Category Archives: Technology

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Services

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – New Services

01-cloud-cartoon-homework

By Rick Menard

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Facebook M And The Social Cloud

Facebook M And The Social Cloud

Facebook M

Virtual Assistant Technology provides us with cost savings and performance enhancement, and so it should come as no surprise that Facebook has just launched its own digital assistant, M, to a few hundred people – a new competitor to Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Google Now. According to David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger, “M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf.” Powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by human intelligence, M is purported to be unlike any other AI-based services currently available in that it actually completes tasks on behalf of its users, purchasing items, having gifts delivered when necessary, making restaurant reservations, travel arrangements, appointments, and “way more.” M’s ambition, however, is greater than being only a personal assistant but is hoped to be a one-stop shop for mobile discovery.

Payment Platform

Payment processing

Marcus, formerly of PayPal, is using his expertise to increase Facebook’s payment platform. As he told Wired magazine, “We start capturing all of your intent for the things you want to do. Intent often leads to buying something, or to a transaction, and that’s an opportunity for us to [make money] over time.” If Facebook is about to make online purchasing transactions as quick and easy as they’ve made general web login (complete this three-page form, or sign in with Facebook), I’d say we’ve got a serious new e-commerce player in a prime position.

Best Friends Forever!

BFF

Another key quality that Facebook has is the amount of data we’ve all offered up. Undoubtedly, Facebook knows more about us all than any other social network platform, and all of this information is precisely what makes a digital assistant so useful. Google, Microsoft, and Apple certainly have access to some of our going-ons, and we’re always able to input that which they don’t, but Facebook is a veritable wealth of personal habits, likes and dislikes, spending behaviors, location minutiae, and more – there are many actual PAs who don’t have as much information about their bosses as Facebook has, and probably don’t want it, either.

The Human Element

Uniquely, the artificial intelligence aspect of Facebook M will be supervised by human beings, allowing it to do more than a standard digital assistant could. According to Dave Lee for the BBC, M’s work will be automated more over time as the system learns, helping expand the service, speed it up, and make it available to more people. It’s speculated that, for now, a team of people handles the more difficult and complex queries, explaining why increased automation will allow greater access to M.

How It Works

virtual-assistantTo access M, users will tap a button in Facebook’s Messenger app and send a note to M – as you might to any other Facebook friend. Thereafter, either M’s artificial intelligence or human colleague decodes the message, asks follow-up questions, and sends updates until the task is complete. Currently, M doesn’t use social data from Facebook, so tasks are completed based on answers users provide. After internal tests with Facebook employees it’s been found that one of M’s most popular functions was calling the cable company’s automated setup line, or HBO’s cancellation center, abandoning the long holds and automated messages to M’s patience.

There hasn’t yet been a date set for public rollout, but Facebook has said that their more than 700 million users will have free access to M via Messenger at some point. If you’re considering the benefits of this technology for your own organization, take a look at this free guide to Virtual Assistant Technology and the Contact Center.

By Jennifer Klossterman

Are You Sure You Are Ready For The Cloud?: Cloud as a Datacenter

Are You Sure You Are Ready For The Cloud?: Cloud as a Datacenter

Cloud as a Datacenter

Through my job as a Cloud Architect during the day, I run into a lot of scenarios that I think would be important to write about. Not that they are of major importance to others, but a way for people to learn from real world experience. This month, it had to do with using a cloud as a datacenter.

Most corporate datacenters or third party datacenters are normally setup with racks and racks of servers and storage arrays. Some racks of servers maybe totally dedicated for a specific purpose, such as to run a database system, or as monitoring services. If you want to put a server into one of the racks for whatever the reason, it will need to be plugged in to power, and normally into one or two networks.

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Then to use your system to communicate with the Internet or maybe some secure data on different servers, you would pass through some firewalls, maybe some data analyzers, through some switches and eventually through at least one router. This is all pretty standard stuff.

But what if you wanted all of this to happen, inside a cloud? It is completely possible until the data needs to leave the cloud to go somewhere else, like the Internet for instance. Depending on the type of cloud management you are using (or plan to use).

If you want to setup a section of your cloud to be the DMZ area, no problem! If you need firewalls or data analyzers, no problem either! There are many virtual appliances out there for that, or the functionality is built into your cloud management software.

Need to create several different networks inside your cloud? That’s easy also. Most cloud management software packages have simple networking functions built in. If you need more complex networking like multi interface / port load balancers or maybe complex VLANs, then you can buy a Software Defined Network (SDN) program, and it will do what you want, right inside the cloud.

You can create your database servers right inside the cloud also, so your data access will not need to leave the boundaries of the cloud. Using “Tenants” or “Projects” in your cloud will allow you to create mini datacenters inside your cloud also. This allows teams from different areas to have their own spaces to work in.

Sometimes, you maybe faced with the need to separate a section of your cloud out on a hardware level, but still have one management face for it. That is easy to do by using what is known as Availability Zones or “AZs”.

So obviously, there has to be some hardware somewhere that your cloud is running on, that will never change. But depending on how your cloud is setup, you could easily implement some of what I mentioned, and then take it right back out if you don’t like it. As a simple reminder, it is always cheaper to try something virtually in your cloud than buy the hardware first.

By Richard Thayer

Are Tech Stocks On The Rebound?

Are Tech Stocks On The Rebound?

It has been a turbulent week for owners of Netflix shares. After the streaming media giant’s stock topped $122 on August 19, its price has endured a roller-coaster ride on Wall Street. Let’s take a look at stocks to watch Wednesday:

Netflix. Shares jumped more than 5% in pre-market trading, recovering after two days of steep drops. Following the close of the markets August 19, shares of Netflix plunged to $96.88 over the next three trading sessions. Currently, Netflix is trading above $100.

GrubHub. A Barclay’s stock downgrade to “equal weight” — reports CNBC — is apparently having little effect on shares of the online food delivery service. They’re up 1.2% in morning trading.

Read Article: USA Today 

Cloud Infographic: IoT For Automotive Deconstructed

Cloud Infographic: IoT For Automotive Deconstructed

IoT For Automotive Deconstructed

The IoT automotive industry is moving rapidly with many exciting growth opportunities available. We’ve written about some of the risks and benefits as well as some of the players involved. One thing for certain as that the auto industry is starting to take notice and we can expect the implementation of a number of new IoT technologies over the next several years.

One of the largest and most critical investment strategies will be in IoT security.

Reported in the WSJ

After hearing that researchers earlier this summer commandeered a Jeep Cherokee’s engine and brakes remotely from a laptop, the 48-year-old Mr. Moore wonders whether hackers could take control while he is behind the wheel. “It’s kind of scary,” says Mr. Moore, a Robbins, Ill., truck driver and married father of five. “I don’t want a car that allows any potential hackers.

Mr. Moore’s concerns are shared by lawmakers, regulators and car makers. After the Jeep demonstration, and others spotlighting hacking vulnerabilities in connected cars, they are debating to what degree a vehicle’s inability to withstand a cyberattack constitutes a safety defect…. Read The Full Article

For anyone looking for more information on the innovative uses on how the Cloud, Big data, IoT can scale and connect can get a better idea of the potential below. IBM has produced an excellent infographic centered around the opportunities.

The-Connected-Car

Passive vs Active IoT Communication States

Passive vs Active IoT Communication States

IoT Communication States

The concept of IoT has two distinct states and many forms. The forms of IoT devices include the concept of wearable devices. There is the concept of stayable devices and finally the concept of portable devices. Each of these devices has a state related to the information they have, acquire or produce. Most IoT devices exist in one of two states either Active or Passive. Active IoT information flows from the device either as a timed, threshold or constant stream.

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A passive device is one that you actually connect to and then receive information from that IoT device. In the world of the internet this is often called push and pull data. Some IoT devices can also have a passive mode but an active trigger where a specific threshold met pushes the device from passive to active broadcast mode.

As we go forward into the age of IoT there are other things that will modify the state of an IoT device that are ultimately very interesting. Today there are laws in many US States that prohibit the use of hand held cellular devices while driving. More and more cars sold today come equipped with an integrated car phone or speaker system that allows you to operate your cellular phone in a hands free manner. One of the big things that these initial car phones lack however is a clean handoff. In fact the concept of a handoff can done but it is a manual process. On your phone you have to deselect the car phone and select either the speaker or standard inputs/outputs of your cellular device. Some cars do support the cutting of the Bluetooth connection, but they do not allow the transfer to a home or office audio system. It isn’t just the handoff. There just isn’t a clean way to say there is a better audio system pass my call to that.

bans-cell

(Image Source: IIHS.org)

Secondly we need to concept of pick best available device. Imagine pulling into your driveway and switching your conversation, music or audio book to the nearest available in-home resource. Be that a Wi-Fi enabled wall speaker or some other form of in home audio device. You never have to stop talking your device just pops up a dialog and says you are near a speaker you’ve used before do you want to switch to this new audio? Then shut off the old audio (car).

Beyond that simple handoff there are a number of other things that will come that are game changing. Today you can buy a Wi-Fi hard drive that is then connected to specific software on your device. As we move further into the independent device of IoT tomorrow we will have the ability to connect to our homes. Not just a phone conversation now we can do everything. What if you walked into your house and your car, once in the garage started backing up all its information.

old-audio

From Telemetry (it’s already available using various add on products) to settings and music you listened to while driving. A listing of all the calls you had in the car and corresponding numbers is created. Your cellular device, wearable and other portable IoT devices started also backing up their data from that day. I call this concept continuation. Keep my conversation going on the best available device. You could even have console lighting that changed color notifying you at a glance what the status of all the backups were. All the LED’s red means we are still pulling data. All the LED’s green means you are good to go. Backup as an IoT service for all devices. These represent active connections that can be added to both your devices and your home. The active device, connecting to your car and the active device backing up that data.

Active and passive IoT devices are here to stay. From a market of less than 2 billion total devices in 2013, to a market that may reach 50 billion devices by 2020 the market continues to expand. Active and passive connections will abound. From weather stations to systems that monitor the air quality in your home IoT devices will seek connection. From personal presence devices and the concept of continuation you will be able to seamlessly transition from driving to being home without changing anything for your conference call. With a self-driving car you will be able to have a video conference that transitions as you step out of the car and into your home. Now can someone help me find my car keys?

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Scott Anderson

ERP Training Programs That Appeal To Millennials And Boomers

ERP Training Programs That Appeal To Millennials And Boomers

ERP Training Programs That Appeal

Your workforce is currently made up of two polar opposite groups of people – Boomers and Millennials. Baby Boomers are associated with virtues such as loyalty, dedication and perseverance and Millennials are associated with being technologically savvy and independent. Both generations have great virtues but these virtues translate into big differences in workplace skill sets.

Considering how different your workforce has become, how are you supposed to devise a one-size-fits-all training program to get your entire workforce up and running on your ERP? Successful ERP training must accommodate the characteristics and preferences of their users.

Here are 5 tips to accomplish this:

baby-boomers

1. Baby Boomers as the “Corporate Memory”

Boomers serve as the “corporate memory” of organizations and are typically the disseminators of knowledge. Boomers can play a part in training new employees by sharing their company-specific knowledge and passing down organizational values.

2. Clearly Communicate Training Benefits

Millennials want to know the “end result” of an activity before fully committing to it. Thus, it is important to give them a “run through” of the training program before it commences and let them know how the new acquired skill-set will have a lasting impact on their work. Training should guide them through software simulation practices and show them the big picture of how an ERP improves the company’s bottom-line, their careers, and compensation opportunities.

3. Incorporate Multimedia Content 

Tying Millennials to a chair for 8-10 hours a day while trying to teach them a massive amount of information is not the right way to structure a training program. Trainees must be given the option of accessing training materials in small, bite-sized segments and in a variety of formats. A mix of self-help documentations, 30-minute online webinars by remote experts, and even knowledge apps and YouTube videos can boost interest and increase productivity.

4. Personalized, Targeted Information 

Millennials generally have no patience with cookie-cutter solutions. Thus, it is better to assign a training moderator to small groups of Millennial employees, segmented according to department and position, so that training is relevant and targeted.

5. Using Social Forums to Facilitate Interaction 

Millennial employees are extremely interactive and responsive and, as such, prefer training in social settings. They should also be given a platform where they can give and receive feedback from the training moderator and share concerns and questions with colleagues. Digital forums like private Facebook groups or space on your internal CRM can solve this need.

For Millennials, it is not enough to simply present the new information. Millennials digest new information through multimedia training, and continuous back-and-forth interaction with the training moderator and amongst themselves.

By Boaz Amidor

Ecommerce and Social Media: Shopping In The Cloud

Ecommerce and Social Media: Shopping In The Cloud

Ecommerce and Social Media

By 2018, retail ecommerce will reach nearly $2.5 trillion worldwide, according to eMarketer’s forecasts. Currently, China tops the ecommerce markets, followed closely by the US, the UK taking a distant third. With over 60% of consumers researching products online before making purchase decisions it’s no wonder online sales are climbing and unsurprising that ecommerce retailers are doing their best to make purchases happen online.

In 2014, Social media sites with the highest influence include Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter – with peak volumes of traffic in that order. Facebook dominated the realm last year sending 60% of all ecommerce referrals. Thanks to its broad accessibility and user-reliance, social media’s influence on ecommerce continues to rocket, and Shopify’s analysis of 37 million social media visits resulting in 529,000 orders further illuminates this power.

Social Media Shopping

(Infographic Source: Shopify)

Why such clout?

Though some may dismiss social media as a frivolous pursuit of the idle, it’s proved to be much more than selfies and gossip. It provides an effective manner for retailers to connect with their consumers personally and individually, and in 2015 it’s predicted that over 5% of online spend will be directed from social media sites. The top social network platforms further provide suitable consumer engagement platforms and an array of marketing tools. Add to that the fact that there are over 100 million mobile shoppers in the US alone, and the projection that this total will increase by 49% by 2018, it’s clear the social media is a formidable tool.

Statistic: Number of mobile buyers in the United States from 2013 to 2018 (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Who Benefits from the Affiliation?

Everybody benefits. Consumers want the ease and convenience, and businesses large and small know that social advertising is a key driver of growth. The National Retail Federation’s 2015 study shows that 58% of small businesses are increasing their yearly social media marketing, with a quarter of retailers naming Facebook as their top customer acquisition channel. Moreover, 60% of consumers have made purchases from small businesses thanks to Twitter.

Making It Simple

Bigcommerce states that 43% of SMBs report they want more help with generating ROI from their social advertisements. Because the social media audience is so large, targeting the right audience can be difficult. Facebook’s Custom Audiences advertising platform has 145 separate targeting groups and success metrics available for optimizing advertising, and in the past manual A/B testing has been the only way to test its most suitable usage. Built in partnership with Boostable, Bigcommerce recently announced Product Ads which automatically optimizes ads for highest ROI.

Product Ads by Bigcommerce

With native support on Facebook and Twitter, Product Ads provides many advantages including:

  • Tools to gain & retain customers.
  • Driving revenue through automatically optimized campaigns.
  • Dynamic ad creation and integrated management for cost and resource savings.
  • Improved marketing investment ROI through robust reporting.

Product Ads uses sophisticated targeting techniques to help find new customers, and helps generate traffic and maximize promotions while increasing awareness of underperforming inventory. Automated audience targeting, bidding and optimization ensures marketing investments are fully exploited and revenues amplified, while the ability to automatically import product images and details, tailor-make ads for Facebook and Twitter, and manage numerous campaigns from a single unified dashboard ensures resources are put to their best and most efficient use. Additionally, the ability to monitor campaigns through solid reporting tools allows users to extend campaigns which are performing well while ferreting out hidden opportunities to garner value from products performing inadequately.

The simplified process provides all of these benefits (and more) in four easy steps:

  1. Select your advertising networks and choose the products you’d like to promote.
  2. Ads are automatically created using your product names, descriptions and photos.
  3. Edit, if you wish, and submit.
  4. Your advert runs as soon as the network approves it.

Bigcommerce’s Product Ads are available to all US-based clients in the Bigcommerce Marketplace for no additional fee. Tim Schulz, chief product officer for Bigcommerce, states, “The global reach of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter present a massive opportunity for our merchants to promote their products and attract new customers. This unique, integrated advertising solution is an example of how we continue to invest in building the industry’s best platform for merchant success with a comprehensive set of tools designed to help our clients grow and scale their business.” The head of SMB at Twitter, Russ Laraway, has expressed excitement for this new platform and remarks that, “It will without a doubt enable advertisers of all sizes and verticals to more efficiently manage and optimize their campaigns on Twitter.”

Take a look at some of Bigcommerce’s effective solutions with a free 15-day trial now. Already powering some of the world’s most successful online stores, it won’t take long for them to bowl you over and sign you up to a powerful ecommerce solution perfectly suited to your needs.

Sponsored By Bigcommerce

By Jennifer Klostermann

CloudTweaks Comics
12 Promising Business Intelligence (BI) Services For Your Company

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Cloud Infographic – Disaster Recovery

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