Ecosystm Snapshot: Salesforce Acquires Tableau

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In a move that feels “back to the future”, Salesforce has agreed to acquire Tableau Software Inc for US$15.3 billion in a deal that is expected to close in the third quarter of 2019. It seems all independent BI and analytics companies (except SAS!) eventually get snapped up – Business Objects by SAP, Hyperion by Oracle, Cognos by IBM. The move comes less than a week after Google acquired BI and analytics provider Looker.

Today, many businesses use Tableau (over 86,000), including a lot of Salesforce customers. They have chosen Tableau because it is easy to deploy and use, and like Salesforce own applications, it targets the ultimate decision maker – the business user – and sometimes even the consumer. Recent research into the BI systems integrators in Asia Pacific shows that Tableau is one of the leading analytics platforms for the partner community in the region – the big SIs have many people focused on Tableau. But that dominance is being challenged by a re-energised Microsoft, whose Power BI is also witnessing strong growth – and who is typically the price leader in the market.

For Salesforce customers, there is some overlap between products – their own Einstein Analytics tools do much of what Tableau can do – although Tableau helps customers see insights from data stored both on the cloud and inside their own data centres. It also moves Salesforce closer to the Customer 360 vision – the ability to get a view of customers across the Commerce, Marketing and Service Clouds. Salesforce customers not using Tableau today will get a better user experience by using Tableau as the visualisation platform.

History has shown that it is hard to make such acquisitions successful. Tableau was a huge success because it was independent. The same was for Business Objects and Cognos before their acquisitions. History has shown that when the large BI and analytics vendors are acquired, others move into that space. While Salesforce has announced they will run Tableau as a separate business, it will no longer be independent. Partners will need to be maintained and provided a growth path – and partners are the cornerstone of Tableau’s success. Some of these partners might have strong ties to other software or cloud platforms too such as SAP, Oracle, AWS or Google. Customers of Tableau might feel sales pressure to move to a Salesforce environment – and will likely see Salesforce integration happen at a deeper level than on other platforms.

Tableau’s independence will disappear. However keeping Tableau as a separate business may not be the long term goal for Salesforce – it might be to offer the best application and analytics solution in the market – to make the entire suite more attractive to more potential buyers and users. It may be to take Salesforce beyond the current users in their customers to many other users who may not need the full application but need the analytics and visualisations that the data can provide. If this is the case, then the company is onto a winner with the Tableau acquisition.

BUT…

The long term goal is not analytics reports delivered to employees. It is not visualisation. It is automation. It is applications doing smart, AI-driven analysis, and deciding for employees. It is about taking the human out of the process. In a factory you don’t need a report to tell you a machine is down – you need to book a repair person automatically – or a service technician to visit before the machine has even broken down. And you don’t need a visualised report to show that a machine is beyond its life expectancy. You need the machine replaced before it fails catastrophically.

Too often, we are putting humans in processes where they are not required. We are making visualisations more attractive and easier to consume when, in reality, we just needed the task automated. While we employ humans, there will be a need to make decisions more effectively, and we will still require tools like Tableau. But don’t let the pretty pictures distract you from the main prize – intelligent automation.

If you would like to speak to Tim Sheedy or another analyst at Ecosystm about what the acquisition Tableau by Salesforce might mean to your business or industry, please feel free to schedule an inquiry call on the profile page.

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VendorSphere: NEC’s Facial Recognition Capabilities

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I was invited recently by NEC to attend their briefing where Walter Lee, their Evangelist and Government Relations Leader presented to analysts and journalists about how they are winning large contracts across various sectors in the areas of biometrics and surveillance. Biometrics is not just used as a way to drive greater security, but is also helping increase speed in processing times, reducing waiting period in queues and used as a way to drive efficiency and reduce costs which was highlighted by Lee through the various projects NEC had won recently.

NEC’s Artificial intelligence (AI) engine, NeoFace’s strength lies in its tolerance of poor-quality images. The NeoFace solution can match images with low resolutions down to 24 pixels between the eyes and this has allowed it to demonstrate the matching accuracy which is hard to achieve for most vendors offering Facial Recognition solutions. It is its ability to work across various challenges around low resolution, light and images that has allowed NEC to be one of the leading suppliers of Facial Recognition solutions globally.

Key Case Studies Presented

In 2018 Delta Airlines launched the first ‘biometric terminal’ in the US at the international terminal in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. The biometric push according to Lee replaces tickets and customers now check in by using their face. The system recognises their face and they are checked in. Customers no longer need to use their passports to get through checkpoints around the airport.  Lee emphasised on how it takes 9 minutes to board an international flight. Apart from driving identification and security, this use case highlights how airports around the world can increase efficiency in their overall check in and boarding processes at airports. Other core benefits derived from this implementation include better security for border control, seamless service, speed of boarding (savings of 9 minutes per flight). Privacy issues were addressed with regards to where the data was residing and how long the data would be kept for and in this case the data was kept for only 24 hours.

According to the global Ecosystm AI study of current and planned Facial Recognition adoption by industry, the transportation industry is leading the number of deployments globally.

Adoption of Facial Recognition by Industries

Another case study presented is the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo., for which NEC will provide the Facial Recognition solution. The solution will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the games including athletes and officials. It is the first time that Facial Recognition technology will be used for this purpose at an Olympic Games. The NEC solution will allow the matching of tens of thousands of faces in a nano second according to  Lee.

The Tokyo 2020 implementation will involve linking photo data with an IC card to be carried by accredited people. NEC says that it has the world’s leading face recognition tech based on benchmark tests from the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Ecosystm Comment.

NEC has years of experience in biometrics and Facial Recognition. Not many vendors have solutions that can capture vast amounts of images in a nano second. Their solutions are used by some of the largest organisations in the world. NEC has also perfected the art of handling low resolution images which if not analysed accurately can lead to unintended consequences. The ability to process low resolution images with speed and accuracy is not something that is easily achievable. Security and the rise of terrorism are some of the needs as to why Facial Recognition is important. Additionally, speed and efficiency in administrating passenger boarding at airports whilst ensuring that the security and identity checks have been made is important. The Delta Airlines case study is a great example of how there can be a savings of 9 minutes per flight. NEC continues to gain traction in the market and the Ecosystm AI study has them as one of the top vendors being evaluated for planned implementations for Facial Recognition globally.

The benefits of Facial Recognition solutions are huge – however there must be greater scrutiny around the possible outcomes of AI. Whilst regulation on AI is still at its infancy, 2019 and 2020 will see greater scrutiny and regulation around AI implementations. These will be directed towards protecting individual’s data but also there will be greater emphasis on addressing issues around privacy, ethics and bias in AI implementations. Feeding the machine with the right data (unbiased and ethical) and measuring the various outcomes before the project goes live must be looked at with greater diligence.

2 weeks ago, San Francisco became the first US city to ban the use of Facial Recognition technology by the police and local government agencies. One of the reasons for the ban was with regard to bias. When designing the systems, if technology specialists feed the wrong information for example recognising only a certain skin colour, then the problem of making the wrong and unwanted assumptions start arising. The ecosystem of players in the AI industry ranging from government, academia right down to vendors have a greater role to play in ensuring ethics and bias issues are addressed from the onset of the project. There are consultants in the market as I highlighted in my recent Ecosystm report, that prepare companies for the impact of ethics, fairness and bias. We can expect more of such consultancies and specialist agencies to grow in the market.

NEC has taken this into consideration and published a set of principles for the application of biometrics and AI.  The “NEC Group AI and Human Rights Principles” will guide the company along the lines of privacy and human rights. These initiatives were led by the Digital Trust Business Strategy Division, in collaboration with several other divisions within the company, as well as industry stakeholders including industry experts and non-profit organisations.

 

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Cloud Transforming the Education Industry

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Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of educational institutions adopting technology to deliver solutions such as learning management, collaboration and support activities. The ubiquity of cloud solutions allows institutions to focus on enhancing the educational experience for students, teachers and administration through emerging teaching methods such as online platforms, interactive systems, and remote management of mission-critical projects and research.

Drivers of Transformation in Education

Education systems, depending on the country, face several problems ranging from achieving universal education goals, limited access to resources, student retention, student recruitment, to conducting cutting-edge research. Moreover, today’s students are millennials and post-millennials, who are digital natives – pushing educational institutions to adopt technology to attract the right cohort and provide an education that equips the students for the workplace of the future. The industry is being driven to transform to keep up with student expectations on delivery, access to the resource, and how they choose to communicate with their educators and peers. Cloud-based offerings are helping educational institutions to overcome these challenges.  The top drivers of Education are:

  • Personalised Learning. Modern pedagogy encourages personalised learning, where students can choose their own learning path. With the growth of virtual learning environments and eLearning technologies, institutions are able to change the ways they teach, tailoring the curriculum to individual needs, monitoring an individual’s learning journey and providing just-in-time feedback.
  • Collaborative Education. Collaborative education principles are based on the premise that many students learn better by communicating with their peer network and not in silos. Also, increasingly, especially at the primary and secondary levels, parents are regarded as a significant stakeholder in a child’s education.
  • Efficient Delivery. Most educational institutions are focused on efficient delivery, not only to be more financially sustaining but also so that students, teachers and administration have the ability to access information, including content and learning management systems, anytime and anywhere. The focus is on creating more a flexible work environment and increasing practicality and ease of use for students and educators.

The global Ecosystm AI study reveals the top priorities for educational institutions focused on adopting emerging technologies.

 

Cloud as an Enabler of Transformation

Cloud gives access to an immense knowledge base that students, educators, and institutions as a whole can leverage. The reach and availability of connectivity has increased the number of users of cloud-based education solutions for remote learning, which helps in the goal of personalised learning. Cloud solutions can also fulfil the demand for collaborative education with reliable and scalable infrastructure. It enables a more collaborative teaching and learning approach, with easy maintenance and management of monitoring and control solutions. Moreover, it promotes efficient delivery as educational institutions look to migrate legacy systems onto the cloud, and increasingly procure SaaS solutions. Cloud not only reduces the burden on an institution’s CapEx but is increasingly being seen as an essential enabler of digital transformation (DX).

In fact, the key benefits that educational institutions are realising from cloud adoption, according to the global Ecosystm Cloud study, are:

  • Increased work process efficiency. As the industry becomes more complicated with the advances in pedagogy and technology, cloud is helping institutions to streamline workflows and enabling the participation of multiple stakeholders, some on campus and some remote. One must not forget that education requires an immense amount of administrative work, by both teachers and allied workforce.
  • Improved service levels and business agility. The scalability that Cloud provides, especially during high-volume periods such as admissions and examinations, gives educational institutions the ability to be agile. Also, back-up and disaster recovery are key in education, and many institutions start their Cloud journey with storage and back up.
  • Simplified sharing of systems/information across departments. Information sharing across different departments becomes easier with the rising penetration of mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops in the classrooms for both students and teachers. Cloud technology ensures that the data shared between devices occurs safely and efficiently.

 

Examples of Transformation in Education

 

Virtual Classrooms and Schools

Unlike traditional methods of teaching, virtual classrooms are enabling students to learn and access content without their presence in schools or universities and from anywhere across the globe. The benefit of virtual schools and classrooms is that they do not require any heavy infrastructure or technical equipment to run. In a virtual world, teachers and students can connect with each other in a fast, flexible, and cost-effective way. It enables teachers to host live chats, share lectures and videos, create interactive learning activities and receive instant student feedback.

For example, Florida Virtual School is a full-time online school providing virtual K-12 education to students all over the world. It is a recognised eLearning school and provides custom solutions to meet students’ requirements. This model is being replicated globally especially in remote areas where an actual school premise may not be feasible or is too expensive.

Research & Experimentation

The remote handling of projects and experiments is enabling education institutions to overcome the challenge of carrying them out in a controlled and safe environment. ChemCollective, a project of the National Science Digital Library in the US, enables students to interact with a flexible learning environment in which students can access online chemistry labs to apply formulas, perform experiments and learn in realistic and engaging ways, like working scientists.

Open Education Resources

Cloud is enabling the development of open source content for schools and colleges. The challenge with the existing books and lectures is that they get dated. Cloud is enabling a wealth of content through open repositories and legal protocols to allow a community to collaborate and update the information. Open educational resources (OERs) are developed and can be modified by the creators and administrators. The community can contribute to maps, slides, worksheets, podcasts, syllabi or even textbooks. The copyright is associated via legal tools such as Creative Commons licenses, so others can freely access, reuse, translate, and modify them.

As textbooks and course material can now be updated in real-time and offered through a cloud-based subscription model, this now opens up new streams of revenue for publishers. However, this then raises the conversation that textbook prices are increasing while students have no option to purchase second-hand books or sell books once they are done with them.

MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms both provide content to students in areas of personal interest and additional sources of revenue to renowned global institutions. A quick look at Coursera’s website shows online courses from reputed institutions such as MIT and Johns Hopkins University. There are still providers such as the Khan Academy that do not actively monetise the material they provide, but increasingly institutions look at MOOC to generate more revenues, by offering remote learning options to individuals, as well as by collaborating with local universities to make their courses available to overseas students – a previously untapped market.

 

 

Cloud computing is transforming the classroom and learning experiences the way educators, curriculum leads, and specialists recommend. The technology has a huge role to play in enabling transformation in Education – for national education systems, for educational institutions, and ultimately for the students.

How else do you think Cloud can transform the education industry? Let us know in your comments below.

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VendorSphere: VeeamON 2019 – Curtain Raised for Veeam Act II

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The 5th VeeamON event held in Miami Beach recently, attracted around 2,000 customers and partners. The 2-day conference is the annual Veeam gathering of mainly IT admins to learn about and get certification for Veeam’s latest product releases. Veeam Co-Founder and EVP, Sales and Marketing, Ratmir Timashev provided Veeam’s update on business affairs and strategy.

Business Updates

What Timashev describes as Veeam’s ‘Act I’ has seen them emerge as a leader in backup and availability solutions for virtual environments over the last 10 years. ‘Act I’ further helped Veeam reach the milestone of US$1 billion in sales – over the current 12 months period – which elevates Veeam into an exclusive club of only 34 software companies that have achieved this milestone (and very few privately owned software companies have achieved this globally). Going forward, Veeam will continue to focus on their Hybrid Cloud strategy and what they describe as ‘Act II’ of their growth journey.

In line with the market moving from on-premises to cloud to hybrid environments, the next phase of growth will focus on adding hybrid cloud functionality to their existing hypervisor- and physical agent-centred software portfolio. By continuing their strategy on partnering and channels, the solutions are designed to make it easy for service providers to deliver Veeam as managed services to the market.

Ecosystm Comment. Ecosystm’s ongoing Cloud research shows that almost 100% of companies have shifted at least one workload onto the cloud which makes cloud undoubtedly mainstream. Despite that broad adoption we see cloud maturity still at an early stage as the number of SaaS workloads and the complexity of on-premises and cloud integration will increase over time. Our research shows that companies currently use an average of 3 separate SaaS applications which is expected to double over the next 12 months.

Stages of Cloud Management

Organisations’ requirements to manage their data assets in the hybrid world will mature in tandem with their expanded cloud footprint. Veeam describes this path as the ‘5 Stages of Cloud Management’.

Figure 1: Veeam’s Stages of Cloud Management

Veeam sees the majority of the market currently sitting at stage 1 or 2 providing a strong pipeline and growth path in taking customers along their ‘Act II’ journey.

Ecosystm Comment. We would raise some caution as the execution of this strategy may play out as more challenging than anticipated. Our research shows that a majority of companies – especially in emerging markets – see cloud as a means to shift the responsibility of data protection and availability, onto their cloud providers. The ongoing global Ecosystm Cybersecurity research reveals that nearly half the organisations rely solely on their public cloud provider to secure even their most sensitive data.

Figure 2: Perception on Public Cloud Security

This finding is concerning when competitiveness has increasingly moved away from the traditional measures such as cost, quality and time to a company’s data and IP assets. So Veeam is urged to equip their partners and sales team with a strong educational message that the responsibility of data protection and availability cannot be shifted solely onto the cloud provider. The responsibility and accountability remains with the organisation and has to be managed across the increasingly hybrid environments.

Product Announcements

Keeping with the tradition, Veeam leveraged VeeamON 2019 as the platform for a number of product releases and announcements. In alignment with the business strategy, most of the new features support data management in hybrid cloud environments as well as new integrations and features for SaaS and Cloud platforms.

The most anticipated release of version 10 of Veeam’s flagship Availability Suite has not yet happened. Announced at VeeamON 2017, Version 10 will be released towards the second half of 2019. While the delay may be of concern, we would give Veeam credit for adopting a true SaaS model for their product development process. They have constantly released newer features and functionality to the current suite, opting to release some features faster to market to answer to specific customer demands at the time, such as centralised agent management support and Universal Storage API support. The key new features of Availability Suite 9.5 Update 4 include easy management of cloud migration and cloud mobility, cloud-native backup, cost-effective data retention, and portable cloud-ready licensing, increased security and data governance.

Veeam Availability Orchestrator v2 is the second generation of Veeam’s DR orchestration platform reducing the manual processes to achieve auditable DR, operational recovery and platform migrations. With increasing industry regulations this capability could give organisations of all sizes and resources the tools to prove and proactively remediate service level agreement (SLA) attainment for internal and external compliance regulations and audits with extensive reporting and compliance capabilities.

Nutanix Mine with Veeam is another product which received a lot of interest at VeeamON. With availability announced for late 2019, Mine is a partnership with Nutanix to provide more comprehensive and affordable solutions for secondary storage layers. Similar joint offerings have also been announced with ExaGrid. Mine provides Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure with highly integrated Veeam Backup & Replication solutions to provide easy deployment and scaling, faster time to value and standardised IT operations management.

Ecosystm Comment. Ecosystm’s research shows that regulatory requirements are key to organisations’ propensity to invest in data protection and availability solutions. They are often built into the organisations’ risk management programmes as well.

Figure 3: Drivers of Continued Focus on Cybersecurity

Availability Orchestrator v2 presents a strong entry point for Veeam to start the discussions for a more holistic data management solution. Providing the automation of the DR orchestration, scenario planning and auditable DR documentation strengthens Veeam’s claim to be the rightful owner of the Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC) discussion. Furthermore, although it may be from leftfield, Ecosystm sees a great opportunity for some partnerships with Cybersecurity insurance companies to make Veeam Availability Orchestrator an accepted standard for Cybersecurity premium assessments and rebates. Ecosystm has seen a rapid rise of Cybersecurity insurance adoption with nearly 50% of global organisations already signed on to different policies. With adoption expected to accelerate over the coming years, Cybersecurity insurers could present a new route to market that is not in competition to its existing network of more than 60,000 partners.

Looking Ahead

Veeam has announced ‘Act II’ as the second stage of growth to carry on from their initial virtual machine-centred availability solution. The strategy follows the natural evolution and path of the market and will not require a major rethink or restructure of the Veeam business.

What is changing is the scale of business in geographical coverage, product portfolio and most importantly the Veeam partner ecosystem. In the same way that Veeam expanded their breadth in ‘Act I’ from the original VMware hypervisor backup to the broader hypervisor market and core infrastructure integrations, ‘Act II’ will require expansion across the key cloud platforms, exponentially growing SaaS landscape and the different tiered infrastructure providers.

Veeam’s product development teams have been one of the main beneficiaries of Veeam’s $500 million fund raising exercise earlier in 2019 (investors include Insight Venture Partners & Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) as they invested further in organic internal development instead of acquiring and integrating third party capabilities.

Geographical expansion is another area where the $500 million has been invested in. Veeam currently sits at 350,000 customers with 4,000 being added on a monthly basis. Emerging markets such as Asia Pacific are the engines of the growth but there are still markets and partnerships to be explored and developed. Across Asia Pacific alone Veeam opened 4 new offices in the first 5 months of 2019 and further expansions are planned for the months to come. The race for scale is essential to execute on ‘Act II’ but it brings operational challenges to scale in tandem with their operations while maintaining the culture that made Veeam what they are.

Ecosystm Comment. There is no doubt that there is a lot of work ahead of Veeam in executing on ‘Act II’. We have seen early proof that execution is following strategy, with new partnerships in the tiered storage space (such as Nutanix and ExaGrid), new products focussed across mainstream SaaS applications such as Office365 and tighter cloud integrations with Azure and AWS. There is currently lesser compatibility with Alibaba Cloud and no integration with Google which would be essential to accelerate their growth especially in Asia Pacific which has been highlighted as Veeam’s growth engine. The SaaS landscape presents an even tougher challenge for Veeam. Veeam Backup for Office365 has demonstrated the strong opportunity of workload-based availability solutions but developing the same capability across hundreds or thousands of diverse SaaS applications will present challenges. At the same time, we agree with Veeam’s focus on going deep into their solutions integration with the key partners and workloads that present the greatest opportunity today rather than spreading resources to put breadth over depths at this stage.

 

In 2013 Ratmir Timashev predicted to reach $1 billion within 6 years which was achieved just in time for VeeamON 2019. There were no new predictions made for ‘Act II’ but we see Veeam on the right path to announce tangible progress on their ‘Act II’ execution at VeeamON 2020 in Las Vegas.

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Ecosystm Snapshot: Singapore & New Zealand Strengthen Ties in Cybersecurity and Digital Technology

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On 17 May 2019, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signed a formal arrangement, to step up  collaboration in the areas of trade, defence, cybersecurity, science and technology, and arts and culture.

To strengthen cybersecurity, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the National Cyber Policy Office (NCPO) of New Zealand inked an agreement on information sharing, cybersecurity and capacity building in the region. A new Cyber Security Arrangement will support greater  information exchange, including through an annual cybersecurity dialogue between the two countries. The aim of the agreement is to increase information exchange, prevent incidents and threats and follow best practices on data, infrastructure, and systems protection.

Commenting on the announcement Ecosystm Principal Advisor, New Zealand-based Jannat Maqbool, said, “Engaging internationally on cybersecurity research and initiatives is fundamental given the trans-boundary nature of the cyberspace. As both nations become more digitised and connected, a collaboration will enable each to leverage strengths in key areas to develop a multi-pronged approach to cybersecurity. Both countries will also be in a better position to weigh in on the development of rules-based international order for cyberspace.”

Echoing these comments, Ecosystm Board Advisor, and former Global Head, Digital Development Unit at the World Bank, Randeep Sudan explains how cybersecurity is critical to the growth and development of the digital economy. “Mitigating cyber risks will require coordinated action by multiple stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, academia, and non-governmental organisations,” Sudan says. These bilateral and multilateral G2G partnerships are, therefore, an essential piece in tackling cyber threats. “Given that Singapore and New Zealand are leading players in cyberspace, a G2G collaboration between them will offer learnings of immense value to other governments,” Sudan continues.

Due to Ecosystm’s own close ties with New Zealand, and considering that we are headquartered in Singapore, we are ourselves actively engaged in promoting the dialogue between New Zealand and Singapore. Ecosystm CEO Amit Gupta and Chief Operating Officer, Ullrich Loeffler are in New Zealand this week to participate in Techweek New Zealand (an annual initiative to promote and build awareness for new technologies and innovation in New Zealand) to meet key stakeholders and attend industry events.

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Commenting on the sidelines of Techweek, Amit Gupta gave his thoughts on the agreement, “Both New Zealand and Singapore are in hyper-innovation mode at the moment. With the advent of Blockchain and AI especially spurring the growth of the Fintech ecosystem in New Zealand, there is strong potential gains in engaging with the already thriving Singapore Fintech ecosystem.”

New Zealand and Singapore are not only model free markets, but also have been key proponents of data privacy over the years, an area that requires a serious look, as we start to apply new emerging technologies such as AI. “There is an opportunity for these two forward-looking nations to take it a step further to build an actionable Data Privacy Corridor to streamline the Fintech collaboration between them,” Gupta added. “With New Zealand being an export economy and Singapore, a strong services economy, this would enable a much more seamless collaboration between these two countries.”

The collaboration does not end at cybersecurity and Fintech. As part of the partnership, a joint work programme is being negotiated, starting with two flagship collaborations – an advanced data science research platform to build New Zealand’s data science capability; and a food and nutrition cooperative science programme with a focus on ‘future foods’. Both countries have different areas of expertise, and collaborative measures such as these, give them an opportunity to share best practices that will prove mutually beneficial.

 

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Ecosystm Snapshot: Microsoft expanding on blockchain with Azure Blockchain Service

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With understanding and acceptance of blockchain increasing, enterprises have started adopting blockchain to store digital records in a secure and auditable manner. In May 2018, we saw Microsoft’s blockchain workbench focused on integrating data and systems and deployment of contracts and blockchain networks. In October 2018, Microsoft Azure joined forces with Nasdaq to integrate blockchain technology into Nasdaq’s framework with an expectancy to speed-up transactions on the stock exchange.

Following these announcements, this month Microsoft unveiled its fully managed Azure Blockchain Service, a package designed to simplify the processes and eliminate the pain points of blockchain networks. Microsoft Azure blockchain service will provide the required infrastructure, connection to services to develop, run and take advantage of applications on its Cloud-based platform.

To leverage blockchain Microsoft and J.P. Morgan announced a partnership to accelerate the adoption of enterprise blockchain. Quorum, an Ethereum-based distributed ledger protocol developed by J.P. Morgan will be the first ledger available through Azure Blockchain Service, on the cloud.

Joining the bandwagon, Starbucks will use Azure and the Ethereum blockchain to track coffee from farm to the cup. In the same way, with a forward-thinking approach, Microsoft and GE Aviation collaborated to bring blockchain into aviation. GE Aviation has built a supply chain track-and-trace blockchain with the help of Microsoft Azure to monitor and collate data in relation to aircraft engine parts, life cycle, when to repair, this technology that the group has come up with is termed as ‘TRUEngine’.

 

Unfolding blockchain for “regular” businesses and SMEs

Blockchain technology, by its very nature leads itself to the digital transformation journey of an enterprise. Blockchain can address some of the pitfalls of digital transformation such as identity, security, and trust. From digital identity to tokenisation to using smart contracts to automate businesses, blockchain technology is swiftly establishing itself as a key enabler of the emerging digitised enterprise.

Amit Sharma Speaking on the subject, Ecosystm’s Principal Advisor, Amit Sharma thinks that “For Small and Mid-Size Enterprise (SMEs), blockchain can simplify and automate processes related to Trade Finance which would mean less paperwork and automation in supply chains and it also opens up a huge alternative finance channel to deal with their cash flow challenges.”

Overall the blockchain network should facilitate the interworking between IT systems, financial systems and ledgers that are today primarily managed in silos and require heavy manual processes.

 

Are we already there?

“All disruptive technology has a ‘tipping point’ – the exact moment when it moves from early adopters to widespread acceptance. We are now approaching the tipping point for blockchain. Even though the development of blockchain for business is still in its early stages, business leaders have swiftly moved from understanding blockchain and its potential uses to running pilots,” says Sharma.

Blockchain has attracted attention across industries such as financial services, transportation and shipping, healthcare, energy and utilities, and supply chain management.

These share some common themes. Blockchain is a natural fit for use cases that are transactional but with a high degree of process complexity or volume. Blockchain will become the default technology wherever there is a need to ensure the integrity of data.

 

Blockchain Adoption by Organisations

Despite the flurry of activity and promising initial developments, blockchain faces a number of obstacles that will need to be overcome before companies choose to adopt it on a broader scale. Its decentralised network runs counter to the current business emphasis on centralising data or functions to support security efforts. Users and operators alike must shift their mindset to embrace and trust the system.“Among blockchain’s selling points is its security: high encryption and protocols. Since the general public largely doesn’t understand how the technology works, many still have concerns with data privacy and cyber security” says Sharma. “As with all new technology, when it comes to blockchain, business leaders should view any initial use cases as part of their enterprise risk management. Executives are attuned to the business and risk implications of blockchain. And in many cases, blockchain, like other technology platforms and systems, can be covered under existing insurance programs.”

 

Implementation by the large technology providers

“With the large technology providers such as Microsoft and AWS now offering BaaS (Blockchain-as-a-Service) over multiple frameworks supported by a ‘Pay as you use’ model, this technology is much more accessible. Pre-built integrations to the network and infrastructure services that are being offered by some of these players will significantly reduce the development time and cost for enterprise customers” says Sharma.

The next several years could see blockchain move from testbed to becoming an essential business tool, so staying abreast of the latest developments and how it is being used will be critical.

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5 IoT Solutions Industries are Adopting

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Internet of Things (IoT) is changing how companies do business, across industries. Using connected sensors, better data processing capabilities and automation, industries are looking  to achieve workforce optimisation, improved customer experience, and cost savings in the short term. In the long-term organisations are looking for service and product innovation, as well as a competitive edge from their IoT investments.

In the global Ecosystm IoT study, participants revealed the IoT solutions that are part of their larger IoT deployment projects. Here are the top 5 solutions that industries are implementing, and how they are benefitting from them.

Top IoT Solutions Implemented

 

Smart Security

Smart Security is being adopted in several enterprises, especially in the Financial and Hospitality industries. Aside from improved safety, Smart Security solutions have the potential to deliver more personalised service and better customer experience (CX).

Maintaining security for the guests is one of the top concerns for hotels and smart video surveillance systems, motion detection, audio detection, and alert systems are helping hotels to identify possible threats and get early alerts on potential events.

Hotel chains Hilton and Marriott are leveraging Smart Security IoT solutions to create better travel and stay experiences for guests. They are working on creating enhanced security for their visitors by replacing card-based door keys. Simultaneously, smartphone applications connected with hotel sensors and devices are offering a seamless experience to guests with automated room settings such as  HVAC, lighting, and blinds.

The Banking industry is incorporating Smart Security as well. Banking and financial institutions attract criminals for obvious reasons and to improve security, smart CCTV surveillance, wedge barriers, laser scanner detectors, light barriers, and quick folding gates are embedded with sensors and connected to safeguard against potential attacks. IoT-enabled network security measures to provide intelligent Perimeter Security is also seeing an uptake in the industry.

However, the proliferation of ubiquitous devices also leaves organisations vulnerable to data breaches. Digital and electronic devices incorporated into a hotel’s infrastructure can be exploited by hackers or may jeopardise the security of guests. The now-famous incident of the casino in the US that was hacked into through the IoT-enabled temperature control system in the fish tank is a case in point.

 

Fingerprint Biometrics

While Fingerprint Biometrics is often a part of a Smart Security solution, it is being used more often for asset management, as well as access control. This is fairly common in industries where multiple people fill a particular role, such as Manufacturing, Retail, and Healthcare. In hospitals, for example, multiple clinicians work on the same patient order entry system. Using fingerprint biometrics ensures that there is full accountability for care delivery at any given point, irrespective of the clinician.

Biometrics and its application are redefining the banking experience for rural and the unbanked population – in emerging countries especially – as one of the key authentication methods. Biometrics is helping in e-KYC, often used to open a bank account, on-site cash delivery by scanning fingerprints, opening a bank’s wallet with fingerprint authentication, fingerprint-based ATM kiosks and fingerprint mobile ID all connected through the IoT Solutions.

Governments use fingerprint biometrics to accurately authenticate the identity of travelers, implement biometric voting systems for fair and credible elections, develop fingerprint-based national identification cards and create a composite individual identity. But with this advantage, there could be associated challenges of managing personal databases in a safe and secure environment.

 

Inventory Management

Better supply chain visibility and management is considered one of the most common benefits of IoT deployments, and has use cases in several industries, including Transport & Logistics, and Primary industries. Inventory management became a lot easier and reliable, when IoT sensors and devices can do remote stock taking and track inventory movement.

IoT will enable more holistic inventory management, as asset tracking, asset management and eventually predictive maintenance, are incorporated within the IoT system. Supply chain requirements of Manufacturing organisations can vary vastly – a discrete manufacturing supply chain will vary from a FMCG supply chain. IoT sensors have made ‘track and trace’ more reliable, and easy to customise.  eCommerce giant Amazon’s inventory management and warehousing system is a good example. To manage the large stock,  the storage facilities employ pickers (robots) to pick items from and replenish stock on shelves which in turn improves receiving, pick-up, and shipping times. The inventory is scanned through barcodes which also helps in aggregating information from other warehouses for stock maintenance.

Several Retail organisations make full use of IoT for inventory management. G-Star Raw, for example, uses garment RFID tags to track inventory movements across the supply chain and store shelves. Being able to locate clothes on the basis of style, colour and size in the stores makes the order fulfillment reliable and more real-time.

 

Payment Systems

Several industries other than Financial Services, such as Hospitality, Services, Healthcare and Government are evaluating IoT-enabled payment systems such as mobile points of sale and NFC payments.

On most occasions, these are being promoted by financial institutions.  As an example, MasterCard has created a Mastercard Engage platform with technology partners resulting in innovations which include contactless payments (with Coin), smart refrigerators that can re-order groceries (with Samsung) and IoT-connected key fobs (with General Motors). Capital One has made it possible for its customers to pay bills via Alexa, whereas Starling is experimenting with integration with Google Home to enable queries on payments and balances on the Google Home platform.

There are also several use cases that are not so obvious –Amazon Go offers a shopping experience where no check-out is required. Your Amazon account, wallet and phone are all inter-connected.  When a consumer arrives at a store the application allows store entry, tracks the consumer through the shopping journey and requires no formal check-out at the end of the shopping trip.

However, IoT-enabled payment systems will have to evolve as industries become increasingly services based. There needs to be a focus on the business and not just technology – defining workflows with the right alerts that will automate bill generation and the payment process, irrespective of how complicated the service delivered is.

 

Energy Management

Resource shortage and the ever-increasing price of energy has forced organisations to identify innovative ways of conserving energy. A Smart energy management system can help to reduce the costs and energy consumption while still meeting energy needs. IoT is helping companies to achieve their energy goals, predict maintenance needs, and increase the reliability of energy assets. Smart energy solutions continuously analyse energy data to ensure dynamic performance which in turn manages energy requirements.

Take an example of a smart building management system where date from various sensors is collected and analysed, such as from HVAC, air-quality monitors, and other equipments, and lighting, heating, air ventilation, elevators, room equipment are remotely operated according to the building energy requirements at the moment. This technology helps make smart decisions and provides energy efficiency.

Capital Tower in Singapore, a 52-storey high building, is not alone in being energy efficient. It has a number of in-built smart energy solutions for energy and water efficiency. The building has motion detectors in elevators, smart car parking system, exterior structure glasses which help reduce energy consumption, and water conservation through condensation of air conditioning units. The building has devices to monitor oxygen and carbon dioxide levels ensuring optimal air quality which results in significant energy savings while delivering comfort for tenants.

 

As is clear from the solutions that are being currently deployed, IoT adoption is at its nascency. As IoT deployments mature, there will be more industry-specific uses of IoT, and a shift of focus from asset management to people management (including customers).

What IoT solutions do you use/ intend to use in your organisation? Let us know in your comments section below.

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National Digital Strategies

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Most countries recognise the importance of digital technologies and have developed or are developing national digital strategies. Many of these efforts tend to be cookie-cutter approaches with a Christmas tree of initiatives. Such plans often borrow from others without customisation or contextualisation, while incorporating whatever happens to be the flavor of the month. We would argue that any attempt at a digital strategy should start with a strong sense of focus. In such endeavors, less is often more. Plans should also articulate overarching values, principles, and frameworks that can serve as a compass to set direction and bring a sense of coherence to disparate efforts by multiple stakeholders. Finally, no strategy is complete without a proper sequencing of initiatives.

Given the rapid digitalisation of economies across the world, we are fast moving from a paradigm that considers the digital economy within well-defined sectoral boundaries, to one where digital technologies are becoming ubiquitous – touching every facet of society. The phrase “digital economy” is losing significance as the economy itself becomes digital. In a context where digital technologies are getting embedded and enmeshed across the economy, the complexity of developing, coordinating and implementing national digital strategies has become a daunting task. The rapid rate at which new technologies and business models are emerging, makes it even harder for policymakers to keep pace.

In an environment of exploding complexity and rapid change, it is crucial to adopt a more structured and, in some sense, a more minimalist approach to digital strategy. Ideally, such an approach should look at digital strategy from four perspectives:

  1. Focus. Identification of the most critical areas that can have cascading impacts across the economy
  2. Guiding compass. Defining a broad set of values, principles, and frameworks to guide action by multiple players and align strategy to the achievement of societally relevant goals
  3. Organisational design. Redefinition and reinvention of the organisational structures of government to contend with fast moving technologies and business models
  4. Sequencing. Determination of the sequencing and timing of various policy interventions.

To elaborate further on these four dimensions:

Focus

Digital technologies are not an end in themselves but are tools for achieving societal objectives. Examples of such goals are national development plans, or the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Another example is Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ which wisely aims to balance planetary with societal goals.

Donut Economics, Kate Raworth

Keystone Objective. National development goals/SDGs tend to be broad in their scope, and there is a danger of efforts becoming too diffuse when incorporated as part of a national digital strategy. There may, therefore, be a need to sharpen the focus further. One approach might be to identify a keystone objective which can potentially have cascading impacts across the economy and use it for providing strategic focus.  Such a keystone would help reduce/eliminate redundancies and wasteful investments. In the corporate sector, Paul O’Neill’s singular focus on “zero worker injuries” while leading Alcoa is an enduring example of success.

A digital strategy that follows the various causal links to achieve the keystone goal of ‘Good Jobs for All’ as an example would end up touching upon every important aspect of the digital economy. It would be an interesting parallel to William Blake’s poem of seeing the “world in a grain of sand”.

Problem Statements. A great way of achieving focus is to identify problem statements and use them to solicit innovative solutions. Some leaders in digital government, e.g., Israel’s Ministry of Health, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the EU (among others) have been pursuing such an approach with a fair degree of success.

Guiding Values, Principles and Frameworks

National digital strategies would benefit from the adoption of values, principles, and frameworks that could provide broad guidance to multiple players undertaking their digitalisation initiatives. Having a directional compass would offer strategic alignment and cohesion – while allowing for innovation and creativity on the part of individual actors.

Example of Values. Values are the touchstone to decide what should be prioritised and to what purpose. Openness, positive impact, empathy, and compassion are excellent values adopted by many successful organisations.

Example of Guiding Principles. The UK has recently come up with the Gemini Principles for a National Digital Twins strategy:

Gemini Principles for a National Digital Twins strategy

Example of a Framework. The OECD has formulated a six-dimensional Digital Government Framework:

1. From the digitisation of existing processes to digital by design

2. From an information-centred government to a data-driven public sector

3. From closed data and processes to open by default

4. From a government-led to a user-driven administration

5. From government as a service provider to government as a platform

6. From reactive to proactive policy making and service delivery

Organisational Design

Existing organisational structures of government are primarily designed for an analog world and need to change to become more relevant in the digital era. A good starting point for an organisational redesign is the area of digital regulation which often adopts a narrow sectoral approach that is likely to be sub-optimal. Also, the rapid pace of technological change typically results in laws and rules lagging technology.

Digital regulation needs to be designed from the ground up to be cross-sectoral, cross-border, cross-platform, public-private, and technologically oriented. Given that digital technologies are general purpose technologies, their regulation should be cross-sectoral as a horizontal, rather than as a vertical. Given that data flows are often agnostic to national boundaries, and the most valuable tech companies (e.g., social media companies) are outside most national borders, it is essential to bring a cross-border perspective to regulation. Similarly, the oversight of Over the Top content (OTTs), for example, requires cross-platform approaches.

If regulatory actions have to keep pace with technology, it will be necessary for regulators to work upstream with innovators and startups through strong public-private partnerships.

Some countries starting with the UK have established regulatory sandboxes to work closely with the private sector. Regulators will also have to leverage technology better in the future to retain their relevance. A case in point is tackling online harms. It may be impossible to prevent the spread of harmful content on social media, without the use of automated safety technologies.

Sequencing

A sound digital strategy should have a correct sequencing of actions for promoting the digital economy. Foundational elements, e.g., broadband networks, ease of data access, cybersecurity, digital skills, agile regulation, and entrepreneurship deserve precedence over other aspects.

Finally, to paraphrase Boon Siong Neo and Geraldine Chen in their book ‘Dynamic Governance,’ in developing a national digital strategy it is crucial to think ahead, think across, think big, and think again.

 

 

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Awareness Personal Cyber Attacks
Awareness of Personal Cyber Attacks

5/5 (1)

5/5 (1)

The NCSC’s first ‘UK cyber survey’ published alongside global password risk list. The UK government’s cybersecurity organisation National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provides cybersecurity support and guidance to the private and public sectors.

The survey identified exploitable gaps in personal level security management. The study was carried out between November 2018 and January 2019 and revealed that 89% of the respondents used the Internet and only 15% acknowledged a greater understanding of personal security measures.

The NCSC also published an analysis of the 100,000 most commonly used passwords that have been accessed by third parties in global cyber breaches. The analysis shows that less than half of the respondents do are not concerned about the strength of passwords for their emails and online accounts. Some examples of commonly used passwords used by people rely on their own names, Premier League football teams, musicians and fictional characters for inspiration.

This general lack of understanding of the cyber world can be harmful to individuals but can be devastating to organisations. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and insecure passwords may pose a serious security risk to an organisation. “We rely on passwords in all facets of our online world, so this presents a massive risk to anyone taking short-cuts.  Unfortunately, if organisations are not prepared, and allow the use of similarly insecure passwords, the flow on effect of a breach can escalate rapidly” says Alex Woerndle, Principal Analyst Cybersecurity, Ecosystm “The passwords in the above list are very weak. Even without the knowledge provided in the list, a hacker would be able to crack these passwords in seconds with the right tools. Even password complexity cannot always protect an organisation. What about a user that re-uses a complex password repeatedly, and that password is part of a breach? That puts all of the organisation’s logins at risk”.

There are some additional steps that system administrators and IT professionals need to consider when it comes to securing passwords and managing logins.

The global Ecosytsm Cybersecurity & Data Privacy study found the most common controls organisations implement to manage data access.

Security controls organisations implement to manage data access

“The main step being used currently is ensuring MFA is enabled wherever possible.  While not a perfect solution, it provides a circuit breaker for the most common types of attacks that would get anyone using insecure passwords into trouble” says Woerndle.

The NCSC hopes to reduce the risk of further breaches by building awareness of how attackers use easy-to-guess passwords, or those obtained from breaches and help guide developers and system administrators to protect their users. NCSC has framed guidelines covering multiple aspects of managing and maintaining security on its website.

Ultimately this problem will not go away until we find a genuine replacement for passwords. The pure scale of growth in the number of systems and applications that all users, both at a personal and on a professional level, have access to, makes password management complex and frustrating.  While focusing on how to strengthen your passwords and other easy steps to avoid a cyber attack, may be a good start, it will not be enough, as long as systems and applications are dependent on passwords for better security.


The Changing Shape of Asia’s Cybersecurity Landscape
The latest in our Leaders BreakFirst series. Following the launch of our Cybersecurity and Data Privacy study, Ecosystm is delighted to share the insights from almost 7000 deployments globally.Featuring two of Ecosystm’s cybersecurity and data privacy experts on one stage- Claus Mortensen and Carl Woerndle, this session will highlight the findings from our Cybersecurity & Privacy research.

Register Now

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