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This $300 Billion Industry Has Been Outdated for a Decade. Here’s How to Fix It.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Phone services, particularly call center customer services, have lagged behind the growth of the technology sector. As technology trends toward interactive and user-friendly interfaces, phone-based customer service remains a frustrating experience that continually disappoints.

The worldwide call center industry is estimated to be worth $300 billion as reported by Tech In Asia. However, inefficiencies plague both the customer-facing side and business back-end of the customer service model. Companies struggle to manage the incoming call volumes, leading to extended waiting periods and the proliferation of ineffective automated voice systems. Customers are often left with a terrible impression that can have a significant impact on their brand loyalty and view of the company.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

An industry that needs to evolve

First call resolution (FCR) and service level/response time are often-cited metrics (as reported by ICMI) within the call center space that can have tangible effects on customer satisfaction. Improved FCR can reduce costs by minimizing repeat callers, increase employee satisfaction and directly correlates to customer satisfaction. However, the model is outdated for achieving such metrics, and removing the need for repeat callers by trending away from phone-only communication with customer service representatives is becoming widespread.

The industry standard for response time is roughly 80 percent, as documented by Call Centre Helper, of calls answered within 20 seconds. For people who are all too familiar with customer service lines, this typically does not come anywhere close to when a problem is resolved, or a human interaction is reached. Callers are perpetually frustrated with the experience as the prevalence of automated systems with limited options have increased.

A study by Clarabridge last year highlighted how the problems with the call center model are felt on both sides of the telephone line. Despite the industry standard of 80 percent of calls answered within 20 seconds, 46 percent of the respondents in the study cited long wait times as the top issue with call centers. Conversely, 86 percent of agents say they deal with irate callers, either stemming from long wait times or problems with the product/service.

The notion that a large percentage of customer service activity is conducted via telephone is relatively disconcerting considering the proliferation of technology over the last two decades. The large design space of the internet and the emergence of communication apps should have easily improved the customer service experience over the last decade. This is not the case.

Some companies have attempted to transition away from the phone service model by utilizing social media platforms and direct messaging. These models are often in combination with phone service systems and remain in their early stages. Others have focused on enhanced training and metrics for callers with solutions like BrainX to personalize customer service rep training experiences. Despite this, the new models tend to focus less on user-friendly interfaces and more on building upon an existing structure.

Related: Steal These 4 Proven Customer-Retention Strategies

Integrating technology for a millenial-focused customer service experience

While many businesses have stuck with the traditional call center methods, some companies have begun building technical solutions to ease the process and improve customer satisfaction by emphasizing a younger, app-prone generational approach. 

With some of this new tech, users can chat with customer service agents through SMS texting, audio files or even picture sharing — formats that notify customers when a human agent is available while they work on other tasks. Demand-based engagement tailors the experience to the customers and problems with repetition are removed by the ability to make service choices at their own convenience rather than being forced to press numbers at given times.

Related: 25 Tips for Earning Customer Loyalty

The benefits of this new tech extend past the customer service component of the user to saving costs for businesses on the back-end. Time consumption is reduced by at least tenfold for action to be taken, and incoming call volumes can be slashed dramatically reduced. As a result, costs for training customer service reps and building call center infrastructure decrease providing more profit to companies.

For millennials, the popular applications and services are those with the most user-friendly interfaces and best user experience (UX) that customer service can offer. By transitioning away from a severely antiquated model of customer service, predicated on 1990’s phone services, new tech is appealing to a younger generation of users and businesses looking to improve efficiencies.

Call center customer service has historically been a frustrating and time-consuming experience (think of all of the crappy hold music you’ve had to endure over a lifetime). If we can overcome the need for every customer service experience to be held through a phone conversation, we can do away with a customer service system that’s been outdated for a decade.

At the very least, maybe companies can start using Spotify playlists for on-hold music (one can only imagine).

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4 In-Demand Skills You Can Learn Online

Online resources can help you learn and earn more.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

High costs of college tuition and the growing abundance of online resources to learn about topics from computer science to blockchains have created an unprecedented opportunity for self-taught professionals and entrepreneurs. Consistently learning new skills and adapting to the evolving work environment is crucial to maintaining a fruitful career in today’s workforce.

Many college graduates do not even work in the field that they majored in, and instead, work in an area that they initially received a job in out of college or taught themselves how to excel in. Whether you’re looking to transition into another field or just want to learn some new skills as a hobby, the ability to do so has never been as convenient or powerful as it is now.

The increasing prominence of online education resources

In parallel to the proliferation of online educational resources is the explosive growth of freelancing. A 2017 study by Upwork revealed that freelancers are predicted to become the majority of the workforce within the decade. Many freelancers and entrepreneurs are self-taught, learning new skills on the fly out of a need to develop a professional talent or by meticulously studying a topic through online classes or reading.

Related: 15 of the Best and Most Unusual Online Courses for Entrepreneurs

The progression of the internet into its modern form has opened avenues for extensive, user-friendly, and affordable educational material for users of all levels of experience. Online resources for enhancing professional skills range from free university courses to standalone educational platforms that connect students and paid professionals. Some even offer informative games, impressive video tutorials and open-source frameworks for improving  content.

Here are four areas in which you develop skills and learn more about online.

1. Coding and software development

I taught myself the basics of computer programming in a prison cell by reading textbooks and using a number two pencil, without internet access. I know computer science can be intimidating for someone not familiar with the topic since it is often viewed as having an exceptionally high barrier to entry and robust prerequisite skills in mathematics. Thankfully, numerous educational materials are available for users of all experience levels to learn about how computers work and how to program.

These resources are not just relegated to proprietary online platforms either. MIT OpenCourseWare offers undergraduate and graduate courses on computer science — among other topics — online for free.

Platforms such as KhanAcademy, Coursera, and Udemy all provide their own courses on software development, computer science and other related topics. The material may be intimidating at first, but the classes are comprehensive and tailored to students of all talents with video tutorials, walk-through problems, projects and connections to top educators.

2. Languages

Learning new languages becomes more challenging as you get older, but the sheer amount of content and material available to learn new languages today is perhaps the best representation of online education’s progression. Services such as Rosetta Stone are established and popular among many people, but numerous other services have also arisen.  

Internet Polyglot offers courses on 21 different languages, Live Lingua is an entirely free full-immersion language course platform and mobile apps such as Duolingo and Busuu have skyrocketed to the top of the app download charts. The ability to speak multiple languages is not only helpful if you live in a foreign country or are traveling, but is a net positive for your resume that can even bolster your salary.

Related: Get Smarter About Business Cheaper With These 10 Free Online Courses

3. Healthcare and medicine

Similar to computer science, healthcare and medicine are primarily viewed through the prism of an exceedingly high barrier to entry. However, the notion that you can be successful in the medical industry solely with a doctorate is fading.

Online platforms such as Khan Academy and Coursera offer some in-depth material on life sciences, sports medicine and anatomy. Although they won’t provide the necessary material for becoming a doctor, they can help launch your career in the field or provide up-to-date content for you to refine your knowledge.

The prevalence of online education in fields including pharmaceutical medicine, healthcare project management and public health are also increasing. Once challenging areas of study to access are now widely available through platforms such as Class Central that aggregate resources from the top online universities in several fields. Subjects available in healthcare and medicine include clinical statistics and research, nutrition and epidemiology.

4. Blockchain

Blockchain and cryptocurrency exploded into the mainstream following the meteoric rise of the price of Bitcoin at the end of 2017. Despite the relative decline in prices over the past year, interest in the blossoming industry persists. Moreover, resources have transformed from obscure open-source Github repos to comprehensive courses on everything from understanding the underlying protocols to programming smart contracts. The demand for blockchain experts has officially exceeded supply, as reported by BTC Manager. That means, despite the volatility of the market, there’s still a huge market opportunity for anyone wanting to develop their skills.  

Kingsland University – School of Blockchain was the winner of the 2018 Stevie Award in the Innovator of the Year category that offers a highly touted and extensive suite of blockchain programming curriculum. Programs like those provided by Kingsland University were few and far between in the early days of blockchain technology, but now are vital to onboarding new industry participants and facilitating the transition of many programmers to the blockchain space. With industry partnerships — such as their recent one with the Tezos Foundation — Kingsland will be creating the much-needed talent pool that will drive future innovation and growth. They’ve recognized the crucial role education plays and they are getting out into the community and providing scholarships for career building education, with a nearly guaranteed job at the end of the training.

Related: Why Your Business Assets Belong on the Blockchain

Other resources for learning more about blockchain and cryptocurrency are Blockchain at Berkley and Udacity’s Nanodegree program on blockchain development. With the technology still in its early stages and blockchain developer salaries among the highest out of any industry, the opportunity to earn a lucrative income has never been so widely available.

The internet has created unprecedented educational opportunities for anyone with an internet connection. Previously restricted and highly exclusive material is now available for free to virtually everyone. For entrepreneurs and freelancers, online resources are crucial to gaining professional insights and building a foundation to advance their careers. I dedicate one hour per day to learning something new and even have it as a calendar event on my schedule to make sure I hit my daily goal. It’s so much easier to learn now that all of my notes don’t have to be scribbled down in a notepad using a number two golf pencil.

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The 10 Best Instagram Tools for 2019

You can be posting coffee art Boomerangs, like your favorite influencer, shortly after reading this list.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In June, Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, as reported by Statista. The process of liking photos, sharing stories and getting new followers has turned the platform into a social staple (even my grandma is liking cat memes on IG versus Facebook these days). More importantly, Instagram has become a goldmine for marketers, influencers and brands.

Here are some of the best tools available for obtaining insights, driving results and leveraging Instagram in 2019. Happy ‘Gramming.

1. Social Gone Viral

Developing organic growth isn’t easy. That’s why Social Gone Viral has become one of the leading organic growth platforms on the market. Social Gone Viral uses targeted marketing algorithms to help its customers get followers, comments, likes, sponsorships and more. If you’re looking organically grow, check them out. This tool can help you get trending posts.

Related: How 39 Major Businesses Use Instagram Stories (Infographic)

2. Magic Social

If you want a leg up on the competition or to emulate Instagram profiles that you admire, Magic Social is a great way to do it. Magic Social is a tool that allows you to track the activities of another profile on Instagram. The platform includes numerous services, such as benchmarking, side-by-side comparisons and engagement metrics. This is a great tool that helps you build similar audiences to your peers or competitors. 

3. Rocket Social 

Photos are hands down your most valuable asset when it comes to Instagram. So it’s crucial that you have constant likes and followers engaging with them. Rocket Social is an automation tool that increases engagement on your Instagram photos. Yes, some people warn against these types of tools, but a healthy mix of automation and organic is useful. You should ask all of your favorite influencers (seriously). 

4. Iconosquare

Social media and data analytics seem to be a match made in heaven. Iconosquare is an analytics and social media management platform that allows users to get in-depth information on followers, engagement, hashtag analysis and other social media metrics. The goal of the platform is to help users understand why actions have occurred through trends. It’s super useful if you’re building a business through IG.

5. Unfold

Instagram stories are still relatively new compared to all the other features present on the platform. As a result, many users haven’t learned to harness the power of them. Fortunately, Unfold is here to help. Unfold is an application that allows you to create videos that are both beautiful and professional, Unfold also allows you to save your Stories.

Related: 5 Ways to Help You Boost Your Conversions on Instagram

6. SocialRank

What is a profile without its followers? Success in the social world isn’t just about amassing a large number of followers, it’s about understanding and interacting with that audience. SocialRank has taken a unique approach to analytics by keying in follower demographics. On the platform, you can take in-depth looks at follower demographics, export different lists, identify your most engaged followers and much more. It’s a great way to segment and target your audience and followers. 

7. Magisto

After photos, video content is the most important asset on Instagram. That’s why Magisto is so great. Magisto is a video editing platform that uses AI to create business and personal videos. You give Magisto your content, and it creates an awesome video. It’s simple to use and churns out pretty quality videos.

8. Have2HaveIt

If you’re looking to sell a product on Instagram, look no further. Have2HaveIt helps businesses increase revenues on Instagram by providing a link that directs followers to ecommerce websites. If you like to shop for products, you’ve most likely come across the app. When you click on an image, it shows the various products and hyperlinks to a page that allows you to purchase that product. My wife says it’s the easiest way to shop online.

9. Sendible

Automation, automation, automation. Sendible is a full-featured social media management tool. On the platform, users have access to an array of services, which include scheduling and posting content, replying to followers, collaborating with multiple teams and developing analytics reports. Sendible makes it easy to manage social media on the go. It’s super useful for company branding versus personal branding.

Related: How Two Millennials Spun Celebrities’ Instagram Comments Into a Full-Time Job and 800,000 Followers

10. Boomerang

Boomerang is a tool made by Instagram that allows users to create short and engaging videos. The application works by taking a series of small snapshots and turning them into a video, similar to a GIF. It’s a fun way to create different and engaging content. Your favorite travel bloggers love to use this app to take pictures of their coffee overlooking majestic oceans or at their favorite waterfall. Please use it sparingly.

There are tons of amazing Instagram tools out there, but before choosing your tool, take the time to clearly define and understand your goals, whether that means getting followers, increasing engagement or tracking results. Once you know what you want to do, these tools will help you get the job done. Shoot me new tools I didn’t list on Twitter (@andrewmedal) or follow me on Instagram (@andrewmedal) to check out my latest coffee art.

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4 Cool Gifts for Tech Geeks for the Holiday Season

Work to achieve product-market fit for gift giving.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Holiday spending is estimated to hit $1 trillion this year, with PwC estimating that the average consumer will spend $1,250 on gifts, travel and entertainment.

Speaking of gifts, it’s never too early to think about what presents you’ll give your beloved geek friends. Rather than procrastinate and be caught in the last-minute shopping rush, you can get a head start working on that list right now. Besides, Thanksgiving weekend is also just around the corner, meaning you can take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to score the best deals.

Related: Holiday Gift Guide: What to Give Your Team Members

My team and I always like to find random cool tech products this time of year that I can send to colleagues and business partners. Here are four cool products we found that you can give to your tech geek friends.

1. MyHeritage

There was a time when DNA testing was just the stuff of movies and TV. Today, anyone could get tested thanks to home DNA test kits. So how about giving your friends a way to know themselves at a nuclear level with MyHeritage‘s DNA test? MyHeritage first came into the scene as an online genealogy platform that allowed users to upload family history and family tree data to its database.

The company offers its MyHeritage DNA as an advanced and affordable DNA test that reveals a person’s ethnic origins including the geographic regions associated with the person’s genes. Combined with the service’s database containing more than 6 billion historical records, it’s even possible for users to discover previously unknown ancestors and relatives.

Of course, privacy is an important concern these days. MyHeritage DNA tests are designed for the recipient’s appreciation of genealogy and only the person has access to the test results. Testing is also done in a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited laboratory based in the U.S.

MyHeritage DNA retails for $79. I bought this for family members last year, and they loved it. 

2. Nix Mini Color Sensor

If you have friends who do graphic design, you’re probably wondering if they see the world as you do. It isn’t uncommon to hear them drone about how certain designs could be improved upon or how something could’ve been shades of red lighter (this was taken from a real conversation I had with one of my graphic designer friends who complained about the red shade of my shirt!). 

If you have that kind of friend, then the Nix Mini Color would make for a great present. It’s a nifty device that can scan and match more than 31,000 brand name paints or digital color values. Its results can match to popular paint brands including Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams and Behr. It also provides color readouts in RGB, CMYK and CIELAB color spaces, meaning they can use real-world objects as a reference for their own designs.

The sensor is ultra-portable, measuring just 1 by 1.5 inches — smaller than a ping-pong ball — and weighs just 0.6 grams. It connects to smartphones via Bluetooth and has apps for both iOS and Android. The package comes with the device, a USB cable and a lanyard.

Nix Mini Color Sensor is available for $99. I’ll be buying this for my buddy.

Related: A Business’s Guide to Corporate Gifting

3. Anker PowerCore 20000 II

Battery life has always been a key concern of techies. Who’d have thought that a phone’s battery indicator showing red could cause people so much stress? What’s probably more irritating is how manufacturers have built the batteries into devices. You can’t simply swap out a weak battery with a fresh one. As such, a power bank is a must-have for any geek-on-the-go.

Boasting of a 20,000 mAh capacity means the Anker PowerCore 20000 II power bank packs enough power to charge an iPhone X more than six times (which is pretty impressive). It features Anker’s PowerIQ 2.0 technology that provides high-speed charging depending on the device plugged into it. It can even power larger tablets and other power-hungry devices. It has two USB ports allowing you to charge two different devices at once. Despite the large capacity, the power bank is still quite portable with an easy-to-grip sleek design measuring 6.7 by 2.4 by 0.9 inches.

Anker PowerCore 20000 II sells for $59.99 for the black version, $65.99 for the white. Because I’m on the go and travel so frequently, this may be my personal gift to myself! 

4. Geek Speak Magic Ball

Despite advances in technology, impromptu decision-making still can be tough. So why not help your friends simplify their decision-making and let randomness reign with this Geek Speak Magic Ball?

It’s the modern day iteration of the classic 8-Ball. Like the classic, the Geek Speak Magic Ball returns one of 20 possible answers only with a geek-speak twist. The ball can reply with quips like FAIL, WIN, meh, 404 error, LOL, PWND and O RLY. Great for those friends who work in IT. Sure, it’s a novelty item, but this one can be a nice display piece on a desk or shelf when the novelty wears off.

Depending on the seller, the Geek Speak Magic Ball can be bought for $7.99 at Amazon. I’m getting this for all of my different business partners, for those really tough business decisions we have to make.

Related: 18 Unique Holiday Gifts for Everyone On Your List

Give it some thought.

While you can always go the lazy route and just give friends Amazon gift cards, you should try to take the time to give your gift ideas a bit more thought. Surely, there are scores of other items that you can buy as gifts for your friends aside from the ones on this list.

For budding entrepreneurs, gift giving can be a good exercise in product development and marketing. It allows you to consider product features, quality and price while trying to take into account how well the gift would appeal to its intended recipient.

Ultimately, just do it to build the relationship and invest in your friendship. It’s always a nice feeling to be able to gift a friend something that they’d be able to appreciate knowing it matches their personality, likes and wants. Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but it’s even better when you get product-market fit for the gifts you give. That’s the ultimate goal. Happy holiday hunting. 

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The Case for Disconnecting and Traveling as an Entrepreneur

Yes, it’s imperative to work your butt off, but, although it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s also vital to drop everything and travel.

8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I just got back from my honeymoon to Egypt and the Seychelles islands, and it was life-changing. As I flew and traveled to my various destinations, I thought about traveling as an entrepreneur and how it’s been one of the best ways to grow personally and professionally. While a number of my trips in the U.S. and abroad were for personal reasons instead of business purposes, they all had an impact on how I ran my companies and my view on the world.

Here are some of the reasons why I believe traveling as an entrepreneur is vital to success and a few of the places I recommend visiting.

It’s easier and cheaper than ever.

First off, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to travel anywhere in the world. Personally, I like to ball out when I travel, but if you’re a bootstrapped entrepreneur, there are hundreds of different tools that can make your trip easy and affordable.

Kayak and Google Flights allow you to find the most affordable airfare possible.

Related: 5 Science-Proved Reasons Vacation Will Boost Your Brain

Entrepreneur travel hack: I put everything I charge on one business credit card that provides a ton of benefits and points. Using one credit card for all of my company’s charges creates a massive influx of points that can be used for airfare or lodging. I recommend United’s Visa or if you have the spend, the Centurion by AMEX.

While booking my most recent trip I used Booking and noticed that the site let me schedule a pickup and dropoff ride for the same price I’d pay for Uber or Lyft. So, instead of waiting for my Uber, my driver waited for me. This made the whole taxing process painless. I dug around and found out the service was offered by Mozio. They power Booking, along with Hotels.com, SkyScanner, Despagar and a slew of others who’ve integrated with their API, making it easy for travelers to schedule ground transport rides. As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking for ways to save time and cut redundant corners. Being able to book and schedule everything from one site, at the same price, was a big win in my book. You can see the excitement on my face below. 

Andrew Medal

Also, you don’t have to book a hotel anymore and can use Airbnb pretty much anywhere, if that’s your cup of tea. Its experiences are super cool too, which allow you to book activities at your travel destination. I’ve used it a handful of times, and have been more than satisfied each time.

You see the world from a different perspective.

If your business does any work with another country, you need to see the world from their point of view. It doesn’t matter if you’re outsourcing, purchasing products or selling your merchandise to those outside the U.S., it helps to learn how people approach life in general. This can help you with negotiations, marketing and understanding your customer in general.

I recently went to Spain. I have clients in Spain, and to see how they conduct themselves, the culture firsthand, and the day-to-day life of how people interact opened up my eyes. My clients are typically hard to get a hold off late in the afternoon. I’ve obviously known of the Spanish Siesta (translated to nap in Spanish), but until I was actually there in person, I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of what it meant. Siesta typically lasts from about 2 to 5 p.m. and pretty much everything shuts down: restaurants, businesses, even public transportation. If it wasn’t for going there and witnessing this in person, I don’t think I ever would’ve truly understood why I couldn’t reach my clients daily during their late afternoon.

Related: 7 Entrepreneurs Who Built Businesses Off Their Love of Travel

I also went to the Bahamas a few months ago. I stayed at the beautiful Baha Mar hotel, which was gorgeous and new, with a ton of delicious restaurants and a manmade coral reef on their beach. I highly recommend it if traveling to Nassau. While there, I snorkeled with all types of animals from squid, to sea turtles and even sharks. Snorkeling with sharks was incredible — being with sharks underwater created a million different feelings for me. I realized there were a lot of feelings that can be associated with starting a new business or daily emotions I experience as an entrepreneur, such as excitement, fear and uncertainty. Once we were done, I had a bunch of new ideas and mapped out a growth plan for one of my companies that had been an ongoing obstacle leading up to the trip.

Andrew Medal

The different perspective can be culturally or a natural shift in thinking like being underwater with a bunch of sharks. Regardless, the shift that occurs will benefit areas of your business you may not even imagine.

You’ll get inspired.

When you see the same things every day, you tend to get stuck in a rut. Traveling will open you up to new experiences that will inspire you. You may come up with a new product idea or see a way of solving a challenge you’ve been facing. Often, I find myself being hit with inspiration when I’m traveling and relaxing. While I consciously focus on the beautiful blue ocean or the fascinating landscape, my subconscious is solving problems I’ve been dealing with for weeks at home.

I also recently visited Kauai, where I stayed at the Kiahuna Plantation, a hotel I stayed at while I was a kid, and ate at some amazing local restaurants, including the Beach House restaurant in Poipu, Da Crack Tacos and Papalani Gelato. I always find that eating local cuisine, especially when I’ve never had it before, pushes me out of my comfort zone. Something as simple as eating different food or waking up to a different sight outside my window is all it takes to inspire me with new visions for my life, new ideas or to help existing obstacles I’m facing in any of my companies.

Andrew Medal

Entrepreneur travel hack: TripAdvisor is great for local info, but the best way to find the best local spots is to ask the locals! Anytime I travel I ask locals the best things to do, the coolest places to stay and the best food to eat. It’s a failproof plan to travel and experience the local culture.

You’ll recharge your batteries.

If you’re coming home every day feeling exhausted and simply have little desire to get up and do work in the morning, you need a break. Traveling gives you that. Get away from your normal routine and try something new and different. It’s not enough just to take a few days off work. You need to escape.

My most recent trip to Costa Rica was a complete escape for me. I needed a break from everything, so my wife and I took off.

Entrepreneur travel hack: I never turn my phone plan on when traveling. Rather, I just use wi-fi wherever it’s available. It’s so much better and allows me to stay disconnected rather than tethered to my phone, messages and emails. Plus, when I’m on wi-fi it helps me get things done faster, knowing I have a finite amount of time to use the network. I also use tools to keep me off social media, like Antisocial, an app that allows me to limit the number of minutes I am allowed on social media per day. It’s great to keep my habits in check.

Related: 4 Tips That Will Help You Actually Afford Your Dream Vacation

I’ve been to Costa Rica three times, and during this last trip, we spent most of the time snorkeling and white water rafting through the jungle. My wife and I love to stay in Manuel Antonio because it gives us the ability to go to the ocean and jungle easily. The combination of ocean and jungle is unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled; pair that with wild monkeys, fresh fruits, food and lush green wilderness and you’ve set the stage for the most disconnected and recharging trip of your life. When I came home, I felt completely renewed and ready to get back at it. Our favorite jungle tour company is Amigos del Rio, and we’ve white water rafted with them three separate times.

It’s easy to feel like the only solution to get more done is to work more hours, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. Yes, it’s imperative to work your butt off, and although it may seem counterintuitive it’s also vital to drop everything and travel. If you need to recharge, need inspiration or want to view the world from a different point of view, I highly recommend traveling. You’ll find that the many different experiences you have will make you a better entrepreneur.

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3 Ways Entrepreneurs and Businesses Can Benefit From AI’s ‘Third Wave’

Third-wave AI is supposed to be truly intelligent and most similar to human thinking, meaning it will make sense of the independent world and its varying contexts.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many might not realize it but artificial intelligence (AI) has ubiquitously made its way into our daily lives. For instance, digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri handle everyday tasks including scheduling reminders or playing your favorite morning jam. Support channels are being taken over by chatbots and you’re none the wiser.

Impressive as these applications may be, AI is entering its so-called third wave, which is set to create more interesting applications for the technology itself, as reported by Top500.org. Third-wave AI is supposed to be truly intelligent and most similar to human thinking, meaning it will make sense of the independent world and its varying contexts.

Related: How Artificial Intelligence Could Help You Design a Better User Experience

As an example, in this third-wave AI ecosystem, Mind.AI seeks to deliver a truly intelligent AI, with comparable mental intelligence to that of a human. Aside from being able to learn autonomously, Mind’s AI can generalize and even reason abstractly through natural language. Instead of using vast amounts of computational power, Mind aims to build its AI through patented proprietary data structures called “canonicals.” This enables the AI to construct models of how the world works, meaning it’s possible for the AI to perform context-specific tasks with a high degree of success.

While scientists and researchers are pretty excited by these developments, many entrepreneurs wonder how they can leverage the tech to their advantage. Fortunately, AI platforms and AI-driven cloud-based services are now working on making advanced capabilities available to ordinary users and smaller enterprises. Here are three ways third-wave AI can benefit them.

1. Better insights

Third-wave AI is capable of searching for patterns in large volumes of data and even across data sets. This could yield connections that have not been linked previously, resulting in new insights that could guide businesses in their decision-making.

Various AI-driven data and analytics tools are now available for use even by ordinary users. Growthbot, for example, compiles and analyzes marketing data and research such as search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, competitor intelligence and prospect leads. This way, you only have to ask its chatbot questions in order to get timely insights about your business and even your competitors.

Individuals can also leverage large amounts of communication data to gain insights about their professional and personal connections. Trove is a cloud-based AI-driven tool that helps users make sense of their email and social networks. Trove finds patterns in conversations and makes them searchable. This provides users with an accurate view of their relationships, helping them to better navigate their social connections.

AI can even be used to generate and analyze synthetic data (synthetic data is information that’s artificially manufactured rather than generated by real-world events), in order to make improvements in a variety of applications. Nueromation helps projects use synthetic data to help AI learn and improve its algorithms. Among its solutions are AI-powered cameras that feature superior facial or feature recognition capabilities. Accurate detection and classification could benefit projects working on security, retail or even self-driving vehicles.

Related: How to Make AI-Driven Emails Compelling Without Being Creepy

2. More effective automation

AI can also be used to automate just about any activity. Take personal finance. Micro-investing app Mylo uses AI to help ordinary users start an investment portfolio without any fuss. The app takes your spare change from purchases and invests the money in a diversified portfolio tailored to your preferences.

In the context of business, AI-driven automation tools are now being used in specific and specialized areas of business such as finance, manufacturing and task management. Roger, for instance, can automate the accounts payable flow, which is a mundane yet critical part of the business. Users simply have to scan bills and the system sends it through a streamlined process to ensure that bills are paid on time and reconciled with the books.

Third-wave AI could even bring further innovation to areas that are already benefiting from automation such as manufacturing. Manufacturing has largely been linear. But with third-wave AI, it might even be possible for processes to take on more dynamic and agile methods where systems would be able to work through sprints and iterations rather than in the conventional linear fashion. Hitachi already uses AI to automatically adjust equipment settings in every production run for greater efficiency, as reported by TechTarget.

3. Smarter assistants

Siri and Alexa might work wonders, but they’re still liable to trip even with some basic instructions. It’s because of these limitations that many of us still don’t pass on more serious tasks or decisions to AI.

Unlike Siri and Alexa, which only respond to one instruction at a time, new AI assistants such as Aigo are adaptive. They can remember and learn from your preferences so that they will be able to sustain meaningful conversations with users as if you are chatting with an actual person that knows you.

As a development platform, Aigo could be enhanced to deliver more specialized interactions allowing it to be used beyond personal assistance such as education and healthcare. It can also be adapted for use in enterprise and business applications similar to other AI-driven tools.

Related: The Real-World Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

AI’s (current) limitations

The third wave of AI is still ongoing and there are some kinks that need to be ironed out for it to meet our evolving expectations.

One example of the hurdles is called the AI black box dilemma, as explained in this piece by Sentient. Essentially, the AI’s decision-making process can become so convoluted that tracing how AI came to a decision can be impossible. A business using deep learning to improve its app design might be given the ideal solution by the AI. However, the business would still need to know the reason why the machine came to such a conclusion. Human decision-makers have the need to justify their decisions. Fortunately, a possible solution is to use blockchain’s transparent record keeping to keep track of AI’s “thought process” and make AI accountable for its decisions.

Instead of having these issues become knocks against the technology, these should be considered potential areas for improvement. In fact, it’s quite exciting that ordinary users and businesses could tap into these cutting-edge technologies. My recommendation is to subscribe to the various cloud and blockchain-based applications and freely experiment with them. You may even find that you can outsource the work to your new AI assistants. 

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5 Ecommerce Tools That Can Help You Score More Sales

Hustle isn’t the only tool you need.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s a great time to get involved in ecommerce, as revenues are on an upward climb. For example, in 2017, online purchases were responsible for 10.2 percent of all global retail sales. In 2021, they’re expected to grow to 17.5 percent of the market, as reported by Statista

However, running a successful ecommerce business isn’t as easy as putting up an online store. This fact may prevent many hopeful entrepreneurs to give up before realizing a profit or to struggle as they try to figure out where they are going wrong.

Related: 2019 Will Be a Revolutionary Year for Online Shopping

One way to avoid this type of pitfall — and to help entrepreneurial self-starters earn higher revenues — is to share a few simple ecommerce tools, all of which are designed to help sell products online and increase those sales.

1. BigCommerce

If you’re thinking about selling products online, you need a place to sell. BigCommerce provides that and offers ecommerce software that is designed for all sizes of business. The CMS helps you sell more by offering:

  • Visually appealing websites designed solely for ecommerce businesses including tools and conversion optimization features. 
  • Customizable options so you can create the best shopping experience for your specific target market audience based on industry, and simple to use drag and drop tools that will help you design without coding knowledge. 
  • BigCommerce’s site builder is awesome, but as your business grows, you may want to switch to a different CMS/site infrastructure. With BigCommerce’s API, this is easy enough for any developer to handle. This is what’s known as the “headless ecommerce” trend.
  • Many businesses consider Magento and similar solutions because they can host their own sites and tinker with the code as they like. Others prefer pure SaaS solutions such as Shopify because this puts the onus on providers to ensure that the site’s tech infrastructure and hosting are top notch and always up to date. Thanks to “headless ecommerce,” BigCommerce offers the best of both worlds. 

My software agency uses CMS platforms including WordPress, Joomla, Magento and even Shopify. BigCommerce is my team’s favorite tool for a number of reasons, including the above points. More importantly, apps can be easily installed. The platform itself is built with conversion optimization tools such as one-touch buy features that also provide a ton of value.

2. Oberlo

Sometimes an entrepreneur doesn’t even know what they want to sell before they know they want to sell products online. Oberlo is a perfect tool for this scenario, enabling an entrepreneur to customize, dropship (meaning they don’t have to hold inventory) and sell pretty much any type of product from bracelets to drones to sweatshirts. Or, if the ecommerce company already sells and dropships products, Oberlo can be used to sell new products. It offers a lot of great features including: 

  • Thousands of different products to sell, customize and ship. 
  • Automated product and order management, creating a more seamless shopping experience that can inspire customer loyalty.
  • Automatic inventory updates so customers can be assured that the items they want are in stock and available.
  • The ability to edit product descriptions and images so they’re more attractive to your target consumer, which can also fast track your search engine results in web browsers.

Oberlo takes the headache out of trying to figure out what products to sell or makes it super simple for an existing business to sell new products. In either scenario the value of the tool becomes exponential. What used to take trips overseas to find manufacturers, meet with product designers, buy massive quantities of inventory, etc., has all been condensed into one easy and effective to use application. 

3. Packhelp

One of the things that set Amazon apart as an ecommerce business is that products shipped from its warehouses are in branded boxes. Packhelp provides this service to other ecommerce brands, helping increase sales by:

  • Strengthening brand development and recognition,
  • Making customers feel as if they’re getting more than just the goods they ordered and
  • Offering a more personalized experience, setting your company apart.

Great customer service is one of the most fundamental but most overlooked activities. From a focus on customer service alone, Zappos and Tony Hsieh changed an entire industry. Amazon does a phenomenal job with customer service and it’s worth a trillion dollars. I love using this tool when shipping physical products. It’s an extra touch that provides your customer with one additional layer of service that may win them over or encourage them to refer you business. 

Related: How to Build a Profitable Business Online by Selling Nothing

4. Neatly.io

It can be maddening to have an underperforming ecommerce site, especially if you know that there’s a market for your goods. That’s where Neatly.io comes in because it enables you to improve sales by:

  • Compiling your data in easy-to-read graphs and charts, giving you a big picture view of where your ecommerce site may need to be improved to increase completed purchases,
  • Providing tips as to how you can improve upon problem areas and
  • Enabling you to set monthly goals, motivating you to keep making progress.

I’m a big fan of this tool for its easy-to-use dashboard and useful data. Data can be the biggest advantage you have as an internet entrepreneur. Data gives you the ability to know how customers and potential customers are interacting with your store. This data can help you make changes that will enable you to sell more. 

5. Intellifluence

Social media marketing is a must. One way to dramatically accelerate sales through social media is to get some of your industry’s top influencers on board. Intellifluence does this by:

  • Helping you figure out who those individuals are,
  • Enabling you to message them directly,
  • Giving you the opportunity to approach several influencers at the same time and
  • Powring you to do deals and measuring their success.

Related: When Selling Online, Make Decisions Based on Data, Not Your Emotions

In 2010, I became a co-founder of a sports nutrition company. One vital component of our growth and success that led us to multi-million dollar revenues in under a year was leveraging influencers in the CrossFit space. Influencer marketing has grown leaps and bounds since then but still plays a critical role, especially when executed successfully, to drive brand awareness and sales. This tool can help accomplish both. 

Connecting internet entrepreneurs with these new tools can help create systems that will make customers buy more, repeat sales and lead them back to your site again and again. Sometimes the difference between a successful ecommerce business and a failing one are the tools that are used in the backend. Hustle helps, but that’s not always the deciding factor. Stay ahead of the curve and on the hunt for any new tools that surface. Make sure you’re working smart and leveraging all of the tools at your disposal.

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5 Tech Trends Content Creators Need to Pay Attention To

Content creation will continue to evolve and morph, and as a content creator it’s vital to stay ahead of the trends.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Technology has provided new ways for creative professionals and artists to overcome the “starving artist” stigma and become digital entrepreneurs. Platforms including YouTube, Patreon and Shutterstock provide viable means for creators to publish and monetize their works.

However, there have also been some down moments. Constant changes in the monetization policies of these platforms have been largely considered to be disadvantageous to creators, compelling a number of artists to quit or, at least, threaten to leave, as reported by The Verge

Still, these issues shouldn’t discourage enterprising creative professionals to pursue their passions. If you’re a creative professional looking to leverage technology to your advantage, it pays to stay on top of trends. These serve as good indicators of where the industry is headed, allowing you to make the necessary moves to stay relevant.

Related: Preparing for the Future of AI

Here are five key tech trends that are set to change the landscape for creative content and content creators. 

1. Decentralized distribution platforms

One important issue for content creators is how to easily share and distribute their work. Blockchain ventures are building decentralized platforms that aim to challenge tech giants. Decentralized platforms promote openness, spurn censorship and reward their participants.

Projects such as TRON are working on building better global infrastructures for this. TRON has recently partnered with peer-to-peer (P2P) network BitTorrent in an attempt to further decentralize the web and provide more distribution. The effort, dubbed, Project Atlas, will incentivize users for acting as “seeds” who are peers who help host and distribute content. This encourages more participation and improves the network’s capacity. Users then get to enjoy better uptime and faster downloads.

2. Augmented and virtual reality

Improvements in mobile computing and display technologies are making augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) more affordable. Tech giants have all made huge bets in AR and VR since they recognize the potential of these technologies. 2017 saw $3 billion in investments pour into the industry, as reported by VentureBeat.

AR and VR have already proven themselves in a variety of use cases. In entertainment, the technologies are expected to provide more immersive gaming and live entertainment experiences. They are now also being used in teaching and in scientific research.

Ceek, as an example, is enabling artists and content creators to securely create virtual live concerts and merchandise. These items can then be used to enhance the audiences’ viewing experience during events broadcasted through VR.

Once AR/VR hardware and platforms mature enough to drive device prices down at the consumer level, there will inevitably be a large demand for content. As such, the need for artists working on visual and sonic content including motion graphics, 3D, sound effects and music will also increase.

3. AI-driven discovery and curation

Publishing platforms are also investing in using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to help them discover and curate content.

Netflix, for example, relies heavily on its recommendation engine to keep subscribers interested. Wired explains that 80 percent of shows being watched on the platform are recommended by the engine. YouTube and Instagram are also using similar techniques to drive content discovery.

Much like with how writers had to master search engine optimization a decade ago, you now have to figure out how to get these recommendation engines working to your advantage. This way, you can optimize your content and even launch campaigns to increase your chances of being recommended by your chosen platform and gain more views.

Related: These Bots Have Eyes: Why the Evolution of Visual Chatbots Is a Boon for Entrepreneurs

4. Machine-generated content

Speaking of AI and ML, several projects have also been trying to teach machines to perform creative work. Shelley, for example, is AI that writes horror stories, while Alysia writes songs.

Some of these AI are even good enough to be used for mainstream purposes. The Washington Post now uses an automated storytelling engine called Heliograf to write a number of its news articles. Other newspapers are also using AI to generate news updates.

As a content creator, you might see these projects as threats. But instead of being discouraged by these developments, you could consider it a source of motivation to hone your craft. Know that mediocrity isn’t an option when machines will soon be able to produce works of passable quality.

5. Sharing economy side hustle

The growth of the sharing and gig economies has been a boon for just about everyone. It has afforded professionals with ways to earn not only on the side but full time as well. Sharing economy revenues are expected to reach $40.2 billion by 2020, as documented by Juniper Research. 

Content creators can take advantage of opportunities to earn extra. You can try the more conventional route of accepting freelance gigs. Or, you can also rent out your equipment or computing resources during your downtime.

Designers, AI developers and filmmakers often invest in computers equipped with high-end graphics processing units (GPUs) that are capable of running demanding tasks such as image manipulation or video rendering. If you happen to have such a computer, you can rent out your GPU’s computing time to a platform such as Tatau. The platform pools together GPU power from renters for companies and projects to use in running their own complex computational requirements. You get compensated for the work your computer performs while others get to enjoy cost-effective and affordable supercomputing services. 

Related: How Investing in AI is About Investing in People, Not Just Technology

The takeaway

So how should you react to these trends? Here are some ways that you could make these developments work for you:

Embrace the changes. Progress will happen whether you decide to participate or not. So why not dabble in these new channels to see what they offer? This way you’d be able to check if it would be fitting for the type of content you create and your audiences’ preferences.

Find opportunities. Today’s successful content creators were fortunate enough to carve out their space in the market. Given the emergence of new platforms and tools, being an early adopter of these new technologies may give you the opportunity to be a pioneer and tap into fresh and unsaturated markets. Performing side hustles can even sharpen your skills or expand your network of contacts.

Focus on quality. One of the pitfalls of today’s content creators is the tendency to copy the formula of established creators. While there’s nothing wrong in drawing inspiration from others, avoid becoming a stale me-too. Find your own voice. Add some spit and polish to your work. Good content will always find an audience.

Lastly, be inspired and keep working on your craft. Remember that masterpieces aren’t created overnight (and neither are careers).

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4 Industries That Are Being Disrupted by AI

The top 100 AI startups of 2017 have raised $11.7 billion in aggregate funding across 367 deals.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The widespread disruption of AI is summed up best by Andrew Ng, the former chief scientist of Baidu, who views AI as the new electricity: “Just as electricity transformed almost everything 100 years ago, today I actually have a hard time thinking of an industry that I don’t think AI will transform in the next several years.”

While most large corporations are undergoing technological transformations to use, support or offer AI technologies, the real magic takes place in the AI startup arena. According to CB Insights, the top 100 AI startups of 2017 have raised $11.7 billion in aggregate funding across 367 deals, thereby making the market rich with innovations plus financial backings.

Related: How Investing in AI is About Investing in People, Not Just Technology

The most surprising AI startups and applications are those that are paving the way towards more unconventional verticals, such as insurance, background checks, real estate, health and retail. The unique application of AI in areas that aren’t traditionally high-tech is particularly fascinating for multiple reasons. For instance, it proves that with AI, all industries can be enhanced for greater efficiency and streamlined processes. When AI takes over time-consuming and tedious jobs, human counterparts are given more time for impactful contributions with greater value and tacit knowledge. Although many may argue that AI removes the human touch, it’s also important to bear in mind that it drives strategic and creative thinking at a larger scale.

Here are four industries being disrupted by AI:

1. Insurance

Insurance companies and their leaders have a lot to deal with lately, as reported by Deloitte’s latest market research report called Fintech by the numbers. As reported by Deloitte, “Political and regulatory upheavals around the world are changing some of the ground rules about how carriers are allowed to operate. An accelerating evolution in the way business is conducted is being driven by innovation and higher customer expectations, while disruptive newcomers are looking to take market share from incumbent insurers in the insurance industry.” 

Upheaval and changes create opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs, which is exactly what Lemonade is capitalizing on. Without relying on legacy players in the space, Lemonade blends insurance with tech and digitally transforms the user experience by appealing to consumers of all ages, removing costs and expediting claims. The data that is gathered helps drive efficiency and quantify risks.

In December 2016, Lemonade set the world record for settling a claim in three seconds using its AI-powered claims bot, which ran 18 fraud algorithms simultaneously. Its technology understands the nature, severity and urgency of most claims. If any claim is too complex, it gets handed over to human counterparts for further manual analysis.

2. Background checks

As President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda continues to be debated and laws are modified, employers need to keep a close watch on the reaction of the states to the administration’s federal employment law decisions. Changes made at federal regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) result in new business laws that can affect taxes and hiring practices.

State and local legislation will continue to be big issues in screening in the next year. In 2017, there was an increase in legislation that bans asking for salary history in cities and states across the country. There will be more of these laws introduced in cities, municipalities and states in the next year. Ban the box laws have been sweeping the country for the last few years. The newest ban the box law went into effect in California on Jan. 1, 2018. The California law, which involves both the public and private sectors, states that employers cannot make a criminal history inquiry until after a conditional offer has been made to an applicant. State and city ban the box legislation will continue to pass in the new year.

Related: Why Smart Cities Are a Golden Opportunity for Entrepreneurs

Thanks to the above, the background industry has seen a spur in innovation and growth. Intelligo is leveraging AI and machine learning to conduct background checks on people and companies in just minutes. This reduces the wait time and frustrations that are traditionally associated with the backlogs of federal agencies and large financial corporations that rely on human analysts to manually conduct granular research across multiple mediums.

Their solution quickly combs through thousands of data sources without concern of manual labor and offers a user-friendly interactive report, which presents actionable insights in a manner that is insightful yet easy to understand.

3. Real estate

In 2017, real estate accounted for about 13.4 percent, or $2.6 trillion, of U.S. GDP, as reported by BEA.gov. That’s more than any other industry, including manufacturing at $2.2 trillion. Real estate, as a whole, covers a number of market segments, including commercial industries such as construction and rentals to residential with consumer housing. Real estate construction alone contributed more than $1 trillion to the economy last year, while apartment rental properties are worth north of $1.4 trillion.

The real estate industry provides a huge market for opportunity. An example of AI in this space is from Compass, a startup that uses AI to connect potential homebuyers and renters with properties that best meet their needs. Though it is safe to say that there are multiple websites that offer a similar service, Compass perfected the art by breaking the mold and standing out. According to a representative of SoftBank Vision Fund, which invested $450 million in Compass, it is well positioned for future growth for building a “differentiated end-to-end tech platform that aggregates across diverse data streams to support agents and homebuyers through the entire process.”

4. Retail

In an age where many claim that we are experiencing the retail apocalypse, Inturn proves that is not the case at all. If anything, we are only experiencing the latest shift in retail trends. According to Business Insider, by 2021 most retailers will invest in AI and IoT technologies for supply chain automation, location-based marketing, customer traffic sensors, machine learning, asset tracking and big data solutions. Inturn uses AI to empower brands and retailers to use automated workflow tools, a pricing optimization engine and business intelligence to gain visibility of their business and simplify the buying and selling of excess inventory.

Related: Preparing for the Future of AI

As fascinating as these technological breakthroughs may be, it’s important to note that contrary to popular belief and Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters, AI is not set to take over jobs, or the world for that matter. AI exists to work alongside human counterparts for increased efficiency, so people can apply their skill sets towards more meaningful tasks without getting overwhelmed. Or, maybe AI will take over and rule the world, and make humans their working slaves (like when the FB chatbots started talking to themselves).  

Whatever the case, AI will continue to impact industries in the future, and it’s important for large institutions, decision-makers and enthusiasts to keep tabs on startups that are disrupting industries with AI so that they can stay ahead of the curve. And, potentially, stay ahead of the AI that will one day rule them in more ways than one.

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3 Startups That Are Using Technology to Reinvent Entertainment

These companies are using blockchain, augmented reality and 3D in groundbreaking ways.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For the first time ever, Netflix received more Emmy nominations this year than any other TV network, as reported by BGR. The video streaming company received 112 nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last month, beating out former Emmy dominator HBO, which received three fewer nominations.

The success of Netflix demonstrates the power of technology in the home entertainment industry. When Netflix debuted its streaming service in the early 2000s, it gave users access to thousands of titles with the push of a button. At the time, it was the first service of its kind.

Today, the streaming company has changed the way people enjoy and access entertainment at home and it’s led to an influx of similar companies offering new tech innovations in home entertainment with a variety of viewing options for consumers. In 2017, these video streaming services contributed to a 5 percent increase in home entertainment spending, seeing it rise to $20.5 billion in the United States, as explained by Deadline.

Related: Don’t Understand Blockchain? It Can Work for You Anyway, This Founder Says

Now new tech innovations are being applied to home entertainment, revolutionizing the industry even further.


Those who have heard about blockchain or are familiar with this innovative technology likely associate it only with the cryptocurrency market and most notably, Bitcoin. But blockchain is being utilized by a growing number of markets. The technology can be used to create a highly secure ledger of transactions, and its potential applications are numerous.

Hollywood producer Andrea Iervolino, best known for backing the James Franco film In Dubious Battle, founded a new home entertainment company TaTaTu and is using blockchain to reward customers. TaTaTu pays TTU tokens to consumers for watching movies, playing games and listening to music. And with blockchain,TaTaTu can record each transaction in an open distributed ledger, which ensures users get rewarded. The blockchain also ensures content providers are compensated by using a digital rights management platform to create an accurate record of work for talent, distributors and studios involved in the site. Eventually, tokens will be able to be traded for cash or used in the company’s own ecommerce store.

“Blockchain technology is providing the opportunity that rights holders are looking for. No longer will they have to take someone’s word for it when it comes to distribution across different territories,” Lervolino wrote in the company’s white paper. “Once we bring a system of digital rights management into place, rights holders will be able to see exactly when and how their content has been shown — via the irrefutable ledger that is the blockchain.”

Augmented reality

Futuristic settings in movies often feature some kind of augmented reality (AR). The technology lets users apply digital layers to the real world. In science fiction movies these layers often appear in the form of advertisements. Whether through a pair of high-tech glasses or some kind of cortical implant, characters see billboards and pop-up ads wherever they go. It’s like the notifications you receive on your phone when walking near a business, but instead, the advertisements appear before your very eyes. If you follow my articles, you know that I’m a partner of an augmented reality platform called FluffAR, which rewards users with cryptocurrency for viewing AR experiences.

Related: Upcoming Pokémon Game on Nintendo Switch Hopes to Capture Huge Mobile Fan Base of ‘Pokémon Go’

AR is currently being tested in the world of advertising to bring these ideas from the movies to life, but it’s also being used in innovative ways in the area of home entertainment. Tech startup Eyecandy’s augment.tv project lets users access digital overlays while watching sports, documentaries, kids programming and more. In order to see the digital layers, users point AR-enabled smartphones or tablets on a video screen. The digital layer is then overlaid on the content.

For example, when it comes to sports, users can see an overlay containing a newsfeed of relevant stats and data about the match, teams and players. And augment.tv will even give users the ability to replay content themselves. Other features will include letting users shop for the clothing and accessories seen in the movies or tv shows they’re watching.


While some companies are using technology to enhance a user’s viewing experience. Other companies are using technology to bring content to life.

3D technology has become ubiquitous in the movie industry. With dozens of movies being released in 3D every year, nowadays moviegoers have the option of watching most action blockbusters in 3D. According to recent reports by True Industry News, the global 3D and 4D market are expected to reach $168.6 billion by 2023.

Related: 17 Inspirational Quotes from Oscar-Winning Movies

New startup Urus is using 3D imaging technology to bring the 3D viewing experience home in a new way. The company is working to make movie and other video content scenes appear as if they are playing out in a viewer’s living room. Urus is using 3D technology to modify a user’s home scenery to match the look of the movie they’re watching. Using the technology they already have at their fingertips — their smartphones — users take a panoramic photo of their surroundings using their phone’s camera. This image is used to reconstruct a 3D model that then blends in the action on screen.

Just as Netflix revolutionized the home entertainment industry more than a decade ago, these startups are ushering in a new wave of home entertainment innovation, bringing technology usually reserved for science fiction movies, to life.

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