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GoPro camera tech could come to robots, smart home devices, and more

GoPro Tips

Sure, GoPros are known as action cameras — but what if the tiny cameras could work as a robot’s eyes or to supply visual data to a smart home? That’s the idea GoPro is exploring with an agreement with Jabil, a company that works in supply chain management for tech companies.

Announced on Thursday, March 22, the agreement is a global equipment license that spans several years. It allows Jabil to produce lens and sensor models that will allow GoPros — or GoPro-branded technology, anyway — to be added into third-party products.

While GoPro hasn’t shared exactly what that integration could look like, Sandor Barna, GoPro CTO, shared some possibilities. “This collaborative approach with Jabil will enable innovative, GoPro enabled products and services from some of the most exciting hardware and software companies out there,” Barna said. “Imagine a world where video conferencing, robotics, and even self-driving cars are powered by GoPro’s camera lenses and image sensors. Together, GoPro and Jabil can make this a reality.”

The agreement includes a range of GoPro products, including cameras as old as the Hero4 through the latest Hero6 camera. Integrating an existing camera — especially a budget option like the older Hero4, could potentially help third-party companies control the cost of integrating a camera into their products. As tech from smart homes to self-driving cars grows, cameras are being integrated into more devices.

The agreement could also help the action camera company, which announced a restructuring plan late in 2016. Since then, the company also grounded its drone, the Karma, and laid off staff. GoPro is slowly recovering now, however, with the Hero6 bringing it back to profitability — for the first time in two years.

You may not know Jabil, but it’s a company GoPro has worked with before. “This agreement is a natural extension of our long-standing relationship with GoPro and our commitment to developing innovative technologies,” Irv Stein, vice president of Jabil Optics, said. “Early market feedback indicates strong demand in the enterprise action camera segment for applications in smart homes, military, fire, police, rescue, and security.”

Jabil’s optics division offers optical design and engineering, along with manufacturing and supply chain management. The company says they work with brands to keep up with the fast pace of technology and innovation.

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Video of fatal Uber crash raises more questions than it answers

Uber has put the brakes on its experimental autonomous vehicles in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto for an unspecified duration of time following a deadly collision Sunday evening between an Uber vehicle and a woman in Tempe, Arizona, according to TV station ABC15. Video footage taken by the car’s onboard camera and released by the Tempe police department raises more questions than it answers.

The incident likely marks the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle. The city’s police chief told the San Francisco Chronicle the preliminary investigation suggests Uber isn’t to blame in the crash.

49-year old Elaine Herzberg, who was struck while pushing her bike and later died from her injuries, was walking outside of the crosswalk, according to a Tempe police department statement. The car was operating in self-driving mode, the police said, but a vehicle operator was behind the wheel at the time. It was traveling at 38 mph in a 35 mph zone when it hit Herzberg and it made no attempt to brake or swerve. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it planned to open an investigation of the incident, noting “more to come.”

The footage highlights several important details. First, it shows Herzberg was already well into the roadway when the prototype hit her. This contradicts earlier reports claiming she darted across the road at the last minute. It consequently also raises the question of why the armada of sensors — including some that see at night — didn’t recognize a pedestrian and a bicycle on a dark but otherwise clear street.

Second, the video confirms the prototype’s operator took her eyes off the road for several seconds at a time in the moments leading up to the crash. We don’t know if that’s a violation of Uber’s operator guidelines. We’ve reached out to the company for clarification and we’ll update this story as soon as we hear back.

The video represents the most important piece of information in the investigation. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Sylvia Moir, Tempe’s police chief, concluded. But while Uber’s prototype might not be to blame, the operator behind the wheel could ultimately face charges.

“I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” Moir said. “I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the (backup driver) in the Uber vehicle,” she added.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also tweeted his condolences about the sad news, noting that “we’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” an Uber spokesperson told Digital Trends. The company described the pause in its autonomous vehicle program as “a standard move.”

Arizona has seen an alarming number of pedestrian deaths this year. A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association released March 1 said Arizona had the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the nation, based on available data from 2017.

Autonomous vehicles from Uber have been operating in Arizona since February 2017 as part of a national series of tests of self-driving vehicles.

USA Today reports that the vehicle operator, 44-year old Rafaela Vasquez, served almost four years in an Arizona prison in the early 2000s for an attempted armed robbery conviction. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment to the paper on the conviction or the company’s hiring policies, citing an active investigation.

The complete Tempe Police Department statement:

“We wanted to provide an update to the Uber accident that occurred overnight on Mill Ave. just south of Curry Rd. The vehicle involved is one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles. It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel. The vehicle was traveling northbound just south of Curry Rd. when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle. She was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries. Her next of kin has not been notified yet so her name is not being released at this time. Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation.”

Anthony Foxx, who served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama, urged a greater emphasis on self-driving car safety in his own statement:

“There is still so much to know about the Tempe driverless car accident resulting in a loss of life. That said, this is a wake up call to the entire AV industry and government to put a high priority on safety.”

Updated on March 22nd: added video of the crash.

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Accent Launches CRM Supercharger Application

Accent Technologies this week announced the release of its new CRM Supercharger application, which guides selling and sales performance by applying intelligent data analytics to sales and buyer engagement data.

Like all of Accent’s products, the Supercharger application is based on the Software as a Service model. It targets mid-sized to large business-to-business companies.

The Supercharger works with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and SugarCRM.

Salesforce and SugarCRM implementations are built natively, according to Pete McChrystal, CEO of Accent Technologies.

The Salesforce version is currently in production, and the SugarCRM version is scheduled for release late April. All others will be available through iFrame, he told CRM Buyer.

Supercharger Capabilities

The CRM Supercharger’s intelligent algorithms map email and calendaring data into the CRM package on which it sits.

It is driven by Accent’s Synthesis Analytics Engine, a big data analytics engine focused on B2B sales, which took the company more than three years to develop.

Among the operations the Supercharger can carry out:

  • Evaluates, scores and qualifies sales opportunities based on the user company’s standard models;
  • Uses machine learning to improve those models;
  • Dynamically tests opportunity and buyer activity; and
  • Pushes real-time notifications and prescriptive recommendations — next steps, relevant content to share with buyers, and even situational sales plays to run — directly to reps on its native CRM dashboard.

It also offers performance management through better deal and pipeline management, in-context coaching, and more accurate forecasting.

Pricing starts at US$50 per user per month.

Getting Better Results from Sales

“Accent is a sales enablement solution that primarily provides sales content management,” noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Extending out to sales productivity is a natural next step,” she told CRM Buyer.

Artificial intelligence is “a critical aspect to supercharging seller performance so [sales teams] spend more time on selling and less on manual data entry,” Zhou said. “Intelligent data analytics helps sellers focus their time and attention on the challenges customers face, and deliver improved engagement.”

Improving engagement is crucial. Over the past five years, sales reps’ successes at meeting quotas have declined, falling from 63 percent in 2012 to 53 percent 2017, based on a study from Miller Heiman Group and CSO Insights.

Above and Beyond

Several existing CRM providers offer the features Accent’s Supercharger does, but most charge extra for them, Zhou noted.

Many of those providers “rely on point solutions within their app exchanges to deliver some of this functionality, usually piecemeal,” Accent’s McChrystal pointed out. “We view our CRM Supercharger offering as comprehensive, competing with [Salesforce’s] Einstein.”

Toe to Toe With Einstein

Accent’s Supercharger differs from Einstein in several ways, McChrystal said, including the following:

  • Einstein relies solely on historical data to recommend future actions;
  • Accent offers sales leadership expertise; and
  • The Accent Supercharger uses visualizations to depict sales situations for fast, easy comprehension.

Reliance on historical data to recommend future actions “is dangerous in B2B sales because teams need to change objectives and strategies constantly,” McChrystal noted.

Accent uses standard models — desired behaviors and benchmarks — combined with historical data to guide sales teams. It uses machine learning to recommend adjustments to the standard models.

The ability to adjust the standard models is critical. Static infrastructure and failure to tightly monitor and actively control models are among the challenges model-driven companies face as they try to leverage data science, according to Domino Data.

“We use both historical data [and] the ability to account for new sales initiatives, product launches and targeted verticals,” McChrystal remarked. “Einstein doesn’t take new sales initiatives into account.”

Based on Einstein’s release notes, users need 1,000 leads created over the previous six months, and sales reps have to convert at least 120 leads during that period, McChrystal pointed out, “whereas, with our solution, you can get the benefits of opportunity/account scoring from day one.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Squandering Customer Loyalty Is Risky Business

Customers often make investments in their relationships with the businesses they choose to patronize. There is plenty of competition, so companies must pay attention to this. It’s only when a company respects and wants a customer as much as the customer wants the company that things will go well, and a long-term brand relationship will be created.

However, when a company focuses only on itself and hurts its customers, it sets itself up for disaster. Too many companies are damaged by this behavior.

Every company makes mistakes, because policies are created by people. It’s what happens after a mistake is made that matters most. Does the company care? Does it want to protect its long-term customer relationship? Some companies do. Surprisingly, many don’t — either through ignorance or by design. That’s unfortunate.

Massage Envy Rubs Customers the Wrong Way

When Massage Envy opened near our home more than a decade ago, my wife and I were lured by the low-cost membership. The way it works is that the customer pays a monthly fee and gets one massage per month. Every additional massage has to be paid for. Fair enough. For more than a decade, we have enjoyed the people, the experience and the company.

The problem is that we don’t go for a massage every month. Eventually, we reached a point when we had 17 massages stacked up, with another one added every month. I asked the business to suspend my monthly fee while we got caught up.

The staff were very nice, but they could not help. The business is a franchise, and there were no rules to help customers in our situation. They suggested I call Massage Envy’s customer service.

I tried. I checked its website and found no customer service number. The only customer service link was to the Web page, which advised calling the location — but that’s where I had started.

Massage Envy had me running in circles, looking for help where none could be found. With my request unanswered, I’m left with no choice other than to use up my services as quickly as possible.

Then I will decide whether to keep our membership or join a competitor. We like the local business, but Massage Envy doesn’t take care of its customers. That is especially disappointing, considering that we’ve been good customers for more than a decade.

LA Fitness Turns Its Back

Another company with customer care problems is LA Fitness, a fast-growing health club. When I joined, it was a good experience, so I signed up my son. He used the club and liked it as well.

However, he stopped using the club several years ago. He told me he had canceled the membership. Yet a check of my credit card statement showed the club continued to bill me for US$75 per month (that was double what I’d signed him up for, which was another issue).

When I contacted the club about both problems, the staff said my son’s records showed that he had stopped using the facility years earlier, but there was no record of his cancellation. They said they would cancel the membership going forward, but they refused to offer any refund for the unused membership period, which added up to several thousand dollars.

So, LA Fitness charged me for double the membership fee I’d signed up for and kept doing it for years, even with no use. It offered no help to a loyal customer.

Shouldn’t the club have given the member a courtesy call to check in after an extended period of no use? Shouldn’t it have asked for permission to double the monthly fee? It would have done both of those things if it respected its members. I guess what their actions illustrate in this case is a company that does not care.

I am no longer an LA Fitness fan or member, and I now tell friends and family about this problem to help them from making the same mistake. Actions have consequences.

Walmart Fails to Tell the Whole Truth

I love shopping at Walmart. It has done a great job of brand building. When Walmart started to compete online with Amazon a few years ago, I thought it was a great idea. In fact, I thought it was more convenient in certain ways, since you could make purchases online and take returns to a store.

It worked great for several purchases, until Walmart burned me. I purchased something online, didn’t like it, and tried to return it to the Walmart store. The staff there could not figure out how to handle the return. I went to a different Walmart store. Its employees couldn’t do it either. To make matters worse, no one had a clue what the problem was.

Turns out, I didn’t make the purchase from Walmart. Instead, I had purchased the item from a small, mail order business that used the Walmart website to reach customers. I did not know about this arrangement when I made my purchase.

The fact that I was dealing with a third-party seller was not explained on the Web page. It wasn’t noted on the receipt emailed to me. In fact, there were several emails regarding the transaction, but none mentioned that I was buying from a company other than Walmart. Had I known that Walmart’s policies did not extend to that sale, I might not have made the purchase.

I had to return the product to the small company, which took a 15 percent restocking fee — another surprise! The whole transaction was a disaster. My complaints to Walmart fell on deaf ears. I have heard nothing from the company — no apology and no resolution.

That’s too bad. I used to like Walmart. I used to trust it. After getting burned, I no longer do. This is Walmart’s loss — it shot itself in the foot. However, I don’t know if the company even realizes it. Now I no longer buy from the Walmart website, because I know the company can’t be counted on to take care of its loyal customers.

Companies That Disregard Customers

Every company shoots itself in the foot now and then. It happens. What happens afterward shows the difference between companies that care about their customers and those that simply don’t.

When a company admits to its mistakes and does everything in its power to make up for them, customers will stick around for the long term. Customers don’t expect perfection — they want good relationships.

Companies that don’t invest enough into customer care often burn their brand value in the marketplace. That is something you’d think every company would want to avoid. Unfortunately, there are too many companies that don’t care.

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent
analyst, consultant and speaker.
Email Jeff.

Zuckerberg releases first statement on Cambridge Analytica, vows more security

california review of images and mark zuckerberg ceo at facebook 2

Facebook has banned the analytics firm Strategic Communication Laboratories and its political arm, Cambridge Analytica, for failure to follow its rules regarding the handling of personal data — and what may be among the largest abuses of personal data in U.S. history.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released his first statement on the matter just today. In it, Zuckerberg takes responsibility for Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of the Facebook platform, and promises that the company will do better in the future.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Zuckerberg said. “The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

The statement goes on to describe how Facebook intends to address the problem going forward, but Zuckerberg is quick to point out that the company has already taken the first steps toward securing your data. First, Zuckerberg claims, Facebook will be auditing thousands of apps which may have improperly accessed user data.

“We will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity,” Zuckerberg said. “We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps.”

Second, Facebook will be cracking down on developers access to your personal data, reducing the data apps are able to access when you use Facebook to login — restricting it to just your name, profile photo, and email address. Lastly, Facebook will now list apps which have access to your private data in a bar above your news feed. You can already access this information, but Zuckerberg says moving it to a more visible location will keep people aware of which apps have access to their data. Users will be able to revoke permissions without digging into their privacy settings.

It’s a good set of first steps, but what Zuckerberg fails to mention is why it took Facebook over two years to publicly acknowledge the problem, when it knew sensitive user data was compromised.

Here’s what happened

While some outlets have reported that this was the result of a breach, the social network denies this claim. In the company’s statement, Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said that the reports regarding a data breach were “completely false.”

The truth seems more complex than that.

Cambridge Analytica, which is best known for its work alongside Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the information from Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” The app billed itself as a personality test and was downloaded by about 270,000 people. By downloading the app, the users gave permission for the app’s developers to access information regarding the city they lived in, what kind of content they liked on Facebook, and other general information.

But by sniffing through the friends of those users, and the friends of friends, the company was able to gather up info on 50 million people in total, according to the New York Times — none of whom granted the company permission to use or even access to their data, these details were corroborated in Zuckerberg’s statement.

“The firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history,” the Times reported. This may not have been a data breach, but user’s wishes certainly weren’t honored.

While Kogan obtained the information on the initial 270,000 users legitimately and in accordance with Facebook’s rules, he then proceeded to violate those rules by sharing them with a third party — in this case, Cambridge Analytica.

“By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies,” Grewal wrote. “When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan, and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.”

Meanwhile, threats of legal action are beginning to appear. On Saturday, Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey said she planned to look into the situation.

Last week, Facebook received reports that not all of the data had been destroyed as promised. Facebook has not yet verified these claims, but has chosen to suspend SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the site while it investigates these accusations.

Facebook isn’t the only organization looking into Cambridge Analytica. The Guardian has reported that the British Election Commission is investigating the organization in regards to the Brexit vote, which saw the U.K. vote to leave the European Union.

“We are investigating the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used,” said the Commission’s Elizabeth Denham. “It’s part of our ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes which was launched to consider how political parties and campaigns, data analytics companies and social media platforms in the U.K. are using and analysing people’s personal information to micro-target voters.”

Facebook itself has faced questions regarding how it handles user data as well.

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