Jul 15

Member Spotlight: Yeny Malaver, 1st VP, Suntrust Bank – A Story of Perseverance and Courage

yeny2Turning $300 into the American Dream. 


As a college student studying finance in Colombia, Yeny Malaver, now 37, faced a grim reality: Even once she completed her degree, a career might always be out of reach. “I didn’t have any connections, and in Colombia it’s all about connections,” she says. So in 2001 (and with only $300 in savings), Yeny decided to move to the United States, with plans to finish her degree and gain a foothold in the finance world.

“I had a place to stay, and I had $300, and that was it,” she says. Getting a job to pay the bills was difficult, but holding onto one was even harder, due to the language barrier, sparse connections and limited knowledge as to how things worked in the U.S. Yeny was fired from four different jobs, including one restaurant where she couldn’t memorize the wine list. At another, she was let go after struggling to learn the nuances of English. “I remember the owner yelling at me ‘take the porridge!’ and getting so frustrated, but I’d never heard the word porridge before,” she says.

Making every cent count

To make ends meet with her erratic income, Yeny stretched every cent as far as she possibly could. She commuted six hours a day by foot, train and bus from her home in Maryland to her job in Virginia. She saved the free meals she’d get from work and stretched the leftovers into the next day’s lunch. “Any time they asked if I wanted to stay late, I’d say yes, even if it meant getting home after midnight and walking home in the dark,” she says. “I needed every dollar.”

After four months, she relocated to Miami and found a small apartment with her family. By then, she also had the language skills and confidence to command a steady job at a local restaurant. Yeny bought a small notebook and every night would carefully write down everything she’d earned in tips and everything she spent. “I wanted to go to school so bad, and that goal helped me budget,” she says.

She learned that tuition as an international student at the local college would cost her $1,000 per class—and she had two years of coursework ahead of her to finish her degree. Yeny made just $1,400 a month at the restaurant, yet she managed to put aside $900 each month for tuition. When she had finally saved up enough to enroll and begin classes, she was beaming with excitement.

Achieving the job of her dreams

Yeny balanced her college course load with various side gigs for nearly two years, including a restaurant cashier, but she eventually moved into banking and took a job as a teller. In 2004, she graduated with a B.A. in finance and began climbing the career ladder. Her first post-college job was as a financial analyst. Today, she is a successful product manager, but continues to carefully track her spending. Part of that motivation stems from watching those close to her give into temptation.

“Other immigrant friends, just like me, were not organized,” she says. “They spent lots of money on little things—nice shoes, dinners out—and all these years later they’re in so much debt,” she says. Some spent the entirety of each paycheck on sizable car loans and designer clothes. “Friends used to tell me I was so cheap, that I should let myself splurge more and not budget so much. But I wanted to follow my dreams, and I knew every dollar I saved would get me closer to that,” she says.

Yeny also shares her story with others whenever she can. “The onUp Movement has given me the tools to help others, which makes me feel confident and happy. I constantly try to empower other recent immigrants because I understand their challenges. By budgeting and setting specific goals, we can achieve financial confidence in this country,” she says. “We are just as wonderful and capable as those who were born here.”

Yeny is a 2017 @techLatino Latina of Excellence Georgia.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of SunTrust, and/or any/all of the contributors to this site. This content is educational in nature and is not an advertisement for a loan or business solicitation. It does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

Jul 12

Guest Blogger Congressman Luis V.Gutierrez: “Those With Daca and TPS Should Prepare for the Worst”

After a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Meeting with Department of Human Services Secretary Kelly, it looks like millions of documented immigrants could be made deportable this year.

luisToday I was among the Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to meet with Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security.  In the closed door meeting that lasted more than an hour, Secretary Kelly was questioned about the continuation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); ICE arrests targeting the parents and family of children seeking refuge; detention and deportation of those with no criminal record and/or stays of deportation; the renewal of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for numerous countries; and the deportation of U.S. veterans.

I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation.  We showed up at airports to fight the Muslim and Refugee Ban and now DREAMers and people who have lived here legally for decades with TPS are in imminent danger.

Secretary Kelly determines the future of TPS and basically told us he is not sure if he will extend it for hundreds of thousands of people. He also said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence.  They actually want to take millions of people who are documented – with our own government – make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. 

So, I fear for anybody currently with DACA or TPS. 

This was a wake-up call that Trump, Sessions and Kelly are serious about mass deportation and are anxious to get started.  It is a call to action for people who oppose mass deportation and turning the documented into undocumented so that they can be deported.

Upon questioning, Secretary Kelly made it clear he does not understand how his agency works or how the Congress works.  He stood by his past remarks that Congress should change the law if we don’t like it, as if Democrats have not been fighting Republican obstruction for years, and asking for a vote on immigration reform, the DREAM Act and other legislation.  Sec. Kelly says it is up to Congress, but his party is the obstacle standing in the way of a modern immigration system.

Secretary Kelly said he could not help people and their American citizen children who have no criminal record and are being deported, as if he doesn’t understand that he has the power under current law to spare people through his prosecutorial discretion.  I told him straight up that he could prevent the August deportation of Francisca Lino – the wife of a U.S. citizen and mother of U.S. citizen children in Chicago – just by picking up the phone and he seemed not to know he has that power. 

He either does not understand his authority under current law or was stonewalling or doing a very convincing job of playing dumb – or maybe some combination of the three.  He is playing along with Trump’s agenda to deport millions and pretending to not understand his powers to do something about it.  ‘Just following orders’ is not a valid defense, especially when you have the power to prevent a tragedy for millions of American citizens and their families.

Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months.  Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.

Luis V. Gutierrez  is the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 4th congressional district, serving since 1993. He can be reached through his Director of Communications, Douglas G. Rivlin, at douglas.rivlin@mail.house.gov.

Jul 05

Study: Hispanic Americans Use the Internet Less Than Any Other Ethnic Group

latinos1Hispanics use the internet the least of any ethnic group, according to research from eMarketer.

The study found that 79.8 percent of Hispanics use the internet at least monthly from any device-cellphones, tablets, desktops, etc. That’s compared to 84.3 percent of whites, 83.6 percent of Asians, and 82.5 percent of blacks. The report also predicts the gap will continue to shrink, but Hispanics still won’t reach the same usage levels any time soon: By 2021, it anticipates that 82.6 percent of Hispanics and 86.2 of whites will use the internet monthly.

These numbers are pretty similar to a 2016 report from Pew, which put the rate of Latinos using the internet at 84 percent. But in that survey, black Americans were the group that use it the least, with only 81 percent usage. (The Pew survey referred to its survey participants as Latinos, while the eMarketer survey used the term Hispanics. While many Latinos are Spanish-speaking, and the populations are similar, these terms are not interchangeable.)

According to Pew, a large part of the difference in usage comes from disparities in education and English proficiency levels.

Like any other segment of the population, there is a generational divide when it comes to how Hispanics use and think about the internet. A separate survey conducted by Simmons Research showed varying feelings among Hispanics of different age groups about watching television vs. playing online. For young Hispanic age 18-34, 43.5 percent said they watch less TV on television sets because of the internet, compared with 29.2 among the 35-49 group and 16.7 with those over 50. This probably has something to do with the fact that way fewer Latinos 50 to 64 use the internet (just 67 percent) while their younger counterparts use it at a rate of 90 percent, according to another section from the Pew Research Center study released in 2016.

However, Latinos have had high rates of usage when it comes to other technologies. According to the same Pew 2016 report, Latinos are very likely to “own a smartphone, to live in a household without a landline phone where only a cellphone is available and to access the internet from a mobile device.”

While the percentage of Hispanics who use the internet has continued to rise steadily, adoption rates have risen slower for whites. Between 2009 and 2015, the rate among Latinos rose about 20 percentage points, while for whites it only rose about 8 percentage points.

This digital divide is important because differences between internet usage can very easily translate to disparities in everyday life. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which has a series about how low-income families access Federal Communications Commission programs, says, “internet service and digital technologies are critical for accessing a broad range of resources and opportunities.”

In a 2015 report titled “Aprendiendo en casa,” the center examined media as a resource for learning among Hispanic-Latino families. It found that parents believe children develop academic skills from using educational media, but they still want to know more about the media their kids can use.

The report profiled a young girl named Alicia, a 9-year-old of Ecuadorian descent whose name has been changed for privacy reason, who watches YouTube videos both to help her with her math homework and as a resource to teach her how to make dresses and accessories for her dolls. Her mother plays an active role in both these activities. The lesson here? An increase in technological resources can also help bridge the gap between generations.

By Angelica Cabral

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Jun 06

Product Update from @WWDC17: Apple Announces Smart Home Audio Speaker HomePod

homepod_appleApple is taking on Amazon Echo and Google Home: The company announced a new voice-controlled speaker during its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., on Monday. Dubbed HomePod, the new speaker features voice control and spatial awareness to adapt the sound to different rooms.

“It will reinvent home audio,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

However, the company kept mum on many details, instead giving attending journalists and developers a much broader pitch, which goes a bit like this: There have been Wi-Fi-connected speakers like Sonos for some time, but those devices are still pretty cumbersome. And then there’s a new generation of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, but those don’t really sound good.

HomePod wants to be the best of both worlds, without being that much more expensive than some of its key competitors: The Apple-made speaker will cost consumers $349, and ship in December in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Apple said it would make the device available in additional markets next year.



Apple did share a few technical details about the speaker hardware. HomePod uses seven beam-forming tweeters as well as an upward-facing woofer for audio playback, and an array of six microphones for voice control. HomePod uses the company’s A8 chip, which Apple also used to use for its mobile devices, and a multicolor LED light on top of the device will signal whenever Siri is listening.

Apple was a bit more coy about the features that will set HomePod apart from its competition. Apple SVP Phil Schiller highlighted a number of Siri-powered voice features that sound familiar to anyone who owns an Amazon Echo or a Google Home: Consumers will be able to ask HomePod to play their favorite music, podcasts, and radio streams.

apple ceo

They will be able to check sports scores, set alarms, timers and reminders, and control compatible smart devices — all features that were previously debuted by Amazon and Google. They will be able to pair two HomePod speakers for a stereo setup, and the sound will be optimized based on the acoustic quality of a room — two features that Sonos is known for. There’s also no word yet on support for third-party services, or ways for developers to adapt their services for HomePod.

Bloomberg reported last week that the company had begun to manufacture the device.

This isn’t Apple’s first attempt to enter the home audio market. The company announced a standalone speaker dubbed the iPod HiFI in 2006, but discontinued the device soon after. Beats Electronics was also working on a Wi-Fi-equipped speaker when it was acquired by Apple in 2014, but Apple decided to kill the project before it was publicly announced.

Jun 06

@techLatino Guest Blogger: Dr. Nicole Turner Lee, Public Policy Can Improve Older Adults’ Access to Technology.

gs_turnerlee_20161229_2According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 82 percent of older adults who owned smartphones described them as liberating, compared to 64 percent of those ages 18 to 29 who were asked the same question. Older adults also were more likely to describe their smartphones as “connectors,” allowing them to call, text and email. While older adults have historically been late adopters to new technology, an internet connection has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity for them.


Despite older adults’ enthusiasm about smartphones, only 42 percent of people ages 65 and older own one, compared with 92 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, says a 2017 Pew poll. Older adults also are less likely to have a home broadband connection (51 percent), compared to 77 percent of those ages 18 to 29. And older adults make up a sizeable number of people who have never been online, at approximately 41 percent. When comparing differences between older adults, people older than age 80 are less likely to be digitally motivated, compared to baby boomers.

Contemporary online tools like social media have enabled older adults to bridge geographic gaps with their families. Advances in telemedicine foster the increased use of health monitoring devices and improve communications with doctors. Technology allows older adults to age in place with the advent of in-home sensors and other such devices.

Without technology access, older Americans face an uphill battle to attain first-class digital citizenship. Consequently, policy makers must intervene to ensure that older Americans have secure and affordable internet access.


Today, older adults are not online due to myriad reasons. Certain medical conditions can make navigating new technology via small screens and keyboards physically challenging. Older adults generally distrust online resources, which contributes to their apprehension about getting connected. The broadband service can be cost-prohibitive, particularly for low-income and fixed income elders. And there are a number of older adults who still harbor reservations regarding the internet’s value in their daily life.

Thirteen percent of all Americans report that they do not use the internet, and older adults comprise a large portion of these non-adopters, according to 2016 Pew research. Generally, more women (15 percent) than men (12 percent) are not online. Compared to 13 percent of whites, a higher percentage of African Americans and Latinos (16 percent each) remain unconnected. Individuals who earn less than $30,000 annually (23 percent), have less than a high school diploma (34 percent) and live in rural areas (22 percent), constitute the millions of Americans who do not use the internet. When age is factored in, these disparities are exacerbated.


Differences in device ownership and online activities also exist among older adults. Research from AARP in 2016 found that adults ages 50 to 59 were more likely to own a range of computing devices, e.g., desktop, laptop, e-reader or tablet, compared to adults older than age 70, who were less likely to have any such devices.

Adults younger than age 70 engage in multiple online activities, including social media, banking or streaming online content. While adults older than age 70 with technology access have been shown to under-use these resources.

These nuanced differences among older adults matter, as life expectancies increase and technology promotes improved health outcomes and physical independence.


Public policies are critical in narrowing the digital divide for older adults and ensuring more accessible broadband access. Established in 1985, the Lifeline program addresses the affordability gap for low-income populations. This federal program originally provided a $9.25 monthly household subsidy to buffer the cost of wired telephone service, which was later updated to include wireless cellular service. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has oversight over this means-tested program, moved to qualify broadband for the subsidy.

According to Lifeline program data, more than 40 percent of older adults are eligible for the subsidy. As the current FCC attempts to change the Lifeline program, policy makers should be reminded that older adults constitute a large number of the program’s beneficiaries, requiring access to essential communications with 911 and other emergency service providers, healthcare practitioners, family and friends and other caregivers. Policies and programs addressing privacy and security also are important for this cohort. More than 60 percent of older adults, according to an ABC News story, have been the target of online scams ranging from fraudsters posing as computer tech repair personnel to software malware attacks. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and organizations like the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust, have been working to address many of these scams against older Americans and bring aggressive law enforcement action against the imposters. Since creating the new complaint category, “tech support scams,” more than 39,921 complaints were registered with the FTC, costing consumers more than $8 million dollars and affecting 76 percent of adults older than age 50.

Efforts to directly tackle these scams and provide tailored consumer education for older adults should not be undermined by the current leadership’s efforts to revamp the Consumer Financial Protection Bureauor potentially weaken consumers’ online privacy protections.

Broadband access must be viewed as one of many fundamental civil rights. As older adults are impacted by strains on the current and future healthcare system, they must be able to lean on telemedicine practices, which facilitate healthy aging-in-place programs and physical independence. Guaranteeing that all older adults have unfettered internet access will maintain the vibrancy of these alternatives and others, while ensuring that they aren’t further disadvantaged in the technology revolution.

blic policy can improve older adults’ access to technology

May 24

@techLatino Applauds Apple on Naming Denise Young Smith VP of Diversity and Inclusion

Denise youngApple has appointed Denise Young Smith as its first-ever VP of diversity and inclusion, 9 to 5 Mac first reported. TechCrunch and @techlatino has since confirmed that Smith officially started in this role yesterday.

Smith previously served as head of worldwide human resources at Apple for three years, and has been involved in diversity programs at Apple for years. In her new role, Smith will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Regarding what happens to the human resources department, sources say the department will report to Apple SVP and CFO Luca Maestri.

Apple’s last head of diversity and inclusion, Jeffrey Siminoff, only held a director role. Given where Smith’s role falls into the leadership structure, Smith will be able to have more of an impact on Apple’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Sources say this is a “significant upscaling of responsibility” in comparison to the role Siminoff held. Sources say Apple employees view this as a positive move for the company.

“@techlatino applauds Apple as they have stepped up their initiatives in Diversity and Inclusion,” said Jose Marquez, CEO of @techLatino: The National Association of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology.  “By naming Denise Young Smith, Apple not only made an excellent choice to lead this department, but has made as serious commitment to take diversity to another level in Silicon Valley.   

Worldwide, Apple is 68 percent male and 32 percent female (In 2015, Apple was 69 percent male and 31 percent female), according to its latest diversity report. In the U.S., Apple is 56 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black.

“Our inclusion and diversity efforts are critically important to Apple’s future,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “Denise’s years of experience, expertise and passion will help us make an even greater impact in this area.”

Sources say the position will mean Apple will be without a permanent VP of HR as Luca Maestri, the company’s SVP and CFO, steps in to fill the role temporarily.

In recent years Smith has been in the media to address issues of diversity at Apple and alsrelayed diversity news to employees, and she’s been involved in running the diversity programs before her official title change. Apple’s previous head of diversity and inclusion Jeffrey Siminoff held a director role from 2013 until January 2016 before leaving to Twitter. He reported to Denise who reported to Tim Cook, but now the Inclusion and Diversity team headed by Smith will report directly to Cook, making the new VP position the first to do so.

Smith has been at Apple for over 20 years and was first promoted to VP of worldwide HR back in 2014 from her previous role as head of HR for just Apple’s retail stores, a role that Steve Jobs handpicked her for during the early days of Apple’s retail efforts. She replaced Apple’s then HR head Joel Podolny who switched to focusing full-time on developing Apple University. Prior to that she served as Senior Director of Human Resources for Worldwide Operations and Corporate Employee Relations at Apple from 1997 to 2000.

Apple first started publicly reporting diversity data in its annual Diversity Report back in 2014 and released its latest report last August. Since then it has launched a number of initiatives as CEO Tim Cook continues to be outspoken on various topics publicly. Earlier this year Apple reportedly resisted a shareholder proposal to boost diversity at board and senior management level, but it’s clear the company isn’t standing still and has its own plans to increase efforts as it introduces the new position for Smith.

Apple has yet to update its Executive Profiles page where Smith is currently still listed with her old HR position.

May 23

The Untapped Hispanic Market: Hispanic-Owned Businesses

latinos 2By now, many marketers have heard of the tremendous opportunities the United States. Hispanic consumer represents in terms of numbers and purchasing power. However, in the age of hyper-segmentation and targeting, Millennials and bi-cultural Hispanics have risen to the top of marketer’s go-to Hispanic sub-segments. While most companies focus on this target, there is an untapped consumer segment that has serious growth potential, Hispanic business owners.

Many consumer marketers dismiss this segment as a B2B target. What they fail to remember, however, is that there are people behind businesses; business owners are people too, making them a unique B2C marketing opportunity.

Per a recent study by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI); Latino firms continue to be created at faster rates than the national average. While new business creation slowed through the recession overall, Latinos continued to create firms at similarly high rates as before. The 2012 Census counted 3.3 million Latino firms, making up 12% of all U.S. firms. When you factor in Hispanic firms owned by two or more Latinos and family owned and operated businesses, that translates into almost 1 in 10 U.S. Hispanics being business owners.


Coupled with another statistic from the SLEI study, Latino firms are located all over the United States, with 75% in majority non-Latino neighborhoods serving mostly non-Latino customers, the halo effect of targeting Hispanic business owners is tremendous and has implications for potentially reaching non-Hispanics.


The opportunity for marketers is clear; targeting Hispanics via a Hispanic business owner perspective is a unique way to connect with a segment that almost every brand and company wants to reach. The Hispanic mother, the Hispanic family, and Hispanic food are cultural connections that have been used often by advertisers, the Hispanic business owner is one that is not often highlighted and helps marketers cut through the traditional Hispanic tropes we see.

In the past few years, Honda and Acura have positively showcased U.S. Hispanic business owners and entrepreneurs. In 2012, an ad called “Father and Son” utilized that relationship and a Hispanic-owned architecture firm for the launch of the Honda Accord redesign. And in 2015, Acura’s RDX was supported with an ad called “Cervantes”, depicting a humble and successful young businessman who never forgot where he came from. According to Luiz Salles, head of strategy at Orci, the agency behind the creative, “We wanted to show that Latinos play an important role in the business environment in the United States. A role beyond stereotypical Hispanic-heavy occupations. They are also, increasingly, professionals, business owners, and entrepreneurs. There are more than 4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in America with revenues of over $660 billion. In fact, Hispanic entrepreneurs have been starting businesses at a pace 15 times the national average over the last decade. That’s an astonishing contribution to our economy that deserves recognition — and we’re proud that Honda and Acura have done just that, recognized them.”

The Hispanic business creation rate is unique in the United States because the five-year average growth rate in the number of Latino firms has remained at double or triple that of the national average for the past fifteen years, per the SLEI report. This trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Targeting Hispanic business owners can not only position your brand uniquely in the minds of this growing entrepreneurial pool of consumers, it can also reach the diverse customer base that Hispanic business owners cater to, making the ROI of your Hispanic advertising dollars go far beyond Hispanic consumers.

May 23

@techlatino Guest Blogger: Howard Tullman: We Have Reached Peak Apps


Spare us your “killer apps.” We don’t need any more. What we do need is an app that kills all the underutilized or just plain useless apps that are taking up space on our phones.

I’m good. No mas. In fact, I’m up to here in unused apps and mystery buttons that, at best, are befuddling because I no longer have any idea of what they do or what they’re for. It’s great to have a cool-looking button for your app– unless no one can remember or figure out what it means or does 3or 4 days later. I’m sure that when I downloaded each and every one of these mission-critical apps, there was a very solid reason and a crucial need (hah!). Today I don’t have a clue. It reminds me of the days when you’d automatically accept every LinkedIn or Facebook request to connect because– after all– who could have too many contacts or friends? Be the first on your block to download the newest app, need it or not.

I’m now pondering whether I can spare the space on my phone any longer for these rusty and remnant placeholders from the near and distant past. And it’s a little depressing each week when the App Store reminds me that I have 87 updates to download as well. So, thanks, but no thanks. Please do me and my mobile a favor and don’t bring me your newest app to add to the vast array of orphans already sitting unloved and long untouched on my phone. We have jumped the shark and reached peak apps. It’s all downhill from here.
Spare us your “killer apps.” We don’t need any more. What we do need is an app that kills all the underutilized or just plain useless apps that are taking up space on our phones.
Even if I could find your new app among the 40,000+ new entries each month, I’m basically not interested because my plate is more than full. Of course, the very fact that it’s so noisy, cluttered and expensive to try to launch a new app and get the word out to the marketplace and especially to the likely users is the second reason why it’s pretty much a waste of breath to bring me your new breakthrough productivity product or umpteenth social media solution.

If I wasn’t such a lousy housekeeper, 70% of these tired and tiresome things would be gone and no longer taking up the very precious parcels of real estate that are the screens on my phone. In fact, while some of the buttons are vaguely familiar, I’d say that I have no concept whatsoever of what 25 of these things are even supposed to do. Neither do you, dear reader. What’s happening on your phone is no different from what I’m looking at. Whatever these things were supposed to be doing to us or for us, they’re not doing squat today.

It seems that we’re all digital hoarders for no good reason. I’d say that it’s just another instance of the persistence of the path of least resistance. Honestly, it takes about two taps on an icon and a simple press on the little “x” to make these things disappear, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it. Is it because we got them for free and we love hanging on to a bargain? Are we saving this stuff for a rainy day– just in case there’s a pressing need for some conference event app that you last used in 2012? Maybe. Too bad there’s not a Task Rabbit to take care of this torture for me.

The real explanation for the problem is actually older than time. It’s mostly about custom and utility. We are completely creatures of habit, loyal or lazy (you decide) and we get set in our ways, sheer inertia takes over, and we’re reluctant to budge because what’s working now is fine (or at least good enough) for us. (See Keep it Simple, Stupid.) The numbers we’re seeing from ComScore and others don’t lie and they are frighteningly consistent. We might “touch” a dozen or two dozen apps a month; that estimate seems way too high, but, even if it’s accurate, it’s a fleeting affair at best. We stick with the stuff that works and dance with the one(s) we brought to the party.

Right now, we are spending almost half of our phone time on a single app (usually our primary social network) and we spend 90% of the time on the 5 apps that we use the most. This doesn’t leave much running room for any of the new kids on the block and when you see how quickly the Instagram knockoff of Snapchat Stories blew right by it, you can also understand that, even if we’re willing to take a quick look at something new, we’re suckers for the tried and true. There’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping. As I’ve said, the power of the ubiquitous platform (See Why Platforms is the New Plastic.) is the heart of Facebook’s continued dominance. Facebook remains the No. 1 app for anyone 25 and older. (See Facebook’s Fabulous Future.)


Bottom line: No one’s looking for new places to go. And we don’t need a newfangled app to tell us that.

May 22

A Peek into The Near Future of Healthcare


Last month, attendees at The Near Future in Washington, D.C. were treated to talks from world-renowned technology, innovation, and business experts who presented on how technologies of the future will one day change how we live, learn, work, and play. They brought on stage the latest in virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and artificial intelligence and shared how these technologies are already transforming the world around us. Speaking at the event was Dr. Wyatt Decker, Vice President of the renowned Mayo Clinic and Emergency Physician, who highlighted how next-generation technologies are changing medical care, disease management, and helping us lead healthier lives.


“There are innovations happening in cancer care, in genomics, in the ways we communicate to our healthcare provider that are making it easier and less expensive for all of us,” said Dr. Decker, in an interview with NCTA. “Imagine how important it would be, as a patient, to know ahead of time what sort of illness you might be dealing with, what the prognosis is, etc. And that’s just the beginning [with genomics].” Dr. Decker added that big data analytics and AI will also play big roles in transforming healthcare in the next several years.

During his presentation, Dr. Decker showcased examples of the type of patient care that is already taking place with advanced technology. Amputees who have difficulty using prosthetic limbs will benefit from innovations in robotics, allowing patients to feel as though their limbs were natural and better functioning. Patients undergoing surgery will also benefit from 3D printing. Dr. Decker held up a 3D replica of a police officer’s liver, whose cancer had metastasized. The 3D replica allowed the surgical team to rehearse the operation multiple times. The surgery resulted in a healthy and cancer-free patient.

A video of Dr. Decker’s presentation is available below:

3D modeling, or tractography, is also being used in neurosurgery to precisely map the human brain. Decker showed how neurosurgeons used this technique to operate on a woman’s brain while she was simultaneously playing the piano, so as to carefully avoid the parts of her brain that allow her to perform her instrument. Lastly, Dr. Decker showed off the future of smart surgical instruments, which will help doctors to avoid damaging certain areas through alerts and signals sent through the instrument as it maneuvers through a surgery.

With all of these exciting developments underway, Dr. Decker said that it’s important to have a collaborative regulatory environment in order to keep innovation moving forward: “We need some regulations as guardrails for safety of our nation’s citizens. But we also need to work with the FDA and other regulatory bodies so that we can accelerate and streamline the regulatory process, so that good ideas that are going to help people can get out there quickly.”

“There’s a lot of white noise in healthcare these days, particularly healthcare policy. Those are serious issues we need to grapple with,” Dr. Decker told the audience, in closing. “But I wouldn’t want any of us to forget the incredible exciting near future in healthcare as all of these technologies mature.”

May 10

Smart Cities: Civic Tech Innovation and The Internet of Things.

smart_city_stanfordGovernment technology practitioners from various cities and countries gathered last week to discuss the future of “smart cities” and the “Internet of Things” at the Smart Cities NYC conference that took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

One panel was moderated by Jeff Merritt, Director of Innovation for the City of New York and a go-to person for smart cities in the local administration, and included technology leaders from four cities — Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, and Amsterdam — who discussed a variety of ongoing projects and future plans. A portion of the discussion focused on the Internet of Things, which generally means a series of interconnected devices with the ability to exchange data. The panel was preceded by a keynote address by Miguel Gamiño, New York City’s Chief Technology Officer.

Merritt led the panelists in a discussion of the importance of changing processes and government operation in the digital era, and making progress in the ability to respond to challenges presented by the new world technological order, which is also constantly evolving. This includes integrating emerging technologies into everyday work, from substituting paper documents with digital to adopting the use of sensors and establishing citywide connectivity. The Internet of Things may be a piece of the puzzle.

“I do think we are at a tipping point,” said Ger Baron, Chief Technology Officer of Amsterdam, Netherlands, referring to the transformation of government, which is essential for adapting to the expanding digital world. Similar to the banking industry that has been adjusting and launching digital services, the government, Baron said, needs to redefine itself and move away from the organization designed 30 or 40 years ago. Government needs to get rid of obsolete procedures and focus on relevant ones, he said.

“This is the moment to start connecting the dots,” Baron said, referring to evaluating lessons from recent years. He added he is optimistic about ongoing initiatives around the world that indicate responsiveness to the need for change and modernization.

In Amsterdam, the government adopted a shorter policy-making cycle and more agile approach to creating and testing regulations in order to provide better solutions.

In an interview with Gotham Gazette after the panel, Baron mentioned that the city constantly sees an inflow of new initiatives, such as sharing economy platforms, for instance, but related regulations are often late, outdated, or based on irrelevant data. To resolve the issue, the government began to evaluate and revise smart city regulations every three months based on the information gathered through Google analytics, social media, citizens’ feedback, and other sources. Baron referred to it as a relatively new form of measuring an output of government efforts as opposed to the more traditional three- or four-year cycle that typically accompanies a government administration.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s flagship smart cities initiative is the “Array of Things,” a network, consisting of 500 sensor clusters, with around 20 sensors in each, that will cover the entire city by 2018. About 50 sensor nodes were installed in 2016. They gather massive amounts of data on environment, infrastructure, and activity every second of every day, said Brenna Berman, former CTO of the city and current executive director of City Digital, and will continue doing so for the next five years and beyond.

Merritt referred to the Array of Things as “one of the most publicized IoT deployments, perhaps, in the world.” It was launched in 2016 and is primarily intended as a research platform. Its two purposes, Berman said, are to prove that it’s possible to build hardware that survives diverse environmental conditions for five or more years and to collect real-time data, such as air quality or noise. The data then can be used, for example, to study connection between environment and diseases, or collect traffic information and time the traffic lights. No privacy concerns were discussed at the panel.

One use-case example for the platform is mapping the safest routes for students in the neighborhoods with high rates of asthma. Analysts discovered that even changing the door through which the students enter the school or altering the path they take to get there, can decrease the rate of absences, Berman said.

According to Berman, similar projects are currently in deployment in other cities around the world, including Denver, Seattle, Delhi, and cities in the Middle East and Africa.

“What we are trying to create is an IoT-specific urban scale research platform,” Berman said. She mentioned that the “city-sensing platform” will be at scale in 2018, but data will become available to public at the end of May, this year.

In the meantime, Chicago high school students are learning about the project by recreating a small scale version of the Array of Things in their science classes. As part of “complementary” high school science curriculum, they install the sensors around the schools, gather similar data, and analyze it in class.

In a later panel on collaboration between CIO’s of the cities, Berman spoke about her approach to privacy policy for the projects like the Array of Things. To put together policy in Chicago, she first looked at Seattle and New York to learn from the work that was done and processes these cities went through. “Sensors in general are collecting data in a public way, so privacy is a component of sensors in every city. So every city is dealing with privacy. And the privacy policy for every city is going to be different,” Berman said, explaining it with differences in priorities and local communities. [pictured below, l-r: Rob Meikle, Samir Saini, Brenna Berman, Ger Baron, Jeff Merritt]

smart cities iot panelAtlanta is testing the waters by creating a “smart corridor,” before turning the whole city into a connected network.

According to Chief Information Officer Samir Saini, the future corridor, roughly a five-mile stretch of Atlanta’s North Avenue, will be packed with a blend of IoT devices from various providers, some underground, others above ground, collecting different types of data. The city then plans to analyze it and apply to improve the corridor.

“We have about 100-plus IoT sensors that will be able to see, hear, and smell every square meter of North Avenue,” Saini said at the Smart Cities panel. The sensors will gather data related to the environment, safety, and mobility.

Saini also referred to predictive analytics as a game-changer and mentioned that the city is taking baby steps in this direction, hoping for big leaps in the future. The goal is to develop a data repository “that would serve as a backbone for an urban operating system,” he said.

In Toronto, one of the largest projects that would eventually serve as a base for the smart city initiative is revitalization of the waterfront. This includes covering 2,000 acres of the waterfront area with fiber optic network that will ensure connectivity throughout the district and encouraging developers to construct smart buildings.

In addition, Toronto recently started using drones to inspect 1,800 overflows and watercourses that don’t have easy access by foot, said Rob Meikle, Chief Information Officer of the city.

All speakers agreed on the critical role of public private partnerships (P3) to advance the development of smart cities, for instance, government partnering with startups, telecommunications providers, and universities. Public space in the digital world is different from public space in the real world, said Ger Baron, and it’s important to establish relationships with technology companies, startups, telecommunications companies and others who own the digital space and the data.

For Atlanta, for instance, this type of partnership is a critical collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology, widely known as Georgia Tech. The power of being a smart city lies in the data, Saini said, and one of the key resources for the IoT projects is data scientists, whose job it is to make sense of information and find patterns. The Atlanta-Georgia Tech partnership includes access to the university’s data scientists, whom the city government cannot attract as of now.

“It not just about a pilot or technology, but it’s really, when we talk about data, it’s about attitudes, mindsets and behaviors, and how do we foster that culture,” said Rob Meikle, speaking about establishing the civic innovation office in Toronto. Meikle’s statement refers to the importance of support of data analysis and technology projects by stakeholders within the government for the successful innovation within the cities.

Preceding the panel, Miguel Gamiño, Chief Technology Officer of New York City, shared his vision on city’s engagement in the “digital revolution” in a 20-minute keynote address. Gamiño highlighted data, connectivity and people as three key resources for smart city. He also mentioned artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and drones as concepts to watch and shared an overview of LinkNYC, the new wifi and multimedia kiosks that are replacing old payphones across the city, and connectivity as flagship smart city initiatives happening in New York.

“We are focused generally still on delivering broadband to all New Yorkers, so that is a consistent priority,” Gamiño told Gotham Gazette in an interview later that week. The administration is evaluating the means to integrate smart connected projects with each other, he said. “At the end of the day, that’s the real benefit to the public, is when these individual projects work with one another in a way that makes the public experience significantly better.”

Gamiño of New York City, Berman of Chicago, and Saini of Atlanta are also the founding members of Global Cities CIOs Council, created in Autumn 2016 to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration among chief technologists in the cities around the world. The council’s activities include sharing of lessons learned, potential collective negotiation with vendors, and other tasks.

“I do think in a year — 18 months — you will see a common deployment across two or more cities,” said Berman. “I think you will actually start to see the first cross city deployment of an IoT solution in the next year.”

by Natalia Erokhina for Gotham Gazette

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