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April 30, 2014

Mobile Payments Catches On

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:13 AM


Mobile Payment Apps are Boosting Payment Processors like Visa [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAl7HdytwxI]

Ah, the promise of the picture-phone. For the better part of the last half-century, telecoms firms dangled the technology before us and enticed us with the proposition that we could look into the eyes of everyone we chatted with on the telephone.

Although the technology has existed in one form or another for decades, it never really caught on. True, Internet chat services like Skype have probably come closer to fulfilling what the first inventors of the picture-phone envisioned. It was a great idea, wasn't it? So why didn't the market ever really warm up to it?

That's the question we're constantly asking ourselves whenever we hear the latest news about an electric-powered car or colonies on the moon. Great ideas, but none of us is ever the first in line. It's the same technological conundrum facing so-called mobile wallets.

Given the fact that we provide store layouts, inventory, and omni-channeling a lot of thought in our retail practice, we can't help but think that mobile payments is a great development. There's no doubt that in some parts of the world, consumers use their smart phone as they would a credit card or cash. But the simple fact of the matter is that in many of the developed markets, consumers have not been weaned off their credit cards or cash quite yet.

I read a report that cited research by Gartner that says worldwide, mobile payments reached $235 billion last year, up from $163 billion the year before. In North America, however, consumers spent $37 billion on mobile payment systems, up from $24 billion in 2012. The discrepancy is, I think, a testament that consumer behavior can be a tough nut to crack.

It also doesn't help that there are many different enterprises involved when it comes to making a mobile payment work. According to the report I read, the complexity involves the fact that these parties are in different industries and one transaction can sometimes involve banks, retailers, wireless companies, payment networks and even the companies that build the mobile wallets. So it's not exactly easy to get a merchant to sign up for a mobile payment system is he has to deal with all these different parties. That merchant is probably quite satisfied with his predictable credit card relationships or simply accepting cash.

One expert said that it's kind of like the chicken and the egg. A merchant will consider adding the various mobile payment systems to his retail outlet if there are enough customers who demand such technology. But getting enough customers on board means - you guessed it - having enough retail outlets that offer the mobile payment system. Frankly, I thought that the one place in the Western markets where mobile payments would take off like wildfire would be at Starbucks.

The coffee chain prides itself on rushing its innovations into practice ... on the rare occasion with disastrous results. But they're the ones who fully admit that the results can be less than stellar once in a while. The company reckons on average it's worth rushing innovations to the market because its income statements and balance sheets don't lie. They're a very profitable company, so they're sticking by their quirky formula for innovation.

It was in keeping with their quirky culture to rush innovations to market that Starbucks entered into an agreement with a major mobile payment system. But I keep seeing reports in the press (most that quote experts who are speaking on condition of anonymity) that say the partnership hasn't been the run-away success that both companies had planned. I say: Big deal. These disruptive innovations take time and I'm guessing that many Starbucks customers will soon be opting for mobile payments of their lattes quite soon. There's never an exact balance between a company's messy innovations/market disruptions and a careful, calculated movements in their markets.

On a related note, the regulatory environment cannot be ignored either.

One of the more interesting concepts around mobile payment systems is that where it's working well is where enterprises have collaborated. In Japan, for instance, one of the largest mobile carriers said it made the decision early on to share its mobile payments system with anyone or anything that wanted to use it. By creating one standard across the market, taxis, restaurants, stores, and even other mobile carriers were all speaking the same mobile language.

That's essentially what cash is - it's the same standard wherever you go. So by making mobile payments as standardized as cash, it's going to become popular with anyone wanting to pay on the fly.

April 29, 2014

Go Hybrid: Combine Growth with Cost Efficiencies

Posted by BG Srinivas (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:02 AM

The business world can't really get over the fact that Apple, a perennial winner of countless innovation awards, spends just about 3 percent of its annual sales on research & development. (The average for consumer electronics firms is 6.5 percent.) Wasn't it supposed to be expensive to be innovative?

The fact uncovered by recent studies - that there's little correlation between R&D spending and a company's financial performance could be a tough pill to swallow across much of the corporate world. That's because a long-held assumption is that in order to grow, an enterprise can perhaps sideline operational concerns like efficiencies but must focus like crazy on developing new products.

But companies are now finding ways to grow all while closely watching the bottom line. Nowhere can you see this new paradigm more profoundly playing out than in the pharmaceutical sector. As recently as one decade ago, giant companies like Astra Zeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb would have guarded their R&D pipelines from each other. They would have made sure that their in-house laboratories had the funding to create the next blockbuster drug. It didn't matter that both companies might be working on a similar product. Today, however, it's not uncommon to see once fierce Big Pharma rivals pooling their resources and sharing scientific research. These enterprises have learned to operate more efficiently by working towards common goals. Co-creation with partners and with the competition is the emerging reality of the day.

We're entering a new era in which organizations place a great deal of importance on becoming hybrid innovators. To be sure, the act of becoming such isn't new. Companies like Procter & Gamble, for instance, have long been astute at assessing just how each and every one of its R&D dollars translates into value for the consumer. If they can't establish a direct and efficient link to the customer, these companies are not shy about pulling back on R&D spending. Simply floating an expensive R&D program under a banner of innovation isn't good enough anymore. Not to shareholders and not to customers.

Think about how the automotive industry has transformed itself in the past few years. This was a sector in which the very use of the term "hybrid" was reserved for a special kind of dual-fuel car. Automakers would create concepts to display at industry shows, but very seldom did they bring those models to market. Today, that very practice of developing innovative automotive concepts is tightly connected to the sales & marketing arm of those companies. If an organization devotes resources to dreaming up the car of tomorrow, then it wants those innovations to efficiently make it to the showroom floor. So, it becomes a saleable reality.

There's something marvelously efficient about using technology in new ways to make this happen. Be it through automation, autonomics or cognitive platforms. Drawing on the best of new world efficiencies to bring new ideas to life. An enterprise begins to show its real innovation chops when it's able to monetize and profit from R&D effort that deliver customer-centric results. And a multifocal approach that factors in efficiency, agility, potential for impact and customer relevance, into the making of the idea, makes for a winning game plan.

April 25, 2014

Auto Pilot: Emotional Connections through AI and the Internet of Things

Posted by Jeff Kavanaugh (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:17 AM

Toyota-FV2
Source: [http://www.inautonews.com/tokyo-motor-show-live-toyota-i-road-and-fv2-concepts/toyota-fv2-tokyo-live-02]

Some people love their cars. How many other objects can make a stereotypical middle-aged man justify spending a Saturday morning to hand wax his four-wheeled beauty? But for all that time spent doting over an automobile; the simple fact is a machine just can't love you back. At least not yet...

Even a rusty old bucket of bolts can take you from point A to B just as quickly as a brand new luxury sedan. Given this logic, why do human beings spend so much time and energy loving their cars when there is no rational reason to do so? Believe it or not, this example illustrates the promise of artificial intelligence as well as the burgeoning growth of the Internet of Things.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is manifesting itself in many ways. Ask anyone who works in financial services how sentiment analysis is transforming the stock market. Large banks and mutual funds now possess proprietary software that allows them to mine Big Data so they can tap into the psyche of crowds. If millions of tweets around the world express worry about future energy problems in Ukraine, then the banks might short-sell stocks with exposure to the Ukrainian energy market. Of course these recent development are on top of the decades-long evolution of AI on the plant floor - the original "Rise of the Machines" that eventually displaced some of the workers making those coveted automobiles.

As high-tech as this all sounds, AI is now seeking to replicate something that people have known for thousands of years - emotional connections. Natural analogs to AI aren't new, and the trusty horse is a good example. The longer you ride it, the more familiar the horse becomes with your movements in the saddle, your temperament, and your likelihood to give certain commands in certain situations. Automakers are using time-tested and well-understood concepts like this to build cars that do much of the same thing. Beyond the technology and the tachometer, companies are actually designing cars that can love you back. Just as financial markets are the manifestation of concerns, aspirations, and fears of millions of investors around the world, in a way so are highways for drivers. Toyota has recently unveiled a fascinating concept vehicle - the FV2 - that focuses on becoming more emotionally and physically connected to the driver the longer she uses it. See here for a sneak peek.

The real kicker is how the Information Superhighway is merging into the physical highways with the Internet of Things. Telematics and connected cars already provide roadside assistance, streaming entertainment and baby-steps toward home connectivity. Insurance integration, app storefronts, and real-time diagnostics are on the near horizon. The use cases are easy to imagine, and the love affair with the auto (and let's not forget the connected motorcycle!) will become even more torrid once the aphrodisiac of technology is added to the equation. As an example, vehicles will avoid metropolitan areas at rush hour, filled with debilitating traffic jams, and reroute in real time to less congested, more scenic pathways to the destination. Connecting to the information infrastructure, of course, can also improve safety by giving drivers advanced warnings about vehicles in blind spots and bottlenecks, and provide a reassuring virtual airbag of protective information.

That's really the essence of the next generation of mobile computing devices, isn't it? Design, intelligence, and connectivity: design that makes you feel good, intelligence that anticipates and accentuates the experience, and connectivity that networks the device - and you - into the world around. An automobile can get smarter by talking and listening and using its connection to a network as a drive-able computing platform. According to Toyota, the FV2 will go beyond that, to include emotional communications like expressions, gestures, and recollection of past events.

Can you imagine a car that knows where you're going ... even before you do? One of the features of the Toyota FV2 concept car is that the driver use natural movements to steer: lean left to turn left and tilt forward to accelerate. These natural body commands are also what made the Segway so interesting. No steering wheel is necessary if the machine can sense your movements. Toyota, as part of its concept car research, says that it envisions AI to grow alongside human intelligence so that it can display feelings and evoke fondness and trust. Who can argue with that? Those are certainly qualities you want someone (or something) behind the wheel of your car to possess.

The entertainment industry has recently released its newest version of how they think the Internet of Things and AI will play out. The new compelling (even if critically panned) movie "Transcendence" stars Johnny Depp as a scientist and AI expert who is shot by anti-technology activists. He decides to become his own test subject and uploads his consciousness to a computer network just before he dies. The movie is compelling because one of the storylines involves this hybrid computer-man beginning to network the consciousness of other people into his so that he might heal their bodies. But as he grows stronger with every consciousness added to his own, the scientific debate ensues: is he a savior of the world's problems or a computerized monster that will soon eclipse the power of mankind?

It's (mostly) science fiction - for now. But the day that computers learn enough from humans begin thinking on their own is probably something we'll see within the next century. The Singularity is, as futurist Ray Kurzweil has called it, when AI has progressed to greater-than-human intelligence (he believes it will occur around 2045). Whether this vision is utopian or Brave New World, we are hurtling headlong toward it, because the economic potential is enormous.

If the Internet of Things and AI continue to introduce products that make life more enriching and enjoyable, the innovations of the next few decades will be momentous indeed. With the frequency of innovations outpacing the human ability to absorb them, companies will need to find a balance between feature proliferation and the ability to monetize them in the market. As for me, I'll be happy if AI will just help me find my keys.

April 22, 2014

A Fair-weather View of the Future

Posted by Mitrankur Majumdar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:29 AM


This Day In History 4-22-1964 The New York Worlds Fair Opens In Manhattan [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHJQJuYt8RI]

To Star Trek fans, it's no surprise that when the first commercially available cell phones really took hold in the 1990s, they were "flip -phones" that had an uncanny resemblance to the communicators used by the fictional crew of the Enterprise. When science fiction visionaries, or even corporations for that matter, have a healthy, optimistic view of what might be in store for society, it's amazing how many of our collective ideas can come to life.

Some 50 years ago, the last major World's Fair opened in New York City and exposed more than 50 million visitors to an array of gadgets and concepts. Most of them came from the corporate pavilions. The World's Fair amazed audiences with a selection of items that seemed so far off into the future to ever become a reality. Here are some of my favorites; you'll be surprised at how many of them were right on the mark.

At the World's Fair, Bell Labs introduced the Picturephone. What's interesting is that although the technology that allows you to see whom you're talking to has existed for half a century, it initially did not catch on. But today, anyone who uses Skype and FaceTime has that first Picturephone to thank for putting the idea into initial use.

Then there's the personal computer itself. At the 1964 Fair, such a machine was considered pretty outlandish. In fact, even 13 years later, in 1977, the founder of Digital Equipment would famously say: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in [his] home." Yet a number of companies set up prototypes of personal computers in their pavilions that would plant the seeds of possibility. Plenty of people enjoyed having their questions answered in an astoundingly short amount of time.

When we see high-tech manufacturing lines or even hospitals in which surgeons make super-accurate incisions with robotic arms, we forget how far the entire field of robotics has come in half a century. In 1964, Disney's corporate pavilion included the "It's a Small World" exhibition, which relied heavily on animatronics to move hundreds of figures. It seemed quaint at the time, but now robotics is practically nothing but that.

Automotive buffs will get a kick out of hearing that the Ford Mustang was largely introduced to the market at the 1964 Fair. Let's not forget that until that time, an automaker had to build a large, heavy, chrome-laden vehicle that got a few miles to a gallon of fuel in order to be commercially successful. The Mustang posited the question: Might drivers value fuel economy, nimble handling, and smaller models over the large land yachts of the past? The answer, as we've seen over the past 50 years, is a resounding yes.

The Fair wasn't a complete success when it came to predicting what society would be using in the future. A few of the corporate pavilions introduced various applications of personal jet propulsion, for example. As neat as a jet pack on your back would be, it never caught on. Although, if you look at the commercial applications of military drone technology (for weather prediction, traffic reports, and even for personal home delivery) it's not a stretch to say that personal flight mechanisms have been successfully developed over the past 50 years.

We might not host large World's Fairs anymore, but, with the rise of cyberspace, I don't think we necessarily need them to trade innovative ideas with other people around the world. We can do so on our personal computers. As long as corporations place value on outside-the-box thinking, and as long as we encourage students to apply their classroom learning to solving the challenges of the world, we have a bright future with plenty of neat ideas ahead of us.

April 21, 2014

What Goes Into Making Critical Decisions?

Posted by Soundararajan S (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:12 AM


Taming Big Data [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hu8x2iBw6V4]

Crowd-sourcing is revolutionizing the world of decision-making. From personal decisions outsourced to family and friends ("Does this dress make me look fat?") to corporate decisions that determine the shape new products will take, (Presenting prototypes to customers for their reactions, and then going to production.) crowd-sourcing it lighting the path ahead.

But new research points to a related phenomenon that some enterprises are only now seeing as a risk to their ability to make critical decisions: crowd rule. That's right - the same types of crowds that are a boon to that product manager can mire the organization in a sea of Big Data to such an extent that the company becomes nearly paralyzed in its efforts to take decisive actions.

There's even a story, about one of the world's best-known search engines, that has taken on the status of urban legend. This company had become so reliant on optimization technology that it tested everything with consumers. The belief here is that the larger the sample size, the more optimal the results. But the methodology came to be questioned by at least one executive at the search engine when an A/B test (an optimization technique in which two versions of the same web site are voted on) got stuck on what shade of blue the company should use in its online designs. The executive resigned when he realized that the company was extensively testing the web performance of no less than 40 shades of blue.

Sometimes, Big Data, on its own, has the capacity to become incredibly big without any sort of end game. Companies need to utilize data in such a way that it enables accuracy in its decision-making. When the vastness of a sample size, or the repetitive nature of a sampling (like testing 40 shades of blue to determine which is optimal) becomes an end in and of itself, then an enterprise should wonder if the cyberspace crowd is more accurate than even one or two of its in-house experts.

A recent study by MIT shows that some 15 percent of the world's top 10,000 web sites utilize A/B testing technology in an effort to harness the power of crowds. Some online enterprises prided themselves on a culture of innovation that included vigorous debate over how to present certain information on its web pages. But now those debates have taken a back-seat to endless statistical testing that validates itself... but not necessarily the outcome of the page presentations.

The question enterprises are now asking themselves, therefore, is how to make Big Data work for them. The growing reliance on reams of data to make critical decisions for the organization is getting the scrutiny it deserves. What new research is demonstrating is how a scientific method that utilizes Big Data, but isn't subservient to it, is best to ensure accuracy that's needed in an enterprise's make-or-break decisions. That's because such methodology includes the creativity and innovative spirit born of the organization as well.

April 18, 2014

Bitcoin ATM & Other Uses For a New Infrastructure

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:01 AM


BITCOIN ATM OPENS IN HONG KONG - Get your Bitcoin in cash: World's second Bitcoin ATM [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmpQyIKuW2s]

It was a spectacle enough when one of the top luxury hotels in the United Arab Emirates offered its well-heeled guests a gold ATM. Just slide in your cash and out pops a small, solid gold bar. With the economy in the shape it's in and the public's penchant for investing in precious metals, that ATM proved to be a hit.

After the first ever Bitcoin ATM at Canada last quarter, now there is a Bitcoin ATM in Hong Kong - the first of many planned for Asia. The ATM's owner is hoping that the financial world's fascination with Bitcoin will make them well received and even more of a go-to source for the crypto-currency than online exchanges such as Mt. Gox. Whether you're a fan of Bitcoin or not, one thing is undeniable: The technology that makes this new type of currency a reality is here to stay, and it might have more uses than just Bitcoin.

The financial markets continue to wrestle with Bitcoin. Investors aren't sure whether it's the best thing since paper money or little more than a speculative bubble not unlike the tulip boom in 17th century Holland. But the technology that gives Bitcoin viability is what might be the most enduring thing about any of this. One expert I recently read about is convinced that the same kind of encryption that makes a Bitcoin an agreed-upon unit of commerce could be used very effectively by Web retailers.

We live in an online world where enterprises are now revamping the way they market their products and services to us. Because of beacons on mobile devices, we can receive advertisements that are custom-tailored to our expectations. Instead of inundating Web sites and search engines with pop-up ads, they can focus on what we're shopping for and what kind of socio-economic demographic we fit into and tailor ads from there. That said, can you imagine how well a crypto-currency would work if it were issued by a retailer? In exchange for, say, the amount of time you spent shopping on its Web site, you could get bonus "cash" in the form of its own crypto-currency.

Not only would you have to spend that specialty money at the store in question; the retailer would know exactly who it is that holds each unit of money and how they're spending it. The retailer gets valuable insights into consumer behavior. That's part of the appeal of the new Bitcoin ATM. You walk up to the machine, put in your cash, and then scan your mobile wallet over a sensor. The ATM also verifies who you are through chips in your passport or government-issued ID. The Asian ATM even has a facial recognition device.

When the transaction is finished, the Bitcoins are stored in your digital wallet and you avoid credit fees. Big-name companies such as the Marriott hotel chain accept Bitcoin payments from digital wallets. To be sure, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has said that Bitcoin, which has skyrocketed in value to $1,200 from $13 in just a year, does not fall under its purview. "Bitcoin is not regulated by the HKMA and members of the public should be mindful of the risks." That's well said. But many people who are drawn to crypto-currencies are dabbling because of the very fact that a government's central bank does not have any regulatory powers over it.

Another concern is security. During a recent television show, a talk show host showed his Bitcoin ATM receipt on the air and a hacker watching the show was able to detect his code. Showing your receipt to someone is tantamount to showing him your email or bank account's username and password. Not something you want to do. Still, the fact that your Bitcoin ATM receipt is a digitally unique thing, you can actually rest assured that without that information, as well as all the security protocols, would-be criminals would have a far more difficult time skimming money from you than they commonly do on conventional ATMs.

What we have with Bitcoin and related market entrants is much more than just a new kind of currency. We have an impressive, thoroughly modern infrastructure that's set up to host a brave new world of digital commerce. Worst-case scenario? Even if Bitcoin proves to be a flash in the pan, that infrastructure will remain and be there for the digital commercial tools that do emerge and endure.

April 17, 2014

Innovation Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:53 AM


Verizon Labs; Where Innovation Happens [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frUJqfRDBJI]

Sometimes we need an event to jar ourselves out of our comfort zones. For me, the sad and tragic saga of a passenger airliner that was apparently lost over a remote stretch of ocean was just that sort of event. For more than a month now, much of the world has been perplexed by how something so large and technologically advanced could seemingly vanish into thin air. Up until very recently, search and rescue officials hadn't the slightest clue as to what happened to the large jet with hundreds of passengers onboard - most of them owning and operating mobile communications devices.

The reason this event served as a kind of wake-up call to me was that it showed the limits of the Information Age. As digital consumers, we carry smart phones that can ping a retailer and let it know where in a grocery store we are, and whether we are browsing, say, laundry detergent or tomatoes. Based on that instant geographical information, the store can then text us with a coupon for a certain kind of tomato or announce a two-for-one special on our favorite detergent.

The trend is such that mobile consumers are never out of touch with the retailers and other consumer-minded enterprises - including airlines - that serve them. It's pretty difficult for anyone to fly under the proverbial radar. So the fact that a large jet did just that for a significant amount of time indicates that we still have a long way to go in perfecting the ways we use data to pinpoint locations (and, for that matter, consumer preferences).

One of the world's largest search engines recently announced it would be acquiring a manufacturer of unmanned, solar-powered drones. The extension into aerospace might seem strange for an Internet search engine. But when you consider what unmanned drones could do - beaming Internet signals into the remotest places on earth - the investment doesn't seem like such a stretch. If a search engine controls access to the Internet in the first place, it can define what kind of customer experience those recipients will have.

The fact that Internet companies are branching out into aerospace and even financial services suggests that innovators never rest. They don't like to be pigeonholed into an industry or sector and are constantly thinking of ways to monetize new lines of business. My hunch is that the great innovators don't like resting on their laurels because doing so puts them in a comfort zone that usually means they've run out of ideas.

I think they're onto something. Comfort zones can give otherwise driven entrepreneurs a false sense of security. There is a large department store in North America, J.C. Penney, that has management gurus lining up to explain what went wrong with the store's recent rebranding efforts. One of main hypotheses is that this department store was run by executives who never allowed themselves to leave their comfort zones. Some of these very bright and driven people had come to the venerable department store from Apple, where they were responsible for creating a retail experience like no other. Why couldn't the same course of action work to turn around a middle-class American clothing store?

At one point, members of the board of directors urged the new team to take their time and test their retail assumptions. But according to recent reports, the former Apple executives forged ahead. Testing a program or strategy might have taken them out of their comfort zone. Well, you can guess what happened: The strategy that worked for Apple's retail stores didn't work for the department chain. Of the many things they did wrong in hindsight, one thing was to separate the online business from the physical stores. So when a loyal customer browsed online for a shirt and found it in five colors, she might not find even two or three of the colors in the bricks-and-mortar store. A total disconnect that ultimately caused the store to implode.

The good news is that a new executive team is reviving the store's fortunes, in part because they are listening to consumers and making the online operation work in tandem with the physical outlets. They're making new and lasting connections with modern, digital consumers and are never afraid to test their assumptions. Because if there's one thing we've learned about running a complex and ever-changing digital enterprise, it's that we should never assume we have everything figured out. It's good to leave our comfort zones.

April 10, 2014

Crowd-Funding Healthcare is a Global Solution

Posted by Ashish Goel (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:24 AM


Crowd-funding Drug Development: Justyna Leja at TEDMEDLive Imperial College 2013 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edeHvKDOmco]

One of the most exciting developments of the past few years has been the rise of crowd-funding. The basic idea is that if someone has a platform from which to put his business idea on display, there will be enough people around the world who will not only be interested in the idea but willing to contribute money towards the endeavor.

What crowd-funding has demonstrated is the sheer power of the digital consumer. In a bygone era, someone had to convince one or two entities that his idea was worthy of investment. Because of the digital community, individuals can pool their resources and act as their own big banks.

As much as the concept has exciting possibilities in the world of finance, I think it also bodes well for healthcare as well. I recently read about how the traditional way of delivering healthcare to a community - where a patient waits to see a doctor - is somewhat unrealistic in areas of the world where there are just so many physicians to go around. If a doctor is, so to speak, firing on all cylinders and can see 40 patients a day, that doesn't suffice if that area needs more than 10 times that amount of diagnoses per doctor to meet the needs of its people.

Those of us who live in urban areas often take for granted the accessibility of medical care as well. A large swathe of the world's population lives well outside the one-day travel range of medical clinics and hospitals. If a person is ill and has to travel a few days just to see a healthcare provider, think of the costs involved on all ends of this proposition. The World Health Organization estimates that there is a shortage of some 4 million health care workers around the globe. Just connecting patients with a doctor is a challenge, not to mention what happens when the diagnosis actually takes place. It's not always easy for a patient to get access to the appropriate pharmaceuticals, for instance.

So what if the world's healthcare providers could leverage the same kinds of technology that social entrepreneurs are currently using in the banking space? I like to think of it this way: If a patient in a rural area visits a trained nurse who can feed a list of that patient's symptoms into a database, that information, stored on a Cloud, can be accessed by a physician who specializes in whatever the ailment might be. Because you're aligning the patient's likely sickness with the right specialist, the doctor doesn't have to be physically present. In a world where there's a shortage of 4 million medical providers, using digital telecommunications platforms to connect patients to providers is an efficient way of tackling the issue.

Telemedicine is only in its infancy, but as the technology around it advances, it's becoming more of a solution to dealing with the world's healthcare shortage. We're seeing how powerful a crowd can be when it comes to aligning patients with the appropriate caregiver rather than relying on the traditional model of "first come, first serve." But the advantages of crowd-funding in medicine are also apparent when information about a person's health can be fed discretely into a database that keeps track of the global movement of epidemics.

Crowd-funding as preventative medicine? You bet. The more data doctors have at their disposal, the more empowered they are to anticipate what they'll be seeing in the course of a week. Healthcare networks can order the right amount of prescription drugs and have them ready in certain areas when outbreaks occur. And more specialists can be on call if they know that certain illnesses are plaguing particular geographical areas.

When patients around the world use their collective influence, they can help medical providers battle disease and promote good health. What has begun already as so-called "remote care" is in fact morphing into an innovative way of delivering healthcare to millions ... and it's becoming less remote by the day.

April 9, 2014

Behold Consumer Data's Transition To Push From Pull

Posted by Ajay Anand (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:43 AM


What is the Digital Business [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1kGBPYsvnE]

If you have friends in the financial services industry, you've probably heard them at one point or another speak of the merits of working for either the "buy side" or the "sell side." The former consists mainly of private investment firms; the latter includes big banks that offer price targets and investment advice to the public.

These two sides of the financial world - public and private - keep the capital markets humming. In fact, in just about every industry you tend to find complementary entities. It's how prominent each side is in every situation that allows you to gauge what the industry is going through at the moment. In finance, sell side analysts became famous in the late 1990s with their recommendations of red-hot Internet stocks. One could argue that the buy side crowd drives the market to a greater extent today.

In the media & communications field, we've all experienced the dominance of so-called pull technology. If you type in a number of terms into your favorite search engine, you get results that are tailored to your requests. But a revolution that's underway promises to shake things up when it comes to how digital consumers receive information. The idea behind push messaging is that instead of a consumer requesting information, the data is sent to that person in anticipation of what he might want to know.

Both push and pull messaging are important to the world of digital commerce. Push technology, however, is what's coming on strong thanks to the right delivery model. When the market for computing platforms was still dominated by desktops and laptops - fairly recent history even though it seems like eons ago - push messaging made only so much sense. That's because the concept of pushing rather than pulling is best when the end user is on the move. Now that mobile computing is reigning supreme, enterprises are a lot more interested in sending us information that we can use on the go.

What's also changed, according to industry experts, is Big Data. In a nutshell, it's gotten a lot bigger and, therefore, potentially more useful. We now have the ability to process the vast amounts of information needed to make push messaging attractive to consumers. According to a recent survey, the typical digital consumer is twice as likely to continue using an app that sends her push messages than one that does not. This same consumer is reportedly more than four times as engaged with an app that includes push messaging than with one that does not.

The one big difference with push technology is that its success is not predicated on the user actively engaging it and giving it information. All that is done behind the scenes. Its success, therefore, hinges on how well an app parses that information into something useable and actionable on the part of the consumer.

The data revolution is important to consider seeing as the success of push messaging depends on voice analysis as well. Suppose you're chatting with your friend about meeting up in her neighborhood for a pizza. There's technology that's being developed that aims to analyze the elements of your conversation that point to 1.) wanting to meet for dinner and 2.) that you might want pizza. So when you hang up, you already have texts in your inbox with the names and addresses of pizza restaurants in that particular neighborhood. No wonder a social media giant like Facebook is interested in a relatively small voicemail service like WhatsApp. They're quite aware of how the interactions of consumers, whether online or chatting over the phone, will deliver valuable clues as to what their expectations are in terms of food, fashion, and personal products.

To that restaurant, serving up good information to consumers is as important as serving them up a good pizza! That's why enterprises of all sorts and sizes should be excited about the possibilities that push messaging presents. And, as we digital consumers move from smart phones to wearables, such information will appear even more seamless in the context of making decisions while on the move.

April 4, 2014

Financial Markets and Technology's Role

Posted by Soundararajan S (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:34 AM


60 Minutes - IS THE US STOCK MARKET RIGGED? [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK0aoQ5yVmA]

One of the sweeping promises of the Information Age has been about how a potent mix of technology and communications liberates societies.

But when an expert sheds light on fascinating developments in the global financial markets, it's a good time to consider whether the world's enterprises and consumers are sufficiently prepared for a little known "un-leveling" of this Information Age. I've enjoyed all the books from the financial journalist Michael Lewis, and his latest, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, is no less interesting. Lewis is stirring the waters by claiming that financial technology has allowed the market's big players essentially to rig the system.

That's a very provocative statement. Lewis bases this on the principle of "latency" in the world of financial sales and trading. Up until recently, the global financial markets operated in a style similar to those of merchants across the ancient world. Stock traders would show up to the exchange and buy and sell securities based on the orders from their clients. Today, there's been a major, technological transformation in the way stocks are traded - and it happened without many investors taking notice. The huge global banks now rely on latency - essentially being physically closest to a market-making center in order to get the best price for a security. The banks found that if they 1.) utilize state-of-the-art supercomputers that are 2.) situated within a few miles of the headquarters of an exchange, those micro-second advantages added up fast. That's because banks buy and sell in blocks of millions and millions of shares. Every microsecond that a trade travels along a mile of fiber optic cable counts in a big way.

Now suppose you're one of the many consumers who uses a home computer or telephone from which to order a few shares here and there for your portfolio. Lewis demonstrates that because of your relatively paltry and sluggish technology, the big players are going to beat you to the optimal process each and every time. I think why Lewis's new book is resonating with so many people is that it shows why consumers need to be vigilant.

The author provides us with the story of a trading executive at a prominent Canadian bank who discovered that mom-n-pop investors had really been edged out of the market without knowing it. So his bank began educating their consumers and even the clients of their rivals on how latency has fundamentally changed the global capital markets.

In the march of technological progress, we've seen both sides to the Information Age. On one, we see how leveraging the finest technology puts well-heeled players in the driver's seat. But we're also seeing parts of those same organizations rally around their customers in an effort to give them access to that same kind of technology. The promise of the Information Age, therefore, is still being delivered. Can you think of any other era in history during which the individual consumer could find out about and begin to access the sophisticated trappings of a well-connected elite in such a way? Probably not - which is why technology in the financial services arena is finding a way to "re-level."

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