BizTech

Business and Technology News from NUS

Month: June 2018

Going from Startups to Business Empires

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As 2018 continues to go by, and with tax return time fast approaching, now is the perfect time to revamp and rethink strategies and business goals, particularly if you run a small business. Small businesses, contrary to popular belief, are often bountiful in their successes. There are many moving concepts and the like that this can be contributed to, but what it really comes down to is the risk factor. When businesses are in their infancy stages, they can afford to take the risks that larger-scale companies simply cannot afford to take losses on, should they not turn out to their satisfaction. Small businesses can afford to take these losses because their ROI is virtually non-existent in the early stages. It pays to be a small business sometimes, and moments where risks have the potential to launch a business into the stratosphere that is unyielding success are the pivotal points in a small business that can often take it from a dream into a reality.

The excitement and nerves of starting your own business can often collide into one another, making the entire process (and you) a stress-induced dilemma. In these initial stages of uncertainty and overwhelming excitement, this is when you should be getting your ducks in a row and organising the ins and outs of the business model. Knowing your business model inside and out before the business becomes anything is quite important because going into any situation blind, hoping for the best, is never a smart way to approach a new experience, much less one that you have invested time and money into. A lot of aspects of the business (and life, in all honesty) will feel chaotic and up in the air, but there are processes that you can go through to make running the business easier down the track. Opting to go with available packages like novated leasing can be greatly beneficial for small businesses, particularly as they start out and can easily have everything neatly aligned, ready to be worked through. As the business matures, the chaos transpires.  

To make the transition from small start-up to thriving young business, business owners must first stop competing for trivial things like ad space and marketing tactics. Confidence in your brand should extend far enough that ad space and marketing tactics come naturally, if not easily. It sounds like the opposite of what one should do when trying to get their business of the ground, but in fact it allows the business owner to focus on the most important aspect of the business – the customers. Engaging with and understanding the expectations of your client base should be your number one priority.

The customer is the heart of the business – without the customer, the business cannot function healthily or properly. To keep a business thriving and living, you must focus a lot of time and energy on the client base. Keeping the customers happy ensures that you have return buyers – one of the necessities to ensuring the longevity of your business.

Every Company is a Technology Business

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Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous vehicles are transforming businesses and consumer behavior in fundamental ways. The first wave of the internet brought everyone online, the second wave connected everyone through apps, and technologies such as the internet of things are set to usher in the third wave of the internet. Companies that adapt quickly to evolving technologies will dominate the market, while the ones that are slow to change run the risk of being consigned to the dustbin of history. It is therefore best to incorporate technology at the stage of formation of a limited company itself.

Artificial Intelligence is the foundational technology that will connect humanity and usher a new relationship between humans and machine in the future. Internet of Things will facilitate the use of digital devices and sensors in our homes and appliances. Autonomous vehicles will lead to increase in safety and reduction in transportation costs.

 

Understanding the Dynamics of Technology

Multiplier Effect

Technology has transformed our society in unimaginable ways. It has spurred the design, conceptualization and development of products in diverse fields ranging from medicine to science and travel. With the help of a smart phone, an object can be designed today in a matter of seconds and be uploaded to another part of the world for the benefit of a project manager. The project manager can view and make changes directly on his smart phone and upload them to a prototyping facility situated thousands of miles away, thanks to the marvels of technology.

Real Time Communication

Technology has a profound impact on a company’s ability to communicate with its customers. The competitive business environment of today makes it incumbent for companies to interact with clients quickly and clearly. Companies can harness the power of live chat, AI-enabled bots and social media to enhance customer interactions and build long-term customer relations.

Research Capacity

A company that has the technological wherewithal to research into markets and track changing trends is better positioned to capitalize on new business opportunities. The internet allows companies to explore uncharted markets from a distance and in a risk-free manner.

Operational Efficiency

Technology helps companies to maximize their operational efficiencies by managing cash flows and preserving precious resources such as time and physical space. Warehouse inventory technologies make it possible for business owners to handle their storage costs, while the internet helps executives to save time and costs by holding meetings online.

Business Culture

Technology creates a team dynamic within a business by allowing employees at different locations to interact with their professional peers. Thanks to the technological tools at their disposal, project managers can communicate with offshore teams and factory managers can connect with employees located at isolated sites. Technology can also help the employees to set aside their personal backgrounds and gel together as a team.

To conclude, technology is an inseparable fact of life and business. And every company is a technology company, irrespective of the products and services that it has on offer.

How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Business

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Business is one sector that always adopts the latest technology. From virtual reality to automation, the newest invention always finds its way into the hand of marketers. And the latest one? Artificial intelligence. What was only seen in sci-fi movies is now a reality and becoming an integral part of businesses. Here is exactly how artificial intelligence is changing how the world does business.

Customer service

33% of American’s will switch to another company’s service or product after just one instance of poor customer service. It is extremely important to treat your customers right and make them a priority. This can take a lot of time though.

One of the ways that AI has been implemented to solve this is through the use of chat bots. These are bots that speak with website users, collecting their email, sending them down a sales funnel, or offering extra resources. Some businesses can’t afford a customer service team to be present 24/7 so it helps them save on expenses while improving customer service.

Personalized user experience

Every target market is different. In how they react to advertising, what their values are, and how marketers should try to appeal to them. That’s why personalization has become a common practice in modern business. It is the process of personalizing the user experience to increase conversion rates. AI is helping evolve this trend by collecting data on users and modifying exactly what they see. For example, it changes what products are seen first, what promotions are offered, and even the layout of the website.

Anti-fraud

 

In 2016, the e-commerce industry experienced a $6.7 billion loss in chargebacks. While some credit card chargebacks are legitimate, many of them are fraudulent. This takes away revenue from businesses and puts their payment gateways on the line, as financial companies avoid businesses with frequent chargebacks. How is AI being used to prevent this? Through machine learning, speech recognition, and analyzing customer behaviour. Technology is starting to be able to identify fraud before it happens and decline purchases. To ensure that it doesn’t block legitimate customers, the importance of project monitoring in AI implementation is key.

Online security

 

Websites have many vulnerabilities. The last thing any business owner wants to experience is their website being compromised. But, it’s a reality you have to prepare for and prevent. AI is being used to protect enterprise companies specifically by using data in real time to fight against hackers. Similar to the anti-fraud measures, it is also using machine learning to understand how compromises can happen to fix them.

Artificial intelligence is a technology that has the potential to shake the business sector. It’s already being used in many ways to improve companies around the world. Firstly, customer service is being enhanced which the general consumer will benefit from by having a more positive experience. The user experience is also being tailored by AI which creates a better shopping funnel. As fraud and security are important areas, it should be no surprise that artificial intelligence is optimizing them.

How to design a REST API with Node.js and MongoDB Atlas

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REST stands for Representation State Transfer and is recognized as an industry standard for outlining how an API and its endpoints should interact with the server code of your network application.

If you’re looking to design a REST API with Node.js and MongoDB Atlas, you should have the following things at hand:

– Node.js installed.

Access to MongoDB. In case you don’t have MongoDB installed on your local machine, follow the next steps to set up a free-tier of MongoDB on the cloud.

Postman, a REST client to put the API’s endpoints to test.

Let’s get started!

– Once you login to MongoDB, set up a Sandbox for a sample application. Click on ‘New Project’ on the right side of the web page and fill in the necessary details, including the name of the project.

– MongoDB Atlas allows you one free tier/cluster (512MB). Click on ‘Build New Cluster’ and select the free tier M0. Then, enter your username and password to establish an Admin connection that will be used for database connection through the application. Click on ‘Confirm and Deploy’.  The service will take around 10 minutes to create a database cluster.

To set up the application, follow the steps below:

– Configure your server side using – Mongoose (a client that helps in connecting and communicating with the database), BodyParser (a middleware used for parsing the data sent through HTTP requests) and Express (de facto standard).

– Create a file app.js, and add an npm script to package.json file for testing and running the server.

– Set up Mongoose by defining a schema to provide some structure to the data that’s expected to be stored in our database.

– Connect the database to the application using the MongoDB Atlas page and click on ‘Allow Access from Anywhere’ to whitelist the server URL.

– Copy the URI string for version 3.4. You will now be prompted to enter the username and password. Lastly, use mongoose.connect() to connect the server and database instance.

To set up Nodemon, refer to the following steps:

– First, Install Nodemon as a dev dependency and change the start script in the package.json file. Now when you start the server, Nodemon will watch for any changes and restart the server automatically, if necessary.

Coming back to your API code, here’s how you should finish setting up Business Logic:
Include body-parser in app.js to set up routes or endpoints in the application. Using a controller, a business logic that binds your endpoints/routes used to define the action or operation they will perform after receiving an incoming request.

Test the API routes using Postman:

– Use  ‘POST request’ option to create a new task, as your database is currently empty. In the ‘body’ mention the data that follows the same schema that you defined in your model.

– Hit ‘send’ to respond with 200 status and the structured data you created in JSON format.

– Test other endpoints of the API in a similar manner. You can also update or remove the task by using the pre-defined endpoints by changing the HTTP from Postman yourself.

Battling the fear of flying

land-away-double-flying-08101222.jpgWith every passing year, travelling by air is becoming safer than ever. According to a report, last year was the safest year for airline passengers as commercial carriers recorded zero accident deaths. Nevertheless, there are still many people who break into a cold sweat just by the thought of flying. The Duchess of Cornwall (UK), Hollywood actors Sean Bean and Ben Affleck are some of the famous people battling fear of flying.

Irrational fear of flying, known as clinical aviophobia, affects nearly 2-3% travellers in developed countries. People experience symptoms such as, increased blood pressure, hyperventilation, upset gastric movements and panic attacks. They struggle with all these symptoms even though they are aware that travelling by air is extremely safe.

However, some planning, information and analysis can go a long way in coping with this problem and it will no longer hold you back for going on that luxury retreat. To help people battling fear of flying, experts recommend the following techniques.

  • Get professional help before flying out

Seeking help from medical professionals is actually the best way of beating anxiety related to flying. There are many treatment methods that have been successful in battling aviophobia like, controlled exposure therapy (the person is gradually exposed to flying situations), controlled behaviour therapy (correcting negative emotions to change response to triggers) and pharmacological treatment (use of medication shortly before flying).

Some airlines also conduct a one-day crash course to help fearful passengers. These courses typically include education on flight operation, detailed exposure to the inner workings of airplanes, discussions with medical experts etc. Many people find it comforting when they hear from trained pilots about safety procedures that are carried out during emergency situations. Many airlines also have their cabin crew trained to comfort passengers who experience fear and anxieties while flying.

  • Record your experiences

Experts highly recommend people with any kind of severe anxiety to keep a record of the triggers and experiences. When you maintain a journal or record of your triggers, you get a stronger control over your anxieties because you are able to anticipate and prepare for them. When you record your experiences, also keep reminder notes of techniques that help you calm down when they occur. It could be a breathing technique, guided imagery or some other trick that works for you.

  • Mind what you eat and drink

Say no to alcohol, fizzy drinks and sugar-based food and beverages. They will make it harder for you to control your imagination from running wild. Since low cabin pressure and dehydration are not making things any more comfortable for you, keep taking sips of water to avoid light-headedness.

  • Get information about the flight

Information is your best friend for fighting fear of flying. Lacking understanding of aviation safety developments is a common reason for aviophobia. Understanding how an airline uses modern technology for passenger safety and comfort will help you calm your mind. You may even be able to help fellow passengers who may be experiencing similar problems.

The positive effects of having a personalized home

function-family-room-design.jpgBuying a house is exciting, especially when it’s your first time. After it’s officially yours, it’s time to move in and enjoy the new living space, right? Not so quick. Before that, you need to have furniture. There are a few different ways to approach furnishing a new home, which is what you’ll learn ahead.

  • Create a priority list

Since homes are normally a larger investment, your budget for furniture might not be as high as you’d like. With this in mind, it’s wise to create a list of furnishing priorities. You wouldn’t buy a flat screen television over a bed, for example.

There’s nothing wrong with adding items piece by piece and building up your home like that. Or, you can focus on one room at time and buy furniture just for it. This gives you time to think about design and aesthetics, too.

Either way, you’ll need to do an assessment of what you do and don’t have. Do you have kitchen appliances but nothing in your bedroom? Then you’d want to focus on furnishing the bedroom in that case. Typically bedrooms and kitchens are the most crucial to furnish as it’s where you’ll be sleeping and eating.

  • Assess what you already own

As fun as it can be to dream up how you would furnish your new house with the perfect items and appliances, it’s more economical to use what you already own. Take inventory of items like chairs, couches, and tables. These are the staples of household furniture. There’s nothing wrong with getting inspiration from cool Pinterest boards, but you need to know what you’re working with.

  • Take a trip to the thrift store

Who said you have to purchase brand new furnishings? You can find tons of great furniture at local thrift stores instead. Since you’re buying a home, you probably don’t want to raise your expenses any more than you have to, anyway. Do a quick search for thrift stores in your area and visit a few. Alternatively, local ads like Kijiji or Craigslist could be just as good. You could also check out family owned stores like a Stoney Creek furniture shop.

  • Start a DIY project

This is probably better left to when you have the essentials already, but it’s the perfect way to add your own touch to a house. Even if you aren’t the best carpenter, things like chairs, tables, and desks can be made by following guides. Throw in unique woods or materials to get a look that stands out when you walk into your home.

  • Putting it all together

Your first house is a true milestone and exciting time. But, the work is far from over. You still have to furnish it and the best way to begin is with a priority list. What are you missing? What do you need to upgrade? Similarly, brainstorm what furniture you already own that could be brought into your new home. To stay economical, stop by a thrift store or two and buy lightly used items. Or if you’re handy, buy materials to do some DIY projects and create your own furniture.

A new era of digital professionalism for businesses

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It can seem like the job market is already saturated with too many applicants making it feel discouraging in trying to stand out to employers. Having a professional and individual resume and cover letter is important to employers during the hiring process. Although putting together a resume may seem difficult to format, many websites now have resume templates to help applicants learn to build a professional resume. Employers want to make sure they always have options when hiring which is why they’ll send a “we’ll keep your resume on file” phrase in their rejection email.

In the event they begin looking to open the hiring process again, they’ll first start with searching through the resumes they already have for consideration before posting the job again. This eliminates the hassle of scheduling new interviews if they’ve already been in communication once.

The way the businesses decide to interview now is completely different than even 20 years ago. What used to be a phone call or letter to confirm a slot for a face-to-face interview may now be done through a variety of platforms.

With more opportunity for employment comes more opportunity for employers to interview many more candidates in the digital age of society. Many jobs are now applied for utilizing online platforms and email surveys. Employers have multiple pre screening methods when filing through candidates than ever before. They first filter through resumes and cover letters attached to applications to search for desired skills and prior job history information. Some businesses choose to do a telephone screening where they have the applicant call a number and do an automated phone interview with recorded responses.

Businesses have the opportunity to set up digital communication such a video chat interview. Instead of driving many hours to the interview location if the applicant doesn’t live close, it’s easy to login to an online video chat where the employer and applicant can still have a live conversation and discuss questions and job expectations from both parties.

Instead of a recorded phone interview to prescreen, some employers just decide to use the contact information from a resume to communicate with the employee to schedule a phone interview. Sometimes businesses will choose to utilize written digital communication through emails as a means of doing the interview. In those cases, employers send the applicant a series of questions to type written responses to and then send back to the employer for verification of a possible next step in the hiring process.

Every employer and business is different. Some employers may decide to run multiple rounds of interviews whereas others will only request one before verifying if the individual was lucky enough to land the job.

When trying and hoping for an interview it comes down to learning how to properly present oneself on digital platforms. As employers continue to screen social media as a means of further understanding candidates, it’s important to keep a professional social media account. It’s not just the resume that employers look at, it’s everything they can learn about the candidate before the hiring process. With so many platforms and ways to learn about each other through digital media, it’s a crucial task to learn the ways of digital professionalism in business.

Changing the world with Blockchain

crowd-of-people-walking-on-city-street-sidewalk-slow-motion_vysviohx__F0000.pngBefore Bitcoin hit mainstream, hardly any of us knew what Blockchain is and the technology behind it. Though many of us are still confused about it as it’s quite complex, many of us are are learning about the technology of Blockchain and its uses in the future. Most famously, Blockchain is known as the backbone of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Dascoin however, it’s now entering other industries as it’s proving to be very useful outside of the crypto world. Looking past cryptocurrencies, it’s important to see the other benefits of Blockchain and how it’s going to change the world.

Ending corruption

No matter what state you’re living in, corruption exists. Regardless of the country’s living standard or anti-corruption laws and regulations, governments are made up of people and people are prone to persuasion. Blockchain can enhance democracy by allowing people to vote and preventing any outside influence. Once a vote has been cast, it’s placed on the Blockchain and cannot be manipulated, thus, it reduces any anti-democratic behavior.

Record keeping

It’s shown that Blockchain is highly effective for maintaining financial transactions which contain highly sensitive information. However, with that being said, Blockchain is being used to record and hold medical records, educational records, and fitness records. As many of these industries struggle with digitally storing documents due to patient confidentiality, blockchain allows information to be stored and fully protected. Thus, industry-dedicated blockchains are being created for information-sensitive industries.

Employee salary

Payroll can be a tiring and exhausting process – and it happens every four weeks. Though, through Blockchain, companies are now able to ease the process of employee compensation. Now, companies can easily pay employees who work overseas without having to go through all the hoops that banks make you go through. It brings the international market closer together, allowing people all over the world to work with each other.

Removes the middleman

Of course, if you’re the middleman then this isn’t good news for you. However, through the use of Blockchain, companies are now more secure and no longer need to rely on third-parties to assist them with business transactions. Instead, companies are now becoming self-sufficient, making themselves more flexible and in control of their business.

Food safety

Who thought Blockchain would be able to keep food safe? Blockchain is now being incorporated in food inventory tracking. For example, when an outbreak occurs from packaged meat, the entire process from the farm to the market must be analyzed. Blockchain exposes accountability for sanitation up to the products final destination.

Smart contracts

When someone wants a loan, naturally, they go to their bank and ask for one. When you want to buy or sell your business, you have a lawyer which helps you prepare a contract. This is completely normal, right? Well, now with Blockchain, you have something called Smart Contracts’ which are self-executing contacts. This allows the parties involved in the contract to create a deal without the use of a middleman. In addition, you’re able to pay via cryptocurrency as well.

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