Rich Crocco

Demystifying Cloud Computing

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I recently attended a talk on cloud computing by Dana Edberg of the University of Nevada, Reno. Although the talk was geared towards accountants, as the audience were mostly CPAs, I am interested in the general concepts of cloud computing effectively presented by Edberg.

First thing is to demystify the concept of cloud computing. The buzzword ‘Cloud’ has led to inaccurate characterizations of just what cloud computing is. Basically, the cloud represents servers accessible through the internet. This means you don’t need servers and other IT infrastructure to create, develop or operate computer applications. All you need is an internet connection. Currently there are three major forms of cloud services available (there are more on the way):  IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. I will explain each one in a little more detail.


IaaS stands for Infrastructure-as-a-Service.  By the way, each one of these acronyms represents which part of the overall computing power has been out-sourced to the cloud, or provider. In this case it is infrastructure only. This is the most basic form of cloud computing and is for the most part reserved for larger companies requiring large amounts of storage and computing power. With IaaS basically all hardware is out-sourced but none of the software. If you develop all your own software and/or have large storage needs requiring large climate controlled rooms and buildings to house servers and other infrastructure, then IaaS may be a good option. Read more…

The Future of Healthcare: Big Data & IoT

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Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to redefine many industries including retail, automotive and healthcare among others. Healthcare is the sector I want to focus on here. How will IoT affect doctors, healthcare administrators & patients in the coming years? Do we like these changes?


Big Data

The healthcare industry has always been a form of Big Data center. Look behind the counter at your doctor or dentist’s office and you will see thousands of files invariably organized alphabetically and taking up rows of valuable space. What these industries lacked was sufficient technology to organize and use that data effectively. For instance, if you changed doctors your information had to be manually transferred to your new doctor. All that is changing with the use of Big Data techniques and IoT.

Companies such as IBM are working on “a solution that connects every single data source and analyzes structured, unstructured and real-time data.” Solutions like these are meant to pull together information from multiple sources including data from sensors (Fitbit, Apples Watch, etc.), public health records, insurance claims, family health history, etc. If all this information is pulled together and effectively analyzed, the patient would ultimately benefit. Imagine a healthcare database which included all possible relevant data to help with the diagnosis and care of a patient. The patient’s access to expertise just went from the local doctor’s office to worldwide. Read more…

You May Be Closer to ‘Driving’ an Autonomous Car Than You Think

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Self-driving vehicles have evolved from seeming like a futuristic movie into a legitimate reality in just the past year. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is “gunning to put autonomous cars on the road by 2023.” Delphi Automotive recently completed a cross-country trip in an autonomous vehicle in nine days. Let’s get a little perspective on what we mean by self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles and what it means to us.

There is a good article in Newsweek Tech & Science named “How will the Transition to Self-Driving Cars Work?” which explains three stages of technology related to autonomous vehicles.

     Stage 1 – Limited autonomy that doesn’t depend on data sharing.
     Stage 2 – Semi-autonomy that utilizes shared data.
     Stage 3 – Full autonomy with shared data, advanced sensors and (perhaps) high-resolution mapping.

Stage 1 is basically improved bells and whistles in normal vehicles to assist drivers. Features include lane keeping assistance, cruise control radar, etc. We are used to seeing upgrades in all the technology we use so this is not too surprising. Some of these features are already on the market and we can expect to see more of them in the next few years. Read more…

Cybersecurity Follows Net Neutrality on National Agenda

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A month after Net Neutrality regulations were approved by the FCC, President Obama took aim at another major internet issue, cybersecurity. Cybersecurity, or the lack thereof, has been receiving plenty of attention lately, from credit card hacking at Target and Home Depot, to theft of medical information at Anthem, to the Sony hack which was powerful enough to alter the release of a Hollywood movie. The internet is showing its growing pains as we all figure out a way to handle a technology the connects half the people on the planet.

Obama issued an executive order declaring a national emergency due to the threat posed by cyber attacks. The order gives the US Treasury the power to sanction “foreign actors who threaten critical infrastructure, seek to steal financial data or trade secrets, or launch distributed denial-of-service attacks.”  Denial-of-service attacks are characterized by nefarious agent(s) directing large amounts of web traffic towards a specific site or server with the intention of overloading and therefore disrupting service to that site or server. GitHub, an open-source code repository, was recently the victim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and was one of the preceding events leading up to the executive order. Read more…

Jaron Lanier: Helping Us Remember to Question What We Know About Tech

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I recently made a conscious decision to integrate myself into the tech world. This meant going back to school for a second Master’s degree (MBA in IS), becoming a participant in social media platforms, and reading and writing about new tech products and fields. I found it quite easy to accept the winners in Tech (companies like Google, Facebook, etc.) and adjust my thinking accordingly. However, whenever I start drinking the cool-aid too much I invariably come across an author named Jargon Lanier. First on the Charlie Rose show, then his book “Who Owns the Future” (which I purchased after seeing the Charlie Rose interview), other articles and most recently an article named “The Myth of AI: A Conversation With Jaron Lanier.”

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, author and musician whose career dates back to Atari and who is considered to be one of the pioneers of virtual reality, in other words he is a big player in the tech world. What Lanier represents to me is a Philosopher of Technology. My Bachelor’s degree is in Philosophy so I am no stranger to philosophical arguments and ideas. There is little I enjoy more than listening to a good philosophical lecture. Lanier does it in the tech world. What he is able to do is take ideas we take for granted and turn them on their head. It is interesting to note some of these ideas have only been mainstream for approximately ten years. Amazing how quickly we do drink the cool-aid. Read more…

Apple Pay Has Company: Samsung Pay, Android Pay

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With the recent flurry of media surrounding Apple Pay, I decided to look farther into the product, see the details behind how it worked, how it might change customer behavior, etc. It didn’t take long to figure out that Apple Pay is not alone. Not only has Google Wallet existed since 2011, two more products are on the way: Samsung Pay & Android Pay. Let’s take a look at all these products to see how they compare.

Apple Pay
Some say this product will revolutionize the way we pay for products and services. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc. said 2015 is “the year of Apple Pay.” Apple Pay takes the upcoming Credit Card transition from Mag strips to chips (set for October 1st, 2015 in the U.S.) a step further by getting rid of the physical card altogether.

With Apple Pay your credit card information is securely stored in the iPhone Passport App and your iPhone effectively becomes your wallet.

To start making purchases with Apple Pay you do the following:

1) Input your credit card and/or debit card data into the Passport App on your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus (this data is encrypted and device specific).
2) Set up the Touch ID function on your iPhone. This feature allows you to sign-in to your iPhone and execute other functions such as Apple Pay with your fingerprint as authentication.
3) Simply hold the iPhone near an Apple Pay compatible reader, or contactless reader, when settling a payment. The iPhone will communicate with the contactless reader through ‘near field communication’ technology and will send an encrypted one-time use only code that represents your credit card information. The Touch ID will be used as authentication. Read more…

The Internet of Things is Coming, Like it or Not

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The Internet of Things (IoT) craze has grown to the point where the government is getting involved. Recently the U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling for a National Strategy on the subject. It was only months ago that I was hearing the term Internet of Things, but didn’t have a clue what it meant (not to mention the funny little acronym IoT. Now I’m seeing tech events popping up around the country utterly dedicated to the subject. Maybe I’m just late to the game here but it seems like IoT is gaining a lot of momentum.

So what to make of this craze? Some experts are saying it will be the next major shift in how the internet affects our daily lives. Some experts also say IoT is the largest reason the internet will be shifting from the traditional IPv4 protocol to the more robust IPv6. With IPv6 the number of IP addresses the internet can handle multiplies exponentially. The exact number is 3.4 X 10^38 if that means anything to you (not much to me!), the point is we won’t be running out of addresses anytime soon after the transition. The World Economic Forum projects by the year 2020 there will be 5 billion people on the internet along with 50 billion ‘things.’ Right now there are approximately 3 billion people connected along with 14 billion ‘things.’ The ‘things’ part of that statistic represents a 250% increase in five years. Read more…

SXSW 2015 In Full Swing! Startup Winners Announced

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SXSW (South by Southwest) kicked off its 10 day run on Friday March 13th in Austin, Texas. Every year Austin becomes the center of the country as it showcases a series of festivals and conferences focusing on music, film and technology. The film & tech (official name is Interactive) portions started on day one, with the music portion getting its start on the 17th. This ‘festival on steroids’ has been steadily growing since its inception in 1987.  I am particularly interested in the Interactive portion of the conference.

What’s Going On With Interactive (Tech)
The Interactive portion of the event features conferences and sessions with themes such as:

  • Art, Science & Inspiration
  • Branding & Marketing
  • Design & Development
  • Fashion & Wearable Tech
  • Food & Experimental Dining
  • Gaming
  • The Intelligent Future

Within these major themes there are sessions as diverse as:

  • 3D Printing
  • Bitcoin
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Drones
  • Humanizing Digital Content
  • Women in Business
  • The Future of Buying Groceries

There is literally something for everyone and anyone who is the least bit interested in the future of technology and social media.  The products proposed and the discussions that take place show us and inform us as to what we can expect to see in the near future. Read more…

Will Net Neutrality Deliver as it Promises?

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality has been getting a lot of attention since the FCC approved FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed Net Neutrality rules on February 26th.  If you’re watching the coverage of this issue as I am, you are seeing some pretty passionate arguments on both sides.  It basically comes down to who you trust; advocates against government intrusion or the government itself.  I will attempt to clear the muddy waters a bit on both sides.

Net Neutrality is supposed to be a set of rules that protect all users of the internet from being discriminated against by internet service providers or ISPs (think Verizon, AT&T, Comcast as opposed to content providers like Netflix).  This means everyone is entitled to a ‘free and open’ internet.  For instance, as an end user of the internet, your experience should not be diminished because the website you’re visiting is not paying a premium to the ISP. The most meaningful types of discrimination at the center of the debate are:

1) Blocking – interfering with or blocking certain internet traffic.

2) Throttling – deliberate slowing of an internet service to a customer.

3) Paid Prioritization – creation of so called more expensive ‘fast lanes’ on the internet which would cater to companies that can afford the added cost, arguably favoring more established companies at the expense of smaller, less established companies or content providers, i.e. small internet retailers, blogs, etc.   Read more…

Where is 3D Printing Headed in 2015 and Beyond?

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Although 3D Printing was invented in the 1980’s it seems it really started to show some of its potential and become part of the wider tech conversation in the last couple of years. How much have they changed our lives so far? How will they impact our lives in the near future?

3D printing, just to give a little background, is a form of printing where a 3D physical product is created from a 3D digital image (usually a CAD drawing). There are several types of 3D printing styles such as SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and SLA (Stereolithography) however the basic protocol of all these technologies is that a 3D digital image is ‘sliced’ into hundreds of thousands of tiny layers (approximately 0.1 millimeter thick) and then this information is fed into a 3D printer and reconstructed layer by layer. Depending on the protocol used, the layers might be formed by fusing small particles together layer by layer or by using a ultraviolet laser light to trace and cure each layer (please refer to for a more thorough explanation of these methods). Read more…