About Innovation

18 07 2014

Apple is an innovative company and discussions about its innovate power first need a close look on what innovation means for a tech company.

The term …

On Wikipedia we find …

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as consequence, new that “breaks into” the market or society. One usually associates to new phenomena that are important in some way. A definition of the term, in line with these aspects, would be the following: “An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society”.
While something novel is often described as an innovation, in economics, management science, and other fields of practice and analysis it is generally considered a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have an impact on society.

Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

Regarding the major tech companies Apple, Samsung, and Google we can see an ongoing war between fanboys each claiming their beloved company is innovative.

In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitiveness, market share, and others. However, recent research findings highlight the complementary role of organizational culture in enabling organizations to translate innovative activity into tangible performance improvements.

The measure of innovation at the organizational level relates to individuals, team-level assessments, and private companies from the smallest to the largest. Measure of innovation for organizations can be conducted by surveys, workshops, consultants, or internal benchmarking. There is today no established general way to measure organizational innovation. Corporate measurements are generally structured around balanced scorecards which cover several aspects of innovation such as business measures related to finances, innovation process efficiency, employees’ contribution and motivation, as well benefits for customers. Measured values will vary widely between businesses, covering for example new product revenue, spending in R+D, time to market, customer and employee perception and satisfaction, number of patents, additional sales resulting from past innovations.

So we are faced with a complex topic but what should be clear is that a final assessment whether a company is innovative can only be done by knowing all the facts and waiting until the society respectively the market shows any reaction.

In 2010 Apple released its first iPad and some years later we can definitely say that it was innovation born out of many preceding scientific results, above all the touch screen and the appropriate software to control apps.

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What we can see is that scientific results taken for its own are not enough to be innovative. It needs a vision, persistent efforts, and outstanding people motivating each other to bring an innovative product to the market. Steve jobs once said …

Customers don’t know what they want but are looking for something new and exciting

The iPad was a high level innovation, an ‘ocean boiling’ new kind of device whereas follow-ups could be described with the words of Tim Cook

Some people see innovation as change, but we have never really seen it like that. It’s making things better.

I would like to add an important point

An innovative product is only born if it provides space for essential improvements in the future. So in an essential first step the conditions for a long-term impact already must run in the blood.

It needs a close look on and into products to see innovative steps which, in some cases, are only laid out. If the basis already includes technically feasible visions, the new product usually will be successful.

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A more superficial view on the iPhone 5S, Apple’s flagship, could lead to an assessment like “same shape, same size, same everything”. But the truth is that there is a fingerprint scanner solving the dilemma of security in a much more convenient way than before and the M7 motion processor which could later be used in a new kind of device like an iWatch, possibly disrupting the health care system. And be sure, it will not be a shiny new gimmick like the Galaxy Gear watch.
And there is iOS 7 supporting a 64-Bit architecture, designed for future software capabilities. And there is much more only visible if colors and shapes are disregarded.

The process …

Here are the steps to innovative products.

Step 1

in any innovation process is to generate ideas. This includes gathering ideas both internally and externally, within the company and by looking at competitors.

Note
The ongoing war between fanboys e.g. of Samsung and Apple only reflects a psychological problem of the involved people because collecting information from everywhere is a normal process in which lastly lead to the many benefits we have in our modern society. No scientist would ever get a Nobel Prize if he wouldn’t refer to results of his colleagues.

Then it’s inevitable to prioritize and make sense of these ideas. The goal must be to find a structured way to catergorise and prioritise your ideas, so that your long list becomes a shortlist.

Step 2

is to incubate the best ideas. Incubation could just be further theoretical development, or it could move into piloting or an initial roll-out of the idea. That’s what Samsung did with its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. But also Apple with its M7 motion processor and the fingerprint scanner first introduced in the iPhone 5S in late 2013.

Step 3

needs excellent engineers and designers to focus on an issue, a solution and implement your idea fully.

Step 4

is an essential step for a business oriented company. It’s effective marketing. A product shouldn’t be called innovative if it doesn’t have an impact on society. This needs a significant number of customers, worldwide. It’s one if the strengths of Apple to push customers with sophisticated ad. The Motorola Atrix with its fingerprint scanner is an example for a good idea but poor marketing and the result is well-known, it was a product without significant impact.

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Step 5

in any innovation process is choosing to either exit or sustain the project. Innovation can’t go on for ever!

Even if the project becomes self-sustaining, at some point you will need to send it back through the innovation process to check that it is still relevant, delights people, is useful for their everyday lives and perhaps make plans to adapt or replace it altogether. In these circumstances, the innovation process is very much an iterative one. The iterations of the iPhone, and not to forget, of the environment (stores, iCloud, iOS 7, 64-Bit processor, etc) are a shining example of this last step a company is faced with.

Looking on more than 4 decades of Apple there is no doubt about a constant improvement of all hardware products, software and services. This long-term strategy made the company to the most valuable brand in the world.

About Apple …

Nearly nothing comes out of the box. So innovation is always combined with the ability to
connect the dots in a way that people are excited, benefit from a new technology, let them change the way to do things more efficiently or even with more fun and engagement, and inspire them to think different and force creativity.

And it’s not only the iPad initiating a paradigm shift there are also Apple’s desktops which have to be taken into account.

When the iMac appeared it made everyone look. It was meant to be a “look-at-me” product. It was meant to show Apple was not dead. Last year Apple showed off their new professional grade desktop machine and those who do serious computing and media production have been lining up to get them. Apple is still making the finest desktop machines in the field.

See what I found on Google+ in a comment section written by Dave Trautman who once again hit the nail right on the head …

For those in America, where is there a huge problem with respect to personalized health care? Like – everywhere! In other developed countries with public health care the emphasis on personal responsibility has been the best way to both reduce costs and make the system more efficient. In America you have to go through the gauntlet of health care providers and insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies to take charge of your own good health. If Apple’s iBeacon software is installed in the next ambulance to arrive at my home then my phone might light up with my emergency information automatically once I am inside the vehicle. I might not even be conscious. But my phone can give them what they need to know to start treating me. My phone might also tell them I have had high blood pressure for the past six weeks and rising. All this with a personal tracking iStrap and the M7 chip on my phone.

I am thinking Apple has been slowly and carefully putting the seeds into the ground for some years now which will later be sprouting a completely new category of personal device(s) which we cannot live without.

So let’s put all these considerations together. If you are a regular visitor of my blog you already recognized that I like to do it with a map, a mind map or a concept map.

Innovation targets …

It needs a close look on all the activities of Apple, it’s leaders as well as it’s excellent engineers, to screen a picture on what the targets of innovation are. I added some quotes of Steve Jobs and Apple’s Industrial Design Group (IDg) to point to some basics of the company’s philosophy which is primarily influenced by Steve Jobs and Sir Jonathan Ive.

It needs a company DNA and blood flowing through the veins of responsible people to be innovative.
This DNA is followed by innovation not only brought into sold products but also into the corporate structure and the infrastructure customers are faced with.

This all is also a lesson for successful leadership which compels admiration and a cult-like status. If this happens over decades a company becomes a brand and in case of Apple the most valuable brand in the world. The worst case hampering innovation and customer satisfaction are early releases of unfinished products with less benefits for customers and follow-ups which manifest the lacks of predecessors.

So an essential part of innovation is simply time even if there is an increasing pressure from which side soever, market, shareholders or deliberately provoked by publishing (or in case of Apple one could often say ‘punishing’) media.

I purchased my first Apple device (an iPhone 3GS) in 2010 and started blogging in late 2012 with just one target, to learn more about the company and its mobile devices, an exciting journey through technologies of an amazing company.

So this concept map is based on what I learned and published on iNotes4You. See the different articles under ‘Related links’.

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I tried to connect each topic with an Apple product which, I think, is a meaningful example for what the content stands for.

Summary …

To decide whether a technical product is innovative or not is a quite difficult task and in many cases it’s also a very personal assessment. Innovative features of products might change the life of an individual and can be useless for others. And there are developments which can be seen as useful for all people like a smartphone automatically sending information to health care assistants in case of an accident.

Related links …

About the company …

Steve Jobs Timeline 2000-2011

Apple’s Focusing

Apple’s Ecosystem

Apple’s Strategy and Ad

The New Philosopher

Apple’s Intangible Assets

Apple, a unique company

About some products …

Sensitiveness

Fingerprint Technology

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





iOS 8 Beta

9 06 2014

When introducing iCloud services on June 6, 2011, the roadmap for Apple’s vision about device connectivity was already quite clear.

  • Seamlessly connect all devices.
  • Use standardized data structures to support syncing between computers and mobile devices.
  • Assimilate the UIs of computers and mobile devices to seamlessly work on either of them.

Connectivity only makes sense if people use more than one device.

This is the case in businesses, families, and it’s also valid for many single users purchasing both kinds of mobile devices, smartphones and tablets.

iCloud is the global hub of Apple’s powerful services.

If you remove all iCloud related features Apple devices are demoted to phones and data processing machines for which the old-fashioned tasks of syncing, transferring files, and backing up have to be done manually.

The WWDC 2014 …

With the WWDC 2014 (June 2, San Francisco, Moscone Center) further essential steps to a unique user experience were made and Apple set the milestones for the future usage of their electronic devices.

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The device you use doesn’t matter, it’s just the task which matters.

WWDC 2014 is the 25th event which began in 1990 with 1,300 developers. Tim Cook presented some stats showing us that there are over 9 million registered Apple developers in 2014 – that’s up 47 percent since 2013 – and the youngest developer at WWDC was just 13 years old.

Apple’s developer conference again unveiled the power of the company in offering vertically integrated and seamless to use devices and services as well as a perfect infrastructure for partners, the developers.

iOS is one of the two most dominant platforms for mobile devices with Android in the pole position if you just look on market shares.

Regarding a product line-up which includes computers AND mobiles it can be said that

iOS and OSX together are the leading software technologies for processor-based devices regardless of any stats.

Apple’s sophisticated ecosystem including all the powerful apps will be massively improved by the new features announced for iOS 8. This all can be called a disruptive concept for using processor-based technology and device connectivity via cloud services.

Seoul, start your photocopiers

But copying won’t help because there never was a vision running like a golden thread through all the activities and technological developments of Apple’s competitors. Neither Google nor Samsung can compete with Apple because most of their services are based on stand-alone developments which require deep-sea diving into countless help articles to successfully administrate them all.

As an Apple user just go to Settings and turn on iCloud.
That’s it.

Fandroids again may argue: It’s all copied.

Let me tell you the truth about just one example which could be brought forward from people just looking on the screen layout:

Desktop widgets (commonly just called widgets) are interactive virtual tools that provide single-purpose services such as showing the user the latest news, the current weather, the time, a calendar, a dictionary, a map program, a calculator, desktop notes, photo viewers, or even a language translator, among other things.

Everybody should know that these tools were already introduced decades ago on Apple’s Macintosh computers, are available in the notification center of iOS 7 and iOS 8 now provides APIs for third-party widgets.

iOS 8 features …

I summarized what Apple published on its websites shortly after the event in San Francisco.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts for iOS (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

See this magnified part of map and a preview of what you get when you download the DOCX file format.

Note

If you don’t use a mind mapping tool it’s recommended to download the DOCx file format which immediately can be opened with Apple’s Pages. The document contains the map as an image, textual information, and referred hyperlinks. Just tap on a link from within Pages to open the article.

iCloud …

iCloud already got a significant improvement in October 2013 when Apple introduced iWork for iCloud.

The new iCloud Drive will be a unified file system bridging iOS and OSX.

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At the time Apple gives you 5GB free storage and this will not be changed. It’s for storing documents, photos, device backups, and application data. 5 GB is a little on the paltry side if you extensively use iCloud e.g. on an iPhone and an iPad. I use an iPhone (23.8 GB used) and an iPad (30.9 GB used) and had to update my storage plan with additional 10 GB to save device backups on iCloud.
Cormorant space eaters on my devices are photos (2.5 GB), Keynote presentations (2.3 GB; mainly collages for my blog), mind maps (1.5 GB), and PDFs stored in iBooks (2.8 GB).

How much will it cost if more storage is needed?

For just $1 a month, you’ll get additional 20GB and for $4 per month you’ll get 200GB. As a point of comparison, that $48 a year is just slightly more than the $40 a year you currently pay for 20GB. Apple says it will have tiers all the way up to 1TB of storage.

iCloud’s new pricing plans compete with …

Provider GB $/year
Dropbox 2 free
100 100
200 200
OneDrive 7 free
100 50
200 100
Google Drive 15 free
100 24
1000 120
iDriveSync 5 free
150 49.50
500 149.50
Box 10 free
100 60
unlimited 180

And here is the ranking …

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What should be mentioned is that costs are just one criterion. Please note that iDriveSync is the only provider offering client-side encryption during transit (sending and receiving data) and at rest (saved data on servers of the provider).

Swift for yield hedging …

iOS is still the preferred platform for developers offering mobile apps. Apple’s App Store is a heavy weight champion when it comes to quality and quantity of apps for mobile devices.

To keep the quality and acquire even more creative young developers Apple is apparently offering a much faster and more effective means of building software applications with an “interactive playground,” significantly improving on its own Objective-C.
The new programming language Swift will use the same LLVM (Low Level Virtual Machine) compiler and runtime as Apple’s Objective-C implementation, and its simplified syntax gives it an easier learning curve. The reason behind introducing Swift was to make it easier for developers to create apps for Apple’s mobile platform. Apple Developers write codes line after line and then compile those results to see output, but using Swift language they can see results in real time instantly while writing their codes.

My suggestion for the developers of the official Google+ app:

Try out Swift.
Maybe it helps to bring some stability into an app crashing daily since months.

Some tidbits …

  • Per App Battery Usage
    Another feature that has been part of Android since its inception and extremely useful at that, will finally make its way to iOS 8. Apple did not mention this during their keynote but it will be part of the iOS when it is released. Users will be able to see which app is draining the battery and take relevant action.
  • AirPlay
    won’t need Wi-Fi in iOS 8, it can use a form of peer-to-peer networking. This means an Apple TV should be able to connect to your iPhone even when both devices aren’t on the same wireless network.

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  • AirDrop
    will now work between iOS devices and Macs, meaning you can exchange files on an ad hoc basis between the two, without the need for an Internet connection or even being on the same local network. Need to get a photo to your Mac from your iPhone or want to send a PDF from your Mac to your iPad? Just fire up AirDrop.

Apple’s move …

Let’s dispense with the preliminaries. The WWDC 2014 confirmed a move in Apple’s strategy of controlling what’s going on if a device is in use.

I found this excellent article published by the well-known Apple evangelist Jonny Evans on Computerworld.com.

It’s not about ‘Made in Cupertino’ any more:
the new Apple is all about PARTNERSHIP.

… here’s a few ways in which today’s Apple conceded it doesn’t want to control every aspect of your experience – it just wants to ensure it secures the environment to make sure it’s platforms are platforms you can use:

  • CarPlay
  • Third party app support in iCloud Drive
  • Massively improved integration between iOS and OS X
  • Support for third party Widgets for Notification Center
  • Support for non-Apple apps in iCloud
  • DuckDuckGo support in Safari (OK, that just accentuates how much more secure Apple is than its troublesome mobile foe)
  • Third-party keyboard support
  • Health app, which works with third party devices
  • Support for third party devices for the smart home (HomeKit)
  • added by me
    API to access functionalities of Touch ID ( Apple’s implementation of a fingerprint scanner)

All of these moves are explicit moves that mean Apple is answering critics who call it “too controlling” by permitting users a hitherto unprecedented environment in which they can work with the devices they choose. It’s also a shot in the arm for developers, who can now work to develop their own solutions and have these underpinned by the secure power of Apple’s ecosystem.

Note
Jonny Evans is an independent journalist/blogger who first got online in 1993 and began writing about Apple in 1999. He’s author of Computerworld’s AppleHolic blog and writes on numerous tech topics here in the US and UK. Jonny has no shares in any technology company, enjoys new and disruptive technology and likes music almost as much as he likes his large and shiny dog.

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Stay tuned and join Jonny’s Appleholics Kool Aid Corner on Google+.

Summary …

Since WWDC 2014 Apple is turning over a new leaf when it comes to developer relationships. MacWorld’s headline ‘A love letter from Apple to developers’ hits the nail right on the head. It’s seems to be a win-win-win situation for Apple, developers, and customers. The WWDC 2014, iOS 8, and OSX were the biggest steps forward since the opening of the App Store on July 10, 2008. The gap to competing platforms – operating systems and stores – approximates to the depth of the Mariana Trench.

Related links …

iCloud, a paradigm shift

Apple’s Ecosystem

App Development + Marketing

WWDC 2014 Apple puts its fighting boots on

About my preferred mind mapping tool …

iThoughts, …

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Apple’s Key Events

2 06 2014

Every business has its ups and downs. Successful companies are always those who make the right decisions at the right time. It needs visions, personalities, and a philosophy which form the golden thread, the DNA of a company culture.

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We cannot say that the company was catapulted to the most valuable brand in the world (Forbes 2013).

More than 40 years of hard work and focusing on customer satisfaction made Apple to one of the mega brands of our times.

See what happened in 4 decades. I summarized the key events in a mind map.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. Best practice for reading is to download the DOCX file format which includes outlined textual information and the image.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The main events/decisions …

Essential points of Apple’s strategy are

  • 1 Combining the development of hard- and software
  • 2 Initiating disruptive and sustaining innovation in the market of mobile devices
  • 3 Releasing finished products
  • 4 Building an ecosystem (All-In-One) with hard- and software, services and stores
  • 5 Focusing on customer satisfaction
  • 6 Paying respect to employees and competitors
  • 7 Innovative approaches to keep the environment green

Reputable analysts pointed that out as you can see here.

How Apple works

In a fascinating interview with Calcalist radio, the largest economic newspaper in Israel, Horace Dediu gives us a scintillating insight into how Apple works. Horace Dediu is a well-respected analyst who knows a thing or two about Apple.

“I studied their DNA,” Dediu explains. “But Apple cannot possibly be perceived as normal or average, but is analyzed as such. This is a company that breaks all categories, as based on the growth front and on the value or dynamic versus static. It just works differently. ”

Dediu posits that Apple uses the same strategy as an army. ”You have to look at Apple as adopted by the pattern of military activity,” said Dediu. ”The army has no obligation to produce profits, but it has a deep commitment to achieving goals. Everyone focused and training for a specific task, and then another mission.”

Finally, Horace Dediu believes this status quo will not change under Tim Cook.

Dediu said: ”I think Apple’s culture is very stable. Generally, most of the large companies have a tough fight when they want to change the organizational culture, Steve Ballmer at Microsoft across this barrier. Tim Cook may have made changes within the company, but this is not clear from the outside. Steve Jobs built something bigger than himself. You can see it also in another company he founded, Pixar. People usually do not associate it with Apple, but they are very similar. Both companies are completely committed to the product, focusing obsessively on the details giving rise to beautiful product.”

(Source, TheTechStorm)

Regarding innovation

Ken Segall, author of the bestselling book – Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, suggests that Apple and Samsung have differing philosophies when it comes to innovation.

“Innovation comes in many flavors,” Ken Segall said. “Sometimes it’s about creating revolutions, other times it’s about adding features. Sometimes it’s about creating things that people fall in love with, other times it’s simply about creating things.”

According to Segall, Samsung’s approach to innovation is more about adding features and in most cases, at the expense of customers’ satisfaction:

Less than six months after launching the Galaxy Gear watch, Samsung replaced that device in February 2014 with two models, the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo. These aren’t just upgrades — they’re new watches, running a completely different OS. Android has been replaced by Samsung’s home-grown Tizen OS.

So what happens to the people who just months ago bought into Samsung’s last “next big thing”? Well, they get stuck with a Galaxy Gear, which will be quickly forgotten. They also become living proof that Samsung values innovation over customers.

On the other hand, Segall posits that

“Apple’s innovation philosophy is quite different. Its highest priority is creating a product that people can fall in love with – a product that will improve customers’ lives without frustrating them in the process.”

“Of course, Apple loves features too.. The difference is, when Apple innovates, it’s innovating in the most user-centric way. That’s consistent with one thing I heard Steve Jobs say often: Apple’s highest priority is earning the love of its customers,” he explains.

In concluding, Ken Segall emphasizes that it is impossible to judge who’s leading in innovation by tallying products and features. Meaningful innovation will forever be about quality, not quantity.

(Source, TheTechStorm)

Apple’s credo

I didn’t know this until I went to work for Apple Retail, but their credo is “Enriching Lives.” I never had a job with a philosophy attached to it. I know the Marines have one. It’s Semper Fi. If you see that on a bumper sticker, it’s Latin for, “Mess with this car, and you’re dog meat.”

[..]
I first heard Apple’s credo during employee training. I was not prepared for corporate culture. Sure, there are icebreaking games and group activities, but there’s also a long section where you just sit there, and someone reads you the rules. They turn page after page in a manual, reading both the rules and the perfectly rational reasons for each rule. That was a bit intense.

The trainer asked if anyone knew that Apple Retail had a credo, which I guess is more serious than a mere motto. Several did. I didn’t. It’s not printed anywhere. Employees don’t say it aloud in the store. I got sort of a smug vibe off of those who knew what it was, and then I realized that I had just become one of them! Nobody told me we were getting a slogan! It just gets put on you with the job, along with two blue shirts and a name tag.

(Source, TheTechStorm)

Special ad …

Advertising is at the front of delivering the proper message to customers and prospective customers. The purpose is to convince customers that a company’s products and services are the best, enhance the image of the company, point out and create a need, demonstrate new uses for established products, and announce new products.

Among technology companies, Apple is often perceived to have something that rivals like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, others don’t have …
that indefinable element of coolness.

A cornerstone of cultivating this specific image is the company’s advertising, especially the 30-second spots that air on television.

In 1984 the long history of exceptional advertising started with the iconic Super Bowl commercial that introduced the Macintosh to the world.

While all products share common qualities – style and ease of use – Apple and its advertising agency take very different approaches to get that message across.

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Despite their differences, Apple ads have in common at least one major advantage over many competitors’ commercials:

Regardless of whether you love or hate the spots or slogans you’ll likely remember them.

That’s the first step to building a brand well-known all over the world.

Some Apple haters like to say the company is only successful because of marketing. The masses are so entranced by Apple advertising that they’re blind to the existence of other, potentially better products. After nearly 4 years of using Apple’s mobiles or more than 200 blog posts later I agree to the assessment ‘potentially better’ but it’s still your brain which makes a mobile device to a powerful little helper or to a gadget. I’m in doubt about the usefulness of the many more customization features of competing devices.

Summary …

Apple, a very special company with a very special strategy over more than 4 decades. For further details see my posts under ‘Related links’.

Related links …

Apple’s Ecosystem

Apple’s Strategy and Ad

Apple’s Customer Relationships

Apple’s Intangible Assets

Designed by Apple in California

Thanks for surfing by.





2-Step Verification

7 05 2014

Strong efforts have to be undertaken to secure data in the digital world. Even your identity can be countermined if you think about a hacked social media account where a bad guy publishes using your name.

Sometimes hackers behave like terrorists and try to destroy everything they are able to. A victim could suffer humiliation, identity theft, and lifetime suspension from services and social networks.

See this article to understand what I mean

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

There are many different approaches to secure accounts …

  • 1 Using strong passwords
    that means passwords consisting of characters, special characters, and numbers.
    Apps like 1Password by AgileBits Inc., USA, are able to randomly generate complex passwords up to a length of 30 characters. Good idea but from then on you are bound to access accounts via the integrated browser of this app if you don’t want to write the password down on a sheet of paper. If you temporarily do not have access to your device there is no chance to access your account.
  • 2 2-Step Verification
    Your personal device is needed to receive a code with which you then identify yourself.
  • 3 Additional hardware
    to generate a code which has to be entered on a website. A transaction authentication number (TAN) is used by some online banking services as a form of single use one-time passwords to authorize financial transactions. TANs are a second layer of security and are used in different kinds

    • Classical TAN
      numbers generated by a bank and printed on a sheet of paper
    • Indexed TAN
      called iTAN where the user is not asked to use an arbitrary TAN from the list but to enter a specific TAN as identified by a sequence number (index). As the index is randomly chosen by the bank, an arbitrary TAN acquired by an attacker is usually worthless.
    • iTAN with CAPTCHA
      Prior to entering the iTAN, the user is presented a CAPTCHA, which in the background also shows the transaction data and data deemed unknown to a potential attacker, such as the user’s birthdate. This is intended to make it hard (but not impossible) for an attacker to forge the CAPTCHA.
      This variant of the iTAN is method used by some German banks adds a CAPTCHA to reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks. Some Chinese banks have also deployed a TAN method similar to iTANplus. A recent study shows that these CAPTCHA-based TAN schemes are not secure against more advanced automated attacks.
    • Mobile TAN
      mTANs are used by banks in many countries. When the user initiates a transaction, a TAN is generated by the bank and sent to the user’s mobile phone by SMS. The SMS may also include transaction data, allowing the user to verify that the transaction has not been modified in transmission to the bank.
    • Simple TAN generators
      The risk of compromising the whole TAN list can be reduced by using security tokens that generate TANs on-the-fly, based on a secret known by the bank and stored in the token or a smart card inserted into the token.
    • ChipTAN
      is a TAN scheme used by many German banks. It uses a TAN generator which only works if the bank card for the account is inserted into it. The TAN generated is specific to the current transaction. There are two variants: In the older variant, the transaction details (at least amount and account number) must be entered manually. In the modern variant, the user enters the transaction online, then the TAN generator reads the transaction details via a flickering field on the computer screen (using a photodetector). It then shows the transaction details to the user for confirmation before generating a TAN.
  • Smart Card
    An example for a smart card you all know is the SIM card (subscriber identity module).

or this suggestion, using a complex password and a simple trick to not forget it

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If you are lucky and have just one bank account you just need one additional device to identify yourself or to verify a transaction. All these more sophisticated methods are not used by companies engaged in eCommerce. Instead, some companies still allow to buy with an eMail address and the password 1234.

Apple and passwords …

Ronald Carlson published interesting stats on tapscape.com (Jan 25, 2014) about how companies handle security:

Dashlane, a company that sells a password manager of the same name, has assessed the world’s top 100 websites for password security and published the results (pdf) for all to see. Unsurprisingly, Apple comes out on top with a perfect password security score of 100, while a long list of “trusted” companies, like Amazon, do less well:

The roundup assesses the password policies of the top 100 e-commerce sites in the US by examining 24 different password criteria that Dashlane has identified as important to online security, and awarding or docking points depending upon whether a site meets a criterion or not. Each criterion is given a +/- point value, leading to a possible total score between -100 and 100 for each site — Dashlane.

  • 55 % still accept notoriously weak passwords, such as “123456” or “password”
  • 51 % of websites, including Amazon, Dell and Best Buy, make no attempt to block entry after 10 incorrect password entries
  • 64 % have highly questionable password practices
  • 61 % do not provide any advice on how to create a strong password during signup and 93 percent do not provide an on-screen password strength assessment
  • 10 % scored above the threshold for good password policies (i.e. 45 points or more in the roundup)
  • 8 sites, including Toys “R” Us, J.Crew and 1-800-Flowers.com, send passwords in plain text via email

The research study puts Apple on #1 with a score of 100, Microsoft on #3 with 65, Nike on #10 with 45, Toys R Us got a score of -60, and MLB -75 which means that this e-commerce offer was the leader of the bottom 10.

Thanks to Ronald Carlson for sharing Web Password Security, Apple Protects Users Best, Amazon Less So on Google+.

Securing web-based services …

It’s indispensable to secure access to web-based services to increase reliance. This must be an integral part when building up customer relationships.

My article describes two ways to securely access accounts offered by Apple and Google. While Apple’s solution is limited to account access and purchases within Apple’s ecosystem Google’s solution supports 2-Step Verification for a whole range of services even from other vendors like Dropbox, Facebook, or WordPress.

Today companies make it easy to register for services.

Usually you need an E-Mail address (as a username) and a password. Instead of separating username, password, and email address for communication purposes nearly all companies reduce these three properties to just two which makes it easier to use their services but it goes along with less security.

To increase security the so-called 2-Step Verification was developed.
The basic idea is that apart from a password a second input is required to successfully access an account. Additionally access is limited to so-called trusted devices, devices you personally own and have access to.

2-Step Verification means “something you know” (like a password) and “something you have” (like a smartphone). Once you activated 2-Step Verification you have to use both, your password and an authorized device to sign in. To increase usability Apple as well as Google let you authorize a device to not asking for an authentication code again.

With 2-Step Verification security is drastically increased but not perfect at all. The only way to further increase the level is to use biometric identifiers (like a fingerprint) which are actually not supported for mobile devices. A standardized solution implemented in all operating systems would be a great step forward.

Many authentication processes could be made much more easier if “something you are” (fingerprint, iris) would replace “something you know” and it would increase security drastically if all these three methods are combined to identify yourself.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. A physiological biometric would identify by iris scan, DNA or fingerprint. Behavioral biometrics are related to the behavior of a person, including but not limited to: typing rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.
More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number. Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.
(Wikipedia)

Apple did a first step with a fingerprint scanner implemented in it’s flagship iPhone 5S, released in October 2013.

Apple’s solution …

For a comprehensive description of the 2-Step Verification process visit:

Frequently asked questions about 2-Step Verification for Apple ID

or see this concept map which contains all information in a visualized layout.

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On your iOS device 2-Step Verification will look like this:

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Unsurprisingly Apple did not follow the open standard Google, Microsoft, and many others use. So this optional security feature is just made for Apple services and devices that means for Apple’s ecosystem. It requires you to verify your identity using one of your devices before you can:

  • Sign in to My Apple ID to manage your account
  • Make an iTunes, App Store, or iBookstore purchase from a new device
  • Get Apple ID-related support from Apple

The complete process …

I published a How To for the complete activation process on Snapguide com.

http://snapguide.com/guides/activate-and-use-apples-2-step-verification/

Note
You can view this public guide via Safari but I suggest to download the app Snapguide from Apple’s App Store (universal, free). The iPad version enjoys all the advantages of a perfect user experience.

Google’s solution …

Sorry. But as usual Google spreads information about the internet and it’s hard to find out a simple description which contains all the information a normal user needs to understand this additional layer of security. So here is a description I found on MacWorld for configuring 2-Step Authentication:

2-Step Verification by Google

My opinion: This is not the way to let users accept the efforts made by the company. It seems to be quite difficult to explain this approach to more security to a broad number of unexperienced users.

The flaws …

Apple …

  • Access to iCloud is not secured by 2-Step Verification. So your data are without the additional layer of security.
  • 2-Step Verification is still not available in all countries.

Google …

  • After you turn on 2-Step Verification, non-browser applications and devices that use your Google account (such as the Gmail app on your phone), will be unable to connect to your account. Google solves this by generating application-specific passwords to allow these applications to connect to your account. Although this must be done only once for each device and application it’s an additional hassle to manage these settings.

Common flaws …

  • What will users do to keep usability on an acceptable level.
    They first declare their device as a trusted device. That means this device has direct access to all services because the apps generating security codes are fully accessible. Furthermore Google’s authentication provokes to grant access to all the installed applications by using application-specific passwords and setting the option “Remember Password”.
  • Security is still bound to the unlock code of your device.
    The progress coming up with 2-Step Verification is limited because it doesn’t secure your device but only reduces the chance to successfully hack an account.

Some FAQs …

01 What to do if the phone doesn’t have a carrier signal but is on WiFi?

Google
You can install a standalone app called Google Authenticator (it’s also available in the App Store), so your cell phone doesn’t need a signal.
Apple
You can use the app Find My iPhone to get a verification code.

02 What to do if the phone runs out of power, is broken, or is stolen?

Google
You can print out 10 one-time backup codes and put them in your wallet. Use those one-time codes to log in even without your phone.
Go to your 2-step verification settings page. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll have the choice to remove a device. The device will automatically sign out of your account, and you’ll be prompted for a verification code next time you try to sign in from them.

Apple
While activating 2-Step Verification you will get a so-called Recovery Key which has to be printed out. This code can be used in the event that none of your trusted devices are available. You have to sign in to My Apple ID and remove the stolen or sold device from the trusted devices. Access from this device to your Apple ID (Settings – iTunes+App Stores – Apple ID) or purchases from Apple’s stores are no longer possible.

03 What to do if an authentication within an app like Apple Mail fails?

Google
For apps you can create so-called ‘application-specific passwords’ (ASPs) that your app can use instead of your regular password. You can revoke ASPs at any time.
Apple
Not applicable

The worst case …

If you lost two or more of the required sign-in items (your Apple ID password, access to one of your trusted devices, your Recovery Key) you cannot regain access to your Apple account. You will need to create a new Apple ID. You can do so on one of your devices or on the web at My Apple ID.

Costs …

If you use SMS as the transmission service for verification codes you will be charged by your provider. The sender of the SMS is located in UK (+44).

To clarify costs you should ask your provider. Best practice is to activate Find My iPhone. The app is ready for receiving verification codes. It’s obvious that this transmission only works if you are connected to the internet.

The main features …

These are the main features of Apple’s 2-Step Verification

  • 2-Step Verification is bound to your Apple ID.
  • You can use any device capable of receiving SMS.
  • If you loose two or more sign-in items you cannot regain access to your account.
  • If you sell your device or if it’s stolen immediately go to My Apple ID and remove this device from the list of trusted devices.

Summary …

Use 2-Step Verification to improve security and to avoid compromising your identity which can cause severe problems with law if it’s obvious that you did not follow well-known security advices.

The digital world offers great benefits but increased security always goes along with decreased usability. That’s the price we have to pay. Be sure it’s a good investment.

The solution of both companies, Apple and Google, do not meet the requirements of their users. You cannot keep a recovery key or up to 10 backup codes in mind but your biometric identifiers are always with you. So let’s wait for the next step of a more innovative technological progress where you have access to all your accounts just with ‘something you are’.

Related links …

Apple …

Security made by Apple

Emergency Guide

The Apple ID

Apple ID: Frequently asked questions about 2-step Verification for Apple ID

Apple ID: Can’t sign in with 2-Step Verification

Google …

Google: 2-Step Verification

Google: Install Google Authenticator

Google: Sign in using Backup Code

Overview …

Overview about 2-Step Verification of other companies

Thanks for dropping by.





The Hidden Price

3 05 2014

All the cool convenience of our smartphones, tablets, computers, and Internet-based services come with a hidden price – POWER.

And there is more …
critical materials, missing application of recycling technologies in many countries, and missing law enforcement or code of conducts regarding fair labor.

Beside Apple’s ecosystem there is a much greater and more important one, our planet. In April 2014 scientists stated that parts of China are no longer suitable as a habitat for human beings, animals, and plants because of a tremendous pollution load in the air, the water, and the soil.

20140429-061554.jpg

As seen from the perspective of physics excessive power used by machines always goes along with excessive generation of heat. So it’s obvious that we pay the price for cooling down the powerful equipment needed for communication and unlimited access to sources of information.

On January 27, 2014, the Department of Ecology’s Air Quality Program received a Notice of Construction application (air permit application) from the Microsoft Corporation proposing to construct and operate the Oxford Data Center in Quincy, Washington. Microsoft has applied for an air permit because the proposed data center would install 36 2.5 MW emergency back-up diesel engine generators, one 0.75-MW emergency back-up diesel engine generator, and 32 cooling towers.

The projected build up of new data center electric loads led directly to forecast increases in energy-related air pollution, both globally and locally.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-fired electric generators are a major cause of global climate change. The forecast increases in data center electric demand implied a growing source of GHG emissions. This is cause for concern. The international community is attempting to reduce GHG emissions amid broad scientific and international consensus that climate change is a major threat and must be taken seriously.
Air pollution from diesel generators causes environmental health problems. Each planned data center includes as many as two or more times redundant backup diesel generator capacity, to use when the electric grid is unstable or unavailable. Diesel generators used for emergency backup power supply are essentially unregulated. They are a notorious source of very high levels of damaging air pollutants, including soot, nitrogen oxides (NOx), which form ground level ozone (smog) during hot sunny weather, and others. Coincidentally, the electric grid is most unstable and at risk of failing during hot periods of peak air conditioning demand.

What are data centers?

A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and various security devices. Large data centers are industrial scale operations using as much electricity as a small town and sometimes are a significant source of air pollution in the form of diesel exhaust.

Tens of thousands of data centers that now exist support the overall explosion of digital information. Stupendous amounts of data are set in motion each day with an innocuous click or tap.

According to Emerson Network Power 509,147 data centers worldwide were operated in 2011. I didn’t find updated information but it’s obvious that we have a lot more today because of the gaining popularity of mobile devices.

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock ensuring 99.99% availability, whatever the demand is. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid. In Silicon Valley, many data centers appear on the state government’s Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory, a roster of the area’s top stationary diesel polluters.

Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The New York Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show.

“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”

Energy efficiency varies widely from company to company. But at the request of The Times, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.

Energy efficiency …

The most commonly used metric to determine the energy efficiency of a data center is power usage effectiveness, or PUE. This simple ratio is the total power entering the data center divided by the power used by the IT equipment.

PUE = Total Facility Power / IT Equipment Power

Power used by support equipment, often referred to as overhead load, mainly consists of cooling systems, power delivery, and other facility infrastructure like lighting. The average data center in the US has a PUE of 2.0, meaning that the facility uses one watt of overhead power for every watt delivered to IT equipment. State-of-the-art data center energy efficiency is estimated to be roughly 1.2. Some large data center operators like Microsoft and Yahoo! have published projections of PUE for facilities in development; Google publishes quarterly actual efficiency performance from data centers in operation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an Energy Star rating for standalone or large data centers. To qualify for the ecolabel, a data center must be within the top quartile of energy efficiency of all reported facilities.

European Union also has a similar initiative: EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres.

Apple …

Downloading apps and media files, syncing via iCloud, using SIRI, backing up iOS devices needs an incredible amount of energy. Some of the features are quite wasteful if we think about a new contact entered in Contacts, then sent thousands of miles via the internet to see it some seconds later on a second iOS device which is just two feet apart.

Apple runs its biggest data center in Maiden, North Carolina. It houses servers and telecommunications equipment responsible for iCloud, Siri, iTunes and other online services.

But using Apple’s services in the cloud no longer means polluting the air.

20140429-100118.jpg

Apple’s green initiatives, including the company’s huge solar panel installation at one of its data centers in Maiden, show us, that there are ways to support a growing number of connected devices while at the same time shrinking the company’s carbon footprint.

Lisa P. Jackson is Apple’s Vice President of Environmental Initiatives and explains it with using clean energy like solar power, biogas generators, and geothermal energy.

“We feel the responsibility to consider everything we do in order to reduce our impact on the environment. This means using greener materials and constantly inventing new ways to conserve precious resources. [...]
We think this is an opportunity for us and for our sector to leave it (the world) better than we find it, to actually help people convert to cleaner energy without even knowing they’re doing it,”

Jackson said, echoing statements made earlier by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Greenpeace, which has previously been critical of Apple for sourcing energy from fossil fuels, recently praised the company for improving the energy mix powering its data centers, ranking it above other technology giants such as Amazon.

  • The new HQ (“Spaceship”) being built in Cupertino, will use 30% less energy than an equivalent building, and will be home to around 7,000 trees.
  • Apple decreased the material required to make its products – the new iPad Air uses nearly one-third less material, by weight, than the original iPad.
  • All the company’s retail stores will now take back Apple products for recycling, for free; previously customers had to buy a new product to recycle an old one. In the UK and US, an ongoing scheme offering payments for old iPhones, iPads and Macs also continues.

Are these statements for publicity only?

Well, Tim Cook recently told climate change sceptics that they should ditch Apple shares if they did not like the company’s backing for renewable energy and sustainability.

We do things because they are right and just and that is who we are. That’s who we are as a company. When I think about human rights, I don’t think about an ROI. When I think about making our products accessible for the people that can’t see or to help a kid with autism, I don’t think about a bloody ROI, and by the same token, I don’t think about helping our environment from an ROI point of view.

If you only want me to make things, make decisions that have a clear ROI, then you should get out of the stock.
(Tim Cook, annual shareholder meeting in Cupertino, 2014)

Cook’s call for climate change deniers to “get out of the stock” is an impressive statement I never heard from any other CEO.

20140429-061656.jpg

I already reported about Apple’s supplier responsibility (see ‘Related links’) and now it’s worth looking on the environmental initiatives of the company.

Apple’s data centers …

Here are some facts about Apple’s data centers published by the company in context with its environmental initiative in April 2014.

  • Maiden, North Carolina
    We designed our Maiden, North Carolina, data center from the ground up for energy efficiency, and it has earned the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council – the first data center of its size to be honored.
    On any given day, between 60 and 100 percent of the renewable energy it uses is generated onsite through biogas fuel cells and two 20-megawatt solar arrays- the nation’s largest privately owned renewable energy installation – and we purchase any remaining power we need from entirely clean sources. The Maiden center generates 167 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy onsite per year – enough to power the equivalent of 13,837 homes.
  • Prineville, Oregon
    Our data center in Prineville, Oregon, is every bit as environmentally responsible as the one in Maiden. We’re building a micro-hydro system that will harness the power of water that flows through local irrigation canals.
    When completed in 2014, it will serve most of the center’s energy needs, In the meantime, since Oregon allows the direct wholesale purchase of renewable energy, we’re able to directly access enough local wind energy to power the entire data center.
  • Reno, Nevada
    Our newest data center, in Reno, Nevada, follows in the footsteps of our 100 percent renewable energy centers in Maiden and Prineville. We’re working with the local utility to codevelop an 18- to 20-megawatt solar array using a new kind of photovoltaic panel with curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight.
    Expected to be operational in early 2015, the solar array will have an annual production capacity of over 43 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy. Until then, the center will be powered by renewable geothermal energy purchased from the local utility.
  • Newark, California
    Like our facilities in Maiden, Prineville, and Reno, our data center in Newark, California, is powered by 100 percent renewable energy. We hit this milestone in January 2013, when we began serving the data center with energy sourced primarily from California wind power. We’re acquiring this energy directly from the wholesale market through California’s Direct Access program.

20140429-100736.jpg

I talked about Microsoft’s construction application for installing diesel engine generators as backup-up sources for energy supply.

Apple goes an alternative way. With several energy-efficiency tricks, biogas-powered fuel cells and a giant 20-megawatt solar array Maiden will be one of the most environmentally benign data centers ever built.

Beyond Apple’s eco-bragging rights, this data center should provide valuable insights to the rest of the cloud computing industry.

Stationary fuel cells are certainly well proven, but multi-megawatt installations are pretty rare. Data center customers for Bloom Energy, which is supplying Apple in North Carolina, typically have far less than a megawatt installed. Each Bloom Energy Server, which takes up about a full parking space, produces 200 kilowatts. By going to 10 megawatts of capacity, Apple can claim the largest fuel cell powered data center, passing eBay which earlier this year announced plans for six megawatts worth of fuel cells at a data center in Utah.

Using fuel cells at this scale potentially changes how data center operators use grid power and traditional back up diesel generators. With Apple’s combination of its solar power and fuel cells, it appears the facility will be able to produce more than the 20 megawatts it needs at full steam. That means Apple could sell power back to the utility or even operate independently and use the grid as back-up power – a completely new configuration.

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Finally I would say that there are not only innovative ideas implemented in Apple’s product line-up but also in it’s ecosystem. A fact which is left behind when talking about Apple’s power as one of the most innovative companies in the world.

Better …

An official spot about “leaving the world better than we found it”.

(1:49 min, published April 21, 2014)

Summary …

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein)

It all started with implementing unlimited capabilities into electronic devices and it ends in unlimited pollution of our environment. “Think different” now means to replace limited classical energy sources by natural unlimited sources. The reason why it doesn’t take place today is just money. Selling cheap electronic devices goes along with ignoring the fact that there is a climate change, and pollution of air and water.

Related links …

Apple: Product Environmental Reports

Power, Pollution, and the Internet

Emerson Network Power Infographic

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility

Thanks for going green or blue or whatever you call it.








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