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Nancy Powaga

Nancy Powaga
Nancy helps app creators build and learn with AppSheet.
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What Digital-native Businesses Want — and What You Can Learn From It

“Digital natives” is a term used for people born into a world where being online has always been part of daily life, and businesses can share a similar upbringing. While technology is a factor for most businesses, some companies were born with tech in their DNA. Often, these businesses are disruptors in their fields, employing technology to reinvent processes, products, and experiences. They may be wildly successful at redefining an industry, from online banking with instant loan approvals and payments from anywhere, to streaming media services that bring entertainment to device screens worldwide. These “born digital” organizations are typically demanding when it comes to technology. They start with the presumption that technology can be deployed to their advantage, with specific needs and value coming from data, machine learning, and more.  How digital-native businesses use technology Everyone has heard tales of technology gone awry, whether it’s laggy or buggy software, or solutions that are overkill and overpriced. There are five key ways you can ensure technology has a positive impact in transforming your company’s processes and products, making them more efficient and effective:  Harness machine learning for personalization Machine learning powers the personalized experiences people now take for granted, from movie recommendations on Netflix to the personalized ads that show while you scroll your social media feed. In business, machine learning enables tasks such as predicting trends based on historical data to identify performance improvements,  managing inventory, or scheduling deliveries. Likewise, you can use historical data to predict the type of information that’s most relevant to and timely for your customers and employees. Use data to unlock business advantages Mining data can provide valuable insights that impact your company. Whether it’s determining your most profitable customers, the products with the strongest sales or margins, or supplier and employee performance, every company can optimize their business with existing data. In fact, Forrester reports that between 60 and 73 percent of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics purposes, representing untapped potential for improving business performance. Put users at the heart of product development People on the front lines of a business often have transformative ideas because they’re the ones addressing issues as they arise each day. “Human-centered design” is the process of empowering end users to develop the ideas for tools that solve their problems, meeting their needs in a way that’s logical, effective, and easy to use. This approach also dissuades employees from adopting tools outside the company’s approved IT selections, which could cause issues for security, compatibility, compliance, reliability, and redundancy. Select frictionless experiences When choosing technologies, savvy IT personnel evaluate more than the tool’s capabilities. They also consider the ease of implementation, training needs, and the user experience. These factors can make or break the value of the tool, rendering some technologies a waste of time and money and others a vital facilitator of daily performance and information sharing.  Create safeguards Businesses with an advanced technology culture emphasize security to keep their data and processes safe. Technology should be built with safeguards in place and maintained to prevent breaches. When new technologies are being developed, they should be tested in a development environment that is separate from existing systems with access to sensitive information or essential functions.   The advantages of no-code development For each of these five ways that technology can transform business, you’ll find value in choosing no-code development. While custom-engineered machine learning development can be prohibitively expensive and time consuming, using no-code Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) removes impediments by reducing the cost, time, and skills needed to create personalized apps.  With no-code development, internal teams and individuals can lead the charge in organizing and analyzing data to draw out key insights — while access to the data remains securely inside the company, not with external developers. By allowing employees and teams to create their own apps, no-code ensures that the tools employees build are well suited to the task and easy to implement and use. At the same time, no-code frees up IT resources so they can focus on more complex work while still having centralized control of the no-code tech environment and establishing guardrails that ensure security and governance organization-wide.  Learning from digital natives You don’t have to be first to win. Businesses that weren’t born in a digital incubator can still benefit from the learnings of tech natives, gaining the benefits of their experience while avoiding the pitfalls of early adopters.  However, digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Even the most iconic tech companies and digital natives need to keep innovating. Technology adoption is a good first step, but no company can stall out there. While we reference digital natives as a guide for how to use technology at work, the following tips can be used by any organization at any stage. When looking at your own organization’s needs and approach, consider these questions: How can each of the five principles used by digital native businesses apply to your industry? Which pain points in your industry are ripe for transformation?  If you could achieve any dream for how your business operates or how it changes the lives of your customers, what would you make happen? Dream big, and then consider how data and machine learning can bring you a step closer to this reality. Which teams in your company are ready to transform themselves? What processes might they redesign? Who can lead the project? Who will champion it? Who will benefit from it? What can your IT resources accomplish with more time? How can enhanced security pay off for your IT team? No matter how near or far down the path of evolving your company you are, no-code development and the lessons of digital natives can guide you toward the future while learning from the past.

Using Dashboards to Make Smarter Business Decisions

The best business decisions come from having all the information you need at your fingertips. If you’re missing even one data point, you can make million-dollar mistakes or put your employees in harm’s way. That’s where dashboards come in. Organizations have been using dashboards in one form or another to bring buried business insights to light and provide an overview of key data since the era of Pong and Apple: the 1970’s. But it took several decades for technology to catch up to business leaders’ appetite for real-time analytics and the type of data processing that could truly transform their business. It wasn’t until advances like data warehousing and online analytical processing of the 1990’s that businesses were finally able to use current data to make timely decisions. This breakthrough coincided with the advent of key performance indicators (KPIs) in business strategy, and before long, dashboards evolved into an all-in-one view of a company’s most important KPIs. Today, business leaders across all industries use real-time digital dashboards to monitor which of their processes are working, which need to be ramped up, and which need to be eliminated or dialed back. A manufacturer or construction company might use a project management dashboard to show cost variances, planned vs actual schedules, or earned value. Or a utility might create an efficiency dashboard that shows insights based on energy production and outages. No matter the vertical, dashboards are a vital piece of the decision-making puzzle. The key is knowing how to create them without breaking the bank.  No-code: An inexpensive way to create customized dashboards It can take a lot of time and effort to create a dashboard that pulls in all the data your teams need. In today’s climate, that’s not an easy sell. And buying off-the-shelf software and applications isn’t a quick fix. They demand a tradeoff: you can quickly launch the software but you can’t necessarily customize it to your specific KPIs. That’s where no-code platforms can help.  No-code development platforms like AppSheet make it easy for anyone in your organization (including those who don’t have technical chops) to build a custom application. The result? You can use existing data that might otherwise collect dust and use it to derive business insights and share them in a customizable, interactive dashboard view that pulls in key metrics from across your app for at-a-glance access. And you don’t need developers or data scientists; products like AppSheet’s  dashboard view lets you easily control the data presented and how it’s displayed. You can include decks, tables, charts, galleries, maps, details, forms, and more in a single snapshot that’s also interactive. Share dashboards across teams No-code apps like this built with AppSheet also make it easy to capture and digitize real-world processes and share that information in real time through a dashboard view. Let’s say you have a construction team building a new shopping mall. Your site manager is in charge of hundreds of workers’ progress but won’t be able check in with each one to ensure they’re on task.  Your app can gather and share locations and project updates and notify the site manager when certain events happen, like a worker entering a fall zone or the crew missing a project milestone. The manager can see all of these details in real time on the app’s dashboard and stay up to date quickly.  Or perhaps you work for an auto manufacturer. You need to make sure that every part is installed correctly and that each step of the vehicle-production process is signed off on by an authorized technician. With a dashboard view on your no-code app, your managers can quickly see who inspected which parts and approved systems, and when they did it. Executives can keep tabs on the high-level business productivity, timing, and budget insights to make decisions about headcount, equipment, and more. Gain online visibility into offline processes Sending important information from the field to the office (and other locations) can be tricky without digitizing the information. If a utility company is using an array of offline tools and methods to track usage, outages, KWh production, and other plant and field data, they can’t easily share need-to-know information with the right teams in real time. But with no-code development, anyone on your team can build an app with a dashboard that executives can use to understand expenditures, track customers with outages, and even identify regulators who need to monitor energy production and pricing. While dashboards come in many forms, it’s important that they deliver simple, high-level insights about the KPIs that matter most. AppSheet’s no-code applications with interactive dashboard views make it easy for anyone to build an affordable, customizable, business insights snapshot, and share it with decision-makers so they can stay informed, up to date, and in the know about important projects.

Using Internal Apps to Prevent Customer Churn

Low customer churn is critical to business success, and is especially urgent during a recession when new customers might be harder to come by. Research indicates that 63% of consumers will abandon a product or service after just one poor experience, underlining that strong customer retention relies on strong customer satisfaction, regardless of the state of the economy. Equipping employees with the tools to build their own custom internal apps is one way businesses are lowering their customer churn by maintaining high customer satisfaction, while also streamlining internal operations to better serve customers throughout the sales and support cycle.  For example, sales and marketing teams are often closest to the customer experience, yet are also often the least well-equipped to improve their own processes with custom app solutions. With the help of no-code development platforms, all process owners (including non-technical employees) can create internal apps that are custom-built to company-specific, team-specific, and even project-specific requirements. Businesses find that internal processes can be improved by the process owners themselves; in addition, data collection and sharing can be digitized for greater accuracy, so the customer ultimately benefits from a smooth experience. Let’s take a closer look at three ways companies are using internal apps to improve customer retention over time: Stay informed Keeping all team members on the same page is critical to reducing customer churn — and to earning the trust of new customers. Internal apps can help teams work together and to present one external voice to the customer by streamlining communications through commenting and workflow reporting. For example, multiple teams working with the same customer or client can add notes to an internal app to ensure that anyone who touches the account fully understands its history and can quickly get up-to-speed without disruption to the consumer.  To maintain a pulse on customer satisfaction, many businesses extend their custom internal apps to identify warning signals for customer dissatisfaction by allowing the app to correlate consumer behavior with information around churn. With no-code development, process owners in sales and marketing can create internal apps that alert them to changes, as triggers can be built in to notify team members when key performance indicators dip into the churn danger zone. Know your customers Customer health scores are critical to maintaining internal tools that predict churn. However, because companies rely on a litany of metrics to create these unique scores, finding an off-the-shelf solution for data collection and analysis can be quite difficult.  No-code platforms are stepping in to allow people and teams to build reliable models that keep data clean in a way that’s customized specifically for them, which results in more accurate trend data over time. Outdated data input systems like pen and paper or digital spreadsheets that introduce human error can be replaced with customized apps that allow for the automatic flow of data from apps like Salesforce or Marketo. The equation behind a customer’s ever-changing health score is honed over weeks, months, and even years, and custom apps are able to flex with these changes while keeping data secure and streamlined. Deliver on time Point-of-sale is only the beginning of the customer journey. Whether it’s goods, services, or a brand promise, businesses must follow through on prompt delivery to maintain customer trust. This is particularly relevant in industries like retail and manufacturing, where inventory management can be a complex task and customers need the ability to track their purchases even before they leave the warehouse. To help simplify and streamline delivery, businesses are turning to customized inventory control apps to track assets, capital, and output.  For example, with no-code development, floor managers can create inventory tracking apps that integrate with barcode and optical character recognition (OCR) scanners, cloud databases, and data visualization to track products in real time. With continual tracking in place, both the company and the consumer can access the exact location of inventory to better ensure an on-time delivery.  Inventory apps can also help reduce manufacturing carrying costs, eliminate waste and delays, and increase worker productivity by providing valuable information on the efficacy of processes and managers. Apps compatible with barcode scanners can record work-in-progress inventory over time, and the accumulated data can be used for anything from cost-benefit analysis to workforce optimization to reducing a product’s time-to-consumer. Preventing customer churn starts with accurate data, and relies on well-informed employees, streamlined processes, and long-term analysis to improve retention. By adopting no-code platforms, companies can greatly increase their ability to prevent customer churn by providing employees with the tools to discover, build, and maintain customer relationships that last far beyond the first sale.

Unlocking Value: Data Sources Uncovered

Data is all around us, and is constantly being created and logged by sensors, people, and machines. According to one estimate, over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day — that’s 18 zeros! For comparison, a trillion has only 12 zeros. With so much data being produced, more and more businesses are learning how to harness and connect it to applications to create useful tools. In fact, most modern apps rely on connections with data sources to deliver powerful, productive, and meaningful experiences to their users. Data itself can range from inventory counts to credit card numbers to geolocations, and can present as plain text, numbers, percentages, and more. Business leads typically deal with multiple types of data that come from a number of different places, commonly referred to as data sources.  Data sources can be anything from a Google Sheet to a SQL database; basically, that’s where information is housed. Data sources are an important component in app development, as their connection to the development platform allows the data to be transformed into actionable insights for users. Regardless of the data type and where the data is stored, app developers must ensure a secure pathway through which the data can interact with the app, usually with the help of the coding platform. From Amazon to Zillow, data sources are a fundamental building block of traditional application development, and no-code development is no different. Designed to provide non-technical employees with the tools they need to quickly and securely create their own apps, no-code platforms like AppSheet help to uplevel and repurpose previously-dormant or under-utilized information. With a no-code platform like AppSheet, everyone in an organization can securely connect data sources to power customized apps — no coding skills required. By connecting their data to AppSheet, process owners can make better decisions, come up with new ways of working, and ultimately create new value from existing information. Converting data into actionable value Tens of thousands of creators using AppSheet have collectively made almost a million apps that are connected to even more data sources. Though a data source can be something as simple as a Google Calendar, it can yield enormous value when leveraged by an application.  Let’s say that a retail team manager collects inventory data in a Google Sheet. She can leverage this data by connecting the Google Sheet to AppSheet to create an inventory management app, for example, that allows her team to easily recall product information from the store floor.  When people want to leverage data within a custom app to improve their processes or even to create new ones, AppSheet allows them to easily make their data workable, applicable, valuable, and actionable. Let’s look at two ways data sources connect with AppSheet: Cloud databases and tables: AppSheet enables connections with a variety of data sources, including popular cloud databases and tables like Google Cloud SQL, MySQL, Salesforce, and Oracle. These connectors add data to the apps that creators build on AppSheet, like the Google Sheet that powers our retail team manager’s inventory app in the example above.  Integrations: AppSheet integrates with a variety of external services to allow process owners within the organization to connect their data to AppSheet. For example, a marketer or sales team may connect data from Google Maps to create a location-specific query app, or another data process owner may flow information from Okta or Twilio to improve process-specific time-to-value. Whatever the intent, AppSheet enables non-technical employees to connect the data they know best to to deliver seamless chatbots, communication workflows, barcode scanning, custom maps, and more. Remember that when creating an app — either by traditional software development or through a no-code platform — you own your data and continue to be the sole owner of your information even after it’s connected via data source. AppSheet ensures that your data remains secure by design, and does not require any coding knowledge to use. Just as traditional software developers must secure the apps they create, no-code development platforms like AppSheet ensure that security and privacy are built in from the beginning. Line-of-business employees know their data best, and who better to create custom data-driven solutions than the people who work with that data most closely? With no-code platforms like AppSheet, non-technical employees can use the data they work with every day to create powerful, secure apps in just a few clicks. Learn more about AppSheet compatible connectors. Interested in speaking with a team member about how you can get the most out of your organization’s data? Let's schedule a demo.

The Citizen Developer’s Guide to Machine Learning as a Service

You’ve probably heard of machine learning, and you’ve almost certainly experienced it. Machine learning algorithms help power everything from Netflix’s personal movie recommendation engine to Google Search and Translate, and research suggests that companies will invest $12.3 billion in machine learning by 2026, up from the $2.5 billion spent in 2017.  While large enterprises invest billions to  develop machine learning (ML) capabilities, smaller companies and individuals can sometimes feel that machine learning is out of their reach. After all, the average salary for a machine learning engineer is about $140,000/year (source), and learning how to code isn’t exactly a small task.  Luckily, one emerging technology trend, machine learning as a service (MLaaS), is removing barriers such as time, budget, and even coding expertise to make the power of machine learning available to everyone. Offering ready-made tools that can be easily adopted and fitted to various business needs, MLaaS is being used by business leads and front-line workers in an array of industries. So how does MLaaS work? No code needed: basic features of democratized machine learning Coding expertise is perhaps the largest barrier to creating apps. Software development traditionally includes everything from data collection and debugging to resource provisioning and security, which is (for good reason!) a full-time job in and of itself. Machine learning applications are no different, and require a foundation of complex coding before app development can begin.  No-code development platforms automate the bulk of this sophisticated behind-the-scenes work so that non-technical users, aka citizen developers, can tackle the business task at hand without touching a line of code. This means that teams and individuals can autonomously build and deploy apps made by them — and for them — in a matter of days, not months.  Whereas traditional models of app development require heavy cross-functional communication and weeks of iteration, no-code development puts the power to solve problems into the hands of those who know the problem best. Because no-code requires zero technical know-how, MLaaS is accessible to a much wider group of people and teams within an organization than traditional machine learning implementation.  With a no-code platform, anyone — regardless of their technological prowess or background — can build robust applications that are driven by machine learning algorithms to solve problems, increase productivity, and deliver a healthier bottom line. MLaaS and the power of problem-solving Like no-code development, MLaaS is not limited to any particular group, and is used by industries from manufacturing to healthcare to empower non-technical employees to improve their processes with powerful digital technology. Faster time-to-value: Business leads and process owners often know best where help is needed on the ground, but can’t wait weeks or months for diverse teams to coordinate, build, test, and iterate on a niche application built with them in mind. MLaaS makes it easy for process owners to build apps that do everything from helping users interact with data more quickly through natural language processing to interpreting qualitative categories of new data, within days. Process improvement: MLaaS can also help non-technical process owners significantly streamline workflows and existing processes. For example, MLaaS empowers any employee to build predictive models that can generalize from historical app data, providing the ability to forecast values and predict trends. Time reallocation: From supply chain optimization to inventory management and predictive maintenance, businesses rely on software development and machine learning to get things done. When the power of machine learning is distributed across an organization, the role of planning and execution moves from the IT and development teams, to the  people who know their challenges best. This frees up time for IT teams without sacrificing technical ability and growth. Tools that put experts in control As we’ve seen, MLaaS allows anyone in an organization to digitize routine work and automate tasks with apps that would have otherwise been too costly or time-consuming to develop. From HR and finance to sales and marketing, people in any area of a company can easily build apps that are customized for their team, process, data, and goals.  With no-code, machine learning doesn't need to be expensive to deliver enormous value. This democratized solution saves companies time, money, and resources, while empowering every employee to do her best work. AppSheet machine learning resources Create apps on AppSheet with the power of machine-learning built in. Exploring these resources to learn more:  AppSheet Intelligence features page White paper: Why the Future of Machine Learning is No-Code

The New WFH C-Suite: Communication, Collaboration, Connectivity, and Culture

If you’re like the majority of workers today, you’re reading this article from home. Many businesses have had to make speedy decisions and transitions, including implementing mandatory work from home (WFH) policies and giving employees the tools they need to get their jobs done remotely. While telecommuting has been on the rise (increasing by 159% between 2005 and 2017) our new “normal” has left many organizations scrambling to come up with ways to manage distributed teams. Meanwhile, some employees are also floundering, trying to figure out how to quickly adopt new technologies all while having to juggle and manage changes in the home. We’re all starting to feel the stretch. While WFH comes with some challenges, companies like AppSheet are rising to the challenge — providing tools, online plugins, and resources to help teams not only survive, but thrive. Quick transitions Many businesses that historically haven’t had remote workers are having to suddenly manage a distributed workforce. Nearly overnight, entire organizations have had to shut down office doors and have everyone work from their home offices (if they’re lucky), dining room tables, and living room couches. Employees are struggling to stay focused and productive during normal business hours while also having to help kids transition to distant schooling or having to care for others who may be in or outside their immediate home. And worldwide pandemic aside, there are inherent issues with working from home. Let’s dive in. Communication Communication can be a challenge, even when everyone’s working from the same location. Factor in essential staff working in the office or field while others work from their makeshift home offices, and communication becomes more crucial than ever. This is especially true with fast-changing policies, shifting work priorities, and employees who may be struggling with social isolation or other ramifications of the quarantine. Online communication and project management tools, video conferencing, emails, IMs, and more are mission-critical. And providing ways to effectively communicate with large and small audiences alike is a must. Collaboration Employees may also have a difficult time with remote meetings and collaboration if they’re used to face-to-face interactions. Nearly overnight, teams that are used to rallying around a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas or collaborate are having to find new workarounds. Organizations of all sizes and industries have to provide the online tools, applications, and resources their employees need to not only get their work done but to also foster creativity and collaboration across newly distributed teams.. Connectivity How often do you say or hear, “How about now? Can you hear me?” The ability to communicate and collaborate online entirely now depends on employees’ IT infrastructure at home, and many aren’t set up to access online services securely from home. Some homes aren’t equipped with enough bandwidth to reliably access large files or stream video conference with colleagues without bringing their Internet to a crawl. Do you have a contingency plan for when your company’s VPN isn’t working or when WiFi isn’t available at workers’ remote locations? You need a strategy to help staff do their jobs whether they’re online, offline, or some combination of both. Culture When you don’t have proper communication and aren’t collaborating well, workplace culture can suffer. In fact, simply lacking a central physical gathering place (like the iconic water cooler) can damage morale, and in turn, your company culture. Meme-sharing on Slack, Zoom happy hours, and Google Hangouts get-togethers make up for the lack of in-person interactions to a large extent, but be mindful of the sudden change in interactions that may have some people thrown. Provide creative, virtual social outlets and opportunities for letting off steam and for simply communicating and connecting — no matter where people are based. How AppSheet can help We recently held an Office Hours webinar to demonstrate how key features of AppSheet can support remote workforces and improve productivity. Because AppSheet allows anyone to create apps without any coding (or IT team reliance), team members can still build and maintain apps from their new home office and keep everyone on the same page during these difficult times. Here’s a recap of what the AppSheet team covered during the webinar: Onboarding Add an onboarding experience to your no-code app to give users a place to start – especially when you add new assignments, functionality, or roles and responsibilities for remote workers. Maybe you have a new team of volunteers handing out food and supplies for the first time. Adding onboarding details can help them understand how to use the app and properly track what they’ve distributed and where. Or perhaps you have a project management app and need to help your offsite team understand how to review and check off completed tasks. Onboarding is an easy way to support first-time users, as well as return-users who may be seeing an updated version of your app. Offline capabilities Not all of your remote users will have a stable internet connection throughout the day (or even have any access to it at all). For situations like these, AppSheet’s Offline Use functionality helps keep your app users connected even when they aren’t. AppSheet lets you control how the app behaves – whether your data loads every time the app opens, when data syncs are delayed, or if it’s accessible offline. And since remote workers may rely on mobile devices for access, AppSheet allows you to  select online syncing options so your users can save their valuable mobile data by only using WiFi to sync when their access is restored. Commenting Communication is key to collaboration. Depending on your app, you may want to consider adding AppSheet’s commenting functionality, which allows users to share feedback on specific projects within your application. This can be incredibly useful for any kind of project management or task-driven application. It’s as simple as creating a table in Google Sheets and then toggling between a handful of settings on your AppSheet interface. Notifications Reliable message delivery is another important part of both communication and collaboration. AppSheet provides several options for alerting and notifying your users, including email and SMS text messages. You can also set up push notifications. Think about what works best for your team and organization, what will enhance their ability to communicate and collaborate across locations, and how to best keep them informed and up to date. Dynamic sizing AppSheet also supports dynamic sizing across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, ensuring that no matter what technology your users have, they receive the best possible experience. As we’ve learned with Covid-19, anything can happen, and we may not always have a lot of lead time to prepare for big changes in the way we live and work (together or apart). Make sure you’re thinking about what your team will need even beyond these next few months so you’re ready for any challenges ahead. The collaboration tools you put into place today will help prepare your organization for tomorrow. Visit our COVID-19 support page to learn more about how you can use AppSheet to help response efforts.

Three Technologies Impacting the Utilities Industry

Digital transformation like mobile apps, augmented reality, cybersecurity, and more are natural fits for people entering the workforce today. But for workers who have been in the utilities industry for years, the idea can be puzzling. After all, the sector only recently opened up to innovation. They’ve been doing things the same way for a long time. “The power and utilities sector was traditionally where many parents or grandparents parked their savings as they got older, attracted by low volatility and stable returns,” explains Deloitte. “While solid and dependable, the sector wasn’t generally considered cutting-edge, innovative, or exciting by any stretch of the word.” The sector’s main goal, Deloitte continues, was to “keep the lights on without breaking the bank.” So, how did we get to this point? As it turns out, innovation has been happening steadily, behind the scenes, for quite some time. Slowly but surely, organizations have been building out their networks and laying the groundwork for the technical revolution that’s taking place today. The roots of what we’re seeing take place can actually be traced back to the 1970s, and the spread of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA), an architecture used for data acquisition and automated control in industrial environments. In the early days of SCADA, utilities only had large mainframe computers. Wide area networking (WAN) hadn’t been invented yet and each SCADA system operated disparately. Over the years, SCADA continued to evolve along with breakthroughs like the Local Area Networking (LAN), personal computers, software, the internet, and eventually wide area networks. Each iteration in computing opened new possibilities in terms of how companies communicate, and how they collect, process, store, and share data. Today, SCADA systems are mostly digital, and they’re playing a critical role in managing information flow and automation across industrial networks. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some digital technologies that are making their way into SCADA systems and utilities.  Machines learning through big data Thanks to the IoT(Internet of Things) and the industrial IoT (IIoT), utilities today are collecting vast amounts of data from business and consumer environments. This information is being used to identify usage trends, drive sustainability efforts, curb costs, and discover revenue-driving opportunities. These days, leading utility companies are starting to move beyond merely collecting big data and applying it more intelligently to their operations. One of the best examples of this can be seen with no-code machine learning. In short, utilities are starting to use intelligent no-code platforms to develop business productivity apps powered by their own data. By using a platform with an embedded machine learning engine, companies are finding new ways to process and leverage unstructured data that they could not previously extract value from. What machine leaning is capable of doing is continually iterating on itself as it collects data. This keeps your businesses as up-to-date as possible so that workers can make the best choices for the job. Cybersecurity for digital infrastructure As utilities are becoming increasingly connected, decision makers are becoming increasingly concerned about the ramifications of a large-scale cyberattack that could produce widespread outages across electric grids. In a recent example, 6,500 government officials and executives came together to prepare for a catastrophic attack. Making matters worse, bad actors are starting to apply artificial intelligence to cyberattacks. This is a trend that will take off in 2020, leading to many problems across the globe. Utility companies are starting to prepare for this next advancement in cybercrime, implementing next-generation cybersecurity solutions supported AI, machine learning, and biometrics. Another security technology that utilities are using today is security information event management (SIEM), a system that provides advanced security monitoring and analytics services across wide area networks. SIEM systems make it possible to detect suspicious end-user activity across WANs. For example, with a SIEM solution in place, a company would be able to detect an unusual login based on the time of day, the location of the end user, and the information they are accessing. IT departments are embracing the power of no-code development because it allows companies to create application specific to their needs while offering complex security protocols that remove some of the headaches for IT when dealing with out-of-the-box software. Increasing networks through SD-WAN SD-WAN revenue is on track to reach $1.5 billion this year. It’s now a top networking trend across all sectors—especially in the increasingly connected utilities sector where bandwidth, security, and availability are all critical for success. SD-WAN involves decoupling the control plane from the data plane, making it possible to deploy virtual networks with lightning speed. By deploying SD-WAN, utility companies can guarantee maximum app performance and scalability across a global network. This leads us to one of the biggest technologies to hit the utilities sector to date: business productivity apps, which are being enabled by cutting-edge no-code platforms. Again, no-code is sought after my many industry leaders right now because of its flexibility, power, and agility. Not only are networks expanding by removing the need to visit centralized control panels, but they are also evolving with a variety of new options thanks to the ability for no-code platforms to iterate upon themselves as new problems arise. Conclusion Technology is a part of our everyday lives whether some would like to admit it or not. In this day and age it's not a choice of whether a company should implement digital transformation into their business model. It's a question of when. "Business as usual" today means that your business is constantly changing thanks to no-code and other technological advancements that are allowing companies and workers the capacity to respond to problems more quickly, efficiently, and securely. The hardest part is making the choice to jump in, but we believe the hard work is worth it in the end.

Getting Creative With DIY Technology

In a matter of months, the Coronavirus had drastically altered how people around the world work and live. The response to the virus has been unprecedented with schools and businesses closing, as well as vast swaths of the population working from home for the foreseeable future. Right now, we don’t know what will happen.  However, we can look to small silver linings that center around human ingenuity. Humans adapt. We make the most of bad situations. We find ways to thrive, even when the odds are stacked against us. In the age of COVID-19, IT departments have once again stepped up to help teams stay productive. Team members are learning new ways to stay connected while working remotely.  But what can individuals do? What if there isn’t a solution for the work or life project you need to tackle?  No-code development platforms have long challenged the status quo set by one-size-fits-all software and applications. And now, as everyone figures out a new normal, no-code technology is uniquely poised to rise to the occasion. Non-technical people can build highly specific technology solutions that adapt to new challenges around work and play. The following list of free AppSheet sample apps will help spur your creativity as you come up with new ways to stay productive, happy, and connected. Or start with your own data to create unique applications. In the meantime, the AppSheet team wishes you health and safety. Take care! Education and homeschooling apps Assignment management app Activity schedule app Class assignment app How-to instructional app Work from home apps Project management app Sales and lead tracking app Contact manager app Quote calculator Timesheet app Webinar app Leave a comment to let us know what you’re building.

Making the Most of Barcodes, QR Codes, and NFC

The origins of barcode scanning in business For most, the word “barcode” conjures up images of stocked grocery aisles and packages marked with the now-ubiquitous Universal Product Code (UPC). While we’re all familiar with the the black vertical lines that make up a barcode, most of us take this simple invention for granted — not realizing the extent to which it’s revolutionized how businesses operate. Invented in the 1950s, barcode scanning was inspired by a Philadelphia grocery store’s desire to automatically record product information during checkout, a manual process up to that point. During the 1970s, with the introduction of the UPC, barcodes started appearing on the packages and store shelf labeling for most household goods. Over the last five decades, barcode scanning has revolutionized industries — improving overall efficiency, speeding up inventory management, automating tasks, and reducing opportunities for human error. While the one-dimensional barcode continues to be reliable and effective, its success inspired the development and adoption of more modern scanning systems like Quick Response (QR) codes and Near-field Communication (NFC), which help businesses streamline their processes even further. Let’s take a look at the role these systems play today in the manufacturing, utilities, and construction industries. “Lean manufacturing” with barcode scanning Many areas of manufacturing can be rife with inefficiencies, with excess labor and overly complex processes leading to bloated costs and reduced productivity. But barcode scanning has helped companies of all sizes pursue “lean manufacturing” — a way of doing more with less that was first popularized by Toyota in the 1930s. While adopting lean systems can be expensive (in terms of both cost and time), barcode scanning continues to be a simple, proven and cost-effective method for streamlining and automating myriad manufacturing and distribution processes. In manufacturing, barcodes are used for a variety of mission-critical tasks, including: Getting real-time tracking alerts and inventory status on parts and goods Quickly locating stock across multiple locations without having to roam warehouses Processing and managing orders with accuracy Replacing manual inventory-taking and data entry methods Eco-friendly QR code practices for utilities The success of the barcode led to the development of QR codes in the 1990s. Unlike one-dimensional barcodes, QR codes are coded in two directions (across and up/down), which means they can hold much more information, including text, URLs, images, videos, and documents. Because of their flexibility and storage, utility companies have been using them to not only improve the customer experience, but also to implement sustainable and eco-friendly business practices. For instance, in 2015, the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change introduced QR codes on residents’ energy bills. With a single QR code, each resident was able to perform all of the following by simply scanning the code with their smartphone: Monitor their gas and electricity consumption Review comparison charts of energy costs across different suppliers Easily switch suppliers to save money Utility companies in other regions have adopted similar practices, as well as using QR codes to replace paper documents that require mailing to provide a quick and easy way for customers to access billing and other information without having to print it or request hard copies. NFC on construction job sites NFC — a short-range wireless communication technology that became its own standard in 2003 — is also helping companies improve efficiency, especially in the field. Rooted in RFID (radio-frequency identification technology), NFC allows two-way communication between two electronic devices when they’re within 4 cm of each other. It enables familiar consumer experiences like contactless mobile payment systems and content-sharing on social media, as well as pushing offers and incentives to retail customers’ smartphones as they enter or move through a store. NFC has also been widely adopted to help companies with workforce, equipment and inventory identification, authentication, and tracking. In the construction industry, NFC tags and readers are used on busy job sites to streamline day-to-day operations. For instance, NFC readers are strategically placed around sites to automatically track workers’ arrival times and whereabouts across specific locations. Some companies even place NFC tags on hardhats to quickly access workers’ safety accreditations and to accurately track people during sudden site evacuations. Construction sites are also using NFC tags and readers to track and manage on-site equipment, including tracking materials and sections of large structures as they arrive on site. Choosing the right solution for your business Barcodes, QR codes, and NFC all have their individual advantages, and one shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for another. Instead, all three are effective for streamlining processes, automating work, and reducing opportunities for human error — it’s just a matter of using them smartly, in ways that optimize for each of their strengths. And while their results can transform your business in powerful ways, they’re still quite affordable and easy to implement. So why not experiment with all three?

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