work-from-home

Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay

by | Aug 24, 2020 | Analysis, Productivity, UC & C

Salesforce has joined a growing list of tech majors who have announced extended work-from-home policies for their employees.
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Cloud software major Salesforce has joined the list of companies who’ve extended their work-from-home policies. Salesforce has announced an extension until July 31, 2021. Top technology companies such as Google and Facebook have already extended their work-from-home policies for employees till mid-2021. Other tech majors, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, have announced remote working until January 2021.

“Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to support our employees as they navigate this difficult time. The safety of our employees and communities remains paramount. And while we continue to work on plans to re-open our offices safely, the timing of when we bring employees back will be unique to each office — and we will continue to make those decisions in a way that’s consistent with local government guidelines and the advice of our medical experts and local leadership team,” said Brent Hyder, Chief People Officer of Salesforce in the company’s blog.

The San Francisco headquartered tech-major has also announced to give an additional $250 financial support to each of its employees for buying office supplies. The company had provided similar assistance to its employees earlier this year as well. Earlier this month, consulting major EY had also announced similar financial support of US$200 to each of its employees.

Besides, Salesforce employees who are parents will be entitled to take six additional weeks of paid leave. “In all situations where schools have been closed, and students are learning remotely, parents and guardians will be allowed to work from home, even if that date extends beyond our offices re-opening,” Hyder added.

The last six months have been challenging for a majority of companies and leaders. The uncertainty brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely hard for both employees and employers to focus on work solely. People are dealing with issues such as social distancing, remote working, job-loss, elderly care, and ambiguity around almost everything.

As such, enterprises are finding several ways to motivate their talent and prevent burnout. Financial assistance, work-flexibility, and paid leave are some of the measures that companies are offering to support and attract employees.

The new normal is here to stay

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the companies would offer work-from-home to a very particular set of people on a rotational basis. At that time, In India, the remote-working model was mostly viewed as pointless, with much suspicion from employers. Companies were reluctant to experiment, and employees too were not attuned to an entirely virtual work-environment. However, things changed in a short time. The pandemic has suddenly pushed people to transform their behaviors and compelled them to adopt the new normal quickly.

See also Work-from-home even after Covid-19?

Most of the enterprises and employees have successfully navigated this transition and are looking forward to remote ways of working even after the pandemic subsides. For employers, the new normal is a significant opportunity to save substantial real-estate costs and translate the cost benefits to their employees. For employees, it’s a way to be more productive by reducing travel time while staying connected with their families.

According to a recent study, Technology and the Evolving World of Work by Lenovo, the majority of those surveyed (72 percent) confirmed a shift in their daily work dynamic in the last three months. Employees feel more connected and more productive than ever before as they work from home, but the data shows financial, physical, and emotional downsides for the global workforce.

There is no doubt that the experience of the physical work environment is vital to develop strong teaming and diverse skillsets and hence cannot be completely evaded. To balance that, companies could be mulling to rotate days or weeks of in-office presence for their employees in future, especially in the services sectors.

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Here’s how 5G could be a catalyst for IIoT and Industry 4.0

Here’s how 5G could be a catalyst for IIoT and Industry 4.0

Over the last few years, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), as a key constituent of Industry 4.0, has gained much ground, transforming how businesses manage their manufacturing operations. IIoT includes several advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and blockchain to help enterprises move towards lean manufacturing and automated processes. Now, with the advent of 5G, the potential of IIoT could be harnessed even better.

5G has so far largely garnered attention in the consumer market. However, the capabilities of 5G are increasingly recognized in various business markets. There has been a greater push from organizations as well to democratize the availability of digital, especially in the wake of COVID-19 related disruptions.

With reduced latency and blazing speed, the fifth generation of wireless technology has an enormous potential to bring agility, speed, and mobility to many conventional strategies in areas such as predictive maintenance, demand forecasting, and anomaly detection. (See: Telcos eying the edge opportunity for 5G growth)

Need for reliable power

The majority of IIoT use cases are currently based on wired connections, which are insufficient to address manufacturers’ various sensitivities. The quality and dependability of connectivity determine the success of any implementation. Modern production units primarily use Wi-Fi technology to support IoT connectivity, which consumes a lot of power and relies heavily on stable wired connections for backhaul and data offloading. There are limitations to the legacy networks that affect the scaling-up of the manufacturer’s digital transformation goals.

For instance, large-scale IoT transformations cannot be entirely dependent on Wi-Fi. Even cellular technologies such as 2G/3G and LTE are either slow, have latency issues, or use large amounts of energy to support IIoT. This is where a technology such as 5G could be a gamechanger!

When propelled with 5G speed and AI-based analytics, manufacturers can predict problems, analyze them in real-time, and minimize production downtime.

5G enables manufacturers to build high-precision assembly lines where all IoT devices and robotic processes could be perfectly in sync with each other, on a real-time basis. According to Wipro, one of India’s top IT Services firms, due to the high capacity, wireless flexibility and low-latency performance of 5G, IIoT deployments in the manufacturing segment stand to gain considerably. 5G has the potential to enable high-speed connectivity without the cost and complexity of fiber optic cables. And this makes 5G a natural choice for high precision manufacturing environments.

In addition to providing a robust network, 5G’s built-in security features can also help manufacturers integrate covered layers into the basic network architecture and ward off security issues if any.

Not without challenges

Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, while agreeing with the superior capabilities of 5G to support different manufacturing use case, raises a pertinent challenge of a disconnect between three perspectives among manufacturers: the understanding of cellular capabilities, how they enable different digital solutions, and finally how these solutions address manufacturers’ actual pain points.

Besides bandwidth, the other major challenges that any IIoT deployment faces is interoperability, lack of compliance on the part of IoT manufacturers, and limited user awareness. In 2021, as we see 5G rollouts expanding in major countries, telcos worldwide would explore various collaboration routes to address the above-listed issues as well.

Globally, mobile network operators such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Sierra Wireless, China Mobile, Verizon have been collaborating with manufacturers to test and showcase 5G capabilities for IIoT manufacturing and improve the overall factory environment. 

Rajesh Aggarwal joins Aamor Inox as Head of IT

Rajesh Aggarwal joins Aamor Inox as Head of IT

Rajesh Aggarwal

Rajesh Aggarwal

Aamor Inox has roped in Rajesh Aggarwal to head the company’s IT department in India. Aamor Inox is a leading maker and exporter of cold-finished long products in specialty stainless steels in India.

In his new role at Aamor Inox, Rajesh will be responsible for designing and implementing the cybersecurity policy and executing the ERP.

Prior to Aamor Inox, Rajesh Aggarwal was with the JBM Group, where he was responsible for designing and executing the IT business strategy. He has earlier worked with companies such as Jindal and Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals.

Rajesh has more than three decades of rich IT management experience in developing, designing, and implementing IT business solutions, and has a deep understanding of ERP systems.

In his earlier role, he has carried out a re-implementation of SAP ECC (6.0), implementation of Industry 4.0, and upgradation from SAP ECC(6.0) to SAP HANA, among other things.

Rajesh is an MBA in Finance from IGNOU. In his free time, Rajesh enjoys reading spiritual books and listening to music. Better World wishes him every success in his new role.

About Aamor Inox

Aamor Inox claims to be India’s most advanced producer of “specialty stainless steel” long products. It produces materials in a wide-ranging steel grades like Austenitic, Ferritic, Martensitic, Heat Resisting, Duplex and 17-4ph steels in various heat treatment conditions including Quenched Tempered, Annealed, Solution Annealed, etc.

A capability to manufacture 60,000 tons stainless steel bars per year makes the company one of India’s largest privately held stainless long products companies,.

For other recent C-Track movements, click here.

AI, ML see rapid uptake in measuring customer loyalty

AI, ML see rapid uptake in measuring customer loyalty

The COVID-19 has transformed the way businesses function. In the wake of social distancing measures that are likely to remain in place for an extended time, a large pool of customers are swiftly moving toward new-age digital and mobile marketplaces. Moreover, the tendency has transitioned from just brand to purchase experience, quality of service, and customized needs. This has driven top CRM players to realign their AI-based offerings in line with the growing enterprise need to measure customer loyalty effectively.

According to a McKinsey report titled “The Quickening,” e-commerce has experienced the same amount of growth in three months during the COVID that would have erstwhile taken ten years. Due to this, consumers are going with fitting, reliable brands and have the products and services they are looking for.

Microsoft has also echoed similar sentiments in its blog. According to Microsoft, COVID-19 has greatly changed consumer behavior, and consumers are now buying more online and gravitating toward contactless pickup of purchases. It adds that retailers who invest in digital technology are better positioned to deal with this new shift and stay connected with existing customers while also attracting new ones. Use of AI and ML to measure customer loyalty has become increasingly relevant for businesses.

Battle of the giants

Understanding this new shift in consumer behavior, global CRM leader Salesforce has introduced a new brand loyalty management solution that will enable its customers to strengthen customer trust and engagement. The latest offering has been introduced, keeping in mind the rapidly evolving unique enterprise needs to reward and retain their customers amidst the global pandemic.

Starting in February 2021, Salesforce will integrate the new brand loyalty solution with Salesforce Digital 360Service Cloud, and Tableau, allowing enterprises to offer a customized loyalty experience across the entire customer journey.

Salesforce said that the solution would help enterprises of all scales and sectors to launch more customized experiences. According to the company, enterprises can leverage this solution to expand their loyalty programs to stay current with customer expectations. It can also help drive business value by creating loyal, lifelong customers. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021? )

Salesforce, though, is not the only CRM leader trying to capitalize on this new opportunity. Microsoft too is continuously looking at making its Microsoft Dynamics 365 more evolved and enable its customers with deep, intelligent insights.

Another CRM major SAP has been quite aggressive in leveraging AI and ML learnings to improve customer interactions. In October last year, it launched a new SAP Customer Data Platform to connect every data source in an organization and external data to create unified customer profiles. SAP claims that the tool enables enterprises to provide a complete understanding of customer preferences and behavior.

Technology to play a big role

Most businesses are looking at leveraging advanced technologies and solutions to understand customers’ specific needs. There has been a growing focus on smart solutions based on artificial intelligence and analytics, which can help organizations determine the best ways to engage with specific customer needs and include promotions and offers based on real-time data. For example, a retailer can identify which of his customers are near a store, using geolocation-based notifications or whether customers have used their bonus points or can be offered some new incentives to get them back.

In 2021 and beyond, enterprises, especially, retailers will see the growing adoption of tools based on artificial intelligence to deliver unique customer experiences and drive impactful brand engagements. Top CRM players such as Salesforce, Microsoft,  Oracle, and SAP are expected to add new machine learning capabilities in their CRM offerings to enable their users to automate the customer loyalty measurement process and deliver more incredible customer engagement benefits.

Telcos eying the edge opportunity for 5G growth

Telcos eying the edge opportunity for 5G growth

Top telecom operators are rapidly building strong foundations for future 5G networks. The next-generation wireless technology, which is ten times faster than the current LTE networks, has the potential to transform people, processes, and policies innovatively. Given that many global service providers have turned to bolster telco edge capabilities and putting them at the core of their 5G infrastructure goals.

According to a GSA report, as of December 2020, 140 operators in 59 countries/territories have introduced commercial 3GPP-compatible 5G services. In the next couple of years, 5G is expected to make substantial inroads in many countries, including India.

However, to leverage the real potential of 5G, telcos need to develop new structures that can provide continuous support for high bandwidth and low-latency applications and effectively execute their administration. This is where the Telco edge could help win big!

Evolving business needs

As 5G moves to the mainstream, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as autonomous cars, connected appliances, and robotic processes, gain the necessary fuel to communicate and share data faster than ever. Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson estimates around 5 billion IoT connections by 2025, up by the existing 1 billion connections today. That’s huge! Such a spread connected network will also result in an explosion of data that could strain the existing cloud ecosystems.

The biggest challenge will be: how to manage, process, and deliver this high volume data and support low-latency based real-time applications using prevailing communication networks in a secure, reliable, and efficient way.

Telco edge enables enterprises to lessen reaction processing to milliseconds, thereby eliminating the need to transfer data to the centralized cloud. By taking cloud services and resources together, edge deployments provide benefits such as latency reduction, bandwidth scale, and mobility support, imperative for the next-Gen time-sensitive applications and services.

Edge will enable mobile network providers to move the value chain upward and unlock new revenue streams. It adopts cloud-native technologies to distribute the network infrastructure cost, just like Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering.

Collaboration route for ample opportunity

With 5G services growth inevitable in the near future, top Indian telecom service providers, such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and VI are also gearing up to further their edge clouds and leverage it as a new revenue opportunity. India’s service providers can take a cue from many global telcos who are aggressively building a distributed cloud approach.

While ‘edge’ may be uncharted waters for telcos to date, the year 2021 is likely to be a defining year from the telco edge deployment perspective. South Korean wireless telecommunications operator SK Telecom and Japanese Telecom operator KDDI recently launched 5G edge cloud services. American multinational telecom company, Verizon as well is exploring the potential of AI at the Edge of the network to locate and provide necessary real-time support to relevant IoT resources. Companies like Renovo, a connected car startup, and electronics giant LG are among the organizations testing telco edge services on Verizon’s network.

Many other telcos worldwide are screening the automated environments and investing in AI and machine learning capabilities to save OPEX and open-up new exciting revenue streams in the 5G networks.

However, telcos are not the only ones battling for their share in the edge computing market. Global hyperscalers such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are building their edge capabilities and have their unique strengths, such as global reach and high investment potential for R&D.

The year 2021 is likely to see both Hyperscalers and mobile network operators forging strong partnerships to enable AI and Edge use cases.

 

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

Pavan Duggal

Dr. Pavan Duggal, Indian Cyber Law Expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur, Indian telecom market observer and commentator

“This policy change will force users to re-think their use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp users need to change their usage patterns, and if possible, find other messaging platforms that have stricter data privacy policies. I’ve been using WhatsApp since its inception for virtually every aspect of my conversations. But with new integration and privacy policies, I plan to filter my conversations, particularly regarding my banking details. WhatsApp and Facebook should stop taking people for granted.”

If you are a WhatsApp user, it is quite likely that you would have seen a notification from the messaging application that it has updated its privacy policy. WhatsApp has said that it will inevitably begin sharing users’ data with Facebook in a month’s time. According to WhatsApp, all WhatsApp users need to read and accept the new terms before 8 February to continue using its services. Those who do not accept the policy will have to give up access to their accounts.

The revised policies will allow WhatsApp to share various forms of user data with the Facebook platform. What is more concerning is that the data could be accessed by multiple third-party applications that a WhatsApp user may use on Facebook.

While the cross-platform messaging solution remains end-to-end encrypted, which implies no one can access the content of WhatsApp’s messages and calls, the new policy means sharing a host of critical user information. It includes information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

A step change

The social media giant has backtracked from its earlier stance as an advocate for user privacy. One must recall that in February 2014, at the time of WhatsApp’s acquisition, the US-based Facebook maintained that it would keep the messaging company autonomous, discarding any overlap concerns with Facebook or Messenger app.

That apart, Facebook’s past record, when it comes to user privacy, has been far from stellar. The social-media giant has often been accused of surveillance and data-mining by internet watchers.

In early 2019, data of 49 million Instagram users and 419 million Facebook users were disclosed. In 2020, another hacking scandal erupted where cybercriminals leaked personal details of 267 million Facebook users. As per media reports, the leaked database was available for sale on the Dark Web without any password for just under $600, intensifying concerns around SMS spam and phishing.

The business case for new-alternatives

Facebook-WhatsApp integration may not be brand new since WhatsApp had been in one form or the other was sharing user information throughout its corporate family. However, compared with what has happened previously, the user does not have the option of not sharing his personal data.

There is no doubt that the new WhatsApp policy will dilute users’ privacy and trigger intense debate around data security and finding new alternatives to the social messaging app.

The question is: should users search for a more secure alternative to WhatsApp? At present, there are various alternatives such as Telegram, Signal, Snapchat, and Hike, for Indian users. Telegram has an upper edge explicitly since it was developed to contest WhatsApp’s dominance and has already gained a substantial presence in the Indian market. It also claims to have the multi-data center infrastructure and encryption policies superior to WhatsApp.

“Use signal,” Tesla Founder Elon Musk had tweeted in response.

Better World has designed a quick survey, aimed at garnering a consolidated view of users’ response to the policy change announced by WhatsApp.

Please click here to take the survey. 

Your participation matters. On the survey’s completion, Better World will share the link to the report 

Deepak Kumar

Deepak Kumar, Founder Analyst and Chief Research Officer, Better World | BM Nxt

“This policy change has the potential to trigger a longer-lasting debate than being envisaged now. It raises a fundamental question: does a service provider have the right over user data just because it is being shared or stored with the platform? The ramifications could be wide and deep, and regulators will likely step in to redefine the finer contours of privacy.”

 

Jatinder Singh

Jatinder Singh, Director – Strategy and Insights, Better World | BM Nxt

“Given the history of privacy breaches faced by Facebook, it is understandable that WhatsApp users should get concerned about sharing their personal information. However, it needs to be seen if WhatsApp’s abandonment is a viable option, especially for a country that has become heavily dependent on its use. Overall, the move could cause a dent in the growth aspects of WhatsApp in India and give an opportunity for competiting messaging platforms to expand their presence in the Indian market.”

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

In 2020, cyber-attacks reached a new scale, disrupting the business community and Information security professionals. Malware, phishing, denial of service attacks, DNS tunneling, SQL injection, and zero-day exploits have seen a massive explosion in every large organization. According to a report from antivirus, cloud, and endpoint security firm McAfee, since 2018, the cost of global cybercrime has reached over $1 trillion. If that wasn’t enough, the industry has noticed a new pattern of cybercriminals investing in plug-and-play obfuscation software-based toolkits to infect corporate networks for financial gains. (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020)

Obfuscation is a proven technology widely used by security professionals and coders to make the source code anonymous and incoherent. The technique helps businesses secure their critical data and prevent hackers from using reverse engineering techniques to discover an enterprise network’s vulnerability and launch attacks.

The recent cyber intrusion in the software  IT monitoring and management software company Solarwinds was executed by an obfuscated advanced persistent threat (APT) that mysteriously took nine months to discover. (See: SolarWinds hack: CISOs need to revisit cyber resilience?)

However, as usual, hackers appear to be a step ahead of network protectors. Call it money as a motive or an innovative mindset; cybercriminals always develop enterprising ways to infiltrate defenses. Obfuscation-as-a-service is one such recently exposed illegal business model developed by cybercriminals. Professional hackers try to make money from selling such techniques on subscription-based models to other hackers.

As-a-service model for orchestrating a hack

Those who trust that the as-a-service models are currently only transforming legitimate business models will probably live on a different planet. Over the past few years, cybercrime as a service model is swiftly making inroads into the dark-web. Professional fraudsters and cybercriminals use illegal platforms to sell cyberattack tools, procedures, services, and a host of software programs to evade detection and launch fully automated cyberattacks.

Obfuscation-as-a-service model is operating on similar lines. In 2020, many instances were discovered by cybersecurity monitoring agencies and solution providers where hackers provided automated obfuscation service and android pocket kits (APKs) on a subscription basis to fraudsters. In the wake of a growing remote workforce, most organizations are introducing workplace productivity apps that can be accessed quickly by employees through their mobile phones. As such cracking mobile applications, especially android, through obfuscation has become a prime focus area for cybercriminals.

The entire business of purchasing and selling obfuscation service happens through illegitimate darknet marketplaces, making it very challenging for governments and law-enforcement authorities to keep a consistent track. This new development of obfuscation-as-a-service is perturbing for enterprises with global footprints, which have a massive amount of data located on different clouds. This unlawful cybercrime service model can give a ready-to-launch platform to even newbie cybercriminals who regularly exploit weaker networks.

What’s the remedy?

To protect networks from obfuscation techniques or deobfuscate malicious codes launched by hackers, organizations need to ensure the uppermost security level that fills the unwanted gaps. Applying integrity controls, encrypting as much as possible, transforming program codes and making them unintelligible, inserting anti-debugging logic are some of the fields that should be strengthened.

While there is no perfect solution that can give full-proof code security, a host of commercial tools can be tested and implemented to make your security architectures robust.

Most importantly, in 2021, organizations and cybersecurity leaders should set-up quality budgets to train their in-house talents and develop innovative solutions to fortify their resilience levels and mitigate new-age obfuscation security threats.

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