Is AI Rocket Science? Dr. Merlin Stone Shatters the Madness and Illuminates AI’s Real-world Powers

World-renowned AI guru Dr. Merlin Stone shares the power of AI to make life better. He says how AI is improving everyday life by revealing universal truths and facilitating optimal decision-making for the best possible outcomes in business, health, education and politics.

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Credit: Pixabay by ElisaRiva

Buckle up for our final fireside chat with AI wizard, Dr. Merlin Stone who quells the fear that AI is taking over life on here on earth. He discusses benefits of AI in everyday life. Spoiler Alert: Don’t pack your bags for Mars just yet!

Peter: As we wrap up in Part III, any other ideas coming through for the future? We mentioned Kubrick in 2001 A Space Odyssey, which was fantastic; especially the way that film was created before the days of computer-generated imagery (CGI) – all hand-built models of the revolving Space Station, and a Pan Am connecting flight docking in perfect synchronization accompanied by the Blue Danube in the background – wonderful!

Integrated AI Makes Life Easier

Dr. Stone: And yes, think of HAL as your AI support… I have Alexa like everybody else, but I don’t use it like most; more to play the radio and tell jokes!  I also use it to forecast the weather. Other people use Alexa with more sophistication as home automation devices, for instance. So I think the time will come certainly, when all the different systems we have like Amazon Prime with the firestick hanging out of the edge of the television will come together and be more integrated; it’s all still a bit chaotic, but nonetheless it’s a lot better than we used to have, which we tend to forget.

Yes, but that stuff is already happening. So the day’s not far off when we come into the house; I won’t have to use remote control, I can command the television to turn on, show me An Evening with Amy Winehouse; it will do all the stuff at YouTube with Firefox and all the rest of it without me having to do anything else, which I have to do right now.

Does AI Have a Mind of Its Own?

Peter: In 2001, we all liked HAL to start with until he literally developed a mind of his own, and I think that’s the trouble with most people’s worry about Artificial Intelligence; Terminator style take-over by the machines. And now of course, we have the Futurist of the moment, Elon Musk, whose plans around all his businesses are geared to provide finance to break free of this world and get to Mars.

Dr. Stone: Why go to Mars – the wrong temperature and the wrong gas!

Peter:  He’s got thousands of people who’ve paid a deposit to go out; and it’s a one-way trip!

Dr. Stone: There’s one born every minute then!

Peter: I think he has some interesting ideas, though, about neural connections, so that you bring AI in to play to support your own thinking?

Dr. Stone: Actually, there are a lot of simple AI examples to explore before we go deeper into the future. For instance, our local supermarket yesterday; we wanted to be a little more adventurous for dinner, and I know that they often have delicious off-cuts of salmon; tasty, but not expensive, so I could have, in this new world, ask Alexa what salmon they have you on the shelf. Instead of having to go there and look in person.

Peter:  That’s home delivery isn’t it?

Dr. Stone:  Sure, but I want to walk and pick it up. Why can’t the shop do what it’s doing and combine that with what Home Delivery does?

Peter: That’s going to be down to sensors and database access. Not rocket science.

Holographs as Tomorrow’s Teachers?

Dr. Stone: The UK is bad at on shelf pricing; you go to France and many of the stores have got digital pricing. Well let’s see what Carrefour can bring to Tesco. I think a lot of this stuff is really, really simple. Most people aren’t looking to the world to get wildly excited by any of this. They just want some basic stuff dealt with, and the basic stuff is their lives, their shopping their health, work life, education.

Yes, education. Awful. It’s really a global issue now; however much you invest, it doesn’t seem to work terribly well. It’s an extraordinarily labor intensive process – obviously with kids you can understand why that is, but all the same, it should be so much better by now.

Peter: It would be frightening though, to think of a world of the future where kids are taught by holographic images of maybe the best teachers in the world…

Dr. Stone: I gave the same lectures this year that I gave last year right. Why?  Even in the 60s the same lecturer who was interested in artificial intelligence, just videoed his lectures and then he showed them year after year: the introduction to philosophy. He’d watch the reactions, but he wouldn’t have to stand up and talk.

Peter: But didn’t that evolve?

Dr. Stone:  Many universities are still Chalk & Talk’- astonishingly so – and the numbers in class get bigger and bigger because it’s become a business, but it’s amazing.  People benefit most from education when they are learning, not being just taught. But we still do it. We have lots of aids to that process, you know, learning management systems, module posting devices and all the rest of it, but it’s still not terribly different from the way it was 20 to 30 years ago. In most universities, it’s a lecturer standing up in class.

Peter:  It’s like the National Health Service (NHS) again; it’s the lack of IT in schools.

Dr. Stone: When I was hospitalized, I’d been diagnosed lupus, and the guy next to me had shot his liver by drinking too much, and I heard the doctor say to him that he must eat. So the nurses would come around and slam the tray down in front of him. He wasn’t capable of feeding himself! So I said to the consultant when he came through the curtain: “Excuse me but I’m a management consultant. You’re feeding this guy next door by just putting the tray down in front of him and leaving, and I’ve heard you say he needs to eat!” And his reply was: “Oh, he’s in the wrong ward.” Why was he in the wrong ward? It’s crazy. And then the guy opposite, who’d been in a bad accident, was on oxygen with tubes going through his nose and he was breathing through his mouth. So where’s the oxygen?  So I asked the nurse why they were giving oxygen through a nasal tube, when he’s breathing through his mouth? “Oh, he doesn’t like the mask!” So, you’re wasting your time.

So I think some of the discussion about AI is about pointing a finger at these extraordinarily basic faults that exist. It’s not the world of 2001; no, it’s not Mars. You are talking about making most people’s lives better. It’s ‘is there salmon in the supermarket now? It is when do I leave to work; if you’re older, when to drink a glass of water before you get up? Often very simple things. These are the things that are important in people’s lives just to make life a little bit easier. More fulfilling.

Peter: Are you excited about all this?

Dr. Stone:  Yes, sure, I do my bit. I write a lot about it…

Peter:  We talked about the EU and the Euro and everything else – do you just throw your hands up in horror?

Dr. Stone: I think until the Euro goes, the EU will be a basket case because it doesn’t have the desire to make sure everybody’s well off; it just wants to penalize debt; the system’s bad; there’s no sensible big picture that I can see.

Peter: That’s because of humans, particularly politicians … Is AI going to be the answer to a lot of these problems or challenges?

Who Do You Trust: Humans or Machines?

Dr. Stone: Yes, it goes back to what I said earlier. That is that the data, the truth, is probably what unifies the discussion. So if you have somebody telling the truth, it’s a big statement about what’s going on. And people trust that person.

In fact, we had call on a radio program the other day, where they asked people, when the Big Blue computer was being tested for a cancer diagnosis, who would you trust, the machine or a human specialist? And the audience, interestingly, was split almost exactly 50/50.

Peter: Really?

Dr. Stone: Sure, having seen the evidence, that was the outcome. And of course it plays to the difference between a doctor and a consultant surgeon: the doctor diagnoses what you have, while with the consultant tells you that you have what he diagnoses. In other words, by definition, he’s biased hopelessly – he can only look at certain signs, whereas the idea is if all the data is there, it’s a much more open ended diagnosis.

One of my research interests; in fact I’m writing an article about it, is on lying and disinformation. When you read history, military stuff and all the rest of it, for instance a famous book published in the 1970s called The Psychology of Military Competence, you discover that seven out of ten of the incompetencies were information related. Shooting the messenger; denial; you can imagine what they were. It’s the story of Hitler, Napoleon….. Or some of Churchill’s behavior; he put Great Britain back on the gold standard after the 1st World War and trashed our economy probably 10 years before the rest of the world. So there are plenty of economic examples as well. Again Bush, Blair and Iraq would be a recent military example.

Peter: We’ve run out of time now – Many thanks for your insights. We could chat into the small hours, but what comes across in all 3 parts of our discussion, is actually a very positive view of the future, where, quite simply, AI is used to interpret Big Data and make our day-to-day lives much better and more efficient.  We will all be better educated, even our politicians who will be well informed to make sensible, BIG decisions in the best interest of the people.  I think we all look forward to that day!

AI Best Practices in the Real World – Dr. Merlin Stone discusses Artificial Intelligence in the Near Future, Part II

We continue our conversation with Dr. Merlin Stone about the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the real world. Does AI’s use of algorithms always leads to smarter decisions? The answer may surprise you!

We continue our conversation with Dr. Merlin Stone about the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the real world. Does AI’s use of algorithms always lead to smarter decisions? The answer may surprise you!

Why More Mobility Is Not Always Better

Peter: We’re back again to discuss how AI can use algorithms to make smarter decisions starting with transport investment. Surely AI can be applied to help political decisions around HS2 (a high speed rail link between London and Manchester now estimated to be needing a budget of $100B+), or the third runway for Heathrow. How many times do these ideas need Parliamentary approval? These cost huge sums of money that could be better spent elsewhere such as National Health Service (NHS).

Dr. Stone: Indeed!  Don’t give the NHS any more money. It needs less money and better governing. HS2, you’re right. Did you know that HS2 doesn’t even go to Heathrow?

Peter: Last time we talked about the use of big data for people living in large cities and staying at home to be more efficient by taking a later train. That’s just time shifting isn’t it?

Dr. Stone: Yes! Time shifting is important, but there is an argument to reduce travel time to improve efficiency overall.

Peter: But if you take 20 minutes off the journey time from Manchester to London, will it really achieve anything?

Dr. Stone: Timesaving, is a different argument. The HS2 case was partly made on travel time savings, but if you identify that business people work on the train,  it’s not worth debating.  Instead put the money saved into  housing, which is a huge issue in the UK. I suggest we cut taxes and create a more efficient travel network, not another rail service.

Let’s talk about why we assume that more mobility is a good thing. There’s  the concept of ‘mobility as a service,’ which is this latest dream the civil servants have — the idea of driverless cars.  Nothing beats a bus with 40 people in it! Do you want 40 driverless cars, even if they’re all shared, clogging up our roads?

Actually, my answer to London’s congestion is to pedestrianize more because intelligence, it’s taken us a long time to do what other cities have done — it’s been on the cards for about 30 years. I think that’s a good return. And retailers have been scared of it as they don’t understand how good it is that people who feel relaxed when they’re shopping, and not worried about the amount of traffic congestion, are going to spend more … who should be told to work late in a very congested city — that requires AI.

AI in Prospect and Customer Management  … the Next Frontier

Peter: Let’s bring this back to marketing! You and I have done a lot of work on the B2B side, and I haven’t seen companies change much in their scant regard for how they store data and keep it up to date. There isn’t any data to apply AI to!

Dr. Stone:  To me, developments like LinkedIn have been very good, because they’ve forced companies to say, “Suppose there was all this data with all my buyers there, and it’s not my database, but it’s the data that’s out in the public domain that covers all the buyers that are out there in the market – How can I use that data?” Still very basic, and there’s a lot more that Microsoft could do as the owners of LinkedIn to really turn it into a fully featured B2B database.

The work done by some of our clients in terms of response management is pretty cutting edge, but too much has been done with prospecting and not customer management. It’s always a problem. I’m optimistic about that. The issue though is that this B2B stuff is so much more complex. Whereas with consumer it’s personal, maybe one or two people at most; but in B2B, it can easily be 30 or 40 people and the budget cycle could last a year or two. You’d have thought more work would have been done in this area – because of the complexity people will organize the data more and use AI more in future for sure.

But I haven’t seen that yet. I’m sure it’s on the target list for the more aware companies like Hyster-Yale; they’ve created a leading edge approach to prospect management and customer management because often most of their sales take place to existing customers. They’re two completely different things, but prospecting is more difficult due to the length of the buying cycle.

Peter: But is this something that proves marketing can really support sales, and even be perceived by the sales teams as a good thing to have?

Dr. Stone:  Exactly; because you don’t really need so much AI for consumer — if a consumer says they’re interested, then they’re interested.  Whereas a giant corporation like Amazon building a new warehouse — the number of people involved in that to grasp all the elements surely becomes a complex diagnostic problem that’s similar to diagnosing a human to see whether they’ve got cancer. So let’s say a company looking at the pattern of browsers on their website, inbound traffic on LinkedIn and a whole variety of sources can say, I can see this coming and also things like planning permissions — someone’s building a warehouse, so we need to sell them a truck that would be the equivalent, but it’s all very manual at the moment.

Manufacturing vs. Services … AI Can’t Replicate Human Touch

Peter: So there’s no linkage between systems currently?

AI in the Near Future: Dr Merlin Stone on the Parallels of Marketing and Medicine

World-renown researcher, Dr. Mervin Stone, talks with Zuant CEO, Peter Gillett, about the future of AI and the link between marketing and medicine. Learn how data is being used to diagnose and treat today’s toughest health issues as well as marketing’s biggest challenges.  

World-renown researcher, Dr. Merlin Stone, talks with Zuant CEO, Peter Gillett, about the future of AI and the link between marketing and medicine. Learn how data analytics is being used to diagnose and treat today’s toughest health issues as well as marketing’s biggest challenges.

Why Artificial Intelligence? Why Now?

Peter: Why are so many people looking at AI right now?

Dr. Stone:  It all started in the 1960s when the university philosophers got interested in how computers were replicating human decisions. Edinburgh University was the home of that work, but I was at Sussex as a student and there were philosophers interested in AI because they were interested in the power of computers to do better than the human brain. We’ve seen the story of Big Blue playing chess and its serious application for the diagnosis of cancer. So we know that AI can deal with some of the most complex and sophisticated diagnostic problems to help us make decisions. On the flip side, marketing problems are often soft problems such as uncertainty about data quality of. We aren’t certain about the theories or the ideas we use to turn data into a diagnosis of what’s going on, or we’re not certain about what is the best solution when we have got the diagnosis. That’s the world of marketing, but it’s also the world of medicine.

As a youngster, I became aware of the idea of AI with HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, but you pre-date me a tad. Let’s go back to university when you became aware of AI as an undergraduate.

Well, back in the swinging 60s I met lots of interesting people who were philosophers very interested in AI. One of those was a chap called Don Michie who was a British researcher in AI. During World War II he worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, contributing to the war effort to solve “Tunny,” a German teleprinter cipher. I think the idea of AI then was actually a misnomer; it was more very clever programming for a long period until we got to the world of neural networks. This was when computers could teach themselves things as opposed to clever programmers looking at all the things that they could see and helping what was basically a dumb machine.

That area is also related to another area of my research, which is how do you make sense of information where there are lots of experts? And that’s not the AI bit; it’s actually another area of interest to marketers, which is where in that wood can you see the wood? That’s not just a question of AI, it’s a question of perception: How do you know what’s really going on? If your sales go down, is it because your customers are leaving or because your products are rubbish? The simplest question, but actually often it would be a combination of both – you need a sophisticated analysis tool to find out. We’re talking about big data now.

AI vs. The Dark Side of Marketing

Peter: What are some current, real world examples to illustrate this?

Dr. Stone: It used to be fairly simple. Much of my work now is looking at information management — One of the journals I publish in is called The Dark Side of Marketing, which is about marketers and business and their attempts to bend data to fit a story about which they had a narrative they had previously given, so that they wouldn’t be blamed for a failure. For instance, we can see that in the papers with some of the governments, and the banks in the credit crisis a few years ago used this smokescreen. And there’s Fred Goodwin, the head of Royal Bank of Scotland who said no, RBS were not exposed to the American mortgage market. This was at the last shareholders meeting before the bank went bust. … Their most recent acquisition had in fact been an American mortgage bank, which was already deeply exposed.

So for sure, AI is also a good way of overcoming the problems of bias — What we have had in the last few years is all the macro economic stuff, which shows us the incredible power of bias to influence the way we interpret a situation and say what works and what doesn’t work. So if you’re a marketer and you’re not truly databased, you’re letting the data speak, or you’re telling people you are, but actually what you’re doing is making the decisions up. That is why I pin a lot of hope on AI. It challenges people’s prejudices about what’s working and what isn’t, and why it works — This is true of science, medicine, and many other areas.

Peter: Let’s move away from fake news, or at least ‘selective information presentation,’ and look at a positive future with AI.

Dr. Stone: We just had this terrible case of the hospital in Portsmouth. An estimated 250 were killed by over prescription of certain drugs. Now the data was at the National Health and Social Care Information Centre in Leeds, which should have been ringing alarm bells. If you’re sitting at the top of the tree, you need some degree of data mining AI to sound the alarm bells automatically. It’s different for the people on the ground. For instance if you work at Dillards, you don’t need to be told what’s going on — if you’re a shop assistant you know because you can see customers walking away, but if you’re sitting on the top of the tree, you often need help particularly if you’re not listening to the people at the bottom of the tree. And if you look at the National Health Service in the UK its outcomes are really poor and the people at the top of the tree are looking hard at the outcomes. You can see the marketing analogy very clearly. Then what happens is ‘bad decisions.’

What Does Facial Recognition Tech Mean for Marketing?

2018 is the year innovative events are embracing Facial Recognition! A wise marketing investment, facial recognition technology delivers enhanced security and better UX, plus unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security.

Astra Bierre uses facial recognition technology to target women with beer ads.

Panos Moutafis, Ph.D. is Co-Founder and President of Zenus Inc., which specializes in facial recognition systems for multiple applications. A computer scientist by trade, he is well-known for his work ethic, diligence, and persistence. I caught up with him over breakfast in Houston recently, keen to discover if facial recognition technology could become mainstream, or sit on the fringes like many other great ideas such as RFID and iBeacons.

Facial Recognition:  Fact or Fad?

Peter:   Panos, first, is facial recognition technology in its heyday?

Panos: This is more than a cool technology that people will start using ‘sometime in the future’. Facial recognition adds clear value such as improved security and better user experience along with unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security. Since people are getting accustomed to the technology, facial recognition is becoming an expected service rather than a nice to have feature. 2018 is the year innovative events are embracing facial recognition!

Peter:   And this goes beyond what most people imagine?

Panos: Couple it with adjacent technologies such as emotion recognition or human posture recognition and the possibilities are limitless. You gain full control. Every powerful technology comes with great responsibility though. Respecting people’s privacy and handling metadata in a transparent and prudent manner is vital. Every party who has access to this type of information must be thoroughly vetted, 100% trustworthy and held accountable to the highest standards.

Event Marketing: Let’s Get Personal

Peter:   Let’s talk about events.  How does this technology work here?

Panos: The use of physical tokens and privileged information have become integral parts of an event lifetime. They are used to check in people, restrict access, personalize the experience, measure attendance, extract analytics, and perform lead retrieval.

Facial recognition belongs in the third form of authentication along with other biometric approaches. It is a software, which can identify a person from a database of faces without requiring a physical token or the user to provide any privileged information. Technological advancements have increased accuracy and drastically reduced.  Therefore, we are seeing increased adoption in other industries (e.g., airports, social media, and cell phones).

Peter:   Well, take us from the start of the process; I always chuckle to myself when I check into to a high tech event for a mega-company and I wait in line for someone to tick off a spreadsheet or hand write my badge!

Panos: The attendees are not always good at following instructions displayed on the terminal. They often cannot find their ticket; it takes them a while to retrieve the QR code on their phone, or they simply need time to type in their email address.

Facial recognition addresses the root cause of the problem by eradicating the need for user actions. Depending on your preference, you may want to implement a self-service or a hosted check-in mode. In either case, the premise is the same. When an attendee approaches the check-in station they will be instantly identified without them having to take any action. Simple.

The best part is that you do not need to purchase expensive hardware because any device with a camera works. This includes virtually all laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In addition to making the check-in process more efficient and thus reducing costs, face recognition has been proven to increase user engagement and attendee satisfaction. It is an excellent way to promote the innovative nature of your brand and impress attendees.

Peter:   And I guess ID checking is enhanced?

Panos: Even though checking the ID of the attendees entering the venue is a step in the right direction, most of the existing implementations have limitations. Attendees are asked to present their ID and an untrained host is taking a quick look before giving it back. This is not enough. Doing a proper ID check, on the other hand, is time-consuming. One would have to check the issue and expiration dates, scan the code and make sure it matches the ID unique number, check whether the picture matches the person presenting the document, and so forth.

There is a faster and more secure way to perform this task properly. In particular, attendees can be requested to take a picture of their ID along with a selfie when they register online. A facial recognition algorithm will ensure that it is a real picture (liveness/spoof detection) and that the two faces match; other computer vision algorithms will perform the rest of the checks in real-time. We see this approach being used widely in other applications such as the banking and hospitality industries (e.g., Airbnb).

Peter:   Could this be used for Session Tracking as well?

Panos: Event hosts spend a significant amount of time recruiting speakers, curating the content of their shows, and organizing sessions that cover different aspects of the event theme. In addition, conferences with a deep educational focus often assign credits and accreditation to participants who attend specific sessions.

Face recognition is a good fit for this because it requires minimal setup and extracts analytics in a non-intrusive manner. Depending on different technical factors, session tracking with face recognition can be as simple as putting a tablet or cell phone on a stand near the entrance of each room. The camera will automatically capture the video stream and send it to the cloud for processing. There is no need for special hardware and expensive installation costs.

Peter:   We’ve experimented with heatmaps for different clients using RFID technology in the past – could this be done more cost-effectively now?

Panos: Face recognition can be a great way to compute and draw heatmaps. Tracking the number of faces visible by the camera across the different event locations is straightforward. It does not require special hardware and it is easy to install and configure. Depending on the level of investment, the information can be as high level as how many people on average stood and passed by a certain point of interest or as fine-grained as extracting insights by group type and knowing each attendee’s journey.

Peter:   How about other applications out on the show floor?

Panos: One can use screens (equipped with a camera) around the venue that identifies attendees and display personalized information ranging from where food is being served to what next session they should attend. Likewise, the information desk personnel could be equipped with similar capabilities. Being able to identify a person while they are walking towards the desk allows them to personally greet them and anticipate their needs.

Along the same lines, one could combine face recognition with chatbots to offer the most efficient and personalized customer service. There is a myriad of interactive applications that could be developed. It is up to your imagination.

Calling All Marketing Qualified Leads

Peter:   And my favorite subject of course: Lead Retrieval!  How does face recognition factor here?

Panos: As you know, the current situation is that exhibitors have to manually scan each person’s badge and enter all the relevant information into a lead retrieval application to summarize the discussion. With face recognition, it is possible to automatically keep track of how many and which people visited the booth. The lead generation and conversion statistics are vital in the sales process.

In addition, this technology allows you to keep track of how long attendees stayed at the booth and how they were feeling. Analyzing their sentiments combined with the information collected before/during the show enables lead management like never before.

At the end of each day, the exhibitors will receive a full report. The leads will be automatically scored by their likelihood to make a purchase decision so that the team can focus on the best targets and following up promptly. Face recognition combined with audiovisual sentiment analysis will have a dramatic impact on leads retrieval.

Peter:   I know that some people will think that Facial Recognition is creepy and they feel uncomfortable about it?

Panos: That is true, but real-world deployments by Zenus and our partners show that the majority of attendees are willing to use facial recognition. That is, the first time an event planner introduces the option they can expect 50-60% of the people to upload their photo. We see attendees talking to their friends and colleagues about how fast and easy the check-in process was, so we expect the opt-in rate to grow for repeat events.

The great thing about facial recognition is that not everyone must opt-in. Instead, it works in conjunction with name search and barcode scanning. The same check-in station can simultaneously allow attendees to use any of these three ways to get their badge. If you have enrolled in face recognition you will simply go through faster!

It is worth noting that a participation rate of 20-40% is enough to make a difference to the on-site registration process. Speeding up the process for this portion of the registered attendees can address bottlenecks.

Peter:   What about collecting the images – is that hard?

Panos: There are plenty of online registration companies that already allow attendees to upload their headshot or take a selfie. Most devices such as laptops, tablets, and cell phones have a front-facing camera. If necessary, one could opt to use their social media profile picture. It really isn’t as hard as people might think.

Peter:   OK, let’s talk money – it still sounds expensive?

Panos: Some technologies are expensive, especially the ones that require specialized hardware, customizations, and on-site support. However, software-based applications tend to be more affordable. Luckily, face recognition falls into this category. Unless the event planner has excessive requirements, the associated investment is just a few cents per attendee expected to register.

Could GDPR Have Averted Facebook’s Data Debacle?

This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost. I view GDPR differently. But from my perspective, I like what GDPR offers.

Welcome to my monthly column series, Around the World, where we will explore what’s new in marketing and sales from a global perspective. This column will focus primarily on technology innovations and the impact they are making in helping companies achieve their growth objectives.

Note: I intentionally include both marketing and sales innovations. The reason is most effective organizations employ collaborative marketing and sales teams who work together to achieve shared goals. Companies can no longer afford to separate these two symbiotic areas of the business. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make this a universal reality, but we are moving in that direction.


Starting next month, I serve up short Q&A sessions with innovative people who are making an impact in the marketing and sales industry. This will create an interesting flow of perspectives and experiences from around the world. The purpose of this column is to be a source of useful and inspiring information for you, my readers. But I also want this to be an interactive forum where you share your reactions and experiences so we are learning from each other.

Let’s get started with a look at GDPR, which will have global ramifications in how marketers and salespeople handle personal data. This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost it is going to have for businesses. I view GDPR differently. These new regulations are actually exactly what we as individuals expect and demand from companies in how they treat our personal data they have extracted over time.

From my perspective, I like what GDPR offers. I want to share my data with companies to receive a better service, be rewarded for my loyalty and be treated ethically, knowing that my data is safe and secure. In fact, I’d like to go further and have ‘a right to be remembered!’ For instance, it’s so boring and time-consuming to have to complete the same forms for the same company you fly with each time, rent cars from or hotels you visit. As consumers we want these entities to retain the data we have provided about our preferences and use it in the future.

We all want to be treated like trusted members of the family. Imagine being greeted by the Italian restaurant owner who impresses your guests as he ushers you and your guests to your favorite table in a restaurant! You feel special. The evening gets off to a great start and sets the tone for a great customer experience. This is all because the owner took the time to get to know you and your preferences before you stepped inside his restaurant.

One of the main benefits of GDPR is the fact that there are huge powers (and corresponding fines of 4% of revenue in each country affected), which will make large companies sit up and take notice about this important issue. And it’s really the big companies who have handled our data in an appallingly way. Just in recent weeks, we’ve seen millions of records hacked or misused by Facebook/Cambridge Analytica, Uber and Under Armour; the latter at least reacting quickly to confirm their data breach, rather than the normal corporate procedure of trying to brush things under the carpet as VW did with the dieselgate scandal – with unbelievable corporate arrogance. Shame on VW.

GDPR’s Potential Impact on Facebook Debacle

So if GDPR had been in place, for instance, could it have affected the recent Facebook crisis?