Reflections on Black Mirror – Cautionary Tale about Tech in Our Lives

Streaming media has taken over from network TV. Among the many shows we’ve binged on Netflix, one of our favorites is Black Mirror.

Each episode is a unique story, much like The Twilight Zone and others long ago. Uniquely, the Black Mirror stories are each cautionary tales about technology in our lives – the risks of misuse, loss of privacy, loss of intimacy.

One episode for example follows a mother who tracks her daughter through an implant and tablet app that allows for real-time geolocation and vitals, but also displays what her daughter sees and even blocks disturbing content from her vision. Other episodes also extend the reach of today’s technology to fictionalize uncontrollable security robots, intrusive virtual dating apps and other scenarios that focus generally on the dark side of ‘future’ technology adoption by consumers. In nearly every episode, the focus is on consumer devices, phones, pads, sensors, and the use of massive amounts of machine data spewing from these devices, shown for either better or usually detrimental impacts on the individual.

In reality, even with the technology – devices, software, analytics and machine learning we have today, we face these ethical dilemmas. My kids, both millenials, give their data freely, and expect to gain advantages from its mining. And having worked at Splunk, understanding the potential of ‘big data” analytics and artificial intelligence, I am of like mind. Sharing freely with attendant benefits outweighs security concerns – the exception being behaviors which can directly lead to identity theft.

A recent news show segment  featured a British security expert explaining what data we are sharing via Fitbit and similar devices, how our whereabouts and travels could be shown on a heat map, what implications that has for military personnel, etc. Yet the benefits of using a Fitbit and openly sharing geolocation and your vitals is well established. Another positive example of using analytics and AI to mine data for its potential was highlighted in a show about Chicago police, social workers, and clergy who have teamed together to mine data collected on potential felons in order to predict criminal behavior by these individuals (yes, without the imprisoned beings depicted in Minority Report!). Once they have a list of high risk subjects, a member of the police squad, a social worker, clergy, etc. actually visit the subject at home and try to convince them to enter into counseling, job training, and other programs. It’s not even at a 50% acceptance rate, but every point on that graph matters, and lives are saved. These points offer some light to go with what is often assumed to be a darker path via big data. And the implications for running a better business, endless!

Doug Harr

Career Showcase – Meet and Hire the Future of Cybersecurity Friday, March 23 at Merritt College in Oakland

With an increasing number of cyber security threats and an estimated 1M security positions open today, the tech world is facing a crisis.  To address these issues, the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE) CIO group has worked with Merritt College in Oakland to develop and launch a fully accredited two-year degree program https://cisesecurity.com/

Summary of program is below:

  • The CISE program at Merritt College is the only California community college that offers an Associate Degree in Information Security.
  • Our success was recently showcased when students from our program recently placed 4th in the Gold Bracket (highest level) against over 175 schools in the annual national Cyber League competition.
  • Courses designed and co-taught by security industry experts from leading San Francisco Bay Area companies
  • Program includes “hands on” labs to develop student’s technical security skills
  • Internships with San Francisco Bay Area companies to work in information security field while students study for their degree
  • Class projects include forensics of a pharmaceutical organization that suffered a security breach, securing systems on Amazon Web Services, and developing Information Security strategies

Agenda: 9:00-3:00

  • Welcome and introductions
  • CISO Panel on how to address our security staffing crisis
  • Keynote Speaker: Congressmen Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley
  • Merritt Faculty panel on information security skills required for staff in the future
  • Merritt Student panel on putting together winning team at NCL completion
  • Meet students from program

Action

You will get a chance to meet our students and talk with them firsthand about the training and solutions they would bring to your company.  We are focused on placing these students with leading Silicon Valley and Bay area companies where they can apply their knowledge and training around cybersecurity.  Please participate to demonstrate that your company is a great place for cyber security professionals to begin their career, your commitment to improving diversity in the workplace and to support our local community. Please contact info@ciseeducationfund.com to register for the event.

Mark Egan

Digital Transformation – is it a “thing”? or is it everything?

Digital Transformation continues to be a theme this year as we see in a number of predictions blogs and articles. But what is it?  Is it a thing?  Or is it everything?

DX has been going on in some form long before we called it that. The buzz today serves to direct our attention to the spectacular — inventing new markets, changing society. But not all companies are going to do that, or even need to. But every CIO needs to be looking at how the delivery of IT services is fundamentally changing, and understand how rapidly changing technology and market opportunities continue to impact their business.

Some things today are making DX harder and riskier than it used to be.  And those same factors also make NOT thinking carefully about DX in your org equally risky.  Some of these intertwined topics include the following:

  • Rate of change
  • Proliferation of technology options
  • Understanding/factoring in impact on IT organizations (and the rest of the enterprise)
  • Separating the fundamentally sound tech from the shiny objects
  • Delivering new services at the speed the market (internal and external) wants them, with the level of control and security also needed

Planning and managing technology transformations is more difficult now than it was in past years, and it’s difficult to know what to bet on. Change is changing faster than ever before.  With new tech coming out every year and the decisions being made having multi-year horizons, how do you plan and manage the tech roadmap in this world?

This is a topic we work on with our clients, and it’s one we think about deeply at The StrataFusion Group. We’ll share some of our thoughts on how we’re doing that next time…

Reed Kingston

Merritt College Comes In Fourth Competing In Its Third Year At National Cyber League

This year our Merritt College Information Security students competed in their third year at the National Cyber League, coming in fourth place among 175 schools entered in the competition. Over the last three years, our students have been participating in this competition in consecutively more challenging levels, moving from bronze, to silver, and now competing this year at the gold level. We’re very proud of our team, beating out all these other schools, and these victories attest to the power of our program and the skill sets these students have to offer.

As a recap, the CISE Security Program at Merritt College  is a fully accredited two-year degree program that is the result of a partnership with Merritt  College and the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE). The program is a huge win in working to solve the cybersecurity crisis and has the support of Congressman Ro Khanna. Our objective is to place graduated (and soon-to-be-graduated) students within companies in the Silicon Valley. We’re looking for companies that are progressive and innovative in their approach to solving the cybersecurity issue.

We have students available for full-time and internship positions.

Please contact me and I will put you in  touch with students.

Mark Egan

 

 

 

Merritt College – Gearing Up For Its Third Year At National Cyber League

Merritt College is gearing up for 3rd year of competition at the National Cyber League Competition.  NCL provides a cybersecurity training ground in a high-fidelity simulation game environment that requires participants to play individually during Fall Regular Season and in teams during Fall Postseason Games.

Merritt College Cybersecurity students have participated the past two years with great results and success. In 2015, Merritt student s won second place, beating out 125 other colleges and universities.

Quotes from Team:

  • Sandy Keh: “It is exciting to begin another year of competition in the National Cyber League. This year we have a record, 37 students willing to participate and we hope to be ready for the challenge ahead.”
  • Norman Weekes: “Our success in the NCL is a testament to how lucky we are to be taught by teachers who have a long track record in the infosec business. In class and the NCL, we have learned how to tackle new problems as a team, in a short amount of time.”

The Applications and Infrastructure Security program is in its third year, is a fully accredited two-year degree program that is the result of a partnership with Merritt  College and the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE). The program is a huge win in working to solve the cybersecurity crisis and has the support of Congressman Ro Khanna. Our objective is to place graduated (and soon-to-be-graduated) students within companies in the Silicon Valley. We’re looking for companies that are progressive and innovative in their approach to solving the cybersecurity issue.

We have students available for full-time and internship positions, and to streamline the hiring process we’re happy to announce that their resumes are available now at Jobvite.

Please contact me and I will put you in  touch with students.

Mark Egan

mark.egan@stratafusion.com

Organization Structure and Digital Business

In the equation of people, process, and technology, getting the “people” part right has been a tough challenge for many companies.  As technology evolves, the roles and talents needed to drive that technology and utilize it to help keep the business competitive requires constant evolution; getting the organization structure right in support of this evolving landscape has been an area we value advising in at StrataFusion.

In an earlier blog we looked at organization structure and critical success factors; now it would be useful to give further detailed thought to organization structure guidelines that are important to both traditional and digital business. Because digital business is different from your traditional data center kicking off this discussion would be some of the most important structural guidelines to consider in assessing your organization:

  • Align business facing technology functions to match the business organization, this expedites specification, understanding, and support of business requirements
  • Align technical development organizations along development lines and logical technical groupings to maximize development activity efficiency
  • Constantly reinforce the importance of key organizational and business dependencies. The goal is to create an environment where cooperation and team focused response become the normal team response
  • Create a system of organizational checks and balances. This allows your organization to be self governing, and can highlight important issues
  • Be consistent in your approach, limit exceptions
  • Separate your delivery function from your development function. A key check and balance that can avoid a lot of pain

Each of these guidelines could support a blog of their own, but the incorporation of these thoughts into decisions concerning how your team is organized and structured can create interactions and behaviors that can be important long term in a digital business environment.

Once you’ve assessed your answers to these questions we also believe that creating an organizational focus around rallying cries or mantra is extremely important. The idea of a mantra gives great organizational concentration, and provides a consistent focal point for how your team should be thinking.

Mantras can be a tool to guide proper organizational response

In creative organizational focus, here are some possible mantras:

  • User Ownership of Systems
  • Empowerment of the Community
  • Standards & Integration
  • Make Use of Forward Looking Development Technologies
  • Business Intelligence and Knowledge Management Systems
  • Right Tool/Right Place
  • Flexible Systems
  • Global/Shared/Local

Creating a mantra allows your team to default back to a common base – set of values, practices, and knowledge that will help them respond to questions or situations arising that are new or undefined – this is especially so in today’s digital era.  For instance, a mantra of “empowerment of the community” can help instill in your team the concept of insuring their actions result in recognition of the fact they serve a community or business and that it is in their self-interest to empower and equip that community to solve their own problems.  You can have the concept of “travel in packs” – if for those of your teams that exist in a highly competitive situation where stress is high and demands are intense and daily, a mantra of “travel in packs”  reminds them that they can count of your team for backup – you’re more than one person, they’re not alone, so that when if (for example) a website that is up 99.9999 of the time but crashes for a few minutes – upsetting c level executives – you have emotional, structural, and organizational back up.

In thinking about “Global/Shared/Local”, the mantra leads with the idea that things that data can have different types of ownership, some are universal and shared by all but require consistent management; while some can have more than one owner.

That a mantra can create organizational focus also works with another interesting potential which I call the ‘Manufacturing Metaphor’.  In the transformation to digital business this can remind you of how your digital delivery of an information product is not unlike some traditional manufacturing concepts, and incorporating some of those proven concepts into your business could be useful.

New digital business environments can be optimized by incorporating the similar concepts, processes, and flows as exists within manufacturing – digital business hold the same counterparts. For example, concepts of development engineering product engineering in manufacturing can be re-formed into as software development and operations delivery concepts in digital business; the shipping function in manufacturing is the data center in digital business. The terminology changes but the functions are similar, and taking a similar approach could favorably impact your “product delivery” process. Understanding these parallels again provides a framework within which it become easier to understand how to optimally structure your organization – with people being your most essential asset towards success.

In our third and final on blog on this topic we will be discussing the importance of infrastructure readiness on digital business delivery.

John Dick

 

Transforming Intelligent Medical Applications

Scenario

Imagine it is early afternoon. Alexa, tracking your schedule, asks if you want her to call you an Uber.  She has already computed the 40-minute ride based on traffic and how long the wait will be for the driver arrives.  She recommends you take an umbrella for the rain. As you get into the car, your home lights are dimmed and turned off, the AC is turned down and the TV show you were watching changes to record/mobile mode so that you can stream it on your mobile device or watch it later after your meeting. Mobile Alexa from your phone asks if she should set the alarm and lock the doors.

Now, and into the future, everything we do, will most likely use the Internet of Everything (IoE) to create a smart eco-system and facilitate our time so that our lives are easier, convenient, and more comfortable.

In the medical world, a patient interaction would leverage the same smart eco-system. Imagine a similar tech-driven scenario, this time with healthcare ramifications.

Mark and Sandy, married, are driving to Napa for dinner. Mark starts to feel chest pain.  Sandy calls the digital assistant and asks for directions to the nearest hospital.  Directions display on the car’s navigational system, and Siri asks if she can sign the family into the ER using the hospital’s SmartAttendant App. Sandy says (or clicks) “yes,” and the app is downloaded and auto-completes your medical registration forms.

Siri asks for the chief complaint (“What brings you to the hospital today?”) to complete the forms, and Sandy states “chest pains”.  A moment later, Siri tells her to park in the emergency parking beside the ER door, that there will be a valet attendant to take care of the car, and a wheelchair will be curbside with an RN awaiting her arrival.  Bio-signs from the husband’s Fitbit and cell phone are being directly fed to the ER Attendant, who sees on the iPad he is using to track the situation, that the patient (Mark) is 4 minutes out with traffic.

Mark’s doctor has been notified and his medical history and latest EKG are already being reviewed by the attendee who alerts the Cardiac CATH lab that a patient is inbound. Balloon time is 12 minutes.

At this time, Mark and Sandy’s family members receive an SMS message with a notification of the situation at hand, which includes a link to hospital services.  The link will outline for the family everything from directions to the patient’s room, meal choices, and even the amount of wait time at the nearest restroom.

Fortunately, Mark’s records are kept in his medical blockchain, and all relevant information is readily and securely available.  With a touch of a button or a verbal command, Mark (or Sandy) can determine who can access, update and change his information.  After his visit, his prescriptions are automatically ordered and set for next day delivery at his home.  His insurance is automatically billed and his next appointment dynamically scheduled.  Auto-magically, the hospital also submits all related expenses, which are processed behind the scenes.

The above example is already becoming a reality.  We are on this evolutionary journey as our knowledge-based society over the next 5-10 years works to create intellectual value that is consumed by the ubiquitous connectivity of people, devices, information, services and processes.

What is needed for this reality to prosper?  

Most of the tools needed to make this dream a reality already exist.   IoT, IoE, Blockchain and AI are all torch bearing technologies that will continue to shape this future.

For example, IoT with its foundational principle of enabling devices and things to communicate, is smart-enabling everything from tires to watches. As this concept evolves from one-way broadcast communications to bi-directional conversations, systems are being developed to talk and interpret these communications.

IoE, where everyone and everything has reliable ubiquitous internet, is becoming the defacto standard.  It fundamentally leverages the omnipresent connectivity of people, devices, sensors, items that Interact on behalf of humans.  This interaction with other devices and systems, allows us to integrate “things” together and automate digital business models.

Blockchain is the engine that makes BitCoin possible and it has emerged as a revolutionary and visionary method of a public secure ledger.  It allows for the recording of a secure, validated transaction that can be public or private.  It is also a component of SmartContracts, which enables rules and commands such as “pay the rent on the 15th on the month from my checking account” to automatically execute based on specific criteria encoded into the contract.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is needed to gain insights from the mountains of sensor data generated by the IoT.  The real winner in this environment is machine learning, with its ability to process massive amounts of information, identifying patterns, habits, trends, cycles, etc.  These patterns, and statistical analysis of massive data pools, have evangelized machine learnings importance, which is a core component of AI.

The final piece of the puzzle

As we change from a post-industrial/mass production marketplace to a knowledge-based environment, we need to pivot the paradigm so that it is not about delivering a physical product or service, and instead, it is about how we offer a “smart” service for an intelligent consumer.

To do this, “Smart Contracts” need to become consumer friendly.  Mass market adoption can only occur when every age and demographic (your grandmother) can create a contract.  Today’s contracts are still only created by developers, which is limiting mass adoption.  It is estimated that developers are only 0.0035% of the population. Therefore, natural human interfaces have to be developed.

Given that, we are in for an exciting, dynamic ride for Intelligent Medical Applications over the next few years.

Henry Ivey