More than 125 top dealer organizations gathered in May to attend NEC’s annual Advantage Executive Conference, held this year in Phoenix. A total of 502 attendees came together to learn about NEC’s latest Smart Solutions for Smart Business, see demonstrations of the latest solutions, and network with counterparts from other organizations.
The annual event provides an excellent opportunity for NEC dealers and consultants to meet directly with NEC product and solutions experts and management. The exhibit area featured demos of not only NEC’s newest solutions, but also related products and services from vendors who work directly with NEC.
A highlight of this year’s event was the keynote address by Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, who spoke on “Reading the Tea Leaves: Responding to the Speed of Business.” Bova addressed “keeping the customer as the true north” when preparing for the new business reality of what Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces: the convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information.
A wide range of products and solutions for both enterprise and SMB organizations were showcased during breakouts and in the exhibit area, including:
NEC’s award-winning software-defined networking (SDN) solutions and its Smart Enterprise IT portfolio of SDN-ready UC solutions
Smart Solutions for verticals, including higher ed/K-12, hospitality, healthcare and government
“This year’s conference was probably our best ever, in terms of attendance and showcasing a wide range of NEC solutions,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales, NEC Corporation of America. “Our Smart Solution portfolio, featuring innovative NEC technologies such as biometrics and SDN along with our communication networks and UCC solutions, received an enthusiastic response from our dealers.”
Business intelligence is only powerful if it is easily accessible. By putting the end-user in the driver’s seat, businesses can maximize analytics and data without putting a burden on the IT department to run reports. Not only does this improve productivity, it puts the data in the hands of those who can do the most with it. Frankly, this level of end-user empowerment is a solid-enough reason to upgrade IBM’s Cognos software to the latest V10.2. But don’t take our word for it. Take a look at the impact first hand.
Cincinnati Zoo Saves more than $100,000 per Year
The Cincinnati Zoo was challenged with increasing attendance and revenues while also enhancing the customer experience. It also needed to boost sales on food and in the retail outlets and optimize labor costs. These are no small tasks! By implementing IBM Cognos V10, the zoo was able to utilize business analytics that allowed the zoo staff to use iPads to track the information real-time. The results were incredible.
“By being so closely aligned with the day-to-day interactions within the zoo, the team could spend more time with visitors and see even the most basic of changes that were needed, said Marti Walsh, Channel Enablement Program Manager with IBM Analytics. “For example, perhaps traffic patterns showed that moving a hot dog stand to a different location would result in heavier traffic to the stand. That could be marked immediately on the spot, rather than waiting to return and transcribe notes into a database.”
, and more than $100,000 per year by identifying less-effective promotions and discounts. Plus, the zoo increased overall attendance that prompted at least 50,000 new visits in 2011. All by putting the power of analytics in the hands of the end user.
How Does Upgrading Help Your ‘Zoo’?
The ability to empower end users makes sense when the user interface is easy to use and allows for quick adoption. Cognos V10 has a more streamlined interface that is easier to navigate, making it more readily adoptable for end users who want to simply access and understand the data.
Another major component is collaboration between co-workers and other departments. Cognos V10 incorporates collaboration within the interface, so that threads are maintained and data is kept within the platform, rather than having to utilize a third-party system for collaboration and communication.
“End users don’t stay put, so mobility is key, particularly if the focus is to capture and analyze data real-time,” said Marti. “With Cognos V10, users can literally analyze on the go with systems that work whether they are connected or disconnected.“
Even with the mobility and dynamic analytics functions, the system has very fast response times and handles very large data volumes. Using Dynamic Cubes increases the performance of the tools and allows for end users to slice and dice data with a fast response time, keeping them happy and focused on analyzing data.
Make Better Business Decisions – in Real Time
By putting analytics in the hands of everyone, businesses will benefit from having information in the hands of those best suited to take action. Cognos Business Intelligence allows for integration with the next logical step – predictive analytics. By adopting business prototypes quickly, companies are now able to build out corporate solutions faster than before. “What If” and scenario modeling help determine next appropriate steps giving the business a more prescriptive solution.
In Your Corner for the Cognos Upgrade
Of course, the next logical question is how to tackle the upgrade. While the benefits are certainly proven, tackling an upgrade of any type requires thought and process to ensure the most seamless approach is taken. That is where NEC Analytics team can help.
NEC is largest global systems integrator, and has more than 50 years of experience in the North American market alone. We leverage our rich history coupled with partnership experience with IBM and others to ensure a positive outcome.
Our analytics team focuses on Performance Management, Integration, Total Performance Outsourcing (which includes design, deployment and management) and Smart Predict Solutions designed to meet the specific needs of our clients (you can learn more about our analytics solutions in this short video).
We live in an on-demand world, where customers want access to information and conveniences immediately. While there are plenty of examples of technology that can provide instant gratification, few are more prevalent than those we see in the hospitality industry. After all, hospitality must accommodate business and personal travelers alike, ensuring outstanding experiences and meeting the varying needs of the executive who demands high-speed internet with the vacationer who wants convenience. Fortunately, we are in a time when all this and more are possible.
Meet the ‘Botlr’
Starwood recently rolled out two robotic “Botlrs” in its Cupertino Aloft Hotel. The three-foot-tall robots have giant empty compartments for delivering items and include seven-inch touch screens for guest interactions. These robotic butlers can do everything from delivering towels and food to guests to assisting staff with back office duties.
The idea behind the Botlrs is to perform the more routine tasks, freeing up staff members to handle more complex items. The robots have their own elevators and through the use of Wi-Fi connections can navigate the hotel without getting in the way.
The response has been so positive that Starwood is planning a larger rollout later in 2015. Soon you’ll get your extra towels delivered by a robotic butler who always says thank you!
Forgot Your Key Card? Use Your Phone!
Hilton and Starwood have developed an app that lets guests use their cell phones to unlock their rooms. This service provides great convenience and alleviates the need to carry a key card, or more likely, forget the keycard and have to get a new one from the front desk. Hilton’s app will also allow guests to access various areas of their properties, such as the fitness center, executive floors, elevators and parking facilities.
The apps will also work on other devices, such as the Apple Watch, making it even easier for guests to “remember” their keys.
Our field-tested analysts and best-in-class technologies can steer you in the right direction, keep you on the right track and help you outpace the competition with actionable insight that delivers the most value and best suits your company’s decision-making ambitions and processes. Learn more today by scheduling your complimentary assessment.
When it comes to our current educational system, there is certainly no shortage of opinions. Realistically, we need a more efficient, better way of educating young people and adults. Fortunately, there are some forward-thinking innovators who are up to tackling the task of improving how we educate and teach.
For many students, and instructors, memories of the classroom are comprised of boring lectures and staring at the clock waiting for the torture to end. Traditionally, the classroom experience has been very linear with the instructor providing lectures, students taking notes, and of course, the dreaded pop quiz or exam. However, with the continued adoption and advancement of technology, learning experiences are changing for the better. A recent article in Fast Company magazine covered the information provided from the world’s most innovative companies in education, which outlines some of the innovations we can expect over the next five years. These include:
Students will interact with others remotely.
Success of technology in the classroom will still rely on skilled instructors.
Degrees will be unbundled, and we’ll think about diplomas differently.
Students will have a voice.
Educators and institutions will be forced to adapt.
Many of the innovations these companies expect to see are available now, including the advent of collaborative learning and online communication for the classroom. The progression of learning is now a multi-dimensional process where teachers and students pull together to enhance the learning experience. It is critical for learning management systems (LMS) to begin working toward how individual students learn, rather than a providing a traditional classroom format online.
For these reasons, NEC has created a collaborative tool that literally flips the classroom, thereby allowing students and teachers to collaborate in a way that is powerful while really improving learning opportunities.
Knowledge is Power
NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided faculty a tool to expand upon course curriculums through the addition of content. Currently, teachers are working to flip the classroom using multiple resources and platforms such as YouTube, Google Drive, and Schoology. They need a way to provide a cohesive student user experience while minimizing the amount of time students spend visiting multiple sites. Therefore, NEC constructed the Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) and has joined with PassTheNotes (PTN) to offer cloud-based learning management and leverage the best existing educational solutions.
It’s an integration of technology that empowers both students and instructors to “flip the classroom” in a way that now incorporates students in the process of creating curriculum. Using the foundation of PTN, NEC embeds the collaboration solution into our user interface, providing an efficient method for faculty and students to use the entire solution easily and seamlessly.
The effect is a “flipped” classroom, where students and teachers collaborate during classroom time (either in person or online) and students not only listen to lectures during their own time, but they can also contribute to the next class lecture by uploading content into an online folder. Think of it like this – what was normally lecture now becomes an interaction between students and faculty to really drive home learning, and what was normally homework time is spent listening to faculty lectures and allowing students to add their own input to the next classroom experience.
Today, the Internet and social media are a huge part of almost everyone’s daily life. Younger generations are constantly glued to their multiple portable devices. NEC is giving students the ability to be a part of their own educational experience by gathering existing industry knowledge to develop integrations to meet the ever-changing educational needs.
The benefit to faculty and students is tangible and already being realized for those institutions adopting a flipped classroom model.
Teachers and faculty are not only able to follow the core curriculum in a more organized and simplified manner, but also are provided with the flexibility to add and expand upon their teaching elements. NEC helps faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content that better connects with students. In addition, NEC’s CCMS includes comprehensive training and professional development so that teachers can focus on education rather than the technology.
Students are developing a desire to be more engaged in their education. Through the flipped classroom, students can make this desire a reality. For instance, if a student is browsing the Internet and comes across a blog, video, or article that reminds her of something she is learning in school, it can easily be uploaded into the class folder. If a teacher is providing a history lesson, students are given the opportunity to collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie in with the lesson. Then, not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not previously available. Through this process of sharing information, students are actively participating in their education. This creates a more personal learning experience whereby students can relate events in their life with classroom material.
Flip the Script
Education is rapidly becoming a collaborative interaction between teachers and students. It is now moving toward a workgroup team dynamic that is focused on the educational experience and leveraging technology to increase student engagement. Students are now finding that the subjects they are studying are not only interesting, but are also relevant in everyday life.
Plus there are additional benefits beyond the improved learning environment. Students are learning to work in a virtual environment, something employers will desire in future employees. In addition, they learn valuable teamwork and collaboration skills that will help them with their future endeavors.
If you desire more information on NEC’s CCMS and how we are flipping the classroom, check out the information on our Collaborative Content Management Solution page.
When was the last time you went to a retail store and had a great experience? No, I don’t mean customer service or super cool music in the dressing rooms. When was the last time that you went into a retail store and had a memorable experience that made you smile, or gave you more information about a product or service in real time than you might have gleaned online?
Retailers in particular have become more intrigued with digital signage over the last decade. The shift to digital meant that organizations could change their pricing, menus, or other details in real time, without needing to change out physical signage. Today, three types of digital signage are typically used in customer-facing environments.
Passive signage is what you would encounter at a fast food restaurant at the airport. This type of digital signage is typically displayed on one or more screens, and either remains static all the time or changes at set intervals, such as a digital menu board that switches over at noon. Passive signage can be hosted on a local machine or over the Internet, and it’s generally more cost effective than running print jobs every time your business wants to make a change. It’s very utilitarian. However, it lacks the interactive element that really draws people in.
Interactive signage takes many forms, and is generally designed to provide a level of user interaction by being “triggered” by an event. Think of an iBeacon that sends a coupon to your mobile phone when you walk into your favorite clothing store or displays information about a painting when you hold your smart phone up next to it at the museum. Another example is signage triggered by sensors – when you lift that bottle of Bordeaux at the wine store, perhaps a light sensor is triggered and you see a map and information about the wine on a screen. Or you hold a piece of clothing up to a mirror in the changing room, and its RFID tag triggers signage behind a translucent mirror suggesting other pieces that may go with the skirt. This type of signage is indeed interactive and can be engaging, but the engagement is not always intuitive and there’s typically only one level of engagement between the individual and the signage.
This brings us to a new type of digital signage. What if there was a way to create compelling in-store experiences in which customers could interact with a truly intuitive digital system, perhaps even order products on-screen, while also feeding interaction data back to the retailer or business owner? It is for this use case that intelligent signage, perhaps today’s most cutting-edge technology in retail and digital advertising, was designed.
One of the most interesting of these new systems is Microsoft’s Inception solution, which uses the Microsoft Kinect sensor to detect an individual’s proximity from the sensor, his/her age and gender (using NEC biometric facial recognition technology), and his/her interaction with products on a shelf. Different distances and interactions can trigger different layers of contextual signage, such as static or video advertisement screens, product pricing, technical specs, user reviews from the web and more. The system also records anonymous data such as the demographics and engagement time of individuals with various products, allowing advertisers and business owners to better understand their audience and the effectiveness of their signage.
Intelligent signage systems use advanced yet inexpensive hardware including the Kinect sensor and lightweight PCs such as those embedded in NEC commercial displays, and they can be combined with sensors in the ceiling (in-store heat mapping) or at a point of sale. This solution gives the business owner a broad understanding of how people traverse a particular store or the ages and genders of customers who are buying which products, at which times of day. Intelligent signage systems introduce analytics for the real world, and it’s going to change the way that we experience in-store retail.
But analytics, particularly analytics using Big Data, require more than an intelligent signage system to provide the analytics that will make them most useful to retail companies. One option is using Azure StreamAnalytics. This new offering from Microsoft provides real-time insight into what products are attracting the attention of shoppers, how product interest varies by age and gender, and which displays are attracting the most attention. Stores will be able to tune the shopping experience to maximize sales. Microsoft Azure StreamAnalytics is a new addition to the company’s Azure IoT (Internet of Things) Suite enabling the retail industry to build and deploy IoT solutions to transform the shopping experience and their business model.
With the digital signage market projected to grow a staggering 65% in 2015 alone, it’s more than likely that intelligent signage and audience measurement systems will be arriving soon at a business near you. Overall intelligent signage could lead not only to greater efficiencies in the retail sector, but also far more interesting in-store experiences for shoppers.
Where Can I Test Drive One of These Systems?
The Inception system will be demonstrated at the upcoming Microsoft Build (April 28 – May 1) and Microsoft Ignite (May 4-8) conferences.
Few things are more emotional than debate regarding our educational system. Parents want the best for their children, teachers want to provide creativity for their students, and students want to be empowered to be a part of their own learning process, while also having access to the latest tools, technology and information. All this must be wrapped up in a system that ensures learning objectives are met, and students are absorbing information that will prepare them for their next steps in life.
Q: What are some of the shifts you see in education that are driving the need for new learning solutions?
A: Education is moving more toward a “creator” versus consumption environment. In the past, students were given textbooks. Now, they often consume their assignments on a tablet or laptop, which allows for more elements such as video, presentations, and audio files to be included.
Social interaction is also becoming a large part of the educational experience, particularly since students are so accustomed to using social media to interact with friends. Educational environments are working to provide that same level of interaction via blogs and discussion feeds to keep students more engaged. Furthermore, students can now have access to virtual learning environments, allowing for more progressive learning environments such as flipped classrooms while also supporting learning at home. If students are out of school due to weather, injury or extended illness, they can continue studies with minimal interruption, ensuring they stay abreast of their studies while also keeping them engaged.
Higher education, while ahead of the curve with student technology use (the average college student has three-to-five networked devices), is looking to redesign the classroom and improve students’ interaction. Now these institutions are moving towards work group, project-based learning where students create workgroups and collaborate on class assignments. The goal is to prepare students for today’s work environment where collaboration and teaming are the new norm.
These schools see a need to get students more engaged, as well as provide professors the flexibility to go beyond the core curriculum and expand teaching elements. By providing the flexibility for educators and students to collaborate on learning objectives, everyone has an improved educational experience.
For example, if a teacher is providing a history lesson and students can collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie-in with the lesson, then not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not available before.
Q: What is NEC’s Collaborative Content Management System (CCMS) and how does it support this new educational shift?
A: It is a learning management system (LMS) solution for higher education and K-12 that is powered by the cloud software platform PassTheNotes (PTN). As a technology leader, NEC takes pride in anticipating market changes and the impact that technology will have on society. NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided a tool to help faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content. This helps engage students in their educational experience with a service and methodology they are most comfortable with (the Internet and social media), giving students the ability to be a part of their educational experience.
Our collaborationwith PTN enables NEC to offer a cloud-based learning management solution that leverages the best of the PTN content management/educational solution with NEC collaboration and communication solutions. PTN is a dynamic, innovative company of veteran educators who understand and process customer feedback to continually improve the offering. We view our working together as a way to improve education for students, thus better serving the community.
The NEC CCMS provides benefits to educators and students they cannot find in other learning management systems today, including:
Immediate access via a non-proprietary platform providing technology-agnostic solutions.
Single sign-on access with popular applications such as Dropbox or Drive.
Collaboration within the platform so students can invite students to create modules for enhanced learning opportunities.
Built-in application for taking and hosting notes.
Social interaction leveraged via discussion feeds and peer reviews and grading.
Seamless integration of additional technology such as unified communications or biometric facial recognition.
Q: What other educational trends are on the horizon?
A: We see a number of trends that are quite interesting, including:
Biometrics and Facial Recognition –While traditionally seen in law enforcement or security, biometrics is making its way into schools and campuses to address specific use cases. The most obvious use case is for security, where facial recognition can capture an image match against a database to determine if the individual belongs on campus.
We’re also seeing more interest is using facial recognition for verification of course completion for accreditation. Facial recognition is being considered as a tool to address attendance taking as well. This becomes a time saving solution in K-12 and for higher ed use to support class attendance requirement for course credit.
Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data,”a method used by business to analyze individual activity. In education, learning analytics is being used with the aim of improving student retention and providing learners with a superior personal experience. Learning analytics uses student data to build better pedagogies, identify at-risk students, and assess whether programs aimed at student retention are successful.
In the future, we see the introduction of other technologies and teaching methodologies that could take hold, such as.
Gaming and gamification
Making online learning more natural
Thanks to Gregg for providing a fascinating overview of current and future educational trends, while explaining how technology provides #SolutionsforSociety in education. You can learn more about NEC’s educational solutions, as well as see demonstrations of other innovative solutions such as unified communications, cloud contact center and SDN by visiting booth 1121 at Enterprise Connect 2015.
Unified communications is an increasingly important investment for organizations looking to improve productivity and responsiveness while reducing their IT costs. UC and it’s convergence of voice, video, and applications, is bringing benefits to enterprises and SMBs in every industry across the globe.
But if you’re undertaking a UC upgrade, it can be hard to know how to differentiate between all the many UC solutions that exist on the market today. Unified communications technology evolves so rapidly that it’s becoming more difficult for organizations to predict which requirements they might need now and in the future. What are the implications on your IT infrastructure? Will the technology become obsolete too quickly?
The key to differentiating the right UC solution is to search for and ultimately adopt a solution that’s built with/on:
Sufficient Flexibility – As office applications change, desktop and IT experiences evolve, and system requirements grow an enterprise-grade UC solution should offer multiple choices to adapt. The right UC solution will be flexible—with choices for both premises and self-managed deployments, subscription models with cloud services, or a hybrid with private cloud option—and accommodating of new requirements as your business needs evolve over time. Solutions that extend the value of your existing IT investments and promote end-user adoption should be high on the list of anyone looking for flexible, agile communications. Core elements of a flexible solution should include: use of open, standards based protocol interfaces, Web Service orientation, the ability to add complimentary solution components including devices (IP phones, smart phones, etc.),productivity applications (plug-ins for email clients, or web portals), and even purpose built applications to automate certain business processes.
All Inclusive Licensing – All-inclusive licensing gives technology and financial decision makers the ability to anticipate user costs while ensuring that their end users have full access to the UC productivity apps and tools they desire. The inclusive structure makes purchasing UC easier by eliminating complexity associated with mapping licenses for specific apps or features to individual users or groups of users.
Variety of UC apps and services such as mobility – Often users throughout an enterprise adopt varying work styles which best suit their roles and responsibilities. Offering a range of UC applications allows users the ability to choose the apps that best suit their particular needs and work styles. These may include some, or all, of the following: desktop UC apps for windows MAC users, browser based applications for cross platform use, mobile device apps for smartphones and tablets, plug-ins for other productivity tools like email and calendar apps or document management and related groupware systems. Ideally, all of these various UC oriented applications will have uniform features delivered with a common look and feel to simplify transition from one to another.
Software-based solution – software-based UC and collaboration platforms operate across premises, cloud, or hybrid environments (flexibility). With a variety of software apps, operating across multiple devices (PCs, smartphones, and tablets), software-based UC systems fit naturally into an enterprise’s IT systems environment, leveraging common operating principles and practices. This lowers overall operating costs, and maximizes the possibility for integration into an enterprise’s business processes maximizing the return on investment.
Vendor Maturity – vendor maturity is incredibly important when choosing a UC solution. There are multiple types of vendors in the marketplace today. There are those whose background is in network convergence. There are others whose background is strictly telephony. But for today’s modern communications—that work consistently in co-operation with other enterprise technologies—you need a vendor whose strengths are in both telephony and IT infrastructure. You need more than a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader—you need a challenger, an innovator, a customer-focused vendor building next-generation unified communications and collaboration experiences that reduce IT complexity and delivers superior reliability, scalability and robustness.
Enterprise Connect 2015
Each year at Enterprise Connect, a mock Request for Proposal (RFP) session is held. The mock RFP is a simulation of the requests that enterprises and government agencies put out when looking for a new unified communications solution.
The session, led by independent consultant David Stein, Principal at Stein Consulting Group, assesses the most common unified communications and collaboration that SMBs and enterprises alike typically differentiate between. Each of the vendors that participate is required to answer questions related to their solutions’ architecture, features, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a 3-5 year period.
This year’s UC RFP and Review session will, again, look at premises vs. cloud-based communications platforms. The session is a long running tradition and the ideal way to provide potential customers an objective way to learn about the top vendors in the industry. The session includes discussion of:
Overall findings/trends as of Q1 2015
The system offerings currently available from leading suppliers
Strengths and weaknesses of leading vendors’ offerings
The subjective rankings based on architecture, functionality and cost
Product Differentiation (what really matters?)
UC Procurements (should enterprises focus on platform or use cases?) and more.
There are a number of factors to consider in evaluating Unified Communications RFPs—high availability, voicemail, unified messaging, and unified communications are just some of the features of modern communications technology.
If your organization is starting the process of looking for a new UC solution to replace your existing IP/PBX, I invite you to join me during the session and listen to how each vendor ranks.