we have buyer personas, we need to develop employee personas. Many factors influence an employee’s motivation and desire to advocate on behalf of the company.
  • Millennials aren’t the only ones who get social. Gen X employees are very sophisticated in their digital sharing.
  • Those organizations that document social media guidelines have higher rates of employee advocacy

We encourage you to dig deep into the study results where we answer many additional questions such as:

How does employee tenure effect social sharing?

Does publishing a personal blog indicate a higher propensity to share company news & insights?

What motivates employees to share more?

Explore the full report here.

Artificial Intelligence: Influence, Perspectives and Benefits

Artificial Intelligence: Influence, Perspectives and Benefits

It’s hard to say till when the people’s thoughts have been occupied by Artificial Intelligence. One of the first famous references to AI in the world literature was far away in 1939 in a novel “Robbie� by Isaac Asimov. For several centuries the humanity has already been captured with an idea to create robots with human qualities to be our partners. Mostly, we perceive AI as robotics, which is actually wrong. What exactly the notion AI includes and how business can benefit from it, we will tell you in this article. 

So what is Artificial Intelligence?

As mentioned above, the idea is not new and the term was coined back in 1956 by the professor John Mccarthy. A group of scientists started working together to figure out if a machine could learn like a child, using experience, develop formal reasoning and improve itself. And all these started more than 60 years ago.

In basic terms, AI is a broad area of computer science that can create machines and software seem like they have human intelligence and improve themselves. Robot Sophia, who was talking to journalists on GMB is an example how most of the people imagine AI, but, again, it’s not just about ...


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The New CxO Gang: Data, AI, and Robotics

The New CxO Gang: Data, AI, and Robotics

It has been said that this new wave of exponential technologies will threaten a lot of jobs, both blue and white-collar ones. But if from one hand many roles will disappear, from the other hand in the very short-term we are observing new people coming out from the crowd to lead this revolution and set the pace.

These are the people who really understand both the technicalities of the problems as well as have a clear view of the business implications of the new technologies and can easily plan how to embed those new capabilities in enterprise contexts.

Hence, I am going to briefly present three of them, i.e., the Chief Data Officer (CDO), the Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO) and the Chief Robotics Officer (CRO). Sad to be said, I never heard about a ‘Chief of Data Science’, but for some strange reasons, the role is usually called either ‘Head of Data Science’ or ‘Chief Analytics Officer’ (as if data scientist won’t deserve someone at C-level to lead their efforts).

Let’s see then who they are and what they would be useful for.

I. The Chief Data Officer (CDO)

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Have customer satisfaction scores become useless?

Have customer satisfaction scores become useless?

Exceptional customer experiences are what drive word of mouth marketing.  As marketers we often strive to improve customer advocacy by using customer satisfaction surveys to collect feedback about our service interactions. Sadly, the method is easily manipulated and instead of soliciting sincere feedback, many teams are gaming the system to collect high scores.

This is exactly what I experienced at a recent trip to our local restaurant/arcade.

Upon arriving at over stimulation land – lights flashing, music blaring, dollars practically jumping out of my wallet for tokens –  we were quickly seated. Our server stopped by to introduce himself. We were off to a good start when something strange happened. After asking if we’d been to the restaurant before, our waiter handed me a slip of paper with a link to a survey.  He explained that we should fill out the survey now (using the provided code), and give all fives because if we did we’d be his BFF (seriously, I’m not making this up), and it was “the only way” to guarantee a $10 off coupon for our next visit.  Clearly this was for the table he had served before us, as we hadn’t even ordered our food. I smiled and put the survey aside. He stood waiting for me to pull out my phone and go to the survey URL. I explained I’d be happy to fill it out after our meal had been served. He smiled and took our order.

I worried he would spit in my food.

Our food came and we ate quickly, the boys anxious to dart off and play arcade games. After they disappeared, $25 game cards in hand, I asked for the check. Our bill came with another survey, this one for my order. The marketing researcher in me was curious, so I logged into the online survey.  As you’d expect I was asked about the food,  would I recommend the restaurant, was the restaurant clean, my server’s responsiveness, etc. Most questions asked me to respond on a 5-star scale. 1 was unsatisfied, 5 extremely satisfied.

After I’d filled out the survey, my waiter came by to pick up payment. I asked him why he had been so anxious for us to fill out the first survey.  Did he have a bet going?  This nice young man sat down and looked me in the eye. He explained that he was trying to get assigned to bar tables (presumably because he’d make more money in tips), and that his manager made all their decisions solely on the surveys. If he didn’t get all fives across everything in the survey,  he didn’t get good assignments, raises or extra shifts.

Think about this for a minute.  The manager was not interested in finding out what was done well, and where the restaurant could improve. They were holding the waiter hostage to a specific score, essentially rewarding servers who were good at begging for fives. Later I even saw the manager quietly scold the server for not getting a perfect score across every question, most of which were unrelated to the waiter’s job. They were not discussing how the waiter could have made our meal more satisfactory, they were discussing how the server could have asked me about the survey differently to get a five. Clearly, the manager didn’t want actual feedback on my meal experience. This manager was teaching how to get a specific score, not how to act on feedback.

Did any of this improve my experience as a customer?  One could argue that by making decisions based on the survey results, wait staff are motivated to provide a good experience. This may be true in theory, but in practice does it make the service better? Or does it make the server manipulate when and who fills out surveys?

While my waiter was a bit over enthusiastic, he’s not alone. I recently experienced similar “give me 5 begging” at my car dealership, and after a call center exchange.

Does this mean that survey data is useless? I doubt it, but how many marketers are using them borders on counterproductive.

If we want to collect feedback that will improve customer interactions we need to stop motivating employees to manipulate the system. Instead, we have to collect and use the data to actually improve our service. This means reducing our dependance on scores, and instead focusing on qualitative insights. For example, we could ask these two simple questions.

What did we do well today?

Where did we disappoint you?

After all, what numbers are going to tell you more about your business – a customer satisfaction score? Or return visits and average order value trends over time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digitization and what it means to IT professionals around the world | Simplilearn webinar starts 28-07-2017 19:00

Digitization and what it means to IT professionals around the world | Simplilearn webinar starts 28-07-2017 19:00

The digital economy is transforming everything around us. Right from the way businesses interact, to the choices our customers are making - there has been a drastic shift. Major forces such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Cloud, Mobility are laying the foundation for a business landscape of the future. This means that the job choice...Read More.
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Get the new version of Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler version 17.2!
How Big Data Will Increase Supply Chain Productivity

How Big Data Will Increase Supply Chain Productivity

Contextual intelligence increases in proportion to the amount of information that supply chains are able to gain through big data. Thanks to the results gained by the data analysis, a supply chains are now able to adapt its practices with far more proficiency than before. The amount of accuracy with which big data can be made actionable makes it invaluable for supply chain managers who wish to improve their ability to fortify strengths while correcting weaknesses.

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Increased big data functionality not only makes it easier for supply chains to monitor their own performance, but also make it easier to collaborate with partners with a higher degree of efficiency as well. Through the increased collaborative proficiency made possible for supply chains with big data, companies that engage in mergers and acquisitions can be much more capable of getting the most out of their newly formed entities. The big data-driven depth of supply chain management grows deeper by association, increasing the ability of all partners involved to become that much more proficient at adapting their policies.

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The amount of data is growing significantly over the past few years. It is not feasible for only one machine to process large amounts of data. Therefore, the need of distributed data processing frameworks is growing. It all started back in 2011 when the first version of Apache Hadoop was released (version 1.0.0). The Hadoop framework is capable of storing a large amount of data on a cluster. This is known as the Hadoop FileSystem (HDFS) and it is used at almost every company which has the burden to store Terabytes of data every day. Then the next problem arose: how can companies process all the stored data? Here is where Distributed Data Processing frameworks come into play. In 2014, Apache Spark was released and it now has a large community. Almost every IT section has implemented at least some lines of Apache Spark code. Companies gathered more and more data and the demand for faster data processing frameworks is growing. Apache Flink (released in March 2016) is a new face in the field of distributed data processing and is one answer to the demand for ...


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Marketing is at a crossroad. A third of marketing budgets are spent on technology, yet we are selecting marketing tools & systems all wrong.

We know this because marketers everywhere are failing to drive robust adoption, using only a fraction of the capabilities they’ve purchased.  In fact, almost half of all marketers say they don’t fully utilize the marketing technology they ALREADY have.

Thankfully, there’s a conference designed for marketing operations, marketing executives and IT professionals who are ready to reverse this trend.  MarTech Boston will be hosted Oct. 2 – 4th and is a must attend event for those looking to maximize their technology investments.

Scott Brinker, founder of the MarTech conference and Boston marketing technology icon, was kind enough to join me for a tea to talk about the 2017 Boston MarTech experience.

The first MarTech was hosted in 2014 right here in Boston. For Scott the October event feels like a homecoming.  After only a couple of minutes you can see why. Although Scott humbly calls MarTech a hobby, his passion for using technology comes through as so much more.

In my experience events take on the character of their founders. Like Scott,  MarTech provides graduate level content designed to address complex needs across organizations of all types. The material is smart, insightful and inspiring.  Scott explains, “Although MarTech participants share a lot in common, each conference takes on a bit of local geographic context. In Boston we’ll focus a bit more on business challenges, possibly organizational alignment, than we did in San Francisco.�

Scott’s goal is always the same, to serve the audience well by fostering a community that can’t be found anywhere else. At MarTech the unvarnished truth about the challenges and opportunities technology provides are discussed in a collaborative environment. Attendees and speakers alike are there to learn, share and explore new possibilities.

You can register for MarTech Boston here.

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Virtual Reality (VR) is slowly, if not stealthily taking over the world. Offering users immersive worlds, VR promises to transform the ways that we entertain ourselves. VR helps to make older media new again as it breathes life into the standards we have become accustomed to. The medium is finding applicability into many differing fields such as gaming, training material and education. Yet, in many ways, virtual reality is still finding its footing as creators attempt to identify more usable applications for the medium. And while VR has made major inroads into entertainment, it also comes as no surprise that animation is especially poised to make huge strides with regards to animation. Yet the question remains, how much does virtual reality have to offer the field of animation? Can it help to create something completely bold and new? What we are going to find out is that virtual reality is equipped to take animation to unseen realms.

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Get ready for the post-cloud world

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Within the last decade, we’ve seen companies in every industry leverage big data to become more efficient, save money, and connect with customers. However, the most common uses of big data aren’t the only exciting developments in the field—the massive potential of big data lies in its diverse applications. There are so many opportunities for the technology to improve our lives in many different ways—some of which may surprise you. Here are just 7 of the countless unusual ways big data can make a big impact.

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India Smart Cities Mission shows IoT potential for improving quality of life at vast scale

India Smart Cities Mission shows IoT potential for improving quality of life at vast scale

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer Internet-of-Things (IoT) transformation discussion examines the potential impact and improvement of low-power edge computing benefits on rapidly modernizing cities.

These so-called smart city initiatives are exploiting open, wide area networking (WAN) technologies to make urban life richer in services, safer, and far more responsive to residences’ needs. We will now learn how such pervasively connected and data-driven IoT architectures are helping cities in India vastly improve the quality of life there.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to share how communication service providers have become agents of digital urban transformation are VS Shridhar, Senior Vice President and Head of the Internet-of-Things Business Unit at Tata Communications in Chennai area, India, and Nigel Upton, General Manager of the Universal IoT Platform and Global Connectivity Platform and Communications Solutions Business at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us about India’s Smart Cities mission. What are you up to and how are these new technologies coming to bear on improving urban quality of life?

Shridhar: The government is clearly focusing on Smart Cities as part of their urbanization plan, as they believe Smart Cities will not only improve the quality of living, but also generate employment, and take the whole country forward in terms of technologically embracing and improving the quality of life.

So with that in mind, the Government of India has launched 100 Smart Cities initiatives. It’s quite interesting because each of the cities that aspire to belong had to make a plan and their own strategy around how they are going to evolve and how they are going to execute it, present it, and get selected. There was a proper selection process.

Many of the cities made it, and of course some of them didn’t make it. Interestingly, some of the cities that didn’t make it are developing their own plans.
IoT Solutions for Communications Service Providers and Enterprises from HPE
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There is lot of excitement and curiosity as well as action in the Smart Cities project. Admittedly, it’s a slow process, it’s not something that you can do at the blink of the eye, and Rome wasn’t built overnight, but I definitely see a lot of progress.

Gardner:Nigel, it seems that the timing for this is auspicious, given that there are some foundational technologies that are now available at very low cost compared to the past, and that have much more of a pervasive opportunity to gather information and make a two-way street, if you will, between the edge and central administration. How is the technology evolution synching up with these Smart Cities initiatives in India?

Upton:I am not sure whether it’s timing or luck, or whatever it happens to be, but adoption of the digitization of city infrastructure and services is to some extent driven by economics. While I like to tease my colleagues in India about their sensitivity to price, the truth of the matter is that the economics of digitization -- and therefore IoT in smart cities -- needs to be at the right price, depending on where it is in the world, and India has some very specific price points to hit. That will drive the rate of adoption.

And so, we're very encouraged that innovation is continuing to drive price points down to the point that mass adoption can then be taken up, and the benefits realized to a much more broad spectrum of the population. Working with Tata Communications has really helped HPE understand this and continue to evolve as technology and be part of the partner ecosystem because it does take a village to raise an IoT smart city. You need a lot of partners to make this happen, and that combination of partnership, willingness to work together and driving the economic price points to the point of adoption has been absolutely critical in getting us to where we are today.

Balanced Bandwidth

Gardner:Shridhar, we have some very important optimization opportunities around things like street lighting, waste removal, public safety, water quality; of course, the pervasive need for traffic and parking, monitoring and improvement.

How do things like a low-power specification Internet and network gateways and low-power WANs (LPWANs) create a new foundation technically to improve these services? How do we connect the services and the technology for an improved outcome?

Shridhar:If you look at human interaction to the Internet, we have a lot of technology coming our way. We used to have 2G, that has moved to 3G and to 4G, and that is a lot of bandwidth coming our way. We would like to have a tremendous amount of access and bandwidth speeds and so on, right?

Shridhar
So the human interaction and experience is improving vastly, given the networks that are growing. On the machine-to-machine (M2M) side, it’s going to be different. They don’t need oodles of bandwidth. About 80 to 90 percent of all machine interactions are going to be very, very low bandwidth – and, of course, low power. I will come to the low power in a moment, but it’s going to be very low bandwidth requirement.

In order to switch off a streetlight, how much bandwidth do you actually require? Or, in order to sense temperature or air quality or water and water quality, how much bandwidth do you actually require?

When you ask these questions, you get an answer that the machines don’t require that much bandwidth. More importantly, when there are millions -- or possibly billions -- of devices to be deployed in the years to come, how are you going to service a piece of equipment that is telling a streetlight to switch on and switch off if the battery runs out?

Machines are different from humans in terms of interactions. When we deploy machines that require low bandwidth and low power consumption, a battery can enable such a machine to communicate for years.

Aside from heavy video streaming applications or constant security monitoring, where low-bandwidth, low-power technology doesn’t work, the majority of the cases are all about low bandwidth and low power. And these machines can communicate with the quality of service that is required.

When it communicates, the network has to be available. You then need to establish a network that is highly available, which consumes very little power and provides the right amount of bandwidth. So studies show that less than 50 kbps connectivity should suffice for the majority of these requirements.

Now the machine interaction also means that you collect all of them into a platform and basically act on them. It's not about just sensing it, it's measuring it, analyzing it, and acting on it.

Low-power to the people

So the whole stack consists not just of connectivity alone. It’s LPWAN technology that is emerging now and is becoming a de facto standard as more-and-more countries start embracing it.

At Tata Communications we have embraced the LPWAN technology from the LoRa Alliance, a consortium of more than 400 partners who have gotten together and are driving standards. We are creating this network over the next 18 to 24 months across India. We have made these networks available right now in four cities. By the end of the year, it will be many more cities -- almost 60 cities across India by March 2018.

Gardner: Nigel, how do you see the opportunity, the market, for a standard architecture around this sort of low-power, low-bandwidth network? This is a proof of concept in India, but what's the potential here for taking this even further? Is this something that has global potential?
IoT Solutions for Communications Service Providers and Enterprises from HPE
Learn More
Upton: The global potential is undoubtedly there, and there is an additional element that we didn't talk about which is that not all devices require the same amount of bandwidth. So we have talked about video surveillance requiring higher bandwidth, we have talked about devices that have low-power bandwidth and will essentially be created once and forgotten when expected to last 5 or 10 years.

Upton
We also need to add in the aspect of security, and that really gave HPE and Tata the common ground of understanding that the world is made up of a variety of network requirements, some of which will be met by LPWAN, some of which will require more bandwidth, maybe as high as 5G.

The real advantage of being able to use a common architecture to be able to take the data from these devices is the idea of having things like a common management, common security, and a common data model so that you really have the power of being able to take information, take data from all of these different types of devices and pull it into a common platform that is based on a standard.

In our case, we selected the oneM2M standard, it’s the best standard available to be able to build that common data model and that's the reason why we deployed the oneM2M model within the universal IoT platform to get that consistency no matter what type of device over no matter what type of network.

Gardner: It certainly sounds like this is an unprecedented opportunity to gather insight and analysis into areas that you just really couldn't have measured before. So going back to the economics of this, Shridhar, have you had any opportunity through these pilot projects in such cities as Jamshedpur to demonstrate a return on investment, perhaps on street lighting, perhaps on quality of utilization and efficiency? Is there a strong financial incentive to do this once the initial hurdle of upfront costs is met?

Data-driven cost reduction lights up India

Unless the customer sees that there is a scope for either reducing the cost or increasing the customer experience, they are not going to buy these kinds of solutions.
Shridhar: Unless the customer sees that there is a scope for either reducing the cost or increasing the customer experience, they are not going to buy these kinds of solutions. So if you look at how things have been progressing, I will give you a few examples of how the costs have started constructing and playing out. One of course is to have devices, meeting at certain price point, we talked about how in India -- we talked that Nigel was remarking how constant still this Indian market is, but it’s important, once we delivered to a certain cost, we believe we can now deliver globally to scale. That’s very important, so if we build something in India it would deliver to the global market as well.

The streetlight example, let’s take that specifically and see what kind of benefits it would give. When a streetlight operates for about 12 hours a day, it costs about Rs.12, which is about $0.15, but when you start optimizing it and say, okay, this is a streetlight that is supported currently on halogen and you move it to LED, it brings a little bit of cost saving, in some cases significant as well. India is going through an LED revolution as you may have read in the newspapers, those streetlights are being converted, and that’s one distinct cost advantage.

Now they are looking and driving, let’s say, the usage and the electricity bills even lower by optimizing it. Let’s say you sync it with the astronomical clock, that 6:30 in the evening it comes up and let’s say 6:30 in the morning it shuts down linking to the astronomical clock because now you are connecting this controller to the Internet.

The second thing that you would do is during busy hours keep it at the brightest, let’s say between 7:00 and 10:00, you keep it at the brightest and after that you start minimizing it. You can control it down in 10 percent increments.

The point I am making is, you basically deliver intensity of light to the kind of requirement that you have. If it is busy, or if there is nobody on the street, or if there is a safety requirement -- a sensor will trigger up a series of lights, and so on.

So your ability to play around with just having streetlight being delivered to the requirement is so high that it brings down total cost. While I was telling you about $0.15 that you would spend per streetlight, that could be brought down to $0.05. So that’s the kind of advantage by better controlling the streetlights. The business case builds up, and a customer can save 60 to 70 percent just by doing this. Obviously, then the business case stands out.

The question that you are asking is an interesting one because each of the applications has its own way of returning the investment back, while the optimization of resources is being done. There is also a collateral positive benefit by saving the environment. So not only do I gain a business savings and business optimization, but I also pass on a general, bigger message of a green environment. Environment and safety are the two biggest benefits of implementing this and it would really appeal to our customers.

Gardner:It’s always great to put hard economic metrics on these things, but Shridhar just mentioned safety. Even when you can't measure in direct economics, it's invaluable when you can bring a higher degree of safety to an urban environment.

It opens up for more foot traffic, which can lead to greater economic development, which can then provide more tax revenue. It seems to me that there is a multiplier effect when you have this sort of intelligent urban landscape that creates a cascading set of benefits: the more data, the more efficiency; the more efficiency, the more economic development; the more revenue, the more data and so on. So tell us a little bit about this ongoing multiplier and virtuous adoption benefit when you go to intelligent urban environments?

Quality of life, under control

Upton:Yes, also it’s important to note that it differs almost by country to country and almost within region to region within countries. The interesting challenge with smart cities is that often you're dealing with elected officials rather than hard-nosed businessman who are only interested in the financial return. And it's because you're dealing with politicians and they are therefore representing the citizens in their area, either their city or their town or their region, their priorities are not always the same.

There is quite a variation of one of the particular challenges, particular social challenges as well as the particular quality of life challenges in each of the areas that they work in. So things like personal safety are a very big deal in some regions. I am currently in Tokyo and here there is much more concern around quality of life and mobility with a rapidly aging population and their challenges are somewhat different.
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But in India, the set of opportunities and challenges that are set out, they are in that combination of economic as well as social, and if you solve them and you essentially give citizens more peace of mind, more ability to be able to move freely, to be able to take part in the economic interaction within that area, then undoubtedly that leads to greater growth, but it is worth bearing in mind that it does vary almost city by city and region by region.

Gardner:Shridhar, do you have any other input into a cascading ongoing set of benefits when you get more data, more network opportunity. I guess I am trying to understand for a longer-term objective that being intelligent and data-driven has an ongoing set of benefits, what might those be? How can this be a long-term data and analytics treasure trove when you think about it in terms of how to provide better urban experiences?

Home/work help

Shridhar:From our perspective, when we looked at the customer benefits there is a huge amount of focus around the smart cities and how smart cities are benefiting from a network. If you look at the enterprise customers, they are also looking at safety, which is an overlapping application that a smart city would have.

So the enterprise wants to provide safety to its workers, for example, in mines or in difficult terrains, environments where they are focusing on helping them. Or women’s safety, which is as you know in India is a big thing as well -- how do you provide a device which is not very obvious and it gives the women all the safety that is there.

So all this in some form is providing data. One of the things that comes to my mind when you ask about how data-driven resources can be and what kind of quality it would give is if you action your mind to some of the customer services devices, there could be applications or let’s say a housewife could have a multiple button kind of a device where she can order a service.

Depending on the service she presses and an aggregate of households across India, you would know the trends and direction of a certain service, and mind you, it could be as simple as a three-button device which says Service A, Service B, Service C, and it could be a consumer service that gets extended to a particular household that we sell it as a service.

So you could get lots of trends and patterns that are emerging from that, and we believe that the customer experience is going to change, because no longer is a customer going to retain in his mind what kind of phone numbers or your, let's say, apps and all to order, you give them the convenience of just a button-press service. That immediately comes to my mind.

Feedback fosters change

The second one is in terms of feedback. You use the same three-button service to say, how well have you used utility -- or rather how -- what kind of quality of service that you rate multiple utilities that you are using, and there is toilet revolution in India. For example, you put these buttons out there, they will tell you at any given point of time what’s the user satisfaction and so on.

So these are all data that is getting gathered and I believe that while it is early days for us to go on and put out analytics and give you distinct kind of benefits that are there, but some of the things that customers are already looking at is which geographies, which segment, who are my biggest -- profile of the customers using this and so on. That kind of information is going to come out very, very distinctly.

The Smart Cities is all about experience. The enterprises are now looking at the data that is coming out and seeing how they can use it to better segment, and provide better customer experience which would obviously mean both adding to their top line as well as helping them manage their bottom line. So it's beyond safety, it's getting into the customer experience – the realm of managing customer experience.

Gardner:From a go-to-market perspective, or a go-to-city’s perspective, these are very complex undertakings, lots of moving parts, lots of different technologies and standards. How are Tata and HPE are coming together -- along with other service providers, Pointnextfor example? How do you put this into a package that can then actually be managed and put in place? How do we make this appealing not only in terms of its potential but being actionable as well when it comes to different cities and regions?

Upton:The concept of Smart Cities has been around for a while and various governments around the world have pumped money into their cities over an extended period of time.
We now have the infrastructure in place, we have the price points and we have IoT becoming mainstream.

As usual, these things always take more time than you think, and I do not believe today that we have a technology challenge on our hands. We have much more of a business model challenge. Being able to deploy technology to be able to bring benefits to citizens, I think that is finally getting to the point where it is much better understood where innovation of the device level, whether it's streetlights, whether it's the ability to measure water quality, sound quality, humidity, all of these metrics that we have available to us now. There has been very rapid innovation at that device level and at the economics of how to produce them, at a price that will enable widespread deployment.

All that has been happening rapidly over the last few years getting us to the point where we now have the infrastructure in place, we have the price points in place, and we have IoT becoming mainstream enough that it is entering into the manufacturing process of all sorts of different devices, as I said, ranging from streetlights to personal security devices through to track and trace devices that are built into the manufacturing process of goods.
That is now reaching mainstream and we are now able to take advantage of this massive data that’s now being produced to be able to produce even more efficient and smarter cities, and make them safer places for our citizens.

Gardner:Last word to you, Shridhar. If people wanted to learn more about the pilot proof of concept (PoC) that you are doing there at Jamshedpur and other cities, through the Smart Cities Mission, where might they go, are there any resources, how would you provide more information to those interested in pursuing more of these technologies?

Pilot projects take flight

Shridhar:I would be very happy to help them look at the PoCs that we are doing. I would classify the PoCs that we are doing is as far as safety is concerned, we talked of energy management in one big bucket that is there, then the customer service I spoke about, the fourth one I would say is more on the utility side. Gas and water are two big applications where customers are looking at these PoCs very seriously.

And there is very one interesting application in that one customer wanted for pest control, where he wanted his mouse traps to have sensors so that they will at any point of time know if there is a rat trap at all, which I thought was a very interesting thing.
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There are multiple streams that we have, we have done multiple PoCs, we will be very happy as Tata Communications team [to provide more information], and the HPE folks are in touch with us.

You could write to us, to me in particular for some period of time. We are also putting information on our website. We have marketing collateral, which describes this. We will do some of the joint workshops with HPE as well.

So there are multiple ways to reach us, and one of the best ways obviously is through our website. We are always there to provide more important help, and we believe that we can’t do it all alone; it’s about the ecosystem getting to know and getting to work on it.

While we have partners like HPE on the platform level, we also have partners such as Semtech, who established Center of Excellence in Mumbai along with us. So the access to the ecosystem from HPE side as well as our other partners is available, and we are happy to work and co-create the solutions going forward.

India Smart Cities Mission shows IoT potential for improving quality of life at vast scale

India Smart Cities Mission shows IoT potential for improving quality of life at vast scale

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer Internet-of-Things (IoT) transformation discussion examines the potential impact and improvement of low-power edge computing benefits on rapidly modernizing cities.

These so-called smart city initiatives are exploiting open, wide area networking (WAN) technologies to make urban life richer in services, safer, and far more responsive to residences’ needs. We will now learn how such pervasively connected and data-driven IoT architectures are helping cities in India vastly improve the quality of life there.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to share how communication service providers have become agents of digital urban transformation are VS Shridhar, Senior Vice President and Head of the Internet-of-Things Business Unit at Tata Communications in Chennai area, India, and Nigel Upton, General Manager of the Universal IoT Platform and Global Connectivity Platform and Communications Solutions Business at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us about India’s Smart Cities mission. What are you up to and how are these new technologies coming to bear on improving urban quality of life?

Shridhar: The government is clearly focusing on Smart Cities as part of their urbanization plan, as they believe Smart Cities will not only improve the quality of living, but also generate employment, and take the whole country forward in terms of technologically embracing and improving the quality of life.

So with that in mind, the Government of India has launched 100 Smart Cities initiatives. It’s quite interesting because each of the cities that aspire to belong had to make a plan and their own strategy around how they are going to evolve and how they are going to execute it, present it, and get selected. There was a proper selection process.

Many of the cities made it, and of course some of them didn’t make it. Interestingly, some of the cities that didn’t make it are developing their own plans.
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There is lot of excitement and curiosity as well as action in the Smart Cities project. Admittedly, it’s a slow process, it’s not something that you can do at the blink of the eye, and Rome wasn’t built overnight, but I definitely see a lot of progress.

Gardner:Nigel, it seems that the timing for this is auspicious, given that there are some foundational technologies that are now available at very low cost compared to the past, and that have much more of a pervasive opportunity to gather information and make a two-way street, if you will, between the edge and central administration. How is the technology evolution synching up with these Smart Cities initiatives in India?

Upton:I am not sure whether it’s timing or luck, or whatever it happens to be, but adoption of the digitization of city infrastructure and services is to some extent driven by economics. While I like to tease my colleagues in India about their sensitivity to price, the truth of the matter is that the economics of digitization -- and therefore IoT in smart cities -- needs to be at the right price, depending on where it is in the world, and India has some very specific price points to hit. That will drive the rate of adoption.

And so, we're very encouraged that innovation is continuing to drive price points down to the point that mass adoption can then be taken up, and the benefits realized to a much more broad spectrum of the population. Working with Tata Communications has really helped HPE understand this and continue to evolve as technology and be part of the partner ecosystem because it does take a village to raise an IoT smart city. You need a lot of partners to make this happen, and that combination of partnership, willingness to work together and driving the economic price points to the point of adoption has been absolutely critical in getting us to where we are today.

Balanced Bandwidth

Gardner:Shridhar, we have some very important optimization opportunities around things like street lighting, waste removal, public safety, water quality; of course, the pervasive need for traffic and parking, monitoring and improvement.

How do things like a low-power specification Internet and network gateways and low-power WANs (LPWANs) create a new foundation technically to improve these services? How do we connect the services and the technology for an improved outcome?

Shridhar:If you look at human interaction to the Internet, we have a lot of technology coming our way. We used to have 2G, that has moved to 3G and to 4G, and that is a lot of bandwidth coming our way. We would like to have a tremendous amount of access and bandwidth speeds and so on, right?

Shridhar
So the human interaction and experience is improving vastly, given the networks that are growing. On the machine-to-machine (M2M) side, it’s going to be different. They don’t need oodles of bandwidth. About 80 to 90 percent of all machine interactions are going to be very, very low bandwidth – and, of course, low power. I will come to the low power in a moment, but it’s going to be very low bandwidth requirement.

In order to switch off a streetlight, how much bandwidth do you actually require? Or, in order to sense temperature or air quality or water and water quality, how much bandwidth do you actually require?

When you ask these questions, you get an answer that the machines don’t require that much bandwidth. More importantly, when there are millions -- or possibly billions -- of devices to be deployed in the years to come, how are you going to service a piece of equipment that is telling a streetlight to switch on and switch off if the battery runs out?

Machines are different from humans in terms of interactions. When we deploy machines that require low bandwidth and low power consumption, a battery can enable such a machine to communicate for years.

Aside from heavy video streaming applications or constant security monitoring, where low-bandwidth, low-power technology doesn’t work, the majority of the cases are all about low bandwidth and low power. And these machines can communicate with the quality of service that is required.

When it communicates, the network has to be available. You then need to establish a network that is highly available, which consumes very little power and provides the right amount of bandwidth. So studies show that less than 50 kbps connectivity should suffice for the majority of these requirements.

Now the machine interaction also means that you collect all of them into a platform and basically act on them. It's not about just sensing it, it's measuring it, analyzing it, and acting on it.

Low-power to the people

So the whole stack consists not just of connectivity alone. It’s LPWAN technology that is emerging now and is becoming a de facto standard as more-and-more countries start embracing it.

At Tata Communications we have embraced the LPWAN technology from the LoRa Alliance, a consortium of more than 400 partners who have gotten together and are driving standards. We are creating this network over the next 18 to 24 months across India. We have made these networks available right now in four cities. By the end of the year, it will be many more cities -- almost 60 cities across India by March 2018.

Gardner: Nigel, how do you see the opportunity, the market, for a standard architecture around this sort of low-power, low-bandwidth network? This is a proof of concept in India, but what's the potential here for taking this even further? Is this something that has global potential?
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Upton: The global potential is undoubtedly there, and there is an additional element that we didn't talk about which is that not all devices require the same amount of bandwidth. So we have talked about video surveillance requiring higher bandwidth, we have talked about devices that have low-power bandwidth and will essentially be created once and forgotten when expected to last 5 or 10 years.

Upton
We also need to add in the aspect of security, and that really gave HPE and Tata the common ground of understanding that the world is made up of a variety of network requirements, some of which will be met by LPWAN, some of which will require more bandwidth, maybe as high as 5G.

The real advantage of being able to use a common architecture to be able to take the data from these devices is the idea of having things like a common management, common security, and a common data model so that you really have the power of being able to take information, take data from all of these different types of devices and pull it into a common platform that is based on a standard.

In our case, we selected the oneM2M standard, it’s the best standard available to be able to build that common data model and that's the reason why we deployed the oneM2M model within the universal IoT platform to get that consistency no matter what type of device over no matter what type of network.

Gardner: It certainly sounds like this is an unprecedented opportunity to gather insight and analysis into areas that you just really couldn't have measured before. So going back to the economics of this, Shridhar, have you had any opportunity through these pilot projects in such cities as Jamshedpur to demonstrate a return on investment, perhaps on street lighting, perhaps on quality of utilization and efficiency? Is there a strong financial incentive to do this once the initial hurdle of upfront costs is met?

Data-driven cost reduction lights up India

Unless the customer sees that there is a scope for either reducing the cost or increasing the customer experience, they are not going to buy these kinds of solutions.
Shridhar: Unless the customer sees that there is a scope for either reducing the cost or increasing the customer experience, they are not going to buy these kinds of solutions. So if you look at how things have been progressing, I will give you a few examples of how the costs have started constructing and playing out. One of course is to have devices, meeting at certain price point, we talked about how in India -- we talked that Nigel was remarking how constant still this Indian market is, but it’s important, once we delivered to a certain cost, we believe we can now deliver globally to scale. That’s very important, so if we build something in India it would deliver to the global market as well.

The streetlight example, let’s take that specifically and see what kind of benefits it would give. When a streetlight operates for about 12 hours a day, it costs about Rs.12, which is about $0.15, but when you start optimizing it and say, okay, this is a streetlight that is supported currently on halogen and you move it to LED, it brings a little bit of cost saving, in some cases significant as well. India is going through an LED revolution as you may have read in the newspapers, those streetlights are being converted, and that’s one distinct cost advantage.

Now they are looking and driving, let’s say, the usage and the electricity bills even lower by optimizing it. Let’s say you sync it with the astronomical clock, that 6:30 in the evening it comes up and let’s say 6:30 in the morning it shuts down linking to the astronomical clock because now you are connecting this controller to the Internet.

The second thing that you would do is during busy hours keep it at the brightest, let’s say between 7:00 and 10:00, you keep it at the brightest and after that you start minimizing it. You can control it down in 10 percent increments.

The point I am making is, you basically deliver intensity of light to the kind of requirement that you have. If it is busy, or if there is nobody on the street, or if there is a safety requirement -- a sensor will trigger up a series of lights, and so on.

So your ability to play around with just having streetlight being delivered to the requirement is so high that it brings down total cost. While I was telling you about $0.15 that you would spend per streetlight, that could be brought down to $0.05. So that’s the kind of advantage by better controlling the streetlights. The business case builds up, and a customer can save 60 to 70 percent just by doing this. Obviously, then the business case stands out.

The question that you are asking is an interesting one because each of the applications has its own way of returning the investment back, while the optimization of resources is being done. There is also a collateral positive benefit by saving the environment. So not only do I gain a business savings and business optimization, but I also pass on a general, bigger message of a green environment. Environment and safety are the two biggest benefits of implementing this and it would really appeal to our customers.

Gardner:It’s always great to put hard economic metrics on these things, but Shridhar just mentioned safety. Even when you can't measure in direct economics, it's invaluable when you can bring a higher degree of safety to an urban environment.

It opens up for more foot traffic, which can lead to greater economic development, which can then provide more tax revenue. It seems to me that there is a multiplier effect when you have this sort of intelligent urban landscape that creates a cascading set of benefits: the more data, the more efficiency; the more efficiency, the more economic development; the more revenue, the more data and so on. So tell us a little bit about this ongoing multiplier and virtuous adoption benefit when you go to intelligent urban environments?

Quality of life, under control

Upton:Yes, also it’s important to note that it differs almost by country to country and almost within region to region within countries. The interesting challenge with smart cities is that often you're dealing with elected officials rather than hard-nosed businessman who are only interested in the financial return. And it's because you're dealing with politicians and they are therefore representing the citizens in their area, either their city or their town or their region, their priorities are not always the same.

There is quite a variation of one of the particular challenges, particular social challenges as well as the particular quality of life challenges in each of the areas that they work in. So things like personal safety are a very big deal in some regions. I am currently in Tokyo and here there is much more concern around quality of life and mobility with a rapidly aging population and their challenges are somewhat different.
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But in India, the set of opportunities and challenges that are set out, they are in that combination of economic as well as social, and if you solve them and you essentially give citizens more peace of mind, more ability to be able to move freely, to be able to take part in the economic interaction within that area, then undoubtedly that leads to greater growth, but it is worth bearing in mind that it does vary almost city by city and region by region.

Gardner:Shridhar, do you have any other input into a cascading ongoing set of benefits when you get more data, more network opportunity. I guess I am trying to understand for a longer-term objective that being intelligent and data-driven has an ongoing set of benefits, what might those be? How can this be a long-term data and analytics treasure trove when you think about it in terms of how to provide better urban experiences?

Home/work help

Shridhar:From our perspective, when we looked at the customer benefits there is a huge amount of focus around the smart cities and how smart cities are benefiting from a network. If you look at the enterprise customers, they are also looking at safety, which is an overlapping application that a smart city would have.

So the enterprise wants to provide safety to its workers, for example, in mines or in difficult terrains, environments where they are focusing on helping them. Or women’s safety, which is as you know in India is a big thing as well -- how do you provide a device which is not very obvious and it gives the women all the safety that is there.

So all this in some form is providing data. One of the things that comes to my mind when you ask about how data-driven resources can be and what kind of quality it would give is if you action your mind to some of the customer services devices, there could be applications or let’s say a housewife could have a multiple button kind of a device where she can order a service.

Depending on the service she presses and an aggregate of households across India, you would know the trends and direction of a certain service, and mind you, it could be as simple as a three-button device which says Service A, Service B, Service C, and it could be a consumer service that gets extended to a particular household that we sell it as a service.

So you could get lots of trends and patterns that are emerging from that, and we believe that the customer experience is going to change, because no longer is a customer going to retain in his mind what kind of phone numbers or your, let's say, apps and all to order, you give them the convenience of just a button-press service. That immediately comes to my mind.

Feedback fosters change

The second one is in terms of feedback. You use the same three-button service to say, how well have you used utility -- or rather how -- what kind of quality of service that you rate multiple utilities that you are using, and there is toilet revolution in India. For example, you put these buttons out there, they will tell you at any given point of time what’s the user satisfaction and so on.

So these are all data that is getting gathered and I believe that while it is early days for us to go on and put out analytics and give you distinct kind of benefits that are there, but some of the things that customers are already looking at is which geographies, which segment, who are my biggest -- profile of the customers using this and so on. That kind of information is going to come out very, very distinctly.

The Smart Cities is all about experience. The enterprises are now looking at the data that is coming out and seeing how they can use it to better segment, and provide better customer experience which would obviously mean both adding to their top line as well as helping them manage their bottom line. So it's beyond safety, it's getting into the customer experience – the realm of managing customer experience.

Gardner:From a go-to-market perspective, or a go-to-city’s perspective, these are very complex undertakings, lots of moving parts, lots of different technologies and standards. How are Tata and HPE are coming together -- along with other service providers, Pointnextfor example? How do you put this into a package that can then actually be managed and put in place? How do we make this appealing not only in terms of its potential but being actionable as well when it comes to different cities and regions?

Upton:The concept of Smart Cities has been around for a while and various governments around the world have pumped money into their cities over an extended period of time.
We now have the infrastructure in place, we have the price points and we have IoT becoming mainstream.

As usual, these things always take more time than you think, and I do not believe today that we have a technology challenge on our hands. We have much more of a business model challenge. Being able to deploy technology to be able to bring benefits to citizens, I think that is finally getting to the point where it is much better understood where innovation of the device level, whether it's streetlights, whether it's the ability to measure water quality, sound quality, humidity, all of these metrics that we have available to us now. There has been very rapid innovation at that device level and at the economics of how to produce them, at a price that will enable widespread deployment.

All that has been happening rapidly over the last few years getting us to the point where we now have the infrastructure in place, we have the price points in place, and we have IoT becoming mainstream enough that it is entering into the manufacturing process of all sorts of different devices, as I said, ranging from streetlights to personal security devices through to track and trace devices that are built into the manufacturing process of goods.
That is now reaching mainstream and we are now able to take advantage of this massive data that’s now being produced to be able to produce even more efficient and smarter cities, and make them safer places for our citizens.

Gardner:Last word to you, Shridhar. If people wanted to learn more about the pilot proof of concept (PoC) that you are doing there at Jamshedpur and other cities, through the Smart Cities Mission, where might they go, are there any resources, how would you provide more information to those interested in pursuing more of these technologies?

Pilot projects take flight

Shridhar:I would be very happy to help them look at the PoCs that we are doing. I would classify the PoCs that we are doing is as far as safety is concerned, we talked of energy management in one big bucket that is there, then the customer service I spoke about, the fourth one I would say is more on the utility side. Gas and water are two big applications where customers are looking at these PoCs very seriously.

And there is very one interesting application in that one customer wanted for pest control, where he wanted his mouse traps to have sensors so that they will at any point of time know if there is a rat trap at all, which I thought was a very interesting thing.
IoT Solutions for Communications Service Providers and Enterprises from HPE
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There are multiple streams that we have, we have done multiple PoCs, we will be very happy as Tata Communications team [to provide more information], and the HPE folks are in touch with us.

You could write to us, to me in particular for some period of time. We are also putting information on our website. We have marketing collateral, which describes this. We will do some of the joint workshops with HPE as well.

So there are multiple ways to reach us, and one of the best ways obviously is through our website. We are always there to provide more important help, and we believe that we can’t do it all alone; it’s about the ecosystem getting to know and getting to work on it.

While we have partners like HPE on the platform level, we also have partners such as Semtech, who established Center of Excellence in Mumbai along with us. So the access to the ecosystem from HPE side as well as our other partners is available, and we are happy to work and co-create the solutions going forward.

The Internet of Things: How Interconnectivity Is Changing Our World

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Since the 1990s when the Internet first became readily available, the interconnectivity of our world has grown. Now, it’s not just people who are connected, but our devices as well. The Internet of Things (often abbreviated IoT) describes an elaborate network of objects and people, all interacting with one another through wireless communication, sensors and embedded circuits. It allows communication to occur from people to objects, or from object to object. Although it may seem like a novel concept, the IoT isn’t new. In fact, the Guardian notes that the first Internet-connected toaster debuted at a conference in 1989.

However, it is only recently that the IoT became a significant presence in daily life. Users can now sync their workouts to their smartphone, change the temperature of their home remotely and interact with a wide variety of wearable devices; these are just a few examples of how the IoT has become embedded in our culture. And this trend is expected to continue. There will be more than 26 billion connected devices by 2020, according to Jason Morgan, author of The Future of Work and contributor to Forbes. Some estimates are even higher — more than 100 billion by some projections.

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New media is changing the way people across the world are entertained and consume information. The following five types of new media illustrate the evolution of new media.

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Information in blogs is easily accessed and searched for, and everything is typically organized naturally. For instance, blog posts are often nested under categories, and users can navigate posts by a specific category, tag or via search. And like other forms of new media where content is posted — such as online newspapers and some social media platforms — entries often contain mixed media such as photos and video to go along with text.

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Data mining involves “processing data and identifying patterns and trends in that information,� according to IBM. “Data mining principles have been around for many years, but, with the advent of big data, it is even more prevalent.�

Ninety percent of data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, IBM estimates. Every day, people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, enough to fill 10 million Blu-ray Discs.

Data mining techniques help professionals provide insights into available data sets. The techniques can offer descriptive and predictive power for businesses and other organizations.

5 Data Mining Techniques

1.    Association

Association makes a correlation between two or more items to identify a pattern. For instance, a supermarket could determine that customers often purchase whipped cream when they buy strawberries and vice versa. Association is often used at point-of-sale systems to determine common tendencies among products.

“It’s a very simple method, but you’d be surprised how much intelligence and insight it can provide—the kind of information many businesses use on a daily basis to improve efficiency and generate revenue,� according to technology company Galvanize. Application areas include physical organization of items, marketing and the cross-selling and up-selling of products.

2.    Classification

Multiple attributes can be used to ...


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4 Surprising Discoveries From Big Data Insights

4 Surprising Discoveries From Big Data Insights

Big data is becoming increasingly important to business and will impact every business in the near future. At its core, big data collects information relevant to your business, examines trends and correlations, and makes decisions based on them. This analysis can be used to improve products based on customer experience and usage, tailor sales approaches to specific audiences or even predict which employees might soon get a promotion.

Insights From Big Data

Big data insights are all about finding correlations and relationships, but it’s important to note that correlation is not the same as causation. Just because most romantic “missed connections� happen at Wal-Mart doesn’t mean you’ll meet the love of your life at Wal-Mart, for example. Here are five unusual discoveries that have come from big data.

1. Most romantic “missed connections� take place in a Wal-Mart

Craigslist keeps track of quite a bit of data on its users, which allows it to tailor classified lists to the geographic locations where users live. Rather than dividing up a map of the United States by state, Craigslist separates it into numerous tiny regions, each small enough to be served by a single set of classified lists.

One such classified list is the “missed connections� board, ...


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How confluence of cloud, UC and data-driven insights newly empowers contact center agents

How confluence of cloud, UC and data-driven insights newly empowers contact center agents

The next BriefingsDirect customer experience insights discussion explores how Contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) capabilities are becoming more powerful as a result of leveraging cloud computing, multi-mode communications channels, and the ability to provide optimized and contextual user experiences.

More than ever, businesses have to make difficult and complex decisions about how to best source their customer-facing services. Which apps and services, what data and resources should be in the cloud or on-premises -- or in some combination -- are among the most consequential choices business leaders now face. As the confluence of cloud and unified communications (UC) -- along with data-driven analytics -- gain traction, the contact center function stands out.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. 

We’ll now hear why traditional contact center technology has become outdated, inflexible and cumbersome, and why CCaaS is becoming more popular in meeting the heightened user experience requirements of today.
Here to share more on the next chapter of contact center and customer service enhancements, is Vasili Triant, CEO of Serenovain Austin, Texas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the new trends reshaping the contact center function?

Triant:What’s changed in the world of contact center and customer service is that we’re seeing a generational spread -- everything from baby boomers all the way now to Gen Z.

With the proliferation of smartphones through the early 2000s, and new technologies and new channels -- things like WeChat and Viber -- all these customers are now potential inbound discussions with brands. And they all have different mediums that they want to communicate on. It’s no longer just phone or e-mail: It’s phone, e-mail, web chat, SMS, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and there are other channels coming around the corner that we don't even know about yet.

Triant
When you take all of these folks -- customers or brands -- and you take all of these technologies that consumers want to engage with across all of these different channels – it’s simple, they want to be heard. It's now the responsibility of brands to determine what is the best way to respond and it’s not always one-to-one.

So it’s not a phone call for a phone call, it’s maybe an SMS to a phone call, or a phone call to a web chat -- whatever those [multi-channels] may be. The complexity of how we communicate with customers has increased. The needs have changed dramatically. And the legacy types of technologies out there, they can't keep up -- that's what's really driven the shift, the paradigm shift, within the contact center space.

Gardner:It’s interesting that the new business channels for marketing and capturing business are growing more complex. They still have to then match on the back end how they support those users, interact with them, and carry them through any sort of process -- whether it's on-boarding and engaging, or it’s supporting and servicing them.

What we’re requiring then is a different architecture to support all of that. It seems very auspicious that we have architectural improvements right along with these new requirements.

Triant:We have two things that have collided at the same time – cloud technologies and the growth of truly global companies.  

Most of the new channels that have rolled out are in the cloud. I mean, think about it -- Facebook is a cloud technology, Twitter is a cloud technology. WeChat, Viber, all these things, they are all cloud technologies. It’s becoming a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based world. The easiest and best way to integrate with these other cloud technologies is via the cloud -- versus on-premises. So what began as the shift of on-premises technology to cloud contact center -- and that really began in 2011-2012 – has rapidly picked up speed with the adoption of multi-channels as a primary method of communication.

The only way to keep up with the pace of development of all these channels is through cloud technologies because you need to develop an agile world, you need to be able to get the upgrades out to customers in a quick fashion, in an easy fashion, and in an inexpensive fashion. That's the core difference between the on-premises world and the cloud world.

At the same time, we are no longer talking about a United States company, an Australia company, or a UK company -- we are talking about everything as global brands, or global businesses. Customer service is global now, and no one cares about borders or countries when it comes to communication with a brand.
Customer service is global now, and no one cares about borders or countries when it comes to communications with a brand.


Gardner:We have been speaking about this through the context of the end-user, the consumer. But this architecture and its ability to leverage cloud also benefits the agent, the person who is responsible for keeping that end-user happy and providing them with the utmost in intelligent services. So how does the new architecture also aid and abet the agent.

Triant: The agent is frankly one of the most important pieces to this entire puzzle. We talk a lot about channels and how to engage with the customer, but that's really what we call listening. But even in just simple day-to-day human interactions, one of the most important things is how you communicate back. There has been a series of time-and-motion studies done within contact centers, within brands -- and you can even look at your personal experiences. You don’t have to read reports to understand this.
The baseline for how an interaction will begin and end and whether that will be a happy or a poor interaction with the brand, is going to be dependent on the agents’ state of mind. If I call up and I speak to “Joe,� and he starts the conversation, he is in a great mood and he is having a great day, then my conversation will most likely end in a positive interaction because it started that way.

But if someone is frustrated, they had a rough day, they can’t find their information, their computers have been crashing or rebooting, then the interaction is guaranteed to end up poor. You hear this all the time, “Oh, can you wait a moment, my systems are loading. Oh, I can’t get you an answer, that screen is not coming up. I can't see your account information.� The agents are frustrated because they can’t do their job, and that frustration then blends into your conversation.

So using the technology to make it easy for the agent to do their job is essential. If they have to go from one screen to another screen to conduct one interaction with the customer -- they are going to be frustrated, and that will lead to a poor experience with the customer.

The cloud technologies like Serenova, which is web-based, are able to bring all those technologies into one screen. The agent can have all the information brought to them easily, all in one click, and then be able to answer all the customer needs. The agent is happy and that adds to the customer satisfaction. The conclusion of the call is a happy customer, which is what we all want. That’s a great scenario and you need cloud technology to do that because the on-premises world does not deliver a great agent experience.

One-stop service

Gardner:Another thing that the older technologies don't provide is the ability to have a flexible spectrum to move across these channels. Many times when I engage with an organization I might start with an SMS or a text chat, but then if that can’t satisfy my needs, I want to get a deeper level of satisfaction. So it might end up going to a phone call or an interaction on the web, or even a shared desktop, if I’m in IT support, for example.

The newer cloud technology allows you to intercept via different types of channels, but you can also escalate and vary between and among them seamlessly. Why is that flexibility both of benefit to the end-user as well as the agent?

Triant: I always tell companies and customers of ours that you don't have to over-think this; all you have to do is look to your personal life. Most common things that we as users deal with -- such as cell phone companies, cable companies, airlines, -- you can get onto any of these websites and begin chatting, but you can find that your interaction isn’t going well. Before I started at Serenova, I had these experiences where I was dealing with the cable company and -- chat, chat, chat, -- trying to solve my problem. But we couldn't get there, and so then we needed to get on the phone. But they said, “Here is our 800 number, call in.� I’d call in, but I’d have to start a whole new interaction.

Basically, I’d have to re-explain my entire situation. Then, I am talking with one person, and they have to turn around and send me an email, but I am not going to get that email for 30 to 45 minutes because they have to get off the phone, and get into another system and send it off. In the meantime, I am frustrated, I am ticked off -- and guess what I have done now? I have left that brand. This happens across the board. I can even have two totally different types of interactions with the company.

You can use a major airline brand as an example. One of our employees called on the phone trying to resolve an issue that was caused by the airline. They basically said, “No, no, no.� It made her very frustrated. She decided she’s going to fly with a different airline now. She then sent a social post [to that effect], and the airline’s VP of Customer Service answered it, and within minutes they had resolved her issue. But they already spent three hours on the phone trying to push her off through yet another channel because it was a totally different group, a totally different experience.

By leveraging technologies where you can pivot from one channel to another, everyone will get answers quicker. I can be chatting with you, Dana, and realize that we need to escalate to a voice conversation, for example, and I as the agent; I can then turn that conversation into a voice call. You don't have to re-explain yourself and you are like, “Wow, that's cool! Now I’m on the phone with a facility,� and we are able to handle our business.

As agent, I can also pivot simultaneously to an email channel to send you something as simple as a user guide or a series of knowledge-based articles that I may have at my fingertips as an agent. But you and I are still on the phone call. Even better yet, after-the-fact, as a business, I have all the analytics and the business intelligence to say that I had one interaction with Dana that started out as a web chat, pivoted to a phone call, and I simultaneously then sent a knowledge-based article of “X� around this issue and I can report on it all at once. Not three separate interactions, not three separate events -- and I have made you a happy customer.

Gardner:We are clearly talking about enabling the agent to be a super-agent, and they can, of course, be anywhere. I think this is really important now because the function of an agent -- we are already seeing the beginnings of this -- but it's going to certainly include and increase having more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and associated data analytics benefits. The agent then might be a combination of human and AI functions and services.

So we need to be able to integrate at a core communications basis. Without going too far down this futuristic route, isn't it important for that agent to be an assimilation of more assets and more services over time?

Artificial Intelligence plus human support

Triant:I‘m glad you brought up AI and these other technologies. The reality is that we've been through a number of cycles around what this technology is going to do and how it is going to interact with an agent. In my view, and I have been in this world for a while, the agent is the most important piece of customer service and brand engagement. But you have to be able to bring information to them, and you have to be able to give information to your customers so that if there is something simple, get it to them as quick as possible -- but also bring all the relevant information to the agent.

AI has had multiple forms; it has existed for a long time. Sometimes people get confused because of marketing schemes and sales tactics [and view AI] as a way for cost avoidance, to reduce agents and eliminate staff by implementing these technologies. Really the focus is how to create a better customer experience, how to create a better agent experience.

We have had AI in our product for last three years, and we are re-releasing some components that will bring business intelligence to the forefront around the end of the year. What it essentially does is alIow you to see what you're doing as a user out on the Internet and within these technologies. I can see that you have been looking for knowledge-based articles around, for example, “why my refrigerator keeps freezing up and how can I defrost it.� You can see such things on Twitter and you can see these things on Facebook. The amount of information that exists out there is phenomenal and in real-time. I can now gather that information … and I can proactively, as a business, make decisions about what I want to do with you as a potential consumer.

I can even identify you as a consumer within my business, know how many products you have acquired from me, and whether you're a “platinum� customer or even a basic customer, and then make a decision.

For example, I have TVs, refrigerators, washer-dryers and other appliances all from the same manufacturer. So I am a large consumer to that one manufacturer because all of my components are there. But I may be searching a knowledge-based article on why the refrigerator continues to freeze up.

Now I may call in about just the refrigerator, but wouldn't it be great for that agent to know that I own 22 other products from that same company? I'm not just calling about the refrigerator; I am technically calling about the entire brand. My experience around the refrigerator freaking out may change my entire brand decision going forward. That information may prompt me to decide that I want to route that customer to a different pool of agents, based on what their total lifetime value is as a brand-level consumer.

Through AI, by leveraging all this information, I can be a better steward to my customer and to the agent, because I will tell you, an agent will act differently if they understand the importance of that customer or to know that I, Vasili, have spent the last two hours searching online for information, which I posted on Facebook and I posted on Twitter.
Through AI, by leveraging all this information, I can be a better steward to the customer and to the agent.

At that point, the level of my frustration already has reached a certain height on a scale. As an agent, if you knew that, you might treat me differently because you already know that I am frustrated. The agent may be able to realize that you have been looking for some information on this, realize you have been on Facebook and Twitter. They can then say: “I am really sorry, I'm not able to get you answers. Let me see how I can help you, it seems that you are looking online about how to keep the refrigerator from freezing up.�

If I start the conversation that way, I've now diffused a lot of the frustration of the customer. The agent has already started that interaction better. Bringing that information to that person, that’s powerful, that’s business intelligence -- and that’s creating action from all that information.

Keep your cool

Gardner:It’s fascinating that that level of sentiment analysis brings together the best of what AI and machine learning can do, which is to analyze all of these threads of data and information and determine a temperature, if you will, of a person's mood and pass that on to a human agent who can then have the emotional capacity to be ready to help that person get to a lower temperature, be more able to help them overall.

It’s becoming clear to me, Vasili, that this contact center function and CCaaS architectural benefits are far more strategic to an organization than we may have thought, that it is about more than just customer service. This really is the best interface between a company -- and all the resources and assets it has across customer service, marketing, and sales interactions. Do you agree that this has become far more strategic because of these new capabilities?

Triant:Absolutely, and as brands begin to realize the power of what the technology can do for their overall business, it will continue to evolve, and gain pace around global adoption.
As brands begin to realize the power of what the technology can do for their overall businesses, it will continue to evolve and gain global adoption.

We have only scratched the surface on adoption of these cloud technologies within organizations. A majority of brands out there look at these interactions as a cost of doing business. They still seek to reduce that cost versus the lifetime value of both the consumer, as well as the agent experience. This will shift, it is shifting, and there are companies that are thriving by recognizing that entire equation and how to leverage the technologies.

Technology is nothing without action and result. There have been some really cool things that have existed for a while, but they don’t ever produce any result that’s meaningful to the customer so they never get adopted and deployed and ultimately reach some type of a mass proliferation of results.

Gardner:You mentioned cost. Let’s dig into that. For organizations that are attracted to the capabilities and the strategic implications of CCaaS, how do we evaluate it in terms of cost? The old CapEx approach often had a high upfront cost, and then high operating costs, if you have an inefficient call center. Other costs involve losing your customers, losing brand affinity, losing your perception in the market. So when you talk to a prospect or customer, how do you help them tease out the understanding of a pay-as-you-go service as highly efficient? Does the highly empowered agent approach save money, or even make money, and CCaaS becomes not a cost center but a revenue generator?

Cost consciousness

Triant:Interesting point, Dana. When I started at Serenova about five years ago, customers all the time would say, “What’s the cost of owning the technology?� And, “Oh, my, on-premises stuff has already depreciated and I already own it, so it’s cheaper for me to keep it.� That was the conversation pretty much every day. Beginning in 2013, it rapidly started shifting. This shift was mainly driven by the fact that organizations started realizing that consumers want to engage on different channels, and the on-premises guys couldn’t keep up with this demand.

The cost of ownership no longer matters. What matters is that the on-premises guys just literally could not deliver the functionality. And so, whether that's Cisco, Avaya, or Shoretel, they quickly started falling away in consideration for technology companies that were looking to deploy applications for their business to meet these needs.

The cost of ownership quickly disappeared as the main discussion point. Instead it came around to, “What is the solution that you're going to deliver?� Customers that are looking for contact center technologies are beginning to take a cloud-first approach. And once they see the power of CCaaS through demonstration and through some trials of what an agent can do – and it’s all browser-based, there is no client install, there is no equipment on-premises - then it takes on a life of its own. It’s about, “What is the experience going to be? Are these channels all integrated? Can I get it all from one manufacturer?�

Following that, organizations focus on other intricacies around - Can it scale? Can it be redundant? Is it global? But those become architectural concerns for the brands themselves. There is a chunk of the industry that is not looking at these technologies, and they are stuck in brand euphoria or have to stay with on-premises infrastructure, or with a certain vendor because of their name or that they are going to get there someday.

As we have seen, Avaya has declared bankruptcy. Avaya does not have cloud technologies despite their marketing message. So the customers that are in those technologies now realize they have to find a path to keep up with the basic customer service at a global scale. Unfortunately, those customers have to find a path forward and they don’t have one right now.
It's less about cost of ownership and it’s more about the high cost of not doing anything. If I don't do anything, what’s going to be the cost? That cost ultimately becomes - I’m not going to be able to have engagement with my customers because the consumers are changing.
It's less about cost of ownership and it's more about the high cost of not doing anything.

Gardner:What about this idea of considering your contact center function not just as a cost center, but also as a business development function? Am I being too optimistic.

It seems to me that as AI and the best of what human interactions can do combine across multichannels, that this becomes no longer just a cost center for support, a check-off box, but a strategic must-do for any business.

Multi-channel customer interaction

Triant:When an organization reaches the pinnacle of happiness within what these technologies can do, they will realize that no longer do you need to have delineation between a marketing department that answers social media posts, an inside sales department that is only taking calls for upgrades and renewals, and a customer service department that’s dealing with complaints or inbound questions. They will see that you can leverage all the applications across a pool of agents with different skills.

I may have a higher skill around social media than over voice, or I may have a higher skill level around a sales activity, or renewal activity, over customer service problems. I should be able to do any interaction. And potentially one day it'll just be customer interaction department and the channels are just a medium of inbound and outbound choice for a brand.

But you can now take information from whatever you see the customer doing. Each of their actions have a leading indicator, everything has a predictive action prior to the inbound touch, everything does. Now that a brand can see that, it will be able to have “consumer interaction departments,� and it will be properly routed to the right person based on that information. You’ll be able to bring information to that agent that will allow them to answer the customer’s questions.

Gardner:I can see how that agent’s job would be very satisfying and fulfilling when you are that important, when you have that sort of a key role in your organization that empowers people. That’s good news for people that are trying to find those skills and fill those positions.

Vasili, we only have a few minutes left, but I’d love to hear about a couple of examples. It’s one thing to tell, it’s another thing to show. Do we have some examples of organizations that have embraced this concept of a strategic contact center, taken advantage of those multi-channels, added perhaps some intelligence and improved the status and capability of the agents -- all to some business benefit? Walk us through a couple of actual use cases where this has all come together.

Cloud communication culture shift

Triant:No one has reached that level of euphoria per se, but there are definitely companies that are moving in that direction.

It is a culture change, so it takes time. I know as well as anybody what it takes to shift a culture, and it doesn't happen overnight. As an example, there is a ride-hailing company that engages in a different way with their consumer, and their consumer might be different than what you think from the way I am describing it. They use voice systems and SMS and often want to pivot between the two. Our technology actually allows the agent to make that decision even if they aren’t even physically in the same country. They are dynamically spread across multiple countries to answer any question they may need to answer based on time and day.

But they can pivot from what’s predominantly an SMS inbound and outbound communication into a voice interaction, and then they can also follow up with an e-mail, and that’s already happened. Now, it initially started with some SMS inbound and outbound, then they added voice – an interesting move as most people think adding voice is what people are getting away from. What everyone has begun to realize is that live communication ultimately is what everybody looks for in the end to solve the more complex problems.
What everyone has begun to realize is that live communication ultimately is what everybody looks for in the end to solve the more complex problems.

That's one example. Another company that provides the latest technology in food order and delivery initially started with voice-only to order and deliver food. Now they've added SMS confirmations automatically, and e-mail as well for confirmation or for more information from the inbound voice call. And now, once they are an existing customer, they can even start an order from an SMS, and pivot back to a voice call for confirmation -- all within one interaction. They are literally one of the fastest growing alternative food delivery companies, growing at a global scale.

They are deploying agents globally across one technology. They would not be able to do this with legacy technologies because of the expense. When you get into these kinds of high-volume, low-margin businesses, cost matters. When you can have an OpEx model that will scale, you are adding better customer service to the applications, and you are able to allow them to build a profitable model because you are not burning them with high CapEx processes.

Gardner:Before we sign off, you had mentioned your pipeline about your products and services, such as engaging more with AI capabilities toward the end of the year. Could give us a level-set on your roadmap? Where are your products and services now? Where do you go next?

A customer journey begins with insight

Triant:We have been building cloud technologies for 16 years in the contact center space. We released our latest CCaaS platform in March 2016 called CxEngage. We then had a major upgrade to the platform in March of this year, where we take that agent experience to the next level. It’s really our leapfrog in the agent interface and making it easier, bringing in more information to them.

Where we are going next is around the customer journey -- predictive interactions. Some people call it AI, but I will call it “customer journey mapping with predictive action insights.� That’s going to be a big cornerstone in our product, including business analytics. It’s focused around looking at a combination of speech, data and text -- all simultaneously creating predictive actions. This is another core area we are going in an and continue to expand the reach of our platform from a global scale.

At this point, we are a global company. We have the only global cloud platform built on a single software stack with one data pipeline. We now have more users on a pure cloud platform than any of our competitors globally. I know that’s a big statement, but when you look at a pure cloud infrastructure, you're talking in a whole different realm of what services you are able to offer to customers. Our ability to provide a broad reach including to Europe, South Africa, Australia, India, and Singapore -- and still deliver good cloud quality at a reasonable cost and redundant fashion –  we are second to none in that space.

Gardner:I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how CCaaS capabilities are becoming more powerful as a result of cloud computing, multimode communications channels, and the ability to provide optimized and contextual user experiences.

And we’ve learned how new levels of insight and intelligence are now making CCaaS approaches able to meet the highest user experience requirements of today and tomorrow. So please join me now in thanking our guest, Vasili Triant, CEO of Serenova in Austin, Texas.

Triant:Thank you very much, Dana. I appreciate you having me today.

Gardner:This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing series of BriefingsDirect discussions. A big thank you to our sponsor, Serenova, as well as to you, our audience. Do come back next time and thanks for listening.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Serenova.

Transcript of a discussion on how contact center-as-a-service capabilities are becoming more powerful to provide optimized and contextual user experiences for agents and customers. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.

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How confluence of cloud, UC and data-driven insights newly empowers contact center agents

How confluence of cloud, UC and data-driven insights newly empowers contact center agents

The next BriefingsDirect customer experience insights discussion explores how Contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) capabilities are becoming more powerful as a result of leveraging cloud computing, multi-mode communications channels, and the ability to provide optimized and contextual user experiences.

More than ever, businesses have to make difficult and complex decisions about how to best source their customer-facing services. Which apps and services, what data and resources should be in the cloud or on-premises -- or in some combination -- are among the most consequential choices business leaders now face. As the confluence of cloud and unified communications (UC) -- along with data-driven analytics -- gain traction, the contact center function stands out.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. 

We’ll now hear why traditional contact center technology has become outdated, inflexible and cumbersome, and why CCaaS is becoming more popular in meeting the heightened user experience requirements of today.
Here to share more on the next chapter of contact center and customer service enhancements, is Vasili Triant, CEO of Serenovain Austin, Texas. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the new trends reshaping the contact center function?

Triant:What’s changed in the world of contact center and customer service is that we’re seeing a generational spread -- everything from baby boomers all the way now to Gen Z.

With the proliferation of smartphones through the early 2000s, and new technologies and new channels -- things like WeChat and Viber -- all these customers are now potential inbound discussions with brands. And they all have different mediums that they want to communicate on. It’s no longer just phone or e-mail: It’s phone, e-mail, web chat, SMS, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and there are other channels coming around the corner that we don't even know about yet.

Triant
When you take all of these folks -- customers or brands -- and you take all of these technologies that consumers want to engage with across all of these different channels – it’s simple, they want to be heard. It's now the responsibility of brands to determine what is the best way to respond and it’s not always one-to-one.

So it’s not a phone call for a phone call, it’s maybe an SMS to a phone call, or a phone call to a web chat -- whatever those [multi-channels] may be. The complexity of how we communicate with customers has increased. The needs have changed dramatically. And the legacy types of technologies out there, they can't keep up -- that's what's really driven the shift, the paradigm shift, within the contact center space.

Gardner:It’s interesting that the new business channels for marketing and capturing business are growing more complex. They still have to then match on the back end how they support those users, interact with them, and carry them through any sort of process -- whether it's on-boarding and engaging, or it’s supporting and servicing them.

What we’re requiring then is a different architecture to support all of that. It seems very auspicious that we have architectural improvements right along with these new requirements.

Triant:We have two things that have collided at the same time – cloud technologies and the growth of truly global companies.  

Most of the new channels that have rolled out are in the cloud. I mean, think about it -- Facebook is a cloud technology, Twitter is a cloud technology. WeChat, Viber, all these things, they are all cloud technologies. It’s becoming a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based world. The easiest and best way to integrate with these other cloud technologies is via the cloud -- versus on-premises. So what began as the shift of on-premises technology to cloud contact center -- and that really began in 2011-2012 – has rapidly picked up speed with the adoption of multi-channels as a primary method of communication.

The only way to keep up with the pace of development of all these channels is through cloud technologies because you need to develop an agile world, you need to be able to get the upgrades out to customers in a quick fashion, in an easy fashion, and in an inexpensive fashion. That's the core difference between the on-premises world and the cloud world.

At the same time, we are no longer talking about a United States company, an Australia company, or a UK company -- we are talking about everything as global brands, or global businesses. Customer service is global now, and no one cares about borders or countries when it comes to communication with a brand.
Customer service is global now, and no one cares about borders or countries when it comes to communications with a brand.


Gardner:We have been speaking about this through the context of the end-user, the consumer. But this architecture and its ability to leverage cloud also benefits the agent, the person who is responsible for keeping that end-user happy and providing them with the utmost in intelligent services. So how does the new architecture also aid and abet the agent.

Triant: The agent is frankly one of the most important pieces to this entire puzzle. We talk a lot about channels and how to engage with the customer, but that's really what we call listening. But even in just simple day-to-day human interactions, one of the most important things is how you communicate back. There has been a series of time-and-motion studies done within contact centers, within brands -- and you can even look at your personal experiences. You don’t have to read reports to understand this.
The baseline for how an interaction will begin and end and whether that will be a happy or a poor interaction with the brand, is going to be dependent on the agents’ state of mind. If I call up and I speak to “Joe,� and he starts the conversation, he is in a great mood and he is having a great day, then my conversation will most likely end in a positive interaction because it started that way.

But if someone is frustrated, they had a rough day, they can’t find their information, their computers have been crashing or rebooting, then the interaction is guaranteed to end up poor. You hear this all the time, “Oh, can you wait a moment, my systems are loading. Oh, I can’t get you an answer, that screen is not coming up. I can't see your account information.� The agents are frustrated because they can’t do their job, and that frustration then blends into your conversation.

So using the technology to make it easy for the agent to do their job is essential. If they have to go from one screen to another screen to conduct one interaction with the customer -- they are going to be frustrated, and that will lead to a poor experience with the customer.

The cloud technologies like Serenova, which is web-based, are able to bring all those technologies into one screen. The agent can have all the information brought to them easily, all in one click, and then be able to answer all the customer needs. The agent is happy and that adds to the customer satisfaction. The conclusion of the call is a happy customer, which is what we all want. That’s a great scenario and you need cloud technology to do that because the on-premises world does not deliver a great agent experience.

One-stop service

Gardner:Another thing that the older technologies don't provide is the ability to have a flexible spectrum to move across these channels. Many times when I engage with an organization I might start with an SMS or a text chat, but then if that can’t satisfy my needs, I want to get a deeper level of satisfaction. So it might end up going to a phone call or an interaction on the web, or even a shared desktop, if I’m in IT support, for example.

The newer cloud technology allows you to intercept via different types of channels, but you can also escalate and vary between and among them seamlessly. Why is that flexibility both of benefit to the end-user as well as the agent?

Triant: I always tell companies and customers of ours that you don't have to over-think this; all you have to do is look to your personal life. Most common things that we as users deal with -- such as cell phone companies, cable companies, airlines, -- you can get onto any of these websites and begin chatting, but you can find that your interaction isn’t going well. Before I started at Serenova, I had these experiences where I was dealing with the cable company and -- chat, chat, chat, -- trying to solve my problem. But we couldn't get there, and so then we needed to get on the phone. But they said, “Here is our 800 number, call in.� I’d call in, but I’d have to start a whole new interaction.

Basically, I’d have to re-explain my entire situation. Then, I am talking with one person, and they have to turn around and send me an email, but I am not going to get that email for 30 to 45 minutes because they have to get off the phone, and get into another system and send it off. In the meantime, I am frustrated, I am ticked off -- and guess what I have done now? I have left that brand. This happens across the board. I can even have two totally different types of interactions with the company.

You can use a major airline brand as an example. One of our employees called on the phone trying to resolve an issue that was caused by the airline. They basically said, “No, no, no.� It made her very frustrated. She decided she’s going to fly with a different airline now. She then sent a social post [to that effect], and the airline’s VP of Customer Service answered it, and within minutes they had resolved her issue. But they already spent three hours on the phone trying to push her off through yet another channel because it was a totally different group, a totally different experience.

By leveraging technologies where you can pivot from one channel to another, everyone will get answers quicker. I can be chatting with you, Dana, and realize that we need to escalate to a voice conversation, for example, and I as the agent; I can then turn that conversation into a voice call. You don't have to re-explain yourself and you are like, “Wow, that's cool! Now I’m on the phone with a facility,� and we are able to handle our business.

As agent, I can also pivot simultaneously to an email channel to send you something as simple as a user guide or a series of knowledge-based articles that I may have at my fingertips as an agent. But you and I are still on the phone call. Even better yet, after-the-fact, as a business, I have all the analytics and the business intelligence to say that I had one interaction with Dana that started out as a web chat, pivoted to a phone call, and I simultaneously then sent a knowledge-based article of “X� around this issue and I can report on it all at once. Not three separate interactions, not three separate events -- and I have made you a happy customer.

Gardner:We are clearly talking about enabling the agent to be a super-agent, and they can, of course, be anywhere. I think this is really important now because the function of an agent -- we are already seeing the beginnings of this -- but it's going to certainly include and increase having more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and associated data analytics benefits. The agent then might be a combination of human and AI functions and services.

So we need to be able to integrate at a core communications basis. Without going too far down this futuristic route, isn't it important for that agent to be an assimilation of more assets and more services over time?

Artificial Intelligence plus human support

Triant:I‘m glad you brought up AI and these other technologies. The reality is that we've been through a number of cycles around what this technology is going to do and how it is going to interact with an agent. In my view, and I have been in this world for a while, the agent is the most important piece of customer service and brand engagement. But you have to be able to bring information to them, and you have to be able to give information to your customers so that if there is something simple, get it to them as quick as possible -- but also bring all the relevant information to the agent.

AI has had multiple forms; it has existed for a long time. Sometimes people get confused because of marketing schemes and sales tactics [and view AI] as a way for cost avoidance, to reduce agents and eliminate staff by implementing these technologies. Really the focus is how to create a better customer experience, how to create a better agent experience.

We have had AI in our product for last three years, and we are re-releasing some components that will bring business intelligence to the forefront around the end of the year. What it essentially does is alIow you to see what you're doing as a user out on the Internet and within these technologies. I can see that you have been looking for knowledge-based articles around, for example, “why my refrigerator keeps freezing up and how can I defrost it.� You can see such things on Twitter and you can see these things on Facebook. The amount of information that exists out there is phenomenal and in real-time. I can now gather that information … and I can proactively, as a business, make decisions about what I want to do with you as a potential consumer.

I can even identify you as a consumer within my business, know how many products you have acquired from me, and whether you're a “platinum� customer or even a basic customer, and then make a decision.

For example, I have TVs, refrigerators, washer-dryers and other appliances all from the same manufacturer. So I am a large consumer to that one manufacturer because all of my components are there. But I may be searching a knowledge-based article on why the refrigerator continues to freeze up.

Now I may call in about just the refrigerator, but wouldn't it be great for that agent to know that I own 22 other products from that same company? I'm not just calling about the refrigerator; I am technically calling about the entire brand. My experience around the refrigerator freaking out may change my entire brand decision going forward. That information may prompt me to decide that I want to route that customer to a different pool of agents, based on what their total lifetime value is as a brand-level consumer.

Through AI, by leveraging all this information, I can be a better steward to my customer and to the agent, because I will tell you, an agent will act differently if they understand the importance of that customer or to know that I, Vasili, have spent the last two hours searching online for information, which I posted on Facebook and I posted on Twitter.
Through AI, by leveraging all this information, I can be a better steward to the customer and to the agent.

At that point, the level of my frustration already has reached a certain height on a scale. As an agent, if you knew that, you might treat me differently because you already know that I am frustrated. The agent may be able to realize that you have been looking for some information on this, realize you have been on Facebook and Twitter. They can then say: “I am really sorry, I'm not able to get you answers. Let me see how I can help you, it seems that you are looking online about how to keep the refrigerator from freezing up.�

If I start the conversation that way, I've now diffused a lot of the frustration of the customer. The agent has already started that interaction better. Bringing that information to that person, that’s powerful, that’s business intelligence -- and that’s creating action from all that information.

Keep your cool

Gardner:It’s fascinating that that level of sentiment analysis brings together the best of what AI and machine learning can do, which is to analyze all of these threads of data and information and determine a temperature, if you will, of a person's mood and pass that on to a human agent who can then have the emotional capacity to be ready to help that person get to a lower temperature, be more able to help them overall.

It’s becoming clear to me, Vasili, that this contact center function and CCaaS architectural benefits are far more strategic to an organization than we may have thought, that it is about more than just customer service. This really is the best interface between a company -- and all the resources and assets it has across customer service, marketing, and sales interactions. Do you agree that this has become far more strategic because of these new capabilities?

Triant:Absolutely, and as brands begin to realize the power of what the technology can do for their overall business, it will continue to evolve, and gain pace around global adoption.
As brands begin to realize the power of what the technology can do for their overall businesses, it will continue to evolve and gain global adoption.

We have only scratched the surface on adoption of these cloud technologies within organizations. A majority of brands out there look at these interactions as a cost of doing business. They still seek to reduce that cost versus the lifetime value of both the consumer, as well as the agent experience. This will shift, it is shifting, and there are companies that are thriving by recognizing that entire equation and how to leverage the technologies.

Technology is nothing without action and result. There have been some really cool things that have existed for a while, but they don’t ever produce any result that’s meaningful to the customer so they never get adopted and deployed and ultimately reach some type of a mass proliferation of results.

Gardner:You mentioned cost. Let’s dig into that. For organizations that are attracted to the capabilities and the strategic implications of CCaaS, how do we evaluate it in terms of cost? The old CapEx approach often had a high upfront cost, and then high operating costs, if you have an inefficient call center. Other costs involve losing your customers, losing brand affinity, losing your perception in the market. So when you talk to a prospect or customer, how do you help them tease out the understanding of a pay-as-you-go service as highly efficient? Does the highly empowered agent approach save money, or even make money, and CCaaS becomes not a cost center but a revenue generator?

Cost consciousness

Triant:Interesting point, Dana. When I started at Serenova about five years ago, customers all the time would say, “What’s the cost of owning the technology?� And, “Oh, my, on-premises stuff has already depreciated and I already own it, so it’s cheaper for me to keep it.� That was the conversation pretty much every day. Beginning in 2013, it rapidly started shifting. This shift was mainly driven by the fact that organizations started realizing that consumers want to engage on different channels, and the on-premises guys couldn’t keep up with this demand.

The cost of ownership no longer matters. What matters is that the on-premises guys just literally could not deliver the functionality. And so, whether that's Cisco, Avaya, or Shoretel, they quickly started falling away in consideration for technology companies that were looking to deploy applications for their business to meet these needs.

The cost of ownership quickly disappeared as the main discussion point. Instead it came around to, “What is the solution that you're going to deliver?� Customers that are looking for contact center technologies are beginning to take a cloud-first approach. And once they see the power of CCaaS through demonstration and through some trials of what an agent can do – and it’s all browser-based, there is no client install, there is no equipment on-premises - then it takes on a life of its own. It’s about, “What is the experience going to be? Are these channels all integrated? Can I get it all from one manufacturer?�

Following that, organizations focus on other intricacies around - Can it scale? Can it be redundant? Is it global? But those become architectural concerns for the brands themselves. There is a chunk of the industry that is not looking at these technologies, and they are stuck in brand euphoria or have to stay with on-premises infrastructure, or with a certain vendor because of their name or that they are going to get there someday.

As we have seen, Avaya has declared bankruptcy. Avaya does not have cloud technologies despite their marketing message. So the customers that are in those technologies now realize they have to find a path to keep up with the basic customer service at a global scale. Unfortunately, those customers have to find a path forward and they don’t have one right now.
It's less about cost of ownership and it’s more about the high cost of not doing anything. If I don't do anything, what’s going to be the cost? That cost ultimately becomes - I’m not going to be able to have engagement with my customers because the consumers are changing.
It's less about cost of ownership and it's more about the high cost of not doing anything.

Gardner:What about this idea of considering your contact center function not just as a cost center, but also as a business development function? Am I being too optimistic.

It seems to me that as AI and the best of what human interactions can do combine across multichannels, that this becomes no longer just a cost center for support, a check-off box, but a strategic must-do for any business.

Multi-channel customer interaction

Triant:When an organization reaches the pinnacle of happiness within what these technologies can do, they will realize that no longer do you need to have delineation between a marketing department that answers social media posts, an inside sales department that is only taking calls for upgrades and renewals, and a customer service department that’s dealing with complaints or inbound questions. They will see that you can leverage all the applications across a pool of agents with different skills.

I may have a higher skill around social media than over voice, or I may have a higher skill level around a sales activity, or renewal activity, over customer service problems. I should be able to do any interaction. And potentially one day it'll just be customer interaction department and the channels are just a medium of inbound and outbound choice for a brand.

But you can now take information from whatever you see the customer doing. Each of their actions have a leading indicator, everything has a predictive action prior to the inbound touch, everything does. Now that a brand can see that, it will be able to have “consumer interaction departments,� and it will be properly routed to the right person based on that information. You’ll be able to bring information to that agent that will allow them to answer the customer’s questions.

Gardner:I can see how that agent’s job would be very satisfying and fulfilling when you are that important, when you have that sort of a key role in your organization that empowers people. That’s good news for people that are trying to find those skills and fill those positions.

Vasili, we only have a few minutes left, but I’d love to hear about a couple of examples. It’s one thing to tell, it’s another thing to show. Do we have some examples of organizations that have embraced this concept of a strategic contact center, taken advantage of those multi-channels, added perhaps some intelligence and improved the status and capability of the agents -- all to some business benefit? Walk us through a couple of actual use cases where this has all come together.

Cloud communication culture shift

Triant:No one has reached that level of euphoria per se, but there are definitely companies that are moving in that direction.

It is a culture change, so it takes time. I know as well as anybody what it takes to shift a culture, and it doesn't happen overnight. As an example, there is a ride-hailing company that engages in a different way with their consumer, and their consumer might be different than what you think from the way I am describing it. They use voice systems and SMS and often want to pivot between the two. Our technology actually allows the agent to make that decision even if they aren’t even physically in the same country. They are dynamically spread across multiple countries to answer any question they may need to answer based on time and day.

But they can pivot from what’s predominantly an SMS inbound and outbound communication into a voice interaction, and then they can also follow up with an e-mail, and that’s already happened. Now, it initially started with some SMS inbound and outbound, then they added voice – an interesting move as most people think adding voice is what people are getting away from. What everyone has begun to realize is that live communication ultimately is what everybody looks for in the end to solve the more complex problems.
What everyone has begun to realize is that live communication ultimately is what everybody looks for in the end to solve the more complex problems.

That's one example. Another company that provides the latest technology in food order and delivery initially started with voice-only to order and deliver food. Now they've added SMS confirmations automatically, and e-mail as well for confirmation or for more information from the inbound voice call. And now, once they are an existing customer, they can even start an order from an SMS, and pivot back to a voice call for confirmation -- all within one interaction. They are literally one of the fastest growing alternative food delivery companies, growing at a global scale.

They are deploying agents globally across one technology. They would not be able to do this with legacy technologies because of the expense. When you get into these kinds of high-volume, low-margin businesses, cost matters. When you can have an OpEx model that will scale, you are adding better customer service to the applications, and you are able to allow them to build a profitable model because you are not burning them with high CapEx processes.

Gardner:Before we sign off, you had mentioned your pipeline about your products and services, such as engaging more with AI capabilities toward the end of the year. Could give us a level-set on your roadmap? Where are your products and services now? Where do you go next?

A customer journey begins with insight

Triant:We have been building cloud technologies for 16 years in the contact center space. We released our latest CCaaS platform in March 2016 called CxEngage. We then had a major upgrade to the platform in March of this year, where we take that agent experience to the next level. It’s really our leapfrog in the agent interface and making it easier, bringing in more information to them.

Where we are going next is around the customer journey -- predictive interactions. Some people call it AI, but I will call it “customer journey mapping with predictive action insights.� That’s going to be a big cornerstone in our product, including business analytics. It’s focused around looking at a combination of speech, data and text -- all simultaneously creating predictive actions. This is another core area we are going in an and continue to expand the reach of our platform from a global scale.

At this point, we are a global company. We have the only global cloud platform built on a single software stack with one data pipeline. We now have more users on a pure cloud platform than any of our competitors globally. I know that’s a big statement, but when you look at a pure cloud infrastructure, you're talking in a whole different realm of what services you are able to offer to customers. Our ability to provide a broad reach including to Europe, South Africa, Australia, India, and Singapore -- and still deliver good cloud quality at a reasonable cost and redundant fashion –  we are second to none in that space.

Gardner:I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how CCaaS capabilities are becoming more powerful as a result of cloud computing, multimode communications channels, and the ability to provide optimized and contextual user experiences.

And we’ve learned how new levels of insight and intelligence are now making CCaaS approaches able to meet the highest user experience requirements of today and tomorrow. So please join me now in thanking our guest, Vasili Triant, CEO of Serenova in Austin, Texas.

Triant:Thank you very much, Dana. I appreciate you having me today.

Gardner:This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing series of BriefingsDirect discussions. A big thank you to our sponsor, Serenova, as well as to you, our audience. Do come back next time and thanks for listening.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or  download a copy. Sponsor: Serenova.

Transcript of a discussion on how contact center-as-a-service capabilities are becoming more powerful to provide optimized and contextual user experiences for agents and customers. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.

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