Google´s Red Button to stop machines from rebelling against humankind

Artificial intelligence is perhaps large companies most important strategic decision. They are investing huge amounts of money, effort and resources in its development.
Machines that are able to learn independently in order to facilitate our lives in any area.boton rojo de google

But there will come a time, when machines will surpass human intelligence. And no, I’m not inventing this, nor is it the title of a science fiction movie. This is the conclusion, experts of the company Deep Mind have reached (a company specializing in artificial intelligence) together with FHI (Institute for the Future of Humanity). In fact, computer science has advanced greatly since its inception 70 years ago. The computing power has been doubling every 18 months, according to Moore’s Law. It is believed that if Moore’s law continues fulfilling itself, by 2030 the computing power of a processor corresponds to the intelligence of a person.

This hypothesis is at least, a disturbing one. So much that the classic movie “Terminator” seems to have inspired Google when developed and patented his now famous red button.

With the aim of eradicating the fear of artificial intelligence, Deep Mind (company belonging to the giant Google) and FHI have developed a “red button”. An emergency button in which in case of a machine rebellion, it could be prevented and stop any harmful action for humankind.

What is Google´s Red Button?

Laurent Orseau, a scientist who works for Deep Mind and Stuart Amstrong of the University of Oxford, are responsible for this project.

According to Armstrong and Orseau, the button has been created for the purpose of preventing machines to follow a sequence of actions that could be harmful to humans or the environment. So they developed a protocol that allows a human operator to interrupt the operation of the artificial intelligence platform in case of emergency and also ensure that the robot is not able to override these interruptions.

The challenge of artificial intelligence

The question of whether machines can be revolted is present and more and more inventions question this possibility…

A good example of this is a robot capable of deciding whether or not cause pain to people by nailing a needle. Its creator, Alexander Reben, sought, when he created the machine, to enter into the burning debate whether or not artificial intelligence is dangerous.

Another example is the Microsoft bot, Tay, designed to create fun chats on social networks, the company had to turn off the next day after its release because it started throwing racist and sexist comments on Twitter. Do you remember?

http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2016/03/160325_tecnologia_microsoft_tay_bot_adolescente_inteligencia_artificial_racista_xenofoba_lb

Scientists and specialists agree that no system is infallible and that precautions must be taken.

Surely the danger today is not very likely to happen, but technology is advancing very fast, it is best to work on it from now on.
The key is to raise awareness about safety in the development of almost all algorithms and robots, and to be able to disconnect the system in an instant. Or even better, that any artificial intelligence system can detect when something is wrong and be able to stop it automatically.

In the world of artificial intelligence, managing to control any risk for humans is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges we face.

In conclusion we could say that we are facing an exciting future but not without risk, if we don´t do it right.

 

The future passes through smart cities

New technologies have brought great change in recent years. And above all, has made possible a new industrial revolution, the so-called fourth industrial revolution, mass digitization of processes and services.

Many of the futuristic films we saw just a few years ago, incredulously proved the prediction of what today are our days, or will be soon. As happened with Jules Verne more than 150 years ago, as happened in films like Blade Runner and Akira, but hopefully we will improve certain things by then.

What would you think if I told you that the future is in smart cities in which we can interact? But not only that, I’m talking about a near future, where this cities act more like a living organism, than as a set of concrete and steel buildings; Masdar, Abu Dhabi, are an example.

All will pass through the network. Yes, Internet has come to change the world. Literally.

Electrical network, pipes… everything will be connected. There will be driverless vehicles. Streets, signs, stores, buildings … everything will be intelligent and will respond to our needs. The needs that we have always had. The reason why we could not be able to build this kind of cities before is because we didn’t have the capacity to manage data properly, but now we are able to do that. The massive data processing techniques, the famous big data, allows it.

An ecological trend

Intelligent and sustainable, this is the trend of the new cities.

Sustainable solutions not only remain vital in cities and buildings, but in the city of the future, there will be no longer independent solutions and it will become part of an integrated digital system.

We talked earlier in the blog, about roads that use solar energy for self-sufficient lighting, or roads that turn air, generated by passing cars, into energy.

==> Technologies that will make roads safer, more comfortable and efficient <==

The same goes for buildings, for example, they will be able, through big data, to know when there is a greater demand for electricity and store it for use when needed, to detect states of emergency, manage water efficiency, etc. Efficient water and energy management are key elements for the cities of the future, if we want them to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

Traffic

One of the major problems in cities is the traffic. It is also a major problem for efficient logistics. Priority is set for road users, increasing the use of public transport and freight priority uses. For environmental and efficiency criteria, subways or trains should be encouraged, that have the capacity of moving 20,000 people / hour instead of cars that in the best of cases reach 1200 persons / hour and 5 times less polluting per passenger than private vehicles.
In addition, today the vast amount of data that can be handled thanks to new technologies makes it possible to predict those places where there will be traffic congestion. This is an important advance. However, we are still not able to make traffic jams disappear.

Companies like Waze, now owned by the giant Google, are working in this direction.
For those who do not know, Waze is a social application for automobile traffic in real time and assisted navigation asking citizens to help in solving the huge problem of traffic. The actual data, sent by users, allows the application to generate a map of the conditions in real time. Surprisingly, in countries like Israel, it was observed that when this service is not available, a great chaos is generated.

When will we have Smart Cities?

This is perhaps the biggest question. We already have the technology.

Now what?
It is not an easy task, we have to think of it as something big, and we could define it as a big monster, unknown and uncontrollable. Probably we have first to learn how to tame it. This big monster could make most of our cities clean, efficient and safe, but to become Smart Cities, governments need to be smart and trained to handle this revolution. It is much easier to build a city from a blueprint than to remodel an existing one. In the second case, smart elements will be incorporated, slowly, wisely. The “smart” way is the only way to do it. Pilot testing, and see how it progresses.

The involvement of governments is essential if we want to have Smart Cities, as we face decisions that alter the urban planning, traffic flows, local regulations, etc. In this aspect, infrastructure investments will be made on investment criteria, for example economic revenue or environmental impact and other criteria that we used to see. I must say that this “smart” digital revolution is a very important route to economic growth if it is used properly, as an opportunity that cannot be missed. It could generate high-level jobs.

Of What you can be sure is that the pace at which technology and society advances is not going to be calmly … The future is very close to the present.

 

Keys to the trend: “uberization” of businesses.

Besides a few controversies and a lot of detractors, Uber has become one of the most valuable companies in the world of mobile applications. The impact of its success is not only because it manages astronomical numbers, but also, it brought down barriers and created a new trend. Thanks to that, we talk about “uberization” of businesses and economy.

Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, Netflix … We are talking about different companies in different sectors. At first, it could be difficult to find a pattern between them. But there is: all of them are part of the “uberization” of the economy.

When we say “uberization”, we talk about activities oriented to cooperation practices in an enterprise. It is a model capable to be integrated, specially, in service businesses:

Transport (Uber), Accommodation (Airbnb), Entertainment (Netflix), etc. Although, industrial companies may also adopt this model. This is because, when speaking of industrial and service businesses, it is not easy to establish a clear boundary. For example, a car factory may think that it clearly has to focus on production. But in many cases, the customer is more interested in the services surrounding the product, looking to buy a reliable private transportation service. This means maintenance, replacement vehicle, roadside service, in short, a whole range of elements necessary to achieve the customer satisfaction. So, the line between the product and the service is increasingly softer, therefore, a concept like “uberization” should be analyzed and integrated also in industrial companies.

Keys to the success of “uberization”

A key aspect of this model is the elimination of intermediaries, to be able to offer more attractive fares to the end consumer. Another key element of this new concept is based on technology, mobile is its strength and all offers are hosted in smartphone applications (apps).

As a curiosity, we can see that mobile applications are far from being complex, they are based on simplicity … If you look into any of these startup apps, you can see that they have a very intuitive interface, simple, and in many cases with very few features. This is where we can apply the maxim “less is more”, in order to achieve the greatest efficiency.

The impact has been so strong in businesses, because they actually did not invent a new model, they improved an existing one. The activity is the same, customers remain the same, but the business model has been improved using the advantages of ubiquitous computing and combining this with participatory economics. As an example, we can compare Airbnb, with the prestigious Hilton Hotel chain. Hilton has 93 years of history and manages 610,000 rooms in 88 countries. Well, Airbnb needed only four years to handle 650,000 rooms in 192 countries, incredible, right? In addition, the Airbnb business model did not need high investments and its growth is exponential. The working capital needed to grow this business is infinitely inferior to the powerful Hilton Hotel chain. Surely both have their place in the market, but what is clear is the spectacular way Airbnb has improved the accommodation management model.

But beyond all of the above, we have to talk about empathy and the great knowledge of the market. This is one of the keys to success and a common denominator of these companies. All of them have been able to recognize customer dissatisfaction and change the situation by offering a higher quality service through competitive bids, enabling customers to save time and improve their experience.

The “uberization” is certainly an upward trend, because of its scalable model, which allows activity growth, in a natural and fluid way, without having the service quality affected and what is even more important, without the need of assets and capital investment.

So, get prepared to see the strangest things being “uberized”…

 

5G, the Future of Wireless Networks

5g

Internet has become an essential part of our life and we work with it every day. Today, we already have many connected devices: computers, telephones, cars, televisions, but soon we will also see connected: our refrigerator, the kitchen cupboard, even the clothes we are wearing. Our whole environment will be connected to the network. In addition, we demand an increasingly faster, efficient and universal connection. We must have network availability anywhere and at any time. So, telecommunication companies have to satisfy this need.

If we want to have connection anywhere and at any time, wireless networks are essential. In this article we will talk about the so-called 5G. When we talk about wireless networks, the “G” means generation. Just like its predecessors, 3G and 4G. 5G is a sort of wireless connection designed to satisfy the need of a future, where billions of devices will be connected to the network. This new reality demands a new protocol. This will be 5G. But…

What is exactly 5G?

Wireless technology started with 1G. In the 90’s we met 2G, the time, when devices allowed us to send SMS. Perhaps you have heard more about 3G, which allowed us not only to make calls and send SMS, but also to surf internet. 4G, broadly, came to improve the advantages of 3G, highlighting the speed, when surfing the Net.
But the evolution did not stop there, 4G added the LTE (Long Term Evolution), which made it even faster …

5G arrives in order to support a massive connection of devices, providing reliability and new features in navigation, keeping bandwidth from collapse. This new generation will be built on a 4G LTE  basis.

What is new?

5G will enable us to confront the future …

5G will still allow us to make calls, send messages and surf internet. So far, nothing is new. The difference is that it will be faster. For practical purposes, to give an example, downloading and uploading heavy files, in Ultra HD format or 3D videos, will no longer be a problem.

In addition to the increasing speed, 5G will be able to support millions of devices connected at the same time.

How fast will it be?

Currently, the transmission speed of the 4G LTE reaches up to a gigabit per second. 5G will multiply this number by 10, allowing a download speed of up to 10 gigabits per second.

When can we start using 5G?

For almost a year already, some companies have been making tests in several cities, mainly in the United States. Other companies are doing internal testing inside their facilities. However, predictions talk about a global availability of 5G, starting in 2020.

 

Some incredible stuff that 5G allows us

Autonomous vehicles

5G networks will be prepared to respond fast enough to coordinate autonomous vehicles.

We could imagine roads without traffic lights, for example. Once all vehicles have cameras and sensors integrated, they can capture videos continuously and thus move without traffic lights or provide accurate information of what happened in an accident, etc.

Videoconferences

5G will allow us to communicate in a more visual way. We can talk from anywhere, with anyone, wherever they are, through such clear videos that it will seem as we are next to them.

Telemedicine

Remote medicine assistance will be a reality thanks to 5G, which will allow doctors to perform an intervention or practice surgery remotely. Yes, you have read right; Delays in connecting with 5G are so tiny that doctors can use robots to operate a person that can be thousands of miles away. They will not even have to be in a hospital or medical center.

In short, these and other unimaginable applications will come to us in the next few years. We need to be attentive and take advantage of the opportunities that 5G will offer to us, in order, to improve our lives and our communities.

Welcome to the future!

The great challenge of industry 4.0

Indústria 4.0

Industry 4.0, also called cyber-industry or intelligent factory, is becoming a fashion-expression in the business world. But, what is this all about?

Digital transformation is creating a great impact in the company organization, production and management of the relationship with clients. The digital marketing, the Web and the mobile devices caught our attention during the last years. But the greatest impact of the digital phenomenon is now in the digitalisation of industries. Some even dare to call it the forth industrial revolution… 

What is industry 4.0?

When we talk about industry 4.0, we talk about the digital transformation applyed to industrial production, the introduction of new digital technologies in fabrics. By using sensors and other information systems we can obtain the digitalisation of production processes making them more effective and efficient.

So simple and so complex

Not long ago, there was a general idea that industrial companies have been living in a parallel reality to digitalisation. Big mistake!

We were able to observe something similar with other industries that initially put resistance to the inevitable evolution. The music industry, for example, was one of the most obvious. They saw this change as a threat. Also media in general and without going any further, logistics would be an example too. All of them are now fully adapted to the digital phenomenon.

The same happened to many other industries that suffered because the organization struggled against a change of mentality in front of the evolution of the digital world. This is because the competitiveness of enterprises is at stake: the possibility of offering personalized customer service; ability to design customized products and services; ability to adapt to demand; more profitable production; ability to collect, analyze and exploit information, etc.

Industry 4.0 is a very broad concept; to understand the scope a bit better we could divide it into eight main areas that allow the operation of this complicated gear:

  1. Big data
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. IOT (Internet of Things)
  4. Augmented reality
  5. Robotics
  6. Cyber security
  7. Simulation and prototyping
  8. Process integration

A key element is to achieve greater flexibility and individualisation of manufacturing processes. Manufacturers must adapt products to the needs of individual customers and each product will be different. We are talking about a hyper-differentiation in industrial production.

All this must be done by reducing costs and improving production times, thus raising the efficiency of the value chain. We are therefore facing a great challenge.

The great challenge of industry 4.0: People

To apply all the technologies we discussed before is not an easy task. It is a long and complex process to integrate all of this into a business. It cannot be done from one day to another. It has to be done gradually.

However, the great challenge of the 4.0 industry is in 4.0 people. One of the objectives of the industry 4.0 is to create coexistence for people and machines in the same environment, harmoniously interacting in a natural process, unlike now. Today the factories have robots on one side and on the other side they have people that do not participate in cooperative processes. Industry 4.0 is about to break this barrier, creating a co-working environment for the same process and make it more effective and efficient.

Accept the digital transformation requires a change of mentality, a new culture and willingness to change … To adapt to this new environment will not be an easy task for professionals. But there is no choice: adapt or die.

Here some links to interesting videos about industry 4.0:

Machine learning in a logistics company

machine-learning

Machine learning refers to a set of techniques that surround the study and practice of algorithms, which have the ability to learn from data. They are able to create programs from general behavior pattern recognition. In other words, machines can learn without being previously programmed for something specifically.
The learning process of the machine is similar to data mining. Both systems use data to look for patterns. However, instead of extracting data for human understanding – such as applications of data mining – machine learning uses this data to detect patterns and modifies them, automatically, according to software parameters. Machine learning algorithms are classified between supervised and unsupervised. Supervised algorithms can apply what they have learned in the past and with the new data they can use it, for what we call training data. Unsupervised algorithms can draw conclusions from data sets without a priori knowledge.
This is not something new. Machine learning has much to do with the original idea of artificial intelligence; in fact, it is a type of AI.

New information technologies and telecommunications have marked a before and after in companies, in some sectors more than in others. Logistics is one of those sectors that have been impacted with great force. The ability to use and analyze massive amounts of continuously generated data has led to many improvements, for example, in continuous processes and optimization of routes.

As said earlier, we are not talking about something new. The novelty is that now large amount of data can be collected by companies in order to create the basic raw material that is used for machine learning. Sometimes companies have the conflict of what to do with them, and data by itself is not useful. When we talk about massive amounts of data it becomes essential to have proper administration and analysis, so we can turn them into a useful tool. Given this reality, we have two choices: we can simply store them, which represent a loss of valuable information and opportunities for the company, or we can use them to learn and grow.

Thanks to the advance and development of new information technology, machine learning today, little or nothing, has to do with machine learning solutions that we know from the past. Today, we can apply and use algorithms or data volumes in huge amounts, to grow steadily and rapidly. Flexible algorithms and the ability to adapt them independently, result in a myriad of solutions, ranging from software, to online recommendations. For example, as we talked a few months ago, the development of self-driven vehicles, without a driver.

Machine learning applications in a logistics company

Applications are almost endless; in fact, we can adapt machine learning to as many situations as we have data. There are many regular activities in our lives and daily routines that include machine learning. These are just some examples: search engines, filtering emails, facial recognition, medical diagnostics, etc.

But, what kind of applications in machine learning should we have for logistics companies? These are some of the applications in the management of the supply chain:

– Facial recognition, voice or objects applicable, especially in stores.
– Predictions and forecasts. Very useful in the phase of transport, for example, in order to obtain data on traffic or weather conditions; or even to avoid errors in technological equipment.
– Optimization methods to create faster and more effective assessing. For example, to determine, the best time to execute a particular task.
– Analysis of consumer behavior and productivity. It is possible, through machine learning, to detect potential customers, predict which employees can be more productive, which profitable services should adapt to the needs of customers, etc.
– The famous cars and trucks without driver …

Applying machine learning in a logistics company is not easy. It requires in addition a professional programmer with a profile specialized in probability and statistics. However, it is an option to consider, especially when it comes to problem-solving nature of complex algorithms. That is very helpful when we need to find precise solutions in the shortest time possible.

The key of machine learning is the ability to adapt and build a decision tree based on known data. Their applications are so broad and the creative capacity of each one of these applications are intended to detect patterns in data or to answer certain questions in a predictive way, saving us time in the study of data and the definition of casuistry which could take weeks, months or even years.

Finally, an important aspect to be put on the table is the kind of applications we are talking about will answer: What will happened? But not, why?   This fact is transcendental and clashes frontally with our empirical training. We will be able to detect that something will happen, but if we want to know why it will happen, we need further analysis. The reality is that we often just want to know what will happen, because then we can act accordingly and remedy it. For example, thanks to these tools we are able to predict an earthquake. Then, we can prepare ourselves, displacing people, etc., and this actions should be enough. We don´t need to know that this is because of a tectonic plate moved or that there was a tsunami in such a place that caused it.

So there is no doubt that we are only at the beginning of a revolution, where the use of big data and machine learning tools, will be in all areas of our life, especially in logistics. Regarding this, the recommendation is to think as our grandparents and save everything, especially data.  Because the unstructured data as we have today: Excel sheets, PowerPoint presentations, emails, documents of all kinds, etc.; are the raw material that is needed by machine learning in order to work and help us to manage our business better.

 

Anticipatory Shipping: The Amazon patent that allows sending products before the users have even purchased them.

logisitca-amazon

Advances in technology and innovation make the future we saw, just a few years ago, in some cinematographic films, not as a fantasy any more but now becoming part of our daily life.
It comes to mind “Minority Report,” “The Fifth Element”, “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Robocop.”

HAL 9000, the computer that we saw in “2001: A Space Odyssey” could interpret the feelings of the characters and was able to predict when they would turn it off. We do not know if Amazon was inspired by the film when creating “anticipatory shipping”, but this algorithm is something similar because it can predict the demand of users for the purpose of sending products before being purchased and they can be delivered in an hour.

In 2012, Amazon presented a patent for a delivery system designed to reduce delivery time, by predicting what users will buy before they were actually buying it and shipping the products to their homes even before the sale has been made: “Method and System for Anticipatory Shipping Package“.

Today, the Amazon commitment with users and buyers who choose the Premium service marketplace is the one or two-day delivery. Although there are already some locations where the deliveries can be made in less than 24 hours. The aim of the e-commerce giant is to minimize delivery times and in order to make this possible, the key are the so-called predictive models.

The idea is aiming to ensure that online shopping can be as immediate, as to buy goods on a physical location, in which you can pay and take the product at the same time.

How is this possible?

Big Data plays a key role in this. Thanks to stored data in the order history of each customer on Amazon, the online sales giant can predict how many new books of Dan Brown’s latest novel, how many Samsung 7 or how many drones will be sold in a given area: neighborhood, city, etc.

This model simulates the reality by analyzing the customer behavior in the past and even though it is not exact, it allows to approach the number of orders that will be carried out. Given this estimate, Amazon sends a variety of products to its distribution centers and even trucks assigned to an exact area. From the user finally ‘clicking’ on the button, until the arrival of the purchase at home, the shipping can take just a few hours or less.

We cannot ignore that carrying packages from one place to another, has a cost. Even for Amazon. But if there is anything that characterized them in the past, is having an efficient logistics that allows them to make a difference and their excitement to innovate.

What happens if their predictive model is wrong?

This part also is under control through a system that is able to calculate whether it is worth (speaking of costs, of course) to return the product to the plant or if it is better to send discounts and promotions to customers in the area where the products are (always a lower value than the cost of returning the product to the plant). The idea is not so far-fetched. It allows offering great deals to customers and making them happy, as well as the liquid stocks are reducing costs and maintaining a complex logistics machine running.

Amazon is very sure of their prediction algorithm and its reverse logistics capabilities, which in the US is now already sending products to certain customers without them even done “the click”. It is already in the last phase, where they will be able to know the purchase of a product even before we know it. Really incredible and disturbing, they know more about us than ourselves.

Implementing the model worldwide where customers are counted by millions, with hundreds of distribution centers to control all across the planet, and thousands (maybe more) suppliers is not an easy task. But it is undoubtedly a brilliant step to the future and a unique way to differentiate them from the competition.

Alan Key said:
❝The best way to predict the future is to invent it❞.

The future of road transportation: Driverless Trucks

camions-sense-conductor

A year ago or maybe a bit more, we`ve been hearing the media talking about a near future in which vehicles can go without a driver handling the steering wheel. But not only by media giants, like Google or Uber, even manufacturers such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz predict a future where autonomous vehicles can be driven without a person.

Mercedes-Benz presented what they consider the truck of the future, which is called “Future Track 2025”. A model that represents a breakthrough in efficiency, security and networking. It is a vehicle with an automatic, integrated system that allows the driver to rest or perform other tasks meanwhile the truck is in charge of getting cargo to its destination, safely and efficiently.

The prototype of Mercedes-Benz, as you can see in the link below, represents a revolution of traffic and infrastructure, for professional drivers and the road transportation sector. Among many other objectives and advantages, it ensures the highest level of traffic safety, promoting the creation of networks and intelligent data management, preserving resources and reducing emissions. Having in mind that over 90% of accidents are caused by human error.

It has recently come to light, that the giant Google has a patent that describes a driverless vehicle for packaging transportation. As reported by the journal Quartz, Google pretends that the packaging recipients receive and type a PIN code at a corresponding locker, in the truck when it arrives to their door.

The patent does not provide details about the vehicle autonomous operation. Although it refers to common elements of driverless cars or other vehicles prototyping: laser and radar sensors, video cameras, navigation maps, communication systems, connecting vehicles to an external controller, etc.

Google wants to deliver packages from self-driving trucks

The industry is showing great optimism to the possibilities, but the truth is, although they are already testing this technology, driverless vehicles present more obstacles than just the technological:

High Costs

Currently, the costs involved in creating a vehicle with this kind of system and driving it on the streets are very high. Which undoubtedly makes a mass production of driverless trucks still a dream.

Road safety rules and other legislative barriers

Legislation is still not prepared for this, in almost any country in the world.  A few months ago the biggest problem in drones development and innovation, broke at the legislative level. In this case it does not look very optimistic. Governments, both local and national, are unsure about the idea of putting millions of human lives in the hands of robots.

In case of driverless vehicles, for example: Current regulation takes for responsible, the person behind the wheel, driving. Imagine in case of an event or accident, the responsible will be the robot!

Rejection by part of the sector.

We cannot forget that millions of people are working as full-time professional drivers and certainly this type of technology will be rejected at the first sight. This is not something new in human history. Technological revolutions involve stop doing certain things and start doing other instead. Like manufacturers of carriages were jobless when cars appeared. Surely, professional drivers can do other things related to people and goods transportation, in which they are involved. In any case, it will be a long road where everyone have time to adapt, if they want to.

However, the benefits are many: security and management, resource optimization and even in an environmental level. People with disabilities, either by age or disease, a group that is growing in number, anxiously await such solutions to change their lives, giving them the autonomy they had before.

All these factors, in a short, medium term, would start leaning in favor of accepting driverless vehicles. We will begin seeing them as normal on our roads in about five or six years from now, I dare to predict.  The first radical change, will come in the next 2-3 years. It will be unstoppable the introduction of electric cars, then the autonomous cars and probably much later they will gain the ability to move not only on land but also on other surfaces like water or air. In short term, we are facing an exciting future, if we make the best of it. And in this case, innovation must move businesses and entrepreneurs, to bet to this new world that awaits us.

The impact of mobile devices on consumer habits

movil y habitos de consumo

Over the last decades, globalisation and technology have had a major impact on consumer behaviour. Thus, mobile devices have entered our daily life for good, becoming an essential part of our routine, both at a personal and professional level. If fact, these devices take the lion’s share of our current technology usage time-wise. Needless to say, such extensive use has significantly altered our buying and consumption behaviour.

Today, mobile devices make any information readily available, including of course offers or promotions before visiting the store, whereby consumers can advance their purchasing and decision-making processes. For example, there is a growing number of consumers who compare online prices with those at the store before buying the product. Likewise, people at the store increasingly check out product information on their phone before purchasing.

Not surprisingly, mobile devices have become an essential instrument of corporate strategy. Accordingly, online strategies must set goals for macro and micro conversion ratios to properly assess performance. Every website has a clear main goal, and we use conversions (macros conversion in this case) to assess whether goals have been met. As you can imagine, most of the efforts are focused on doing so. On the other hand, this focus on a very small fraction of traffic makes us ignore other goals, which our website (micro conversions) also fulfils. In addition, this encourages brands to include elements at the store for mobile consumer interaction, such as scanning QR codes on product labels.

Beyond information search, the massive use of smartphones and other mobile devices constitutes a key entertainment platform, with an ever-growing content offering. It is with good reason that mobile devices are one of the few elements snatching people away from TV, which has made them one of the leading content consumption platforms. Not least because the quality of mobile content and the accompanying visual effects have grown exponentially in recent times. Therefore, brands and companies seeking to remain relevant will be compelled to adapt their communication to the audio-visual format.

Moreover, the massive use of mobile devices has led to the emergence and spread of mobile applications (apps), the influence of which on our buying behaviour and habits can hardly be overstated.

Chances are you have a mobile app to organise and remind you of your grocery shopping; perhaps an application from one of your favourite brands, which sends real-time information on their offers and new products; most likely, you have also downloaded an app to manage and organise your next trip (buying tickets, hotel reservation, tourist guide, etc.).

A useful app, designed with potential customers in mind, does not only represent a new sales, information and promotion platform, but is also a direct communication channel between the brand and its customers, and a powerful source whereby companies capture information about user behaviour, and execute cross-selling campaigns  to offer new products or services of interest.

Simply put, the Internet has changed the rules of the game. On the back of ubiquitous mobile devices, consumers have changed their habits, and continue to do so. In the very near future, common and recurrent behaviours today will become an oddity, or simply disappear. There is no doubt that retailers will need to change and adapt accordingly, even more so than other industries.

In 10 years, according to certain studies – like this one prepared by IBM and referred to by Computer World (http://www.computerworld.com/article/3023345/retail-it/thanks-to-tech-stores-are-evolving-into-showrooms.html), stores will become mere showrooms so that customers, as part of their shopping experience, can physically see, touch and test products, which they will buy online afterwards for home delivery.

In this new operational model, retailers will require real-time information, as well as deploying in-store technology to allow any ordering process. Furthermore, they will offer free and fast shipping to compete effectively with the convenience of in-store buying from stock.

While Ikea – amongst other brands – has already begun to test this new model, its stores work rather as a delivery point, skipping the supply chain for now.

In closing, I would like to stress the fact that we are indeed facing a revolution in consumer habits, the dramatic change of which depicts an exciting future for companies keen to adapt and reap the ensuing opportunities.

The digitalization of retail purchase

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Consumer habits, in terms of the search of the product or service and in the purchase, are changing, not only in the online environment, but also in the physical store. This has driven companies to innovate and invest in technological solutions that enable them to provide users with a unique shopping experience with no barriers.

The emergence of new technologies has brought about many challenges and, like the saying goes, it is “adapt or die” in the world of retail purchase.

Multichannelling is one of the most important changes triggered by digitization. Today, consumers relate and interact with brands through multiple channels… And this, in the field of retail means that, although the point of sale is still the predominant channel, ecommerce and mcommerce, and even the social networks or media, are gradually gaining strength and relevance.

Mobile devices play an increasingly important role. Consumers expect their phones to facilitate their purchasing processes, in fact, most online purchase processes are already made through mobile devices, which signals the rise of mcommerce.

Omnichannelling and innovation as the key to success

Omnichannelling and innovation are essential factors. An omnichannel strategy allows us to maximize the advantages offered by new technologies. Besides, innovation becomes essential in order to offer consumers an unparalleled shopping experience.

Despite the relentless growth of electronic commerce, the physical point of sale is still important for consumers. The reason is clear: the point of sale allows for certain features that are not possible through online shopping, such as experiencing the feel or the smell of products. But this does not imply that businesses should lower their guard with regard to digitization. In fact, they must be more alert than ever. One of the changing aspects is that customers walk in the store with lots of information about the product they want, thanks to the research done on the Internet and the comments and opinions of other consumers on social networks. This takes us to the first conclusion: the brands have to actively listen to what happens on the Internet and to what the users have to say. The new consuming habits have made digitalization a necessity, but it is also a great tool to get feedback from consumers.

The first examples we could talk about are QR codes; but today we have many other options and solutions like beacons (http://ignasisayol.com/es/beacons-entre-el-comerc-electronic-i-la-localitzacio/) or digital fitting rooms (http://ignasisayol.com/en/espanol-tecnologias-que-cambiaran-radicalmente-nuestros-habitos-de-consumo/).

This video gives evidence of Burberry’s commitment to a solid omnichannel strategy. They have turned their point of sale in Regent Street into a referent that is also used as a venue for events that are broadcast over the Internet. They have installed smart digital fitting rooms and screens that provide information on materials and manufacturing processes as a starting point for a memorable shopping experience.

The role of Big Data

Today, customers and brands communicate interactively and multidirectionally, which provides valuable information on the profile, needs and desires of the target audience. It will be essential to take all this information and adapt the message to create a strong bond with the customer to help achieve the goal: a unique shopping experience.

You can learn more about Big Data in this article: http://ignasisayol.com/es/big-data-i-comerc-electronic/

Improving operations and processes

From the organizational point of view, digitalisation should also apply to operations and processes so as to successfully face the challenges arising.

Having integrated platforms that allow connecting all the channels, having a real-time view of stocks, as well as information on the product and on consumers will become a necessity.

As a referent in this regard we could mention Inditex, who have managed to make the most of Big Data. Through a strategic information management system, they are able to connect all their stores around the world and to adapt their offer to the customers’ needs quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, this allows the brand for a better insight of what products work best and in which stores, and this is the key to the well-known fast fashion that has made the company the most successful fashion business worldwide.

Therefore, it is clear that the digital world will become an essential tool for retail in the coming years if we are to provide a great shopping experience for our customers. The sum of tradition, innovation and quality as seen in the Burberry video we have recommended above is an example of the future to come.