Insurers Looking to Verint for Engagement and Optimization Software

November 18, 2015

By Frank Griffin
Contributing Writer

Insurance is one of the most complicated services consumers purchase. Two US based insurance companies are trying to make the purchasing process simpler. The unnamed major companies will be increasing their investment with Verint to improve how they interact with their customers and employees, making it much easier for customers to understand their options.  

According to Verint, both companies are focusing on customer experiences, workforce performance and employee engagement. All of those factors are critical to delivering the best overall customer experience.

The insurance companies have already deployed different technologies from Verint. The first one implemented call recording and desktop process analytics to its operations to further enhance the different Verint solutions it already has in place.

The Verint call recording solutions delivers a full-time and compliance platform for operations of all sizes. With this system in place, organizations can address dispute resolution challenges, sales verifications, financial trading, customer surveys and optional PCI and Recording Encryption solutions to facilitate compliance with PCI DSS.

The recording platform captures, indexes and retrieves voice, screen and other types of interactions from traditional time-division multiplex (TDM), Internet Protocol (IP), Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) and mixed environments. Once the recordings have been archived, they can be searched and replayed. The recording can also be shared for training purposes or internal analytics.

The other insurance company implemented workforce optimization to include additional seats for quality management, speech analytics and customer feedback. According to Verint, with these solutions the company will be able to increase its visibility, gain better customer insight and align quality management processes within the organization.

The Verint Actionable Intelligence solutions deliver a comprehensive platform for customer engagement optimization to capitalize on each interaction, optimize the workforce and improve the many different processes within the enterprise. With this system in place, the insurance company can deliver consistent, contextual and personalized experiences no matter which channels customers use to engage.

The information that is gathered during these interactions can also be analyzed to make sense of the big data, both structured and unstructured, to gain a better understanding of workforce performance, operational efficiency, service processes, interaction quality and changing customer behavior dynamics

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

How Voice Interfaces Will Revolutionize IoT

 “Alexa, will I need a jacket today?”

“Probably not. The high today will be 75, and the low will be 58.”

“Great. Alexa, what time is my first meeting today?”

“You have a meeting with Ryan at 10:00am.”

I recently received an Amazon Echo as a birthday gift, and exchanges like this have since become commonplace in my home. As an avid Apple fan, I’ve been using Siri on my iPhone and iPad for years. When they announced Apple Music, I immediately signed up. Not because their library was any better than Spotify’s, but for one simple feature - ability to ask Siri to play music without having to physically interact with my phone. As more and more of our interactions migrate to apps, it’s become increasingly more painful to accomplish the simplest of tasks. Sure this is due to our increased product experience expectations and in this case the inconvenience of pulling out your phone, unlocking it, searching for the app you need, launching it, and then taking whatever action you originally set out to take. And while Siri should be making my life easier, she isn’t. I can say “Hey, Siri” in as many ways as possible, and she’ll answer maybe half of the time. As a born New Yorker raised in Atlanta, I can guarantee you it isn’t my accent. She just doesn’t work as well as she should. But, I still believe that voice is the way of the future.

The Amazon Echo, powered by Alexa, has shown me the light. My first experience with Alexa was pretty run-of-the-mill as far as connected devices go. I unpacked the box and, upon reading the Quick Start Guide, downloaded the Amazon Echo app from the App Store, as instructed. I connected Alexa to my home Wi-Fi through the app, and from there started to test her intelligence through a series of “recommended phrases”, as well as off-the-cuff statements and questions. All of these interactions were great, and, while I was fairly impressed, the impact of voice on the connected home and the future of IoT didn’t really dawn on me until my wife began using Alexa, as well.

I’ve always been a technologist. New technologies are as exciting to me today as they were when I was a little kid. For me to find a new piece of tech that gets me all giddy is, suffice it to say, nothing new. But when I would start to tell my friends about this great new piece of tech I had just received, and my wife would jump in with “Oh, it’s just amazing! She does this and that and you can ask her these things…” is when I first realized how transformative voice interfaces will be. Ignore the fact that my wife was bragging about how well Alexa worked; she had referred to Alexa as “she” and not “it”. It dawned on me that by building a technology that not only responded well to our voice commands, but did so in a conversational and natural way, the Echo had impressed upon us both that inside this sleek cylinder was an intelligent, sentient being that was always available to answer our questions or perform tasks on our behalf. And this is why voice interfaces will become pivotal to the Connected Home and to the Internet of Things at large.

The promise of the Connected Home is an improvement in our quality of life. But no one will say their life is improved by having to pull out their phone, launch an app, and tap a button just to turn on or off a light. In the craze of connecting things, we’re connecting everything, even if that thing shouldn’t be connected. And we’ve taken trivial tasks, such as turning on a light, and actually complicated it by connecting it. In reality, the only thing easier than turning on the light myself is asking my wife to do it for me (we haven’t quite trained our dog to do it, yet). And that luxury can only last for so long before I’m told to get up and do it myself. But devices that respond to voice commands never get tired of bending to your will. They’ll never be too busy to do you a favor and turn on that light, or set that timer, or play some obscure playlist because you’re in the mood for that one song. And, most importantly, they break down the barriers that currently exist between us and technology.

By connecting devices and controlling them through our phones, we’ve inadvertently added another layer of indirection between us and the task we’re trying to accomplish. Voice interfaces, on the other hand, remove that additional hop by allowing us to speak directly to the thing it is we’re trying to control. This is a paramount realization. While startups and enterprises alike are trying to cram all of the promise of a connected world into a 4 inch screen, we’ve been missing the most intuitive and simple interface of all: the voice.

Now, that isn’t to say that natural language processing (NLP) is where it needs to be to make voice interfaces mainstream. If you think NLP is anything but an incredibly difficult undertaking, you’re mistaken. And we’re seeing companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon pour an incredible amount of effort (and dollars) into opening up new horizons in this space. But, it’s an interesting chicken-and-egg problem, where consumers won’t be persuaded by the promise of voice interfaces until they start to see them work better, and companies won’t be willing to invest the time and money into improving these new interfaces, when they can just redesign their mobile app for much less, unless they find that their customers are asking for it. But, as research into NLP, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence continues to grow, it will naturally make its way into the private sector, and we’ll see more and more devices support it as a means of interaction.

IoT companies in particular would do well to investigate these technologies early on and see how they can integrate it as a core part of their product offering. Platforms such as the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Interface are already making these incredible technologies available to third party developers, and the number of integrations (known as skills) available on the Echo is growing steadily. Developers have been asking for an SDK to Siri for years, despite her inaccuracies. More and more, we’re seeing the promise of the voice and its place in technology. So, the only real question is what do you want to ask your home to do for you?

Jordan Stone is the Chief Software Architect at Notion. Previously, he was building software at Deloitte Digital’s mobile development studio, Übermind. To learn more about Jordan, check out his company bio and explore the importance of data security in this voice-controlled IoT ecosystem here - how Notion is dealing with data securityFollow Jordan on Twitter.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Facebook to Provide Fundraising Support for Nonprofits

November 18, 2015

Over the years, Facebook has been leveraged as a tool for raising awareness and inciting urgency within social media users about philanthropies, social causes, and both natural and human disasters. After all, the social platform boasts billions of users each day, making it a powerful tool for spreading awareness about important causes.

As such, Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s VP of product management, announced during Mashable’s annual Social Good Summit that they’ve created a dedicated team committed to social good. The “Social Good Team,” which is headed by Gleit, is focused on creating new tools around social causes and the needs of its users. For instance, Amber Alerts and Safety Check tools are now available to users, as well as a “Donate Now” button which enables social networkers to donate to causes such as ALS and the Nepal earthquakes.

Social Good Team recently unveiled its newest cause-related tools specifically made for fundraisers. Today , charities and nonprofits can create their very own dedicated “Fundraiser” page on Facebook, which is modeled exactly like an “Event” page.

via Pixabay

The fundraising pages enable charities and nonprofits to share information about their campaigns, post updates, and display the amount of donations received. Page visitors can easily see what the campaign is supporting, the end goal, i.e. how much money it hopes to raise, as well as have access to a “donate” button directly below the page’s cover photo. What’s more, those who donate to fundraisers can easily share their donation in a Facebook status, thereby raising further awareness and inspiring others to support their cause.

“People raise money for disaster relief, they search for missing children and they bring attention to the issues they care about,” Gleit wrote in a recent blog post. “We’ve seen from our community that when people take action, lives are changed. We know we can do more to enable these connections.”

Currently, nonprofit partners such as Mercy Corps, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the World Wildlife Fund are utilizing Facebook’s fundraising tools.  Facebook hopes to encourage more nonprofits to sign up for these features throughout 2016.

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Cyber Attacks Growing More Dangerous for Individuals and Businesses

Cyber attacks are becoming more impactful with a broader set of repercussions, according to new data from Trend Micro (News - Alert). The company has released its Q3 Security Roundup Report, finding that data breaches and other attacks are having a bigger impact on enterprise earnings as well as the physical safety and privacy of individuals.

The “Hazards Ahead: Current Vulnerabilities Prelude Impending Attacks” report focuses on both the vulnerabilities and aftermath of major security breaches and attacks. Trend Micro found that mobile platforms are becoming increasingly susceptible to breaches, presenting danger to individual and corporate users. The company warns that security gaps of the past quarter are setting the tone for potentially major security events in the coming year.

"The evolution of breaches is beginning to take a turn toward real-world effects on enterprises' bottom lines and people's lives," said Raimund Genes, CTO of Trend Micro. "The emergence of numerous vulnerabilities and other data breaches that occurred in this quarter are bound to release more confidential and potentially destructive information to the public, which could then be sold to the highest bidder on the Deep Web."

The Deep Web refers to the unindexed portion of the Internet, comprised of anonymous networks like TOR and Freenet. It is generally considered a safe haven for cybercriminals and those involved in the illegal trade of goods and services.

Last quarter’s Ashley Madison hack was perhaps one of the most noteworthy, in which stolen confidential information was used to go after specific victims and was leveraged for blackmail and other nefarious uses. The data breach was harmful to the company as well as more than 30 million users, with reports of suicides in the most extreme cases as a result of the attack.

Trend Micro found that over the past quarter, data breach hacks were used to ultimately fuel additional attacks and extortion in many cases. Weak points in mobile platforms are also becoming a major issue, particularly the recent discovery of vulnerabilities in Android (News - Alert). Cybercriminals have also begun using malware on PoS devices to perform spamming and other exploits, which has had an impact on small businesses.

Other security exploit trends over the past quarter include an increasing number of political personalities being the targets of espionage campaigns, and broader usage of the Angler Exploit Kit to distribute malware. An increased number of Internet-ready devices have also upped the chance of exploits, putting the general public at risk.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Secusmart Secures Mobile Communications with SecuSUITE for Enterprise

Secusmart Secures Mobile Communications with SecuSUITE for Enterprise

November 18, 2015

By David Delony, Contributing Writer

Secusmart, a division of BlackBerry, has announced that it has released SecuSUITE for Enterprise, an encrypted VoIP calling app.

Even with the criticism from some government officials in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, encryption is a valuable technology for businesses looking to keep their trade secrets out of the wrong hands.

“With SecuSUITE for Enterprise, we are adding a user-friendly and completely independent solution to our portfolio,” Secusmart CEO Hans-Christoph Quelle said. “Thanks to the globally secure BlackBerry infrastructure, governments – and now, companies – around the world can protect themselves from the threat of corporate espionage using flexible and extremely effective encryption technology ‘Made in Germany’.”

SecuSUITE for Enterprise uses 128-bit end-to-end encryption, making it almost impossible for anyone to eavesdrop on phone conversations. It can encrypt both voice and text communications both over cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

The application generates a key that is used for the duration of the call and deleted immediately after the call is completed, functioning as a kind of “one-time pad”, a method of encryption that is theoretically unbreakable.

It will be available next month for Android, BlackBerry 10 and iOS devices.

The move seems to be an acknowledgement that Secusmart’s parent company BlackBerry is no longer the king of enterprise mobile communications with its Android and iOS support. The company even released an Android smartphone, the Priv.

The company is also playing up its historical association with enterprise with its cross-platform enterprise mobility management software. Its BBM messaging app is also available for iOS and Android.

With SecuSUITE for Enterprise, the company can offer secure, encrypted communications even if many of its customers have moved onto iOS and Android devices.

Even before the Paris attacks, there were calls to limit the availability of encryption to people outside of the intelligence or military communities, but the benefits of the technology are undeniable to businesses and ordinary people, and SecuSUITE for Enterprise is evidence that encryption is an essential and mainstream technology.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Indian Market Nets New LG 4G Handsets with VoLTE Capability

The voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) concept has given markets a whole new way to develop in recent years, allowing for voice traffic to proceed on a data network means there can be a focus on developing the data network alone. The Indian communications market is showing this quite well, as LG Electronics (News - Alert) India has recently brought a pair of new handsets with a VoIP focus to the region.

The two new handsets—the LG Spirit LTE and the LG G4 Stylus—offer a particular difference not commonly seen in the region: voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) and voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) capability. These handsets are set up in such a fashion that data, and by extension voice, traffic is transmitted faster than more standard devices, and so VoIP will get a particular edge with these handsets. Those interested will be able to pick up the devices at several different multi-brand outlets.

LG's new agreement with Reliance Retail, meanwhile, gives LG access to the network the retailer enjoys, featuring fully 1,200 distributors and a whopping 150,000 total retail outlets. This should be more than enough to establish a decent sales performance.

Thanks to these new handset, LG will have something of a first-mover advantage in the VoLTE and VoWiFi fields in India, giving LG its own specific market niche, at least for now. LG Mobiles India's head of marketing, Amit Gujral, noted that those who wanted to take fullest advantage of the 4G network in the region would need one of these handsets on hand. Gujral also noted that both “existing LG loyalists” and “potential LG customers who want the best” would have a particular desire for the “futuristic gadgets” the company was offering.

In general, the Indian telecommunications market is something of its own beast. Somewhat comparable to China in some ways, wireless buildouts have been more regularly seen than wired services thanks to levels of investment involved and accompanying regulations. The appeal of mobile devices that can go where a user does is also fairly substantial, so huge numbers of the devices have been sold and in turn need an infrastructure from which to run. That infrastructure can be complex and expensive to establish, so seeing a desire to build out in more of the data direction makes sense. Previously, data networks would have to be built alongside voice networks, but with VoLTE and VoWiFi coming more into play, networks can be built mostly on data and the customers can be moved to such systems accordingly.

LG might have a real edge in the upcoming Indian telecommunications market, and that could be a real help to LG's operations worldwide, particularly given the highly competitive nature of the global telecommunications market in general.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

IntelePeer Expands Service to Millions through Global Capacity Partnership

November 17, 2015

By Christopher Mohr Contributing Writer

Global Capacity recently announced that its One Marketplace platform would be used in IntelePeer’s CoreCloud SIP trunking service. The platform combines an extensive network infrastructure with applications that manage the pricing and delivery of network connectivity.  

Chicago-based Global Capacity provides connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS) that seeks to make buying access networks simple and inexpensive. Its One Marketplace platform provides a carrier-class network well-suited for handling business and service provider needs, while avoiding the problems that come with including consumer traffic. The list of companies using this service includes heavyweights like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and Earthlink.

IntelePeer is a San Mateo, California-based company that provides on-demand communications services from the cloud including unified communications and collaboration (UCC) with high definition video and audio. Its CoreCloud SIP service is designed to provide high quality audio while allowing customers to save significantly on communications costs. In addition to quality audio, CoreCloud uses four kilobit public key encryption, the strongest level available, to protect communications from intrusion.

Although talk of SIP trunking is more ubiquitous than snowfall currently in the Rockies, the market for the technology still has a lot of potential for growth. According to an infographic produced by theUCbuyer, only 20 percent of North American businesses use SIP; that total is even smaller for the rest of the world. This leads to a market expected to more than double from its $4.4 billion level in 2014 to $9.35 billion in 2019.

Just as the global SIP market has lots of untapped potential, IntelePeer’s partnering with Global Capacity gives it a larger network with great growth opportunities with access to more than 9.6 million commercial locations in the U.S.

As a result, IntelePeer can be price competitive with its SIP customers, offering them a service that delivers high quality audio and video. This service is monitored non-stop to ensure minimal downtime and uses the same infrastructure that the leading telecoms use. When you have selling points like that, it’s hard to beat the service you offer. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Technology and the Future of Branch Banking

For those of us of a certain age, we can remember not necessarily fondly the days before there were ATMs and we actually walked inside banks to do all of our transactions.  While those days are long gone, along with the associated long lines, realities are that the physical offices of financial institutions in general and branch banks in particular are poised to undergo a transformation that is no less profound than the one ignited by the now ubiquitous presence of those ATMs. 

Branch banking in the not too distant future is going to be a very different customer experience. It will be much more reliant on technology to enable us to get done what we need to quickly, securely and accurately, than we now do.  We as customers and the banks themselves need to be prepared the next generation of how financial services are delivered and experienced

This transformation is the subject of a fascinating recent strategic whitepaper by Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), The bank branch of the future:  From transactions to interactions.  The intent in what will be a two-part series of articles on the whitepaper is to look at what is driving the overhaul of branch banking with a glimpse on what the future holds.  In the follow-up the recommendations on how to build such a futuristic branch office will be explored.

Conflicting trends driving dramatic change

Without going into great detail, those of us who live in the U.S. know the basics.  Thanks to the Internet, smart devices and apps, online has become our preferred way for us to do most of our banking.  We can look at our accounts, transfer funds, pay bills and even apply for loans of all types.  In short, banking has become very much a self-service affair. There are no longer “bankers’ hours”, and when we want help we click to call typically rather than visit the local branch. What this has meant to banks is that the massive investments they made in opening branch offices in terms of real estate, people and what is now legacy technology have become boat anchors on profits. 

In fact, the whitepaper provides the factual support for how the times are changing and rapidly.

  • Many large banks have been rushing to close branches because they are very expensive to operate. In fact, a Cormack Securities report suggests that a 10 percent reduction in bank footprint (either closures or reduction in size) would yield an increase in earnings of around 2.7 percent.
  • The economics of online and mobile transactions are compelling. A Financial Times (News - Alert) article calculates that a transaction executed at a branch is $4 per visit; at an ATM (“cash point”) a transaction is approximately 48 cents (around 1/8th the cost); an online or mobile application is around 4 cents (1/100th the cost).
  • As payment technologies like mobile payments continue to move into mainstream use, the need for cash will decline, further limiting people’s need for bank branches. According to Bain & Company, most banks are seeing teller-based transactions decline at an annual rate of 10 percent–15 percent.
  • As a result of all the factors above, the number of branches in the United States declined to 94,725 in 2014, the lowest since 2005.This is approximately a 5 percent decrease across five years. 

What this all adds up to is desirability of closing select branches, while enriching the customer experience in those that remain using an omnichannel approach that integrates seamlessly the physical and virtual worlds. 

While not a perfect analogy, as with most large enterprises which many physical retail locations and entertainment venues, the need to make the physical experience attractive has become paramount.  It is not only the way to increase customer loyalty, but also the vehicle for obtaining intimate permission to upsell or offer unique loyalty rewards.  If you have been in the branch of your local bank you may have already experienced the increased attention that going from transactions to interactions involves. 

The whitepaper also notes what may be a contradictory trend that research has revealed.

A McKinsey & Company (News - Alert) report reveals that 65 percent of customers interact with their bank through multiple channels.  Interestingly, the report also notes that customers who use mobile and online banking are 60 percent more likely to be active branch users than those who do not.

Digital and physical channels can synergize with each other, resulting in a rationale for branches

even in an increasingly digital world. Digital channels can be used to facilitate basic transactions that are not economically viable to conduct at the branch, while physical channels can be used to offer a unique, advice-driven customer experience for larger, more complex interactions. This customer-centric, relationship-based approach can increase value for the bank even with a smaller, less expensive footprint.

To achieve this goal, branches will need to be transformed with regards to appearance, service, strategy and technology. The future bank branch will shift the focus away from basic transactions to helping the customer make the right financial decisions.

Given these trends, what is a bank supposed to do looking ahead?

ALU points to six changes that have either been recently introduced at your local branch or are coming soon as they go omnichannel and integrate the heretofore silos of information that have created obstacles for optimizing the customer journey.  They include:

  1. Mobile integration:  a customer who starts a transaction on one channel should be able to pick it up at another, including at the branch if they seek in-person assistance.
  2. Advanced ATMs: including integration with personal devices and HD video with a customer service agent.
  3. Touch screen displays:  to enhance the indoor experience.
  4. Mobile staff: everyone will have a tablet to summon the resources or people they need in order to reduce resolution times.
  5. Pop-up branches:  going where the customer goes, i.e., being there such as the trend already taking place of bank branches in super markets and other big box stores.
  6. Data-driven branches:  leveraging the trust people have in their banks regarding personal information versus other institutions and changing the perception of branch employees from tellers and loan officers to financial advisors.

As studies are beginning to prove, irrespective of vertical market, companies that move to next generation technologies to create operational efficiencies while simultaneously enhancing the customer experience out-perform those who are technology laggards.  This is not technology acquisition for technology’s sake but rather with very specific intent that must be executed well because the consequences of poor execution in a real-time world can be catastrophic. 

As noted, in the second part of this series we shall see how banks get their branches from here to the future. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

The Future of Fitness Wearables: Moving Beyond the Watch

The sports wearable market is set to explode, with future revenues as big as any offensive tackle: Juniper Research has predicted $10 billion in hardware revenues projected over the next five years. That’s up from $3.3 billion this year.

Yes, the amateur athlete will continue to drive the market with more advanced Fitbits, Forerunners, GPS trackers, and other fitness watches; however, the professional teams will become the testing ground of the newest, most advanced wearable tech.

Sports teams have already incorporated wearables for increased physical data during practice. They’ve been using smart clothing to monitor heart rate and blood oxygen saturation levels. The major sporting broadcasters’ next goal is to make this information available, in real-time, to game viewers. That means you’ll watch Lebron’s heart rate spike during a dunk, but it also means improvements for sideline healthcare providers.

The authors of the research stressed how valuable and transformative this new technology may be. “Without clear boundaries for data ownership and use, biometrics could become part of sports players' contracts, and even dictate initial hiring practices through predictive analytics," noted author James Moar. "While wearables companies involved in corporate wellness have been very careful to ensure employers can only see aggregate data and that workers can opt out, pro sports have no such safeguards."

One caveat to this prediction: while the wearable hardware is rapidly advancing, vendors are still struggling to build apps to present all the new data. Not all consumers need or want to know their VO2 stat, their blood saturation level or other advanced information. That means vendors will need to tailor apps to different users without sacrificing hardware innovation. 

So expect two major innovations from the wearable fitness sector: way more detailed sports games on TV, and a lot more fitness watches in everyday life. We’ll be healthier, more informed about our health, and you’ll have new fodder for those awkward office sports conversations. It’ll be a good future.    

Edited by Maurice Nagle