Monthly Archives: July 2016

Innovative Ways For Businesses

Every technological advancement creates new ways of doing business, but augmented reality (AR) is a particularly versatile development. AR offers entrepreneurs a way to thoroughly enhance day-to-day business operations; whether it’s hosting meetings or showcasing products, this developing technology holds great promise for revamping the way we think about doing business. Business News Daily spoke with some industry experts about how AR is already changing the workplace, as well as some ways it might be applied in the near future.

Augmented reality’s business applications

Augmented reality is distinct from virtual reality in that it offers users graphical enhancements to their real, physical environment, rather than creating an entirely new environment. Experts predict an explosion of creative uses as the technology becomes more ubiquitous.

“The retail space has dipped their toe in AR briefly. For instance, Ikea used AR so customers could see how a couch would look in their living room, or if that color rug would work with their room design,” Joe Arcuri, director of product and user experience at Overit, said. “[The technology] could also be applied to the construction industry. How cool would it be to see what a future house will look like on a plot of land, or how a deck or addition could look within the current environment?”

James Kovach, senior vice president of business development for AR company CrowdOptic, said many of their clients in the healthcare and athletic industries are already taking advantage of augmented reality in order to bring important data – like a doctor monitoring patient’s blood pressure or a football coach analyzing a player’s acceleration – into one, easy to access space.

“AR has the same value proposition across the entire spectrum,” Kovach said. “An individual is looking at something through smart glasses, and AR compiles contextual information to assist that person, whether it’s [a physician] treating a patient or you’re in an office and trying to learn something.”

Here’s a quick look at how this versatile technology is currently used, and how it could evolve in the future to radically change the way people think about doing business.

 

Remote collaboration

Augmented reality can completely change the way geographically dispersed employees connect. When the team holds a meeting, remote workers can often be detached from the group or become easily distracted. With AR, however, it’s as if everybody is actually present in the room. The meeting instantly becomes more engaging for the remote workers, and those who are physically present are more likely to include them in the discussion. Even subtle things like eye contact and facial expressions can really increase the effectiveness of your collaborative efforts.

“Augmented reality for business offers promise both in communicating with customers, and within the organizations themselves for work functions,” said Gareth Price, technical director for Ready Set Rocket. “AR brings the internet from being contained on a screen to becoming part of the fabric of the world around us, which will benefit businesses with a physical presence.”

 

Training and education

Training employees with AR technology creates an immersive, interactive experience across multiple senses, which is far more effective than a typical lecture or simply reading instructions. With either on screen instructions or layered graphics, users can be shown complex processes step-by-step, or given prompts and instruction on a certain task. Using these methods, AR offers the capability to increase the depth of the training process, while expediting it at the same time.

 

Repairs

Augmented reality also promises improved knowledge in the realm of repairs, where even inexperienced people can fix complex machines. By demonstrating each component part of a machine and precisely what needs to be done to access and then repair it, AR overlays can illustrate step-by-step the process of repairing virtually anything.

“In the workplace, AR has promising practical applications, such as an engineer being able to see an overlay of a piece of machinery with repair information or sensor readings such as temperature,” Price said.

4 Key Challenges

In many cases, a business is only as good as the technology it uses, especially when processing customer calls. Traditional business phone systems are quickly being replaced with VoIP (voice over internet protocol) systems. These often include features such as online fax services, conferencing, call recording, call routing and automated phone answering. Updating your call center solution can help you better support customers and manage call volume. But all change comes with some challenges. Based on our own interviews and product research, as well as research notes from our sister site Top Ten Reviews, here’s how to overcome a few key obstacles you may face as you shift to a new contact center software solution. Cost of updating telephone hardware If you are updating to VoIP business phones and call center software, you may need to update your phones and support hardware. If this is the case, you can purchase or lease phones, or you can use telephone headsets connected to your PCs. Most phone services are compatible with a variety of Cisco and Polycom phones, but you’ll want to verify model numbers to see if your exact phones are supported.

If you already own satisfactory traditional phones, you may be able to save money by purchasing or leasing adaptors to make your phones compatible with internet-based services. Other expenses may include routers, Ethernet lines and other items.

Learning curve and training

New technologies require training. Most call center software companies should provide training materials as well as paid, in-person training if needed. The best services will also help you set up your phones, automated answering and phone routing.

As with any new technology, some employees may be resistant. It will help to take advantage of training opportunities offered by your provider. Don’t overwhelm your team, though: Take training slow and get the basics mastered first.

Internet and network issues

If you are using VoIP phones along with your call center software, performance is dependent on your internet service. Most experts recommend 100 Kbps per VoIP phone for optimal and dependable performance. If you have been using traditional landlines, you may need to update your business internet to support your new phone system. While your internet bill may increase, the cost of your monthly phone bill should go down compared to landline phones.

If your business is in an area without fast internet, you may have to stick with your traditional phones. Alternatively, if you cannot support a large group of customer or technical support phone lines and employees, you may want to consider outsourcing your phone support to a call center service.

Fluctuating monthly costs

Charges for call center software usually accrue by usage per phone line. Some marketing material uses the phrase “unlimited calling,” but the fine print often says you must stay within “fair usage” or something similar. Some services will even charge different prices for high-volume use. For example, a provider may have a rate for a block of minutes, but the pricing per minute may go down as the volume increases.

The United States and Canada are typically included as “free” minutes with a U.S.-based service. If you need international calling, look for a business phone services that provides the best terms for the countries you need to call. You’ll also want to carefully review all the rates and fees in your contract before signing. In addition, your reports should be able to help you estimate your monthly bill.

Other challenges

Many customers of business phone services have reported a variety of issues that you may want to evaluate when setting up your new phone system.

  • Call porting. You can “port” your old business phone number to your new phone system. This is usually not instantaneous, however, and may come with some technical difficulties.
  • Bad sound quality. This could be related to your internet services provider, but it may also be due to your hardware or the service. You’ll have to figure out the issue and fix it before it causes problems with your customer support.
  • Number of phone adaptors. While you can use your old, analog phones if paired with adaptors, you’ll need one adaptor per phone line. So purchase and lease fees may add up quickly.
  • Power outages. If you use an on-site PBX (private branch exchange), power outages could leave you without service. However, a cloud-based system can be configured to route calls to mobile devices or another call center.
  • Wired versus wireless. You can run Ethernet lines to every phone, or you can use wireless Wi-Fi phones. This option means you must increase the number of routers and charge stations to support the phones.

Drone Uses Coming to a Sky Near You

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as “drones,” have made quite the splash with hobbyists and entrepreneurs alike since bursting into the civilian sphere. On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released new rules on civilian drone usage, known as “Part 107.” Those rules will go into effect Aug. 29, and many entrepreneurs are chomping at the bit to get their drone-based ventures off the ground, literally.

To find out more about drones and the vast range of applications they offer for business owners, we spoke with several industry insiders and UAV experts about what the future holds for the technology. Their answers demonstrate that these unmanned aircraft are versatile tools that can change existing businesses and help establish new startups.

“Drone adoption has been growing rapidly — 300,000 drones were registered within the first month after the FAA opened its registration site — and there are simply not enough pilots of manned aircraft to keep up with demand,” Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of software company DroneDeploy, said. “The most significant change under Part 107 is that operating drones commercially no longer requires a pilot’s license and a Section 333 exemption. Up until this point, the need for a licensed pilot and the lack of regulatory clarity were the most significant bottlenecks for many businesses looking to expand drone operations.”

“Essentially, you can use a drone as long as it is less than 55 pounds, within eyesight by a certified ‘remote pilot in command’ operator at a maximum altitude of 400 feet,” Braden Perry, an attorney at Kennyhertz Perry, said. “Prior to the new rules, you had to have a pilot’s license to operate an unmanned aircraft. Most companies cannot afford to hire a pilot solely to pilot a drone. The certification for remote pilot in command is not strenuous, and generally any adult can get one at little cost, and very quickly. This opens the doors for almost any company to utilize unmanned aircraft technology in their business.”

Applications for UAVs in business

So far, businesses have used drones largely in video and photography, especially for marketing purposes, but there are many other applications of UAV technology that might surprise you. From agriculture to internet access, drones are a multipurpose tool that offers the potential to reimagine some of the most critical ways humanity operates.

“The only limit is a person’s imagination,” Brian Opp, manager of aerospace business development at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said. “I’ve heard [drones] compared to the internet a number of times. I don’t know if drones will be as world-changing, but there are certainly so many commercial applications that can have a positive impact, either on a business’s bottom line or by making jobs safer.”

“I just think that the drone industry is — no pun intended — obviously going to take off,” Joshua Larson, founder of drone consultancy Breakover Services, said. “This technology can be used to do anything, as we’ve seen. The safest, most efficient way to get it out there is training and education for the people who will be flying in the airspace where manned aircraft are.”

Here’s how some pilots are already using drones, and how they might be used in the future for businesses both large and small.

Agriculture

Farmers can benefit from drones in several ways. In fact, many in the UAV industry cite agriculture as an enormous area of opportunity for drone technology. Not only can drones save farmers money by helping them identify failing plants early and take inventory of crops, but the machines can also be used to map and study the farmland and its irrigation systems. In each of these cases, utilizing drones helps expedite what are otherwise time-consuming projects.

“The drone is just the school bus. What’s important is the sensor capturing data and [the] software that’s really forming that data-analytics piece and hoping to extrapolate the useful information out of that,” Opp said.

In addition, drones can be equipped to spray pesticides, fertilizers or water on crops. Each UAV is like a far cheaper mini-crop duster. And for farms with livestock, drones can also be used to monitor the animals and quickly gather and track useful data about animal health and population.

Architecture and construction

Architectural firms and construction contractors are also benefitting from the use of drones. Much like professionals in real estate, architects can use images and footage of a property to create 3D renderings of the structures they aim to build.

By cheaply and quickly creating aerial shots on which to place an architectural rendering, architects can create real-world concepts of their projects. This ability is indispensable to creating accurate designs and understanding how they fit within properties.

Access to these plans during the construction project is also useful to the people actually bringing the design to life.

The FAA and the regulatory landscape

The new regulations streamline the process to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes. Many entrepreneurs are hailing the changes as a step forward that eases the process of expanding commercial drone operations. Among the changes included in the Part 107 update are relaxed standards for pilots and the removal of the “Section 333 exemption,” which was previously required for commercial operations.