TECHNOLOGY

Target shaking up its retail accelerator program

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. is taking its retail accelerator program global.

The discounter said that its Target + Techstars accelerator program, which is entering its fourth year, will now be held in partnership with Germany-based food retail and wholesale giant Metro AG. Target said that by teaming up with Metro it will be able to better reach startups from around the world.

“Target’s portfolio of accelerator programs allows us to test a broad set of external innovations that can further differentiate and enhance our guest experience,” said Minsok Pak, executive VP, chief strategy and innovation offer, Target.  “The partnership with Metro not only extends our reach globally to bring new ideas to Target, but it further helps startups understand how to scale.”

During the first three years of the Target Techstars program, Target ran tests or pilots with more than half of the 30 participating startups. The retailer said is still actively working with more than a dozen companies.

The application process for this year’s program, is open, with Target accepting applications from retail startups around the world through Feb. 24. The 14-week program will kick off in early May 2019.

Each startup receives up to a $120,000 initial investment, intensive mentorship from Target and Metro business leaders, and a strong network of Techstars alumni. As part of the experience, all 10 selected startups will spend time at Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis and Metro’s accelerator headquarters in Berlin. Sessions will focus on how to bring a business concept to market and craft a compelling pitch to support fundraising and business development.

The accelerator will conclude with a demo day in August in Minneapolis, when the companies will pitch their businesses to Target, Metro and Techstars leadership, as well as the local startup community and potential investors.

The Metro Target Retail Accelerator, Certified by Techstars, is one of Target’s four accelerator programs, along with Target Takeoff, Target Incubator, and the India-based Target Accelerator.

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Seven Trends Driving Enterprise IT Transformation in 2019

Enabling the business outcome in a ‘real-time’ enterprise environment is the next challenge for global brands and government agencies in 2019. Tech companies will need to drive hard to continually exceed to their customers’ expectations during a time of accelerating change. They will need to show how technology can help deliver on their customers’ objectives, improve agility, security and impact, or they risk being disrupted.

Here is Verizon Enterprise Solution’s view of those enterprise technology trends that are most likely to impact our global government customers in 2019:

1. The real-time enterprise will begin to transform how business works: Foundational technologies — software defined networks, 4G, the Internet of Things, intelligent video, security, telematics — are already changing the operations of business. In 2019, savvy CIOs will be focusing on how to reinvent their operations to leverage the enormous potential promised by disruptive technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence/machine learning, automation and robotics, augmented and virtual reality and the next-gen cloud including edge computing. Many of these technologies have now moved from concept to reality, and those who can best leverage the advantages they bring will increasingly be well placed to win the future.

2. Businesses will invest for performance: CIOs are recognizing that the network they use really matters to their business – a secure, strong network foundation enables them to deliver innovative platforms and solutions that will move their business forwards. Then, it’s all about the service model and the tech surround that makes network-reliant applications available – the support, the professional services, service level agreements and more. The key is to find an expert partner with the network expertise to help you deliver on your business objectives. You can’t run a modern business without secure network capacity.

3. We’ll remember that the customer is king: Customer experience (CX) has been a hot topic over recent years, but many of us have had personal experience of the big brands letting us down. With AI infiltrating CX systems, there’s an unprecedented opportunity to move to a principle of ‘personalization for you’, putting the customer back in the center of the business opportunity. The best organizations will use data to inform human engagement, remembering that it is human engagement that  creates real relationships. The technology will be leveraged to do this at speed and scale.

4. We’ll focus on the transaction guarantee: We’ve talked about software-defined networking (SDN) for a while, but it’s now out there, live, and transforming business opportunities all around the globe, configured to match your cost and security requirements. In 2019, organizational success will be driven by how well CIOs leverage the many options that SDN enables, delivering agility, flexibility, and scale to run their business. It’s now beyond application-aware networking, and instead, about focusing on the transaction guarantee, and defining policies to support the specific application, time or location needs that will make the difference.

5. Contextual privacy will be front and center: There’s never been a bigger focus on the importance of privacy, as data breaches continue to hit the headlines.  Application users are keenly interested in how their data is used. In 2019, we’ll begin to see a focus on contextual privacy requirements, linked to location-based awareness. This will change how organizations are able to approach their security, and will impact their ability to keep personally identifying data safe.

6. Automation will transform the workforce: Robotic process automation and machine learning (ML) will transform how business operates – and what skills a business workforce needs. In 2019, educators and businesses will focus on how to build a pool of data scientists and ML specialists to support our future “skills needs”, rather than yesterday’s business requirements.

7. We’ll go back to basics on security (again), but also focus on specifics: In 2019, organizations will redouble their efforts to strengthen their security posture. It’s about understanding their risk environment, and ensuring they are doing the basics right to protect their business; practicing IT hygiene to keep infrastructure current to protect against vulnerabilities continues to be critical.  Network-level security is essential – in a software-defined world, network segmentation and security is a central part of the design. They’ll also increasingly need visibility on data to drive insights and ultimately to make decisions on how to mitigate against specific security threats. But, action will be taken – or the board or the customer will ask why.

George Fischer is president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions

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Albertsons unveils ‘first-of-its-kind’ AI-powered medical clinic in its Safeway unit

BY David Salazar

Shoppers at select Safeway stores can get a nagging cough checked out when they stop in to pick up some groceries.

Two Safeway stores in the Phoenix area are kicking off a new partnership between Albertsons Companies and virtual health solutions provider Akos.

Akos has launched, “first-of-its-kind,” artificial intelligence-powered medical clinics in two Phoenix-area Safeway stores.

The Akos Med Clinic is a self-guided medical station powered by AI and augmented reality. Akos said it planned to expand the offering to 50 Safeway locations throughout Arizona by the middle of 2019, as well as to other states, such as Colorado, where Safeway has a presence.

“Safeway is a local community grocery store and pharmacy that cares about the health and wellness of our customers,” said Joe Leyba, Albertsons director of pharmacy operations for the southwest region. “Our vision is that the Akos Med Clinic will increase access to care and help customers experience a one-stop shop for all their nutritional and medicinal needs.”

The medical station guides patients, who are sitting in front of a computer screen and a rack of medical tools, through self-administered steps to collect such data as weight, temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen content, as well as images of their ear, nose and throat, and sounds of their chest, lungs and abdomen.

The process is designed to take less than 15 minutes, and their work-up is sent, along with potential illnesses and treatment options, to an Akos provider who engages with the patient through a video consultation to confirm the collected info, verify the diagnosis and confirm or change the treatment plan. There also will be an on-site healthcare professional to assist if needed, Akos said.

The medical station, which combines Akos’ virtual health platform with AdviNow Medical’s technology, can help diagnose and treat such illnesses as sinus infections, earaches, sore throats, rashes and urinary tract infections.

“In a time when digital health is rapidly evolving, we are excited to bring this unprecedented approach to virtual medical care,” said Kishlay Anand, Akos CEO and co-founder. “At Akos, we’re committed to improving access to high-quality medical care and this partnership will expand our telehealth offering beyond the capabilities of our telemedicine app by placing these clinics where consumers regularly shop.”

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