Edible Robots: Researchers from Switzerland Work to Deliver Medicines in the Intestinal Tract

We know that robots play a key role in medicine by helping to conduct surgery by being able to conduct more precise and predictable movements than a surgeon as well as in pacemakers that can help regulate a person’s heartbeat. The healthcare industry spent $4.5 billion in 2016, according to IDC. But that’s only the beginning. In fact, the amount spent on robots is expected to grow as new types of robots are used in hospitals and clinics, globally.

So what is new in robots? Edible robots that can deliver medicine or conduct other medical procedures. In particular, we may find them crawling around inside our intestinal tract say researchers from Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, which was led by graduate student Jun Shintake.

How do they work? These tiny edible and digestible robotics are made of gelatin. Actuators are what is responsible for their movement. However, they are not made like the typical metal robots powered by a motor. Instead, what causes these edible gelatin actuators to move is air or chemicals. The research talks about combining these actuators with other advancements in edible electronics. What might that look like? Perhaps the might be batteries that can safely pass through a digestive tract, or chips and cameras that can be ingested. These could make for a fully edible robot says Recode.

École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland poised to make different kinds of food substances that may be ingested and roboticized. Are there any ingestible electronics on the market? Yes, and they include pills with ingestible sensors on them that can track patient’s compliance with taking medication. Often what affects someone’s ability to recover from a situation is their ability to comply with what is prescribed. And as humans, we sometimes forget to take very things that will help us. In addition, there are some robots that contain a camera that is small enough to be swallowed and record activity in a person’s digestive tract to help diagnosis issues that scopes can’t detect, like bleeding.

So as our ability to detect what’s going on in the body gets more sophisticated, so do the robots designed to help us heal. What will be next? It’s difficult to tell, but always interesting to see what scientists will discover!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive | Innovation and Transformation Center (ITC), Salesforce.com

 
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Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Has The Ability to Search Photos by Content

The term artificial intelligence was coined 60 year ago. But now its starting to deliver. Lumos’s computer vision platform was initially used to improve the experience for visually impaired members of the Facebook community. Lumos is now powering image content search for all users. What does this means to you? You can now search for images on Facebook with key words that describe the contents of a photo, rather than being limited by tags and captions.

How does this work? It starts with the huge task of computational training. For the object recognition used in Facebook’s image search, the artificial intelligence (AI) system started with a small set of 130,000 public photos shared on Facebook. Using the annotated photos the system could learn which pixel patterns correspond to particular subjects. It then went on to use the tens of millions of photos on Facebook. So what this means is that the caption-reading technology trained a deep neural network though public photos shared on Facebook. The model essentially matches search descriptors to features pulled from photos with some degree of probability. You can now search for photos based on Facebook AI’s assessment of their content, not just based on how humans happened to describe the photos with text when they posted them.

How could this be used? Say you were searching on a dress you really liked in a video. Using the search it could be related back to something on Marketplace or even connect you directly with an ad-partner to improve customer experiences while keeping revenue growth afloat. So it seems it can help both customers, customer experience and companies selling things as well as ad partners.

What else is new? Facebook released the text-to-speech tool last April for visually impaired users so they could use the tools to understand the contents of photos. Then, the system could tell you that a photo involved a stage and lights, but it wasn’t very good at relating actions to objects. But now the Facebook team has improved that painstakingly labeling 130,000 photos pulled from the platform. Facebook trained a computer vision model to identify 12 actions happening in the photos. So for instance, instead of just hearing it was “a stage,” the blind person would hear “people playing instruments” or “people dancing on a stage” or “people walking” or “people riding horses.” This provides contextually relevancy that was before not possible.

You could imagine one day being able to upload a photo of your morning bagel and this technology could identify the nutritional value of that bagel because we were able to detect, segment, and identify what was in the picture.

So it seems the race is on for services not just for image recognition, but speech recognition, machine-driven translation, natural language understanding, and more. What’s your favorite AI vendor?

@Drnatalie, VP, Program Executive, Salesforce ITC

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The Smart Home Race: Who Will Win?

Here are three main smart home contenders:

  • Apple’s HomeKit
  • Amazon’s Echo, Tap and Dot and
  • Google’s Home.

The main issues? Consumer confusion, which adoption follows. There is, unfortunately, technological fragmentation within the connected home ecosystem. Currently, there are many networks, standards, and devices being used to connect the smart home, creating interoperability problems (the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the customer) and this makes it confusing for the consumer to set up and control multiple devices.

Until interoperability is solved, consumers will have difficulty choosing smart home devices and systems. So here’s how different companies are approaching the market place. Some make it really easy for the customer, while others require a more technical approach.

Apple’s HomeKit

Tim Cook demonstrated how he uses Apple’s HomeKit in his personal life to give potential or current users some ideas on how they can apply it. During Cook’s quarterly earnings conference call he talked about how he has integrated HomeKit products, and the iOS 10 Home app, into his home routine. There are about 100 HomeKit-compatible products available.

Ways to use Apple’s homeKit? When you wake up and say good morning to Siri, your house lights can be programmed to come on and the coffee machine can be started! Though there don’t seem to be any coffee makers on the market with integrated HomeKit support, it’s likely he may be using  smart plug. There are plenty of HomeKit smart plug options on the market— AppleInsider has reviewed both the Elgato Eve Energy and iHome iPS5 SmartPlug. There are two options For HomeKit lighting: bulbs and switches. Philips Hue is a popular option bulb option. It  comes in a starter pack with three bulbs and a HomeKit-enabled hub for ~$199.99.

As far as switches go, the Lutron Caseta Wireless in-wall dimmer kit is HomeKit compatible. Like Philips Hue, it needs a hub to be connected to a home router for HomeKit support— the hub is included in the ~$190 bundle. Smart plugs are only useful with appliances that automatically turn on and operate when they are connected to an outlet. If the connected device requires any sort of manual input, HomeKit and Siri integration don’t work. Cook also mentioned that when he relaxes in the evening, he asks Siri to adjust the lighting and turn on the fireplace. And upon leaving the house, Cooks says by simply tapping on his iPhone, the lights turn off, the thermostat turns down and the doors lock.

Using HomeKit to turn down the thermostat, a common device is the Ecobee3 second-generation model, ~$250. When it comes to door locks, you could consider the $215 Schlage Sense and $230 Kwikset Premis. These both have numeric keypad entry. The $230 August Smart Lock integrates with many existing door locks and makes for simpler installation. When Cook talks about the simple tap” on his iPhone, in “Apple language” he is creating a “Scene” with the Home app in iOS 10.

What is a “scene?” An example is when Cook says his “Hey Siri, good morning” greeting, it turns on the lights and a smart plug to brew coffee. How does that work? You’d open the Home app in iOS 10, tap the plus button in the top right, and simply choose “Add Scene.” Then you’d create a custom scene name and choose which accessories are powered on or off. For more on this, check out the AppleInsider.

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 10.18.48 AM Source: AppleInsider

Amazon’s Echo, Tap and Dot and Amazon Prime Services

Amazon’s Echo offers tiered-speaker in three heights – large, medium and small. Using Alexa, Echo is your personal, cloud-based assistant. Alexa has finely tuned automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) engines that recognize and respond to voice requests to add intelligent voice control to any connected product that has a microphone and speaker. In addition to Echo, Amazon offers Amazon Tap and Amazon Dot (which has been updated.)

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 10.21.00 AM                                     Echo                      Tap                      Dot

Source: Pocket-link

Echo

Why is Amazon considered by some to be at the helm of the smart home arena? Not only is Amazon cleverly locking customers into its wider Prime ecosystem, but Alexa adds additional value. It’s easy to set-up, on average about a minute or so. You just plug Echo it into a wall outlet using the included power adapter, wait for the spinning light ring on top to go from blue to orange and then Alexa will greet you. Amazon Echo is great if you just want to have a stationary speaker that doubles as an always-on personal assistant. It provides room-filling audio that’s good for casual listening. When it’s connected to Wi-Fi, you can ask it all sorts of questions and control your devices.

Echo works with devices such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, Nest, ecobee, and Wink. Here’s where you can learn about how to set-up your smart home devices. Some products that work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub. If you are still confused, you can book an appointment with an Alexa expert. It’s free and you get:

  • Personalized smart home solution recommendations from a trained Amazon employee 
  • Home WiFi assessment to identify and troubleshoot any issues 
  • In-home demo of popular smart home products 
  • Appointment typically lasts 45 minutes 
  • But installation, troubleshooting, and setup of devices not included.

Tap

Amazon Tap provides a similar sound experience, but uses a charging cradle in order to be portable (there’s no cord.) Because it’s not always plugged into power, always-on Alexa isn’t available though. You have to push a mic button to access the service. Tap is great if you’re going to the beach or are always on the go.

Dot

Amazon Dot is basically the top section of Amazon Echo. Dot supports always-on Alexa, connects to the cloud to stream music, controls your smart home devices, and does all the same stuff as Echo. The main difference between Dot and Echo is that the full-size speaker is gone. Instead, customers would hook Dot up to their own audio setup (via out jack or Bluetooth), so they can use Alexa with their existing speakers. That tiny speaker doesn’t output much audio; it’s only for Alexa voice feedback (which requires Wi-Fi.)

Amazon Prime and Alexa

Amazon’s Echo products are designed to be an access point to the Amazon Prime network. The monetization strategy is not really on the hardware of the Echo devices. Instead it’s really focusing on connecting users directly to the Prime network without having to go through an iPhone or Google search engine. And Alexa is the brain behind Echo. It’s smart because the more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. And because Echo is always connected, updates are delivered automatically.

What can Alexa do? Alexa has skills. While I’ve given a list, you will find over 4,000 here. Alexa can help you find things on yelp, give you movie showtimes, order a pizza from Domino’s, request a song from Spotify or Pandora, request a ride from Lyft, open your garage with Garageio, provide Samsung SmartThings support, play Jeopardy, update your Google Calendar, read you Audible audiobooks, convert text-to-speech for Kindle eBooks…

Alexa gives you a guide on great things to do in some of your favorite cities like New York, London, Boston, act as a travel guide, be your vacation rental virtual concierge, give you the next arrival for the route and stop you specify in a city like San Francisco, tells you door buster hours and sale hours for Black Friday for major retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, Staples, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco, Gamestop, Home Depot, Lowe’s…

Alexa gives you interesting relevant health and nutrition information, ask beer snob to look up a specific beer, get information like a price, rating, location, or a short description from a Wine Sommelier, quickly review your task lists, find out what is due, and add tasks, give you an inspiration quote or provide a mediation…

Alexa also gives you based on the weather of the location you request it will recommend what to wear so that you don’t feel too cold or too hot, switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or space heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie and order the right products that work with Alexa.

With the free Alexa App on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, you can easily set-up and manage your Echo. With the app, you can view shopping and to-do lists while on the go as well as control your timers and set custom tones for your alarms…

Google’s Home

Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own Google, always ready to help. Just start with, “Ok Google.”

The Google Home is centered on targeting users with ads. Google is one of the largest companies in the world to rely on ads as its primary stream of revenue. They garnered $79.4 billion from its AdSense division on its earnings, with the overwhelming majority of the Alphabet parent’s total revenue. While Alphabet bought the device makers Nest and Dropcam, Google Home doesn’t have the built-in user base that Apple has with iPhone.

What does Google Home do? A simple voice request triggers Google Home to play music, podcasts or radio from services like Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora and TuneIn. Thanks to Google’s rich history in search, Google Home is ready for your questions. Get real-time answers including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, local businesses – you can enjoy entertainment, manage tasks, plan your day, control your home, get information like nutrition information for ingredients or food or ask about current individual stock prices or current points of an index, like the NASDAQ or ask for scores, live updates, or next game date, location and time for your favorite sports teams.

Their compatible smart home partners include nest, Phillips, IFTTT, WEMO, Honeywell and SmartThings. Streaming devices include: Google Chromecast, VIZIO, TOSHIBA, PHILLIPS, Sony, Bang and Olufsen, BO & Play, Grundig, polk, RUAMFELD. You can watch videos and photos on youtube, NETFLIX, and Google Photos.

If you want to learn more about how to use Google Home, click here. Essentially there are three main steps:

  1. Plug power cable into your Google Home device
  2. Plug the cable into a wall socket
  3. Download and run the Google Home app on a phone or tablet.

The newly-designed Google Home app is your one-stop destination to discover all of Google Home’s content and features. DayDream is Google’s VR headset and controller that lets you explore new worlds, kick back in your personal VR cinema, and play games that put you at the center of action. When your phone’s screen becomes your big screen, you can get fully immersed in your favorite shows, movies, VR videos…

It will be interesting to see who wins in the smart home race! What’s your choice? And why?

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP, Program Executive, Salesforce ITC

 

 

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Digital Disruption is Gonna Get You Unless You Prepare Your Brand Now

Disruption surrounds the marketplace. As companies face disruption in their industry, the race to stay ahead of or beat the competition is quickening. Software is one of the ways companies competitively automate, manage and analyze business processes, data and content and scale operations. And to successfully compete in this increasingly digital world, enterprises need to transform slow, error-prone operations from manual, analog processes to automated digital workflows and document generation.

However, as various departments in companies buy software applications, often the lines of business are choosing the best of breed solutions and platforms which don’t necessarily easily integrate with each other or the main IT systems. This results in companies having many separate software systems. With people distributed over large geographies, it can be difficult to coordinate work across the business and thus defend against competitors.

While obtaining the right software for each department and use case is important, this often leaves the organization without a way to easily connect the work flows across departments and lines of business to get the return on investment. What is the key to winning the digital transformation race? A digital business process flow platform.

Businesses that drive process efficiency and effectiveness across desperate software solutions and across every aspect of their business will be uniquely qualified to position themselves to exceed and excel. To do this, companies need a platform to digitally integrate, sync and create sophisticated business processes independent of the variety of different software solutions throughout the various departments in a company.

The issue is however, not just to connect SaaS applications, but to also provide process automation to make sure the processes from each of those applications work together well. Without a digital workflow and content automation (WCA) platform and corresponding analytics, it can be very difficult to make sure the investments the organization has made in separate software solutions are actually returning the investment. Nintex does just that.

Competitive Positioning

Nintex’s key differentiator is they offer a digital transformation platform comprised of Nintex Workflow Cloud and Nintex Hawkeye. The host of Nintex’s digital SaaS connectors allows clients to rapidly build and deploy a digital workflow and content automation (WCA) and cloud transformation platform without having to write code. The business result is the ability to acquire customers faster, increase the pace of innovation, as well as control and manage expenses. The platform allows organizations to automate their business processes quickly and easily. And the drag and drop interface encourages quicker adoption of the Nintex solution. Importantly, any workflow automated with Nintex Workflow can be deployed to native mobile platforms (Android, iOS and Windows) in a rapid and simple manner.

The Nintex platform automates processes on and between enterprise content management systems and collaboration platforms, connecting on-premises, cloud workflows and mobile users. Two hundred of the Fortune 500 companies use Nintex, including more than 7,000 public and private organizations in 90 countries, running millions of workflows daily.

For companies that are not ready to move everything to the cloud, Nintex also allows companies to create workflows that stretch across both cloud-based and on-premises systems and services, to distribute work to multiple sites for multiple purposes and move data and workflows to the cloud when they are ready.

Nintex’s overall power is as a Digital Business Platform (DBP). Nintex combines powerful Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) capabilities in one platform. (Editor’s Note: WCA is an emerging technology category that consolidates the legacy technology markets of Business Process Management (BPM) and Customer Communications Management (CCM).) Nintex offers advanced WCA for its easy-to-use workflow and document generation capabilities and workflow analytics (workflow process intelligence).

Target Markets and Industry Vertical Solutions

Target markets include Communications and Media, Education, Financial Services, Government, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Legal, Manufacturing, Professionals Services, Retail Services and Technology industries. Nintex solutions are designed for a range of lines of business within organizations, including Sales and Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, IT and Administration, Customer Service, Field Service and Safety.

High-payback document processes that are faster to implement with a system like Nintex include those in Table 1, customer-facing processes as well as back-office processes (see Table 2a and 2b.) What’s important to note is that the implementation timeframe and costs are fractions of a traditional enterprise-level IT system and instead of using a single, formal, top-down development effort, they are evolved with rapid iterations. This takes a page out of the lean-process, design-thinking community, where rapid iterations and pivoting is key to success and gives large organizations not used to the start-up mentality the edge to be more competitive, quicker.

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Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 3.01.12 PM

Customer References

In speaking to Nintex customers our research found that many of the gains came from having an easy way to process and execute their digital transformations. This might include moving to the cloud, reducing the number and complexity of workflows like creating and approving a press release, signing and approving contracts, reducing resources and reassigning them to more important jobs as well as reducing the number of software applications used by the company.

The savings in time for enhanced workflows advanced the company’s position in the marketplace, allowed them to get to market faster and beat the competition. In addition, IT departments were able to be more focused on the needs of the business versus being taxed with the maintenance of many separate software applications. These typical IT responsibilities took IT’s time and focus away from the direct needs of the business. By implementing Nintex, the relationship between the lines of business and IT were greatly improved. With the ever changing dynamics in IT, the IT department needs to be highly agile and flexible in the solutions they provide for the business. Nintex provides IT with what they need to deliver to the business. This makes IT more relevant than ever, which is especially key when many lines of business are buying their own software. Now, more than ever, IT can play a key role in the success of the business.

Are you looking to digitally transform your business? Have you determined which processes are slowing the digital transformation of your business? And do you have a solution to take those manual, error-prone processes and digitally enable them? This report will help you in choosing a vendor that can help you with just that.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, www.ConstellationR.com

Covering customer and employee applications that empower digital workplaces

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What’s a Key Part of a Digital Transformation? Digital Workflow

As companies take on digital transformation for real, they need to consider the people (their skills and backgrounds), the processes (has the brand made them digital or they still doing things on spreadsheets?) and the technology (to enable the company to be more digitally oriented.)

That all sounds easy, but it is only if a company uses a digital business platform that enables an advanced,  easy-to-use workflow and document / content generation and automation capability; Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) capabilities that improve the way people work digitally. This type of software needs to enable point and click workflow automation to handle everything from basic business functions to company-wide processes with a few clicks.

But in addition to WCA, the digital business platform also needs to have analytics. Why? Because the business will want to monitor the workflows and determine which ones are working well and which processes still need improving. (Most of the time companies don’t look to see if a process they have implemented is effective or efficient.) For example, let’s say you wanted to see how well your expense claims process was working. In the figure below, Nintex Hawkeye is used for expense claim processing;  to look claims  submitted and service level agreement infringements data to sharing among the management to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the expense claim process.

Dashboard for Expense Claims Submitted

Dashboard for Expense Claims Submitted

Not only can a company automate a workflow digitally, but they can also monitor, capture and share the process performance for expense claims. The company can see number of claims submitted (677), the amount of expense claims submitted ($1.41M), the average expense claim amount submitted ($2.08K) and what the SLAs infringements were (1996). They can also see how the average expense claim is rising in cost each year (bar chart) and the departments who are submitting the expense reports (the circle graphic.) In this one simple example, a company can take what used to be a manual or somewhat manual process and make it completely digital as well as provide analytics around how well the process is working.

Nintex’s intuitive user interface eliminates the need for complicated coding and training for the lines of business, system integrators, and IT departments as they pursue digital transformation. In addition, the workflow analytics allow companies to more effectively optimize workflows across organizations, be more productive and intelligent, correct ineffective or inefficient workflows, and thus increase revenue as well as decrease costs.

In evaluating the value of digital transformation software, it is important to look at departments that drive revenue and affect customers. High return on investment (ROI) use cases are processes that involve content (documents, forms, records, etc.) for which requests for further automation and process improvement may take a long time for IT to accommodate. (IT has a lot on their plate and what seems to the business as a simple change, could take IT much longer without a digital business platform.)

To successfully compete in this increasingly digital world, enterprises need to transform their slow, error-prone operations from manual, analog processes to automated digital workflows and document generation. As companies consider their journey to a digital workplace, they will need to consider how they are going to transform all their processes that were once done on paper or in spreadsheets, to a fully digital process. A digital business platform is a great place to start. For more on this report, please click here.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, www.ConstellationR.com

Covering-customer and employee-facing applications that make employee and customer experiences better

 

 

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Has The Age of George Jetson IoT Time Come? Alex Was the Star of CES

Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is the software that allows owners to control compatible devices with their voice. From the various  reports it was estimated there were 700–1,100 Alexa-controllable products at CES. And the Amazon / Alexa logo was everywhere at CES.

Is the Age of George Jetson here? In a smart home, everything from the the HVAC to the TV to window shades can be controlled. However it’s not easy to really have a whole house of Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled devices. Why? Many of the IoT-enabled devices don’t talk to other devices if they are made by different manufacturers. Opps! The IoT world awaits THE killer app, like Apple Homekit or Google Home. We are still waiting for them to provide all encompassing, unified smart “home.”

The Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker controlled with your voice. It connects to the Alexa Voice Service to provide information, news, play music, report on sports scores, deliver weather reports… The uses for AVS and Alexa are limited only by your imagination.

When something is connected to Alexa, the device instantly becomes pseudo-interoperable. Interoperable technology is not an evolutionarily stable strategy for most IoT manufacturers. Interoperability is the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged to do something.

What CES showed us is that voice control seems to be the unifying app for IoT. And Alexa is the biggest name in voice control. Smart devices are generally controlled with apps. If there is an app to control the smart device, the app allows AVS to directly control the smart device. So you could say, “Alexa, tell Crestron I’d like to turn the lights on in the bedroom” (for your Crestron) or “Alexa, I would like to turn the heat on the downstairs thermostat to 70 degrees” (for your Iris Smart Home System). It’s easy to see the value of voice control in so many ordinary situations. What’s interesting about AVS is that even though Crestron and Iris have nothing to do with one another, you can control them both with your voice.

Alexa has finely tuned automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) engines that recognize and respond to voice requests instantly. Alexa is always getting smarter with new capabilities and services through machine learning, regular API updates, feature launches, and custom skills from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK.) The AVS API  is a programming language agnostic service that makes it easy to integrate Alexa into your devices, services, and applications. And it’s free.

And you can create meaningful user experiences for an endless variety of use cases with Alexa Voice Service (AVS); Amazon’s intelligent voice recognition and natural language understanding service. AVS includes a full range of features, including smart home control, streaming music content, news, timers… and can be added to any connected device that has a microphone and speaker.

But while Alexa has a head start, Google Home, an Echo competitor, is very likely to quickly catch up. Google Home though, works with a completely different set of protocols and has different “awake” words. These are command words that make it pay attention and carry out the request. It seems that we may need to learn to speak to different systems in different ways – perhaps we’ll need lessons in Alexa speak and Google speak as well as and Siri and Cortana speak!

So is the Age of George Jetson here yet? Sort of. What will be interesting is to see if there is a start-up that will pull all of this together so that us regular humans don’t need to become AI experts to connect and use the technology.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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Atlassian acquires Trello for $425M: Will It Remain Free?

As most acquisitions start out with the “ideal” that the product will remain pristine and nothing will change – it will be interesting to see if the acquisition of Trello by Atlassian will be the norm or the exception. From a business point of view Atlassian paid $425M, so they will want their investment to pay off.

What’s interesting in today’s world is that instead of putting a bunch of developers in a room to develop new software, companies like Atlassian, instead buy a company. This is truly an emerging strategy in product development and one that makes sense with respect to acquiring best of breed. We hope that Atlassian will keep its word and Trello will remain free. Proof is always in the pudding.

Often the story during the press release phase is that “The original folks are going to run it, not the new company!” “Things will stay the same.”

WhatsApp and Waze are both pretty good examples of high profile acquisitions. It’s generally unlikely that it will be the executive team from any start-up that ends up sticking around past whatever agreement they signed with buyer. There’s generally some “golden seatbelt” that requires the start-ups executives to stay for a particular period of time. And once that time is up, its not unpredictable that they leave that because they are “start-up” personalities – meaning they like the start-up phase and not so much the growth and maintenance or innovation phase of a company because their jobs will change and hence their interest.

It really takes four types of entrepreneurs/management to make a start-up successful. First the the start-up folks who like the beginning, ideas flowing, do a lot with a little, the adrenal of “can we do this?”

Second, to have a company grow, it takes people who are really good at R&D and growth strategies, which different often greatly from start-up strategies and tactics.

And third, there are the maintenance executives who are really good a making a company run like a well oiled machine; again very different type of personality traits are required for this.

The fourth stage is now required (it had not been as much a part of management theory in the past. But with technology changing so rapidly, innovation to stay relevant and on top requires people to look outside their comfort zone and understand what’s coming next and how can they innovate and transform their company.) Otherwise the company becomes a dinosaur and dies. We’ve seen plenty of that happening to the likes of Tower Records, Circuit City, etc..

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We all have our beloved start-ups. And many of us have been part of start-ups. What’s true is that we all hope nothing will change. What is also true is that it takes a lot of effort to go beyond the start-up phase into the growth, maintenance and innovation phases. People get tired; they want their initial investment to pay off; and they truly like doing what they do best. And it may not be the other phases of what a company goes through. It’s not fair to ask people, however idealistic it is, to do things they don’t enjoy or are not good at.

Will Trello stay the same? Or will it change as many other acquisitions have, as they got bought or swolled up, and give into the reality of the phases of what it takes for an initial idea to grow into a company? Only time will tell.

@DrNatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, www.ConstellationResearch.com

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Facebook Video Ads: What’s the ROI?

With the variety of common products available, often customers want to learn how a product or service works before purchasing. With more and more buyers using mobile devices to shop, 4 out of 5 shoppers say a video showing how a product or service works is important in their decision to purchase or not purchase a product or service. In fact, shoppers report research on mobile devices with visual content helps inform their product selection. As a result, Marketers who use video grow revenue ~49% faster than non-video users. But if a brand is going to use video, understand that shoppers of shoppers expect a consistent set of visual content across desktop and mobile devices.

Where does Facebook come into this equation? Over 100 million hours of video per day are watched on Facebook. (Techcrunch) It is reported that shoppers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers and more than half of the marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI.

With over 1.5 billion users, ~1 billion users visit Facebook on their mobile device, so brands considering must think mobile first. What sets Facebook apart from its competitors is its unique ability to harvest vast amounts of customer information to create custom audiences, generate leads and build brands. The advantage is that it’s all within a platform that is already known for its engagement opportunity.

Facebook also  rewards advertisers for shares with cheaper views, cheaper clicks, and more impressions. This combination leads to an overall better ROI. The net-net is that retailers & brands should be seriously considering video advertising because advertisers cite a 40 percent increase in purchases as a result of video – specifically in the categories of apparel, home goods, and electronics.

While there seem to be many advantages, some businesses are holding back on video advertising because they feel video is too hard to make, or doesn’t produce conversions the way other ads do. But video content does not need to be difficult to create. There are vendors that make it easy, like Animoto. And attribution to video ads is easier often than TV ads because of the digital footprint.

Brands should also use the analytics Facebook provides and make sure to not waste budget by not segmenting your audience. Segmenting audiences can be done by looking at jobs, life events, relationship status, purchasing behaviors and additional segmenting can be done beyond this, for example geo-location targeting. Without segmenting an audience, marketing risk wasting their ad budget on the wrong audience and not generate the conversions expected.

In addition, as in any advertising, it’s important to include a call-to-action. A call-to-action can be as simple as Book Now for travel, Learn More for addition features on a product, Contact us for more information or Shop Now to be taken to the actual online store or landing page or a click-to-call button. But be careful – a call-to-action without engagement can result in consumers feeling “pushed” vs “pulled” into taking action. Include special offers and time sensitive, last minute deal to motivate consumer to come to a store, call or click.

If Marketers use a click to call button, make sure the contact center is ready to take the calls and knows what the special offers are. Consumers seem to prefer to call than fill out a web form and call convert to revenue 10X more than web leads. That is only true if there is someone at the other end of the phone to take the call intelligently. This means Marketers must ensure the ad copy and landing pages are optimized to drive calls and that they can attribute calls and the outcome to the right ad campaign so you can do more of the right thing and optimize the video marketing.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer Facing Applications

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Women In Technology: Study Show Whether It Has Improved in 2016

Using data from NCWITAnita Borg Institute and Deloitte, the report evaluates whether there have been any improvements for women in tech in 2016 and what this means going forward. They also look at the context behind the numbers, examining the opportunities for women in education, employment and running startups.

In 2013, The Muse, in association with Women in Tech, published a report reflecting the huge potential of female entrepreneurs and employees. For example, Fortune 500 companies with at least 3 female directors have on average 53% higher returns on equity, sales and invested capital. This special report gives tangible recommendations that companies can implement to create a positive working environment for women and men to thrive in.

Here’s a sample of the findings of the current report in 2016:

  • There has been a 21% increase in undergraduate women studying computer science, but at the current rate, the US will only be able to fill 29% of computing jobs by 2020.
  • There is a 50% attrition rate amongst women in tech, from entry-level to executive, mainly due to poor work-life integration and environment.
  • In Silicon Valley alone, men are 2.7x more likely to be in a leadership position than women, who are much likelier to get “stalled” in the workplace.
  • Industries outside of technology have employed more women software engineers than the tech industry have.
  • Amongst startups, 38% of new businesses are started by women, but only between 2-6% of those founders receive venture capital.

women-in-technology-2016

Having been the only American female in my Ph. D. program in engineering, it certainly is encouraging to see more women in the tech business. Both men and women bring unique and special qualities to the workplace. I look forward to the future and helping to affect change in a positive way.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, www.Constellationr.com

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Amazon Go – A Retailer Using AI, ML and Vision Technology

The idea of Amazon Go is to weave into the shopping experience the capabilities of deep learning algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and sensor vision. A practical application of AI and ML is Amazon Go via advanced shopping experiences. The ability to walk into a store, grab what you want and walk out, never having to wait in-line: no checkout lanes, no registers. For many customers, especially after work when they are tired and just want to get home or during the holidays could be a much better customer experience.

So how does this work? A customer opens up the Amazon Go app on their smart phone and scans their personalized bar code as they walk into a store. The phone goes into your pocket or purse and the customer begins their shopping. As the customer picks up a product, it’s added to their total. If a customer decides they don’t want an item, replacing back on the shelf removes it from their total.  Amazon Go calls it “just walk out technology” for the modern shopper. Once you are done shopping and leave the store, the total is calculated and charged to the customer’s amazon.com card.

From the customer’s point of view, while on-line shopping has increased, some customers still like the idea of going to a store and touching / seeing the merchandise. To help ensure that brick and mortar stores don’t turn into showrooms (where customers go to look at merchandise and then search on their phones for a better online deal (from that or other retailers) and buy it online while standing in their store, technologies like Amazon Go provide convenience. Perhaps the thought and the hope is that the convenience will be more important than searching for a cheaper price and buying it online.

Showrooming can be very frustrating for brick and mortar stores and put some of them out of business. It’s interesting that the online and offline shopping worlds are colliding. Fresh goods have a short shelf-life and often thought of as poor candidates for online shopping because of their perishable nature. However, it’s a high margin area that Amazon wants to tackle by using brick and mortar stores and the convenience of shop and go. Younger generals don’t have the tolerance for standing in line.

The future of shopping is just getting more and more interesting as the new technologies get implemented.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, www.Constellationr.com

Covering Customer-Facing Applications

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