5 Advantages of VOIP you can read in 5 minutes

So we've spoken about how VoIP can save you money, and some basics about the technology, but we haven't really discussed the advantages of VoIP technology in a cohesive way. We're going to do just that, and for you busy readers out there, we're writing it to take less than 5 minutes of reading. So here goes. 


  1. It's definitely cheaper than your landline. It's weird to call it cheap VoIP, but it's definitely a way to save some funds. If you're using something that you still call Bell Atlantic as your business phone, chances are VoIP technology can save you a boatload of monthly expenditures. In addition the maintenance costs and replacement phones/parts are cheaper and easier to come by.
  2. It's incredibly reliable. Most internet connections have over 99% up time, and as long as you have internet, you will have phone services. In the event of an internet outage, there is disaster recovery as well as many alternative protocols to make sure you stay up and running.
  3. It has more functionality than you might think. VoIP providers do more than phones and phone paths. They also do conference setups, hosted PBX, video calls, live chat, and cloud based services like meeting software.
  4. It's very low hassle and very low impact. A good VoIP provider takes out all the hassle in your business communications. They make things very simple. Learning how to use polycom or yealink phones doesn't take but a minute, and many other phone providers offer equally simple products. On top of that, training is easy and very successful in teaching your staff the ins and outs of your new system. On a given day, you don't even know it's there. One less thing for you to worry about!
  5. VoIP is scalable. Whether you are increasing the number of employees, adding a new office, or changing offices, as long as you have internet, voice over IP phones can match your scope of need effortlessly. Even if you're downsizing, and you need to reduce your number of phones, it's quite easy to accommodate your needs. 

There it is, 5 quick advantages of VoIP technologies for your business. If you're interested in discussing options for your business, large or small, we're happy to talk over the phone or sit down and demo our services. 



Does VOIP Slow down my business internet?

The short answer is no.

But I bet you want to know why, or at least have facts to back up the claim that voip doesn't slow down your business internet. VoIP, like anything else connected to the internet, needs the ability to exchange packets of data between two locations, in real time. Some serious bandwidth hogs are Netflix, Youtube, or any sort of video streaming service as those require large amounts of available bandwidth because the files are larger. For example, a video that is 3.2gb requires more bandwidth (more 'room' to travel) to stream at 1080p than a video that is 2.8gp and is streaming at 720p. VoIP works in very much the same way. Depending on the voice quality, there are more bytes to be sent (neglible compared to video, though). VoIP is at a point where even the highest quality voice has a neglible impact on your internet speed.

So, how much bandwidth does voip use? It's really not all that much.

Number of Concurrent Calls -  Minimum Required Bandwidth Recommended speed:

1100 Kbps Up and Down3 MBps Up and Down

3300 Kbps Up and Down3 MBps Up and Down

5500 Kbps Up and Down5 MBps Up and Down

101 MBps Up and Down5-10 MBps Up and Down

So as you can see, the necessary bandwith is pretty limited. 100kbs and 3mbps for minimum calling is easy on even home internet systems. Often businesses have internet speeds of over 100mbps in the US, and more outside the US. VoIP doesn't use bandwidth at all times, though. Only when a call is made is bandwidth used. There may be the old habit of thinking that you can't use the internet if someone is on the phone, but internet providers now have their own wiring outside of phone lines, and many businesses have done away with phone lines altogether in favor of IP phones and mobile devices. 



Why Internet Communication is Changing Everything

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there's actually much, much more to internet communication than meets the eye. Internet communication is the act of exchanging packets of information, data, through a global network. This is done by uploading data from one computer, and another computer downloads that same data. This process completes every time you videochat, send an email, reconnect with long lost friends, pay your bills, or look at cat pictures. The possibilities are endless. It is common knowledge that the internet is irreplaceable, but there is so much more than just checking your emails or looking at cat pictures. Why does that matter? What else is there? Read on to find out. 

1.The scale of the internet is immense and constantly expandingIt takes google 1,000 computers to do one search in 0.2 seconds. To manage this massive amount of computing, there are data centers that house these servers that are the size of university campuses. They have their own power grids, and are basically self sustainable. They are some of the most secure places on the planet. 

2.Online feedback is revolutionizing the consumer industry. Amazon has decided to be the "most customer-centric" company and they are succeeding. They have enabled You to chat with live support in as litte as 8 seconds through their tablets. They accomplished this by listening to what their customers wanted. Why do people fill out reviews online? They can't all be read, right? Wrong! That data is essential to the healthy upkeep of any ecommerce site, or even brick and mortar store. People are more likely to fill out anonymous, easy to access forms than fill out one they have been asked to complete. 

3.Online forums are redefining our culture. Anyone can talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and about anything. Globalization is a real, tangible result of the internet. Never have more people from different cultures interacted in such large numbers. They even found a way to share common ground through memes. Richard Dawkins had no idea that his concept of a "meme" would become such a universal term when he wrote The Selfish Gene in 1976. A meme (meem) was originially defined as a discrete unit of culture, and that's pretty much how it has emerged today. Everyone has seen at least one, and maybe chuckled, or maybe just didn't get it. Memes have been around for over ten years, but have really only become common knowledge in the past year or two. Think of it this way: Seinfeld, and all other sitcoms, are, by definition, memes. They are relatable discussions on cultrally accepted norms, that are revealed in a humorous way. They engage us and help us to feel connected. That is the power online forums such as reddit have today. They reveal cultural shifts in real time, through memes, discussion, and video. Even further, what is chosen to be popular is democratized. Community voices vote on the humor, inspiration, use, etc. revealed by a meme, video...., and the less relevant posts are lost, and the more relevant posts are promoted. They're not as silly as some might think. 

4. The internet is written in ink. No, you cannot totally remove anything you submit from the internet. It will exist in perpetua, until the end of time. Everything that is written is saved verbatum, and can be carefully analyzed,documented, and reused. Once upon a time, you could do or say something embarassing and the world would laugh and then forget. Now, with the internet, the world laughs, forgets, remembers because it is permanent, and then laughs again. Though there is more to it than embarassment and humor at the expense of others. Imagine being able to keep dedicated records of every monetary transaction your business has without having to write or type anything. Or capturing the data on every customer that frequent your store. Marketplaces have changed because segmentation is now immensley more successful and data-driven. Even logistics pipelines are now run with efficiencies never thought possible. 

5. The real world hasn't been lost. Daily life continues to contextualize discourse online, and to keep the digital world, which often appears to be quite nebulous, grounded in reality. Current events are discussed in real time, and often news is broken through online communities before any news outlet hears anything. Further, online discussion boards are often more reliable sources of information than mainstream media. Applications like twitter enable real-time reports by inviduals currently involved in an notable event. Further than this, each participant in this discourse can determine the exact quality and quantity of their interaction with their community. People don't accidently blurt out what they're thinking online. Writing is a deliberate process that can take a great deal of time to prepare. 

To conclude, internet communication changed the way we as humans interact with our world, and with each other. We are firmly within an era where new information is available instantly, and notable events can change national sentiments just as easily. If you're interested in moving towards improving your business communications with internet technology, consider VoIP, which enbables businesses to communicate totally via the internet, without a phone line. click the button below to get in touch!




The Ultimate CheatSheet on VOIP Troubleshooting

Our goal is to give you the best client support and services, and to enable you to be your own resource in a pinch. We are always available, but if you ever wonder if it's you, or us, or your ISP, this VoIP troubleshooting list will be helpful!

Most of the time with internet services it is something simple. Incredibly, incredibly simple. Someone may have unplugged the router accidentally, the network cable connecting the router to your LAN is unplugged, your ISP is experiencing an outage, we're experiencing an outage. Your IT department is updating some critical systems. In situations where you are experiencing a loss in service or call quality, do not panic! All will be right and good in the world. To ease your suffering here is a VoIP troubleshooting cheat sheet you can go through with our client services, or without. 


  1. Is there actually a problem? you can check sites like to see if it's just you. often it's not. 
    1. Answer/action: Yes, there is a problem. What next?
  2. "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?" Did you wait 10 seconds before turning it back on?
    1. A: This often the first point of call for IT support, because it is often the issue. Someone unplugged the router. Doing this step before reaching out to client services is effective at minimizing the range of issues to consider, as well as potentially solving your problem quickly. 
  3. Is your network cable/Ethernet cable plugged in? Is your router on, is the light signaling internet connectivity on? Is your internet connectivity good?
    1. A: yes everything is plugged in, the internet is working fine. It is just the phone services that are the issue
    2. A: oh, our internet is out! If your internet is out and you are using VoIP, your phones will be out too. Reach out to your internet service provider and figure out if they have technicians working in your area. Often when services are down, they are actually fixing an issue and there is some sort of reset or power cycling on their end to reboot the system. 
    3. A: oh, my Ethernet cable is not plugged into my router and to our LAN (local area network), plugging it in has fixed our problem!
  4. Is there an internal software update? A hardware update? Have you checked with your resident technology expert or IT department? 
    1. A: Our IT department is updating the firmware on all of our computers and the system will be momentarily unavailable
    2. A: Our IT department is installing new hardware and as such the systems will be down. 
    3. A: We don't have an IT specialist or department, what next?
  5. Is it your phone only, or everyone's phones? What are the details of the issue? Sound quality? Loss of functionality?
    1. A: it is just my phone. Go ahead and reach out to client services! As your internet is still working, and everyone else phones are functioning, this is an issue for your VoIP providers client services. 
    2. A: It's everyone's phones. Double check step's 1-4. Make sure that your internet is up and running. If all the phones are experiencing issues after this second check, reach out to client services from your VoIP provider. Often you will not be the only business experiencing wide issues if all of your phones are affected. 
    3. A: Intermittent sound quality: try calling different numbers through different call paths - is it only from your physical device, or are certain call paths affected? The more specific your answer, the better a client services expert can assist
  6. Is it a hardware issue - is your phone old, on its last legs? Do you need a replacement?
    1. A: My phone is held together by duct tape and super glue. Get a new phone.
    2. A: My phone is brand new and didn't work out of the box - call and often your VoIP provider will replace it. 
    3. A: My phone stopped working after a couple months of use and there is nothing to determine the cause that we can understand. Reach out to client services and see if you simply need to reset your phone/system.
  7. Is the issue localized? Is it only certain phones in a certain area? Is it totally random?
    1. A: floor X has a total phone outage, everything else is working? Double check that you do not have different VoIP providers on different floors. If an entire floor is out chances are the internet connectivity for the building is fine, but the network for that floor is the issue. Time is also important - is it an old system or a new system on that floor? Was there a new installation
    2. A: It's totally random. Call client services. If there is no common thread in any of the issues you are experiencing, your best bet is to call your VoIP provider client services. 

Now this is a non exhaustive, slightly colloquial list of troubleshooting tasks you can go through with your team in the even of VoIP outages or other issues. When in doubt, call a specialist. 



What do you know about the internet?

The internet is a vast, possibly infinite sea of information. Never has there been a technology that enabled such easy access to any conceivable existing written thought. 99% of all published books are online, movies, music, lectures, research and innovation. It is all there. How? How did this network emerge? What does it mean? What can you be doing to better utilize this new technology that has already shifted how people interact in their daily lives?

How much about the internet do you already know? The internet emerged as a direct result of electronic computers in the 1950’s. As early as 1960 the US Government was awarding contracts to labs that were building ‘packet networks,’ which were basically larger networks of CPU’s, with computers the size of bedrooms but could only really do very, very basic computing. Think about how much power is in your phone, and imagine that a room full of hardware in 1960 couldn’t even come close to looking at cat pictures on your phone or checking your email. ARPANET emerged during this time and managed to send a message from UCLA to Stanford and people were pretty happy about that. No matter how you look at it, the internet is still a connection of cables. There are cables that run the entire length of the Atlantic to connect North America to Europe, for example. If those cables were to be cut, there’d be some disconnects in communication.

Anyway in 1982 ARPANET became CSNET, and the Internet protocol suite was introduced (TCP/IP) as the operating protocol for ARPANET. By 1986 many super computers were connected across the nation, and this network was primarily used for research purposes. The first internet service providers emerged in the late 80’s, around which time ARPANET was decommissioned, but something bigger was happening in Switzerland.

During the 1980’s research done at CERN by British researcher Tim Berners-Lee resulted in the world wide web. The world wide web (www.) linked hypertext documents into a larger information system, accessible from any node within it’s network. This was the first webpage they created, and by extension, the first website, ever. Super exciting, huh? It’s just hyperlinks to documentation. Things moved pretty quickly after that first web page. By the mid 1990’s the internet had already begun to redefine our culture, even in it’s infant stages.

By 2000 the DotCom bubble had burst, Nokia had developed a mobile device that already connected to the internet, and people figured out that looking at cats is the best way to spend their time online. AOL handed out millions of CD’s offering free time online and dial-up caused rifts between siblings torn between phone calls and internet time. Since 2000 there has been an explosion in increased efficiency: No more dial-up, better mobile connectivity and the introduction of smart phones, wireless internet/wifi, DSL, and fiber. Internet speeds for consumers can now easily exceed 100mb/s. to put that in perspective, less than 300kb/s is needed for a single VoIP call. Business internet is even faster than the home user, so systems like Voice over internet protocol, which started off as magic-jack and the infant vonage, have become industry leading communications technologies.

But what is next? We can only make CPU’s so small, and hard drives do have a physical barrier as well. What happens when we can’t make our technology any smaller because of the limits of the physical world? We move to light, or DNA. Instead of radio waves transmitting our data, it would be light (closer to application than you’d think), and there is a distinct possibility for future computers to use DNA to transfer data packets instead of traditional hard drives, which rely on magnetized and unmagnetized surfaces to correlate to a 0 or a 1. These 0’s and 1’s become the beginning of binary, the most rudimentary machine language. These new technologies could enable computing efficiencies that we can only dream about today.

So hopefully this brief outline of the history and (possible) future of the internet has been engaging, and educational. If you’re thinking you may need to jump on the bandwagon and catch up with the times, Voice over IP technologies are a great place to start to upgrade your business.



Why Your Sales Deck Needs An Update


Halt! Before you start your newest PowerPoint presentation, read! Don't you touch that dry erase marker.

If you start out your sales pitch stating the possible clients' problem, you're doing it wrong. Now that has always been conventional wisdom, but we've evolved as an industry into a world of subtlety and nuance. Stating a prospects' problem outright will immediately put them on the defensive, make them hesitant to reveal issues about their business that truly could need improvements. You need a more tertiary, subtle approach. But what! Well, we've researched sales decks that are great examples of how modern salespeople have found success in an industry driven by relationships and customer choice. Prospects are more informed than ever, they are advocates for their needs and will not listen to armchair experts tell them what they should and shouldn't buy. So let's get on with it. Here's why your sales deck needs an update. 


#1 Don't state the prospects' problem

state a global trend that is driving change. Take a marketing department for example. They are seeing reduced ROI on their investments into outbound marketing, print marketing, and PR. They can't quite seem to figure out why it's not working like it had in the past. Telling them outright that their strategies are dated and and there needs to be adaptation will not a happy prospect make. They could be unaware to the fact that the vast majority of prospects find the products they will buy online, and that social media, email, website interactivity, and blogging will see much better ROI than more traditional models. Rather than point out glaring flaws, point out that we have this magical thing called Google Analytics which enables incredibly detailed segmentation of prospects. By revealing a global shift, prospects will open up about their issues and be more enticed to speak about the finer details. 


#2. Demonstrate the risk that now exists because of the global trends and changes

In the previous world of sales, this was called "fear, pain, and death." Create an unavoidable reason why the prospect needs to act, and act quickly. Once again, nuance and subtlety are key. Rather than the bullish claim that your product is the only solution, present the situation of others that shows how the global shift has challenged them, and how they succeeded by adapting (with your technology, of course). Present the situation that they can fail if they don't adapt, but don't explicitly state they will fail without your technology. There are others out there like you, maybe it really isn't a good fit, and they still need to change. The goal is to provide genuine insight that they can take away. Be educational. 


#3. Show what is possible

Don't talk about specifics about your services/products yet. Resist. You need to create the context of your product or service to exist within. You want to show how your offering stacks up against the competition. They know your competitors, they chose to talk to you. They're already curious. You want to help inform their decision and not stuff your pitch down their throat. Show what is possible with the overall product, not just yours. Using VoIP as an example, Simplicity provides more affordable, higher quality voice services than a traditional phone service/landline. That's great, but there are other VoIP providers that argue the same thing and are often just as valid. This is the moment where you create the canvas for your product to paint a picture of what is possible. Resist specifics about your product, resist. Tease them with possibility. 50-60% savings. Crystal clear voice quality, talk about industry innovations. This "promised land" should be easy to understand, but conversely, difficult to accomplish without outside assistance. Show them what the world is like using these new innovations. Show them why using google analytics is a quantifiable solution to discovering their target audience.


#4. Create a trail of breadcrumbs to success with features

There are obstacles to accomplish the immense challenge of adapting to the new global trends, show how your products features can exactly help overcome obstacles created by change. Change is curious, challenging, and often terrifying. By creating the context for your product, you can now show how your specific offerings can solve specific obstacles created by the emergence of say, the internet. Sales professionals are presented with significantly more informed prospects. Their expertise in their field will be challenged in a way that hasn't been seen. You need to show how big the world still is and what is still coming. Solidify your expertise without telling them what to do and why to do it. Enable their choice. To this end, show what obstacles there are and what your product's features solve. They may not have these obstacles. This is a good moment to figure out if the solution is a good fit for them. If it's not, don't force it. Customer experience begins the moment a prospect starts interacting with your brand. Just because the quote isn't good now, doesn't mean it won't be good in the future. Hang loose and relax. 


#5. Show how you can give them a fairy tale ending

This is where you can show testimonials of previous clients. Obviously you want to tailor these testimonials to the closest industry and your prospect. Don't use an end user testimonial to pitch a CFO. Show how your product or service has enabled successful adaptation within the new global trends. Show tangible success. Charts, graphs, statistics, all of that is great here, but don't worship statistics. There's lies, damn lies, and statistics. If it sounds too good to be true, you'll lose all that credibility you just labored to create. Just be cool. What it really comes down to is you need to close by showing your prospect how you helped someone else reach the 'promised land.'


Don't finish there. This deck can't exist in a vacuum. Your entire company needs to resonate what you say. Talk about the promised land, talk about winners and losers. talk about the obstacles created by huge global shifts. talk about obstacles your customers face and how you've helped them succeed. Play nice with competition, maturity is more important than mudslinging, and the internet is written in ink. Talk about the benefits of the products and services of you and your competitors holistically. Hopefully this deck will assist in closing some sales, but at minimum, it should be a lens into the modern views around sales, and how it has changed.


How To Pick A VOIP Provider


How To Pick A VOIP Provider

The telecom market is saturated with choices. There are providers for just about any functionality and any price point you can need, but how do you determine your best fit, in this sea of options? We're going to do your homework for you. By the end of this brief article you'll have the tools and knowledge you need to investigate your business communications and determine how to pick a VoIP provider that fits your needs. 


There are five high level facets of any VoIP provider which should be essential: if you don't see one of them or your potential provider isn't transparent, move on. 

  1. Reliability/Quality
  2. Scalability
  3. Experience and/or Expertise
  4. Service Expertise/troubleshooting expertise
  5. Cost

These are in no particular order, and that is about it. If you're interested in learning more about each point, continue reading. If not, go forth and find a provider that ensures these traits. If you decide to consider our services, click the button below to get in touch. 

Still here? Great, let's get into more detail about the points above.

1. Reliability: This is is multifaceted. How available are they? How can they best be reached? How is the quality of your experience with them? How reliable are their services? What is the uptime on their communications? What happens during an outage? What is the voice quality like? Are all their services equal in quality? These are just some introductory questions to get your mind churning out ideas. A transparent provider will have no issue answering these questions easily and promptly. Many providers specialize on certain functionalities (cloud services, soft switches, etc.) and during an exploratory demo you can determine what your needs are and how they stack up against what the provider offers.


2.Scalability :"If my company grows, will you be able to grow with me?" VoIP is voice over internet. If you have a connection, and your company expands, you will be able to expand your communications quite easily. Need new functionaly? Providers are constantly innovating and looking for new services to offer their customers. Check in with them regularly to see what new gadgets they have implemented. You may find they have a new product that is perfect for your needs. Additionally, providers can work with you to create custom solutions to match your needs. It's all about dialogue and transparency. You should have a clear path to ensuring your needs are met.


3.Experience/Expertise: Experience doesn't always equate to expertise, andd vice versa. A more simple explanation would be "they know what they're doing and are trustworthy." How do you know that they know what they're doing, if you don't understand the telecom industry? Are they bona fide? Experience is a metric for skill and success, so often this is the safest and easiest way to ensure your potential provider is up to the job. What if they're relatively new? Look at their testimonials, current customers. Look at their blog, social media, and email outreach. How do they share their knowledge? Obviously they're not revealing trade secrets, but helping inform the customer before they become a customer is a clear sign that they know what they're doing. If they're interested in customers getting the best services, even if it's not from them, that's another clear sign of expertise. In sum, look at their thought leadership.


4.Service & Support : This is a nuanced difference from the previous point. Excellent client/customer services is essential to maintaining the continued success of your communications implementation. What happens if there is an outage? Do you know exactly who to call? Will you be on hold? Is there a support ticket system? Can you effectively record an issue and present it? Are you given the tools to enable simple solutions on your end? Now these last two might sound like the provider is skirting responsibility, but look at it this way: they will have diligently trained you to do minor troubleshooting for your services, and if there is still an issue, you are speaking common language with their support team.

a. A key component of any VoIP implementation is the installation. During the early stages of VoIP services, they were not offered at all. Now as we have moved a bit into the future and the industry has matured, installations and onsite services are standard. There is one issue that remains: cost. Onsite support and installations continue to require sizable investments. This can be a serious deterrent for potential customers, and for good reason. 

5.Cost. Cost is often the critical point in deciding which provider to choose. If they are the cheapest, will the quality be poor? If they are expensive, am I overpaying? Is there full transparency in the quote, what are my options? Is there a customizable price that fits my budget? Often larger companies have set prices and ridget structures, but with good reason. These reasons are often not applicable to other more flexible providers. Cost also changes as technology advances. Anyone remember the magic jack? That sure was a long time ago. 

To conclude, if you are considering new business communcations and are thinking VoIP might be an option, these questions and discussions are a good place to start. If you are intersted in discussion your needs with us, we are more than happy to help you define your use cases and look at the scope and scalability of our solutions for you. 



5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Customer Support

We all know it: Customer Experience is and always has been one of the pillars of successful business. Happy customers become your biggest marketing assets. They provide genuine observations about your company to prospective customers, and your customers often try and upsell your company. They are better than any marketing team or sales effort. Armed with this knowledge, it would be wise to take a hard look at your customer support and ensure that they are providing the absolute highest quality services that they can to your customers. Your champion customers will spread the word of incredible customer service, and often that is the tipping point to convert a prospective customer into a closed deal. Here are 6 tasks you can do right now to improve customer support, and watch the new deals rain down.

  1. Personalize your interactions with everyone who interacts with your business. If you have sales scripts or customer support scripts, tear them up and get rid of them. Scripts are restrictive and prevent your employees from providing genuine guidance about your goods and services. A prime example is the flight industry – how many times have flights been delayed and customers left unsatisfied, uninformed, and generally very aggravated? Customer support specialists at the desks sit uselessly because the technology meant to improve a customer’s experience is preventing them from providing much needed support. Cut the paperwork, cut the Kafkaesque support software, and adopt a more human approach.
  2. Be Fast. Amazon can provide live support on their tablets in 8 seconds. Now, you will not be able to be this good. Amazon is freakishly good at customer support and will eventually rule the planet. What you can do is ensure that your customers are not on hold. If you have to put them on hold, make sure it is afterthey have spoken to someone. Also make sure they know the exact time that they will be waiting. People do not like waiting around for support, they are already mad that there is a problem with your product. This is the opportunity to delight your customer. Show them that you genuinely want to help and treat them like a human. Your support of the customer should never end after the sale is closed.
  3. Be Clear. Give your customers clear line of sight to the post-sale services you offer. Train them in how to solve some easy problems themselves with infographics and easy-to-digest training regimes. Give them email addresses and phone numbers so that they can contact exactly who they need to contact. Tell them what each support specialty can do, so they know who to call. This will not only speed up the customer support ticket, but your customer will feel proactive and accomplished. They will feel like you were proactive, as well. You provided information before there was a problem.
  4. Listen. All businesses send out surveys. Make sure your customers know you’re listening. Make a point to reach out and personalize your interactions that result from surveys. If you send out an NPS, make sure that you take special care for anyone who gave you below a 7. Give people who gave you a 9 or a 10 some free stuff (Cupcakes are a great idea….). Aim to turn 7’s and 8’s into 9’s and 10’s by offering special deals to them. Above all of this, really pay attention to what the problems are. Fix them.
  5. Be Everywhere. If you only have one or two channels for customer support, you need to expand! Only having phone and email support options can serious limit the effect of your support. Offer an app, if that fits your model. Be active on social media and listen when your customers interact with you. What if they want to physically visit your business? Do you offer a live chat service. There are so many options that the more you offer, the more your customer will feel like they have a voice.



5 Amazing Things Done with Artificial Intelligence


First and foremost, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a type of machine learning characterized by intelligent decision making similar to our own cognitive abilities. Key traits of effective AI are learning and problem solving. The key issue yet to be solved is independent thought. No machine, so far, is capable of independent thought and reason at the same ability of a human. Once this is achieved, the line between what makes us different than machines will be a hot issue for a generation. 

But in the meantime here are some pretty cool things that we can do with AI before our machine overlords inevitably conquer the observable universe. 

AlphaGo Defeats Lee Sedol in 2016.

AlphaGo, created by DeepMind (acquired by Alphabet in 2014) beat the world grandmaster go player 4-1. Go, a more mathematically complex game of wits than chess, was a challenge for AI developers. Deepblue defeated chess champions in the 20th century, but Go continued to elude the level of skill an AI could match. AlphaGo defeated Sedol through learning and problem solving, it is capable of making mistakes. 

We are getting our own babel fish

    For those who don't know what a babel fish is, read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and come back. An Australian startup is working with IBM Watson, a ridiculously intelligent AI, to develop a near real time wearable translation product. This will revolutionize human communication as we know it. As the speed of translation improves, we could see a gadget translate multiple languages in real time, enabling a person to understand anything said to them, regardless of language. Translators of the world, you've got pretty serious competition.

Be a personal trainer.

Vi is a charming AI personality designed to help you accomplish your fitness goals. It fits comfortable in a pair of earbuds connected to a flexible band that drapes around your neck. It scans standard health metrics, contextual metrics, and environmental data to assist you in your training regime. It learns your routine as you exercise and gives you attainable, reasonable goals to strive for and achieve. It also comes with a soothing female voice rather than a gruff personal trainer, so that's nice. 

(Almost) Predict the weather. 

Okay so it's not going to tell you the exact moment one raindrop will fall in your town, or when there will be tornado, perfectly. It will be able to give general, more-precise-than-your-local-weatherman predictions about the upcoming weather. This supercomputer could potentially save lives as it may effectively predict dangerous storms such as hurricanes or tornadoes. 

Hopefully you won't be too mean to your local weatherman, they're human too, they make mistakes. They're really sorry about that picnic that was ruined because of scattered showers. 

Play soccer with exceptional "skill" 

This might appear silly, but the ability for these robots to walk, detect, and kick a ball is an incredibly difficult process. The first success was in 2011, and the robots have continuously improved since then. They still can't compete with even elementary school players, but eventually, they have the capacity to beat premier league teams. 



Is Your Data Available Online?

Over the past few years there have been breaches to secure databases, some of which exposed half a billion users' data. It's easy and understandable to wonder if you are among that list, but how do you tell? The answer is really quite simple. 

Just type in whatever email address you're worried about. haveibeenpwned is ssl secured (that's the little green lock next to the URL), and was created by Troy Hunt.  Now, chances are modest that one email will be exposed, but often the data leaked isn't enough to steal an identity. Here are steps to take if you realize your data and passwords have been breached, and how to determine the severity of the leak.

Severity : If your physical address, email and email password, social security, credit card information, or banking details are available, that's about as bad as it gets. This enables pretty much whoever can access that data to manipulate it for identity theft. So, what to do in this situation? Not a whole lot, but you can work to inhibit further breaches. 

  • Cancel Credit/debit cards and get new ones. 
  • Change passwords - Many people use the same password for multiple sites and services. This is a bad, bad idea. Changing your passwords once every two weeks and ensuring it is made up of lowercase, uppercase, numerals, and punctuation will drastically limit the ability for people to 'hack' you and your data. 
  • Keep your operating system and programs up to date. Wannacry hit users with outdated updates and old OS's (Windows 7 almost exclusively). The newer the tech, the more relevant their firewalls and other protections are. 
  • Watch your smartphone. A large majority of malware that is circulated focuses on smart phones. Ensure that you password protect your phone, and don't use open wifi networks.
  • Don't save passwords in your browsers, on your phone, anywhere. That's just asking for it.
  • Come up with ridiculous answers to security questions. If the security question is 'what is your mother's maiden name?' A malicious piece of software can figure that out in no time if you actually put in her maiden name. It can be anything. "Green eggs and ham" would be basically impossible to crack, for example. 

To conclude, haveibeenpwned is a public service and an awesome website to determine if you have been the victim of a recent breach. Additionally, using common-sense practices to ensure the safety of your data is key to lessening the blow from those breaches. Those hacks were the result of weaknesses in those company's databases - loose passwords, email phishing, account linking, similar to how you can be exposed. Just remember, Thinking that it will never happen to you is the easiest way to end up frantically canceling your credit cards. 



Startup Spotlight: Push Doctor, OhPen, Clutter, oh my!

Startups can be weird, wacky, downright useless, and sometimes brilliant. Applications like Slack or trello (amongst many others) revolutionized the way businesses could communicate. Suddenly people could "actually" be efficient. In the consumer industry, facebook enabled people from all over the globe to interact instantly. Google happened. Often at the base of startup success is a thread : communication innovation. That's not to say that all startups set up to improve communication will succeed, but the ability for the internet to spread information instantly certainly enables a lot of very obvious solutions. Even if a new software does not focus on communication, the relay of information instantly across great distance enables incredible efficiency for businesses and consumers. And with that, here are three curious startups to watch in this weeks startup spotlight. 


Push Doctor

(via TechCrunch) Push doctor is very straightforward. It is a video chat service that connects you with a doctor, as well as managing other aspects of your health. They have recently raised 26.1 million in Series B funding. Venture capitalists have faith in them, obviously. This new sector, 'telemedicine,' is a growing field that enables patients to easily communicate with their GP, set up consultations, and more. The UK based app is connected to thousands of doctors as well as the NHS network, which further increases the ability for patients to have access to healthcare when and where they need it. It can even fill out prescriptions. Whether or not the users will trust the app with their sensitive health data will truly be Push Doctor's biggest hurdle moving forward. 


(Via TechCrunch)This startup is based out of the Netherlands, and is a cloud-based software company that focuses on "core-banking software." Now, what does that mean? It means that they get 15million Euro and a 100 million Euro valuation. It also means that they offer a software that targets enterprise level companies (savings banks, asset managers, insurance companies, and more). It enables those companies to more effectively manage the necissary nitty-gritty of banking , and worry less about legacy systems and more about their customers' experience, which as we know, is everything today. The obvious issue is getting banks to release their death grip on outdated, trusted, legacy systems. These systems are notoriously convoluted and often cyber security nightmares. Regardless, change is always viewed as a potential risk, so these enterprises may continue to resist into the future. 


Imagine if you had a place to store your stuff, and you could check up on it, and request it back, whenever? That would be pretty cool. It's based on America's inherent desire to have a ton of stuff that we may or may not ever need, and to play into that mentality that, "well, I may need it in the future, so why through it away?" Or "those are perfectly good VHS tapes and I may watch them again," even though we have kids entering college this year who have never seen a VHS. (QVC loves clutter, probably). The point is, Clutter reduces your clutter and organizes it somewhere else safely. This is great for people who lead busy, dense lives, or who hate to throw things away. Each stored item is photographed and neatly packed away to be totally forgotten about except for a monthly subscription. This Los Angeles startup has been around a couple years, and just scored $64 million to further improve their services and increase their scope. 

This weeks startups have highlighted something quite plainly: software is revolutionizing our relationship with our world. Whether it is an app that connects you with a doctor outside of normal working hours, or the next big thing in banking software, we can expect to seen innovation after innovation that improves(?) our lives. An important disclaimer: put the screen down now and then, turn your phone off, and be a real person again, get some sunshine. Technology is amazing, but letting it totally control our lives is something we can all agree is an excess. 



4 Startups that will make you raise an eyebrow

For something new, we are going to start featuring new startups weekly to show the weird and wonderful side of the tech community, entrepreneurship, and the future of business. There are startups for basically any product or service you can imagine. There is an IoT plant watering device, there are IoT latrines and toilets. There are so many plays for IoT toasters that if they weaponize we will soon be ruled by robot overlords with toasters for heads. Obviously, this list is nonexhaustive, there are certainly amazing, and wacky, startups that fly under our radar. So without further ado, here are the startups for this week.


Blockchain, but not that blockchain

A bitcoin startup [blockchain] raised $40 million in series b. For those of you not familiar with startups, that's a pretty big deal. Richard Branson got down on it. Google ventures was involved. It was a good time. To further rub salt on the wound of other bitcoin startups, not only have they named their company after a term associated with furious google searches - here is a link to the definition of blockchains - but now thought leaders everywhere who have written about blockchain are frantically altering their content marketing strategy so they don't accidently promote Blockchain. Nefarious indeed. This is a novel, but slightly bullish take on disruptive growth hacking. Oh, what Blockchain does, oops. Blockchain will be a cryptocurrency wallet provider, similar to coinbase, but different. We will see how this plays out. 

A Scottish Startup for the vegan in every family

Everyone knows vegetarians, and vegans, but everyone knows that *one* vegan who makes it a point of contention. That's not about being vegan, that's about being difficult and the center of attention. Sgaia foods out of Scotland aims to take all the difficulty out of eating vegan. They're doing well, opening up shop in New Zealand, and hopefully we'll be seeing them stateside soon, too. For people who love great tasting food, remaining true to their principles, and healthy options to meat, you can't get much better. We salute you plant meat creators. 

Implantable Cell Therapies

A slightly less palatable startup is working on creating a new alternative to current medical practices. No we're not able to regrow limbs, yet. We've all heard about 3D printing organs (also not quite there, even livers), but what about biocompatible capsules (say that ten times fast) that can treat "a variety of serious hematologic, enzyme deficiency, and endocrine disorders"? Sigilon Therapeutics aims to create effective, implantable cells that secrete live saving proteins into a patient's body. Sounds kinda creepy. Secretion is always a great word to drop at a fancy dinner party. Another point to Sigilon, these implants are marketed to not scar the patient. These implants deliver these proteins in controlled releases, over extended periods of time. This could result in dramatically cheaper healthcare options, prevention symptoms from life altering illness, as well as tissue that will avoid the effects of a body's rejection to foreign tissue.  

Yet another VR Startup that promises to break the glass ceiling

 VR is hot right now, so hot right now. Oculus rift, HTC Vive, PS VR, XBOX VR (Also oculus rift), everyone has some sort of VR play and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Surrounded by a sea of steep, steep competition, how can anyone hope to stand out? By being 17 times better than the competition, obviously. Helsinki-based startup Varjo claims the screen resolution of their product is 17 times better than the existing competition, which is a pretty big different. I wonder what it looks like to the average consumer? Will they be able to notice each magnitude of difference? Or will only a magnitude of say, 3, matter? 20/20, as it is called, is purported to use eye-tracking software. The biggest problem consumers have with  VR is the screen resolution. And sometimes they're a little clunky, and sometimes people get carried away and crash into furniture and expensive vases your mother-in-law gave you. Regardless. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out - a boost to screen resolution could be just what the industry needs to pull up the bottom line. 


So there you have it. 4 Startups that are diligently working to carve out a chunk of the world for themselves. Whether they make a larger impact or not remains to be seen, but with anything from advanced VR capabilities to solving world hunger with plant parts, the future looks pretty bright. Technology will continue to revolutionize the way we interact with our world.