Category Archives: Stiri iT & C

Windows 365 No Deal for Non-Biz Linux Users

Microsoft’s new Cloud PC with Windows 10/11 service potentially offers a way for some Linux users to sidestep what could be the last barrier for businesses to adopt the Linux desktop without leaving behind must-have Windows applications.

But if you lack a company’s backing, for the time being you can expect Microsoft’s new platform to consider you unsuitable. So personal use of Windows 365 is not a real option for all Linux users.

Windows 365 launched Aug. 2, 2021 as software-as-a-service offering that initially targets business and enterprise users.

Microsoft so far is silent about expanding that target user base to non-business users. Linux and Chromebook users looking to pay the monthly subscription price — especially if they run a home office-based gig — might be able to sign up for the Windows 365 streaming service.

Microsoft’s announcement said Windows PC “is a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when available) through the power of the cloud across all your devices. We believe this will give organizations of all sizes the power, simplicity, and security you need to address the changing needs of your workforce as you embrace hybrid work.”

Microsoft just blew into the smithereens the only reason why we could not use the Linux operating system, offered Alina Clark, co-founder and marketing director at CocoDoc.

“It feels like independence. If anything, a large number of Linux users will now get to enjoy Word and other Microsoft Office tools, which provide the highest amount of consistency in that regard, while still basking in the lightweight, super-efficient glow of the Linux operating system,” the tech expert and growth manager told LinuxInsider.

Windows Cloud PC could lead to an increase of Linux users, she reasoned, since all those who were stopped from using it due to the Microsoft Office compatibility issues may just consider shifting.

What’s the Difference?

Windows 365 is not the same product as the still-existing free and subscription services of Microsoft Office and The new service is a cloud computing product that costs users a monthly fee. With it you get a fully functional Windows operating system accessed by streaming the Windows OS from your Cloud PC setup to your local devices.

The difference is you do not have to install the cloud-delivered Windows software on every Windows computer you use. Instead, you can access a fully functional Windows OS with full access to whatever Windows applications you use over the internet instead of installing it on your local hardware. You can stream the same access to all your desktop and mobile devices, including smartphone, Chromebook, and Linux-based desktop and laptop computers.

Microsoft’s other Office suite is a web-based platform that only provides the Office apps. You cannot use it to run other the Microsoft OS and Microsoft Windows applications. That is a critical difference that Linux and Chromebook users (and for that matter, macOS users) need to understand.

This new “Windows as a service” is an option for people and businesses who prefer running Linux on their local computers without configuring a virtual machine to access Microsoft Windows and installed Windows applications within Linux.

That VM option is not even fully available on Chromebooks. But just as Chromebook users can run Linux apps — just like Android apps — on a Linux partition within the Chrome OS, that capability is coming to Chromebooks via a similar Windows partition.

Windows 365 is going to give Microsoft the ability to compete for market share on a huge variety of new devices, according to Devon Fata, CEO of web design firm Pixoul. It also positions Windows 365 as a complement to those who primarily run Linux or macOS.

“I see this cutting both ways. On the one hand, it will be easier to run Linux and supplement with Windows 365 when necessary. But on the other hand, Windows can now compete with Linux on more platforms,” he told LinuxInsider.

Quick ‘n’ Easy Sign Up (Maybe)

Signing up to subscribe to the Windows 365 cloud service is similar to the process Microsoft uses for its and offerings. If you have a Microsoft business account already, you should be able to use your same email address to get started. I have an address registered for my web-based access to other Microsoft products.

My initial efforts were an exercise in futility. ECT News Network (the parent company of LinuxInsider) has a Microsoft business account, at least that is what the sign-up page confirmed as I cobbled together my user credentials to set up a Windows 365 account.

When I entered my address, the Windows 365 sign up page balked and said I needed to create a new Microsoft account. The automated process had me enter my suggested business company account name, and after several tries approved an available user name.

The next step automatically affixed the required domain name of “” That is required for the Windows 365 license. Then Microsoft approved my suggested password. I needed to provide a secondary email address to prove my identity with a provided one-time passcode.

Following that, I was required to give my credit card information for the monthly billing. An initial free trial period was no longer available. But subscribers can cancel at any time by notifying Microsoft using the administrator account manager page.

Clicking the ‘Next’ button at this point loaded the Microsoft 365 page. The cloud-based delivery then provided options for adding other Microsoft applications and business tools.

Microsoft Happens!

Subsequent sign in attempts start to display the Windows desktop before jumping to the failed page load display.

Microsoft sign in error

Over the course of several days, two other Windows screens of death appeared. Despite sending copies of several screenshots requesting tech support, email replies suggested logging on to file help requests. I would if I could, Microsoft!

Windows 365 page can't be found

Overall, Microsoft’s newest Windows 365 offering seems to have an identity crisis. Some sign in attempts brought me to my page or a page. Some of the emails I received after contacting Microsoft directed me to respond to

Another reply suggested that I go to to scan the list of problems and solutions. That only added to my frustration. Nearly every entry there referenced other Microsoft products. I did not see any tagged with Windows 365.

Your organization doesn't have a subscription to Windows 365

Adding insult to injury, I searched other Microsoft databases for troubleshooting and general internet searches as well. That got similar results of no solutions. Again, almost no mention of Windows 365 turned up.

Finally, as I was finishing this article on Windows 365 as a non-option for most Linux users, I received an email response from a Microsoft media representative offering a suggestion but not a real solution.

“Since your initial access to Windows 365 is through a separate paid trial/subscription, we’re unable to check the status of your Windows 365 environment. We recommend checking out this Tech Community blog post, which provides detailed guidance on how to set up Windows 365,” wrote Nick Heinz for Microsoft.

Well, I did not sign up via a trial subscription. That option was no longer available for Windows 365. Clicking the link to the Tech Community blog post that Heinz provided just added more insult to injury, as shown by yet another Microsoft webpage failure.

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 has encountered an error

“We’d also like to remind you that Windows 365 is built for organizations, so you will need an existing Windows license and Microsoft 365 Business or Microsoft 365 Enterprise account for Windows 365 to work, as you would for a physical Windows 10 device in your organization. Provisioning can be done in the Microsoft 365 admin center,” he concluded.

Wrapping Up

Therein lies the rub, perhaps! My initial sign up for Windows 365 brought me beyond the admin center page. I have a licensed Windows 10 purchase. I previously signed up for a Microsoft 365 Business account, which I had no trouble accessing but will now not be renewing.

Microsoft’s limitation of Windows 365 to only qualified business accounts is a big disappointment for potential Linux users. Being able to migrate to Linux for personal use without leaving must-have Windows 10/11 applications is still an unfulfilled dream.

Why does Microsoft not want to reap more subscription fees from interested Linux users without business affiliations? Or for that matter, from non-business users of other computing and mobile platforms?

That is just plain bad business, Microsoft.

From a Linux user’s perspective, Windows 365 can be a convenient — but costly — option to stream the Windows OS to any of your non-Microsoft devices using the web browser of your choice. But Windows 365 is not an option for personal use for Linux or any other platform without any business ties.

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Unsupported IoT Devices Are Cyber-Trouble Waiting To Happen

Imagine reading a headline in tomorrow’s news stating that your neighbor’s identity was stolen and their life savings cleaned out by criminals who entered through their ‘smart’ washing machine.

Ridiculous, you say? Well, have you checked your own home Wi-Fi network lately?

You might have several connected household gadgets and other internet of things (IoT) devices tethered wirelessly through a misconfigured router with no firewall settings. Is the firmware current? Are security patches up to date?

Still not convinced this is a serious problem? Then consider this glaring example of how dangerous an outdated device can be.

In June, Western Digital My Book NAS owners worldwide found out that their devices were mysteriously factory reset and all their files were deleted. My Book Live and My Book Live Duo are personal cloud storage devices.

When the WD product users attempted to log in via the web dashboard, the devices responded that they had an “invalid password.” WD My Book owners could no longer log into the device via a browser or an app.

My Book Live and My Book Live Duo products experienced data loss due to a security incident, according to the Western Digital website. WD informed customers that the company would cover the costs of eligible users with qualifying products to recover their data using the data recovery services (DRS) provided by a Western Digital-selected vendor.

The company promised to cover the costs of shipment of the qualifying product to the DRS vendor and for the data recovery service. Any recovered data would be sent to the customer on a My Passport drive.

Western Digital confirmed that “some My Book Live devices are being compromised by malicious software.” The company also confirmed reports this has led to a factory reset that erased all data on some customer devices.

The My Book Live device received its final firmware update in 2015. The June 2021 statement from Western Digital suggested users disconnect their My Book Live devices from the internet to protect the data on their device.

The My Book Live vulnerability shows there is still a long way to go in IoT security. Much attention has been paid that such devices are not hardened or built according to best practices, according to John Bambenek, threat intelligence advisor at Netenrich.

“In this case, we see that devices are being built that are meant to outlast their vendor’s support commitments; so not only are they vulnerable, but consumers cannot protect themselves either. Whether it is data loss, ransomware, or DDoS, these issues will keep recurring until vendors commit to protecting their customers,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Flawed Business Model

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) take no responsibility for this fiasco, as their aging connected devices are no longer for sale.

However, most customers are not aware that these devices actually have an expiry date, and consumers are not alerted to the dangers of continuing to use unpatched firmware, with countless outdated connected devices waiting to be infiltrated by opportunistic attackers, suggested Asaf Ashkenazi, COO at connected devices security firm Verimatrix.

“OEMs should either transform their business model to sustain a long-lasting software update service or install more sophisticated tech that would make hacking these devices much more difficult,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Ashkenazi is not outright blaming problems like the Western Digital fiasco on the OEM industry. The problem is with the business model. No standards exist to regulate how IoT devices should be maintained and secured.

“Unfortunately, I do not see anything that is addressing the standardizing of security on these IoT devices. Maybe the government or consumer protection, or some companies will decide to build a consortium that will say who is responsible,” he said.

A need definitely exists for more transparency in terms of the level of support for the software on these devices. Nothing can be done to deal with the problem until the industry decides to pick up that challenge, he added.

Education and Consumer Pressure

It will take an educational awareness effort to make consumers mindful of the dangers inherent in buying insecure IoT devices. That can then translate into enabling consumers to consider device security as part of their buying decision, suggested Ashkenazi.

Most consumers are now clueless that devices endemic to their household can be connected to the internet through their wireless routers. If they have a device that connects to the network, they need to make sure that the device’s software is updated, he added.

“When the software is no longer updated, the device can be dangerous to use.,” he warned.

The goal, as Ashkenazi sees it, is to first protect consumers. Then he hopes that consumers will put enough pressure on manufacturers that companies will start to say how long they are going to support the software.

Apple, Google, and some other big companies are saying that for certain devices. But for a lot of the other devices, the companies after six months or so stop supporting them. Consumers continue using these abandoned devices because they otherwise appear to be working fine, he said.

Fuzzy Responsibility

Consumers must be just as meticulous as enterprise businesses when it comes to cybersecurity. Enterprise security teams understand that vulnerabilities come in all shapes and sizes, observed Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber, a SaaS provider of enterprise cyber-risk remediation.

“In the case of the Western Digital My Book Live devices, threat actors took advantage of a daisy-chained set of circumstances to wipe the data from exposed hard drives. Consumers should have known to keep the drive firmware patched, and to only connect the drives to the internet when needed. However, where does the responsibility fall? On the consumer or on Western Digital? There is not a clear-cut answer,” he told TechNewsWorld.

One of the main problems with IoT security at the present is that the rush to market often deprioritizes security measures that need to be built into our devices. This issue has made many IoT devices low-hanging fruits for criminals interested in stealing sensitive data and accessing exposed networks, noted Stefano De Blasi, threat researcher at Digital Shadows.

“Additionally, criminals can exploit vulnerable products by leveraging their computing power and orchestrate massive IoT botnet campaigns to disrupt traffic on targeted services and to spread malware,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Cybersecurity Blind Spots

IoT security, or the lack of it, suffers from industry shortcomings. The primary issue is that traditional vulnerability management tools do not scan past the operating system. Thus, they do not detect any security issues or vulnerabilities in the firmware layer, according to Baksheesh Singh Ghuman, global senior director of product marketing and strategy at connected devices security firm Finite State.

“The secondary issue involves device manufacturers, who are often in charge of performing device security despite commonly lacking the appropriate security controls to scan for firmware layer vulnerabilities,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It’s important for manufacturers to conduct a thorough analysis for vulnerabilities of any kind, and if they discover any, inform potential users about available firmware upgrades and patches, he recommended.

“It is a very reactionary process, unlike the automated proactive process found in enterprise vulnerability management practices. As a result of these factors, firmware vulnerabilities are often ignored and become cybersecurity blind spots which draw the attention of threat actors,” said Ghuman.

IoT Security Complicated

Depending on the industry and application, providing a patch is not always available. In the case of consumers, patching is a twofold process, according to Ghuman.

First, the device manufacturer needs a standard upgrade process in place to push upgrades/patches to their devices. The second step requires the spread of consumer awareness about the need to upgrade and patch vulnerabilities.

“This is quite challenging because it requires constant reminders and education regarding cybersecurity hygiene,” said Ghuman.

Device manufacturers can take a few steps to prevent more episodes like the Western Digital dilemma, he suggested. Those include:

  • Making sure there is a product security group present within their organization;
  • Incorporating firmware layer vulnerability management as part of their overall product development and product security programs, so that they can detect firmware layer vulnerabilities before they are distributed;
  • Proactively scan for exploitable vulnerabilities in their firmware and, if discovered, quickly develop patches; and
  • Having a standard and secure firmware upgrade process in place which pushes patches as they become available.

Inevitable Targeting

The consumer move to a preference for digital-first interactions will grow the potential threat landscape that can be targeted by attackers, observed Tyler Shields, CMO at JupiterOne. More apps, more data in the cloud, more digital experiences, mean more targets of both opportunity and chance.

“There will be a continued increase in data compromise as we move more and more of our daily life into the cloud. We have really only just begun to see the expansion of digital experiences and the attacks that will grow alongside them,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Security has always been offset by ease-of-use. The cybersecurity vendor community must drive toward creating easy-to-use cybersecurity experiences that deliver an acceptable level of security to the technologies that the consumers demand, according to Shields.

A good example of this is the move to single sign-on and password-less authentication. Users have failed to maintain proper passwords for decades, and that situation will never change. Therefore, innovation must build an easy-to-use alternative that provides appropriate security with a much better user experience.

“Enterprises have to find the right balance of technology innovation alongside security for traditional models,” he said.

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Autonomous Driving’s Missing Link | LinuxInsider

Autonomous driving now forms the core of most of the efforts to create autonomous robotics. However, up until now there’s been one rarely talked about but critical problem that remains unsolved: What do we do with those things that will share the roads with these self-driving cars and trucks that are not autonomous?

The number of production vehicles on the road that are Level 4 or 5 autonomous is precisely zero. This means we are still working off the old model based on how long it took to replace horses with cars that are way out of date. In addition, a significant amount of the life-saving benefit of autonomous cars is their ability to talk to each other and provide substantial warning for safety issues beyond the reach of the car’s sensors.

To address this omission, Qualcomm and its partners like Spoke are proposing a standard called VRU2X which initially will target bicycles, motorcycles, and delivery vehicles; but I expect will cover far more once we begin to ramp up Level 4 and 5 autonomous cars.

Let’s talk about this next phase of making autonomous vehicles massively safer. We’ll close with my product of the week, an autonomous electric prototype that re-establishes Audi as a segment leader.

Killing the Trolly Problem

The trolly problem was created as a way to discuss ethics and psychology. I don’t think it should have ever been applied to autonomous vehicles.

A version that’s been spreading is an autonomous car is heading for a school bus with a bunch of kids getting on or off the bus. If the car hits the kids, the driver and car survive; but if it hits the bus, the car is wrecked and the driver dies. What does the AI do?

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, 1.35 million people die in car accidents every year. How many die due to this kind of choice? The number must be very small because I’ve never found a single one.

Also, if this happened when you were driving, by the time you made a decision you’d have already hit one of the two. Finally, if you saw the kids and bus in enough time to stop, you wouldn’t suggest the cause of the accident — if it had happened — was because you were driving at an unsafe speed; and autonomous cars will be prevented from driving at unsafe speeds.

But this argument, which has somewhat delayed the deployment of autonomous driving and saving 1.35 million lives per year, is being partially held up for an unlikely hypothetical which, at most, might injure less than 100 kids one time.

Consider if that bus was instrumented so the autonomous car knew about and could avoid the accident, this unlikely event drifts even farther into the range of the impossible. If VRU2X were used on school buses, they would be part of the network and autonomous vehicles would become even safer.


C-V2X, which allows cars to talk to each other, is too large and requires too much power for small or human-powered vehicles like bicycles. VRU2X, which is derived from C-V2X, is about the size of an iPhone. It will initially target bicycles and motorcycles because they are hard to see and share the roads with cars.

If put into smartphones, I think the technology would also better protect pedestrians — particularly children who often are distracted and walk into traffic between vehicles or between buildings where the car’s sensors may not be able to see them approach.

Whatever is carrying this technology becomes part of the network and would even backstop things like bright traffic lights. If those lights failed or weren’t seen by a pedestrian, bike rider or motorcycler, the autonomous car would still be able to avoid hitting them much more effectively.

I like to watch YouTube videos of accidents as a reminder of what not to do when I’m driving. Right now, a driver generally can’t see a car that is going to run a stoplight in time to avoid the accident. But AI tracking an approaching vehicle with this technology would anticipate the risk and slow; thus preventing accidents that aren’t your fault but could result in your injury or death. If you get killed, it doesn’t matter to you anymore who’s at fault.

To maximize the potential safety of this new autonomous capability, I expect that we will need to have anything likely to share the road with a car instrumented. This is because we still have to deal with physics, and a car at speed can only do so many things regardless of whether it’s driven by a computer or human.

Suppose a child steps in front of a car doing 40 mph. In that case, the car physically won’t stop in time to prevent the kid’s death. This is a physics problem of speed, mass, and the swept area of the brakes, and while the computer will react faster, it can’t overcome physical limitations.

The same thing with ice: if the car doesn’t sense the ice in advance, it won’t be successful avoiding trouble any better than the best race car driver in the world. But if any other connected vehicle (car, bike, scooter, etc.) sees that ice first and reports it, then any connected driver, computer, or otherwise is far more able to avoid getting into the problem in the first place.

Ice and sand are hazardous to two-wheeled vehicles which can fall on their sides and become ballistic. So not only does this technology potentially protect these vulnerable vehicles from collisions, but also from surface-caused accidents in a type of digital herd protection. A car seeing the ice first could alert a bike or motorcycle of the danger allowing that following vehicle to avoid the danger.

Wrapping Up: We Should Deploy VRU2X Before Autonomous Cars

I avoid several accidents a year due to the sensors in our cars that alert if danger is approaching that I might not see. Were this technology deployed and my car able to see it, I’d be made more aware of problems my current sensors can’t see either. Since my reaction times aren’t as good as when I was young, and have never been as fast as a computer, this could save more lives sooner were it deployed now.

Suppose you somehow added this to every smartphone and provided an aftermarket service or in-car option that alerted when a person was likely to be hurt. In that case, we’d likely avoid many of the bicycle, pedestrian, and even avoidable motorcycle accidents we have even without autonomous cars.

It could be made part of the car camera systems we are using to capture accidents — currently to prove who’s at fault — and would make us better able to avoid those accidents in the first place. Better than avoiding fault is avoiding the accident altogether.

I had to stop riding motorcycles because accidents at my age are likely to be far more life-threatening than when I was younger. VRU2X should allow me and others in my age group to safely ride again.

Coincidently, as I was writing this column, a guy riding a bicycle in my age group was killed locally by a 19-year-old man driving under the influence. Had both vehicles being able to communicate, I believe he’d still be alive today.

VRU2X, due in 2022, will make it far safer for all of us to ride bikes, with or without motors, on the same road with cars; and should be used more broadly to connect anything, including horses, that share the road with the coming wave of autonomous and modern human-driven cars.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

The Audi Skysphere Concept

Audi was one of the initial leaders in autonomous driving technology. The first autonomous car prototype I saw was at an event at the Stanford University lab using a modified first-generation Audi TT in the early 2000s. I’ve owned 4 Audis and enjoyed all of them; they just haven’t made a car that spoke to me (outside of the R8, which I remain tempted by) in some time.

Last week Audi unveiled a prototype car called the Skysphere that I probably can’t afford but suddenly have lust in my heart for.

Audi Skysphere Concept

Audi Skysphere Concept

Not only is this thing awesome looking, electric, and incredibly fast, it morphs by changing its length from being a grand touring (GT) car able to eat up distances comfortably to a sports car that should corner like a dream.

A few years back, I was driving a Jaguar XK8, which has a long wheelbase, and did well driving with Porches and Alphas until we hit tight corners; then I couldn’t keep up. On the other hand, my car was a ton more comfortable than those other cars.

This Audi promises to provide the comfort you’d want to get to a track and the performance you’d need to be competitive on a tight road course, all in the same car. Though, I have to admit, given what this thing is likely to cost, tracking it may be a tad challenging to justify unless you are a lot richer than I am.

The Skysphere is designed to be a Level 4 autonomous vehicle which means it can handle almost any road but won’t work off-road autonomously. Given how low this thing sits, you’d have to be nuts to go off-road with it in the first place.

What is cool is that when the car is in GT mode, the steering wheel and pedals vanish, and the car does the driving; when you go into sports car mode, the dashboard splits, the steering wheel emerges, and the pedals drop to give you control. (See the following trailer for a glimpse of all that.) Though I expect you’ll be in a mode called “Guardian Angel,” where the car will still have partial control by default, so you are less likely to have an accident.

The estimated range is just over the minimum needed to be viable at 310 miles; horsepower is a respectable 624, and torque (which generates from zero) 553 lbs. Sadly it isn’t Tesla fast with a 0-60 of 4 seconds, but that’s as quick as my old Mercedes AMG track car.

You can check out this car if you are attending Monterey’s Car Week festivities. While I doubt it will ever be built; because I want to drive it, the Audi Skysphere is my product of the week. (My wife took one look at this and indicated she wants it, so…)

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

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The Endless Possibilities of Robotic Process Automation

With more amounts of data to manage, organize, and make sense of, robotic processes are becoming increasingly valuable to businesses seeking to save time and be more efficient.

Not everything needs to be done by a human, especially when the tasks are repeated and predictable. It’s here that robotic process automation (RPA) comes into play and has become an important component to managing businesses and serving customers.

TechNewsWorld spoke with several experts in robotic process automation to get their take on why it’s important, how it’s being used, and where it’s headed.

Multitude of Applications

“RPA is software that automates rules-based actions performed on a computer, such as copy and paste, moving files from one location to another, etc.,” Omid Aslani, director of product management for Kofax, explained to TechNewsWorld.

“Using low-code drag-and-drop software, RPA software ‘robots’ are designed to automate dull, boring, and repetitive tasks so that people can shift from being data-gatherers to data-users,” he added.

There are a many different applications for RPA, and it’s finding its way into a multitude of fields and kinds of businesses.

“The type of work that RPA can automate is almost endless, but examples include processing loan application data, automatic background checks, or extracting shipment details from incoming emails,” said Aslani.

“The ability to automate allows workers to switch their focus to more thoughtful and meaningful work, while also eliminating data entry errors that can adversely impact processing times, compliance, and the overall customer experience,” he continued.

“In banking, tasks such as opening accounts or processing mortgage applications can be automated, while insurance companies can automate health and injury claims and onboarding for new applicants or agents. In the transport sector, supply chain and logistics operations can be streamlined with RPA.

“The list of possibilities is nearly endless and beneficial to any business that deals with laborious or tedious manual processes.”

Human-ish Robots

RPA requires, ultimately, that machines be trained in much the same way people would be to do a variety of repetitive and predictable tasks.

“Just like people, software robots can be trained to understand what’s on a screen, complete the right keystrokes, navigate different systems, identify and extract data, and perform a wide range of defined actions, such as pulling data from a database, entering it into a spreadsheet, and then generating an invoice based on the information,” Param Kahlon, chief product officer for UiPath, told TechNewsWorld.

With AI and natural language processing, RPA is able to progressively emulate human thought and processing capabilities; thereby making it useful to businesses that require a certain degree of intelligence in using and making sense of data.

“At its core, RPA is software automating business processes by interacting with multiple systems in the same way that a human would, often using the same desktop interfaces a human uses,” Don Schuerman, chief technology officer for Pegasystems, explained to TechNewsWorld.

“RPA increasingly leverages AI technologies like natural language processing (NLP) to interpret text or optical character recognition (OCR) to understand documents and images,” he continued. “An example of RPA includes what I often call an ’email bot,’ which uses NLP to understand and extract data from emails, and then automatically process and generate a response.”

RPA for Business Workflows

As systems become more complex, the way they can “think” about and process data is evolving. With this evolution is coming new and improved ways of making use of RPA’s unique capabilities.

“RPA has caught on like wildfire, because it made automating routine, mundane tasks fast, easy and dare I say, fun,” explained Aslani. “It made motivation-killing work, like monotonous, cut-and-paste data entry, a drudgery of the past.”

“Where does RPA go from here?” he questioned. “It’s all about workflow. The new normal is accelerating the call for digital transformation, creating streamlined, frictionless experiences that delight customers and employees.”

Part of this evolution involves harnessing RPA for a variety of systems within organizations.

“Organizations increasingly are bridging their RPA expertise to higher-value initiatives — business workflow transformation,” said Aslani. “Workflows are organizations’ secret sauce — the end-to-end processes encoding how they do things smarter, faster, better, cheaper.

“For savvy companies, the future is about harnessing their RPA automation expertise, and leveraging it with complementary technologies like process orchestration and document intelligence to automate their mission-critical business workflows,” he reasoned.

“Additionally, there is a shift in utilizing more low-code capabilities, enabling citizen developers to develop automation and collaborate with professional developers to drive agility and speed in their digital workflow transformation journey,” Aslani noted.

Intelligent Automation

RPA is steadily becoming part of an entire business ecosystem, which includes work done by both humans and non-humans.

“For the last five or so years, RPA has enabled organizations in all sectors to increase efficiencies, streamline their internal and customer-facing processes and, perhaps most importantly, free up their highly-skilled employees from repetitive, low-value work,” Eric Tyree, head of research and AI for Blue Prism, explained to TechNewsWorld.

“Now, as the technology matures and the early-adopter phase is truly over, organizations are looking for more. We will see a seamless mix of digital workers, human workers, and ever-evolving systems,” he said.

Intelligent automation, in other words, is becoming perpetually intelligent.

“Business leaders are recognizing the potential for intelligent automation, where RPA technology is integrated with AI capabilities, to become a strategic lever for widescale transformation, innovation, and competitive difference.

“Organizations are starting with their big ambition and working backwards from there. We’ll start to see significant numbers of organizations moving towards this automation-first approach,” said Tyree.

Ultimately, RPA can help businesses as a whole, as it frees up human employees to do things that humans do best — like thinking creatively and solving problems.

“RPA is evolving to become even more democratized, thereby unlocking automation’s potential at scale to transform the way people work,” said Kahlon. “With the rollout of more low-code and no-code solutions, those with less tech experience can increasingly harness the technology’s capabilities to optimize their workloads.

“Instead of relying on IT support, they can design their automation applications that make sense to their unique roles,” he reasoned. “The more employees who can take advantage of automation, the closer their organization comes to becoming a fully automated enterprise.”

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The Irony of Facebook’s VR Collaboration Debacle

Facebook is misclassified as a social media company. If it wasn’t, bringing out a VR product like Horizon Workrooms, reviews of which have not been kind, would have been better received.

Collaboration is a social process where people get together to collectively solve problems. But Facebook sucks at social. A more accurate descriptor is that Facebook is a gossip platform at scale, which has done considerable harm to several countries and put them at considerable existential risk. Add to that, both political parties in the U.S. agree on very little — but taking down Facebook seems to be the exception.

To fix the problem Facebook is trying to solve requires — and this is where the irony comes in — a social network, which Facebook’s collaboration failure showcases it is not.

Let’s talk about that. Then we’ll close with my product of the week, the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq, which may be the electric car to beat next year.

The VR Collaboration Problem

There is a widely held opinion that the problem with virtual meetings is that they don’t take place in virtual conference rooms. That opinion, if you’ve ever collaborated, is mainly false.

I’ve covered video conferencing and collaboration for several decades now, and if you watch people collaborate, they rarely do it in conference rooms.

Conference rooms are used for information sharing, but this tends to be either a talk by one speaker to an audience or a sequential set of presentations shared with the group. Neither is collaboration; they’re just a form of information sharing.

Collaboration is a social construct where people work in concert with each other to accomplish a common goal. It takes place wherever those people are situated. Some of the best collaboration efforts I’ve seen are where people go off to remote sites away from distractions and work together in an office structure with an exclusive focus on that project.

The issue with video conferencing versus in-person meetings, that decade after decade providers have chosen to ignore, is that people want the social aspect of an in-person meeting.

To collaborate, and frankly advance in a company successfully, you must create relationships. You know, do what Facebook was originally designed to do.

It isn’t the conference rooms that are missed — most of us hate those rooms and view the related meetings as vast wastes of time. What we’re missing today are the lunches, dinners, cocktail parties, and corner conversations that form friendships you don’t make if you don’t meet in person.

This problem isn’t something that VR is set up yet to fix unless it becomes more realistic.

Folks aren’t going to make friends with other employees that look like cartoons. When creating a relationship, it helps to look into the eyes of the person you are working with, which is precisely what VR headsets don’t currently allow.

VR, in this instance, is like trying to fix a hole in your boat with a drill. In its current form, it is almost the exact opposite of what you need if you want people to collaborate remotely and effectively.

Ironically, Facebook’s Portal solution is arguably better because it helps people see each other when they talk. It is optimized for one-on-one interaction, which is generally missing in a video conferencing event.

Portal also promotes interactions (granted, somewhat ineffectively) like watching movies together. These interactions help to create the social bonds which are critical to good collaboration and encourage people to work together and mesh as a team.

Business Needs a True Social Platform

Video conferencing products are successful because we are in a pandemic and people have to use them for meetings.

Though for true collaboration other tools are generally used; like Github, Yammer, SharePoint, and Office 365 Groups; all of which are now under the umbrella of Microsoft which seems to bracket collaboration. Meanwhile, Microsoft positions Teams as one of its collaboration offerings, that solution integrates with the others and, like its peers, is best for information sharing as opposed to collaboration.

What the market needs are relationship-building programs. Granted, mainly MMO’s could be part of this solution because I’ve seen relationships form and advance between video gamers who play as teams.

Anecdotally, right now during the pandemic, video games played by working teams seem to be an impressive team- and relationship-building tool. These games help people let their hair down, get to know each other, and help fill the gap that not meeting people in person has left open.

Wrapping Up

Facebook needs to get social right, and we need a social relationship solution for business. If Facebook transitioned back to making and advancing relationships, I think it would be more liked and far less of a problem that needs to be fixed.

If we want to move ahead and stay with remote work, we need to solve the relationship problem. People need to feel that they can make and advance relationships remotely as effectively as they can in person.

Otherwise, assuming we put this pandemic thing behind us (which is seeming less likely all the time), we’ll have to go back to the in-person meeting for those that want to collaborate successfully and more rapidly advance their careers.

I’m still struck by the fact that a social media company missed so entirely with its collaboration offering by simply not understanding that it needs to be social, not what it is, which is a bad joke. I mean, watch this demo:

Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms is not collaboration. Microsoft Teams would be a better solution for information sharing because you’d see Zuckerberg, not an avatar that looks nothing like him.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

The Cadillac Lyriq

More information about the Cadillac Lyriq will show up in the first quarter of next year (granted, barring chip shortage issues that are crippling auto sales).

Lyriq continues to hit on most of the critical areas needed in an electric car, including the essential 300-mile range that currently sets the minimum bar for an EV as a primary rather than a secondary car.

It comes fully loaded (except for a $1,500 22-inch wheel option that you don’t need) at a cost of just under $60K before rebates but after destination charges.

The Cadillac Lyriq is a GM technology showcase, aggressively using a whopping 736 LED’s all over the vehicle to give it a personality and make the car look fantastic.

The massive 33-inch interior display is unmatched in the market, and the interior luxury easily eclipses the Tesla X that starts at $20K more expensive.

When it hits the market, nothing will come to close the Lyriq in range or luxury level at its price point, and I love a value. My Jaguar iPace comes off lease next year and I’m seriously considering the Lyriq despite its larger size.

It’s been decades since I’ve even considered a U.S.-built car, let alone one from GM. Though I will likely wait until the more expensive and powerful version of this car comes out later next year.

The initial 340 horsepower is less than my Jaguar, and it won’t have an all-wheel drive which is critical to have anywhere it snows.

To bring the car to market quickly, GM used a new virtual development process which is also speeding to market the GMC Hummer EV.

Sadly, one of the best features, “plug and charge,” won’t initially make it in the car. This feature didn’t require a charging app but would let you plug into a supporting charger without the app hassle, more like a Tesla. Given that I think the issue is with the charging companies and not GM. I think this will likely be added with a software update, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Because the Cadillac Lyriq, despite its size, is on my shortlist to replace my Jaguar iPace, and it will arrive as a 2023 model in early 2022 (giving you nearly two years with a current-year car), and it is a considerable bargain, it is my product of the week. Excellent job, Cadillac!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

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