As smart phones have grown in popularity, cellular network capacity has become increasingly stretched. As a result an alternative is needed to meet bandwidth demand. Hello, Wi-Fi. Today many cell phone carriers have Wi-Fi offload plans to limit the cost of expanding their capacity.

Take AT&T for example, the large carrier has set up approximately 30,000 of its own hotspots in Starbucks, McDonald’s and other public facilities in part to satisfy its subscriber’s media data network demand.

Small carriers however, are taking a more innovative approach to sourcing Wi-Fi capacity, by using a software called Devicescape. San Bruno, CA company Devicescape has identified an untapped opportunity to utilize unprotected public hotspots to expand cellular network capacity. David Fraser, CEO acknowledges this opportunity:

“There’s a huge network that’s been hiding in plain sight… Why not use it?”

How it Works

Devicescape have created a continually updated database of unsecured Wi-Fi routers owned by businesses and organizations. This database of usable hotspots is growing at a rate of 25,000 spots per day. Currently Devicescape has a database of 9 million unprotected hotspots. Devicescape’s software has been sold to mobile carriers such as MetroPCS and Republic Wireless. These carriers then install Devicescape software onto their network’s handsets. When these carrier’s subscribers make calls (unbeknownst to them) in many cases the Devicescape software will automatically detect and connect to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot with available bandwidth.

Benefits of Devicescape’s Approach

Devicescape offers significant client benefits enabling approximately 40% of their mobile data to utilize Wi-Fi hotspots. While customers won’t necessarily know the difference, Wi-Fi is typically faster and more reliable reducing connection disruptions.

Threats of Devicescape’s Approach

If every carrier adopted this software, many public free Wi-Fi hotspots would get flooded with users, slowing access speeds. This could then lead to greater use of password protection, reducing the number of hotspots available.

There are also legal risks surrounding the Devicescape software. Harold Feld Senior VP of Public Knowledge a digital rights group, acknowledges that while Wi-Fi siphoning is probably not illegal, it is nevertheless a gray area:

“It’s like a limo pulling up in front of a soup kitchen for the free food.”

Devicescape has been careful to measure hotspot traffic to avoid already overburdened Wi-Fi hotspots. Nevertheless, the company has received complaints from some business owners. In response to such complaints Devicescape’s database has been amended accordingly to abandon using those hotspots. So far this response has been sufficient and the company has not yet been sued. 

Mobile data traffic is expected to increase 78% a year through 2016. With increasingly scarce network capacity in busy (city) areas, Wi-Fi can enable cell phone carriers to offer additional bandwidth without substantially raising costs. Time will tell if Devicescape’s approach can be sustainable, but given AT&T’s increasing purchase of Wi-Fi hot spots; the use of Wi-Fi offloading by cellular carriers looks set to continue.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


If you’ve been to any popular tourist spot, chances are someone on your Facebook friends list has too. After all what frequent Facebook user hasn’t seen a friend’s vacation snap shots of somewhere they themselves have been at some point? Frequently people posts pictures in front of popular tourist haunts such as the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace, with Mickey and Minnie at a Disney theme park or even with that Times Square cowboy. Perhaps such pictures are even better shots than yours. Maybe your Facebook friend had better weather; which lets face it is very possible with the Buckingham Palace example. With so many people having similar vacation experiences, which are now more visible than ever before, it may be harder than ever to have bragging rights when it comes to travel.

An article in the July 23, 2012 edition of Fortune Magazine, suggests that there is a growing trend of one of a kind travel experiences. The article claims that a growing number of companies in the travel industry are starting to offer travel experiences that go beyond generic tourist spots. Here are some company examples:

Frommer’s Remix: this successful travel guide company now offers itinerary creation based on destination preference and interests. Users even receive a custom-made book containing maps to the different activities based on the hotel they are staying at.

An AirBnB option in France, image courtesy of Pinterest

AirBnB: back in May I featured a blog post on AirBnB, a San Francisco start-up, which offers a wide variety of things to rent. The website’s diverse offerings include interesting places to stay and unique activities. There’s an experience for almost any budget. You can go on a street food tour of London with locals or go to an urban rooftop farm in New York or an architecture exhibition in Munich; the options when you think outside the box are endless.

Fortnighter: New York company Fortnighter utilizes the talents of over 100 freelance travel writers’ local knowledge to create custom itineraries based on a user’s interests and preferences. This company custom designs trips of any length and can even help you decide where to go. Here is an example:

“One client asked the company to structure a three-week road trip through New Zealand. He had heard of caves full of mesmerizing glowworms but didn’t know any details, so Fortnighter’s writer did the research, tracked down an outfitter to escort him through the caves, and found hotels for 10 stops along the way.”

Essentially the company creates customized vacations based on local knowledge to save people hours of research.

One&Only Resorts, image courtesy of Pinterest

One&Only Resorts: One&Only Resorts is an upscale hotel company that tries to create memories by surprising its guests. The company’s concept is based on details, if a guest mentions a favorite food or song, the company will find a way to surprise them accordingly, perhaps by playing that song at dinner and serving that favorite food item. Essentially this concept reminds me of creating magical moments, something I did in my days as a Disney cast member.

Based on a True Story: An option for the millionaires out there, Based on a True Story organizes just a few dream come true trips each year. Here is the description of what they offer:

“We take our clients to the most secluded, untouched and awe-inspiring locations on earth and create… a magic-carpet-ride of exclusive experiences…  all in utter privacy. A travel experience that is individually created and truly yours alone. Our holidays provide strategic and seamless discovery, encompassing an eclectic range of incredible events and activities enriched by exceptional private chefs, slick logistics and utterly exclusive and authentic accommodation.”

One group of past clients were enjoying a bonfire after a South African safari, only to be surprised by Zulu tribes people performing a battle and drum performance. Based on a True Story trips include a professional photographer who helps to create a book of the once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think of the growing trend of experiential vacations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This weekend while visiting the bay area, my husband and I went to the LA Galaxy vs San Jose Earthquakes sold out (55,000 tickets) soccer game at Stanford Stadium.

6 p.m. on the evening of the event, an hour before kick off we were only a mile from the event’s dirt parking lots. We turned on to the final street the Embarcadero, to find traffic that resembled a parking lot.

7 p.m. game start time, the fly by goes over our heads. We had moved maybe about 0.4 of a mile in an hour. By 7:30 p.m. we could see parking in the distance, SUVs were mounting the curb to cross over the street, while other people were doing illegal u-turns just to get to the event.

The Stanford Stadium event organizers appeared to have neglected logistics. There was no one to direct traffic, no police, no cones, nothing. It was not until we pulled onto the dirt lot that we found a few disorganized attendants attempting to direct people on a car-by-car basis. The radio commentators acknowledged that a lot of people were struggling to get into the event, but quickly changed the subject by talking about how amazing the event was, as if it didn’t matter that a lot of people had bought tickets for a game they would be lucky to see half of.

We finally made it to the event at 7:45 p.m. The traffic was still deadlocked behind us and once parked people were running to the stadium. The final mile had taken over 1 hour 45 minutes, which seems unbelievable even 3 days later; but yes this seriously happened! We made it to our seats in time for the second half.

Here are some comments from various Yelp reviewers on getting to this event:

“Stadium gets 4 stars… if you were able to teleport there magically… Whoever manages the events here deserves to be criminally charged with something… When you approach the stadium there are no signs and no one directing traffic… I have never seen a stadium with such a pathetic and chaotic parking situation… I ended up missing half the game (as did thousands of others as there was still a long line of cars as I made my way into the stadium)…
 It felt like no real thought had gone into how this parking situation was going to work.”

As a result of the traffic situation, the event’s vendors likely missed out on concession and retail sales. When you arrive at an event so late, shopping or stopping at food stands is not an option for many people who just want to see what’s left of the game.

On a more positive note the second half of the game was AWESOME! Two goals were scored, it was really entertaining and there was a great atmosphere. David Beckham randomly started a fight with an Earthquakes player, illustrating the rivalry of the two teams; it was constant action and time flew by. The game ended with a large firework display, which was not bad at all.

My take away from this, is that when organizing an event with 55,000 people expected, you need to think of the details and plan for different scenarios of what will and what could happen and figure out the logistics. Work with the police to organize a traffic system, put up signs and have people there to direct the traffic. Make sure to communicate the traffic situation so that people coming from out-of-town, know to allow hours to get there. Stanford Stadium hosts many large events and have tennis championships coming up. Hopefully they will do a better job at future events of coordinating traffic to ensure people get to see the full event they have paid for.

Attended any badly organized events? Share your experiences and tips on event organization in the comments section below.

Making the bed is definitely a daily chore for many of us. However, this task may become redundant in the future, for purchasers of OHEA’s “smart bed”.

Spanish company OHEA; have created a bed that literally makes itself. The video below previews the smart bed:

As you can see from the video the smart bed is very streamlined and simple and looks like a piece of Ikea furniture.

How it works

The bed is equipped with a device that triggers 3 seconds after an occupant has gotten out of bed. In just 50 seconds the side arms of the bed open up and a roller bed making mechanism is activated. To avoid the annoyance of having your bed remade every time you get up during the night, the device can also be set manually, to only make the bed when a “go” button is pressed on a remote control. For safety purposes the device will not function while any pressure is applied.

Target audience

The target audience for this product is ultimately any one looking to save a few minutes a day by eliminating this chore. However, the user that can benefit most from this technology is anyone who for health reasons cannot easily bend and make their bed.

Smart bed options

The smart bed is currently available in 5 different sizes. At this point in time the smart bed is not compatible with regular bedding. Each smart bed comes with two sets of smart bed compatible bedding.  The company anticipates having a broader variety of bedding options in the future. Certainly at this time the bed is very simple and given its lack of multiple pillows and blankets, it looks like the simplest kind of bed to make manually. As the technology progresses, this is inevitably likely to change.

The smart bed’s U.S. release date and pricing has not yet been announced. However, the company is accepting queries on their website, where you can also learn more about this innovative product that could revamp your morning routine. 

Recently on an outing with friends, our group split up into two groups for a short period of time. Not long after we tried to arrange by cell phone to meet for dinner at a restaurant one of the groups had found. Unfortunately, trying to give directions when neither group knew the area well enough to know exactly where they were, in relation to the other group’s location, was challenging even for a group of MBA students. After a lot of time wasted wandering around we were all reunited, only to find out our two original locations had originally only been a block or two apart. Yes, seriously! If only we had, had Mapfia, it wouldn’t have been so complicated.

Mapfia is a smart phone application that enables its users to share their real-time locations on a map. In the case given above instead of calling and describing our locations, we could have used the Mapfia app to see one another’s locations on a grid, to get real-time directions instantaneously. Indeed, Mapfia was even created in order to eradicate situations like the one I described above. Mapfia was founded by a team of engineers, who frustrated with giving directions on the phone, set out to make navigation and location sharing simple and secure. The video below shows how the technology works:

Mapfia could also come in useful for business people. For example, realtors could use the application to help direct their clients to a house viewing.

While many location-sharing applications raise privacy concerns, this does not appear to be the case with Mapfia. For security purposes Mapfia users only share location information for the duration of the phone call. Once one party hangs up the phone the other no longer has access to their real-time location.

I think the Mapfia application has great potential, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

In this blog I’ve written extensively about organization and industry change. I recently read a paper in the McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Developing better change leaders” and wanted to share 4 tips, I learned from this paper and other research on leading transformational change.

  1. Collaborate: Collaboration across departmental and hierarchical boundaries can help organizations to achieve transformational change. The key to getting employees to buy into change is dialogue not dictation. Through dialogue, employees’ concerns can be addressed and ideally eliminated, so they can start to learn how the proposed change will be better. As people become more open, the organization becomes more transparent and trust is fostered, enabling collective solution building and idea sharing to occur.
  2. Map out the change process: While some adaptability will be necessary, by having the change process mapped out and communicating it, expectations can be shaped of what will happen, what could happen and when it may happen.
  3. Find the courage to be honest when having difficult conversations: When addressing the negative impacts change will bring such as layoffs, be honest with employees as soon as it is feasibly possible to do so. Work with employees who will face layoffs to help them find new jobs either within the company or with another company. Provide training, mentoring and support to empathetically engage with the displaced employees.
  4. Use your experience to train and mentor others: Leaders who have experience in transformational change can play a pivotal role in training and advising lower level managers. Such leaders can share their experiences of what worked well and not so well in previous change initiatives. They can then help subordinates to develop the skills necessary to move the organization forward.

While different companies will have different change situations, the above tips offer some generalized guidance. But what do you think? Feel free to add your own tips on leading transformational change in the comments section below.

The title of this blog post may at first glance confuse you, as Burberry is a luxury fashion brand, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect to have a digital innovation focus. Indeed, traditionally many luxury businesses have put technology on the back burner out of fears of diluting their brand exclusivity. But Burberry is different.

When Angela Ahrendts became CEO of Burberry in 2006 she began reinventing the company’s brand image and operations. She also redefined the company’s target audience and identified an opportunity existed to increase sales among high-net-worth global younger consumers.

Ahrendt’s vision is to:

“Create a company where anyone who wanted to touch the brand could have access to it.”

In order to make this vision a reality and to reach younger consumers many of whom are digital citizens, a digital platform was needed.

By using social media platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, accompanied with SAP application technology and with help from salesforce.com; Ahrendts has begun to transform Burberry into a social enterprise.

Here are some of the components of Burberry’s digital strategy:

An interactive website: Burberry have created an interactive website that entices its visitors to return. On the Burberry website you can watch fashion shows and see artistic creative videos displaying the latest collections. Customers can even order many of the fashions displayed in the videos. There is also an acoustic section on the site that exhibits music videos from previously unknown British singers and groups all wearing Burberry clothing, further promoting the brand.

Salesforce.com: Burberry has incorporated the Salesforce.com Chatter platform to use internally as a portal to enhance communications throughout their operations. When Burberry’s sales teams noticed larger male customers were unhappy with the fit of one of the suit styles, the Chatter enabled them to immediately bring this information to the design team to make adjustments. The company also uses the Salesforce.com Radian6 product to track and analyze what people are saying about them on social media.

Twitter: Burberry holds “Tweet-Walks” bringing images of models wearing their new collection minutes before their models hit the runway.

Facebook: Burberry did an exclusive Facebook fan only sample giveaway during the pre-launch of the Burberry Body perfume.

SAP: Burberry partnered with SAP to develop an application to provide greater customer service. The application will enable sales associates globally to pull up a customer’s information including their transaction history of all past Burberry purchases made anywhere in the world and their Burberry social media activity.

I think Burberry’s digital innovation strategy will continue to be successful for the company as its focuses on creating a wow experience to greater engage their consumers that goes beyond using digital strategy to increase sales. What do you think of Burberry’s digital innovation? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

On June 19, 2012 it was announced that US pharmacy Walgreens, had acquired a 45% share in European pharmacy, health and wellness corporation Alliance Boots, for $6.7 billion. The deal marks Walgreen’s biggest deal ever, which also gives the corporation the option of purchasing the remaining 55% share after 3 years.

I was interested to hear of this acquisition as I am familiar with both companies. Since I moved to the U.S. there has been a Walgreens in many of the areas I have lived in. Similarly, growing up in the UK almost every British high street had a Boots and I remember frequently shopping at this retailer/pharmacy. Alliance Boots, was formed in a 2006 merger of European wholesale and retail pharmacy group Alliance UniChem (founded in 1997) and British high street pharmacist and retailer Boots (founded in 1849).

Walgreen’s acquisition offers the following possible synergies:

Economies of scale: analysts suggest that there will be a perceived $1 billion in cost savings by 2016, if pharmaceuticals are successfully merged.

Gain greater leverage over pharmaceutical companies: by building a larger global chain, Walgreens will acquire greater negotiating leverage over its pharmaceutical and beauty consumer product suppliers. This could potentially enable Walgreens to purchase drugs and other products for lower prices to increase their profit margins.

New product offerings: Boots has numerous strong own brand lines, which have the potential to do well for Walgreens. These lines include Botanics (skin care and make up), Soltan (sun block) and No. 7 (make up). Indeed, several of these lines are currently sold on a limited scale at some CVS and Target stores. Following the acquisition it is expected that these deals will be discontinued as Walgreens seek to exclusively introduce these brands into their stores.

Become a global player: executive chairman of Alliance Boots, Stefano Pessina acknowledges the transformational power of this deal:

“I have always believed that our industry needed a global player and I have really worked for that for the last 10 years, and at the end to have the possibility to really make this dream true, it’s really fantastic for me. I have done many deals in my life, and some transformational deals, at least transformational at the time. I have to say that all the deals I have done are really very small if compared to this deal.”

Once the deal is complete the company will operate over 11,000 drugstores in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

This video further sums up the deal:

Time will tell how successful this deal will be. However, questions are already being asked regarding whether Walgreens paid too much for Alliance Boots and if using some of their shares for the purchase was wise. Reflecting these concerns, on Tuesday the day after the deal was made Walgreen’s stocks fell 5.9% to hit its lowest point since September, 2010. However, Walgreen’s executives appear unsurprised by this:

“We knew that it could be an initial roller coaster ride and a few days for the market to digest. But, we’ve done ample homework and the deal will change the game.”

I think Walgreens is a risk seeker, which I like. Walgreens has had a number of struggles the past year with falling sales and the Express Scripts scenario, so this deal could either be a disastrous distraction or a big success. But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

I first found out about Greg Blencoe’s book The Supermanager when I stumbled across some of his blog posts.  I enjoyed the posts and connected with him on Twitter.  He subsequently visited my blog and over the last few months he has been a great supporter and shared many of my posts.  I was thrilled when he offered to send me a copy of his book to review, as in honesty given my enjoyment of his blog posts, I would have in time purchased the book anyway.

Greg was previously CEO of Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc. an alternative energy start-up company and also published the Hydrogen Car Revolution blog.  In his book The Supermanager, Greg shares seven principles of great management told in a conversational tone through a short story.  The story begins by introducing Andrew, a management program trainee in the Electronics industry, about to embark on the daunting task of managing 6-8 people.  Just prior to beginning his new management role, Andrew is having lunch at a fast food restaurant, where he is surprised to see happy, motivated, efficient and engaged employees.  Upon his return visit he receives a similar experience and approaches the restaurant manager Leo to learn more about effective management.

Over seven subsequent meetings Leo shares the following 7 management principles with Andrew:

1. Surround yourself with high-quality employees

As a manager your employees play a big role in determining your success, so it is important to hire great people. 

2. Train employees well

Put yourself in the new employees position, thoroughly explain the job, encourage questions and guide the employees in the right direction.

3. Communicate the end result you want, then empower employees to achieve it

Manage the result over the process, pick your battles and confront unproductive behavior.

4. Lead by example

As a manager your actions set the standard for your employees to follow. 

5. Listen to employees

Have an open door policy: be available, open and receptive in order to uncover problems and obtain employee suggestions.

6. Praise good work

Positively reinforce good performance by all employees to increase the likelihood that such actions will be repeated. 

7. Manage each employee differently

Take a customized approach to management that acknowledges that different employees have different needs, abilities and are motivated by different things.

While many of these principles are common sense, as Greg acknowledges in his book and as I know from my experience they are unfortunately not necessarily common practice in many organizations.  What I loved about this book is its accessibility. While balancing moving states, working a full-time job, grad school and job searching delayed me getting around to reading this book, when I finally did, I found it to be a quick read at only 97 pages long.  I would definitely recommend this book to organizations that are looking for a book to give to new managers that provides a great overview of effective management.  Often I have seen companies give their managers huge management texts hundreds of pages long.  Such books are daunting to many overwhelmed new managers who may not know where to start. By contrast, The Supermanager is a far more time efficient read and a lot more approachable for managers in any industry.

In addition to the seven principles, this book also demonstrates the importance of having the courage to approach people you wish to emulate.  I have heard entrepreneurs such as Laura Zander from Jimmy Beans Wool speak on the importance of approaching people in your industry in order to learn from them. Similarly in the case of this book new manager Andrew saw Leo a manager in an unrelated industry doing a great job and sought to learn from him.

The Supermanager is a simple but effective short text, for the manager who is serious about becoming a great manager.  I would encourage you to check out this book, which is available for purchase on Amazon.

A week ago I moved to Reno, NV and am now 15 – 20 minutes walking distance from downtown’s river walk district.  I am already enjoying being able to walk to restaurants, a movie theater and other nearby entertainment options, as this is what I was used to growing up in Europe.  According to a recent issue of BusinessWeek for the first time in twenty years there is a US nationwide trend of cities growing faster than suburbs.  Many people are choosing to move into cities, a reversal of the 1960’s urban exodus.  One company looking to take advantage of this trend is big box retailer Target, who are experimenting with smaller stores in city centers.

Target has traditionally focused on suburban communities to drive revenue growth.  However, shifting demographics and the current economy has led to smaller revenue growth.  Indeed, before the recession hit Target added 22 new stores on average each quarter, a figure that has fallen over time, as evident by only one new store being added in the first quarter of 2011.  Target hope to drive revenue growth through exploring a smaller city center store concept and by embarking on international expansion into Canada.  The company’s goal behind these endeavors is to increase revenue by 40%, to $100 billion by 2017.

Target’s smaller store concept has been named  “CityTarget.”  The stores will be about two-thirds of the size of a regular Target box store at most; some may even be smaller.  Target Executive Vice President John Griffith, believes many city dwellers currently traipse to their suburban locations to take advantage of their low price designer lines:

“It’s like we’ve been dating long distance…  Now we’re going to be right in their backyard.”

A preview of the Chicago CityTarget one month prior to opening

The new CityTarget stores will have a redesigned layout to appeal to city dwellers.  Product selection will also be different, there will be smaller packaged goods options to target customers shopping without cars, a fresh foods section and some product lines such as outdoor furniture will not be available.

The first CityTarget store will open in Chicago in late July, with other planned locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle expected to open later in the year.  The company hopes to create a “cooler” version of a Target store that is differentiated from department stores.  Target are pursuing a slow growth model for the concept, with less than ten stores planned for the next year.

I believe the CityTarget concept has the potential to be a success, as it’s an affordable store with appealing products, but what do you think?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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