Tag Archives: COVID19

SAP reimagines Sapphire Now 2020 as a virtual event

It’s safe to say that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SAP Sapphire Now 2020 will be like none that has come before it.

SAP Sapphire Now is an annual event where SAP customers, partners and company executives can hear about SAP’s newest technology and latest strategy, learn skills and pursue certifications, and — perhaps most importantly — network and hobnob with denizens of the SAP ecosystem.

But the days of in-person hobnobbing are gone, at least for now, and, like many other enterprise conferences and trade shows, SAP Sapphire Now will be held virtually this year, with streaming keynotes, online sessions and demos from SAP and partners.

The virtual version of SAP Sapphire Now will attempt to provide the same kind of content and messaging from the top levels of SAP, but in a different way, said Alicia Tillman, global chief marketing officer at SAP.

“The objective here, over the course of a very short period of time, was to stand up something as new and as different as this,” Tillman said. “How do we get the content right? How do we make it global? And how do we create an exceptional experience, as all three of those components need to come together?”

3 virtual programs  

This year’s SAP Sapphire Now consists of three programs: Sapphire Now Unplugged, Sapphire Now Vision and Sapphire Now Converge, Tillman said.

Alicia Tillman, global chief marketing officer, SAPAlicia Tillman

Sapphire Now Unplugged is a series of videos of SAP executives speaking with external thought leaders and innovators, such as Ian Bremmer, Malcolm Gladwell and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The last episode of the series will be made available June 11.

Christian Klein, SAP CEOChristian Klein

SAP Sapphire Now Vision begins June 15 with new SAP CEO Christian Klein’s keynote address. He is expected to set the strategy for SAP’s vision of the intelligent enterprise, which uses advanced enterprise systems to enable companies to transform old business processes or develop new business models. SAP Sapphire Now Converge begins after the keynote, Tillman said, and consists of 11 online channels that will have live content from SAP, partners and customers. The channels will cover a range of SAP technology, platform and industry areas, including ERP, finance, HR, procurement, supply chain, platforms, customer experience and experience management. Presentations will be made available for on-demand viewing.

The goal is to provide content that’s informative but in a format that keeps attendees engaged, according to Tillman. Sessions will be short or will be laced with entertainment breaks to keep things interesting. In one high-profile example, rock legend Sting will perform live at breaks in Klein’s keynote.

Tillman argues that the virtual SAP Sapphire Now could present an advantage for a global audience that may not have always been able to travel to Orlando.

“SAP Sapphire Now will use a ‘follow the sun’ model, where the sessions will air at the regionally relevant time,” she said. “All the content is going to be translated with subtitles into 14 different local languages. And the regions are also going to layer into that short segments hosted by each regional president, who will have local customers and localized content to make it relevant for their particular market.”

SAP Sapphire Now crowds will gather online this year.
SAP Sapphire Now will be conducted online this year, rather than at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Missing the human touch

The online version of SAP Sapphire Now will be a significant change from an event that annually drew thousands of attendees to the sprawling Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

There will likely be something lost with the lack of human interaction, but it is difficult to judge what those losses will be, said Shaun Syvertsen, managing partner and CEO of ConvergentIS, an SAP business partner based in Calgary, Alta.

ConvergentIS provides services for SAP implementation and migrations, with a particular focus on UX design and building SAP Fiori apps. The company has been a part of several recent SAP Sapphire events as a sponsor and exhibitor, and this year will present the first session in the Sapphire Converge UX channel, Syvertsen said.

“The ad hoc meetings that happened during Sapphire are a little bit more difficult to schedule this year,” he said. “Although you’ll avoid getting all those steps in when you’re trying to get from one end of the floor to the other to go meet someone on time for that meeting.”

Syvertsen described SAP Sapphire Now as a valuable event to attend because of the opportunities to meet with SAP professionals he may not have otherwise connected with, including one who provided marketing expertise for ConvergentIS.

“I never really would have gotten to know him if we hadn’t attended events like Sapphire and SAP TechEd in person,” he said. “That’s probably the secret sauce for Sapphire that made it worth investing money and sponsoring, traveling, and that’s really hard to do from the virtual remote limited interaction perspective.”

Dawn of a new Sapphire era

SAP Sapphire Now veterans said that the virtual event could represent an opportunity to introduce a new look for SAP, spearheaded by its young, new CEO Klein. But there will also be something lost without the human interaction that characterized the live events.

One major question is whether the online format will be able to match the dynamism of live keynotes, demos and breakout sessions that characterizes traditional conferences.

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation ResearchHolger Mueller

“We will see the usual number of tracks and keynotes, but can SAP take advantage of the new format successfully or will it deliver a boring digital event with too much canned content, lack of interaction and little engagement,” said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “This will be an interesting one to see, as vendors are now four months into the new normal for events like this and the bar has been raised steadily. What was a ‘B’ for an event in April will be a ‘D’ in June and an ‘F’ in the fall.”

Jon Reed, co-founder, Diginomica.comJon Reed

The SAP Sapphire Now Online format, which will present content tailored to a global audience and will support some interaction, may work well, said Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica.com, an enterprise computing analysis and news site.

“On paper at least, it seems more interactive than most such events we’ve seen,” Reed said. “It’s ambitious in scope, and we’ll see if SAP is able to deliver on some of that live interactivity. It’s important to note that SAP sees this as a chance to bring in a global audience that couldn’t get to Orlando.”

Enough Zoom already

Most people have seen enough virtual meetings by now, so SAP must find a compelling way to present content in an online format, agrees Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

“You can make a compelling online conference — Celonis and a few others have done a pretty good job — but there are some that have been absolutely mind-numbingly horrible,” Greenbaum said. “It looks like SAP is trying to do the right things to not make it boring and mind-numbing, so I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s harder for all of us because of the number of hours we’ve spent on Zoom, but I know there’s going be some compelling content.”

SAP Sapphire Now will also be a key moment for Klein to demonstrate that he has SAP under control, Reed said.

“Klein’s keynote will be important to watch, as people will use that to gauge whether he is ready for the daunting challenges SAP faces,” he said. “I believe he’s the right person to lead SAP right now, but you have to prove it out.”

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

It will be worth tuning into SAP Sapphire Now because there have been so many changes with the company’s leadership structure in the past year, Greenbaum said.

“This is the showcase and the moment for the ‘new SAP,’ not only with Klein as new CEO, but everybody’s job has changed,” he said.

Greenbaum pointed to several SAP executives who have recently assumed positions with major responsibilities and large portfolios, including Thomas Saueressig, president of SAP product engineering, and Adaire Fox-Martin, head of SAP customer success.

 “There have been a lot of big changes, not just with Klein,” he said.

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COVID-19 could be a watershed moment for telehealth policy

Healthcare stakeholders are calling for telehealth policy changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic to remain even after the pandemic ends.

Since March, federal organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have taken steps to provide patients access to healthcare without having to leave their homes. Efforts were considered temporary and include expanding telehealth service coverage, waiving HIPAA penalties for using commercial video conferencing technologies, and provisioning millions of dollars to healthcare systems for expanding telehealth services.

Now, as regulators consider how to move forward after the pandemic, stakeholders such as the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) are asking that some temporary telehealth policy changes specifically from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) be made permanent.

Changes to telehealth policy

John Kravitz, CIO at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Penn., and chairman of the CHIME board of trustees, said before COVID-19, Geisinger offered telemedicine services in a limited capacity. Widescale adoption at Geisinger, as with other healthcare systems, was challenging because insurance coverage for telehealth services wasn’t widely supported.

When COVID-19 hit and patients were asked to stay home as much as possible, telehealth use at Geisinger saw a dramatic increase, according to Kravitz.

Kravitz said what helped Geisinger scale up its telehealth services were telehealth policy changes handed down by departments within HHSincluding CMS. Federal regulators saw an opportunity for patients to continue getting treatment while adhering to state mandates to stay home, thus relaxing certain restrictions, such as CMS allowing clinicians to provide telehealth services to Medicare patients in states where they are not licensed. They also made it easier for healthcare organizations to receive reimbursement for telehealth treatments.

Geisinger Health System CIO John KravitzJohn Kravitz

Before the pandemic, Geisinger conducted 1,000 telemedicine visits a month. Now, the organization conducts 2,000 per day, Kravitz said.

“We’re hopeful that this is being supported as the new normal — to [provide] this kind of service for our patients and continue to get compensated for it,” Kravitz said. “We’ve seen good, positive outcomes [and] great response to this by the providers. And, more importantly, patients are willing to do it.”

Kravitz’s position led him to co-write a letter with CHIME president and CEO Russell Branzell to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. In their letter, they stressed the need for making the temporary telehealth policy changes by CMS long-standing. The letter was submitted to CMS in response to two interim rules the organization published that addressed regulatory and policy changes made because of the pandemic, including telehealth policies.

“The increased use of telehealth has moved the country further into 21st Century medicine,” the letter states. “The flexibilities are reducing burdens on providers and patients alike and reverting to pre-COVID telehealth policies will be seen as a step backward.”

One telehealth policy change CHIME supported was to do away with Medicare’s originating site policy. Under typical Medicare policy, a patient who receives a telehealth visit must participate in the visit at what’s considered a “telehealth originating site,” often a medical facility in a rural area. Rather than connecting a patient from their homes to a provider, the goal of the policy was to connect patients at smaller medical facilities with larger facilities or specialists.

CHIME “strongly supports” doing away with the originating site requirements and asked that a more flexible, permanent policy be established allowing Medicare patients to be treated via telehealth no matter the location.

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney attorney Heather Alleva Heather Alleva

Heather Alleva, an attorney specializing in federal healthcare regulation at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Philadelphia, said one of the most impactful waivers CMS instituted was the originating site telehealth policy waiver.

“Not only in the past has a patient needed to be located in a particular geographic area, limited to rural areas or outside of metropolitan areas, but they also had to be located in a particular type of medical setting,” Alleva said. “Originating site waivers have made a really big shift in that.”

Although stakeholders are advocating for some of the telehealth policy changes to remain permanent, CMS and other federal regulators, as well as insurance companies, are using the pandemic to test the viability of expanded services such as telehealth, according to Alleva. What policy changes become permanent will likely result from demand for services, she said.

The road ahead

Alleva believes how the future of telemedicine will unfold is unclear. On the one hand, outpatient and non-emergency services are beginning to reopen, and patients will likely revert to traditional types of care, lowering the demand for telehealth services, she said.

I think we would be making a big mistake to go back; I really feel that strongly.
John KravitzCIO, Geisinger Health System

On the other hand, Medicare patients who have benefited from telehealth services, such as elderly patients who can no longer drive to appointments, will push the demand for continued services post-pandemic.

“Telemedicine will be in greater demand among people who have really benefited from it,” she said. “I think that’s the reason you’re seeing funding; people are seeing there are access points to care that can be delivered via telehealth.”

Forrester analyst Arielle Trzcinski Arielle Trzcinski

Forrester Research analyst Arielle Trzcinski said during the peak of the pandemic in March and April, telehealth service vendors saw mostly COVID-19-related visits. Now, vendors are seeing a “big shift” toward general, routine care and chronic care management, which will likely play a role in decisions about telehealth policies moving forward.

“We’re seeing people turn to virtual care for those types of reasons more frequently now,” Trzcinski said. “If anything, this past month of May and [into] June will continue to be a pivotal moment to watch and see how people are changing their behavior and starting to turn toward virtual care first versus going in-person to a clinic.”

Geisinger’s Kravitz said the telehealth policy changes have been monumental in advancing adoption of telehealth services and that telemedicine is “the future” of healthcare.

“I think we would be making a big mistake to go back; I really feel that strongly,” Kravitz said. “People are finally saying this technology really works and we can really utilize it, so why wouldn’t we?”

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Remote work cybersecurity a concern during pandemic

While technology has helped organizations continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study from NordVPN found remote work cybersecurity issues to be concerned about, considering the use of personal devices and unsecured networks.

The survey, which had 5,000 respondents, found that 62% of employees are using personal devices for remote work.

“On a personal endpoint, there is a greater risk,” said Chris Sherman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “Whenever you’re outside of the organization’s control, you frankly have very little control as the company IT admin or security admin over these personal devices.”

Forty-six percent of employees weren’t working remotely prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by Kaspersky of 6,017 IT professionals.

“I think there’s a lot of folks who weren’t used to working from home — like in government, healthcare, retail and manufacturing [where] there’s a little bit more of a learning curve,” said John Grady, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “I think those are industries that are not always issued a corporate machine and have to use their own device.”

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed by Kaspersky said they had no special IT awareness training when switching to full-time remote work. The Kaspersky report also found that employees are more comfortable on personal devices and are more likely to download applications that are not work-related, browse unsecure websites and click suspicious links.

“[Employees] have taken past training, so their organization does have some level of awareness training, whether that’s kind of introductory or part of onboarding are ongoing — but they’ve not had anything specific to COVID,” Grady said.

Unsecured network access affecting remote work cybersecurity

The Kaspersky survey also found that just 53% of respondents were using a VPN to access their employer’s network while working from home. This means that nearly half were not using a secure access point to handle company content.

“It’s more important for you as security admin to take into consideration all of the different IoT devices and all of the consumer devices that may be interacting with whatever laptop or mobile device that employee is using on the same network as those IoT devices,” Sherman said. “Many endpoint security vendors offer endpoint security SaaS. The benefit here is you eliminate the hands-on server maintenance by your remote admins, who are also working from home.”

Future of remote work cybersecurity

Grady said that although there could be some security risks associated with remote work, he believes more executives will push for more flexible and remote work schedules even after the pandemic.

I think there’s a lot of folks who weren’t used to working from home — like in government, healthcare, retail and manufacturing [where] there’s a little bit more of a learning curve.
John GradyAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

“Executives think there’ll be more flexibility. I think that’s positive because if the IT team is thinking like that, the kind of buzzwords coming out of this are going to be flexibility and agility,” Grady said. “That is difficult to scale, and you’re kind of locked into it. Everything’s going be more cloud focused and that is intuitive.”

It also helps companies to prepare for another pandemic or situation where most employees have to go remote. Cloud adoption is seeing more interest because of the uptick in remote work.

“I think over time when people go back into the office, there has to be that contingency plan in place so that if you do have to suddenly shift 80% of your workforce to remote you won’t run into that kind of first phase that we went through in the end of March and beginning of April, where you’re trying to just get people access to what they need and forgetting about security,” Grady said.

NordVPN’s study also found that remote workers were spending three hours more online than when working in offices. This brought up the average workday to just shy of 11 hours. The 35.5% increase is just in the U.S., but NordVPN found that the workday had increased for workers internationally as well.

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Contact tracing apps seem effective, but have privacy concerns

When the state of Rhode Island launched a contact tracing app for COVID-19 in May, public health officials said the program could help curtail the pandemic, but privacy advocates worry that the app, and ones like it, take too much data while potentially sharing it with too many people.

As stores, restaurants, parks and offices in the U.S. begin to open back up months after the first COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders, enterprises and governments face the difficult challenge of providing goods and services while keeping people safe.

To tackle that challenge, enterprises and governments are turning to technology to create contact tracing apps.

Balance of safety and privacy

A decades-old strategy to help slow the spread of contagious diseases, contact tracing is the process of identifying infected people and tracking down who they have been in contact with and notifying them of a potential infection.

While this was largely done manually in the past, enterprises, as well as local and state governments, are beginning to use apps to do it, including mobile applications that use location data to track a person’s whereabouts, to more quickly and effectively track where COVID-19 may have spread. Using AI-powered big data analytics, governments and enterprises can then process the data more anonymously.

Contact tracing apps, however, have raised concerns from privacy advocates, who say that some platforms either take too much identifying information, such as GPS data, give too much data to government authorities, or both.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), for one, explicitly opposes automated COVID-19 contact tracing apps that track location through GPS or cell phone location, as well as apps that send information about possibly infected people directly to the government.

 “This data is highly intrusive of location privacy, yet not sufficiently granular to show whether two people were within transmittal distance (six feet),” said Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney at the EFF.

Rhode Island, with its recently unveiled CRUSH COVID RI app, is an example.

Released May 19, the app uses GPS location data to track the people and places users visited for at least 10 minutes over the past 20 days. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can agree to share their location data with the state health department so it can identify people the user was in contact with and alert them.

CRUSH COVID RI application

Signing up for the app is voluntary, and location data, unless shared with the health department, is stored entirely on users’ phones. It’s deleted after 20 days.

Despite the fact that these apps are voluntary, privacy advocates worry that apps that use GPS data to track people, and that send data to the government, are invasive.

 “We are disappointed that some nations and states are using location apps and hybrid location/proximity apps. The voluntariness of such apps does not cure the lack of data minimization,” Schwartz said.

The American Civil Liberties Union was similarly critical of such contract tracing technologies, saying they carry some inherent risk of exposing an infected person’s medical condition to people with whom they come in contact.

However, some contact tracing platforms aim to be privacy-friendly.

These include a Google-Apple initiative, which has drawn wide interest, as well as a tracing app from the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing consortium.

These mobile apps use a phone’s Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to interact with other phones, enabling the phone of an enrolled user to announce itself with a different random large number to nearby phones every few minutes. Phones keep a log of the numbers they send out, as well as the numbers sent out by nearby phones.

If a user is diagnosed as infected with COVID-19, they can then voluntarily upload the that list of numbers to a central server. Those users who are not infected have their numbers automatically compared to the numbers on the server. If enough numbers match, then users are notified that they may have been in contact with someone who is infected.

That’s different from Rhode Island’s new app, which uses GPS data and which uploads information to government officials.

A Bluetooth system is more accurate and less revealing than an app that uses geolocation data, an ACLU white paper on tracing apps noted. While Bluetooth tracking could potentially reveal associations, it’s less likely to do so.

The EFF, likewise, is wary about contact tracing apps that track proximity using Bluetooth, Schwartz said.

“This system might not help; if it does, it will be a small part of a larger public health response that must focus on manual interview-based contact tracing and widespread testing,” he said.

“This system carries privacy risks that must be mitigated through voluntariness, data minimization and open source code. We oppose hybrid tracking apps that use both proximity and location,” Schwartz continued.


Meanwhile, national governments around the world, including the governments of South Korea, Singapore, China and Australia, have developed and released contact tracing apps. Some enterprises are also beginning to consider the implications of having their employees use contact tracing apps.

Enterprises with global operations have particularly shown a greater willingness to use technology-based contact tracing within countries with less legal or cultural opposition to contact tracing, said Deborah Golden, U.S. cyber risk services leader at Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory.

“In the U.S., we expect that organizations will likely lean on a variety of approaches to reach the next normal. Some organizations may even bypass this challenge altogether and realize they are able to maintain fully remote operations in perpetuity,” Golden said. “Others that are more dependent on physical presence may consider a combination of physical protocols.”

Before using or developing contact tracing apps, however, governments and enterprises need to deeply consider the privacy implications the platform may have, as well as methods to help ensure users’ personal data stays safe and anonymous, she noted.

The creators

Regardless of the method used for contact tracing, or who is deploying the apps, companies that create such apps need to ensure they are anonymizing data and keeping people’s information private, according to some vendors.

Maven Wave, an Atos-owned technology consulting firm that specializes in digital delivery skills and cloud-powered applications, is working with vendors to develop technology-assisted contact tracing (TACT) apps.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that need to happen” to keep information private, said Brian Ray, managing director of AI and machine learning at Maven Wave.

“Redaction, making data points anonymous, having a control system in place, having a way to audit that process” are just some of the things tech companies need to do, he said.

Meanwhile, enterprises considering using TACT apps should take into account many privacy and data protection concerns, regardless of whether contact tracing apps require users to opt in, said Golden.

Organizations should carefully consider how this data will be protected, accessed, stored, transmitted and reported.
Deborah GoldenU.S. cyber risk services leader, Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory

“In adopting these technologies, organizations are creating large datasets of sensitive personal health information and personally identifiable information,” she said. “Organizations should carefully consider how this data will be protected, accessed, stored, transmitted and reported.”

“Leaders need to think through where organizational lines of responsibility exist for communication with regulatory officials, employees, customers and other stakeholder groups, as well as how communication should occur to foster trust and transparency — particularly when disparate regulatory guidance may exist across geographies or industries,” Golden continued.

Yet, governments and the public may have different, even opposing, views about what data should be shared, added Asif Dhar, chief health informatics officer and a principal in Deloitte Consulting’s Monitor Deloitte practice, which is working with states and companies to build and deploy contact tracing apps.

“Active engagement with consumers and employees is critical to gain an appreciation of their preferences to establish clear expectations,” he said. “For example, organizations should establish clear consenting platforms so that stakeholders understand when and under what circumstances data is used.”

Without a focus on trust and transparency, organizations may risk low acceptance of apps, Dhar continued. Organization should also consider ways to adequately protect data, including where data is stored, who can access it, and how and when it can be accessed.

Still, even if enterprises or governments set up fairly secure, anonymized contact tracing apps, it’s no guarantee they will provide the information needed to keep people safe.

Effectiveness of apps

How many people use available contact tracing apps can play a part in their effectiveness.

If only a few people download and use an app, the app may convey inaccurate results, such as indicating to officials that fewer people are getting infected. That may create a false sense of security. People simply not getting tested, or not changing their infection status in the app, would also skew the results.

But according to Prince Kohli, CTO at RPA vendor Automation Anywhere, people are generally willing to download the apps and provide data.

Automation Anywhere helped develop contact tracing apps in conjunction with other companies in several countries, including Australia and China. Some apps ask users to answer surveys about where they have been and their medical status. Most people have been willing to answer questions like these, said Kohli.

“This is not data that people are trying to hide,” he said.

A usage rate as low as a 10% to 20% in a group could provide relevant results, Kohli said, as long as the percentage indicates a truly random sampling of people.

Even so, app usage and COVID-19 testing rates aren’t the only determining factors of an app’s effectiveness.

While use thresholds are an important factor, other considerations, such as whether a person has their phone on them when going out or not, or if a person travels across disparate geographical areas, can help determine efficacy, according to Golden.

The Rhode Island app, for example, can’t be downloaded by users outside of Rhode Island, making it useless for tracking visitors to the state.

“Although contact tracing applications may be an important tool in a country’s ability to return to work, there is no silver bullet in getting back to normal,” Golden said. “Organizations cannot negate the opportunity that human contact tracers and other physical and digital health safety tools and protocols offer.”

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Enterprises should not neglect AI digital transformation

COVID-19 has wiped out budget extras for enterprises around the world, as organizations have seen their earnings hit by the economic downturn created by the virus pandemic.

Yet, enterprises should not give up on their AI digital transformation projects, even if they have to sideline them in the short term. For now, enterprises may want to consider turning to automation, or at least overhauling necessary projects, as the world quickly becomes more digital, according to machine learning vendors.

Importance of AI, even now

“AI is the single most important technology area that enterprises have to invest in,” said Ryohei Fujimaki, founder and CEO of DotData.

DotData sells an auto machine learning platform, so it’s not surprising that Fujimaki pushes AI. Still, much evidence supports his view — businesses are generating, and will continue to generate, huge amounts of data, too much to process with AI.

Enterprises, then, will need to turn to AI at some point. Yet, with limited budgets and workforces due to the economic downturn, they may not be able to complete their AI digital transformation projects in the near future.

Instead, at this stage, enterprises need to think about how to use existing people more efficiently, including augmenting them with automation, Fujimaki said.

“Automation is a really promising approach for maximizing the efficiency of an existing team,” he said.

Automation is a really promising approach for maximizing the efficiency of an existing team.
Ryohei FujimakiFounder and CEO, DotData

Automation tools, such as RPA platforms, are generally quick to set up and can automate repetitive tasks with ease. That’s important, as COVID-19 has decimated enterprise earnings as they have been forced to temporarily close and lay off or furlough employees.

Many enterprises, at least in the short term, likely have limited budgets to spend on major AI and digital transformation projects, even as such projects could prove more beneficial than ever given their now limited workforces.

“Many enterprises don’t even have data science teams,” and cannot hire them now, making AI digital transformation essentially impossible anyway, Fujimaki said. Automation tools, typically deployed on top of existing systems, rather than replacing or overhauling them, enables enterprises to cheaply augment their employees.

Nintex, a process automation vendor, for example, is doing fairly well even during this economic downturn, Nintex technical evangelist Chris Ellis said.

Digital transformation
Essential elements of digital transformation

Using automation

New and old customers are turning away from their large-scale digital transformation projects, Ellis said. Instead, they are focusing on individual, necessary projects they can get done quickly.

Financial institutions are buying and deploying process automation from Nintex to help simplify invoice handling, as they are turning to digital invoice processing as bank branches have temporarily closed. These institutions are also using automation to help navigate government legislation, tax forms, wage surplus reporting and other key tasks. 

“People are coming up with these use cases in the blink of an eye,” Ellis said.

“People are deviating from these big, big bang projects in digital transformation” to instead focus on smaller use cases that deal with worker productivity, he said.

As the world starts moving back to some kind of normality, however, enterprises will likely start broadening their digital transformation efforts.

Financial institutions will likely do more digital transformation projects in their back offices, while consumer goods companies will probably introduce more AI in their supply chain processes, said Traci Gusher, principal of data and analytics at KPMG in the U.S.

Many industries will also change how their call centers operate, introducing more AI and automation to offset remote or laid-off workers, she noted.

Don’t lose sight of AI

Monte Zweben, co-founder and CEO of data platform vendor Splice Machine, noted that as enterprises begin to recover economically, they will likely start or broaden their digital transformation efforts.

Splice Machine, which sells products and services to help enterprises modernize their cloud applications and databases, has already seen an uptick in customers over the past several weeks as enterprises begin to see the need for digital overhauls in their systems and are recovering enough financially to make those changes, Zweben said.

Those customers are looking to move things onto the cloud, as well as deploy and run AI and analytics at scale across the cloud, he said.

That’s important, because “almost every business interaction will be digital” following COVID-19, Zweben argued.

“Customers are definitely focused again,” he added.

For the many enterprises not yet at that stage, turning to automation and focusing on necessary projects will help them get through COVID-19 and its aftermath, Fujimaki said.

Yet, these enterprises should not lose sight of their overall AI digital transformation projects, he said.

“This isn’t eliminating the need for digital transformation, but it’s suppressing them in the short term,” Fujimaki said. “It’s very important that the customer continues their AI project.”

Once they stop completely, he added, it’s hard to get it started again.

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Racing against time, medical researchers, life science companies and COVID-19 survivors launch national campaign to drive blood plasma donation – Stories

“The Fight Is In Us” campaign seeks to mobilize COVID-19 survivors to accelerate the development of potentially lifesaving therapies

Editor’s note – May 26, 2020 – The list of participants below was updated following initial publication.

REDMOND, Wash., USA, and NEW YORK — May 26, 2020 — A coalition of world-leading medical and research institutions, blood centers, life science companies, technology companies, philanthropic organizations, and COVID-19 survivor groups has come together to support the rapid development of potential new therapies for patients with COVID-19. Working together under the “The Fight Is In Us” campaign, the coalition is seeking to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the United States who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma, which contains vital antibodies that have fought off the disease and could now help others do the same.

The campaign is working against two urgent timelines: to recruit COVID-19 survivors within two months of their recovery to ensure that their blood plasma contains a robust enough concentration of antibodies to have a positive effect, and to address the substantial seasonal increase in COVID-19 cases anticipated this fall in the Northern Hemisphere by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health experts.

“As an early survivor of COVID-19, I was desperate to do whatever was in my power to be a part of the solution. I started Survivor Corps to mobilize and connect the thousands of people affected by COVID-19 to support all ongoing scientific, medical and academic research, and this coalition is furthering our goal,” said Diana Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps. “Inside COVID-19 survivors is the antibody-rich blood plasma that may help stem the tide of this pandemic. The time is now for superhero volunteers to donate their blood plasma and to potentially help stop COVID-19 in its tracks.”

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, or know someone who has, can visit TheFightIsInUs.org to understand if they may be eligible to donate and find a nearby blood or plasma donor center using a simple self-screening tool. Donating blood plasma is a generally safe and proven process. The coalition offers more than 1,500 locations at which COVID-19 survivors can choose to donate. Donations can be made at both blood and plasma donor centers.

The coalition partners are working on two distinct approaches for treating COVID-19 that both urgently require collection of convalescent plasma now. One approach is the direct transfusion of blood plasma though the Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma, which is currently being administered with authorization from the Food & Drug Administration by Mayo Clinic. Its safety and efficacy are currently being evaluated through multiple clinical trials in different populations. Blood donor centers throughout the country are currently collecting convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors for this purpose. The other approach is the development of a medicine known as a hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig), which is being manufactured now and will be studied in clinical trials this summer. Through the manufacturing process, the plasma is pooled, concentrated and purified, resulting in a vial of medicine with consistent levels of antibodies that is easy to store, distribute and administer to patients. Coalition members developing an H-Ig include the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance (CSL Behring, Takeda, ADMA Biologics, Biopharma Plasma, Biotest, BPL, GC Pharma, LFB, Octapharma and Sanquin) and Grifols.

About The Fight Is In Us

“The Fight Is In Us” is an initiative to maximize the individual and societal benefit of COVID-19 plasma. The campaign will focus on recruiting COVID-19 survivors to donate their plasma at licensed blood and plasma donor centers. The campaign will begin in the United States, and then expand to Europe.

This is a united effort bringing together several coalitions and organizations, including academic medical institutions (the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program led by Mayo Clinic and including Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis); plasma companies (Grifols and the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance including those announced at its inception — Biotest, BPL, CSL Behring, LFB, Octapharma, and Takeda — and new members ADMA Biologics, Biopharma Plasma, GC Pharma, and Sanquin); national blood center organizations (including the AABB, America’s Blood Center and Blood Centers of America); health benefits company Anthem Inc.; health care diagnostics company LabCorp; grassroots, survivor, and non-profit groups including Stop the Spread, Survivor Corps, and XPRIZE; and marketing and media support from the Ad Council. Ashfield Healthcare is providing contact center service to support COVID-19 survivors.

“The Fight Is In Us” is also supported by advisory and technology members. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lasker Foundation are providing advisory support. Microsoft is providing technology support for the recruitment website and self-qualification tool. The website and tool are hosted by the MITRE Corporation. MITRE is appreciative of the Microsoft AI for Health program for their support of MITRE’s hosting of the recruitment website and self-qualification tool in the Azure cloud. Uber Health is providing free, roundtrip Uber rides to and from donor the centers for those who are eligible to donate.

The combined efforts of these organizations will contribute specialist advisory expertise, technical guidance and additional support to potentially save more lives — together. But the coalition’s success depends on the urgent support of survivor donors around the world. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can learn more about how to donate their strength and about the coalition partners at TheFightIsInUs.org.

For Media Inquiries:

Microsoft Media Relations
WE Communications for Microsoft
(425) 638-7777
[email protected]

About AABB

AABB is an international, not-for-profit association representing individuals and institutions involved in the fields of transfusion medicine and biotherapies. The Association is committed to improving health through the development and delivery of standards, accreditation and educational programs that focus on optimizing patient and donor care and safety. AABB membership includes physicians, nurses, scientists, researchers, administrators, medical technologists and other health care providers. AABB members are located in more than 80 countries and AABB accredits institutions in more than 50 countries. For more information, visit: www.aabb.org.

About Bio Products Laboratory (BPL)
Recognising the power of plasma and with over 60 years heritage in the industry, BPL supplies high-quality plasma derived medicines to meet the needs of clinicians, patients and customers globally.  Headquartered in the United Kingdom and with plasma collection centres across the United States, we are dedicated to producing medicines for the treatment of immune deficiencies, bleeding disorders and infectious diseases as well for critical care.  BPL invests in the latest R&D, technology and manufacturing methods, and continuously adapts to ensure that we continue to serve all our stakeholders effectively.  For more information visit http://www.bplgroup.com.

About the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance

In an effort to help fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, a new alliance was created in April 2020 to help develop a potential plasma-derived therapy for people at risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

The CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance brings together world-leading plasma companies to work on the development of an investigational unbranded polyclonal anti-SARS-CoV-2 hyperimmune globulin medicine with the potential to treat patients who are at risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

The “I” and “g” in CoVIg-19 stand for immune globulin, which the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance will use to concentrate the antibodies into a potential medicine.

The Alliance, formed by CSL Behring and Takeda, also includes the leading-edge expertise of ADMA Biologics, Biopharma Plasma, Biotest, BPL, GC Pharma, LFB, Octapharma and Sanquin. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing advisory support. Microsoft is providing technology including the Alliance website and the Plasma Bot for donor recruitment. Experts from the Alliance are collaborating across key aspects such as plasma collection, clinical trial development, and product manufacturing.

About CSL Behring
CSL Behring is a global biotherapeutics leader driven by its promise to save lives. Focused on serving patients’ needs by using the latest technologies, we develop and deliver innovative therapies that are used to treat coagulation disorders, primary immune deficiencies, hereditary angioedema, inherited respiratory disease, and neurological disorders. The company’s products are also used in cardiac surgery, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn. CSL Behring operates one of the world’s largest plasma collection networks, CSL Plasma. The parent company, CSL Limited (ASX:CSL;USOTC:CSLLY), headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, employs more than 26,000 people, and delivers its life-saving therapies to people in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.cslbehring.com and for inspiring stories about the promise of biotechnology, visit Vita www.cslbehring.com/Vita.

About Grifols

Grifols is a global healthcare company founded in Barcelona in 1909 committed to improving the health and well-being of people around the world. Its four divisions – Bioscience, Diagnostic, Hospital and Bio Supplies – develop, produce and market innovative solutions and services that are sold in more than 100 countries.

Pioneers in the plasma industry, Grifols operates a growing network of donation centers worldwide. It transforms collected plasma into essential medicines to treat chronic, rare and, at times, life-threatening conditions. As a recognized leader in transfusion medicine, Grifols also offers a comprehensive portfolio of solutions designed to enhance safety from donation to transfusion. In addition, the company supplies tools, information and services that enable hospitals, pharmacies and healthcare professionals to efficiently deliver expert medical care.

Grifols, with more than 24,000 employees in 30 countries and regions, is committed to a sustainable business model that sets the standard for continuous innovation, quality, safety and ethical leadership.

The company’s class A shares are listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange, where they are part of the Ibex-35 (MCE:GRF). Grifols non-voting class B shares are listed on the Mercado Continuo (MCE:GRF.P) and on the U.S. NASDAQ through ADRs (NASDAQ:GRFS).

For more information, please visit www.grifols.com.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news and An Inside Look at Mayo Clinic for more information about Mayo.

About Octapharma
Headquartered in Lachen, Switzerland, Octapharma is one of the largest human protein manufacturers in the world, developing and producing human proteins from human plasma and human cell lines. Octapharma employs more than 10,000 people worldwide to support the treatment of patients in 118 countries with products across three therapeutic areas: Hematology; Immunotherapy and Critical care. Octapharma has seven R&D sites and six state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Austria, France, Germany, Mexico and Sweden, with a combined capacity of approximately 8 mil litres of plasma per annum. In addition, Octapharma operates more than 140 plasma donation centres across Europe and the US. For more information, visit www.octapharma.com.

About Survivor Corps

Survivor Corps is the largest grassroots movement in America dedicated to actively ending this pandemic. We are mobilizing all those affected by COVID-19 to support all ongoing scientific, medical and academic research to find a vaccine and a cure. We hope to get people back into their communities and back to work, all while fostering the spirit of unity and solidarity that is urgently needed during this time of crisis.

With every passing day, thousands of people across the country are being infected with COVID-19. The vast majority will survive and most will likely develop antibodies to the virus. The mysteries to this virus will be solved, in part, by individual donations to scientific research.

Survivor Corps is the epicenter of HOPE. For more information, visit www.survivorcorps.com.

About Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (TSE:4502/NYSE:TAK) is a global, values-based, R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader headquartered in Japan, committed to bringing Better Health and a Brighter Future to patients by translating science into highly-innovative medicines. Takeda focuses its R&D efforts on four therapeutic areas: Oncology, Rare Diseases, Neuroscience, and Gastroenterology (GI). We also make targeted R&D investments in Plasma-Derived Therapies and Vaccines. We are focusing on developing highly innovative medicines that contribute to making a difference in people’s lives by advancing the frontier of new treatment options and leveraging our enhanced collaborative R&D engine and capabilities to create a robust, modality-diverse pipeline. Our employees are committed to improving quality of life for patients and to working with our partners in health care in approximately 80 countries.

For more information, visit https://www.takeda.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Additional Quote Sheet will also be included in press package


“AABB is proud to support blood centers throughout the country that are collecting potentially lifesaving plasma from COVID-19 survivors. The blood banking community is an integral part of our health care system, and their heroism has truly been on display during this pandemic. Convalescent plasma can be a game-changing therapy for patients in need, and we are pleased to be part of a coalition that recognizes and supports the vital work blood centers do.” — Debra BenAvram, CEO of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)

Ad Council

“We are proud to join this critical campaign to educate and empower COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma to help save the lives of others. During this time of uncertainty, we know that this will be a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19.” — Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council

America’s Blood Centers

“Community blood centers continue to be at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to collect convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. ABC member blood centers remain committed to ensuring the availability of convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients and are pleased to have the support of Microsoft and other partner organizations in expanding the collection of convalescent plasma throughout the U.S. Community blood centers will remain mobilized in assisting the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.” — Kate Fry, Chief Executive Officer, America’s Blood Centers


“At Anthem, we recognize the importance of building a convalescent plasma biobank in the fight against COVID-19, and are proud to support the efforts to help COVID-19 survivors, patients and their caregivers. Joining the coalition and ‘The Fight Is In Us’ campaign expands on our partnership and leadership in collaborative efforts with community and healthcare organizations to lead through care, guide the recovery and help shape public-private solutions for the future of healthcare.” — Steve Friedhoff, Chief Clinical Officer, Anthem

Ashfield Healthcare

“Ashfield Healthcare is extremely proud to be part of this collaborative partnership in the fight against COVID-19. Patients are at the core of the healthcare services that we provide, and we’re passionate about leveraging our industry-leading contact center service to support COVID-19 survivors. We are committed to supporting the survivors who will be participating in this critical campaign to donate their plasma.” — Greg Flynn, Global President, Ashfield Healthcare

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“Safe and effective treatments for COVID-19 are urgently needed, and convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin could play a key role in saving lives and protecting frontline responders from infection until vaccines are widely available. We’re excited that major academic research institutions and life science companies have joined forces to accelerate the development of potentially lifesaving products, and we’re incredibly grateful to COVID-19 survivors for their essential commitment to this fight.” — Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

 CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance 

“Partnership and collaboration are critical to the success of all the coalition development programs that rely on convalescent plasma donation. The more plasma we can collect, and the earlier we can collect it, will directly impact the speed and scale of our efforts. The growing and active involvement of leading public and private companies from outside the plasma industry, who support the drive for plasma donation, underscores the potential of convalescent plasma to fight this public health crisis. Together, we all share the same goal — to save lives by using the power of this scarce resource in different ways.” — Julie Kim, President of Plasma-Derived Therapies Business Unit, Takeda, and Co-Leader, CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance

“During times of uncertainty, leaders must lead. The hyperimmune globulin therapy has the potential to be one of the earliest treatment options for COVID-19 and also can be scaled and distributed. We look forward to working with NIAID and health authorities to bring this therapy to patients as early as possible. One of the stated goals of the alliance is to be an effective partner for important institutions such as NIAID and also to help develop coherent regulatory strategies that can give global health authorities the confidence to streamline the approval process of hyperimmune globulin therapy for COVID-19.” — Bill Mezzanotte, Executive Vice President, Head of R&D, CSL Behring, and Co-Leader, CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance


“The development of a hyperimmune globulin for treatment as well as pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis is not just a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to its attributes as a readily available therapy, it can bridge the time necessary to develop a vaccine. The technology also forms the basis for rapid deployment of a therapy in response to future outbreaks of emerging viruses and other pathogens. ‘The Fight Is In Us’ provides the opportunity to harness biology’s natural solution to fighting disease.” — David Bell, Chief Innovation Officer, Grifols


“LabCorp continues to do everything it can to address the healthcare crisis through our leadership in diagnostics testing and drug development, and now through ‘The Fight is in Us.’ We have performed over 750,000 COVID-19 antibody tests, with the numbers accelerating quickly. We encourage patients who have tested positive for antibodies to consider donating plasma to help patients currently fighting COVID-19 and to protect others in the future.” — Dr. Brian Caveney, chief medical officer and president, LabCorp Diagnostics

Mayo Clinic

“It’s important to know that convalescent plasma is a biological product that has to be obtained from a specific set of patients who have recovered from COVID-19. It cannot be made in a lab. There’s no other source. That’s why reaching as many of these volunteers as possible is so essential.” — Michael Joyner, M.D., Anesthesiologist, Mayo Clinic, and Principal Investigator, Expanded Access Program (EAP) for convalescent plasma to fight COVID-19

“Mayo Clinic’s researchers are working around the clock to accelerate discoveries related to NB SARS-CoV2, the virus, and COVID-19, the disease. Successful outcomes have never been more urgently needed, and we continue to depend on the collaborative efforts of many across the nation and the globe to rapidly discover, translate and apply scientific advances.” — Gregory Gores, M.D., Kinney Executive Dean for Research, Mayo Clinic


“Microsoft has provided the technology infrastructure for a health bot that guides people through their eligibility as a plasma donor and directs them to the nearest donor center. Basically, we’re asking people who have survived COVID-19 to contribute to helping others do the same.” — Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President, AI and Research, Microsoft    

The MITRE Corporation

“We are privileged to serve as a trusted partner to host the website to spread the critical message on how recovered patients can help others in need. Building an army of donors to rapidly develop effective plasma-based treatments is an exemplar of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.” — Rich Byrne, Senior Vice President, The MITRE Corporation

Uber Health

“There is a long road ahead in the fight against COVID-19, and we must continue to support those on the front lines and those working towards a potential treatment. We at Uber are committed to helping move what matters, and Uber Health is proud to donate rides to the Plasma Collection Coalition, eliminating transportation as a barrier to plasma donation for those who are eligible, and willing, to participate.” — Dan Trigub, Head of Uber Health

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Machine health systems play critical role in age of disruption

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt operations around the world, manufacturers are facing unprecedented challenges.

Some have seen facilities shut down, at least temporarily, as the outbreak has forced workers to stay home. Those deemed essential must keep production going with reduced or remote workforces. Others have had to scramble to change equipment and production lines as they shift from making one product to another.

All this has made machine maintenance strategies critical, as manufacturers need to optimize the output of their equipment. Machine health systems that capture industrial IoT data and analyze it using AI algorithms are a step beyond predictive maintenance, which are often focused on points of failure. They can play a big role in enabling manufacturers to keep production lines going in a quickly changing and disruptive environment.

Listening to machines

Augury Inc.’s machine health system does just that. It uses IIoT sensors to listen to machines as they operate, sends the data to Augury’s cloud where AI algorithms analyze the data in real time and provides steps to take to resolve potential problems. The system also includes the ability to collaborate with Augury’s machine health experts in real time to identify and troubleshoot issues, said Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder CEO of Augury, which was founded in Israel and is based in New York.

Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO, Augury Inc.Saar Yoskovitz

“We install a sensor on a machine, connect it, and from then on it’s purely remote,” Yoskovitz said. “You get real-time visibility into the health and performance of the machines and then you also have access to experts when needed to help advise you on the right course of actions.”

An automated machine health system is valuable when it’s business as usual, he said, but it is even more so as manufacturers deal with COVID-19 disruption.

“From a planning and management perspective, the first thing you typically do when you’re stretched for resources or uptime is remove all preventive maintenance tasks and scheduled downtime, but doing it while flying blind is like gambling ” Yoskovitz said. “This enables you to make better decisions. For example, can you run this machine for another week, or do you have to take it down tomorrow to replace a bearing or correct whatever that malfunction may be?”

This beverage production line uses the Augury machine health system to diagnose and resolve potential problems.
The Augury machine health system uses IIoT sensors to listen to machines and provides real-time insight on how to resolve potential problems.

Getting more out of existing equipment

The Augury machine health system is a major evolution in predictive maintenance technology and best practices, said Ed Ballina, a 40-year manufacturing industry veteran who ran facilities for PepsiCo Inc. and Scott Paper Co.

Ballina oversaw the implementation of the Augury machine health system at PepsiCo and has served as a board advisor for Augury after retiring from PepsiCo in 2018.

Ed Ballina, food and beverage board advisor, Augury Inc.Ed Ballina

“Now manufacturers are trying to increase their output — for example, changing production from soda to sanitizer,” Ballina said. “So, they’re looking for ways to get more out of their existing equipment, and machine health can be a huge enabler for that.”

Standard predictive maintenance practices were based on outdated methods that typically required machines or production lines to be shut down, he said. The analysis can be limited and often finds problems only at the point of failure.

Constant monitoring

“The beauty of Augury is that it can monitor constantly,” Ballina said. “Previously, if you ran into problems you could call someone in to do vibration monitoring, but the problem with that is you’re only taking a snapshot, so you don’t have any kind of trending, don’t have the ‘movie’ of where you’ve been and project where you’re going.”

Manufacturers are now trying to get more hours out of their machines, and one way to do this is to cut down the number of times equipment is shut down. Machine health systems can help determine which machines are at greatest risk, making shutdowns more targeted.

The COVID-19 crisis has also forced manufacturers to work with reduced staffs, making remote monitoring vital, Ballina said.

“Some facilities may be down 30% to 40% in staffing, so you have the ability to monitor equipment without being there and to potentially engage support staff to help you determine what readings mean,” he said. “If you can’t get people into your plants — and a lot of OEMs won’t bring their people in now [to examine equipment] — having machine health data that is shareable is incredibly valuable.”

No batteries included

Another approach to machine health is now available from Everactive, a technology startup based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Everactive recently launched its Machine Health Monitoring system, which delivers real-time data on machine health, primarily for rotating equipment, such as motors, pumps, fans and compressors, to avoid overuse, according to the company.

This motor uses the Everactive Machine Health Monitoring system sensors to measure and report on machine performance in real time.
The Everactive Machine Health Monitoring system uses a batteryless IoT sensor to provide real-time data on machine operations.

Everactive’s Machine Health Monitoring system uses proprietary sensors that run continually and transmit vibration, temperature and magnetic field data to the cloud. There, the data is analyzed to detect machine faults before they are evident by other means, such as through routine maintenance or part failure.

Brian Alessi, Everactive director of product marketing and corporate communicationsBrian Alessi

The sensors operate without battery power, but instead are powered by “ambiently harvested energy” that comes from environmental conditions, such as light, thermal differences and machine vibrations, said Brian Alessi, Everactive director of product marketing.

These “batteryless sensors” can run continually without maintenance, Alessi said.

“This can’t power your iPhone without a battery, but if you’re looking to take temperature measurements, vibration measurements, humidity and pressure, those are all things that this can do, because the data packet is very small,” he said.

The sensors transmit data every minute to the Everactive cloud-based analytics platform, which can then provide machine health analysis and trend data. If issues are detected, the system can send out alerts based on the specific machine profile or user-selected thresholds via email or SMS, according to the company.

One particular use for Machine Health Monitoring is for stream traps used in industrial settings that have a failure rate of 20% to 30% but are hard to inspect because there are often hundreds in difficult-to-reach locations, Alessi said.

“Even if you put a wireless device in there with a battery, you’re still going to have to eventually change the battery,” he said. “This is an asset case that’s super high volume, very high value, but unmonitored due to the pain points of batteries.”

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SAP S/4HANA Cloud 2005 focuses on supply chain

SAP customers already appeared more receptive to cloud-based software at the start of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic may spur momentum for SAP S/4HANA Cloud 2005, the latest release of the SaaS version of the ERP platform.

SAP reported increases in cloud-based revenue for the first quarter of 2020, and, although this was not broken out into specific product groups, SAP is seeing a shift in demand for the cloud, said Jan Gilg, president of SAP S/4HANA.

Jan GilgJan Gilg

“Customers are coming in to ask how quickly they can be up and running, or maybe how quickly they can set up a subsidiary or specific business units,” Gilg said. “So we’re seeing a lot of uptake and a lot of customers looking into the cloud model now than before.”

The cloud momentum is expected to continue even after the pandemic has passed, he said, as companies hit hard by the disruption will evaluate their IT capabilities and the status of ERP modernization and digital transformation projects.

One of the advantages of cloud-based software is that new functions can be introduced in each new version, Gilg said. SAP S/4HANA 2005 includes updates that could be valuable for companies dealing with the rapidly changing business environment brought on by COVID-19.

Supply chain, finance and integration with SAP SuccessFactors, an HCM platform, are the most prominent updates, he said.

Enabling a more flexible supply chain

Supply chain Situation Handling functionality now allows companies to monitor inventory more accurately. In the last few years, supply chains have been stretched around the globe and have focused on just-in-time delivery, keeping only as much stock in inventory as needed. The strategy has been exposed as a weakness by the pandemic, as companies have grappled with an abrupt disruption to production schedules.

This is leading companies to reassess supply chains by moving to more local suppliers and keeping more inventory in stock, Gilg said.

“S/4HANA Cloud 2005 puts more emphasis on inventory management and stock levels and gives companies the support to help them with intelligence that proactively alerts companies when inventory levels go down, go too low or run out,” he said. “In the current situation, it’s really critical to make sure that there’s enough flow of goods to the respective consumers; it’s about being flexible.”

Flexibility is also the key to new financial functions, which allow companies to monitor and approve payments from SAP and non-SAP systems. This will help companies keep a closer eye on cash flow, which will be important as business interruption makes cash flow an issue, Gilg said.

The other significant S/4HANA Cloud update is a more seamless integration between S/4HANA and SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central, which standardizes the data model and cost centers for ERP and HCM systems.

“The ambition here is that this should really look and feel like one solution, and ideally customers should not even notice that there’s two solutions behind the scenes,” Gilg said. “The transition is seamless from a UI perspective, from process data integration, and also from some of the technical attributes like the provisioning.”

Giving the customers what they want

Although there’s no hard evidence of an increase in demand for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, it wouldn’t be a surprise given the overall increase in demand for cloud applications, said analyst Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica.com, an enterprise applications news and analysis site.

Jon ReedJon Reed

However, the most appropriate market for S/4HANA Cloud may not be able to invest, given the current environment.

“Keep in mind that S/4HANA Cloud’s best vertical adoption, if we are talking the full cloud solution, not hosted S/4HANA, is in professional services, which, for the most part, is not a vertical that is thriving at the moment,” Reed said. “Modern ERP cloud is going to have be very vertical in its appeal, a topic SAP has understood for some time but has not moved nearly fast enough on.”

S/4HANA Cloud 2005’s updates should be welcomed by customers, Reed said.

“These are the types of features customers have been asking for,” he said. “In particular, the SuccessFactors integration should help S/4HANA Cloud have some response to Workday’s complete finance and HR integrations, although SAP has a long way to go there.”

S/4HANA Cloud 2005 looks impressive, with the SuccessFactors Employee Central integration and more end-to-end industry focus, said Predrag “PJ” Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, an enterprise computing analysis firm in Montreal.

Predrag JakovljevicPredrag Jakovljevic

The current COVID-19 environment may spur more cloud demand, Jakovljevic said.

“Both S/4HANA Cloud 2005 and cloud ERP, SCM [supply chain management] and CRM, in general, should benefit from COVID-19, since many customer success stories nowadays talk about using cloud and mobile digital collaborative tools,” he said. “On-premises will still not necessarily fully die, however, because some places still have regulatory requirements and poor internet connectivity, and on-premises solutions can now come with remote access.”

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How a synthetic data approach is helping COVID-19 research

As medical researchers around the world race to find answers to the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to gather as much clinical data as possible for analysis.

A key challenge many researchers face with clinical data is privacy and the mandate to protect confidential patient information. One way to overcome that privacy challenge is by using synthetic data, an approach that creates data that is not linked to personally identifiable information. Rather than encrypting or attempting to anonymize data to protect privacy, synthetic data represents a different approach that can be useful for medical researchers.

With synthetic data there are no real people, rather the data is a synthetic copy that is statistically comparable, but entirely composed of fictional patients, explained Ziv Ofek, founder and CEO of health IT vendor MDClone, based in Beer Sheba, Israel.

Other popular methods of protecting patient privacy, such as anonymization and encryption, aim to balance patient privacy and data utility. However, a privacy risk still remains because embedded within the data, even after diligent attempts to protect privacy, are real people, Ofek argued.

“There are no real people embedded within the synthetic data,” Ofek said. “Instead, the data is a statistical representation of the original and the risk of reidentification is no longer relevant, even though it may appear as real people and can be analyzed as if it were and yielding the same conclusions.”

Synthetic Data Engine from MDClone
MDClone Synthetic Data Engine creates anonymous data statistically identical to the original.

Synthetic data in the real world

MDClone’s synthetic data technology is being used by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv as part of its COVID-19 research.

Synthetic data provides an opportunity to get quick answers to data-related questions … [and] allows users to work on the data in their own environment, something we do not allow with real data.
Eyal Zimlichman, M.D.Deputy director general, Sheba Medical Center

The MDClone system is critical to his organization’s data efforts to gain more insights into COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, said Eyal Zimlichman, M.D., deputy director general, chief medical officer and chief innovation officer at Sheba Medical.

By regulation, synthetic data is not considered patient data and therefore is not subject to the IRB process. As opposed to real patient data, Ofek noted that synthetic data can be accessed freely by researchers, so long as the institution agrees to provide access.

“Synthetic data provides an opportunity to get quick answers to data-related questions without the need for an IRB approval,”Zimlichman said. “It also allows users to work on the data in their own environment, something we do not allow with real data.”

Zimlichman added that data science groups both within and outside the hospital are using the MDClone system to help predict COVID-19 patient outcomes, as well as to aid in determining a course of action for therapy.

Synthetic data accelerates time to insight

The MDClone platform includes a data engine for collecting and organizing patient data, the discovery studio for analysis and the Synthetic Data Engine for creating data. The vendor on April 14 released the MDClone Pandemic Response Package, which includes a predefined set of visualizations and analyses that are COVID-19-specific. The engine enables clients and networks to ask questions of COVID-19-related data and generate meaningful analysis, including cohort and population-level insights.

In the event a client wants to use their data to share, compare and collaborate with others, they can convert their original data into a synthetic copy for shared review and insight development.

“A synthetic collaboration model allows for that conversation to take place with data flows and analysis performed across both systems without patient privacy and security risks,” Ofek said.

Ofek added that the synthetic model and platform access capability enables clients to invite research and collaboration partners into their data environment rather than simply sharing files on demand. With MDClone, the client’s research and collaboration partners are able to log in to the MDClone data lake and then get access to the data and exploration tools with synthetic output.

“In the context of the pandemic, organizations leveraging the platform can offer partners unfettered synthetic access to accelerate exploration into new avenues for treatment,” Ofek said. “Idea generation and data reviews that enable real-world analysis is our pathway to finding and broadcasting the best healthcare professionals can offer as we combat the disease.”

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Gartner forecasts near 20% growth for public cloud services

New research from Gartner adds to what’s becoming a consensus view regarding the COVID-19 economy: The cloud offers the greatest near-term growth potential for IT providers.

The market research firm is forecasting an 8% year-over-year drop in worldwide IT spending in 2020. Public cloud services, however, are on track to grow 19% this year, according to Gartner’s projections. Cloud-based conferencing will experience 24.3% growth, while cloud-based telephony and messaging will grow at 8.9% clip, the company reported.

The anticipated expansion of public cloud services and cloud communications stands to benefit channel partners invested in those areas. Managed public cloud services have become an important offering among partners. On the cloud communications front, IT services providers are helping clients deploy Microsoft Teams, RingCentral and Zoom, among other products, to support remote work.

Cloud consultancies have expressed confidence in continued cloud demand during the pandemic, with companies making strategic acquisitions and launching new services.

Factors driving cloud growth

The rise in remote working, an immediate response to the pandemic, drives near-term demand for public cloud services and cloud communications, according to Gartner’s projections. Other factors contribute to cloud demand, however.

The effects of COVID-19 on enterprise IT practices.
The effects of COVID-19 on enterprise IT practices.

John-David Lovelock, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, predicts a likely shortage of servers and data center equipment later in the year. Physical IT resources could become harder to find in late 2020 due to lags in the supply chain, a drop in semiconductor production, tariffs and borders between trading partners remaining closed. Cloud services would provide an alternative for customers in need of compute capacity.

Over the longer term, Lovelock said he anticipates an acceleration of cloud spending as companies seek to retool their business approaches in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cloud spending levels Gartner had been expecting to appear in 2023 and 2024 could start appearing in 2022. “It’s bringing the future forward,” Lovelock said, noting that digital business will be further along in 2020 than it would have been without pandemic-influenced spending.

Lovelock likened the pandemic-driven economic crisis to the Great Recession, when businesses needed to change direction to get out of the downturn. As companies exit the lockdown phase of the pandemic, they will similarly need to change how they do business. With limited cash to do so, they will look to the cloud, Lovelock said.

Cloud forecasts

Gartner’s projections are in line with other market watchers.

Forrester cited cloud infrastructure services as one of the few bright spots in its tech spending forecast, which projects a 5% to 9% decline in 2020. Statista, meanwhile, cited the cloud as propelling the growth of the infrastructure sector, which it forecasts to expand at 3.8% rate in 2020.

“Thanks to cloud, currently the infrastructure market is the only segment in the global IT industry to still show growth in 2020,” Statista noted in its forecast.

Other news

  • Maven Wave, an Atos company based in Chicago, said it is the first Google Cloud partner to roll out a partnership with Snowflake’s cloud data platform. Snowflake in February kicked off its general availability on Google Cloud.
  • Digital Defense Inc., a cybersecurity company in San Antonio, said it is working with managed service providers to offer healthcare organizations free ransomware assessments, collectively valued at $1 million. Healthcare organizations new to Digital Defense can sign up for the free assessments over the next 60 days. Digital Defense said it is offering the assessments on a first-come-first-served basis or until the $1 million offer is exhausted, whichever comes first.
  • An insurance industry study from DXC Technology, an IT services company based in Tysons, Va., suggests changes in consumer expectations are opening opportunities for insurers to “adopt and strategically deploy digital technologies.” Among other findings, the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers revealed that 87% of the respondents would feel comfortable sharing personal and lifestyle-focused data in order to obtain lower insurance premiums.
  • 2nd Watch, a professional services and managed cloud company based in Seattle, has launched a cloud disaster recovery service. The service uses the AWS cloud platform as the recovery site.
  • Managed services industry association MSPAlliance has teamed up with cybersecurity vendor PC Matic to launch an MSP security awareness program. The program aims to promote security best practices and the adoption of security technologies among MSPs, the companies said. After an MSP demonstrates cyber risk protection practices, the MSP can achieve the MSPAlliance’s Cyber Verify assurance ratings.
  • Softchoice, an MSP and technology solutions provider based in Toronto, said it has obtained the VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency.
  • Peak-Ryzex, a Columbia, Md., solutions provider focusing on the digital supply chains and mobile workforces, unveiled a partnership with FarEye, a predictive logistics platform.
  • D&H Distributing added Vade Secure, a predictive email defense software vendor, to its Cloud Marketplace. The latter company provides Vade Secure for Microsoft 365.
  • Cloud distributor Pax8 said it is offering StorageCraft’s ShadowXafe and OneXafe Solo.
  • Distributor Synnex Corp. will offer Bitdefender’s Cloud Security for MSP product suite on the Synnex Stellr Marketplace. Cloud Security for MSP provides email security, endpoint detection and response, and patch management among other security technologies.
  • Liongard, which offers an automation platform for MSPs, closed a $17 million funding round. The latest round brings Liongard’s total funding over the last three years to nearly $23 million, according to the company.
  • Gtmhub, a strategy execution management software vendor, launched a channel partner program. The company said the program will be led by vice president of business development David Stadulis. Stadulis joined Gtmhub in February from Atlassian, where he was a global alliances manager.
  • Onapsis, a Boston company that specializes in mission-critical application cybersecurity and compliance, expanded its Business Risk Illustration assessments to include operational resiliency, audit efficiency and cyber risk assessments. The company is offering the complimentary assessments to system integrators, managed security service providers, technology alliances and VAR partners.
  • Hyper-converged infrastructure vendor Nutanix promoted Christian Alvarez to senior vice president of worldwide channels. Alvarez joined Nutanix in September 2019 as its vice president of Americas channel sales.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

Additional reporting by Spencer Smith.

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