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October 30, 2015

How To Become Impervious to Disruption

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:49 AM

Infosys - Oracle OpenWorld Highlights 10-27-2015 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omIhk6YhLQY]

The prestigious Fortune 500 was first published 60 years ago. If a company features in the business magazine's annual list of America's top 500 companies by revenue, it tells the world that the organization has arrived. Yet, one statistic in a recent issue of the magazine should make us all stop and reflect: only 57 of the original Fortune 500 companies remain on the list today. The number suggests that, as one business tycoon famously put it, it's easier to make the list than to stay on it.

Indeed, the churn in large enterprises on that list in just six decades is proof that not enough of them have the tools to sustain their prominent places in a marketplace that is always changing. I'm reminded of a popular book by Harvard Business School's Clayton M. Christensen - The Innovator's Dilemma, which is a treatise on his theory of disruptive innovation. The theory goes that enterprises that were once startups become so successful in the marketplace that they sometimes lose sight of the culture of innovation that got them there. In no time, new enterprises out-innovate the established firms and create new markets, rendering the established firms obsolete.

I couldn't help but think about the theory of disruptive innovation as I watched Dr. Vishal Sikka give the executive keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2015 this week. More specifically, it was an image with which he both began and ended his keynote that said a lot. The image, on huge screens behind him on the stage, were of the island of Java in Indonesia, with its majestic temples and soaring mountains and volcanoes. He reminded the crowd that long before Java referred to coffee or a partner company, it was the name of an island. And in the shadow of that island's volcano stands a 1,000-year-old temple. Just as this elegant structure has withstood the tests of time (and aeons of wind, rain, and exploding volcanoes), Dr. Sikka said that he envisions a world in which enterprises can withstand whatever disruption comes their way.

No one would doubt that there's a digital transformation occurring that is creating incredible opportunities for companies in all markets. Or a threat for those who are not prepared. But for a profound digital transformation to embolden an enterprise against disruption, it must possess the right tools to succeed and to maintain that success. But, how to possess such tools? In the vision that Dr. Sikka articulated, enterprises become stronger when they collaborate and innovate with other enterprises. Putting walls up around a company used to be what gave it strength...but not in today's environment.

During the keynote address, Dr. Sikka elucidated how instrumental Infosys has become as a partner to a century-old industrial giant like GE. The next time you fly on an airplane with GE-built engines, for instance, think about how Infosys has helped make them safer and more reliable by empowering the way GE manufacturers and maintains them. Through analytics and Big Data, Infosys is helping traditional industrial firms like GE become streamlined digital firms. These companies are employing the power of automation and information to predict when a part in, say, the landing gear of an airplane will fail. If an airplane manufacturer can provide such predictive analysis, then preventative maintenance not only saves money but lives as well.

Newer technologies are liberating enterprises so that their talented employees have more time and energy to innovate. And therein lies the secret, I think. Being impervious can only happen when an enterprise technologically outruns the competition. Then the company utilizes tools to keep widening the gap between it and the competition. It's about technology that essentially transforms a century-old company into a startup again and again.

And what about the innovative startups with their abundant talent pool? Well, we collaborate with them, too, of course. We established the Infosys Innovation Fund to incubate and encourage young, entrepreneurial technologists, especially in areas of next-generation technologies like machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence. After all, Infosys was a startup with very little capital three decades ago, remember?

As we evolve as an organization, we are realizing that we can do so much more because we have more technology...and it's better technology. It's more accessible to more people and enterprises, and with that comes even more innovation. It's a self-perpetuating circle and it's only recently started to gain momentum. Here's to the future!

October 29, 2015

Why Omnichannel Is the Only Way in Retailing

Posted by Arish Ali (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:35 AM

Why Omnichannel Is the Only Way in Retailing

There are few things in American pop culture more beloved than the Blue Light Special. Ask anyone in the United States over a certain age about it, and chances are you'll get a smile and some happy childhood memories. The Blue Light Special was one of the greatest retail inventions. In the mid- to late-20th century, shoppers at the discount department store chain K-Mart would see a bright, spinning police light in a certain area of the store that would announce a special sale of a certain item for a very limited time -- for as long as that blue light was on.

Shoppers would rush over to wherever the light was, and even if the sale item was something they didn't necessarily want or need, the spontaneity and limited time of the sale would often influence an on-the-spot purchase. This all might sound quaint in the early 21st century, but the Blue Light Special was not unlike what the online 'flash sale' is like today. The bright light, the limited time, the rush of shoppers trying to get to the merchandise -- it all sounds very 'omnichannel,' doesn't it?

I was just reading a news item about a study from Juniper Research that reports that by 2020, retailers will spend US$ 2.5 billion on the IoT, up from the US$ 670 million it estimates they will spend over the course of the current year. The reason is that retailers are creating ecosystems that will combine beacons and wearable technologies and even in-store tablets, so the sales associate helping you find that perfect jacket also becomes the cashier -- an instant point of sale. Those retail ecosystems will appeal to all your senses and, more importantly, be available to you wherever you are and whenever you want to shop. Seamlessness and simplicity are retail qualities that everyone talks about but not everyone has achieved.

I co-founded Skava (now an Infosys company), an innovative firm that has brought the omnichannel retail experience to new levels of seamlessness and simplicity. During Oracle OpenWorld 2015, Skava's co-founder, Sudha Varadarajan, spoke about the one thing that should be on top of every retailer's mind: giving consumer's the best experience. Our solutions portfolio, including smart zones, search, mobile merchandising, customer recommendations, registrations, and wish lists is helping many retailers do just that. During last year's 'Black Friday' peak, the combined client traffic of Skava experienced five million page views per hour.

We keep hearing a lot about 'creating' or 'making' a consumer experience that combines so many digital channels because that's the future of retailing. Remember when bookstores went out of business because they didn't have a good online strategy? And then online booksellers started to slump because consumers missed the experience of browsing through dusty bookstores and coming upon a unique book? That's the essence of omnichannel commerce: when a retailer creates the optimal experience for the shopper whether it's on a mobile device or within a bricks-and-mortar outlet. The experience is a seamless and simple one whenever and wherever it happens.

Combining all those channels isn't easy. It got me thinking about how a famous restaurateur made headlines last week when he declared that he would institute a 'no-tipping' policy in all of his company's 13 gourmet restaurants. At first, consumers complained that the policy was a ploy to raise prices across the board. But then the CEO made an interesting point: tipping is an outdated custom. A 'no-tipping' policy places the onus on the servers, cooks, hostesses, and other employees of each restaurant to provide outstanding service - every time. After all, consumers pay a flat rate for a digitally coordinated car service like Uber to pick them up. They don't expect to ride in dirty taxis with unpredictable service, and tip the driver when the experience is otherwise (or surpasses your expectations).

The restaurant example is just one example, where the consumer browses for reviews online, make a reservation from her smartphone, ride to the restaurant in, yes, a car service like Uber, and comment on the meal in real-time across social media outlets. With coverage like that, you can bet the onus is on the restaurant to deliver dazzling service and excellent food. That's because the various tools and features in a typical suite of omnichannel products places the enterprise and the consumer on equal footing, and through analytics and Big Data, empowers the business to improve its relationship with its consumers every step of the way.

Just as K-Mart's Blue Light Special of the 1970s kept shoppers excited, so do perfectly developed omnichannel retail experiences. Better still, omnichannel commerce works so well because it keeps shoppers engaged AND retailers on their feet - with ever rising expectations on service and experiences -- wherever those experiences might take place.

October 22, 2015

Defragmenting the Healthcare System With Connected Care

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:53 AM

Defragmenting the Healthcare System With Connected Care

The US healthcare landscape today is quite fragmented. As a result, care delivery too is fragmented. What does this mean? If one patient has varying needs arising from one medical condition, each need will more likely be addressed in siloes by specialists. Many times, it's not because physicians want to work this way. It's because they do not have access to that one source that has all the information needed for a comprehensive picture of the patient. Even physicians who have access to this data through Electronic Health Records (EHRs) may not have access to the infrastructure necessary to transfer it to another physician who needs it. Little wonder then that close to 95% of America's healthcare providers state that one of the biggest obstacles to becoming interoperable is their limited ability to share data with each other - a factor that can create big lacunae in a patient's treatment.

This system of healthcare delivery that has prevailed until now is not a sustainable model, with a growing population, especially of Americans above the age of 65, who has increased by 15% in the last decade - and who require healthcare treatments and effective medicines for more ailments as they grow older. Adding to the demand for a more effective approach to reduce fragmentation is the renewed patient-centric focus. One emerging healthcare model that I believe encompasses features to support these needs and can become the future of the healthcare industry is Connected Care, which facilitates a more seamless connection among patients, healthcare providers and payers with a single focus - addressing the overall healthcare needs of the patient.

The need for Connected Care in healthcare is further catalyzed by ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act). How? According to a report by the US Census Bureau and CDC, post ObamaCare, the number of insured have increased - the first half of 2015 saw about 11 million getting insured. This means that the US healthcare system has to defragment and accommodate the care needs and data generated by the growing number of insured. This is possible with an approach where all those eligible for healthcare can be cared for through Connected Care.

Two Connected Care enablers, telehealth and mhealth, have seen widespread adoption across the US. Payers see a lot of promise in both areas, and are encouraging healthcare system players to adopt them. With telehealth, physicians can provide healthcare to patients without unnecessary hospital visits - a key factor that influences their incentives in value-based system the industry currently follows. It also enables patients to receive treatments for non-life threatening urgent healthcare needs (which make up about 70% of the visits to emergency rooms) anytime, anywhere. A PwC report states that about 10% physicians see the potential for these e-visits to replace in-office consultations.

What's more, patients and physicians are comfortable with telehealth. Based on a 2013 Consumer Survey Segmentation by the Deloitte US Center for Health Solutions, about 52% participants were at least somewhat comfortable with video chat based physician consultations. Nearly 62% were at least somewhat alright with healthcare professionals addressing concerns through texts or emails. A study by PwC reveals that about 75% physicians are willing to prescribe apps that help patients manage chronic ailments like diabetes, and nearly 79% physicians and 50% patients believe mobile devices can enable better care coordination. This is a key step forward towards making healthcare more connected and giving patients a better chance at a better outcome. Telehealth also connects physicians with patients in remote locations requiring immediate healthcare interventions through specialized services like Telestroke for stoke patients.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital have together, created Telestroke, which enables their specialists to examine patients remotely, connect and liaise with other healthcare professionals and prescribes the timely administration of medicines and compounds like tPA, a protein that helps reduce clots in ischemic heart conditions and eventually reduces the chances of stroke-related complications. "I can examine someone very interactively with the help of a physician or a nurse on the other end and I can make a determination of the stroke severity and the type of stroke by looking at the patient and at the brain image... It's almost like being in the room," states Dr. Lee Schwamm, Massachusetts General Hospital. Specialized telehealth services like Telestroke are critical, especially since - as we saw earlier - the US has a fast increasing population of those over 65 who have a need for such services.

Wearables are another type of enablers here to stay. The sensor-based data generated by wearables, when enabled with the right analytics tools, can yield valuable information. A few healthcare organizations are leveraging these devices, thanks to the benefits they deliver. For instance, Dignity Health is using Augmedix's Google Glass program to update EHRs with patient information. Their application value is not just being understood, and appreciated, by physicians, but by consumers too. According to a report by PwC, about 56% of the survey participants stated that wearables have the potential to increase user lifespan by about 10 years. This indicates that the consumers, who are ultimately the adopters and possible future advocates of this technology, see benefits in using it. In the long run, these advantages could translate into visibly and measurably better quality of health and wellbeing.

The full potential of wearables can be unleashed when paired with a telehealth system that allows physicians and payers to leverage the information generated by devices into treatment plans, prescriptions and health insurance plans that can ultimately benefit the patient. According to Daniel Garrett, PwC's health and IT leader, "Digitally-enabled care is no longer nice-to-have, it's fundamental for delivering high quality care." All these drivers are powerful change-agents that will continue to challenge the healthcare industry to integrate Connected Care enablers at a very deep level and defragment for a more seamless care delivery ecosystem.

October 19, 2015

We Innovate. Therefore We Are @ Zero Distance To Customers

Posted by Gopikrishnan Konnanath (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:55 AM

Within grasp: Zero Distance to client, code and value [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN5kMps3Jnk?list=PLgs9YKJzzPSMlw3W3czkLcUQd4ZrDISki]

What does it take to make innovation mainstream in a large organization? What does it take to make innovation business as usual? Not just for a think tank of designated innovators. But for all. Not by issuing top-down mandates and monitoring progress, but by somehow making innovation intuitive ground-up - almost an organizational state of being. That would undoubtedly mean an introspection into the enterprise's purpose, a deep dive into the organization's very essence of existence. And most importantly - it would mean that the findings of this introspection resonates with every single person in the organization.

We decided to see if there was a way to make this work in our own enterprise, and bring the benefits of this exercise to our clients. We wanted to do this by imbibing the three basic principles - every team aspiring to be closer to end users, closer to technology, and closer to creating value - essentially at Zero Distance to our clients.

At the organization's leadership, and within our extended teams, when we thought about who we are and who we wanted to be, our thinking converged at one point. All of us aspired to become more than we have ever been: more curious, greater in spirit, stronger in creative confidence, larger in purpose. We felt that we owed something to ourselves and our potential, not just to our own selves or even our own organization, but to our clients and fellow beings as well. Every day, our customers come to us seeking solutions to myriad problems and with enormous expectations. They issue specific contracts, circumscribed by deliverables and KPIs and SLAs. We set a mission for ourselves - to take all of that and then add one overarching mandate, that through this and every future engagement, we will strive to bring ideas that enable clients to be more than what they already are. By this we aspired to create solutions that will surprise our clients, which could potentially be delivered ahead of expected time; and bring in that 'wow' factor.

We started by taking action at grassroots level. Every Infoscion, across rank and file, was immersed in a culture encouraging them to practise everyday, 'personal' innovation. This culture has three tenets: every individual associated with a project shall explore ways to deliver additional value as an increment to stated scope; look to extend the impact of the current engagement to adjacent areas to amplify value; and try to create reusable components that our clients can leverage. As this culture is being assimilated, it is creating a legion of Infoscion innovators, who are deploying their talents to add value to clients, in not one or two instances, but across more than 8,000 ongoing engagements. This is innovation at unprecedented scale.

The results are unmistakable. For instance, a young engineer working on a project for a specialty footwear retailer noticed that the retailer's promotional campaigns were rarely ever based on strong product combinations that could up campaign response rates. Our team quickly applied an analytics solution to conduct a Market Basket Analysis that identified that there is a 77% likelihood that a customer buying a girls' tap shoe will also buy a girls' ballet shoe. And a 50% likelihood that a customer buying a girls' ballet shoe will also buy a girls' tap shoe. The combined potential gross sales, if this were promoted as a bundled email campaign, was estimated at approximately US$ 95K and nearly US$ 475K if implemented as a direct mail campaign. The retailer is now exploring with us to see how such analytics can be applied across the entire product portfolio.

Traditionally innovation cannot be templated. However, in our attempt to make this a movement for the 1,80,000+ workforce, we found that a few guiding principles would prove useful. This framework for innovation that we now live by, and that'll likely fit neatly into your organization's delivery fabric as well, is what I'd like to share with you as a postscript to this post:

  • Look, learn and improve: Scale innovations with best practices and next practices garnered from projects across industries
  • Make 'what' improvements: Ask what more, what other things one can do, within the engagement, to bring more value to the project
  • Seek out 'how' improvements: Figure a better, more efficient way to do things - in every ongoing project
  • Clearly articulate business value: Help businesses see the value of each improvement and innovation quantitatively, and substantively
  • Disseminate knowledge: Share information about the improvements achieved so others may be guided by the experience.

October 16, 2015

Blockchain Tech Is Fundamentally Transforming Finance

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:53 AM

CNBC: Meet The Blockchain [EN] [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1h8xkwmQfw]

I was amazed at what the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters, said recently in an interview with Bloomberg. With regard to the emergence of blockchain technology and the many cryptocurrencies floating around the capital markets, she said: "You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the Internet in the early 1990s." In other words, blockchain tech could become a watershed moment in the history of finance. Even the World Economic Forum (WEF) is predicting that blockchain technology could be a kind of 'tipping point' when it comes to widespread use of cryptocurrencies. Economists at the WEF foresee that by 2027, some 10 percent of the global gross domestic product will be stored using blockchain tech.

To be sure, I've heard it said many times that Bitcoin, for all the negative press around it, is onto something. It's not so much Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), which has been used by mysterious figures across what's known as the 'Dark 'Net'. It's the technology that underlies Bitcoin that's catching the attention of established global banks.

Today, there are roughly US$ 3.5 billion worth of Bitcoin in global circulation. I say roughly because Bitcoin is not pegged to the U.S. dollar and in the past year, its value in relation to the dollar, like other cryptocurrencies, has fluctuated wildly. The impact of these technologies - both cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and the emergence of blockchain - in redefining the financial industry is immense.

Blockchain technology has been likened to building a brick wall. Once you've finished building the wall, the bricks are in place. They aren't going anywhere. The problem was that cryptocurrencies needed a way to be verified so that the parties using them to do business could be assured that the coin was legitimate and the transaction was properly recorded. Blockchain is such a game-changer because a software-generated 'block' of all cryptocurrency transactions occurs every few minutes. Like that brick wall, once the block (or brick) is cemented into place, it's there for good. Financial services giants, therefore, are coming to the realization that blockchain software can be used in the place of clearinghouses and other costly middlemen. So simple trades, like the purchase of a publicly traded stock, can be cleared instantly instead of waiting a day for a clearinghouse to settle the trade between the two parties. Plus, like a brick wall, blockchain software is very difficult to knock down.

Think of the rise and acceptance of blockchain technology as the point during which a sheriff and his deputies ride their horses into a small, lawless town in the American 'Wild West' and establish order. Among the tumbleweeds, they run the outlaws out of town and form a rigid code of laws by which everyone from thenceforth must abide. The same is true of blockchain software. Virtually overnight, it has taken the lawless and freewheeling nature of cryptocurrencies and slapped a rigid structure onto it.

What I like most about this development is that for the past couple years, the established banks tended to scoff at Bitcoin and its competitors because it wasn't tied to any country's central bank or pegged to the value of a precious metal like gold. Yet the underlying software, it turns out, is just the kind of thing banks have been looking for to make their trades more efficient and less costly.

In fact, today many large banks have come together to design business models around cryptocurrencies, and some, such as Citi, one of the world's largest banks, now has its own proprietary Citicoin, for example. Even the British government announced that it would commit £10 million to support research in digital currency technology. Banks are also backing financial technology startups that are working with blockchain software in accelerators like Level 39 in the London's Canary Wharf. Plus, it's been reported that the Nasdaq OMX Group has assigned some of its programmers to work on software based on blockchain technology that will allow it to trade stocks on a new system.

These developments show that when the digital world is surveyed at 30,000 feet, it has the similar effects on many industries. Just as Uber and Lyft cut out taxi dispatchers (and entire taxi companies!) so that consumers could flag down the nearest available car at the most economical price, blockchain technology is changing the way banks view the securitization of their products. Instead of being on one end of a financial trade or other transaction, a bank can remove the middle party and deal directly with the buyer or seller.

It might seem a bit trite to compare the act of hailing a taxi to the act of selling thousands of shares in a company on an exchange. But digitization is ensuring that whatever the business transaction, digital tools and software are transforming the way we conduct business. Today, cyptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which were once used by online drug dealers, are now being embraced by legitimate, global financial institutions because they have a clear record of every transaction and the existence and location of every coin.

October 13, 2015

Pharma's Omni-Channel Efforts Empower Patients

Posted by Kamal Biswas (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:57 AM

Pharma's Omni-Channel Efforts Empower Patients

I'll never forget the day when I heard a physician joke that the biggest 'problem' facing the population was the Internet. What he meant was that his patients would often go online to various medical sites to diagnose themselves. When they finally got to see their doctor, they would emphatically tell him what the medical problem was - even if they weren't even close in their self-diagnosis. I have even heard a doctor's annoyed voice: "You tell me the symptoms and not diagnosis."

But the phenomenon of consumers 'talking' to the Internet to receive some sort of medical information is a testament to how distant they may have grown from their primary care physicians. As time in a physician's exam room is getting shorter and waiting time in doctors' offices is becoming longer, accessing the Internet to find treatment options has become natural. Pharmaceutical companies are using this widening chasm and are beginning to see the advantage of omni-channel marketing to doctors as well as patients.

For a very long time, pharmaceutical firms had been stuck in a bygone era as far as their sales and marketing efforts were concerned. It's only recently that these companies have been using an omni-channel approach to reach doctors - they believe that targeting patients will be one of the most effective ways of selling their products in the near future. Of course, regulators are keeping their eyes wide open. But that's part of an interesting phenomenon we are experiencing today: letting consumerism drive changes to the behavior of regulators!

As the ratio of prescription drugs to over-the-counter medication changes (with latter winning by a huge percentage), marketing strategies are changing significantly as well. The traditional push for the field force to market content has taken a hit. Today, those sales associates are lucky to get a busy doctor's attention and that's why a distinct consumer focus has arisen lately.

Some pharma companies have been notoriously lacking when it came to knowing their return on marketing investment. Not too long ago, it wasn't uncommon for a pharmaceutical giant to spend untold millions of dollars on field sales, without having the right metrics in place to measure how their very traditional sales efforts stacked up. Today, some 40 percent of doctors say that they don't have the time to sit down with pharmaceutical salesmen and hear their pitches. True, maybe they'll take a few free samples in order to hand them out to patients, but beyond that, doctors are a lot less influential in moving pharma products than they used to be.

Sales tactics are changing, for very obvious reasons. Here's an example. A European drug company improved its marketing reach by using applications that it deployed across all marketing channels. They dubbed this strategy as a 'digital solutions factory'. Its success is proof that use of all possible channels joined at the hip through a factory operation is critical to the future success of pharma. First, the company gathered feedback from key opinion leaders on what features they wanted to see in a new offering. Then the company provided caregivers with access to different resources that ranged from large communities all the way to highly specialized medical experts. Creating marketing content faster, scaling from a small number of doctors to a group of many, collecting feedback to analyze, and changing marketing content frequently are all possible in a centralized, omni-channel marketing model. This large pharma company has changed its internal content review and approval process to make digital content creation a lot more nimble. This is a game-changer in the industry.

The quick launch of portal solutions increased patient adherence. Better yet, the information gleaned by the pharmaceutical company was such that it could reduce content creation costs by over 40 percent simply by reusing previously created digital assets that were effective the first time. The company reduced precious time-to-market by a minimum of 25 percent because of this omni-channel approach. Lastly, brand managers could save up to a third of their time by not having to think about which channels to use and whom to approach for enabling their brands. They got all channels enabled at no additional cost.

Digital solutions have a direct effect on the time it takes to get a drug to market. This is not just because all information becomes easily available online. The best part is that there still exists a highly knowledgeable and trained sales force. It simply becomes more effective when it's part of an overall omni-channel effort that includes field sales-driven 'e-Details,' social media, emails, call centers, mobile devices, video, and mobile and offline 'eDetails.' All these sources are integrated and interactive with customers.

In virtually every industry, digital consumers have become paramount to a company's success because they use their preferred channels and times to reach those firms' products or services. Pharmaceutical companies have realized the benefits of the digital shift and are now maturing towards maximizing the benefits through all possible channels. In the end, they need to generate as much revenue as possible until the product remains innovative and effective over the products of their competitors.

October 7, 2015

Governments and Corporations Team Up Against Cybercrime

Posted by Dr. Ashutosh Saxena (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:33 AM

Global cybersecurity market will be worth $170 billion in 2020  [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5jx6d7xRIM]

There are government contracts and then there are government contracts. The technology giant Raytheon recently announced that it won a five-year contract to help manage the computer security of 100 civilian agencies connected to the Department of Homeland Security. Experts said that such a contract, where Raytheon shares its proprietary cybercrime-fighting techniques and tools, could be worth upwards of US$ 1 billion. The official role for the company will be that of a 'prime contractor and systems integrator' for the Network Security Deployment division. Attached to that division is the National Cybersecurity Protection System.

We're hearing a lot about cyber security again, and it's not even the holiday shopping season. Why is that the case? For one, cybercrimes are no longer centered on jolly shoppers and their credit cards at Big Box retail chains and online retailers. Criminals are getting more sophisticated and learning to break into whatever computer system they can. Once in, experts say they can maneuver and sometimes patiently wait until they find the right digital gateway that brings them to a stash of information - otherwise known as a cyber-criminal's pot of gold.

Intelligence chiefs at Raytheon tell us that global cyber-security 'incidents'- which is a vague enough term to include both a cyber-thief's successes and failed attempts - have increased by an average of 66 percent between 2009 and 2014. Even in the Europe, the number of Data Protection Act (DPA) breaches reported to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) from the financial services sector has increased by 183% in the last two years. These are enormous rates of increase.

Even with failed attempts thrown into the mix, every 'incident' requires some level of vigilance to prevent a crime from happening. That translates into time and money on the part of the organization defending against the criminal activities. Raytheon spokesmen said that their company alone had spent US$ 3.5 billion over the past few years strengthening its cybercrime-fighting capabilities.

A breach of some kind can result in irreparable harm to an organization's reputation. When that organization is consumer-facing in nature, guarding its resources and its reputation against even more aggressive cyberattacks dig even deeper into a budget. You can be rest assured that the Big Box and online retailers that were hit last year are doing everything in their power to make sure a high-profile breach doesn't happen again. In baseball, three strikes mean you're out. Cyber-crime? If your organization gets hit twice, it's a warning sign to consumers that the organization cannot be trusted to guard their (financial) information. Two strikes means they're out. The threshold for failure is much lower in the retail world than it is in baseball!

Moreover, the Internet of Things (IoT) - where appliances and other devices are connected and controlled online - has created new dimensions to cyber threat. Once, a professor in a research lab of a university claimed that he was able to send a 'kill' command to an implantable medical device. As IoT gains momentum, the risk of cyber attacks will grow exponentially. Especially when cyber attackers could very easily gain access to that 'kill' command.

What, then, can organizations do to stay one step ahead of the criminals? The answer, interestingly enough, comes from government programs that help take privately innovated technology and bring it to market. These new technologies that the public sector helps make commercially viable include, the Network Mapping System, a toolkit that lets users know what is connected to their network and by extension what to watch out for. Its acronym is NeMS, and you'll be seeing more of it mentioned in the press as shoppers begin to plunk down their credit cards this season. An American company called Cambridge Global Advisors has licensed NeMS with help from the government's Livermore National Laboratory.

NeMS is actually the third cybercrime-fighting tool to go to market this year. The two others are known as Quantum Secured Communication and Hyperion. The fact that there are three technologies, all distinctly serving different types of cybercrime-fighting roles, is evidence that the crooks are getting more sophisticated. It's reassuring that a public-private effort is underway to keep moving promising tools to market.

Such tools not only can advance the prominence of organizations that safeguard sensitive and valuable information. They can also stand as a visible sign that companies and governments are extremely serious about stamping out what has been a scourge of innovative businesses and the free markets for far too long.

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