Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Research has revealed that third parties cause 63 percent of all data breaches. From HVAC contractors, to IT consultants, to supply chain analysts and beyond, the threats posed by third parties are real and growing. Deloitte, in its Global Survey 2016 of third party risk, reported that 87 percent of respondents had faced a disruptive incident with third parties in the last two to three years.

cloud-infosec-report

In May this year, Ponemon Institute published the results of a 617 person survey that revealed that 75 percent of IT and security professionals said the risk of a breach from a third party is serious and increasing.

The infamous Target breach that occurred during the 2013 holiday shopping season is a prime example of a catastrophic third party data breach. Target confirmed that payment card information from roughly 40 million customers was stolen, as well as 70 million customer records. The root cause of the data breach was compromised network credentials that linked back to the company’s third party HVAC systems subcontractor. The breach cost Target millions of dollars, damage to its brand and reputation, and the resignation of both its CEO and CIO. In the past 12 months, organizations represented in the Ponemon report spent an average of $10 million each to respond to a security incident that was the result of negligent or malicious third parties.

Despite these warnings, a recent study conducted by the Soha Third Party Advisory Group, which consists of industry security and IT experts from Aberdeen Group; Akamai; Assurant, Inc.; BrightPoint Security; CKure Consulting; Hunt Business Intelligence, PwC; and Symantec, found that just two percent of respondents consider third party access a top priority in terms of IT initiatives and budget allocation. The report, which surveyed over 200 enterprise IT and security C-Level executives, directors and managers from enterprise-level companies, uncovered a few reasons for this apathy.

Breaches Happen to Other Organizations

Data Breach Comic

While CVS, American Express and Experian are just a few of the recognizable organizations that have recently suffered through a significant third party breach, the negative news stories published about them and others has not done much to motivate today’s IT personnel. Sixty-two percent of respondents to the Advisory Group report said they do not expect their organization to be the target of a serious breach due to third party access, but they believe 79 percent of their competitors will suffer a serious data breach in the future. Interestingly, 56 percent acknowledged they had concerns about their ability to control and/or secure their own third party access.

Providing Third Party Access Is Difficult

The complexity of providing secure access to applications spread across many clouds or in multiple data centers, and to contractors and suppliers who do not work for you, using devices IT knows nothing about, is a challenge. The Third Party Advisory Group report found that most of those polled believe that providing third party access was a complex and tedious process. The survey found IT needs to touch five to 14 network and application hardware and software components to provide third party access. Fifty-five percent said providing third party access to new supply chain partners or others was a “Complex IT Project,” and on average, they have to touch 4.6 devices, such as VPNs, firewalls, directories, and more. Forty percent described the process as tedious or painful, and 48 percent described it as an ongoing annoyance. This is a problem that will not go away anytime soon, as 48 percent of respondents saw third party access grow over the past three years, while 40 percent said they see growth continuing over the next three years.

People Are Not Afraid of Losing Their Jobs

When the Advisory Group survey asked IT professionals “If a data breach occurred in your area of responsibility, would you feel personally responsible,” 53 percent said they would, because they felt it would reflect poorly on their job performance. However, only 8 percent thought they might lose their jobs if a data breach occurred during their watch. The survey showed that IT professionals takes their jobs seriously, but it is unclear who is being held accountable for data breaches and how this ambiguity might affect attitudes and behavior in ensuring organizations are safe from outside threats.

Four Must-Have Features for Secure Third Party Access

When evaluating a secure third party access platform, it’s important the solution be able to navigate and manage a complex maze of people, processes and technologies. The solution should provide a convenient, simple and fast way to manage the platform, policies and security. And at minimum, the solution under evaluation should include the following four features:

  • Identity Access: Identity Access confirms that the third party vendor accessing the IT network has the right to do so. The goal is to provide authenticated end user access only to the specific applications the vendor needs, not to the whole network.
  • Data Path Protection: Rather than building a unique access string through an organization’s firewall, data path protection allows existing security measures to stay as they are, without having to be altered. This feature provides a secure pathway for vendors to access the parts of the network that they need for work purposes. And in the event that credentials are compromised, the direct pathway prevents outside attackers from scanning through the network.
  • Central Management: Keeping track of vendor access can be a challenge, but a centrally managed solution allows organizations to manage and control third party access in a simple and uncluttered fashion. The elimination of complexity means easy, functional connections that provide fundamentally better security that allows for detailed audit, visibility, control and compliance reporting.

The divide between IT priorities and the need to mitigate third party data breaches affects all industries. IT professionals must recognize that the threat from third parties accessing their infrastructure is very real. The good news is that with the right access platform with the appropriate feature sets, organizations can significantly mitigate their risk.

0015Soha-Mark-June-2015-head-shotBy Mark Carrizosa, chief information security officer (CISO) and vice president of security for Soha Systems.

Mark joined Soha in 2015 from Walmart, where, as principal security architect, he developed and implemented the company’s global e-commerce security architecture framework. Prior to Walmart, Carrizosa was operational risk consultant at Wells Fargo, where he analyzed the company’s infrastructure and application compliance to improve the security risk posture of both customer-facing and internal systems.

Education Through Collaboration And The Cloud

Education Through Collaboration And The Cloud

Education And The Cloud

Online education, supported by cloud computing, has seen much growth due to the spread of massive open online courses (MOOCs) hosted in the cloud and a changing learning environment in which today’s tech-savvy students make use of their own devices to facilitate their learning. Providing cost-effective availability and scalability to e-learning programs, cloud computing additionally delivers access to streaming video, simulations, and virtual learning worlds. With the benefit of collaboration in the cloud, it’s now easier for groups of students to collect and analyze data together, and interaction with educators can happen seamlessly through these same channels.

MOOCs

As education globalizes, MOOCs are changing how courses are structured and delivered. Budget limitations coupled with the need for wide-ranging delivery of programs has made MOOCs a particularly relevant practice.

MOOC

(Infographic Source: MOOCs)

While some consider the spread of MOOCs a threat to traditional schools and universities, many established organizations are instead putting MOOCs to good use as they modernize their existing structures. Unfortunately, research into MOOCs has found a high rate of abandonment due to factors such as low quality, lack of recognition, poor student motivation, and theoretical teaching without the benefit of any practical application. However, examination by Gartner finds that MOOCs have renewed interest in online learning while significantly changing course boundaries, and their considerable impact on digitalized learning in higher education means progressive CIOs are adopting new models and technology to strengthen the online learning in their establishments.

BYOD and Mobile Learning

Bring your own device (BYOD) is an approach that’s taken hold of many organizations, educational institutions included, and it’s predicted that by 2017 half of employers will require employees to source their own devices for work purposes. Already many students see technology as an essential learning tool that offers peer collaboration and communication, as well as a diverse range of approaches to the assemblage of information. The use of such technology further aids in many of the key principles of effective learning, which include applying theory to practice, motivating students, encouraging reflection and creativity, and promoting dialogue and collaboration.

Though mobile learning has previously been limited by the processing and storage capacity of devices in use, it’s clear that the cloud can assist by providing adequate computing resources and scalability. With the more resource-intensive computing tasks executed in the cloud, applications can more easily run on mobile devices, and students can retrieve and share content stored in the cloud from wherever they like, whenever they choose. Additionally, some new trends in mobile learning are expanding the field; geolocation is being activated in some applications that provide courses appropriate to geographically-determined customers, societal norms, and backgrounds, and though big data has always been an important part of e-learning, it’s anticipated that 2016 will prove to be a year of big data app analytics that improves mobile training strategies.

Cloud Study Groups

Both traditional and online programs make use of collaborative learning groups, either involving the entire class or, for more detailed analysis of materials, smaller groups. The concept of a study group is nothing new, and its benefits include the development of critical thinking skills, co-assembly of knowledge and meaning, and transformative learning. This valuable learning facility becomes more flexible in the cloud. Though some students shy away from study groups because they consider them inflexible, are wary of taking part for fear their teammates will slow them down, believe workloads will not be equally shared, or have difficult relationships with specific peers, cloud study groups offer some solutions. Groups can be created without considering student location, which means those with the most comparable aims and suitable partnerships can collaborate and learn together. Further, with appropriate applications in place, the cloud helps build study groups that are adaptable but charted, ensuring work product is correctly attributed.

We’ve already seen many changes in education through online learning; the cloud is the next step ensuring more efficient delivery and improved collaboration for greater dissemination.

By Jennifer Klostermann

How To Humanize Your Data (And Why You Need To)

How To Humanize Your Data (And Why You Need To)

How To Humanize Your Data

The modern enterprise is digital. It relies on accurate and timely data to support the information and process needs of its workforce and its customers. However, data suffers from a likability crisis. It’s as essential to us as oxygen, but because we don’t see it, we take it for granted. Because we take it for granted, we don’t often think we need to go open a window for fresh air.

We work with data constantly but often don’t see how that data is used. Thus, it’s difficult to visualize the tedious work behind the product, which affects what we are “selling” as an experience or an outcome.

Consider a company that calls itself “the company that cares for its workforce.” This is the type of company that should know its employees. But consistently getting names, notifications, and other basic information wrong could make that company seem like it doesn’t care.

Why Humanizing Data Is Important

Why would an organization expend the effort to humanize data? The simple answer is that it reduces risk, improves business performance, and (to an increasing degree), it’s a necessity in transitioning to digital excellence. Every industry will have laggards who change slowly, but the best examples are organizations that recognize the data is underutilized within their businesses.

business-meet

This is important to acknowledge, as according to Gartner research, inaccurate and low quality data can result in millions of dollars of lost benefits per year for the average enterprise.

More specifically, data needs to feel personal because:

  • Intangibles are often dynamic and require context. For example, consider the data that makes up a customer record. Attributes such as a company name, address, and contact information seem basic, but the reality is these attributes change at an alarming rate when you look at a customer population as a whole. Customers have growing, shrinking, and changing businesses, too.
  • A customer isn’t just a record. Attached to a customer are orders, opportunities, and interactions that all build on the context of how a company serves and benefits from a customer. Learning and visualizing that context takes time, especially if it’s only supported through tribal knowledge.
  • It helps to bridge the likability gap and manage the organizational change to a digital enterprise. Stories that humanize data are essential in outlining the expectations for adding value, managing risk, and providing services to the customer. Humanizing data provides meaningful stories that quickly capture the context of data value and use.

How to Humanize Data

It doesn’t have to be complicated. These three basics will take your business a long way.

1. Spread the word. I’ve seen some spectacular examples of organizations humanizing data through videos, tent cards, gamification, and other messaging techniques that revolve around the “so what” and connect the data driving the event. There is no universal way to do this; each company culture responds to communication differently. However, companies simply need to make sure their methods start conversations.

2. Start during the orientation. Most organizations expend their change management efforts when change becomes necessary for more experienced workers. But there is a steady stream of younger, more digitally savvy employees entering the picture. Spell check and text messages are the norm for them, and these team members will be trusted to steward data in systems that were implemented around the time they got their first cell phones. The systems are neither smart nor agile and don’t have a sense of humor for what Siri misinterpreted. They do exactly what you tell them, whether you mean to say it or not.

3. Communicate every data issue by starting with the human elements and outcomes. Repetition and practice are important for reinforcement. Those who can best communicate contextual use and value of information and insights will determine leadership in the digital era. If we want to develop digital leaders, we have to practice and become versed in understanding data context and how it applies to problem-solving and innovation in the future.

There’s little question that data is vital for today’s companies. That’s why it’s troubling that so few companies are using it well. For example, only 36 percent of companies use it to guide strategic initiatives. Further, 41 percent of high-growth firms reported that data quality issues represent a barrier to using it for strategic planning.

Humanizing data might be the solution. It will give employees a sense of how important it is, which in turn will make them more likely to identify with data outcomes. In the long run, humanizing data will lead to a leaner, more efficient company.

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Will-CrumpBy Will Crump

As president and CEO of DATUM, Will Crump brings more than 15 years of experience in building high-performance, cross-functional teams to compete in global venues. He is a sought-after voice in the areas of software product development, OEM and enterprise B2B web application technologies. For information on advisory services and DATUM’s SaaS, Information Value Management, visit DATUM’s website.

5 Ways Cloud Computing Is Having an Impact on The Energy Sector

5 Ways Cloud Computing Is Having an Impact on The Energy Sector

Cloud Computing Energy Sector

We’ve discussed here in the past how cleantech (a blanket term that includes technologies that affect recycling, renewable energy, transportation, and others) is moving energy efficiency into the cloud, and how there are many very well-known technology brands dipping their toes into this arena, most notably well-known brands Apple and Facebook building cleaner data center solutions focusing on renewable and hydroelectricity.

The next step for cleantech is developing technology that will help manage these emerging solutions in a more integrated and seamless way, using the software-as-a-service (SAAS) model. There is quite an opportunity presented to the software industry as more decentralized energy markets emerge: smart technology that is invading both our home and commercial buildings, the aforementioned data center footprint explosion, smart grid storage, solar, and many others.

As these sectors grow and new clean solutions take over traditional or outdated technologies, there will be an increasing need for software solutions to make them run even more efficiently than their predecessors. Here are five companies whose cloud computing solutions are having an impact.

Safety and Compliance

One obvious area that’s improving because of the cloud is in ensuring safety and compliance. Enviance’s cloud-based platform provides a number of environmental, health, safety, and sustainability solutions to help their clients and partners “manage what matters“. These solutions help energy companies, like those that provide electric and natural gas services, in effectively managing compliance obligations and regulatory responsibilities.

The platform’s environmental solutions collect data in areas such as compliance, permit management, greenhouse gases, and emission inventory. RSIGuard is the company’s award-winning desktop office ergonomics software. JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) determines controls to eliminate risk and provide relevant training.

Solar Efficiency

solar-power

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Recently recognized as a 2015 Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer, Locus Energy provides comprehensive data acquisition hardware and software solutions to help pave the way for solar adoption while also reducing the cost and complexity of solar monitoring.

With over 104,000+ solar systems installed and 53+ Billion data points collected, Locus is helping states like California hit new records in today’s “solar generation“. Their Solar NOC (Network Operation Center) application improves fleet management and efficiency across many dimensions including region, equipment size and type, installation needs, and more. In addition, their Solar-OS helps these installers and fleet managers understand performance data and analytics through a user-friendly web interface.

Electric Charging Stations

ChargePoint is known for operating the world’s largest EV charging network, with a mission to get more people driving electric vehicles and making sure they have a place to charge them wherever they go. The company provides solutions to both businesses who want to get more involved in offering EV station options to employees or customers, and those who are looking to charge their EV at home.

What ChargePoint is also doing is building the infrastructure in the cloud to make sure their current and future systems of EV charging are easy to manage for these consumers and partners. With over 21,000 charging stations across the US, ChargePoint is able to provide real-time data usage and use this data to make better decisions that influence the next location to penetrate, as well as providing these cloud services to other charger manufacturers.

Digital Grid Solutions

Well-known energy powerhouse GE recently aligned with Alstom Grid to form the GE Grid, a joint venture with over 200 years of combined experience in providing advanced energy solutions. Alstom Grid’s Agile Digital Substation solution brings together over 400 interactive tools help customers explore grid challenges and solutions in areas like substation digitization, distribution automation, and system integrity protection.

In addition, Alstom Grid’s cloud support port provides access to online tools and services for maintenance customers, user groups to continue building their technical users community, and offering over 200 training courses through the Alstom Grid Technical institute. It’s through these technology acquisitions that the GE brand continues to grow as the world’s leading digital industrial company.

Collaboration

Technology is beginning to shape the future for how energy companies communicate with one another. One of the more well-known advantages for cloud based services in business is the fact that we can share any important data at anytime from anywhere. Energy consulting firm Opportune LLP recently noted that, “Oil and gas companies and energy consulting firms are increasingly relying on partners, service organizations, and individuals outside the firewall to share the increasing costs, risks, and access to the limited industry expertise. Cloud-based systems naturally allow for much broader collaboration as stakeholders are no longer bound to internal fixed assets and sites.”

The moral of the story is that cloud based platforms are becoming widely integrated in a large spectrum of businesses for different reasons. When speaking about the energy sector, though, there is a lot of room for advancement. These five areas are proof that cloud computing and energy companies are going to produce some pretty fascinating solutions in regards to energy consulting and efficiency.

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ericBy Eric Hebert

Eric is the senior marketing strategist for evolvor.com, where he helps educate business owners about digital marketing. Some of his work has appeared on Entrepreneur, Search Engine Journal, and ClickZ.

What Does The Transition To New Energy Teach Us About Cloud?

What Does The Transition To New Energy Teach Us About Cloud?

New Energy Shift

CIOs report that private cloud is all the rage now. The Cisco’s of the world argue that hybrid cloud is the optimal path to adoption. Meanwhile, the big public cloud providers like Google and Amazon argue that it’s just a matter of time before most computing is done on public platforms like theirs. Each party with a dog in the fight proclaims they see the one true path.

Who is right? Where can we look for lessons to guide us? Are there fundamental economic forces that foster the private, public, and hybrid cloud frenzy? And if so, is there somewhere else we see such a dynamic? Surprisingly, they come from our transitions to new forms of energy.

Vaclav-smilHere is where we turn to the lessons of energy transformations and Manitoba.  Vaclav Smil is a prolific writer and Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. His research and explanations on the economics of energy provide the analogy to understand the emergence and transition to the cloud. While Smil is writing on the time it takes to move to renewable sources of energy, two of his observations help us understand why legacy and many cloud deployment models are all present at the same time.

First, the amount of sheer growth required from providers just to meet the needs. Just like renewables have been around for a short time and despite accelerated adoption in many countries they still only meet a small fraction of total energy needs. Likewise, cloud too is relatively young (Salesforce.com was established in 1999 and Amazon Web Services in just 2006).

Gartner projects worldwide IT budgets for 2015 equal about $2.69 Trillion. The IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers will do about $21+ Billion in revenue. Like alternative energy, IaaS is certainly growing fast but in the big picture it is tiny and constitutes less than one percent (0.78%) of the total IT annual spend. Toss in all the SaaS (Software as a Service) providers at$37.7 Billion and you are still only a drop in the bucket. There is an enormous build out required to meet just the current capacity need.

And that brings us to Smil’s other observation. The switch to different forms of energy took anywhere from 50 to 75 years because of the huge size and investment in the infrastructure. Likewise, electronic computing as we know it has been woven into business, government and academia since the 1950’s. Granted, a lot has changed and the technology refreshes itself ever faster but there are still a lot of investments in equipment and applications that need to be amortized. Not to mention old skills unlearned/new ones acquired. That sort of thing takes time – probably not 50 or 75 years but certainly not just 10 or 15.

Where does that leave you? Be prepared for a longer haul. Private and Hybrid clouds are in many ways the logical transition deployment as the shift occurs to increasing Public cloud. Vaclav Smil leaves us with another point that we should keep in mind. These shifts in energy sources are daunting because they involve rejecting a way of life deeply ingrained. This will be no less true with cloud computing.

By John Pientka

(Originally published June 2nd, 2016. You can periodically read John’s syndicated articles here on CloudTweaks. Contact us for more information on these new programs)

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And Virtual Reality

This is a term I created (Virtual Immersion). Ah…the sweet smell of Virtual Immersion Success!

Virtual Immersion© (VI) an extension/expansion of Virtual Reality to include the senses beyond visual and auditory. Years ago there was a television commercial for a bathing product called Calgon. The tagline of the commercial was Calgon take me away. The concept was simple, a mother or father frustrated with their day (and their children) whisked away by the wonderful Calgon bathing product. By soaking in the tub, all the troubles disappeared. Imagine having a really tough meeting. You walk back to your cube and wander off to the most beautiful place on earth (at least for you). You finish your working day enjoying a picnic in the foothills of the alps. Or you wander around your favorite shopping center. Virtual immersion offers so many possible ways to get away from where you are, while still being able to finish the things you have to do!

shutterstock_30774235

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By clicking a button your cube becomes Waikiki beach in Hawaii or for the adventurous types, the main campus of the NSF Antarctic expedition. For people with fear you could help them gradually reduce that fear by introducing them to an environment with what they fear in it. But it would be an immersive environment that they knew was safe going in. So the fear could slowly be increased until it wasn’t as much of a fear.

Connected Sensations

The concept of Virtual Immersion© would be one step beyond Virtual Reality. Not only the auditory and visual experience but smells, feelings and sensations.  For young drives you would equip an immersive suite with a driving unit that responded similarly to a real car and let them loose. They wouldn’t ever hit anyone because it was a virtual road but they could learn about how to drive in rain and snow.  Instead of giving out tickets the police could pull people over for speeding and have them take a mandatory (right then) Virtual Immersion© defensive driving class. Or why not to drive in the HOV lane with only one person in the car. (or is that last one a counting issue, me, myself and I, Well I can use the HOV lane I have three people in the car).

virtual-conferencing

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Virtual Immersion© opens the door for family experiences. JIBO is a device built to aid elderly people who want to be independent. You could, with Virtual Immersion© be right there with your loved ones no matter where in the world you live. Surgeons could be there, experiencing the actual smells in the operating room (I think you nicked his bowel). Hospice organizations could offer a Virtual Immersion© experience for those that cannot travel as their loved one is passing. The value proposition for education, the ability of the remote instructor to see the faces, body language and behavior of the remote students. Perhaps a Virtual Immersion© (and uncomfortable) principal’s office for students that aren’t taking the instructors seriously.

The doors that this opens are amazing. I can’t thank the inspiration for this idea enough. The reality of Virtual Immersion© is the integration that could quickly be built into an IoT environment that supported the concept. A shirt with heating and cooling coils built in. A smell generator that allowed you to generate the smells of your favorite locations. An immersed future where everything would be possible.

Space Journey 

Mars-Virtual-Reality

Want to experience outer space without, well the 3-day trip through space? Or for that matter virtually anywhere we can launch the VI apparatus. Movie experiences could be more real. You, right there with the main characters, smelling and feeling the same experiences. Walking out of the theater soaked in sweat. “Did you just run here?” A friend you bump into on the way out asks. “No” you answer “I just saw the new VI Dinosaur experience movie.

It will whisk you away from a bad day at work, by turning your cube into someplace you want to be. IT will increase productivity by allowing people to work in an environment that stimulates and encourages them to be productive. VI makes VR personal.

Plus, you won’t have to wonder what the bottom of the ocean smells like anymore, I mean if you do wonder that.

By Scott Anderson

How Far Away Are We? Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

How Far Away Are We? Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

There’s a fine line between cinematic tech and real world applications, and treading that line is South Korea-based Hyundai with an Iron Man-like suit it revealed on its website last month. The article displayed several photos and scarce information about the exoskeleton, making several comparisons of the prototype to the Marvel film. While the suit may not have repulsor beams or arc reactors like its movie counterpart, it still achieves some impressive feats.

The project holds several purposes, namely in the manufacturing industry. The exoskeleton gives the wearer “superhuman”-like strength, allowing the operator to lift “hundreds of kilograms,” increasing productivity and lowering the risk of potential injury. The company also asserts that the strap-on suit, weighing in at 110 pounds, could be useful for defense purposes, allowing soldiers to move more quickly with heavier baggage.

iron-man-suit

(Image Source: Hyundai)

It can also be used during medical rehabilitation. One photo demonstrates the suit’s ability to aid paraplegics in learning to walk again, showing a man sporting a partial suit and ascending a flight of stairs. Of the venture, Hyundai makes stark promises (pun intended): “wearable robot development of the Hyundai Motor Group will eventually lead to the free movement of people and things,” the company states, further propelling the overall goal to achieve what it refers to as “Next Mobility.”

Still, the vague post failed to answer logistical questions, like when it will come to market, how much it costs, and what the battery life is.

Exoskeletons for Military Advantage

But Hyundai isn’t the only company looking into the future of robotic wearables. Panasonic released three types of lightweight exoskeletons to aid factory workers in everyday tasks, with each suit tailored to a specific type of task: lifting heavy objects, walking and running, and a heftier “Power Loader” designed for public works, construction, and disaster relief.

Additionally, the U.S. Army has already begun enlisting a similar variation of Hyundai’s Iron Man prototype called the Tactical Assault Operator Suit (TALOS) that combines ballistic protection with superhuman strength. It operates as an armor that includes a physiological system to monitor the wearer’s body temperature, heart rate, skin temperature, hydration levels, and more.

Likewise, Lockheed Martin’s HULC suit offers another take on the military-geared power suit, which allows the wearer to carry up to 200 pounds on front and back loads, while its flexible design allows for crawls, deep squats and upper body lifting.

Robotics: The Road To Recovery

On the rehabilitation front, Ekso Bionics showed off their version of an exoskeleton at San Francisco’s Engadget Expand this year. This bionic suit tailors to the medical field—one tester, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a car crash, was able to find her balance with the Ekso in just one training session. Currently, the Ekso bionic suit is used at over thirty rehabilitation centers.

How close are we to creating a real Iron Man Suit?

Many hardcore Iron Man fans and scientists alike have evaluated the Iron Man suit and its capabilities. For starters, we are a long way away from creating a suit that flies as seamlessly. For one thing, the suit would require a portable power supply that could support sustained flights at high speed.

iron-man

(Image Source: Tinxi / Shutterstock)

Then there’s the issue of control: how would the wearer easily control the flight of the suit, particularly when it comes horizontal flight? Currently, there are a few versions of the “jet pack,” like the Martin Technology JetPack, which climbs to 5,000 feet and can deploy a parachute at 3,000 feet. There is also a wearable carbon fiber jet pack pioneered by Yves “Jetman” Rossy, (comprised of carbon fiber wing and 4 tiny jet engines) that can perform quite an impressive flight. But at 100 pounds and lasting just 10 minutes on fuel, these innovations still fall short of true “Iron Man” capabilities. The material of the Iron Man suit also poses a problem: it can withstand significant damage while still retaining its agility. There’s nothing currently in the works that would be light enough to wear, but powerful enough to withstand military-grade weapons.

In Summary:

While we may not be using the practical technological aspects of the Iron Man suit for any super-hero missions any time soon, there’s a clear demand for comparable versions within the healthcare, industrial, and military industries. As companies prepare themselves to move forward with different exoskeletons, the goal is create applications that make lives easier.

By Samantha Cortez

samantha-cortezSamantha is a journalist who resides in New York, NY.  Over the years Samantha has written for a number of publications such as Business Insider, 20/20 magazine and the NY Daily News. She has also been a contributor to Wearable World and ReviewFix.com.

Samantha spends much of her time traveling from New York to San Francisco meeting and writing about many of the most innovative tech startups.

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Virtual Reality Cloud

We’re lucky to live in an era where virtual reality is no longer relegated to the confines of a sci-fi movie universe. Thanks to technology introduced by products like Oculus Rift, consumers now have access to virtual environments with fully immersive graphic capabilities. As a result, companies have only just begun to address the wealth of opportunity in merging the worlds of VR and cloud computing. If certain obstacles can be adequately addressed and overcome, the possibilities are endless.

The role of GPU virtualization

Some laymen may not realize that there’s much more to virtual reality than just a neat pair of goggles. The most crucial element of the VR experience is the GPU, or graphics processing unit, since it is responsible for rendering the display image. Real-time response is necessary in VR in order to avoid the user’s physical discomfort, which places a responsibility on the GPU to maintain a certain frame rate. Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, states that “all elements of an online infrastructure [can now be combined] to get better performance from the cloud than from a local machine,” a process called virtualization. Recently, companies like nVidia are taking steps to virtualize GPUs, which means big things for those in the VR integration camp.

VR usage necessitates a higher standard of graphics and memory in order to function at full capacity. As this can prove to be a limitation in some circumstances, cloud computing would ideally come into play by making processing resources available on demand. Hypothetically speaking, a company with in-office VR stations could outsource to a third-party provider in order to externally host servers with virtualized GPU and applicable software. As the servers would handle the GPU end of the integration, the in-office stations would be free to focus on purchasing the best display hardware (goggles, etc.) to work in tandem with these hosted servers. Between the external host and quality local hardware, this synthesis could theoretically lead to a seamless VR user experience.

Financial benefits of Virtual Reality/Cloud Integration

The feasibility of functional cloud outsourcing leads to dispute in the tech world, however. There are potentially significant cost benefits that come with the third-party host setup. While expensive hardware was required on the clients’ end in the past, the cloud could now open up the VR experience to many more individuals by offering it on a reduced-price basis. This increased availability also benefits developers, meaning there is now potential for greater demand as more apps and products can be made.

(Infographic Source: Touchstone Research)

Ultimately the benefits of VR/cloud integration are the same as any other application being ported to the cloud. The cloud is essentially a more reasonable pricing model allowing for on-demand payment—a welcome alternative to the eternal cycle of purchasing updated hardware. Cloud integration, in this instance, would make VR that much more accessible.

Downsides of integration

rob-owenLatency is the main disadvantage to VR/cloud computing integration in its current state. “Instant response is key to VR immersion,” says Jaq Andrews, information manager at Zco. “A virtualized server farm, either local or in the cloud, could theoretically run a bunch of VR systems, but it would have to include a number of hardware graphics processors.” Rob Owen, chief architect at CDI, adds, “Hosting this type of graphics power in the cloud just isn’t viable because of the latency associated with getting to and from the cloud for input and output from the peripherals… In order for VR to become a reality in the cloud we would have to overcome some pretty serious hurdles due to the physics boundaries that currently exist.” Experts seem to reach a general consensus that latency would need to be dealt with before successful integration could occur. Some are even entertaining the possibility of caching, which could potentially improve the latency issue in certain application scenarios.

Bandwidth presents another problem, as the amount needing to be transferred would increase greatly due to the VR component of the integration. The issue can be amended by increasing the amount of data that can be transferred at one time—and making it affordable in the process. We’ve obviously come a long way on bandwidth in the last decade (with Google Fiber taking the lead), so perhaps all we need is more time to increase bandwidth speeds and make cloud computing a universally viable VR option.

Is it just too soon?

Indeed, the feasibility of VR/cloud computing integration depends heavily on how developers plan to expand and build upon existing technology in the coming years. When a perfect VR experience hinges upon the ability to seamlessly manipulate one’s environment, a significant responsibility falls to those creating the technology that makes VR possible. “This notion of using virtual GPUs is pretty new, so not as many people are aware of it,” says O’Donnell. As more companies discover, incorporate, and even specialize in GPU virtualization, it’s quite possible that cloud computing options will consequently diversify in just the next few years.

Virtual Cloud

However, another time-sensitive issue is that of application. VR technology presents primarily in the entertainment industry, but alternative applications of the technology itself (for simulation of hazardous scenarios in firefighter and military training contexts, for example) still seem underdeveloped and disappointingly hypothetical. After all, virtual reality is not a new concept. Seems like there’s still a need for that one killer app that will push VR onto the central stage of the tech world and significantly increase mainstream demand.

In conclusion

For obvious reasons, the next few years will be a crucial time for VR and the cloud. If companies continue to develop virtualization resources—particularly in the realm of GPUs—it’s possible that the current barriers could be overcome with time and effort. In the end, cloud integration would ultimately make VR more financially accessible and increasingly commonplace. It’s up to developers to agree that VR is a concept worth pursuing.

By Leo Welder

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