Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Shining light on the dark side of big data

Does the shift toward more data and algorithmic direction for our business decisions assure us that organizations and businesses are operating to everyone's advantage? There are a number of issues involved that some people feel need to be addressed going forward.
Numbers don't lie, or do they? Perhaps the fact that they are perceived to be absolutely objective is what makes us accept the determinations of algorithms without questioning what factors could have shaped the outcome.
That's the argument Cathy O'Neil makes in Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens DemocracyWhile we tend to think of big data as a counterforce to biased, just decisions, O'Neil finds that in practice, they can reinforce biases even while claiming unassailable objectivity.
 “The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong.”   The math destruction posed by algorithms is the result of models that reinforces barriers, keeping particular demographic populations disadvantaged by identifying them as less worthy of credit, education, job opportunities, parole, etc. 

Now the organizations and businesses that make those decisions can point to the authority of the algorithm and so shut down any possible discussion that question the decision. In that way, big data can be misused to increase inequality. As algorithms are not created in a vacuum but are born of minds operating in a human context that already has some set assumptions, they actually can extend the reach of human biases rather than counteract them.  

“Even algorithms have parents, and those parents are computer programmers, with their values and assumptions, “Alberto Ibarg├╝en,  president and  CEO and of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation wrote.  “As computers learn and adapt from new data, those initial algorithms can shape what information we see, how much money we can borrow, what health care we receive, and more.”

I spoke with the foundation’s VP of Technology Innovation, John Bracken about its partnership with the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society as well as other individuals and organizations to create a $27 million fund for research in this area. 
The idea is to open the way to “bridging” together “people across fields and nations” to pull together a range of experiences and perspectives on the “social impact” of the development of artificial intelligence. As AI is on the road “to impact every aspect of human life,” it is important to think about sharping policies  for the “tools to be built” and how they are to be implemented.
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Algorithms' Dark Side: Embedding Bias into Code

Monday, February 13, 2017

V is Video Marketing for Valentine's Day

The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers in the U.S.  will spend $18.2 billion this Valentine's Day. Large though the figure may appear, it's actually down from last year's record high of $19.7 billion. It works out to an average of $136.57 per person. The bulk of it, $85.21, is earmarked for one's romantic partner, and the rest is divided among parents and children, teachers or classmates, friends, pets, and coworkers.
Though gifts of jewelry, flowers, chocolates, and dinners out, still make up the bulk of anticipated spending, there are also other options considered, particularly in light of the expanded categories for recipients of gifts on this holiday. And that means expanded opportunities for marketing around the holiday. The medium of choice for many marketers is video, because of its reach, its engagement, and the metrics on both.
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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Digital Advance of a Venerable Medical Journal

Since 1840, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has been associated with health care expertise. Now the brand includes 60 specialist medical and allied science journals with millions of readers around the world.
As a global brand, the BMJ relies on a digital platform to reach its worldwide audience. To keep up with the demands of this growth, it needed a partner to help it meet its needs.
The printed copies of the venerable journal are still mailed out, but the journal also embraces digital technology and expanded reach. It was the first medical journal in the world to go online 21 years ago, says Sharon Cooper, chief digital officer at the BMJ.
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Billboards are getting smarter

The Future of Smart Billboards

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Want to get a smoker's attention? Try a smart billboard that coughs. That's what a responsive billboard designed to promote smoking-cessation products from a Swedish pharmacy did.  As the
 video of the billboard in actions shows, it looks like a static picture of a man until a smoker gets close enough to trigger the digital screen to shift to showing the same man coughing. That's followed by a picture of the promoted products.Picture a billboard, and likely you think of a static picture with a slogan or some other words on it, or maybe a sort of revolving picture in a more dynamic version. That's old school billboards. Today's technology allows billboards to pick up on essential cues that enable them to tailor responses to the people in front of them. These are smart billboards equipped with responsive  abilities. And there are more developments ahead.

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The Future of Smart Billboards

Is Apple going American?

f there’s any lesson we should have learned from our presidential election, it’s that we should not jump to conclusions based on our own possibly faulty assumptions. So I’ll stick to facts and avoid speculation about the report that Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple, is considering a $7 billion factory in the United States.
Though the timing of this news indicates a deference to Trump’s push for manufacturing American products to take place on American soil, in reality, choice for factory sites are not made simply to agree with or defy a presidential preference. In fact, the reports of Foxconn’s exploration of American possibilities predates the present administration.
Back in December 2012, several reports like the one in PC Magazine quoted what Louis Woo, a Foxconn spokesman, told Bloomberg Businessweek in a phone interview: "We are looking at doing more manufacturing in the U.S. because, in general, customers want more to be done there."  
This was a month after the reports about the company’s looking into the possibilities of some American cities as a site for its factory. Of course, nothing has come to fruition, but it is very likely that the seed of possibility emerging at present was already planted over four years ago. This is something to remember when we see headlines that reference Trump.

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Foxconn Factory Potentially U.S. Bound

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Live Video Streaming for Marketing

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“Real time feedback rocks!” wrote one of the participants in the audience to a Periscope presentations by Scott Adams. That observation was prompted not just by the flurry of comments, but by Adams' responses to some of them on the air.
The beauty of live streaming lies the feeling of immediacy and active engagement that is absent in prerecorded programs. That's why live video is gaining popularity in social media. Marketers are taking note and we can expect to see a lot more of it used for brands aspiring to deliver authentic experiences in 2017.

It takes more than snow to work out a ski vacation

Vail Resorts, a leading global mountain resort operator, manages nine mountain resorts and three urban ski areas through its subsidiaries. Given the seasonal nature of the business—during ski season, the staff grows from about 8,800 to 25,000 individuals—managers got overwhelmed by the need to explain the calculations behind the payouts to workers.
Vail Resorts was using the PeopleSoft Human Capital Management (HCM) system. The problems were that data was distributed across multiple systems, and the compensation processes entailed manual inputs with Excel spreadsheets. As a result, there was no easy way to track compensation, which left workers unsure about what their salary and bonus amounts should be.
Tammy Mollhoff, Vail Resorts' HRIS director, explains that this process caused some frustration for employees, and even more for managers, who were asked to provide explanations to workers about what went into the numbers when they didn't fully understand it themselves. To solve that problem, the company wanted to centralize the process in way that would allow the managers to review the figures and then show workers the statements on base wages, discretionary bonuses, long-term incentives and other adjustments.
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Warehousing innovations take off

We’ve arrived at 2017.  Though I don’t recall seeing any technological predictions anchored on this particular year, we can look at what we’re supposed to be working toward with respect to the predictions for 2020 and what has come to light last year.  From that perspective, you can see that warehousing tech is a really hot area right now....
Though clouds refer to the computer kind, there now is the possibility of moving warehousing to actual cloud in the sky. That’s a possibility that Amazon seems to be considering based on the patent for an “airborne fulfilment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery”  that  that came to light this past December. The airborne fulfillment center (AFC) based on an unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is no mere drone. It is something much larger like the LCA60T flying whale airship discussed here, though with a variety of options.