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Understand How About Your Feeling

“It’s like a sixth sense. When a guy walks into the store, I can tell in, like, five seconds.” The veteran clothing salesperson I’m interviewing warms quickly to my questions about his art. “I watch the way he walks, his eyes. I can tell if he’s happy, sad or stressed. I can tell if he needs to talk, or just wants to get on with finding whatever he’s looking for. I know how to respond to make my commission.”

Contrast this with the highly-touted chatbot from 1-800 Flowers, which I interacted with recently. It efficiently walked me through my order, and as I was ready to pay, wished me a “fantastic, colorful day!” This would have been friendly and pleasing, had I not spent the previous 15 minutes browsing funeral flower arrangements.

Granted, I was interacting with a Facebook Messenger chatbot, which had no knowledge of my actions on the company website. However, wide scale rollout of intelligent on-site chatbots is just around the corner. And when this happens, things get really interesting.

Once we have intelligent chatbots operating organically on major retail, travel or finance sites, the picture changes fundamentally. Having the chatbot from which I ordered funeral flowers solemnly wish me condolences is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a conversational ecommerce no-brainer — the bot sees what I’m doing on the site and responds according to a script.

But what happens when we take this to the next level? What happens when the chatbot can minutely examine my on-page actions, infer my mindset and respond accordingly?

In other words, what happens when chatbots, in a very real sense, can empathize?

Is digital body language just a buzzword?

Much has been written about “digital body language” — understanding what customers do online, not just what they say (or write).

Why is digital body language so crucial to online success? Because digital interactions — just like day-to-day real-world interactions — are based in very large part on nonverbal communication. When we interact with others in the physical world, we are continuously processing wordless signals such as facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body language, eye contact and physical distance. We cannot understand the true meaning of an interaction if we do not have the ability to interpret these nonverbal signals.

Despite the clear importance of digital body language as a tool for ecommerce, it has remained largely a catchall phrase for ex post factoanalysis and profile-based personalization. Even efforts by chatbot vendors to humanize interactions fall flat because they have failed to capture, analyze and harness the most meaningful and powerful aspect of human communication: the unspoken.

All this, however, is about to change.

Predictions for the Trump

It’s a new world: Donald Trump’s world. As 2017 hits, we’re going to see the U.S. government’s attitude towards a range of technologies change, whether it be about a lighter touch on regulation or a harsher look at companies that import heavily from China.

I hate making stock predictions. I’m going to try to stick to what I think you should expect and do, as U.S. tech consumers, to prepare for 2017. For each prediction, I’m also trying to provide an action you should take to put yourself in the best position for the future.

1. Sprint and T-Mobile will merge.

Sprint’s stock jumped after the election on the assumption that Sprint and T-Mobile, which want to merge, will do so. The merger has been blocked so far by Obama’s team, and it has been widely expected that a Republican FCC will let it go through. There could be an announcement as soon as January.

While Trump has come out against the Time Warner/AT&T merger, he said he’s offended by media consolidation, not broadband consolidation; a pure wireless merger may not spark his ire.

The outcome will be the end of the current wireless price wars. As we’ve seen in Canada, countries with three major players, and no requirement to share networks with third parties, tend not to have aggressive pricing. We should expect to see wireless costs in the U.S. normalize at the AT&T/Verizon levels, bringing home more profits to investors in the combined Sprint/T-Mobile.

What you should do: Lock in a really good rate plan soon, because prices may go up. Study low-cost virtual carriers like Ting, Republic Wireless and Walmart Family Mobile, which may still offer deals.

2. Verizon 5G will be the next big broadband competitor.

This prediction wraps together a few elements. Republicans have been hostile to municipal broadband, and a key Trump adviser has indicated that he’s against “set-asides” in upcoming spectrum auctions, which would prevent Verizon from snapping up most of the available airwaves. All that said, the sleepy cable monopolies, with their constant rising prices, are still ripe for disruption. Verizon’s home 5G launch in 2017 will be boosted by big wins in upcoming spectrum auctions, giving you one more strong choice for home broadband going forward, and fulfilling the promise that Fios never did.

How to Know the Difference Time for Email

It’s a scene happening in offices around the world: The boss installs a tool like Slack and asks all employees to use it. Some do. Some resist. Email threads and chat-room conversations happen concurrently. Confusion reigns. And eventually everyone asks: When am I supposed to use this stuff? Steve Goldsmith, GM of Austin-based HipChat, has an answer: You need to identify how each tool can make your team efficient and then get everyone onboard.

When to use email

Internal email remains best for messages that don’t require an employee to respond — for example, notifications of workplace policy updates, leadership changes and major business shifts. Also use email when you need to BCC someone or when required by law, as is the case with announcements about open-enrollment periods for health insurance.

When to use team messaging

Cloud-based collaboration tools are ideal for high-speed, in-the-moment collaboration among your team members, like sharing files that need to be updated in real time. Use team messaging when soliciting feedback from the entire distribution chain or asking a question whose answer would benefit everyone in the company.

Dealing with holdouts

What about a stuck-in-their-ways employee who insists on using email for rapid decision making? When that happens, create a new chat room and invite every colleague on the email thread into the room. This move ought to show the email sender that questions get answered and issues resolved more quickly on collaboration platforms.

Managing ‘chatty Cathies’

If your team messages become so filled with office jokes and GIFs that it’s difficult to see actual work-related conversation, set up separate chat rooms where employees can share industry news, update local commuting conditions, learn about social events and just chew the fat. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to make project-oriented chat rooms available only to team members who need to be there.

How to Make Your App Super Smart

images-11Facebook is more than just the largest social-media platform on the planet. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based behemoth also uses its vast resources to help app developers make super-smart products.

If you haven’t already, say hello to Facebook Analytics for Apps. Since launching in 2015, more than 800,000 unique apps have used the service. And for good reason.

Facebook recently added web measurement and cross-platform analytics to the service’s growing stable of services. Leveraging demographics and rich audience insights from Facebook’s 1.7 billion users, the service offers developers a simple, streamlined way to understand the people who use their native mobile apps, desktop web and mobile web presences.

With that knowledge, developers can optimize the customer experience and reach them more effectively. Facebook Analytics for Apps goes beyond the usual stats like age and gender to provide anonymized and aggregated audience information including job titles, education level and even what Facebook Pages your customers like.

“Driving retention, engagement and conversion are important [for developers] and we wanted to lean on our expertise and infrastructure to help partners with the full set of growth tools,” says Facebook Product Manager Josh Twist.

Build a Stellar Mobile Strategy

We live in a technology-driven world, where mobile devices are an essential part of our lives. In the span of just one year (2015-16) the App Store and Play Store recorded 18.5 million app downloads, proving the fact that we are getting increasingly dependent on apps.

It comes as no surprise, then, that enterprises are adopting mobile strategies for their businesses in order to connect better to their target audiences, improve their bottom line and enhance their productivity. Speaking of that, a survey by Apperian found that enterprise apps fueled mobile strategies for several firms.

An outstanding mobile strategy involves choosing an app that helps companies reach their goals, streamline their workflow, collaborate easily and securely handle communication and data sharing. Here are some of the top enterprise apps to help you achieve a stellar mobile strategy.

Susie by Zuznow

One of the best technologies we have seen in the recent past is the introduction of virtual assistants like Siri, Google Now, Alexa and Cortana. Without a doubt, these make our lives easier, especially when we are on the fly and could do with some assistance.

Similarly, enterprises can do with some help from speech-recognition software. They can leverage the potential of virtual assistants to solve complexities, enhance efficiencies, reduce operational costs and increase customer engagement. The only drawback they might face is high costs and limited resources, which are required to develop an AI-based software.

Enter Susie. This integrated Siri-like plugin for enterprises, developed by AI-based mobile app development platform Zuznow, can be used to create a conversational user interface (UI) for any enterprise mobile app within a few hours. The tool is easy to use, incredibly useful and easily adopted by any enterprise without the need for specialized resources or skills.

It’s also a great add-on for enterprises that want to give an extra edge to their existing mobile app and, therefore, enhance their customer-engagements.

TunnelBear

Need remote access to internal networks and security assurance? Turn to TunnelBear, which simplifies the process of setting up a virtual private network (VPN) for free.

Available for both Android and iOS devices, the app connects you to an independent network that enables you to securely browse the internet, with privacy from hackers, ISPs etc. Even when you are browsing by using wifi hotspots, you can be assured that the data will be encrypted. Also, TunnelBear offers super speedy connections in more than 20-plus countries, so speed issues are nil.

The best thing about this app is that businesses can scale it according to their requirements. And that’s not all. The app also offers 500 MB of free data every month to users, which is a great incentive!

Drone Business Is Stumbling

The fledgling drone industry is in the throes of change as weak consumer demand and falling prices drive startups to shift their focus to specialized business applications.

3D Robotics — an early drone startup that raised more than $125 million from investors — has seen its consumer business all but crash. This week, it unveiled a new commercial strategy, announcing a camera-equipped drone with imaging software designed for construction companies.

GoPro Inc. this week announced a recall of about 2,500 drones for a refund after just a couple of weeks on the market — some units had sudden power outages — and didn’t say when it would offer a replacement product. Europe’s Zano, which made mini-drones for consumers, shut down last year.

While many drone-makers overestimated demand from hobbyists, they now see big opportunities selling to businesses under newly relaxed U.S. regulations. Beyond flying robots, investors and entrepreneurs see especially strong prospects in software and services that can make aerial imaging useful for industries including insurance, construction, agriculture and entertainment.

Companies including Amazon.com Inc. and Zipline, a drone startup, are also aggressively developing drones for delivery.

Most startups vying to sell consumer drones, often used for racing or photography, have been stung by China-based DJI. The company has dominated by slashing prices. DJI discounted its popular Phantom 3 drone, for instance, to about $300 from nearly $1,000 at the beginning of the year.

3D Robotics took a beating after releasing its Solo consumer drone last year for about $1,500, said co-founder and CEO Chris Anderson.

“It’s no fun watching prices fall by 70 percent in 9 months,” Anderson said, referring to DJI’s price-cutting.