Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Key Insights: The Future of Mobile Commerce

Key Insights: The Future of Mobile Commerce

The Future of Mobile Commerce

Today, mobile is ingrained into our daily lifestyles. From communication to commerce, transactions are instantaneous – and continue to become even more convenient. Here, we’ll take a look at the latest mobile innovations as well as predictions for where mobile is headed in years to come.

M-Commerce in 2016

Mobile devices are now much more than phones; they’re, virtually, portals to the ideal user experience. It’s no surprise that retailers are taking advantage of the accessibility and convenience that only mobile can provide.

mobile-cloud

Here are some of the latest innovations:

Convenience – With click-and-collect, customers can make their shopping decisions ahead of time. This increases spending because once the customer arrives near their desired product in-store, they almost always buy something else. Many retailers are now allowing all store locations to ship to the customer’s home and letting customers manage their points and offers via mobile. Integrating any digital touch points that might be used in-store enables customers to buy via mobile and pick up in-store. Stores can send notifications on mobile whenever an order is ready for in-store pickup.

Proximity technology – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons, Near Field Communication (NFC), and QR codes allow retailers to engage with customers via their smartphone. Mobile payment technologies, such as Apple Pay, are already using this type of innovation. E-commerce giant, PayPal, hopped on the mobile-pay train with its acquisitions of Paydiant and digital wallet Venmo.

Rewards – Mobile-based loyalty programs make it easier to redeem rewards and also enhance the consumer experience. Many consumers today use Wallet to keep their coupons and loyalty cards in one place on their iOS device and will soon be able to pay using the app, as well. Retailers that provide customers with a mobile app experience should update the app’s barcode screen so that available rewards, offers, and coupons will be displayed. Check out VoucherBin to find a slew of online retail coupons. Apps also allow users to scan product barcodes in-store, so they can view online reviews, promotions, and more.

Mobile Predictions

tech-trends

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Here’s a look at where mobile is headed over the next couple of years:

  • NFC terminals are expected to increase to 44.6 million.
  • 8.2 billion hand-held mobile devices will be active (2.7 GB of traffic per month).
  • 90% of mobile traffic will come from cloud applications (video/audio streaming, online gaming, social networking, web browsing, online storage).
  • Mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales will reach $626 billion.
  • Mobile video is expected to generate over 69% of mobile data traffic.

Mobile devices will play an integral role in the evolution of customer convenience for years to come. People now expect instant gratification, which is largely due to the latest mobile technologies. Keep these trends in mind as shopping behaviors and lifestyles in general continue to redefine expectations.

By Meaghan Moraes

Immune Systems: Information Security And Risk In 2016

Immune Systems: Information Security And Risk In 2016

Information Security And Risk

C-suite executives have woken up to the threat posed by data theft, denial-of-service attacks and vulnerable systems. In 2015, for example, a series of high-profile cases illustrated the degree to which such attacks can damage a company’s reputation, brand and, ultimately, profits. Where businesses once undervalued cybersecurity, considering it the domain of CIOs and IT departments, it’s now squarely at the top of the agenda. Recognising the threat is one thing. The challenge for organizations is to find ways of understanding the risks and constructing robust systems. In this article, I want to look at how a risk-first approach to IT security and shrewd recruitment can boost a business’s immune system.

Identifying Risk

As companies continue to digitize their operations, the potential of information security breaches to damage trust and their competitive position increases. Information security risks are multiple and manifold. They could, for example, involve companies that rely on information as a means of generating value, such as banks or energy suppliers who must address a wide range of threats.

cloud-security

Equally, any company that holds large quantities of customer information runs a risk. This risk is particularly acute for SMEs, for whom the financial costs of information security can be prohibitive. In the digital economy, information is an asset that creates value for organizations; but this value is what makes it vulnerable.

Identifying these risks evidently requires expertise and coordination. Many businesses no longer see information security as simply something to do with IT. Rather, IT security is now bound up with wider risk management policies. But old habits, and ingrained divisions, can still be an obstacle for organizations. This goes for IT departments as well as management. In the past, IT departments habitually addressed security challenges by starting with technology and costing before moving on to consider the potential risk of an investment. In 2016, however, security has moved to front of
people’s thinking. Investing in the right IT systems now means first identifying the risk and then finding the devices and technology.

Mind the Gap

One area where firms have been slower to respond, however, is recruitment. The shift in the landscape has opened up a sizable skills gap, with organizations competing to recruit and retain employees with the necessary skills and experience. While good news for employees who can easily
find opportunities in the public and private sectors, this has caused problems for CISOs tasked with sourcing and training the people who can both identify and take steps to mitigate the cybersecurity risks that businesses face. In this environment, the challenge for organizations is to find ways to open up career paths and build expertise into a business, while still keeping costs down. In a survey carried out by Deloitte, 59% of CISOs identified the inadequate availability of cybersecurity professionals as a barrier to information security, with many turning to outsourcing to fill the gap.

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To my mind, this barrier serves to reinforce the importance of taking holistic approach to information security. IT departments must communicate effectively with management and HR departments to ensure that risks are identified and addressed, and that the organization has the right people for the job. As digitization continues apace, getting this process right is only going to become more important.

By George Foot

Savision Discusses Hybrid Cloud, Microsoft System Center, And Live Maps Unity

Savision Discusses Hybrid Cloud, Microsoft System Center, And Live Maps Unity

Savision Discusses Hybrid Cloud

Savision, the first Dutch software company to sell to the US government via the GSA approval list, was founded in 2006 by two Dutch nationals, and today has a team of 35 people across Amsterdam, Dallas, New York, and Ottawa. An independent software provider selling enterprise software for the IT operations market, Savision currently focuses primarily on Microsoft technology but plans to extend operations across other platforms in the future. With a client base including the International Atomic Energy Agency, US Library of Congress, KPMG, and 20th Century Fox, the company has established itself firmly in both the hybrid cloud and Microsoft System Center markets. Matthew Carr, Savision’s Business Development Manager, with 15 years’ experience working in various IT&T companies around the world and having filled a range of positions in Savision from Finance to Business Intelligence, discusses the pros and cons of hybrid cloud with us, and delves into the advantages Microsoft System Center offers.

What do you believe are the chief benefits of moving to hybrid cloud?

Price, productivity, and security. Pricing because companies don’t need additional data room capacity for peak times of the day. If done correctly, the public cloud can be purchased on a per hour basis, meaning that bursting capacity will be considerably cheaper than managing more fixed assets.

Productivity is provided thanks to less time spent maintaining the IT environment which is partially handled by the public cloud providers now. Less time fixing problems affords more time for application development teams to focus on delivering value to the business. The counter argument to this, however, is that the increased complexity that the hybrid cloud introduces can mean that when issues do arise, time spent troubleshooting problems increases.

cloud ideas

Furthermore, security is a contentious issue at the moment, but people are realizing that security protocols built by the public cloud providers are actually far more secure than simple company firewalls which are regularly being breached by the BYOD phenomenon. Data is actually safer within a hybrid cloud that uses best in class security.

Are there any organizations that you believe more likely to benefit from hybrid cloud?

Pretty much any organization with over 100 employees can start to think about the hybrid cloud. We are seeing now that early stage companies will start on the pure public cloud because of the simplicity it affords in allowing companies to focus on their core business. As companies mature though it will make sense to have critical workloads on their private cloud, and use public for more ancillary requirements.

Are there any organizations that you believe won’t benefit from hybrid cloud?

Some global governmental departments such as in Germany are legally required to keep all data on their own premises. Additionally, there is an ongoing saga of US law enforcement agencies attempting to track potential criminal activity via social media and data sources in the big US public cloud providers (Microsoft, Amazon, and Google) for data located overseas. Currently, the likes of Microsoft are rightfully attempting to block access to data held in other countries. Should this situation change, it may see a flight of non-US companies from the large public cloud providers.

What can Microsoft System Center do for organizations, and how do you make that solution even better?

Microsoft System Center is a suite of products that enterprises use to manage their IT infrastructure and applications. System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) is an agent-based monitoring technology that tells an IT administrator when there is a problem or outage somewhere in the environment. Savision Live Maps Unity works natively with SCOM to provide business context to these infrastructure problems. Since 80% of incidents are non-critical and don’t affect the business in a meaningful way, Live Maps Unity enables organizations to focus only on the areas affected by outages and hence save time on problem resolution.

Savision believes that Microsoft Service Center provides insight and control over IT environments, but points out some significant challenges including integration of monitoring tools, an inability to determine impact, priority and responsible teams, and the difficulty in identifying root causes of service outages. Could you detail some of the challenges organizations using Microsoft Systems Center might face?

A common problem is alert noise caused by individual physical or virtual servers having problems. With the use of clusters and failovers, this means that most of these outages are not important to the business. In today’s IT environment, there’s a huge amount of complexity which is only increasing over time with virtualization and applications distributed over various geographic and functional locations. Agent-based monitoring of servers is still the main method of understanding problems within the IT fabric but, more and more, it doesn’t actually say anything about the business impact. The first thing that IT administrators hear about a problem is still when a business user calls the help desk to say their email or web application is down.

How would Savision address these challenges?

Firstly, Savision is able to correlate related alerts and simplify them. Instead of an IT administrator receiving ten alerts which result in confusion or time wasting as administrators process them one by one, Live Maps Unity correlates alerts to Business Services and alerts based upon that higher level context. It immediately reduces the alert noise and lets people see only the alerts they need to take action upon. This time saving is invaluable.

Also, by focusing on the business context, Live Maps Unity increases the importance of end user experience with regards to application performance. By introducing a Business Service Management framework, our technology forces IT administrators to think about and design end user synthetic transactions. These transactions sit on the business user side and simulate how an end user interacts with an application or service. If there are any problems from the user’s side, a notification will be sent to the IT administrator to act upon before a time-consuming phone call is put into the help desk.

The post is sponsored by Savision. For more, head over to Savision now. Organizations that believe they could benefit from Savision’s products can try Live Maps Unity free online.

By Jennifer Klostermann

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Cloud Metaphor

The Lighter Side Of The Cloud – Cloud Metaphor

cloud-metaphor-cloudtweaks

By Christian Mirra

Please feel free to share our comics via social media networks such as Twitter with a clear attribution (Twitter example: via @cloudtweaks) to the original comic source. If you are a company brand looking to utilize our comics to generate leads to a specific landing page, newsletter, presentation or social media campaign, you can contact us regarding commercial licensing rates. Enjoy!

Startups Soaring With The Cloud

Startups Soaring With The Cloud

Startup Cloud Boom

In 2015, the cloud was primarily used by large and mid-level organizations for mission-critical workloads, but this year it’s entrenching itself with startups and driving transformation. In India, currently boasting 2.75 million developers, and second only to the US’s 3.6 million developers, startups are reportedly adopting IBM Cloud to expand their businesses and develop applications with developer-friendly Bluemix and its catalog based on open standards, choice, and portability. Says Vivek Malhotra, director of IBM Cloud India/South Asia, “Based on open source, Bluemix helps startups get a single development and management experience across any combination of public, dedicated and local Bluemix instances. Even if clients have existing infrastructure setups or application program interface (API), they can securely connect those to Bluemix for a hybrid solution.”

Successful Startups & Bluemix

startup-movement

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Yipeedo, a mobile-only platform helping urban city dwellers get the most from their environs, uses Bluemix for its application development. The application analyzes user tastes and preferences and uses this data to recommend suitable activities. Wolken Software also utilized Bluemix when building their TeamToq app, an enterprise-class app enabling secure and collaborative device agnostic discussions between individuals, enterprise apps, and enterprise cloud apps. And KlickDoc, a comprehensive cloud-based healthcare platform connecting patients with doctors, diagnostic centers, and pharmacies makes use of IBM Bluemix as the development platform for their programming language, PHP runtime. Srinath Ranga, founder of Opteamize Cloud Solutions, a corporate connect marketplace built on Bluemix, asserts, “As a startup, we need app development platforms that are fast, secured, and easy to use. IBM has a deep understanding of the startup environment and is helping us create a market differentiation through its cloud-based solutions. Bluemix, with cutting edge features like deep analytics or cognitive capabilities, makes apps a lot more innovative and interesting for our audiences.

Alternative Platforms

Of course, Bluemix isn’t the only cloud platform providing support to startups, and along with some of the house brands like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, a variety of diverse platforms are available to back up emerging startups. Fusio is an open source API management platform that helps developers build and manage RESTful APIs, and provides endpoint versioning, schema definition, secure authorization, and the ability to handle data from different sources. And Apigee, another free tools platform for testing, debugging, protecting and analytics on API, is a highly scalable hybrid that helps developers build apps faster, predict next best action, and connects developers. Along with Cloud Foundry, Cloudify, and OpenShift, Apache CloudStack is notable, designed to deploy and manage large networks of virtual machines as a highly scalable and available Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud computing platform.

Whatever platform exploited, the cloud market is thriving. Says Malhotra, “Cloud is the wave of the future and given the inter-linkages with mobility, big data, and social, we foresee the migration of all enterprise data to public, private or hybrid cloud model within the next few years.”

By Jennifer Klostermann

Smart Connected Cities Must Learn To Efficiently Collaborate

Smart Connected Cities Must Learn To Efficiently Collaborate

Smart City Collaboration

A study from research firm Gartner demonstrates how smart and connected cities require a large number of players to collaborate efficiently, in order to unlock the huge potential associated with cities of the future. The study focused on Europe and showed clearly how a number of Northern European and Scandinavian mid-size cities have excelled in laying the groundwork of a sustainable, clean framework for growth and development, particularly in countries such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

The study looked at six arenas of life in order to draw its conclusions: Smart Government, Smart Mobility, Smart Living, Smart People, Smart Economy and Smart Environment. Each of those were then broken down further in order to draw some conclusions. For example, the category of Smart Economy looked at the levels of entrepreneurship in the city, productivity as well as the local and global connectedness of that particular economy. (The city of Luxembourg was found to have the Smartest Economy in 2015.)

smart-cities-infographic

(Image Source via Raconteur)

It’s interesting to note that when a city gets it right in one particular arena of smart connectivity, then it tends to get it right in others as well. There is a knock-on effect which raises standards across the entire city. So the city of Aarhus in Denmark was rated second best in the category of Smart Economy, third best for Smart People and also third in Smart Mobility, which made it the second best smart city overall for Europe behind Luxembourg and just ahead of Umea, Sweden.

Smart Governance

On a global scale, smart governance has been the most widely adopted of the new technologies. Nearly 25% of cities are embracing issues like e-governance, transparency and open data and the enabling of supply and demand-side policies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 8.7% of cities are making strides in creating smart mobility, which includes mixed-modal access, prioritization of clean and non-motorized options and integrated ICT. But it’s become clear in cities like Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Salzburg, Austria that we’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ride-sharing, smart vehicles and connected transport hubs sharing information about departure and arrival times.

smart-growth

When it comes to the Internet of Things and the number of items which have been connected in smart cities, this trend is set to dramatically increase over the next twenty four months, particularly in the arena of smart homes and smart buildings. The number of devices connected nearly doubled during 2015, from 294.2 million to 586.1 million and is set to double again during 2017 up to a whopping 1067 million connected things.

The arena of health is one area where the least progress has been made. The number of connected health devices was at 9.7 million during 2015 but manages to climb up to only 23.4 million by next year. It’s still impressive growth year-on-year, but it’s coming off a much lower base.

The report is bullish about the implications of all this smart technology, and predicts a staggering 26 billion connected devices by 2020. “The uniting of technology with the city doesn’t have to bring Metropolis-esque nightmares of the machine dominating man,” concludes the report. “In fact, the Internet of Things is set to empower city dwellers and create investment opportunities for businesses; to the tune of $1.56 trillion by 2020.”

By Jeremy Daniel

Drones: Unlimited Possibilities Await Us – Good And Bad

Drones: Unlimited Possibilities Await Us – Good And Bad

Drones: Unlimited Possibilities

I have written two recent posts here on CloudTweaks about drones. The first, ‘The Pizza Delivery Drone’, was a somewhat comical look at what possibly is to come with future drones. The second was a look at the more immediately possible concept of a modular drone.  Modular drones are capable of supporting a large number of Cyber Physical Systems (CPSs) attached to the drone itself. These would include cameras, which are already prevalent in drone applications today, and also sonar devices and 3D laser mapping cameras, as well as any number of CPS devices such as thermal imaging, infrared and other technologies.

Since I wrote those two articles, a number of things have happened: A drone violated the airspace over a US airport and nearly caused a passenger plane to crash. Another drone crashed while illegally hovering over the courts at the US Tennis Open in New York City. Finally, a video clip of a drone carrying and firing a semi-automatic pistol went viral across the internet.

As I thought about the drone at the US Open in particular, I started wondering. Based on the concepts I had previously talked about, when will we see marketing drones? Essentially working like the old cartoon of the person walking along with their own personal dark cloud hanging over, with rain only falling upon them. Except with a personal advertising drone, the device would be displaying things that you could buy or that you needed. In the end, though, that kind of application doesn’t make a lot of sense. Drones have limited air time, why waste it chasing someone and advertising to them?

Tremendous Impact

The impact of drones will be tremendous over time. There are a few great examples of things we can already do today using drones that would have an immense and immediate impact. The first would be using 3D laser mapping capabilities mounted on a drone to continuously monitor the condition of roads. A new pothole would appear as an abnormality in the 3D laser-mapped image. A laser map would show the road’s surface as it is right now, and this image could be overlaid upon an existing map and repair trucks could be dispatched quickly and effectively. You could also use dispatch software to have the repair crews move from pothole to pothole in a structured manner (less travel, more patching). This would allow city, county, state or federal roads to be repaired quickly and kept pothole free. One pothole can quickly generate significant cost, lost time (as you sit by the side of the road with a completely flat tire), the cost of the repair itself, and, finally, the impact on traffic flow as cars grind to a stop or try to avoid the pothole and hit another car. Using drones equipped with 3D laser mapping would really help in the world of potholes.

drone-uses

(Infographic Source: Stephens Planning & Design)

So I started thinking about what else drones would be really effective at doing. 3D scanning of larger objects came to mind. You could use a drone equipped with a 3D scanner to scan large statues and other large works of art, for both educational and conservation purposes.  Drones could be used as temporary traffic cameras, with drivers never knowing where they would pop up. Again, the overall setup cost of the system is higher, but the reduction in collisions and accidents would potentially balance out that initial cost.

There are interesting tools available for realtors to create VR images of a home they are selling. But a drone flying over the property would also be interesting. Solar companies could use drones to give homeowners before-and-after pictures of solar installations. Insurance companies could do preemptive neighborhood roof checks.

drones

After hail and for example the Boston 2015 snow storm, drones could be flown over a neighborhood in order to notify homeowners of any damage before unscrupulous contractors wander through the neighborhood and create a larger number of claims than are really necessary.

All of these are things could be done with aerial drones. There is an entire world yet to be seen. Don’t forget, there are underwater and land based drones, too. Sonar imaging gives you a picture of the lie of a landscape. Sending down a video system attached to an underwater drone allows you to see what is actually going on underwater, in lakes, ponds and at sea. Police and Fire Departments use drones today to scout burning buildings and to remotely disable explosive devices. All of these things prove more and more invaluable as the use of drones expands from specialized markets into broader commercial markets.

Positive Uses

The number of things drones could do to improve the world around us is almost infinite. Using an aerial drone with a thermal imaging camera can help you find the mole in your backyard and remove it before your dog digs up the entire backyard. Not that I am advocating you kill the mole, rather that you pull the mole out of your yard and relocate it! A drone could quickly lift your automated gutter cleaning system from one section of your roof to another. Fire departments could fly a thermal imaging drone over a roof before they go up on to it, in order to identify the hot spots where the roof might be weak. Fishermen could connect a fishing line to a drone with sonar attached, and then remotely release the line when they find a shoal of fish using the sonar device and a remote monitor.

I have to go now. There is a drone on my front porch saying I owe for a pizza. I’m not sure I even ordered one!

By Scott Andersen

The Meaning Of Secure Business Agility In The Cloud

The Meaning Of Secure Business Agility In The Cloud

Secure Business Agility In The Cloud

As cloud continues to accelerate business delivery and shift away the balance of power from IT and InfoSec to business users, organizations need to find ways to ensure that security is part of a business process rather than an afterthought. Today’s organizations are transacting some of their most valuable data and services in the cloud. While the promise of instant availability, convenience and cost are very attractive the damage to brand, reputation and trust could be irrevocable to businesses if security is not built in.

Many CISOs and InfoSec teams continue to struggle with the new order in which business users have unprecedented freedom over how they work, what devices and applications they use to accomplish their work and from where they work. Most want to partner with their business users to figure out optimal ways to engage in cloud services securely but most don’t think of how IT security integrates into business processes. The result is that we often see burdensome processes within organizations where business users have to take extra steps to categorize data or to register new cloud security services. And, in doing so InfoSec and IT might be creating a bigger risk where business users will further make a run around InfoSec and IT. When business users are pressed for time extra processes become doubly burdensome.

Insider Threat Vectors

Reputation and trust could be irrevocable to businesses if security is not built in... Click to Tweet

Over the last year there has been a rise in both accidental and mis-intentioned insider threat vectors. With personal and business lines of work so blurred it’s easy for business users to accidentally drag and drop the wrong attachment into an email, or in the spur of a moment accidentally post a message that alludes or pertains to confidential company information, or post a regulatory-related file on an unsecured file share site in order to make it easier to work on.

The key to secure business agility in the cloud is through ongoing dialog and automation.

evolution-tech

Ongoing dialog:

  • Given the fast changing pace of today’s business environments IT and InfoSec and business users need to have constant check-ins to ensure a fruitful relationship. Needs are going to change rapidly as increasingly more services are migrated to the cloud.
  • Security processes need to be designed to be business intuitive. If business users are going to required to own the data classification process, categories should be few and very intuitive. And, so, too the process for the onboarding of new cloud services.

Automation:

There are now a slew of cloud security services that enable business users to remain agile while preserving security in a less intrusive way.

  • Emerging data security toolsets leverage big data analytics and machine learning to automate the data classification process. Such toolsets should be explored within the business culture, geographies and trialed before going broadscale.
  • Self service portals can be designed with a standard set of security profiles built in. This helps not only automate the cloud security provisioning process but also allows for consistent implementation company-wide and across the many different types of cloud services a company many engage.

As we enter into 2016, I encourage IT and business users to find more meaningful ways to ensure securely accelerate cloud services.

By Evelyn de Souza

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