Category Archives: Government

The Strange Tech Wars of 2019

 

 

 

 

By Rob Enderle, Columnist and President, Principal Analyst, Enderle Group for TechNewsWorld
Mar 11, 2019  10:47AM PT

 

The tech market is defined by its battles: Microsoft vs. IBM; Apple vs. Microsoft; Netscape vs. Microsoft; Google vs. Microsoft. If Microsoft were a person, it likely would have PTSD. Then there was Apple vs. Google, and now the big one is Apple vs. Qualcomm.

The screwy thing for me is that Huawei represents a far greater threat to both companies than they represent to each other. In fact, I’m really starting to wonder if Qualcomm isn’t a proxy for Google in this fight, with Apple changing dramatically what its own real goal is.

I’ll focus on this battle royal this week, because Apple, which is in a jury trial in San Diego to determine damages to Qualcomm, apparently just attempted to influence the jury (tamper with?) and I just don’t think that is going to end well. Judges aren’t known for being stupid. Plus, I think Apple should be more worried about Huawei than Qualcomm right now anyway.

I’ll close with my product of the week: the first flying motorcycle you now can order.

Huawei’s Success

Currently Huawei is executing far better than Apple is. I say this because it passed Apple in market share, and its market continues to expand, while Apple’s apparently has started to contract. Currently Apple, which once dominated the smartphone market, is lagging behind both Samsung and Huawei.

Huawei’s success is largely because it builds a very competitive phone that provides more value than Apple’s iPhone does. Huawei also has developed more strategically, in that it builds both the phones and the switches that enable them, and it prices those switches very competitively.

This means that once it gets to critical mass in a market about switches and phones, it could enable unique features that neither its switch nor its phone competitors can match.

While both Apple and Huawei have been implementing lock-in strategies (where you capture the customers and keep them away from competitors), Apple focused on end users while Huawei focused on carriers. Since the carriers own their customers in most markets, this could make Huawei unbeatable, were it not for its one huge exposure.

That exposure is the Chinese government, which owns a significant part of the company and creates the fear that it eventually will take control and turn it into a spying tool. Although I have seen no evidence that this has happened, the company’s ownership structure implies it could, and that has led the U.S. government to blacklist the firm, not only in the U.S. but across the Western world.

However, law enforcement in most Western countries, and particularly in the U.S., isn’t based on whether someone could, or eventually will, break the law, but on whether they have broken it — and it doesn’t look as though Huawei has.

We don’t live in a Minority Report world, where you can hold people accountable for what they might do in the future. Huawei has been significantly hampered, but with proper legal help, it should be able to get off the blacklist. That would be a problem both for Apple and Qualcomm. Huawei has its own 5G technology and doesn’t need Qualcomm’s, and the company it is trying to take out appears to be Apple.

Apple (Is Qualcomm a Proxy for Google?)

What is very strange about Apple’s obvious attempts to put Qualcomm out of business is its rationale. Qualcomm isn’t a direct competitor. It provides much of the core technology that makes smartphones work — particularly high-end smartphones like the iPhone.

What if Qualcomm is a proxy for Google? Google is massively powerful, and Apple’s attempts to carry out Steve Jobs’ wish that Google be punished for violating his trust largely have failed.

However, the offending platform, Android, which Apple feels was stolen from it, depends on hardware technology — and the company that provides most of it is Qualcomm. Critical to this is that Qualcomm uses its revenue from licensing to do R&D, and that R&D is mostly carrying the high-end part of the Android platform.

If you could cripple that, you likely could reduce the competition for iPhones dramatically. Given that much of that competition is lower-priced, it would take a ton of price pressure off Apple while creating an opportunity — a strong opportunity — for Apple’s expansion.

Yet Huawei, as I noted above, doesn’t really need Qualcomm, and Huawei is a bigger threat to Apple than Samsung is, thanks to its position in China, which is the fastest-growing and arguably biggest potential market for smartphones.

Qualcomm could be a better defense against Huawei, since its technology significantly exceeds what Apple currently has. Apple is depending on Intel in the short term, and Intel has been running around a year behind Qualcomm. Intel doesn’t have the industry power, and it’s likely that Apple accidentally crippled Intel when it allegedly gave Intel Qualcomm’s technology so Intel could close the 4G/5G technology gap.

Qualcomm found out about it, and if Intel is found guilty, it may be knocked out of the cellular modem market. This is the danger when you steal technology; the downside to getting caught is that it can be catastrophic for the thief.

All of this benefits Huawei, which has Apple in its sites.

Unintended Consequences

Apple’s sales have been under pressure, and Apple has stopped reporting sales volume in an apparent attempt to conceal that volume sales are declining and revenue growth is mostly coming from price increases.

This is problematic, because there is undoubtedly a high limit to how much Apple can charge for its smartphones and related services. In other words, it can’t increase prices indefinitely, particularly as lower-cost vendors like Huawei continue to underprice it.

At some point, Apple’s customers will start to hold on to their phones longer, which appears to be the case now, and eventually jump to another vendor to avoid being on an ever-increasing and noncompetitive price cycle.

On top of that, the aggressive hostile actions against Qualcomm have cost the company millions, both in terms of legal costs and in lost iPhone sales, and the firm has been partially blocked from selling phones in China and Germany. As I write this, those blocks likely will be increased.

In addition, Huawei, thanks largely to the U.S.’s incessant attacks on the company, has become a hero to the Chinese people, and Apple effectively has been blacklisted in China.

If this trend continues, Apple could be locked out of China, the fastest-growing and biggest potential future market, , regardless of what Qualcomm does. That would crater Apple’s valuation and likely force an involuntary CEO change. In fact, I expect that if something doesn’t change, Tim Cook will be gone within 18 months.

Apple appears to be getting more and more desperate. The obvious attempt to influence the San Diego jury, which really has an incredibly high risk associated with it, is a case in point. Apple also appears to be behind the FTC challenge against Qualcomm. The FTC eventually will figure out it has been acting against the interests of the nation, particularly given that it has been approached by both the U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Energy on that topic.

Granted, the U.S. government does often seem to be at war against itself, but this seems unprecedented. Having Apple on the wrong side of the U.S. Defense Department is, in and of itself, problematic for the company.

Wrapping Up

Huawei represents a massive threat to U.S. technology dominance. Efforts to brand the company as a bad actor clearly have had an impact, but Huawei has plowed right through them, indicating that if it could get the U.S. to stop, it likely would be unbeatable.

Huawei appears to have a strong case for the U.S. to stop, and China could make leaving Huawei alone part of its deal to end the tariff war, which is going really badly for both countries at the moment (and could cost Trump the Presidency).

Given that Apple is the aggressor, it really should rethink its battle with Qualcomm/Google and focus on the bigger long-term threats: its inability to increase prices indefinitely; and Huawei/China, which together massively outresource Apple.

If something doesn’t change, tech market dominance likely will transition from the U.S. to China, with the Huawei/Apple battle being the harbinger of that change. Hopefully the next CEO at Apple will be able to intervene in time, but I doubt it.

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Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

OK, we are clearly in the world of science fiction, because last week Jetpack Aviation opened up preorders for its diesel/kerosene-powered flying motorcycle, the Speeder.

With a ceiling of 15,000 feet and a top speed of 150 mph and four turbojet engines, this thing is wicked cool. It only has 20 minutes of flying time, suggesting that if you are at 15,000 feet and a quarter tank you better like pancakes, because you are about to be one.


Jetpack Aviation's Speeder flying motorcycle
Jetpack Aviation’s Speeder

It is computer-operated, which means little or no training will be needed. (To me, that suggests you want to be watching one of these from a distance.) It even looks good — not like most flying vehicles in development, which are butt ugly.It doesn’t look like the most comfortable thing you could fly, but given the entire 20 minutes largely would be taken up with you saying to yourself “don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t crash, OMG I’m almost out of gas,” I don’t think that will be a huge problem. In fact, the lack of comfort might keep your mind off that whole pancake outcome thing.

There is even a commercial-like video of the thing. Granted, it is rendered, which suggests actually getting the product is a couple of years out, but it looks like it also will have the ability to fly autonomously.

At just under US$400K, this likely won’t have you trading in your Jet Ski or regular motorcycle anytime soon, but imagine pulling up to a party, campsite or event in this puppy. You’d be an instant celebrity, and $400K is pretty cheap for instant celebrity status.

While I think I’ll hold off personally on putting my name on the list to buy one of these, it pretty much floats to the top of my lust list, making the Jetpack Aviation Speeder my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

 

Human Trafficking – Technology and Real Issues

Commentary
Bill Owen – TechNewsBlog.net

Follow up Commentary to 2/14/19 post on Human Trafficking: How technology is tackling human trafficking by Alexon Bell, Global Head of AML and Compliance at Quantexa.

Human trafficking is the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.[1][2] This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage,[3][4][5] or the extraction of organs or tissues,[6][7] including for surrogacy and ova removal.[8] Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. Human trafficking is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation.[9] Human trafficking is the trade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.

Human trafficking has always been a part of society. Slavery, of any type, can be dated back to the establishment of any form of human civilization. It is fair to say that it exists in any major city and many smaller cities and towns, across the globe, right under our noses. It is the advent of various technologies that has brought this issue to the attention of the general public and has allowed governments and specialty organizations to make significant inroads into the freeing of victims and the incarceration of criminals.

Human trafficking: countries of origin and countries of destination


Click to enlarge

 

I have listed a small sampling of organizations involved with human trafficking below, be it a provider of technology that is currently being used to combat human trafficking, or a provider of direct surveillance and apprehension of criminals involved in this activity. It is the combination of technologies and collaboration of efforts from all parties that is making the difference. Note: I am not implying endorsement or making statements of support for their personal work or their projects.

Quantexa: As noted in the 2/14/19 article provided by Alexon Bell above, Quantexa has been involved in providing the technology, specifically artificial intelligence, that helps to keep law enforcement and global organizations on the heels of traffickers. An additional article/report from  Brian Wang, sole author and writer of nextbigfuture.com and his interview with Alexon Bell, posted January 26, 2019: Quantexa Uses Context-Aware Artificial Intelligence to Uncover Human Trafficking Networks

Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.): As their website main page states, “We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking.” Operation Underground Railroad is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture, and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, strengthened awareness, and fundraising efforts.[10]  Quite a background story on Tim and the impetus behind this organization.

Human Trafficking Fact Sheet Infographic via O.U.R.

 

THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, previously known as DNA Foundation, is an international anti-human trafficking organization that works to address the sexual exploitation of children. The primary programming efforts of the organization focus on Internet technology and the role it plays in facilitating child pornography and sexual slavery of children on a global scale. The organization was founded by American actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Kutcher speech on human trafficking before Congress:

 

Blue Campaign (DHS). The Blue Campaign is the unified voice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, the Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

 

Additional organizations involved with Human Trafficking

It is important to verify the legitimacy of any organization that you may want to get involved with. Remember, if there is ever a non-partisan issue that would be considered, this is definitely one of them. Be aware of any potential criminal or political attempt to capture your donations for anything other than the intended use for anti-trafficking causes. This list of organizations is the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt a solid organization near you, if you want to get involved hands-on. Of course, donations can be made to any organization in any location. Again, all should be vetted first.

Before Giving to a Charity (via the Federal Trade Commission)

15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking (via the U.S. Department of State)

List of organizations that combat human trafficking (via Wikipedia)

National Human Trafficking Hotline

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Human Trafficking

 

Background on Human Trafficking by region (via Wikipedia):

Human trafficking in the United States

Human trafficking in Canada

Human trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking in South America

Human trafficking in Europe

Human trafficking in Australia

Human trafficking in the Middle East

Human trafficking in Southeast Asia

Human trafficking in Indonesia

Human trafficking in China

Human trafficking in Russia

Human trafficking in India

 

As you can see, this is a huge problem globally. This could happen to anyone. The news stories that you have heard over the years of missing people could very well be the victim of human trafficking and are still alive today under duress. With the diligent work of governments, organizations and individuals focused on this issue, as well as prayers from many people, a serious dent is being made to try and bring it to an end.

 

References

  1. “UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling”. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  2. “Amnesty International – People smuggling”. Amnesty.org.au. 23 March 2009. Archived from the originalon 9 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  3. “Child Trafficking for Forced Marriage” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2013.
  4. “Slovakian ‘slave’ trafficked to Burnley for marriage”. BBC News.
  5. “MARRIAGE IN FORM, TRAFFICKING IN CONTENT: Non – consensual Bride Kidnapping in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  6. “Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs” (PDF). United Nations. 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. “Human trafficking for organs/tissue removal”. Fightslaverynow.org. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  8. “Human trafficking for ova removal or surrogacy”. Councilforresponsiblegenetics.org. 31 March 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  9. MCLAUGHLIN. “What is Human Trafficking?”. http://www.unodc.org. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  10. Erica Ritz (2014-10-27). “The Disturbing Reason Operation Underground Railroad Is Able to Take So Many Photos of Child Sex Traffickers”. The Blaze. TheBlaze Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-05-16. Retrieved 16 May 2016.

Protect Yourself Against Social Security Identity Theft

Retirement The PBS website for grown-ups who want to keep growing

By Amy Zipkin, Freelance Writer and Journalist, Next Avenue Contributor and Contributor to Forbes
Jan 17, 2018, 01:11pm

Last fall, after the Equifax breach, Jim Borland, acting deputy commissioner for communications at the Social Security Administration wrote a blog post on the agency website headlined “Protecting Your Social Security.”  He said: “A my Social Security account is your gateway to many of our online services. Create your account today and take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name, even if they obtain your Social Security number.”

I took Borland’s advice, since anyone 18 or older with a Social Security number, an email address and a mailing address can open a mySocialSecurity online account and maintain it for decades before claiming benefits. But fewer than nine months after I opened the my Social Security account, I received an unexpected email from the Social Security Administration. It said: My account was being deactivated at my request.

Why Was My Social Security Account Deactivated?

I was mystified since I hadn’t contacted the agency. And no one else had access to personal details to change my password. So I called the next morning and requested a direct deposit block on my Social Security account to prevent any additional suspicious activity. (Even though I don’t collect Social Security benefits yet, a block offers two apparent safeguards: It prevents changes to direct deposit information through a financial institution or through the Social Security site. And it prevents someone else from changing my mailing address through the Social Security site.)

Also on Forbes:

I also asked the Social Security Administration to notify its Inspector General about suspected fraud.

Then I tried to find out what happened.

The U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) website offered a possible clue. “With full name, birth date and Social Security number a thief can try to open a  my Social Security account in your name and change your direct deposit information to his or her checking account.”

It continued, “Coupled with other information that can easily be found online such as place of birth, a thief can try to claim your benefits over the phone.”

The Rising Trend in Compromised Social Security Accounts

My compromised account, it turns out, was not alone.

In its 2018 Identity Fraud Report, the Javelin Strategy and Research firm found nearly a third (30%) of U.S. consumers were notified of a breach in 2017, up from 12% in 2016, to the tune of $16.8 billion dollars. And for the first time, Social Security numbers were compromised more than credit card numbers in breaches. What this means, according to Javelin, is that 35% of individuals who were notified that their personal information was involved in a breach in 2017 had their Social Security numbers compromised.

One reason Social Security number theft is up: scammers seem to have shifted tactics. “Over the past couple of months, our helpline has received fewer reports of the IRS scam [a con artist pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, demanding money] while complaints about scammers impersonating the Social Security Administration have been on the increase,” said Amy Nofziger, an AARP expert on frauds and scams.

“I am aware advisories have been put out for consumers to beware of impersonation schemes,” said Mike Litt, Consumer Campaign Director at U.S. PIRG based in Washington, D.C.

How to Safeguard Your Future Social Security Benefits

How do you safeguard your Social Security benefits if you are months or even years away from collecting them?

Perhaps its counterintuitive, but experts recommend signing up for a my Social Security account and closely monitoring it.

The way to do that, says Mike Litt, consumer campaign director at U.S. PIRG, is by logging into your Social Security account regularly and checking your personal information, such as your address or date of birth. If you see changes to the information you entered when you opened the account or information that doesn’t belong to you, contact the Social Security Administration (800-772- 1213 or by email: https://secure.ssa.gov/emailus).

“It may mean someone has tried to claim your benefits, perhaps by telephone,” Litt said.

To report possible fraud or identity theft, Nofziger suggests casting a wide net. “The more reporting entries the better,” she said. Besides the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Aging fraud hotline 800-303- 9470 are options. (Note: The Federal Trade Commission is currently closed due to the lapse of government funding.)

If You Have a Password Problem

The Social Security Administration says that if you have password problems with your my Social Security account, call Social Security and answer “helpdesk” when the auto prompt asks the nature of your call.

The Social Security Administration uses Equifax credit reports for personal identification verification. “If a person has a security freeze, fraud alert or both with Equifax, a my Social Security account could not be created,” the agency said in an email.

While reporting this story I checked back with the Office of the Inspector General to find out why my account was closed without my authorization. “Due to privacy and law enforcement concerns, we cannot comment on any investigative action we take on the allegation going forward,” communications director Andrew Cannarsa wrote in an email.

After checking my credit report and making sure it was accurate, I then opened another my Social Security account. The block is still in place and Social Security sent me a confirmation. But if I call to request direct deposit or mailing address agencies, the agency said, I may be asked to visit my local Social Security office to confirm my identity.

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America is in the midst of an age boom and with it, an amazing transition. In general, those over the age of 50 are expected to live longer than any previous generation. Enter NextAvenue.org, a public media website devoted to the aspirations and concerns of grown-ups who …

Next Avenue is public media’s national journalism service for America’s booming 50+ population. Part of the PBS system, Next Avenue’s daily content delivers vital ideas, context and perspectives on issues that matter most as we age.

 

Healthcare firms go for the hybrid cloud approach with compliance and connectivity key

Commentary by James Bourne, Editor-in-Chief, TechForge Media for Cloud Tech News
18 February 2019, 14:02 p.m.

 

It continues to be a hybrid cloud-dominated landscape – and according to new research one of the traditionally toughest industries in terms of cloud adoption is now seeing it as a priority.

A report from enterprise cloud provider Nutanix has found that in two years’ time, more than a third (37%) of healthcare organisations polled said they would deploy hybrid cloud. This represents a major increase from less than a fifth (19%) today.

The study, which polled more than 2,300 IT decision makers, including 345 global healthcare organisations, found more than a quarter (28%) of respondents saw security and compliance as the number one factor in choosing where to run workloads. It’s not entirely surprising. All data can be seen as equal, but healthcare is certainly an industry where the data which comes from it is more equal than others. Factor in compliance initiatives, particularly HIPAA, and it’s clear to see how vital the security message is.

Yet another key area is around IT spending. The survey found healthcare organisations were around 40% over budget when it came to public cloud spend, compared to a 35% average for other industries. Organisations polled who currently use public cloud spend around a quarter (26%) of their annual IT budget on it – a number which is expected to rise to 35% in two years.

Healthcare firms see ERP and CRM, analytics, containers and IoT – the latter being an evident one for connected medical devices – as important use cases for public cloud. The average penetration in healthcare is just above the global score. 88% of those polled said they see hybrid cloud to positively impact their businesses – yet skills are a major issue, behind only AI and machine learning as an area where healthcare firms are struggling for talent.

It is certainly an area where the largest vendors have been targeting in recent months. Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced in September a partnership with Accenture and Merck to build a cloud-based informatics research platform aiming to help life sciences organisations explore drug development. Google took the opportunity at healthcare conference HiMSS to launch a new cloud healthcare API, focusing on data types such as HL7, FHIR and DICOM.

Naturally, Nutanix is also in the business of helping healthcare organisations with their cloud migrations. Yet increased maturity across the industry will make for interesting reading. The healthcare IT stack of the future will require different workloads in different areas, with connectivity the key. More than half of those polled said ‘inter-cloud application mobility’ was essential going forward.

“Healthcare organisations especially need the flexibility, ease of management and security that the cloud delivers, and this need will only become more prominent as attacks on systems become more advanced, compliance regulations more stringent, and data storage needs more demanding,” said Chris Kozup, Nutanix SVP of global marketing. “As our findings predict, healthcare organisations are bullish on hybrid cloud growth for their core applications and will continue to see it as the ideal solution as we usher in the next era of healthcare.

“With the cloud giving way to new technologies and tools such as machine learning and automation, we expect to see positive changes leading to better healthcare solutions in the long run,” Kozup added.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash
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Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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.

 

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5 Technology Trends Impacting State and Local Governments

Contributed by the Community Editorial Team at Comcast Business
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March 01, 2018

State and local governments stand at the cusp of a technology renaissance, as new offerings and services are available to help agencies serve their constituents faster, more effectively and more efficiently. Technologies that once were thought of as “bleeding edge” now are increasingly ubiquitous, enabling government agencies to become more customer-centric in myriad ways, from answering billing queries to proactively identifying when customer data is being targeted by cybercriminals.

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According to research firm Gartner, government CIOs expect to spend 28 percent of their 2018 budget on digital initiatives designed to increase the value of government to constituents.[1] Technologies such as analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and even autonomous vehicles all have the potential to enable governments to offer services and aid their citizens in ways that not only can improve the customer experience, but also save governments time, money and labor.

Imagine logging on to a government website and being “recognized” through facial recognition, then “telling” the site what you’re looking for in plain English and receiving the results instantly. Or imagine a self-driving maintenance truck that “sniffs out” and automatically fills potholes without human intervention.

On the surface, this may sound like the stuff of science fiction. But these scenarios are coming closer to being reality, as technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles are moving closer to the mainstream. And their effect on state and local governments would be transformational in providing services and keeping citizens safe from physical and cyber perils.

TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH

The scope of technologies that can impact government services—and, in turn, our lives—is far-reaching, from robots that clean parks to systems that can create personalized cybersecurity by observing and learning from users’ behaviors. Some technologies are still more bleeding-edge than leading-edge, while others have the potential to be in service—and of service—today.

Five technologies in particular—artificial intelligence and robotics, autonomous vehicles, digital government, automation, and efforts to increase cybersecurity—demonstrate value to state and local government initiatives.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND ROBOTICS

Of all the technologies that can reap the largest benefit for governments, artificial intelligence is perhaps the one most likely to have the biggest impact. In fact, a number of agencies already are using AI to handle tasks quickly that otherwise would take much longer for humans to do, such as sorting through massive amounts of paperwork to find relevant information.

Law enforcement agencies are looking at artificial intelligence as a weapon to help fight crime by improving video surveillance, spotting criminals in crowds through facial recognition, and even helping reduce the amount of time police officers spend writing reports.

Beyond artificial intelligence, robotics is becoming a way for agencies to spend less and do more. Consultancy firm Deloitte highlights the coming of process robotics, which it describes as “… computer-coded, rules-based software that uses ‘bots’ to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks otherwise performed by humans. Requiring minimal system integration, bots can be deployed in as little as a few weeks depending on the complexity of the process.”[2] Any high-volume, rules-based work can be performed by process robotics, which helps free employees to focus on more valuable customer-facing activities.

Bots are already being used by agencies to help improve customer service. Chatbots in particular are being used to answer questions via the web without the need for customer service agents—a technology especially useful for agencies that are understaffed and don’t have dedicated customer-facing employees.

Deloitte estimates that employing AI technology in the government space could free up as many as 1.2 billion working hours every year, saving $41.1 billion.[3]

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

While much of the conversation around government and autonomous vehicles has focused on legislating such technology, governments can benefit from the use of autonomous vehicles in multiple ways. Another Deloitte study notes that, as end users, agencies not only can improve their government-operated fleets, but also further the concepts of shared mobility and “other new types of travel through their procurement decisions.”[4]

The federal government operates a fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles, including U.S. Postal Service trucks and General Services Administration vehicles leased to various agencies.[5] In 2016, USPS vehicles were involved in about 30,000 accidents nationwide, resulting in about $67 million in repair and legal costs.[6] As a result, the agency is considering autonomous vehicles for its fleet, not only to help improve safety but also to increase productivity of letter carriers, who could ready the mail for deliveries during transit.

At the state and local level, highway maintenance departments could dispatch autonomous trucks to repair road damage such as potholes or broken curbs, clean debris from roads following a collision or events such as a parade, or clear snow and ice from roadways during inclement weather. Public transportation can also be a potential target for autonomous vehicles to help municipalities save on labor costs while keeping their fleets moving.

While autonomous vehicles can have the ability to negatively impact state and local budgets—the amount of revenue generated by traffic tickets is certain to decrease due to anticipated safer driving by autonomous vehicles—governments potentially have more to gain than lose from the technology, including decreased labor costs, increased productivity and lower legal costs related to vehicle accidents.

DIGITAL GOVERNMENT

The term “digital government” is an umbrella term used to describe technologies such as mobile services, common online identities and crowdsourcing—all designed to streamline services and improve the end-user experience.

Mobility in particular is an area where governments at all levels can increase the quality of their services and the efficiency of their employees. Apps can be used to access information quickly and easily, enabling citizens to, for example, see in real time where tree-trimming crews are slowing traffic or virtually check in to the local DMV office to avoid waiting in line. Mobile apps also can help government employees working offsite and in the field. Building inspectors can get instant access to building plans, permit applications and more, for example. Parks and recreation department workers can see the location and working status of every water fountain connected to an internet of things (IoT) sensor. And transportation department employees can remotely change the status of digital signage to alert motorists of changing traffic conditions.

Back-office systems that facilitate common identities for constituents also can help improve the user experience, especially when dealing with multiple agencies. Much like users can log on to various websites by connecting with social media sites such as Facebook, government agencies can use common identity systems to help simplify the process of accessing various agency sites to accomplish tasks, such as checking on the status of a request filed with the zoning commission or filing a police report for a hit-and-run traffic accident.

Crowdsourcing, once the purview of sites that harness user opinions to make recommendations on restaurants, hotels and more, is now joining the government fray, as more agencies are depending on the “wisdom of the crowd” to help collect and disseminate information. The federal government has established a site, citizenscience.gov, to help agencies encourage public participation to accelerate innovation. It features federal citizen science efforts in climatology, ecology and disaster response, among others, to help “engage the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science, technology, and innovation,” according to the site. At the state and local level, crowdsourcing can be used by agencies to gather real-time traffic information, monitor power outages and collect other data important to citizens, providing facts to the minute and on the fly.

AUTOMATION

Consultancy firm KPMG pegs automation as “the next step in government’s digital transformation,”[7] and with good reason: Automation is perhaps the most useful technology in terms of impacting government services from both the agency and the constituent perspectives. In particular, process automation can free employees from mundane tasks such as filing paperwork to concentrate on more meaningful projects or tasks that require their full attention, such as addressing constituent issues.

Automation is one step below artificial intelligence on the technology ladder; however, interest in “intelligent automation” is growing as a way to further enhance productivity while improving accuracy. Chatbots are a simple example of intelligent automation, while IBM’s Watson with its cognitive analytics, which has the ability to learn and solve problems, offers a prime example of more complex intelligent automation.

Automation is not a new concept in government or other industries, for that matter. However, as advances in artificial intelligence and robotics continue, automation will take on a much more important role in helping governments run efficiently and providing more valuable citizen services.

EFFORTS TO INCREASE CYBER SECURITY

As more processes and constituent interactions occur digitally, governments must do more to protect sensitive and valuable data from cyber threats. No longer should agencies worry about whether their systems will be breached; rather, they should worry about when their systems will be breached.

Researchers estimate damages from cyber crime will amount to $6 trillion worldwide annually by 2021.[8] Included in that amount are damage and destruction of data, embezzlement, stolen money, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, forensic investigation, theft of personal and financial data, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, and reputational damage.

As cyber threats continue to surge, so does the demand for qualified cyber security talent. However, a recent study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education predicts there will be a worldwide shortage of 1.8 million skilled security workers by 2022.[9] Agencies must look for new and innovative ways, then, to secure their data and keep their systems safe from breaches and malicious activity.

The cloud is emerging as one tool in the fight against cyber crime, as technologies such as cloud workload protection platforms show promise in keeping data protected no matter where data resides—on-premises, in virtual machines or in cloud environments. Deception technologies, which are designed to throw off a would-be attacker, also can help, as well as endpoint detection and response solutions and network traffic analysis capabilities.

Artificial intelligence shows the biggest promise in improving cyber security, and is the technology upon which many of the new security solutions are based. It is evident that artificial intelligence will serve as the backbone for many, if not most, of the technologies powering the next generation of government services.

HOW THE NETWORK MATTERS WITH NEW-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES

State and local governments are quickly reaching the point where adoption of new technologies is inevitable. Indeed, the efficiency and effectiveness of any government agency is dependent on the technologies it uses to provide services and protect the health and welfare of its citizens.

In preparing for their impending technology renaissance, agencies first must prepare their networks to certify they are able to handle the increase in demand. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, mobility and other technologies can stress the bandwidth of traditional networks and impact performance.

Agencies need to ascertain if they have the right foundation for both customer-facing and back-office operations, as well as new opportunities yet to be imagined. Today’s efficient networks comprise multiple technologies and platforms all chosen to ensure the solutions they support operate at peak performance without issue.

In building a network for the next generation of government services, agencies should consider an environment that includes both on-premises, cloud, and networking technologies such as SD-WAN and high-speed broadband to make certain traffic is handled efficiently over any type of network. And networking components such as WiFi and unified communications can ensure users of the network—employees and constituents—interact with each other using their preferred method of communication.

To help ease stress on an agency’s current network—not to mention the daily burden on IT managers—managed services can be utilized to offer certain constituent services, such as bill payments, without further impacting the network. Managed services can be used to help tie disparate systems together and “fill in the gaps” as agencies update their current infrastructure, and can prove useful even after networks have been upgraded.

Working with a network service provider can help ease the burden associated with building and maintaining a network capable of handling the bandwidth-intensive needs of the next generation of government services. By working with a third-party network services provider, agencies can leverage virtual and physical private Ethernet connectivity to assure critical applications perform as expected. They also can receive all or some of their most critical connectivity functions as a managed service, including managed connectivity, WiFi, security, voice and business continuity, among others.

CONCLUSION

New technologies loom on the horizon to help government agencies better serve their constituents, from answering billing queries to protecting sensitive data from cyber threats. The network on which these technologies run must be robust and flexible enough to handle the traffic and bandwidth demands of today and beyond.

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[1] “Gartner Survey Finds Government CIOs Spend 21 Percent of Their IT Budget on Digital Initiatives,” press release, Gartner, April 25, 2017 https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3693017

[2] “Process robotics in the federal government,” Public Sector Solutions web page, Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/solutions/federal-government-process-robotics.html

[3] William D. Eggers, David Schatsky, Dr. Peter Viechnicki, “How artificial intelligence could transform government,” executive summary, Deloitte, April 26, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/cognitive-technologies/artificial-intelligence-government-summary.html?_ga=2.17808368.871295872.1509472479-881865455.1507121216

[4] RJ Krawiec, Vinn White, “Governing the future of mobility,” Deloitte, Aug. 3, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/future-of-mobility/federal-government-and-transportation-of-the-future.html

[5] Ibid

[6] “Autonomous Vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service,” report, USPS Office of the Inspector General, Oct. 2, 2017, https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2017/RARC-WP-18-001.pdf

[8] “Official 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report,” Cybersecurity Ventures, October 2017, https://cybersecurityventures.com/hackerpocalypse-cybercrime-report-2016/

[9] “Global Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage to Reach 1.8 Million as Threats Loom Larger and Stakes Rise Higher,” news release, Center for Cyber Safety and Education, June 7, 2017 https://www.isc2.org/News-and-Events/Press-Room/Posts/2017/06/07/2017-06-07-Workforce-Shortage

 

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.”

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