PODCAST

More Building, Less Flipping: Q&A With Tech Pioneer Judy Estrin

The United States is in a state of innovation complacency, concludes Judy Estrin, author of a new book titled Closing The Innovation Gap: Reigniting The Spark Of Creativity in a Global Economy.

In an ECT News Network interview, Estrin lays out her take on the state of innovation in the U.S. and her prescription for curing our innovation blues.

As Estrin explains it, innovation is simply the process of creating something new, whether it be a new product, service or business model.


Podcast: Listen to the entire interview (15:10 minutes).


The U.S. still holds the lead in new products and discoveries, but in the last decade, the world has started catching up. In the meantime, the U.S. has become risk averse, and thus has lost its innovation swagger, Estrin says.

Estrin offers three events as the primary culprits for this decade-long aversion to risk: The bursting of the Internet bubble, massive corporate scandals (e.g., Enron, Worldcom … etc.) and the 9-11 attacks.

So how to get that innovation swagger back? Here’s Estrin’s, prescription:

  • Realize that we lost the innovation edge
  • Keep in mind the five core values of innovation that she lays out in the book (Questioning, Risk, Openness, Patience and Trust)
  • Balance investments between research, development and application
  • Rebuild the education system
  • Invest for the future rather than simply focusing on the flip-and-trade mentality prevalent on Wall Street.

Here are some excerpts of the interview:

E-Commerce Times: I’d just like to start out this conversation with the very basic definition of innovation. How would you describe innovation?

Judy Estrin:

At the very basic level, innovation is doing something new. It may be a new product, it may be a new service, it may be a new business model, a different business process, but I like to think in terms of not just innovation but sustainable innovation. What I mean by that is a culture — whether it’s in a company, an individual, a country or the world — where you have innovation building on other innovation, and a good foundation for innovation so that you have a continuous flow of new ideas, new services, new products, new processes. Because that is what we really need to drive the economy and improve the quality of our life and address the major challenges that we face.

ECT: Given that definition of innovation, where do you think we stand right now, with the state of innovation in the United States?

J.E.:

On one hand, I still believe that we lead in innovation, in terms of overall new products and new discoveries, and I actually believe that the fundamentals of the country in terms of our culture, in terms of the freedom that we have here in terms of the historic nature of the country, which was founded on innovation, puts us in a leadership position still today. However, and the reason I wrote the book, I think that that leadership position is very much threatened. And I think that over the last couple of decades but specifically the last decade, we have begun to both undermine the foundations in terms of our culture shifting to a more short-term focus, short sighted, more risk averse, less open, less questioning in nature. But also if you look at what we’re producing, there’s a lot of innovation going on but it tends to be more incremental innovation, more short-term focused, and we’re not investing in the future in the way that we have.

One thing that is evident from the economic crisis that we’re now facing is that the business community over the last decade or more has tended to value what I call “trading and flipping,” or short-term results, short term trading over placing value in investing in long-term shareholder growth and long-term creation that ends up leading to jobs. So the culture has shifted toward a focus on trading, which has caused a lot of the problems on Wall Street and not valuing those companies that are really creating and building.

1 Comment

  • Interesting interview and take on the direction of U.S. innovation. I intend to look at Judy Estrin’s book, and AM especially intrigued by the one category she mentioned in the interview of rebuilding our education system.

    Jodi

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Leapwork CEO: No-Code Platforms Democratize Testing Automation

DevOps

Using no-code technology instead of dedicated code programmers could become the future of software development in retail marketing and related software-building industries. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all use cases.

No-code, an approach to creating software applications that require little in the way of programming skills, lets workers within a business create an application without formal programming knowledge or training in any particular programming language.

In a nutshell, no-code platforms enable users to create software applications such as online forms or even a fully functional website or add functionality to an existing site or app.

It is important to clarify that numerous different applications of no-code platforms exist, according to Christian Brink Frederiksen, CEO of Leapwork, a global provider of automation software.

No-code platforms are fairly new. So companies planning to adopt a no-code approach must thoroughly vet and test no-code tools on the market to make sure that the selected products live up to their claims.

“A lot of platforms out there today claim to be but are not truly no-code at all, or lack the power required to do what they say they’ll do without additional coding,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Leapwork developed a test automation product that is accessible and easy to maintain. Its secret sauce provides rapid results at a lower cost, requiring fewer specialist resources than traditional test automation approaches.

“At Leapwork, we have democratized automation with our completely visual, no-code test automation platform that makes it easy for testers and everyday business users to create, maintain, and scale automated software tests across any kind of technology,” noted Frederiksen. That enables enterprises to adopt and scale automation faster.

Security Remains Top Concern

An obvious inquiry about no-code platforms should consider how no-code technology addresses security problems that plague both proprietary and open-source programming.

If well designed, no-code platforms can be safe and secure, Frederiksen said. When manually coding from scratch, it is easy to introduce bugs and vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

“Because the no-code platforms are designed to automate the creation of an app or perform a function in an automated way, they are inherently much more consistent,” he explained.

Of course, the no-code platform itself needs to be secure. Before choosing a solution, organizations should conduct a thorough security audit and opt for a solution that is ISO-27001 and SOC-2 compliant, he recommended.

Coding Pros and Non-Pros Alike

No-code platforms are not primarily just for programmers or for IT coders to use in-house in lieu of outsourced software developers. Both use cases come into play successfully.

No-code platforms are certainly useful for IT coders and programmers, but the primary value of a no-code test platform is to extend the capability to create and test applications to people who are not trained as software developers, offered Frederiksen.

For example, Leapwork makes it simple for testers and everyday business users to set up and maintain test automation at scale. This empowers quality assurance teams to experience shorter test cycles and immediate return on investment.

Advantages for DevOps

Speeding up testing is a huge benefit, noted Frederiksen, because hand-coding creates a big bottleneck, even for an experienced DevOps team. While testers are extremely skilled at designing tests and understanding the underlying complexity of software, they are not traditionally trained to code.

He offered a good example.

Claus Topholt, Leapwork’s co-founder and chief product officer, worked at an investment bank before joining Frederiksen to found Leapwork in 2015. Testing was vital because the bank depended on high-volume rapid trading. If software quality was poor, it could literally cause the institution to go bankrupt.

“Claus decided to build a simplified programming language to build tests so that the testers could set them up, speeding up the process. But he quickly discovered that testing and programming are totally different domains, and, frankly, it’s not fair to force testers, who are already highly skilled, to learn the extremely complicated skill of programming,” explained Frederiksen.

During a discussion with the testing team, Claus and his colleagues started to use a whiteboard to draw a flow chart. Everyone immediately understood what it meant.

Lesson Learned

The flow chart was such a simple, clear way of expressing something complicated. So, it was obvious this model was the way forward for enabling testers to create their own sophisticated tests without coding.

“The lesson was, if you give testers something as intuitive as a flow chart to create automated tests, you’ll save a lot of time and remove bottlenecks, as you’re not relying on the time and expertise of developers,” said Frederiksen.

Claus left the investment bank to found Leapwork and created what became a no-code platform. They built a visual language that enables business users to automate testing using a flowchart model.

Leapwork co-founders Claus Topholt and Christian Brink Frederiksen

Leapwork CPO and Co-Founder Claus Topholt (L) | Leapwork CEO and Co-Founder Christian Brink Frederiksen (Image Credit: Leapwork)


“It democratizes automation because it is so easy for non-coders to use and maintain, which in turn empowers businesses to scale their automation efforts and accelerate the development process,” Frederiksen said.

No-Code Q&A

Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year Leapwork raised $62 million in the largest-ever Series B funding round in Danish history. The round was co-led by KKR and Salesforce Ventures.

Leapwork is used by Global 2000 companies — including NASA, Mercedes-Benz, and PayPal — for robotic process automation, test automation and application monitoring.

We asked Frederiksen to reveal more details about the inner workings of the no-code solution.

TechNewsWorld: How can companies add automation into their testing processes?

Christian Brink Frederiksen: One way is to incorporate automated tests as an integral part of moving from one stage of the release process to another.

For example, when a developer checks in code to the development server, a series of automated tests should be triggered as part of the same process that generates the build.

These regression tests can identify big bugs early, so the developer can fix them quickly, while the code is still fresh in the developer’s mind.

Then, as the code moves to test and, ultimately, production, again, a series of automated tests should be triggered: extensive regression testing, verification of its visual appearance, performance, and so on.

It is critical that business users — like a business analyst or a tester in a QA department — have the ability to implement this automation. That is where no-code is so vital.

How does no-code differ from low-code solutions?

Frederiksen: No-code truly involves no code at all. If you want non-developers to use the platform, then you need it to be no-code. Low code can speed up development, but you will still need someone with developer skills to use it.

Which is more beneficial for enterprise and DevOps, no-code or low-code?

Frederiksen: No-code empowers enterprises and DevOps teams to implement automation at scale, ultimately increasing software delivery performance. Low-code solutions still require you to know how to code in order to maintain software.

No-code allows anyone to automate workflows. Using no-code, developers and technically skilled workers can focus on high-value tasks, and QA professionals such as testers can automate and maintain testing quickly and easily.

Surveys have shown that testing is what slows down the development process the most. If you want to have a serious impact on DevOps, you should really consider using a no-code platform.

Does no-code pose a threat to software and website developers?

Frederiksen: I would argue quite the opposite. No-code has the potential to open up new opportunities for developers. More software is being built and customized than ever before, and yet we are in the midst of an acute developer shortage with 64% of companies experiencing a shortage of software engineers.

Rather than relying on code-based approaches and forcing businesses to search for talent externally, no-code allows companies to harness their existing resources to build and test software. Technical resources are then free to focus on more fulfilling, high-value work, such as accelerating innovation and digital transformation.

Where do you see no-code technology going?

Frederiksen: AI is a powerful technology, but its short-term impacts are slightly overhyped. We believe the challenge limiting the capabilities of artificial intelligence today is human-to-AI communication.

It should be possible to tell a computer what it is you want it to do without having to explain in any technical detail how to do it. Essentially, we need to be able to give an AI the requirements for a task, and then the AI can handle the rest.

We have made a lot of progress on this problem at Leapwork. There is a lot more work to be done.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Unresolved Conflicts Slow eSIM Upgrade Path to Better IoT Security

IoT internet of things

Misconceptions about embedded SIM cards (eSIMs) for IoT are keeping companies from adopting this new technology. That is detrimental, as eSIMs are crucial for patching and successful secure IoT deployment.

eSIMs are slowly replacing standard SIMs in IoT devices and products such as smartwatches. They are also making their way into the machine-to-machine world.

The rollout, however, is slowed by unresolved conflicts between competing technical standards and tightened restrictions on data management regulations globally. Despite the need for better IoT device security, clearing the adoption roadblocks is less than likely anytime soon.

Machine-to-machine, or M2M, is a broad label that can be used to describe any technology that enables networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without the manual assistance of humans.

Controversial Technology

Led mostly by the automotive and transportation industries, eSIMS also contribute to tracking functions in health care, smart mobility, utilities, and other sectors. But eSIM technology so far remains controversial, noted Noam Lando, CEO and co-founder of global connectivity provider Webbing.

Webbing provides an enterprise-grade solution for Fortune 500 and IoT/M2M companies, as well as an embedded solution for various manufacturers across the globe. The deployment is part of a phasing process to ensure a secured and continuous internet connection for all devices, no matter where they are in the world.

Lando said that “eSIM technology is a game-changer in telecom. It completely digitizes the cellular subscription provisioning process. As with any technology that is disruptive, there are a lot of debates and discussions around it to better understand its benefits, dispel misconceptions, and its impact on accelerating IoT use cases.”

Why all the Fuss?

We asked Lando to go below the circuit boards to reveal why eSIM technology is creating such an industry-wide furor.

TechNewsWorld: Is the technology upgrade to eSIMS worth the ongoing unrest?

Noam Lando: eSIM technology promises the establishment and maintenance of cost-effective connectivity that is accessible anywhere in the world regardless of where the device is manufactured or deployed as well as ultimate control. With the promise of eSIM technology, enterprises can scale their IoT deployments globally, reduce total ownership and business process management costs, and reduce time to market.

This creates great hype, especially when you have device makers such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google including eSIM as a standard feature in their new devices.

I sense a “BUT” here. Always there seems to be a BUT in the works. So what is the big BUT surrounding eSIM development?

Lando: However, when companies look deeper into implementing eSIM technology, they realize there are two standards: consumer and machine-to-machine (M2M). They are not sure which standard to use and often realize the implementation of eSIM technology is not as simple for their IoT devices as it is for smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

So, there are a lot of discussions around the two standards and their pros and cons, especially around M2M.

What are the drawbacks to standard SIMs?

Lando: For traditional SIM cards, carrier provisioning is done at the manufacturing level. They can host only one profile and are not reprogrammable. That is why you need a new SIM when switching cellular providers. This is not ideal for IoT deployments. Especially global ones.

Noam Lando, CEO and co-founder Webbing
Noam Lando, CEO at Webbing

Once the SIM has been implemented, you have vendor lock-in. With thousands and even millions of devices in an IoT deployment, it is impractical to change SIM cards when you want to change wireless carriers. It requires a site visit, and the card may be physically difficult to access.

In addition, issues surround complying with the global trend to enforce regulatory requirements on communication services and data management. These include restrictions on data leaving the country and global enterprises needing localized deployments with local wireless carriers.

This requires warehousing, managing, and deploying a number of wireless carrier-specific product SKUs which drive up production and logistics costs.

The attraction to eSIMs seems obvious. What are the main benefits?

Lando: eSIM technology offers a robust, scalable solution to the limitations of the traditional SIM. What makes an eSIM unique is the technological advancements made to the UICC, the software of the SIM, which is now called the eUICC.

That new technology follows a new standard developed by the GSMA. It is remotely programmable and reprogrammable, can host multiple cellular carrier subscriptions, and makes the selection, contracting, and onboarding of cellular providers easier with over-the-air (OTA) provisioning.

I sense another BUT in the works here. What are the unresolved issues with eSIM replacements?

Lando: Consumer and M2M are implemented differently. The consumer standard targets consumer devices like mobile phones, tablets and laptops, wearables, and other IoT devices with an end-user interactive environment. It is secure by design, can host multiple wireless carrier profiles, and facilitates carrier swaps. However, it is designed for private consumer use.

How suitable for other uses are eSIMs?

Lando: The M2M standard targets industrial M2M and IoT devices such as cars, water meters, trackers, smart factories, and other components used in an industrial, non-end-user interactive environment.

The M2M eSIM standard is also secure by design. It facilitates carrier migration and, in theory, offers remote centralized management and provisioning of carrier profiles. However, it isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.

That said, why is upgrading not so promising yet?

Lando: M2M eSIM implementation is cumbersome, time-intensive, and has long capital investment cycles. It requires collaboration between the enterprise, eSIM manufacturers, and the wireless carrier throughout the manufacturing process for implementation.

What are the biggest misconceptions about eSIMs for IoT?

Lando: The biggest misconception about eSIM for IoT is that the benefits it provides to consumer devices can be applied to IoT. Enterprises quickly realize they must implement a different standard for IoT/M2M, which requires an SM-DP (Subscription Manager – Data Preparation) and SM-SR (Subscription Manager – Secure Routing) to provision and remotely manage carrier subscriptions. The M2M standard is cumbersome, requiring a substantial investment of funds and time to orchestrate the implementation of wireless carriers.

Where do you see the battle between competing standards headed?

Lando: When looking at mobile data connectivity, there is no major difference between M2M and IoT device needs when it comes to Remote SIM Provisioning. If anything, the benefits of eSIM (eUICC) technology are greater for M2M devices since they usually have a longer life cycle, and the demand for changing a carrier at some point is high.

This could be for commercial or technical reasons. Therefore, M2M devices are also likely to get eSIMs instead of standard SIMs.

Developers favor eSIMs to solve IoT and embedded firmware patch issues. eSIM hardware and eUICC components are certified according to the GSMA’s Security Accreditation Scheme (SAS). This guarantees a very high level of security. Furthermore, cellular connectivity is secure by design: data is encrypted, and users are securely identified.

What are the most critical problems facing IoT and embedded technologies?

Lando: The most critical problem facing IoT deployments is carrier lock-in and dealing with different global regulatory requirements. In such cases, enterprises need local deployments and local wireless carriers. Enterprises with global deployment need the flexibility to change carriers easily and efficiently to meet local regulations.

Why are companies not proactively adopting eSIM technology?

Lando: From our experience, companies want the promise of eSIM technology, but the current ecosystem fails to provide it. The two eSIM standards disregard enterprises’ need to manage their fleet of devices.

On one hand, enterprise-based devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, scanners, and the like fall under the consumer standard. So companies don’t have full control over the installation and management of carrier profiles with centralized eSIM management. The consumer standard requires the end-user with the device in their hand to consent to install carrier profiles.

Meanwhile, the M2M standard for IoT deployments are cumbersome. They require a substantial investment of funds and time to orchestrate the implementation of wireless carriers.

It also limits customer choice due to a complicated implementation to switch between carriers.

This is part of the reason we developed WebbingCTRL, an eSIM, with a management platform, that can easily and remotely be configured as any wireless carrier’s profile, paving the way for the adoption of eSIM technology in the IoT space.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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