Boston New Technology Startup Showcase #101: EdTech and CareerTech

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Boston New Technology Startup Showcase 101

May 20, 2019

This month, Boston New Technology’s startup showcase, BNT101, featured EdTech and CareerTech startups. It was hosted at Hult International Business School in Cambridge.

Boston New Technology Startup Showcase 101: Hult International Business School in Cambridge, MA

UiPath introduction; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Boston New Technology’s May startup showcase featured seven EdTech and CareerTech startups.

After an hour of food and networking, the presentation portion of the program always begins the same, with a quick introduction. Then the sponsors who are in attendance that evening each to introduce themselves. And after that, sponsors not in attendance generally get recognized with a slide and a mention.

BlocksCAD presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Sponsors who attended BNT101 and introduced themselves were Hult, UiPath, Ink’d Stores, Your Profile Video, The Boston Headshot, Chuck Goldstone Strategies and Stories,and Tom Maloney Coach.

After the quick sponsor introductions, each of the evening’s seven showcasing startups gets to deliver a five-minute presentation, which is followed by a five minute question-and-answer period.

The Family Learning Company presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Below I’ll write a sentence or two about each of the presenting companies. These write-ups are based on material distributed before and during the event, sometimes tweaked based on the content of the presentations. If you’re interested in learning more about one of the companies, don’t rely on my notes; rather, follow the links I provide and contact the companies directly for more information.

Products & Presenters

BlocksCAD is 3D CAD software that helps schools teach coding, math, and design. It makes this sort of learning easier and more engaging, and the company presented statistics showing the split of engagement with it product for boys vs. girls is relatively close to 50/50.

Validated Learning Co. presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Family Learning Company showcased its Family Literacy software. The software is designed to help families learn together. The Family Learning Company’s presentation touched upon how it’s designed so parents with literacy shortcomings can help their children learn. Its goal is to improve literacy by connecting adult learners with their children, providing a better literacy outcome for both. During the Q&A period, a question about gamification was asked; that is not in the plans, as it would not improve learning. Also in response to a question, the Family Learning Company envisions this product as being a corporate benefit.

ForagerOne presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Validated Learning Company showcased its Question Xchange peer-to-peer quiz question sharing marketplace. Using crowdsourcing and machine learning, it helps teachers find and share high-quality quiz questions.

ForagerOne is a tool that helps connect students, faculty, and administrators at colleges and universities to improve students’ access to research opportunities by leveraging universities’ internal faculty information and allowing students to get their research interests and backgrounds in front of the faculty members with whom they want to connect.

ArcLive presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

ArcLive gives researchers access to physically historical archives remotely. Important because less than 10% of archival documents are available online. By using a camera and viewing system (with built-in protections against copy-making), researchers can view information they would otherwise have to travel to see. ArcLive touts that the cost of accessing these historical archives through a local surrogate via ArcLive can be half the cost of accessing them via international travel. As an added bonus, it gives researchers the ability to access information at multiple, distant sites, particularly helpful if those additional sites contain smaller amounts of information that would have been otherwise unlikely to have warranted a visit at all.

Passion Analytics presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Passion Analytics‘ PAT is an automated career coach with a natural language user interface. It is designed to guide users through career decisions and to help them find their career passions. To the extent possible, it’s a self-contained product, but if necessary, it will direct users to an actual human. Right now, Passion Analytics is targeting students 18-25.

Unfundable is an academic health research simulation card game that pits players against each other in pursuit of grants. It’s marketed toward high school and early college students and is meant as a way to introduce grant-based research to those potentially interested in careers in that field, with the goal of also appealing to a broader audience.

Unfundable presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Boston New Technology is a not-for-profit, community-supported network of 24,000 business professionals focused on Boston’s tech community, with a mission of helping businesses in that community, especially startups, launch and grow. To that end, the group hosts monthly startup showcases in addition to other events.

June’s startup showcase, BNT102, is scheduled for June 10th at Foley Hoag, LLP in Boston’s Seaport District; it will be HealthTech-themed. July’s BNT103 will feature Mobile Apps and Tech, and it’s already scheduled – July 15th back at Hult International Business School in Cambridge. BNT hosts other events each month, as well, so check out BNT’s upcoming event calendar at its website periodically as details are added for those events, too.

Tech in Motion: Smart Cities & Urban Innovation

Smart Cities & Urban Innovation: Demos & Drinks
photo by Geoff Wilbur

Smart Cities & Urban Innovation: Demos & Drinks

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.

The program featured a presentation by Jaclyn Youngblood and Yifan Lu of Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, including a mention of Boston’s Safest Driver Competition.

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.

And I first encountered Zome just last month at Boston New Technology’s April 2019 startup showcase. Zome is a tool for creating and controlling micro power grids, allowing another way to control power grids during peak usage or other energy-constrained periods.

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.

What to Expect Next

Tech in Motion lists its upcoming events all over North America on the Tech in Motion events page. Its next Boston event occurs on July 11th, its “Appy Hour” networking mixer at Back Bay Social. Also note that October 9th date for the 5th annual Timmy Awards.

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.

And tonight (Monday, May 20th), I’ll be attending Boston New Technology‘s EdTech and CareerTech startup showcase, BNT101, at Hult International Business School in Cambridge.

Acronis and Boston Red Sox Announce Cyber Protection Partnership

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.

Patrick Hurley, VP & GM Americas, Acronis
Patrick Hurley; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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 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.

Randy George, Senior Director of Technology Operations, Boston Red Sox
Randy George; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.”

Bob Stanley and Jerry Remy at Acronis Red Sox Day
Bob Stanley and Jerry Remy; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.”

Additional information about the Acronis-Red Sox partnership can be found here, via this Acronis press release:

Boston New Technology Startup Showcase #100: IoT and AI

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Boston New Technology Startup Showcase 100

April 23, 2019

photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Boston New Technology Startup Showcase 100: Mendix in Boston, MA

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.

Your Profile Video introduction; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The presentations always begin with quick introductions of Boston New Technology’s sponsors in attendance. In addition to host Mendix, tonight’s other attending sponsors, who each received brief introductions, were Ink’d Stores, Your Profile Video, The Boston Headshot, The Yard: Back Bay, and Tom Maloney Coach.

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.

The Boston Headshot introduction; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

City of Boston Startup Manager Matheus Lima; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Mendix presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Zome presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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 presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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 presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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 presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Talla presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Looking Ahead

Next month’s BNT startup showcase, BNT101, is scheduled for May 20th at the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, and it will feature EdTech and CareerTech startups.

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Check out BNT’s upcoming event calendar at its website for other events, too. At the moment, in addition to BNT101, May 14th and May 21st AI-focused events are also on BNT’s calendar. The May 14th event, “AI Talks: Use Cases in Machine Learning,” will take place at General Assembly in Boston. May 21st’s “AI Talks: Next Generation AI – Memory, Causation and Adaptability,” is scheduled for the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, also in Boston.

Mass Innovation Nights 121: IoT, Robotics, and AI

Armored Things presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Mass Innovation Nights 121

April 11, 2019

On Thursday, April 11th, Mass Innovation Nights returned to the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, fourteen months after its previous visit to this location; you can read my summary of that event, Mass Innovation Nights 107, by clicking here.

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 121: UMass Lowell Innovation Hub in Lowell, MA

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.

photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

This evening’s “experts” were Tom O’Donnell, representing the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub; Andrew Shapiro, the City of Lowell’s Director of Economic Development; and Nick Bliamptis, founder and CEO of Facet Executive Search.

The presenting startups were Armored Things, WritingAssistant, Awayr, and Fonative. At-event voting winners were Operation250, Nonspec, Tertill, and CAIDE Systems.

WritingAssistant presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Awayr presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

Fonative presentation; photo by Geoff Wilbur

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.

At-event voting winners; photo by Geoff Wilbur


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.

Next month’s event, MIN122, is scheduled for April 9 at the Thelma D. Burns Building in Boston’s Greater Grove Hall neighborhood. It will feature startups with African and African American founders. If you can get to it, it should be another terrific showcase of innovative Massachusetts startups.

SecureWorld Boston 2019: Day Two

SecureWorld Boston 2019

Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA

Day Two: March 28, 2019

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.

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.

SecureWorld Boston 2019: Day One

SecureWorld Boston 2019

Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA

Day One: March 27, 2019

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

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.

(Stay tuned: A summary of Day Two is in process.)