Five for Friday: Other Forms of Travel That Won't Happen Before Hyperloop

This week* Hyperloop came and went, leaving a trail of speculation in its wake. If you weren’t on the Internet this week and have no clue as to what I’m talking about, Elon Musk – the current real life Tony Stark, of Space-X and Tesla fame – demonstrated his idea for high-speed travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The idea itself is something out of 1950s futurism: Tubes parallel to the interstate freeway, shooting people in pods 800 mph between the two cities.

If Hyperloop can get up and running, it would no doubt change collaboration between the Bay Area and LA. The commute would be a mere 30 minutes, and solar power would keep costs and ticket prices down. This would allow riders to attend separate meetings in San Francisco and Los Angeles as easily – and maybe more easily – than getting from one meeting in Palo Alto and another in San Francisco.

There are other methods of transportation that are also in the works that will bring us even closer together to other cities, and even the stars. However, all of these are a ways off. In the meantime we still have have stuffy planes and miles of asphalt, which is why unified communications and BYOD are still important. We can still take a look at some of the most futuristic transport ideas out there and see how close they are to reality.

1. Teleportation

THE DREAM: How awesome would this be? No long lines at the airport, no all-day international flights, no screaming toddlers on the red-eye. Just one place to the next with all of the ease of putting on a pair of pants.

THE REALITY: China has successfully teleported a photon. Not a hamster, a photon. Also this is called quantum teleportation, and isn’t geared towards sending you from work to vacation. Also, you’ll probably die. On the off chance you don’t, there’s what I will call “The Fly” problem (from the movie). You see, you are not really just you. Inside of you there’s over a trillion organisms. So the transporter would have to copy and reassemble your gut bacteria too, somehow without mixing you and them up. Which means you should probably keep driving your car into work.

2. Warp Drive

THE DREAM: If you love space operas, you’ve probably seen this scene: The captain stands at the helm authoritatively, orders the pilot, and then suddenly there’s a cool CG shot where the stars are all blurry. It was probably called jumping, warp, hyperspace, hyperspeed, FTL, or something similar. However they’re all the same, the ability to travel faster than the speed of light. The meeting on the Mars colony? Who needs a video conference, you’re going to be there in a few minutes.

THE REALITY: We think this is possible, and NASA is testing it out. You wouldn’t be traveling through space, space itself would be moving, contracting behind your ship and expanding in front, as you rest within a “warp bubble.” While scientists are in the testing and building phases, don’t expect a trip to the Alpha Centauri Marketing Conference anytime soon. NASA has yet to prove that warp bubbles can be created – much less exist. Their technology is so delicate that even the slightest seismic motion can skew the data.

3. Hoverboards and Anti-Gravity Transportation

THE DREAM: Okay, so this is more like a hobby form of transportation, but I would consider trading in my car for a hoverboard if someone told me I could. How cool would it be to cruise on into work on your hoverboard? Or you head in on your speeder bike? You would no longer be a slave to gravity!  

THE REALITY: We want hoverboards, badly. But true anti-gravity technology (not powerful fans) may not be real. Scientists think it may be related to anti-matter and are testing for it, but the results so far are inconclusive. We do however have other possible options that will produce a similar effect, just not that true anti-gravity tech we grew up watching.

image courtesy of gizmodo.au

4. The Space Elevator

THE DREAM: Say Google’s new headquarters were located on the Google HQ Space Station. While you couldn’t hop on a Google bike and ride on up there, you could take the Google Space Elevator. Just strap in and check in with your boss via your Avaya One-X Mobile app as the elevator shoots up into space on a series of cables. It docks, and you float in to catch your Q3 meeting and some free space food packets.

REALITY: We want this to happen, but as of right now we don’t have strong enough materials to make the components needed. And that’s just one of the many complications.

5. Self-Driving Car

THE DREAM: Driving yourself is a thing of the past, because your sedan has a silly- looking spinning camera on top that helps drive you around. Just sit back and get work done or play Candy Crush while getting chauffeured around.

THE REALITY: This is the one piece of tech on this list that’s actually close to being cracked, and we’re getting excited. Google’s smart cars can be seen zipping around the Bay Area, whether they’re out on the highway or stopping off to let their riders buy some comics. The cars so far have been largely successful, including mostly accident-free, for the past few years, but they still need supervision and are not considered “fully autonomous”. While some smart cars may be rolling out within the next few years, a completely self-driven car is still several years away. Also, you’re going to have to get used to not freaking out
you aren’t controlling your own car
. Still though, you could very well have a fully decked out Avaya virtual office in your self-driving car in several years. Giving you the full power of collaboration on the highway.



*This article has time traveled from the past! Or it’s been re-posted at a later date. Whatever.


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2017 Avaya Customer Innovation Awards Honor Five Companies Leading the Way in Digital Transformation

Every year, Avaya and IAUG recognize a handful of customers who are innovators. These customers are recognized with Customer Innovation Awards. Last year’s award winners included a number of technology firms. This year’s five award winners, recognized on stage at Avaya Engage in Las Vegas, include three customers in the financial services sector, a leading global retailer, and a leader in the film production industry.

Each of these customers is benefiting from the latest Avaya solutions to meet business goals—whether the goals are growth, customer experience, cost management, or risk mitigation.

BECU

BECU, which began life 80 years ago as the Boeing Employee Credit Union, today is the fourth largest credit union in the US, with over $12 billion in assets and over a million credit union members. In 2016, BECU embarked on a digital transformation journey focused on the customer experience. BECU relies on Avaya Elite Multichannel running on an Avaya Pod Fx™ infrastructure.

BECU engineer Rick Webb says, “BECU is rapidly expanding and needed a technology partner that could support that expansion and keep our members happy. The Avaya Elite Multichannel infrastructure does just that, while providing increased flexibility and allowing BECU to better meet the expectations of our more than 1 million members.”

Green Shield Canada (GSC)

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a one of the leading health and dental benefit carriers in Canada, with over 850 employees across seven locations. Starting last year, GSC is deploying the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and seeing strong results. Competing with larger players in its industry, GSC sees strong collaboration among its workforce as a key ingredient for success.

Jim Mastronardi, GSC Director for Enterprise Infrastructure says, “Green Shield Canada has over 850 employees across seven offices in Canada—from Montreal to Vancouver. We saw an opportunity to explore technology upgrades that would enhance company-wide communications and bring our teams across Canada closer together. With just a single training session, employees have hit the ground running with the Avaya Equinox tools. The video conferencing option has provided a solution to overbooked meeting rooms, and the instant messaging feature is already cutting down on the number of emails being sent.”

Scotiabank

Scotiabank prides itself on “being a technology company providing financial services.” As a long-time Avaya customer—and a beta customer for Avaya Oceana™ and Avaya Oceanalytics™—Scotiabank is on a digital transformation journey to better serve bank customers worldwide. Scotiabank contact centers located in Canada and the Caribbean & Latin America region have benefited from a next-gen centralized architecture leveraging the latest Avaya solutions to better serve customers.

Scotiabank has already developed and deployed Avaya Oceana and Avaya Breeze™ apps, and continues to innovate in an ongoing drive to improve customer service and meet customer needs in a competitive market. The success of Scotiabank’s transformation program has enabled the bank to move with greater agility, improved reliability, and speed to market. This has changed the framework for deployment from months/years to days/weeks while improving the overall ROI/TCO.

The Crossing Studios

The Crossing Studios is one of Vancouver’s largest and fastest growing full-service studios and production facilities for film. The firm caters to companies like Fox, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Netflix. The Crossing Studios were unhappy with the stability and quality of the disparate systems previously in place across their seven studio locations. In 2016, The Crossing Studios deployed a Powered by Avaya IP Office solution offered by local provider Unity Connected Solutions.

Powered by Avaya IP Office has improved stability, reduced TCO and provided the advanced features that the business needs to serve a very demanding film industry client base, including high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, and rich multi-vendor HD video conferencing. CTO Mark Herrman says, “We needed something that would support our rapid growth, support our clients, and support our bottom line. Thanks to IP Office and the hosted cloud model, we’re able to keep pace with dynamic, fast-moving film productions, staying as flexible as our clients need us to be.” Estimated savings are in the six figures for the first year alone.

Walgreens

Walgreens is using custom Avaya Snap-ins to bring centralized contact center reporting capabilities to local branch sites, for compliance purposes and to help improve the overall customer experience. Avaya Professional Services were instrumental with the deployment, which relies on an Avaya Pod Fx infrastructure.

These companies are each leaders in their respective industries. As part of their digital transformation journeys, they recognize that when it comes to selecting a trusted technology advisor, “experience is everything.” #ExperienceAvaya.

Has WhatsApp Video Missed a Trick?

In today’s mobile-led world, there is no doubt that messaging apps are becoming the preferred means to communicate with friends, family, and even work colleagues. So the announcement that WhatsApp Video is here has been met with mass excitement.

But while the ability to have WhatsApp video conversations with family and friends is a huge benefit—there really is nothing like seeing your loved ones live—it’s not so clear what effect this is going to have on the business community. Is Facebook presenting an offer that businesses can’t refuse? The short answer is no.

WhatsApp users are surpassing the 1 billion mark, that’s almost 15% of the world’s population that businesses could target. Today, many businesses are integrating social media platforms into their customer experience and this trend will soon be the norm. Businesses are striving to deliver seamless, contextual and pleasurable experiences for their customers—based on their favorite apps.

Key to driving this trend is how open these social apps are and how easy it is for businesses and the developer community to integrate them. That means not only with other social platforms but also with business applications that enterprises use such as the contact center, CRM system, and many others.

While WhatsApp is still closed, the most highly-used social apps in Asia are taking a different approach. WeChat in China and LINE in Japan—which are used by another 15% of the global population—have taken the “open innovation” path, and delivered a platform upon which businesses and developers can innovate new solutions and applications, and integrate with other software vendors.

We at Avaya have long decided to take the “open innovation” approach, where we’ve not only opened up our tool box for our partners and customers to innovate on, but we also partnered with growing social media apps, including LINE and WeChat, to find new ways for businesses to integrate within these channels.

So a large BPO in Japan can offer a fully integrated customer experience solution that gives a true edge in customer engagement. Taking this a bit further, when social media apps are open, and present a platform for innovation, transforming experiences to include virtual assistance, automated chatbots, and artificial intelligence becomes easy and fast and the competitive landscape becomes more exciting, dynamic and relevant.

Whatsapp had announced their intention to integrate into enterprise in August of this year, but as yet has not progressed very far. On the other hand, sister app Facebook Messenger has taken a leap ahead by not only integrating into the enterprise, but providing Chatbot integration for customer services as well.

The question is when will Mark Zuckerberg actually merge the two applications together, bring the best of all worlds under one App, and provide a phenomenal customer Omni-Channel experience linked into AI tools such as Speechbots (like Amelia), chatbots, and business intelligence tools at the same time?

Mr Zuckerburg we are waiting!

Building Innovation on Customer Feedback

When Ford wanted to reintroduce the Fiesta brand in the U.S. for the first time in more than a decade, executives decided they needed to do something out of the ordinary to make it a success. The idea they hit upon was to give consumers the chance to be chosen as one of 100 digital influencers, allowing them to test-drive a new Fiesta for six months. The campaign, the Fiesta Movement, was a huge success, increasing awareness of the new vehicle—and giving Ford invaluable feedback from real users, literally the word on the street.

Here in the Middle East, the biggest event that brings together technology vendors, partners, and their all-important customers is GITEX Technology Week, happening in October in Dubai. While GITEX is a great opportunity for vendors, including Avaya, to showcase our newest, most exciting, most innovative products and solutions, it is also a pretty tough spotlight. With the great and the good of the regional ICT industry in attendance, there’s not a lot of point in showing up with your latest bright, shiny product if you haven’t already engaged with customers year round to make sure it meets a real need.

I’m proud to say that when Avaya attended GITEX in 2014, we came prepared with a solution that did just that. Our video teller machine (VTM) solution meant Avaya was the only technology vendor to demonstrate a real evolution in the market, taking the ATM into a branch-like environment. We did so because our customers had already told us that they wanted to grow their presence and reach without incurring huge costs, and while building on their existing customer engagement solutions and assets (the teller machines, the contact centers, relationship agents, and so on). We listened and built the solution for that. Today, leading organizations in the region are deploying teller machines that have transformed the way they do business and are enabling them to reach more of their customers than ever before.

We didn’t rest on our laurels—throughout 2015, we continued our conversations with customers, listening to their feedback, studying their most pressing needs, brainstorming solutions and offering advice on resolving real business issues. With this integrated approach to customer service, Avaya showed up at GITEX last year ready to demonstrate real-world use cases of our technology, inviting key customers on to our stand to showcase innovative solutions that create unique digital experiences for consumers.

So what are we bringing for 2016? While I’m not going to reveal specific details just yet I can promise that once again, we’ve listened to our customers, and we will be demonstrating solutions that are not only exciting, innovative and cutting-edge but meet real-world needs. The solutions we are going to showcase at GITEX will certainly have a wow factor but, more importantly, they will map to the changing needs of the most important asset any organization has: their customers.

With consumer behavior in a constant mode of change, businesses everywhere are playing catch up in defining and resolving those customer needs. While we cannot claim that we completely understand and can define behavioral changes in every industry, we can confidently claim that our relationship with our customers across industries enables us to define trends and needs, and consequently, bring relevant solutions to market every year. I look forward to showing you what we have been building for GITEX this year–the word on the street is it’s pretty good!