Volkswagen gives Siri the keys to your Car.

This week, Apple and Volkswagen are strengthening their relationship as its VW Car-Net App gets a little more sophisticated.  In an updated version, iOS users are able to check estimate mileage with the fuel or charge left in their vehicle, and enable alarms.  They will also be able to ask Siri to lock and unlock their cars.

The app is not free to all VW owners though and users must pay a monthly subscription. However, the price will allow customers to ask Siri to start and stop a charging session for their electric car or to turn on the defroster. They can also set a specific temperature…handy as we come into winter!  Security and service are also at the forefront of the new developments. Other features also include the ability to track a vehicle, set a geo-fence for it and access the diagnostics remotely.

Apple are not alone in working on their smartcar technology. Amazon have been continuously seeking to integrate its Alexa assistant into cars.  Indeed, back in September, Our Week in Digital reported that Amazon were set to release Echo Auto; a product which would bring the assistant into cars that weren’t initially built for it.

It is rare that Apple have to play catch-up, but on this occasion, it looks to be the case! To ensure that they continuously remain competitive and relevant in this space,  these new Siri shortcuts are essential.

Which? name the best and worst of Online Retailers.

Recent data from Empathy Broker, highlights that 51% of UK consumers prefer shopping online and that 55% of us bought more things online this year than the year before.  It seems then that the battle for our online retail attention is bloodier than ever.

Having a positive reputation amongst the consumer; one which allows you to stand out from the crowd is essential in securing success within this changing face of retail.  

This week a consumer group, Which?, have released the findings of their survey pinpointing the best and worst of British online retail.

10,000 member respondents were asked to rank their experiences of online shopping right across the user experience.  When giving their answers, they were to consider factors such as price, product range, deliveries, quality and the returns process.

According to those consumers asked, Homebase runs Britain’s worst online shop, whilst LizEarle.com offers the best service.

Following the results, Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine, said: “The online shops with the happiest customers tend to be the ones that offer a personal service, quality items and deliver quickly and conveniently….where the big players are lacking, either with poor service or confusing websites, smaller more specialised online retailers have seized the opportunity to make their mark and give shoppers exactly what they want.”

It seems then, that with regard to eCommerce, small is beautiful and that the high street big-hitters could learn a thing or two from their smaller counterparts.  As we step ever further toward Black Friday and Cyber Monday, maybe it would help to learn who was featured in the report…good and bad! For a full rundown of results, follow this link to read the full article.

We recently wrote a fascinating blog about the future of eCommerce and the importance of being a progressive voice amongst the throng.  It is a changing environment; one which requires retailers to be on top of their game. They must embrace innovation whilst being mindful of the customer experience.  Results from surveys such as this only serve to highlight these principles. Read it here!

IMF suggest governments set up their own crypto-currencies.

This week it has been suggested by the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, that governments could consider offering their own cryptocurrencies to prevent the systems becoming havens for money launderers and fraudsters.

Speaking of the fast-growing Fintech industry, she suggests that a central bank regulated system could become the basis for a rapid expansion of financial services.  Customers in the developing world and the poorest people in western societies could be offered these services without the risks associated with privately managed digital currencies.

Speaking at a fintech conference in Singapore, Lagarde said central banks would take over the processing of transactions while private-sector providers offered innovative services to customers.  She goes on to outline the advantages of introducing such a scheme;

“The advantage is clear. Your payment would be immediate, safe, cheap, and potentially semi-anonymous…central banks would retain a sure footing in payments. In addition, they would offer a more level playing field for competition, and a platform for innovation. Meanwhile, your bank or fellow entrepreneurs would have ensured a friendly user experience based on the latest technologies”.

The model is already being considered by some governments across the globe.  Sweden’s central bank has run tests, and the IMF has credited Canada, China and Uruguay as also moving ahead with plans to provide a digital currency.  She added though that the case for digital currency “is not universal”  and it should be investigated “seriously, carefully and creatively”.

Despite Lagarde’s endorsement, the IMF’s proposal is likely to be greeted warily by many digital currency operators.   One of the main attractions of their technology is that it lies outside the mainstream banking system. The involvement of a central bank could be seen by traders and users alike as imposing heavy-handed regulations…ones that could slow down transactions and raise costs.

Conversely, businesses wishing to use the underlying blockchain technology to process transactions are likely to welcome the IMF’s endorsement.  The involvement of central banks will serve to preserve the integrity of new financial systems and provide a level of security which may attract new customers.  Additionally, having a centrally regulated currency could provide a more stable trading platform, something which has been lacking in recent times.

It is certainly an interesting debate, and we’d love to hear your views.  Please leave your comments below!

SAP acquire US firm Qualtrics for $8bn

Software provider SAP is Europe’s most valuable tech firm.  This week SAP extend their portfolio as they buy survey company Qualtrics in an $8bn cash payment.  The deal was finalised just days before the US company was due to go public in what was anticipated to be a $5bn float.

Qualtrics were founded in 2002.  They service 9,000 business customers, providing them with both survey and research software.  

It would appear that big software companies are manoeuvring to stay ahead of developments in cloud software from fast-growing software start-ups.  2018 has been witness to some other exciting acquisitions among the software space. A $34bn pricetag secured Red Hat for IBM and GitHub were snapped up by Microsoft.  Meanwhile, Adobe secured marketing software company Marketo for $4.75bn

SAP chief executive Bill McDermott said Qualtrics’ upcoming listing was already oversubscribed. The company reported a small profit in its most recent filing of $1.5m with $290m in revenue.  To put this into some sort of context, its biggest rival, Survey Monkey, went public in September valued at around $1.25bn. Qualtrics however, has been growing faster and is more profitable.

Both parties seem to be rubbing their hands together with glee as a result of this latest team-up.  

In a statement following the deal, Mr McDermott can be quoted as saying that “This is the No. 1 most transformative thing I’ve ever been involved in.”, whilst Qualtrics chief executive and founder Ryan Smith said the deal would put its software “everywhere overnight”.  Indeed, it is expected that Qualtrics will use the gargantuan weight of Germany’s largest software company to put its software behind billions of global transactions.

Google help to create an AI assistant for Doctors and Nurses.

Last week “Our Week in Digital” reported on the innovative AI health centres being set up across the UK next year, and this week sees the world of healthtech take another interesting turn.  Google announce they are absorbing DeepMind Health, a part of its London-based AI lab, DeepMind.  This is a move which will see DeepMind develop its revolutionary Streams App into “an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors”; one that combines “the best algorithms with intuitive design.”

Currently, the Streams app is being piloted in the UK as a way to help health care practitioners manage patients.

DeepMind says its Streams team will remain in London and are committed to its ongoing work with the NHS.  One of these being the collaboration with Moorfields eye hospital which we reported on last week.

Despite this news being described by DeepMind’s founders as a “major milestone”, the developments are set to cause concern amongst some critics, especially with regard to data privacy.  Back in 2017 it was ruled by data watchdogs that an early partnership DeepMind struck with the NHS was illegal.  It was successfully argued that individuals hadn’t been properly informed about how their medical data would be used.  There is also an ongoing worry amongst privacy advocates across the UK about Google getting their hands on this level of sensitive information.  At the current time, it’s not clear what the absorption of the Streams team into Google means in this context but a report from CNBC suggests that the independent review board DeepMind set up to oversee its health work will likely be shut down as a result of the move.  Something which will not put the minds of the critics to rest.

Looking at this development in a wider context certainly underlines Google’s ambitions to make waves in health care.  Indeed, the newly appointed CEO of Google Health, David Feinberg has a mission to restructure all of Google’s disparate bets in health; hardware and algorithms included.

We will watch on with interest as Feinberg takes on his new position, and what this may mean for the future of healthcare in this country.  It certainly seems as though AI will dominate the space. One thing is clear, however. Tech giants and their partners will undoubtedly play a considerable role in how we are managed, diagnosed and treated in the future.

Wearable tech to transform the lives of “thousands more” Diabetes Sufferers.

Here’s a question for you!  What do singer Nick Jonas, actress Halle Berry and Prime Minister, Theresa May all have in common? Not a lot on the face of it, but the answer lies in their Type 1 Diabetes diagnoses.

This week it has been announced that NHS England are issuing a wider rollout of wearable tech which will allow more Type1 Diabetes sufferers to better manage their condition.  The tech comes in the form of a wearable glucose monitor; a device that will potentially transform the lives of some of the 300,000 sufferers of the condition across the UK.

Formally, access to these wearable glucose monitors was limited to only a small number of those patients eligible.  Indeed, only 3-5% of type 1 patients in England had access to the monitors on the NHS, when 20-25% were suited to the device.

The Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system consists of a tiny sensor inserted under the skin of the arm which is connected to a small transmitter patch on the surface of the skin.  The sensor then reads the blood sugar levels from fluid just beneath the skin. It transmits the data, displayed in the form of a graph wirelessly to a display on a portable reader held near the sensor.  As a result, Type1 sufferers from across the UK will be free from the pain and inconvenience of having to perform finger prick blood tests. Some patients have to perform such tests up to 8 times a day.

Quite unsurprisingly, this move has been welcomed by patients, health professionals and Diabetes charities alike.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the announcement would be “welcome news to the many thousands of people with type 1 diabetes whose lives will now be changed for the better by access to flash glucose monitoring”.   

It also underlines the progressive attitude NHS England are showing.  They are constantly embracing revolutionary technology in our digital world.  This is only confirmed by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, who said digital health and technology would be at the heart of NHS England’s long-term plan.

Facebook take on LinkedIn as a career portal.

As recruiters, LinkedIn is our Holy Grail.  Its functions are wide and far-reaching; allowing us to resource the best tech & digital talent from across the UK, Europe and further afield. For job seekers, it is also a wealth of resource. Insightful industry blogs, job seeking guidance and its undeniable networking opportunities make it a platform that cannot be ignored if you are looking for a new opportunity.  

This week Facebook look to take on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking site.  Thus far, over one million jobs have been secured through Facebook, but it was announced earlier in the week that they have taken the next step in strengthening their proposition.  It has launched a new education portal, ‘Learn with Facebook’; and it is expanding features for two fellow services previously launched adjacent to that; Mentorships and Jobs.

The new ‘Learn with Facebook’ will begin with 13 “modules” and is focussed on professional development.  Each bite-size tutorial will last less than 10 minutes and will be largely geared toward the kind of professional development that would be useful for someone who uses Facebook for work or might start using Facebook to find a job.  For example, topics of study will cover things such as social media marketing and digital storytelling along with how candidates may boost a CV or ace an interview. The current content has been created working in partnership with outside agencies, something which will be continued in the future.

This start point is only the tip of the iceberg.  Fatima Saliu, head of policy marketing at Facebook confirmed that looking to the future,  “we do intend to build out the content to make sure we are evolving with the market economy and job skills.”  In fact, the long-term plan is to upskill 1 million of the US workforce and small businesses in digital skills by 2020.

By comparison…well, there is no comparison!  LinkedIn have confirmed that they have a course back catalogue of more than 13,000 pieces…an inventory that was boosted by the acquisition of Lynda.com in May 2015.  More recently too, LinkedIn have partnered with several third parties to start integrating a huge number of new pieces into the platform.

The plethora of content LinkedIn can provide however does come with a monthly subscription fee.  Whilst (for the moment at least), the career development offering from Facebook remains free.

This news is certainly indicative of the intent to diversify the social media platform and in turn the reasons why people may visit it.  Last quarter, the company saw their user growth shrink to below 2% globally; holding steady in the US and Canada and decline in Europe. The company have not enjoyed good press of late, and it seems that the “Fake News”, data breach scandals and election swaying allegations have taken their toll on the usership of the site.  Building new applications and providing new reasons for engagement seems timely and wise.

To read more about ‘Learn with Facebook’, its Jobs and Mentorship offerings click here on the links provided for a full rundown.

About the author: I work hard to find the best opportunities for my candidates and the best talent for my clients. My honest and pragmatic approach helps me to build lasting relationships and deliver real value.  I have extensive experience helping organisations overcome their critical challenges in the digital environment, and have worked with everything from start-ups to major global brands.

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