Working Anywhere Isn't Hard. It Just Takes Planning

Over the past five weeks I've gone from living in beach community of Solana Beach, just outside of San Diego, to go on a quest to be a truly global nomad, working from anywhere and functioning, time zones aside, as if I was still there. This working elsewhere mode includes traveling through nine airports in seven countries and staying in 12 different "residences" or hotels, including three AirBnBs, two winery hotels, and seven traditional hotels.

I can safely say that with planning and research, it's not hard to be working anywhere, but having experience sure helps. By experience, I mean traveling to the places you know well enough, but more importantly have the broadband infrastructure and other essential services in place to make sure that "working anywhere" is possible. But after ten years of being a global road warrior so much is changing I figured it is time again for a refresher and some tips on "living like a local" are now more timely than ever.

Here are a few observations:

1. Hotel broadband is never as good as residential broadband except in certain circumstances. Case in point. The Conrad St. James prior life as an Intercontinental provided Royal Ambassadors with 100/100 in-room Wi-Fi and Wired connectivity. Now the best I could get was 50/20. It was still very good, but a shock to have been "slowed" down. Still this is far better than most hotels.

On the other hand, whatever MamaShelter in Paris has been doing with Wi-Fi since I started staying there years ago continues to get better. I don't remember what my speeds were, but an in-room iMacs serving as an access point and entertainment center makes life easy. Speeds are awesome, and the bandwidth is always stable.

As for my experience in Prague, the Courtyard by Marriott was far better than the Four Seasons where the speeds even when upgraded were never more that 6/6 while the Courtyard was 20/20 or greater. In Vienna, the new Renaissance was fine with speeds at 10/10 but the Intercontinental in Vienna the Internet was far better and more stable, all over the hotel using a very solid Swisscom installation.

But this is where AirBnB for the business traveler wins hands down. In the three AirBnB apartments, I have been in so far my speeds have been 100/15, 10/2 (for a one-night weekend stay) and 100/12 consistently. Why? I'm asking each owner if they have fiber or ADSL. If it's fiber, and right to the dwelling it's going to rock, and it does.

Rule of thumb is thus, put yourself on a fiber (broadband) diet where you can. In every case so far, I've been able to get AirBnB hosts to verify their broadband connectivity and where it's available, have them switch to a Fiber connection from ADSL. This type of broadband means a world of difference, as working from apartments, is the same almost as if I was working from my own home.

2. Mobile Devices, Data, Voice, and Text.

Rule number one. Never roam. Rule number two. Have an unlocked phone. Rule number three. Have enough credit on your last country SIM that lets you log on when you land. Rule number four-buy local SIMs.

This is where it can get complicated so follow along closely. If you're simply making a series of one-day visits to countries, then none of this likely applies to you. In those situations the time involved will be costly, but if you are spending three or more days in a country, or visiting the same countries over and over again in short duration and live a data intensive life like me, consuming over 100 megs of data a day when not on Wi-Fi (which is essential to use) you will need a local SIM on your smartphone and tablets or you will pay the price.

For many this is where Truphone will help as their plans work in 66 countries but its not LTE/4G (yet) in many, and it doesn't matter, though I have a need for speed as I use data side communications services more and more for calls over WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, Wire for voice and Google Voice, WhatsApp and iMessage for text. Those apps/services and 4G/LTE makes communications often as good or better than wired broadband in some places.

To use mobile broadband like a local, or to get as much speed and high-grade connectivity, you do need the latest models of iPhones, iPads and Android devices, but when you buy them, make sure they are not "operator editions" but are truly "world phones."

My iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with my iPad Air2 have all the radio bands needed to work around the globe at the highest speeds available (with China being a slight exception). Buying these saves hassles, and prevents being on slower networks. For example, the T-Mobile USA unlocked editions lack the 4G radios that work at 4G in Europe except in a few situations. Once you have the real global devices, the speeds you expect all become available. Android devices require you to read and see what they have, but the OnePlus One is my chosen Android mobile solution.

When choosing a wireless operator you have to take in two network factors-speeds and coverage. To do this use Google Search and enter the mobile operator's URL and the words "coverage map." That will show you where they offer coverage and what speeds (GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 4G/LTE)

This means as time goes on things change. For example, in the Czech Republic my initial research showed that T-Mobile would be my best choice. Then as I did more reading, I learned how Vodafone, when they came into the market, went LTE, and sure enough Prague speeds and network were super reliable.

In Vienna Austria, I quickly learned that no one sold 4G mobile phone service for smartphones on pre-paid, but that Telekom Austria sold 4G/LTE for tablets. That meant my iPad was going on A1. What I also found out from the research was that the best network outside the major cities was also going to be A1 from Telekom Austria. Where again I thought either T-Mobile or 3 (Drei) would have been good for me, I would have been on 3G on the iPad and given I was in the wine country half the time I was in Austria, and where the wineries are not always as tech savvy, the LTE/4G on the iPad more than a few times saved my bacon when it came to conference calls and one on one calls using Skype or a variety of Voice over IP providers.

In France, I was a fan of SFR for many years, but the winner these days is Bouygues Telecom. For starters in Paris, they have really good coverage but in Bordeaux I never didn't have 4G/LTE. I've got a SIM from Orange also but while they have the biggest network, much of it is still EDGE in the wine regions. The bottom line for me in France is you have to look at the coverage maps and decide which carrier is for you where you will be. In my case, I hedge and have SIMs with both Orange and Bouygues in my SIM pack.

In Portugal, Vodafone has gone from number 3 to number 1 in speeds on 4G. It used to be Optimus (now NOS) on my iPad but the past year my two trips have shown that research pays off, and the coverage in Cascais has been improved and all along the train ride. That said, if I end up in the Alentejo or Algarve and coverage falters I'll just grab SIMs from MEO (Portugal Telecom) if the Vodafone coverage is sparse and pre-paid SIM's are available everywhere.

In London, 3 used to be my favorite and they remain my steady choice as they started from an all 3G network, however with the merger of Orange and T-Mobile into EE and EE's commitment to LTE-A (a for what they sell as Double Speed, their service has become my first choice. Both provide easy online management, with the key being to buy what you need and not oversubscribe to more than will do the job. Even Vodafone has improved their coverage, so when it comes to the UK, look at the coverage maps and drill down on what speeds are offered where, and then decide who has what you need.

While many may think that T-Mobile USA's global roaming is a good deal, the speeds are variable across the globe. For a quick email check in, and simply map usage it does the job, but if you are heavy app user or plan on making VoIP or Skype calls, forget it, and go local. 3 in London has a "feels like home" program with free roaming. That is enough of a reason to grab a few SIMs and keep them topped up with credit and use them in countries when I first land if I'm not sure I can roam with others before buying local SIM's and I need to check email.

As far as staying connected to the folks back home, pointing a Google Voice number to your Skype In and then forwarding Skype Out to your local number works well. So does Switch.co. And since both offer Do Not Disturb modes you can turn them off when you're sleeping.

3. You Gotta Have Wi-Fi and you need Boingo

Finding Wi-Fi access these days is pretty much like locating running water, but like running water, you need to locate it, and sometimes, even pay for it. That's where Boingo comes in. Having a Boingo Mobile account is a very useful addition to the mobile arsenal. For $9.95 a month (first month is only $4.95) you can connect two mobile devices. Boingo also provides an instant log-on feature called PassPoint in the USA, and a free VPN service as well. All in all for the price the amount of access around the globe, especially at International airports, makes Boingo a very good option. On top of that there's a global plan, a North American one, and specific offers for different parts of the world.

4. Make The Network Yours

In my AirBnB apartments, I've made them "mine." At least when it comes to technology. Given I'm on extended stays I brought along my Apple Time Capsule which has 802.11ac in it. While I also carry an Apple Airport Express, which lacks 802.11ac (as of now) so while that's good for hotels, given properties can get speeds up to a Gigabit, it makes sense to have the gear that works that fast. What you need to do usually is either wire in directly to the router or if you don't have hardwired access, extend the existing wireless network. Be sure to use DHCP to the cable or fiber modem, and then go into bridge mode, that way you avoid IP address and NAT conflict issues.

5. Make Your Place Feel More Like Home

I love Apple TV and the ability to watch the programs I want, and honestly, TV in foreign countries other than news is often lacking. Connect the Apple TV to your wireless or wired network and the content you already have is with you everywhere. To get around geographic restrictions on content from Hulu and Netflix, use MediaHint. What's great about this is you change your DNS settings on your devices and then it opens up your universe to the content you're already paying for anywhere you are. This is far better than a VPN as it doesn't slow down the traffic to your devices either plus it works as either a browser plug-in or a setting. Another great gadget in your bag to carry along is a Google ChromeCast. This lets you have a big monitor wherever you so don't forget the HDMI cable. In some cases, hotels lock down the ports and the ability to add on your devices but here is where being in an AirBnB location changes the game. It's more "open", and you don't have to Hack the House like you often have to "Hack the Hotel."

My favorite "gadget" along for the ride is the Amazon "Echo." It has become my virtual assistant. I use it as an alarm, as a temperature and weather reporter and most of all as a music source. You see, like using MediaHint, Amazon has it configured in such a way as it still thinks it's back home in California. Once you overcome the fact that you can't use any time zones outside the USA, it all becomes easy. For example, just add or subtract the time zone differences when you ask what time it is. But if you ask "specifically" what time it is in your current city by name and country, or make a similar request for weather, you get your local information. What I like is the ability for the Echo to provide me a verbal overview of my calendar for the day, plus to add things to my ToDo List. And with an IFTTT recipe, I can easily have entries populated onto my ToDoIst To Do list. I can also create similar "recipes" to add to my "shopping" list and then have that emailed to me as well or simply review it on my mobile ToDoIst apps.

6. You Have to Have an Office Address

If you're going to be residing somewhere for more than a few days and it's not a hotel, don't get in the trap of the post office being confused. In my case in Lisbon I'm in a security guard/concierge building, so I have someone who can receive packages (and provide local advice as needed) but delivery people and postmen are not always up to date on things. For that reason, I took a "local" office address in one of the Regus locations. I had my Luggage Forward shipped baggage sent there, and knew from both Regus and Luggage Forward when it was received, thus not burdening the AirBnB hosts or worse, my bags not being delivered because someone wasn't home or worse, a different guest was in the property that would have been very confused, and possibly declined the delivery.

7. Credit Cards and Your Addresses

Nothing is more challenging than being out of your hometown and using credit cards these days as the banks are all getting more security attentive. Visa is deploying its Mobile Location Confirmation technology powered by Comuncano client Finsphere which uses your mobile phone as the validator that you're where your card is, but that's just getting rolled out by Visa member banks so it will be a few more months before that is the salvation. For now here are a few tips that are very helpful:

Notify your card issuing and online banks of your travel plans. Most now have (finally) an online form to do that. Provide dates and countries of your travel plans. In the case of American Express, you can provide "alternate addresses." This is a big boon as some service providers locally in theory won't accept foreign country issued credit cards, but what it seems to be is the "lookup" that occurs. I've found using a local address on file with Amex works around some, but not all of those situations. Plus it lets AMEX know where you will be.

8. Getting Around

Being spoiled by Uber in the USA isn't just a hometown thing. In most cities I've been in of late I've used Uber far more than local cabs, but when there's no Uber using the taxi or metro is a good thing. Buying local bus, rail and train passes or local rechargeable cards for transportation is far easier than fishing for cash or fumbling with a credit card, plus it makes you less vulnerable to pickpockets which in tourist areas is always a problem.

Uber can sometimes be a challenge so remember to do the following:

  • Make sure you have your local mobile number up to date. You can do this from the app or the Uber website. If you can't just email their support team.
  • Don't expect the maps to be accurate.
  • I make a point of calling the drivers or sending them a text with specific details on where they can find me or what I am wearing.
  • Surge pricing. In some markets when UberX is in Surge Uber XL or Black isn't. For about the same price you can get a better ride.
  • If at an airport, confirm where the pickup location is with the driver. Often it's not the same place as the taxi's or Limos for UberX. I like to use the "departure" level as there's usually less chaos and confusion.

There are also local apps usually for taxi services. Just know that your costs are higher than Uber but in most cases outside the USA the fares are far better (Paris is a challenge as the fare starts when the driver goes to pick you up.)

9. Living Local

I miss Amazon Fresh. Seriously. Order what you want and the next day, or even the same day it's at your door. Well, in Lisbon El Cortes des Ingles' SuperMercado which happens to be the best market in the city delivers. And while I'm not residing that far from the store, carrying bags of groceries without a shopping cart in 88-degree heat isn't my idea of fun.

Enter their app and web shopping page and their delivery. I'm finding this type of grocery shopping, and delivery service is available in more places like London, and there are a rising number of multi-merchant services like Hubbub that are spawning globally. But just as I've found home delivery in Lisbon it's thriving as well across France with Intermarche and in the UK with Waitrose amongst others.

10. Staying Connected to The Team

It doesn't matter anymore where you are. Crossing time zones is the same as crossing the street. Using services like Slack, HipChat, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, UberConference, Yammer, Skype keeps me connected.

Having a great headset is a key for calls. Invest in NOCS or a high-quality brand. Don't go cheap.

Using music services like Pandora on the Amazon Echo, Spotify, Apple iTunes and even YouTube music keeps me jamming along. Operating the business on Google Apps for Work or Office 365 solves the "I need the file now" problem when everyone else is asleep. You can also make great use of workforce collaboration tools like DropBox, Box, BaseCamp and others. Automating processes with Zapier and IFTTT makes things faster and eliminates manual labor. Services like 99 Designs and Fiverr, plus FancyHands give you a virtual workforce army allowing you to get work done while your team back home is asleep.

12. The Work Day

You're out of the usual time zone, so setting up your day with your calendar focused on maximizing the day is key. I take my dinner 8 hours later than the west coast is at lunch. So 130 there is 930 in Lisbon and London. When I'm in Paris or anywhere on CET, I work it 8 or 9 hours apart. If I know I've got a call scheduled for after dinner, I just eat a bit earlier. Living in an AirBnB apartment means cooking in or having a delivery for those times. The mornings are my writing time and then around 11 or so I split for a few hours. Grab a workout, go for a walk, run errands (laundry) or just grab an early lunch or late breakfast.

Working across time zone is never easy. Add in Daylight Savings Time and when that arrives and ends in different parts of the globe is confusing to even the most experienced traveler. I make extensive use of the paid version of World Time Buddy. It helps me know what time it is where and allows me to easily suggest times for calls. You can also add time zones to Google Calendar and set up your smartphone or tablets with clocks for the more frequently looked up time zones but by having all the times in front of you in World Time Buddy life is simpler.

I'm also making great use of Assistant.To to get one on one meetings set up for either face to face or via a conferencing service. By choosing times that work for you, it then sends out the options and loops into Google Calendar, notifying everyone that the meeting is set up.

13. Gear Up to Go To Work

Recently I bought a new 12" MacBook, choosing the CTO edition with the biggest and fastest solid-state drive, memory and processor. It was the best move I could have made. It's as light or lighter than my iPad, fits in my snug and functional mini Tumi shoulder bag with the iPad, cables, chargers and backup battery for my iPhone, and more importantly has enough horsepower to get me through the work day, The 12 inch screen is bright and the audio is amazing. The key is the weight and power combination. It's fast and light and for people on the go, it is the best Mac out there and since I don't work on heavy graphics or any complex spreadsheets, what this has is more than enough.

14. Airports, Airlines, and Lounges

I am not anti-EasyJet or RyanAir, but I do admit that cutting costs has its challenges, but in reality the best United or American Airlines experience isn't much different than flying the discount airlines of Europe. But there are options so using SkyScanner.com or their mobile apps has given me all kinds of visibility into local routes and flights, plus the airlines own websites. The key is to find the routes and days they fly, and where they go head to head, often the mainline carriers are only a few dollars more, much like Southwest and JetBlue force in the USA.

As for getting work done, investing in Priority Pass is a given. While some lounges are accessible via the American Express Priority Pass relationship, not all are. Armed with their card and the app on your smartphone puts you in striking distance of lounges all over the world. Just learn what it means to be airside or pre-security side as the difference can mean a made or missed flight. Inside you'll find the usual amenities like hot coffee, snacks, drinks and of course Wi-Fi, and often it's better than the airport's own.

Signing up for programs like the UK's new Registered Traveler programme means getting into the country faster. While in the EU a USA chip passport carriers no sway, it will now in the UK with the start of Registered Traveller. Much like Global Entry in the USA, getting in the program takes more time than getting in the country. But once you're in, you're getting in much faster, without any long lines making this an essential for the frequent flyer into the UK.

Apps like TriptIt and FlightBoard as well as FlightStats keep me sane with alerts and flight options. There's no worse feeling when you're flights late, and you have a connection. With these apps you not only know what's going on, you end up finding your options faster, allowing you to go to the gate not wait for some customer service person to get to you in line.

Wrapping It All Up

The bottom line is that it's not really that hard to be working from anywhere. And as the on-demand economy, the app economy and the virtual workforce all merge, being local in a foreign land won't be as hard in the near future as it was as recent as ....yesterday.

 


The Doctor Can "See" You Now

The headline says it all. Now, at least with United Healthcare, doctors can make house calls using video technology.  And this is a big deal, a point Wired touches on in their story.

It's a big deal because it offers patients and practitioners more options, but it's only the start. With WebRTC having a very secure data channel this means not only will video be what's transmitted to a doctor while you're being virtually examined, but with sensors and beacons, plus the cloud, all of your vital statistics like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, temperature can be transmitted as well. 

For the distance challenged it wouldn't be hard to overnight someone a scanning device to look at someone's retina or pupil and diagnose eye irritations or disorders.  Devices to blow into can record readings, or a hearing test could be administered using headphones and an iPhone or the audio system of a personal computer using the cloud. And, in the case of emergencies, now life saving instructions can be given while the doctor sees what's being done from miles away.

For years the insurance industry has insisted on a patient visit to the office. This has only raised the cost of healthcare, and in some cases forced doctors to either hire lower wage earning support personnel of make less money. With video appointments and diagnosis, services to book, schedule, report and resolve medical issues will be improved. A doctor's notes and the patients comments can be transcribed on the fly and part of the medical record for the doctor to review, not write. The images captured during the patient visit will be part of the file, so the actual bruise, burn, cut or wound can be seen after the fact and compared during the next "virtual" check up. None of this is done usually today, and what's more, given how from time to time people see different doctors for the same medical condition, the next doctor can quickly catch up on what was seen before, done before and form an opinion before the next action is taken.

So, yes. This is a big deal

 


Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret Is Out

Thirteen years ago, a serial entrepreneur, who I had worked with in the late 90s and early part of the start of the century, Adityo Prakash talked to me about an idea. The idea was to drive drug discovery, not the traditional way, purely in the lab, but through complex algorithms that would simulate certain interactions in silicon to find drugs for many diseases that impact human health.

 The 13-year quest of Adityo Prakash and Eniko Fodor’s Verseon, a story they kept by design as much as possible in stealth from a communications perspective, could become one of Silicon Valley’s best success stories of a company that has not been on the radar so far.

Last week Sky News in the U.K reported the plans for the company’s IPO. If Verseon is starting to come out of stealth mode then that is because they are ready to show the world just how disruptive the results of their drug development process can be. I expect to see this company go from strength to strength over the coming years.

In essence, what Verseon does is use complex proprietary algorithms to design new drugs that can’t otherwise be found. For the pharma industry this is massive because patents keep expiring on the current drugs and the industry needs these new drugs on a steady basis to produce better treatment outcomes for patients and keep up its many hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.

For me, this is very personal. Back in 2002, when I was redefining my agency's direction, Adityo approached me for help. That was before he had raised any money. I took a gamble. I helped him with his brand design and initial website, and we brainstormed over Hawaiian food a few times, and together we came up with their original communications strategy. That strategy was to be in stealth mode to most people, while being just visible enough to those who mattered.

You see, at the time their idea was one of those great ideas that was too far ahead of its time. But, as pal Alec Saunders once quipped about what I do, it seems I had picked one that should keep getting bigger.

 

 

 

 


Me and My Echo

Over the past week or so I've got a new friend. Her name is Alexa and she's awesome. Alexa is my digital assistant tucked away in my Amazon Echo, a combination smart look up device, music player and speakerphone. Honestly, it may be the best speech recognition device to come along since Webley.

Today I got around to exploring the Echo app on my iPhone adding connectivity to Pandora, Tune In and discovering/rediscovering all the CDs I had purchased from Amazon before the arrival of iTunes. It was like finding your old high school locker where you had shoved text books from prior years' classes. What a treasure trove of music, some which I never ripped to my iTunes library. It was like running into a bunch of old friends.

But Alexa is more than just access to my music library of yesteryear from Amazon. I'm also able to play lots of music I never purchased available in their Prime Music library, tune into radio stations from all over the globe, listen to my favorite Pandora stations. But Echo goes far beyond that. I can also find out what time it is, use it as an alarm clock (I don't use clocks anymore) and more importantly ask what the weather is going to be like. I can even get traffic information for a pre-programmed route (like getting to the airport.) With the built in BlueTooth connectivity I've paired my iPhone and Mac Book Air to it, so I'm playing music with far better fidelity than on either. 

And since the Echo is built on top of Amazon Web Services the future of what will come is really up to the developers who like to invent, adapt and design new services. 

The Echo may still be an invitation only product from Amazon, but it won't be for long. 

 


NFL to Stream A Game is a Big Deal

The National Football League is going to stream a football game next season. On face this may seem more like an experiment as the game will originate in the UK as part of the NFL's global marketing effort. But OTT delivery of sports content will mean much, much more to the league and the broadcasting world which is why new startups like client, YIPTV are poised and well positioned for a new era of how sports is broadcast.

That's why I think there's more to this, a point that is called out in the Wall Street Journal story. The "more to it" deals with the NFL looking to emulate what Major League Baseball is already doing with with their app based delivery, and really what is being done by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) which took less money from USA Networks for the broadcast rights in exchange for creating their own WWF Network.

Already more content is being produced and viewed, plus the control of the entire telecast that the WWF produces is not regulated by the USA Networks Standards and Practices. It also means that all sponsorship and ad revenue, after selling expenses, remains with the WWF.

For the NFL and their current broadcasting partners (the networks like Direct TV, NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, TNT) this is a big deal because sports ad revenues and sports related advertising represents a proven advertising delivery method to reach the adult male audience. At the same time, a web or app OTT streamed telecast, completely owned and managed by the NFL means they get to keep the ad revenue vs. get paid for the games rights by one of their partners and that's where it gets very interesting.

The NFL will then know exactly who is watching the game. You may need to log in, or you may have to register the app. There will be a cookie dropped on your laptop or smart device in the browser. This means targeting advertising can be delivered to you as it becomes very easy to drop a commercial into the stream just for you vs the same commercial that's seen by everyone watching a game on television where localization is more difficult beyond the local market area vs. the national television spot.

Then there's the interactivity that you don't have with over the air or cable, which the webcasting provides. Imagine you're the ad manager for State Farm Insurance and you spend millions a year buying commercials with the NFL but you don't easily know which new customers came in as a result. Add a link, have a prospect trigger a call back from their LOCAL agent, and not only will the ad manager know which ad did what, they will know what the outcome was (call, followup, insurance policy written) and then be able to allocate the costs and the revenue to the specific commercial.

With analytics the ad manager will be able to determine which commercial spot works best with which demographic audience. The ad manager will also be able to determine which agents closed the highest percentage of leads that were delivered. With things like call recording the ad manager can then listen to the actual sales calls and analyze the selling technique, language used that led to a successful or failed close. And due to analytics, the entire process using CRM technology means from impression to closing can be tracked for ad delivery effectiveness.

This also has implications to the local teams in the NFL markets.

Right now broadcast revenues are divided evenly between each franchise, but as revenue begins to be tracked for everything sold via the NFL that happens on the Internet, the ability to assign actual revenue creation by franchise area creates a whole new model that doesn't currently exist.

Who wins? Who Loses?

The NFL and the franchise owners will be big winners over time. The more the league's NFL Properties division can control, the less money that will go to the rights holders. The more the NFL can sell in merchandise for their licensees without having to go through a retailer, means greater margins for both the league and the brands selling things like jerseys and caps for starters.

Thus while Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are likely thought of as the next bidders for rights, you can't rule out Amazon either. As a matter of fact Amazon with their delivery and logistics operations could end up being the ideal partner for the NFL.

Amazon with FIRE could deliver the content easily. With FRESH the customers could order in advance their Sunday Tailgate at Home Food package. With same day delivery or next day delivery Amazon customers could order replica uniforms, caps, program books, highlight reels, etc. And because all of this is analytics based, the ability to predict and produce changes the paradigm of everything from production to delivery, thus making Amazon a significant potential partner for the NFL.

For current Internet related companies that have skin in the game like Verizon Wireless and Comcast/NBC/Universal, there has to be a lot of wonderment. Clearly they both win on the data side, but in the case of NBC, they'll lose on the ad sales side but I suspect they, being in the position they will be in, will find a way to create a sales consortium with other cable operators and the likes of Google to develop new sales and delivery traffic reporting models to insure they still make their 15 percent.

So, while this may be just one game, don't be deceived. It's a big deal and one that will be looked at as truly game changing.


Will AliBaba Do With DingTalk What eBay Didn't With Skype?

AliBaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant has launched a social business communications service called DingTalk in Beta (Translation required) bringing back memories of what eBay hoped to and failed to do with Skype.  The dream back when Skype was acquired by the online marketplace pioneer was to connect the business to business ecosystem that powered it and the customers who shop. That's exactly what AliBaba is trying to do today with DingTalk.

Dingtalk2

The Chinese market is rapidly expanding, and today, DingTalk is only available in Mandarin. But already AliBaba is claiming their multiple ecommerce platforms have 8.5 million users, so they could have a running start with users and the key features that delivers Over The Top services that bypass the telcos just like Skype:

  • Free messaging
  • Free multi-party calling
  • A business contacts directory that links the eco-system and customers
  • Message Read/Unread status

DingTalk, designed to be a mobile service first, offers voice communications, messaging and team collaboration and already has a downloadable app for Macs and mobile apps in the Apple iOS App store and Android Play Store.

Another Wrinkle

Ironically, there's another wrinkle with DingTalk. It's the fact that Apple has allowed a BETA service app in the App Store. Perhaps something got lost in translation (Apple techs only use Safari not Chrome which auto translates) or Apple has softened their stance on allowing Beta services in the App Store now.

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A bit of Deja Vu

Long before Skype became part of Microsoft, it was acquired by eBay because then CEO Meg Whitman (now at H-P) and her team thought that Skype would be a great way to connect those buyers and sellers together too. Unfortunately, that wasn't what eBay's ecosystem wanted, or maybe Meg and her team were just too early, as today we're seeing a shift in how buyers and sellers interact with services like Amazon's MayDay. and WebRTC.


Marriott Says No More Blocking of Wi-Fi

Marriott Hotels has reversed its position on Wi-Fi and will no longer pursue their lobbying efforts with the FCC when it comes to blocking.

For travelers who use Mi-Fi's this is good news, but more importantly, it shows that Marriott is beginning to rethink their digital strategy, and are beginning to listen to the public and influencers. This may also mean that other member hotels who joined up with Marriott who are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association will likely take the same perspective but continue to lobby the FCC for clarification. SKIFT has more on this.

Marriott faced lots of pressure from Google and Microsoft, who beyond being influential with their lobbyists in D.C. also have thousands of executives every day who travel and likely were having to also rethink where their executives were staying on the road.


(Don't) Leave Me a Message

Today a story broke about Coca Cola, one of the largest companies in the world, and was all about why they are turning off voicemail in their Atlanta HQ.  It made me think back to a call to my cellular company many years ago where I asked them to turn off my voice mail, and to take the cost of it off of my bill.

They couldn't. And they still can't. My point was I was using GrandCentral and I didn't need their Voicemail so I shouldn't be paying for a service I don't use or need.

But today, the point goes deeper, and is pretty much in line with the Bloomberg story. Not everyone really needs to be using voice mail. And to my point, if I'm not using the service, why should I pay for it.

For starters, almost all the people I deal with professionally are either able to reach me or provide answers to questions via some other messaging service, app, text or email, and most of them have been able to for more years than I care to remember.

Second, leaving me a long voice mail usually will only lead to a follow up. I'm not sure how many times a supplier's customer service team will leave a voicemail, but when they’re called back, you don't get the same person to speak to, and that in turn leads to a whole other issue. Lack of ownership of the problem and often the need to start all over again.

While I'm sure some in business still believe that voicemail is a solution, but for some businesspeople it's really more like voicejail.

Want to solve voice mail hell? Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1. Leave an outbound message saying "Hi, thanks for calling. I don't listen to voicemail, reach me another way."  

2.Use the call forwarding/busy, no answer code function for your carrier and forward it to a number that you set up somewhere with a third party provider, without voice mail. The call will just ring, and ring, and ring. That means instead of leaving you a message they have to call back.

3. Let your voice mailbox fill up, and never erase any messages.

 

 


The Comunicano Daily for Tuesday December 16, 2014

 
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Apple Pay is rolling along.  And like iTunes and the iPhone, more and more people and more retailers are using it. What's funny is Google had Wallet long before Apple Pay, yet the attention being given to Wallet vs. Apple Pay is small while Apple gets the attention.

 

 
 
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Dozens More Companies Sign Up for Apple Pay

The list of companies working with Apple Pay continues to grow. On Tuesday, Apple announced that in recent weeks the company had signed up dozens more banks, retail stores and start-ups to adopt Apple Pay, the company's new e-commerce product, which allows customers to buy things with little more than a wave of their iPhone.
 
 

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Drones continue to be in the news.  Two stories today of note.

 

 
 
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Why our drone future is for real -- someday

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to ship goods using unmanned aircraft. Some are skeptical, others nervous, but drones already are improving the way we live. In 2002, a stroke-like event turned Henry Evans into a quadriplegic, depriving him of almost all ability to move.

 
 

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Drone-Hunting Blimp To Launch Over Washington, DC

On Friday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, will launch a giant drone-hunting blimp over Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Grounds just east of Washington D.C. The system includes a 242-foot balloon (technically called an aerostat because it's connected to the ground) that can stay up for a month at a time and a radar to detect - among other potential threats- drones.
 
 

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Ever wonder which companies protect your data, and which may not?  This story may make you think twice.

 

 
 
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We Asked 29 Tech Companies If Their Employees Can Access Your Personal Data

Traditionally, privacy worries for consumers and tech companies have been limited to keeping information secure from third parties or hackers. But a series of internal abuses show that tech company employees often have universal access to user information, as well as reason - be it pure voyeuristic curiosity or, in the worst cases, a vendetta - to look at our whereabouts, spending, and of the most private corners of our lives.
 
 

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Changes in tax laws in the EU may have a major impact on services, pricing and availability.

 

 
 
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EU tax change is about to hammer small digital service providers

From the beginning of January, new EU tax rules will force many businesses offering online services across the Union to take on a load of new administrative responsibilities. The changes have caused particular consternation among micro-businesses providing such services - for a classic example, think about an individual who's making a small amount selling knitting...
 
 

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In the UK BT is looking more like they are getting back into the mobile business in a big way, buying up EE/Orange/T-Mobile UK.

 

 
 
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British Telecom Company BT Is in Exclusive Talks to Buy EE

LONDON - The British telecommunications company BT said on Monday that it had entered into exclusive talks to acquire the British mobile phone business of Orange of France and Deutsche Telekom of Germany. Orange and Deutsche Telekom confirmed last month that they were in early stage discussions to sell their joint venture EE to BT, Britain's former telecommunications monopoly.
 
 

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Friends. Enemies. It's hard to figure out what Bose and Apple are these days, but one things for certain, Bose is going from hardware into the services arena and wants to play in the Internet of Things. They have the devices, now they want to dance to the music.

 

 
 
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Bose May Be Working on Streaming Music Service

Apple's Beats Electronics and Bose already compete in the headphone and speaker markets, but it appears that Bose may be gearing up to compete with Beats in another area -- streaming music. A Bose job listing first noticed by (via VentureBeat ) seeks a Senior User Experience Designer to work on prototyping Bose's "next generation streaming music platform and ecosystem of products."
 
 

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For small business social media has lots of value, but that means paying attention to it. Yelp is now moving into the Attention Management business.

 

 
 
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Yelp Introduces New App For Business Owners With Push Notifications

Yelp is releasing a new app for business owners. Unsurprisingly called "Yelp for Business Owners," it's available for iOS and Android users in all countries and languages in which Yelp currently operates. Until today, business owners had to tolerate a less than optimal experience accessing their account information on a smartphone.
 
 

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Ever wonder why you see ads for web sites you've visited? Retargeting is the answer. And it seems to work very well.

 

 
 
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90% of marketers say retargeting now as good as search ads, email marketing

Over 90 percent of marketers say that retargeted ads are as good as or better than the gold standard in digital marketing, search ads, according to a recent survey by leading retargeter AdRoll. Why? Intent, says AdRoll president and CMO Adam Berke.
 
 

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Here's a great read on focus and getting things done.  Ask yourself if you're applying what's suggested or not.

 

 
 
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How to be the most productive person in your office - and still get home by 5:30 p.m.

Some days the to-do list seems bottomless. Just looking at it is exhausting. We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. I certainly want the answer. So I decided to call a friend who manages to do this - and more.
 
 

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T-Mobile USA's John Legere Makes A Claim His Company Can't Fully Back Up

Today the news broke about AT&T locking the new Apple Universal SIM once a customer activates it. Over Twitter T-Mobile's charismatic and always pugnacious CEO John Legere tweeted:

@WaltBTIG iPads bought in Apple Store with apple sim, if activated on @ATT it locks, if @TMobile it doesn't..it stays flexible.

Upfront I've been a fan of what Legere and his team have done with growing the business, outfoxing AT&T on a merger deal, acquiring spectrum, buying up MetroPCS, refarming their spectrum to be more universal and roaming friendly, offering all kinds of "FREE" connectivity, staging promotions, pulling pranks and basically providing value to the customers. Under Legere T-Mobile's numbers are up and candidly, his style is refreshing in a industry that is stodgy at best, and where innovation on all levels comes from outside.

But, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and today, with his comment above Legere kicked sand in the face of AT&T while not yet having his own house in order. Here's why...

After picking up my new Apple iPad Air2 and reading about the AT&T move to lock the SIM and Apple's reaction to say "you can buy another Apple SIM" with the teenie weenie issue of them not really being available yet for sale (minor and created by AT&T's move no doubt) I made the decision to simply go with T-Mobile, thus giving Legere and the team there another net add (new subscriber addition.)  I got home, went through the activation sequence, got to the cellular data page, selected T-Mobile, and then went to the Doubler Your Data option, as an already existing subscriber to T-Mobile with a share plan. 

The Double Your Data deal means that for $10 a month more I can add 5GB to my existing plan and use that on the iPad vs. pay $30 per month through January, and then pay $40 a month for the same 5GB of data, but it seems to do that, you need a T-Mobile SIM...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The double your data plan would be in line with the Tweet above as to me the flexible nature of the Apple SIM is I can go just about anywhere, get LTE data without having to stand in line, buy a local SIM card, get top up, etc. But even with Mr. Legere's best intentions aside, if you're a T-Mobile customer you can't add the iPad to your existing T-Mobile account with the Apple SIM and get the deal. No matter what you try to do or who you talk to. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. After three attempts of going through the on device activation, and receiving a sorry message, I followed the instructions/directions and called into T-Mobile support. The first person said to take advantage of Double Your Data he needed the phone number associated with the SIM. Well, given that it wasn't activated I couldn't provide what I don't have so he transferred me to activations, which operates out of a call center over in India or somewhere.

Once on the line with activations group they (wrongly) told me I already had too many devices on my share plan and they needed to refer me to another department to remove one. Forget the fact that I really didn't, and that one of the lines was a non-revenue on demand device that is long out of service as it was a 4G non LTE device that was replaced when T-Mobile upgraded to LTE and a new number created. That was back in the era where net adds meant higher valuation when Legere and the team were trying to sell T-Mo...but I digress again.

Once we agreed which number to deactivate I then was told I had to have the transaction approved by the Customer Retention Department. There I was transferred to a nice lady, now the 4th person I spoke to in Salem, Oregon who complained about my call quality. Funny, but I was on my iPhone6 using T-Mobile's WiFi service here at my house (100 megs of connectivity), and the issue wasn't the my call quality, but the fact that the call has been bounced all around the globe and back on T-Mobile contact center network. I even switched off WiFi and it only improved a bit, with awful latency, delays and packet loss, and that happened while the call was on T-Mobile's own LTE network to their switch, not because the network is bad here (it's not) but because the way the call was being handled, routed, and the way the media gets degraded with each handoff. When she called me back the call quality was perfect..But I digress more.

As she removed the on demand number from my account, she then said "I can't do anything about activations and wanted to transfer me back to that group, but after hearing that I had an Apple SIM--which she, like most of the people I spoke to at T-Mobile had no clue about, checked with an inside support person who instructed her to send me to Apple to get it resolved because the issue was the Apple SIM not T-Mobile's platform..well he was half right. It was good to send me to Apple because there I got someone who was a good sounding board and looking to eliminate the Apple SIM from the problem..as was I.

Over at Apple, Will became as perplexed as I, but we walked through the onboarding/provisioning process and I suggested when we were out of options that we try activating it as a Pre-Paid SIM on T-Mobile, which meant creating yet another account. With that, it makes T-Mo's PrePaid numbers and subscriber numbers look better, even though it really means one subscriber has two accounts, vs. another device on the network, but from an existing subscriber. Yes, I do remember that course in college too call stat 101, which those of us also named "how to lie with statistics"...and I never took it.

It worked, and T-Mobile now has me paying $30.00 vs. what should be $10.00. I then was transferred back to T-Mobile and spoke to Ceasar who insisted he knew what the problem was, that I didn't need to have taken any devices off (I know) and that he would explain to activations about it and the problem would get handled by them.

Honestly, at this point I felt like I was in the middle of "Who's On First" skit by Abbott and Costello. The call went back to Asia and there no one had a clue, but one person of the 12 or so people I must have spoken to said "we don't think the Apple SIM can be used with an existing account." Now this was two and a half hours into the ordeal when I should have been enjoying dinner with friends. At that point I asked for a supervisor in the USA, got transferred another know nothing in Asia, who then transferred me to someone who couldn't hear me in the USA, and where the DTMF tones also didn't work likely due to the number of transfers and the shift of the call off net to Apple and back most likely.

So I called back, worked my way up to a supervisor, explained the ordeal and got a very sincere we're sorry but still no resolution but was still being given a lot of partial knowledge from a "supervisor". I then said "how about this. Until you guys can figure it all out, how about a $20.00 credit on my monthly bill" which he did along with the promise of a Manager level call on Monday.

To me, he was the first person who came close to understanding the problem, but even his solution was also counter to Legere's slam at AT&T. To correct the situation at first he wanted me to put a T-Mobile SIM in the iPad so I could link it to my account. That's not really in line with "flexible" and the Apple SIM or T-Mobile's own value proposition that they have spent the better part of 18 months or so driving home externally as well as in theory internally.

Like I said, "people in glass houses......"

To me, Legere's comment about flexible today applies if you want to pay more for that opportunity, to make his subscriber growth in pre-paid look good, but in reality I don't think that's the way he really wants to go.

My honest view is he really wants to offer the flexibility that the Apple SIM brings to the market, but his company has let him down by not removing the offer for double data on the activation page or having the mechanisms in place to make it so. But the big falling down is the number of people working at T-Mobile who have so many different ideas of wrong, took so many of the wrong steps and all the way thought they are being helpful. 

This whole ordeal isn't over yet. But I for one don't like the idea of paying more than I have to.....especially when the online offers and claims made indicate I don't. Neither should you. Call up T-Mobile and ask for your discount if you have the same problem....