Rogers Communications Inc. knows that many of today’s small businesses rely on cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work to run their operations – and that they have few IT staff to support them.
Enter the newly-launched Rogers Business App Market, an app store that not only provides the Canadian telecommunications giant’s small-and medium-sized business (SMB) clients with a library of applications they can combine into a single SaaS-like subscription, but includes technical support as well.
“Many of our customers today are stretched thin, having to spend hours of time managing business applications,” Craig Bentley, Rogers’ senior vice-president of small enterprise, said in a statement announcing the app store’s release today. “We want to make it simple and easy to use business applications.”
The first two apps available through the Market will be the aforementioned Google Apps for Work and Microsoft Office 365, with the Canadian telecommunications giant stating in its Sept. 7 release that “a number of new productivity applications” will be added “in the coming months.”
According to Rogers’ own internal research, the average Canadian small business now relies on approximately five cloud applications to run key services including email, payroll, accounting, and scheduling, and has “limited or no dedicated IT staff,” the company says.
To make setting up and using business apps easier for customers, the App Market will include end-to-end support, including employee training and application administration services.
Rogers clients will also be able to pay for any apps purchased on the same bill they use to pay for other services from the company.
Finally, the platform includes a single universal ID that customers and their employees can use to gain access to all of their cloud services.
In the Sept. 7 release, Microsoft Canada and Google representatives both said they looked forward to working with Rogers, adding that the company would be able to effectively deliver their services to a wider range of clients than before at a reasonable cost.
You can learn more about Rogers’ Business App Market here.
Rogers Communications Inc. and Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson plan to answer that question by running a “connected water” pilot program for the city of Ottawa that will use cloud-based sensors to automatically measure and report water quality every 30 minutes.
In a Nov. 15 statement Charlie Wade, senior vice president of products and solutions with Rogers’ enterprise business unit, said the project was part of a larger effort by the company to support cities and communities across Canada.
“Hundreds of cities across Canada today rely on manual processes to maintain and deliver utilities,” Wade said. “Internet of Things solutions can help municipalities like the City of Ottawa save time and resources while improving the accuracy of their processes.”
In addition to the nation’s capital, the Rideau Valley, South Nation, and Mississippi Valley Conservation Authorities are also participating in the pilot, part of Ottawa’s Innovation Program which partners city departments with relevant businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups for product or technology testing, enhancing city programs and services while providing the companies with real-life testing environments.
In the Nov. 15 release, Ericsson Canada president Graham Osborne noted that while similar programs have effectively boosted water quality, they have also been too expensive for a city the size of Ottawa to deploy.
The first program of its kind in Canada, the connected water solution will complement Ottawa’s existing water monitoring program, which involves performing approximately 80,000 water quality tests for a 4,500-kilometre network of rivers and streams every year. The data collected by the project’s sensor network will help city staff predict and respond to potential water quality issues, such as pollution levels, algae blooms, or problems caused by abnormal temperatures.
The connected water solution is only the latest example of IoT as a service from Rogers, which has connected more than 1.7 million devices to its IoT network since 2008.
As of Sept. 15, Rogers customers can use one of the company’s Twitter accounts, @RogersHelps or @RogersBuzz, to send live support agents a direct message 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while subscribers to its budget-minded wireless arm, Fido, can reach @FidoSolutions or @FidoMobile between 8 a.m. and midnight EDT.
The Canadian wireless giant is not paying any subscription fees for the service, and Twitter is covering all costs, the social media icon’s head of sales, Ivan Pehar, tells ITBusiness.ca.
“We’re really excited,” he says. “I think it’s really going to accelerate the way that users think about customer service, and at the end of the day it’s going to be easier for individuals to get the responses they’re looking for.”
For Rogers, the key selling point of Twitter’s new business support feature was that unlike a standard business Twitter account, its customers can now expect an immediate, direct, and secure conversation with a live representative at their convenience, Pehar says, with agents trained to convert public conversations to private; published service times letting customers know when they can expect help; and prominent tweets answering the most timely service-related questions.
“As consumers, we all want responses immediately, and simply being able to say, ‘we’re available between the hours of x and y,’ really helps manage what clients and consumers are expecting,” he says.
The seed for Twitter’s new business-facing customer support service was planted late last year, with several global accounts including Rogers discussing apps with the company and requesting what, Pehar says, the company realized was a short list of common features.
“What’s great about working at Twitter is that we really get feedback from our clients,” he says. “What would they love to see incorporated into Twitter? What tools do they want us to develop? How do we align Twitter with their brand goals?”
“So when we started thinking about a common thread among our global accounts, it really started to resonate internally,” he says.
Asked why his employer chose Rogers as its first Canadian client, Pehar cites Twitter’s longstanding relationship with the company, which he calls one of Twitter’s “tier 1” partners.
“Our relationship with Rogers runs much deeper than just a commercial agreement with advertising,” he says. “We have a unit that works with Rogers, so when you see tweets on TV, when you see integrations at the World Cup of Hockey, or the Blue Jays, that’s part of our relationship.”
Rogers was also the first company to state, via its @RogersHelps profile, that customer service was available 24/7 on Twitter, Twitter Canada’s head of communications, Cam Gordon, says.
“When it comes to using Twitter as a customer service tool in Canada, (Rogers) is very much at the forefront,” Gordon says. “So when we launched these features, (Rogers) made total sense as a launch partner because they were already making such a big investment in Twitter as a primary customer service tool.”
Other founding partners in the new service’s global rollout include Apple, United Airlines, U.S. wireless service provider T-Mobile, and Sprint, with more to be announced in the coming weeks, he says.
Gordon says that while there is no set timeline for the service’s general release, other businesses can request it.
“It’s going to be rolled out on a case-by-case basis,” he says. “There’s no set timeline, but it’s an offering that we can share with partners that have a very strong customer service focus as needed.”
Eventually, says Pehar, the company hopes to offer its service to clients of all sizes.
“Whether you are an SMB with 10 employees running a print shop or an enterprise the size of Rogers, all of these services and tools will be available to all companies and businesses on Twitter,” he says. “This is really phase one of a multi-pronged approach.”
As for Rogers’ side of the story, with almost half of the company’s social media requests already coming through Twitter, the company is thrilled that customers will now be able to use the service as a direct line to managers, Deepak Khandelwal, Rogers’ chief customer officer, said in a Sept. 16 statement.
“Our customers are busy and their time is valuable, so we want to make it easy to do business with us no matter where and how they choose to get in touch,” Khandelwal said in the statement.
Canadian small business owners looking for advice can now turn to Rogers for assistance.
Rogers has opened 72 new small business centres throughout Canada, designed to support owners and provide access to resources. The centres are located within existing Rogers retail stores, and allow business owner to book one-on-one time with small business specialists.
“We are providing small business customers with small business experts, so they can sit across the table from someone who understands their local market, understands the pain-points they face running a small business, and is ready to deliver solutions,” said Craig Bentley, senior vice president of small enterprise at Rogers in a press release.
Small business owners will also be provided access to resources, including technology that might help them grow their business, as well as the ability to demo new devices. Owners will be provided with more information about Rogers’ data plans for small business’ to see if it is the right fit.
The centres will also be hosting special events once per month. For example an event held Wednesday in Toronto featured digital marketer Erin Bury discussing the “10 keys to a killer personal brand.”
Customers looking to book an appointment with a Rogers small business specialist can go here.
The 2017 technology market will continue to see Canadian businesses take advantage of connected devices and artificial intelligence (AI), the tech experts at Rogers Communications Inc. say, greater defensive measures will have to be taken to ensure security.
Ignacio Paz, Rogers’ general manager of Internet of Things (IoT), says that the Canadian market is growing fast and will likely exceed $10 billion by the end of 2017 – a year-over-year growth rate of more than 20 per cent. He attributes this accelerated growth to Canadian businesses increasingly seeing the value of connected devices.
“The great thing is that, with AI, all the data can be analyzed in real-time for the business,” he explains. “I see businesses being able to take data in from an even greater number of connected devices and then using AI to analyze it to optimize their business.”
Paz also believes that as business use of IoT technology increases, there will be a greater need for analytics to understand the data the devices collect. Noting the profound breakthroughs in AI in recent years, he believes AI could be a useful tool in making sense of businesses’ IoT data.
Paz also predicts that 2017 will see “IoT shift beyond singular applications,” such as a vehicle transmitting GPS data, to a broader ecosystem with new forms of value and a greater emphasis on ‘as a service’ platforms.
However Stewart Cawthray, Rogers’ general manager of enterprise security, notes that in an increasingly connected world enterprises need to be wary of the heightened risk for cyberattacks.
Just as IoT and AI can be used to make businesses more efficient, he says, both can also be used to take them down. He suggests that businesses focus on incorporating better security into the endpoints, connectivity and backend application layers of IoT devices, especially after October’s large-scale DDoS attack, which took advantage of both IoT devices and voice-activated AI such as Siri, Ok Google and Amazon Echo.
Cawthray also highlights the risks of businesses progressively adopting cloud computing as a way of operating and storing data.
“Popularity isn’t always a good thing, and the popularity of [cloud computing] platforms will increasingly put the cloud under threat from cyberattacks,” he says. “It’s going to be paramount for businesses to leverage secure cloud solutions.”
Rogers Communications Inc. has reorganized its subscription-based Internet of Things (IoT) networking services, and is now augmenting them with offerings for the oil and gas and food industries, the company announced recently.
The new services – level monitoring for the former and farm and food monitoring for the latter – will be delivered by Kitchener, Ontario-based IoT service provider blueRover, and supported by Rogers.
The move is part of a wider push by the company to eventually offer a full suite of IoT services across multiple sectors, including retail and manufacturing, Ignacio Paz, Rogers’ general manager of IoT, told ITBusiness.ca.
“Right now only 13 per cent of companies are receiving an IoT solution from a single company,” he said. “Industry trends show that IoT needs to be simplified in order for companies to accommodate disruptive technologies… so we’ve integrated a number of partners and are offering their services as a subscription, so that our customers only have to deal with us.”
Level monitoring allows energy and agricultural companies to measure liquids such as grain, oil, water and waste matter, while farm and food monitoring uses sensor technology to securely track and automate the temperatures of devices such as refrigerators, freezers, deep fryers and ovens.
In addition to its current offerings for the food and energy industries, Rogers provides a range of IoT services for the retail, automotive, and public sectors, Paz said, having offered IoT solutions in one form or another since 2009. It plans to expand those services in the future, and extend its IoT offerings into the manufacturing sector as well.
“There’s a clear need for businesses to better perform in these segments,” Paz said. “In the future we plan to expand our portfolio, to better enable (our customers) to completely overhaul their customer experience, and to improve their productivity, efficiency, and increase their bottom line.”
Even in today’s wireless, mobile-first economy, possessing a high-speed Internet connection remains a priority – and a challenge – for small businesses across Canada.
Now one of the country’s leading providers is beginning to address that challenge, with Rogers Communications Inc. announcing yesterday that download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (gbps) will now be available from its Rogers Ignite for business service to customers in the Greater Toronto Area.
In a statement, Rogers’ senior vice-president of enterprise products and solutions, Charlie Wade, said the speed increase would allow businesses to transfer files more quickly, back up data in real-time on the cloud, conduct high-quality video conferences, and connect with more online users at once without compromising Internet performance.
The increased speeds are part of a commitment that Rogers announced last October to make 1 gbps download service available to more than 4 million homes and businesses – the company’s entire cable footprint in Ontario and Atlantic Canada – by the end of 2016.
Presently, however, only customers in parts of downtown Toronto and the GTA, including Brampton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Markham, Pickering, Ajax, and Whitby, can access the company’s fastest connection speeds. More cities and communities will be added in the coming months, Rogers said in a statement.
For now, small business customers in the GTA can sign up for Rogers Ignite’s 1 gbps download service, which includes unlimited bandwidth, for $149.99 per month with a two-year term agreement, or $199.99 per month term-free.
They can also visit the company’s website to find out if the 1 gbps speed is available in their neighbourhood.
The same week the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) criticized wireless service providers for doing a poor job of notifying consumers about their data use, Rogers Communications Inc. has released a new tool that allows customers to monitor their current data usage by logging into the company’s mobile app.
Released Thursday, the new MyRogers feature allows whoever pays the bill on a Share Everything plan to set data limits for each user, while also giving them licence to add, subtract, or buy additional data with a few taps of their phone.
The affected parties, meanwhile, are notified of the changes but can’t do anything about it.
“The analogy I always use is a cookie jar,” Rogers CEO Guy Laurence told reporters on Oct. 6, picking up a full jar.
“You start the month with this amount of cookies, and… by the time you’ve got to the 18th of the month you’re doing this,” he said, exchanging the full jar for an empty one. “And if you’re the bill payer, which I am in my family, you then turn around to the kids and you go, ‘okay, who had the cookies?’ And you get no takers for that question.”
Instead, aggrieved parents call Rogers customer service, he said, with the company receiving 1.5 million calls regarding data usage every year.
In fact, a recent company survey discovered that 89 percent of parents wanted control over how much data they and their kids were using.
“They understand that everybody wants to use data,” Laurence said. “‘It’s not that I resent buying it, it’s not that I don’t understand it’s going up, it’s just I want to be control.'”
The new tool, he said, represents Rogers’ willingness to pass its control of data usage onto the customer, allowing them to determine the size of the cookie jar, so to speak, and the number of cookies everyone actually receives.
Using the tool Share Everything subscribers can not only set data limits from the MyRogers app, but also customize alerts for each person. Should a Share Everything member reach their data alert threshold, that member and the bill payer are both notified with a text message, after which the bill payer can choose to do nothing and continue letting the other member use data, allocate additional data from another member, buy more, or switch it off entirely and at the beginning of the following month, turn it back on.
“Let’s say you take a stereotypical family, and… one of them has been spending more time watching videos on Facebook instead of doing their school work,” Laurence said. “One swipe of the switch and you can then turn [their data] off. That person is then notified they have no data until the end of the month.”
“Let’s say they come home with good grades the following day,” he continued. “You can switch that data back in a nanosecond, and it notifies them that they’re back on.”
Additional data will cost $15 per GB or $7 for 300 MB, Laurence said, the current fees paid by existing Rogers Wireless customers.
The data management tool is now available through the MyRogers app on Android, iOS, and desktop. For more information, visit Rogers’ website.
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