Business Alerts by Chrissie Cluney

  • Okta Acqui-Hires Stormpath for expansion of identity management in Apps and APIs

Okta, the $1.2 billion identity management startup for enterprises, has made an acquisition to expand one of its newer lines of business: managing IDs across APIs and apps. The company announced that it has picked up Stormpath, founded in 2011, to provide a way for developers to implement authentication, authorization and user management into web and mobile apps by way of an API and a few lines of code.

“Our vision for the Okta Identity Cloud is to become the authentication layer for every app, service, device and person, giving developers a better and more secure way to manage user access to whatever they are building,” said Ted McKinnon, CEO, Okta. “The Stormpath team brings great technical talent and a deep understanding of developer needs, both of which are necessary to provide a world-class developer experience.”

This is not a full acquisition and the question of who would retain ownership of the technology wasn’t answered. However, the acqui-hire portion covers 35 of Stormpath’s employees, including co-founders Alex Salazar and Les Hazlewood. The acquisition came relatively quickly after Okta launched a similar, competing product of its own back in August 2016.

Bringing in Stormpath’s team and technology to Okta has two benefits. First, there is a demand for the service and to develop it further. Okta would like to capitalize on that in its bid to compete more comprehensively against others like Microsoft and Ping Identity. Second, Okta is looking to do this quickly, rather than continue to build out a competing product organically.

“We’ve built almost the same stack, which is validating for both companies, but would be duplicative of us to integrate,” said Frederic Kerrest, COO, Okta. “Instead, the teams will move fast to reach feature parity between the two, and then innovate beyond that.”

At the same time that Okta launched its own API product, the company also announced a significant partnership with Google to be its preferred secure identity management layer for Google Apps for enterprises. This would mean that companies already using Okta could add Google Apps to their log-in list which would expand its scope and potentially bring more business to Okta by introducing new customers who use Google Apps.

This acqui-hire between Okta and Stormpath could revolutionize the way consumers manage their companies’ APIs and IDs.

  • Connected Home Solutions are Still a Thing of the Future to Some

The concept of connected home solutions is still up and coming. This idea consists of a set of devices and services that are connected to each other and to the Internet. The solution can automatically respond to preset rules, be remotely accessed and managed by mobile apps or a browser. They also send alerts or messages to the users’.

According to Gartner, the adoption of connected home solutions is still at an early adopter phase. Only 10 percent of households in the US, Britain and Australia utilize such home solutions.

“Although households in the developed world are beginning to embrace connected home solutions, providers must push beyond early adopter use,” said Amanda Sabia, Principal Research Analyst, Gartner.

The survey conducted by Gartner, included 10,000 online respondents in the US, Britain and Australia. Home security alarm systems have nearly double the adoption rates, 18 percent, of newer connected home solutions such as home monitoring at 11 percent, home automation or energy management, nine percent, and health and wellness management at 11 percent.

In the US, where the home monitoring industry is more developed, 59 percent of households with a home monitoring solution indicate they do pay a monthly fee. This proves that consumers see value for these solutions. In Britain, few home automation services are subscription based and 58 percent of households with home automation get their services free of charge.

The concept of connected home solutions will catch on as more and more. When consumers discover that there is so much more that their home requires to order to protect and make life easier they’ll be more open to the idea.

  • New Changes to Netflix in India are Coming

Netflix will be having some updates and they will apply to India. The company will now be partnering with Airtel and Videocon. Also Netflix will come pre-loaded on their Direct-to-Home (d2h) set top boxes.

The movie and television show streamer has announced a partnership with Vodafone to enable carrier billing to let pre-paid and post-paid Vodafone users to pay for their Netflix subscriptions via their phone bills.

“India is one of the most important and vibrant countries in the world and we are delighted to be teaming up with three of its leading companies to make it much easier for consumers to enjoy Netflix,” said Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix.

How does Airtel feel about this change? “Airtel has been a pioneer in bringing the best of global content and products to its customers. We are delighted to partner Netflix to bring their popular content to our customer on one of our key digital platforms,” said Gopal Vittal, managing director and CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel.

With these partnerships, Netflix’s critically acclaimed programs will be easily accessible to consumers across direct-to-home and mobile platforms throughout the country. “We are delighted to have Netflix as a partner on our HD Smart Connect STB. This partnership strengthens our DNA of innovation by providing an instant TV screen experience for Netflix users in a seamless manner,” said Saurabh Dhoot, executive chairman, Videocon d2h.

Netflix launched its service globally in January 2016, including India. “In 2017, we’ll be working on making our Indian service better in every dimension,” said Hastings.

  • A Self-Correcting Robot…What will They Think of Next?

The developers of MIT’s CSAIL department and Rethink Robotics have been busy with creating a robot, which self-corrects its mistakes. The robot hesitates briefly. Then accidentally making the wrong choice, only to self-correct and make the correct choice.

How is this possible? The correction comes courtesy of an observer in an EEG cap, who simply notices that something is off.

“When you put an EEG cap on a user, it measures signals using 48 sensors,” said Daniela Rus, director, CSAIL. “Most of the signals are very difficult to interpret. It’s very noisy. But one signal is much more easy to detect than the others.”

The signal is known as “error potential,” which is a strong reaction emitted in the brain, when an individual notices something is wrong. It’s strong. It’s sudden. It’s relatively easy for the machinery to detect and distinguish among the cacophony of brain waves, making it an ideal candidate for CSAIL’s system.

“Error potential is a very natural reaction,” said Rus. “This is quite a different paradigm to what we use today, which is asking the human to program the robot in the robot’s language. We’re trying to get the robots to adapt to the human language rather than getting the human to adapt to the robot’s language.“

Is it important to have two-way communication? “We want to have two-way communication,” said Stephanie Gil, research scientist, CSAIL. “Being able to read the EG signals of the human and using that as a control signal to the robot will have an effect on the robot’s choice. Whether or not the robot makes the right choice will have an effect on the human’s reactions. That’s a natural two-way communication or a conversation between humans or robots.”

What does the team at MIT hope to accomplish? The team is looking into additional potential applications. This would include interactions for those who can’t communicate verbally, as well as other technologies designed to operate autonomously, but still requiring some level of human interaction to help avoid potential hazards.

“You can imagine this being used in a place where a human is in a supervisory role, watching robots work and detecting where they make mistakes,” said Joseph DelPreto, PhD candidate, CSAIL. “or maybe in a self-driving car where the car can do most of the work, but the human can still be in control and let it know when it’s doing something wrong. “