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Salesforce Canada and the Announced $2B Investment in Canada Offices

Salesforce is one of the biggest Customer Relations Management (CRM) companies in the world. And it is also one of the biggest cloud-computing companies. The San Francisco-based company recently announced that it will invest $2 billion into its Canada offices over the next five years. This case is the latest technology investment by an American company in Canada—a detail that points to the presence of Salesforce Canada.


Earlier, Sidewalk Labs had invested an initial $50 million in Toronto’s Quayside development. The Alphabet urban tech company from New York City will transform the Quayside area into a community for tens of thousands using innovative smart city solutions. The initial investment is slated for a one-year planning phase, which is expected to expand to at least $1 billion in investment for the more than 800-acre Quayside area.

What is Salesforce.com?

Salesforce is a cloud-computing company with a market cap of $80 billion as of mid-February. It has 2,200 employees. Founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff and Parker Harris with headquarters in San Francisco, California, it has grown to 25,000 employees. It recently topped Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. It currently has more than 1,300 employees in Canada. And the increase in investment will also result in increased employment to 2,500. It is the first cloud-computing company to reach revenues of $10 billion. It is the seventh-largest company in terms of revenues. 

Salesforce has also been in different partnerships. During the 2017 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Salesforce announced that Google will now be its second cloud provider and will continue working with the company for its global expansion. This detail was a big blow to Amazon Web Services (AWS) who had always been Salesforce’s primary cloud provider.

Canada Tech Immigration and Diversity

Aside from Salesforce Canada, companies which are also looking at increasing their presence in Canada include Uber, Alphabet, AppDirect, Facebook and Microsoft. Additionally, Toronto is included in Amazon’s shortlist of city candidates for its second headquarters. Recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Silicon Valley where he talked with several tech leaders. Besides Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Trudeau also met with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Trudeau also visited the offices of AppDirect, which had just announced that they were expanding their Canada office and would be hiring 300 more employees.

Toronto is an attractive destination due to its position as a center for artificial intelligence research. The University of Toronto is particularly strong in the field of AI and machine learning. Canada has also been strong in allowing companies to hire anyone they needed or wanted due to their immigration policy. The country has an immigration program for businesses allowing them to get work permits for hiring foreign workers in about two weeks. (Thus, it leaves little to no reason at all to wonder about the recently announced investment of Salesforce Canada.)

In addition, research on AI and machine learning has been gaining ground since the increase of big data. Companies have a large amount of data from which they can mine for different kinds of information. AI and machine learning can be used to sift through this data and ask questions about the data, as well as get insights and intelligence from it. Although data mining started out as sorting, categorizing and providing information from huge data sources, machine learning has made it possible to find insights without actually asking questions. For companies which are inundated and overwhelmed with data, machine learning is the key to understanding their customers from the data they gathered.

On Another Note Amid Salesforce Canada Investment: Diversity

For tech companies, the search for new talent is part of their culture. They try to find new employees and create a diverse culture from within the company. Diversity avoids an echo chamber environment where every developer has the same experience, resulting in homogenous thought. In addition, there is also a high demand from tech companies to hire for new positions. Without access to new talent from other countries, there would not be enough local talent to feed the growing demand. Canada understands this need and has an immigration program to help address it.

Emirates CEO Says Blockchain and Disruptive Technology Will Lead the Way to Innovation for Airlines

Sir Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates, was recently interviewed on the effects of new technology on the largest airline in the Middle East. He told Business Insider: “there’s a storm coming” and either you ride the storm and deal with it, or perish. “The company of the 2050s will bear no resemblance to the company of 2018,” was Clark’s bold statement.

Clark was not referring to additional income sources, but how technology can be used to streamline processes and make it easier to manage an airline, and make it profitable. He emphasized that airlines needed to analyze their internal processes and build them up from scratch on digital platforms, and this running the business with advanced technology at its core.

Blockchain Processes

Blockchain is part of the innovative technology Clark was referring to. Yes, this is the same technology and peer-to-peer based database which runs crypto currency. He was not referring to the use of cryptocurrency, rather the potential that blockchain, the underlying technology, brought to the table. “Blockchain is a revolution within a revolution,” according to Clark, “It’s going to transform everything we do and how you and I interact with each other and things around us. 

 

One area where blockchain can influence the most positive change is in the way airlines make payments. Currently, this is done through the IATA Clearing House, also called the ICH. This serves as the platform for payment between international airlines using a number of currencies. Clark believes that using blockchain on the transactional level would help ICH improve its transaction tracking. This in turn would shorten the time airlines would pay one another. In an ideal world, payments could be immediate.

The simplest explanation of a blockchain is that it is a chain of transactions. If there is a new transaction, it is appended to the data chain. However, part of the process is self-checking which calculates the whole blockchain for correct sums. If there was any tampering, the data would be incorrect, and it has to be corrected first before the next transaction is added.

Other Blockchain Uses

Although Clark did not mention other uses for this technology, there are other transactional uses unique within the airline industry which can be improved with the use of blockchain technology.

  • Identity Management. With the use of biometrics technology, identity management would simplify the passenger database. This in turn could help in customizing the flying experience for preferred or frequent flyer program members. Identity management with the use of blockchain would allow the passenger data to be securely shared with every other airline. With the data in the cloud, there is no need for a central database to be maintained separately by member airlines. Benefits of identity management include informing the flight crew of any allergies or possible health issues. An example would be the knowledge that a passenger has peanut allergy. Or, on the off chance that a doctor is needed, he could easily be paged via the intercom. On top of this, it also allows for upgrades of passengers as part of airline courtesy. The technology offers is the ability to pinpoint passengers for specific needs and custom service.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs. With a shared identity management database, the frequent flyer programs for each airline could be expanded and tokenized. This will allow the inclusion of other services and products to the mix of promos and rewards. Cross-airline participation and partnerships could be easily implemented without the need for sharing databases. The database already exists in the cloud and shared on the peer-to-peer network. A tokenized frequent flyer program would credit and debit the points as needed when used with other airline, hotel, car rental, duty-free or other related service and products. Points can also be used on their own in tie-ups with other entities, which are not necessarily travel oriented. It becomes a form of acceptable barter item.
  • E-tickets. Currently, tickets still have to be printed before boarding. The use of e-tickets would make printed tickets and paper tickets obsolete. The transaction could be stored as a blockchain transaction, accessible by both the airline and the passenger. The only thing that needs to be done is for the passenger to carry a form of e-wallet or e-ticket with a validation number. E-tickets can be saved on a smartphone, or it could be printed anywhere. With the use of a smartphone app, the e-ticket can be accessed anywhere and would not be subject to loss especially if coupled with identity management and biometrics. Coupled with above identity management, the tickets are secure along with the points in the frequent flyer programs.
  • Passenger Item Tracking. Blockchain is perfect for transactional processing. In this case, passenger items could be tracked as well. When a passenger is late for embarkation, his luggage can be isolated and off-loaded from the plane. At any point that the luggage gets lost in transit, there is a record of where it is at any point in time. When an item moves from one entity to another carrier or airport custody, this is also tracked automatically as a transaction. The last entry is where the luggage is located. Luggage or any other lost items could be traced back to their owners wherever they are in the world.
  • Airline Parts Inventory. Parts inventory is already under development in some airlines.

Parts inventory is more vital with airlines and airplanes compared to other vehicles. This is due to the way parts are used in airplanes. It is customary to replace parts after a given number of flying hours. Each part has a rated number of hours of flying time. After the flying time or use time has been reached, the parts are replaced regardless of their state of wear and tear. Parts replacement strictly follow an engineering table predicting mean time to failure. With the use of blockchain for inventory control, the maintenance and parts replacement schedule becomes easier to follow.

  • IATA Clearing House. The way the ICH can use this is much like the way cryptocurrency works currently works. Each entity in the database has a blockchain wallet which contains the details of the latest transaction. The transactions pile up, but the nature of blockchain makes the service self-checking. No matter how fast the transactions go, an audit is done to ensure that the blockchain contains the correct data.

Complete Transformation

According to Clark, “blockchain will drive everything” airlines do in the next five to ten years. “Make no mistake about it,” he stressed.

The above technologies are available now and could be implemented without any negative effects on passengers. However, there are other more complex technologies which would require more time to implement. These include AR and VR, as well as smartphone apps for both the passengers and various airline personnel. The use of robotics is also clearly in the works for back processes which include loading the planes with passenger luggage. The use of self-driven ground vehicles will also have a huge impact on the way an airline is run.

Innovative uses of technology usually present itself when the opportunity exists. These can be simple solutions to outstanding problems, or current processes can be streamlined. In most cases, bold solutions are more revolutionary in not only finding a solution to an immediate problem but in creating a new process so the old problem no longer exists.

Smartphones in the hands of passengers and as well as tablets and other mobile devices on the hands of the flight crew can help passengers and staff towards a more enjoyable flight, and better profitability for the airlines. These changes in disruptive technology will become the fundamentals of even bigger and bolder changes in the industry.

 

 

Lyft is Gaining Traction in Atlanta’s Rideshare Competition

Ridesharing is one of the most innovative ways to get around the city, and the San Francisco, California-based on-demand transportation company Lyft is giving its competition a few reasons to be nervous about. The fast growing ride hailing service has been making bold moves in cities all over the United States, with Atlanta, Georgia receiving major updates that are sure to disrupt A-Town’s public transportation.

New Options Taking Over

Currently only available in select locations in the United States and Canada, Lyft has several riding options available, depending on the city you are booking a ride in. In Atlanta, they offer the classic Lyft and Lyft Plus, which are their basic private car services. In addition, they have Lyft Line as their carpool service banking on cheaper-than-normal fares; while the Premier, Lux, and Lux SUV provide premium high-end or luxury rides, the latter two only available since last year. Offering this multitude of options has put Lyft high above its competitors, among which are Uber, Taxilo, Blacklane, Curb, Limos.com, Cab Hound, and the traditional taxi cab. Google’s Waymo self-driving cars also announced their intent of having Atlanta as their next test program location.

Only recently, Lyft announced that Atlanta belonged to the 14 additional cities receiving commuter benefits for its Lyft Line riders. The other cities are: Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Nashville, Tennessee; Jersey City, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose/Silicon Valley, California; and Washington, D.C. Last year, this program was only available in the following cities: Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; New York City, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

Today, Atlanta passengers can save as much as 40% as well as use pre-tax dollars in their Lyft Line rides, a perk that is aimed at the 22% of ATL residents that prefer using Lyft when connecting with public transit. The way this works is by letting Lyft Line riders add their commuter benefits card into their Lyft account. “This provides employers with a competitive advantage, by offering an affordable and efficient transit option for their employees,” explained Amit Patel, director of business development at Lyft Business.

Patel also said Lyft Line in itself “helps to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, ultimately reducing pollution and freeing up more space on the streets.” Employers simply contact their benefits providers to take the next steps – partner providers are Ameriflex, Benefit Resource, Commuter Benefits Solutions, Navia, WageWorks, and Zenefits.

More Partnerships

In an interview, Lyft’s Southeast General Manager Sam Bond described how late 2017 and early 2018 as “tremendous” for the company in its Atlanta operations. According to him, Lyft had a huge $57 million impact on the city’s economy last year. He also mentioned they opened a “Hub” at Lyft’s ATL headquarters, giving space for drivers to ask questions and get answers, have their opinions heard, and even just have a place to relax.

Lyft also collaborated with Zoo Atlanta starting February 2018, where patrons can get a free ride up to a $10 value going to and from the Zoo to the Five Points and King Memorial MARTA stations. The partnership helps provide guests a cost-effective means of going to the Zoo. All riders have to do is enter the promo code ZOOATL which they can use daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Guest experience and convenience are very important to us, and as a conservation organization, we welcome every opportunity to encourage alternative transportation,” said Tracy Lott, Zoo Atlanta’s Vice President of Marketing and Membership Sales.

She said they reached out to Lyft regarding the possible partnership, and they were happy to take care of the $10 fare as a way to encourage alternative, cost-effective modes of transportation to the Zoo, and because it is in tune with their conservation efforts.

“They were interested in partnering with us so figured it would be a good fit,” said Lott. “… If we can get even a few guests to take an alternative mode of transportation here, that’s a win for us.”

In addition to Lyft’s partnership with Zoo Atlanta, they have also sealed a few deals over the last year with the Atlanta Football Host Committee, Delta Airlines, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Inversely, Lyft’s most obvious competitor Uber has also had long-standing relationships with Atlantans, creating their own consumer benefits such as paying for uberPOOL, their carpool service. In addition, Uber has several partnerships in the city as well, including with their baseball and basketball teams, the Braves and the Hawks, respectively.