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ADP speakers at CES

Creating human-focused solutions in today’s product strategy

ADP Business Anthropologist Martha Bird sat down with Daniel Litwin, the Voice of B2B, at CES 2020, discussing a wide range of topics related to how her anthropological work and research impacts businesses and consumer needs.

Bird has worked for numerous companies in the field of business anthropology since the early 2000s, working to create human-focused solutions to business needs.

Bird and Litwin touch on their CES experience, a modern focus on human-centered and human-responsive products and how those concepts affect consumer product development, consumer longing for personalized experiences, and more.

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ADP’s Martha Bird on the ground at CES 2020 to talk about NLP/ML and AI, plus the top 5 themes for 2020

ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird, reports on the top five themes at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show that are important for today’s industry leaders.

With over 4,000 exhibiting companies, 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space, attracting more than 180,000 attendees and 307 Fortune 500 companies, there was a lot to take in at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. Some of the most innovative technologies to come included a flying taxi (Hyundai), electric multi-modal transportation, electric vertical take-off and landing craft (Uber), cool and creepy robotics, green and sustainability tech, 8K bezel-less TVs (Samsung), AI attended drive thru (McDonald’s lab), 150 digital health exhibitors and so much more. Within this tech frenzy, it was my great pleasure to represent ADP on stage and in studio where I discussed how natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence (NLP/ML and AI), in general, is impacting the workplace – the tools, the processes and the people.

While it was impossible to see everything given the sheer magnitude of the event, there are some high-level reflections on what I consider to be the pervasive themes from this year’s event that industry leaders should keep their eyes and ears open for moving into 2020. These are my top five:

1. 5G: Data, data, and more data

On the CES floor, data was the common denominator across products and services on display and those demoed. Given the explosion of data contingent technologies, online privacy and security was a central talking point. How different regions address security concerns around data and privacy was less explicitly articulated although a continuum of highly private to blatantly public could be surmised. Along with a definite trend toward the true consumerization of AI.

Which brings me to 5G. In the next two to three years, networks will expand out exponentially. The first commercial deployments are already being seen but 5G is still in its infancy so it won’t be a matter of simply “flipping a switch” from 4G to 5G.

Along with 5G – increased speed, greater capacity and lower latency – comes huge possibilities for disruptive innovations. There was no limit to 5G talk and imagination at CES 2020. And, of course, there were both pronouncements and announcements on the topic around the coming of 5G handsets. AT&T and Verizon are aggressively developing the infrastructure in an attempt to get out ahead of competition across the globe.

5G will be the “central nervous system of the data age,” according to Steve Koenig, VP, Research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Martha Bird and others and CES 2020

[Inset above] ADP’s Business Anthropologist Martha Bird (right) took the stage at CES 2020. Bird’s panel “Emerging Technologies Enabling Enterprise” was moderated by Michael Miller, Editor-in-Chief at PC Magazine (middle) joined by fellow panelist Yonatan Wexler, Executive VP of R&D at OrCam Technologies (left).

2. IoI (Internet of Intelligence): The Decade of Connected Intelligence

Just as we were getting accustomed to the term IoT (Internet of Things) the talk this year was around IoI or “Internet of Intelligence.” This new way of thinking is a direct response to the way AI is being integrated into all facets of our technology and consumer culture.

We were told in the plenary keynote that as networks grow, we can expect 5G to unlock more opportunities for enterprise. Building upon what we’ve seen with IoT technologies (think smart home apps that rely on little bits of discrete data), the expansion of 5G and AI capabilities will provide multiple nodes of data informing a much more complex and inter-dependent data landscape. Enterprise applications are expected to lead in IoI in part because of massive data resources and the ability to form mutually beneficial partnerships between OEM, software and engineering. IoI covers things like remote robotic surgery and smart cities. Activities with a heavy data lift and, generally speaking, much higher stakes than let’s say a voice activated light in your home.

3. XR: The New Reality Training Our Future Workforce

XR – the latest technology encompassing augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies. Think virtual world up, down, left, or right, and experienced in 360 degrees. Form factors delivering this technology ranged from 5K gaming chairs to sleek eye glasses very much unlike the early Google glasses. Again, enterprise will have a big stake in this area with many use cases including B2B workforce training, safety inspections, AR glasses used by an architect to design a room, training surgeons across geographies, and in travel and tourism where you are able to take a trip to a tropical island right from your living room. Frankly, I prefer the actual trip but foregoing the lines at the airport and customs does sound appealing. Regardless of my preference, there was a lot of excitement for XR in commercial and industrial settings. Not to mention eSports which realized $1 billion in net revenue last year alone.

4. Culture: Pragmatics of Technological Innovation

While attending a panel discussion on “Future Cities” I was struck by a similarity between re-architecting an existing urban space to accommodate new technologies and the work we do at ADP.

A former secretary of transportation listed one of the greatest challenges to innovating cities as the pre-existing roadway infrastructure. He went on to say that between the legacy streets and traffic patterns it was actually the inability to imagine new ways of mobility that was the major barrier.

People get accustomed to “how things are done here” and find it difficult to adapt to changes in the system. This is a cultural and technical matter. Culture, at the most basic level, is the collection of practices and beliefs we take for granted. These habits are slow to change. New technical opportunities can catalyze innovation and cultural change, but this process is never a one-to-one.

Which brings me to humans.

5. Humans: Agency in a Data-driven Era

Humans (people like you and me) when faced with the explosion of new technologies – tech that augments our vision, our speech, our bodies and, even, our memory – begin to question their own reason for being. The existential ponderings around what it means to be human are concomitant with those group of technologies loosely described as “AI”.

Talk of “machine-human partnership” was pervasive on the CES exhibition floor and in panels and keynotes. For my part, I welcome the question as it points to a shared humanity that we often overlook. Yes, partnerships between people and technology will continue to evolve. Who has agency over the relationship will remain a critical point of personal reflection and public debate.

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2020 Vision: Data Security Trends for the New Decade

There are four major trends to consider for your data security planning as the new decade begins.

Cyberattacks aren’t slowing down. In fact, both the number and the cost of attacks are increasing as the new decade dawns.

To combat these current and emerging threats, it’s worth looking back on the last 10 years. What technological advancements sparked the need for improved information security (infosec)? What’s next for attackers as defenses become more sophisticated? And which data security trends offer actionable “2020 insight”?

Retrospective Risk

According to Kim Albarella, Senior Director of Security Advocacy for ADP, significant cybersecurity shifts came about in the wake of events like Y2K and 9/11. “Companies started to get nervous that systems wouldn’t function properly,” she says.

Ten years ago, server and mainframe protection were top priorities. “While there were Blackberries, not everyone had one. iPads were just breaking out. Mobile was remote, but not widespread,” Albarella says. “Infosec was just starting with firewall protection, server protection and physical protection of data centers.”

But existing server protections began to fail. From whistleblowers to commercial breaches to widespread development of ransomware tools, changing conditions made data the battleground of enterprise IT. Attackers were always one step ahead and always finding new ways to enter systems. Businesses deployed intelligent, adaptable tools capable of detecting malicious resource use and network access, and in response, malicious actors leveraged fileless malware. Users moved to mobile, and cybercriminals followed with SMS threats and fake applications. At scale, organizations moved to the cloud, using increased resource availability to boost total security and enhanced connectivity to drive mobile adoption.

Now, experts predict greater personalization of attacks as protected data is leveraged to modify user behavior. More blunt-force breaches are likely as well, as hackers are now seeking simple routes through the increasingly complex Internet of Things (IoT) and other perpetually connected systems.

The last decade made it clear that change drives IT’s advantages and adversaries. With the benefit of “2020 vision,” we can observe four consistent data security trends from these years and move into the future of IT innovation with an informed perspective.

1. Handling the Human Factor

Human error remains the leading cause of data breaches, reports Kaspersky Lab. As Albarella points out, “We’re social computers, easily hacked.” Psychology matters as much as physical or digital data defenses, and if hackers can tap into our knowledge of critical network services, corporate email lists or personnel files, all it takes is “one trick, one click” for hackers to compromise key systems.

Ten years ago, this often took the form of easily identifiable scam emails offering large sums of money to unsuspecting staff members in exchange for seemingly innocuous information. Today, many of these messages are seemingly sent from the C-suite; as Albarella notes, “It’s going to get much worse with deep fake videos that are nearly perfect.”

But it’s not all bad news. Humans can act as both protectors and points of compromise. Albarella recommends investing in regular online and on-site training to help staff recognize potential threats and respond accordingly.

2. Getting Back to Basics

In the decade of databases, patching was priority No. 1. By applying patches to all connected systems, organizations could deliver security at scale to combat potential attacks. Today, the rise of remote workers and third-party providers means there’s no way to ensure all endpoints are equally well-defended, which creates a golden opportunity for hackers.

Here, Albarella recommends getting back to basics. “Don’t focus on what you can’t control or the most remote scenarios. Focus on the doing the rights things with the most impact today,” she says. But what does that look like in practice?

Patch everything — You may not get to every desktop and device, but the broader your updates are, the better your defenses stand to be.
Deploy the right tools — These should include advanced firewalls that can handle both cloud and local traffic and respond automatically to suspicious events.
Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) — With mobile devices now being an essential part of business operations, MFA can frustrate front-line attackers without negatively affecting staff productivity.
3. Jumping the Generation Gap

Social media has become a driving force for business success. Albarella sees the “social paring of all functions creating another attack surface.” From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to purpose-built, in-house social networks, “Employers must integrate social media — just like the cloud or big data — but they need to defend it.”

This requires policies and procedures capable of jumping the generational gap. While older employees may not understand how to use new tools like TikTok or Instagram, younger staff may not recognize their inherent risks. With social sites now being mined for data by attackers, organizations can’t overlook the need for clear directives and detailed best practices.

For example, it’s worth describing exactly what is permissible both on and off the clock. From posting on corporate accounts to sharing files for collaboration, be clear about your guidelines and the specific consequences for failing to comply with social policies in order to defuse potential attacks before they begin.

4. Developing a Disaster Plan

Finally, Albarella points to the need for resiliency plans that answer key questions, including, “Where’s my data? Who can access it? When? How?” Since pressing cybersecurity concerns are cropping up in real time, organizations need disaster recovery plans that can address the impact of attacks at scale but also focus on specific outcomes, such as recovery time objectives that get local resources back up and running.

Bonus Round: Small Businesses

Big corporate breaches regularly make the news; smaller businesses are often ignored. But as Albarella notes, the majority of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses. SMBs need procedures in place to notify both staff and compliance agencies of any potential breaches, and they must account for the disparate nature of their networks: How do they secure remote workers? Public Wi-Fi connections? Portable hardware and Google docs?

While the same four data security trends apply, the best-case scenario for small businesses often lies with outsourcing: Finding trusted third parties to improve data defense without breaking budgets.

The last decade saw technology — and attack vectors — advance at breakneck speeds. While the next 10 years will naturally offer their own unique challenges, the trends outlined here will remain foundational elements of 2020 infosec success.