Being READY for Disaster with Communications Solutions

FletchRomano

Being ready for disaster includes keeping a business operating even when employees may be forced to work remotely. The Avaya SCOPIA solution offers real time ‘meet-me communications’ from anywhere on any device to enable the smooth flow of interaction and collaboration by employees and customers. Fletch sits down with Rob Romano to discuss Scopia and it’s unique ability to solve this communications challenge faced by businesses today.

Fletch: September has been the National Preparedness Month. We at Avaya have been talking about how to be prepared. In addition, the citizens’ businesses can also be seriously impacted, and while resources can be made available online, communications can significantly be impacted.

Now, Avaya offers several solutions that can provide core communications. One of these is Scopia. Joining me today is Bob Romano, who’s in charge of marketing activities over at Scopia. Welcome, Bob. What exactly is the Scopia Solution?

Bob: The Scopia Solution is a conferencing solution with great capability to have video included in it. It was born really in the video conferencing marketplace. In the sense, it’s growing up to include not only video, obviously audio, but good rich data collaboration, moderation capabilities. Really probably one of its biggest strengths is the fact that it has the capability to be able to join Scopia call from virtually any device that you have and whatever network that device is on.

Fletch: I’ve been using Scopia quite a bit internally in Avaya. I’m having more Scopia calls now than I’m having regular phone calls. How exactly does a customer deploy Scopia? Are we talking about hardware, software. What’s this look like?

Bob: There are several options. Many of our customers will purchase a Scopia system, and then includes servers that are delivered from Avaya. They get installed in their network. That could be a distributed network where they can put those servers around geographically dispersed. Then from that, the rest is all software that allows them to be able to connect in with desktop or mobile devices.

We also have conference room video conferencing systems that we’ll go into a conference room to provide extremely high-quality video conferencing in the conference room environment.

Fletch: One of the biggest things that I find that’s annoying with the various different conferencing utilities that are out there, I’ve always got to go somewhere. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the software updated. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s a pain. How does Scopia handle the client side of the software?

Bob: That’s one of the beauties of Scopia. In fact, if you look at video conferencing’s history, it really focused on conference rooms, room video conferencing where people went to the video. It wasn’t because they necessarily needed to meet in the conference room. It’s because that’s where the device was.

One of the things that Avaya really pioneered was they extension of that video conferencing paradigm out to desktop and mobile users. We have developed technology. This all came from Avaya’s acquisition of Radvision. Radvision was an early pioneer in desktop and mobile capability. What we do is we allow you on a desktop device or a mobile device to be able to simply click on a link that you’ve been invited into a conference.

It will automatically push whatever components are needed on that device, and automatically join you into the conference. It’s the simplicity of it and the reach of it that really has made this such a valuable tool.

Fletch: In general Bob, what would you say are the requirements for the remote users that are going to dial in from a device perspective? Are there any limitations there?

Bob: Well, that’s the beauty of it. There really aren’t. We have clients for PCs both whether they’re Windows based or whether they’re IOS Apple based. We cover Mac and PCs. We have clients that are supported on the Apple devices. That’s iPads, iPhones. Then we have clients for Android devices. That’s a wide variety of different manufactures that provides tablets and phones and mobile devices on the android platform.

That covers a very wide percentage of the users out there that are using either their desktop, their laptop, or their mobile device. The client as I mentioned is 100% free and freely distributable. There is no licensing with it, so the simplicity of that model works very well.

We really tailored it after the web conferencing model, where you get invited into a conference and you click and join. The host is the one that is hosting forward and supports the conference, but guests can come in from anywhere for free. That’s what we adopted to the video conferencing model. It’s worked very well.

Fletch: A couple of weeks ago, I was out in some customer meetings on Long Island, and I had to be over in Connecticut. I took the ferry, the Bridgeport ferry over in the morning. I just happen to have an internal conference call scheduled that came up while I was on the ferry. Without even thinking about it, I just picked up my phone, and I clicked the link to join the bridge because we used Scopia for that. Immediately, everybody was like, “Where are you?”

All they see is me out in the water somewhere taking a ferry across the Long Island sound, but because of the LTE connection that I had, it was just like I’m in my office, which really was interesting.

Bob: Exactly, and really that’s the beauty of it. The idea is that you can use whatever devices available to you. Sometimes I use my PC when I’m home. I work out at my home office. That’s the majority of the time, but quite often if I’m travelling or doing whatever else, I can join with my phone or my tablet.

The beauty by the way of joining on those devices is not just participating in the audio-video component, but fully participating in the data that’s being presented and also being able to moderate it. If I have my staff meeting and I’m on the road, from my mobile device, I can see all the participants in the participants list. I can mute everybody. I can invite new participants. I can lock the conference. I can record it. I have full moderation capability.

The richness of that experience from any device that you’re on is a very important component of our solution.

Fletch: Yeah, and I think one of the benefits that I’ve experienced, because I was one of the initial users on Scopia after the Radvision acquisition, so I’ve been using it internally since day one. The thing that I’ve noticed is that when new features, when new functionalities are being deployed out, you always got that because it’s a click link, right, on your desktop. You’re always being refreshed. You don’t have to manage the clients.

Bob: That’s very important for the IT organizations that are supporting an application like this. For them, the nightmare of having to ensure that all of the users are updated … Remember, we mentioned that it’s not just internal users, but it’s external users that you invite into the call. Anytime somebody clicks the link to join the call, it will automatically test whether the latest software is deployed. If not, it will push the updates and join you in the call.

When you mentioned the Avaya deployment, that’s actually something I’m very proud of. I came with the acquisition of Radvision. In June of 2012 when we were acquired, we decided to deploy Scopia to a select group of sales people so that they could experience, and quite frankly reach out to their customers and use it as a tool.

That started with the deployment of about 4,000 sales people. It has since grown now to almost 10,000 people within Avaya that have virtual rooms, Scopia virtual rooms. Last month in the month of August, and I’m looking at the report now that we pull every month, there were 53,453 meetings with an average of about 3.75 people per meeting across all of it. The maximum number of attendees in a single meeting was 296 by the way with an average of about four participants.

That was over 200,000 participants in the month of August. Those are participants internal to Avaya, that are internal Avaya people using it, but also external. We use it with partners. We use it with analysts. We use it with customers. It’s really been amazing, the adoption of this. That really only happens when a technology is invisible, when the value and the utility of the solution and the simplicity of using it is such that people just adopt it naturally.

Fletch: Well, in addition to eating our own dog food so to speak, I think we really learned about that deployment. When they first started expanding this out, we very quickly saw where we needed to tweak out network, where we needed to tweak our policies. We learned quite a bit from our own deployment, which is ultimately going to make the customer deployments go nice and smooth.

Bob: Exactly right, and we have many customers that have very large deployments like this. We can look at that. We look at our own deployment. We can tell them all kinds of statistics about how we think their usage will be in, how they need to deploy their network. As an example, we know that of these meetings, typically about 84% of them are desktop and mobile users attending the meetings. About 7% are room video conferencing systems join in the call. Multiple people in the room of course, but the device is about 7% of them are room systems.

About 7% are just pure telephone calls that come in and join just the audio only. We have that understanding of the usage of the solution. We do all that by the way through our simple management tool that pulls all that data. We can help customers when they are deploying and looking at this by using our own usage patterns and help them with theirs.

Fletch: That was one of the first things that I appreciated as a user early on in the beta program is when we first started, there were two separate audio conferencing instances so to speak, one that you would use on day to day basis that we had deployed, and then the Scopia one. Then very early in the beta, that all emerged together to where you’ve now got one common audio bridge.

Quite often, I’ll open up Scopia, and it will be all audio participants in there because it’s mostly external people. We weren’t really setting up an audio bridge, but I’m just dialing in through my Scopia, so it’s kind of all there. It really brought there all together in one interface for me. I’m using Scopia as my normal means of communications.

I mean, you don’t normally make phone calls on it, but I’m finding myself when we want to discuss something, instead of calling somebody or setting up a bridge, I’m setting up a Scopia event, which is really interesting to see how it’s changing my way of communicating.

Bob: It’s a meet me here. We call it a virtual conference room. It’s a virtual conference room in the cloud. Everyone in Avaya, there’s 10,000 people that have their own virtual conference room, has this unique ID. We have a plug-in that goes into outlook, which we use for scheduling. When I schedule a meeting in outlook, I just click that little button that says “Scopia meeting”. It automatically populates the invite with all the information for somebody to join the call regardless of what they’re on.

It says, “If you’re on a desktop or mobile, click here.” Again, that pushes that client. If you just want to make a telephone call in, click “dial this number”. If you’re on a room video conferencing system of any vendor by the way, we’re fully standards and fully an operable, dial this way. With that, then it allows people to be able to join from wide variety of devices and again from whatever network those devices are on.

That’s really the utility of it. In our work, we were talking about the National Preparedness Month. It is interesting when Hurricane Sandy came through the East Coast. There was a lot of disruption in terms of Avaya and many other companies obviously, but Avaya employee is able to do business. Our New Jersey office was closed for several days. People were impacted at their homes with their ability to get around.

We utilized Scopia extensively during that period. Those employees to be able to continue to have meetings, and many of them were in coffee shops trying to get a wireless connection. They would come in with their iPads. We had one employee that was stuck and couldn’t get back into the New Jersey area, and stayed in Chicago on a business trip, but just had all of her meetings on Scopia, and really never missed a beat. It was quite amazing.

Fletch: I set up in my local coffee shop as well. I would just go in every morning, and just set up office, and would literally work out of there because they had power. They had food. They had something to drink and bathrooms and WIFI. That’s all I needed.

Bob: The interesting thing about it is that we use technologies on all of our endpoint devices. Specifically, we use a high profile codec. What that does is it compresses the video much more efficiently than normal codecs. It uses about 30 to 50% less bandwidth at any given resolutions. That dramatically improves the ability to be able to have high quality video over all of the networks.

As the network gets faster, that just becomes better, but still bandwidth management and bandwidth utilization is very important. We use other technologies that correct for air packet loss in the network, which is very typical. When you’re on the open internet or you’re on a cellular data network, there will be packet loss. We use technologies like scalable video coding that allows it to be able to not be as impacted by packet loss.

Particularly the video, we’re used to get blotchiness. Now, we have a very smooth video even if there is packet loss in the network. There is a lot of things technologies in the background that significantly improve the quality of the experience. At the end of the day, users don’t care about that. They just know that when they get on, they have a great experience no matter where they are.

Fletch: What did we do at Avaya over the last couple of months? There was a significant change in the quality of the video. It was like we turned on HD one day or something.

Bob: That’s exactly what we did as a matter of fact, Fletch. When we first deployed it, we set it up so that mobile users, desktop, and mobile device users when they came into a call would come in at about half HD resolution, DVD quality. It is what it was. We did that because when we’re deploying it to 10,000 users and we have an over 200,000 participants in a call at any time, we wanted to make sure that we were efficient with our bandwidth usage.

What we found was with the new high profile codecs that we now have across all of our device, our mobile clients have it. Our desktop clients have it. Our room system clients have it. It’s fully supported in the servers. Then we decided, “We can go to HD now with very little impact to the overall bandwidth utilization,” and so we upgraded all of these services to support HD across all of the devices that join. That’s why we’re seeing what was very good quality before, now looks like it’s stunning HD quality.

Fletch: I know. That’s what it is. It is stunning. The day it happened, I looked in my screen. I’m like, “Oh my God! What happened? There’s a big difference here.” Then it was amazing. The cool thing is we didn’t have to go out and touch 10,000 endpoints to do that upgrade either.

Bob: Not at all. There was actually no change to the endpoints at all. It was just a service change internally that we turned on, and because we upgraded our servers with the new high profile capability, then that allowed us to do that.

Fletch: There is going to be a lot of interesting use cases around that. I’m certainly going to want to sit down and talk to you about that in upcoming podcasts. For today, I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us. This has really been interesting to see some of the backend to the Scopia product that’s out there.

Bob: Well, I’m happy to do it. I’m always happy to talk about Scopia. It’s a phenomenal product. I’m just really happy that so many people around the world are using it. Certainly within Avaya ourselves, but the deployments now are amazing. Some of the use cases of what people are doing with it are really interesting and a lot of fun. We can talk about those in future podcasts. I’d be happy to do that.

Fletch: I’m absolutely be looking forward to it. Where can someone go to find out more on Scopia and how they can add that functionality into the enterprise environment?

Bob: Go to avaya.com of course. Then underneath there, you’ll find the Scopia product pages, and full descriptions of those. We certainly invite you to go there and take a look.

Fletch: We’ve been talking with Bob Romano, who brought the good technology with him from Radvision. Thanks for sitting down and talking to us.

Bob: You are welcome, Fletch. Thank you.

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Avaya Predictions for 2017 Services Trends: Top Focus is on Smart Customer-Centric Engagement

Recently, we asked six Avaya services experts to help us reflect on the past year and to peer ahead into 2017. Our panel:

  • Richard English, Managing Director, Avaya Professional Services
  • Camille Lewis, Product Management Director, Avaya Client Services
  • Barbara Sidari, Customer Engagement and Executive Cadence, Avaya Client Services
  • Thomas Brennan, Vice President of global support services, private cloud and managed services delivery
  • Michael Sale, Director Online Engagement, Avaya Client Services
  • Dan Pratt, Senior Director, Business Transformation and Strategy, Avaya Client Services

According to our six experts, our predictions for these 2016 trends proved to be spot on—and they will continue to be a force in 2017:

  • Use of hybrid/private cloud

    will continue to dominate for large enterprises until public cloud providers can demonstrate that compliance to privacy/security regulations such as HIPAA can be achieved. However, Public Cloud is quickly becoming a flexible and effective delivery model for the midmarket.

  • A flexible delivery model

    to achieve growth in modular steps that helps IT maximize ROI and support rapid business scaling has been, and will continue to be, extremely successful. Taking some of the burden off the enterprise enables IT managers to focus on more strategic corporate initiatives.

  • The need for person-to-person human touch

    will continue to rise. It will become critical in 2017 as unassisted support and self-healing systems grow smarter in identifying trends and problems before they happen and engage in machine-to-machine maintenance for resolution. The use of video will be more widely used, providing personalization and higher customer satisfaction.

The panel thinks that 2017 will mean an increasing focus on smart customer centric engagement when it comes to service. In 2017, it’s all about using analytics and even smarter technology to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, loyalty and revenue—and to achieve a better return on investment.

The Avaya panel sees these three trends emerging in 2017:

  • Transforming legacy systems and increased customer use of omnichannel will streamline the customer journey to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.

    For example, many retailers will transform their Contact Centers into profit centers. The shopping experience for their customers starts on the mobile device or web-based applications—retailers want it to end with an order placed. The customer will experience a seamless transition from mobile to voice (or to web chat or video) without having to repeat who they are and what they want to purchase. The agent will already know the value of the customer to their company and will provide a personalized shopping experience.

  • Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will enhance the experience of the Customer Journey.

    The predictive and preemptive active workflow will match people to people, machine to machine, as preferred by the customer for maximum satisfaction and profit. For instance, service vendors will use data captured from customer service requests, alarms, outage history, and project volume to identify risks and take appropriate actions to proactively mitigate issues. Utility companies can leverage web-based applications to proactively communicate to customers the status of affected service areas via maps on smart phones, reducing the burden of customers calling the service center to report an outage. Similarly alarm companies will analyze alarms and preemptively fix them before the consumer arrives home.

  • Demand for holistic application service management will grow as siloed and disparate cloud applications shift focus from managing assets in the field to delivering on business processes.

    Enterprises will need a dashboard that provides a single pane view by business process vs CPU performance. The workforce needs to be trained to leverage all the data in a way that includes human touch.

The year 2017 promises to be very exciting as service transforms and demonstrates its value by preemptively fixing issues before they become problems. It is imperative that knowing the customer and providing what they want, as well as the human touch, will become ever more critical in a big data world. After all, it’s all about the customer experience!

What do you see emerging in 2017? Drop me a note at sithomso@avaya.com

Avaya’s 2017 Tech Trends to Watch: the Distinguished Dozen

With the Age of Intelligence fully underway, 2017 is destined be a landmark year for mobility, data and very cheap hardware. Here are Avaya’s 12 trends to watch in 2017 and the impacts they could have on life as we know it.

  1. Customers and business executives demand one-click collaboration on all devices.

    For decades, contact center agents have quietly dealt with cobbled together desktops that force them to click through as many as 18 different applications during one customer service call. The notion of one-and-done (one phone call, no transfers, problem solved) in the contact center isn’t always true from an agent experience perspective. Mobile employees, on the other hand, don’t have the same level of patience or tolerance, especially going into 2017.

  2. The rise of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) in recent years is enabling businesses to utilize the cloud to embed foundational team engagement functions such as IM, presence, and click-to-call into cloud applications. With these functions just a click away, mobile employees can be more productive than ever. No more time spent searching for a meeting invite, opening the invite, clicking on a link, entering a passcode—all of which are doable on a mobile phone but create a cumbersome experience. The functions can be embedded into and then launched from within a cloud-based CRM application such as salesforce.com, making the experience from any device much more efficient and simply better.

    The CPaaS market in 2015 was valued at $400 million and is expected to reach $8.1 billion in 2019. The one-and-done, click-to-collaborate generation of mobile employees is here to stay.

  3. A CIO and a CMO walk into a bar….

    CIO vs. CMO is no longer a battle, it’s on its way to becoming the most strategic partnership in the c-suite. With the ease and free availability of cloud applications throughout the recession, CMOs and their scrappy marketing teams tasked with building sales funnels to drive business with little to no budget learned quickly the power of the cloud. Cloud-available marketing tools and applications that were free to download and trial for a limited time enabled the marketing department to easily bypass the CIO as they built out their cloud-based toolkit and efficient processes. When the time came to begin having budget discussions again, the CMO had results-driven use cases that provided a solid argument for the marketing department to be awarded a good chunk of the IT budget.

  4. That was 2010. This is 2017.

    Now, with customers and employees using a variety of mobile channels to communicate with enterprises and engage teams of people to get work done, the value of communications is more noticeable than ever, as is the CMO’s influence on IT purchases. But with the growing enterprise security concerns coupled with the need for real-time, pervasive analytics that are everywhere across the enterprise, it’s time for a truce.

    The CMO can no longer rebel alone but the CIO can also no longer be the sole purveyor of all things IT. By partnering and gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for each other’s roles and objectives, these two technology-driven leaders have the opportunity to redefine how business gets done when real time, contextual communications and quality of user experience are at the forefront of all IT purchase decisions.

  5. Internet of Everything causes segmentation to combat ransomware.

    Ransomware can prevent the user from using their computer and accessing data. The computer and its data are held “hostage,” under complete control of a hacker, until a ransom is paid to the hacker. What happens when the computer is a glucose monitor? Or wireless ultra sound monitor? Or a pacemaker? The Medical Internet of Things has become just another vast playground for hackers to manipulate with the intent to profit. Unlike a company’s enterprise infrastructure or a smart phone, when hackers break into medical devices, lives are literally at stake, which drives up the ransom that can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands to regain access to a computer, network and/or files.

  6. Any Internet of Things poses a huge security risk, more so than the average computer on a network. Most objects in the new connected world are developed with minimal security features making them very vulnerable endpoints. It’s incumbent upon the network to provide the utmost level of security needed for each object: Enter segmentation.

    Network segmentation separates the network into secure zones that allow IoT devices to be separated from standard IT devices and applications. If an IoT device is hacked, it’s only the devices in that zone that are threatened. The zone and its contained devices are easily identifiable for immediate reaction to the security breach.

  7. Financial industry to drive innovation as financial customer experience goes mobile.

    Mobile is not just a form factor, it is a different experience. Mobile financial services are becoming more context-aware and going beyond replacing the basics you can do on a web site. While the mobile, financial services customer experience has been cumbersome and time-consuming with passwords, codes and security questions, advances in context-aware computing will enable the mobile customer experience to be on par with other mobile experiences.

  8. Biometric technologies such as voice authentication, fingerprint and facial recognition are ready for prime time and banking institutions are ready. Barclays was one of the early adopters of voice authentication. Executives at Barclays report that customer satisfaction has improved significantly with the simple acknowledgement that many of their customers wanting mobile experiences and providing a secure option.

    With context-aware computing for banking, financial and insurance on target to grow from $3.25 billion in 2013 to $13.8 billion in 2018, 2017 is shaping up to be a very pivotal year for mobile customer experience in financial services.

  9. Blockchain goes mainstream.

    Blockchain is not just for cryptocurrency anymore. In fact, most of blockchain deployments will be in the security and fraud areas, and expect fintech to massively use it. It will also change how payments are made.

  10. Blockchain is the underpinning technology of digital currency bitcoin. Today, more than 40 top financial institutions and companies across a number of industries are testing this distributed ledger technology as a trusted way to track the ownership of assets without the need for a central authority. This could speed up transactions and cut costs while lowering the chance of fraud.

    Considering the rise in security hacks and fraud cases worldwide, this is an important step for fintech (A term that is applied to a segment of start-ups that is developing truly disruptive technology such as mobile payments, money transfers, loans, asset management). Typically any technology experimented with by fintech is destined to trigger a cultural shift, driving permanent change to our daily lives.

  11. The team collaboration battle heats up.

    Reaping the benefits of team engagement and collaboration has been a struggle with siloed applications for content creation and sharing, project management, document management, and real time interactions. But when the results of using these tools show an increase in productivity is up to almost 13% and 97% of businesses say they use these tools to better serve their customers more efficiently, the hope for collaboration nirvana is still very much alive.

  12. In 2017, we will see more opportunities for businesses to redefine their team engagement workflows and improve their productivity with a single platform containing a family of intelligently integrated collaboration applications. “Silos be gone” will be the battle cry of those seeking true team engagement and collaboration tools, and their cries will finally be answered.

  13. Big data analytics 3.0 creates demand for skilled work force, practical uses.

    Enterprise IT adoption of big data analytics grows and creates demand for services. While machine learning can yield enormous benefits, data scientists will still be needed to understand what to model and improve. Machines are good at manipulating huge data sets, which people handle with difficulty. People are good at understanding causality, which an area machines struggle with.

  14. Who are these masters of data? Harvard Business Review reported that data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st That article appeared in 2012. Today, the need for data scientists is greater than ever because the amount of data being generated is greater than ever and growing. Add to that, the fact that machines are smarter but still need supervision and guidance, it’s clear that the demand for data scientists is not going away. Companies need these scientists who are not only curious about “what if,” but also have the skills and knowledge to analyze thousands of petabytes of data that reside in all forms of rows and numbers, and can mashup data to analyze it in a way never imagined.

    In 2017, with the tremendous increase in data needing analyzed, more companies will begin training data-focused employees to become the skilled data scientists that are greatly needed.

  15. ID please.

    Business and consumer demand for apps on devices continues to drive the need for security and strategies for managing information. Beyond securing big data is the additional need of securing identity data.

  16. Identity data is different than the data consumers are accessing when engaging with apps. With the number of apps growing faster than the number of people, securing identity data on each and every app is an added consideration for companies developing apps as well as companies selectively utilizing apps for customer engagement.

    As companies continue their efforts to digitally transform in 2017, this process will shine an even brighter spotlight on the need for modernizing security, in particular identity access management systems. Companies must abandon their legacy identity security tools and begin deploying new systems that are highly scalable and equipped with high-end encryption enable a high quality user experience as well as the best security.

  17. Customer service scores take on new importance.

    Poor quality costs businesses billions each year. IT managers must focus on culture, analytics, and best practices to reduce risk and losses. Peer reviews, social media posts will be analyzed integrated in real time in customer experience strategies, as opposed to being reviewed periodically. Like high frequency trading changed the brokerage industry, high frequency customer segmentation will create new revenue opportunities for the innovators.

  18. The ability to segment customers enables companies to identify specific areas of interest, likes, and dislikes—and plan communications strategies that are then customized, more personalized and therefore, more likely to be accepted, not rejected. The ongoing challenge is that consumer choice and always-on access to multiple choices has changed how consumers think and react to information and buying opportunities. Consumers, led by the millennial generation, are more open to trying new things, seeking alternative choices.

    Add to this, the growing need for speed and sense of urgency, and obtaining and then maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction no longer has little to nothing to do with brand loyalty. Rather, it has to do with how quickly a company can become aware of when a customer tries something new and different, and then segment that customer accordingly.

    In 2017, the opportunity for real-time predictive analytics in the main customer service touch point, the contact center, is now. As customer segmentation must be done faster and in real time, so must the analysis of all the real-time customer data. With digital transformation knocking down siloes across the enterprise, the contact center’s ability to gain access to real time customer data and gain predictive incite to create better, relevant customer experiences is more real than ever.

  19. Looking for a driverless ride?

    Future generations will not have to take driver’s education. With its low-latency, high performance, ultra-reliable capabilities of the 5G mobile network is the ability for telecommunications companies to power machine-type innovations. This is the network that has the greatest capacity for enabling self-driving cars and the Internet of Things. The 5G is expected to be widely available by 2020.

  20. More than two dozen corporations are already working on self-driving cars from Google, to Apple, to Bosch, to Mercedes, to Tesla. General Motors has made two significant acquisitions in this area—Sidecar’s assets and Cruise Automation—and invested $500M in Lyft. The American auto manufacturer plans to have self-driving taxis ready for testing with Lyft in 2017.

    With safety being the number one priority for the companies doing the research and development as well as the regulators, the current expectation is that autonomous cars will be generally available by 2025.

    It’s quite possible that kids born as recent as 2010 will not have to take driver’s education. No more Driving Miss Daisy, she’ll be able to have her own ride all to herself.

  21. Drone dreaming goes sky high.

    Drones are one of the most popular new forms of information gathering available. Surveillance, public safety, agriculture and inspection are the use cases transforming drones from a high-flying hobby to a strategic business improvement and communications application.

  22. Similar to autonomous cars, drone performance is expected to excel with wider availability of the fifth generation mobile network. Whether equipped with video cameras to transport real-time, live video and images from a disaster back to public safety officials, or a fleet of drones conducting a crop survey, or a building or oil rig inspection, drones provide the missing, middle-ground view between satellite imagery and ground-level.

    For enterprises, the opportunities to incorporate drone technology into business communications and re-imagine traditional industries is very real. Price Waterhouse Coopers reported that the commercialization of drones in vertical industries ranging from construction to insurance could lead to a $125B disruption. The expectation is that drones can improve business with new found operational efficiencies as well a capital expenditure improvements not previously ever envisioned, let alone realized.

  23. A robot and a human walk into a bar…?

    When the use of robots, also known as artificial intelligence, in the workplace to improve productivity and save companies money initially made headlines decades ago, primarily for assembly line work, redundant tasks. The reality was that the technology wasn’t mature enough to act without human intervention. The attitude of the average person was: Leave working with robots to the scientists and Hollywood, why would I ever interact with a robot?

  24. Enter the Age of Intelligence. Perhaps a more appropriate description here is the Age of Technological Maturity and Acceptance. Robots and average people have matured enough to co-exist. Technology has reached the point where it is proven that robots can be programmed to perform tasks with 100% or better accuracy. The simplicity of the user experience, whether programming or interacting with a robot, has made the use of robots something the average person can not only relate to, but in 2017, will find they can’t live without.

    In various industries such as health sciences, military and public safety, robotics and automation are improving human lives. In the most digitally advanced hospitals, robots are helping reduce the risks of infections of workers by disinfecting patient and operating rooms. They are programmed to work in labs to draw blood, dispense medications, deliver meals, all while moving among people using elevators and automatic doors.

    Looking at military and public safety, human first responders and human-operated responders are working together. Using a robot to enter a highly dangerous area such as a burning building to look for survivors, investigate a bomb threat, enter a hazardous waste spill or investigate a hostage situation are scenarios where more human lives are saved.

    Will a robot and a human ever walk into a bar in 2017? Princess Leia would certainly want us to believe it’s possible.

Looking Ahead

As the above trends come to fruition in 2017 in various ways, so will the need for IT teams to be ready for change.

Change is inevitable in every company in order to survive as evidenced by the number of digital transformation projects going on in companies of all sizes worldwide. Add to this the fact that traditional industries will continue to be disrupted, the need for change is greater than ever.

In 2017, IT organizations will be challenged more than ever to keep up with ongoing change while balancing the need for greater security with the ability to deliver secure change with a sense of urgency.

APTs Part 1: Protection Against Advanced Persistent Threats to Your Data

Hardly a day goes by without hearing about a data breach somewhere in the world. So it’s timely that we launch this new blog series about Security. To kick the series off, we’ll take a look at some of the alarming trends in the development of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). We’ll explore what they are and how they operate. Along the way, we’ll provide simple advice to help you limit their impact on your enterprise.

In the old days, we mainly dealt with fly-by automated attacks. We all recall worms and Trojans and the other little beasts in the menagerie of malware. They were fairly simple at first but as time moved forward, the degree of sophistication and stealthy behavior of this code has drastically increased. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, code naturally evolves as multiple individuals contribute to its evolution, growing in feature set or reliability. Even malicious code benefits from collaborative development. Second, the design goal has changed from doing immediate damage to remaining hidden. This is the goal of the APT.

  • APTs are advanced.

    Typically, they come from a sizable group of individuals who are well-funded and equipped. Many people will automatically think APTs come from China and Russia, but the reality is they can be and are anywhere. The U.K. is one of the leading nations and there are plenty in the U.S. as well. They are also given a set of targets or perhaps even a single target.

  • APTs are persistent.

    This is a group that owes its whole existence to penetrating the assigned target. Many times, there are handsome bonuses for success. They will persist for months and even years, if necessary, waiting for the right moment.

  • And while they do not seek to do immediate damage, they most definitely are a threat.

    Their goal is to penetrate and access sensitive information, and establish command and control points within the network with devastating results. The recent data breach at Yahoo is the latest, with roughly 400 million records stolen. Let’s also not forget that the NSA itself was breached with the result being the exfiltration of sensitive cyberattack tools.

While many will still say “not in my network,” research indicates the attacker in most breaches is resident in the network for an average of 256 days without being discovered. Further, about 81% of those breached did not identify it themselves. They were notified by third parties such as banks, credit card vendors, or law enforcement—and though we can’t tell exactly, it’s suspected that up to 94% don’t know they’ve been hacked until long afterward.

Now don’t get me wrong, we still have plenty of malware out there and it’s growing in volume every day. As an example, there are 25 million new instances of malware that cannot be blocked by traditional antivirus solutions. The added venom to the mix, however, is that now there are well-equipped teams using malware in a tightly orchestrated fashion. It’s reported that 70% of known breaches involved the use of malware, but the breaches are done in a well-thought-out orchestrated manner. The rules have changed so we had better up our game. In my next blog, we’ll take a closer look at a typical method of APT operations and the concepts of kill chains and attack trees, as well as how they go about getting into your enterprise.

You’re likely wondering what you can do to protect yourself. Well, the NSA recommends implementing highly granular microsegments. This prevents lateral movement, which is critical to the attackers’ ability to escalate privilege into the environment. They also recommend creating stealth or black networks that yield little or no information to scans and probes. Finally, these secure microsegments should ideally be ships in the night with no or at least very constricted communications capability to other segments.

Avaya has embraced this philosophy in our recent security launch. Hyper-segmentation provides for high granular segmentation, stealth provides for the black network environment, and elasticity provides for strong perimeter protection, allowing access to users and devices only once they have been vetted, established as trusted, and authenticated. We’ll go much deeper into this in the third installment of this series on APTs. Until then, don’t be afraid. Be prepared.