Gartner Contends Nexus of Forces—Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Information—Will Build Platform of the Future 

A new Gartner special report, "The Nexus of Forces: Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Information,"  asserts that a nexus of converging forces — social, mobile, cloud, and information — is building on and transforming user behavior while creating new business opportunities, according to Gartner, Inc. Although these forces are innovative and disruptive on their own, together they are revolutionizing business and society, disrupting old business models and creating new leaders. As such, the Nexus of Forces is the basis of the technology platform of the future. 

"In the Nexus of Forces, information is the context for delivering enhanced social and mobile experiences," said Chris Howard, managing vice president at Gartner. "Mobile devices are a platform for effective social networking and new ways of work. Social links people to their work and each other in new and unexpected ways. Cloud enables delivery of information and functionality to users and systems. These forces of the Nexus are intertwined to create a user-driven ecosystem of modern computing." 

Howard explained that not that long ago, people's most sophisticated computing experience was at work, and computing was limited at home. Now, in most cases, the opposite is true. The consumerization of IT is a result of the availability of excellent devices, interfaces and applications with minimal learning curves. As a result of using these well-designed devices, people have become more sophisticated users of technology, and the individual has been empowered. People expect access to similar functionality across all their roles and make fewer distinctions between work and non-work activities. 

Social is one of the most compelling examples of how consumerization drives enterprise IT practices. It includes personal activities of sharing comments, links and recommendations with friends. Consumer vendors have been quick to see the influence of friends sharing recommendations on what to buy.

Social technologies both drive and depend on the other three Nexus forces: 

  • Social provides an important need for mobility.
  • Social depends on cloud for scale and access.
  • Social feeds and depends on deep analysis. 

Mobile computing is forcing the biggest change to the way people live since the automobile. Mass adoption forces new infrastructure, it spawns new businesses, and it threatens the status quo.

For business, the opportunities—and the stakes—are high. To a retailer, the same device that navigates a customer into a store can redirect the final sale to the competition. To a bank, the mobile phone is a new wallet that could make the credit card obsolete. To a sales organization, mobile computing keeps salespeople out in the field talking to customers. To a medical caregiver, a patient's vitals and behaviors may be constantly monitored, which increases the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment. Every industry is affected. 

Cloud computing represents the glue for all the forces of the Nexus. It is the model for delivery of whatever computing resources are needed and for activities that grow out of such delivery. Without cloud computing, social interactions would have no place to happen at scale, mobile access would fail to be able to connect to a wide variety of data and functions, and information still would be stuck inside internal systems. 

The model of cloud computing is what Gartner calls a "global-class" phenomenon because it focuses on outcomes connected across the globe rather than technologies and outcomes centered on an internal enterprise strategy. In a global-class computing world, everything shifts to the culture of the consumer and the externalized view of computing. 

Information is not stored anywhere in particular. Rather, it is stored everywhere. For years, technologists have discussed the ubiquity of information without realizing how to take full advantage of it. That time is here now. Social, mobile and cloud make information accessible, shareable and consumable by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Knowing how to capture the power of the ubiquity of information and utilize the smaller subsets applicable to a company, a product and customers, at a specific point in time, will be critical to new opportunities and for avoiding risks. 

Developing a discipline of innovation through information enables organizations to respond to environmental, customer, employee or product changes as they occur. It will enable companies to leap ahead of their competition in operational or business performance. An enterprise can succeed or fail based on how it responds to trends such as social media, cloud computing or mobile. 

"The combination of pervasive mobility, near-ubiquitous connectivity, industrial compute services, and information access decreases the gap between idea and action," said Mr. Howard. "To take advantage of the Nexus of Forces and respond effectively, organizations must face the challenges of modernizing their systems, skills and mind-sets. Organizations that ignore the Nexus of Forces will be displaced by those that can move into the opportunity space more quickly — and the pace is accelerating." 

Additional information is available in the Gartner special report "The Nexus of Forces: Social, Mobile, Cloud, and Information."

 

Biosensors to Monitor U.S. Student Attentiveness 

Reuters reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $4 billion into efforts to transform public education in the United States, is pushing to develop an "engagement pedometer." Biometric devices wrapped around the wrists of students would identify which classroom moments excite and interest them—and which fall flat. 

The foundation has given $1.4 million in grants to several university researchers to begin testing the devices in middle-school classrooms this fall. 

The biometric bracelets, produced by a Massachusetts startup company, Affectiva, Inc, send a small current across the skin and then measure subtle changes in electrical charges as the sympathetic nervous system responds to stimuli. The wireless devices have been used in pilot tests to gauge consumers' emotional response to advertising. 

Gates officials hope the devices, known as Q Sensors, can become a common classroom tool, enabling teachers to see in real time which kids are “tuned in” and which kids are “zoned out.” 

Existing measures of student engagement, such as videotaping classes for expert review or simply asking kids what they liked in a lesson, "only get us so far," said Debbie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation. To truly improve teaching and learning, she said, "We need universal, valid, reliable, and practical instruments" such as the biosensors. 

But skeptics aren't so sure. They call the technology creepy and say good teachers already know when their students are engaged. Plus, they say it's absurd to think spikes in teenagers' emotional arousal necessarily correspond to learning. 

The engagement pedometer project fits neatly with the Gates Foundation's emphasis on mining daily classroom interactions for data. One of the world's richest philanthropies, the foundation reflects Microsoft founder Bill Gates' interest in developing data collection and analysis techniques that can predict which teachers and teaching styles will be most effective. 

Clemson received about $500,000 in Gates funding. Another $620,000 will support an MIT scientist, John Gabrieli, who aims to develop a scale to measure degrees of student engagement by comparing biosensor data to functional MRI brain scans (using college students as subjects). A third grant, for nearly $280,000, supports research by Ryan Baker, a Columbia University professor who specializes in mining data about educational practices. 

For more information, read the Reuters article.

Former Gartner Analyst Releases New Report Comparing Live Chat Providers 

The crowded market of live chat providers can be confusing and daunting to sort through. But the Live Chat Market Overview 2012 makes sense of the chaos. The report, authored by a former Gartner analyst, studies the market leaders in great detail to help you find the reliable, scalable solution that's right for you. This report covers recent market acquisitions and new entrants: 

  • ATG’s acquisition of Instant Service
  • Oracle’s acquisition of ATG
  • Oracle’s acquisition of RightNow
  • nGenera’s acquisition of Talisma and subsequent change of name to Moxie Software
  • SalesForce’s acquisition of Activa
  • LogMeIn’s acquisition of Bold Software. 

The report also includes reviews 8 leading live chat providers and provides analytic tools to help your firm evaluate the "fit" of each. The tools reviewed include BoldChat, Oracle, Live Person, Moxie, Velaro, WhosOn, RightNow, and NetOp. The providers are compared across 20+ fetures and 15+ other critical factors, such as availability, reliability, pricing, packaging, and more. 

Finally, the Gartner analyst provides multi-variant analysis to help uncover strengths and includes commentary and guidance on past and present trends.  

Microsoft Readies Launch of Outlook.com

Micrsoft has officially flipped on the Outlook.com switch, marking a significant change in the company’s email strategy. Many predict that Hotmail will soon be a thing of the past and Outlook.com will be the service that Microsoft’s online email subscribers use. Outlook.com is just the latest change that has come to Microsoft’s ecosystem. 

“Hotmail is dead,” writes Don Reisinger in the eWeek article ”Microsoft Outlook.com Goes Live: 10 Things You Should Know About It.” Outlook.com offers the same basic features as Hotmail–sending and receiving emails–but it comes with features and backend strategies that current and potential users should know more about how it works.

The new design should help users navigate through emails, and built-in features like slide shows and Outlook Chat and Facebook Chat enhance overall usability. More important, users will be able to view and edit MS Office documents from within the email platform. For example, if a Word document has a typo, users won’t need to download a file just to make the changes.

Finally, When Microsoft acquired Skype last year, the company made it clear that it planned to bundle the VoIP service into as many of its platforms as possible. So, it would only make sense for Outlook.com to come with access to Skype. Aside from basic calling, Outlook.com users will also be able to place video calls to other Skype or Outlook users.