If your business hasn’t automated its approval process, you’re probably losing valuable staff time to repetitive tasks. Approving timesheets, time-off requests, purchase orders, work orders, and more involves processes with many steps. In fact, just the act of sending emails to verify approvals can eat into your staff’s time.
Creating apps that automate your approval process no longer requires a web developer, thanks to the array of no-code tools available. These tools feature easy editors with drag-and-drop functionality that allow anyone to create an app and a workflow that automates the approval process.
Available at various price points, any one of these apps could streamline approvals and pay off in many other ways for your business.
The Best No-Code Tools that Automate Your Approval Process
No-code tools that can automate your approval process run the gamut from user-friendly options for small businesses to more comprehensive platforms suitable for large enterprises. Whether you’re looking to create one app or want to design dozens that can handle every facet of your business, these no-code tools can help.
JotForm Approvals streamlines the approval process without the need to do any coding. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to set up a workflow that includes approvers, conditional branches, and automated emails.
With the JotForm Form Builder, you can easily build an online form to quickly collect submissions. Those submissions might be timesheets, work order requests, inventory purchase requests, or any other type of request that requires approval.
Once someone completes the approval form, the submission triggers the approval workflow you created. JotForm Approvals makes it easy to track and manage the process, and the automated tasks prevent staff from spending time sorting requests, following up on missing information, and so on.
You can set up your approval process to send automated emails to approvers when they receive a new task. And as tasks are approved, form respondents will receive an automated email notification.
Approvers don’t have to manually draft and send emails, so they can stay focused on the work of approving requests, rather than all of the repetitive work that goes along with approval.
All approval requests are saved in a central location, further saving approvers time. Information gathered through forms populates a database in JotForm Tables that supervisors and approvers can access for a broad-picture view.
The database makes monitoring the entire process simple, and supervisors can potentially spot problems and holdups early on in the process.
The JotForm Mobile Forms app, which is available for free on iOS or Android, enables approvers to manage both forms and approval flow from their phones.
JotForm Approvals is free.
Checkbox features a convenient drag-and-drop design that makes for easy and fast workflow automation. This app enables you to create parallel workflows, including reminders, scheduled tasks, and approvals, to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.
Checkbox’s predetermined logic options make for streamlined processes that are accurate and appropriate. Including calculations, digital spreadsheets, if-then logic, and decision-tree logic in your workflows help to avoid holdups and reduces the demand for staff to make decisions and sort requests manually.
This no-code platform is comprehensive. Not only does it handle workflow creation and approvals, but Checkbox also features a calculation engine capable of creating complex rules and logic.
The dashboard and analytics help you identify what’s working and how to improve your business, while integrations with other tools make Checkbox a seamless addition to your existing business technology and systems.
The template gallery is loaded with templates to save you time and make the automation process faster. You can easily customize templates for common approval situations, like performance reviews, document execution approvals, and expense approvals.
Checkbox offers a 14-day free trial, so you can experience it for yourself at no risk.
Decisions is designed for fast implementation, so you can automate all of your business systems. Its rules-driven automation can pivot with the changing business environment, so you can establish systems that will adapt to shifting regulations, demands, and more.
This no-code platform includes powerful and comprehensive features, so you can rely on it for all of your automation needs. There’s no need to worry about integrating other tools or dealing with compatibility issues.
The Decisions visual designer is user-friendly, relying on graphics so that anyone — with or without coding or IT background — can automate processes. The Workflow Engine boasts more than 3,000 pre-built steps, making it easy to create workflows and processes that automate everything from work orders to vacation requests.
The drag-and-drop interface makes building custom reports simple, so you can access the specific information you need for a project, investor, or meeting. With such easy access to trends and business metrics, this platform can help you address processes that aren’t working and improve those that are.
Decisions goes beyond your typical automation platform with detailed reporting and built-in testing and debugging capabilities. Whether you’re just getting started with automation or are working with complex configurations, these testing options can help to head off trouble before you put a process into place.
You can even create permanent rule and workflow unit tests that automatically run with any rule changes. This ensures that your processes perform the way you want them to and allows you to spot errors early on before they become costly mistakes.
With its extensive functionality, Decisions stands to save businesses significant time. It’s well-suited for large-scale enterprises looking to automate their approval processes and systems across their operations.
Pricing starts at $4,839 per month for a single server with unlimited users. Enterprise pricing details are available upon request.
Rindle, a no-code automation platform, allows you to build processes that enhance your business and your team. Trusted by top brands like the YMCA and AudienceView, Rindle features an easy-to-use dashboard and versatile capabilities.
With Rindle, you can create rules that will guide each step of your workflow, including your approval processes. The rules are customizable, so you can implement the steps and requirements that make sense for your business.
You don’t have to be a coding expert to work with Rindle. It comes equipped with more than 20 no-code triggers, the ability to use “and” and “or” logic for conditions, and more than 30 no-code actions. This simplifies the process of building your workflow and rules.
The Rindle dashboard resembles a card system like Asana or Trello but with more sophisticated capabilities. While you can still assign tasks and deadlines, the automation you set up can also create subtasks and take over some of the work.
You can use Rindle to create rule-driven workflows for your approval process. Whether you’re sorting emails based on the responses provided or need to ensure that requests requiring multiple approvals get in front of the right people, this platform can simplify the process and make for faster, more accurate results.
The Rindle Professional plan costs $9 per user, per month, while the Business plan costs $20 per user, per month. All plans include a 14-day trial.
Quickbase allows you to automate business processes without requiring any coding. The drag-and-drop visual builder is very user-friendly, and it helps you visualize how an app will function.
With Quickbase, you can upload data from a spreadsheet or by copying and pasting, to create a database. You can then build an app with that data.
When it comes to automating your approval process, Quickbase’s task management is highly customizable. Automated notifications, reports, and approvals can improve efficiency and keep your business operating smoothly, while reducing the time staff spend on standard tasks.
Quickbase offers a library of templates that can help you set up automated processes, so you don’t have to create a custom app.
The platform also integrates with various popular services, including Box, Gmail, Google Drive, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.
Quickbase offers a 30-day free trial, and there’s no credit card required to sign up for the trial. Pricing is customized; contact the company for more info.
With the Flowfinity platform, you can create custom apps for enterprise-grade solutions. Top businesses, including Ford, Campbell’s, Pepperidge Farm, and more, trust Flowfinity.
The visual interface is simple, so it’s not overwhelming, but it’s also highly versatile. You can publish apps instantly, and they’ll be automatically installed to save you time. Dashboards allow for data visualizations so you can monitor your business and app performance.
Flowfinity’s point-and-click editor simplifies the process of building an app. The apps are automatically published for users, who might be in the field or in the office.
The apps centralize your data, no matter where your users are located, and integrate it with your backend systems. From there, you can create reports, custom PDFs, export the data as a CSV file, or visualize and analyze it right in your dashboard.
Creating an app with Flowfinity helps to facilitate information flow while eliminating manual processes. You can use these apps to automate your business processes, including streamlining the approval process. The result is enhanced productivity and accuracy, as well as time-saving benefits for your staff and business as a whole.
In addition to automating approval processes, you could potentially use these apps to automate many other processes. Features like skip logic, barcode scanning, personalized emails, and the ability to create custom workflows mean there are potentially endless ways to apply these apps in your day-to-day operations.
Flowfinity offers a 14-day free trial and doesn’t require any credit card information to sign up for the trial. Pricing details aren’t available online.
The Kintone platform simplifies the process of building the custom apps your business needs. This no-code platform doesn’t require any IT or third-party developer assistance, saving you time and money.
Kintone offers a library of more than 1,000 new apps that can serve as a starting point. The apps are all free and customizable, so you don’t have to build an app from scratch.
You can create apps to automate your business approval processes, make for easier inventory management and ordering, facilitate time-off request approvals, and so much more.
As you build, you can also explore the wide selection of available extensions, including very popular programs like Dropbox, Evernote, Eventbrite, Gmail, HubSpot, and more. These extensions can increase your app’s functionality, ensuring it works with the other programs you’re already using for seamless integration with your business.
While Kintone makes the process of building apps easier, it also serves as a central dashboard so you can conveniently access all of your data.
Its in-database collaboration option allows you to easily search, read, and join conversations, which helps keep all of your team members on track and up to date. Teams can communicate through threads, in-record comments, user profile walls, and private messages, ensuring those conversations are stored and available when needed.
Accessible on an internet browser, Kintone is also available as an iOS and Android mobile app, so you can always stay connected.
A professional Kintone subscription starts at $24 per month, per user, with a minimum of five users. Discounted nonprofit and education and government subscriptions are also available.
Kintone offers a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card for signup.
Open as App
With Open as App, you can use your existing data to create an app. This platform pulls data from Excel, Google Sheets, or a database, all without any coding needed.
Once you’ve created your apps, it’s easy to manage them through the centralized dashboard. The dashboard gives you control over rights, security, and access settings. Your app will be visible only to you, and you can decide when and if you’re ready to share it with others.
With Open as App, you can automate your business processes, including approvals. It’s possible to automate time tracking sheets, quote follow-ups, approval notifications, sales system updates, and more. The apps themselves, can include automation like push notifications and automated emails, making them extraordinarily efficient.
Open as App helps you design four different types of apps:
- List apps convert your data into apps that are easy to access both online and offline. Users can update reports and databases, filter data according to specific criteria, and update the data.
- Dashboard apps make it easy to access your Excel or Google Sheets dashboards right from your phone. Charts update automatically, and you can customize colors and chart types.
- Calculation apps make it simple and intuitive to use complicated spreadsheets. Formulas from your spreadsheets are automatically added to an app, so other team members can use the formulas and logic.
- Survey apps make gathering survey information easier and more efficient. With this app, users can quickly fill out survey information on their phones, increasing the response rates.
While you can build a custom app from scratch, Open as App also offers a wide assortment of apps online. They can serve as an inspiration and are available publicly, so you can see what’s possible with Open as App and what type of app might work best for your business.
Open as App offers a free plan that allows you to create one app and share it with one user. The Business plan, which allows you to create 10 apps and share them with five users, costs $106 per month. A custom Enterprise plan is also available.
Choosing the Right No-Code Tools for Your Business
With so many no-code tools available, whether you’re running a small startup or a larger enterprise, you can find a tool that has the functionality and capacity you need.
Choosing the right tool for your business.
When choosing the best app, you’ll start by outlining the processes that you want to automate and the other potential uses for apps within your business. Many of these tools can help you create apps for all sorts of purposes, so write up a list of potential apps and look for a tool that can help you create those apps.
Many of these tools feature pricing that depends on the number of seats or the number of users.
It’s helpful to review the roles that each employee in your company will play, whether that’s developing an app or using an app. Having this information can help you assess both pricing and value as you consider these different tools.
Automation gives you accuracy, productivity and costs savings.
Keep in mind, too, that automating the approval process (and other business processes) pays off in enhanced accuracy, productivity, and cost savings. While you might invest in a no-code tool to develop the apps you need, remember that it’s really an investment in your business’s success and efficiency.
Image Credit: cottonbro; pexels; thank you!
The Future of Mobile Payments in a Post-COVID-19 World – ReadWrite
The payments sector has been remarkably dynamic for some years now: dizzying valuations, double-digit growth rates, and an ever-increasing speed of technology advancement on a scale barely experienced in any other industry. We have seen the coronavirus fully transform consumers’ shopping habits, drive retailers to the verge of bankruptcy, and shine a spotlight on the value of digital capabilities, all of which have served as an enormous catalyst in an already fast-moving payment industry.
The Future of Mobile Payments in a Post-COVID-19 World
Many people think that everything is now changed — but we have no reason to think that this new normal is here to stay. However, the changes will only advance further, with far-reaching implications on business strategy for players along the entire payments value chain.
Consumer payment methods are evolving at a rapid pace, reshaping payments all over the world.
This has been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as transactions have gradually moved online as stores have been forced to close. Overall, the ways we pay are affected by our cultures, habits, innovations, and the technology available to us.
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital payment industry is booming and fundamentally changing. The crisis has changed people’s views of payments and financial services, with cash use decreasing and contactless adoption promoted by several countries. This shift to a cashless society affects all aspects: retailers, merchants, consumers, governments, financial institutions, and service providers.
As per Market Research Future (MRFR), the global mobile payments market is anticipated to reach USD 3,300 billion at a CAGR of 32% from 2017 to 2023 (forecast period). In today’s market, the mobile payments market is predicted to have a high growth potential.
For day-to-day transactions, mobile payments are a cashless medium.
A technology that allows users to make instant cashless payments using their smartphones. According to the study, the significant driving factor for the mobile payments market is the technological advancements that are occurring in today’s world. The adoption of advanced technologies such as near field communications (NFC) is increasing its popularity.
NFC allows users to connect two electronic devices, such as smartphones, by simply bringing them close to each other. Furthermore, other driving factors include the ease of use, secure approach, speed, and offers associated with it.
According to the Worldpay Global Payments Study, the growth of mobile payments will continue to be the biggest factor in consumer payment in 2020, making shopping simpler than ever and already leading e-commerce payment preferences with 42% of spending in 2019—up from 36% in 2018.
Personalized Service for Customers
As we all know, in addition to innovation, the commerce and banking industries are working hard to have a plethora of payment methods that are customized based on the needs of the consumers, both online and in-store.
Will cash continue?
Although Deutsche Bank assumes that cash will continue, the next decade will see rapid growth in mobile payments, leading to a decrease in the use of plastic cards. Over the next five years, mobile payments are projected to account for two-fifths of in-store transactions in the United States, quadrupling the current amount.
Mobile payments, which range from retailer-specific applications to wallets provided by financial institutions, device manufacturers, and technology platforms, deliver convenience and protection to customers and businesses worldwide. In 2020 alone, over one billion shoppers used mobile payments.
Similar growth is anticipated in other developing countries; however, different countries will experience varying cash and plastic card shrinkage levels. In emerging markets, the impact can be felt much earlier. Many consumers in these countries are making the switch from cash to mobile payments without ever having used a plastic card.
Generation-Z – today’s children and young adults – would also have a huge effect on the future of payments.
This technology-savvy generation, born and brought up in a mobile-first world, accounts for nearly 26% of the global population. Learning how to navigate the world in the age of “fake news” and getting their digital lives bombarded with messages of dubious quality and authenticity, Gen-Z wants more personalization, better quality, and greater performance from businesses.
Brands that want to win over Gen-Z must also appeal to their digital, flexible, and mobile-focused payment preferences. The ubiquitous smartphone is quickly becoming the new wallet of choice for this generation. Many customers opt to store their favorite cards in their phones rather than carrying physical cards. This is causing major shifts in global point-of-sale payment acceptance, which has risen from 16% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.
China is the Market Leader in Digital Wallets
We can learn a lot about the future of payments (particularly during the pandemic) from developments in China, which is building a world-class mobile payment infrastructure. There, the value of online payments accounts for nearly three-quarters of GDP (71%), nearly double the proportion in 2012. Today, just under half of all in-store transactions in China are made using a mobile phone, far above levels seen in other developed markets (25% in Germany and 24% in the U.S.).
Mobile payments now account for 22% of global point-of-sale spend in 2019 and are predicted to account for nearly a third (30%) of customer payments over the next five years. The increasing share of mobile payments adoption will be driven primarily by the steady decline in the physical usage of credit cards, debit cards, and charge/deferred debit.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 is projected to have a major impact on the mobile payments industry. Contactless payments are thought to be more hygienic and safer. This trend is being driven by players in the commerce ecosystem who claim that contactless transactions improve safety and health. Compared to pre-COVID-19 projections, global contactless adoption was expected to rise by 6% to 8%, with an additional 110 million contactless payment cards expected to be released in 2020.
Mastercard’s global transactional data
Furthermore, Mastercard’s global transaction data and market analysis show a substantial rise in the use of mobile payments. As per the poll results, the number of mobile payments at supermarkets, groceries, and pharmacies during the March 2020 lockdown as a proportion of all face-to-face card payments rose by 25% compared to the previous year.
It’s cleaner to use contactless — that’s evident
Mobile payments are now used by 79% of people worldwide and 91% in the Asia Pacific, citing protection and cleanliness. The data reinforces how people search for alternatives in stores, choosing a secure and fast tap to check out over dealing with cash, pens, and keypads.
Even now that the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to abate — contactless cards and mobile payments are increasing in the United States and Canada, according to the results of an April 2020 survey.
During the pandemic, almost one-third of US customers used mobile payments for the first time, and the majority intend to continue using mobile payments after COVID-19. Mobile payments in the United States are predicted to more than double between 2020 and 2024, and contactless card payments are also rising.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on our social and economic well-being. Nevertheless, it is also true that it has been one of the most powerful forces of global digitalization.
Digital payments, particularly mobile payments, have risen as a reliable way for businesses and enterprises to operate in the post-COVID-19 new normal.
After discussing the effect of COVID-19 on all payment industries, one thing is clear: if any company wants to survive the pandemic — and all of the other “things” that may come down on “human-existence-pipeline — it must use mobile payment methods.
All companies must provide their customers with easy, convenient, and socially distancing-friendly forms of payments.
Image Credit: tim doublas; pexels; thank you!
How Blockchain Is Being Used With Smart Buildings – ReadWrite
Whether you realize it or not, many of us live in buildings with some smart capacity. You probably have at least one smart device in your home.
With the smart device industry set to grow by $65 billion by 2024, the odds are, you’ll add more of these devices. The true potential of smart homes lies in the ability of smart devices to communicate together — and that’s where blockchain technology comes in.
How Blockchain is Being Used With Smart Buildings
On the surface, smart technologies make individual tasks easier, but the potential is much larger than that. A smart device is effectively a sensor able to collect significant amounts of data about everything, from your energy use to how well-stocked your fridge is.
Smart Technology Works Better in Swarms
On its own, this data is valuable; when combined with data from other devices, its usability becomes game-changing. A properly connected smart home would be able to automatically adjust the heating to your preferences while minimizing bills, ordering your favorite groceries, monitoring and adjusting energy usage, sending repair notifications if something breaks, and much more.
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are already used extensively in supply chain management. They help efficiently manage products passed through multiple stakeholders and verify that products are what the label says they are.
Catching Slave Labor in Fishing Supply Chains
One example where smart technology has been useful is in tracking fishing supply chains. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has used IoT to track sustainable tuna fishing.
The Western and Central Pacific tuna trade is rife with illegal fisheries — and, in some cases, slave labor — because tracking is either done via an easily-forged paper trail or not at all. However, savvy consumers and brands are demanding more accountability from the tuna industry.
The WWF’s branches in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji have combined forces with blockchain software studio ConsenSys to implement secure traceability and track to address the problem.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) or QR codes capture information as a fish moves through the supply chain from the boat to grocers. Tracking information is automatically saved in blockchain, making it nearly impossible to forge.
Privacy and Compatibility Remain a Concern
Although smart technology has many uses in enterprise settings, it becomes a thornier prospect for individuals. IoT devices collect huge amounts of data which can reveal a lot about their owners. Additionally, they are often poorly secured, creating significant security challenges.
Most smart devices must run on centralized platforms controlled by major tech companies, notably Amazon and Google.
There have been significant privacy concerns about both companies due to their access to an extraordinary amount of personal data.
Amazon Alexa’s Vulnerabilities
Setting aside concerns about microphones, Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa also presents other significant security concerns.
Although Amazon provides some privacy protections, with 100 – 200 million Alexa devices and over 100,000 skills already deployed, there is a significant concern about malicious developers taking advantage of security holes.
For example, developer names aren’t verified, allowing a malicious developer to stage a phishing attack posing as a different company. This risk is especially high with some skills that link to email, banking, or social media accounts.
After a skill has been approved and added to the marketplace, a malicious developer can change its coding without getting Amazon’s approval or notifying the customer. Many developers also have misleading privacy policies — or none at all, meaning that customers will have no idea how their personally identifiable information will be used.
Lack of Device Compatibility
The second challenge is compatibility. Early adopters are painfully familiar with the concept of device divorce, where two smart devices cannot speak with another. Part of the problem is that Amazon and Google are used as primary smart home controllers, and there isn’t a platform-agnostic solution widely available to most consumers.
Blockchain Technology is the Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Blockchain technologies are working to provide the solution to these challenges and others since they can enable P2P connections without the need for a centralized validator.
With blockchain, it would be possible to connect numerous smart devices without being forced to hand that data directly over to the device manufacturer, mitigating privacy and security concerns. It can also provide increased transparency over how data is used, helping users understand what data their smart home is collecting and what it’s used for.
Blockchain technology is also hardware agnostic. Thus, it would be possible for users to pair together devices from different manufacturers without worrying about compatibility.
IOTA’s Tangle vs. Traditional Blockchain
One of the best examples of this vision is the IoT-focused blockchain IOTA.
It is important to understand that we are not talking about financial blockchain technology like Bitcoin. Blockchains based on traditional Proof of Work (PoW), like Bitcoin, lack the speed and scalability necessary to process the millions of data points produced by smart devices.
Instead, we are looking at smart device-focused technologies, most notably IOTA. IOTA uses a Tangle specifically designed for data and value transfer.
Blockchains like Bitcoin are essentially long chains of blocks containing transactions. The Tangle, on the other hand, is constructed as a directed acyclic graph (DAG), which is a collection of vertices connected by edges.
IOTA’s implementation is designed in such a way that each new transaction (vertice) must approve two previous transactions when it enters the Tangle. This eliminates the need for Proof of Stake (PoS) or PoW consensus methods.
Because these transactions don’t require always-online validators, they are feeless and contain metadata that makes them suitable for micropayments and data transfer.
IOTA is interesting because the technology is more mature than many other IoT-focused blockchain solutions. The project has experienced past problems, but the roll-out of its improved Tangle has allowed it to secure some important partnerships, primarily in areas designed to improve transparency.
Properly Validating Smart Device Data Is The First Step
IOTA’s most important partnership for smart homes is undoubtedly Project Alvarium. The biggest challenge posed by IoT — and smart devices in general — is the sheer volume of data collected. The vastness of information makes assessing what data is trustworthy and useful difficult, especially in an automated environment.
To solve this problem, Dell and IOTA teamed up to create Project Alvarium, designed to provide a simple way to assess the trustworthiness of data gathered.
Project Alvarium’s system logs every datapoint as it travels across the system. Each interaction is given a trust rating, which is logged on the IOTA Tangle to prevent tampering. This provides a simple way to find problems or deliberate tampering within a network of data.
Blockchain Can Help Resolve Security Concerns About Smart Security
When smart home users are certain that they can trust the data being generated by their devices, it opens up a world of opportunities that could transform our daily lives.
The most immediate use of blockchain technology is in improving building security. The most high-profile problem is undoubtedly Amazon’s Ring. In late 2020, dozens of people sued Amazon over accusations that their Ring doorbells had been breached.
The breach enabled hackers to watch people inside their homes and talk to individuals in the house over the Ring speakers.
The Blockchain Difference
Blockchain has been shown to resolve both the problem of data breaches as well as hacking takeovers. Capturing a blockchain-powered device would require compromising the entire blockchain itself compromised.
But proper validation, such as that proposed by IOTA, allows malicious devices to be pruned from the network, significantly improving security.
Additionally, blockchain could enable consumers to understand how their data is being used, helping to make smart devices more privacy-focused.
Smart Building Management Solutions are Already Being Tested
The value of blockchain technology becomes even bigger at scale. One of the most impactful uses of IoT and blockchain technology is in building management. Whether for an apartment building or an office building, it’s often difficult to effectively manage a building’s heating, lighting, and security in a way that minimizes waste.
Example: How Blockchain Could Manage Heating Bills
In a traditional setting, most buildings are managed centrally. If there is a unified heating system, it is often controlled by the local administration. Although this system is more efficient than individually-heated buildings, there is significant room for human error. That’s because the system is not optimized to account for more efficient heating higher up in the building as heat rises.
A network of heating sensors could be used to automatically measure the temperature in each apartment or office in a building. If the different thermostats could communicate with each other, it should be possible to input all the data into a blockchain solution.
A scheme like this would allow the building operators to create a proper heat map of the building and understand the most efficient usage of energy. It would also enable residents to access the data and understand why the system works the way it does.
Theoretically, it could also enable a user to select a target temperature for their apartment by leveraging rising heat from lower apartments.
Solutions on the Horizon
This kind of project is already being tested. For example, Brickschain offers several products that minimize difficulties with building management and handover on sale. There are also an increasing number of studies looking at how blockchain can be positively implemented into the building management process.
The Future of IoT: Many-to-Many Marketplaces
When buildings are utilizing IoT devices and blockchains, a bigger opportunity opens up: decentralized marketplaces.
Currently, it can be difficult to get the best deal on energy or heating bills because it is a marketplace with many customers but only a few providers. Switching providers can be difficult and doesn’t guarantee a competitive rate.
However, with blockchain, it would be possible to change providers based on real-time pricing data. This setup would create a competitive many-to-many environment where many providers are looking to sell energy to many customers. The competition among providers would drive down energy prices and improve overall efficiency in energy markets.
Swedish District Heating Study
Sweden has conducted studies to investigate the utility of blockchain for a district heating market. The setup allows apartment blocks already utilizing blockchain to automatically select the most affordable provider at any given moment, minimizing bills without requiring micromanagement.
The same concept could be applied to many aspects of building management.
One interesting idea is the concept of decentralized governance. This type of network could empower tenants and apartment owners to vote on changes to their apartment block’s management proceedings.
For example, renters could vote in favor of using only green energy sources or for changes to living space regulations. Building administrators could then better understand their occupants’ needs and create a better living environment for all involved.
Blockchain Will be Needed to do IoT Correctly
Adoption of IoT and smart technologies will likely increase. Governments like the UK are already pushing hard on smart meters and many of us have already adopted some form of smart technology in our homes.
This rush to adopt new technology will undoubtedly come with significant scaling problems as well as security concerns and significant privacy issues.
Additionally, a market dominated by a handful of major tech companies like Amazon and Google could prove damaging to the consumer in the long term.
To counter these eventualities, we’ll need a platform-agnostic solution that allows a more diverse field of producers to create new IoT devices.
Blockchain technology still represents the best way to utilize IoT for everyone’s benefit. If solutions like IOTA are implemented into existing smart homes, then we could build a new decentralized marketplace that will give us better control of our data, while improving the efficiency of our homes.
Image Credit: pixabay; thank you!
Social Sign-on: Sure, it’s convenient. But is it really safe? – ReadWrite
Remembering passwords is always a hassle, especially when you have innumerable websites that require logging in to view or interact with their content. To make the process simpler (as little as a couple of clicks), webmasters worldwide have accepted and implemented social logins on their websites.
Social Sign-on: Sure, it’s convenient. But is it really safe?
So, what exactly is social login? How different is it compared to the traditional method of inputting your credentials such as username, email address and password manually? More importantly, is it safe enough for use on all kinds of browsing activities?
In this article, we answer all the above questions and more, helping you understand what social sign-on is, and what the disadvantages of this convenient method are.
The history of social logins
Social sign-on as a method of hassle-free authentication has been around for over a decade now. Back in the nascent days of the modern internet in 2008, Facebook launched Facebook Connect, a service aimed at simplifying registrations on websites.
Once webmasters enabled FB Connect on their websites, visitors to the site would no longer need to fill up lengthy registration forms to sign up for the website’s offerings.
All they needed to do was connect their existing Facebook account to the website, enabling direct access to the site with a click of a button.
In 2009 and 2010, Twitter and LinkedIn respectively enabled their users to socially login to other sites using their existing social network credentials.
Google+ followed suit in 2011, and although no longer active as Google+, it still supports social sign-on using a Google account.
While it all sounds very convenient, social sign-on has many drawbacks and challenges that impact both website visitors and website owners.
Social Sign-on: The challenges and disadvantages
The Trust Factor
Most internet users do not trust the websites they browse to store and utilize their personal information safely and responsibly. Often, website visitors are concerned about how the information they have shared will be used.
In a June 2020 survey conducted by Insider Intelligence, 32% of US Facebook users felt that they somewhat disagreed that the platform could keep their data and privacy secure.
People tend to be wary of the private information they share online; they often resort to uploading falsified or inaccurate information about themselves on social media.
Considering that these social media sites do not verify or vouch for the authenticity of their user’s information, this could be less than ideal for a website looking for accurate data while accepting new user registrations.
In 2019, Facebook released data that said that 16% of the accounts on its platform are fake/duplicate accounts created by individuals or companies. What’s more worrisome are the findings of the research team at NATO StratCom that suggest 95% of the reported fake accounts still continued to remain active, with no action taken by the social media website.
With no checks on the actual profile that’s being used to socially sign-on to your website, you could soon have an imposter, Donald Trump or Joe Biden signing up for your global warming newsletter or purchasing a bag of your freshly powdered Mexican coffee.
Not everyone’s social — nor on social
While we talk about social media, we need to understand that although it is a global phenomenon with an insanely large number (read 3.6 billion) of people using it, there is still a sizeable chunk (>50%) of the population that is not on social media.
Using a restrictive method, you risk alienating a section of society that could be your potential target audience.
Transfer of Power
Enabling social sign-on seems pretty enticing at first, considering it would cut down your authentication work significantly. But this very ‘benefit’ could end up costing you dearly, as you lose control over your visitors’ data to a third-party service provider, i.e., the social media network.
Should there be any downtime at the social media service’s end, your website visitors would be stranded, unable to login to your site or access their data?
Access Control Issues
Many internet access places tend to have controls in place when it comes to accessing social media. For example, corporate and educational networks generally block access to social websites. Certain countries like Iran, China, Syria, and North Korea have blanket bans on the most popular social websites.
Social sign-on still depends on an API call-back to the social networking site to authenticate the user. Thus, by having social sign-on set up on your website, visitors authenticating on your site through these networks would end up facing a website with broken functionality.
Social media accounts are often the target of several hacking and phishing attempts. Thus, if your user’s social media account is hacked, it could lead to their account on your site being compromised as a result.
A University of Maryland study revealed a hacking attempt every 39 seconds on average, affecting a third of Americans every year.
Hacked social accounts could have an adverse impact on your website as well, by performing activities that might eat up your server resources or corrupt your files, if your security is not up to the mark. Secure authentication is the need of the hour, and knowledge of the security practices will help solve these concerns.
Too much to choose
People use many social media websites, so keeping a single social login can be counterproductive. However, providing multiple methods to login could likely confuse or overwhelm your visitor, leading to lower conversion or sign-up rates.
Lesser data to work with
Using a social sign-on for your website would mean limited access to user data, especially email. Not every social media network allows websites to access the customer’s email address. For businesses that rely on customer information for lead generation, this would be a major deal-breaker.
Awareness of all the security practices and malpractices (sawolabs dotcom) will help educate users as well as the website owners.
If not social sign-on, then what?
All the above drawbacks would make webmasters question the efficacy of social sign-on. But then, is there a better alternative that does not include such shortcomings?
Say hello to passwordless authentication powered by SAWO Labs. A new-age solution designed to address all concerns of security, compatibility and functionality.
Image Credit: yellow graphic — from author; thank you!
Top Image Credit: karolina grabowska; pexels; thank you!