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Tag: inbound marketing

What is proximity marketing? How does it work?

What is proximity marketing? How does it work?

Proximity marketing refers to communicating with customers at the right place, the right time and with highly relevant and personalised messages, on their smartphones — be it greeting at the entry points, special offers in the store aisles, or getting feedback on a new product.

Legacy advertisements on television, billboards, radio and pamphlets could be appealing, but they lack the impulsive drive to avail an offer, or try a new product. However, digital technology, such as beacons have bridged this gap between offline and online.

For decades, traditional shopkeepers and business owners have been communicating with their customers at significant moments, but proximity marketing as a term got introduced to marketers in 2008. This led to brands and businesses sending location-triggered text messages to cell phones that were in proximity to a Bluetooth network and had "discoverable" Bluetooth mode switched on.

To understand how proximity marketing works, let us consider an example of a retail store.

  1. Beacons are deployed at the storefront or in aisles with ongoing offers.
  2. These BLE beacons transmit signals in its range. BLE signals are a combination of numbers and characters.
  3. The signals are detected by any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, in the transmitting range.
  4. The smartphone then sends the ID number attached to the signal to the cloud server.
  5. The server checks the action assigned to that ID number and responds accordingly. It could be a notification about a discount, or a product launch, a feedback form or just a greeting!
  6. These notifications will then drive customers to a relevant form, a webpage or a markdown card (a Beaconstac card creative which works as a substitute for a website).

Location-based marketing vs proximity marketing

Businesses, especially retail and real estate, have been focussing immensely on location for the last decade. This is because reaching out to customers without being sure of the location is just digital marketing, which is not very effective for local businesses. However, marketers and business owners now realize that the targeting needs to be more specific than just GPS and geofencing. This is where proximity marketing steps in. Let’s understand in detail about their differences and when each one of them is useful.

Location-based marketing

Location-based marketing in simple terms means communicating with potential customers within a range. Let’s say, a coffee shop runs a campaign to introduce a new almond flavoured Cappuccino on their menu. Setting a location based marketing campaign would mean that all potential customers in the range of, let’s say 1 kilometer, are notified about the new coffee. This might also include reaching out to a user in the nearby ice-cream store.

This is done by calculating the latitude and longitude of the smartphone using GPS or cell tower triangulation method. It is hence defined as the kind of marketing that uses mobile to target customers in a particular geographical area.

Geofence is a virtual boundary which can range from over 50,000 meters to anything else. Ideally, for interactions above 80-100 meters, business owners must consider geofencing.

Proximity marketing

Proximity marketing however, is a more granular form of location marketing. For the same example discussed above, the coffee shop owner could decide to have a more targeted approach and reach out to customers passing his coffee shop, lets say in the range of 300 meters. This approach is more personalized and contextually relevant.

Proximity marketing is about reaching out to customers based on the accurate position and not a virtual geofence. This makes the communication more contextual and personalised.

Proximity marketing is recommended for highly targeted zones — within 100m of distance. Proximity marketing use-cases involve interaction with customers about a particular product, brand on a shelf, or any other similar application.

Proximity marketing solutions

Business owners and marketers have been using proximity solutions that do not involve technology, for decades – physical signage and banners. But in last few years, technologies have become much more affordable, and therefore, a lot of businesses have integrated them into their marketing strategies. Advanced technologies that make proximity marketing happen are — Bluetooth beacons, NFC, RFID and WiFi.

1. Proximity marketing using Bluetooth beacons

Bluetooth beacons are currently the leading proximity marketing technology. According to Proximity Directory Report Q4 2017, 86% of the proximity sensors deployed across the world are beacons. According to the same report, 7 18,763,000 proximity sensors were deployed by Q4 2017. Beacons are low energy transmitters, equipped with Bluetooth low energy, used to deliver contextually relevant notification on nearby smartphones.

There are two beacon standards :-

iBeacon: Apple first launched beacon standard in 2013. That is when physical and digital started merging. A lot of retailers like Macy's, Walmart and Starwood hotels stepped up to the plate to implement iBeacon in their store outlets. iBeacon allows apps on smartphones to receive BLE signals from the beacon.

Eddystone: Google introduced the Eddystone protocol in 2015. It is an open URL protocol specification that defines Bluetooth low energy (BLE) message format for proximity beacon messages. It has since become hugely popular among businesses and has only continued to grow. Eddystone protocol restricted the popularity of iBeacons in no time. Now, smartphones can receive Eddystone signals with or without apps.

Beaconstac beacons support both Eddystone and iBeacon.

UPDATE: On October 25, 2018 Android announced that Nearby will no longer be supported on Android smartphones after December 6, 2018. 

2. Proximity marketing with NFC based systems

NFC was designed to enable highly secure payments and applications. NFC enabled customers to pay just by tapping smartphones against NFC-enabled devices. This technology did not fly off really well, even though it appeared promising in the beginning.This failure could be due to the following reasons –

  • Customers need an app to use NFC tags to receive messages.
  • NFC is a passive form of proximity marketing — which means NFC ads require customers to initiate the engagement. Unlike beacons, NFC systems cannot broadcast notifications.
  • It has a concise transmission range of 20 centimetres.

3. Proximity marketing with Wi-Fi-based systems

Wi-Fi has not traditionally been a proximity solution. However, with the widespread of public Wi-Fi, marketers are now leveraging Wi-Fi to send notifications. The Wi-Fi hosting website can send location-specific content to the consumer’s browser.

However, Wi-Fi requires users to consent to a connection each time they enter the business location. And, Wi-Fi-based systems are not very accurate when it comes to proximity marketing.

4. Proximity marketing with RFID based systems

RFID tags are used to track store product movement and inventory. RFID introduced in 2003, was considered a revolution. It quickly went from the little-known technology to the next big thing. However, this rapid growth was ephemeral. Here’s why RFID has limited adoption :-

  • The biggest hurdle in RFID adoption is that deploying RFID system requires many different components — necessary hardware such as tags, readers, reader control and apps. Retailers have to invest a substantial amount upfront on the infrastructure front, on both sender and receiver side.
  • Unlike most other proximity solutions, RFID does not come with inherent compatibility with mobile. It requires hardware to process signals at specific frequencies.
  • Information passed by RFID cannot be personalised based on location, frequency, time of the day etc. It is constant and is embedded in the tag.

Why is Bluetooth beacon better than competing technologies?

Proximity with beacons yield results way superior to legacy channels and other competing technologies.

1. 10 billion smartphones in 2018 are Bluetooth-enabled

Beacons broadcast notifications to Bluetooth enabled smartphones. In 2018, nearly 4 billion devices will ship with Bluetooth technology. The percentage of people having their Bluetooth switched on, varies from country to country.

Based on our research and statistics over the internet, approximately 50% of the users in Canada and US have their Bluetooth switched on. Russia has 25%, whereas the UK has 33% of the users with Bluetooth switched on all the time.

2. You do not need your own app to run beacon campaigns

With beacon technology, businesses may or may not leverage the experience of their brand app to communicate with their consumers. Using the Eddystone protocol, sending notifications using NearBee is a breeze.

NearBee has been designed to be better and far superior to Google Nearby. Unlike Google Nearby, it has the ability to send non-silent, rich notifications, non-duplicate and visually appealing notifications straight to the lock screen of Android users. NearBee will also have the ability to morph into a business’s unique branding once a customer enters the store. Customers will also be allowed to ‘follow’ businesses and receive controlled timely updates that can be sent even when they are no longer in the range of the beacon.

3. The click-through rate is far superior to competitor technologies

The click-through rate of a beacon campaign varies based on multiple parameters :

  • Usage of a brand or third party app
  • Deployment location and strategy
  • Nature of business
  • Schedule of the campaign (Days and time)
  • Notification copy etc

However, when done well, beacon campaigns have yielded a click-through rate (CTR) of 55% — 60%. However, this is not typical for all businesses. On an average, most small businesses see a CTR of 2% — 4%. With higher targeting and personalisation, the results get better.

A CTR of 2% is incredible for offline businesses given the results attained by other advertising channels. CTR of an average beacon campaign is 25 times that of a social media campaign.

 

4. Beacons have an excellent ROI

The three factors which contribute to the brilliant ROI of beacons are — low cost, long battery life and minimal efforts.

  1. These tiny devices cost less than $20
  2. Most beacons have an average battery life of 2 years. However, it varies based on the type beacon in use and its transmitting range
  3. Beacons work out-of-the-box! This means business owners do not need an engineer onboard to start broadcasting beacon campaigns. It’s easy to use and seamless to configure

According to Unacast’s Proximity.Directory Q1 2017 Report, retailers can improve their position and increase the operating profit by nearly 9% with an ROI of 175%. This ROI figure shoots to 365% for small and medium businesses.

How to set up a proximity marketing campaign using beacons?

1. Choose the right beacon form factor for your business

Beaconstac supports various beacon hardware options which are found to be best in field tests. The hardware lineup consists of all-purpose indoor beacons, robust long range beacons, pocket beacons and keychain beacons.

RELATED: https://blog.beaconstac.com/2018/02/proximity-marketing-with-pocket-beacons-for-retail-real-estate-and-on-the-move-applications/

The lineup includes beacons in various form factors to suit multiple business needs and applications. Learn more about the options we support on the Beaconstac hardware data-sheet.

2. Plan the beacon deployment strategy

Beacon deployment strategy depends on what the business wants to achieve. However, there are few tips for beacon deployment which work across industries.

  • Place beacons above the crowd level (approximately about 4 ft to 7 ft above the ground) for maximum reach. Installing beacons on ceilings also work well.
  • Place beacons in areas where people move slowly, or have a higher wait time, for, eg, traffic intersections, offices, waiting areas, etc.
  • Try to create a line of sight between a beacon and users’ phones. For best results, place beacons vertically, with the Beaconstac logo on top.

3. Create a markdown card/form (Or, an https website)

Beacon notifications can direct to a custom URL (any website), a form, or a markdown card. Markdown cards are creatives used instead of websites. Beaconstac provides markdown templates which can be easily modified to suit various campaigns. [Download inspirational markdown cards across verticals]

4. Assign it to a beacon

Assign the markdown card or form to the transmitting beacon. Watch the video to learn how to do it.

5. Create a notification

Beaconstac allows the notification creation in multiple languages. This helps marketers target customers in their preferred language. [Read more about dynamic notifications]

How are business using proximity marketing?

Beacon technology has changed the way brands interact with customers. Although advertisement remains the primary benefit of proximity marketing, marketers leverage it for a lot of other use cases.

1. Advertisement

Gone are days when brands were courting customers only by sending out advertisements on television, radio and magazines. In the last few years, advertisements have made a significant shift to a more targetable and data-driven option — beacons. Legacy ads cannot be micro sliced via location or demographics. This is why marketers are now relying on proximity marketing solutions to find, engage and most importantly, bring back customers.

2. Personalisation to enhance engagement

Brick and mortar stores can achieve the level of personalisation that e-commerce sites like Amazon and Walmart offer. With beacons in stores, marketers can achieve the following :-

  1. Send recommendations related to their purchase history.
  2. Upsell products.
  3. Send recommendations based on shopping habits.

Personalization leads to positive experiences that, in turn, leads to more engagement, loyalty and sales. According to research by Marketing Insider Group, 78% of consumers say relevant content increases their purchase intent.

3. Loyalty programs

Customer loyalty programs are all about keeping current customers engaged and happy. These programs enable customers to automatically check in, get credit for their purchases and earn loyalty rewards. Big brands and local merchants are now using beacons to provide mobile loyalty among customers. Interesting use cases of beacon-based loyalty programs are :-

  1. Send customized notifications on offers to patrons when they are closeby.
  2. Deliver time-sensitive geo-targeted offers with greater precision.
  3. Reward loyal customers for spending time with you.

4. Amassing offline data

Businesses today, rely heavily on sophisticated data gathering mechanism. This is because data-driven campaigns help in better understanding of shopping behaviour. Many successful retail brands like Macy’s, Walmart, Kenneth Cole are using beacons to gather extensive data for future campaigns.

With beacons, retailers can,

  1. Track footfall
  2. Create heatmaps of zones in the store
  3. Analyse merchandising effectiveness
  4. Gauge customer loyalty
  5. Analyse the content type that drives consumers

Implement a proximity marketing campaign without an app?

Very few technologies have seen the kind of success that beacons have. And this is primarily because with the introduction of Eddystone; marketers did not require apps to communicate with their customers. Beacons communicate with Bluetooth enabled smartphones via two different protocols — Eddystone and iBeacon.

Eddystone beacons broadcast URLs that can be detected by smartphones even without an app. Services on the device such as Nearby Notifications, Samsung CloseBy or Physical Web compatible apps scan for and display these Eddystone URLs after passing them through a proxy.

On Android phones – Nearby is a Google service developed for Android phones. It scans for Eddystone URLs and detects packet if any.

UPDATE: Nearby will be discontinued from December 6, 2018. We have launched NearBee for Android that delivers non-passive, non-generic, rich notifications to the lock screens of Android users. Read our blog to know why it’s superior to Google Nearby. Download NearBee for android.

 

On iOS phones – To implement beacon campaigns on iOS devices, these devices need to have Physical Web compatible apps or browsers. iOS devices need third-party apps to scan and detect notifications. We have developed our app — “Nearbee”, which continuously scan for Eddystone URLs.

How to run proximity marketing campaigns on iOS devices?

Proximity marketing for iOS devices needs apps. This could be the brand app or a third party app that customers have on their phones

RELATED: https://blog.beaconstac.com/2018/02/how-to-run-a-powerful-proximity-marketing-campaign-on-ios/

Businesses that have a brand app

Proximity marketing campaigns which leverage their brand apps yield impressive results. Companies such as Heineken, Coca-Cola and Screenvision leveraged their brand apps to implement proximity campaigns and witnessed massive success.

Our NearBee SDK will quickly enable you to convert your app into a beacon powered app. If you are seeking to implement a wide array of complex use-cases, use Beaconstac SDK.

Businesses that do not have a brand app

Such businesses need high performing and innovative third-party apps to implement proximity campaigns. Third-party apps strike the right balance between respecting a consumer’s privacy while providing timely proximity marketing notifications. These third-party apps continuously scan for Eddystone URLs and display the notifications as soon as they detect an Eddystone URL.

Beaconstac has developed an app – Nearbee. This app scans for Nearby notifications and displays the notification on the iOS device.

Here’s how it is superior to any other third party app :–

  1. Add an app intent to the campaign.
  2. Allows delivering notifications at a specific time of the day, or days of a week.
  3. The app is designed to run and scan quietly in the background. This means users get the notification even when the device is locked.
  4. With the app, you can send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of beacons.
  5. Send multiple notifications from a single beacon.

Proximity marketing across industries

Proximity marketing in retail

Proximity marketing in retail has moved beyond push notifications and coupons. It is now in the next level of personalised content delivery. It has eventually become the biggest drivers of beacon deployments. Retail is leveraging beacons for attracting new customers, enhancing their store experience, building loyalty through personalised messages and collecting customer feedback.

Major beacon use-cases in retail

  • 1. Inform Shoppers

    Sharing information related to a specific place or object is one of the frequently used retail beacon use-case. Supermarket retailers leverage beacons to share useful information about a newly launched product, the brand or the description of the products they are selling. Restaurants also use beacon campaigns to inform users about the special dishes on the menu, chef’s recommendations and more. Car dealerships on other hand leverage beacons to inform users about the specifications of a car, price comparison with similar models etc. This not only makes information readily available on the mobile but also enhances the customer experience and saves printing dollars.

2. Boost in-store sales

Beacons are being employed in stores and malls to raise awareness about ongoing promotions and discounts, navigate visitors to venues, broadcast sales and discounts messages next to relevant products, and integrate POS to beacons to ease payments. Every retailer promotes the ongoing discounts to boost sales, however, getting beacons to do the job ensures that the pitched offers are relevant for the visitors and hence increase the chances of conversion.

3. Interact and engage with shoppers

In the era of experiential retailing, delightful shopper experience is the key. Beacon makes the visitor experience much more personal, customized and engaging. Motivate shoppers to visit more sections in your store, transform mannequin into talking salesperson, gamify the experience by rolling out location specific quizzes and treasure hunts. In an attempt to close the loop between physical stores and digital awareness, retailers are also linking beacon campaigns to social media channels. This enables users to share their in-store experience, online. Other ways to enhance the shopper experience are — enable booking/registering for a test drive through the smartphone, welcoming users into the store and informing them about one deal they should not miss out.

4. Help visitors navigate through your store

GPS is great for outdoor locations, however, it doesn’t work as expected when a visitor enters a building. This is where beacons are handy (GPS vs beacons)! Beacon powered apps use the triangulation method to detect the exact position of Bluetooth devices, indoor or outdoor. This is especially helpful for multi-storey malls, huge airports and museums. For the end-user, it functions just as a GPS. Beacon navigations can be marked with important locations such as important stores or art pieces, refreshment zones etc.

Proximity marketing in real estate

Real estate is one of those transforming industries that has recently picked up significant interest in beacon-based proximity marketing for boosting customer experience. The real estate brokers and agents are currently using beacons to attract home buyers, capture leads, push business cards and engage with them.

Major beacon use-cases in real estate

  • 1. Driving traffic

    Attaching a beacon to the ‘Open House’ sign can go a long way in attracting potential clients. The notification can disperse a lot of useful information about the house, previous owners and even a form that lets potential buyers fix an appointment with the real estate agent.

  • 2. Enhancing the buyer’s experience

    Instead of an agent explaining things about the house, beacons can do that. Every room that a potential buyer enter can have a beacon that sends out detailed information about it. This allows buyers to have their own personalized experience and more than one buyer can browse through the house without needing a dedicated real estate agent.

Proximity marketing in real estate

Real estate is one of those transforming industries that has recently picked up significant interest in beacon-based proximity marketing for boosting customer experience. The real estate brokers and agents are currently using beacons to attract home buyers, capture leads, push business cards and engage with them.

Major beacon use-cases in real estate

  • 1. Driving traffic

    Attaching a beacon to the ‘Open House’ sign can go a long way in attracting potential clients. The notification can disperse a lot of useful information about the house, previous owners and even a form that lets potential buyers fix an appointment with the real estate agent.

  • 2. Enhancing the buyer’s experience

    Instead of an agent explaining things about the house, beacons can do that. Every room that a potential buyer enter can have a beacon that sends out detailed information about it. This allows buyers to have their own personalized experience and more than one buyer can browse through the house without needing a dedicated real estate agent.

If you like thios anayltical research blogging let me know in the comments and I will kick it up.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

The Markethive Automated Workshop

Markethive is a Market Network

Come join me as I run the workshop system that lifts you up into entrepreneurial exceptionalism!

Markethive is a Market Network. That means it is basically broken down into 3 facets all integrated.

  1. A market platform for conducting business
  2. A social network primarily for entrepreneurs
  3. A SAAS (Software as a Service) Inbound Marketing platform

All systems (Facebook included) have a learning curve. Our focus, our goal, is to deliver to you a gentle intuitive fun and rewarding learning process. We are in the process of turning the entire process into an automated structure. Regardless, this learning structure is designed to build you into a powerful , wealthy, successful entrepreneur.

Are you an entrepreneur? Good question. Not necessarily easy to answer. So here are a few definitions:

The classic definition (I do not totally agree with)
en·tre·pre·neur
noun: entrepreneur; plural noun: entrepreneurs

  1.  a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so

Most people would agree that an entrepreneur is a person who has started his or her own business. But that basic definition barely scratches the surface. It does little to capture the true essence of what it means to be a risk-taker, innovator and individual willing to carve his or her own path in a world that doesn't always take kindly to people who fail to follow the status quo. 

Are you itching to venture out on your own, but you wonder if you have what it takes to choose the road less traveled? Check out what these company founders and business leaders think makes a truly successful entrepreneur.

However, before we venture further defining what exactly is an “entrepreneur” and other aspects breaking it down and related concerns like “venture capital” and the proverbial “entrepreneurial ecosystem, let me direct you along the paths of getting quickluy up to speed, as I believe that is exactly what you need. To succeed, attain structure, stability, vision and ultimately wealth.

Getting into our Workshops:

I made this simple little instructional video so you clearly see how easy it is to assimilate this ecocenter and huge powerful platform.

OK now about being an entrepreneur!

"Entrepreneurship is all about embracing challenges. When you're building something from the ground up, you need to get into the weeds and problem solve. All the weed whacking often allows you to better hone in on a better big-picture strategy — why did this happen? How do I solve it? How do smarter people than me solve it? With a young company, when you experience a new challenge, it's usually a growing pain. So while it can be difficult to get through, it's for the best possible reason — your company is getting bigger!" — Jennie Ripps, CEO of Owl's Brew

 

"To me, entrepreneurship means being able to take action and having the courage to commit and persevere through all of the challenges and failures. It is a struggle that an entrepreneur is willing to battle. It is using past experiences and intelligence to make smart decisions. Entrepreneurs are able to transform their vision into a business. I believe this process is at the core of any true entrepreneur." — MJ Pedone, founder and CEO of Indra Public Relations

 

"Being a successful entrepreneur requires a great deal of resourcefulness, because as an entrepreneur, you often run into dead ends throughout the course of your career. You need to be able to bounce back from losses if you want to be successful. Know that there will be much more disappointment than progress when you first start off, and you need to have a short memory in order to put the past behind you quickly. It's imperative to stay optimistic when bad things happen." — Vip Sandhir, founder and CEO of HighGround

 

"Entrepreneurship is the ability to recognize the bigger picture, find where there's an opportunity to make someone's life better, design hypotheses around these opportunities, and continually test your assumptions. It's experimentation: Some experiments will work; many others will fail. It is not big exits, huge net worth or living a life of glamour. It's hard work and persistence to leave the world a better place once your time here is done." — Konrad Billetz, CEO of Frameri

 

"To me, entrepreneurship is completely dedicating yourself to creating something out of nothing. It's not simply taking a risk and hoping to realize big rewards. Creating something out of nothing also tends to present numerous challenges and roadblocks which seem insurmountable. I believe the great entrepreneurs, who I look up to, can help their team push through those roadblocks and find solutions." — David Greenberg, CEO of Updater

 

"Entrepreneurship is the mind-set that allows you to see opportunity everywhere. It could be a business idea, but it could also be seeing the possibilities in the people that can help you grow that business. This ability to see many options in every situation is critically important; there will be unending challenges that will test your hustle." — Preeti Sriratana, co-founder and CEO of Sweeten

 

"It is not about making a quick buck or deal. Successful entrepreneurs look past that 'quick buck' and instead look at the bigger picture to ensure that each action made is going toward the overall goal of the business or concept, whether or not that means getting something in return at that moment." — Allen Dikker, CEO of Potatopia

 

"Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, in that being an entrepreneur is ingrained in one's identity. [It] is the culmination of a certain set of characteristics: determination, creativity, the capacity to risk, leadership and enthusiasm. I don't think you can be an entrepreneur without these qualities, and for me, that idea was ingrained in me very early on. An entrepreneur is part of the foundation of who I am, and who I strive to be." — Eric Lupton, president of Life Saver Pool Fence Systems

 

"Entrepreneurship is an unavoidable life calling pursued by those who are fortunate enough to take chances [and are] optimistic enough to believe in themselves, aware enough to see problems around them, stubborn enough to keep going, and bold enough to act again and again. Entrepreneurship is not something you do because you have an idea. It's about having the creativity to question, the strength to believe and the courage to move." — Jordan Fliegel, founder of CoachUp

 

"The journey of entrepreneurship is a lifestyle for many of us; we are wired this way and have no choice. We are driven by an innate need to create, build and grow. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you must have an underlying positivity that enables you to see beyond the day-to-day challenges and roadblocks, always moving forward. You must also be a master plate juggler, able to switch between thinking, genres and activities moment to moment. Most importantly, you must not be afraid to fail, and you must be comfortable living with risk and unknowns — a state of mind which is certainly not for everyone!” — Justine Smith, founder and CEO of Kids Go Co.

 

"Being an entrepreneur is about giving everything you have when the going gets tough and never giving up. If you truly love and believe in what you're doing, then you must hang in there. Entrepreneurship is not knowing everything about your business. You must humble yourself and not work from your ego. Always be willing to grow, change and learn." — Jennifer MacDonald and Hayley Carr, founders of Zipit Bedding

 

"Entrepreneurship is seeing an opportunity and gathering the resources to turn a possibility into a reality. It represents the freedom to envision something new and to make it happen. It includes risk, but it also includes the reward of creating a legacy. Anti-entrepreneurship is satisfaction with the status quo, layers of controls and rules that hamper forward movement, and fear of failure." — Maia Haag, co-founder and president of I See Me!

 

"When it comes to being a successful entrepreneur, I think one must possess grit. The stakes tend to be high, the bumps in the road frequent. Remaining focused, regardless of the obstacles, is paramount. That said, being an entrepreneur means being in full control of your destiny. If that's important to you, then all of the challenges associated with striking out on one's own are but a small price to pay.” — Mike Malone, founder of Livestock Framing

 

Thomas Prendergast
Founder CEO
Markethive Inc.

P.S.

Reid Hoffman Tells Charlie Rose: "Every Individual Is Now An Entrepreneur."

https://techcrunch.com/2009/03/05/read-hoffman-tells-charlie-rose-every-individual-is-now-an-entrepreneur/

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Google’s DeepMind plans bitcoin-style health record tracking for hospitals

Google's DeepMind plans bitcoin-style health record tracking for hospitals

Tech company’s health subsidiary planning digital ledger based on blockchain to let hospitals, the NHS and eventually patients track personal data

Google’s AI-powered health-tech diary, DeepMind Health, is planning to use a new technology loosely based on bitcoin to let hospitals, the NHS and eventually even patients track what happens to personal data in real-time. Dubbed “Verifiable Data Audit”, the plan is to create a special digital ledger that automatically records every interaction with patient data in a cryptographically verifiable manner. This means any changes to, or access of, the data would be visible.

DeepMind has been working in partnership with London’s Royal Free Hospital to develop kidney monitoring software called Streams and has faced criticism from patient groups for what they claim are overly broad data sharing agreements. Critics fear that the data sharing has the potential to give DeepMind, and thus Google, too much power over the NHS.

In a blog post, DeepMind co-founder, Mustafa Suleyman, and head of security and transparency, Ben Laurie, use an example relating to the Royal Free Hospital partnership to explain how the system will work. “[An] entry will record the fact that a particular piece of data has been used, and also the reason why, for example, that blood test data was checked against the NHS national algorithm to detect possible acute kidney injury,” they write.

Suleyman says that development on the data audit proposal began long before the launch of Streams, when Laurie, the co-creator of the widely-used Apache server software, was hired by DeepMind. “This project has been brewing since before we started DeepMind Health,” he told the Guardian, “but it does add another layer of transparency.

“Our mission is absolutely central, and a core part of that is figuring out how we can do a better job of building trust. Transparency and better control of data is what will build trust in the long term.” Suleyman pointed to a number of efforts DeepMind has already undertaken in an attempt to build that trust, from its founding membership of the industry group Partnership on AI to its creation of a board of independent reviewers for DeepMind Health, but argued the technical methods being proposed by the firm provide the “other half” of the equation.

Nicola Perrin, the head of the Wellcome Trust’s “Understanding Patient Data” taskforce, welcomed the verifiable data audit concept. “There are a lot of calls for a robust audit trail to be able to track exactly what happens to personal data, and particularly to be able to check how data is used once it leaves a hospital or NHS Digital. DeepMind are suggesting using technology to help deliver that audit trail, in a way that should be much more secure than anything we have seen before.”

Perrin said the approach could help address DeepMind’s challenge of winning over the public. “One of the main criticisms about DeepMind’s collaboration with the Royal Free was the difficulty of distinguishing between uses of data for care and for research. This type of approach could help address that challenge, and suggests they are trying to respond to the concerns.

“Technological solutions won’t be the only answer, but I think will form an important part of developing trustworthy systems that give people more confidence about how data is used.” The systems at work are loosely related to the cryptocurrency bitcoin, and the blockchain technology that underpins it. DeepMind says: “Like blockchain, the ledger will be append-only, so once a record of data use is added, it can’t later be erased. And like blockchain, the ledger will make it possible for third parties to verify that nobody has tampered with any of the entries.”

Laurie downplays the similarities. “I can’t stop people from calling it blockchain related,” he said, but he described blockchains in general as “incredibly wasteful” in the way they go about ensuring data integrity: the technology involves blockchain participants burning astronomical amounts of energy — by some estimates as much as the nation of Cyprus — in an effort to ensure that a decentralised ledger can’t be monopolised by any one group.

DeepMind argues that health data, unlike a cryptocurrency, doesn’t need to be decentralised — Laurie says at most it needs to be “federated” between a small group of healthcare providers and data processors — so the wasteful elements of blockchain technology need not be imported over. Instead, the data audit system uses a mathematical function called a Merkle tree, which allows the entire history of the data to be represented by a relatively small record, yet one which instantly shows any attempt to rewrite history.

Although not technologically complete yet, DeepMind already has high hopes for the proposal, which it would like to see form the basis of a new model for data storage and logging in the NHS overall, and potentially even outside healthcare altogether. Right now, says Suleyman, “It’s really difficult for people to know where data has moved, when, and under which authorised policy. Introducing a light of transparency under this process I think will be very useful to data controllers, so they can verify where their processes have used or moved or accessed data.

“That’s going to add technical proof to the governance transparency that’s already in place. The point is to turn that regulation into a technical proof.” In the long-run, Suleyman says, the audit system could be expanded so that patients can have direct oversight over how and where their data has been used. But such a system would come a long time in the future, once concerns over how to secure access have been solved.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

The Promise of Blockchain Is a World Without Middlemen

The Promise of Blockchain Is a World Without Middlemen

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The blockchain is a revolution that builds on another technical revolution so old that only the more experienced among us remember it: the invention of the database. First created at IBM in 1970, the importance of these relational databases to our everyday lives today cannot be overstated. Literally every aspect of our civilization is now dependent on this abstraction for storing and retrieving data. And now the blockchain is about to revolutionize databases, which will in turn revolutionize literally every aspect of our civilization.

IBM’s database model stood unchanged until about 10 years ago, when the blockchain came into this conservative space with a radical new proposition: What if your database worked like a network — a network that’s shared with everybody in the world, where anyone and anything can connect to it? Blockchain experts call this “decentralization.” Decentralization offers the promise of nearly friction-free cooperation between members of complex networks that can add value to each other by enabling collaboration without central authorities and middle men.

How Blockchain Works
Here are basic principles underlying the technology.

Distributed Database
Each party on a blockchain has access to the entire database and its complete history. No single party controls the data or the information. Every party can verify the records of its transaction partners directly, without an intermediary.

Peer-to-Peer Transmission
Communication occurs directly between peers instead of through a central node. Each node stores and forwards information to all other nodes.

Transparency with Pseudonymity
Every transaction and its associated value are visible to anyone with access to the system. Each node, or user, on a blockchain has a unique 30-plus-character alphanumeric address that identifies it. Users can choose to remain anonymous or provide proof of their identity to others. Transactions occur between blockchain addresses.

Irreversibility of Records
O
nce a transaction is entered in the database and the accounts are updated, the records cannot be altered, because they’re linked to every transaction record that came before them (hence the term “chain”). Various computational algorithms and approaches are deployed to ensure that the recording on the database is permanent, chronologically ordered, and available to all others on the network.

Computational Logic
The digital nature of the ledger means that blockchain transactions can be tied to computational logic and in essence programmed. So users can set up algorithms and rules that automatically trigger transactions between nodes.

Let’s start by examining the potential effects of this on an industry that touches all of our lives — banking. The banking industry is filled with shared resources. Consider ATM machines: each machine is owned by a single institution, but accepts cards from a huge network. This sharing requires a complicated management apparatus, mostly provided by VISA. That central entity owns the database and transaction processing layer, which makes everything else possible. If the process of using an ATM had been invented today, with the blockchain as a state-of-the-art database technology as an option, we would most likely not need an administrative entity like VISA to manage the process. Instead, the technology itself would do the heavy lifting of uniting the interests and business processes of the member banks. One can easily imagine a single global blockchain network for managing the interoperability of bank cards. Rather than creating hub-and-spoke methods for organizing our shared resources for mutual advantage, this new technology would provide solutions without any central oversight.

In a world without middle men, things get more efficient in unexpected ways. A 1% transaction fee may not seem like much, but down a 15-step supply chain, it adds up. These kinds of little frictions add just enough drag on the global economy that we’re forced to stick with short supply chains and deals done by the container load, because it’s simply too inefficient to have more links in the supply chain and to work with smaller transactions. The decentralization that blockchain provides would change that, which could have huge possible impacts for economies in the developing world. Any transformation which helps small businesses compete with giants will have major global effects.

Blockchains support the formation of more complex value networks than can otherwise be supported. Normally, transaction costs and other sources of friction associated with having more vendors keeps the number of partners in a value network small. But if locating and locking in partners becomes easier, more comprehensive value networks can become profitable, even for quite small transactions.

How technology is transforming transactions.

Consider the problem that small manufacturers have been dealing with giants like Wal-Mart. To keep transaction costs and the costs of carrying each product line down, large companies generally only buy from companies that can service a substantial percentage of their customers. But if the cost of carrying a new product was tiny, a much larger number of small manufacturers might be included in the value network. Amazon carries this approach a long way, with enormous numbers of small vendors selling through the same platform, but the idea carried to its limit is eBay and Craigslist, which bring business right down to the individual level. While it’s hard to imagine a Wal-Mart with the diversity of products offered by Amazon or even eBay, that is the kind of future we are moving into.

As we outline in “The Internet of Agreements,” our paper for the World Government Summit in Dubai, “the incidental complexity involved in business operations could go down by a very large factor, into a domain where a much more complex, contingent and interwoven business environment will emerge. Such an environment might be as different from today’s business environment as container shipping is superior to packing boats by hand.” (Disclosure: I’m the founder of Hexayurt.Capital, a fund which invests in creating the Internet of Agreements.)

For example, imagine the overhead involved in renting temporary furnishings for a house. Right now, this is not a very common practice (particularly for short stays) because of the overhead involved — insurance of each rented item, dozens of vendors, coordination costs getting everything in and out and so on. But if those transactions came down in cost by 90%, it is easy to imagine sites like AirBnB starting to offer custom furniture options in the spaces people are renting. Add robot delivery trucks to that future, and even short stay homes might have custom furnishing options. Making the kind of logistical complexity that is common to (say) theater productions or aircraft maintenance accessible for smaller events like weddings is just one area where falling transaction costs open up new kinds of business as complex value networks integrate to offer services that simple value networks cannot.

We’re going to see the potential for a trajectory of radical change in all industries. As a society, we’re experiencing a time of unprecedented technological change. It can feel like an insurmountable challenge for leaders to stay on course in such rapidly changing tides.  And yet, with each passing generation, we are acquiring more skill and expertise in navigating a high rate of change, and it is to that expertise that we must now look as the blockchain space unfolds, blossoms, and changes our world

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member