Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chatbot automates insurance marketing

When one of my insurance policies was up for renewal a few months ago, I did some comparison shopping to see if I could find a better deal. My search involved a lot of late-night Internet browsing, many Google searches and encounters with some very frustrating websites.

At a typical insurance agency site, I would be asked to send an email or fill out a long questionnaire. And there were a surprising number of sites that just said call us during business hours. I'm sure that meant their business hours, not mine.

My quest would have been a much more pleasant experience if I had encountered an agent that used Leadsurance to build its online presence. Leadsurance is a platform that uses artificial intelligence and automated quoting to generate sales leads. It also gives potential customers what they want: a smooth and frustration-free route to price quotes on the policies they want - regardless of the time of day or night.

To get a first-hand look at the platform, the folks at Leadsurance set me up with a demo account. That's where I met Scott Stewart, or Scott the Bot, as he calls himself. Scott was on duty and instantly available, even while I was watching one of the late-night talk shows.

Scott's chatbot window appeared as soon as I clicked a Get Quote button that offered "a great rate in just a few seconds." In conversation bubbles, he offered rate quotes, answers to my questions or help with a policy.

Since this was a demo account, I didn't get any real quotes. If I had knocked on the digital door of a live account, my queries would have been routed to live quoting engines and delivered to a live insurance agents in real time. Agents who use the Leadsurance platform can get notifications delivered to their mobile phones or tablets, even while they're watching the same late-night shows.

The agents can also get a dashboard that collects and organizes leads with contact information and other details provided by potential customers. Agents and their offices can use the dashboard to track site traffic, manage search engine visibility and publish content. They can also analyze social media data and customer reviews.

The basic Leadsurance package costs $99 a month and includes a custom website, hosting, instant lead alerts and social media management.

The chatbot, analytics dashboard and SEO optimization are among the features included in an upgraded package that costs $199 per month. Both packages have 24-hour support.

You can get a closer look at the service in the video below and more details on the Leadsurance website, which includes a blog and a an interesting look at how chatbots are being used in the insurance industry.  Leadsurance is also on Twitter @Leadsurance

Monday, December 24, 2018

This site helps you avoid scam vendors

Whenever we go looking for a new service provider or vendor, we make a visit to the Better Business Bureau website one of our first stops. We know the BBB checks out the companies on their list and we feel confident that we won't be pointed toward anyone with a sketchy reputation.

But the bureau's website is not especially easy to navigate. So I wasn't surprised to find that the site called eLegitimate has created a new and enhanced online database of BBB accredited companies.

At the eLegitimate website, users start by selecting one of 11 top-level categories, then drilling down to a subsection. For example, a user would start with the Automotive category to find Walmart and The Tire Rack among accredited tire dealers that have a national presence win the web. Each listing on the site contains a link to the company's website.

Other categories include Financial Services, Health & Beauty, Gifts, Tech & Communication, Home and Travel.

The eLegitimate site also has a collection of articles to help people avoid scams and fraudulent websites. Here's a sample of topics:

  • How to Find Out If a Website Is Legitimate or Not
  • The Effects of Falling Victim to a Scam
  • Common Online Scams to Be Aware of
  • What Is a BBB Accredited Business?
  • The Sad Truth behind the Trustworthiness of Online Reviews
To see the full list of articles and vendor categories, visit the eLegitimate website.

Friday, December 14, 2018

BcLapp app empowers grocery shoppers

Think of BcLapp as a supercharged grocery list. In addition to organizing your purchases, the app can help you save money, eat healthy and find new an interesting recipes.

With B-clap you can build a list by scanning labels and bar codes or finding items in a grocery database. B-clapp can recognize different images such as advanced smart labels and thermal labels. And it has voice recognition, so you can build a list just by saying "pork sausage" or "cottage cheese."

Once you're finished shopping, BcLapp will scan and store a copy of your receipt and let you enter  expiration dates for perishable food so it can notify you later when that date approaches.

The app comes with an extensive database of recipes. I typed in my favorite food -- "pasta" -- and got back pages of of hits, each with a photo, list of ingredients, cooking time  and nutrition information.

The recipes come with preparation instructions and an option to have them read to you by someone who sounds a lot like Alexa. Users looking to lose weight can use BcLapp's calendar to to log their calorie intake.

In the BcLapp digital wallet, where users store receipts and warranty information, you can also keep track of coupons and loyalty cards. If you scan a coupon for ground turkey and later put ground turkey on your shopping list, BcLapp will add a tag to remind you about the coupon.

Other BcLapp features include a news feed for product recalls and a face-scanning technology that will find the best face shots among your digital photos and send them to a Walgreen's store to be printed. The app also works with Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.

BcLapp is available in the Apple App and Google Play stores. For more information, check out the video below and visit the BcLapp website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CPU Information app unlocks Android mysteries

I paid a lot of money for my new phone, partly because it came with a fast processor and plenty of data storage. But I can't tell tell you how fast my CPU is running or how much of that storage is being used at any given time.

Well, I could look it up, but that would require a lot of poking around to find the right reporting tool.

What I would prefer is a single app that would calculate and report all of the important metrics that impact my phone's performance and make that information easily accessible.

Android users can install an app that does just that. It's called CPU Information. It gathers performance data from every corner of your phone and arranges all of the available reports in ring of icons. Think of it as the one ring to rule them all.

Touch the CPU icon and you get details on the chip's architecture, usage stats and clock measurements.  The RAM report tells you about memory demand, buffers and cache while the storage report calculates the size and available space on internal drives and memory cards.

Other reports look at the phone's display screen, camera, graphics processor, SIM card, Wifi connection and battery.  It will even tell you how much power is being used by the phone's accelerometer and magnetometer. And the developers say more features will be added in the coming months.

The app is available as a free download in the Google Play Store.
For a closer look at CPU Information, check out the video below and visit the Parallel Axion website.

Monday, November 26, 2018

GIF Maker simplifies image animation

If you're like me, your Facebook and Twitter feeds are loaded with photos of friends, children and animals doing something cute and funny.

I love seeing the pictures, but my favorites are the animated. When my grandchildren are chasing each other around a tree, a moving picture tells the story best.

Most often, those little action clips are animated image files created using the Graphics Interchange Format, better known as GIF. GIFs have been around since the 1980s when they were valued for their small file size, which made them ideal for transmitting over telephone modems. Programmers later devised a way to animate GIFs by stringing together a series of still images to create a looping mini movie.

A free app called GIF Maker distills the GIF creation process down to a few simple steps performed on your mobile phone. The app will work with a collection of up to 50 still images. It can also capture a sequence of frames from a digital video or record whatever activity is displayed on your device's screen.

Once the source content is selected, users can adjust the speed of the display and save the finished file in high resolution format. For there, it can be shared on Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter and sent using email or a messaging service.

GIF Maker is a free download available for Android devices in the Google Play Store. You can get more information and see samples of animated GIFs at the Setubridge Technolabs website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Temporary email address can help preserve your privacy

Your email address has become the lingua franca of the digital world. Want to read a story on a news site? Post a comment in a forum? Get a discount coupon? There’s a good chance you’ll be required to register with an email address.

But there is often to requirement that it be your primary address. If you want to avoid the chance that your personal or work address will be added to somebody’s span database, consider getting a temporary email address from a site like Correotemporal.

The website will instantly generate an email address that stays live and viable for 10 minutes. All you have to do is click the bar on the site’s home page that says “Create your temporary disposable e-mail now.”

You can’t miss that bar - it’s almost the only thing on the page. There’s an “About Us” button, but it leads to a placeholder page, so I can’t tell you anything about the people or company behind this service.

But I do know that a temporary email address can be a very useful thing to have when you don’t want or need to share your primary address.

Check out the service for yourself at the Correotemporal website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Vitamean app puts your life on the clock

You know about the Bucket List, right? It's a collection of those things you want to do, or places you want to visit, before you check out, expire or "kick the bucket."

The subtext of the list is that few people make much of an effort to realize their dreams until they're near the end. We all figure that we have plenty of time.

Well, here's and app that might change your mind.

Vitamean is a simple visual expression of your personal lifespan. It uses world population data compiled by the United Nations and tailors it to fit your profile. You enter some basic information -- your birth date, sex and home country -- then it calculates how many weeks you've lived and how many more you are likely to have before . . . you know.

To drive the point home, the app displays a cute animation of an hourglass sand clock. A gray blob at the bottom of the clock represents all of the weeks that have already passed by. The yellow blob above it represents the weeks ahead of you.

If you were born in the early 80s, the ends of clock will look fairly balanced. If you're collecting on Social Security, you'll see that time is, quite literally, running out. 

If the image gets you thinking about your life and what's ahead of you, that's what the people who made the app had in mind. They put it this way: "We hope the visualization of this data will motivate people to make positive changes in their lives."

iOS users can download Vitamean for free in the Apple App Store.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Utiful brings order to camera roll chaos

If the camera roll on your mobile phone is anything like mine's it's quite a mess. I've got thousands of photos collected over several years and they're not all selfies, landscapes and shots of my lovely grandchildren.

Mixed up among them are photos of many other things: items I might want to buy, things I plan to sell online, whiteboard notes from business meetings and interesting buildings I happen to see. And my phone has turned out be be a handy way to capture those hard to see model and serial number stickers on kitchen appliances and the backs of television sets.

I wish the photos were better organized but I didn't have a good way to do it until I encountered the Utiful Photo Organizer. It's a mobile app that can bring order to mobile photo chaos by helping you sort your photos and assign them to folders keyed to different topics. I wrote about Utiful a few years ago when it was only made for Android devices. Now there's an iOS version that performs nicely on both iPhones and iPads.

To put Utiful to work, connect it to your photo library, then check off the images that you want to store in their own folders. Then click "Move" and either create a new folder or select an existing one. For deeper organization, you can create subfolders inside each topic folder.

Once the pictures are in their new their new home, you can delete them from your devices and and from iCloud.

Utiful for iOS costs $9.99 in the Apple App Store. Users can purchase the app once and install it on their iPhone and iPad so both devices can share the same library. There's also a version available in the Google Play Store.

Utiful has an official Facebook page where the developers answer questions about the app and collect suggestions for new features. There's also a Utiful User's Group on Facebook where users swap tips and suggestions. The app has become especially popular with crafts people and scrapbookers.

For more details, check out he video below and visit the Utiful website. You can also follow @utifulapp on Twitter.

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