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Why You Should Be Afraid of Shadow IT (And What to Do About It)

shadow IT

Just a few years ago, IT may have been perceived as the department of “no.� Today, they are unsung heroes. IT has a very complex job, and it’s central to the functionality and success of the organization. They must be innovators, firefighters, and provisioners of resource deployments, while simultaneously maintaining the governance, cost control, and security of their ecosystems.

Security, in particular, has been an eternal thorn in IT’s side — specifically, the convoluted task of providing secure infrastructure resources across an increasingly distributed and porous enterprise perimeter.

In 2019, the problem was made glaringly apparent by multiple news stories of high-profile data breaches. One of the most notable was the Capital One incident exposing the accounts of over 100 million customers and applicants—the result of an AWS misconfiguration error being exploited. The Marriott hotel chain kicked off 2019 with a devastating security failure when hackers accessed the records (including passport numbers and credit cards) of a whopping 380 million guests.

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a cybercriminal’s dream scenario, and coronavirus scams are rapidly proliferating. Defending an already porous distributed perimeter is hard enough. Now, a new work-from-home reality has made IT security exponentially more critical and difficult.

COVID-19: Defending the perimeter becomes infinitely harder.

The coronavirus era has vastly expanded an already-distributed workforce, creating millions of unprepared and distracted users. With IT teams juggling complicated family scenarios on top of a crowded work plate, it’s a guarantee that attackers will add to their burden, anxiously waiting for an opening into an enterprise’s clouds, databases, and systems to exploit.

If securing an enterprise IT perimeter is monumentally challenging in normal situations, it’s become a nightmare in the new work-from-home normal, where an organization’s attack surface has suddenly expanded to unprecedented levels.

The burden of shadow IT.

The added pressures of the pandemic come at a time when IT decisions are no longer centralized solely within IT. Larry Ponemon, the founder of the Ponemon Institute, has said that “many IT decisions are now distributed throughout the organization at the line-of-business level. From a security point of view, it’s a nightmare scenario.�

Gartner believes that these behind-the-scenes decisions leading to “shadow IT� are an enormous problem. In 2018, they predicted that this year, over one-third of cyberattacks will be on shadow IT and IoT resources.

Shadow IT is expensive, to begin with; having a bunch of disparate, ad hoc services running in the background and consuming valuable infrastructure resources is going to eat into any IT budget. Gartner estimates that shadow IT accounts for 30-40% of all IT spend in large organizations. The Everest Group puts it even higher at 50%.

However, the biggest costs associated with shadow IT comes in the form of security risks. In fact, a recent IBM report cites the average cost of a data breach at $3.92 million, a rise of 12% in the past five years. How can you protect assets you don’t know exist? How can you ensure the security of your enterprise when you have all these unprotected assets? In order to answer these questions, IT needs to start thinking and acting differently—they need to rein in shadow IT before attackers can exploit it.

Thinking and acting differently: Customer centricity

With all of IT’s responsibilities—putting out fires, provisioning resources, closing tickets, providing the necessary hardware and software for employees—they are understandably pressed for time. When people in other departments such as engineering or development can provision cloud resources on the fly with just a credit card and the click of a mouse, it’s tempting for them to do so instead of waiting on IT.

It’s not out of malice; really, who can blame them for immediately spinning up test servers on AWS if IT is this busy? In order to accommodate this chaotic new reality, IT ops need to change. Specifically, it needs to become customer-centric.

Developers, for example, already have enough on their plates, much like IT. If they need resources on-demand in an ever-changing and fast-moving environment, ordering them up via IT and within company policy needs to be as simple as if they were to do it themselves. Outdated policies and procedures therefore must be updated to reduce friction and expedite IT services without compromising security.

Eliminating friction with a self-service model.

One way that enterprises can solve this problem is by implementing a self-serve IT model: building an IT-sanctioned catalog of services that users can provision with a click of a button. The concept of frictionless self-service means IT can build and avail a catalog of resources (compute, storage, etc.).

Services (Terraform, ServiceNow, Ansible, etc.) that are available to DevOps with one click. Not only would this make it easier on DevOps to consume what they need, when they need it, but it will curb unnecessary expenses or cloud cost surges (for example, when servers are left spinning during lull times).

A self-service model built on intelligent automation allows IT teams to maintain control over user permissions, configurations, and usage rates. Built into the model are guardrails such as determining which groups can provision hybrid cloud resources, what they’re allowed to provision and their quotas.

Provisioning resources in a self-serve way inherently means that these resources have the right access and quotes associated with the various roles and permissions throughout the organization.

Not building it isn’t an option for some sectors.

While a self-serve model is logical and advantageous for all enterprises, it is more critical for some than for others.

Consider the following real-world example. In one US state, a single centralized IT team is responsible for the entire state’s IT needs. The state’s IT organization struggled with centralizing a large number of virtualization resources that were spread across separately-managed vCenter and XenServer clusters.

VM sprawl was costing the state thousands of dollars a month in infrastructure and licensing charges, and delays in resource provisioning resulted in a sharp increase of public cloud-based shadow IT environments that put sensitive agency data and security at risk.

By implementing a self-service portal to automate the provisioning and management of servers, the state not only solved the cost issue related to VM sprawl but most importantly, it addressed the risk of potentially leaking sensitive state government data.

Reining in shadow IT – and the risks that come with it.

IT has the opportunity to address one of the most difficult moving targets in the enterprise—shadow IT—by reducing the barriers to and complexities of provisioning resources with a self-service delivery model. Organizations should start building their self-service catalog by first adding their core services. Over time, more resources can be added as your teams require them.

As 2020 continues on with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the ever-increasing threat of new cyberattacks, the stakes for defending the growing, distributed perimeter have never been higher than before.

IT may not be able to change employee behavior. However, it does have the power to eliminate friction and make their jobs much easier, while in the process addressing inherent internal risks and the growing risks of outside attacks.

Image Credit: George Becker; Pexels

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Marketing Web web design

Why Does Website Security Affect SEO Rankings?

security affect seo rankings

As more and more businesses move online, website security is gaining more and more traction. And it’s not without reason since the incidence of cyber-crime is increasing.

  • In the first quarter of 2019, 1 billion data records were breached.
  • 62 percent of businesses experienced phishing in 2018.
  • Hackers are now attacking 39 times every hour (for the ones we know), which is – 2,244 times daily.

The list goes on: data security is now an essential requirement and not a luxury. To reinforce it, leaders like Google have started stressing on it, and rewarding websites that meet adequate standards.

Way back in 2014 — Google announced that they would prioritize websites that are using ‘https’ in place of those with ‘HTTP,’ for improved SEO rankings, to encourage data security measures.

Why does web security affect SEO?

As they say, “Better safe than sorry.” And Google, the world’s largest search engine, has taken that adage to heart.

To spur on safety precautions and discourage unsafe ones, Google declared they would place specific emphasis on safe websites when it comes to SEO rankings. Websites that weren’t using ‘https’ would display something like this, every time there was a visitor:

After research on Back Pain Chairs Lab and some other websites, we collect results about 67% of websites were flagged to be unsafe. With a drop in SEO rankings, also came a degradation and significant erosion of customer trust for these websites.

That’s where the security features you use become all-important. No business can afford a drop in SEO rankings in today’s world of competition – there’s just too much competition. But when these businesses upgrade the security on their website, essentially, they are not only getting their rankings up but are also preparing a barrier to prevent cyber-attacks: the exact thing that Google wants.

There are other ways where a lack of website security could be compromising that could affect SEO optimization:

1) Blacklisting

Did you know that web-security directly affects SEO? That’s because criminals can use your unprotected website to plant malicious links and get you associated with places you don’t want to be.

This link building activity will make most search engines identify your website as spam – thereby undoing all the effort you’ve put in. Even worse, you’ll be blacklisted, sometimes even without knowing what’s been happening to you, and for how long.

Even after you identify and sort out the problem, it takes months to regain your lost status – and business.

2) Trust

Imagine visiting a website and Google flagging “Not Secure” on the URL. Would you still want to visit the site? Probably not. If it was me, I’d be out in seconds. That’s where the trust issue comes in. Unless you can gain their trust, customers aren’t going to visit you. They’ll just take their business elsewhere – leaving you to suffer extremely high bounce rates.

Even if you do fix it, many people are going to leave dissatisfied, no matter what. And the bad news is, 95% of people share negative experiences — which means your lousy news will propagate quickly.

3) Crawling errors

The major work for a bot is to crawl the website for vulnerability scan, domain mining, data theft, etc. However, Google bots also scans your website, but rising persistent automated software attacks make it failed to scan websites using malicious bots.

There should be a limit on a server for repeating automatic tasks using multiple bots. Without safeguards, overloaded-automatic-tasks may be interrupted and will start to restrict web traffic.

If the search console shows odd 403 or 503 error, which means that Google tried to crawl the error, but server shows it labeled, “missing.”

4) SEO Spam

Hackers gets entry into a website using vulnerability and hijack SEO attainments and insert their own hyperlinks and spam keyword into your top ranked pages. Hackers let you do all hard work to bring sites ahead of your competitors, but once you get the position in the search engine — they use their products for promotion.

SEO spam has been named, SEO poisoning. The common victims are small business websites, NGOs, and WP blogs. Be aware and watch — there should always be better security arrangements to prevent such crimes on your sites.

What is HTTPS?

We all know that HTTPS stands for “hypertext transfer protocol secure.” When you use it for your website, end-to-end data encryption is ensured between the client-server and your website. The HTTPS designation protects you against, among other things, data theft, and data manipulation.

The designation also allows you to share sensitive information like personal details, bank information, and travel bookings securely and communicate effectively without any risk of compromise.

In the case of ‘HTTP’ there is no secure end-to-end data encryption, which makes it vulnerable to cyber-crime and malicious attacks. Make sure you have the “S.”

The first step you need to take to migrate to “https” is to get a cheap SSL certificate for your website.

What’s an SSL certificate?

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate is a technology or a promise of trust that secures the link between your website and the client-server by ensuring end-to-end encryption.

When you install SSL certificate to your website ‘HTTP’, you unlock the advanced ‘https,’ which acts as a far more potent shield against digital crime. Based on its end-to-end data encryption, it is exponentially tricky, if not impossible, for even the best cyber-criminals to breach its walls.

With e-commerce growing at an astronomical pace all over the world and set to contribute 17% of all US retail sales by 2022, ensuring a secure environment for an online business is the need of the hour. With over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced every day, its safeguard can no longer be left to chance.

An SSL certificate has become even more critical in the present scenario and hence central to the solution of digital crime. You can go with an SSL certificate as per your website’s requirement like if you have a single domain SSL then, you can go with Comodo Essential SSL certificate.

Benefits of SSL certificate

Getting an SSL certificate will display a padlock means a secured website, boosting customer confidence

  • Significant SEO rankings improvement, especially by Google.
  • Drive-up sales and/ or customer engagement by boosting customer confidence.
  • Regulatory compliance with PCI and DSS standards.
  • Avoid a Google flagging in the form of a display of “Not Secure.”

There are plenty of SSL certificates to choose from. Some of the types are Extended Validation (EV), Domain Validated (DV), and Wildcard SSL certificate.

But it’s best to buy from market leaders like Comodo, GlobalSign, Geotrust SSL, and more.

Conclusion

With Google firmly committed to raising the bar for secure online business transactions, results are starting to show.  Nearly 52 percent of the most popular 1 million websites have migrated to ‘https’ by 2018. That’s more than 500,000 websites. Businesses are slowly waking up to the fact that at the end of the day, they need Google to endorse them with a good SEO ranking, and they need customer trust.

It’s great that getting your website secured will also lead to better SEO. It’s a great incentive to do the right thing.

 

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Startups

The New Normal For Office Snacks

Simple-office-snacks

With the CDC’s newly released COVID-19 Employer Information of Office Building guidelines, returning to the office will be a challenge for managers and employees alike.

It starts with the commute to work. The recommendation for people to not carpool or congregate heavily on public transit is bound to make commutes longer and more hectic. Once you arrive at the office (which likely needs a new HVAC system), you need to prepare for a discrete thermometer check. Then when you enter the building, be sure to stay behind a mask and not meet in groups. Don’t forget there will be no communing when you get to the common areas. And by all means, don’t touch the coffee pot without gloves.

This all sounds so daunting. One thing that shouldn’t be? Office Snacks. That’s why I want to announce NatureBox’s new approach to corporate snacking: Corporate Snacking 3.0.

With Snacking 3.0, we’re catering to this new normal with a focus on delivering customized, CDC-compliant snack boxes to everyone on your team… whether they’re in the office or at home. For those of you who do make it back to the office, the kitchen setups will look different going forward. You know and love NatureBox for our bulk snack options pre-pandemic, but right now, single-serve is safer for you and your team. So what can you expect? Single-serve and individual-serve kitchen setups rather than communal snacks.

Your team deserves to have plenty of tasty snack options no matter if they are fully remote employees, in-office teams, or employees who work from home some days and in the office on others. That’s why we have an automated online system that allows each employee to pick their own snacks and choose if they want snacks delivered to their home office or their desk at the corporate office. We make it simple to get the snacks you and your team needs, without leaving your home or having to enter the office kitchen.

And let’s be honest. The new CDC guidelines are signaling a shift to our new normal – remote working. If you can work from home, you will (and your employer will want you too as well). By now most of us have grown accustomed to this new way of working and living at home. We’ve formed new habits in our new offices. And given that habits typically take at least 30 days to form, and we’ve had over three months to adjust, it doesn’t seem like this new way of working is going away anytime soon.

While working from home has its perks – more family time, fewer distractions, no commute – two of the biggest drawbacks are the blurred lines between work and life and burnout. While Snacking 3.0 is about customized, CDC-compliant snacking whether you’re in the office or at home, it’s also about wellness.

Our purpose is to develop and maintain wellness through creating high-quality, great-tasting snacks with functional benefits

The wellness part of Snacking 3.0 is about preventing burnout and finding a new way to unplug and take breaks from our workday. Since the core of NatureBox’s mission is helping people live well, we have to ask the question: How can we take a break and truly bring our bodies and minds into balance? NatureBox’s answer is through delicious, functional snacks.

We want to change snacking from an unconscious behavior that we do to soothe our bodies to a conscious behavior where we can step away from our work and have a snack with functional benefits – lower cortisol levels, more focus, less pain – bringing you back into balance.

In the end, Snacking 3.0 is about being present when we snack, anytime anywhere.

To learn more about Corporate Snacking 3.0, visit https://naturebox.com/office

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Edtech entertainment industry Entrepreneurs online communication online education online shopping Small Business Startups Tech Web

New Niches for Startups Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic

niches startups created by covid

Remote work and social distancing. These two approaches will define our lives behind 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has put everyone into a new reality. The transition from our traditional lifestyle to isolation mode was anything but smooth. The whole world had to learn how to work and learn remotely and organize their leisure without leaving their homes. But the lockdown has also created a few niches for startups that no one could think of before.

A few months ago, we couldn’t imagine the world without public transport and traffic jams, busy restaurants and shopping malls, crowded parties and concerts. Now it is here. Governments shut down the long-awaited innovation programs to invest in healthcare technology – the industry that is getting the most attention nowadays. And for millions of people around the world, real-life has gone online – with evolving online shopping, online classes, and even online parties.

Despite restrictions easing in the vast majority of countries, no one can say when the lockdown will be completely over. Do we return to our normal lives this summer? Or the coming two years will be shaped by social distancing due to possible pandemic comeback?

One thing is already clear: we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate has increased drastically. Many small businesses shut down; great economies enter the recession. This doesn’t sound optimistic, right?

But things are not that bad. The crisis opens many possibilities, as well. Here we discuss four industries that are experiencing a hard upgrade right now. If you want your company to be at the edge of improvements – hurry up and discover the potential startup niches!

Remote interaction – the new reality for private communication

For years, Zoom was a niche solution for online conferences and video calls. Since February 2020, it is the number one platform for all kinds of events: from birthday parties and blind dates to university classes and even city council meetings.

Currently, this is a forced measure, but experts predict that virtual meetings will become a substantial part of our reality even after the pandemic is over. Generation Z (also called Zoomers – what a coincidence!) prefer online communication to personal meetings. But the tools currently available still can’t provide the whole spectrum of features the young users are searching for. And this is one of the niches for a startup founder to investigate.

What do the myriad of online communication tools miss? User orientation, social features, and entertainment.

Zoom and the alike were built exclusively for business needs. Companies that couldn’t afford a custom internal communication system opted for a cost-effective SaaS solution. Their functionality fits the conference room, but not a virtual family lunch or a coffee-break. Zoom security issues are also a reason to look for alternatives.

Some of the tools start to play with enabling masks or changing backgrounds, but the complex solution for entertaining group calls is about to arrive.

There’s still the gap. And this is one of the potential startup niches to hit with a new app, right?

First of all, analyze the apps popular among Zoomers right now. What features make them so unique? Filters, instant reactions, microformats, geolocation, augmented reality or interactive 3D models, built-in mini-games, group film streaming, etc. – any idea could be the game-changer.

To the door delivery – eliminating the need for traditional shopping

E-commerce was developing gradually, but it seemed like the full transition to online shopping was still a few decades away. Some buyers were not ready to decide on the product without having seen it with their own eyes; some others didn’t trust the seller they can’t personally talk to.

And now we are here. The only type of shopping that is available during the lockdown is online shopping. And it turns out that basically everything can be delivered to the door: food, cosmetics, consumer electronics, furniture, gardening tools, and pet care products. Now that everyone was forced to try e-commerce, they could evaluate the convenience of the process and a chance to save much time. And after taking this first step, many won’t even return to classical shopping.

We already watch online commerce making a great leap ahead. And when speaking of global e-commerce trends, to-the-door delivery is definitely one of the strongest ones. So we expect a growing number of P2P logistics services. This seems like one of the solid startup niches, right?

The international companies of on-demand delivery like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Glovo focused on food delivery from restaurants first. Now they expand their services and are ready to bring anything to the door of their clients. However, high-quality delivery is still not available in the majority of smaller cities all around the globe. This means millions of people are waiting for a local company to satisfy their needs.

Until such a solution appears, local businesses hire carriers or cooperate with taxi companies to deliver their products while clients choose to stay home.

For many small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic was an impulse to go beyond their physical shops and start selling online. E-commerce is booming, so do related services like delivery.

Education erasing the borders

If this crisis happened twenty or even ten years ago, millions of teachers and tutors, music and art instructors, fitness trainers would become unemployed in the blink of an eye. The lockdown would make their further work impossible as such.

However, the technologies we have in 2020 make education, art, and sport accessible to everyone at home. And what is even more important – online classes have no geographical limits. You can have an online session with a trainer from the gym on the opposite side of the street, or join the online training held by the Olympics champion.

Just as online shopping, e-learning was available for years. However, only a few of us have tried learning remotely. The reasons? Some complain about the lack of personal contact and instant feedback from the instructor; the others question their motivation and the ability to do their best while not being observed by a teacher.

But the lockdown happened, and thousands of people were at home without the possibility of visiting schools and universities, art classes, language courses, and sports sections. They have a lot of free time, and they are bored with four walls. However, they have the internet. So the time for online classes and training sessions comes. Many users have tried remote learning for the first time, and they are likely to keep the tradition after the quarantine is over.

Online education as one of the prospective startup niches.

What does this mean for the teachers, artists, fitness instructors, etc.? The geographical limits are down. Even living in a village, you can have hundreds of clients from any part of the country or even abroad.

Learning centers, language schools, fitness centers, and art clubs have the needed resources for a great leap. Adopt e-learning to expand to new markets.

There are many platforms for online classes on the market; none of them is perfect, though. Consider it as one of the possible startup niches. You can build a software tool to make remote classes even more effective, or provide a marketplace platform for individual tutors. This type of application will be of great importance in the next few years.

On the other hand, think of the perspectives of the academic year 2020-2021. The chances are that it may be interrupted by the new wave of coronavirus. And this time, schools and universities want to be ready for this. Now they are working on the programs of remote classes and experimenting with different technical solutions.

Some renowned universities can afford the development of custom learning platforms. The rest of the educational facilities is looking for a ready solution to fit the needs of both professors and students. If you have deep experience in this domain, developing a Software as a Service platform for universities and colleagues may be a chance you shouldn’t miss.

Entertainment has gone online

The COVID-19 lockdown has taken work and education to online. The same happened to the entertainment industry. Now when cinemas are closed, we want to watch movies online. When a so awaited music festival is canceled, we want to listen to our favorite band online.

Our Italian vacation was postponed, but we still want to enjoy the wine and pizza while watching an online excursion around Venice.

When we can’t hang out with friends, we are looking for new fascinating things we can do together online. Something like an online game or a simultaneous cooking session?

The online entertainment is getting huge benefits from the coronavirus crisis. Basically, the industry got rid of all the competition overnight. No more hard choices like “Should I go out with friends tonight, or would I better watch another season of that hot show.” Everyone chooses the show now. And there is no clear evidence that the situation will change soon. Startup niches in the entertainment industry look especially attractive now.

Streaming services, games, and other types of online entertainment are booming. Will this remain the same after the lockdown when (or if?) the competition with offline events is back? Everything depends. At this time, new habits are born. If the new service manages to become a routine for a particular group of users – the exam is passed, it will still be popular after we are again allowed to enjoy our lives to the fullest.

How to hook your users?

Analyze the new gaps that appeared in everyday life.

One day we used to go to the cinema with friends, eat popcorn, whisper funny comments to your neighbor, and discuss the movie with all the group afterward. This option is definitely missed now. And Netflix has it covered with its new service Netflix Party. It enables you to share the watch the link to a movie or TV show with your friends, watch it simultaneously and exchange reactions, comments, or screenshots in real-time. More than 1,000,000 people already use Netflix Party, and the number will keep increasing during (and most likely after) the lockdown.

This is an example of how a simple solution has covered the needs of thousands of people.

It is much easier to enter the online entertainment industry now than it was a few months ago. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss it.

What to expect from 2020 and beyond?

Unfortunately, many businesses won’t survive the coronavirus crisis. But a few of them will adjust to the new reality. Those who are brave and wise will quickly innovate. We watch companies and individuals seeking ideas to make social distancing more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

These innovators will succeed.

Image Credit: Elly Fairytale; Pexels

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customer engagement customer experience customer jouney map customer journey customer profile Customer Service

How Do You Create an Effective Journey Map for Your Customers?

journey map for customers

Customers have a lot in mind when they land on a website to purchase a product or service. Some expect to find the product they have in mind instantly, while others conduct thorough research before they purchase a product. Well, that’s not all. Some end up being fickle-minded and land with no product at all. Here is how to create an effective journey map for your customers.

Landing in the “no product at all” category makes it all the more crucial for marketers to study different customer-mindsets in-depth and learn how to create your customer’s persona.

That’s why experts recommend studying situations from the customer’s point of view; to anticipate what will be their next course of action. Only then can a marketer get answers to the following questions:

  • What is the root intent when one is looking for a solution to a problem?
  • Why did the customer choose your competitor over you?
  • How did they feel for the first time after using a product?

It will allow you to create a message that instantly captures attention, and finally work upon creating a customer journey map. But besides answering these questions, you need to follow the steps below to create a journey map successfully.

Understanding Your Customers

Do you come up with a lot of questions when trying to understand your customers?

“What encourages my customers to buy the product?�

“Why do they hesitate about purchasing our product?�

“What concerns do customers have when thinking of purchasing the product?�

Well, these questions arise when you do not understand your customer’s personality as their journey begins with your brand.

But to know this, to answer your “how to create a customer journey map� question, you need to understand them in the first place. And once you know them well, mapping the customer journey also becomes simpler.

In this section, we’ll help you to understand your customers in four easy-to-follow steps. So, let’s deep dive now!

Step #1: Gather Key Data

Did you know that 68% of customers prefer version A to version B?

But you’d only know this if you understand who your customers are.

So, to understand customers, you need to gather crucial data about them. For this, use channels like:

  • Landing page performance data.
  • Customer support tickets received via help desk software.
  • Incoming customer support chats.
  • CRM data such as customer’s name, email address, products or services purchased so far, and so on.
  • Search history of the knowledge base repository.
  • Customer behavior data via an analytics tool.
  • Current social media activities.

Such data allows your business to answer the questions mentioned above and, from there, help you customize and create a customer journey map.

Step #2: Speak With Colleagues

Another way to know your customers is to communicate with your co-workers who are in customer-facing roles every day. Communication with coworkers can include your support, sales, and marketing team insights on customer behavior during a product purchasing journey.

While sometimes it may seem to be a vague attempt, experience tends to help organizations understand customers better. Those who face customer requests every day would know:

  • Your target audience better.
  • How many stages should the customer journey be divided into?
  • How customers might end up behaving during support, sales, or marketing process?

Step #3: Send Out Surveys

Capture qualitative and quantitative data via surveys to get a holistic idea of a customer’s mindset. For this, send out customer satisfaction surveys and even Net Promoter Score (NPS surveys — like qualaroo dot com) to see where your brand stands.

Plus, you learn whether the existing customers are satisfied with your services or not.

Basically, the more data you collect, the more clarity you get on customers. And thus, it becomes easy to build an audience persona. In addition to this, you get to create a seamless customer journey mapping process.

Step #4: Develop a Target Audience Persona

With all the data in hand, time to develop a target audience persona. You can create personas like:

It’s no guesswork; you can build viable personas with the quantitative and qualitative data you gather. Once you create these personas, it becomes simpler to reach out to your target audience with effective marketing campaigns that end up increasing sales.

Understanding What Customers Go Through

You’ve understood how to identify customers and what affects them when interacting with your brand. It’s time that you understand their pain points at a deeper level.

91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will leave without complaining — this is important to note.

As a customer-oriented organization like yours, you wouldn’t like to see this happening with your customers. That’s why you need to work upon the next customer journey stage to understand what your customers go through.

Doing so will allow you to create excellent customer journey mapping examples for upcoming teams at work hassle-free.

Step #5: Consideration Phase

As you complete the process of creating a target audience persona, you should dive deeper to learn what all things do your customers consider before making a purchase.

Make a list out their concerns, such as:

These help you create counter solutions that help you answer – what is customer journey mapping and how to simplify it further.

Step #6: Purchase Phase

As you map out this phase, you see the steps your customers take to complete the product purchasing process. Here your organization can identify the problem areas and provide solutions to improve sales.

Questions you should look into can be inclusive of:

  • When did the customer lose interest in the product?
  • Should we cut-short the check out process?
  • Should we add a live chat to create upsell opportunities?
  • Should we trigger help when we see an exit-intent?

Step #7: Retention Phase

Finally, track your retention strategies and monitor how many customers you successfully retain with their help. You’d learn about things that put your customers off and why they deviate from the purchasing process. This would allow your team to further upgrade existing strategies and actually retain customers.

Track what strategies worked out fine and which ones ended up losing more customers, only to refine the existing marketing and retention strategies.

In the End

It is important not just to understand the customers but also to carve their journeys with your brand. However, learning about their thought process is crucial for your business. That’s why you need to follow the aforementioned steps to:

  • Understand your customers using:
    • Different mediums to capture crucial data on customers
    • Information collected through colleagues
    • Surveys like customer satisfaction or NPS
    • Target audience persona
  • Understand customer thought process:
    • When they consider reasons for investing in your product or service
    • When they find compelling reasons to purchase your product
    • When they find your efforts impressive and helps your brand to retain customers effectively

Once understood, it becomes easier to come up with strategies that shape their journey with your brand. We hope these easy to follow steps help you create a customer journey map hassle-free.

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Data and Security IoT location intelligence Smart Cities

How Location Intelligence Will Create Even Smarter Cities

location intelligence smart cities

Location intelligence has gained much attention lately, especially as more businesses harness the power of this technology. Location intelligence builds on geographical information systems (GIS) tools, and its definition goes beyond the analysis of geospatial or geographic information. Here is how location intelligence will create even smarter cities.

Location Intelligence is the ability to visualize spatial data to identify and analyze relationships and trends.

The output of location intelligence is actionable insights that help both the public and private sectors to detect patterns and make strategic decisions.

Location intelligence comes from a multitude of sources, such as GPS systems, Internet of Things (IoT) data, and environmental and consumer sources. The technology is not one specific tool but rather the ability to use geospatial data to create business insights. As location intelligence grows in popularity, because its uses are multiplying, it has had an impact on an interesting global technological development: smart cities.

Location intelligence use cases.

Before diving into the implications of location intelligence on smart cities, it’s important to take a step back and look at where this technology has already made an impact.

The insurance industry.

The insurance industry has been leading the charge in the use of location intelligence. By knowing, with high accuracy, if a property is located in a flood, earthquake, or wildfire zone, insurance carriers can more draft accurate policies.

Furthermore, this technology allows carriers to take a more proactive, instead of reactive approach. Instead of simply paying out claims, these companies can help homeowners proactively protect their properties and mitigate risk by understanding the potential damage based on the area.

Financial institutions.

Financial institutions are also using location intelligence to improve fraud detection by better analyzing customer profiles. By matching customer locations and transactions, banks can better understand fraudulent behavior and avoid flagging normal activity.

Both finance companies and retail companies are also using location intelligence to send customers offers when they are near a specific store. Retail companies are taking this a step further by mapping customer behavior in-store to optimize store layout and inventory management.

As more and more industries harness the power of location intelligence, the public and the private sectors are also looking at this technology as a means to create better smart cities around the world.

Location intelligence growing smart cities.

The IESE Cities in Motion Index (CIMI) uses nine dimensions to measure the development of smart cities: human capital, social cohesion, economy, environment, governance, urban planning, international outreach, technology, and mobility and transportation.

The 2019 index (From the Business School at The University of Navarra) named London, New York, and Amsterdam as the smartest global cities based on these criteria, after reviewing 165 cities in 80 countries. Location intelligence plays a critical role in many of these nine dimensions, namely four key parts of any smart city.

Environment

Location intelligence can help with two parts related to the environment. First, natural disasters happen in large cities around the world, causing devastating consequences. From filing damage reports to opening lines of communication, location intelligence can help cities rebuild faster.

Second, location intelligence can help city developers better understand where to plan conservation projects and create green spaces around the city. The technology can also analyze air quality and measure the environmental impact a project will have during and after construction.

Urban planning

Location intelligence is crucial to 3D planning, which has become a considerable part of urban development. From the experimentation phase through construction, this technology helps make sure city planning improves the lives of those in the city and can also help to track and measure operational costs.

Technology

Technology powers almost every aspect of a smart city. According to IESE, (Media iese.edu research, University of Navarra) technology, “is an aspect of society that improves the present quality of life, and its level of development or spread is an indicator of the quality of life achieved or the potential quality of life.

In addition, technological development is a dimension that allows cities to be sustainable over time and to maintain or extend the competitive advantages of their production system and the quality of employment.� Location intelligence clearly aids in this endeavor, as both individuals and cities can use this technology to improve smart city functionality.

Mobility and transport

Smart cities around the globe are revolutionizing transportation using location and mobile data to improve traffic and congestion and optimize travel. City planners are able to harness location data to figure out where traffic is the heaviest, when, and why. Using that information, they can then solve these transit problems with new construction or more modes of transport.

Challenges: Privacy and security.

Data collection happens constantly. From ride sharing apps to food delivery services, consumers are constantly giving out location-based data. While the benefit of this is more customized services, the challenge is consumers are more aware and concerned about how their data is used.

Not only has customer awareness increased, but restrictions such as GDPR have forced companies to be more transparent in personal data collection. Furthermore, as technology advances, so do hackers intent on infiltrating these systems. Security concerns are widespread across the industry, and breaches come with heightened consequences.

On the privacy side, more consumer awareness might end up helping improve location intelligence. Consumers taking control of their data means smart cities can rely more on first-party data, rather than third-party aggregators who may not provide the most accurate data.

On the security side, this challenge will likely always remain and will take a combination of individuals protecting their own data and companies providing more transparent data use initiatives to tackle this challenge.

Location intelligence, however, will continue to grow and aid in the creation of better, smarter cities. Especially as this technology advances, and more cities compete to implement smart initiatives, more will come to rely on location intelligence as the crucial component.

Image Credit: Scott Webb; Pexels

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AI covid-19 digital analytic

How Taiwan Used AI and IoT Technologies to Combat COVID-19

Taiwan AI, IoT combat covid

The world is in a major upheaval as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) makes its presence known in the United States and in many countries across the globe. Amidst these stressful and uncertain times, various industries are being confronted with pressing issues that arise from this pandemic.

Technology at Its Finest Hour

As people from all over the world are being strictly instructed to practice social distancing or self-isolation to stop the spread of the virus, technology is at its finest hour.

For instance, the use of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack have dramatically increased as companies strive to maintain their communication and their sense of order.

Likewise, video calling services, as well as social media, have been instrumental at connecting families and friends with each other while they’re staying at home. What’s more, people who are self-isolating keep themselves entertained by using video streaming services.

Needless to say, technology has helped get everyone through these unprecedented measures that authorities have enforced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

More and more people are asking if emerging technologies that include artificial intelligence (AI) or supercomputers could identify the most effective solutions for COVID-19.

Many are wondering if IoT technologies can do something to help prevent similar situations from taking place in the future. In case you’re not aware, authorities are utilizing technology in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 and in coming up with ways to treat those who are infected.

A Closer Look at How Taiwan Combats COVID-19

 The novel coronavirus may not have spared Taiwan, but the Taiwanese fought against it with the best of what they’ve got. Taiwan has set an excellent example of a nation that has successfully restricted the spread of COVID-19.

The Taiwanese government attributed their success to their 124 emergency response action items, as well as their transparent technology-driven strategies that were implemented when the SARS epidemic hit them hard in 2003.

As soon as the health tech company called Metabiota predicted that the novel coronavirus was going to reach their country in a week’s time, Taiwan immediately made sure that strict border controls were being established.

The SARS epidemic back in 2003 prompted the Taiwanese government to establish active surveillance and screening systems that include infrared thermal imaging scanning (ITIS).

These systems are implemented in major ports and airports in order to screen each traveler for fever. Thanks to the existing infrastructure and Metabiota’s early warning, Taiwan was able to react quickly and efficiently before COVID-19 manages to hit its shores. This made the application of immigration controls, as well as the initiation of quarantines, easier for them.

The Taiwanese government Tracked the COVID-19 Through Technology and Big Data Analytics

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Taiwan has been utilizing big data analytics in coming up with an extremely detailed mapping of the virus transmission. For instance, since they decided to integrate their immigration and customs database with their national health insurance database.

Through this system, they were able to take advantage of the customs and immigration data via the travel ticket scan. The data immediately makes a statistic that is based on the flight’s origin, as well as the total route over the past two weeks.

It’s important to note that aside from its existing national health insurance system, Taiwan also made use of mobile technologies for building datasets of foreign visitors.

Taiwan requires all foreign travelers to scan a QR code that will take them to an online health declaration form. The health declaration form provides details, such as an individual’s contact information and any COVID-like symptoms.

Thanks to these online immigration declaration cards, Taiwan was able to identify and classify the travelers who came from high-risk areas that included Wuhan.

Needless to say, Taiwan was able to leverage the integration of its immigration and customs database with its national health insurance system. However, they took it to the next level by coming up with large datasets for the purpose of analysis.

The task of coordinating the people’s health, as well as their travel data has been made easier when top Taiwanese engineers and researchers created their own data management system. This provided their government with a more efficient way of tracking their citizens’ symptoms and their 14-day travel histories.

Furthermore, their clinics, hospital facilities, and pharmacies had free access to this information for every patient. As a result, they were able to quickly identify the high-risk travelers who needed medical attention were easily identified and immediately triaged or treated in isolation.

To say that Taiwan’s use of data analytics has proven to be an effective strategy is definitely an understatement.

Through it, they were able to identify risk hotspots, generate public health alerts, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Speedy Implementation of Self-Isolation Measures Through Location-Tracking.

 As mentioned earlier, a huge portion of Taiwan’s successful method was largely due to their quick response, as well as the effective mechanisms that they used for case tracking.

For example, several countries across the globe are combining human efforts with technology as they implement their own quarantine compliance mechanisms. However, Taiwan is the first to utilize mobile phone tracking for the same purpose.

The Taiwanese government decided to roll out an “electronic fence� or a geofence through mobile phone location-tracking in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. This location-tracking strategy helped them ensure that the people who are quarantined aren’t leaving their homes.

Moreover, government-issued mobile phones are given to high-risk groups or citizens who are identified with COVID-19 so that they can be monitored through location-tracking.

In case you’re wondering, this technology works to monitor phone signals and it alerts the government authorities when persons who are quarantined leave their designated locations or when they turn off their mobile phones.

Within 15 minutes after the alert was triggered, the authorities will contact or visit the individuals who triggered the alert. To top it all off, their local officials make it a point to call these high-risk groups twice a day to make sure that they don’t leave their mobile devices at home to avoid tracking.

The IoT Detects and Controls Critical Supplies Through Data-Driven Technologies

 Through the use of data-driven insights, as well as technologies, Taiwan has successfully managed to ensure the availability of their critical supplies.

However, it’s important to note that the Taiwanese government had the foresight to make sure that a large number of personal protective equipment (PPE). Surgical masks were being produced even during the early stages of COVID-19.

With the goal of increasing the production templates of masks, they could meet the demands of their domestic market. Taiwan’s national authorities promptly coordinated with the smart automation sectors, as well as the local technology research institutes.

While other areas around the world are dealing with the shortage of essential supplies because of people who are panic buying, Taiwan’s shining example of addressing this problem is truly remarkable.

By the end of January, Taiwan was already rationing their nationwide supply of surgical masks in order to make sure that they won’t run out of much-needed supplies. They successfully avoided shortages by estimating each of their region’s supply of surgical masks and other health provisions through the use of IT.

Furthermore, their implementation of the “Mas-Real Name� system has been very instrumental as well. This system works to set price limits on health provisions and rations them with the use of an online ordering mechanism and the people’s national health insurance cards.

In addition, tech community solutions are also being prioritized in Taiwan.

To give you an idea, they save lots of time looking for local drug stores that sell surgical masks and other health supplies by using an online real-time map. The maps point people to stores where the items that they were trying to find are stocked and readily available.

With this concept in mind, the government coordinated with a private company to develop enhanced versions of this platform of information and had it integrated into their government data. The result is an online real-time app that allows the public to monitor the availability of medical supplies in each area.

Those who are looking for surgical masks will be able to know which health centers provide masks for adults and children, how far these health centers are from where the seeker is at, and when the featured data was last updated.

Countries from all over the world intend to adopt Taiwan’s use of big data.

The quick use of big data in the process of identifying the number of surgical masks that are available for use, and the Taiwanese government’s idea of using these generated numbers as the basis for ramping up their production of surgical masks to make sure that their supply remains sufficient.

The Government Provided Real-Time Information Through the Use of AI, Digital Communication, and Data Analytics

 Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Taiwanese government makes sure that the public stays well-informed by holding daily press conferences. They opened the government data on the COVID-19 pandemic and utilizing digital tools such as the various social media platforms and video sharing services.

To make sure that the information that’s being shared on Facebook, Line, or YouTube is accurate, Taiwan worked with fact-checking institutions that include MyGoPen and Taiwan FactCheck Center.

These groups make an effort to promptly correct misinformation or disinformation on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Taiwan’s citizens are automatically alerted through real-time digital updates so that they can steer clear of specific locations where COVID-19 infections were detected.

The government utilized AI during the creation of these updates and complemented this effort by making use of tools that allow their citizens to get a clear idea about their own exposure.

For instance, they’ve managed to create a map-based code with the use of Google Maps timelines. These timelines enable them to detect an individual’s travel history in the last few years – whether they’ve made contact in areas where the COVID-19 cases were previously discovered.

Lessons from Taiwan’s Shining Example

Lessons can be learned from the Taiwanese government’s approach in their fight against COVID-19. For example, forging partnerships between public and private sectors is a must if quicker and more tangible results are needed.

They’ve proven that fast and practical solutions can be produced if the government collaborates with IT developers in obtaining critical product-related information. Taiwan’s government officials didn’t take more than three days to make policy decisions about the use of mask data and map upgrades.

Aside from teaming up with civic society and private technology businesses, the importance of sharing accurate and transparent information to the general public is also a key factor in Taiwan’s successful strategies that prevented the spread of COVID-19.

Possibly the world can take some of these examples and make the world a better place for quickly and effectively helping citizens in their communities who are affected by such things as a pandemic. Preparing for likely scenarios like the COVID-19 pandemic is essential. None of us ever imagined such a life-changing horror that has come upon us globally. But we can prepare now by putting effort into having systems ready and available to save the the world.

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ecommerce Entrepreneurs Marketing

7 Top eCommerce Trends in 2020 to Look Out For

Top eCommerce Trends

Trends are always changing, and it does not matter in which niche or industry you belong to. If you are not keeping up with the trends — you’re going to lag behind. Trends are the most critical issue you can keep track of across every industry out there — including eCommerce.

As we have stepped into a brand new year — we certainly could not have known that the coronavirus would come along. The COVID-19 has given us all kinds of new eCommerce trends to follow. Now the question is, what are some of the top eCommerce trends for 2020 that we are going to see, now?

1. Google is Becoming an Online Marketplace.

google is becoming huge marketplace

Gone are those days when Google is only used to be a search engine. Now the company is also becoming an online marketplace.

If your brand is not super well known, the majority of your customers are going to come to your website via paid searches or organic traffic.

Hence, to put your products in a better way in front of your customers, you should optimize your website for Google shopping.

Google Shopping is one of the powerful sales channels, and it can be a great SEO hack for online stores. By integrating your eCommerce platform with Google Shopping will create a product listing ad that will automatically top the SERPs on the shopping tab. This feature can be pretty useful for those eCommerce stores that sell niche products.

Even, according to a recent study, it is said that Google shopping helps to boost sales by over 17%.

Getting started with Google shopping is also pretty easy, and you will need to go to the Google Merchant Center to sign up, and if your online store meets the ad requirements. And then, you will be able to market your platform using that platform.

2. Influencer Marketing Will Play A Key Role.

influencer marketing

One of the best ways to get more sales for your product is influencer marketing. Although influencer marketing is not really a new thing and it’s been in the top eCommerce trend for the last couple of years now. Also, it offers you some of the great results.

However, in case you do not know about influencer marketing, then, in this case, you will have to find a popular person in a specific niche. And ask them to promote your product.

But the question is why it works? Well, most of the customers do seek a product recommendation from influencers. Also, a study says that there are 49% of the customers who look to influencers when making product buying decisions.

Influencer marketing has a huge business on Instagram, and it is said that Instagram already has a $1.7 billion industry on Instagram. And you will often find celebrities promoting different products.

However, when it comes to product discovery, micro-influencers have a far more significant impact than celebrities. So if you are going to use Instagram to promote your product, you must think of partnering with Instagram influencers in your niche.

3. Voice Search

You should also know that there will be a growing volume of voice search. According to Loop venture forecasts, it is said that by 2025 75% of the US households will have a smart speaker. And people are highly relying on voice assistants like Google Assistants and Amazon Alexa for everything.

And as in the future, more and more households start adopting voice assistant technology and get comfortable with it. They will use it to make purchases.

So what can you do as an eCommerce owner? Well, you should optimize your eCommerce website for voice searches. Like find voice search based keywords and optimize your website using them, and you are good to go.

4. Mobile Shopping is Growing

The growth of mobile commerce is also growing rapidly. Over the years, mobile shopping growth is growing continuously. And it is said that by 2021, 73% of eCommerce sales will take place on a mobile device.

And optimizing the eCommerce experience for mobile customers can be a massive opportunity for business owners out there.

Customers nowadays just do not shop online. But before they make any purchase decision they do a lot of research, browses different products and then make their mind to purchase something. And all of these things they are doing through their smartphone only.

Also, over the years, the number of smartphone users increased a lot. And the newer generation likes to do everything through their phone only compared to the older generation.

So if you are not optimizing your website for the mobile devices, then you are losing behind. Even Google is also giving more importance to mobile than desktop. So if you are serious about SEO, then optimizing your website for mobile is the best way to go.

5. AR and VR are Becoming More Commonplace

One of the significant issues for online purchases is always that the customer cannot really see the product before purchasing it. As a result, it was always a challenge to sell things like clothing, furniture, and other accessories that users like to review before purchasing.

However, AR and VR are helping users to solve this problem by allowing customers to virtually try on products without touching them at all.

There are companies like Warby Parker that have launched an app that uses AR. So the customers can try different glasses before ordering.

Even Amazon and Ikea also use the same technology to allow shoppers to see how the furniture is going to look in their homes.

So as an eCommerce business owner, you should understand what are the technological developments happening and how you can implement them. Also, you should invest in such digitalization systems to offer your customers the best shopping experience possible.

6. Visual Commerce

One of the main difficulties of running an eCommerce store is having to sell your products to those consumers who have never interacted with your product before. And this is where visual commerce comes into place.

In this case, we will need to use consumer-generated media, interactive content, engaging videos, AR to help the customers to get as much information as possible.

This way, your customers will get enough idea of how your product is going to benefit them. How the product is actually going to look and how to use it. That’s why visual commerce is in top eCommerce trends this year.

7. Flexible Payment Options for Big Purchases

If your website is selling expensive items, then there is a high chance that new customers are most likely not to trust your business. However, to tackle this issue, you can take a bunch of steps.

Like you can introduce cash on delivery. So your customers will only pay for your product once they receive it. A Money-back guarantee is also one of the features that you can introduce.

Along with that, you can offer flexible payment options to your customers. You can do so by using services like Afterpay, Final, and Affirm. These services will automatically break down large purchases into small payments over the course of several months. As a result, it will be easy for your customers to purchase your product without spending all their money at once.

Bottom Line:

So those were some of the top eCommerce trends for 2020. No matter which trend you are going to pick, just make sure that you are implementing in such a way that it is improving the shopping experience. After all, that’s the only goal that has and once the shopping experience is better. The sales are going to come in.

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AI Medical Technology

How Is AI Changing Medical Imaging?

Name an industry, and artificial intelligence is shaking it up. Some of the biggest changes, however, are happening in the quietest areas of the market.

One of those is medical imaging. Although it may not be as glamorous as autonomous vehicles, AI-driven imaging is doing something even more important: saving lives. Companies like CureMetrix are turning image analysis from a guessing game into a data-driven process.

The typical radiology patient doesn’t see doctors using CureMetrix’s technology. All they know is that their treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis.

What’s going on behind the scenes, and what’s next for the medical imaging industry? To find out, we sat down with CureMetrix CEO Navid Alipour. It turns out the answer is every bit as exciting as those self-driving cars. And no, the robots aren’t taking over any time soon.

A Revolution in Medical Imaging

To grasp just how much AI is changing the world of medical imaging, it’s important to understand what the low-tech process looks like.

“Not that long ago, medical imaging was a lot like ‘Where’s Waldo?’� Alipour explains. “Basically, experts would scan images and then search for tiny irregularities that could signal things like cancerous lesions.�

Despite all the training doctors and radiologists go through, they make mistakes. Studies suggest error rates of human-only analysis may be around 35 percent.

Think about that: Without the help of AI, a third of patients who undergo radiology are steered in the wrong direction. And for different reasons, errors in either direction are dangerous.

If something is missed — a false negative — the patient doesn’t receive treatment, and the cancer continues to grow. Many conditions that require imaging are time-sensitive. Every day that a cancerous tumor goes unnoticed, it grows larger and the risk of metastasis increases.

On the other hand, a false positive — meaning the radiologist mistakes a benign feature for a medical issue — can expose patients to invasive procedures unnecessarily. Biopsies, for example, are painful and costly. On average, 70-80 percent of them come back negative in the search for breast cancer while placing emotional stress on the patient, as well as her family.

How does CureMetrix minimize errors, and more importantly, what does that mean for patients?

A Second Pair of Eyes

Think of CureMetrix’s cmTriage like a second set of eyes. The AI can’t supplant the person using the tool — the radiologist — but it can help him or her know which cases may be suspicious.

Although AI won’t replace radiologists, those using AI will replace the ones who are not. Already, radiologists and mammography experts are in short supply, resulting in overwork, burnout, and costly errors — which can ultimately lead to lawsuits. CureMetrix empowers radiologists with data, serving as another arrow in their quiver in the fight against cancer.

Cleared by the FDA as a triage tool for breast cancer screening, cmTriage provides a pre-read for the radiologist, helping to identify suspicious cases. The result is the potential for greater sensitivity, as well as fewer patient recalls.

When it comes to detecting breast cancer, the average sensitivity of a radiologist is 84.4 percent, with 9.6 percent of cases requiring a second look. At 84.4 percent sensitivity, CureMetrix would have indicated that a total of 6.4 percent of the exams are suspicious. Even in default mode, the AI operates at higher specificity than radiologists.

Even more powerful is the fact that cmTriage can operate at higher sensitivities. Its default setting is 93 percent, but it can be set as high as 99 percent.

By combining deep learning and computer vision, cmTriage helps radiologists identify suspicious changes, enabling those with breast cancer to get treatment sooner. Just as importantly, it helps radiologists identify cases that are less suspicious or potentially normal, decreasing the chance that patients will be subjected to multiple visits or risky treatments.

Beginning with Breast Cancer

Currently, CureMetrix is available only for breast cancer detection. But why breast cancer, and what other conditions might it help with?

When I asked Alipour, he pointed to two things: scale and the unique challenges of breast cancer — the most complex of all cancers to detect.

Close to 300,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with breast cancer, comprising almost 30 percent of all cancer diagnoses in women. Secondly, an estimated $4 billion is spent annually on mammography false positives. Biopsies, often the second step in detection, exhibit a stunning 75 percent false-positive rate.

“We just couldn’t ignore numbers like that,� Alipour says. “There are a lot of different cancers out there, but few are as costly — in human or in monetary terms — as breast cancer.�

Fortunately for other cancer patients, mammography is only the start of AI’s medical imaging makeover. CureMetrix plans to expand its AI into other areas of medical imaging.

A One-Size-Fits-All Detection Tool?

Imaging is a critical tool in cancer detection, but it’s not the only one. Other methods, like methylation analysis, can also be augmented by deep learning tools.

“One advantage of deep learning,� Alipour notes, “is that it can deal with unstructured data. If fed the right training data, such an algorithm could spot cancer in other ways, like looking at chemical signatures.�

As an example, Alipour mentions a recent case at New York University Langone Health. A young girl was diagnosed based on tissue pathology with recurrent medulloblastoma, one type of brain cancer. With the help of AI, however, her doctors discovered it was actually another variety: glioblastoma.

Underscoring the importance of correct diagnosis is that the girl’s cancer may have been the result of radiation used to fight the first cancer. Had she been treated again in the same way, the treatment could have harmed her without actually destroying the new cancer.

Despite diagnostic breakthroughs in breast cancer, Alipour makes it clear that a universal cancer detection tool is still years away. How we get there, however, is exactly what CureMetrix is doing: starting with the most complex cancer, and building from there.

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Why PewDiePie Sees New Opportunities in Live Video’s New Features

PewDiePie live video

PewDiePie is coming back to YouTube. The Swedish video star, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, was once the platform’s biggest creator. He left in 2019, taking his live videos to rival upstart DLive. Here is why PewDiePie sees new opportunities in live video’s new features.

PewDiePie has had a volatile relationship with Google’s video property.

Accusations of anti-Semitism and racism in his video content led to an advertiser backlash, prompting YouTube to temporarily remove ads from his channel. Dlive, a blockchain-powered video site, had promised him a fairer payment system and higher rewards.

So what brought him back? Why would one of the world’s biggest influencers leave a platform that now gives him complete freedom and a full 75 percent revenue-share? Why would he go back exclusively to a site that’s shown a willingness to exert control and even cut off ad revenues if it doesn’t like his jokes?

The simple answer is likely to be that YouTube will give him more money.

On Dlive, PewDiePie had attracted 822,000 followers. On YouTube, his account had more than 102 million subscribers. Even with a higher revenue share, PewDiePie would have been earning much less on the blockchain site than he could make on YouTube.

But money wasn’t the reason that PewDiePie cited. Instead, he argued that both he and YouTube were putting more investments in live streaming. “Live-streaming is something I’m focusing a lot on in 2020 and beyond,â€� he said, “so to be able to partner with YouTube and be at the forefront of new product features is special and exciting for the future.â€�

Live streaming offers a number of benefits that aren’t available to recorded video.

Live streaming has an urgency — a live video is only live once. It’s interactive: viewers can ask questions and make comments that the broadcaster can answer during the stream. And it’s a format that platforms like Netflix and Hulu just can’t offer. Brands, even personal brands like PewDiePie, can use live streaming to attract an engaged audience and interact with it in real-time.

YouTube is now in the process of rolling out new features that will help live video streamers.

Content creators can separate audience figures, allowing them to see how many people watched a video live and how many saw it after the recording was uploaded. Smart replies, like suggested responses in Gmail, let broadcasters shoot back thanks to compliments in the comment stream while they broadcast.

The Live Control Room, which launched officially late last year, makes it easy for streamers to create highlight reels and track viewer activity.

All of those features are useful but when it comes to live video, YouTube isn’t the only game in town, and even those new features won’t give it an edge.

Viewers are more accustomed to interacting with others on social media platforms than they are on a video platform like YouTube.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has seen a 50 percent increase in live video audiences as people stuck at home look for real-time interaction. The company will soon let people watch live videos without a Facebook account. The options will include automatic closed captioning and digital tipping, and provide toll-free phone numbers for charity streams.

There’s more in Live Video!

Other companies have gone even further — to everyone’s delight. Be.Live, a third-party provider, lets streamers on both Facebook and YouTube brand their broadcasts. You can highlight comments and questions on the screen, and even promote specific products. Think: complete with pictures, description, and price — and you have a general idea.

Live streaming has always had a value that recorded video just can’t match.

No other format lets audiences interact with broadcasters in real-time, ask questions, influence content, and engage with creators. At a time when live concerts are out of bounds, live videos are the closest audiences can currently get to a real-time event.

It’s no wonder that both YouTube and Facebook are investing in this format — and it’s no wonder that PewDiePie is looking for the platform that will give him the biggest live audience.

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