Water ATM’s in Rural India

How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India

“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”

Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.

In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.

Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”

Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.

A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’

Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.

In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.

Challenges

During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.

Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units

The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”

Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.

The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.

The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.

Operating Models

The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.

Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.

The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”

Application & Benefits

Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.

Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.

Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.

Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.

While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”

Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.

Panera coffee subscription is the new free-wifi, but it costs $9+/month

Panera has launched a coffee subscription as a part of its loyalty program. For $8.99/month, you get unlimited drip coffee — 1 cup every two hours for as long as you can handle it. They may be burning through beans, but what this really means is they’ll be selling a lot more sandwiches.

From Fast Company: “Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.”

Because most Panera locations are suburban, customers tend to drive to the location. When they’ve made the commitment to drive, people are more likely to “bundle” their shopping by also eating at Panera once they’ve picked up their subscriber coffee.

Bonus points: being mostly suburban, Panera also avoids the on-foot, in-and-out commuter coffee buyers who are not likely to purchase any additional goods.

For consumers, it’s a novel way to think about coffee purchase.

For Panera, it seems like a smart way to lure people into their stores, in order to sell them higher-margin products like sandwiches and soups.

Why it’s hot:

1. Data: Registered subscribers will give Panera a huge amount of consumer data that they could use to understand menu preferences by a variety of demographics, as well as better identify core customers and understand their habits.

2. Earn brand loyalty by exploiting commitment bias: If you get someone to buy into the subscription, they are far more likely to continue to go to you for their coffee fix even if they ultimately cancel their subscription as brains subconsciously associate their body’s physiological coffee high with your store, and those neural pathways are difficult (and cognitively costly) to change.

3. It’s a smart lure: A big challenge for suburban food and beverage shops is getting people in the door. This encourages that, and a lot of people who go into a shop to buy coffee end up buying a muffin, or a sandwich, which is where these companies really make their money. If you stay (or return) to Panera to take advantage of the every-two-hour refill, you’re likely to buy even more.

Source: Fast Company

Skincare + AI: Making Mass Personalization Easy

A skincare startup is tackling the complexity consumers face when navigating the category to select the best products for their skincare needs. Rather than adding to the clutter of products, ingredients and “proprietary formulas”, or attempting to educate consumers through exposure to research + science, Proven Skincare simply prescribes personalized solutions for each individual.

After collecting customer input based around 40 key factors, Proven Skincare’s AI combs through a comprehensive database of research, testimonials and dermatology expertise, to identify the best mix of ingredients for each person’s situation.

Ming Zhao, Proven’s CEO, co-founded the company while struggling with her own skincare issues.

“The paradox of choice, the confusion that causes this frustrating cycle of trial and error, is too much for most people to bear,” says Zhao on the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast. “There’s a lot of cycles of buying expensive product, only for it to then sit on somebody’s vanity shelf for months to come.”

As the human body’s largest organ, skin should be properly cared for—using products and ingredients that have been proven to work for specific individuals. That’s the core mission behind Proven Skincare, a new beauty company that has tapped technology to research the best skincare regimen for consumers.

Why It’s Hot: In a world where the benefits of things like AI and big data are not often apparent to the “average” person, this is an example of technology that solves a real human problem, while remaining invisible (i.e. it’s not about the tech).

Loyalty Evolution Success – Starbucks Rewards Revamp

When Starbucks relaunched its loyalty program in April, it was met with some initial criticism.

  • Would it alienate existing core customers?
  • Would people understand it?
  • Would it really contribute to growth or would it backfire?

Overall, Starbucks’ rewards program is a driver or sales… but that’s not new news.

“…when customers join our rewards program their total spend with Starbucks increases meaningfully,” CFO Patrick Grismer.

Having a loyalty program is one thing. Continually optimizing it based on customer feedback is what keeps it fresh, relevant, and valuable.

Starbucks has crafted a loyalty program that adds importance to customers and, for many, becomes a part of their daily lives. Thus, members engage and spend more frequently.

Starbucks Rewards Has Attracted More “Occasional” Customers

The relaunch of Starbucks Rewards in April allowed greater flexibility among members, making it easier to start redeeming. Grismer noted “significant positive customer response to this change, which was exactly what we had designed for.” This has led to a 15% increase in membership during the past year.

But it’s not just the revamp to the customer facing rewards program…

Starbucks added technology that enables the company to better understand its members. While membership in Starbucks Rewards has increased, so too has the frequency of customer visits. Personalization has played a role in customer loyalty at Starbucks as well. “We took the opportunity to introduce an enhanced personalized marketing engine into our technology stack,” Grismer said. “It allows us, through machine learning, to gain insights around what matters most to our customers, which informs the offers we make to them digitally.”

Why it’s hot: While loyalty can be incentived, ultimately it’s earned. Whether you’re providing a rewards program via points or freebies, the key to loyalty is evolving based on your customers’ needs. Starbucks is successful because it listens to its customers to minimize pain points, all while focusing on three main pillars: the in-store experience, beverage innovation, and digital customer engagement. These pillars create a compelling value proposition that customers can both experience and benefit from.

Source: Clarus Commerce blog, Loyalty360

Inside Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your entire life

The creator of the famous voice assistant dreams of a world where Alexa is everywhere, anticipating your every need.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed [view from 53:54] a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

Why It’s Hot:  “This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

Firefox founder launches privacy-first browser that rewards users for allowing brands access to them

The beta version has been out for a while, but “Today marks the official launch of Brave 1.0, a free open-source browser. The beta version has already drawn 8 million monthly users, but now, the full stable release is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

Brave promises to prioritize security by blocking third-party ads, trackers, and autoplay videos automatically. So you don’t need to go into your settings to ensure greater privacy, though you can adjust those settings if you want to.” (The Verge)

Internet heavy hitter Brendan Eich (creator of JavaScript/co-founder of Firefox/Mozilla) just launched the stable version of new privacy-focused Brave browser, employing the idea of a Basic Attention Token (BAT), which allows users to be paid in crypto-currency tokens for allowing brands access to their eyeballs. Eich calls it “a new system for properly valuing user attention.”

He explains it best:

Why it’s hot:

1. As tech giants increasingly impinge on privacy and gobble up every imaginable byte of data about everyone in exchange for “a better user experience,” Brave is claiming to have found a non-zero-sum game that everyone (users, advertisers, and publishers) can benefit from:

  • Users get lots more control over the ads they see and get rewarded with tokens for allowing ads.
  • Advertisers get more precise and engaged audiences, so in theory, better ROAS.
  • Content creators get more control over their publishing and their income. And users can tip content creators on a subscription-style basis not unlike Patreon.

That’s the idea, at least.

2. Its look and feel is very similar to Chrome, so migrating to Brave may be smooth enough to encourage more people to abandon the surveillance-state-as-a-service (SSaaS) that Google is verging on.

Source: The Verge

Puppo Brings Personalization to the Dogs

In an effort to launch in one of the biggest and most saturated markets in the world, Mars’ Puppo, a subscription-based and personalized service for dogs, took personalization to a new level, creating 100,729 bespoke ads for each dog licensed in Manhattan.

Puppo created an algorithm that extracted data from the NYC Dog Licensing Dataset to find out the name, age, breed, borough and zip code of each dog. A modular copy and art direction system then generated an individual print ad for each dog that linked to a health benefit from using Puppo’s services.

Owners were targeted by zip code and print posters were placed within dog-walking distance from their homes. The Every Dog Has its Ad campaign was also promoted by digital OOH and display ads.

The campaign saw a 68% increase in new site users within one week, 28% of which came directly from the posters. There was also a 144% increase in organic searches for Puppo.

Why it’s hot: Clients are always looking for ways to personalize their communications in unique and attention grabbing ways — here, Puppo used a variety of data (licensing information, zip code, dog breed, etc.) to create personalized geo-targeted ads to dogs and their owners. succeeding in grabbing attention and driving awareness of their product in a personalized and relevant way.

Source: Contagious.io

Should you get paid for your data? How much?

In a New York Times opinion piece, Jaron Lanier, a computer programmer and futurist, argues that our data is being robbed from us by social media companies and used for algorithmic advertisements, in what amounts to a “crazy behavioral manipulation scheme.”

His proposed solution is that we should be paid for our data. Services like social media would no longer be free, but individuals would be compensated by commissions on any purchases their data influences.

Why it’s hot: 

As digital advertisers, we have a special window into the power (or powerlessness) of data in influencing behavior. Knowing what you know, what would do you think is worth more: $5,000 or the value of all of the data you have accumulated up to this point?

Quit Clowning Around

Burger King’s latest attack on McDonald’s is tapping into the upcoming release of the IT prequel with its new Escape the Clown campaign, an interactive campaign that targets McDonald’s customers in Germany using AR and geo-tagging. Playing on popular culture, Burger King successfully stole its rival’s customers at point of sale (kind of a big deal) and drove app downloads.

Burger King placed an AR-enabled advertisement in a film-themed magazine found in McDonald’s restaurants. Customers were prompted to download the BK app in order to scan the advertisement and access an Escape the Clown coupon for a one cent Whopper at the nearest Burger King. The app gave directions to the nearest restaurant and a countdown began, encouraging customers to leave McDonald’s restaurants (and escape the clown) immediately.

Burger King also used geo-targeting to invite McDonald’s customers to seek out the magazine and scan the app in targeted ads on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: Contagious.io

Why it’s hot:
While not a new tactic for Burger King, in fact, it’s become a bit expected, by targeting customers who are already in McDonald’s restaurants, this campaign reaches its audience at the point of purchase, which in this category would’ve been an all-is-lost moment. Burger King also gamified a discount by positioning it as a challenge (get to the nearest Burger King before the countdown times out), which added an element of urgency and excitement to the offer. Not to mention that the many app downloads it generated are now also a new data source to help inform the King of other opportunities to conquest its rival.

Via now drives your kids home.

Via, a leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to provide a school bus management system for the nation’s largest school district.

As the largest school district in the nation, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes each and every day to get students safely to and from school across the City.

“Via for Schools” will be the first integrated, automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world.

Via for Schools will utilize a flexible algorithm, which allows for both stop-to-school and home-to-school pickups, accommodating students regardless of their learning style, mobility constraints, or where they live.

 

 

Parents and students will have the ability to track, in real-time, their bus’ whereabouts and receive frequent and reliable communications in the event of service changes, improving safety and bringing important peace of mind to all users of the system. By utilizing Via’s best-in-class algorithms to optimize school bus routing, the Department of Education will be able to achieve operational efficiencies and reduce transportation costs.

 

Why it’s hot:

NYC has been a testing ground for partnering with brands to improve life in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. This partnership is a slight variation on the same model, but rather than leasing out Via cars to the city, they’re giving away the technology behind Via.

Source: Fast Company

 

Selfies Get Serious: Introducing the 30-second selfie full-fitness checkup

Keeping an eye on subtle changes in common health risks is not an easy task for the average person. Yet, by the time real symptoms are obvious, it’s often too late to take the kind of action that would prevent a problem from snow-balling.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that appears capable of turning a 30-second selfie into a diagnostic tool for quantifying a range of health risks.

“Anura promises an impressively thorough physical examination for just half a minute of your time. Simply based on a person’s facial features, captured through the latest deep learning technology, it can assess heart rate, breathing, stress, skin age, vascular age, body mass index (yes, from your face!), Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke risk, cardiac workload, vascular capacity, blood pressure, and more.”

It’s easy to be skeptical about the accuracy of results possible from simply looking at a face for 30 seconds, but the researchers have demonstrated accuracy of measuring blood pressure up to 96% – and when the objective is to give people a way of realizing when it might be time to take action, that level of accuracy may actually be more than enough.

Why It’s Hot

For marketers looking to better identify the times, places and people for whom their products and services are likely to be most relevant, the convergence of biometrics with advanced algorithms and AI – all in a device most people carry around with them every day – could be a game-changer.

(This also brings up perennial issues of privacy & personal information, and trade-offs we need to make for the benefits emerging tech provides.)

Is FaceApp an Giant Russian Conspiracy… or Just an App with a Really Severe Privacy Policy

FaceApp has had it’s time in the sun over the past two years. Don’t you remember famous hits like “what you look like as a woman/man” or the very un PC “what you look like as another race”?

This week our entire feeds are filled with FaceApp photos of our friends if they were old. As well as warnings about how the tech is Russian. In our friends defense, the tech is VERY eerie.

https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1151311662592532480

Yes, the FaceApp tech has a very scary privacy/end user agreement:

But the best hot take of all comes from VICE… 

It’s not that the App is Russian is bad, it’s us allowing apps to have this much data about us at all…

“Extracting data from unsuspecting users, selling and sharing that data god-knows-where, and justifying it by providing users unreadable privacy policies is a near-universal practice. It transcends Cold War phobias. It’s not Russian. It’s not American. It’s a fundamentally capitalist practice. Companies can only provide free apps and profit if they scrape and share data from the people that use it.”

WHY ITS HOT?

We allow apps like Facebook, Instagram and snapchat to access much deeper levels of our data than they need, but it takes a true Russian scare to call us to action about this issue.

Veloretti Bikes courting car owners in Paris

Paris is Europe’s most polluted capital city. To prevent people from dying of particulate pollution, 2.7 million high-emissions cars are restricted from entering the city on weekdays — with hefty fines for noncompliance. If you work in the city, but can’t afford a new low-emissions car, this is a huge problem. You need to get into Paris, and may in theory also want to curb your emissions, but that’s not your main concern — you need to get to work! So what can you do? You’ll ride the train even though it’s a serious downgrade from your car. You might consider a bike, but making the switch to commuting by bike would require more of a nudge because it entails a bigger change in your lifestyle.

Amsterdam-based Veloretti bikes saw this as an opportunity to give car owners the nudge they needed to make that lifestyle change. They rode the wave of interest in clean mobility and sustainable urban transport during European Mobility Week 2018 by offering personalized bike discounts to 5 million Parisian car owners based on their car’s emissions ratings. This positioned the brand as not only helping car-owners, but helping the city itself solve its pollution problems.

The brand plugged the public database of license plates into a Shopify script, converting plates into coupon codes, which users could enter on Veloretti’s site. This gave Veloretti emissions information on a prospective bike-buyer’s car, which was used to automatically calculate a personalized discount at the POS. The worse the emissions score of your car, the deeper discount you got for a new Veloretti bike.

Seeing your car’s negative environmental impact at a time when both pollution and awareness of the need for clean mobility is at its peak in your city was coupled with a commensurate discount on a more sustainable transportation option.

Why it’s hot:

1. License plate discount is only revealed after user has placed a bike into their online cart. Commitment to purchase is strengthened as user sees their emissions score and subsequent discount.

2. Positioning their brand as a solution to pressures from macro forces and social trends (climate change, pollution, fines for driving in Paris, Mobility Week) at the time when awareness of these pressures was at its peak.

3. Highlighting a pain point with a competing product and immediately flipping it into a tangible financial benefit for their product — at the POS.

Read more: Contagious I/O

Harmless meme or massive data mining initiative?

WIRED op-ed writer Katie O’Neill tweeted last week, somewhat in jest:

In the article this conversation spawned, she unpacks the hypothetical that any mindless data we share (as part of this week’s viral sensation, or any other future social media trend) could unknowingly feed technologies behind the scenes. Exploring the implications of facial recognition technology, particularly for age progression, is a fascinating (and somewhat horrifying) thought experiment. And while FB insists that nothing of the sort is happening, the reaction to O’Neill’s tweet signals the growing overall awareness (and wariness) towards big tech – and the healthy dose of skepticism that people are beginning to direct towards the platforms they use every day.

WHY IT’S HOT:

It’s not a question of that FB could do what O’Neill writes, but more a matter of users’ awareness and attention to the use of their personal content, information, and likeness across all channels.  O’Neill summarizes: “Humans are the connective link between the physical and digital worlds. Human interactions are the majority of what makes the Internet of Things interesting. Our data is the fuel that makes businesses smarter and more profitable.

We should demand that businesses treat our data with due respect, by all means. But we also need to treat our own data with respect.”

SOURCE: WIRED https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-10-year-meme-challenge/

bots against bias…

Research late last year revealed that sources quoted in Financial Times articles were ~80% men, and only ~20% women. To fix this, FT recently revealed a new bot aimed at balancing those numbers, calling it “She Said, He Said”.

According to its press release, “She Said, He Said” “uses pronouns and first names [in an article] to determine whether a source is male or a female”, then it will “integrate prompts into the CMS to highlight any gender imbalance prior to publication and remind editors to think about sourcing at the commissioning stage”.

This follows FT’s previously revealed “JanetBot”, which “tracks the number of women featured in images on the home page”, giving real-time feedback to editors as they change what’s featured over the course of each day. It’s all part of a greater strategy FT is using to try and balance its appeal among both genders.

Why It’s Hot

There’s obviously plenty of room for technology to surface bias in news reporting, and it’s great to see one of the world’s most prominent daily outlets using it to do just that. It’s another example of how technology can help us see things we otherwise might not, and allow us to correct it – effectively balancing our human capabilities.

[Source]

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

Nike is heading to a famed LA shopping area to reinvent itself as a data-driven, direct-to-consumer brand

Nike unveiled its new concept store, Melrose by Nike, on Melrose Avenue in LA. Everything about it, including its location and the products it stocks, is determined by how people in the area interact with the brand.

The idea is to blend the physical and digital shopping experience. Everything about the store is designed to work with the Nike Plus app.  As soon as you enter the geo-fenced area, you start getting special deals on the app. If they think you’d be interested in a product they have on hand, whether you’ve specified it or not, they’ll reserve it for you in your size. All you have to do is access one of the many lockers in the store. If you see apparel you like, you scan the code, and a salesperson will come to you with it in your size.

Why it’s hot:

Brick and mortar business has grown stale. By blurring the line between digital and physical shopping, the customer will have a more personalized experience.

An Inaccurate Census Could Have Big Consequences

It was recently revealed that the Department of Justice is pressing to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. This question, one that has not been included in the census since the 50s, is believed to be meant to deter immigrant communities from participating, typically Democratic communities, and therefore depressing final population count and the distribution if house representatives, which is tied to population, not citizenry. John Thompson, who served as director of the Census Bureau until he resigned last year said:

The risk that really troubles me is that there’s a big undercount and then there’s a big lack of representation.

So what are the repursussions of a lower response rate other than less house seats for Democrats? It will be harder for the Center for Disease control to predict outbreaks if they think certain places have lower population (and therefore falsely higher instances of reported disease.

It’s also bad for brand strategists!

Why it’s hot?

Brand strategist need to know the true population of certain areas almost all of our research contain some sort of data from the US Census. Inconsistencies in census data one of the true long term high dats resources is a real loss for industry across the board.

 

 

Spotify’s Wrapped feature is awesome

Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature is now up to give users insights into what they streamed over the past twelve months. Wrapped, which replaced Spotify’s personalized Year in Music feature last year, tells you the amount of time you spent streaming music in 2016 and how many songs and artists you listened to. Then it quizzes you to see how well you know your own listening habits before making a personalized playlist of 30 songs you might have missed this year. (check it out: 2017Wrapped.com)

Why it’s hot: Yet another way that Spotify is leveraging user data for audience engagement. This is a bit of a step up from their ‘year in review’ in-app experience, and they are providing an extra value add at the end. They are showing you 30 new songs that you might not know of yet, and proving how well they know you and your taste. Could they get any better?!

Bonus: Un-related, fun, Friday Instagram post that you never knew you needed. Enjoy.

This is my favorite thing I’ve ever read. Swipe left and tell me which dish you’d make. (@prozacmorris_)

A post shared by Sloane Steel (@iamsloanesteel) on

 

tl;dr officially graduates to nm;dr…

Everything you think you know about content consumption on the internet is true.

Notre Dame researchers recently found that 73% of Redditors who volunteered for their study didn’t actually click through to links they upvoted, 84% clicked on content in less than 50% of their pageloads, and 94% did so in less than 40% of their pageloads.

Why it’s hot:

As people, it’s not. We’ve become a headline society.

As we all know, “fake news” is now a legitimate cultural phenomenon, and the lack of investigation and questioning the accuracy or legitimacy of content, opinions, ratings, even social media accounts means manipulative powers that can and have been misused by those with nefarious objectives.

But as marketers, before we make any ad, digital experience, tweet, product, or even business decision, the headline test has never been more important.

A good exercise is to write the positive headlines you hope to see as a result of what you’re thinking of doing, and the potential negative ones. Look at both, then decide the fate and/or form of your effort.

[ieee.org]

On a much lighter note, as a bonus, Google’s Santa Tracker experience is now live with Santa’s Village. Leading up to the holidays, it’s offering “access to games, a learning experience about holiday traditions around the world, and a Code Lab teaching kids basic coding skills” and an advent calendar unlocking a new game or experience each day between now and Christmas.

Facebook Testing Allows Marketers To See What People Are Saying

Facebook is soon going to let us peek inside the very innards of the Big Blue Factory and see exactly how it’s fueled – the deal here is that Facebook is apparently testing the ability to give marketers and the like the opportunity to analyze “what topics, themes, brands and products are being discussed.”

The beta test isn’t expected to be widely available until next year, according to people familiar with the offering who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss something Facebook hasn’t announced yet. Early ad partners, which include top agencies and media companies, are searching Facebook’s vast history of public posts to see what topics, themes, brands and products are being discussed. Users’ identities are withheld.

It’s all still very hush hush.

Why It’s Hot:

The new tool could help marketers see the social network in a whole new dimension, and even give them a broader understanding of their businesses, with data that informs them about trends in the industry and the consumer mindset.

Facebook has always been much less interested in the content of posts than how people respond to them. “On Facebook, you know everything about a person from their profile, what they liked and who they connect with,” says one agency executive in the test. “But Facebook is not good at knowing what people are saying, what they’re posting.”

Uber introduces a credit card

Uber is getting into the credit card business.

Announced Wednesday in partnership with Barclays and Visa at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas, the new card gives Uber yet another point of access to incredibly valuable customer information and marks another front in its campaign to assume a larger role in online and offline commerce.

Not content with just having a record of some of the comings and goings of the at least 10 million people that use the company’s ride-hailing service every day, Uber will now get a record of some of those folks’ daily purchases through the new card.

Starting November 2, Uber will give users the option to get the card right in its app, and will populate all of the information they have on file for their customers into the application.

The card is automatically available for use for Uber rides and UberEats purchases and a physical card will show up in the mail within a week or so.

The no-fee card offers a bonus of $100 after spending $500 on purchases within the first 90 days, and has other perks, like 4% back on restaurants, take-out and bar purchases; 3% back on airfare, hotels and Airbnb or other short-stay rentals; 2% back on online purchases; and 1% back on everything else. 

The app’s integration within Uber looks beautiful, and it’s a clever way to capture all that valuable data… If you’ve already given up on the notion that data is any way private or not a commodity, then the card is probably not a bad bet… the perks seem good.

Source: Tech Crunch 

Why It’s Hot

Because, data and customer experience. The implications for what data Uber can now have on their customers is immense, and it will be interesting to see how they innovate to turn that into more personalized service for their customers.

 

Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

Spotify for Artists

Spotify For Artists is an app launching this week that gives musicians and their managers mobile access to super-detailed analytics about their music and the people listening to it.

The Spotify For Artists app takes some of the most useful insights about an artist’s music—which songs are most popular, how many streams they’re getting over all, where those listeners live, and which playlists are helping win over new fans—and boils them down into digestible graphical charts. It’s a bit like Google Analytics for rappers, electronic DJs, and pop stars.

This isn’t the first time Spotify has made this kind of data available. Spotify For Artists is a product that first launched on the web in April, after a private beta period. First, Spotify opened it up to all artists (the first big, on-demand streaming app of its kind to do so). Now it’s letting them access it on their phones.

The app also gives artists some control over their presence on Spotify, allowing them to do things like update their bios, post playlists, and select the “artist’s pick” track that Spotify lets them display on their profiles.

Spotify For Artists is part of a broader effort to build more artist-facing tools and ’empower’ them. The company also started a program called Fans First, which uses data to detect the most obsessive listeners of a given artist and target them with special offers like pre-sale concert tickets or exclusive merchandise. The company has also been working harder to strengthen its relationships within the music industry and among artists, in part by hiring former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter.

Why it’s hot: This is yet another way in which Spotify is leveraging their data in an interesting and unexpected way. It is great to see them making it readily available for artists who can benefit from knowing more about their core users. Additionally, making it available on a mobile app vs. just desktop (as they launched in April) makes this an even more accessible and useful tool to the music industry.

Source: FastCo

Few Marketers Use a Single System of Record for Data Management

From social listening insight to email metrics, US marketers rely on a slew of data sources to inform their decisions. But less than 9% of those polled by mobile marketing provider Tune in March 2017 said they use a single system of record to bring all that data together.

Instead, roughly 21% of respondents rely on multiple databases, and 16.5% use a marketing cloud service to house data.

Though not quite the same thing, a well-integrated marketing cloud could potentially serve more functions than a single system of record. It could not only bring data together, but also deliver actionable insights to marketers and operationalize them through email marketing, social media and other channels.

Why it’s hot?

  • Having no centralized repository of data has been a challenge rife amongst my clients. By having disparate and at time conflicting metrics for success, silos have been established, and politics increase.

Pay for Art Using Your… Screenshots?

Customers gave up personal data for art pieces to take home at this London based pop-up store.

“London based street artist Ben Eine recently opened a pop-up shop for his work; instead of paying with cash, however, customers at this the Data Dollar Store have to give up their personal information. The shop, opened in collaboration with cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab, is meant to make customers reevaluate the information they often freely give away by the social media channels they are using. “I’m concerned about how that information is used and why are we not rewarded for giving this information away,” Eine told Cnet. “Companies use that information and target us to sell products, to feed us information that we wouldn’t necessarily look at.”

The store was set up in a temporary space at the Old Street Underground station in London. When visitors entered the store, an employee showed them the purchasing options:

  • Giving up three photos or screenshots of your recent text or email conversations for a mug
  • Giving up the last three photos on your Camera Roll, or the last three text messages sent, for a tshirt
  • Handing your phone over to the assistant to select any five photos to keep, publicly displayed on a large TV screen in the store for the next two days (you can attempt to barter for which photos they’ll pick, but the choice is up to them).

The store is meant to raise awareness about the sometimes risky informational exchanges that are happening all the time online. According to Kaspersky Lab, while 74 percent of survey respondents were unconcerned about data security, 41 percent were unprotected from potential threats and 20 percent have been affected by cybercrime.

Source: PSFK

Produce is War: How Driscoll’s Reinvented the Strawberry

“Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies.” This lengthy New Yorker article recently dove into how Driscoll’s uses market insight and crop science to build their monopoly on the berry market.

Strawberry from New Yorker

“Driscoll’s focus groups have shown that millennials, adventurous and open-minded in their eating habits, and easily seduced by novelty, may embrace pale berries. With these consumers, unburdened by preconceived notions of what a white berry should look or taste like, Driscoll’s has a priceless opportunity: the definitional power that comes with first contact.”

“According to Frances Dillard, Driscoll’s global brand strategist and a veteran of Disney’s consumer-products division, berries are the produce category most associated with happiness. (Kale, in contrast, has a health-control, “me” focus.) On a slide that Dillard prepared, mapping psychographic associations with various fruits, strawberries floated between Freedom and Harmony, in a zone marked Extrovert, above a word cloud that read “Social, pleasure, joy, balance, conviviality, friendship, warmth, soft, natural, sharing.” (Blueberries vibed as status-oriented, demanding, and high-tech.) As I studied the slide over Dillard’s shoulder in her office, she smiled tightly and said, “This is proprietary.”

Why it’s hot: It’s pretty cool to learn how our favorite fruits came to be. I thought this was a cool case study in now market demand and consumer behavior drive product innovation and brand stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Goes Offline with a Physical Bookstore

After helping drive many U.S. bookstore chains out of business, Amazon has been opening its own retail stores recently.

Its first Amazon Books location in New York City opened in Manhattan’s Shops at Columbus Circle, which was previously home to a pretty large — and now closed — Borders Books and Music.

A customer review, the number of total Amazon.com reviews and a star rating are displayed under each book on the shelf. All the books in the store either received four-star ratings and above on Amazon.com, or come from lists of best sellers or a hand-curated selection of new, yet-to-be reviewed titles.

The brick-and-mortar locations aim to provide a “mecca of discovery” for book lovers, according to Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. The books all have the covers, not the spines, facing out, to encourage browsing —even though the store could have fit as many as 5,000 more titles if books were displayed the conventional way, Cast said.

Why It’s Hot:

Though it’s possible to check out like a regular bookstore, Amazon Books offers significant discounts to Amazon Prime members. This provides a strong incentive for customers to join Amazon Prime — a program that analysts say prompts more spending on Amazon.com.

Experts say that by converting just two or three dozen customers a day to Prime would result in a tremendous growth in revenue. Customer lifetime value for most Amazon customers is in the low thousands of dollars.

No One Lies to Google

Recently Vox came out with an article interviewing Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Who said that polling that predicted Hillary Clinton’s win might have been up ended if pollsters had been exposed to data from Google.

Stephens did a deep dive into Google Trends under the hypothesis that people lie to pollsters, but they don’t lie to Google. He saw trends in increased searches of racial epithets and analyzed area data to find intent to vote (searching for polling places, researching candidates, etc.)

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,” Stephens-Davidowitz says. “Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.”

When asked what he sees as his most startling finding…

I’m pretty convinced that the United States has a self-induced abortion crisis right now based on the volume of search inquiries. I was blown away by how frequently people are searching for ways to do abortions themselves now. These searches are concentrated in parts of the country where it’s hard to get an abortion and they rose substantially when it became harder to get an abortion. They’re also, I calculate, missing pregnancies in these states that aren’t showing up in either abortion or birth rates.

Why It’s Hot:

We are at a point of crisis in polling and electoral faith, if we have Google data to help us match results this might restore confidence in our system. This also can help point us to where people are under served or suffering in our country. By keeping anonymity, this lie free data collection keeps users protected but could use data for good…. or bad, I guess.

Source: https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/6/13/15768622/facebook-social-media-seth-stephens-davidowitz-everybody-lies

Hey, Uncle Sam! Where’d the money go?

Government data is available, but it’s not exactly accessible. A new project from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Seattle design studio Artefact aim to change that. Called USAFacts, it’s an ambitious, $10 million effort to present government data in a way that’s open, non-partisan, and stupidly easy to understand. The website, launching today, organizes 30 years of data from more than 70 local, state, and federal government agencies into a well-designed, centralized hub that its creators hope will give people a clearer picture of how the government makes and spends money. Annual reports and quarterly reports will be created as the project matures.

The project is funded by Ballmer and ran with the support of Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, UPenn’s Wharton school of business, and Lynchburg College.

Why It’s Hot:

It’s a worthy mission and one that’s been hamstrung in the past by shoddy organization and presentation. Ballmer’s platform makes it easier to find the governmental data you’re looking for—and the data you didn’t know you were looking for. Now it’s just up to the people to make use of it.

“I just think it’s important if you are going to make your case, for you to make your case in the context of numbers,” Ballmer said. “Here are the numbers. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist. You don’t have to be an economist. You decide what you believe. And when things come up that you need to vote on, you need to opine on; you’ll have the view of a citizen that’s informed by facts.”