Cryptocurrency Adoption: How You Can Get Started By Alan Rita

Bitcoin may still be the most popular cryptocurrency out there, but a simple Google search will show you there are many more. You may stumble on sites lauding five to ten cryptocurrencies as the only ones worth investing in, or only ones you should be familiar with, but according to CoinMarketCap, at the time of this writing, there are 1,530 cryptocurrencies. In contrast, there are only 180 currencies recognized as legal tender by UN member states.

Just three years ago, in a PWC Consumer Cryptocurrency Survey, 83 percent of respondents said they’re slightly familiar or not at all familiar with cryptocurrencies.

And it’s likely some of you reading this would have fallen into that camp if you took the survey three years ago. However, in the three years since then, you’ll agree that more individuals and businesses have become aware of Bitcoin at least, if not any other cryptocurrency. But even though more people have and are using Bitcoin, some still do not know how it works.

There are just two steps here to help you get started. And that’s solely not to overwhelm you.

1. Educate yourself

This is a general problem even for some users of cryptocurrencies, and for good reason because there’s a lot to learn.

For starters, you should learn what cryptocurrencies really are, how they work, what they are used for, and potential drawbacks to using or investing in cryptocurrencies. That will help you make a more informed decision in choosing or avoiding a virtual currency.

An education also involves learning about many terms associated with cryptocurrencies as you’ll see them used and thrown around a lot. For example, here are common terms you can start with (in no particular order):

  • Fiat
  • Altcoins
  • Tokens
  • Ledger
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges
  • Wallets
  • Mining
  • Investment portfolio
  • Arbitraging
  • Staking
  • Trading

As a quick example, most people commonly buy and trade cryptocurrencies on exchanges. Simply put, exchanges are places (online of course) where you buy and sell digital currencies using fiat. In the crypto world, “fiat” is any conventional currency recognized as legal tender.

Popular exchanges include:

You don’t need to go the Coinbase, Binance, or Bittrex route these days to get Satoshis. And if you’re wondering what a Satoshi is, it is the unit name for 10 millionth of 1 Bitcoin, i.e 1 Satoshi = 0.00000001 BTC. Stablecoin like Tether USDt was created as an alternative for exchange and wallet audits which are currently unreliable due to constant fluctuation common in other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Unfortunately, Tether is currently experiencing some trouble.

If that makes you skeptical about using Tether, you may opt for an alternative like the Kowala kCoin. Still, the market cannot be stabilized by one or two stablecoin, so having a variety of stablecoin is the solution to a centralized market. Thankfully, there are other stablecoins springing up too.

As you can see already, there’s a lot to learn, and it can get overwhelming. Fast. So go ahead and start with the basics as mentioned earlier, and take it up from there.

2. Use spare money

With all the buzz around cryptocurrencies and their benefits, it’s easy to overlook the risks associated with them generally. But you shouldn’t be oblivious of them. They include:

  • Volatility: The prices of digital currencies are rising and falling in the open market. One Bitcoin was worth less than $1000 at the beginning of 2017, but by the end of 2017 it was worth over $15,000. At the time of this writing it is worth over $9,000.
  • Security: Do a little digging around and you’ll find terrible stories of hacked exchanges, stolen Bitcoins, and lost private keys. Cryptocurrencies may be lauded for secure and faster payments but you’ll still need to protect yourself, just like you’d shield yourself from phishing scams and credit card fraud.
  • Trust issues: Remember I mentioned there are 1,530 cryptocurrencies earlier on? The reality is that some coins are fake or a scam and some could be inactive but people may still try to sell them to you or make you invest in them. And then there are fraudulent exchanges too.
  • Regulatory problems: Complete adoption of cryptocurrencies could render banks and online money transfer services useless, so understandably, decision-makers in those sectors are fighting the crypto revolution. Additionally, most governments despise cryptocurrencies because they lack a central authority through which it’s easier to track currency movement and ultimately trace criminal activity. Don’t be surprised if cryptocurrencies are completely banned in your country like they are in China and Vietnam currently.

Considering these problems, you should take the following precautions:

  • Invest spare money: This is the most important precaution of all, because if all fails and maybe authorities suddenly ban cryptocurrencies in your area or your coins become valueless due to price fluctuations, it will hurt less. Trust me you don’t want to find out how emotionally attached you can be to your digital currency. Use only money you can afford to lose, because it’s a risky investment.
  • Protect your money: You are obligated to protect your digital currencies just like you’d guard your fiat. You can do that by enabling two factor authentication, using secure passwords, and always visiting any sites related to your crypto account directly or from a bookmark and not via a search engine result.
  • Use stable coins: There are lots of stable coins out there, invented to help deal with the volatility of cryptocurrencies. Two popular and trustworthy ones are Kowala kCoin and Tether USDt, both mentioned earlier, but if you choose to opt for another, carefully research it like you’d research an exchange platform or cryptocurrency before trading on it or buying it respectively. A common search term you can use is “(insert cryptocurrency or exchange name) scam” and go through the results with a fine comb.
  • Always do research and/or ask questions: I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, always research and ask questions about concepts you don’t know or understand. This is valid advice even in other spheres of life. Use the internet. Check multiple sources because sometimes people often have vested interests in tools, exchanges, or coins they recommend to you; or sometimes ask an expert.

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay

Digital currencies have come a long way, but they’re still far from mass adoption at the moment. But like other newer technology before it, there’s hope it will come good. Invest wisely, and try to have fun while you’re at it.

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Why Windows Phone Failed By Jonathan Lynch

At this point, it’s no secret that Microsoft effectively killed off its Windows Phone mobile OS. In 2017, it announced the end of additional features for its failing platform. This is hardly a surprise, as Microsoft’s market share amounted to less than 0.5% of overall smartphone users. Even for a company the size of Microsoft, which can afford to take a major hit or two to their bottom line to gain entry into new markets, Windows Phone proved to be an unmitigated disaster. As Steve Ballmer later admitted in an interview, even the acquisition of phone veteran Nokia for $7.1bn failed to save the mobile operating system. So what went wrong? How could one of the biggest names in technology fail to get a foothold in the mobile arena? The answer comes down a weak app ecosystem.

Putting Developers First

Consider Microsoft’s chief rivals in the mobile arena: Android and Apple. They have two completely different approaches when it comes to how software is distributed through their online marketplaces. Android tends to be more of a ‘wild west’ setting, with hundreds of thousands of apps all vying for downloads. Android’s vetting process for listing apps on their storefront is less rigorous than Apple’s, a fact that has lead to periodic outbreaks of malware and adware apps. Yet the no-holds-barred approach has allowed app developers to flourish on the platform. No app creator developing software for Android worries about finding users.

Apple, on the other hand, takes a more involved approach to ensuring the minimum level of quality of apps listed on their store. Developers are put under far more scrutiny than on Android, and the terms of service for Apple’s App Store allows Apple to pull down apps at will. Nonetheless, Apple supports their developers. With integrated development environments like Xcode supporting forward-looking languages like Swift, the barrier of entry to becoming an iOS developer is much lower than that of Windows Phone.

A Vicious Cycle

Microsoft was never able to overcome these two core issues. They weren’t able to compete with the massive user base and ubiquity of Android devices sold around the world. Their development tools, reliance on the relatively old and impenetrable language of C++ for their native apps, and overly complex Windows Phone framework were unappealing to veteran mobile app developers used to working on iOS. With so little incentive for developers to bring their existing apps over to Windows Phone, Microsoft was stuck in a negative feedback loop. Developers didn’t want to waste time and resources on creating software for an unpopular platform. The platform never increased in popularity because staple apps weren’t willing to make the jump. The downward spiral never ended for Microsoft.

Looking to the Future

It would be naïve to suggest that no other mobile operating system will eventually supplant iOS and Android. The technology industry is prone to disruption and innovation. Existing leaders today always run the risk of becoming the next Xerox or Blackberry. But if a new operating system is going to give Android or iOS a run for their money, it’s going to have to accommodate developers. It will need to use a native language that’s powerful, but easy to learn and flexible. Its storefront will need to keep malware out, but still embrace upstarts and new ideas. Finally, it must have access to the users that form the backbone of apps like Venmo, Snapchat, and other hit apps. We don’t know what the next big mobile OS will be, but we know that its creators will look back on Microsoft’s attempt for cues on what not to do to succeed.

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How Your Small Businesses Can Avoid Issues with Cloud Storage By Riley Panko

For many small businesses, cloud storage offers huge benefits. It allows cheap, reliable, and secure data storage. In fact, cloud storage can be a small business’s life raft when natural disasters hit, like last year’s hurricanes.

However, cloud storage can also cause issues. For small businesses with sometimes limited resources and technical expertise, it can be difficult to know how to properly set up or migrate to cloud storage.

Read on for tips on mitigating common issues related to small business cloud storage.

1. Is your particular provider causing issues?

Common small business cloud storage providers have different strengths and weaknesses. You should select a provider that offers the reliability, space and security you need for your small business.

A recent survey on cloud storage providers found that the most popular provider for small businesses is Google Drive, followed by Microsoft OneDrive.

Ghazanfar Ghori, CTO of 10Pearls, a software development and end-to-end digital services company, said that small businesses should seek out enterprise-grade providers.

If a product is enterprise-grade, it means it can be scaled for large organizations. Even if a small businesses does not need support for a large number of users, enterprise-grade providers tend to be more reliable and secure.

Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are both considered enterprise-grade to Ghori.

iCloud is not an enterprise-grade provider and in fact, users of the provider reported the most issues in the past 12 months.

2. Are you struggling with how to pay for cloud storage?

While cloud storage is often cheaper than storing data in an on-premise solution, costs can still add up. However, small businesses can alleviate cost by storing data based on how often it’s accessed.

The largest percentage of small businesses pay between $51-250 per month for their cloud storage provider.

Cloud storage can fall into different types, including backup and sync services. Cloud sync services allow data to be accessed frequently and collaborated on by users. This is what many people most commonly think of when they imagine cloud storage.

However, types of cloud backup services allow businesses to store large amounts of data for a long time at cheap prices – if they will not access the data frequently.

This type of cloud backup is called “cold storage.” Since it will not be frequently accessed, it does not require a large amount of processing power, and it can be offered at cheap prices.

Ghori mentioned that this a great option for industries that need to store data for long periods for legal reasons.

“For the mortgage industry, or any industry with regulations requiring you to keep copies of contracts for 60 years or 30 years – [Amazon] Glacier is a great option, as long as you trust Amazon not to go under,” he said.

By separating your data depending on how often it needs to be accessed, your small business can save money on cloud storage costs.

3. Are you concerned about security?

In the past, cloud storage often invoked fears of security breaches and data unreliability. In fact, cloud storage can be more secure than on-premise options for many small businesses – if they use it properly.

Almost all small businesses (97%) ranked security as important to consider when selecting their current cloud storage provider.

Small businesses should ensure they implement additional features that can protect their cloud storage data from both hackers and simple employee carelessness.

A great example is two-factor authentication. This feature is often already integrated as an option into many cloud storage providers – you simply need to turn it on. Then, whenever a user tries to login, they’ll need to input their login information, as well as a code that is sent to their mobile phone or email.

Thus, if someone is trying to improperly access the data, they’ll need both a user’s login information, as well as access to their phone or email – an unlikely occurrence.

Cloud Storage Offer High Value for Small Businesses

Do not be intimidated by cloud storage’s theoretical issues. Often, any obstacles will far outweigh the benefits cloud storage providers offer to small businesses. Just be sure you are proactive knowledgeable when it comes to your small business’s cloud storage.

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7 Important Mobile App Development Trends You Need To Pay Attention To By Britt Armour

There has been continuous growth in the mobile app market as more companies are adopting the mobile-first mindset. However, as user behaviors are shifting at a rapid pace, companies must adapt in order to meet the demands of their users. Here are 7 trends that will define the mobile app development landscape in 2018.

1. Mobile Wallets and Microtransactions

According to Juniper Research, 1.5 billion mobile wallets were in use around the globe in 2017, and this is expected to continue through 2018.

This year, more users will turn to their mobile phones to make daily payments as people are less likely to carry cash. The mobile wallet is undoubtedly the way of the future, so if you haven’t considered offering mobile payments as an option to your customers, it’s probably a good move to make this year.

Developer

Mobile Architect, Marco Cirillo, explains we’ll also see more microtransactions, “We’re already getting used to paying money to play mobile games, for example, users will spend $2 to spin the wheel early, rather than waiting 24 hours. I expect to see more of this in a wide variety of apps, not just games. I imagine more news apps will give a number of free articles per day before users have to pay for more.”

2. A Focus On Security

There will be a huge push towards security in 2018. Both Apple and Google are committed to making security their top priority in 2018. It will be crucial, particularly concerning mobile payments, mobile banking, emails and the list goes on.

It’s important for mobile app security to be considered at the beginning of development with code encryption, secure back-end, and API, reputed payment gateway. You should always test your app in every possible scenario before releasing it to the app store.

Marco predicts that “security will be a top priority. The end of 2017 already trends in this direction, as a result of the Apple macOS High Sierra empty password hack and the Intel Management Engine hack.”

3. Chatbots & Artificial Intelligence

AI chatbots are becoming increasingly present in mobile apps as trailblazing companies such as Amazon have proven the success of AI in mobile. Large companies should have AI on their radar as consumer demands are trending in this direction.

CTO of Clearbridge Mobile, Sanjay Malhotra explains, “a year ago, building AI into mobile apps would have been extremely difficult and costly. Today, it’s a lot less expensive and we can incorporate Microsoft Cognitive Services, Google services, or Amazon services that use AI to make a mobile experience more intelligent, anticipate users’ desire and needs, and present information in context that we couldn’t do even a year ago.” 2018 will be the year of the enterprise chatbot as cognitive services have advanced exponentially.

Users are searching for more effortless interactions with brands and are now expecting channels of communications to be open 24/7. They want accessibility and availability when it comes to interacting with a company. 52% consumers prefer to interact with businesses via a messaging app rather than over the phone or in person. These changing user demands will encourage enterprises to implement human-machine communications that are both efficient and accurate to meet these demands.

This year, chatbots will become a lot more intelligent with the possibility of responding to voice commands or even making contextual recommendations. As chatbot APIs become more advanced in the year to come, security will be a priority for companies.

A recent Gartner study even revealed that every mobile app will incorporate AI to some degree within the next few years. Companies are quickly investing in AI with billions of dollars spent on AI acquisition over the past year.

4. Virtual & Augmented Reality

In an era where experiential retail is becoming more important, there are many ways AR and VR can enhance the way customers interact, navigate, and shop.

We’ll see more companies use AI to help users envision a product in their own home. A few examples include Ikea and Wayfair, helping customers visualize furniture in their own home. AR is especially accessible because it’s simple: it can be used on practically any smartphone with no extra equipment needed.

Marco Cirillo says, “Just last fall, Apple introduced Animojis and I’m sure there will be growth here as we find useful applications of AR. They are also pushing more resources towards expediting their AR glasses development.” These are just the earliest attempts at a new technology that may eventually become mainstream. Back in 2014, Google unveiled Google Glass and although consumers weren’t ready for such an innovative product, it seems that 2018 may be the year. Several months ago, Google revealed Google Glass Enterprise Edition (GGEE) that has been in the works for two years. This time, Google offers new opportunities to solve business problems. This signals a tipping point towards the wide adoption of AR wearables. A Forrester Research report affirms that millions of enterprise smart glasses will ship by 2025.

Additionally, we are seeing travel companies use it to create simulations of tropical escapes, realtors use it for virtual tours of homes for sale, and car companies use it for virtual test drives.

5. On-Demand Services

Non-game apps saw a higher growth rate than mobile games, with approximately 66% year-over-year growth, climbing to $38 million. This is mainly generated from on-demand streaming apps such as HBO NOW and Netflix. In 2017, users spent a shocking 98% more on entertainment apps compared to the year prior, according to Sensor Tower.

It also expands beyond streaming apps with users wanting other on-demand services such as haircuts, food, laundry, and so on. “Uber and AirBnb already corner the taxis and rent-a-bed markets, but I think Uber for tutors, tradespeople, or haircuts will see high growth.” Marco Cirillo states.

6. Surge of IoT

Analysts predict that IoT will grow from $157.05 billion in 2016 to $661.74 billion by 2021 and we’re just at the beginning stages of this growth.

Last year we predicted that IoT apps will surge along with smart home technology. This proved to be true in 2017 and will continue to grow in 2018 as homes get much more interactive. Sanjay Malhotra predicts that “devices will tell us what to do instead of waiting to be told.” Forrester Research has even predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value.

However, instead of explosive growth, this year will be about steady growth. Currently, companies are struggling with fragmentation and security issues that will need to be addressed this year. The retail, healthcare, and supply chain industries will experience the most growth with IoT: Retailers are taking advantage of the ability to interact with their customers in personal ways, the healthcare sector is using wearable devices, and supply chains are tracking products in factories. The future of IoT looks very promising and 2018 will show a positive trajectory as companies realize the full potential of IoT.

7. The Rise to Kotlin For Android App Development

Last May Google announced that it was adopting Kotlin as a high-level language for Android development. This open source language is based on Java Virtual Machine and can also be compiled to JavaScript source code.

Kotlin is both an object-oriented (OO) and functional programming (FP) language. It is compatible with OO and FP styles allowing developers to incorporate elements from each form. Kotlin offers support for higher-order functions, function types and lambdas, making it a great choice for functional programming.

There are several massive brands who have already switched to Kotlin including Amazon, Pinterest, Netflix, and Uber to name a few. Kotlin is still in its early stages of growth but Mobile Developer Alexey Redchets says, “Kotlin is quickly proving itself to be a superior programming language for Android applications. It is presenting Android Developers with the opportunity to experiment with modern programming.” Alexey also suggests that “the language will significantly impact mobile app development and will eventually replace Java”

An App Annie report that was released last fall revealed global app revenue and downloads in Q3 hitting record levels of $17 billion and $26 billion as a result of the adoption of the smartphone in emerging markets. The mobile app market doesn’t show any signs of slowing as the report forecasts that worldwide app downloads are likely to hit 240 billion and consumer spend will reach $100 billion by 2021.

The mobile app space is rapidly changing and as technology continues to evolve, it’s increasingly important for companies to stay ahead and maintain a competitive edge.

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The Productivity Benefits of Working with Custom App Platforms By Ann Monroe

These days, apps are being built by IT professionals, professional developers and line-of-business employees alike, be it within large enterprises or at small and medium-sized companies. Because there are many options and many considerations, businesses need to understand what to expect when choosing a platform to create custom apps, one that doesn’t require prior coding experience. This practice is becoming more commonplace and is not an either/or choice between working with first-time developers or the IT department. Rather, both can work together in new ways to create custom apps that achieve business goals.

By using a custom app platform, you will increase productivity significantly and enable mobile teams. You will be more agile, as well. However, there are capabilities to be aware of and concerns that must be addressed. Below is a primer for businesses looking to get started with low-code/no code custom app technologies.

Why should you use custom apps?

Organizations have many varied reasons for choosing a custom app. However, data from the recent State of the Custom App report reveals three of the top reasons:

  • 91 percent saw an increase in team productivity.
  • 77 percent saw a reduction in data entry, freeing employees to focus on business goals instead of busywork.
  • Custom apps have a high time-to-productivity; 57 percent of businesses had their custom app up and running in under three months.

Getting started – Determine your need

Make a list of tasks that inhibit productivity. Let’s say, for instance, that you have field sales reps who take orders on paper forms. The reps then have to return to the office to input those orders into your computer system. It’s a double-entry nightmare. Or your sources of important business information are scattered across multiple systems that not everyone has access to. You lack the visibility you need to gather this information and make informed business decisions that will help your company maximize productivity for greater business gains.

Next, rank the list based on what would make the most difference to your business if you could increase productivity. You might be looking to manage projects, tasks or schedules. You may want to manage customer, client and member contacts.

The State of the Custom App report provides an excellent example of what organizations can do with custom apps. A market research firm focused on renewable energy programs needed an easier way for technicians to collect data. Its work involves data collection in businesses and in people’s homes, as well as administration of many surveys. By using a custom app, the firm reported a 40 to 60 percent reduction in data-intensive tasks and a consequent increase in team productivity of 20 to 40 percent.

A best practice is to start with an easy application first and join a community associated with your chosen platform, if possible. In this way, companies have a great chance of initial and ongoing success. But what must you consider when choosing a platform? Let’s take a look.

Evaluate the available options: Factors to consider

For those who are new to a market, it’s hard to know what capabilities to look for and what concerns to be aware of. When evaluating the available platforms, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Do the development and deployment tools abstract away complex coding challenges?
  • Does the platform let the business users quickly iterate to solve problems, even as their needs change?
  • Does the platform connect to legacy systems and external technologies using REST APIs and provide support for external SQL data sources?
  • Does the platform have built-in support for proven security standards so that the app you build is safe to use?
  • Does it have a vibrant community that can help troubleshoot and offer tips and encouragement?
  • Does it offer online video education that walks you through the app building process?
  • Does the platform allow for cloud, private cloud and on-premises deployments?

Time to implement: Other things to consider

Once a business has decided upon a low-code tool, it’s essential to ensure that best practices are put in place in terms of regularly keeping IT policies updated, classifying data in terms of risk and enforcing role-based access. These practices both empower the business users and mitigate risk to the company.

This brings up the concept of collaboration with the IT department. Organizations can look at the workload of their IT team and weigh it against the urgency of need for a given custom app. This will help them decide whether to give the project to the IT team or put it in the hands of “citizen developers” – those with little to no development experience. Low-code/no-code platforms make this possible, but that doesn’t mean you can or should bypass the IT department altogether. IT team members have valuable insider knowledge and can help ensure security and other policies are built into the app as needed.

Build toward success

Organizations need to act quickly today to optimize their processes or risk being left in the dust. Custom apps are one of the quickest ways to solve business problems – and in a cost-effective manner. Greater productivity is available to businesses that take the plunge into building their own custom apps. Use the information above as a guide to navigate the low-code/no-code/custom app platform market and find the one that will best serve your needs.

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9 Social Good Blockchain Companies You Should Get Behind By George Beall

There’s a lot of recent hype surrounding blockchain-based cryptocurrencies and get-rich-quick schemes, but it’s important to recognize that blockchain’s powerful technological capabilities are also capable of implementing worldwide social change. Here are nine companies using the blockchain platform to make the world a better place:

  • Impact PPA

Growth in the renewable energy sector is essential for the human race to survive climate change, and access to electricity such growth provides could be life-altering for communities who currently lack adequate power to run hospitals or water sanitation facilities. But financing renewable energy projects has historically been difficult, lengthy, and bureaucratic.

Impact PPA uses blockchain tokens to democratize renewable energy funding into a far lower-friction, faster model. In the Impact PPA ecosystem, a dedicated token can be allocated by its purchasers to fund renewable energy projects. The projects then generate their own energy-representing tokens, which are paid back into the ecosystem as users purchase electricity.

  • Blockchain Intelligence Group (BIG)

While blockchain is a revolutionary technology, its historical association with illegal cryptocurrency transactions on the dark web is holding back its full development. Mainstream investors are unsure about trading in funds that may have been used for money laundering, drugs, or sex trafficking.

BIG has tackled this problem with their BitRank software, which uses analysis of blockchains and wallets to identify and flag sources of cryptocurrency that may be involved with suspect activity. By promoting the legal and ethical use of blockchain, they help bring the entire ecosystem into the future while taking financial tools away from money launderers and traffickers.

  • Agriledger

The global crop economy is plagued by inefficiencies harming both growers and buyers, such as when crops get thrown out in one region while hungry marketplaces go underserved in another region, or corruption further up the supply chain means farmers face prohibitive market conditions.

Agriledger seeks to alleviate this by creating a blockchain-based network of farmers and suppliers, where co-ops and small producers have immediate access to accurate information about market costs and can create transparent, immutable transaction agreements to ward off corruption.

  • Bloom

A stable and accurate credit identity is essential to accessing financing options such as loans or rental agreements, but many people worldwide don’t have a credit profile because they lack access to comprehensive banking services or have moved from one country’s system to another.

Bloom uses blockchain ledgers to create stable BloomIDs for each user, which are then used to report on existing debt arrangements and provide an alternative credit score for individuals who might easily be given a bad or non-existent ranking by traditional institutions lacking access to their full financial history.

  • Alice

The internet has facilitated the rise of crowd-funded philanthropy, where individuals can give small amounts online to social projects. But there’s little in place beyond basic trust to ensure that a project receiving funds is spending ethically or accomplishing its goals.

Alice uses an Ethereum-based token to allow users to give to social projects of any scale across the globe. But those tokens are generally held in trust or only partially given to participating charities until very specific achievement metrics are reached (distributing 100 meals, planting 100 trees, etc.). By making funding contingent on accomplishment, charities are incentivized to be effective, transparent, and efficient.

  • World Identity Network

Identify verification will be an increasingly important challenge as humanitarian crises force refugees to flee their homes and try to establish themselves in nations without their original identification documents. It’s already a challenging issue in the world of combating child trafficking, as many children globally lack a birth certificate and thus are difficult to rescue or provide with social services.

The World Identity Network is working in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services in order to provide a blockchain-based identity for individuals in these vulnerable communities, rendering access to vital identity-confirming info accessible regardless of their location.

  • Handshake

Migrant laborers constitute a massive global economic force and often travel to different countries or even continents to work. Unfortunately, the distance between where laborers first sign their contract and where they wind up working (often separated from the protective family and cultural structures of their homes) means that their contracts are often exploitative, convoluted, or simply ignored.

Handshake seeks to remedy this by codifying migrant labor contracts onto the blockchain. By providing workers with secure, immutable, and universally accessible information on the terms of their employment, Handshake seeks to empower laborers to protect themselves from unethical recruiters or employers.

  • Provenance

Supply chains are complicated, and their complexity only increases as our economy becomes more and more globalized. This makes it difficult for consumers to find out basic information about how and where their goods were produced.

Provenance is working on changing all that, and their software is already used by over 200 retailers and producers. Information about materials that go into products is stored on a blockchain that can then be accessed by shoppers considering different purchases. By facilitating transparency, Provenance incentivizes ethical supply chain choices.

  • Clean Water Coin

Nearly one billion people worldwide lack clean water, and the health and mortality consequences of that fact are huge. Charity: water is one of the world’s leading nonprofits trying to change that. And the Clean Water Coin allows crypto users to help them.

Every transaction or mining action using the coin donates a percentage of its value to Charity: water. Users can also buy ad space using their coins, and business partnerships and efficiency-maximizing exchange protocols are also in the works.

What are some other ways blockchain can be applied to social problems?

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Does Your Brand Need A Mobile App? Here Are The Top 6 Signs By Britt Armour

“Does a brand really need an app to succeed today?” is a question many companies ask themselves when evaluating their mobile strategy. However, there is no simple answer to this question, and for this reason, we’ve created this guide to help you determine if your brand really needs a mobile app to succeed in today’s economy.

An app isn’t just a distribution medium. It’s a communications channel and if you use it right, apps can help you learn from, adapt to, and engage with your customers, so that you can address their needs while simultaneously meeting your business objectives.

Here are a few stats to illustrate the tremendous amount of opportunity for the mobile app development industry in the coming years. As of March 2017, there were 2.8 million available apps on the Google Play Store and 2.2 million apps in Apple’s App Store. In 2015, global mobile app revenues amounted to 69.7 billion U.S. dollars and by 2020, mobile apps are projected to generate up to 188.9 billion U.S. dollars in revenue streams via app stores and in-app advertising.

Websites undoubtedly offer many benefits to strengthen a brand’s customer experience, however, having an online presence alone is no longer sufficient. Back when websites were new and innovative, people thought online shopping with carts, live chats, etc. were ingenious. Websites are essential today, particularly with e-commerce brands. Similar to the growth of website development in the last decade, apps are no longer a novelty. They’re part of a larger strategy that companies shouldn’t ignore due to their brand building potential.

Customer Expectations Are Shifting

Customers are demanding convenience. They want instant access to information, ability to explore options, regardless of where or when. And importantly, they expect their experiences with companies to be extremely relevant to them.

If your brand doesn’t include mobile, you’re not putting yourself where your customers are. And as a consequence, you’re missing out on major opportunities to connect, engage, influence, transact, and support your current and potential customers.

Top 6 Signs Your Brand Needs A Mobile App

The shift to mobile has gotten many companies realizing that they need to target their customers in a more personalized way. To have an effective mobile strategy, brands have the ability to interact with their customers from any place, at any time. That’s not to say that you should build an app just because your customers are spending a lot of time on their smartphones. Your app needs to offer value beyond what other platforms (such as your website) offer. Here are 5 telltale signs you should develop a mobile app for your brand.

If you get a lot of mobile traffic to your website: This one is obvious. If you’re receiving a lot of mobile traffic to your website, it’s a telltale sign that you should develop a mobile app. You should be identifying when and where your users are interacting with your brand. Are they visiting your website on the go? A lot of mobile traffic on your website means that customers want to engage with your brand on their smartphone so you need to help them out and offer them a personalized, mobile experience. Make it easy and effortless for your customers.

If your customers are a younger demographic: A comScore report indicates that people who fall in the age group of 18 to 24 years of age use more mobile apps than any other group. They are followed closely by 25 to 34 year-olds.

Another study found that almost 50% of millennials have downloaded a shopping app on their phone and over 27% use retail apps shop using apps to take advantage of exclusive offers and discounts. These statistics prove that millennials above all other age groups are looking for mobile experiences.

Your company is e-commerce based: Although you may be getting a lot of sales through your e-commerce website, have you considered your mobile shoppers? Don’t just rely on shoppers via your website. A mobile app can boost profitability with specials, push notifications, and so on. Your core customer base is demanding loyalty integration, richer shopping experiences, and new ways to engage with your brand.

If you have a brick and mortar store: Statistics show that shoppers are already using retail apps during their in-store visits. More than half of shoppers who have retail apps use them while shopping in-store, for reasons like redeeming in-store discounts, finding products, and viewing product ratings and reviews. Leveraging the data collected about your customers can help you personalize the in-app experience while shoppers are in-store, which can not only enhance the experience but streamline the path to purchase and drive in-store sales.

If you can offer more value beyond your website: The first step in any mobile strategy is understanding what your customers want from your brand. Can you provide them with even more value via a mobile app? How can a mobile app address a pain point for them? The more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to address the pain point they’re looking to solve.

If your competitors have a mobile app: If your competitors already have a mobile app, you’re behind on the game. It’s not too late to gain that competitive edge. What are your competitors doing well? Where can they improve? Don’t build an app that already exists. Offer your users a unique experience that provides more value than any of your competitors.

The Benefits Of Developing A Mobile App

Mobile has become rapidly integrated into our lives. According to new data released in March, consumers spend up to 5 hours per day on their mobile devices and time spent in mobile apps had increased 69% year-over-year. We know apps play an essential role in our everyday lives, but how can your brand benefit from mobile app development?

1. Enhance the Customer Experience

Building an app all comes down to one overarching goal and that is to enhance the overall customer experience. It’s an app completely designed around making the customer experience as frictionless as possible, and its functionality is entirely aligned with the company’s core business function.

From a brand’s perspective, your mobile app is more than just a catalog of your products. Your app offers another channel for your customer to interact with your brand. It not only enhances your retail experience, but also offers its own, critical experience. Properly leveraged, your mobile app can be a great evangelist for your brand.

2. Increase Brand Visibility

If your customers repeatedly see your brand’s app on their phone whenever they use it, your brand sticks in their subconscious. However, brand awareness only goes so far. If you want to strengthen your customer-brand relationship, you need to provide your users with a great deal of value to keep them coming back. Pinpoint a pain your customers are having so you can offer a mobile app solution that will make their life easier, encouraging them to use your app frequently. For example, apps that offer rewards to their users, or special in-app promotions, encourage users to return and get them to convert. Developing a mobile app will increase brand visibility, but one that offers your customers a great deal of value will strengthen your brand’s image overall.

3. Boost Customer Engagement

Another way to strengthen a customer-brand relationship is to engage with users in a meaningful and memorable way. How do your customers want to communicate with your brand? No one wants to wait for a representative from a call center. Users these days want immediate, personalized communication.

Additionally, a mobile app will allow you to connect with your customers directly, sending them relevant and personalized information.

The more aligned the experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely they are to continue to use the app. Help them engage with your brand with the least amount of effort. This all contributes to the overall user experience. If the user is satisfied with the app experience, it will amount to better ratings, reviews, and users will spread the word, which means more downloads.

4. Gain A Competitive Edge

Building a mobile app also allows your brand to stand out amongst your competition. Your customers will recognize that you’re finding a solution to address a problem they’re having. Customers notice the brands that are adapting over the ones that aren’t as their needs evolve. Don’t fall behind when your competition is giving your customers what they want, when they want it.

5. Generate Additional Revenue

If you are looking to boost conversions, mobile apps are a great medium to push users further down the conversion funnel because they encourage repeat conversions from customers that are on the go. Additionally, you can generate revenue from advertising and app downloads if your app is pay per download.

What Do Mobile Apps Offer That Websites Don’t?

When it comes to mobile apps, users often switch over from a mobile website to the brand’s mobile app due to convenience and the ability to navigate faster. But mobile apps offer a lot more than responsive websites besides convenience. One of the main reasons why mobile apps offer a richer experience is because of the accessibility of device features. Some include the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on. Some others worth mentioning include:

Biometrics: Newer mobile devices are designed with more advanced technology, and apps are now being built to leverage these tools. With biometrics such as fingerprint-scanning and retina identification, devices are now able to confirm a users identity, allow them to make purchases, and the list goes on.

Camera functionalities: Many mobile apps take advantage of device cameras so that users can complete tasks such as refilling a perscription, depositing cheques, and so on. A few examples include the Walgreens app and CIBC.

Augmented reality: Augmented reality is top of mind for many companies. With the continuous release of AR integrated apps, there’s no surprise that development of augmented reality will continue to skyrocket. This year, Apple unveiled a game-changer that will help developers build more immersive experiences with the new ARkit. This will transform the way customers interact with brands.

Mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if you need access to a user’s camera or processing power a mobile app is a much better option.

Is A Mobile-Friendly Website Enough?

There are obvious benefits to having both apps and responsive websites, however, they don’t offer the same user experience. Mobile optimized websites are key to any company’s success, however, they provide the user with a completely different experience. With responsive design, a website can double as a mobile experience, but it is limited by the mobile browser. If your mobile website has browser latency, for example, it may result in negative brand experience.

Research proves that the mobile experience plays a huge role in how customers perceive a brand, which inevitably determines how they will interact and engage with it.

With the shift to mobile, companies now need to understand how consumer behaviors are changing. Mobile apps can be built for different platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. which allows each experience to be optimized according to user preferences, and to the device for which it’s built. When you’re considering expanding your brand to a mobile app, consider a few things. Is your website delivering everything your brand can offer? How can you provide your users with even more value? Will a mobile app solve a problem for them?

An app is essentially an extension of your brand and a means for companies to further engage with their customers. If your website is offering enough for your customers, then an app may not be the best investment. However, customers want hyper-personalized experiences and immediacy. For this reason, the shift in user behaviors over the last decade is an opportunity to expand your brand’s mobile strategy beyond a mobile-friendly website.

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