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August 31, 2016

Are we at the threshold of the 'age of automation' in Healthcare?

Posted by Ravikiran Taire (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:51 AM

Are we at the threshold of the 'age of automation' in Healthcare?

Purposeful automation and artificial intelligence are not only revolutionizing the relationship between doctor and patient, they are also transforming the way all kinds of processes - from medical imaging to surgery - take place. For instance, I was amazed to read recently that scientists had discovered 97 new areas of the brain. This, even though mapping the human brain has been a 100-year quest in the field of neuroscience. How did the major new discovery happen? Don't be surprised, but this was achieved by using automation and machine learning to map the brain's cerebral cortex.

The latest findings will, according to the academic paper's authors, "enable substantially improved neuroanatomical precision for studies of the structural and functional organization of human cerebral cortex and its variation across individuals and in development, aging, and disease." Simply put, unlocking the brain means unlocking potential cures to many elusive and deadly conditions and diseases. Or at the very least, doctors will be able to determine how certain neurological disorders occur in the first place.

Studying certain parts of the brain often had to be done post-mortem. But now, with purposeful automation, repetitive tasks can be handled by machines, thus freeing people to focus on intelligent tasks that can deliver higher value and innovation. Additionally, with machine learning, researchers can use tools such as magnetic resonance imaging to map the brain of healthy adults. The researchers in this particular study said that they taught a machine-learning 'classifier' to detect complex 'fingerprints' of each area of the cerebral cortex. The more the classifier recognized the fingerprints, the smarter it got - even to the point where it could tell researchers that a certain part of a test subject's brain did not conform to the norm.

The story of how health sciences are using A.I. to delve deeper into the human body than ever before is very exciting. The brain mapping achievement proves that A.I. can help doctors and scientists. And I have no doubt that it will soon come to the aid of surgeons who need to perform incredibly delicate operations that push the limits of science, as well.

Indeed, even though A.I. has been a topic of discussion among scientists for decades, only now are we beginning to make the kind of strides needed to reach what's known as "singularity." That's the point at which a machine can learn as quickly and robustly as a human. Most experts agree that attaining singularity is still a few decades away, but what an exciting few decades, therefore, are in front of us. And no, singularity will not result in the development of killer robots taking over the human race. Instead, it is more likely to involve machine implants in the body that can help blind people see, wheelchair-bound people walk, and small triggers within the immune system that fight off a disease, when one is detected inside the body. Or how about this? If you wanted to communicate with someone, you would be able to think of that person and your brain, aided by computers, could automatically reach that person. You could chat or text through your thoughts - no keyboards needed!

In other words, there's a reason why purposeful automation and artificial intelligence are being developed so rapidly and enthusiastically by scientists in the medical field. They know that these technologies will be able to enhance and amplify all that is great about human life and at the same time rid the world of the diseases that afflict so many people.

One of the most outspoken experts on the wonderful possibilities inherent in purposeful automation and artificial intelligence is the scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil. He recently pointed out something that should give us all something to think about: If we were to stop all functions related to purposeful automation and artificial intelligence today, we wouldn't be able to communicate with each other by telephone or the Internet, airplanes would be grounded, and you wouldn't be able to access any of your money in financial institutions. This would not have been the case just 10 years ago. So, yes, whether you realize it or not, purposeful automation and artificial intelligence have made huge leaps in just a decade. So try to imagine what life will look like in another 10 or 20 years. The possibilities in healthcare and other industries are boundless.

The full-blown capabilities of machine learning and purposeful automation are in the offing. The fact that artificial brains are helping us learn more about our own is a harbinger of an "age of automation" that will transform society for the better.

August 24, 2016

Why Pokémon Go is a Game-Changer for Augmented Reality

Posted by Amitabh Mudaliar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:08 AM

Why Pokémon Go is a Game-Changer for Augmented Reality

In the 1980s, a huge transit strike in New York City forced many executives to walk to work instead of taking the subway or bus. To make the commute manageable, many younger executives wore tennis or running shoes and brought their leather oxfords with them to the office in backpacks. The era and look of the "Yuppie" - the young, upwardly-mobile professional - had begun.

The Nike brand became a household name. People began placing more emphasis on personal wellness and exercise, and chains of fitness centers started to spring up all over the country to take advantage of these trends.

Continue reading article on Medium»

August 23, 2016

Seeing More Than A Stellar Tennis Match, Much More...

Posted by Navin Rammohan (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:17 AM

Seeing More Than A Stellar Tennis Match, Much More...

Sitting courtside and watching the yellow ball slam back and forth can be a heart racing, adrenaline rushing experience. If you are a diehard tennis fan like me, you'd see why tennis is a game of superlative physical and mental caliber. I'm taking in an exciting match between Andy Murray and Marin Cilic at the Western & Southern Open Finals in Cincinnati, one of the most important hard court tournaments leading up to the US Open. The raw power of the players and fan fervor aside, there is something else enriching my experience here ─ a layer of data and insights into the ongoing match and players. These insights are like tiny stories around every point scored or lost, cumulatively enhancing the understanding of the game and its practitioners that up until now one may have thought one knew well. Let me give you some examples:

  • 98 hours and counting: In 2016 Andy Murray spent 5886 minutes on court in the ATP World Tour, which is 1819 minutes more of competitive tennis this season than Marin Cilic.

Continue reading article on Medium»

August 19, 2016

How to Demystify China's Market for Technology

Posted by Rangarajan V. R. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:39 AM

How to Demystify China's Market for Technology?

One of the first investors to take a stake in Facebook, Jim Breyer, is teaming up with the Chinese investment firm IDG Capital to pump $1 billion into a variety of ventures both based in China and those looking to enter that large market. Their jointly held fund will invest in promising firms in the technology, media, healthcare, and energy industries.

Breyer's credentials as a technology investor are unparalleled. And his decision to team up with a local firm says a lot about his strategy for finding the most promising start-ups in China. If one thing is certain, the emerging markets present an entirely different set of challenges to investors and companies from the West. That's where the burgeoning field of consumer psychology comes in.

Just ask General Motors. Its Buick line of cars is considered the top of the line by Chinese consumers. Decades ago, GM planned an aggressive expansion and decided that Cadillac and Chevrolet would be its "world cars;" that is, the two lines that it would promote to markets overseas. (GM has owned Opel in Europe for decades; Cadillac and Chevrolet were intended for emerging markets like China.) But for reasons that nobody understood at the time, the Chinese consumer demanded Buicks - and GM happily met their desire. Nobody in Detroit back in the mid-1990s would have predicted that Buick would become GM's world car. In the United States, Buick is perceived as attractive to an elderly demographic.

I am also reminded of the time Altoids - the 'curiously strong' candy mint - conducted a study that aimed to compare differences in national markets. In the United States, for example, consumers are known for being receptive to advertisements that tout the consumer being in control. So the makers of Altoids presented two ads to their test subjects. The first ad read: "Take control of your breath." The second ad read: "Let Altoids take control of your breath." Test subjects in Americans preferred the first ad that put them in control. Among Chinese test subjects, however, there was no measured difference between the two ads. The concept of "taking control" simply didn't matter to the typical Chinese consumer.

The lesson here is that it pays to know your consumer. For those from the West, that means throwing away preconceived notions. In China, Buicks are hip and cool! From a technological point of view, knowing your consumer becomes exponentially more challenging. That's because the West perceives certain types of social media as performing certain functions. Facebook is where you post photos and comment on a friend's birthday party whereas Slack is used to schedule meetings and communicate with business colleagues. A Chinese consumer might use WeChat to schedule meetings and, after work, split a bill among friends who meet up for dinner. Think of it as FinTech combining with social media to morph into something completely new.

Add to this scenario that the government in China isn't as lenient and comfortable about allowing social media to run unfettered, and you have some hardcore research to do before you invest in tech start-ups there.

Partnering with a local firm is, I think, a must, but companies must also be willing to move away from known methods of how consumers have progressively adopted technology in the West. For instance, the notion that to be successful, consumers must first log into a Web site will get you nowhere in China -and throughout most of Africa, for that matter. Mobile apps rule the roost. In some ways, because the emerging world didn't have the luxury of going through the entire transition from desktop to laptop to tablet to smart phone, these consumers have an advantage over those from the West. They skipped a lot of the platforms I've listed and went straight to mobile devices. That's why messaging apps might be called messaging apps, but they do a lot more than message.

Once investors and companies from the West grasp how China has turned social media and other digital technologies on their head will they be able to create products that appeal to a different kind of consumer. The upside? These enterprises from the West might come away with products that transform their home markets as well.

Is the Era of Hyper-Personalized Data Upon Us?

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:57 AM

Is the Era of Hyper-Personalized Data Upon Us?

Every now and then an entrepreneur describes the current state of technology in a way that captures the marketplace in one impactful comment. That's what happened when a professor of genetics told the MIT Technology Review that an organization must be willing to spend money to get good data. "It takes a lot of labor and capital to get ... information in a form that is useful."

Against this norm came a company called 23andMe which offered a genetic analysis for just $199. Consumers grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The company has seen a phenomenal rise since, because anyone can order a kit by mail, provide a saliva sample, mail it back, and in a relatively short time receive an impressive genetic analysis. By that I mean a review of 650,000 genetic markers. The review allows scientists to detect common versions of each of the 20,000 genes a human being possesses.

Continue reading article on Medium»

August 9, 2016

Need Of The Hour: Water Sustainability, Not Water Conservation

Posted by Aruna C. Newton (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:20 AM

Need Of The Hour:  Water Sustainability, Not Water Conservation

One of the most fertile agricultural areas on the planet is California's Central Valley. Chances are that if you walk around an American grocery store's produce section, most of the fruits and vegetables come from that area. But a strange thing is happening to that valley. It's sinking. To be sure, we hear a lot about ocean levels rising - but land sinking?

You bet. As the effects of climate change make agricultural areas more arid, farmers have been forced to drill deep into the earth to access underground aquifers. No more is this apparent than in California's Central Valley, which has undergone years of debilitating droughts. In order to save their crops, farmers there have drilled so deep for water and used so much of it that deep beneath the earth, the empty aquifers are collapsing and, like dominoes, every layer of soil above them is sinking as well. Another byproduct of tapped out aquifers that have collapsed deep below the planet's surface is that they can no longer be refilled as they have for millions of years by natural sources (like rain and melting snow).

Continue reading article on Medium»

How Cost-Effective is Robust Cyber Security?

Posted by Dr. Ashutosh Saxena (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:10 AM

How Cost-Effective is Robust Cybersecurity?

I remember years ago sitting around a boardroom table during which a senior executive was asked what measures he had taken to safeguard his email account and personal information on his computer. "None," he responded. "If someone wants to peer into my very boring and uneventful life, then all the more power to them."

Everyone around the table chuckled. This event took place before the widespread use of online banking, record-keeping, e-commerce, and social media, so what constituted online privacy even five years ago was a lot different than what it is today. Lately I've been thinking about that executive's remark against the backdrop of today's online technology. We live in an age during which a teenager in an eastern European country can hack into a global bank. Or when the owner of Wikileaks decides to release emails like in the case of the Panama Papers where 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and client information for more than 214,488 entities went public.

I constantly wonder why large organizations are not doing more to build robust cybersecurity programs. The answer, I think, comes down to very basic economics. That is, it's cheaper to have an enormous data breach every now and then, especially if your company is insured against such breaches, than to spend resources on making it more difficult for hackers to infiltrate your company's system. If this is indeed the case, then I suspect such decisions are being made solely by CFOs and not by CMOs or CIOs. Both marketing and information technology chiefs know that data breaches go beyond just monetary costs. Breaches can be about losing the trust of your consumers.

In 2014, a combination of identity theft and online credit card hacking, cost American businesses $1.7 billion. A worldwide figure is unavailable because of the complexity in trying to calculate such an amount, but we can assume the cost is staggering. In November of 2013, one of the most prominent of these cyber-thefts occurred: The retailer giant Target was the victim of hackers who stole 40 million credit card numbers in the company's data banks. Equally as high-profile was the Home Depot breach, in which hackers stole 56 million credit and debit card numbers and 53 million email addresses.

But here's what many people do not know: At the end of the day, the massive data breach at Home Depot cost the company $28 million. That might sound like a lot to you and me, but to a massive corporation like Home Depot, the amount is equivalent to less than 0.01 percent of the Big Box retailer's sales in 2014. It helped that Home Depot's insurance policy against a data breach paid out $15 million.

Internet governance and cybersecurity expert Benjamin Dean, writing in the online publication The Conversation, has studied these high profile data breaches in depth and concludes that the actual expenses from breaches at Sony, Target, and Home Depot amount to less than one percent of each company's annual revenues. If you add reimbursement from insurance and figure in various tax deductions, the losses are even less. "This indicates that the financial incentives for companies to invest in greater information security are low and suggests that government intervention might be needed," writes Dean.

To that end, the American president, Obama, unveiled a new government entity called the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center. Its mandate is to encourage private and public entities to share information about would-be hackers, although, according to Benjamin Dean's column, his fellow information security experts for the most part conclude that the formation of a new government agency will not reduce corporate data breaches in any significant way.

The onus falls on the private sector to be as innovative with fighting hackers as they are with developing products and solutions for their customers. To do so is not financially justifiable in the short run. But many a company that thought it could save money by battening down the hatches and riding out a storm (cyber or otherwise) have ended up going out of business. In other words, IT and marketing executives need to make the case to other company leaders that spending money on cybersecurity is a long-term investment that will pay off down the line.

Some companies are already making long overdue changes. American banks are finally issuing credit and debit cards with embedded chips, a security feature of cards that banks outside America have been investing in for years. The problem, of course, is that retailers in America are moving very slowly to invest in credit card machinery that can read the new cards - they still rely on technology that requires a swipe of the card's magnetic strip. The reason? The research firm Javelin Strategy and Research estimates the new cards and card readers to cost a combined $6.8 billion.

Still, your customers are digitally savvy and are watching your willingness to invest in such anti-hacking technology. Those enterprises that refuse to make the necessary investments risk losing money not only to hackers but to customers who decide to shop elsewhere.

August 5, 2016

Can Insurance Harness Cross Industry Trends for Innovation?

Posted by Lars Skari (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:56 AM

Can Insurance Harness Cross Industry Trends for Innovation?

By now it is fairly well accepted across industries that business models of 'old' must give way to new designs. Nowhere else is this truer than in Insurance, where a recent survey revealed that more than 50% of executives expect significant changes in just the next 12 months.

The drivers for the fourth industrial revolution as some pundits will say, are also well understood. Mobile, big data, automation, artificial intelligence, and cloud technologies matched with the Internet of Things are beginning to alter established price and capability tradeoffs, and is spawning a renaissance of InsTech start-ups. Amazon and Facebook are making digital natives out of consumers across age groups, and they expect more from their insurance carriers.

For insurers, the coming Cambrian explosion of innovation spells challenge and opportunity. Capturing value will be both about incrementally expanding their existing business model, and just as important re-imagining the fundamental sources of value that insurers are providing their consumer and business customers.

Designing a new insurance experience will involve adapting ideas and concepts from other industries. We have witnessed this in marketing for some time, where insurers such as Geico and Nationwide have followed in the footsteps of marketing giants such as Coke and P&G to reinforce their brand promise. We are witnessing sophisticated agency and consumer portals that have been developed on the learnings from the retail and banking industries, and insurers are applying ideas from telecom and financial services to manage an on-going dialogue with customers.

What we are finding is that 'outside' ideas serve as important capability enablers and idea generators. They also help pave the way for conservative insurers who are more comfortable applying concepts that have already been proven. However, innovation in insurance requires careful contextualization and finding the right problem to solve before applying new ideas indiscriminately. This is particularly true when taking into account new capabilities that can fundamentally alter the make-up of an insurance product (such as telematics and usage-based insurance), change insurance operations (applying workflow, automation and artificial intelligence to amplify the human experience and significantly reduce costs and improve turnaround time) or transform the dynamics of how carriers interact with their customers (through contextualized insights gathered from customers and 360-degree views from agents, by creating a meaningful on-going dialogue).

What's an insurance executive to do in a world that promises a lot of hype but precious few answers? In our experience, the challenge in insurance and all other industries is creating and enforcing the ability to innovate within structures that historically have not promoted a culture of innovation. The new world requires the capability to experiment, work quickly across boundaries in a multi-competency team, and promote a culture of curiosity, experimentation and agility. Most importantly, an ethos of embedding customer empathy into everything we do. Fortunately, we can rely on Design Thinking techniques that have been developed over the past 15 years in the start-up community and that are now increasingly being adapted across industries as proven tools to help large legacy enterprises become nimble and foster a culture of innovation.

Innovation, by its mere definition, is about finding new problems to solve. With a host of new capabilities now available to us that can shape how we deliver value to our customers, Design Thinking focuses on both problem finding as well as problem solving under the guise of speed, agility and rapid customer-focused prototyping and empathy. We have found a three-point agenda for action to be a useful mental frame: First, take inflight projects as an opportunity to model a new way of working, and re-imagine the customer and agent experience. Second, promote cultural change across the organization to build confidence and collaborative capabilities. Third, embed a new way of solving problems at scale by providing comprehensive training for employees and master workshops for leadership.

Thus the time is right for insurers to harness the winds of innovation around, for consumer expectation is changing and insurers have the opportunity to capitalize on cross industry changes.

August 3, 2016

P2P Lending Beckons Indian Banks

Posted by Anirban Dey (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:34 AM

P2P Lending Beckons Indian Banks

Who hasn't borrowed from a friend or family in times of need? The concept of P2P or peer to peer lending is probably as old as money itself. But why is it attracting so much attention now?

Technology is fundamentally disrupting the long established business models of yesterday. Today, the largest cab company does not own a single cab (Uber), the largest hotel company does not own a single hotel room (Airbnb)...so it is conceivable that tomorrow, the largest lender may not own a dollar of deposits with them. It is all about connecting the demand with the supply at a large scale and technology is exactly the thing that is fueling this aggregation at a rapid pace. P2P lending marketplaces, which connect individual borrowers and lenders bypassing traditional financial institutions, are spearheading this disruption in the lending world. Globally, the P2P lending market is gaining traction and is expected to cross US$ 1 trillion by 2025. Leaders, such as Prosper and Lending Club, have originated loans worth US$ 9 billion so far.

The Indian scene is also warming up to this trend. In 2015, about 20 online P2P lending firms came into being. At present, about 30 P2P lending start-ups are operational in India.

Seeing the momentum, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently made a move to regulate the country's so far unregulated P2P lending business. The RBI is being proactive in regulating online P2P lending because of its potential impact on both traditional banking channels and Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFC). At the same time, there is the realization that P2P lending could fulfil at least a part of the nation's rising credit demand, and that too in a cost-effective manner. The regulator's viewpoint on P2P lending is evident from its recent paper which seems to suggest that while seeking to regulate, it will not be heavy-handed in defining the rules for this new business.

How should banks in India view this development? Banks clearly have multiple options. First, they could cater to potential borrowers whom they or their traditional peers may have previously turned away for want of 'amply high' credit scores or 'lack thereof'. Second, P2P networks provide a high-risk/high-return alternate investment mechanism for bank customers who may be willing to diversify their funds and become potential lenders in this upcoming arena. Third, banks can also expand the scope of P2P lending as a potential marketplace, wherein they get to push their current products/services to visitors on P2P networks. The marketplace model ensures that unlike traditional banking where borrowers used to access banks' products, quite the reverse takes place, that is, banks get to proactively pitch their products to an expanding network of potential customers. Fourth, with the tech-savvy young generation taking center-stage, P2P lending is aptly suited to be pushed as a well-knit mobile app, to transform the borrowing and lending experiences of this generation and increase stickiness. Further, banks are realizing that borrowing in the future may not solely be for traditional reasons spread over mid-to-long term. It could be for 'here and now' reasons such as:

  • A shopper opting for a peer loan, right at the point of checking out of an online shopping cart
  • A consumer seeking an instant loan for an exigency, to be paid back immediately upon receipt of salary
  • A small business seeking short-term capital to cater to a large purchase order and gradually expanding their business
  • A medium-to-large company wanting to establish a trust-driven fraternity among its employees, to provide for each other's needs in times of exigency, with salary-deduction considered as a recourse measure to mitigate non-repayment risks

A plethora of such emerging needs may not be high-value in nature, yet lie somewhere above micro-financing needs, thereby providing a tangible business opportunity for banks operating P2P networks. These are arenas where Indian banks can disrupt the emerging fin-tech disruptors and tap new opportunities. Leveraging their existing infrastructure for credit know-how and associated decision-making models, banks are most suitably placed to play a larger role in establishing P2P networks.

As the technology partner of a very large number of banks around the globe, including several in India, EdgeVerve offers full support to clients on this journey. We also offer the EdgeVerve marketplace lending network to co-create a P2P lending network of retail, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and corporate customers. In a world that is connecting and collaborating with increasing intensity, there is no way that Indian banks can stay on the fringes. Through this platform, we hope to help them become an important part of the P2P lending ecosystem.


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