Monthly Archives: December 2017

2017 Is Done. It’s Time For 2018…

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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New Year at Teks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

 

Time flies. It seems only a couple days back that we were welcoming 2017 with great fanfare…and lo and behold – the year has almost passed us by! Santa has come and gone in his sleigh (driven by deer, maybe?), the festive season is on in full swing, and in a matter of a couple of days – 2018 will be upon us. It’s a great time of the year..when I can take stock of the year gone by, and start planning for the next year. This was a big year for Teks, and we plan to make 2018 bigger!

First things first though, the Teksmobile brand got a year older (we all did, right?) this year. What started out as a modest startup in the spring of 2006 is now a healthy 12-year old – prospering amidst technological innovations and worldwide appreciation from clients. It has been an amazing journey for me personally – and I trust for everyone associated with the company. Here’s looking at you, dear developers, and designers, and testers, and the backend team, and of course, everyone who decided to do business with us in 2017. You make what Teks is now…and a big ‘thank you’ to you all.

2017 saw us move forward in our quest to strengthen the international presence of Teksmobile. Two new offices – at Seoul and Busan (South Korea) – started operations from the third quarter, with Eric Jinsu Kang heading the team over there as the Chief Operating Officer (COO). A new website for the Korean chapter (Teksmobile Korea) has also been launched (go ahead, have a look). When me and my motley team started out with simplistic Java apps more than a decade back – we had perhaps hoped to, but were not entirely sure about, seeing a day when our company will have offices in 5 different countries (Sweden, Australia, USA, India, and now South Korea). Over the next couple of years, we have plans for more expansion – but that will happen when it will happen. Fingers crossed for that.

Locations of Teks offices

Teksmobile…Everywhere!

On the work front, me and my team have always craved for variety. Same is boring for us (as it should be)…and new challenges, projects where we can really showcase our professional and technical expertise, really get us going. 2017 has been a really rewarding year from that perspective. The array of projects we have worked (and are still working!) on have been well and truly diverse. From a smart travel wallet app and a automotive service app, to a customized travel journal application, an educational game for kids (which also doubles up as a digital storytelling tool), and a ‘find-a-medic’ app – we have worked on them all this year. How about a video-streaming app for the top-ranked fishing and outdoors channel in Australia? Yep, done that too!

Women at Teksmobile

More than pretty faces: The Uber-Efficient Ladies At Teks

On average, 8 out of every 10 of our apps get featured at the app stores. However, if I were asked about the category we are most successful in – my response would probably be ‘apps for children’. As our uber-successful Story Time For Kids application has gone on its merry way of collecting accolades and honourable mentions, My First Words (an audio picture dictionary for toddlers) has cemented its place among our best-performing products. Among our more recent works, Soccerman is off to a fast start, while Minilobes (another learning game app with a twist) also has the potential to become hugely popular. We believe that we are good in what we do (at least our clients keep saying that!) – and evidently, we really excel with our kids’ applications. Who doesn’t love the li’l ones, anyway?

Oh, and did you know, the Story Time For Kids app now has a customized version (Bedtime Stories For Kids) for Apple TV too?

Men at Teksmobile

The ‘Teks Guys’!

Those who follow this blog (for those who don’t, here you go) would know that I had emphasized on consolidating my company’s position as a ‘driver of technology’ (more like ‘the face of changing technology’) in 2017. I am happy to report that things have been consistently on course regarding that. We are currently in the final stages of creating a full-blown IoT firmware (powered by the LoRa technology), cross-platform development tools like React Native are being used regularly on projects (as and when required), and we have also completed our first successful foray in the domain of ‘smart agriculture’. I feel that it’s high time that we learnt about, embraced and implemented more cutting-edge technologies – in a bid to come up with better, more futuristic software and tools. Delivering more than the clients’ expectations has always been something my team has strived for – and I can safely say that in 2017, we made all of our ‘external employees’ (that’s how I like to refer to our clients) very happy indeed.

Speaking of working with breakthrough technologies, I should also mention two of our new in-house projects – with which we are really trying to push the bar. The first of them is NOLBI (No Language Barrier Instrument) – a tool designed to make cross-language conversations/communications easier than ever before. The mobile app version is almost ready, while an interactive voice response (IVR) system and a voice telephony terminal are also in the pipeline. The biggest USPs of the NOLBI tool will be: a) near-real-time translation services (minimal lags), and b) high accuracy levels. I trust that NOLBI will make life convenient for a lot of people (travelers in foreign lands, particularly) from next year. We are looking for an early-2018 release for that one.

The other project I would like to mark out for this year is Eventify. It is a digital event app building platform – a tool that allows event organizers to create fully customized, scalable, information-rich and user-friendly event applications. The tool went fully functional in the second half of 2017, and was used to create the official apps of the Nordic APIs Platform Summit (Stockholm, Sweden), the Nordic Smart Cities event (Stockholm, Sweden), and StartCon 2017 (Sydney, Australia). Corporate tech events do not come much bigger than these – and let’s just say that Eventify more than proved itself in each of these cases. Expect Teks to partner with, and Eventify to be the creator of, the apps of several high-profile tech events in 2018.

I have been in the mobile apps business for a long time now (am a ‘veteran’ mobile apps architect, if you please!). Over the years, I have overseen, and taken immense pride in, the many #win moments for our apps – when they had bagged important awards and honourable mentions on the international stage. Even so, it still gets me all excited whenever the news of new successes float in. In the final weeks of 2017, the Android version of the My First Words application crossed the 300K downloads mark (the iOS version is also doing very well). Also, the app for StartCon 2017 broke into the list of top-25 applications in the Australian App Store – within 24 hours of its launch. A fair testimony to the hard work, dedication, and sheer expertise of our in-house developers, methinks.

Startcon 2017 app - a resounding success

Startcon 2017 app – a resounding success

Teks has never been, and will never be, an ‘only-work-and-no-fun’ organization – and 2017 had its share of delightful, fun-filled moments. On a personal front, I was absolutely amazed with the way in which the team had (secretly) arranged for my birthday celebration at office. Since I was scheduled to be out of the country on the actual date, they arranged for the decorations and the cake-cutting and the (real cool!) gifts a couple of days in advance. Every year, I get the feeling that the guys are planning something for my birthday – but, to date, have never been able to second-guess them. One moment you step out of your regular office cabin…and minutes later, you find balloons and ribbons and pom-poms in it! This annual surprise really MEANS A LOT.

Birthday celebration at Teks

Of cakes, gifts, balloons, and more…

IMG-20171123-WA0011

All Smiles: Planned by my ‘sparkling’ team!

We were also off to our yearly off-site tour in May this year. There was plenty of fun and frolic on the beach as the sun beat down and the waves splashed – with many cool games and rounds of candid conversation. At Teksmobile, we do not believe in a rigid, top-down managerial system – and easy interactions are preferred. These off-site trips help a lot in breaking the proverbial ice among the team members old and new – and we will be off again somewhere in 2018. Destination suggestions, anyone?

Our motto for 2017 was ‘be more productive’ – with a particular focus on establishing and fostering mentor-mentee relationships at workplace. Things have gone absolutely swimmingly on that front. Newcomers (there have been quite a few of them this year) have loved the opportunity to get hands-on training and expert guidance from the seniors. The latter, on their part, have been more than eager to share their knowledge with anyone who was ready to pick their brains. In the next year and beyond, we will stick with this mentor-mentee culture…it has indeed done wonders for boosting productivities and lifting employee morales. Maintaining optimal quality of service, working within deadlines, and making each of our customers happy – we have done all that in 2017, and then some more. Wish us similar success in 2018!

We started out with the slightly-delayed ‘employee reward scheme’ this year (finally!). Each member of the Teks Family received a little gift on their respective birthdays – and three of our senior employees were given special awards, for their unwavering commitment to contribute to the company over the years. More prizes are on the offing from the next year – including performance-based awards. The only caveat will be – you WILL HAVE TO EARN these prizes!

Employee award at Teksmobile

Key Account Manager at Teks walks away with an award

So, was everything good about the year gone by? Mostly yes (we managed to finish up a couple of troublesome projects too) – but there was one thing that I found rather disturbing. Over the last decade or so, I have had the good fortune of hiring some of the best talents in the business to work in our company. This year though, there has emerged a trend of new interns and freshers – youngsters I hired for the sole objective of giving them an opportunity to showcase their skills, and also to learn – moving away as soon as the training period is complete. I am a firm believer in the value of employee-retention (there are quite a few guys who have been with Teks from the very start) – and I feel annoyed when people try to treat Teks as just another place to test the waters. Note to myself: will have to be more careful with my hiring policies in 2018. Manpower is the strongest asset of Team Teks – and I don’t want wrong ‘uns getting into the mix.

Me and my team are already looking forward with great excitement to the new year. For starters, we will be finishing up with the NOLBI project (hopefully, it will get the success it deserves) – while work has also started on a subscription-based educational app for junior-level school kids. The app is going to have 60+ games – both single-player and multiplayer – and will cover English, Mathematics and GK topics. Apart from that, we will be carrying on with our regular app/API services, custom web solutions, and game development services – and keep an eye out on the ever-changing technologies, tools and frameworks. More work will be done on the IoT front as well, while making apps for wearables is another priority point. I am confident of having an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ attitude from my team…to make 2018 our most successful year yet.

Before signing off, I would once again like to wish all dear readers the heartiest greetings for this festive season. My 2018 be good for each of you…as well as on us!

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!

Or is it the other way round?

How To Tackle App Fatigue? Here Are Some Answers

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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We are at the fag end of 2017, and the global app ecosystem has grown bigger than ever. The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ (coined by Apple Inc. in 2009) has become more than literally true – with multiple apps existing for the same core purpose…for delivering similar values to end-users. According to reasonable estimates, close to 198 billion applications will have been downloaded this year - with the Android platform notching up ~91 billion downloads, while the iOS app download count hovering around the 26 billion mark. By 2021, we will be looking at more than 350 billion app downloads in a single calendar year.

While the app industry seems all bright and filled with opportunities, there is a primary point of concern – in the form of ‘app fatigue’. In layman’s terms, this refers to the sheer tiredness, and resultant unwillingness, of general people to download and use new apps. In the United States, nearly 66% smartphone-owners download a grand total of ZERO applications every month, while a further 17% download one or two applications. What’s more, 85% users regularly use only 4-5 apps (even when they have 30-odd applications on their devices). These are not great stats for third-party app developers, among whom the competition levels are also immense (there are ~500K Apple developers, and a jaw-dropping 970K Android developers at present). As 2018 rolls into view, we present some handy tips for both developers and smartphone-owners to overcome the ‘app fatigue‘ challenge:

  1. (for app developers): Consider the security features and permission requests

    With tasks of critical nature being increasingly performed through mobile applications, concerns over their security and reliability have been – understandably – increasing. Most users also typically keep an eye out for the permissions that an app requires and the type/extent of data it has access to. If an app has to be regularly updated for retaining its functionality, that can also be viewed as a hassle. App makers need to focus on creating software that have robust security assurance, and do not need too many permissions.

  2. (for app users): Avoid downloading apps for experimentation

    In the United States, a typical mobile-user has 27 applications installed in his/her device (this figure has remained relatively flat over the last three years). While that seems pretty much reasonable, it won’t be difficult to find people with 150+ apps, stretching across 7-8 home screens, installed on their handsets. For these users, the phone often feels unnecessarily cluttered and clogged up (apart from the device running short on storage capacity). It’s high time smartphone-users stopped downloading every new app that hits the stores – simply to check it out. Browse through the apps available, find out the ones that would fit your requirements the best, and get them only.

  3. (for app developers): Take advantage of the new Apple and Android updates

    As the worldwide app market gradually moves towards maturity, developers need to start thinking out-of-the-box, for tweaking the app-usage experience for end users. iOS app developers can easily take advantage of the all-new subscription-based model for users, as well as paid searches, to drive more business for their products. The revenue-sharing option on the Apple platform can also be rewarding. On the other hand, the arrival of Android Instant Apps earlier this year has revolutionized the scenario for those working on this platform. Indie developers as well as third-party app companies can now allow users to check out a section of an app’s functionality directly from mobile web – without the latter having to actually download the application. It’s a handy way of giving people a first-hand preview of an app – and if they like what they see, downloads will happen.

Note: The cost-per-install (CPI) figure for developers has jumped significantly over the last few quarters, and currently varies in the $5-$10 range.

  1. (for app users): Be ruthless in deleting what you don’t need

    App fatigue has got a lot to do with app overload. That, in turn, comes from the general tendency of keeping applications that are hardly ever used on the device. Over time, the number of such uninteresting and unnecessary apps begin to accumulate – clogging up the display and eating into the phone memory (on Android, maybe the SD card memory). There can be occasions when you download an application, only to find that it isn’t quite what you were looking for (or it isn’t efficient enough). In such cases, get rid of the concerned app immediately, and look for an alternative. A smartphone should ideally have only those third-party apps that will be used.

Note: In general, do not have duplicate apps (i.e., apps for the same purpose) on your handset. A probable exception to this can be on-demand cab apps, though.

  1. (for app developers): Go for the best possible UX

    Irrespective of whether it’s a B2B or a B2C application, a seamless blend of functionality, ease of usage, and design optimization (visual appeal) should be present in any mobile app. It is of utmost importance for developers to make the best use of the available resources – including innovative technologies like speech-recognition (on the lines of Siri and Google Now), artificial intelligence and machine learning. Keep track of all the latest developments in the app development tools and frameworks, and consider how your existing apps can be further improved. In addition, mobile app development experts have to make sure that their software has smooth device-specific capabilities (i.e., can optimally utilize the features (say, camera) of the device it is installed on). Human-centered design (HCD) is what you should be aiming for.

  2. (for app users): The importance of mobile web

    By 2014, mobile apps had pulled ahead of mobile web in terms of popularity. Even so, at a time when many users are facing problems due to ‘app overkill’ – it would be a prudent option to check out the mobile web version (if available), instead of downloading the app straightway. Right from banking sites to online shopping portals abd news portals – most present-day websites are responsive, have fluid designs, and are generally user-friendly. Users can give them a try – and more often than not, they can perform tasks without having to download ‘yet another app’. Mobile apps are more convenient and have higher adoption rates – but mobile web is not dead, and it should also be given a chance.

  3. (for app developers): Be wary of front-end fatigue

    Coding languages, and CSS and HTML and agile methodologies and javascript libraries and open source tools and time-management skills – the required skills of a professional app developer can often seem overbearing. Attempts to learn everything within a short span of time often results in burnout – and all that the concerned developer is able to come up with are sub-standard software applications. Keep in mind that you DO NOT have to learn everything – and the trick lies in being a master of the skills that you already have. In other words, specializing in a set of tools and technologies is what app developers should focus on. You also need to keep some time aside for constantly learning and upgrading yourself (technology is in a continuous state of flux). A tired developer is incapable of creating apps that have the much-required edge.

  4. (for app users): Check out the mobile app ads

    The total expenditure on mobile advertising globally stands at ~$144 billion at present. By 2020, this figure would swell $247 billion. Problems arise when this money gets wasted – when users do not bother watching the ads, and making an effort to understand what the main features (USPs) of a new app are. Instead, they frame an idea about the qualities of the app under question – and whenever these expectations are not fulfilled, ‘app fatigue’ arises. Users need to be patient enough to watch the app ads, to get a reasonable idea on the nature of the application – and the requirements it has been designed to fulfil. This will prevent them from indiscriminately downloading (and uninstalling soon after) a large number of apps. Ads are displayed on any digital platform for a purpose – and it’s high time we gave them some time.

  5. (for app developers): The need for efficient app marketing campaigns

    The Apple App Store has more than 3 million apps (including games). Over 3.3 million apps are available for download in the Google Play Store. In order to gain visibility in an already overcrowded app marketplace, the importance of coming up with smart marketing strategies in general, and app advertisements in particular, is immense. Provide genuine, updated information about your mobile application (highlight the ‘gaps’ it can bridge) – and avoid overselling your product (for instance, with exaggerated info). Apart from being informative, mobile app ads should also be interactive – prompting the users to do something on playback. If a person can simply mute his/her phone and set it down when the ad is displayed – that’s an opportunity lost. Engaging, informative, and interactive – these are the chief qualities of a good app advertisement.

Note: App ads need to be relevant and personalized as well. A recent Fiksu report has shown that apps with irrelevant, annoying ads are often uninstalled immediately.

   10. (for app developers): Integrate deep linking in apps

Deep linking with the help of Universal Resource Identifiers (or, URIs) can be particularly useful for enterprise applications. The average employee in the IT sector regularly use more than 10 apps on their handsets - and things become a lot more convenient for them, if there are deep links in an app, for navigating to other applications (or moving to other sections of the same app). There are several platforms available for integrating deep linking in apps (Deeplink.me is a good example). Complicated in-app navigation is a frequent cause for app-abandonment – and deep linking can go a long way in solving that problem.

    11. (for app developers and app users): A change in mindset

Most developers focus only on the total download count/number of installs for their new applications. While these figures are important (early downloads boost the chances of an app getting featured in stores) – in the absence of a proper, end-to-end app analytics system, these metrics make little sense. It might very well happen that a new and promising app is downloaded by many people – who then detect a major flaw in the app’s functionality – and as a result, the app gets removed from most devices. The mindset of professional app developers has to change – from simply counting downloads, to factoring in the feedback received from users, and planning improvements on the basis of them. Apps have to be FOR and ABOUT users…if the latter are unsatisfied with a software, it is doomed (whatever the early download figures might be).

Speaking of mindset changes, the increasing availability of freemium apps and games are making the average user less inclined to spend money on mobile applications. The onus lies on developers to make use of the freemium model to drive revenue for themselves – without hampering the user-experience in any way whatsoever.

    12. (for app developers): Create apps that deliver value

Candy Crush Saga is an insanely popular game. However, the same cannot be said about its hundreds of clones (almost similar match-3 games). Avoid being a copycat, and put your attention to conceptualizing apps that would deliver something unique…something better to the target-users. There has to be a primary functionality of an app (‘easier banking transactions’, ‘football on the go’, ‘karaoke fun’, etc.), which: a) can be used in the promotional pitches for the app, and b) would appeal to end-users. Do not try to pack in too many features in a single app. That would only end up confusing people.

Note: As a rule of thumb, the simpler it is to use an app (which has important value proposition(s)), the higher is its chances of becoming successful.

      13. (for app developers): The need for Mobile App Management (MAM)

Researches have shown that app fatigue can cause considerable loss of employee productivity at workplaces (the time required to install new apps, research about their features and going through their security features can take up a lot of time). To tackle this issue, dedicated ‘app containers’ can be created – from where the app deployments to the employees’ devices would take place directly. Apart from taking away concerns over installation and app-security, such container-based MAM can handle app upgrades, regular monitoring requirements, and data safety standards. Enterprises need to make an attempt for reducing the number of work-related apps people have to use – and MAM is a more than viable option for that.

      14. (for app developers): Customized versions for different platforms

Contrary to what many believed earlier, a mobile app is NOT an watered down version of a website. Software development is certainly not a field where the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach works – and the onus lies on third-party developers to determine the platforms/devices that their apps will be usable on – and then create separate, customized versions of the software (e.g. for web, mobile, tablet, etc.). With wearables in general, and smartwatches in particular (2.7 million units of Apple Watch were shipped in 2017 Q3) growing in popularity – developers have to come up with compatible versions of apps for these smart devices. IoT (Internet of Things) is growing fast – and the techniques of app development have to keep pace with it.

       15. (for app developers): Do away with unused features in apps

Generally, app updates are all about either bug-fixes or adding new features. However, getting rid of the features of an app that are hardly ever used is important too – for removing distractions in the path of the final users. Precise focusing of apps also increases overall engagement levels. Once again, the presence of a reliable, real-time app analytics system is essential, for finding the usage rates of the different features of an application (i.e., behaviour of app users). Depending on the likely interaction by a user, and the device(s) (s)he is using, the UX of the app should be modified.

Note: The importance of cross-device continuity and functionality is also going up. A person should be able to launch and start using an app on one device, and finish up with it on another device.

App fatigue stems from two channels: the tiredness of general users with too many apps, and the tiredness of developers churning out similar apps repeatedly. In the US, there has been a 20% dip in the download-count of apps developed by the 15 biggest app companies – clearly indicating that this fatigue is not a myth. The good thing is, the ‘app fatigue’ is avoidable, and can be managed – both by developers and end-users. Mobile apps are here to stay…and the app industry will only get stronger in the foreseeable future.

 

13+1 Mobile App UI/UX Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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You like a person. That person like you back. There is an instant connection, and the two of you get along famously – chatting through the evening. And then, it happens. Just when you had started to wish that the good time would never end, the said person abruptly stands up and leaves, without even a proper “Goodbye” – and you never hear from him/her ever again. Pretty sad, right? Similar is the case with smartphone users and mobile app retention rates.

According to a recent Localytics report, 8 out of every 10 mobile apps (on average) are not retained on devices beyond 90 days from their installation. Close to 25% people interact with a newly-downloaded app just once, and a lowly 37% users bother launching an application more than 10 times. Improving the visual appeal and overall user-experience can go a long way in boosting the app-retention levels – and in what follows, we will take a look at some important UI and UX trends for 2018:

  1. More vivid colours and bold typography

    This August, YouTube changed its logo and app design for the first time in twelve-odd years. In 2018 and beyond, many more business organizations and companies will also tweak around the visual presentation of their apps – with the focus squarely on using a brighter, more vivid colour pallette, and crisp, bold typography. Developers will try to incorporate fancy yet clear fonts in place of traditionally used structures – and the overall web and mobile app landscape is set to become more creative, more experimental than ever before. Coupled with optimized layouts, HQ images and animations, bright colours and beautiful typography can be instrumental in bolstering user-experience levels.

  2. Material Design to the fore

    Flat designs are all about being minimalistic, and they have been popular for years now. As the skill levels of professional UI designers become more nuanced, the possibilities of integrating greater complexities on ‘flat’ layouts are opening up. Google offered a glimpse into the future back in 2014, with its concept of ‘material design’. Apart from subtle animations, cool transition effects and layer depth (with the help of translucent imagery) are becoming increasingly mainstream in applications. The option of adding shadows is also making interfaces richer and more interesting. Material design should become an integral part of app designing strategies, on iOS, Android and web platforms.

  3. Focus on First Time User Experience

    Mobile users are an impatient lot. A recent research revealed that the average attention span of smartphone users is less than 9 seconds. This makes it doubly important for mobile apps to deliver top-class first-time user experience (FTUE) – to have any chances of becoming an engaging tool. The loading speed should be quick (the splash screen should not be visible for more than 6-8 seconds), the onboarding should be quick and easy – providing users with a gentle ‘learning ramp’, and designers will need to place their attention on ‘designing for zero-state’ (i.e., the state where there is nothing to be displayed). For instance, if a connectivity error happens, the screen should display the error, instead of simply going blank. There are more than 5 million apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store (combined) – and if an app does not manage to capture the users’ attention at the first go, it is not likely to get a second chance.

Note: 8 out of every 10 apps that do not offer good enough FTUE turn out to be failures.

  1. Single, immersive images. Full screen videos

    The trend of using multiple images in a photo carousel to represent a brand is gradually losing steam. In 2018, we are likely to see more and more mobile and web apps to use single, high-clarity, immersive photos – to showcase the brand personalities of the concerned businesses. Full-screen videos (instead of short video files embedded on screens) also have the potential of becoming a tool for providing more intuitive experiences to app users. The best thing about (most) full-screen videos is that they do not require users to scroll down and/or zoom on the screen. For telling a ‘brand story’, such videos can be really powerful.

Note: Over the next few quarters, the use of gradients in app designing should also rise.

  1. Greater personalization

    In the US, the average adult user spends close to 90 hours every month with their mobile devices (working out to just a shade under 3 hours daily). Not surprisingly, people have started to expect that their handsets would ‘behave’ like knowledgeable companions – and with the immense advancements in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in the past few years, providing seamless personalization has indeed become possible (replacing the traditional, generic experiences). App developers, in 2018 and later, would make a conscious attempt to ‘learn deeper’ about their customers through their applications – and customized displays and illustrations and controls will play a big role in that. The latest development on this front is the emergence of age-responsive UIs that take into account the display preferences of users from different age-groups.

  2. The rise of SVGs

    It’s not that designers will move away from images in JPG and PNG formats drastically – but there will be a steady rise of the scalable vector graphics (SVGs) format over the next couple of years or so. This growth will be primarily fueled by the mounting need for easily scalable, high-quality images. Also, SVG images can be scaled without their quality/clarity/crispness being adversely affected in any way. For gaming apps in particular, there are several other 3D vector formats which might witness high adoption rates in mobile apps in 2018. The emphasis will be on coming up with uniformly user-centric designs (UCD), and the new image file formats will have a prominent role to play in that.

Note: On flat designs with added elements, designers add different types of geometrical shapes (patterns, circles, etc.) – in their bid to showcase their creativity.

  1. More content and parallax scrolling

    The general tendency of website and mobile app designers was to create the layouts first, and then look for content. Expect a change of approach in 2018 – with ‘content-first’ strategies taking centerstage. UX designers will have to factor in considerations of visibility and information-sharing through the screens – and as such, long-form content (simply put, greater text content) will find more favour. The challenge will greater on the mobile platform than on web – due to the much smaller screen real estate of the former (also, the shorter attention spans). To counter the problem of some content going ‘below-the-fold’, developers will also start to invest more on the parallax scrolling feature in their apps. In addition to helping people check out the entire info on a screen, parallax scrolling will let them ‘discover something new’, every time they scroll or swipe on the app screens.

  2. Growth of voice-based UI

    1 out of every 5 search activities on mobile took place with voice technology in 2016 (according to Google). By the end of next year, around 30% of all interactions with technology platforms will be conversation-based – i.e., through voice UIs. The widespread popularity of mobile virtual assistants like Siri and Google Now and Cortana have shown that people indeed find it convenient to interact with their handsets through voice technology (as opposed to the conventional method of typing). We can reasonably expect more and more third-party app companies to come up with innovative new applications with speech-recognition features. Operating them will be quicker and, more often than not, simpler – and people will be able to get work done with voice-instructions, while performing other tasks.

Note: The challenge on this front lies in the security and authentication part. App makers have to ensure that the speech technology integrated in their software is actually able to accurately ‘recognize’ the authorized user(s).

  1. Borderless displays are the new in-thing

    Bezelless phones are here to stay – and the recently launched iPhone X has revolutionized the very concept of edge-to-edge displays. There have been other high-end bezelless phones too this year, like the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 and the excellent Samsung Galaxy Note 8. More of such devices will be launched by different vendors in 2018 – and designers can ill-afford to stay static with their highly restrictive grid-based design concepts (which admittedly, still works great for websites). While working on the mobile platform though, they will have to think beyond grids, and add motions, transitions and depth – to add more verve to the borderless displays. The importance of leaving enough whitespace to ‘let the content breathe’ should also be highlighted at this point. Apps optimized for bezelless phones need to provide holistic digital experiences to end-users…a requirement that designers will try to resolve in different ways.

  2. The year of the password-killer?

    Oh well, we do not expect passwords to be completely gone by the next year. However, with the volume of app-usage and the amount of sensitive data being stored by smartphone-users in their applications going up all the time – the need of the hour is for faster, and more secure, authentication processes. In the near future, apps can come with biometric identification, fingerprint identification, or even face/iris recognition (Face ID of iPhone X probably lays down a blueprint). Authentication codes and OTPs, which would be sent to the same devices, can also effectively replace passwords. With these alternatives, the average user will no longer be burdened with the task of having to remember scores of passwords.

  3. Designing for the device-agnostic app user

    A person can start booking a cab on his/her Amazon Echo, and confirm the booking on an Android device. With the internet of things (IoT) ecosystem expanding by leaps and bounds and the number of smart devices in our lives increasing exponentially – it’s high time for UI/UX designers to gradually replace their ‘mobile-first’ strategies with a clear eye on providing uniformly optimal ‘multichannel app experiences’. The likely behaviour of users while using an app (user-interaction) should shape how it should be designed – and designers should do well to remember that people are only interested to get at their goals (in our example, booking a cab), without any ‘interruptions’ due to change of mediums/channels. Providing seamless omnichannel UX is going to be an exciting challenge for app developers in the next year or so.

  4. Identifying and removing irritants

    In a 2017 survey, it was found that over 70% of the respondents removed apps from their phones due to repeated, annoying notifications. The onus is on graphic designers and UX developers to find out what might ‘disturb’ the user – and remove all such ‘potential exit-points’. The much-loved ‘hamburger menu’ of Android is also likely to give way to the more easily viewable tab view of the different menu options. The overall in-app navigation has to be smooth, and there has to be help available (say, in the form of chatbots) at every point. Every screen should highlight the primary task users have to do on it (e.g., making a choice, or giving a feedback). As a rule of thumb, it should not take more than three interactions for a user to reach the screen/page (s)he is looking for.

Note: In 2018 and beyond, more importance will be placed on minimizing the chances of ‘false inputs’ – by ensuring that all tappable areas can actually be accessed/tapped easily. The size of average ‘touch areas’ should be 7.5-10 mm.

     13. Augmented reality to make its mark

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg predicted at this year’s F8 conference that all screens will make way for augmented reality (AR)-powered lenses in the foreseeable future. With the latest flagship smartphones having cutting-edge camera features, excellent processor power and HQ displays – the opportunities are with UI designers to integrate the technology in their new software applications. The real-world scenarios have to be accurately and interestingly depicted, with the virtual elements having contextual support. Users will be able to get immersive AR experiences, without having to perform two many ‘actions’ on their own. Of course, the technology will be best enjoyed when the user is moving around.

Bonus Trend:

The importance of smarter animations

From displaying the system status and app loading status, to highlighting navigational transitions – functional animations can make a mobile app ‘seem alive’. The trick here will lie in not piling on too many effects and animations just because it is possible – making the app ‘too heavy’ in the process. Instead, designers should try to help end-users get an idea of the Why, What, and How of changes on a screen. In other words, subtle, well-placed animations can intuitively represent the logic-flow of an app, and give people an idea about the status of any tasks. Zooming effects and cute little animations while providing answers to on-screen questions all add up to the visual appeal.

App icons are set to become more interesting too, with small animations and minimalistic outlines. New tools and software like Kits and Adobe XD will enable designers to create better user-experiences, while Google Optimize will make the task of performing A/B split tests easy. While not particularly innovative, card-based designs will remain popular too – thanks to their ability to neatly categorize and showcase large volumes of information.

Android will continue to be the first preference of mobile app designers (at present, ~78% designers prefer working on the Android platform over iOS). The app marketplace is immensely competitive, there are no paucity of good applications – and in many cases, it is going to be the app designs and overall UX that will make a difference.

Will A Startup Survive And Thrive? Here Are 13 Key Signs

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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startup success tips

 

In 2016, close to 659000 startups were launched in the United Kingdom alone – marking a YoY increase of more than 8.55%. On a global basis, around 137000 new companies start operations everyday – with the annual figure for startup launches worldwide standing in excess of 50 million. In the United States too, the startup revolution is at an all-time high, with ~7.5% of job-seekers opting to start their own businesses in 2016 Q4 (the corresponding figure in 2015 Q4 was only 4.8%). Apart from the US and the UK, the number of startups is rising…and rising fast…in Latin America and Europe.

The remarkable rise in startup launches across the globe should not, however, mask the fact that a high percentage of these new businesses fail within the first year of existence. Taking the daily averages once again, approximately 120000 startups wind up business everyday – and almost 90% of all startups ultimately fail. Unavailability of funds, improper business scaling, and inability to show adequate ROI to investors feature among the chief documented reasons of such failures. However, the problems, more often than not, lie deeper. If you are planning to launch a startup, these factors will give you a fair idea on whether it will soar or crash:

  1. Having a detailed budget

    On average, 3 out of every 10 new startups run out of funds before becoming properly established. That, in turn, brings to light the importance of framing and maintaining a detailed budget – while planning all the aspects of a new business. Following a pre-decided budget helps entrepreneurs avoid unnecessary expenditure, and analyze all the accounts carefully, on which money will be spent. The key factor over here is making optimal use of available resources at all times. It might be a small $100 startup or a large-scale business venture – working without a budget and ‘taking things as they come’ is an absolute no-no.

Note: As a CEO, if you are not too fond of number-crunching, hire a qualified accountant for the purpose.

  1. Availability of funds

    If there are no funds, there will be no business – it’s as simple as that. According to a recent study, around 80% of startups are funded by the owners themselves, while a measly ~1% are sponsored by venture capital (VC) firms. Depending on the line of business you will be working on, find out the approximate expenses required to get started – and decide whether to raise the funds from your own pocket – or if taking a small business loan, or pitching to reliable angel investors would make more practical sense. There are several crowdfunding sites (e,g., Indiegogo, Kickstarter) which can help you out as well. It also has to be kept in mind that, in the context of startups, ‘resources’ do not only refer to ‘funds’ – and there are lots of useful free stuff (free software, supplier credit, probable partnerships with customers, etc.) that can get a new business going. If your startup is to emerge a success, access to adequate funds and other resources is an absolute must.

  2. The motivation factor

    Do you have a regular day job, and are thinking about launching a startup only for some extra cash? If yes, you should better lay off the idea. Nurturing a startup calls for super-dedicated motivation on the part of the founder (if the main man isn’t motivated enough, how will the others be?). Ask yourself whether you will be able to give your entire time towards the new business – taking up different responsibilities, and forgetting about weekdays and weekends and working hours – until the startup’s operations find a steady footing. Do not be afraid to wear different hats simultaneously (you might have to manage projects, do a bit of coding yourself, handle a couple of interviews, check designs, and the like). A startup is just like a baby – if you are not prepare give it your best care and attention, you might well not have it.

Note: Interestingly, only 1 out of every 5 startups with single owners manage to survive. The success rate jumps to 47.5% when there two people join hands to start a new business.

  1. Talent acquisition

    You are not going to have a startup if you don’t have ideas…preferably, lots of them. However, ideas look good on paper and boards only, and there needs to be a carefully recruited, well-trained team ready at hand to implement these ideas. Among startups across the globe, nearly 24% face problems due to not having ‘the right team’ from the very outset. Chalk down the job titles that will be present in your company, and hire the most suitable candidates. Look out for people who have the ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude, on top of academic/professional qualifications. Working with freelancers can work for some time – but keep in mind that it is a stop-gap solution, and full-time in-house manpower will be required in the long-run.

  2. Existing need for your product/service

    Consider this: you have the ideas for really innovative arcade games. Will it be a good idea to invest time and money to create a startup for making such games? No, because the world has moved on from arcade games – and there will not be a market for your products. Before spending a single penny, do your homework to find out whether the product/service your startup will offer is likely to have adequate demand from prospective customers. Avoid selecting fields of work that are either outdated, or are too far-fetched. Ideally, work with something that you already like and/or are somewhat familiar with. Study trends, analyze markets, and identify ‘demand gaps’ where your startup can slot in and be economically viable.

Note: Not having a large enough market for their products/services is the principal cause of failure for a whopping 42% of all startups. If your business idea is not tenable, your startup will go kaput!

  1. Focus on discipline and transparency

    A classic sign of whether your startup is ultimately going to make it is the degree of honesty and integrity with which you start out. There should be no information that you might have to keep away from other stakeholders (co-founders, employees, first set of clients) at any time. Manage your operations in a completely transparent manner – just as you would do if everyone was watching you at all times. Follow up with your strong work-ethic with uniformly high discipline standards. The discipline should cover everything – right from budget and expense management, to operations and quality of service (QoS). It’s all about establishing a strong brand reputation – a positive buzz about your startup – and the importance of maintaining high business integrity levels for that is paramount. If you have things to hide from others at the start, bigger troubles are bound to crop up soon.

  2. Is a properly researched business model in place?

    If not, your startup is not ready to take flight just yet. Sit with your team and create a well-defined business model – specifying the fixed cost levels, the estimated revenues and sources of earnings, the operating costs, the gross margins, the profit levels, and other metrics that you might want to follow. Find out the payments and pricing models that would be best suited for your business (your products/services should, of course, be competitively priced). Find out what the reasonable estimates of profit margins come out to be – and if the numbers do not seem good enough, postpone your startup plans for the moment. Get started only when you feel every factor is in favour.

Note: 18% startups report problems with their costs or pricing (or both) at fairly early stages of their life. Having an in-depth business model helps to avoid such problems significantly.

  1. Validated customers

    Investing on a startup is risky business. The only way you can minimize the risk factor (mind you, the risks cannot be totally mitigated) is by ensuring that your business has some ‘traction’ – that people will actually be interested to pay for what you will be offering. More importantly, your products/services should have an apparent edge over that offered by your competitors. Close to 20% startups cannot cope up with the existing competition, and perish as a result. A smart option would be start your operations from a home office, before having a startup formally in place. That will give you a fair idea of the volume of ‘validated customers’ you have. It’s like have a captive audience/buyers for your business – the bigger the pool is, the better.

Note: For gaining business traction and exposure, you also need to have strong, updated marketing and promotional strategies in place. Generating awareness among people is one of the stepping-stones for gaining recognition.

  1. Scalability and adaptability

    As an entrepreneur, the onus lies on you to identify opportunities to improve your startup all the time. Be dynamic with your operations, keep track of the latest tools and technologies and market trends, and find out how you can tweak your operations to take things forward. Be prepared to change policies, scope of operations, and other aspects of your business – if the final result would be good for the business (i.e., for the ‘greater good’). However, be wary of scaling up your business too fast - without considering whether such a move is necessary. Nearly 3 out of every 4 internet startups face problems due to premature scaling. The world of business and technology is constantly evolving, and you need to have flexible plans in place to make the most from every situations. Keep in mind that your best-laid early plans might have to be changed (or even scrapped) at a later date.

  2. Experience and networking capabilities

    There is an element of ‘trial-and-error’ involved when you are starting out with a new business. However, if you have a degree of credible experience in the concerned field, that will help you minimize that factor – and put you in a relative ‘comfort zone’ for business. Another absolutely must-have quality for any new entrepreneur is powerful networking skills. You need to be able to strike up connections with people at the ‘right places’ (investors, partners, clients, etc.), and make the most out of your existing connections. In addition, your experience and dedication levels should also be inspiring enough for the others to give their best. Never work with a ‘siege mentality’ (‘Us vs Them’ at all times). Be social, and constantly strive to expand your network. A startup that tries to operate in a vacuum is almost sure to fail.

  3. Ability to handle adverse situations

    Things will not always go according to plans. Sales might go down, the number of clients can fall off a cliff – and there might even be loss of in-house talent (employee turnover is high in most industries). The key for success for a startup lies in the ability to tide over such tough scenarios, without hitting the ‘panic button’ or going into some sort of a ‘survival mode’ (say, finishing all projects at hand as quickly as possible, taking up more work that it can handle, etc.). Staying true to a clear business ‘vision’ is mighty important at such times – and you need to look for ways to bring your business back on track. If you feel that your company will run like a well-oiled machine and there will be zero shocks, managing a startup is probably not the thing for you!

  4. Avoiding negativity

    In an earlier post, we had discussed the importance of avoiding toxic employees. One of the biggest traits of a good entrepreneur is optimism – and positivity is vital for the overall well-being of your business as well. Do not leave any room for workplace gossip (you will have a relatively small team to start off, anyway) – and make sure that there are no rumours or negativity doing the rounds. The best way for ensuring this being completely frank with your top-down communication with employees, and encouraging two-way conversations. Everyone should be in sync with the overall organizational goals, and there should not be any conflicts (general workplace arguments or conflicts of opinions with investors/other stakeholders). A startup where everyone is happy and sincere is a startup that will do well.

  5. Putting technology at the fore

    Ideas are great – but unless you have the technology to work on them, they are of little use. In any digital startup company, the focus should be on establishing a powerful technology platform (complete with coding tools, software engineering support and other stuff). Once the tech is in place, and there are people who have been trained to handle it – it will be easy to follow an agile development/production methodology. In case you are not a technical person yourself, consider having a chief technology officer (CTO) at your startup. An ‘ideas-first’ approach is not a great way to do business – and you need to get the technology framework ready from the very outset. A business that keeps shying away from implementing the latest technologies is likely to be left behind.

Choosing the right time for launching a startup is also vital. Make sure that you will be able to give your undivided attention to the business in its early years (if you are planning a long vacation, or are set to become a parent in a couple of months, now will not be the right time to get things started). A dynamic approach, together with seamless two-way communication with all parties, will also help you to not miss out on pivots (cause of failure of 7% startups) or facing problems due to ‘misunderstood pivots’ (cause of failure of >10% startups). Of course, the final product/service should be excellent in terms of quality – and customer support has to be top-notch. Nothing kills off a startup more effectively than bad word-of-mouth publicity.

When you begin a startup business for the first time, you hope for the best – but must also be prepared for failure. It has been seen that ~20% of people whose first startups have failed, taste success with their next endeavours. A single failure should not weigh you down too much.

There are instances of startups floundering in spite of having all the signs highlighted here. Conversely, a new business can flourish even if it does not satisfy a couple of these conditions. However, these are exceptions – and if you wish to maximize the chances of success for your startup, you need to follow these signs carefully.

 

 

Cloud Computing Is Growing…But So Are Risks

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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List of cloud computing risks

 

By the end of 2017, the value of the global cloud computing market will go past the $260 billion mark – marking an impressive 18.5% YoY jump. The growth is all set to pick up further momentum in the next few years, with a Forbes report estimating that the cloud services market will be worth a whopping $411 billion by the turn of the decade. Both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) will be important drivers of this growth, with 23.3% and 15.7% estimated CAGRs for the 2016-2020 period respectively. In the US, 8 out of every 10 companies have expanded their use of cloud computing services in one way or another. Adoption and use of public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud platforms are all on a rapid upward spiral.

While the advantages of cloud computing regarding greater flexibility and more scalability (also, cost-efficiency) are beyond the scope of doubt, shadows remain over the security aspects. In a recent survey among businesses, 25% of the respondents highlighted ‘security’ as a major concern, while a further 23% mentioned ‘compliance’ as another important point of concern. The biggest of tech giants – from Microsoft and Yahoo, to Apple and Dropbox – have suffered serious data breaches over the years. In 2016 alone, over a billion identities were compromised as a result of cloud services being hacked. Not surprisingly, investment on cloud security is also increasing, and is set to touch $3.5 billion by the end of 2021. Let us here look through the most serious types of cloud computing risks:

  1. Authenticity and reliability of cloud vendors

    Channels like Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure are, obviously, secure – but the same cannot be said about all the third-party cloud service providers out there. The problem is further compounded by the fact that many small and mid-scale businesses do not really make an attempt to track the robustness of the technology support offered by these vendors. A wide range of uber-important ‘business critical data’ is stored on cloud platforms by companies – and when handled inefficiently (or in the hands of the wrong person) – can spell doom for the concerned businesses. The lack of knowledge about how a cloud vendor work and the integrity/efficiency of the individual workers over there is also an issue. When an obscure cloud service provider messes up stored data, the reputation of the companies takes a serious hit.

  2. The security assurance (or lack thereof)

    In September 2013, the large-scale data breach at Vodafone (the banking data of over 2 million customers were stolen) made a lot of news. Over the years, the threat has intensified more – with tech entrepreneurs highlighting security threats as a major barrier in the way of large-scale cloud implementation. The onus lies on companies to read the fine print on what security standards a cloud service provider abides by, how the data would be stored, and how data integrity levels will be maintained at the time of outsourcing. In addition to these, the agreement should also clearly mention the extent of data the cloud platform will have access to – and the players who will be able to retrieve it (as and when required).

Note: Since cloud storage is done on distributed networks, recovering from hack attacks is generally quick. Other such wholly internet-based services have similar security risks.

  1. Lack of vulnerability assessment of cloud service provider

    Every cloud vendor claims to have the best security practices in place. However, that should not be enough – and businesses should ideally do a thorough vulnerability assessment study on the vendors they are considering to partner with. An idea of how these cloud platforms can recover from data theft attempts and breaches (disaster recovery) is also important. Virtual machines, malicious bots, infected software and brute force attacks are all becoming alarmingly common – and unless a vendor is well-equipped to handle such attacks, the problems will remain.

  2. Unauthorized third-party data access

    Think of it this way: a company maintains all of its data on its local server. Now, it decides to start using a cloud server for data storage. Understandably, more people (outsiders) will have the chance to snoop around this proprietary data than what was earlier the case. As more and more small small and mid-level businesses start using cloud services (i.e., the cloud platforms start aggregating more and more data) – single points of attack are created, just like what the phishing experts and miscreants would love. Companies generally feel that their data security levels get boosted when they switch to a cloud platform – but that factor is partially offset by the fact that more people have to be trusted now, more people have access to data, and chances of attacks become higher. It’s a necessary evil…but still, an evil.

  3. No standardization affects cloud services

    What is a ‘safe cloud system’? Get in touch multiple vendors – and chances are high that you will get varying replies, highlighting totally different factors. This lack of standardization forms yet another risk – since companies do not have a pre-specified benchmark to judge the quality of operations of the service provider. Once again, it is up to the clients (i.e., businesses) to ascertain the technological expertise and platform stability of the vendor – before actually storing data with the latter. The initial contract should clearly mention that if a company is not happy with the services of a cloud vendor, it can switch to another service provider without having to pay anything extra. Hopefully, the regulatory bodies will come up with some standardized practices in the near future.

  4. Need for infrastructural change for cloud compatibility

    There is very little room for doubting that ‘being on the cloud is the way to go’. However, things might not be as simple as they seem on paper. Companies have to make wholesale changes to their traditional IT system in general, and data infrastructure in particular. Making such changes can be both time-consuming and expensive. In addition, large companies typically have to go for the more advanced cloud-subscription plans and packages – given the sheer volume of ‘mission-critical’ data that has to be stored on the network. Unless an organization makes sure that the storage and protection benefits from a cloud service provider are commensurate with the subscription prices – there can be quite a lot of unnecessary expenditure.

Note: By May 2018, around 80% of the total IT budgets of large organizations will be used up on cloud services.

  1. Privacy can be compromised

    And in a big way. When a business starts using a cloud platform for storing critical data (in a public cloud) – it effectively allows shared access of processors, storage units, memory, namespaces and other things. That, in turn, opens up the possibility of third-party agents getting access to other people’s data (accidentally or otherwise). An apparently minor bug in the cloud platform can allow attackers (powered with the access to the data owners’ resources) to steal/manipulate data, and even assume the digital identity of others (i.e., identity theft). In what should be a new and empty storage network, users might find the records of other customers – which is far from an ideal scenario. Before subscribing to a cloud storage plan, there should be a service level agreement, or SLA, – clearly stating the ways in which the vendor would protect the privacy of its users.

  2. The risk of downtimes

    The leading cloud vendors all promise ‘round-the-clock’ availability. That, however, is nearly never practically possible – since some maintenance downtimes (an hour everyday?) are definitely required. Since cloud technology is entirely web enabled, the chances of internet outages/bandwidth interruptions cannot be ruled out either. Businesses also have to factor in the occasional connectivity problems in their own IT systems – which will have a ‘trickle down’ effect on the cloud resources. These downtimes, if they happen during business hours, can lead to significant loss of value for companies. Even in the best-case scenario, around 15-17 days in a year can be lost due to connectivity problems, and the resultant unavailability of cloud services.

Note: To be fair, most cloud vendors make a conscious attempt to schedule maintenance downtimes at odd hours.

  1. Probable legal and/or compliance breaches

    When a company makes the switch to a cloud platform, it gives permission to the vendor for storing critical business data in multiple data centers. These data centers might be present at different locations, and even in different countries. That, in turn, brings the importance of the varying data regulation policies in different countries in focus. Once more, it is the responsibility of the client company to find out ‘where’ its data will be stored, ‘how’ the database will be maintained, and ‘who’ will be able to access it. In the absence of this information, a data compliance breach on a cloud platform might put the ‘owner’ company in a legal soup – with the service provider avoiding all blame.

Note: Data security and privacy policies differ across regions. Companies have to keep track of such changes, and monitor how such locational differences might pose a problem.

     10. Need for record retention

Conformity with record retention agreements (if any) are also often overlooked. The vendors should know: a) the meaning of record retention, and b) the time-span for which each data-record should be stored/retained. It can also happen that a cloud vendor simply wounds up its business at any point in time. In such scenarios, its client companies should be able to get back all its critical data – without any transfer or sharing with other, unauthorized agents. The same provisions should be present at times of termination of contract between a company and its cloud service partner.

     11. Lack of constant monitoring

The tendency of handing over key data to the cloud platform and resting easy after that can be fatal. Many companies also do not have the setup to perform regular monitoring of the cloud services network. As a result, data breaches, connectivity interruptions (potentially affecting business continuity) and other operational glitches can remain detected – leading to serious complications later on. Business owners would do well to remember that starting to use cloud services does not represent a complete transfer of responsibility – and having a reliable, end-to-end cloud data monitoring system can be very useful.

     12. Skill shortage

As the demand for secure cloud computing for businesses is increasing, the need for qualified, experienced cybersecurity professionals is coming into focus. That’s precisely where the problem of skill shortage is also becoming prominent. A recent study revealed that close to 47% organizations are facing such problems at present. Interestingly, 55% of the respondents also opined that the lack of adequate skilled personnel is putting additional pressure on existing teams – increasing chances of ‘early burnout’. Over the last 2-3 years, the cybersecurity skills shortage has persisted at fairly steady levels. Lack of skilled professionals is also preventing many startups or small businesses make full use of cloud networks.

Faulty system performance, inability to troubleshoot problems on a real-time basis (due to lack of monitoring), suspicions over the business viability of the service providers and unintentional data leakages also feature among the prime risks generally associated with cloud computing. While our analysis might paint a grave picture at first, the good thing is – most of these risks are manageable, and can be mitigated with due care on the part of businesses and the cloud vendors. As cloud technologies become more advanced and users learn to use them better – most of the above risks might very well cease to matter.

 

 

iPhone X: The Best And The Worst Features

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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The pre-release hype about Apple’s iPhone X (shipping started on November 3) was insane – even by the annual ‘new-iphone-is here‘ frenzy standards. In a recent survey involving respondents from four nations, it was revealed that 35% people were planning to buy the latest flagship model (the figure was only ~18% in August, indicating that excitements have been growing). However, not much is known for sure about the post-release performance of iPhone X. The total component demand (i.e., the components that make up iPhone X) in November was, surprisingly, a significant 30% lower than expectations. What’s more, the sales in December are likely to be even lower – and experts have not painted a very rosy picture for 2018 either (demands might have an alarming fall from March onwards, even forcing Apple’s hand to revise the sales estimates for the quarter).

All, however, is not doom and gloom for the ambitious new flagship iPhone. For the first time in years, Apple has really given a facelift to its most-sold product – and iPhone X does pack in more than a handful of interesting features. Also, the gloomy predictions can turn around in the course of the next couple of months or so (the holiday period will be crucial). Over here, we will highlight some great and some ‘not-so-good‘ features of iPhone X:

(The Good) – The Camera Is More Powerful Than Ever Before

The dual 12MP rear cameras (the main f/1.8 and the f/2.4 telephoto) are excellent, as we have come to expect from the recent line of iPhones. With the iPhone X, it is well and truly possible to capture DSLR-esque snaps on the go. However, we would here focus particularly on the front camera of the device – or what Apple calls the ‘True Depth Camera’. It powers both the unique Face ID feature (which has replaced Touch ID in iPhone X) as well as animojis (which, again, are unique to the latest flagship handset). Apart from a powerful infrared camera, the module contains a dot projector, a 7MP camera, a dot projector, a flood illuminator, an ambient light sensor and a proximity scanner. There is a mic and a speaker inside the designated front camera notch as well. With the front camera of iPhone X, users can check out the interesting ‘Portrait Mode effects’, as well as do aperture-reduction (also available on iPhone 7 Plus).

(The Not-So-Good) – The Price Is A ‘Never-Before’ For A Smartphone

2017 might well be dubbed as the ‘year of the super-expensive smartphones’. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 started to push matters with its price tag of $930 (T-Mobile) – and Apple has taken things to an altogether higher level by pricing the iPhone X (64 GB model) at $999. If you want to get the 256 GB-variant, you will have to cough up a whopping $1149 (the world’s very first phone to have a four-figure price…so, yay!). And that’s not all, since buyers also have to go for the $199 AppleCare+ package (up from $129). iPhone X might be the ‘future of the smartphone’…but it is not a future everybody will be able to, or be interested in, taking a part.

Note: It will be interesting to note the price-points of the 2018 iPhone models. iPhone X has probably set a benchmark.

(The Good) – The OLED Display Is Stunningly Beautiful

Let’s just say, never has a phone display looked this good. The LCD display panel of earlier models has made way for a high-quality OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display. The True Tone display is easily one of the USPs of the device, with unmatched clarity and sharpness – as reported by early users. It’s not that the Cupertino has broken new grounds with the OLED display (both Galaxy S8 and Xiaomi Mi Mix have it) – but the implementation has been remarkable. The screen size is 5.8”, and the display resolution of the Super Retina display is an impressive 2436×1125 (458 ppi). What’s more, iPhone X is the first iDevice to have an display compatible with HDR (high dynamic range). There are several differences between iPhone 8 and iPhone X – and the beautiful OLED display is arguably the biggest.

(The Not-So-Good) – The Camera ‘Notch’ Is An Irritation

The UI of iPhone X would have been perfect, only if the integration of the True Depth camera did not result in the fairly large ‘notch’ near the top of the display. It obscures the view, of photos (in portrait/landscape modes), of videos (sizeable portions from the side are not visible), and of apps with white/light backgrounds (most of the graphics near the top are blocked out). Add to that the ‘camera bump’ on the back – and all on a sudden, the design of iPhone X does not seem so smooth after all. To ensure stability on a flat surface, it would be ideal to purchase a separate case for the handset. You will probably get used to the notch over time – but while watching any media content, it will remain a hindrance.

(The Good) – Face ID Is Certainly The Future

Facial recognition on smartphones is something Android OEMs have been trying their hands on since 2012. Even so, no other company has been able to achieve that level of seamless efficiency and perfection as Apple – with the Face ID feature on iPhone X. Contrary to early rumors, Face ID cannot be ‘fooled’ with pictures of the users – with the tool creating unique visual IDs with the help of infrared dots for drawing up facial maps. The process of setting up Face ID is fairly straightforward too. With the help of Face ID, you can do a wide range of tasks – right from logging on to apps to authenticating payments via Apple Pay (a double-press on the designated button is required, followed by a glance). A straight comparison between Touch ID and Face ID reveals that the former is slightly faster – but the face mapping functionality ultimately wins out, with its end-to-end functionality in the background. It would have been nice to have both Face ID and Touch ID on iPhone X though. The more options…the better!

(The Not-So-Good) – The Continued Absence Of Headphone Jack

Oh yes, Apple has no plans of bringing back the 3.5 headphone jack (iPhone 7/7 Plus were the first models to not have the port). This has been a decision that has been met with mixed reactions at best – but the latest flagship iPhone does not have the headphone port either. There are, however, wireless headphones available – although neither Beats Studio 3 cans nor the Apple AirPods are particularly cheap. Also, there is a small dongle and lightning earbuds packed in the box with iPhone X. Pairing with compatible Bluetooth headsets is also an option. The absence of the headphone jack is not going to make a major difference to those who love their music on the go, but it is an inconvenience, nonetheless.

(The Good) – The Processor Power Is Top-Notch

 

In terms of speed and overall performance, the iPhone X beats most of its Android competitors hands down. The device gets its power from the powerful A11 Bionic hexa-core processor (which is a significant step up from 2016’s A10 Fusion processor). The phone comes with a built-in RAM of 3 GB, and the new processor has already topped several phone benchmark tests by a distance. In general use, iPhone X might not seem appreciably faster than a high-end Android device – but the former always has some extra processor power for developer tasks or official Apple tweaks. iOS 11 works like a charm with the underlying A11 Bionic processor – and playing heavy games, or viewing heavy media content is an absolute breeze.

(The Not-So-Good) – Not The Ideal Device For One-Handed Use

 

Face ID replaces Touch ID in iPhone X – and that is only the tip of the iceberg, as far as the new gestures and controls that iOS users have to learn, to master the new device. The list of notifications can be accessed by swiping downwards from the left corner – while doing so from the right corner opens the Control Center. An upward swipe takes users to the Home screen, Siri can be called by holding down a side button, an upwards swipe-and-hold launches the app multitasker, while applications can be also be closed by swiping up from the bottom. Given that many of the important controls involve swiping from the corners – it seems that the iPhone X will not be ideal for using with one hand (unless, of course, someone has HUGE hands!). Most people will have to use both their hands to properly use the handset.

(The Good) – Fast Charging Is Finally Here

 

With the fairly sturdy and elegant aluminum and glass shell, the latest line of iPhones (iPhone X, iPhone 8/8 Plus) has finally received the wireless charging feature. It adds to the convenience factor of users in a big way – since the phone no longer needs to be unplugged from the AC power source whenever a call comes in, or tracks from the playlist have to be changed. Of course, you can also charge it with the regular lightning port and cable. iPhone X goes from 0% to 50% charge in half an hour. Apple is new, and by most opinions, late in the wireless charging game – with Samsung and Google Pixel phones having this feature for some time now. It’s a good thing that the Cupertino company has finally sat up and taken notice.

Note: iPhone X also officially supports Galileo – the latest European satellite system. iPhone 8/8 Plus offers this support too.

(The Not-So-Good) – The Need For Updated Apps

 

With iPhone X, Apple has gone for a major design overhaul – the first of its kind since the step up to iPhone 6 in 2014. As such, the onus is on third-party developers to separately update their iPhone applications for iPhone X – so that their graphics/visual elements do not appear messy or awkward (or simply get blocked, due to the camera ‘notch’). There have been reports of non-updated apps appearing black at the top, or blocking the battery indicator, in the new handset. Apps have to be redesigned in a manner that their screens are entirely visible, the responsiveness is high, and the overall UX is fluid and immersive. As of now, many popular apps do not yet have ‘iPhone X-friendly’ versions – and it will take some time for all the major applications to come up to speed.

(The Good) – Animojis Take Face Mapping Forward. And They Are Super Fun.

 

Is the chance of your face being transformed into that of a cartoon animal that mimics your facial movements worth shelling out $999? Bypassing that debate for the moment – it has to be said that Animojis represent a seamless merger of software and hardware capabilities in iPhone X – with the result being a piece of magic that has been absent for a worryingly long time in the post-Steve Jobs period at Apple. The True Depth camera, with the 3D mapping sensors and the front camera lens, create these animojis. The cartoons can replicate the users’ facial expressions, talks and general movements – offering a somewhat silly, but yet, very interesting source of fun. The range of Animojis available is excellent, and the best bit is that they can be shared with people who do not use iPhone X. It will be interesting to track whether the novelty factor of animojis wear thin with time.

Note: Apple has already run into legal troubles over animojis. Emonster, a Japanese company, has sued Apple on the grounds of trademark infringement.

(The Not-So-Good) – The Removal Of Touch ID

 

Face ID, on most instances, is a reliable and powerful new-age facial recognition tool. However, for the millions of users who had got used to the Touch ID biometric sensor – the complete absence of it from iPhone X has been somewhat surprising. There have been occasional reports of the device not correctly ‘recognizing’ the user – particularly when (s)he is wearing glares or caps or other accessories (covering a part of the face will, of course, also result in Face ID not working). For optimal performance of Face ID, the distance between a user’s face and the device has to be 25-50 cm. There are security clouds too – with the chance of someone managing to point the device at a user being relatively more than somehow getting/misusing the thumb impressions of the latter. Touch ID debuted on iPhone 5S, and since then had grown into the most powerful biometric smartphone unlocking system. Face ID – with all its apparent merits and technological nuances – is still unproven.

Note: To be fair, it would have been impossible to create the bezelless, edge-to-edge display of iPhone X with Touch ID. It’s a classic case of getting one or the other.

(The Good) – A Truly Compact Device That Makes The Best Use Of Its Form Factor

 

The iPhone 8 Plus is 6.24” tall – but its screen size is only 5.5”, due to the presence of fairly large bezels. On the other hand, the screen size (diagonally, edge-to-edge) of iPhone X is actually more than the height of the device (5.8” vs 5.65”). In other words, the $1000-iPhone does deliver more screen real estate to end-users – and that too, within a smaller, more compact, form-factor. For things like playing mobile games, or checking out the news, or reading digital books – the larger display screen of iPhone X serves as an advantage. At 1920×1080, the display resolution of iPhone 8 Plus is also some way below that of iPhone X.

(The Not-So-Good) – Battery Percentage Indicator Not On Display

 

Not a deal-breaker in any sense – but still, the option of checking out whether there is close to 90% battery juice, or if the phone is about to die, directly from the display was mighty useful. Such information is not immediately apparent from the battery icon, and users have to dig deeper to find out how much battery life their iPhone X handsets have remaining at any time. There have also been some instances of users failing to place the device on the charging pod correctly – as a result of which, no charging has taken place. These are relatively minor gripes though. If someone is eager to give iPhone X a try, the absence of the battery indicator on the screen will not stand in his/her way.

The Final Word

 

The iPhone X is an amazing phone. It brings in a bevy of new features – with the design excellence and the Face ID recognition system being right at the forefront. For those who love a bit of goofy fun, Animojis can be excellent companions. The A11 Bionic processor promises world-class performance. However, the phone is way too pricey – and the jury is still out on whether its extra features make it worth a buy over the $699 iPhone 8. Also, according to unconfirmed reports, Apple is eyeing the release of 3 new iPhone models (1 LCD, 2 OLED) next year – and all of them will share the design and (most of the) features of iPhone X. In less than a year’s time, iPhone X might no longer be that exclusive a device.

The excitements among Apple fans worldwide over iPhone X has proven that this handset, however expensive it might be, has a market. The reports of component demands slowing down can also be misleading – since Apple might simply have stored more resources to build the handset. It will be fascinating to see how well (or otherwise) iPhone X does in the next couple of quarters or so.

 

Top 12 IoT Trends To Watch Out For In 2018

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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IoT trends 2018

 

 

How fast is the internet of things (IoT) growing? A recent report revealed that close to 330 million smart devices come into the IoT fold (i.e., get powered by the internet in some way or other) every month. Going by this trend, the total number of connected devices should comfortably cross the 50 billion mark by the end of this decade. Business spending on IoT apps, tools and other related solutions will jump to ~$270 billion by 2020. The 2015-2020 CAGR of the global IoT industry will hover around 20%, which is mighty impressive indeed.

While things are moving forward at a rapid clip as far as IoT is concerned, experts feel that, to date, most of the work in this field has been generic and often experimental. Tech companies have joined in the flow, and have invested resources to test the waters – before coming out with their new tools. 2018 is likely to be the year when these technologies become truly business standard, with many new trends and stats likely to dominate. We will here highlight some fascinating IoT trends for 2018:

  1. Proliferation of connected devices

    Back in 2015, there were less than 5 million connected devices in the world. Cut to 2018, and that number is expected to breach 23 billion mark. The exponential growth rate will be sustained, with an estimated 125 billion IoT devices in active use by the end of 2030. Apart from making life easier for consumers in myriad ways (smart homes, connected cars, sensor services, etc.) – these connected devices will emerge as powerful marketing and branding tools as well. Customer data will be seamlessly shared with vendors and service providers – helping the latter to provide more personalized marketing experiences. The importance of customer data will continue to rise in the domain of marketing, and IoT will help in the optimal utilization of such data.

Note: According to a Gartner report, there will be around 8.4 connected devices by the end of this year.

  1. The face of digital transformation

    The IoT Barometer 2017-18 report by Vodafone found that, on average, 3 out of every 4 enterprises that have already adopted IoT feel that the technology will be the integral factor for digital transformations in future. The benefits of switching over to IoT platforms will be multifarious – ranging from better workflow management, deeper data insights and generation of untapped revenue schemes, to efficient risk management, real-time collection of ‘mission critical’ data, reduction in costs and significant boosts in general productivity levels. Becoming one of the early adopters of IoT will give companies a vital competitive advantage over rivals. IoT for enterprises is going to gain momentum in a big way in 2018 and beyond.

  2. More specialized IoT initiatives

    Up till now, IoT has mostly been about generic hardware tools and software – which have been put to different uses by developers. Things will get more streamlined from the next year, with IoT practices and resources expected to become more specialized than ever before. Digital platforms specifically designed and customized for different industries will start to become available – following on with the ‘design and operate’ principle. Put in another way, the work of IoT developers will become more objective – since they will create such personalized tools and platforms that will deliver the maximum value for their respective industries. The gradual moving out from generic IoT solutions will not hurt the economies of scale from the technology either. Large-scale application of targeted IoT platforms will build both internal and external efficiencies.

  3. Benefits across different industries

    With the rapid rise in the variety of smart gadgets connected to the network, the benefits of IoT are starting to get uniformly spread across various industries. Although IoT platforms and middleware still form the biggest component of the smart things market, home automation comes in at a close second – while energy management, industrial automation and smart cities also getting greater operational benefits with IoT implementation. Health and fitness is yet another sector where IoT has immense scopes, as is the retail sector (imagine this: there will be ‘smart shelves’ which will notify sellers whenever inventory levels are running low). 2018 should also see IoT making more inroads in the domains of agriculture, transportation, security and environment management.

Note: A recent Forrester survey revealed that close to 20% of the respondents were already using IoT, while a further ~29% had plans to implement the technology in their infrastructure. Enterprises powered by IoT will also have easier access to startup capital.

  1. The arrival of blockchain in IoT

    For all its merits, security is still the weak link of the internet of things. There have been many instances of high-profile data thefts, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware threats and other hacks in the recent past. More alarmingly, software developers feel that such attacks are only going to rise in the coming years, identifying the potential security vulnerabilities of IoT. In such a scenario, it will make a lot of sense if we start witnessing the amalgamation of the blockchain technology (distributed ledger technology, or DLT) in this domain. Implementation of blockchain will ensure that data will not reside in any single location (it will be present in all the nodes of the ledger) – and that, in turn, will mean that the shady hackers will not get a single point of attack. These immutable digital ledgers can be used to manage the huge volumes of connected devices. All aspects of IoT – communications, data storage and handling, processing, and sensory functions – will be managed and recorded by blockchain technology, thereby eliminating single point of failures and establishing a robust ecosystem. By the first half of 2018, there will be some progress of blockchain in the field of IoT applications.

Note: Like in any other tech field, IoT users (homeowners and entrepreneurs and venture capitalists) need to be confident about the technology. Integration with blockchain will be a step in the right direction in this context.

  1. Commercialization of IoT data will increase in Europe

    As already highlighted above, IoT will pave the way for more intimate brand/product experiences (tools like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have shown the way). For this to actually emerge as an important marketing tool, the data collected/stored by IoT devices have to be commercialized. In the US, nearly 45% of such IoT data are indeed used for commercial purposes. However, Europe lags quite a bit in this regard – with only 37% enterprises in Germany, and 34% enterprises in France commercializing IoT data (other countries are at even lower levels). With the marketing/branding advantages of IoT becoming increasingly apparent, expect a greater shift of customer data commercialization by European businesses. The onus will be both on the companies for responsibly using personal data, as well as on the end-users for deciding the type and extent of data to be shared on IoT channels.

  2. LPWAN and IoT will be a hit pair

    IoT applications and hardware place immense pressure on existing cellular networks (in terms of battery performance, processor performance, speed and several other parameters). In 2018, the shortcomings of the latter for powering IoT networks will become fairly evident, and low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) will emerge as a viable alternative. These networks typically deliver excellent battery juice (>10 years), while the endpoint hardware costs are also pretty low (on average, $4-$5). Nationwide coverage is available wherever required (Semtech’s LoRa technology powers countries like Canada, France, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and others). The low throughput rates and the top-class coverage (12-15 km in urban locations; less in rural areas) also make a difference. Sigfox is another LPWAN technology that can play an important role in the growth of IoT in the foreseeable future. Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) also has its set of advantages.

Note: Low power short range networks, like Bluetooth, Zigbee and P2P wifi will also be important in assisting IoT functions on suitable devices.

  1. Role of AI and ML in IoT will increase

    As we near the end of 2017, the focus has squarely shifted on the rapidly expanding capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML). Over the next couple of years, AI will be used as a core functionality in many IoT devices (even in households) – to elicit real-time information and commands from the pre-programmed instructions, and function accordingly. Operational effectiveness of IoT platforms will increase – thanks to the secure transactional environment established by the built-in AI modules in them. The predictive thinking powers will help IoT tools (in any location, homes or offices) trigger real-time tasks by studying day-to-day habits and actions. Over the next five years or so, we should see most of our mundane, manual tasks performed by AI-powered IoT tools. We are still some way off from the day when Siri will be able to answer doorbells…but progresses in that direction are being made.

  2. Big data and IoT analytics

    The global value of the big data market will soar to $40.8 billion in 2018 (in 2017, the value was $33.5 billion). Fast forward to 2021, and the big data market will be worth well over $65 billion. Usage of advanced IoT networks – with dynamic data sharing and need for actionable insights on demand – is fueling the growth spurt of big data. The existing pool of data scientists will soon be not up to the task of managing the humongous pools of information coming through from the IoT channels – and the need for embedded IoT analytics systems will emerge. From new system architectures and new data types, to machine learning integration and creation of event-streaming platforms (the traditional way of collecting, storing and then processing data will soon be not enough; real-time processing will become necessary) – developers are looking to provide accurate and scalable predictive analysis powers to their proprietary IoT systems in different ways. Identifying, intercepting and acting on crucial business moments is of immediate essence – and in 2018 and beyond, IoT analytics will start to help in that.

Note: Lack of advanced big data skills is a big challenge. With IoT proliferation, demand for employees with high-level big data skills is set to increase by 70% in 2018. In the US, there is already a shortfall of qualified workers vis-a-vis the IoT big data jobs.

    10. Voice tech to make IoT smarter

The Amazon Echo smart speaker showed the way, and Google has followed its example by launching an exciting lineup of voice-powered products in October. In general, voice technology is expected to play a big role in increasing the consumer engagement levels with IoT components – and removing all possible frictions in communications between the two parties. The popularity of mobile digital assistants like Siri and Cortana and Google Assistant has already showed that, if done right, IoT platforms with voice tech support will have enormous potential for widespread adoption. For contextual recommendations (regarding, for instance, shopping), IoT tools can start to provide high-quality digital concierge solutions – doing away with the need for users to actually ‘ask’ anything to the automated assistants.

Note: By 2020, voice tech will power close to 50% of all searches.

     11. Mounting investments on IoT

As shipments of IoT devices and accessories continue to grow, the total investment level on them also breaks new grounds. By mid-2021, IoT spendings will be only a touch under $1.5 trillion – with manufacturing, transportation and utilities accounting for the biggest investment shares (in that order). Hardware will attract the most investments, although software (with a CAGR of 29%) will be fast catching up (and maybe overtaking hardware in 2021-22). A General Electric report has suggested that IoT will contribute a hefty 10%-14% share in the global GDP figures by 2030. Interestingly, although wearables will grow to the tune of 30.9% by 2020, the segment will continue to be somewhat niche.

Note: Investments on IoT will well and truly pick up pace as the concerns over security are allayed. At present, a whopping 94% business owners (in a survey) feel that industrial-internet-of-things (IIoT) will ramp up security threats, while 51% feel that they do not yet have the tools to counter such attacks.

     12. IoT on the cloud

In 2018, more and more businesses will open up their own data centers for deploying custom IoT solutions. However, the growth of IoT deployments on the cloud will be even greater. In addition, many enterprises will take the step of performing data analysis/processing at the edge of the network (edge computing) – to minimize latency, reduce costs considerably, and gain greater value. Implementing IoT remotely on cloud networks will also bring down adoption and maintenance costs, while the processes will become faster, and integrations with other infrastructures will become that much easier. In the next couple of years, big data, cloud systems, mobile and IoT will seamlessly combine to deliver optimized outputs to end-users.

By the end of 2018, the market value of the worldwide IoT market will increase by almost 23.1% on a YoY basis ($1391 billion vs $1130 billion). In 2019, that figure will jump to $1710 billion – clearly underlying the accelerated rate at which this market is growing. Over the next few quarters, the importance of end-to-end IoT device management will also come into greater focus. The time for playing around with IoT is nearly over – and as the technology opens up newer scopes, practical applications of IoT will take centerstage in 2018 and beyond.

13 API Management Platforms That You Should Be Using

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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api platforms 2018

 

 

As the usage of mobile applications continues to soar worldwide, the importance of APIs (application programming interfaces) are increasingly coming into focus. Most apps need to have robust backend support and cloud connectivity for optimum functionality – and it is precisely here that APIs come in handy. By the end of November 2017, there were nearly 18800 APIs in ProgrammableWeb – with the number going up all the time.

With the volume of data being exposed through APIs increasing (through apps), the importance of proper, end-to-end API management can hardly be overemphasized. APIs need to be managed both from their technical as well as their business operations standpoints. There are several high-quality API management tools currently available, which can play key roles in the API optimization strategies of developers. Over here, we take a look at some of these API management platforms:

  1. Akana

    Created by RogueWave Software, Akana delivers holistic API management services to users. Apart from being available in the form of a dynamic software-as-a-service, the platform can also be used as an on-premises tool, as well as a channel for hybrid deployment. Right from API designing and implementation, to traffic management, API security and monitoring, and publishing – everything can be efficiently managed on the Akana platform. The multi-channel availability of this platform – on mobile, cloud services, and through IoT – facilitates digital transformation of enterprises at exponential rates. Data sharing with APIs, partner adoption and asset monetization are key factors that boost the importance of the Akana platform for businesses. It has a systematic, multi-tenant infrastructure.

Note: Version 8.4 of the Akana Platform is currently available.

  1. Layer7/CA Technologies

    Acquired by CA Technologies in April 2013, the Layer7 gateway serves as a high-quality, all-round service-oriented architecture (SOA) platform. It allows seamless deployment of digital interfaces – both on the cloud, as well as on an ‘on-premise’ basis. The tool factors in all the essential elements for overall API lifecycle management – with strong built-in support for app development and API creation/deployment. What’s more, the Layer7 platform offers enhanced threat protection assurance to both API providers and end-users (app developers). The different tools included in the erstwhile Layer7 product family are now known as CA API Gateway, CA Mobile API Gateway, CA Live API Creator, CA Mobile App Services, CA API Management SaaS and CA API Developer Portal.

  2. Mashery

    Earlier this year, TIBCO Software announced the launch of TIBCO Mashery Professional – an all-new, multi-featured API management platform. Developers (both in-house and external) are provided with a single point of API access – making things more convenient. The embedded developer portal can transform APIs into products, while the connectivity options to cloud applications (public/private) and in-house applications is also an advantage. Speed (‘agile experimentation’) is yet another advantage of the TIBCO Mashery platform – with faster sharing of digital assets, and quicker development of mobile applications. Businesses can leverage greater flexibility from this platform, which comes with a useful security and performance dashboard.

Note: A thirty-day free trial period is available for the Mashery platform.

  1. Apigee

    Easily one of the best API management platforms out there at present. It offers in-depth management of APIs of their entire lifecycle – covering key points phases like designing, security monitoring, scalability, analytics, and even monetization. ‘Independent scaling’ and ‘traffic isolation’ are two of the most important, useful features of Apigee – and the platform can be used for API deployment on partner apps, consumer apps, legacy apps, cloud apps, and of course, the Internet of Things. API proxies can be designed and directly deployed from the Swagger specifications (Open API), and the platform also comes with enterprise-grade OAuth 2.0 security standards. API visibility levels are also bolstered by the instant tracking of performance and developer-usage of APIs. Rate limiting and dynamic routing help in managing sudden traffic spikes (API call spikes). API operations can be quickly automated on this platform. Apigee was acquired by Google in 2016 for a whopping $625 million.

Note: The platform for creating and managing API proxies is called Apigee Edge. It is built on a Java framework.

  1. Axway

    Optimized data governance and end-to-end management of the value chain of digital businesses are the two core functions of the Axway platform. It enables API providers to establish better two-way communications with suppliers, customers and third-party developer communities. Compatible, connected devices can be controlled real-time with the Axway platform – and it also opens up the possibilities of adopting reusable components and ‘not-configure’ coding. Once again, Axway is available for on-premise and cloud deployments, and data is governed around the edge of enterprises – delivering greater business value. Axway has a DevOps-friendly structure, and ensures unified app development, secure integration and multi-channel usability.

Note: Syncplicity was acquired by Axway in February 2017. The latter had earlier acquired Appcelerator as well.

  1. Restlet

    For designing and deployment of APIs on the cloud, Restlet is an excellent platform. Just like most of the other platforms on this list, this one also lets developers follow an API-first approach, with customized security and controls. This web API platform vendor offers smooth API designing and documentation through Restlet Studio, while data APIs are created and hosted in the Restlet Cloud. On the other hand, Restlet Client allows users to test their APIs, as well as automate the tools as required. For creating, managing and hosting APIs, the platform offers API PaaS (product-as-a-service). Restlet also helps in API consumption monitoring. The platform has been created with the APISpark interface.

Note: In order to generate the SDKs required in RESTful APIs, the REST United platform (an online application) can be used.

  1. MuleSoft

    The MuleSoft AnyPoint Platform has been a go-to API management tool for seamlessly integrating enterprise apps and software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the cloud. The platform uses integrations (hybrid) and APIs for the scaling of application networks – involving devices, apps and other software tools. Business agility levels are boosted, by doing away with the need for point-to-point integration – and the built-in SDLC (systems development life cycle) allows unified, rapid development. Valuable IT assets can be shared securely with authorized internal/external parties, while self-servicing features are available too. API scalability and flexibility levels are high – thanks to the lean runtime of the AnyPoint Platform. A design-first approach is adopted, and custom connectors can be used to connect the platform with practically any data source (apps, REST/SOAP APIs, databases, etc.). All the required API analytics are managed from this platform.

  2. DreamFactory

    Based on the Laravel framework, the DreamFactory tool is relied upon by many mobile app developers to give their new software that extra bit of edge. Powerful and reliable REST APIs are automatically created by DF for email handling, SQL/noSQL, storage features, and a lot more functions. In essence, DreamFactory functions as an open source REST API platform, for web apps and IoT apps (apart from mobile applications). The REST APIs are generated without any coding, and server-side scripting allows for smooth custom logic implementation. Each API endpoint is secured with the latest threat-prevention tools. All that external app developers have to do is install the DreamFactory package on their systems, get their data connected, and integrate the REST APIs to start building cutting-edge applications.

Note: DreamFactory has been used in two of our recent projects – Eventify and MAPT.

  1. Apiary

    Collaboration is the name of the game on the Apiary – which currently boasts of having well over 3 million developers onboard. It ensures that every stakeholder – right from app architects and developers, to partners, product managers and testers – can get their ideas and opinions across, related to API designing. The platform offers three separate user-roles (Viewer, Editor and Admin), and team members can be added or removed from design projects with ease. New projects can be bootstrapped with the API Blueprint template – and all such blueprints can be managed on a single, unified dashboard on the Apiary platform. API testing is continuous and from a single destination – a one-of-its kind feature, while the creative control and the systematic, simplified workflow are also worth a mention.

Note: Apiary was acquired by Oracle in January this year.

   10. Mashape

Apart from being a top-quality software management platform, Mashape also doubles up as an engaging API marketplace (i.e., new APIs can be listed by providers here). The platform serves as a point of cloud proxy connection between app-makers (or, API-users/callers) and the API suppliers. API coding language libraries are available in different languages, the platform has powerful testing tools, and codes can be used to generate custom errors. Both standardized microservices and APIs can be visualized, inspected and monitored on Mashape – which also renders the task of multiple API-usage a whole lot faster. Add to that the greater API discoverability options with the new listings – and Mashape becomes a really well-rounded API platform indeed.

   11. Fusio

An open-source API management platform that comes with a plethora of high-end features. The platform assigns a backend application to monitor and track APIs, with rate-limiting requests (based either on the front-end app or the concerned user(s)). The in-built JSON schema is in charge of all request validations, From the designated Fusio ‘developer portal’, third-party developers can call and use APIs easily. REST APIs can be built without any coding involved, all the key metrics can be managed, and extending the APIs (for instance, in case of a complication) is possible. The platform provides an API documentation app as well, and it is also has OAuth2 authorizations (access tokens).

   12. Kong

On-premise, in the cloud, datacenters (single, multi or hybrid) – the Kong API management layer can be deployed across different ecosystems. NGINX is the underlying layer for the customized RESTful interface of this platform, and there several useful plugins available to bolster API functionality levels. While using the Kong platform, enterprises can control the architecture they are working with at all times. The overall complexity and required time for API deployments are considerably reduced by the platform – and the latter also has the capability of transforming requests/responses real-time. API traffic can be managed, the relevant analytics can be tracked, and serverless functions can be efficiently invoked. The onboarding process is pretty much straightforward too.

Note: In addition to the Community Edition (v.0.11.2 currently available), the Kong platform also has an Enterprise Edition.

   13. 3Scale

A secure, distributed cloud-hosted layer lies at the heart of the 3Scale API platform. Much like any other good API management tool, 3Scale promises minimal latency and high availability (the uptime satisfies the ‘five-9’s requirement). The platform is a part of the Red Hat network – and it has OAuth tokens and API keys to manage the endpoint security requirements. Access control is expertly managed, deployments are on the cloud or on-premise, and rate limiting (e.g., ‘X’ API calls per minute) features are provided in the platform. The 3Scale Dashboard is a great way of keeping track of all the API engagements and traffic levels – and the platform also has state-of-the-art API monetization tools. The Swagger framework powers ActiveDocs – the live API documentation tool built inside 3Scale. Apart from being a great mobile backend support, this platform presents APIs as a business (APIaaS).

ApiAxle, Tyke, Apiman and Deployd are some other powerful and popular API management platforms that you can check out. For web service interfaces, using the API Umbrella platform would also be a good option. Amazon Web Services serves as a very reliable and efficient cloud computing platform. Use of APIs is going to keep spiralling upwards in the foreseeable future – and for true API strategy optimization, using the platforms mentioned here will surely be the way to go.