Tag: technology

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4 Food Industry Consumer Trends to Watch

  • November 16, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

4 Food Industry Consumer Trends to Watch

Grocery shopping, like many household duties on the to-do list, is something that there never seems to be time for. Also like many other aspects of modern life, consumers are looking for ever-increasing personalization and looking for ways to make the chore of grocery shopping more exciting by finding food that inspires them and gets their family to the dinner table. Here are 4 food industry trends that illustrate how consumers shop for and what motivates their decisions. 

Spending Fragmentation 

While online grocery shopping has already well-established before the pandemic, lockdown prompted many more people to turn to e-commerce for their weekly grocery shopping. A recent Food Industry Association (FMI) report found that 64 percent of consumers surveyed stated that they shopped for groceries online at least occasionally, even after the height of the pandemic. But with higher prices both in the stores and at the gasoline pumps, shoppers are splitting how they spend their money. The same report also found consumers are increasingly turning to hybrid shopping for groceries, as inflation and the price of gas continues to be a drain on budgets. In a search for both quality and value, consumers are spreading their spending across stores, with shopping clubs offering more specific shopping experiences and traditional grocery stores attracting consumers with their fresh categories, like produce and prepared foods. 

Premium Products

Even in the face of rising food prices, consumers are showing a taste for high-quality food products, and are willing to pay more for them. The FMI report shows that among the consumers who stated that they were paying more for groceries this year, 19 percent of them indicated that it was because they were buying higher-quality products. Higher-income earners and parents were the top consumers purchasing the premium products, with items like baby food, plant-based products, meal kits, and fresh, prepared foods topping the list of products that consumers are willing to pay more for. 

‘Food Rule’ Eating

Consumers have moved away from classic diets meant for weight loss and have embraced a more personalized way of eating based on food rules. These dietary guidelines influence how and where consumers shop. The keto diet, the latest version of a low-carb diet, is currently followed by 12.9 million Americans and has launched its own sizable category of products in the food industry. In addition, plant-based eating has grown in popularity, as well, with many people embracing it as an entire lifestyle, beyond just food. Clean eating has also been influential in how consumers shop. 

Ready-to-Eat Options

With busy professionals and harried parents needing to get something on the table fast every evening, prepared food is becoming increasingly popular. In 2019, grocery store deli departments sold nearly $15B in prepared foods. Grocery stores often offer items that are marketed as compliments to a meal, but consumers who don’t have time to cook are on the hunt for entrees, and it has become the fastest-growing segment in the fresh deli-prepared food category. The reopening of hot bars and salad bars after the height of the pandemic offered opportunities for grocery stores to rethink their prepared food selections and offer time-starved consumers creative, high-quality solutions for mealtime. 

Stay up-to-date on the food industry on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from general consumers and heads of household who make purchasing decisions on food and grocery purchases. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.

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The Unfriendly Skies: The Post-Pandemic Travel Mess

  • November 7, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

With summer 2022 in the rearview mirror, many travelers are already reminiscing about their summer vacations.  What they might not look back on with the same degree of fondness is the process of actually getting to their destinations. By almost every measure, traveling this past summer was a miserable and frustrating exercise. According to numbers released in August by the Department of Transportation, more than 5,800 complaints were filed by the U.S. traveling audience this past June. That is an increase of nearly 270 percent over June 2019. 

Not surprisingly, cancellations, delays, and other scheduling issues topped the list of traveling audience complaints. The holiday weekend that included Father’s Day and Juneteenth was especially trying for travelers, with over 3,000 flights canceled and thousands more delayed. Adding insult to injury, lost and mishandled baggage and difficulty receiving refunds often went hand in hand with other passenger problems this past summer. 

What is to blame for such a steep decline in the traveler experience and quality of service? COVID-19 continued to affect the daily operations of the entire airline industry. The near-total halt of airplane travel during the height of the pandemic led to layoffs and other drastic cuts in the airline industry labor force, and the airlines have struggled to recover. The rapid increase in travel that followed the end of lockdown left airlines unprepared for the numbers of the traveling audience who were tired of being stuck at home. Staffing shortages all around led to the cancellation of flights, delays, and lost luggage that marred the beginnings of many summer vacations. Pilots and flight attendants pushed back on their overburdened workloads by striking different points throughout the summer, with votes for future work stoppages still underway. 

Another layer of the traveling audience’s litany of complaints is the increased number of incidents of disabled passengers being left on planes, having their wheelchairs damaged while disembarking, or even being injured while traveling. The operational problems that continue to plague airlines only add to the anxiety and humiliation that many in the disabled travel audience face when they enter an airport, as some of the overworked airline staff are not properly trained to tend to the needs of disabled passengers. 

Fortunately, there is a path for recourse for those travelers who have had their vacation plans scuttled by a canceled or delayed flight. In what has become a tried-and-true way to get a company’s attention with a complaint, many passengers turned to social media to express their dissatisfaction with airlines.  The bandwagon of shared negative experiences is one that disgruntled customers in the traveling audience are all too eager to jump on. The increased number of travel audience complaints mentioned earlier noted by the Department of Transportation led them to step in and confront the airline industry about their operations and help consumers get refunds as a result of canceled or delayed flights. 

Read more about the travel industry on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from consumers in the travel audience. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.

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Making Space For Black Women in the Beauty Industry

  • November 7, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

As one of the most lucrative sectors in the business landscape, the U.S. beauty industry is estimated to be worth $49 billion in 2022. With so much money in play and a constant overabundance of products on shelves, Black women have a historically difficult experience finding products to suit their needs. This isn’t due to a lack of spending power, however. According to a recent study by McKinsey, the Black female audience spent $6.6 billion on beauty products in 2021, making up about 11 percent of the entire U.S. beauty market. For scale, the total Black audience representation in the United States is 15 percent. If there is an industry that is wide open for opportunities to capture the Black female audience, it is the beauty space. 

On average, Black women report a higher rate of dissatisfaction with makeup, skincare, and hair care products than the non-Black audience. Retail deserts in predominantly minority audience neighborhoods also mean that Black women have to travel further to find the products that have earned their loyalty. These disparities have led Black entrepreneurs to take matters into their own hands and launch their own beauty brands, specifically crafted for the Black female audience. Beauty trailblazer Eunice Johnson launched Fashion Fair cosmetics in 1973, offering Black women options in makeup that they had never had before. The cosmetics, and the associated advertisements in Ebony and Jet magazines, helped celebrate the beauty of the Black female audience in a way that had not been done before. The lack of true representation in advertising as a whole continues to be a problem across all industries. 

Another aspect that has continued to keep the scope of beauty products for the Black female audience so limited is the lack of top executives at major beauty companies. The previously mentioned report from McKinsey found that only 2.5 percent of employees at top beauty companies are Black. The same study took a quick snapshot of the C-suite at Revlon USA and found that only 5 percent of the employees at the director level and above are Black. This has led more Black entrepreneurs to launch their own brands, often succeeding in the face of more challenging headwinds than their white counterparts when it comes to raising capital for their companies. Recently, the market has exploded with product lines from celebrities, like Iman and Rihanna. Rihanna’s line, Fenty Beauty, launched in 2017, boasts 40 different shades of foundation, a benchmark that was quickly adopted by Dior and Revlon, in order to try and grab their own share of the Black female audience who had been there the entire time, just waiting for their turn to be seen.

The social upheaval of the summer of 2020 found many companies under the spotlight for their lack of representation in their top roles, and retailers were held to account for the dearth of Black-owned products on their shelves.  15% Pledge, founded by fashion designer Aurora James, aims to get retailers to dedicate 15 percent of their shelf space to Black audience-owned brands. Companies like Target and beauty giant Sephora were among the first to commit to supporting Black-owned product lines. 
Read more about the beauty industry on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from consumers in the beauty space. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.

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3 Ways America Can Get More EVs On The Road

  • November 4, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 91.5 percent of U.S. households own at least one car, meaning that higher gas prices have affected everyone, across all income levels and socio-economic classifications. This past March, the price of gas reached its highest level in American history, sending shock waves through the economy.  With California passing a law prohibiting the sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, and gas prices still higher than usual, there has been a renewed push toward electric cars. America lags behind other countries when it comes to EV adoption, but there are three things the U.S. can increase its use of EVs and do its part to slow the pace of climate change. 

Education

The number of electric cars on the road in the U.S. grew from 16K to 2 million in 10 years, pointing to a slow and steady trend toward more environmentally sound vehicles but the numbers are not ticking up fast enough to meet the challenge. The car owner information gap around electric vehicles is partly to blame for keeping the American car-buying audience on the sidelines when it comes to whether or not to buy an electric vehicle. One concern that those who might be considering purchasing an EV have is whether it would be more expensive than a gasoline-only car. A recent survey found that 53 percent of American car owners would not be willing to pay even $500 more for an electric vehicle. The truth is that as with any car, the true cost of ownership comes from everything associated with maintaining the vehicle and fuel costs, not the actual purchase price. A targeted campaign by the federal and state governments to educate the public about electric cars could highlight the fact that EVs cost about 40 percent less to maintain than traditional, gas-powered vehicles. 

Establish a Nationwide Network of Charging Stations

One of the challenges that immediately faces the U.S. push for EV adoption is the details surrounding how and where car owners can charge their vehicles.  61 percent of American car owners surveyed in a recent Consumer Reports study stated that the major obstacle keeping them from making the leap to EVs is the logistics around charging them. Many electric vehicle owners are able to charge their cars at home, but there are currently more than 45,000 charging stations around the country, with more than 500K coming across the nation, thanks to a new set of standards recently announced by the Biden administration. More than enough for a strong head start and to help alleviate the worries of the traditional car owners who still need to be convinced to switch to an electric car. 

Cash Incentives for Purchasing an EV

As mentioned earlier, cost remains a primary concern for prospective EV buyers. The Consumer Reports survey found that among the respondents who stated that they were not planning to buy an electric vehicle, 52 percent of them listed costs as the reason that was most front of mind. Offering car owners cash towards a new EV could be highly motivating. Other countries, especially those in Europe, have had success with offering subsidies for both the purchase of a new electric vehicle and for the installation of at-home charging stations. In fact, European countries represent seven out of the ten countries in the world with the highest percentage of EVs on the road.  In the U.S., making electric vehicles more accessible to traditional car owners can be done by expanding the federal tax credit, currently at $7,500, through the Inflation Reduction Act. 
Read more about the automotive industry on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from automobile owners. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.

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Navigating the Metaverse

  • September 13, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in October 2021 that the brand
would be changing its name to Meta, most people didn’t know what to think of it. After
all, it took years to build Facebook into a brand name known in just about every corner
of the planet, so people were left asking a few questions, most importantly, what does
Meta mean or stand for? In the subsequent months, more information has been
revealed about this name and how it relates to what many experts believe is the next
big step in the tech revolution – the metaverse. Many companies are beginning to jump
on board with the metaverse, hoping to catch this latest tech wave to reap what they
believe are untapped profit potential. An examination of the metaverse does reveal that
there is in fact plenty of potential, but brands that decide to take the journey into the
metaverse and hope to be successful will have to understand how they can develop this
new technology to give consumers a better experience.

There’s no doubt that the metaverse will involve plenty of money, as it does already, For
example, the virtual reality (VR) market, which is part of metaverse technology, is
expected to exceed $180 billion in 2026 and will likely far exceed that once the
technology is more widely accepted. But before examining the potential benefits of the
metaverse for consumers and companies, it’s important to define what it is exactly. The
metaverse refers to things, such as work and play, that can be done completely in an
online “world.” The metaverse is a fully immersive internet where participants use VR
headset and avatars of themselves to interact with other people in a variety of different
environments.

Currently, the metaverse is primarily known for gaming, but companies are developing
ways for people to work and conduct day-to-day business in the metaverse, while other
companies are eyeing the metaverse as a way to expand their branding. And as the
metaverse expands and a more developed infrastructure is needed, even more
business opportunities will open. So, let’s take a look at the background of the
metaverse, how companies are currently utilizing it, and what the metaverse has in
store for businesses and consumers.

An Idea Is Born

As futuristic as the idea of the metaverse may seem, the idea was born more than 100
years ago. The first step into metaverse technology took place in the mid-1800s, when
stereoscope goggles were the rage in North America and Europe. These goggles
essentially let people see photographed images in 3-D, which was quite advanced for
the time when one considers that photography itself was quite new. For decades,
though, stereoscope goggles were the closest anyone got to the metaverse until Morton
Heilig made a major breakthrough.

In 1956, Heilig invented the “Sensorama Machine,” which was a device that put a
person in a truly interactive environment. Heilig’s machine simulated the experience of
riding a motorcycle through the streets of Brooklyn by combining 3-D video through
goggles with sounds, scents, and a vibrating chair. The Sensorama Machine was

primitive by today’s standards, but it got quite a few people thinking about the
possibilities, including sci-fi writer Neil Stephenson.

Stephenson first coined the term “metaverse” in his 1982 dystopian sci-fi novel, Snow
Crash. In the novel, people of the future connect to the metaverse via terminals and VR
goggles, often spending most of their waking hours immersed in the virtual. In fact, an
entire class of people were created called “gargoyles,” whose physical features became
distorted due to their excessive time in the metaverse and a lack of sleep, exercise, or
proper diet. Some viewed Snow Crash as a warning, while others saw it as a call to
move in that direction. Those who saw the benefits of the fictional metaverse won the
debate and now the metaverse is no longer science fiction.

The Metaverse Becomes Reality

The first steps to make the metaverse a reality came in the late 1990s with the release
of VR headsets, but they were technologically crude and not truly immersive. The
breakthrough came when an 18-year-old entrepreneur and inventor named Palmer
Luckey created the prototype for the Oculus Rift VR headset in 2010. The Oculus Rift
gave the user a 90-degree field of vision and a much more immersive experience,
kicking off the current interest in VR and metaverse technology. This was technology
that was bound to make an impact.

Seeing the possibilities, Zuckerberg and Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion in
2014, publicly stating that they would develop the Oculus platform with different

partners. Facebook then officially changed its name to Metaverse Platforms (Meta) in
2021, further signaling that the metaverse would be an integral part of its company’s
future. Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft then followed with plans to develop their own
metaverse platforms. The initial thrust into the metaverse has been spurred by the
gaming industry, but other companies and tech leaders are beginning to see other uses.

Even before Facebook became Meta, tech leaders around the world were laying out the
roadmap for the current metaverse. The first Metaverse Roadmap Summit was held in
May 2007, which predicted that by 2016 the internet would become a world where
people could immerse themselves in a virtual world to more easily access digital
information. Although the summit may’ve had an ambitious timeline, the idea that the
metaverse can be utilized for more than just games is becoming a reality.

The Future of the Metaverse

There are a number of potential uses and benefits that businesses, brands, and
consumers can expect to gain from the metaverse, not the least of which is how work is
done. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people began working from
home via the internet, which some experts believe will transition into the metaverse.
Employees will be able to access virtual office suites and interact with their colleagues
in a way that is more personal than phone, email, or text. Businesses will also have the
ability to conduct virtual training of new and existing employees in virtual classroom,
which will be more efficient for businesses and more convenient for workers.

The metaverse will also likely affect specialized industries and help brands that are
willing to be forward thinking and utilize its potential. Because consumers view brands
that use the metaverse as innovative and positive, companies that use the metaverse
can expect a boon to their profits in the coming years. As interest and use in the
metaverse grows, new opportunities will open as metaverse infrastructure is built.

Because the metaverse requires a strong digital infrastructure, more workers and
resources will be needed to make it happen. Each node in the metaverse requires
infrastructure support, which will include new datacenters and hardware such as chips.
The metaverse’s connection to blockchains will also have impacts for investors. Since
many of the platforms that host the metaverse use blockchain technology – such as The
Sandbox, which is on the Ethereum blockchain – there could be major investment
opportunities for investors in the metaverse-blockchain and metaverse-crypto currency
spaces. Eventually, as the metaverse becomes a standard part of the internet
infrastructure, consumers can also expect several benefits.

As brands expand into the metaverse, it will be important for them to adjust to growing
consumer needs and tastes. An important thing that brands need to keep in mind is how
consumers currently view the metaverse and how those attitudes can be utilized or
changed. For example, a poll of 10,500 people showed that 61% of respondents plan to
use the metaverse for shopping, 49% for gaming, 49% for concerts, and 44% for sports,
demonstrating that most people still view the metaverse as a pastime. The same poll
shows that although all respondents had heard of the metaverse, 49% admitted they

don’t quite understand it. These numbers show that there’s still plenty of room in the
space for growth in sectors other than retail and gaming and that it’s just a matter of
brands taking the initiative.

Another poll showed that 39% of the respondents cited an ability to overcome real-world
disabilities as a reason to use the metaverse, while 37% said it could help enhance their
creativity and imagination. And as brands take these consumer attitudes into
consideration, or at least they should, social media is already making the transition into
the metaverse to give its users a more interactive and fulfilling experience. Consumers
will no doubt take advantage of the expanding metaverse in the years to come, but so
too will investors.

As mentioned previously, tech and gaming companies have jumped on board to the
metaverse trend and in the coming years advertising and non-tech companies will also
look for opportunities in the metaverse, which will open up new opportunities for
investors. In 2021, metaverse related companies raised $10 billion for their projects,
which was more than double the previous year. This trend will surely continue, although
it remains to be seen how much those numbers will increase and at what rate.

The metaverse has arrived and although many people still don’t know what it is, or its
possibilities, it will definitely grow in size and influence in the coming years. As more
companies invest in the metaverse, it will move from gaming into other sectors that will
benefit workers, consumers, and investors. Brands that understand the potential of the

metaverse and how it can relate to their customers are poised to benefit from this new
technology that may change all of our lives.

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Our Future With Automation and Robotics

  • August 19, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

Automation was a driving force of the digital revolution. Companies that understand how automation can benefit consumers will find success in the ever-evolving business landscape of the 21st century.

Today, we can communicate, buy goods, sell goods, and consume information anywhere, at any time. The list of technological devices that makes our lives easier is too long to list here.

Automation was one of the driving forces behind this digital revolution. But in recent years it has taken on a life of its own and become the focus and goal of many new innovations. Many companies have already developed automation strategies and those that understand how automation can benefit consumers will find success in the ever-evolving business landscape of the 21st century.

The idea of automation has been around since the dawn of human civilization in one form or another. In its most general definition automation refers to any technology that reduces human involvement in certain processes. The term itself gained widespread use in the English language after 1947 when Henry Ford created the “automation department” at Ford Motors. In the decades since, automation has grown to be an integral part of the global economy. It will continue to play an important part of all our lives in the coming years.

Automation promises to offer benefits to companies, investors, and especially consumers, with saved labor costs, more productivity, and better quality products, ultimately making customers happy. Some companies have gotten ahead of this wave and are producing automated electronic devices, cars, and even entire stores. Their efforts will provide new experiences for the customer and can possibly elevate and move notable brands into the future. So, let’s look at how automation brought us to where we are today as well as what companies and consumers can expect from the future of automation.

Automation: A timeless process

Humans attempted to make certain activities less labor intensive as soon as they started making tools. Greek and Roman architects and inventors, such as Vitruvius, experimented with water and steam power. But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that automation began to truly take form. (Johannes Gutenberg changed everything with his invention of a movable type printing press in 1439 that enabled the mass production of printed books.)

It would take a few more centuries and some more innovations during the Industrial Revolution before what we think of today as automation was born. The introduction of “feedback controllers” to the manufacturing process in the 1930s is often seen as the beginning of modern automation. A feedback control system is defined as a system that maintains a set relationship of one system variable with another by comparing the functions of those variables and using the difference as a means of control. This may sound complicated, but it’s easier to visualize when one considers that feedback control is the automation that modernized most manufacturing and aircraft communications in the mid-twentieth century.

During the 1970s, automation merged with the burgeoning computer industry to create what some term the “Third Industrial Revolution”, and automation was further utilized after the 1990s to help build artificial intelligence (AI) systems and robotics.

Integrating AI with Robotics

Current automation is highly integrated with AI and robotics, including everything from automated, self-checkout counters at retail stores to self-driving vehicles. Most automation that consumers use are in customer service, including chatbots, automatic checkouts, automated phone operators, etc. Most of us are more than familiar with these forms of consumer automation, as many have been around for decades. But the new wave of automation that’s currently unfolding promises to bring some pretty big changes to the business and technology landscapes.

Examples from the lives of consumers

One sector that the automation industry has in its crosshairs is fast food, which is expected to jump into automation in the next few years. “Flippy” the burger robot may be a sign of things to come. Flippy is the name given to a $100,000 robot that cooks hamburgers at the Caliburger fast food restaurant in Pasadena, California.  Although the cost of a Flippy robot is currently prohibitive for many store owners, as prices decrease expect to see more Flippies making your burger and fries.

Retail is currently leading the automation wave, and if you live in a major city and order products from Amazon chances are you’ve already experienced it. Amazon currently uses delivery drones to bring customers packages in several metropolitan areas. Amazon’s streaming service, Amazon Prime, uses AI to suggest shows and TV shows for consumers (as do Netflix and Hulu). Amazon is currently attempting to jump in the market of fully automated stores. Amazon Go is the brand of the company’s fully automated stores and although they’ve yet to make much of an impact in the US, the concept has caught on in other countries.

China has been at the vanguard of retail automation with its chain of fully automated convenience stores, BingoBox. BingoBox has been quite successful in China, so its owners are planning on expanding to other Asian countries and then possibly beyond. It doesn’t take long to think of a number of other examples of automation in our daily lives. But what does the future of automation hold for businesses and consumers?

The future of automated technology

There’s little doubt that the Age of Automation is upon us, but the numbers show that in the near future industries will be disproportionately affected by the transition. For example, one study shows that only about 5% of current occupations could be fully automated by contemporary technology, but that about 30% of activities in 60% of all occupations can be automated. Put simply, most people don’t have to worry about getting replaced by a robot. At the same time, there’s no doubt that automation is poised to cause massive disruption across several industries. How positive that disruption is a matter of perspective.

The potential for positive disruption for companies and brands that join the Automation Revolution is immense. The first benefit is that companies will save on labor costs. Although Flippy and other similar robots may cost a fortune, they will likely save companies in the long run and their prices will decrease as they are adopted by more companies. You don’t need to provide health insurance for robots, and robots never take vacations!

Experts also believe that automation and AI will be far more productive in fields where repetition is common. Automated robots and AI will be able to catch errors that humans miss and work without rest. Some believe that automation’s ability to catch errors will allow brands to present a consistent, personalized message that will ultimately better connect consumers to brands. Experts have also argued that automation has the ability to reverse the general decline in productivity across many sectors. It’s predicted that the productivity growth of automation and AI will reach 2% annually in the next decade with 60% of the growth in the digital sector.

Certain companies and brands will definitely benefit from the automation disruption if they know what they’re doing, but how will the average consumer fare?

How will consumers and companies benefit?

The average consumer stands to benefit in a number of ways from automation and some studies show that they are quite receptive to the change. A 2019 study by Capgemini showed that 69% of the respondents in one survey said they prefer retailers that use automation because it reduces food waste. This finding follows the eco-friendly trend that is popular today among many consumers and will likely continue to influence automation.

The more tangible, direct benefits that consumers gain from automation are plentiful. So far, automation has proven the ability to deliver products quicker with lower prices and higher quality. Automation has also led to better customer service. As many companies have automated their customer service, it has created more efficient and accurate service. Other companies that have automated production have been able to place more qualified, higher-paid humans into customer service positions.

The day of the robots is upon us, whether we like it or not. But it isn’t the end of the world. Companies, brands, and consumers all stand to gain numerous benefits from the ongoing automation wave. Companies will pay more initially to automate. Eventually, the process will help drive down costs and prices. Automation will also help brands connect better with their consumers through attention to detail and quality, thereby building stronger brand identity in the process.

Most importantly, the consumer stands to gain the most from automation, through quicker delivery, better quality, and lower prices.

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The Future of the 5G Wireless Communications Industry

  • February 21, 2022

  • Eyes4Research

The evolution of the internet and other related technologies has brought forth a technological revolution that’s only now staring to be truly felt and realized. The modern smart phone is perhaps the symbol of what’s taking place, and the technology that goes with it, 5G, is slowly but surely becoming a household name across the United States and throughout the world. With that said, most people still don’t know much about 5G or the benefits it will offer consumers and investors in the coming years.

The wireless system known as 5G, which simply stands for “fifth generation,” is the fifth generation of cellular networks that was first introduced in 2016. Use of the 5G network has been slow, but it’s estimated that there will be more than 1.7 billion subscribers by 2025 and that its use will be increasingly tied to the ever evolving concept known as the “internet of things” (IOT), which includes the networks, devices, and basically anything “smart” that uses the internet. 

Because more and more people own multiple devices and spend more time online, the speed of data transfers have slowed and 4G just can’t keep up. The 5G network will be 10 to 100 times faster than 4G, which will offer a plethora of benefits for consumers, companies, and investors alike. 

As 5G becomes more common and available, users can expect faster speeds that will enhance everything from sending photos and files on their phones to streaming movies at home. Consumers will see lower tech costs once 5G becomes the norm and users will also enjoy an enhanced work-from-home experience. Investors in 5G technologies can also expect to benefit in everything from semi-conductor companies and other tech related fields to real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are expected to drive much of the 5G infrastructure investment. So let’s take a look at what 5G is and how it will affect our lives in the next few years.

What Is 5G?

As mentioned earlier, 5G is the latest version of the worldwide cellular network that is poised to replace 4G. The technology that 5G uses is similar to that employed by 4G, but there are some notable differences. The 5G network combines different bands of spectrum and utilizes new base stations, and a virtualized core network. This allows 5G to use higher frequency bands, which most importantly result in a quicker network. As a reference, 5G networks run at 10-30Gbps (gigabits) versus 100-300Mbps (megabits) on 4G. This difference also means 5G networks have lower latency, and when it comes to latency lower is better. Latency measures how much time the signal will take to go from its source to the receiver and then back, so the less latency equals quicker speeds for streaming, uploading, and downloading.

The 5G networks will also have more bandwidth, which will allow more data to be stored and shared, more quickly. But the increased speed and bandwidth are not the only major differences between 4G and 5G, the entire 5G network is poised to replace the internet networks as we know them. Unlike 4G, which is primarily just for phones, 5G at some point could replace cable internet connections throughout the world. This won’t happen overnight and it will be expensive, but experts believe that eventually the prices of 5G will decline, providing another key difference between it and its predecessor.

Although 5G will initially be more expensive, it’s believed that the innovations will eventually drive down the costs. Nokia has stated that 5G will lower the cost per bit by 70% once at full capacity, which will allow carriers to achieve better cost on incremental services. As more and more smartphone companies equip their products for 5G capabilities, the costs will decrease across the board. Ericsson expects that 2.8 billion smartphones could be 5G enabled by 2025, helping to increase the supply and thereby reducing costs. So, 5G will certainly bring a different tech experience to those who use it, but what specific benefits will in bring to consumers and investors.

Consumer Benefits and 5G

Some of the consumer benefits have already been touched on, including faster streaming, upload, and download times, as well as more storage space on devices. But there are also some other benefits you may not immediately consider, such as how 5G will play a role in how we get around.

The 5G networks will allow for faster data processing between vehicles, networks, and infrastructure—such as traffic lights, lampposts, and gas stations—that have the ability to make our morning and evening commutes safer and more enjoyable. In addition to easing the driving experience, 5G technology will help move the idea of autonomous cars out of sci-fi and into reality quicker

Other benefits that consumers can expect from the 5G revolution include a better work experience. As more people work at home in the post-COVID world, companies and individuals will expect faster and more reliable data sharing and live video conferencing, among others things. Many of the glitches experienced today in remote work are expected to be mitigated in the future, if not eliminated altogether, thanks to 5G technology. And as 5G technology becomes the norm in the internet landscape, there will be plenty of opportunities for business and investors to make money.

Business Opportunities and 5G

Many of the benefits consumers of 5G will enjoy will be shared by businesses and investors in 5G networks and related IOTs. The advertising sector in particular is predicted to benefit greatly from 5G and to be an arena where consumers and businesses come together. A Verizon survey has revealed that 49% of advertisers believe 5G will provide better customer experiences, while 47% are looking forward to the new creative formats it offers. 

Among the technologies enhancements that advertisers believe 5G will bring, and what consumers can expect, include real-time location-based targeting, which 46% of advertisers plan to use. The survey also showed that currently one-third of advertisers are making plans to use 5G, but that number will certainly grow as the technology is rolled out in the coming years.

Other business and investor opportunities connected to 5G that have been cited in reports and articles include semi-conductors, which are part of the physical properties needed to make 5G networks function. Along those same lines, although perhaps a bit surprising to some, is the role real estate investment trusts (REITs) will play in the development of 5G networks in the United States and many other countries. 

The REITs will build and administer the physical infrastructure of 5G networks, including the cell towers. Among the better known REITs that are positioned to play a major role in the 5G network are Crown Castle International (CCI), Qualcomm, Verizon, and Amdocs Limited. CCI already owns, operates, and leases cell towers and other physical infrastructure and is expected to expand its share in the emerging 5G infrastructure in the coming years. Amdocs, which is a telecommunications company, won the award for Most Innovative 5G at Light Reading’s Leading Lights 2019 and has made recent acquisitions to expand its 5G footprint. More telecom, tech, and real estate companies are poised to make similar moves as 5G becomes the norm throughout the industrialized world.

5G Is the Future

Change is difficult for many but like it or not it’s inevitable and so is the future dominance of the 5G network. There’s no doubt that the modern world is dominated by technology and there’s also no doubt that tech’s dominance will continue, and likely increase as young people who grew up attached to cell phones, tablets, and laptops become adults. Some of us may not like the high-tech world we live in, but there’s no point in resisting it. In the future, educating yourself about tech trends, in this case 5G, will be crucial to success.

Education about what the 5G network is, how it’s different than 4G, and the benefits it can potentially bring to consumers, investors, and businesses will give you an edge when making a purchase or investing in a business. An examination of the emerging 5G reveals that it will present many opportunities for consumers and investors. Consumers can expect better experiences streaming, uploading, and downloading data while the quality their time working at home and driving will also be enhanced. Ultimately, as more people subscribe to 5G networks the costs will decrease for everyone. Investors and businesses will also benefit by being at the forefront of the 5G, it’s just a matter of knowing how and when to seize the opportunities. 

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How Will the Billionaire Space Race Affect Society?

  • December 16, 2021

  • Eyes4Research

As NASA’s physical exploration of space has diminished in recent years, other organizations have picked up the slack. The Russians, Europeans, and Chinese have all increased their presence in space, but so too have a number of corporate entities. In fact, the recent popular (and media) interest in space exploration has largely been spurred by three billionaires and their organizations – Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – leading many to term this new era of space exploration the Billionaire Space Race.

The Billionaire Space Race grabbed headlines in the summer of 2021 when Bezos and Branson flew in their creations to the lower limits of outer space. Their programs have been around for several years, and this has created plenty of debate about the merits, or lack thereof, of this new space race. The reality is, though, whether you think space exploration by private organizations and individuals is a good idea or not, it’s not going to stop any time soon, so it’s important to critically examine this new space race and how it will affect all of us in the future.

A few particularly important things to consider include the technology used by these new space vehicles, how they are different than the vehicles of the first space race, and how those changes are beneficial. The Billionaire Space Race’s impact on everyday consumers and investors is also considered here, in particular how private space exploration can help alleviate some of the challenges we face on Earth and how investors can benefit in the process.

The technology of private space exploration

The technology that these new private space exploration companies use to power their vehicles is important because they yield both immediate and long-term implications. Blue Origin and SpaceX use similar vehicles to launch into space, so let’s start with them. Both companies power their vehicles with rocket propulsion technology utilizing different types of engines and fuel depending on the payload and particular mission. Blue Origin uses six different types of engines for its rockets: BE-1, BE-2, BE-3PM, BE-3U, BE-4, and BE-7. Blue Origin designs its rockets for reuse and, depending on engine type, the company uses the following propellants as fuel: Peroxide, kerosene and peroxide, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas, and liquid oxygen.

Founded in 2002 (two years after Blue Origin), SpaceX uses similar technology in its rockets. The Falcon 9 rocket, which is partially reusable, is the core workhorse of the SpaceX fleet, and is fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene. SpaceX also utilizes the Falcon Heavy rocket for larger payloads, and the Dragon, which ferries humans and cargo into space. The Dragon was the first private spacecraft to transport people to the International Space Station and is currently the only spacecraft capable of returning significant amounts of cargo from the Station to Earth. The third entry in the Billionaire Space Race, Virgin Galactic, oversees a fleet of very different vehicles – and reasons – for exploring space.

Virgin Galactic bills itself as the “world’s first commercial spaceline”, and its primary vehicle clearly resembles a plane much more than a classical rocket. The “spaceplane” currently used by Virgin Galactic, known as SpaceShipTwo, is sent into the lower levels of space by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier. SpaceShipTwo uses a hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) fuel and liquid nitrous oxide oxidizer that propels the motor after it is released from the carrier aircraft. Upon reentry and landing, it uses no propulsion. SpaceShipTwo made it officially into space, more than 50 miles above Earth, in 2018.

What sets these vehicles apart?

All the players in the Billionaire Space Race have used existing technology to model their new vehicles, although they’ve also added a few important innovations. Blue Origin and SpaceX have utilized the technology of expendable launch systems or vehicles (ELSs/ELVs) as the bases for their vehicles, with the notable exception that their vehicles are partially or completely reusable. This may not seem like an important difference, but ELVs are much more costly and environmentally harmful. Both of these concerns may play a role to entice consumers, companies, and investors in the future when commercial space travel and exploration become more common and lucrative.

Although very different than SpaceX and Deep Blue’s vehicles, Virgin Galactic also more or less primarily draws from pre-existing NASA technology. In 1986, NASA began the Rockwell X-30, also known as the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP), which was meant to be a passenger, suborbital space liner. Like SpaceShipTwo, NASP was envisaged to take off from the ground, avoiding the need for a large rocket booster system, but the project was ultimately canceled in 1996 before a prototype was built. The vehicles of the Billionaire Space Race are definitely bringing new innovations to the field of space exploration, and as the race evolves, many long-term implications for general consumers and society have developed.

Practical benefits of privatized space exploration

The tycoons who own these space programs and the army of scientists they employ are constantly thinking of new ways to use the technologies they’ve developed to turn a profit and offer some benefits for greater society. Some of these benefits take place in space, such as the development of more and increasingly sophisticated satellites.

SpaceX is in the process of creating a satellite network known as Starlink. Starlink was first launched on May 23, 2019 with the goal of putting up 12,000 satellites to provide broadband internet for underserved parts of the world. The other companies have shown interest in following this trend as well as developing other satellite programs for business ventures that include tracking shipping movements or locating valuable natural resources.

But the Billionaire Space Race also has the potential to help alleviate terrestrial problems such as hunger. According to the World Economic Forum, the technology described above can also be used to image large areas of agricultural land and help bring clean water to people by monitoring reservoirs. The success of such endeavors will ultimately rely on the willingness of the CEOs and boards of these companies and how much capital they have to spend, which is itself dependent upon investors.

The numbers show that there’s plenty of investment opportunities, and interest, in private space programs. In 2009, total funding in private space exploration exceeded $20 billion, which continued to grow in the following years. More than $1.7 billion in equity was invested into corporate space companies in 2019, or nearly double from the previous quarter. The profits are also expected to grow. The current $350 billion in revenue captured from private space exploration is expected to grow to more than $1 trillion in 2040, giving any ambitious investor a unique opportunity.

And future investment in private space exploration will likely be driven by lowered costs in the industry. Morgan Stanley recently reported that thanks to the reusable rockets used by SpaceX and Blue Origin, the cost of launching a satellite has declined from about $200 million to $60 million. Satellite mass production could further decrease these costs to about $500,000 per launch. As decreasing costs will likely entice more investors (including non-industrial, “main street” investors), increased competition among the private space programs will drive innovation.

Just as the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union led to amazing scientific innovations in the original space race, the urge to be first will likely create new discoveries and bring down costs in the Billionaire Space Race. Where the race ends and how many new discoveries are made are only dependent upon the deep pocketbooks and egos of the tycoons involved, not public opinion or government bureaucracy.

Not your grandpa’s space race

In many ways, the Billionaire Space Race of today resembles the original space race between the US and the USSR. Similar to the original space race, the parties involved in current space exploration strive to be the first among their peers to grab the glory and associated profits. Yet there are also some notable differences – namely the cleaner, more efficient technologies that are propelling these space vehicles.

When the Billionaire Space Race is put into a wider perspective, it’s clear that it offers a number of benefits for consumers, investors, and society in general. The expansion of technologies to alleviate problems on Earth is perhaps the primary selling point of these private space programs, but these programs also offer investment opportunities today and in the future. Finally, the competition between these private space companies will eventually lead to better technology and lower costs, which in the end will bring more benefits to consumers and greater society.

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How can chatbots help us?

  • December 9, 2021

  • Eyes4Research

Advances in AI have gathered speed so rapidly that even the savviest businesspeople are scrambling to catch up with the trends. Chatbots have the potential to rocket businesses into a new age of superb customer service and sensational returns on investments. By the end of this year, it is predicted that every type of industry and public service including healthcare and education will be implementing integrated systems responding quickly to innumerable client needs every minute of the day.

The dream of a robot capable of responding in a natural human way remained the stuff of fiction until the 21st century. The world is already used to robotic responses online and ‘conversing’ with virtual assistants but now we are at a development stage of Natural Language Processing (NLP) that could fully realize the fantasy. Advanced chatbots, more accurately described as conversational AI, are able to ‘learn’. They memorize and absorb information from human responses, allowing them to improve their conversation techniques.

Is it time to take a step back and question where this is leading society? Is this development exciting or frightening? For the young and in commerce there are brilliant opportunities ahead, no question, but for the elderly or those of an alternative mindset, views of these technological wonders may not be so positive. Of course, some will embrace the benefits while others may find the complexities of the technology to be a minefield best avoided.

Enthusiasts of chatbots point out the benefits to people with health conditions or impairments, the very elderly, and – most importantly – the lonely of all ages. There are those who wonder if AI and the chatbot revolution will make the enforced social distancing of the recent pandemic a permanent way of life that may not be altogether beneficial. Chatbots can help relieve long hours of loneliness and even assist in carrying out essential daily tasks but may also mask underlying needs that only human contact can supply.

Aside from online apps, robotic innovations include virtual pets that use the same idea of voice to ‘pet’ that develops a relationship as with a real dog. It is well known that pets can be important therapeutic aids so when there is no possibility of buying and keeping a live animal this technology may be helpful. The difference is that AI chatbots cannot ‘feel’. To date, it has proven challenging to create chatbots that respond to mood and react in an appropriate and helpful way to the user.

Designing conversation agents to counter loneliness is an important development in AI and one that saw real-time testing during the lockdowns and restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic resulted in millions of people of all ages simply being cut off for long periods from direct contact with work colleagues, friends, family, and everyday interactions on the street, bus, train, or at a local store. This was unthinkable in the pre-Covid-19 pandemic era. During the pandemic, many connected online via Zoom, Skype, Meet, and/or a host of other online chat and meeting services. This allowed individuals to maintain a connection to others. Some – experiencing long hours of loneliness – increasingly also signed up for AI chatbots to compensate.

For a growing number of individuals, loneliness is a way of life beyond pandemic conditions. This is a problem AI chatbot developers aim to address. One such company is Replika. Replika offers users the ability to creates an avatar capable of developing characteristics of the user it picks up from every ‘conversation’. Replika’s AI companions present themselves as friends who are always there to listen and talk. What is significant and somewhat interesting is that many reviews indicate young people are attached to this kind of AI chatbot. Does this show a hidden and worrying level of loneliness in our younger generation – or simply a new generation willing and able to explore the manifold benefits of new technologies? Perhaps we haven’t grown up beyond talking to our favorite teddy bear, a constant friend. How long can a chatbot engage a user once they realize it is not a real human? In other words, how close can a chatbot get to passing the Turing test?

Introduced in 1950 in computer scientist Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, the Turing test caused quite a stir. The proposed test led to the ELIZA program (published by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966), which appeared to convince users that they were conversing with an intelligent being. In fact, the program was an early example of the chatbot technology used today focusing on keywords and phrases and pre-programmed responses. Since over half a century since these innovations occurred, this technology has only snowballed into the 21st century and shows no sign of slowing down.

The technological explosion of the digital age is tremendously exciting. It’s gratifying that there is still so much ingenuity and creativity in the current age, with many potential benefits for humankind. Companies and public services stand to benefit from improved customer services and can garner vital feedback for the future. Healthcare bots may facilitate better information and communication between patients and health workers. Chatbots have a clear role to play in security and home-alone situations.

The downside is that at this stage there are still many chatbot fails. Misinterpretation of words or phrases, inappropriate responses can be hilarious or disastrous. Other issues include out-of-context replies and assorted other malfunctions. These are all crucial problems to be sorted.

For the foreseeable future, the implementation of chatbots will continue to be an important area of focus for commerce, government, and public services. At the moment, chatbot content development, problem-solving, system development, and training make for highly sought skills. Virtual assistants are no longer a novelty. Perhaps we shall all get a personal chatbot avatar one day. Replika counts over seven million users already, so it’s not too difficult to imagine a time in the near future when it is as commonplace to have such a system as it is owning a smartphone. I just can’t see it replacing the teddy bear, though.

About the author: Rudly Raphael is the Founder and CEO of Eyes4Research. He has more than 15 years of experience in the market research industry, implementing primary and secondary research for a number of high profile clients. He’s a frequent blogger and has published a number of articles in various online journals, magazines, and other publications.

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Layer-on-Layer

  • December 9, 2021

  • Eyes4Research

Earlier this year, Wohlers Associates, Inc. published its annual report with current figures for the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. The report showed a surprising expansion of 7.50%, upwards of $12.80 billion in 2020, despite the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Growth was way down in previous years, but with many other industries struggling to survive and revive from global lockdowns, the trend still looks positive. The report also indicated growth in diversity of application in areas that could have dramatic benefits for humankind.

Why then is there a neo-Luddite movement that is so opposed to this new technology? Should we be taking that step back we all need sometimes and question where these developments are taking us? Or should we just embrace these astounding technologies?

As the industrial revolution in Great Britain marched on into the early 19th century, workers in the textile manufacturing industries became alarmed as machinery threatened their jobs. Fears that machines would make them redundant led workers to form a secret oath-based organization dedicated to stopping this advance of industrialization. The society, known as the Luddites, smashed up machinery, caused disturbances, and even physically attacked factory owners to hold back inevitable progress.

They may have been shortsighted (and their methods unacceptable) but the fears of these workers were real. These workers had no trade unions or social security benefits to assist them were they to become unemployed. They and their families could face destitution. The sad fact was that they were playing King Canute, who in legend tried to hold back the waves. The industrial age rushed on regardless. Even so, their stance – in time – led to social changes, and the revolution they feared brought benefits to their children and grandchildren.

There are obvious parallels with the rapid advancements in our current technological age. AM may threaten the employment of many workers but they bring potentially enormous benefits. The neo-Luddites may try to halt the progression but they are unlikely to stop it. Still, they may help balance the disadvantages, echoing the pattern of the earlier industrial age.

AM is now thought of as almost synonymous with 3-D printing, a technological advancement that utilizes digital processes to create and recreate lighter, stronger parts and systems. 3-D scanners employing computer-aided design (CAD) software continue to improve their ability to produce complex geometric shapes by way of a layer-by-layer technique that builds up material into the desired object. The benefits are manifold and many industries now employ the technique. Multiple parts can be created rapidly and accurately without the need for a large physical workforce. Here is the point of argument for Luddism.

For investors, following the general trend in manufacturing of smaller companies gaining traction over long-establish market giants, AM is at the moment on an upward trajectory. Wohlers in particular highlights applications in the food industry, electronics, and in the medical field. This latter category is perhaps the area that may convince neo-Luddites that these technological changes do not conflict so strongly with their own philosophies. These are applications of this new technology that have very clear benefits.

Whatever premise we start from, all we’re concerned about is our longevity and quality of life. AM and 3-D printing have made significant advances in the health sector that have created a positive impact in those two areas of anxiety. Education and surgical planning from diagnosis to treatment using living tissues created by this technique make for the areas most heavily investing in 3-D this year. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for these new technologies, yielding an almost overwhelming demand for medical equipment. AM has sped up supply production while other companies have used the technique to satisfy an increase in orders for personal protective equipment.

Research and development using AM have no limits. For example, it will ultimately end animal testing. The challenge to create organs without donors is ongoing and the technology is used in cancer research and treating epilepsy. Cranial reconstruction and joint replacements can be achieved far more rapidly with this new method. Commercially affordable prosthetics and implants are making a positive impact on poorer societies and individuals. The benefits are adding up, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is certainly hard for anyone to ignore them.

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How Technology is Changing the Fashion Industry

3-D printing is revolutionizing education, the preservation of cultural heritage, fashion and transportation industries, dentistry, and food. In the automotive industry, parts are being manufactured at a remarkable speed. This includes Formula 1 racing, where replacing something like a wing now takes only 10 days (instead of five weeks). AM can produce lightweight, strong parts for aerospace that now include parts for commercial jet engines. The tide of these technological advances cannot be stemmed.

Today, neo-Luddism converges with green philosophies in rejecting most modern technologies. Sustainability is an area of great concern for environmentalists. Manufacturing processes, unchanged for an era, are being revolutionized by additive 3-D methods, leading to greater efficiency and fewer required materials, equaling less waste. The capability to produce parts on-site rather than in factories miles away means reduced transport costs and carbon emissions. Lower costs enable poorer sections of society to benefit from advances in healthcare, education, and food manufacturing.

It may be possible (and wise) to take that step back and consider where technology is taking us. But as the world emerges from the pandemic, these innovations continue to arrive as a tidal bore that nothing is likely to stop.

Of course, there are problems and glitches to work through, and this will continue into 2021 and beyond. AMFG, a company aimed at providing additive manufacturing solutions, outlines a number of ongoing developments that will press AM into the next phase. Software must update and adapt more effectively to the needs of these new technologies. Software and hardware will have to integrate and connect more positively with the production floor. A broader use of AI technologies at all stages of AM also makes for a major trend for 2021.

Additive manufacturing allows greater freedom of design by creating layer-on-layer and encourages innovation. The pandemic raised awareness of the benefits of AM in areas such as sustainability, diversity, and in production accuracy (including improved distribution times and reduced costs). A 2020 survey of US manufacturing engineers across 7 top industries ranked AM highly for investment following the pandemic. That time has been slow in coming, but as 2021 progresses AM technology continues to overtake traditional manufacturing processes. Concerns for job losses in time may be compensated by more demand for new technology skills and innovators. Environmental warriors may need to change tack against this new age and embrace 3-D printing for its benefits to green issues and sustainability. Neo-Luddism may give way to the layer-on-layer revolution.

Rudly Raphael is the Founder and CEO of Eyes4Research. He has more than 15 years of experience in the market research industry, implementing primary and secondary research for a number of high profile clients. He’s a frequent blogger and has published a number of articles in various online journals, magazines, and other publications.

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