Category Archives: Consumer

Innovation reboot: Small, practical digital transformation initiatives preferred

 

By Tim Scannell, Director of Strategic Content, CIO Executive Council | NOV 29, 2018 2:30 AM PT

Innovation remains one of the key drivers of digital transformation, but today’s initiatives may be smaller and more targeted.

While corporate-wide innovation labs and blue-sky hack-a-thons were all the rage over the past few years, the coming trend for many companies might be innovation with intent and smaller, more pragmatic projects that have significantly less glitz and glamour but a better chance of success.

Innovation plays a key role in driving digital transformation in business today. Everyone knows that, right?

Nearly 90 percent of the IT leaders who took part in the 2018 State of the CIO Survey, released earlier this year, admit the CIO role is becoming more focused on both digital initiatives and innovation. Dig a little deeper into the study, and you’ll find that 37 percent of the top IT heads point to innovation as a way to identify which parts of the business can be transformed using digital technologies.

No doubt the results of the coming 2019 State of the CIO research, to be presented in a January CIO Executive Council webcast, will show similar and more supportive figures when it comes to the adoption and use of innovative technologies and tactics in the enterprise. Clearly, innovation is a top line item when it comes to technology and business investments.

Before you carve out a piece of your 2019 budget for innovative activities, however, you should be aware of one thing: The definitions for innovation, as well as the scale of projects, have changed considerably over the past couple of years. Those show-stopping company-wide epics that were exemplified by such companies as Toyota Financial Services (TFS) and its hack-a-thons, internal competitions, and dedicated innovation lab have shifted somewhat south in favor of smaller single-spotlight productions.

Where before the effort was to innovate to the max, today’s initiatives are more likely to be more modest and lean toward innovating with intent. In short, a lot of the smart budget money will be spent on projects that are framed with a more thoughtful and even surgical approach to innovation.

“I tend to take a more pragmatic view and try not to get bogged down in big initiatives that get your name in the paper, but nothing ever happens,” notes Ed Winfield, who has been the CIO for Maricopa County, Arizona, for little less than a year and is a passionate advocate for small and more meaningful approaches to innovation.

ed winfield photo Maricopa County, Arizona
Ed Winfield, CIO for Maricopa County, Arizona

While he may sound a bit folksy at times, Winfield is no rube when it comes to digital transformation and the ins and outs of championing IT initiatives in state and local governments. Previously, he was CIO for Wayne County, Michigan, the 19th-most populous county in the nation that includes the city of Detroit. While there, Winfield orchestrated an upgrade from an aging legacy system to cloud-based systems and deployed more data analytics to help state services run more efficiently — all under the cloud of tight budgets and economically challenged environment. In fact, these efforts and results were acknowledged when Winfield was recognized as a 2016 Top 25 Doer, Dreamer and Driver by a respected government IT online publication.

The challenges at his new post are no less daunting, since Maricopa County is the fourth largest U.S. county by population and one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Rather than jumping on the smart cities bandwagon and pitching high-speed fiber and pervasive wireless connections for every nook and cranny of the county, Winfield prefers to take a breath, listen closely to his constituents, and focus on small projects that are scaled to deliver positive but sometimes less dramatic results.

“I don’t view what we’re trying to do in becoming a digital county as some type of massive endeavor,” Winfield explains. “We can make significant forward progress with small innovation projects.”

However, the county does have a range of ongoing projects that look at such things as smart highways, smart traffic light management, and other smart initiatives that are interesting. There is a group called the Institute for Digital Progress that looks at innovation from a regional business perspective as it tries to position the county and surrounding areas as a “smart region.”

Even before the ink had a chance to dry on his new business cards, Winfield mapped out a plan for an all-digital county that serves as an umbrella over a series of small and more-targeted projects that will be rolled out over the next few years that will collectively move the entire county from the restrictions of paper-based tangibility to a more flexible digital world.

“At the end of a three-year period, I would rather look back and say we knocked out a lot of small projects that really made a difference to the way we operate and potentially the way people interact with the county via web services or mobile tools,” he says.

That is exactly what Winfield is doing as he connects with different departments to plan for internal productivity improvements that include eliminating paper forms and moving toward digital signatures and online approvals. He also wants to improve the online services available to the residents of Maricopa County. In addition, plans are in the works to revamp the court system, both to eliminate paper and create an online dispute resolution system and totally automate case management.

Practical innovation

The trend toward more practical innovation is apparently catching on. In its 2019 predictions for enterprise digital transformation, Forrester Research notes that while business leaders championed large-scale initiatives in 2018, many of which focused on customer experience, efforts this coming year will shift to more pragmatic and smaller surgical initiatives. Purpose will become strategic priority, given the complexity and cost of larger and more expansive projects.

IT organizations and business stakeholders should strive to embrace the minimum viable product when it comes to innovation projects, says Mihai Strusievici, director of information technology, North America for Colliers International, a global real estate services company, in an earlier Digital Divide column. He advises other leaders not to pitch one or two large and expensive innovation initiatives that typically eat up a significant chunk of a budget due to their complexity and scope. Instead, spend money on a variety of smaller innovation efforts that are more focused and may have a higher chance for success or conversely have far less of a negative impact should one or two fail.

“Don’t only look for the big idea,” adds Pradip Sitaram, senior vice president and CIO at Enterprise Community Partners, an organization that brings together people and resources to create affordable housing and thriving communities for low- and moderate-income people. Instead of always looking for the home run, he says, making use of a baseball analogy, “you keep hitting a bunch of singles and doubles, and with the runs you get from those, you can achieve the amazing results.”

pradip sitaram photo Enterprise Community Partners
Pradip Sitaram, SVP and CIO at Enterprise Community Partners

A few years ago, for example, the business team and Pradip decided to automate the way people in the organization checked the performance parameters in their real estate portfolio to ensure compliance and efficiency. The tools used were able to quickly identify exceptions to the established parameters that fell outside established business rules that dictated a certain level of risk tolerance and boil the results down to a much more manageable subset of properties. While a great innovative first step, Pradip and team decided to piggyback on that success and take it a step further to see what innovation possibilities might be lurking outside the fancy technology and algorithms.

The solution was to empower the business stakeholders to proactively change the rules used by the tools to check against the parameters, without having to rely on IT to field suggestions and then make the changes. To do this, a system was designed that allowed business to insert rule updates into the system, which then created new logic to check against performance parameters across the company’s real estate portfolio.

“We didn’t set out to do something innovative,” explains Pradip. “All we did was empower people to use these tools more efficiently, with a different mindset.”

While he doesn’t see anything wrong with large-scale innovation labs from a culture-building and even a marketing standpoint, Pradip does not think highly visible efforts like this really drive grassroots innovation. For him, the recipe is simple: When things get tough, the tough get innovative.

The key to innovation is your mindset, he adds. It’s your willingness to think differently, to take a risk and try some new process or technology, and to see the world differently and not simply conform to established practices.

“I think some of the great motivating factors for innovation are constraints,” Pradip points out. “When you have budget constraints, when you have resource constraints, when you have time constraints.”

Constraints are not restrictions or barriers, but a gift, he says. “If you have constraints, you’re forced to think out of the box, to think innovatively and say, ‘How can I best make use of the limited resources that I have in time, money, and people to come up with good solutions?’”

To encourage, foster, and sustain an innovation culture, organizations and executives must understand and accept that every experiment will not succeed; every innovation exercise will not result in a revenue generating product or operating efficiencies, Pradip points out, adding that you will likely fail more than you succeed. Every exercise will deliver valuable learnings.

“As long as there is a culture that accepts that it’s OK to test and learn — to fail fast and learn quick — then teams will be more likely to venture out of their safe zone and the magic can happen,” he says.

Technology and the changing business and consumer cultures

While more restrictive budgets and the push to do more with less has a lot to do with the emphasis on more surgical and pragmatic approaches to innovation, the shift in business and consumer cultures due to the pervasive use of technology has also played a key role.

People, in general, have a different posture and cultural understanding of technology and what it can do, since it saturates their public and private lives, explains Winfield. Years ago, conversations on technology adoption and use around the topic might center on the impact — good or bad — on a person’s life or continued employment. Today, it is all about leveraging technology in small and incremental ways — whether it is cyber banking, online shopping, or eliminating a tedious task in the office.

“People are able to converse and maybe see how something might work and I think that’s the spirit of it,” Winfield says.

In this new world of practical “baby steps,” is there still some wiggle room for larger-scale projects and maybe a hack-a-thon or two as part of the overall innovation effort? Absolutely, says Winfield.

“We’re just getting underway, and I’m starting on the fringes, so we’ve got enough to do here in the short-term,” he says. However, “I’m not close-minded about the idea of some type of gathering or larger effort, but we’ve got to consider how it would move us forward.”

Pradip agrees, noting that hack-a-thons are useful because they usually establish constraints in time and the number of team members, which are great motivators. However, you won’t find more-structured corporate-led innovation labs and internal think tanks on his to-do list.

 

[ Learn the 6 secrets of highly innovative CIOs and how your CIO peers are defining and driving innovation today. | Get the latest leadership advice by signing up for CIO Leader newsletter. ]

Handling Candidate Data Will Be Under the Spotlight in 2019

Employment screening will benefit from AI, but the technology is not ready yet

By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online – January 31, 2019

This is the second article in a two-part series. The first installment detailed the growing trends of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring, as well as the emerging acceptance of job candidates with criminal backgrounds.

 

Employers that conduct employment background checks will continue to feel the pressure to safeguard applicant and employee data in 2019. HR professionals will also be interested in how artificial intelligence (AI) technology will improve the screening experience, according to experts.

Data-Breach Concerns Lead to Increased Focus on Security

Data-breach protection, information security and compliance with privacy laws will be top of mind for those managing employment screening in 2019.

“The massive data breach suffered by nationwide credit reporting agency Equifax in September 2017 that impacted more than 145 million Americans—almost half of the country—was a wake-up call for all industries to improve their information security,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif. “The need for background-screening firms that handle the personal data of job applicants to ensure information security has become mission critical.”

[Visit SHRM’s resource page on background checks.]

Montserrat Miller, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory and co-chair of the firm’s privacy and consumer regulatory practice, advised HR professionals to ask their screening partners how they are safeguarding personal data and what their notification protocols are in case of a breach.

“In addition to following the Federal Trade Commission guidance on the proper data-security practices, businesses that utilize a consumer reporting agency for their background-screening services should be sure to partner with one that has achieved accreditation with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Rosen said that employers should also consider using background-check firms that undergo an annual Service Organization Control, or SOC 2, audit from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to ensure high standards for the protection of privacy, security and confidentiality of consumer information used for background checks.

Miller added that “if HR prints the background-check reports for whatever reason, [the printouts] should be maintained in a confidential manner and not shared with anyone outside of the appropriate decision-makers.” She added that in accordance with the company’s data-retention policy, background-check reports must be disposed of properly, by destroying or erasing electronic files or shredding, burning or pulverizing paper documents.

Organizations conducting background screens of citizens of the European Union (EU) will also have to be mindful of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018. The law requires that employers receive consent to process a subject’s data, ensure that collected data is made anonymous to protect privacy, make data-breach notifications, safely handle the transfer of data across borders, and in some cases, appoint a data protection officer to oversee compliance.

“If an employer in the U.S. has international operations, and if there is going to be any exchange of personal data from employees in the EU to the U.S., then it needs to be aware of GDPR and needs to make sure it is in compliance with it and that its vendors are in compliance with it,” Miller said.

The maximum penalty for noncompliance is up to 4 percent of an organization’s annual global revenue or 20 million euros—whichever is greater.

AI Improves Background Checks But …

The use of technologies such as AI, machine learning and automation will enhance background checks in 2019, but humans still need to be involved due to discrimination concerns.

“Background screeners haven’t fully adopted AI in the screening process yet, but we are seeing signs of it where screeners continue to automate their operations,” said Jason Morris, an employment-screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting, based in Cleveland. “In the past, we would simply throw people at processes and increase our labor for searches,” he said. “Now AI allows us to automate and put machines in places of seats, allowing for a faster and in some cases a more accurate background check. It’s exciting to see screeners innovate, and I’m confident you will see AI continue to grow in the industry.”

Conal Thompson, chief technology officer at background-screening company HireRight, said that AI will play a major role in the employee screening and recruitment processes by reducing the time to hire, improving quality of hire and improving the candidate experience.

“In today’s competitive labor market, in which a positive candidate experience in the screening process plays a major role in candidates’ decisions to accept job offers, utilizing AI to interact with job applicants faster and more effectively can make a real difference,” he said.

“Without a doubt, cutting-edge technology like AI plays a vital role in what we do to enable companies to outsource social media screening in a smarter, cost-effective and efficient way,” said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “Things like finding where people are creating content online and zooming in on places and types of content that could be risky for an employer are what AI is effectively delivering right now, which is a huge time and resource saver.”

Rosen added, “While there is no doubt AI technology and automation increase productivity, streamline processes and reduce turnaround time in the screening process, background checks still need a guiding human touch until sufficiently nonbiased AI algorithms can be created to ensure that discriminatory hiring decisions aren’t made.”

Since the AI buzz began, experts have been saying that “biased AI” can be created by algorithms shaped by human prejudices or insufficient data.

“Human augmentation is still incredibly important,” Thompson agreed. “Employers should keep in mind that most AI learns as it goes, which could present risks and have unintended consequences on the screening process. For example, if an AI application, after reviewing thousands of candidates for thousands of jobs, realizes that a significant number of candidates it has recommended has certain demographic attributes, it may bias its own algorithm with a preference for candidates who first meet those criteria.”

In addition, Lager cautioned HR buyers to be aware that just because a company markets itself as providing AI and machine learning doesn’t mean that it’s true. “Companies are taking giant liberties with those words as descriptions,” she said. “The key is to understand the limitations of that technology and how it affects the deliverable of the service or product you are buying. It is imperative to ask questions about consumer compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how data is acquired.”

Five Predictions for How Technology Will Change Sports in 2019

Might the NFL launch an esports league in 2019? (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

By , Senior Writer – SportTechie /December 28, 2018

If 2018 were the year that sports betting was legalized, major deals were reached across mobile ticketing and biometric verification, and sports streaming services launched at an unprecedented pace, threatening to dethrone cable TV, 2019 will be the year they all hit a stride.

In 2019, niche sports will continue to grow in popularity as streaming services gain steam, sports betting will become accessible at venues, biometric IDs will be used to buy beer at games, esports will create further inroads in traditional sports, and athletes will further embrace wearable technology, digital video, and virtual reality to enhance their skills and marketability.

Sports Betting at Venues

States across the U.S. are working to adopt sports betting following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in May that opened up the legalization of gambling. One thing is for certain as we head into 2019: sports betting will be more commonplace and more widely accepted.

More states will move to embrace betting while regulators start to pass laws that protect athletes, leagues, and gamblers. But another thing fans might come to expect in 2019 is access to sports betting terminals at the venues themselves. In November, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren hinted at this possibility at a conference. Murren said that MGM, which owns the Vegas Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena alongside AEG, was eyeing plans to test sports betting kiosks at the venue during Knights games. Murren shortly thereafter hedged that statement, saying that it wasn’t in the cards just yet. But his intention has been set.

Elsewhere in the sports world teams and leagues will continue to work sports betting capability into new and existing apps. Interactive mobile game maker Xperiel is currently working with MGM Resorts and the New York Jets to build sports betting into the Jets’ existing in-app prediction game, “I Called It.”

“Sports gambling becomes less of a gamble,” said Xperiel cofounder and CEO Alex Hertel in a note on 2019 tech predictions. “We will see a rift between the desires of the gambler and the regulating bodies that could end up driving some sports betters away. Immersive technology that engages fans will help make them stay.”

Mobile Ticketing and Biometrics

In 2019, mobile ticketing might not just become commonplace to pass through many venue gates, but it may become required. Meanwhile fans will be increasingly incentivized to use their biometrics for verification.

In 2018, major ticketing companies, from Ticketmaster to Seatgeek, moved to couple together the primary and secondary ticketing markets to help teams maintain control over prices and attendance data. After the NFL expanded its partnership with Ticketmaster in 2017 in an attempt to control more secondary-market sales, in 2018 a number of teams started to embrace a mobile-first ticketing strategy. This will continue into the new year, but with the added integration of biometrics.

In the MLB, biometric verification company Clear (which has a presence alongside TSA Pre✓ at airports) entered into a multi-year deal this past year with the league and its ticketing partner Tickets.com to do just that. As part of the deal, Clear agreed to leverage Tickets.com’s API to enable members to link their Clear profile with their MLB.com account to gain entry into games with a fingerprint scan. In the near future, facial recognition is expected to be added as well. The partnership was piloted at select MLB ballparks this past season, with a broader roll-out planned for 2019.

Also next year, biometric verification will expand beyond the gates and into venues. Clear was approved in the state of Washington this year to use its services to verify identities of people looking to purchase beer at Seattle Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders games. The company has since been in talks with regulators in other states to expand this elsewhere in the U.S.

Streaming and Consolidation

A number of streaming services offering extensive live sports programming launched in the U.S. this year, from ESPN+ to DAZN. This has created a fragmented market for sports streaming, while enabling fans to reduce their dependence on traditional cable. In 2019, streaming brands will scoop up new digital rights at a rapid pace, spanning not only major sports but niche ones as well.

We’ve already started to see this, with NBC adding a number of niche sports (from skiing to motocross) on its paid streaming service NBC Sports Gold. ESPN+ has similarly emphasized lesser-known sporting events, while DAZN has entered the U.S. market with a focus on combat sports.

In the new year, digital rights will continue to find their way into the hands of these major players, which will help to tighten their hold on the market. This might also give some of these streaming companies the fuel to begin trouncing (and potentially even scooping up) some rivals, igniting a more mature wave of consolidation within the industry.

Wearables and Privacy

In 2018, Whoop, the wearable company that partnered with the NFL Players Association last year to track player strain and recovery, secured a $25 million Series C funding round led by UAE71 Capital with participation from the NFLPA, Kevin Durant, and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

In 2019, wearables and RFID trackers will continue to be pushed onto athletes to meet the insatiable appetite of fans and coaches for data. But with this proliferation of wearable devices in professional sports, innovation will continue to push against privacy.

The NFL’s CBA is set to expire in 2020. The next wave of negotiations between the league and NFLPA will likely begin in 2019, bringing many of these issues to the forefront. Under the terms of the NFLPA’s deal with Whoop, NFL players maintain ownership of their health data, and are also able to commercialize that data through the NFLPA’s licensing program.

According to Sean Sansiveri, the NFLPA’s vice president of business and legal affairs, if a market for athletes’ biometric data should ever arise, the union will have an established mechanism in place to ensure that professional football players are not only protected but also well-positioned to profit off their private data if they choose to do so. The Supreme Court’s ruling on sports betting in May, and the expanding state-by-state legalization of sports betting, might well create exactly that market.

NFL Launches an Esports League

While esports and traditional sports merged at an unprecedented rate this year with the launch of the NBA 2K and investments in esports teams by sports franchises, this trend will accelerate in 2019. NASCAR has already announced that it is hopping on the esports league bandwagon heading into the new year. The NFL has been slower to adopt esports, however the league earlier this year posted a job looking for a “head of gaming and esports” that would be based in its New York headquarters and lead the “strategic planning, partner management and execution of the League’s gaming efforts.” Perhaps 2019 is the year that Madden NFL gamers can go pro.

10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2019

By KBB.com Editors | January 9, 2019 1:14 PM – Kelley Blue Book

New car buyers would do well to spend less time looking under the hood and more examining all the technology in the car. Of course, the powertrain still matters, but more important is how the driver and vehicle occupants interact with today’s increasingly sophisticated automobiles. That’s why we’ve come up with our 10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2019.

These are the things to look for when buying a new car this year. You may not find them all useful, but regardless of price point it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a vehicle that has most of them. If you want to see the best of the best, find out which two all-new cars took home our 2019 Best Auto Tech Awards.

1. Connected Mobile Apps

It’s no exaggeration to say that the smartphone has changed everything, including how we interact with our cars. Most carmakers offer some sort of connected smartphone app, but some are better than others. Look for one that lets you remotely lock and unlock the doors, check the status of things like fuel and tire pressure, and even remotely start the car to warm things up on a cold winter’s morning.

Make sure to ask if there is a monthly or yearly subscription fee for the service, as it can vary from carmaker to carmaker.

2. Teen Driver Technology

Handing over the keys to your teenager can be a nerve-wracking experience, but some clever new tech might ease your mind a little bit. Several cars have some type of teen driver limitations built in that can notify you if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the stereo if seatbelts aren’t used, and even keep the stereo from being turned up past 7 — never mind full blast!

Chevrolet’s Teen Driver feature also offers a Report Card that will tell parents if safety systems like ABS or forward collision alert have been triggered while Junior was behind the wheel.

3. Stolen Vehicle Tracking Software

Experts estimate that more than 750,000 motor vehicles will be stolen in 2019. While that number sounds alarming, nearly 46 percent of those vehicles will be recovered — and that number continues to improve. Much of the credit goes to innovative technology that automakers are building into their vehicles, such as the ability for the stolen car or truck to tell law enforcement when it is being held.

The technology is bundled into the vehicle’s assistance and security systems, such as BMW’s Connected Drive or GM’s OnStar. While those advertised features allow effortless diagnostics, concierge, and post-crash notification for summoning rescue services, they may also be used by law enforcement to pinpoint the exact location of a vehicle that is no longer in the owner’s possession. Criminals beware.

4. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Though they are loath to admit it, many manufacturer infotainment systems — the do-it-all screens that control stereo, navigation, and climate control — aren’t very user-friendly. That’s why we like Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Plug in your smartphone and it takes over that big screen, replacing it with something that looks a lot more familiar and easy to use.

You’ll get a simplified control scheme to access your music, maps, and your phone’s built-in voice-control features while avoiding the unnecessarily complicated system that comes with the car. Basically every manufacturer has promised support for at least one or both Apple and Google’s systems, but not all trim levels will support them. Make sure to verify your car has the right options, and that it matches your mobile devices.

5. Adaptive Cruise Control

Commuting is no fun. But advanced driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control can take a lot of the stress out of the experience. By using an array of sensors built into the car, adaptive cruise control can match the speed of the car in front of you, meaning you don’t need to constantly hit the gas and brake in highway traffic.

Some systems even allow the car to be brought to a complete halt and then resume automatically, making stop-and-go traffic considerably less frustrating. It might make you uneasy handing over some amount of control to the car, but we promise: use it once, and you’ll never want to go back.

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6. Exit Warning to Protect Cyclists

People riding bicycles in congested urban areas are often as concerned with parked vehicles as they are with the vehicles on the road — an unexpected opening car door spells doom for cyclists and injury for hapless passengers. Automakers are beginning to address this common danger with rear-looking sensors that detect approaching bicycles and traffic.

The systems are engineered to work for several minutes after the engine has been turned off. If the sensors see an approaching bicyclist or close vehicle, they alert the passenger with a series of bright lights. If the warning is ignored, the most advanced systems will physically lock the door to prevent it from being swung open into the path of the approaching object.

7. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Parking lots are extremely common sites for low-speed — but pricey — car crashes. Backing out of a parking spot, even with a rearview backup camera, can be a perilous exercise. That’s why rear-cross traffic alert is so useful.

Thanks to sensors built into the rear of the car, the system can alert you to approaching vehicles, shopping carts, or pedestrians who might wander behind your car without you noticing. Loud beeps are standard with these systems, but some cars can even automatically brake before a collision occurs.

8. Lane Departure Warning

Distracted driving happens. Whether it’s a quick glance at the stereo to change the channel or a child urgently asking for your attention, sometimes we pay a little less attention to the road than we should.

Lane departure warning systems use cameras to determine if a car has drifted across a marked lane line, giving a visual or audible notification (or even a vibration through the seat or steering wheel) that you’ve moved too far out of your lane. The system turns itself off when you use a directional, so there’s no fear of accidental engagement.

More advanced tech, sometimes called Lane Keeping Assist, can even help nudge you back into the proper lane, which can be a literal life-saver if you were heading into opposing traffic.

9. Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic Emergency Braking or AEB uses a variety of sensors to determine if a forward collision crash is imminent and automatically applies the brakes to diminish the severity or avoid a crash entirely.

The auto industry agreed to make AEB standard in cars by 2022, but many vehicles have it available today. The systems are extremely good, though you absolutely shouldn’t rely on it to stop you — it’s meant as a last resort for when the driver isn’t paying attention, and it’s extremely alarming when the system does engage. While Apple CarPlay and smartphone apps are important, this one could save your life, so it’s worth making this one a high priority on your shopping list.

10. 360-Degree Camera

Insurance claims from low-speed crashes are some of the most common in the industry. Usually occurring during parking, a 360-degree camera system can make life a lot easier for folks who might not realize just how big that new SUV is.

By combining cameras on every side of the car with some clever computing power, your car’s display can show a virtual top-down view of your surroundings. It can show the sides of your garage, whether you’re lined up in the parking spot at the grocery store, or provide invaluable assistance while parallel parking.

The systems are getting cheaper and cheaper, and are available on even moderately priced cars these days. If you’re in the market for a small hatchback, you might not need this one as much — but a big SUV? You could find it invaluable.

 

5 things you can do in 5 minutes to boost your internet privacy

It’s time to break out of some bad habits before they come back to bite you.

With social networks working overtime to fight off fake news and fake users, data-harvesting apps sneaking onto the Play Store and some websites trying to turn your computer into a cryptocurrency generator, you may be getting a little anxious about the privacy of your personal data.

Thankfully, the process of getting your house in order isn’t complicated or even time-consuming. You’ve probably been thinking about trying some of these things already, and you just haven’t found the right time. The signs indicate that the right time can’t wait much longer, at the rate things are going in the cybersecurity world. So here are five major things that you can do in a matter of minutes to boost your privacy online.

SEE: Google Pay: How and why you should use an app like this to buy things at the store

Get a password manager so you can stop using bad passwords everywhere

Unless you are a savant, your brain can only handle so much complexity when it comes to creating and then remembering a robust password. If you’re like most people, your password is based on personal details that are trivial to figure out, like birthdays, street addresses and anniversary dates.

And we say “password” because you’re also likely to be using the same one for multiple logins. Maybe you change a letter or number here or there, but let me tell you: When push comes to shove, this will not be enough.

Thankfully, you can defeat this bad habit in just a few clicks, thanks to password managers. These are apps and browser extensions where you only need to remember one “master password.” The manager generates the rest of them, and you just paste these into a login screen when you need to.

The good managers even recognize what website you’re on, and they’ll present the correct entry, instead of requiring you to look it up. You won’t even need to know the password that the manager generates — just log into the manager, click the relevant entry and paste your password in the browser or app.

If you’re logging into something on a mobile device, you’ll also usually find an “Autofill” option if you long-press the location where you enter your password. Choosing this option should automatically open your password manager app and swap you over to it. Then you can copy and paste your password with a few taps.

Bitwarden (download for iOS or Android), LastPass (download for iOS or Android) and 1Password (download for iOS or Android) are all solid choices, based on our testing.

Set up app-based two-factor authentication to protect your online accounts

For websites and services where you need to ensure the security of your account, like your bank, passwords alone simply are not enough anymore. In this scenario, you need two-factor authentication (2FA) — specifically, the kind where a mobile app generates login codes for you. Not the kind where you are sent an SMS text message, because those can be intercepted or just fail to arrive.

With app-based 2FA, you log into an app or website like normal, then you open an app that generates a special six-digit code every 30 seconds. This authentication app is synced with the other app or service so that your code matches the one that the main app or service expects to get. You enter the code from the authenticator app into the app or website that’s asking for it, and then your login is complete.

Google makes its own free authenticator app for iOS and Android. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standardized method for setting up your account with 2FA. Amazon, PayPal, eBay and your bank will all use slightly different systems and terminology.

Arguably, the fastest way to getting them all up and running is to just do a Google search naming the website or app where you want to set up 2FA and adding the phrase two-factor authentication to your search request.

Set up a VPN or Tor to protect your internet connection from prying eyes

The last few years have seen an explosion of virtual private networks that are designed specifically for personal use. For those of you not familiar with a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel within your internet connection that’s difficult for someone to intercept.

This is particularly important because Congress ended a privacy rule in March 2017 that prevented internet service providers (ISPs) — like Comcast, AT&T and Charter — from selling your browsing habits to advertisers. If you want them to keep their noses out of your internet connection, a VPN (or Tor) is probably your best bet.

In fact, with a VPN, the websites that you visit don’t even get to see your personal IP address, nor can your ISP see where you’re ultimately going. Comcast, for example, can only see that you’re connecting to a VPN service, and the website you’re visiting can only see the IP address of your VPN server. That kills a lot of location data harvesting practices in one fell swoop.

Tor is similar to a VPN. Instead of a paid service, its servers are donated to the network in the interest of collective privacy and security. The tradeoff is that Tor is not fast. It’s built for anonymity rather than speed, so you won’t be streaming 4K video from Netflix.

In fact, Netflix and other media streaming services generally take a dim view of VPNs and Tor, because these networks are frequently used and sometimes abused to get around regional content restrictions.

You can access Tor on Windows or MacOS through a web browser that’s based on Mozilla Firefox (download for iOS or Android). Unfortunately, iOS still lacks an official Tor browser, due in part to Apple requiring all web browsers on iOS to use its own Safari app under the hood. However, there is an official Tor browser for Android.

Based on our testing over the years, you can probably trust IVPN (download for iOS or Android), NordVPN (download for iOS or Android) and ProtonVPN (download for iOS or Android). ProtonVPN is relatively new, but it’s also a product of the same people who make ProtonMail (download for iOS or Android), which is one of the most respected high-security email services around.

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Set up a phone screen lock and keep your apps and operating system up-to-date

Your account security is only as good as the security that you use to lock down the devices that can connect to them. For mobile phones, this means having a legit lock for your lock screen. In the same way that passwords alone do not cut it any more, neither does swiping to unlock your phone.

Of course, at least on Android, the method to set this up varies from one phone to the next. But if your phone’s settings section has a search function, try the phrase lock screen. This should pull up a shortcut to the section of your phone’s settings that lets you set up a PIN code, fingerprint or facial recognition.

With a screen lock, someone who steals your phone doesn’t have access to everything that it can do — and it will lock out the generally nosy people around you. If you create an emergency contact on your phone, that will be accessible via the lock screen; so if someone finds your lost phone, or if you’re in need of medical assistance and can’t use your phone yourself, you’re not out of luck.

Keeping your apps and operating system up-to-date helps to close security holes, sometimes before they’re even publicly known. If the brand of phone you usually buy isn’t updating your operating system several times a year, we’d recommend switching to a brand that takes your security more seriously.

For operating system updates, Apple is by far the best all-around choice in this department — but not everyone likes iOS, iPhones lack headphone jacks, the devices can get eye-wateringly expensive, and services like Apple Messages can be difficult to disentangle yourself from if you want to switch to a non-Apple ecosystem.

On the Android side, Google’s own Pixel phones get monthly security updates, though they’re also lacking headphone jacks these days. If that’s not a blocker for you, then a Pixel is a pretty good choice for phones that get updates. If you take a lot of photos, in fact, the Pixel 3 is generally regarded as having the best mobile phone camera on the market.

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Americans Think Apple Leads in 5G (Spoiler: It Doesn’t)

Android phone makers will have a hard time winning iPhone buyers over with their new 5G phones, according to a new survey.
 
American consumers think Apple is the leading phone vendor when it comes to 5G, by a crushing margin over Samsung. That’s a little shocking, because most observers believe Apple is going to introduce 5G phones a full year later than Android phone vendors.

The result from an exclusive PCMag survey of 2,500 US consumers shows Apple’s unstoppable brand power in the US. Even as Apple sales have cratered in China, the company’s reputation appears to be intact in its home market. Only 11 percent of iPhone owners surveyed said they would switch away from the iPhone for 5G.

Samsung is anticipated to be the first into the US market with a 5G phone when it announces the 5G version of its Galaxy S10 in late February. It got the No. 2 spot as to which company will lead in 5G in the survey. The No. 3 position went to Google, whose Pixel phones are currently exclusive to Verizon.

Apple’s anticipated delay in 5G comes from a few sources. Right now, Qualcomm has the only US-compatible 5G modem chips, and Apple is at war with Qualcomm. Apple has switched its modem provider to Intel, which has said it won’t have 5G modems before the end of the year.

But delaying on new wireless networks hasn’t hurt Apple in the past. The first iPhone was 2G in a 3G era, and Apple came to 4G two years later than many other manufacturers. Apple tends to like to wait for networks to become more fully rolled out before jumping on board, so iPhone users can have a consistent experience wherever they live.

 
 

Rise of the Drones – Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems


Report – Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used to be primarily associated with military operations. Today, compact versions are increasingly operating in everyday life and the UAS industry is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar business, as the benefits to be gained from utilizing such innovative technology become apparent.
This Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) report examines the key issues and trends underpinning rapid growth in usage of UAS and provides insight into the potential risk exposures related to their deployment in the private, public and commercial realms.

> Download the full report Rise of the Drones – Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems

> Download the Executive Summary of the report

 

UAS have the potential to both solve problems and save costs in the future across a number of industries, throughout the developing world and in disaster relief scenarios. Growth projections for the sector are significant as UAS become cheaper to purchase, smaller in size and easier to operate. In fact, the UAS industry is regarded by many as the most dynamic growth sector of the global aerospace industry.

However, as civilian and commercial use of UAS rapidly increases and continues to evolve, the potential for misuse of this technology needs to be considered. Advances in technology are inevitably accompanied by a host of new and little understood risks. There have already been enough incidents and near-misses to date involving UAS to generate concern that the likelihood of collisions and other loss events will grow as UAS numbers multiply.

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Photo: microdrones.

The landscape today

Use of drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in public airspace is increasing dramatically. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects that by the end of 2016 over 600,000 UAS will be deployed for commercial use – three times the amount of manned general aviation aircraft. In addition, 1.9 million UAS are expected to be in recreational use. The number of UAS is set to triple by 2020. (1)

Globally, UAS market volume is forecast to reach 4.7 million (2) units by 2020 (other estimates are even higher), with the market for commercial application of UAS technology estimated to soar from $2bn to $127bn (3). Such projections are driven by UAS becoming cheaper, smaller and easier to use, as well as regulatory progress.

> Read more

UAS – The nuts and bolts: Types of UAS

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Graphic in German

Uses and benefits

Piloted remotely on the ground via control stations, UAS are increasingly used for menial or dangerous tasks, potentially solving problems and overcoming challenges across numerous countries and industries, improving the safety of thousands of workers every year and significantly reducing costs.

UAS are commercially used in a variety of situations, the most popular of which are industrial inspections, aerial photography, agriculture (surveying crops) and law enforcement. As UAS technology penetrates further, a decline in workers compensation losses can be anticipated, particularly related to building inspections. Insurers are also increasingly utilizing UAS to survey loss damage from floods and other catastrophic events, to help alleviate distress and damage to victims and property more quickly.

Emerging UAS usage includes delivering blood and vaccines to remote locations in Africa, as monitoring tools to prevent the exploitation of slave labor in Brazil, fighting grass fires and even delivering pizza and coffee. Subsidiary UAS industries are also being created, such as the emergence of third party “drone for service” vendors, who rent UAS to commercial operators.

> Read more

UAS – The nuts and bolts: Featured Technology
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(Click to enlarge)
Graphic in German

The risk landscape

As recreational and commercial UAS usage increases, new risk exposures are emerging. More incidents likely will occur once regulations are finalized that encourage more widespread use. Such incidents could result in multi-million dollar claims against businesses, operators and manufacturers.

Hobbyists account for the majority of UAS owners yet remain largely unregulated in many countries, raising safety concerns, as many can be untrained and inexperienced. Insurers have already seen loss activity resulting from novice control of UAS. Regardless of technological sophistication or operator skill, however, accidents happen.

UAS raise two priority safety concerns: mid-air collisions and the loss of control. A collision can occur if the pilot cannot see and avoid manned aircraft in time. Most at risk are manned aircraft which fly below 500 feet, such as helicopters, agricultural planes and aircraft landing or departing from airports.

Loss of control can result from system failure or flying beyond signal range; a major risk that has already caused incidents involving injuries. A scenario involving a pilot losing control of a UAS during a building inspection could result in a loss easily in excess of $5m. Damage from “foreign objects”, such as bird strikes for example, is already an issue for the aviation sector, as it is the fifth largest generator of insurance claims (6). A collision involving a UAS striking the engine of an airliner could cause $10m in physical damage alone.

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As with manned aircraft there are concerns UAS may be used for malicious acts. An emerging peril is the potential threat from UAS being used to target critical infrastructure. There have been a number of incidents of drone overflights at power stations. There are also concerns that UAS could be utilized to attack sports stadiums or other events where large crowds gather.

Other risk scenarios include the prospect of hackers “spoofing” a UAS radio signal, potentially leading to a crash, the potential loss or theft of valuable recorded data when the device is transmitting information to the control station or after the flight by cyber-attack when the data has been stored. In addition to data protection, there are also many public concerns around such issues as privacy and trespass and nuisance.

Increasing use of UAS is also altering the risk profile of many industries. For example, a real estate agent has little bodily injury exposure but this changes if it engages UAS to take aerial photographs.

> Read more

Regulation

Regulations have been a significant barrier to more widespread use of UAS. Standards differ remarkably around the world, as evidenced by the hundreds of working groups trying to harmonize rules. Another challenge is posed by the fact that regulations cannot keep pace with technological advancement.

In most cases, the designation between commercial and recreational UAS use is the starting point. Other common standards exist such as visual line of sight (VLOS) requirements for pilots, size restrictions (usually <55 lbs/25 kg.), and restrictions against operating UAS near airports or outdoor venues.

New rules for commercial use in the US (effective August 2016) represent a milestone as they lower the barrier to entry for new commercial users and are expected to significantly increase the number of units in operation. These new regulations will likely influence other countries to adopt similar laws. The European Union (EU) is also working towards UAS rules.

> Read more

Improving UAS safety: insurance and risk mitigation

As UAS ownership grows so will expectations around safety education. Operators should make this a top priority and obtain the necessary training and experience to competently pilot their UAS.

Training is crucial to reducing the number of incidents and operators should focus on flight time calculation, meteorology, security checks for aircraft navigation systems, emergency instructions, and air traffic law. For businesses, additional training should include on-board camera image uses, flight communications and planning, system maintenance and a host of other technological issues. Even basic safety checklists can help.

In many countries UAS registration is not required, causing problems for insurers and claimants. Identification of both UAS and operator will be essential for maintaining proper liability in future. Introduction of car registration-style schemes will help.

Insurance can protect both operators and the public from risk of mid-air collision, as well as physical or property damage or injury to others. Manufacturers, owners and operators of UAS are exposed to a number of risks, as are businesses which sell and service UAS.

If growth projections for the commercial UAS industry in the US materialize, there is potential for the drone insurance market to be worth $500m+ by end of 2020. Globally, its value could be approaching $1bn (7).

> Read more

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(1) FAA Aerospace Forecast FY2016-2036
(2) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Market, By Value and Volume Analysis and Forecast 2015-2020 – Research and Markets
(3) Drones will take $127bn worth of human work by 2020, PwC says. Clarity from above – PricewaterhouseCoopers
(4) New Era for Aviation: Opening the Aviation Market for Civil Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems In A Safe and Sustainable Manner – European Commission, 2014
(5) Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
(6) Global Claims Review, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
(7) Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

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