Archive for the ‘Assorted’ Category

Significance of Iconography

Friday, January 24th, 2020

A picture is worth a thousand words” you must have come across these words more than you can recall, but when it comes to the market for the companies this picture can be worth much more than a thousand dollars too.

Iconography is the art of developing and using icons to capture audiences, remove ambiguity from concepts and make the data provided easy to handle and more presentable. That must have sounded like too much for a picture, but believe me, all of these things and more do hinge upon the types of icons a company uses. Iconography today is playing a pivotal role in defining the good user experience and it is a testimony of just how germane this tool is that billions of dollars are spent annually by companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart, Samsung, etc. in this field.

The significance of iconography can be easily understood — just think of a brand, any brand. What are the first five things that come to mind? Several pieces of research conducted by experts in human behavior unanimously point out that it is the brand’s standard icon. For example, if I think of Gmail, one of the first things that pop into my head is that red M in an envelope. So, it is needless to say that the first and most primary importance of iconography is- assigning an identity to a company. The icons register in the brains of the users much easily as compared to any other feature and they have a higher chance of being identified when coming across randomly. The best example to demonstrate my last analysis would be the simple fact that how on any random web page when we see a little blue bird we know its twitter, even when no prior context is provided, same happens with the white f in a blue box or the white camera with a pink background.

Next on the list is — the implicit use of iconography. Icon does not just operate as an ID card for companies, they are also the tool which companies use to help navigate the users through the various pages present on their websites, etc. Suppose you want to read an article on sports and you open a news website then instead of scrolling through until you reach the desired section you can just click on the sports icon and directly reach it. Or suppose you just want to take a print out of the page, the print icon will be easily available and identifiable from the beginning and thus much easier to access if instead the word “print” were scribbled somewhere in the corner. Going back or forward on web pages, skipping pages icons make all these tasks much easy to perform owing to their easy to spot and convenient to access nature.

In a page full of text an icon provides perspective to the user. It draws attention to products, services, menu and features. You would not have to comb through tons and tons of words to finally reach the place you actually wanted to see. The amount of energy and time wasted otherwise would be much more than what anybody can afford to waste in today’s day and time. Moreover, icons provide a compact display of information in a more attractive and user-friendly manner. For example, my task bar is currently displaying a few icons — word, google chrome, files, music. Now just imagine if instead of showing these as icons my task bar would have just have these same written down in words, or on your smartphone instead of the bright little pictures of all those apps you would just have the said names typed in normal Arial, font size 10. How dull would all that be? Our speed of using these devices would reduce considerably and we would not want to spend as much time on these devices as we do, for the simple reason that they won’t be as attractive or comfortable to use. But with icons we have an inherent escape from these mundane problems. Moreover, with money flowing in from every crevice the R&D in iconography is so developed that all the colours, angles, edges, figures everything you come across in these icons are scientifically designed to provide you with an aesthetically pleasing sensation. So they are not just helping you in all these other tasks they are also making your subconscious happier just by being there- how great is that?

Started since the 18th century iconography has become an irreplaceable part of user-company interaction. It defines the user experience and plays a pivotal role in marketing and advertisement of products. Aside from conveying a tremendous amount of information in a compact yet the comprehensive way it makes navigation faster by multiple folds. Adding to the attractiveness, comfort accessibility iconography provides an identity to a company. It is a burning ground in both electronic and paper operated industries and has reached to a point where both the biggest giants in the industries as well as the feeble infants are pouring in large sums of money in developing icons and pursuing more and more dynamic and developed standards of iconography. A result of which can be seen all around on your desktops, mobile phones, billboards, etc. Where from every nook and corner there is one bright little icon peering over, grabbing your attention and holding your hand and taking you to wherever you want to go.

What made your favorite social networking sites go down?

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Eight years after it launched Google+ with much fanfare, Google shut down its social network in April this year. Though the announcement to shut down Google+ comes after it was found that a bug that was present for more than two years led to the exposure of data of millions of users to external developers, Google+ was already dying.

And this is not the first time a social network has to be shut down.

In 1997, the first social networking site was launched, SixDegrees.com. At its peak, the site had around 3.5 million registered users. The platform was simple; users could send messages and share content by posting on bulletin boards. The network shut down just four years later in 2001.

Remember Orkut? Orkut was launched in 2004 by a Turkish software engineer and Google employee, Orkut Büyükkökten. Orkut was the result of the search giant’s failure to buy Friendster. Orkut, while not much of a success in the US, proved big in Brazil and India, its two key markets. Orkut had 19 million users in India and 34 million in Brazil when it lost the top spot to Facebook. Google finally shut Orkut on September 30, 2014. This site had a much longer tenure than SixDegrees but still ended up in the grave in 2014.

Another fallen giant was MySpace. It may be hard to imagine how big MySpace was. In 2006, it beat Yahoo and Google to become the largest website in the US by page views. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp had bought it the previous year for $580 million. Its valuation shot up to a staggering $12 billion in 2007 when it had 300 million users.
But it was all downhill for the site from there as Facebook closed the gap with MySpace and became the largest social networking site. News Corp sold MySpace in June 2011 for just $35 million.

Obviously, social media has come a long way since then, and we’ve seen many social media platforms launch, experience relative success (or complete failure), then crash and burn a few short years later. While these sites went down, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Reddit have only seen upward graphs. So where did these companies lose the plot?

Why did they fall?

Facebook, the most popular social network on Earth, has over 2 billion users. Instagram has over 1 billion. If Facebook were a country, it would be the most populous in the world. This network shows no sign of slowing down, it seems the only limit left to its growth is the number of people on Earth who have access to the internet — something they are actively working on increasing.

So, why has Facebook succeeded where others have failed? What does Facebook have that MySpace and Friendster did not? For starters, Facebook maintained its scale as waves of users signed on and created accounts. Facebook focused more on the user offering unique features to connect and expand your circle while keeping in touch with older friends. Creating a timeline with life events, photo albums, videos, check-ins, events, and social gaming was something never seen before in the social networking space and contributed to the explosive growth and popularity of facebook. Later on, support for businesses and marketplaces which gives them the opportunity to expand and attract customers also made sure that Facebook didn’t become redundant.

One aspect of Friendster’s downfall was that it was unable to keep up with how many members joined the site. As more people joined, the site grew slower and slower, so slow that people were forced to switch to Facebook or MySpace.

MySpace failed because it connected users to bands, celebrities, and strangers, rather than people you knew in real life. People wanted to interact with their friends and family to enhance and expand their existing social lives onto the internet.

iTunes Ping fell apart. Google+ offered integration with Gmail, hangouts, Drive and also introduced Circles, something which was new in the space but didn’t strike a chord with the potential user base. Users already had Facebook to accomplish anything that Ping and Google+ offered.

What is the takeaway from all this?

Staying Relevant

1. Successful social networks are original. New networks will not survive if they simply copy the concept of an existing service. They must build upon the services by fulfilling a need of the users, or introduce something entirely new that users did not even know they wanted.

2. Successful networks scale. As social networks grow, they must be able to accommodate the influxes of new users. When platforms start to slow down and falter due to increased use, people will leave due to frustration.

3. Successful social networks evolve. As user bases grow, so do the wants and needs of those users. When platforms fail to address the feedback of their members, they provide an opportunity for another platform to step in and fulfill that need.

The Future of Social Networking

With the demise of Twitter and SnapChat looming on the distant horizon, the future of social media is up in the air. Facebook and Instagram will continue to dominate the market, but neither service offers everything that a citizen of the social realm looks for.

Facebook is great for news articles, updates from friends, and memes, but the enormous amount of content is overwhelming, and ads take up a lot of space in Newsfeeds.

Reddit is great for anonymity and non-censorship while sharing content but lacks the social part of media.

Instagram is the perfect medium for sharing photo and video but is an awful place to post a quick text update to your friends.

Future-Proof: Leverage Technology To Drive Innovation And Success In The 2020s

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Technology has completely taken over every aspect of our life. The business landscape is no different, and constant changes in the tech world have revolutionized business processes as well. Seagate said that 2/3rd of CEOs will start focusing on digital strategies to boost customer experience by the end of 2019. Also, IDG says that 44% of the companies have already begun their march towards a digital-first approach for customer experience.

It is clear that technology is coming up in a big way to drive customer experience. If you are not taking initiatives for digital transformation then you are bound to be outpaced by forwarding looking enterprises with a focus on stellar customer experiences.

Moreover, technology is not a static concept. It is always evolving, dynamic and volatile. This is bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we think, act, buy, and make a decision. BE it genomics and advanced DNA for spousal choices or autonomous vehicles, the world is fast embracing digital. If you too want in on this high impact sphere of technology then the first step would be to know the different trends that will propel the digital transformation pace in 2002 and beyond. Read on to know what these trends are –

  1. The Rise of AI

AI or artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction novels and those bizarre shows. This is the age when machines are getting at par with the human brain. Developers and data scientists are coming up with new and interesting frameworks for AI. It started with the RP-ing games and has now ventured into the simple everyday aspects of our daily life. The AI system can control everything from our smartphones to GPS navigation. Companies like Amazon and Google have come up with their personalized AI models. You can have human-like realistic interactions with a machine.

The upcoming year would see further improvements in AI. The rise of supercomputers and robotics have further contributed to this trend. Smart homes, smart TVs, smart cars are no longer a dream. We have automated, digitized systems at our disposal.

2. All About AR/VR Reality

Augmented reality and Virtual reality were usually associated with video games in the yester changes. All that changed when AR was introduced in mainstream media. Machine learning scientists and coders are constantly working at making our lives easier, convenient and more time-efficient. AR or augmented reality is a concept that allows people to stream live content and get digital updates on any device connected to the network. Almost every platform has now become optimized for the mobile phone. Mobile e-commerce, app development, and database management have become very lucrative fields with a lot of scope for research.

Virtual reality, on the other hand, is a space where a person gets to experience a different world altogether. It is a complete audio-video holistic experience. This immersive exercise helps you shut out the real physical world for a while and enter a different sphere. In 2020, we can expect a mixture of these concepts. The rise of MR or mixed reality would be a framework that would allow for more transparent interactions with digital assets and machines. Microsoft’s HoloLens is a good example of how MR can change our lives.

3. Intuitiveness and Code-free Platforms

Every device or platform that we use these days is programmed to make things simpler and more value-adding for the user. A simple web store or a full-fledged application- intuitiveness is the bind that connects it all. Also, website development is no longer the domain of developers and software engineers. These days, anyone with an idea and an internet connection can build their website in a matter of minutes.

The rise of WYSIWYG website builders gives you a preview of how the content would appear on the user-end browser. You even get the provision of making real-time changes to the content with the on-site editor. And the best part? You can do all this and more without having to write a line of code.

4. One System to Rule Them All

Technology these days is all about fragmentation and yet having a distinct hierarchy. There are super systems, huge databases and frameworks to control all the aspects of your business. This gives you better control and flexibility over the operations. It also boosts your reach, performance, and productivity. The rise of social media has changed the face of marketing. There are different updates on social media networks that allow developers to advertise their brands and get more views.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have entered the eCommerce game with great gusto. Everyone wants to build a substantial social media presence to become more reliable and relevant. Trending on social media is a sure shot way to success. And in the forthcoming year, we have predicted more of content marketing and social media boost. The rise of influencers, bloggers, vloggers, and other internet celebrities bears testament to this fact.

5. Growth of the IoT Framework

IoT or the internet of things is a framework that gives developers space where they can connect multiple devices and platforms in a single network. This simplifies the data sharing and customization process. You can now access, share, and compute information quickly and conveniently. It also gives you better online visibility. SEO optimization, CRM systems, and content management are some of the biggest trends that show immense potential in the next year. Brands will try to make their services more user-friendly and relevant to the average web user. Gone are the days when a few big shot companies ruled the market. Today, the competition is ruled by demand patterns and market metrics.

The developers need to have an in-depth idea of the market, the competition and the techniques they’re using. IoT gives you a better grasp on things. It makes information more accessible. You have better control over the data you’ve collected. It also reduces the risk of cybercrime as you can set firewalls, antivirus programs, and encryptions to protect the information. IoT is being used by several companies these days, including industry leaders like Google and Amazon.

The Business advantage

Leading an enterprise and a team of talents isn’t an easy task. Technology can play the role of an indispensable asset. Whether it’s creating a unique enterprise infrastructure, designing a UI, integrating Salesforce into the existing system, or adopting web application security, technical upgrades are necessary for every enterprise.

As we say welcome to 2020, the latest tech trends are surely going to make a pronounced impact. Enterprise owners need to adopt these changes and make their venture future-ready!

Google Bert Update

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Almost five years ago, Google introduced a development known as RankBrain to its search system. Now, it has rolled out a new change known as BERT, and the company calls it “the biggest change of the last five years”. This means that BERT is the biggest change to hit Google’s search system since RankBrain came out, and we can only expect a huge impact on searches.

BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a neural network-based technique for language processing. It is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) that has been pre-trained in the Wikipedia corpus and is capable of helping Google gain a better understanding of language, content, and queries so that it can serve better results to users, including enterprises such as top UX design firms and individual users.

Google said BERT helps better understand the nuances and context of words in searches and better match those queries with more relevant results. It is also used for featured snippets. What makes BERT unique is that it can use the context and relations of every word that is found in a sentence, as opposed to one by one in order. This means that simply by looking at the words that come before and after a particular word, BERT is capable of figuring out and understanding the full context of that word.

Understanding BERT better

With this new technology, Google can gain a better understanding of the full list of a query that a user has. To better explain this, Google even gave a very simple example that is easy to understand. If a user searches for “2019 brazil traveller to USA need a visa”, the word “to” and how it relates to the other words used in the query is very important if Google is to give relevant and useful results for the users.

Google Bert simulation

Initially, Google did not have the technology to understand the context of the word “to” and so, it would provide results related to U.S citizens who are travelling to Brazil, rather than a Brazilian travelling to the U.S. In other words, it was not capable of returning accurate, relevant results which the user was looking for.

However, with BERT, the search engine will be able to understand these words in queries a little more like humans do, meaning that it is able to understand the importance of the word “to” in this particular query. Thus, with BERT, Google is able to provide enhanced user experience by returning highly relevant results.

Meta description: Google Bert is a new algorithm from the tech giant that can help in improving search results by a better understanding of language.

GraphQL | A query and manipulation language for your APIs

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Before starting on the blog we would like to share why we are writing this when there is already a well-written document provided by the GraphQL community on the official site https://graphql.org.

Well, Here you will get an idea of how GraphQL works and how the GraphQL will implement.

According to the GraphQL community:-

GraphQL is a query language for your API, and a server-side runtime for executing queries by using a type system you define for your data.”

After spending time on understanding the GraphQL workflow using many blogs on the internet, people are still not aware of the exact use. That might be due to the reason that the blogs are focusing to start the work using GraphQL/Apollo rather than explaining the idea behind this.

It would be good for beginners If we can explain what GraphQL is and how it works rather than focusing on its code or implementation.

Let’s start with the most frequently asked questions that are misleading us:-

If we are using GraphQL we didn’t need REST APIs?

It was a negative hype and, It is not correct. GraphQL worked on the data which is provided to it. So data source can be either an API or any other source which is providing data to GraphQL.

For example, just see the below image:-

In this image, the GraphQL server will receive the data either from the REST APIs, JSON data or any of the database sources.

GraphQL is not a replacement of the REST APIs but it is a way to use the REST APIs or any other data by adding an extra layer.

If we still need the APIs to get the data, then why are we using GraphQL?

GraphQL was designed by Facebook to reduce the over and under the fetching problem of APIs. GraphQL was able to overcome this problem.

How it was reduced by the GraphQL we will understand it later in the blog.

As per the official site of GraphQL,

“GraphQL is a query language for your API, and a server-side runtime for executing queries by using a type system you define for your data. GraphQL isn’t tied to any specific database or storage engine and is instead backed by your existing code and data.”

Explanation of the above lines:-

  • It means that GraphQL is a query language that makes the query on the API data (like SQL for your DB).
  • And also it is a server-side runtime to execute our defined queries(which is strongly typed with its data) on our data(get by API or hardcoded doesn’t matter)
  • Now it is clear that GraphQL is not connecting with any DB like MySQL.

Let’s see a diagram to understand Graphql flow between the client and API:-

In the given diagram, there are two types of client-server architecture. First one is not using the GraphQL while the second one is using the GraphQL.

In the first client-server architecture, the client is directly hitting the APIs to get the data returned by the API. Once a request from the client to the API server will arrive at the endpoint. The API server will return the complete data to the client without making any further modifications.

In the second client-server architecture, we can see there is another server named GraphQL between the client and the API server. This server is containing the GraphQL implementation and it will work as middleware on the API.

In this architecture, the client will never know about APIs that will be returning the data in place and the user will be hitting the endpoint that will be provided by GraphQL.

Whenever a request will be made on the GraphQL endpoint, the GraphQL server will get the data by requesting on the API server.

Here the GraphQL will do its job that is the GraphQL can modify the API data before sending it to the client.

Let’s understand it using an example:-

Consider an application that is running on the mobile as well as on the web. And there is a user listing page in both(web & mobile) platforms.

Assume, Below is a GET API for user returning the following response:-

  • Name
  • Contact
  • Address
  • Email &
  • Description

Consider a user list page in the application where on the web we are showing all the 5 fields in a row and as the mobile will be having a small screen and need to show only the two fields.

Those fields are name and description of the user.

But to retrieve that we need to hit the GET API of the user which is going to return all of the above-listed fields along with the name and description, Hence, the result will be over fetched(also containing other unnecessary fields like contact, address, etc.).

Now you will be thinking that it will not be more than 1 kb of response data but consider the case when you will be needing this data on a page for multiple users(like facebook).

In that case, there will be more than 1 kb data that will be fetched from the backend unnecessarily & it will be stored on the frontend which in result will impact the app performance.

To avoid the frontend load either we need to modify the existing API or we need to create a new API that will be returning only two required fields. But doing so will result in repeated work or breaking the rule of single responsibility(SOLID principles). And also may affect some other existing functionality.

Here the GraphQL provides us the solution for this problem at hand, As we know GraphQL will be working as middleware between client and API server, GraphQL will check which API (or any other data source) we need to hit(will be defined in the query) and then it will check what data(data asked from the client(web/mobile)) it needs to return.

If GraphQL will be hit by the web then GraphQL will return all the 5(as all the fields asked in the request) fields but if it is hit from the mobile app then it will return only two fields(asked from the mobile) that are required on the dashboard.

Answer for the question “Why we are using the GraphQL?” is that it works as middleware using a server which resolves the request of the frontend by using the backend API and filter the API data as per the frontend needs.

GraphQL server reduces the number of APIs required and gives more control/ease over the APIs or the data source.

Optical Character Recognition Implementation

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Introduction and background

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the technology to read and convert typed, printed, or handwritten characters into machine-encoded text or a format that the computer can manipulate. As a subset of image recognition, it is commonly used as a form of data entry with the input being some sort of printed document or data records such as bank statements, passports, sales invoices, resumes, and business cards.

Android version

For this, the services/APIs which were used for implementation was Xamarin. Google Play Services. Vision, Our team, was successful in this project as the response rate to be expected in less than one second. The system will be able to read the text in grey and red color with a 65 to 75 percent accuracy in grey text and a 90 percent accuracy in red text.

The process flow includes the user opening the camera and placing it above the lock, followed by the camera detecting the surface. After this, it captures the text and returns the value after processing it.

The Android version of the application can have a custom camera that will capture the video stream of the lock, then divide it into frames, capture the text, and adding it into a list of text. This cycle will repeat until two texts are found to be similar. This procedure will increase the chances of correct detection of the lock instead of just capturing the image, detecting the text within the captured image, and then presenting the output. However, it will also affect the processing time/response rate of the complete operation.

The more efficient working of the application will depend on the latest version of the Xamarin.GooglePlayServices.Vision

iOS version

For the iOS version, the services/APIS used for implementation was text recognition. ML Kit’s text recognition APIs can help you recognize any Latin-based language. This translates into the automation of data entry for receipts, credit cards, and business cards.

With a response rate of less than one second, the system has the ability to read the text in grey and red color. With grey text, the accuracy is at 60 to 70 percent, while the red text is at 80 percent.

The iOS version is supposed to have a custom camera that can capture the lock’s video stream, which will be divided into several frames. From the frames, the system will capture the text and adding it to a list of texts. Until two texts are found to be similar, the system will populate it as the lock code does to the user.

One limitation is that accurate capturing of data depends on the lighting condition of the surroundings as well as the condition of the lock.

Capture leads with Google’s Ads Latest Lead Form Extension

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Google Ads is doing it again — testing a new lead form extension so that its advertisers can capture more information about their customers. Will the new lead form extension work?

In 2010, Google came out with contact form extensions. Leads were sent to an advertiser’s email inbox. The contact form extensions never saw the light of day. In 2011, Google rehashed their plan and came out with cost-per-lead ads. Users could submit their phone numbers or email IDs directly from an ad to request more information. That idea didn’t work out well either.

Here’s the latest news. Google Ads is testing ways for businesses to capture customer information through lead form extensions. The extensions are currently in beta testing. These ad extensions help advertisers to capture leads from text ad campaigns.

Why it’s important

The new lead extensions can significantly help advertisers generate more leads from search ads. However, the quality of these leads will remain questionable, and it is up to advertisers to ensure they follow up with these leads to find out if they are qualified leads.

The new lead form extension is designed to attract customers with exciting and innovative call-to-actions (CTAs). The CTAs can be in the form of a simple website link or as a direct download.

Businesses/advertisers can customize their lead forms using their unique title and description and then indicate what information they require from customers. Some information that businesses can ask for include:

  • Customer name
  • Phone number
  • Postcode
  • Email address

This might seem like very limited data to capture, but with the integration of webhooks, advertisers should be able to see an easy transfer of lead data to sales systems.

Better still — the new option is designed for mobiles as well

Why should we care? Simply because advertising on mobile can be super hard. Small screen sizes, slow connections, and customers’ short attention span make mobile conversion rates much lower than desktop conversion rates. The lead form extension will come up beneath an ad search on mobiles and tablets and allow a user to provide their contact information directly through an advertiser’s ad on the SERP.

What else can a business/advertiser do?

Businesses can design their own background images for each lead form to make them look more attractive.

Businesses can customize the message that appears once the customers submit their information.

What Google Ads support pages say:

A Google Ads support page states that these extensions can be integrated into the business’s CRM.

Another support page mentions that lead form extensions in search ads is a beta feature that is available to only some businesses. The page goes on to explain that other businesses may belong to sensitive verticals/sub-verticals that make it impossible to use these lead form extensions.

How to Boost Your Marketing with Chatbots

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Bots have become an integral part of a good digital marketing strategy. Every smart marketer knows that with bots, you can do more in less time. By automating certain basic tasks using bots, a business can allocate their resources more efficiently, while also reaping all the benefits that bots can offer.

Below, we talk about these benefits and why they are worth considering for your digital marketing strategy.

· Helps you understand your customers better

Bots help to gain a better understanding of your customers as they provide an interactive way of engaging with customers. Besides, people feel much more comfortable sharing information with a bot than a real person. After collecting valuable data, they can even monitor customer behavior and look into their buying patterns so that businesses can plan their marketing strategies accordingly.

· Suggest and sell products

Today, more people are shopping online than ever before, which means there is a huge potential for bots in sales. In fact, many huge brands have already started using chatbots to suggest products and services to users based on an analysis of their purchasing patterns. So, in other words, bots can act as the user’s personal shopping assistant, suggesting products that they are likely to purchase.

For instance, H&M already uses bots in their app to suggest a personalized collection of products which a customer is likely to buy. Not only does this help increase sales, but it also reduces scrolling time for a customer.

· Follow up and engage with customers after-sale

It’s not just answering queries and suggesting products that bots are good for. They are used for outbound digital marketing as well. Even after the sale, bots can be sued to send follow up messages to customers and handle proactive customer engagement. This helps to ensure that your customers are satisfied with the product they have bought. It also shows customers that you really do care about their experience.

· Improves overall customer experience

Bots are great because they can be employed in so many ways that increase overall customer experience. When users land on your site, having a chatbot that can efficiently answer all their queries and help solve their problems is a huge plus. For this, it is important that you make the bot sound human while designing it. Bots also help to deliver a personalized experience to customers, which is a huge factor in the purchasing decision of customers.

Inside Google’s Recently Launched Products

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

When it comes to innovation, Google is a pioneer. It is a brand that is associated with advanced technology and smart engineering so much so that we have come to rely on Google products and solutions for many of our daily tasks.

The company releases a wide range of ground-breaking products regularly, and with each product, it seems like they take tech innovation to a new level. Let’s take a look at its most recent releases below:

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 4 is a smartphone unrivaled in its performance. Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and with a 6 GB memory, the phone is known not just for its fast and powerful performance but also for its high-quality camera.

The Google Pixel 4 XL is larger than the Pixel 4, dons a larger 90 Hz screen, and a better battery as well. Exciting features such as fast and secure facial ID and motion sensor control increase its appeal.

Google Home mini

This smart speaker from Google is a market hit ever since it was released, and it’s no surprise. It is highly functional and versatile, as well as extremely affordable. It works as a voice-controlled speaker, as well as a smart personal assistant that can help you create calendar appointments, a shopping list, and more.

Chromecast ultra

The Chromecast Ultra is a video streaming device that you can use. It allows you to stream various video content from your mobile device to your 4K TV, including Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.

Google nest hub

The Google nest hub, previously known as Google home hub, is a smart-screen that allows you to control all your compatible smart devices on just one single display, or using voice control. It acts as both a smart speaker and a smart display and has the Google Assistant built-in.

Pixel Buds

These are wireless, Bluetooth earbuds from Google that has a built-in Google Assistant. This means that apart from providing clear and immersive sound, the earbuds support web search and even real-time language translation.

Pixelbook 4

Google Pixelbook 4 can be a laptop or a tablet, or you can choose the tent and entertainment modes. This versatile device runs on a 7th Gen Intel ® Core ™ processor and has 512 GB of storage, making it ideal for both work and entertainment.

Stadia

Stadia is a soon-to-be-released cloud gaming service from Google. Set to be released on November 19, 2019, in select countries, it is integrated with YouTube. This enables a state share feature, which allows viewers of a stream to launch a game on the service on the same save state as that of the streamer.

Nest WiFi

This WiFi system from Google is like an upgraded version of your typical router, allowing every device in your house to enjoy a fast signal. In other words, range and coverage are extended and signal strength is made consistent.

Technology in Everyday Life

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

The Land of Techno-mo sapiens

  1. There is a lot of salagonitiation these days.
  2. Jake got a job in Tajikistan that pays him 5600 Somoni every month.
  3. Doesn’t this song on the radio sound like the one we sang at Thanksgiving last year?

Go ahead. Type ‘meaning salagonitiation’ in your Google search box. Convert 5600 Somoni to your currency. Check who the music director is for both songs.

It is often said that technology doesn’t change people’s basic needs or their natures. But if you monitor your everyday routine and notice carefully, you’ll realize that it has become indispensable. It does not change what you want but it does change how fast you can get it and with how much ease.

We have talked about Docker, Cloudinary and the stories of famous tech entrepreneurs but let’s scale it down this time. Let’s delve into our quotidian routines — from waking up in the morning to finally catching some Z’s in the night. How do we use technology in our day-to-day life? How deeply entrenched is it in our system? Are we controlling or being controlled by it?

Business and Communication

Gone are the days when your boss had to be in the same room as the rest of her team to discuss monthly sales targets or when you had to put your fax number below your phone number on your website. You needn’t coax customers into filling feedback forms and you needn’t sigh over the fact that you haven’t spoken to that professor from college for years. You don’t even have to tell your employee to keep mailing you the revised version of his work after every few days for you can keep a check at it in real-time — thanks to the Google Drive service! Money transactions have also become much easier via apps like Paytm and so has scanning of documents using GeniusScan or CamScanner.

It is all just a click (or multiple clicks) away. With technologies that allow us to connect to people via multiple social network platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, video conferencing, electronic mail, WhatsApp and much more, communication have become unrestrained and unbounded.

“Sharing is good, and with digital technology, sharing is easy.” — Richard Stallman

Education

Remember when your Aunt bought you the entire volume set of Britannica encyclopedias for your 10th birthday or when you used to carry a pocket dictionary in your bag? That doesn’t happen anymore. Students do not have to make flashcards anymore to learn vocabulary and universities have apps to keep a track of students’ attendance. Dropbox allows file sharing while the TED app provides motivational lectures. Examinations are shifting towards online mode from offline mode and YouTube has replaced a lot of teachers. With mobile apps and websites that allow you to access full libraries and venture into the vast realm of education, the world had transformed into a place where the only thirst for knowledge, not opportunities, determine ‘how much you know.’

Transportation

More and more ride-hailing companies like Uber and Ola are sprouting up with every passing day. Within minutes, app users can get a ride to a place that is 4kms away or 40kms away. Even metro users of different cities can know the fastest route and the respective fares by using apps like Next Stop Paris or Delhi-NCR Metro. However, a major facelift to the domain of transportation has been provided by web mapping services that process data from a geographic information system database. How long will it take me to get there? Should I take the bus or drive? Is there any traffic in the next street? Answers to all these questions and much more are provided by apps such as Apple Maps and Google Maps.

Entertainment

For a common man, advancements in technology have been the most detectable in this sphere. From buying movie tickets on Fandango or BookMyShow to buying apparel, books and much more on Amazon, everything is near at hand. Zomato, another game changer for gastronomes and epicures, gives information ranging from average cost for two to the menu for that particular restaurant. Operating in over 20 countries including India, United States, Singapore and Italy, it has become extremely popular over the years, especially among youngsters. Let’s say that you go watch a movie and then have lunch at a boutique café that plays jazz music. There is one particular song that you find extremely melodious and want to know what it’s called. Just Shazam it! Music, movies, food and more — technology has revamped all of it.

Woven into the fabric of daily life, it has definitely carved a niche for itself. One of the hottest topics of discussion, technology is no more a facility or luxury; it’s an arrant lifestyle.

My team and I are avid seekers of technology. We would be delighted to know what you’ve been doing to contribute to this evolving madness. Feel free to strike a conversation with us.

Out-for-sure-cing! Outsource to Save Time & Resources

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Let’s go back to the old adage — ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.’ We could argue that maybe self-sufficiency is a more important thing to learn and one must try to hone his or her skills until overall proficiency is achieved. But it is no surprise that this is better said than done and it is no surprise that indeed, there is power in joining hands.

You cannot be the best at everything but if you do know others who are masters in their domains, collaborating with them can lead to a successful and invincible association. That is how educational institutes work. Instead of hiring one professor who can teach both science and maths pretty well, they hire a different teacher for each subject; such that their mastery cannot be challenged and to ensure that students learn from the best.

In business, similarly, outsourcing is the way or agreement through which one company entrusts its own internal activities to an external vendor or company. This involves any functions that can be carried out from an offshore location. They can be operational or non-core functions like manufacturing, accounting, call center support, etc. or business functions like inventory management, transaction and payroll processing.

The concept, though seemingly absurd, has gained popularity due to the wide array of advantages it poses.

  1. Cost and time zone advantages

One of the biggest advantages of outsourcing is cost savings. Many times, it is not cost-effective to expand operations internally due to inefficient equipment or inappropriate location. It may be possible that your business has grown to such an extent that you require a bigger office. In such a situation, you could either outsource basic operations to reduce the need for space or expand or relocate your base to a different place. The latter can prove to be much more cost-efficient and less troublesome.

““If you deprive yourself of outsourcing and your competitors do not, you’re putting yourself out of business.” — Lee Kuan Yew”

When outsourced, a job can be done in a satisfactory manner and at a much lower cost. A major reason for this is the difference in wages between western and many Asian countries. Outsourcing to India reduces costs by almost 60% due to lower labor operation costs and lower overhead costs. Another important aspect is round-the-clock efficiency due to different time zones across countries.

Suppose an American firm outsources to a Malaysian company. The firm manager might be done for the day but will wake the next morning with tasks completed by the Malaysian employees. This is how outsourcing keeps things running throughout the day.

2. Access to skilled resources and increased efficiency

When the functions of your back office are complex and difficult to achieve given the current size of your company, outsourcing can be a breath of fresh air since overhead costs pertaining to a particular back-office function can be extremely high. When you outsource your business needs, the partner brings to the table immense experience, tactful business practices and expertise.

They can handle a complicated project with much more prowess and understanding of the subject area. Basically, outsourcing gives businesses the ability to develop new competencies and skill-sets that can be used as a competitive advantage. This boom in productivity and efficiency would make businesses more successful, more equipped to tackle challenges and helps them streamline cash flow.

“The important thing about outsourcing or global sourcing is that it becomes a very powerful tool to leverage talent, improve productivity and reduce work cycles.” — Azim Premji

3. Better services and focus on core areas

Outsourcing certain non-core business processes like administration and back-office operations, that tend to expand during rapid growth periods, helps you focus on other important aspects by saving time and energy. This is because the expansion might start to sabotage those core activities that form the foundation of your company.

“Do what you do best, and outsource the rest.” — Peter Drucker

Moreover, in case of certain cost-incurring operations that are going haywire or are poorly managed, outsourcing helps to overcome such difficulties by bringing better management skills to the table. It allows you to focalize your in-house resources on building the brand, providing higher value-added services, research and development.

In case a firm receives a contract that would multiply its purchasing volume by a number of times in a short span, it should outsource this function so that its personnel can concentrate on the contract itself. Outsourcing helps companies provide better and faster services in this way leading to high-quality deliverables and lesser time for products to reach the marketplace.

4. Save on Infrastructure and technology

Outsourcing eliminates the need for investments in technology, infrastructure, and people. These form a major section of the capital expenditure that is incurred in back end processes. This is because the outsourcing partner is given the responsibility of handling the business process and is hence, solely responsible for developing the required infrastructure as well.

If a business has outsourced its creative design department, it is not their concern if the latest software is being used or not or how many UX/UI designers are working on a particular project. Their only concern is to see if tasks are being completed on time and accurately. Everything else will be taken care of by the outsourcing partner. Similarly, if a tech company has outsourced its catering, it does not need to worry about whether the stove is working or not or if there is enough ice in the refrigerator. This will be handled by the caterers now since it falls under their domain.

5. Staffing Flexibility

Through outsourcing, you can pick the best people to deal with your core activities, manage your manpower and have flexibility in staffing. A large project might require expertise or skills that your internal staff does not possess. In such a case, it is a good option to bring in contractors who know the requisite workers or people with the required skill set. Your internal staff, in the meanwhile, can imbibe knowledge and skills by working with them to increase their proficiency.

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur.” — Red Adair

Moreover, certain functions in the company have seasonal or cyclical demands. Thus, external or additional resources can be employed when things are at a good pace and let go when not needed. This also helps save costs. As an example, an event management company might have a wedding department that is shorthanded for certain months of the year. Outsourcing a few of its responsibilities can help you with services during these few months at a fixed cost.

6. Continuity and Risk Management

Many times, due to one reason or another, the employee churn rate in some companies is quite high. This can cause instability and uncertainty. Outsourcing in such situations is a blessing since it helps maintain consistency and strike a balance because a substandard level of operation can jeopardize the overall functioning of the business.

As an example, if your account manager is on leave due to a family obligation for the next month and there is no one to take his place, it is wise to outsource this job since it will help manage the risk situation effectively for the time being. In this way, outsourcing helps your business sail through tough times.

Now, you know there really aren’t too many reasons against diving into this culture. Save time. Save money. Save energy. Increase your efficiency. Gain access to skilled resources. Cut down on your costs. Steer through sticky situations. Outsourcing has its set of disadvantages but as long as the advantages overpower them, it is a win-win. So, the next time you have a problem you think you cannot handle, outsource; finding it tough to keep the ball rolling, outsource; have too much on your plate, outsource…Getting the drift?

How To Choose The Right Outsourcing Partner

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Tech firms are increasingly relying on outsourcing, especially for software development to increase their productivity, reduce development time and tackle overall competition. And if all this can be achieved within the budget, it is the icing on the cake!

However, it is not as simple as it looks. There are a million other things that influence this outsourcing agreement, much like any other business strategy that is framed after due deliberation. For starters, what things should you keep in mind while choosing your outsourcing partner? This is not a frivolous decision but one that can greatly influence the firm’s future. So, sufficient time, energy and effort must be invested in the same to develop a fruitful association.

Why are you outsourcing in the first place?

This is the most important question to ponder upon since outsourcing is not a cure-all; it is only as efficient as the standard one sets. This is extremely crucial so as to set concrete goals. Something like ‘what is the current level of output or performance and what is desired?’ is a great thought to begin with. Hence, eliminate any vagueness or uncertainty in your overall expectations.

Evaluate your partner carefully

Joining hands with an outsourcing partner involves investment in both time and resources. You’ll spend energy to fill a team in on the working of your organization. But all this will go in vain if you end up concluding that they are lacking in skills and technical prowess. Similarly, you can find your ideal outsourced team but it won’t mean much unless it is able to stick around for a good number of months or years. Hence, don’t be reluctant and do ask the hard questions to be able to choose an established outsourcing partner.

Choose the right size team

This might seem trivial but it plays a pivotal role in determining the strength of your association with the outsourced team. There is often a misconception that it is best to partner with the largest vendor but sometimes, this can have the opposite effect as well. For example — a large outsourcing provider might not be able to attend to each client with enough care; smaller clients might be neglected and made to associate with developers who are not as proficient. It is also likely to charge much more for its services on account of its brand name and good track record. Hence, a large vendor is apt only when it has to be assigned to a client that is large enough to command its attention.

Smaller partners are usually more flexible, have lower rates and attend to all clients with sufficient attention and effort. Their senior management is more involved in all the projects and this is a big boon. It is also an advantage that cannot be conferred in the case of large vendors.

Investigate

Bring out the Sherlock Holmes in you and carry out a background check. What projects has the outsourcing partner already worked on? What customers did it deal with? Ask for references to get firsthand information on what it’s like to work with that team. Is the outsourcing provider financially secure? Does it have sufficient infrastructure and technology to carry out the designated tasks? Know all this before bringing them on board.

Know the contract like the back of your hand

When partnering with an outsourcing provider, it is always a good idea to obtain legal consultation. In case of software development, it is all the more crucial due to shared intellectual property that needs to be defined clearly. A non-disclosure agreement is also signed to prevent the outsourced team from leaking any sensitive or private information.

Communicate well

The entire work mechanism is based on a meshwork of efficient communication and collaboration. Hence, it is important to ask a few important questions that influence this. Where should the outsourced team be placed? Will communication be possible if it is an offshore arrangement? Do the qualities of a team in another continent outweigh the problems it poses due to being in a different time zone? Would it be easier to work with a nearshore team? All these points need to be taken into account for a successful partnership

A simple six-fold strategy, it is a must to consider the aforesaid checkpoints so as to find your ideal outsourcing partner. As for a discussion about such trends in the business and technological world, you needn’t look for ideal partners. We are right here. Feel free to reach out

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