How Blockchain Technology Is Disrupting Everything

Blockchain technology is best known for being the magic behind Bitcoin, but there are scores of other industries that are benefiting from this revolutionary technology.

How Blockchain Technology Is Disrupting Everything

Blockchain technology is best known for being the magic behind Bitcoin, but there are scores of other industries that are benefiting from this revolutionary technology. Before we take a look at the industries and companies innovating in these spaces, let’s break down this technology so we are all on the same page.

Blockchain technology is a big fancy word that describes the act of recording events in a database. The database itself is referred to as the blockchain. Once data is added to the blockchain, it cannot be removed from the database or altered in any way. The blockchain therefore contains a verifiable record of history.

The technology is fairly simple yet very profound. You might already be thinking of a business idea that could utilize such a system, and many visionaries are in the same boat. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has joined a blockchain firm. But before you go start a round of fundraising for your own blockchain-based company check out the disruption the blockchain is creating in these industries.

1. Voting

The voting industry has gone essentially unchanged for centuries. Many would say that it is in dire need of innovation! Even “modern” electronic voting systems offer little improvements. In the past few years many states have actually de-certified voting machines due to certain vulnerabilities. By design, blockchain technology eliminates the need for paper ballots and provides unparalleled security.

One company out of Blacksburg, Virginia is disrupting the voting industry with blockchain technology.Follow My Vote is a non-partisan organization on a mission to restore faith in the democratic process. This is being done through a revolutionary voting platform built on a blockchain.  To take on this project Follow My Vote has partnered with BitShares, a leader in blockchain technology and development.

This means convenient and secure voting from your smart phone, tablet, or computer. Follow My Vote sees this as a great way to increase voter turnout by appealing to tech-savvy millennials. Skeptics can be at ease due to the record checking ability of the blockchain. Blockchain technology also offers advancements in transparency, by providing voters with the ability to confirm that their vote was counted. The company has also developed a revolutionary way to let users check their vote yet retain the secrecy of the ballot. And rest assured, voters will still be anonymous in the system to other voters. Check out their blockchain technology infographic for a more in depth look at blockchain technology and how they use it within their system.  The company is also proud to say that the system features state-of-the-art ID verification. Follow My Vote does not see an immediate and complete migration to online voting. The fact is that not every state is ready for online voting. The system will hopefully be introduced simply as an option to conventional voting methods. However, new reports on online voting by organizations such as the U.S. Vote Foundation are promising and show that companies like Follow My Vote are on the right path.

2. Finance

For many, the financial industry is the first that comes to mind when thinking about blockchain technology. Bitcoin is one of the best-known applications of the technology and has a very strong brand in the digital currency space. Bitcoin has simply been a game changer for many people around the world. The book The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey breaks down the digital currency movement and is a perfect intro to the blockchain. Bitcoin Magazine described the book in the following way:

“The book opens with an implemented use case for Bitcoin. Because of Bitcoin young women in Afghanistan are able to write blogs and do social media and video production. In exchange for this work, they are paid in Bitcoin. Bank wires required a lot of fees. And PayPal wasn’t supported. With Bitcoin, these young women could be paid instantly.”

Blockchain technology provides cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, with a verifiable ledger of transactions. This ledger, paired with the security of a distributed network allows people to leave middlemen and banks behind and fully take control of their digital money.

Blockchain technology also allows for smart contracts and market-pegged assets. The developers behindBitShares have pioneered these blockchain innovations. Smart contracts are essentially computer programs that can automatically execute the terms of a contract. Instead of money just going from A to B, now you can choose to send or not to send money if certain constraints are met. For example, a payment will not be recorded on the blockchain unless the receiving party signs a contract, or a certain date has passed. Currently you can set recurring and scheduled payments on the BitShares smart contract platform. The BitShares ecosystem also hosts several market-pegged assets. This is revolutionary due to the fact that many crypto currencies are subject to price fluctuations. BitShares provides stable cryptocurrencies that have their value pegged to another asset. Some of the most popular assets on BitShares are pegged to the US Dollar, gold, and the Chinese Yuan. These price stable crypto currencies always have 100% of their value or more backed by the BitShares core currency.

Mainstream financial enterprises are also taking advantage of this technology. In May, NASDAQ announceda blockchain initiative to help improve its platform. NASDAQ CEO Bobo Greifeld stated,”Our initial application of NASDAQ’s blockchain technology-enabled offering will modernize, streamline, and secure typically cumbersome administrative functions, and will simplify the overwhelming challenges private companies face with manual ledger record-keeping.”

3. Music

The music industry has some really cool companies trying to transform the scene with blockchain technology. What if you could use your awesome music finding skills to make money and support musicians? This is essentially what Peertracks is creating. With Peertracks, people can buy equity in an artist or song similar to crowdfunding models. The idea is, you would find out about Taylor Swift before she got famous. If you had bought Taylor Swift tokens, you would be supporting her music career in the beginning and later on reap the benefits of increased token value when she has a number one hit.

The blockchain can also be used for music streaming. A recent report by Rethink Music suggests that blockchain technology could be used to ensure musicians are paid fairly and quickly for sales and streams of their work. The blockchain adds a great deal of transparency. This would be beneficial for artist and industry leaders to see into the process of splitting royalties, as it would be obvious if publishers and record labels were holding on to royalties before giving them to the artist.

4. Ownership

The blockchain is perfect for keeping records of ownership. Factom is using the blockchain to help businesses and governments manage data and keep records. Financial records secure our money. Real estate records secure our property. And citizen records secure our credit and identities. All these records can be hacked or maliciously changed if they exist in a centralized location. With blockchain technology, all the information is replicated across the servers that run the system. It is nearly impossible to hack a distributed processing network. This is one of the blockchain’s greatest assets.  You will now have undisputable proof and records of ownership. And to top it off, you own the records and share them with those you trust.

5. Fighting counterfeits

Another blockchain-based company is using this revolutionary technology to build an anti-counterfeit solution. Blockverify is bringing transparency from the blockchain to supply chains.  Blockverify can verify counterfeit products, diverted goods, stolen merchandise, and fraudulent transactions. Some of the best use cases the solution will target include pharmaceuticals, luxury items, diamonds, and electronics.

Now that you have an idea of the industries being taken by storm by the blockchain, you too can create your own blockchain company! Or at least invest in one.

How Blockchain Technology Is Disrupting Everything

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How data science fights modern insider threats

How data science fights modern insider threats

Insider threats are the biggest cybersecurity threats to firms, organizations and government agencies.

Data science — the application of mathematics, big data analytics and machine learning to extract knowledge and detect patterns — is an emergent, advanced technology area that is proving its effectiveness in the realm of cybersecurity, including fighting insider threats. Here’s how it succeeds where legacy solutions fail.

How data science fights modern insider threats

Insider threats are the biggest cybersecurity threats to firms, organizations and government agencies. This is something you hear a lot at security conference keynotes and read about in data breach reports, white papers and surveys — and these insider threats are becoming increasingly more difficult to detect and prevent, as well as more frequent.

This seemingly unstoppable growth accentuates the problem and shortcomings of current solutions, and warrants the need for new defensive technologies to detect and stop the digital daggers aimed at our backs.

Data science — the application of mathematics, big data analytics and machine learning to extract knowledge and detect patterns — is an emergent, advanced technology area that is proving its effectiveness in the realm of cybersecurity, including fighting insider threats. Here’s how it succeeds where legacy solutions fail.

The need to focus on user behavior

The wide adoption of cloud services and mobile technology in companies has transformed IT infrastructures considerably.

With physical boundaries of corporate networks and digital assets not as clearly defined as they once used to be, the focus in fighting insider threats needs to shift toward protecting user accounts. “Now that the traditional security perimeter has been erased by mobile and cloud computing, identities have become both an attack vector and security perimeter,” says Tom Clare, VP of marketing at cybersecurity startup Gurucul.

“What has changed recently is the fact that control of user accounts has become far more valuable than control of devices,” says Jarno Niemelä, lead researcher at F-Secure Labs. “Years back, we were fighting against keeping computers clean from infection just to keep the computers clean. Nowadays, we are protecting computers just to be able to protect the user accounts that are on the computer.”

Organizations try hard to protect user identities by adopting different security solutions and training employees on the basics of cybersecurity, but it’s not enough.

“Good data hygiene is critical, but it is not enough,” says Stephan Jou, CTO at Interset. “A negligent employee is unlikely to change regardless of training, and a third-party attacker often can operate outside employee-focused processes. More importantly, the insider stealing for espionage is motivated to break rules.”

Insider threats are becoming increasingly more difficult to detect and prevent, as well as more frequent.

The truth is that credential theft does happen, and it happens a lot. In fact, a Verizon 2015 data breach report found that the majority of confirmed security incidents occur as a result of compromised user accounts. Massive lists of user credentials and passwords are being sold on the Dark Web at low prices, and, for a small fee, anyone can obtain access to all sorts of enterprise networks and cloud services, and impersonate legitimate users.

Therefore, fighting insider attacks hinges on detecting anomalous user behavior. But this again presents its own set of challenges, because defining normal and malicious behavior is not an exact science and involves a lot of intricacies.

Traditional security defenses rely on setting static rules and alerts on user activities in order to define and identify indicators of compromise (IoCs). But when applied to tens, hundreds and thousands of users, this model ends up generating a noisy flood, and security teams have to struggle with wasted time and must sort through tons of unimportant events that are mostly false positives. Meanwhile, actions don’t necessarily explain intents, and savvy attackers will be able to cloak their malicious activities by keeping them within the defined set of rules.

The use of data science can help move away from static models toward dynamic ones that are able to define normal user behavior based on identities, roles and working circumstances. This approach is very effective in reducing false positives and highlighting behavior that truly accounts for malicious activities.

Cybersecurity firms are increasingly leveraging this technology to deal with insider threats.

Analyzing user behavior through machine learning

Gurucul’s Risk Analytics security platform combines machine learning models with big data to understand normal baselines of behavior and uncover anomalies, and to provide visibility that spans identities, accounts, access and activity. “This behavioral analytics approach, sometimes called user behavior analytics or UBA, can detect excess access permissions and activity, define roles and detect unknown threats,” says Gurucul’s Clare.

The wide adoption of cloud services and mobile technology in companies has transformed IT infrastructures considerably.

Gurucul’s Risk Analytics also gathers and monitors identity-based data and activity from both on-premises and cloud environments. Its machine learning algorithms, including self-learning and training behavioral profile algorithms, look at every new transaction and risk scores it. Using clustering and outlier machine learning makes suspicious behavior stand out from other benign activities.

One of the features of Gurucul is its concept of dynamic peer groups. The system automatically groups users based on the types of activities they typically perform and the types of identities and privileges they hold. This allows for a tighter clustering of behavior and better chances in highlighting outlier activities in behavior patterns.

So if a sales employee is downloading large amounts of company data for the purpose of later surrendering it to a competitor, they will stand out and be marked for investigation even if they have legitimate access to the information, because their behavior deviates from that of their peers.

The math behind insider threat detection

Interset is another cybersecurity platform that relies on semi-supervised machine learning and advanced behavioral analytics to examine and correlate scattered bits of data in order to find insider threats. Its platform analyzes data from multiple sources related to the movement of data across or within a network, while also gathering information about the entities involved, which include users, endpoints and applications.

The math behind Interset’s data science model is based on three key ideas. First, it replaces traditional boolean alerts with probabilistic models or risk factors. Models that emit probabilities are more effective than true/false alerts and allow the use of math to combine multiple pieces of evidence across different data sets to define the likelihood of a user account having been compromised or engaged in illicit activities.

Second, it uses machine learning to define dynamic thresholds for each actor based on gathered data, a much more flexible model than globally applied rules such as “how many megabytes of attachments are allowed.” The “mathematical fingerprint” that results from the analysis of user-generated data makes it much easier to identify anomalous behavior.

Shifting to new technologies such as data science can help find the needle in the haystack.

Third, the platform moves away from the event level and uses math to correlate, corroborate and aggregate events to attribute risk to the higher-level actors involved. What results from this model is the ability to name names, i.e. determine who is stealing data instead of figuring out which of the hundreds of transactional events indicate data is being stolen.

This is the platform that, according to Interset’s Jou, “would have detected and surfaced Edward Snowden’s activities in a matter of hours.”

Complementing analytics with human expertise

“From a technical point of view, we are looking at actions conducted by user accounts,” F-Secure’s Niemelä explains, “and it doesn’t really matter that much whether the malicious operations being carried out are by the original owner of the account, or has someone been able to compromise said account.”

The Finnish firm’s latest security offering, Rapid Detection Service (RDS), is a platform that protects against both inside and outside threats. Niemelä calls it “a system that is capable of detecting both insiders and attackers who have been able to compromise some user account and are, in effect, an ‘insider’.”

The managed service uses a combination of threat intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning and security experts to deliver accurate, actionable data about security alerts and detect anomalies and signs of insider threats.

“Most users have rather clean and repeating patterns in their work from a statistics point of view,” Niemelä says. “Thus, alarming changes in the users’ behavior can be detected with suitable near real-time statistics analysis tools, supported by heuristics and machine learning systems.”

Organizations try hard to protect user identities by adopting different security solutions and training employees on the basics of cybersecurity, but it’s not enough.

RDS collects data from different sources, including behavioral information from corporate endpoints, and detects when a user account starts behaving in an unusual manner. The use of near-real-time analytics, stored data analytics and big data analytics enables the RDS platform to compare user behavior against baseline standards, historical data and known threats in order to detect signs of malicious activities while filtering out false positives.

What’s unique about F-Secure’s approach is the team of human experts who verify and provide incident response on anomalies detected by its machine learning engine. When a breach is confirmed, the client is contacted and informed.

Amplifying malicious insider activity to ease detection

LogRhythm tackles insider threats from a slightly different perspective, and takes the mindset that the adversary has already likely breached the perimeter, explains Greg Foss, Security Operations Lead at the security vendor, “so our detections primarily focus on tracking attacker activity once they are inside.”

The company’s User Threat Detection module provides insider threat detection capabilities through honeypot analytics and open-source honeypot solutions. Honeypots are decoys or cyber traps that lure malicious hackers and enable security software to detect, deflect or counteract their nefarious activities.

LogRhythm has researched honeypots, deception and sensitive file tracking to determine ways to trick attackers and track them as they move through an organization. “The trick is not to make compromise impossible but to ensure that it is loud and noticeable so that the SOC can detect and respond to the threat,” Foss explains.

Foss also stresses network flow analysis as another key piece of the puzzle when it comes to detecting insider threats. “A lot of people ask what threat feeds they should use to help find bad guys on their network,” Foss says. “I often inform them that they already have everything they need right in front of them, they just need to start looking closely at the data they are already collecting.”

LogRhythm uses Deep Packet Analytics to investigate huge amounts of network traffic and catch malicious insiders when they want to exfiltrate sensitive information, and also to detect compromised network nodes such as machines conducting packet capturing activities.

Dealing with the threats of the future

With organizations using more online services and generating more data than ever, insider threats will become increasingly complicated and harder to find. Shifting from traditional methods to new approaches and technologies such as data science can help find the needle in the haystack and speed the process of detecting and blocking insider threats before they cause irreversible damage.

How data science fights modern insider threats

How To Use Neuroscience To Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

How To Use Neuroscience To Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

When we think about ways to improve and refine and improve our content marketing strategy, we probably don’t think about the field of neuroscience. But this academic discipline offers many insights into how to market a product or service—so many insights, in fact, that it’s become a field of its own. We call this field neuromarketing, and it involves take advantage of the wealth of information gleaned from measuring the brain’s electrical fluctuations to drive positive engagement with marketing messages.

How To Use Neuroscience To Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

When we think about ways to improve and refine and improve our content marketing strategy, we probably don’t think about the field of neuroscience. But this academic discipline offers many insights into how to market a product or service—so many insights, in fact, that it’s become a field of its own. We call this field neuromarketing, and it involves take advantage of the wealth of information gleaned from measuring the brain’s electrical fluctuations to drive positive engagement with marketing messages.

Most businesses, of course, are not going to hire a neuroscientist to analyze the effectiveness of their content marketing strategies. At the same time, there is all sorts of feedback, information, and advice we can take from existing neuromarketing research to help us put together more focused, results-driven content marketing plans. Let’s explore five of the most important ways we can use insights from the field of neuromarketing to improve and refine a content marketing strategy:

  • Use emotions to wake up the brain: Our brains kick into high gear when we’re stimulated by powerful, intense emotions. If a visceral emotion that we feel is a positive experience, our brains wake us up so we can enjoy the pleasure-inducing aspects of the experience; if the visceral emotion we feel is negative, our brains also wake us up—in this case, to actively plot out how to protect and insulate ourselves from the negative experience. Thus, content that triggers strong emotions (whether positive or negative) plays a key role in activating our brains, which, in turn, makes us more likely to absorb and retain the content that’s in front of us.
  • Appeal to the brain’s self-serving instincts: Our brains have evolved to be self-serving, to react in ways that keep us alive (i.e., the survival instinct) and to help us feel good about ourselves. Thus, content marketing pieces that stroke the readers’ ego and make them feel validated and at peace with their own emotional, physical, and mental condition is more likely to be well-received.
  • Feed the brain’s desire for familiarity: The reason that branding is so powerful in the marketing world is because of our brain’s desire to derive consistency and comfort from interactions with the world around us. Indeed, when we recognize familiar patterns, our brains respond by producing the pleasure-inducing neurochemical dopamine. In the world of content marketing, these familiar patterns include the fonts, images, graphics, and color choices we use in content production.
  • Help the brain to avoid complexity: Obviously we should be doing everything we can to make our content pieces as simple and straightforward for the reader. But did you know that anything that our brains perceive as difficult to process and interpret automatically becomes a more complicated and time-consuming task? That means we must be cognizant of all potential access barriers, including a poor font choice or a complex graphic or a too-big block of text.
  • Surprise the brain with unexpected word choices: When we’re consuming a piece of content, our brains are wired to process information quickly by essentially predicting and pre-processing the words and sentence constructions we expect to consume. In this way, we’re able to skip and skim through content while still absorbing its central messages and themes. Therefore, in the world of content marketing, we want use unexpected word choices and sentence constructions that stimulate and wake up our brains. For example, if we read the phrase, “Money doesn’t grow on _____,” our brain is likely to automatically pre-fill in the final word (i.e., “trees”). However, if instead we encounter the words “designer jeans”—as in, “Money doesn’t grow on designer jeans”—our brain suddenly wakes up and our interest is piqued. Thus, as content marketers, we want to learn to play word games and manipulate language (sparingly, of course).

There’s no question our brains are instinctively activated by certain types of stimulation. Our challenge is to harness and channel the right types of stimulation to create more effective marketing content. Fortunately, neuroscience can be an important asset for us, teaching us how to use emotions to wake up our brain, how to appeal to our brain’s innately self-serving interests, how to feed our brain’s desire for familiarity and simplicity, and how to surprise our brain with word games and other unexpected language manipulations.

How To Use Neuroscience To Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

These are the best laptops for under $200

These are the best laptops for under $200

Great news! If you only have $200 to spend on a laptop, your options are far better than they used to be. While these machines aren’t built for hardcore gaming or video editing, they’re more than enough for web browsing and writing papers.

These are the best laptops for under $200

Great news! If you only have $200 to spend on a laptop, your options are far better than they used to be. While these machines aren’t built for hardcore gaming or video editing, they’re more than enough for web browsing and writing papers.

These days, sub-$200 laptops commonly ship with HD displays, full Windows 10 (rather than something more limited, like Google’s Chrome OS), and a decent chunk of internal storage. Many also come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365—perfect for the students they’re targeting.

To find the best of this affordable bunch, we put the most popular models through a series of performance and display tests in our state-of-the-art labs. Then we put them to the test at our desks, to get a feel for real-world factors like keyboard feel, trackpad responsiveness, and build quality.

The result? We can tell you with authority that if you want the best affordable laptops available today, these are the ones to buy.

This article was originally published on Reviewed.com. See more at Reviewed.com’s best laptops for every kind of student. Also see their recommendations for the best laptops.

Best Overall: Asus E402SA

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The Asus E402SA (also known as the EeeBook E402SA) won us over right away. While it’s not much faster than its competition, its 14-inch screen is bigger than most. The display is a mere 1366 x 768 pixels, but it’s glossy, looks great, and isn’t a major drain on the battery. Its $249 MSRP is a little above our target price, but we’ve seen it on sale as low as $179.

Under the hood, the E402SA has the same Intel Celeron N3050 processor as most of the best sub-$200 laptops, but it’s one of the few to offer both VGA and ethernet jacks. It also includes a full-sized SD memory card slot and two USB ports (one is even USB 3.0). Its trackpad is mediocre, but the full-sized keyboard is very comfortable to type on. Our favorite feature is the E402SA’s expandability; turn one screw to remove the bottom panel and you can upgrade your storage with any 2.5-inch laptop hard drive or SSD.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (2016)

Who says a cheap laptop can’t be pretty? This Dell offers up an attractive design, solid build quality, and the port selection we expect from a new laptop these days (USB 3.0, HDMI, and a microSD slot). Based around Intel’s ubiquitous Celeron N3050 dual-core processor, it performs pretty much like any other laptop in its class. It also sports a decent trackpad, but its keyboard feels a bit cramped.

The Inspiron 11 3000’s ($180) biggest flaw is the included McAfee install, which can be a real hog on system resources and annoys with frequent popups. But all things considered, Dell offers up a package that’s colorful, modern, and just fast enough for schoolwork or surfing the web. It may not be inspiring, but this Inspiron is worth its asking price.

Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11

This Acer isn’t a looker, but it’s got what it takes on the inside. Its cramped keyboard has a weird layout, but on the positive side, the Aspire One Cloudbook 11 ($180) has a very responsive trackpad that works well with gestures. Sporting an Intel Celeron N3050 dual-core chip, this small laptop fits the bill if you have limited needs. It might keep you waiting from time to time, but it’s got just enough oomph for Word, Excel, a few Chrome tabs, or older games.

While you can find a 16GB version, you should avoid that one at all costs; our test model had 32GB of storage and even that filled up right away. You can add more memory with an SD card, but since it’s not microSD, it’ll stick out the side of the machine. In our opinion, your best bet for inconspicuous extra storage on the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is probably a low profile USB drive.

Lenovo Ideapad 100s (Windows)

Lenovo’s Ideapad 100s ($200) impressed us as a Chromebook, but the Windows 10 version falls short of expectations. Its mediocre keyboard, basic trackpad (don’t expect scrolling or zooming gestures), and plasticky feel don’t do it any favors. It’s available in a bunch of different colors, but that does little to distract from its underwhelming performance.

Inside, it has an older Intel Atom Z3735F chip. It may be quad core, but it’s still slower than the Celeron N3050 dual-core processor found in rival machines. The 100s is also stuck with USB 2.0 ports, which can’t keep up with the 3.0 ports on better machines. It’s not all bad though. You can add storage through the compact microSD slot, the hinge rotates a full 180 degrees, and it had the best battery life of any of the sub-$200 models we tested.

HP Stream 11 (2016)

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We liked the HP Stream last year, and are happy to see the line continue with this year’s updated model ($200). Revamped from the ground-up, the playful Stream 11 is a little bigger than its 11-inch competition, but that makes for a keyboard that’s much more pleasant to use. Its keys are almost full-sized, and the typing feel is pretty good for this part of the market. With Intel’s Celeron N3050 inside, the Stream isn’t great at multitasking, but can tackle lighter work without breaking a sweat.

The worst part of using the Stream 11 is its iffy trackpad, which isn’t nearly as responsive as we’d like. The screen also seemed a little duller than the rest of our test group. Unfortunately, HP also bundles McAfee with this computer; it’s a pain, but you can uninstall it to speed things up.

Lenovo IdeaPad 100s (Chromebook)

If you’re shopping for a Chromebook, we thought that the affordably-priced Lenovo IdeaPad 100s ($180) was pretty solid. Even though you won’t be able to run Android apps, for only around $175, we can’t get too upset. It’s a lot like the Windows-based IdeaPad 100s we tested for this article, but it has a slightly better trackpad and, of course, runs Google’s ChromeOS.

It’s competitively spec’d thanks to an Intel N2840 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It’s the right price for a simple Chromebook, without spending more than $200.

These are the best laptops for under $200

Change the World

Change the World

More businesses are taking on society’s biggest problems—and making money doing so. Here’s Fortune’s look at 50 companies that do well by doing good.

Change the World

More businesses are taking on society’s biggest problems—and making money doing so. Here’s Fortune’s look at 50 companies that do well by doing good.

Rank Company
1 GlaxoSmithKline
2 IDE Technologies
3 General Electric
4 Gilead Sciences
5 Nestlé
6 Nike
7 MasterCard
8 United Technologies
9 Novozymes
10 First Solar
11 Coca-Cola
12 Intel
13 Munich Re
14 Fibria Celulose
15 Walmart
16 Bank of America
17 Crystal Group
18 Ito En
19 PayPal Holdings
20 Skandia
21 Siemens
22 National Australia Bank
23 Olam International
24 Schneider Electric
25 McDonald’s
26 Salesforce.com
27 Unilever
28 CVS
29 Accenture
30 Didi Chuxing
31 Johnson & Johnson
32 Banco de Crédito
33 Compass Group
34 mPedigree
35 LinkedIn
36 Smart Communications
37 Becton Dickinson
38 PepsiCo
39 Panasonic
40 Gap
41 Tribanco
42 DSM
43 Heineken
44 BTPN
45 Starbucks
46 Cipla
47 IBM
48 Godrej Group
49 Grupo Bimbo
50 Tesla Motors

Change the World

34 Most Disruptive Technologies of the Next Decade

34 Most Disruptive Technologies of the Next Decade

Research firm Gartner released its annual report this week on hype in technology, sharing which technologies are up-and-coming, which are at peak hype, and which have moved well into mainstream territory.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that machine learning is riding the highest crest of the “peak of inflated expectations” wave. You might be surprised, though, by the technologies coming up behind it.

For those who associate the term “hype” with failure, realize that that’s what this report is bringing into focus. Instead, it highlights “the set of technologies that is showing promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years,” Mike J. Walker, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

The phases of the hype cycle, as outlined in a graph created by Gartner, are as follows: Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and finally, Plateau of Productivity.

Basically: There’s a breakthrough, a flurry of press coverage touting successes, a bunch of failures that ultimately contribute to disillusionment, then people start to understand the technology more, and it goes mainstream. Some examples of the timeline from the report: Augmented reality is currently in the Trough of Disillusionment, and virtual reality is on its way up the Slope of Enlightenment. But no matter where they are on the cycle, these technologies all are important to keep on your radar, whether your business currently intersects with them or not.

Now for some technologies you might never have heard of that Gartner predicts are going to be pretty big:

1. Smart Dust

This refers to little things called “motes,” which Gartner defines in a research note for the report as “tiny wireless micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), robots, or other devices that can detect everything from light, temperature, and pressure to vibration, magnetism, and chemical composition.” CNN put it this way in 2010: Smart dust aims to monitor everything.

2. 4-D Printing

You’ve heard of 3-D printing, the quick fabrication of three-dimensional products with a machine that essentially “prints” the products. The fourth dimension in this next-gen fabrication process is the encoding in the end product of “a dynamic capability–either function, confirmation, or properties–that can change via the application of chemical, electronic, particulate, or nanomaterials,” according to Gartner. Examples the firm offers: “printed pipe valves that can expand or contract and printed cubes that unfold.”

3. 802.11ax

What is this? It looks like a random series of numbers and letters. Will people be referring to this verbally, talking about the promise of eight-oh-two-point-eleven-ay-ex? Not unless they’re already talking about eight-oh-two-point-eleven-ay-see (802.11ac), to which 802.11ax is the successor. What we’re talking about here is technology aimed at improving performance of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and supporting a larger number of them. Development of this technology is still in early stages according to Gartner, but expect it to be important as the number of connected “Internet of Things” devices continues to grow.

These are just three items on Gartner’s list of technologies moving through the hype cycle, and the 34 technologies on the list may not include ones the firm included in past years.

Here are all the technologies in the report:

  • Smart Dust
  • 4-D Printing
  • General-Purpose Machine Intelligence
  • 802.11ax
  • Context Brokering
  • Neuromorphic Hardware
  • Data Broker PaaS (dbrPaaS)
  • Quantum Computing
  • Human Augmentation
  • Personal Analytics
  • Smart Workspace
  • Volumetric Displays
  • Conversational User Interfaces
  • Brain-Computer Interface
  • Virtual Personal Assistants
  • Smart Data Discovery
  • Affective Computing
  • Commercial UAVs (Drones)
  • IoT Platform
  • Gesture Control Devices
  • Micro Data Centers
  • Smart Robots
  • Blockchain
  • Connected Home
  • Cognitive Expert Advisors
  • Machine Learning
  • Software-Defined Security
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Nanotube Electronics
  • Software-Defined Anything (SDx)
  • Natural-Language Question Answering
  • Enterprise Taxonomy and Ontology Management
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality

34 Most Disruptive Technologies of the Next Decade

These 10 Companies Are Changing the World

These 10 Companies Are Changing the World

More businesses are taking on society’s biggest problems—and making money doing so. Here’s Fortune’s look at companies that do well by doing good.

See Fortune’s full 50-company list here.

1. GlaxoSmithKline

  • A health worker vaccinated children at Ba Kwasumba Health Centre, Cilundu Health Zone, Kasai Oriental Province, DRC. Save The Children and GSK have together successfully created a vaccination programme against preventable diseases for children under 5.GSK’s PRIME project beginning in 2014 will provide essential free medicines and equipment to under equipped Health Centres in DRC. GSK PRIME will improve access to health services through refurbishing health centers, training, equipping and supporting frontline health workers and driving a demand for health services from communities where children currently have no access to health care. DRC is one of the worst countries in the world to be a mother or a child. One in five children die of preventable diseases before reaching their 5th birthday. PRIME will contribute to the wider Save The Children Health Signature Programme in DRC.
    Ivy Lahon/ Save The ChildrenA health worker vaccinated children at Ba Kwasumba Health Centre, Cilundu Health Zone, Kasai Oriental Province, DRC. 
    Breaking down global health care barriers and finding the customers of the future.

    Early next year, if all goes according to plan, Sir Andrew Witty will step down after nine years as CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s sixth largest pharmaceutical company. He’ll leave behind a company with an unmatched record for balancing scientific progress, social impact and the profit motive.

    GSK has made a calculated bet on intellectual property leniency in poor nations, releasing drugs from patent protection and thus lowering their prices. That may depress revenue, but GSK says it doesn’t lose money in any market where it operates. And over time the approach builds goodwill and a strong market presence around the globe. “GSK has existed for 300 years,” Witty tells Fortune. “We think about how we can be successful, not just in the next year or the next two years, but in the next 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years.” The near term looks good: GSK’s revenue grew 4% in the second quarter of 2016, as new product sales crossed the $1.5 billion threshold for the first time.

     In March, GSK announced that it will no longer file drug patents in the lowest-income regions of the world—an integral part of its patient access strategy. The company is hardly a passive partner in these regions, however. GSK reinvests 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries into training health workers and building medical infrastructure. For instance, through a partnership with the NGO Save the Children, the drugmaker has trained locals to properly administer vaccinations and screen for conditions like malnutrition. ViiV Healthcare, an HIV therapy unit majority owned by GSK, struck a landmark deal with the government of Botswana in June to make the HIV drug Tivicay available as part of a national program to test and treat as many people as possible. And the company has strengthened its commitment to vaccine development, including the world’s first malaria vaccine, which could curb a disease that kills more than half a million people a year.
    GSK has also leveraged products from its formidable consumer health business into medical solutions, creating the umbilical cord infection-fighting Umbipro gel out of a component in one of its mouthwashes. The product doesn’t need refrigeration and could save 85,000 babies per year, according to United Nations.

    2. IDE Technologies

    People walk in a desalination plant before during its inauguration in Hadera
    Nir Elias — Reuters People walk in a desalination plant during its inauguration in the coastal city of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv.
    In regions where freshwater is hard to find, its engineering ­alchemy converts oceanic salt­water for drinking and irrigation.

    Call it the Rumplestiltskin of the desert. Like the fabled dwarf who could transform straw into gold, IDE, a leader in desalination technologies, turns salt water into fresh water.

    The Israeli company supplies 70% of the tiny Middle Eastern country’s potable H2O. Its largest local plant, located just south of Tel Aviv, produces 165 million gallons of freshwater daily. Privately held IDE also builds and operates some of the biggest desalination plants in about 40 other countries, including Mexico, Chile and China. In the U.S., the 51-year-old company recently opened the largest such plant in the Western hemisphere, located in the Southern California city of Carlsbad, near San Diego. The site, a $1 billion undertaking, transforms seawater into potable water in just 45 minutes and provides some 8% of San Diego County’s water. Remarkably, it costs less than 0.5 cents to produce a gallon of drinking water at the Carlsbad plant. The increased cost to homeowners, meanwhile, will average an additional $5 per month. That’s still a lot lower than previous attempts at desalination.

    IDE’s secret sauce? Over the years, its Israel-based researchers have developed a wide range of energy- and cost-efficient desalination processes, including using “waste steam” to generate electricity, and a proprietary “pressure center” that allows large plants to perform maintenance via the Internet. Another key innovation is the company’s so-called membranes (the special pipes that separate water from larger salt molecules), which don’t require chemical-intensive cleaning. This makes for a faster, more cost-efficient and environment-friendly desalination process. Given recent water shortages in some regions of the world, a situation aggravated by warming temperatures and climate change, those kinds of breakthroughs are almost as good as gold.

    3. General Electric

    Courtesy of GE
    A huge clean-tech bet pays off.

    It’s been more than a decade since GE launched its massive renewable business strategy, Ecomagination, with a pledge to double down on clean tech and generate $20 billion in annual revenue from green products. The ensuing 11 years have proved Ecomagination was more than just a PR ploy. Through the end of 2015, GEhad invested $17 billion in clean tech R&D through Ecomagination while generating $232 billion in revenue from its products.

    Last year, GE Transportation began manufacturing its Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive, which the company says will reduce emissions by more than 70% from the previous model. Through Ecomagination, GE also launched a concept called the Digital Wind Farm, which the it sayscan boost a wind farm’s energy production by 20%. It uses GE’s Predix operating system, which monitors turbine performance and uses predictive analytics to find the best way to align the turbines. Ecomagination’s decade-long manufacturing of energy-efficient technologies like these—along with the acquisition of Alstom’s power division last year—has now made GE responsible for about one-third of the world’s electricity capacity, making its commitment to clean energy a critical step for the future.

    4. Gilead Sciences

    Courtesy of Gilead
    A force fighting HIV and hepatitis where money is scarce.

    Pharmaceutical companies—especially the profitable ones—can make for easy villains in the U.S. For example, Gilead Sciences has been lambasted for the high list price of its game-changing hepatitis C cure Sovaldi, infamous as the “$1,000 pill.”

    But in India, a 28-day supply of a generic version of the drug now costs just $100, according to the company. That’s because Gilead has struck deals with 11 different Indian generic drugmakers to supply affordable versions of its hep C drugs to patients in 101 developing countries. And then there’s Egypt, the nation with the highest incidence of hepatitis C in the world (more than 10% of the population is infected). Gilead slashed the price of branded Sovaldi there by 99%.

    The firm takes a similar approach to its HIV franchise, which has posted strong sales in recent earnings reports. In fact, 2016 is the 10-year anniversary of Gilead’s HIV licensing agreements in the developing world, and the company says it’s on the cusp of having 10 million people in poor countries treated with its HIV drugs.

    5. Nestlé

    Courtesy of Nestlé 
    Food is more than just food when it’s fortified with nutrients that billions would otherwise lack.

    Nestlé isn’t perfect—it’s the world’s leading seller of bottled water, for one thing—but the 150-year old Swiss company does get a lot of things right. It sources locally, boosting developing economies and the livelihood of smallholder farmers in more than 50 countries. It has worked to purge slavery and child labor from its supply chains. In its 16-year quest to become a “Nutrition, Health and Wellness” company, it has made concerted progress: cutting fat, sugar and sodium from thousands of products, while fortifying many others—192 billion servings worth in 2015—with essential minerals and nutrients that are in especially short supply in low- and middle-income countries. Such efforts are research-based and tailored to the needs and tastes of each market—Nestlé deploys iron-enhanced soup cubes in much of Africa to fight anemia, for example. And, with research partners, it’s working to bring nutrition benefits to the food chain more widely by developing biofortified crops (think pro-vitamin maize). Given the reach of the world’s largest food and beverage company, all this—which Nestlé tracks in its annual “Creating Shared Value” report (351 pages in 2015)—makes a difference.

    6. Nike

    Spencer Lowell for Fortune
    Reducing the impact of the shoes the world runs in and the surfaces it runs on.

    Nike CEO Mark Parker likes to ask his team a single question: “Can we double our business, while halving our environmental impact?” The world’s largest athletic gear company, which first kicked off a recycled shoe program back in 1990, has hit a steady sustainability stride ever since. In a recent report, Nike disclosed that 71% of footwear and apparel uses “Nike Grind,” which is made of recycled polyester and other materials. Grind can be found in yarn and basketball shoes. It has also been incorporated in more than 1 billion square feet of sports surfaces—including running tracks, playgrounds, and football fields­—replacing surface materials like virgin rubber. Meanwhile, the popular Flyknit shoe line, which initially debuted in 2012, is both innovative and eco-friendly. Engineers reduced waste by about 60% on average for every Flyknit shoe vs. what’s used for traditional shoes, saving nearly 2 million pounds of fabric-scrap waste since 2012. New 2020 targets include sourcing 100% of cotton more sustainably and reducing landfill waste. There’s no finish line to becoming a more sustainable company, but the sportswear maker is certainly competitive in the race.

    7. MasterCard

    Courtesy of Mastercard
    Shortening the path between troubled populations and the aid they need.

    MasterCard is making it easier for charities to get help quickly to the people who really need it, and ensure that donations are actually being used for good. The MasterCard Aid Network, launched last September, distributes a version of the company’s plastic cards (similar to a gift or prepaid card) that come loaded with points that can be redeemed at certain merchants for groceries, medicine, shelter and even building materials or business supplies. The chip-enabled system can be deployed in a day or two compared to the weeks required to create and import paper vouchers.

    The system doesn’t require an Internet connection—a boon in off-the-grid areas where many refugees and disaster victims are concentrated. Still, the transactions enable organizations to collect data on what card recipients redeem, allowing charities to protect against fraudulent use and gather insight into beneficiaries’ needs.

    So far, organizations including Save the Children, World Vision and Mercy Corps have distributed cards to more than 75,000 people, from earthquake victims in Nepal to those in war-torn Yemen. MasterCard, which charges the charities fees for the service, says the program is profitable. The United Nations also recently named MasterCard the leader of an initiative to improve the distribution of humanitarian aid in emergencies, with a focus on the data management and privacy aspect.

    8. United Technologies

    Courtesy of United Technologies Corporation — Pratt & Whitney Division.
    Rethinking jet engines to make commercial aviation less of a threat to the climate (and the human respiratory system).

    With the skies becoming ever more crowded, scientists have increasingly focused on the environmental damage that commercial jetliners produce. Indeed, a 2010 MIT study estimated that aircraft emissions, including tiny particles that cause lung and heart disease, kill about 10,000 people a year—more than 10 times as many as airplane crashes. While commercial aviation generates only about 2% of global carbon emissions, scientists believe they have an outsized impact on climate change because they’re released in the upper atmosphere. That problem will only get worse with a projected 77% increase in the number of commercial aircraft by 2030, to 46,000.

    United Technologies, through its Pratt & Whitney division, this year introduced a new commercial jet engine that provides relief on multiple fronts. Compared to the company’s own traditional engine, it cuts fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions by 16%, slashes the release of particulates in half, and dramatically muffles engine roar. For each plane, that means 3,600 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide generated annually, $1 million in annual savings on fuel, and 500,000 fewer airport neighbors who will hear each takeoff.

    The new engine is called a geared turbofan, for the addition of an internal gearbox that allows the fan blades and the turbine that spins them to rotate at different, optimal speeds. UTC says it spent 20 years and $10 billion developing the technology for commercial aircraft. The engines are already in use on mid-sized, single-aisle jets in Europe and Asia. UTC says it has received orders to equip 4,100 planes, from 70 customers in more than 30 countries. A GE partnership has developed a comparably efficient conventional engine, called the Leap. But future iterations of UTC’s geared turbofan engine are expected to generate considerably greater savings: for the planet and airlines, as well our lungs and ears. Indeed, UTC has already promised a modest upgrade for 2021—and other manufacturers (including Rolls Royce) are reportedly researching geared-turbofan engines themselves. “It’s a significant breakthrough,” says Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group. “In many ways, it is the future.”

    9. Novozymes

    I PIU' VERDI DEL MONDO
    Fabrizio Giraldi
    Finding microbes that make products more eco-friendly.

    If enzymes are nature’s secret sauce for managing our world’s resources better, consider Denmark’s Novozymes as the earth’s indispensable laboratory. The biotechnology company isolates and produces enzymes and microorganisms that help industries make their products more eco-friendly, with examples ranging from efficient detergents to enhanced animal feed. Novozymes has helped customers save 60 million tons of CO2 emissions, and improve their water efficiency by 9% and energy efficiency by 15%. The company has also partnered withMonsanto to perform test-trials on how to improve agricultural output, and next year, will start selling corn and soybean seeds coated with microbes that could increase the average yield of crops by 3%.

    “We look at sustainability and profits as one conjunction,” said CEO Peder Holk Nielsen, the company’s outspoken leader who believes his company’s mission could help reduce world hunger and carbon emissions, both integral parts of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. “Our task is to always try to do more with less.”

    10. First Solar

    Courtesy of First Solar
    Its panels are making solar energy cost competitive.

    For almost two decades, First Solar has grown into the world’s largest manufacturer of “thin-film” solar panels. Its factories churn out panels at a rate of roughly one per second, and to date it has sold enough 13.5 gigawatts worth, enough to power more than 2 million American homes. Thanks to the company’s R&D efforts, First Solar’s large-scale farms can deliver energy to utilities at record-low prices—low enough to beat out power from dirty fossil fuels. That’s a crucial milestone for those who hope to see the world transition to cleaner energy.

These 10 Companies Are Changing the World

The case of alpha business models and beta technology

The case of alpha business models and beta technology

Allstate is on a mission to vertically develop its telematics expertise and find new sources of revenue across different sectors by launching a new standalone unit called Arity (dedicated to data collection and analytics). It’s no surprise that Allstate’s own brands, such as Esurance and Answer Financial (which only last month announced the release of a telematics app called Streetwise Drivers Club), are clients. It’s a start on the path to the unknown.

Allstate has been using telematics over the last six years to encourage safe driving — but apparently safe driving is too much of a lofty goal for a for-profit insurer that has already invested tens of millions of dollars in telematics.

That was then

Allstate launched its voluntary Drivewise program in Illinois at the end of 2010. Participants received a dongle to install in their car with the promise of an immediate 10 percent enrollment discount and up to 30 percent performance discount on their auto insurance premium if they practiced safe driving. This wasn’t at all different from Progressive’s Snapshot device, which in its earlier days was called MyRate.

While Progressive was the first U.S. insurer to launch a wireless telematics device, Allstate was the first insurer to launch a telematics smartphone app that works instead of or alongside its plug-in wireless device and is tied to a points system. These devices typically track mileage, braking, speed and time of day when a customer drives, while newer developments of telematics apps also have a GPS component that can track whereabouts. So far, customers haven’t freaked out about their loss of privacy.

Fast followers ensued; currently, 80 percent of the top 10 private passenger auto insurers offer one of two sorts of telematics program (or both): pay-how-you-drive (PHYD) or pay-as-you-drive (PAYD).

TC_Table1

This is now

Insurers are trial and erroring their way to market penetration

One thing that is telling about the struggles insurers face in their path to usage-based insurance (UBI) penetration is the change in tactics deployed by insurers. Originally, newly rolled out telematics programs were monetary-reward-only programs. More recently though, Progressive introduced the fine print of “Snapshot doesn’t always save people money; and on occasion, it could increase your rate,” typically during renewal.

Allstate, on the other hand, launched Allstate Rewards to allow any Drivewise drivers, and not just Allstate customers, to earn points that can later be converted to benefits in the form of merchandise, gift cards and local deals. The latter is perhaps the first signal that Allstate has a bigger vision on how it could leverage customers’ data beyond a “customer loyalty-slash-retention play.” As it stands, according to SimilarWeb, its Drivewise Android app was downloaded between 50,000 to 100,000 times, placing any bragging rights on hold.

Moving on to State Farm, the leading insurer is playing both sides by offering a Drive Safe & Save telematics program tied to monetary rewards, as well as its Driver Feedback app that strictly provides tools for drivers to self-assess their driving behaviors, because safe driving is its own prize.

Attract-and-retain turned reward-and-retain

When all things are considered, the use of technology coupled with discounts to attract and retain lowest-risk drivers is a novel concept — one that very quickly eradicated any sort of competitive advantage due to the share of competitors with similar offerings and the cost to deploy such solutions (whether device-based or app-based).

Telematics is both an IT and a marketing expense.

First, the majority of top insurers offer similar programs, and there’s no evidence to suggest that insurers without a telematics offering fare worse than their counterparts. In fact, in 2013, Geico, aka the odd one out, surpassed Allstate to become the second-largest U.S. auto insurer, according to data compiled by SNL.

So while Allstate and Progressive saw their dollars flow, or should I say Flo, into telematics, Geico gave its marketing budget a boost and achieved a noteworthy milestone, sustained to this day. In the grand scheme of things, most insurers with telematics propositions have continued to boost their advertising budget over the years despite their offering of a more cost-conscious, better yet, “fair” insurance policy, which should have sold itself. Takeaway No. 1: Telematics is both an IT and a marketing expense.

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Second, retaining customers via rewards isn’t a long-term strategy, it’s a tactic — and a very expensive one indeed, especially for insurers that need to execute this kind of operation. In reality, three-fourth of telematics customers receive an average savings of 14 percent. That comes out to ~$118 in annual discount when factoring the average auto insurance policy premium being $841, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Again, nothing to brag about, albeit this piece is somewhat subjective. Takeaway No. 2: Operating costs and actual savings discount any telematics discount.

So what gives?

The case for a more personalized pricing structure made possible because of this technology fits nicely with niche players like Metromile and Marmalade, that either target low-mileage or inexperienced drivers.

Five-year-old pay-per-mile San Francisco-based MGU Metromile (which is active in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington) has a single UBI solution targeting low-mileage drivers who drive less than 10,000 miles a year. The case for product-market fit.

U.K.-based specialist insurer Marmalade operates in the land of the young and the restless, targeting young drivers (age 17-24) via a telematics offering, in which discounts are granted during renewal; a bigger likelihood of drivers staying with the insurer for at least two years. The case for the beauty is in the details.

Reaching for the safe

Over the long term, “safe driving” will become a goal pursued by several players that in turn will put into question how big of a role a single insurer can play in this field and actually achieve both scale and engagement. There will always be others, whether auto manufacturers or tech behemoths, that will introduce technological improvements to hands-free technologies and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), deeming driving scores irrelevant.

The insurance industry is associated with high-touch, low-frequency customer touch points, and it is that sore spot that has led to the quest by insurers to create more touch points — but in reality, forced business models on what should have been a short-lived engagement gadget (after all, how long should drivers be asked to validate they are safe drivers?) for many mass insurers (with the emphasis on mass).

The challenge lies between seeking the masses to capture more big data versus seeking a fit within segments of the insurance population. Now, Allstate is spreading its wings beyond insurance, looking to justify its telematics costs in the name of big data, now the turf of Arity.

Looking forward

This is the era where insurers try to sell insurance in a hundred different ways, seeking meaningful and positive touch points with their customers. Mass insurers haven’t figured out yet their sustainable sweet spot around telematics, but, for now, they are busy satisfying their underwriting curiosity with fancier data sets. That, by itself, is an experience worth paying for; the question is, for how long?

The case of alpha business models and beta technology