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  • Madeline Weiss, Director

Insights and Highlights from January 2019 Advanced Practices Council Meeting

The January APC meeting was a balance between transformation - digital and organizational - and risk management. Digital transformation topics included artificial intelligence at the edge and wearable technologies for employees. APC members explored organizational transformation through Chinese company Haier's transformation into an agile system of microenterprises. APC members gained tips for avoiding risks when contracting and how best to navigate the insecure world of Internet of Things.


Mudhakar Srivatsa, IBM TJ Watson Research Center researcher, presented several benefits of leveraging AI either fully at the edge or in combination with cloud computing. Response based on AI at the edge can be real-time (the customer is here right now and gone in seconds) rather than waiting for response from a distant data center. Costs can be lower due to reduced band width and storage needs. Most of today's infrastructure in the cloud is not equipped to provide smart, local, real-time decision making. And data is likely to be more secure if additional holes don't have to be punched in the enterprise network.

Mudhakar shared several examples of how AI at the edge can create value. A hospital uses AI in an edge device to anonymize sensitive patient data that cannot be sent to the cloud due to privacy regulations. Once anonymized on this edge device, the data is sent to the cloud to be combined with large data sets for analysis leading to better diagnosis and treatment. A South African game reserve provides very different value possibilities. Rhino poaching is monitored via collars on impalas and zebras that normally move alongside rhinos. When monitors signal that the impalas and zebras are moving in a pattern that AI identifies as responding to poachers vs. natural predators, rangers can take rapid action to protect the rhinos. What other patterns might AI at the edge identify that could help businesses succeed?


Acceptance of wearable devices in the workplace increases as people become more comfortable wearing and talking to technology devices outside of work. At the same time, opportunities for greater workplace productivity, collaboration, safety, learning, and overall effectiveness continue to be identified. Identifying the ROI on potential wearable situations can be tough and results cannot always be predicted in advance. Jan Kietzman of Simon Fraser University shared his observations of unintended consequences at BC Children's Hospital in Victoria Canada. Wearable devices were put on premature at-risk infants so they could be taken home by nurturing parents while being monitored at home. But hospitals discovered that parents focused excessively on the devices rather than on the infants. Moreover, worker communities can change due to wearables in unpredictable ways. Jan also cited cases where body cameras changed the dynamics among police officers.


Chinese-based Haier, the world's largest appliance maker with revenue of $35 billion, has evolved from a typical bureaucratic old-school company into an agile firm where everyone is accountable to customers; employees are energetic entrepreneurs; and an open ecosystem of users, inventors, and partners replace formal hierarchy. To better position itself for the future, Haier transitioned from monolithic businesses to microenterprises, from incremental goals to leading targets, from internal monopolies to internal contracting, from top-down coordination to voluntary collaboration, from rigid boundaries to open innovation, from innovation phobia to entrepreneurship at scale, and from employees to owners. APC members explored ways in which their organizations resemble Haier's model and how they might move further in this direction. Some members already have fairly flat structures and others have some agile self-managed teams. All acknowledged the value of emulating Haier's model as well as the challenges in getting there.


The key message from Tim Mather of Fortium Partners was that security standards for IoT are lacking and all organizations who use these devices are vulnerable. Moreover, threats are increasing as the number of IoT devices proliferate. After reminding us of past breaches of physical hardware (e.g., Stuxnet, Siberian Pipeline explosion, Idaho National Lab attack, Turkey pipeline blast), he named several vulnerability databases that organizations should check (e.g., National Vulnerability Database, Shodan, Open Web Application Security Project). Tim also described some early, but currently inadequate, actions at the state, national, and international levels. He concluded with expectations organizations should have of IoT enterprise platforms.


Attorney Peter Vogel, who specializes in IT issues, shared his wisdom from many years of advising clients and educating law students and lawyers. He described his 10 commandments, such as "no IT project is ever completed on time," "do not create artificial deadlines to sign IT contracts," and "sales people have answers to every question." In each case, he shared stories from his years of negotiating experience and provided advice on how to create successful contracts. For example, insist that technical support people are present to answer technical questions, and contact customers who already use the products and services under consideration. Ask these customers if you should request specific people to work on your project.

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