Monday, April 16, 2012

You Get What You Pay For: Free Apps Aren't Quite so Free

Ever wonder why your smartphone can hardly make it through the day without being recharged?  Abhinav Pathak, a computer scientist at Purdue University, set out to discover what consumes all that smartphone battery power.  The results are stunning - it turns out those "free Apps," such as Angry Birds, New York Times, and Facebook consume more battery power than other Apps.  The reason:  these Apps consume a lot of overhead serving up ads.  Pathak found that once  these Apps were opened, the Apps were continually sending the user's geo-location data back and forth to the server in order to provide location-aware advertisements.  For example, when running Angry Birds, only 20 percent of the total consumed energy was used to run the game, the rest was overhead spent sending ad and user data to and from the server.  Maybe free is not always free.

Read the article.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Doing Good Through Entrepreneuring

Behind every new iPad, Android phone, plasma TV, or fancy new laptop is a stream of obsolete electronics which might ultimately end up in landfills.  Technology gadgets contain hazardous chemicals and proper disposal of them is a sensitive topic.  There are electronics recycling companies, but many of them engage in less than ethical practices by dumping the toxic devices in remote places.  Jason Li, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, has started his own business to help people get rid of their old electronics in a safe and environmentally friendly way.  He purchases used electronics, fixes them if necessary, and then resells them on eBay.  He thereby extends the life of these devices and also reduces environmentally toxic waste.  Devices that are beyond repair are taken to a certified recycling center.  Just goes to show that one can make money by doing good.

Read the article.


(Submitted by Tom

Analytics Smackdown: Big Data vs. The Federal Reserve

Who do you think would be more adept at predicting economic growth and gross domestic product, Big Data or the Federal Reserve?  What if a technology could incorporate all the supply chain data from 100 major companies and build a real-time picture of global economic activity?  Consider the financial  interactions that Sears, Home Depot, P&G have with their supply chains (suppliers, transportation networks, government officials, payments, etc...).  If all that data were aggregated, it would show a snapshot of about $500 billion of economic activity, or two percent of the world's GDP.  Using this snapshot as a starting point, it is possible to extrapolate the data to get a pretty good picture of how the economy is doing overall.  This economic forecasting is, of course, part of the Federal Reserve's portfolio, but now they have competition.  GT Nexus, an Oakland based company, has built the tool described above, and currently has contracts with over 100 large businesses to provide real time insight into global supply chain trends.  This innovative technology is a real game-changing application of Big Data - this is a MUST read.

Read the article.

(submitted by Judi)

Have a Facebook Account? Make Sure its Secure

There are good reasons to keep your Facebook account secure (besides hiding embarrassing photos from your co-workers)- the rise of "social spam" is rapidly becoming a major problem.  Social spam messages are posted to a Facebook (or other social media) page and if a user clicks on the link, it triggers all sorts of postings and notifications to their friend list.  These friends are encouraged to click on the links because they appear to be originating from trusted sources.  While social spam can be annoying, it can lead to more serious phishing attempts. Phishing is a technique used by hackers that uses spam to fool users into revealing their personal account details.  The social networks are working hard to eliminate these issues, but as with email spam, this can be a losing battle.  Users should also take the recommended steps outlined in the article to secure their Facebook accounts.

Read the article.

You've Got (no) Mail: A Zero Email Policy

As a follow-up to a previous article about Volkswagen's after-hours email moratorium, French IT company Atos is going one step further-  they are banning email altogether.  Atos's goal, over the next 18 months, is to eliminate the use of email by its 74,000 employees, no trivial task. While this goal might seem somewhat extreme, it does have some merit.  Atos estimates that each employee receives an average of 200 emails a day of which only 10 percent are really useful.  The firm's move from an email platform to an instant messaging based tool-set raises a number of questions and issues, but it is certainly a bold step toward reducing the over-reliance on email, which clutters lives and arguably diminishes workplace productivity.

Read the article.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Benefits and Difficulties of Adopting Predictive Analytics

In a recent benchmark study of 2,600 organizations, 86% of companies indicated predictive analytics (PA) is important to their organization and 94% plan to deploy more of it.  These statistics are indicative of the power of PA, especially for driving revenue and improving the bottom line.  However, the survey also quantified the problem with PA adoption-  having the proper experts that can use it effectively.  The technology is hard to deploy and the skillsets required for end users go beyond those needed for straight analytics.  These include people with business backgrounds to frame the problems, domain experts to contextualize the results, and user-interface designers to create readable output.  Thus, effective adoption of PA requires building cross-functional teams as opposed to simply hiring more data wizards.  This article lays out the results of the benchmark survey and highlights many of these challenges.  It is definitely worth a read.

Read the article.

(submitted by Bharath)

Think Your Smartphone is Secure? Think Again.

We hope you have a passcode on your smartphone that prevents people from accessing the data on it. If you don't have a passcode, then stop reading this and go set one.  If you do have a passcode, don't be lulled into a false sense of security, because this article describes Micro Systemation's XRY tool, which will crack the security on an Android or iOS device in minutes.  Once the passcode is cracked the tool transfers the entire contents of the phone to a PC, including hidden metadata like GPS locations, call logs, and keystrokes.  The company posted a YouTube video of their tool (which is mainly sold to law enforcement agencies) in action, but has since removed it.  This should provide good incentive not to lose your device and to avoid storing confidential data on it.

Read the article.

(submitted by Judi)

The Biggest, Baddest, Scariest Cloud Computing Environment

Imagine building the biggest private cloud from scratch. Start with a $2 billion budget, 25,000 square feet of server rooms, 900,000 square feet of office space, a dedicated electrical substation, and a cutting-edge security system all located in remote Utah.  The initial data capacity for this facility will be measured in yottabytes (a quadrillion gigabytes), but by the time the facility opens it will undoubtedly accommodate even more data (although currently there is no term for the next order of magnitude of data).  Who would need to store this much data? None other than the National Security Agency (NSA) - the U.S. organization dedicated to electronic eavesdropping on the entire world.  With the deployment of this facility, remote sensor substations, direct connections to all the backbone cable connections of the Internet, and software called Narus (developed by Boeing) the NSA can (in real-time) route any call or electronic communication and dump it into a database for analysis.  The objective is to be able to intercept, store and analyze 20 terabytes of data per minute looking for potential threats.  Data encryption is not an issue, because the NSA is building super-computers that will brute-force the encryption to unlock it.  On one hand, this is one of the most magnificent technological achievements, applying the latest and greatest techniques in big data, cloud computing, and data mining.  On the other hand, it may be the scariest invasion of individual privacy the world has ever seen.

Be warned, reading this article may lead to increased paranoia and anxiety.


Read the article.

Stick a Fork in RIM: They're Done

RIM has been in trouble for a while now, but it looks like the end is near.  RIM's market share continues to erode, its platform for the future (Blackberry 10) has yet to be released, and now it is losing money.  In Q4 2011, RIM's revenue dropped 25% year-on-year and recorded a net loss of $125 million.  Even if they can salvage a fraction of the smartphone market (an unlikely proposition, considering their epic failures with the Storm and Playbook), they are woefully behind in both hardware and mobile OS marketshare.  Apple and Samsung now account for 95% of mobile phone hardware profits (see stats), while Android and Apple account for 80% (and rising) of the smartphone OS marketshare (see stats).  A turnaround for RIM is not impossible, but neither is it realistic.  Now that they are hemorrhaging cash, the end seems inevitable.

Read the article.

The Future's So Bright, I've Gotta Wear Shades: Augmented Reality Glasses

Google X, the special projects division of Google, has unveiled their newest creation, Project Glass.  These faux-glasses are part cellphone, part GPS, part camera, part voice command (ala Siri), part heads-up display, and part x-ray glasses.  Okay, we're just kidding about that last part, but these glasses are cool.  The glasses can do just about anything that a smartphone would do, but the UI is displayed in front of the user's field of vision and controlled directly through the glasses.  It is unclear when (or if) these glasses will hit the commercial market, but this article definitely shows where technology can go.  There is a video of these glasses in action on the article page.

Read the article.

(Submitted by Jenni)