Category: Development

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5 Reasons You Should Own A 3D Printer At Home

Developments in 3D printing technology are ever-changing and the possibilities of what a 3D Printer can do are endless. When you’re on the fence about buying a 3D printer, you could be wondering whether you should make the investment now or wait.

You don’t have to wonder any longer, with 3D printers being more cost-effective than ever and easy to use, you too can reap the benefits of having 3D capabilities right in your own home! Still not convinced it’s the right move for you? Here are 5 reasons why you should own a 3D printer. 

1. You Will Save Money

When you have a 3D printer at the ready you can easily print items that you would otherwise have to buy. Do you need a new case for your mobile phone? Print one. With your own printer, you can create and design items for your home that will be more personalized and to your taste than what the stores would have.

With the capability to print with many different materials and colors, you can be certain that your printed items will look great and hold up over time. They even have a glow-in-the-dark filament, so you don’t have to buy decorative stars for the ceiling or Halloween decorations because you could make your own.

Being able to print replacement parts for things you already own can extend their life. Creating 3D printed items on demand does not require any additional machinery after you have your own printer and software. Not only will you save on the cost of those items you are printing, but you also won’t have to pay for the gas or the mileage on your vehicle.  

2. It Can Be Educational 

“Learn something new every day” is a euphemism for a reason. Lifelong learning is key to a successful career and what better way to challenge yourself to learn new skills by buying a 3D printer? Using a 3D printer will quite literally add dimension to your life and can engage you in new skills that you will enjoy.

Printing can be a fun way to help your children learn as well. Hands-on learning is always appealing to children and 3D printing is a great way to make education fun and interesting. With loads of applications that are geared towards printing with children, once you own a printer you can promote the educational goals and values that are important to you.

Even if your children aren’t interested in the actual 3D printing process, though it’s a safe bet they will be, you can still use the printer to create models, puzzles and learning manipulatives that can help your child with their homework.

Allowing your child the chance to design their own item to be printed will enhance their creativity and problem solving while they are being innovative. As long as all safety precautions are followed and your child understands that printers can be heated at high temperatures, there is no reason you can’t enjoy the educational benefits of printing at home with your kids. 

3. 3D Printing Is Fun

Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced pro you will quickly realize that 3D printing is fun. You create useable three-dimensional objects out of nothing but a printer and filament. While doctors are printing usable organs and the technology advances the practical uses are impossible to fully comprehend.

But you can’t downplay the fun that will come from just printing whatever you want to print. If you’re feeling like printing figurines to display is what gets you excited about printing that’s great. 3D printing doesn’t have to be all about what is useful and unique, if you would like it to that’s wonderful but as long as you’re enjoying your printer that is what matters.

As your confidence grows with your ability to print what you want you could find camaraderie with others who enjoy 3D printing at home. Buying yourself a 3D printer will put you in charge of what’s printed beginning to end letting you enjoy your time designing and creating whatever you think it the most enjoyable. 

4. It Can Be A Good Business

While maybe this isn’t the right option for everything, If you discover you really enjoy printing in 3D, you can turn your hobby into a business. In the same way, your printer can save you money, it could also provide a small income fulfilling other people’s needs.

Once you are proficient at printing things you could accept orders for those objects and sell them. There are websites where people place orders for things to be 3D printed and you can log in an accept the job. This could be an easy supplemental income for you if you are interested in it becoming one.

While personal 3D printers can range in cost and quality if you are hoping to make money selling the items you are printing it is best to invest in a higher-caliber printer that is capable of printing more consistently. Some low-cost printers are great for home use but can have some problems printing the same way every time which could affect the resale value of the item. 

5. You Can Express Yourself

Have you ever bought something and liked it but wished maybe it was a little bit different? 3D printing gives you the chance and technology to make those changes and create something that is specifically the way you want it.

If you have an idea for an invention that you would like to patent, it could take years to convince a manufacturer to build you a prototype but you could print your very own model for a fraction of the price and time, getting your ideas into the world faster and easier.

When you own your own printer you are limited by anyone but yourself, so if you dream up the perfect mask, you can print it. Your self-expression is only limited by what you can design–so it’s limitless. There’s no reason to wait for something you want to be created by someone else when you can do it yourself. 

Conclusion

While 3D printing has its own learning curve there is no better way to get ahead than by having your own printer at home to practice and reap the benefits from. Why would you spend money to buy 3D printed things from others when you could create the same thing and inspire your children at the same time?

With so many different kinds of printers to choose from it may seem overwhelming but with a little research you will find the right printer for your home and you will begin to see the miracle of objects being created right in front of you. The novelty of being able to create something out of thin air will never grow old, having a 3D printer of your own is a fantastic investment in you! 

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How to Integrate Spring Boot with Thymeleaf: A Step-by-Step Guide

Spring framework is one of the leading frameworks in the JAVA world and developers across the globe utilize it for developing reliable and high-quality Enterprise-level applications. Of late, developers have also started using the alternative form of Spring framework popularly termed as Spring Boot. 

This blog post will take you through a series of steps each designed in a way to help you understand how to integrate Spring Boot with Thymeleaf. However, before we begin, we do need to understand a little about Spring Boot and Thymeleaf too.

What is the Spring Boot Framework?

The Spring Boot framework came into existence to resolve bootstrapping issues and design new applications. It provides a default set of codes and configuration steps which makes it easier for the developers to integrate it into their applications. 

The framework operates on the “Opinionated Defaults Configuration” approach and boasts three major aspects of any application development process:

  • Development
  • Unit Testing 
  • Integration Testing

What is Thymeleaf?

Thymeleaf is a simple Java-based template which allows you to create both web and standalone applications. By default, Thymeleaf comes with 6 templates namely: 

  • XML 
  • Valid XML
  • XHTML
  • Valid XHTML
  • HTML5
  • Legacy HTML5

Additionally, developers also consider Thymeleaf ideal for HTML5 JVM web development because it gives them the flexibility to customize the code based on their project requirements and because it supports a good range of Spring frameworks and additional tools.

Integrating Spring Boot with Thymeleaf – A Step Guide

With the basics in place, it is time to begin with our next segment which details the actual integration process in a step-wise manner. You can integrate both in multiple ways, however, for the sake of convenience, we will walk you through a manual JAVA configuration to set up Thymeleaf with Spring Boot.

Checking Pre-requisite Tools and Software 

Your system must have the following tools and software installed before you start with the integration process: 

  1. JAVA 8 
  2. Spring Boot 
  3. Thymeleaf v3.0
  4. Maven v3.3
  5. Eclipse

Project Structure

Once you have executed all the steps carefully, your basic project structure should look something like the following:

pom.xml

src

───main

│   ───java

│   │ └───com

│   │     └───zetcode

│   │         │ Application.java

│   │         └───config

│   │                 WebConfig.java

│   └───resources

│       └───my templates

│               index.html

└───test

    └───java

Note: Thymeleaf stores all its template files in the following custom directory: src/main/resources/mytemplates while its default template directory is: src/main/resources/templates.

Working Out the Basic Installation

Spring Boot uses JAVA SDK v1.8 or higher by default to run smoothly. To check which version of JAVA is installed on your system, you need to run the following code on your DOS prompt: 

$ java –version

java version “1.8.0_102”

Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_102-b14)

Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.102-b14, mixed mode)

  • If you see a similar output on your DOS prompt you do have JAVA installed. In case, nothing appears, proceed to the given link to install JDK and set up the PATH Environment variable on your system.
  • As Eclipse is also a mandate, you need to download the latest build and install Eclipse on your system based on your operating system. Once it’s done, execute the Eclipse.exe file.
  • Next, you can install Maven in two ways: 
  1. Within the Eclipse IDE: The steps are as follows: 
    1. Open your Eclipse IDE and click HELP >> Install New Software 
    2. Click on the ADD button to add a new repository 
    3. In the popup box, fill out the: 
      1. Name: M2Eclipse 
      2. Location: http://download.eclipse.org/technology/m2e/releases
    4. Once done, select all the plugins and click on NEXT 
    5. Accept the terms and conditions of the agreement and click Finish
    6. Once the process is complete, you will be asked to restart Eclipse IDE. Click on YES to restart the IDE.
  2. Installing Maven using the PATH variable: In this process, you need to add the bin folder with the mvn command to the PATH variable. Follow the installation guide here: Installing Maven through PATH

Next, run the following command to check for Maven installation:

$ mvn –v

Apache Maven 3.5.4 (1edded0938998edf8bf061f1ceb3cfdeccf443fe; 2018-06-17T14:33:14-04:00)

Maven home: /usr/local/Cellar/maven/3.3.9/libexec

Java version: 1.8.0_102, vendor: Oracle Corporation

Once both Eclipse and Maven are installed, move onto the next section and check for the dependencies required to integrate Thymeleaf with Spring Boot.

Integrating Thymeleaf with Spring Boot – The Actual Process

  • To integrate Thymeleaf with Spring Boot, we first need to execute the following Maven dependency:
<dependency>

    <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

    <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-thymeleaf</artifactId>

</dependency> 

  • Since, we are using Thymeleaf v3.0 in this guide, we also need to configure the following two properties in the “pom.xml” file: 
  1. thymeleaf.version
  2. thymeleaf-layout-dialect.version
<properties>

       <thymeleaf.version>3.0.6.RELEASE</thymeleaf.version>

       <thymeleaf-layout-dialect.version>2.2.2</thymeleaf-layout-dialect.version>

<java.version>1.8</java.version>        

</properties> 

  • In this step, we would create our “pom.xml” file. To create, open any text editor of your choice like say “Notepad++” and add the following code to it. Once done, save the file under the name “pom.xml” which you can later use to build up your project. 
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<project xmlns=”http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0″

            xmlns:xsi=”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance”

            xsi:schemaLocation=”http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0

            http://maven.apache.org/xsd/maven-4.0.0.xsd”>

    <modelVersion>4.0.0</modelVersion>

    <groupId>com.zetcode</groupId>

    <artifactId>thymeleafconfigex</artifactId>

    <version>1.0-SNAPSHOT</version>

    <packaging>jar</packaging>

    <properties>

        <project.build.sourceEncoding>UTF-8</project.build.sourceEncoding>

        <maven.compiler.source>11</maven.compiler.source>

        <maven.compiler.target>11</maven.compiler.target>

    </properties>

    <parent>

        <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

        <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-parent</artifactId>

        <version>2.1.0.RELEASE</version>

    </parent>

    <dependencies>

        <dependency>

            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

            <artifactId>spring-boot-devtools</artifactId>

            <optional>true</optional>

        </dependency>

        <dependency>

            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-web</artifactId>

            <optional>true</optional>

        </dependency>

        <dependency>

            <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

            <artifactId>spring-boot-starter-thymeleaf</artifactId>

        </dependency>

    </dependencies>

    <build>

        <plugins>

            <plugin>

                <groupId>org.springframework.boot</groupId>

                <artifactId>spring-boot-maven-plugin</artifactId>

            </plugin>

        </plugins>

    </build>

</project>

  • Once you have created the “pom.xml” file, you need to configure Thymeleaf using the “WebConfig.java” file and set up a ‘view’ and ‘controller’ for the homepage. 

Use the following programming code to achieve the stated task: 

package com.zetcode.config;

import org.springframework.context.annotation.Bean;

import org.springframework.context.annotation.Configuration;

import org.springframework.context.annotation.Description;

import org.springframework.web.servlet.ViewResolver;

import org.springframework.web.servlet.config.annotation.ViewControllerRegistry;

import org.springframework.web.servlet.config.annotation.WebMvcConfigurer;

import org.thymeleaf.spring5.SpringTemplateEngine;

import org.thymeleaf.spring5.view.ThymeleafViewResolver;

import org.thymeleaf.templateresolver.ClassLoaderTemplateResolver;

@Configuration

public class WebConfig implements WebMvcConfigurer {

    @Bean

    @Description(“Thymeleaf template resolver serving HTML 5”)

    public ClassLoaderTemplateResolver templateResolver() {

        var templateResolver = new ClassLoaderTemplateResolver();

        templateResolver.setPrefix(“mytemplates/”);

        templateResolver.setCacheable(false);

        templateResolver.setSuffix(“.html”);

        templateResolver.setTemplateMode(“HTML5”);

        templateResolver.setCharacterEncoding(“UTF-8”);

        return templateResolver;

    }

    @Bean

    @Description(“Thymeleaf template engine with Spring integration”)

    public SpringTemplateEngine templateEngine() {

        var templateEngine = new SpringTemplateEngine();

        templateEngine.setTemplateResolver(templateResolver());

        return templateEngine;

    }

    @Bean

    @Description(“Thymeleaf view resolver”)

    public ViewResolver viewResolver() {

        var viewResolver = new ThymeleafViewResolver();

        viewResolver.setTemplateEngine(templateEngine());

        viewResolver.setCharacterEncoding(“UTF-8”);

        return viewResolver;

    }

    @Override

    public void addViewControllers(ViewControllerRegistry registry) {

        registry.addViewController(“/”).setViewName(“index”);

    }

}

  • We also need to define a dedicated template resolver which would help us resolve various templates into different “TemplateResolution” objects.

You can call up the templates located on your CLASSPATH using “ClassLoaderTemplateResolver” method.

@Bean

@Description(“Thymeleaf template resolver serving HTML 5”)

public ClassLoaderTemplateResolver templateResolver() {

Note: To serve HTML5 content, you can execute the following code:

 

templateResolver.setTemplateMode(“HTML5”);
  • The following code will help you create a Thymeleaf template engine with Spring integration:
@Bean

@Description(“Thymeleaf template engine with Spring integration”)

public SpringTemplateEngine templateEngine() {

    

    var templateEngine = new SpringTemplateEngine();

    templateEngine.setTemplateResolver(templateResolver());

    return templateEngine;

}

  • In case you need to display the current date, change the “resources/templates/index.html” file with the following code:
<!DOCTYPE html>

<html xmlns:th=”http://www.thymeleaf.org”>

    <head>

        <title>Home page</title>

        <meta charset=”UTF-8″/>

        <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″/>

    </head>

    <body>

        <p>

        <span th:text=”‘Today is: ‘ + ${#dates.format(#dates.createNow(), ‘dd MMM yyyy HH:mm’)}” th:remove=”tag”></span>

        </p>

    </body>

</html>

  • To set up the Spring Boot application for execution, you need to edit the “com/zetcode/Application.java” file with the following code:
package com.zetcode;

import org.springframework.boot.SpringApplication;

import org.springframework.boot.autoconfigure.SpringBootApplication;

@SpringBootApplication

public class Application {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        SpringApplication.run(Application.class, args);

    }

}

Executing the Code

With all the files edited successfully, execute your application using the following code:

$ mvn spring-boot:run

 Once executed your output should look similar to the following: 

 

$ curl localhost:8080

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html>

<head>

    <title>Home page</title>

    <meta charset=”UTF-8″>

    <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>

</head>

<body>

<p>

    Today is: 08 Sep 2019 02:01

</p>

</body>

If you do see a similar output, that means you have successfully integrated Spring Boot into Thymeleaf.

Note: You can exit the application using the following key combination: CTRL + C

We hope you will find this step-by-guide to Spring Boot integration with Thymeleaf helpful. Do comment below and let us know how it turned out for you!

About Author: Johnny Morgan Technical writer with a keen interest in new technology and innovation areas. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open-source, WebRTC, big data and CRM. He is also associated with Aegis Infoways which offers Java Programmers India .

References

  1. https://www.journaldev.com/7969/spring-boot-tutorial
  2. https://spring.io/guides/gs/spring-boot/
  3. https://www.tutorialspoint.com/spring_boot/spring_boot_thymeleaf.htm
  4. https://www.thymeleaf.org/documentation.html
  5. http://zetcode.com/articles/springbootthymeleafconf/
  6. https://docs.oracle.com/javase/9/install/installation-jdk-and-jre-microsoft-windows-platforms.htm#JSJIG-GUID-2B9D2A17-176B-4BC8-AE2D-FD884161C958
  7. https://www.eclipse.org/downloads/
  8. https://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/ehchua/programming/howto/EclipseJava_HowTo.html
  9. https://maven.apache.org/install.html
  10. https://www.concretepage.com/spring-boot/spring-boot-thymeleaf-maven-example#complete
  11. https://docs.spring.io/spring-boot/docs/current/reference/htmlsingle/
  12. https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-open-command-prompt-2618089
  13. http://roufid.com/how-to-install-maven-on-eclipse-ide/
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How A Central Repository Helps In Test Case Management

Selecting a test case management tool is key to project success. It can make or break the product. These tools usually handle the complete software development life cycle of an application. Businesses gain efficiency in their testing procedures by using these software testing tools.

The tools consolidate information for projects, speed up communication between teammates and foster overall collaboration. Test case management tools make testing processes more efficient and increase the testing scope. A typical test case management tool records test requirements, aids the test design process, maps test cases with requirements and generate test case execution reports.

Test case management is greatly facilitated by a tool that offers a central repository. A separate repository for each test plan is a poor setup, bound to waste both time and resources. A central repository helps to identify the testing scope, removing the redundancy of testing and improving tracking. A test repository is a tester’s best friend.

Today we look at some of the benefits of having a central repository in a test case management tool:

Saves Time

Often, when new software features are introduced, old tests are rerun. Many tests are repeated. Many projects with overlapping test cases could be managed on a common platform. Having a central repository gives faster access to these tests. Accessing separate repositories for running tests is more time-consuming. A single repository will clearly show which tests have been conducted before. There will be no need for testers to juggle through information on multiple platforms. Further, tests are automated without manual intervention, saving time.

Higher Productivity

A single repository keeps testers more mindful of the tests. Duplicate test cases are not created. Testers do not have to rewrite tests. Once written and stored, the repository allows easy access for use in the future. This saved time is used towards creating and executing new test cases, increasing testers’ productivity.  

Faster Speed

Every test case is tagged in a repository. These tags include function, sub-function, channel, device and so on. These tags help in filtering through thousands of test cases, boosting the speed of searches. Tests can be quickly picked and used.

Better Defect Management

A central repository will log a history of defects related to testing cases, enabling quicker defect tracking and management. Defect severity and priority are known. Duplicate defects are identified and removed. Better defect management is very useful in large projects as resources can be allocated to other more tasks that require urgent attention if defect management is taken care of. Defect management is the key to product quality.

Better Organization

One of the most important tasks of a well-organized testing system is the ability to retrieve useful information. This means getting rid of undesirable documents periodically. Obsolete test cases should not be retained. A central repository helps in removing unwanted data as it is all collected in one place. If filed separately, removing data can take time and create clutter.

These are a few benefits of a central repository in a test case management tool that can guide businesses to choose tools that offer this feature. After all, a central repository is a one-stop for meeting all project needs. An attractive central repository with all the necessary items for facilitating testers and project stakeholders is a winner for test management.

Author Bio

Ray Parker is a senior marketing consultant with a knack for writing about the latest news in tech, quality assurance, software development, and testing. With a decade of experience working in the tech industry, Ray now dabbles out of his New York office.

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Why a Data-Driven Construction Process is the Only Way Forward

Being data-driven means building abilities, tools and a culture that acts on data. With the emergence of big data seeping in the construction industry, construction companies are adapting and innovating construction technology tools to process large quantities of construction data and extracting their value to their advantage. As more construction technology suppliers continue to study construction data and how to utilize them, it has become apparent that data-drivenness not only advances individual construction companies, it is vital for maturing the entire global construction industry. 

How do we create a data-driven construction company?

According to Carl Anderson in his book, Creating a Data-Driven Organisation, for a company to become data-driven, it has to have the following company qualities:

1. It must collect data.

For a construction company to be data-driven, it has to collect the right data. The collected data set must be relevant, timely, accurate, clean, unbiased and reliable. Data alone is not enough, quality data is what’s valuable.

2. It can access and query its data.

Other than being accurate, timely, and relevant, data must also be:

  • Joinable. The data must be in a form that can be joined to other enterprise data, when necessary. 
  • Shareable. For data to be joined, they must be shareable within a data-sharing company culture.
  • Queryable. There must be proper tools to query the data. Data reporting and analysis require grouping, filtering, and aggregating of data to prune large raw data into smaller sets of quality numbers and to compute metrics easily. 

3. It has the right people with the right skills to use its data. 

For a construction company to be data-driven, it has to have the right people to ask the correct questions of the data with the skills to extract the right data and metrics and to use that data for future steps. The right people should be able to utilise the data for:

  • Reporting. Reporting is basically extracting data and generating a report from it.
  • Alerting. Alerts are basically reports of what is currently happening. They provide specific data with well-designed metrics.
  • Analysis. The analysis is the investigation of data assets into usable insights that will help in decision making and drive actions using people, processes, and technologies. 

The hallmarks of data-drivenness

A data-driven construction company does at least one of the following three things that prioritize high-quality data and skilled analysis for future-proofed decision making, according to Anderson:

  1. A data-driven company performs continuous tests for process improvement. 
  2. A data-driven company has a continuous improvement mindset.
  3. A data-driven company is involved in predictive actions.

Data-driven processes demand transformation

Other than promoting an evidence-based culture, being data-driven makes construction processes and operations more precise, predictable and efficient. From greater demands in quality construction execution to building end-user comfort, data-driven efficiency demands for transformation in a lot of construction aspects.

Construction technologies and big data

The development and use of digital technologies and processes are essential in the required transformation of construction as an industry. Digitalization creates new functionalities along the entire value chain from the early phases of design to the final handover, up until the operational maintenance of a building project. The use of big data and analytics generate quality insights from the data gathered during the construction and the operations phase. Simulations and virtual reality identify clashes (clash detection) during the design stages. Using mobile connectivity allows real-time communication within companies and provide their construction teams with vital on-site information. 

A single platform for construction management

No two projects are identical but useful concepts and processes from one project can prove helpful when applied to another. The ideal goal is for companies to standardize these “lessons” for construction management to go through continuous improvement across projects. To facilitate the implementation of such standardization, using a company-wide software tool is ideal while taking note of the following steps. 

  1. Collect and consolidate construction project management data. Ideally, a monitoring system with a robust reporting tool should be in place to enable the continuous collection of project data.
  2. Standardize best practices. Evaluate individual projects and develop a list of best practice processes that can be used in a variety of different projects.
  3. Apply best-practice standards at the project level. Make your best practices mandatory and apply at the project level. 

Better management of subcontractors and suppliers

Poor coordination of purchasing materials and components delay projects and can create serious scheduling and costing problems. Hence, it is critical to integrate suppliers and subcontractors more effectively. Adopting construction technologies and related tools can help integrate the supply chain more closely and establish an agile and transparent supply chain throughout the entire project. These digital tools can improve service and reduce costs by providing end-to-end visibility and solution to the supply chain. 

BIM

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is gaining importance as a platform for central integrated design, modeling, planning, and collaboration. BIM provides all stakeholders with a digital representation of a building’s characteristics throughout its life cycle and provides several important opportunities. It facilitates a collaborative way of working among all stakeholders, from early design until operations and maintenance. By doing so, it promises great efficiency gains. 

Lean construction methods and management

A lean approach reduces complexity and uncertainty by reducing waste and non-value-adding activities throughout the entire value chain: it reduces, for instance, schedule deviations, waiting, stocks of building materials, transportation, rework and unused or underutilized resources. In that way, it makes processes more stable, predictable and efficient. That’s according to Lean Station. Other than improvements in cost and delivery, lean processes also better quality and safety with new digital construction tools that can help greatly in performing crucial safety processes and inspections.

Meticulous project monitoring

Project monitoring, especially on site, needs to be more real-time, forward-looking and future-proofed. It is also imperative for it to provide actionable data that can bring projects back on track. 

Smart buildings

With more technological advances being incorporated in modern buildings and construction, the cost of sensors, data storage, and computing services have gone down. With the prices getting more affordable, the general consumers and the government have been demanding greater energy efficiency in buildings and improved safety and convenience through connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). These improved and automated lighting and temperature controls and remote servicing also benefit the building owners and building end-users: reduced operating costs, reduced energy usage, greater comfort, and increased operational efficiency.

Construction software and apps play an important role in the implementation of the mentioned demands and needed transformations. They can also play a role in the crucial process of capturing as-built data from projects versus “as-designed”, which contains the original design drawings. The current construction industry transformation will rely increasingly on construction management software tools and BIM: they are capable of coordinating all stakeholders of a project and can facilitate on-site construction processes. The key is rethinking the approach to these construction processes and operations, that they can be receptive to these digital tools.

The Way Forward

The construction industry has been slow in adopting new technologies and is only embarking on a journey of the modern transformation. According to the World Economic Forum, this new era in construction will bring benefits for the wider society, the environment, and the economy by 

  1. reducing construction costs and adverse social effects
  2. improving the efficient use of scarce materials and reducing adverse environmental impact of buildings over time
  3. narrowing the global infrastructure gap and boosting economic development in general. 

This promise will unfold very soon, and very remarkably. Sweeping changes are taking place, however not yet on a wide scale. A lot of things are to be done. 

To move the industry forward, all stakeholders along the construction value chain should take action. The industry in its entirety should improve coordination and cooperation and agree on standards and common industry goals. Many of the challenges are common across the sector, but the industry remains variegated and fragmented. Construction companies have to choose their own paths of innovations and actions that suit their own visions and their clients’ needs to secure their individual futures and ensure an inspiring future for the entire industry.

About the author

Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild.

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Should You Hire a Freelance Writer for Your Business?

Content marketing is a must-have strategy for any business in 2019 for big corporations and personal brands alike. Your positioning in the niche and your reputation depend on it greatly. There is just one pesky downside – maintaining a blog takes a lot of time. Now, delegating some of the most time-consuming tasks to the professionals sounds like a good idea, yet will it work for your business?

Another issue is value for money. Services of a good writer can be costly, and if you are a small company or an individual webpreneur, your budget might be limited. Of course, you can always use a paper help discount code and order content from a service that matches you with content writers on a budget. Yet that’s a one-off solution for emergencies. What about long-time strategies, then?

To decide whether hiring an external freelance writer for your business, you must consider the following:

Personality and consistency

You want all your content and all messages to your audience from your brand to be consistently written in your brand’s tone of voice. That’s why hiring a freelance writer is tricky, since inconsistency in style will be apparent at first glance.

If you are a big and established brand with a style handbook, this issue can be navigated, since you have guidelines, recommendations, and a comprehensive portfolio of text that your ghostwriter can study and take as an example. Plus, there is a chance that your style is already known to them.

Still, even the most skilled and experienced writer does not possess the personality of your CEO or whoever they are tasked to mimic. So for content intended for the upper segments of the sales funnel, when you want your audience simply to see and read you, hiring freelancers makes sense. However, for the authoritative content with which you plan to build your reputation as the opinion leader in the niche, it’s better to use your own resources. Same goes for the strategic content that will make your visitors into leads and, subsequently, customers. 

Hire an in-house writer or editor if you think that your writing skills need some polishing, but write the content yourself. Who else but you has the expertise and authentic experience your audience came here for?

Consider the right balance

Working with freelance writers can be a good investment for your company when you begin positioning yourself. After all, they are professionals and their strong skills and abilities are something to learn from. Working with a writer can even help you to develop your brand’s tone of voice and your own writing style, which is a great investment in your business and the quality of the future content.

However, content writers usually lack technical and background expertise, even if they work in the same niche or with similar companies as yours. It isn’t really fair to expect it from them. Still, you can have the best of two worlds. You can jot down your ideas in a first quick-and-dirty draft and task your freelance writer with polishing it. This way you will present your audience with valuable insights in a sleek readable form.

Platforms

Another thing to consider is the intended platform. If the blog is hosted on your website, it gives you more flexibility with style and format. It’s a good place for both in-depth contents that requires an understanding of your brand and for entertaining stuff that hooks the passers-by and attracts a wider audience.

However, if you intend to win the social media game, you must play by their rules. To be the best on Facebook or Twitter you must hire a skilled SMM manager rather than a talented copywriter. If you seriously relying on social media for your success, you need someone who knows the subtleties of these channels, their audiences and ways to engage them.

All in all, it’s a decision that you make based on your company’s needs, available budget, and costs and benefits ratio. Either in-house or freelance – a writer is certainly not a must-have even in a content marketing game.

DevelopmentInsightsSEO

How Can SEO Professionals Do Business in a Sluggish Economy?

The SEO industry has resumed back its course, after the recent Google update! Now the SEO vertical is booming, and there are ample business opportunities that SEO professionals can grab and leverage. But there’s no guarantee, that’s how everything is going to be forever. The economy can change anytime and become sluggish. It can hamper business, and the SEO professionals might not have the required strategy to work their way out.

Economic downswings are inevitable! It occurs when you least expect them. Sometimes, SEO experts can see vital signs. An economic downswing will impact an SEO professional’s capacity to maintain revenue. But when you work out way well enough, you can even thrive during a slow economy. Today, you need to join hands with an ace SEO agency or service provider to stay guided and well advised. It will help your in-house SEO staff. To know more about this, you can check out Social Market Way

You can use the following steps to ensure positive results in a slow economy.

 

Maximize the marketing activity

 

As the economy slows down, usually people put a pause on the marketing activities. They minimize the costs every way possible. However, this strategy can result in a downfall. It is easy to understand why this can happen! If your marketing activity gets minimized, you lose out on valuable exposure as well. Less exposure means less revenue. It’s a negative downward spiral, and you should omit this.

A slow economy is a great time to review all the marketing strategies and recognize ineffective tactics, channels, and campaigns. You can even delete these. However, that should be an ongoing practice. Anything that you save will eventually get invested in some form or the other in your business. The added benefit is the fact that when the economy is not at its best, all the other market players and competitors will reduce their marketing initiative as well. And it will give you increased advertising scopes. And at times, you can get this done at a decreased price that you have access to. 

SEO professionals need to take a leap of faith and maximize their marketing. It might seem counterproductive for a while, but then SEO professionals will soon see the difference.

 

Get involved with direct sales 

 

Most SEO professionals aren’t very fond of the word “sale.” And that is the reason why very few place emphases on networking. And even a lesser number gets some business procured. However, the good news here is that it is familiar with all or most of your market-players. So, do you not prefer the idea of being out in public and get involved in direct sales? If yes, then you need to reconsider a few things. It is essential to move away from this feeling if you wish to make the most of a slugging economy.

Sales don’t necessarily mean high-pressure, sales-y tactics. It doesn’t indicate making a client uncomfortable with a sales proposal, forcing them to make a purchase. It is more to do with strategic initiatives. The best way to go about it is to choose a specific section of high-end prospects and start by connecting with them through a phone call, email as well as other face-to-face interactions.

The ultimate objective is to bag a client. The aim is to create a bond. It could mean you make a phone call or send a business proposal. It will help you to introduce your brand. And after that, you can start to qualify for the sales process slightly more. Take time out to understand the business requirements and pitch your product through a sales proposal mail. Here you can make use of the required keywords, to attract your client’s attention. For this, you need to do some extra background and research work. You should have this entire strategy planned. Else, there might be careless mistakes, which can cost you more during an economic downswing. 

 

Make the most referrals 

 

Most SEO professionals get a massive chunk of their work through referrals. And when the time comes, it is always best to connect with the references and ask for further recommendation. Make sure that you are clear about your business plans with the referrals. That will help them assist you better. You can send out a mail to the ones present in your referral list. Also, if there are a few names, that you feel you should get connected individually, go ahead and do that.

Your referrals might not have immediate work for you! The idea is to wait and get back when you deem fit. Sometimes, getting work means being active in your referral follow-up. Make sure you manage your referral list effectively even when the economy is back to a good shape.

 

Complete what you’ve undertaken

 

SEO professionals are never entirely out of a job! Even when the economy is sluggish, there’s some work or the other finish. It could be managing a keyword list, preparing cluster keywords, competitor analysis, and the like. You might have to develop a PPC strategy for a client that they will use once the economy bounces back. So, while you leverage your referral list and get engaged in direct sales, make sure that you don’t ignore what you have at hand.

Carry on with the SEO plan that you had proposed your client, for whom you are already working. But consider the current economic condition and make the necessary changes. For instance, it makes sense to reduce the SEO content and blog frequency when there’s an economic downturn. You might want to focus only those keywords of which you are certain. Experimenting with long-tail keywords and keyword cluster can happen later. Try and rephrase the old web content by adding a new tweak. It is a perfect time to make these critical changes.

These are some of how SEO professionals can still stay in business during a slow economy. It helps them to respond according to the current situations and also ensure that they don’t go out of business. You can even think of other strategies as they survive through the slow economy phase.

DevelopmentInsightsMartechSaaS

How to Use Instagram Live in Your Marketing: A 7-Step Plan

Instagram Live works like Instagram Stories, which has about 500 million daily active users.

What makes it even better is that Instagram Stories shows up on top of a user’s feed, so they’re more likely to get a user’s attention more than regular content.

But it gets better than that. When you use Instagram Live, you’ll show up in the first place of Stories that are shown on top of the feed. In other words, Instagram live is like a shortcut to the top.

But that’s just the start. How can you harness it to get more attention, create connections, and build your brand?

Instagram Live in a Nutshell

Just a few months after Instagram Stories went out, Live Stories was rolled out.

IG Stories are pictures or videos that disappear approximately 48 hours after being posted. This lets users share more without overposting on their feeds. It’s a casual way of sharing what’s happening, without having it archived forever.

Instagram Live, unlike Facebook Live, isn’t meant to last long. Once it’s over, they’re gone, and won’t be visible on a page of a user anymore. It’s one way to become spontaneous, and an excellent addition to Instagram’s set of features.

Aside from broadcasting, Instagram Live Stories can also be a form of interaction. Users can submit their comments and questions. It also lets broadcasters and viewers have a real-time interaction with one another. 

It’s also an excellent way to discover new content. The platform’s Explore page now has a section called “Top Live” which allows users to search and watch the most popular Live Stories.

Why You Should Utilize Instagram Live

Instagram receives the highest engagement among all other social media platforms, but its saturation caused big issues for its post reach. So, if you’re utilizing Instagram for your social media marketing strategy, you need to stay competitive to remain on top of your game. But how do you do that? Well, by keeping up to date with its latest features.

Now, we’ve briefly discussed Instagram Live’s benefits:

  • Authenticity
  • Improved user-engagement
  • Cost-effective in producing content
  • Builds a sense of urgency
  • Greater brand awareness

Overall, Instagram Live is a helpful feature that reaps a lot of benefits. But still, this feature is underutilized.

How to Use Instagram Live

Prepare for your live broadcast

If you want to have a successful Instagram live broadcast, then you need to prepare ahead of time. This is true, especially if it’s your first time going live on social media.

Treat it as if you’re giving a business presentation. You need to outline your speaking points, write your script, list down some Q&A questions, and most importantly, practice!

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for an Instagram Live broadcast is to record yourself in front of a camera first. Watch the recording again, and make necessary adjustments if you can.

Promote your live broadcast ahead of time

One of your main goals is to reach as many users as possible. The best way for you to get a larger audience is to appear on Instagram Live’s Explore Page.

According to Voy Media, a New York social media agency, “Just like with Instagram’s algorithm with regular posts, if you’re generating high engagement and viewers from your live forecast, it means that it’s high-quality and interesting with other users as well. So, the more viewers and engagement that you’ll be getting, the more will you able to get featured on the Explore Page.”

That’s why you must promote your Instagram Live beforehand. If you want to get a lot of views and engagement, then your audience has to know ahead of time.

See to it that you write a post with the live video as your topic to create a buzz about it. That way, you’re maximizing your chances of getting more viewers aboard.

Use it for product teasers and launches

Another trend about Instagram Live that businesses can utilize is to use it to tease viewers regarding product launches. In fact, it’s an excellent platform to build a lot of hype around what you sell.

Whether you’re teasing your followers for a future product launch or introducing a new product line, it’s a great way to generate tons of excitement around your business.

To utilize this strategy in your Live broadcast, get your most in-demand product and release a few details about it. Creating this kind of mystery will excite your followers even more!

After releasing the teaser, you can ask your customers to sign up to get more information. Having this approach creates an element of exclusivity in your live videos, which entices users to act immediately, and increases the number of leads that you get.

Invite influencers to participate

The Instagram Live strategy takes advantage of the “limited time” nature of the video stream. Unless you have replays of your videos, most users are aware that they only have one chance to join your forecast.

For instance, offering limited-time promo codes is an excellent way to boost a sense of urgency. But there are other options that you can try, as well, such as asking influencers to participate. You can ask to make a big announcement during the stream.

When you partner with influencers, they’ll post about your products and services, exposing you to thousands (or millions) of followers who drives traffic back to your brand’s website.

Announce promotions and flash sales

Another great way to boost your live video’s viewership is to announce that you’re offering limited time promotions in your broadcast. 

Therefore, if you have a discount, giveaways, promotions, and other campaigns that you want to offer to a selected group of people, then you better announce it beforehand. As soon as you go live, you can offer the discount codes and coupons to your viewers.

Host a Q&A session

Your customers might have a question on something, so being able to address it takes off the need to look it up by themselves.

Hosting a Q&A session on Instagram Live allows you to answer questions about your products and services.

Through the “Live Request” feature, users can personally join the video chat. This allows face-to-face interaction with your viewers, giving them a more personalized experience as they could be able to talk to you, one-on-one.

Create product demonstrations

For you to attract plenty of new users, you need to show them that you understand their needs and that you can offer the best solution for them.

Once your audience will get to know you better, their trust for your brand will build over time, until they believe that your products will serve them best and that you can cater to their needs.

Product demos and tutorials are a great way to engage your audience because it precisely shows them how your product works and how it solves their problems. During the stream, make sure that you know what you’re talking about and that you efficiently demonstrate every process to your audience.

To Wrap It Up

Overall, Instagram Live is another effective tool for reaching, connecting, and engaging with your audience in an all-inclusive platform.

So, make sure that you apply these Instagram Live tips to get the most out of your marketing efforts on Instagram.

DevelopmentInsightsSEO

How Can SEO Professionals Do Business in a Sluggish Economy?

The SEO industry has resumed back its course, after the recent Google update! Now the SEO vertical is booming, and there are ample business opportunities that SEO professionals can grab and leverage. But there’s no guarantee, that’s how everything is going to be forever. The economy can change anytime and become sluggish. It can hamper business, and the SEO professionals might not have the required strategy to work their way out.

Economic downswings are inevitable! It occurs when you least expect them. Sometimes, SEO experts can see vital signs. An economic downswing will impact an SEO professional’s capacity to maintain revenue. But when you work out way well enough, you can even thrive during a slow economy. Today, you need to join hands with an ace SEO agency or service provider to stay guided and well advised. It will help your in-house SEO staff. To know more about this, you can check out Social Market Way

You can use the following steps to ensure positive results in a slow economy.

 

Maximize the marketing activity

 

As the economy slows down, usually people put a pause on the marketing activities. They minimize the costs every way possible. However, this strategy can result in a downfall. It is easy to understand why this can happen! If your marketing activity gets minimized, you lose out on valuable exposure as well. Less exposure means less revenue. It’s a negative downward spiral, and you should omit this.

A slow economy is a great time to review all the marketing strategies and recognize ineffective tactics, channels, and campaigns. You can even delete these. However, that should be an ongoing practice. Anything that you save will eventually get invested in some form or the other in your business. The added benefit is the fact that when the economy is not at its best, all the other market players and competitors will reduce their marketing initiative as well. And it will give you increased advertising scopes. And at times, you can get this done at a decreased price that you have access to. 

SEO professionals need to take a leap of faith and maximize their marketing. It might seem counterproductive for a while, but then SEO professionals will soon see the difference.

 

Get involved with direct sales 

 

Most SEO professionals aren’t very fond of the word “sale.” And that is the reason why very few place emphases on networking. And even a lesser number gets some business procured. However, the good news here is that it is familiar with all or most of your market-players. So, do you not prefer the idea of being out in public and get involved in direct sales? If yes, then you need to reconsider a few things. It is essential to move away from this feeling if you wish to make the most of a slugging economy.

Sales don’t necessarily mean high-pressure, sales-y tactics. It doesn’t indicate making a client uncomfortable with a sales proposal, forcing them to make a purchase. It is more to do with strategic initiatives. The best way to go about it is to choose a specific section of high-end prospects and start by connecting with them through a phone call, email as well as other face-to-face interactions.

The ultimate objective is to bag a client. The aim is to create a bond. It could mean you make a phone call or send a business proposal. It will help you to introduce your brand. And after that, you can start to qualify for the sales process slightly more. Take time out to understand the business requirements and pitch your product through a sales proposal mail. Here you can make use of the required keywords, to attract your client’s attention. For this, you need to do some extra background and research work. You should have this entire strategy planned. Else, there might be careless mistakes, which can cost you more during an economic downswing. 

 

Make the most referrals 

 

Most SEO professionals get a massive chunk of their work through referrals. And when the time comes, it is always best to connect with the references and ask for further recommendation. Make sure that you are clear about your business plans with the referrals. That will help them assist you better. You can send out a mail to the ones present in your referral list. Also, if there are a few names, that you feel you should get connected individually, go ahead and do that.

Your referrals might not have immediate work for you! The idea is to wait and get back when you deem fit. Sometimes, getting work means being active in your referral follow-up. Make sure you manage your referral list effectively even when the economy is back to a good shape.

 

Complete what you’ve undertaken

 

SEO professionals are never entirely out of a job! Even when the economy is sluggish, there’s some work or the other finish. It could be managing a keyword list, preparing cluster keywords, competitor analysis, and the like. You might have to develop a PPC strategy for a client that they will use once the economy bounces back. So, while you leverage your referral list and get engaged in direct sales, make sure that you don’t ignore what you have at hand.

Carry on with the SEO plan that you had proposed your client, for whom you are already working. But consider the current economic condition and make the necessary changes. For instance, it makes sense to reduce the SEO content and blog frequency when there’s an economic downturn. You might want to focus only those keywords of which you are certain. Experimenting with long-tail keywords and keyword cluster can happen later. Try and rephrase the old web content by adding a new tweak. It is a perfect time to make these critical changes.

These are some of how SEO professionals can still stay in business during a slow economy. It helps them to respond according to the current situations and also ensure that they don’t go out of business. You can even think of other strategies as they survive through the slow economy phase.

DevelopmentInsightsMartech

Conversation Marketing: Intercom, Drift, and Gist 

The way people communicate has changed. These days, people are far more likely to message back and forth in a conversation thread on their phone than take a call or even email.

In response to these changing communication patterns, a new form of marketing automation called conversational marketing has emerged.

The main benefits of conversational marketing lie in its ability to shorten the lead generation process and target potential customers when they are most engaged. By using marketing automation software with either chatbots or live chat functionality, conversational marketing engages potential leads then and there, often when they are browsing a businesses’ website.

With many marketing automation software platforms available in the market, your ability to take advantage of conversational marketing depends greatly on the platform you use.

Let’s take a look at some of the major functions of conversational marketing platforms in the marketing automation software space and see how the major players compare.

Email Marketing

Intercom doesn’t offer email marketing functionality, at least not in the typical sense anyway. While the platform doesn’t give users the ability to send broadcast or drip campaigns via email, it does give businesses the power to send personalized, one-off email communications to leads or existing customers.

Drift has recently introduced email functionality into its platform. Like Intercom, the focus remains very much on the live chat tool and the email functionality is almost like an afterthought. Drift has designed their email tool to ‘deeply integrate’ with their chat feature. While this is great from a user perspective, it doesn’t allow businesses to send anything more than one-off emails. 

Gist has always had email marketing functionality, giving businesses the ability to communicate with leads and existing customers through email however they like. The Gist email tool includes broadcast functionality, drip campaigns to nurture leads and one-off email.  – including emailing your list and collecting email addresses.

Winner: Drift may be suitable if you are only communicating with your clients one-on-one, otherwise Gist is a better option to build your database.

Chat

Intercom is first and foremost a live chat platform. Intercom is by no means new to the game, and have fine-tuned their offering over this time. While Intercom does offer impressive functionality, the standout here is the simplicity and visually appealing look of their product, both in the front end for users and the back end for businesses. 

Like Intercom, the chat is at the core of Drift’s offering. It makes sense that its chat functionality is impressive. In addition to a simple, user-friendly interface for both businesses and front end users, Drift offers businesses the ability to really hone in on leads and send individual leads directly to certain team members based on pre-set criteria. 

At a glance, much of the functionality offered by Intercom and Drift is also there in Gist’s live chat feature. One added perk is direct integration to Facebook, giving businesses greater flexibility over where they continue the conversation with clients.

Winner:

If you are just looking for a simple, good looking chat feature with no other extras, you may do better to go for Intercom. 

Help Desk

Intercom offers an impressive Help Desk feature that is well integrated with its chat tool. Using a combination of the two, businesses can set up chatbots to answer commonly asked questions and help existing customers after hours. The tool also enables businesses to create a knowledge base of articles for quick reference in the future. 

Similarly, Drift does offer tools to support current customers via chat, although they pail in companion to the help desk offered by Intercom.

Gist’s help desk tool is similar in many ways to that offered by Intercom. Like Intercom, the Gist tool allows businesses to set up chatbots to answer questions and create a knowledge base of articles to save time for both your team and your customers. The real benefit of the Gist help desk tool is its ability to track and save data on every customer interaction, not just those that happened through chat. 

Winner: While Intercom and Drift both offer good help desk tools, the ability to track customer interactions across different platforms is just too good. This one goes to Gist.

Knowledge Base

Both Intercom and Drift offer a fully functioning knowledge base with many similarities. Both platforms allow businesses to quickly create and edit articles, organize and save drafts with ease. One big plus for Drift is the integration of their knowledge base and their bot building tool, allowing businesses to easily add this functionality to custom chatbots. It’s worth noting though that the bot functionality is only available on Drift’s top tier packages.

Similarly, Gist offers complete knowledge base functionality with many of the same features. One nice benefit Gist offers is the ability to easily add rich media like images and videos into your articles. 

Winner: While all platforms offer a good knowledge base product, the competitive price of Gist makes this the best option. 

Meetings

Both Drift and Gist offer inbuilt meeting scheduling tools on their platform, allowing businesses to seamlessly facilitate meetings between leads and their sales and marketing teams. While both tools offer similar functionality like the ability to book meetings through live chat and bots, Drift’s tool includes the ability to send links with one click schedule. 

While Intercom offers over 100 integrations, including some of the major scheduling tools, they do not have an inbuilt tool. 

Winner: While Drift and Gist both offer impressive meeting scheduling tools, the addition of one-click scheduling wins this for Drift.

Marketing Automation

While intercom doesn’t specifically offer a Marketing Automation tool, they include features called ‘smart campaigns’ and ‘targeted messages’ that serve a similar purpose. In a nutshell, these tools can be used to create automated drip campaigns and automated messages to leads.

Like Intercom, Drift offers some marketing automation tools for businesses to segment users and market to them based on the actions they take on your page.

In addition to automated messaging within the chat tool, the marketing automation feature within Gist enables businesses to automatically tag site visitors based on their actions, communicate and store this information in your CRM system as well as subscribe users to drip campaigns.

Winner: You can’t go past the all in one marketing solution offered by Gist.

Event Tracking

Both Drift and Gist offer a similar level of event tracking, enabling businesses to track the movements of leads on their site and use this data to market to them. Intercom doesn’t currently offer event tracking capability.

Winner: While both Gist and Drift offer a similar level of tracking, the functionality, and scale of data within Drift make this a better option.

Chat Bots

All platforms offer chatbot functionality, each with a few unique benefits. Drift’s chatbot tool is perhaps the most advanced, offering businesses the opportunity to customize their bots and integrate these into their sales cycle.

Where Intercom shines is the creation process, with a visual bot builder ensuring this process can be done by even the most tech-shy business owner.

While the Gist chatbot tool isn’t yet quite as slick as that offered by Intercom and drift, it’s worth noting that this feature is included as part of the platforms standard package and is available for far less cost than you would pay with Intercom or Drift.

Winner: The super easy bot builder wins this for Intercom. 

Forms

As they are primarily live chat tools, neither Intercom or Drift offers a forms tool. As part of their email marketing platform, Gist offers several customizable forms to help businesses launch their sales funnel and get leads on the hook.

Winner: Gist by default.

Pricing

Let’s break down the pricing structure of each platform.

Intercom

Intercom offers all three components of its software separately or bundled together. While this allows businesses to tailor the perfect solution to suit them, it can be confusing and may work out to be more expensive.

As a complete solution, Intercom starts from $136 per month for the Essential plan, going up to $202 per month for Pro. It’s worth noting that some major integrations like Salesforce and Zendesk are only available on the Pro plan.

Drift

Drift’ pricing is refreshingly simple compared to Intercom. All services come bundled together and are available in three packages. For small businesses, Drift offers the majority of the functionality of the platform for free for up to 500 users per month.

For businesses with more site traffic, the Standard package will run you $50 per month including 2 team members. This also includes custom greetings, a live view of site visitors and email sequencing. Additional team members can be added for $25 per month.

Top of the line is the Pro package for $500 per month. This includes access for 5 team members as well as the ability to automatically schedule meetings and sync data with your CRM platform.

Gist

If you are on the fence about Gist, they offer a 21-day free trial to get a feel for the platform. 

Similar to Drift, Gist offer a free plan to small businesses with up to 500 contacts per month. Next is the Standard plan for $29 per month which includes reporting, email marketing, ticketing, knowledge base, and a lead qualifying bot.

Top of the line is the Pro package for $79 per month. This includes all features as well as chatbots, automated meetings, event visualizer and marketing automation.

DevelopmentInsightsProducts

Can You Trust a Machine That Thinks Like Us?

Trust, specifically the lack thereof, is one of the challenges currently facing the artificial intelligence industry right now. The critical underlying assumption of No trust, no use is making it difficult for developers, tech companies, and AI engineers to build trust in AI and facilitate faster adoption or usage.

Despite the many great promises AI hold, the potential dangers and the issue of not knowing how it works to make people wary of using the technology. Notable figures such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have previously expressed concerns about the dangers that AI poses to humanity, with some of them going as far as speculating that AI will eventually make humans extinct. 

But before we delve into this controversial topic, let us first define what artificial intelligence is. Artificial intelligence, widely known as AI, is all about building machines that can think and act like a human. It has a wide and varied range of applications, some of which we interact with every day. If you’re using Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, then you’re already engaging with AI. Google’s search algorithms are also a form of artificial intelligence. Software testing automation tools, which is becoming popular among developers, are also applications of artificial intelligence. Soon, self-driving cars, independently-operating appliances, and other AI-powered machines will become a common household item. 

Trust Issues 

Despite the benefits, people are finding it hard to trust AI. The lack of trust is also one of the common reasons why some of the best-known AI efforts failed. IBM’s Watson for Oncology, for example, failed to impress cancer doctors during its PR attempt, causing the project to become wasted. The doctors didn’t trust Watson’s results because they didn’t understand how the machine came to its conclusions.

This begs the question; how do AIs think? An AI’s decision-making process is too complicated for ordinary people to understand. The only people who know how a particular machine works are the developers and the company that manufactured it. But the end-user usually doesn’t have any idea what goes on inside these machines’ “brains.” And it is part of human nature to feel anxious when people don’t understand something, making them feel that they are losing control.

This is how the concept of explainability becomes critical. In the case of Watson’s, if the doctors understood how Watson came up with the results, they might have had a different opinion of it and their trust level may have been higher. AI developers and tech companies should do a much better job at explaining to people how their systems work and how they arrive at certain decisions to avoid misunderstanding. Some AI systems are easy to understand, but most of them will need to work hard to simplify the explanations or ‘dumb down’ AI algorithms to make them explainable.

Unfortunately, complicated algorithms such as deep learning and machine learning will be harder to interpret, so these trust issues won’t be going away any time soon. 

Machines That Think

One of the amazing, and probably scary, characteristics of AI is its ability to ‘think.’ Being able to analyze data, make deductions, and arrive at a decision based on them reveal the infinite potential of artificial intelligence. The concept of Terminator’s Skynet may not be even far off in the future. With AI’s machine learning and deep learning concepts, a world filled with self-thinking machines is getting closer to reality. 

Machine learning and deep learning are common AI buzzwords, and examples of them are everywhere. It’s how Netflix predicts which flicks you’ll want to watch next or how Facebook recognizes the people in a photo.

Machine learning is defined as:

“Algorithms that parse data, learn from that data, and then apply what they’ve learned to make informed decisions.”

This concept is commonly used by services that offer automated recommendations, such as music and video streaming services. By understanding the user’s music selections and comparing it with other users who have similar preferences, the AI can list out songs or movies that the user might like. And this algorithm is designed to be constantly learning, just like a virtual assistant. The more you use the service, the more accurate the AI will be in predicting what you like.

Deep learning, on the other hand, is a subset of machine learning, except with different capabilities. Most basic machine learning models usually become progressively better at what they do, but they still need the guidance of some form. For example, if the algorithm comes up with an inaccurate recommendation, the engineer or developer has to make adjustments. With deep learning, the algorithm can decide on its own, whether the prediction is accurate or not using its neural network. 

Google’s AlphaGo illustrates how powerful deep learning is. This computer program created by Google has its neural network that knows how to play the board game Go. Go requires sharp intellect and a lot of thinking, so it is amazing how AlphaGo can play against the level of professional Go players.

Should You Trust Thinking Machines? 

The debate about whether AIs should be trusted or not is a hot topic in the tech world. No matter how powerful AIs are, they still lack man’s judgment capabilities, causing them to make mistakes or provide inaccurate results. The processes behind AIs thinking process is hard to explain and people tend to be wary of what they don’t know of. 

Should we trust AI? The answer probably depends on these questions:

  • Does it perform well? 
  • Is the machine safe and was it built correctly? 
  • Does the machine perform the way it was intended? 
  • Can we predict the results? 
  • Does the machine adhere to ethical standards?

Computers are becoming an integral part of our lives, and automation is only going to become more popular over time. It has become increasingly important to understand how these complicated AI and machine learning systems are making their decisions before people will come to trust them.

Author Bio

A Computer Engineer by degree and a writer by profession, Cathy Trimidal writes for Software Tested and Outbyte. For years now, she has contributed articles focusing on the trends in IT, VPN, web apps, SEO, and digital marketing. Although she spends most of her days living in a virtual realm, she still finds time to satisfy her infinite list of interests.