This week’s Risk & Repeat podcast examines the rise of mobile voting apps and how security experts have expressed concerns about the risks deploying the technology for elections.
This week’s Risk & Repeat podcast looks at the prospect of mobile voting apps being deployed for U.S. elections in the near future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about in-person voting at potentially crowded polls with long lines. But despite those concerns, various security experts as well as mobile voting advocates say the technology won’t be ready for widespread deployment in elections any time soon. Critics of the technology argue the mobile apps aren’t secure enough to ensure the integrity of votes, while advocates say there isn’t enough funding or infrastructure to support a large rollout of the technology.
In this episode, SearchSecurity editors Rob Wright and Alex Culafi discuss the challenges facing mobile and internet voting options, the friction between voting system vendors and the security research community, and the potential of these systems in future elections.
Microsoft offers two ways to handle mobile device management: MDM for Office 365 and Microsoft Intune.
The enterprise mobility industry has changed significantly in the past few years. Mobile device management (MDM) platforms such as MDM for Office 365 was once enough for most organizations. As devices such as iPads, wearables and IoT devices became prevalent in the enterprise, however, many organizations needed advanced management capabilities and a unified console. Unified endpoint management (UEM) products such as Intune entered the market, which provided a way for IT admins to manage a range of different devices under a single console.
MDM still has use cases today, however. MDM for Office 365 provides a limited feature set, but it is included in the price of many Office 365 subscriptions. This built-in tool offers organizations an integrated, inexpensive way to manage mobile devices. Microsoft Intune, on the other hand, provides a rich feature set and comes with additional costs.
MDM for Office 365 capabilities
MDM for Office 365 provides a lightweight version of MDM that does not include mobile application management (MAM). It provides organizations with MDM policies and settings that will help to control access to Office 365 data for supported mobile devices and apps. For stolen or lost devices, it offers the ability to remotely wipe the device to remove corporate data.
MDM for Office 365 provides support for the following platforms:
iOS 10.0 or later
Android 4.4 or later
Windows 8.1 (limited to Exchange ActiveSync functionality)
Windows 10 (requires the device to be Azure Active Directory joined)
Supported access control scenarios
MDM for Office 365 provides a few scenarios that will prompt the user to enroll their device. When the user’s device doesn’t comply with the policy, the user might be blocked from accessing Office 365 data, depending on the policy configuration.
These are the following scenarios:
Access to Exchange by using the built-in mail app on iOS 10 or later
Access to Exchange by using the built-in mail app on Android 4.4 or later
Access to Office and OneDrive for Business by using the Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel or PowerPoint app on iOS 10 or later
Access to Office and OneDrive for Business by using the Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint or the Office Mobile (phones only) app on Android 4.4 or later
People who are using mobile browsers to access Office 365 data will not be prompted to enroll their devices and will not be blocked.
Supported policy settings
With MDM for Office 365, IT can enable certain settings as requirements to access Office 365 data. IT can use these settings in the supported access control scenarios to block users from accessing Office 365 data. These settings are divided into the following categories:
MDM for Office 365 also provides a limited set of policies that IT can use to configure settings on the user’s device, such as policies to prevent data loss on devices, access public clouds, make screen captures and access the store.
Microsoft Intune capabilities
Microsoft Intune is a UEM platform that provides MDM and MAM functionality and comes with additional costs, as it’s not part of the different Office 365 subscriptions. It requires an organization to have licenses that include the rights for using Microsoft Intune. These licenses include Microsoft Intune standalone, the Enterprise Mobility + Security and the Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
Microsoft Intune helps organizations to provide MDM and MAM policies and settings that will help with controlling access to corporate data. This includes not just data in Office 365, but nearly all corporate data that is available from apps that are exposed via Azure Active Directory (AAD). For stolen or lost devices, Intune provides the ability to remotely wipe the device or app to remove corporate data. It provides organizations with a strong method to secure and manage mobile devices, apps and corporate data.
Android 5.0 and later, including Android Enterprise
Windows 8.1, including Windows 8.1 RT
Windows 10, including Windows 10 Teams, Windows 10 IoT and Windows Holographic for Business
Supported access scenarios
Microsoft Intune supports many scenarios. The main difference of MDM for Office 365 vs Intune is that Intune is not limited to Office 365-related scenarios. For most organizations, the management boundaries must expand to include all apps and data that can be exposed via AAD and all apps on the devices that can use modern authentication. Intune integrates well within a Microsoft ecosystem, including Office 365.
Microsoft Intune can do more than just control access to corporate apps and data. IT can use Intune to verify compliance of devices, deploy applications, assign advanced configurations including Wi-Fi configuration, push certificates and VPN configurations, provide inventory information and more. And that’s only mentioning MDM scenarios. Besides that, it also provides MAM scenarios, including the ability to limit access to corporate apps and data and the ability to perform a selective wipe of only the app.
Supported policy settings
Microsoft Intune provides many policy settings and it’s nearly impossible to list all the possibilities. It provides the policy settings that are available with MDM for Office 365 and many more. These policy settings are categorized to provide functionality to address the supported access scenarios – for example, policies to verify access requirements, policies to verify compliance, policies to configure settings, policies to configure updates and the ability to deploy, configure and manage apps.
MDM for Office 365 vs. Microsoft Intune
The following table provides an overview of the main capabilities of MDM for Office 365 vs Microsoft Intune.
It should be clear that Microsoft Intune is the most logical choice from a security and management perspective. That doesn’t that mean there is no use case for MDM for Office 365. For smaller organizations, or organizations that only use Office 365, this could be enough. That does require strong agreements with the employees, however, as MDM for Office 365 only provides basic security for accessing Office 365 data.
MDM for Office 365 is a good starting point for any organization beginning to deploy MDM. To provide real security and management capabilities, however, any organization should eventually look at using Microsoft Intune when using more than just Office 365.
To support a migration path from MDM for Office 365 and Microsoft Intune, organizations can run both products alongside each other. When a user gets a Microsoft Intune license, the enrollment process will automatically prefer the Microsoft Intune enrollment above the MDM for Office 365 enrollment.
Salesforce has added two new features to both Trailhead Live and the Trailhead Go mobile app, making it easier to connect with other users and learn on the go.
Trailhead Live, which features training sessions about Salesforce-related topics with instructors in real time, now includes expert-led Q&As during live broadcasts, enabling viewers to ask instructors questions during sessions. Sessions can also now include live chat capabilities, giving viewers the opportunity to speak with one another. Live is no longer only available to desktop users; it is also available on the Trailhead Go mobile app.
“While it’s great to follow a recorded video, the reality is that at some point you want to be able to interact in real time with a trainer,” said Nicole France, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “Live training sessions — even virtual ones — are the only way to do that.”
Learning on the go
Live was one of the most requested Trailhead features on both the mobile app and desktop site, said Amber Boaz, a Salesforce MVP and Salesforce solution architect at Rapid7.
“Lots of users learn in different ways, and Trailhead Live fills a hole in Trailhead functionality,” Boaz said.
Trailhead is Salesforce’s free customer success learning platform, enabling both users and nonusers to gain skills in the CRM giant’s systems.
Greg Grothaus, a Salesforce administrator at Cloud Pathfinder and a platform app builder, has logged 20 to 30 hours on Trailhead Go since its launch at Dreamforce 2019, and three to five hours with Trailhead Live. For the most part, he finds the app helpful when he doesn’t have access to his laptop or a full web browser and is a way to fill his time when he has a few minutes to spare.
“In the old days when we had downtime during a commute, we would listen to audiobooks,” he said. “Now we can get job skills, for free.”
Grothaus is currently working toward his third Salesforce certification — Sales Cloud consultant. This is the fourth most-sought certification after administrator, platform app builder and platform developer I, according to the Mason Frank Salary Survey 2019/2020. The survey also showed that 94% of survey respondents use the Salesforce training tool.
Boaz also uses the Go app in her spare time, in place of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or playing Candy Crush.
“Hour for hour though, I do more Trailhead on my laptop than my phone,” she said.
Trailhead Go shortcomings
While the Trailhead Go mobile app makes it convenient for Salesforce users to study for certifications and learn more about the product, it is not a replacement for the desktop site.
Trailhead Go users are able to do the reading portions of training modules from the app, but when they need to do any hands-on work in a sandbox, the app asks users to open a Salesforce training environment, moving them from the app to the full website version of Trailhead.
“To do the work in the sandbox, you really need a mouse and a keyboard,” Grothaus said.
Trailhead Go is currently only available for iOS, while the full site is available on any device.
The reason for an iOS-only mobile app is that a high proportion of the Trailhead audience is likely on some form of iOS device, France said.
“Nevertheless, Salesforce is definitely missing a trick in not making it available to Android users as well,” she said.
Trailhead users who want to take advantage of real-time broadcasts can view the schedule in advance on the Trailhead Live webpage.
i5-4210U 8GB RAM Nvidia GT 820 Mobile Graphics Card 1TB Harddrive 15.6 inch screen 1920×1080 Webcam Windows 8.1
This belongs to a relative who now lives abroad and doesn’t need it anymore so she’s asked me to sell it on her behalf. I’ve replaced a part that is known to fail often in Lenovo laptops (charging port) as well as its original battery with a black-coloured one (half the price of the white replacement battery). It actually looks nice with a two-tone colour scheme and the majority of the time it’s unnoticeable as the laptop sits on a surface anyway.
She hasn’t kept its original box but I’ve managed to fit it into a replacement one. Has been factory reset.
On other sites you can find the same model selling on occasion for £140+ but due to some cosmetic wear and tear, including a small crack on its cover that doesn’t affect its performance or function, I’m selling it for a reduced amount.
Verizon’s long-term strategy is to make mobile 5G a Wi-Fi killer. While analysts don’t see that happening this decade, it is technically possible for the next-generation wireless technology to drive Wi-Fi into obsolescence.
Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, recently entered the ongoing 5G vs. Wi-Fi tech debate when he predicted the latter’s demise. Dunne said his company’s upcoming 5G service would eventually make high-speed internet connectivity ubiquitous for its customers.
“In the world of 5G millimeter wave deployment, we don’t see the need for Wi-Fi in the future,” Dunne told attendees at a Citigroup global technology conference in Las Vegas.
Today, the millimeter wave (MM wave) spectrum used to transmit 5G signals is often blocked by physical objects like buildings and trees, making service unreliable. Verizon believes its engineers can circumvent those limitations within 5 to 7 years, bringing 5G wireless broadband to its 150 million customers.
Most analysts agree that Wi-Fi will remain the preferred technology for indoor wireless networking through the current decade. Beyond that, it’s technically possible for 5G services to start eroding Wi-Fi’s market dominance, particularly as the number of 5G mobile and IoT devices rises over the next several years.
“If the CEO of a major cellular carrier says something, I will take that seriously,” said Craig Mathias, principal analyst at Farpoint Group. “He could be dead wrong over the long run, but, technically, it could work.”
As an alternative to Wi-Fi, Verizon could offer small mobile base stations, such as specially designed picocells and femtocells, to carry 5G signals from the office and home to the carrier’s small cell base stations placed on buildings, lampposts or poles. The small cells would send traffic to the carriers’ core network.
Early uses for 5G
Initially, 5G could become a better option for specific uses. Examples include sports stadiums that have an atypically high number of mobile devices accessing the internet at the same time. That type of situation requires a massive expenditure in Wi-Fi gear and software that could prove more expensive than 5G technology, said Brandon Butler, an analyst at IDC.
Another better-than-Wi-Fi use for 5G would be in a manufacturing facility. Those locations often have machinery that needs an ultra-low latency connection in an area where a radio signal is up against considerable interference, Butler said.
Nevertheless, Butler stops short of predicting a 5G-only world, advising enterprises to plan for a hybrid world instead. They should look to Wi-Fi and 5G as the best indoor and outdoor technology, respectively.
“The real takeaway point here is that enterprises should plan for a hybrid world into the future,” Butler said.
Ultimately, how far 5G goes in replacing Wi-Fi will depend on whether the expense of switching is justified by reducing overall costs and receiving unique services. To displace Wi-Fi, 5G will have to do much more than match its speed.
“It’ll come down to cost and economics, and the cost and economics do not work when the performance is similar,” said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC.
Today, Wi-Fi provides a relatively easy upgrade path. That’s because, collectively, businesses have already spent billions of dollars over the years on Wi-Fi access points, routers, security and management tools. They have also hired the IT staff to operate the system.
Verizon 5G Home
While stressing the importance of mobile 5G vs. Wi-Fi, Dunne lowered expectations for the fixed wireless 5G service for the home that the carrier launched in 2018. Verizon expected it’s 5G Home service to eventually compete with the TV and internet services provided by cable companies.
Today, 5G Home, which is available in parts of five metropolitan markets, has taken a backseat to Verizon’s mobile 5G buildout. “It’s very much a mobility strategy with a secondary product of home,” Dunne said.
Ghai of IDC was not surprised that Verizon would lower expectations for 5G Home. Delivering the service nationwide would have required spending vast amounts of money to blanket neighborhoods with small cells.
Verizon likely didn’t see enough interest for 5G Home among consumers to justify the cost, Ghai said. “It probably hasn’t lived up to the promise.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce customers see the value in the Trailhead learning platform and its new mobile app.
Trailhead Go for iOS is one of two new mobile apps that Salesforce announced here at Dreamforce 2019. Trailhead Go is a mobile extension of Trailhead, Salesforce’s free customer success learning platform enabling Salesforce users and nonusers to follow different paths to learn Salesforce skills. It now also offers Amazon Partner Connect to learn how to build Amazon Alexa skills and AWS. By the end of the year, Trailhead plans to roll out live and on-demand training videos.
Salesforce provides customer success tools to users before they even become customers. For most businesses, this model is flipped, providing these tools to users after they sign contracts, said Gerry Murray, a research director at IDC.
“It’s not only about how the product works, it’s about teaching the line- of-business people to elevate their skills or further their careers in and out of their companies,” Murray said. “Trailhead Go makes it all that more convenient.”
Making education accessible
A skills gap costs companies $1.3 trillion each year, said Sarah Franklin, general manager of Trailhead, in a keynote. While many workers think they can fill that gap with education, it has become more and more inaccessible. Over the last 20 years, student tuition has increased by 200%, and student debt has increased by 163%.
Anyone who has access to the Trailhead Go app can learn, said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research.
“You don’t have to go to school; you don’t need a computer; you just need a phone,” he said.
Customers see benefits
Supermums, based in London, equips moms with Salesforce skills through a combination of training, mentoring, work experience and job search support to get them into the Salesforce ecosystem. Trainees go through a customized six-month program where they earn 50 to 100 Trailhead badges. Trainees can benefit from the Trailhead app because they’ll be able to learn on the go, making it easier to fit into their schedules, said Heather Black, a certified Salesforce administrator and CEO of Supermums.
“[Trailhead Go] will help me complete more trails and fit it into my life while I’m busy supporting a team and juggling kids,” she said. “Trailhead Go makes this accessible to more people.”
Trailhead has also branched out beyond technical skills and into functional skills, Black said.
“It helps you develop as a person, as well as help you be successful in a Salesforce career,” she said.
Trailhead is great for helping learn the basics when people are entering the CRM world, said Sayantani Mitra, a data scientist at Goby Inc., a company that specializes in accounts payable automation.
“Read them, learn them, ask the community, ask people questions, do them multiple times,” Mitra said.
SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce debuted new iOS apps today, including a long-overdue Salesforce mobile app makeover and the first mobile Trailhead learning app, Trailhead Go. Salesforce also updated its iOS mobile SDK for third-party app developers to take advantage of Swift, an Apple coding language.
The Apple focus continues from Dreamforce 2018. Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to join Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on stage for a fireside chat Tuesday at Dreamforce. The fresh iOS apps push is Salesforce’s response to more and more customers doing work on iPhones and iPads, said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. Making better iOS apps is no longer a nice-to-have, but a got-to-have.
Previously, the Salesforce Mobile app could be described essentially as a click-intensive, sometimes slower desktop version of Salesforce shoehorned into a phone-app interface, analysts and users said. The new version will offer iOS-specific features and changes to the user interface.
Front-line salespeople can add more CRM data
Salesforce’s new focus is on making its interface friendlier to the front-line salespeople who use it all day, France said. Previous versions looked more manager-centric, with more focus on dashboarding sales-team data at a glance.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research
She added that, like many SaaS vendors currently re-evaluating the look and feel of their platforms, Salesforce’s new interface philosophy shows that it had focused too much on making the app attractive to buyers, not users. Reducing clicks for front-line salespeople will make them more inclined to enter the data that their managers need into the app.
“It’s what we’ve all come to expect in our lives as consumers, and frankly if Salesforce Mobile isn’t as easy and simple to use as other iPhone apps, people are disinclined to use it effectively — or at all,” France said. “Even in a business context.”
Trailhead Go embraces a new generation
Making the first Salesforce Trailhead mobile app, Trailhead Go, usable on phones and tablets can only enhance its function as a recruiting tool for Salesforce admins and developers, France said. While Generation Xers and older Salesforce users might not see the value of consuming sometimes-technical Salesforce learning content ported to phone and tablet interfaces, younger audiences will.
The free Trailhead app works well to develop needed experts for Salesforce customers like Workfront, a SaaS project management and employee collaboration platform. Heidi Melin, chief marketing officer at Workfront, said she sees the mobile version as a way to keep that pipeline of new experts flowing.
“They’re training a future generation how to leverage Salesforce,” Melin said. “That’s how you know when an application platform has scale, when you start to see the need for [the Salesforce] skill set in the marketplace. That’s huge.”
Melin said she is also looking forward to seeing more Salesforce mobile app integrations with partners like Totango, which retrieves CRM data for a particular Workfront customer and summarizes it in Slack. Melin uses those tools to get a quick snapshot of an account’s health and renewal date, and to do it without logging into Salesforce’s desktop or mobile apps, she said.
Also announced with the made-over Salesforce Mobile and new Trailhead Go are updates to the iOS mobile app-development SDK introduced earlier this year. Optimized for Swift, an Apple coding language growing in popularity with iOS app builders, the SDK will help developers create apps that better take advantage of iOS features and its interface.
Adobe Sign updates this week brought new features supporting mobile devices and new integrations with Microsoft cloud products including SharePoint, Dynamics, PowerApps and Flow, Teams and Azure.
According to Mike Prizament, senior product marketing manager at Adobe, the company emphasized improving user experience on mobile because nearly half of its users start the signing process on their phones. “If 50% of people check their email, and then they try to start signing a document on their phone, we want it to be as easy as possible,” he said.
The Adobe Sign updates include the following:
Improved mobile signing experience: Adobe Sign enables users to zoom in on areas they need to sign and provides mobile-friendly navigation buttons that guide the signer through required fields. The company said these functionalities are available on mobile web and don’t require users to download an app.
New home screen interface: The Adobe Sign home screen has a new design intended to make the main e-signature tools more visible and accessible. The tools let users send out a document for signatures, track document status and manage the signing process. Users can send documents from the Adobe Sign home screen for people to sign instead of emailing the document or sending paper copies, according to the company.
New manage page: The new page lets managers responsible for sending documents for signatures track or modify the process. The user can check to whom the documents were sent, determine whether a recipient opened the document yet, change or cancel recipients and archive the documents.
Adobe Sign allows two different levels of account sharing on the manage page: view only and full access. The view-only sharing mode allows the main manager to share the account to team members so they are given access to only view the status of the task. The full-access sharing mode gives complete control to team members to take over the manager’s account in case the person is taking a vacation or leaving the company, according to Adobe.
Users can swap back and forth between accounts in a drop-down menu on the manage page.
Integrations with Microsoft cloud productivity products
Adobe Sign has updated integrations with the following Microsoft products:
Microsoft SharePoint: Users can create and embed digital forms that can be filled, signed and reused. The update is intended to help customers collect information from a large number of people inside and outside the company. Data from the forms is automatically saved and mapped back to a SharePoint list.
Microsoft Dynamics 365: E-signatures works with Dynamics 365 Sales in more languages, including German, French and Japanese.
Microsoft PowerApps and Power Automate in the Government Community Cloud: Users can add signing workflows when a new document is uploaded in SharePoint, then route final documents and create an audit trail to OneDrive/SharePoint.
Microsoft Teams: Team members can send documents for signatures and manage, track and get notifications for the status of important documents. The Adobe Sign integration in Teams is certified as part of the Microsoft 365 Certification program, ensuring that enterprise data privacy and security are protected from third-party developed applications in Microsoft 365.
Microsoft Azure: Adobe Sign is now available in Microsoft Azure in Europe and stores all data, content and information within the EU.
Microsoft Azure Active Directory: Microsoft Azure Active Directory enterprise customers can use single sign-on to send Adobe Sign to their employees via the Adobe admin console within 30 minutes.
“Signature is a key component to identity, and identity is a key component to trusted commerce. Adobe has a huge potential to leverage over 1 billion PDF users in the future of legal signing authority,” said R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research.
He said the latest integrations with Microsoft products will enable tools such as Dynamics 365 Sales, Microsoft SharePoint, Teams and other apps to take advantage of signature from Adobe.
Wang said Adobe ultimately competes with DocuSign, a cloud service providing e-signature technology.
Adobe sees a big potential still ahead for the market of e-signatures, citing IDC research sponsored by Adobe that found 80% of enterprise document processes still rely on paper. “There’s still a huge opportunity there, and this is a big area that Adobe Sign looks to solve together with Adobe Document Cloud,” Prizament said.
Microsoft’s connected car platform delivers a mobile datacenter to your driveway
The connected car revolution isn’t coming — it’s here. Going to a meeting, and have a conference call on the way? Your ride’s digital assistant will help you plan a route blessedly free of tunnels and drops in connectivity that could interfere. And while you drive, the car will help you stay in your lane.
Leading this effort on the engineering front at Microsoft is Tara Prakriya, General Manager for Azure IoT Mobility and Connected Vehicles. This team of dozens is working with the two largest industry players, Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, to create cars featuring unprecedented levels of interactivity.
“What our connected vehicle platform gives our clients is truly a digital chassis to achieve scale and efficiency in developing and delivering value to their customers,” Prakriya said. “Our customers are navigating a digital transformation of the industry and this digital chassis helps them absorb and fully take advantage of the new opportunities available in the market in a global way, including China.”
“What our customers look for in the partnership from Microsoft is not just a technology vendor, but a strategic partnership to help the full digital transformation, cultural transformation and market transformation that need to work in lock step. It’s a tall order, which is why we work with our customers to figure out what this is going to look like.”
Our connected vehicle platform gives our clients a digital chassis to achieve scale and efficiency in developing and delivering value to their customers.
“Pretty much everybody that’s on the team is really excited about this space,” said Larry Sullivan, co-head of the team with Prakriya and a veteran Microsoft engineer. “I think Tara brings a lot of that energy and the team gives that energy back as well. We’re not a huge team, but we’re really motivated, and we’re really fired up about helping our customers do business in a really positive way.”
Microsoft’s automotive initiatives engage such corporate partners as TomTom, Cubic Telecom, Moovit, DSA and Faurecia. They also leverage Microsoft’s work on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the company’s Azure cloud computing service. Prakriya believes it’s helpful to think of IoT as the information of things.
“The digital feedback loop is the term that we use at Microsoft,” Prakriya said. “IoT in many ways represents the digital feedback loop of physical things, physical spaces, physical environment and what products actually do in the marketplace. There are lots of decisions that our business customers need to make that IoT information can make a significant contribution to.
“And, once those decisions are made, there is new information, and that needs to be communicated as a feedback loop back to those physical environments, physical products, physical consumers and physical employees. The opportunity in connected vehicles, and mobility as a whole, is to be on the edge of getting the data so that we can do amazing things and then deliver it back to the edge again. What then connects the stationary things, like smart buildings, with smart transportation and mobility is Azure Maps.”
A car, Prakriya said, has plenty in common with other consumer electronics products: “You want experiences to become easy. You want the cars and the system to anticipate what your needs are. There is a lot of ease of use and delight that can be had for the consumers — both the drivers and the passengers. The cool challenge with delivering a connected vehicle platform is simplifying the complexities of what is really a mobile datacenter on wheels so that these experiences are easier to create, deploy and refine. Having a single connected vehicle and maps platform that underpins consumer experiences in the vehicle and on their phones, providing driving assistance and mobility as a service, goes a long way towards this goal.”
Microsoft’s work in the automotive space is about helping each customer create a differentiated set of integrated services while taking advantage of a consistent, robust, flexible, global and secure digital chassis for scale. “They have different brand promises to their consumers,” Prakriya said, “and so as a result, the features that they are really thinking about and the digital value that they are trying to deliver to their customers are different. We are taking care of the boring stuff so that they can really think about what their brand promise is and deliver it.”
She points out that automakers are making these promises and creating these systems in the face of not one, not two, but four simultaneous upheavals in the industry. The first is basic digital connectivity, followed closely by the use of artificial intelligence — for example, in fighting driver distraction, among other applications. Then there are shared-vehicle services, and the gradual electrification of cars and trucks as manufacturers move away from fossil fuels, which will have impacts across the supply chain and all through the vehicle life cycle.
“It is an enormous amount of change that we know our customers are thinking about constantly,” Prakriya said, “so this is a lot of the reason why we created the set of platforms for IoT Mobility. We are very engaged with our customers because it’s so exciting to watch them navigate this. And if we can play any part in that navigation, it’s pretty wonderful.”
To further complicate matters, all of the team’s major customers are also working on driverless vehicles. “Azure’s storage and compute teams, along with the AI teams, and the devops teams, together have an excellent story for building your own autonomous driving models,” she said. “Azure has a pretty great end-to-end template and methodology that helps customers, from getting their big data onto Azure all the way through to working with ecosystem partners to be on Azure for things like simulation as well as collecting data from production vehicles to assist in validation.
“We work with a number of large customers on building their own autonomous driving models on Azure. Fully autonomous vehicles are, of course, more than just a technical problem. There are legal and regulatory considerations. In the meantime, assisted driving models are rapidly improving, and we are excited to work with our customers to deploy these models to vehicles using our connected vehicle platform and create a digital feedback loop.”
“Today, this data informs cutting-edge driver-assisted features like automatic braking, advanced cruise control and lane assist. Tomorrow, the information will be the backbone of autonomy. The leader in that space, bar none, is Microsoft,” wrote analyst Jon Markman in a recent Forbes article.
There is also an increasing focus on Azure Maps to keep up with the demands of multi-modal routing, HD Maps and fresh updates that connect ride share partners with map making partners. In addition, Azure Maps is an important pillar in geo-spatial analytics to help create new value for customers.
Prakriya “really understands the tech and the business and how those things come together,” co-head of the team, Sullivan said. “She is fantastic as a counterpart.”
Both Prakriya and Sullivan say they consider themselves “two in a box” as managers — even though he’s Texan and she’s not, he’s kind of a car guy and she drives a non-connected minivan that’s the same age as her 14-year-old son. They’re both fast talkers who laugh easily.
“We have a great time,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of fun. This is an exciting industry. It’s really going through a bunch of changes and we feel well positioned to help, but like anything, it’s got a degree of insanity, and we have a lot of fun with just, ‘All right, what’s the craziness of the day?'”
Yet Prakriya’s scientific approach — she holds nine patents — persists even after she leaves the office. It extends to life with her son and husband, who works in the Microsoft Business and Applications Group.
“I am a crock pot maven,” she said. “There is almost nothing I cannot cook in a crock pot. It is the only way our family survives. A lot of Indian cooking works really well in the crock pot, baking as well — it is amazingly easy to bake in a crock pot.
Microsoft’s work in the automotive space is about helping each corporate customer create a differentiated set of services.
Prakriya and Sullivan walk along a woodsy trail on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus.
“I joke that my aim is to bend the space-time continuum of figuring out how we eat as a family, and with the slow cooker, we have the option of stretching out the interval between when I cook and when the meal needs to be ready. I also like the whole end-to-end supply chain of food. It’s also about optimizing the shopping list, strategic use of the freezer, and considering the whole process all the way down to the dishes. It’s kind of fun.”
Both at home and at work, she pursues a hobby: knitting. She’s a contributor to Knit-A-Square, a South African charity that collects knitted squares and assembles them into blankets for vulnerable and orphaned children, many of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS. She said that knitting is the perfect accompaniment to a conference call.
“We do a lot of them because our customers are in Europe,” she said, “and they are kind of all in different places, right? Knitting keeps me away from the keyboard because it’s easy to get distracted. It is a way to keep my fingers active so I can focus.”
And for Prakriya, Sullivan and the team, focus is key — because there’s always another question to answer from another angle.
“Just connecting things does not solve the big challenges,” Prakriya said. “There is definitely a lot of work to do. We are trying to provide the platforms to make that work easier. We have great support from our management chain. We are aligned all the way up and down with our wickedly smart compatriots in business development — shout out to [Executive Vice President of Business Development] Peggy Johnson’s team — as well as marketing, teams in the field, as well as PR. And our close relationship with our partners and customers makes the work exciting and fun.
“What Larry and I and the extended IoT Mobility team are doing is a shining example of everything about the fantastic Microsoft culture at work. It’s about solving the right problems the right way, in an aligned manner, so that the best people who understand the problem from different dimensions can come together and achieve something really great, and help our customers achieve something that is frankly even greater.”