Why Retail Brands Should Start Making Chatbots in 2017

Why Retail Brands Should Start Making Chatbots in 2017

Chatbots were one of the hot topics of 2016 and their use is only going to grow in 2017 – not just through big-name AI assistants like Alexa and Siri but also in cut-down, bespoke versions of these bots created by businesses and brands.

Facebook launched its chatbot platform back in April, inviting companies with a Facebook Page to add a bot to it — an automated, AI-powered service appearing through Messenger, using natural language processing to answer customer queries and provide help. Rather than placing orders through the website or over the phone, for example, users could get them through a branded chatbot instead.

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Advanced Natural Language Processing Tools for Bot Makers – LUIS, Wit.ai, Api.ai and others (UPDATED)

UPDATE from Dec 22, 2016: Since the original publication of this article there have been some significant market updates which need to be considered. Google bought Api.ai and also released their own home-baked Cloud Natural Language API, Amazon introduced Amazon Lex – conversational API and Wit.ai is updating their Stories and making them even better.

Recent announcements of a bot framework for Skype from Microsoft and a Messaging Platform for Messenger from Facebook have transformed chat through a new platform. More and more developers are coming up with the idea to make their own bot for Slack, Telegram, Skype, Kik, Messenger and, probably, several other platforms that might pop up over the next couple of months.

NLP for bots

Thus, we have a rising interest in the under-explored potential of making smart bots with AI capabilities and conversational human-computer interaction as the main paradigm.

In order to build a good conversational interface we need to look beyond a simple search by a substring or regular expressions that we usually use while dealing with strings.

The task of understanding spoken language and free text conversation in plain English is not as straightforward as it might seem at first glance.

Below we look at a possible dialogue structure and demonstrate how to understand the concepts behind advanced natural language processing tools. We also focus on the platforms that we can use for our bots today, including the API – LUIS from Microsoft, Wit.ai from Facebook, Api.ai from Assistant team Google, Watson from IBM and Alexa Skill Set, and Lex from Amazon.

A Dialogue Example

Let’s look at the ways we can ask a system to find ‘asian food near me.’ The variety of search phrases and utterances could look similar to this:

  • Asian food near me please
  • Food delivery place not far from here
  • Thai restaurants in my neighborhood
  • Indian restaurant nearby
  • Sushi express places please
  • Places with asian cuisine
  • Etc.

But if we are curious enough, we can also ask Google Keyword Planner for other related ideas and extend our list by about 800 phrases related to the search term “asian food near me”. We use Keyword Planner for such tasks here because it is a great source of aggregated searches that users regularly perform in Google.

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Why Is Everyone Building Chatbots? And How Can They Help Me?

Why is everyone building chatbots? And how can they help me?

You don’t have to travel far in the tech world to find a platform embracing chatbots.

They were a big part of Facebook’s F8 developer conference in April of this year, Google revived the idea with its own Assistant tool when it launched the Pixel phones, and they’re also being rolled out across platforms like Skype and Slack.

Virtual workplace watercooler app Slack is a good barometer for the rise of the chatbot, with its parent company having invested $80 million in startups to help built software that integrates with Slack apps, particularly in the form of these automated bots that can respond to user commands.

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What are the advantages of using Android on your device?

Every other year, the computer industry doubles the amount of transistors per silicon chip, thus creating more powerful devices that have a smaller footprint on a board. Current SoC components are powerful enough to have the power of a Cray-2 supercomputer or even an IBM Deep Blue in your pocket. Just look at the performance of Qualcomm’s latest chip, Snapdragon 820, that is powering the new generation of smartphones.

Advantages of using Android on your device

With more power on a device we can use more complex software stacks like Android, instead of sticking with Linux. Such an option is good to consider because of commoditized mobile hardware components, the developer ecosystem, the availability of modern development tools, and the ease of use of network and telephony stacks.

Below we’ll look at these arguments in greater detail.

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Stanfy Recognized as TOP IoT Developer 2016, Clutch.co

Stanfy recognized as TOP IoT Developer 2016

We are honored to be selected as a Top IoT Developer of 2016 by Clutch.co!

Selection was based on over a dozen quantitative and qualitative factors including: Ability to deliver (references, client’s experience and market presence) and Focus on IoT Development. Even more, Stanfy cited in the Leader Matrix as a “Market Leader.”

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Making Continuous Integration More Interesting and Live

Making Continuous Integration More Interesting and Live

We are developers, and as developers, we often need to do some Continuous Integrations. I would, rather, even say that we need to do various automation because CI is not the only thing that we do when we need to automate things.

The automation-continuous integration setup

The automation/continuous integration setup itself is not boring – it’s always side work, which needs to be done, but not as often as the general work we do. But the results that most CI systems are producing are usually unexciting.

The same text, the same few lines of texts, the same number of test runs, the same number of failed tests, maybe there are some other metrics on your project…

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Custom Android Builds: Tools and Techniques for Manual and Automated Tests

Manual Testing Your New AOSP

All code changes provoke some kind of effects and we need to know how these changes impact on general  functionality. Android apps are working with a limited memory, CPU power and flashing new ROM associated with some changes inside AOSP, so in this case it is very important to debug, test and optimize your new ROM. Having a reasonable test coverage for your new AOSP helps you to enhance and maintain the whole system and to deliver a high-quality product.

Installing a new ROM is a huge gamble for your fleet of Android devices, because you don’t want to brick them or cause broken system features, so it’s highly recommended to run hardware and performance tests. These test runs will allow you to determine whether or not your tablet is stable enough for daily use.

This article is a part of a bigger guide about Embedded Android that intends to cover a broad set of topics about using Android as a platform for embedded devices.

Before we begin, we need to decide what elements we want to test. In our case, there are three things we’re going to be focusing on:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Android Compatibility

Our goal is to ship a high-quality product which is working smoothly, has a great battery life, no crashes, works with all Android apps, delivers  great performance, etc. So let’s define what we want to test.

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Open Source Android ROMs You Can Use For Your Device

Open source Android ROMs you can use for your device

One of the most important tasks faced by hardware developers is choosing the right operating system “flavour” to run. While for many vendors selecting Android is a no-brainer due to its open nature and popularity, inside its ecosystem there are a number of different firmware builds to choose from.

The device’s firmware, also known as ROM (read-only memory), defines how the user will interact with your device, as well as what features will be available both to the developer and the consumer.

In addition to the “official” open-source Android ROM known as AOSP (Android open-source project), there are quite a few ROMs, built mostly by enthusiasts, that differ from the original in a variety of ways. Custom firmware could be optimised to run on older and less powerful chips, to be focussed on the security and privacy of the users, or to allow for deeper customisation, and so on.

We’ve taken a closer look at a few open Android firmware projects that everyone can modify and use to power their own hardware.

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Build and Run Android from AOSP Source Code to a Nexus 7

Build and Run Android from Source Code to a Nexus 7

Before we go deep into the technical details of building Android from AOSP and installing it on actual hardware, let’s look at a true not very true scenario.

Building a Connected Android-based Bus Stop Display

Here’s a situation we’ve all been in: imagine you’re running late for an important meeting and you’re waiting nervously at the bus stop. Twenty minutes have gone by and there’s still no trace of it. You’re starting to get edgy.

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Is It Possible to Use Android OS On Your Custom Device?

Use Android OS On Your Custom Device

Over the last few years we’ve been working on custom Android ROM projects for the hotel industry, where we’ve created a highly customizable level of system services and applications for Android devices.

We’ve also talked to CTOs and Product/Project Managers at various hardware companies and startups who are in the process of building their own custom devices for consumer or enterprise markets.

They are all looking for Android customization solutions, e.g., option to restrict access to system buttons, remove or lock system menus, add geo-fencing tracking or organize over-the-air (OTA) updates, along with the ability to monitor a fleet of Android devices.

We’ve realized that Android would be a good solution for a range of devices like ATMs, vending machines, automated bus-stops with a ticketing system, in-car systems, and even household robots.

But most companies don’t know where to begin.

What type of Android should you select? What are the restrictions and limitations of Android? How do you select hardware that works best with Android and minimize the dependency on closed-source proprietary drivers that will be outdated quickly?

How do you ensure that you build an Android that passes the Android Compatibility Tests? What Google services should you use and do you need them at all? Is it possible to organize the process so as to minimize the effort spent for major Android platform updates that come every year?

So in this article we are going to discuss the high-level considerations about using Android for your custom device and what type of Android you can choose.

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How To Use a Landing Page To Promote Your App

How To Use a Landing Page To Promote Your App

What is a Landing page?

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about them, but have you ever created one for your business? If not, why?

A landing page is a standalone page that visitors land on after clicking on an online marketing call-to-action. Each landing is designed for a specific marketing campaign. The purpose of a successful landing page is to grow your audience and convert visitors to customers, perhaps encouraging them to download the app, or purchase your product.

Almost Every Landing Page Consists Of These Elements:

  1. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
    1. The main headline
    2. A supporting headline
    3. A reinforcement statement
    4. A closing argument
  2. The hero shot (images/video showing context of use)
  3. The benefits of your offering
    1. A bullet point list summary of benefits
    2. Benefits and features in detail
  4. Proof
    1. Social proof (I’ll have what she’s having)
    2. Trust indicators
  5. A single conversion goal – your Call-To-Action (CTA) (with or without a form)

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Parse Migration: How to Change Cloud Code to Be Compatible with Parse Server

Migration to Parse Server brought not only infrastructure related issues but also cloud code compatibility ones. We described challenges we faced during refactoring and prepared the detailed checklist for you.

Special thank you to our iOS Engineer Igor for his significant contributions to this post.

Bye-bye cloud Parse, hello self-hosted one!

When we started writing on Parse, we expected that at some point, we may change backend provider. We don’t perceive Parse as long-term solution, but rather as a convenient tool to get things done. We have not taken fully to the backends on Parse. Nevertheless, we now have a dozen applications that use Parse.

We build our iOS applications in such a way as that if you suddenly needed to change the backend environment, you wouldn’t significantly modify the app’s code. For this purpose, we hide a networking layer deep inside the app, covering PFObjects with our classes (on ObjC) or protocols (on Swift).

The business logic is mainly implemented in the server-side code (using the Cloud functions and Cloud jobs) rather than coded inside the app.

When Facebook announced Parse shutdown on Jan. 2017 our first intent was to migrate backend code to the Parse Server instead of writing it from scratch using another stack.

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Top 6 Most Popular Machine Learning API’s

Have you heard of machine learning? If you’ve ever used the internet before, your answer is probably yes. Seen as a buzzword by many, machine learning—together with big data, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality—is currently one of the most widely discussed concepts in the technology community.

Buzzword or not, machine learning has long since become something we use every day, one way or another. It’s working behind the scenes in most of our mobile apps, under the hood of most websites we visit, and is employed by the brands and service providers with whom we interact.

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How We Migrated to Parse Server, Adventures With Heroku and Why We Broke Up

Parse made us to look for alternatives & Parse Open Server sounded like a good option. This almost ended up as a failure and we had to go curve road with Heroku.

Special thank you to our iOS Engineers Igor and Vitalii for their significant contributions to this post.

Well, we were using Parse for many years and had lots of apps (for both development and production) running on Parse. Each app uses Parse at 100%: database storage, file storage, custom Cloud Code, push notifications, app configurations, A/B testing and so on. On average, each of our apps has 4.5K lines of js/python server code.

How We migrated to Parse Open Server Part 1

Of course, we were somewhat frustrated after the Parse shutdown and began to look for a way out: maybe you read our ‘Life after Parse: what to do next’ post. Instead of thoroughly rewriting our backend or hosting on another MBaaS platform, we decide to migrate to Parse Open Server.

Why not Firebase or any other MBaaS? These services look promising, however using them means putting ourselves in a vendor lock-in again. Of course, there is also the added inconvenience of having to rewrite your cloud code and setup environment again.

So, the next stage of migration was deploying Parse Open Server on Heroku.

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Use Android Studio Like a Pro!

Use Android Studio Like a Pro

This is a follow-up to the recent MadCode webinar “Use Android Studio Like a Pro”, where Michael and Nikolay (Android Engineers at Stanfy), shared their advice on how to get the most out of Android Studio by using codebase navigation and a set of handy shortcuts. Let the main Android app development tool make you more productive!

Presentation Assistant

To demonstrate which keyboard shortcuts are being used throughout this article, we are using the Presentation Assistant plugin:

Presentation Assistant in Android Studio

Presentation Assistant in Android Studio

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