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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Constellation ShortList™ Customer Service and Contact Center Software

Constellation Research is launching a new program, and I’m happy to share that the vendors that have been listed on the Constellation ShortList™ for Customer Service and Contact Center Software. The program offers buyers of technology a list of offerings to consider in their pursuit of digital transformation to provide the best capabilities to drive leading customer service.

The Constellation ShortList presents vendors in different categories of the market relevant to early adopters. In addition, products included in this document meet the threshold criteria for this category as determined by Constellation Research. This Constellation ShortList of vendors for a market category is compiled through conversations with early adopter clients, independent analysis, and briefings with vendors and partners.

Customer service and contact center software helps solve customer challenges faster by offering the right tools and support, regardless of channel or device (e.g., phone, tablet, email, chat, text, website, Facebook, other social networks). These offerings can effectively manage inbound communication for increased first-contact resolution, in addition to providing co-browse capabilities to allow visual communication for quicker query resolution. Additionally, they can support the reduction of cart abandonment and increase customer satisfaction with in-cart assistance. This type of software provides personalized care through the use of analytics, offering insight into customers’ behaviors for relevant, contextualized service that can predict future needs. Companies can identify new opportunities by integrating these customer insights into their companies’ innovation processes.

The software also creates seamless, online experiences with a knowledge base that learns from every interaction, enabling them to match content to consumer intent, which results in higher conversion rates. The top solutions also provide smart customer self-service, allowing customers to help themselves by fostering peer-to-peer support communities and eliminating the need to reach out to the contact center.

Constellation considers the following key criteria for these solutions: Self-service capabilities, case management, natural language processing for knowledge management and search, omni-channel and device customer journeys, mobile customer service and self service, queuing and routing, workforce optimization, predictive and prescriptive rules and advice, next-best action, natural scripting, customer feedback collection capabilities, IVR, visual IVR, inventory optimization, mobile enablement, social and digital engagement simplified user design (UX/UI), reporting and customer analytics, integration to IoT (Internet of Things) platforms and devices, data dashboard and data visualization.

Each Constellation ShortList evaluation will be updated every 90 days as needed. Constellation clients may work with the analyst and research team to conduct a more thorough discussion of this ShortList. Constellation can also provide guidance in vendor selection and contract negotiation.

The ShortList is determined by client inquiries, partner conversations, customer references, vendor selection projects, market share and internal research. The Shortlist includes:

  • Aspect
  • Avaya
  • Cisco
  • Genesys
  • inContact
  • Interactive Intelligence
  • Oracle
  • Salesforce
  • Verint.

For more information about the ShortList, please visit the Constellation Research site.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Covering Customer Facing Applications.

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One Big Step for Commerce, One Giant Step for Salesforce

Salesforce’s $2.8 billion acquisition of Demandware will serve as the company’s Commerce Cloud. Demandware and Salesforce have a series of joint customers. This acquisition will enable more e-commerce for Salesforce along with Salesforce’s customer relationship management tools. CEO’a are realizing the value of platforms vs. point solutions and the trend is going towards the vendors creating more holistic platforms that offer a continuous marketing, sales, service process. In truth, only companies separate those aspects of their companies into different departments. But customers don’t see a company as separate departments. So the departments really need to act as a whole and software as a platform can be the key to that.

The acquisition will grow the sales “funnel” for Salesforce. There is the possibility to expand the relationship with existing customers. So it gives Salesforce a new group of customers to upsell for the other services that it already offered, from marketing and online analytics through to back-office software for sales and other IT functions. Who is Demandware working with now? Some customers include Design Within Reach, Lands’ End, L’Oreal and Marks & Spencer.

With more and more people buying on their phone and online, commerce and e-commerce is more and more important. This is a smart move by Salesforce.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering customer-facing applications that make great customer experiences

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From the Field: Salesforce Unveils Marketing Cloud Lightening

Customer Service is the New Marketing. As the lines between sales, service and marketing continue to blur, marketers are taking a leadership role in delivering a unified customer experience. Salesforce conducted a recent survey report, reporting that the majority of high-performing marketing teams (58 percent) are driving customer experience initiatives across the business, compared to 8 percent of under-performers. But to do this, whether marketing, sales or customer service leads the process, the brands need to not only to crush the silos between those departments but also have a new platform that enables them to deliver a consistent brand experience across every touch point, regardless of channel or device.

Channel Ubiquity: At Constellation, we have coined a term called channel ubiquity – meaning using any channel, any device any time, any place, any where… that’s what the customer expects and brand’s must deliver or be left behind. Why is customer service is the new marketing? Because customers don’t view a brand from each department, they view the overall experience they have with the brand. And where the experience usually misses the mark is customer service. Companies spend millions or billions of dollars in customer acquisition and then don’t follow through with great customer service and rather provide bad service that only leading customers to their competitors. So those customers are automatically taken out of the marketing funnel, even if the company doesn’t realize it.

What’s Special About the Lightening Announcement? The Marketing Cloud Lightning Platform vision is to bring the power of Lightning to digital marketers so they can create more intelligent and personalized customer experiences. What are the possible benefits?

  • A consistent user experience across s customer success platform
  • Lightning components to extend and build new apps
  • Leverage data science to analyze information from the web and data throughout marketing, sales and service to predict customer behavior
  • Build and automate journeys for the entire customer experience.

Delivering on Channel Ubiquity: Whoever is in charge of offering the ubiquitous customer experience, brands need to be able to offer a modern and intelligent user experience across any device, enabling marketers to work faster and smarter, and deliver better results. With a platform that has common customer identity and navigation, brands could work seamlessly across the entire customer experience platform or hub to streamline processes that span marketing, sales, service or back office departments to enable more comprehensive, integrated customer journeys. This is the promise of the Marketing Cloud Lightning Platform.

Easily Building Apps: Another promise for Marketing Cloud Lightning includes new Lightning Components or the idea of reusable, drag-and-drop building blocks to easily assemble apps. This would enable companies to develop and customize new business apps for sales, customer service and marketing. Salesforce will deliver Lightning Components ranging from core email functionality, like previewing emails and tracking email open rates, to journey capabilities. This also includes options like automatically adding a lead or contact to a journey and reviewing the journey history of a specific lead or contact. In addition, customers will be able to use third-party components built by Salesforce partners and available from the Salesforce AppExchange.

The Power Lies With the Budget: Often because the CMO, of all the lines of business, is controlling a lot of a brand’s budget for new software, targeting the CMO is a great idea. However, because the place where customer experience generally falls through the cracks is customer service, I’d like to challenge customer service professionals to stand-up and demand that they also control and equal or larger portion of this type of budget.

It would be a major transformation of that role, but it is necessary to drive better customer service and overall customer experiences. Without this transformation, the front end- marketing and sales customer experience can be great, but unless marketing really understands what is happening in customer service and the challenges the contact centers face, the customer experience has the potential to fall apart there. I caution brands that do not heed this vision to not be surprised if they loose their market base. In my humble opinion, customer service is the key differentiator in the overall customer experience. And it’s time for it to change. NOW.

@drnatalie petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer Facing Application that Deliver Awesome Customer Experiences Across Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.

 

 

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Salesforce Announces Salesforce for Messenger Platform

What’s The News? Salesforce announced Salesforce for Messenger Platform which will empower companies to create entirely new sales, service, marketing and app experiences for customers on Messenger. Salesforce for Messenger will enable companies to leverage existing business processes to make customer journeys even more relevant and personalized than ever before. This is the latest innovation in Salesforce’s ongoing strategic partnership with Facebook.

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Together, the companies are empowering companies to engage their customers through dynamic experiences around products, brands and moments—all connected to their business. Powered by Salesforce Lightning, this is a proven platform for more than 150,000 companies and millions of users, in which Salesforce for Messenger will deliver personalized engagement at scale with CRM data.

What’s Happening With Messenger Facebook: Messenger’s growth is skyrocketing with its monthly active users growing from 500 million in 2014 to 900 million today. Often Marketing “owns” the Facebook page and had not worked out what to do with Customer Service issues. Nothing worse than getting a #fail in the middle of marketing campaign. For those companies that do have good relationships between Customer Service and Marketing, this will only help them to do an even better job of serving customers. For companies that don’t have this relationship worked out, the connection with Facebook Messenger may be the missing piece they need to connect the dots between Customer Service and Marketing.

And this is perhaps why so many companies are so eager to embrace it as the new channel to extend customer engagement and create conversations. Salesforce extends its leadership in CRM with the launch of Salesforce for Messenger. Companies will be able to leverage Messenger as a customer engagement channel to deliver entirely new 1-to-1 experiences across sales, service, marketing and apps.

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Adding Facebook Messenger to the Checkout Flow in eCommerce: And because it is connected to the world’s #1 CRM platform, each Messenger interaction can be specifically tailored based on the context of the entire customer relationship. For example, a retailer will be able to embed a Messenger plugin on the checkout workflow on its website so a customer can ask any final questions before making a purchase.

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Since this Messenger exchange is also connected to the customer’s previous sales, service and marketing account records, the company can take a more personal approach to exceeding customer expectations. Companies will have an invaluable opportunity to use Messenger as a channel to build brand loyalty and deepen customer relationships by delivering seamless experiences across marketing, sales and service with Salesforce.

Comments from Salesforce Executive, Alex Dayon, President and Chief Product Officer, Salesforce: “Now with Messenger, Facebook is inviting companies to engage their customers in new ways on its platform at scale. With Salesforce for Messenger companies will be able to easily connect their businesses to Messenger, creating deeper, more personalized and 1-to-1 ​customer journeys within the chat experience.”

Salesforce has been on a continuous journey to completely re-imagine CRM for the digital era and the launch of Salesforce for Messenger is the latest example of how it is expanding the market. With Salesforce, companies can ensure that every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to create a memorable experience. In a world where the customer wants to get personalized, seamless care, this is an interesting step in the right direction.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, Constellation Research

Covering Customer Service and Customer Experience

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Capgemini Expands Its Digital Growth Strategy With The Acquisition of oinio, a Leading European Salesforce Partner

Capgemini and onio: Capgemini announced the acquisition of oinio, one of Europe’s leading Salesforce partners. This acquisition will expand Capgemini’s Digital Strategy Group growth by augmenting Capgemini’s capabilities in providing digital transformation services around the Salesforce solutions and platform across Europe and Asia. Oinio, based in Munich, has become one of the major European players in the consulting and deployment of Salesforce cloud-based CRM and digital marketing solutions. Oonia has more than 600 projects for a portfolio of international clients in life sciences, manufacturing, financial services, high tech and utilities.

Statements from the Executives on The Acquisition: Maic Stohr, CEO of oinio commented, “As part of Capgemini, a global leader in digital business transformation, we’ll be able to offer Salesforce based agile innovation to enterprise customers at scale, to drive quicker business outcomes. It’s a commitment to our customers, our team and to the digital era.”

Dennis Flüchter, COO and CFO of oinio, said, “Joining Capgemini with its worldwide reach is an opportunity to accelerate our growth in Germany and on a global basis too. We’re proud to become part of the Capgemini family.”

And Jean Lassignardie, Corporate Vice President and Group Head of Salesforce Expert and Transformation Services at Capgemini stated, “The recognized expertise of oinio will allow us to reinforce our position in the European and Asian markets, while strengthening our partnership with Salesforce globally. Together, we will be able to quickly deploy the most innovative solutions to support our customers in their business transformation and growth acceleration.”

What Does This Mean? What I find interesting about this acquisition is the pace at which the foreign markets are understanding the value of digital transformation. This type of acquisition clearly shows that both Capgemini and oinio are seeing the desire and need for consulting services in the digital transformation area. System integrators of yesteryear were known for implementing large, on-premise solutions, taking years to implement, many of which were given up on.

Today, system integrators have had to reinvent themselves as the advent of SaaS / cloud solutions replacing the on-premise projects. But smart systems integrators have become trusted advisors in the role of aiding digital transformation. Because there is so much about a business that has to be transformed, in reality there is a huge market for systems integrators that realize that the transition from the old way of doing business, to truly being digital requires a transformation of people, process, leadership and technology. And there is no shortage of actual work that has to get done to make that all happen.

The future? Look to see which systems integrators are understanding what digital transformation means and who is leading companies to transform their culture, the mindset, their leadership, their workforce, their processes (how work gets done and how customers are interacted with and engaged) and what technologies are chosen to make this a reality in the short term. The longer companies wait to take on this type of endeavor, the more danger they put themselves in becoming extinct, i.e., irrelevant to their customers and unfortunately, for some really great brands, the certainty of going out of business.

@DrNatalie VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-facing Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Strategies and Technologies and System Integrators

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Salesforce Empowers UCSF to Study Benefits of Personal Approach to Breast Cancer Screening

Precision Medicine Has Arrived: A research team at UC San Francisco has won a five-year award of $14.1 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to investigate whether a personalized approach to breast cancer screening is as safe and effective as annual mammograms. The project, called the WISDOM study, will be led by breast cancer researcher Laura Esserman, MD, MBA, professor of surgery and director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Salesforce Foundation has similarly partnered with the Athena Breast Health Network to provide generous support of our important joint efforts.  Salesforce.com, an enterprise cloud computing company, is helping to revolutionize how organizations collaborate, communicate and share important information

“The controversy surrounding breast cancer screening has left women and their providers frustrated and confused,” said Esserman. “The time has come to put the controversy to rest.”

More on the Actual Breast Cancer Study: The five-year study – a UC Health systemwide effort with participation from all five UC medical centers – will involve approximately 100,000 women 40 to 80 years old. It will test a more targeted approach to breast cancer screening: those at higher risk are screened more often and those at lower risk are screened less often. Annual screening will be weighed against a personalized schedule of screening based on each woman’s individual risk.

“This pragmatic trial will allow us to learn who is at risk for what type of breast cancer, and to continue to refine our approach to screening, potentially leading to less screening for those at very low risk and more for those at greater risk,” Esserman said. “It will enable us to focus on prevention as well. If our study is successful, fewer women will suffer from the anxiety of false-positive mammograms and unnecessary biopsies, and more women will gain a realistic understanding of their personal risk of breast cancer, which may reduce general worry about breast cancer.”

How Will The Study Work? Women will be invited to be randomized (assigned by chance) to either the personalized or the annual screening arm. The two strategies will be compared to determine whether personalized screening is as safe as annual screening and whether it will reduce false-positive results and over-diagnosis.

Investigators also will determine whether women will readily accept personalized screening and whether knowledge of their own risks – and the reasons for their personalized screening regimen – will reduce, or at least not increase, anxiety about breast cancer. Additionally, the researchers will determine whether the personalized approach will lead to more of the highest-risk women deciding to use strategies that may prevent breast cancer.

Participants in the personalized screening arm will receive a risk assessment that will evaluate family and medical history, breast density, and tests for genes linked to the development of breast cancer.

Those with the highest personal risk of developing breast cancer or cancers that grow more quickly will receive recommendations to begin screening at an earlier age, receive mammograms more often, and continue screening until they are older. Those with the lowest personal risk will begin screening later, screen less frequently, and stop screening earlier. No woman will be screened less often than is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.

What Will The Outcomes Be? “We will learn from each woman who participates, and each woman will be equipped equally with more informed options to better personalize her medical care,” said Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior vice president for cancer services of UCSF Health. “This is a significant rethinking of breast cancer risk assessment and is a great example of how the UCSF cancer center is working to fully integrate cancer care with research for patient benefit.”

Participants in the breast cancer study will be drawn from the Athena Breast Health Network, a collaboration of the five University of California (UC) medical centers to drive innovation in breast cancer prevention, screening and treatment.

All eligible women from participating health plans who receive breast cancer screening at a UC medical center will be able to participate. The first health plan to participate is UC Care, a self-insured PPO plan for UC employees and retirees that offers care provided by UC’s medical centers. The first insurer to participate is Blue Shield of California, which has created a policy that will allow reimbursement for study-related services for members who are enrolled in the WISDOM trial while data are still being gathered about the safety and efficacy of personalized breast cancer screening. Discussions are underway with additional health plans and insurers.

“Blue Shield of California is pleased to support this important work to improve breast cancer screening and prevention,” said Marcus Thygeson, MD, MPH, chief health officer at Blue Shield of California. “The current ‘one size fits all’ screening approach doesn’t do enough to reduce breast cancer deaths while also causing women to undergo unnecessary testing and treatment that harms their quality of life. This study promises to help find a better approach to breast cancer prevent and treatment, which will benefit our entire community.”

UC’s systemwide Center for Health Quality and Innovation will partner with Athena on the project to help provide value-based care.

“This project is a paradigm shift for preventive screening, harnessing UC’s system-wide strengths to advance care for Californians,” said John Stobo, MD, executive vice president of UC Health. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this screening trial to UC employees and the broader public.”

The breast cancer study is one of five projects selected for PCORI funding totaling $64.1 million. The award was approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract to UCSF.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other health care stakeholders in a major study conducted in real-world settings, but also for its potential to answer an important question about breast cancer screening and fill a crucial evidence gap,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with UCSF to share its results.”

PCORI is an independent non-profit research institution. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding awards, visit the Research and Results page on www.pcori.org

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

Having lost my mom to cancer, this particular project is very near and dear to my heart.

@drnatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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Salesforce Unveils Breakthrough Salesforce IoT Cloud, Powered by Salesforce Thunder

Connected World, Disconnected Data: The Answer? IOT Cloud

The combination of mobile, social, sensor, wearable and cloud technologies has triggered a deluge of data. More than 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated over the last two years. And, with the number of connected devices projected to reach 75 billion by 2020, the volume of data available is expected to grow exponentially. Without making sense of all this data, we just have a ton of nothingness and a lot of talk about possibility. But it’s time for possibility to turn into probability. And that’s what is in store for companies that are looking at the IOT Cloud.

This world of connected devices and digital content presents an enormous opportunity for companies to take advantage of the new data. In a June 2015 report, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that IoT applications may have a potential economic impact of as much as $11.1 trillion per year by 2025. However, businesses have been unable to capitalize on the vast volume of data from the Internet of Things.

Salesforce IoT Cloud, Powered by Thunder—Connecting to the Internet of Customers IoT Cloud empowers businesses to connect data from the Internet of Things, as well as any digital content, with customer information, giving context to data and making it actionable—all in real-time. Thunder, built on a massively scalable, modern architecture, can “listen” to the connected world, ingesting billions of events a day, from any source. IoT Cloud’s capabilities include:

  • Listen to the World at IoT Scale: IoT Cloud connects everything to Salesforce. In addition to the Internet of Things, connecting to phones, wearables, windmills and industrial turbines and other devices, IoT Cloud connects data from websites, social interactions and more to Salesforce. By connecting the billions of real-time events and digital content with Salesforce, the IoT Cloud brings customer context to transactional data.

  • Trigger Actions with Real-time Rules: With IoT Cloud, business users can use intuitive, point- and-click tools to define, modify and set rules and logic for events that can trigger actions across Salesforce. A global fleet management company, for example, can enforce passenger safety standards by setting filters for “hard brakes” or “hard accelerations” and defining rules that trigger in-car sensors to log service cases reporting possible instances of erratic driving. Or, a national retailer holding a holiday sale can set rules based on loyalty program status, inventory or sales performance, triggering retail beacons to send discount offers to in-store shoppers in real-time.

  • 1:1 Proactive Engagement through Salesforce: IoT Cloud seamlessly works across the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to surface insights and trigger real-time 1:1, personalized actions for sales, service, marketing or any other business process. For example, a thermostat provider can parse through billions of events gathered from weather forecasts, sensors and temperature settings to proactively alert customers on how to manage their HVAC usage within their predefined budget. Or, a vehicle assistance service partnering with an auto brand can send personalized offers on behalf of local dealers based on sensor data that tracks fluid levels and mileage.

IoT Cloud connects billions of events from devices, sensors, applications and more from the Internet of Things to Salesforce—enabling companies to unlock insights from the connected world. IoT Cloud is powered by Salesforce Thunder, a massively scalable, real-time event processing engine that enables Salesforce customers to personalize the way they sell, service, market… IoT leaders ARM, Etherios, Informatica, PTC ThingWorx and Xively LogMeln join Salesforce’s ecosystem to accelerate IoT Cloud customer success. Companies including Emerson and Pitney Bowes look to connect with their customers in powerful new ways with IoT Cloud.

Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer, Salesforce said, “Salesforce is turning the Internet of Things into the Internet of Customers. The IoT Cloud will allow businesses to create real-time 1:1, proactive actions for sales, service, marketing or any other business process, delivering a new kind of customer success.”

The IOT Cloud is the beginning of making sense of all the data turn information into actionable insights that really move the needle on a businesses growth, revenue, and bottomline. It’s time technology delivered on the promise of yesterday year and that time is now. To see how it can work, check out this video.

@DrNatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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Microsoft and Salesforce Strengthen Strategic Partnership at Dreamforce 2015

Sometimes it does take a village. Yesterday’s product development would have been a bunch of developers, with lot’s of diet coke, cheese burgers and very late days and nights programming like crazy. But today, product development has changed. How? More and more companies are collaborating. Why? It does take a village to create internal collaboration employee experiences and external-facing customer experiences that even begin to meet what people want.

And that’s what is significant about today’s announcement about Microsoft Corp. and Salesforce’s plans to extend their strategic partnership to connect the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to Microsoft Office productivity apps and services. The two leaders plan to deliver new solutions that integrate Salesforce with Skype for Business, OneNote, Delve and Windows 10 to empower companies to connect with their customers and collaborate more effectively.

What possibilities does the collaboration bring to the table? Microsoft and Salesforce have committed to working together to bring the following solutions to life:

  • Skype for Business Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience: Salesforce will integrate Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) into its new Lightning Experience, a modern and re-imagined Salesforce that combines an intelligent new user experience with proven best practices that enable people to work faster and smarter. Office 365 customers will be able to use Skype for Business to create Web meetings, determine if colleagues are online or not, click to chat and make voice and video calls from the Salesforce Lightning Experience. A preview is anticipated in the second half of 2016.

  • OneNote Integration with Salesforce Lightning Experience: Users will be able to associate notes with Salesforce records, and view and edit notes directly in OneNote from the Salesforce Lightning Experience. A preview is anticipated in the second half of 2016.
  • Salesforce Integration with Office Graph and Office Delve: Enabled by the Office Graph, an open ecosystem for sharing, collaboration and discovery, Office 365 users will be able to view and discover Salesforce content in Office Delve, such as sales opportunities, customer accounts and service cases. Availability is anticipated in the second half of 2016.
  • Salesforce1 Mobile App for Windows 10: Salesforce will deliver a Windows 10 app to empower sales teams to move deals forward while on the go, using their favorite Windows device. Availability is anticipated in the second half of 2016.  

What are some of the comments on this collaboration? 

  • “Customer success is at the heart of everything we do at Salesforce, including our partnership with Microsoft,” said Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce. “Our collaboration has been so successful, now we’re doubling down and delivering even more innovation that will help our mutual customers be more productive and connect with their customers in a whole new way.”

  • “Furthering our mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, is the motivating force behind our partnership with Salesforce,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft Corp. “As a platform and productivity company, we are focused on bringing together the best of Microsoft Azure, Office and Windows with partners like Salesforce to empower our mutual customers to network, collaborate, communicate and discover information in more effective ways.”
  • “As a global company with more than 400 brands, we are always looking for ways to strengthen collaboration across departments and take the complexity out of work,” said Paulo De Sa, VP Employee Services Technology, Unilever. “Together, Salesforce and Microsoft Office are helping us create an integrated digital workplace where our 170,000+ employees around the world can be more productive and connect with each other and with customers like never before.”

The Two Companies Are Building on a Foundation of Success
These new integrations will build on existing joint solutions that enable mutual customers to be more productive than ever before, including:

  • Salesforce Files Connect integration with SharePoint and OneDrive for Business

  • Salesforce Wave Connector for Excel

  • Salesforce integration with Power Query for Excel

  • Salesforce Mobile SDK for Windows

  • Salesforce1 for Windows 8.1 Phone Preview

  • Power BI for Office 365 integration with Salesforce.

My POV: I am very happy to see collaboration at this level. For two reasons. One is reducing attrition. Millennials have expectations of work that the Baby Boomers didn’t. At least up until now. Now even Baby Boomers want more from their workplace. And the second reason is because customers want an experience that is going to keep them from defecting. Instead of trying to dominate the marketplace, these two companies see the wisdom in the collaboration. Never before does 1 + 1 = 6. Did I add that wrong? Nope. What I mean by that is, in the name of collaboration, the value is exponential to all those involved.

To Learn more about the partnership visit: http://www.salesforce.com/microsoft

@DrNatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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