Apple Announces ResearchKit Available to Medical Researchers

Apple today announced that ResearchKit, a software framework designed for medical and health research, is now available. Medical researchers will be able to use ResearchKit to develop their own apps, and developers can also contribute new research modules to the open source framework. “We are delighted and encouraged by the response to ResearchKit from the medical and research community and the participants contributing to medical research. Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. “Medical researchers all over the world are actively exploring how ResearchKit can help them study even more diseases, and we believe the impact on global understanding of health and wellness will be profound.”

Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor

Apple has updated Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor with new features for motion graphics and key enhancements to accelerate video editing, packaging, and delivery. Final Cut Pro 10.2 introduces stunning 3D titles that are easy to use, improved masking for color grading and effects, native support for more camera formats, and GPU-accelerated RED RAW processing. Motion 5.2 extends the power of 3D titles with the ability to create custom materials and environments and instantly publish them to Final Cut Pro X. Compressor 4.2 makes it easy to package a movie for sale on the iTunes Store. “From Hollywood blockbuster directors to first-time movie makers, Final Cut Pro X is changing the way we edit movies today,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

Metaswitch Networks Certifies CTI Group SmartRecord

Metaswitch Networks, a network software provider, recently announced that it has certified the CTI Group SmartRecord call recording software to work with its softswitch platforms.

The pair of companies has reportedly been working together for some time to assure that their products will interact seamlessly. The certification will now allow Metaswitch customers to take advantage of the cloud-based CTI Group Affinity call recording platform; customers can also host their own SmartRecord setups within their own networks. Trevor Davis, the head of products at CTI Group, commented in the announcement about the demands of industry players for regulatory compliance and business performance.

“Today’s industry demands that interactions are recorded to manage and mitigate liability, achieve regulatory compliance, and to improve business performance by leveraging business intelligence derived from customer data. These are simply three key drivers of the need for communications recording.”

He continued by mentioning that Metaswitch and CTI Group are reaching out to the PBX market as long-term partners. The two companies have reportedly worked well together in the past, and Davis's comments show that they could continue that positive trajectory in the future. Their overall goal, he indicated, is to improve customer experiences through the offering of products that work well together and can scale to meet any company's needs.

Reliability of SmartRecord comes through by being situated in the cloud. It is able to handle large workloads from even the most demanding of clients. Smaller clients, as well, can expect the software to cater to their needs and grow as they expand. Furthermore, the software is engineered to accept service provider management functions for compliance with operational support systems. Managers can provision recording resources to the areas where they need it most and can integrate the software with billing products they may already have installed.

Brandon Harper, the vice president of business development at Metaswitch, further commented that its customers will appreciate the tight-knit nature of its own products with CTI Group's call recording platform. Call recording has become a necessity for many businesses, and with something so essential, it is important to find products that work well together.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

If You Build Smartwatches, Advertisers Will Come

The relationship between advertisers and smartwatches within the next few years can be aptly summed up with the subtle tweaking of a famous movie quote: “If you build it, they will come.”

In this case, the “it” is smartwatches and the “they” is advertisers. While no one knows exactly how intelligent timepieces will affect the face advertising, a new study from Juniper Research (“Digital Advertising: Online, Mobile & Wearables 2014-2019”) reveals that there will be no shortage of companies pumping money into smartwatch ad campaigns. 

In fact, the study reveals that by 2019, the amount spent on advertising for smartwatches will increase from the current amount of $1.5 million to a staggering $68.6 billion—that’s roughly a 45-fold increase, or the equivalent of about 4,500 percent, in four years.

The study suggests that this massive growth will result from big names such as Apple delving into the smartwatch race—which now includes Google and Intel, among others. Most of the ad-spend will be for ad hoc campaigns, as advertisers still have a lot of implementation  methods to explore before creating a model that works on tiny smartwatch screens

In addition to small displays, Juniper Research cites user behavior as a factor that could skew advertising models that previously worked on smartphones and tablets—which we may soon be referring to as “traditional” mobile devices. As the screen shrinks, so too does the amount of time ads have to leave an impression on the audience; with smartwatches being made for glancing, we now enter the realm of seconds.

Despite the inherent challenges to advertising in the face of smartwatches, massive gains will be had for companies that are able to implement viable advertising models. Based on Juniper Research’s findings, we can already conclude that advertisers are up to the challenge.

Now it’s time to find out who has what it takes to “Go the distance.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Customer Engagement You Can Wear: Now That’s What I Call Service

Customer Engagement You Can Wear: Now That's What I Call Service

April 14, 2015

We’ve seen some ludicrous applications for wearable technology—poo detectors and wearable bananas to name a few—but successful customer engagement is not one of them.

At least not yet.

According to a new research from ACCENT Marketing, wearable technology will be a key element to successful customer engagement. Titled  the survey addressed how CMOs might improve customer engagement across all channels. It does so by holding a magnifying glass over how consumers interact with devices, including their preferences for certain devices over others, and their overall perceptions of the wide array of wearables currently, and soon to be, on the market.

While not yet in practice, the use of wearable technology in the work place and across a variety of industries, including advertising, is being

Image via Shutterstock

considered. Utilizing the growing market as an avenue to reach the ever-elusive customer engagement “promised land” is by no means outlandish. In fact, it makes good sense.  

"Wearable technology is a natural extension of online and mobile channels and quickly emerging as the latest channel of consumer engagement," Roger Huff, director of social media & digital strategy for ACCENT said. "Our research found that through wearable technology devices, brands have a direct line of communication to their customers – putting them at the center of the conversation and truly creating a personalized experience."

Some of the most useful survey findings, which consisted of 1,000 customers who own or intend to own a wearable device this year, include the following:

  • Over one-third (38 percent) of men are most excited about smart watches; yet four out of five consumers surveyed do not plan to buy the Apple Watch
  • 68 percent of women say they are most excited about fitness wearable technology, so are 56 percent of Baby Boomers
  • Three out of four Millennials believe wearable tech is a new way consumer brands can engage with customers
  • Half of all consumers surveyed say they would buy wearable tech so brands can send alerts and have more insights into their lifestyle

Companies are always on the prowl for new ways to improve customer engagement, not just as a means of reeling in new clients, but also—and maybe even more importantly—keeping the customers they already have. Wearable technology might have some answers, and hopefully they’re the ones customers want to hear.  

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Delivering Benefits as Promised Prompts One Company to Aim ‘Higher’

April 14, 2015

As any human resources professional will attest, making sure everyone is signed up, on time, for company benefits is a lot like herding cats: it can be done, but it involves a lot of chasing down the strays. Add in the fact that just about everyone in America has to call in and make some sort of healthcare benefit decision every December, and you’ve got the makings of a potential disaster on your hands.

That might explain why a national healthcare benefits provider is moving 100 contact center agents from its premise-based call center system to the cloud. And the company helping make that seamless and smooth transition is cloud call center leader inContact.

According to a company release, “The flexibility of the cloud will deliver capacity to grow and the ability to scale up and down to meet the seasonal needs of the business.”

This healthcare service provider – which was not named, according to inContact company protocols -- currently covers millions of members across the U.S. and is adding new members, while also supporting a broad spectrum of healthcare providers and insurance companies.

“Their current Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) system is time-consuming to manage and difficult to adjust for seasonal demand,” inContact noted. “The inContact cloud contact center solution offers an adaptable, easily scalable solution plus full multi-channel capabilities, giving members more choices and direct involvement in their benefits plans.”

Given the way healthcare is greatly expanding, the move makes total sense.

"The healthcare industry is constantly changing and we're able to help companies adapt and continue to grow," said Paul Jarman, CEO of inContact. "It's vital for organizations to have a flexible and scalable system to help deliver the most seamless and personalized service experience for the millions of members, providers and payers that they support, even as they grow." 

The complete inContact solution includes cloud ACD and IVR, CRM integration, Uptivity Quality Monitoring and network connectivity.

Simple and SMART for Better Meetings

The workplace is changing. You hear it all the time – and likely experience it even more than you realize. In many cases, we’re seeing a lot more collaboration taking place, which, on its surface is great. But when you think about how it’s being implemented, often the collaboration ends up causing more frustration and confusion than anything.

Let’s play it out. You’re in the middle of a project, but need a quick brainstorming session. Or you call a team meeting to discuss specifics for an upcoming project. Either way, the next likely thing that happens is someone picks up a dry erase marker and starts taking notes on all the ideas and suggestions on a white board. You wrap up the meeting and everyone gets back to what they were working on pre-meeting.

A few days pass, and suddenly you want to check on the progress of the action items from the meeting,  but you don’t remember all of them, and the board has long since been erased. It all amount to wasted time, frustration, and duplicate efforts – in short, inefficient operations.

But what if your whiteboard had the ability to capture what you wrote on it? And, what if it could also send those captured notes to your team, whether they were in the room or not?  Suddenly, not only are the meeting notes and distribution guaranteed, but nobody has to take focus off the meeting to record the notes. As an added bonus, what if remote team members participating via conference bridge could follow the notes in real time via a unique URL sent to all participants.

Now the inefficiency has been turned on its head; frustration is eliminated; and meetings result in real actionable outcomes – thanks to SMART Technologies (News - Alert), which has developed its SMART Kapp whiteboard with content “kapp-ture” capability.

To be clear, this isn’t a digital whiteboard with various collaboration and two-way interaction capabilities – some of those may be added in the future with a higher end product. For now, this is effectively a standard whiteboard that performs one – ok, two – functions: It captures and distributes what you have notated on the board with a standard dry erase marker (the image is one of the files from my meeting).

The idea is to drive meeting efficiency, whether larger, planned meetings or small, ad hoc brainstorming sessions. People want to be productive in their meetings, which is what SMART Kapp enables. Equally importantly, though, is the simplicity behind the product. It isn’t difficult to use; it doesn’t have all sorts of bells and whistles – though SMART does offer more advanced high-end visual collaboration solutions as well with its SMART Room System. But this is about simple technology that is more accessible and applicable to more scenarios.

“People want to do what’s intuitive and natural,” says Jeff Lowe, vice president of corporate marketing at SMART Technologies. “That’s what we were going for, something you just walk up to and use. Nobody gets trained on the iPad or on Skype (News - Alert) – that’s how easy we’ve made SMART Kapp.”

SMART Kapp is currently shipping a 42-inch version with a list price of $899, with an 84-inch version in production due to demand, which will come with an $1,199 tag (News - Alert). Both are priced to appeal to any business that uses whiteboards or flip charts, of which there are some 400 million today.

The app that enables sharing with multiple participants is free, and allows up to five participants. A $1.99 per month premium version allows up to 250 concurrent participants, provides a persistent URL for faster and ongoing sharing, adds PIN protection for live sessions, and removes the watermark from PDF and JPEG saves. The app is available from Google (News - Alert) Play and the App Store.

To be clear, this isn’t a fancy all-inclusive collaboration suite. Rather, it’s a simple, easy-to-use, low-investment substitute for a standard flip pad or whiteboard that removes the burden of copying, saving, and distributing notes and, in the process, makes meetings more useful – perhaps to the point where they will be a welcomed part of business activities.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

How to Solve the Real-Time Traffic QoS Issue

Net neutrality has been in the news recently as FCC (News - Alert) Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled a new strategy to drive it. In a Wired opinion piece published recently, he set out a plan to define unconstrained and open Internet access, eliminating last-mile tariffs and unbundling, and eliminating any throttling or charging for class of service. This time, the proposal is to use the FCC's Title II authority to recast Internet service providers as common carriers and avoid having the courts throw out the ruling.

Many technology providers and Internet service companies agree with the concept of open access and applaud the concept, while infrastructure and access providers argue that not being able to charge for access will constrain deployment of new infrastructure. I will leave the arguments about the value of net neutrality to others, focusing here instead on how an open, unconstrained Internet could impact any of us delivering real-time communications systems.

The emerging real-time web, especially WebRTC, could be impacted by eliminating any preference in the network. Without throttling or prioritization, our WebRTC and other real-time communications will have to co-exist with a wide range of traffic that has other demands, both in terms of latency as well as loss. That raises the question: Is an open, unfettered Internet increasing the potential of an Internet that will not accommodate real-time?

Already VoIP is seeing the impact of both the network and the structure of communications. Will the new net neutrality further degrade the capabilities of open services on the Internet that are real-time and need certain levels of service for use?

As an early VoIP adopter in the late ‘90s and early 2000 time frame, I am suffering through a number of early VoIP quality problems. I remember experiencing dramatic loss of quality on my VoIP calls from home, via a cable modem, at 3 p.m. when kids came home from school. Presumably their use of early file-sharing applications like Napster caused the performance hit. Today, Comcast prioritizes voice traffic, but will that be allowed under Wheeler's net neutrality ruling? Likewise, will voice over LTE (News - Alert) providers be able to prioritize voice traffic over video downloads from Netflix?

I believe we do need a way to prioritize real-time traffic – or we will suffer the consequences. If we are not able to segregate real-time communications, we could see a dramatic reduction in quality. And that will add to the other issues that are already degrading voice quality.

What can drive the solution is that real-time communications is a small portion of traffic on both corporate LANs and the Internet. On a typical gigabit LAN, real-time traffic often accounts for less than a few percent of the total. On these networks, simple class-of-service features like absolute priority and never discard assure that the real-time traffic moves freely while any reduction of total bandwidth is irrelevant for other services and applications.

I believe applying the same principles to the open Internet can achieve real-time quality, while preserving the rest of the application operations. A simple guarantee of 10 percent of available Internet capacity for priority traffic should be sufficient – today, tomorrow, and forever. In fact, the vast majority of the traffic increase on the Internet is entertainment, which is not real time and can be buffered. The 10 percent rule would be simple and could be applied everywhere.

Using this logic and concept, if a user purchased 10mbps of inbound bandwidth from his or her Internet access provider, then he or she would be entitled to mark up to 1mbps of traffic as a real-time class, or RTC. The ISP would then carry this traffic as absolute priority, never discarding, assuring it moves at essentially the root performance of the network and is not impacted by any other traffic. All other traffic would always have access to at least 90 percent of the total available bandwidth, assuring that traffic can move freely. Similarly, when ISPs peer, they would be required to accept up to 10 percent of the peering bandwidth as the RTC class, providing the same service across their networks to that traffic. The result is that the end users make the decision on classifying up to 10 percent of their purchased bandwidth to be in the RTC class, assuring that that traffic will move freely and at speeds and losses essentially at the best performance of the set of links through which the traffic goes.

The simplicity and logic of the 10 percent RTC scheme is that it puts the requirement of classification on every Internet entry point. So your router, whether home or enterprise, would soon be capable of marking your real-time traffic as RTC, and could also prioritize different data types should your RTC traffic volume exceed your 10 percent capacity. (Alternatively, depending on the frequency of this happening, you might buy more bandwidth overall).

However, once an RTC packet enters the Internet, it gets priority handling along the full path. Then companies like Google (News - Alert) or Netflix could have 10 percent, but not all, of this inbound traffic be RTC. They would have the same rules applied to their traffic entering the network as you do. RTC is limited to 10 percent of purchased inbound traffic capacity. I assume this would lead to great innovation in how to use specialized marking mechanisms to optimize the speed of playback, starting with sending some traffic using RTC and migrating to normal (non-RTC) marked traffic as the flow progressed and was cached. This would allow rapid changes to be sent with defined timing, while bulk viewing traffic would not get RTC treatment.

I believe that, as the FCC considers the new proposals for net neutrality and as other political bodies get involved, a consideration of 10 percent for real-time traffic is a critical concept to discuss. If everyone will consider the needs of the real-time market and not just streaming and other one-way services, we will create a thriving new community through WebRTC. A wide variety of real-time services depend on the Internet to deliver the quality that users and businesses demand.  We cannot let a race to equality eliminate the practical needs of real-time services. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

The Internet of (Open Source Software) Things

I had a great conversation with Bill Weinberg Senior Director, Open Source at Black Duck Software about the issues associated with enterprise deployments these days.

Let’s face facts. The world we live in is amazing in terms of the amount of resources we have available to us: framework repositories, association libraries, GitHub, etc. The world has no shortage of shared code.

However, shared code is not always tested code.

I remember one Birds of a Feather [BoF] session we ran about the general release of a product that had a great feature in the beta that everyone was excited about, but it turned out nobody had actually tested yet. Gaffs like that can lead to some opportunities for system crackers and ill will in the community.

When I got my NSA penetration testing certification, I was impressed with the collaborative effort to test penetration in an open source environment. I felt like I was riding with the “white hats,” trying to thwart malware.

I still think that way, but I recognize that companies have a lot of complex code and often the hole you plug today leads to another you find tomorrow. So when Bill was speaking to me about the value that Black Duck brings in verifying open source software and testing code for vulnerabilities, I understood the need.

Too often, security and quality assurance are the forgotten step children of software development. Using tools like Black Duck reduces risk and accomplishes the task of compliance verification. In many industries, the ability to show these results removes a lot of liability. The Black Duck software also tests code efficiency. Since coders inadvertently can leave test stubs and other lines of code that may represent a route for reset or injection into software, having Black Duck’s analysis is a good strategy, particularly if you use it as part of your regular testing.

As we move to an agile, sprinting world, having something focused on the big picture is a great way to reduce problems with the details.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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Five9 Hires Mike Crane as Executive Vice President of Services

April 14, 2015

Five9 (News - Alert), a company specializing in cloud contact center software, has asked Mike Crane to join its leadership team as the new Executive Vice President of Services. Crane brings over 20 years of industry experience to the table, with the last 15 of those spent at Cisco Systems (News - Alert).

Crane’s most recent position was Vice President of Advanced Services at Cisco, where he managed the Enterprise, Commercial and Public Sector segments. With a primary focus on delivering business outcomes and enhancing customer satisfaction, his work at Cisco contributed to the company’s current success and reputation. At Five9, Crane will be in charge of overseeing the Customer Success and Professional Services divisions.

“Mike’s proficiency in leading high performing teams, with a passion for customer success and professional services, makes him a valuable addition to the Five9 executive team,” said Mike Burkland, President and CEO of Five9. “His reputation in delivering world-class customer experiences will ensure we continue to scale our service deliverables to meet our customer’s needs.”

Five9’s cloud contact center software is built on a flexible platform that can be adapted to fit any business or industry application, available as an inbound, outbound or blended communication solution. The completely scalable platform is perfect for small and medium businesses as well as enterprise customers, offering in-depth functionality with an intuitive user interface and extensive features while eliminating the hassles and upfront hardware costs necessitated by traditional contact center solutions. The Virtual Contact Center and Predictive Dialer — among other features — help sales and marketing operations, significantly improve productivity, lead conversion rates and inside sales quotas, whereas an automatic blending of inbound and outbound interactions enables superior customer service. Other common applications for the platform include outsourcers and collections agencies.

This comprehensive software platform is supported by Five9’s professional services packages with extensive resources and methodologies to help customers deploy solutions effectively, usually with the use of a phased implementation approach. These services also provide a way to achieve clear, measurable results with analytics capabilities and ensure the solution matches the customer’s requirements and objectives. Five9 also offers 24/7 live support and an online training program through Five9 University to make sure customers are getting the most out of the company’s cloud contact center software.

“I am thrilled to join a company that is truly helping their customers enjoy the benefits of cloud technology; moving beyond the status quo of legacy, on-premise solutions,” Crane commented. “Five9 holds a unique leadership position in the cloud contact center market and I look forward to contributing to the success of our customers and the company.”

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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