In the food services and logistics industry, it's all about quality, flavor and delivery: customers want their food fast and natural. Advances in technology are altering the farm-to-table journey and the food experience. As Peter Diamandis points out, an average American meal travels 1,500 miles before being consumed. With discerning customers watching their carbon footprint, interest is deepening on where food is grown, how it travels and when it is processed. The way forward is to make sustainability central to food production, adopt automation and robots for cost-efficiency and shift towards smart machinery for efficient farming.
All the goodness of nature
The food industry can be a high risk, low reward business. Unpredictable weather, challenges in food logistics, perishability of food, and transient trends contribute to a perfect storm. Could an innovative enterprise convert these factors of uncertainty into a sustainable food business?
Startups with a loyal user base are entering the food delivery business. Digital enterprises such as Uber, Sprig and Good Eggs are combining accessibility and cost-effectiveness with unique offerings, such as healthy meals, organic ingredients and fine-dining experiences. On-demand food delivery companies provide an interesting learning for the operations-intensive food services industry: strike a balance between simple ordering and prompt fulfillment.
Food for thought: food services enterprises should have elasticity in inventory of produce while minimizing food waste. The business imperative: cater to the demand for processed food while ensuring food safety. The operations dynamic: maintain food quality while rationalizing costs.
On-demand distribution of huge volumes of products across diverse categories requires food services enterprises to capitalize on advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics to integrate the supply chain and improve efficiency in packaging, warehousing and logistics. Solutions for real-time asset tracking and mobile workforce management boost productivity and streamline operations; however, they do not adequately raise service levels or minimize order lead times in complex shipping flows.
'Digital' has been pushing enterprises across industries to relook and reinvent themselves. Let's take the example of the launch of Jio, a mobile network operator in India. It has technologically leapfrogged traditional investments in 2G and 3G networks, to create an operating model that offers dramatically different products to customers at a fraction of the cost that it would take traditional telecom companies. So how can enterprises compete in this disruptive marketplace?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to establish itself as one of the enablers in a number of industries such as banking, retail, healthcare, manufacturing and telecom. It has become a competitive differentiator, and enterprises are now asking if AI can help them go a step further from being 'the solution', to helping them 'identify complex problems worth solving'. Recently, Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google Deepmind, pointed out that "If we can solve intelligence in a general enough way, then we can apply it to all sorts of things to make the world a better place,"
Credit the pursuits of biomedical engineers for developing a microscope called 'SCAPE' (Swept Confocally Aligned Planar Excitation) that can not only view groups of neurons in a living brain; it can do so while the person is busy engaged in an activity. With this innovation, scientists hope to get a deeper understanding into what fuels the brain of a human. We can also hope that SCAPE will help scientist come closer to understanding human 'thought' and decision-making. I find it fitting that this kind of scientific achievement is happening in tandem with the development of machine learning.
That's why I was surprised by the latest scourge of 'fake news' on the Internet, which is largely going undetected. People who get their news from social media sites and not traditional newspapers or television networks are particularly susceptible to fake news. That's because people often don't realize that what appears on social media may not be legitimate news. These social media sites have legions of followers but do not take responsibility for the fake news they disseminate. No platform is telling its users: Don't tune into our site, and why would they, after all their less-then-scrupulous practices are bringing them heavy traffic. Thus far, these social media platforms have not been held accountable for promoting fake news.
Meet Locksher Lomes and Dr. Watts for a gripping perspective on the topic
The rapid convergence of operational and information technologies is decisively transforming the world of industrial production, often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Consider the huge robotic arms in a decades-old manufacturing plant. Until recently, each arm was managed by a computer and did a simple precise pick and place task. No more. Now, thanks to plant-wide technological improvements, these robotic arms can all be connected to each other and work in tandem, completing a larger number of manufacturing tasks intelligently. To be sure, manufacturing enterprises are always learning to adapt to technological trends. But it is also a capital-intensive industry, with long life-cycles for processes. The industry is testing the promises of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where newer technology integrates with the aging infrastructure of a manufacturing facility.
It is interesting to note that in a recent survey that Infosys commissioned on AI adoption across industries, 29% of the nearly 275 respondents, in the manufacturing sector, confirmed that AI technologies have been fully deployed in their organizations, and these are also delivering up to expectations. 40% of the respondents viewed AI as being fundamental to the success of the organizations strategy.
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I have a friend who still has a Betamax player from the 1980s. During that decade he enjoyed picking up videos from the rental store to watch movies at home. After a while the rental store only carried tapes in the VHS format. About two decades later, the store, and many like it, closed. At that point, people were overwhelmingly choosing to order movies to watch on their DVD players.
Today, of course, that consumption mode has been largely replaced by movie streaming services. If you look at that vintage Betamax player, you will realize just how rapidly a seemingly healthy market can be disrupted. Technology has been impacting consumption - time and again.
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I envy the ancient Romans. They had a world-class coliseum right in the middle of their capital city, and spent hours watching gladiators contest and chariots race. It was a great way for citizens to get away from the drudgeries of day-to-day life and enjoy the excitement. A trip to a stadium today is not much different. Except that there are jumbotrons and audio announcers vying for the attention of fans that until recently were exclusively focused on the playing field.
Broadcasters largely drive the at-home experience for sports aficionados, but in a hyper-connected world where fans are increasingly turning to tablets and large smartphone to take in a game, they have a newer opportunity to connect with this expanding market. Broadcasters offer third parties access to their viewers' attention and data, and have thus created a revenue stream through their loyal fan base.
This blog post has been co-authored by Ken Toombs, Managing Partner, Infosys Consulting and Roberto Busin, Partner and Manufacturing Segment Head, Infosys Consulting.
In part one of this blog, we reviewed how artificial intelligence (AI) is shifting customer expectations through personalized experiences, especially in industries like retail, finance and travel, and how it is actively helping enterprises work with unstructured data. Part II of this blog post looks at the increasing adoption of AI and the need to stay competitive in a fierce business environment.
How will AI transform the way businesses are run?
This is a question that is on the minds of many decision-makers, and they can expect their operations to be impacted in three important ways due to AI, namely, in automation of tasks, creation of more efficient systems, and increase in proactive decision-making.
This blog post has been co-authored by Ken Toombs, Managing Partner, Infosys Consulting and Roberto Busin, Partner and Manufacturing Segment Head, Infosys Consulting.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is polarizing. Elon Musk has called it "our greatest existential threat," and tweeted that it is "potentially more devastating than nukes".
At the same time, renowned AI expert and Google/DeepMind Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil has said, "...biological humans will not be outpaced by the AIs because they will enhance themselves with AI. It will not be us versus the machines ... but rather, we will enhance our own capacity by merging with our intelligent creations."
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, at the dawn of the jet age, nothing was more glamorous than traveling by air. Frank Sinatra even had a hit song - "Come Fly with Me" - about those who were then known as the 'jet set' crowd.
How times have changed. Today flying, especially for the infrequent flier - not the business ones- can be rather unsettling. Security lines at airports are so long that travelers often need to get there a few hours before their flight is scheduled to take off. I say 'scheduled' because how many times has your plane left on time? You would think that with the array of digital tools, big data, and predictive analytics, flying would be as easy as shopping online. But this is not the case - weather, turnaround times, readiness of ground staff, and inter connected flights adds a whole set of hidden complexities to airport management. Unfortunately, airports and several players in the ecosystem have not adequately leveraged digital tools, and so consumers are yet to have the seamless experience that has become an integral part of other industries.
Innovative digital models are making their way into banking and the recently launched Marcus by Goldman Sachs is one such example. A subsidiary of the investment bank, Marcus will offer customers a fixed-rate, no-fee, unsecured personal loan, which enables customers to personalize monthly payments and thus better manage their finances.
Marcus marks Goldman Sachs's digital shift from Wall Street to Main Street, and is an example of how banks are rapidly adopting new technologies. Another example of progressive incumbent banks going digital is India's ICICI Bank which has continually transformed itself to keep pace with changing customer requirements. Since 2015, the Bank has refreshed its core banking platform, launched #icicibankpay - a comprehensive Twitter based banking service, Pockets - India's first Visa-based open digital wallet, iWear - the country's first multi-platform smartwatch app, SmartKeys - a smart keyboard for banking where one can chat and pay, and most recently, a pilot on Blockchain based remittances and trade finance. All these initiatives are designed to comprehensively transform the bank to fulfil emerging customer expectations.
Today is Cyber Monday here in the US, and we are inundated with steals and deals. These range from lunches to gaming consoles, furniture to holidays. As the energy of the day takes over, it's not uncommon to have family and friends glued to their mobiles, filling up their carts with stuff they have been coveting for weeks- even months perhaps.
But first there was only Black Friday- the day after Thanksgiving when American retailers officially kicked off the holiday shopping season. In the last decade - never to let a lucrative opportunity pass them by - retailers devoted the following Monday to their virtual shop, and Cyber Monday was born. But something else was born along with it: the special 'one-day event' in the retail scheme of things. Aren't we all familiar with the 'manic Monday', 'terrific Tuesday' and 'wacky Wednesday' offers? Ask any marketing expert and she'll tell you that creating a sense of urgency appeals to the human psychology and is a well-tested method to sell merchandise rapidly.
At Barclays ATP World Tour Finals 2016, London: 'World First' Tennis Experience in Virtual Reality, powered by Infosys
Every marketer dreams of getting the audience to root for a brand. And for those seeking to inspire such devotion in customers, the time has never been more conducive to find ways to achieve it through sports marketing, a channel that has often been envied for its reach, but also criticized for its relatively high entry barriers and uncertain ROI. Today, any popular sport commands the love and loyalty of millions, with pervasive digital connectedness only amplifying the phenomenon. Little wonder then that sports marketing is a popular strategy for global brands. Including our own.
But is sports marketing only for brands with deep pockets and a long-term horizon? Is 'logo sponsorship' the ultimate high point? What is the role of innovative experiments in sports marketing? Let's try and answer some of these questions as I share with you the experience of our 12-month journey with ATP World Tour, the governing body of men's professional tennis worldwide.
The World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2016 is scheduled to be held on 6th & 7th October this year in Delhi, and Infosys is proud to be a strategic partner of the Forum. The theme of the event is 'Fostering an Inclusive India through Digital Transformation', clearly articulating the inflection point that India is at now. To explain our situation, I would like to borrow from the well-known book by Jim C. Collins, 'Good to Great', in which he describes the example of an egg. By itself, an egg may seem rather ordinary, until a chicken is hatched. And that is the wonder of nature, because there were some complex growth and developments happening in the background, before we witnessed the transformation.
As a large diverse country, the elaborate changes underway in India may similarly not be obvious. I wanted to share a couple of examples of how I believe India is becoming inclusive through digital transformation. One big launchpad is education. VJTI Engineering College, Mumbai is doing some innovative work through their smart grid CoE Lab, where they are building the intellectual capital around smart grids. The recently launched PSLV satellite had equipment designed by engineering students from PESU, Bangalore. In this, we get a glimpse of a growing population of youth who are almost literally aspiring, and can aspire, for the moon. The digital revolution sweeping across the country is making this and so many other things possible. The 19,000 startups in India, as of 2016, is yet another testimony to India's potential of becoming 'good to great'.
One of the most prestigious business and technology conferences in the IT industry, Oracle OpenWorld 2016, concluded this week at San Francisco with Infosys bagging an unprecedented seven Oracle Excellence Awards. Our CEO and MD, Dr. Vishal Sikka, delivered the keynote address on Being More, Our Transformations in the Time of A.I.
In this post, we bring you updates and snippets of our participation as we chat up our Oracle expert, Indranil Mukherjee, Service Offering Head - Oracle Practice, Infosys. He also shares his perspective on why organizations need to be 'Zero Distance to Digital'.
Corroborating the point made by Sajit Vijaykumar is Indranil Mukherjee, VP and Global Head - Oracle Practice, Infosys, who explains how Infosys can help enterprises identify areas for digital innovation.
Consumers and technology are going digital. But what does this mean for enterprises? In this interview, Sajit Vijayakumar, VP & Delivery Head, Oracle Practice, Infosys, shares his thoughts on how the enterprise landscape is changing in this new era of digital, and what organizations need to do to prepare for it.
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.
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.
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.
Companies are now at a point of inflection where they can leverage huge troves of data to run sophisticated analytics programs and grow business. However, for an organization to be able to leverage all this data in the most efficient way possible, establishing a clear governance protocol is the starting point. This governance protocol helps it to deal with issues that might arise from the various pools of data and the information it provides. There is data coming from everything and anything, and it is imperative to govern and channelize these well. Data governance is about establishing rules on all aspects of an enterprise's data such as its source, owners, validity, and security. Just as the subject of corporate governance arose out of necessity, so did data governance. Today, having a robust system of data governance is no more a luxury - it is an imperative.
Data is growing exponentially year on year. In fact, according to a report by IDC, data is doubling in size every two years. The report further goes on to state that "data that we create a copy annually will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes." A sound approach to data governance allows organizations to save time by knowing how and where to search for data that helps them.
With so much technology around, it is fairly easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. But, let me give you a few examples. Not too long ago - a rogue trader at UBS bank cost the company over $2 billion, despite the trading process being completely digitized. What stops a citizen in any country from paying someone a nominal amount to get their driver's license? One can fill in an application form online, but they still have to spend agonizing hours standing in line to get the license through proper channels.
What I'm referring to is that technology, even with its strongly associated attribute of transparency, in itself cannot eliminate corruption. Technology, by itself, will not flip the equation. It will contribute to changing the culture, of which people are an integral part. This, and so much more, was discussed at the World Economic Forum's panel on 'Technology for Transparency' in Tianjin, China earlier this week. I was delighted to participate and learn from this spirited panel, which included representatives of various governments and corporations.
If ever there were an industry that was open and ready for radical disruption, it's the insurance sector. That's one reason why so many new, nimble insurance companies have sprung up in recent years with completely different business models. Of them, in my opinion, the peer-to-peer model is one of the most promising and, quite frankly, realistic.
Why? Because the insurance behemoths commonly sell expensive policies that are 'cookie cutter' in nature. But, suppose you were a concert violinist who owned a multi-million dollar Stradivarius violin. You would have to find a specialized insurance agency who could come up with a customized policy for your precious instrument. The concept of peer-to-peer insurance is that (continuing with the violin example) you find musicians and rare instrument aficionados around the world who all have the same specialized insurance needs that you do. You form a crowd-funding community based on trust and a common theme. The more people who pay an initial insurance premium, the smaller the premium. What binds all peer-to-peer set-ups together is that if you don't make a claim during the course of a year, you receive a cash bonus. According to the peer-to-peer company Friendsurance, there have been cases recent years in which 94 percent of participants received some sort of year-end cash bonus.
How do we know or measure when an enterprise has truly gone digital? This is a question that every organization should be asking itself if it wants to succeed in the next five years. You read it correct: next five years. Not within the next century or even the next decade. Becoming a truly digital enterprise is no longer an option, if you want your enterprise to open up to new markets and thrive in the current ones.
I'm sure I could challenge one of my talented colleagues to write an algorithm by which enterprises could gauge their level of digitization. The algorithm would measure the total data in the organization - compare offline and online data, data derived from sensors, including ones on the shop-floor and products and from customer touch-points through a number of live connection nodes, web and social media presence, etc. These stats may look great during company presentations and can boost an organization's ego (due to the sheer amount of data they have been able to collect). Yet, if they are not leveraged to derive unique and actionable insights, they don't mean much.
In the past, consumer goods companies launched product after product with predictable success. New products were backed by meticulous research, consumer insights and a blaze of publicity. However, modern marketers are realizing there is no formula for a successful product story.
The 4Ps of marketing are getting upended by e-Commerce and buffeted by demographic and economic forces. The holy grail of consumer loyalty is now part of mythical folklore. Consumers now seek products that are utilitarian as well as convenient.
AP Analysis: FBI Drops iPhone Case Against Apple
The world seemed to come to a standstill when the United States government ordered Apple to unlock an iPhone that had been used by a suspected terrorist - only to have the company refuse. That the average teenage hacker could have possibly unlocked the iPhone was not the point; it was a matter of principle.
Apple claimed that if a government could order it to unlock one phone, then it could conceivably order it to unlock any phone. It would put the company in a difficult position with its loyal customers, who become loyal in part because they assume the company protects the data it receives from them.
One of the greatest novels of the 20th century almost didn't get published. Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, which later became a smash hit in Hollywood, was 'discovered' by a New York book agent sent to America to find the next crop of budding novelists. When he was traveling through Atlanta, he heard about a manuscript about the years leading up to the American Civil War and went to see the young author. Mitchell was extremely reticent to show the agent her manuscript. The story goes that she didn't think it was of high enough quality to be seen by someone from a major publishing house. The agent was unrelenting, and once he had skimmed the chapters he knew he had a potential bestseller on his hands.
Ironically, that publishing world is, well, 'gone with the wind'. No longer do book agents try to 'discover' little known authors and bet the bank that they might become big literary sensations. Instead, book publishing almost resembles the pharmaceutical industry: The players place their bets on a few big, well-known authors that they know they will be able to recoup the costs of printing and marketing. Like Big Pharma, the book publishers prefer to get through each year with a handful of sure-fire blockbusters than risking funds on new names.
Fact: The electrical grid in the United States experiences more blackouts than that of any other developed nation. Much of the physical equipment on our grids has aged to the point of obsolescence. And most industry experts would agree that the American utilities industry has reached a critical point. The message is clear: Update the infrastructure now or face serious consequences. At the same time, utilities are also experiencing a transformation to their business models (some of which, like the grids themselves, are more than 100 years old). Green energy sources, referred to as Distributed Energy Resources, are turning the centralized power generation and distribution model inside out.
The good news for the electrical grid in the United States is that for the first time in a long time, organizations and the government are coming together to make significant investments in infrastructure. Government subsidies such as the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 have provided US$ 4.5 billion for use in grid upgrades. But, that's barely a drop in the bucket compared to the infrastructure investments of other countries. Still, such investments will not only improve and upgrade the physical infrastructure in the United States, but will also better enable and optimize a 'smart grid' that can recognize, circumvent, and even prevent problems before they occur. Ultimately, smart infrastructure will improve the reliability and resiliency of our power grid.
We live in a world of noteworthy extremes. For instance, there are more wireless connections than there are human beings on the planet. Yet, half the population still doesn't own a mobile phone. In this world of extremes, there's a lot to consider when it comes to improving the consumer experience in the communications sector, which is struggling to serve its customers in a deregulated and competitive global market.
In the world of communications, you face a combination of such complex issues that it's hard to know just where to begin. Whether it's signal quality, internet speed, data roaming charges, or a mobility plan with bundled discounts thrown in, you're just scratching the surface. What happens, for example, when a customer wakes up one morning and discovers his cell phone can't get a signal or his internet speed is too slow? He will likely call his service provider and have an unsatisfying customer experience, and may even switch to another service provider. Issues like these are why the communications sector has a lot of customer churn. People are always looking around and jumping ship for better plans and better service.
With global oil prices as volatile as ever and the threat of terrorism hanging over everything a tourist does, you might envision a climate that spells doom for the travel and hospitality industry. Far from it. Companies that are smart about customer service are experiencing stronger performance than ever. And the driver behind this performance is educating guests and passengers through web-based tools and allowing them to shop, compare and choose hotel rooms and airplane seats. These informed travelers are expecting more out of their destinations of choice, and the smartest hoteliers and travel companies are delivering through their command of customer expectations and technology-enabled capabilities.
The very best in the industry now see their mandate as staying on top of customer relationships throughout all facets of their journey - and then some. What I mean is that hoteliers and airlines know that consumers have more choice than ever before, so the way they distinguish themselves is by learning about each and every person who comes through their doors and sustaining a positive relationship with them. To be sure, technology is an invaluable tool in this regard, but now it's all about using the technology the right way.
David Chaum 'Godfather of anonymous communication' - BBC News
Remember the 'God View' incident? A reporter was researching an article about Über that included - not surprisingly - riding around in the company's vehicles. Long story short: The company was accused of using a tool known as 'God View' to track the reporter. The tool allowed Über executives to get an aerial view of the area in which the reporter was riding as well as her personal information, according to law enforcement officers.
As part of its settlement with New York City's attorney general, Über "removed all personally identifiable information of riders from its system that provides an aerial view of cars active in a city, has limited employee access to personally identifiable information of riders, and has begun auditing employee access to personally identifiable information in general." So the next time you want to hitch a ride without anyone knowing about it, it seems you're able to do so. The incident captured the very essence of our digitally enabled society: Consumers want all the benefits and conveniences of mobile apps and ride services that track them, but also demand a complete cloak of anonymity and security.
Insured for the Digital Future
According to a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Microsoft has not been shy about expressing its interest in creating the essential building block of a quantum computer. The quantum computer would be a quantum leap in human progress. It would be able to tackle calculations that today's computers simply are incapable of carrying out. Microsoft is already talking about the many applications of such a super-computer - an innovation that could potentially turn around the technology industry altogether.
I bring up the quantum computer because I want to create a dichotomy for my readers. Now that you're excited and thinking about what a completely new kind of computer could do, switch gears and think about an industry where innovation has been, until very recently, almost non-existent: insurance. Known to be a conservative industry, insurance has traditionally been sold rather than being bought - a business model that has remained just the way it is for centuries.
The last telegram was sent out in India in July 2013, ending the service that was introduced more than 160 years ago. Frankly, I find myself wondering what took them so long. I, for one, don't remember the last time I sent a telegram. Yet, every morning - there are at least 100 emails waiting for me to read!
The telegram-to-email journey got me thinking about the realness of the irrevocable digitization around us, a phenomenon that is touching almost every aspect of our lives. How many apps do you have on your phone? When was the last time you held an analog camera, or spoke to a telephone operator for a long-distance call?
Infosys Robotic Process Automation
Competitive pressures have intensified to the point where the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped to just 18 years today from more than 60 years in 1958. If that rate of change continues, 75 percent of the companies in today's S&P 500 will be gone and replaced by new ones by 2030.
How to remain on that list for more than just 18 years? The key is to leverage technology to compete and stay one step ahead in this rapidly changing landscape. The most stunning example of this radical change is the shake-up expected in the automobile and transportation sector. I suspect the evolution will continue to favor services businesses over products. For example, consider the rise of Über and Lyft that use technology to change the way transportation services are delivered. Add to that the potential of self-driving cars by Tesla and Google, managed and controlled with software upgrades. The Dutch tested a self-driving bus couple of weeks ago. To stay relevant (or survive), the automobile industry is looking at unique investments. General Motors invested US$ 500 million in Lyft, and FordPass is a wonderful display of a century-old auto company's foray into mobility services.
Elevator Pitch: An simple way to pick insurance?
While the foundation of insurance and what it stands for - protection of life and belongings - cannot and has not changed, the way it is managed and provided, can and should. Driving this change are a new breed of startups that are doing some exciting things in this space. With the integration of technology in insurance, many new areas like online policy comparison and insurance on demand have opened up and are on the rise. Large insurance behemoths are often unable to make their way into these areas as they lack agility and resources, leaving a lacuna that must be filled. For startups, this gap is an opportunity to make their presence felt in a multi-trillion dollar industry.
But what gives startups in the insurance sector the edge to do this? Firstly, they have the flexibility that large insurers lack. With the right digital tools, startups can quickly adapt and accommodate changes as and when they are needed. Next, investors are realizing the potential of startups and are ready to invest big bucks. According to CB Insights, in 2010, US$ 2.12 billion was raised by companies looking to invest in insurance startups. Of this, US$ 1.39 billion was paid out since 2014. This shows that there is no dearth of funding for startups in the insurance space. Thirdly and most importantly, startups have the advantage of cutting-edge technology and digital tools at their disposal that enable them to conceptualize, develop and offer the products and services that customers want.
Banking of the future [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY3_wcJcLZ8]
The British rock band The Who is probably best remembered for their breakout hit, 'My Generation,' in which Roger Daltrey sings: "I hope I die before I get old!" The song resonated so well in the 1960s because it was about a new generation of consumers, born in the second half of the 20th century, who were not bound by their parents' traditions.
The same goes for today's generation. I think Max Levchin really connected with the youth when he co-founded PayPal. Why? Because he loathes traditional banking and everything it stands for. Interestingly, Levchin also helped start Yelp, which crowdsources reviews about local businesses, and has invested in Evernote, a multi-platform note-taking app. What's common between all three is that these are businesses that put consumer convenience above everything else. That's important to grasp, because financial services companies like PayPal are addressing the needs of younger and digitally-savvy consumers. These are the sorts of consumers who do not want to stay in traditional hotels on their vacations but are opting for 'experience' stays on Airbnb. They want to use their mobile phones to book or share cabs on Uber. These also do not tolerate long lines at a bank branch or banker's hours.
Should You Hire a Robot as a Financial Advisor?
Every year the Consumer Electronics Show features robots doing amusing things. Whether it's Honda's ASIMO humanoid robot shaking hands with dignitaries, or the round robot whose mission it is to vacuum carpets - there seems to be a novelty robot for everything. This year there is much more to look forward to. First, there's the holiday shopping season that will result in coffee-making robots, lawnmower robots, and even childcare robots. The second is the reboot of the 40-year-old Star Wars franchise, which has plenty of robots known as droids.
Fun, yes. Entertaining, without a doubt. But what do serious robotics experts and inventors have to say about the fact that the world doesn't seem to take bots seriously unless they're welding a car frame together? That's a question that was burning inside a brilliant young engineer's mind whose family had emigrated to the United States from China. After landing a job a Microsoft, he prudently shopped around for wealth advisory firms that catered to people like him: not rich at the moment, but with a lucrative career in a high-demand field, he might have some funds to invest down the line.
'The Guardian' Names 'Powell's' Best Independent Bookstore Worldwide
The end-of-the-year shopping spree is fun if for only one reason: To see what the creative advertising firms of Madison Avenue have come up with in terms of memorable TV spots. My favorite this year is an ad for the Barnes & Noble bookstore. Pop music stars Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are shopping for books and meeting each other inside the store, which, of course, results in the two of them belting out a duet. Both Bennett and Lady Gaga are holding up the books they presumably are going to purchase. The store, decked up in resplendent holiday decorations, is part of an overall TV commercial that proclaims that the death of the brick-and-mortar store has been greatly exaggerated.
Not too long ago retail analysts were predicting the death of bookstores like Barnes & Noble. So what, they said, if the store had coffee boutiques within each space or impromptu concerts by local chamber music groups? None of these mattered when compared with the sheer power and influence of the giant web retailers. Could it be, however, that we as consumers became downright intimidated by unmanned delivery drones, and reports in the press about the lousy working conditions in the fulfillment centers of the web retails? Could a quick walk or car ride to a local Barnes & Noble, beautifully decorated for the shopping season, actually be an enjoyable experience?
Pharmaceutical and medical device industry is on a precipice that's equally exciting and daunting. It's daunting, because many patents that the pharmaceutical industry acquired in the 1990s will expire soon. This, according to a Sanford C Bernstein report, can decrease revenue and cause generic erosion (expiring drug patents impacting revenues of pharma cos) between 2% and 40%, especially for companies without valuable pipelines. However, it's also exciting times. The industry has access to cutting-edge technology to strategically expand pipelines and innovate for better outcomes. From technology that virtualizes research processes and fast-tracks clinical development to those that enable compliance with government's rules and regulations, there are many technological advancements the industry is tapping into.
This gives it the edge to face challenges like expiring patents, and to create a connected and smart ecosystem. It helps companies stay ahead of competition, meet the complex regulatory requirements and align better with the global aim to offer more effective and long-lasting patient outcomes. Companies can achieve these goals with a 'connected care' approach and enablers like digitally-powered tools, technologies and touch-points for information monitoring, recording, storing, accessing and analyzing anytime, by any stakeholder. These enablers allow researchers and other stakeholders to stay connected with consumers, and enjoy benefits like reduced costs, enhanced performance, faster go-to-market, and seamless sales and marketing processes.
In the movie Ghost, comedian Arsenio Hall wisecracked, "Don't try to adjust your television. I'm black." Today, viewers toggle between multiple screens and different formats to select their preferred type and time of entertainment. The nature and delivery of content is being influenced by the proliferation of platforms and the diversity of devices. It compels media and entertainment enterprises to adopt a flexible approach to production and distribution, and explore revenue streams that maximize monetization.
While the industry undergoes churn with telecom, media, entertainment, movie studios, cable and broadcast enterprises merging to attract eyeballs, the consumer reigns supreme. Netflix used data and sentiment at the intersection of the Venn diagram to adapt the BBC television series House of Cards, cast actors and select the director for the American audience. Significantly, symmetry in data made the award-winning series a global franchise - China and India rank among the top countries downloading the latest season of the series.
A shopaholic once famously quipped, "Whoever said money can't buy happiness, simply didn't know where to shop." The joke now seems to be on retailers as customers shop on their mobile device, television set, and not to forget, in different formats of brick-and-mortar retail stores. Given the heterogeneity of shop fronts and availability of brands at diverse price points, retailers - and not shoppers - seem to need therapy.
The shopper's digital genome compels the retail industry to reinvent itself to serve existing and emerging demographic segments. Just as the cable industry rises to the challenge of the digital 'cord-cutter' generation accessing content on their mobile devices, retailers need to serve millennial shoppers who prefer 'adding to cart' rather than paying at checkout counters. Even when shoppers visit the store, retailers need to influence their pathway to aisles that stock goods in their shopping lists.
Bluesmart - The World's First Smart Connected Carry-on Suitcase
There's no discounting the human desire to travel faster and farther; to push the limits. SpaceX, for instance, is one of the best examples of how radically the travel industry is changing. It's a private rocket company that suffered a setback about six months ago when one of its vessels, carrying a load of cargo for the International Space Station, exploded three minutes after lift-off.
Yet this December, SpaceX plans to return to outer space with an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket. Private space travel companies have customer waiting-lists a mile long, filled with celebrities, business tycoons, and national leaders. A private space firm like SpaceX can get rockets into geosynchronous orbit faster than I can locate my luggage. I'm joking about the luggage -- well, just a bit.
There are few things in American pop culture more beloved than the Blue Light Special. Ask anyone in the United States over a certain age about it, and chances are you'll get a smile and some happy childhood memories. The Blue Light Special was one of the greatest retail inventions. In the mid- to late-20th century, shoppers at the discount department store chain K-Mart would see a bright, spinning police light in a certain area of the store that would announce a special sale of a certain item for a very limited time -- for as long as that blue light was on.
Shoppers would rush over to wherever the light was, and even if the sale item was something they didn't necessarily want or need, the spontaneity and limited time of the sale would often influence an on-the-spot purchase. This all might sound quaint in the early 21st century, but the Blue Light Special was not unlike what the online 'flash sale' is like today. The bright light, the limited time, the rush of shoppers trying to get to the merchandise -- it all sounds very 'omnichannel,' doesn't it?
Instacart CEO: A Bet on Groceries [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_9lX3tz1aM]
Have you heard of Instacart, Peapod or even AmazonFresh? These feisty enterprises are trying to change the way you buy what goes in your mouth. Indeed, some savvy venture capitalists think of food retail as an industry with startup potential. For example, the research firm CB Insights reports that VC investment in digitally-based food retailers rose to US$ 1 billion in 2014 from US$ 288 million the year before. Interest among hungry investors continues to grow.
So just what are food startups? These are extremely sophisticated technologists who happen to be owners of small businesses (small farms, really - just a few acres here and there). They form farming cooperatives in some cases and they are well-versed in growing and selling food. They are using IT tools to go against the grain. Plus, financial guidance from their VC investors doesn't hurt, either. This is an enormous change from the way things have been done. For decades, to succeed in food retail, you had to go the hypermarket route. Everything was about enormous scale (farms consisting of hundreds of thousands of acres or livestock slaughterhouses that went through thousands of animals a day) and razor-thin margins.
In tech terms, 'hardening' refers to fixing a computer system - sometimes in various layers, with each layer requiring a unique method of security. Today, Internet protocol designers are talking about applying similar security methods to harden the Internet. But, that's no easy feat. Hardening the Internet requires a coordinated effort involving the research community, the infrastructure equipment development community as well as the network service operator community.
Discussions around hardening the internet has been around for over a decade, especially with regard to surveillance versus security. Historically, there has always been a conflict between the need for surveillance in the interest of national security and the need for network security for Internet users. Prevailing opinions are that pervasive monitoring is a technical attack that should be mitigated by the likes of Internet Engineering Task Force, a volunteer-run organization that promotes Internet standards protocols, wherever possible. The Internet engineering community has consistently taken a consensus position that pushes back against technology-based and indiscriminate government surveillance. The engineering community believes that extensive and indiscriminate surveillance is an assault on individual privacy, and that tightened protocols should make surveillance more expensive or not easily feasible in the least.
Disrupt or be disrupted, right? Well, try telling that to the innovators of startup businesses in the extremely challenging financial services space. According to a report by the U.S. Federal Reserve, a typical small company in America spends 24 hours applying for loans. That's a full day's worth of work.
The pay-off, unfortunately, isn't as impressive. According to the Fed, just 33 percent of these startups receive all the credit for which they've applied. Some 45 percent of companies are denied loans altogether. We keep hearing that small, innovative startups are the lifeblood of any economy. That's because they grow into large companies and employ lots of people.
There is a cultural struggle going on in the heart and soul of the global marketplace. Not since the years after World War II, when veterans began having children who later embraced rock-n-roll music (and annoyed their Big Band-loving parents), has such a distinct line been drawn between generations.
On one side are the older consumers who would never think of discussing very personal health matters via Skype with their physicians. They make appointments to go in and see their doctors face to face. On the other side: 'millennial' consumers who feel at ease being classified as 'self-directed patients.' We have boundless innovation in the field of mobile health technology (or 'mHealth') to thank for allowing healthcare providers to offer outpatient services for more people around the world. No longer do you have to go to the doctor's office and sit in a waiting room. The doctor will come to you via digital technology.
I was recently listening to a fascinating panel discussion whose members agreed that radio as a medium is enjoying a renaissance. In our high-tech age, who would have thought that a technology as old as radio could have a resurgence?
The fact is, there is a timelessness to listening to that which is entertaining and informative. It might be more than a century since the radio was introduced, but the content has changed very little. It's the devices (from a 10-kg wooden box morphing into a 100-gram smartphone) and the business models that deliver the content that have changed. Broadcasters and producers have state-of-the-art digital editing tools. But people still enjoy listening to their favorite music and news.
About two hundred years ago, the vast majority of people never ventured too far from their homes. Their entire lives consisted of tending the land around their family homesteads so that they could feed their families. This pattern continued and remained largely unchanged until about 1900, when the Industrial Revolution transformed cities into places that attracted people because of factory jobs and the like.
We have loved the city life ever since. As the global population continues to grow at a steady pace, more and more people are moving to cities every single day. Experts predict that the world's urban population will double by 2050. This means under the current pace, within 40 years, 70 percent of the world's population will reside in cities. This rapid migration will push both current and future urban centers to maximize and expand infrastructures beyond their breaking points.
Slow and steady wins the race. Nice advice and an old maxim. But does it really apply to the digital age and especially to the financial services space? That's what we at Infosys Finacle wanted to find out when we collaborated with Cornerstone, a financial services and technology consulting firm. The study focused on a small corner of the vast financial services world that is often under-reported and under-represented when it comes to surveys: the credit unions.
For the uninitiated, credit unions are hybrid institutions. Like banks, they give loans and take deposits from customers. But they're not open to simply anyone who has the money to bank there - at least, that's how they were born. Credit unions are members-only financial institutions that revolved around a certain segment of customers, so the idea was that the loan officers and bank tellers who worked there knew more about the needs and concerns of, say, a construction worker or a telephone company employee.
Retail Trends - Personalization & Big Data
One of the things that made the television series Mad Men so endearing was how quaint and simple the corporate world used to be a half-century ago. The popular television series shed light on Madison Avenue of the early 1960s. The world's largest advertising firms were run by brash, creative men who had little use for predictive analytics or customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Of course, no such technology existed back then. The series takes place more than 50 years ago, when the most sophisticated computers took up an entire room and operated on punch cards. Back then, customers were told what to covet by bold advertising campaigns. The idea was that a catchy jingle or repeating the name of a product over and over again over the airwaves would settle deep within a consumer's inner consciousness. The next time they went to the store they would inevitably buy that product.
Recently, I had the privilege of representing Infosys as the moderator at one of Innovate Finance's panel discussions, titled 'The Democratization of Data: The Changing Face of Insurance.' The session was well attended with representatives from startups, investors, and organizations such as Aviva, Swiss Re, and the Lloyds Banking Group. There were four groups with 12 participants each with topics ranging from the one I was moderating to digital, telematics, and risk. We had 45 minutes to discuss the topic and then present the findings to the rest of the group.
What we all discovered is that there are new, disruptive insurance companies that are stirring things up in a very old and traditional business. One of the participating startups had the following claim: Better care starts with technology. Their proposition is that they are a new kind of organization that melds medical care with insurance. Another startup-created website directs you to tell them your symptoms so that they can connect you with a doctor immediately. You can track all your visits, prescriptions, and lab results on your mobile device.
Father Helps Son With Diabetes, Develops 'Bionic Pancreas'
The movie Tomorrowland is getting mixed reviews. Some critics say that despite its spectacular special effects, it lacks a coherent storyline. Others have a different take. One critic writes that: "Tomorrowland delivers a loud and clear message of hope for humanity, which is a welcome thing to hear at any point in time."
Well that is good news - especially for those of us in the business of innovation. There's nothing more satisfying for me than to help solve the challenges facing the world from the perspective of the life sciences. That's because the assorted life science industries - everything from Big Pharma and biotech to healthcare - are undergoing a tremendous and exciting evolution. Because of the power of Big Data, they're consolidating into one, massive force for good.
According to the research firm Gartner Group, the amount of data produced on planet earth is set to increase 60 percent each year in the near future. Talk about Big Data getting even bigger! Unimaginably big, in fact. Where to start with this needle in this massive haystack?
The initial problem is, of course, that all data are not created equal. What might be precious information to your organization might be just chatter to another entity. And the other way around. So having all this data in your possession is one thing. Parsing through it to make sense of it all is quite another thing.
Retailers risked being left in their competitors' dust if they didn't stay on top of digital trends. The smartest retailers have created seamless experiences for their savvy, digital consumers - whether online or in-store.
Believe it or not, the same is true for the expectations of digital consumers and their insurance companies. Whereas retailers can turn on a dime and react very quickly and effectively to consumer preference, with the insurance industry, it's a different story. That's because the insurance business is extremely predictable and runs on a very basic premise: that an army of actuaries utilize algorithms to determine rates for policyholders. If something such as a natural disaster occurs and the companies must pay out on some policies, those companies simply adjust the rates they charge to everyone. So the insurance company is always, always coming out on top no matter what transpires in the world.
Will Fashion Fall for Apple Watch?
If there's one thing the great Modernist movement of the mid-20th century taught us, it's that form follows function. We live in world pretty much defined by that mantra. As the technology around us becomes more sophisticated, it's clear that what we focus on as consumers is how the technology can liberate us. The styling or the packaging comes in a distant second.
Or does it? I have been fascinated by various reports that Apple, anticipating the launch of its long awaited Apple Watch, is training its sales associates to emphasize the styling of the Watch. Training its sales staff to discuss fashion is incredibly new territory for a technology company like Apple. So much so that a prominent Apple follower recently wrote that many of the company's newest hires come not from engineering firms but from the likes of luxury fashion retailers such as Burberry, Yves St. Laurent, Tag Heuer, and Louis Vuitton. Sales associates are being given crash courses in how to deal with would-be buyers of the watch by using age-old luxury retailing tactics - not something a technology company and computer maker has typically had to think about.
Financial Services for Everyone - Agent Banking in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The mobile digital device is changing the world in more ways than you think. In the field of microfinance, for example, the humble cell phone is revolutionizing the rift between the world's richest and poorest communities.
Microfinance has officially been around for decades. But it was a labor of love in that loan organizations sent representatives to some of the remotest areas on earth to sign people up for loans and make the payments in person. Now, however, a cell phone connection allows budding entrepreneurs in even the poorest of countries to solicit and receive loans digitally. They don't have to wait for the banker to come to their villages with signed bank checks.
CyberPatriot Prepares Students to Protect the Internet of Everything
Of all the unsettling stories of our Internet age, perhaps none is creepier than computer miscreants hacking into home video cameras or security systems. Whenever I hear an expert or colleague sing about the merits of the Internet of Things (IoT), I remind him or her of their home security systems that could be hacked by creepy outsiders. The story, though unsettling, puts things in perspective. That is, as wonderful as the IoT will be for our personal lives overall, what with all the conveniences involved, we have made a deal that is a formidable one - one in which our privacy and security is forever compromised.
That's why we have to be more vigilant - like it or not. Convenience and the wonders of technology come with a price. Besides, the IoT is already just about everywhere. There are nearly five billion connected things and this number could climb to 25 billion by 2020, according to the folks at Gartner. Now it is true that the IoT promises a smoother life, such as the ability for consumers to keep track of their groceries and energy consumption on their cell phones. We will even receive alerts when milk is running low. Everything, including our homes and our heartbeats (did you see the recent Apple iWatch event?) will be monitored to make our lives more flexible and downright easier.
The insurance industry globally is undergoing a major transformation. Pervasive technologies, growing millennial consumer base, fierce competition and increased regulatory interventions are changing the very fundamentals of the insurance business. As customers become more selective and competitors more agile, it is imperative for insurers to continuously innovate their product portfolio and distribution mix to stay ahead of the competition.
Today's customers play an active role across the insurance policy lifecycle, starting from product development to claims disbursement. The product-centric business model, is slowly but surely making way for a customer-centric one. In this evolving marketplace, one in which customers are calling all the shots, distribution function is going through a significant transformation.
Most digital consumers don't even realize that they are being bombarded with numerous sensory cues in carefully calculated orders and methods in order to get them to click and purchase
In many parts of the world, television shows about food - or, more specifically, how to prepare it - are spectacularly popular. What we eat and how we cook it apparently says a lot about us. In fact, there's even a lovely movie - The Hundred-Foot Journey - about a stodgy, elderly expat learning how to cook with an array of Indian spices.
The movie is really about this pensioner learning how to live and love against a backdrop of cooking. Indeed, what's so powerful about food and its preparation is that it's a wonderfully powerful assault on all of our senses. That said, one assumes marketers know about sensory stimulation and how best to utilize it when selling us products - especially online.
SMEs turn to peer-to-peer lending
It was the legendary technologist Andy Grove who said: "Only the paranoid survive." Smart advice from a smart businessman. Today's marketplace is shifting and changing so rapidly that it certainly does pay to keep one's eyes on the prize.
Consider, for instance, the online payments space. The post-global economic crisis created a new world order, especially when it came to financial services firms. During the World Economic Forum (WEF), the best and brightest from the banking world discussed how nimble even the largest banks have had to become just to survive. And how, by the power of crowdfunding, new entities are giving them a run for their money.
What Do We Know Now About Apple Watch?
Spring forward and fall back. That's how everyone remembers what to do with their clocks twice a year with the onset (and then the end) of Daylight Saving Time. This year, Daylight Saving Time began on March 8 - a day before Apple launched the much anticipated Apple Watch. Playing as coy as possible, the Cupertino giant had issued a tantalizing invitation to the world's technology press that it would "spring forward" with the debut of a certain piece of hardware.
It didn't take much deduction to figure out that the device in question was the Apple Watch, springing forth into a market that analysts say is starving for every kind of wearable computing platform imaginable. But thinking about the whole affair - the symbolism, the merchandise, and the consumer demand for such goods - is enough to give one pause.
There's an emerging user authentication method for the web called FIDO. FIDO stands for Fast IDentity Online, and it portends to revolutionize the way consumers connect with their digital devices. When I say digital devices, I mean all of them. The point of FIDO is that it can leverage any hardware support available on a user device. That even covers things like microphones (via speaker recognition), cameras (via face recognition), fingerprint sensors, and my personal favorite, behavioral biometrics. This last item is a true sign that Artificial Intelligence is already upon us and has so many wonderful applications.
I think FIDO is an authentication method to watch for other reasons as well. For starters, it typically focuses on ease of use, security, and standardization. The primary objective is to enable online services and websites, whether on the open Internet or within enterprises, to leverage native security features of end-user computing devices for strong user authentication. Plus, let's not forget about the effort to reduce the problems associated with creating and remembering many online credentials. I know of no one who doesn't think having to retain multiple passwords is a royal pain!
Let's face it: Digital needs are changing. That's why it's imperative for enterprises to adopt new tools and technologies. Did you know, for example, that by next year some 3 billion consumers, or 45 percent of the world's population, will be using the Internet? It's a staggering number. Smart organizations need to be focused on the power of social media as well as the possibilities that come with ultra-connectivity: the Internet of Things.
To best anticipate and leverage these rapid-fire changes, an organization needs to recognize that there's a paradigm shift occurring in the global marketplace. That means redefining the digital needs of present-day consumers. Doing so will take the right infrastructure and the right software. Internet traffic volumes are estimated to reach 1 zettabyte (yes, zettabyte!) by later this year. Digital consumers are already making 500 million tweets a day, and there exists 1.2 billion monthly active Facebook users. Ask yourself: Is your organization's digital infrastructure and software up to the task of meeting this growing consumer demand?
Dish CEO: Sling TV to Complement Dish's Core Business [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRfrejSjgWU]
People under the age of 30 are not big on commitment. I mean, they just don't want to be tied down with anything, be it a music system, a television cable subscription, or even a car. The under-30 crowd prefers paying for those items when they need them - and nothing more. How to explain the rise in popularity of Uber for transportation and Spotify for music?
Now their attention is turning to the media and entertainment industry. You see, affluent, millennial consumers would rather stream shows at their convenience than pay for a subscription that gets them hundreds of channels they know they'll never watch. This is driving a sea change in the entertainment industry, which is slowly moving towards steaming content.
Passwords have become even more difficult to remember and key-in, especially on small and cumbersome keyboards, which are common on mobile devices
Today life does not move without a fast and robust Internet connection. Be it banking, insurance, booking a movie or travel ticket, or shopping, the Internet has become a crucial part of everything we do.
Moreover, the services and demand surrounding the internet are increasing every day on both ends - the providers and the consumers. Of course, it all used to be a lot simpler: Users sat at their desks and navigated the web from their large desktops and laptops. But they've moved en masse from the standardized world of PCs to the fragmented and diverse world of smartphones and tablets. With emerging mobile users and an equally mobile workforce, even applications have become mobile. They are no longer hosted at a centralized datacenter but in the cloud.
Are driverless cars in the horizon? [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnLqt4jLYdg]
This Christmas our family got together and as a tradition we watched a James Bond movie. My nephew, who is an energetic seven-year old, was very excited about the film. Next morning, it was gifts time and Santa was pleased with all of us. I got a Moto360 smartwatch. My nephew had a ball mimicking James Bond with it. He found out that he could talk to the watch and the watch could do things for him. The watch could tell him football scores, the temperature outside (and inside) and lots more. There was our very own James Bond Jr.! And then he suddenly saw my car start. Confounded, he started to look around only to find me playing with my phone and the secret was out. Before we knew it, he was changing TV channels using my phone, watching a DVRed football game on it and playing songs from my PC to his bedroom speakers, all controlled by his tablet.
Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT). Today's world is all about things that are interconnected. I can monitor my home security and change my thermostat setting while I am drinking coffee at the local coffee shop. And this is just the beginning. Wearables and applications using those wearables are gaining momentum. Using a phone to interact with a car is passé. This year's Consumer Electronics Show showcased smart cars: autonomous vehicles that create video conferencing and collaboration environment as you go places.
Can online grocery shopping really save you money? [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEtreaNHrg8]
If there is a poster child for the advantage of having a robust bricks-and-mortar infrastructure in the competitive world of online commerce, it's the grocery store.
Just ask anyone at this week's annual meeting of the best and brightest in the retail world, the Big Show. That's what the National Retail Federation calls its terrific gathering of speakers, exhibitors, entrepreneurs, and, of course, the globe's leading retailers.
Retail conversations at National Retail Federation Big Show 2015 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3kitsczNO0]
This week we're in New York City, in the midst of a mind-boggling trade show with thousands of sponsors, products, ideas, and exhibitors on display: the National Retail Federation's Big Show. I wish one of their stores would sell a device that tracked how many digital devices ever see the light of day! Chances are that it would be a very low number.
Truth is, the market for good, useful and seamless digital devices in the retail industry is a brutally tough one. Especially when you're the retailer that has competitors on all fronts - clicks and bricks. The product you need to be selling must have more than just a shiny exterior. That's why Samsung's curved TV set is making everyone take notice. Anyone who passes by the electronics retailer can immediately picture the curved set in his/her living room. That's always a good sign that the market is pining for the latest invention and flocking to your stores.
CES 2015: The Internet Of Things [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU66gkdDaFc]
Fact: Finacle by Infosys serves 451 million banking customers around the world. That's 18 percent of the global financial services population. So a word to those of you who are enamored by the sleek drones, the pint-sized computers, and the cool robotics that come out of the annual Consumer Electronics Show: Have fun, but always, always remember that it's money - and not those neat gadgets - that makes the world go 'round.
Indeed, the real star of the CES is digital finance. It's not as pleasurable to look at or as fun to play with as all the other innovations at the annual show, but tools that enable and empower people to make better financial decisions are becoming really hot. CEB TowerGroup says that Finacle is best-in-class when it comes to solutions for large banks. Although the success of Finacle is nothing new, the way consumers use such banking solutions will be. During CES, what I've been seeing is a spirit of cooperation among fierce rivals that stimulates the imagination.
Gadgets, ideas unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show 2015 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7Gg8v3ITqw]
This tantalizing item comes in just in time for the annual hoopla that surrounds the Consumer Electronics Show: One of the hottest announcements in the word of consumer electronics and technology is that WhatsApp could very well be working on a web version of its popular messaging app.
Web functionality. It's what everyone's taking about these days ... inside and outside of the CES. Digital messaging services like Line, Viber, Telegram, and WeChat let their users send messages via their mobile phones or through accompanying websites. So far, WhatsApp, arguably the most popular of all these services, has yet to make the jump onto an official website with full functionality. I suspect it will. Now that Facebook acquired WhatsApp for what most analysts and experts agree to be an absolutely impressive $19 billion, you can bet part of the messaging service's utilitarianism will include web functionality.
Digital connections can help financial services companies connect with customers in a more meaningful way
An important metric for any industry is to measure conversation length over social media. Some sectors, like the retail industry, know how to foster consumer loyalty and get them talking about it over social media channels. I bring this point up because some industries have a long way to go when it comes to leveraging this valuable medium.
Among them is the financial services sector. Recent analysis found that the average length of time spent discussing banks online is just 30 percent of the time consumers discuss telecommunications. And it's just 15 percent of the time that those same people spend chatting about media and entertainment companies.
StockCity: A virtual look at your stock portfolio | CNBC [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRKtDd23JUE]
When you think of high-tech, innovative research and development facilities, industries like defense and aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications probably come to mind. But mutual funds? Yes, there is such a thing as a mutual fund R&D laboratory.
In fact, one such lab is associated with Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund firm on the planet. What amazes me about pushing the envelope in the mutual fund industry is that at first glance there doesn't seem to be an envelope to push. An investor allocates a certain amount of money toward buying into a fund, and each month she gets her statement. OK, so maybe the statements come online instead of in the mail. But is there any serious need to tweak this age-old system? It works well enough.
Gamification will drive customer engagements in the utilities industry
When the city of Detroit went dark last week, the event was a grim reminder of just how old a lot of America's energy infrastructure is going. Electric cables and transformers that date back to the 19th century only have so much life left in them.
Of course, Detroit like many other cities is going through its own challenges - the beleaguered city has filed for bankruptcy and has trouble finding the funds to keep municipal agencies humming. Yet the prospect of a massive power outage should be a wake-up call to all utilities that are focusing on improving their equipment and customer service. Amidst this, well, dark backdrop I've become a fan - like many utilities executives around the world - of a way to pump life into customer service and engagement and have a lot of fun while doing it. I'm talking about gamification.
The speed at which a bank carries out a transaction can be its main attraction over a competitor
We've all heard the saying: old habits die hard. When it comes to the world of banking, the laundry list of old habits that we hang onto can be impressive - especially when you're talking about American banks.
Most of my American friends conduct their day-to-day, personal banking not unlike Americans before them did, some two-and-a-half centuries ago. Think about it: the banking system in America is older than the United States itself! For example, if someone were to receive a bill for his electric utilities in the mail, he would take the checkbook out of his desk, write a check to the utility company for the amount due, and then affix a postage stamp to the envelope and drop the payment in the mail.
Sandeep Dadlani, Executive Vice President, Head, Retail, CPG and Logistics & Head of Americas talks about predictive analytics, which is transforming the retail industry
Buoyed by digital convergence, social media, Big Data and new technologies, the fast-changing retail landscape is at the cusp of an important transformation. Retailers, who were known as 'artists' for selling their merchandise on creativity and experience instead of math and science, now must cater to a new generation of buyers who hardly enter a store! To stay ahead of the game, it is imperative for retailers to not only accept the ways of digital shopping but also adopt new business models to attract and retain customers.
Up until few years ago, most company websites displayed a toll-free contact number at the bottom of the web page as the point of contact for customers. Should anything go wrong post purchase, it was pretty much the only way (apart from writing in) to contact the company. Today, thanks to social media, the avenues of communication have increased manifold.
Mohit Joshi talks about the scope for digital transformation in the financial services industry
There's perception and then there's reality. Walk into any bank and you'll notice that there are probably no less than six teller windows. But even in the busiest of cities in the middle of a weekday, there are at most two or three windows manned by a teller. The perception is that the bank is ready to serve customers at a moment's notice. The reality is that there are never more than a couple of tellers on duty.
The automated teller made it so that customers wanting to deposit or withdraw cash - functions that account for 80 to 90 percent of a teller's duties - could swipe their ATM card and be done with the transaction in a minute or two. No waiting in lines at the bank. Yet for the better part of 35 years, banks continued to design their branches with spots for multiple tellers. It's not that someone forgot to tell the architect; banks intentionally wanted to appear to have a sizeable, physical customer service force by having all those teller windows.
Form factors such as the tablet or the mobile phone may soon be replaced by wearables like the glass or watch
A couple of days ago, I was keenly watching the launch of Amazon Echo. The first thing that came to mind was - the Star Trek computer. Well, the Star Trek computer was fiction, but Alexa, Google Now, Siri are here today. The fiction is now a reality!
This is exactly what's happening with consumer trends. You see, something that starts as a consumer trend, soon ends up with enterprise IT, with the tagline of 'we need to support that' or 'we should use it for our employees.' Think about this: how cool would it be if I could walk into my office (or access my virtual office from anywhere) and say "OK Infosys, whom am I speaking with at 9am?" The system would promptly respond with, "You have a call with Jack Ryan at 9am, Prasad." If I need more information, I will ask: "Tell more about him," to which, my faithful system will respond with the required information: "Jack Ryan is..." and all the information from my CRM and LinkedIn will flow in along with a summary of my email exchanges with Mr. Ryan. That future, my friends, is not too far away!
eBay: How online boosts offline sales
There's an old proverb that reads: May you live in interesting times. I always think of that saying when I consider the exciting changes taking place in the retail industry. Look around at any global chain or online retailer, and you'll find that we're living in times that go beyond interesting.
Consider the giant online retailer Amazon.com. Its financial performance has been less than stellar, yet its stock continues to trade in the stratosphere. That sign of investor confidence is based, I think, on the premium placed on innovation. Their CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, is so committed to the rapid delivery of merchandise ordered online that he is flirting with deploying a fleet of unmanned drone aircraft that can airlift orders straight from warehouse to front door in minutes. Indeed, investors are rewarding Amazon's penchant for innovative thinking when you consider the multiple at which the stock continues to trade.
What does Twitter's `Fabric' tool do for apps?
Finally! It took years and several high profile, wide-scale corporate security breaches, but American companies are finally being nudged into issuing credit cards with embedded microchip technology. To Europeans, this technology is nothing new. But the legacy technology characterized by the old magnetic strip put up quite a battle for an extended lifespan in America. We're all glad to see that organizations there are putting it to rest in favor of the technologically superior microchip.
It always seems that cyber-crooks are one step ahead of everyone else, so when consumer-focused organizations take the digital security of its patrons very seriously, it's a positive step for global commerce. In that same spirit I heard the news that Twitter will very soon be offering a new tool for developers that could one day spell the end of the traditional type-in password. I think we can all agree that type-in passwords, like magnetic strips on credit cards, are antiquated. They can also be a pain in the neck. How many times have you visited a Web site only to be forced into clicking on the "Forget Your Password?" link?
Fast food apps growing in popularity
Call it the hyper-consumerization of the enterprise.
If you don't think we're in the midst of a consumer-focused boom, then consider what the fast food giant McDonald's is reported to be testing in certain markets. No, it's not a new sandwich - it's a new app.
If Mickey Dee's does indeed roll out this app after its initial test phase, I think we could be entering an entirely new era in which fast and consumer-friendly apps radically transform the customer experience. I am completely fascinated by a McDonald's app because we're not talking about a staid and conservative department store that is using apps to attract a new generation of customers. It's a global fast food enterprise that already excels in the marketing, distribution, and sales of its fast food products.
In France, Transferring Money With Tweets
The power of the proverbial wake-up call. Some of us are lucky to receive them. They keep us nimble and always push ourselves and our organizations to improve. But there are those among us who are unlucky; they're the ones who don't receive wake-up calls. Remember the man who, more than 100 years ago, said the 'horseless carriage' wouldn't catch on because of all the petrol stations that would have to be built to serve them? Then there was the executive in the 1970s - a computer company CEO, no less - who said he could never see people keeping computers in their homes.
Today we received a couple of huge wake-up calls. The question is: who will heed them and who will ignore them? The call involves the fact that a French mega-bank, Groupe BPCE, is teaming up with Twitter to allow customers to transfer money via Tweets. And that's not all. Indian private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank (KMB) has launched a Facebook-based instant fund transfer service where money can be transferred to users' friends on social media network in real time and for free!
Tim Cook talks about Apple watch
There has been a huge buzz around the recent announcement of Apple watch in the wearables segment. The watch has nicely packaged social, fitness, home, health and payments into a single device. It has a number of optical sensors, which along with an accelerometer would be able to measure an individual's activity and heart rate in detail. The apple Health app, along with the new developer tool called Healthkit, provides new ways of tracking these vital parameters and promoting a healthy regimen.
There is an interesting correlation between the cost of electronic devices like camera lenses, touch glass and fingerprint readers, once they have been incorporated into a mass market mobile smartphone. Studies have shown that the cost of such devices drop faster than Moore's law once a leading smartphone (e.g. iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, etc. have adopted it). What is studied less is that this price drop could have a huge impact on adjacent markets and spawn a new range of solution offerings, which was not possible before due to the high input cost of these devices.
We're one step closer to that surreal society in which everything that surrounds you and comes in contact with you is connected to the Internet. It's easy to get quite excited about the prospect of just how convenient your personal life might become when the Internet of Things (IoT) takes on a massive scale.
There's a lot that needs to happen first. Some technology analysts predict that it could take five years or so for products - everything from table lamps to bracelets to coffee makers - to be embedded with sensors that allow them to be connected. It seems corporations are taking the IoT seriously. It reminds me when the world wide web just started becoming popular. Companies made sure they reserved the appropriate URL for their homepages even if they didn't know how they were going to use the net. I even recall a prominent CEO in the mid-1990s saying that he wasn't sure how the Internet would affect the various industries that his conglomerate was involved in. But he was nevertheless making sure they were prepared for the possibilities of how the web could affect commerce down the line.
Mobile banking apps are also prone to hacking [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdO9CQqOuP8]
During my recent coast to coast sojourn in North America, during which I had the good fortune of meeting many of our customers, there was one theme that stood out in all discussions--security of mobile apps. The concern was more around B2C applications, given the increasing penetration of the Android operating system. With its open model and multiple OS versions, Android, in recent times, has shown increasing vulnerability to malware, Trojans, etc. Even iOS is not completely free from these vulnerabilities, although the perception is that a highly controlled and closed ecosystem makes it less susceptible.
Take for instance, the recent hacking of the mobile app of a leading coffee retailer, where it was discovered that the user IDs and passwords were stored in a flat file. The CIO of the company commented that even if someone accesses the app login credential the only thing the person could do is buy coffee. I think this ignores a very important fact--that people may use that very same user ID and password on multiple sites. Keeping the login sequence on a mobile app simple has been the prevailing paradigm so far, in order to not compromise with user experience and increase the app adoption.
Apple Pay is here to transform mobile payments [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om-YRgPtdZw]
So the much anticipated Apple's take on Mobile Payments, Apple Pay, has finally arrived like a superstar on stage. It has taken the payment industry by storm through a cameo appearance alongside an impressive array of unveilings. According to Apple, it is as momentous as the Mac or iPod or iPhone launch from years past. With more than 800 million iTunes accounts, it has always been source of endless 'what-ifs' for the payments industry buffs. So we now have more clarity on Apple Pay to ruminate and to prognosticate.
Speaking of what we know, Apple Pay uses near-field communication (NFC) technology to complete payments with a wave. Also in the package, an inventive approach that doesn't require card information on the mobile device instead a digital token is stored. Even if the mobile phone is stolen, the card details are safe. The digital token resides on a secure element on the mobile device. This is clearly Apple doing what it does best. Other 'wallets' experiments have been listless at best. Among the many difficulties there was this pesky question of who controls the secure element - the carriers or the payment networks or the wallet provider. Well, not for Apple. They make the device and they control it.
Tim Stevens talks about the new Apple launches [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0bltI5uGPU]
Apple users are a dedicated group. They remind me of automobile aficionados, whose magazines are largely dedicated to sneaking into corporate proving grounds and snapping photos of next year's model on the track. In that same spirit, Apple fans are always trying to get sneak peeks at what the company has in store for them. They are very vocal about what kinds of features next year's model should have, or the power under the hood, or the overall design.
Savvy enterprises listen to their consumers. Just as something as mundane as the cup holder came out of drivers requesting that their favorite car companies install secure places for their cups of coffee, computer manufacturers depend in part on the desires of their consumer base. That's why I was floored to see the size of the new iPhone 6 Plus. It's more than just a smartphone. It's what's known as a "phablet," and it means that Apple is now treading in waters in which it said (until quite recently, in fact) it would never be caught.
Hackers in Russia have stolen 1.2 billion passwords from websites [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1czXdU5cfRM]
In one of his first moves as newly named CEO of the retail giant Target, Brian Cornell wrote a blog on the company website in which he expressed his "deep respect for the challenging retail environment."
Challenging indeed. Those words were written just a few weeks before the world learned that hackers in Russia had stolen 1.2 billion (yes, that's billion, not million) passwords from websites across the globe. Target itself also was (please excuse the pun) a target of a huge data breach during the busy holiday shopping season last year.
Beware of technology for technology's sake. Experts who predicted the demise of the Big Box retailers 15 years ago are now fairly mum about the bricks-and-mortar resurgence. These are the same kind of people who predicted that the radio would become extinct the minute consumers started to buy television sets.
I bring up these examples because of a ground-breaking new survey by TD Bank, a large and influential Canadian financial services firm. TD Bank weathered the global economic crisis because it didn't jump head first into offering collateralized debt obligations to customers. The bank was conservative in its approach to savings. It also has a track record of stellar customer service. So good, in fact, that many so-called millennial customers in its survey said that they actually enjoy visiting bank branches because the employees there are so friendly and helpful. These are young customers who do everything online. So when they say they enjoy face-to-face interaction with bank branch employees, those survey results should all give us pause and help us learn from how organizations should be operating their bricks-and-mortar branches at the dawn of the digital age.
Biz Stone: Twitter's Lessons Help Spread Jelly [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OXQXJ_UulE]
Twitter's co-founder Biz Stone is working on a new project - a search engine called Jelly. Part of Stone's reasoning is that the basic way we get answers to our online queries hasn't changed that much in the past 15 years or so. You type something into the search engine, hit return, and view the list of suggested matches. That's an eternity in digital time.
So what will be different about Jelly? Well, Stone says that he's envisioning what the world has become - a very tight conglomeration of digital consumers who are in close contact with each other. Now imagine taking all the 'stuff' from all of your social media networking - the photos and the maps and the messages and the locations - and combining it all to create a mega-social network.
In conversation with Asim Warsi from Samsung India [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrIiWcvMRL0]
I was thinking about the waxing and waning of the digital technology sector's often-uneasy alliances the other day.
Look at what's happening in India. It is the single-most important and untapped market for consumer technology. And because of its sheer size, even a small percentage of the population doing something (like, say, purchasing a smartphone) is the equivalent of a far larger proportion of the population of just about any other country.
So it is with intense interest, that I've been following Google's latest campaign to market its new Android One telephone in India. Experts describe the move as ambitious. Because India is a challenging and a unique market for any enterprise, even the homegrown ones. And yet, if Google can make a go of it in India, I suspect the payoff would be huge.
Marshall Van Alstyne at Emerce eDay [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBf1OorPg3Y]
Ask yourself why a product like the iPhone has been such a commercial success. Since its introduction, Apple has produced millions of them. Is it the sleek, minimalist design? Is its success because of the ability to get them in different colors or even sizes? Maybe its because they're just trendy.
Well, if your response to these questions is "none of the above," then you're thinking like a true innovator. And I suspect you're going to be quite comfortable in the global economy that will exist in, say, five or 10 years from now. The answer I'm looking for is that the iPhone has been wildly successful because it created its own platform economy.
The Alibaba I.P.O., Explained | The New York Times [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c1od68RiDU]
Why the sudden rush to buy The Everything Store - a great new book about one of the master innovators of our age, Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon.com? Well, it seems that the new CEO of another mega-retailer, Wal-Mart, is urging every top executive at his company to read the book about the founding of Amazon.com. Doug McMillon wants his colleagues to learn about the brilliant mind and business strategies of Bezos. The 47-year-old McMillon is on a one-man mission to reinvigorate Wal-Mart amidst a rapidly evolving retail industry.
When enormous, established players like Wal-Mart begin studying Web retailers like Amazon.com, it's safe to say that the retail sector is in flux. Wal-Mart had been accustomed to being so big and so influential that it moved markets. Now, with new entrants beginning to disrupt the retail space with an array of digital innovations, it seems that even Wal-Mart is back at the drawing board.
8 Utility Trends for 2014 by Infosys [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeaVo_UZodU]
The other day I saw a billboard that read something like this: You book your flights online, so why do you still use your telephone to order take-out food? It's a clever advertisement that challenges digital consumers to give up some of our in-grained, old-economy behavior.
Think about it: It's easier to access an online menu from your favorite corner restaurant and place your order. Everything is done over your smartphone or tablet. There's no fishing around for a paper menu in a kitchen drawer and then using your landline to call in the order. Once you place the order online, you can either pick it up or have the restaurant deliver the food.
Rise of online banking sees decline of physical bank branches in the UK [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c8nLrJaEXU]
It doesn't take a veteran banking analyst to predict the winner of the contest described in this column's title. Commercial banks, especially in the West, are saddled with a lot of real estate. Their branches are vestiges of how customers connected to their banks in the old days. They would stand in line and wait (and wait and wait) to speak with a teller who was behind a foot of bulletproof glass.
I, for one, am not lamenting the waning of the commercial bank branch. Given that the alternative is a lot of cool technology, more bank branches are going to be gone with the wind and few, if any, customers are going to take notice. They'll be too busy using their tablets and smartphones to open accounts, make deposits, wire cash, and apply for loans. Don't take my word for it. The chief executive officer of one of the world's largest financial services institutions, Bank of America, recently predicted that more physical branches would be closing under BofA's brand name because customers are realizing they carry a bank branch in their pockets.
Banks, in these challenging times, are embracing digital and data solutions
Without a doubt, banks have endured years of challenges since the onset of the global economic crisis. And there still is no end in sight. The low interest rate environment means banks have seen their most reliable means of income evaporate. What were once extremely lucrative businesses, like fixed income trading and mortgage origination, now yield much lower returns. Ancillary revenue streams such as proprietary trading desks have all but disappeared.
So what are banks to do? Well, as it is often said: never let a good crisis go to waste. Financial services firms are filled with brilliant people. With all these smarts, it is always hard to change a corporate culture very radically. Banks tend to be conservative institutions. However, the latest set of crises facing banks have made their top executives a lot more receptive to changing the ways they do business.
Need a Lyft? Mobile-based ride sharing program expands [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2iriSELzmY]
I hear anecdotes, now and then, of enterprises that spend an inordinate amount of time and manpower developing apps rather than keeping their websites as technologically up-to-date as possible. Then I hear a snippet in the news about Uber and I know exactly why they're spending so much time on apps.
Uber, you see, is a wonderfully helpful app that does away with the pain and grief of trying to find a taxi in a congested city. Those of us who live in such places know that it used to be dreadful during rush hour to find an open car. But now, because of an app like Uber, you're connected to available cabs in your vicinity. Better still is that their drivers can bid on your trip - a bright spot among my daily frustrations of living in the urban jungle.
SnapScan to revolutionise S.African banking [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UI4eXAFp-c]
You don't find as many merchant banks today as you would even a generation ago. The point of the merchant bank of old was that Western firms could scour the emerging markets and the Third World to find economic opportunities that, with the right amount of capital and Western know-how, could flourish into profitable enterprises.
How the global economy has changed! Instead of Western bankers applying their monetary rules and economic guidelines to other regions, it's the emerging economies that are giving the Western firms a lesson or two in banking. Frankly, I think the reason that there are generally fewer old-line merchant banks around today is because banks in the emerging economies are becoming innovative and technological powerhouses that can attract and invest capital quite well by themselves.
Amazon CEO Bezos Introduces Smartphone [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz5WnBpf8XU]
This week, as another tech giant (Amazon) unveiled their own smartphone, I recall something Steve Ballmer used to tell his Microsoft colleagues about this hyper-competitive sector. Jump on the back of the big bear and don't let go, he'd say. He was referencing IBM as the big enterprise that Microsoft would jump on the back of in the 1980s. Getting on the back of a tech giant and not letting go is pretty interesting advice, I'd say. It's just as pertinent today even though many of the players have changed. And with the unveiling of an Amazon smartphone, that business advice from the 1980s is essentially turned on its head.
Amazon, you see, is already a big bear and wanting to get bigger. By launching its own mobile device, Amazon is essentially shaking off any enterprises that have been riding on its back. Amazon, with its own platform, has a clear and direct route to its consumers and will be further along in its strategy to sell everything to everyone. Consider that Microsoft, which has long been the dominant desktop platform, and Nokia, once the world's most popular mobile phone, together are but bit players in the current smartphone market. In some ways, I think that because the current market doesn't really care about legacy, Amazon might be all the more successful launching its own mobile platform.
An Interview With Mary Meeker 121 [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_GUDhXVdB4]
Every year, several of us eagerly wait for the release of Mary Meeker's report. We use it to reconfirm some of our beliefs and validate the trends we observe. I recently watched, with much interest, the 2014 Internet Trends presentation. And there it was - a note about how companies (Western or otherwise) must open themselves up to just how significantly international consumers are connecting to their organizations as well as to each other. Right now, billions of mobile users across Asia, Africa, and South America are fundamentally changing the way the Internet works and how the world does business. Mobile devices and platforms are integral to how most of the world connects with each other, orders goods and services, and consumes news and information.
The proliferation of mobile device is forcing the outsourcing of end-user computing devices back to the end-user, with or without the enterprise approving of it. Consumers and employees are increasingly consuming enterprise apps on their mobile platforms, and seamlessly combining enterprise apps with hundreds of collaboration apps and thousands of utility apps. Sales teams are using their enterprise CRM systems, and at the same time, sharing contacts and collaborating via WhasApp, for instance. Users of WhatsApp send 50 billion messages each day. The Japan-based messaging app Line handles 10 billion messages a day. While Facebook is still very relevant as a mass broadcast model, WhatsApp and Snapchat offer people a means to maintain close and frequent contacts with smaller groups. The power of these platforms is immense. The knowledge these platforms accumulate about on the new hyper-connected consumers is a big asset. No wonder Facebook paid $19 Billion to acquire WhatsApp. More than the $17 Bn that GE is bidding for Alstom!
Dise Digital Signage New Shopping Experience! [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX_4bd4t_vo]
I found myself the other evening watching one of the most delightful old movies: "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Because it hit theatres back in 1961, it's definitely dated. The references in the movie to the retail world are fascinating, however, because of the transformation that digital technology is having on that sector today - more than a half-century later.
In the movie, the young protagonist tells her would-be suitor that she loves going to Tiffany's because simply walking around the jewelry store makes her feel good. She can enter with all sorts of worries on her mind and then leave a half-hour later without a care in the world. She wasn't speaking about the jewelry per se. She was talking about the entire in-store experience: the combination of the layout, the lighting, the way the courteous staff greets her, and how they wait on her as attentively as possible.
Next Generation of Mobile Payments [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnFQ5sQ9H0g]
Ibn Battuta, the famous explorer from the Middle Ages, was amazed at how someone could write him a check in North Africa and then he could cash it when he was thousands of miles away in, say, Persia or India. The Asian trade routes of the 14th century sustained financial systems (including check-cashing) that are surprisingly similar to what we all use today. It's a testament to how advanced Asian economies were eight centuries ago. But it doesn't say much for those of us who still carry checkbooks around even today. I saw a study that estimates it costs $1.21 to make a payment by check in a grocery store versus 78 cents for a debit card. Moving to mobile payments has the potential to reduce transaction costs even more signficantly.
I have followed Bitcoin for the past year or so with a lot of fascination, largely because it looks to be the first of many digital ways to revolutionize how the world's consumers move value. Not everyone's a fan of Bitcoin, but at least its creators are attempting to address the fact that the global economic system could benefit from payment methods that aren't 800 years old.
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?
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.
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.
Flexcoin is the Latest Bitcoin Bank to Bite the Dust [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D84Yq7sajNw]
When it comes to the world of entertainment, I enjoy two genres the most: the lavish Bollywood musical and the traditional Western. Both so enjoyable because it's so formulaic. Every movie Western ever made is essentially the same story; it's what happens when an unwilling hero decides, in the name of justice, to go up against those who would do us harm.
That being said, see if you can figure out which Western this storyline is from. I've removed the name so as not to give away the answer:
"On March 2nd ----, [name of bank] was attacked and robbed of all coins. The attacker made off with [amount]... As [name of bank] does not have the resources, assets, or otherwise to come back from this loss, we are closing our doors immediately. [Customers] who put their coins in cold storage will be contacted by [name of bank] and asked to verify their identity. Once identified, cold storage coins will be transferred out free of charge. Cold storage coins were held [not in the vault] and not in reach of the attacker. [Name of bank] will attempt to work with law enforcement to trace the source of the [robbers]."
Angry Nerd: The Veronica Mars Movie Project and the Pitfalls of Crowdfunding Films-WIRED [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NKhg5YpGnM]
I don't expect many of you to be familiar with Veronica Mars. Outside of the world of teenage popular culture, few people know who this character is. But Veronica's recent 'comeback' serves as a valuable business lesson of just how potent digital consumers can be. Veronica Mars is a fictional teenager who solves "whodunit" mysteries. A television series based on her sleuthing abilities was popular for a number of years. But then, like most TV shows, the series ran its course and the network eventually decided not to renew it for another season. During any other era, that would have been the end of Veronica's story.
But fans around the world took to social media and demanded more. They wanted to see their young detective return. What happened next was extraordinary. Her fan base decided that they would put their money where their mouths were - they raised enough funds on the Internet to pay for a movie version of the show. That a bunch of mostly teenage girls around the world crowd-funded the production of motion picture has not gone unnoticed by media companies. Some 92,000 fans contributed a total of $5.7 million via the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to make the film a reality. It's the first time people used a crowd-funding financial service in this way. Indeed, there have been a number of important shifts in consumer power during the last century, and the Veronica Mars project is one of them.
Innovations in Payment Processing - WorldPay [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FReLTlATyYQ]
This past holiday shopping season was a bit of a wake-up call for the tens of millions (possibly hundreds of millions) of consumers whose credit card data was reportedly hacked off store computers from a 17-year-old boy sitting a continent away. That indeed was a clarifying event as far as the retail industry was concerned.
We live in an age that is exciting because of all the technological possibilities. One of the basic requests of digital consumers, however, is that such levels of excitement not include heart palpitations when you realize a hacker has stolen your credit card information. If multinational retail chains can tap into Big Data to give us excellent deals and a wide array of products that we love, then can't they use such information to ward off criminals as well?
Social Media for the Enterprise - A Business Case [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjX3160MEPQ]
A little known but fascinating part of British history is that during the 18th century, the king forbade colonists in North America from congregating in groups of more than 50 people (excepting, of course, religious gatherings). The king's concern was that when a large number of people got together to air their grievances, revolutionary uprisings could take shape quite rapidly.
What this lesson shows is that we've long known about the social potency of a huge crowd. Enter social media, which allows online "gatherings" of hundreds of millions of people within minutes. As a global community, we're still coming to terms with just how powerful this new tool can be. That's why it's extremely important for organizations of all stripes to make certain they have the right systems and controls in place to make social media work for them - not against them.
Retailers Go High-tech With Online Shopping [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsxkzlMapFI]
Nobody is suggesting you not wait for a jolly old elf to leave you presents this holiday season. But if you're really hedging your bets, perhaps you should get to know some applications that help you shop online.
Long gone are the days when a handful of sites offered a limited supply of books and CDs. Today the selection of wares you can find online is dizzying - and so is the number of retail sites. I like to use the analogy of trudging through the rain to go to a store only to find that its shelves are bare and the sales associates are rude. You probably wish you'd found a different store before setting out on your time-consuming journey. It's no different with shopping online.
Digital consumers are a very aggressive bunch. They want their devices not only to guide them through the throes of shopping but also to view and act on suggestions based on their buying habits. Credit Big Data and the sophisticated analytics that go with it.
BBC NEWS Is Bitcoin the future of currency? [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMuN4QTp_oo]
One of the more interesting debates in the realm of digital finance is whether Bitcoin is the way of the future or a flash in the pan. To supporters, the world needs an online currency that falls out of the purview of central bankers. Their reasoning goes that if politicized central banks don't have the ability to print more paper money every time their country's economy takes a tumble, the currency will more closely resemble an inflation-proof entity more closely aligned with gold. That's because there are a pre-determined number of them and additional units cannot be minted.
Detractors say many things, not the least of which is that without central bank oversight and an existence solely in the virtual sphere, Bitcoin isn't immune from cyber-thieves who could conceivably hack into the stash on your hard drive. In fact, one of the appeals of precious metals like gold is their physical existence. Of course, if you count existence as a file on your computer, then you might have a better time accepting the basic idea behind Internet currencies.
Changing the Retail Story: Rachel Shechtman at TEDxHollywood [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbnWY-swsK0]
Global newspapers and magazines pride themselves on being arbiters of grammar and usage. I read with delight that certain publications will now accept the spelling of email without a dash as well as the verb "to tweet." However, many still frown upon using modern terms like "friending" and "googling." Regardless of the acceptability of these terms, the influence that social networks and the internet in general has on shopper behavior is something that cannot be disputed.
Getting inside the heads of shoppers is a daunting task. If our enterprises could read minds, businesses would all be eminently successful. They'd know how to tap into the consumer subconscious with surgical precision. Until they are able to read minds, however, the closest thing that organisations have to really knowing their consumers is crossing the digital divide. I call it a divide because even though it's close, it's nevertheless a challenging thing to traverse. The challenge with digital interactions is in capturing the right data as well as in deriving the right insights automatically. This, when compared to how a sales person learns about shopper needs, interests and priorities during a human interaction, is reasonably complex.
Jeff Berwick on Fox Business: Is Bitcoin the currency of the future? [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC_s3sRZFFg]
When consultants and academics speak of a disruptive innovation, they usually mean that the new entrant disrupts a market. If we take a long, hard look at Bitcoin, however, we see that innovations can also disrupt the people who develop and use it.
For those unfamiliar with Bitcoin, it's digital currency. What drove its initial development was its proposition - that it exists solely in the digital world and away from the control of government regulators. The values of other currencies can rise and fall when a government's central bank decides to print more paper money. Because Bitcoin is digital and there is a finite number of them, the expectation is that it won't be prone to such devaluation.
Of course, the idea behind is different from how it's played out so far. Speculators have hoarded Bticoin just because there are a finite number of them. And when banks around the world decided to shun the currency, its value took a tumble. The people and businesses that make transactions using Bitcoin, therefore, have dealt with their share of disruption. It's a kind of disruption I'm sure they'd rather not have.
Digital Innovation at IFA 2013 [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWuvYaMnlwo]
We are often very good at tackling whatever challenge lies ahead of us. But sometimes we lack the ability to step back and see the big picture. How is it that we can put a man on the moon but there isn't a gasket good enough to stop that pesky leak in my kitchen sink? Are basic plumbing fixtures beyond the reach of our prowess when we now we can accomplish so much more?
The answer is that the markets are curious things. And we consumers make them that way. What a company's consumer base wants can be different from what that company can provide. The keys to success are predicated on being able to discern how to meet the expectations of consumers.
When we first set about analyzing the responses of 5,000 digitally savvy consumers across Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, we were fascinated by the disconnect that can occur when enterprises set about on their innovation journeys without the customer in mind. They do so at their own peril. In the digital age, consumers will tell an organization quite a bit about their buying habits if that organization will simply calibrate its resources to listen.
Why we made a new browser for the iPad [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY23b1X9mAM]
The world becomes more palatable when we assign things numbers. We know the date and time by number. And everyone understands the development of the Web through its numerical sequences (1.0, 2.0, etc.) But what if we were to skip the numbers and simply refer to the online world as the "Internet of Now"? What would we discover?
For starters, we'd realize that numerical identifiers are a bit restrictive. The world of digital communications is always changing, so it's best not to limit the particular stage of its evolution by assigning it a number. If we really wanted to document that change, we'd find that every day we'd be experiencing a new Web (2.001, 2.002, and so on).
The Internet of Now, on the other hand, allows us to live in the moment and make innovations without being encumbered by monikers. A Scandinavian scientist uses the term to refer to the fact that Web sites are no longer the simplistic things they were when a URL address bar was all we needed to navigate the online universe. When you think about it, using a URL to negotiate the Web today is like taking to an expressway in a horse and carriage.
Its all aboard for Twitter's IPO [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXNqG1YXbuI]
There's an old proverb that says: "May you live in interesting times." For those of us who are alive today - creature of the Information Age - it can't get more interesting.
Take the story of Twitter, for instance. The company recently made headlines all over the world because of its red-hot initial public offering. Essentially it was a Web-based service that offers micro-blogs to hundreds of millions of followers around the world. And when I say micro, I mean it: No tweet can be longer than 140 characters.
Richard Branson Reveals His Customer Service Secrets [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy4lYDN1gz4]
Many of us would agree that the customer is always right. But which customer?
Recent academic research suggests that in a tight economy, organizations often have a difficult decision to make: to spend money on keeping current customers happy or to use those funds to acquire new ones. Sometimes the decision becomes clear if you're in a particular industry. Airlines, for example, are known for keeping loyal customers happy. Mobile telephone companies, however, sometimes look past their customers in an effort to sign up new people to their calling plans.
Things sure seemed a lot more apparent a half-century ago. Automobile companies had several brands, each aimed at a different demographic. The idea was that a loyal customer would "trade up" to a more expensive brand as he got older and earned a bigger salary. With customers becoming more discerning and the marketplace more competitive, I suppose today's automaker might choose, instead, to focus their marketing budget on attracting buyers who have never owned or considered one of their brands.
Ben Milne: Breaking the Bank [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmOxaHno_Sk]
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Let's all be honest here: Each of us has muttered this to ourselves at least once this week. Or maybe it was as recently as today. Either way, we sometimes have to rely on our own push and perseverance even though we work in large organizations where teamwork stands as one of our guiding principles.
If you ever get a chance to meet Ben Milne, a young entrepreneur from America's Midwest, he'll unabashedly tell you that his entrepreneurship has succeeded because he never waits for other people to pick up the slack. His philosophy is that if there isn't a business solution to a particular problem, solve the problem on your own. And then move on with confidence to the next set of seemingly impossible challenges.
The phantom email address. If you're like me, you probably have one.
These are the email accounts we use for the sole purpose of registering for online offers and services. A phantom address allows us to fill in a "required field." Yet we have no intention ever to email friends and colleagues using these accounts. Or even to check their inboxes. If we did, most of what we'd encounter in those inboxes would be mass email blasts from retailers - electronic spam that's of no use to us.
Infosys recently surveyed 5,000 digitally savvy consumers to come up with answers that address vexing issues like why so many of us feel the need to use phantom email accounts. What would it take for you to use your regular email address when registering for deals online? The answers we received as part of the Engaging Digital Consumers survey are a wake-up for major players in the financial services, retail, and healthcare industries. The verdict: In order to get actionable data from your customers -- and for them to use their real email accounts -- your company needs to offer them something attractive in return.
Complaining About Big Companies On Social Media By Advertisement [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i46jc2zd7h4]
Customer service representatives around the world: Your jobs just got a lot more interesting.
For those of you who haven't heard, a disgruntled man from Chicago might be the first consumer to shell out big money for a so-called "promoted tweet" - essentially a paid ad on Twitter - to gripe about a company. We've all come to appreciate the potency of social media on its own; his buying a $1,000 tweet that would be sent out to the company's 77,000 followers made his rant exponentially more powerful.
Syed Hasan's complaint was about how British Airways lost his dad's luggage during a trip to Europe and, so he claimed, was nonchalant about addressing his requests for help during the ordeal. In the old days, an unsatisfied customer could write a strongly worded latter to corporate headquarters and hope that someone within the vast corporate hierarchy would at least see the complaint. Sometimes a company, depending on its commitment to customer service, would mail the person a mea culpa in the form of a voucher or coupon in the hopes of retaining his business down the line.
SOCIAL MEDIA 2013: STATISTICS AND TRENDS [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yxuljHX09I]
Like the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs, social media stands as one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. Why is it that a large swathe of the world's population owns a smart phone and frequently uses social media, but accessing social media via smart phones isn't the preferred method?
Sorry to throw a wrench in an otherwise neat and tidy explanation of how the digital world works, but consumers still prefer to sit in front of their desktops and laptops to engage in social media. Nobody questions the trend that smartphones and tablets are quickly displacing laptops and desktops as dominant computing platforms. Why social media remains tied mostly to the older platforms is anyone's guess.
It turns out that the passive beings who once sat in front of television sets have evolved into a new species. It's a group that has become very social and proactive. So much so that "what" they're doing while watching TV is on the verge of influencing programming in real time.
Credit the smart phones and tablets for this convergence of digital activity. Television sets might be getting larger, but smart devices are all about convenience, especially when someone is sitting and watching the larger TV screen. Viewers can text friends and use social media to discuss the minutia surrounding the latest contestant to be voted off a reality show.
Getting there is half the fun, right? Maybe. If you work in a congested city in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, then you probably shudder at the thought of having to hail a taxi in the middle of the day in order to get across town for an important meeting. Think about it: There's nothing efficient about a taxi ride. In New York City, for example, the daytime shift ends at 4:00 pm, just as the evening rush hour is beginning. So lots of taxis go off-line just as tens of thousands of commuters need them. Who came up with that timing?
Then there's the whole notion of a cabbie driving around town in search of a fare. Gasoline prices being what they are, it doesn't pay for drivers to spend more than a fraction of their time without someone in the back seat. Add to this business model the fact that most cities require you (or your company) to buy a license to chauffeur people around, and your margins become razor-thin indeed.This age-old business model seems to be at the end of its lifespan, however. You can't say it didn't have its day in the sun: even the ancient Romans had a taxi system not unlike what our cities have today.
Retailing is a diverse sector. On one hand, a big box chain offers everything under the sun for cut-rate prices. On the other, the high-end boutique sells just a handful of luxury items at much higher margins. Both business models fulfill important positions in the overall retail market.
We're seeing social networks develop in much the same way. The Facebooks of this world appeal to everyone. There's also room for specialized, niche networks. Entrepreneurs are figuring out innovative ways to monetize those groups as well.
Apps Parents Trust and Kids Love [Source:Jennifer Jolly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMc09SwUkd4]
People my age became acquainted with computing by using clunky desktops and laptops, but today's younger generations are introduced directly to mobile and tablet computers.
Apple ingeniously removed the telephone function from its iPhone to create the iTouch, a mobile computer ideal for children. They can use it to play educational games and take photos of their siblings and school friends. The younger generation is why mobile computing is growing exponentially. Apple isn't the only company on top of this trend. Google's Larry Page maintains that today's generation of kids will be introduced to computing through mobile devices.
Have mobile device. Will work in return for special deals.
That could very well be the classified ad of the digital age. We consumers are a feisty bunch. Armed with various computing platforms and a dazzling array of apps, each of us has become a one-man consumer army of sorts. We're not shy about sharing our comments with the companies from which we buy products. In fact, we like to think we're an integral part of their supply chains.
Turns out that we are, at least in certain cases. Whether we know it or not, digitally savvy companies are leveraging people like you and me to do some of their work. In fact, companies are coming up with new business models that include giving power to consumers. They're reimbursing them for their services by offering them special deals and sales. Which means consumers become even closer to their supply chains.
Although it seems like eons ago, one of the most dependable ways for a company to ensure its reputation was to hire a public relations firm. The PR agents would wine and dine members of the press while selling them on the positive accomplishments of their clients. In time, these relationships would translate into favorable mentions in the pages of magazines and newspapers. Should a crisis develop, PR "flacks" would call in favors with reporters in order to lessen the blow.
Then came the time when managing a company's reputation was no longer about just developing a long-term, press-friendly strategy. In a matter of minutes, disgruntled customers could take to social media outlets to complain about a company and its products. The company, at the center of the storm, often did not have the in-house resources or a technologically competent PR firm to launch a swift and effective counter-offensive in cyberspace.
When Infosys last week planned to release its comprehensive survey, Engaging Digital Consumers, we could not have predicted that issues of privacy on the Internet would be front-page news across the globe.
Because of the provocative actions of an American government contractor, however, the survey's results have become very timely. Infosys polled 5,000 Web savvy adults in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Germany to probe their digital relationship to the retail, banking, and healthcare companies that serve them.
The big picture is that consumers are generally OK with providing companies with personal information if they think they're getting something in return. It might be a special deal or update - whatever. They just don't want information gathering to be for nought.
Just when you thought your smartphone was the center of your digital life, something new comes along. This year we've officially passed the threshold into the new computing model with tablets becoming the platform of choice. Doesn't it seem like we just took delivery of our smartphones like, uh, yesterday? To be sure, the smartphone's trajectory is going up, up, up. It has enormous growth potential. But it's sobering nonetheless that the computer industry and the marketplace that drives it sometimes seem to be moving a lot faster than we are. Like a shark cutting through the ocean at breakneck speed while we're just treading water.
Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst who's now a major player in the private equity world, outlined the exponentially rapid growth of the tablet in her annual internet trends report. First the big picture: Meeker says that global traffic of mobile devices as a percentage of global Internet traffic is unrelenting. It's been growing at 1.5 times a year for some time now and is likely to maintain that rate for the next few years. The trend line, therefore, is that mobile devices accounted for 0.9 percent of Internet traffic at the end of 2008. By the end of 2014, they could account for a quarter of all Internet traffic.
One of the funniest sitcoms on British television was "Keeping Up Appearances," which chronicled the hilarious attempts of the show's main character, Hyacinth, doing everything she could to hobnob with the denizens of high society. What made the show so funny was that whenever she was about to socialize with, say, a nobleman, members of her working-class family would stumble onto the scene, embarrass her, and ruin her social aspirations.
Today's Internet is not unlike the world of the socially ambitious Hyacinth.
Organizations might spend decades carefully cultivating a certain image only to have a comment or opinion from some unhappy or rogue customer - or worse, a senior employee - go viral. Then, much like the culmination of that weekly sitcom, the organization's reputation takes a blow and much of their brand building dissipates in the wink of an eye. Just like it has for clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, stuck in a social media mess of its leadership's making. An official apology simply hasn't washed with the public, and even celebrities like Kirstie Alley and Ellen DeGeneres have piled up the criticism against the brand for its offensive exclusionary attitude.
During my last London trip, a friend cajoled me to accompany her to Selfridge. "Let me show you the London you've never seen before. Let me show you what High Street shopping is all about." she said. And, as London often tempts me to do - I found myself digging into a bit of the store's history.
Back in 1909, when Harry Gordon Selfridge opened his store, he introduced to the British consumer a new idea: that the act of shopping could be a fun activity. In fact, King Edward VII, curious about everything he'd been hearing about this retail revolution, showed up at the store one evening and told Selfridge that he'd never bought anything in a store in his life - but that he would do so that evening because "that's where society seemed to be going." Bright displays, helpful salesmen, and fanciful store windows filled with merchandise: these are all staples of the modern department store. But they were quite revolutionary back in 1909.
Jayraj Ugarkar, Infosys Labs shares his views about
Internet of Things
Back in 2011, researchers at Cornell University hooked up two chatbots for a conversation, which is intriguing, to say the least. But my favorite part begins with one chatbot's question to the other, 'So you are a robot'. The other initially denies it but eventually comes around to conceding that both of them are robots. To which the questioner responds 'I'm not a robot. I'm a unicorn'.
Really? A machine pretending to be something else? Isn't that what people do on the Internet?
Necessity is the mother of invention. Which is why I'm watching with great interest the growth in the popularity of the Bitcoin, a new digital currency.
Like much of what we deal with today - virtual friends on Facebook, virtual thank-you notes and party
invitations on the Internet, and virtual construction projects via games like Sim City - the Bitcoin is a
virtual currency. That is to say, these "coins" aren't stamped with a president's face and carried around in your pocket. It's an interesting concept. Long ago, it used to be that every paper dollar was backed up by a fixed amount of gold or silver in a depository like Fort Knox. So that even though the dollar was just a piece of paper with green ink on it, its value was pegged to a tangible, precious metal.
I have always been intrigued by the possibility of 'doing more with less'. More output with less input, conservation of effort and energy, increasing productivity - it's all so fascinating especially when managed intelligently without compromising on ethics and ecological balance. The same applies to IT services. If less human effort can be consumed to resolve routine issues, talent can focus on higher-value activities and higher order purpose. This means automation - the execution of activities without human intervention based on pre-determined business rules. This does require someone to initiate a tool or write scripts to automate a process. But, what if automation itself can be automated? There comes the concept of autonomics.
Autonomics is all about building expert systems that are self-learning and self-healing. Can we build software 'robots' to take over the task of writing scripts or initiating an automation? Can repetitive, predictable tasks be executed by a 'virtual engineer' who learns in much the same way as a human engineer does? Thereby, can we free-up talent to work on more complex tasks that require visualization, imagination, team work and collective wisdom?
I overheard two blokes, on the elevator, discussing golf last week. "Have you seen the app for The Masters? It's incredible - the best app ever." one of them said. I thought to myself: An app for a golf tournament now leads the technology universe?
Soon enough, I read an article in the New York Times that touted the very same app. The reporter said that the customized Masters app drew him in to the point that he'd stopped watching the tournament on television. Yet the network that paid to broadcast the Masters and the sponsors who bought rights to advertise during the TV coverage must be a little less enthusiastic about this great new app. All that bundling of TV airtime and broadcast advertising - and even shots provided by the Goodyear blimp - takes the sort of effort that requires a captive audience to make it all profitable. The issue is that the captivity just isn't happening anymore.
There are two types of people in this world: The no-frills type and the bells & whistles type. I've always said that we'd like for our friends and colleagues to think we're no-frills at heart. But let's be realistic: Deep down, most of us are in the bells & whistles camp. We're people who want our new car to be equipped with satellite navigation and a keyless entry system. We scour stores to find the coolest gadgets and the fanciest equipment for our homes. And yes, we consume amazing apps that dazzle the senses, including those that allow us to experience TV shows, movies, music, sports and lifestyle videos from top magazines such as Conde' Nast Traveler, on our tablets, PCs, X-box and televisions at the same time. In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the business of writing and selling applications for PCs alone is on its way to becoming a $25 billion a year industry. That's a lot of bells & whistles!
Here's a mashup of findings from two separate studies on the social media behavior of banks. According to the first, which looked at the Twitter performance of over 300 U.S. retail banks, almost 22% of the accounts were either dormant or deactivated. About 50% tweeted less than once every 3 days and 1 in 10 managed fewer than 20 tweets over 12 months. The second, a study of 50 leading private banks found that one-third did not even have an active Facebook profile and only half of the remaining two-thirds responded to a test request.
Planet Earth has yet to pass the 7 billion mark when it comes to human beings alive on its surface. Yet it recently passed the 7.3 billion threshold for mobile devices. That there are more mobile telephones than people in the world is one thing. But when you factor out the many humans that are barely out of diapers, or very old, that ratio becomes even more extraordinary.
The folks at Forrester Research recently published a study that points to a startling phenomenon: that although there are a lot of mobile devices out there, true mobility is difficult for organizations both to attain and, later, to maintain. (Coleridge comes to mind: "Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink!")
First it went Digital, then Mobile, and now consumer behavior is trending towards the confluence of Social, Local and Mobile. The allure of SoLoMo lies in its ability to drive action: according to research, a high proportion of consumers searching for "nearby" products or services on their smartphones, follow through; one report says that 90% of such consumers acted within 24 hours; 70% called the service provider in question; and 66% visited the stores.
Having made it through 2012 after all, what can we look forward to in 2013?
Well, mostly more of the same, but with some differences. The mobility story is no longer new, but it is expected to turn a significant chapter sometime early next year, when the number of tablets and smartphones in use will exceed that of personal, laptop and notebook computers. That will also lead to the mobile becoming the primary Internet access device in more countries, to join the likes of India, which achieved this milestone in the middle of 2012. Indeed, a leading ICT industry analyst and intelligence provider puts these changes in perspective when it says that the industry is currently undergoing a shift, which will take it to a "3rd platform" built on mobile, Cloud, social, big data and allied technologies, that will provide the next impetus for growth and innovation.
It's safe to say we at Infosys know a thing or two about the benefits of being mobile. I think about some of the enormous projects we've completed over the years in which some of our closest and most trusted co-workers were thousands of miles away. Their actual location on planet Earth didn't matter; what mattered was how everyone could collaborate, strategize, and innovate as a seamless team because (in part) of their mobility.
Enterprises and their consumers exist in a sort of symbiotic relationship. And this arrangement is particularly relevant for digital consumers.
They wait for products to come to market with the utmost anticipation, camping outside stores the night before the debut of a new digital product not unlike teenagers trying to score tickets to the concert of their favorite band. Digital consumers are opinionated, too. They devour such products and services and have no qualms about telling the manufacturers whether or not they've met their expectations. It's for that same reason that enterprises benefit from this unique relationship. Digital consumers are enthusiastic about their products and an important aspect of the corporate research & development agenda is predicated on the journeys of those consumers.
Just this morning I found myself whistling the tune of a wonderful old ballad. The song was "Just In Time" - the same one Sinatra made so popular decades ago. In any case, I realized I couldn't have whistled a more appropriate song after I stumbled across Infosys list of the five hottest manufacturing trends for 2013.
Smart financial services institutions are looking closely at how to optimize what they do and how to provide stellar customer service. I can also see that in the following year, commercial banks will be thinking more about how to burnish their product lines. It's going to be an interesting 365 days ahead.
I do my banking with two regional banks. One bank gives away pocket calendars. The other gives away ballpoint pens. I, of course, see the sentiment behind both these customer-friendly gestures. And yet, I can also see that in the following year, commercial banks will be thinking less about stationery giveaways and more about how to burnish their product lines. That's because, while some banks are squeezed for revenues, all of them are facing another year in a slumping global economy.
The game of information empowerment is at half-time now. The first half clearly was about organizing information and democratizing access. What a game that was - the world wide web is almost a zetta byte now!
Remember the comparison between radio, which took 38 years to reach 50 million users, the Internet that did it in 4, and Facebook, which took less than half that time? Impressive as they are, there's a lot more to digital evolution than just numbers. Actually, 'transformation' is a better word to describe the metamorphosis of the Internet from a channel of information to a medium of social hyper-connectivity.
Not very long ago, I was watching the news about the USD 1B acquisition of this company called Instagram by the social media giant Facebook. What struck me, when I read about Instagram, was that this fledgling company was premised on a very simple idea. The idea of giving people the joy of modifying their digital pictures to look like they were from the 1960s or earlier and then uploading these pictures on social media. A simple idea, that is now worth USD 1B.
No, it's not the digital consumer phenomenon and its irresistible opportunities that I will outline here. That is, indeed, a given. Let's explore what more can be achieved.
Thus far, most digital consumer stories have been lessons in adaptation - for example, how banks and retail institutions, which originally created self-service channels to cut cost, are now using them to deliver experience. Or how consumer brands, which tuned into social media conversations to keep track of the buzz changed gears to use those insights to understand customers better, create new products (often with customers), improve service levels and so on. Or how other companies reinvented their physical business models to fit into an online universe, faced with a choice of going digital or going bust.
Today, the overall social media story has achieved epic status. There's nothing new to say about even the newer batch of stories. It's tweeted, liked and followed in good faith. So let's shift focus to the interesting vignettes developing within its canvas, the stories branching out from the main tale.
It hasn't taken long for businesses to discover that viral marketing
through social web sites - Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and such
like can easily make or break a new product or service. Branding
opportunities abound. Chase Manhattan Bank uses a Facebook group to
promote charities through community giving, for example, and to date has
more than 3.6 million "likes." Of course, there have been instances of
companies getting unpleasant surprises about their business on social
media. McDonalds was looking to enhance brand loyalty when its social
media team decided to put out a Tweet that directed people to a story
about a farmer, and how much he cared for the potatoes he was growing
for McDonalds. They had not anticipated, however, that #McDStories on
Twitter would provoke a widespread participation from those who had
less-pleasant experiences with the fast-food franchise. Questionable
decisions about pricing can turn into a story where bad news travels
very quickly over the social media networks. Bank of America decided to
charge fees on debit card transactions - a modest $5 per month. The
reaction was immediate. Customers threatened to cut up their cards and
take their business elsewhere. The bank ended up rescinding the plan.
Netflix tried a different approach. They decided to change their
subscription policy with a two-tier schedule, separating DVD rentals
from streaming video. When their long-time users did the math, they
interpreted this as a camouflaged price hike. There was immediate blow
back as most of the 29,000 comments on Netflix's Facebook page revealed
an extremely unhappy fan base.
If technology has influenced anything, it has perhaps had its greatest
impact on our patience. A Google research team recently has confirmed
that we humans cannot stand waiting. And our patience is wearing thinner
every nanosecond. People will visit a website less often if it is
slower, than a close competitor, by more than 250 milliseconds (a
millisecond is a thousandth of a second).