Technology centre what I learned here

No secret that good enough is usually good for customers in India. Most companies have learned that the hard way.

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“We never go home, we’re usually here all night,” says Dominic Mason, head of product design and development (Environmental Control) at Dyson Technologies.

Technology companies don’t usually look and feel as geeky as you would expect. There’s a healthy dose of marketing and communications professionals, finance etc. It’s usually more “corporate” than “engineering”.

But not with Dyson. Walking around the company’s facilities in Singapore, you feel like you’re amongst a bunch of geeks, who would rather solve equations than sign cheques.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to think that Dyson runs only on engineers, but it feels like there’s a disproportionate dose of that. The company’s Singapore offices have an 80-20 ratio between engineers and other employees – finance, HR etc.

Walking in, I found myself in a soundproof acoustic lab, where Dyson tests its products for noise. Here, only the floor reflects sound, while the rest of the chamber is designed to avoid echo. The walls absorb any sound above 100 Hz.

Dyson invested £10 million into this acoustic facility alone, where a team of four engineers work, led by Nicklaus Yu, Senior Acoustics and Vibration Engineer for Dyson. As Nicklaus shows us his lab, the acoustic chamber, you can literally feel the glee that only a geek can exhibit when talking tech. When he’s done talking, he points to an air purifier at our feet, which was turned on all along, but no one in the room heard it.

It’s his ‘et voila!’ moment.

He’s delighted, in a way that only engineers can be when laymen marvel at their creations.

Lab after lab, engineers demonstrated different elements of Dyson’s technologies, waxing eloquent about them. And every few sentences, they would stop and remember that it’s laymen they’re talking to. We eventually found ourselves facing a blacked out room, where future products are being developed, and it’s out of bounds for most, including those sitting right in front of it.

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But, how do you sell geek to Indians?

It’s no secret that good enough is usually good for customers in India. Most companies have learned that the hard way, accepted that and moved on. Refusing to budge, usually means hurting your bottom line.

You could simply make “good enough” products and call them excellent. That’s marketing. But somehow, Mason agrees that his purifiers are struggling against extreme pollution, like what we have in Delhi. On being asked how he’s going to deal with that, he says he’s collecting data right now, which will help him answer that question in the future.

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Tight (security) comes with an annoying compromise

Better security is great, but unfortunately, the T2 coprocessor isn’t without problem.

The launch of the 2018 MacBook Pro has been rife with controversy, with issues ranging from the performance to the keyboard. While we’re at it, let’s throw one more log on the fire, shall we?

The new MacBook Pros come with what Apple calls the T2 coprocessor — a chip first featured in the iMac Pro. Although its main reason for inclusion is Siri voice activation, it also has important implications on security and storage. Better security is great, but unfortunately, the T2 coprocessor isn’t without problem.

The return of the T2

The T2 coprocessor brings all sorts of security features to the MacBook Pros. In its press release, Apple says it has “support for secure boot” and “on-the-fly encrypted storage,” two features that first came when the T2 showed up in last year’s iMac Pro. These security features might not sound like a big deal, but they’ll have a much larger effect on users than activating Siri with your voice.

Apple’s never been all that forthcoming about the exact processes these chips control, but there are a few things we know the T2 does handle. That includes Boot-up, storage, and the Touch Bar/Touch ID. Not only are these processes the Intel CPU and third-party controllers no longer must handle, it keeps them protected in Apple’s closed system of stopgaps.

A great example is the boot-up process, which is now partially handled by the T2. As detailed in initial reports about the coprocessor in the iMac Pro, the T2 verifies everything about the system before it’s allowed to move forward. As soon as the Apple logo appears, the T2 is in control, and acts as Apple’s “root of trust” to ensure that everything checks out.

Encrypted storage is equally important. Because the functions of the conventional disk controller have been replaced by the T2, the coprocessor now has direct control over the storage in your MacBook Pro.

That kind of access allows Apple to ensure every piece of data in the SSD is automatically protected and encrypted. That lets Apple to do things like secure your biometric data outside of the SSD. Right now, that’s just the TouchID sensor, but in the future that could include something like FaceID.

However, some reports were made to bring these new security features to the MacBook Pro.

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Ecosystem Play to Generate $100T by 2028, Accenture Says

The survey found that about 50% of business leaders say they have already built or are currently building an ecosystem to respond to disruption, and another 10% more are seeking to build one.

Digital disruption can be a scary thing. You either innovate by building a digital platform that leverages big data and emerging tech like AI, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, or you get disrupted by somebody who can. But the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, according to a new report from Accenture Strategy, companies that leverage their surrounding ecosystems to build disruptive products and services will generate a mind-boggling $100 trillion in value over the next 10 years.

That eyebrow-raising assessment was delivered recently in a new research paper from Accenture Strategy titled “Cornerstones of Future Growth: Ecosystems.” The report is based in part on a survey of 1,252 business leaders that Accenture Strategy conducted to ascertain how they’re evolving business models to handle the potential negative and positive aspects of digital disruption. The survey found that about 50% of business leaders say they have already built or are currently building an ecosystem to respond to disruption, and another 10% more are seeking to build one.

Which begs the questions: Just what exactly is an “ecosystem,” how can a company build one, and in what way can it help?

An ecosystem, according to Accenture Strategy is:

“…The network of cross-industry players who work together to define, build and execute market-creating customer and consumer solutions…The power of the ecosystem is that no single player need own or operate all components of the solution, and that the value the ecosystem generates is larger than the combined value each of the players could contribute individually.”

Brick and mortar retailers, for example, are leveraging an ecosystem when they expand their reach to customers by selling products through online portals, such as Amazon or EBay. Hospitals can also tap into the ecosystem train by using rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft, to help move patients to and from appointments.

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We’ve definitely seen our share of digital disruption over the past 10 to 15 years. Physical stores selling books, toys, and music are few and far between, and thanks to Amazon’s $1-billion acquisition of PillPack, the neighborhood drug store could be next. Uber, which doesn’t own any cars but does have a popular ride-sharing app, is worth an estimated $50 billion, the same amount as General Motors, which made 3 million cars last year.

But according to Accenture Strategy’s survey, the potential disruption is just getting started. The survey found that 76% of business leaders say current business models will be unrecognizable in five years, and that the rise of the ecosystem play will be the main culprit.

Big data and technological innovation will play central roles in the ecosystem play. Accenture Strategy cites the partnership between Microsoft and GE and the companies’ integration of the Azure and Predix platforms as a good example of an ecosystem at work. A budding ecosystem that includes Google and Wal-Mart, similarly, is designed to make it easier for customer to order products via AI-powered Google Assistant, Accenture Strategy points out.

In some ways, the ecosystem concept bares some similarity to the “innovation chains” that Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins has explored in his research lately. Hopkins says that companies that can successfully link together disparate but related technologies (such as big data analytics, AI, distributed ledgers, IoT, cloud, and quantum computing) have a better chance at creating “breakthrough innovation” than those who lack the experience and expertise in those technologies.

While business executives seem to agree that leveraging ecosystems will be a key to future survival, many of them don’t know how to pull it off. According to the Accenture Strategy survey, only 40% of respondents said they have the capacity and experience to build, monitor, and manage an ecosystem at the moment.

Part of the problem with the ecosystem play is that companies are loathe to give up control, which must happen for an ecosystem to be successful. Accenture Strategy says sharing data is “essential” to sustaining an ecosystem, but adds that 44% of executives are hesitant to share company assets or secrets. Investment in data governance capabilities was identified as a critical need for enabling safe data sharing.

Pursuing an ecosystem play can often mean working with one’s business adversary. Turning these competitors into “frenemies” is a good way to head off the risk of business disruption, said Accenture Strategy Managing Director Oliver Wright.

“Due to increasing market pressure, we’re likely to see more companies – particularly those that have traditionally been competitors – join forces as they look to create new growth and achieve competitive agility,” Wright stated in a press release. “‘Coopetition’ will continue to grow and exciting partnerships will form as a result, some of which have already remade markets and industries around the world.”

Michael Lyman, the senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, says companies can no longer create sustainable growth by going it alone. “They need the help of partners to form ecosystems to innovate and create new customer propositions, expand their customer base and enter new markets,” he said in a press release.

Ecosystem capabilities are not evenly distributed across industries. Telecommunication firms, banks, and utilities have the strongest ecosystem capabilities today, while companies in the insurance, healthcare, and travel industries are the weakest.

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Introduction of the new system is causing some concern over the privacy

Currently applicants have to fill in a form online, print it out and take it to the post office so their identification can be verified.

A NEW controversial system may soon see welfare recipients required to have their face scanned and analysed before they can access their payments.

The system, which will also affect people trying access Medicare and childcare subsidies, age pension and pay tax online, is part of a new biometric security program that is set to begin in October.

Under the new strategy those trying to access these government services will be required to take photo to create a myGov ID, which will then be checked against driver’s licences and passports to confirm their identity.

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan has hopes the plan will see Australia become a world leader in “digital government” by 2025.

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When fully rolled out the digital identity solution will allow users access to almost any government agency through one single portal, with the trial allowing 100,000 people to apply for a Tax File number online.

Currently applicants have to fill in a form online, print it out and take it to the post office so their identification can be verified.

But the introduction of the new system is causing some concern over the privacy of those taking part.

IT security expert Troy Hunt, who runs the website haveibeenpwned.com, told news.com.au that a biometric system — like the one proposed — wasn’t without its faults.

“One of the problems is we want to be able to access things in a secure fashion but passwords aren’t really great for doing that because a lot of us tend to use the same one for everything,” he said.

“Biometrics can be better in this aspect but on the flip side it is information that can’t really be changed if there is a security breach.”

Mr Hunt said that once a database is built up of this biometric data then there was the possibility it could be used for reasons other than it’s intended purpose. For example having a scan of people’s faces on file could make it easier to identify or track people through security camera.

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Improving Customer Experience with AI

Human beings don’t categorize content in the same way – and discrepancies and misunderstandings in categorization can make customer feedback useless.

A myriad of customer service channels exist today, such as social media, email, chat services, call centers, and voice mail. There are so many ways that a customer can interact with a business and it is important to take them all into account.

Customers or prospects who interact via chat may represent just one segment of the audience, while the people that engage via the call center represent another segment of the audience. The same might be said of social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Each channel may offer a unique perspective from customers – and may provide unique value for business leaders eager to improve their customer experience. Understanding and addressing all channels of unstructured text feedback is a major focus for natural language processing applications in business – and it’s a major focus for Luminoso.

Luminoso founder Catherine Havasi received her Master’s degree in natural language processing from MIT in 2004, and went on to graduate with a PhD in computer science from Brandeis before returning to MIT as a Research Scientist and Research Affiliate. She founded Luminoso in 2011.

In this article, we ask Catherine about the use cases of NLP for understanding customer voice – and the circumstances where this technology can be most valuable for companies.

Why Customer Voice Needs Artificial Intelligence

Making sense of the meaning in customer or user feedback (through phone calls, chat, email, social media, etc) is valuable for nearly any business. The challenge lies in finding this meaning at scale, and across so many different data formats.

Catherine tells us that, historically, businesses manage these different customer interactions by putting them into appropriate “buckets” or categories. For example, if there are 70,000 customer support email messages received in a particular month, the company might have a manual process of flagging each message as “refund request,” “billing inquiry,” “purchase request,” etc.

However, manual categorization becomes nearly impossibly challenging at scale, for a number of reasons:

  • While all customer service emails and call center calls might be labelled manually by the customer support rep who handles then, other kinds of data (tweets, chat messages, comments on online forums) may never receive the same kind of labelling.
  • A company with pre-determined “buckets” (categories) for customer service inquiries is unlikely to be able to pick up on new, emerging trends in the particular words, issues, or phrases used in customer requests. This inability to adapt and find new patterns could limit the company from seeing new opportunities for improvement, or new emerging issues for important customer segments.
  • Human beings don’t categorize content in the same way – and discrepancies and misunderstandings in categorization can make customer feedback useless.

Many companies look to technology that can detect common patterns for these messages, create categories for each found pattern, and flag them appropriately for the attention of the business owners (which includes finding new patterns). This is a job for machine learning.

“Sentiment analysis” – the process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text – has become a somewhat familiar term. Catherine tells us that truly understanding customer voice involves much more than simply detecting emotions within text, and includes:

  • Finding new “entities” (products, brands, people) which are gaining or losing frequency in customer feedback
  • Determining customer sentiment – not just overall – but in relation to specific entities or types of customer issues
  • Showing changes and trends in customer feedback over time
  • Understanding the different patterns of feedback across unique channels (call center, chat messages, social media, etc)

The problem is many text analytics techniques in the past require a significant amount of data and effort in building rules and anthologies in the beginning, and still be unable to provide a true picture of what is actually being said by the customers.

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How important it is to collect data and use it to inform strategies

The increasing sophistication of martech and ad tech systems expands marketers.

The collection and parsing of data is only one side of the marketing equation. If the data isn’t being leveraged effectively, the value of accumulating it is negligible.

Marketing technology (martech) and advertising technology (ad tech) are converging from every direction, at a maddening pace. So much so that David Daniels of The Relevancy Group coined the term “MadTech” to capture the right tone.

And despite the constant change and complexity, marketers now have the tools they need to take immediate, impactful action on the data they collect. Better yet, because that action is data-driven, it is by default aligned with customer-centricity.

The conceptual barriers between martech and ad tech are blurring. Ad tech is no longer strictly a new customer acquisition tool. Established martech systems like CRM platforms and email service providers are no longer considered passive information repositories, but engines for actionable outreach.

This consolidation is making it possible for marketers to achieve not only greater insights into their customers and potential customers, but also to move more fluidly from insight to engagement to retention.

Customer relationship management (CRM) programs have long been the definitive martech platforms, whereas demand-side platforms (DSPs) and ad networks are synonymous with the ad tech movement. CRM platforms have changed radically in recent years, evolving from software with relatively narrow parameters to target segments and schedule campaigns to systems that can connect audiences across channels with integrated, personalized communications.

Newer martech systems like customer data platforms (CDPs) go a step further, facilitating automation across all customer touch points and marketing channels. And while DSPs and ad networks function much as they always have on the ad tech side, the rise of data management platforms (DMPs) has allowed marketers to connect these digital advertising inventory management tools with campaign and audience data to optimize future media buys and messaging.

Clearly, the increasing sophistication of martech and ad tech systems expands marketers’ capabilities, but the convergence of the two disciplines is fueled only in part by technological progress. Perhaps more important than the power of the tools themselves is the more widespread agreement on what they should be used to achieve — namely, people-based marketing.

Immunotherapy transforms lung cancer, the biggest cancer killer

Two more had their cancer come back but now have no symptoms after extra treatment.

Immune therapy drugs can transform lung cancer treatment, giving patients years of extra life, doctors reported Monday.

They found that pre-treating lung cancer patients with immune therapy drugs before they have surgery can help melt away the tumor and at the same time limit or even stop its spread.

And combinations of immunotherapy drugs have helped other lung cancer patients get off more toxic standard chemotherapy while also extending their lives.

The results are so startling that it is likely every lung cancer patient should be given the option of immunotherapy first, said Dr. Roy Herbst, a lung cancer specialist at Yale Cancer Center who was not involved in the studies.

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“I have never seen progress move so fast,” Herbst told NBC News.

 “The results today are really a paradigm shift. They will mean more lung cancer patients getting immunotherapy up front.”

Immunotherapy helps the body’s immune system fight off cancer through a variety of mechanisms: by boosting immune system activity, uncloaking tumor cells and with the use of engineered immune system proteins that very specifically target tumors.

They include the new class of drugs that appear to have stalled former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma.

The drugs had been shown to help lung cancer, the No.1 cause of cancer death globally and in the United States.

And the new results, released at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show more creative use of the drugs could change the way doctors treat lung cancer.

In one study, a team at Johns Hopkins medical school treated 20 patients with one of the immune therapy drugs before they had surgery to remove lung cancer tumors.

A year later, 16 patients were alive and the cancer was still undetectable. Two more had their cancer come back but now have no symptoms after extra treatment. One died of lung cancer and one died of an unrelated head injury. So a year and a half later, 18 of the lung cancer patients are still alive.

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