This Week’s Technology News – 31st October 2014

Are companies doing their best to speed up collaboration and productivity amongst the workforce?

A new joint study of finance, HR and IT staff from 160 mid-tier organisations by Source for Consulting and Advance Business Solutions (ABS) has revealed that 79% of employees believe social media integration with back-office solutions is essential to improving productivity, collaboration and supplier engagement.  Perhaps surprisingly, 69% felt that social networks could help cut down on unnecessary email.

Whilst 86% of organisations use social media for external marketing, only 17% use social media tools such as enterprise social network systems to collaborate and share information internally.  One of the benefits of social media can be to streamline the recruitment processes by enabling companies to engage directly with potential employees and providing specific e-recruitment solutions to manage online applications.

Worldwide publisher Pearson formally used a software system called Neo but found far greater take up with an application called Jive, which has seen adoption grow to 10,000 of its staff globally since 2011.

Any technology that can bring a workforce, especially a disparately located one, closer together and increase productivity is something certainly to be considered by any Board. Surmounting the notion of internally employed social media on the other hand is an education path that needs careful navigation, understanding and education if it is to be successfully deployed.

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Samsung in doldrums as Xiaomi looks over its shoulder

Samsung appears not to be wowing its customers as much as it did before.  The tech giant is seeing competitors like Sony, HTC and Chinese brands start to bite into its previously dominant market share, with more innovative and interesting products in this highly commoditised mobile market.

Its position as the world’s largest smartphone maker with 25% of the global market for smartphones should have been consolidated with better profitability in its results. However, the decision to push out the Galaxy S5 in April, be the first to launch the smartwatch last year AND rush other releases ahead of schedule in September (Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge), to see off competition from Apple’s larger screen iPhones, failed to deliver on the balance sheets.  Added to this, the delay in launching the long-awaited Tizen operating system, which would have reduced its reliance on Google’s Android system for its phones seems to be showing the cracks in overall strategy, as Samsung’s operating profit (where mobile business provides 70% of income), fell by 60% against the same period last year with sales falling commensurately by 20%.

The technology market is moving very fast and there remains a rapacious appetite for transformative and innovative developments, but Samsung has lacked the integration and added value that has benefited its rival Apple for example, which sought to make their smartwatches work with their phones, tablets, PC or TVs, positioning them to be able to mine behavioural data insights, future trends and revenue opportunities.

Additionally, Samsung have ignored the lower end of the market where Chinese company Xiaomi has started to mop up in the emerging markets. Forecasting sales of 60 million budget smartphone handsets in China alone for 2014, Xiaomi offers almost flagship quality at reasonable price and  a good spec (no doubt helped by their poaching  a key Google exec for product development to help target western markets).

An indicator of Xiaomi’s true ambitions may be the news that the Chinese firm intends to open an Indian data centre to overcome concerns from the Indian Government against its military using the devices because of privacy fears over the data being kept in Beijing.   This is probably the single largest barrier to Xiaomi’s expansion plans in the world.  They have already been moving non-Chinese data into Amazon data centres and whilst they advise they never collect user data without permission, with 100,000 handsets sold every week, assuring the Indian market of its good intent, would certainly send the right signal and open the door for more rapid growth and potential market share gain worldwide.

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Microsoft enters the wearable race

Announcing a new product one day and releasing it the next used to be associated exclusively with Apple, however recently Microsoft managed to surprise the tech press by stealth releasing its rumoured, but not leaked, new wearable – the day after its announcement last Thursday.

Microsoft’s new wearable is simply named Band, comes in three sizes and is worn around the wrist. Featuring a better than average 2-day battery, 10 different sensors, GPS and a horizontal screen made up of tiles as seen in Windows and Windows Phone. Unlike the Apple Watch and Google Wear, Band works across all mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone giving it a competitive edge to those who do not want to be locked into one particular platform.

Band has two main focuses; for the fitness conscious it can monitor pulse rate, calorie burn and quality of sleep. It also works as a smart watch, showing the time and giving you at a glance, notification such as texts, emails, calendar and social network alerts. Band also goes a step further by combining these two areas. For example, Band can detect if calendar meetings with particular people are likely to raise your stress levels based on your pulse rate from previous meetings.

Microsoft may be last out of the big three to unveil its wearable solution but its stealth release puts it way ahead of Apple’s Watch release if Spring next year. With the wide compatibility across different devices and the combination of price ($199), size, battery and features, Microsoft’s first wearable offering makes a compelling proposition. What is yet to be confirmed is whether Microsoft will be looking to licence its new wearable platform to other OEMs as it does with PCs, Tablets and Phones. A new platform that is compatible across all devices could see as big a success as Windows on PCs and Android on Smartphones has proven before.

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Are non-wearable devices the new threat to wearables?

Wearable technology is finally picking up steam with the three big players in mobile now all having their own wearable solutions. Wearables have a lot of applications but the biggest overlap feature and focus is on healthcare. For healthcare, wearables make a lot of sense. Sensors on the device can have direct, consistent contact with the user’s skin, allowing all sorts of analytical data to be accrued.

Will everyone be happy to wear one of these devices, or will their use be limited to tech enthusiasts? Or is there another, less intrusive alternative?

Video game Company Nintendo is no stranger to incorporating technology with health and fitness. As well as traditional video games, Nintendo has been making software to keep people active. The bundled launch game Wii Sports included with the Wii took advantage of the Wii Remotes at-the-time unique accelerometer (a technology now standard in smart devices). This gets people off the couch to re-enact real sports and has found its way into over 80 million homes worldwide. Their Wii Fit software was even less game-like and came as a pair with its Balance Board selling over 20 million units, and their latest portable game playing device (3DS) has health based sensors built in. Of course all of these, games or not, are currently limited to being use on Nintendo’s game devices.

Earlier this year the Japanese gaming giant quietly announced a new non-gaming division of the business to create technology around Quality Of Life (QOL) and non-wearable technology and one that is not reliant on its own gaming devices.

Detailed this week, the first product will arrive in the financial year ending March 2016 and is focused around your sleep and co-developed with US Company ResMed. A small box like device can be placed upon your bedside table and wirelessly monitor your sleeping habits via radio waves. Without intrusive human contact, the device can detect heart rate, respiration and fatigue. The data is sent to the Cloud where it is analysed and fed back to inform about how to achieve a healthier sleeping pattern. You will then be able view your data on smart devices where it will make recommendations in exercise and diet.

Nintendo noted that their know-how in gaming has given them great experience in creating fun-to-use software that people want to come back to daily. If a user is not engaged in the process of improving, this can be the biggest hurdle in maintaining a fitness programme. If Nintendo’s first non-wearable QOL product delivers on its promise of wireless health analytics, it could shake up the current wearables industry as motion control and touch screen gaming did on their Wii and DS systems.

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This week’s technology news – 25th October 2014

Wearable Technology – not so Mickey Mouse

It was never going to be long before the commercial opportunities from wearable technology would be fully grasped by the entertainment industry. Into frame comes The Walt Disney Company, who have been discussing the success of their adoption of wearable technology at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit recently.  Their new “MagicBand” aims to “improve customer experience and engage with visitors” at its parks and resorts.   This is a neat euphemism for describing big data analytics consuming and helping direct customer behaviour through holding personal details to enable greater marketing opportunities to be had.

The MagicBand uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.  Visitors can enter parks, hotel rooms, purchase food and gifts, use fast-track services as well as link Disney photos to an online account with a swipe of their arm.   Acknowledging the issue of privacy and security, Disney’s customers can elect whether or not to share their personal data.  If they do, families can register one time payment details to avoid carrying a wallet to pay for individual items during a stay, or register their children’s names and birthdays to make a “magical” personal greeting at a ride – or have informed conversations with a Disney character whilst walking around.

Should we be surprised, well no, not really.  After all it is 20 years since Tesco employed company DunnHumby in 1994 to analyse their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data to find patterns to help direct marketing campaigns. This quickly became known as the highly successful Tesco Loyalty Card.  Even this wasn’t cheap though – the scheme is reputed to cost £60million per annum to run.  However, the exploitation of data to direct company decisions is the future and central to the Internet of Things to make our lives easier.  So the more intelligent organisations are about their use of data, its connections, privacy and security, the greater the potential opportunities that can arise in future – and hit the bottom line.

 

 

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Apple’s new SIM

Apple announcements come and go, but last week’s big Apple event was mostly underwhelming, bringing incremental refreshes to its iPads and Macs with an absence of exciting new features. A small detail that went unnoticed by most (and wrongly reported by others), is the new Apple SIM that comes included within the new iPads in the US and UK.

The Apple SIM is essentially an Apple branded nano-SIM which lets you swap between different network providers without swapping the SIM itsel.  This can be done by choosing you provider of choice on the iPads touch interface without visiting a physical or web store.  That is the plan at least. Currently here in the UK, only EE have signed up so you are limited to swapping between EE and nothing.

You can thankfully also use a standard nano-SIM in the new iPads, but it has yet to be confirmed that if you sign up for a data plan on the new Apple SIM it will still work if taken out and moved into a non-apple device?

If the answer was no, then this annoyance would likely go unnoticed by most, as only a fraction of iPad buyers opt for the cellular capable option.  However, if this was used in the next iPhone launch, the Apple SIM could tie Apple devices and numbers together making an iPhone to iPhone upgrade painless, but an iPhone to a competitor a difficult or impossible task.

If this was to come into play, it may fly in the States where Apple has stronger control over network carriers and a history of less flexible mobile options.  But here in Europe, it would likely be slammed by anti-trust laws for unfair competitor practises. Apple’s new SIM may be both a starting point and a testing bed laying low in new 4G iPads, but things will escalate extremely quickly if it makes the jump over to iPhones in the future.

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Yahoo! finds success in mobile

 

Not long ago we saw Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO make the statement that they had missed a huge opportunity in mobile. Since then Yahoo! has been hard at work enhancing its modern mobile portfolio with a sequence of clever acquisitions of mobile app development houses.

With the company revealing its latest quarterly earnings with mobile revenues in excess of $200 million, they estimate growth revenues in mobile to exceed $1.2 billion by the end of this year.

Over the past 10 months Yahoo!’s mobile acquisitions have included Snapchat clone “Blink”, messaging app “MessageMe”, home screen app “Aviate” and mobile analytics startup “Flurry”. In addition to their existing apps these start-ups were also tasked with creating the new Yahoo! App suite including News, Sport and Weather. The surprisingly high quality of these apps have earned them a recent surge in consumer interest and the spin off has been that consumers are returning to use Yahoo! Services.

When a company the size of Yahoo! misses a technology shift as big as mobile apps they can often find themselves in serious trouble. Yahoo! is currently rumoured to be involved in numerous new mobile app development house acquisitions, so in finding success in mobile, it is safe to say they are going to focus more than ever on mobile.  If the next set of acquisitions turn out as well as the last, Yahoo! may see a new lease of life as a heavyweight in the mobile app business.

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How out of touch are we?

 

Microsoft has been developing touch technology for a while now to embrace realism in resistance and weight on their keyboards and touch pads (see blog 5 July 2013), however touch devices are moving on again to evolve into next generation technology described as “rich touch”.

The iPhone was regarded as being an exemplar of multi-touch interfaces, but recently an altogether more creative suggestion has been made by Professor Chris Harrison of Carnegie Mellon University in the States.  Interfaces have become far simpler for people to use, but Harrison derides the empahsis on size reduction in favour of the flexibility that different touch can provide to expand the use of a device.  All of this is based on analysis of the richness of how humans naturally use their hands, versus how many fingers you use to poke at a screen.  Guitars he sees, are very sensitive for this in terms of touch, pressure and grasp and can pick up on vibration.  Harrison sees this as the key to matching desktop productivity on mobile devices.

Rich touch would enable your knuckle to be used to add another dimension to your pointer finger ie. lassoing part of a photo, or tapping on the screen with your knuckle to bring up a contextual menu and refine and edit content. These variances can work as a “left-click” for touchscreen interfaces. Further options can be cued by the angle of touch to turn the screen into a different menu sequence, so a poke is different to grazing your fingertip across the screen – which could alter the scrolling process (a big deal for smartwatches). Then there is “drilling” the screen to turn volume up or down and other recognition of hand shapes to perform other functions.

All of the above developments seek to connect the user more personally and practically with their devices which should increase output and engagement satisfaction.  As long as options remain for selecting how we access different menus, and rich touch options can be switched on or off, it will add another new rich layer to our user experience, whilst also protecting the less dextrous user amongst us.

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This week’s technology news – 29th August 2014

Progress with IoT – But Security Concerns Still Dominate Public Opinion
The likelihood of The Internet of Things (IoT) becoming a reality, seems to be gathering pace and fast if public opinion is anything to go by.  According to a recent global report “Internet of Things: Connected Home,” 1,800 20-50 year old tech savvy consumers across 11 countries (including US, Australia, China, Germany, India, and the UK) were polled.  61% thought IoT, in which seamless connections between appliances and electronics are connected to the internet could happen, was “extremely likely” to happen in next five years (with 84% conclusion in China).

The IoT market is expected to grow to US$7.1 trillion over the next six years.  Is it all good news, well no.  Not surprisingly, the greatest concern was the risk of sensitive data being exposed as a result of IoT.

70% of those surveyed said they were either “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the risk of data breaches or personal information being compromised.

60% stated that “privacy is important to me and I do not trust how this type of data may be used”.

67% of those in the US advised that if personal data was accessed without their knowledge or consent, they would “feel violated and extremely angry to the point where (they) would take action”.  The majority of those surveyed suggested that their government should regulate how data is collected and what vendors are allowed to do and not do with the collected data.

The risk of losing public trust by not having well through through security and governance protocols in place from the start is too great for governments and network administrators to ignore.
In the UK, the Government has invested a further £1.6m on wireless project HyperCat, a thin interoperability layer which allows devices using different communication platforms to exchange data.  This is part of a £6.4 million package of public funding into IoT. The Government’s contribution to this non-profit making project provides a degree of independent assurance and secure interoperability.  Whilst Qualcomm, Microsoft, Cisco, HTC and Symantec are behind a similar “AllSeen Alliance” and Apple creates its own proprietary IoT standard called “HomeKit”, in the UK, 40+ technology companies including ARM, BT and KPMG are investing £45 million in the hope that their synchronised wireless communication standards version will become the globally accepted international standard, published through the British Standards Institute (BSI).

With the spec for Hypercat due to be published in 2015, for organisations everywhere, the advice is to treat IoT with care and fully consider the value of any data gathered and the potential impact of any breach.  As the volume of data in circulation increases and its storage and mining carries ever greater personal and commercial significance, the way in which business handles corporate responsibility and public may determine loyalty and their bottom line.

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The good and evil of 3D printing

Since the development of 3D printing technology, there have been a myriad of different uses coming to market. Two have recently been brought into public focus this week – and they could not be more polar opposites.

The first (good use) is a 3D printed vertebra which has been successfully implanted in a 12 year-old boy with cancer in his spinal cord. The benefits of 3D printing the required part is that it could be specifically designed to match the child’s original vertebra.  The design also includes small holes that let the natural bone grow inside. This makes the 3D printed vertebra a permanent part of the spine which will not need adjustment in the future as the child grows.

On the negative side, like the 3D printed gun before it, not all uses of 3D printing technology we are destined to see will be for the good.   A new “bump key” has been invented using the technology.  A combination of locksmith know-how and 3D printing equipment has resulted in locks you can open without having the original key.   Happily, it is never as simple as it sounds.   First a photo of the lock itself has to be taken to assist in the printing of the “bump key”.  Then with the bump key in the lock it has to be hit with a special mallet at several points of the key turn.   If done correctly, the mechanism will unlock without damage to the lock itself.

As 3D printing equipment costs fall, ever more uses for the printing technology will be discovered. It has the potential to be a disruptive technology and so markets, law enforcers and regulators will need to keep an eye on developments in order to safeguard or counter its good use.

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Shocking jailbreak for prison data
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has been fined £180,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for “serious failings” following the loss of a hard drive containing confidential details of 3,000 prisoners at Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire in 2013.  The data included information on organised crime, prisoners’ health and drug misuse, along with details about offenders’ victims and visitors.  Central to the severity of the breach was the fact that the disk had not been encrypted.

When a similar incident took place back in 2011, this triggered the issue of new back-up drives across the Prison Service which could be encrypted. However, the upgraded process was flawed from the start, as The Prison Service failed to provide instructions to employees to activate the encryption option which had to be done manually.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley did not mince words in his damning report:   “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them how to use it, beggars belief”.  The sensitive information for prisoners, the public and victims remained insecure for over a year.  A spokeswoman for the MOJ advised that this had now been replaced with a secure centralised system.

The lesson for organisations to take from this shocker is simple, to have technology is one thing, to understand and implement the relevant security measures to safeguard the data is the fundamental partner in the equation for good gatekeeping and providing a safe pair of hands.


Questionable use of results from data collection of wearables

Wearables are out in the wild collecting metrics of user’s daily lives where users can see and track their own data. However, it can be tricky to visualise this without example of what the benefit of all this information has on a larger scale.

Jawbone, producers of some wearable fitness technology, published a report showing some live trends which arose following an earthquake this week in South Napa, San Francisco.   People wearing the devices in the vicinity were monitored and the results recorded those who awoke when it struck at 3.20am local time and who got up (90%). This is against those who carried on sleeping, having been located further away from the quake’s epicentre.

This on its own is interesting, but not remarkable.  However, Jawbone’s publication of its data findings from region to region, flags up the notable concern that how personal data is to be used can often be hidden in the small print of terms of conditions. Whilst data is frequently used anonymously, as wearables become more adopted – and especially when being infused with existing technology such as smart phones, this type of data collection will need to become a lot more transparent to prevent consumer backlash.

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This week’s technology news – 15th August 2014

1.2 billion stolen credentials

Security and Investigations company Hold Security has discovered a Russian crime ring’s hacking efforts, penetrating websites big and small in search of the lucrative digital commodity of user credentials. From a mass of cyber attacks, the group has acquired over 4.5 billion records. Within these, 1.2 billion are genuine, unique login credentials. This was accomplished by successfully attacking over 420,000 websites and is suspected to be by method of SQL injection.

SQL injection occurs whereby someone inputs malicious code inside a SQL database. This can be via a standard web form or by taking advantage of a custom URL, which passes data back to the server. Once inside the database, the code can execute its custom command eg. taking lists of usernames and passwords and sending them to the desired location.

There are several measures you can put in place to combat SQL injection and save your own data from criminal attack.

1.When requesting data in forms that will be sent to your database make sure you assign length restrictions.
2.Check data type and check custom text for uses of execute code commands.
3.In addition, monitor your databases to check only the correct type of information is being collected is equally important.

With another huge credentials breach it highlights the urgency for regular password changes as part of good governance policies to keep your data secure.

 

Technology tracking study for Parkinsons patients and improved clinical decision making

In the same week that the world heard the sad news of brilliant US comedian Robin Williams’ suicide (disclosed as a Parkinson’s sufferer by his widow after his death), another Hollywood star and Parkinson’s sufferer, Michael J Fox has publicised an olive branch of hope for Parkinson sufferers.   His foundation, The Michael J Fox Foundation (MJFF) announced its support and co-funding for a study and new wearable healthcare technology app to help doctors study the effect of different medications for sufferers of the disease in the future.  In a joint venture with Intel division Basis (spurred into action by senior advisor, former chief executive – and Parkinson sufferer Andy Grove), patients were provided with smartwatches armed with sensors to track sufferers in realtime.

The disease is believed to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, though its exact cause is still unknown.  Symptoms can include tremors, uncontrollable movements, impaired balance and co-ordination, stiffness, slowness of movement, loss of smell, decline in intellectual functioning, speech and swallowing problems.

In the tests, 16 patients and nine control volunteers wore watches which allowed more than 300 data points to be recorded ever second, translating to one gigabyte of data, per patient, per day over a four day period. The information gathered was then uploaded to Intel’s system by a smartphone carried by the wearers.   The data seeks to understand how people live with the disease and respond to treatments and drugs (which could also reveal unmet needs to improve treatment in the future). The digital tests were paired with hard copy diaries kept by the individuals, supplemented by two clinical visits for further tests.  The scientists intend to create new algorithms following assessment of the data, to enable body movement symptoms and sleep patterns to be automatically measured and made available for review in real time.

The next stage of the complex study will take place in Boston, New York and Israel and will involve releasing the app to enable patients to record how they are feeling and to report their medication intake, to inform future prescriptions and to understand gait, fluidity of movement, tremors, sleep habits etc. 24×7.   Mindful of the sensitivity of patient data, Intel confirmed it would encrypt and anonymise the data to safeguard privacy. They also hope that it will eventually lead to opening up the sensor driven platform to other research centres and wearable devices in future.

Other tech players involved in health tracking tech data and devices include Samsung’s Simband wristband, Apple’s Healthkit app and Google Fit software. Through their brand weight and increased market interest in digital healthcare including emerging names such as Theranos in blood testing and diagnosis, this is creating a momentum for the sector which is rapidly growing, as new possibilities and hope for sufferers of Parkinsons and other diseases open up in the future.

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Females only a bitesize chunk of Apple’s apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook has voiced dis-satisfaction with the low ratio of female employees at Apple in a recent employee diversity report.  This disclosed a global 70:30 gender split in favour of a largely white male workforce.  This is by no means startling for the technology industry, but nonetheless marks Cook’s goal to see the ratio change over time.

Apple currently employs 35% females in non-tech roles, 20%  in tech positions and 28% in leadership roles.  For Cook though, the diversity message goes much deeper and wider:  “Our definition of diversity goes far beyond the traditional categories of race, gender and ethnicity.  It includes personal qualities that usually go unmeasured, like sexual orientation, veteran status, and disabilities.  Who we are, where we come from, and what we’ve experienced influence the way we perceive issues and solve problems.  We believe in celebrating that diversity and investing in it”.

In comparison, the UK IT sector currently employs just 15% females in tech positions and 9% in leadership roles (source ONS, Aug 2014). This is surprisingly down on the top job stats for women from just ten months ago at the back of the UK recession, when females held 15% of leadership positions in technology.

Given the future global growth for the technology and IT servicing sectors, it would great for the eoncomy for British female students exiting schools to get excited about jobs and career opportunities in the IT industry, as well as for employers to open their eyes to think about how they can attract this valuable talent pool that would change the skewed picture on both sides of the pond if we could take a leaf out of Cook’s book.

 

Microsoft squeezing Kinect into smart phones and more

Microsoft is no stranger to real-time 3D motion capture and has been facilitating developer’s innovative controller-free ideas for many years, using their Kinect for Windows sensor. The 3D sensor can let you navigate menus by moving your hands without actually touching any physical object. As clever as the device may be when utilised well, it is hard to argue the camera sensor is small.  On the contrary, the existing Kinect devices are big and bulky, limiting its use to larger areas with the sensor fixed and calibrated to a central, ideal position.

Microsoft’s Research labs are currently working on different technologies to miniaturise Kinect-like 3D depth sensing. One approach to accomplishing this task as demonstrated by Microsoft, involves turning a regular web camera into a depth camera. Using just low cost parts including a ring of LEDs, this transformation can take place in as little as 10 minutes, the down-side here being the greater accuracy and range from the bigger, more expensive units is lost.

When the technology hits the right size we could find Kinect branded cameras on future tablets and smartphones. Using face detection to unlock your device and sign in and even letting you take advantage of in-air hand gestures to control the interface. The most interesting uses of the mobile Kinect technology could be seen via third-parties, if Microsoft opens up the Kinect APIs upon a possible release. This would make the innovative ideas from existing and future developers a lot more accessible when more people have access to the technology.

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This week’s technology news – 4th July 2014

Personal and corporate lives fuse over mobile devices
Samsung report 75% of workers across Europe use corporate devices for personal tasks and a similar number use their own mobiles for work related activities. There is an increasing blur between the home and workplace – and whilst the figures are slightly lower at nearly two-thirds for UK respondents, it is clear there is still much to do on narrowing the risk and understanding new ways of working with your employees.

In our device-led, computer filled age, it may come as no surprise that 40% of the 4,500 workers surveyed said that their productivity levels are higher and 28% reported that stress levels were lowered, because of their ability to complete personal tasks during work time eg. during commuting time or a lunch hour. These included shopping or research – and UK workers reportedly had on average nine personal applications on their work smartphone and eight work apps on their business device. Many workers had no idea if their company even had a policy on use governance.

Clearly it is an important area for companies to protect themselves by ensuring they have a defined mobile and security policy to avoid security leaches or mis-use. Samsung’s own Knox-enabled devices are getting wide adoption, with 25 million devices enabled and attracting more than one million users, with approved endorsement by the UK Government and US military. Part of winning over staff and creating a better overall outcome, will be an education effort between the company and their workforce to advise employees and make them understand why restrictions are necessary. Governance can have a feel good factor if is handled well and not simply seen to obstruct workflow or efficiency.

The physical location of your data may change in the future
Many organisations are very cautious where their business data is physically stored, and rightfully so. The physically location can determine if other parties can also access your data if they believe they have reason to do so. Gartner recognises these concerns, though also believes the physical location of your data will become less relevant in the coming years and irrelevant by 2020. They believe physical location will be replaced with legal, political and logical locations. Neither one of these location types solve the issue alone but organisations will need to take on a hybrid approach, using multiple locations with different service delivery models.

While we plan for this future, we can utilise current software defined data centres to gain the flexibility of increased agility from provisioning applications quickly, improved control and policy-based governance, whilst keeping a handle on the location of your data.

“OFSTED” required for the Internet of Things (“IoT”)
The next phase of internet architecture “The Internet of Things” and how it will connect with our lives, still has a glaring gap to master, namely standards. There is much talk about the collection of data which will layer the insights to intuitively “assist” us in our future life, work and environment. This will happen via billions of little sensors being attached to everything, collected, processed and recycled into the right direction to be useful to us. Currently this is handled in data centres but despite their efforts to reduce energy use, the IoT will change this space. Ultimately, it is the data, its management and how it is aggregated to be intelligent, that lies at the heart of the issue, not so much sensors or home networks which is often the public talking point.

The intelligence of the IoT has to be harnessed by being more green without doubt. The sensors need multiple gateways, connecting a multiplicity of devices of varying power demands, which avoid connecting to the mains or requiring frequent battery replacements. IoT needs low speeds and low energy. It must stay simple and have mass production at scale, to make being “Smarter” compelling. But that will require it being at a reasonable cost.

The conflict lies in there being a lot of technologies with competing interests, vying for their part of the market including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, the latest DECT mutation (ULE) and the Weightless group which uses “white space” radio, plus older versions including ZigBee. But until these shake down to key IoT operators which can deal with and distribute the volumes of power at low cost to commercial mass, clarity cannot be deduced.

And therein lies the conundrum: with the potential to be top heavy in power overheads, how will it all be connected, who will govern the standards – and what will those standards be? It is still a very complex picture. But whilst the answers are not fully expressed yet, it will be big business for some and the live questions must lead to some form of “Office of Standards” to avoid the internet being caught on catch-up with itself and the formulae not working for the good of us all in the long term.

Wearables in the workplace, are you ready?
Google Glass is yet to be officially released, but with the announcement and commercial release of Android Wear, Google’s own smart watches have leap-frogged themselves into customers’ hands. Both Apple and Microsoft are heavily rumoured to be working on their own wearable platforms potentially being released later this year.

Wearables by their nature are meant to be worn throughout your day, monitoring your health and also keeping you notifications at glance level.

If you have not already, you will soon find people wearing their own wearables into the workplace. With a new type of device comes new security concerns. The good news is that wearables will fit into an existing set of good policies. These devices do not connect to the internet directly, but rely on a connection with the user’s phone, so a thought out mobile policy will cover this. Another area of concern is that the camera on Google Glass could record employees without consent. Again, this should already be covered by a mobile or camera policy.

The conclusion is that even if you are not adopting wearable tech now, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a smart watch on an employee’s wrist. Check over your technology policies and make sure you are ready, as the wearable may arrive quicker than you expect.

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