Automotive Education of Tomorrow: Car or Computer?

Man uses a laptop computer to examine a car engine.Automobiles are becoming more reliable but are much more complicated to diagnose and repair when they do fail. With the introduction of hybrid, electric, semiautonomous, and autonomous vehicles, computer science and networking skills will be just as important to a technician as the traditional mechanical training. Let’s explore the training required to care for these high-tech vehicles.

Car or Computer?

My son is an automotive technician specializing in a high-end brand. My background in computer and information systems and his in automotive repair are starting to converge and we find ourselves talking about shared interests like networks, fiber optics, downloading patches, and diagnosing computer failures. In a Los Angeles Times article, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, remarked “We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels. Tesla is a software company as much as it is a hardware company.” Teslas are designed to be upgraded and gain new features through wireless patch updates. In other words, they can evolve. Are new vehicles more car or computer?

Chips for the Road

Chip makers such as Intel, Xylinx, and On Semiconductor have ventured into automotive applications to supply the industry with controllers for lighting, infotainment systems, on-board computers, and sensors. These partners are using their expertise to help drive the industry’s advances.

New Sensor Technology

Technology company Nvidia announced earlier this month that they have developed the “Deep Learning Car Computer” which will provide sensors and processors to power a semiautonomous vehicle. The computer, which they claim has the processing power of 8 teraflops, or the equivalent of 150 Macbook Pros, sits in a package the size of a tablet. The system is designed to provide a 360-degree view of the terrain and landscape around a vehicle and respond faster than a human when it detects any hazards such as a large animal, pedestrian, or ball rolling into the road followed by a child. Deep learning means that the computer is continuously adding to its knowledge and detection capabilities. Nvidia is partnering with Volvo to put 100 semiautonomous vehicles on the road in Sweden in 2017. Again, who will be repairing such vehicles? Yesterday’s mechanic or tomorrow’s technician/computer science major? What does that education look like?

Education

I am starting to see more bachelor degree programs in automotive technology. These often combine courses in physics, electronics, computer systems, and drive train and engine repair. I still think there is an unfilled niche for the type of training in automotive engineering that would be a hybrid for systems designers and repairmen. Such an approach would enable the specialists to cross back and forth as their career ambitions change. It would also provide a more holistic view of design and repair and hopefully promote design for reparability.

Thoughts

In 10 years, whether we are driving cars or they are driving us, they will still need to be repaired. A technician will need to be well-versed in hardware, software, and networking. Troubleshooting will be much more complex as we deal with multiple interconnected computer systems. Just as I advise my son to keep up on the latest technologies, I would encourage anyone to look to the future as they make their educational plans.

Are the days of the shade tree mechanic gone? What kind of education do you think it will take to repair the vehicles being introduced now? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Beauty of Blockchains

A rainbow of color blocks.Last year I wrote about the Bitcoin revolution and some of the implications to our financial, currency, and trading systems. At that time, a single Bitcoin was worth $1,100 but now is only worth $379. There are wild price swings and talk of dissent among Bitcoin developers, as outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Whether Bitcoin or some other crypto-currency survives in the long run, I think the most interesting story is the blockchain technology behind the rise of Bitcoin and the wide-ranging uses for this development.

Blockchain Explained

A blockchain can best be described as a ledger or database that exists simultaneously on hundreds or even thousands of systems. All of these copies are cryptographically connected to ensure data security.

In the case of a Bitcoin, every time a coin or a fraction of a coin is used, that transaction is recorded on the ledger. The database or registry records who had the coin and who now has the coin, which prevents a coin holder from spending the same coin multiple times. Because this registry is replicated in several identical databases simultaneously, someone attempting to hack into a system to steal the coin would have to hack into all of the systems at the same time. Changing only one instance of the registry alerts the other systems of the fraud and blocks the transaction. If blockchains can be used for currency, what are other possible uses for this technology?

Title Chains

Anything that requires a title could make use of blockchains. When you purchase a home or a vehicle, you need to know the person selling that property really owns it. A title tracks ownership through the life of the property. When you purchase the property, you are added to the title. This process takes a lot of resources, both human and computer, and is not immune to fraud.

When I sold stock, I had to send my paper certificate to a broker to prove that I was indeed the owner. When I bought stock, the broker sent me a newly issued certificate to prove that I was the owner. Now the exchange is executed electronically, but it can still take up to three days to complete a transaction because of all of the systems and humans involved in the process. All of these transactions could be simplified by secure blockchain technology, which would be quicker and would reduce risk and amount of paperwork.

Developing Countries

I think that developing countries could benefit greatly by using blockchain technology. Many of them do not have a secure title transfer infrastructure which limits their ability to buy and sell goods and services. Blockchains can be registered in small increments, even cents, so they can be used by entrepreneurs wanting to sell locally and worldwide without employing costly brokers.

Thinking on a larger scale, if an entrepreneur wanted to start a company, they could sell fractional shares in the company with each share secured by a blockchain transaction. The computing infrastructure does not need to reside in the community or even in the country but could be anywhere in the world. The transaction costs can be a lot lower, thus ensuring that more of the profit is kept in the community and reinvested for future growth and opportunities.

Thoughts

I am excited by the fact that technologies such as blockchains can create new opportunities. Coupled with other emerging advances, such as green power and wireless communications, this has the potential to be a game changer. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Advances in Wellness: Improving the Quantified Self

Conceptual image of a running man and his heart rate.New medical products and apps introduced at the recent Consumer Electronic Show Digital Health Summit (CES) present a lot of promise for keeping us healthy and safe. Often overshadowed by tech gadgets such as new cars and new artificial intelligence products, it’s time to give the medical developments their day in the sun.

Pathway Genomics OME

The Pathway OME app is powered by IBM Watson and is a comprehensive app that collects personal health information from a variety of sources including electronic health records, data from health monitoring devices, and even a DNA sample. From this data, the app will give you advice or alert you to potential health issues. Through the IBM Watson’s data intelligence power you can receive personalized information on potential interactions with food and drugs or receive a custom diet and exercise regimen.

Wisewear

Who says that health and safety monitoring can’t be fashionable? Wisewear makes a fashion bracelet that monitors vital statistics and acts as an emergency beacon. When you think you are in danger or need help, tap the stylish bracelet three times and it will connect with your phone to send out text alerts, including your location, to friends. This is a great marriage of form and function.

Quell

Neurometrix makes a pain management device that is drug free and monitors and counteracts chronic pain 24/7. This is an electrode that is worn on the upper calf just below the knee and delivers a signal that blocks pain neurotransmitters throughout the body. It counteracts pain from arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues and allows the wearer to enjoy work and activities. It synchs with a smartphone app to deliver a profile of your pain management. It is adjustable and easily rechargeable. My father used to connect leads to a voltage generator to help ease his arthritis pain. I realize now that he was just ahead of his time, although maybe his system was not quite as elegant.

Mimo

The Mimo Smart Baby Monitor uses very low voltage sensors built into a baby sleeper to deliver information about breathing, movement, and sleep/wake patterns to a smartphone app. This, in theory, lowers stress for new parents and allows them to sleep better. The same information is also available to other smartphones if a parent has to be out of town but still wants to track their baby. Definitely a quantified life right from day one.

Resound

Enzo hearing aids from Resound combine advanced technology with a sophisticated smartphone app that lets you fine tune your hearing to different conditions. Whether you find yourself in a crowded noisy room or in a quiet place trying to hear a soft voice, the app lets you discreetly adjust your hearing aids. You can also couple them to your smartphone to listen to music or voice directly through your hearing aids.

Thoughts

The health technologies displayed at CES this year are designed to help us be active, healthy, and safe and provide the capability to monitor and assist those we love.

Did you see any extraordinary products at CES this year? Let me know what caught your eye.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Clearing the Decks in the New Year

Ship sailing through rough seas from perspective of the deck.Clear The Decks

I recently came across the term “clear the decks” and it sums up well my thoughts as I begin a new year. Clear the decks is a nautical term used to warn the sailing crew to remove or secure all loose objects that might get in the way of the guns or injure the crew. It is a way of saying prepare for battle or prepare for a new adventure. The new year represents new opportunities, so why not clear the deck of anything that might get in the way? Here are some ways that I will prepare for the future.

Clearing Stuff

I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years and occasionally I need to reduce. Last year I sold one of my motorcycles and one of my bicycles. I was surprised that getting rid of some of my stuff gave me a new perspective and fresh energy for new projects, not to mention creating room in my garage. I am also trying to clear out papers and books that I no longer need or read. Being free of this unneeded material lets me focus on things that are important to me. I still have more stuff to reduce in 2016 but this was a good beginning.

Fresh Thinking

Sometimes new learning can give me a spark to start new projects or complete old ones. I recently began a new MOOC on statistical thinking for data science. This is the first of a series of three courses which I chose to expand my thinking on some of my work. Since it is applied learning, I am gleaning new ideas that I can use immediately. Whether it is a short course such as this series of MOOCs or something as extensive as pursuing a new degree, education is a great way to clear the decks and may lead you in a new direction.

New Relationships

Another way to jump start the new year is to evaluate your network to determine who can help you in your upcoming adventures and whom you can help in return. A purposeful evaluation of your network will help you determine how you can make progress on the things that matter to you. Is it time to find a mentor? Do you need to let go of old relationships that hold you back? Conversely, is there someone out there who needs your experience and expertise?

Thoughts

Our calendar is handed down from ancient Caesers and popes and provides no magic when we turn the page to a new day or month or year. The magic and each beginning comes from us. It comes from our planning to make the next day and the next year even better than the last. One way we can do that is to clear the deck of anything holding us back as we get ready for the next journey.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Beyond Passwords: The New Face of Authentication

Black and white drawing of two fingerprints.When the Heartbleed bug was discovered in April 2015 it cast a light on the problem of password vulnerabilities. Since then, or even before, IT departments have increased password requirements for both administrators and end users. Some organizations now require passwords of 13 characters or more that must contain certain combinations of letters, numbers and symbols, and must be refreshed as often as every six weeks. These requirements have led frustrated users to reuse the same password over multiple accounts or to write down the password and keep it in a supposed safe place. The increased vigilance is causing behavior that leads to less secure systems and accounts. What is the answer? Bill Gates declared the password dead in 2004 but they are still very much alive in 2016. For this blog post I set out to find acceptable alternatives to this problem.

Two Factor Authentication

While double identification does not remove the need for a password, it does make an account more secure. This is an option available now for Twitter and other accounts and can be set up in your profile. With this system, you enter the standard password and then enter a separate six digit code that is sent to your smartphone at the time of log in. It is a step towards more secure accounts and systems.

Cryptography

Google takes two factor authentication one step further with a device that uses public key cryptography. This is a small USB device that provides a second authentication for Google apps, Gmail, Dropbox, and other applications. You plug the device into a computer to verify your identity. Near field communication or low power Bluetooth will be used soon to eliminate the physical connection.

Biometrics

Apple and Samsung are adding biometric authentication to their newest smartphones and tablets. This eliminates passwords completely by identifying you from your fingerprint. It is as easy as placing your finger or thumb on the screen before unlocking your phone or apps and would keep a lost or stolen smartphone secure.

The Myris portable retinal scanner from Eyelock allows you to log in to websites and applications via a quick retinal scan. Once you establish an image of your retina through video capture, you simply glance into the USB device to gain access to applications.

The Nymi heartbeat scanner is in development now and is another way to authenticate users via biometrics. This is a bracelet that records your heartbeat and then uses that to identify you to systems such as computers, door locks, and retail computers that would normally require a PIN or password. The software developer kit is available now and the product will be out soon.

All of these are attempts to easily identify an individual by a unique pattern and not by a password they carry around in their head (or wallet). The next logical step would be to present DNA, but I am not sure yet how that can be captured.

Thoughts

Bill Gates may have been premature in declaring the password dead but I hope that he is on the right track. I struggle to remember all of my logins and passwords and I could use help. Have you found a reliable and safe alternative to passwords? Do you use or trust biometrics? Let me know your thoughts so that I can start using the password portion of my brain for better things.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Implementing Privacy Policy Across Borders

Image of a padlock surrounded by gold stars on a blue field.Digital privacy and security often go hand in hand and the two will continue to be center stage in terms of information management in 2016. As we continue to work through the freedoms and accessibility that come with our connected world, we need to take a broader view than just our community and country. How will digital policy in other parts of the world affect the way we conduct business and how we protect our digital identity? An article this week about emerging policy in the European Union (EU) helped me understand the implications for my own digital persona.

Secondary Use

The EU has developed privacy and data protection reforms that could be enacted within two years. According to the new legislation, a European citizen’s information cannot be used for a secondary purpose without their consent. For example, if I agree to reveal my current location to use Google Maps or to find the nearest Olive Garden, that piece of information cannot also be used to target me for a local gym membership advertisement. Anyone intending to sell personal data would need to know the potential buyers ahead of time and must get permission from all individuals whose data may be sold. Because it will be difficult to limit this to EU citizens it could become wide-ranging. This also has implications for anyone doing data mining and analytics to create and sell information or profiles.

Profiling

Personal profiling is also covered in this recently passed legislation. While not prohibited, it places the burden on the profiler to reveal the information collected and algorithms used to create the portrait. If I eat out every Tuesday night, shop for groceries every Thursday night, and have recently searched online for chef schools, someone could conclude that I am tired of restaurant food and could target me with an ad for a local kitchen store. Before that happens however, I have the right to know just how that data mined profile is created, according to the new legislation. While this helps me as a consumer, as an IT professional I have to be careful conducting any data mining or analytics and now have to be transparent in my work and intent.

In The Cloud

While I applaud the EU for its sweeping reforms I think they will be difficult to enact and enforce. Here is the dilemma for me: how do I reconcile geographical boundaries with cloud boundaries, which by definition are ethereal? For example, as an EU citizen, the data collected about me could be housed on cloud servers in Frankfurt or Mumbai or Buenos Aires or Atlanta. Do the laws refer to me as a citizen living within the European geographical boundaries? Or do they refer to the location of my data? What if I am a German resident but my data is housed and mined outside of the EU? What then?

Thoughts

The European legislation is still at least two years away from being enacted. In that time we need to broaden our thinking beyond government boundaries and create worldwide policies regarding security and privacy. It would be difficult to specifically mark all data belonging to citizens of a particular country, but it would be easier to apply the same standard for users worldwide. It will take a concerted effort to think beyond controlled boundaries and work together to consider what is best for all digital citizens. Do you think we will ever be able to agree on global digital policies? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Last Minute Tech Gift Ideas

Image of the outline of a Christmas gift against a bitmap background.If you have tech lovers on your gift list this year, here are a few ideas that are sure to bring them holiday cheer.

Storage

I wrote a blog last year about the capacity of a one terabyte disk drive which are becoming standard in new personal computers. I thought that a terabyte of storage should be more than enough for a lifetime of computing. I failed to take into account the rising popularity of personal networks that store not only computer files but also entertainment such as movies and music. You can now access movies and shows from your smart TV that are stored on a drive attached to your network. To accommodate your growing storage needs, Western Digital offers My Cloud Mirror, which is network attached personal cloud storage. Your files are mirrored in case of disaster and are available from your TV, computer, or mobile device. You can watch your stored movies and access your pictures and data files from anywhere. This ranges from two all the way up to 12 terabytes to keep your favorite tech person going for a long time.

Paper Airplane 2.0

PowerUp paper airplanes may be just the gift for that person who has everything. These are not the airplanes we made as kids, they are a combination of paper and technology. The basic kit comes with a small motor but you still have to supply the paper and the navigation skills. Version 3.0 comes with a Bluetooth enabled module that allows you to control the plane from your smartphone or tablet. This is a Kickstarter project that has gone into production with different products. You can also pre-order the new PowerUp FPV kit that gives you first person view of the flight through a Google Cardboard viewer. There is even a boat for the sailor on your list.

Gift For The Budding Techie

A Raspberry Pi computer is perfect for the budding techie in your life. Made by a UK educational foundation of the same name, this is basically a low cost complete computer on a circuit board. It comes with HDMI and USB ports for connecting input and output devices and can be loaded with a special version of Linux as the basic operating system. There is no disk drive, but everything can be stored on SD cards. It represents a return to basic computing and experimentation. There is an ardent worldwide fan base for this product and no shortage of ideas posted to the web, from robot controllers to music and video servers to Christmas light display hubs. The Raspberry Pi Zero starts at $5 and the Pi 2 B runs $40. I have written before about the maker movement and this gift is a wonderful way to join in the fun.

It’s All In The Gesture

Gest is a wearable device that allows you to control your computer or tablet or smartphone through hand movements. It is still in Kickstarter mode and has been successfully funded so the device can be pre-ordered now. This is an attempt to get away from the traditional keyboard or touchpad. Personally, my fingers don’t seem to be precise when using my smartphone so I am looking forward to trying one of these in the future. This could be that gift that I give to myself.

Thoughts

There are a lot of products available for your tech friends, from the inexpensive to the unaffordable. I have chosen just a few here that I think are reasonable, useful, and sometimes just plain fun. What gifts are you giving your friends this holiday season? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Rise of #GivingTuesday

Photo of hands cradling a decorative red heart.In a recent blog I predicted the end of Cyber Monday but it turns out I was wrong, at least this year. Online retailers had their best sales day ever while Black Friday sales slumped. Perhaps my forecast will improve next year. This year I noticed something new to the holiday season—Giving Tuesday. According to givingtuesday.org, this movement was started by the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2012. The concept has grown through social media and has been adopted by charities and other aid organizations as a reminder to give back to the community.

My new prediction is the continued growth of Giving Tuesday and I truly hope that I am right this time. There is an adage, “Where much is given, much is expected.” I know that I have been given much and I try to return that favor on Giving Tuesday and the rest of the year. In this blog, I want to encourage you to think of all that you have and how you can help others during the holiday season and beyond.

Early Lessons

One of my first lessons in giving came through a fifth grade class project. Our class assembled a large fruit basket for elderly residents of a downtown rest home. To select which class members would deliver the basket, the teacher had us choose a number between one and one thousand. I chose the first number that came into my head, which was 365, the number of days in a year. Apparently the teacher and I were on the same wavelength because I nailed it exactly. Four of us took the basket downtown and while I was nervous visiting a rest home for the first time in my life, I noticed that our presence meant even more to the residents than the basket. The gift was symbolic but they loved having us talk with them and spend time getting to know them. It was then I realized that giving of our time and talents often means as much or more than a gift.

Giving Back

Currently I give a lot of my extra time to youth organizations teaching leadership and life skills. I am hoping to influence my future by preparing these young people to lead well as they take over, which will afford me more time on the golf course. In this sense my motives are selfish, but my heart is in the right place. I also serve on a non-profit board of directors helping to provide oversight to a wonderful organization that contributes much to my community. My monetary gifts often go to medical research or directly to an individual who is struggling with health issues. I am careful about directing my money to where I think it can do the most good.

Whether you give time or money, it is important to remember that giving is about helping people and building connections.

Thoughts

I wholeheartedly support Giving Tuesday and the change they are trying to bring about. It helps to focus on giving at least one day out of the year, and hopefully that will inspire giving throughout the year. I would love to hear your stories about how you give back to your community. What causes are you most passionate about? How are you affecting change in your community and the world beyond? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Trends In Higher Education: Certificates and Customization

Woman works with laptop, paper and pen.I recently leafed through a course catalog of the local community college and was surprised by the breadth of certification courses. These classes lead to a professional certificate in fields such as psychology, information technology, construction, and mechanical systems. Programs may consist of one course or many courses and are taken in addition to, or in lieu of, a traditional degree program. This is specialized instruction that leads to a specific skill. These certificates show a current or potential employer that you have mastered that skill and are ready to hit the ground running. I think that certificates will become an important tool to differentiate job seekers, so I set out to find out how popular and diverse these programs are.

Certificates vs. MOOCs

Certifications can be taken at the community college, undergraduate, or even graduate level. They often lead to licensure, as in the case of specialty teaching or nursing, or may serve as preparation for taking a certification test, such as those in information technology or engineering. The programs may stand alone without an accompanying degree, or they may be taken in conjunction with an undergraduate or graduate degree. For example, law students may study technology or business to enhance their skills by broadening the experiences. In the same vein, medical students may study bioinformatics to understand and conduct genetic analysis as part of their practice. These are examples of certifications that might give job seekers an edge over other candidates.

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are generally free and do not lead to licensure or certification. Some MOOC courses offer either option and can lead to a certificate for a fee. While these certificates are not generally recognized in the workplace, that could change in the future.

Options Beyond Certificates

Some universities are modifying their traditional degree requirements to meet the changing needs of students. Many students are returning to school or are enrolling later in life after already establishing a career. These students may need more flexibility in the course schedule or in the completion time. Some universities such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute are layering traditional degree programs with experience-based specialties. The college offers a one year master’s of management degree for young graduates, who then have the option of returning after at least two years of industry experience to add an MBA. Offering degrees in stages serves the young graduates looking for management education and returning students looking to add to their previous investment. The key to certificates or specialty degree programs is flexibility and availability of relevant curriculum.

Other schools are moving towards interdisciplinary studies degrees. This may be a combination of business, communications and information management such as the UO AIM Program, or a traditional management, engineering, health care, or law degree that allows students to explore adjacent paths in cyber security or business analytics or telemedicine. Whether these paths lead to a certificate or a degree, they all provide students with particular skills that are needed in the workplace.

Thoughts

Certificate and customizable degree programs allow students to combine the value of a traditional curriculum while gaining the specialized skills that are in demand. I think that this customization will only increase in the future as students seek innovative educational experiences. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Consumerization of IT

Photo of businesspeople using devices.It used to be that information technology was the domain of specialists. In the last 10 years, the adoption of new technology has shifted to the consumer and not the enterprise. As a result, employees who were accustomed to using technology at home pushed for adoption in the workplace. This left IT groups scrambling to adapt their policies and applications to work with consumer devices and software, not always willingly.

This consumerization of technology inspired the popularity of bring your own device (BYOD) to work. The two main concerns over this trend are first and foremost security and second, compatibility with corporate applications. While it is desirable to access data and applications anytime, anywhere, and on any device, it is not always easy or safe. In this blog post I will look at the history and future trends of the IT consumerization. Will we continue as we have, or will the enterprise once again take the lead in new technology adoption?

History

Computers were originally used in government and businesses for things such as bomb trajectory calculations in World War II, tabulating voters’ ballots for presidential elections, and organizing corporate accounting activities. Operators and programmers were in charge of running the computers and any task or requests had to be fed through them. The query results came as printouts, not displayed on a desktop screen. Even as late as the mid-1980s I remember working in a large computer room where we printed stacks of paper that were set outside the computer room to be retrieved. Only computer operators and technicians were allowed inside the room. Access to the computers was through dumb terminals as input and the generated paper results as output.

Personal Computers

Apple and other companies sold computers to hobbyists in the late 1970s. While this was technically a consumer product, it was considered a niche market. When IBM introduced the personal computer in 1981, it was targeting the corporate employee, not individual consumers. When user-friendly word processing and spreadsheet software became available, consumers began buying computers for home use.

Networking

Without connecting the home computer to the outside world, people were still left with the same problem of input and output. Input came through the keyboard or from a disk, and the output came to a printer or screen or to another disk. The disks had limited capacity so to share a program or data, one had to have multiple disks that were hopefully labeled correctly. With early dial-up modems, people could finally share information (not graphics, that would take forever) with each other. As consumer networks improved, so did our desire to connect and share things with each other and the lines between work and home began to blur.

The Tipping Point

The tipping point for the consumerization of IT came with smartphones and tablets. Laptops were certainly more mobile and could go back and forth from home to work, but the smartphone and tablet made it even easier to live in both worlds. IT departments initially rejected tablets as not being robust and secure enough for the enterprise. The smartphone was even worse because it was so portable. Blackberry was one of the pioneers in bridging the gap between corporate e-mail and information systems and consumer devices. Salespeople and executives could receive information while they were with a client instead of waiting for a computer operator to process a request. It was a whole new world that continues to evolve.

Today

In my Information Systems class we talk about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the tools that we need to deploy, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), in order to integrate consumer devices into the workplace. The key for technology departments is adaptability. The lines are blurred and the genie is not going back in the bottle so we need to make sure our data and enterprise are secure while working with these devices.

In a possible reversal of trends, Deloitte predicts what they call the re-enterprization of IT in the next few years. They point to current technologies such as wearables, 3D printing, and drones being embraced by the enterprise as evidence of that reversal. I am skeptical that the consumer trend is changing just yet but I will keep my eyes open.

Thoughts

Has the consumerization of IT helped you in your work or has it caused you pain as you deal with the consequences? I don’t miss the days of wearing a separate pager and I love being able to access data from any device at any time. I also realize the work that goes into the back end to make this access seamless and I appreciate the efforts of technologists who build bridges between consumer devices and the enterprise. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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