Author Archives: CloudTweaks

On Demand With The Gig Economy

On Demand With The Gig Economy

The Gig Economy

By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase Gig Economy or seen services offered as “on-demand”. If you’re like 90 million Americans, then you’ve participated in this freelance workforce revolution as either a client or provider.

The rise of apps connecting professional services, goods, and lodging directly to consumers via their smartphone is exploding. Companies like Uber valued at $60 Billion is now officially the fastest growing start up ever, and it is changing the way people get around. AirBnB is changing the way we look for lodging and travel. Gig companies like Postmates aim to bring you anything, from any store, to your door, in under an hour. From moving services, to odd jobs, to dog walking, the possibilities are endless in the new Gig Economy.

cloud-infographic

(Infographic source: selfstorage.com)

It is no question this business model will continue to grow, but who are the real winners and losers of this workforce revolution? Workers gain the freedom of breaking out of the 9-5 (priceless to millennials), but lose the stability, health benefits, and safety net of full time employment. Companies cut costs in office space, training, insurance, but lose control over the productivity they can get from their workforce. While 71% of Gig Economy workers reported being satisfied with their work, 58% complained about the lack of regulation in the industry. As recent cases against Uber and AirBnB suggest, we are still in the Wild West when it comes to understanding and regulating these business models, and in the meantime these companies are walking away with massive sums of cash for simply being the middle-man. Some on-demand services are even shifting back to a traditional employment model. Despite who’s winning and losing, in a world of “I want it right now”, the Gig Economy is here to stay.

By Thomas Dougherty

5 Cloud-Based Customer Service Trends

5 Cloud-Based Customer Service Trends

Customer Service Trends

Customer service has become the new battleground in today’s marketplace. In fact, 97 percent of customers around the world now say that customer service makes a key difference in whether they decide to go with a brand or not, Microsoft reports.

Many of the biggest changes in today’s customer service landscape center around the mobile revolution and the corresponding shift to cloud-based services. Here are five trends that your company can leverage in order to gain a customer service edge on your competition.

Service is moving to cloud contact centers

customer

Customer service is rapidly migrating to cloud contact centers. U.S. spending on cloud contact centers stood at $868 million in 2012 and will grow to $2 billion by 2019, representing a compound annual growth rate of 17.7 percent, the International Data Corporation (IDC) projects. Driving this migration is the increasing range of communication options available to consumers, which is pressuring companies to meet rising consumer expectations, explains IDC. Companies also see advantages in moving to cloud contact centers; they are easy to deploy, requiring minimal on-premises equipment. Since cloud infrastructures are usually hosted and managed off-premise by providers, cloud contact centers are also less expensive and require fewer support staff to maintain.They can also be scaled up as business demands, a particular advantage for companies that have seasonal peaks in business.

Customer service representatives are working from home

An increasing number of call center representatives are now working from home, which is also driving migration to the cloud. Hiring remote workers benefits companies by allowing them to spend less money on on-premises space. At the same time, hiring remote workers enables companies to expand staff as needed and to employ staff from any location to serve customers anywhere in the world.

Mobile customers need omnichannel support

In today’s mobile environment, a single customer service ticket might start with a live chat conversation, move to a phone call and end with a follow-up email. An increasing number of customers also seek service through social media, which has seen an eight-fold increase in customer complaint submissions since January 2014. Twenty-five percent of customers seeking assistance now use at least two channels and 52 percent use three or four channels, according to Ovum. Providing a seamless experience across all communication channels requires a unified interface, which a cloud contact service center can provide. Companies that deliver good omnichannel support will have an advantage in customer satisfaction over their competition.

Customers want to serve themselves

customers-satisfaction

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Another trend companies can leverage is the demand for self-service options. The majority of customers want to be empowered to handle issues themselves without help. Forrester research reports that 76 percent of customers use the frequently asked questions page of websites when seeking help, compared to 73 percent who use the telephone and 68 percent who use email, making self-service the most used customer service medium. By 2020, customers will handle 85 percent of their interactions with companies without requiring human assistance. Online knowledge bases are one way companies are delivering self-service. An increasing amount of self-service will also be delivered through voice-activated automatic speech recognition, a market companies will spend $16.7 billion on globally by 2017, BCC Research projects. Companies that provide self-service options will deliver a better user experience to customers.

Live chat

When customers require human assistance, they prefer using live chat over speaking to a representative on the phone. Preference for live chat is highest among younger consumers, with 56 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds preferring live chat for all types of service inquiries. Live chat gets better customer service satisfaction results than other channels, with 92 percent of customers reporting good satisfaction for live chat, compared to 88 percent for voice service and 85 percent for web forms and email. Companies that deliver live chat support will have an advantage over competitors who do not.

By Roy Rasmussen

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Conquering Disease with Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Artificial Intelligence and IBM Watson

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is growing increasingly pervasive in today’s modern world. Perhaps the most publicized and recognizable application of AI to date, IBM’s Jeopardy-winning computer, Watson, is now being used to help cure cancer. IBM announced the development of Watson for Genomics on Wednesday at the National Cancer Moonshot Summit. The supercomputer aims to analyze gene structures of cancer patients to determine where mutations occur and in turn figure out potential causes and treatments.

Watson differs from other supercomputers because it is able to answer questions in natural language, not just binary code or technical inputs, making it extremely practical for busy doctors on the move. Currently, coming up with cancer treatment plans for specific patients is a time-intensive process. First, the entire genome of a patient must be analyzed, then a team of doctors must convene to figure out the best treatment plan. Watson can do all of it in under three minutes by tapping into massive data sources of medical literature and the sequenced DNA of patients on file.

IBM-Watson
(Image Source: Kaesler Media / Shutterstock)

This is just the latest in a series of healthcare applications IBM is looking to use its Watson supercomputer. Watson has already worked with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and CVS to improve patient care and predict future health issues. Healthcare is just one potential vertical for IBM, and they are looking for creative ways to use their super-computing power to help industries across the board. The software giant even developed an LED-light filled dress worn at the Met Gala that changed based on the mood of the event on social media.

Watson is even teaming up with doctors at the Veterans Affair Department (VA) to provide treatment suggestions to 10,000 US veterans over the next two years. That means 30 times more patients will receive care than by using the current doctor-by-committee approach.

It is time-intensive and it is not scalable,” says Dr. Michael Kelly, national program director of oncology at the VA. “One human couldn’t do it, it takes a panel.” Or one Watson. Watson will look at a DNA sequence and explore potential causes for the cancer, known as deidentified genetic alteration files. Watson will cross reference the DNA sequence of each patient with other patients’ DNA and contemporary medical literature to formulate what gene mutations have occurred and potential treatments to those.

Watson and IBM also aim to benefit from access to 3.5% of the country’s cancer patients and their data. But working through genome sequences is only half of the equation for Watson. Stephen Harvey, vice president of Watson Health at IBM says, “The other half of the job is filtering out things that wouldn’t be clinically valuable for doctors like Dr. Kelly.” In other words, Watson may be able to take orders in practical language, but it will need to give them to doctors as well, a challenge now at the core of all AI developers world-wide.

By Thomas Dougherty

Clouding Around With The Unicorns

Clouding Around With The Unicorns

The Social Unicorn

Early investors and technology consumers alike love the poignantly named “Unicorn” companies, or private startups that reach the $1 billion valuation. The most recent unicorn spotting is social media game-changer Snapchat, which was recently valued at $16 billion. According to a recent infographic from Alexa discovered via Adweek, Snapchat also proves to be one of the rarest unicorns of all.

fastest-growing-unicorns-by-industry_asset

In the technology industry, 25% of all unicorn companies are in the E-commerce vertical; social media is a distant 7th producing only 5.36% of total unicorns. The infographic shows the viral takeoff of the platform over the past few years, which says the biggest growth may still lie ahead for Snapchat, especially considering the youth of their user base. Social platforms can benefit from the exponential exposure their own platforms give them, and it looks like Snapchat has done just that.

most-popular-unicorn-industries_asset

Compared to Unicorns in other industries, Snapchat still lags behind companies like Aerospace iconoclast Space X and Deem in Big Data. This year has seen the rise and fall of unicorns like DraftKings and FanDuel, obviously competing in a different vertical, but a case in point of how a changing market or user-base can quickly make a unicorn company mythical, some never to be seen again.

By Thomas Dougherty

Curing Cancer With Big Data

Curing Cancer With Big Data

Cancer & Big Data

The fight against cancer has been going on for centuries. Many leaders have tried and failed to bring about change to cancer treatment. Richard Nixon famously declared a War on Cancer with the National Cancer Act of 1971, and while the Nixon administration certainly increased research funding, they ultimately fell short of eradicating this horrible disease.

The new Cancer Moonshot championed by Vice President Joe Biden has a much better chance of making good on its lofty premise because of the extensive collaboration promised by all stakeholders in an effort to finally and permanently cure cancer.

The Cancer Moonshot aims to develop new ways to treat cancer that can be in use by 2020 (Infographic provided by Maacenter.org). This will be achieved by bringing together each and every part of the healthcare process to ensure that information is shared by anyone who may have ideas about how to cure cancer. Never before have research institutions, government agencies, academia, big pharma, doctors, and even patients themselves banded together in hopes of ridding the world of its most recognizable and ubiquitous disease.

Moonshot

This effort is exciting for all those affected by cancer and is especially invigorating for people afflicted with rare cancers like mesothelioma. With only 3,000 people diagnosed every year, the disease is largely an afterthought when it comes to cancer funding and large-scale research projects. However, by targeting specific tumor signatures patients can be cured, not with a disease-specific treatment, but by personalized therapies that calibrate the patient’s immune system to fight off diseased cells. Cancers of all types would be permanently impacted with this new method of treatment.

For all initiative of this magnitude to realize success, all resources possible must work together to achieve a common goal. How data is securely stored, analyzed, and shared will have an incredibly significant role in the effort. A large step towards breaking down the silos in data sharing was taken with the announcement of the National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons (GDC). When completed, the GDC will be an interactive and searchable database that allows doctors to access the most recent information about treatments from around the country.

DarenThe GDC platform is the first of its kind and represents an innovative way to share and analyze information. Because of the nature of the disease, sharing results of these genomic trails will be integral to this data resulting in clinical advancements. For the moonshot to work it must have sound and significant data to tell the story of its success. As Daren Glenister puts it, “Big data and learning algorithms will enable researchers to identify patterns and anomalies that, for instance, may help to identify patients who can benefit from standard treatments, or whose tumors require a different approach.”

Landing on the moon was once thought impossible. Finding the cure for cancer can be viewed with some skepticism. However, with the advancements in genomic medicine of the past 20 years combined with a revolutionary collaboration of ideas and data, we have never been positioned better to finally beat cancer once and for all.

By Sarah Wallace

Big Data Predictions: Who Will Win The UEFA Euro 16?

Big Data Predictions: Who Will Win The UEFA Euro 16?

UEFA Euro 16

Iceland beating England on Monday 27 June 2016 and causing them drop from UEFA Euro 16 was a surprising result. This is even more unexpected in light of Microsoft Bing’s predictions for how the championship would play out.

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, uses a complicated algorithm that draws from social media, surges in searches on its platform and team performances in the past to make predictions about the winners of certain future competitions, tournaments or championships. At first this seems completely ridiculous – every fan posting on social media or searching for their team will “predict” (read: want) their team winning. How can this predict who the actual winner will be?

UEFA Euro 16

(Image Source: IDN / Shutterstock)

The thing is, Bing has been impressively accurate in the past, correctly predicting the outcome of the FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, Oscars and even the Scottish referendum. Of course when it comes to predictions of reality shows such as The Voice, predictions are easier to make as the winner is chosen by way of popular vote.

Coming to the Euro 16, Bing predicted how the entire championship would unfold. It was predicted that England would win over Portugal and Iceland would win over Russia in the playoff rounds. Iceland would not make it past the quarterfinals whereas England was expected to playoff (and lose) against Spain in the semi finals. Ultimately, Germany is (at the time of writing this article) expected to win over Spain in the final.

Bing is not the only search engine making such predictions. Yahoo was also tasked with predicting the winner of Euro 16, drawing from Yahoo Sport and the multitude of activity on social media site Tumblr. That England would lose to Spain in the semi finals was also predicted.

So, although both predictions shattered any optimism of England making it to the final and potentially winning this year, they failed to account for a situation in which Iceland knocked England out of the tournament. But considering how the algorithm works, that this wasn’t predicted should itself not be surprising – Bing and other online predictive algorithms can only take what is available from social media, searches and team history and formulate its own predictions. One wonders then how different these predictions are to our own human predictions, save for those exceptions where, let’s say, Iceland beats England.

By Jason de Klerk

Dismissal Of Class Action Lawsuit A Setback For Internet Privacy

Dismissal Of Class Action Lawsuit A Setback For Internet Privacy

A Setback For Internet Privacy

On Monday the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (a federal appeals court) unanimously dismissed a class action lawsuit by parents of children under the age of 13 who had used Nickelodeon’s websites against Google and Viacom (which owns the Nickelodeon websites). This was a result of litigation beginning in 2013.

The class action disputed the legality of planting of cookies to gather and track the browsing information from the computers and phones of children who had played games and watched videos on Nickelodeon’s websites. Collecting IP addresses, the Court held, was not against the law. The laws in question came from the Video Privacy Protection Act from 1988. This legislation prohibits the personally identifiable information about a person’s video viewing habits from being disclosed. This law was amended in 2013 but was regrettably not brought up to speed with current Internet privacy trends. The result was that the Court found Viacom and Google had only received the browsing and video viewing history – it did not disclose it.

data-privacy

While Google was held not to be liable at all, Viacom itself could still be liable on the promise it makes on its registration forms that “HEY GROWN-UPS: We don’t collect ANY personal information about your kids. Which means we couldn’t share it even if we wanted to!” Even though Viacom disclosed no personal information, collecting such information is potentially a breach of that promise to its users.

What this ruling illustrates is, first, that the laws around Internet privacy are severely outdated. Technology and its uses change and grow exponentially whereas lawmakers are slow to meet these demands. Secondly, it demonstrates that the Courts are willing to allow invasions of privacy by strictly interpreting the law. However, near the end of the ruling the Court does note the need for change in this area: “Our decision necessarily leaves some unanswered questions about what kinds of disclosures violate the Video Privacy Protection Act. Such uncertainty is ultimately a consequence of our common-law system of adjudication and the rapid evolution of contemporary technology. In the meantime, companies in the business of streaming digital video are well advised to think carefully about customer notice and consent. Whether other kinds of disclosure will trigger liability under the Act is another question for another day.” Hopefully that day is not too far in the future.

By Jason De Klerk

Controversial Chinese Cybersecurity Law Under Review Again

Controversial Chinese Cybersecurity Law Under Review Again

Cybersecurity Law

BEIJING. The National People’s Congress, the equivalence of the Chinese Parliament, moved forward in drafting a second version of a controversial cybersecurity law first introduced almost a year ago. This means the law is thought to be closer to passing and will bring greater censorship for both foreign and domestic citizens and businesses.

In China, popular websites like Facebook and Google are blocked, and all web traffic is openly monitored and censored by the government. The latest draft of the law aims to require network operators, foreign and domestic, to comply with the “social morals” of China and accept the supervision of government censors. According to Xinhua, China’s state-operated news agency, the law requires all Chinese citizens’ data to be stored in China along with “important business data”. Countries wishing to store this data outside of China would need to submit to a security evaluation from the Chinese government.

shutterstock_402359314

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Critics of the law, mostly foreign governments, multinational corporations, and human rights activists, say a broad interpretation of it could give Beijing the power to do whatever they want. It is also thought to create a competitive disadvantage for foreign firms attempting to do business in China, especially those from the United States and European Union.

Chinese lawmakers often review and revise several drafts of legislation before finally enacting its contents. The original draft introduced nearly a year ago was said to protect Chinese citizens from hackers and data resellers in addition to block the dissemination of private information records, which are illegal in China. The moving forward with a second draft increases the likelihood of these regulations becoming a reality.

An example of Chinese oversight on these matters came just last month when Chinese officials set limits on the volume of advertising from healthcare groups featured on the country’s largest search engine, Baidu Inc. The backlash comes after a student died from participating in an experimental cancer treatment program he discovered online. The second draft of the law is still in construction, and it is unclear when it will be finalized.

What is interesting about this law is that Chinese officials already have control of Chinese citizens’ data and internet use through overarching personal property laws and strict human rights allowances. The average Chinese citizen may not see a change from this law being enacted, but it will mean major changes for foreign businesses hungry to tap into a Chinese market with over a billion consumers.

By Thomas Dougherty

CloudTweaks Comics
5 Surprising Ways Cloud Computing Is Changing Education

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How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

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A New CCTV Nightmare: Botnets And DDoS attacks

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The Future Of Cybersecurity

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Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

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Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

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