Calling All Hackers

19114293Hacking is coming to the Indiana Statehouse – and that’s a good thing.

Developers, coders and designers are invited to participate in #INCapitolHack, the first installment in the 2016 Indiana Hack Series, on February 26-27. State government agencies are welcoming experts to “hack for the greater good.”

A full timeline, additional information and registration are available online.

Need Some Money to Grow Your Business? Comcast Can Help

comcast inInnovative Indiana start-ups and entrepreneurs are encouraged to check out the third annual Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs competition sponsored by Comcast Business.

Current and aspiring business owners can enter the competition for a chance to win up to $30,000 and participate in a day of mentoring with teams of business experts that will provide advice on how to implement their plan.

Based on a 250-word essay submission, applicants will answer the question: How could your business use technology to help enhance your business?

Rusty Dewitt, Indiana’s director of business services, says, “I get to work with our small business customers, and see the impact they have on the Hoosier economy. Hoosiers are innovators, hard workers, and incredibly industrious. That’s exactly what is taken into account when we decide which entrepreneurs get this award.”

Entries will be judged and two winners will be selected in each of the 15 Comcast Business regions: one winner for start-up companies (in business two years or less) and one winner for entrepreneurs (in business for more than two years). The 30 regional winners will each earn $10,000 in cash.

From the regional winners, six grand prize winners will be selected – three start-ups and three entrepreneurs – who will earn an additional $20,000 in cash, plus a trip to Philadelphia to spend a day attending group sessions with industry experts.

Visit Comcast Business Community for full program details. Entries are due by March 12.

Five Cyber Risks That Can Sink Your Business

19114293What’s as commonplace as your mobile habit and bankrupts businesses every day of the week?

Cyber threats.

Once confined to sci-fi movie plots, cyber crime is now an everyday occurrence, crippling businesses of every size and industry.

How big is the problem? Huge.

Cyber crime now ranks as the number one security threat in the U.S., ahead of terrorism and stockpiled nuclear arms, according to a report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence. From a financial standpoint, a recent study by the Ponemon Institute revealed data breaches cost businesses an average of $154 per lost or stolen record containing confidential info. Leak 650 of those records, and you could be looking at a six-figure price tag.

And while 83% of IT leaders view cyber attacks as one of the top three threats looming over their organization today, only 38% are prepared to deal with one, as reported by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

Recently, the U.S. Senate approved a bill that would lead to the adoption of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), designed to encourage businesses and government agencies to share information about cyber attacks. As expected, CISA has its share of both supporters and opponents. Yet, the general consensus among security experts is that organizations aren’t moving at a pace that will keep them ahead of attackers.

Meanwhile, multiple studies confirm what we already know: most IT leaders are uneasy about cybersecurity risks and the potential destruction that follows, but feel unequipped to deal with a major data breach scenario.

To that end, experts and government officials urge businesses to address five common oversights that open the door to data breaches:

  1. Allowing contractors and third parties to bypass security processes.
  2. Moving too slowly to develop a mobile security plan.
  3. Failing to regularly assess cyber threats.
  4. Neglecting to develop strong security measures to minimize risks internally (stemming from employees, whether intentional or accidental).
  5. Inadequate employee training on good cybersecurity processes.

With hackers aggressively targeting businesses and employees unwittingly putting data at risk, it’s important to be aggressive in countering those threats, says FBI Director James Comey. “The bad guys are moving at [incredible] speed,” he cautioned in an interview with CBS News. “We have to get better.”

For more information about the current state of cybersecurity and predictions for the coming months and years, we invite you to access “The State of Cybersecurity in 2015” infographic online .

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Rich Banta is managing member at Lifeline Data Centers in Indianapolis.

Mobile Power to Continue in New Year

Three Businesswomen Texting

The number of U.S. consumers using their phones to pay for goods and services at the point of sale will continue to climb steadily, with 2016 being a year of significant growth for the technology. According to the latest proximity mobile payments forecast from eMarketer, the total value of mobile payment transactions in the U.S. will grow 210% in 2016.

Specifically, eMarketer defines proximity mobile payments as point-of-sale transactions that use mobile phones as a payment method, via tapping, waving and similar functionality.

“Several factors will drive substantial mobile payments growth in the U.S. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay will become a standard feature on new smartphones,” said eMarketer analyst Bryan Yeager. “Also, more merchants will adopt point-of-sale systems that can accept mobile payments, and incentives like promotions and loyalty programs will be integrated to attract new users.”

Also driving growth are changes in the types of purchases made using mobile payments. eMarketer expects that consumers will move beyond primarily buying low-priced goods, below $20, with mobile payments to a wider array of price points. Medium-priced purchases, ranging from $20 to $100, will comprise 45.5% of all mobile payments in 2015, growing to 63.9% by 2018.

Picture This: Catching Up on Cyber Monday Sales

Three Businesswomen Texting

Cyber Monday.

It’s a catchy phrase to describe a day dedicated to fingers furiously pounding keyboards or mobile devices to grab the best deals on a plethora of holiday gifts.

PFSweb, a leading global provider of comprehensive eCommerce solutions, posted a cool infographic of 2015 Cyber Monday activity and how it compares to 2014.

Who did the spending and did it come from their digital devices or desktops? See for yourself.

But first, a couple highlights:

  • Average order value: $123.43 (down 78 cents)
  • Digital sales: $3.19 billion (up from $2.59 billion)
  • Desktop sales: $2.28 billion (up from $2.04 billion)
  • Mobile sales: $838 million (up from $548 million) – a 53% jump!

Try This On for Size

iStock_000062439902_Large - Copy“Mirror, mirror on the wall. This lighting doesn’t work for me at all.”

My amusing poem is a fitting way to describe how shoppers are using “smart mirrors” to enhance their experiences.

Where have you been all of my life?

Let’s take a look at how the technology, which can be found in dressing rooms at places such as Ralph Lauren’s flagship store, works:

Equipped with radio-frequency identification technology that tracks items via their tags, the room identifies every item that enters and reflects it back on the mirror that doubles as a touchscreen. Shoppers can interact with the mirror, which functions like a giant tablet, to control the lighting, request alternate items or style advice from a sales associate.

“There’s this narrative that ecommerce collects better data – but online, it’s black and white. The physical world contains all these shades of grey that are truly interesting,” says Healey Cypher, who has built his career around twin concepts, namely that brick-and-mortar shopping isn’t going anywhere and the experience is in desperate need of a technological upgrade.

He’s working on it. Cypher is the CEO and co-founder of Oak Labs Interactive, the company behind the interactive mirrors, which just announced it has raised $4.1 million in a seed round led by Wing Venture Capital to bring refine the technology and bring it to more retailers. …

For retailers, the key draw is the wealth of collected data. By tracking each item that enters a dressing room, Ralph Lauren can determine how shoppers are interacting with its clothes. Is a jacket frequently being tried on, but isn’t selling? This likely indicates the look is popular, but the fit isn’t. Equally valuable: how customers interact with the touchscreen. Are they buying recommended items? How are they interacting with sales associates? Oak Labs analyzes the data and distills it into digestible and actionable insights.

This idea isn’t a new one – Nordstrom has experimented with interactive mirrors in its fitting rooms, and designer Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store in New York City has employed nearly identical technology for about a year, to huge results. Since its installation, the store reportedly tripled its clothing sales.

Read the full Entrepreneur story.

Carter: Biopharmaceutical Industry Supports Tens of Thousands of High Pay, High Skill Jobs for Hoosiers

Our VP Cam Carter recently spoke with We Work for Health (WWFH) about the importance of Indiana’s biopharmaceutical sector. WWFH is a grassroots initiative that shows how biopharmaceutical research and medical innovation work together to create a strong, vibrant economy and a healthier America.

Keeping the Skies Open for Drones

droneWill drone technology “transform the way we live and work” or prove to be an intrusive, security-filled hurdle to overcome? The Competitive Enterprise Institute is betting on the former, with its new report warning of federal regulations that could get in the way of substantial progress.

Also see Rebecca Patrick’s APEX Award-winning 2014 BizVoice article on drones and their potential business impact.

Taking the Digital Age Into New – and Very Green – Territory

36886821What does the world’s greenest office building look like? You’re about to find out.
The Edge (enticing moniker) towers over onlookers in Amsterdam and is home to 2,500 Deloitte employees … who don’t have desks.

Let me back up. There are desks, but employees aren’t assigned one of their very own. The space they occupy each day is based upon their schedule. They may get cracking on projects in the concentration room, along the sun-infused balcony, in the atrium – it’s called “hot desking.”

Living on The Edge (or at least working there) is all about innovation. Connectivity and going green are king. A smartphone app allows employees to control lighting and climate preferences at their workstations. Rainwater is collected for flushing toilets and irrigating gardens. A security robot stands guard. And that’s just the beginning.

Check out this short video and share your input: Brilliant work environment or too much of a good thing?

Defying – Not Glorifying – Stereotypes

Every once in a while, something really fires me up. Today’s trigger is about misconceptions regarding women engineers.

First, there’s the words of wisdom (insert heavy sarcasm) of Nobel Peace Prize winner Tim Hunt. This summer, he declared – at the World Conference of Science Journalists – that labs should be segregated by sex. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he reportedly mused. “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry!”

Shameful, indeed. It reminded me of another recent high-profile controversy, this time involving Isis Wenger. The brilliant OneLogin platform engineer unwittingly found herself at the center of a firestorm when she posed for a recruiting photo.

To both the company and Wenger’s surprise, what got people talking about the campaign wasn’t the image of its security engineer wearing a black hat and hackers shirt … Instead, it was the photo of Wenger. TechCrunch reported a taste of what people had to say about it:

“This is some weird haphazard branding. I think they want to appeal to women, but are probably just appealing to dudes. Perhaps that’s the intention all along. But I’m curious people with brains find this quote (appearing on Wenger’s shirt) remotely plausible if women in particular buy this image of what a female software engineer looks like. Idk. Weird.”

And here’s what another guy said:

“If their intention is to attract more women, then it would have been a better to choose a picture with a warm, friendly smile rather than a sexy smirk. …”

To change the way people think about engineers, Wenger started the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

“#ILookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally not gender specific,” Wenger says. “External appearances and the number of X chromosomes a person has is hardly a measure of engineering ability. My goal is to help redefine “what an engineer should look like” because I think that is a step towards eliminating sub-conscious bias towards diversity in tech.”

Wenger’s hashtag has inspired women to post their own photos illustrating that they also “look like an engineer.”

You go, ladies!