Communication is core to humanity and your business and career success. New digital communication tools and technologies are shrinking our world by providing better, faster and cheaper ways for people and businesses to connect under any circumstance. Digital also makes one to one, one to many and many to many communications easy and flexible. For the first time in history, everyone can be connected. Digital eliminates boundaries, borders and geographic challenges.
Digital communication has disrupted the cost of staying in touch. In the industrial age, long-distance phone calls cost
$5 per minute or more. Cost was based on distance, and in some cases, the country you were calling. I remember how we would rush to make our calls as short as possible.
Now, digital long-distance calls, conference calls, videos, webinars and podcasts are all low-cost or free. I rarely use a traditional desk telephone for voice calls anymore. I use Google Voice for most of my meetings and I sometimes mix in Skype for Business. We can round-down the cost of communicating to free and the voice quality is excellent.
Failing to communicate with customers or employees or communicating the wrong message is a sure way to get disrupted by a competitor that steps up and takes advantage. Communication can be a threat or an opportunity for your organization. In this post, we will learn how to make it an opportunity. There are so many new ways to communicate, it is mind boggling. There is no excuse not to do it well.
Throughout UltimateBusinessContinuity.com, we discuss social networks and you probably already know most of the big ones so I won’t spend too much of your valuable time on them in this post. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat are a few excellent ways to reach large audiences. These tools can ignite political uprisings or spread celebrity baby pictures across the globe in seconds. The power to
freely reach and inform millions of people or highly targeted groups has disrupted industries including advertising, education, news media and sales.
I build many business relationships using social media. If you are not using social media yet, it is time to begin. The best advice I can give you is to give value to get value. If you help people, they will often return the favor. I discuss the Law of Reciprocity in the post, ‘How to Leverage Content, the Currency of the Digital World’.
Below are other incredibly valuable communication tools you must have on your radar. I have used all of them with great success:
Digital Mass Notification Systems can be valuable in many ways. I have used them for life safety for thousands of employees and to drive revenue by serving customers in unexpected ways.
They enable you to send thousands of consistent messages in seconds using multiple different delivery paths, such as voice, email and text. You can optionally receive important responses recipients concerning their safety, security and ability to receive deliveries.
For example, during hurricane Sandy I sent out 38,000 voice calls, emails, text messages and push notifications all in less than five minutes to account for employee safety. In addition, if you have many customers you can delight them by communicating with them during a disruption at the push of a button. That can be a revenue generator and a competitive differentiator. They will not forget your thoughtfulness. You cannot do that level of communication using manual call trees!
Everbridge (everbridge.com), is a leading mass notification software vendor. They have robust notification capabilities and many additional important benefits., For example, they have developed an extensive safety app. One of the benefits is you can tap a panic button in their app and it will send an SOS message to a predefined person or group of people.
You can even activate the SOS features without having to tap the button. This can be important if you are in a dangerous situation and cannot initiate a call with your phone. For example, if you will be going into a dangerous area you can set a countdown timer prior to leaving and if
you do not stop the timer before its set time, a notification will automatically be launched to any recipients you indicated.
The Everbridge app can also automatically track your location if you activate an auto check-in option. Every 500m you move, a notification is automatically sent and a series of these notifications can be displayed on a map. This can be important to security in case they need to find you or determine the direction in which you are traveling.
Everbridge can deliver many valuable and creative customer benefits. I find that when I bring Everbridge into a company, word spreads fast and leaders come to me asking if they can use the system for other applications to improve efficiency and service their clients better, faster and cheaper. I am also asked about using Everbridge with IoT devices and alarm systems. Often, the answer is, ‘Yes, Everbridge can do it’. There are so many use cases when you think like an Intrapreneur.
Emergency Hotlines are essential to keep the public and your employees informed during a crisis or other important events. Communications can make or break an organization and there is no excuse for any deficiency in that area.
Emergency hotlines are typically comprised of a toll- free phone number and/or an Internet bulletin board. They are the perfect complement to your mass notification system. Emergency hotlines are a pull tool – people call in to access important information. Mass notification systems are push tools. You need both for a robust digital communications infrastructure.
Emergency hotlines can use voice recordings, text to speech or content on web pages (bulletin board feature). They can optionally allow employees to speak with operators or post responses, pictures or video. An emergency hotline must be able to accommodate many simultaneous callers. Do not use a service that will only support 10-15 callers if your organization has 3,000 people, customers and vendors. Whenever you implement a system, always allow room for growth. If you think you will need to accommodate 50 simultaneous callers, – then implement capacity for 100+.
Ring Central (ringcentral.com) is a great customizable tool I use to build highly functional digital emergency hotlines,
customer service IVR’s and other important applications. I share more details about my experience using Ring Central and its value to customers and employees in the post, ‘Why it is ALWAYS About Your Customer’.
IoT Alerts enable you to push important information from alarm systems, industrial machinery, distributed weather stations and many other types of smart devices.
IoT alerts allow these machines to ‘talk to us’. They can either have push alert capability as part of their default features or an API to enable other systems to connect and leverage the alert information. For example, I use a personal IoT weather station that allows me to use an API to access lightning and tornado alerts and automatically send a mass communication using my mass notification system. This enables me to use two world-class tools to maximize safety.
Satellite (Sat) phones enable you to make and receive voice calls from practically anywhere on earth. The phones are relatively costly but when you are in a situation where you must communicate, they can be life-saving.
On the lower end of satellite communications there are some really cool ‘ping’ tracking transceivers such as the Iridium RockBlock and Globalstar’s Spot Trace, which I use and describe below.
Spot Trace (https://www.findmespot.ca/en/) is an inexpensive 2″ x 3″ device, smaller than a deck of playing cards. It integrates GPS, a satellite transceiver and a power supply in a compact casing. It provides one way communication from the device.
In my testing the Spot Trace pings can go through wood, plastic and glass, although it has difficulty penetrating metal. It bounces latitude–longitude coordinates off low-orbit satellites to mobile or desktop devices. Software programs can plot the coordinates on a map. I own a Spot Trace and have successfully tested it with a recent 21st Century Message in a Bottle project I was working on.
It is a great solution to monitor the movement of assets. It can be hidden under a truck, car, boat, etc., so the vehicles can be tracked in the event they are stolen. It is not intended to be carried on a person. It stays in sleep mode to conserve battery life and activates when it senses
movement. Three AAA batteries can last months. If you attach solar cells it can work for years.
Iridium Rockblock (http://www.rock7mobile.com/products- rockblock) provides two-way satellite communication. It can transmit latitude – longitude and additional information such as temperature or salinity readings from the middle of the ocean or from outer space. It is two-way communications, as opposed to Spot Trace, so you can send it instructions from anywhere on earth.
Rockblock can be coupled with many types of IoT sensors and motors using an Arduino or Rasberry Pi microprocessor for added intelligence. Rockblock is more difficult to set-up than Spot Trace, but in certain use-cases it is the preferred solution.
Physical (hard) panic button (https://www.alertus.com/alertusproducts/panicbutton) are tiny physical devices that you can hold in the palm of your hand and when you are in danger, you can press a button to send an alert. A panic device coupled with amass notification tool can be of life-saving value.
Zello (zello.com) is an easy-to-use walkie talkie push-to-talk (PTT) app. My family is hooked on Zello. It became very popular during major hurricanes in 2017. I used it to communicate with people in Texas and even during the devastating power outages in Puerto Rico I was able to get important information from people using Zello on the Island. I mentioned Zello on Facebook and LinkedIn and many people appreciated it and installed it. Zello has spread virally and has over 100 million users as of 2018.
Zello allows you to create private or public channels. It uses streaming audio which makes it faster than messaging apps that use recorded messages. If you try Zello, use it sparingly, as it can be a drain on your mobile device battery.
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram are other very popular mobile messaging tools. If you are chatting with people in China WeChat and QQ are the way to go.
Slack (slack.com) is a great way to communicate with teams. It includes built-in work-flow benefits. I have used it successfully on numerous projects.
Yammer (yammer.com) is becoming popular in organizations as a collaborative communications tool. It can help break down silos. I use it.
Virtual meeting rooms elevate conference calls and webinars to a more immersive level. They can reduce travel expenses, while fostering collaboration. Three interesting products are SoCoCo, Second Life and rumii. I have tested and used SoCoCo and Second Life and I am excited about trying rumii, which may usher in VR social meetings and conferences.
SoCoCo (sococo.com) is a business tool that enables you to design a realistic virtual environment with private offices and conference rooms. You can have public and private meetings. You can even shut the door to your virtual office to speak with someone privately.
Second Life (secondlife.com) is a virtual world unto itself. It was ahead of its time when it debuted in 1999. Philip Rosedale, the founder, is a brilliant technologist and VR thought-leader. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, you should do so.
In Second Life, you are represented as a customizable avatar. You can meet with your team in buildings or office space. You can even create buildings from the ground up! Large companies have purchased choice real estate on Second Life for retail stores, banks and insurance companies. It even has its own currency, Linden dollars, that can be traded in the physical world.
For some companies, Second Life did not live up to commercial expectations, while others have realized the value. Some entrepreneurs claim to earn $100,000+ annually on Second Life. Second Life has approximately 1 million users.
In 2017, Linden Labs, the creator of Second Life, debuted their next generation product, Sansar (sansar.com). It is a social VR platform. The goal for Sansar is to provide a creative VR medium, making it easy for people to create,
share, and sell their own social VR experiences. It is Linden Labs long-term goal to create the “YouTube of VR,” as per Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Labs.
In May 2018, Sansar announced partnerships with several professional teams from the Overwatch League (OWL). Sansar will be allowing Esports fans and players to interact in a new way by utilizing VR. It is early in the game but you should keep an eye on their environment and explore ways to leverage it.
rumii (https://www.rumii.net) from Doghead Simulations (http://www.dogheadsimulations.com/) is extremely cool. It provides an immersive experience for remote teams and meeting participants. It gives you the feeling of actually being in the same room as other attendees. It has the potential to disrupt the way we work and socialize.
A question I often receive is, ‘all of these Internet tools are great for communicating, but what if the Internet is not available? Can I still use them?’’ The answer is, Yes and No. Mesh networks may provide a solution to using apps without Internet connectivity.
Mesh networks use a series of nodes (devices) to pass information upstream and downstream without depending on an Internet Service Provider. Instead a simple Internet Gateway Provider (IGP), who could be anywhere on the meshnet, can enable connections. Meshnets may eventually provide a greater level of communications resilience than we currently enjoy.
In the post ‘Smart Supply Chain – Our Chain of Life’, I mentioned CattleWatch which utilizes solar-powered ‘smart collars’ that allow a herd of cattle to form a wireless mesh network. Ranchers can remotely manage their herd through connectivity via Iridium satellites. Industrial grade TLI Series rechargeable Li-ion batteries enable the ‘smart collars’ to be lighter and more compact, and thus more comfortable for cows to wear. The batteries are from Tadiron Batteries, NY.
FireChat (https://www.opengarden.com/firechat.html) is another example of mesh net technology in action. It was developed by Open Garden, a leading free messaging app for public and private communications that works even
without Internet access or cellular data. Built with the MeshKit SDK, it connects smartphones to one another and lets users share and forward data even without the Internet. Data flows directly between smartphones (iOS and Android). Each node essentially becomes a router. As mesh networks grow they become more resilient and self-healing.
FireChat has a wonderful feature named ‘FireChats’ that allows 10,000 people to gather anonymously in a group chat. You do need to find local nodes that are relatively short distances apart so you can be part of the network. FireChat is continuously improving so read the latest requirements on their web site or in my special report.
Here are 4 example use cases from the FireChat web site as of August 2018:
- MeshKit Developers can reach users who are not connected to the Internet because they don’t have a data plan for example. Engagement and sessions within your app are increased with a new form of device-to-device connectivity. Content delivery costs are reduced as data traveling over the mesh is free. MeshKit can also be used to distribute app updates to users over the mesh (Android only).
- Media companies can share and distribute content to users who are not online. They can source real-time news from users in the field, even when users or reporters are not connected. Reports will bounce back through the mesh until an Internet connected node is reached and then delivered to you anywhere.
- Telecom operators can provide customers with a new form of wireless connectivity that works when others don’t. MeshKit provides a new way to manage increasing demand for mobile data.
- Government can send out early warning and recovery advisories before, during and after a natural disaster. They can reach more people regardless of cellular infrastructure or damage. Collecting citizen information can increase community resilience.
Digital communications tools and technologies are improving at an exponential rate of speed. There are many incredible new technologies and devices I am exploring. I will continue to share my new findings in the newsletter.
Applying Process for Customer, Business & Career Success
In this section, we will put everything you learned together. You will learn best practices to build a digital program. This section is high on practical experience and low on theory.
I share hands-on experiences, tips and techniques that worked well for me. These include delivering enterprise solutions and entrepreneurial products and services.
I also share what did not work. Often it is these ‘lessons learned’ that provide the most value, on the condition that you learn from them.
You will benefit from stories and experiences of other successful digital entrepreneurs and executives. Apply their insight and you will be on the fast track to digital transformation success.