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4 IoT Devices that Help Reduce Costs for Any Office

In the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has seen an explosion of popularity, invention, and production. This new philosophy of manufacturing is putting wireless internet access and mobile app control into anything we can think of and the number of ‘smart’ devices grows with each coming month. While it may have originally seemed like a passing fad, the IoT trend has successfully produced an increasing number of truly useful devices. Adventurous businesses have already begun reaping the rewards by integrating smart devices into every layer of business. From the office plants to the inventory floor, the efficiency and innovation of the Internet of Things can now be used to reduce your overhead and delight your employees. While the options are vast, here are four starter IoT devices that could get your office introduced to the cost saving convenience of the Internet of Things.

  1. Smart Thermostats

Managing office temperature is notoriously challenging. Many companies have tried automating their thermostat settings to be cool in the day and warm in the evening, but this almost always backfires. IoT thermostats, on the other hand, can be programmed to maintain a temperature, follow a schedule and be hand-tuned from anywhere in the building. This will help you keep your employees comfortable and reduce the unnecessary costs of over cooling or heating. The remote access also allows you to flip off the AC over nights and weekends even if you forgot to do so before locking up.

  1. Self-Monitoring Office Plants

It sounds silly, but do you know how much an office that uses real plants will spend replacing plants if any die? Potted plants have been found to increase employee happiness and improve indoor air quality, but traditionally they require someone with a green thumb to keep in good condition. Without an at least moderately talented gardener, the plants will wilt and can even die if left insufficiently tended for too long. Now there is an IoT pot that can water itself and send a text when the plant needs a new mix of fertilizer.

  1. App-Controlled Lights

Especially in larger offices with several floors worth of brilliantly glowing halogens, the ability to turn off lights without having to visit each light switch is a major relief for energy-conscious property managers. If your office electricity bill is high, you can simply use IoT-enabled lights and exercise complete control over your office illumination and turn off those lights when nobody is working.

  1. Cold Storage Sensors

Does your company work with products that need to be chilled and kept dry? From restaurants to florists, maintaining the right cooler environment is vitally important to keeping products high-quality and salable. When your business risks losing money to warm freezers or damp air, having a constant monitor for environmental factors saves hours of employee time constantly checking and noting temperature and humidity. An IoT-enabled sensor can do the checking for you and give you an early warning if something goes wrong before your products are damaged.

These devices are only the tip of the iceberg. As development continues in IoT devices, businesses will see more and more industry specialized internet-enabled devices.  From robots that scan shelves to sensors custom built to monitor factory machinery, IoT is bringing remote access and optimization opportunities to every aspect of a modern business. Today it’s thermostats that conveniently save electricity, but in a few years it could be security camera drones flying circuits.

If you’re interested in learning more about the growing world of the Internet of Things – and how it could help your company increase revenues and/or reduce costs, please contact us today!

Majid Abai – August 2017 – Los Angeles.

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About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com), a High-Technology and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. With over 30 years of experience in supporting US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategic and tactical approach to use of innovation and technology to increase revenues and reduce costs for organizations. Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

 

Will Humans Lose Jobs to AI Agents?

There is a great deal of concern associated with artificial intelligence taking over jobs that are currently performed by humans. It’s a valid concern and one should take a deeper look at the type of a job that could eventually be performed by a robot or some sort of AI agent.

We should also look at this issue from a different perspective: humans. Which will then beg the question of “Whose job will be transferred to an AI agent?”

What I mean to find out is, who is at risk of losing their job to an AI Agent? Whose job will be eliminated and what can be done about it? In this context, we discuss AI Agent in a broad sense: robots, computers, algorithms, and any other AI product.

I think the following is the first group of “at risk” folks, and the first wave of jobs that will be transferred: Everyone who has stopped thinking at work and are fully relying on computers to tell them what to do.

For example, An Uber driver who only pays attention to the route that is provided by their route guidance app and doesn’t survey the surroundings for potentially better route; A retail cashier who will only do what the computer tells her to do and wouldn’t make better recommendations because the computer didn’t say so; A customer service attendant who’s bound by what’s available in the computer and has forgotten the human touch necessary in the customer service industry. In each case, the human only operates within the bounds established by the computer – and performs his or her job without any initiative or innovation.

Let me simplify my point: The first waves of transfers would happen to folks who have fully given to computers and don’t use any imagination, initiative, or innovation to solve daily work problems.

The one thing that AI agents haven’t mastered yet is imagination, initiative, innovation, and service with a smile.

So, if the above premise is correct, we’ve now identified a way for people who are either in the workforce today or will be in the workforce in the near future: make sure to use your brains on the job to solve problems. As of now, we can teach computers a lot of things, but we still can’t teach them initiative, innovation, and the human touch.

If you are still going to school and thinking of what you should study and what work function you should perform, then choose a career that forces you to use your brain, to imagine, and to innovate! That’s the competitive advantage that will keep you on a job in the future.

 

Majid Abai – July 2017 – Los Angeles

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 About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com), a High-Technology and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. With over 30 years of experience in supporting US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategic and tactical approach to use of innovation and technology to increase revenues and reduce costs for organizations. Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

 

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Big Data + Big AI = Big Results

Based on a 2017 marketing report from IBM[1], 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, at a rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day! And, the report adds, with new devices, sensors, and technologies emerging, the data growth rate will likely accelerate even more.

With so much data to analyze, a great number of organizations, large and small, have invested in building Big Data repositories that contain both internal and external data; and developing new processes and models to take advantage of this informative data.

Big Data has been an excellent topic of conversation in IT departments, executive meetings, and even boardrooms for some time now, and due to excellent results associated with Big Data, we expect the trend to continue for many years to come.

In addition, we are seeing a new approach that can and will raise Big Data to a new level – and that is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) processes to analyze specific areas. You have heard a lot about AI in self-driving vehicles, drones, home cleaning robots, and other areas.

With Big AI being utilized ­in financial, law, healthcare, insurance, and other industries which would allow organizations to focus and customize their products and services to a specific client.

For example, in financial industry, we’re seeing a trend of organizations replacing their stock analysts with AI agents in order to maximize the effectiveness of stocks for each of their clients. Black Rock, for example, has been a pioneer in such movement[2]. In addition to stock selection, financial sector will soon find a variety of AI agents and apps that would customize and manage wealth, savings, credit card selection, purchase analysis – and a lot of other functions for the consumer.

In law, an AI program called Robot Lawyer has successfully overturned more than 160,000 parking tickets in New York and London alone[3] – and is expanding to other areas in the US!

In healthcare, the impact would be even more drastic! With all IoT and mobile devices available for use and the ability to analyze personal data, parental history, and other data sources, we could see a big impact in use of AI in Healthcare anywhere from establishing appointments, increase throughput within hospitals, and even getting patients to and from clinics.

Insurance industry has started using AI for claims management and fraud detection – as well as underwriting and loss prevention[4].

In retail, AI will be amazing! Logistics (just-in-time ordering and shelf management), sales improvement (more customized coupons, and better shopping basket analysis), payment processing (evident from Amazon’s purchase of Wholefoods), and fraud detection and loss prevention (to catch a thief – on spot!), we will see a wholesale change in how retail will start to function.

It is important to reiterate that although I use the examples associated with larger organizations, smaller and mid-sized organizations can certainly take advantage of Big Data and Big AI without having to make multi-million dollar investments. Every company would be able to use the same set of data and processes and take advantage of its Big Results.

 

Majid Abai – June 2017 – Los Angeles

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 About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com), a High-Technology and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. With over 30 years of experience in supporting US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategic and tactical approach to use of innovation and technology to increase revenues and reduce costs for organizations. Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

 

[1] IBM Marketing Cloud, “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2017” – https://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?htmlfid=WRL12345USEN&

[2] Sara Krouse, Wall Street Journal, March 28th 2017:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/blackrock-bets-on-robots-to-improve-its-stock-picking-1490736002

[3] Arezou Rezvani, NPR, January 16, 2017: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/16/510096767/robot-lawyer-makes-the-case-against-parking-tickets

[4] Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/e07cee0c-3949-11e7-821a-6027b8a20f23?mhq5j=e1

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10 Steps of a Successful Business Continuity Plan

As part of our engagements with our client organizations, we always ask about the organization’s business continuity plan. We ask this question regardless of the size of the company, or our level of engagement. Answers often sound something like this: “We’re covered!” or this: “We have a very detailed disaster/recovery plan” or our favorite: “We backup our data every night”.

As we dig deeper, our Sherpas often realize that most companies either don’t have a business continuity plan or at best have a data backup plan.

This has prompted me to write this article about the areas that an organization needs to think about when it comes to business continuity.

Step 1: Business Continuity Plan is an Operational Risk, Not an IT one.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is an operational risk. It effects much more than just simply the technology side of the house, and would include cross-training, rescheduling, and focusing on worst case scenarios

Step 2: Disaster Recovery Plan is a subset of a Business Continuity Plan

In our opinion, the Disaster Recovery (DR) plan is the technology subset of the business continuity plan. For example, a medium-size break and mortar print organization with several offices across the US, and running several systems including CRM and ERP platforms would not only need a DR plan, but also, need to figure out how to deliver customer online, telephonic, and manual orders should a disaster wipe out one of its print centers. In addition, should a call center be closed due to a natural disaster, would other centers have adequately trained specialists to answer the customer phone calls?

Step 3: Define Key Business Activities

We’d like to start by defining key business activities, processes, and systems within the organization. For example, production lines for manufacturing companies, systems, key resources, and important business processes. We also ask some stupid questions: What if the phones are down for more than one day? Could you continue to operate? Are the phone systems designed to relay phone calls to people who work from home?

Step 4: Define Potential Disasters

What does disaster look like in your business? The scenarios are quite different for each organization. Of course, the following categories are the most common set of business disasters:

  • Natural Disasters (earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, etc.)
  • Architectural Disasters (Fire and Water damage)
  • Technological Disasters (servers crashing)
  • Terrorist attacks (e.g. September 11)

In addition to the above set of disasters, each organization has its own set of issues that could be potentially disastrous for the company. For example, a number of major public companies – as well as the US Federal Government – prohibit traveling of 2 of their high ranking members on the same flight as a method of insuring business continuity.

Step 5: Define the Potential Cost of the Disaster

The way to answer this question correctly is to be able to realize that there are 3 types of cost associated with each disaster (a) The unproductive time/money loss due to lack of resources; (b) revenue loss due to lack of sales; and (c) long-term loss due to customer dissatisfaction. For example, an e-commerce company whose servers have crashed will have to pay its personnel while the site is being recovered; will lose sales for the duration; would pay for online ads during this period; and would potentially lose customers as they might find the rival site and never come back. One should calculate this cost as it would directly help with the next section.

Step 6: Define an Acceptable Recovery Time

Following the above example, if e-commerce company A could potentially lose $1,000 per hour, its business continuity strategy might be quite different than e-commerce company B that is losing $75,000 per hour. In case of Company A, the company might be happy for a recovery time of several hours or days, where Company B, would like the recovery to be a matter of minutes.

Step 7: Define an Acceptable Recovery Budget

So far, we have identified disaster types, cost of each disaster, and acceptable recovery times for that disaster. But how much are we willing to pay to be prepared? Nobody really wants to pay for something that could never happen (including the cost of cross-training, re-deployment, etc.), but it is a necessity of life.

Step 8: Consider External Vendors

What if you couldn’t fulfill your products and services for a certain period of time? Could there be external vendors who could perform these services for that period to keep the customers happy? If so, start building a relationship with them and establish the criteria of working together.

Step 9: Protect Your Data!

Data is the new gold. As part of any solid BCP and DR Plan, you’d need to make sure that your data is backed up, accessible, and recoverable. As long as we know data us accessible, recoverable, and easily discoverable, we would be able to restore it or use it in the interim to support our customers. Let’s use this example: Company A uses a sophisticated ERP format. IT department backs up this data every night to a secure offsite location. A few months down the line, the ERP servers crash and we have to wait for new servers for a week. During this period, this data is not accessible which could cause a lot of issues for the company.

Alternatively, a better business continuity plan, would have dumped key data (customer, product list/cost/price, etc.) to an unsophisticated system on nightly basis, allowing users at various offices to have access to this information during the disaster period.

Step 10: Train Your Employees

And finally…. Make sure your employees know what to do in case of a disaster, whether it is natural, technological, or architectural. It’s important for them to have all steps documented in a manual and practiced those scenarios so that they could react to those conditions naturally. Such manuals should be customized for each vital set of groups, so that they’re simply focused on their specific function in case of a disaster.

In Conclusion

As you can see, organizations should be actively developing business continuity plans and should remember that these are live documents that be modified continually as business requirements, systems, and personnel change. As such, it’s very important for executives to review, update, and test the plan, and schedule training and reminders for their employees and team members, on annual basis. One hopes that such plans are never put into action, but executives should always be ready.

 


 About The Author:

Majid Abai is Managing Director of Concepts Rise, LLC. (www.ConceptsRise.com and www.RevenuesRise.com), a Technology, Revenue Growth, and Innovation Consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

With over 30 years of experience in leading and managing US and global organizations, Mr. Abai focuses on strategy and tactical approached to innovation and rapid growth of organizations.

Majid could be reached at 424-320-0524 or via email at majid.abai@ConceptsRise.com.

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