Category Archives: Contributors

Developers: Are You Ready For An App Apocalypse?  

Developers: Are You Ready For An App Apocalypse?  

Are Chatbots About to Take Over?

Many companies are moving away from app development towards a very different technology, leading some experts to predict that an “app apocalypse” is just around the corner. Today, chatbots are all the rage. Facebook introduced chatbots to Messenger recently, Microsoft launched a Bot Framework (with support for Facebook Messenger) and other communication apps such as Slack and Telegram have been experimenting with bots for some time. There’s even a dedicated app store for bots, Botlist, which launched last month.

The app market may be predicted to be worth $101 billion by 2020, but consumers are no longer downloading a multitude of apps, and instead may prefer to interact with their mobile devices through a single Conversation User Interface (CUI).

The exact form of the CUI is still unknown but chatbots are a likely candidate. These bots act as a conduit for users to interact across platforms and access information to complete tasks through a conversation. For example, instead of having to close Facebook Messenger to open the Uber app and get a lift, you would simply message Uber from Messenger to ask for a ride.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Why are bots suddenly so popular?

It seems we have reached an app saturation point. Research reveals that users are happy with the apps they already have, with half of all time spent on smartphone apps occurring on an individual’s single most used application. This means that users are less likely to download new apps, and more likely to enjoy bots within the apps they are already using.

Bots can reach users on the platforms they already interact with on a regular basis, such as SMS, email or chat apps. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella even referred to bots as the “next application” at the company’s BUILD conference in March. There are bot incarnations popping up everywhere. A recent example is the Assist chatbot, which allows users to access a host of local services (for example, sending flowers or finding a hotel room) from chat platforms including Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack or Telegram. The user just tells Assist what he/she wants and the chatbot does the rest.

Should mobile developers switch their focus from apps to bots? Opinion is still split with some seeing bots as the future for mobile tech and others preferring to play a long game. Either way, it seems safe to assume that apps, bots and other technologies will coexist in the mobile development space for some time, presenting developers with plenty of opportunities.

By Gemma Church

Connecting Cars To The Cloud

The Cloud Connection

Cars are becoming more and more connected. There are many YouTube videos of people seizing control of a car remotely and forcing it to operate in unexpected ways. But overall the reality of connection is good. As machines extend human functions we are better off.

That said, I was thinking about automation and cars yesterday. First because I am teaching my sons how to drive (they are also taking drivers education, but I am doing the initial driving lessons with them). When I learned to drive (let’s just say 3 years ago) I learned on a manual transmission Volkswagen Beetle. A car that didn’t have power steering, anti-lock brakes or for that matter climate controlled temperature systems. In the winter you rolled the window up and hoped the tiny bit of warm air escaping from the heater would raise the temperature to just above freezing. In the summer you rolled the windows down, and turned the music up. The FM radio wasn’t included in the package, so you only had AM radio to enjoy.

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(Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Automation, including lane protection and speed controls are incredible tools. The power that it gives the driver is simply amazing. I do, a tiny bit, however wish I could teach my sons in a car that wasn’t fully automated. There are things you need a person for in order to understand the impact.

That got me thinking about the impact of automated systems going forward. Not from a science fiction perspective where people forget how to fix things and engineers take over the world. Rather from the separation of essential skills and automation.

What are the essential skills people need in the automated world?

The easy ones are the so-called soft skills. Communication skills we all need to have to be effective in our interactions. But what skills do we need overall in that automated age beyond the easy answer? Early in my career we used to talk about technical people that were an inch wide and a mile deep. They were focused on building solutions that were an inch wide but needed that depth to be effective. We talked about software architects as being a mile wide and an inch deep. We needed both in order for the system to operate within the IT environment but also be effective for the users. Now, in a world where automation makes everyone a mile wide, what skills beyond are we going to need?

connected-cars

Let’s go back for a moment to the connected car to answer this question. First off, connected cars have evolved. I remember the days of the device (GPS) having a speaker, and you added that to your car. Or a device that plugged into your cassette deck or audio in on your car to play cellular conversations through the car speakers. That evolved into the integrated systems that we have today. Understanding how those systems came to be is an important skill. Understanding the path to a solution is as important as understanding where the solution is now. Understanding how you got to where you are, is skill one.

If we consider the connected car the second skills is understanding or clarifying the why of the solution. For example car phones exploded in many states because it became illegal to hold your cellular phone while driving. So there are legal reasons you have a specific solution. Hands free phones were a legal requirement. Connected cars of tomorrow (or possibly the actual cellular device) won’t allow you to text and drive. Many cars now can read you your texts and allow you to reply via voice. Siri can do that as well as Cortana and Google can. The asking the right questions to get to why will (are) critical skills in the connected world.

The Automated World

Skills for the connected (automated world) understand the path to the solution. Understand why the solution was implemented. It seems so easy when you lay them out like that. The reality is much harder. The answer to the first question is an integration of what and how. What we did, how we did it to solve the problem documented and available. The second why, is usually the easier question to ask but skill remains elusive if you don’t fully understand what was done and how it was done. To bring this full circle I wonder if my sons (and for that matter all the young drivers now) will fully understand how to operate the vehicle they are driving.  Anti-lock brakes reduce the risk of braking while driving. Connected cellular phones make it safer to drive and talk to people. Integration of car and cell phone make it safer on the roads.

But what happens when the system fails?

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(Image Source: OlgaLis / Shutterstock)

When the system fails is when knowing what was built, how it was built and why it was built becomes a critical skill. Perhaps a parking lot button for teaching young drivers so I can turn off the automation in a safe place and teach my sons how to drive manually. There is something about understanding the motion point of a car. The balance of acceleration and releasing the clutch to engage the gears slowly. Of course there is also something about my car warning me when there is someone in the lane I want to turn into. There is something more, when it won’t let me turn into the lane because the car is in my blind spot.

So manual button for empty parking lots only!

By Scott Andersen

The Collision of Cloud and Data Privacy

The Collision of Cloud and Data Privacy

Cloud and Data Privacy

The “cloudification” of everything from data storage to applications to security services has increased the availability of free-flowing data, allowing business to access anything from anywhere. However, it’s raised serious concerns about the security of personally identifiable information (PII) collected and shared by businesses and government agencies across international borders, and a global data privacy movement was born. Leading the charge on data privacy reform is the European Union (EU) – where consumer privacy is seen as a fundamental right. As a result, data location now matters in the cloud, and businesses must be prepared to know exactly when, where and how this data is shared across geographic borders.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

While data privacy is quickly gaining steam across the entire globe, steps the U.S. and EU are currently taking will likely shape the debate for years to come. The recently passed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in 2018, establishes a framework for all 28 EU member nations, providing a comprehensive and unified way for businesses to properly handle sensitive data belonging to EU citizens. Of the restrictions the GDPR places on global, multi-national businesses, the proper handling of PII is front and center.

The other major data privacy issue, the EU-US Data Privacy Shield to replace Safe Harbor, more narrowly addresses the flow of personal data from the EU to the U.S. However, an initial draft of the new framework was deemed inadequate by the EU Parliament’s influential Article 29 Working Party and cannot be relied upon until it passes the test in the EU court, leaving thousands of businesses in limbo.

No More “Go With the Flow

Information-intensive business processes rely on SaaS, and this, coupled with a shift to mobile computing platforms, means controlling data location and complying with privacy regulations is extremely challenging. As new regulations come to pass, they may put U.S. companies at an even greater disadvantage by adding to the confusion over the consequences of non-compliance. According to the latest draft of the GDPR, for example, any U.S. business involved in the processing of EU consumer data – whether directly or via third-party entity – can be held liable for a breach, resulting in fines of anywhere from $1.7 million up to 4 percent of a business’ global revenue, depending on where the data violations occurred.

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Whether your data lies in the public, private or hybrid cloud – it needs to be constantly evaluated in order to truly assess risk potential,” said Simon Leech, chief technologist, Security, Hybrid IT at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “The owner of the information is ultimately responsible, which is why it is vital for companies to establish a true culture of security at all levels within the business.

Businesses should be addressing potential data privacy violations now in order to make complying with new regulations easier. There are some approved mechanisms that can be put in place while the specifics are hammered out, such as:

  • Binding corporate rules (BCR) – BCR are a set of legally enforceable rules for the processing of personal data that ensure a high level of protection is applied when personal data is transferred between members of a corporate group. Once a set of BCR has been approved by the relevant national data protection authorities, they will ensure that adequate data privacy safeguards are in place to meet compliance.
  • Hiring a Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) With data privacy regulations like GDPR and EU-US Data Privacy Shield, companies that regularly handle sensitive data on a large scale or collect information on many customers should consider designating a data protection officer that can quickly make decisions based on the evolving regulatory landscape. The CPO will be responsible for all data protection matters on a day-to-day basis, and should be involved in vendor decisions that may handle PII.
  • Investing in the IT team – Let’s be clear: complying with these new data privacy regulations will be expensive. But the cost of non-compliance will be even greater, meaning IT teams will face more pressure than ever to protect data from breaches and unauthorized access – both from internal and external threats. Fines will be levied whether the transfer of data was intentional or accidental. Unfortunately, IT teams are woefully underprepared to comply with GDPR as it is.
  • End data hoarding Technology has made it increasingly cheaper and easier to store data that many businesses simply do so as a matter of course. But big data isn’t necessarily better data, and businesses should adopt a data-minimalist approach to ensure greater control and reduce risk.

Data privacy has become a global issue affecting all companies that operate internationally, particularly those that have adopted cloud technologies. Companies can continue using the cloud as long as they’ve put procedures and systems in place to ensure that EU citizen data resides in the country of record. This includes not only validating how any personal data is collected, stored, processed and shared, but also how the business can prove continuous compliance. Setting up local datacenters will help solve the location-focused burdens of the new regulations, but it’s not enough. Companies will still need to maintain control over the entire lifecycle of EU citizen data, as well as who has access to it and from where.

By Daren Glenister

Breakthroughs in Clinical Trials Utilizing the Power of the Cloud

Breakthroughs in Clinical Trials Utilizing the Power of the Cloud

Clinical Trials and the Power of the Cloud

Clinical trials play an essential role in the drug development process by effectively demonstrating the efficacy and safety of a pharmaceutical compound. Although lead by scientific endeavor with patient safety and therapeutic benefits in mind, the process of bringing drugs to market is long, complex, bureaucratic and, above all else, expensive.

Inefficiencies in the clinical trials process continue to stymie industry stakeholders anxious to rein in the cost of product development and adhere to tighter timelines. There is an urgent need to expedite the time-to-market for new drugs and to make the approval process simpler. Discontent with the ‘status quo’ and dismal performance metrics are driving a cacophony of infrastructural changes with stakeholders embracing technologies that are finally moving the needle. Cloud-based solutions such as clinical trial management systems (CTMS), electronic data capture (EDC), electronic trial master file (eTMF), and study startup (SSU) are all quantum leaps and are collectivity referred to as the eClinical stack.

Why the cloud?

randy-biasCloud computing continues to be a disruptive force in IT with no signs of slowing down. According to the Synergy Research Group, the worldwide cloud computing market grew 28% to $110B in revenues in 2015, and forecasts from the International Data Corporation (IDC) indicate worldwide spending on public cloud services will grow at a 19.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) – almost six times the rate of overall IT spending growth – from nearly $70 billion in 2015 to more than $141 billion in 2019. “Cloud computing provides a dramatic opportunity across all industries,” according to Randy Bias, Director, OpenStack Foundation, and author of Grasping the Cloud Is Essential to Business Efficiency. “Old businesses are leveraging cloud to disrupt the existing incumbents. Cloud computing is profoundly disruptive in a way few can truly understand.”

By playing a critical role in enabling digital transformation, cloud computing lowers typical IT barriers of slow time to value, risky implementations, limited resources, heavy maintenance, and incompatible systems. Allowing cloud computing to free up resources to run the business enables organizations to focus their time and energy on the pursuit of innovation and growth.

Some of the key reasons driving cloud-based adoption are:

  • Ease of deployment and management
  • Greater flexibility in supporting evolving business needs from both a technical and business perspective
  • Lower cost of operations
  • Easier way to scale and ensure availability and performance
  • Overall ease of use

According to Nan Bulger, Executive Director of SCIP, the Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals society, and author of The New Decision Influencer, “In profit and nonprofit based businesses alike, the future of anything rests in the ability to influence the bottom line through operational efficiency and effectiveness, customer revenue generation and social impact.

The need for more efficient clinical trials is driving greater use of cloud-based solutions in the pharmaceutical industry – historically slow in adopting new technologies – especially with the rise in outsourcing and globalization. The “cloud” gives the ability to access value-added services from anywhere at anytime with a level of simplicity, flexibility, and cost-efficiency never seen before.

Leveraging the cloud for speed

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

The public’s growing dissatisfaction with the clinical trial process is evident in the press with the recent push for expedited programs, such as, the 21st Century Cures Act, compassionate use and the “Right to Try” laws leading the vanguard of change to an industry which has been historically mired in regulation and slow to adopt new innovative technologies, technologies which have the ability to significantly reduce cycle times and get much-needed therapies to those in need faster.

Significant financial losses bolster the insistent calls for change. Data from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development indicate that mean clinical development time is 6.7 years, and daily revenue lost because a drug is not yet on the market has been estimated in the range of $1 million – $8 million. To confront these issues of cost and time, the industry has been evolving from its slow paper-based methods toward cloud-based systems. With the flurry of attention focused on the issue of speeding clinical trials, the need for collaborative, cloud-based solutions has never been greater.

In the cloud, data is available in real-time from anywhere in the world, and the rapid elasticity afforded to cloud-based hosting solutions can offer virtually infinite scalability – a proposition that is attractive for large Pharma and Contract Research Organizations (CROs). Cloud-based technologies also allow results to be analyzed more quickly and facilitate communication amongst clinical research teams across the globe. The introduction, and growing adoption, of cloud technologies for clinical trials will lower of cost of technology and thus the barrier to entry, making the cloud attractive for small-to-mid sized biotech, medical device companies and universities. For small companies, cloud computing services can provide a fast way to launch a new product, while keeping the focus on developing product features instead of fine-tuning office servers.

Improving Study Startup with Cloud-Based Services

While companies have often focused on improving study conduct in order to make gains in clinical trial efficiency, stakeholders are becoming increasingly aware that better Study Startup (SSU) – a perpetual bottleneck – processes are linked to shorter clinical timelines, and the emphasis is slowly shifting in that direction. SSU includes activities such as country selection, pre-study visits, site selection and initiation, regulatory document submission, contract and budget execution, and enrolling the first patient.

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Research indicates that lengthy start-up times are problematic for many stakeholders: companies seeking to develop new treatments, insurers formulating policy, providers, and patients. Addressing this issue is a challenge because too often, information needed to launch clinical trials still resides in multiple databases, leaving SSU activities to be performed using Excel spreadsheets, e-mail, and shared file drives. Consequently, too much time is spent on non-productive activities, such as status meetings, because the desired information is housed in various locations and is not readily available.
http://www.nextivadrive.com

These inefficiencies can be minimized using a purpose-built SaaS SSU solution. With this type of solution, real-time viewing of data and smart workflows that standardize processes become possible. Some key advantages of the solution are: it functions as a single repository for study documents; information only needs to be entered once; and documents from the study database can be accessed using a single logon. Overall, the technology is designed to provide better collaboration with sites, improve business processes, identify bottlenecks, and avoid redundant processes. Using cloud-based technology, a better SSU methodology aligns with the goal of faster development by significantly impacting cycle times. This approach leads to greater cost savings and faster market entry, making valuable therapies available to patients sooner.

Conclusion

Industry analysts estimate that the data generated by the pharmaceutical industry doubles every six months and recently published research indicates that by 2020 approximately 70% of clinical trials will be outsourced to CROs. How will on-premise or custom-built applications handle these scale and business operational challenges – simply put they won’t.

Cloud computing is attractive because its inherent scalability, availability and flexibility offer the potential to streamline the clinical development process, accelerate timelines, and cut information technology costs. Additionally, the cloud can add a layer of security and control that is simply not possible with paper-based processes. Introducing these important efficiencies into routine clinical processes helps companies adhere to increasingly aggressive timelines, and comply with the changing nature of global regulations in a timely manner.

And while the pharmaceutical industry might not be the vanguard of innovative cloud technology adoption, one thing remains clear – the cloud will continue to revolutionize the healthcare industry by enabling pharmaceutical companies to bring their drugs to patients faster at a lower cost.

Craig MorganBy Craig Morgan, brand development director at goBalto Inc.

Craig is a technology and life sciences management professional with more than 15 years of experience in the application of informatics and bioinformatics to drug discovery. He currently heads up the marketing and brand development functions at goBalto, working with sponsors, CROs and sites to reduce cycle times and improve collaboration and oversight in clinical trials.

Brand Identity Is Now The Crux Of Technology And Business

Brand Identity Is Now The Crux Of Technology And Business

Identity, Technology and Business

When Tim Cook and Apple pushed back against the FBI’s iPhone hack request, the resulting conflict hit on where we are, and where we’re going, with technology and business. It’s not just about useful tools people can use for convenience and entertainment anymore. It’s about identity.

Apple pushed back because the hack represents an intrusion on privacy. Hacking Syed Farook’s phone provides a direct window on who he is. This would open a wormhole to other iPhone users, too. Now, Apple wants to know how an anonymous third party was able to hack the phone.

Should Apple’s technology, or any sort of tech, protect identities from prying eyes? Or should people’s identities be fair game for organizations that want to use them? So far we’ve seen more of the latter.

Power and Liquidity of Identity

This has been brewing for a while. Businesses and customers both have a stake. Consumer identity has become a commodity. Every touch-point in high-tech commerce hinges on who the customer is. Business and consumer alike trade in the power and liquidity of identity.

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First, an example of how the identity protection issue is playing out for American businesses, in a very concrete way. According to Square’s guide to EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa), “Almost half of the world’s credit card fraud happens in the United States.” As a result, businesses must switch to a new “processing device” that will accept EMV cards. You’ve probably seen local businesses that have complied, some that haven’t.

Because of the new EMV requirement, if someone commits credit card fraud with a magnetic stripe card, the business is liable. Credit card fraud is identity theft. Now businesses have to protect customer identity by staying technologically relevant.

Is this appropriate, or ironic? Businesses trade in customer identity, oftentimes without giving the customer a choice; now they don’t have any choice but to protect the identities they trade in.

Analyzing customer preferences, location data, spending habits, and other factors linked to who you are is a part of tech-savvy marketing and sales. Consumer data is a hot item—the topic doesn’t just come up on marketing blogs.

Appnovation is a web development company with a blog post titled “Integrating Customer Data into Your Business Decisions“. The author (whose last name isn’t provided—apparently they wanted to protect his identity) says, “If good information promotes growth and growth allows for success, why doesn’t every organization just do it?” He’s not merely observing the trendy practice of using customer data to grow business—he’s promoting it. There’s technology for tracking “customer experience and actions”, which gives the business an advantage. According to the author, “The insights and data from your analytics product do more than predict and hone customer behavior, they can be a window into your infrastructure’s current health.”

This final statement holds the key to the commoditization of identity. To the observer, what we do determines who we are. And now, what we do, including what we post online and the sites we visit, directly influences business determinations. They want to “hone and influence our behavior”, but that behavior also plays into how a business views itself. Even further than that—consumer behavior determines a business brand’s identity.

Consumers Dictating Brand Messaging

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Base Creative is an international branding agency. Their brand strategist and senior writer, Rod Parkes, has this to say about the evolving meaning of brands:

The brand owner can no longer dictate the meaning of the brand – the customer defines this, and today’s customers cannot be so easily told what to think. From Amazon to TripAdvisor, websites and social media enable the experience of others to help shape the potential purchaser’s perceptions.”

Web technology—primarily social media and peer reviews—gives consumers the same type of power businesses want to have over them. It’s the power to determine what an entity will do.

Consumer perception and the intersection of technology create a fluid, relative identity for brands, because brands must react to consumer perception. They’re watching us, we’re watching them, and on either side we’re making decisions based on our observations. It’s a dynamic feedback loop.

Personalization 

This relationship between identity, technology, and power is reflected in the trends to watch in 2016. Dynamic personalization, in which brands analyze data to market directly to individuals, reportedly delivers ROI (Return on Investment) five to eight times greater than non-personalized efforts. Personalization is also estimated to boost sales by ten percent. At least ninety percent of the time, though, consumers conduct their own research before they buy something. Brands want to influence research efforts.

On Facebook, for one, brands seek to establish an identity alongside users. Despite that, 62 percent of consumers in a Gallup poll report social media has no influence on their buying decisions whatsoever. This doesn’t stop marketers from pursuing social marketing strategies, such as influencer marketing.

According to this influencer marketing infographic from Simplilearn, influencer marketing is the most effective channel for customer acquisition. Of all the social networks, Facebook is considered the most effective for influencer marketing, with 27 percent of the share. Why would marketers use influencer marketing on social media if 62 percent of people aren’t influenced by it? There’s clearly a disjunction between consumer perception and brand perception.

The respondents to the Gallup poll may not have realized influencers are marketing to them. Word of mouth is wrapped up in the identity of the speaker. You trust what an influencer says because, ostensibly, you know them.

Clearly, the intersection of identities and technologies has created a new playing field for business. As we’re seeing with the Apple vs. FBI case, Apple’s struggle is to maintain a brand image that people associate with consumer identity protection.

The struggle for businesses that use data to personalize marketing is also a power struggle. Does the brand influence the consumer’s purchases more than the consumer influences brand identity? The answer to this question will ultimately determine how people identify with brands, and what brands do with data.

By Daniel Matthews

How To Build Mobile Apps Quickly Without Sacrificing Stability

How To Build Mobile Apps Quickly Without Sacrificing Stability

Mobile Security and Stability

It’s a fear that many mobile app developers have. That in the haste to construct a mobile app and get it out to market, your slapdash efforts will lead to a buggy and poor performing app. This fear is very viable, especially if your team is rushing to construct an entire multi-leveled app in one-go. You need a way to build your product quickly and effectively without compromising security. Here are the four main ways to build your innovative mobile app in no-time and still make sure that your app is secure and bug-free.

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Launch Your MVP, Start Testing

Use the Lean Startup method, launch a lean version of your core product – your MVP – and immediately begin collecting data using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. Through testing, all feedback should be collected that continually informs the development process. Plan to operate on very short iterative cycles or “sprints,” where updates are released in short 2-4 week periods.

Hybrid Apps

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Cross-platform hybrid solutions allow you to get 2 for the price of 1. Two versions of your App –Android and iOS – for the same code. This is a huge time-saver as opposed to writing native code for Android and iOS separately. Having said that, hybrid Apps have performance limitations — hybrid Apps handle animations with less fluidity and slow your phone down because they take up a lot of memory. For these reasons, hybrid Apps are best used to enter new markets quickly. If need be, they can then be replaced with more robust, native Apps at a later stage.

Two examples of cross hybrid solutions include Adobe Phonegap and Xamarin.

Integrate Pre-Made Engagement Applets to Increase Engagement

Once you have your MVP, it’s time to think about how your mobile app is going to effectively engage or communicate with your customers. A number of mobile engagement platforms have popped up recently to provide you with just that — all types of pre-made applets that you can add to your core product without any additional coding.

One of the newest platforms launched recently offers codeless mobile engagement . It has a variety of free engagement-driven applets that can be integrated with developer’s core products, without additional coding. The applets are managed and implemented through a smart SDK dashboard and are constantly updated to comply with each operating system demands. This enables not only hyper-accelerated development process but also a continual rock-solid coded solution.

Set Up Automated Testing to Ensure App Security

Automating your mobile application testing is a huge time-saver. Automating your testing allows you to run a suite of tests that would otherwise take hours to complete manually. By speeding up testing, you will be able to expand test coverage in the same amount of time. And you’ll sleep better with the knowledge that your code is bug-free. Appium is a great option on the market right now. Appium is an open source test automation framework for use with native, hybrid and mobile web apps for iOS and Android apps.

By Boaz Amidor

Did You Know That There Is A Real SHIELD?

Did You Know That There Is A Real SHIELD?

The Real Shield

You cannot make this up. The ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence), an Act of Congress and a European Commission special “working group” known as Article 29 are all involved. Blame it on Edward Snowden. The Europeans are “concerned” (meaning: terrified) about the privacy protections surrounding any of their data stored in the US.

What are we talking about? Facebook, Google, Amazon and many more B2C and B2B organizations collect customer’s data and often hold it in their cloud platforms in the US. If your firm works with anyone in the EU and you use the cloud you need to be aware of the major change that has taken place in just the last six months or so. You could be legally liable and suffer penalties for not following these new regulations.

online privacy

A little back ground – until October of 2015 the relationship between the US and EU around privacy protection of EU citizens data stored in the US was governed by something set up in 2000 called Safe Harbor. It was basically a self-policing agreement that stipulated any US company who collected data from EU citizens needed to:

  • Inform them their data was being gathered,
  • Tell them what would be done with it,
  • Obtain permission to pass on the information to a third party,
  • Allow EU citizens access to the data gathered,
  • Ensure data integrity and security and
  • Provide a way to enforce compliance.

But then came the revelations of Snowden. The Europeans were antsy about American Intelligence’s ability to view their personal data but Snowden really drove them wild. A privacy activist named Max Schrems filed suit in the European Court of Justice against the Irish data protection authority based on the concerns he had about Facebook transferring his data from Ireland to the US.

The court ruled last October that Safe Harbor agreement was invalid under the EU’s rules. As you might guess there was immediately a great deal of confusion over what this meant to the various providers and consumers. There was also a recognition that it would be in all parties’ best interest to create a replacement that would meet the EU restrictions. Hence, SHIELD was born.

The EU-US Privacy Shield, commonly called “Shield”, was forged out of an EU and US set of consultations and changes of law on both sides. There were a few hair-raising moments when it appeared that all the needed steps might not be accomplished by the deadline imposed by the court. But, in the end, they were and when you look back, it is amazing how fast governments can actually work.

The European Commission did all of the following:

  • Reformed the EU Data protection rules, which apply to all companies providing services on the EU market,
  • Passed the EU-U.S. Umbrella Agreement ensuring high data protection standards for data transfers between the EU and U.S., and
  • Established the Shield for commercial data exchange, which contains obligations on U.S. companies who handle personal data.

On its part The US Congress passed the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 and President Obama signed it. This has significant consequences for US based businesses because it means that EU citizens will have the right to obtain judicial redress in the US if American authorities mishandle their data.

So what are some of the consequences and differences from Safe Harbor?

  • Safeguards related to intelligence activities will extend to all data transferred to the U.S., regardless of the transfer mechanism used.
  • The Shield’s dispute resolution framework provides multiple avenues for individuals to lodge complaints, more than those available under the Safe Harbor and alternative transfer mechanisms such as Standard Contractual Clauses or Binding Corporate Rules.
  • An organization’s compliance with the Privacy Shield will be directly and indirectly monitored by a wider array of authorities in the U.S. and the EU, possibly increasing regulatory risks and compliance costs for participating organizations.
  • The Department of Commerce will significantly expand its role in monitoring and supervising compliance, including carrying out ex officio compliance reviews and investigations of participating organizations.
  • Participating organizations will be subjected to additional compliance and reporting obligations, some of which will continue even after they withdraw from the Privacy Shield.

For the big cloud-based providers none of this represents a real burden but for medium and smaller firms you need to ensure your compliance even if your underlying cloud provider is one of the big boys like Amazon or Microsoft. As they always say: “Consult Your Attorney”.

So, what about the spooks? The EU is still worried that representations by the ODNI are not sufficient (“we don’t do bulk spying”) to assure protections. The bet is the European Commission will probably approve the Shield but the whole thing will still land up in court. Meanwhile, commerce continues to march on and hopefully we will see a complete resolution soon.

By John Pientka

The Four C’s – Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

The Four C’s – Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

The Cloud, Culture, Clash, Change

I told the new CTO that this cloud stuff was BS. He came charging in with this ‘cloud first policy’ and look what happened. Previously rock solid systems that had worked for years slowed down and had outages as we tried to run them on the cloud. I doubt that the fantasy business case he came up with will ever be validated. We got guys who have been with us forever heading for the exits. I even thought they were planning on getting rid of me. I heard his new lieutenants calling me a ‘server hugger’. Now, I’ll bet he is the one getting the boot.”

cloud-comic3

That’s an ugly but unfortunately surprisingly common scenario. How does it arise? Many managers and executives consider the Cloud a technology issue. It may look like it at first glance but in reality it is so, so much more. How do you avoid negative outcomes when adopting cloud? Well, you could just not use the cloud. And, despite what surveys say about its cloud’s widespread take-up, many actually do just that.

Unfortunately, that is a bit like trying to command the tides to not come in. The economics and benefits are just too powerful. So what do you then do? Why not consider following the “Four C’s”? When dealing with Cloud you must always keep in mind that it represents a Culture disruption. These can lead to Clashes (like our narrator tells above) and therefore must be introduced through careful Change Management.

Culture

Culture can be one of those management consultant buzzwords. It is a powerful and important concept but let’s keep it simple.

Here is a nice definition of culture:

– The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

–  particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

– A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

Infographic-Company-Cuture

(Infographic discovered via: Tech.co)

Your organization’s IT department has a very unique culture. Many, or even most IT shops, inside commerce; government and academia are built on old stuff and managed by old paradigms. That’s not to say there are not cutting edge CIO’s and CTO’s trying to make a difference but 80% of their effort is devoted to just keeping the legacy stuff up and running. They can barely respond to new needs. The other challenge is that IT is pretty people intensive. Up to 40% of annual budgets are for people and related expenses. Bottom line: your IT culture has a lot of legacy and a lot of people.

Moving to the cloud, whether Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and/or Software as a Service (SaaS) can be threatening since it represents a pretty significant break with how things have been done. Sure, IT shops have outsourced their assets and operations in the past but that was really a “your mess for less” tactic. Cloud adoption represents a new paradigm in the people, processes and organization of how IT solutions are built and delivered to users.

Think about it. With cloud, a lot of the work that used to take place is just gone. In IaaS, nobody runs around managing or fixing servers. In SaaS, nobody does application upgrades. And the tempo is really accelerated. Instead of months to spec, order and deploy equipment – you do it in minutes. And when it comes to release cycles what may have been quarterly majors and maybe monthly minors – it is now daily, some are even several times a day.

cloud computing certification

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

This looks pretty scary if you are not some hot shot just out of school. Who is going to need you? Sure, you can work on the legacy stuff, at least that will be around for a while – won’t it? Or, you can up grade your skills – especially if you want to keep your job. Just check out AT&T. Either you master the new reality or you will not be part of it. Just how long before your role is in the cross hairs.

Feel threatened? I would. Now you understand why disrupting culture – the old ways of doing things – leads to potential resistance and even clashes. Fear is a powerful motivation. Before you go adopting cloud be smart. Do some change management planning. Maybe get some help. Step back and consider the culture where you will introduce it and plan.

There are lots of change management processes you can utilize. Quite frankly, you’ll probably use a blend of them. But, like those great exercise machines you can buy on TV, if you don’t use them faithfully all the good things they promise will not come about. Your goal is for your folks to understand the change, feel they will be treated fairly, and finally come to the ah-ha! moment where they think – could this be an opportunity for me?

By John Pientka

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