5/17/2018

3 Hot Tech Trends to Disrupt Everything

Artificial Intelligence on the edge.  Latest cutting edge technology.  In other words, let the AI model reside in Internet of Things devices sensors.  Ingest data, ping the Model, look for anomaly, fire off message to home base to alert.  Models can be created locally, pushed to the edge, where they reside.  Can update Models over time.  Seems like a good distributed AI model in real time.

We have devices to monitor people's vitals in real time, send messages back to home base, to alert if need be.  Combine the two, you've got some serious monitoring ability.

Due to security concerns, people have suggested embedding "chips" into children, so they are easily track-able.  Some push back from advocates, borders on ethical concerns, do we want to cross the boarder on people basic freedoms.

We can embed chips in cows perhaps, monitor them from a distance.  Seems like a stone's throw away, humans could be next.  First people volunteer, then offer service, similar to Flu Shots.

Internet of Things had security concerns out of the gate, opens up vulnerabilities, someone could tap into your home security through your thermostat, once in, scan your files, embed Trojan Horse, even Ransomware.  These are not good, yet they are real threats.  Suffice to say, if someone wants to hack you, they can usually find a way, as any device connected to internet is suspect.

With talks of cyber currency to overtake traditional paper money, we could soon see the disappearance of physical wallets.  Then all transactions will be documented in real time, audit trail, using the upcoming technology Blockchain.  Basically a distributed ledger system to handle transactions.  It uses a technique to add new transaction to the chain, by collectively validating the hash key, which is unique and created by hashing the prior key.  If you transaction is valid, it will be added to the stack and committed, and can never be altered, modified or deleted.  This should allow a valid history of all transaction.  With that said, financial transactions would no longer need to go through traditional methods, where the money is placed on hold until the nightly batch pushes the monies here and there.  It will be instant.  This can and will be applied to currency, voting, stock transfers, healthcare records, just about anything and everything.  This will disrupt all industries.

Taking the IoT example, what if they add microphones and cameras to people.  That would surely open up new avenues for monitoring, instead of current methods of smart phones, smart listening devices and cameras littered throughout society.  It would be a tighter mechanism for sure.

So it would appear, the latest hot trends in technology surround Artificial Intelligence, on the Edge, using Internet of Things, along with Blockchain.  These three technologies are primed to disrupt everything.


5/10/2018

Close the IT Skills Gap by Encouraging STEM to Girls

Any mention of storing data in the Cloud a few years ago, people didn't trust it.  Fast forward, Cloud is where it's at, for all your data needs.  In addition to the arsenal of associated technologies to piece together to form infinite possible solutions.  Sometimes it takes a while to adopt change.

So one of the hot topics today is the recent talent shortage.  There just aren't enough qualified people to fill open positions throughout the world.  Although more emphasis on STEM programs at younger ages, the stigma of being a nerd still exists in schools.

So another hot topics today is the lack of women in IT.  Traditionally, IT was staffed by men and some of the cultures revolved around either the "good old boy" mentality or the "bro" mentality.  This was two fold, as it prevent women from entering the field and cause some women to exit the field.

So how do we get two birds with one stone.  By getting more women in the IT profession by removing the legacy "bro" mentality and teaching girls about STEM early on.  Math, Statistics, Science, Project Management, Management, Innovation, Creativity and every other skill in between.

Another factor at play, that needs to be addressed, is Women in Technology need to be assured equal pay for equal work.  There's no reason to subvertly discriminate a specific gender in this day and age, when all people are created equal.

So the solution to IT shortage across the globe is to involve girls in the STEM program at early age, remove any stigma associated with "intelligence" and pay people fair value across the board.



5/09/2018

Hologram Keyboards Connected to Virtual Cloud Computers

If I had to use a thumb mouse to perform job functions, I'd have to find a new career.  I am unable to use this input device long term.  Which brings up the question of input devices.

From punch-cards, to keyboards, to mouse, to smart phone swiping, to smart watches, to voice recognition using AI Natural Language Processing.

We went from dumb terminals, to PC, to laptops, to Smart Devices and Pads, to smart watches.

Computers are no longer the "main" devices to connect to the web and interact.

What if we took the dumb terminal approach, had the PC hosted virtually in the Cloud, connect via any device.  That would reduce the costs for PC, Laptop, etc.  Access your computer from any device, anywhere, any time.

What if we had keyboards that were not physical, as in holograms.  Simply start up your hologram keyboard, connect through your internet connection via wireless network or smart phone, connect to your virtual hard drive in the cloud, that contains all your programs.

Seems like one plausible next step in the evolution of PC on every desktop.

Likewise, what if the hologram keyboard could connect to IoT devices out in the wild.

Would surely open up new opportunities, and markets.


5/08/2018

Orgs Need a New Role to Manage New Cloud Offerings

Listening to the Microsoft Build live stream this week, it's clear that technology is changing.  AI and Azure are the hot topics.  It seems everything is moving to the Cloud.  And AI is to find its way into all products.  There were many new announcements, which many folks have reported on through industry sites and blogs.

It seems that Microsoft now does everything, they have tentacles in every technology.  And they are driving and partnering with a lot of industry leaders to create new products as well as open technology to the masses.

Blockchain, IoT, Machine Learning Models, Drones, PowerBI, Databases of all varieties, Live Code Sharing, and everything in between.

The presentations are fairly high level, yet profound, in that with a few clicks you can create webs, push to Azure and be live in no time flat.

Due to the fact the number of new products, the evolution of existing products, the integration with new and existing products, I would venture to say the newness is mind boggling.  And because nobody can know everything, you may have to identify a sector in which to master and become expert with deep knowledge, or go wide and learn some of the basic across a wide sector.

In addition, I would venture to say we need a new role to be created.  And that is someone within the organization to keep tabs of the available features, how they integrate with legacy and new features, and provide expert advice to internal teams including upper management.  Reason being, technology has exploded, splintered and fragmented, and due to the frequency of new products, features and integration mechanisms, we need an expert person or team of people to keep current with all the latest trends.  By staying abreast of current technology, you can gain leverage by producing newer technology, newer features, help migrate off legacy systems, to save costs and reduce complexity.

This person or team may also keep tabs of competing offerings from other Cloud solutions, for integration purposes and such.

We need a residential expert on Cloud offerings as new position within organizations.  I believe the Partner Program does a good job of this now, what I'm talking about is embedding within your org.  Reason being, the coders have enough task loads to meet agile sprint deadlines, keep internal and customers happy, meet their internal goals as well as ongoing career goals.  Having to burden the heavy load of knowing everything, may be the camel that broke straws back, or something to that effect (LoL).



Suffice to say, technology is the hot job market of today, and tomorrow!

5/07/2018

Artificial Intelligence Winter is over Spring has Sprung

Listened to Microsoft Built this am.

Future is Azure + Office365.

Looking to host Azure as Worlds Computer.

Includes Intelligent Edge, Server-Less, Event-Driven, "ubiquitous" computing.

Azure stack is just a year old they said.

Runs on Linux and Windows.

Using AzureML, to cross languages.

Open Source Azure IoT Edge.

Need a data page, to identify where data derived.

50 Data Centers across the globe.

Azure IoT Edge plus AzureML Models allow alerts to be sent based on embedded sensors, identifies issues in real time.  Demo on Camera device in Drones for Intelligent Edge.

Commercial Drone License required to fly in auditorium.

Stream info from Pipes to AzureML, finds anomaly, sends in real time to laptop, to Model developed in Cloud.  Scales in real world, saving companies time and expense.  Then update AzureML Model and redeploy fast.

Not just insights, create Frameworks, to send to developers, to allow developers to "commoditize", allow all developers to have technology in hand and bake into custom applications.

Azure Cognitive Services now has 35 tools, which can be customized, bring your own label data, deploy models where you need it, in your applications: vision, speech, language few examples.

In order to democratize these AI devices, announced speech SDK and reference kits.  Embed and deploy in any device.  Consumer and industrial side.

Conversational AI, bots were talked about 2 years ago.  Need ability to brand customer facing agents.  Converse over multiple AI agents.


Who Owns the Data - the Chief Data Officer

Who owns the data? 

The data gets captured from front end systems perhaps, or capture web log files, or downloaded off the web, Hadoop clusters, perhaps CSV files or JSON, Streaming Analytics data sent from IoT mini burst packets, OData feeds, archives & backups, or good old legacy data.

So it would appear IT owns the data.  Because it resides in files, databases, mainframes that sit internally on a shelf in the data center on-sight or centralized location at another location.

Or perhaps it resides in the Cloud.  If so, the vendor stores the data and is responsible for back ups and concurrency across the globe, so does the Vendor own it?  Well, they only capture or store the data.  So does organization that owns the Cloud actually owns the data?  Or the Vendor?

Yet the data ends up in ETL jobs, converted into Data Warehouses, Data Models, Reports, Visualizations, Machine Learning models, etc.  So does the developer that cleanses, pushes the data to new systems, models, reports, aggregates the data, do they own the data?

How about the Business Units, they know the business model, or at least their piece of the puzzle.  Does the Business own the data? What about data residing on file shares across the network, does IT own that, or the business?

What about insights derived from the data, who owns that?

I'd say it needs to roll up the Chief Data Officer, a fairly new role, that intersects IT CIO and the Business, and everything else in between, and reports to the CFO or CEO.  Or the Data Competency Center, which performs similar if not identical roles.

The CDO is responsible for the entire data stack.  From data creation to data ingestion to data storage to data mashing to reporting to data science.  He or she can matrix other departments for skills, domain knowledge and assistance as needed, including the hiring of consultants.  The CDO works with IT and accounting to purchase software, align for costs savings, document data across the entire org as well as how and when data flows through the entire ecosystem.




Who owns the data?  I venture to say the Chief Data Officer owns the data.

Blockchain Must Overcome Similar Challenges as Hadoop

For Blockchain to be considered a global enterprise level database (ledger), it must scale at the transaction level, in real time, ensure security based on token (incremental keys) that guarantee authenticity, and must be transparent.

Hadoop tried to create real time transactions to mimic traditional databases, yet Map Reduced limited its ability.  It wasn't until Map Reduce was pushed up a level, to become just another tool in the toolbox, that we began to see improvements in query speed.  I'm not sure they were able to insert new records the Hive databases to match standard OLTP databases, although I have not been keeping up to date on this.

So for BlockChain to scale enterprise wide, it will need to overcome the challenges that Hadoop faced.  Hadoop was typically contained within an org or in the Cloud, where Blockchain is scattered across the globe, so distance is potentially greater.  And I imagine once the record is placed on top of the stack, the other nodes must be notified to establish the agreed upon contract to know its legit.

Also, the bandwidth must be able to handle thousands of transactions per second, to mimic OLTP databases, which handle insertions via locks and such.

So BlockChain must handle increased Volumes, across great distances, negotiate valid contracts and update across the chain, in potentially real time.  And since these contracts could be used for stock trades, currency exchanges, and voting polls, it will need to be 100% accurate, secure and transparent.

Tough order to fill.  Let's watch as time progresses, see how things pan out.


5/05/2018

Running the Month End

I was commuting to work about an hour each way.  The company was laying people off, RIF almost every week, with guards at the door.  I found a job posting closer to home, paid $12k less, to write Crystal Reports.  I took the job for shorter commute.

I was tasked with writing Crystal Reports.  The director said you are also tasked with writing the month end process in Crystal Reports.  It was already running in Visual Basic so I reviewed the code, stepped through one line at a time.  I went to the boss, I think I found an error in the code.  That's impossible.  That code balances the entire company, no way it could be wrong.  Okay, went back to the desk.

Few days later, show me that code that isn't working.  Sure enough, there was a bug.  The Inner and Outer loops weren't jiving correctly.  I re-wrote the VB code into SQL used joins and it ran a lot faster.  So that began the process of writing the month end.

I ran the month end for many years, streamlining the code each time.  It consisted of financial data.  Written Premium, Earned Premium Unearned Premium and Inforce Premium.  The numbers had to tie at the monthly level, year to date level and inception to date level, every month.  If any bugs in front end system caused back end data issues, had to track it down, correct it and re-run the month end.

Tracking down the errors took some effort, as it wasn't merely off by $10.  More like off by +200, -190, usually more complicated.  Running the month end took tremendous effort as it ran through the night, I'd babysit the job and do checks along the way.  It also had Commission reports to people got paid based on the numbers.  And we had so many days to close the books.  I worked directly with the owners as they double checked all the numbers each month.

I also had lots of work to do when it wasn't month end.  I wrote an ACH application to send batches to the bank.  Create and maintain other database, fix bugs in the front end ASP application, which connected to back end Visual Basic DLLs that ran in transaction server.

I may have been the most tenured developer on the team as many people came and went.  Each month, I ran the month end.  I knew developers at other companies and it seemed they were doing some cooler technologies.  I probably ran the month end a few too many times, as I was burned out.  I found other jobs a few times and tried to resign, yet, it was a difficult decision to leave as I invested so much time and effort in the process and the company made sure I was taken care of.  I ended up leaving the job abruptly, in hindsight, I could have done a better job of transitioning.

Instead, I found a job teaching tennis and doing websites for people.  That down time gave me the opportunity to relax the mind, and in doing so, I got married, and went back to work doing Crystal Reports.  I don't have anything to show for all the hard work, except the knowledge gained has helped downstream for other Insurance clients.

Those were some good times, running the month end, solving data issues and closing the books for the month.  Glad I had the opportunity to help out for three or four years.

And so it goes~!



5/03/2018

On the Forefront of the Personal Computer Revolution

What were you doing in 1983?  I know what I was doing.  I was on the IBM PC.

That sure was a long time ago.  And fortunate to have the top of the line computer of its day to tinker with.

What type of things did we do?  We programmed in PC-DOS, not MS-DOS.  We formatted floppy disks, the big ones, double sided, double density.  We didn't have hard drives.  Everything got booted up into RAM, then you could begin.

Color Monitor, Epson Dot Matrix Printer, 1200 Baud Model.  Top of the line.

They had local BBS or Bulletin Board Systems we could dial into, peruse around, look for good stuff, to download, find new phone numbers and such.  Even had the ability to page the SysOps, which I did from time to time, to ask them questions.  I was 13 years old, typing over the computer, to an adult, who had a full time job, and ran the BBS out of the garage.

It was fun.  It was new.  It got baked into my operating system.  Working with the computer.

So after graduation, it was just a matter of time before I got into IT full time, with an Anthropology major.  Guess how many people asked, "How does an Anthropologist make a living in Computer Programming?" 

Well, growing up on a PC from early age and having a parent work for IBM for 34 years helped.  We were tinkering on the PC long before Windows / OS2, Internet, Mobile Devices.  We were at the forefront of a personal computer revolution.  Not too shabby!



Accumulators of Data are New Gatekeepers of Reality

What is reality.  

The Sun revolves around the Earth, as everyone knows, those who disagree will be ex-communicated and beheaded.  That was reality a while ago.  Now we all know the Earth revolves around the Sun.

We all have a basic idea of what reality is and is not.  And for those who voice their opinions that don't mesh with current dogma, we no longer ex-communicate, we place straight jackets on them.

How does society obtain the correct version of reality.  Many ways actually.

Family upbringing.  News and media outlets.  Movies.  Arts.  Sciences.  Schools.  Playground banter.

We pick up clues and eventually assimilate into practical sound mind upstanding people of the community.

Only problem.  What if the information we obtain is not 100% accurate.  Well, its based on facts.  Facts determined by whom.  Scientists.  Who funds the scientific programs.  What programs are allowed through the filter and what are not.  Who maintains the gatekeeper role to decide which facts are allowed and which are not.

You see, I have a lot of free time.  Sometimes I look out the window.  Sometimes its raining and other times its not.  What's interesting is this.  I noticed that it rained on all the major holidays.  Why, because everyone was stuck inside their houses.  I watched this re-occur for 10 years.  Without fail, it rained every single holiday, including election day.  I know this to be true.

For some reason, I downloaded some weather data from the web, to do some analysis, and sure enough, when viewing the holidays for the past 10 years, there was no indication of rain or precipitation.  How could that be, I saw it rain, my clothes got wet, it happened.

Yet according to the data, it never rained.  So which is accurate.  That which is documented or that which is experienced.  Well, history tells us that majority rules.  Reality is shaped and played out based on community agreement.  In this case, I was over-ridden.  My view of reality was in correct.  Or was it.


Perhaps I simply downloaded an outdated or incorrect data set.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

So instead of regarding our view of the world through the text books we read in classrooms, our new reality will be based on what's in the data.  So this would dictate that those who keep and store the data, are the new gatekeepers of our view of reality.  And possibly, we could alter history with a few delete statements here and there, a few update statements, and perhaps a few insert statements.  Stranger things have been known to happen.

So I put it to you.  How important is the accumulation of data going forward.  Time will tell.  And if it's raining out, and its a major holiday, I say, it never rained.

And there you have it~!