Doug Bannister's blog

Does Your Business Need the Internet of Things and Blockchain?

Experts expect global spending on information technology (IT) to reach an astounding $3.7 trillion in 2018. That’s 4.5 percent more than the spending in 2017, despite relative uncertainty in the market. Growth in several areas of IT will influence this spending, notably the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain. With IT developing so quickly, it’s increasingly important that business decision makers make informed choices on how to move forward. Many businesses today are prioritizing customer satisfaction and connectivity. To move a company in this direction, executives must decide if IoT and blockchain can help their business. What is the Internet of Things? The “Internet of Things” may sound like just a trendy buzzword, but it’s a phenomenon that affects most people in the developed world in 2018. In short, the Internet of Things is the connectivity in everyday devices. Our society has created the Internet of Things by making coffee pots, refrigerators, thermostats, light bulbs, cars and many other objects into data transmitters and receivers.  Kevin Ashton is the expert credited with coining the term. He said, "If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost." What Will the Internet of Things Change? Many experts may answer this question with one word: everything. It’s true that the Internet of Things has the potential to impact most parts of daily life. However, the leading industries that this technology seeks to change right now are energy, healthcare, retail, logistics, and manufacturing. Whether it’s the step counter on your wrist or the quality-control device on your machinery, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the Internet of Things in coming years. Unlike other emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things is not a disruptive innovation. Instead, it is an additive. Rather than demolishing existing businesses (like Uber did for taxis), the Internet of Things will drive savvy companies forward. How to Implement the Internet of Things The best ways to use the Internet of Things in any business will depend on the company’s needs, industry, and goals. Decision makers should consider where they can get the most value from the Internet of Things. For example, some businesses may want to use this technology to better understand its customers and their needs. Another company may understand their customers well enough but could use the Internet of Things to make daily operations more efficient. The chances are that if a business faces a fundamental problem, there is some way the Internet of Things can help.  What is Blockchain? The term “blockchain” is often used side-by-side with “bitcoin,” which means that sometimes people use these terms interchangeably. While they are interconnected, blockchain and bitcoin are separate terms. Before a professional can decide if blockchain is right for the business, it's essential to understand these two terms fully.  Bitcoin, in short, is a cyber-currency. Rather than spending a dollar or some other government-backed currency, bitcoin is entirely online. Blockchain is the type of technology that makes spending bitcoin possible. Blockchain technology creates a record that is not centralized, which is essential to bitcoin and what makes it different than sending a payment of currency over a system like PayPal. Furthermore, blockchain technology is as impossible to change as the serial number on a dollar bill. Is Blockchain Disruptive? Unlike the IoT, blockchain is an entirely disruptive innovation. In fact, turning the financial industry on its head is at the core of these technologies. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many people went in search of an alternative to traditional banking. The answer was bitcoin. Bitcoin would need specialized technology to make it work, and blockchain was born from that need. Do All Businesses Need Blockchain? While blockchain may not become as ubiquitous as the IoT (at least, not as quickly), there are plenty of business applications for this emerging technology. Blockchain technology could help a business when it’s time for an audit. It can also help create better contracts and make supply chains more transparent. Whether your business decides to implement both of these technologies, one, or neither, it is essential for decision makers to stay on top of trends in technology. Things can change quickly in IT, and you can get left behind if you move too slowly.

Does Your Business Need Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence?

  If it feels like you hear something new about virtual reality (VR) or artificial intelligence (AI) every day, you’re not alone. Like other communications technology, these areas have grown at astonishing rates. In fact, the virtual and augmented reality market may be worth 215 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. Likewise, there have been 14 times more startups in the AI space than in 2000. As a business professional, all these new technologies can leave your head spinning. Each one promises to revolutionize your business, making it difficult to understand the real potential of each new technological release. Don’t let the speed and intensity of these industries turn you away from great communications technologies. Instead, take a moment to explore emerging VR, AR, and AI technologies to foster informed purchasing decisions. How do I decide which technologies to integrate? Right now, organizations are facing a massive wave of disruption. The technology on top right now could be gone as quickly as it came. While this tsunami of disruption is great for innovation, it can be dizzying for businesses. The best way to decide if a new technology is worth your investment is to consider if and how your employees or customers can use it. That may seem obvious, but it's not always simple to know exactly what you will use. Consider if the innovation adds real value or if it's just a shiny new object. Is it additive or disruptive? Virtual reality versus augmented reality Virtual Reality (VR) has gotten lots of media in recent years. The equipment creates an entirely immersive experience, which for some businesses is the whole appeal. For example, gaming companies are leveraging virtual reality to create a three dimensional environment that the player can interact with during the game. The high expense of VR may ultimately deter most organizations from using it and has definitely impacted it being widely adopted. Instead, its brother technology, Augmented Reality (AR), is better poised for widespread adoption and longevity. AR adds to the existing world rather than creating an immersive world. When we look at gaming again the widespread popularity of Pokemon Go illustrates how easy to use this technology is and how widespread its adoption can be. However AR isn’t just for gamers, there a multitude of business applications from wayfinding to digital signage to advertising. Experts expect augmented reality to grow faster than its fully immersive counterpart. In fact, some predict the AR market to increase from $2.35 billion in 2015 to $117 billion in 2022. Companies like Pepsi Max have used this technology effectively in their signage, and you can expect to see more AR in advertising soon.  What About Artificial Intelligence? If your mind automatically goes to the Terminator when you think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), think again. AI has been in homes and businesses across the globe for years. Every time someone asks their Amazon Echo a question, they utilize AI. In the business setting, AI has detected credit card fraud for years. However, while AI is an established part of our society, it is far from reaching its full potential. AI will allow businesses to collect more and better data. Perhaps that is why experts expect spending on artificial intelligence in retail to grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $7.3 in 2022. AI will also allow businesses to better understand their customers and offer better services. With many organizations focused on improving employee and customer experience, AI will become a valuable tool. The Bottom Line In this time of incredible change, it is essential to keep up with emerging technology. However, it's equally important not to get swept away in the wave of disruption and think about what is important to your business and what objectives you are trying to achieve.

AI is changing the face of retail

Digital signage is now a familiar site in the modern world. From displaying menus at restaurants to offering directions in a building, digital signage feeds audiences information in a dynamic way. But how much more valuable could this channel be? Can digital signage take on a role to personalize messages or respond to a situation in real-time? Yes, with help from artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning. Deep learning turns data into action With deep learning, AI-driven platforms evaluate large data sets, typically in real-time, leading to specific reactions. AI engines have access to huge amounts of data. Data, of course, isn’t any good unless it’s analyzed and delivers an actionable response. AI is all about automation. It doesn’t necessarily “think” for you. What it can do is draw conclusions, find patterns, and react to situations. The platform can “learn” over time, making it an even more valuable tool. So, what does the future of digital signage look like with a boost from AI and deep learning? Personalized Experiences Every customer wants to feel important and have a personalized experience. AI and deep learning are the tools to make it happen. Soon, digital signage platforms, powered by AI and deep learning, could actually recognize customers. Just like local stores once new all their customers’ names, digital signage could act as a greeter. The digital signage could recognize the customer, say hello, and offer them useful information like what’s on sale, based on the customer’s buying history. While an amazing fete of technology, organizations should present this as a way to personalize what you see, becoming a benefit rather than a privacy concern. More Relevant Content In-store shopping continues to decline in favor of online shopping. That means retailers need to create experiences for shoppers who visit their brick-and-mortar stores. Many have already been using digital signage to promote sales or offer customers an in-depth look at products. AI can take it to the next level with personalization. A business already has historical data on its customers and their behaviors. Specific content is already created that plays at certain times or days. That’s the baseline that informs what content these consumers would most want to see. With AI and deep learning, there are two ways to improve content: either by putting the data in context or creating personalized ads. With context, the system is already starting with known behaviors like an increase in purchases of sunglasses after sunny days. But that won’t always be true. Deep learning adds context to this “rule” by capturing and integrating content that informs the situation. Maybe it’s a rainy day, which the system could detect with weather data. Or, the store knows, via sensors, that no one is shopping for sunglasses. This “learning” allows for the signage to “overrule” the sunglasses promo, switching it to items shoppers were currently looking at or umbrellas. Deep learning by an AI platform enables targeting down to the individual. If a male shopper enters a clothing store, digital signage could detect that the shopper was in his 20s wearing hiking boots. The system takes this information then reviews what items are in stock or on sale that men who purchased hiking boots also bought. What it finds could then be communicated to the shopper in almost real-time. Not only is the customer seeing personalized information it will prompt them to look at these items and make more purchases. How Will AI Evolve Your Digital Signage? The investment in digital signage and AI will continue to grow. The global digital signage market is expected to grow to $31.71 billion by 2025.[1] While the AI market is predicted to rise to nearly $60 billion by 2025.[2] These sectors are seeing phenomenal growth, which means organizations all over the world are investing in them to deliver better results. Intelligent digital communications are changing the world. Are you ready to be a part of it?   [1] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-digital-signage-market [2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/607716/worldwide-artificial-intelligence-market-revenues/  

Big data in digital communications

While data is at the heart of business and technology, many organizations are unable to leverage these silos of wealth and make them useful, due to challenges in consolidating and sharing the information. Unlocking the power of data is key to creating a competitive advantage. This infographic looks at the volume, velocity, variety, veracity, and value of the data in organizations today.

Why Unused Data is a Virtual Goldmine

Every single customer interaction, sales transaction, operations report, and similar electronic record represents a wealth of potentially valuable information that can be used to shape business strategy, enhance customer experience and improve product design. Yet, a vast portion of this data sits unused. The critical last mile between this information and its application represents a massive area of business opportunity. According to McKinsey and Company, typical business servers and enterprise data centers only deliver between five to fifteen percent of their maximum computing output on average over the course of a year.[1] Gartner also reports that nearly 97% of data sits unused in organizations. The time and effort to acquire, secure, and store this information is significant, but the underlying cost of failing to utilize this information is massive. The Uptime Institute found that nearly 30% of servers worldwide sit unused.[2] The cost of these 10 million comatose servers is somewhere in the neighborhood of nearly $30 billion dollars in idle capital. At the same time 90% of Dark Data, or unstructured data, is never analyzed. This means that valuable insights about products, internal development processes, and even website analytics that are collected during the course of normal business sit unused. The untapped value stored in customer information, log files, account information, and even legacy documents is astronomical. The chances that your organization is sitting on a pile of valuable and untapped data is extremely high. Dark data represents a chance for companies to leverage unique and important insights that can drive their business and allow them to compete with, or remain, market leaders. For example, mobile geo-location data can be used to coordinate logistics and user behavior in completely novel ways. The growth of organizations like Amazon are great case studies into just how much new data is being created in today’s technological society and businesses can leverage that data. People are leaving millions of footprints in metadata that can be mined for profitable strategies and the most successful organizations will be the ones who figure out how to do this the fastest. Omnivex allows businesses to easily collect, process, and deliver targeted real-time information across your organization on any screen – connecting people and data.             [1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/benkepes/2015/06/03/30-of-servers-are-sitting-comatose-according-to-research/#16090cc059c7   [2] https://uptimeinstitute.com/component/content/article/9-training-events/348-server-roundup-winners?Itemid=101  

AI Opens Unforeseen Opportunities for Digital Communications

It wasn’t so long ago that even the simplest of targeted digital communication seemed far-fetched to many marketing firms. In recent years, the ability of companies to analyze a customer’s interactions with online media and tailor their ad experience based on the results has seen incredible technological leaps. Perhaps most significant is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into digital signage networks. For companies on the cutting edge of marketing, those looking to make customer engagement more personalized and unique, AI is a powerful and effective tool. However, there is some confusion between what is driving certain actions – traditional analytics or AI. Often software companies use analytics based on AI techniques rather than the real thing. Knowing the difference can be an important step to ensure that you are keeping up with the competition. To understand the difference, this year’s anti-smoking ad by Swedish pharmacy Apotek Hjartat[1] is a useful example. The digital billboard was designed to detect smoke whenever someone had a cigarette near the sign. If the sensors went off, a video would play on the screen of a man coughing and with a disgusted look on his face. The ad was creative, engaging and an excellent use of modern technology to provide an effective anti-smoking message. AI, however, could have made it so much more. In a process known as deep learning, AI equipped programs take large data sets, often collected in real time, in order to respond to their environment in a particular way. In this anti-smoking campaign, for instance, AI could have allowed the advertisement to detect where the smoker was, thereby directing the disgusted glare directly in their direction. Additionally, it could have used video software to detect when someone chose to put out the cigarette, triggering a secondary video with a thumbs up. Put simply, AI changes the programs capabilities from merely being an “if/then” scenario to one with open-ended possibilities. The possibilities that deep learning programs can offer a digital communication system are almost unbelievable. When customers enter a store, these programs have the ability to detect gender, analyze for an estimated age, and even remember whether or not the customer had visited before. These details allow it to then present an image or video geared directly towards that person’s predicted shopping habits. This not only benefits the store by driving up revenue, but increases the probability of customers leaving with a positive experience enticing them to return. No matter what industry you’re in, or what digital communication platform you rely on, AI has the ability to make a significant impact on your marketing strategy and your business in the coming years. In order to stay ahead of the curve, it is important to find a trusted partner in the industry who understands cutting edge technologies and can bring about the results you are looking for. Omivex has been leading the charge in implementing new digital communications technologies since their founding over 25 years ago.   [1] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/digital-billboard-coughs-when-smokers-walk-past_uk_58774b38e4b087dc83e81fe2) 

Disruptive or Dinosaur?

  Disruption in an industry leads to innovation. Uber and Airbnb are two examples of companies that have turned an industry on its head. They created a peer-to-peer model that combines technology and business. Previously, these industries had cobwebs in their innovation labs. They had established markets dominated by a few main players. By companies such as Uber creating a sharing economy, consumers have greater access to goods and services that may have once been unavailable. The result is an expectation for other companies in that industry to adapt and evolve. While consumers are not necessarily demanding digital transformation, they will gravitate to those organizations that offer the best customer experience. Creating disruption By leveraging a digital communications platform, you can create a unique and engaging customer experience that sets your business apart from your competitors. Perhaps it is getting rid of a point of friction, such as the lines and checkouts, like Amazon Go did with their new retail concept store. No matter what it is, digital communications enable you to create meaningful connections between technology and your stakeholders. Technology has changed how people see various industries and they expect choices. Innovators have developed platforms that enable businesses to easily collect, process and deliver targeted information across the organization on any screen; enhancing your business’s two most valuable assets, people and data. Think outside the box Uber and Airbnb don’t actually own any cars or hotel rooms. What they have done is transform the entire experience, not just create an app. Consider Airbnb for a second, they disrupted the entire travel industry in 2008. Before its existence, boutique hotels were providing guests with a more intimate stay than the large, mainstream hotels. Travelers began to expect even more choice, they craved a new type of hospitality that provided a personalized experience; the ability to live like a local and immerse one’s self in the culture. Airbnb used technology to create a “marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world” and at the same time created a new normal in the travel industry with their peer-to-peer business model. Previously, consumers weren’t aware what they wanted because the choice wasn’t there. Now, they expect options that grant them more control of their experience. They value increased technological capabilities that are user friendly. If you don't have a digital transformation strategy in place, you will be left behind in the ever-changing business economy. You risk competitors providing better and more robust innovation. And, worst of all, you risk losing your customers. According to Forbes, “for a successful digital transformation in any business organization, digital maturity and a modern organization culture are of paramount importance.”

Finding Your Digital IQ

  Only 12% of Fortune 500 business from 1955 still existed in 2016. It’s not a coincidence that the 12% are still alive. Their creative destruction, constant innovation and technology-focused mindset is why those companies still thrive today. By studying a company’s Digital IQ, we can understand how digital transformations propel both organizations and whole industries forward. A survey from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which polled 2,216 executives at companies with annual revenue of more than $500 million, found that leaders are embracing digital transformation – mobile strategies, internet of things, consumer technology, social platforms and more. They recognize what is at the forefront of every executive’s mind - how a digital strategy can influence key business objectives. Digital transformation involves three areas: technological ability, digital communications and customer experience. We have a short list of questions that organizations can use to measure their progression in the digital transformation journey: How is digital transformation defined at your organization? Who is leading your digital transformation? Is digital transformation being looked at across the entire enterprise or just in individual departments How can digital transformation help the business, both financially and with overall employee and customer experience? How can you leverage existing assets and technologies in new ways? How can data and information have a greater benefit and/or competitive advantage? One of the best ways to raise a company’s Digital IQ is by understanding and improving upon the human experience. Executives must think critically about how their digital initiatives will affect the experience of customers and employees, as even the most well-intentioned initiatives can have negative impacts on people. By prioritizing the user experience, digital initiatives can increase revenue growth and profit margins. In 2007, roughly 40% of Chief Information Officers (CIO) had a seat at the executive table. Now, CIOs are heavily involved in strategic planning as digital strategies are influencing business goals. Digital no longer simply means the internet. It now touches every business function, from human resources to sales and marketing. IT investments are connected to an organization’s goals. The organizations that make IT part of their overall strategy will be ready to handle the challenges that come with the ever-changing business model. No company wants to be one of the nine out of every ten Fortune 500 companies around in 1955 that are no longer around today. Now is the time to bring everyone around the table to honestly evaluate your business. Start thinking outside of the box about the future of your business, and its digital transformation.

A Day in the Digital Life

From the moment you wake up until you lie down at night, your day is remarkably more digital today than a decade ago – or even a few years ago. With the new digital age comes unprecedented access to information. Let’s take a peek at an average day in the life of a working professional and examine how digital information impacts just about every decision we make: You start your day at home where you wake up to your cell phone alarm. You immediately open your weather app, which tells you that it will be sunny where you live, but raining in Lisbon, Portugal, where you are headed later that morning for meetings. With this in mind, you pack an umbrella into your carry-on bag. On your way to the airport, you pop into the office. As you pull up to the parking garage, the digital sign at the entrance tells you Levels 1 and 2 are full. Luckily there are spots available on Level 3. You drive straight there and scan the coloured lights over the parking spaces for a green one so you can park your car. At the office, you take the elevator up to the 10th floor while watching an ad for flowers on a mounted display screen. That reminds you Mother’s Day is coming up, so you make a note in your phone’s calendar to send mom a gift. As you enter your office, you see some great news: the KPI screen indicates that sales numbers are up, but there seems to be a spike in support calls; you make a mental note to chat with the support manager about potential causes. You have a quick round of meetings in the conference room, some via Skype as many of your co-workers are located in different cities around the world. While you are printing out hard copies of the report for your prospective client in Lisbon, a notification on your phone tells you it’s time to head to the airport. You hop in your car to head to the airport and your GPS routes you around construction to save you time on the road. As you park at the airport, you realize you forgot to check in online. It’s no problem, though, because you can print out your boarding pass at one of the many kiosks inside. After the ritual security check, you find your gate number on a bank of video screens. It says you have 45 minutes before your flight boards, so you pop into the executive lounge to return a few emails. Once you’ve boarded and settled in, a safety video appears on the monitor in front of you relaying vital instructions to follow in the unlikely event of an emergency. Then, it’s wheels up. You reach cruising altitude when you realize you haven’t eaten all day. You pull up the in-flight menu on the touchscreen monitor and order a hearty meal that the attendant brings right to your seat. After eating, reviewing documents on your tablet, and taking in a movie or two, you decide to get some shut eye. When you wake up, you’ve arrived at Lisbon Portela Airport. Digital wayfinding tools help you find your way to the taxi stand, where you show the driver the name of your hotel on your phone. Within 30 minutes, you’ve checked into a room with an incredible view. Energized and ready to go, you visit your client and make an excellent presentation using your laptop and the projector in the conference room. Excitingly, you close the deal! After emailing your team back home with the good news, you check your social media accounts and message an old college roommate who also happens to be in town. You meet for dinner at a restaurant that has complimentary reviews about online. With the help of a mobile translation app, you order and enjoy an amazing dinner. After that, it is back to the hotel for some sleep before you head home in the morning. Digital technologies touch our lives at multiple points throughout the day. It may be in ways we expect, like on our mobile phones, but is often present in less obvious ways, like in the sensors at airport security or on the electronic signs we read during our commutes. Ultimately, however, digital technology enables us to make more informed, and thus far better decisions at just about every turn.

Digital Customer Experience

Why Digital Customer Experience Is Driving The Shift From Multichannel To Omnichannel  In 1955, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc entered into a partnership with a small California hamburger restaurant named McDonald’s. Over the next few decades, the golden arches would experience an almost unprecedented rise that would shift the landscape of the entire food service industry. What often goes overlooked when discussing the historical significance of McDonald’s, though, is that apart from their streamlined business model, a key driver of growth was the integrated approach to the customer experience. The consistency of McDonald’s messaging allowed them to reach and retain a diverse set of customers. This variety of high-quality consumer communication increased brand loyalty and created opportunities for long term revenue growth. In the not-too-distant-past, sales and marketing professionals looking to emulate the success of a McDonald’s-type organization would refer to this as a “multichannel” marketing strategy. This multichannel strategy involved the simultaneous deployment of messages and offers across a tiered system of channels. The approach, however, is flawed as it lacks a critical cohesiveness.    An omnichannel marketing strategy, on the other hand, is an integrated cross-channel communication strategy that leverages the dispersion of platforms and screens to create powerful and targeted impressions. Omnichannel marketing takes an IOT-like approach to marketing by combining data and analysis with real-time updates and messaging. This omnichannel approach is much better suited for today’s rapidly shifting technological environment. The rewards of a highly optimized customer onboarding, payment, and appreciation process can be tremendous. The Starbucks App, for example, currently has 17 million users and allows customers to place their order, pay before they even enter a store, and collect reward points. Mobile technology is allowing this coffee retailer to drive in-store sales and reduce bottle necks. The next evolution in the digital customer experience strategy is the linking of digital displays and communications. Digital signage is quickly replacing the static variety because it offers organizations such as retailers the opportunity to engage and interact with customers on an entirely new level. Due to digital displays doubling as smart solutions, they can do so much more than project menu boards! By utilizing the proper software, businesses are able to display optimized content, creating a better customer experience, while offering retailers additional advertising opportunities. One exciting digital communications asset available today is multi-screen displays. Dozens of different displays can be synced together to promote attention-grabbing content. VOX Cinema recently completed a refurbishment of its theatres that was designed to create a compelling and integrated digital customer experience. The new VOX cinemas also make use of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and social media to make customers a part of the conversation, with a dedicated six-screen video wall displaying live feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Dubai’s City Centre-Deira location synchronized over 135 separate screens to create a world class environment for its customers. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment uses Omnivex Moxie digital communications platform to create an immersive fan experience, by connecting hundreds of screens throughout their flagship Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. This Digital Customer Experience can make quantifiable differences in a company’s P&L as well. A recent survey found that on average, over 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience.[1] The same study also found that 1 in 5 customers stopped purchasing after a poor experience. Businesses not employing an omnichannel marketing strategy are not only missing out on potential revenue, they are potentially turning away customers for life. With better and easier access to pricing information and quality reports than ever before, consumers today are exceedingly savvy. This means that competitive businesses must utilize all the tools at their disposal to make the customer experience a seamless thing of beauty.     [1] https://www.capgemini.com/resource-file-access/resource/pdf/the_disconnected_customer-what_digital_customer_experience_leaders_teach_us_about_reconnecting_with_customers.pdf

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