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Fortinet announced updates to FortiOS and its security fabric. Interestingly, the company bucked the trend and did not lead with GenAI in this announcement.

This week, Fortinet is holding its annual user event, Accelerate, in Las Vegas. This year’s event drew over 4,000 people, the largest user event in the security vendor’s history. The increase in audience is due to a couple of reasons. First, the security landscape continues to increase in complexity, and the value proposition of Fortinet’s fabric is to consolidate and simplify security. Fortinet has also established itself as a best-in-class security vendor and a leader in networking. Fortinet was placed in the leader’s quadrant in Gartner’s wired and wireless LAN Magic Quadrant for the first time, which validates they are a mainstream network vendor. The lead news item from the event was version 7.6 of FortiOS, the operating system that powers all of its products. In addition, the company said it made updates to its security fabric. In a pre-briefing on the announcement, John Maddison, Fortinet’s chief marketing officer, shared that Fortinet sees three distinct eras in security. “We’ve gone from the connectivity era, which was the first firewalls, to next-gen firewall, which included applications and content,” he told me. “And then we think this third era is more around SASE and data. What SASE means is there’s no single point of perimeter. So you can’t go, ‘Oh, just put an extra firewall and we can protect everything.’”

FortiOS updates

Maddison told me the FortiOS release includes various updates for this announcement. “When we do a FortiOS release, we also release FortiClient, FortiAnalyzer, and FortiManager,” he told me. FortiClient’s interesting now in that we’ll be adding FortiEDR functionality. So now we have one client with EPP, ZTNA, SASE, VPN, and EDR. We’ve also added digital experience monitoring and privileged access management. That will get rid of some of the agents on a user’s desktop.” Specifics of the announcement are as follows:
  • FortiOS: The company announced improvements, with SaaS or PaaS options, for Secure SD-WAN, SASE, ZTNA, automation, provisioning, remote browser isolation, and digital experience monitoring.
  • GenAI: The new FortiOS includes GenAI for threat analysis and product development under the FortiAI moniker. The company will use FortiAI across its security fabric for faster decision-making and detection.
  • Endpoint detection and response: Full EDR is now integrated into FortiClient, including VPN, ZTNA, endpoint protection platform (EPP), EDR, DEM, network access control (NAC), and SASE
  • Combating the skills gap: The company says it’s offering help to overtaxed SecOps groups with SIEM and SOAR services that work out of the box to fight the skills shortage and streamline digital transformations.
  • Custom ASICs: Fortinet’s custom ASICs now give customers access to 14 networking and security apps.
  • Hybrid mesh firewall: The company’s FortiOS, when paired with its ASICs, can protect on-prem, remote, and cloud environments.
  • Segmentation and ZTNA: Cybercriminals and ransomware programs can be hemmed in by internal segmentation firewalls using FortiOS.
The company also announced updates to security for OT, IoT, and edge devices, as well as unified SASE and AI-driven security operations.

Not leading with AI

Interestingly, Fortinet bucked the trend of so many events and did not lead with GenAI as the top headline in this announcement. In the area of cyber, most security professionals are still kicking the tires on AI as the rise of getting it wrong far outweighs the benefits of getting it right. Fortinet has never been a company that markets ahead of its capabilities, and it’s continuing down that path.

Some final thoughts about the FortiOS news

Fortinet’s security fabric approach with FortiOS and its ASICs is unique and continues to play to its strengths. Fortinet has added to the breadth and depth of its offering, and this latest announcement bolsters its position.
One of the more compelling sessions at Nvidia Corp.’s recent GTC conference was a discussion between Azita Martin, vice president and general manager of artificial intelligence for retail and CPG at Nvidia, and Seemantini Godbole, executive vice president and chief digital and information officer at home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. Inc. In her opening remarks March 18, Martin billed GTC as “the Woodstock of AI.” “And if you don’t like Woodstock, it’s the Davos of AI,” she said. “We have some of the greatest minds in the world that are driving innovation with AI presenting throughout the conference.” Godbole manages the Lowe’s digital business, including lowes.com, and the company’s technology for merchandising, supply chain and store operations. “And of course, we are on our journey to figure out, in partnership with Nvidia, how AI can weave through all these aspects of retail,” Godbole said. “We feel we have very ripe uses for retail.”

How AI works at Lowe’s

Martin said the Lowe’s and Nvidia data science teams have been working together for some time. She asked Godbole about her company’s vision for AI and some of the use cases. “Lowe’s was doing AI before AI became so cool,” she said. “Suddenly, everybody talks about it. Every conference talks about it.” She noted that Lowe’s wouldn’t do AI just for the sake of it and set out some tenets that AI has to fulfill at the company: helping the business, helping the customers and helping the company’s associates. “We want to make it as frictionless for our customers as possible,” she said. “We play a significant role in our customers’ lives and are aware of the responsibility.” Godbole says the company wants to use AI to give Lowe’s associates superpowers when customers ask questions. In addition, she said, AI should help the company grow revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Omnichannel at Lowe’s

Godbole said that omnichannel is a significant mandate for Lowe’s. For a project such as a new floor, a customer usually starts digitally, browsing ideas, which requires sharp visualizations. To that end, Lowes is partnering with Nvidia to make the visualizations feel as real as possible so customers can see what a floor will look like in their homes. After playing around digitally, she said, a customer might come to the store. “Because now you want to touch the floor, you want to feel it — whether it’s a carpet or a vinyl floor,” she said. “Then there is that interaction with associates, and the associates should not be asking you questions such as ‘OK, what do you need? What are you looking for?’ They should be able to pick up where you left off digitally and have that continuous conversation.”

Moving into the Omniverse to create digital twins

Lowes has been using Nvidia Omniverse to create digital twins for its stores. “When Omniverse came up, I think it took us some time to wrap our heads around it and figure out what our use cases would be,” Godbole said. “We used Omniverse and then built APIs on top of that — digital API twins. The rest of the Lowe’s ecosystem can now use those APIs.” Godbole said that digital twins help planners collaborate in real-time to understand sales performance and identify anomalies, so planogramming takes a small fraction of the time it used to. Martin noted that Lowe’s was the first retailer to create a 3D digital twin. In fact, it has been on the journey since 2002.

Using computer vision

Lowe’s is working with Nvidia on computer vision applications and has Nvidia P4s deployed chainwide in its stores. Computer vision can help at self-checkout, where there are some significant friction points. Although theft is an issue, an item is often forgotten on a cart. Lowes can conduct computer vision inference in real time to prevent any problems. “We needed a little nudge to say, ‘Hey, did you forget something? We can see something in your cart that you haven’t checked out,’” Godbole said. “We are just trying to verify what you’re scanning and what you have in your cart. And if there is a difference, we highlight that in a very polite and customer-friendly way.” Godbole says the chain has essentially created “mini but extremely powerful data centers” in its 1,700 stores.

Some final thoughts

When wandering the aisles of lumber, plumbing fixtures and drywall at Lowe’s, you don’t often consider the technology needed to run an operation like that. However, Lowe’s is an early adopter of tools that it hopes will keep its customers returning for more. The partnership it has forged with Nvidia could be one the longest-running in the business and certainly one of the most productive. My only critique of Lowe’s self-checkout is that it lacks one crucial option. You can get your receipt printed (who wants that?), or you can get your receipt emailed and printed (and who in their right mind would want both?). At least at my local store, there’s no option for email only. And that’s all you want, right? If Godbole can fix that, she’ll be onto something. I don’t think it’ll take too much Nvidia horsepower.
Contact center market leader NICE Ltd. used the recent Enterprise Connect show to add to its artificial intelligence portfolio with the release of Enlighten XM (Experience Memory), which adds AI-infused contextual memory to the contact center. The solution brings together a wide range of customer data, including conversational information, metadata and analytics, and creates a memory graph for each customer. This information is fed into the large language models’ deep data memory to create what NICE calls “hyper-personalized” customer journeys. NICE customers will be able to understand, remember and dynamically adapt to each customer’s preferences based on their interaction history. The company can do this because it bucked the trend of using off-the-shelf LLMs and instead built its own customer experience-focused AI models. At Enterprise Connect, I had the opportunity to discuss this with Andy Traba, vice president of product management for NICE CXone. He explained the significance of contextual memory in customer interactions. “Virtual agents are trained from the best agents, and now we are adding this contextual memory so it will remember who the person is and what their experiences are,” he said. “This lets it adapt the language used with that customer. Do they like to be communicated with in a warm, sensitive manner or get to the facts? Some people do not mind an emoji in chat; others will get triggered negatively when they see one and now we know that per customer.” Every contact center vendor is now tapping into the power of generative AI to create greater personalization capabilities, but NICE is the only vendor I have seen that can dynamically update the models per conversation. In addition to Enlighten XM, NICE made several other announcements at Enterprise Connect. These include:

Updates to Enlighten Copilot

The latest set of enhancements to Enlighten Copilot uses AI to meet the needs of supervisors and CX decision-makers. To put the announcement in context, NICE referenced research conducted by Metrigy that indicates a notable surge in the adoption of AI in workplaces, surpassing the 40% mark in 2023. Organizations using AI to enhance customer interactions have seen significant improvements, including a 30% reduction in interaction handle time, a 36% boost in sales figures, and a 29% decrease in agent attrition rates. With those figures in mind, AI-infused Enlighten Copilot is primed to help CX leaders transform the contact center into a higher-value function. One of the Fortune 100 companies I met with told me they were looking to use AI to shift their agents from reactive support to proactive revenue generation. Enlighten Copilot is primed to address the needs of brands looking to evolve their contact centers into customer experience platforms. Details of the updates include: Enlighten Copilot for Agents aims to improve agent-assisted interactions by providing agents with content that eliminates manual searches. Copilot generates real-time, conversational responses to steer interactions to favorable outcomes. It can identify and suggest tailored compliance measures and upsell opportunities to agents during conversations. In addition, Copilot can provide both real-time and post-interaction summaries. NICE Enlighten Copilot for Supervisors enables supervisors to be more strategic by offering insights from Copilot for Agents data. Supervisors have real-time access to agent performance, which should help improve team effectiveness. Copilot for Supervisors provides a holistic view of agent performance, including real-time and historical data for speech patterns, resolution times, and customer sentiment. It can also identify where supervisors should target their coaching. NICE Enlighten Actions provides access to an organization’s CX data sourced from NICE Enlighten Copilot and CXone. CX leaders can use its conversational interface to address immediate needs without additional coding. They also gain the ability to use unstructured data to help achieve goals. In addition, NICE Enlighten Actions integrates with native and third-party apps and data within the CXone suite.

AI-powered employee support

In the announcement, Barry Cooper, President of the CX Division at NICE, underscored the potential of the Enlighten Copilot suite and discussed its role in offering AI-powered employee support within the CX domain. “The next-gen NICE Enlighten Copilot is the industry’s leading AI-powered employee assist, purpose-built for CX,” he said. “Built from thousands of models trained on CX-specific interactions, NICE Enlighten Copilot amplifies skilled labor, automating repetitive tasks and delivering faster access to knowledge. With NICE Enlighten Actions, CX leaders can increase decision velocity and realize business goals faster, streamlining operations and ultimately driving exceptional customer experience.”

Some final thoughts

The promise of AI is not in replacing employees or the much-ballyhooed taking over the world. Instead, it’s about making us all more efficient and productive. The Enlighten suite allows brands to make their agents smarter and work faster by providing timely, relevant information and offloading many mundane interactions and tasks that drive up agent churn. Supervisor enhancements are critical in a hybrid work world where agents work from home. Contact center managers are no longer in the same building as many agents and can’t listen to audible cues. NICE has been a mainstay in the Gartner MQ for CCaaS for years, and it has been early in shipping AI features. This set of announcements leverages the breadth of its offering and the depth of its data to create a number of unique capabilities.

With the introduction of GenAI and LLMs, HPE improves the platform’s search capabilities and enables more intelligent, human-like responses to queries.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) upgraded its HPE Aruba Networking Central platform for network management by integrating generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) large language models (LLMs). The upgrade enhances the platform’s search functionality, making it faster and more accurate, simplifying tasks for network operators, and enhancing network services. HPE has already invested significantly in AI for network management, developing technologies for tasks like configuring environments and understanding device connections. According to Alan Ni, senior director of edge marketing at HPE Aruba Networking, the introduction of generative AI and LLMs further improves the platform’s search capabilities and enables more intelligent, human-like responses to queries. The GenAI-powered search feature promises faster, more accurate, and more efficient query handling. This is achieved by replacing traditional natural language processing engines with more advanced LLM transformers, which better understand the intent behind queries and provide relevant responses. “If you think about the queries that go into Central, they are network jargon. The efficacy of this is a lot better when we understand intent. We also can provide the end user with output based on that intent. It may be a direct command, where they’re instructing the system to understand why there is poor performance. So instead of giving a search result, it can bring you to a specific screen or data around that specific question,” said Ni. Historically, troubleshooting networks required a high level of network knowledge to understand what data to look for, where to look, and how to correlate and analyze the information. GenAI democratizes access to information and enables users to ask, in natural language, questions about the network, resulting in better performance and faster troubleshooting. HPE’s approach to AI development was to build custom models specifically for networking. Rather than relying on external generative AI services like ChatGPT, HPE developed its own models integrated into HPE Aruba Networking Central, running on the HPE GreenLake cloud platform. This approach not only enhances the precision of the search function but also provides better data protection. It prioritizes privacy and security, operating within a secure environment where the LLMs are self-contained. HPE’s extensive data lakes are fueled by approximately four million network devices and over a billion endpoints. By collecting data from network devices and customer interactions, HPE can improve its predictive capabilities and offer more accurate suggestions using AI. This approach enhances the AI features and minimizes the risks associated with inaccurate or unsuitable responses, according to David Hughes, chief product officer at HPE Aruba Networking. “It’s not burdened by a whole lot of data that isn’t relevant for the IT admin, but it’s specifically being trained on the exact data that will be helpful. By narrowing the scope of the information that can be regenerated, it’s much more useful and safer,” said Hughes. Hughes emphasized that HPE does more than just networking. Delivering AI, security, and automation through HPE Aruba Networking Central puts the company at the forefront of “tearing down barriers” and allows network administrators to do their jobs without requiring additional training in this technology. Many IT vendors have relied on off-the-shelf models, which are typically much cheaper than building them in-house. The purpose-built models, specifically designed for the network, should result in more accurate results. HPE also creates its silicon for the same reasons. Off-the-shelf processors are good at many things, but custom ASICs are great at networking. In networking, particularly in today's digital world, those slight differences can significantly impact how a network runs. Since its launch in 2014, HPE Aruba Networking Central has offered network management tools for setting up, managing, monitoring, and fixing both wired and wireless networks. The platform operates as a cloud-based service with two subscription levels, Foundation and Advanced. The new AI-powered search engine will be accessible to all subscribers in the second quarter of fiscal year 2024. It can also be accessed as an independent service and part of the HPE GreenLake for Networking subscription.

GenAI Studio should enable organizations to customize general-purpose tools like OpenAI for use in the contact center with just a few clicks.

The news keeps rolling in from Enterprise Connect. This week Five9 announced a solution it hopes will help organizations customize common generative AI models for the contact center. Last week, Five9 conducted a pre-briefing with three Five9 executives, including Matt McGinnis, vice president of product, industry, and solution marketing; Sarika Prasad, senior manager of product marketing for AI and automation; and Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO and Head of AI. During the briefing, it introduced a new tool meant to help contact centers customize GenAI models to better meet their specific requirements. McGinnis set the stage for the discussion. “[GenAI Studio is] a bit of a forward-leaning preview for us,” he stated. “It’ll be available in the second half of this year. It starts to set the tone for what this means for AI and how we will manage the different AI features and capabilities on the intelligent CX platform.” The need to create bespoke AI features for CX is crucial. While there are many off-the-shelf LLMs, general purpose won’t meet the needs of contact centers long term. This is a highly customized area of a business where minor variances in recommendations or analyses can have a big difference in agent insights, which in turn significantly impacts how customers perceive a brand. Customers are still experimenting with AI today, so Five9’s future-leaning comment is appropriate, as it's more important to get the AI right than get it out now.

Customizing General-Purpose AI Tools for the Contact Center

Five9 says that Prasad told me they have talked to their customers and heard feedback on Five9’s post-call AI summaries. “We have heard our customers say they are thrilled with the summarization feature,” she told me. “They are looking for more precise customer summaries. For example, they wonder, ‘Can I get three-line summaries? Can you insert our call-attached variables into the summaries?’ And then they have requests like, ‘Can you translate a Spanish call into English and provide that summarization?’” Rosenberg added: “The big thing with generative AI and all these general AI applications is that they are the only contextual data, and that’s the stuff that you stick into the prompt. In the GenAI world, that’s how you use the tool. With ChatGPT, every consumer in the world can use it and how we use it for a chatbot or an Agent Assist is largely to do with the prompt.” Prompts are critical to GenAI—they contain the contextual data to instruct the model on what results are expected. Rosenberg explained: “For example, if you wanted to use GenAI to summarize a call, you need to provide instructions to summarize the call: ‘Please summarize the following call between a contact center agent and a customer.’ In this case, I need to give it the data to do that job—the transcript of the conversation.” Five9’s GenAI Studio features include:
  • Choice of Generative AI models: Five9 says they’re offering a range of choices—from third-party to proprietary generative AI—that will enable customers to utilize the model that makes the most sense for their business.
  • Integration of various contextual data forms: GenAI Studio can answer questions, summarize calls, and guide agents using personalized, business-specific information.
  • The ability to test customized models: To gain more control over outputs, GenAI Studio will provide testing ability using actual call transcripts to understand performance and make improvements.
  • Access to a repository of sample prompts: GenAI Studio will provide access to prompts so companies can get off to a good start, speeding up prompt development and reducing the need for prompt engineering expertise.
The company also says that GenAI Studio will power all Five9 AI apps, starting with Agent Assist AI Summaries. Customers should gain a good deal of control over the summaries—being able to format them as needed, add customer sentiment, and condense or add audience-based context.

Final Thoughts

Five9’s approach is very practical and will be beneficial. Users of ChatGPT often struggle with understanding how to structure prompts and then further refine them to get the results they want. In a contact center, this could lead to frustration as a “sort of right” answer won’t provide the results a user is looking for. A prompt library and customization options can help organizations get off to a running start. This will allow them to harness the power of GenAI faster and more accurately.

The company’s new offering features AI-powered tools to better pinpoint issues that impact organizational efficiency and patient care.

Integrated Cloud Solution from Intermedia Aims to Infuse AI into Healthcare Communications

This week, at Enterprise Connect, Intermedia announced it has launched Intermedia Healthcare Solutions, which aims to provide cloud technology and AI for healthcare communications and collaboration. Prior to Enterprise Connect, Mark Sher, SVP of product marketing, and Robert Oscanyan, senior director of product marketing, prebriefed me to discuss the solution. Oscanyan started the discussion by sharing the gaps the company found while talking to healthcare organizations looking to modernize their communications.

Modernizing Healthcare Communications

“There are a few things driving it,” he told me. “First, they have many disparate systems. There are obviously interoperability and integration committees. Even those just using EHR are looking for ways to better connect it to other systems they’re using to try and drive better benefits and patient care.” He added that lengthy revenue cycles, HIPAA compliance, and a need for more resources are spurring organizations to look for new ways. “We’re seeing customers coming to us—large orthopedic practices, large radiology groups, or family practices—looking to unify all of their systems onto one platform,” he said. The company already has thousands of healthcare users using its solutions, according to Oscanyan, including LA County Health Services, which is the second largest municipal health provider in the US, along with small clinics, pediatrics practices, and dentists’ offices. This echoes my prior discussions with healthcare IT executives. In general, most healthcare organizations limped into the pandemic with an abundance of legacy technology. This created a massive gap between what the hospital had and what it needed. One simple example is the use of video appointments to communicate with patients remotely. Today, this is standard but was, by far, the exception just a few years ago.

More Than Just IVR for Healthcare

Mark Sher noted that they’re not just slapping a vanilla Internet voice relay on top of a healthcare organization. “The EHR integration is not trivial,” he said. “Our integration will work out of the box with Cerner, MedTech, Epic and many others, but you’ve got to do the work to develop the IVR and set it for what you need to do.” Too often, vendors drop canned solutions into industries but are surprised when adoption is light. Workers often must flip between the communications tool and industry-specific apps, which creates a disjointed user experience. The path Intermedia is going down takes significantly more work as they need to integrate the apps but the winner is the end user as it creates a simpler experience.

Elements of the Intermedia Healthcare Solution Include AI

Here’s what Intermedia Healthcare Solutions Will Include:
  • Patient engagement channels: The company supports interaction across communication channels (including telephone, email, and text), utilizing EHR data for intelligent routing, for quick patient responses and for easy access to healthcare providers or self-service options.
  • Management of patient inquiries: Intermedia integrates voice calls with EHR systems to verify patient identities and retrieve records, which keeps staff efficient and reduces response times.
  • Engagement: The company provides real-time interactions via voice, SMS, and video conferencing, automatically initiating patient contact based on live EHR updates such as appointment reminders, billing alerts, and prescription renewals.
  • Internal collaboration: Intermedia equips staff members with tools like AI-driven voice, chat, video conferencing, and file-sharing applications to promote enhanced teamwork and productivity across locations.
  • Supervisory capabilities with AI: Supervisors gain access to quality management tools enhanced by Intermedia SPARK AI, enabling them to better pinpoint issues and concentrate on conversations crucial for organizational efficiency and patient care.
  • Strengthened adherence to HIPAA guidelines: Intermedia secures and archives all patient communications for up to 10 years, complying with HIPAA and data security standards.

Some Final Thoughts

This is an interesting announcement from Intermedia. Enterprise Connect always has a cornucopia of technology news, but most vendors don’t bring a business angle to their innovation. In healthcare, communications can be a weak link and create massive gaps in processes due to the human latency required because of disjointed workflows. And with the complexities inherent in-patient care, bad communication can often be worse than no communication. So, vendors like Intermedia, with lengthy histories in the communications space, are well-positioned to help healthcare organizations become more efficient while they improve patient care.

The new offerings emphasize Zoom’s expansion out of the video meeting platform space into AI-enhanced workplace productivity and contact center.

At Enterprise Connect, Zoom made several announcements to bolster its workplace collaboration platform. Looking to incorporate AI into its product lineup, the company announced Zoom Workplace, an AI-powered collaboration platform, and expansions of its AI Companion to support teamwork. The company also says it has freshened up the look of the Zoom app and enhanced Zoom Contact Center, including features aimed at empowering agents. Last week, several Zoom executives pre-briefed the analyst community: Smita Hashim, Chief Product Officer; Mahesh Ram, Head of Al Products and Revenue Accelerator; Jeff Smith, Head of Product—meetings, Spaces, and Whiteboard; and Michelle Couture, Global Lead—customer Experience Product Marketing. In the briefing, Hashim underscored that Zoom continues to innovate. “Of all the announcements you will hear today, the one that is most important is how Zoom is reimagining teamwork and collaboration with an AI-powered platform,” she said. “Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, we are evolving, our capabilities continue to grow tremendously, and we are showing no signs of stopping.” Details of the new offerings are below:

Zoom Workplace

Zoom Workplace is the company’s attempt to improve teamwork and productivity via a single workspace to access Zoom’s collaborative workplace tools. It will provide customers with various integration options through APIs, SDKs, and the more than 2,500 integrations available in the Zoom App Marketplace. “Zoom Workplace is our AI-powered collaboration platform to help improve productivity and efficiency—all within the Zoom experience our users trust and love,” Hashim said. “The workplace elevates the total experience with Zoom AI Companion, included at no additional cost for paid plans so that all employees within a company can be more productive, collaborate better, and enhance their skills.” Hashim said that Zoom Workplace has solutions for workplace reservations, rooms, digital signage, and visitor management. Integrating with third parties is a core component for Zoom shifting from product to platform. With Zoom Workplace, users could work most of the day in Zoom and then move between their applications within the app. Zoom’s goal has always been about being easy to work with, and now it’s extending that mission to third parties.

AI Companion

Zoom’s AI Companion includes a new way to access the digital assistant’s functions, Ask AI Companion. Ask AI Companion works across the Zoom platform, offering a tool that brings together information from Zoom Meetings, Mail, Team Chat, Notes, and Docs to help users prepare for their workdays. Additionally, Ask AI Companion assists users in prepping for and summarizing meetings, identifying actionable items, drafting agendas, and condensing chat, email, and document threads. The company also announced AI Companion for Zoom Phone and expanded Team Chat and Whiteboard functionality. “Zoom AI Companion leverages our unique federated approach to AI, which allows us to deliver high-quality results by incorporating our own language models, in addition to those from leading third-party MLMs,” Ram said. Our customers also have greatly appreciated our position on responsible AI, and it’s really helped them adopt AI Companion rapidly.” Ram pointed out that Zoom doesn’t use customer data or allow third parties access to its data to train its models. Already integrated with Zoom Phone, AI Companion enables users to request post-call summaries and next steps, freeing them to focus on conversation rather than note-taking. Voicemail prioritization aids in identifying urgent messages by moving them to the top. The tool can also extract tasks from voicemails to provide users with actionable insights without requiring them to listen to every message. When Zoom announced Mail and Docs, it raised many eyebrows among industry watchers as Microsoft dominates both markets. The value of the apps in the Zoom suite, including Mail and Docs, isn’t to try to build a better mousetrap and compete with Microsoft on features. Rather, the value is in the data set created by the platform, so when Zoom AI runs and looks for insights, it uses data from the entire suite leading to better insights.

Zoom Meetings Redesign

Zoom Meetings now has a Meetings tab within the Zoom app; the interface tweak gives users a centralized space for collaboration before, during, and after meetings. This tab supports traditional calendar views and serves as a hub for agendas, recordings, shared assets like documents, and AI Companion smart recordings and meeting summaries. “Our new Meetings tab in the Workplace app supports traditional calendar views, and that serves as your central place for agendas, recordings, and other shared assets,” Smith said. “From here, I can easily find everything I need—from AI Companion and Smart Recordings to meeting summaries. Last year, we introduced Continuous Meeting Chat. Now, I can keep the chat conversation going from the Meetings tab. So collaboration can continue throughout the life of my project.” The company says that, during meetings, a new multi-speaker view dynamically adjusts the video layout to highlight active speakers, aiding attendees in following discussions more effectively. AI-powered portrait lighting enhances users’ visibility in low-light environments, while generative AI virtual backgrounds enable custom backgrounds creation. Additional enhancements for Meetings include a customizable toolbar for pinning frequently used features and multi-share functionality that enables multiple participants to share screens, documents, whiteboards, and notes simultaneously. In addition, Zoom offers document collaboration features for selecting documents, simplifying access permissions, and co-editing third-party app documents directly within meetings.

Expanded Communication Channels

In Zoom Contact Center, businesses can now broaden their communication channels by integrating WhatsApp and inbound email. This expansion offers customers greater flexibility and choice while facilitating agents’ engagement and responses to customer inquiries. “We’ve built a powerful enterprise-ready platform infused with game-changing AI designed for the way that customers interact and the way agents work,” Couture said. “And Companion for Contact Center is an agent’s tireless assistant. It’s included with every Contact Center license. It summarizes calls, generates follow-up tasks, and analyzes customer sentiment, helping to streamline agent workflows and enable smoother handoffs.” The company says that Zoom Contact Center and Zoom Phone can now integrate with PCI Pal for secure payment data capture. Plus, Zoom Revenue Accelerator can assist with deal memos—essentially a providing brief summary of a conversation and the possibilities of winning a deal.

Some Final Thoughts

I’ve heard many industry watchers claim that UCaaS is becoming a commodity. While I agree that the competitive landscape is getting more challenging for UCaaS vendors, UCaaS itself is far from being a commodity. Staving off competition requires continuous innovation in a product, and that’s what Zoom has been doing. Zoom is an interesting company in that it has tremendous brand loyalty with the end user community. People use Zoom to attend church remotely, keep in touch with friends, and conduct fantasy football drafts; because they’re already familiar with how Zoom works and how they can make it work for them, they want this same ease-of-use experience with whatever collaborative platform they use in the workplace. These new features bolster the Zoom platform, which enables the company to leverage its large install base to sell a broader set of products. “Meet happy” is shifting to “work happy.”

Connections have always played an important role in the workplace. However, the underinvestment in office collaboration tools has led to the hybrid work mess that most companies see today.

As part of its Enterprise Connect 2024 (EC24) activities, Cisco announced several new devices that can aid companies in their quest to get people back in the office. The company also released the findings of a recent hybrid work study. Before EC24, Cisco held a pre-briefing with Webex GM Javed Khan and other Webex leaders. During the call, Khan shared Cisco’s hybrid work philosophy. “We feel that the approach that some companies have taken, which is to stick a camera on a monitor, is insufficient,” he stated. “It will not deliver the experiences employees return to the office for. And if companies don’t get that right, the investment in the campus will not be worth it.” Khan’s commentary aligns with many of my discussions with IT and business leaders. Many companies have had workers return to the office either through mandates or voluntarily but have failed to keep them there. One of the issues is that the conference room experience is so bad that workers choose to sit at their desks for video meetings, even if they are in the same office as the people they are meeting.

Digital Proximity

Employee expectations have changed. Personal computing and meeting applications have evolved tremendously, and now they want a lot from their hybrid work experience. “This leads to a concept that we’ve introduced before called Distance Zero,” he told me. “How do you have an experience that feels like you are there even though you’re not in the same room with people? And that’s where we focus our software and hardware.” I’ve described this as having the ability to maintain digital proximity in a world where we are physically distant. Connections have always played an important role in the workplace, which is why companies are so desperate to get workers back to the office. However, the underinvestment in office collaboration tools has led to the hybrid work mess that most companies see today. The company announced two new products—the Cisco Board G2 and the Cisco Desk Phone 9800 Series—as multifunctional devices for hybrid work.

Cisco Board Pro G2

Khan said the G2 is a fully integrated device. “This is the next generation Board Pro,” he said. It’s a videoconferencing device and a whiteboard with a touchscreen. It’s focused on meetings and open spaces. Some of the experiences we are building are tailored for those open spaces. And it complements the rest of our portfolio.” A couple of highlights of the Cisco Board Pro G2:
  • It provides better in-meeting views: A 96-megapixel dual-lens camera lets remote people see their onsite colleagues clearly, whether close to the camera or far away. AI keeps the picture clear. A new multistream layout gives Webex Meetings participants simultaneous views of the entire room and a closeup of the speaker.
  • It includes an NVIDIA chipset and computing engine: The better camera views and audio come thanks to NVIDIA, which also improves performance.
Cisco also says the Board Pro will offer flexible collaboration and simplified deployments. Cisco has been using NVIDIA chips in its devices for years, and that is why so much functionality is built into the endpoints. Speaker tracking, background noise removal, and virtual backgrounds are all done on-device, offloading the processing from the software.

Cisco Desk Phone 9800 Series

With hybrid work and few assigned desks or offices on site, making a workspace feel personal takes a lot of work. With the 9800 Series, Cisco says it’s trying to remedy that with, for a start, premium audio and noise removal. “So, think of these devices as desk devices that are both audio- and meeting- and calling-capable,” Khan said. “And an often-underappreciated aspect of our Desk Phone devices is that they can also make a good old-fashioned phone call.” A couple of highlights of the new phone series:
  • It can personalize any desk. Cisco says employees can use Spaces or a QR code to reserve a desk and gain access to contacts, call history, calendar, and meetings.
  • It includes security: Cisco provides security and end-to-end encryption for meetings and calls using Trusted Platform Module 2.0 hardware.
The company also says it’s providing simplified user experiences and better management capabilities. The sustainability of the new phone series is in line with Cisco’s environmental commitment. It contains more than 74% post-consumer recycled and uses low power modes to ensure energy efficiency. Recently, Joe Berger, VP of Digital Experiences for World Wide Technology, and I were talking about the devices, and he told me, “In our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), we tested the Cisco devices, and they offer an excellent employee experience. This includes not only Webex meetings but also Zoom and Teams. We also like integrations like ThousandEyes that allow us to monitor user experiences better. The quality and breadth of features allow us to deliver better solutions to our customers.”

The Hybrid Future

Cisco also revealed the results of its hybrid work study that showed 72% of employees feel positive about the return to office. But they say they want better-equipped spaces for collaboration and brainstorming. Of the employers surveyed, 81% have already redesigned workspaces to bring them in line with employee expectations—or they plan to within two years.
  • And a side note from the “Tell Us Something We Don’t Know” department: Cisco says that most surveyed employers plan to adopt AI but lack a strategy and worry about security, integration, and costs.
  • NVIDIA’s GTC event was last week, nicknamed “AI Woodstock” because of the massive crowds and mania around AI. The reality is the hype around AI is well ahead of customer deployments. Everyone knows they need AI, but how to deploy it, where to use it, and the ability to ensure the data is secure still allude to most organizations. AI embedded into devices, like the Cisco ones, is a great starting point as it has an immediate benefit to users, and the turnkey nature of those devices removes the deployment complexities.

Some Final Thoughts

Cisco and Webex have been innovating on phones and collaboration devices longer than anyone. Their hardware and software are very well thought out and easy to use. The company has thought about the employee experience and with these two new device announcements. One of the challenges for the industry, including Cisco, is getting people to try these new devices. In some ways, the entire device industry is paying for the sins of the past when devices were not as intuitive and delivered a “good enough” experience. One Cisco’s market tactics is a device “seeding” program where, through its partners, Cisco gives companies to try for a period of time. This puts Cisco's money where its mouth is – i.e., if the devices perform as marketed, customers will buy more. If they don’t, they won’t. Early feedback on the seeding program has been very positive and that’s a win for everyone.
Amazon Web Services Inc. Today announced several enhancements to its contact-center-as-a-service product, Amazon Connect, at the Enterprise Connect 24 in Orlando. Prior to the event, I was given a preview of the announcements in a prebriefing with two senior managers of product management for Amazon Connect — Himanshu Suri and Trevor Bloking. Details of the announcements are as follows:

Third-party app support for agent workspace

The Amazon Connect agent workspace now supports third-party applications. “This allows customers to take either their existing vendor–built solutions, like calendaring applications and analytics apps, or internally built applications like CRM tools or order management systems and iFrame [inline frame] them into the workspace,” Bloking told me. “The feature has been in preview since October of last year. Over that time, we have added capabilities. In December, we began adding event support, which means that these third–party apps can access the events happening as part of that contact.” Apps from Tech See, Verint, Joulica and Neuraflash will work in Amazon Connect at launch. “We’re also seeing customers bring their own applications as well,” Bloking told me. “That’s a very common pattern.” Bloking showed me a mock-up of an internally built banking application sitting directly in Connect. Apps are integrated at the user interface level, with further integration on the roadmap, according to Bloking. AWS says the third-party apps are available in regions in the U.S., Africa, Asia-Pacific, Canada and Europe. Application integration is one of the most highly requested feature updates for contact center solutions. Without it, contact center agents and other users must constantly flip between screens, creating a disjointed user experience. This hurts the agent’s experience, which is then reflected in the service they give, leading to a poor customer experience.

Gen AI contact summaries and automated agent performance submissions

The Amazon Connect Contact Lens function within Connect now provides a post-contact summarization created using generative AI so that managers can monitor contact quality and agent performance. “With generative AI, we are now providing a succinct, coherent summary of what actually happened, including contextual insights,” Suri told me. “This is our effort to simplify quality management for our customers and provide these post–contact summaries immediately after a call.” According to AWS, the summaries will be short, even if the call is long, with specific examples, such as “customer didn’t receive reimbursement for last minute flight cancellation, and the agent didn’t offer partial reimbursement as per the SOP.” Managers can reduce their time on contact quality evaluations and agent performance. This gen AI–powered tool, available in the US West and US East regions, is built on Amazon Bedrock for both voice and chat channels. Without gen AI, summarizing calls is a highly manual process that can include combining customer feedback, agent notes and even supervisor information if they were listening in. It is also time-consuming, error-prone and, in many cases, not very effective. This is a perfect use case for gen AI because it’s fast, accurate and works for every call and chat interaction. Adding to Amazon Contact Lens features, the offering now gives companies the ability to automate the submission of agent performance evaluations. Managers can now evaluate 100% of customer interactions, using insights derived from conversational analytics to automatically populate and submit evaluations. This also projects aggregate information on agent performance across a range of agents over time.

Self-service, no-code chat experiences

Amazon Connect Chat customers can now leverage no-code self-service experiences with guides to help resolve their customers’ issues. This new feature gives chat customers a way to use a drag-and-drop interface to create step-by-step guides for end customers. The step-by-step guides and chat are supported wherever AWS offers Amazon Connect across all regions. Creating bespoke flows for specific use cases can significantly improve customer self-service. For example, offering an end-customer options for potential issues they are trying to solve on their own, or if a customer calls an agent about a product return, the agent could push a step-by-step flow delivered via chat. It’s important to note that contextual information is retained if the customer needs to talk to an agent. AWS provided an example where, if an airline loses a customer’s luggage, they can go through the process, and at the end, if they transfer out of the self-service to talk to the agent, all the contextual information is retained.

Some final thoughts

These latest enhancements take some important steps. First, they recognize that contact centers are not homogeneous. Multiple systems and apps are at play. Enabling a simpler view is a step in the right direction. Second, they’re showing the practical application of gen AI in helping make post-call actions more efficient. Finally, enabling self-service experiences will improve experiences across the board. AWS was a latecomer to the CCaaS industry, but with simplicity in mind and through AI, the company has legitimized itself as now being mainstream.
The communications industry’s largest show, the annual Enterprise Connect being held this week in Orlando, Florida, is a “who’s who” of unified communications and contact center providers as they unveil their latest and greatest innovations. One of the companies that was out of the block early was Avaya LLC. The company announced a revamped portfolio naming scheme and a new strategic partnership. Few companies think their product naming strategies help or hinder their success regarding customer experiences. But over time, even well-thought-out naming schemes can become hard to decipher. Simplifying a portfolio is necessary, since confusing your customers is never good. Seeing Avaya take a new approach to product names was refreshing, expressing its purpose more clearly. In the announcement, Avaya Chief Executive Alan Masarek said the changes were about flexibility and agility for its customers. “Simplifying our portfolio and solutions architecture reflects how we are enabling our customers to quickly and easily adopt new capabilities that drive meaningful improvements in customer experience, employee experience, and business outcomes,” he said.

A new experience platform

The company is building a new CX offering by pulling its Avaya Call Center Elite, Avaya Enterprise Cloud and Avaya Experience Platform CCaaS under the new Avaya Experience Platform Portfolio. The portfolio includes, respectively, Avaya Experience Platform On-Prem, Avaya Experience Platform Private Cloud and Avaya Experience Platform Public Cloud. This should bring clarity to customers and Avaya channel partners to understand where to use each product. Avaya says its aim with the renamed products is to use its evolving AI technologies to improve digital channels, self-service, assisted service, connected employee initiatives, workforce engagement, customer journey orchestration and proactive customer care.

Unifying Avaya’s unified comms

The company is putting its unified communications products under the new Avaya Communication and Collaboration Suite moniker, which will still include the ability to meet, call, chat, share files and manage tasks. The company says the new suite integrates new tech, enhances connectivity and uses AI to help make operations more efficient. It also says it’ll explore new approaches that don’t disrupt existing technologies.

Avaya and Zoom partner to simplify customer deployments

Also, Avaya has a new partnership with Zoom Video Communications Inc., integrating Avaya calling into Zoom meetings, which makes managing comms and workflows easier. I had a chance to discuss the partnership in a pre-briefing with Eric Rossman, Avaya’s vice president of partners and alliances. Rossman shared the details of the Zoom partnership. “The Zoom client will connect as a native client to Avaya Communication Manager,” he told me. “An Avaya premises-based communication customer will get IM and presence. And we’ll do federation, so you’ll know when your Avaya phone goes off in Zoom. Customers calling in Zoom will be routed to the Avaya on-premises system instead of going to the Zoom Cloud.” This lets customers enjoy the benefits of Zoom but continue to take advantage of the Avaya calling platform without upgrading to Zoom Phone. He said Avaya talked with its customers, and they requested this integration. More intriguing: they were willing to pay more for it. The Zoom partnership does give Avaya customers many options. If they want to stick with on-premises, they can continue to use their existing setup. For full-blown UCaaS, they can opt for Avaya Cloud Office, which is done in partnership with RingCentral. Then there is a hybrid option, which would leave calling in place and add the Zoom option. Avaya hopes to have a prototype in place by mid-May, with availability coming in the fall.

Some final thoughts

I see the partnership with Zoom being a “win-win-win” for Avaya, Zoom and its customers. For Avaya, Zoom gives customers a path to modernization without disrupting the infrastructure or employee workflows. The reality is that most of Avaya’s large telephony customers are already using Zoom, so partnering helps Avaya retain that installed base while making money from reselling Zoom. A worst-case scenario is that customers love the telephony integration and decide to move to Zoom phone and, in that case, Avaya may churn the customer but still get the revenue from the migration. It’s important to note that this solution is primarily targeted at Avaya’s large enterprise base, which is the biggest of the big. Governments, global banks, major airlines and retailers all use Avaya. Most do not like disruption but want the added functionality a company such as Zoom brings. This lets Avaya deliver an integrated solution while maintaining account control. This partnership opens the door for Zoom to broaden its solution set in large enterprises. Expanding the market is a key initiative for Zoom, and the partnership with Avaya adds easy calling to Zoom but then lets the company sell events, webinars, mail or other new products. Avaya’s large enterprise installed base dwarfs Zoom’s, and by working with Avaya, Zoom can deliver more functions faster without forcing customers to rip and replace their existing technology. The big winner, though, is the customer. Without the partnership, customers would have had to stay with the rock-solid and reliable Avaya telephony or move to Zoom Phone, which is not easy when dealing with tens or even hundreds of thousands of workers. Now, they can do both. History has proven that doing things that are in the customer’s best interest is the right choice, and that’s what Avaya and Zoom are doing.
With the AI boom in full throttle, there has been no trade show in recent memory that I can recall more eagerly anticipated than Nvidia Corp.’s GTC 2024. After five years of being virtual, the event returned to an in-person format, adding to the excitement. While the event was held at the San Jose Convention Center, the keynote was up the street at the SAP Center, home of the San Jose Sharks and a popular venue for many rock concerts, and it’s the latter that’s the appropriate comparison as it had that kind of feel. The venue was packed to see if Nvidia could meet the hype around AI today. The keynote certainly didn’t disappoint. It started with a refreshed “I am AI” video, which certainly got the crowd in the AI mood. There were many product announcements – from its new graphics processing unit, Blackwell, to imaging and supercomputers, but I thought many key themes permeated the event. Here are my key takeaways from Nvidia GTC 2024:

Nvidia is the undisputed AI leader

Queue up Michael Buffer – “In the green corner, the undisputed and undefeated AI Champion of the world…. Nvidia.” In all my years covering tech, I do not recall another company with this much momentum built on a technology trend. Nvidia is not only building products for AI but also setting the vision and pace of innovation. CEO Jensen Huang (pictured) is to AI what John Chambers was to the internet, but the economic impact of AI dwarfs the internet era. During the analyst Q&A, Huang talked about how the vision of what AI could do for us probably sounded crazy years ago, but now it’s real. Staying with the Chambers analogy, he said things like “voice would be free,” which sounded equally crazy but eventually became a reality. This puts Nvidia in an interesting bellwether position, as its actions, comments and financial performance will now have an impact on not only it but also all its ecosystem partners and many competitors. As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and for Nvidia, being the king of AI changes expectations. Huang and Nvidia seem up to the task, but now the real work begins.

We are in the early stages of AI

For all the hoopla and mayhem surrounding AI today, we are very early in the AI cycle. While the hyperscalers and a handful of big companies might have their AI strategy in place, most companies need help with where to use it, how to implement it, how to retrain staff, and what kind of ROI can be gained. Last week, I talked with Bill Schlough, chief information officer of the San Francisco Giants, and asked him how he thinks of using AI; he told me, “The bigger question is, how are we not thinking about AI as it now permeates every aspect of our business? It’s in every conversation we have.” This is a sentiment echoed by many CIOs today. There is an awareness that an AI strategy is needed, but how it manifests itself has yet to be written. Again, going back to the Internet analogy, I was in corporate information technology in the early years, and everyone – from the board to corporate executives to employees — was banging the “We need an internet strategy” drum. Today, it’s standard operating procedure, and one day, AI will be as well. Using the baseball metaphor, it seems we aren’t quite in the first inning, but when AI starts to take off, it will accelerate quickly.

AI and GPUs can help with sustainability

The AI and Nvidia critics will point to the fact that GPUs use significantly more power than CPUs, and that’s true, but one can’t look at these things in isolation. Instead, looking at this through the lens of workloads is essential. It’s like looking at vehicles. If I asked someone if a Prius or a Ford F150 was more fuel-efficient, one would immediately say the Prius. What if I added the caveat that the driver needed to haul 5,000 pounds of gravel across then country. Then the truck wins as it can do it in one drive, whereas the Prius must make several trips. AI not only enables new workloads but also allows for tasks to be done differently. In the analyst Q&A, Huang took this question head-on and talked about how AI can save much of the wasted energy in the grid. A simple example is that AI can figure out how to charge batteries more efficiently and extend battery life. He was also very bullish about AI being used to help adapt to situations. “The thing AI could have the most significant impact on is adaptation,” he said. “If harm will come our way, AI can tell us when and where it will show up and help us take corrective action.” GPUs draw more power and continue to grow power-hungry, but they also enable us to do things so much more efficiently that they create a net positive impact on the planet.

NIMs are the new CUDA

While Nvidia is best known as a GPU company, what made it the company it is today is the software stack that makes working with the GPUs easy, and that started with CUDA and then evolved to add software libraries, SDKs and other programming tools. The next phase of its software strategies is the NIM, for Nvidia Inference Microservices, which brings together optimized inference engines, application programming interfaces and AI models in a container for simple and rapid deployment. Nvidia offers pre-packaged NIMs, but it also allows companies to use their own data for custom NIMs. The use of NIMs lets companies be a lot more agile as they can experiment more with their software and run “what-if scenarios,” which is important in the GenAI era, particularly with retrieval-augmented generation or RAG. With generative AI, things are rarely perfect out of the box, and queries require more and more refinement. By packaging everything into a microservice, Nvidia is cutting down the time it takes developers to bring the necessary pieces together. This will only add to the simplicity developers have in working with Nvidia and keep them as the platform of choice for that audience as well as with systems integrators.

Vertical integration is good for AI

Nvidia is often criticized for its vertically integrated solutions. Whether someone is looking at the Drive Kit, Clara, Omniverse, DGX or other Nvidia platforms, there is one commonality, and that is the infrastructure stack is all Nvidia. This includes not only the GPU but also the network and software that sits on top of it. As mentioned earlier, we are early in the AI cycle and vertical integration is the fastest path to a successful deployment. Without an engineered solution, the customer may be able to cobble together a solution comprised of “best of breed” components but then will spend months tweaking and tuning it for optimal performance. As the industry matures and deployments become more standardized, the ecosystem can grow, and vertical integration becomes less necessary. It’s worth noting that Nvidia has been good about building reference architectures with many ecosystem partners such as Pure Storage, Cisco Systems and Supermicro. These are still vertically integrated solutions, as Nvidia and its partners have put together the blueprint but do offer customers choice. Overall, GTC 2024 was a phenomenal show. A tremendous amount of innovation helped make much of the conference’s vision a reality. Nvidia is currently the darling of the AI industry and will reap the benefits of this for at least half a decade, maybe longer. One wonders if the company can continue to innovate at the torrid pace it has, but right now, there is no reason to assume it can’t.
A recent survey conducted by DigiCert provides insights into the state of digital trust among global enterprises. Effective digital trust management ensures the security, privacy, and reliability of digital processes, systems, and interactions. Establishing and maintaining digital trust has become a significant differentiator for organizational success. The survey targeted 300 senior IT, information security, and software development and operations (DevOps) managers working in organizations with more than 1,000 employees across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. The survey findings were published in the 2024 State of Digital Trust report, highlighting a stark contrast between top-performing companies (leaders) and lower-performing ones (laggards).

Higher Revenue and Increased Employee Productivity

The survey indicated that digital trust leaders, representing the top 33 percent of the respondents, have higher revenue, digital innovation, and increased employee productivity. These leaders excel in responding to outages and incidents, show readiness for post-quantum computing, and effectively utilize the Internet of Things (IoT). They demonstrate a mature approach to administering digital trust through centralized certificate management and the use of email authentication and encryption (S/MIME) technology. Conversely, the bottom 33 percent—the laggards—struggle in these areas, facing challenges in leveraging digital innovation and maintaining robust digital infrastructure and security practices. Notably, while leaders experienced few system outages, data breaches, and compliance issues, half of the laggards reported problems with IoT standards compliance, and many suffered from software trust mishaps. Only one in 100 companies surveyed claimed to have highly developed digital trust practices, indicating a common problem in maintaining enterprise digital trust. Furthermore, 98 percent of reported outages and brownouts were attributed to digital trust issues like expired certificates or domain name system (DNS) problems. None of the respondents were confident in their ability to react promptly to such incidents.

The Challenge of Quantum Computing

The looming growth of quantum computing adds another layer of complexity. Quantum capabilities are rapidly accelerating, driven by tech advancements like generative artificial intelligence. The report uncovers a gap in preparedness for quantum-resistant technologies and the need for strategic action in the face of this evolving threat. According to the data, 61 percent of organizations find themselves underprepared for the post-quantum transition. Leaders estimate a two-year timeframe to fully respond to the quantum shift, whereas laggards project three years or more. This discrepancy highlights the urgency of developing actionable plans, especially given the current five-year window before quantum computing becomes a more pressing concern. Therefore, immediate and strategic action is necessary in the face of uncertainty, said Brian Trzupek, Senior VP of Product at DigiCert. “This quantum thing is a big deal. People are starting to get the visibility that this is a looming challenge. It’s greater than just a digital certificate replacement because it’s fundamentally the algorithm that has been attacked. All the libraries for the dependent client software, for the web servers, for the app servers, for the databases—all those things will need updates, including a certificate, to make that work,” said Trzupek.

Concerns Around SSH Protocols

Survey respondents are concerned on the reliance on the secure shell (SSH) protocol based on the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) public-key encryption, which is used ubiquitously across cloud services for secure communication and authentication. Additionally, hardware implementations of RSA, such as secure sockets layer (SSL) offloading and accelerators, present a significant challenge. Trzupek shared an example of one cloud provider that reported having 200,000 such devices, all potentially rendered obsolete by the shift to quantum-resistant algorithms. Another surprising finding is that 87 percent of the respondents reported that their IoT devices transmitted personally identifiable information (PII) over unencrypted channels. This security loophole in IoT devices poses a threat to user privacy. Fortunately, businesses are now recognizing the significance of upgrading their digital infrastructure to protect users.

Issues in Software Trust

There are major developments happening in the realm of software trust, mainly in implementing software bills of materials (SBOMs) or detailed inventories of software components. In the previous report, approximately three percent of organizations were aware of or working on SBOMs. In this report, the number has increased monumentally to 99 percent. While organizations recognize the importance of SBOMs, the actual deployment and meaningful use of SBOMs may not be as widespread as the numbers suggest. Electronic signatures (e-signatures) have also emerged as a key area of interest, with a low percentage of respondents saying their e-signature practices are extremely mature. The business teams, such as legal, human resources, and procurement, usually handle them, not the IT department. Only about one in eight organizations understand the difference between simple e-signatures and the more secure ones that use certificates. Nearly half (48 percent) use electronic seals on their documents, and most (86 percent) use digital signatures with certificates issued by trusted third parties. “There are business processes for how you apply those signatures. We see a lot of customers still struggling to make use of cryptographically secure signatures on content like mortgage documents and healthcare documents. They’re definitely looking at making those processes very easy to use. From our survey here, you can see that that’s something they’re still trying to work on,” said Trzupek.

Bottom Line: How to Enhance Digital Trust

To enhance digital trust, DigiCert recommends that organizations thoroughly inventory their digital assets, define clear policies, centralize public key infrastructure (PKI) management, and prioritize their efforts based on business impact. This can help mitigate security issues, build confidence among customers and partners, and improve operations. Effective digital trust management enables organizations to navigate regulatory challenges, ensuring compliance while protecting sensitive data and adapting to cyber threats.

digital concept art in gold