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26 Billion Connected Devices By 2020 Will Dramatically Change Things

b2ap3_thumbnail_indroducing_big_data_400.jpgThe incorporation of mobile devices into day-to-day life has changed the culture significantly. In fact, when Apple introduced “iPhone” less than a decade ago, Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s like your life in your pocket.” Now, over eight years on from the launch of the first iPhone, it’s hard to remember what life was like before you had a full-function information system in the palm of your hand. We’ve come to rely heavily on these devices, driving mobile profits up and creating a market that didn’t have any substance only a short time ago.

So what is the next “big” thing? What’s the next consumer technology to revolutionize our lives? Is it another piece of hardware? Software? Practice? To find what’s next, many experts are focusing on the information; and it’s becoming evident that very information is actually the next “big” thing.

The “Big” Data
In this new age of individualism that is largely fueled by mobility, the average person uses (and creates) an enormous amount of data; well more than the two-to-five gigabytes that you get with your standard data plan. As of May of 2015 global IP traffic has increased 500 percent over the past five years and is at nearly one billion gigabytes per year. This number is expected to increase by 100 percent over the next five years to about 2 zettabytes per year. To put that in perspective, a zettabyte can hold 36,000,000 years of HD video… yes, that’s years.

This shift has all happened in a relatively short period of time, too. The ramifications of such a huge cultural move are still developing. Mobile devices, once looked at as “cool” gadgets, are now the predominant form of computing in the world (having just passed PC computing in worldwide data usage). People that use smartphones don’t just lug it around to make calls, they are constantly accessing the Internet, social media, and other applications. This creates a situation where businesses are building significant revenue streams by mining, packaging, and selling your user data to advertisers and other information-seeking organizations, including governments.

Everything Will Be Connected
The information systems your business uses are able to compute a fair amount of data, and by analyzing the data you collect, you can find out a lot about your business. If you think that is a lot of data to analyze, what will happen when everything you come into contact with is connected to the Internet? The concept of the Internet of Things isn’t a new one. The first network-connected device was a Coca-Cola machine on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in 1982. The machine could report when beverage containers were empty and it could measure the temperature of imported cans.

According to Gartner, nearly 26 billion separate devices will be on the Internet of Things by 2020. Every device that is connected to the IoT will produce data. Whether it is a refrigerator that can automate grocery delivery or a dog collar that measures the health and activity of your pet, the underlying theme inherent in every Internet-connected device will be that relevant data will be reported for analysis. This data can go a long way to teach humans that many of the preexisting beliefs people have about humanity aren’t necessarily right; producing a world where, unlike the pop culture aspect of modern humanity, facts supersede opinions, and change will be the result of data analysis, not an emotional outcry from the fringes of society.

Where Does This Leave Users?
According to Mckinsey Global Institute, data brokers like Acxiom, fuel an industry worth $300 billion a year by selling off the data they collect. This information can include users’ name, gender, age, ethnicity, and more. In a profile of the company by The New York Times, Acxiom claimed to have information on some 500 million people including, “nearly every U.S. consumer”. Like it or not, information made up of your sociological traits, your search results, your purchasing history, even your browsing history, is being mined for valuable information.

It may be surprising to some that the same analytical methods that are being used to formulate user marketing profiles, are being used to advance high-end technologies like artificial intelligence. In what industry professionals call deep learning, software algorithms are written to have computers perform high-level thought and abstraction. These algorithms can take core data and analyze it through a very specific construct to get a visual representation of the data. Since there is so much data to consider, a graphic representation of the data is provided for analysis to give them a better chance of understanding the aspects of the information that they could find valuable for their company. Since all the answers they are looking for can be found by analyzing this data, there is no doubt that businesses are beginning to be very interested in how to harness and analyze this data.

It seems that your information may just be the most important variable in your business’ future. Do you think that big data can help connect the dots for your business, or bring about positive societal change? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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Posted in: Technology

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Tip of the Week: What it Takes to Prepare and Deliver a Dynamic Presentation, Part 2

b2ap3_thumbnail_public_speaking_tips_400.jpgFor last week’s tip, we gave helpful advice about how to prepare for a presentation; tips like, how to develop your idea, how to size up your audience, and the importance of rehearsing. For this week’s tip, we’ll go over what it takes to deliver a presentation that’s both effective and memorable.

Take Advantage of Visual Aids
Using a visual aid for your presentation isn’t an option; it’s mandatory. Consider these statistics:

  • People are six times more likely to retain information from a presentation if a visual aid is used.
  • For humans, 83 percent of all learning occurs visually.

For businesses, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the standard visual aid tool for years. Although, if you’re looking for an alternative that may better fit your needs, look into other presentation tools like Prezi, Microsoft Sway, and a host of other apps that can be found online (some are even free). Additionally, consider using a physical object as an illustration.

Go Big On the Introduction
You know from your business dealings just how important first impressions are. Presentations are no different. Take it from Cesar Gomez, vice president of Toastmasters, Valencia:

The first seconds of a talk are critical. If the introduction is boring and without imagination, the audience will lose their interest in the rest of the presentation. A creative and interesting beginning captures and maintains the attention of the people.

In addition to capturing the audience’s attention with a dynamic introduction, it will give you a confidence boost that will carry you through the rest of your presentation. Also, be aware that your introduction will set the tone for your entire speech. Therefore, be sure to align your introduction with what you want to accomplish with your speech. If you’re trying to establish credibility, share statistics or a relevant personal story. If you want to entertain, open with a joke.

For your consideration, here are some additional ways to enhance your introduction:

  • Start with a quote.
  • Tell a story.
  • Communicate why your presentation will bring value.
  • Surprise your audience with an antidote that’s completely unexpected.

Look ‘em in the Eye
Eye contact during a presentation is one of the biggest aspects of a speech that separates the amateurs from the professionals. Maintaining eye contact throughout the duration of your presentation is essential. It establishes your authority and captures the attention of your audience. Obviously, you don’t want to be overly-creepy about it by staring someone down, but you do want to attempt to refrain from looking at your notes as much as you can. One way to accomplish this is by memorizing your speech.

Bring Something to Give Away
By investing in a giveaway, you’re communicating to your audience that you care about the presentation and them. Additionally, an audience member who walks away with a memento from your speech will go on to remember you every time they come across the object. Therefore, be sure to give away something practical that they can use over and over again.

To take your giveaway to the next level, be sure to tie it in with a product or service that your company offers. Here are some examples:

  • A free consultation.
  • A free eBook.
  • Branded merchandise (like mouse pads, coffee mugs, pens, tote bags, etc.).
  • Samples of your product or a trial of your service.

It’s also a best practice to give your audience a copy of your presentation so they can have something to reference. This can be done with handouts of your speech and an audio copy of your presentation.

Always End With a Call to Action
At the end of your speech, you need to be very clear about what your audience is supposed to do next so they can take advantage of what you just talked about. It’s like you’ve just led them on a journey, and now you need to walk them over the finish line so that everybody reaches a conclusion that’s satisfactory.

For your call of action, be as specific as you need to be. Do you need their contact information? Would you like your audience to sign up for a demo? Whatever information you need from your audience, it’s your job to give them clear directions about how they can provide you with it.

Be Sure to Follow Up!
Just because your presentation is over doesn’t mean that your work is done. Your next responsibility is to follow up with your audience. It’s times like this where it pays off to gather contact information during your presentation’s call to action. By de facto, your audience is no longer an audience. They are now qualified leads. Reach out to them by phone, email, and whatever else it takes to turn your new lead into a client.

This is just an introduction on how to give an effective presentation. Being able to give a persuasive and charismatic speech that accomplishes your goals is a valuable skill that can always be improved upon. Therefore, to see maximum results, be sure to continuously develop this skill. As you get better at giving presentations, you will see your influence and the size of your audiences grow, which is great for business!

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Posted in: How To

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Everything You Need to Know about URLs

b2ap3_thumbnail_info_domain_names_400.jpgA business’s website is one of its lifelines; it can either make or break your online presence. One of the most important parts of having a website, though, is owning your domain name. There are a lot of different choices for them, but do you know that at one point in history, they had their own individual uses and meanings?

Top-level Domains
We’ve all seen the endings of URLs such as .com, .net, and .org. These are the highest levels of domain names, and they end most website domains out there. The role of the top-level domain is to designate where in the DNS root zone the URL is located in the hierarchical namespace of the Domain Name System (DNS). For example, the domain name www.example.com would belong to the top-level domain, .com.

Traditionally, the three aforementioned top-level domains are the most common, and they used to have specific roles:

  • .com was primarily used by commercial, or for-profit websites and organizations.
  • .net was preferred by websites that concentrated on building networks.
  • .org represented non-profit organizations.

The distinction between these three generic top-level domains has largely disappeared. There are other top-level domains that are frequently used as well, such as .edu, .gov, and .mil, but these aren’t nearly as common; probably because they’re much more difficult to acquire.

Second-level/Lower-level Domains
If you are looking at a URL, whatever is directly to the left of the top-level domain is the second-level domain. The way that a URL is structured is that the higher the domain, the further right it will be. These are generally the names of products, services, or companies, and are used to distinguish themselves from others in the industry.

For instance, the co in example.co.com would be the second-level domain, and example would be the third-level domain, and so on. These can also be used to designate particular servers that are specific to one particular function, such as an email server.

Specialized Top-level Domains
As you can imagine, some people have a problem with registering domain names for their websites due to the domain name already being owned. You might even have run into this yourself when buying a new domain, and you might have had to use a half-baked domain instead of a specific URL that tells visitors what exactly your website is.

Several new domains become available for purchase from various domain vendors. Using these new, specific domains, you may be able to use a domain that isn’t abbreviated or altered from your original plan. For example, specialty domain extensions like .restaurant will give businesses more flexibility when choosing their domain name.

Do you have a story behind why you picked your business’s domain name? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted in: Miscellaneous

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Hackers Can Now Use Radio Signals to Steal Corporate Data

b2ap3_thumbnail_radio_signal_hacker_400.jpgHackers are always coming up with new, unprecedented methods of hacking unsuspecting victims. Despite their best efforts, technology professionals have managed to keep up with threats, but this only forces threats to continue to innovate. In fact, some hackers are even capable of using radio signals to hack into an unconnected device and steal confidential corporate data.

Researchers in Israel have developed a technology that extracts information from a machine using radio frequencies and wireless communications. This might not sound intimidating at first, but what if we mention that these attacks can target isolated machines that have no connection to the Internet or your network at all? These types of disconnected devices are often in such high-security locations that employees aren’t even allowed to bring their mobile phones anywhere near the machine. Such powerful security measures should be enough to protect this data from just about anything–everything except radio signals.

The researchers in question have proven that these methods can be, and already have been, used to siphon data from disconnected devices. Cyber Security Labs at Ben Gurion University have dubbed this technique “AirHopper.” By using radio frequencies, the researchers succeeded in leaking information from isolated machines via their transceiver. This is one of the methods the NSA used to spy on foreign countries.

While the researchers haven’t explicitly stated that they use the same method as the NSA, it’s still very similar in nature. They created a malware that can be sent by a mobile phone’s FM transmitter; from there, in theory, it can infect other devices in range. Infected devices then proceed to generate more radio frequencies to infect other devices in range. According to WIRED magazine:

The data can be picked up by a mobile phone up to 23 feet away and then transmitted over Wi-Fi or a cellular network to an attacker’s command-and-control server. The victim’s own mobile phone can be used to receive and transmit the stolen data, or an attacker lurking outside an office or lab can use his own phone to pick up the transmission.

This kind of technique is, without a doubt, complex. Only the most skilled hackers have any hopes of pulling something like this off. However, it should be noted that it’s not as unlikely as any other advanced hacking attack from being exploited. The most likely way this kind of threat can attack a disconnected system is through a USB device or flash drive, which significantly limits the potential for attacks. Only those who have physical access to the machine would have any chance to infect it, even unknowingly, but this doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

In fact, the importance of monitoring your IT infrastructure for discrepancies can’t be emphasized enough. Limiting who has access to mission-critical disconnected and connected technology is the first step toward protecting any information stored on it. Using secure USB devices is another necessary step which can prevent potential hacking attacks from occurring. Data leakage is a primary concern for all businesses, and your business could be held liable if sensitive information is stolen. In order to prevent these catastrophes, your business should be prepared to maximize security.

Total Networks’s remote monitoring solution is specifically designed so that we keep an eye out for suspicious activity. We’ll take the necessary precautions and neutralize threats before they cause irreparable damage. Give us a call at (602)412-5025 to learn more.

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Posted in: Security

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