Teskalabs: Making Smart City Applications Run Smoothly and Securely
Have you ever thought about who sees to it that the apps you use every day run smoothly, and most of all, securely? Who makes sure a Smart City is not prone to cyber attacks? In some cases it is TeskaLabs. The team surrounding founder Ales Teska is dedicated to making the digital world safe without compromising security or user experience. We talked to Cindy Dam, who is responsible for Marketing and Community Development at TeskaLabs about the work of the company, challenges of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities.
Thank you for sharing some insights about TeskaLabs. In a nutshell: what do you do and what problem does this address?
TeskaLabs helps companies to securely and smoothly operate mobile applications and connected products.
What triggered the founders to set up the company? What is the story behind it?
TeskaLabs’ journey started with Ales Teska. His inspiration came out of several years of struggling to overcome the security barriers that keep enterprise mobile applications from reaching customers in time and with no security compromises. He couldn’t find any solution that not only addressed enterprise mobility security but also aligned with the way developers, like him, prefer to work. He set out to create a technology that would be easy to use for developers like himself and be economical for businesses at the same time.
TeskaLabs was founded in 2014 by Ales Teska and Vladimira Teskova. The pair, both highly experienced in enterprise mobility and mobile carrier operations, started TeskaLabs in response to their experiences with the internal cyber security practices of large enterprises, particularly the challenges of staying up to date with a rapidly changing security environment with the arrival of new technologies for mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
What sets the company apart from your competitors?
There are two main approaches to mobility. Major vendors focus on managed devices while we focus on unmanaged devices. There are not many solutions that address unmanaged devices. However, there are far fewer company-owned devices than personal ones owned by users and contractors, and these devices are not managed.
TeskaLabs offers a comprehensive portfolio of technology, products and services designed to solve difficult problems faced by companies when operating unmanaged connected products. This includes a Mobile Application Gateway, IoT Device Managment, a Security Operation Center, security audit and software architect and software development mentorship. CatVision.io is a remote access, remote control, and screen sharing technology for mobile applications. As it also works with Android-based IoT applications it can be used in Smart City projects.
You have offices in London and Prague. How important do you deem European collaboration to create an environment that is smart but also safe?
Collaboration is important and should be done on different levels:
- dialogue and exchange of knowledge
- understanding that safety and security are key components of Smart Cities projects
- defining security requirements and following a security-by-design approach when building new products and solutions
- governmental organizations to allocate grants and funding for SMEs, startups and academic institutions that work on innovative technologies or solutions that solve cyber security problems.
- examining best practices and take what works from existing Smart Cities in Europe and use them in new cities.
Does the Czech Republic offer advantages to your company that the UK or other European countries do not?
The Czech Republic is a good place for Research & Development (R&D) because the country is not yet drained of technical resources. TeskaLabs is active in Prague, so it’s easier for us to find good people. However, as we became more established in the UK, we learned that the UK has excellent support for R&D activities. Thus, we’ve started to consider plans to extend R&D and establish a technical workforce in London or other cities in the UK.
Can you give us a little insight into what brought you to work in the area of IoT?
TeskaLabs started in the mobile space and gradually stepped into the Internet of Things. Smartphones and tablets are also connected devices like the more trendy examples of connected cars, connected cups, connected lights, etc. As mobile apps and IoT solutions evolve to meet the needs of customers, cyber criminals are one step behind. So IoT is an obvious future for TeskaLabs. We see a lot of potential in the industrial IoT, for example SCADA or PLC and the need to protect these systems.
Can you quickly explain what those two are?
SCADAs, short for “supervisory control and data acquisition”, are systems used to monitor and control a plant or equipment in industries such as telecommunications, water and waste control, energy, oil and gas refining and transportation. PLC stands for “programmable logic controller”. This is a specialized computer used to control machines and processes.
How do you perceive the current situation of smart cities and the Internet of Things? Are we on the right track or do you see certain obstacles ahead?
The concept of smart cities is expected to grow in the years to come, and there seems to be no limit. The smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities worldwide, reported by TechRepublic.
So far we’ve seen smart cities projects being successfully implemented in places like Barcelona where smart water meter technology helped the city save $58 million annually. In a South Korean city, smart technologies cut building operating costs by 30% after implementing smart sensors to regulate water and electricity usage.
However, for every new kind of technology, there is bound to be a new kind of problem. Along with the arrival of desktops, laptops, and the World Wide Web, we now encounter cyber crime. With the advent of mobile technology, both enterprises and consumers were required to deal with mobile security. Since the IoT is essential to building smart cities, we have to address the challenges and solve the problem of IoT security. Everything that can be connected is vulnerable to hacking attempts. Poorly designed or implemented systems can expose serious vulnerabilities. Cyber attacks aimed at vulnerable connected devices, applications and systems that make up smart cities can lead to large-scale blackouts, power grid failures or environmental disasters like sewage and oil spills. As cities adopt smart initiatives, they’d be wise to make data security a priority from the outset.
Which smart city technology do you think will be the biggest game changer?
The game changers will be the key technologies that truly make smart cities work, such as smart energy, smart transportation, intelligent infrastructure, smart connected devices, and smart data.
What will our life in smart cities look like in 5‚ 10 and 25 years?
How do you judge the overall career opportunities in the smart city sector?
The smart city market is estimated to worth $400 billion by 2020. There will be thousands of jobs, both traditional like software developers, engineers, scientists and newly created positions that need cross-functional skills.
Obviously, Smart City and IoT will need skilled workers in machine learning, automation, robotics, data science, cybersecurity/IoT security. In addition, according to Dice, we need people with a diverse skill set to take on the role of Business Transformation Practitioner, Customer Maker, Urban Mechanic, Digital Anthropologist, Professional “Triber”, Industrial Network Engineer, Alliance Director.
What concrete problems or challenges within the field are graduates facing?
This field contains many jobs that will be automated or replaced by computerized devices and robots. A lot of jobs that might need human intervention to document and process paper-based documents will be digitalized. Furthermore, many jobs will require vast knowledge and experience from specific industry domains which newly grads often don’t have.
What characteristics and skill sets should someone bring to the table trying to have an impact? What traits would you deem most important to successfully move into the smart city sector as a university graduate, startup entrepreneur, or job seeker?
- hard skills, e.g. software engineer, software development, data analysis
- soft skills, e.g. relationship management, people management
- an understanding of security and risk, user privacy, data security and risk
- curiosity and an openness to learning new things
Which three qualities should your ideal candidate have?
I’d like to propose the three qualities advocated by Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linkedin. He wants to work with people who
- dream big,
- know how to have fun,
- and get shit done.
Cindy, thank you so much for this interview!
About the interviewee
Cindy Dam is a motivation explorer, behavioral investigator, and storyteller. She makes technology and security ‘human’ at TeskaLabs, an application security company focused on mobile apps and Industrial Internet of Things solutions.
She has worn many boots working in various industries and performing different functions including teaching, consulting, project management, marketing, and coaching. When she’s not researching, reading and writing about cyber security and security hacks, she hacks her way around the world to learn the code of people and their society.
United Kingdom Office
69 Wilson St, London EC2A 2BB
Czech Republic Office
Kodanska 1441/46, Prague 101 00
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