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Marketing

Woo-Hoo! WooCommerce for E-commerce!

Over the past several months I’ve been working with WooCommerce experts who work with e-commerce businesses.

WooCommerce, a popular e-commerce software that's also open source.
WooCommerce is the most popular open-source e-commerce software.

For those who aren’t familiar with WooCommerce, it’s a plugin from WordPress that turns a website into an e-commerce powerhouse. The Australian firm BuiltWith, which provides website profiling, lead generation, analysis, and other support services for e-commerce, reported that 12% of all e-commerce sites use either WooCommerce or use the WooCommerce Checkout tool.

On its own, WooCommerce powers nine percent of all e-commerce sites, just behind market leader Shopify and just ahead of Magento, two other popular e-commerce options.

WooCommerce Is Open to Developers Who Create E-Commerce Tools

Like WordPress, WooCommerce is a free, open-source platform, meaning that people who do things like develop website applications can easily integrate their products to work with WooCommerce. (For more information about how application interfaces work, see this article from ModeEffect.) While it offers plenty of free and paid or fee-based tools (called extensions), being open source means it’s easier for developers to create customized solutions for e-commerce site owners. I think this benefits both developers and e-commerce businesses.

WooCommerce is so extensive, it’s easy to forget that it’s a WordPress plugin so it can run other WordPress plugins as well. However, many WordPress plugin developers have developed extensions specifically for WooCommerce. Yoast, an SEO tool that virtually all WordPress users (myself included) consider vital, has a WooCommerce extension.

WooCommerce Is (Almost) as User-Friendly as “Closed” Platforms

I don’t have any direct experience maintaining a WooCommerce site myself but I’ve seen enough to be confident that as a longtime WordPress user to know I could learn it pretty quickly.  I had the opportunity to leaf through a pre-launch WooCommerce site a few years ago and liked what I saw.

WooCommerce generally scores points for being user-friendly although reviewers often point out that sites like Shopify and Etsy are friendlier. They probably are, especially for e-commerce business owners who “don’t use” computers. Shopify, Etsy, Weebly, and other “instant websites” are all-in-one website builder packages that also include hosting in their costs. I think this is why they are seen as more user-friendly than WooCommerce and Magento, which put the hosting decisions on site owners.

Moreover, WooCommerce requires first building a WordPress website, adding another step to the process.

However, setting up a basic WordPress site is pretty easy. Once you decide on a host—WordPress endorses BlueHost and SiteGround, the host I use—you have access to WordPress for free, and many hosts will help you set up a site as well. You aren’t limited to these hosts, either: there are tons of other excellent WordPress hosts including GoDaddy, which I personally think has the best customer service anywhere, of any business.

Like most website services, WordPress has an installation wizard that makes setting up a basic site a low-stress task. Your host can also help with setup, and there are lots of videos on YouTube and WordPress itself that can guide you along as well if you’re doing it on your own. Frankly, there’s nothing like working hands-on with a new tool to help you find it less threatening; remember, you’re not launching warheads or anything!

Once WordPress is set up, go to the Plugins menu and look for WooCommerce. Once you upload and activate it, you can use its setup wizard to guide you through it.

WooCommerce Hosting and Domain Registration

Hosts can also transfer an existing e-commerce website from another platform to their own, even from “closed” sites like Etsy. A clever host will know a few tricks like downloading a CSV file or figuring out an application interface (API) solution. At the very least, a CSV will preserve the content.

Domain registration works the same way for WooCommerce as it does for any other website. In the early days of the web, this was often done by separate companies but more hosts are providing domain registration as well and closed, all-in-one services take care of this as well and may be another reason why WooCommerce and Magento are written off as requiring “expert” knowledge. But today, many hosts like BlueHost and GoDaddy, do both. I work with clients who use GoDaddy for both hosting and domain registration.

I use GoDaddy to register and keep my domain. It didn’t offer WordPress back when I started my own website, so it didn’t make sense to use it for hosting. Plus, I got free hosting from a friend for many years—a sweet deal for which I will always remain grateful

I’ve read that it isn’t a good idea to use the same service for both hosting and registration. But if it’s a reputable site, with good reviews from places like TechRadar, I don’t see why there would be a problem. If you’re using a really cheap host who’s new or is small but you personally like the people behind it, it may make sense to separate hosting and registration just in case something does go wrong. At the very least, you want to hang on to your website registration!

In addition, some hosting sites are starting to specialize in WooCommerce. Large WooCommerce sites may want to look into these options as there are differences between hosting a WordPress site and a WooCommerce site, particularly where traffic management is concerned.

Tips for Launching a WooCommerce Website

I haven’t actually set up a WooCommerce site but I know people who do!

I also had the opportunity to sit it on Chris Lema’s presentation on setting up WooCommerce at Phoenix WordCamp in February 2018. Lema is an e-commerce expert and works extensively with WooCommerce. He literally set up a dummy site and showed the highlights seen in the setup wizard.

Interestingly, WooCommerce is a little less logical than WordPress. Here are a few tips Chris shared with us:

  • Be sure to go into the settings section because the wizard skips over most of them. US-based e-commerce businesses are required to list a physical location so be sure to ask your client what address to use. You can also use a fake one and change it later. Do not, however, list your address as you will then start receiving all kinds mail you don’t want or need!
  • The first content section you see in the software (right under the page title) is not where you add content about the product! This is a major stumbling block and the guy next to me at Lema’s presentation told me this cost him a lot of time. Look for the product description section, a small area which is what Google will see first as it conducts searches. The large content area is for details you may or may not want to add, but will probably help with search engine optimization.
  • Always choose PayPal as a payment option. Not only is it wildly popular, Chris says, many people view money in their PayPal accounts as “free” money to use for shopping. I know that I often leave a few bucks in my PayPal account for inexpensive purchases like pizza or discounted books/ebooks.

Chris’ presentation was quite entertaining and was well worth the time and extremely affordable cost to attend WordCamp even in my case for just one morning. To see Chris’ favorite WooCommerce extensions, check out his slide presentation Launching Your WooCommerce Store Workshop.

WooCommerce is Great for Blogging!

WooCommerce is its own little world but it’s still a WordPress plugin and retains the blogging DNA.

Blog on WooCommerce just as you would on WordPress: create a new post, add categories, tags, media, and metadata. Yoast, a popular SEO tool (I used it all the time) has an extension for WooCommerce that builds upon its WordPress version. It supports Pinterest and ties in with the the WordPress version to coordinate and boost breadcrumb trails. There’s also a Local SEO version for those e-commerce sites that also have a local brick and mortar presence.

What should you blog about? Well, what do your customers care about? Look at your emails for clues. Typically, they are interested in:

  • New products
  • Product care
  • Special offers
  • Staff introductions
  • Customer testimonials
  • Photos and videos

Depending on your customers, it’s usually ok to share a little personal information such as how you dealt with a Noreaster (something we don’t worry about here in Arizona), a kid going away to college, a new puppy. As the great big shoe company says, just do it!

And if you can’t find the time—hire a professional writer!

 

 

 

 

Categories
Arizona business Arizona Tech Communiy Mobile technology

Powering the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (I0T) is here and it’s hungry. Right now, a lot of brainpower is being used to figure out battery and energy solutions so that Alexa never fails to respond and the FitBit doesn’t overlook the stairwell you climbed coming back from lunch.

Consider, too, that IoT needs computer processing power as well to function. Assuming our chips survive Spectre, will IoT users get the power they need?

IoT and a New Approach to Supercomputing

IoT devices are the ultimate in wireless, on-the-go technology and its numbers are growing. Last year, Gartner forecasted there would be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. More than 60% of current IoT applications are in the consumer market, but businesses will no doubt identify new uses for it and make more demands for IoT power, including processing power.

Supercomputers are the first solution most businesses and industry enthusiasts will think of. But supercomputers are expensive and consume a lot of energy. They would place IoT out of reach for many consumers and small businesses. But guess what? There is a better way: leashing the power of idle and underused processors.

The Phoenix area where I live and work is a hub of creative technological thinking, particularly in mobile and IoT.  Two years ago, I caught a presentation by Chris Mattheiu, then with Citrix, at the annual Phoenix Mobile Tech conference. He spoke about sharing unused processors to power anything that requires computing— not just IoT—although that’s what initially sparked his interest.

A new supercomputing platform uses idle or unused processing power.
Giving and taking computing power, as needed and as available.

Even to me, a non-techie who writes about mobile and IoT tech, this made sense: Create a supercomputer that doesn’t generate more processing power but uses excess power that’s just sitting around unused. IoT itself, Mattheiu pointed out, is idle 80% of the time. It doesn’t need a steady supply of processing power, but it does need a reliable one.

Mattheiu had already created the website computes.io to deliver processing power to those who need more than they have on hand. In January 2018, he announced its formal launching as a new business. Computes serves businesses and nonprofits that need additional computing power that would otherwise require buying additional resources. It can run on the cloud and deliver to any device, on any browser and through any operating system.

It’s already got one impressive customer: the University of Wisconsin, which is using Computes to find patients with early onset Parkinson’s Disease for clinical studies.

This approach to get supercomputer power without spending a lot of money is great news for smaller companies and startups, which are powering a lot of Phoenix-area tech businesses these days.

Who Needs Additional Computing Power?

In addition to the impressive size of IoT users, there are plenty of others who can use additional computing power. For me, the most obvious one is in graphic design.

As a dedicated WordPress fangirl, I am painfully aware of the amount of sheer memory graphics take up on a website. There are solutions for this terrible problem (!) but what about the folks who are creating those graphics? Artists are not generally overflowing with excess cash to buy into more Amazon cloud space, particularly for short-term projects.

Computes works for them, too, and I suspect local Phoenix-area artists and videographers will love this solution. The same goes for those working with machine learning (formerly known as artificial intelligence, or AI), another small but strong industry in these parts. Not everyone has access to the supercomputing services at ASU!

Computes is also looking to attract a “cryptocurrency” market to leverage from idle gaming systems, cryptocurrency mining—a popular activity on campus these days—and to support applications like fault tolerance, which ensures websites remain active even when there’s an issue that would normally bring a site down.

IoT devices and machine learning/AI aren’t trends anymore: they’re as permanent as data collection and mining. Even cryptocurrency keeps marching on. Their presence, and that of the next thing on the horizon, will make more demands on power, even if they don’t need it all the time.

Most of us hate wasting resources. This “mesh computer” as Computes calls it, works in a way similar to how solar power customers sell excess power back to utilities. Plus, it’s good to see a technological advance that will actually help small businesses and nonprofits better manage their resources. The fact that this great idea was hatched right here in the Valley of the Sun makes it more than a little sweeter.

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing Mobile technology

Is Your Website Right for Mobile-First Design?

If your Google (or other) analytics show that most of your website visits come through mobile devices (usually smartphones), you may be wondering if it’s time to consider a mobile-first strategy.

Mobile-first design is gaining in popularity because mobile search has now surpassed desktop search. Younger consumers are far more likely to only use mobile devices; many don’t feel the need to buy (or upgrade) their old laptops. And according to a June Pew study, just over half of all US adults have made a purchase via smartphone. It certainly looks like mobile-first follows the way many consumers browse and buy.

Is Your Target Audience Ready for Your Mobile-First Strategy?

Still, you may want to take a close look at your target audience and loyal customers to see how, and how consistently, they use mobile devices when they visit your site. This is a very important decision to make before you embrace the mobile-first approach.

Should your e-commerce site feature a mobile first design?
Would a mobile-first site design serve your customers better?

I say this because I was quite surprised recently to discover that an e-commerce client of mine still gets most of his website visits via desktops. His business is largely paper-free—including his marketing materials—and is doing quite well with its desktop-driven B2B e-commerce site. His customers simply aren’t using mobile that often.

They understand his website is his shop and he won’t be sending them cardboard stands to put in their stores or flyers. They seem to like the emails he’s sending them, judging from the open rate (phew!). And looking at their MailChimp stats, they’re opening those emails the way they visit his website: on their laptops and who knows, maybe their desktops.

I was all set to tell him about mobile-first design but after looking at his analytics, I put this aside.

It’s easy to be persuaded that mobile-first is the way to go. Everywhere I look, articles abound about why it’s the smart way to conduct an online business. Heck, I do most of my non-business reading via mobile (usually my tablet) so it made sense to me.

Plus, online spending is expected to easily break the $100 billion mark this holiday season: $107.4 billion, Adobe Analytics exulted in November. It’s going to be a record-breaking online shopping season and mobile is leading the way!

Two-thirds of holiday online purchasing will be done on desktop in 2017.

Except it really isn’t. Further down the Adobe press release, it notes that two-thirds of online purchasing will be done on desktop, which also includes laptops that are aging along with student debt in many US households.

So before you embrace the mobile-first outlook, take a good long look at how the deal is sealed: is it on mobile or on a desktop/laptop? In other words, be certain that your target audience is ready for this switch.

All Sites Should Be Mobile-Friendly

I can’t stress this enough: if your website and especially your e-commerce website isn’t easy to navigate or read on a smartphone, you’re probably turning off some potential customers. But don’t confuse mobile-friendly with mobile-first. All websites should be mobile-friendly, period.

Google Analytics list of mobile devices used to reach a website.
Google Analytics shows what mobile devices are used to reach websites.

Google Analytics will break down the devices used to reach your website—iPads, Samsung tablets, Motorola, etc. At left is a list of mobile devices that linked to my client’s site over the past 30 days (I had to look up Ellipsis, which I now remember are Verizon tablets).

Only seven percent of his website visitors come via smartphones. Fourteen percent use tablets and 79% visit with a desktop. But his site is mobile-friendly and passes Google’s own mobile-friendly meter.

These customers are mainly interior designers and hardware stores. I suspect those coming through desktops have great big monitors for Autocad and Illustrator.

I looked at my own site’s mobile friendliness and was shocked to see it falls short here, at least according to the Google Smartbot. It was fine a few months ago, but now it’s listing problems with plugin stylesheets and scripts I’ve used for some time now and I’m careful to update. Smartbot says the content doesn’t fit on the page, but when I look at it on my smartphone and my friends’, it seems fine. I use WordPress, which requires themes to be mobile-friendly, and the smartphone preview doesn’t show viewing problems. Perhaps it’s Smartbot, and not smartphones, that’s having a problem.

That said, my Google Analytics indicates absolutely no mobile visitors over the past seven days (it rises to 13% over  30 days). Clearly, I’m not a mobile target and since this is isn’t a sales site but one that’s pretty content-heavy, I don’t see this as critical. And if Google is telling the truth, my mobile-unfriendliness doesn’t penalize my site.

What Sites are Best Suited for a Mobile-First Approach?

Smartphone shopping is growing
Shopping via smartphone is setting records.

Google ranks mobile search separate from desktop search to accommodate all the mobile users. So how can you decide if your site should take the mobile-first approach?

If visitors are overwhelmingly coming and more importantly, buying your products or services through mobile devices, your site might be a good candidate for mobile-friendly design. Tell your designer what devices appear most often, and s/he should be able to add enhancements to better serve them.

Obviously, e-commerce sites are ripe targets, provided you know the bulk of your visitors are coming to it via mobile—an incorrect assumption I had about my B2B e-commerce client.

Mobile-first design responds to customers who primarily go online through a smartphone and to a lesser extent, a tablet. Sites that sell consumer goods are probably best-suited for this. Goods like clothing, jewelry, consumables, furniture, and home accessories all sell well with lots of images and video and don’t need a ton of content that can turn off mobile users. These customers generally know what they want to buy and have already done their research. And if they are Millennials, they’re already regularly making purchases through their smartphones.

For me, the biggest concern is security. I rely on my smartphone when I’m not home. It’s crazily convenient if a bit slow. But I rarely use it to make purchases; I think I once bought movie tickets through a smartphone. That said, smartphone purchasing is exploding, but so are incidents of identity theft and fraud and I’m certain we’ll hear a lot more about this after the holiday shopping season is over.

Experts warn that smartphones using public wifi are notoriously easy to hack. You have to set your smartphone to not pick up on local free wifi; default settings are to open up to whatever’s around. Home computers, however, are far more likely to have virus protection and private, password-protected Internet access and virus protection. Tablets are as well.

Still, more people are making their purchases through their smartphones: CyberMonday 2017 set a new record for both online and smartphone purchasing.

Unfortunately, e-commerce sites can’t detect if shoppers are connecting to them through secure or open wifi. And while smart e-commerce sites make sure top-notch security is in place, they can’t protect their customers’ smartphones. What they can do is offer tips on safe, secure shopping through social media, e-newsletters, and maybe a really brief blog. If your analytics show a lot of smartphone-driven buying, do your customers a favor and remind them about securing their smartphones. You certainly don’t want a purchase from your site to coincide with their smartphones being hacked!

 

 

 

Categories
Arizona business Marketing

Marketing Lessons From WordCamp Phoenix

I recently volunteered at WordCamp Phoenix, an event I’ve attended in the past. For those who aren’t familiar with WordCamp, it’s a WordPress conference. Most WordCamps are strictly local.

I use WordPress for this website and with a few of my clients. I’ve even developed a couple of sites with it.

WordPress was created to be free (open source) blogging software like Blogger but quickly became the world’s most popular website software. I’ve had my ups and downs with it. However, I still prefer it especially when I compare it to the handful of other website software I’ve used. If you can use word processing software, you can write on a WordPress platform.

WordCamp is a Place Where Everyone is Interested in What You Do

One thing I immediately liked about the first WordCamp I attended a few years ago is that its enthusiasts (they call themselves “evangelists”) aren’t snobby about their WordPress knowledge. They’re eager to share what they know. I was introduced to it in 2009 by a friend who offered to show me how to set up a website for my new writing business. Prior to this exposure, I assumed website software was the tangle known as Dreamweaver that seemed far above my fledgling skills.

WordCamp is a welcoming place where everybody is interested in what everyone else does for a living. If you’re just setting up a website for the first time, there are sponsors and vendors who can explain how they can help you create your site and host it. There are specialists in website security whose tools integrate with WordPress, and website developers who specialize in creating e-commerce sites. And then there are freelance professionals who provide a variety of WordPress technical services and writers (ahem) who can create content for your website.

This WordCamp was a little more friendly to non-technical professionals than past ones. There was a session to show WordPress beginners the main functions. Othere sessions discussed marketing topics that could fit into most business conferences and included topics like best practices for social media, how to create your own website design, and how to develop content that’s likely to answer a Google search.

Even if You Think You’re Pretty Seasoned, a WordCamp Will Tell You Something You Didn’t Know or Forgot About

Frankly, there are so many changes going on in marketing that any good marketing presentation is going to either tell you something new or remind you of a basic concept you’d forgotten about while chasing SEO butterflies.

Here are a few of the marketing items I learned, or re-learned, at WordCamp Phoenix:

Figure out your goals and work backward to plan a way to reach them. It’s OK to do this in steps.

Treat your goals like a target.
State your target, at least to yourself

Mindie Kniss somehow made the concept of planning less threatening, at least to this writer. In fact, I realized that I’ve been doing some of this all along which was very reassuring. Kniss also stressed the importance of building a client list and following up with clients; for example, just checking in, asking how things are going, and so on. I’ve actually landed new assignments this way, by “reminding” clients that they needed a white paper, a new email approach, or someone to ghost-write for one of their own clients.

Poetry serves as a mind hack.

I’m actually tired of the word “hack” but Shawn Pfunder’s use of it makes sense here. Pfunder is a senior communications director for GoDaddy and loves to write, particularly stories for businesses to share with readers. This is an approach I heartily endorse. Pfunder read a few lines from poems and demonstrated how anticipation of the conclusion actually activates neurons. It didn’t hurt that he recited lines from my favorite poet, Bruce Springsteen.

Think about data as you prepare to write.

Data are your friends! (Really, and I’m one of those who sees this as a plural word.) Nikki VanRy, a content marketer who manages Nivan Content, says to do a little

A Google search can highlight keywords and synonyms.
Talk to Google before you write.

research before you sit down to write on a topic to see how people search for it. For example, I conducted these searches in incognito mode to prepare for this article:

  1. is wordcamp useful for marketing
  2. what happens at wordcamp
  3. i hate wordcamp

I’m wondering about the incognito function since a discussion at WordCamp Phoenix was the first item to come up for the first search and it auto-populated my search even though I switched that function off. I guess incognito search still looks at search history even if it’s not recording current searches.

The second search was more of what I’d expect to see–articles that answer the question and used my exact search term. I got a listing for WordCamp Las Vegas (“What happens at WordCamp stays at WordCamp.”)

That last one brought up posts that sought to deny anyone hates WordPress or explain that haters have been given incorrect information. This is helpful because I’m careful to explain terms that probably sound like jargon to non-WordPress users, or at least those who use it as a tool and aren’t particularly interested in understanding its functionalities. I understand where they’re coming from.

Two interesting facts I got from Nikki’s talk:

  1. Only 15% of Google searches are actually unique and have never been done before.
  2. 1 in 20 Google searches are about healthcare.

Technical Topics Impact Marketing, Too

I didn’t go to the higher-end technical sessions, which were easy to identify because I had to look up the acronyms in their titles. But there are topics that lean toward the technical side of things that I think are important for marketers to think about.

The first is security. This happens to be an interest of mine; I volunteer with the Cloud Security Alliance and have a layman’s understanding of why cloud security is actually much safer than you might think.

What does marketing have to do with security? Well for starters, if your site is hacked at the very least it can stop running your brilliant content and replace it with something completely inappropriate, such as advertisements you aren’t being paid for, the President’s taxes, or the absolute worst: your site shuts down altogether.

So it was enlightening to go through Aaron Campbell’s list of website security myths and facts, including:

  • The vast majority of attacks are scripted and not targeted, so even if you feel you’re too insignificant to be a target, you are anyway.
  • If you think changing a WordPress file prefix will protect the file, you’re also losing the opportunity for WordPress to update a vulnerable file since it won’t recognize it.
  • A username like Admin isn’t a security risk. It’s the password that’s the security. The longer and more random a password is, the more security it will provide.
  • Every sight should now have an SSL.

    Don't fear weird-looking Google Analytics.
    Analytics are also your friends.

Aaron, who is the Team Lead for WordPress security, is funded by GoDaddy.

The other sort-of technical topic had to do with analytics. WordCamp usually includes a how-to presentation on analytics. Instead of going through Analytics 101, Google Analytics Explainer Brandy Lawson of FieryFX introduced us to Google Data Studio, which helps build custom reports on analytics that update as they change. I wouldn’t have had a clue this existed at all. If your clients don’t understand Google Analytics’ default reporting, this could be a great solution.

There’s a WordCamp going on somewhere in the world nearly every day. Phoenix will host another one in February; follow it’s Twitter feed at #phxwordcamp. Or visit the WordCamp page on WordPress.com to find one near you.

Categories
Arizona business Arizona issues Arizona Tech Communiy Mobile technology

The Internet of Things – Alive in Arizona!

You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things. You might have quickly decided it sounds like too much to look up. Let me simplify it for you: it’s about using the Internet to control your stuff that may or may not be mobile.

Is the Internet of Things too all-seing and all-knowing?
What’s not to like about the Internet of Things? Security, for one but Arizona’s IoT firms are working on it.

I already knew this, and had a pretty good idea about how it works. I’ve written about the “smart home” concepts for clients and wondered how safe this is. Aren’t there geniuses in North Korea and China chained to cubicles and ordered to hack our smartphones this very moment?

If I wired my home security to the phone, what could stop some devious person from breaking in and stealing Junior Yankee from me in the dead of a late Saturday morning when he’s asleep but I’m away at a conference on the Internet of Things? Or what if they want my adorable Chihuahua and Dachahuahua? Is IoT, as it’s also known, a safe place?

The Internet of Things is a Wonderful and Scary Place

I got an email about a local IoT DevFest. Since it was being held at the Mesa Arts Center, I figured it was hosted by a legitimate tech group and not a nefarious dictatorship, although its co-sponsors included Google Developers and Intel.

I’m just joking! Really, Google, get a sense of humor.

A very nice guy named Mike Wolfson (he’s an Android/Java developer) organized the conference on behalf of the Phoenix Meetup for the Internet of Things. He comped me a ticket after I emailed him asking if it would be too technical for an interested, semi-techy, writer.

It was time well-spent. Not only did I learn much more about IoT, but out of a group of perhaps 150 people, there was no line for the ladies’ room during the first, post-coffee break. (Not so the mens room!)

Here are more reasons to like IoT:

  • It’s a bona fide Arizona industry. There are firms right here in our state doing amazing work with IoT most of us couldn’t have imagined five years ago.
  • Its growth potential is huge. A few speakers cited a Gartner Research finding that about a million new devices come online each day, making IoT is a potential $14 billion market.
  • It enables and improves technologies, including mobile technology. A Tempe manufacturer called Local Motors created a series of 3D printed cars. Check out their video below.
    • How is this related to IoT? It’s powered by a platform created by another Tempe company, Octoblu (now owned by Citrix), which works to integrate anything and everything through the Internet. You can control the car through a laptop and I’m sure, through a very well-protected smartphone someday soon.
  • IoT developers care about delivering quality products. I’m among millions of frustrated people who’ve written about abysmally slow US Internet speeds. IoT platform designers will be the ones to push for a faster Internet on our shores. Here’s an article I wrote on Internet Speed a couple of years ago.

 

Here’s where IoT is scary: security gaps.

Platform developers like Octoblu are working hard to maximize security on their end. They’re constantly hiring people to hack their systems and help them identify where there are weak spots. It won’t be easy for Kim Jong Un’s minions to break into their platform.

The problem comes from the device side of things, where there are no security standards. The best platform developers can do is blacklist devices and firms that are notoriously sloppy and easy to hack. They should also take the lead in persuading and assisting mobile developers to improve security and invest in new safeguards.

Right now, the safest way to communicate between two places is peer-to-peer (P2P), which of course makes it less “mobile” in some ways, but it is the most difficult to hack.

The Phoenix IoT Community is Robust and Enthusiastic

Honestly, IoT folks are not just enthusiastic at work but also at 9 am on a bright Saturday morning, after a rainy week when it’s tempting to ditch a conference and go for a hike.

Not this group. The auditorium was full for the keynote speaker, Octoblu founder and local IoT god, Chris Matthieu, who sports an impressive twirly-style mustache. In this video, he explains how Citrix used Octoblu technologies to power that 3D car.

Citrix also hosts the IoT Hackers Meetup. As a member of a couple of WordPress meetups, I appreciate when companies loan their spaces.

Another local group that brings together IoT developers is CO+HOOTS. It shares offices in downtown Phoenix to encourage collaboration among techies in various areas, including software and app developers. You don’t have to be a techie to use their space, though: the site lists graphic designers, filmmakers, photographers, and independent types like lawyers, real estate agents, and ahem, writers as among their members.

While developers tend to work for their own firms, IcedDev is one local group that hires consultants to work with companies involved in development. I won’t pretend to understand a lot of what they do but its founder, Luis Montes, talked a lot about JavaScript (the group sponsors a local Java/Node Meetup). He also discussed an interesting development in Bluetooth technology that links sensors on low-powered devices like heart monitors to the web. This allows for remote patient monitoring, perhaps as a backup for onsite hospital staff attending to emergencies elsewhere.

Want to know what the experts say will be IoT highlights in 2016? Check out this blog entry from Chris Witeck, Citrix’s chief technology strategist.