New Jersey Uses An Algorithm To Eliminate Bias In Criminal Bail System

Faced with jail overcrowding at a near epidemic proportion, earlier this year New Jersey recently overhauled how it determines bail eligibility for persons awaiting trial.  Now, using an algorithm that weighs the risk of a person to “skip bail”, New Jersey has reformed their system bail system – removing cash from the equation.  A person is either eligible to be let out of jail as they await trial, or they are not.

And apparently, this system is working very well. This algorithm, which was designed transparently by prosecutors, public defenders, and judges, measures simple historical factors such as the crime they are accused of, their criminal history, and their history of reporting for court.

Other areas are looking at replicating this system.  It keeps low risk offenders out of jail and (hopefully) productive members of society, reducing costs of incarceration.

Just enough example of data for good.

What Do The New Communication Privacy Rules Mean To You?

A lot is being made about the recent moves to unwind the FCC privacy rules, which made it difficult for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to share consumer web and app behavior data without permission.

Data collection and sharing comes down to Notice & Choice.  Was the consumer aware that you were collecting data, did they know how you intend to use that data at the time the data was collected, and do they currently have the option to Opt Out of the collection and subsequent use of that data at any time.

The rules around notice and choice vary from channel to channel and region to region.  If you have ever asked yourself why many European websites have begun posting obnoxiously prominent privacy notices (in some cases requiring you to actually accept the privacy policy before continuing), now you know.

As I mentioned, how this is managed varies from channel to channel, in large part because the technology from channel to channel varies.  In a web browser, a specific no-follow cookie is (somewhat ironically) use to indicate to a web browser that the consumer doesn’t want to be tracked by cookies, or other means.  If the consumer deletes that no-follow cookie, then a website assumes it is alright to follow and track that consumer.

But cookies don’t work in every channel. Addressable TV doesn’t accept cookies.  Most mobile webs don’t either.  Given the many to many relationship between the numerous potential online and offline channels, the countless signals that can be pulled from a consumer device (cookie ID, latitude/longitude, mobile ID a.k.a. MAID, cookie, IP address, device type, etc.), and the different ways in which a consumer can opt out (DMA, IAB, no-follow cookies, etc.) – the challenges of properly managing consumer opt-outs is arduous.

Understandably there was concern when it was announced that there might be changes in the policy which governs how ISPs collect and share your viewing and browsing behavior. Questions like:  what data would be collected and shared?  how would consumers be notified of this data collection (through a pop up screen?  in the terms and conditions of their contract?)   and how could they opt out ?

Unlike other “walled gardens” such as Google and Facebook, who each maintain massive databases on digital consumer behavior, ISPs are unique in that they see all of the Internet activity for their customers.   They are the “last mile” ending at the home, so in the case of wifi they see all activity coming from a specific modem or mobile device, and are able to tie that to the identity of the person paying the internet bill.   Google and Facebook only see that activity for registered users which occurs within their own sites, or sites which use their targeting and analytics services.

At this point it is unknown what the specific changes will be, but it’s certain that they will  impact both consumers and marketers alike.

Marketers need to closely monitor how data is collected not only internally but also by their marketing partners (including media publishers) to ensure that it is done so compliantly.

Building the Right Team and Ensuring Their Success

I’ve had the pleasure of being in management roles ever since a young age. Thinking back, my first role in managing people was in the Boy Scouts. We were a small irreverent troop in a rural beach town in Southern California. When the time came to select a senior troop leader, I found my peers all recommending me. My recollection was everyone quietly whispering my name when they were asked who should be patrol leader; an alternative version might be that everyone took one step backwards leaving me standing alone to take the role. Optimists favor fond memories, so we’ll stick with the former version.

It was more of a ceremonial role; no one saluted me or called me sir. I didn’t lead the troop on hikes, nor decide where we would camp. They didn’t do push-ups upon my command. We were all equals – I was simply responsible for a few additional administration functions. Each person had a clear specialty: one was gifted with a sense of direction, another had an early growth spurt so he took on more physical responsibilities, … my specialty was starting fires – a skill I learned from grandfather as we built fires in our fireplace each night. You could best define our group as a collective, connected yet autonomous … and as a result we made major decisions as a group.

Since then I’ve gone on to manage numerous teams in career. I’ve inherited teams, I’ve restructured teams, and I’ve built them “from scratch”. And through each opportunity, I find myself striving to get back to the organic simplicity we had in the Boy Scouts.

Unfortunately, the perfect team structure doesn’t usually happen organically; it must be manufactured to some extent. It starts with hiring the right person. There is a lot that goes into this decision, but some key things I look for in a team member are:

Energy

You can’t fake energy for any duration. My teams work hard, and play hard – and they need an energetic personality to accomplish this goal. Debbie Downer need not apply.

Smarts

By smart, I mean every definition. Street smart and book smart. Left brain and right brain. Whiteboard flowcharts on the fly, mentally calculate complicated math, and all while geniunely winning over the client and making them your next best friend.

Adaptable

I look for someone who learns quickly, and adapts well to change. They don’t need to be an expert. They need to be capable of being an expert.

Fearless
I tell new hires that they have a six month pass to make every mistake that they can. It’s important to encourage employees to push the limits, and not be afraid of breaking a few (little) things in the process. I’ve worked with teams where the fear of making mistakes stifled ambition and innovation.

A Leader

I’ve learned that you need to empower employees, in stages. At first, I openly micromanage everything that they do. Most businesses where I’ve worked have had extremely complicated products and processes, and new hires benefit from the extra attention. But it isn’t sustainable, and over the course of a few months I slowly take off the training wheels and let them ride on their own. And then I make them responsible for teaching someone else.

A Listener
Most of the time clients will tell you exactly what they want, if you just stop to listen. It’s just as simple as that.

It may sound obvious, but “hiring right” is arguably the single most important thing a manager can do. If you hire the right people, your job as a manager is only that much easier. But, of course, your work isn’t done! Their success, and ultimately yours, largely depends on how you work with them.

Several years ago a friend of mine (who works at Google) mentioned that Google’s managers are measured on how successful their reports are. Success is measured not only by how reports achieve their goals, but also how reports advance within the organization. This concept has had a tremendously positive impact on how I view management and work with my team. My primary goal is to ensure their success. Such an obvious statement whose impact is really determined by the metrics of success (hint: it isn’t just revenue).

Since then I’ve made it a point to meet with my team at least twice a year to discuss their career planning. Where do they want to go within the organization (or beyond), and how do we actually make that a reality? Calculating the return on this is quite simple …. I’ve found that by investing in their future, they invest more in mine.

Technology is Making the Billboard Sexy (Again?)

You can trace the modern day billboard back to the 1790’s, when the advent of lithography made it easy to mass produce signage.  In the 1900’s, billboards followed the explosion of the automobile and moved from the sides of buildings to highways.  Close to 100 years later in 2012, the digital billboard was born – allowing content to change interactively.

Thanks to the proliferation of location tracking through mobile devices, digital billboards are now advancing even further.

Clear Channel just launched a program called Radar, which uses technology and location data from partners like AT&T, Place IQ, and Placed, to build audience profiles based upon the people that pass by the billboard. They’re able to tell an advertiser not only the exposure of the ad but the aggregated demographics of the consumers who likely drove by the billboard.  This is a vast improvement over the old method, which relied on a person actually counting the cars that drove by a particular ad.

Synapse Labs is using cameras to identify the make, model, and year of a car passing by a billboard – and changing the ad content in realtime.  So BMW can target the drivers of late model Audi’s differently than early model Mercedes Benz owners.

Technology has vastly improved two of the three legs of addressable advertising for outdoor signage – modeling and targeting.   All that is left is accurate post-campaign measurement, tying those who are exposed to an advertisement to their future purchases.

These are exciting advancements, and this type of technology isn’t limited to billboards and cars; it can be applied to any outdoor signage.  For example, targeted advertising in a shopping mall based upon the gender of the person standing in front of the sign. And I’m certain that this isn’t the last advancement we’ll see to billboards and outdoor signage.  As cross channel hyper-targeting becomes more accurate through technological advancements, you’ll see better uses of this “classic” media.

Sources:  History of Billboards, Wikipedia

The Rise of the Chief Privacy Officer

Your company’s responsibility as a steward of consumer data is greater than ever. Advances in technology have made it extremely easy to access and collect sensitive consumer data from disparate first, second, and third party sources, analyze that data, and then use that data to build sophisticated consumer profiles which could impact how you engage with that consumer.

Welcome to the age of the Chief Privacy Officer.

As market capabilities have grown, so too has the breadth of what could be considered sensitive consumer data.  No longer is it just name, address, birthdate, and social security number.  Collecting personal information such as transaction data at the product SKU level, digital IDs, location, viewing history, etc. is not only very easy, but also quite common.

As is the ability to tie that information directly to an individual – across both identifiable and (seemingly) anonymous online and offline activities. The technology exists to build more sophisticated Device Graphs, which connect disparate signals to a single persistent offline ID which can ultimately can be associated with an person.  Anonymous cookie ID ‘123’ can be connected to mobile device ID ‘ABC’ which is tied to IP address 123.456.789.123. Once you’re able to associate any of those signals to a individual “offline” signal (for example, a name, postal address, email address, etc.), you’re able to align all of the behavioral data through each of those channels back to that same individual.

And the number of signals that can be used for identification continue to grown.   Recent studies have shown that a phone’s battery behavior as well as the characteristics of a phone’s audio hardware are unique enough to create an anonymous identity for the device.

The responsibility of how this data is collected, the notice and choice that is provided to the consumer, how consumers can access and alter this data, and how your organization ultimately uses that data falls directly on the shoulders of the Chief Privacy Officer.

Let’s use the example of Uber’s recent study on the price elasticity of Uber rides, which showed that consumers are more likely to pay a surge fee if their battery level is low.  In this case, Uber is clearly collecting through its app (among other things) the battery level of your phone.  The obvious concern would be the use of that data in determining the price of a ride.  Uber could theoretically increase fares of consumers based upon their then current battery level, giving consumers with lower batter levels higher prices (because, theoretically, they would pay it).  This could have negative PR and legal consequences.

What is the consumer’s responsibility?

The right to collect, associate, and use this data is buried within each provider’s privacy policy.  It’s up to the consumer to understand what data is being collected, and how it is being used.  It is also the consumer’s responsibility to proactively opt out of marketing channels.

Unfortunately, technology has not made this process simple.   What was once a relatively easy offline process of opting out of receiving direct mail either through the brand or the Direct Marketing Association, has become more challenging as the number of media channels has grown.  Each channel has its own opt out process.  For example, in digital display on a browser it is – ironically – an opt out cookie that alerts brands to not track the consumer, while other channels that don’t support cookies must offer different alternatives.

What is your company’s responsibility?

This isn’t just a legal question.  A key function of the Chief Privacy Officer role is to understand not only the legal implications of actions your company takes, but also the moral and branding implications.  Ideally, actions are decided based upon what is best for the consumer, best for your company, and in compliance with local and federal laws and guidelines.

While the Chief Privacy Officer function won’t achieve the rockstar status that Chief Data Scientist has, it is certainly just as important as your company’s role as a data steward evolves.

 

 

The Problem With Cookies Isn’t The Cookies …

There is quite a bit of debate going on about people based matching versus cookie based matching.  I thought that I’d take a minute to set the record straight.

Before I start, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of how the Internet and cookies work together.

WHAT IS A COOKIE?

A cookie is actually just a small text file, which sits on your device (like a laptop, a tablet, or a mobile phone).  Your device can store countless cookies from the various websites you’ve visited, and each is unique to  your device and in some cases your web browser.

Cookies are used to store information about your web browsing.  This information could be your name (so that the webpage can greet you … eg: “Welcome back Scott”, address, your username / password (to give you access to a specific website), the web pages that you’ve visited before,  etc.

Now to understand the importance of a cookie, you need to understand how a web server works.   

THE WEB SERVERS AND COOKIES IN BASIC TERMS

Imagine you’re at a hotel bar, and you’re charging drinks to your room.  Each time you go up to the bar for a refill, you have to repeat your room number because the bartender has a really bad memory.  Now imagine that the bartender can look up your room number using your room key.

This is how the Web Servers and cookies work together.  

Websites are hosted on Web Servers.  When you surf the web, each webpage is delivered to your device (phone, ipad, etc.) from the Web Server independently.   The Web Server is a “session state” environment, meaning that it cannot natively associate one request from a device to another.  In other words, it only “sees” (and remembers) each webpage request separately.  This is where cookies come in.  They help carry information to the Web Server, from one webpage request to another.

In the example above, you are the web browser.  The bartender is the Web Server.  The drink you order is the web page.   And your room key is the Cookie.

Cookies can also be used to target advertising.  An Ad Server (like a Web Server for advertisements) can be programmed to serve specific ads to specific cookies.  This is the technology used to deliver ads to specific people.

THE PROBLEM WITH COOKIES

A cookie, in and of itself, isn’t the problem.  The problem is the linkage.  How was a cookie associated with the person to whom the ad is being served.  As marketers, we need to make sure that we are reaching the right people with the right ad … and more importantly not reaching those people who have opted out.

This is especially true in the world of regulated data, where you need to know who you are targeting.  And cookie-based linkage is controlled by a handful of companies who 1) are walled gardens and don’t share how they link offline people to online cookies 2) they don’t collect this information directly.  They rely on other websites to gather PII, and connect it to their cookies.  In some cases, the data is very accurate (especially with transaction data).  In some cases, it is not (think websites that collect PII when giving surveys, offering coupons, etc.).

In short, in order for you to use cookies based targeting accurately, you need to have insight into the source of the base linkage data that was used to connect the offline consumer record to the online cookie.  And until that happens, the debate will continue to rage on. 

 

“I wouldn’t have signed it either”

Some of my friends have some pretty cool jobs.  Stuntwoman.  Actor.  Rocket Scientist.  Entrepreneur.

And there’s Dan.

Dan is in charge of advance work for key members of the Democratic party visiting Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  He travels with these Democratic VIPs, coordinating all of the important aspects of their trips such as where they go, with whom they meet, etc.

One afternoon years ago, Dan called me said that he was in Las Vegas and asked if I would like to meet President Bill Clinton the next day.  At this time, President Clinton had left office and Dan was accompanying him throughout the West coast on a series of speaking events. I immediately said “Yes” and “Thank You!” , then he asked me for my full name and social security number so that I could be vetted by the Secret Service.  Dan told me he’d call me back with more details.

Even though by this point in my life I’d become politically indifferent (I’d seen up close the ugly underbelly of politics, and didn’t care for it; I’d learned to care more about people and policies, rather than political parties), I was very excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity.   I called a few friends who were extreme Clinton fanatics – a few of whom had actually met the President themselves – and the message was consistent … “He’s going to impress you”.  I had no idea how true that statement would be.

That night I received word from Dan that I’d passed the background check, and was given instructions on where to meet him at the Bellagio the next afternoon.  Before I knew it, I was waiting in line with 20 other people to meet the President.

The process was rather sterile, and impersonal.  One person would walk up, Clinton would shake their hand, say a few words, turn to the camera, FLASH, thank them – and then greet the next person.  By the time I got to the front of the line, my heart was racing, I was sweating profusely, and all of the blood had run out of my face.  I wiped my hand on my suit pants, stepped up and introduced myself with a handshake that would have made my grandfather proud, said something unoriginal and unmemorable.  We both turned to the camera, FLASH, and then I was ushered out.

It was arguably the worst photo I’ve ever taken.

Dazed and relieved, I made my way to the main hall to get a seat to watch Clinton’s speech.  I found a seat in the back of a dark room, behind 500 or so of Clinton’s biggest Las Vegas supporters.  Clinton spoke from a well lit raised stage for about 45 minutes on a myriad of topics, all of which had nothing to do with politics except for stating several times that now that he was no longer in politics, he could speak freely and tell people how he really felt.  He was personable, humorous, and real.  And when he concluded, he gestured to two microphones set in between the three sections of seats, and invited the audience to ask him questions.

The second question came from an older man.  In a thick accent, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) :

“President Clinton, I’m so excited to be speaking with you.  I feel like I’m making love to a young woman for the first time.”

There’s an awkward silence from both the President, and the crowd.

“I want to thank you for all that you did to help my war torn country of Bosnia  *  ”

Clinton steps forward to the edge of the stage, and raises his hand to block the spot light on him so that he can better see the man who is speaking.  The house lights suddenly come up.  Clinton is locked on the man – as if he’s engaged in a private conversation.  The whole scene seems very contrived to me, and I’m immediately reminded of the movie Wag The Dog.

“Recently President [George W] Bush decided not to sign the international anti-land mine treaty, which would have banned the land mines that ravaged my country.  What do you think about that?”

The entire audience is silent, as President Clinton pauses for a minute to think.  Then he responds:

“I wouldn’t have signed it either”.

The air leaves the room. The crowd gasps, the old man is deflated standing in front of the microphone, and Clinton continues:

“Now that I’m not running for office, I can tell you how I really feel.  That treaty had loopholes, and it allowed certain countries to continue to produce land mines.  It didn’t solve the problem, and I wouldn’t have signed it either.”

Clinton then went on to talk about how he and then President Bush communicated often, and that they agree on some things and not on others.  Most importantly, they kept a respectful, open dialogue.

And isn’t that how everyone should be – whether they’re in politics, or not?

Several months later I received an envelope in the mail, with an 8 1/2″ x 11″ glossy color photo of a tanned former president with brilliant white teeth, standing next an extremely pale man with one eye that looks slightly larger than the other.  I look slightly better in the black and white version of the photo.

 

*President Clinton was instrumental is bringing military assistance to Bosnia, through “Lift and Strike

Translating the new language of TV

TV – it’s a whole new world.  With new ways that live and prerecorded video are being distributed, so too does the list of new terms that define this medium.  Here’s a list of the most common terms being used in Television today.

 

Addressable Advertising: TV audiences which can be segmented, usually at the household level, based upon attributes such as geography, demographics, and / or behavior.

Cable Operators: Companies that provide television content via a cable in the ground – for example, Cox communications.

Connected TV: A television that supports the delivery of OTT content.

Digital Video Recorder:  A device which records linear TV digitally,  for viewing at a later date.

Gross Rating Point (GRP): The common method in which television viewership is rated.  Also known as “TV Ratings”, it shows the percentage of households which watch a particular program.

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV):  Also known as Internet TV, it is the streaming of video content to any media device (such as a personal computer, game console, etc.).

Linear: Television service where the programs are delivered on a set schedule, as opposed to Video On Demand.

Mobile TV: This is real-time video content which is broadcast over a mobile network.

Multiple System Operators (MSO): An operator of multiple cable or satellite transmission systems. MSOs include AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Dish, Verizon, Cox Communications, Altice, Frontier, Mediacom, WOW!, Cable One, TPG, Windstream, Century Link, Midcontent Communications, Atlantic Broadband Group, Amstrong Cable Services, Service Electric Cable TV, Metrocast, Blue Ridge Communications, Google Fiber, etc.  They are also known as Multichannel Video Program Distributors (MVPDs).

Over The Air (OTA):  Television which is broadcasted using radio waves to a TV receiver.  OTA is typically not addressable at the household level, meaning that it cannot be segmented by household.

Over The Top (OTT): This refers to the delivery of video content (TV, movies, etc.) using an Internet protocol – without requiring a television subscription to a cable or satellite provider.

Satellite Providers: Companies that provide television content via Satellite transmissions.

Set Top Box:  This is the device which decodes the signal transmitted by your cable or satellite TV provider.  It likely was named because it was a box which, in early days, sat on top of your TV set.  The Set Top Box is registered and is unique to a household.

Streaming:  Streaming is the real-time distribution of video and audio content over an Internet protocol, as opposed to the content which is downloaded.  Streaming content can be stored for a short period of time (commonly referred to as a buffer, for obvious reasons) to ensure a consistent user experience in case of an interruption in the Internet connectivity between the device and the server.

Time Shifting: The process by which a viewer watches content at a different time than the scheduled broadcast time.  They can do so using various technologies and services, such as DVRs, VOD, OTT, and Mobile TV.

Video On Demand (VOD): Television and video content which can be accessed by the viewer at any time.

I’ll Have What Ray’s Having …

It was a cold night at JFK and the terminal was eerily (yet understandably) quiet.  Just a few weeks prior two planes had flown into the World Trade Center, and most people were avoiding air travel.  The mood was somber, to say the least.

I was “listed non-rev” on the last flight back to LA for the night, which is airline lingo for waiting on the stand-by list as a non-revenue passenger, thanks to my friends and family benefits with the airline.  This was long before the airlines automated this system with online check-in and in-app status notifications.  The protocol back then was to wait patiently by the gate for your named to be called, just minutes before the gate closed.

This was an art form in and of itself; you wanted to be close enough to hear your name if the gate agent chose to just yell for you rather than use the PA system, but not so close that you annoyed the gate agent.  Just like today, gate agents have a tremendous amount of discretion in seat assignments and lurking over the podium for your name to be called was the fastest way to be seated in the back next to the restroom … or not get a seat at all.

So there I was quietly standing off to the side, listening for my name, when the phone rang at the gate.   The exchange went like this:

Gate Agent: Hello?

[The Gate Agent pauses while listening]

Gate Agent: Hold on, let me check.

[The Gate Agent picks up another phone and dials]

Gate Agent:  Do we have any Bailey’s on the plane?

[The Gate Agent pauses again while listening]

Gate Agent: Thanks.

[The Gate Agent hangs up the second phone, and goes back to the first call]

Gate Agent:  No, we don’t.  [short pause] Ok, thanks.

 

About five minutes later, an airline employee comes up from tarmac with a large bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  He hands it to the Gate Agent, who rushes it down the jetway to the plane.

Before I continue I feel that I have to level set that everyone, including myself, was on edge.  Just a few weeks prior terrorists had hijacked three planes and used them to kill thousands of people.  The FAA had only recently allowed planes to fly again.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but personally I was being (perhaps overly) vigilant.

And in my hyper vigilant state, I started to ask myself questions about that bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. What was so important about the bottle?  Did it go through security?  It was much larger than 3 ounces, …. could it be disguising something else? Could someone have put an explosive in a fake bottle, and thrown it over the tarmac fence to avoid security?

You hear stories about people who have an intuition and get off a plane, only to find that it crashes on that flight … I quietly wondered to myself if that bottle of Bailey’s was a sign that I shouldn’t be on this plane.

Did I mention that it was late?

After some internal debate – which I’d like to be able to say was short but in truth likely took longer than I’d like to admit – I realized that my concerns were irrational and resolved myself to get on the plane, Bailey’s or not.  This decision was eased by the fact that the Gate Agent had called my name and assigned me a seat in first class.

The seating configuration of the first class cabin was (facing forward) two seats on the left / aisle / two seats in the middle / aisle / and two seats on the right.  My seat was 6B, on the left side of the plane just a few seats down from where we boarded.

I quickly got on board, and settled into my comfortable leather seat for the flight home – the bottle of Bailey’s now only a faint memory.

Just as the flight attendant made the final pre-flight announcements, I noticed Ray Charles and his assistant getting on the plane.  His assistant helped Ray into seat 6E, across the plane from me in the same row, then quickly ran behind the first class section to speak to the flight attendant taking the pre-flight drink order from the passenger behind me.

Ray Charles’ assistant:  excuse me, did you get the bailey’s?

flight attendant:  Yes sir, we have the bailey’s.

ray charles’ assistant:  great, ray won’t fly without his bailey’s.  He’ll have a bailey’s on the rocks.

I quietly breathed a sigh of relief as I now understood the importance of that bottle of Bailey’s.  And when the flight attendant asked me “Mr. Gordon, would you care for a drink before flight?”, I confidently said … “I’ll have what Ray’s having”.

 

 

 

Wired Crowns Alexa the Winner

CES is over, and in this article Wired Magazine has crowned Alexa “the winner”.

There are now over 7,000 Alexa-enabled devices, from cars to speakers to appliances and TVs.  By offering an open platform for the development of Alexa-enabled devices, Amazon is getting tremendous market penetration and exponentially increasing the amount of consumer insights data it collects.

This is no easy feat.  Not only does the technology need to be able to accurately understand the user (something that for Siri is still rather hit or miss), but it needs to be able to action on that command.  And based upon’s Mark Zuckerberg’s own experience creating a connected home, he showed the latter to be more critical as he often “chatted” commands to his home using FB Messenger.

But is this really a game changer?  Marketers love this, for sure.  The ability to “listen” to what’s going on in a household has huge implications – for example, (theoretically) identifying who is in a room by their voice, and what commercial their listening to / watching (including the channel) based upon the audio signature.  Tie that to actual purchase activity and you have true closed loop attribution for radio and linear TV.

But will consumers really incorporate this into their daily lives.  Or will Alexa just end up having a conversation with Google Home?  It’ll be some time before we see if this brings real value, or if it is just a gimmick.  If having a virtual assistant really gives us the freedom to live our lives to their fullest, or if they just allow us to change the room temperature without leaving the bed.