Webinar Recap: AI & Data Privacy—Navigating the Opportunities & Risks

5 months ago
Webinar Recap: AI & Data Privacy—Navigating the Opportunities & Risks Image

In this discussion, CEOs Tim Hayden of Brain+Trust and Brad Weber of InspiringApps break down what’s behind the major transformation in data privacy and artificial intelligence—and the opportunities and risks it presents to businesses today.

You can watch the webinar replay or skim through the conversation explored below.

Data Privacy & AI: The Future Is Here

AI has revolutionized how we live, work, play, and communicate. Tools like ChatGPT have tremendous potential to enhance our lives but can also pose significant risks if not harnessed properly. In the latest webinar, Brad and Tim explore privacy concerns as well as the tremendous benefits of artificial intelligence.

Are you curious about the future of data privacy and how AI will shape it? Join the CEOs of Brain+Trust and InspiringApps as they discuss what’s behind the rapid transformation in data privacy and where it’s headed next.

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About Brain+Trust: Brain+Trust is a strategic consultancy empowering brands to compete at the speed of the customer and grow revenue. By helping brands and leaders make sense of an evolving marketplace, they can better understand their customers and grow their business. Brain+Trust Partners counsels companies and organizations with strategic consulting, governance and compliance, automation, product development and more.

About Tim Hayden: With more than 20 years of marketing and business leadership experience, Tim Hayden has been a founder of new ventures and a catalyst for transformational progress within some of the world’s largest brands. Part social anthropologist, part strategic business executive, Tim studies human behavior and how media and mobility are reshaping all of business. From operations to marketing and customer service, he assembles technology and communications initiatives that lead to efficiency and revenue growth. A past and current investor/advisor to technology startups, Tim works with entrepreneurs and ventures to capitalize on opportunities and shifts across many industries. He also proudly serves in executive board and volunteer leadership positions with non-profit organizations.

About InspiringApps: App development that makes an impact. InspiringApps builds digital products that help companies impact their employees, customers, and communities. Yes, we build web, mobile, and custom apps, but what we offer is something above and beyond that. What we offer is inspiration. Our award-winning work has included 200+ apps since the dawn of the iPhone. Our core values: integrity, respect, commitment, inclusivity, and empathy. Our guarantee: finish line, every time, for every project. Get in touch at hello@InspiringApps.com.

About Brad Weber: Brad Weber has more than 25 years of software development experience. Brad received his MBA from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado and spent several years with Accenture before striking off on his own adventures, including the successful founding of four different technology companies. With a passion for software artisanship, Brad founded InspiringApps to build a team that could tackle larger app development challenges than he was able to handle on his own. His leadership creates an environment where the most innovative digital products continue to come to life.

Read the Transcript

Stephanie Mikuls

Thank you for joining us today on our webinar on “AI & Data Privacy—Navigating the Risks & Opportunities” of this rapidly evolving landscape that we have right now. I’m Stephanie, the marketing director here at InspiringApps. Welcome.

This is a joint session between InspiringApps and Brain+Trust, the second in a series of webinars where we’re talking about data privacy restrictions, artificial intelligence, and app and software development in this new space.

Brad and Tim, I’ll have you guys introduce yourselves, and then we can just get into it.

Tim Hayden

Sure, thanks. Brad—great to see you again. I’m Tim Hayden, the CEO of Brain+Trust. At Brain+Trust, we help companies with their first-party data, usually with customer data platforms or hybrid cloud environments. And we are exploring the world of artificial intelligence in an effort to help companies with both privacy and cybersecurity, but also all the mapping of how to go about implementing customer data platforms and hybrid cloud management.

I’m excited to be here with you, Brad, because, of course, to leverage all that data, many times you need apps, and that’s what you guys do.

Brad Weber

That’s true. Thanks. Good to see you again, Tim. I’m Brad Weber. I’m the founder and president of InspiringApps. We design and develop custom web and mobile apps for funded startups and large enterprises and have experience across this space. Certainly, many of our customers are running into the data challenges and privacy challenges that we’ve been talking about in this series. So I’m excited to dive more deeply with you into that, Tim. And today, our focus is on artificial intelligence, specifically, as you mentioned, and the data privacy implications of that.

I thought I’d take just a moment and take care of a little “artificial intelligence” housekeeping and talk about what it is, just at a very basic level.

As you mentioned, we develop and create custom software solutions. The majority of those solutions—especially in recent decades—have been explicitly programmed. So a lot of what we create is a matter of implementing business rules. It’s: “If this customer’s age is greater than X, then do this.” Or, “If the bank balance is greater than Y, then do this.” There are a lot of explicit rules in the code that cause it to behave the way that it does—and those are very black and white.

What we’re talking about with artificial intelligence is really getting into the gray areas and giving the computers and the processors the opportunity to come up with their own solutions. They don’t necessarily have to be explicitly programmed in order to reach conclusions.

Those conclusions may be things that you’ve seen in your life. It could be an identification of an object—there are popular apps that will help you identify a planet or a flower or that type of food based on the photo that you take. That’s artificial intelligence that’s driving that to support object recognition in that kind of application.

There are also many applications where the technology of the system is given a goal or an outcome, and it has a lot more flexibility in determining what the appropriate or best path is and in reaching that outcome.

In order to accomplish all of these things, you need a lot of data. It is not enough to tell the difference between an apple and an orange or an orange and a banana reliably by just using one photo of each. Models that do that sort of thing rely on hundreds or thousands of examples to make those kinds of determinations.

Certainly, as you get into more complex challenges like self-driving vehicles or fraud detection in transactions, you need lots and lots and lots of data. And the focus of our last episode together was talking about the privacy implications of that data collection. So that’s probably a good place for us to pick this up and look at privacy through the lens of these advancements in artificial intelligence.

Tim Hayden

Definitely. And Brad, when you talk about artificial intelligence—I think we mentioned this the last time we spoke, but—it’s math, right? It is. It is really fascinating, complex math—probably not so complex for mathematicians. But it’s not easy math, right? If it was easy math, everybody would be doing it. But it’s math that’s been around for decades.

And now that it’s been digitized, it’s able to make sense or basically identify patterns within data. And what we saw most recently just over the last several months and including a very exciting week last week—I don’t think it’s coincidental at all that it happened during South by Southwest—but you know, OpenAI released to the world ChatGPT 4, and I saw on LinkedIn everyone sharing that.

I say everyone, but many people are sharing this illustration of a small circle and saying this is ChatGPT 3 and then a much larger circle and saying this is ChatGPT 4 and basically talking about the exponential number of parameters that GPT 4 would have. And, of course, out of the gate, there’s hype around the fact that it can pass a bar exam and be in the 98 percentile versus ChatGPT 3 only being in the 10th percentile.

When you look at these things, it’s certainly impressive. But where did the data come from? To your point, Brad. Where, exactly? And this is where I think there are privacy and security concerns and many more that we might get to or might not while we talk today.

What OpenAI has access to, and increasingly has more access to, through its relationship with Microsoft and other big tech firms, is essentially data that you, me, and everyone else helped populate the internet with. And many times it was—What kind of car are we shopping for? Or, what are we searching for dinner?—Or, scarily—What are my symptoms? What symptoms do I have? What do they mean that I have?

A lot of this data that was public or accessible by OpenAI is now being used to inform those “parameters” and the language model itself to do more. And Brad, I’ll toss it back to you. But I mean, that, to me, is at least questionable. I’m not going to say scary yet, but it’s certainly questionable.

Brad Weber

Yeah, I agree. There was a great Ars Technica article about the privacy implications of ChatGPT. Their focus, given the timing of the article, was on ChatGPT 3. I don’t have updated numbers for this specifically, but the scale of this was astounding. And what caught my attention were several things.

One was just the immense amount of data like you talked about. The number that I saw quoted was that ChatGPT 3 was driven by a vocabulary of 300 billion words that it accumulated.

Now, granted, there were many repeated words. It’s not saying that there are 300 billion unique words. But the assembly of those words that it has gathered from blog posts and books and articles and transcripts of webinars and podcasts like we’re sharing right now. The majority of the data appears to be publicly available.

But, in the example of books, the author in this article noted that they made a request of ChatGPT to cite a chapter from a copyrighted book. And ChatGPT happily reproduced the entire chapter and provided no copyright annotation for that.

So, that’s troubling, certainly, for authors.

Tim Hayden

It is.

Brad Weber

But you had mentioned that there could be medical data—we don’t really know what is being shared. And I think that we’ve been somewhat complicit in this in our decades of accepting privacy policies. And, more recently, disclosures about how data might be shared from one platform to partner platforms. This is an example of how that data might be used in surprising ways. As you mentioned, where we individually are, in many ways, populating ChatGPT and other similar engines like this.

And I think that’s worth further discussion.

Tim Hayden

Oh, it absolutely is. I mean, when you talk about terms and conditions and privacy policies and privacy statements that you check and say that you understand—it’s just like car dealer advertising on the 10:00 news, when they say at the very end, very fast, that “The vehicles we’re talking about do not exist on the lot. And if you come in, we reserve the right to throw $2,000 on top of you through the entire process.”

The bottom line is the legalese—the fine print—in terms of the wares that we’ve used and in terms of user agreements over the past decade-plus. That’s exactly the data that is being used now to inform and train these language models.

And kudos to OpenAI, who has come up with a very sleek, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface for us to be able to leverage—I hate to call it intelligence, but—to leverage some of the math that is able to make sense of our prompts and go find out with a certain degree of correctness. And what it is we’re looking for, the answers that we need, or the answers that we’ve asked it to provide.

You know, what’s funny—because you mentioned it earlier about the book and a chapter out of a book—is the U.S. Copyright Office, over the weekend, actually came out with a formal statement saying that they were going to revisit copyright law. And as we do, they left it open-ended. But they said, “We can tell you this much: that if you are using generative AI to produce copy or a book, you cannot claim the copyright to that content.” And I think this is where things are probably for a different webinar and a different conversation for us to have about authenticity.

But, certainly, when we think about the one-two punch of private, sensitive, or otherwise nonpublic data that has been used and has been generated in some type of content, or some type of prescriptive advice that one of these language models is providing, it gets a little spooky in this. Now, I will say it. Now, I will say scary, right?

This gets scary and a little bit spooky when we think of college students, and we think of someone sitting in their home who is trying to generate a report or type up something for their PPA and claim that they’re the author of it, right? It’s happening. Those kinds of things are happening right now.

It’s what we always talk about with “Garbage in. Garbage out.” Maybe it’s not garbage. It’s just somebody else’s. It’s somebody else’s work that’s going somewhere else. And someone else claiming that it’s their own.

Brad Weber

Yeah. I think it’s an interesting point—that we’re talking about two different aspects of copyright material. One is the copyrighted material that might be used to populate the collection of data that’s being used for generative AI. And then the other is when the AI produces potentially copyrightable material, whether it be in written form or artwork out the other end.

And so, I think this is probably one of the larger changes that have come to the Copyright Office in a long time. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this takes them a little while to digest.

Tim Hayden

Definitely, and I think, in the vein of privacy—I’ve had a few clients who’ve read up on the OpenAI API documents and have asked me, “We can simply plug ChatGPT into our CRM. We can plug it into our marketing automation system.” And the premise is to be able to generate content faster and better.

But, what’s happening there, when you make those connections with something that has that processing power—a model that has the ability to identify patterns and to supposedly help you in a utilitarian way—there’s a way, I think, that could backfire, right?

I’ve told each of those clients that asked me that question: my short answer is “No, don’t do it.” Stay using ChatGPT in the browser. If you want to have it help you with outlines or help you write a paragraph—sure. But then wordsmith it as your own. But don’t plug it into your systems. Don’t do that.

Because that’s where I think we have this opportunity to misstep and move in a direction where certain systems, for better or worse, all of a sudden know things that they shouldn’t or have access to things that they shouldn’t when it comes to information.

Brad Weber

So we’ve talked a lot in both of our episodes about the implications for personal privacy and personal data. But I think what you’re touching on now is also an important subject. There is plenty of private data in a corporate environment, so would you like to explore that a little further? Tim—I think that’s what you’re talking about, the CRM, right?

Tim Hayden

Yeah. I mean, you live in Colorado, right? And Colorado has a Colorado data privacy law, as does Utah. California has got a couple of them with CCPA and CPRA. And on January 1, when yours went into force, it did so along with Utah, Connecticut, and Virginia, as well, and a revamp of CPRA.

These laws—basically, I giggle a little bit when it’s general counsel or a CFO who’s really worried about a violation of them, and I say absolutely you should be ready for some type of litigious call or letter that will show up because someone says they unsubscribed and you’re still sending them email.

That’s been around for a while, and I think we’re going to see that only grow. But the other side of that is: when you read these laws, they’re basically a prescription for restructuring your data to be a better steward of the data that are entrusted to you. When you talk about CRM or customer data platforms, cloud management, all of these systems today, in terms of how they leverage IA/ML, are there to help you move faster internally to the organization.

And that, by all means, is proprietary in some regard. That’s proprietary information, a competitive advantage, if you will. If you know why people are buying from you or what’s working and what’s not with business operations, data can help you inform that. Especially if it’s structured and you have the right systems in place to make sense of it, to derive patterns from it, and to detect all of those things.

So, I mean, there’s the front side of that too. The interface side of it, which is where I look to you, Brad. I mean, where do apps play in all this, right? Where do apps stand in terms of privilege—of access to information? What do you see happening there, and what does that have to do with this world of privacy, especially when you’re plugging into a CRM or some other large database of information?

Brad Weber

Yeah, good question. So I think the mobile app specifically, although this certainly applies to web applications as well, oftentimes provide the window into that data that we’re talking about—the immense amount of data that’s driving ChatGPT and its competitors is petabytes of information that’s in the cloud. That certainly eclipses what you’re going to be able to carry around in your pocket anytime soon.

So what we see on the client side of this, both web and mobile, are the results often of that analysis that’s happening in the cloud or in a giant server farm that’s coming up with the information or the tips or the driving information for the sales team, or what regions they should focus on, all that sort of thing.

The numbers are being crunched oftentimes in the cloud and being presented at the phone or the browser level in order for a user to make sense of it and to be able to write from that. The phones, in particular, we talk about this a little bit in our last episode—are also participating in collecting some of that data, oftentimes through our active input and other times very possibly behind the scenes, whether it’s our location data, our health data, the number of steps that we’ve taken—that sort of information is helping to feed the machine as well.

So I think we see it in two different ways. And when you’re talking about the things that corporations and IT departments might be considering and actions that they might be taking in this regard. I think one thing is important, the distinction to make is that they don’t really need the scale of a 300 billion word or phrase vocabulary in order to get answers to their corporate questions.

I think what we see is that the questions that our clients want to answer—either about their customer behavior, about their employees, or about products—are much more focused. And so I think it’s far more practical for organizations whose sole purpose is not to answer these questions for the general public but to answer very specific questions about how to improve the performance of their operations and create their own models and manage their own data. Keeping it private within the walls of their organization to perform the analysis and maintain that competitive advantage that you were talking about.

Tim Hayden

Definitely, I think it’s all fascinating. I think the next time we talk, we probably should talk about edge computing because it’s not just the phone. It’s not just the browser in the conventional or traditional sense. It is machines themselves now that are connected, and they’re also processing millions of signals that come from wheels that go round and piston the churn and traffic that walks by, right?

I mean, all the different ways that the world’s connected now. But, you know, back to where we are right now. You know, I’m of the belief I shared this morning in an article that I read from TechCrunch that Google Glass is finally being sunset.

And we’ll defer a conversation about Google Glass and all of that for IoT and edge computing because that’s what was happening with Google Glass. There was a lot of processing happening in the frame of the glasses. Right. But the harbinger, I call it, I always thought Google Glass was just not right any time soon because we as humans don’t need a heads-up display.

And at the time I said that—this was a decade plus ago—I was a mobile strategist myself, and I was helping companies figure out more things to do utilitarian with mobile apps at the time. But at the same time, I was very cognizant that we don’t need people staring at their phones while they’re driving their cars.

We don’t need people staring at them as they’re walking down the street, and as that happened, you know, it just seemed like it wasn’t any safer to have a heads-up visualization and Google Glass. I don’t think it’s too far of a reach to say that where people are enamored right now with ChatGPT and what Microsoft has done with Bing and pulled back a little bit and then come back a little bit more. What Google’s doing right? And what they say they can do and what they will do more of.

We could probably talk about them specifically. But do we, as humans, absolutely need to have a Siri or an Alexa or now something that is much deeper and much more capable to constantly be the thing that we go to, to answer a question for us? Especially when we are able-bodied to get around and to experience life ourselves and to know where to query information when we need it, that which is necessary. Right?

I understand if you have encyclopedic needs, you’re going to have to go to the internet anyway. But I just wonder—what is the shelf life going to be? What is the run? It looks really good right now. It’s new; it’s shiny. But I don’t know, Brad—what do you think will be in six months, nine months from now, with ChatGPT or any other of these other language models?

Brad Weber

I think we’re definitely going to see privacy at the forefront of that conversation. I think right now, there is, as you said, such excitement around the tool, and people are learning about what’s possible. What’s interesting is that it isn’t new. You talk about being around for decades. I mean, over 75 years, you can go back into some early research papers, like in the 1940s, talking about the possibilities of this.

So the idea isn’t new. And the military—US and others—have been advancing artificial intelligence for a long time. And in public view, I remember early over 20 years ago, meeting teams there were participating in the DARPA’s challenge to create autonomous vehicles that were able to complete a course. It was unknown. And ahead of time, it wasn’t mapped out.

They were given a challenge on the day for their vehicle to be able to figure out how to get from point A to point B over really challenging terrain. So those problems have been worked on, and you know what? What that evolves into is Tesla and others working on their self-driving car capabilities and, you know, just other conveniences that are popping up in our everyday lives that we talked about in the last session as well.

I think it’s exciting. I think there are a lot of things we’ve talked about that, as you noted, are a little scary. Maybe we’re going a little too far to start. But what’s really exciting is that ChatGPT, in particular, has really thrown the notion of artificial intelligence and ML into the conversations of the general public. And I think that is an important step in the process for us to continue to advance and for that to expand in.

So I talked about privacy, and you said what’s coming in the next six months? One thing to note about ChatGPT, it’s entirely text-based at this point. It doesn’t do anything with audio. It doesn’t do anything with video. There are a lot of other areas where we’re most certainly going to see this start to permeate. But this is an important “big bang” to get everyone’s attention at this point. I think it’s an exciting part of the process.

Tim Hayden

Sure, I absolutely agree. And to that point about privacy, we mentioned the US Copyright Office, right? You have the US Copyright Office, and you have several states that have data privacy laws in place. You have hungry attorneys out there that will make something out of nothing and make something out of something that has substance right now in terms of how data is being used.

A client of ours here at Brain+Trust said to me about two weeks ago, “You know, people say that data is the new oil, and certainly, data has value, but data is actually dynamite. At the end of the day, you have to handle it with care.” And that’s where this is going with privacy. It’s where it’s going with security.

And I think we’re going to see it to be most fascinating. When we talk about three or four months from now or nine months from now, in 2023, there are a number of economic economists and economic analysts that are forecasting that there will be some type of economic recession. That there will be corners of the economy that will shrink, and there will be others that just continue to grow and expand.

AI is certainly one of those that I think we’re just going to watch because it does hold that promise that technology has always given us to do more with less. And it’s proving it day in and day out. But at the end of the day, when you think about patterns, right? We’re coming off the end of a pandemic.

We’re just now getting the emergency label removed. And with that, things weren’t normal. This is not a conversation about normal, but things are just not linear. The way that they were, and they won’t be. As we continue to have innovation move at the breakneck pace that it is. So when it comes to predictive analytics, which is what I think I heard, and I forgot who it was, but I saw some people quoting speakers at South by Southwest that said, you know, all ChatGPT is—is fantastic statistical intelligence, right?

It’s able to detect patterns. It’s able to identify things based on a problem. But it’s that statistical intelligence. Right. And, you know, it’s something that I see if we look in the future—how smart machines are going to be able to really detect our patterns if the world is changing at the pace that it is.

Brad Weber

It’s interesting, and I think it’s worth noting before we part or close out on this subject that it’s not all doom and gloom. I mean, it’s important for organizations to think about treating data. I like your references. Data is dynamite, but be very careful with the data they collect. I think it’s important for consumers, the general public, to be aware of the data that they’re sharing and maybe pay a little more attention to that than we have in the past.

But there’s really a lot of benefit from this as well. I mean, the science, the technology that we’re talking about is helping with medical advances, you know, being able to review medical imagery and make a diagnosis perhaps more effectively than humans would. Or as an initial screening of that is really helpful. I have just a silly example of where some artificial intelligence has gotten my attention in a positive way. On the road recently, I was taking a couple of long car trips in rental cars and took advantage of the cruise control feature.

And although I’m sure plenty of people watching this will be familiar with this, this was new to me: As I approach another vehicle, I’m used to my “cruise control experience of the past” as tapping on the brake very inconveniently. And then once I get around the vehicle that I was approaching, I had to reset my cruise control. And it was a pain.

It was a small pain, but a pain. And I am now pleased to find that multiple vehicle manufacturers have an automatic detection feature associated with that cruise control, so I can set a certain speed as I approach another vehicle, the car will automatically start cruising and slowing down on its own. If I just change lanes, it recognizes that there’s no longer vehicle in front of me, and it’ll automatically resume to the speed that I had.

That is convenient. It also requires absolutely no personal data from me. Now, there is a ton of data that went into that feature to determine what an appropriate distance is, taking into account the speed of my vehicle and trying to anticipate the speed of the vehicle in front of me. But it doesn’t have to know anything about Brad in order for that to be effective.

And I think one of the messages for brands who are looking to add that kind of delightful customer experience is to, again, be critical about the data that you’re collecting and scrutinizing each individual. But is that absolutely necessary for us to know “Brad” individually in order to provide this capability that’s going to add some time to his life or somehow simplify the process of his day-to-day moving around?

So some thoughts for you to reflect on there, too, Tim.

Tim Hayden

I’m with you. Adaptive cruise control and lane assist, and things like that are in place to provide us with a safer life. You know, Apple’s handoff: With just being able to intelligently know that I was listening to a Spotify playlist or a podcast in the car but when I walk in the house and it connects to the wifi, and all of a sudden, Sonos comes on, and it plays there as well.

I mean, this is, by all means, really great coding. It is intelligence and with the respect to “if this, then, that” type of logic that is put in the systems now. And this is what I think is fascinating—is that there’s a balancing act. If we want to keep on this path of privacy—we have to understand that opting in and allowing that type of data, which you just described, which isn’t really that much about me, the individual, but me and my disposition in terms of geographic location, in terms of velocity and direction, in terms of the time of day, in terms of maybe the thing or where I was, you know, 5 minutes before or where I happen to be headed next. The fascinating thing is a lot of this is the way that the advertising world works right now. That we can start to deliver programmatically the best message to the right person at the right time.

So, a lot of this has already been in play for a while, and I wonder how we’re going to see systems and language models start to inform that as well. If you do have your data structured right and all of your systems, I’m thinking of a customer data platform now where you have 100% of your customer-related technologies that are connected via a real-time API.

Most of them, not all would be, but most include both for the real-time API. You’ve got your finger on the pulse of customer behavior all the time. Do you see the language model coming in to automate how that would then go inform a demand-side platform with advertising or even better things that happen within a store and apps that inform people that are working on the floor about customers or certain kinds of customers that are headed that way?

And maybe we need to change our script. Maybe we need to move the sweaters to the front of the store—I don’t know. You know how I think, Brad. It’s all connected. And it’s fun to play with in a browser. When are we going to put this thing to real work to help us with that data we have today and to make sure we’re doing so very responsibly?

Brad Weber

Yeah. And I really think that’s the theme of what we’ve been talking about. I think that’s a good summation. Are there any other key points if we were to bullet, any takeaways that you think are important to revisit here?

Tim Hayden

You know, what we stated before is to go out and experiment with this, right? If you don’t have an OpenAI account, it’s free. There are things that you can and can’t do with that free account, and think twice before you start to give them $20 a month or any more than that.

Right. And certainly, I would say talk to your attorneys and go find legal advice. There’s some of it online, but talk to your personal business attorney who, if it’s not them, they’ll have somebody in the practice or somebody they know who’s been looking at these matters. To understand—is it the smart thing to start to talk to OpenAI about an API connection?

Is that really a prudent thing to do right now?

And I’d say lastly is what you and I both know. With the data you have today, if you want to employ automation and if you want to really have intelligence that can inform what you do next with your business—you need to look at something like a customer data platform; you need to look at companies like Snowflake that help you organize information that’s in the cloud. That’s where we are today, folks. And those are the two things. Don’t jump off the deep end for the shiny water when what you’re sitting on right now is already pretty much what you would need to innovate and to do some pretty magical things.

Brad Weber

Remember that there are tools available for organizations to realize the benefits of AI that we’ve been talking about within their own walls of the organization and not necessarily having to jump on (like you said) the latest “shiny solution.” There are more focused tools—more focused solutions that will help companies get to the answers that they need to improve those internal operations. I think that’s great; thank you, Tim.

And we alluded to it in this session that you had mentioned as well that there’s a lot going on with the Internet of Things, connected devices, and edge computing. I know you and your customers have a lot of experience with connected vehicles. And so it seems like that would be a great thing for us to turn our attention to next time.

Tim Hayden

Definitely, we alluded to it, but when you get into the adaptive cruise control and the lane assist, there’s a lot of play there. There’s actually some work we’re doing in that space that I’m looking forward to uncovering with you.

Brad Weber

Excellent. Terrific. Well, we will look forward to doing this again next month. It’s good to see you, Tim. Take care.

Tim Hayden

Thanks, Brad.

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Thriving in the New AI Era: Book Announcements, FAQ, & More

In the latest conversation with Adam Torres of Mission Matters, Brad Weber, CEO of InspiringApps, announces his newly released audiobook and discusses the importance of connecting with customers through digital products, especially in the new AI era.  Nearly everyone we work with is asking about the impact of AI. But there’s a need to focus on solving specific challenges rather than just following trends.  In addition to these AI insights, Brad shares his perspective on how to thrive in an industry that’s constantly evolving. He emphasizes the significance of leadership, company culture, and strong collaboration in navigating entrepreneurial challenges and ultimately driving brand success. Key Takeaways Announcing the launch of an audiobook featuring various authors, including Brad. The importance of connecting with customers through digital products. Insights on the impact of AI and automation on businesses, emphasizing the need to focus on solving specific challenges. Differentiators from creating a strong company culture and retaining long-term employees. The significance of leadership and team collaboration in driving success in the industry. Watch the Replay Read the Transcript Adam: I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest on the show, just head over to Missionmatters.com and click on be our guest to apply. All right. So today is a special episode, maybe even a commemorative episode. We’re celebrating the launch of our very first audiobook as a company. This has been a long, long time coming. If we were musicians, this would be our greatest hit, but since we’re not, it’s our best-of series. For all of the books, we published over 400 authors, curated some of the top authors in that collection, and put them all together. They were game enough to want to read their chapters and participate in the creative and construction process, so that’s what we’re here to celebrate today. I brought one of the authors—he’s wonderful—back onto the show. Brad has been a guest multiple times. Brad Weber, for those who do not know him, is the President and CEO of InspiringApps. Welcome back. Brad: It’s great to be back. Adam: So, Brad, we’re going to get into, of course, your content in the book and the audiobook. I’m curious to hear how the recording process was for you. Because that’s always interesting, but before we do all that, we start this episode with our “Mission Matters minute.” So, Brad, at Mission Matters, our aim is to amplify stories and get them out there for business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives. That’s what we do. Brad, what Mission Matters to you? Brad: I’m passionate about helping brands connect with their customers by designing and building digital products that their customers love. Adam: I love it. It’s great to have you back, and I’d like to jump right in here to celebrate recording the audiobook. I know one of the engineers who worked on the book. He’s actually in the background doing the controls, so it’s okay. Jack, close your ears. Brad, what was it like recording your portion of the audiobook? Brad: It was fantastic. I’ll return to your opener, inviting others who want to be guests on your show to endorse you and say that Adam, you, and your team have been professional and great to work with through the book and the audiobook process. I can’t say enough good things. It was also nice to connect with some other authors along the way. Yeah, but it was great, and honestly, the audiobook was easier to record and produce than I expected. Adam: Yeah. Isn’t it fun to finally hear it and like the end product, and then you hear all the voices? The audiobook is made up of about 15 different chapters, and each one has the author reading their own story. So think about it as you hear from the author in every chapter you listen to, except one that I recorded for them. But other than that, all of the authors read their stories. So, to me, it’s kind of like this surreal experience because I’ve interviewed you and talked to all of the authors before, but it’s almost like a collection of friends. Because I know everybody and I’ve worked with everybody. What was it like for you to go through and hear all of the different stories, hearing them from their voices? Brad: Yeah, it was nice for that same reason. I have not had the pleasure of speaking with everyone with whom I co-authored, so it was fun to hear. They are passionate about telling their stories as well. Adam: Yeah, it’s different to me. It was different. I was like, just as a work and a creative work, it was like, normally one person reads the whole book or this or that, or maybe even sections, but to see like each one be something different and to hear their passion for what they, you know, what, what their particular story was. It was a unique work in the marketplace. And I hope that many, many people go out and grab it because I think it’s worth listening to. That’s why we made it. I want to take a couple of steps back for some of our new listeners here, Brad, who may not have caught some of our previous work together. So, talk a bit more about InspiringApps, what you do, and how you got started to set the tone before we get into some of the content you submitted. Brad: Sure. Yeah. By way of background, InspiringApps creates digital products for companies. We develop custom digital products for enterprises and funded startups across a wide variety of industries. There has been a heavy emphasis on financial services and medical lately, but there is lots of innovation happening. The market has been really fun for us to work in. You talk about starting it. So I had my start after my master’s program, a large consulting firm, one of the global, you know, what they called the big six at the time. I don’t know how many are left now. While I learned things for sure, I realized, most importantly, that that was not the environment for me to thrive in. After a few years in that environment, I ventured out on my own and had a number of experiences starting my own thing, developing software for small businesses. Well, I tried to build up a client base, but I did not have enough clients, so I took a job for a while and went back to trying to build my own business. Adam: You have to love the entrepreneurial journey. Brad: I had a series of those until I found something that worked, and I did so independently for about a dozen years before I founded InspiringApps. As I mentioned, we’re in our 17th year and have built an all-US-based team that designs, develops, and tests various products. Adam: I love to work in a pay-it-forward question when I can. And I think I got my opening here, Brad. What kept you strong during those times when it went up and down? What kept you moving forward? Brad: Oh, my goodness. It was easier in some respects when I was on my own; there were just fewer moving parts. I think that having that success on my own helped me once I started to grow a team as things got challenging. I needed to hear my inner voice saying, “You’ve done this before; you know how to push this forward; you know how to succeed.” And that, along with having a great team to support me through this, led to the success that we’ve enjoyed. Adam: So, going further into what you’re doing right now, I know it’s been a while since we last spoke. I mean, you’re my guy when it comes to apps, anything like this, just period. I’m like, okay, Brad, what should I be thinking about? I’m hearing all this noise. All I’m hearing right now is AI, AI, AI. Brad: It’s part of almost every project conversation now. And having done this for as long as I have, it reminds me of some other trends that I’m sure your viewers will be familiar with. There was a time in my business when everybody needed a website. That was the craze, and then when the iPhone came out... Adam: We have to pause there for a second, like that’s... Some of our younger audience members will say, “That was the craze?” We have to at least laugh at this, and yes, I was around for that craze, too. Dotcom, anything with dot com, would be an amazing investment. Go ahead, please. Brad: Yes, I appreciate you calling that out, Adam. I’m sure several people just decided to tune out the old guy. Adam: No, I was there too. They better not tune out. Brad: But after that, in 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, there was another craze. Adam: It was a great craze. I think I was too busy working at that point to understand what was going on. I had just graduated college, so I was too busy doing that to have the time, but that was a great craze. I was like, what are all these lines about? What’s all this other stuff going on? What sold out the phone? Who cares? That was amazing. Brad: Yeah. During that time, it was apparent, but there were years in there when every business felt like they needed an app. They needed a mobile app to be relevant, just like the web before. And I see some commonality. The AI craze that’s happening now is fabulous. I mean, much like the introduction of the iPhone and the Android platform to follow, it’s going to impact our lives in really meaningful ways.  But what I recommend to businesses who are getting caught up in the frenzy is to focus, as you do for all things like this, on what problem you’re trying to solve. What is the challenge specifically? Then, we have loads of tools in our toolbox.  AI is a big one right now. It’s kind of a sledgehammer at the moment, but there are a lot of tools in the toolbox to solve a variety of business problems with a digital product. And that’s just one way that we can help either save people time, improve the quality of whatever it is that they’re producing, maybe offer suggestions, or slice and dice data in ways they hadn’t considered before. Those are all some of AI’s benefits, but they must serve a specific purpose and not just jump on the bandwagon because you see your competitors doing it. Adam: What excites you about AI right now? You mentioned its ability to help us or to progress us. What excites you about AI right now? It could be technology. It could be how it’s helping businesses. I mean, whatever, it doesn’t matter. It could be something just for fun. I don’t know. What excites you about AI right now? Brad: It’s phenomenal and honestly amazing to witness the rapid advancements in our industry, even for someone like me who has been in it for a long time. Not long ago, we were impressed by the ability to point your camera at a piece of fruit and have it differentiate between an apple and a banana. I thought that was great. Now, it’s writing entire articles and categorizing data in unique ways, which is impressive, as I mentioned before. What’s happening with mixed media, including photos and videos, is also noteworthy. It’s not just about working with text; it’s about generating original video or photo content from the prompts we give it, which is pretty cool. It’s interesting to think about how we might apply that for business purposes. Adam: It’s interesting to see how fast everything is moving, especially with the original written content. I don’t even need to start on video because that’s evolving rapidly as well. It changes my concept of five-year planning. Anyone in a creative field used to plan their studio for five years in advance, but now you can’t plan for more than two. For example, we are investing in large amounts of equipment used to make sense. There’s a notion that AI isn’t replacing jobs, but I can provide a specific example that contradicts that. It didn’t replace a job per se, but it replaced the need for an entire person at a conference we covered. We bought an AI camera at the last minute when the person couldn’t come, which was phenomenal. It did exactly what we needed for the size of our production. This was the first instance that directly impacted our business, Mission Matters, in terms of production. Before this, everything we added, whether to increase video quality or something else, just added a layer of improvement. This moment was more like a fork in the road. I wondered how one could plan for the next five years. Brad: That’s a great point. There’s a lot of talk about AI not taking jobs or replacing people. Jobs will disappear as a result of this technology. It might make our existing team more productive, so we don’t need to hire more people. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone gets fired because AI took their job. Adam: That’s been our experience. I’m not trying to be politically correct, but that’s just how it’s been. Now, we can accomplish more with higher-skilled individuals trained on better tools. Every employer wants their employees to feel needed, wanted, and invested in, especially when it comes to training. In my opinion, it creates a better work environment. (I wanted to clarify that in case someone thought people were losing their jobs.) Brad: I completely agree. Regarding technological advancement, ChatGPT/OpenAI has been quietly innovating for years and made significant progress last spring. I was fortunate to attend a Microsoft event in New York, where they demoed their capabilities. It was impressive even then. The updates I received in November showed tremendous progress in just six months. Now, Google is holding its developer conference this week, and they will announce new developments. We’re now about six months after that, and some of the things they’re adding to their platform are beyond what I could have imagined a year ago. It’s an impressive pace of innovation. Adam: It’s an exciting space. I tell people they should get involved in their personal and business lives. For example, Amazon updated its publishing platform, allowing you to record audiobooks using an AI voice. This completely changed our business strategy. I was debating whether to read my book myself or go to the studio, but then I participated in their beta. Within 10 minutes, an audiobook of my book was published with an AI voice. The quality was surprisingly good, making me question whether I could have done a better job myself. Considering the entire audiobook industry, if you’re a voiceover actor or own a studio, this could significantly affect your business. With the ability to produce an audiobook with a click of a button, the demand for traditional recording may decrease. I’m amazed at how quickly everything is shifting. It feels like it’s only been a year with the whole ChatGPT thing, yet it feels like it’s been a decade in my life. Brad: It’s hard to imagine what next year will hold. Adam: Oh, well, I’m going to bring you back, and I’m like, Brad, what else should I be thinking about? I want to jump around a bit here. I want to go further into the book. Everybody, I want you to pick up a copy for sure. The audiobook is live and out there, so you can hear Brad reading his chapter and work. But your title and section are important. The section was to meet business challenges and build an inspiring business. And you go through things on your journey. And lay those out for people. I think it’s a great entrepreneurial story. And I think what I like about it, too, is you don’t sugarcoat it. It’s not all fun and games, right? Why did, so why did you choose this topic? There are a lot of different things you could have written about from a lot of different angles. Why did you choose to present this? Brad: Yeah, I think your last comment about it not all being a bed of roses, so to speak, was important to me. I learn from the mistakes and trials of others. I don’t. Sometimes, it’s easier to hear those lessons and apply them and avoid those problems in your own life than it is to hear someone’s perfect path and think about how you’re going to stick to that. It’s not going to happen. There are going to be challenges. There will be things that throw you off your journey, your intended route. I think it’s valuable for me to hear how other people have dealt with adversity, and so I wanted to share some of what I walked through in my process, and hopefully, that’ll benefit someone else in a similar way. Adam: You wrote about a lot of different things, but growing a company fraught with risk and cultivating a winning culture requires an employee-based team. A flat organizational structure will only take you so far. You gave a lot of different nuggets in your journey, which is the one that I want to talk about today. The one that I want to pick out, though, is that you create cool stuff for clients. You build a real business. Talk to me about that, Brad. Brad: Yeah. This evolves a little bit. If we go back to the story of my journey that I shared, where I was working independently and what I enjoyed was making cool stuff, It was fun to demo, not only for the client that I was working with at the time but also to share with friends and others, which helped generate more business. As I founded InspiringApps, I carried those habits and practices along with me in the new business. I was trying to grow a team that worked for a while, but it wasn’t a sustainable business strategy. So, the message in that section that you’re referring to is that there are valuable business lessons to be learned, not just from other technology companies but across industries. It is extremely valuable to have a leadership team, for instance, to support me and for them to focus on parts of the business that are blind spots for me or not necessarily my strengths. It touches a bit on another section that you’d talk about growing the organization, but having team leads to be a point person for our technology teams, our developers specifically, who are really thinking about best practices and their area of focus, is critical to building something that’s sustainable longer term. We still build cool things. That’s just not the business strategy. Adam: Yeah. And what I’ll tell you is that this is something I feel all business owners kind of make these trade-offs. They just don’t word it well. Like building cool things, everybody wants to serve their company or clients. Now, with AI, this is a funny part—I didn’t even mean to tie that into the book, but when you think about all the new toys for people to start exploring with and doing. Even if it is a new technology or a new thing. I like your thinking, “Okay, well, who will lead that project? Are you going to just implement a new piece of software or a new thing because you were able to get it? Otherwise, how are you going to implement that? What’s going to be the tracking? Does it make sense for your business? Does it add to whatever objective you thought it would, or will it just be cool?” I’ll use one example that we come across often. Speaking of AI, it’s like, “Oh, now, everybody can spend 30 bucks and make a million pieces of content constantly and put it out there with the click of a button.” I’m exaggerating, but not by much. So now, for a business to think about, “Okay, does that solve the problem? Does that solve your branding presence or your presence in the marketplace, assuming that’s what you’re going for? Does that help your reach, or are you taking away from your brand by putting out a bunch of things that weren’t well thought out, and now it’s going to be hard to clean those up?” So, it’s this constant trade-off between what you’re doing publicly, obviously, and what you’re doing to build, but also what you’re doing internally, how you’re designing those processes. As you mentioned again in one of the previous segments, you talk about the organizational structure, what’s next with that, and how it develops. So, I’m a fan of the way you laid this out because it really does give an overview and some really good milestones and touchpoints, if you will, for people to reassess after they read it or, in this case, listen to it in the audiobook and go back and say, “Huh, do I need to revisit that in my organization or my situation?” There are many different takeaways and nuggets here, but if you had to narrow it down to one, what do you hope your readers will take away from this experience and from reading your work? Brad: As you mentioned, there’s a lot in there. We’ve touched on some of them. I’ll bring up a new topic that has been extremely valuable for me: the importance of company culture and how I tried to build a team of contractors in the early days. It was challenging for many reasons. Still, it’s particularly challenging to establish a company culture because if you’ve got contractors coming and going pretty frequently over time, there’s not a common thread running through your projects, running through the people who stay. Having employees on our team exclusively has made a huge difference for us. We just celebrated somebody’s 14th year at InspiringApps this week, and we’ve got another 14-year celebration coming up next month. Adam: Congratulations. That’s amazing. Brad: Many of our employees have been with us for 5, 10 years or more. This is a differentiator for us. Not only is it a pleasure to work with people you get to know over that period, but there’s so much institutional knowledge that stays in the company from project to project, which also benefits our clients. It’s been incredibly valuable. Adam: Wow. That’s amazing. Well, Brad, thank you again for participating in this most recent release of our best-of-series, volume one of Mission Matters. I’m so excited about it, and for everybody who’s watching, we’re going to put some links in the show notes so that you can click on them and head right on over and pick up a copy. Brad, if somebody wants to connect with you and your team and talk more about what you’re up to at InspiringApps, how do they do that? Brad: Our website is InspiringApps.com, and we’re fairly active on LinkedIn. You can find us there—it’s @InspiringApps. Adam: Perfect. We’ll also put those links in the show notes for everybody watching so you can head right over to InspiringApps. Speaking to the audience, if this is your first time with Mission Matters, make this show a part of your daily routine. We’re bringing you new content, thought leaders, and episodes. If that interests you, hit that subscribe button. We welcome you so you don’t miss any upcoming thought leaders and experts. And Brad, thank you again so much for coming on. Brad: My pleasure. Thanks, Adam.

2 days ago

AI Artificial Intelligence

Your Brand AI: Balancing Authenticity & Automation

With the rising influence of brand AI in content production, a double-edged sword emerges—the potential amplification of your brand‘s reach against the backdrop of losing its human touch. We‘re investigating AI‘s impact on brand voice and what it means for your digital legacy. We‘ll explore the power of AI in sustaining brand voice, pitfalls to avoid, and everything in between. AI Apps Pioneering Personalization AI‘s role in content creation and distribution for digital products and mobile apps is monumental, catalyzing unparalleled scalability and customization. Through algorithms and machine learning models, AI technologies can analyze vast datasets to generate relevant and personalized content that fits the individual user‘s preferences and behavior patterns. How Brand AI Encourages Personalization A consistent AI brand voice ensures a seamless user experience, reinforcing brand identity and values. By crafting personalized recommendations and suggesting content through AI that reflects a brand‘s unique voice, companies can significantly enhance trust among their audience. This tailored approach makes users feel understood and valued, fostering a deeper connection with the app or platform. A consistent brand voice in these AI-driven suggestions ensures a seamless user experience, reinforcing brand identity and values. Case Study: Starbucks’ AI-Powered App Starbucks’ mobile app is a prime example of leveraging AI for personalization while maintaining a consistent brand voice. The app uses AI to analyze user data, including order history and location, to provide customized recommendations and promotions. It might suggest a user’s favorite drink near a Starbucks location or offer a discount on a pastry they frequently purchase. Importantly, these recommendations are presented in Starbucks’ signature friendly and inviting tone. The AI-generated content feels like a natural extension of the brand rather than a jarring departure. By carefully curating the language and offers, Starbucks ensures that every interaction reinforces its brand identity, even when automated. Why does personalization matter? Personalized interactions keep users engaged in the app longer and transform them into brand advocates. When users encounter a delightful and customized experience, they are more likely to recommend the product or company to friends and peers, expanding its reach and impact organically. This ability of AI to craft and deliver customized content on a massive scale allows digital products to stay competitive, engaging, and valuable to their target audience. Design & Development With Brand AI Brand AI transforms app development into a more intuitive, creative, and efficient process. The benefits of AI in digital product development and design represent a new era of innovation, efficiency, and personalized user experiences. AI can analyze data, predict user behavior, and automate tasks, enabling developers and designers to push the boundaries of what‘s possible. Brand AI transforms app development into a more intuitive, creative, and efficient process. Streamlining Development Processes AI can significantly streamline digital product development by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. AI tools can reduce development time and increase efficiency, from generating code to testing app functions and identifying potential bugs. Developers and designers can focus on innovation, speeding up time-to-market and ensuring high-quality digital experiences. Predictive Analytics & Decision-Making AI-driven predictive analytics can provide product and brand owners valuable insights into future trends and user behaviors. AI can use data analysis to predict popular features, design elements, and evolving user needs. This foresight can inform digital product development decisions, helping to create apps that meet current user expectations and are well-positioned to adapt to future demands. By harnessing the power of AI in design and development, brands can create digital products that meet user needs and anticipate them. This proactive approach sets the stage for enduring customer relationships. Staying Authentic With Brand AI Copy While AI arms us with tools capable of speaking volumes on behalf of our brands, there are inherent risks in relying too heavily on AI writing, especially writing tailored to your brand voice. One wrong note from an AI-crafted message can ring inauthentic to users who are more discerning than we give them credit for. Navigating the AI-Brand Waters Calibrating AI to maintain a human touch is crucial for a compelling brand voice. Here are some key considerations: Quality Control Establishing and fine-tuning the parameters of AI‘s content generation is crucial. Regularly ‘auditing‘ the content to ensure it aligns with the brand‘s ethos is labor-intensive yet non-negotiable. Brand AI brings readiness to embrace “failing fast.” Teams should aim to be precision-guided by data, seeking insights from employees and users about their experiences and interactions. It‘s crucial to ensure that it delivers real value rather than employing AI merely for its own sake. Ethical Editing By their nature, AI systems need to be more capable of understanding copyright concerns and the more nuanced legalities surrounding language usage. Because AI cannot navigate these complexities, brands must carefully monitor input prompts and templates in AI systems.  Moreover, conducting thorough legal reviews of the content generated by these tools is just as critical as it would be for content produced through traditional means. Ensuring compliance with legal standards and copyright laws is essential to avoid potential legal issues, making the oversight of AI-generated content a necessary step in the content creation. Human Oversight It‘s essential to find the right balance between automation and human management.  The unique nuances, emotional connections, and creative insights humans bring are invaluable.  While automation can significantly increase efficiency and streamline processes, it‘s important to remember that no AI system can fully comprehend your brand‘s intricacies and rich heritage as a human can. The unique nuances, emotional connections, and creative insights that humans bring to the table are invaluable. Therefore, while embracing the advantages of automation, consider the necessity for hands-on human creativity and intervention.  This balance is crucial for maintaining the authenticity and depth of your brand, ensuring that it remains relatable and genuine in the eyes of your audience. The Language of Tomorrow AI is constantly changing and adapting to new linguistic patterns and cultural shifts. Companies should stay ahead of these changes to prevent their brand‘s voice from becoming outdated. By doing so, you can maintain a dynamic and resonant brand voice that keeps pace with the evolution of technology and society. AI on the Frontlines of Cultural Sensitivity Brand voice isn‘t just about what you say; it‘s about how you say it in the cultural dialects that resonate. AI can effectively promote diversity and inclusivity when used ethically, enabling your brand to connect with a global audience without missing a beat. Bridging All Tongues AI can uniquely adapt brand messages to myriad cultures through sentiment analysis and language processing while preserving the core voice. Ensuring that AI is culturally literate means your brand can speak confidently in global markets. Building Apps for All Using AI to craft copy, design, and develop applications significantly enhances accessibility, breaking down barriers for people with disabilities.  AI can optimize apps to be more intuitive and user-friendly for individuals with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments. AI can assist in prioritizing features like voice recognition, screen readers, and predictive text, which developers and designers can fine-tune to understand and adapt to each user‘s unique needs. These features broaden the user base and foster an inclusive digital environment where technology empowers everyone. Harnessing the Benefits of AI AI can clarify your brand‘s digital narrative and help iterate faster and more efficiently. However, the collective effort of technology and human ingenuity brings AI-supported projects to life.  When using AI, organizations should work to balance the scales between humans and machines to ensure a quality product. AI is a potent tool, but like any new technology, it comes with responsibility. If you‘re one of the many companies braving the new world of AI, contact InspiringApps today, and together, we‘ll write the next chapter of your brand‘s story.

20 days ago

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