Where one placed in search engine results used to be the primary driver of success or failure of commercially focused web teams. If you’re not in the top 5 results listed, instant gratification driven users probably wouldn’t “find” you.

Enter a new search paradigm, using an integrated virtual assistant such as Siri, Alexa, and new to the market Viv. These virtual assistants, as I have written in the past, go beyond search and suggest results based on broader contexts, be it your calendar, your contacts, personal preferences or other parameters. Sure, search engine results and targeted ads in web pages always supported a context through the use of such mechanisms as cookies, but the level of application integration emerging with new assistants, will render most of that moot.

Viv, for example, a new virtual assistant discussed in this week’s Washington Post, does its magic through integration with partner applications. Through under the cover interfaces, requests for action to the Viv assistant will trigger exchanges of information with apps from Uber, Florist One, SeatGuru, Grubhub and others. These interactions obviously include some apps, but exclude all others. In order to truly define a set of results that the virtual assistant can manage, the set of options has to be limited. The option limitation locks the assistant and the assistant’s boss (you) into a very specific and finite set of applications. This is not very different than working with Alexa, as one is “locked” into applications specifically integrated with the Amazon assistant’s capabilities. Or Siri, where only Apple based calendar and contact information come into play. An interesting question then surfaces, will this limitation of locking in options be a factor in curtailing the growth of virtual assistants? Will the true breakthrough occur when there is a complete capability of personalization based on each individual’s consumer habits? Until then, remember, when you are choosing a virtual assistant, you are choosing only a specific suite of applications the assistant is knowledgeable with. If you want to choose and act on your own, go back to a search engine.


WhatsApp Setting the Encryption Bar?

by Administrator on April 6, 2016

In a technical white paper published by WhatsApp on April 4, 2016, the WhatsApp team documents an encryption upgrade which happened automatically for over a billion users. This default architecture makes WhatsApp “the most widely used cryptographic tool on the planet” according to CNNMoney.

Interestingly enough, the push by the WhatsApp team to add end-to-end encryption pre-dates the iPhone security conversations with the U.S. FBI taking place over the last several months. According to an article in Wired, the encryption effort began in earnest in 2014. To me, the interesting aspect of this development is the near instantaneous “flip-the-switch” capability which brings end-to-end encryption to over one billion users. I assume, no permission is sought, no governments or official agencies consulted, no general change management practices employed. Since the architecture changes without the need for user impact, and the application’s capabilities are “enhanced”, the change takes place and viola, messages and communications move globally unhindered and now end-to-end encrypted.
Again, an interesting development where technology, corporate information management and personal communications intersect. Sometimes, change does just happen and the best plans must be flexible, dynamic and adaptable – and shared consumer solutions such as WhatsApp must be understood in the broader context of personal information sharing and collaboration and not internal corporate strategies.


Pardon the Interruption!

by Administrator on March 16, 2016

According to a Gartner report, by 2020, the impact of interruptions on human effectiveness will cause 40% of enterprises to restrict notifications on wearables and smartphones.

The concept of an interruption is an interesting one. The roots of the word are from old French, derived from “a break of continuity”. If you assume that a break in continuity, let’s say in a thought process or in the act of providing a service to a customer, is not desirable, then the onslaught of technology is indeed making it more and more challenging to maintain continuity. With technology spreading from desktop PCs to personal smart phones down to our wrist with smart watches, an increasing level of interruptions is inevitable. Overlay this scenario with the intermingling of personal and professional devices where companies have rolled out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies, and the policy questions and decisions rise in complexity. What will be allowed to interrupt your work day and when? What will rate the highest, or even pass through a filter process: a business alert, a personal alert, or an alert from the networked coffee machine that the office just ran out of Columbian Blend? Getting out in front of this is imperative, especially in the policy environment. Educating and managing the change over time will be significantly easier than abruptly curtailing someone’s perceived rights when it comes to self-selecting which interruptions to be exposed to throughout the day. Thoughtful policies will be key, and then implementation over time will be necessary.


Yes, It’s True, Your Data can be Held Hostage

by Administrator on February 18, 2016

Articles today state: “A Los Angeles hospital just paid a ransom equivalent to around $17,000 in bitcoins to get its computer systems back up and running.” Ransomware has been a threat for some time and continues to have variations which threaten the accessibility and integrity of your data and systems. Unlike other virus or malware attacks which may render your systems, PC or data unusable and leave them that way, ransomware gives the victim the ability to recover from the attack by paying some form of ransom. Most of the threats today depend on forms of “social engineering attacks”. These are attacks which depend on a user to take some form of action on their PC in order to trigger the attack. The social engineering aspect of the attack is why an educated and aware group of employees is critical. A vast majority of computer threats are in fact detected and stopped before either entering a corporate environment or are neutralized once on a PC using anti-virus software. The problem is, in order to avoid the problem of “false positives”, stopping legitimate emails for instance, some form of creative email or attachment will always leak through to the user. The social engineering aspect of the attack will then convince the user to take some action, whether to click on a specific website or enable macros within MS Word or MS Excel. It is these last steps which are the weakest links and need constant education and exposure in order to keep your data from being held hostage.