Sept 29 – Oct 5

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This week’s headline story: Business Supported MOOCs

empty_classroomMassively Open Online Courses or MOOCs have received a lot of attention, but questions remain as to the value that businesses place on students who receive education through MOOCs rather than through traditional colleges. That question is beginning to be resolved. Major corporations are beginning to invest in building MOOCs that meet their specific needs. Last week, MOOC provider Udacity announced the Open Education Alliance, which allows students to earn a free certificate based on a series of online courses developed with input from Google, AT&T and several other companies. Similarly, MIT and its MOOC partner edX are offering the XSeries – a series of courses based on input from a consortium of about 50 companies, including UPS, Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The XSeries will prepare students to take a test and earn a “verified certificate” in subjects like computer science and supply-chain management. Meanwhile, companies such as Yahoo Inc. have begun reimbursing employees who take certified courses from Coursera, another MOOC provider.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Okay, you’re familiar with MOOCs, how about MOORs? The first Massively Open Online Research or MOOR course is being offered by a team from UC San Diego. In “Bioinformatics Algorithms – Part 1,” students will work in teams on specific research projects under the direction of prominent bioinformatics scientists from around the world.
    Is Massive Open Online Research the Next Frontier for Education? [UCSD News]
  • Scientists at Stanford University have built the first functioning computer based on carbon nanotube transistors. “This could be a revolutionary technological leap,” says Dan Olds, an analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group. “It takes much less power to change the state of a carbon nanotube versus today’s transistors,” Olds said. “Nanotubes are much better at dissipating heat. You can pack more nanotube transistors onto a chip. We would see devices that can do a whole lot more useful work while using a whole lot less juice — and that’s a great combination.”
    Replacing silicon with nanotubes could revolutionize tech [Computerworld]
  • The creator of the world wide web and director of the web standards body W3C, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is backing measures to embed support for Digital Rights Managament in HTML5. The measures Berbers-Lee backs would add support for Encrypted Media Extensions to HTML 5 allowing media companies to publish DRM-protected music, movies, and other media to the web reducing worries that users will download and distribute the media illegally. Berners-Lee believes that supporting DRM on the Web is necessary in order to get media companies to utilize the Web for media distribution. Free software advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Free Software Foundation, have called the proposals “disastrous”. They argue it is an attempt to elevate the business interests of media companies over the greater good of an open web where information can be shared freely, and would place unacceptable restrictions on how individuals use computers.
    World wide web creator rules DRM support should be baked into web tech [ZDNet]
  • NASA is planning to send a 3d printer into space next year allowing astronauts to print tools and parts as needed.
    NASA To Launch 3-D Printer into Space [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Microblogging service Twitter has filed for an initial public offering and should debut on the stock exchange in November. The firm aims to raise as much as $1 billion under the TWRT ticker symbol.
    Post-IPO, Twitter Co-Founder Moving to Billionaire Status [NewsFactor]
  • Apple has displaced Coca-Cola as the leading global brand in Interbrand’s 14th annual Best Global Brands report, ending the soda maker’s 13-year rule. Google took 2nd place pushing Coke down to 3rd.
    Apple, Google Stomp Coke in Global Brand Ratings [Ecommerce Times]
  • There is unrest amidst Microsoft’s Board of Directors. Several of the board members are pressuring Bill Gates to step down as chairman. They are looking to reboot the company with fresh ides from a new CEO and new Chairman of the Board.
    Mutiny at Microsoft Over Gates’ Future Role [Ecommerce Times]
  • Amazon is about to join Apple, Roku and others in the set-top box business. Amazon’s box will provide instant access to Amazon Videos, as well as Netflix and Hulu Plus.
    Amazon To Debut Set-Top Box For Holidays [NewsFactor]

and finally…

  • The new iOS7 recently released by Apple for iPhones and iPads has a new user interface where icons seem to float above the background, and apps zoom in an out as the user interacts with them. While most users think the new user interface is cool, a minority are complaining that the zoom animations are making them nauseous and giving them headaches.
    Does iOS 7 Make You Feel Sick? [NewsFactor]
    Twitter IPO Filing Shows It Ain’t No Facebook [Technology Review]

April 6 – 13, 2013

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This week’s headline story: Bitcoin – A Wild, Unregulated Digital Currency

bitcoin-600x400A new kind of currency gained national attention this week when it was discovered that the Winklevoss twins, who you may remember as the Olympic rowers who claim to be the legal owners of Facebook, own around $11 million of the stuff. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not managed by any government or central authority. It was created by a group of hackers in 2009 and is managed by a system of servers called bitcoin miners that track bitcoin transactions, and produce and sell 25 new bitcoins every 10 minutes. Yes, people pay real cash for bitcoins. One bitcoin goes for around $120. They are likely to go up in value in 2017, when bitcoin miners are programed to reduce production by 50 percent.

Because they are unregulated, bitcoins provide individuals with the ability to perform all kinds of transactions “off the books.” As many as 70,000 bitcoin transactions can occur in any given day. As you might guess, a good percentage of those transactions are for illegal goods or gains. However, bitcoin advocates are quick to point out that many, many perfectly legal transactions occur in bitcoin every day. The Winklevos twins and others like them believe that bitcoins represent the first true global currency. Other financial analysts call bitcoins a Ponzi scheme and a bubble waiting to burst leaving investors broke. Serious investors are beginning to invest in bitcoins on the chance that the currency might just take off and make a fortune for early investors.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • New technologies from AT&T and Japan’s NTT dramatically increase the distance that data can travel through long distance fiber-optic connections. The new breakthrough will help telecom companies cope with the anticipated surge in data use—projected at 30 to 40 percent a year, by increasing the throughput of undersea fiber optic cables.
    AT&T Researchers Set a Long-Haul Data Record [Tech Review]
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley leaders have teamed up to form a political-focused group named Fwd.us (pronounced “forward us”). Forward Us is committed to reform U.S. immigration policy so that talented, skilled immigrants are provided a path to citizenship. It also calls for higher standards and accountability in schools and increased focus on learning about science, technology, engineering and math. The end goal is to address the shortage of science, technology and engineering professionals in the U.S. to allow the country to advance economically.
    Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Gets Political [NewsFactor]
  • An online survey of around 3,000 respondents by VitalSmarts found that 78 percent of users believe online incivility is rising, and 2 in 5 users have blocked, unsubscribed or unfriended someone over an argument conducted via social media.The firm recommends keeping an eye on the use of offensive words, pausing to keep emotions in check, pointing out areas of agreement before noting the disagreements, and taking emotional conversations offline.
    Rising Rudeness in Social Media, Study Finds [NewsFactor]
  • Verizon and other wireless carriers have altered their privacy policies to begin selling member location data anonymously. The huge data sets show where people live, work, and play and should yield some valuable information for businesses, city planners, health professionals, and others. The move also provides carriers with a new sources of revenue.
    How Wireless Carriers Are Monetizing Your Movements [TechnologyReview]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • The latest security patch from Microsoft has caused some Windows 7 PCs to crash and not recover. “We’ve determined that the update, when paired with certain third-party software , can cause system errors,” said Dustin Childs, group manager of Response Communications for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. Microsoft advises that Windows 7 users uninstall the update to revert to the pre-patch state.
    Windows Security Patch Killing Some PCs [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • The PC market is down 13.9 percent compared with the year-ago, the steepest decline ever in a single quarter. Some analysts are blaming the decline on Microsoft’s new Windows 8 which some say not only failed to stimulate the market, but actually may have effectively killed it.
    Did Win 8 Kill the PC Market? Worst Quarterly Drop Ever [NewsFactor]
  • Google Glass is coming! The head-mounted computer will be released within a month and will cost $1500.
    Google Glass Shipping Within a Month — for $1,500 [NewsFactor]
  • Facebook has begun charging its users to send messages to individuals outside their friends list. It now costs $1 per message to send a message to a non-friend’s inbox. In the UK Facebook charges $15 per message to message celebrities. The new policy is intended to reduce spam, while making Facebook some money.
    Spam Attack? Facebook’s $1 Message Charge Expands [NewsFactor]
  • LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, has purchased mobile newsreader app Pulse. The acquisition indicates LinkedIn’s aspirations to become the go-to resource for industry-specific news on mobile devices.
    LinkedIn’s Mobile Strategy Gets a Pulse [Ecommerce Times]

and finally….

  • Google has created new policies that allows its members to decide what happens to their data when they die. Google members can choose whether to delete their data after three, six, nine or 12 months of account inactivity. Alternatively, users can designate a digital next-of-kin to receive their data. The new policies provide users with privacy after death, and also address the immense amount of data that is accumulating online.
    How Long To Let a Digital Life Linger? Google Lets You Pick [NewsFactor]

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February 11 – 17, 2013

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This week’s headline story: The drones are coming! The drones are coming!

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 10.31.31 AMRemote controlled drone aircraft, that can carry video cameras and other sensors, are empowering tools for law enforcement, news agencies, and other industries in the U.S.. Law enforcement authorities say drones can be a cost-effective technology to help with a host of policing efforts, including locating bombs, finding lost children, monitoring weather and wildlife or assisting rescue workers in natural disasters. While that may be true, drones have also given rise to fears of government surveillance. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington calls drones “a concrete and instantly graspable threat to privacy.”

Public concern over drones is prompting local and state lawmakers across the country to develop laws restricting their use or grounding them altogether. In Seattle, Mayor Michael McGinn answered public protests by banning the use of drones. Last week, members of Congress introduced a bill that would prohibit drones from conducting what it called “targeted surveillance” of individuals and property without a warrant. The Federal Aviation Administration has received about 80 requests from police, government agencies and others, for clearance to fly drones. Consumer grade drones that can carry video cameras or iPhones are available for less than $400 from companies like HeliPal. No doubt we will be hearing a lot regarding drones and privacy over the course of the year.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Google has prided itself on being able to track the spread of the flu virus based in information that it mines from user search and social media data. But this year, Google’s projection was off… way off. Google predicted nearly twice as many flu cases as actually occurred. Analysts suspect that the widespread media coverage of the flu, caused many more flu-related searches, and online conversations, throwing a monkey wrench in Google’s algorithm. These results serve to caution researches about the dangers of drawing scientific conclusions from online interactions.
    When Google got flu wrong [Nature]
  • President Obama’s State of the Union address featured a record number of references to technology, suggesting that technical innovation is the key to U.S. economic recovery and global leadership. The president referenced a number of technologies including Macs, 3-D printing, drugs to regenerate damaged organs, new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful, wind energy, solar energy, technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner, high-speed rail, high-speed Internet, high-tech schools, self-healing power grids, and modern pipelines to withstand a storm, to name a few.
    Obama: Technology Will Save the Country [TechReview]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • In the wake of cyberattacks against major news and media agencies, the big anti-virus companies have been forced to admit that their tools are insufficient against today’s most serious attacks. When it comes to so-called advanced persistent threats, Symantec says that “antivirus software alone is not enough.” Zero day viruses, those that are brand new and not guarded against by antivirus software, require more sophisticated methods of detection. New companies like FireEye are developing new techniques to battle these types of viruses and cyberattacks. Meanwhile, as the President presents technology as the savior of the economy, others wonder if technology might not be our downfall.
    Targeted Hacking Forces a New Reality on Antivirus Companies [TechReview]
  • President Obama has signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to share cyberthreat information with private companies and to develop standards to secure companies that provide the nation’s critical infrastructure.
    Obama signs cybersecurity order [Computerworld]
  • Facebook has reported that its network was breached by sophisticated hackers around the same time frame that Twitter, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others made similar admissions. Facebook has not found any evidence that Facebook user data was compromised. Both Facebook and Twitter were breached through a well-publicized vulnerability in Oracle’s Java software.

    Facebook Says Hackers Breached Its Computers [NYTimes]

  • Microsoft had a huge patch Tuesday this month: 12 security bulletins to fix a whopping 57 vulnerabilities, including five critical issues. The updates require several system reboots prompting security analysts to classify this month’s Patch Tuesday as “disruptive.”

    Microsoft Unleashes a Mammoth, ‘Disruptive’ Patch Tuesday [News Factor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • In the U.S. smartphones currently make up roughly 80 percent of new phone sales, and roughly half the phone-carrying public use smartphones. However, in poorer countries smartphones have been priced out of reach, leaving most of the global population using feature phones. Now, with smartphone prices coming down, the global population is gradually switching over. Research firm Gartner is projecting that by the end of the year, smartphones will outsell feature phones world wide.
    Gartner: Smartphones To Outsell Feature Phones this Year [NewsFactor]

and finally….

  • Microsoft has purchased a Los Angeles television studio to produce original interactive television content for the Xbox. The new Xbox Entertainment Studios is a 125-employee production studio being led by former CBS Television President Nancy Tellem.
    Microsoft Seeks to Boost Xbox Claim on the Living Room [Newsfactor]

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January 14 – 20, 2013

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This week’s headline story: Facebook Graph Search

facebook-graph-searchFacebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature coming to Facebook. It’s called Graph Search, and Zuckerberg described it as an integral part of the product, a third pillar, along with the newsfeed and timeline. Using Graph Search, Facebook users will be able to search all of their connections – what Facebook calls their graph, in order to find people, places, photos, and items of interests. So for example, a Facebook user could search for Mexican restaurants in Tucson recommended by friends, places in Ireland that their friends visited, or bands that are most popular with friends. Graph search will also provide search results outside your graph courtesy of Microsoft Bing. While some are proclaiming this the future of search, others are predicting major issues around privacy, and ugly unintended consequences. The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends that concerned Facebook users utilize the “Who can see my stuff?” feature and click “View as” to see how their Facebook profile and timeline appears to the public and to the various people in their groups of friends.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • You may recall a couple years ago when Kansas City MO won the privileged of serving as host to a new super-fast Internet service courtesy of Google. With that network now in place, Internet startups are flocking to Kansas City is take advantage of gigabit Internet speeds, giving the city the nickname “Silicon Prairie.”Google’s Ultrafast Internet Creates ‘Silicon Prairie’ [NewsFactor]
  • San Jose State University is signing a deal with the Massively Open Online Course company Udacity, to deliver a series of remedial and introductory courses to its students. San Jose State and other California State colleges are looking to MOOCs as a solution to the issue of an increasing number of incoming students who are unable to meet basic college entrance requirements.California to Give Web Courses a Big Trial [NYTimes]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • One year to the minute after the FBI shut down file sharing service Megaupload, the Internet tycoon that owned the service, Kim Dotcom, held a huge party at his mansion in New Zealand to celebrate the opening of his new service, simply named Mega. Mega is a cloud storage service that encrypts the data users upload giving the user the encryption key. So only the user, and those the user selects to share files with, can access files. Not even Mega knows or can find out what users are storing on its servers. Mega will force governments to seriously consider the level of responsibility Internet companies maintain for users activities on the Internet. It is likely that the movie industry and the FBI will be examining Mega closely to determine if the service is encouraging the illegal sharing of copyright protected property.A Year After the Closing of Megaupload, a File-Sharing Tycoon Opens a New Site [NYTimes]
  • Google researchers think that two-step identity verification isn’t secure enough. They are investigating the use of physical passwords, which might come in the form of a piece of jewelry such as a ring. Imagine being logged onto your computer and all of your web services automatically by the ring on your finger.Google sees one password ring to rule them all [Computerworld]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • AI expert and singularity evangelist Ray Kurzweil has taken the job of Director of Engineering at Google. Kurzweil has revealed details around an upcoming AI project at Google, focused on helping computers to better understand human language.Ray Kurzweil lifts lid on Google AI project [ZDNet]
  • Google is planning to bring it’s voice-recognition feature to Chrome browser. Soon users of Chrome on all platforms will be able to dictate to their Chrome browser and Web apps.Google Bringing Voice Recognition to Chrome Web Browser [NewsFactor]
  • Google has filed for a patent for a laser-projected keyboard on its Google Glasses which would project a keyboard on a surface allowing users to enter data by pressing virtual keys.Patent Filed for Laser-Projected Keypad with Google Glasses [NewsFactor]
  • Google is hosting two hackathons – one in San Francisco and the other in New York, where hackers will get a crack at creating apps for Google glasses.Google Glass Hackathons Unveiled to Further Develop the Technology [eWeek]
  • eBay received a much needed breath of life with its recently released mobile app. The app supports the popular activity of “showrooming” where shoppers in retail stores can check prices of items on eBay and make online purchases through eBay’s paypal service in under 30 seconds. eBay’s revenue jumped 18 percent to US$3.99 billion for the quarter after the release of the app.Showrooming Shoppers Send eBay Soaring [Ecommerce Times]

and finally….

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Google’s New Stuff

It is the season for developer conferences. Two weeks ago I reported on Apple’s developer conference and Apple’s unveiling of the new Macbook Pro product line. Last week it was Microsoft developers conference and the unveiling of the new Microsoft Surface tablet. This week it’s Google’s developer conference where Google unveiled its own tablet called the Nexus 7. While Microsoft’s new Surface tablet competes in price and features with the iPad, the Nexus 7 is more in line with the Kindle Fire, priced at $199 like the Fire but outperforming the Fire in several areas. The Nexus 7 features a 7″ HD display made of strong Corning Gorilla Glass, a 1.2 MP front-facing camera, a quad core Tegra 3 processor, and a 12-core GPU that has gamers drooling. The Nexus 7 will be released later this month running the new Android 4.1 – Jelly Bean.

Google engineers also demonstrated Google’s futuristic augmented reality glasses at the developers conference, providing developers with the opportunity to purchase prototypes for $1500. And if that weren’t enough, Google unveiled a set top box called Nexus Q, which allows viewers to stream content from the cloud using their Android smartphone or tablet. Both the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q set top box integrate with Google Play – Google’s new cloud-based media store providing music, books, magazines, movies, TV shows, apps and games.

Microsoft’s New Stuff

Last week I talked about all of the new Apple stuff announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. This week it’s Microsoft’s turn. The big announcement, that many anticipated, was a new Microsoft tablet computer, named Surface. That’s right – the name was borrowed from Microsoft’s tabletop technology which will be getting a new name. Since Microsoft has traditionally stayed out of the hardware business, except for the Xbox, the failed Zune, and accessories like keyboards and mice, this announcement has caused quite a stir. The decision to make its own tablet suggests Microsoft’s disappointment with Windows tablets being manufactured by its partners, and puts Microsoft in direct competition with those partners. The first reviews of the Surface tablet are very positive; the devices do appear to be a cut above its competition. Of course, its biggest competitor will be Apple’s iPad. Surface offers some significant benefits over the iPad. The biggest benefit is its integration with Windows PCs and phones, and the inclusion of a fully functional version of Microsoft Office. Surface may be the first tablet to offer true productivity capabilities for business users. Surface also comes with a built-in stand and a cover that features an integrated keyboard. Covers come in a range of colors that automatically blend with the Surface display color settings.

Microsoft also announced its next edition of its Windows Phone OS – version 8. Windows Phone 8 will be INcompatible with current Windows handsets, as will be apps developed for Windows 8. So, if you are considering a Windows phone, you would be wise to wait a few months for Windows Phone 8 handsets, which are scheduled to roll out this Fall. Windows Phone 8 offers full integration with Windows 8 PCs and tablets. It also offers tighter security features that should please businesses. As we approach the release of Windows 8 across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, we begin to see Microsoft’s strategy unfurling, and perhaps a glimmer of hope for a company that has been steamed-rolled over by Apple and the world’s transition from desktop to mobile.

US Gov Responsible for Stuxnet

The New York Times believes it has the full story on Stuxnet – the malware that targeted Iranian nuclear reactors last year. In a recent series of articles based on 18 months of investigative journalism, the Times reports that as suspected, Stuxnet is the product of U.S. and Israeli security agencies who developed it as a cyberweapon to sabotage Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities. The Times reported that Stuxnet was part of a larger effort code-named Olympic Games that began under the Bush administration and was sustained and accelerated under President Obama. Anonymous sources who participated in Olympic Games say that they developed several sophisticated cyberweapons intended to gather intelligence and infiltrate Iranian nuclear facilities. One of these malware weapons accidentally leaked out of an Iranian nuclear facility network and was discovered by the public, and dubbed Stuxnet by computer security experts.

It is believed that at least three extremely sophisticated cyberweapon worms have been developed as part of Olympic Games. They include Stuxnet, Duqu, and perhaps a newly discovered worm dubbed Flame, which has been described as super-cyber spying malware recently found infecting PCs in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. The US government has so far not responded to the New York Times story. Analysts predict an escalation in cyber attacks against U.S. firms in retaliation for the actions reported by the New York Times. Read the articles yourself using the links in the show notes.

Cybersecurity researchers have found common code between the Stuxnet Virus and the new Flame Virus indicating that the two probably share a common author. According to a recent NYTimes article that author or development team is on the payroll of the US government.
Cybersleuths Find Link Between Flame, Stuxnet Virus [NewsFactor]

A Big Week for Zuckerberg and Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook had a big week last week with a mix of good news and bad. The week began with Zuckerberg’s birthday. The young billionaire turned 28 on Monday. On Thursday, Zuckerberg’s birthday present arrived as Facebook raised $16 billion in its initial public offering valuing Facebook at $104 billion. On Friday, shares of Facebook began trading at $42.05 but fell soon afterward, closing at $38.23, just 0.6 percent above the initial public offering price.

While investors may have to wait a while before experiencing any financial gain from their investments, Facebook executives and many share-holding employees have become instant millionaires and billionaires. The company’s 3500 employees are sitting on about $10 billion of the equity. Roughly 1, 000 employees have become instant millionaires (on paper at least). Mark Zuckerberg increased his worth by around $19 billion. It is expected that the influx of money into Silicon Valley will jump-start the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Facebook’s IPO was not without its challenges. Privacy advocates organized flash mob protests against Facebook on Tuesday at locations in New York and San Francisco over Facebook’s invasive privacy practices. Just prior to the IPO General Motors pulled its paid advertising from Facebook, an advertising campaign reportedly worth $10 million. The move caused many Facebook advertisers to question the value of advertising on Facebook. The NASDAQ suffered some trading glitches, Friday morning, as Facebook shares went public, as it wrestled with an extraordinarily high number of transactions. All of this, along with skepticism on the part of some Wall Street investors, kept the price of shares from taking off, turning the day into a bitter sweet win for Facebook.

It turns out that the public wasn’t that surprised by the luke warm reception Facebook shares received. Roughly half of those polled by the Associated Press/CNBC think Facebook is a passing fad. Only a third of those surveyed think the company’s expected value is appropriate, while 50 percent say it is too high.

But that’s not the end of Facebook news this week. A class action law suite has been filed against Facebook for tracking its users even after they are logged out. If guilty, Facebook could pay up to $15 Billion.

And for icing on the cake, Zuckerber announced that he has married his longtime girlfriend from Stanford, Priscilla Chan. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg’s backyard with fewer than 100 guests. Zuckerberg gave up his trademark hoodie for a black suit and tie with a white shirt. The announcement was made, of course, on Facebook.

Cloud Battle Escalates

The personal cloud storage battle escalated this week when Google released its Google Drive app. Google Drive works like the popular DropBox app to support storing files in the cloud. When Google Drive is installed on a computer, a folder is provided on the desktop that represents your Google Drive. Anything stored in that folder will be stored on Google’s server – in the cloud. Anyone with a Google account can use Google Drive to access a free 5 GB of cloud storage. Google Drive integrates nicely with Gmail, Google Docs, Google+ and with Android mobile devices.

Beating Google to the punch by one day, Microsoft announced a new personal cloud storage service on its SkyDrive offering 7 GB of space – besting Google by 2 GB, but failing to get nearly as many headlines. Microsoft’s SkyDrive integrates well with Microsoft Office and Windows desktop and mobile platforms. Not to be overlooked, DropBox announced that it is raising its free storage capacity to 5 GB matching Google Drive. SugarSync kept it’s cloud storage service in the news with an announcement of a new iPad app. SugarSync offers 5 GB of free storage. All of these services provide more storage for an additional monthly fee.

So why might a person consider using one of these cloud storage services?

  • Cloud storage provides a convenient method of backing up and securing your data – the cloud provider takes over the responsibility of keeping your data safe.
  • More than just backup storage, cloud computing can act as central storage for your data, allowing access to your files from any Internet connected device so you can work from anywhere anytime on any of your computers or mobile devices.
  • Versioning allows you to go back to previous versions of files when mistakes are made
  • Cloud computing is ideal for sharing files and folders with collaborators. You can assign users the ability to edit files or restrict them to read only.
  • Rather than having to attach files to email, you can simply share them from cloud storage by emailing a link to the file. Cloud storage web apps, allow many file formats to be accessed from within a Web browser.
  • Photos can be automatically uploaded and stored centrally on a cloud drive eliminating the need to copy photos between mobile devices and PCs – this also makes it easy to share photos and galleries with friends.
  • Some services allow you to stream music and movies from your cloud drive.

With all of these advantages, what may cause a person to decide not to use cloud storage? Privacy! There has been much controversy surrounding Google’s Privacy Policy which basically states that Google can do anything it wants with your files. While some believe that the policy is simply worded to protect Google from liability, others foresee Google using its user’s files for targeted advertisements or worse. This possibility exists with any of the cloud storage services. Still, Google’s new cloud drive sets the stage for a monumental shift in the way people store and access their personal data.

Big Data and the Internet of Things

A new buzz word is emerging as a mainstream topic for corporate executives. Actually, it’s two words: BIG DATA. The concept of Big Data emerged from the vast and exponentially-growing amount of data generated by social media, mobile devices, apps, and all the other digital tools wielded by the global population every day. Corporations and others are driven to collect all of that data and analyze it to gain useful insights that can be used to make better business decisions. Companies like Google, Facebook, AT&T, and many others have gotten good at collecting the data. Developing software to analyze the massive amount of data being collected is the primary challenge of the Big Data industry.

In coming years that challenge will become much more complex. Today, the average Internet user owns two Internet connected devices: typically a smart phone and computer. Over the next couple years, that number is expected to jump to seven, more than tripling the amount of devices on the Internet. The bulk of new Internet devices will represent things rather than people – thermostats, security systems, televisions, electric meters, cars, refrigerators and other appliances. These devices will increase the amount of Big Data by adding information like the temperature in every home at every moment, the energy usage of each residence and business, eating habits, laundry habits, water usage, waste production, and more. Add this information up and the Internet becomes a source of real-time information about the state of the entire planet at any given moment in time.

IBM researchers view the Internet as becoming a “global electronic nervous system, with trillions of individual sensors monitoring the status of everything of interest to humans.” IBM wants to stream all of those exabytes of data to its cloud-based cluster supercomputers to extract the “ultimate value from the data using Analytics software modeled on the human mind.”

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Big Data in coming months and years, as the world awakens to the potential of IBM’s vision. Many companies are working on developing analytics software that can tackle Big Data for all industries including health care, transportation and energy. Last week, Big Data company Splunk Inc, made an impressive debut on Nasdaq where it doubled its $17 initial public offering price. This marked Wall Street’s awakening to the value of Big Data, and alerted the media to a new industry focus. Big Data could provide many benefits beyond improving corporate profit margins and padding investment broker’s wallets. If managed properly, Big Data could also provide valuable insight for improving life on Earth. Managing Big Data in a secure and ethical manner, with concern for consumer privacy, may end up being the biggest challenge of all.