This week’s technology news – 12th September 2014

Financial services organisations not very motivated in defending against cyber threats
A leading software security firm has published its “Global IT Security Risks 2014 – Online Financial Fraud and Protection” survey.   Panelling opinions from 3,900 B2B IT professionals, 82% of respondents said they would consider leaving a financial services firm that suffered a data breach.

The survey also found that the vast majority of 93% of financial services organisations had been exposed to cyber threats between April 2013 and May 2014. With 74% stating that they based their choice of financial services organization on its security reputation, there is clearly a lot of work to be done by the industry worldwide to make themselves more robust against threat.   34% said that the protection of sensitive information was a top priority for their IT department.  However, 27% said they are currently willing to suffer losses due to cyber crime because they believed the cost of protection would outweigh the cost of the losses.

Given the rising sophistication and increasing damage caused by cyber attacks, this may be a stance that has to change in the course of the next 12 months.  It is imperative for any company to maintain maximum operational, reputational and commercial output, but it seems extraordinary that financial organisations seem to be flying against logic in such numbers by not having adequate security and policy safeguards in place considering the value of their customer data and financial information. Added to this is the immense potential fallout on their reputation if an attack led to a data breach.  The very first step for any organisation without proper security safeguards and policies, should be to have an independent review to establish where risk lies across their IT infrastructure and get consensus at Board level to invest in this vital area if they are to protect their business.

The real test for wearables
Apple is rarely the company who creates bleeding edge technology or even new product categories but often is the company who manages to later refine and introduce this technology to the masses. The best example is the iPad. There were many attempts in making the tablet a successful category which was arguably mostly pushed by Microsoft. Microsoft had been deeply involved in the development of Tablet PC’s working with OEMs to create Windows powered tablets capable of running full PC applications with touch and voice recognition, coining the term ‘Windows Tablet PC’ in 2001 with Windows XP tablet PC edition.

The iPad was later released in 2010, taking a much different approach with a stripped down operation system which could not run Mac software, but only new mobile focused apps. This of course was a staggering success, and Apple has since sold over 200 million iPads. Although they did not create the tablet market they managed to change it from a niche to the juggernaut industry it is today.

With the Announcement of Apple’s first wearable, titled simple watch the key question is can it have a similar effect to the wearables category? There’s already a lot of players involved including Sony, LG, Fitbit and Pebble each having launched with various degrees of success but no one player is shouting sells figures, at least not yet.

A big success for watch will be a big success for all parties involved. Looking back historically, the real test for wearables then is watch. If Apple is unable to find financial success here using its tried and true method of repackaging existing technology in a very user friendly way and using its unique and vast marketing approach to convince new consumers and of course there large existing Apple fan base to give this new product category a try, then it’s unlikely anyone else will for now. If it is unsuccessful we will have to wait some time, possibly like the gap between Tablet PCs and the iPad for the next generation of technology and innovators to step in and show us how wrong everyone’s previous attempts were, giving wearables the kick-start from individual successes in a niche to a product category spanning consumer and corporate and accepted by the mainstream majority.

Chess games ahead as opportunity and risk face the data centre market
Leading technology researchers, Gartner have identified four key factors that will radically shake up the data centre market by 2016.

The four are: nationalism, highly disruptive competition, big cloud provider dominance and economic warfare.  Whilst certain elements are already in play now, each will have varying intensity and timeframes, but a major change in one sector would significantly accelerate market disruption of the others and overall impact.  This review alters the current assumptions of the growth of data centres, based on a traditional enterprise IT end user models and a vendor market that seeks to support the status quo.  The introduction of risk as part of the scene will change this landscape.

Gartner see vendor behaviours falling into three categories:

  • Protectors – aggressively defending market share and profits.
  • Evolutionary disruptors – those prepared to start to make changes whilst defending their own commercial base.
  • Revolutionary disruptors – those who seek to challenge the status quo with agile and flexible business models which can respond more dynamically, and thus speed up launches onto the  market with simpler strategies, faster timescales and alternative selling methods.

Gartner has outlined the likely impacts of each disruptive factor:

With the loss of trust towards large multinational providers (helped in no small part by former CIA employee Edward Snowden’s revelations in June 2013), Gartner anticipates a switch to more nationalistic production by smaller suppliers with an increased use of open-source hardware ecosystems to counter the economies of scale displayed by the major players and their hitherto unopposed market share.  Workload processors would shift to ARM and other architectures whilst storage component would shift increasingly to flash.  In extreme cases, motherboard manufacturing they believe, would become regional, rather than concentrated in China.

With the financial potency of 50%+ gross profit margins, many of the storage and networking hardware big players are reluctant to be the game changer and throw the first punch to  disturb what has been a lucrative market thus far for them.  However, change is taking place and with the chance of new workloads going to external IT providers, these buyers will not share the same interest of high-price/high-margin “commercial off-the-shelf” (COTS) products as they shift toward open-source software (OSS) and embedded manageability.

An aggressive jump by a big league player into a neighbouring software market would defend and shore up their position, gaining them the upper hand. This would cause shockwaves and likely result in a price war with many casualties.  Software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined storage, network function virtualisation, extreme low-energy processors and webscale-integrated infrastructures are changing the face of the datacentre infrastructure market.  However, for an Evolutionary Disruptor, at the top of their game, this is their poker hand and they would likely view that whilst the stakes were high, because their move was timed at their peak, they remain strong and choose a now or nothing strike to survive.

Gartner see the dominance of the big Cloud providers as marking the decline of traditional data centre. With new application development and deployment moving from in-house to cloud-first, this will change the expections around new internal applications that require more flexible, distributed and hybrid IT. Webscale architecture is not perfect for running high growth workloads, but through the SaaS model, enables use of excess capacity and highest utilisation to save money in the longer term.  The large cloud providers will gradually soak up the Iaas and PaaS marketing and influence the price of datacentre infrastructure.

The world is changing and technology is at the forefront of an East vs West fight for market control and influence.  In a major step towards reshaping the western dominated international financial system, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) announced a $100 billion development bank and an emergency reserve fund.  Meanwhile, China has separately been investing in a national high-tech R&D program (aka the “863 Program”) since 1986 and heavily subsidised high tech Chinese enterprises to give them a direct edge internationally. With its deep pockets, increased brand respect strong design original design manufacture history, Gartner see China as taking a 2% increased market share by the end of 2017 off western companies.

Google adds spoons to its kitchen drawer of wearable technology
Technology is always evolving, often making things faster, storage bigger and miniaturizing devices to enable them to be worn on the wrist.  The continued drive in this direction of technology comes thanks to their high profitability. So it’s refreshing to see endeavours that focus on wellbeing and enablement.

Google, headed by co-founder Sergey Brin, has announced its purchase of Lift Labs to join their research division Google X.  Lift Labs, comprising a group of scientists and engineers, has used advanced mobile sensing technology to create a spoon that cancels out tremors by up to 70%.  One of a range of attachments in development, it is designed for people who have Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.  The lack of hand control can make even the most basic task of eating a meal frustrating, so a device with such a major tremor reduction is an intelligent and sympathetic evolution to add dignity to sufferers.

Anti tremor technology helped transform the mechanics, look and feel of film camera technology, Steadicam, back in the 1970s.  It was used in the famous running sequence in 1976 film “Marathon Man” with Dustin Hoffman and the disconcerting ground level footage seen in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson in 1980.
It is interesting to see a pattern emerging where the motivation of some of these IT behemoths in improving healthcare is being driven or inspired by a personal connection with a CEO or leading board member.  In this case, both the Lift Labs team and Sergey Brin have experienced the effects of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor through friends and family.  This motivated Lift Labs to create this new compact and adaptable technology to improve quality of life.

With the purchase of Lift Labs, Google is showing their continued focus in healthcare and marks an exciting partnership that could become a life enhancing tool for sufferers and their families.  With an estimated four to six million Parksinson’s sufferers worldwide, it is also a canny investment for Google as the spoon retails for $295.

Video source: http://www.liftlabsdesign.com

 

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