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5 Essential Considerations You Need to Make Before Investing in New Technology

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’re ready to introduce or upgrade some technology tools, you are on the way to seeing great benefits. But shopping for the technologies you need can be tedious. Today, there are more options to choose from than ever. How will you know which mobile, scanning or printing devices are right for your business’s specific operations? And will they come preloaded with the software you need to make tasks or reporting easier, or will you have to shop around for that separately?

Before choosing the tech you think will be a good fit for your company, it’s fundamentally critical to recognize a mobile computer or printer is only a “solution” if it doesn’t create more work for your team. In a lot of cases, business owners and IT buyers don’t take the time to consider how their devices must function before purchasing them. In turn, they experience long-term challenges down the road that lead to even more inefficiencies, confusion and costs.

Remember, you are in a discovery phase. You are opening a door that can result in great improvement for your operations. However, it’s critical to set a foundation that will be solid enough to support your growing business — and technology infrastructure — long term.

Before purchasing any devices, consider these points.

1. Existing workflows

Your workflow is the fuel that keeps all the moving pieces of your business operating like a well-oiled machine. That’s why it’s important to consider how much you are willing to adapt your existing workflows to fit into the mold of new technologies. Will workflows have to be reconfigured with the deployment of these new devices, or can new hardware and software integrate without much change? If changes are needed, do you have the time, energy, money and resources available to adapt accordingly?

Tools that create the least number of alterations around your existing workflow may be the ideal starting point. Implementing technologies that seamlessly transition your staff from old devices (or no devices) to modern devices with familiar and easy-to-use interfaces will save your team time and a whole lot of aggravation.

2. The user experience

If the devices aren’t helping employees, your mobility solutions will just cause more frustration in the long run. Your employees want to feel well-supported by the devices without worrying about interference with their daily tasks. How will this piece of technology impact the employee’s work experience while using it? Is it practical for the user? Is it wearable? Could it interfere with an employee’s comfort if they, say, have small hands? Is it economical for you, personally, and your business? Is the system intuitive or will it take a while to train staff and onboard new staff? These are the key questions that should influence your device decisions. Comfort and lasting practicality aren’t always at the top of people’s tech shopping lists, but they are just as important as having a quality scanner that does the job.

Related: Addressing the Stress of Uncertainty

3. The flexibility and security of different operating systems (OS)

Look for an OS that is built with a business user in mind. You’ll need flexibility in how you can manage your mobile and printing solutions, and you’ll probably want help monitoring for and pushing security and maintenance updates.

As a smaller business, you may not see the need for mobile devices that run enterprise-grade Android OS versions or enterprise printers with specialized OS platforms. However, you have the same data security and privacy requirements as every other business, and your customers are relying on you to deliver on time — just like your larger competitors. So, you need to level the playing field and even give yourself an advantage when it comes to device management and security. If you opt for enterprise-grade devices, you’ll be able to easily stage your devices on your own timeframe, add or scale new apps and even provide remote support for employees who may be out making deliveries when they report device issues. They have a lot of self-service device management tools built-in – tools that also make it easier to push security patches and updates and protect both devices and data. Plus, they’re built to last for years and grow with your business.

You don’t want to have to get new devices every year or two as new apps are needed or an OS update is required. Even if you must spend a little bit more money upfront to get an enterprise-grade device, you’ll save so much money over five years — mainly because your devices will last that long, no matter how many times you need to upgrade the OS or workflow software.

4. Connectivity and visibility

Consider how your back-end systems sync or connect with the “edge” devices used inside and outside your four walls. Are workers in stores, warehouses or the field able to make reliable, real-time connections to the people and data they need to complete tasks or assist customers? Communication always needs to be at the forefront of operations. If signals are getting crossed and insight is getting lost, you won’t be happy with your new tech. You need to make sure the devices you give your team provide them full business visibility and keep them in sync with one another, partners and customers. Look for technologies with the following connectivity capabilities to ensure effective communications:

  • Indoors: You’ll want a secure Wi-Fi network. Just be sure each device’s Wi-Fi performance has been optimized for voice over IP (VoIP) and has a VoIP client to enable push-to-talk (PTT) and voice calls over Wi-Fi.

  • Outdoors: You’ll need devices with cellular 4G/5G connectivity that can support an outdoor PTT voice client. Also, confirm the device has best-in-class audio features like noise-canceling algorithms, multiple microphones and a loud front-facing speaker.

Are you moving items around a store or warehouse space? Several valuable track and trace technologies can accurately and automatically reflect those changes in back-end systems so staff, partners and customers have visibility into the current status of inventory or orders. For example, handheld RFID sleds can be attached to mobile computers to help associates quickly locate or account for items.

Related: Why Digitizing the Supply Chain Will Be the Next Global Technology Movement

5. Long-term value

You won’t be able to get much use out of your new devices if they break the first time they’re dropped, they can’t be used in the rain or they won’t be compatible with future wireless networks. Find solutions that are built with your business’s purpose. Are the devices you are interested in well-suited for the environment in which they will be used? Will they be able to run the types of apps you need them to down the line? Sync with networks and information systems?

There are different devices out there designed for specific operational needs. If your workplace is going to put a lot of physical impact on the handheld devices, printers or scanners, you will need ruggedly designed technology that can survive the daily hazards they will encounter through the years. You will also need to be able to add features or unlock certain functionality as workflows evolve. A quality investment is meant to last and perform up to your business standards.

Related: 2022 is approaching, what are the challenges for entrepreneurial leadership?

By asking the right questions before upgrading your technology, you, your employees and your customers will all be happy because of your thoughtful leadership. As much as I enjoy seeing businesses jump into their first big tech upgrade with two feet, it’s never fun to see all the challenges that come with moving too fast. It’s important to pause to consider the true driving purpose behind every technology decision. Discover the role your mobility investment is meant to play, and know that by minding the details, the time and money you spend today will pay off in lasting, impactful ways.

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Southeast Asia insurtech Igloo increases its Series B to $46M • TechCrunch

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Igloo, a Singapore-based insurtech focused on underserved communities in Southeast Asia, announced it has raised a Series B extension of $27 million, bringing the round’s total to $46 million. The first tranche of $19 million was announced in March, and led by Cathay innovation with participation from ACA and returning investors OpenSpace.

The newest round was led by the InsuResilience Investment Fund II, which was launched by the German development bank KfW for the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and is managed by impact investor BlueOrchard. Other lead investors were the Women’s World Banking Asset Management (WAM), FinnFund, La Maison and returning investors Cathay Innovation.

Igloo develops its insurance products and then partners with insurers who underwrite their policies. Igloo currently works with 20 global, regional and local insurers across Southeast Asia. It distributes its insurance products through partnerships, and is partnered with over 55 companies in 7 countries. It now offers 15 products, including policies for gig workers, gamers, cars and farmers in Vietnam, and says it has facilitated more than 300 million policies and increased gross written premiums by 30 times since 2019.

Co-founder and CEO Raunak Mehta told TechCrunch that Igloo decided to raise a Series B extension because of investor interest after the first tranche of funds. The extension will give the startup a multiyear runway and will be used for hiring, infrastructure and merger and acquisitions opportunities.

Mehta said that the penetration rate of insurance in much of Southeast Asia is low, less than $100 USD per capita across Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Igloo was created to make insurance more affordable and relevant to the needs of communities in Southeast Asia. Igloo distributes insurance products that range from 2 cents USD for phone screen protection to $600 USD for comprehensive motor insurance.

Igloo provides the tech stack for its products across Southeast Asia, which Mehta says means the entire insurance value chain, from product discovery to claims, is available on one platform. This makes it faster for it to brings the policies it distributes to market more quickly, and significantly reduce the operational cost of claims.

Mehta said more than 80% of claims are currently managed in an automated or semi-automated way, and that big data management, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence, has enabled it to reduce anti-selection risks, false positives and fraudulent claims. By bringing down the cost of managing claims, Igloo is able to offer lower premium to customers.

An example of Igloo’s insurance policies include ones for gig economy riders that it sells through its partnership with Foodpanda in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, and Lozi and Ahamove Vietnam. Its policy for Foodpanda, called PandaCare, includes motor, personal accident and hospitalization income protection for workers.

Another, more recent one, is is Weather Index Insurance product in Vietnam. The policy uses blockchain-backed smart contracts and automates claims payouts by using pre-assigned values for crop losses caused by weather and other natural events. Igloo says the Weather Index Insurance is Vietnam’s first parametric insurance (or a policy that agrees to make pre-agreed payouts based on trigger events like a flood) and its first integration of smart contracts into insurance.

Igloo also provides products that Mehta says directly or indirectly benefits women, through a partnership with Philinsure in the Philippines. They have distributed more than 5 million policies that cover credit default, personal accident, family relief and natural calamity support to women micro-entrepreneurs and their families. In Vietnam, more than 65% of the agents who use Igloo’s Ignite digital platform to sell insurance policies are women, and they are also the main beneficiaries of the Weather Index Insurance product.

The insurtech’s distribution partners include telecoms like Telkomsel, AIS and Mobifone, and e-commerce platforms like Shopee, Lazada, Bukalapak and JD.ID. It also works with financial service providers, like AEON, Gcash and UnionBank, to sell policies for their customer base, and provides products for insuring goods in transit and protecting fleet drivers through logistics platforms like Ahamove, Shippit, Loship and Locad.

Other Southeast Asia-based insurtechs that want to increase insurance penetration in the region and have raised large Series B rounds include Indonesia’s Fuse and PasarPolis and Thailand’s Sunday.

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Cyber Monday shopping expected to set record but annual growth has slowed | Adobe

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Cyber Monday shopping sales hit at least $6.3 billion through part of the day in the U.S. today, according to the latest online shopping data from Adobe Analytics.

It’s not unusual for Cyber Monday and Black Friday online shopping results to break records, but it this economic climate it’s encouraging to see it happen. Still, growth has slowed from 2021 and 2020 holiday seasons.

Consumers spent $6.3 billion up through 3:00 pm Pacific time for Cyber Monday. Adobe expects that when the final tally is in, consumers will spend between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion for the day, making Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day of the year (and of all time).

Today, the top 15 hot sellers (not in ranked order) have included Legos, Hatchimals, Disney Encanto, Pokémon cards, Bluey, Dyson products, strollers, Apple Watches, drones, and digital cameras. Gaming consoles also remain popular, along with games including Mario Party, FIFA 23, Madden 23 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

Over the past weekend, the top sellers were included Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, Bluey, Disney Encanto, L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Roblox, and Fortnite in the toys category. Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remain the top selling gaming consoles, with popular games including FIFA 23, God of War Ragnarök, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Madden 23, and NBA 2k23. Other hot sellers included Apple iPads, Apple MacBooks, digital cameras, Roku devices, drones, gift cards and Instapots.

Black Friday online shopping sales were $9.12 billion, up 2.3% from a year ago, and Thanksgiving itself came in at $5.29 billion, up 2.9% from a year ago. Those were above Adobe’s projections. Last year, consumers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday.

Strong consumer spend has been driven by net-new demand, and not just higher prices. The Adobe Digital Price Index, which tracks online prices across 18 product categories (complements the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which also includes prices for offline only products and services like gasoline and rent) shows that prices online have been nearly flat in recent months (down 0.7% YoY in October 2022).

Adobe Analytics says Cyber Monday will set a record.

Adobe’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but if online inflation were factored in, there would still be growth in underlying consumer demand, the company said.

On a category basis, toys were a major growth driver in the days leading up to Cyber Monday, with online sales up 452% over the average day in October 2022. Appliances (up 305%) and baby/toddler products (up 289%) also saw strong demand, in addition to electronics (up 276%) and apparel (up 258%).

Shoppers will find record discounts today for computers (peaking at 27% off listed price). Deals will also be found in nearly all categories tracked, including apparel (19%), toys (33%), electronics (25%), sporting goods (16%), televisions (15%), and furniture (11%). Those looking to buy an appliance should consider waiting until Thursday (December 1), when discounts are set to peak at 18% on average.

Weekend spending remained strong

Consumers spent over a Black Friday’s worth of ecommerce over the weekend at $9.55 billion, up 4.4% YoY ($4.59 billion on November 26, up 2.6% YoY / $4.96 billion on November, up 6.1% YoY). Season-to-date (November 1 to November 27), consumers have spent a total of $96.42 billion online, up 2.1% YoY.

And while the big days (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday) have reached new heights, consumers spent at record levels all season. Since November 1, shoppers spent over $2 billion every single day, with 19 days above $3 billion in online spend. Broad, early discounts were the main drivers for the shift in consumer spending.

“Shoppers have seen massive discounts this past week, which is the exact opposite situation from last season when supply chain constraints kept prices elevated,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “While discounting will have an impact on margins for retailers, it is also driving a level of demand that can help brands build long-term loyalty and net some short-term gains.”

Additional Adobe Analytics Insights

Over the weekend, online sales of toys were up 383% (compared to average daily sales for the category in October 2022), with baby toys seeing strong demand (up 252%). Other categories that surged over the weekend include jewelry (up 230%), sporting goods (up 239%), and apparel (up 217%).

With online spending hitting new records and inflation impacting consumers, flexible payments have become a big story this season. In the last week (November 21 to November 27), “buy now, pay later” orders have risen 68% and revenue has increased 72%, when compared to the week prior.

Over the weekend, smartphones drove over half of online sales for the first time (52%, up from 48% last year). Adobe expects mobile shopping to dip on Cyber Monday however, based on historical trends. Many people are back at work and using laptops, which will be the preferred device for shopping online.

Forecast for Cyber Week

Adobe expects Cyber Week (the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) to generate $34.8 billion in online spend, up 2.8% YoY, and represent 16.3% share of the full November through December holiday season.

Cyber Monday is expected to remain the season’s and year’s biggest online shopping day, bringing in between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion. Black Friday generated a record $9.12 billion in online spend, up 2.3% YoY, while Thanksgiving brought $5.29 billion in online spend, up 2.9% YoY.

Adobe analyzes direct consumer transactions online. The analysis covers over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories.

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Snowflake 101: 5 ways to build a secure data cloud 

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Today, Snowflake is the favorite for all things data. The company started as a simple data warehouse platform a decade ago but has since evolved into an all-encompassing data cloud supporting a wide range of workloads, including that of a data lake

More than 6,000 enterprises currently trust Snowflake to handle their data workloads and produce insights and applications for business growth. They jointly have more than 250 petabytes of data on the data cloud, with more than 515 million data workloads running each day.

Now, when the scale is this big, cybersecurity concerns are bound to come across. Snowflake recognizes this and offers scalable security and access control features that ensure the highest levels of security for not only accounts and users but also the data they store. However, organizations can miss out on certain basics, leaving data clouds partially secure. 

Here are some quick tips to fill these gaps and build a secure enterprise data cloud.

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1. Make your connection secure

First of all, all organizations using Snowflake, regardless of size, should focus on using secured networks and SSL/TLS protocols to prevent network-level threats. According to Matt Vogt, VP for global solution architecture at Immuta, a good way to start would be connecting to Snowflake over a private IP address using cloud service providers’ private connectivity such as AWS PrivateLink or Azure Private Link. This will create private VPC endpoints that allow direct, secure connectivity between your AWS/Azure VPCs and the Snowflake VPC without traversing the public Internet. In addition to this, network access controls, such as IP filtering, can also be used for third-party integrations, further strengthening security.

2. Protect source data

While Snowflake offers multiple layers of protection – like time travel and fail-safe – for data that has already been ingested, these tools cannot help if the source data itself is missing, corrupted or compromised (like malicious encrypted for ransom) in any way. This kind of issue, as Clumio’s VP of product Chadd Kenney suggests, can only be addressed by adopting measures to protect the data when it is resident in an object storage repository such as Amazon S3 – before ingest. Further, to protect against logical deletes, it is advisable to maintain continuous, immutable, and preferably air-gapped backups that are instantly recoverable into Snowpipe.

3. Consider SCIM with multi-factor authentication

Enterprises should use SCIM (system for cross-domain identity management) to help facilitate automated provisioning and management of user identities and groups (i.e. roles used for authorizing access to objects like tables, views, and functions) in Snowflake. This makes user data more secure and simplifies the user experience by reducing the role of local system accounts. Plus, by using SCIM where possible, enterprises will also get the option to configure SCIM providers to synchronize users and roles with active directory users and groups.

On top of this, enterprises also should use multi-factor authentication to set up an additional layer of security. Depending on the interface used, such as client applications using drivers, Snowflake UI, or Snowpipe, the platform can support multiple authentication methods, including username/password, OAuth, keypair, external browser, federated authentication using SAML and Okta native authentication. If there’s support for multiple methods, the company recommends giving top preference to OAuth (either snowflake OAuth or external OAuth) followed by external browser authentication and Okta native authentication and key pair authentication.

4. Column-level access control

Organizations should use Snowflake’s dynamic data masking and external tokenization capabilities to restrict certain users’ access to sensitive information in certain columns. For instance, dynamic data masking, which can dynamically obfuscate column data based on who’s querying it, can be used to restrict the visibility of columns based on the user’s country, like a U.S. employee can only view the U.S. order data, while French employees can only view order data from France.

Both features are pretty effective, but they use masking policies to work. To make the most of it, organizations should first determine whether they want to centralize masking policy management or decentralize it to individual database-owning teams, depending on their needs. Plus, they would also have to use invoker_role() in policy conditions to enable unauthorized users to view aggregate data on protected columns while keeping individual data hidden.

5. Implement a unified audit model

Finally, organizations should not forget to implement a unified audit model to ensure transparency of the policies being implemented. This will help them actively monitor policy changes, like who created what policy that granted user X or group Y access to certain data, and is as critical as monitoring query and data access patterns. 

To view account usage patterns, use system-defined, read-only shared database named SNOWFLAKE. It has a schema named ACCOUNT_USAGE containing views that provide access to one year of audit logs.

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