In this week’s Practical Ed Tech newsletter I included a seven page handout containing tips and tutorials for improving the accessibility of documents, slides, websites, and videos. In that handout…

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from Free Technology for Teachers

ai save you money

In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm. The optimism around this emerging technology spurs businesses around the world to pour investments into AI, with the hope that it will transform their efficiency and profitability. In February, President Trump signed an executive order calling for federal agencies to invest in AI to grow the economy and achieve greater national security. 

Perhaps unintentionally, the executive order epitomizes a key trend in AI today: widespread readiness to invest with little insight into budgets or timelines for adoption. Although plenty of companies are eager to harness the power of AI, few are able to accurately gauge its long-term impact.

Customer service represents one of the most appealing—and riskiest—applications of AI. More and more companies are augmenting their customer service with automation software, chatbots and call center scripts. These AI-powered tools promise to filter queries quickly and efficiently, at a fraction of the cost. After all, chatbots don’t need wages like the human customer service reps do. The average annual salary of a customer service representative is $35,800, compared to just $3,000 to $5,000 for a Facebook Messenger chatbot

But automation doesn’t necessarily save you money in the long run—and testing the waters of AI adoption could expose your company’s reputation to serious risks. Here’s why it’s still worth investing in customer service with a human touch. 

Patchy data leads to AI difficulties

A company’s customer service directly impacts its overall reputation, which in turn determines its bottom line. Before rolling out an AI solution, companies must weigh the benefits of faster service against the risk that AI could deliver a subpar experience for customers.

In an ideal world, AI tools can help companies serve more customers, especially outside of normal business hours or during periods of high demand. For example, when customers call a company’s support line, many are forced to endure hold music while they wait for the next customer service representative to pick up the phone.

By contrast, an AI chatbot isn’t limited to helping one customer at a time or working during business hours. Instead, it could help an unlimited number of customers instantly, at any time of day or night. 

The problem is, a lot of companies are working with bad data, whether it’s incomplete information or too many data sets to meaningfully manage. Poor data management can amplify a bad customer experience and harm businesses.

In fact, 95 percent of respondents in a recent Experian survey said that bad data negatively affects their business; it costs $3 trillion a year in the U.S. alone, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Bad customer service will cost you

Additionally, there’s a big difference between using AI to improve overall customer experience compared to using it in real-time customer service interactions. While AI might help companies manage customer experience at a high level, the reality is that the most memorable customer service experiences occur when a customer is unhappy. 

Telestra, an Australian telecom company, learned this the hard way when it launched a virtual assistant chatbot nicknamed “Codi.” Codi struggled to interpret customers’ questions and connect them with the information they needed.

Worst of all, when customers requested a human agent, the bot promised to connect them, only to promptly get stuck in a loop. One customer asked for a human agent 15 times during a single chat.

Frustrated customers took to social media.

As customers hop on social media, it prompts local news outlets to cover the disaster. American publications later picked up the story, piling on the negative press. Instead of improving customer service with AI, Telstra ended up with angry customers and a significant reputation issue. 

The risks for an unhelpful AI interaction remain incredibly high. The 2017 American Express Customer Service Barometer found that more than half of Americans have abandoned a transaction after receiving bad service, and one-third would consider switching companies after just one negative service experience. 

Businesses can use AI to leverage data and improve customer experience.

AI’s ability to provide direct customer assistance remains unproven. Younger generations, especially, are more skeptical and less likely to wait patiently for service. Until the technology improves, most companies should continue to trust human representatives to handle sensitive interactions with unhappy customers.

Human customer service is still a worthwhile investment

Maintaining well-trained, human customer service staff—especially one that’s available 24/7—requires a significant investment. But that investment delivers excellent returns. 

According to a recent PwC report, an astonishing 82 percent of U.S. consumers want more human interaction in customer services. Customers are also willing to spend up to 16 percent more on products and services if they receive great customer service, resulting in long-term customer loyalty.

Costco, a market leader, often lauded for its great customer service, it also pays its employees higher wages and gives them more benefits than the retail industry average. Investing more in customer service yields higher customer loyalty and satisfaction, creating a positive feedback loop for growth.

Of, course, this doesn’t mean companies should ignore AI, but the best approach is to combine the best of both worlds. Businesses should use AI to supplement, rather than replace, human customer service representatives—and do so slowly and carefully.

A well-designed chatbot can answer low-level, FAQ-type questions from customers.

Using a chatbot for lower-lever questions frees up human customer service representatives to focus on more complex issues. Chatbots of the future may even be able to compose responses indistinguishable from real humans, and with a literary flair, to boot. 

Slack provides a great example of this hybrid approach.

Every Slack account is equipped with a channel called “Slackbot,” where users can type simple questions about how to navigate their accounts. Its customer service channel, however, is operated 24/7 by real people who aren’t allowed to use scripts.

If Slackbot isn’t able to solve a problem, customers still have access to human representatives who never circulate through automated responses. This commitment to customer experience has played a pivotal role in Slack’s explosive growth.

Automation, AI and data analytics are all an integral part of customer service—but they’re not sufficient on their own as of yet. Today, investing in great customer service staff will still pay off. 

The post AI Customer Service Will Save You Money, but it Might Cost You Customers appeared first on ReadWrite.

from ReadWrite

from Computerworld

ai in financial markets

Finding complex solutions to financial challenges has become achievable with advancements in technology. Practitioners are daily seeking ways to use computational applications to offer modeling, forecasting, and robust trading solutions in the financial sector. Here are five ways artificial intelligence technology is transforming the financial markets.

Notably, the cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology is mainly transforming the financial markets.

Understanding AI Technology

Most people commonly use AI and automation terms interchangeably, but the truth is that one does not necessarily mean the other. Typically, the automation process involves using computer systems to perform tasks repetitively.

Repeating tasks does not necessarily mean that AI technology is at play, although AI mainly involves automation. Also, the fear caused by unrealistic futurists who paint a world where computers run things on their own preferences is unfounded.

So, what is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is a pattern-emulating technology that automates predictive or repetitive tasks for better or easier performance. As technology advances, AI is slowly becoming part of human consciousness. Many people are entirely relying on AI to accomplish tasks easily, effectively, and more productively.

Many people still speak of AI as futuristic. However, the technology is here, with us and it’s being used. Already, there are sectors, such as healthcare, environmental, and transportation, which are already using robots in automating most of the jobs.

Who hasn’t heard of the innovative self-driven vehicles that have revolutionized the transport sector?

More so, self-driven trains are expected to take the notch a little higher. Even socialization will soon be affected as some people make and keep robotic friends. Why should the financial sector be an exception?

How AI Technology is Transforming the Financial Markets

Foremost, it’s good to mention that there are continuous advancements in technology, and the revolution cannot be limited to the discussion below.

Nonetheless, here are 5 main ways artificial intelligence is transforming the markets.

1. Enhancing Risk Management and Decision Making.

Creating effective investment portfolios requires sound judgment. The traditional approach of leaving this delicate task to individuals whose judgment could be impaired is unsustainable in the modern era.

To err is human = human is to error.

With AI technology, sophisticated algorithms are used to model risk management scenarios, ensuring only rational decisions are taken. AI neural networks, contrasted to conventional methods, are effective and top-notch in performing risk management.

2. Enhancing Fraud Detection.

The financial sector is susceptible to fraud, and the transactions in the financial markets are no exception. In Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), a distinct area in AI research, computing systems are routinely used to detect patterns in data.

Since we are accustomed to habits, we tend to be sticklers to routines, and any slight change could signal an abnormality.

For instance, if someone transfers a large sum of money, something that is not in their normal way of doing things, AI could detect that as a threat, even giving the geo-location details of where the transaction is taking place.

This is possible because of modern AI technologies that can detect patterns in raw data and identify abnormal behaviors.

3. Catapulting Chat Agents and Client Advisory Systems.

Clients are constantly making financial transactions and need agents and advisors to make recommendations for sound spending outcomes. AI robotic-advisors that give handy advice is proving to be beneficial to the industry.

For example, they can study a user’s spending habits and advise them on how to use their credit card, balance their budget, and so on. AI technology is allowing for the development of wise personal assistants that utilize client data to make sound advice on spending habits before completing transactions.

Most ecommerce institutions have introduced chatbots that help customers in navigating products. Nowadays, it is difficult to tell whether customers are talking to a bot-driven AI or a real person.

Such assistance improves their relationships with the institutions—even without human intervention.

4. Enabling High Intelligence Trading.

AI technology is currently used to create intelligent trading systems capable of making consistent profits in the financial markets—without complaining of getting tired. AI robots can be trained to learn from their mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes in the future, leading to increased accuracy of trading decisions.

For example, in the forex trading industry, AI-powered robots are currently used to identify market patterns and make forecasts with increased accuracy.

Consequently, this can reduce the most common forex trading mistakes.

5. Enhancing Blockchain Transactions.

The blockchain technology is truly revolutionary, and AI-blockchain mix is poised to cause major disruptions in different sectors, including finance. The two giant technologies blend each other and can greatly benefit one another.

The blockchain technology is lauded for its ability to enhance transparency and build trust in peer to peer transactions, something which can improve the security of AI systems. On the other hand, AI-infused with blockchain can lead to faster and cheaper blockchain.

AI-trained algorithms can efficiently verify blockchain transactions, instead of relying on miners who are prone to mistakes. We see that AI can enhance efficiency in blockchain systems by optimizing data management processes and improving mining processes.

Wrapping it up.

There’s always a good and bad side of things, and AI is no exception. If used incorrectly, artificial intelligence can cause unprecedented mistakes, but if properly used, it will amplify the benefits, especially in the financial markets.

After all, he who loses money loses much.

The post  5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Technology is Transforming the Financial Markets appeared first on ReadWrite.

from ReadWrite

6 Ways the IoT is Transforming the Auto Industry

As the IoT continues to leave its mark on dozens of different markets and niches, the future of the automotive industry is starting to take shape. Major changes have already occurred and more are on the way – so what do they mean for the future?

With IoT, Rapid Change Becomes the Norm

Believe it or not – and this is particularly challenging for young folks to grasp – there was a time when you didn’t need to be a grease monkey to understand what was going on underneath the hood of a car. It was fairly easy to understand how cars worked and the average person was completely capable of doing his own maintenance on basic parts.

Today, not so much.

In the days before computers, little problems weren’t a big deal. If your truck was burning a little bit of oil, you simply had to top it off and make sure the oil level didn’t get too low. Today, this approach might not work. Whatever is causing the oil to burn off could send a signal to a computer and shut down other key systems – making the problem worse (and rendering your truck useless until a costly fix is made.)

But it’s not just the technology in cars that’s changing – it’s the business side of the industry, as well. From how auto manufacturers structure their arrangements with dealerships to how the end customer ultimately makes the purchase, very little about today’s setup looks anything like what was happening in the past.

But here’s the thing: We’re just getting started.

As the IoT continues to expand and its technological tentacles find their way into more core areas of the industry, the auto world is going to experience an even more dizzying pace of innovation and evolution.

Change always brings a mixed bag of emotions. While there will always be people who dig their heels into the ground and whine about hanging on to yesterday, most people naturally embrace the ebb and flow of new innovation. And the quicker consumers latch on to these positive developments, the more they’ll impact what we buy, how we buy, how we drive, and – ultimately – how we live.

6 IoT Trends in the Automotive Industry

Trying to compile a list of IoT trends in the automotive space is challenging. However, as we enter 2020, there are a few that stand out more than most. Let’s dig in a little deeper and study what’s happening behind the scenes.

1. New Design Ideation Processes

Over the years, one of the biggest sticking points has always been the slow-moving nature of manufacturing.

Traditionally, researchers would conduct studies and find out what consumers really wanted. Then they’d take these findings to the manufacturers and meetings upon meetings ensued. Once changes were agreed upon, they would go through rigorous testing. This testing would lead to proposed changes, which would eventually get put into the manufacturing pipeline for future models. Then months (or years) later, the technology would finally be introduced into a vehicle that a customer could buy at a dealership.

Slow, slow, and slower.

Today, IoT is making it easier for companies to manage the product lifecycle. They’re able to accelerate product and engineering timelines, which results in a much faster time to market. Naturally, this results in a superior product with a higher degree of customer satisfaction.

The secret is found in the way IoT technology clears up confusion in the processes and reduces manufacturing costs. Advanced systems are capable of identifying which components add value and which ones don’t. The latter components are removed and the high value ones are put through machine learning processes to augment the design and ideation in a way that’s most likely to guarantee success.

2. Superior Service Enablement

Did you know that many of today’s newer vehicles come with more than 100 million lines of code? While it’s pretty impressive, it can also be a bit frustrating. All it takes is something going wrong in a few lines of code and problems ensue. This has produced a serious need for advanced code management and service (in addition to traditional mechanics).

But guess what? All these lines of code are actually making it easier for manufacturers to identify, track, and understand what’s going wrong. This enables them to conduct more efficient maintenance, send out proactive notifications, and provide more value.

Secondarily, software gives manufacturers the ability to create an additional stream of revenue. By releasing occasional software upgrades, they can actually tap into customers’ wallets more frequently. (The typical customer only buys a car every few years – so this is a practical way of generating more value per customer.)

3. Digitized Buying and Selling

While traditional modes of buying a vehicle still exist, the days of kicking tires at dealerships are coming to an end. There will always be people who want the dealership experience – and it won’t necessarily become obsolete – but IoT technology has opened up the doors to completely new processes.

Car services like Carvana are a great example. Customers have the ability to shop for vehicles online, see pictures, secure a price, and then have the vehicle shipped to them.

Even cash for cars services are booming. With these services, a company shows up at your home or place of work and will actually buy your vehicle on the spot. Everything from the cash to titles and registration are handled then and there.

Customers want convenience and new technology is making it possible to buy, sell, and trade in without wasting time in a dealership. This is good news for drivers, but could prove to be challenging for dealerships.

4. New In-Cabin Features

If you haven’t been inside a new luxury vehicle in the last couple of years, you’d be shocked to discover all of the in-cabin features. From infotainment features like Apple CarPlay and music streaming services to predictive maintenance to driverless features that automatically kick in when needed, the new driver experience is powered by convenient and progressive technology.

5. Superior Traffic Reporting

We hear a lot about how technology makes roads more dangerous. There’s a lot of talk regarding distracted driving and other issues. But the reality is that certain IoT innovations actually have the ability to make our roads safer.

For example, the IoT can be used to send out alerts that detect accidents and even provide warnings of bad driving. This enables emergency services to respond faster. Not only does this help with medical care, but it also clears up traffic faster and keeps roadways clear.

Then there’s the issue of “swarm intelligence,” which gives traffic operaters the ability to carefully coordinate the flow of traffic to reduce congestion in real-time. This has the potential to eliminate bottlenecks in busy areas – like major cities or interstates – and alleviate traffic frustrations.

Additionally, IoT applications under current development would allow state departments to design and develop roads that actually detect and track things like traffic usage, maintenance needs, and accident data. This could lead to safer roads, fewer wrecks, and better overall traffic patterns.

6. Enhanced Security

Any time IoT technology is introduced into a consumer product that’s as personal and private as a vehicle, there will be concerns over security. Thankfully, these issues are being addressed. In fact, IoT may also be improving the physical security of vehicles at the same time.

For a few years now, BMW has given its owners of newer models the ability to download the My BMW Remote App. This app not only lets drivers start their cars remotely, but it also provides capabilities like locking and unlocking doors, flashing the lights, sounding the horn, and modulating temperature and airflow inside the cabin.

TapKey is another app that’s gaining adulation. It essentially turns any smartphone into a car key and allows vehicle owners to grant vehicle access to other drivers without handing off a physical key.

What Does the Future Hold?

Trying to prognosticate on the future of the auto industry is a lot like guessing the weather forecast for a random day on next year’s calendar – you can’t do it. However, there’s a lot of information to consider. We can clearly see the direction that the IoT is pulling us.

For better or worse, we’re moving to an industry that will be defined by automation. For now, it’s little bits and pieces that are automated. Soon, automation will be the defining label of the day. Once it is, we’ll wonder how we ever did without it.

The post 6 Ways the IoT is Transforming the Auto Industry appeared first on ReadWrite.

from ReadWrite

validate startup idea

Everyone is excited about starting their own business. Countless people try their luck every year, but most of the business failed due to a lack of proper planning.

Approximately 45% of startups struggle because they didn’t reach their target market. To run a startup successfully, you need to validate your idea systematically for making your product successful in the market.

There are some essential steps to follow for validating any startup idea –

Market Validation of the Product

Market validation is comprised of surveys and feedback from your target market. It is a process to know about the interest of your target market, whether your product is market fit or not.

Share Idea:

validation by sharing idea
Share your ideas.

Most of the people make a mistake that they keep their startup idea with themselves. Sharing your idea with the right people and taking their views. it is the initial step of validating your startup idea.

Tell anyone and everyone your idea without fear they are going to steal it.“                                                                    —Aaron Patzer, founder of mint.

You can take quality advice from those who are already in that business and ask them directly specific questions and follow successful entrepreneurs on LinkedIn who have accurate information about a specific industry. You can collect more quality information and advice if you might get a chance to meet any of them.

Analyze the competition:

The first thing you should always keep in mind is analyzing your competition. you should analyze their business and find some areas they are lacking as you can focus on those areas.

For example, if you are planning to launch an operating system in the market (and surely there is a huge market for this) you know that windows is already dominating the market. But you think, on another hand, Mac and Linux are also doing very well.

So it is hard to find space for your product, and even if you made it in the market, you can’t compete with the level of resources and depth in the market that these other company’s have.

It is important to know your competitors very well. By analyzing them, you will learn about their mistakes and how they overcame as well as the strategies they followed for success. You can apply it to your startup.

Evaluate Whether Your Idea Is Profitable:

You should research whether your product is profitable or not because you can’t invest your own money all the time your business should generate revenue for you to sustain your business.

It does not make sense if you are about to start a business, and you don’t know whether it has the potential for profitability or not.

If you are going to launch your startup, you need proper planning that will make your business profitable.

Prepare Your Product Concept:

The purpose of creating a product concept is to finding key questions for testing in the market. These questions could relatable to the problems that might occur to your target market.

  • Who is your customer: There is a specific market for every business, so you have to make sure which one you are going to target and how big the market is. If your product is for a particular market, so what is your title for the buyer.
  • Why are you in the market: You should be aware of your target customer’s problems. When you will get to know your customer’s problem you will be able to validate and solve them.
  • How your product will help: You can elaborate to customers how it will help them to resolve their problems. You can represent a prototype to your customer, and by their feedback, you can improve your product further.
  • Key features: Your product should provide plenty of benefits to your customers as it will make their life easy and better. Like the value of money and time saving etc.

Interview With People:

interview with your target people
Take the time to interview a few of your target people.

You can hardly get people for free surveys because people don’t want to waste there time on any kind of free surveys.

But this is a very crucial part to validate your startup idea it helps you understand customer’s needs and problems, and it will give you some valuable insight.

You can start with a list of questions to learn more information and make sure you can visit them or secure their precious 10 minutes over a video call.

This natural face to face interview is very essential to see their reaction. Some keys you should remember while interviewing any customer-

  • Thank them for their valuable time and tell them how they will help you to make the best product for customers.
  • Explain to them how your product is different from others that are already in the market and how you are going to tackle those issues.
  • Explain to them about your product and the nature of your business.
  • You should explain to them all versions of your product and ask them for their thoughts. Observe their body language and their reactions and their feelings and thinking about your startup Idea.
  • There is a difference between liking and buying a product. People are only buying the product when that is needed by them. So if someone likes your product asks them if they want to buy that kind of product or not

Review And Decide:

Eventually, you have to review all feedbacks and decide what work would be best for your potential clients and how can you change or modify your product for your targeted market.
Lean market validation helps you to get enough information and data to make a decision. This concept helps a startup to validate and succeed.

Validate With MVP (Minimum Viable Product )

build your MVP product
Build your MVP product.

The MVP(Minimum Viable Product) is a technique to create or develop a product with sufficient features for early customers. The final product(having all features) is only designed by considering the feedback of early customers (users of the initial product). It is a prototype version of your product.

  • It has enough value for people to buy and use it initially.
  • Early customers can have enough future benefits.
  • MVP provides a future guide to develop your product for future development.

Idea Validation Landing Page

It is an easy way to validate your startup idea. Because building a prototype takes less time and effort than creating a complete product. You can create multiple prototypes for better future development using customer reviews and basic market research.

Some important features you should keep in mind while creating a prototype –

Simple and Consistent with design:

The prototype should look professional. Means, it has to look like you already have established business. You have to make sure about design and image quality as you are going to sell your MVP. A prototype with user-friendly functionality and simple yet clean designed to attract your customer easily than a prototype with complex designing and functionality. The design and functionality of a product are important for brand building, improving conversions and adding legitimacy.

Product Description:

As you are writing a copy to describe the product, you need to address users’ problems and the solution you are providing as well as your product benefits or services.

A/B testing:

Build your MVP and better market strategy.

A/B testing is a very important feature during validation. Because it allows users to compare and vote between two or many products. This statistical analysis determines which one is best for a conversion goal. It will give a better result to


Image Credit: Adobe Stock

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from ReadWrite

The school that I am teaching in this year draws students from multiple school districts who come to us for technical/ vocational classes, but take their traditional academic classes in their home…

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from Free Technology for Teachers

This local business has its own print shop — and a big boss who’s a world-class skinflint. The print shop is needed because the business does a lot of custom printing of promotional materials, the really big kind that you can hang at a festival and will be noticed above the sea of humanity. The skinflint buys a rather ramshackle warehouse, in which the print shop is also installed. Budget for building improvements: $0.

The print shop is like a data center in that it is crammed with electronics that need to be kept cool. Unlike a data center, it also has a huge laminator that throws off a lot of heat. Throw in a scorching climate, and even the tightfisted boss knows air conditioning is needed. But why pay for extra BTUs — or even an adequate number of BTUs? Naturally, the A/C is overstrained, to the point that even the big boss realizes something has to be done.

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from Computerworld

Mobile web browsing is all about finding what you need quickly and with as little hassle as possible — well, in theory, anyway. In the real world, the act of surfing sites from your smartphone is often anything but efficient.

From sites that have not-so-friendly mobile interfaces to browser commands that take far too many steps to execute, hopping around the World Wide Internuts from a handheld device can frequently leave something to be desired.

Fear not, though, my fellow finger-tappers: There are plenty of tricks you can learn to make your mobile web journey more pleasant and productive. Try these next-level tips for Google’s Chrome Android browser and get ready for a much better mobile browsing experience.

To read this article in full, please click here

from Computerworld

One of the better features added to Google Sites in 2019 is the image carousel option. Image carousels let you display a large collection of images in a gallery that site visitors can scroll through….

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from Free Technology for Teachers

Word Game is a simply named simple vocabulary and trivia game that you can play in your web browser. To play the game simply go to and you’re into the game. The game consists…

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from Free Technology for Teachers

My vacation reading list.

Good morning from Maine where the ground is covered with snow and it’s going to be a great vacation week for those of us who like to ski. Vacation is also a great time to do…

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from Free Technology for Teachers