How does Zoom make money?

Have you wondered what Zoom’s revenue model and pricing structure is like?

Infographic: Zoom's Revenue Skyrockets On Pandemic Boost | Statista

“As the chart shows, Zoom saw its revenue skyrocket in the past three months, accelerating an already impressive upward trend. In the quarter ended April 30, total revenue for the video conferencing company amounted to $328 million, up 169 percent from the same period of last year. For the ongoing quarter, Zoom expects another jump in revenue to $495 to $500 million as working from home will remain highly prevalent as long as the pandemic hasn’t run its course.”

 

The free version limits usage time to 40 minutes while limiting user count to 100 attendees. To lift these restrictions, customers will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Businesses or individuals have to pay $14.99 when billed monthly or $12.49/month for annual billing.

Zoom Rooms

Zoom Rooms are conference rooms systems that allow organizations to run video meetings. Customers can utilize their existing hardware providers such as Polycom and Cisco or purchase from Zoom-certified hardware providers.

The company’s Professional Services unit then ensures that the installation of conference rooms runs as smoothly as possible.

Customers are charged a monthly subscription fee, which comes in at $49 a month per installed conference room (or $41.58 per month when billed annually).

Furthermore, Zoom partners up with manufacturers like DTEN or Aver to provide their customers with the necessary hardware tools.

Zoom Video Webinars 

Zoom Video Webinars is a web conferencing service that allows users to broadcast a Zoom meeting to up to 10,000 view-only attendees. Webinars start at a capacity of 100 participants and scale up to 10,000 participants, depending on the license bought.

Webinar pricing starts at $14.99 per month and user (when billed monthly). On top of that, a webinar license must be purchased. The price depends on the number of attendees hosted. 

 

Why it’s hot: Certain companies and sectors have benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic and video communications technologies like Zoom have been one of the biggest beneficiaries.

Sources: One, Two

Prescription Game

Designed to help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), EndeavorRx is the first game that’s allowed to be prescribed by doctors as medical treatment.

The game should not be considered an alternative to medication, but is officially approved by the US FDA. The game, aimed at patients age 8-12, can be plaid on an iPad or iPhone and has been found (after clinical trials for 7 years) to reduce attention-deficit for 1/3 of participants.

Introducing Akili

Akili, the creator of the game aims to reimagine what medicine can be. They are pairing neuroscience with the latest technology and video game entertainment in the hopes of challenging the status quo of medicine.

Why it’s hot: Gaming addiction was declared a legitimate disorder by the WHO last year and has taken flak in regards to violence. But, with Covid lockdowns and their ensuing madness, more and more people of all ages are realizing the benefits of gaming.

Sources:

CNBC – See the first-ever game approved by the FDA as a mental health treatment
Distractify – How the EndeavorRX game works
Forbes  – Games are great for your mental health study finds

Just Copy Paste from Real Life

Designer Cyril Diagne (AI/UX “artist” in residence at Google) has built a beta AR app that takes IRL objects and adds them to your photoshop work. It’s real world copy paste.

Here’s how it works: you point your phone at a book sitting on your desk, the software produces an image of just the book on your phone screen, you point the phone at your computer, and the book image gets pasted into the Photoshop document. It looks like straight-up magic (or at least like a scene from Minority Report or something):”

Check out Cyrils thread about how the sausage gets made:

Why it’s hot? Why it’s hot you ask?!

Well. The computers are taking our jobs. Just kidding. Their making our jobs easier. This is the kind of seamless transition that we wish our phones and work computers could have with each other. Our new digital first age (put on overdrive due to the coronavirus) is taking us to places we’ve only dreamed of — now we get to see our dreams as reality!

Hands-free@Home

COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales of voice control devices

Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.

Why It’s Hot:  A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.

With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question

Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.

“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.

When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.

“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.

Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.

He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.

“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”

The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.

“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”

Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.

Source: TechRepublic

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.

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).

Delta’s turned Minority Report technology into a reality

Delta Airline is adopting new screen technology to add another layer of personalization to customer journeys.

Delta has struck up a partnership with technology company Misapplied Sciences to launch the Parallel Reality beta experience for flyers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality displays are an opt-in technology which, according to Misapplied Sciences, allow ‘a hundred or more’ consumers to view personalized content tailored to their unique journey needs via a single screen.

For Delta, adopting this technology means providing new way-finding opportunities: from displaying only relevant flight information to the viewer and translating that information into a language of the consumer’s choice.

For the beta launch in Detroit, almost 100 customers will be able to view content personalized to their needs. The partnership was announced at CES 2020, which makes Delta the first airline to keynote and exhibit at the event.

Why it’s hot: Delta is taking an existing technology and transforming it into a tool to improve customer experience. It’s taking the idea of one-to-one communication and personalization to the next level. Not to mention the company’s commitment to digital transformation unveiling several other consumer innovations alongside Parallel Reality at CES 2020. The announcements included an expanded partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft to help streamline journeys, a new AI-driven machine learning platform that analyses millions of data points, and even a wearable robotic exoskeleton for its employees.

Source: Contagious.io

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.”

Click-to-Buy Experiences take on a new (analog) life

‘Contextual shopping’: Publishers are using model homes for retail experiences

Home-related publications like Real Simple, Hunker and Domino are using model houses to create experiential retail experiences that can drive affiliate revenue.

Domino magazine has created staged homes for years. But this year’s house, located in Sag Harbor, NY was the first to include shoppable technology into the space. In partnership with Stage&Shop, a real estate agency and an app developer, Domino created an app that integrate codes into all of the house’s furniture and design elements that people touring the home could scan to purchase them.

Domino’s winter issue will have a feature on the home, which will also include QR codes for those products that readers use their smartphone to scan.

Brands were included in the home through product placement, and affiliate links were used in the shoppable content as well as in the house itself. But the primary revenue driver for the project still comes from the content created surrounding the home, including its print spread and digital elements. And while it’s an ongoing franchise for the brand, Cho said that Domino isn’t leaning on that revenue, but is looking for constant iterations of how to make the project better and a bigger piece of the puzzle.

 

Why It’s Hot:  An interesting convergence of digital and physical, potentially symbiotically solving parallel/complementary problems of retail and ecommerce experiences:

  • Online purchase is convenient, but I don’t get to see, touch, try physical goods before buying.
  • Retail purchase is experiential, but I don’t want all of the friction of purchase and transport home.

Immortalized in Film…? Not so fast.

Tencent Shows The Future Of Ads; Will Add Ads In Existing Movies, TV Shows

One of China’s largest online video platforms is setting out to use technology to integrate branded content into movies and TV shows from any place or era.

(Yes, a Starbucks on Tatooine…or Nike branded footwear for the first moonwalk.)

Why It’s Hot:  

  1. Potentially exponential expansion of available ad inventory
  2. Increased targetability by interest, plus top-spin of borrowed interest
  3. Additional revenue streams for content makers
  4. New questions of the sanctity of creative vision, narrative intent and historical truth

Advertising is an integral part of any business and with increasing competition, it’s more important than ever to be visible. Mirriad, a computer-vision and AI-powered platform company, recently announced its partnership with Tencent which is about the change the advertising game. If you didn’t know, Tencent is one of the largest online video platforms in China. So how does it change the advertising game, you ask?

Mirriad’s technology enables advertisers to reach their target audience by integrating branded content (or ads) directly into movies and TV series. So, for instance, if an actor is holding just a regular cup of joe in a movie, this new API will enable Tencent to change that cup of coffee into a branded cup of coffee. Matthew Brennan, a speaker and a writer who specialises in analysing Tencent & WeChat shared a glimpse of how this tech works.

While we’re not sure if these ads will be clickable, it’ll still have a significant subconscious impact, if not direct. Marketers have long talked of mood marketing that builds a personal connection between the brand and the targeted user. So, with the ability to insert ads in crucial scenes and moments, advertisers will now be able to engage with their target users in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Mirriad currently has a 2-year contract with Tencent where they’ll trial exclusively on the latter’s video platform. But if trials are successful in that they don’t offer a jarring viewing experience, we can soon expect this tech to go mainstream.

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.)

Apple and New Museum launch AR art tours

A new way for people to experience the city!

A new way for artists to engage the public!

A new way to think about experiencing space!

Brought to you by Apple! Apple’s brand and value proposition permeates this entire experience.

Why it’s hot

Apple is positioning itself as a brand that can bring a new magical realm to life. As we work out the ways in which AR will play a role in our lives, this project sells AR in a surprising and fun way, perhaps warming people up to the idea that a life lived with a layer of AR mapped over the physical world would be desirable.

Source: Dezeen

Breaking the Bias One Translation at a Time

The words we use daily can directly affect our perception and the way we think. For example, the effect of gender bias on language can influence how both women and men see certain professions. The terms cameraman, fireman and policeman, for example, are perceived as more masculine, while words like midwife are more stereotypically feminine.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/what-do-you-mean

Released on International Women’s Day 2019, ElaN Languages has created The Unbias Button, to translate biased words, such as job titles, into gender-neutral ones.

Why it’s hot: This is a subtle way to change our awareness of the words we use on a daily basis.

Mobile Supermarkets IRL

If the people don’t go to the grocery store, have the grocery store come to them. Stop & Shop is planning to pilot driverless vehicles that bring the grocery store to the customer rather than the other way around. 
Source: https://www.supermarketnews.com/retail-financial/stop-shop-test-self-driving-grocery-stores

Due to launch in the spring in Boston, the initiative will use autonomous electric vehicles from Robomart Inc. to carry an assortment of produce, meal kits, and convenience items to customers.

The process works as follows:
– Stop & Shop customers use a smartphone app to request a shopping visit from the closest Robomart.
– When the vehicle arrives, customers go outside, unlock the vehicle’s doors and then pick the fruit, vegetables and other products they want to buy off the shelves inside.
– After taking their items, they just close the doors and send the vehicle on its way.
– The vehicles’ RFID and computer vision ”grab-and-go” technologyautomatically records the products customers selected and charges them.
– Receipts are e-mailed in seconds.

Answers to questions you may be asking yourself:

  1. Stop & Shop store associates will be restocking the teleoperated vehicles with fresh items throughout their journey to ensure the best selection.
  2. Perishables will be kept fresh via purpose-built refrigeration and temperature control.
  3. Pricing and fees are still undetermined.

Why it’s hot: This solution could potentially eliminate the biggest pain point in online food delivery, allowing the customer to select their own produce.

Choose Your Own Adventure Comes to Netflix’s Black Mirror

While everyone spent their Holiday breaks blindfolding themselves after watching “Bird Box” on Netflix against the advice of the streaming service, Netflix also rolled out an interactive standalone Black Mirror movie on Dec. 28.  The interactive movie allows viewers to choose the ending.

Image result for bandersnatch

Via NY Times:

“Black Mirror,” the speculative fiction series that encouraged people to be wary of new technology, is now hoping they will embrace it. The Netflix show released just one episode on Friday, a narrative titled “Bandersnatch” during which the viewer decides what will happen next.

It begins like this: Should the teenage video game whiz Stefan have Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast? Soon the choices become more consequential. Will Stefan work at a game company, tell his therapist about his mother, take his meds? As so often on “Black Mirror,” reality is up for grabs.

Viewers are voting on more than who lives and dies on one program. If the response to “Bandersnatch” is enthusiastic, Netflix will take it as a strong signal that the public is ready for interactive movies and television shows, and a new age of storytelling will commence.

Not that the company needs much encouragement. It has already developed software to help organize stories that have endless permutations. It has perfected, or so it hopes, the technical ability to present these tales on multiple platforms around the world simultaneously. And it is calling for producers to submit interactive proposals in genres from horror to romantic comedy while hinting that it already has a few new shows in the works.

The idea behind the interactive push is simple: Viewers will care more if they are complicit.

“If bad things happen, you’ll feel even more crestfallen, because you were responsible,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president for product. “If the character is victorious, you’ll feel even more uplifted because you made that choice.”

Source: NY Times, Read More Here.

Why It’s Hot: As more and more streaming services vie for the same pieces of the pie, services like Netflix and Hulu are constantly looking for ways to be the next most talked about show.  If “Black Mirror Bandersnatch” does well, interactive long form content may be the next big thing for entertainment, much like what “Avatar” did for 3D, and what Pokemon Go did for AR.

Stay Tuned.  The Future is Bright. 

Audi Wants To Make it Easier to Pay Tolls

Companies like EZPass on the East Coast, FasTrak in California and TxTag in Texas have been helping people get through tolls faster with electronic tag devices for years. But soon, they’ll be in competition with cars that have electronic toll technology built in.

Starting with their new electronic vehicle e-tron, Audi is launching what they’re calling “Integrated Toll Module.” The technology leverages a toll transponder within the car’s rear-view mirror. Drivers will be able to pair their cars with wireless toll payment accounts, eliminating the need for a physical electronic tag.

audi e tron features integrated electronic toll tag technology module

The system places a toll transponder into the car’s rear-view mirror. From there, drivers will be able to pair their vehicle with their wireless toll accounts So there’s no more need to mount and deal with physical electronic tag devices on the upper portion of the windshield, or on the front license plate.

Audi says its Integrated Toll Modules are already compatible with existing toll agencies, meaning it will be easy to register new accounts and to drive cross-country between different toll authorities.

Why It’s Hot

Paying for tolls is a major hassle and source of traffic. Having technology built into cars to alleviate this problem can make many drivers’ daily commutes and longer trips significantly more pleasant.

Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/audi-e-tron-features-integrated-electronic-toll-tag-technology/ 

Soundtrack of Your Life

Royal Caribbean is partnering with Berklee College of music to set your vacation photos to music using AI.

 Source: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/royal-caribbean-now-sets-your-vacation-photos-to-music-using-ai/amp/

Launching this week, Royal Caribbean is launching an online tool that turns user images into mini-videos with original music assembled by AI and inspired by the images themselves.

A picture from a botanical garden, of red flowers and green leaves, generates two bars of smooth jazz. An elaborate piece of graffiti on a brick wall renders into a crunching hip-hop beat.

The machine-learning process entailed more than 600 hours in which Royal Caribbean and a team of musicians and technologists reviewed hundreds of music tracks along with 10,000 photos, matching each of the 2.5 million combinations to one of 11 moods.

The A.I. in SoundSeeker uses Google Cloud Vision to identify objects, facial expressions and colors in a user’s photo by referencing the roadmap developed by the leaders in music theory at Berklee.

Why it’s hot

Tourism industry is always at the forefront of individualization beyond personalization by making something so personal and making it truly unique.

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.

Overcoming the Challenges of Wearable Tech

Project Jacquard, an experimental initiative from Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, has partnered with Levi’s to create the Commuter Trucker denim jacket.


Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40473911/google-and-levis-stitch-up-a-connected-jacket

“Aside from a couple of visual tells—subtle patches of raised stitches and a plastic button on its cuff—the Levi’s Commuter Trucker looks exactly like what you’d expect from the 144-year-old brand: a timeless jean jacket that keeps you warm while looking cool. But appearances deceive. The jacket is actually an interface between you and your phone. Brush, tap, or cover the right spot and you can answer or ignore calls, switch up your music, or get travel-time updates, all without looking at a screen.”

The Challenges

  1. Creating durable conductive thread. Tech is treated with gloves, textiles are meant to endure tough situations from being exposed to fire (to remove extra cotton fibers) to heated presses and pre-skewing (Levi’s process where toothed grips latch and torque the fabric).
  2. Figuring out how the wearer would interact with the interface, which is stitched onto the sleeve). “Levi’s and Google arrived at four main motions: brush in, brush out, tap, or cover the connected area. The actions are subtle enough so you can silence an incoming phone call during a conversation and it just looks like you’re brushing dust off your sleeve.”

Although relatively primitive, the gestures don’t do much more than what the remote control on earbuds, this is a starting point.

Why it’s hot:

  • Because although voice-based interactions are becoming more an more prevalent (Siri or Alexa), touch still has an important role to play in our future interactions with new technology meant to disrupt and replace our screens.

Pillboxes May Not Belong in the “Internet of Things” After All

Many people working in the healthcare space have been excited about the potential of expanding device connectivity to medication administration in recent years. After all, pill bottles are “things” so why not incorporate them into the “Internet of Things,” right?

As a result, various private innovation firms, as well as major pharmaceutical companies, have been making significant investments in developing “connected” medication dispensing systems in an effort to combat poor treatment compliance.

Lack of compliance – a patient’s inability to take a given medication as intended by their physician – is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $100 billion to $300 billion dollars a year.

Take, for example, a therapy that is self-administered once daily that also needs to be titrated to meet the unique, metabolic needs of a particular patient. If the patient skips a few doses, goes in for a follow up and swears, “Scout’s Honor, Doc!” that he didn’t miss a day – but in fact only remembered to take it about 60% of the time – the dose adjustment the HCP gives him to meet his unique, but misrepresented, needs may trigger an adverse event – pharma-speak for “serious side-effect” – if he suddenly decides to take the medication as intended.

Now consider the value of a medication container that communicates with the patient’s Bluetooth equipped phone. It can remind the patient to take his medication, record the time it was taken down to the second, and, when paired with a wearable technology, could also record additional health related data that gives additional context. This additional context also gives the health care provider more context in which to manage chronic conditions.

When paired with a relevant app, it can also give an additional view into consumer behavior to help marketers better understand optimal cadence and content topics to increase performance in their marketing plans.

However, a recent study published in JAMA showed that a study of post heart attack patients who were provided electronic pill bottles, combined with financial incentives and social support for medication adherence, had the same outcome in terms of re-hospitalization rate, medication adherence, and total medical costs as those who were not provided these resources.

Why It’s Hot:

While making the health connection has been a major leap forward from a technological perspective, it hasn’t solved the challenge of reshaping human behavior. Yet.

Until this technology has a better rate of success in reshaping patient outcomes, broader adoption of this technology may be in question.

Smog Eating Bikes to Alleviate Beijing Smog

Beijing’s smog condition is out of control, but design firm Studio Roosegaarde is up for the challenge of reducing or eliminating it.

The anti-smog bicycles are expected to hit the Chinese city’s streets by the end of the year.

Here’s how the bikes work: A device installed near the handlebars of the bike sucks in smoggy air and filters out particulates like soot or dust, clearing the way for what will essentially be a bubble of clean air right in front of the rider.

The bikes are still in the planning stage, so their effectiveness has yet to be put to the test, but it’s possible that this air-filtration system could benefit more than just the cyclist who rides it. With Roosegaarde’s partner bike-sharing service Ofo providing access to over 6.5 million bikes in Asia and the U.K., a lot of air could end up running through those filters.

(Source:https://www.good.is/articles/beijing-bicycles-remove-smog-directly-from-the-air)

The design firm is known for creating other anti-smog tech. In 2016, they created a Smog Free tower, a 22 foot tall construction that can filter a million cubic feet an hour, with much of the particulate matter collected made into fashion accessories.

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Outside the box thinking of enabling everyday items to help reduce pollution and help the environment is another way of tackling our environmental concerns that is accessible and feasible.

Augmented reality without glasses

Diagram of artificial lense

Artificial lens diagram via techcrunch.com

Six months ago, Omega Ophthalmics did a small trial of seven patients outside of the US. Their goal was to test for adverse effects of a surgery similar to lens replacements that often accompany cataract removals. The difference? Rather than replacing the cloudy lens with a normal artificial lens, surgeons instead implanted a lens that could be used for augmented reality, interactive sensors, or drug delivery.

Why it’s hot

Although widespread adoption of this technology is unlikely in the near future, scientists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists hope that there is a market for such implants in an aging population that wants to be independent for longer. Whether this small trial is successful may pave the way for larger trials to test additional possibilities and risk.

Learn more at TechCrunch.com

Beyond The Pill is moving to Game On!

Can conservative Pharma companies becomes Gamers? Although a large investment by Merck and AMGEN was announced several months ago, the repercussions are now being felt. This could help open up the long pent-up demand for innovation by Pharma manufacturers.

The investment news came last summer, as quoted in FierceBiotech: “Akili Interactive Labs, the Boston-based startup developing nonpharmacological therapeutics for various cognitive disorders like autism and Alzheimer’s disease, got an $11.9 million boost in funding, raising its total Series B proceeds to $42.4 million.” Basically, they use gamification to improve cognitive function.

Recently, the new Pharma and gamer partners announced their first accomplishment, EVO, the game:

The first game application for children with a cognitive disorder has proven highly effective. This gives the marketers a differentiating aspect to their Rx. Being a fact-based industry, this is big news.

Why is this hot?

  • The terms “Beyond The Pill” has become the industries code for “innovation” — trying to offer some technology or service to make their drug stand-out in the minds of doctors and consumers. “Innovation” is a word that is intensely frightening to most Pharma marketers. For several years, as more and more blockbusters (drugs with sales over $1 billion) become generics (70% of ALL drugs are now generics), Pharma has been haphazardly explored partnerships and technologies, but has often failed due to cultural entropy and conservatism in the C-suite. This is a first.
  • Change needs to come from the C-suite: $11 million is a lot of money, especially for an industry so conservative and ROI-obsessed.  Every company, even MRM-McCann clients, are looking for ways to engage patients from clinical trials through drug adherence — the entire product lifecycle.
  • I have been “selling” into one of our Pharma clients an Artificial Intelligence platform from a company that did Sgt Star on the U.S. Army site; we have had several meetings to try and issue AI as their Beyond The Pill strategy for launch of a new ADHD drug; this success with Akili may make that path easier.

AR Transforms Home Mobility

Thyssenkrupp, in partnership with Microsoft, has partnered to transform the manufacturing of home mobility.

A home mobility solution is a particularly personal product; it becomes a part of the customer’s home, and it’s a tool that preserves their ability to maintain independence and have full access to their space.The decision to invest in a mobility solution can be difficult – it goes beyond financial tradeoffs, encompassing as well the emotional impact of changing abilities.

Removing obstacles from the process helps turn a potentially uncomfortable customer experience into one that is quick and easy, thereby increasing the percentage of accounts that move forward.

Source

Benefits:

  • The sales person can measure the staircase during the first visit
  • The measured data is automatically stored and shared without the risk of human error
  • Allows for customized solutions to be easily decided upon and approved

“The digitization of the sales and manufacturing processes has reduced delivery times as much as 4x.”

 

Why it’s Hot: 

  • HoloLens can be incorporated into different workflows for maximized efficiency, imagine the possibilities!
  • Understanding the consumer pain pain point was what spurred the implementation of this technology which additionally has great operations improvements.

 

Can Facebook Turn Blue Into Green?

Can advertisers target teens when they’re feeling sad? Facebook might want to help them find out. Facebook came under fire this week when leaked documents showed Facebook Australia promoted advertising campaigns that exploit Facebook users’ emotional states—and how these are aimed at users as young as 14 years old.

According to the report in The Australian, the selling point of this 2017 document is that Facebook’s algorithms can determine, and allow advertisers to pinpoint, “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” If that phrase isn’t clear enough, Facebook’s document offers a litany of teen emotional states that the company claims it can estimate based on how teens use the service, including “worthless,” “insecure,” “defeated,” “anxious,” “silly,” “useless,” “stupid,” “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” and “a failure.”

The data is specific to teens in Australia and New Zealand only.

Facebook responded to the report: “Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”

https://arstechnica.com/business/2017/05/facebook-helped-advertisers-target-teens-who-feel-worthless/

Why its hot

Facebook knows everything about us and this ability to gather incredibly intimate data raises obvious ethical questions. Should a pharma brand be able to target medication to mother’s with sick children? Should a sports supplement brand be able to target kids who feel weak?

In Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail We’ll be Growing Humans in Fluid Filled Bags

So we’re able to let Lambs develop outside the womb.

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia worked with 23 week-old lambs to in order test a synthetic device that imitates a woman’s uterus, hoping to limit mortality and disease in premature children that are born before 37 weeks.

Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborns. So it makes sense that we try to find a solution, albeit a creepy looking one. In this successful breakthrough, lambs were placed in transparent biobags just 105 days after they started development, which is equivalent to about 22 weeks of human development.

The lambs were kept in the biobags for four weeks. During this time, they grew hair; their lungs developed; and they reached the point where they could survive on their own.

Remarkably, the eight lambs in the trial developed normally in the artificial womb and each survived, proving that the biobag successfully mimicked the natural conditions found in the uterus—and paving the way for a new life-saving device for humans.

Although the fluid-filled plastic enclosure can’t develop a child for an entire nine-month term, it can allow us to incubate them remarkably soon after conception. The team of physicians is already in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and clinical trials are slated to begin in the next 3 to 5 years.

Image result for the matrix image coming out of the goo

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

  1. ‘Cause this new device could allow premature babies to develop in natural conditions and maybe avoid a host of chronic health conditions.

Monkeys in Magenta

After seven years, the digital band, Gorillaz, are releasing a new album, and as part of their promotion, a new app is encouraging people to find the color magenta to unlock unique content.

Deutsche Telekom has created the Lenz app that will unlock new content for users whenever they hover it over something magenta — the brand’s corporate color.

The brand has teamed up with the virtual band, Gorillaz, to launch the Lenz app, which was created by Saatchi & Saatchi for the Deutsche Telekom music and lifestyle platform, Electronic Beats. With the new app, when a user finds something magenta (it could be a t-shirt, a flower or anyting that matches the Pantone range), they can hold their phone over it, to reveal new content from Gorillaz, including the first ever “live” interview with the band using motion capture and composition technology, and exclusive clips from the band’s new album “Humanz,” dropping on April 28. The app uses Chroma Keying technology to use the color to unlock the content.

http://creativity-online.com/work/deutsche-telekom-lenz-app/51602 

Why It’s Hot

This is a really cool activation. It is great positioning for Deutsche Telekom because it’s not overly intrusive or brand-heavy. And Gorillaz of course gain additional buzz around their upcoming album. I think this is a great example of a brand involving itself in a moment without trying to take it over.

Facebook’s latest superpower: mind reading

So Facebook is developing a way for users to type and create posts with their mind. Not even your mind is safe anymore, Facebook wants it.

Stanford University researchers have already created a system that allows paralyzed patients type eight words per minute using only thought, although that is achieved via an invasive implanted electrode array.

Building 8’s provisions, it is claimed, will be entirely non-invasive, and optimize human function, for instance allowing people to type faster than they would physically, up to as much as 100 words per minute or more.

Even though this is decades away from being streamlined and super available there has been huge backlash from people in regards to ethical, legal, and social implications. It’s been reported that this type of technology may start out in the form of smart clothes, where smart clothes transit data.. instead of your mind.

Why its hot?

  • Aside from Facebook, only one other person is developing this type of technology. Elon Musk is creating his own brain-computer interface with a new venture called Neuralink.
  • When this technology becomes accessible, it will change everything. Who knows how many other companies will have developed similar device/tech.
  • How can we create strategies around this tech? How much data will be collected? So many questions…

Source: http://www.adweek.com/digital/facebook-is-working-on-technology-that-lets-you-type-and-control-vr-devices-with-your-mind/

Evolution of Adidas Product Development

Adidas is creating its first mass-market shoe that is being produced through 3D printing. The shoe is called FutureCraft 4D and it will be in market this year. One unique aspect of this shoe (besides that it is printed) is that the 3D printing allows the brand to customize soles for its customers. Amazing right?!

Check this out too!

Why It’s Hot

I chose this for my Hot Sauce because 3D printing has always fascinated me. This technology was bound to help brands produce products at some point down the line and now Adidas is testing it out. Considering the adaption of 3D printing, its going to be interesting to see how more brands leverage this technology and cut down human labor. At the end of the day, how will this impact jobs?