Got a blogpost to write for work? (Make Google do it!)

 

Once upon a time, robots were the stuff of sc-fi movies and graphic novels. For most, this conjures up an image of a dalek-like helper with an automated voice who, in our imagination, could one day help with the washing up. Nowadays, this has evolved into a more virtual and smarter concept. 

As technology advances so does AI, its capabilities and our expectations of it. Developers at Google have created a device that can understand orders, perform tasks intelligently and professionally, understand complex language of the ordinary human and know how to respond to it. To date, we have seen examples of this through technologies such as Siri VI and Google Home.

On May 8, 2018 Google levelled up and launched Google Duplex, a smart assistant, the likes of which have never been seen before.

What is Google Assistant?

Google Assistant is Google’s voice-controlled smart assistant. The technology is marketed as an application that can save you time and make your life easier, by assisting with day-to-day tasks. Google Duplex makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

What Makes it Different?

Google Assistant has the below differentiators setting it aside from existing voice-controlled AI technologies:

  1. Google Assistant Multiple Actions means that it can handle multiple requests at once, something that other AI-powered assistants have yet to master
  2. The assistant can understand when you are speaking to it or when you are speaking to someone else around you due to its ability to understand the nuances of the conversation

This doesn’t mean to say that there is no competition. While Google’s AI-powered, conversational capabilities such as these have never been seen before, Amazon Alexa (released in 2014) is compatible with over 12,000 devices while Google Assistant only 5000.

google assistant

Image Credit: Google.com

The Future of Smart Technology

At Bravo, technology is a passion of ours and we love learning about new smart solutions. We asked the team to share their thoughts on Google Assistant and while some of the team like the idea of a smart assistant to help with their life admin, there was some apprehension around privacy.

Gamze says, “The main aim of Google Assistant is to enter your private life in order to help make your life much easier, which for me raises privacy concerns. The assistant will need to grab as much information as possible from my personal data, day-to-day activities, documents and much more to become more powerful, faster and ultimately “smarter”. It is simply not useful without me sharing my personal information with it. Hence, this raises a lot of concerns; To what extent does Google Assistant have access to my stored information? What if my information is used for advertising purposes? Is it heavily secured or could it be hacked? Will my data be sold?”

Mer echo’s these sentiments with concerns around data management and the need for full disclosure, “There is an early indicator however that transparency is not a priority and that concerns the subject of DISCLOSURE. The fact is that you don’t know whether you’re speaking to a human or robot, Google Assistant does not disclose itself to you. And that, in my opinion, is really dangerous – there are likely to be a range of use cases for bad players. Couple this with the AI-infused natural language processing, whereby you have Google Assistant reflecting human intonation and speech, the “umms,” “eerrrs” and “ahhhs” for example and the end user is even more readily deceived”.

 

This is more true than ever now, in the wake of GDPR, where consent means offering users choice and control. With regards to data, as we mentioned on our previous blogpost, the GDPR defines consent as “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her”.

However, Google is claiming to care about clarity and transparency and a Google spokesperson was quoted in the Financial Express saying, “We understand and value the discussion around Google Duplex, as we have said from the beginning, transparency in the technology is important”.

“We are designing this feature with disclosure built-in, and we will make sure the system is appropriately identified. What we showed at I/O was an early technology demo, and we look forward to incorporating feedback as we develop this into a product,” the spokesperson added.

So What’s Next ?

At the moment, Google can follow instructions but what if Google got smarter than this and started to make decisions for us?  For now, we can book hair appointments and get simple tasks done but will we be able to send Google Assistant to work for us in the future?

As Katie said, ”For me to actually bother to use Google Assistant it would have to be smart enough to carry out tasks that I see as a real hardship. For example, my car registration is currently three weeks overdue, if Google could take care of that? Absolutely – sign me up! My DEWA bill is the bane of my life – can Google pay it? Yes please! I also could really do with finding the cheapest way to get from Dubai to Scotland over the summer but I can’t face trawling through all the compare websites – can I make Google do it?”

And so, we’ve reached a crossroads…on one hand we have technology advancing at an exponential pace and on the other, we have a more aware, discerning audience with real concerns about data-privacy and cyber security. Do regulations such as GDPR make it harder for companies to be free to invent new technologies by imposing all these regulations? If Google can find the careful balance between creating a smart, truly useful product and at the same time genuinely addressing its users concerns, we believe that will be the key to success. What do you think? Send us your thoughts on hello@bravoromeobyaj.com

Featured Image Credit: 9to5google.com

GDPR: A New Era of Data Regulation

What does it mean for businesses in the Middle East?

Last September we penned an article on the upcoming GDPR laws  (General Data and Protection Regulation) and the potential implications for the MENA region. At the time of writing, information was scarce and the impact for the region was unclear. 25th May is “G-Day” – so if you’re late to the party and need a cheat-sheet, we’re here to help.

To recap, theGDPR is a set of regulations being brought in by the European Union this month to tackle data and specifically consent. Described as the most comprehensive data privacy law in history, it comprises of 99 articles that define how companies must approach data collection and its management.

What is Consent?

In a nutshell, consent means offering users choice and control. With regards to data, the GDPR defines consent as “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.” 

In layman’s terms, this means that individuals will have the power to demand that a company reveals or deletes the personal data they hold. In addition, it changes the rules of engagement from an marketers point of view, for example; sending out mass marketing emails to people who have not opted-in will be illegal.

What does GDPR mean for businesses in the UAE?

With the new laws coming into effect on the 25th of May, companies in the UAE are trying to determine what the business implications will be for them. In the past week we’ve seen a significant spike in the number of searches for information surrounding GDPR, as indicated below:     

Trends.png

Source: GoogleTrends

The EU has madeGDPR and its implications very clear; it applies to companies within the EU, as well as any companies that offer goods or services to, or monitor behavior of, people within the EU. Now, obviously this affects a great deal of companies operating out of the MENA region who have audiences, marketshare and even employees within the EU.

Getting it wrong is costly – beyond reputation damage, businesses may face substantial fines. Infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data, including conditions for consent, are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. It could mean a fine of up to 20 million euros or 4% of your total worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.

GDPR

Image Credit: Mysolomon

However, what is not yet clear is how the EU will enforce these regulations, particularly in the region, as the Middle East is not bound by the European Court of Human Rights.

Data Laws and best practice in Dubai

Now, while how the EU regulations will be policed may not be completely clear, Dubai’s stance on the issue of data privacy, management and protection is unequivocal. In February 2018, Smart Dubai launched the Dubai Data Policies to regulate the classification, publication, sharing, storage, use and re-use of open data.

What’s the benefit of GDPR for companies?

Legalities aside, here at Bravo Romeo we believe that stricter regulations surrounding data are a welcome change. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, data privacy made headlines worldwide, resulting in people making an effort to become more aware of how their data is managed and be more discerning about giving consent for companies to use it. Realistically, almost every business today is data-driven and digital. The threat of cyber-security is real and it is imperative to both personal and commercial safety, as well as to business continuity, that data is managed securely. It’s not just about compliance, it’s about best practice and ensuring that we, as an industry, support GDPR as a catalyst for positive change in regards to cybersecurity, both globally and in the region.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom! Ultimately, the correct management of data means that companies are better placed to manage it as a strategic business asset. Data is arguably set to becomes the most valuable currency so by complying organizations will ensure they reap the benefits of it.

 

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock. Image ID: 731051713

2018 Media and Marketing Trends across Content, Data and Technology. PART 3: DATA

Data is the flavor of the month

Skidding around the door like a late, naughty school-kid, comes our third post on Data Trends for 2018. Get in here, you scallywag!

Data science and its marketing is a subject that is here to stay, which to us, is refreshing in an industry too often full of whimsy and subjectivity. Over the past few years, however, our industry has developed a twisted relationship with data. At times we’ve seen it as a silver bullet, overplaying our hand, measuring “things” just because they can be measured without objectively interpreting the meaning or impact of what we’re doing; hello, fan count! Then there’s the bright, new shiny stuff in the world of emerging data trends that is cooooool. But first, we need to wind our way through the woods of regulation to get there. So let’s talk first about what’s around the corner and then reward ourselves with the awesome shiny toys of the future.

Measurement in a mire

It’s well known that we have an ongoing issue in terms of measurement; for example, while research says that online video is the present and the future, the major players can’t align on industry-wide benchmarks as they relate to it. Sure, action is being taken – internal councils are being formed, third-party integration solutions and independent industry audits are being conducted… but a lot of it is simply sound and fury, given that the actions aren’t necessarily solving the brand owner’s problem. Industry bodies such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Ratings Council (MRC) have been active in trying to progress discussion but you only have to look at their recent Digital Video Impression Measurement Guidelines, released in October 2017 for public discussion, to see that we’re not making progress fast enough. When you don’t have major media players such as Facebook and Omnicom at the table, there’s a telling sign. Also – notice the narrowing of the title? Now, major players, such as Nestle and HP are going out on their own; we predict that others will follow and that solutions will come from the brands and media intelligence firms this time, rather than the platform players, establishing metrics that matter to their business rather than industry-agnostic measures of old.

Walled gardens rise as a butterfly effect takes hold

There’s no way of putting this mildly: the free ride for brands on digital media – particularly as it relates to data acquisition is well and truly over and the stakes are rising for publishers.  The EU’s General Data Protection Law (GDPR) brings consumer protection firmly into the limelight. What’s worrying is how many brands, agencies and developers have their eyes closed to it but to do so is dangerous from a reputation, legal and financial POV. Why? Read our previous post for background, with advice from MENA media legal eagle, Fiona Robertson.

A perhaps unintended consequence of the GDPR laws is the rise of the walled garden, aka closed platforms. Platforms will now have to work harder at providing truly compelling, free services in exchange for audiences to provide them with personal data. No way will they be giving customer data away for free anymore. While GDPR is designed to protect its audience, it means an increase in advertising investment from brands seeking personalized customer interaction and validated audience data from platforms. Expect brands to be a lot more discerning about their media spends, a lot more demanding when it comes to data quality and unfortunately… for the smaller publishers to suffer they don’t get their ducks in a row. Throw in the universal uptake of ad-blockers and the repeal of net neutrality (which we are still in denial about) and you can see just how well-protected these walled gardens will be.

We asked location tech firm, Blis’, Managing Director Puja Pannum to weigh in. “Understanding audiences and where to reach them is a marketer’s number one priority before their first dollar is spent, and with more and richer data, targeting capabilities naturally improve. While it’s an absolute priority to protect consumer data, it is also beneficial [for vendors] to be transparent with brands about ROI and footfall data. But to do that, it needs to go both ways,” said Puja. “Brands need to be as transparent and open about their analytics and data sources, like loyalty card data and Google analytics, as vendors are about ROI. Currently, this is the only missing element in end-to-end transparency, something players on both sides should be striving for. In 2018, promoting the sharing of these kinds of data will help brands and their chosen partners build campaigns on more data sources and benefit from a holistic view of what’s working versus what’s not.”

Human + machine gives birth to Digital Twins

One of the more interesting aspects to come from the fusion of Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning is the Digital Twin. A Digital Twin is a virtual replica of physical assets, processes and systems which uses data to enable understanding, learning, reasoning and prediction. The aviation, aerospace and automotive sectors are the leaders in this field, whereby real-time analytics of critical aspects (such as tyre pressure, temperature, distance and speed) have been used to optimize efficiencies.

Where Digital Twin technology starts to get really interesting is in the area of predictive modeling and future-proofing, where we’ll start to see not just the what but the why, generated by the emergence of the “Digital Thread”. The Digital Thread is the contextualization or connectedness of data, informed by the integration of large and multiple data flows, both real time and historical, leading to actionable information – such as establishment of digital twins being able to accurately predict a range of outcomes at scale.

Gartner predicts that by 2021 around half of large industrialized companies will be using Digital Twins. All this said, Digital Twin technology has been around for decades – were it not for Digital Twins, the Apollo 13 mission may well have been doomed – it was this practice that enabled them to mirror how they could rescue the mission when it ran into trouble. Without Digital Twin technology, there would be no Mars rover Curiosity! Take a look at the video below, to see how curiosity, technology, ingenuity and data join forces to make miracles!

Thanks for reading our 2018 trends across content, technology and data. Please feel to drop us a line and let us know what you’re thinking about in this realm and of course, we welcome your feedback too!

 

Data and Consent: 6 ways that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacts MENA businesses.

If you haven’t heard about the GDPR you will soon; it’s a set of regulations being brought in by the European Union in May 2018 to tackle data and, specifically, consent.

In this post, we paint a picture of its implications for businesses; from a legal, content, reputation management as well as business development perspective in the MENA region and globally, with valuable input from Fiona Robertson – Al Tamimi and Company’s Senior Legal Associate for Technology, Media & Telecommunications.

Read on guys, this is an important heads-up that’s not being discussed in the industry here as much as it needs to be. And when we say important – we mean important to the tune of 20 million euros. At least. So, let’s start at the beginning…

What is Consent?

In a nutshell, consent means offering users choice and control. With regards to data, the GDPR defines consent as “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

In the Middle East, as users we face real issues with consent – being relentlessly abused by marketers, who flog their wares flagrantly in the face of the law, using personal data they genuinely have no right to use. As marketers, we owe it to ourselves and the brands we represent to regulate how we use data and how we manage consent. Why? Because brand reputation matters.

Consent and Reputation Management

Placing legal ramifications aside – just for a moment because they’re the juicy bits – the benefits of getting consent right are significant both from a customer service and brand trust perspective.

By being compliant with global best practice, you are demonstrating to your customers that they are genuinely valued and respected. You’re elevating your brand above the competition. Getting it wrong means (at best) eroding brand trust, reputation damage and inhibiting the likelihood of customer engagement now and further down the line. So… what do you need to know?

data protection image
Image Credit: pixabay.com

In order to put together the following recommendations, we pored over the UK Information Commissioner’s Office Advice and joined forces with Fiona Robertson – the region’s leading light in Technology, Media and Telecommunications law. Please bear in mind, the legislation isn’t yet finalized – it’s released in May 2018 – however we hope it serves as a guide to help you prepare.

  1. The first thing that you need to know is that there’s a lot to know and attention to detail is critical. Read the ICO’s advice (linked above). There are specific new provisions on a range of areas, including requirements around children’s consent for online services and, as you can imagine, consent for scientific research. The regulation applies to the manner of collection of data, the way data is secured and processed and the way in which it is used.
  2. While the regulation applies to the European continent, when your audience is on the continent, you will be subject to the law. In addition, and really importantly, the regulation is drafted to apply to all EU citizens, no matter where they are resident. In reality, this means the law is to be treated as a global mandate, as finding out who and who isn’t an EU citizen is not at all a practical reality and would represent a feat of data management in and of itself.
  3. Furthermore, the laws will apply to any entity that is part of an EU corporate structure. From a practical perspective, MENA subsidiaries will be expected to comply, as their European offices could be held liable for their errors.
  4. When it comes to UX design and data capture, assume nothing and do your homework. The draft regulation indicates that it will require specific and granular action. A blanket check box will not cover you off, so be thorough. Put a team together to ensure organizational-level understanding if you’re an agency and (at least) departmental-level understanding within Marcomms & IT if you’re client-side and – in all cases – set internal protocols and working processes.
  5. Another important point Fiona urges us to remember is that EU “Data Controllers” (who are the office-holders responsible for data in a corporate entity) must carry out due diligence regarding their suppliers’ data management processes, where they will be collecting or managing data on their behalf. Failure to undertake this due diligence may also result in a fine to the EU entity, so expect them to be very diligent in their due diligence! UAE companies that do not pass this due diligence process can expect to be overlooked for EU contracts. So, there’s a new business aspect to this as well, agencies. The agreements that you will see coming in from the EU will now include this higher standard for data collection, management and use. These clauses will not be negotiable, being required by the new law. This means that a company could be held in breach of contract if it fails to comply with the data provisions and could well be expected to include an indemnity for failing to comply as directed.  Given the size of the fines involved, it will be important to take this contractual obligation seriously.
  6. If a complaint is made, then the EU will notify all people that it believes might have been subject to that breach. This could open your company up to wider findings of infringement and could well create a public relations crisis. This will also most certainly negatively affect your ability to secure future EU contracts.

As you can see, getting it wrong is costly – beyond reputation damage, businesses may face substantial fines. Infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data, including conditions for consent, are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. It could mean a fine of up to 20 million euros or 4% of your total worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.

This is not just about obeying the law, it’s about best practice. In the near future, Fiona and I will be hosting a seminar on the GDPR and its implications. Drop us a message at hello@bravoromeobyaj.com and we’ll make sure you’re on our guestlist. Best of luck everyone!

 

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay.com