‘Hook me up on Insta…’

This week, I was at a team meeting over in Madrid, Spain.

It was a lovely location, quite near the city… and walking distance to some really good restaurants, where I was able to take photos of the tasty food.

During the meeting, we had the usual on the tables… paper, pens… water… and some jelly beans.

Okay, it might be a bit out of the norm to have jelly beans, but we had several packets on the table.

Now, one of these packets was next to me, and I picked it up… had a look and placed it back down. No… I didn’t have any, on a little diet… New Year, New Me and all that.

Anyhow, what I did notice were the social media images on the back of the pack.

Now, usually – I probably wouldn’t have looked twice… but where the contact details usually are… there were social media icons. Is this the new norm? – if you want to contact them, find them on facebook, twitter, etc… and then reach out to them…?

Now, let’s be honest… we’re all on Facebook… or Twitter (or both!)… Instagram…. And I’m sure, we’ve all watched a video or two on YouTube. We know these channels very well. So it’s normal for us to be on them… for us to connect with brands (as well as friends, family, etc…)… and then be able to contact them.

And more importantly… it’s great! – you don’t have to email… you don’t have to write a letter… just when you’re posting that photo of you on the beach onto Facebook to share with your friends, why not connect with the brand and let them know your thoughts.

But moreso… what got me was…. Just icons where there. No words. That’s right… it didn’t say ‘Facebook’… it just have the logo…. It didn’t say ‘Instagram’… just the logo. Which means, these social media platforms, which have millions and millions of users… don’t need to be described or explained.

And I’ve noticed… we are using less and less words when communicating.

Take for example, Emoji’s.

One emoji = words. Could be several words. Could even be a whole sentence!

Are we moving back in time… to the era of hieroglyphics?

It’s fine. It doesn’t matter how you communicate. As long as you do communicate.

New Ways of Communication.

New Channels to your customers.

It’s about knowing your customer.

Not everyone should be using emoji’s or pictures. If you audience are elderly folk… you’ll probably need some printed, large text, leaflets and materials. But… what if your audience are young. What if your audience are on Snapchat all the time… what if your audience have more photo’s with Snapchat filters than… without!

Comes back to the basic principles of Lean. Start with the customer.

And it’s even easier these days… with the amount of data that’s available, for you to do an analysis on your customers… understand how they’re communicating and how they’d like to be communicated to.

So in summary….

  1. Have a Social Media Strategy – Everyone (nearly everyone) is on social media. Find out which is the right one for you… and understand how you can use the channels effectively.
  2. Execute your strategy – Content is King! – That’s right, build some engaging materials to share with your customers. Make them feel part of the familia.
  3. Increase your Digital Footprint – many of you are probably doing this already, but increase your on-line presence… be clear, what and where you’re sharing, informing and communicating. Because at the end of the day, you want to be Lean… in a Digital World.

Oh, and by the way… if you are on Insta and want to ‘hook up’ with me… in other words, connect… my username is @mrbalbansal… but I’ll warn you now…. It’s full of photo’s of cars, buildings… and food (which I had in Madrid!).

And…. finally, there’s many great people – who share some fantastic information and insights, but limit themselves to one platform. If expanded… think of the possibilities!

 

Kicking the year off with CES 2018

What is CES Bal?

CES stands for the Consumer Electronics Show, and is held early January, every year…. where all the top folk who are interested in everything that is electronics (technology) related, gather for a few days…. oh… and, it’s usually held in Las Vegas.

Now, this year – is no different.

There’s various top speakers….

There’s various categories…. (for example, cars)

That’s right- anyone, anywhere, who’s doing something with regards to technology…. is there.

It’s great for people to share… collaborate and educate.

Now, as this goes on for a few days, and there’s all sorts of workshops, presentations, meetings, etc… taking place…. I’ve been doing my research, and found the top 3 items, what people are talking about (and the ones which have been winning awards!)

First up…. we have Sony, and their pet dog. Say ‘hello’ to Aibo, the pet robot dog…

Have a dog? Tired of washing it… picking up its poo….? Well, guess what… for a cool $1,800 you could have this robot dog.

Packed with various sensors on its back, chin, head, etc…. camera in it’s nose (to recognize family members) and OLED eyes…. it seems to be the perfect family pet to have! 2 hours of play… 3 hours of charge… and it even has a camera on it’s back to navigate it’s way to the charging station.

Oh, it’s also got 22 actuators… which means… it’s moving and shaking, in a very realistic manner – or at least, better than any previous models.

Sony are shipping this lovely creatures… can I call them that? – anyway, they’re being shipped with the price tag and a monthly subscription of $27. I personally don’t know the cost of owning a ‘real dog’, but… just the element of not having to pick up poo is warming to me….

Up next… Transportation… say hello to Bell Helicopter, the first flying taxi (in partnership with Uber).

That’s right – step into the first flying taxi.

Uber have been saying for a while – how they’ve been looking at Uber helicopters… Uber planes….. Uber Ice Cream vans…. (we’ll save that for another day). But it looks like their partnership with Bell is ringing in some alarming changes to the way we travel today.

Who needs roads anyway? So congested all the time! – forget that… hit me up to the skies. Bell, bought their cabin to the CES to show, the art of the possible and what they’ve been working on.

Matter of time these electronic helicopters will be cutting down our travel time….

Up next… we have The Wall! – no, not from that obstacle course show from TV… (Ninja Warrior)… but this is from Samsung.

A 146 inch… micro-LED modular built TV.

Built of lots of little micro-LED’s… allows Samsung to vary the size of the TV… So, throw out that little 32 inch you got in the corner of your living room, and start making space for The Wall!

No pricing yet from the fridge and washing machine manufacturer but we’ll soon be seeing these on the high street… or at least on their website, for on-line ordering.

There you go… my top 3 from the CES this year.

Usually, Vegas is sunny and lovely during Jan… I know, i’ve been… but this year, there’s been rain! – That’s right.. the Gods above us, have showered Vegas with some droplets… which have caused blackouts… parts of CES being closed, and therefore – people missing presentations and meetings.

It’s put a little ‘damper’ on the whole event… but with that out of the way, there’s plenty of great stuff going on… even having Alexa sing… ‘I can see clearly now… the rain has gone….’

Business lessons from Forest…

When it comes to football, most of you will know, that i’m a Nottingham Forest supporter.

Now… yesterday, was an FA Cup match. Nottingham Forest (who are currently mid-table in the Championship with a caretaker manager in charge and a string of no-wins in recent form) Vs Arsenal (long term manager who’s won several trophies with the club, sat 6th in the English Premier League).

So, what was the score Bal?

Yep – that’s right… Nottingham Forest 4 – Arsenal 2.

We beat them! – Against all the odds and expectations… we beat them!

Now, there’s various reasons why we beat them… but i’m going to focus on a few, and how businesses can learn from these…

1. Talent Development.

Out of the team, there were 6 players who have come through the academy at Nottingham Forest. That means, the football club have invested in training and developing these young players.

Business Lesson – Invest in your Talent. As Richard Branson always says, your employees, the people working for you, are your biggest asset – Train them well. 

2. Young Players

Seven of the players in the team were under the age of 23… Ben Bereton (18), Jordan Smith (23), Kieran Dowell (20). Joe Worrall (20), to name a few. The average age of the team was younger than the average age of the Arsenal team – yet the manager of Arsenal wanted to field a group of ‘young’ players.

Business Lesson – Bring some young folk into the business, they’ll have fresh and new ideas. Look at various startups (such as Facebook & Snapchat) and their CEO ages… and then there’s the Forbes 30 Under 30. 

3. Goals and Action Plan

The aim of the game was to win. To go out, enjoy and win. How do you win? – well, by scoring more goals! – Eric Lichaj got 2 (of which the second was a wonderful goal), then there were two penalities, from which Ben aged 18 scored and Kieran scored.

Business Lesson – Have some clear and concise goals, with an Action Plan. What do you want to achieve, by when and how. Sounds simple, right? – yet many organisations have goals, though they’re complicated, too many words, unachievable… or not communicated correctly. 

Just to expand on the latter – there was a motivation for Eric to be scoring those goals – his wife promised, if he scores a hat-trick (3 goals in a game), he can have a dog!

Don’t believe me? – watch this…

So, a few simple lessons… from the footballing world… to the business world… train your employees well, bring in some young folk and have clear goals & objectives.

There were obviously other factors, such as being well organized, more passion… and a huge desire to win. We’ll talk about those in another post…

 

AI could potentially save the NHS £300m!

Many of you, who follow me on Twitter (@balbansal) will know, I recently shared, that I’ve been invited to talk at Oxford University.

For me, this is a big deal! – Let’s just take a moment – Oxford. University. What an institution. What a place. What history.

So, you may be wondering – what am going to talk about?

Well.. i’m going to be sharing my thoughts about AI. Without going into too much detail here – because that would a) give away what’s in my presentation and b) it’s not fair on the folk who have paid and are attending… I will be talking about AI now… and AI in the future.

There’s been a rapid rise in AI… and it’s only going to get stronger… bigger and more clever!

For those, unfamiliar with the term – AI is Artificial Intelligence.

What is AI?….

“Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks.

Most AI examples that you hear about today – from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars – rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing.

Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.”

Or as I would say, – it’s the development of computer systems which are able to perform tasks, normally requiring human intelligence.

Now, there was a great story in the news recently – about how the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK could potentially save £300m! by using AI.

Currently cardiologists in hospitals can tell from the timing of the heartbeat in scans if there is a problem. Now even, the best of humans or in this case, Doctors, can get it incorrect – and statistics show, this could be up to 1 in 5 cases.

After the scan, patients are either sent home and have a heart attack or they undergo an unnecessary operation (I know what you’re thinking… what a waste of money… because it’s unnecessary!)

But what has happened is, an artificial intelligence system has been developed at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford which diagnoses heart scans much more accurately. It can pick up details in the scans that doctors can’t see!

It’s suggested there are around 60,000 heart scans carried out a year, out of which 12,000 are mis-diagnosed. Reports suggest, using AI… the NHS could save around £300m a year.

And this is why, I wanted to share this story on my blog. 1 – we’re eliminating/reducing errors and 2 – Saving money!… and all this is because of Artificial Intelligence.

And back to my original point – there’s some great work being done by men and women wearing white coats. They are, on a daily basis saving peoples life’s… but what if,… what if computers could help. What if, the knowledge (intelligence) they have…  was used by computer systems to perform certain tasks… which resulted in saving money… and saving, more life’s…

You’re probably wondering… how much would all this cost?

If the current trials that are taking place are shown to be a success (early indicators show, that it is performing as expected)… it would be free to NHS hospitals.

Happy New Year 2018!

First and foremost, I would like to wish you all a very, Happy New Year!

I really do hope, that 2018 brings you a wealth of joy and happiness.

I’ve made plans for 2018 – broken them down into months… and will be doing more with my blog. Firstly, videos! – I know… been talking about them for a while, but I have one prepared- about electric cars… and will be sharing it very soon.

I’ll continue to share my frustrations that I notice and see with processes, people and organisations.

I’ll also continue to share my insights into the latest technology trends, and how they’ll impact everyone and everything! – Let’s be honest, if you’re not ready and prepared…. you will be left behind. That’s for both, businesses, customers and personal (at home).

I’ll continue to collaborate – share input from my friends, that will help you look, understand and think about a number of topics in a different light. It’s all about diversity – and understanding.

Most importantly… Think Lean and Get Digital.

 

Thank you for your love and support in 2017

A big huge thank you for all your likes, support and love during 2017.

What a crazy year… starting this blog earlier in the year… receiving some great feedback and words of encouragement, I feel I’ve learnt a lot (mainly about blogging) and sharing knowledge.

Thank you, and i’ll continue to go from strength to strength in 2018!

Children and Technology…

We take a number of ‘actions’ as normal, and assume (never assume…) that it’ll be housing the latest technology.

For example, we now expect all screens to be touchscreens. Be able to interact with them, pinch and zoom the content on the screen, etc…

Children, moreso… take this as the norm! They’re more ‘digital savvy’ than most folk… with the ability to swipe on a smart phone screen to unlock it from the age of 1, to when they’re putting their games and apps into their own folder a few years later, on your tablet.

The speed at which children can pick up and understand tech is becoming quicker and quicker… and this is down the simplicity. Technology is making everything easier to understand and explore.

Google, earlier on in the year were able to do a program around the UK, where they invited schools to participate in exploring cities around the World using Google Cardboard.

Imagine, seeing all the wonders of Rome… without actually being in Rome! – It’s a great start to exploring the city.

And so… there’s various other programmes that encourage children to get involved with technology. Apple were providing some free classes to teach children how to code in their stores. There’s a number of apps and programmes available that you can download… learn the basics and begin to code your own game.

Understanding how to code, why to code… and most importantly, what can be delivered by coding… is great learning. For the children, they can use their imagination to create the most wonderful games!

Back in my day… I used to be on my Raleigh Grifter – (for those who don’t know what one of those is… it’s like a BMX bike)…. and indoors, I used to enjoy playing with my Lego.

That’s right – constructing all sorts of buildings, objects and items from various pieces of Lego. As a company – they’re still going strong… and recently, I noticed, they’re embracing the whole ‘Kids in Technology’ scene.

Now, there you go… even your Lego builds are becoming ‘smart’.

Why just build? – go one step ahead… code and then play! That’s right, build something… maybe a robot? – then code it, using your parents tablet/smart device… and watch it do things you want it to do… and play with it.

Wonder if you could connect your Lego build… to your Echo… and then by using voice commands… have the build perform an action!

Because, as children learn coding, become more aware of technology and take, recent hand and motion gestures which we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years, as the norm… the world is fast changing… and if children can learn… by play… then that’s only a good thing!

Any Ideas for Christmas Presents, Bal?

Well, I did say a few weeks ago – I wouldn’t be going down the road of recommending what tech items you could buy for Christmas… mainly because a) you’ve got Philip Schofield (for those in the UK) – who’s presenting a great series on TV which is all about – ‘what you can buy for Christmas 2017’ and b) i’d be here all day, because there’s so much out there you could buy!

But you know what… after speaking to a friend of mine, who’s just moved into his new home… and how it could be a ‘Smart Home’… I’ve decided to share with you the Top 5 Smart Home Items you could buy for Christmas.

Coming in at Number 1…

Amazon Echo.

I feel it’s the natural first step into making your home, ‘Smart’.

You can say, ‘Alexa…. ‘ (followed by a command, question, etc..) and then have an answer or action performed.

For example, Alexa tells me jokes…. sets a timer for me…. plays music… answers questions (by finding answers on the world wide web)… turns the lights on and off… heating, up or down…. milk into my shopping basket…. etc..

You could have a few around the house if you wanted…. perhaps the Echo Dot in the bedroom? – it is a little thing.

I feel ‘Alexa’ is like someone who is really close to me. Does so much for me… but doesn’t spend all my money. And doesn’t love me. I’ve asked it….

Moving on… and coming in at Number 2….

Nest Home Heating.

Once you’ve brought Alexa into the house… you want to pair it up with something. And I would suggest… as the winter months are here, maybe something to keep you warm?

Okay, the Nest, itself, won’t keep you warm… but it’ll talk to your heating system… and make life so much easier for you… and warmer.

That’s right – it’s a little device, that connects to your home heating… and not only can you control it via your phone… you can control the heating by connecting the Nest to your Echo….it can learn your heating habits… be optimized for when you are away from home and so much more….

There are other, similar, Smart Heating solutions available, for example, Worcester Bosch have their equivalent… named the ‘Wave’. I would suggest, talk to your local heating expert to find which one is the best match for your current heating system.

Coming in at Number 3….

Hue Lights.

So, you have a Smart Voice Controlled Personal Assistant (Echo) in your house, and you’ve got Smart Heating (Nest)… now for some Smart Lights.

Philips, in my opinion, are leading the way with Smart Lights. The Hue… from Philips, is great. You get a ‘bridge’ which talks to your Wifi and the Light Bulbs around your house.

Control the lights via your phone… and/or Alexa…. programme light timers… connect it to IFTTT (If This Then That)… put on location  – so the lights come on, when you’re near home…. there’s alot you can do.

You can get bulbs which do different colours…. mine only do white. You can dim the lights… you can have different settings for different rooms… etc…

Now we’ve got some ‘light’ on this topic… Coming in at Number 4…

Ring Door Bell.

Now, for a bit of home security… Ring Video Doorbell. Does exactly that, it’s a door bell, with a camera, that’s all connected…. and you can view who’s on your doorstep from your phone.

Why would you need this?

  1. If you’re lazy, you can sit on the sofa… see who’s outside, and then decide if you need to get up from the sofa or not.
  2. You know who’s come to your house…and when.
  3. If it’s a delivery… you can provide them with instructions where to leave items…

To make you even more lazy…. And finally, in at Number 5…

Wemo.

For those items.. like your TV, Kettle, etc… you can make them Smart also! – How, Bal?

Well… Belkin have a device called the Wemo. You plug it into your normal socket. Turn it on. Then plug your device into the Wemo device… which then, when all connected – you can view & control your devices on your phone!

There you go.

My Top 5… Smart Home… Christmas Present ideas.

There are different variations, makes and models available to those I’ve mentioned above… for example, Google have an equivalent to the Amazon Echo…. there are many (and probably cheaper) alternatives to the Belkin Wemo.

I’ve recommended the above… because they’re the ones I have or have used.

I would always suggest, you go and research… see what would work for you… your environment… your style and most importantly… your needs – I researched and tested a number of items before settling on the ones above.

Have fun shopping! – and making a house… a home. Smart Home.

 

Holidays are Coming…!!!

That’s right – for many folk… it’s when the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck appears in the commercials on TV… for some, it’s when X-Factor finishes, for others… it’s when discussions start in various WhatsApp groups about what to cook on Christmas Day.

Holidays are Coming!

I’ll still be posting articles on this blog… but like many others, I will be taking some time off.

Mainly to reflect on the year…2017, what a fabulous year. Also, to spend good quality time catching up with family and friends – as they’ll too, be enjoying the holidays.

And… I hope you also get some time to yourself. Time to sit down, enjoy a mince pie or two, and watch a film on TV.

More than watching a film on TV, we’ll probably be on social media, sharing photo’s of our Christmas Dinners…. and that’s fine! – Honestly, because sharing is caring – right?

But don’t be spending too much time on Social Media. Make sure you spend it with the people in your life. People around you. People who appreciate you. People who care about you, and those you care about.

And it’s you guys – who’ve been reading this blog, taking time to write comments, coming up to me – saying how you enjoy reading my posts… how sometimes they make you laugh… i’d like to say Thank You! (not going to say too much now… will do a Review of 2017 in a few weeks!)

So, what’s in store for the next few weeks… well, i’m trying to finish a video that I can share with you… where i’m talking about electric cars! – and why I think, we’re not ready (the car manufacturers are doing great… but it’s us!)

There’ll be some blog posts, where I reflect on the latest Technology News… and naturally, some Bal’s Friday Thoughts.

So… make sure you’ve got your holiday plans arranged… hope you are able to take some time off, to enjoy the festive period… and more importantly, to remember…. don’t be getting stressed out about food… what to cook, plans (if they’re not arranged)… etc…. Santa has to deliver presents to all the children around the world in a very short space of time. Imagine what he’s going through!