May 28, 2021

Google I/O 2021 Top Announcements From Rocketeers’ Perspective

Google held the first-ever 100% virtual I/O this year! There are many existing announcements made during the 3-day online conference last week. We’ve collected the following information based on our Rocketeer’s input that provides brief introductions and concise reasons why we think they’re of relatively high importance:

Android 12 Beta
https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/overview
https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/overview

The first Android 12 Beta was unveiled and there’s a lot to explore — including “Material You” which is the biggest design change in Android’s history (we’ll discuss more below), new privacy features and a new standard called Performance Class that lets apps and users identify high-performing devices. There will be 3 more planned Beta releases before the production version become available in Fall. It’s important for Development and QA teams to try the new features and test existing apps for compatibility to plan for updates as needed. While Android 10 is still the most popular OS for Android phones, the exciting new features Android 12 offers will likely gain fast adoption rate once it rolls out!

“Material You”
https://blog.google/products/android/android-12-beta/

Back in 2014, Google introduced Material Design to create a “system for building bold, beautiful, and consistent digital experiences.”
This year, Google unveiled “Material You” which is a new approach to design. It’ll allow the users to pick from customized palettes for the system and apps (Instead of Google dictating the color palette.)
It’d be important for us to understand the impact of this new approach as we work with our Strategy / design team to determine how to meet client needs and maintain consistency between the look & feel of our own apps and all Google products.
From product perspective this means the UI will be more personalized for each individual user while maintaining consistency with other system or apps look and feel.

New LaMDA AI Language Model

LaMDA is an AI Language Model for Dialog Applications. It’s open domain and designed to converse on any topic. While it’s still in research and development, Google has been using it internally to explore novel interactions. It’s intended to create more human responses to help keep conversations going by leveraging learned concepts built out of its training models.
We think there are interesting implications for chatbot usages in the future and it could provide a powerful way to handle support in the future when more models exist that incorporate other facets of communication. The better organized your data is now, the better these automated chatbots will be able to represent your brand.

Project Starline
https://blog.google/technology/research/project-starline/

The Google I/O demo of Project Starline showed an impressive look at a possible future for a more immersive “face to face” style of videoconferencing with people not in your current physical location. The technology uses custom built and highly specialized hardware, including “… a breakthrough light field display system that creates a sense of volume and depth that can be experienced without the need for additional glasses or headsets.”.
It is currently just deployed in just a few Google locations but Google’s goal “… is to make this technology more affordable and accessible, including bringing some of these technical advancements into our suite of communication products”.
Basically, in the short term we should start to see improvements in existing Google products and services and in the long term we can hope to experience products based off Project Starline’s tech for ourselves.

WearOS and Tizen Join Forces
https://www.wareable.com/android-wear/google-samsung-join-forces-for-massive-wear-os-update-8426

Google has been trying to enter the smart phone/wearable market since 2014 but has never gained traction. While Apple represented over half of the market share since its introduction, Google has never managed to make it out of the “other” category. However, this year Google has been making major moves in the space.
In January Google finalized acquisition of Fitbit, and now they have announced a partnership with Samsung to create a unified opensource operating system for use across Google watches, Samsung watches, and high-end Fitbit devices. Google is also making a bid to lure back customers by moving many or its core apps to smartwatch in a meaningful way, and developers by introducing the Jetpack tiles library. It’s still early to see if Google and Samsung can finally end the fragmentation that has made meaningfully developing for watches so difficult, but if they pull it off it a could mean a lot more apps entering the smart watch market, and create a virtuous cycle of increased adoption.

Privacy Features

Privacy is a huge focus area for Google, and we think the following major announcements related to user privacy are worth noting:

  • Google will “auto delete” activity data that is 18 months old or shorter period specified by user. Also, Google will not use Gmail, Photos, Drive content for ads purposes; or use sensitive information (health, race, religion or sexual orientation) to personalize ads.
  • Differential Privacy — To use large, aggregated data set while guaranteeing that one’s individual data cannot be identified.
  • Federated Learning — Enables Machine Learning models to be trained centrally without any raw data leaving user’s device.
  • Incognito mode in search maps and YouTube as well as easily remove search history from user’s account.
  • Users will know real time (via indicators) when camera or microphone are in use.
  • Privacy Dashboard will show timeline view of last 24 hours about which apps used which permissions, i.e., Location, Camera.
  • Private Compute Core isolates private data and allows access via specialized APIs.
  • Location permissions system dialog will allow choosing between Precise or Approximate.

With enhanced privacy features, apps can be more trust-worthy to the users. On the other hand, these new privacy policies will have impact on digital advertising and data gathering. So it’s important to keep the privacy control in mind while designing new or updating existing apps.

Digital Car Keys
https://screenrant.com/google-digital-car-key-android-12-bmw-features-release/

Android 12 will now support the ability to use your phone as your car keys, if you have one of a few newer pixel devices, AND own one of a very few brand-new cars. This move closely mirrors a similar announcement from Apple last year and has similar features. If you happen to have the correct combination of phone and car you may even be able to unlock your car with your phone still in your pocket (using Ultra-Wideband) where users previously had to settle for waving their phones at the door to make the magic happen.

What’s New in Flutter
https://medium.com/flutter/whats-new-in-flutter-2-0-fe8e95ecc65

Flutter continues its advance to become the UI toolkit of choice for cross-platform. Google and a growing team of open source contributors released Flutter 2.2 and its accompanying Dart 2.13 upgrade. This release focuses on quality, performance, and productivity.

Support for web grew closer to par with mobile with improvements to caching, rendering, and accessibility. Web support also enables the Flutter team to immediately showcase features to developers. https://photobooth.flutter.dev/#/

Tools: Flutter converts many developers with its focus on tooling and the developer experience. Tool upgrades include memory allocation tracking, better web UI debugging.

Eco-System: The Google Payment SDK plug-in is now available that supports Google Pay on Android devices and Apple Pay on iOS. 24 new packages received the Flutter Favorite badge, meaning they’ve met the standards for recommendation by Google for a “first look” whenever you’re starting a new project.

Industry Acceptance: BMW (300 engineers), WeChat (1.2 billion users), and NuBank were some of the industry names that have migrated their development to Flutter. Case studies were presented that give weight to around a 30% speedup in development time for Flutter with the added benefit of adding support for additional platforms.

Desktop: Though still in beta, desktop support matured further with improvements to mouse, text field editing, and scrolling support as well as Alpha support for Windows UWP. See Flutter on XBox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_zIzr60vMA

With support for ARM64 Linux, which runs much of the embedded world, envision a future where, if it has a screen, you can target it with Flutter.

For a complete rundown, please check out all content in Google I/O and see What’s New In Flutter medium post for more details for Flutter news.

May 27, 2021

Why Quick-Serves Should Invest in Long-Term Digital Change

Just take a look around the restaurant industry.

Having an app and web ordering is no longer enough for quick-service restaurants to bank on meeting customer expectations. At the start of the pandemic, restaurants were thrown in at the deep end and forced to manage a dual threat of both keeping workers safe and the sudden shutdown of the dining room. Firms that had existing curbside experiences saw sudden adoption—those who had mobile ordering benefited greatly and the rest saw drive thru line acting as the primary driver of their business. Curbside adoption alone experienced a five-fold increase during the pandemic, growing from 15 to 71 percent.

Many boards and executive teams had to confront a difficult reality: they had underinvested in digital and needed to accelerate capabilities ASAP. The focus of entire executive teams shifted overnight and digital became priority number one. The old adage of the “unattainable triangle” between speed, quality, and cost was truer than ever. We saw many brands go from no digital to digitally-enabled in ten weeks or less by implementing ‘off the shelf’ solutions and “product accelerator” approaches to get to market quickly. With the “box checked” and a leader installed to manage the new digital platforms, executives shifted focus to other things, such as the emerging labor crisis in the quick-service space.

While it’s important to celebrate victories and the tremendous lift that IT, marketing, and product teams made to implement a digital ordering solution, it’s important to not confuse the starting line with the finish line. Changes in spend—associated with pent up demand from the pandemic—aside, as a leader in the quick-service space, you can’t lose focus on the future.

If your organization does not continue to allocate more and more budget to digital operations year over year, you’ll find your brand susceptible to two serious headwinds:

A reduction in guest frequency and brand consideration, as share of wallet is creatively exploited by competitors who have formed closer relationships with guests.

Devaluation by analysts and investors. Make no mistake—analysts are closely following and applying digital maturity scores to quick-serves and as more of the business becomes digitized, the relative weight of this factor will only increase.

Chipotle is setting anexample of what to do. Strategically doubling down on a digital-first approach has seen digital sales soar 177 percent in one year. Nearly one half of sales now come from digital. Long-term growth now lies in creating emphasized change and a digital-first culture that will see a brand through the next 36 months, not 12.

White Label Solutions Will Only Get Brands So Far

There are endless tech options on the market for brands, but they usually allow for the immediate expansion of a particular feature. Despite the quick-service restaurant space being considered a frontrunner in digital sales trends, customer satisfaction remains low in some areas. According to a recent survey from Incisiv, only 40 percent of respondents were satisfied with their pickup experience and a mere quarter with delivery. The same report notes the overall digital maturity in the segment remains a “low-medium”. It’s clear that digital needs are shifting from simply fulfilling an online order, to preparing for heightened customer expectations for seamless, minimal contact. It’s even been estimated that digital sales will make up more than half (54 percent) of all quick-serves and limited-service restaurants sales by 2025, meaning brands will have to innovate off-premise models to remain relevant.

So, while restaurants take action in ramping up online-ordering mechanisms, we need to pay more attention to creating consistent, engaging digital outreach and customer service. To create a digital ecosystem that consumers really want, and account for stronger future demand, players will place more importance in building out internal capabilities and investing in emerging technologies. Think outside the box—everything from implementing pay at table options to reduce waiting times, to delivery drones to reach more customers, faster.

Wingstop is considered a challenger due to its commitment to digital upgrades. The chicken wing chain has outperformed Wall Street’s best restaurant stocks, including Domino’s and Chipotle, surpassing $1 billion in digital sales in 2020. That’s 60 percent of the company’s total sales. Wingstop knows its customers and uses it to its advantage. It knows delivery is becoming a greater growth opportunity, because guests using this channel tend to be new. Wingstop also plans for personalization to play a bigger role in generating repeat custom from the growing new digital customer base and loyal returners. Taco Bell, on the other hand, generates just 10 percent of its sales through digital channels, due to consistent underinvestment and lack of aligned aspirations at a leadership level.

Creating a Digital-First Culture

Rakuten study found customers who wait under two minutes for an order are four times more likely to repeat purchase, revealing that opportunity lies in efficiency. But it doesn’t always matter how long it takes the order to be completed—if operations can’t run a tight ship, a restaurant won’t drive long-term results. Why isn’t Taco Bell’s digital ordering getting widely utilized? Because its operations, marketing, technology, product and digital strategies aren’t in sync. Taco Bell has digital, without really using digital.

A digital-first company culture, that’s aligned with ever-evolving customer expectations, should be engrained. Providing staff with resources to understand the new technologies available to them, through training across all units, will help ordering service remain relevant and personalized. Chick-fil-A has a great ability to not only keep customers engaged, but also provide tailored service. The fast food chain knows how to drive digital as part of its culture, and creates synergies between high tech and high touch to ensure the customer leaves satisfied. Although as simple as it may sound, I ordered a meal digitally from a Chick-fil-A recently and its customer service team actually texted me to say they didn’t have lemons at that moment to make my drink. It left me feeling valued and that my experience mattered to them, hence why I’ve returned since. Collaborating with a long-term digital growth partner can guide brands on how to orchestrate their teams in this way, to ensure operations are leveraging digital throughout the customer journey.

Plan Ahead

Restaurant chains are in the habit of implementing standardized solutions that aren’t designed to create the best ROI or long-term growth. Drawing on lessons from the past year, quick-serves should be shifting priorities to achieve greater future digital penetration. Emphasized change should be seen in operating models put in place to weather industry uncertainty and increased competition from grocers and subscription services. There’s plenty of runway for digital growth, but to tap into this, brands must drive change as part of their culture. Teams that can establish shared digital goals across departments can unlock the true value of digital.

This article was published on QSRMagazine.com

May 24, 2021

Freedom of Choice with Flutter

Any significant investment in digital solutions considers cross-platform technologies at some point. What is the widest footprint of devices I can address without compromising the experience for each user and staying within budget?

A comprehensive discovery study may consider the following:

  • Native Mobile: Android / iOS
  • Native Tablet: Android / iOS / Surface
  • Web: Mobile & Desktop
  • Native Desktop: Mac / Windows / Linux

I don’t know an MVP version of an unproven app that targets more than 3 of these without cutting some corners. Native mobile is reused for tablet or a web site targets all desktop needs. Web may also cover mobile via a PWA.

Even with cross-platform technologies, validation cost may become prohibitive.

Life buoy floating on water.
(Photo by Jametlene Reskp)
Cross-Platform Hope…

The cross-platform dream is a single code base produced with the development IDE experience of one’s preferred platform that comes close to native performance. Most fall far short.

Plenty of articles compare the various options — new ones daily. The view on whether one should use Flutter has ranged from ‘It depends’, to ‘Maybe’, to ‘Absolutely, and I will never go back’. Accompanied by the pragmatic ‘meh’ or once bitten ‘will never replace native’.

The single code base is a myth hidden by an abstraction that conceals native integrations. Whether Javascript or Dart, a cross-platform app may have a single code base — but below that lurk per platform variances waiting for an opportune moment to keep you up at night with a complication. They announce their presence when an underlying dependency changes, think iOS13 to iOS14, or AndroidX.

The cross-platform library may have some integration issues, or more likely — selected third party packages must get updated. And now I have an extra delay and cost to my development. Even if I anticipated it — and you should, the timing is rarely convenient.

It’s out of my control. And it makes my head hurt. After two or three bad experiences, I gaze at my old native code bases with nostalgia.

Towering stack of balanced blocks.
Be careful of library dependencies… (Photo by Valery Fedotov)
Enter Flutter…

In the past couple of years, Flutter has evolved to address many cons of cross-platform development. Though typical risks remain, it far surpasses other solutions in my experience. Judging by recent articles, many agree. In my opinion, the Flutter advantage comes down to 2 key items: developer experience, and performance.

Historically, native platform developers begrudge the benefits of cross platform solutions due to painful past experiences alluded to above. They remain comfortably anchored to their preferred platform. But with Flutter, because of the tools, documentation, and community, developers find they enjoy the programming experience. It allows them to focus on what they love instead of battle against forced usage of a tool they know in their heart is not the best.

We can all fit, you said. It will be fast and smooth, you said. Think of how much we’ll save, you said. (Photo by Aubrey Odom on Unsplash)

But Flutter actually does what it promises — maximize development reuse with a similar effort as single-platform native. It’s easy to install, has great documentation, a fast learning curve, and great toolsets. Its underlying architecture (it does its own rendering instead of a bridge to native components) keeps the platform integration layer thin and abstracted from the typical migration headaches called out above— though third party packages are not immune.

For these reasons, I have embraced Flutter. I especially like it for B2B, MVPs, or version 1.0s. I also discovered a new degree of freedom I had not been looking for. Flutter allows delayed choice of target platform. What does this mean?

Platform Decision Risk

If the target user or engagement model is not identified or proven, the platform investment risk can seem especially high. Are they primarily Android users? iOS? Will they prefer to interact on their phone or desktop? How likely is it they will have installed the app in advance of need? If web is the primary platform, what browser will they use?

Maybe there is one primary mobile usage scenario, but a critical secondary usage that will always be web. For example — a transaction between a service provider and a walk-up customer.

2 one-way signs pointing different directions
Which way? (Photo by Ian Taylor)

It may take several iterations to determine the best approach and highest value platform target — unless budget is unlimited and you can support them all. (If this is you, please comment what automated test tools you use to validate all the permutations).

Agile Deployment

The great thing about Flutter is that it supports all of these scenarios. So you can target one platform with low risk and after some iteration, when the picture is clearer, you can pivot to a different platform, without throwing your initial investment away, or starting over.

Maybe mobile was not the right choice because usage is 1-time — perhaps a PWA link sent via message works better.

Person holding a mobile phone to make a purchase at cashier
Do you mind installing our app first? (Photo by Clay Banks)

Consider Flutter and this agile approach to targeted platform deployments — broad and shallow at first, then increasingly focused and deep as you come to know your users and the most convenient and successful platforms for them to engage your solution and extract the value you provide.

Strategically planning the first phase of your app to address all these platforms with an appropriate experience, will pay dividends. But the experience should be carefully designed. What might be the right engagement model and UI for mobile and PWA is probably not ideal for native desktop or responsive web. An agile approach to target selection may save you enough to invest in a single code base that still has the appropriate UI for mobile, tablet, web, and desktop when needed.

What a delightful target platform this developer chose! (Photo by Owen Beard)

April 29, 2021

Increasing Patient Engagement and Lowering Medical Non-Adherence Through Digital Experiences

With the US healthcare system under strain like never before, Rajesh Midha, President at Ogilvy Experience and Bottle Rocket, examines how healthcare providers can look towards digital experiences as a way to increase patient engagement, drive down medical non-adherence and improve overall patient outcomes.  

Across the US, medical non-adherence – when patients fail to take prescribed medication – is a growing problem. According to Pharmacy Times, it accounts for 50 percent of all treatment failures, approximately 125,000 deaths per year and up to one quarter of all hospitalizations. The financial cost is staggering, with $300 billion each year dedicated to direct and indirect costs. These costs have continued to grow as we’ve seen an increase in hospital admissions during COVID, putting more strain on a healthcare system already under immense pressure. 

The reasons for medical non-adherence are wide ranging. They include patients simply forgetting to take prescriptions, versus more serious reasons such as mistrust towards health professionals and a lack of understanding about what specific medications do.  However, by identifying different ways to combat these factors, providers have a critical opportunity to boost adherence numbers patient outcomes overall.

Here are some recommendations which healthcare providers can take onboard to improve patient engagement and decrease medical non-adherence. 

The Rise of Digital Front Doors

In the past year, the coronavirus and its associated restrictions have seen people leaving their houses less frequently. This has led to putting off or deprioritizing healthcare needs. To combat unnecessary healthcare issues, and to shift the focus from sick to proactive care, providers and health systems must find new ways to build connections with patients and their families. The importance of digital connection points and communications are of paramount importance to ensure better patient outcomes. Personalized communications can, and will, increase medical adherence. 

One of the simplest and most effective ways to build new communication channels with patients is via mobile. Mobile apps – typically called digital front doors in healthcare – are accessible, and easy to use for different types of patients. These apps allow patients to message health professionals directly when questions or concerns arise and can be enabled with pop up notifications to remind patients to take medication, according to dosage instructions, or order new prescriptions. 

A 2019 review of these technologies and the link with medical adherence concluded that mobile apps “prevent forgetting about medication and incorrect administration and, thus, contribute to patient safety”. It makes the recommendation that in the future, these apps should include “personalization of the personal conditions and posology of the medication the patient takes.” This ultimately would make the experience easier for patients and adds a layer of care only offered through a mobile app. 

From Communication to Education

On average, patients over the age of 65 take four different prescriptions per day. Even taking one pill can be difficult to remember, let alone four, which often must be taken at different times of the day and with food. Add in the fact that older generations are not as tech savvy as digital natives and you can see why non-adherence is soaring, especially in the pandemic era. 

One way to counter this is through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistants. These assistants, which can be used to interpret human speech and respond to questions in an automated voice, should be used in conjunction with, rather than a replacement for mobile apps. With over 60 million Americans owning a smart speaker (equivalent to 24 percent of the population), virtual assistants – which can be used on smart speakers, as well as mobile devices – can create deeper and more robust customer data profiles. 

Voice assistants not only provide value and data to health professionals in real-time, they’re also being used by patients to remind them to take (and refill) their medication. Large organizations like Amazon are partnering with smaller, regional pharmacies to offer medication management services, which will set reminders and order refills through a patient’s smart speaker. It’s collaborations like this that can potentially reduce medical non-adherence, especially among older generations.

A Booming Industry 

The US telehealth industry grew on average 14.6 percent per year between 2016 and 2021. This is expected to continue, with the industry currently valued at approximately $3.5 billion. With behavior shifting during the pandemic, there’s an argument to suggest that these trends are now our new normal and that patients may continue to be more hesitant than before to visit their doctors, or even go to a pharmacy to collect their regular medication.

As we’ve seen, this is where simple innovations such as voice assistants and mobile apps come into play. They address the soaring rates of medical non-adherence, protect the health of patients virtually, and ensure providers’ resources are leveraged efficiently. With an incredibly challenging year behind us, this is the time to address key learnings to make sure our health sector comes away stronger.

This article was published on HealthCareBusinessToday.com

April 21, 2021

Developed by Bottle Rocket, SCL Health App empowers patients to take active role in their health

Broomfield, Colo 20 April 2021– SCL Health has launched a new streamlined experience that empowers its patients to take a more active role in their health. Through the new SCL Health app, patients can schedule appointments, connect to a doctor virtually using their smartphone, access health and wellness tips, and receive important medical reminders. The easy to navigate front-end user experience gives patients the ability to make informed decisions about their care options, with a 24/7 virtual access point.

Terri Casterton, SCL Health’s Vice President, Innovation & Virtual Health states, “It is up to healthcare systems to meet the changing needs of our consumers in order to make a positive impact on health. This is a scalable platform that can bend with changing consumer needs, shift with value pools, and blend with leading edge technologies for years to come.”

SCL Health’s Vice President, Digital Services, Mona Baset goes on to emphasize, “This new easy-to-use tool is not only great for consumers and patients today, but also serves as a solid foundation to build additional functionality within a seamless experience in the future.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, SCL Health was focused on the demand for digital innovation. The pandemic accelerated this work and the time was right for the organization to begin to shift the conversation from reactive care to proactive, preventive care. SCL Health turned to Bottle Rocket, an Ogilvy Experience company, to help it re-imagine its digital consumer experience.

“We are proud to have partnered with SCL Health to deliver this great experience for its consumers and patients,” states Rajesh Midha, President of Bottle Rocket and Ogilvy Experience. “The experience blends the best of B2C technology and patient centricity and extends the power of Epic’s EHR platform. This experience will have a meaningful impact on both SCLHealth’s patients and the communities it serves.”

The app launch brings SCL Health closer to achieving its mission of being the healthcare leader in the markets it serves. The app can be found in the Apple App Store or Google Play and downloaded at no cost.

This article was originally published on DotMed.com

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