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In the Zone

Tech Explainer: How do SSD drives work?

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by Kevin Jacoby on 10/19/2021
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Solid State Drives, or SSDs, are the oft-misunderstood creatures that dwell within our PCs and mobile devices.

Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) are easier to wrap your head around. Open one up and you can see the physical mechanisms — magnetic platter, read/write head, etc. — that make it go.

But newer storage tech is opaque. How can a skinny plastic drive with no moving parts deliver terabytes of data in mere nanoseconds?

Maybe it’s time for a primer. With SSDs finally reaching a state of ubiquity, we should get to know how they store our information — and how they can lose it, too.

A (very) brief history of SSDs

SSDs have been in use longer than the collective zeitgeist would allow. In fact, their origins date back more than 40 years. It was 1978 when IBM created the first commercially available SSD, a charge-coupled device with a storage capacity of just 45 MB. The price tag? An eye-watering $400,000.

Charge-coupled storage device, circa 1980

Charge-coupled storage device, circa 1980

It took another 14 years for the market to see a viable flash-based SSD drive. One finally appeared in 1991 courtesy of SanDisk. This drive retailed for a much more reasonable $1,000. But it could store only 20 MB of data.

Flash forward 20 years, and today even the smallest drive on Apple iPhone can store 108,000 MB more than that.

Prices have fallen just as dramatically. Back in 1991, the price/performance of Sandisk’s SSD worked out to $50K/GB. Compare that to the 2020 release of Crucial’s MX500 SSD. Its price per gig: just 10 cents.

How SSDs work

A description of the inner workings of your average SSD could fill a 200-page white paper. But you and your customers are busy people. Let’s do the executive summary instead.

The SSD’s greatest claim to fame is its complete lack of moving parts. Instead of spinning, seeking and scribing like a traditional HDD, an SSD writes data to a series of semiconductor cells.

These flash cells store electrons in a binary floating gate that reads as either charged (“0”) or not-charged (“1”). The cells are organized in a grid called a block. Each row of this block is called a page.

The data on a given device is stored throughout its various pages and blocks. When that data is called upon, it comes rushing to the fore in a matter of nanoseconds.

Yep, that’s fast. Compare that to the 10 to 15 milliseconds it takes for a conventional HDD to respond. (One millisecond is a million nanoseconds.)

One benefit of this breakneck speed is that it lets programmers add myriad must-have features to operating systems, apps and web-based services. With a lesser storage solution, these programming advances would be impossible.

SSDs offer another advantage, too. While they work similarly to RAM, an SSD employs non-volatile memory, meaning it can store data without a power source. A RAM’s data is erased each time its power is cut off.

The downsides of SSD tech

At this point, you might be wondering if there’s a chunk of Kryptonite waiting to ambush Super Man’s SSD.

Sure, there is. There’s always a catch.

Let’s start with pricing. While SSD prices have come way down over the years, they’re  still expensive compared to traditional HDDs. SSD storage currently retails for about 10 cents per gigabyte, roughly double that of HDD storage, which is more like 4 to 6 cents per GB.

Then there’s the issue of reading and writing to a crowded drive. When an SSD drive is empty, its read/write speeds are second to none. But once the drive fills up with data, its performance takes a hit.

That's because, even though an SSD can read and write data at the page level, it can only erase at the block level. To update a block, its entire contents must first shift to an available open block. Unfortunately, this process creates unwanted latency.

It’s a necessary evil we’ll just have to deal with. Page-level overwrites would require high-voltage operations that stress and degrade the storage architecture. Better to have an operational slowdown than a total drive failure.

Another issue with SSDs is their limited write capabilities. Your average 250GB SSD is able to write a total of 60 to 150 terabytes during its usable life. That’s the equivalent of writing approximately 190GB every day for a year — small potatoes for a modern data center.

But beware! If you’re going to put that many miles on your drive, you’d better have a backup. SSDs can fail without warning, especially if they go without power for too long. And SSD data recovery isn’t nearly as easy or affordable as it is with an HDD.

A faster future

As good as SSDs are, their manufacturers aren’t resting on their laurels. Right now, storage engineers are working to provide faster, smarter and more reliable drives.

As usual, Intel stands at the vanguard of solid state storage tech. The company’s Optane SSD technology uses 3D XPoint (pronounced “cross point”) Memory Media to increase speed and capacity.

Intel Optane 9 Series

Intel Optane SSD 9 Series: better performance 

In addition, new technologies including stackable cross-gridded data access arrays have helped make Optane some of the fastest — and most expensive — storage available today.

Is it worth the dough? Popping a modern SSD in your PC is an awfully good way to find out. 

 

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In the Zone

Why smart security cameras could be your new business opportunity

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by Kevin Jacoby on 10/15/2021
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Now might be the right time to start looking at your customers through the lens of smart security cameras. Or, to help them look at their own homes and offices through a security cam of their own.

It’s rough out there. Ransomware attacks are in the news, employees are pilfering copy paper and USB cables, organized criminals are shoplifting pharmacies. In the U.S., a burglary occurs every 30 seconds, according to Safewise.

That’s bad news for home and business owners. But it could be good news for tech providers.

Home renovators alone spent an average of $500 on smart home security upgrades in 2019, according to home-renovation site Houzz. That number should continue to rise as folks get back into the post-lockdown swing of things.

The market for connected security cameras appears headed for real growth. As predicted by Grand View Research, sales should top $11.9 billion by 2027, up from $3.9 billion last year, marking an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) for those years of nearly 16%.

Is there an opportunity for tech providers? You betcha. Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is coming to a smart home—or office—near you. If your customers aren’t talking about smart security systems yet, they will be soon.

Let the price wars begin

How much does a decent security cam cost? The answer is complicated. The cheapest security cams are separated from the most expensive by a yawning chasm.

At one extreme, you’ll find super-cheap options on Alibaba starting at less than $2 (that’s not a typo). At the other, you’ll find high-end professional cameras retailing for more than $1,000.

Why the crazy price disparity? It has much to do with how a camera handles, or even offers, such important features as high resolution, reliability, connectivity and night vision.

For example, most entry-level cameras offer relatively low resolutions. They also rely on a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection to a proprietary smartphone app.

These apps — some well-designed, some just terrible — show you a feed from the camera. They also can alert you when an anomaly like unauthorized movement or a pet in distress is detected.

As the price gets higher, the feature set gets richer. Also, the cameras become more complex to set up and maintain. To operate, pro-level security cams often require both a dedicated router or hub and a decently powerful PC.

Amazon flying security camera

Amazon Ring Always Home Cam: ready for takeoff

A few cameras can even launch autonomously and fly around your home or office to focus on a problem area. Such is the case with Amazon’s Ring Always Home Cam, which sells for just under $250 each — if, that is, you’re tight with Amazon. The camera, part of Amazon’s Day 1 Editions program, is available by invitation only.

A Wyze choice?

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that higher-priced smart cams represent the key to revenue growth. But history shows otherwise. A race to the lowest price band is inevitable.

If that’s the case, could the smart play actually be claiming the low ground first?

That’s the bet being placed by Wyze. The much-beloved, bargain-basement smart home brand offers its popular Cam v3 for just shy of $36.

Wyze Cam v3

Wyze’s 3rd-gen cam: high quality, low price

You might think a smart device with a price that low would be a recipe for disaster. But Wyze has been earning critical acclaim for previous versions priced at just $20. Version 3 seems to be on the same track to success, despite its relatively steep price increase.

So how do you make money on a product that cheap? The answer is twofold: sales volume and subscriptions.

Turning up the volume

Here’s how volume works. First, consider that most homes and offices have multiple rooms. Unless your customer lives and works in a small studio apartment, they’ll likely want to monitor various locations.

It stands to reason, then, that your average security cam sale could include multiple units to cover everything from bedrooms to break rooms.

It’s also possible that each camera sold could catalyze the sale of a peripheral product. For instance, Wyze offers a video doorbell, an outdoor smart plug, and even a smartwatch that can deliver real-time notifications triggered by the security system.

Each of these devices is sold separately. So while the customer’s price tag might start at $36, it could end up much, much higher.

Of course, the seller does have to turn a profit, however small, on each sale. Otherwise, volume will just multiply their losses.

The subscription prescription

The subscription model is another smart play. First, the company sells the camera as a loss-leader. Then it makes passive income from an ongoing subscription that could lead to a bounty of profit over time.

Sure, Wyze Cam customers can use the camera without a subscription. But Wyze was also smart to pack its premium package with great features. And it set a low subscription price of just $1.25/month.

The compelling list of premium features includes package, pet, and vehicle detection; unlimited video length (the free version offers only 12 seconds of time-lapse footage every 5 minutes of operation); and an upcoming facial-recognition feature.

Can tech providers share in the passive income from a subscription model like that? The answer is, maybe.

Companies like Wyze often institute channel programs to help drive subscription sales. The remuneration varies widely and can include finder’s fees, product discounts, even long-term subscription revenue sharing.

Are you ready to take advantage of the upward trend in security cam sales? Play your cards right, and your sales could soar higher than Amazon’s flying camera.

 

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In the Zone

Research Roundup: Cybersecurity Awareness Month edition

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by Peter Krass on 10/13/2021
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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Celebrate with our tech provider’s roundup of the latest cybersecurity research.

Sure, every month requires cybersecurity awareness. But the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has declared this October to be its 18th Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

CISA, a private-sector/public-sector partnership, says the month’s goal is to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, and to ensure that all Americans have the resources needed to stay safe and secure online.

With that in mind, here’s your roundup of the latest surveys and research on cybersecurity.

Changing face of cybercrime

We’re told that cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated, widespread and dangerous. But is that really true?

To find out, Microsoft investigated more than 24 trillion daily security signals across its cloud, endpoints and intelligent edge. The company also consulted with more than 8,500 security experts worldwide on topics including malware, ransomware and more.

The result of all this work is the new 2021 Microsoft Digital Defense Report. It’s over 130 pages long, so you might like some of the high points:

> Cybercrime is increasingly organized: The cybercrime supply chain (yes, there is one) is consolidating and maturing. In the past, criminals had to develop their own technology. Today, they can instead turn to cybercrime specialists for kits and services.

> Compromised credentials have become a commodity: Would-be attackers can purchase stolen credentials for as little as $1 per. These credentials have been harvested by phishing campaigns, botnet log scraping and other illegal tactics.

> Increasingly sophisticated attack services are now available for purchase. These include cryptocurrency escrow services. A nontechnical criminal can sign up with a ransomware affiliate and, in exchange for 30% of whatever ransom they collect, be supplied with ransomware, recovery services and payment services.

> The market for cybercrime services has gone global. “A buyer in Brazil,” the report explains, “can obtain phishing kits from a seller in Pakistan, domains from the United States, victim lists from Nigeria, and proxies from Romania.”

5 new ransomware trends

Like the Covid virus, ransomware can mutate into increasingly dangerous variants. In a report released today, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, an insurance and risk-consulting company, has identified 5 new ransomware trends:

> Ransomware as a Service: In this scenario, hacker groups sell or rent their attack tools to others, much the way cloud providers rent their servers and storage capacity to others. In the case of RaaS, the hackers also offer support services, lowering the cost of entry into the world of ransomware crime.

> Triple extortion: Ransomware attackers have already doubled up their attacks by combining their initial encryption of a victim’s data with threats to release personal data. Now they’re adding a third element by combining those with DDoS attacks.

> Supply chain attacks: Attackers have set their sights on supply-chain companies. Why? Because they serve hundreds or even thousands of other companies, making them more likely than others to pay a high ransom.

> Ransom dynamics: The amounts being demanded by ransomware attackers are way, way up. In the U.S., the average ransom demand is now $5.3 million, up more than 5 times from the average just a year ago.

> To pay, or not to pay? It’s a complicated question. On the one hand, paying the ransom may encourage criminals to attack again. On the other, even after paying the ransom, a company may have already suffered quite a bit of damage to both its business and reputation. And even with the encryption key, restoring systems is a long, tedious process.

Privacy in the ‘new normal’

With so many people working from home, how is privacy affected by this “new normal”?

Ponemon Institute, with support from 3M, endeavored to find out. They surveyed 564 IT and IT security managers, and 617 business managers — all based in the United States, and all working for organizations that have required employees to work remotely due to the pandemic.

Ponemon recently released the findings to the public, and here are some highlights:

> Organizations believe they’re losing control over the security of confidential data. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) say it’s easier to protect data when workers are in the office.

> Nearly two-thirds of IT and cybersec managers (64%) say they’re very concerned that prying eyes will see sensitive information on the screens of remote workers.

> Only about half of organizations (51%) protect company-issued devices with up-to-date antivirus, encryption and firewalls.

> The technologies most often used to improve an organization’s security and privacy posture are: incidence response (cited by 62% of respondents), anti-virus/anti-malware (59%), big data analytics for cybersecurity (56%), and identity management and authentication (53%).

> Nearly half the respondents (47%) say they’d like to come back to the office. But about the same percentage (49%) expect their organizations will require them to continue working remotely.

Happy Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Now talk to your customers about their cybersecurity and privacy. If they’re anything like the respondents to these surveys, chances are good their cybersec resources could be a whole lot stronger.

 

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In the Zone

How new ‘green’ PC gear can help you fight e-waste

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by Peter Krass on 10/11/2021
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The world’s growing mountain of discarded electrical and electronic equipment — better known as E-waste — is a big and growing problem. Leading PC makers are starting to do something about it.

In 2019 the world generated 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste, according to the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), an international group that monitors the issue. (A metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms, or roughly 2,205 pounds.) Of that total, GESP estimates that only17% was properly collected and recycled.

The volume is growing quickly. By 2030, GESP expects, the world will generate a total of 74.7 million metric tons of e-waste. That would mean e-waste generation had nearly doubled in just 16 years.

To be sure, not all e-waste comes from PCs. It also includes discarded air conditioners, microwave ovens, refrigerators, solar panels and lamps.

Still, in 2019, screens and monitors — a category that includes laptops, notebooks, tablets and displays — totaled 6.7 million metric tons, according to GESP. That works out to nearly 13% of the year’s total.

To help remedy the situation, some PC makers are developing products made from ecologically sound, sometimes recycled materials. Here’s a sampling:

Acer: recycled materials in a laptop

Acer last week introduced its first PC built from recycled materials. Called the Aspire Vero, it’s a notebook PC designed for the new Windows 11.

Acer says the Aspire Vero is made from 30% post-consumer resin (PCR) plastic for its chassis, reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by about 20%. The device’s keyboard caps are made from 50% PCR to reduce pollution from the production of “virgin” plastic. And the surface of the chassis has been left unpainted.

Acer Aspire Vero laptop

Acer’s new Aspire Vero laptop

In addition, Acer’s laptop comes in a protective bag that’s made from 100% recycled plastic. Its carton box is 85% recycled materials. And Acer is encouraging its suppliers to use paper sleeves instead of plastic.

Otherwise, the Aspire Vero looks like a good if standard offering. It features a 15.6-inch display. Fit it out with an 11th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and 512GB of SSD storage, and you’ll have a starting price of $900. Swap that for a less powerful Intel Core i5 processor, just 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, and the starting retail price drops to $700.

HP consumer laptop: sustainable, recycled, light

Over the summer, HP introduced a consumer laptop, the Pavilion Aero 13, made with post-consumer recycled and what’s known as ocean-bound plastics.

Ocean-bound means the plastic is recycled from bottles and other goods that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean. HP estimates that shipments of this PC will prevent 6,000 plastic bottles from entering the ocean.

HP Pavilion Aero 13 laptop

HP Pavilion Aero 13 laptop

There’s more, too. The HP Aero 13 is coated with water-based paint, reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And the device’s outer box and cushions are made from 100% sustainably sourced and recycled materials.

As the name implies, the Aero 13 has a 13.3-inch display. And it’s HP’s lightest laptop, weighing just under 1 kg (2.2 lb.). Retail prices start at about $750.

Microsoft: ocean plastic mouse

Mouse pointing devices contribute to e-waste, too. To help reduce these mouse droppings, Microsoft last month introduced its Ocean Plastic Mouse.

Microsoft worked with SABIC, a Saudi Arabia-based chemicals company, to develop a high-quality resin made from 20% recycled ocean plastic recovered or washed ashore from oceans and other waterways. The new wireless mouse is made from this resin.

U.S. shipments have just started. The mouse retails for a budget-friendly $25.

Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse

Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse & packaging

In addition, the Microsoft mouse is packaged in 100% recycled materials. Its small box is free of plastic and instead is made from wood and sugarcane fibers.

Buy this mouse, and you can also send Microsoft your old mouse to be recycled. The company is offering a free mail-in program.

Want to be part of the e-waste solution? Check out these and other green PC products.

 

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In the Zone

Learn what’s possible at Intel Innovation digital event

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by Peter Krass on 10/08/2021
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Tech providers know innovation is important. But how many actually innovate?

Now you can join this select group at Intel Innovation, a two-day digital event for developers and other industry insiders. Intel Innovation will be held on Oct. 27 and 28, and you’re invited. (And registration is free.)

Intel Innovation

Attend Intel Innovation, and you’ll be immersed in the latest technologies and trends. You’ll connect with Intel leaders and industry experts. And you’ll gain perspectives and training to help you shift to what’s possible with technology.

You’ll also hear feature presentations from 5 top Intel executives:

> Pat Gelsinger, CEO, who will deliver the opening keynote on Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 noon ET

> Sandra Rivera, executive VP and GM of datacenter and AI

> Gregory Bryant, executive VP and GM of client computing

> Greg Lavender, CTO

> Nick Mckeown, senior VP and GM of network and edge

In addition, 10 tech insight speakers from Intel will drill down into more specialized topics. These will include connectivity, IoT, edge and 5G, silicon photonics, hyperscale, client computing, parallel computing and cloud.

There will also be on-demand content and live engagements, including technical sessions and demos. The topics will cover a wide range of technologies, including intelligent network fabrics, PC gaming, distributed computing, AI, Intel vPro, high performance computing (HPC) and real-time imaging.

You know innovation is important. Now do something about it. Learn more about the Intel Innovation digital event and register to attend.

 

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In the Zone

Think robotics is out of your league? Think again

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by Peter Krass on 10/06/2021
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Think robots are limited to auto factories and therefore out of reach? Think again. Your next iced caramel mocha latte could come from a robotic barista.

Robot barista

Your coffee is ready

For sure, automakers are big users of robotics. But robots are also being used in a wide range of activities and by many industries. These include healthcare, food and beverages, logistics, the military, retail. Given current labor shortages, more are likely to emerge.

And if you’re just getting started with robotics, there’s plenty of help on tap.

Big & fast-growing

The overall robotics market is big and growing fast. Last year, sales of all robotics worldwide totaled $27.7 billion, according to Mordor Intelligence.

Looking ahead, Mordor expects global robotics sales to hit $74.1 billion by 2026. That’s a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5%.

The Covid-19 pandemic has actually increased demand for certain robots. One vendor, UBTech, now offers a disinfecting robot that uses ultraviolet light to clean surfaces and the air by deactivating the genetic material of harmful pathogens. The robot is already being used by the State of Delaware’s education department, among others.

Different strokes

Everyone’s seen pictures of the arm-shaped robots used in factories. But that’s just the tip of a big iceberg. Also available are robots for handling silicon wafers, autonomous navigation, customer service, materials handling, even personal use.

There are also autonomous mobile robots that move around and collect information with sensors and cameras. “Cobots” that share spaces with human workers. And humanoid robots that take human-like forms and perform functions such as help with directions.

Increasingly, robots are interacting directly with people. Intel Mexico and El Palacio de Hierro, an upscale retailer in Mexico City, recently unveiled a robotic store assistant. Based on Intel technology, the robot roams up and down the store aisles to answer shoppers’ questions. 

Intel robot store assistant

Intel's robotic store assistant

The Intel retail robot also has an antibacterial-coated touchscreen in the middle of its body that a shopper can use to select products. The robot can then either direct the shopper to the relevant section of the store or connect them with a human sales specialist.

Get expert help

If all that sounds exciting, you can get expert help from Intel. The company is making big investments in robotics and related technologies, and it’s eager to work with partners.

Here’s just some of what Intel offers you for robotics:

> Real-time systems: Both hardware and reference system‒level software for developing real-time applications for robotics solutions

> AI: Machine learning, inference and computer vision tech for robots

> Industrial-grade computing: Ruggedized computers that can withstand hazardous conditions and extreme temperatures

> Hardware: Including IoT processors, FPGAs and network communications tech

> Software development tools: Including the Intel Edge Software Hub, Intel’s distribution of the OpenVINO toolkit, and the Intel DevCloud

> PLCs: Both traditional and soft programmable logic controllers that are commonly used in robotics and industrial automation applications

Learn how to get into the robotics game. And remember to tip your barista!

 

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In the Zone

Get help selling Intel NUC-based systems with new Intel Co-Branded Program

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by Peter Krass on 10/05/2021
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Need help marketing Intel NUC-based products and solutions? Whether you’re including an Intel NUC Mini PC, NUC Board or NUC Element, Intel is here to help. The company is offering the new Intel NUC and Intel NUC Elements Co-Branded Program.

The program offers badge and tagline brand assets you can use in your marketing collateral and packaging. They identify your Intel NUC-based products and solutions as “built with” or “designed for.”

This can help you establish trust with customers. They trust the Intel name to mean high quality, dependability and cutting-edge tech. The Intel NUCs are no exception. They feature the latest Intel Core processors, Intel Iris Xe graphics, Intel Wi-Fi 6, Intel Optane memory and storage, and Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Simple to join and use

Joining the Co-Branding Program is simple. Just call, text or write your Intel rep to request the co-marketing license agreement.

Then, once you digitally sign it, you’ll be sent the assets and their usage guidelines. The program is open to all Intel channel partners designing products around either the Intel NUC or Intel NUC Elements.

You can then use the badges and taglines in your marketing collateral, whether that’s on your website, in email promos, or on printed assets, almost anywhere except on the product itself.

Intel NUC co-branding badges

Those are the high points. To help you get the details, Intel has developed a new course on Intel Partner University. This course, just 10 minutes long, is hosted by Bruce Patterson, marketing communications manager for the Intel NUC product line.

What you’ll learn

Take this 10-minute video course, Intel NUC and Intel NUC Elements Co-Branded Program, and you’ll learn:

> How to join the Intel NUC Co-Branded Marketing Program and authorize co-branding of your unique products designed around Intel NUC Mini PCs, Kits, Boards or Intel NUC Elements

> How to stay within the program requirements

> How to enhance your brand, increase value and build trust with purpose-built Intel NUC solutions packed with cutting-edge Intel technology

As part of the course, you can also download a PDF transcript and take a short quiz. Complete the course and pass the quiz, and you’ll have earned 5 training credits.

Intel NUC Co-Branding Program

Take the course: Intel NUC and Intel NUC Elements Co-Branded Program

Intel Partner University is among the many benefits of Intel Partner Alliance membership. Not yet a member? Learn more and register now.

 

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In the Zone

Research roundup: the new normal of hybrid work, mobility, public-safety tech, vax mandates

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by Peter Krass on 09/30/2021
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Still waiting for things to get back to normal? According to the latest tech research, that’s a mistake. The pandemic has created a new normal.

Hybrid work models are evolving. Mobile tech is a struggle. Users are clamoring for public-health tech. And nearly half of all organizations — your customers possibly included — plan to institute vaccination mandates.

That’s some of the latest in IT research. And here’s your tech provider’s roundup.

Hybrid work: Still a work in progress

Hybrid work models are still evolving amid ongoing uncertainty and efforts to achieve employee parity, says market watcher IDC.

Nearly half of all U.S. workers (44%) are now working remotely. IDC expects that percentage to drop as people return to the office. But which office? Field offices and “non-office locations” are quickly gaining favor among employees as their primary locations for work.

Another piece of the hybrid-work puzzle is what IDC calls employee parity. Basically, this means giving remote workers the same experiences as office workers. For example, ensuring remote workers can interact just as securely with corporate resources as their in-office colleagues can.

However, nearly half the organizations surveyed by IDC say their hybrid-work policies, processes and technologies are still “in progress.” In other words, they’ve made some progress, but a lot of work still remains.

Mobile tech: Poorly integrated

Companies are better at investing in mobile technology than they are at integrating it, finds a new survey from SOTI, a provider of mobile and IoT management systems. The survey, conducted this past summer, reached 1,400 IT decision-makers worldwide; all work for companies with at least 50 employees.

The good news: More than half of organizations worldwide (57%) have invested in mobile tech or mobile security in the last year. Of these, more than two-thirds (67%) say they’ve already achieved a positive ROI.

The not-so-good news: SOTI’s survey finds that more than half of respondents (56%) admit their mobile tech is either only partly integrated or not integrated at all. The same percentage also say managing their mobile devices is difficult.

Public safety: Rx for advanced tech?

The pandemic has fueled new demand for technology that can transform public health. Nearly 9 in 10 people (88%) say they’d like to see this.

That’s among the findings of a survey conducted by Motorola Solutions. Coordinated with an independent research team affiliated with the University of London, the survey reached 12,000 citizens. The survey team also interviewed 50 public-safety agencies, organizations and industry experts worldwide.

Here are some other findings from the survey:

> 71% of respondents said advanced technologies such as video cameras, data analytics and the cloud are needed to address today’s challenges.

> 70% of respondents would like emergency services to be able to predict risk.

> 75% of respondents are willing to trust organizations that hold their information — as long as they use it appropriately.

Vax mandates: Nearly half require

Will your customers will require their employees, suppliers and contractors to get a COVID-19 vaccination? Right now, the chances are roughly 50-50, according to a recent survey by Gartner.

The research firm recently surveyed 272 executives overseeing legal, compliance and HR. Nearly half the respondents (46%) said their organization now plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations where legally permissible.

That number could change. Fully 1 in 3 respondents (36%) told Gartner they’re still unsure of their organization’s plans for vax requirements. And only 17% of respondents said their organization will definitely not require vax mandates.

 

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In the Zone

Tech Explainer: How do NFTs work?

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by Kevin Jacoby on 09/28/2021
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Cryptocurrencies and NFTs (short for non-fungible tokens) are in the news nearly every day. Yet few people understand how they work, much less how to take advantage of them.

For those in the know, investing in a blockchain staple such as Bitcoin or Ethereum could be a smart financial play. Options include purchasing, accepting or even “mining” cryptocurrency. (More on mining below.)

NFTs can prove lucrative, too. Just ask Mike Winkelmann. Better known as Beeple, he’s the artist who recently sold a single NFT-based digital collage for a whopping $69 million.

Are you or your customers in need of a blockchain primer? If so, read on. And let your mind wander along a path that could lead to added security, efficiency and perhaps even untold riches.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a way to prove the truth.

The truth you intend to prove could be just about anything. You could use a distributed ledger like blockchain to verify a cryptocurrency transaction, the purchase of an NFT, or a vote for an elected official.

The “block” of a blockchain refers to a snippet of code that describes one or more individual transactions. Put together two or more of these blocks, and you’ve formed a “chain.”

With a blockchain, you can prove that a given transaction has both taken place and taken place following the rules. To maintain trust, the system must be able to prove that the coins or other commodities used in the transaction were available in the first place. It must also show that the coins cannot be used again by the same party.

However, trust can be hard-won when strangers are trading billions of dollars’ worth of ones and zeroes. That’s where blockchain’s decentralization and cryptographic security come in.

A new kind of lock & key

Blockchain’s inherent decentralization ensures that no single entity — whether the federal government or a mustache-twirling robber baron — can control or corrupt what’s being protected.

Instead, a blockchain creates a constantly evolving record of all transactions. What’s more, this record exists not in one central location, but instead on myriad privately owned computers, known as nodes, located around the world.

Each node competes tirelessly to collect, authenticate and ultimately add each new block. This competition is known as mining. Nodes that successfully win the right to add a new block to the chain get a reward, usually in the form of the currency they’re keeping track of.

Make no mistake, this can be a lucrative endeavor. But it’s also far from easy.

To maintain security, blockchains such as Bitcoin use hashing, a cryptographic technique that dates back to the 1950s. Hashing creates a long string of algorithmically determined characters from any piece of data. In the case of Bitcoin, these data are the transactions between buyers and sellers.

To help ensure each hash is genuine, a block also stores the hash of the preceding block. It’s the nodes’ job to test the authenticity of every new hash, a herculean effort that takes a metric ton of processing power and energy.

Hashing diagram

Hashing turns coherent source data into a string of random characters

Now here’s where the rubber meets the road: Changing even the smallest piece of a block’s data will change the entire hash. So if a ne’er-do-well were to alter some code in an attempt to cheat the system, the hash would no longer prove the authenticity of the block it came from.

In that event, the nodes would see the bad hash and refuse to authenticate the block. The result would be a voided transaction at best, prison time for that ne’er-do-well at worst.

Where do NFTs come in?

You can think of an NFT as a digital coin with a difference: Instead of representing a type of currency, the way Bitcoin and Ethereum do, an NFT represents the authenticity of a piece of virtual property. That could be a graphic, an audio file, or even the short tweet (“just setting up my twttr”) that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently sold for an amazing $2.9 million.

Here again, the key to a successful transaction is trust. As it happens, the creators of Ethereum have been willing to lend their trust to the burgeoning NFT market.

They did this by updating the Ethereum blockchain. Now Ethereum can track and authenticate more than just its native currency, Ether. This change to the code base gives digital content creators the ability to demonstrate their guaranteed ownership of a unique, original work. That’s important when they’re communicating with potential buyers.

Beeple's "Everydays" NFT art

Beeple’s “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” NFT fetched a cool $69M

But couldn’t you just make your own copy of their art? Sure. Today, a copy of Beeple’s “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” is as easy to come by as an image of Monet’s famous water lilies. But Beeple’s work will still have only one true owner—whoever bid that $69 million this past March at Christie’s.

Are we rich yet?

Some of us are, and some of us ain’t. If you were savvy enough to buy a few dozen Bitcoins back in 2009, when they were first introduced, then hold them for a while, you’re probably reading this on the beach while sipping an ice-cold mai tai.

The rest of us will have to keep looking for opportunities to leverage blockchain technology. These opportunities could be as banal as a trusted accounting system. Or as fantastic as a successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of your very own (see Dogecoin).

One thing is certain: We’re witnessing the dawn of a new city of gold. And this is just our first trip around the block.

 

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In the Zone

How to get refreshed marketing help for Intel Evo laptops

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 09/23/2021
Blog Category:

Need help telling your customers about the benefits of Intel Evo laptops? Well, now that help is here.

Intel Partner Marketing Studio recently refreshed assets that can help you spread the word about Intel Evo laptops.

Whenever your customers see the Intel Evo badge, they can count on premium laptops with designs that combine more performance, more connections, more freedom, more immersion, more flow, and more simplicity. As Intel says, these thin and light laptops are built for both what IT needs and users want.

Laptops. Evolved.

Check out the latest marketing collateral and assets on the new Partner Marketing Studio campaign page: Laptops. Evolved. Intel Evo laptops are engineered to go anywhere. Without giving up anything.

Download the campaign guide PDF, and you’ll find implementation guidance (including videos), creative guidance (including branding and logos), and an asset summary (including 11th gen Intel Core mobile).

Get valuable help with laptop marketing. Check out these Intel partner marketing resources:

> Intel Partner Marketing Studio

> Refreshed Intel Evo marketing campaign

> All Intel Evo marketing campaigns

> Introducing the Intel Evo Platform

 

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