Tag Archives: cloud

Smartphones: What Comes Next

Photograph of woman wearing futuristic high-tech glasses.Samsung recently introduced its new Galaxy Note 8 which has updated features such as advanced security, memory management, a new display, enhanced cameras and wireless charging. Apple is expected to announce the new iPhone 8 today with similar technology enhancements. The announcement and rollout of updated smartphones is becoming an annual event anticipated by customers and tech followers alike. The technology continually improves and battery life gets extended, but the new devices look very similar to the original iPhone introduced in 2007. Some are looking beyond the incremental improvements and asking the question: what comes after the smartphone? What will computing and communication look like in the future? In this blog post I will explore some of those questions and some of the predictions. I look forward to your feedback and ideas as well.

What Comes Next

One of the new features of the Samsung device is the ability to dock it with a full size keyboard and monitor, thus expanding the computing power of the handheld. I still remember the first time I docked a laptop, which meant that I could get rid of the big box on top of or under my desk. Just as laptops have largely replaced the desktop box, it appears that the smartphone may take over the laptop for ease of use and functionality.

The small screen and keyboard on a smartphone are inconvenient at best and often are an outright pain. I can often be seen typing with my little finger because I can’t figure out how to get my thumbs any sharper. What if we could get away from the need for a keyboard for input and a screen for display? We are still using the QWERTY keyboard which was first laid out in 1872 in order to slow down typists, not to speed them up.

The Return of Glass?

In an April ZDNet article, Steve Ranger predicts that we will move away from the smartphone and towards Google Glass type devices coupled with virtual and augmented reality. That satisfies my criteria by replacing the screen with a projected image and the keyboard with voice commands such as those spoken to Siri and Alexa and Bixby. Google Glass was great technology but it had an image problem and was not well received by those not wearing the glasses. There were concerns about privacy stemming from the fact that they had a camera that could be turned off and on with minimal indication, allowing covert use. There were also safety concerns, since wearers could easily be distracted while crossing a busy street, although staring down at a smartphone clearly has its own safety issues. The Glass technology is ready, but there is still a stigma to its use and acceptance.

My Wish List

I wish for a device that is always connected to the cloud and lets me project several large screens at once on surfaces such as a wall, a building, a sidewalk or even suspended in air. I also want to be able to share that image with others at any time. I want it to flawlessly understand my voice commands and dictation and understand contextually where I am at and what I might request next. I want it to connect seamlessly to other devices such as my smart car and my smart home devices. Finally, I would like to get rid of the small device in my pocket or in my hand so I can be free to explore the natural world with full attention.

Thoughts

What does your ultimate computing/communications device look like? Are we close to your vision or are there still some hurdles to overcome? Let me know what your dream device looks like.

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.

Digital Transformation: Path to Improving Your Business

This is an open letter to businesses and agencies attempting to transform their enterprise through the use of digital technologies. Each organization is at a different point along this path in an effort to engage customers, suppliers, and employees through digital technologies in order to remain competitive and profitable. I would like to suggest some ways to accelerate that transformation.

New Technologies

Management consultants Bain and Company suggested in a recent article that there are six basic design rules that can accelerate a company’s digital transformation. These include breaking boundaries, being open, inducing insights, and being user-friendly. I would like to add a couple of others that I think will help move you down the road to your destination.

Internal Partnering

Many companies are reworking their internal and external processes to achieve efficiency and build a digital presence that will hopefully draw customers. Even my local hardware store and ice cream shop have websites. They are for the most part static pages with information like location, phone number and store hours but at least that keeps me from having to dust off the yellow pages. They have taken the first steps towards moving to a digital world.

Whether you are moving back-end infrastructure, applications and software to the cloud or experimenting with a web presence for the first time, it is important to partner with your technology department. As a business, you know WHAT you want to do but the employees in your information management department know HOW to do it. Partner with them at every turn to combine business knowledge and technical knowledge. I suggest you even consider embedding some technical people in your business. This is a great way for them to learn more about your needs so that they can custom design a solution for you. We used to worry about technology people “going native” if they were embedded in the business, but now I think that crossover is necessary and will result in better and more effective solutions.

External Partnering

One of the design rules from Bain is to focus on the user experience. What better way to do that than ask users themselves? Sometimes this requires getting out of the office and asking customers their opinion of a new mobile app or a change to your website or even a new digital product that you are considering. I will be the first to admit that traditional surveys leave me cold. Every time I get near the local Home Depot store my smart phone asks me to rate my recent visit. I never comply. If a business I frequent were to put a device in my hand and ask me to try out a new digital product I would be much more inclined to reply. There are different ways of partnering with and surveying customers, but it is important in order to design a user experience they will accept.

Thoughts

Wherever you are on the digital transformation continuum, I hope you will consider these ideas to make your journey smoother. They can help you in implementation and customer engagement. How is your digital transformation progressing? 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.

Data Nationalization: Drawing Borders in the Cloud

Photo of clouds forming map of the world.Moscow, Russia city government last week announced that they will move 6,000 government computers off of Microsoft Outlook to a Russian-produced application called MyOffice Mail. If successful, they will move 600,000 more systems next year. Cost savings is cited as one reason for the migration but nationalism is also a big factor. In an interview, Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov told reporters “We want the money of taxpayers and state-run firms to be primarily spent on local software.” The Russian prime minister has called for a migration away from foreign software out of security concerns over tensions with the west. Russia is not the only nation and Moscow is not the only city to move in this direction.

The internet was meant to be global but from recent announcements and actions it appears we are drawing borders in the cloud. This post is an update to a 2014 post highlighting the beginning of this movement. From recent developments it appears the trend is accelerating.

LiMux—The IT Revolution

Munich also moved to a proprietary platform in October 2013 when they finished the rollout of LiMux, a version of Ubuntu Linux. The almost decade long migration off of older Microsoft systems and applications was marked by the rallying cry “The IT Revolution.” That migration was about cost containment and control. They felt that they could not regulate the pace of required operating system and application updates. The jury is still out on whether this move delivered the intended benefits for the city or whether it has created a bigger headache for the technology department as they deal with compatibility issues. This is an example of reigning in control of technology and storage as traditional vendors move to cloud based systems such as Office 365.

 Legal Boundaries

Russia’s data nationalization law requires all personal data about citizens be stored and processed on servers inside Russia. The routing of such data is a point not completely worked out yet. That may be much harder to keep within the borders. Australia has a similar law specifically covering electronic health records of citizens and their storage and transport.

In a 2015 paper published in the Emory Law Journal, the authors highlight a number of countries that implemented regulations to restrict the storage and movement of data inside and outside of borders. Some of these were a reaction to the 2013 NSA surveillance revelations concerning data collection on countries and heads of state. Countries are moving to protect their citizens by regulating at least their portion of the cloud. This will most likely escalate and present difficulties for internet companies large and small.

Thoughts

My objective in this post is to speculate on the future of the cloud. We already have a private cloud and public cloud and now a hybrid cloud. Will these be followed by a Russian cloud, and a Chinese cloud and a U.S. cloud? Will that hamper the open nature of the internet or will it simply serve to provide information security for each nation, state, or municipality just as physical borders provide personal safety? 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.

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.

All Shook Up: What Happens To Your Data When The Earth Moves?

Illustration of seismometer graph, indicating a period of seismic activity.On the morning of July 4 there was a magnitude 4.2 earthquake just east of Eugene. The jolt shook everyone, but there was no significant damage to homes and businesses or the road system. The earthquake temporarily rattled nerves and it has renewed the conversation about “the big one” here in the Pacific Northwest. The Cascadia subduction zone, running off the west coast between California and Vancouver, BC is overdue for what is expected to be an 8.0–9.0 magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami. While it is important that we plan ahead to protect our homes and infrastructure from earthquakes, I wondered what we are doing to protect our digital assets. I decided to do some research.

Data Centers In The Northwest

There are several data centers in the Pacific Northwest, primarily because of inexpensive power, relatively cool weather, abundant water, and a talented workforce. These data centers are operated by companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook. They were all built after we began to emphasize earthquake ready infrastructure.

New buildings are designed to withstand at least some lateral movement due to seismic activity. They are secured to the foundation and multistory buildings are heavily braced but they can still sway up to a certain amount to counteract the effects of an earthquake. The new data center for Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) for example is designed as a geodesic dome to “…provide superior resistance to seismic events.” While doing this research I came across an inventive solution in Japan that floats a home or building on air during an earthquake and then returns it to the foundation after the event.

Inside The Data Center

Servers inside the data center are often housed in seismic frame cabinets, which are anchored to the building but still allow for a minimal amount of movement. This keeps the server rack from falling over or dancing across the floor. Another option for flexibility is a product called ISO-Base, a two-part device that uses an isolation base. The bottom of the base is bolted to the floor and the top is bolted to the bottom of the server rack or cabinet. There is significant flexibility between the two levels of the base so in an earthquake the cabinet has controlled movement within the confines of the base. This means that cabling has to also be flexible.

Components that are seismic rated, including the backup generator outside, are tested on a shake table. This is a platform that simulates an earthquake and can test buildings or components to make sure they can withstand seismic force. The largest shake table is outside of Kobe, Japan and measures 65 x 49 feet and can hold structures weighing 2.5 million pounds. The shake table test is part of a seismic certification process for equipment, including computer infrastructure and components.

Thoughts

Computer centers in earthquake prone areas of the country have secured your cloud data as part of their business continuity plans. They employ several products and techniques to secure facilities, equipment, and data in the event the earth moves under their feet.

In a future blog post I will talk about products that let us secure equipment and data in our home office.

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.

How Safe is the Cloud?

padlocked cloudA lot of attention lately has been paid to the security of the cloud, particularly Apple’s iCloud service. There have been recent high profile celebrity hacks resulting in the sharing of photos that were thought to be private. The question I have been reading in the last couple of weeks, even in my local newspaper, is this: Is the cloud safe? The answer, maddeningly, is yes and no. This blog post will cover the definition of the cloud and how you can make the answer to that question “yes.”

Defining the Cloud

The cloud is really just a term for offsite storage. It is a convenient place to store files, whether they are photos, contact lists, or e-mails, so that you can access them from multiple devices in multiple locations. Say, for example, you take a picture from your smartphone and wish to view those same pictures from your tablet or your laptop or share them with friends. Rather than carrying those pictures around on a hard drive to view them on different devices or show friends, those pictures are stored in a common place, in the cloud storage. The cloud goes by different names such as iCloud, Google Drive, Google+, and Microsoft OneDrive. It also goes by names such as Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Basically it is a common place to store, retrieve, and manipulate your files. The question then becomes: What if you want to take a picture but NOT store it in the cloud?

It’s All in the Sync

The key is to understand when your device is synchronizing with the cloud or with another device. In Android, for example, there is a Google Drive app that is an interface to help you download and sync files between your Android device and the cloud. You can also swap files between Android and your Google+ account or between Android and your Dropbox or Box account using a simple app.

Developers have done their best to make these apps intuitive and user friendly, but they have also masked the complexity of moving files back and forth to the cloud or to another device. As a result, some smartphone users just push the “sync all” button, which duplicates all files to the cloud. This is great for backup, but it also means that your files are now in a less secure area than just your phone. As recent events show, there are still some vulnerabilities in the cloud, and occasionally a cloud service is breached and personal data is compromised. One answer to this is to employ an application such as Encdroid for the Android OS, which encrypts your files and makes them more difficult to hack. Another solution is to understand where your files are and how they are getting there.

Thoughts

My challenge to you this week is to review your files and take an inventory of where you are storing everything. You may have signed up for a Google+ account and forgotten about it. When you get that new Android phone, however, you can bet the good folks at Google have a record of that account and would be happy to send all of your files to be backed up there. Be a savvy technology user and make sure you understand whether you are vulnerable and in what areas. In the end, that knowledge will make you and your data safer.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

IT Trends: How Will You Access Your Data in the Years to Come?

shutterstock_91611515I have been thinking lately about information technology trends and I want to highlight a few in the blog this week. This helps me to keep up on the latest in technology and I hope that it helps you as well.

The Cloud

According to a recent list from Gartner, one of the emerging trends over the next couple of years is that the cloud will become the most important data repository. This will have significant impact on IT organizations in the fact that devices such as PCs and laptops will be merely a window into the data and the applications. The computer will not actually house information; it will all be hosted in the cloud. Laptops could become simple terminals and more computing will be pushed to the tablet, which could serve the same function. With this push to mobile devices, the desktop PC could drop out of the scene completely. Device management will change dramatically, especially as employees become even more mobile.

Mobile

Another trend identified by Gartner is an increasingly mobile workforce. This includes not only telecommuters, but also those working in a progressively 24/7 world on company-issued devices as well as on personal devices. The line is blurring between the two, and IT organizations need to get a handle on who and what devices have access to their proprietary information. This goes beyond a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy and enters into the area of network design with an eye toward mobile security.

Security

With the movement towards the cloud and mobile devices, Sophos—the network and server security vendor—predicts there will be more attacks on personal and corporate data. They also predict mobile devices will leave personal data more vulnerable to theft, particularly through the use of apps. With larger numbers of employees working remotely and passing corporate data across their mobile devices, this trend spells trouble for the IT organization. The spotlight will be on them to keep the corporate data safe on the inside and keep viruses and intruders on the outside. More emphasis will be put on security, particularly the mobile variant. The upside to all of this is an increase in opportunities for security professionals. According to Robert Half, the staffing specialists, security professionals are one of the technical specialties in highest demand. If the trend towards mobile and cloud computing continues, this demand will become even more acute.

Thoughts

One of the benefits of trend spotting is that it points to where future opportunities lie. There is a need now for security professionals, cloud computing professionals, and those that can integrate mobile platforms with enterprise applications. If you are at a crossroads in your career, I would explore one of these areas. If you are just starting your IT career or education, I think any of these will be solid fields for years to come, with options to branch out into the periphery. Have you seen any other IT trends worth noting? Let me know. I will highlight other trends in future blog posts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Personal Health Monitoring

Doctor working at the hospital and using a smart phoneA number of years ago, I had an idea for a health monitoring device that would be embedded in your door frame. The idea was that you would go out the door in the morning and, as you passed over the threshold, you would be scanned and your vital statistics would be recorded and sent to you via e-mail. If anything were really amiss, the same e-mail would also go to your physician.

I think I was on to something but my vision has been surpassed by devices currently being developed and coming on to the market. Now, you have constant monitoring and constant feedback. It is no longer a single snapshot like my doorframe idea. In this post I would like to focus on technology that will help you get fit, stay fit, and be healthy.

Imec

Imec is a research firm based in Belgium. They are working on developing and commercializing nanotechnology that can be used in health monitoring. They are developing systems on a chip that will help you track your blood characteristics and transfer that information to an intuitive user interface on your smart phone. If you are concerned with the results, you can then share that information with your physician at the touch of a button. They are expanding their research and products to develop a body area network. This may well be the next evolution of the wide area network (WAN) and the local area network (LAN). Watch a great video showcasing their research.

Moticon

Moticon is a German firm that has developed a product that gathers information about your step, your gait, and your foot temperature via sensors in a shoe insole. The information can then be transferred via Bluetooth to a smartphone for analysis. While this is primarily targeted towards people recovering from a leg injury it can be helpful in monitoring stressors and body alignment for athletes, particularly runners.

Nuubo

Nuubo is a Spanish firm selling a small wearable device that provides a running electro cardiogram to help monitor your heart rhythms and other vitals. The data can be collected and assessed remotely via a smartphone or tablet. This is a great product for cardiac patients being treated off-site for heart conditions such as arrhythmia. It is also a great tool for athletes and trainers so they can understand the implications of peak and sustained performance.

Google Smart Contact Lens

Google is developing a contact lens that would monitor glucose level via tears. Once released as a product, this would be a welcome relief to those with diabetes that now monitor their blood sugar via a pin prick, sometimes multiple times a day. This is a great development and a unique use of technology to ease discomfort to those affected.

Climbax

Climbax is a new product out of the UK that is designed for monitoring performance of rock and ice climbers. These same products have been available for cyclists and runners for years but are new for climbers. The device consists of a pair of bracelets with embedded sensors. The bracelets are sealed to be impervious to water or chalk. When the climb is over, the athletes can then upload their climb to the Climbax website and store and analyze their performance. This will help them to adjust their methods and improve their climbing ability in the future. This product is just launching and is relying on Kickstarter funds to take the company into sustainable manufacturing.

Lumo Lift

Lumo Lift is a product from Lumo BodyTech that monitors your steps, mileage, and calories burned but even more importantly, it monitors your posture and gives you a gentle reminder, via vibration, if you slouch. It is a small, discreet monitor worn against your body via a magnetic clasp on your clothes that connects to a smartphone app. I like the steps and calorie monitoring, but I would hope that you would only need to be reminded about your posture for a limited time until it becomes second nature to stand and sit up straight. This product is just being introduced in a limited run.

My Thoughts

This is a very exciting time in personal health monitoring. Some of the products being introduced seem like technology in search of an application, but overall the new products appear to be thoughtful in the way they address a genuine need. Such products can be used by athletes and concerned consumers, but they can also be used as part of a remote monitoring solution for health care patients. I believe that the proliferation of new devices is due to new and lower cost sensors and also to inexpensive Bluetooth and cloud technologies for storing this new information. Once the data is collected, however, we are still going to need smart analysts and smart application designers who can synthesize the data and make it useable to effect new and healthier behavior.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.