Ordering ahead

If you have been to a McDonald’s in the last months, you have probably seen one of these devices:

 

McDonald's Corp. Trials Table Service At U.K. Restaurant
Self-Serve Kiosk (Source)

By using self-service kiosks, McDonald’s hopes to alleviate congestion at the “human” terminal and save labor costs. While there is always a person behind the counter, willing to take your order the traditional way, I have seen a large fraction of customers using these devices during my scarcely visits. Increasingly, I started to use these machines because I feel that they make the whole process of ordering quicker and more convenient.

The trend towards automation based retailing is not limited to the brand with the yellow M. Flight travelers use check-in kiosks since years and they are an expected seeing at airports. A relatively current development is the fact that more and more brands are playing with the idea of “Ordering Ahead“. Instead of going into a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, ordering at a cashier or with a kiosk and then, finally, receiving your order, these services promise the convenience of ordering ahead and, as a result, assure a short visit in store.

 

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Mobile Ordering at Starbucks (Source)

Starbucks deployed their mobile ordering system in 2015 and other brands are either testing it or having it in place. Especially commuters with strictly scheduled days and little time to wait for an order to finish seem to be keen on using it.

Admittedly, I feel some guilt using non-human ordering services and, thereby, contributing to the future loss of many jobs due to automation. At the same time, the convenience and benefits are clearly apparent and on some days I am totally fine with not having to talk to somebody early in the morning.

How do you see these services, also in regards to job losses and lack of social interaction? Did any of you ever use a self-serve kiosk or mobile application to place your order for later pickup? Which brands would you like to see adopting any of these practices?

 

 

 

How Digital Technologies Disrupt the Health Industry

Not long ago, the health industry used to act exclusively in terms of human-to-human interaction. Doctors treating patients, salesperson selling health insurance to customers, caregiver caring for an elderly person.

This approach to providing health services has certainly changed in the last years. An increasing percentage of traditional health services has been replaced by technological counterparts. Let’s have a look at some examples…

Doctor treating patient —> people look up information online or with help of AI

We have all been there: you have some form of physical pain or issue and you immediately ask Google what type of disease you might have. According to a study 60% of Americans google their symptoms before consulting a doctor. If you are anything like most people, you are likely to focus on the worst stated possibility. This not only increases your fear and anxiety but is also most likely to be plainly false (only 34% of symptom search queries showed the correct diagnosis first). Despite this issue there has been constant advances in the field.

Have a look at Ada:

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Ada – Personal Health Companion (Source)

Ada promises to be a personal health assistant that learns over time about your physical wellbeing. It uses Artificial Intelligence to “feel” as human as possible.

Selling health insurance through salespeople –> using comparison websites to find best offering

In a lot of countries now you have the choice between several health insurance providers. Similar to online services providing flight price comparisons, these websites offer a broad picture of existing solutions.

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iSelect Health Insurance Comparison (Source)

Instead of salespeople initializing the purchase of health covers, now the customer starts the search and quest for a suitable offering. Thereby creating a more transparent and competitive market.

Human caregivers –> addition of robots

Caring for elderly or disabled people is usually a highly physical job, making the replacement by machines less likely than the first two scenarios. Nevertheless, there are parts of “caring” that can be automated. Consider the following video:

The robot can easily remind people of taking medications or providing an easy way to call a doctor or friend. This obviously does not get rid of the need of human caregivers but it offers a reliable solution to rather mundane tasks.

Where is this trend going?

While we are still highly dependent on doctors or caregivers to provide health services anytime soon, there are clear trends towards more automation in this industry. The interpretative and physical nature of these jobs make them less susceptible to be replaced by machines and computers, but more and more simple tasks can be provided using technology. I would not be anxious about job losses though, especially since demographic change will demand more services in the future. Moreover, automation will drive costs down, thus allowing previously uncovered people to enjoy health benefits.

Where do you see the health industry heading? Will using an app replace going to the doctor in the future? Will technology help to close the gap between developed and developing countries in terms of health services?

Slack and the future of ‘work’ networks

With the ongoing success of the workplace network Slack and Microsoft pushing into the same market with their Teams offering, it is worth reflecting on this current development of what basically are stripped-down business social networks.

At the time of writing this post, there are 5.8 million people using Slack every week, resulting in estimated revenues of $100 million. That is not too bad for a startup that launched less than four years ago. It is further reported that 77% of Fortune 100 companies use Slack.

Why is Slack so successful? And maybe more importantly, is Slack just the beginning of a huge industry in the making?

Satya van Heummen names a couple of reasons for the success of Slack, some of them psychological nature. According to him, the usage of Slack creates Social Pressure that ultimately forces you to use it. Let’s illustrate this using a graph:

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This perpetual process of increasing importance, ultimately, leads to a state of every employee using the service. While this is not the only reason for Slack’s success and points like business model or competitors play a huge role as well, the psychological process shows the importance of a common playground” in a business context.

Slack basically opening up a very unique and new industry segment didn’t go unnoticed. Facebook and Microsoft started to jump on the bandwagon with their respective solutions (Workplace & Teams), both companies with massive funds behind it and serious ambitions to threaten Slack’s current position.

 

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Facebook Workspace (Source)

 

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Microsoft Teams (Source)

While Microsoft has a long history of serving business-focused solutions, Facebook is treading new water with Facebook Workspace and their efforts mark first steps into unexplored territories of B2B.

So where is this going? 

It is certainly hard to give future predictions for technology-based industries, especially if they are so young, but a few things can be said:

  1. There is money to be earned with B2B

Admittedly, the B2B market is by no means as large as a general B2C market, like Facebook targets with their Social Network, but B2B customers are willing to spend resources on IT solutions. Services that facilitate team communication and ultimately performance are therefore high on managers agendas.

2. Entirely virtual companies

There is an increasing number of companies that exist mostly in virtual terms. Think of crowdsourced projects or programmers dispersed around the globe. These companies/projects don’t necessarily have physical offices to facilitate communication. Instead, services that enable efficient collaboration rise in value. Here’s where Slack, Facebook Workspace and Microsoft Teams come in.

3. Growth Opportunities 

Microsoft is actively promoting their offering to schools, thus allowing teachers and students to exchange ideas, learning materials and also grades. This shows that the concept team-based collaboration is not limited to workplaces. I can easily think of other use cases: local sports clubscharities or universities.

Do you think the industry of work-focused collaboration will keep on growing? Where do you see limits and opportunities?

Post your comments below!

 

 

 

The Power of Online Education

When we look at the access to knowledge over time, we can clearly identify a growing pattern. Until the 1920s you actually had to go to a library reading books/newspapers (Yes, libraries contained books once upon a time) or talk with somebody (possibly a professor) to gain knowledge about a particular topic. Then, after the first World War, broadcasting became popular, first radio and subsequently TV. This marked a shift in knowledge access and suddenly information was way easier to distribute and available. In the 1990s, the World Wide Web started to rise in popularity and initialized what would later be described as a knowledge explosion.

At the point in time when the Internet was still young, not much changed in the process of how people gained formal education. The standard was relatively similar as 50 years ago:

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After going to school, men needed to enlist in the army before pursuing their own future plans. Women skipped the army step. Subsequently, both male and female could seek educatiion that would allow them to find a job. This was usually training or university.

There was hardly any way around this, admittetdly simplified, process. With the emergence of the internet, however, a decrease in importance of formal education (training and/or university) was effected. Let me explain why. Due to the aforementioned increase in knowledge outside of the traditional sources (mostly books), people became less reliant on having access to the big libraries or social contact with peers or professors. They could just go on the internet and access the information there and even talk to people around the globe who are interested in the same subject.

It started to look like this:

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The internet was still very small and largely seen as inadequate to replace formal education, especially for job-finding purposes. But it was there and growing in popularity during the 1990s. The established universities did not really care and kept doing things as usual. Meanwhile, websites such as Wikipedia started to pop up and the power of the Web for knowledge seekers became more and more apparent.

Let’s fast forward a bit…

In 2006 the Khan Academy came into existence and the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) emerged with edX, Coursera and Udacity in 2012. The New York Times called it “the year of the MOOC“. Supported by big universities (edX was created by the MIT and Harvard), these online education providers started to gain traction and popularity.

By-the-Numbers-MOOCs-in-2016

More and more people decide to use the power of the Internet to enhance their skills or build a portfolio of knowledge.

Benefits include:

  • Access to highly specific and high-quality information (top universities)
  • Collaboration with people around the world
  • Very affordable
  • Location independent

While traditional universities are still present, they are increasingly challenged by MOOC’s and their many benefits.

Let’s update our little graph:

 

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Note that the obligation to enlist in the army is gone in most developed countries

 

The debate on the question of whether MOOC’s can adequately replace getting a degree from a university is gaining momentum as more and more people are using this medium of education. The consensus is that employees still prefer a university degree over any online certificate and that they value MOOC diplomas on a level as social engagement or extracurricular activities.

A different opinion comes from Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla)

The question remains and we have to wait and see how online eduction develops over time, especially in terms of employer acknowledgement. I, personally, would love to see an increase in acceptance of MOOC certifications. Having completed a couple of courses myself, the access to incredibly high-quality content is astounding in my opinion. Whatever you might be passionate about, there is a 99% chance of finding an inspiring course online.

Have you looked into any Massive Open Online Course? Where do you guys see the trend of MOOC’s going? Will they be a viable alternative to formal education in the near future?

Would love to read your take on the issue in the comments below!

 

Snap strengthens their adverstising commitment

You all know Snapchat, the service that allows you to send annoying selfies to friends and colleagues. Most of you are also familiar with using so-called “geofilters”. These are location specific filters that you can put over your picture at Disneyland and suddenly all your friends can see where the picture was taken.

 

Mockup-Generated-by-Dunnnk
Generated using Dunnnk (Source)

Previously, marketers had little idea about how effective these custom filters actually are. People might use them but do they drive more people to the store or in the case above into Disneyland?

Snap now grants selected companies access to more precise tracking and conversion statistics with the intention to make advertising through Snapchat a more viable strategy. The intuition behind Snap to Store is explained in the illustration below.

 

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Snap to Store (Source)

Basically, as long as people are using the application, Snap can see the users physical location. In conjunction with the information of whether or not the user viewed a snap with the respective store depicted in it, Snap can then calculate how effective the geofilter was in driving visits to that particular store.

Everybody can now decide whether they are cool with the Snaps usage of user data or not. If not, you can just disallow Snapchat to have access to your GPS data, the geofilters are then gone obviously.

More intriguing is the question of the impact that this has on companies trying to generate location-specific advertisements. Is Snap trying to compete with Facebook or Google or do they follow a different approach? In my opinion, they follow a different path here. Viewing a company related filter over a snap from your friend creates a distinct message from a standard advertisement. It’s more personal and thus could be more effective in influencing people to visit the store. It will certainly be interesting to see the first statements of companies describing their experience with the Snap to Store tracking functionality.

Do you think that this B2B feature makes Snapchat more feasible for advertising? Is such a functionality in competition with Facebook/Google or can Snap create a market niche? Post your comments below!

 

 

Traditional TV: on the way out?

Humanity has been watching TV since the 1940s. Back then everything was black and white, the introduction of color broadcasting started a couple of years later. Since that point, there really has not been any significant progress of the whole concept “watching TV”. Yes, we have broadcasts in 1080p now and our televisions look nice and sleek now, but the general concept stayed the same. You choose a particular channel and watch whatever the show producers come up with.

Not surprisingly, more and more people are turning away from traditional TV consumption towards online streaming services. This trend is especially visible in the 16-24 yrs. age segment. As a result, TV channels find themselves in a difficult position. Should they embrace the fact that their audience is shifting more towards older people? Or should they use their limited broadcasting time to retain the young demographics?

watching tv

 

Let’s look at their biggest competitor: online streaming services.

Currently, the US video streaming market weighs $6.62 billion and over 85% of all broadband households subscribe to at least one offering (Netflix being the market leader). When it comes to non-subscription based online services, YouTube exceeds the reach of Netflix by an order (!) of magnitude (see graph below).

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So, what happens when the TV industry tries to cope with the threat of Netflix and Youtube?

YouTube TV

A few days ago, Google announced that they are partnering with major US broadcasters to create an online streaming service for watching live TV. Costing $35 a month, the service allows customers in selected US cities to watch channels on all their devices and even record shows for delayed entertainment.

To me, Youtube TV appears to be a (desperate) effort of the TV industry to stop young people from completely turning their back on traditional TV.  In my opinion, they have missed the opportunity of transitioning to digital platforms themselves. Most of their own digital services (Facebook Groups, Smartphone Apps, Websites) are not designed with the wants of our generation in mind. Thereby, they fail to create a social component that retains viewers.

Still, it might be that the overall concept of having limited ability to choose content is just outdated. If that’s the case, then they will have a hard time competing long-term with experienced video-on-demand services such as Netflix or Amazon Video.

Where do you think the TV industry is heading? Can services such as YouTube TV help to make traditional TV more relevant to you? Would love to hear your opinions in the comments!

“Better not lose that pizza, robot”

Apparently, the dream of getting yourself a hot pizza delivered right to your doorknob is starting to become reality. Starship Technologies just announced that their collaboration with Domino’s resulting in pizza deliveries using their robots starts this summer in Hamburg, Germany.

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Source: Starship Technologies

According to the press release, the deliveries will take place within a 2 km radius of the store and the 6 wheeled food cart will travel up to 6 km/h. If the customer is qualified for robot delivery and opts in their order will be delivered by the small machine. Curbs and crossing light do not seem to be a problem and are overcome using very precise and detailed geographic maps. After testing deliveries in Hamburg the service is planned to roll out to other cities in Germany and the Netherlands.

This announcement marks the “next” effort of a big multinational to move into automated deliveries. Following Amazon’s experiments with drone deliveries, they just completed their first US drone delivery at their MARS conference last week (see below).

These steps pose the questions: How close are we to autonomous goods deliveries? and How will this change the way we order products?

Concerning the first one, I think we are still a couple of years away from the breakthrough of autonomous deliveries. While the endeavors of companies like Amazon or Starship Technologies are important and fascinating, there are other issues to solve apart from the technical side. A major one is certainly legislation. Especially important for air-based robots (aka drones), the question of how policymakers ensure the safety of their communities needs to be answered. After all, you don’t want two drones crashing into each other and potentially hurting (or killing) somebody on the ground.

 

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Drone nearly crashing on a skier at live event

Maybe an even more complex issue is of social nature. Do people “trust” their deliveries to be fulfilled by non-human machines? Are they afraid that their order might be stolen or shot from the sky by some clown? All these questions are hard to answer right now and it will be interesting to follow how these things play out once robots and drones become less of a rare occurrence.

 

What do you think? Are you convinced that it will be common to have your new phone delivered by drone or robot in the future? What challenges do you see along the way? Looking forward to your thoughts in the comment section!