How many of you suffer from at least mild “cyberchondria"? Do you run to the computer to Google your latest ailments? Are you often convinced that the headache you have is the first sign of some terminal illness you’ve been reading about?
Well, Symcat takes a new approach to Internet-assisted self-diagnosis. It provides not only the symptoms but the probability of getting the disease, using CDC data to rank results by the likelihood of the different conditions. It then allows users to further filter results by typing in information such as their gender, the duration of their symptoms and medical history. No, that headache you’ve had all week is likely not spinal stenosis or even viral pharyngitis. But if you’ve had a fall or a blow to the head you might want to consider a concussion.
As Symcat puts it, they “use data to help you feel better.” Never underestimate the palliative effects of peace of mind.
I had the chance to ask Craig Monsen, MD, co-founder and CEO of Symcat, a few questions about how they got their start with the business and their innovation with open data.
What was the genesis of Symcat? Can you describe the "ah-ha" moment of determining the need for Symcat?
At Forrester’s North America CIO Forum two weeks ago, Frank Gillett, Chris Mines, and I presented a point--counterpoint debate on “The CIO’s World in 2020.” We debated and analyzed four key dynamics regarding IT and the CIO’s role in the future, and asked the 325 attendees to vote on the outcome they think is most likely to occur. The audience members’ votes were extremely telling:
80% believed that technology would still be differentiating. To set the stage for the audience vote, Frank argued that technology would be so commonplace and readily available via the cloud that a company’s ability to set itself apart via technology would be fleeting at best. I took the opposite side, saying that while much of today’s transaction-based systems will be nothing more than table stakes, systems of engagement-based systems and technologies around analytics and smart products would be central to a firm’s ability to set itself apart in the eyes of customers. The audience overwhelmingly agreed with our call that systems of engagement and other technologies would be differentiating.
85% agreed that most technology would be delivered via the public cloud. I kicked off this point by arguing that technology was too important not to be centrally designed, deployed, and managed by IT. Frank came at it stating that the velocity and variability of change required the use of public cloud-based services. The Forrester call was that companies will architect and deploy business solutions from a growing pool of external as-a-service resources, with IT playing the role of orchestrator.
I recently returned from attending the opening of Belatrix Software’s new office in Lima, Peru, where I was also able to meet with representatives of the Peruvian Association Of Software Producers (APESOFT), which aims to promote the software industry in Peru.
I was keen to travel to Peru to gain a better understanding of one of the fastest-growing Latin American economies, as well as to put this growth into the context of its technology industry. Peru was recently ranked fourth in Bloomberg’s list of the top 20 emerging markets, just behind China, South Korea, and Thailand but ahead of other prominent Latin American destinations such as Mexico and Brazil. It is rated as one of the most attractive Latin American markets for doing business.
Peru has one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, and although GDP growth has recently slowed slightly, its forecast for the medium to long term is positive. Although by total size, it is dwarfed by Brazil (whose GDP is approximately 14 times larger than Peru’s), the IMF is expecting continued growth at approximately 6% in 2013 and 2014.
However, despite its fast-growing economy, Peru’s IT market is one of the smaller and more nascent Latin American markets. Forrester estimates that total Peruvian IT purchases in 2012 were $2.5 billion — compared with $23.4 billion in Mexico and $46.5 billion in Brazil.
We’ve heard a lot in the past year about the future role of marketing technologists as solvers of the “IT/marketing clash of the titans” (as one Forrester client put it to me recently). These technologists are more than just your basic webmasters. Instead, they are professionals with deep knowledge of how technology can deliver on marketing strategies in order to bring about better digital customer experiences. At Forrester, we’ve started to see an emerging trend of shared services groups whose goal is to bridge the marketing technology divide. Our latest research found that organizations have turned to this model — which we call the marketing technology group — to foster tighter integration between IT and marketing and between strategy/design professionals and technologists. Defining characteristics include:
Who? These groups tend to be made up of a diverse lot of professionals, but in general are staffed by a combination of marketing strategists, creative design professionals, and technologists with design and business savvy. We found some of the most sought-after technologists were mobile- and data-literate developers and higher-ranking IT leaders, like enterprise architects, who can coordinate an ever-growing number of digital experience technologies (e.g. CRM, Web content management, commerce platforms, analytics, etc.). The key is to give these groups direct tie-in to C-level executives. As a vice president of strategy at a digital agency told us, “The problem with shared services is that too often it’s staffed by only powerless workers.”
Social sign-in has become a powerful force for marketers and consumers, validating the notion of federated identity in consumer-facing contexts. (Ironic that consumerization of IT is successfully tackling even the single sign-on problem that has bedeviled IT, showing how identity for the top line of the business can overcome resistance in ways that business-to-employee scenarios typically can't.)
But not all consumer-facing federated SSO is social. When I was with PayPal, our team worked on the underpinnings of what eventually turned into Log In with PayPal, which is strictly about federated identity flows for commercial purposes. And today Amazon has come out with Login with Amazon, a powerful statement of Amazon-as-identity-provider. They've been testing this with their own web properties Zappos and Woot; now they're enabling third-party merchants and other sites to use Amazon for authentication of people who already have active Amazon accounts, along with learning a few selected user attributes: name, email, and optionally the zip code of the default shipping addresses. No huge social graphs here, just data that partner eCommerce sites need to function (and make money).
The Asia Pacific mobile payment landscape is currently in an exciting phase of development, but remains fragmented. Asian telcos will likely need to wait at least another two to three years to see traction with mobile payments. Here’s why:
User readiness. Let’s face it: Cash and credit/debit cards still dominate the payment landscape, and are a lot more convenient to use. While penetration of feature and smartphones has grown substantially in Asia, not many people actually use their phones for mobile payments. Even in markets like Australia and South Korea, cash and credit cards remain highly popular among consumers. And if demand remains low, merchants will not deign to accept mobile payments — creating a vicious cycle.
Infrastructure development. Telecom infrastructure in many Asian countries remains uneven with spotty coverage, (e.g. India and Indonesia). Without proper network access, mobile payments will not propagate outside of urban areas, if at all. While Globe’s Gcash has seen some level of success, the truth is that mobile payments remain nascent in the Philippines specifically and in Asia more broadly. In addition, there is still limited handset support for mobile payments (e.g. some Android models are not able to work with a service). Australia’s Commonwealth Bank went ahead with its m-payment launch after deciding not to wait for incompatible handsets to catch up.
Notes from the IQPC Enterprise Mobility Exchange 21-23rd May, 2013 in Rotterdam:
Last week I chaired, presented and discussed the future of mobility with suppliers and IT leaders at this year’s Enterprise Mobility Exchange. During the event professionals representing many leading European MNCs emphasized themes including best-in-breed customer experience and workforce productivity. IT leaders giving account of their current mobility deployments included BAT, Procter & Gamble, Enel, the National Grid and Lafarge.
Summary: IT departments of European MNCs clearly see the writing on the wall
European decision makers focus on the second wave beyond device management and communication services. They look to balance the response to fundamental trends together with the need to support necessary business requests. The winner won’t necessarily be the one who supports the most devices and the most applications. Successful mobile deployment happens when the IT side understands and caters for the specific needs of the business.
BYOD is no single answer to taking mobile enterprise into the second wave
The discussion on BYOD remains complex. Many participants voiced reservations due to European data protection laws, compliance issues and acceptance of purchasing plans. Interestingly, security issues came second to a more fundamental requirement in the energy sector: safety. Electricians are expected to be on call when power is down, construction workers are on roads, and operations dealing with gas, electricity and water must remain fool proof and protected against unauthorized access to avoid life threatening situations.
I had the chance once again to do a podcast with Mike Gualtieri as part of his wonderful Forrester TechnoPolitics series, talking about the usability affordances of passwords that make them natural targets for consensual impersonation. As Mike memorably puts it, is this behavior frisky, or risky? Just like in our last podcast together, I found myself confessing deep dark authentication secrets. Take a listen and let me know your thoughts.
Two days ago I had an interview with the Head of End User and Desktop Services of a global pharmaceutical company. He mentioned that he's working through Windows 8, VDI, BYO and other key initiatives facing IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals.
Back in October 2011, Microsoft named the initiative to introduce Windows Azure cloud platform into the Chinese market “Moon Cake,” which represents harmony and happiness in Chinese culture. On May 23, 2013, Microsoft made the announcement in Shanghai that Windows Azure will be available in Chinese market starting on June 6 — almost half a year after its agreement with Shanghai government and 21ViaNet to operate Windows Azure together last November. Chinese customers will finally be able to “taste” this foreign moon cake.
I believe that a new chapter of cloud is going to be written by a new ecosystem in China market, and Microsoft will be the leader of this disruption. My reasons:
The cloud market in China will be more disrupted. Due to the regulatory limitations on data center and related telecom value-added services operations for foreign players, the cloud market for both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) has been an easy battlefield for local players, such as Alibaba/HiChina. Microsoft’s innovative way working with both government and local service partners to break through this “great wall” shows all of the major global giants, such as Amazon.com, the great opportunity from this approach to the Chinese market. We can anticipate that they will also enter the Chinese market in the coming six to 18 months.