Business with a Heart

Balaji Uppili

People and technology are converging like never before, as the world is gripped by COVID – 19. Just a few months ago, nobody could have predicted or foreseen the way businesses are having to work today.  As we were strategizing on corporate governance, digital transformation and the best of resiliency plans to ensure business continuity, no one ever anticipated the scale and enormity of COVID 19.

Today, it has become obvious that COVID 19 has brought about the convergence of technology and humanity and how it can change the way businesses work and function.  While we as leaders have been thinking largely about business outcomes, this pandemic has triggered a more humane approach, and the approach is here to stay.  The humane approach will be the differentiator and will prove the winner.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought an urgent need to accelerate our digital capabilities. With the focus on strong IT infrastructure and remote working, workforces were able to transition to working from home, meeting through video conferencing, and surprisingly, this has turned to increase the humane aspect of business relations – it has now become alright for both parties to be seeing children, spouses or pets in meeting backgrounds, and that in itself has broken down huge barriers and formalities.  It is refreshing to see the emerging empathy that is getting stronger with every meeting, and increasing collaboration and communication. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have overlooked the important factor of how it is that people have been showing up to work.  Suddenly it is now more visible that people have equally strong roles within the family – when we see parents having to home-school their children, or having other care obligations, we are viewing their personal lives and are able to empathize with them more.  We are seeing the impact that business can have on people and their personal lives and this is a never like before opportunity for leaders to put our people first.

And with customers being the center of every business, the situation of not being able to do in-person meetings has now warranted newer ways to collaborate and further strengthen the customer-centricity initiatives even more.  It has become evident that no matter how much we as leaders are thinking of automating operations, it is human connections that run businesses successfully. Lots of things have been unraveled – Important business imperatives like criticality of clean workspace compliance, the fact that offshoring thousands of miles away is not factually a compromise, but a very cost-effective and efficient way of getting things done. Productivity has also increased, and work done this far by, has a positive impact of at least 20% or even more in certain situations. As boundaries and barriers are broken, the rigidities of who should work on something and when they should work on it have all become less rigid.  Employees are less regimental about time.  Virtual crowd outsourcing has become the norm – you throw an idea at a bunch of people and whoever has the ability and the bandwidth to handle the task takes care of it, instead of a formal task assignment, and this highlights the fungibility of people.

All in all, the reset in the execution processes and introducing much more of a humane approach is here to stay and make the new norm even more exciting.

About the Author –

Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy, and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music, and visiting temples.

IoT Adoption during the Pandemic

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations

Naveen KT

From lightbulbs to cities, IoT is adding a level of digital intelligence to various things around us. Internet of Things or IoT is physical devices connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data, which can then be used for various purposes. The arrival of super-cheap computers and the ubiquity of wireless networks are behind the widespread adoption of IoT. It is possible to turn any object, from a pill to an airplane, into an IoT-enabled device. It is making devices smarter by letting them ‘sense’ and communicate, without any human involvement.

Let us look at the developments that enabled the commercialization of IoT.

History

The idea of integrating sensors and intelligence to basic objects dates to the 1980s and 1990s. But the progress was slow because the technology was not ready. Chips were too big and bulky and there was no way for an object to communicate effectively.

Processors had to be cheap and power-frugal enough to be disposed of before it finally becomes cost-effective to connect to billions of devices. The adoption of RFID tags and IPV6 was a necessary step for IoT to scale.

Kevin Ashton penned the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ in 1999. Although it took a decade for this technology to catch up with his vision. According to Ashton “The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture (our things) with our digital information system(internet). That’s the IoT”.

Early suggestions for IoT include ‘Blogjects’ (object that blog and record data about themselves to the internet), Ubiquitous computing (or ‘ubicomp’), invisible computing, and pervasive computing.

How big is IoT?

AIOps in Infrastructure Management

IDC predicts that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. It also suggests industrial and automotive equipment represent the largest opportunity of connected ‘things’.

Gartner predicts that the enterprise and automotive sectors will account for 5.8 billion devices this year.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced the need for IoT-enabled devices to help the nations tackle the crisis.

IoT for the Government

Information about the movement of citizens is urgently required by governments to track the spread of the virus and potentially monitor their quarantine measures. Some IoT operators have solutions that could serve these purposes.

AIOps platform
  • Telia’s Division X has developed Crowd Insights which provides aggregated smartphone data to city and transport authorities of Nordic Countries. It is using the tool which will track the movement of citizens during the quarantine.
  • Vodafone provides insights on traffic congestion.
  • Telefonica developed Smart steps, which aggregates data on footfall and movement for the transport, tourism, and retail sectors.

Personal data of people will also help in tracking clusters of infection by changing the privacy regulations. For example, in Taiwan, high-risk quarantined patients were being monitored through their mobile phones to ensure compliance with quarantine rules. In South Korea, the officials track infected citizens and alert others if they come into contact with them. The government of Israel went as far as passing an emergency law to monitor the movement of infected citizens via their phones.

China is already using mass temperature scanning devices in public areas like airports. A team of researchers at UMass Amherst is testing a device that can analyze coughing sounds to identify the presence of flu-like symptoms among crowds.

IoT in Health care

COVID-19 could be the trigger to explore new solutions and be prepared for any such future pandemics, just as the SARS epidemic in 2003 which spurred the governments in South Korea and Taiwan to prepare for today’s problems.

IT operations analytics

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) and telemedicine could be helpful in managing a future pandemic. For example, patients with chronic diseases who are required to self-isolate to reduce their exposure to COVID-19 but need continuous care would benefit from RPM. Operators like Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone already have some experience in RPM.

Connected thermometers are being used in hospitals to collect data while maintaining a social distance. Smart wearables are also helpful in preventing the spread of the virus and responding to those who might be at risk by monitoring their vital signs.

Connected thermometers are being used in hospitals to collect data while maintaining a social distance. Smart wearables are also helpful in preventing the spread of the virus and responding to those who might be at risk by monitoring their vital signs.

Telehealth is widely adopted in the US, and the authorities there are relaxing reimbursement rules and regulations to encourage the extension of specific services. These include the following.

  • Medicare, the US healthcare program for senior citizens, has temporarily expanded its telehealth service to enable remote consultations.
  • The FCC has made changes to the Rural Health Care (RHC) and E-Rate programs to support telemedicine and remote learning. Network operators will be able to provide incentives or free network upgrades that were previously not permitted, for example, for hospitals that are looking to expand their telemedicine programs.

IoT for Consumers

The IoT promises to make our environment smarter, measurable, and interactive.COVID-19 is highly contagious, and it can be transmitted from one to another even by touching the objects used by the affected person. The WHO has instructed us to disinfect and sanitize high touch objects. IoT presents us with an ingenious solution to avoid touching these surfaces altogether. Hands-free and sensor-enabled devices and solutions like smart lightbulbs, door openers, smart sinks, and others help prevent the spread of the virus.

Security aspects of IoT

Security is one of the biggest issues with the IoT. These sensors collect extremely sensitive data like what we say and do in our own homes and where we travel. Many IoT devices lack security patches, which means they are permanently at risk. Hackers are now actively targeting IoT devices such as routers and webcams because of their inherent lack of security makes them easy to compromise and pave the way to giant botnets.

Machine learning service provider
Machine learning service provider

IoT bridges the gap between the digital and the physical world which means hacking into devices can have dangerous real-world consequences. Hacking into sensors and controlling the temperature in power stations might end up in catastrophic decisions and taking control of a driverless car could also end in disaster.

Overall IoT makes the world around us smarter and more responsive by merging the digital and physical universe. IoT companies should look at ways their solutions can be repurposed to help respond to the crisis.

Enterprise IT infrastructure services
Enterprise IT infrastructure services

References:

  • https://www.analysysmason.com/Research/Content/Comments/covid19-iot-role-rdme0-rma17/
  • shorturl.at/wBFGT

Naveen is a software developer at GAVS. He teaches underprivileged children and is interested in giving back to society in as many ways as he can. He is also interested in dancing, painting, playing keyboard, and is a district-level handball player.

Customer Centricity during Unprecedented Times

Cloud service for business

Balaji Uppili

“Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you.”

Heather Williams

Customer centricity lies at the heart of GAVS. An organization’s image is largely the reflection of how well its customers are treated. And unprecedented times demand unprecedented measures to ensure that our customers are well-supported. We conversed with our Chief Customer Success Officer, Balaji Uppili, to understand the pillars/principles of maintaining and improving an organization’s customer-centricity amidst a global emergency.

Helping keep the lights on

Keeping the lights on – this forms the foundation of all organizations. It is of utmost importance to extend as much support as required by the customers to ensure their business as usual remains unaffected. Keeping a real-time pulse on the evolving requirements and expectations of our customers will go a long way. It is impossible to understate the significance of continuous communication and collaboration here. Our job doesn’t end at deploying collaboration tools, we must also measure its effectiveness and take necessary corrective actions.

The lack of a clear vision into the future may lead business leaders into making not-so-sound decisions. Hence, bringing an element of ‘proactiveness’ into the equation will go a long way in assuring the customers of having invested in the right partner.

Being Empathy-driven

While empathy has always been a major tenet of customer-centricity, it is even more important in these times. The crisis has affected everyone, some more than others, and in ways, we couldn’t have imagined. Thus, we must drive all our conversations with empathy. The way we deal with our customers in a crisis is likely to leave lasting impressions in their minds.

Like in any relationship, we shouldn’t shy away from open and honest communication. It is also important to note that all rumours should be quelled by pushing legitimate information to our customers regularly. Transparency in operations and compassion in engagements will pave the path for more profound and trusted relationships.

Innovating for necessity and beyond

It is said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”. We probably haven’t faced a situation in the recent past that necessitated invention as much as it does now!

As we strive to achieve normalcy, we should take up this opportunity to innovate solutions. Solutions that are not just going to help our customers adjust to the new reality, but arm them with a more efficient way of achieving their desired outcomes. Could the new way of working be the future standard? Is the old way worth going back to? This is the apt time to answers these questions and reimagines our strategies.

Our deep understanding of our customers holds the key to helping them in meaningful ways. This should be an impetus for us to devise ways of delivering more value to our customers.

General Principles

With rapidly evolving situations and uncertainty, it is easy to fall prey to misinformation and rumours. Hence, it is crucial to keep a channel of communication open between you and your customers and share accurate information. We should be listening to our customers and be extra perceptive to their needs, whether they are articulated or not. Staying ahead and staying positive should be our mantras to swear by. The new barometer of customer experience will be how their partners/vendors meet their new needs with care and concern.

Over-communicating is not something we should shy away from. We should be constantly communicating with our customers to reassure them of our resolve to stand by them. Again, it is an absolute must to adjust our tone and not plug in any ‘sales-ly’ messages.

It is easy to lose focus on long-term goals and just concentrate on near-term survival. This may not be the best strategy if we’re looking to stay afloat after all this is over. All decisions must be data-driven or outcome-driven. Reimagining and designing newer ways of delivering value and ensuring customer success will be the true test of enterprises in the near future.

We’re looking at uncertain times ahead. It is imperative to build resilience to such disruptions. One way would be customer-centricity – we should be relentless in our pursuit of understanding, connecting with, and delighting our customers. Resilience is going to be as important as cost and efficiency in a business.

About the Author:
Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him, and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music and visiting temples.

Smart Spaces Tech Trends for 2020

data center as a service providers in usa

Priyanka Pandey

These are unprecedented times. The world hadn’t witnessed such a disruption in recent history. It is times like these test the strength and resilience of our community. While we’ve been advised to maintain social distancing to flatten to curve, we must keep the wheels of the economy rolling.

In my previous article, I covered the ‘People-Centric’ Tech Trends of the year, i.e., Hyper automation, Multiexperience, Democratization, Human Augmentation and Transparency and Traceability. All of those hold more importance now in the light of current events. Per Gartner, Smart Spaces enable people to interact with people-centric technologies. Hence, the next Tech Trends in the list are about creating ‘Smart Spaces’ around us.

Smart spaces, in simple words, are interactive physical environments decked out with technology, that act as a bridge between humans and the digital world. The most common example of a smart space is a smart home, also called as a connected home. Other environments that could be a smart space are offices and communal workspaces; hotels, malls, hospitals, public places such as libraries and schools, and transportation portals such as airports and train stations. Listed below are the 5 Smart Spaces Technology Trends which, per Gartner, have great potential for disruption.

Trend 6: Empowered Edge

Edge computing is a distributed computing topology in which information processing and data storage are located closer to the sources, repositories and consumers of this information. Empowered Edge is about moving towards a smarter, faster and more flexible edge by using more adaptive processes, fog/mesh architectures, dynamic network topology and distributed cloud. This trend will be introduced across a spectrum of endpoint devices which includes simple embedded devices (e.g., appliances, industrial devices), input/output devices (e.g., speakers, screens), computing devices (e.g., smartphones, PCs) and complex embedded devices (e.g., automobiles, power generators). Per Gartner predictions, by 2022, more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. This trend also includes the next-generation cellular standard after 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), i.e., 5G. The concept of edge also percolates to the digital-twin models.

Trend 7: Distributed Cloud

Gartner defines a distributed cloud as “distribution of public cloud services to different locations outside the cloud providers’ data centers, while the originating public cloud provider assumes responsibility for the operation, governance, maintenance and updates.” Cloud computing has always been viewed as a centralized service, although, private and hybrid cloud options compliments this model. Implementing private cloud is not an easy task and hybrid cloud breaks many important cloud computing principles such as shifting the responsibility to cloud providers, exploiting the economics of cloud elasticity and using the top-class services of large cloud service providers. A distributed cloud provides services in a location which meets organization’s requirements without compromising on the features of a public cloud. This trend is still in the early stages of development and is expected to build in three phases:

Phase 1: Services will be provided from a micro-cloud which will have a subset of services from its centralized cloud.

Phase 2: An extension to phase 1, where service provider will team up with a third-party to deliver subset of services from the centralized cloud.

Phase 3: Distributed cloud substations will be setup which could be shared by different organizations. This will improve the economics associated as the installation cost can be split among the companies.

Trend 8: Autonomous Things

Autonomous can be defined as being able to control oneself. Similarly, Autonomous Things are devices which can operate by themselves without human intervention using AI to automate all their functions. The most common among these devices are robots, drones, and aircrafts. These devices can operate across different environments and will interact more naturally with their surroundings and people. While exploring use cases of this technology, understanding the different spaces the device will interact to, is very important like the people, terrain obstacles or other autonomous things. Another aspect to consider would be the level of autonomy which can be applied. The different levels are: No automation, Human-assisted automation, Partial automation, Conditional automation, High automation and Full automation. With the proliferation of this trend, a shift is expected from stand-alone intelligent things to collaborative intelligent things in which multiple devices work together to deliver the final output. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is studying the use of drone swarms to defend or attack military targets.

Trend 9: Practical Blockchain

Most of us have heard about Blockchain technology. It is a tamper-proof, decentralized, distributed database that stores blocks of records linked together using cryptography. It holds the power to take industries to another level by enabling trust, providing transparency, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow. Blockchain also makes it easy to trail assets back to its origin, reducing the chances of substituting it with counterfeit products. Smart contracts are used as part of the blockchain which can trigger actions on encountering any change in the blockchain; such as releasing payment when goods are received. New developments are being introduced in public blockchains but over time these will be integrated with permissioned blockchains which supports membership, governance and operating model requirements. Some of the use cases of this trend that Gartner has identified are: Asset Tracking, Identity Management/Know Your Client (KYC), Internal Record Keeping, Shared Record Keeping, Smart Cities/the IoT, Trading, Blockchain-based voting, Cryptocurrency payments and remittance services. Per the 2019 Gartner CIO Survey, in the next three years 60% of CIOs expect blockchain deployment in some way.

Trend 10: AI Security

Per Gartner, over the next five years AI-based decision-making will be applied across a wide set of use cases which will result in a tremendous increase of potential attack surfaces. Gartner provides three key perspectives on how AI impacts security: protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense and anticipating negative use of AI by attackers. ML pipelines have different phases and at each of these phases there are various kinds of risks associated. AI-based security tools can be very powerful extension to toolkits with use cases such as security monitoring, malware detection, etc. On the other hand, there are many AI-related attack techniques which include training data poisoning, adversarial inputs and model theft and per Gartner predictions, through 2022, 30% of all AI cyberattacks will leverage these attacking techniques. Every innovation in AI can be exploited by attackers for finding new vulnerabilities. Few of the AI attacks that security professionals must explore are phishing, identity theft and DeepExploit.

One of the most important things to note here is that the trends listed above cannot exist in isolation. IT leaders must analyse what combination of these trends will drive the most innovation and strategy fitting it into their business models. Soon we will have smart spaces around us in forms of factories, offices and cities with increasingly insightful digital services everywhere for an ambient experience.

Sources:

https://www.pcmag.com/news/gartners-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2020

About the Author:

Priyanka is an ardent feminist and a dog-lover. She spends her free time cooking, reading poetry and exploring new ways to conserve the environment.