Will Virtual Reality Take Over Actual Reality?

I was reading recently about the expansion of virtual reality. Facebook announced last week it was introducing ‘virtual assistants’ into the social media world, gaming industries are producing more virtual reality games, and there was even a game where you could feel the pain your character feels. I am not sure I’m completely onboard with that idea!

What is with our fascination with virtual reality, and how can this be used to help people buy online?

For many years, product videos have been commonplace, but could we soon have a situation where we could use virtual reality to have a product sold to us? Clearly you will never replace the human element of an in-store shopping experience, but maybe this could work in the online world.

So onto the tech side of things – Wearable technology comes in the form of goggles that you put on your head and over your eyes. Combining this with pre-recorded VR content will allow a shopper to look essentially at the product, and even have a sales person deliver a sales pitch. It would even be possible to use gesture control to ask questions and add the product to a shopping basket.

Another example of how VR can help would be by allowing customers to visit past events such as product launches, product training and even live performances. Ultimately becoming an incredible opportunity for people who sell cars and even musical instruments.

Will VR actually take off? Well, the technology is there for sure, but this will really come down to two things. User adoption, and content creators. In the case of content creators in shopping, this is likely the manufacturers of products and their retailers. However, they are unlikely to do this without customer adoption.

For customer adoption, this will probably be decided by the same group of people that chose VHS over Betamax, Blu-ray over HD disk and so on!

I would love to hear your thought on this, and any examples of where people have used VR to improve the shopper journey!

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Tube strike? No problem! Here’s my top 5 apps that will help you get through it!

So last week, London came to an absolute standstill because all of the underground tubes went on strike, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded. On top of that there were then faults on the overground lines, which led to severe delays, some trains not running at all. And then there were the buses, despite 200 extra being put on the roads to deal with the strikes, some people found themselves exclaiming ‘what buses?’

Bosses listen up; you just need technology to ensure the work gets done!

There are various apps on the market, most of which are free, which stop you from stopping work. We are living in the technology age, why not set up Skype conferences through the day and get everyone to work at home? Set them work in advance, so they know what is expected of them too! Most work can be completed at home, it will save you money and time! Half of the workers in London arrived late due to the strikes and wanted to leave early!

Here are my personal five apps that allow me to work wherever I am, anywhere in the world:

1. Skype

Link: http://www.skype.com/en/
Cost: Free or £1.30 per month for business use
Availability: App form – mobile, tablet and computer download
The service: A telecommunication application, which allows you to make free voice and video conference calls to anywhere around the world at any time. Skype for businesses is a big plus, as you can include up to 25 people in a conference call at one time. If you choose the business plan, you can have meetings with up to 250 people. You can also manage your meetings through Outlook as well as manage your employees Skype accounts.

2. Nimble

Link: https://www.nimble.com
Cost: $15 per month, 14-day free trial beforehand
Availability: Online service
The service: A social CRM software that has features such as; a multi-user account, unlimited network connections and full access to third-party integrations. Nimble has three main focuses: Insights, organisation and engagement. Nimble responds to your social media activity as well as sending notifications to your inbox about potential engagement opportunities.

3. Basecamp

Link: https://basecamp.com
Cost: 60-day free trial, then package deals ranging from $20 to $150 per month or $3,500 annually.
Availability: Online service
The service: Basecamp is a project management tool; it lets you run up to 10 active projects at one time and then have multiple archived projects. Multiple people can use the system, and you can change your plan monthly to suit your needs.

4. Whatsapp

Link: http://www.whatsapp.com
Cost: Free for first year, $0.99 per year after that
Availability: App form, mobile and the web
The service: Is an instant messaging service, which has also just rolled out WiFi calling, which allows users to stay in touch with anyone, anytime, anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. You can also send pictures, videos and sound clips via the app, it also lets you see when people have read your messages.

5. Google Drive

Link: https://www.google.co.uk/drive/
Cost: Free or $10 a month for business use
Availability: App form for mobile, tablet and web OR online service
The service: The business version allows you to ‘work without limits’- meaning unlimited storage in the Cloud space, being able to back-up all your work and syncing all your business files across office systems. The free version offers the same service minus the syncing, but with an obviously limited allowance of storage. It’s known for being ‘safe, secure and reliable’ so a bonus when it comes to business use.

Why are we letting transport issues put a halt to everything? The guys I feel sorry for is the ones that really can’t get out of work, such as the medical staff, teachers and public service employees. Hopefully, my tips will help you get around London easier and beat the strikes but not lose the businesses any money!

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Where was tech in the budget?

The conversation nearly everyone is having at the moment, whether you love it or hate it, you all have an opinion on what George Osborne announced during the Budget 2015.

And my opinion is ‘why was technology not mentioned at all?!’ Come on George, after the success of London Technology Week only last month, surely that must have made you think a little bit about including tech in the budget?

The tech boom is improving our economy at an unprecedented rate, that should certainly mean that investment for tech is of course is in the budget right? Wrong.

Tech City UK provided these statistics: ‘The UK’s digital economy grew at 10.9% in 2011, higher than the average of 8.1% across the G20 countries. This is predicted to expand at a rate of 11% a year until 2016 creating an internet economy worth £221bn’.

So George why wasn’t tech in the budget? You spoke a lot about apprenticeships, people in work and improving our economy in a number of ways, but have you realised the roles tech play in all of those? Tech is known for improving the UK’s productivity rates and tech is used in most jobs now, as it is one of the growing sectors most certainly the apprenticeships will be in tech.

Tech City UK say: ‘Employment in the technology sector is expected to grow nearly five times faster than the UK average, and over half a million new entrants are required to fill IT professional job roles in the UK over the next five years’ – hear that George? The perfect place to create the apprenticeships and half of those one million promised jobs!

The importance of tech is so high, yet it is hardly mentioned in the budget and when it gets ignored in the budget it will be ignored in other areas as nobody is talking about it. Why aren’t there lessons in schools about technology, inventing new products and starting up a business? 80% of young people in Britain say they’d ideally like to start their own business in the next 5 years.

That brings me onto the Tory manifesto where they have even stated their goal was to roll out ‘super fast broadband by 2017 to 95% of the population’. Where is the funding for this if no funding has been plunged into technology? An ignored policy this now may be.

I have an idea George, instead of cutting so much why don’t you start embracing? Tech especially, it is the future after all.

Will Cloud Technology Really Save Me Time and Money?

For businesses and individuals needing immediate file sharing and storing spaces, the Cloud becomes ideal, however people find themselves paying extortionate prices to file sharing companies to provide this service for them.

But are you aware of other Cloud services? For example, ‘Dropbox’ could replace a file server quite easily and will have access to a number of employees and can store a large amount of files, in forms of photos, videos and smaller text files. This Cloud service can also be accessed anywhere at anytime on any device, with no restrictions being placed on the service, this saves both time and money.

However, when considering the Cloud service you use you need to consider the ideals of your environment, for example if you work in a graphics agency with large files, ‘Dropbox’ is not the service for you as it won’t be able to provide what you need.

The ideal services graphics agencies may want to use will be Cloud services such as: ‘Morpholio’ which provides a space for you to put your work to present to clients, it is also free. Another Cloud service to consider is: ‘Slideshare’ whilst the majority of the service is free, some features are subscription only, but it’s a great space for putting Powerpoint’s onto that showcase work.

I think it’s really about looking around first, draw up a list of all the available Cloud services, a few off the top of my head that are free are: ‘Dropbox’, ‘Office365’ and ‘box.com‘. To share documents a shared ‘Google Documents’ space is always a great idea too. Then rate them from good to bad and see what they can offer your business and how it will benefit you and your employees.

Whilst on the subject of the Cloud, I think an important subject everyone always misses is how productive the service can be for you, try to find an app that will sync with the Cloud service you use. This will save a lot of time as all the information is in one place. These apps allow you to assign tasks, assignments and highlight special dates on your calendar to remember – for example the big bosses birthday! I have found Google Calendar is a fantastic (and free) service which allows multiple employees to view and edit one calendar, whilst still seeing their tasks for the day.

When you’re thinking about using a Cloud service, don’t just consider one service, consider multiple services. Seeing as all these services are free anyway, you may as well take advantage of them all, just remember to keep your employees informed so they know where to go to access all the information!

If you saw my blog post last week, you’ll see I spoke about Cloud security, this is still an issue you need to consider when thinking of using a Cloud service. The main things to consider is that you have a security package for all devices used. This a simple security precaution that I would recommend to everyone, run a security system check every now and again and make sure everything is password protected. I would also suggest changing this password regularly too, if an employee leaves they will still have access to the Cloud if you do not change it!

So the Cloud can definitely save you money, sometimes time is debatable but I think with any file sharing software you will need to consider monitoring and updating it anyway.  Time will always be a factor, however the Cloud is very convenient to have everything in one place and easily accessible from anywhere at anytime, by any granted access person, on any device!

Would like to hear your thoughts on if you’ve used a Cloud service or file sharing software and if they’ve benefited you in any way, leave a comment!

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BYOD to work!

Apologies first if you read that as BYOB (bring your own booze) to work, we haven’t quite reached those liberal standards in the technology world…

BYOD stands for: Bring Your Own Device. This allows greater freedom to employees to choose their own gadget for their workplace. Research shows that it helps them to be more productive and also saves cost of employers.

Now unfortunately, I don’t think this quite extends to a robot doing your work for you or a really cool strobe light, I think practical gadgets is what they are thinking of here. Employees can pick their own laptops/computer as there is the big debate over Microsoft VS. Apple or maybe they work better on a tablet and they may decide to bring that in instead!

I think this topic will divide people, employers especially, whilst it does save costs all work will have to be stored in online spaces such as the Cloud, which means definitely upping the security measures just incase anybody decides to hack the database or share confidential information.

Also, how will you monitor what your employees are doing whilst at work? They could be surfing Facebook, Twitter or even swiping away on Tinder for hours on end, as there is no monitoring service in place.

I think some employees also like to keep their personal devices separate to their work devices and wouldn’t like to mix the two, keeping work separate from home life.

Whilst I like the idea, I’m not sure how practical this would be? Has anybody had their boss suggest this to them and has it worked?

Would love to hear others thoughts about this, so please feel free to leave a comment…

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How safe is Software-as-a-service? My thoughts…

It seems that every five minutes I hear the words SaaS (Software as a Service), almost like its some kind of new phenomenon to sweep the business world. I think what has made it become more of a buzz word, is that many of the bigger software players like Microsoft and Adobe now offer many of their products on a subscription model.

Hosting software in the cloud and making it accessible to clients via web browsers is a great service. Whilst this sounds incredible and very handy for business, nobody seems to have questioned the safety of it?

When we started E-Tale, security was a top priority as we were handling data for so many tier 1 brands. However, for the general consumer, it sometimes seems that this is swept under the carpet.

Only last week there was panic over WhatsApp security after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) rated WhatsApp the worst for security out of 24 companies, receiving only one star in it’s fifth annual report: ‘Who Has Your Back report’.

It’s not just WhatsApp, Facebook get scrutinised everyday for its sharing information policies, which are deemed equally as bad. The truth is all cloud storage presents a security risk.  You only have to look at the hacks with Ebay, LinkedIn and Sony to realise that the risk is very real.

Sony for example: Hackers obtained over 100 terabytes of data ranging from employee passwords and credit card details to medical histories and executive salary details, including loss of revenue from leaked future films. Ebay suffered just as bad with hackers stealing personal details including: Addresses, phone number and dates of birth belonging to all 145 million customers were stolen.

Even if you’re software has been scientifically tested, there are numerous security threats you need to be able to identify and deal with if a security crisis was to arise, we only need to look at the Cloud scandal a few years ago where celebrity photos were leaked – these crises never end well!

With this all in mind, I thought I would share my top tips for both consumers and startups when handling sensitive data. I have broken this down into tips for the end user, and tips for the company making the software.

My top tips for the SaaS user:

  • Minimise what personal information you share, for example, is it essential that you give permission to third parties to use your contact information? No, of course not. Be vigilant about what you’re sharing, give as little information about yourself as possible. Any service you sign up to, make sure you take down the contact details so incase of emergency you can cancel your account.

  • Change your password periodically, any subscription should be telling you the importance of changing your password anyway. If you’re using name and numbers in your password e.g. ‘Wife2015’ and this password gets leaked, it is normal for hackers to assume this password is used across all your social networks too, so try not to use the same password! Whilst you’re changing passwords, you might as well backup your data just to ensure if it’s ever lost you can claim it back from somewhere.

  • Think about your past internet history, remember that subscription service you signed up to 5 years ago that you now don’t use? They’re still storing your credit card information. If you’re no longer using services or accounts on specific websites, the best advice I can give is delete your profiles on all of them. It’s the safest option and you’ll thank me later for it!

  • Once you’ve looked at your past internet history, you will come across some services and accounts you need to keep, however you should prioritise which of these NEED your data, you might also want to think about updating the passwords and setting reminders to change them often as well. After all, if someone hacked you, it could go as far as stealing your identity without you even knowing it’s happened. Create stronger passwords, harder security questions and try to get your mobile or e-mail linked to these accounts so you can be aware if anyone has tried to gain access to your account.

  • ALWAYS read the small print. We have all skipped through those pesky terms and conditions when signing up for things, just happily clicking the ‘accept’ button. When signing up for a subscription online,  my biggest tip is to read the fine print, you don’t want to be signing up for more than you bargained for and you should also check that your computer security software is running correctly so it can minimise threats further.

My top tips for start-ups providing SaaS: (This is where it gets a bit more technical…)

  • Be clear on your privacy policy. What data do you store and why? Where is it stored? If in Europe state that?  If the service is based in the UK for example, register the service with the ICO.org (Information Commissioner) and reference this within the policy. This will give the consumer clear evidence and confidence that you have considered the governance of their data.

  • Secure the communication between consumer and service – really simple, use SSL certificates for the service to secure the information in-transit between the consumer and your service.  The SSL certificate will also confirm the service end-point is valid and belongs to your organisation.

  • Ensure the development team understand the concepts of holding customer data. I know a company that was hacked and held to a 24 hour ransom because a developer left the company’s root amazon authentication keys in a script that they then submitted to open-source to help other developers. A case where developers are trying to innovate and a simple slip exposes the entire solution to a threat. The developer was mortified when the CIO received the ransom.

  • A simple tip but most users will be accessing the software from a public computer, set up a reminder for them to log out if they try to leave the page and shut down the browser. Use a cache control to ensure this process works efficiently, whilst it may annoy users, it’s the safest option. Also consider setting up an autocomplete attribute for the login form that controls a computer’s cookie lifetime, there is a checkbox which asks about storing passwords, if you set this to ‘off’ on public computers, users aren’t at risk of saving their passwords publicly allowing anybody access.

  • If your users are using private computers then I would recommend a saved password format, just because users often pick difficult passwords with lots of numbers or hard to spell words. It will also sound alarm bells for your consumer if they’re ever prompted to enter their password, if it’s already saved then there should be no need and they can differentiate the real site from a scam phishing site!

  • Be weary of Javascript files! Don’t put any private user data or restricted access files in the Javascript files, surprisingly the URL’s can be guessed very easily and data will be exposed. HTML files containing scripts need to be uploaded through hidden iframes rather than naked scripts, it’s the same principle if you don’t trust a site don’t load it in a frame. And if you use Internet Explorer? Don’t use frames at all.

  • Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) is when a malicious site can cause a visitor’s browser to make a request to your server which will potentially change it. These requests can range from logging the visitor out, writing comments from the visitors account and changing their preferences, which means gaining access to their credit card information too! These attacks usually happen through Javascript so ensure your software is safe from these sort of attacks!

  • Lastly, cross-site scripting (XSS) is when an attacker can inject scripts into a page sent by your server. If a malicious site links to a URL on your software, it can do multiple things: steal cookies from that site, steal passwords, see users data and ultimately let the hacker control the user’s account. My best advice would be to not let Javascript or similar services allowed in user-submitted HTML and specify the character set of every page, so hackers have a harder job of trying to determine the character set.

I hope these tips have helped, would love to hear others thoughts on the subject!

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David Jones – The name you need to know!

David Jones is ex-chief of Havas, one of the world’s largest global communication specialists. David Jones is the name you need to know because he’s just raised, wait for it … $350 million for a new ‘brandtech’ group.

David is already pretty well known for his work, resigning from Havas in January wasn’t the only work he was famous for, he was also once the advertising adviser to current UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the 2010 Tory campaign and has now launched his own company ‘You & Mr Jones’.

You & Mr Jones aims to “bridge the gap between brands and technology”, which I must admit is a very current issue within the industry, so David might be onto something here…

David has moved pretty quickly, his company ‘You & Mr Jones’ has already invested in ‘Mashable’ and visual marketing firm ‘Pixlee’, before acquiring ‘Mofilm’, the crowd-sourcing company. Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of ‘Mofilm’ has also become a partner at ‘You & Mr Jones’ – David is getting the right guys onboard!

Oh but David doesn’t want to stop there! The company wants to acquire businesses in a range of sectors including: User and machine-generated content, social media marketing, programmatic ad buying and multichannel networks.

David refers to ‘You & Mr Jones’ as a ‘brandtech’ group, which will have a presence in 10 countries worldwide and have a HQ base in New York. The company received funding from 6 unnamed investors.

Even ‘Unilever’ is excited about David’s new company stating: “We are extremely excited about You & Mr Jones, a group we feel has the talent, ambition and technical knowhow to help fill this gap” (Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever).

David said: ‘There’s been a revolution in the world, but not yet in how we build brands… Technology now enables every part of the brand-building process to be done better, faster and cheaper – from creating content, to producing it, to sharing it, to targeting and measuring … And it’s also created a global creative department of more than 1 billion people, all of whom can now create, produce and share. We’re building a new technology group that aims to leverage all of this for brands.’

Well I most certainly wish you the best of luck David, I’ll be keeping an eye on your ‘brandtech’ group!

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Boris backs start-ups!

I tweeted earlier this week (link below) about a fantastic initiative backed by Boris Johnson on supporting startups that will produce technologies, which will help with regenerating London.

The competition encourages entrepreneurs and small businesses to pitch to organisations involved in the regeneration project, their idea must be original and creative enough, to be able to successfully cope with London’s ever growing demands, such as the increasing population.

Ideas already suggested range from smartphone and tablet applications that will aid local people, communities and businesses, giving them the opportunity to interact with one another and also improve their engagement.

The deadline for the competition is today!! So if it is something that interests you, make sure you get your ideas in soon! Sole traders, individuals, public sector bodies, small businesses, academic institutes and large companies are all eligible to pitch their ideas for a chance of winning.

I’m excited to find out the shortlisted options and then the overall winner of the competition, there are so many good start-ups that don’t get the recognition or publicity they deserve. I know from my own experience how hard getting off the ground can be, so dont ignore this opportunity as it could really be the boost you are looking for.

This isn’t the first time Boris has backed technology or start-ups, he’s already pledged £25 million to the ‘London Co-Investment Fund’ which hopes to provide 2,600 new jobs and invest in more than 150 small business in the capital.

Boris speaking in 2014 said that the capitals technology industry was: ”flourishing” and that the city was a “hotbed of talented young and ambitious people buzzing with exciting ideas who are setting up new companies in their droves”.

Hats off to you Boris, you are pushing London in the right direction…

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