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it roundup

The IT Roundup: News we're still talking about in August

August 29, 2014
By ldare


A spotlight on workforce diversity

Several tech companies have released the gender and ethnic makeup of their workforce this year, creating something of a trend in the industry.  While Intel and Hewlett-Packard have provided this information publicly for years, the string of recent disclosures has been part of a new industrywide transparency effort as well as a response to pressures from shareholders and activists.

Google was the first tech giant to release statistics on its employees in the spring, which were summarized in a corporate blog post. Tellingly, only 30 percent of its workforce is female and an overwhelming 91 percent of the company is either white or Asian.

Lazlo Bock, Google’s SVP of people operations wrote, "We've always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it's time to be candid about the issues."

Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter soon followed suit, with Apple’s Tim Cook recently announcing that they will release their diversity data in the near future. So far, the numbers have been less than impressive.

Though a lack of women and minorities in STEM fields has been cited as an excuse, “something else is at play in the industry,” wrote Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times. Miller’s article references the high rate of attrition for women in computer engineering—double that of the rate for men—and describes a Silicon Valley start-up culture that is anything but welcoming to female programmers.

It’s clear that more needs to be done. A lack of diversity in tech isn’t just crucial to making sure that user groups don’t feel alienated from a company’s product offering—it’s essential to inspiring innovation and staying competitive over the long term. Diversity of thought comes with diversity of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and it’s that key strength that can push a company ahead, or lacking it, hold it back from reaching its full potential.

Tech giants lay their bets on IoT standards

At least six groups have emerged recently to create industry standards that will enable a nascent and much talked about Internet of Things. Product manufacturers seek to develop a standardized way for these “things” to talk to each other, with big numbers riding on their success—the market is projected to grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020, according to the International Data Corporation.

Google’s Nest Labs and Samsung are two founders of the newest body, the Thread Group, announced mid-July.

Only a week before, Intel led the launch of the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), also with Samsung, while in December, Intel’s rival Qualcomm established AllSeen Alliance.

While OIC and AllSeen Alliance are working on competing open source IoT platforms, Thread provides a low-power network protocol that allows objects to communicate without a central hub, like Bluetooth. Nest already uses Thread in a couple of its devices and has partnered with manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Whirlpool to integrate their products with the system.

“Thread's leaders noted that the AllSeen and OIC platforms could work atop its protocol—a point perhaps illustrated by the fact that Samsung is a member of both Thread and OIC,” noted Ben Fox Rubin for CNET.

“The quick creation of these three groups conveys the tech industry's increased focus on the Internet of Things, with major players hoping to put their stamp on the future of connected devices,” he wrote.

The different standards groups have been compared to VHS and Betamax, or HD and Blu-ray. It stands to be seen whether companies will benefit from getting in on development early, or whether those biding their will have the advantage.

The Thread Group plans to start offering certifications for Thread devices next year.

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As part of TEKsystems’ public relations team, Vanessa Ulrich reads everything she can about the technology industry and emerging trends. Vanessa blogs about where technology and society collide, giving context and commentary to top news stories.

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