Blog: Trends, Tech, & Team

Photos: Prism Holiday Party 2015!

Last week Prism held its annual holiday party at Prism HQ, and the team had a blast! In addition to delicious food, drink and a DJ that bumped the latest Justin Bieber jams late into the night, we were lucky to celebrate with colleagues from around the world — with folks flying in from as far away as London and Amsterdam to recognize another successful year of hard work!

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We have a lot to celebrate this year: exciting product milestones, rockstar new-hires, and last but not least — our CEO, Steve’s Birthday!

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To see more pictures from this year’s holiday party, check out the full album on Facebook!

Is Black Friday on the Black List?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that holiday shopping is upon us. If last year’s numbers hold up this time around, over 140 million consumers will be lining up next Friday with deals in hand to take advantage of some of the best savings of the year. This is an image that that has become a staple of American consumerism, but as we move closer to a new year, it’s clear that the retail status quo is not what it used to be.

Just a few weeks back, China recognized “Singles Day,” a celebration for bachelors and bachelorettes that took the shape of over $9 billion in consumer sales, actually topping out over Black Friday. Singles Day’s success is proof that the rules of customer behavior are not fixed, and that it is possible for a manufactured holiday (and some really good marketing) to break records, and blow sales out of the water.

There is no doubt that Black Friday this year will continue to be a draw for customers, and remain a pivotal day for retailers — but if the idea of braving sub-zero conditions, full of undigested turkey and in pursuit of a heavily discounted flat screen TV is starting to feel stale — maybe that’s for good reason.

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Take the sporting goods retailer, REI, for example, which announced earlier this month that they would be forgoing Black Friday altogether so that employees could focus on getting outdoors, and spend time with their families. If we are to follow traditional retail logic, this might be considered “revenue-suicide” — but given the heavy media attention generated from the news, and a series of sales and promotions leading up to Thanksgiving week, we have a feeling that they might be onto something.

Likewise, marketers have gone back to the drawing board when it comes to big-ticket purchases like cars, as New Year’s Eve, NOT Black Friday, was the biggest day for automotive deals in 2014.

The 2015 holiday season is just that — a season — which means that consumers are growing less motivated by a single day of sales and shopping incentives, but more discerning when it comes to a positive shopping experience.

With this in mind, the pressure is on retailers to engage with customers, and deliver top-notch customer service in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, and into the New Year!

Prism Takes Home the Gold (Again!)

We’re proud to announce that we’ve been awarded the Gold for “Best Overall Company of the Year” in the Annual 2015 Golden Bridge Awards!

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Prism joins the Golden Bridge Award’s international community of winners from companies including BOOST Collaborative, Cisco, Nu Skin Enterprises, and Wipro — you can check out the full list of award recipients here. Our team was recognized for its technology and product innovation, as well as its significant customer base growth and business development in the past year.

We’re proud of the whole Prism team for this achievement — and look forward to more success in the future!

Behind the Lens: Stephanie Ho, Software Engineer

Internships are important to have on your resume when you start looking for a job, but sometimes the internship itself is great enough you’d rather have it be the job! Stephanie Ho, one of our all-star software engineers, started out as an intern at Prism — and then joined the team full-time after graduation. We’re glad to have her on board!

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Favorite Food:

Any sort of curry or noodle soup. And hot pot. I can’t decide!

Favorite Quote:

“Do not wonder if you have wings because you want to fly, but because you’ve already flown and know what it’s like to soar.” —Unknown

What’s your role at Prism?

I’m part of the cloud team. We work on building internal tools that help manage different aspects of Prism, and we also work on the web application, which presents and delivers information from Prism devices to our users in a useful, intuitive way.

What are you working on currently?

Right now, the team’s focus is on refreshing our reports engine to make it more powerful and customizable. I’m also wrapping up a user permissions paradigm project that will make it easier to securely manage users within an account.

What drew you to Prism?

I enjoy working on the small, close-knit team. Development happens quickly, so you get to become intimately familar with the entire product. The technology is really awesome too — I love the idea of using cameras as smart sensors that you can extract useful information from, rather than the limited recording devices they have been.

What aspects of your job at Prism do you like best?

There’s a lot of collaboration among everyone, and you’re not siloed into any particular team or project. If there’s something you want to work on, just go for it! Everyone’s encouraged to work with new tech and learn new things, so we get to attend events like PyCon and CppCon and bring back what we learn to implement at Prism!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to curl up at home with some good reading or a movie. I also enjoy visiting new places and spending my weekends wandering around the area to try out things I didn’t get to when I was a student.

What’s your background outside of Prism?

I recently graduated from UC Berkeley, where I studied EECS as an undergraduate. Prior to that, I grew up in LA’s South Bay (aka the “other” South Bay in CA). Prism is my first job!

3 Ways IoT Will Drive Technology Decision Making in 2016

With Halloween behind us we have officially kicked-off the start of the Holiday Season, which means that we’re already starting to see analyst firms and technology authorities report on year-end observations and predictions. Last month, for example, Gartner shared the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016.

The report called out exciting developments like with 3D Printing Materials, but we’re also excited to see that many of Gartner’s predictions fall directly in-line with Prism’s technology and company vision. Let’s take a look:

Trend 1: The Device Mesh

According to Gartner, the “Device Mesh” refers to the “expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people and businesses.” It’s this growing set of devices and sensors that come together to create the Internet of Things ecosystems that will drive the evolution of smart businesses — and consumers. Over time we’re going to see more of these devices come online, and we can expect their individual capabilities to broaden. Prism, for example, is bringing new visual sensors to IoT using next-generation video devices. Not only is the “Device Mesh” on the rise — whole new kinds of data are surfacing.

Trend 2: Data is Everything

You might not spare much thought for what counts as “traditional data”, but for the folks that get paid to think about this stuff, data has generally fallen into three categories: text, audio and visual information. With evolving technology and the ever-growing IoT, that’s all changing. Now, even contextual and sensory information (think touch, smell, and so on) are becoming valuable, quantifiable data sources for developers, researchers and businesses.

Prism-enabled cameras illustrate how existing devices are evolving to gather new kinds of data as part of the device mesh. Instead of merely recording video, these cameras gather massive amounts of visual records that Prism translates into a wealth of other data types — like customer path movements and traffic. So where there have always been patterns in customer traffic and how individuals interact within any brick-and-mortar environment, it’s new, quantifiable data types (like paths) that make those patterns measurable — and actionable.

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Trend 3: the IoT “Platform”

David Cearley, VP and IoT expert at Gartner makes the case in the report that “any enterprise embracing IoT will need to develop an IoT platform strategy.” This means developing an official system to address the new set of security and deployment considerations for connected technologies, and determining how this fits into the overall IT program within a business. This is a concept that Prism seeks to address right out of the gate — as many businesses are already equipped with cameras that are Prism-compatible, “connecting” a space can often take less than 15 minutes. Likewise, Prism’s software is built from the ground-up to address evolving security concerns that will arise as IoT continues to mature. Prism’s approach to an IoT platform is one that is not only easy to deploy, but also engineered with an emphasis on security, so that businesses can focus on deriving value from IoT data, rather than managing it.

It’s a given at this point that IoT is a game changer for all kinds of businesses, and the trends we’re seeing for 2016 help pinpoint exactly how IoT’s large-scale implementation will play out. We’re excited to see more brick-and-mortar businesses using the new data, innovative platforms, and strategic edge that IoT devices like Prism provide — and we’re looking forward to using the evolving Internet of Things to deliver better-than-ever insights for our customers.

Prism Talks Retail Optimization at Shop.org

We had a blast at Shop.org Digital Summit in Philadelphia! It was the perfect time to showcase our new features and catch up with our favorite retailers. David Morin, Prism’s Retail Analytics Expert, had the chance to talk to BloomReach about using web-style analytics for retail optimization at the brick-and-mortar level. Check out the video below.

Prism at CppCon: Huu Nguyen’s Lightning Talk on C++ Requests

Prism’s full stack is pretty extensive — a lot of different libraries and languages come with the territory when you’re doing everything from front-end and mobile app development to hardware integrations. So in late September, we sent some folks from our Edge and Research teams to CppCon in Bellevue, Washington to learn about the best practices and new methods in C++ that they could bring back to the engineering team at Prism.

Little did we know, though, that one of our own was actually presenting! Huu Nguyen, one of Prism’s Platform Engineers, independently developed a library called “C++ Requests” — a great open-source resource that takes its inspiration from Kenneth Reitz’s Python library, “Requests: HTTP for People.” C++ Requests is a user-friendly approach to making HTTP calls with C++ and Curl. Huu gave a great Lightning Talk on his work at CppCon, and we’re happy to share it here.

APIs and HTTP call methods can get very messy — we’re glad one of the team is helping make them easier to use. Check out Huu’s repo here, and don’t forget to star and fork it!

Prism Milestones: TechCrunch Anniversary

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Fall is always a special time around Prism. Not only does it mark our birthday as a company — it also marks the moment we first realized how well our vision stood out from the startup crowd.

Prism competed in the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt competition when our app was barely two months old and walked home with a trophy for second place — not too shabby for a brand-new company! Looking back, it’s clear how far we’ve come. We’re proud to be able to say we continue to grow, improve, and expand our offerings.

Or, as our CEO Steve Russell put it, “TC Disrupt was a lot of fun and we won a case of beer and a green shoe too! And though the PBR is long gone, our ‘trophy’ still sits in a place of honor greeting Prism visitors.”

It’s a pretty great shoe!

Here’s to an even better, brighter future at Prism.

Behind the Lens: Henry Lu, Backend Software Engineer

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Summer is winding to an end (even in the Bay!) and Prism’s newest team members are settling in and learning the ropes. Henry is our newest Berkeley grad to join the crew, and we’re glad to have him on board!

Favorite Food:

Taiwanese and Japanese.

Favorite Quote:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” — Alan Kay

What’s your role at Prism?

I work primarily on the back-end team. I develop Prism’s web app, working on projects that include anything from accessing and organizing the database to improving the UI to editing custom Pathmaps.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on optimizing the accuracy and performance of Prism’s analytic tools (Pathmaps, Traffic and Activity Heatmaps) for a wider range of customer use cases and spaces.

What drew you to Prism?

I was really interested in Prism’s innovative solutions to retail analytics and, even more broadly, its vision to revolutionize the smart sensor space.

What aspects of your job at Prism do you like best?

I really enjoy the freedom to be self-driven and not be micromanaged. Also, I really appreciate that everyone sets really high standards for themselves — without being overly competitive.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy cooking, hiking, attending local events, and going to live NBA games. Go Spurs!

What’s your background outside of Prism Skylabs?

Prism is my first job! I graduated in May with a M.S. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, focusing on imitation learning and robot manipulation of everyday objects. I’m excited to be on the team!

Prism Offsite: Team-Building 2015!

This September, the Prism crew road-tripped two hours south of the Bay to spend three days at Bar SZ Ranch. In between planning the future of Prism with in-depth roadmap sessions and addressing key sales and engineering challenges with team breakouts, there were plenty of opportunities for fun as well!

Horse rides, skeet shooting, star gazing, bonfires, and feeding calves — you name it, Prism did it. Check out some of the photo highlights below!

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With its location right by Pinnacles National Park, Bar SZ had beautiful, foggy views in the morning…

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Perfect for flying drones!

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The team, hard at work planning out the future of Prism.

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But not too much work — after our main sessions, we split up for skeet shooting and horseback riding.

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Sharp-shooting software engineers!

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Ready for the range on horse-back.

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Did we mention there were kittens?

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And the team wraps up a long day with drinks at Doc’s Saloon. Another successful offsite!