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Enabling BYOD in the workplace

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Ian Foddering

For some time now IT managers and IT decision-makers have come under increasing pressure to enable the use of personal devices in the work environment. In just a short period of time ‘bring your own device‘ has become common business parlance. But for businesses, simply allowing access of personal devices isn’t the answer. To ensure success it’s a question of enabling relevant, secure access across the entire network, while protecting corporate assets and delivering an optimal user experience. However, there are quantifiable benefits associated with allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on their employers’ networks. In this article Ian Foddering, CTO for Cisco UK and Ireland will explore the challenges faced when enabling BYOD and explain how to overcome these challenges and enable BYOD effectively.Ian Foddering

A recent survey conducted by Cisco showed that 95% of respondents said their organisations permit employee owned devices in some way, shape or form in the workplace. IT managers are balancing security and support concerns with the very real potential to reap significant cost and productivity benefits from the BYOD trend.

The BYOD model will inevitably demand new support and operational structuring requiring businesses to plan and budget accordingly. In the future, for example, we will see people being given an “IT allowance” to buy their own laptops, smartphones etc. However with this freedom comes the requirement for appropriate security measurements, especially in financial services where employees often have to access information.

Minimise risk, especially data loss
As part of the decision to allow employees to use any device for work, including unmanaged personal devices, along with computer security incident response teams, companies need to consider security applications such as a tool that would block malicious websites before they loaded onto browsers. In short, they wanted protection against everyday threats—specifically those without a known signature. However, the solution also needed to preserve the user experience—not only to ensure productivity, but also to prevent employees from changing their browser settings.

One common theme among organisations moving toward the practice of BYOD is that there is buy-in from top executives who are helping not only to bring the matter to the forefront in the company, but also drive it further. Executives are playing a lead role in driving adoption of BYOD in the enterprise. They’re taking the risk of embracing the chaos, but also saying, ‘We will do this systemically and architecturally, and evaluate our progress every step of the way’.
Facilitating flexible working and the benefits.

The traditional stereotype of the nine-to-five office job is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. Adopting mobile technology means employers can offer employees a better work-life balance beyond the traditional nine-to-five culture, we are seeing a shift from the workplace to a workspace.

From CIOs downwards, flexible working hours are hugely appealing to a lot of employees. It’s also important in driving a strong inclusion and diversity culture, attracting and retaining a broad demographic of staff.

Now, people’s work extends beyond their desks and PCs- attitudes towards information access, mobile devices and social media have put pressure on businesses to adopt new technologies and improve IT infrastructure. This shift is causing concern for companies without the IT infrastructure to support personal mobile devices and data. This has led to a struggle in attracting top talent in competition with niche or global organisations that do have the capability to support the latest and greatest technology for employees.

Ultimately, productivity is not only going to be dependent on the freedom to choose a device, or the ease of access to information, or the quality of the connection when consuming bandwidth intensive content. It will largely depend on the tools available on those devices.

What factors should be considered before introducing BYOD?
The specific demands of an organisation’s industry segment (regulatory demands) and corporate culture (risk tolerance versus innovation) drive BYOD decisions. For many organisations today, the BYOD issue is less a matter of ‘No, we can’t do it’ and more a question of ‘How do we do it? What positive, responsive actions should we take to manage the mobile device situation in our organisation? There have been a number of organisations in recent months moving from either blocking or ignoring, to embracing. As a result, these progressive organisations are already beginning to see the business value, ranging from increased productivity to more inclusive and diverse organisation.

Governance is critical to the success of the “Any Device” journey. Cisco maintains a BYOD steering committee, which is led by IT but includes key stakeholders from other business units, such as human resources and legal.  As part of the approval process, the employee also has to sign up to a model that will enable data to be remotely wiped on their device should it be deemed necessary.

Other factors to consider include workforce mobility, the proliferation of new devices, and acquisition integration and management of offshore and offsite outsource relationships, are also key drivers.

Completing the Any Device Journey
End users expectations based on their consumer habits, such as apps usage on their smartphones and the speed of deploying such services, places a level of demands and challenges on IT managers to provide a similar service level internal within their corporate infrastructure. Mobility products and services to help enterprises develop a holistic, scalable approach to their mobility initiative while keeping operational costs in line and optimising user experience.

Enterprises need to create “The Unified Workspace”, an integrated and strategic approach to the enterprise workspace that is focused on helping employees access all of the people and resources they need to do their jobs effectively from wherever they are, on whatever device they choose and with an enhanced quality of experience. For example, instead of an employee just having voice while on the road, why not also provide the worker with location and presence capabilities?
Many people think BYOD is about the end point, but it’s much broader than that. It’s about ensuring consistency of the user experience working from any device, whether it’s in a wired or wireless environment or in the cloud. Wi-Fi is now becoming more business critical as users have more device to connect. As such, employees may need to connect multiple devices (business and personal_ to the network and IT managers are faced with the challenge of ensuring the security architecture is fit for purpose and provides a unified policy for all users on all devices whether wire, wireless or VPN.

A unified management platform considers all the policy elements for interaction. It focuses on your data, how it’s secured, and how it traverses inside all of those different environments. All of these things must be taken into account when moving to BYOD – it really is a change in mind-set.

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How robotic technology will disrupt the manufacturing industry

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How robotic technology will disrupt the manufacturing industry 1

By Marga Hoek, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift

Robotics technology has the potential to disrupt industries across all sectors – but its impact on the manufacturing industry will be transformative. Not only can robots increase productivity, efficiency and profit margins but adopting this tech for good will be a key way for the manufacturing industry to transition to a more sustainable future.

Driving productivity & efficiency

Manufacturing processes are faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective when humans and robots work together. Studies show that idle time is reduced by 85% when people work collaboratively with a human-aware robot, rather than in an all-human team.[1] Modern robotic automation is key to reshaping production processes to become more efficient and reliable. They deliver significant benefits for companies and investment is often recouped within just 18 months.[2]

Robots in manufacturing can allow businesses to monitor the production lines from anywhere and pinpoint issues quickly, allowing for production to continue smoothly and efficiently, ensuring companies surpass consumers’ expectations of supply chain speed and reliability. Intelligent industrial service robots are an upcoming industrial tool that will amplify manufacturing capabilities and allow businesses to safely operate faster, in places humans could never go, and with cognitive and physical capabilities not yet imagined.

Transitioning to a sustainable future

Robots are a vital way to reduce pollution and emissions from manufacturing operations. For starters, they reduce our reliance on larger vehicles and machines that are harmful to the planet. Robots’ ability to be extremely accurate and minimize errors is also hugely important in sustainability efforts to reduce waste. Robots also aid businesses in their energy-saving process because they do not require as much energy to operate as humans do. Where humans need facilities with sufficient lighting and heat, robots can work under cold and dark conditions. This drastically reduces the amount of energy used in the manufacturing production process. It is estimated that for every 1C reduced in factory heat levels, there is a potential saving of up to 8%.[3] In addition, up to 20% of energy savings can be reached if the plant turns off any unnecessary lighting.

Case Study: GE

Tech giant GE is a brilliant example of how robotics technology can both boost the bottom line and sustainability.

GE is at the forefront of robotics manufacturing technology. Their value proposition is tightly tied to productivity in field service and manufacturing and offers potential cost savings within operations. While delivering industrial-grade service robotic systems that enable automation, productivity and safety for GE and its customers, the company works closely with GE business units, GE customers and strategic partners across the globe to envision, shape and build intelligent robotic technologies from idea to commercialization.

Marga Hoek

Marga Hoek

GE’s recent $125 million investment project at its Decatur refrigerator plant boosted production capacity, added new “smart” technology and increased the site’s workforce.  This includes auto guided vehicles, or AGVs, that move materials through the assembly process and more than 50 robots that perform heavy lifting operations and repetitive tasks.

The expansion project, announced in June 2018, allowed GE Appliances to increase production to meet growing demand for its freezer-refrigerators, which are top-rated in the industry for both quality and reliability. The expansion created 255 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to 1,300. The project boosts production capacity by 25 % and ensures early compliance with 2022 refrigerant changes, making the Alabama plant a super site for GE. GE Appliances said Industry 4.0 technology additions at the Decatur facility include data visualization, 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping and other smart automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions.

Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Utilizing robotics technology within the manufacturing industry can help to meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for a healthier planet, to be met by 2030:

SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing: Collaborating with people, service robots work with shoulder-to-shoulder and over long distances, to fulfil dull, dirty and dangerous work.

SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth: Presenting new growth opportunities for businesses and creating new jobs at manufacturing plants

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure:  Manufacturing value proposition of robotics ties tightly to productivity and brings potential cost savings into those operations.

SDG 12 – Responsible Production & Consumption: Providing a new and rich data source for companies to produce products responsibly

Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business, international speaker and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, in hardback and e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/here-s-how-robots-can-help-us-confront-covid/

[2] https://www.industrialtechnology.co.uk/products–transforming-your-sustainability-with-robotic-automation.html

[3] https://greencleanguide.com/how-robotics-is-revolutionizing-sustainability/

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RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about.

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RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about. 2

By Rory Gray, Vice President of Sales at leading software automation firm, UiPath, explains what role Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can play in improving the efficiency of finance and banking departments.

Pre-coronavirus, the finance and banking industries were already facing a myriad of challenges. Now, this myriad is quickly becoming ever more complicated. There is increasing pressure to react to declining business health, be flexible to changing customer behaviour and to adapt to evolving workforce dynamics.

Unfortunately, for these teams, improving agility is easier said than done. Many processes involve legacy systems, paper-based documents and unstructured data. These processes are time-consuming and mundane, leaving finance and banking professionals hard-pressed to fit in client-centric and strategic work.

Take processing invoices. The way it’s done hasn’t changed for years in many organisations. It often involves a member or members of the finance team receiving the invoice by mail or email, approving it manually, printing, signing and submitting it to Accounts Payable. An AP Clerk then has to pick it up, read it, verify the approvals, extract the data and input it into to the accounting package. This all takes time and costs money. What’s more, it’s dull and prone to errors. People don’t want to spend their days doing it.

Imagine if processes such as invoicing, but also loan processing, credit card disputes and many more, could be automated. Finance and banking teams would spend much less time copying, pasting and printing and could refocus on business health and transformation.

RPA is the key to finding more time in the day  

Robotic Process Automation or RPA, is software that can work just like a human. It can use AI capabilities to read and interpret data from both physical and digital documents. It can extract the necessary information and it can transfer this to multiple IT applications. It’s a software robot – or digital assistant.

For finance and banking professionals, RPA could help them break free from the time constraints caused by inefficient and complex legacy operations by passing rule-based repetitive tasks to software robots. This saves time and money – and allows people to focus on the tasks that can make a difference to the business.

RPA can help carry the burden of compliance

Rory Gray

Rory Gray

With data extracted, processed and formatted by software robots, employees will also no longer have to carry the full and heavy burden of compliance.

However accurate we aim to be, the reality is that processing data is always open to mistakes. This is exacerbated by ever shifting market regulations. Software robots, however, are programmed by finance and banking professionals to strictly follow the same steps every time and thus do not fall victim to the same blunders as all humans inevitably do.

Of course, many regulatory compliance functions will often need to involve some human validation or decision making. While the robots work around the clock without fatigue to complete tasks, professionals can still intervene if there is an inaccuracy that requires the personal touch or a loop in the workflow where a decision is needed. Therefore, time-consuming compliance tasks can be passed to software robots, but humans ultimately remain in control.

This in turn provides better risk management and compliance, higher accuracy, better cycle times and improved throughput.

RPA in practice

This may all sound very futuristic, but in practice, many firms are already using RPA to free up employee time, improve compliance and save money.

For example, a leading smart infrastructure solutions firm we work with has created a software robot affectionately named Archie, which has taken over the responsibility for processing all invoices.

Pre-Covid, the 400,000 invoices received by the firm each year were dealt with manually. With Archie this is now fully automated freeing up on average 11 minutes per invoice of time which employees can now use to focus on value-adding activities. It also means that no employee needs to come into the office to process the invoice, nor does any paper need to be passed around the team. Thus helping to keep the workforce safe.

With all this extra time, finance and banking departments can focus on adapting to and thriving in the current crisis. Moving away from data processing and towards advisory roles where they can best use their strategic skills.

Consequently, businesses will benefit during the pandemic and beyond and employees could see their roles shifting away from the mundane and towards tasks that keep them on their toes. A rare win-win in a difficult time.

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired 

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired  3

WeWALK, the smart cane designed for people who are blind or with low vision which is now in use across 37 markets, has joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility programme to accelerate WeWALK’s capability by developing and validating a human behaviour model for visually impaired users and creating a Voice Assistant designed for the visually impaired, providing the right mobility information when needed and allowing for even greater control of the WeWALK mobility experience.

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility $25 million 5-year programme is aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. Through grants, technology, and AI expertise, the program aims to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions and build on recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services to help developers create intelligent apps that can see, hear, speak, understand and interpret people’s needs.

WeWALK’s new Voice Assistant will be released later in 2020 and will have immediate usability benefits, improving the user’s confidence as they mobilise. The assistant will be built on clearly derived requirements and natural usage patterns and the challenge that WeWALK is seeking to overcome is to make the assistant truly ‘smart’ and dynamic, where it will effectively categorize and deliver on the user’s commands in a host of different environments.

WeWALK’s human behaviour model is due for release in 2021 and is of significant importance as currently there are no accurate models for how a person who is blind moves and how their mobility holistically evolves, especially after receiving orientation and mobility training. As a result, healthcare, government, and mobility trainers cannot effectively track how a person who is blind mobilizes and whether or not intervention has had benefit. By using WeWALK’s built-in IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors, including the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, as well as data collected from a connected smartphone, the model can be implemented and expanded organically through daily usage. The first stage will be rigorous data collection and user testing, followed by data manipulation and classification to ensure that optimum reliability and system usability can be achieved.

Commenting upon WeWALK’s entry into the program Jean Marc Feghali, R&D Lead at WeWALK. “By working on these two objectives, WeWALK can set the standard for visually impaired mobility for both the individual user and the organisations that support them. We are now rigorously collecting mobility data with novel experimentation, validating our work by continuously engaging our users to ensure an exceptional product powered by Microsoft’s best. Being a part of the Microsoft family truly excites us, bringing us closer to mobility trainers, researchers, and the global visually impaired community.”

Mary Bellard, principal innovation architect lead at Microsoft adds “At Microsoft, we believe AI solutions built thoughtfully by and with the disability community have incredible potential to offer meaningful independence in people’s daily lives.  That’s why we’re thrilled to support WeWALK on this important assistive tool that stands to empower the millions of people around the world who use a white cane.”

With the power of Microsoft AI, WeWALK’s impact will be wide-reaching explains Kürşat Ceylan, WeWALK’s co-founder & CPO  “As a blind person from birth, I know that it is very important to get the right habits of using a cane from a young age. It is amazing to see how WeWALK can enhance this aspect of our lives with high tech, making training and orientation more effective. I believe that the smart cane will be a symbol for the fully independent journey people who are blind or with low vision.”

Selected as one of the best inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine, WeWALK is a member of YGA Ventures, which is an ecosystem of impact entrepreneurs.  The team envisions WeWALK as a platform for continuous and collaborative development, putting it at the forefront of cutting-edge assistive technologies. This is exemplified through WeWALK’s collaboration with Microsoft, where WeWALK participated in Microsoft’s 2019 AI for Good in the UK.

The WeWALK smart cane is currently available on the market and can be purchased on the company website www.wewalk.io. The free WeWALK mobile app which provides various features such as VIP friendly navigation and public transport tracking capabilities is also available for immediate download on both iOS and Android devices.

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