IBM Watson Health Redefines Boundaries of Health, Information Technology

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 20, 2017 2:24:55 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts President Richard C. Lord used his annual State of Massachusetts Business Speech this morning to highlight IBM Watson Health in Cambridge as emblematic of the commonwealth's growing economy.

IBM Watson Health is prospering by exploring the still unknown boundaries between health care and information technology. The company seeks nothing less than to redefine the relationship between technology and humanity in a manner that improves the quality of medical care for all of us. IBM Watson Health could have located anywhere, but decided to establish its operations and hundreds of employees in Kendall Square, Cambridge, the epicenter of the global biosciences and software industries.

The idea behind IBM Watson Health is to use cognitive computer systems that understand, reason and learn to make sense of the estimated 80 percent of health data that is currently invisible to computer systems because it is unstructured.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Technology, State of Massachusetts Business Address

Do Employers Respond to Online Comments?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 6, 2016 8:50:16 AM


A majority of AIM member employers choose not to respond to comments made about their companies on social media and Internet rating sites, according to a new AIM poll.

Sixty-two percent of companies responding the AIM monthly issues poll say they never answer what most experts believe is a swelling volume of online consumer feedback. Twenty-seven percent say they respond only to answer a question, 1 percent respond only when they have time and 10 percent always respond.

The results are based on responses from 152 employers.

The survey was taken amid media reports last month of several restaurants and hotels seeking to remove themselves from the popular online rating service TripAdvisor, which is based in Needham and is an AIM member. TripAdvisor maintains ratings on all operating business, an approach that has allowed the site to grow into a platform with more than 320 million reviews of businesses around the globe.

Online customer comments have become an important issue for businesses as traditional word-of-mouth referrals move to the Web and become globally visible. A recent survey by Brightlocal found that the percent of consumers who form their opinions about a business through online reviews rose from 22 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2014.

Being part of the review forums often bolster a business’ bottom line. One Harvard Business School study of restaurants in Washington found that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings led to a 5-to-9 percent increase in revenue. A  report from the Boston Consulting Group involving a survey of nearly 4,800 small businesses found that companies who have a Yelp profile yet do not advertise on the site saw their annual revenue increase by $8,000 on average.

Several companies responding to the AIM survey say they do not use social media for business purposes. Others said they leave the task of monitoring online comments to their marketing departments or to an outside marketing firm.

Companies point out that the issue of online comments does not stop at consumer reviews, but also includes sites that allow current employees to evaluate the company for the benefit of job seekers.

“We just discovered GlassDoor and are diligent about responding to every comment on that site,” one member wrote.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Technology, Internet

AIM Vision AwardNuance Communications, Technology Whisperer

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 19, 2016 7:59:56 AM

AIM last week presented the first-ever Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three inaugural Vision Award honored Nuance Communications of Burlington. Nuance is a global pioneer in voice-recognition and imaging software that bridges the gap between humans and the technology they create. The company is best known for providing the voice recognition technology that underpins many digital personal assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S-Voice and Ford’s Sync.

Here is more...

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, Technology

Employers Split on Government Access to Smart Phones

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 2, 2016 7:30:00 AM

A narrow majority of Massachusetts employers believes that technology companies should help law-enforcement authorities unlock smart phones and other electronic devices as part of criminal investigations.

Phonesecurity.jpgFifty percent of the employers who responded to a new AIM survey, which was included in AIM’s monthly Business Confidence Index, side with the government in its recent dustup with Apple over access to the phone of a suspect in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Thirty-seven percent believe companies should not help the government access electronic devices, while 13 percent are undecided.

Even for those who favor technology companies helping the government, the question appears to be an agonizing one.

“Before the ‘Age of Terrorism’ I would have answered ‘No.’ However, today I must answer ‘Yes,’ but with this caveat - tech companies should do the actual access themselves. They should not reveal the software or other techniques that they might use to do so to the law enforcement agencies, and only based on a warrant or court order,” wrote one employer.

A second saw the issue differently:  “I can very much understand Apple’s reluctance to create software to get information from their phones. First, having the information in the hands of the government. Second, Apple was probably concerned about the effects on their product in the market once customers understood that Apple was willing to allow the government to access any phone.”

The conflict between Apple and the Justice Department flared in February when a federal magistrate judge in California ordered the Silicon Valley company to help unlock the smartphone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. Apple opposed the order, saying that “compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk.”

The government announced in March that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, but suggested that the broader battle over access to digital data from devices is not over.

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails,” Melanie Newman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, told The New York Times.

Employers who responded to the AIM survey said technology companies should provide access to devices only under court order.

“Access should be based on a judge and court warrant issued only under extreme circumstances and sealed from public scrutiny. Access should be performed by an Apple employee acting as a mutual agent of Apple and the Justice Department so that proprietary software information is not disclosed to the FBA or to other parties,” one AIM member wrote.

Still other employers suggested that iPhone kerfuffle distracts from the broader issue of electronic security faced by employers in all industries.

“I would prefer to have the government and technology companies working on more ways to keep our records and information secure rather than worry about tech companies creating backdoor keys for the government. This unchecked increase in the number of hackers and info/tech piracy cases is very unsettling. I haven't seen any real effort to address this aspect of security,” one employer wrote.

Topics: Technology, Privacy

GE Move to Boston Represents Watershed for Economy

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 13, 2016 2:55:26 PM

Today’s decision by General Electric Company to locate its corporate headquarters in Boston represents a watershed for the Massachusetts economy, the commonwealth’s most influential employer association said.

GE.jpgAssociated Industries of Massachusetts, which counts GE among its charter members, is proud to have played a significant role in the months of discussions that took place among the company, Boston and state officials and several cornerstone Bay State employers. The decision burnishes Greater Boston’s already strong reputation as a rapidly growing center of ideas and innovation.

“It’s a great day for Massachusetts as General Electric Company, one of the most respected companies in the world and a charter member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), has chosen to locate its corporate headquarters in Boston,” said AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord, who participated in a meeting with GE executives in the North End of Boston in September.

“GE’s move brings a host of benefits to the Massachusetts economy, from top-level jobs to innovation to an unmatched global market presence. AIM and its 4,500 member employers welcome GE headquarters to the commonwealth and congratulate the Baker and Walsh administrations for recognizing that taxes, work force and other elements of the business climate really matter in corporate location decisions.”

The company said Boston is a logical location for a company seeking to marry manufacturing with advanced technology.

“GE aspires to be the most competitive company in the world,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

“Today, GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations. Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities.

“Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically-fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world. We are excited to bring our headquarters to this dynamic and creative city.”

GE will bring roughly 800 jobs to Boston - 200 from corporate staff and 600 digital industrial product managers, designers and developers split between GE Digital, Current, robotics and Life Sciences. A GE Digital Foundry will be created for co-development, incubation and product development with customers, startups and partners.

GE already has a significant presence in Massachusetts, with nearly 5,000 employees across the state in businesses including Aviation, Oil & Gas and Energy Management. In 2014, GE moved its Life Sciences headquarters to Marlborough, and in 2015 GE announced its energy services start-up, Current, would also be headquartered in Boston.

AIM worked with Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to bring a handful of business leaders together to meet with GE’s site selection team for a dinner at Tresca in the North End on September 14. Representatives from two AIM member companies – EMC and State Street Corporation – joined Lord, Baker, Walsh and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.

“One of the strengths I talked about was the fact that the governor, Legislature and the mayor have worked together in a bipartisan manner to create a predictable business climate,” Lord said.

He noted that GE was the second company to join AIM in 1915 and that GE Executive Richard Rice, served as the first chairman of the association from 1915-1917.

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Technology, Jobs

AIM Next Century Honoree | iRobot Corporation

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 20, 2015 9:53:22 AM

Editor's Note - iRobot Corporation of Bedford was among three companies and individuals honored with Next Century awards at the AIM centennial gala on Monday.

iRobot stands at the vanguard of a growing robotics industry that is redefining the future of the Massachusetts economy. Founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, the company’s robots help people find smarter ways to clean their homes, to protect those in harm's way and to enable virtual presence from anywhere in the world.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Technology

Smart Phones, Remote Work Raise Pay Issues

Posted by Tom Jones on Jun 3, 2015 10:47:21 AM

Smart phones, tablets and wi-fi are blurring the lines between work and non-work time, especially for non-exempt employees.  The question facing employers is whether or not to pay employees for time outside of the normal work day for periods spent on their smart phones, especially if it triggers overtime.

SmartPhoneTabletThere is currently no national standard.  While some federal courts have weighed in, the U.S. Supreme Court has not.

The issue has caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which has announced plans to collect information on how the use of smartphones impacts hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The DOL announced that it will seek input by publishing a request for information in August.

DOL states that there is no formal rulemaking proposed at this stage, but the gathering of information such as this is often the first step toward drafting a rule.

Technology has changed how, where and when work is done.

The FLSA generally mandates that employers pay non-exempt workers for all hours worked, and overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. Time spent working outside the office on mobile devices and computers by non-exempt employees complicates working-time determinations made by employers and could ultimately affect overtime determinations.

While some employers already have policies in place regarding off-hours use of electronic devices by overtime-eligible employees, DOL’s decision to open up this door suggests that any one particular policy may be subject to additional scrutiny in the future.

Now is the time to think about your current policy (if you have one) and your current practices regarding electronic devices:

  • Adopt controls to prevent non-exempt employees from accessing your IT network remotely when they are not working; or monitor the activity of those employees who do access the network.
  • Adopt a clear policy about unauthorized work and overtime. Be prepared to enforce it through your disciplinary policy
  • Remind employees of the relevant policies by updating and reissuing them. Require employees acknowledge receipt of the policies. You might also consider providing employees with training on the topic.
  • Educate managers about the issue of non-exempt employees working remotely. Be sure the managers know your company policy with regard to including information on timesheets. They should also be alert to things such as employees responding to work sourced email(s) over the weekend or turning in assignments first thing Monday morning.

If this issue is already a problem, now is the time to address them:

  • Limit or deny the email or remote access privileges of non-exempt employees who violate policies.
  • Suspend telecommuting privileges for those not in compliance with your policy.
  • Revoke any employer-owned devices if they are being used to perform unauthorized work.

If you are concerned enough about this to comment to the DOL during its fact-finding phase, remember that the opportunity is likely to happen this August.

If you have any questions about this or any other HR related matter, please contact the AIM Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, Technology, Human Resources

Siemens Donation Underscores Growing Software Role in Manufacturing

Posted by Brian Gilmore on May 27, 2014 3:07:00 PM

Can manufacturing in Massachusetts grow in the face of rapid technological change, globalization, and an industrial landscape with emerging gaps in workforce development?

ManufacturingA hopeful sign came last month when Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of Siemens Industry Automation Division, announced nearly $600 million of industry software grants for manufacturing programs at vocational schools, community colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts.

Software plays an important role in the new era of manufacturing. Students and faculty will use the software in assignments and research related to computer-aided-design, engineering simulation, industrial design, digital manufacturing and manufacturing management – advanced skills sought by global manufacturers.

Thirteen academic partners throughout the state are receiving in-kind software grants to support the Applied Manufacturing Technology Certification Pathway developed by Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Initiative (MACWIC). The program received AIM’s Gould Education & Workforce Development Award at the last years’ annual meeting.

Academic partners include Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Fitchburg State University, Berkshire and Quinsigamond community colleges, and vocational-technical schools in Worcester and New Bedford. Using the software in their coursework, students can develop the advanced skills sought by more than 77,000 customers who utilize Siemens’ software and technology solutions. This includes nearly 150 companies in the commonwealth such as Raytheon and Bose. 

MACWIC is an employer-led initiative to strengthen workforce development in the manufacturing sector. Siemens, the multinational technology company, is founding member of MACWIC through its Metals Technologies (MT) business, with its advanced manufacturing facility in Worcester. Siemens’ announcement, beyond the fact of a generous and far-sighted donation, underlines two points about our industrial future: that manufacturers themselves are taking the initiative in addressing together the needs of their sector; and that international companies, along with locally-based ones, can be full participants in the effort.

Topics: Technology, Manufacturing, Workforce Training

How Does Technology Affect Productivity?

Posted by Andre Mayer on Apr 9, 2014 2:49:00 PM

"Has technology allowed your company to produce more goods or provide more services than a decade ago with the same or fewer employees? Can you quantify the economic effect?"

ProductivityOn AIM's March Business Confidence Survey, 62 percent of the employers who responded said "yes" to the first question. The second question proved harder to answer for many.

The 37 percent reporting no significant impact were almost all smaller firms (fewer than 100 employees) and were largely in services or other non-manufacturing sectors, although there were a few manufacturers – "everything is still handmade" said one.  A few members chose "not applicable" either because they interpreted the question narrowly or because they were not in business 10 years ago.

Those who were able to quantify gains often reported productivity increases in the 10-25 percent range, but one manufacturer doubled output without adding workers, and a non-profit service provider more than tripled productivity. Some manufacturers noted that productivity improvements did not strengthen their bottom lines due to downward pressure on prices, while companies in various services industries cited offsetting costs from new regulations.

Respondents' comments revealed the complexity of technology's impact. One noted that although productivity per se was unchanged, it could now offer an expanded range of services. "Not 'more' … just better" was a recurrent theme.

"We are handling requirements for new customers that we would never have been able to handle with our legacy systems," have the "ability to market to a larger audience," can "identify more jobs to bid on" thanks to new technology, respondents said.  In the construction sector, better cost estimation is key: "You cannot operate today without a good software program to control cost and show market trends."

The effect on staffing levels was mixed; the largest group of employers seems to have held steady, others downsized, and some reported adding jobs as a result of technology.  

Topics: Technology, Productivity, Profits

Massachusetts Legislative Leaders Back Repeal of Software Tax

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Sep 12, 2013 12:27:00 PM

Massachusetts will not expand sales and use taxes on software and computer services after all.

Tech TaxHouse Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray announced this morning that they intend to repeal the controversial $160 million levy passed several months ago as part of a package to fund improvements to the transportation system.

The two leaders said they will not propose a new tax to replace the software tax revenue, but will instead close the gap using a budget surplus. The repeal will be retroactive to the July 31 effective date of the tax.

Announcement of the repeal effort came a day after Governor Deval Patrick, who initially proposed a more expansive version of the software tax as part of his $1.9 billion tax package in January, changed his position and opposed the measure. The tax has generated withering criticism from the business community and a 2014 ballot question calling for its repeal.

"It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us anticipated or intended," Murray said.

"So as a result of these discussions, we will support repealing the sales tax on sofwtare services and will place this repeal before the membership for a vote."

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, who attended the announcement, commended the decision by Murray and DeLeo.

“Given the potential damage to the reputation of Massachusetts as a center for technology innovation, and the widespread confusion caused by the tax, we think that Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray are taking a prudent course in seeking repeal,” Regan said.

Listen to the Announcement | State House News Service

The Legislature overrode Governor Patrick’s veto on July 24 to enact a transportation finance bill that expanded the definition of taxable services to include “computer system design services” and “the modification, integration, enhancement, installation or configuration of standardized software.” The expanded definition meant that the rendition of computer system design services and the customization of otherwise standardized computer software was subject to sales tax in Massachusetts.

The legislation specifically excluded data access, data processing and information management services from the definition of taxable services.

The repeal effort will begin in the House of Representatives.

Attend AIM's 2013 Tax Webinar

Topics: Issues, Technology, Taxes

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