Technology That Is Good For Business

As we roll into 2017, it appears that technology is entering a new golden era, especially for individuals, entertainment, and better time management. Facebook, with over 1 billion users, represents a larger population than all but two countries, is the juggernaut of online interaction, news, and engagement. Other high profile technology companies include Twitter, Pinterest, and increasingly, Snapchat.

That said, even in the face of each of these continued advances and innovations, successfully integrating technology into business operations and processes remains a challenge for businesses large and small. Whether the issue is simply that employees are on Facebook while on company time, or more serious issues related to cybersecurity, phishing, and data integrity, the underlying issue is the same. Technology has the ability to significantly improve productivity, efficiency, and increase the value delivered to internal and external users. That said, it is also important to recognize the reality that technology can detract from business productivity, employee attentiveness, and accuracy of products and services delivered to the customers and clients of the organization. A challenge, therefore, as we move into 2017 is the following: how can organizations and management professionals make the best use of technology for their businesses?

The first place to start, from a business perspective, is to evaluate the online presence of the business – do you have a web presence? Even a relatively fundamental presence will provide the business with multiple opportunities to not only conduct analysis with current data, but to develop additional platforms moving forward.  Especially in terms of attracting new business in general, and particularly important for millennial and Gen-Z clientele the importance of having a web presence cannot be overstated. Without a quality online presence, the business might, to a large subset of customers, not exist. While there is clearly a technological aspect to building an online business profile, it is important to not get overwhelmed or confused by the number of options that are available out there.

Like everything else, competition and increased consumer demand have resulted in lower costs and more variety of services that both individuals and businesses can use to establish an online presence. A few of the options for webhosting include, but are certainly not limited to, WordPress.com, Wix, and GoDaddy.com – by the time you are reading this, there are certainly going to be other options available to you – always be sure to comparison shop and make the decision that makes the most sense for you and your business. Social media, of course, is an excellent platform from which you can contact and engage with your customers, but a high quality website forms the cornerstone of an online presence and online strategy. Even as mobile shopping and monetization increases, a solid place to start and build out the online skills of your business is an easy-to-use, and easy-to-purchase from, website. The other, mobile-first and socially-oriented platforms can always be added later.

Another great insight and benefit from utilizing technology, especially for small to medium size businesses, is the information and possibility for analytics that arise from better use of technology. Stated simply, the possibility for data analytics is increasingly within reach for businesses of all sizes and industries. The ability to scale online information, gather more accurate in-person data from storefronts, and interact with customers online provides a nearly unlimited number of options for data gathering and analysis. For example, a medium size food business that is trying to monitor the effect that an online advertisement has on foot traffic during peak weekday lunch hours might set implement something the following.

 

  • Develop an app that customers can download, and this can be beta tested among loyal customers, or customers that have already signed up for an email list or other types of company information.
    1. For a smaller business, you could simply install a motion sensor that could coordinate with existing security cameras to generate an approximate foot traffic count.
  • Cross reference the number of customers who walked past the business during the day with the number of visitors, either in-person or online.
    1. In-person visits can be determined by either purchases made in store, or a simple count taken from motion sensor data.
    2. Online information can be tracked, much like YouTube videos track views, or blogs monitor daily visits.
  • Based on the data gathered either from an in-person or online resources, the business can, with quantitative data, actually validate or disprove the value of an advertising campaign, product launch, or introduction of a new service line.

 

Data analytics, social media, and building out an online web presence can be words that are both intimidating and exciting for business managers and entrepreneurs. Obviously the core concerns of running a business – attracting new business, developing new products and services, and expanding into new markets – remain unchanged. What technology, online tools, and data analytics can do is provide business owners new streams of information, insights into customer habits and opportunities, and a roadmap to help develop new business ideas. Technology and analytics can help a business operate more efficiently, identify new customers, and develop better service for existing customers – and that is technology that makes sense.

How Technology is Transforming Wall Street and Financial Services

FINANCIAL SERVICES ARE a market basket of different things. We think about the brokers, bankers and insurers as the three communities of interest. We have the impact of the Internet and information technology as being transformational in those communities.
The Wall Street that I remember with guys in colored smocks at the Stock Exchange waiving their papers has changed. All of that is now done at a computer farm within fractions of a second. That has had ramifications on the way Wall Street conducts business. Policymakers are still trying to figure out how to regulate and moderate this properly so you don’t have people sneaking into the back door and taking advantage of the system— and I am not just talking about the traders, but also the customers.

big sum of money dollars - 3d illustrationThere is also the dimension of how to get more active and more diverse in terms of customer services. E-banking must be combined with response systems that have artificial intelligence so they are not just going through the basic “press 1 if you want to talk to a representative” process. We need much smarter and responsive systems. People are realizing that they cannot solve the problem by throwing more staff at it and doing it in a cost-effective way.

The value of data analytics is that if you are capturing all of the behaviors and all of the extremes that happen in that profile—and then you can match them to a pattern—that is certainly giving you a Newton’s Law of Motion without having to know what the law is. Now you can begin to reliably use that model as a way of predicting behaviors. That will help shape patterns that are contributing to the market for brokers and provide ways of understanding how to better service customer needs based on their past interactions. It’s also a way of getting beyond the statistical approach to actuarial predictions. The infusion of data analytics and big data into financial services is a big game changer.

The New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) Financial Services iLab is putting together a blockchain demonstration— Bitcoin is the cash transaction capability and blockchain is the delivery mechanism that provides for the secure and validated information transfer from buyer to seller. It’s essentially “bankless” banking. There is a lot of interest in understanding how it works, how it can be protected and how we can make a business out of something that, in some cases, can put businesses out of business. We are working on a real-world demonstration site where we have an operational ability with people coming in and finding out different ways they can use the block technology for providing secure transactions.

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Donald H. Sebastian, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), a New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Corporation.

The Robots are Coming: Are You Ready for a Revolution?

WHEN PEOPLE THINK OF robots, the first thing that comes to mind is R2-D2 from Star Wars. That’s why it’s a huge shock to learn that your vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, and even a vending machine are all technically “robots.” While robots in the home are common and ordinary by comparison with science fiction, the story of robotics is just starting. From self-driving cars to robot security guards in malls to surgical robots, science is advancing at a rapid rate. Some robots are saving lives, others are doing dangerous jobs and still others are replacing humans based on their productivity and cost-effectiveness. A new report from Deloitte suggests that around 800,000 jobs have been lost due to new technologies over the last 15 years.

mit-ourrobots-2-pressIn this exclusive interview with COMMERCE, David Mindell, Ph.D., author of the book Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy (Viking Press, 2016) and a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), discusses the many innovative uses of robots, and what to expect from them in the future.

COMMERCE: How will robots change the way humans live in the future?

DAVID MINDELL: I think at some level, the world is going to become the robot. The whole infrastructure that we live around is going to become technologically alive. Whether you are a person interacting with it, a robot interacting with it or a person interacting with a robot, those are all things we are going to have to do. That infrastructure is already alive in a lot of ways. It’s just going to become a little bit more digitally alive. Whatever happens with robotics, robots are going to have to work in human environments, whether they are driverless cars going through cities, robots in your homes or robots moving around in factories.

Q. What jobs will robots never be able to replace?

r2A. By definition, they cannot replace the jobs that involve human beings relating to other human beings. There’s a reason you go to a fancy restaurant instead of a vending machine. Most of
that has to do with how the humans in a restaurant treat you. As universities like my own deal with digital learning, it just highlights the parts of the learning that involve group cognition that happens in a classroom. Not all of it, though. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes on. Computers are pretty good at mediating relationships, but have not yet developed the ability
to replace them.

Q. How do you define a robot? When

does it go from a macw is a dishwasher in your kitchen not a robot for washing dishes? It is. However, most people do not think of it as a robot, but that’s exactly what it is. Generally speaking, people think of robots as stuff that moves around in the world one way or another. They used to think of them as humanoid-type looking things, but now we are increasingly aware that there are a lot of robots that are not humanoid at all.

Q. How do you believe a robot of today will compare to a robot in the future?

A. Robots today are not particularly good at living within human environments in safe and productive ways. Human environments are almost by definition economically productive environments.

robot sits
Therefore, robots are going to need to do a better job in living in this type of environment and being more aware.

Q. How affordable are robots? Can they be trusted with decisions?

A. These things have to become cheaper. It’s expensive to make them reliable. A lot of things we care about require them to become more reliable. Look at computers in airplanes. You have a $200 million airliner you fly on, and we are still not willing to take the pilots out of it altogether, even though most of the flight can be highly automated. That is partly because the pilot’s job is to react to unforeseen circumstances and serve as a social interface to passengers.

Q. What are the dangers of using intelligent robots?

A. I think we just have not really figured out how a lot of the algorithms that go into them can be made robust and safe enough to risk people’s lives on. When we do fill software systems
that are life critical, we tend to make them super deterministic. We are only now slowly learning to do that for the more intelligent type algorithms.

<img class="wp-image-7163 alignleft" src="http://commercemagnj.com/wp-content/uploads/warp.jpg" alt="warp" width="158" height="157" srcset="http://commercemagnj.com/wp-content/uploads/warp.jpg 2240w, http://commercemagnj.com/wp-content/uploads/warp-1000×1000 pop over to this site.jpg 1000w, http://commercemagnj.com/wp-content/uploads/warp-768×765.jpg 768w, http://commercemagnj.com/wp-content/uploads/warp-301×300.jpg 301w” sizes=”(max-width: 158px) 100vw, 158px” />Q. What are the opportunities that robots will create in the future?

A. There are enormous opportunities in the relationship between the physical world and the digital world. The digital world has exploded in its own way, but it still has limited reach to the
physical world. There’s a great deal to be done to use all of these technologies to enhance human experience and productivity, rather than replace it.

Q. Will robots ever look like us and live alongside us?

A. There are certain applications in which that might be useful. Some people argue that if you have to send a robot into a nuclear reactor or on a disaster relief mission, most of the things in those environments are built for human frames, so you might want to make a robot that looks like a human.

Q. What is the overall impact of robots? Good for people or bad for people?

A. Good for people. Of course, only when used properly.