Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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Five global predictions for 2015

Today was all about tomorrow. Let me explain… this morning, I attended a Webinar on 2015 trends in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market; this afternoon I completed a survey on the top global trends for 2015. Here’s my take on five global trends for 2015. The common thread is information technology (IT) and the environment.


It’s all about the Cloud

Businesses continue to move to the Cloud in droves, with a large percentage already there. A big benefit of the Cloud is the shift away from internal management of IT infrastructure, placing part of the risk onto Cloud providers. Another benefit is the ability to shift from older, “on premises” enterprise software license models that require constant upgrades to newer, Software as a Service (SaaS) apps where all user organizations are on the same version of the software. And a third benefit is anytime, anywhere access to information that allow more informed decision-making.

It’s not just mobile technology, but mobile technology enabled by the Cloud, that will allow businesses to break from old paradigms and utilize Internet-enabled solutions. My article on the Cloud will publish on 01 February 2015.

Information security remains a top concern

Information security will remain a top concern among organizations into 2015 and beyond. ApplePay went live this quarter, and it was supposed to be an alternate cashless payment method, but not a Point of Service (POS) app. With the release of the iPhone 6 and the latest iOS, Apple has teamed with Bank of America (and others?) and ApplePay is a POS app! Many remain concerned about Near Field Communications, where a cyber hacker can steal sensitive financial information.

Magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards are so 20th Century. A few years ago, many merchants tried laser bar code readers for payment cards (e.g., payments at gas pumps), but removed the readers… were the readers that hard to use, or were they too costly to maintain? After recent security breaches some U.S. banks are revamping credit card security measures–adding security “chips” that other countries have used for decades. It’s about time… but users still must “swipe” their cards through a reader.

Global energy and natural resource challenges

The U.S. is enjoying the “energy boom,” at the highest domestic production rates in decades, and needs to ensure that there is not a rapid “bust.” Despite the drop in oil prices (barrels of West Texas Intermediate Crude), North American Shale Oil plays will continue into 2015.

Cheap natural gas prices will allow the chemicals industry to continue with large projects, the scale of which we have not seen in the U.S. since the late 1970s and early 1980s. While the demand for new natural gas and liquids pipelines remains high, these projects will slow a bit. Why not deposit some of the cheap oil and gas to increase the National Petroleum Reserve?

Changing demographics and consumer spending

Many emerging countries will continue to see the largest increase in spending power in the under-35 population. The consumer population in the U.S. will continue to increase dramatically in two segments—over-60 and under 35 years old—thus creating the challenge of serving both markets.

Considering how much consumer technologies spill over into business, the challenge is applying these technologies to address the needs of divergent populations. In 2015, software applications will be all about the user experience, and the real challenge will be the balance between the user experience and addressing enterprise needs such as information security and scalability.

Cashless payments

Consumers will continue to increase their comfort level with online, cashless payments. Mobile cashless payments will take a while to gain market share amid concerns of cybersecurity and as consumers upgrade their mobile technology. Regardless of the method, companies in the payment business must move to multi-factor authentication and anonymous, one-time authorization codes that are more difficult to steal, or, if stolen, are useless.

While consumers–especially the 35-and-under demographic–have handily adopted paperless check deposits, this will not quickly spill over into the business world. Businesses will continue to remain entrenched in hard-copy checks, P-cards (Purchase Cards) and ACH (automated clearinghouse) payments in 2015. So, keep the car gassed up (or charged) for those trips to the post office and bank.

With the new year coming upon us quickly, there is plenty to think about with respect to information technology and the environment. Your thoughts?

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Energy sector looks to integrated EHS IT solutions to manage risk in a complex operational and regulatory enironment

We are in the midst of a 21st Century energy boom. It has created thousands of jobs and reduced the U.S. dependence on imported crude oil. New technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) create new opportunities as well as risks. In light of recent offshore and onshore incidents in the energy and chemical industries, regulatory agencies are in the midst of making new policies and rules. How do organizations keep up with this complex, dynamic business environment?

“Risk is an integral component of a safety culture. It must be the lens through which we view the interaction between technology and the human element.”
–Brian Salerno, BSEE Director

Most organizations use spreadsheets, email and documents to manage environment, health & safety (EH&S or EHS) data. Even those that use more robust information technology (IT) platforms admit that they do not use IT to its fullest.

To better collect, manage, and use EHS information, many energy companies are migrating to integrated EH&S software applications for the first time. Others are taking a hard look at replacing legacy systems with more robust IT platforms.

The latest IT Insight column, 21st Century Energy Boom and Greater Risk Awareness Drive EH&S Software Initiatives, describes the pressure that the energy industry faces in managing mountains of EHS data while also minimizing the risks associated with everyday business. The column describes lessons learned in the Gulf of Mexico and a new risk management approach that is taking hold. Read the full article here.

microsoft-surface-pro-3

Photo: Microsoft

On 20 May, Microsoft launched its Surface Pro 3 tablet. They call it ” the tablet that can replace your laptop.” The lightweight, Windows 8.x tablet boasts a 12-inch screen. It has a sleek design and long battery life. Prices range from $799 for the 64 GB 4th-Gen Intel i3 model to $1949 for a 512 GB i7 model. Keyboards, adapters, etc. are optional, at extra cost. This price point puts the Surface Pro 3 in the mix with Ultrabooks, MacBooks and lightweight hybrid/convertible notebook computers.

Tech blogs are critical of the new tablet’s foray into the enterprise business market, citing the Windows 8.x operating system, design, user experience and cost as the main detractors. As mentioned in an recent blog post, enterprise IT departments prefer Windows 7 to Windows 8.x, and many saw Windows XP end of support as an opportunity to explore new hardware and operating systems like Google Chrome and Mac OSX.

“eWeek suggested, “buy the MacBook Air instead.”

The jury’s still out. Let’s see if the Surface Pro 3 catches on. You can view the full specs on the Microsoft Web site here and read an eWeek product review here.


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What’s the best use for an iPad if you’re savvy with a laptop and smartphone?

When you get an iPad, you think, “Hey, I can replace my laptop with this small tablet!” 

Technology stack with overlapping functions

I look at my “technology stack,” and see a Windows 7 PC, a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an iPhone. These devices all help me get through my daily routine, with overlapping capabilities:

  • Read content
  • Read and compose email
  • Read and create documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Participate in social networks
  • Attend Web meetings
  • Visit Web sites
  • View photos and graphics.

Depending upon what I want to achieve, these four devices are not totally interchangeable.

I can use my smartphone to create a presentation, but anything but a simple presentation is best created on a laptop or tablet. I can sort through hundreds of emails on my tablet or smartphone, but must use a laptop for powerful sorting and cleanup. Likewise, I can create complex spreadsheets on the tablet, but likely would use my MacBook or PC with a keyboard and full functionality.

Rethinking the tablet

If you’re already quite comfortable with a laptop and a smartphone, and a tablet falls into your hands, what’s the best way to use it? Here’s an interesting perspective on the use of tablets, worth reading: Rethinking the iPad

My take—Tip #1: I DO use the iPad for mail and social apps; Tip #2: I use the iPad to catch up on reading; Tip #3: I turn off MOST notifications; Tip #4: I change SOME of the settings to improve battery life.

Let me hear how you use your tablet!


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New Apple MacBook Air appeals to the mobile business set

In late April Apple beefed up its MacBook Air product line. The lightweight notebook computers now boast faster, 4th generation Intel processors, longer batter life, bigger flash storage, faster and better WiFi and slightly lower price tags. This makes the Air more attractive to on-the-go business travelers who need or prefer a full-fledged computer over a tablet or smartphone.

Apple MacBook Air 2014

Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Air specs go head-to-head with the most powerful Windows laptops. Apple is taking the opportunity to win business users over to its hardware and the OSX operating system.

Why? Here are several issues that left market share up for grabs:

  • Windows XP End of Support
  • heartbleed and security vulnerabilities with Internet Explorer
  • Sarbanes-Oxley compliance concerns
  • increased use of Cloud applications in large organizations
  • Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) and mobile apps.

Read New MacBook Air specs make for better business laptops and visit the Apple Web site here.

Those who need less powerful computing power have a number of other options, from smartphones to “phablets” to tablets and ChromeBooks. For further reading on the risks and benefits of sticking with Windows XP, and the increase in organizational use of non-Windows operating systems, see recent IT Insight columns:


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With Windows XP End of Support, Chromebooks are a popular option to Windows PCs

Now that Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, organizations that still use the 13-year-old operating system (OS) must face reality–at some point, they must upgrade their OS, and likely their computer. When Microsoft released Windows XP to market, more organizations provided desktop than laptop computers. Using a laptop meant sacrificing features and forking over more dollars to gain mobility.

Those who have yet to “sunset” Windows XP no longer need to be tethered to their desks (See: Windows XP Sails into the Sunset… Maybe). A world of technologies became available (and affordable) since 2001, notably:

  • Wireless networks (WiFi) and Mobile hotspots (MiFi)
  • Lightweight notebook computers
  • Smartphones, tablets and apps
  • Social networks, Cloud applications and data storage
  • More power-efficient chips and hours of operation between charges
  • Solid state “flash” drives
Image: hp

Image: hp

Windows XP End of Support lets organizations rethink their IT strategies. Businesses and educational institutions alike can consider alternative Windows , Mac and Google OS and hardware. Chromebooks are a popular option, with their simplicity and low entry cost of $275 to $300 USD.

Read 10 Reasons Today’s Chromebooks Look Like a Smart Mobile PC Buy.

 


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Business texting on the rise

Text messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate–as teenagers and twenty-somethings have known for years. Business texting is on the rise, part of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.

Benefits and risks

Sometimes texting is more convenient than email or a phone call. It is “short and sweet” and promotes an almost immediate response. I send business texts to certain clients, as I know that they prefer it. When I can, I use iMessage service available to iPhone, iPad and Mac users.

No technology is risk-free. Some of the risks of business texting are:

  • Commingling of personal and business text messages on the same device–some users prefer to separate the two.
  • Security of data transmitted over cellular and WiFi networks.
  • e-Discovery–as with email and other electronic communications, the texts stay in the system.
  • Recipient of text does not respond quickly–if you need an immediate response, or something more than a few words, a phone call or email is better.
  • Potential injuries. Texting while walking causes more–though usually less serious–injuries than texting while driving (more…).

Texting

Next time you have the urge to send a text message, decide if this is the best way to communicate. Weigh the risks and benefits. And don’t text while on the move (unless someone else is driving)!

For further reading, see The Rise of Business Texting.