Insights and Conversation About the Telecom & Technology Industries
Author: Geoff Wilbur
I've spent more than 20 years in the telecom and high tech industries. I'm an "analytical guru, seer of trends and opportunities." In other words, I've been a telco cost/economic/financial analyst. I've also been an industry analyst who has written reports covering several telecom market segments, including some key markets when they were in their early stages (such as fiber-to-the-home and competitive carriers). Beyond telecom, my tech industry coverage has included IT markets from comprehensive to detailed, plus special projects covering industries including such disparate industries as air conditioning, eCommerce, and population migration and remittances. I leverage this background when writing for my Geoff Wilbur's Telecom and Tech Blog.
I was also a widely published music journalist 1989-2003. I then placed my music journalism gig on hiatus... until Fall 2015 with the launch of Geoff Wilbur's Music Blog.
A Tech in Motion Boston event held at PTC, Boston, MA
May 15, 2019
On Wednesday, May 15th, I attended an event at PTC’s Boston seaport headquarters. I trust Tech in Motion to put on good events, drawing a very techy crowd and featuring interesting topics. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. Wednesday’s Smart Cities & Urban Innovation: Demos & Drinks covered the topic of urban tech.
Before and after the presentation, there was time for networking and for visiting several area companies in the urban innovation space.
BetrSpot is an app that allows people to trade spots. Spots in line. Spots at the bar. It’s a marketplace for physical first-come, first-served spaces.
Beta Blocks is attempting to create smarter, more connected Boston communities.
Cambridge Mobile Telematics is the company whose Drive Well platform is being utilized as part of Boston’s Safest Driver Competition, mentioned above.
Soofa was showing off its cool Soofa Sign community news feed display units – or, as they call, them, “the world’s first outdoor 42” electronic paper display for downtowns, neighborhoods, parks, and campuses.” (I’m enthralled and look forward to trying them out.)
Tolemi is a “governing intelligence” platform. What I recall most about my conversation with them was the detailed maps.
Getaround is a service/app that facilitates peer-to-peer car rental, sort of like an Airbnb for cars. I previously mentioned Getaround very briefly in this article about a Boston New Technology event in September 2018, and I first encountered Getaround at a BNT event earlier in 2018, though I didn’t mention the exhibitors in that write-up. Certainly seems like a product capable of gaining traction in its chosen market.
In all, it was a great sampling of city-focused technology. Hosted by PTC, of course, at its seaport district headquarters. The event was held on PTC’s demo floor, which contains showcases of several of PTC’s augmented reality products. And the group of attendees was Tech in Motion’s typically tech-focused audience.
I attended the Embedded Systems Conference last week, as well, on Wednesday and Thursday. You can expect coverage of some of the presentations I attended at that conference here in the blog over the coming days.
World Series Champion Boston Red Sox Select Acronis as Official Cyber Protection Partner
Acronis Red Sox Day, Fenway Park, Boston, MA
May 10, 2019
On Friday, May 10th, the Boston Red Sox and Acronis, via an event at Fenway Park, announced the Red Sox selection of Acronis as the team’s “Official Cyber Protection Partner.” Presentations by Acronis Vice President and General Manager Patrick Hurley and Boston Red Sox Senior Director of Technology Operations Randy George were followed by a chat with former Red Sox Bob Stanley and Jerry Remy and, later, an appearance by prolific Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Acronis, long known for its backup and recovery products, also offers robust cyber protection. The Red Sox, meanwhile, conduct a massive data analytics operation, as is typical of Major League Baseball teams.
Hurley’s presentation discussed Acronis’ service offerings and its partnerships with major professional sports operations around the globe, as featured at the company’s acronis.sport website.
George’s presentation focused more on the ways the Red Sox would utilize Acronis’ capabilities, including increased speed and security of the team’s analytics, plus the impact on back office operations.
Materials about the announcement cited Acronis’ cutting-edge hybrid cloud architecture, disaster recovery, file sync and share, blockchain notarization and e-signature services, multi-machine deployment provisioning, enterprise-level managed file transfer, and anti-malware protection.
Red Sox Vice President of IT Brian Shield was quoted as saying, “We’re thrilled to have Acronis as our Official Cyber Protection Partner. Acronis’ services offer an innovative blend of data protection and cybersecurity that will ensure all of our data, regardless of volume, is safe and secure so it’s available precisely when and where we need it. We look forward to a long and highly successful partnership with Acronis that will benefit our organization on and off the field.”
Hurley added, “Everyone at Acronis – particularly those at our Burlington, MA office – is thrilled that the Red Sox decided to team up with Acronis. As a Boston native and life-long Red Sox fan, the opportunity to contribute to the success of one of baseball’s most storied franchises is very exciting. Acronis shares the Red Sox’s commitment to excellence and with the world’s most secure cyber protection solutions defending their digital environment, they’ll be empowered to achieve even more.”
This month, Boston New Technology’s startup showcase featured Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence startups. Boston New Technology is a not-for-profit, community-supported network of 24,000 business professionals with a mission of helping Boston’s local technology startups launch and grow.
April’s showcase, BNT100, was hosted by Mendix at their offices in Boston’s Seaport district.
This month’s event was rather special. It was BNT’s 100th event, so it featured tributes at the beginning and cake at the end. At the very beginning, though, before the speeches and the startup presentations, was the usual hour of food, drinks, and networking.
The quick sponsor introductions are generally followed by the meat of the program, five-minute presentations (plus five minute Q&A time) by each of the evening’s showcasing companies.
Tonight’s six showcasing company presentations were, however, preceded by a presentation about the Boston Innovation Ecosystem from Boston’s Startup Manager, Matheus Lima. Matheus spoke at length about the inviting Boston startup ecosystem. A key point of his presentation was that he specifically mentionted the three different constituencies his office supports: startups, institutions that deal with startups, and entrepreneurs.
Next up were the showcasing companies. As always, my notes are brief, so I’d encourage you to follow the links if you seek any more information, and then contact the companies directly if you have a particular interest. Spanning the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) markets, this batch of startups is on the cutting edge of the tech world.
Products & Presenters
Mendix, the evening’s host, kicked things off. Mendix is a no-code/low-code platform that allows people who aren’t coders to be able to design and create apps. I had been very much looking forward to this demonstration, as a quick walkthrough of “how it’s done” is far superior to all the reading in the world.
Up next, Zome is a tool for creating and controlling micro (power) grids. It allows power grids to curtail demand centrally whenever desired – for example, in case of reduced supply or non-competitive pricing. In addition to its presentation, Zome showcased a demonstration, which gradually slightly adjusted the heating/cooling system of a group of its participating residences.
Divinio is a robust, unobtrusive, multi-sensor measuring platform that is designed for use in sports and industrial equipment. It was put through its paces via a field test in a challenging environment, the sport of cricket, and it passed that significant stress test. The device uses a bluetooth connection to transmit data from the sensors to an edge device.
Posh is one of the evening’s chatbots. It’s a context-aware conversational bot that can be used across multiple channels, across text and voice. Though its client list extends well beyond the financial services industry, Posh’s initial focus is upon selling into the banking industry. Specifically, it has made significant inroads with large players in the credit union market.
Orbita is healthcare-focused conversational AI, utilizing both voice and chatbot powered assistance. Counting among its user base such healthcare organizations as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Amgen and Merck, Orbita is playing in the big-time healthcare space.
The final presenter of the evening, Talla automates customer support via machine learning and natural language processing. For its niche, Talla focuses specifically on customer service interactions that require quick turnaround.
Obviously, my summaries above are quite brief. For more details, please follow the links I provided to the companies’ websites. As usual, Boston New Technology assembled an interesting group of presenters from among Boston’s tech startup community.
Every month, Mass Innovation Nights features startups from around Massachusetts. On this particular night, the theme was Internet of Things, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence.
I always enjoy Mass Innovation Nights’ events, and this one was a little special. It was Mass Inno’s 10th anniversary event. (Do the math: Month 121 is 10 years after Month 1.) So, at the end of the night, this month’s MIN included cake.
Mass Innovation Nights begins with networking and food – tonight, pizza – during the opening hour, during which attendees also chat with exhibiting startups to learn more about them. During this first hour, attendees each cast one vote for their favorite showcasing company; the top four vote-getters, who are announced after the presentations, receive prizes.
After the networking/voting ends, the presentations begin, featuring the four companies that received the most votes in pre-event voting on the Mass Innovation Nights website.
So, after a brief welcome and quick introductions to sponsors and Mass Innovation Nights “Expert Corner” experts, the four presenting startups take the stage.
The presenting startups were Armored Things, WritingAssistant, Awayr, and Fonative. At-event voting winners were Operation250, Nonspec, Tertill, and CAIDE Systems.
Below are brief summaries of the startups that were featured at MIN121. I based these overviews on information at the website, handouts, discussions, and presentations. If you’re interested in more information, please contact the company directly; they’ll be able to tell you more about their products and services. And, though I strive for accuracy, I’d trust their word over anything I write below.
Armored Things, in its presentation, described itself as “Google maps, but for people.” Via analytics and an easy-to-follow dashboard program, Armored Things allows its clients to provide improved physical security by being aware of the location of people so they can respond accordingly. Responses could range from security-related to simply moving refreshment stand employees from less-busy parts of the stadium/campus to the areas showing a heavier concentration of people.
Operation250 is an interactive educational program that helps provide students, teachers, and parents with the knowledge to navigate the dangers of being online. It educates them about the online and real-world risks as well as the methods to remain safe, notably from those espousing radical and violent ideologies.
Fonative‘s Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) allows enterprise application providers to integrate calls and messaging into their service offerings. Designed for contact centers, the product is notable, as I discovered during the presentation, in part because it’s HIPAA secure and PCI compliant, making it a favored solution among regulated customers for whom such security and compliance are requirements. The company and its leadership have a long, deep history in the VoIP industry.
DSPW was showcasing its latest product, the RCB-W24A-RHD32 WiFi recording system for electrophysiology research labs. I recall chatting with DSPW at MIN107 last year, but I ran out of time before getting back to talk with them again this year. This year’s product appears to be an advancement from last year’s; per its Mass Innovation Nights description, DSPW is currently taking orders and plans to ship in the summer of 2019.
WritingAssistant is a product that instantly analyzes writing material for accuracy (grammar) and quality. The basic version is free, while for $1.99 per month additional features are unlocked. This looks like it could be a very cool AI-driven product offering.
Nonspec makes affordable, adjustable prosthetic limbs for amputees around the world. Specifically showcased at MIN121, Nonspec’s Saarthi Limb is a vastly improved ankle.
Awayr is an AI system that evaluates human-machine interaction. It is used by human machine interface (HMI) design teams in the automotive and defense industries. The AI builds a model user to predict human behavior in order to improve the HMI design. Oh, just watch the 40-second video for a better explanation.
Evisort is an AI product designed for contract management. It uses algorithms to understand contract language and allows attorneys, financial professionals, and other management professionals to more easily find and manage their contracts. I think the “Using Evisort” tab on the company’s website does a nice job of describing how it might be used. The example I recall is of finding and staying on top of expiring contracts, though clearly that’s just one of the many uses for this product.
Franklin Robotics‘ Tertill is an autonomous, self-sufficient, solar-powered robot that finds and kills weeds. If this weatherproof weeding robot takes off, I may decide to start gardening again. (My initial impression when seeing it in action: “It’s like a Roomba that’ll weed my garden!”)
CAIDE Systems, who I also recall from last year’s Lowell event, has a product that could require less than two minutes to detect and diagnose a stroke via the analysis of a CT scan image. It reduces human error and saves critical minutes in brain stroke detection. This is some cool, life-saving stuff here.
In addition to the links I provided, you can find more information about the exhibiting companies by following this link and then clicking on the “Vote Here” tab of the MIN121 web page.
Mining wisdom from Mark Stanford of @CiscoSecurity on ways crypto changes the threat landscape. “Cryptomining traffic is up 200% in the last 10 months. How do crypto criminals get their upfront costs down? By using your rig, your AWS.” Great opening keynote for day 2. #SWBOS19pic.twitter.com/n94PM8fBXk
If you enjoyed reading about Day One of SecureWorld Boston 2019, hopefully you’ll dig this Day Two coverage. A shorter day, ending a little earlier, Day Two again featured two interesting keynotes and several more presentations and panels. I patrolled the expo floor once again, conversing with some of the exhibitors I had run out of time to chat with on Day One. The second day again kicked off with a full house attending its morning keynote.
Opening Keynote: Mark Stanford, SE Manager, Cloud Security at Cisco: “The Birth of Crypto Has Changed the Threat Landscape”
Cisco’s Mark Stanford delivered an interesting presentation covering cryptomining, cryptojacking, and cryptophishing. The topic was interesting, as he touched on some important points and made a few interesting comments, such as that criminals don’t want a cost of greater than 30%.
To keep costs down, cryptominers use your machines (and computing power and energy); and that’s just one corporate cybersecurity issue around crypto.
Cryptojackers, Stanford noted, don’t need to focus on bitcoin and can profit from targeting alternate currencies and exchanges. Stanford provided examples of pump and dump schemes in alternate currencies, including showing a graph of one that didn’t work out so well for the perpetrators.
Another major point made was that we’re witnessing a restructuring, that cryptocurrency is at the center of criminal economy. It’s ideal for money laundering. And it’s worth noting that law enforcement’s focus on bitcoin, the current currency of choice, is likely to just shift the criminal focus to alternate currencies.
The presentation closed with a few to-dos; a couple made it into my notes. First, watch for increases in CPU usage. And also watch your DNS logs.
In all, this presentation was interesting enough for a tech generalist like myself to take away some high-level themes and understand some of the details, while it was specific enough for the front-liners in the audience.
Attacker classifications and vectors based on what @hypoweb of @radware has learned by infiltration of hacker groups. Thank you for sharing your insights with the SecureWorld community in Boston during the lunch keynote! #SWBOS19pic.twitter.com/Y2g5vQTWfp
Lunch Keynote: Daniel Smith, Head of Security Research at Radware: “Game of Threats”
The lunchtime keynote from Radware’s Daniel Smith was a runthrough of 52 security threats accompanied by a deck of cards-themed slide deck. 13 types of threats (from Ace down to 2) by 4 examples of each type (clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds). My notes for this presentation are sparse, but the presentation itself was entertaining, with examples of threats ranging from ransomware to botnets to DDoS to insider threats – the stories/examples were interesting and detailed, enough for a few articles by themselves. Smith did a great job of presenting interesting facts and stories, and he held the audience’s attention to the very end.
The Rest of Day Two
Beyond the keynotes, both days featured several breakout presentations and panel discussions. I spent a bit of time as part of an overflow crowd in the “Access Control – The End of the Password?” presentation where all forms of passwords and access difficulties and roads ahead were discussed. Other panel and presentation topics during Day Two included Zero Trust, GDPR, Recruiting and Retention, Endpoint Security, and more. Across both days, the security topics covered were comprehensive.
Prizes were handed out as the expo closed, before the final round of presentations and panels began. My personal takeaways were a broad overview of the security vendor landscape, a wealth of terms and acronyms that will allow me to converse more readily within the security landscape, and a desire to build on this knowledge at next year’s SecureWorld, if not sooner. Indeed, with the knowledge and contacts gained this year, in my role as an independent industry analyst, I’m considering working a cybersecurity market segment into my off-the-shelf analysis rotation plan later this year and perhaps pursuing a single-client project or two now that I’ve gained a sense of the industry sub-segments.
Note that SecureWorld has a full slate of events across North America this year, with three events in April alone – SecureWorld Philadelphia on April 10th and 11th, and events in Houston and Toronto later this month.
Last week, on March 27th and 28th, I attended SecureWorld’s 2019 Boston conference and expo, the 15th Annual SecureWorld Boston (#SWBOS19), as did more than 1,800 other tech and security industry professionals. It was a terrific opportunity to learn about the latest in cybersecurity and meet a lot of the industry’s top companies in one location. As a tech industry analyst (and blogger) with a generalist background, I hadn’t dug very deeply into security products, so this was a crash course for me. Certainly, most of the vendors’ names were familiar to me from my years covering the tech industry in general, aggregating some of my colleagues’ vendor analysis of these vendors, and assisting colleagues whose work was focused more consistently in the space, but I spent the better part of these two days getting brief introductions to each of the expo attendees’ products. My tired legs and hoarse voice at the end of the event would attest to the miles I logged while visiting at least 80% of the vendors’ booths.
With my background, my coverage of last week’s event will be from a generalist’s perspective. In addition, since I spent a lot of time visiting booths, I didn’t get to most of the presentations. (I expect that to change next year, as I’ve now acquainted myself, if just slightly, with a bulk of the security industry’s key players; I’ll plan a lot more coverage of the presentations in 2020.) I don’t intend to touch upon my booth conversations, but I will share my notes on the presentations I attended.
Though I missed the morning’s keynote while getting settled to Hynes and getting settled in, I heard impressive things about Intel’s Steve Brown’s “Going Digital: Building Your Strategic Roadmap for the Next Wave of Digital Transformation.” presentation, a speech I’m told touched upon a broad swath of digital transformation technologies.
Fascinating lunch keynote by Bruce Schneier @schneierblog on why greater cybersecurity regulation is coming: “The internet is about to start killing people and government regulates things that kill people.” #SWBOS19pic.twitter.com/gL0oiJHs5G
Lunch Keynote: Bruce Schneier, Security and Cryptography Expert and Author of Click Here to Kill Everybody: “Securing a World of Physically Capable Computers”
Wednesday’s lunch keynote was an eye-opening, entertaining glimpse into security in a world in which essentially everything is a computer. I jotted down seven key points during this presentation, upon which I’ll elaborate based both on what Schneier presented and what I’ve observed elsewhere:
The Internet is not built for security. Security would have defeated/overwhelmed the original purpose of the Internet. To oversimplify so it will fit into an already-too-long single sentence, it originated as a way for researchers and academics to exchange information. Though funny cat pictures certainly followed soon enough (my observation, not Scheier’s), security was not a big initial concern.
Retrofitting security is hard. Once the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak… and that’s all I have to say about cats tonight.
Because objects now have software, everything is insecure. This is a frequent topic at IoT events I attend. And since some legacy devices cannot have their software upgraded remotely, well, this is what keeps IoT/embedded systems people up at night. (Side note: These days, that’s pretty much all of us.)
Complexity: It’s easier to attack than it is to defend/secure. Relatively self-explanatory and obvious but definitely important to remember, and it has an impact on how we deploy resources.
New vulnerability in the interconnection. I really wish I had taken more notes here, but you get the gist. Interconnection provides an opportunity for a security breach.
Attacks are getting faster and better. Schneier referenced the democratization of attacks. Attacks developed by some can be used by others. I did a bit of online searching to find a better way to explain this, and perhaps the best words are Schneier’s own, from this March 2015 blog post on his website.
Computers fail differently. When mechanical equipment fails, parts wear out. A maintenance schedule can be set up. Or, at the very least, mechanical failure can be predictable and repairs can be made to individual components or machines as they fail. When cybersecurity fails, everything breaks and needs to be fixed immediately. Vulnerabilities discovered for one network can be exploited everywhere. At the moment they’re discovered. And so the vulnerabilities must be repaired everywhere.
The only possible outcome of increasing security breaches, as Schneier sees it, is government involvement. Regulation is coming in the future. Maybe soon. The question is whether or not it will be smart government involvement or stupid government involvement. We’re seeing it in Europe already. In the U.S., it’s happening at the state level, but Congress will do something at some point. And it behooves the security community to get involved and to court “smart” government involvement before “stupid” involvement is thrust upon the industry. To this end, Schneier directs the audience to Public Interest Tech: https://public-interest-tech.com/.
An interesting, thoughtful speech, this keynote was a must-attend.
The Rest of Day One
The rest of my Day One was spent visiting vendors’ booths, learning about cybersecurity through the vendors’ products. Next year, with SecureWorld Boston 2019 under my belt, I plan to attend more of the interesting presentations that ran concurrently with the exhibits.
And, in the evening, many attendees, myself included, ambled over to the networking reception before calling it a night and preparing for Day Two.
I always enjoy attending Boston New Technology’s startup showcases. A not-for-profit, community-supported network of 24,000 business professionals, Boston New Technology’s mission is to help Boston’s local technology startups launch and grow.
March’s showcase, BNT99, featured local FinTech and Blockchain startups. It was hosted at Foley Hoag in Boston’s Seaport district.
The quick sponsor introductions were followed by the meat of the program, five-minute presentations (plus five minute Q&A time) by each of the evening’s eight showcasing startups. As always, my notes are brief – perhaps moreso than usual, as a few days passed before I found time to summarize the event – so I’d encourage you to follow the links if you seek any more information, and then contact the companies directly if you have a particular interest.
Products & Presenters
Andes Wealth showcased PrecisionRisk™, its tool to help financial advisors and investors identify investors’ risk and behavior traits and manage accordingly. This tool allows advisors to create detailed investor profiles and manage their investments more individually with greater ease. If this sounds interesting, after starting with the website, I’d also recommend viewing this YouTube promotional video to find additional information.
Tunnel Payments‘ distributed ledger system is a system for completing real-time, secure, low cost payments in the cloud. (Please go to the website for details beyond my high-level description.)
Coalesce, per its BNT event description, “uses AI to automate compliance and fraud monitoring for financial services.” A couple highlights I noted from the presentation are that it can be used to automate repetitive, tedious work and that, via natural language processing, one of the things it can excel at is identifying negative news reporting.
MedTrace, you realize if you follow the link on the BNT99 event page, is just one of the supply chain tracing solutions being pursued by the team per the Traceability Site website, whose site lists solutions for many other industry verticals, as well. As showcased at the event, MedTrace uses blockchain to provide end-to-end visibility, tracing legitimate medication packages and identifying counterfeit medication when it attempts to enter the supply chain.
TeraBiz stood out after the evening’s earlier presentations due to its traditional financial service technology platform – it’s a SaaS product, not blockchain. It’s a SaaS-based business management software platform whose functionality and comprehensiveness position it as a solid competitor to industry giants like SAP Ariba, Coupa, Oracle, and others.
Eden GeoPower showcased its strategy for utilizing the high energy demands of cryptocurrency mining to finance the development and construction of renewable geothermal energy projects. Notably, a highlight and central point of the evening’s presentation was how a power plant’s cost can be paid for by the profit of mining cryptocurrency. I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this startup.
Esprezzo is billed in the BNT99 literature as “the developer’s bridge to the blockchain.” It’s a middleware platform that makes it easier for developers to include blockchain in their work. I’d urge you to attend an Esprezzo presentation, and you’ll find it quite easy to understand.
Knox is a service provider that helps homeowners when turn their soon-to-be-former home into a passive investment by streamlining the process of converting a primary residence to an income property, finding good tenants, and managing the property. Obviously, it doesn’t just apply to turning your house into an investment property when you move, but that’s the idea that spawned Knox, and the company’s structure is designed to make that particular circumstance easy. In the end, though, this is a property management firm that handles individual owners’ rentals. Notably, applying to be in Knox’s program doesn’t mean automatic acceptance. The company intends to ensure its success by being selective.
Next month’s BNT startup showcase, BNT100, is scheduled for April 23rd, and it will feature AI and IoT startups. Check out BNT’s upcoming event calendar here at its website for other events, too. For example, there’s an April 17th event on tap featuring two presentations: “Ten Things Startups Need to Know about Intellectual Property” presented by Moses Heyward, Of Counsel, Patent Attorney, Fish & Richardson P.C. and “How To Protect Your Company Against Patent Troll Litigation” presented by Ken Seddon, Chief Executive Officer at LOT Network.
Though I’ll probably miss the April 17th event, I do hope to attend the April 23rd showcase, schedule permitting. Hope to see you there.