Academy Xi Blog

What is blockchain technology and how does it work?

By Academy Xi

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Many people view blockchain as the future of tech & data and believe it will kickstart the third generation of the internet. But what exactly is blockchain and how is it used? Read on for answers to all this and more.

Blockchain is a digital system of recording information across multiple computers with no central storage point. Because blockchain stores data in separate ‘blocks’, it is very difficult to change or hack. 

You’re most likely to have heard about blockchain technology in reference to cryptocurrency systems, as the blockchain creates a decentralised and secure record of transactions. What do we mean by decentralised? No individual or group is running the show. The users of the blockchain collectively have control. 

Blockchain technology was initially proposed as a research project in the early nineties, with its first major application of use being for Bitcoin in 2009. Since then, blockchains have been behind the creation of various cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and legal contracts, while governments in countries such as Sweden are exploring blockchain-based land registries. 

How does blockchain work?

A blockchain gathers the data into ‘blocks’, each one holding sets of information. Once the storage capacity of one block is filled, it closes, is timestamped, and will link up to the block filled before it, forming a chain. This format creates a timeline of data that cannot be reversed.

Different kinds of data can be stored within this system, but so far the primary use for blockchain technology has been for financial transactions. 

The purpose of blockchain is to record and share digital information, without it being edited.

The transaction process:

  • New transaction is entered
  • Transaction transmitted to network of shared computers globally
  • The network solves equations to confirm the transaction is valid
  • When the transactions are confirmed, they’re grouped into blocks
  • The blocks are chained together, forming a permanent record of transactions

Does blockchain work in Australia?

Man holding IPad looking at Crypto stocks

While cryptocurrency is not a legal tender in Australia and is generally not accepted as a form of payment, there are currently over a dozen blockchain startups and companies nationwide. 

The Australian Government is ‘exploring the potential of this emerging technology’ and has developed a national roadmap with industry and researchers. Currently, there are pilot programs running in ethical minerals and the food and beverage sectors. Working groups have also been established in Cyber Security, supply chains, credentialing and regtech. 

What is blockchain technology used for?

Blockchain technology has a wide range of uses with many industries maximising on the possibilities offered. We’ve rounded up some of the top uses across different sectors.

Blockchain in healthcare

stethoscope and a tesseract

The healthcare sector unfortunately remains top of the charts for data breaches in Australia, alongside the finance industry. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that a major benefit of blockchain technology for healthcare is the ability to keep medical data safe and secure. Patient records can be encrypted and transferred, as can other medical data. Blockchain also supports the management of the medication and medical equipment supply chains, as well as efficient and accurate claims processing. 

Another benefit is the decentralised set up of blockchain technology, which creates a single ecosystem of patient data, enabling medical professionals and patients alike to access the same information across the board with safety and ease.

Blockchain in supply chain management

Among the top perks of integrating blockchain tech with supply chain management systems:

  • Improve supply chain transparency
  • Boost traceability/tracking
  • Reduce administrative costs
  • Decrease losses from counterfeit trading

By recording all supply chain data within a blockchain, such as product quantity, quality, cost, and any other relevant details, the management of the overall supply chain is much more efficient and accurate. This can benefit the reputation of the company, improve productivity and output and positively impact the business bottom line. 

Blockchain in banking

Man looking up blockchain technology on his laptop

Set to change the future of banking systems globally, blockchain tech can enable several welcome advancements, including:

  • Increased security and fraud protection

With a clear audit trail created via blockchain data, it is almost impossible to edit information once it has been loaded to the chain. This aspect of the technology, along with the fact it is decentralised, means hackers aren’t able to mess with data without leaving a trail of evidence in their wake. This is positive news given the tidal wave of ransomware attacks and cybercrime.

  • Faster and cheaper international transfers

Historically, transferring funds internationally involves third parties who take a cut while the transfer itself can take days. Blockchain introduces direct transactions, removing the middle parties, speeding the process up and saving you money.

Blockchain in agriculture

Plants growing in soil with technology

Similar to the benefits of blockchain tech in supply chain management, it aids the agriculture sector by improving the traceability of data in the food supply chain, which increases safety measures. Details from the quality of seeds, to crop growth can be recorded and tracked, while industry issues such as illegal or unethical production can be detected, along with potential contamination.

The key areas for the use of blockchain technology in agriculture are sustainability and food security, along with it being able to support development of innovation for farming practices. 

How can I learn blockchain technology?

Before you can work with blockchain, you’ll need to break into the world of tech and data. Gaining hands-on, industry-focused training is one of the best ways to kickstart a career in these industries. Academy Xi offer flexible training options in the following areas:

Want to chat with a course advisor? Our experienced team is here to discuss your training options and help you find the perfect course. Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your tech and data journey.

Academy Xi Blog

A beginner’s guide to Cyber Security, 2022

By Academy Xi

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Are you new to the world of Cyber Security? This beginner’s guide will give you the latest information about one of Australia’s fastest growing industries and help you kickstart a lucrative career as a Cyber Security Professional.

Why is Cyber Security important?

A cyber attack can be launched from any location and normally involves a cyber criminal gaining illegal access to data, or causing damage to online devices, networks, or systems. Believe it or not, an average of 185 cybercrime reports are made in Australia every day – that’s more than 1 report every 10 minutes! 

Average cyber crimes a day in Australia infographic

Businesses of all sizes can become the victim of a cyber attack, often resulting in serious consequences for customers. A Cyber Security expert at the University of New South Wales, Canberra has estimated that cybercrime costs the Australian economy as much as $42 billion each year. 

Optus and Telstra were the subjects of well-publicised cyber attacks in 2022.  These breaches resulted in the disclosure of private customer Information, including email addresses, Medicare card details and driver’s licence and passport numbers. 

Cyber Security is the strategic application of controls, processes, software and technologies to protect networks, systems and devices from cyber attacks. 

Why are Cyber Security Professionals important?

In a world where more and more of our business and social lives are carried out online, the role of Cyber Security Professionals is growing in importance and stature.

Cyber Security Professionals are responsible for implementing security best practices and countermeasures to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce the risk of cyber attacks.

Cyber Security expert working on a computer

Common types of cyber threats

Modern cybercriminals are highly inventive in their attack methods, always striving to find new ways to infiltrate and abuse online resources. Some of the most common types of cyber threat include:

Phishing – This involves sending fraudulent emails purporting to be from reputable companies, which are used to convince people to disclose personal information such as passwords and bank details.

Malware – Short for malicious software, malware is a file, program or piece of code that’s designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. Malware can be programmed to perform just about any illegal action that a hacker wishes. 

Ransomware – This is a particular type of malware that’s used by hackers to block access to a computer system, or threaten the publication of private data unless a sum of money is paid to the cybercriminal. 

Viruses –  This is a type of malicious program or code that’s designed to spread from one computer to another. A virus attaches itself to a legitimate program to execute its code and normally harms the system by stealing, corrupting or destroying data. 

Trojans – A Trojan is a file or program that appears to be legitimate and safe, but is actually malware used to steal data or spy on victims. Many Trojans will also download additional malware once they’ve been opened or installed.

Adware – This is a form of malware that hides on your device and serves you advertisements. Some forms of adware will also monitor your online behaviour, gather data without your permission and target you with specific ads.

Man-in-the-middle-attack This involves a hacker secretly intercepting and relaying messages between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other. As a type of eavesdropping, this often involves the victim passing sensitive information to the attackers.

Who could be a cyber threat?

These days, cyber threats can originate from a range of sources and involve many different kinds of ‘actors’ (in Cyber Security jargon, an ‘actor’ is the person responsible for committing a cybercrime). Some of the people who are most commonly responsible for perpetrating cyber attacks include:  

  • Lone hackers
  • Corporate spies
  • Hacktivists
  • Terrorist groups
  • Hostile nation-states
  • Criminal organisations
  • Disgruntled employees/ex-employees

Best practices to counter cyber attacks in 2022

Best Cyber Security Practices infographic

You don’t have to be a fully-fledged Cyber Security Professional to implement a high level of Cyber Security. A few simple steps that anyone can follow to secure their workplace or business include:

  • Enable multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication is a security measure that requires two or more proofs of identity to grant access.

As well as passwords and passphrases, multi-factor authentication relies on:

    • Random pins
    • Biometrics / fingerprints
    • Authenticator apps
    • Emails
    • SMS messages
  • Use strong, varied passwords and passphrases. In cases where multi-factor authentication is not available, a strong password or passphrase can be the last line of defence between hackers and your online accounts. 

Passwords and passphrases are most effective when they are long, unpredictable and unique. It’s best to include a mixture of letters, numbers, punctuation and symbols.

  • Use anti-malware software. Anti-malware is a type of software that protects computers and systems from malware, such as spyware, adware, and worms. Anti-malware scans your system in real-time to filter out all types of malicious software. It will also block any suspicious installations that attempt to change your computer’s settings or access unauthorised areas of your network. 

Types of Cyber Security

Cyber Security takes many forms and to cover all of its bases, an organisation should develop a comprehensive plan that addresses all of these major types of Cyber Security:

Network security – Network security is a broad term that covers a range of processes and technologies used to defend a network. This involves a set of rules and configurations that are implemented to protect the accessibility and confidentiality of a computer network and its data.

Application security – This is the process of using security software, hardware and best practices to protect computer applications from external threats. Incorporating application security into the life cycle of an app enables development teams to design more secure end products. 

Infrastructure security – This is the practice of protecting critical systems and online assets against cyber threats. This typically covers hardware and software, such as end-user devices, data centre resources, networking systems, and cloud resources.

Cloud security – Also known as cloud computing security, cloud security is a series of security measures designed to protect cloud-based infrastructure, applications, and data. Cloud security measures ensure user authentication, data and resource access control, and protect the privacy of data.

Mobile security – Mobile security is the protection of smartphones, tablets, and laptops from threats associated with wireless computing. In a world where many people work remotely, mobile security has become increasingly important. Security measures include multi-factor authentication, data encryption and the ability to wipe or lock stolen devices.  

Data security – Data security is the practice of protecting digital information from unauthorised access, corruption, or theft throughout its entire life cycle. An example of data security would be using encryption techniques to prevent hackers from using your data even if it’s breached.

Cyber Security career prospects in Australia

The Australian Cyber Security market is forecast to increase in value to US$5.8 billion by 2024, growing at a rate of over 8% annually. As a result, the demand for skilled Cyber Security Professionals in Australia has never been higher and is set only to rise. Seek is currently advertising 1,959+ roles nationally.

Cyber Security career prospects in Australia infographic

For a detailed breakdown of industry statistics, the latest trends and your earning potential as a Cyber Security Professional, read our full Cyber Security Market Update.

How to get into Cyber Security in Australia

When it comes to breaking into the Cyber Security industry, there’s no bypassing the need for a formal certification. 

Cyber Security is a highly technical field that calls for proficiency with the latest technology and software, while you’ll also need a firm grasp of Cyber Security best practices, risk assessment, threat intelligence and governance. To add all these skills to your toolbox, you’ll need formal training. 

There are a range of options when it comes to earning a certification in Cyber Security, including university degrees which normally take three years to complete. For those looking to transition into the industry more swiftly, short and condensed bootcamp-style courses can be a great option. 

What Cyber Security courses does Academy Xi offer?

Our new Cyber Security Engineering: Transform course gives you the skills employers are searching for and takes you from beginner to job-ready in just 10 months. 

You’ll develop a full spectrum of Cyber Security skills and get the chance to:

  • Develop the technical and critical thinking skills required of today’s Cyber Security Professionals
  • Perform risk assessments and implement countermeasures
  • Deliver Cyber Security reports to management and stakeholders
  • Access 1:1 sessions with an industry-experienced mentor 
  • Present your capstone project to a panel of experts at an industry showcase
  • Prepare for the CompTIA Security+ exam and earn a globally recognised certification*

Best of all, you’ll get access to 24 weeks of guidance from a Career Support Program that helps 97% of graduates straight into the industry!  

Want to discuss your transferable skills and course options? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Cyber Security journey.

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Academy Xi Blog

Empathy mapping and the design thinking process

By Academy Xi

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If you want to produce products and services that truly address the needs of your users, then taking a design thinking approach is the ticket. In this article, we explore empathy mapping and how it can empower your design process and result in meaningful, successful outcomes.

First up, let’s start with the basics. What is empathy?

Noun

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. 

When it comes to human-centred design, empathy is a must-have skill. Essentially, empathy enables a designer to identify with the end-user.

Anyone involved in the research stages of designing a product or service can witness firsthand the experiences of the user’s engagement with said product or service and empathise with any perceived frustrations or challenges the user might have. 

The tricky part: how to help those not involved with the user testing and research phases to have empathy for the user’s experience. Many will ‘think’ they know how the user will or won’t react to the different aspects of a product or service, but if they weren’t involved in the research phase, these opinions are precisely that. Opinions. How can a design team help others better understand the user experience?

Enter the empathy map.

What is an empathy map?

What is an empathy map academy xi

One of many tools that can be harnessed when developing products and services using a design thinking approach, an empathy map captures and summarises findings and observations from the research phase and can help to identify insights into the user’s needs.

Typically, an empathy map is made up of four key areas (say, think, feel and do – more on this later) and the completed map provides an overview of a user’s experience of the product or service.

Essentially, an empathy map is a guide that can provide a design team with a vital understanding of who their user audience is, the audience’s concerns and challenges and what they truly want and need. It enables design teams to craft specific solutions that address these pain points, helping to create an enhanced user experience.

Beyond the design team, the empathy map can be incredibly useful in articulating the user experience at various stages of the design process to stakeholders, such as the client and other teams working on the product or service development.

What are the elements of empathy mapping?

Elements of empathy mapping infographic academy xi

While empathy maps can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it’s not uncommon for a map to include four quadrants: say, think, feel and do.

  • Say

What is the user saying about the product? This section should ideally contain user quotes from the interviews and testing groups.

  • Think

What is the user thinking about when they are interacting with the service or product? This can be gained from interviews during the research.

  • Feel 

This covers the emotional state of the user during testing – how are they feeling when they engage with the product? What concerns them? How are they feeling throughout their experience with the product or service?

  • Do 

This section covers the actions taken by the user, or the behaviours they displayed.

While it can be fairly straightforward to understand what a user said or did, being able to define what they thought or felt isn’t as simple and requires considered observation and analysis.

Empathy maps and user personas

Empathy maps and user personas go hand-in-hand, with the map forming the basis for creating a persona. Each persona you wish to create requires its own empathy map.

As the empathy map is created off the back of observation and research of real people engaging with the product you are designing, it makes the personas more authentic. Authenticity is important, as each of your personas should represent your target market (users), with the personas including more details such as demographic data, personality traits, age, motivation and the like.

How to build your own empathy map 

Set your empathy map up for success by being prepared before your mapping session with these top three tips:

  1. Conduct research

Real data is paramount for empathy mapping. Arrange opportunities to interview users and observe them interacting with prototypes of your product, taking detailed notes of your observations.

Reading through any existing qualitative survey results, reports or previous interviews with user groups is also important.

  1. Gather your team

Empathy mapping should be a team effort. Gather people from your product team, as well as other stakeholders to bring a balance of both business insight and user needs to the table. Working as a team to produce an empathy map promotes teamwork, but also enables the product team to be on the same wavelength as other stakeholders, which is an important foundation to build early on.

  1. Invite a moderator

Having an experienced group facilitator can make all the difference to a working session. The moderator will be versed in remaining neutral throughout, involving everyone in the session, not expressing their personal opinion and refraining from asking leading questions.

empathy mapping infographic

Let the mapping begin

Remember, you need one empathy map for each persona to ensure you get the most meaningful insights.

  1. Context is key

Clearly define the subject or persona of the map, giving as much detail as possible to set the scene so the team can understand and empathise with the user’s situation.

  1. Bring the persona to life

Provide the team with details to make the personas come to life. Details could include a headshot image of someone who represents the persona, or you could pinpoint their name, age, occupation, wardrobe – you can have fun with this – and ensure that each persona is clearly defined from the next.

  1. Thoughts on post-its

During the main session, get team members to put their thoughts down onto individual post-it notes and put them onto the map, discussing their thoughts with the rest of the team. This format can encourage more insights to be revealed.

  1. Time to summarise

Once the workshop is completed, discuss the map as a team – are there any clear patterns that have emerged? This is another chance for team members to share their thoughts and discuss any insights that can help shape product and/or service development.

Gather the information from the session, summarise it and share it amongst the team, making sure it is saved in a central location so it can easily be updated as you learn more about each persona.

How to start a career in design thinking

Inspired to integrate empathy mapping into your next product design project? Completing a Design Thinking course with industry-aligned content will give you the practical skills and strategic mindset needed to deliver products and services that address the needs of your target audience. 

At Academy Xi, we offer quality, hands-on training options to elevate your existing skill-set and enhance your career prospects. 

Want to discuss your transferable skills and short course options? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Design Thinking journey. 

Academy Xi Blog

The rise of TikTok and social media video

By Academy Xi

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With TikTok notching up three billion downloads, this blog explores the emergence of the world’s fastest growing social media app and the shift toward video in social media culture.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, TikTok is now the world’s hottest social media platform. According to data from Sensor Tower, TikTok has received over three billion downloads globally, making it the first ever non-Meta app to attract so many users. 

As the platform of choice among younger Millennials and Generation Z, TikTok’s remixes, memes and mashups have become a window into contemporary youth culture. Currently, 47% of TikTok users are under 30 years old. 

Despite its young following, you might be surprised to learn that TikTok wasn’t masterminded by a Silicon Valley twenty-something. Instead, TikTok was designed by 37 year-old Zhang Yiming, who lives in China. 

Infographic breakdown of the market share that TikTok has

Yiming launched TikTok and its Chinese equivalent, Douyin, in 2016. Yiming is now worth $49.5 billion, which makes him the second richest person in China. Because TikTok is privately owned, it’s difficult to specify the precise value of the company. However, recent estimates range between $50-75 billion.  

TikTok is now the 5th most popular social media platform, behind Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram respectively. Far from being a fad or fluke, TikTok has enjoyed sustained growth for the past few years. According to Forbes, it was the most downloaded iOS app for all four quarters of 2021 and the first two of 2022. 

With TikTok users expanding by 45% each year, it could take TikTok as little as three years to establish itself as the world’s most popular social media app. All this leads to a burning question: why do so many people love TikTok so much? 

Why is TikTok so popular?

A range of explanations have been offered for TikTok’s soaring popularity. Some claim it’s because of the app’s accessibility (TikTok is widely acknowledged to be one of the most user-friendly social media apps). Others point out that once the app is downloaded, rather than delivering a tutorial, TikTok takes its users directly to the most viewed content. Each time you log in to TikTok, the top of your feed contains a video that’s algorithmically selected based on your past views and interests.

However, the best explanation for the world’s love affair with TikTok is actually quite simple. One word… video. 

TikTok’s use of video and moving images perfectly encapsulates the energy of the young people that form its core audience. Editing footage, adding sound effects and applying filters offers a level of creative freedom that other social media platforms simply can’t match. Suddenly, posting a static photo of a meal on Facebook doesn’t feel like a particularly dynamic experience. 

A phone screenshot of the most viewed TikTok to date

Most viewed TikTok to date.

TikTok is not the only social media platform to have built its identity around video-based content. Launched in 2013, Vine allowed users to record short clips of up to six seconds using its in-app camera. Users could then edit footage on the fly, or even use stop motion effects, bringing a new level of creativity to social media content. Vine folded in 2017, but provided a test-case for TikTok and proved that a video-driven social media platform could have mass appeal.  

The popularity of TikTok reveals a few interesting things about the direction social media seems to be heading in: it’s meme and video-driven, highly personalised by AI algorithms, and involves content without real-life connections (for those who haven’t experienced the platform, TikTok posts tend to be about absolutely anything).  

In what might be the biggest testament to TikTok’s influence, Instagram recently rolled out a series of changes that reflected their desire to keep pace with the world’s fastest growing social media app. 

Instagram mimics TikTok

Recent adjustments to Instagram saw the introduction of a main feed driven by algorithms, the incorporation of video “reels” and pages crowded out by banners promoting a new “remix” feature. However, the addition of so much promoted content resulted in users struggling to find posts from friends and family, which have long been the bedrock of Instagram’s success. 

Phone screenshot of the most viewed Instagram reel

Most viewed Instagram Reel to date.

The outcry against Instagram’s overhaul was typified by Kylie Jenner, a Kardashian and social media power user, who posted a widely shared demand that the platform’s leaders “make Instagram Instagram again”. Jenner added “stop trying to be TikTok. I just want to see cute photos of my friends” and signed the post “sincerely, everyone”. 

Following backlash from social media influencers, celebrities and countless members of the public, Instagram decided to walk back some of the changes to its product in late July.

A spokesperson from Meta told BuzzFeed that Instagram would pause a test that had made the app open to full-screen videos and temporarily decrease the number of video recommendations in user’s feeds.

Meta’s spokesperson stated “we recognize that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right”. 

While Instagram has halted its TikTok-style revamp temporarily, the feeling is that the platform will inevitably move toward a video-oriented experience. This shift is being driven by user demand, with video posts attracting 48% more views, and 73% of social media users preferring video over all other content forms.  

Is video the future of social media? 

Beyond TikTok, a wave of smaller video-based social media platforms are rapidly gaining traction. As an example, video game streaming platform Twitch has grown from 102,000 viewers in 2012 to over 30 million daily users in 2022. 

Much like Instagram, Twitter is now joining the video wave with its newest feature, Fleets. Fleets are temporary posts that expire after a day. With Fleets, users can post videos on their timelines which, according to Hubspot, are six times more likely to be retweeted than a photo. 

Added to rising demand for video among users, social media marketers are leaning into the possibilities of promoting brands through video. As marketers continue to search for innovative ways to engage audiences, video has become a powerful way to tell a brand’s story, share a value proposition, and nurture relationships with potential customers. 

Surveyed by Hubspot, 67% of marketers claim that sharing videos on social media has the highest ROI out of all marketing channels. As social media platforms and consumer habits trend towards video, more brands are investing in video marketing to keep the attention of their audiences and grow the reach of their business. 

No social media company has capitalised on the shift toward social media video marketing quite like TikTok. According to Reuters, TikTok’s marketing revenue is likely to triple throughout 2022 and break the $11 billion mark, exceeding the combined sales of its rivals Twitter ($5.58 billion) and Snapchat ($4.86). 

While TikTok’s metrics tell a story of jaw-dropping growth, keep in mind that the platform doesn’t stand unchallenged in the social media video space. Popular apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have integrated TikTok-style features, aiming to appeal to new audiences. Only time will tell if these companies are able to prise away a portion of TikTok’s loyal following.  

As far as social media content is concerned, video is destined only to grow. Whether or not TikTok will continue to grow alongside it will depend on the company’s ability to innovate and lead the way in the next era of social media video sharing. 

If you’re keen to learn more about all things social media, or maybe even launch a career as a professional Social Media Marketer, Academy Xi now offers a Social Media Marketing: Elevate that’s built and taught by industry experts. 

This course equips you with the full spectrum of skills and knowledge needed to deliver an effective end-to-end social media strategy. By graduation, you’ll be able to:

  • Combine social media strategy and execution
  • Choose platforms based on your audience, brand and goals
  • Create context-specific content assets
  • Manage content calendars
  • Measure outcomes and refine your strategy with analytics
  • Use the latest platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn 
  • Use industry tools including Canva, Ad Mockups, Google Analytics and URL Builder   

You’ll walk away with an industry-recognised certification and a stand-out portfolio demonstrating your new skills to employers. 

Want to discuss your transferable skills and course options? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Social Media Marketing journey. 

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