Coffee giant Starbucks will join the growing wave of companies using artificial intelligence and chatbots to supplement human employees, planning to unveil today what it calls an “innovative conversational ordering system” for its mobile app called “My Starbucks Barista.”
The company announced the new technology at its annual investor conference today, where executives including current Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and future CEO Kevin Johnson outlined the company’s five-year growth plan. Starbucks teased ahead to the announcement in a news release about the event.
“Today, Starbucks will unveil an innovative conversational ordering system, My Starbucks Barista, powered by groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Starbucks Mobile App. Starbucks Mobile App customers will be able to place their orders via voice command or messaging interface, delivering unparalleled speed and convenience, enhancing customer loyalty and engagement and further extending the accessibility of the Starbucks app. The My Starbucks Barista feature will roll out first on iOS in limited beta in early 2017 and be made available to more iOS and Android users in subsequent releases.”
During the event, the company showed a video demo of the technology, with a customer speaking into the phone to interact with a chatbot that asked contextual follow-up questions and took a complicated order that included items such as “double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup” — all of which the voice recognition technology understood accurately in the demo.
“You didn’t think we could just order a latte, right?” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, the company’s chief technology officer, as the audience of investors and analysts applauded following the video demo. “What you saw there is completely real.”
It’s the latest effort by the company to use technology to change the way customers interact with Starbucks via their phone. The company says it has 12 million Starbucks Rewards members, up 18 percent from last year, plus 8 million mobile paying customers, with a third using its Mobile Order & Pay technology, which lets customers place an order via smartphone and pick it up without waiting in line.
Johnson said during his comments that Starbucks sees an opportunity now to expand Mobile Order & Pay beyond its company-owned stores in the U.S., Canada and UK — currently representing about 40 percent of its global footprint — to the company’s licensed stores and to other markets around the world.
Matt Ryan, Starbucks chief strategy officer, said Mobile Order & Pay now represents about 8 percent of total U.S. transactions. He said the company is also seeing increased loyalty and a “nice increase” in repeat visits from Mobile Order & Pay customers.
Martin-Flickinger explained how the company has been able to personalize its communications and marketing messages with customers since shifting to a new Starbucks Rewards program earlier this year. Offers and messages are “uniquely generated based on individual customers’ behaviors and anticipated behaviors,” she said.
T-Mobile this morning unveiled Digits, a new technology that lets customers use the same phone number across a variety of internet-connected devices as well as add multiple numbers to one phone.
In what amounts to a re-interpretation of the mobile number, the company says Digits will work with any device, from smartphones and tablets to computers and smart watches, and even old-school flip phones. Digits works across multiple carriers like AT&T and Verizon, and users can also log in on various internet browsers.
Once users put their number on a device, they will be able to access calls, texts and voicemails the same way they can jump around with emails and programs like Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger. That also means when someone calls, all your devices will go off in a cacophony of notification.
“Since the beginning of telephones one number has been tied to one phone and one phone has been tied to one number,” T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “In mobile, that number has always been seared to that SIM chip, and there was only one way we could route calls and messages to you and that was using the data in that SIM chip. We’ve changed everything today.”
T-Mobile is building Digits into various Samsung devices and working to get it on other devices. In the meantime, Digits has an app for Android and iOS devices.
T-Mobile put out a promotional video to hype Digits, featuring Sievert and CTO Neville Ray breaking down the technology in a tone that has become custom for a company that drops F bombs on a semi-regular basis, using terms like “Advanced AF” and that Digits is a “BFD” to caption and translate the technical language for viewers.
T-Mobile says it is looking for customers to beta test Digits program and give feedback. Digits will be released commercially for all customers early next year.
T-Mobile isn’t talking about pricing right now, but Sievert and Ray did say on the conference call that it will be “disruptive” and each number won’t be treated like a new line. An AT&T or Verizon customers who want to use Digits will need some sort of T-Mobile relationship, but Sievert said they likely won’t have to get a full on mobile plan.
AT&T has a similar program, NumberSync, but Sievert and Ray say Digits goes a lot further. They called NumberSync a “one-number story” that doesn’t let people put multiple numbers on the same device and doesn’t have the same freedom to move across different device types and manufacturers.
T-Mobile thinks Digits will bring in new customers as well as make their current users happy. Sievert and Ray envisioned many uses of the service. It will make it easier to have multiple devices — such as a small, rugged phone for outdoor adventures, a big tablet for travel and a smartphone for business — for specific occasions, or to do everything on one device. They think it will also make T-Mobile more attractive to businesses, allowing employees to carry a single device if they want, rather than one phone for personal use and another for business. It could also help businesses move to a mobile-first model, where a business’ central number can go to multiple employee phones rather than a landline.
To make Digits work, Ray said T-Mobile completely redid how phone calls are made and received on its network. It uses whichever carrier the customer is on for signal, rather than a data connection like online calling services like Skype. Contacts, voicemails and texts are stored in the cloud.
“It’s no small feat to break a 100-year-old paradigm in the phone industry about a real phone number,” Ray said. “Our work here touches nearly every single part of T-Mobile’s network, and we’ve created several new patent-pending technologies as we’ve developed our Digits product.”
T-Mobile fashions itself as the “Un-carrier,” a rebel within the telecom business, dropping new innovations with a goal of shaking up the industry. Though not an official “Un-carrier Move,” Digits is the latest example of that ethos. T-Mobile’s past big moves include eliminating long-term contracts and data buckets.
Apple is working hard to build up its location-based and mapping data, according to Bloomberg.
The company plans to use drones and new “indoor navigation features” that will help make Maps more accurate and robust, which will help it to catch up to mapping-data leader, Google.
Apple is planning to use drones to gain a more granular view of things like street signs, road changes, and construction. The information could then be used to rapidly update Maps, giving users a much more accurate representation of their environments or local environments.
The company also acquired a Finnish company called Indoor.io, giving users the ability to view buildings’ interiors. By using the technology, users can navigate airports or museums, for example, Bloomberg notes. The new feature will likely be available next year, but it could be held back, too.
Mapping and location-based data is quickly taking a more central role in mobile technology.Consumers are increasingly putting aside privacy concerns about mobile location technologies, a key to their wider adoption. In 2015, 90% of US smartphone users took advantage of location-based services (LBS) for directions, recommendations, or other information, according to Pew Research. That’s up from 74% in 2013, when BI Intelligence first covered the then-nascent technology.
Moreover, brands and mobile advertisers are quickly seeing the value in LBS ads. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the revenue earned from location-targeted mobile ads, which is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 34% between 2014 and 2019, reaching $18.2 billion, according to a forecast from BIA/Kelsey. It makes sense then that Apple would double down on its own mapping data to ensure it remains relevant in the mobile market. Further, as the company continues to seek alternate channels of revenue generation outside of iPhone sales, selling ad space within Maps could serve as a viable revenue stream.
Jessica Smith, research analyst at BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on mobile marketing that takes a close look at the different tactics being used today, spanning legacy mobile technologies like SMS to emerging capabilities like beacon-aided location-based marketing. The report also identifies some of the most useful mobile marketing technologies that mobile marketers are putting to good use as parts of larger strategies.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
As consumers spend more time on their mobile devices, marketing campaigns are following suit. Mobile ad spend continues to lag mobile time spent, providing an opportunity for creative marketers.
Marketers should leverage different mobile tactics depending on the size and demographics of the audience they want to reach and the type of message they want to send. With all tactics, marketers need to respect the personal nature of the mobile device and pay attention to the potential for communication overload.
Mobile messaging — particularly SMS and email — has the broadest reach and highest adoption among mobile users. Messaging apps, relative newcomers but gaining fast in popularity, offer more innovative and engaging outreach options.
Emerging technology, such as dynamic creative optimization, is breathing new life into mobile browser-based ad campaigns, but marketers should keep an eye on consumer adoption of mobile ad blockers.
In-app advertising can generate high engagement rates, especially with video. Location-based apps and beacons offer additional data that can enhance targeting capabilities.
In full, the report:
Identifies the major mobile technologies being used to reach consumers.
Sizes up the potential reach and potential of each of these mobile technologies.
Presents an example of a company or brand that has successfully leveraged that mobile technology to reach consumers.
Assesses the efficacy of each approach.
Examines the potential pitfalls and other shortcomings of each mobile technology.
To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the world of mobile marketing, choose one of these options:
Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
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The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of how mobile marketing is rapidly evolving.
An Egyptian woman, believed to be the world’s heaviest woman at 500kg (1,102lb), will soon be flown to India for weight reduction surgery.
Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty, 36, will be flown on a chartered plane to Mumbai where bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala plans to operate.
The Indian embassy in Cairo initially denied her visa request as she was unable to travel there in person.
After the surgeon tweeted to India’s foreign minister that changed.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is herself in hospital awaiting a kidney transplant, was quick to respond with an offer of help.
Ms Abd El Aty’s family says she hasn’t been able to leave home for 25 years now and claims she weighs 500kg.
If the claim about her weight is true, then that would make her the world’s heaviest woman alive as the current Guinness record holder is Pauline Potter of the United States who weighed 292kg (643lb) in 2010.
Mum gives birth to ‘heaviest baby’ in India, weighing 15lb
‘World’s fattest man’ undergoes surgery
Global obesity boom ‘fuelling rise in malnutrition’
Dr Lakdawala, who has performed weight reduction surgeries on Indian minister Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu, told the BBC that from looking at Ms Abd El Aty’s medical reports and photographs, he believes that she weighs at least 450kg.
Ms Abd El Aty’s family says she weighed 5kg (11lb) at birth and was diagnosed with elephantiasis, a condition in which a limb or other body parts swell due to a parasitic infection, Dr Lakdawala told the BBC in a phone call from Mumbai.
“They said when she was 11, she had gained immense weight because of which she could not stand up and would crawl.
“And then she suffered a stroke which left her bedridden and she has not been able to leave home since then.”
Ms Abd El Aty is cared for by her mother and sister.
Dr Lakdawala said Ms Abd El Aty’s sister got in touch with him in October and he began raising money to bring her over to Mumbai as her family was too poor and unable to bear the costs of chartering a flight.
“We are expecting to fly her to Mumbai next week as soon as the formalities are over,” he said.
Dr Lakdawala believes that Ms Abd El Aty does not have elephantiasis, but suffers from obesity-related lymphoedema which causes gigantic swelling of legs.
“She would need to remain in Mumbai for two to three months for the surgery and treatment after which she would be able to return home, but it would take two to three years to bring her body weight under 100kg,” the surgeon said.
“I’m hopeful that I will be able to help her, I won’t say I’m confident because I think that would be an exaggeration,” he added.
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, is used as a last resort to treat people who are dangerously obese and carrying an excessive amount of body fat.
In the UK, this type of surgery is available on the NHS only to treat people with potentially life-threatening obesity when other treatments have not worked.
Around 8,000 people a year in the UK currently receive the treatment.
The two most common types of weight loss surgery are:
Gastric band, where a band is used to reduce the size of the stomach so a smaller amount of food is required to make someone feel full
Gastric bypass, where the digestive system is re-routed past most of the stomach so less food is digested to make someone feel full
Syrian rebels have called for a five-day truce to allow the evacuation of civilians, after withdrawing from their last strongholds in Aleppo’s old city.
They said civilians were in great danger and they would support any initiative to ease their suffering.
The US and five Western powers also put out a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid into rebel-held areas.
The Syrian government has ruled out any further ceasefires.
Its ally, Russia, has called all remaining rebels in eastern Aleppo “terrorists”.
What’s happening in Aleppo?
Aleppo tweeting girl back online
‘We are crying and afraid’
In a separate development, Syrian state news agency Sana reported that several Israeli missiles struck the Mazzeh military air base outside the capital Damascus overnight, causing a fire but no casualties.
‘A lot of fear’
Tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped in rebel-held districts of Alepp, Syria’s second city.
One resident said those districts were now heavily crowded and there were fears that people faced being captured, detained and tortured to death.
“I know people who literally did nothing, they just kept doing nothing for four, five years, they just wanted to stay in their homes and now they are being arrested by the regime,” Wissam, a teacher and activist said.
Food supplies are exhausted and there are no functioning hospitals after months of heavy bombardment.
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Aleppo says officials there are preparing for another exodus, as families try to flee under fire in an extremely dire situation.
Activist monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the pull-back by rebels in Syria’s second city came after days of heavy fighting. At least 15 people were killed overnight as heavy artillery fire battered the remaining rebel-held areas.
State media confirmed the military had taken over the whole of the old city.
Government forces now control about 75% of eastern Aleppo, held by the rebels for the past four years.
The rebels, who had been left with just a spit of land north-east of the citadel after recent government advances, abandoned it by Wednesday morning, retreating to territory they still hold further south.
Plea for ceasefire
“Civilians should be either protected or evacuated to a safe area where they will not be under the mercy of [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad and his henchmen,” said a statement by the rebel Aleppo Leadership Council.
An immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire
Evacuation of about 500 cases requiring emergency treatment under UN supervision
Evacuation of civilians to the northern Aleppo countryside
Negotiations on the future of the city
The US, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Canada jointly called for an immediate ceasefire on Wednesday, “to allow the United Nations to get humanitarian assistance to people in eastern Aleppo”.
They also condemned the Syrian government and its main backer Russia for “their obstruction of humanitarian aid”, accusing them of targeting hospitals and schools “in an attempt to wear people down”.
An inactive lifestyle may increase the risk of environmentally induced asthma symptoms. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers found that sedentary rats exposed to varying degrees of ozone, a type of air pollution, had higher markers for chronic disease when compared to counterparts that were more active.
Young rats were divided into two groups: One group had free access to a running wheel (“active”); the other did not (“sedentary”). For seven weeks, the active rats were allowed to exercise as desired, during which time the sedentary group engaged in everyday activities such as eating and sleeping. After this observation period, both the active and sedentary groups were exposed to either filtered air or three different levels of ozone concentrations for a total of 10 hours over two consecutive days.
The research team measured the breathing frequency and volume and glucose tolerance of all animals after ozone or filtered air exposure. The researchers also analyzed cells from the bronchial fluid in the lungs.
“The two-day exposures to ozone elicited a marked pulmonary inflammatory response as evidenced by an elevation in neutrophils [white blood cells that fight infection], eosinophils [white blood cells that often indicate allergies or infection] and other biomarkers of inflammation in the BALF [fluid in which the lung cells are retrieved and examined,]” the research team wrote. The research team noted that the white blood cell count increased more sharply in the sedentary group. Glucose levels rose in both active and sedentary groups after ozone exposure, but the increase was more significant and took longer to normalize in the sedentary group following a glucose challenge.
The study also found that the breathing rate of all animals was negatively affected after ozone exposure. After the first day of the air challenge, the active group exposed to air pollution used their running wheels 71 percent less than the active group exposed to normal air.
The findings of this animal study provide clues to environmental exposure in humans, explains the research team. “Such a study could highlight the importance of a model of childhood sedentary versus active lifestyle and effects on susceptibility as an adult.”
The sand is between my toes and a shot of rum is in my hand just moments after stepping out of a taxi, and I have wi-fi… Mauritius is Instagram heaven!
My base on the Indian Ocean island is the Veranda Pointe Aux Biches hotel which prides itself on its “barefoot bliss” concept, allowing you to discard your shoes and head straight into the Mauritian way of life.
Of course, as with many islands, the ocean is the star turn in this little slice of paradise.
And it wasn’t long before I was exploring what the water had to offer – starting with cruising through the picture-perfect turquoise seas.
And it wasn’t long before I was exploring what the water had to offer – starting with cruising through the picture-perfect turquoise seas.
Snorkelling by a reef just offshore was first on my agenda, and spotting a group of dolphins somersaulting and playing in the boat’s waves as we headed out was a welcome bonus and something to tick off the bucket list.
Sticking with boats, the hotel also offers a catamaran day trip, which starts at around £30 per person in a group, which goes up to £300 for a private trip.
Starting at Grand-Gaube, we made several stops for more snorkelling before arriving at Bernache Island. Here, the catamaran anchors a few yards from the shore and it’s so shallow, you can walk from the boat, doing your best Ursula Andress impression on the way, of course.
With a stunning beach on the south coast and as little as four other people on the island at a time, I was overwhelmed by the space, fresh air and beauty of nature surrounding me. Consequently the theme tune for Desert Island Discs did pop into my head, too.
There was no chance of being deserted here, though, because after an hour of exploring, I was welcomed back onto the boat by the smells of a BBQ that the crew had been preparing.
Music and dance is a big part of Mauritian culture and the local sound is called Sega, which is said to originate from the slave population. Now the dance is used to express the Mauritian way of life, which is joy and liveliness.
I got to experience this several times in my trip – one of those was with a Sega dance lesson on the beach, which is run by the hotel for free. I’d recommend having a rum before giving it a go though – they make it look a lot easier than it is.
As well as dance lessons, you can also join cocktail making and cookery lessons on the beach.
Standing proud at my cooking station with a chef’s hat on and armed with a spoon, I managed to rustle up a lobster stew with the guidance of the hotel chef. The price for this varies from £20-£30, depending on the meat used. Mauritian cuisine is largely based on fresh local fish which meant I got to try lots I’d never tasted before, mainly in curries and stews.
Make sure you try smoked marlin, caught daily just off the coast of Grand Baie.
This seaside village is where boats depart around 4am for deep sea fishing trips, returning to crowds waiting to see the size of marlin that have been caught.
My guide was also very proud to show me a wall of photographs that illustrated their fishing victories over the years.
Grand Baie is one of Mauritius’s most popular holiday destinations – its liveliness both day and night is the defining quality.
Home to a bazaar, food market and colourful Buddhist temples, you become immersed in beautiful smells and sights.
A 15-minute drive south of Grand Baie takes you to the village of Mapou, where you will find the Chateau de Labourdonnais (chateaulabourdonnais.com , £8.50).
This grand colonial house has been restored to show the lifestyle of the families who lived there in the 19th century and the impressive tree-lined driveway leading up to the house is the starting point for your tour.
Once inside you see the English and French inspiration within its furniture and decor, and the surrounding verandas overlook the estate’s garden and orchard with 50 varieties of 100-year-old mango trees, spice trees such as nutmeg and clove, as well as several exotic fruit trees.
The giant Aldabra tortoises are not to be missed either, but they aren’t going anywhere too fast.
For more flora, head to the Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden in Pamplemousse ( ssrbg.govmu.org , £5), which is populated with more than 650 varieties of plants, among which are the famous baobab trees, bottle
palms and giant water lilies, plus dozens of medicinal plants and a large spice garden.
I would fully recommend using the guides (around £1), not only to avoid testing your map skills, but because they are full of interesting facts and amusing anecdotes, even for the less green-fingered among us.
On the subject of greenery, you’ll have gathered there’s a lot in Mauritius, not least the fields of tall sugar cane which line most of the roads. With sugar being one of the island’s most historic exports, it’s not surprising they have a museum dedicated to the stuff.
L’Aventure du Sucre ( aventuredusucre.com , £8.50) near the Botanic Garden not only tells the story of the sweet stuff in fascinating detail, but also along the way covers the history of Mauritius, slavery and the rum trade.
The museum is housed in the converted Beau Plan mill, which only stopped being in active use in 1999 and the original machinery is still on site.
Admission includes a tasting with 12 varieties of sugar and three of rum – and, if you are not bouncing off the walls by then, a perfect ending to your visit is their
Le Fangourin restaurant.
Sitting under a shaded veranda, facing the beautiful gardens of Beau Plan, you can enjoy the delicate local cuisine. Inevitably, be prepared for a vast choice of sugar with your coffee.
If you still fancy some more rum, then Mauritius is definitely the place for you. Each hotel in the group that owns the Veranda Pointe Aux Biches has its own home-made flavour, ranging from coffee to passion fruit, and it seems rude not to try at
Leaving the island with a souvenir bottle of rum in my luggage and an abundance of Instagram posts sent, I remained barefoot right until the bitter end. Bliss in Mauritius? It’s a shoo in…
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas acted for IFC, with a team led by Partner Puja Sondhi, along with Principal Associates Aayush Kapoor and Sumeet Singh, Senior Associates Sushrut Biswal and Vasundhara Garg, and Associate Anant Mishra.
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas advised Apollo Health through a team led by Partner Nagavalli Gopalakrishna along with Senior Associate Rashi Saraf.
Apollo Health is a part of the Apollo Hospitals Group, India’s largest healthcare provider and runs multi-speciality clinics across 17 states. The investment will be used for increasing AHLL’s network of clinics along with cradle and diagnostics centres across the country.
Parents, take note! A sedentary lifestyle may impair your child’s reading skills and academic performance, a new study has warned.
In the study, a sedentary lifestyle was linked to poorer reading skills in the first three school years in six to eight year old boys.
The study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland investigated the longitudinal associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading and arithmetic skills in 153 children aged six to eight years old in Grades 1-3 of the primary school.
Physical activity and sedentary time were measured objectively using a combined heart rate and movement sensor in Grade one, and reading and arithmetic skills were assessed by standardised tests in Grades 1-3.
“Low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time in Grade one were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 among boys,” said Eero Haapala from the University of Eastern Finland.
“We also observed that boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through Grades 1-3,” said Haapala.
The study showed that high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, low levels of sedentary time, and particularly their combination in Grade one were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 in boys.
High levels of physical activity and low levels of sedentary time were also associated with better arithmetic skills in Grade one only in boys.
In girls, there were no strong and consistent associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading or arithmetic skills.
The study suggests that a combination of low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time might be particularly harmful for the development of academic skills in boys, and that increasing physical activity, reducing sedentary time and especially their combination may improve academic achievement.The study appears in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.