The days of hanging up on those pesky debt collectors may be coming to an end. Some debt collection agencies are now harnessing the power of Big Data to take a scientific approach to profiling those who are more likely to pay up, and then working with them to get the debt paid. Using analytics and applying algorithms to filter through the “water hose” of deadbeats to get to the few that are willing to pay will bring a bigger return for companies trying to recover their cash. This will allow collectors to focus on a more positive approach as well by enabling more “self-service debt repayment” through customized re-payment plans that are workable for those who really want to pay their debts. Big Data’s promise in this space requires a new set of skills though: it’s not about being a database administrator. It’s about being able to analyze data and hash algorithms. Expect debt collectors to start hiring scientists very soon. A scientific approach to getting you to pay your past-due Visa card is the wave of the near-future.
Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category
The tech community has been mostly unified in semi-harsh criticism of Microsoft’s Surface hardware. It’s like schoolyard bullies going after the geeky kid that stands by himself on the playground, thick glasses, and button-down shirt, twiddling his thumbs as everyone else plays sports (I know what it’s like — I was a geeky kid like that). Bloggers have been commenting about the seemingly deficient battery life, the weight, the size, and the cognitive dissonance of going back and forth from the Modern UI to the classic desktop. On top of that, many have been bloviating about how the “Surface is no iPad killer.”
Let me stand apart from the fray and discuss why I think the Surface devices are forging a completely new paradigm shift for computing.
When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, they ushered in the “tablet era” and revolutionized mobile computing. Although people have been moving to laptops and away from desktop computers for quite some time, in one fell swoop the iPad sped up the move away from being tethered to a desktop. Combined with the App Store, Apple made mobile computing and the cloud real for the masses. In my opinion, the iPad represented the first real example of how mobile computing and cloud technology combine to provide an experience of how people really want to connect with devices and each other. I knew something big was afoot when I was in a mall watching an older gentleman swiping through screens on his iPad. In one device, Apple captured how most people want to interact with technology.
Humans are funny creatures, however. They will naturally try to evolve their own perceptions of what a device means to them and try to make it adapt to their environment, needs and desires. People love the “lean-back” experience of consuming content on the iPad. But many wanted it to do more — they want productivity apps. They want to work with it. They want to always BE with it and make it an integral part of their lives. Many already do this with their smartphones. Inevitably, developers starting building apps to unleash the power of productivity on the iPad.
The app world has moved fast. Developers are innovating at lightning speed. Much faster than Apple’s UI and OS developers can keep up. Supporting two devices that are selling faster than Chinese kids can screw them together, combined with updating the OS and the built-in apps to keep up with how people are using them, has kept Apple on the edge of its capabilities. Compromises are made. The fragmentation of its operating systems are starting to show. The rough edges are exposed. The “old-school” textured backgrounds in iOS, the debacle of Maps, the bandwidth leaks, and so on show a company splitting at the seams with its strategy as it tries to stay the dominant player in the market.
Along comes Microsoft with a different perspective of how an operating system should support its users. Instead of two OS’s and a fragmentation between devices, Microsoft builds a new OS to blend the lean-back experience with the desktop experience and give the user control over how to interact with their device. They decide to build their own hardware to control the experience. They fundamentally provide a different perspective on what a “tablet” computing experience represents. Enabling the lean-back (what I call the “entertainment mode”) with the “productivity mode” in a form factor that supports both touch and input devices tells the world they’re not going to dictate how their users should interact with the device. In one operating system, Microsoft is saying, “you can traverse between your tablet, your laptop and the Xbox and determine how you want to interact with the device in a seamless fashion, picking up where you left off.” A completely different approach than Apple, which has a disturbingly complex and confusing cloud strategy, a stretched-to-the-max hardware strategy. It seems like Apple’s current strategy is to tack on a few “blingies” to the existing line and host a new launch party. (See the convoluted iPad product family as an example.)
Then there is the contrast between the user interfaces. Microsoft’s Modern UI is nimble, flexible, and approachable. iOS is still trying to shake off the legacy of the Jobsian look-and-feel, which is to try and be cute and clever with “real-world” textures and metaphors to physical objects. Firing Forstall was necessary, but Apple is years away from where Microsoft is already. Windows 8 begs you to touch. It wants you to interact with it. I’m tired of fumbling around iOS, falling into holes where the way I use my device is just not well thought out.
Having said all this: The Surface devices, in my opinion, represent how I will interact with my mobile device. When I want to consume content, it provides me a quick, snappy way to engage. It supports an app store experience like any other device. When I need to be productive and “get things done” I have the perfect interface in which to focus on work. I don’t have to try and make the OS work for me and accept compromises (I mean, just try to get Pages to really WORK on iOS — and many features on iPad’s version of Pages are different than OS X’s version).
Bloggers are beating Microsoft up, but history will show it has the right strategy. The Surface devices are representative of how humans want to interact. Sure, battery life will get better, the devices will get thinner. This is version 1, folks. Right now, Apple is the schoolyard bully, throwing it’s punches — but I’d rather be Microsoft right now: the geeky kid with the pocket protector, holding the key to “getting the girl”.
I’m quite frequently angry with Comcast Xfinity. I pay a small fortune for my measly 30 mbps Internet speeds and I’m lucky if I get that for longer than a second.
The idea of ubiquitous wifi appeals to me. I think it should be regulated, to a degree, by those who maintain it. But being able to always be online, eliminating ridiculous fees I pay each month to both Verizon and Comcast? Well, let’s just say I support the idea of free public wifi as a right (right to pursue happiness perhaps?).
Much to my surprise, the FCC agrees. The FCC wants a free, public WiFi net, nationwide. If approved, it would take a few years to put together and launch, but their plan is extensive and far-reaching.
“We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.”
Of course, the carriers – everyone from Verizon and AT&T to Qualcomm – have issues. This would put their current business models at risk.
But according to this Washington Post article, this planned WiFi net would make it possible for heart monitors to communicate with hospitals over a mile a way, and would make things easier for emergency response teams in times of crisis. That’s a large and strong network they’ve got in mind.
The new plan has the backing of both Microsoft and Google, who see ubiquitous wifi as a way for everything from more tablets to robots and self-driving cars to access the Internet. These two companies see the FCC’s plan as viable and a step forward, paving the way for things to come. Ubiquitous wifi, clearing away the monetary broadband gap between upper and lower classes, could bring an explosion of new innovation.
Like anything coming out the government, this has to go through countless committees for approval. With the lobbying power of companies like AT&T, Verizon, Qualcomm, and Intel, this could be stopped dead in its tracks. For now, at least, I’m a bit comforted that the FCC is on the same page as me.