Tag Archives: google

Is Google in Trouble? Yes, and There is No Coming Back

The recent past has not been kind to Google. Beyond a shifting financial tech landscape, many of its latest injuries have been self-inflicted. One has to wonder what is happening to the once seemingly-omniscient internet pioneer that was ushering a new age of information and transparency. In reality, the Mountain View company might be in trouble.

The reason is plain to see—and with foreboding precedent—but first a glance at the stumblings of the tech giant over a much different landscape than when it came to existence in 1998.

The tea leaves of Google’s fall might have been read as early as 2013, when The Internship tanked at the box office. The movie paired Vince Vaugh and Owen Wilson, in similar roles to their Wedding Crashers hit in 2005. Instead of weddings, though, Google was both the backdrop and underlying ethos of the film. What could go wrong?

Audiences not showing up is what went wrong. It was almost as if the fawning era when tech bloggers would obsess about minutia like the animation banner on the Google page had officially ended.

Then came the expensive failure of Google+. It launched in 2012, trumpeted as the new social media player in a not-so-crowded field. Now it’s basically dead, being slowly dismembered into several manageable pieces like Photos and Hangouts. One of the main architects of Google+ (and the inventor of the hashtag), Chris Messina, even told CNN plainly: “I f–ed up. So has Google.”

Whoa! That’s Google you’re talking about, Mr. Hashtag! Yes, the company dared put out Facebook Lite, but they’re THE search engine.

It doesn’t matter. As Forbes explained, Google listened more to its engineers than its customers, moved away from its search engine capabilities, and copied other social media companies instead attempting innovation.

We’re not done, though. The disaster that is Google Glass came at the heels of Google+. As a matter of fact, both tripped over each other in attention of press mockery.

As we reported, what was meant to be the official start of the wearable tech era became one of the worst market disasters in history. Google skipped sensible beta testing and ignored public sentiments (as with Google+). This is a bit odd for a company whose mission statement is to “organize the world’s information.”

Google Glass was unceremoniously killed last year, although there are rumblings of a Frankenstein resurrection. Let’s see.

It hasn’t gotten better for Google in 2015, especially in the last month. A new study exposes some very bad practices by the search giant (the study was suspiciously sponsored by Yelp, but that’s fierce tech competition for you). The research claims that Google ranks higher its own services and products in search listings. Sure, Google is a private company in the business of making dough; however, it has claimed time and time again that its algorithms are completely unbiased.

The damaging study doesn’t mean that people will flock to Bing (God forbid). Yet, this type of news could bolster Europe’s antitrust case against the search giant, which would be disastrous. But this is Google, right? It’s the near-perfect entity that, according to Fortune, is the best company in America to work for. These are mere burps, right?

No, the news gets worse…actually disgusting. Just last month, Google’s image recognition software—employed in its Google Photos application with auto-tagging—mislabeled a photograph of an African American couple. It labeled them “gorillas.”

Google apologized for the gaffe. Moreover, many in the industry remarked that Flickr’s auto-tagging system had done the same—including mislabeling concentration camps as “jungle gyms” and people of various races as “apes.”

That’s the point, though. Flickr is owned by Yahoo, and we know where Yahoo has been headed to for a long time. Is Google on the same path?

It seems so. Again, Google is in trouble.

Bloomberg technology columnist Katie Benner agrees. In a column, she explains the numbers pointing to the fall from grace of Google that include:

Missteps in trends (e.g., Google Glass and Google+).
Underperforming stocks.
A falling share of the U.S. search market, down to 75% in 2014 from 80% in 2013 (and remember, Europe is ready to break them up).
Unhappy investors.
Unable to made headway in foreign markets like China or Russia.

Benner points out a simple but interest axiom on the foibles and fortunes of Google, and it’s not hubris as some might think from reading this article.

You see, when a company reaches a “too big to fail” size it can’t help but begin to fail. Regardless of its altruistic core mission and nimble business attitude, a suddenly-enormous company will begin to fossilize under the pressure of its own density. As Benner says:

Google is a 55,000-person behemoth, and it’s nearly impossible for any company to move quickly and creatively at that size. Among tech giants, only Apple has managed to innovate after becoming so big. Hewlett Packard? Nope. IBM? No way.

Benner draws a comparison of Google to another company that once appeared it could do no wrong and possessed that tech Midas touch:

The Google of 2015 is not unlike the early 2000s Microsoft – a hugely profitable company that is having a hard time innovating around its core product. Unless something is done, it will likely go through spasms of flailing and discontent that will be familiar to longtime veterans of the Redmond, Washington software giant.

Ironically, it was Google that helped begin the erosion of Microsoft when it came into the scene. A decade ago, consumers gradually began to divorce a PC-centric world for internet and cloud-based territories. But again, Microsoft’s large size impeded it from moving with the times, and that gave the universe the widely-detested Windows 8.

Obviously, Google isn’t going to vanish. The question is whether it can do anything not to relegate itself into a cyber Jurassic World? Can it avoid being just another corporate dinosaur to amuse consumers instead of inspiring them, much in the same way that happened to Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and others? Or can it find its inner innovator and remain fresh like Apple or Facebook?

Benner claims that Google will never regain its innovative spirit. Nevertheless, it can invest in buying smaller companies that have an innovative spirit (like it did with YouTube; or as Facebook did with Instagram). Google could buy Snapchat or Pinterest, again both shocking and pleasing the world. Then again, Microsoft bought Skype and not much came from it…

Perhaps there is some pioneering spark left in Google. It recently started publicizing the accidents of its self-driving cars. That is one big step for transparency, although it might end up being a step backward for public relations once the numbers are crunched by Neo-Luddites out there.

In the end, transparency and investing in creativity might be Google’s best and only choices. At least these moves would give it press beyond fiascos like Google Glass, bigoted photo tagging, or bad Hollywood movies.

And if this article suddenly disappears from search engine rankings, come look for me at the Yelp boards…

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The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the BlackBerry

Iron Man with BlackBerry head fighting rising iPhones

One of my fascinations has always been how seemingly “too big to fail” companies actually fail. I’m not referring to collateral damage caused some bursting bubble as happened to so many tech companies at the turn of the century. It’s more of the rapid and (almost) unexpected plunge that occurred with such companies as Myspace, Groupon or Viddy—all once entrenched in the very psyche of popular culture but quickly left behind by the public as nothing more than mammoth fossils (and still making some money, mind you).

Research in Motion (RIM, but now BlackBerry Limited), the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry, is such an example, as equally poignant and absorbing as the rest of the mammoth fossils. Yet its tragic tale might be more intriguing because there might be a resurrection from the tech graves into something close to its former glory.

It’s a captivating narrative in a society that loves comebacks and second chances as much as giddy schadenfreude.

 

rise of blackberrry2

Once upon a time, not even a decade ago, BlackBerry was the prime smartphone in the market. The phone was a well-built gadget known for its patented visible keyboard, with the ability to peer-to-peer message, fax and email. The device seemed to appear in the hands of seemingly every CEO and world leader; and that was part of RIM’s marketing: making influencers support its product. President Obama famously refused to give his BlackBerry up when he took office. At one point, RIM was valued at $55 billion. In 2007, it was the most valuable company on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In those days, RIM was rapidly expanding beyond the business sector, as an article TechRadar explained:

Initially popular with the business community, by 2006 RIM was attracting major mass market attention. The 7100 “Charm” series marked a new focus on consumers and more features followed in the “Electron” and “Pearl” releases, including cameras, navigation, and chat features.

The sky was the limit for the “CrackBerry” (as it was dubbed). What could possibly go wrong?

Apple was what went wrong.

 

fall of the blackberry2

The release of the iPhone in 2007 was a watershed moment for mobile devices, and it quickly drowned the BlackBerry. It’s almost that simple. Since 2011, RIM has laid off 10,000 employees, more than half of its workforce. These days it only occupies three percent of the smartphone market.

What happened? Was Apple (and later Samsung and Google) that good? Was the public that fickle?

The answers have to do with, as always, faulty market research.

It’s all detailed in Losing the Signal, written by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. This new book explains several of the missteps the brass at RIM committed when the iPhone came into existence. Some of these erroneous assumptions included:

That phone providers like AT&T would not be able to handle the network power the iPhone demanded.
Consumers would eventually reject the iPhone because of its rapid battery drain.
The iPhone would only resonate with those interested in YouTube, social media, and shallow web browsing—not true professionals.
  Blackberry offered better security and a more stable network.

Consumers shrugged these issues off. In the first three months of its release, a million iPhones were sold. Put simply, Apple understood that the Internet Age was shifting to a more epicurean state. Consumers were ready for style over functionality. Look-conscious millennials—tech savvy and vociferous over social media—carried as much influence as drab businesspeople. It was just time for the World Wide Web and all of its fruits to start looking good.

Thus, the public embraced the iPhone and later smartphones for really the reason one RIM executive admitted: “Beauty matters.”

In all fairness, RIM wasn’t the only who underestimated the iPhone. Nokia, Palm and other mobile phone giants dismissed Apple’s foray into mobile technology.

RIM (at the time the world’s largest smartphone maker) attempted to counter the iPhone with its own version of beauty. It resurrected an old prototype called Storm. Like the iPhone, Storm featured a glass screen. Unlike Apple’s phone, its screen was movable. Users could activate the phone’s digital keyboard by pressing the screen down, replicating the click and tactile pleasure that made BlackBerry’s physical keyboard so well-liked.

But RIM rushed the product, and that proved to be another terrible mistake. Storm wasn’t ready, but RIM was under tremendous pressure to answer Apple. The new smartphone was released late in 2008, with strong sales at first, but with so many flaws it flat-lined soon after. Adding insult to injury, RIM’s hallowed reputation of quality products took a hit, which later affected many of its other releases.

As one article explained:

The Storm was a watershed moment, not only hurting RIM financially but wrecking public opinion and its partnership with Verizon. The company then had no idea of which path it needed to take. “We’re grappling with who we are because we can’t be who we used to be anymore, which sucked…It’s not clear what the hell to do,” said one of the company’s former CEOs, Jim Balsille.

Apple owned the image of producing superior products (which it didn’t in the early days of the iPhone) and controlled the narrative of “style over functionality.”

That should have been the end of the BlackBerry, and the fossilizing of RIM.

But the story doesn’t end there.

 

return of blackberry2

RIM (now called BlackBerry Limited) went back to basics, just last year, to what worked for it in the beginning, and improved on it. As an article in Advertising Age explained:

The campaign, “Work Wide,” launched in September and cast BlackBerry as a serious business tool, offering security, mobility, and connectivity through the internet of things. In one video, which showed consumers using handheld devices to play games, competitive smartphones were portrayed as toys, not serious business tools. In the first week of the launch, BlackBerry sold over 200,000 Passport devices.

In an era of rising hacking and security threats, it seems consumers are ready to return to functionality. BlackBerry has capitalized on this for added success. As one analyst joked about the resurged popularity of BlackBerry smartphones: “Snowden takes over for Alicia Keys.”

In addition, BlackBerry is willing to make sensible risks, for there are hints it may adopt an Android platform on its new devices.

From losing $1.2 Billion a quarter, BlackBerry is now officially profitable. This doesn’t mean the company will ever truly play with Apple or the other smartphone giants, or even return to its former glory. Nevertheless, it is on the right track, unlike the other companies mentioned at the beginning of the article.

Besides, it should be mentioned that not too many years before the release of the first iPhone, many experts contended that Apple was already a mammoth fossil. The rest is a history of beauty.

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The 7 Best Market Research Podcasts

Mobile technology is rapidly transforming the business landscape. We have written extensively on its effects on market research and online survey methodologies.

The rise of podcasting is another popular side effect. In 2014, podcast listening increased 25% in the U.S., while nearly 1 in 3 Americans reported listening to a podcast. In addition, the number of unique monthly podcast listeners tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago—with an average of more than 91,000 podcasts produced a year.

There is demand and there is supply for podcasts, and there is certainly both when it comes to market research.

First, though, some may wonder, about the history and the sudden renaissance of the podcast.

The word podcast was coined early in 2004 in an article in The Guardian. It referred to audio files that can be streamed or downloaded from the internet. Although lauded as an emerging form of media, podcasts never truly exploded, remaining more of a niche expression or vanity venture for popular figures.

Then came the explosion of mobile technology. It has made accessing podcasts effortless as they can be streamed on any mobile device (and downloaded into hard drives or cloud accounts). Podcasts are just as available in vehicles through such services as Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and Stitcher Dash. Furthermore, in an era of competitive content and inbound marketing, podcasts are that extra digital mile a company or individual can harness to stay ahead of the game (not to mention podcasting’s relative low overhead).

So while crunching numbers or deciphering the psychology of consumers, why not play a podcast at work or while driving in traffic? After all, podcasts are just another symptom of the 21st-century individual’s thirst and ability to handle a wide range of information.

With all of this in mind, here are the top six podcasts we recommend for market research:

1. American Marketing Association Podcasts: Not a single show, but an entire list of podcasts—ranging from thought leadership to mobile marketing. Branding, ROIs, market trends…it’s all there with a varied but knowledgeable guest list.

2. HBR IdeaCast: The Harvard Business Review has long been regarded as the leading resource for business research, and their Podcast doesn’t miss a beat on this. You can’t go wrong when some of its guests include Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as a slew of Harvard business professors and Wall Street exemplars.

3. AdAge Outlook: This podcast certainly deals with marketing news, and it’s second to none when it comes to market, product, and research trends. Whether it’s understanding millennial media habits or Hispanic buying preferences, understanding brand failures or Holiday shopping predictions, this is the podcast to download.

4. Market Recap Podcast: Bernie Schaeffer, Chairman and CEO of Schaeffer’s Investment Research, and his staff take the listener on a vast journey into market analysis. They discuss all topics Wall Street from a contrarian perspective.

5. Edge of the Web Radio: Although it focuses on online forms of marketing, this podcast does concentrate on the latest tech trends and how they may impact various forms of research. It provides very interesting discussions with round-table guests on where marketing is headed in this fast-changing world.

6. The BeanCast: The show proclaims itself as the “best marketing podcast anywhere.” Many in the industry agree with this claim, as do its high ratings. Veteran podcaster Bob Knorpp (also founder of AdAge Outlook) brings a weekly episode pregnant with the finest in marketing, advertising, and public relations.

7. Actually: A new venture by a joint venture of Quartz and Marketplace, combining the best of old and new podcasting. The show explores global business and entrepreneurship from a very intimate yet timely angle. The first episode was broadcast from Havana, dealing with the new market in Cuba, so you know this podcast means business for businesses.

There are definitely many other podcasts dealing with market research and its satellite topics. Like anything on the internet, though, it comes down to personal preference in the vast sea of free or affordable digital choices. It might take a little search on Google or iTunes (the latter which does a fit job of ranking), but the data in the form of sound waves is widely available.

If an individual wants to start a podcast on market research (or its satellite topics), in order to go that extra digital mile of competition, it’s actually not difficult or costly. Lifehacker provides an approachable but thorough tutorial. Regardless of what side of the microphone you choose to be, podcasts offer another dimension to the best possible market research.

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5 Historical Market Research Disasters You Might be Committing Right Now

Hinderberg zeppeling crashing against tower

Market researchers labor hard to make sure probabilities work to the benefit of their organizations. It’s as much of a numbers game as it is a value-finding egg hunt. After all, marketing campaigns are typically long and expensive, with failure something akin to the Hindenburg disaster (certainly one of history’s great marketing catastrophes, beyond the horrible human tragedy). Yet the reality is that there are instances where market research contributes to the very crashing of product zeppelins.

Here are some of the major misadventures of market research:

New Coke

 

 

This is easily one of the most notorious failure of marketing analysis, although some business conspiracy theorists contend it was a ploy to actually deepen the desire of an iconic product by its removal and return (Michael Jordan mastered this years later).

Regardless, the sad tale is that in early spring of 1985 Coca-Cola changed its formula after almost a century. The company feared that Pepsi was making too many inroads in the soft drink market. In any event, the release of New Coke was met with widespread resistance, including:

Protest groups — such as the Society for the Preservation of the Real Thing and Old Cola Drinkers of America (which claimed to have recruited 100,000 in a drive to bring back “old” Coke) — popped up around the country. Songs were written to honor the old taste. Protesters at a Coca-Cola event in downtown Atlanta in May carried signs with “We want the real thing” and “Our children will never know refreshment.

(Yes, we’re talking about carbonated water here. This underscores the power of branding.)

In July of that year, Coca-Cola switched back to the old formula.

What market research said: New Coke actually proved to be better in taste choices, not only beating Pepsi but also Old Coke. Some accounts report the company tested up to 200,000 consumers. Doesn’t get more mathematical than that, does it?

What market research overlooked: The brand Coke represented an American lifestyle from a bygone era. Furthermore, if it ain’t broke don’t fix, and change can be perceived as an admission of weakness. As marketing academic Daniel Turner said:

In a naïve way, it made perfect sense for Coca-Cola to improve its product, making up for a known deficiency versus a focal competitor. But it made a fundamental error in forgetting what value it was offering customers—brand associations of America, friendship, nostalgia. These are emotional associations we cannot ignore.

Protesters not angry at the Cold War but at New Coke

Protesters not angry at the Cold War but at New Coke

The Ford Edsel

 

 

This lead balloon is the quintessential poster child for a marketing research problem. Released in 1957, Ford’s new vehicle was meant to be the evolutionary zenith of automobiles. The Edsel, featured Teletouch steering wheel, electric gear-shifting, self-adjusting brakes, a nifty speedometer redesign, and many other gadgets. It ended up costing the company $400 million, never resonating with the consumer.

What market research said: Everyone wants an encompassing product that does and has everything (it certainly worked for smartphones and personal computers). That certainly should have overcome an unattractive name in a world with so many car models with odd names (the name actually based on Henry Ford’s son).

What market research overlooked: Being everything to everyone is not always a good idea (just ask Google+). Perhaps more than that, as a marketing source explained: “One of the biggest problems with the Edsel was that it was competing against itself, matching retail value on many of the cars in Ford’s established Mercury line without bringing anything new to the table.” Lastly, hubris blinded Ford during its golden age, making it perform one of the worst mistakes in marketing by offering “the answer to a question nobody asked.”

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

Calvin Klein’s Sex Sells Campaign

 

 

Calving Klein certainly made money pushing the envelope, as have many other fashion brands. After all, trendy often means counterculture. In 1999 Calvin Klein overstepped the line with a series of commercials featuring underage, barely dressed amateur models—in a wood-paneled room basement, being interviewed by a creepy middle age man. The commercials were certainly stylistic and highlighted denim in all its glory. The public blow back was intense, however. The company yanked the commercials within 24 hours.

What market research said: Sex sells, goes the conventional wisdom, and when parents feel offended it commonly means teens and young adults will open their wallets.

What market research overlooked: Market research methodology should never take conventional wisdom for granted. According to a 2007 study from the University College London, sex actually doesn’t sell:  “There was no main effect of advertisement type on brand recall suggesting that the presence of sex in advertising does not assist memory for the advertisement.”

More importantly, an air of pedophilia is never, never a good atmosphere for advertising…or really anything…

I don’t have to quote any experts on this. Look at the video:

 

McDonald’s “I’d Hit It”

 

 

McDonald’s launched in January 2005 a doomed banner campaign presenting a young man slobbering over a double cheeseburger. The young man says: “Double cheeseburger? I’d hit it. I’m a dollar menu guy.”

McDonald’s quickly pulled the advertisements before any instances of romance between human and burger. There is certainly an odd connection to this year’s marketing campaign failure from McDonald’s—where consumers could express romance before a cashier for a free meal.

What market research said: Young people develop a certain jargon. Being perceived as sensitive to their culture, like talking their lingo, makes perfect sense in a marketing plan template.

What market research overlooked: McDonald’s own marketing department admitted it did not research the term “I’d hit it.” They say content is king in marketing, but context can be the executioner. Research every term, and go here if you’re still wondering about “I’d hit it.”

mcdonalds_id_hit_it marketing failure

It would be interesting to see what interpretation McDonald’s would have of Britney Spears’s first hit single

 

Google Glass

 

 

Not too long ago, Google possessed the Midas touch when it came to anything in its grasp. That ended last January when Google Glass unceremoniously failed. The dawn of the wearable tech got a rude awakening with a resounding rejection from consumers. This seems odd, since outside of the NSA, Google leverages the largest sphere of information in the galaxy.

What market research said: If tech can be shrunk to fit in the hand, as with smartphones and tablets, why not other parts of the human body?

What market research overlooked: Everything, it seems. Privacy and price concerns alienated much of the public—and the fact Google released early copies only to rich geeks in the west coast, thereby branding the product as elitist instead of the “affordable luxury” philosophy of Apple. As a CNN story explained:

“Google’s fast retreat exposes the most fundamental sin that companies make with the “build it and they will come” approach. It’s a process that tech companies rely on, referred to as public beta testing.”

Speaking of, it should be interesting to see what happens to Apple Watch at the end of April, although it’s safe to assume it actually has done some market analysis.

(And I should bring up Google+ again, the Edsel of social media).

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Obviously there are often variables that no market research studies can predict. Ford couldn’t foresee a sudden recession in 1957 that crippled any possibility of saving the Edsel; Google can’t be blamed that America has entered an Edward Snowden era. Nonetheless, each of the examples above reveals serious blind spots in marketing research that were costly, if not sadly humorous.

Perhaps Jim White, a founding partner of RealityCheck, offers what is always needed for market research in his Greenbook article: empathy, experience, sharing, translation, and quality.

With these elements, surely some of the marketing Hindenburg’s could have been avoided. In the end, these examples showcase the limitations of market research—especially with its heavy leniency in number crunching and quantitative studies.

In the end, there are humans involved who tend to defy all probabilities.

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Is Predictive Analytics the Next Minority Report for Businesses?

One of my favorite cultural tropes has to do with one of my favorite writers, Philip K. Dick, and his work Minority Report (also adapted as a blockbuster movie, with Tom Cruise and directed by Stephen Spielberg). The storyline essentially deals with law enforcement having the ability to predict a crime before it happens (and arresting a suspect before he or she becomes a suspect!).

Predicting behavior before it happens: a trope many beyond the authorities would like to see as a reality—certainly in the corporate world where management eternally clamors to market research departments for the ultimate crystal ball.

In our tech era it seems science fiction is regularly an actuality, and predictive analytics is being considered as the (next) ultimate crystal ball.

Is it? What exactly is predictive analytics?

The Matrix and Big Data

I know that you know that I know what you’re going to buy

First, it should be mentioned that in order to be prescient, predictive analytics needs to be paired with big data (a tech buzzword that, like the word “gluten” in the food industry, many still don’t know what it is). Big data is basically information too unwieldy to be addressed by traditional databases and software. Massive data centers that look like the inside of the Death Star are required to store big data. Often the firepower of the Death Star is necessary to process big data.

I like how a tech expert simply defined big data:

It’s all about sorting variables and tracking them, piecing together things that humans can’t. Computers are very good at sifting tremendous quantities of information (with the right software, of course), and that’s the core of big data.

Google data center, where the Arc of the Covenant is also stored

Google data center, where the Arc of the Covenant is also stored

More or less going back to science fiction, in order to understand predictive analytics, picture all the digital numbers cascading down in The Matrix, with the business world attempting to be Neo after his resurrection. So far not many in business have become “The One” in their efforts to corral big data into consumer meaning.

Morpheus might actually represent predictive analytics, though, the carrier of the Red Pill to tap into big data. According one source, predictive analytics is:

Predictive models and analysis are typically used to forecast future probabilities. Applied to business, predictive models are used to analyze current data and historical facts in order to better understand customers, products and partners and to identify potential risks and opportunities for a company. It uses a number of techniques, including data mining, statistical modeling and machine learning to help analysts make future business forecasts.

In essence, it appears this is something close to the ultimate crystal ball. In the Huffington Post’s Can Big Data Save World? the author illustrates the potential in the marriage of big data and predictive analytics:

Online retailers not only know what you bought, they know what you considered buying (viewed); where you came from (prior URL); what path you took through their site; what you finally bought; and how you paid for it. They can even suggest products that appeal to your personal tastes and interests. In other words, they now have the information to create a unique shopping experience just for you.

Seems the Oracle instead of Morpheus might be a better illustration of predictive analytics (and if big data can’t save the world, at least we still have The Avengers). In fact, the company Oracle already provides predictive analytics software (as do Microsoft, IBM, and Microsoft), as well as other smaller companies in what is a blooming market.

Does predictive analytics work

I see dead shopping people

Here are some other ways other major players in the tech world are using predictive analytics to augur your very future:

Google: from trying to finish what you’re typing in the address bar with autocomplete, to selling its proprietary software platform, this company spends a lot of time kissing everyone’s kismet.

Facebook: Not a surprise to see this name as well, for your News Feed is all about knowing what you want to read at before even logging in. As an article in Forbes reported, researchers have concluded that Facebook “could predict our personality more accurately than most of our close family, friends, and maybe even our therapist.”

The Video Game industry: Okay, not surprising either, considering the amount of information that gets injected into the various companies from an industry that is larger than Hollywood. As an example, one source stated that:

EA games generate a whopping 50TB of data per day. This data is in the form of gameplay data, micro-transactions, time stamps, in-game advertising, multi-player information, and much more.

The piece concluded that video game companies “see the huge opportunity to customize gameplay, find new ways of monetizing games, and even enriching the gaming experience by making it social.”

Not leaving the basement, Mom, and I'm busy with important predictive analytics

Not leaving the basement, Mom, as I’m busy with important predictive analytics

All of this may indeed sound futuristic, and perhaps bordering on Orwellian, but the reality is that predictive analytics has been going on since someone told someone not to eat a fruit because they might venture on a fig-leaf shopping spree. Market research has been in the prophecy business for generations, crunching numbers in various capacities to understand consumer conduct.

As one MIT Professor put it, predictive analytics is basically “a way to predict the future using data from the past.”

All of us continually use the past to measure the future of those around us all the time, like during Thanksgiving with our families. The difference is that predictive analytics, along with big data, takes prophesying in a scope never seen before in the far reaches of the internet clouds. Not exactly science fiction, perhaps, but it certainly is a report that is not minor in any way.

Google’s Driverless Car Faces Significant Roadblocks

A few weeks ago, Google unveiled a new prototype of the driverless car, and sparked the imagination of people around the world. Unlike previous models, this version was designed entirely by Google and contains no steering wheel or pedals, making it the company’s first model to be entirely self-controlled. Consumer reactions were mixed, with excitement and support on one side, and skepticism on the other.

Google isn’t the first company to test a driverless car. The idea of a self-guiding vehicle has been around since the automobile was first created, and inventors have been testing prototypes since the 1920’s, but no one has been more successful than Google. This new prototype is the first of its kind that completely removes the steering wheel and pedals from the passenger’s control. Google announced plans to build 100 electric powered prototypes for thorough testing in the near future, which will be built by an unnamed company in Detroit. Those models will have a limited top speed of only 25mph for safety reasons, and should be road-ready within a year. Google isn’t the only company that is working on driverless car technology however, and some are even experimenting with larger vehicles. Peloton Technology, based in California, is currently testing self-driving systems in semi-trucks. Their program, which allows tractor-trailers to follow each other very closely in convoys, decreases wind resistance and fuel costs up to 10% for trailing vehicles, and 4.5% for leading ones. This could be substantial in an industry where fuel represents 40% of operating costs.

The practical applications are obvious, and companies are scrambling to spearhead the industry, but is society really ready for a driverless car? One major roadblock is human nature. People tend to be scared of new technology, especially when it removes control from them. According to a Harris poll of 2039 adult consumers, 88% of motorists indicated that they would be worried about riding in a driverless car, meaning that only 12% would feel no apprehension. Although many have embraced self-driving vehicles as a technology for the near future, some think of them as psychopathic vehicles that will terrorize motorways and run down innocent children in school playgrounds. Fortunately, Google has embraced the natural reaction of the public and is working to cultivate acceptance through strict testing.

Like any new technology, the driverless car is hampered by many problems and concerns. The systems used in Google’s prototypes are state-of-the-art, but still require a substantial amount of testing before they can even be considered for use by the public. Even with testing, things could still go wrong. Hardware can always malfunction, and programs can encounter errors. Consumers can’t trust their laptops not to crash, let alone a self-driving vehicle. In addition to this, a driverless car could be hacked or sabotaged. 39% of drivers surveyed indicated that they would be worried about hacking. The consequences of tampering with a computer-driven vehicle could be horrific. Therefore it is crucial that driverless cars be fitted with anti-virus software, and have safety features to prevent accidents in the event of a malfunction.

Legislation and regulations represent a significant problem as well. 59% of drivers surveyed would be worried about liability issues. Before a driverless car can operate on public roads, many questions have to be answered by legislators. For example: If a driverless car parks in a no-parking zone, who will receive the ticket? Should it be the manufacturer’s fault because the no-parking zone wasn’t programmed in? Or would the owner be ticketed for not supervising his vehicle’s actions? In addition to this, modern traffic laws are designed to accommodate human drivers. Artificial intelligence can respond to situations with staggering speed. Should driverless cars be allowed to drive faster and follow other vehicles at a shorter distance to mitigate traffic conditions? It may be some time before laws can be put in place to integrate human and computer controlled vehicles, and until those issues are solved, the driverless car will remain an ambitious dream.

Unfortunately, modern society is not ready to embrace a driverless car, but there is hope. Each of these problems represent a challenge and an opportunity for growth. If there is any company with the money and technological might to make the self-driving vehicle a reality, it’s Google, but it will not be an easy process. Challenges must be overcome, ideas must be accepted, and people must allow technology to flourish. It is human ingenuity that will pave the way for intelligent technology. For every roadblock in the path of the driverless car, there is a solution that can lead to bigger and better things.

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