America runs on Dunkin’ – literally

Coffee not only powers people, it now also powers home. Dunkin’ Donuts created a transportable home that runs on bio-fuel created by used coffee grounds. And every 170 pounds of spent coffee grounds can yield about one gallon of fuel.

How it works:

  • Step 1: Extract excess oils in the spent coffee grounds. There can be natural oils left in spent coffee grounds, all depending on the coffee bean type and original processing methods.
  • Step 2: Mix and react. These oils are then mixed with an alcohol to undergo a chemical reaction known as transesterification. This produces bio-diesel and glycerin as a byproduct.
  • Step 3: Refine. The bio-diesel is washed and refined to create the final product.

What it’s hot: Finding practical ways to reuse resources and generate energy.

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WeChat’s newest target: Filipino maid in Hong Kong

For the 170,000 and more Filipinos working in Hong Kong as domestic maids, WeChat developed an international money transfer function for them to instantly remit money back to their families in the Philippines. So instead of waiting in line to wire transfer money on Sunday, their only day off in the week, they can now complete the task with a few clicks on their phone.

It’s a brilliant move by WeChat as they have been struggling with expanding to other parts of Asia and to increase the usage of the app beyond its 600 million active users in Mainland China.

Additionally, as a destination that received $32.8 billion in remittances in 2017, Filipinos working overseas become a no-brainer target audience.

Why it’s hot: The benefit for WeChat is threefold: market expansion, increase in cash flow and boost in brand image for adding value to people’s lives.

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Have your skin checked, period.

A non-profit called Melanoma Know More partnered with content platform Popsugar to bring awareness of skin cancer Melanoma and remind readers of cancer screening.

When a reader browses health and wellness content on the site and scrolls past a period at the end of a sentence, a pop-up window will come up with information on warning signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

 

Why it’s hot: Many types of cancer, if detected early, are curable. By making this information part of a reader’s reading experience can help reduce the fear or stress associated with cancer and increase the chance of the reader’s cancer screening.

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Feeling chatty?

Costa Coffee implemented the Chatty Cafe space in 300 of its stores in the U.K. to help tackle loneliness and encourage customers to talk to each other.

Select tables are turned into “conversation hubs” with a sign on the table that says “Chatter and Natter.” Customers that sit on those tables need to be willing to chat with other customers.

Why it’s hot: The Chatty Cafe lets Costa engage with its customers in a new way while helping to solve a social issue.

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Internet-connected robots help combat isolation and loneliness

AV1, a cute-looking, internet-connected robot made by Oslo-based start-uo No Isolation helps children who have chronic diseases unable to attend school participate in classes remotely and keep in touch with teachers and friends.

Instead of studying on their own at home, these children can study along their friends at school via the robot. The robot can sit in the classroom and live stream video and audio back to a tablet or smartphone. Children at home can speak through the robot and participate in the class. They can also control where the robot is looking.

The robot’s head will blink to alert the teacher if the student wants to ask a question. It’ll also turn blue to signal the teacher that the student becomes too sick or tired to participate.

AV1 robot on a classroom desk

Why it’s hot: Being present for an occasion is easier than ever. For people with chronic diseases internet-connected robots make them feel comfortable for being present without displaying their illness.

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Chase ATMs go cardless

Chase recently expanded its cardless access to 16,000 ATMs nationwide. Customers will no longer need to carry their debit cards and use them to retrieve cash at ATMs. They can now simply tap their smartphone on the ATM to get cash.

Step 1 Access your mobile wallet on your phone and select your virtual Chase Debit Card.

Step 2 Look for the Cardless symbol on the ATM, and tap it with your phone.

Step 3 Enter your PIN as usual.

Why it’s hot: Cardless no longer means cashless.

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Facial recognition cash withdrawal

Residents in Tibet can now use the facial recognition technology to withdraw cash at ATMs from the Agricultural Bank of China, no debit cards needed.

Also powered by the facial recognition technology, the Agricultural Bank of China is testing card-less and device-less payments at a pilot supermarket in Chongqing, China. Shoppers can pay for items by looking into the camera in the supermarket after putting the item in shopping basket. Transactions will automatically be conducted for registered Agricultural Bank of China customers.

Why it’s hot: There might be a day that our face truly becomes our identify and is all we need to conduct transactions and other businesses in the future.

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Beijing’s smart bakery

Beijing welcomed its first unmanned smart bakery, a collaboration between Alibaba and domestic baker brand Wedomé. The bakery uses technologies including AI image recognition, mobile payment and QR code to enable unmanned services.

 

Why it’s hot: Mobile payment is so prominent in China and sets the nation on its way to be (maybe) a cashless economy one day.

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The Real Time Taxi

United Airlines started to face a challenge when they moved all of their flights from JFK to Newark – New Yorkers do not like to fly from Newark because they considered it too far away. To help with this problem, the airline created a data-centric campaign using digital displays on taxis to give live companions of travel times to JFK and Newark.

They worked with Verifone (tech company) to create the technology and Curb (taxi-hailing app) to provide real-time travel time estimates to each airport based on the cars location and traffic.

As a result, more than 810,000 new passengers chose to fly out of EWR during the period the campaign ran.

Why it’s hot: Price and convenience are key drivers that influence consumer decisions when it comes to purchasing flight tickets. United Airlines’ campaign cleverly used live data and met a key consumer pain point – convenience.

Source: Contagious

When Exactly Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Lying

It’s not news that telltale nonverbal signs can reveal when someone’s being deceptive, especially when you see several of the signs together.

Body language experts analyzed White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s  behaviors and identified times when she lied.

Behavior 1: Emotional Fluctuation

Lying about whether Trump has thought about stepping down in light of the turmoil of the Russia investigation.

In this video, “Sanders shows “substantial emotional fluctuation,” from contempt to high anxiety-fear-regret, back to contempt, and then back to anxiety, said Brown. This is a textbook example of emotional dissonance, or having trouble aligning one’s true thoughts and feelings with one’s words.” (The question begins at 9:28 in this video.) 

Behavior 2: Talking Out Of The Side Of Her Mouth

Lying about about Stormy Daniels

In this video at 12:15, “she talks out of the side of her mouth, a sign of either “bravado and hubris, or insincerity and deception” that Sanders displays often.” Facial asymmetry also showed she was lying. According to body language experts, when someone “habitually feels one thing and says another, or keeps their true feelings in.” There is a disconnect between your limbic brain, where emotions are, and the neocortex, or the thinking brain — “where you can consciously control thoughts and words and create lies.”

Behavior 3: Misspeaking

In the same video above, at around 12:26, Sanders pronounces “outside” — as in “outside counsel” — as “out-cod.” While almost every public speaker makes small mistakes like this, the fact that she hardly ever corrects herself is “a sign of a lack of objectivity and sincerity,”

Behavior 4: Smiling Out Of Context

Around 5:20, Sarah starts to show a partially suppressed smile, showing her “subconscious mind is taking pleasure in fooling people, a behavior frequently exhibited by children.”

Behavior 5: Touching Her Face

Around 10:06 in this video, Sarah lifts her hand to cover her mouth and brush the underside of her nose. This kind of facial touching means there’s a high likelihood someone is lying.

Behavior 6: Avoiding Eye Contact

“When people lie, their eye contact either goes into a stare — to overcompensate — or they look away,” Brown said. “One thing Sarah does a lot is look at her notes and pretend she’s reading them, so she doesn’t have to look at the journalist.”

Behavior 7: Unnatural Pacing

Sometimes she delivers rehearsed quips, revealed by “her speed, her ultra-quick, unnaturally paced delivery.”

Why it’s hot: Body language could be something researches pay attention to while conducting in-person audience research.

Source: Refinery29

Zillow wants to serve you right

Zillow plans to build AI into its search engine with the goal to transform the site from a real estate search engine to an assistant that understands what people want and are looking for. The idea is to learn and understand the types of criteria people are looking for and recommend homes based on that.

For example, the AI will be able to understand your taste in decor. It’ll be able to take into account the interior photos of homes people are looking at, understand what they might like and make recommendations based on that.

Why it’s hot (or not): There’s a chance that a home buyer might miss a house that has a lot of potential but does not meet the right criteria according to AI.

Zillow recommends homes with your preferred amenities that you may have missed in your selected region.

Source: Mashable

Seeing is believing

Ford created a device that lets blind and visually impaired people feel the view from a car passenger seat by transforming car windows into a haptic display.

“The Feel The View appliance takes a picture of the view from the window and converts the image into greyscale. Every shade of grey is then translated into a vibration on the car window, which allows visually impaired passengers to experience contours of the landscape by feeling the window.”

It also comes with a voice assistant connected to the car audio system that explains the view to the passenger.

Why it’s hot: It’s machine vision’s (algorithms that can analyse and understand images and videos) time to shine.

Internet-free smartphone

samsung launches galaxy j2 pro in south korea gold

Samsung launched a new phone, Galaxy J2 Pro, a phone that lets people call make phone calls and send text messages but cannot connect to the internet.

It targets high schools students who need to focus on studying for their college entrance exam in Korea. The goal is to help them stay on task without the distraction of social media, games, or browsing the web.

Other features include an offline electronic dictionary app, a calendar app, an FM radio and a calculator.

There perk is, students who have completed the exam can trade in their Galaxy J2 Pro for a Galaxy S, Note, or A Series phone.

Why it’s hot: Sometimes it’s good and helpful going back to the basics.

Source: Yahoo

Too many men

In China and India combined, men outnumber women by 70 million, mainly due to a couple reasons: cultural preference, government policy and modern medical technology.

And the consequences are severe, including:

  • Epidemic of loneliness, mental health
  •  Imbalanced labor market
  • Increased savings rates
  • Decreased consumption
  • Artificial inflation (housing)
  • Increased crime rate (trafficking, prostitution)

In China alone, there are about 34 million more men than women, that’s almost the entire population of California or Poland. It is common for men to pay “bride price” to prospective parents-in-law to gain approval of engagement and marriage. Due to the gender imbalance, the price has gone from a few hundred dollars a decade a go to nearly $30K in some parts of China.

Some others start to “import” brides from near by Asian countries, paying up to $8K for marriage tours to travel abroad and find wives.

Why it’s hot: Potentially, these 70 million men might never get married or have a family, and might need to live and take care of themselves. Brands (CPG, Healthcare) should think about the implications and impacts it has on them.

Source: The Washington Post

Warning: paying for the fastest shipping option might get your online order denied

With the chip-card technology being rolled out in retail stores nationwide and reducing fraud in physical stores, online fraud has risen. A third of the 50 largest retailers in the U.S. has then seen a 30% increase in online fraud.

As a result, retailers as big as Macys and as small as Audeze rely on third party data-mining firms to combat fraud, such as people making purchases with stolen credit cards or falsely claiming a purchase as fraudulent.

These firms use big data to evaluate whether a shopper is making a fraudulent transaction based on that person’s online browsing behaviors, transaction data and geolocation information. The firms will then decide whether to approve or deny the transaction at the time of purchase.

Online behaviors such as paying for the latest shipping method or making a purchase without checking the return policy are sometimes considered as signs of fraud. And oftentimes, falsely declined customers would not even know why they were declined for a transaction.

Why it’s (not) hot: Should big data dictate what we buy and how we buy things?

Source: Wall Street Journal

Unmanned bank

China opened its first “unmanned” bank in Shanghai this week that claims to be able to handle over 90% of a traditional bank’s services, whether it’s cash or cashless. Customers will be greeted by a robot as they enter the lobby who’s supposed to communicate with them and help with their needs.

The bank also claims to offer services including:

  • Video teller machines
  • Currency exchange machines
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality

Why it’s hot: Deferring low-value work to machines is inevitable to increase efficiency and profit margin. Brainpower should be reserved for cognitive work.

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Apple Pay transit card integration goes live in Beijing and Shanghai

Apple rolled out transit card integration in China today. The latest update to iPhone and Apple Watch offers users tap-to-ride public transportation access in Beijing and Shanghai. People can refill their transportation cards using the Wallet app on iPhone. Balance of an existing physical card can be transferred to Apple Pay through the recharge mechanism in Wallet.

Why it’s hot: Mobile payment and transaction just became more advanced and is making people’s daily life more convenient.

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Influencers on LinkedIn are out for clicks…by being mean

While arguments are often common on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn has not been one of the battle fields in the past. But lately, they’ve also joined the club.

This could be an adjustment that LinkedIn influencers are making to address the platform’s resign last year, which cuts off a post after the first 2-3 lines with a “see more” link.

To entice clicks, posts are becoming more aggressive and controversial to challenge the audiences. Because stating the obvious no longer get you clicks.

Why it’s hot: one truth about human is that we’ll want to see how people back an outlandish statement up.

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Choices, choices…

According to WSJ, an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And a Cornell University study says that we make more than 200 decisions alone on food each day. And it isn’t always a good thing to have many options available. In fact too much choice could cause choice paralysis in which too much choice prevents purchases.

According to psychologist Herbert A. Simon, there are two basic choice-making styles: Maximisers and Satisficers. Maximisers evaluate every option, looking for the best one, and potentially exhaust themselves in the process. Satisficers look for the option that is good enough; it might not be perfect but it fits the minimum criteria.

Brands can help these two types of consumers narrow choices down in different ways.

To target Maximisers, the solution is to make the choice easier through providing guidance. One good example is Tesco’s Online Beauty Sessions where consumers can have a private consulting session with a beauty expert to talk about their needs and preferences. After the session the expert will recommend a selection of products to the consumer.

To target Satisficers, the solution is to create convenience and make the produce easy to buy. One good example is Australia’s fast food brand Hungry Jack’s Brekk-e-tag. Similar to how road-toll e-tag works, a driver can instantly order a pre-programmed breakfast order as he pulls into the drive thru and head directly to the pickup window.

Why it’s hot: crafting solutions based on human behaviors.

Whole Foods Medical Wellness Center

As a company whose core value is to nourish people and the planet, Whole Foods sure does it right by starting with s keeping their employees healthy and looking after their wellness.

“At the WFM Medical and Wellness Centers, we strive to take you from sick to healthy, happy and thriving – and help keep you there for the rest of your life! We hope you will join us on our journey toward creating a healthier community and a new way of treating people through the highest quality, personalized health care available.” – John Mackey, Co-Founder & CEO Whole Foods Market

The company runs two medical centers in Glendale, CA and Austin, TX serving employees and their families.

“The Medical and Wellness Center provides primary care medical services, administered by physicians with a patient-centered approach. The Medical and Wellness Center not only helps patients with common illnesses and more significant medical conditions, but also provides personalized prevention and proactive care that helps people live their best and most healthy lives.”

Why it’s hot: staying true to its core value and acting on it.

Source: Harvard Business Review and https://www.wfmmedical.com/about-us

Augmented news

The New York Times app started to incorporate AR into its digital content that makes flat images three-dimensional.

In an article reporting on the Winter Olympics, NYT uses the technology to allow readers to engage with the content, the athletes. Readers can look closer on some parts of the content, look at it from a different angle and walk around it. This functionality extends the time a reader spends on the article by letting them engage with the content.

Why it’s hot: using technology to add value to content and improve customer experience.

Big brother is watching, literally

China is piloting a new surveillance system – using smart glasses to identify potential suspects. Police in Zhengzhou can snap pictures of people in public and match them with China’s state database of criminals. They will then be provided with that person’s name and address.

Why it’s hot: Giving new technology everyday, functional implications

Source: Tech Crunch

Net neutrality for dummies

Many people might not understand or care about the consequences of the repeal of net neutrality. To help people understand this issue, Burger King created Whopper Neutrality, an real-life experiment with actual guests in the store, making them experience the consequence in terms of a whopper.

Why it’s hot: Influential brands taking a stance to increase awareness to a social issue – treat all data on the internet as equal as we’d like to be treated equally as whopper buyers.

Making cereal cool again

Kellogg’s cereal cafe recently re-opened at Union Square in a space five times larger than its original location in Times Square. This is Kellogg’s attempt to stem sales decline by making millennials eat cereal as all-day snacks.

The cafe is operated by two famous restauranteurs, Sandra Di Capua from Eleven Madison Park and Anthony Rudolf from Per Se.

Why it’s hot: Leveraging food’s social status to make everyday mundane cool.

Source: Eater

Drone, curbing overtime employees

In some Asian countries including Japan and China, there’s a culture that encourages employees to work overtime. Sadly, overtime has led to deaths.

A Japanese company named Taisei wants to solve this problem in an unconventional way. They designed a drone that surveils around the office with camera and blasts Auld Lang Syne to nag people into going home. In Japan this song is usually used to indicate closing time. Their plan is to make it hard for people to concentrate and continue to work.

Why it’s hot: a very functional and useful application of cutting-edge technologies.

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The guy living next door

For years, hotels have been focused on selling their services to people coming from outside of town instead of those who live and work around it. One of them thinks differently. Hotel group Accor Hotels has launched an app to connect travelers with local businesses. The app also provides non-guests the chance to use its hotel services and use it as a drop off and pick up point for services provided by local businesses. e.g. dry cleaning drop off/pick up.

Why it’s hot: helping local small businesses while finding incremental audiences in a competitive market.

Source: Contagious

Digital contraception, birth control that’s natural

European startup Natural Cycles developed an fertility tracking app that uses an algorithm to predict the days a woman is fertile. It’s a subscription product that currently has more than 500K users across 160 countries. The user needs to measure her body temperature each morning with a body basal thermometer and record it in the app. The algorithm will analyze the data and predict the user’s hormone levels and her fertility.

The app uses a calendar view. Days colored red signifies the user shouldn’t have unprotected sex, days colored in green signifies the user can have unprotected sex without risking pregnancy.

Why it’s hot: innovative healthcare solution that doesn’t require drugs and chemicals.

Source: TechCrunch

 

This open enrollment season…

Healthcare is one area where marketing plays an important role in driving conversion. Especially when it comes to enrollment. Healthy people often need to be reminded to buy health insurance and many wait till the last second to do so.

This enrollment season, the Trump Administration cut Obamacare’s marketing budget by 90%, from $100MM to $10MM. Some researchers looked into the effect of this budget cut and predicted that it would cause more than 450,000 fewer page views, 20,000 fewer visits, and 20,000 fewer unique visitors per week during open enrollment without a TV campaign.

Why it’s hot: this is one case where pro bono work would make a difference.

 

Twitter, the new vault for KFC’s secret recipe

KFC pulled a successful social media stunt by following 11 people on its Twitter account that hinted at the company’s secret recipe of 11 spices and herbs. Accounts that KFC follows are all of the Spice Girls and 6 people named Herb.

Why it’s hot: Great publicity at minimal cost.

Why it’s not hot: KFC doesn’t seem to have immediate next steps to amplify the effect.