Tag Archives: Competition

How Alexa is spurring brand competition in the race for AI compatibility

 How Alexa is spurring brand competition in the race for AI compatibility

Alexa may be the most important name in business this year. During the 2017 holiday shopping season, the Echo Dot device was the top-selling product on Amazon, putting Alexa in millions more living rooms. Software, electronics, and appliance companies are rapidly building in Alexa compatibility to stay relevant. If Amazon’s Alexa continues expanding its market dominance, the lack of such compatibility could spell doom for even the biggest brands.

Amazon offers several devices that utilize Alexa, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and the Echo Spot. Each device acts as the central nervous system in a smart home, allowing thousands of voice-activated commands and skills. Alexa’s use in American homes is exploding with tens of millions of devices sold in 2017. What’s more, roughly 16 percent of Amazon Alexa users have more than one device.

Alexa sales are so high for a reason. Hundreds of products from a range of brands integrate seamlessly with Alexa, allowing voice control on everything from light bulbs to washing machines. This connectivity lets customers build their own smart home according to what they need and want. The astounding number of compatible devices separates Alexa from other AIs (like Siri and Google Assistant), and the rate of growth in the AI market could leave brands that won’t integrate with Alexa in the dust.

Smart home tech

Alexa’s rapid success has spurred nearly every major brand to integrate a Wi-Fi-connected smart device into its lineup. Companies from all corners of the home appliance market are racing to add compatibility with Alexa’s growing list of over 15,000 skills.

Larger appliances are one of the big surprises in the smart home market. Many brands didn’t expect customers to want more conversation from their refrigerator, but the success of early adopters like Samsung quickly set a trend in the market. Today, appliances of every kind are Wi-Fi enabled and integrate seamlessly with an Echo hub, and all signs point to an expanding market in 2018.

Alexa also brings a few advantages to common home appliances. With Alexa, you can start the dryer just before you leave work and set the oven to preheat while you relax on the couch. Alexa can even keep up on refills of common home products like dish detergent and dryer sheets — about 90 percent of Echo owners are also Amazon Prime members.

Streaming services

Amazon, Google, and Netflix are vying for the top spot in video streaming services, and this growing viewership is challenging other entertainment giants from cable and satellite TV. In the past year, Amazon announced in February, music streaming on Amazon devices tripled and video-on-demand streaming is “up 9x year-over-year.” Alexa’s popularity as an entertainment hub is driving more and more users away from traditional services, and big investments from streaming giants are keeping pace with audience demand.

Cable companies are mostly seeing the writing on the wall. Dish Network now offers Alexa compatibility on its Hopper DVR and Wally receiver, carving out a niche with smart home users. Comcast still hasn’t built in compatibility, however, requiring users to jump through hoops with third-party remotes.

Amazon has no trouble sharing space with the TV veterans. The company has added several new Alexa tools for compatibility with cable companies, but it’s up to the companies to build the technology into their devices. Cable users who can’t integrate their TV services with Alexa are cutting the cord. It’s a win-win scenario for Amazon — and life or death for cable companies.

The next AI battleground

Despite Alexa’s dominance in the smart home market, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant remain the leaders in the smartphone and computer markets. Amazon is taking notice, and the release of the HTC U11 with Alexa built in signals the next big competitive arena for the AI giants.

Google and Apple are not backing down without a fight, and 2018 could be the year that a new front-runner emerges. On the HTC U11, Google’s Assistant works right alongside Alexa, allowing users to choose freely between them. Meanwhile, Google and Apple are rapidly expanding their smart home lineups.

Google’s Assistant is furthest ahead in AI development; natural language capabilities and the ability to answer follow-up questions puts it at the top of the ladder for ease of use. The Google Home smart speaker is compatible with some devices and appliances in just about every category and has IFTTT services for programming routines.

Apple is catching up, too. Its new HomePod speaker leverages what it claims to be the best sound quality on the market, and it’s betting on the entertainment market to compete with Alexa. Even Microsoft is getting in on the competition, with a new speaker from Harman Kardon that comes equipped with its AI, Cortana.

With top brands embracing the sea change in home technology, Wi-Fi connections are becoming as common as power cords on home devices. Innovation in the AI market could help brands pull ahead of their competition, while late adopters risk extinction in the face of the Internet of Things.

Allie Shaw is a freelance writer who writes for PopSugar, SWAAY, and WebDesignerDepot.

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Big Data – VentureBeat

AI Weekly: Virtual assistant competition is more complicated than you think

We’re nearing the end of the beginning for the battle among virtual assistants in the U.S. With the launch of the HomePod, Apple joins Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in having a smart speaker available at all times to answer queries and perform actions. But the market for intelligent virtual assistants is far more complex than just determining who has the best hardware and software.

All of the market players hold specific advantages that their competitors don’t, and they’re each racing to build up their positions. Amazon leads penetration in the smart speaker market, but Alexa’s mobile presence is minimal. Siri’s software lags behind its competition, but Apple has the corner on embedded virtual assistants in its hardware. Google has the planet’s most popular search engine, which drives the assistant’s ability to answer questions better than its peers.

Understanding the different facets of defensibility at play is important for getting a sense of where the virtual assistant market is today and where it’s going in the future.

The winners in the virtual assistant market will control a significant portal for access to information. As the search engine, browser, and mobile markets have shown, owning the platform for people to access information is a massive source of power.

But nobody has the market locked down yet, even as dominant as some players may appear. Right now, no one company has managed to create the ideal assistant: one that has a deep understanding of you, is deeply integrated everywhere you are, and can answer almost any question you might have.

Above: The new Amazon Echo

Image Credit: Amazon

That open competitive landscape is why companies are looking to build the defensibility of their virtual assistants. I’ve identified three axes for that competition: technology development, network effects, and embedding effects.

Technology development is arguably the easiest to identify: Each player is consistently improving the core AI functionality that makes their assistant tick by helping it better understand speech and translate that into action. The same thing goes for hardware — advancements in microphones and speaker technology, along with the processing power needed to answer queries rapidly, add up to a better experience that attracts consumers.

But this isn’t a world where the best technology wins. If it was, we’d all be using Google Wave, may it rest in peace. This is where network effects come into play. There’s a direct network effect at play with devices that integrate with one virtual assistant. The more Apple devices you have, the more valuable Siri is, because it’s closer to being present everywhere you are.

Each virtual assistant is also its own platform, which is more valuable to developers based on user adoption. Conversely, each platform becomes more valuable to consumers the more high-quality developer integrations are available. This is a key advantage for Alexa in the current market.

Integration with smart home appliances is another platform network effect. The more popular a particular virtual assistant is, the more likely companies are to build hardware that integrates with it. The more companies integrate with a virtual assistant, the more valuable it is to consumers.

Data provides its own network effects, too. The more data a company has to learn from, the more it can personalize your assistant. As you provide more data, the more valuable the initial data becomes. This is why Facebook could end up being a dark horse in the virtual assistant race — none of its potential competitors has an equivalent to its social graph data.

Above: An illustration shows Kohler’s new Verdera Alexa-enabled mirror.

Image Credit: Kohler

Embedding effects are exactly what they sound like: These assistants become embedded with your life and workflows, which make it harder to switch to a competitor. That’s why Alexa’s smart home leadership is so valuable to Amazon: If your smart fridge only works with its virtual assistant, you’re stuck in a very shiny Hotel California.

Even choosing to purchase a particular smart speaker has an embedding effect. It’s quite the decision to toss a $ 350 HomePod to the curb for a competing platform, and harder still to consign multiple to the trash heap. Google and Amazon’s budget-friendly smart speakers don’t have nearly as strong an embedding effect — unplugging a single $ 50 intelligent hockey puck is a less daunting proposition.

Above: Google Assistant on a Pixel smartphone

Image Credit: Google

The same goes for other computing hardware, too. Google and Apple have significant advantages because of their assistants’ native integration with Android and iOS. (Plus Chrome OS and MacOS, to a lesser extent.) That’s one reason Cortana isn’t already an also-ran in the market: It’s integrated into every PC and Xbox, which are already embedded in homes and offices.

What’s more, advancements along all these axes feed back into one another. The companies that can best harness all of them will come out on top. But that’s going to take years to shake out, and there are a bunch of complexities at play that make it difficult to declare anyone a winner yet.

Stay tuned to VentureBeat’s AI channel for analysis of each major player in the virtual assistant game along these lines.

For AI coverage, send news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson, and guest post submissions to Cosette Jarrett — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,

Blair Hanley Frank

AI Staff Writer

P.S. Please enjoy this panel discussion about artificial intelligence and open source software from this past week’s Open Source Leadership Summit.

FROM THE AI CHANNEL

Siri cofounder suggests Apple’s ambition and execution caused disappointment

Apple’s release of its HomePod smart speaker and Amazon’s success with its rival Echo products recently reignited discussion over flaws in the digital assistant Siri, and one of Siri’s cofounders has explained why the feature is so disappointing. In an interview with Quartz, Norman Winarsky suggests that Apple may have given Siri an overly ambitious collection of […]

Read more

Here’s what top investors are asking about AI

Last week I attended the KeyBanc Capital Markets Emerging Technology Summit. As a participant in their Mosaic industry leaders program, my role at the conference was to participate in one-on-one and group meetings with their institutional investor clients as a subject matter expert on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Having spent a couple of packed […]

Read more

Microsoft to accelerate AI on Windows 10 with WinML API

Microsoft announced a new set of tools for developers aimed at helping them build Windows apps that leverage hardware acceleration for AI. The WinML API will take in a trained machine learning model and optimize its execution based on the hardware available on host devices. That way, developers can rely on local processing for their […]

Read more

Voicera raises $ 14.5 million for AI that draws insights from meeting notes

Voicera, whose AI assistant Eva creates transcripts from voice recordings of meetings, today announced the closure of a $ 14.5 million funding round, which includes backing from a few tech giants with plans to put their own assistants in the workplace. Formerly Workfit, Voicera uses natural language processing and speech recognition to make transcripts and spot task […]

Read more

Tim O’Reilly to tech companies: Use AI to do more than cut costs

Tim O’Reilly is known for popularizing tech industry buzzwords like “open source” and “Web 2.0.” Now he wants the tech industry to be more precise in the way it thinks and talks about artificial intelligence and automation. “Don’t replace people: Augment them,” O’Reilly said onstage at VentureBeat’s Blueprint conference in Reno, Nevada. To be fair, […]

Read more

Walmart plans to open a computer vision and machine learning office in Dallas on April 5

Retail giant Walmart now thinks of itself as a tech company — but it’s not putting all its eggs in Silicon Valley. The company announced today that it is opening an emerging technologies office in Dallas, Texas. Thirteen employees have already been hired at the office, and the company expects to hire roughly 32 more […]

Read more

BEYOND VB

SkyKnit: How an AI took over an adult knitting community

Ribald knitters teamed up with a neural-network creator to generate new types of tentacled, cozy shapes. (via The Atlantic)

Read the full story

Google is helping the Pentagon build AI for drones

Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement. (via Gizmodo)

Read the full story

Rage against the machine: Self-driving cars attacked by angry Californians

Something strange, scary and sublime is happening to cameras, and it’s going to complicate everything you knew about pictures. Cameras are getting brains. (via The Guardian)

Read the full story

Getting value from machine learning isn’t about fancier algorithms — it’s about making it easier to use

Machine learning can drive tangible business value for a wide range of industries — but only if it is actually put to use. Despite the many machine learning discoveries being made by academics, new research papers showing what is possible, and an increasing amount of data available, companies are struggling to deploy machine learning to solve real business problems. In short, the gap for most companies isn’t that machine learning doesn’t work, but that they struggle to actually use it. (via Harvard Business Review)

Read the full story

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Big Data – VentureBeat

AI Weekly: Virtual assistant competition is more complicated than you think

We’re nearing the end of the beginning for the battle among virtual assistants in the U.S. With the launch of the HomePod, Apple joins Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in having a smart speaker available at all times to answer queries and perform actions. But the market for intelligent virtual assistants is far more complex than just determining who has the best hardware and software.

All of the market players hold specific advantages that their competitors don’t, and they’re each racing to build up their positions. Amazon leads penetration in the smart speaker market, but Alexa’s mobile presence is minimal. Siri’s software lags behind its competition, but Apple has the corner on embedded virtual assistants in its hardware. Google has the planet’s most popular search engine, which drives the assistant’s ability to answer questions better than its peers.

Understanding the different facets of defensibility at play is important for getting a sense of where the virtual assistant market is today and where it’s going in the future.

The winners in the virtual assistant market will control a significant portal for access to information. As the search engine, browser, and mobile markets have shown, owning the platform for people to access information is a massive source of power.

But nobody has the market locked down yet, even as dominant as some players may appear. Right now, no one company has managed to create the ideal assistant: one that has a deep understanding of you, is deeply integrated everywhere you are, and can answer almost any question you might have.

Above: The new Amazon Echo

Image Credit: Amazon

That open competitive landscape is why companies are looking to build the defensibility of their virtual assistants. I’ve identified three axes for that competition: technology development, network effects, and embedding effects.

Technology development is arguably the easiest to identify: Each player is consistently improving the core AI functionality that makes their assistant tick by helping it better understand speech and translate that into action. The same thing goes for hardware — advancements in microphones and speaker technology, along with the processing power needed to answer queries rapidly, add up to a better experience that attracts consumers.

But this isn’t a world where the best technology wins. If it was, we’d all be using Google Wave, may it rest in peace. This is where network effects come into play. There’s a direct network effect at play with devices that integrate with one virtual assistant. The more Apple devices you have, the more valuable Siri is, because it’s closer to being present everywhere you are.

Each virtual assistant is also its own platform, which is more valuable to developers based on user adoption. Conversely, each platform becomes more valuable to consumers the more high-quality developer integrations are available. This is a key advantage for Alexa in the current market.

Integration with smart home appliances is another platform network effect. The more popular a particular virtual assistant is, the more likely companies are to build hardware that integrates with it. The more companies integrate with a virtual assistant, the more valuable it is to consumers.

Data provides its own network effects, too. The more data a company has to learn from, the more it can personalize your assistant. As you provide more data, the more valuable the initial data becomes. This is why Facebook could end up being a dark horse in the virtual assistant race — none of its potential competitors has an equivalent to its social graph data.

Above: An illustration shows Kohler’s new Verdera Alexa-enabled mirror.

Image Credit: Kohler

Embedding effects are exactly what they sound like: These assistants become embedded with your life and workflows, which make it harder to switch to a competitor. That’s why Alexa’s smart home leadership is so valuable to Amazon: If your smart fridge only works with its virtual assistant, you’re stuck in a very shiny Hotel California.

Even choosing to purchase a particular smart speaker has an embedding effect. It’s quite the decision to toss a $ 350 HomePod to the curb for a competing platform, and harder still to consign multiple to the trash heap. Google and Amazon’s budget-friendly smart speakers don’t have nearly as strong an embedding effect — unplugging a single $ 50 intelligent hockey puck is a less daunting proposition.

Above: Google Assistant on a Pixel smartphone

Image Credit: Google

The same goes for other computing hardware, too. Google and Apple have significant advantages because of their assistants’ native integration with Android and iOS. (Plus Chrome OS and MacOS, to a lesser extent.) That’s one reason Cortana isn’t already an also-ran in the market: It’s integrated into every PC and Xbox, which are already embedded in homes and offices.

What’s more, advancements along all these axes feed back into one another. The companies that can best harness all of them will come out on top. But that’s going to take years to shake out, and there are a bunch of complexities at play that make it difficult to declare anyone a winner yet.

Stay tuned to VentureBeat’s AI channel for analysis of each major player in the virtual assistant game along these lines.

For AI coverage, send news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson, and guest post submissions to Cosette Jarrett — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,

Blair Hanley Frank

AI Staff Writer

P.S. Please enjoy this panel discussion about artificial intelligence and open source software from this past week’s Open Source Leadership Summit.

FROM THE AI CHANNEL

Siri cofounder suggests Apple’s ambition and execution caused disappointment

Apple’s release of its HomePod smart speaker and Amazon’s success with its rival Echo products recently reignited discussion over flaws in the digital assistant Siri, and one of Siri’s cofounders has explained why the feature is so disappointing. In an interview with Quartz, Norman Winarsky suggests that Apple may have given Siri an overly ambitious collection of […]

Read more

Here’s what top investors are asking about AI

Last week I attended the KeyBanc Capital Markets Emerging Technology Summit. As a participant in their Mosaic industry leaders program, my role at the conference was to participate in one-on-one and group meetings with their institutional investor clients as a subject matter expert on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Having spent a couple of packed […]

Read more

Microsoft to accelerate AI on Windows 10 with WinML API

Microsoft announced a new set of tools for developers aimed at helping them build Windows apps that leverage hardware acceleration for AI. The WinML API will take in a trained machine learning model and optimize its execution based on the hardware available on host devices. That way, developers can rely on local processing for their […]

Read more

Voicera raises $ 14.5 million for AI that draws insights from meeting notes

Voicera, whose AI assistant Eva creates transcripts from voice recordings of meetings, today announced the closure of a $ 14.5 million funding round, which includes backing from a few tech giants with plans to put their own assistants in the workplace. Formerly Workfit, Voicera uses natural language processing and speech recognition to make transcripts and spot task […]

Read more

Tim O’Reilly to tech companies: Use AI to do more than cut costs

Tim O’Reilly is known for popularizing tech industry buzzwords like “open source” and “Web 2.0.” Now he wants the tech industry to be more precise in the way it thinks and talks about artificial intelligence and automation. “Don’t replace people: Augment them,” O’Reilly said onstage at VentureBeat’s Blueprint conference in Reno, Nevada. To be fair, […]

Read more

Walmart plans to open a computer vision and machine learning office in Dallas on April 5

Retail giant Walmart now thinks of itself as a tech company — but it’s not putting all its eggs in Silicon Valley. The company announced today that it is opening an emerging technologies office in Dallas, Texas. Thirteen employees have already been hired at the office, and the company expects to hire roughly 32 more […]

Read more

BEYOND VB

SkyKnit: How an AI took over an adult knitting community

Ribald knitters teamed up with a neural-network creator to generate new types of tentacled, cozy shapes. (via The Atlantic)

Read the full story

Google is helping the Pentagon build AI for drones

Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement. (via Gizmodo)

Read the full story

Rage against the machine: Self-driving cars attacked by angry Californians

Something strange, scary and sublime is happening to cameras, and it’s going to complicate everything you knew about pictures. Cameras are getting brains. (via The Guardian)

Read the full story

Getting value from machine learning isn’t about fancier algorithms — it’s about making it easier to use

Machine learning can drive tangible business value for a wide range of industries — but only if it is actually put to use. Despite the many machine learning discoveries being made by academics, new research papers showing what is possible, and an increasing amount of data available, companies are struggling to deploy machine learning to solve real business problems. In short, the gap for most companies isn’t that machine learning doesn’t work, but that they struggle to actually use it. (via Harvard Business Review)

Read the full story

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Big Data – VentureBeat

Google and NCAA team up on March Madness AI competition with $100,000 in prizes

 Google and NCAA team up on March Madness AI competition with $100,000 in prizes

Google and the NCAA are staging a data science contest to see who can best pick a bracket for the upcoming March Madness college basketball tournament. The two organizations have ponied up some serious incentives for people to compete, with a total of $ 100,000 in prize money available.

The contest will be hosted by Kaggle, a platform for data science competitions that Google acquired last year. Teams will compete in trials for both the Division I men’s and women’s tournament. For each of those tournaments, the first place team will receive $ 25,000, the second place team will receive $ 15,000, and the third place team will receive $ 10,000.

This is hardly the first time AI techniques have been used to tackle the question of how to build a March Madness bracket, nor even the first time Kaggle has hosted a competition to see which machine reigns supreme. Members of the online machine learning competition community have competed since 2014, mostly for bragging rights and ranking on the platform.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant also offer that tech titan’s predictions for who’s going to succeed.

Google is using this tournament as an opportunity to drum up interest in machine learning, especially for its own cloud services. The company will be co-hosting 20 events to teach college students about machine learning skills and how to use Google Cloud Platform. Kaggle CEO Anthony Goldbloom will hold an “ask me anything” question and answer session on Reddit Wednesday at 10 a.m. Pacific to discuss the application of machine learning to topical events like this competition.

Right now, Kaggle teams can access data for how particular schools have performed in the past, in order to build their models for this year’s competition. On March 11, the NCAA will announce the 68 college teams that will participate in the tournament. The following day, data scientists can start submitting their predictions, until 7 a.m. Pacific on March 15.

Teams will be judged based on a log loss function, which evaluates whether a model’s prediction is correct, as well as how confident that model was. It’s built to penalize confident incorrect predictions the most. The smaller a team’s log loss is, the better.

Once the submission period closes, teams will be able to watch and see how their models handle the live results of the games played.

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Big Data – VentureBeat

Algorithmia launches Ethereum-based AI competition

 Algorithmia launches Ethereum based AI competition

Algorithmia announced an AI competition today that could usher in a new era of machine learning model development using the Ethereum blockchain.

The company is offering 3 Ethereum tokens (worth more than $ 2,500 as of this writing) for the team that can provide the best algorithm for determining voter preferences in the last presidential election based on latitude and longitude. That contest, which has been coded into a smart contract, will last for 60 days. The first team to submit the most accurate model will be the winner.

This competition is really a proof-of-concept test of a system that could allow anyone to create their own smart contract and solicit a custom machine learning model to solve a particular problem. That could help organizations who want to apply machine learning to a particular problem but don’t have the resources to hire a data scientist. Algorithmia’s method doesn’t require participants to trust one another (since all of the components are controlled by the contract), and automates reward payment.

The “DanKu” contracts that Algorithmia invented allow a developer to set out a particular problem they want solved using a machine learning model, like determining whether or not a transaction is fraudulent, or determining if a photo contains a chicken.

Each task has a minimum accuracy requirement, a reward, a date when competition ends, and a dataset associated with the problem. Creators then use the smart contract to establish randomized pools of training data, which is publicly available for data scientists to use on model creation, and test data, which is kept secret and used only when checking how well models perform.

That split is important, because it helps ensure developers don’t overfit their models to the training dataset. (Overfitting means models have been optimized to predict the results of a training dataset, at the risk of reduced accuracy when tested with data they haven’t been trained on.)

All of the computation to test a model is run by the machines powering the Ethereum blockchain. That gives both model and task creators clear verification of results, without requiring either to trust one another. Once a winner is chosen, the contract’s creator automatically gets the winning trained machine learning model, and the developer receives their payment.

It’s also a momentous occasion for Ethereum. Algorithmia cofounder and CEO Diego Oppenheimer said in an interview with VentureBeat that his company believes their development of the DanKu system (named after two Algorithmia engineers who created it) was the first time neural network inference was run on top of Ethereum.

Oppenheimer isn’t trying to overthrow Kaggle, the Google-owned platform for data science competitions, which has hosted such big-ticket events as a million dollar competition to build the best algorithm for Zillow’s Zestimate home price estimation. Instead, the DanKu contracts are designed to make it practical for organizations to farm out development of particular machine learning capabilities to the crowd.

In the future, Oppenheimer envisions a situation when applications could use this mechanism to autonomously request models from other humans and applications in order to improve their own capabilities.

“If a machine knew how to define a contract automatically, and put it on some system that other systems could solve, there is a potential for now machine learning systems solving problems autonomously at a certain level,” he said.

Oppenheimer said that the announcement isn’t tied to an initial coin offering (ICO), nor does Algorithmia plan to create a new cryptocurrency as a result. The company benefits from this because it operates a marketplace for trained machine learning models, and also offers companies software to run trained models at scale.

But before the future is upon us, there’s still plenty to figure out.

“There’s a ton of work to do, there’s a ton of things that still need to be moved forward, but that’s the exciting part,” Oppenheimer said. “Okay, so this is possible, and it was done once with real code, now let’s see what the world brings.”

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Big Data – VentureBeat

The ABFF Comedy Wings Competition Announces It’s Finalists In Atlanta!

Rodney Perry The ABFF Comedy Wings Competition Announces It’s Finalists In Atlanta!
As we reported 2 days ago, its that time of the year where The American Black Film Festival starts to ramp up The Comedy Wings Competiton in preparation for their upcoming festival.
Anyway, as we stated the competition’s finalist were to be chosen on Thursday and they were in Atlanta, at The Uptown Comedy Corner.
The finalists chosen to move on to Miami for the ABFF Comedy Wings Competition were comedians Brandon Cole (B- Cole), Shereen Kassam, TuRae Gordon, Jason Weems, and Cyrus Steele II.

Tonight’s show was hosted by comedian Rodney Perry, and we hear that he may also make the trip to Miami to possibly co-host. The Comedy Wings Competition is set to kick off in Miami June 14-18th.

If you are not familiar, The Comedy Wings Competition is a national search for the new stars of comedy. The goal of the competition is to provide a platform for talented yet undiscovered comedians to break into film and television. Semifinalists are selected from around the country to participate in the live audition, and the finalists are hand picked by the judges to proceed to the event at the 2017 ABFF in Miami.

More details soon!

Soul Singer Cuba Gooding Sr. Found Dead In His Car

John Witherspoon Confirms Another ‘Friday’ Movie Is On The Way!

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The Humor Mill

Competition and Regulation Threaten Sharing Economy Markets

Eighty-three percent of U.S. broadband households, or more than 250 million consumers, own and use a smartphone. A recent beneficiary to this mass adoption has been the sharing economy phenomenon, which includes sharing apps such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. These business models are augmented by real-time data including location, instant gratification, on-demand pricing, and easy payment options.

Their ease and convenience — built on the intelligence of social, location, and mobility data through a smartphone-plus-app ecosystem — have created perfect conditions for sharing economy apps to thrive.

In most cases, sharing economy apps connect buyers and sellers, providers and recipients, or owners and users through a well-designed, low-friction app experience that benefits both sides. When such experiences are delivered at scale, they can be massively disruptive or complementary to existing industries and business models.

Currently, 40 percent of monthly sharing economy app users in the U.S. strongly agree that they rarely use traditional services due to their sharing economy app use.

Wooing Customers

In order to truly be disruptive, sharing economy apps first must align supply and demand. The most successful companies building their respective businesses have focused initially on the supply side. Insufficient supply can be fatal to a sharing economy app, while rallying the supply side can offer better customer experiences and perception, put added pressure on competitors, and provide a greater ability to scale.

The most successful sharing apps also work to ensure the quality of the customer experience. First impressions are crucial to repeat usage and are a significant factor in the app’s word-of-mouth marketing push. Quality experience is also important at the launch phase, and companies usually devote a great amount of time and money to ensure a good start.

This requires a well-designed in-app experience. A simple and easy-to-navigate user interface with a good number of essential features is a good starting point. Such a UI requires beginning with a clean and uncluttered menu, minimizing clicks from the time the app is opened until the transaction is completed, and ensuring transparency with information that is critical to consumers’ decision making.

Successful app companies have a track record of onboarding a large number of users quickly and efficiently, often by offering incentives to encourage first-time users. Ride-sharing giant Uber offers incentives as generous as a week’s worth of free rides, or as straightforward as US$ 20 off the customer’s first ride.

Successful apps also capture opportunities to drive first-time use during occasions in which traditional services are inadequate to meet consumers’ needs. For example, Airbnb saw a boost in usage when it advertised heavily before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, which had more attendees than Denver’s hotels could support.

Uber, meanwhile, got its initial start at tech conferences and venture capital events in San Francisco, a city notorious for its slow taxi services. The company now explicitly takes advantage of conferences, sporting events, and bad weather, where Uber’s app usage doubles.

Clearing the Hurdles

The two biggest challenges sharing apps have encountered at all stages are competition and regulation. While the technical entry barrier for most sharing economy apps is usually low, business and revenue models are easy to copy. As a result, the market is flooded with competition.

New apps may face threats from incumbent players entering their markets as well. An example of this is Amazon’s launch of Amazon Fresh, a grocery shopping and delivery service that competes directly with Instacart. The e-commerce giant also launched Amazon Restaurant, a food delivery service that competes with GrubHub.

However, once a successful app has built up a significant presence in a geographical market, it often makes it difficult for other apps to scale and compete. Mounting an attack on a market leader usually requires high acquisition costs for suppliers and consumers, a money-burning process that can hurt a startup’s financial health.

In addition to managing competition, sharing apps also must comply with regulation. Poor compliance with regulation can invite government penalties and lawsuits that can sink a business, and outdated regulations can slow down or even halt business expansion. In addition, dealing with regulation or fighting lawsuits can be highly distracting to business execution, creating headaches that entrepreneurs want to avoid but sometimes must face.

Deflecting these challenges while building on success is critical for the survival of any sharing economy app. The apps that accomplish these feats must be willing to adapt, grow, and sometimes pivot. They must be able to expand within their verticals, across verticals, and make opportunistic acquisitions.

Growth Strategies

Within-vertical service extension means apps can add more service tiers that provide differentiated user experiences, such as Uber expanding to offer a mid-range car service (UberX), a low-cost tier (UberPop), and a shared car service (UberPool). This approach provides more service options and ratchets competition with other ride-hailing apps.

Across-vertical expansion means apps can add new service categories to take advantage of service synergy or the similarity of user needs. An example of this expansion is Care.com’s addition of senior care finder and pet care services.

Lastly, companies can consolidate via acquisitions, since organic expansion often takes too long. Market leaders can enter a new service market through acquisitions of key players, as Letgo did when it merged with Wallapop to form a larger and more versatile marketplace.

Parks Associates ultimately expects more of these acquisitions and increasing market consolidation to occur as the sharing economy app market matures. The result of this market growth likely will have a lasting impact on traditional players, with some benefiting and others struggling to adapt.
end enn Competition and Regulation Threaten Sharing Economy Markets


Parks Associates is an internationally recognized market research and consulting company specializing in emerging consumer technology products and services.

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How Market Leader Uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to Innovate, Create Global Visibility & Stay Ahead of Competition

It goes without saying that growth and a positive reputation are good things in business. However, when you organization is in this enviable position, you can bet your competitors won’t be far behind. The challenge then turns to staying out front and continuing to grow—without sacrificing the quality of your products and service.  You need to scrutinize your operations, looking for ways to improve and optimize.

Often, even the most successful organizations find room for improvement when it comes to the technology they’re using to manage critical processes. Just ask Bemis Associates what they were able to accomplish Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Man in Running Gear 300x200 How Market Leader Uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to Innovate, Create Global Visibility & Stay Ahead of CompetitionBemis Associates is a major manufacturer of next-generation adhesives that replaces sewing in the world’s most recognized performance, luxury and lifestyle brands. With operations around the globe and a reputation built on market innovation, Bemis Associates needs to ensure their increasingly complex business processes run smoothly while they continue to expand.

Upon examination, Bemis Associates realized that their challenges would be mostly in the areas of re-engineering their business processes and updating tools to provide increased visibility and communication. Their ultimate goal was to integrate marketing, sales and development aspects of their global organization to take advantage of opportunities and build loyal customer relationships.

Bemis did their research and after evaluating several CRM solutions, including Salesforce and OnContact, they chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (now known as Microsoft Dynamics 365). Their decision was based on Dynamics’ compatibility and integration with other Microsoft products. This provides a familiar framework for team members around the world, and the online option is ideal for global accessibility and scalability in the face of rapid growth. Bemis was also impressed with the multi-language and multi-currency capability, which is necessary in an international operation.

Working with the CRM experts at AKA Enterprise Solutions, the team at Bemis was able to re-engineer and optimize their business processes and achieve their goals which included:

  • They now have detailed tracking to help team members visualize the connections between customer, factory and brand. This is especially important as a single factory might be processing orders for several customers and numerous brands.
  • Sales and development teams around the globe are now able to track test products for numerous brands. Knowing what is coming next allows the sales team to contact customers proactively to ensure samples are tested, results delivered, and initial orders entered into the opportunity pipeline.
  • Trade show leads are now prioritized and assigned automatically. Identification of potential customers and initial requests for custom samples is now handled in a portal interface.
  • ClickDimensions was integrated right into Dynamics CRM in order to streamline marketing
  • Having access to the same data, teams work together more efficiently and effectively and a fully automated sales pipeline assures that opportunities are not overlooked.
  • As they had intended, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online increased transparency, collaboration and communication throughout the global organization.

Bemis Case Study Image 245x300 How Market Leader Uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to Innovate, Create Global Visibility & Stay Ahead of CompetitionRead more about Bemis Associates and their positive experience with AKA Enterprises Solutions and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.  Contact our team at AKA Enterprise Solutions to discuss how your organization can optimize your business processes and communication with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

By AKA Enterprises Solutions

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Toothy grin always wins.

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“Look at my horse My horse is really amazing.”
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What Microsoft Dynamics 365 means for CRM pricing and competition

What Dynamics 365 means for CRM Pricing blog Twitter Image 3 What Microsoft Dynamics 365 means for CRM pricing and competition

Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides a lot of insight into where Microsoft has been, as well as where it is going with both its ERP and CRM lines. A single business platform and common data model that simplifies IT and application integration has been a decades-old vision of Microsoft’s, and has come to fruition with the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365, which was made available for customers worldwide on November 1, 2016.

Earlier in 2016, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for over $ 26 billion, by its largest acquisition ever. By taking control of the world’s preeminent “professional network,” Microsoft opened up new paths for locating and cultivating leads. The vast social media reach of Linkedin – it had 400 million users in 2015, according to VentureBeat – is a potent source of customer contacts. LinkedIn data has even been called the lifeblood of salespeople, who use it to build their networks and complement their usage of CRM platforms including Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.

In the early 2000s, Salesforce was synonymous with CRM for many firms, but it has many shortcomings, not the least of which is its price. Salesforce licensing can run up to $ 300 per user per month. In September 2016, Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith explained in an emailed statement to Business Insider that Microsoft is looking to bring price competition to the CRM market, namely through the new pricing model of Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 will undercut Salesforce on price, while offering users Financials and the purpose-built components they need as they grow.

Microsoft is bundling subscriptions for CRM and ERP (Dynamics AX) in the Enterprise Edition of Microsoft Dynamics 365, while the Business Edition will bundle CRM and Financials. This could result in substantial savings compared to Salesforce, which offers only CRM-related components. At the same time, it makes it easier for departments such as customer service to conduct business processes with data across field service and sales, and vice-versa.

“With traditional app-based subscriptions this would require three separate subscriptions for each customer service representative; however, using our new plans customers get one holistic subscription to have all the information at their fingertips, and customers could save four to five times the cost of traditional CRM providers,” explained Microsoft vice president Takeshi Numoto in a blog post.

As you consider your options for Microsoft Dynamics 365, we can help with any questions you may have. As a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider, we offer the complete resources to help you evaluate the right technology for your business.

Contact Turnkey Technologies Inc. button 4 What Microsoft Dynamics 365 means for CRM pricing and competition

By Turnkey Technologies, Inc. – A national, award-winning Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP Partner based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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