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Optimism for the future of sourcing November 23, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing.
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There has been an air of optimism in the IT service provider community recently, quite at odds with what we all read in the press on a day-to-day basis. It seems that there is still a lot of work to be done in the international outsourcing community.

Partly, this is driven by the global nature of the market. Economies such as China and Brazil are becoming huge consumer cultures and growth there is creating a need downstream for more and more IT services – to support the retailers, logistics firms, and other industry sectors all experiencing strong growth.

But this optimism remains tempered by a sense of foreboding, that the IT services industry has to change if it is to grow and succeed in the long term. There is an emergence of some important new markets, being driven by what might be termed ‘mega-trends’ in society – trends that go beyond the geographic alone.

While some service firms can only hope for a recovery in retail or banking, it’s going to be these mega-trends that really shape the future of the industry.

First, the ageing population in developed ‘western’ societies. By the middle of this century it is estimated that fewer than half of all Germans will be economically active. The majority will be either elderly or children, neither contributing to government finances. So how can a developed country like Germany continue to expect economic growth at the same time as maintaining the existing social welfare standards – all with fewer people working and contributing to the economic welfare of the nation?

Second, sustainability is back on the agenda. European governments have been implementing a system of carbon reduction commitments that will force companies to audit and reduce their carbon use. This push from government will change corporate culture across the entire European region – and beyond.

Third, international terrorism is not going away just yet. We need better security systems that are smarter, and yet still affordable.

These three major trends are going to change the shape of IT services in future. But how many executives on the buy or sell side of the outsourcing equation have considered just how much their own marketplace might change this coming century?

Madrid 11 M

Laptop thief caught by technology November 15, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Hardware.
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This story in the Daily Mail demonstrates a couple of interesting principles, that your hi-tech equipment is never really offline and just how easy it is to control a device remotely across the Internet.

Analysts call this concept of everything being accessible, the Internet of Things. It refers to almost any electronic device having an Internet Protocol (IP address) so it can be uniquely identified, and of course to also be connected.

In this case, the man who lost his laptop computer to a thief was able to connect to the computer and use the built-in webcam to take a picture of the thief. After this was sent to the police, he ended up being able to recover the stolen equipment. Of course the newspaper presented it as a good news story – all the more remarkable as distances of thousands of miles were also involved.

But we don’t think of distance when sending an email. Using the Internet is not like the old days of making a fixed line telephone call, with a different price depending on the physical distance between the two fixed points.

Thanks to tools such as Slingbox, it’s becoming fairly normal for many to access their own TV and video collection from anywhere. Your TV might be in London, automatically recording shows you like while you are away in Hong Kong on business. With remote access enabled, you can use a laptop to hook up to the TV allowing you to watch your recorded programmes.

This is all normal now. But the Internet of Things goes far beyond just being able to access TV programmes remotely. Imagine if every lock in every door was IP-enabled, if every security access in every office was IP-enabled, if every financial transaction was made on an IP-enabled device… the list goes on.

Soon, almost every electrical product will be IP-enabled and the possibilities for applications are endless. Soon the newspapers will be full of ads for fridges that can let you know whether you need any butter or not, not just computer engineers getting their stolen computers back. What may seem fantastic is about to become normal.
Laptop stolen