Technology Archive

Future Of Work Predictions For The Year Ahead

This post originally appeared on Forbes.

We’re unofficially past the “Happy New Year” stage of 2017; that new year smell has almost entirely worn off, people are back from their sunny vacations in the Caribbean, and many are hard at work.

A lot of enterprise tech trends have been predicted to establish themselves this year, but none is as buzzy as artificial intelligence. It has been on the horizon for some time, but 2017 is poised to be the first time that bots at work are natural parts of our everyday workflow.

Don’t be mistaken, AI has a ways to go, and could accelerate at an unpredictable pace as bots gather more data. But people’s hesitancy about committing to bots at work, and questions around the effectiveness of these tools, will gradually melt away.

With this theme in mind, let’s take a look at what some B2B leaders predict for the future of work in 2017:

Matthew King, Customer Engagement Consultant at Microsoft
“Artificial intelligence breakthroughs are occurring at a rate which will certainly result in significant swaths of both blue and white collar workers across the globe facing the risk of automation. Even professions like sales, which tout the importance of human-to-human connection, are facing the prospect of first being assisted by, and eventually completely replaced by machine intelligence. As a society we must fundamentally re-imagine what work means to us, what our purpose on this planet is, and how to provide for people in an increasingly stratified world. The gains of efficiency improvements mean greater profits for the owners of capital and greater poverty for those who lose their ability to trade labor and skills for wages. We owe it to ourselves to think through how we should adapt as individuals and as a society to the ascendance of hyper-efficient, hyper-intelligent machines.”

Dennis R. Mortensen, CEO and Founder of x.ai
“We will see less hype around virtual personal assistants in 2017, but also, and this is the important part, less stigma! People will begin to get a sense of the real world applications of intelligent agents and the AI that powers them. Given these agents will look and feel mundane compared to the AI’s and robots depicted by Hollywood, we’ll see fewer silly and cartoonish accounts of robots taking over the world and eliminating humanity.”

Ceci Stallsmith, Platform Marketing at Slack
“You’ll have a small army of bots to help you do your job. As businesses move from email to messaging, all of the software you use for work will connect with the most pervasive for-work messaging products. As every business and startup went mobile in 2011, bots are the next major trend. As Mailbox, Sunrise Calendar, and other mobile-first productivity apps rose up, there will be a trend in hot bot for-work companies rising up in 2017. The big question lies in how intelligent these little helpers need to be: do bots need to understand your every request? Will they be able to intelligently gather your needs, or will we be happy with their existence to fulfill a specific function? If intelligence is required for success, the major players—Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook—have a significant advantage over smaller developers.”

Aaref Hilaly, Partner at Sequoia Capital
“It becomes normal to talk to computers at work. Natural language understanding catches up with image recognition. Home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home train people on how they can interact. Application vendors start to build in voice and messaging interfaces into their products, leveraging research from Google, Microsoft and others.”

Andrew Berger, Head of Sales Development, Square
“Customers and buyers demand information at their fingertips, and technology is facilitating the speed of information. Collaboration across multiple teams, departments, offices, and organizations is much more efficient with streamlined communication tools, such as Slack, enabling rapid response and answers to customers. The ability to sync CRM data into these communication tools, with smart bots and agents facilitating the workflow in an automated fashion, ensures all stakeholders are aware of customer needs and provides a much-improved customer experience.”

Jake Schwartz, CEO and Co-Founder at General Assembly
“Just as with the telegraph, the telephone, the mainframe, the database, the fax machine, email, and the PDA, etc etc, there are always new technologies changing how we work. The deeper change is what that work will look like. The demand for people with skills in data, software development, UX, is growing at an accelerated rate YoY. This acceleration will continue as companies make their transition to the future, which will involve a constantly evolving set of trends around communication, automation, and the pace of change. In the year ahead we are seeing more companies face their own challenges around staffing these roles, and how to upskill their previous generations of workers. Here at GA, we’re trying to make an impact by enabling the sourcing and the training of this next generation of skilled talent.

There were more than 250,000 positions open last year for what are called hybrid technical roles. These jobs don’t only pay well – with annual salaries ranging from $65k-110k – but their required skillsets are actually trainable and do not require an advanced degree. Roles are growing in skillsets that don’t exist (or are just starting to) and there’s a limited talent pool from which to fill that seat. I think in the year ahead we’ll see challenges tied to that skills gap become a painfully obvious opportunity for non-degree programs to make an even larger impact. Here at GA, we’re trying to make an impact by training people to be the producers of the future. We’re working to create efficient programs that fill the need for people versus solely focusing on the need for jobs.”

Ray Carroll, VP Sales at Engagio
“In 2017, the industry will start to realize that Account Based Marketing is NOT a technology category, it’s a strategic business initiative. Just like demand gen and inbound marketing are ways of running your marketing machine, ABM is a way of running your revenue machine. And, just like demand gen, ABM breaks down into many categories – including account selection, account research, account-based analytics, account-based advertising, automated sales plays, and more. If you want to succeed in 2017, you must align your entire organization around this strategy, put the foundation in place with lead-to-account matching and account-based analytics, and focus on quality engagement with your target accounts.”

There will always be a fine line between AI that enhances our skill versus replaces us entirely, and unfortunately, some of us will wake up and find ourselves in the latter situation.

These questions will only begun to be answered in the year ahead, but in 2017 we will continue the march towards another step forward in automation and intelligent systems.

Disclosure: Slack is an investor in Troops.ai

Mobile Healthcare for the Consumer

The device includes a stethoscope cut in half and microphones. Researchers say it measures blood pressure with 95 to 98 percent accuracy.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the convergence of mobile devices and consumer healthcare. I believe there are three changes happening that are creating a perfect storm for a new wave of mobile medical devices.

1. Standardized Mobile Operating Systems (OS)
Before android or iOS came along, engineers that wanted to build a mobile medical device had to develop the software and the hardware. There were no standard, mobile operating systems in place that made software development scalable for medical devices. Sure there was MS Windows, Linux and other OS in existence, but none of these worked really well for small, mobile hardware. Engineers were required to use Programable Micro Controllers (PICs) and related devices. With the advent of android and iOS, it is now possible to write software without having to worry about the underlying supporting architecture and hardware.

2. Wireless Connectivity
The healthcare industry is inundated with expenses and impossible budgets. This is largely due to high volumes of patient visits and patient readmissions. Many of these visits are for simple physician checkups in order to conduct things like blood pressure measurement or EKG measurement. The information obtained from these frequent tasks are required to make the physician smarter about the patient so that they can implement the right treatment. The combinations of measurement devices and smartphones would allow these simple tasks to be done in the home and relayed back to the physician wirelessly.

3. Consumer Adoption
According to Gartner, total smart phone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010.” It’s no secret that people everywhere are using smart phone devices. If they aren’t, they will be very soon as it’s only a matter of time. Since consumers already have possession of these mobile devices, they are already in a position to buy a third-party accessory. Just like you might buy an iPhone case or a portable speaker, owners of smart phones could just as easily buy blood pressure measurement units or other medical plug-ins. Furthermore, the costs of a mobile medical device would be significantly lower because the consumer already effectively paid for half of the device – the phone.

So I think this market will emerge, but I’m not sure how long it will take. To understand that, there are two big question marks in my mind that need to addressed. The first is whether or not consumers care enough about their health in order to make them proactively engaged with one of these devices. I do think this could be overcome with things like game mechanics. The second is whether or not there will be a favorable environment with regards to governmental regulations, although I do think we are heading in the right direction. The HITECH Act, part of the 2009 stimulus bill, states that doctors are eligible for $44,000 in subsidies if they deploy “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) – keyword there being “electronic.” So it’s clear that we are moving in the right direction. It’s just a matter of how long it will take before we get there. I don’t know when our phones will be our personal doctors, but I do know it will happen.

3 Short Stories from 3 NYC Startups

New York City

New York City

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Our society celebrates the buzzy and bubbly – acquisitions, funding events, mergers, new hires. As entrepreneurs, most of the buzzy stories we read are rather useless. They serve no practical application to help grow our respective businesses. This is why great entrepreneurs get out in the field and engage in as many conversations as they can with those they respect. They want to hear firsthand how people have succeeded and how people have failed. They search for tried and true lessons so that they can apply the takeaways to their own ventures. And in this process entrepreneurs uncover key insights that may lead to a critical pivot in a business model or perhaps may lead to a simple validation of an already held mindset. From my vantage point, all of these little stories serve as an important backdrop for anyone looking to build a great business.

So here are three short stories from three up and coming New York City startups. Maybe you’ll uncover a gem of insight that will help transform your business or project.

“No Silver Bullets” by Aaron, CEO & Co-Founder of Tutorspree

The hardest lesson I’ve learned since co-founding Tutorspree is that there are no silver bullets – even when charting something as amazing as the future of one-on-one learning. It may seem a bit strange that I need that as a lesson when everything else I’ve ever done has required huge amounts of hard work. Intellectually, I had no expectation that a startup would be any different. But emotionally, entrepreneurs are continually confronted with stories in the popular press full of the one huge a-ha innovation/decision/partnership that “made” a company. While I know that those may be possible in extreme edge cases, that they’re nowhere near the norm, and they create an irrational expectation that one is just around the corner.

The truth is that start ups are hard, they’re a slog, they’re a huge amount of all consuming work – but that’s also why they’re amazing. You don’t find a single silver bullet – that’s the just the story people tell afterwards, you find a whole bunch of little steps and you figure out how to string them together until you have your success. And looking back, that’s a bigger achievement than a single fell swoop, which might be as much luck as anything else. That’s a lesson I take into work with me every day, and it is a critical piece of what makes this the life I want.

“Motivation by Inspiration” by Mike Dirolf, CEO of Fiesta

For me, motivation has been the principle benefit of working from a co-working space in New York City; collaboration is a distant second. It’s great to have smart people around to ask for help and feedback, but it’s far more important to see how hard those people are working and to be inspired to keep up. At almost all hours of the day the space is filled with people working as hard as they can to turn their fledgling companies into successful businesses. It’s impossible to walk into the place and not feel energized.

A little over a year ago I set out on my own and was ostensibly working from my apartment. The reality was that I had a lot of trouble staying focused. About a month later I moved into a co-working space; since then staying motivated hasn’t been a problem. Now that Fiesta is growing and I’ve brought on a co-founder that external motivation might be less essential, but I’m convinced we never would’ve gotten this far without it.

“Colloboration” by David Reich, CEO & Founder of Assured Labor (Disclosure: David Reich has no relation to Dan Reich

Our company, Assured Labor, is an unusual start-up. Started at the MIT MediaLab, Assured Labor connects employers in emerging markets with local sales, operations and administration candidates using cell phones and web technology.

We have a staff of 15 (including our outsourced engineering team) distributed between Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan, Nicaragua and of course, our headquarters in New York City at Dogpatch Labs. We’ve often been asked why we keep our headquarters in  New York while all of our operations are based in the emerging markets. The answer is collaboration. Our New York base allows us to collaborate with the world’s best engineers and business innovators, ensuring we can outcompete our local competitors. I’ll give an example of each.

Engineering. While we have been happily working with an outsourced technology team based in Lahore, Pakistan, we keep our senior technologist and product manager in the US. This is for two reasons: first, this is where the worlds top talent is, and second, to provide our talent with the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded entrepreneurs. In our incubator there is no shame in asking questions or fear that collaborators (from other companies) will steal our idea. This ecosystem allows our engineers to learn from peers other and build better services faster.

Business Innovators. Over the past year dozens of startups have come through Dogpatch Labs, each with it unique ideas on how they’ll monetize their business. I’ve seen Groupon models, Ad based models, Subscription models, Freemium models, Co-marketing models, and a dozen more. Each month notable experts come through Dogpatch to meet us, ranging from the Scott Heiferman of Meetup.com to Eric Reis the author of “The Lean Startup”. But best of all I’ve had the opportunity to learn from my fellow founders while sharing my opinions on what I’ve seen working both internationally and in the US. As technology is only part of building a successful startup these opportunities to collaborate with business innovators is a tremendous advantage.

Beyond the opportunity to collaborate in engineering and business innovation the collaborative environment of our co-working space has provided us with introductions to investors, employees, interns and partners. We also lean on each other for energy and motivation, sharing in each other success. While few things can match the business learning that comes from sitting with your customers, few things can match the business building to be gained from collaboration with other entrepreneurs, in the trenches, working to change the world.

Do you have a great startup story to tell?

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Knowledge Era – Next Up: The Data Renaissance

1913 photograph Ford company, USA

Image via Wikipedia

The world will never be the same. Our society used to build machines and parts, in factories and in assembly lines. Today, our society builds computer programs and data bases, on laptops and in many cases, from anywhere around the world. People and businesses are becoming more efficient. They are working smarter, not harder, because they are beginning to leverage the most valuable employee of all: Data.

Take for example the airline industry. Consider all those times you got bumped off of a flight, rescheduled, canceled, or offered money to take a different flight. We’ve all been there and it always happens for a reason. This reason is that airlines try to prevent the loss of business and in doing so, they look at dozens of consumer driven behaviors such as how long you travel for, how many weekend flights you take, how many return flights you take, how many flights you take during the week, if you are a frequent flier, and the list goes on. All of these individual data points are used to inform a business decision. The decision is objective. The decision is data driven.

But what happens when we can make decisions using even more data points? Much more data points? Literally, hundreds of thousands if not millions of data points, and did I mention, in real time?

Welcome to the Data Renaissance. Thanks to increasingly efficient and scalable technologies like solid state drives, mobile devices, and cloud computing, the possibilities of data analysis are endless. I mean, just think about how much time we either spend online or connected to a mobile device. This has tremendous implications from travel, health and fitness, to finance, education, and media and the best part is, we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Like I said before, the implications here are huge. Many companies recognize the need to have these comprehensive data sets while having ways of analyzing that data. The digital media and online advertising industry in particular are both in a unique place since their very foundations are dependent upon these high growth technologies; digital devices and the Internet. In this space, companies are racing to a holy grail of advertising where they can leverage millions of individual consumer behaviors to inform brand engagement opportunities and purchasing decisions. Unlike the airline industry, online advertisers can leverage millions of data points instead of those “dozen,” and if done correctly, the consumer experience will be better than it’s ever been before. Everything will matter. Everything will be relevant. We will all become more enlightened and informed to things that interest the most because these new technologies are launching us into the very early, but still uncharted, data renaissance.

(Disclosure: The post can also be found at Lotame Learnings. Lotame is my current employer)

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Obama gets Social Media

When it comes to Social Media, Obama just gets it. This is how he won his campaign and this is how he will remain intimately connected to the people.

He will be addressing the nation on a weekly basis at http://www.change.gov/ through short videos which will be syndicated elsewhere. Here is the first:

It feels good to be in Tech

With the economy declining, one thing is certain: Innovation will lead to good products and services, and good products and services will lead to revenue. This could not be more true in the technology world.

It doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as you continue to innovate and prove value in a market (good or bad), you can and will succeed. 

This is a great presentation that outlines the harsh reality of our current economy as it relates to technology. Financials meet Tech. Great stuff.

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Generativity of Social Networking Sites and Their Accountability

Jonathan Zittrain defines Generativity in the following manner:

“Generativity is a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences”

Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

In reality, this description somewhat defines the nature of a social networking sites. If you look at social networking sites today, users are able to participate in 3 ways, all of which contribute to the generative nature of a social network: Users are able to:

  1. Generate self identifying content (their profile, blog, homepage)
  2. Generate and consume bi-directional content (messaging, statuses)
  3. Generate and consume multi-directional content (groups, discussion boards, forums)

These three methods of participation allow the internet and social networking sites to grow at the staggering rate they are today. However, as these sites grow, keeping the content organized so that it remains relevant and meaningful to the user, becomes increasingly difficult. This issue is more prominent in the third method, as users are able to impact the entire network in a single instance.

Take for example the Groups feature. A single user can create a group made available to the entire network. That’s fine. But what happens when multiple users create the same group? An overlap occurs, and what should have been a single meaningful group, now becomes one group of many just like it.

Today, I joined my University of Wisconsin – Madison group as I am a recent alumni. There were about 3-4 identical groups? Do I join them all? The same scenario applied to many of the groups I wanted to join.

The generative nature of social networks allow for more noise, and enables users to disrupt the very social graph they create, making the networks more complex and less meaningful. Other people recognize the growing occurrence of this noise, and ironically enough, have used the same generative nature of social networks to maintain strong connections, content, and a healthy social graph (see Triiibes).

About six weeks ago, I joined Seth Godin’s social network called Triiibes (which he created using a white-box social network: Ning). The network was only made available to those that made an early purchase for his new book. As a result, the content and communication in the network is much stronger and meaningful then I’ve seen on any other network.

As social networks grow, they must look to sites like Wikipedia for guidance. They must learn how to keep the network connected using only meaningful and unique data points.

(Jonathan Zittrain’s book is a good read for anyone interested in technology and communications, and their inevitable effects on society)

Shai Agassi

I’d like to say that Thomas Friedman said it best when he said,

“What would happen if you cross-bred Henry Ford and Yitzhak Rabin? You’d get Shai Agassi.”

I think I can improve.

Shai Agassi is a hero.

Bottom line. (Read Thomas’s book, The World is Flat, and you might think he is one as well)

The plain reality is that our civilization is experiencing harsh consequences directly resulting from our own innovations. The most highly debated and discusses innovation being automobiles and oil.

But, when you look at how oil has effected the socioeconomics of almost every culture worldwide, you would immediately understand how it is going to take a lot more then alternative energy to fix the oil problem. Because within the oil problem, there exist an entire set of other connected issue, from technology, to economy, and even religion. Being able to solve a problem, that addresses all connected problems, is extremely difficult. Doing this on an international scale is much harder, and executing the solution is near impossible.

Shai Agassi is on a mission to create

“global energy independence and freedom from oil”

Say that out loud. Think of all the many countless factors at play. He is trying to account for them all, and deliver a solution that could fix the ills brought upon by the industrial revolution.

Most importantly, he is committed, and determined to address, perhaps the hardest issue of our time. And for that he is a hero.

Linking Up the Living Room With The Internet

Intel’s announcement with Yahoo to bring widgets to the living room is not a real shocker.

I have seen this image 2 years ago, while I was in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. (The widgets appeared on a 42″ LCD, hanging behind a 1 way reflective piece of glass. This was hanging in the bathroom, allowing people to check stocks and weather while brushing their teeth. It was also a prototype by Yahoo).

The idea is simple: make the Internet available in and on more mediums.

Television is clearly the most logical place to start.

But does it require hardware modifications on a television? Couldn’t the same be accomplished with a console or set box top provider like Microsoft or Scientific Atlanta?

Either way, its nice to see that companies are taking real strides to get Internet in the living room. Or is it?

If only Facebook created their own Microsoft Exchange

How great would that be? For those of you that are not familiar with Microsoft Exchange, the idea is this: Being able to sync your phone with Facebook. Everyone in your Facebook social graph becomes a contact in your phone.

Some things you could do with such a solution:

  • Anytime your friend buys a new phone or changes their number, they simply make the edits themselves in their Facebook account, and the number becomes available in your phone.
  • If you add a new friend on Facebook, you can choose to include them in your “Mobile Sync” setting allowing you to choose, whether or not you’d like this new “Facebook Friend” as a contact in your phone.
  • Text messages becomes Facebook messages.
  • Your Facebook newsfeed becomes a newsfeed on your phone.

I’m probably going to buy the new iPhone when it comes out. In the past, I’ve stuck with Windows Mobile devices because it allowed me to sync my contacts, email, calender, and tasks with my Microsoft Exchange Server (I run MS SBS out of my house). But instead of updating all of my contact information time and again in outlook, I’d prefer a system that utilizes self published user information; aka: Facebook.

As Apple and Google have been addressing the mobile market in new and innovative ways with the iPhone and Android, it seems to me that Facebook is in the best position to capitalize off of the “network” business.

ON A SIDE NOTE: I’ve also been looking for a tool that seemlessly syncs outlook Contacts and calender with my Facebook account, but I haven’t found one yet. This would be ideal.

I hope Facebook comes out with either of these solutions.