My Fourth Trip To India: Part 6

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 23, 2017 by itnerd

I’m completing my last day in India and I want to wrap up a few things before I head to the airport for my 14 flight home. First of all was the smog issue. Now it wasn’t as bad as I heard it was going to be. Apparently according to the locals, it was a lot better than has been in the last few weeks. However, this is what I’ve seen during my stay here:

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You can see the smog in the above picture. If that’s better, I’d hate to see what’s worse. Also, I have noted that my skin is very itchy which is something that I had never experienced here before. Besides that, I am lucky that I brought two pairs of contact lenses as they have become unwearable by the time the business day is over and I have to swap them out for a fresh pair if I want to be able to see and be comfortable while doing it. That’s also something that I have never experienced before. It will be interesting to see how long it takes my body to recover from this smog.

Now one thing that I have not done to this point is show you the sights of Gurgaon. Here’s what the drive to and from my client looked like:

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One thing that caught my attention was this:

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The sign says “Be Alert, Accidents hurt.” No offense to anyone who is Indian, but drivers are insane here. I can’t believe how people drive around here as this sort of driving would land you in jail in a lot of other places. Not to mention that there is a very liberal use of the horn. I said early in this trip that this no longer bothered me. That was true until today where I was back to feeling like I was taking my life into my own hands by being driven around these parts. It also didn’t help that in the parking garage at my client’s office, I almost got hit by a car that must have been doing 60 KM/H in a space where you shouldn’t be doing anything over 10 KM/H.

Now, some final notes about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. One is in the form of photos of the lobby:

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This is a stunningly good looking lobby that is clean. When I say clean, I mean that I can never find a speck of dirt. It’s pretty freaking impressive. There’s a bar and two restaurants that are in the lobby that can take care of your eating and drinking needs like this in my case:

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This is a Kingfisher beer which is a local brand of beer that is available elsewhere. I really liked it and I’ll be seeing if I can grab a few cans of it when I get home as I really liked it.

On the whole, this hotel has top shelf service. I will admit that they sometimes struggle with service at breakfast if you show up for breakfast at 7 to 8:30 AM. But beyond that, I have zero complaints.

I also got a chance to do a final workout today. Here’s the result:

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While I was working out, I got to watch a wedding celebration which was unique to see. I wished that I took some photos, but I was focused on my workout. That was a shame as it was really interesting to watch.

The hotel did have problems with the TV service this week where for significant periods of time you could not watch TV. Well, when I got back to my hotel room, I found this:

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The manager of the hotel personally signed an apology letter on letterhead which is on great quality paper. Now this is how you do customer service. Rogers and Bell Canada, you need to pay attention as this is how you treat customers.

Here’s the bottom line. I really would recommend this place if you need to stay someplace in the Delhi region as this is a great place to stay.

Now, while this was a business trip with very limited amounts of time to get out and do something other than business. I did have the opportunity to go out and get this for my wife:

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I dragged along my client to negotiate the price of these items at a shop that was not a place that tourists would go to. On the left is a scarf. On the right is a jacket. The middle is a fridge magnet which was tossed in as part of the deal. Originally, it was going to be 15000 Rupees. That’s $294 CDN. My client managed to get that down to 12500 Rupees which is $248. Could I have done better? I don’t know. Maybe I could. I guess I am taking the view that any discount is a good discount. And it is likely better than anything that I could have done on my own. Whatever. I know that my wife will really like these items.

Now, by the time you read this, I will be on the way to the airport to fly home. I plan on arriving somewhere between 3 and 4 hours ahead of my flight to make sure that I make my flight on time. And I will be posting my final part of this travelogue when I get home. Stay tuned for that.

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If Canadians Want Bell Canada To Change Its Behavior, They Need To Stop Doing Business With Bell Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

Earlier this week it came to light that Bell Canada was forcing it’s call center staff to upsell customers at every opportunity. Since then customers have been coming out of the woodwork to say that that report is 100% accurate. For example, the CBC has a follow up report with some truly horrifying examples of what Bell is doing to customers. I encourage you to read it as some of the stories that are in that report are truly horrific. One thing that was suggested in that story was this:

The growing number of allegations about Bell employees using high-pressure sales tactics to upsell customers has prompted the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to call for a public inquiry.

“The CRTC needs to take a look at the sales practices of telecommunications and broadcasting companies in Canada with a particular emphasis on upselling or misleading sales,” PIAC executive director John Lawford said.

“Right now, there’s nothing in the Wireless Code that says you have to sell customers products that are suitable,” said Lawford.  

“If sales practices that are inappropriate and ripping off consumers are endemic in the industry, that’s completely appropriate for the CRTC to say ‘We’re going to set out rules.'”

The problem is, that’s not going to cut it. The CRTC has proven that it doesn’t have the will or ability to really act as a regulator. At least not when you compare them to the FTC or FCC in the states which does a far better job of this sort of thing. Though, they are free to surprise me by taking this on and producing results that will matter to Canadians. But I’m not holding my breath on that front.

The only real way to force Bell Canada to ensure that this behavior isn’t going on is to not do business with them. While Canada does have issues with having a truly competitive telco landscape, there is some choice out there in the form of Rogers and Telus. And shifting dollars away from a telco who on the wireless front accounts for 31.8% of complaints to the CCTS so far this year [Warning: PDF], would send Bell Canada a signal that this is not acceptable. And it would likely change their behavior way faster than any regulator or government cold. The bottom line is this, Canadians have the power to do something about this and all they need to do is exercise that power. If they don’t, Bell will simply weather this storm and continue to do the things that are described in the CBC reports on this topic. Which is not good for Canadian consumers.

Canadian Telcos Get Failing Grade When It Comes To Security

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

A CBC news report is making the rounds today, and it should give you a reason to think twice about how secure your cell phone is. In short, the report demonstrates how easy it is for hackers to track and monitor someone via their cell phone. And they only need their cell phone number to do it:

This is all possible because of vulnerability in the international telecommunication network. It involves what’s known as Signalling System No. 7— or SS7.

SS7 is the way cellphone networks around the world communicate with one another. It’s a hidden layer of messages about setting up and tearing down connections for a phone call, exchanging billing information or allowing a phone to roam. But hackers can gain access to SS7, too.

And:

That can go beyond spying on phone conversations or geolocating a phone. SS7 attacks can also be used to alter, add or delete content.

For example, Nohl said he could set up a person’s cellphone voicemail so all messages went directly to him. The user might never know the messages were missing.

“The technology is built with good intentions to make a very useful phone network and good user experience but it lacks any kind of security and it’s open to abuse.”.

The report then illustrates how easy it is to leverage this flaw to track someone. I would suggest reading the report as it is quite frightening. But what’s more frightening is how Canadian telcos responded to this report:

Bell, Rogers and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association declined to sit down with CBC/Radio-Canada and speak about the test results.

Via email, CBC/Radio-Canada sent a series of questions about what the networks were doing to prevent SS7 attacks and why customers weren’t being told conversations could be compromised. Both networks responded with general statements about their security efforts.

Rogers Communications said security is a top priority and that it has a cybersecurity team monitoring threats and is introducing new measure to protect customers.

“On SS7, we have already introduced and continue to implement the most advanced technologies but we are unable to share specific details for security reasons.”

Bell sent a two-line response.

“Bell works with international industry groups such as the GSMA [an international mobile phone operators association] to identify and address emerging security risks, including those relating to SS7.”

A spokesperson added that Bell is “an active participant” in the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

The group that represents Canadian telecoms was also fairly tight-lipped. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said it works with domestic and international bodies on security standards. It also said it works with law enforcement to “actively monitor and address risks.”

I’m sorry, but they need to do way better than that. While the threat is a problem for any telco almost anywhere on Earth, you have to know and see that the telco that you use has your back when it comes to security. What I am hearing from these companies doesn’t meet that bar. It’s actually not even close to that bar. That’s a problem. So is the fact that “Big three” member Telus is missing from this conversation. So are second tier companies like Public Mobile, Freedom Mobile, and the like. All of these companies need to step up and tell Canadians how they are going to ensure that their customers are protected.

Speaking of protection, here’s how you can protect yourself:

“If you’re using Signal, WhatsApp, Skype, you’re certainly protected from SS7 attacks…. But there’s other types of attacks that could happen against you, your computer, your phone. So you’re never fully safe.”

When it comes to having your movements tracked, Nohl said the only protection is to turn your phone off — something that’s not always practical.

That’s another reason why Canadian telcos need to step up and tell Canadians how they are going to be protected from this. And they need to do it now.

Mobile Shopping To Transform The Canadian Holiday Retail Experience This Year: PayPal

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

Ahead of the peak holiday shopping season, new research from Angus Reid commissioned by PayPal, reveals that Canadians will spend more than $2.5 billion using their mobile devices to shop for holiday gifts this year. In the third quarter of this fiscal year, more than 35 per cent of the transactions that PayPal processed globally, originated from a mobile device. The company expects to see a surge in mobile commerce in Canada over the holidays.

Canadian mobile shoppers plan to spend more than $200 on holiday gifts purchasing directly from their mobile device which is fairly close to the $275 which they plan to spend on buying gifts from a physical retail store. Many say they would use their mobile device to find and compare prices (62%) and research products (60%).

The latest holiday shopping trend is social commerce which is the act of people buying or selling directly from social media platforms. Survey data shows that one fourth of Canadians who own mobile devices plan to purchase a gift directly through an advertisement which pops up on their social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Of these shoppers, Millennials are more likely to drive social commerce (37%), followed by Gen X’ers (23%) and Baby Boomers (12%).

Mobile drives convenience and supports remote buying

Holiday shopping from mobile devices appears to be a preferred choice for those who live in Atlantic Canada. Four out of five Canadians in the Atlantic provinces plan to check off their gift-list by shopping from their mobile device because it offers more flexibility and helps them avoid long checkout lines, holiday crowds and parking hassles.

When it comes to gift giving, about one third (31 per cent) of Manitobans and Saskatchewanians plan to purchase clothing, shoes, and accessories with their mobile device. Quebecers, on the other hand, are preparing to gift experiences, with 21 per cent intending to purchase event or movie tickets from their mobile devices. A quarter of tech-savvy Ontarians look to gift the latest gadgets and devices, while 13 per cent of Albertans plan to put sports equipment and apparel under the tree – all through mobile purchases.

Finding the best deals

While holiday spending can quickly escalate, Canadians plan to capitalize on early sales. About one-third (29 per cent) of mobile shoppers plan to do their Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping with a mobile device. Items at the top of the shopping list include clothing, shoes and accessories, followed by tech gadgets and devices.

Gender shopping differences

Both men and women will use their mobile device to shop this year, though the survey found distinct differences in how they will make their purchases. Women estimate to spend more on mobile shopping for the holidays – an average of $200 compared to $167, which is the average men expect to spend. More men (64%) said a mobile device is their preferred shopping method for the holidays compared to 51 percent of women who are likely to use their mobile device to shop. More than one-fourth of male Canadians will buy a tech gift or gadget with their mobile device, while only 14 per cent of women will do the same.

Mobile shopping drivers

Mobile devices enable consumers to easily compare prices and inventory and avoid the holiday shopping frenzy at malls. Better variety and gift items in stock are key motivators driving this preference. Additionally, research found that mobile shoppers would be more likely to use a mobile device to shop if there were special coupons or promotions (51%) and if their financial information was safe (41%).

Study methodology

An online (omnibus) survey was conducted through the Angus Reid Forum panel (facilitated by MARU/Matchbox). The omnibus was in field between October 13-18, 2017, and surveyed 1,544 Canadians aged 18+ (including 1,044 mobile shoppers).Results were broken out by region, age, gender, income, and education for demographic comparisons. The estimated margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.5 per cent.

ZTE Secures Partnerships With All Three Major Canadian Wireless Carriers For ZTE Connected Car Device

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

You’ll recall that I recently reviewed ZTE’s Connected Car device under the Rogers Smart Drive name. ZTE has since announced that they’ve secured a deal with Bell for them to carry the device under the Bell Connected Car name. Rogers and Bell join Telus in carrying the ZTE Connected Car device which means that 90% of Canadians now have access to it.

In case you need a quick refresher on what this device does, here’s a quick rundown. The connected car device, built by ZTE, is compatible with most vehicles built after 1996. and simply plugs into the car’s On-Board Diagnostic (OBD-II) port. After downloading the Android or iOS app, powered by Mojio, for their wireless carrier’s connected car service and completing the easy setup, customers can access a range of valuable features, including:

  • Vehicle Diagnostics: diagnose and understand engine problems, easily check the fuel level and monitor the car’s battery health.
  • Location Tracking: track connected vehicles in real-time via GPS and use geofences to get notifications when a car enters or exits common locations like home, office or school.
  • Smart Security: get immediate push notifications when a car’s ignition is started, when the OBD-II device has been removed from the car’s port, or if the parked car has been bumped.
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot: keep passengers connected on up to 5 mobile devices with a 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi hotspot that doesn’t drain a smartphone battery.

To see how it performs, take a look at my review and I should mention that since that review, an app update on the iOS platform has really allowed this platform to up its game.

 

 

Skype Punted From App Stores In China

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

It seems that China doesn’t like Skype. So much so that they’ve apparently banned the messaging app on all platforms that Skype is available on. Microsoft who owns Skype says that this is only “temporary”. But that’s just spin. What China likely wants is the ability snoop on calls and keep track of who’s using the app. I seriously doubt Microsoft will go for that. Thus don’t expect it back in the country anytime soon.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 5

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

Today was another day of interviews in terms of getting support agents. By the end of the day we had one more tech support agent identified. But we found a second candidate as well that we will consider. It depends on the two remaining interviews that we have tomorrow. We likely won’t get all four agents hired while I am here, and we are fine with that as we are prioritizing quality over quantity as that will get the best results for this tech support operation. Now, a couple of people have asked me via e-mail why I am helping to build this tech support operation. The fact is that I have built contact centers in the past and I actively consult on how contact centers can deliver the best possible service and how they can get the right staff on board. Thus this is totally within my wheelhouse.

Lunch today was a quick one as we had a lot of candidates that were being interviewed. We went into the Cyber Hub to a pizza place called Instapizza. The service was quick and the personal sized pizzas that we got were great. The Cyber Hub has a ton of places to eat and you could spend weeks exploring them. It’s simply a must do if you’re in Gurgaon.

After the business day was done, I returned to the hotel and did a workout. I did a 40 minute stationary bike ride followed by 12 minutes on the treadmill. Here’s the result:

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I must admit that my Apple Watch is really helping me to focus on working out which is a good thing as I am not keen on leaving the hotel to wander around. You might say that the warnings that I have received since I started to take on clients here in this country have really been ingrained within me. Speaking of the hotel, I can’t say enough good things about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. The food at breakfast and dinner are outstanding and the place is visually stunning. The staff here go out of their way to make sure that you have a good time while you stay in this hotel. Finally, it’s a short drive to the Cyber Hub if you want to go there for a night out. If you need to stay in Gurgaon, you have to choose this place.

Tomorrow is my final day in the country with a couple of interviews and to tie up some loose ends. Before I leave for the airport, I have to do a GoToMeeting with another client in North America to do some training. I also have a training session with a German customer tonight in India time. The fact that I am in India doesn’t stop me from having deal with other customers. Stay tuned for that.