I've got mail from MyPostcard

Scanning hit for the future of postal services and customer experience

I’ve been working on a bit of research about the future of mail and couriers. One of the coolest bits of research I found is MyPostcard.

MyPostcard is actually a scanning hit for a trend I’ve been following for a hospitality company. The hospitality industry has been focused on customer experience, experience design, and the role tech plays in curating these experiences. Especially with luxury brands, the success is in the details.

People are buying tailored suits. They are buying more hand-made products. Bespoke products and services are the leaders at the moment. Customers are wanting concierge service from personal butlers. There are modern accommodations that are treating the staff like servants from an upstairs/ downstairs drama. Nostalgia is a key driver, but so too is the desire for high-quality, personalized experiences that technology just doesn’t quite deliver.

MyPostcard is a perfect example of how tech can enable and even drive this trend. First, the app for Android or Apple has a great user experience. It’s easy to upload images, write text, and even sign the card.

You can choose from postcards, greeting cards, XXL greeting cards, or photo prints. You can also order them in bulk. The XXL cards are very cool. I sent two to my parents in the states from here in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. They print photos of the kids all the time, but the cards of our own design featuring photos of the kids and the kids’ signatures/ drawings gave them a special thrill. It was an inexpensive gift that will pay dividends in maintaining relationships between my parents and their grandchildren. My kids love the postcards I sent them too. The app is so easy, even my parents have learned how to use it and send some to my kids.

This is the kind of experience that is both nostalgic and modern. Although society is still pushing toward being completely paperless for all the bills and correspondence that used to flood the mail services, customers still need mail and courier services. This need is expected to continue until Amazon Prime Air can handle all of our delivery needs. By then, it will be the United States of Amazon, right? Until then, little touches like these will add value to personal relationships, client relationships, etc.

I should also include that businesses have long offered personalized cards and gifts. Moonpig is one example that has offered online orders since their launch to deliver anywhere in the world. However, MyPostcard is less expensive, and it has a much easier and pleasant UX. MyPostcard offeres the typical greeting card templates if that’s what you want, but their focus is on sharing your images and helping you create your own card from scratch.

I’m working on a more professional post, but I wanted to share my unique code. If you want to try out MyPostcard, enter my code, TVHESH, after creating a new account. You’ll get $3 and I’ll get $3 too. It’s a great way to stay in contact with people.

I've got mail from MyPostcard
I’ve got mail from MyPostcard
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More than Money: Get the (Free) Gist on the Future of Blockchain

Our latest Gist report briefly looks at the future of Bitcoin and its related technologies – blockchain, smart contracts and distributed autonomous organizations. Proponents say Bitcoin will decentralize power away from banks and other institutions while distributing it across whole communities. If these promises hold true, Bitcoin will only be the beginning.

Download the whole report for free.

What is changing?

Financial institutions are investing in the blockchain to make their job easier and more secure. R3 CEV is a company specifically set up to help banks trial blockchain technology. They lead a consortium of 42 banks who want to see how blockchain technology could change their industry, the potential of which R3 compares to how the internet changed the music and media industries.

However, the blockchain could be useful for so much more than just financial transactions. Ubitquity has developed a blockchain platform specifically for the real estate industry. The company says the new platform will improve the title transfer process by making it faster, more accurate, and more transparent for fraud prevention. And they say it will improve the due diligence process for the industry.

Multiple organizations are working to use blockchain tech to make voting more secure, and anonymous. In 2014 a major political party in Denmark, the Liberal Alliance, used blockchain tech for its own internal party voting. Since the blockchain relies on consensus anyway, it is inherently a voting platform and could one day be modified by government entities for such purpose.

Implications

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer a libertarian ideal that could destabilize the current infrastructure of banks and other powerful institutions. The blockchain offers distributed, secure, trusted and highly scalable architectures that conventional technologies cannot compete with. Although the banking industry is pre-empting disruption by investing in this new technology, many of their business models and revenue streams will be affected especially with increased competition from the tech industry. The opportunity for the financial industry is high, but the potential risks are also large especially for smaller players in the industry.

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Cryptocurrencies

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Wearing IT to Work–repost from Shaping Tomorrow

Wearing IT to Work is my latest trend alert based on my report on wearables. I am also hosting 2 free webinars to cover the basics of the report (please see links below).

Wearable electronic devices, or simply wearables, have emerged from specialized markets such as the medical sector and the military and are aggressively entering the mass market. Fitness trackers such as the FitBit, smartwatches such as Samsung’s Gear, and head mounted displays such as Google Glass can accelerate a wearer’s access to information while offering greater convenience.

What is changing?

 Wearable computing is converging with the mainstream mobile sector and driving growth in both industries. Wearables will help expand the mobile sector, but they will also provide significant benefits for almost every other industry as well. Wearables can be categorized into seven primary areas of application:

  • Mobile: One Among Many – The wearables experiencing the biggest push in the market at the moment function as extensions of the wearers’ mobile devices.
  • Measuring Myself – These wearables draw data from the wearers’ activities and physical condition, and they help users better understand their daily activities – sleep, exercise, work.
  • Immersive Experiences – Augmented reality and virtual reality are both rising, and their applications in wearables promise to further immerse users in their digital interactions.
  • Spying on Myself – Wearable recording devices (i.e. cameras or microphones) – previously relegated to spy shops – are being used for liability purposes, personal/ mobile security, and recording personal or organizational legacies.
  • Thinking Outside the Brain – Neurotech is breaking out of the lab to help organisations and individuals gain greater insight on their behavior as well as control certain devices.
  • Wearing My Password – Biometric authentication can be more secure than passwords, but the real benefit will be the convenience of signing in to anything, anywhere with the wave of a hand.
  • Feeling the Data – Haptic feedback is very effective at alerting mobile phone users to incoming messages, but it can communicate more complex information – GPS directions and potentially news feeds such as stock quotes.

Implications

 Wearables accelerate access to information, and they increase the types of information made practical in a variety of industries. While maintaining a constant connection, wearers will be able to work hands free allowing wearers to track more information and multitask more effectively. Wearables will also increase security and play a part in improving memory. These benefits will enable individuals to optimize their performance of everything from exercise and driving to teaching and stock trading. One study has already indicated that wearables can increase productivity and even job satisfaction. Wearables will help ramp up the changes spurred by the advent of the internet, but they will also intensify the existing questions surrounding privacy, security and society’s definition of humanity. As the devices enter the mainstream, the cost for R&D will drop, and more organisations will be able to utilize the devices to their full potential. Employees will also want to wear their own devices to work (similar to other BYOD policies), and organisations will have to decide how to regulate their use. The trends and their implications are further explored in our latest trend report,Wearing IT: Trends Expanding the Wearable Web. In it, we also explore wearables’ benefits for:

  • Medical and caregiving
  • Security and defense
  • Training and simulation
  • Transport and logistics
  • Banking and finance
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Travel and Tourism

We are also hosting 2 free webinars that will cover the basic findings from the report. Both webinars will require the download of GoToWebinar software or mobile app to attend. Please register here:

Modern Memorials

Just as modern technology has changed the way we interact with the world and our understanding of it, new technological solutions are also enhancing our legacy and our ability to rest in peace.

What is changing?

For funeral homes, the internet is disrupting the industry as online stores sell coffins and mourners arrange various types of memorials online, but funeral homes have begun adapting to the digital age with new services to memorialize the dead that better reflect the networked lifestyle of the deceased and their survivors. A digital sign can be customized for each funeral with videos and pictures of the deceased along with rich graphics and live feeds, and funerals can also be live webcasted or tweeted for long distance family and friends who could not make the trip. QR codes and microchips can be placed on grave markers, benches, or plaques to direct the curious to webpages with the deceased’s bio, pictures, videos, links, etc.

For surviving friends and family, the deceased’s online activity has become a significant concern in more ways than one. For years, mourners have created webpages or social media profiles of loved ones who have passed away, and Facebook alone has about 30 million accounts set as deceased. But what happens when these pages and profiles become outdated, archived, redesigned or given new privacy policies? What happens to the currency left in online accounts when passwords are not designated to the deceased’s heirs? Conversely, who can view the skeletons—of the deceased’s or their contacts’ skeletons shared in private messages—locked in digital closets when those passwords are found?  Who owns the data left behind, and who has the power to decide how it is used? Each social network and email service has its own policies. Some will send family the digital files of their profile and activity before deleting them while others retain all files but archive the profile to act as a digital tombstone.

For those planning for their deaths, companies are offering virtual services that could solve some of these dilemmas. If I Die is a Facebook app that posthumously posts messages to friends on certain dates after a profile has been designated deceased, and another company sends posthumous emails so the dead can always have the last word. Legacy Locker is a web service that stores online accounts and passwords to be given to pre-designated family members or friends. While offering this secure solution to ensure the safe delivery of data only to the right people is a great idea, it could also provide cybercriminals with a large target to hack and steal readymade identities. Legacy Organizer is an iPhone app that allows the user to create a personal record of their life and legacy as they want to be remembered complete with music, videos, life defining events, memoir, final farewell, and a will. LifeNaut is an online service that takes all the same information and plugs it into an artificial intelligence with an avatar that acts for the deceased. Other researchers are attempting to create lifelike robots with AIs based on an individual’s data to bring the dead virtually back to life. Such a robot could give that individual’s eulogy at their own funeral or provide company to spouses in need.

Why is this important?

Much of our lasting legacy is increasingly centered on our online activity shared with the rest of the internet community and housed in digital databases, and everyone with online activity will have to give greater thought to their digital assets and the data housed in their many online accounts as well as the online accounts of their contacts. How do users want these accounts to be cared for when they are gone? Who should be the executor of your online accounts, and how can your executor access these accounts?

Deceased profiles are already lengthening the mourning periods for many survivors who see the deceased’s profile image on their own accounts. Some psychologists say this may be healthy, but how much longer will that mourning period last if avatars and robots can mimic a deceased person’s personality with the ability for mourners to seemingly interact with the deceased? The idea of digital resurrection carries with it many issues that could improve society with better coping mechanisms and information analysis while also presenting a variety of issues for legal and social changes. Will people wish to converse with their great grandparents’ AI? Could we see a modern version of the ancient practice of ancestor worship? Could that make society wiser or perpetuate familial mistakes? As such technologies allow our loved ones to overstay their lives, will we begin to see a new emotion arise—one of mourning for a loved one mixed with joy and affection toward a machine housing that loved one’s digital resurrection?

Another important question for those thinking about their legacy, how long should your data last? No doubt new services will appear that could use the data in morbid or distasteful ways. Many old grave markers are defaced around the world. Could a deceased person’s data be used to deface their memory, whether 10 or 200 years from now?

While a number of concerns surround the rise of modern memorials, they also offer more people the chance to be remembered for posterity. These digital legacies might maintain accurate records for longer periods than ever before assuming the technology remains capable of accessing and organizing our data in a useful manner for later generations. The data should provide historians with greater insight into the lives of common people of a given era, and the potential immortality of our digital legacies could even help society, or at least the online community, maintain a cultural and historical foundation.

http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2012/10/24/modern-memorials/

Also, for an interesting look at how such practices are affecting more traditional cultures, check out this article about the New Zealand Maori: http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8129164/Maori-culture-adapting-to-presence-in-online-media

Big Data: Hype or Value

My latest trend alert has taken me a long time to prepare, much longer than I expected. Below is the repost and the title links to the Innovation Management publication:

Big Data: Big Hype or Big Value?

The amount of data organizations are expected to manage for planning, transparency, compliance, etc. is expanding, but the amount of data which could benefit these organizations if analysed effectively is growing exponentially with the aid of social media, RFIDs, machine translators, and other tools. The total amount of digital data is growing exponentially leading to the coining of the term big data which has become a major buzzword in the enterprise and even in the general press, but what is the real value behind the hype?

What is changing?

According to International Data Corporation (IDC)’s fifth annual survey in 2011, 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes) of information were created and replicated in 2011 alone which is up from 800 gigabytes in 2009, and the number is expected to more than double every two years surpassing 35 zettabytes by 2020. However, this data includes everything from covert government strategies and medical records to holiday photos and spam. Not all of this data is inherently useful, but all of it can be collected, managed, and analyzed to reveal patterns and trends which could improve decision making at every level for security, system optimization, market research, scientific discovery, etc.

Data analytics has been around for decades, but the current tools are too limited for the massive, fast moving, and disparate information that is increasingly required for analysis, hence the need for big data solutions. And those solutions present new possibilities in data analytics by allowing for greater complexity of data to discover events and populations that may only be seen with the right volume, velocity, and variety of data. With greater segmentation of datasets, big data solutions also allow greater tailoring for an organization’s clients, customers, employees, etc. The biggest challenges are in asking the right questions and ensuring that as much data as possible is included.

Some organizations are already addressing these challenges for the health and energy sectors as well as marketing and cybersecurity. EcoFactor mines thousands of data points about weather, regional building codes, home value, and others to reduce energy consumption in smart homes by 17%. WellPoint is using IBM’s Watson-as-a-Service, the cloud application of IBM’s Jeopardy winning artificial intelligence, to mine millions of pages of medical data to help doctors and nurses improve their decision making while face-to-face with their patients. American retailer, Target, is following the purchasing habits and other information about its customers and coupling that data with behavioural research to improve its target marketing. Zions Bancorporation is using big data solutions to identify phishing attacks, prevent fraud, and stop hackers. The city of Santa Cruz is leveraging data to forecast high crime areas that can be patrolled to reduce offenses, and the US government is also applying big data to homeland security as they search for signals and online activity that could indicate real world security risks.

Why is this important?

Big data is certainly hyped, but the potential is equally big. Epidemics might be spotted sooner, security threats may be detected earlier, and customer demographics could be made more specific. Regardless of the many opinions about big data and its hype, the data itself will continue to expand exponentially, and more organizations will find themselves hitting the ceiling of previous data management capabilities.

Data has become a commodity, and as it becomes even more valuable, some organizations might loosen their hold on ever more types of data for the sake of mutual benefit. While organizations will still have to maintain compliance for the sake of privacy, intellectual property, and other security concerns, parts of an organization’s data may eventually become more valuable to them released to the wild than securely isolated in their own storehouse. Imagine mining the data of several organizations across multiple sectors added to all the data freely available on the internet, and the potential of big data for organizations of any size can be better understood
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