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Omni Channel Retailing—Connecting Anytime, Anywhere, Even at 30,000 Feet

At the National Retail Federation conference and expo this past week in New York, Cisco released its latest study on how consumers are hopping across multiple channels and how retailers can catch ‘Em and keep ‘Em. On my way from San Francisco to New York this week, I was shopping at the airport and did an e-book purchase and downloaded it to my tablet using the onboard wireless Internet service at 30,000 feet.

Think about the impact of this new consumer reality to retailers such as Sport Chalet, who needs to build a strong foundation to support customers anytime anywhere.

Sport Chalet CEO, Craig Levra, and CIO, Ted Jackson, discuss how they are satisfying shoppers and improving operations with Cisco technology.

Some of the capabilities that retailers need to provide going forward in the omnichannel world include:

Read More »

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Edison’s Predictions for 2011 – yes, there are still a few days left before 2012!

December 30, 2011 at 12:51 am PST

This is the time of year that some of us bloggers decide to pontificate about the New Year that’s to come and what it will hold. Well more of that from me and my colleagues in a few days time.

Edison - courtesy Library of Congress

With just a few days left in 2011, I see that the incandescent light bulb is on its last legs, according to legislation that passed through Congress in 2007, and is being enacted by the Federal government soon. California has already started it’s ban on the old light bulbs ahead of time – no more three-way light bulbs! What are we going to do now?! Poor Edison – one of his key inventions put out to grass as it were!

There are some things difficult to predict – Samoans will go to sleep tonight on Thursday and tomorrow wake up on Saturday, so that they can be more in line with their trading partners in the west, like Australia. That’s a way of localizing your supply chain. Who would have predicted that?

Manufacturing Gurus at work...

Caffeinated beer is on its way out too. Never tried the stuff myself, but I don’t think it will stop folks drinking energy drinks and vodka cocktails. I remember enjoying a couple of those at the Minus5 bar at CiscoLive 2011 in Vegas this year with some colleagues. It was a way for the sponsor to get us to take notice of what they did and work with them in the networking industry. Funny, but after a couple of those special drinks none of us could remember what on earth it was they were trying to sell us! Note to self: don’t use that method in our marketing campaigns!

So, back to Edison’s predictions. Oh yes, he made some in 1911 and predicted what the world would be like in 2011, so let’s see how well he did 100 years on. I predict that Edison’s predictions will be mostly 50/50 by the year end. Here’s why.  He said: Read More »

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Healthcare BYOD users, beware of the uninvited guest!

There are some interesting security developments on the BYOD front that may present serious HIPAA challenges for healthcare delivery organizations.  If you’re not following the story I’ll give you the quick summary.   Security consultant Trevor Eckhart discovered monitoring software from Carrier IQ on his Android based smart phone.  The software which he could not disable was placed there by the cellular carrier in an effort to monitor and enhance the end user experience.  His testing reviled that the software was able to log keystrokes, URL’s, GPS location and SMS text messages amongst other items.  All of the juicy information that is collected encrypted and uploaded to the carrier or manufacturer for “analysis” – NICE!

 The seriousness of the issue sparked a federal probe with Senator Al Franken sending a request to the software vendor, manufacturers and cellular carriers asking for specific details of the monitoring software capabilities and how the information collected is being used.   Many of the responses received to date raised many more questions than they answered. 

By the time you read this, the holiday season will be behind us.   The second longest post-holiday line over the dreaded Toys-R-Us return line is likely to be in front of the IS Support desk come “Monday Morning”.  All the Cindy Lou Who’s will be in line asking that their smart device be given access.      

It will be interesting to see the statistics, but I suspect that in comparison to previous years, it’s highly likely that many more BYOD smartphones and tablets will enter the healthcare environment.  One of the top care about for CIO’s is to provide rapid provisioning within their organization.  This is great, but I often wonder if responding to the demand could result in cutting the proverbial corner without knowing it!

Given the need to deploy a wide variety of BYOD devices quickly and securely, the healthcare Chief Security Officer (CSO) certainly has their job cut out for them these days.  The shire volume of consumer devices entering the enterprise environment raises some serious questions as to their readiness, especially in regard to security and privacy – add ePHI and the responsibilities of covered entities and you have some significant reason for concern.  Perhaps before a healthcare system adopts a BYOD policy, one should consider the ramifications of allowing the wide range of consumer devices (and contracted carriers) to access protected resources.  I’d suggest that it’s certainly time to consider the use of an enterprise ready device – one such as the Cisco Cius where you can control key aspects related to maintaining security and enhancing the user experience.

Cisco Cius with AppHQ is an Enterprise Ready Tablet

First, with the monitoring software described, don’t assume that your security policy by itself is sufficient.  Remember this software, as with others to likely follow, are key loggers.  Such applications by definition capture each and every keystroke and button press regardless of the application or transport/network encryption being used.  Many CSO’s may incorrectly conclude data loss is impossible given the use of VPN technology.   Likewise some will conclude that their adoption of VDI assures that the data stays local to the healthcare system and not to the device.  While partially true, we are effectively talking about keystrokes being logged.  Clearly a physician WILL over time enter data that is classified as ePHI – all nicely collected and uploaded unknowingly to a 3rd party.  Even SMS text messages sent or received by such a device is within scope!

My advice is to stay abreast of this developing story, and in the meantime, take the time necessary to fully understand the ramifications of allowing various devices (and carriers under contract) to access your protected resources.  It’s no longer about robust authentication mechanisms, secure encryption and remote wipes – It’s now much more than that!  Also remember that a device that is classified as “safe” today might not be in compliance after an OS upgrade or application install in the future.  Taking accountability for the device and the applications being loaded onto it by either the user or carrier is YOUR business.  Having a system in place that facilitates YOU being able to control the OS and the applications that are being installed on BYOD devices is a critical objective. 

So make sure that the next time you’re planning a BYOD party that you recognize all the guests being invited – otherwise some valuables in the form of ePHI may be slipping out the back door!

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Disability and Technical Expertise from Cisco interns

December 2, 2011 at 7:51 am PST

“When I first got here, the [intern] orientation was talking about all business stuff…supply chain..and I’m a computer science major, and I was thinking, uh-oh, I’m in the wrong place.” Kelley Duran said as we settled down to talk about her internship here at Cisco.  Her classmate Samuel Sandoval had the same reaction: Honestly, I thought I was in [the] wrong group since I’m in IT [information technology]”

Internships are a great way for students to make the connection between their studies and the business world.  Combining education with practical application through internships means an easier transition into the workforce after college.  Even better is when education and personal expertise are both channeled into the right internship.

Kelley and Samuel are studying Computer Science and Information Technology respectively at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I sat down with Kelley, Samuel and their Cisco mentor Shraddha Chaplot to get their thoughts on how to create a successful internship program for college students with hearing disabilities.


Samuel Sandoval, Shraddha Chaplot and Kelley Duran spell Cisco in American Sign Language at Cisco Headquarters

Internship Projects

Samuel and Kelley interned for 11 weeks in Cisco’s Software Engineering Accessibility team.  The Cisco Accessibility team is focused on ensuring Cisco products are accessible and usable by people with disabilities, whether by design or through compatible use with assistive technology.

Samuel worked as a lead developer for real time text chat on the Read More »

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VA Rolls Out Tablets, Enables Telepresence On-the-Go

November 30, 2011 at 9:13 am PST

To ensure its facilities stay on the cutting edge of healthcare and technology, the federal government plans to purchase 100,000 tablet computing devices for its Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, according to Nextgov.

It’s a move that makes a lot of sense, as Fierce Mobile Healthcare notes in a recent story. Tablets represent the most current technology available, and their presence in a hospital lures medical students to fight for positions, as they perceive the technology as top-of-the-line, according to the article. The devices save hospitals money by preserving funds that would otherwise go towards more expensive PCs or laptops, and they save physicians time by streamlining documentation and administrative procedures, the article said.

There’s one more crucial thing a tablet brings with it to the hospital: telepresence. With telepresence at their fingertips, doctors can remotely follow-up on their patients, yet still see their patients “in person.” They can provide care to chronically ill patients living far from the hospital, review x-rays clearly and precisely, and access continuing education resources.

We’ve had the fortune of seeing the tablet in action at a healthcare facility. Palomar Pomerado Health in Southern California uses Cisco’s Cius tablet to enable physicians to access full patient histories anytime, anywhere. This access speeds the reporting of test results and the delivery of prescriptions and medications. Doctors also use the Cius to support Cisco TelePresence.

While there are security and other mobile device management issues to consider, both Apple- and Android- based applications are beginning to take these barriers into account and fine-tune security on their devices, according to Nextgov. The Cius, for example, built from the ground up with security in mind, has security functions in place at all levels, from the hardware to the network access and from enterprise access to mobile security.

With anytime access to telepresence, patient records, administrative tools, and more, the VA stands to greatly enhance its patient care as it evolves its technology to the tablet. Knowing confidential information remains secure with tablet technology, could your agency or office benefit from having telepresence and expanded network access on the go?

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