Tag Archives: Duty

Amex Global Business Travel pools data lake to bolster ‘duty of care’

Business travel is seldom an unalloyed pleasure. Nor is it a trivial cost for corporate organisations. New American Express Global Travel (Amex GBT) president Philippe Chérèque, formerly the firm’s chief commercial and technology officer, says some customers are close to spending $ 1bn on travel each year.

Chérèque, who was American Express Global Travel’s CIO as well as its commercial head before becoming president, joined the firm two years ago. He has been putting $ 1bn into modernising the firm’s IT – in the direction of cloud computing, and capitalising on analytics.

“Traditionally, travel management companies have been satisfying the chief procurement officer rather than the business traveller,” he says.

Chérèque speaks of the need for more proactive care: “If there is fog at Heathrow, we call the passenger to say, ‘We have booked you on the Eurostar and you can fly from Paris.’

“The traveller is the key. If your engineer is stuck in the middle of India, that costs more to the company than saving 10% on the cost of the ticket.”

Chérèque says Amex GBT’s corporate customers are placing increasing importance on duty of care in the light of terrorist incidents and other misfortunes. When Brussels Airport was bombed in March 2016, Amex GBT could tell where travellers were because it had their Amex card data.

The company built an application that automatically sends an SMS text message to travellers when an incident happens: those who respond immediately show as green, then travellers not responding go orange then red. For example, it could immediately tell that there was one passenger on board the EgyptAir flight that crashed in May 2016.

The company is a joint venture between Amex and a private equity group headed by investment firm Certares. It has a treasure chest of $ 1bn in cash to put into IT, and has taken a comprehensively cloud approach.

“In the past two years, we have migrated not only from the data warehouse of Amex, but moved away from its HR system, its finance system and so on,” says Chérèque.

It is using Workday for HR, NetSuite for finance, and Coupa for procurement.

Data lake and visualisation

Christophe Tcheng, vice-president of core products and platform architecture, joined Chérèque from travel company Amadeus, which is the business alma mater for both men. Tcheng was head of research and development services at Amadeus, while Chérèque was executive vice-president. He was at the company for nearly 25 years.

Tcheng designed Amex GBT’s data architecture. He confirms it has 300 data people, with a small group of “around four” hardcore data scientists and developers.

Of choosing Hortonworks as the Hadoop distribution to build a data lake, which has been operative from 2016, he says: “It was a conscious choice to go for open source; it’s very robust and efficient. It’s not rocket science, but the trick is to make it work.

“In the past two years, we have migrated not only from the data warehouse of Amex, but moved away from its HR system, its finance system and so on” Philippe Chérèque, Amex GBT

“The idea emerged at the back end of 2014. We had an enterprise data warehouse, from Microstrategy. It was good technology, but it is technology from the 1990s. The industry is moving to Hadoop plus visualisation layers”.

For the latter, Amex GBT partnered with cloud business information (BI) and analytics company Birst to build a product called Premier Insight for corporate clients. This launched in November 2015, and Chérèque says dozens of corporations are using it.

Tcheng says on choosing Birst: “It is cloud enabled, and also because of its roadmap – with embedded BI, vision and investment. We didn’t want to choose the best platform for today if, in two years’ time, it is behind the pack.”

Amex can provide analytics into customers’ spend levels and so indicate where additional costs are being incurred, or where there are opportunities to make use of better buying power to improve efficiency of spend. It has card data from MasterCard and Citibank, among others, through application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as the Amex card data.

The analytics relies on having all the data sources together in one place, and then being able to visualise it for people to use through a browser. Birst provides the analytics platform and the data visualisation. 

Chérèque gives such examples as its customers being able to easily see where employees are not compliant – and so not using negotiated deals with hotel chains – and calibrating their airline spend.

“With the airlines it can be a cliff system – if you buy 100% [of the negotiated deal] you get a bonus back, if you spend 99% you get nothing. And if you spend more than 100% you could spend that money elsewhere. Airlines have had better statistics than the corporations, but now [the latter] have the information in advance – getting the data afterwards is no use.”

Chérèque also points to the sector possibilities in the firm’s use of a data lake with analytics. “We take care of most of the travel meeting and events for the pharmaceutical industry. We organise 40,000 meetings per year for them. With Birst, we can provide information about what is the average spend per trip in the industry. Someone in the pharmaceutical industry is not very interested in being benchmarked against Cisco or IBM.”

For individual travellers, Amex GBT is using the data lake to develop personalisation. “We know what kind of restaurants you like to go to, so when you make the booking we can make recommendations. Also we draw on people who have the same behaviour as you, who are in your cohort – which kind of restaurants, which kinds of hotel they go to.

“The booking is the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things happening below,” he concludes.……..    ……………… ……. ………

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U.S. chief data scientist: Entrepreneurs should do a ‘tour of duty’ in government

There’s no question that the U.S. government has incredible amount of data. Whether it’s for things like the census, housing, agriculture, transportation, or health care, federal agencies have accumulated a lot of data around what’s going on in the country, but what use is talking about governmental innovation if everything remains siloed?

In the past seven years, the White House has taken up efforts to leverage more technology at the federal level. It has tapped Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park, and most recently former Googler’s Megan Smith to the post of U.S. chief technology officer, a position first created by President Obama, brought on board Twitter veteran Jason Goldman to assist the administration with digital outreach, and recruited renowned data scientist DJ Patil as the country’s inaugural chief data scientist.

“President Obama has been unique,” Patil told VentureBeat in an interview during visit to the San Francisco Bay Area where he still maintains a residence. “He’s recognized the sea change with data and made it a cornerstone of his administration. With a data-driven government, you take the data that we use in services like weather forecasting, data submitted by citizens like with the census….and use it to make better and faster decisions.”

In the role of the chief data scientist, Patil has been tasked with looking at the policies, rules, and laws that are in place in our government to evaluate whether they’re hindering or enabling U.S. innovation. Smith once wrote that “across our great nation, we’ve begun to see an acceleration of the power of data to deliver value,” and on the one-year anniversary of Patil’s appointment, we spoke with him about how the Obama Administration views the tech industry and how it’s working to make our data more transparent to not only spur innovation, but also move the country forward.

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Above: President Barack Obama holds a precision medicine meeting in the Oval Office, Oct. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Opening data of the people to the people

“How unique is it, as a professor of constitutional law, to grasp what it means to have data and understand how transformative data is in this day of age,” Patil remarked, referencing Obama’s comprehension on the enormous stockpile of information his government has on the people.

As part of this effort, the president has removed an obstacle that prevented not only the sharing of data between agencies, but also with the public. In 2013, Obama signed an executive order that mandated government information must now be “open and machine-readable.” For decades, it was the default that data was shared in a PDF, making it difficult for someone to take action on that data.

“How do we ensure that we are staying at the forefront as a country riding this wave [of data]?” Patil asked. “This world is about to change and the government needs to change.”

He cited a study by Harvard professors Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz which used data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to explore the effects on children in high poverty areas. Among the findings is that when a child is moved to a low poverty area while young, they saw a 40 percent lift in their median income over life.

Patil also referenced the work that his team is doing with the Precision Medicine initiative, a research effort to change how the country improves health and treats disease separate from the Affordable Care Act. He thinks that the use of data and the human genome can be used to ascertain cures for diseases like cancer and this White House program is “pushing the whole ecosystem” forward into the “genetic era.”

And for all the examples he provided during our conversation, his message was quite clear: The U.S. has data and needs the public and even Silicon Valley’s help.

Bringing Silicon Valley together with Washington, D.C.

While many might know Patil as being a member of Obama’s administration, he’s an accomplished entrepreneur and iconic data scientist within the technology industry. In fact, he and Jeff Hammerbacher coined the term “data scientist.” He led the data products and security teams at LinkedIn, was a data scientist in residence at Greylock, and served as vice president of product at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2014 for $ 392 million.

But he believes there’s a myth that “Silicon Valley is coming to save [Washington] D.C.” when in fact data scientists in the tech industry are coming from the federal government. In fact, Patil started out as an academic at the University of Maryland before working with the Department of Defense (DOD) doing threat anticipation and hunting down bioweapons. “I am forever grateful for that experience and when I had the opportunity to jump into Silicon Valley, those lessons were critical,” he said.

And as the White House pushes to make data more transparent, Patil thinks that more entrepreneurs and tech companies should seize the opportunity to use this new-found data proliferation.

“What I would love to see is a model where people move back and forth more seamlessly, where people are able to do a tour of duty like we’re seeing here in Silicon Valley, spending a couple of years here and then decide that they want to do something for the government, for your local city, for a community outside the industry,” he stated although Patil understands the allure of Silicon Valley can be too much for entrepreneurs to pass up.

Patil believes that the government work isn’t looked at being sexy enough because the government hasn’t done a good enough job to explain its mission: “Over time, it’s gotten harder and harder for a technologist, product manager, designer to get into government.” This is one of the main reasons why Obama created 18F, a digital services consultancy within the government to deploy tools companies can use to build products using public data.

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“These are the ways for people to come in and have the direct impact,” Patil explained.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter once told Patil that there was something about waking up every morning and thinking that we’re part of something bigger. And this is what keeps the chief data scientist going, understanding that it’s not about creating the next photo-sharing app or luxury valet service or even an Uber for X, Y, and Z.

It’s about “what’s important for your kids and your kids’ kids,” he said. “There is a quest for happiness out there….And when you’re worked on solving those problems…and come to Silicon Valley, you’re hurting because it’s hard to find a company with a strong mission. We’re going to see a shift where there’s a notion that mission and happiness are more valuable.”

Trust your government

And while it’s easy to say that the government wants more transparency, it’s also understandable that there may be some skepticism, especially from the technology industry. One need only look at the revelations coming from Edward Snowden, companies releasing periodic transparency reports, and even the recent legal battle between the FBI and Apple over access to the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

For Patil, Silicon Valley thinks about protecting the American public from a one-dimensional point of view. He agrees with something Carter once said: “Security is like air: You only realize it when you don’t have it. There are a lot of countries in the world that don’t have security.”

“There is a really important dialogue happening around encryption, security, and cyber,” Patil explained. “The place and the way to make the best progress on this is through that model where people are coming in and out of government more easily, making government more porous. That’s how we make the best decision. The ability for companies that are out here and how they think about cybersecurity is because we’re dealing with an adversary that’s beating us up and we get to see that. The government also sees a different side of the adversary and the more that we share of that, the better we get and the smarter we become.”

As it relates to encryption, he said “the president is very much for strong encryption. The policy is for strong encryption because it’s the most important path forward for cybersecurity. What he has also called for is saying that we are living in a world where we have to work collectively together…Technologists offer a very unique way to have the conversation.”

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Above: President Barack Obama views science exhibits during the 2015 White House Science Fair celebrating student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, in the Red Room, March 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Patil said not to worry about the data policies being undone with the next administration they have seeped into the DNA of agencies, meaning they can’t just be undone. “The long arc of the government has shifted as a result of this president. Because of this, it doesn’t change easily. That only happens with presidential powers of focus,” he said.

He hasn’t thought much about what he’s going to do after he leaves the White House. However, he remains fascinated by all that has been accomplished over the course of Obama’s presidency, citing the launch of the Opportunity project, which uses open data to improve economic mobility for Americans, the White House science fair, a hackathon where New Orleans police chief Michael Harrison worked with a student to write his first line of code so he could access data about his own police department, the creation of a working group around the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence, and more.

He’s convinced that a data-driven government will not only improve the services it offers, but that it can keep the country’s competitive edge, enhance national security, and develop the next generation of technology. And because these policy shifts take time, we won’t see the effects immediately. In the end, Patil believes that as the government moves forward, so too does the nation.

The White House is recognized as the symbol of the President, of the President’s administration, and of the U.S….. All The White House news »

VB Profile Logo U.S. chief data scientist: Entrepreneurs should do a ‘tour of duty’ in governmentTrack The White House’s Landscape to stay on top of the industry. Access the entire ecosystem, track innovation & deals. Learn more.

DJ Patil is the VP of Product at RelateIQ. He coined the term “Data Scientist”. Previously he was the Chief Data Scientist at Greylock Partners and before that he was the Chief Product O… All DJ Patil news »

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Big Data – VentureBeat

Pool Noodle Bed Duty

Keep kids safe and happy in the pool and in bed.

hi6S3b Pool Noodle Bed Duty

“Kids fall out of bed?  Fitted sheet plus 1 pool noodle
Image courtesy of http://imgur.com/hi6S3.

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Alibaba's Tmall Global Launches Duty Free Shopping

Tmall Global, the international branch of Alibaba’s Tmall.com, has reached an exclusive strategic deal with South Korea’s largest duty free store group the Shilla Duty Free and Thailand’s largest duty free store group King Power to commence a global duty free project in China.

According to Liu Peng, general manager of Tmall Global, this is an innovation for cross-border e-commerce. By introducing overseas duty free stores to Chinese consumers, Tmall will provide a new model to Chinese tourists who shop in foreign countries.

With the deal, Chinese consumers will be able to order products from Korean and Thai duty free stores on their PCs and smartphones after booking outbound flights. They will be able to track product availability and pricing at the stores. When finishing their tours in those countries, consumers can directly pick up the products they ordered from airport duty free stores by providing messages or barcodes they received. In addition, they can enjoy Tmall Global’s special discounts and convenient payments in RMB.

Liu said that Tmall Global’s world duty free project is an important focus of Alibaba Group’s global strategy. Based on the real consumption scenarios of outbound traveling and outbound purchases, this project was hatched in September 2014.

Liu revealed that Tmall Global is still contacting overseas duty free groups which can cover many countries in Europe and America as well as some of the Chinese duty free groups. They will continue to expand to reach more popular outbound traveling destinations.

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