Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation had been a hot topic with both business and IT leaders. In fact, in 2019, ZK Research found that 93% of organizations had at least one digital initiative under way. During this past year, the number of digital initiatives has accelerated because organizations have had to find new ways of selling products, educating students, entertaining fans, treating patients and almost anything else you can imagine. Digital transformation has gone from something many businesses might have been slow-rolling to something that’s needed for survival.
While there are many different types of digital transformation projects, there is one commonality to most of them, and that’s data analytics. The ability to sift through the massive amounts of data generated and find key insights is critical to gaining and maintaining market leadership. Many people think of Amazon as a retailer or Facebook as a social networking company or Netflix as a media company. The reality is, they are data analytics companies that happen to deliver value through retail, social networking and streaming services, respectively.
Last week there were several announcements in the areas of analytics. Details of a few of the more significant ones can be found in my latest ZKast video, done in conjunction with eWEEK; highlights follow.
Extreme Networks named official WiFi analytics provider for Major League Baseball
Every sports league is trying to find ways of improving the fan experience through better engagement. One of the emerging methods of increasing fan engagement is through mobile devices, and that requires high-quality WiFi. Major League Baseball, like all sports leagues, has been thrust in, going partially or fully digital almost overnight because of the pandemic. This season MLB will try a number of initiatives, such as digital tickets and contactless payments for concession and merchandise. Extreme Networks will provide the WiFi for this.
Also, Extreme will provide the WiFi analytics for the MLB teams so they have a better idea of how the network is being used, what fans are doing and which social channels are most popular. Analysis of the wireless data can also be used to understand trends around the stadium that might require action. For example, the WiFi data might show that certain concession stands are significantly busier than others. In this case, the stadium could either increase the staff at the busy ones or provide digital signs guiding fans to less busy ones.
Stadiums are not easy, but Extreme is well immersed in them. In addition to MLB, they also provide WiFi and analytics for the NFL and NASCAR. Earlier this month, I interviewed Extreme’s COO, Norman Rice, about the role it was playing at Super Bowl LV. During the chat, he explained how the NFL made this year’s Super Bowl the first completely digital one.
The actions of MLB, the NFL and NASCAR are a good lesson for CIOs. Digital experiences require best-in-class WiFi and robust WiFi analytics.
Google revamps its collaboration suite for education
Google has fumbled its way around business collaboration for years. It seems every year someone predicts that this will be the year Google breaks out in the collaboration space. Then another year goes by, and it remains on the outside looking in, while companies like Cisco, Zoom and Microsoft, stretch their leads.
There has been one exception though, and that’s Google in the educational space; its products have been well adopted in education, particularly K-12. Recently, the company announced a major upgrade to the education suite.
From a branding perspective, G-Suite for Education will now be known as Workspace for Education, and this makes sense, because the product has literally become a digital workspace for students learning remotely. Google has also added a plethora of new features to the Classroom and Meet apps to improve learning and classroom management.
One of the more interesting new features is the analytics tools that track student engagement, which is one of the biggest problems in virtual learning. In a physical classroom, teachers can measure engagement by monitoring students. This is very difficult to do visually with virtual rooms. The new feature analyzes criteria such as submitted assignments, post comments and classroom interactions to create an engagement score.
There are a number of other features, such as enabling Meet to work better on low bandwidth connections, so students with poor Internet connections can still participate effectively.
Palo Alto Networks acquires Bridgecrew
Cybersecurity has always been important, but the pandemic has raised the visibility of it to company and business leaders. Last week Palo Alto Networks purchased DevOps security startup Bridgecrew for $156 million. The product is designed to enable DevOps practitioners to handle the massive amounts of security data to increase threat protection and work more efficiently.
The startup analyzes security information and code to automate the process of networking monitoring and security remediation. Typically, developers complain about security “getting in the way,” because it slows down the development process. With Bridgecrew, the process of tying security to application development is automated.
As the world becomes more open, dynamic and distributed, the IT environment becomes significantly more complex, making the process of protecting applications difficult, if not impossible, to do manually. Bridgecrew will enable Palo Alto Networks to extend its security platform from the network, cloud and endpoint to application code.
Microsoft uses analytics to make Edge smarter
At one time, Microsoft dominated the browser wars. But not so anymore; the one-time king of browsers is currently an afterthought in most people’s minds. Recently, it made an update to its Edge browser in which it uses crowdsourced data to prioritize or get rid of annoying notifications.
Many notifications are meant with good intentions in mind and remind us of important meetings, upcoming sales or news items. Hackers use the same system to bombard us with scams, malware or simply annoying information.
The latest version of the browser, Microsoft Edge 88, now includes a feature called Adaptive Notification Requests that uses crowdsourced data to determine whether a site’s notification dialog should be displayed. If there are a high number of users clicking no to a site’s subscription request, the browser will suppress it. If enough people like it, Edge shows it.
This feature alone likely won’t get people to dump Chrome or Safari, but it is one feature Edge has that the other guys don’t. It’s important for Microsoft to start driving innovation to chip away at Google and Apple’s lead–one user at a time.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.