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Lines blur between digital and real experience

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A few years ago, digital commerce and real-world customer service were often thought of as separate channels, but that is quickly changing, writes ANDRE STEENEKAMP, CEO of 25AM.

Just five years ago, the worlds of digital commerce and real-world customer service were separated by a massive chasm. Indeed, many organisations thought of them as separate channels rather than as part of an integrated customer experience. That picture is changing fast.

Consumers’ adoption of smartphones, the rise of big data analytics tools, and the emergence of the Internet of Things all mean that the real-world and digital customer experiences are moving closer together. Thanks to smartphones (and in the future, wearable computers, connected car technology, and other devices), marketers can interact with customers wherever they are.

What’s more, they can collect a wealth of contextual data (customer behaviour, location and more) that they can use to shape new customer experiences. Increasingly, leading companies are not just using this data to optimise online customer experiences, but also those that take place in the real-world.

Here are a few ways that we can expect marketers to put data to work this year and beyond:

Digital queuing

A large and growing portion of consumers carry smartphones with them wherever they go – devices that can give marketers a wealth of contextual information they can use to deliver delightful customer experiences. Imagine, for example, putting it to use to streamline workflow in busy branches or stores, while sparing the customer the inconvenience of standing in a long queue.

For example, a consumer could use an app for a fast-food store to order a meal while walking from the mall parking lot. He or she could browse the menu (which might be personalised according to data from earlier interactions with the store), choose an item, and pay. By the time the customer gets to the shop, the order is ready.

Wouldn’t that be a refreshing way to deal with the long popcorn queues at the movies or the wait for a takeaway coffee during a busy lunch time break? This could help companies shrink queues, improve customer satisfaction, and start reducing the need to manage cash in their businesses. Even better, it gives marketers a wealth of rich information they can use to offer ever richer, more relevant, and more personalised services and messaging to their customers on an ongoing basis.

Beacons

Beacons – such as Apple’s iBeacon technology – are increasingly becoming a feature in stores around the world. This technology allows a mobile app to recognise when a smartphone is near a small wireless sensor called a beacon. For example, if you walk past a supermarket, the beacon will recognise you and start transmitting promotions, coupons or product recommendations that are relevant to you, based on your purchasing history.

It will track you as you walk through the store, capture the aisles that interest you and track your customer journey right through to the moment of payment. This is a potentially powerful way for companies to deliver personalised specials and messages to consumers as they move through the store. It can also help companies to adapt their store layouts according to real customer behaviour.

Virtual reality and augmented reality marketing

Virtual reality (VR) is going to be big news this year with HTC, Sony PlayStation, Samsung and the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift having launched, or planning to launch, VR headsets in 2016. Google, for its part, has already hacked together a simple VR solution made from little more than a box and an Android smartphone.

VR allows one to immerse oneself in a 3D world, with a sensation of “presence”. For example, you could wander through a virtual recreation of the Louvre in Paris to browse its great art works. In addition to its potential for education or virtual tourism, VR is likely to have significant gaming and entertainment applications.

There will be many great advertising and marketing opportunities in VR. For example, while someone is immersed in a VR application, marketers will be able to talk to him or her through signage or branded items in the virtual world. Or a user could do a VR tour of potential hotels before making his or her holiday bookings.

This technology is expensive and immature, but full of exciting potential. In the meanwhile, augmented reality offers some interesting ways to extend a customer’s real-world experiences by overlaying computer-generated content over a live image viewed through a digital camera.

Imagine a shopper looking at a product in a store window through a digital camera and seeing an overlay of the features and benefits. Or consider someone walking down the promenade in Greenpoint, Cape Town, and seeing an augmented reality map of the best places to shop and dine layer onto his or her smartphone screen.

Social rewards

Another trend I expect to see start unfolding soon is a shift towards social rewards programmes, which take advantage of customers’ natural sociability. They’ll reward customers for using their social influence to the brand’s advantage, for example, by sharing their location or a recent purchase with their friends.

Such programmes could cause a resurgence for mobile apps. Most corporate apps failed to set the world on fire because marketers struggled to monetise them and get the sort of engagement they wanted with consumers. Now, social media offers an opportunity to create a community around the brand and to reward them.

Apps will be integrated with social media at a deep level. Customers will, for example, be able to easily share purchases, location, and other data with their friends, and be rewarded with points, coupons, or other incentives for doing so.

Closing words

As the examples above show, digital customer experiences are no longer confined only to the PC or the smartphone – they’re a pervasive part of the experiences customers have at every touchpoint. Leveraging digital data to create better, more personal and more complete customer experiences across every channel is an opportunity that marketers cannot afford to ignore.

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Cisco unveils ‘Internet for the future’ silicon breakthrough

Cisco One is a new silicon architecture that can be used in any form factor, while Cisco 8000 will reduce cost of building and operating mass scale networks

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Cisco today unveiled a series of innovations it says will underpin “the Internet for the Future”. It launched Cisco Silicon One, a new networking silicon architecture, and the Cisco 8000 Series, the world’s most powerful carrier class routers built on the new silicon.

Chuck Robbins, chairman and CEO of Cisco, said its technology strategy was to build a new internet designed to push digital innovation beyond the performance, economic and power consumption limitations of current infrastructure. It would be a multi-year approach that will define the Internet for decades to come.

“Innovation requires focused investment, the right team and a culture that values imagination,” said Robbins. “We are dedicated to transforming the industry to build a new internet for the 5G era. Our latest solutions in silicon, optics and software represent the continued innovation we’re driving that helps our customers stay ahead of the curve and create new, ground-breaking experiences for their customers and end users for decades to come.”

Building Blocks

Cisco said in its announcement: “Over the next decade, digital experiences will be created with advanced technologies — virtual and augmented reality, 16K streaming, AI, 5G, 10G, quantum computing, adaptive and predictive cybersecurity, intelligent IOT, and others not yet invented. These future generations of applications will drive complexity beyond the capabilities current internet infrastructure can viably support.

“For the past five years, Cisco has driven a technology strategy that is building the internet our customers will need for the future success of their business in an advanced digital world. Aimed at solving the toughest problems that will emerge as digital transformation taxes current infrastructure to its breaking point, this strategy will lead to the next-generation of internet infrastructure that combines Cisco’s new silicon architecture with its next-generation of optics. 

“Cisco’s strategy will change the economics behind how the internet will be built to support the demands of future, digital applications and will enable customers to operate their businesses with simpler, more cost-effective networks.”

Cisco says its strategy is based on development and investments in three key technology areas: silicon, optics and software.

David Goeckeler, executive vice president and general manager of the Networking and Security Business at Cisco, elaborated: “Pushing the boundaries of innovation to the next level — far beyond what we experience today — is critical for the future and we believe silicon, optics and software are the technology levers that will deliver this outcome.

“Cisco’s technology strategy is not about the next-generation of a single product area. We have spent the past several years investing in whole categories of independent technologies that we believe will converge in the future — and ultimately will allow us to solve the hardest problems on the verge of eroding the advancement of digital innovation. This strategy is delivering the most ambitious development project the company has ever achieved.”

Visit the next page to read about the dramatic performance improvements in the new products.

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Building the Internet for the Future begins now

By JONATHAN DAVIDSON, SVP and general manager of Cisco’s Service Provider Business

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Jonathan Davidson presents at the Cisco #InternetForTheFuture event in San Francisco this week

“We do not remember days; we remember moments.” Those words from Cesare Pavese have been one of my personal favorites. Interestingly, we remember thesesignificant, or “flashbulb” moments in our lives in vivid detail. We rememberexactly where we were, whom we were with, what we felt, or even what we werewearing. One of my flashbulb moments was 20 years ago in 1999 when Brandi Chastain made the winning penalty shot during the Women’s World Cup inspectacular fashion. At the time, I was coaching my oldest daughter’s soccer team.That victory felt like the start of something big. It had this wonderful feeling thatwomen’s soccer was going to change for the next generation.

I believe we are having one of those “flashbulb” moments right now in the networking industry. Years from now, we will look back and remember this moment in time. Because today, Cisco revealed breakthrough innovations sosignificant and expansive, they will change the economics of the Internet forthe next generation.

Significant technological innovations have defined human history. The steamengine replaced muscle with machinery. With the telegraph, communications exceeded the speed of animals. And, with the Internet, information wasdigitized, and global communities were created.

IP infrastructure connects our world. The Internet has profoundly changed the waywe work, live, play, and learn – anything, anywhere, anytime. The results are astounding. Our ability to connect and collaborate has caused society to evolve faster than ever before. We have made more progress in mitigating wars, preventing famine, and curing disease in the last 35 years than in the previous35,000.

Today is the moment when we enter a new phase of the Internet. Technologiessuch as 5G, IoT, 3D printing, and advanced analytics are connecting more, increasing participation, and pushing digitization further. And as a result, industries like mining becomes safer, agriculture becomes more efficient, transportation becomes autonomous, and healthcare becomes wellness-driven, not crises-driven. The possibilities are endless. And service providers will be the catalysts for changing economies, countries, and the world because at the very heart of this next transformation is the network infrastructure that makes it all possible.

The route to success for service providers is not straightforward or simple. There are fundamental business challenges. Networks, which are already huge, must become even more massive. And to succeed, service providers need to transform not only their infrastructure but their operations and their business models as well.

Our current network economics will begin to break as we evolve to operate at massive scale. The physics behind our past achievements are already showing signs of slowing down, while traffic growth continues to accelerate. So far, performance increases have helped to reduce the cost of traffic at about the same rate that traffic has increased. $1 in CapEx today does eleven times the work that it did just a few years ago. However, continuing with the status quo will likely lead to a significant increase in CapEx unless we reinvent the rules.

The cost of operations must be reduced too. Today, many operators spend almost $5 in OpEx for each $1 of CapEx. With current network management technology, that situation is likely to get worse, as the larger a network becomes, the more inefficient it is to operate unless we reinvent the rules.

With innovation from a technology pioneer that spans multiple dimensions across silicon, optics, software, and systems to create entirely new network architectures, this is that “flashbulb moment” when Cisco is redefining the economics of the Internet.

Silicon

Redefining the economics of the Internet has to begin at the foundation. The very “DNA” of the Internet itself. The engine to a car. Silicon.

Moore’s law is stalling. While the rest of the industry slows down from the physics of traditional approaches, we have unlocked new dimensions of innovation. By rethinking silicon design entirely, we can deliver industry-leading performance today and create a “fast lane” to the future. We are excited to introduce our groundbreaking programmable silicon architecture, Cisco Silicon One. The first member of this new family, Cisco Silicon One Q100, delivers over twice the network capacity and twice the power efficiency over any other silicon. It is the first routing silicon to break through the 10Tbps barrier without compromising carrier-class capabilities (e.g., feature richness, large buffers, advanced programmability). And Cisco Silicon One is available right now; we won’t make you wait for it.

The innovations in Cisco Silicon One bring significant value to lowering operational costs as well. In the past, multiple types of silicon have been used across a network and even within a single device. Feature development was inconsistent. Telemetry varied dramatically.

Operators had to spend too much time and effort coordinating and testing parity of new features across the network. Now, a single silicon architecture can serve different market segments, different functions, and various form factors for a unified experience that dramatically reduces costs of operations and time-to-value for new services.

Optics

Optic costs matter. At lower interface speeds, optics were roughly 10% of the total solution cost, and systems accounted for the remaining 90%. At 400G and beyond, that equation flips. Optics become the dominant part of the total spend.This dynamic needs to change, a long-term strategy is required to make it easier to deploy both short-reach and long-haul optics solutions.

Cisco is investing in technologies like silicon photonics to accelerate the adoption of 400G and prepare for the future beyond 400G. Our recent acquisition of Luxtera brings a highly automated wafer-scale manufacturing process to Cisco that improves production volumes and quality.

Software

If silicon is the engine of a car, the software is the steering and suspension to enable phenomenal handling. Even the world’s most advanced silicon can be wasted without the right software to steer correctly and operate smoothly. Imagine the ride at 400 km/h without proper steering and suspension. Any unfortunate bump or turn could be disastrous.

To redefine the economics of operating a network, the Internet of the future needs software that recognizes operations is just as important as functionality. Cisco IOSXR7, the new release of our industry-leading Networking Operating System (NOS), has been overhauled to prioritize operations – with simplicity and automation. It has been simplified to reduce required resources, install procedures, and deployment efforts (e.g. zero-touch).

Most notably, XR7 has been completely modernized. XR7 is the first-of-its-kindcloud-enhanced NOS. XR7 can leverage new cloud-delivered SaaS deployment models from Cisco Crosswork Cloud to enhance operations. Now, operations team scan optionally consume insights and analytics as a service for agile, proactive management without the risks and resources of traditional models.

Systems

Now, we get to the “car” itself. With new silicon and new software, we can build new systems that have the performance, efficiency, and operational improvements to meet the next wave of traffic demand. Today, we introduce theCisco 8000 series routers, new systems optimized for high-density 100GbE and400GbE, including:

  • 2 fixed platforms – providing 10.8Tb/s of network bandwidth starting at I RU
  • 3 modular form-factor platforms – 8 slots, 12 slots and 18 slots delivering upto 115 Tbps, 172 Tbps and 260 Tbps respectively

These are systems designed without compromise and with a very bright future.No oversubscription. Full fabric redundancy. Power efficiency down to as little as4 Watts/Gb. That is 1/4 to 1/5th the amount of power that our nearest competitor uses. And a “clean sheet” design allows us to grow into 1.6 TbE interfaces and beyond.

Wait, there’s more. The most distinctive characteristic of the Cisco 8000 relates to trustworthiness. Networks are critical infrastructure as they connect industries,finance, utilities, and governments and service providers must maintain the integrity of their infrastructure. The chain of trustworthiness begins by knowing whether or not the hardware and software are authentic. The Cisco 8000 Series are equipped with tamper-proof hardware that serves as the root of trust to prevent any modification of the hardware or software. Next, the NOS, XR7, works with Cisco Crosswork Cloud to provide real-time visibility and control to deliver the trustworthy networks that the Internet requires.

Architectures

To grow to the size and capabilities that the next generation will demand, the Internet requires fundamental changes. We reinvented from the ground up, the DNA, the performance curve, operations, trust, and even the rules. We reinvented what Cisco does best.

And these reinventions will allow us to build the future on new architectures –converged, cloud-enhanced, and trustworthy. We that work in the networking industry will hopefully remember this moment years from now. I hope it is just as vivid a memory as Brandi Chastain’s winning goal 20 years ago.

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