Monthly Archives: July 2016

Should You Know About Artificial Intelligence For Incredible Ways Businesses

In science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) systems are often bent on overthrowing human civilization, or they are benevolent caretakers of our species. In reality, machine-learning is already with us, evolving out of search engines like Google and seeping into our everyday lives without much fanfare.

To highlight exactly how AI is debuting in a less-than-Hollywood (but still quite impactful) style, Business News Daily spoke with six companies rolling out AI products that will recalibrate and streamline everyday business operations. From conducting marketing research to monitoring for nefarious activity on stock exchanges, these systems can do it all.

SparkCognition – Monitoring the London Stock Exchange

In stock exchanges around the world, plenty of people are trying to tilt the table in their favor to ensure their investments pay off. Monitoring and policing this sort of activity is a key part of maintaining investors’ faith in the stock exchange, but traditional methods have proved inadequate to address all the malfeasance that’s out there.

“Markets can be manipulated and, unfortunately, humans are constantly trying to come up with new ways to do so,” Amir Husain, founder and CEO of SparkCognition, said. “The idea behind AI-based monitoring is to a) know about all the existing methods of market manipulation and guard against those and b) to learn about new forms of market manipulation and alert analysts to potential abuse.”

Husain’s team believes their system will beef up the monitoring power of regulators who oversee exchanges without inundating them with false positives and constant alerts. However, the system is designed to quickly catch on to both old and new techniques of gaming the market. Husain said that SparkCognition’s AI could have even prevented larger wrongdoings, like the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) rigging scandal.

“Better oversight and protection to prevent manipulation helps everyone, including the institution in whose name a lone actor may be engaging in illegal and improper trading practices,” Husain said. “If you are a business owner … [of a] publicly traded [company], AI-based surveillance systems will protect you by preventing scenarios where your stock is used in a scam. If you are an average investor, these systems will give you more reason to trust the value of your portfolio.”

Equals3 – Lucy, market research companion

Proper analysis of keyword trends, algorithmic changes, point-of-sale data and so on is key to marketing success, but poring over the ever-increasing mountain of data is time-consuming and expensive. To help improve the efficiency of the process, Equals3 developed their product known as Lucy, a marketing research companion powered in part by the famous Jeopardy! champ, IBM Watson.

Incorporating a blend of Watson’s services and Equals3’s own services developed in-house, Lucy is a centralized AI that can pull up exactly the information an analyst requires. (Think Alexa on steroids and with a deep fixation on marketing and advertising.)

“Lucy is a combination of our own stuff and some amazing services from IBM’s Watson to create this unique solution that brings together all the owned and licensed content, structured and unstructured, to our customers,” Scott Litman, managing partner at Equals3, said. “You can ask her, ‘How much did BMW spend month by month?’ Lucy knows. ‘What was the daily web traffic for Ford.com?’ Lucy knows. I can ask her for keyword research and she knows.”

The initial license for Lucy costs $50,000 for a year and allows for five users to operate within one brand or marketing category. Lucy comes with a basic set of knowledge and understanding from the get-go – U.S. Census Data, website analytics, social media management, keyword research – but will learn and adapt to the specific uses for which it is applied. For Litman, it appears inevitable that companions like Lucy will become the norm very shortly, and Equals3 wanted to become an early option in the marketing space.

“We truly believe AI is going to drive a competitive advantage and those that adopt early will win out over those that don’t,” Litman said.

Daisy Intelligence – Decision-making assistance

Try as we might, humans often make poor decisions. Machines, however, excel at examining vast sets of data and research to determine, quantifiably, the best course of action. That’s the idea behind Daisy Intelligence’s decision-making assistant. Primarily geared toward retail and insurance industry applications, this SaaS product offers itemized lists of decisions, ranging from the most optimal course of action to the least.

“You send us your raw data, our machine analyzes it and spits out decisions,” Gary Saarenvirta, CEO of Daisy Intelligence, told Business News Daily. “We don’t change your process at all, except that now you have a new piece of information to consider … It’s about making smarter decisions; these are all mathematical quantitative things that computers do better than people. If you can make smarter decisions it can drive your profitability.”

For example, Daisy Intelligence can determine what deals a retailer should offer, or what the featured product should be during the current ad campaign. Saarenvirta claims Daisy could double retailers’ profit-margins if used regularly. In insurance, Daisy operates to detect fraud and provide underwriting recommendations. By identifying suspicious claims, or those that are vastly different than the average claim of its type, the machine signals a human to investigate further.

“We’re saving them time and giving them new insight they’ve never had before,” Saarenvirta said. “Our machine, unlike human beings that get tired and bored, puts as much effort into the 199th item as the first item. Daisy doesn’t get tired [or] bored.”

Chime – AI for real estate

Any line of work that operates strongly on referrals can be difficult to grow; converting the lead into actual business is never a given. Chime is aiming to use machine-learning to connect real estate agents with leads that are more likely to pay off, and then streamline the transaction paperwork afterward.

The idea behind Chime was to “bring the real estate industry into the next generation,” Matt Murphy, co-founder of the company, said. Between scouring the web for information while developing the leads and then triggering automated ad campaigns to make first contact with prospective buyers or sellers, Chime attempts to help agents take the first steps toward cultivating a promising lead.

“We created an intelligent lead-routing system, so if someone comes in looking in a certain area, at a certain income range, with certain housing requirements, we can send that lead to the appropriate agent,” Murphy told Business News Daily. “If that agent doesn’t take action, it will just round-robin it to someone else and [notify the manager]. There’s a lot of intelligence there to optimize workflows in the agents’ lives to help increase productivity and minimize time spent on mundane tasks.”

Chime has been deployed for only several months, but there are already hundreds of clients using the system, Murphy said. So far, the feedback has been positive: conversions on Chime leads are significantly higher than the industry average.

“Top agents on the platform are converting at 8 to 9 percent, [which] … shows the machine-learning and intelligence is working to direct higher quality leads,” Murphy said. “Of course, it takes agents to actually develop the relationship, but the combination of a great agent and great technology shows that it’s working.”

Restless Bandit – Human resources and hiring assistance

Have you ever brought a candidate in for an interview and then realized they were a terrible fit? Restless Bandit is a SaaS product that automates the candidate-screening process and even reaches out to qualified people for vacant positions. By mining the company’s existing talent pool, Restless Bandit aims to reduce the work an organization needs to do before bringing a qualified candidate in for a face-to- face interview.

“It will make recruiters more efficient,” Steve Goodman, co-founder and CEO of Restless Bandit, said. “They won’t have to weed through the 80 percent of candidates that are clearly not a good fit. It will also increase quality [of the candidates] because the only candidates we reach out to are at least minimally qualified.”

Using artificial intelligence, Restless Bandit finds, matches and ranks qualified candidates against the open positions in your organization. Recruiters and hiring managers are sent daily lists of matches and rankings so they can determine with whom they’d like to follow up for each open position. Goodman says the system will not only save your recruitment staff time and enhance their productivity, but will help deliver higher quality talent to your company as well. A subscription to Restless Bandit costs between $25,000 to $100,000.

“The human evaluator brings an unconscious bias to their work,” Goodman said. “These algorithms look at the entire resume and job description as part of a larger model, and then tease out fits based on career arc, title climbing, industry associations, competitor employers, schools and degrees that really matter for the job, all while never bringing a job seeker’s ethnicity, name, religion or location into play to determine value.”

OutsideIQ – Automated regulatory compliance

The amount of time and money spent on filing the proper reports and paperwork with the appropriate levels of government can seem insurmountable and, perhaps, even prohibitive to many companies. However, failing to do so can lead to untold amounts in fines and legal fees, making regulatory compliance a necessary evil. But OutsideIQ is aiming to change that by automating the entire compliance process through artificial intelligence.

“We have clients who have fallen further and further behind on the regulatory demands they’re facing, and we have clients who have tried to do it manually with armies of people,” Dan Adamson, CEO and founder of Outside IQ, told Business News Daily. “It’s a great relief to them that this system can make it doable in an efficient manner.”

OutsideIQ’s major products includes Due Diligence IQ (DDIQ), which automates due-diligence-reporting requirements for both clients and corporations, as well as use in anti-bribery and anti-corruption systems, Adamson said. InsuranceIQ, another product developed by OutsideIQ, is trained by commercial underwriters to look for the same things humans do when assessing risk; it then determines the appropriate level of coverage and offers a recommendation, and it’s auditable, so humans can always confirm its methods.

“We need the added context that AI can provide, but we have to be very open box; we have to explain everything that’s been done with our system so regulators can understand, so banks can be confident with how it’s being used,” Adamson said. “Broadly, the exciting part is we’re seeing actual commercialization of AI now. There’s a real opportunity for AI to change the dynamics of humanity; it’s very exciting and it’s very humbling.”

Know More About Business Fads That Are on Their Way Out

Remember when there was a frozen yogurt chain in almost every town? Today, many of these once-popular establishments are out of business; like fashion, business is subject to the ebb and flow of consumer hype, and such fads tend not to last very long.

“Don’t assume your fad is going to have revenue beyond a pretty short time,” Mary Gale, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Babson College in Massachusetts, told the Asbury Park Press. “Plan for the demise of that business, and don’t fool yourself about when it’s going to be.”

Owning of a fad business could diminish your entrepreneurial spirit, but there are ways of bouncing back. Here are the business trends that entrepreneurs think will die off in the coming years, and how they can be adapted to fit the changing market.

Box subscriptions

Subscription services are all the rage right now, but Jeff Neal, creator of a mud-run series turned project manager and estimator, said box subscriptions — a business where a company sends subscribers a curated box of items every month — will taper off because they are more interesting than practical. Over time, he said, you will end up with way more of a certain product — like coffee, wine or cleaning products — than one person could possibly need or use.

If you run a box-subscription company, you might want to consider finding a “common denominator” with another type of business and adapting, said Neal. For example, you could branch out into retail sales: Subscription services like Julep (cosmetics) and Blue Apron (meal ingredients) allow subscribers to skip their monthly deliveries and instead purchase related products individually from the service’s websites.

Daily deals

The trend of e-commerce “daily deal” websites hit complete market saturation in 2014, said Mike Catania, co-founder and CTO of savings community Promotion Code. However, with so many ties to small business communities, daily deals sites could easily morph into location-based apps that curate retail deals nearby, he said.

“Entrepreneurs in the field could also diversify by moving into the popular rebates arena, as they likely have significant amounts of purchase data from their existing daily deal customers,” Catania added.

Tanning beds

The emerging information about the dangers of UV tanning has decreased the demand for traditional tanning beds. However, it is possible to stick with the tanning business and remain profitable, said Eric Anderson, CEO of Unlimited Tan. Switching the focus to spray tanning can increase business and even bring in a whole new clientele that would normally not visit a tanning salon.

“Adding a spray booth or custom spray tanning is a must to adapt to the changing needs of your customer base,” Anderson said. He added that creative marketing and partnerships will keep customers engaged.

Laser and bleach teeth whitening

Although the teeth-whitening market has been alive and well since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, today’s health-conscious consumers are wary of modern methods like bleaching and laser treatments. Max Robinson, owner of Teeth Whitening Belfast, said he does far less traditional laser teeth whitening than he used to do, because most of his customers are now looking for natural treatments. As a result, he has had to diversify his business, he said.

“We use a lot of coconut oil, charcoal and baking soda, and provide different [whitening] treatments,” Robinson said.

Nostalgic gaming apps

Pokémon Go was without a question the most popular new app this summer. But how many people do you know who still play the game regularly? AJ Saleem, academy director of Suprex Learning Houston, said he expects gaming apps capitalizing on nostalgia to die off in the coming year, if not sooner, because the games eventually lose their popularity (again).

“There are definitely ways to prolong its popularity, such as adding new additions and updating, but eventually the game will die out,” said Saleem. “Those popular games aren’t meant to last forever.”

Tips to Improve Your Company Culture

As a business owner, you spend your day in the trenches, growing your client base, tracking sales and planning your next big move. You may not have much energy left to pursue more abstract ambitions, like building company culture — at times, it may feel like improving employee morale or creating a supportive work environment will just have to wait.

But creating the sort of workplace culture that will help you attract and retain the top employees should be a priority, no matter what your business does.

“Culture unleashes the power and energy of every individual in the organization,” said Manish Goel, a board member of Aerospike Inc. “No matter how much work is put into developing strategies, all have to work in an environment where they feel they can succeed and are supported. A great culture … has to be fostered.”

In a recent survey of hundreds of businesses owners — conducted by The Alternative Board (TAB), an international provider of executive peer advisory boards — 93 percent of entrepreneurs agreed that promoting company culture boosts productivity and creativity.

“When an employer considers the wants and needs of their employees, and creates policies and a workplace environment based around them, it sends a clear message to their people. That message is: ‘We value you,'” said Jodie Shaw, chief marketing officer for TAB. “When you value your people, it creates a happier workplace. Employees who feel they are valued and trusted are more loyal and therefore more productive.”

Shaw and Goel provided four simple ways that leaders can build and improve company culture.

Remove hierarchies. The new “open door” policy is the “no-door” policy, Goel said. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “us” and “them” when leadership is behind closed doors and others are in a cube. This type of environment creates an atmosphere of intimidation and inhibits the free flow of ideas, he said.

Empower and trust. When you’re a business leader, most of what goes on in the organization is not visible to you. Goel advised leaders to empower and trust their co-workers to make the right decisions. The benefits of trusting and empowering others far outweigh the fear that mistakes will be made.

“It is important for the entire company to know that they are an integral part of the company’s success,” he said. “Control outcomes, not behaviors.”

Offer flexibility. One of the findings from the TAB survey was that business leaders who identified their work culture as “strong” offered more flexible work arrangements, such as flextime, compressed workweeks and telecommuting. Even in environments that are more formal or in positions where extensive flexibility is not a possibility, employers can still make meaningful efforts to provide a work-life balance, Shaw said. These efforts can include allowing employees to leave early to take care of family or personal commitments and make up the time later; offering dress-down days; or encouraging employees to take their birthday off as paid leave.

Listen. The most important thing you can do for your company culture is to listen to those who are a part of it, whether that be administering a company survey or just asking someone how their day is going. Foster the type of environment where your co-workers feel comfortable enough to reach out, no matter their status within the company, Goel said.