Apple. One of the largest, most successful and impressive technology companies in the world. Also known as the ‘Apple Revolution’. With the massive impact it’s had, things can only go down from here, right?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Apple taking a downturn after it’s high of 20-odd years and how people are moving further away from the brand and its products. But is this really true? Does this mean that people are buying less or all-out hating the products? And why would they be moving away if the products are always evolving?

Are people really moving away?

In 2016, Apple reported its first decline in annual sales and profit in 15 years, nonetheless, last year Apple also recorded its highest ever profits, despite a fall in iPhone sales. So what is the state of the mega-brand’s financials and how is this reflecting what people really think of it?

The term ‘moving away’ could be easily misunderstood. It’s a much more complex matter than people simply purchasing less Apple products because they have developed a sudden dislike for the brand. From multiple reports and statistics, it could be argued that it’s not Apple as a whole which has lost its following, but instead it’s the iPhone which has taken a considerable decline in demand and buyers’ attentions have diverted to other Apple products. The best selling Apple products of 2018 were in fact the Airpods, the Macbook Air and the Apple Watch.

Even though it’s the brand’s most iconic and important product, there have been a lot of frustrations with the iPhone over the years including it’s unreliable battery life, disappointing storage capacity and file sharing to devices outside of Apple. These ongoing annoyances didn’t seem to dramatically effect sales last year, with it being predicted that in the second quarter of 2018, Apple sold 52.2 million iPhones with the average price for a device being $728. That’s an estimated 38 billion dollars in sales.

If it’s not becoming less popular, then why are less being sold?

Another reason for the decline in sales could be the life span of the iPhone compared to its competition. The longer an phone lasts, the longer somebody can wait to purchase a new one.

According to Apple, the average iPhone lifespan is just over 4 years, while the Consumer Electronics Association states that the average lifespan of a smartphone handset is approximately 4.7 years.

Even though Apple loses out in the statistics, repairability is also something which needs to be considered when figuring out why people are purchasing less iPhones. The whole phone doesn’t usually die at once. It’s more often that different parts of the handset (the hardware, battery and peripherals) which lose working ability at different times and therefore, it needs to be repaired or just discarded for a new one.

The cost of the handset becomes extremely relevant at this point. The more expensive the phone, the more likely somebody is going to get the device repaired, instead of purchasing a new one. With the latest generation of iPhone – the XS – costing approximately £1,250 each and the two before that costing £750 (iPhone XR) and £950 (iPhone X), it seems like the most sensible decision to invest in getting it repaired, especially when only a small aspect of the phone needs to be fixed.

The Future of Apple

So, what’s the future of this mega brand and technology leader?

After the lull of the latest iPhone XR having to be discounted in price because not enough were sold after it launched, what is the future of this mega brand and technology leader?

There have been many theories about what Apple will look like in a year, five or 20 years time. Here are some of the most pragmatic predictions:

  • Products will evolve to become more wearable

The Apple Watch and Airpods dominated the sales of last year and this isn’t predicted to be a temporary trend. Ambience computing will become a more common aspect of future products created by Apple.

  • The shift from phones to glasses

Tying in with Apple products expected to become more wearable overtime, it’s been estimated that one day, most of us would have made the move from a handset to a wearable phone in the form of glasses.

  • Apple’s “Services” business

As one of the fastest growing areas of what Apple has to offer, Services is estimated to continue to increase in popularity. Apple Services includes Apple Music and its App Store.

 

Apple has never been very interested in invention, instead it’s focused on reinvention and evolution. The company lives by its model of phasing out successful products and transitioning people to the next (and often more expensive) model…which isn’t significantly different from the previous one, but offers something more elevated. However effective this business model has been for Apple, it also allows other technology brands to slot new, similar products into the market which Apple has decided to leave behind.

The idea that the Apple iPhone is becoming less popular is a complex issue and a lot of elements need to be considered before declaring the brand old-school. Whichever direction Apple is taking its iconic handset, it will always survive one form or another – whether that’s in our hands, around our wrists or on our faces.

 

If you thought 2018 was an exciting year for technology with the boost of ambience computing, artificial intelligence and all things robot, you are sure to be impressed by the technology which has been predicted to take off in 2019.

Here are some of the best predictions of which technologies will have their time to shine this year…

We’ll start owning personal robots

Humans have been developing robots for decades, and not just for manufacturing and industrial applications. It has been said that this year, there will be the rise of ‘soft robotics’ – easier, safer and more like a companion compared to their industrialised (and slightly scarier) counterparts.

‘Soft robots’ would be brilliant for helping hospitals, schools and care homes for nurturing patients, assisting healthcare professionals and undertaking repetitive tasks – saving time and money in the long run. Their tasks could include dispensing medication or monitoring the state of the human body at an advanced level.

Augmented and virtual reality will become normal

Virtual reality is a close cousin of augmented reality and it’s being anticipated that it will become part of our everyday lives more than ever.

We already are experiencing the wonders that AR and VR can bring via apps and platforms such as Apple’s ARKit and ZapWorks, but this year, it’s being predicted that it will ramp up a notch and we’ll all be getting a taste of a world outside of our own reality.

Foldable phones will be a thing

Phone screens ending up cracked is said to have affected 50% of people globally and costs British people £680 million every year to fix – isn’t it funny how this didn’t seem to happen near as often as when we had flip phones?

Phones comprising of hinges may have a revival in 2019 in the form of ‘foldable phones’ being brought to us by Xiaomi, Samsung, Motorola, Apple and Huawei. Currently, securely behind doors, keep your eyes peeled for the release of this new generation of phones. It could end up saving us a lot of cash which we would otherwise have spent on getting our cracked screens fixed, now that screens are predicted to evolve to fold in on themselves.

We’ll all know what the Internet of Things (IoT) is

Something which is as broad as it sounds, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of devices such as vehicles and home appliances which have the ability to connect, interact and exchange data between each other.

It’s been predicted that we’ll start to have internet connectivity in everyday objects, making them smart enough to send and receive data without human-to-human or human-to-computer involvement. In no time at all, orders will start rolling in by people wanting a smart kettle, toaster or washing machine.

We’ll be able to connect to 5G

There were a lot of talks surrounding this last year and it’s being predicted that all new phones will be designed with the ability to hold 5G, so we’ll all start to be using it this year.

5G stands for ‘fifth generation mobile networks’…which surprisingly, is exactly what it is. With the move from 2G, 3G and eventually 4G, each time the networks have become quicker (some have said 100 times quicker!) and had the ability to support mobile internet a lot better. You’ll need a phone which is capable of connecting to the network, but the introduction of 5G could just be around the corner.

Hybrid storage solutions will emerge

Even though this technology has recently surfaced, it’s predicted to have a massive breakthrough this year. These types of storage systems essentially combine flash with a hard-disk drive – blending high performance with a low-cost capacity to get the best out of both worlds. Some are expected to have built-in data protection, management simplicity and deliver 99.9999% uptime.

We’ll be chatting to our work colleagues with apps

Facebook Messenger, Snapchat or Whatsapp are great for keeping in contact with your mates but aren’t necessarily considered a ‘professional’ platform to use during work hours with your boss looking over your shoulder.

So instead, you resort to keeping in touch with your colleagues solely by email or around the water cooler. This year, small talk in the workplace via tailored apps is said to grow in popularity significantly this year. Applications such as Slack, Flock or Workplace Chat allow you to have private conversations as a group or to individual colleagues while sharing files, photos and video calls – and the occasional Gif.

Electric cars will find their feet (or wheels)

Electric cars have been lingering around for a century or two (mainly in blockbuster films), but with all new cars in the UK predicted to be zero emission by 2040, some car manufacturers have been trying to get in early to establish themselves as ‘friends of the planet’ or a leader in electric cars.

Apparently, this year will be the year that the electric car will revolutionize the market and become more than just a novelty. The pricing is expected to be cheaper, more luxurious and smarter. Get ready for the revolution.

Social media giants will be at risk

We all remember Facebook’s huge Cambridge Analytica data scandal of last year and the harvesting of personal data via our Facebook profiles without consent and using it for political purposes. The platform hasn’t quite recovered fully from the downturn and has put the other major platforms – Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat – under the harsh spotlight of users globally.

People have guessed that this year, in response to the scandal, it could bring more paid social platforms, a significant increase in privacy regulation and overall becoming, social media becoming less popular.

 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a technology which can blast us to the future to find out what actually took off in 2019, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the year brings us in regards to technology. One this that is certain, this will be the year of big change, big improvements and big data breaches.

We’re at the start of the ambient computing era. The topic has been floating around since the 1990s, but ambient computing is starting to come to the surface and increase in usage, popularity and awareness.

Ambient intelligence has managed to find it’s way into the everyday objects we own. It wants to become a part of our infrastructure in order to improve and make things easier for us to achieve. It will mean we no longer have to connect, control, sync or even notice that an environment has changed for our benefit. It does all of that for us.

What is ambient computing?

Ambient computing devices want to play a part or become the ‘backdrop’ of all of our lives and to shape it in some way.

It couldn’t be defined as a technology as such, and there are some conflicting ideas on what it actually is. Ambient computing can come in various forms, but the basic definition is often described as:

“An interconnected array of computing devices or objects which react to a specific environment and are capable of transferring data to each other without human intervention.”

It’s not something you can operate fully, it reacts to the environment in which it is installed. It collates data, turns that data into a signal and then into an insight which is fed back to us. Devices become extensions of each other, rather than discrete, independent computer platforms.

In our everyday life

You may own an ambient computing system or have been in contact with one, without knowing it. It could be tracking you at home, work or in

public. To understand how impressive the systems can be and how much we are unknowingly ‘feeding’ the systems with data on a daily basis, we’ve collated some of the key examples of where you could have come across ambient computing. Or even, where it would have come across you.

Motion sensors

One of the simplest and most identifiable types of ambient computing. You’d have most likely come into contact with motion sensors in the form of an automatic door, which detects your presence and opens itself for you to walk through. It works by identifying you as a human who wants to enter the building via the door and reacts to your need by opening the door for you.

Lighting sensors

Have you ever been sitting in front of your computer or phone screen and it’s suddenly become brighter or darker? That’s probably the act of an ambient light sensor and it’s photodetector identifying the amount of light present in your environment and in turn, automatically adjusts the screen’s light to suit it – without your command or input. This is to ensure that the screen is always at its most readable.

Thermostats

Thermostats can automatically regulate the temperature within a room, but a smart thermostat is so much more than that. They are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is the network of devices which interconnect, interact and exchange data that they have each collated.

Smart thermostats pay attention to various aspects of the room to create the best environment for us to be in or to adjust when we’re not in – saving considerable energy in the long-run. With doors opening and people moving throughout the building or home, smart thermostats can respond to this by independently changing the room temperature.

Wearable sensors

Wearable sensors use the human body as a transmission channel in order to communicate and cooperate with each other, or the human can transmit the data themselves to a peripheral device.

The key aspect which makes wearable sensors different from any other type of ambient computing applications, is that the sensors are positioned directly or indirectly onto the body. They must have the ability to be independently influenced by the wearer, but can also be operated by the wearer hands-free.

Don’t just think of the Apple watch, wearable sensors can be embedded into various types of clothes, hats, glasses and shoes. Overall, their job is to monitor aspects of a person’s physiological state and movements such as body position, pulse and skin temperature.

Criticisms

With all of the brilliant things that ambient computing can do, there are some tough criticisms of it. The most significant one is privacy, or more specifically, the loss of it.

David Wright, a critic of ambient computing, has questioned the societal, political and cultural concerns surrounding it’s confidentiality and the loss of privacy. In his book, ‘Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence’ (2008), he illustrates the threats and vulnerabilities that he predicts ambience intelligence will leave us susceptible to, and how we will have to safeguard ourselves from them. He writes: “AmI (Ambient Intelligence) networks, like existing networks such as the internet, are such that they evolve as new software and many different people and entities add technologies. Thus, building trust and security into networks inevitably involved an effort of trying to create trustworthy systems for untrustworthy components.”

Even though the book was written over 10 years ago, it undoubtedly has some relevance in demonstrating the balance of creating technologies which can become so intelligent that we don’t even notice how they are improving our lives, but at the same time these devices could become so intelligent, that we can no longer control them.

The main topics of conversation for critics are the decrease in privacy within society, the power given to large organisations and hyperreal environments where you can’t figure out where reality ends and the virtual begins, and vise-versa. They want ambient intelligence to be in the hands of The People instead of organisations.

 

Before now, technology developments have always been hands-on – we’ve always been in control and fully aware that we’re connected. Funnily enough, with ambience computing becoming more entwined into our lives, we are able to gain a sense of disconnect from all things technology. Ambience computing is able to predict what we want and need without us having to ask for it. Perhaps, before we even realise we need it.

 

If you own a business, I’m sure you’re aware of the GDPR legislation back in May 2018, and the concern which became prevalent across all industries – whether the legislation was applicable to them, and what they had to do in order to comply.

The problem

Today, it seems that most organisations believe that they have implemented the changes necessary to ensure that they are GDPR compliant and handling personal data in a responsible manner. But wait – there could be something that many businesses are forgetting about; which could be detrimental in protecting them against potential fines – registering with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It seems that this aspect of GDPR often flies under the radar within an organisation and there is a great deal of confusion as to whether organisations like yours should register.

The solution

The ICO’s goal is to uphold the information rights in the public interest and registering with them comes at a cost of as little as £40 per year depending on your business.

All businesses must register with ICO if they process personal data, but there may be exceptions. In order to prevent any potentially hefty fines, you’d better check!

So, how do you find out whether you are exempt from registering with ICO? There’s a great questionnaire that the office has put together to find out, you can complete it here.

 

Depending on the size of your business, the GDPR may require you to maintain a register of data processing activities; but what activities should you record and does this apply to you? It can be daunting to know where to start in finding out what GDPR requirements apply to your business; therefore, it can be easy to get the wrong idea.

The problem

There is a misconception that the GDPR requirement to maintain a register of data processing activities only applies to businesses with over 250 employees. After some enquiries made to the UK’s data protection authority; the ICO, it appears that this is not the case!

Companies with under 250 employees need to maintain a register of ‘non-irregular’ (why can’t they just say ‘regular’?) processing activities, for example: collecting employee’s emergency contact details.

Companies with over 250 employees need to maintain a register of both irregular and non-irregular processing activities. An irregular processing activity is any processing activity outside of your usual business practice, for example, if an online casino (which has a requirement to collect your email address to provide their service) was to send you an email to advise you of a new line of business that they had started.

The solution

All businesses must maintain a register of non-irregular data processing activities, and the ICO has a page dedicated to help you comply with this requirement: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/documentation/how-do-we-document-our-processing-activities/

This page has a useful guide to help you capture and document your data processing activities, and the required additional data (such as purpose and data category) of the activity, to comply with the GDPR.

 

 

Cloud services offer solutions to a myriad of business problems, and more businesses of all shapes and sizes are choosing to adopt cloud solutions for its flexibility, efficiency, accessibility and strategic value. Do you want to securely share that sensitive document with a partner organisation; or easily manage your company accounts and payroll? Go ahead there’s a cloud service for that.

The problem

What happens to your businesses’ data when you decide to stop using a certain cloud service? I’m sure you don’t want copies of your valuable intellectual property (IP), or personally identifiable information (PII) that you control or process leaking out into a competitor’s or cyber criminal’s hands, so you need to know how and when your data will be removed. Why?

Money.

Losing IP to a competitor will risk giving them the edge over you in a competitive market, losing you sales and return on investment on all that R&D spent to develop your IP.

Losing PII will not only undermine trust in your business; but will have further ramifications under the GDPR and will probably net you a heavy fine from your local Data Protection Authority.

The solution

Any cloud service provider worth their salt should have a Data Retention and Disposal Policy that will inform you of when and how your data is securely removed should you need to remove that data, or if you decide to no longer use that service.

The big three cloud players: Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, have well-documented policies; that any service hosted on their infrastructure can provide to you. However, I’m surprised that many big names that run on their own cloud infrastructure are either hesitant to provide you with this information (as if it’s some trade secret); or that they just don’t have the relevant policies in place at all.

Remember to check that any cloud service you sign up to has robust policies in place for when you need your data to be removed, as well as making sure your data is secure whilst you’re using the service.

If you’re unsure about where you stand with cloud services and GDPR, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

 

Cloud computing can be simply described as the action of taking services and moving them outside of an organisation’s local servers or personal devices to access them via the internet. The services are usually used and paid for on an as-needed or pay-per-use basis.

The Key Types of Cloud Computing

Public Cloud
These are owned and operated by a third-party provider where accessing your account is done using the internet. All hardware, software and other infrastructure are owned by the third-party provider.

Private Cloud
A private Cloud resource is used exclusively by a single business and can also be located internally. It can also be managed by a third-party provider however, the services and infrastructure would be located on a private network.

Hybrid Cloud
As the name suggests, this type of Cloud is a ‘Hybrid’ of the Public and Private Cloud types. Data is able to bounce between Public and Private Cloud systems, giving organisations greater flexibility and security.

Multi-Cloud
This type means that an organisation has multiple providers managing its Cloud infrastructure and applications. This allows you to place certain pieces of work into where it performs best.

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

Instead of holding all services internally, organisations turn to storing their services externally in The Cloud to benefit from the following advantages:

  • Cost – Having The Cloud means there’s no need to spend money on buying hardware and software and setting up on-site data centres.
  • Security – You won’t have to worry about your company’s computer systems failing and losing all critical data and applications. Some Cloud providers even use remote servers to back-up the data that they keep secure – so losing any information you’ve stored on The Cloud just isn’t possible.
  • Speed – Most Cloud providers allow customers to access their data on-demand, making access flexible and quick but not putting security at risk.
  • Access Anywhere, Anytime – Placing data into The Cloud means that any data can be available outside of an organisation’s IT system.
  • Reliability – Having a Cloud can give you peace of mind that your organisation is protected against losing data, potential disasters and the possible large costs it could take to recover lost information.
  • Scalability – The Cloud can evolve and grow with your business by delivering the right amount of IT resources exactly when and where it’s needed.

The Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

Even though we would recommend using Cloud Computing to store data, there are bound to be some disadvantages to the benefits of holding data outside of an organisation.

  • Bandwidth Limitations – Cloud providers may only allow a certain amount of data to be transferred across a given path at a time, which could mean additional costs if an organisation goes over the limit. At Economit, we can guide you through the best Cloud provider for you, to ensure that you are fully aware of the small print and any potential charges.
  • Data Security – Even though Cloud security is high, storing data outside of organisations and placing it into the responsibility of a provider can make some companies cautious. Before committing, be aware that you are passing sensitive information to a third-party provider. We can impartially and independently advise on the most reliable Cloud provider to ensure your information is as secure as possible.
  • Accessibility – If you’ve got no internet connection, you have no access to your stored services and data.
  • Data Management – The data management systems of an organisation don’t always suit a Cloud’s system and structure. We can help you greatly in this department by ensuring that your organisation works in line with your Cloud and vise-versa.
  • Compliance – Depending on the type of industry your organisation is in, it may not be possible for you to work within The Cloud. Industries such as healthcare and financial have to be particularly careful about where their information and services are stored for security and access reasons.

If your business is in the East Midlands or London, contact us about your Cloud Computing needs. We offer independent, impartial assessments and guidance.

 

 

 

 

SME organisations that don’t operate in the technology sector, as a rule generally don’t employ technical staff that have the ability to question the IT status quo or make positive decisions in the best interests of the company they represent.

In fact, most SME’s tend to outsource their IT support to external providers and heavily rely on them to make critical IT decisions. And herein lies the problem…
Alongside outsourcing their IT support requirements, many SME’s also have the tendency to believe that these IT suppliers have the ability to make and offer strategic business level IT decisions as part of their operating deal.

This would be great if it was true but sadly isn’t the case. Instead, a lot of IT support companies prefer to offer reactive breaks/fix service models – which centre on the idea of “keeping the lights on” – rather than strategic tools that can help to make your business “better”.

Now, this isn’t to discredit this technique/approach as it is extremely important to keep your businesses “lights on” and operating. However, the scope of such a service is very narrow when you consider the vastly complicated digital world that we live in today.

Not only does this type of service traditionally not aim to digitally transform your business; it won’t enable you to experience the kind of growth and sales revenue that is possible from such endeavours. When placed on a larger scale, its sole goal is to enable you to get by.

That is why engaging with an independent and impartial senior IT professional – who can take responsibility for all things digital within your business – is so vital.

With their assistance you can: ensure that your costs remain controlled and minimised; reduce and even automate your manual processes (wherever possible), and most importantly, they can help you to achieve a tangible return on your IT expenditures which can ensure that your business is recognised as a digitally forward thinking organisation.

It goes without saying that cyber security is the tech theme of the moment. Yahoo! just had 1 billion accounts hacked the other day and there will no doubt be further high profile victims ready and waiting to be sprung in the media shortly. It’s inevitable. No individual or organisation is really completely safe. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

But for the vast majority of businesses, getting the simple and basic things right will provide more than adequate protection against increasingly clever and resourceful cyber criminals. It’s also easier for smaller organisations to provide adequate protection for themselves as they typically have fewer locations storing data and the size of that data is miniscule in comparison to the like of the Yahoo!’s of this world. But the fact of the matter is that the majority of businesses don’t provide adequate protection. Not even close in fact.

A few years ago, the good ol’ government brought out a little gem of a standard – Cyber Essentials. Simply put, the standard ensures that anyone carrying it’s favourable marker is a reputable digital-faring business. A business that has got the basics right, the not-so basics pretty good and the definitely not basic catered for in its tech roadmap.

Cyber Essentials is a standard that Economit (and many other like-minded high tech IT consultancies) believes in. We have held the standard for a number of years now as have our esteemed client base. When applied correctly and to the letter of the law, Cyber Essentials ensures worthwhile policies and procedures are put in place and adhered to, adequate digital protection is in place across all devices (including mobile ones) and the personnel responsible for managing IT environments have standardised, clear and above all correct procedures to follow.

Why is this so important? Well, if you store digital data either on your own, your customers or your suppliers behalves then it is your responsibility to protect that data and in turn the reputation of everyone concerned. In IT security terms, if you’re not part of the solution then by default, you’re part of the problem.

Contact us today to join our growing list of Cyber Essentials accredited companies such as Sygnature Discovery, Marlborough Group, Smith of Derby, Futures Advice and many others and prove you are serious about cyber security.