mandag 28. november 2016

Start-up of the week: Instalocate- A chatbot that claims to make your travel more comfortable!

Img Source: Instalocate |

Did you know that every time your flight gets delayed your airlines owes you a compensation? Have you ever been denied boarding because the flight was overbooked? Are you aware of your rights as a flyer? Many a times we overlook on these issues and incur heavy losses, but not anymore. The one company founded by Stanford University and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) alumni in June 2016, is building an AI powered travel assistant just for you!

Instalocate– the name as it goes by – promises to watch all that for you by building a cutting-edge technology that can solve all your travel problems and make your journey comfortable. No more panicking and rushing to the airline counters, standing in long queues or calling the customer care if your flight gets delayed or baggages do not come on time! Instalocate promises to constantly monitor your travel and predict and solve the travel problems.

Not just that, it would also protect your rights as a customer and go after airlines to get your due compensation in case of any mishap.

How wonderful is that? Having a digital personal assistant that can make your journey comfortable and be always there to answer all your questions in an instant!

Talking to AIM, one of its founders Pallavi Singh revealed that the idea of Instalocate was conceived out of all the unfortunate incidences that she and her husband had personally faced.

“Anything that can go wrong has gone wrong with us. Flights have gotten delayed, we have missed connections, baggage was lost. And that’s when we realised that, most of the travel apps are working in pre-booking and there is no one to help you when things like this go wrong. Dealing with the airlines was the biggest nightmare amidst this”, she said.

And that’s how the journey to Instalocate took off with an idea of building an assistant which could help during the travel woes and deals with the airline on your behalf. Pallavi confesses “At so many times, we felt so frustrated with the airlines that we wanted to sue them for compensation, for all the trouble we went through. But we never did- mainly because we never had the time to deal with the airlines.”

With Instalocate, all you have to do is share your flight details and it will predict when you might need something and would send the contextual information automatically. Just ask your assistant anything from your flight status to the free Wi-Fi availability in the airport! That’s not all, if your family is worried about you, the assistant can pinpoint your exact location in the air. They don’t have to anxiously wait outside the airport checking their phones again and again! After reaching your destination, your cab will be waiting for you.

How is all of it achieved? Talking about the integration of artificial intelligence to Instalocate, Pallavi said “It is a predictive engine which will predict when the airlines owe you compensation. Unlike others we don’t wait for you to search for that information rather we will bring it to you. We are also building in-house NLP which makes it easier for an end user to talk to us, just as they would talk to a friend.”

There is no doubt that the bot has been received well by its users. “We have only launched our first product and the people are loving it”, marked Pallavi. Citing a use case, she said “One of our power users recently got 800 dollars from British Airways for flight delay with the help of Instalocate.”

However, the journey to its popularity was not easy. Pallavi notes that making was not as challenging as marketing. “Bots is still a new concept for people and popularizing it is a big problem”, she added.

Well, despite the challenges, Instalocate has done quite well for itself and is growing at a rate of 60 month over month with a pretty high retention rate. 

This digital personal assistant is available to make your journey comfortable and answer your questions in an instant. Talk to Instalocate within facebook at for a hassle-free travel now. There is no need to install the app separately, which adds to the many perks this travel bot has!

søndag 27. november 2016

The company that perfects Data Visualization in Virtual Reality will be the next Unicorn

Fortune 500 companies are investing staggering amounts into data visualization. Many have opted for Tableau, Qlik, MicroStrategy, etc. but some have created their own in HTML5, full stack JavaScript, Python, and R. Leading CIOs and CTOs are obsessed with being the first adopters in whatever is next in data visualization.

The next frontier in data visualization is clearly immersive experiences. The 2014 paper "Immersive and Collaborative Data Visualization Using Virtual Reality Platforms" written by CalTech astronomers is a staggeringly large step in the right direction. In fact, I am shocked that 1 year later I have not seen a commercial application of this technology. You can read it here:

The key theme that I hear at technology conferences lately is the need to focus on analytics, visualization and data exploration. The advent of big data systems such as Hadoop and Spark has made it.

Picture Source: VR 2015 IEEE Virtual Reality International Conference

possible - for the first time ever - to store Petabytes of data on commodity hardware and process this data, as needed, in a fault tolerant and incredibly quick fashion. Many of us fail to understand the full implications of this inflection point in the history of computing.

Storage is decreasing in cost every year, to the point where you can now have multiple GB on a USB drive that 10 years ago you could only store a few MBs. Gigabit internet is being installed in cities all over the world. Spark uses the concept of in memory distributed computation to perform at 10X map reduce for gigantic datasets and is already being used in production by Fortune 50 companies. Tableau, Qlik, MicroStrategy, Domo, etc. have gained tremendous market share as companies that have implemented Hadoop components such as HDFS, Hbase, Hive, Pig, and Map Reduce are starting to wonder "How I can I visualize that data?"

Now think about VR - probably the hottest field in technology at this moment. It has been more than a year since Facebook bought Oculus for 2Billion and we have seen Google Cardboard burst onto the scene. Applications from media companies like the NY Times are already becoming part of our every day lives. This month at the CES show in Las Vegas, dozens of companies were showcasing virtual reality platforms that improve on the state of the art and allow for a motion-sickness free immersive experience.

All of this combines into my primary hypothesis - this is a great time to start a company that would provide the capability for immersive data visualization environments to businesses and consumers. I personally believe that businesses and government agencies would be the first to fully engage in this space on the data side, but there is clearly an opportunity in gaming on the consumer side.

Personally, I have been so taken by the potential of this idea that I wrote a post in this blog about the “feeling” of being in one of these immersive VR worlds.

The post describes what it would be like to experience data with not only vision, but touch and sound and even smell.

Just think about the possibilities of examining streaming data sets, that currently are being analyzed with tools such as Storm, Kafka, Flink, and Spark Streaming as a river flowing under you!

The strength of the water can describe the speed of the data intake, or any other variable that is represented by a flow - stock market prices come to mind.

The possibilities for immersive data experiences are absolutely astonishing. The CalTech astronomers have already taken the first step in that direction, and perhaps there is a company out there that is already taking the next step. That being said, if this sounds like an exciting venture to you, DM me on twitter @beskotw and we can talk.