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global startups Startups

How Tech Startups Redefined Gig Work (and Where It Goes From Here)

We’re living in the golden era of the gig economy. At least, some of us consider it golden. Regardless of how you personally feel about the gig economy, there’s no denying that it has reached peak popularity for consumers, employees, and businesses – thanks in part to the amazing tech startups that led us here. 

But where exactly did the gig economy come from? And where does it go from here? 

What Is the Gig Economy? 

Let’s start with a primer on the gig economy. The “gig economy� refers to a number of trends related to the issuance and availability of “gig work.� In other words, a lot of people are freelancing and a lot of companies are willing to hire and work with freelancers. 

Freelancers aren’t technically employees. They aren’t protected or bound by the same laws and regulations that traditional employees are. For example, minimum wage laws, workers’ compensation laws, and maternity leave laws may not apply to freelancers. 

Employers benefit from this because they get to save money and hire more flexibly. They don’t have to pay as much money for employee benefits, they don’t have to spend time or money complying with complicated laws, and they can hire people on a flexible basis – and only for the work that actually needs to get done. 

Employees can also benefit from this arrangement. As a freelancer, they’re generally not bound by non-compete clauses, which means they can work for multiple employers/clients at the same time. They can also work as much or as little as they want, creating their own schedule and enjoying the benefits of a practically unlimited income. 

However, there are some downsides to the gig economy as well (as we’ll see). 

A Brief History of Gig Work

Gig work has been around for a long time. The term “gig� itself was coined by jazz musicians looking for a way to describe shows and concerts for which they were hired. Over the years, businesses in certain industries employed temp workers and freelancers when they had short-term, temporary, or frequently changing needs. 

However, the gig economy itself didn’t develop much until a handful of powerful tech startups stepped in.

Early Apps and Connective Tissue

The gig economy began to grow as the internet began to see widespread adoption. Craigslist, one of the earliest classified-ad-style websites, emerged to connect employees and employers, and allow people to make temporary arrangements with one another. If you needed a fence painted, or if you needed someone to do a reading for your audiobook, or if you needed a professional model to show off your company’s latest fashion, you could find them on Craigslist. 

In turn, a number of other connection-based sites arose and the gig economy began to flourish. 

The Uber Effect

Things began to change in the early 2010s, with the advent of Uber and similar tech startups. In case you aren’t familiar, the Uber app functioned like a ridesharing and taxi hailing service in one. With Uber, you can hail a ride from an Uber driver, get to your destination, then pay your driver, all within the app. As a driver, you won’t work directly from Uber, but the Uber app can connect you to individual riders in need of a ride. 

In the wake of Uber’s early success, we saw the rise in popularity of a number of similar apps, all of which allowed buyers and sellers to efficiently find each other. These platforms made gig work both more possible and more popular for a variety of reasons: 

  • The emergence of new markets. Some of these apps created new markets where there were no opportunities before. Uber itself forged a kind of middle ground between calling for a taxi and asking a friend to bum a ride. Airbnb allowed homeowners to rent a room efficiently to new tenants in a way they couldn’t before. Other apps invented entire mini-industries from the ground up, like renting power tools or providing grocery shopping services. 
  • Convenience for buyers. Buyers, including both individuals and companies, could find professionals easier than ever before. If you have temporary needs, you can’t afford to hire someone full-time, but these apps made it possible to find a kind of temporary employee. 
  • Convenience for sellers/producers. These apps were also convenient for sellers and producers. Rather than going through the trouble of starting their own business and marketing themselves, or finding a restrictive full-time position, they could take on jobs whenever and however they wanted. 
  • Minimal interference and natural development. Most tech startups following this formula created small-scale free market conditions. Pricing, worker availability, and consumer demand found a way to balance each other out in a way that became favorable to all parties. 

Collectively, the rise of these tech startups helped change the image of gig work from a “last-ditch effort� of someone who couldn’t find a “real� job to a viable economic opportunity for enterprising individuals. It helped to transform the gig economy into a landscape of value and empowerment. 

Remote Work Options 

The options available for freelancing and gig work have only increased with the rising trend of remote work. New technologies like streamlined video chatting and robust project management platforms have made it possible for a wider range of professionals to work independently from home. 

With no need for an in-house workforce, companies are increasingly open to the idea of managing a team of freelancers. And individual workers are seeing the benefits of working remotely for a handful of different clients, rather than pouring everything into a single employer and going to the same office every day. 

The Obstacles in the Way of Gig Work

Of course, the gig economy isn’t purely advantageous, and it isn’t loved by everyone. There are some key threats that could jeopardize the future of gig work, including: 

  • Regulations. Politicians are increasingly pushing for stricter regulations surrounding gig work. Employees are currently protected by a number of fairness and safety laws, which prevent employers from taking advantage of them or putting them in unsafe conditions. Currently, gig workers have little to no protection in this area. While new protections could put gig workers in a more favorable situation, it would also reduce some of the natural advantages of the arrangement, potentially reducing the number of gigs available for freelancers. 
  • Demand for benefits. One of the drawbacks of being a gig worker is that you generally won’t have access to employer benefits. You won’t have health insurance through your employer and you won’t be able to tap into a retirement program like a 401(k). If a greater percentage of gig workers grow dissatisfied with this arrangement, they may make a conscious push to change the norms within the gig economy (or pick up a full-time job instead). 
  • Worker dependence and mistreatment. Over time, a gig worker may become dependent on a client, platform, or employer; for example, an Uber driver may not feel able to leave Uber because they’ll be without a steady income. This type of environment can lead to abuse on the part of the employer; knowing their workforce is dependent on them, they can cut pay, slash benefits, and impose stricter performance requirements with reckless abandon. Of course, in a free market, these types of actions would be unsustainable. 

What Is the Future of Gig Work? 

So what does the future have in store for gig work? It seems like new technologies and increasingly flexible environments are favoring further developments for employers and freelancers. But at the same time, there are bigger political pushes to impose new regulations and restrictions on the world of gig work. Public demands, gig worker satisfaction, and corporate lobbying will collectively determine whether the gig economy will continue to grow or whether it will be permanently reined in. 

 

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conference Event futurist Keynote Learn speaker

Top Futurist Speakers to Have at Your Conference in 2021

top futurist speakers 2021

The future always arrives faster than you think and it often hits before you’re ready. Some people, though, have a talent for spotting trends. They see which technologies will make an impact, how new innovations will change society, and what’s coming up next for business and commerce. They also share what they’ve discovered. I’ve put together a list of the top futurist speakers to have at your conference in 2021.

Here are 25 of the best futurist keynote speakers. Each of these futurists speaks at major tech events — and when they’re not sharing their knowledge with audiences, they help top-level executives and marketing teams to prepare for the future.

  1. Joel Comm

Joel Comm tops the list with his almost 25 years of doing business online. He co-created Yahoo! Games, published 15 books, built a chart-topping iPhone app, and hosts a top blockchain podcast. He now leads the way with digital collectibles, a fast-growing field that combines blockchain technology with collection-building.

Comm is a top futurist speaker who helps businesses and brands arrive before the competition, and makes seemingly complex material easy to understand, refreshing, informative, and entertaining.

 

  1. Lisa Bodell

New technology and work practices can be complex and confusing. Lisa Bodell makes it simple. As the CEO of FutureThink, an innovation training firm, she provides innovative solutions that cut through the complexity.

Bodell spots new changes, identifies the most important characteristics that companies need to understand, and teaches them how to adapt and use new innovations.

 

 

  1. Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren used to have the best job in the world. After creating special effects for movies and theme parks, he became president of research and development and creative technology for Walt Disney.

Ferren is now the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Applied Minds, a design and invention firm. He also invented the pinch-to-zoom technology popularized by Apple. Ferren’s talks focus on the value of innovations and explain why we should care about new technology.

 

  1. Tan Le

For Tan Le, it’s all about the brain. A former refugee from Vietnam and now the founder and CEO of EMOTIV, a neuroinformatics company, Tan Le uses electroencephalography to deepen understanding of the brain and to develop brain-computer interfaces.

Her work has won her a host of innovation awards. Tan Le is the speaker you need to hear when you want to know how you’ll be using your brain in the future.

 

 

  1. Kate Ancketill

Kate Ancketill is the co-founder and CEO of GDR Creative Intelligence, a consultancy that helps brands to identify innovation trends. Her talks are packed with research that has been tested in the field and shown to help brands stay ahead of upcoming changes.

Ancketill explains how big companies change with technological and social innovation, and adapt to new customer behaviors.

 

 

  1. Brian Solis

Brian Solis is the Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce where he focuses on thought leadership and research into digital transformation, innovation and disruption, and the cognitive enterprise.

Solis is also the creator of “Lifescaling,� a model for living a creative digital life without diversions, focused on what’s important and making the most of the possibilities that technology offers.

 

 

  1. William Higham

William Higham is the head of Next Big Thing, a consultancy whose clients have included Amazon, HSBC, and MTV. He started his career in the music industry but his focus now is on consumer trends. He helps businesses and leaders predict changing tastes and adjust to meet them.

Higham’s successful trend-spotting has included helping the drinks industry cope with the rise of the New Sobriety, identifying Wellbeing Consumers, and championing Strictly Come Dancing, a surprising hit BBC show.

 
 
 

  1. Travis Wright

Travis Wright is the co-author of “Digital Sense: The Common Sense Approach to Effectively Blending Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technology, and Customer Experience.� He is the co-presenter, with Joel Comm, of the Bad Crypto Podcast, the leading guide to blockchain technology, and is also a pioneer in the world of digital collectibles.

Wright’s views of AI, machine learning, the blockchain, and martech has brought him to keynote stages around the world, including the annual Martech conference.

 

 

  1. Poppy Crum

Poppy Crum is an Adjunct Professor in Computer Research at Stanford University and the Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories. She has practical experience of using an understanding of human behavior, data, and combinations of wearable and immersive technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to build commercial innovation.

Crum helps organizations to rethink their understanding of personalization and explains how technology can make products more personal and less technical.

 

 

  1. Ben Casnocha

Ben Casnocha is a venture capitalist. He’s a co-founder and partner at Village Global, a $100 million investment fund, and was the chief of staff of LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman. They’ve written a couple of books together, and Casnocha has helped to form an organization to promote Hoffman’s strategic priorities.

Casnocha’s has also founded e-government firm Comcate, and mentored at startup incubator, Techstars. Ben Casnocha’s speaking topics have covered the new employer-employee relationship, millennials at work, and the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur in today’s work environment.

 

  1. Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku is best known as a theoretical physicist who is trying to complete Einstein’s unified field theory.

Kaku is a Physics professor at the City University of New York is also a trendspotter. His book “Physics of the Future,� includes interviews with 300 of the world’s top scientists to understand what the next decades, and century, will mean for science.

The science includes the future of computers, robotics, biotechnology, and more. Kaku’s talks cover both the physics of the future and the future of the mind.

 

  1. Vivek Wadhwa 

Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. He’s the author of five books and has been named by Foreign Policy magazine one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.� His research focuses on the effect of technology on employment.

Wadhwa has explored the role of corporate training programs in the rise of Indian companies, diversity in Silicon Valley, and the risks of America’s visa program for skilled workers. His talks cover ways to navigate technological change, disruption and opportunity, and the role of technology in medicine.

 

  1. Kate Darling

For Kate Darling, the future is all about robots. A research specialist at MIT’s Media Lab, Kate Darling conducts experiments into the way that humans and robots interact. She’s taught a robot ethics course at Harvard Law School and has researched incentives in copyright and patent systems.

Although Darling has a background in law it’s her insights into the behavior of robots and how humans will interact with them that make her talks so vital.

 

 

  1. Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick is unusual among futurist speakers in having once been placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. He had hacked into more than 40 major companies to see whether he could do it.

Mitnick is now one of the world’s most skilled white hat hackers, hired by governments and corporations to test their security and cyber defense systems. Mitnick’s talks cover a range of cyber defense issues from digital privacy to remote workplace safety and social engineering.

 

 

 

  1. Crystal Washington

Crystal Washington helps businesses apply technology to increase their profits. She plots a path through social media’s most effective functions, explaining technology hacks that can increase sales.

Washington talks through her own strategies for building an effective and efficient home office, and she ensures that technology serves her clients instead of forcing companies to accommodate themselves to new innovations.

 

 

 

  1. Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the owner and produce of the Consumer Electronics Show. He’s a leading lobbyist, pushing for more skilled employees, immigration, and free trade, and the elimination of regulatory and tax burdens on innovators.

Shapiro’s talks focus on the place of innovation in America and how it can create jobs and build new industries.

 

 

 

  1. Chike Aguh

Chike Aguh is a Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a Venture Partner at New Markets Venture Partners with a focus on workforce technologies.

Aguh talks about the future of work and explains how automation could change as much as two-thirds of jobs. He also discusses the social impact and the effects of the gig economy, re-skilling, and a multi-generational workplace.

 

 

 

  1. Cate Trotter

Cate Trotter is the founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends. Her focus is on retail. She looks for the effects of trends like wearable technology, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things, and explains to brands how those changes will affect the customer experience and future commerce.

As an entrepreneur, Trotter has created and run two companies of her own. She is able to describe both theory and its practical effects and provides these explanations to brands.

 

 

 

  1. David Hanson

If tomorrow’s world is filled with robots, it will probably be because of David Hanson. The founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics, Hanson started his career at Walt Disney, as a sculptor and a technical robotics consultant.

Hanson has now used artificial intelligence and new skin materials to create a realistic android called Sophia. David Hanson’s talks explain how the world will look when it is filled with androids.

 

 

  1. Gary Hamel

Gary Hamel is the author of “The Future of Management,� a future he’s been bringing to businesses throughout his career. As a consultant, he’s helped a number of large brands update their management and production processes, helping them get more out of their employees and develop more efficient ways to generate innovation.

While many futurist speakers focus on how demand will change, Gary Hamel talks about how management will change to meet that demand.

 

 

  1. Hakeem Oluseyi

Most futurist speakers focus on how the future will affect business. Hakeem Oluyesi is more about the science. A difficult childhood, which involved ten schools in seven years, led to plenty of reading and science television.

After completing a Ph.D. at Stanford, Oluyesi worked on computer chips in Silicon Valley then moved to NASA where he is now the organization’s Space Education Lead.

Elon Musk might be building the rockets that will take us to space but Hakeem Oluyesi understands what we’ll find when we get there.

 

  1. Magnus Lindkvist

Magnus Lindkvist notices the small stuff. In his book, “Minifesto,� he explains how small ideas will help to build large narratives.

At the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, Lindkvist created the world’s first academically accredited course in Trendspotting and Future Thinking. His talks focus on how we think about the world, and how we can use those thoughts to understand, predict, and build the future.

 

 

 

  1. Rachel Armstrong

Much of the future will focus on building and improving sustainable environmental solutions. Rachel Armstrong is a professor at Newcastle University in experimental architecture. She looks for innovative environmental solutions to address challenges such as carbon capture, recycling, smart materials and sustainable design.

Armstrong’s expertise is in synthetic biology which she believes could offer sustainable solutions to built environments.

 

 

  1. Richard Watson

Richard Watson is a Futurist-in-Residence for the Technology Foresight Practice at Imperial College and a founding member of Futures House, a scenario planning consultancy.

Watson’s talks focus on trends and strategic foresight, but his skill is applying those trends to innovation, retail, and other industries, and explaining how those industries will need to adapt.

 

 

  1. Rohit Bhargava

After 15 years at two of the world’s biggest marketing and branding companies, Rohit Bhargava struck out on his own, forming three companies. He is the founder of the Non-Obvious Company, and also its Chief Trend Curator.

Bhargava’s Non-Obvious Trend Report is published at the end of every year and is read by more than a million people.

 

 

 

Top Image Credit: maria eduarda tavares; pexels

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Categories
Startups

What Every Entrepreneur Should Do Before Launching a Startup

do before launching startup

Launching a startup is always exciting. This is your opportunity to accumulate wealth, make a name for yourself, innovate in some unique way, and possibly leave behind a legacy. But too many entrepreneurs end up failing because they were inadequately prepared.

Before you even consider launching a startup, there are many preparatory steps you’ll need to take.

Set the Right Expectations

Before you do anything, you need to set the right expectations. A combination of media attention and survivorship bias has led people to believe that launching a startup is a surefire path to success – and maybe even a path to becoming a billionaire.

Being overoptimistic can cause you to overlook important weaknesses and threats and be disappointed and frustrated when things don’t go your way.

Consider:

  • While it’s easier to start a business today than it was, say, 30 years ago, there are still prohibitive costs to keep in mind. Depending on the nature of your startup, you may be responsible for paying for licensing, an office, employees, technological infrastructure, marketing, and more. If you’re not prepared, these costs could completely overwhelm your budget and make it nearly impossible to recover.
  • Failure rates. Some businesses explode in growth, becoming tech unicorns worth more than a billion dollars. Others make a fair amount on an ongoing basis, becoming a reliable source of income for their founders and employees. But half of all businesses fail within five years of launching. You need to be prepared for that reality.
  • Media stories often make it seem like tech startups skyrocket to success overnight. But the reality is, most successful businesses are the result of many years of hard work – including an entrepreneur’s previous failed attempts that serve as lessons for future development. You’ll need to prepare for a long, complex journey to be successful.
  • Hard work. Being an entrepreneur may seem like a lot of fun – especially when you get to choose your own employees and set your own work schedule. However, no matter what, you’re going to face significant hard work. You’ll be working long hours, often into the evenings and weekends, and facing stress from a combination of many factors.
  • Just because market conditions look a certain way at the beginning of your journey doesn’t mean they’re going to stay that way forever. Many tech startups fold because they can’t keep up with a changing market, new competitors, or other unpredicted factors.

Do Your Research

You should already know the importance of doing your research before starting a business, but many entrepreneurs skip or gloss over this vital step. You’ll need to dig deep into many areas of business development; for example, you should learn about your target demographics, the current competition, future prospects, financial models, and other factors critical to your success.

Objective data isn’t going to instantly make your business more viable, but it will give you something good to start with.

Write a Business Plan

You can’t launch an effective business without having a business plan in place first. Your idea may be brilliant, and it may solve a problem effectively, but does it have a reliable way to make money? Your business plan will force you to think through your entire business concept, modeling financials for years in the future and outlining the biggest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats before you.

This document will serve as a blueprint you can reference as you invest time and money in your business and begin to grow. It’s also going to serve as a persuasion tool, potentially attracting new investors or partners to your startup.

Build Your Network

Not even the most seasoned, inventive entrepreneurs can build a successful business by themselves. Most businesses strongly benefit from the help of a robust professional network. Through networking, you’ll meet potential investors, partners, employees, vendors, and even peers who can give you advice. Throughout the course of your startup’s development, these people will be indispensable in helping your business grow.

It pays to get an early start here. It’s much more beneficial to have a strong network and start a business than start a business and then build a network.

Find What Makes You Unique

Your business is going to face competition, no matter how original your idea is. There may be competitors already on the market, or they may begin to arise only after establishing yourself as a major player. Either way, you’ll need to find something that differentiates you from the competition. What’s something you can offer that other businesses like yours can’t? What’s your unique value proposition?

Don’t start a business without an answer in mind, or else you’ll face significant competitive issues.

Get Support

Hopefully, you’ll have a network in place by the time you’re ready to launch your startup. Otherwise, you’ll need to start reaching out as your startup begins to develop.

Pay critical attention to:

  • You may like the idea of starting a business by yourself, but even a single partner can reduce your fiscal obligations and make your life easier.
  • Investors can make sure your startup has the capital it needs to grow and become successful; they’re also great sources of advice and direction.
  • Your employees are the people responsible for turning your vision into a reality. Don’t skimp on the hiring process.
  • When your startup begins to mature, you’ll want a few eager clients in the wings to step up and provide you with income.

Foster New Skills

Being an entrepreneur means wearing many hats. In the span of a day, you’ll take on responsibilities like accounting, hiring people, making critical business decisions, marketing, making sales, negotiating, making purchases, and more. You’ll also need soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence.

In the months and years leading up to your foray into entrepreneurship, it’s a good idea to develop some of these skills. See if you can land yourself in a leadership position, whether it’s in your job or a volunteering opportunity. Take courses to develop yourself in areas of weakness, and talk to people who may know more than you on these subjects.

Get a Marketing Strategy Together

There are tons of marketing options these days, even if you have a small budget as an emerging startup. But one thing is certain; it’s almost impossible to build an effective brand presence without marketing. Even if you’re relying on positive word of mouth and referrals, you’ll need some initial marketing to attract your first customers.

Some of the best options here include search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, since they’re both relatively inexpensive, accessible to all businesses, and ideal for long-term growth. However, there are plenty of other options to choose from.

Come Up With Contingency Plans

Don’t forget the failure rate of startups. Even with the best-laid plans, there’s a chance your business will fail. You’ll need to be prepared for that reality with contingency plans – long before you start the business properly.

Consider:

  • Personal financing. Your income may be unstable as your business begins to develop. Can your personal finances take the hit? Do you have another source of income you can rely on?
  • If your business isn’t growing the way you expected or wanted, is there a different business model you could pivot to? What outlets for growth and development are there for your business?
  • Alternate career paths. Finally, are there alternative career paths that could sustain you? For example, is there a different type of business you could start, or could you join an established company in this industry to gain more experience?

No matter how good your startup idea is or how original it is, these steps will be vital to maximize your chances of success. Entrepreneurship is often fun, and always stimulating, but it’s not going to end in success unless you’re adequately prepared.

Image Credit: Minervastudio; pexels

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AI Culture Startups

What Is the Future of HR?

What Is the Future of HR?

Human resource (HR) departments have long been integral to organizational success, and they’re likely to remain that way for decades to come. But the nature of HR is likely to evolve with new technologies, research, and trends.

What does the future of HR look like?

Remodeling the Workforce

For starters, we may see HR leading the charge in remodeling the shape of the average workforce. Increasingly, employers and consumers alike are valuing diversity and inclusion; companies are working harder to ensure a mix of people from different backgrounds are included at all levels of the organization. In the future, this is going to become an even bigger priority.

But this is a minor change compared to the next generation of workforce management. We’re already starting to see a blend of human beings and machines in the workplace, and in the near future, this is going to become more prominent – even in businesses filled with mostly high-skilled, white-collar workers. How will you handle the transition from a human position to one handled by an AI algorithm? How will you ensure that humans and machines can collaborate and maximize productivity together? How will you optimize the balance between human beings and machines in the workplace? And how can you tell what an optimal balance is?

These will be the big-picture questions dictating HR development in the future.

Remote Work

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was gaining popularity. Employees were getting a feel for the benefits of the arrangement, such as cutting down on commute time, improving flexibility, and even increasing productivity. At the same time, employers get to save money and see better results. After the pandemic forced businesses to rethink work and increase safety, these benefits became more apparent to a wider range of businesses.

Today, HR departments are evolving to treat remote work as the default – rather than a temporary or gimmicky new approach to conventional work. That trend is likely to continue into the future as remote work becomes even more widely accepted.

The Evolution of HR Software

Today’s HR departments and organizations rely on HR software like Rippling to handle things like payroll, benefits management, and employee device management. Using one platform, they can store, review, and gather information, send messages, and even generate reports to analyze data. It’s seemingly comprehensive.

But in the future, these platforms will likely become even more robust. We’ll see the addition of new streams of data, real-time analyses, and possibly the inclusion of machine learning and AI algorithms to increase productivity or improve results.

Culture and Unity

Part of HR’s job is to create and sustain the culture within an organization, and make the team feel unified. This is increasingly difficult in a world dominated by remote work, but it’s increasingly demanded by the workforce.

Accordingly, HR will need to find new channels for communication, teambuilding, and collecting employee feedback. Organizational culture management is going to evolve into new forms, and employees will have to develop a different set of expectations for how it’s facilitated. In line with this, HR leaders will have to remain agile, forging culture-based connections when they can while still preserving the structure of the business.

The Gig Economy: Here to Stay?

Technology is responsible for introducing the “gig economy.� Though freelancing and gig work concepts have existed for decades, apps like Uber, Fiverr, and Airbnb made it much easier for individuals to offer their services as freelancers. In turn, corporations have attempted to take advantage of this by relying more heavily on contractors and freelancers instead of making the investments in full-time employees. This is favorable as a cost-saving measure, but it also introduces more flexibility into the organization. And while workers miss some benefits, they also have more freedom to control their workloads and explore other opportunities.

However, it remains uncertain whether the gig economy is here to stay or whether it was something of a temporary detour. Either way, HR departments will have to adapt to keep in line with current trends.

The Employee Experience

We’re already seeing a wave of momentum favoring the development and maintenance of the “employee experience.� In other words, how does an employee feel about the business and engage with the business, from the moment they’re recruited to their ongoing career development? Positive employee experiences lead to higher morale, higher productivity, and higher employee retention. The subjective nature of the employee experience can also reveal a lot about how the organization operates.

In the future, employee experience will become an even higher priority – and become easier to measure and control. Better tools will make it easier for employees to provide feedback about their experiences throughout their careers, and better analytics platforms will make it easier to figure out which changes to make to improve the business.

Data-Driven Insights

Nearly all departments and all industries are increasingly relying on data to improve, and HR is no different. In the future, HR will become even more reliant on data to operate efficiently.

Today’s HR departments use a variety of data points to create images of job candidates, employees, and organizational efficiency, such as hours worked, employee retention, and metrics related to recruiting, training, and development. Data may become even more granular in the future, studying nuanced elements of employee behaviors from the moment they’re recruited.

Most of these data will be collected automatically, with the help of device tracking and robust HR software platforms – which leads to our next points.

AI and Automation

HR departments are also likely to incorporate more AI and automation. Automation is a no-brainer; if you can automate a task that ordinarily requires manual human effort, you’ll instantly reduce the hours your employees need to work. Not only does this save the organization money, it also frees up human employees to focus on more important things.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also serve a bigger role in the future. With sufficiently advanced machine learning algorithms, HR leaders can quickly and efficiently crunch the numbers they’ve gathered and come to a final conclusion. And in the right context, a suitable AI could even handle previously human-exclusive tasks, such as handling employee conflicts or interviewing candidates.

Sustainability and Image

Today’s consumers care more about sustainability, and not just environmental sustainability. Human and social sustainability require businesses to engage in socially responsible hiring and employee management practices. Today, this includes hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds, treating employees fairly, and compensating them well. In the future, these are going to become even bigger priorities for consumers, which means businesses will need to do more to make their operations transparent (and show off their sustainability efforts).

The very nature of human and social sustainability may also evolve in the near future. For example, if machines are gradually replacing human jobs in a certain industry, will it be considered socially sustainable or responsible to maintain at least some human jobs?

Cycles of Progression

Over time, the rate of change within HR departments is likely to increase; in other words, HR progression will be accelerating. As we’ve seen, technology tends to evolve exponentially. New technologies get incorporated into existing businesses that create even newer, better technologies. And once things like machine learning and big data analytics get thrown into the mix, it’s hard to stop that momentum.

This acceleration will also be fueled by competition. As HR departments begin pushing the limits of their productivity and effectiveness, other HR departments must follow suit to keep up. Nobody wants to be left in the dust with a years-old platform that’s now becoming obsolete in mainstream workforces.

Even with the onset of AI, automation, and a machine-heavy workforce, HR departments are going to remain important for productivity and sustainability for the foreseeable future. However, the role of an HR manager or HR director is going to change substantially in the coming years. No one can predict the future, but we can see many of these trends already developing in the present. The transformation is already unfolding.

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Marketing Sales Small Business Startups

How to Properly Use PR and SEO to Amplify Marketing Results

PR and SEO

A business is as good as how it portrays itself. It might have the best product on the market, but how it packages that product determines how it will fare. Here is how to properly use PR and SEO to amplify marketing results.

What is Your Consumer Appeal?

With the advent of technology, firms are increasingly becoming competitive to match the supply of goods and services from competitors. Revamping online presence features prominently in communication strategy as companies angle out their consumer appeal.

PR and SEO handle the same segment, but their approach is different. PR is creating desirable content that resonates with consumers, while SEO customizes the content to rank among the competition.

If these two components of the corporate communication link, they form an integrated communication approach that works both offline and online. Let’s take a look at a few tips on how to use SEO and PR to conquer online marketing.

Capture the Attention of More People

You are capturing more people’s attention if you are using SEO to find your clients and improve your image. SEO brings you to the top of search rankings even if the customer was not looking for your business specifically. If nothing else, the customer will continue to see your business represented in search results.

Over time, it will become clear to the customer that you are an expert in the industry. After all, your website continues to appear in their search results. Potential customers will remember your name, and they will associate your brand with a certain industry. You have branded yourself as a useful resource, and customers will start searching for your company alone in the future.

SEO Keyword Lists to Grow Your Audience

However, you must use SEO keyword lists to grow your audience. If you have just one or two keywords, you are only capturing a fraction of the attention that you deserve. Think bigger. Use SEO keyword lists to highlight everything you do and every location you serve.

For example, you should not list the services you provide. It would help if you used industry keywords that mix with these services. A company that offers pressure washing might add the name of an industrial device it uses.

It would be best if you listed everything you pressure wash. Therefore, you will have keywords for pressure washing driveways, sidewalks, homes, offices, commercial buildings, and industrial buildings.

Where Are You Located?

Take the next step by adding locations to your keywords. You have positioned yourself as a company that can provide customers with the service they need, but they might not know where you are located. Adding every location you service and the surrounding towns or cities makes your SEO more effective.

At the same time, you are adding these locations to your branding. You now have a reputation for serving people in every city you have listed.

When people live and work in your area, they often drive by convenient locations that are far from home. Someone who drops the kids off at school might realize that you are close to the school. You have become a convenient option. If you are close to someone’s office, you are convenient.

SEO Keywords

Finally, you must add keywords that make you look like a family business. You want to talk about helping families, helping local businesses, or helping local students. When you speak to your customers using friendly language, they are more likely to shop with you.

Adding SEO keywords to your content helps more people find you, and you have successfully integrated PR with SEO.

Increase Brand Awareness

The main aim of marketing is to make products known to the public. Brand awareness entails detailing the component and benefits of the product and its utility to the consumer. Clients choose a product based on how well they know it. Crafting a product description is part of public relations where the producer paints a picture of the product.

SEO brings in the online search patterns which the possible consumer uses to get information. Infusing the keywords into the product description and forming a desirable word combination increase product visibility on search engines. The impact of SEO amplifies the PR of the brand.

Enhance Content Development

As you develop content, you want to be as specific as possible. You are educating your customers when they are reading what your business does. You have branded your business such that you work in every city in the area.

By doing so, you have proven to customers that you can help them even if you do not have the same zip code as them. Additionally, it would be best to talk about specific issues that customers in that area have.

Creating a post on an issue, product or statement needs systematic wording. Content development is more than putting words together to explain. Whereas the formulation of the statement drives the meaning, how it sounds, and the target market informs its development. PR ensures formations while SEO customizes it to reach the target market.

How do You Better Serve Your Customer?

If you work in the pressure washing business, you should talk to customers about how you can solve their problems with salt on the roads in the winter, debris on their homes, and other specific items to that town. You can even reference local landmarks that show you have worked in the area.

You are not just an expert in your industry. You are proving to your customers that you are an expert in their hometown. These customers are more likely to trust you, and your brand looks more trustworthy because you have spoken directly to the customer.

What About Vids?

While you can say that you serve everyone in the area, many customers will not believe you until you reference the place where they live. Each new article should educate the customer on something new, and you can do the same thing with videos.

More potential customers will see videos with titles that include locations. Plus, customers can see you working in their area and might even recognize the background. As these videos progress, customers realize that you can come to their location to offer the same service. They trust you because they have seen you at work, and they understand that you can respond quickly.

Content development is popular in blogging, especially for companies offering social services. It helps create a narrative that appeals to a specific cluster of people. Business websites use SEO and PR to style their content to score a particular business goal.

Improve Brand Confidence and Consistency

Every business strives to come out in the best way possible. The product might be exemplary, but its communication decides how it will fare in the market. Consumers relate more with a known brand than a newcomer. They trust their ability since they have little information on the competitor.

However, the difference between brand awareness and brand confidence is how steady and consistent it is, both as a product and its quality. The authority fit commands is in how it communicates and interacts with its customers. The feedback mechanism sparked by the description improves its visibility and implore the producers to standardize the product. Trust builds brands, while confidence breeds authority.

When you are using PR and SEO together, you can be much more consistent with your brand message. A list of keywords will keep you on-task, and you can write in the same style every time you release an ad or write an article. Consistency makes businesses much more profitable, and you want to get as much help being consistent as you can.

Improve Your Brands Reputation

When you want to improve your brand reputation in a certain area, you can start using those keywords more than others. For example, a company that offers plumbing and electrical services might have just started offering its customers electrical services. Start talking more about electrical work to show that you are an expert in the industry.

You can do the same with any other product or service that you offer. If you have been thinking about your approach to these issues, it is much easier for you to brand yourself as an expert in new fields. Customers will see the same brand message in many locations, and they will feel as though they can trust you.

How May I Contact You?

You must also remember that customers can interact with you if you are posting articles online, writing in your blog, or using social media. You can use a script to talk to all these customers so that they always get the same message. This is vital to your success because it shows customers that you have taken the time to give them the best experience.

Share Ideas and Grow as Business Partners

You can share ideas more easily when you have a positive brand image. As you share your message and brand your company as an expert in a certain field, other companies will want to work with you. These partnerships can be profitable and increase your level of productivity. Social media is one place where people often share ideas and meet new partners.

When you are on social media, you can engage in witty banter with other businesses. These businesses might want to work with you, and your chat logs might even go viral. You can share ideas with these businesses, and you can even ask your customers for ideas. This is a very important step in the process because you want your customers to feel involved in what it is that you do.

Do You Convert Your Keywords to Hashtags?

You can convert all your keywords into hashtags. This means that you can share PR-style ads and slogans with the public, but you can use all your SEO keywords to reach more customers. These keywords are not just used in searches.

Social media companies have designed algorithms that find new people for customers to follow. When someone has searched for a company like yours, you will be recommended if you are close to their location.

Many of your most loyal customers might come to you because they found you on social media. Plus, they can check out your pictures or videos, leave comments, and even recommend your business to others. These people can even share your posts via a messenger app.

Social Media Apps

Social media apps also allow your customers to share your posts on their feeds. When customers really like your business, they will advertise for you. You can even create contests that ask customers to post your images or videos on their feeds. When they do this, they might win a prize. While these customers are excited to win something for free, they tell all their friends, family, and followers that you are trustworthy.

You might even go so far as hiring influencers who will advertise for you on social media. Tell the influencer all the hashtags you want to use, and they can add more credibility to your brand by posting about you a few times a week. Each of these steps, then, ensures that your brand image is improving while also driving web traffic to your site.

Communal Sharing

Social media has become a business tool for all budding enterprises, thanks to the following it attracts. Companies invoke social connotations to explore new markets and reach a wider audience. They customize their posts to rank higher with social circles. It spreads faster and relays messages in socially acceptable wordings.

Sharing a post or an advert personalizes the message and reaches as many people as possible. Websites are customizing posts to bring out the intended message before the reader fully opens it. Transmission is faster and conversion significant. This digital marketing strategy opens up companies to infinite possibilities.

Final Words

When you want to improve your public relations and your overall brand image, SEO is a good place to start. You might think that these two things are completely unrelated, but they are not. Many people do not know anything about your business, and they have never been exposed to a marketing campaign of yours in the past.

As you read through these tips, imagine how much your brand can improve when using the proper keywords and strategy.

Are You Trustworthy?

PR is the act of making your brand look more trustworthy. You want everyone who interacts with your brand to believe that you are the best company for the job. SEO helps you find the newest customers. Mixing these two things makes sense when you are running a business in any industry.

Moreover, companies rely on the internet to push their brand beyond its confines and research on emerging trends. However, its marketing results determine its sales conversion and product customization moving forward. As companies develop their communication strategies, a combination of SEO and PR should be their primary focus.

Image Credit: Jopwell; Pexels

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Data and Security IoT Tech

The Importance of Cybersecurity for the Investment Banking Industry

cybersecurity for investment banking

Digitalization is visible across most, if not all, spheres of our professional and personal lives. While it offers a number of undeniable advantages, it brings along the need for security, especially cybersecurity. Consider the following:

  • An increasing number of devices are interconnected, communicating via the Internet
  • Digitalization brings convenience but also collects data, with the potential for misuse

Implications of interconnected devices for companies.

This brings along implications for companies. They must protect themselves from cyberattacks, or else – for instance – hackers could take control of Internet-connected medical devices. This is but one example, and the vulnerable lot includes financial services firms, including those in the investment banking industry.

A good cybersecurity setup for this sector is difficult to determine.

Cybersecurity is hard to determine considering the constantly changing threat landscape, plus the effect of shifting business priorities and exponential technology forces on how organizations approach cyber risk management.

There is no denying, though, that the cloud, data and analytics, and social media are top of the list of technology items requiring attention at large firms.

Look what large enterprise banking spend on cybersecurity

The criticality of cybersecurity is borne out by budgets for the same. The largest budgets of course belong to Fortune 500 companies. Within the Fortune 500, financial institutions appear to have the deepest pockets. JP Morgan Chase & Co, as per a 2018 letter to its shareholders, spends roughly USD 600 million annually on cybersecurity. They also employ around 3,000 IT security people.

Media reports have suggested that Bank of America spends roughly the same amount on cybersecurity.

It is thus no surprise to see the number of financial institutions posting job ads for cybersecurity positions. Given how cybersecurity covers a broad range of issues and security breaches are quite common, the pool of investment banking professionals must also include tech-savvy information security personnel to protect their online systems.

Why are banks a cybersecurity risk?

Why, though, is Wall Street at such risk? According to Moody’s, the capital markets businesses of banks “are an appealing target for cybercriminals attempting large-scale theft or launching sophisticated attacks to create operational disruption.�

Companies in the investment banking industry also house other attractive “targets�, such as payment and cash management systems, and data of their high-net-worth clients and retail banking private clients. Cyberattacks have many purposes:

  • Stealing money
  • Extorting ransoms
  • Stealing or manipulating data
  • Creating significant operational disruption
  • Generating negative publicity

The attacks themselves can take many forms across a wide range of channels. A typical attack is perpetrated by a criminal in a remote, safe location, trying to get into the systems of a bank or of its clients. Other attacks include attempts to divert payments into the accounts of criminals.

Fraud is very closely linked with cybercrime, and so are the methods employed by investment banking professionals to fight the two.

Investment Banking

Because of the nature of its work, the investment banking industry offers a number of targets for attacks and fraud. These include the following:

  • Pending mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions: Business negotiations for M&A deals include some very valuable information attractive for attackers, especially for industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medicine.
  • Mobile computing devices: Given how many activities of investment banks happen through such devices, they are often targeted to get unauthorized access to client or management accounts.
  • Insider trading: The fact that people working at investment banks are privy to confidential information means they can also facilitate cybersecurity breaches. Interestingly, some analysts also speculate there could be a correlation between such institutions hiring cybersecurity professionals and the increased instances of breaches and insider trading attacks a few months later.

What does a successful cyber attack do?

The impact of a successful cyberattack could be wide-ranging for the work of investment banking professionals, with effects in financial, regulatory, and reputation terms. A challenge in this regard comes from the number of ‘false positives’ that could arise and unfortunately, are not possible to eradicate completely.

The only way out is to keep working on rules to detect such instances and thereby reduce their occurrence. The rules need to become more accurate and efficient, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could be of great help hereby, for instance, scanning for a change in client behavior or for suspicious IP addresses.

Compromised data can also affect the bottom line. Details of an ongoing deal could be manipulated or transferred, thereby damaging share prices of involved companies involved.

New cybersecurity technology

The solution is for the investment banking industry to invest in new cybersecurity technologies. Investment banks must encourage proper procedures to remove human errors, negligence, or failure to follow security protocols. Some key aspects are as below:

  • Huge amounts of data: With larger amounts of data being collected, processed and analyzed for decision-making, every aspect of data collection and management must be secured.
  • Autonomous devices: Do not miss out on security for sensors and smart meters. Watch out for physical tampering, unauthorized access, and other attempts to affect data integrity.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) security: Data assurance programs must establish end-to-end security for IoT data.
  • Hire the right people: This implies hiring sufficient staff to implement and monitor security measures, as well as ensuring they are trustworthy.
  • Keep clients and staff informed: These entities must be informed about the risks of phishing attacks, social engineering, and others.

The way ahead is clear. Security measures and awareness along with effective regulation are imperatives to mitigate the risks and effects of cyberattacks in an industry as critical as investment banking. Given the sensitivity of information here, the monetary and reputation damages could otherwise be very serious for the business.

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Lifestyle Tech

The Future Is Clear: Connected Glass Will Redefine Commerce, Lifestyle Trends

The Future Is Clear: Connected Glass Will Redefine Commerce, Lifestyle Trends

How we shop, how we work out, how we receive medical care – you name the sector and odds are good that it underwent some major transformations during 2020. That being said, many of the most dramatic changes were less the result of the COVID-19 pandemic than accelerated by it, and this is particularly true in the world of connected tech. Companies didn’t invent entirely new processes to remedy pandemic-related service gaps, but hurried in-progress solutions to market. And, in so doing, they also transformed our lives at home and out in the world.

What types of new technology have been particularly major players in our lives during 2020? At the heart of it all were a variety of Augmented Reality (AR) products, like virtual dressing rooms and Face AR for video conferencing, as well as well as AI-based fitness tools like Mirror, a connected fitness device acquired by Lululemon Athletica last year. But as critical as such technology appears to be to our new lifestyle ecosystem, such elements represent significant challenges, especially for the manufacturing sector.

Automated Manufacturing Meets Glass

Automation has been central to the manufacturing sector for years and it’s long been recognized that the only way the industry can keep up with demand today is by continuing to build on industrial automation. When it comes to glass, though, that’s easier said than done. After all, in premise, glass’s value comes largely from the fact that it’s clear. That’s not a problem for human workers who can still perceive its bounds and work with it in industrial settings, but it can present real challenges to robotic vision systems and create barriers to mass manufacturing new technologies.

In typical manufacturing settings, robotic vision programs use reflected light to scan materials and identify key points, allowing for precision work with minimal human involvement. When this same vision is turned on glass or highly reflective metal, however, these vision systems can’t collect the necessary information; the glass or metal is essentially invisible. Observing this issue, there are now new manufacturers working to develop advanced robotic vision programs that use different systems, such as light filters and changing points of view, that can enable such systems to successfully work with glass or shiny metals.

What does such robotic vision look like in practice? Imagine that a business wants to install new glass storefronts that allows customers to interact with displays or browse without even setting foot inside the store. It’s a good idea, and one that shares many traits with other display trends that have been in the news for nearly a decade, but tricky to execute in practice. To create a transparent glass display that’s actually a functional LCD screen, manufacturers will need to be able to apply the same types of automated manufacturing technology that they use for computers, and that means using robotic vision that can see the glass its working on. It’s a tall order, but it’s also the reality of modern technology.

Fitness AIs Rise

Another area in which improved glass-detection will be key to manufacturing is in the growth of the connected fitness sector. Connected fitness has been all the rage since the launch of products like Fitbit, but that was just a starting point. Since then – and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in interest in home fitness – the market for connected fitness tech has exploded. In addition to Fitbit, there are now countless other fitness and health wearables, home fitness equipment like the Peloton bike and SoulCycle’s competitor bike, and the Mirror fitness system mentioned above. All this is to say that people want to work out at home and they need tools to do it.

The Mirror fitness system represents many of the challenges facing glass manufacturing today. Placed in your home, it acts precisely as the name implies – as a mirror – but turn the device on and it’s a mirror, a screen playing a class, and an AI-connected system offering workout modifications and tracking fitness goals. That’s some complicated engineering, and it raises questions about how the device, and other devices like it, is made.

Most of the high-tech mirror and glass products on the market function, at least to some degree, on proprietary technology, so a full glimpse behind the curtain isn’t possible. However, we can infer based on our understanding of robotic vision systems that these products rely on cutting edge technology. Unlike other AI-powered machine vision programs, the ability to detect objects isn’t enough. Instead, it needs to be able to detect items that are, in many ways, meant to avoid detection.

Windshields And Other Glass Innovations

Where else is new glass manufacturing technology in use or on the verge of emergence? There are a number of areas of interest, including smart windshields that could prevent distracted driving, AR smart glasses, which have proved their growth potential in recent years after the initial failure of Google Glass, and much more. All of that indicates high demand for more complex, precise glass manufacturing and processing tools, with invisible but overlaid sensor systems.

One product that may be especially influential in understanding connected technology engineering and manufacturing is the subsector of smart glass known as light control glass of LCG. This glass product has recently experienced an explosion of growth stemming from its use in construction.

LCG has been embraced by builders and property financiers who recognize the health benefits of access to sunlight. Instead of installing tinted glass in window-heavy buildings, then, they choose digitally modifiable glass; individual users can adjust their windows with the power of touch. Better manufacturing technology now allows these glass products to filter out specific light forms, include hazardous UV rays, or darken to mimic traditional privacy glass. Within its niche, this is what’s known as a dynamic material and its applications are extensive.

Now, a significant part of what makes glass so valuable in all of the above applications, as well as in our smart phones and tablets, is that it works well in conjunction with the types of plastic conductive materials commonly used together. Essentially, the plastic conductive film touches the glass and completes a circuit. Typically, that doesn’t work with an all-plastic system, though, which is why we all have to go around worrying that we’ll drop our cellphones and crack the screens. The glass is just too important.

What some new equipment manufacturers are now attempting to develop is a plastic alternative that can stand in for glass’s conductive properties, which would allow for touch-sensitive but durable and lightweight products. Essentially, the more products that rely on touchscreens, the more incentive there is to develop an affordable, plastic alternative. Glass may function well and feel high-end, but it’s expensive and often impractical and our connected environment demands innovation.

Smart Glass Goes Plastic

Among the many potential applications of plastic alternatives to conductive smart glass products include high wear and tear, including AR-based virtual dressing rooms, the high-tech reinvention of stores like Toys R Us, which now features numerous touchscreen stations, and many children’s products. Plastic alternatives are also ideal for outdoor applications like the National Parks, local hiking trails, and even amusement parks, where touchscreens are more likely to be subject to weather conditions and other activity. Durability is a common manufacturing priority across industries, so everything we learn about smart glass manufacturing should be quickly applied to plastic analogs.

Over the last decade, we have steadily made progress towards a moment when users expect everything to be touchscreen equipped, but that moment remains elusive. Still, we’re getting closer, and sturdier material options will bring us closer still. Other improvements in projected capacitive technology allow for faster response times from touchscreen tools, greater durability that prevents scratches and cracks from significantly impacting overall device function, and new anti-glare and anti-stiction technology for greater interactive ease.

Ultimately, transparent conduction technology is going to steadily move away from glass, but most innovations will likely still begin with glass manufacturing. Because of the many advantages that glass offers in terms of quality and conductive capacity and its preference as a material in high-end connected tech, glass is the obvious template. New practices and materials will develop from there.

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ccpa Data and Security data privacy data protection privacy regulations

What Prop 24 Means for Your Data Privacy Strategy

data security

California recently passed Proposition 24, a landmark data privacy referendum that expands privacy protections in the world’s fifth-largest economy. Starting in 2023, the nation’s most comprehensive privacy regulations will protect nearly 40 million people and govern $3.2 trillion in economic output.

Prop 24 will ripple across America, which still lacks a national privacy law. Most companies will choose to extend these privacy protections to all users — rather than address the privacy patchwork with state-specific solutions. That solution is easier and more economical.

So what does this mean for those of us working in technology and connected devices? We have a whole new set of rules to learn. Prop 24 replaces the CCPA with the CPRA, which stands for the California Privacy Rights Act. Here are a few action items to guide you as you reorient around the latest data privacy regulations.

#1: Prepare for data privacy enforcement

The passage of Prop 24 creates the Privacy Protection Agency, America’s first government watchdog for privacy and data protection. The statewide agency will have a budget of at least $10 million annually, finally putting enforcement muscle behind privacy protections, something that the previous privacy law (the CCPA) lacked.

Businesses that leak data (either knowingly, by sharing without permission, or unknowingly via a data breach) will pay $2,500 per violation. The per-violation fine triples fines for violating the privacy of minors, which means that each violation can cost your business $7,500! You’ll want to be very careful if any of your connected devices capture or otherwise interact with data from those under 15.

Also, know this: the threat of fines is blood in the water for hackers. In Europe, bad actors are forcing businesses to pay up using ransomware and the threat of GDPR fines. These attacks will likely shift to the US now that there’s a privacy enforcer. Now is the time to shore up your cybersecurity defenses and prepare staff!

TL; DR: Voluntary compliance is over. Get ready for America’s first privacy enforcer. Make a plan to verify your data tracking, collection and storage methods so that you have clear documentation and strong internal controls.

#2: Evolve for the end of cookies

Cookies — the small files used to track users across the internet — are on their way out. Good riddance! Cookies were intended to improve the user experience by remembering details about users between sessions. Instead, they became invasive trackers that enabled a massive industry to invade privacy, often without permission.

It’s long past time to rebalance the dynamic. Consumers have a right to privacy and the industry must catch up. We need to prepare for our cookieless future and create solutions that offer insights and anonymity simultaneously. We can no longer expect to know everything about consumers in a permissionless environment; rather, the marketing industry must evolve with innovations that aggregate data in useful ways while preserving privacy.

Most people are ok with this type of anonymized aggregation, also called “differential privacy.� It’s a data collection framework that collects data in aggregate without ever revealing the identity of individuals. It can even be used to automatically ensure that data sharing across borders conforms to local privacy laws.

TL; DR: Future-proof your data discipline. Preserve anonymity, avoid collecting unnecessary personal information and use pattern matching to build segments that give aggregated, actionable insights without compromising individual identity.

#3: Put AI to work for data privacy management

Artificial intelligence is at work in other areas of your business — why not put it to work for privacy too?

AI can detangle the complexities of privacy management by rapidly sorting and segmenting user data to conform to privacy regulations while still offering the benefits of personalization to both consumers and companies. AI can also make sure that you are only storing necessary information and thus minimize your data collection footprint — and privacy compliance exposure.

By using its capabilities to process massive data sets, you can both increase precision and reduce human intervention when it comes to privacy compliance. These two factors — precision and human intervention — are going to be key when the sheer volume of data that will soon be governed by Proposition 24 will accelerate investment and innovation. Companies will need to maintain data privacy while still preserving the reach, quality and precision that their advertising-based business models depend on.

TL; DR: When implemented strategically, AI can help you sort, segment and store data in ways that both preserve privacy and comply with CPRA. Use it!

#4: Monitor your thresholds

The CPRA changes the compliance thresholds in two key ways. First, sharing is now the same as selling. If your business shares data with third parties for commercial purposes (without necessarily selling that data), you’ll be on the hook for compliance.

Second, the CPRA doesn’t apply to businesses that bought, sold or shared data from fewer than 100,000 customers/households annually. That’s up from 50,000 customers/households, which is a good thing for startups seeking traction. But, in the trenches of startup life, it can be easy to cross this threshold and not even realize it.

However, you’re still on the hook if your company made more than $25 million in gross revenue in the previous calendar year. And, if you use sister brands, these thresholds still apply if it’s clear to consumers that your sister brands share common ownership. So don’t think about circumventing these rules by making subsidiaries — unless they truly are standalone brands.

TL; DR: If you buy, sell or share data from more than 100,000 customers or households, you must comply with CPRA. Monitor this threshold closely.

#5: Innovate now to leap ahead later

In a nod to increased control, Prop 24 adds a new right to limit data sharing, which isn’t covered by California’s prior law, the CCPA. This is a step in the right direction. However, consumers want more than just the right to limit how companies collect, use and share their data. The onus shouldn’t be on the consumer to navigate these complexities; brands should implement user-centric privacy tools that empower consumers, not companies.

First and foremost, they want more transparency. In one survey, four out of five consumers will share more data if brands are transparent about how it’s used. They also want more control. In the National Privacy Survey, which my company did in anticipation of Prop 24’s passage, we found that not only did the majority of Americans want a national privacy law, but they also want new tools: 83% of Americans want the right to set an expiration date for their personal data.

These types of privacy innovations may be complex to deliver at scale, but it is the true benchmark for control. Data expiration controls empower consumers to determine the ideal privacy parameters for their unique needs, all on a case-by-case basis. That’s true transparency and control — and a way to earn customer loyalty.

TL; DR: Now’s the time to consider privacy innovations that help you not just comply but also leap ahead. Data portability, transparency and control, can earn you the trust (and loyalty) of your customers.

Future proof your business against a national privacy law

Absent a national law, California’s robust privacy regulations will likely shape the conversation around federal privacy regulations. It remains to be seen whether politicians will react by prioritizing a national law or if California will set the pace for everyone else.

One thing’s for certain: It’s a new dawn for data privacy in America. And it’s about time! Everyone deserves privacy — and our digitally-connected ecosystem must evolve to accommodate both privacy and profit. This isn’t an idealistic pipe dream; rather, it’s the most exciting business challenge of the coming decade.

I see the new privacy framework as an accelerant to a more responsible and user-centric approach across the digital ecosystem. Ultimately, our business models will strengthen, as will our bonds with customers. It’s a win-win; we just have to put in the work now to be ready for our inevitable privacy-first future.

Image Credit: fernando arcos; pexels

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ReadWrite

Multi-Cloud Cost Optimization

Multi-Cloud Cost Optimization

The popularity and confidence in cloud computing platforms continues to grow unabated.  More and more businesses are moving mission-critical workloads to public clouds.  Forbes recently projected that by 2021, 32% of IT budgets will be spent on public cloud platforms.  Forbes also points out that cloud spending has grown 59% on average since 2018.

The Recent Trends of Multi-Cloud Optimization will Continue — Elevating the Importance of a Multi-Cloud Strategy.

The elasticity of cloud platforms provides great potential from an engineering perspective but great challenges from a cost-containment perspective. Traditional engineering teams using on-premises infrastructure are not accustomed to considering cost in a pay as you go environment. When migrating from limited on-premises hardware to the comparatively infinite expanse and variety of cloud, cost containment, tracking and optimization have to be considered.

Cost discipline, by necessity, becomes part of engineering awareness and vigilance — a requirement for businesses looking to exploit the new paradigm.

The Multi-Cloud Way

Many businesses already have a presence in multiple cloud platforms, either due to a strategy, or more likely, due to organic growth.  The benefits of cloud technology include the lack of a reliance on a single provider, agility, scalability, high availability, SaaS services, and PaaS platforms. These higher quality services, along with the pay as you go billing model, is very attractive.

Controlling the associated costs requires a well thought out multi-cloud strategy.

A multi-cloud cost strategy considers workload placement by factors.

  • Workload/platform optimization. Does the application utilize sufficient platform features to justify placement there?  Conversely, does the availability zone provide needed features for the workload?  How can inter-region bandwidth charges be balanced against fixed availability zone costs in a distributed deployment?
  • Performance. Can the workload be placed on a platform, region, or server-class with overall lower performance without impact?  Workloads that can tolerate lower average performance can benefit from right-sizing the computing environment.  Similarly, for storage; can the workload tolerate lower performance or even object storage to lower costs.
  • Availability. Are some workloads tolerant of low (or at least not high) availability?  Can they be placed on cloud excess capacity when available?  Most cloud platforms have far cheaper preemptible instances for workloads that can tolerate it ( e.g., ETL / batch jobs that can snapshot progress).
  • Serverless. Does the workload require a dedicated server?  Similar to shopping for excess capacity, serverless offerings have the potential for cost savings by not maintaining a running server and only incurring costs based on resource consumption on a highly granular basis.

Hybrid cloud strategies also can have an important impact on cost. Hybrid cloud, using on-premises capacity along with public cloud resources, should be considered when excess on-premise capacity exists — or where public cloud offerings aren’t cost-competitive.

For many businesses, compliance requirements will make a hybrid approach necessary. For others, hybrid cloud deployments are simply the result of a phased migration of workloads to the cloud, which may take many months or years.

The basic promise of the public cloud, the efficient consumption of resources on-demand as an operational expense vs. large capital plus operational expense, isn’t guaranteed to make sense under all circumstances.

Cloud Cost Assessment

If some workloads are already running on the public cloud, the first step is quantifying the costs of existing workloads and services over time as a baseline. Quantifying the cost-baseline is key to getting a detailed profile of consumption and waste beyond simple aggregation of spending.  Once this baseline is established, it can serve as a starting point for identifying problem areas and building an understanding of how cost relates to system usage.

It is critical to correlate current costs to internal teams or projects to enable accountability.

It is critical for cost control to correlate current costs to internal teams or projects to enable accountability and identify the “low hanging fruit.� The correlation can be very difficult without the assignment of tags/labels to cloud instances as a general policy for teams that are deploying cloud workloads.

One of the benefits of a high-level of cloud automation is the ability to tag workloads transparently so that cost traceability can be achieved consistently. The benefits of cloud workload orchestration in the context of day to day operations (CI/CD processes) are discussed later.

Cloud providers offer tools that can assist with cost analysis. For example, AWS has its “Cost Explorer� and its “Cost and Usage Report.�  These are particularly useful in combination with AWS cost allocation tagging.

Azure offers “Cost Management� from the Azure console, which can provide detailed reports. Azure also uses resource tagging to associate cloud resources with accounts (and other indicator-like “projects�).

Google Cloud has a similar service. In addition to the native tools, cloud management platform vendors such as Flexera, Cloudbolt, CloudApp and others provide cost analysis tools across multiple cloud platforms.

Cloud Cost Control

It is critical to raise awareness in teams that use cloud resources of the cost behavior of their workloads so the impact of design and operational decisions can be understood in context. Teams may be consuming large compute instances, retaining unneeded logs or other data on cloud storage, or not tearing down idle resources.

Even with all the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy, the tracking and forecasting associated with the operation of workloads hosted on multiple cloud platforms is a challenge. Add to that the unpredictability of workload scale, one of the major benefits of cloud architectures, and the complexity can become overwhelming.

A strategy for dealing with cost control is needed, potentially along with controls that can overlap with modern DevOps practices.

A casual survey of cloud billing models may lead to the impression that they are the same — but actual costs can be highly workload-dependent.  Using the baseline measurement to identify cost hot spots, compare public cloud billing models to identify significant savings.

The complexity and effort to migrate and maintain services on multiple cloud platforms is significant and requires a significant benefit. The costs and benefits are highly workload-dependent. Because of this dependency, any multi-cloud strategy will benefit from a multi-cloud orchestration layer.

The orchestration layer will provide a degree of portability and make it easier to exploit new cloud providers and changing cost advantages. In addition, discounts provided by cloud providers can provide significant savings for organizations.

Flexera reports that less than half, much less in some cases, of customers, exploit cloud discounts such as AWS spot instances — meaning Azure low priority instances and Google ad hoc negotiated discounts.

Besides operational automation, the adoption of a multi-cloud orchestrator that integrates with modern DevOps practices can provide cost containment benefits.

An orchestrator with a declarative “infrastructure as code� approach makes templates a reviewable part of the release process. Cost containment policies can be applied to the template during review to effectively deny the deployment of problematic workloads. Labels or tags are then applied automatically for cost tracking.

For example, the attempted use of inappropriate-instance-types can be denied far in advance of any damage being done. Furthermore, a competent orchestrator will be capable of applying user/group or even time-specific barriers to workload deployment.

In addition, an orchestrator can limit scaling behavior — thus ensuring that complex deployments are completely cleaned up. Cleaned up deployments are critical to avoid zombie-cost-sources like abandoned unattached storage.

Summary

The journey to an optimal, cost-efficient multi/hybrid cloud strategy is a complex one. It is important to understand current costs, including on-premise workloads. Understanding the current costs will be your foundation for advancement and growth. You’ll understand which of the various platforms have provided the tools you require.

Automation will play a key role in standardizing and controlling the approved interactions and workload placement on various platforms and provide a degree of workload portability.

Portability is key because the world of cloud providers never stands still — and cloud billing models vary over time — requiring adaptability.

Finally, besides ongoing cost auditing, a practice of manual and automated orchestration-template-review must be in place to avoid unpleasant billing surprises.

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Categories
Connect getting online Hotspot Internet Internet access IoT Mobile Tethering wifi

Four Ways to Get Online from Anywhere

get online from anywhere

The Internet is an integral part of our lives – some of us are probably more dependent on it than we would like to be. Fortunately, the market offers plenty of ways to access the Internet anywhere — either through a travel modem, a satellite dish, or a free public hotspot. Of course, these options are not really interchangeable, with each occupying its own niche. Below is a close look at the popular ways of getting online, along with highlights of their strengths and weaknesses.

How to Get Internet Anywhere in the World?

Strictly speaking, the only way to get online from anywhere is through a satellite Internet connection. The satellite method has been a media darling for the last few years thanks to the still ongoing Starlink project. However, satellite Internet providers have actually been on the market for quite some time now.

The biggest advantage of this option is availability. With satellites, there’s no need for laying trunk lines or having a massive tower — all you need is the sky above (so yes, it often doesn’t work in a cave — at least without an antenna). A satellite makes it a perfect match for remote areas and regions with underdeveloped communication infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the sky is not exactly an industry-grade data transfer medium and will create interference by simply acting like nature. Various forms of precipitation and other weather conditions can deteriorate the quality of the satellite signal.

And the drawbacks do not end there. Getting a satellite signal, let alone sending data yourself, requires much larger equipment than a portable WiFi device — think a sizeable dish plus a satellite modem. In other words, this is by no means an easy portable solution.

WiFi Everywhere You Go: Public Hotspots

A more realistic way of getting wireless Internet anywhere is by connecting to an available WiFi hotspot. Such hotspots come in two varieties — free WiFi provided by various amenities and services that offer connection for a fee.

The former is a familiar option that can be found at your local Starbucks or in the airport. However, while it is free, it rarely works at decent speeds sufficient only for simple activities like messaging and checking mail. More importantly, to get a secure Internet connection from a cafe, you are expected to know how to stay safe on public WiFi. Even with all the precautions, you’ll still be better off using a travel modem for sensitive operations like online banking.

The second option is somewhat more intricate. Recently, several startups came up with the idea of a service that lets users rent unused Internet bandwidth. This is actually a clever idea that, theoretically, should benefit everyone. Unfortunately, it is still in its infancy, so the coverage is quite scarce. Cost-efficiency is also far from optimal – sometimes, the Internet comes at a higher price than simply using your own WiFi anywhere device. In other words, it is a promising direction to look into but not a reliable method as of now.

Hotspot for Laptop: Mobile Tethering

It may not have occurred to you, but you are already carrying around a pocket WiFi — your phone. You can turn it into a WiFi hotspot for your laptop or any other device that works with the wireless network protocol by using mobile tethering. This can be especially handy if you can’t accomplish the task through the phone directly — for example, when you have software on your PC that you need to communicate with a server.

Modern phones also support several simultaneous connections, so you can share the Internet with several friends or co-workers.

Keep in mind, however, that it comes at a cost. For starters, it requires a working mobile connection, so it’s not exactly an international pocket WiFi. Even with no roaming involved, the total bandwidth of such a connection will be limited by your data plan.

On top of that, mobile tethering is taxing for the device, so be ready for a drained battery after prolonged use. In other words, it is a handy backup plan but not a particularly universal one.

Devices to Get Internet Anywhere: Mobile Modems

Perhaps the most versatile and convenient solution for going online from anywhere is a portable WiFi device. In broad terms, it is a middle ground between a satellite modem and a tethered connection. A modern travel modem is a lightweight, energy-efficient device that supports multiple connections, works with several data plans, and may come with integrated security measures like a built-in VPN.

Of course, it is still limited by its data plan’s bandwidth and connection speed. However, a dedicated travel WiFi device will probably offer several options to choose from. It will also not work without cellular coverage, which may be an issue for sparsely populated areas. Otherwise, when it comes to using WiFi internationally, it strikes a balance between convenience and reliability.

Wrapping Up

There is no shortage of ways to get online nowadays, with new creative options emerging nearly every year. Some are suitable for casual browsing, while others require industry-grade equipment. It is totally reasonable to expect that in the near future, we will have services that are more secure, convenient, affordable, and powerful than anything we have now.

However, even today, it is possible to choose the one that suits you perfectly — you just need to know what you are looking for.

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