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Best Augmented Reality Tools in 2018: Which Is The Right One for Your AR App?
“Build the next big thing in terms of AR apps!” Is this goal on top of your New Year's resolutions list? Well, then right now you must be wondering: “With so many tempting augmented reality tools out there to choose from, which one's best for my own AR solution?" A frustratingly ambiguous answer could be: "The one that best serves your AR app development needs." Meaning that whatever AR platform you'll be choosing, it should: meet your project's requirements serve the goals that you will have set up for it And yet, this “matching” of the AR libraries at your disposal with your project's specific development needs is your “mission” and yours only. Nevertheless, we can still help you streamline your selection process. How? By shortlisting 6 of the most popular augmented reality development tools in 2017 with a great potential to grow even more influential in 2018.  Here they come: 1. Kudan AR An augmented reality SDK that “pioneered” the network intelligent vision (bringing together AI and IoT). And which sets itself apart from the other augmented reality tools in our shortlist here due to its robust single-camera SLAM. In other words: Kudan AR supports mapping tracking and simultaneous localization. Built for both iOS and Android-based apps, Kudan AR supports markerless tracking (meaning that it uses features such as edges, corners, and textures) and, moreover, it's designed to recognize an unlimited number of images. Where do you add that it doesn't get “greedy” using too much of your app's memory to store its files and (big advantage!) it's significantly faster than other AR SDKs. Summing up its key features and functionalities now: 2D/3D Recognition in the same application supports markerless tracking supports Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) tracking technology 2. Vuforia, By Far One of the Most Popular Augmented Reality Tools Call it a "complete tool" for developing AR apps! It practically “empowers” you to create any kind of AR solution for any type of device, any platform! A visually arresting augmented reality app or game “packed” with cutting-edge functionality.  Yet, it does have its own shortcomings, too, the most “discouraging” one being that its free version comes with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality.  Even so, the balance between great features and innovative capabilities and shortcomings is titled so that it favours the first ones. Let us detail: it's supercharged with smart terrain functionality for reconstructing a terrain and therefore a whole 3D map of the environment in real-time    the same, above-mentioned functionality, will empower you (or your app development team) to create some fully interactive user experiences where the app's elements interact with the physical world   it's extended tracking feature enables your future AR app to deliver a 100% realistic visual experience even when the target elements are out of view (in other words users will be able to simultaneously engage themselves in the gameplay and still visualize the vehicles for instance)   And now summing up Vuforia's most notable features:   it comes with virtual buttons, which allow you to switch between various surfaces, which play the roles of your true-to-life, natural-looking touch screens   mixed reality and eyewear support (that's right, Microsoft HoloLens here included)   cloud recognition (and on-device, as well), meaning that it's capable to use either a local or a cloud database during the image recognition process    Vuforia Object Scanner   it comes with Vumarks (Vuforia barcodes), which act both as data encoders and as markers   it's built to recognize both 2D and 3D objects   text recognition: Vuforia's designed to recognize over 100.000 words (and, moreover, you're enabled to use your own custom vocabulary, as well)   3. Wikitude The third augmented reality development kit on our list is actually an “all-in-one” platform in fact. One which brings together: Instant tracking + 3D markerless technology + Geo-location + Object/Image recognition and tracking And all these top-notch AR features bundled up in one single AR app development kit can only mean 2 things:   you get to build both marker AR mobile apps ... and location-based ones   Available for iOS, Android, and Glassware, Wikitude is one of those commercial augmented reality tools. It does come in a trial version, as well, but do expect it to “surprise” you with a series of limitations, such as its logo showing up in the cam view. And now, let's go through its attention-worthy features and functionalities:   it provides you with Wikitude Studio, which makes AR app development a breeze, literally, since it requires no programming skills whatsoever: just drag the elements onto the studio screen and... put together your app    Wikitude SDK is currently available for Android, iOS and the Glassware platform   on-device and cloud recognition    instant (3D) tracking (it will display virtual objects and map out environments without using markers)   extended tracking    geolocation support: your AR mobile app can get enhanced with location-based services, as well    4. ARToolKit ARToolKit is, in fact, a group of augmented reality tools that you can use for building your app. And its heavy-weighing pro, that helped it make it to our list here, is that it's... an open-source code! That's right, you gain free access to its library, so you'll be able to tailor its source code to your AR app's specific development needs. Nevertheless, this comes with a drawback: limited documentation! So, do keep this in mind when you're on a lookout for the most appropriate AR platform for your app project. And now, let's list its other “seductive” features besides its open-source nature:   simultaneous tracking: basically you get to “empower” your AR apps to track multiple objects at the same time both single and dual camera support  integration with GPS (a vital feature if it's a location-based AR app that you're developing) it supports various platforms, ranging from iOS and Android to Windows, macOS, Linux...   5. Apple ARkit, One of The Revolutionary AR Frameworks And it was pretty much around the time when iOS 11 introduced ARKit in the digital arena that app developers' “mad race” to build their own next big thing started. Did you start planning your own AR solution around the same time? Running on Apple 9, Apple 10, and A11 processors, Apple ARkit empowers you to create and deliver augmented reality experiences to your users both on iPhone and iPad (obviously!). Now let us highlight the top-notch functionalities that will empower your app development team to put together not “just” AR experiences, but some truly realistic, immersive ones:   VIO (Visual Inertial Odometry) combines core motion data with camera sensor data, enabling your future AR app to accurately track the environment    it's capable to detect horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables) and objects on smaller feature points    it's equipped for plane, scale, and ambient lighting estimation   fast motion tracking   it can be used with third-party tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity, with SceneKit and Metal   6. EasyAR  Here's another SDK “overloaded” with cutting-edge functionalities on our augmented reality tools list here! And even if you go with the free version of the EasyAR kit (which won't provide you with certain of its functionalities, such as SLAM, 3D tracking, and screen recording), you still get an impressive load of features:   cloud recognition 1000 on-device targets storage unlimited recognition queries   And where do you add that getting it up and running is just a matter of registering your account and generating your Bundle ID's plugin key. Its list of top features would have to include:   cloud recognition app cloud packaging 3D object recognition environment tracking   The END! These are the 6 augmented reality tools that you should consider selecting from if you're decided to go ahead and build your first AR solution this year. Good luck checking them off your New Year's resolutions list! ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jan 03'2018
An 8-Step Business Networking Guide for Startups Attending The Web Summit 2018 
I know that one of the tips from my previous post was to start preparing for the event a month before or so. And yet: there's no such thing as “too early” preps for the Web Summit 2018 The future belongs to those who plan ahead, especially if you're a startup founder! Nevertheless, irrespective of a company's size or for how long it's been on the market there's plenty of networking potential to be seized and to be leveraged at the conference. For everyone. So, why not start your pre-conference preparation by going through my handful of valuable advice and top tips based on my experience there representing OPTASY? Tips on how to create your own networking opportunities and how to fully “exploit” them. Hence, today I'll be sharing with you some of my experience at the Web Summit from a company's perspective, along with insights and advice from the standpoint of OPTASY's assignee there (me).   1. Do Your Pre-Conference Homework Like a Pro' Plenty of research here included! My advice, from the previous post on this topic, to take your time to properly prepare for the event applies, all the more, if you're attending the Web Summit 20918 as a company. With so many big names and start-ups striving to maximize their opportunities to build connections and meet potential partners — before and while at the conference—  reaching out to people and scheduling meetings long time in advance becomes... common sense. Read bios, make yourself a list of the people you'd love to “chat” with and... drop them a line. Make contact, schedule valuable meetings...   2. … and Do Show Up At Meetings With All Your Homework Properly Done By “homework” I do mean 2 things:   improvisation is definitely overrated; instead of relying solely on your personal charm and persuasion skills to win them over, try to collect (and to memorize) as much key information about the people (and their companies) you'll meet as possible: projects, shared values, success story, objectives, approach to disruptive technologies etc.   don't deliver them just plain, rigid numbers and statistics, but tell a story, your company's unique story; in this respect, again, don't rely exclusively on your spontaneity, but craft and repeatedly polish your story long time in advance   3. Write Down Notes After Every Single Meeting: They Are True Lifesavers “Specific” notes I should add. You can even write them down (the notes) right on the business cards that you'll receive. OK, so you may not be interested, at first, in someone's plans to travel around the world or in his golden retriever's name, but, believe me:   These seemingly insignificant details will turn out to be powerful information once the summit ends and you go back to the office!   This is the kind of personal information that will “fuel” your follow-up emails to those people, helping you add that personal touch that's not to be underestimated. Take these on-the-spot notes as the surest way to remember all those people that you'll chat with. To quickly put a face on each name written on a business card.    4. Follow Up on The Very Same Day  The best way to “carve” a meeting in your interlocutor's memory is to send him/her a follow-up email the very same day. One where you express, once again, your intention to help him/his company.  Patience might be a virtue, but when it comes to fully exploiting your networking opportunities at the Web Summit 2018, quick reactions, real-time follow-ups, are a must.   5. Be Alert, Meet and Mingle Once at the web summit: sharpen all your senses! Keep your eyes “wide shut”, ready to:   “detect” any “big” company/startup celebrity name on a badge listen to people chatting around you  mingle with the crowd   Networking opportunities are “floating” there, everywhere, the cafeteria here included!   6. Set Up a Goal and Never Lose Sight of It Why do you plan to/will be attending the Web Summit 2018? What are you hoping to get out of your attendance to this major tech conference? Is it for getting your company's name out there? Is it it for promoting your brilliant, innovative business idea? Is it for meeting potential clients/finding investors? Or are you looking for an inspiring mentor maybe? Just don't show up there without a goal! With nothing but pure... enthusiasm. Define your main objective long time in advance and build your powerful strategy around it!   7. Try Out Different Networking Methods While at the Web Summit 2018 Remember: your time in the spotlight, when you get the chance to exhibit, lasts for just one day. Therefore, it's crucial that you plan out the other 2 days left in detail. A highly effective approach to planning is to try a mix of different networking strategies:   hand out fliers   take a tour of all the booths there   go to your scheduled meetings   attend conferences and try reaching out to speakers after   And, most of all, as you “juggle” with all these networking methods, stay creative and you'll stand you! You'll get noticed!   8. Don't Formalize: Meet People Over a Drink And speaking of “meeting and mingling”, don't hesitate to invite your interlocutors to chit-chat over a drink at one of those night events at the Web Summit 2018. Turn the Pub Crawls, get togethers and, most of all, private dinner parties into some great (if not the very best) opportunities to make connections.  Mingle with the crowd, a glass in your hand, and interact while trying to have some fun, too. To enjoy your experience there, as a (startup) company attendee!   And this is it! OPTASY's 8-step guide on how to network like a champ', how to seize and value all the opportunities of making new, valuable connections, as a company, at the Web Summit 2018. Good luck with that! ... Read more
Serge Karpyuk / Dec 08'2017
My Experience as a Web Summit 2017 Attendee and Top Tips for 2018
My first time at the Web Summit! And it's been almost... “surreal”, I'm still having trouble believing that I did, indeed, attend it (has it been a month already?).       You go over all the numbers (60000 names, 1200 speakers etc.), you scan through the overwhelmingly long list of participants (packed with awe-inspiring names) and you start to feel just like a... kid going to Disneyland for the first time:   Am I really going to attend these talks?   Be in the same room (even if in the very last row... these are just details) with all these... tech and business giants?   Get close to all these inspiring innovators (I know, I know: I start to sound like a fanatic)?   And last but definitely not least: get to immense myself in this astonishing city?   Of course, once you go through the list over and over again, you use the app day and night and you burst with over-excitement, you gradually... cool down and start doing your homework. To properly prep for meeting all these influencers. For you do want to make the most of your staying there and not waste anyone's time. But before I go on with my list of tips and advice on how to prepare for a Web Summit — whether you're a startup founder or a tech enthusiast — allow me to share with you some glimpses of my actual experience:   1. Got There Pumped Up for the Event and Left Head Over Heels in Love With... Lisbon! For it's simply... breathtaking! Lisbon lures you in to explore it, then it crawls into your heart and... gets stuck to it!  The cosmopolitan city basking in the sun has been the host of “the best technology conference on the planet” for the second year in a row. And this after the conference had spent its “childhood” in Dublin and... well... got a bit... too much for the Irish capital city. And organizers couldn't have picked a better “host”:   the city of Lisbon had the capacity to easily accommodate the heavy influx of participants it took me about 40 minutes to get from the venue to the city centre, by subway I got (thank God!) stable internet connection throughout my staying there there were no discouragingly large crowds gathered around the exhibit stands   2. Attended Talks and Conferences: My Top Favorites For even though some more experienced Web Summit participants might advise you to watch the speeches on YouTube —  and instead, while there, to network like there's no tomorrow (or a next web summit to attend) —  I stuck to my own schedule. It would have been inconceivable for me not to attend the conferences and talks that I was so looking forward to. And here's a short list of the ones that I loved best:   Stephen's Hawking's Talk on Disruptive Technology, on how “Artificial intelligence comes, and this can become both a major success and the main failure of mankind “, that if it's not geared exclusively at SERVING humanity (and not the other way around)   Bryan Johnson's (the CEO of Kernel) Talk on Prioritizing Humanity, above all, and the stringent need for people to learn to adapt to the newly emerging tasks that disruptive technologies assign to them   Margrethe Vestager's, The European Union's Commissioner for Competition, Talk on Fair Play and Tech (filled with self-evident examples of invasive usages of technology and of tech giants engaging in tax invasion)   Dana Settle's (Greycroft) and Jim Breyer's (Breyer Capital) Speech answering the legitimate “Where to Invest in 2018?” question: in core technologies, practical and simple apps, (e.g. virtual, personal health assistants) in AI, machine learning; a talk with a focus on China as the world's second largest AI development center   3. And Now: My Top Pre-Event Preparation Tips and Tricks  Let me switch from what might look like me bragging about my experience at the Lisbon Web Summit 2017, to me sharing some practical tips with you. Some advice on how to properly plan out your attendance and prepare like a pro' for the event:   First of all: start your pre-conference preparations long time in advance (a month before or so)   Next, download the Web Summit app; and this is a true power placed in your hands if you know just to harness its full potential   Then, it's time you do your homework: delve deep into the wide list of participants (luckily you'll find them all right there, listed in the app), scan them through, read bios, do your research work and reach out to them (be perseverant), make connections, schedule meetings   The event's app will be your most reliable ally thanks to its conveniently easy-to-use and time-saving filters: don't be afraid to use them   Rely on keyword search, as well, and put together a list including ONLY those people whom you'd just die to meet and chat with, who inspire you, whose story you're fascinated with, who are most likely to provide you with information that's 100% relevant for your industry    Put together a schedule of meetings, for once you get there... you risk to be swept by the “whirlpool”. It will help you stay focused, stay organized and maximize all your networking opportunities once you're at the summit   In short: there's no easy way to properly prep for the Web Summit 2018; no quick trick or secret recipe to making connections and scheduling meetings so that you land in Lisbon with a solid strategy at hand, that you'll just need to... execute to perfection. It's all about kneeing deep in the discouragingly rich database of participants, running a rigorous selection and reaching out to people.    4. Web Summit 2018: My Advice on How to Make the Most of It So, with your list of contacts plus your schedule of meetings in one pocket and your Web Summit app in the other one you... arrive in Lisbon. Now what? Here are a few tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your next/first web summit attendance:   Schedule all the talks and conferences that you want to attend; in this respect, the recommendation feature and the event calendar —  2 of the app's key features —  make some really powerful tools   Next, remember that people connect more easily outside conference halls and that networking at Web Summit doesn't end at sunset; be ready to attend some of the night events (parties here included!) scheduled for the Night Summit; pub-crawl, interact, make connections while you're having some well-deserved fun, as well, after a full, hectic day   But probably the only really “strict” advice to follow while at the Web Summit is: Be creative! Don't be shy to reach out to people, you'll be surprised to discover that some of them are really willing to share their experiences/expertise (for that's why they go there after all, to network with people passionate about innovation, with disruptive technologies enthusiasts, like you, after all), to create your own networking opportunities And this is my (first) Web Summit experience in a few words and my tips for you if you're planning to hit the 2018's tech conference! Stay tuned! In our next post we'll be sharing with you a tried-and-tested step-by-step guide on how to network like rockstar — as a startup company — at Web Summit 2018! ... Read more
Serge Karpyuk / Dec 06'2017
6 Enterprise Use Cases for Augmented Reality That You, Too, Can Implement 
Long gone are the days when AR and VR used to be associated (strictly) to roller coaster simulations, the gaming industry or true-to-life aerial experiences. Today we can be talking about an ever-wider range of innovative use cases for augmented reality in enterprises.  About a niche technology turning... mainstream and, moreover, going beyond purely entertainment purposes. Moreover, AR's potential for improving performance, boosting efficiency and enriching customer experience has long ceased to be a “privilege” of the top most valuable brands. And since it's ceased to be an “exclusive” technology, why not harness its potential? Why not capitalizing on AR's potential in your own organization, too?   “What specific use case best suits my particular business needs?”   ... you might be wondering.   Here are some of the most interesting current uses of augmented reality in enterprises:   1. Remote Workforce Supercharged With AR Power  Just take this scenario:   You have two teams working on the same project — an in-house one and a remote one — and you get to leverage AR's power to actually immerse your remote team in the project.   … to bring together all your employees, scattered around the globe, in a collaboration enhanced by that strong feeling of “being there” that AR instils. Or you can go for the second scenario: use AR to easily monitor out of location employees. And this feature gains a critical importance if we're considering 3 specific types of employees working “off-site”:   engineers on an oil-rig medical first respondents linesmen on power lines  2. Step-By-Step Guidance Overlaid on Work Areas via AR Displays Another one of those efficiency-boosting (translated into manufacturing error rate cut down by almost 90%) use cases for augmented reality in an enterprise is overlaying instructions. Practically via an AR display the manufacturer — take one manufacturing an aeroplane wing or one assembling an automobile, for instance — gets hyper-explicit guidance overlaid precisely on his work area. With instructions being conveniently visualized, overlaid right on the work area, the employee practically gets step-by-step guidance for carrying out his tasks of high precision with utmost accuracy. Where human error possibility should be whipped out of the process, AR comes to bring out-of-this-world precision into the real world!   3. Using AR Geared at Improving Warehousing and Logistics Efficiency A potential that DHL knew just how to exploit to their benefit: streamlining warehouse pick-and-place operations through the use of smart glasses which are pointing out the shorter routes for the employees to take; and implicitly cutting down the error rate, too. An unbelievable efficiency booster that you, too, can leverage in your organization for cutting down costs on logistics and warehousing resources and reducing human error.   4. Enriching Your Design/Engineering Team's Experience  By their powers combined, AR and VR will help you:   enrich your customers' experiences by bringing design concepts to life; take a scenario where a family planning to renovate one of their bathrooms can walk right in its virtual replica and visualize precisely how it's going to look   enrich your designers'/architects/engineers' experiences: 3D objects/environments represented on two-dimensional screens vs 3D representations in real size; practically engineers/architects/construction workers/designers get to visualize their work in progress and spot the areas that need adjustments with far more accuracy and in a timely manner   It's one of those use cases for augmented reality that will empower you to increase your team's performance and create richer, immersive customer experiences.    5. Real-Time Data Vizualization … at an enterprise level. And this is one of those scenarios where you get to turn AR into a... superpower. Just think about it: Visualizing data in real-time and, moreover, projecting these data visualizations onto different surfaces will not only:   enhance a more in-depth understanding of that specific data   ... but even enable larger groups of managers to collaborate far more effectively and make data-driven decisions based on a shared understanding of that data   And this is one of those augmented reality business use cases that can go as far as projecting board-room-seized 3 D views of your business! There you can get an even more accurate view of your entire data infrastructure, with all its strong and “sore points” to focus your efforts on!   6. Augmented Reality Training: One of The Most Valuable Use Cases for Augmented Reality  Will you join the AR revolution in staff training and professional development? And since nothing beats practical examples, here are some current uses of AR as a powerful training tool:   using AR to quickly empower staff to get a grip on using highly complex equipment, machinery   using AR to enhance the learning of complex concepts   using AR to enhance collaboration during staff training via virtual, true-to-life presentations, field tests etc.   using AR to a supercharge a “learning by doing” type of training, where real-life situations would be too dangerous to (re)create: such as performing surgery or flying a plane   using AR to recreate specific environments/scenarios/reality augmented workplaces in order to improve your employee's “soft skills” (public speaking, dispute resolution, decision making under stress); you even get to tailor your AR training to each team member's profile    To sum up: using AR in training processes helps you “unleash” all that potential of creativity and efficiency otherwise limited by the “conventional” type of trainings. Take AR as far as your imagination takes it and create your own use cases for augmented reality suitable for:   your team(s)' specific needs your organization's specific goals for maximizing your team's potential   Final Thoughts Now guess what: all the above-mentioned use cases for augmented reality are not “lab experiments” or “projects about the far future to come”. They're being implemented, as we speak, in real-life workplaces. AR technology is now commercially available and has become and is continuing to get even more accessible. And its potential for enhancing both the customer and the employee experience is huge. … you just need to “power” it with content — your unique content — and to harness its potential in use cases of augmented reality perfectly suitable for your own organization! ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Dec 05'2017
Intelligent Content: A Device & Design-Agnostic Approach to Content
Create content for your customer FAQs... content for your website... next for your website's blog, as well... produce user-engaging content to upload on all social media channels... then go ahead and produce sopy for your flyers... A bit overwhelmed? Well, it's just getting started! Now you have to make sure your content gets delivered across “101” types of devices, as well. So, how about trying to create intelligent content instead? How about... stepping into the future of content?  A future where technology (e.g. AR) compliments and boosts human efforts of coping with the ever-growing content demands that an organization must meet:   create and then deploy custom content across a plethora of channels (voice assistants, chatbots and other newly emerged technologies here included) deliver it (at the perfect time) across a myriad of devices (tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, desktop computers...) … to multiple audiences   But let us delve into details about:   what intelligent content is what type of content “qualifies” for being made more... intelligent whether intelligent content marketing is suitable for your organization's specific content demands why you should bother at all, what are the clear benefits you should expect to reap where to start; what steps to take for setting up your own intelligent content strategy?   1. Intelligent Content: What Is It? Just Another Fancy Marketing Catchword? Or better said: what makes it “intelligent”? Let us give you some “clues”:   it results from an efficient use of the latest “wonders” of technology, human capabilities and content handling processes   it's ideally structured to enable retrieval and re-usage   it's content viewed as a business asset and managed as such   it's a modular approach to content: multiple fragments that you get to put together, adapting the result to any targeted device/channel's format (and specific audience) constraints   it's content customized at multiple levels: the user's, the channel's, the device's level    A term coined by Ann Rockley, intelligence content is basically a scientific-like approach to content creation, management and delivery:   “Intelligent content combines the wonders of technology with human capability in a way that powerfully supports an organization’s goals.“ (What Is Intelligent Content) And it's a two-way approach to content:   creating the design-agnostic content itself and breaking it into component parts, that you then structure by adding metadata tags; tags which will enable you to put them (the content fragments) together in an assembly-line style depending on the channels that you'll deploy them on and on the audiences (and devices) who'll be “consuming” your content   adopting a whole new mindset where you approach content as “genetically” structural; as soon as you start to “view” it as being modular, mixing and matching its components to suit a specific audience, a specific channel or device will come naturally to you...   In short: content with device & design-agnostic structure turns into an ideally versatile type of content in today's multi-channel, multi-device digital marketing landscape. Adopting this approach to the content that you produce will only grant you content that's:   neatly structured (via semantic tags) and consistently organized reusable highly adaptable and customizable easily reconfigurable semantically structured and, therefore, “semantically aware” (easily “identifiable”, where modern technologies, including AR and machine learning, can easily “identify” what the content is about) free from constant “touch-ups” at every instance of use delivered via a far more streamlined publishing process (since it's no longer formats-constrained)   2. What Type of Content “Qualifies” for Being Turned into Intelligent Content? Any type of content, any content contexts or scenarios!  From costumer-support content to marketing content, to technical documentation, to content delivered across multiple devices and multiple audiences, to content specific to different products etc. It can all be turned into intelligent content! Both producing it, delivering it and monitoring its performance the “standard way” (how many hours does your team spend, each week, tracking down data in Google Analytics?) is time and budget-consuming. Now imagine a world where all these content processes, ranging from scheduling the monthly blog post topics, to scheduling social shares, to setting up your content strategy and so on would be handled automatically? By a machine? Then, from (just) an overly complex content strategy it will turn into an efficient, intelligent content strategy. Moreover, you'd be actually future-proofing your content, too! Structuring it as a series of component parts will make it easier to be deployed even across channels that haven't yet emerged into the digital marketing world.   3. Does It Suit Your Company's Specific Content Creation & Delivery Needs? It depends greatly on your load of content.  If it's a 40-pages Drupal site that we're talking about, carrying highly crafted content only, that doesn't require frequent updating, then the investment isn't worth it. In other words: if your content demands within your organization are more than “reasonable”, we consider that structuring your content beyond its basic HTML structure isn't justified. But if we're talking about:   a content-packed website content that needs to be constantly updated content that needs to be translated into multiple languages, sent to multiple audiences, adapted to each product line (along with the challenge of multiple audiences per product line)   … then you should definitely jump on the intelligent content “trend” and streamline your entire content workflow   4. Top Benefits of Moving to Intelligent Content Although we've already outlined a couple of the high impact advantages of moving to a more intelligent content marketing strategy, allow us to enlist them all:   it cuts down costs (content production, reviewing, monitoring costs, even translation costs)   it improves and guarantees quality and consistency across the website and across your whole ecosystem of channels to be deployed on   it adapts to any channel's particularities and constrains and it can be customized to those channel-specific audiences with minimal tweaking or close to zero intervention of your marketing team   it helps you deliver the right piece of content, to its target audience, in precisely the right format across that particular channel, on that specific device and at the right time of their customer journeys   Cutting down costs + providing the best user experience + future-proofing your content! Thes are the 3 key benefits that should weigh heavily in your decision-making process: to move or not to move to intelligent content?   5. Where Do You Start Developing Your Intelligent Content Strategy? OK, so you've decided to make content on your website “more intelligent” and, therefore, to adopt an intelligent content marketing strategy. What now?  Here are the steps you could take for a great start:   adopt a new mindset: start viewing intelligent content as part of your whole content marketing strategy   run a small-scale test (targeting just the upper levels in your organization's hierarchy for a start)   identify your organization's “sore points” and business requirements   focus on a small project for now and create a content model   put all the needed tools and technologies in place (authoring tools, XML, content management systems etc.)   consider going for headless Drupal or a single CMS   Once all the preparations are made, switch to more in-depth steps in defining and implementing your new content strategy : get your content broken into multiple component parts, the very first “transformation” phase required for it to be turned into intelligent content   remove all content formatting and add metadata tagging; this way, you'll make it discoverable, reusable, adaptable and keep adding on all the other features ending in “-able”) that set the difference between (just) content and intelligent content    move one step at a time; implementing an intelligent content strategy can be an overkill for your website if you're getting impatient and “greedy” and rush things   make changes at the content processes and the organization's level (for instance appointing a team to have a look at each piece of content before it goes live)   Note: producing intelligent content means so much more than just appropriately structuring it and making it “semantically aware”. It also means anticipating and understanding the final form it will take. Once you visualize this, you'll know which component parts to select and to mix and match assembling them in the desired final form (while using the same source content, of course). The END! Your immersion into the future of content (soon to become “present”) ends here! What do you think: does intelligent content stand any chance to become the new standard for delivering content in a multi-channel, multi-device digital marketing landscape or not? ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Nov 14'2017
No Code or Low Code Development Platform? Which One Best Suits Your App?
Your current scenario, as we see it: You're facing an app building type of situation! An app that should streamline workflow within your company or that would help your team deliver an unparalleled customer experience. Backlogs are out of the picture and dependency on “power builders” as well. Should you go for a low code development platform or for a no code one?   Decisions, decisions... How do you pick when they seem so very much alike? They both spoil you with most tempting conveniences such as:   minimal coding effort minimal (to none) technical expertise app building efficiency (you get to assemble your app in no time and benefit from faster time-to-value) out-of-the-box UI components for you, the app builder, to mix and match and put together into an app automated horizontal scalability   Now let us come to your aid with a “list” of criteria to help you differentiate these two seemingly identical app development platforms. A more like a list of questions meant to help you:   “draw” your own profile as an app builder/app building company better define your own needs and goals draw an “identikit” of your future business app   … and, most importantly, (help you) decide whether a low code development platform or a no-code app building experience best suits your project's needs!   A Low Code Development Platform: What Is It & Why Go for It? What sprang up as auto-code generation tools has gradually grown into enterprise-level platforms for building large-scale apps. Low code development platforms made their entrance a while ago (dominating the web in 2016 ) and seem to be here to stay since more and more companies are jumping on the “quick and easy” app building bandwagon. By providing you, the app builder, with multiple low-code stages, these modern platforms speed up your whole app development and app delivery cycle. But let's point out precisely those key aspects of an app delivery cycle that this type of platforms impacts dramatically:   all services (SOAP, CRM, databases, security, REST APIs etc.) benefit from the visual development approach; they get incorporated via conveniently intuitive visual interfaces   the time-consuming coding “ordeal” is replaced with a visual app building approach: your development team can now create the whole user experience right from the start by simply mixing and matching the UI components that a low code development platform puts at their disposal   app deployment and continuous integration get streamlined via one-click deployments   human error, risking to impact the coding process, is taken out of the equation: standardized best practices ensure that all tasks related to front-end, back-end, executable, configuration etc. get “error-proofed”   the needs for future scalability (as well as for continous maintenance) are anticipated: low code apps are highly scalable due to their easy to use, lightweight containers that development teams just need to “fill in”   A No Code Development Platform: How Is It Different from a Low Code One? No code app development platforms are nothing more than low code platforms adapted to specific app building scenarios. And, therefore, equipped so they can serve specific development needs. And these “special” scenarios are all those requiring a higher level of customization. Let's say that you need to leverage your company/industry-specific template design for one of your app's pages, for instance.  This is where no code platforms excel at! They “spoil” you with more templates and more pre-built industry-specific or company-standardized components, that you can just drag and drop and use for assembling your app. But let's talk... examples! Here are 3 of the most common scenarios where a low code development platform delivers you a no coding experience:   when it offers you, right out-of-the-box, industry-specific components to just assemble; then, your industry-specific app's building cycle calls for almost no coding at all   when drag-and-drop UI components get built, “in-house”, by your own technical team, following your company's specific standards and then “passed on” to your business-pass team; for the latter it will certainly feel like they're putting together apps with zero coding: they'll just need to drag and drop the already built-in components   when standardized styling is used (fonts, colors etc.) and “template UI design” gets incorporated into the platform; design templates meant to match those of the third party software used within your enterprise; with all these pre-created components at hand, low coding seamlessly turns into a no coding app building experience   What Is Your Skill Set as an App Builder? For it makes a whole lot of difference whether you have back-end scripting skills (you “swim through” JavaScript, Node.js, Ruby or VBScript code like a fish in the sea) or you're a line-of-business professional with a great idea of an app and Microsoft Excel expertise (only). Here's why:   no-code app building platforms empower business professional to step into the shoes of “business app builders”; to have their desired apps up and running in no time, with no dependency on a team of IT professionals   delivering drag and drop pre-built UI components and point and click tools no code platforms give the whole app development process a dramatic boost (so, no need for coding expertise for getting apps built at high speed)   low code app building platforms provide you with highly intuitive, visual modeling tools for trimming down code, even if it's an architecturally complex app that you want to build way faster than via a traditional app development approach    and as a general rule of thumb a low code development platform addresses “power builders” with an advanced processing modeling, back-end scripting and business analytics skill set; such “audience” is able to fully leverage this modern platform's capabilities, those that set it apart from a standard app building process   An On-Premise or a Cloud-Based Hosting Solution? Here's a key question to be asking yourself when you're still investigating each one of the 2 app development platforms' pros and cons: Where will it be hosted? And also: by whom? You should know that:   low-code platforms are web-based and on-premises hosting solutions no-code platforms are cloud-based   And the benefits that you'll reap from using a cloud-based web hosting solution are more than obvious:   you'll place the burden of monitoring the whole infrastructure's overall health and level of security onto your service provider's shoulders starting small and integrating new features/functionalities later on gets so much more streamlined than with an on-premise platform you save valuable time that you could then invest in... creating brand new challenges-solving and daily workflow-optimizing apps     What Type of App Are You Building? Who'll Be Using It? Sketching your business app's identikit is crucial before/in order to choose the right app development platform for your project. So, what kind of app are you planning to build? Is it an app integrating well-defined processes and running on a complex infrastructure? One aimed at keeping a close track of core business processes? Or is it an app that could run either as a standalone one or as one incorporated into your business system? An app with a lifespan ranging from a few months to... several years? But let's make your decision-making challenge easier to respond to! Let us list both the low code and the no code apps' specific “profiles”:   Typical Low Code Apps:   large scale apps, dependent on high stability CORE transaction processing & business management apps long-term apps (with a 5+ years lifecycle) architecturally complex apps (dependent on frequent updating) apps having well-defined processes   In short: low code apps make a crucial component of your whole core business system and they result from taking the conventional app building approach and... streamlining it.   Typical No Code Apps:   apps which may or may not be invested with a mission of critical importance for your core business process  apps with a shorter estimated lifecycle apps integrating innovative (or company/industry specific) business processes apps that you build either to integrate into your business system or to run as standalone business apps apps used for business process tracking, reporting, processing etc.   In other words: no code apps allow you to come up with quick-to-implement app solutions to specific business challenges and all this irrespective of your level of technical expertise   In Conclusion If you want it built fast, a no code app development platform might suit your project best.  If you want:   it to feature custom UI elements and styling aspects following your company's predefined standards to “grow independent” of a team of “professional coders”   … go with a no code platform   But if you:   don't want to trade freedom of decision-making for more convenience, for more pre-built components to just drag and drop want to be in charge (or to invest your development team with such power/responsibility) with your future app's deployment and integration processes want to speed up the traditional app building process by using visual development tools and less coding   … then a low code development platform might suit you and your app project best.   So, which one will it be? ... 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Adrian Ababei / Nov 11'2017
Which Database Should I Choose for My Web App: MySQL or MongoDB?
Each one of the two popular databases “lures” you with its own set of tempting features that the other one lacks. Yet, you need to go beyond the old “relational vs NoSQL” debate to find the answer to your “Which database should I choose for my web app?” question. Therefore, it's more than a generic MySQL vs MongoDB comparison that we'll attempt to make in this post. It's not a well-founded answer to a question like “Which is the best database to use for web applications?” that we'll try to give. Instead, we'll try helping you discover which is THE one that best fits YOUR own web app's use case.   It All Comes Down to One Key Question: “What Type of Web App?” And just like a snowball rolling down a slope, once you've asked yourself this crucial question, expect it to “unleash” other key ones, as well:   What type of data will you be storing in your database? Is it relational data (e.g. social network-specific data, where each user has lots of associated photos, comments, groups etc.) or is it documents or analytical information that your web app's database will be storing?   Would you “trade” data protection guarantee (let's say... losing some of the stored data every dozen thousand transactions?) for really high data insert rate?   Would you store it in a relational schema guaranteeing you clear relationships between entities or would you go for a more flexible data storage format instead? One enabling you to perfectly store dynamic, unique items?   Do you expect your web app to grow any bigger? How big? Are we talking about a “very large” data volume? And this is probably the second most important question to ask yourself after the “Which database should I use for my web app?”   How many queries do you expect it to perform (per minute, hour, day)?   And which is your skills level (or your development team's skills level) in using various databases?   Will your database need to be perfectly equipped to support further and further joins?   What coding language/front-end framework will you be developing your web app in?   And you must surely agree that this is a never-ending list. There are so many aspects relevant for your specific use case, for your specific web app that you should take the time to determine. And to focus on those which weight heavily in your database selection process.   “Which Database Should I Choose for My Web App?” Go With MongoDB If... … it's a web app carrying a heavy write load that you're planning to develop. MongoDB database's biggest advantage over a MySQL one is its capability to accommodate really large data volumes. Take the comments section of high trafficked websites (The New York Times or Craigslist) for instance. Loads and loads of content is being “pumped in”, at high speed, and MongoDB's perfectly equipped to assimilate it all. Note: it might excel in terms of performance, yet it trades transaction safety to achieve that kind of performance. So, make sure you go with MongoDB only if it's not sensitive data that your web app's database will be storing. MongoDB does require a high level of risk tolerance, you know. And there are plenty of other reasons why MongoDB might be a suitable replacement for MySQL for storing data. You should back your web app with a MongoDB database if:   ... it's a small, a start-up business that you own. On open source document-oriented database, which doesn't pigeonhole your data in a rigidly structured schema (it simply stores all the values that you're inserting as documents), which is flexible, easy to set up, to manage, to deploy and to scale, is perfect for your own specific web app's needs.   . … you dream big. This NoSQL database is built to scale (horizontally), to auto-shard (and to replicate) your data as it gets heavier.   . … your web app doesn't require a complex data model and you're good to go with a simpler one. One with no further joins requests and much easier to deploy.   .... it's a prototyping scenario that you're planning to use it in.   And Now: When Not to Use MongoDB? For if it's best-suited for certain scenarios involving backing web apps, it certainly is ill-suited for others. Here are some of them:   if you're looking for an easy way to join tables to your database... MongoDB is not IT   if you're planning to use it as the primary database system for... 1k machines, let's assume. It's not that stable.   if it's security-critical information that you're planning to store in your web app's database (e.g. critical customer information). MongoDB doesn't guarantee you the same level of data protection as MySQL   if it's relational data that you'll be storing (so if there are clear relationships between your entities, e.g. users and reviews)   if you're counting on transaction support   A MySQL Database Might Better Suit Your Web App If... … it's a commercial/end-user app that you're developing, which depends on a strict hierarchy of relationships between various entities. In this case, you can't expect a MongoDB, piling up your data in collections of separate documents, to meet your needs. It's a relational database like MySQL, which stores your data in “conventional” tables, made of rows, that you should back your app with. And if this doesn't really answer your “Which database should I choose for my web app?” question, here are a few other use cases that might get you thinking:   it's not just a traditional RDBMS (relational database management system) that would meet your data storage needs, but a full-featured one. Luckily, MySQL is that “full-feathered” relational database that you need. Over the years it's been upgraded with views, cursors, clustering, triggers, query stored procedures etc.   real-time analytics is crucial for you    you're not willing to trade high data protection standards (let's assume, for instance, that it's a live auction app that you're developing, which will store and retrieve data of critical importance) for... high data insert rate   you need transaction support, security assurance for all the transactions carried out on your app    Also, to give you one more helping hand with your decision-making process, here's a short list of web apps where a MySQL database would work best as a back-end:   e-auctions automated online assistants online retailers e-commerce real-time big data analytics dynamic pricing   When Not to Use MySQL? Which Are Its Key Limitations? It's precisely those scenarios where MongoDB “shines” that MySQL doesn't. Therefore, here are some more clues to help you find the answer to your “Which database should I choose for my web app: MySQL or MongoDB?”:   scaling is definitely not it's trump card; it can't possibly rival a MongoDB database when it comes to horizontal scaling it can't handle high transaction loads so well; from a performance point of view, MySQL isn't built to cope with really big data volumes  although it's been upgraded with replication and clustering features, their implementation isn't precisely a... no brainer   So, which one's going to be? Will you use MongoDB as a backing storage for your web app or MySQL instead? ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Oct 19'2017
Incoming Feedback by Hotjar: Building User-Friendly Sites & Apps Made Easy!
Building better websites and apps has just got easier! And by “better” we do mean user-friendly (a feature encompassing all the other aspects: UX design, various functionalities, written content, graphic content etc.). How so? Incoming Feedback by Hotjar makes it ideally easy and convenient for your users to give you specific feedback for your site/app (on its copy structure, on its design elements etc.) And right there, on-site, on-page, at precisely THAT moment in their user journeys. For your site visitors it's nothing but a two-clicks process (so much more at hand than answering questions in a poll) and for you, the site/app's owner it's:   a chance to grab instant and contextual feedback from your users … and turn it into actionable insight   And now, let us briefly point out to you:   The context that “called for” such a tool (and what makes it more efficient than conventional polls) How it works precisely How you get to collect, monitor and use all that data to “fuel” your future design/copy/functionality improving strategies   “But Why Incoming Feedback by Hotjar? I May As Well Grab User Feedback via Polls.” Let's play devil's advocate:  Why bother using this tool when you could easily use polls for collecting all the specific feedback you need? Your users would simply (and kindly) answer all the questions in your poll and... voila: a fresh new “crop” of user feedback for you to leverage! But what if:   you ask your questions long time after the user will have actually been on that specific page or has completed that specific action? you risk misinterpreting the collected answers, due to... LACK OF CONTEXT?   And this is precisely where we wanted to get! This new tool by Hotjar, added to their whole suite of all-in-one analytics & feedback tools, brings CONTEXT to the equation. For it's right THEN, right at that specific moment in your user's journey on your website/your app that you get to... pop up your question! Not a few pages after. Not a few hours or days after. The feedback that he/she gives you precisely then is, by far, the most relevant one! Relevant due to:   the context of that specific visited page/visualized designed element/tested functionality/read piece of content the impression that he/she gets about your target site element that very instant!   And How Does This Tool Work Actually? Incoming Feedback by Hotjar is as easy for you to set up and to customize as it is easy for your visitors to use it. 1. You get to configure your widget's color, its position, its flow and, finally, enter your message. It will simply sit at the edge of your screen, looking like a tab. 2. The instant your users will want to give their feedback on the element of your site/app that you point out to in your widget, they instantly get a pop-up up to:   evaluate your site/app on a “Love to Hate” scale enter a quick comment if they feel like putting their feedback into words even use the area selection tool to highlight specific elements on your page (and this gold!) eventually enter their email addresses allowing you to follow up   And there's more:   you get to create as many incoming feedback widgets as you need (since more likely than not it's multiple pages on your website/app that you'll like to get user feedback for) the Incoming Feedback by Hotjar works on all devices   How Do I Centralize The Answers? How Do I Monitor Performance Over Time? “By making a great use of your Incoming Feedback dashboard.” It's a two-in-one dashboard, actually, that you get to use for:   deep analyzing and drilling down the user answers that you will have collected (using various filters) monitoring your newly implemented enhancements' rates of success   Here are the two separate dashboards:   1. The responses dashboard  This is the repository of all the user feedback given for the suggested aspects of your site/app. Here's where you can filter them, by various criteria such as:   liked/disliked or the expressed feedback type time when the feedback was given page URL   … so you can turn them from “just” responses into valuable, actionable insights!   2. The results dashboard  This is where you get:   the full picture of the overall score resulting from your visitors' feedback a breakdown of their feedback over time   It's on this dashboard that you can measure the real impact that your bug fixes, your implemented upgrades and other various improvements to your site/app have on your users.   Bottom Line  Building user-friendly websites & apps has, indeed, just got easier! With a tool like Incoming Feedback by Hotjar you get to:   collect specific user feedback (you get to target particular aspects of your site/app) … instant, contextual type of feedback … and use it to take the needed action for improving the content (both graphic and written) that they dislike    Have you tried it?  ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Oct 17'2017
Why Should My Company Use Hadoop Over Its Current Data Warehouse?
Or simply put: “What can Hadoop possibly do that my data warehouse can't already?” A predictable and legitimate question following the “Why should my company use Hadoop after all?”. Our today's post is not aimed at convincing you that you should, indeed, replace your current data warehousing solution and move your data over to a Hadoop platform. That would just point out the“why it's best to go with Hadoop”. Instead, we're ready to answer your specific question: “Why should my company use Hadoop as a data storing and data processing solution?” We'll be:   presenting you with specific use cases when Hadoop is, indeed, the best option outlining key advantages of using Hadoop over the traditional data warehousing    When Should You Consider Replacing Your Data Warehouse With Hadoop? One of the most popular sayings here, at our Toronto web design company, is: “if it ain't broken why fix it?”. Therefore, let us point out to you just 2 specific situations where you should consider a massive data migration to Hadoop as your best option:   you're dealing with a huge amount of data  you need built-in capabilities for processing raw and semi-structured data... in a scalable way, of course   Does any of these contexts ring a bell to you? If so, you're better off with Hadoop.   "Why Should My Company Use Hadoop?" 7 Advantages Over Traditional Data Warehousing  For it all comes down to the benefits that your company will gain from such a transition. In this respect, we've put together a list of 7 key reasons why Hadoop is a great asset for your company. Analyze them, weight them, compare them to the benefits that you're currently “reaping” from using your current enterprise solution and... do the math yourself:   1. It's Cost Effective: it's free actually No, no, we're not trying to brush under the carpet costs such as:   staff training investments that you should consider  commodity hardware costs to take into account for storing impossibly large sets of data    And yet, they are insignificant compared to the costs that legacy commercial vendors products' come along with:   annual support offered by the data warehouse's vendor (compared to Hadoop's open source support) perpetual licenses significant costs that each scaling process would call for (no wonder that companies used to get rid of loads of raw data since scaling their data warehouses to accommodate it all was cost prohibitive)   2. It's (so much) Easier to Use: skip formatting and “exploit” your data from day one Here's an answer, which makes a strong argument itself, to your “Why should my company use Hadoop over my current data storage solution?” Its ease of use feature will come as a major surprise to you once you've gone through a:   changing formats complex preprocessing establishing data models   … type of experience with your current enterprise solution. An entire “ordeal” to go through just to be able to finally leverage your own data! With Hadoop it's just a “feed the data” process! That's all! No preliminary steps to take. And where do you add that you get to use all your familiar tools, languages and even to test the newest methods for getting the most value out of our data!   3. It's Flexible: it can capture data from a plethora of data sources And this is gold when you have an entire ecosystem of data sources ready to deliver you data if you just have the right tool to... tap into! Hadoop's perfectly suited for the job: it will access and extract data and provide you with valuable insights from sources ranging from:   social media email conversations   … and lots of other “repositories” of both structured and unstructured data. It will go and get this heterogeneous load of data to you. Data that will then fuel your marketing campaigns, your fraud detection initiatives, your log processing actions etc. Do giants such Marks & Spencer and Yahoo and their own use cases of Hadoop make convincing enough answers to your “Why should my company use Hadoop?” question? They're using Hadoop to:   play the “personalization” card right put together cross-functional teams (IT, marketing, e-commerce, finance...) thanks to Hadoop's capability to seamlessly process all types of data gain a better understanding of their customers (this is where Predictive analytics comes into play)    And this is what extracting value from your own data, that's just sitting there, waiting to be leveraged, really means.   4. It's Open Source Technology: bugs and feature development handled by multiple companies Just try to compare bug fixing and new features development being handled by a single company (your commercial license vendor) to the same processes being carried out by hundreds of companies! In other words: when choosing Hadoop as your data storage platform there's an entire community of contributing companies offering you support and continuously improving the platform.   5. It's Built With High Scalability in Mind: keep on adding more and more data clusters How easily (or “costly”) is it to scale your current data warehouse to accommodate your increasing amounts of data? Hadoop scales... organically, using low-cost hardware as a unique resource! Here's how it works:    as you add new and new heavy nodes (clustering thousands of terabytes of data) Hadoop manages to seamlessly accommodate it all  … and to distribute it across hundreds of inexpensive servers that run in parallel   Scalability is, undoubtedly, one of Hadoop's “five-star” features, the one that traditional relational database systems (RDBMS) can't possibly compete with!    6. It's Fast: data processing at high speed When you're questioning yourself “Why should my company use Hadoop instead of sticking to its current data warehousing solution?”, you might be thinking, in fact: “How much faster than my current data warehouse can Hadoop process data?” A lot faster! And this is exclusively thanks to its unique data storage method: the data mapping & the data processing happen on the same server where data is stored. This way mapping and processing massive volumes of unstructured data is no challenge for Hadoop at all: it will map it no matter where it might be located in a cluster. And so processing it (we're talking about petabytes of data here) turns into a matter of hours!   7. It's Equipped to Handle Fails Remarkably: say Hello to automatic data replication! You can run, but there's no way of hiding/completely avoiding cluster fails! But luckily Hadoop provides you with a great “safety net” type of capability: it automatically replicates data for you, sending it to other nodes. So, when faults happen (and they will), you can stay reassured: Hadoop will always have copies of your data ready to be passed on to other, non-compromised locations of your data infrastructure.   Final Thoughts Or “recommendations” if you prefer:   if it's small data that your company's “piled up” so far, if there are small files that you need to store and leverage, don't go for Hadoop if you don't really need to access and to process your unstructured or semi-structured data, there's no real need to use Hadoop   Now getting back to the initial question, “Why should my company use Hadoop over its current data warehouse?”, our answer is: “Because Hadoop is built and being constantly enhanced with impossibly large amounts of data in mind!" ... Read more
Adrian Ababei / Oct 11'2017