Daily Tech Digest - March 22, 2017

Our future mobile device screens might be made of silver

The team says that the silver coating was able to guide light roughly 10 times as quickly as other metal waveguides, which could make the silver film useful for boosting computer power and reducing energy usage, as well as serve as a base for reflective displays, flexible screens, and touch screen panels. The silver film was also used in experiments to conduct visible and infrared light across its surface and created dense patterns a fraction of the size of today's usual methods to transport light through transparent screens for analysis on the other side. The light waves shrink and travel as what is called "plasmon polaritons," which allows information to travel in a way far more like optic cables than copper wiring. This, in turn, means that the silver film may one day have applications in increasing computer chip processing power.

Why AI will rule all UIs

"AI is the new UI" may be a cliché now, but back in 2011 when Apple first released Siri the capability to control a mobile device by talking to it through an intelligent assistant was revolutionary. Granted, Siri wasn't as smart as HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey or Eddy, the shipboard computer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but it made enough of an impact on consumer technology to spawn a stream of similar intelligent assistants. Siri was soon followed by Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google's Assistant. And these will likely be joined soon by many others, including Samsung's Bixby, which is based on technology Samsung acquired when it bought Viv, a company founded by the people behind Siri.

FinTech - How New Technologies Are Transforming The Banking Sector

Big Data is becoming a cornerstone of the financial industry, both for startups and established financial service firms. This technology helps to curate, consolidate and analyze financial data from markets, social media, and other sources. Advances in machine learning provide greater insights and better customer experiences and enables predictions of future behaviour. Social networks help to create references and communities that reduce customer acquisition costs, enable lower account value marketplaces and facilitate the growth of the sharing economy. All these developments are leading to more innovations in the fintech industry. Blockchains, the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, may even disrupt the very way the financial services industry works.

Alleged CIA hacking documents reinforce need for SSL traffic inspection

WikiLeaks alleges that the CIA has a dedicated project, called HIVE, which is a multi-platform malware suite that provides command and control (C2) over “customisable implants for Windows, Solaris, MikroTik (used in Internet routers) and Linux platforms and a listening post (LP)/command and control (C2) infrastructure to communicate with these implants.” HIVE specifically uses SSL (HTTPS) to cover its tracks, according to WikiLeaks. While the use of SSL for Command and Control of malware is increasingly common, HIVE went a step further and introduced the use of client-certificate authentication, a technique that allows them to mitigate the risk of SSL interception, WikiLeaks alleges.

Phishing Your Employees for Schooling & Security

Most security awareness training I've seen ends with a basic multiple choice test. These tests are only a partial measurement of whether or not the pupil can put that knowledge to use in the real world. Take a driving test, for instance. Sure, there's a written test, but you wouldn't allow a teenager on the road until after he passed the practical one, too. ... By sending fake phishing emails, you can learn which ones your users fell for most often. Was there a certain type of email that contained a certain "lure" that tricked your employees? Perhaps that might be a missing piece you can add to your next phishing training, or a concept you haven't covered in enough detail. ... Your fake phishing emails should immediately inform the user when they clicked on a bad link. The goal isn't to shame the user — that's detrimental to education.

Embedded security a high priority for IoT designers

The idea of embedded operating systems is not a new one. For years, we have had devices that contain microprocessors to carry out specific functions. Because, for the most part, these devices were not connected to the internet, security wasn’t a major concern. The simple fact that devices were standalone – and the obscurity of the operating system itself — made them relatively secure. Introducing a connection to the internet, though, removes some of that inherent security. Embedded security, then, is the overall term for protecting the software, hardware, and hardware systems in these devices. Essentially, since every point of communication is a potential path for hackers, engineers must consider the entire device and identify all of the attack surfaces in order to keep it secure.

How CIOs can apply IT supplier management skills to digitisation

In The Digital Matrix, Venkatraman describes how the company that pioneered moisture-wicking sportswear fabrics acquired MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal, giving the company 300 developers and 150 million active members. Customer data is now driving the company’s strategy. Beyond selling products, Venkatraman says Under Armour has branched out to create vibrant communities, such as those in LinkedIn and PatientsLikeMe. Under Armour has been collecting the data community members have been actively uploading about their lifestyles, such as the food they eat and the gear they use for fitness, Venkatraman says. “Under Armour is taking a [lifestyle] solutions view: I want to know what you eat, how you sleep, how many steps you’ve taken, then I will benchmark you against other people and give you incentives to improve your lifestyle,” he says.

ARM Unveils New Chip Design Targeted at Self-Driving Cars, AI

The new design can handle up to eight processor cores of varying size on a single chip in almost any configuration. That will give customers more flexibility than ARM’s existing designs, Nandan Nayampally, general manager of the company’s Compute Products Group, said. This is especially true in cases where a device has to switch rapidly between different tasks, for instance, using neural networks for facial recognition one moment and then handling a voice call. He said DynamIQ would be more efficient than existing architectures because the processors can share memory and switch rapidly between tasks with different power requirements. The technology will also work well in devices like industrial robots and self-driving cars that require high levels of safety and redundancy and have to process most computing tasks locally, Nayampally said.

How the internet of things is disrupting tech staffing: Part 2

Many businesses are eager to capitalize on the many benefits of the fast-growing internet of things (IoT). But as IoT continues to develop, tech labor and skills supply-and-demand constraints will interfere with businesses' efforts to make the most of the digitally driven business opportunities associated with IoT. To help companies prepare for the opportunities IoT will present, Part 1 of this series looked at key jobs and skills in two areas: the "things" side of IoT and the connective tissue between the "I" and the "T." In Part 2 we focus on three more hot labor segments which will put businesses in a position to make the most of IoT: big data, IoT cross-skilling (of hardware and software professionals), and an assortment of skill specialties with big IoT payoffs.

Automation generates high profile jobs – and they’re up for grabs

Since automation methods are ever evolving, we usually design the solution based on an agile approach for a quicker and more reliable implementation. In the current set up, it is estimated that there are around 40% to 80% manual activities that will be automated in the next year or two, which is a huge undertaking and will require a large number of automation engineers. But they won’t be working alone; agile project managers, analysts and automation development engineers will also play a big role. The following table shows a summary of other high profile jobs created by automation. ... Automation engineers and others who aspire to get involved with artificial intelligence based automation must understand artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning.

Quote for the day:

"Successful people make the most of the best and the best of the worst." -- Steve Keating

Daily Tech Digest - March 21, 2017

12 Challenges Facing IT Professionals (and some ways to deal with them)

Technology advances rapidly and shows up in media on all sides. This means users, managers at all levels and even competitors pressure IT staff to implement this new technology just because it is new. The real challenge is deciding which of these new technologies will work to the best interest of advancing the organization and which is better to avoid for now. Organizational priorities and long-term goals tend to remain relatively static. Technology has become much more fluid and changes more rapidly. IT management must evaluate the organizational value each technology offers to determine when and if it is a good fit. New technologies such as cloud, big data, virtualization and mobility all become tools for experienced IT managers who understand their organization's priorities.

Competing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

In simpler times, a technology tool, such as Walmart’s logistics tracking system in the 1980s, could serve as a source of advantage. AI is different. The naked algorithms themselves are unlikely to provide an edge. Many of them are in the public domain, and businesses can access open-source software platforms, such as Google’s TensorFlow. OpenAI, a nonprofit organization started by Elon Musk and others, is making AI tools and research widely available. And many prominent AI researchers have insisted on retaining the right to publish their results when joining companies such as Baidu, Facebook, and Google. Rather than scrap traditional sources of competitive advantage, such as position and capability, AI reframes them. (See Exhibit 2.) Companies, then, need a fluid and dynamic view of their strengths.

New bug lets hackers temporarily kill your Google Nest Cam

The flaw, discovered by Jason Doyle and published on GitHub, can be exploited when the attacker is within Bluetooth range of the device. Doyle stated in his GitHub post that he initially reported the bug to Google on October 26, 2016, but that he has since made the information public. Google acknowledged the bug, but didn't let him know if it had been patched, he said in an interview with The Register. If an attacker was able to knock the cameras offline for the maximum amount of time, they would be able to slip past them undetected. The bug presents an even bigger issue for some small businesses, who may use the Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro as CCTV tools or security cameras. The issue, according to Doyle's post, is that Bluetooth connectivity is never disabled after the initial setup of the device. Using Bluetooth, the camera is supplied with a different SSID, which causes it to leave its current Wi-Fi network in an attempt to associate with it.

Self-Driving Cars’ Spinning-Laser Problem

One problem is apparent from a casual glance at a prototype car: lidar sensors are bulky. They are why vehicles being tested by Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving-car unit, are topped by a giant black dome, and Toyota’s and Uber’s sport spinning gadgets the size of a coffee can. ... Better lidar is a core part of Waymo’s plan to make self-driving cars a mass market and a profitable proposition. The company has developed three different sensors that look for objects at different ranges. They would be an important and attractive part of the bundle of technology the company says it will license to established automakers. Waymo is not the only one spending millions to address lidar lag. Last year Ford and Baidu, the Chinese search company investing in self-driving cars, jointly invested $150 million in Velodyne, the world’s leading lidar supplier.

Blockchain and IoT: Automating machine transactions in the fourth industrial revolution

In the past, a common correlation technology (referred to as an Event Correlation Engine) handled event filtering, aggregation, and masking. The next approach, which has roots in statistical analysis and signal processing, compares different time series detecting when there is correlated activity using correlation, cross-correlation, and convolution. Recently, a new wave of machine learning algorithms based on clustering applies a kind of smart filtering that is able to identify event storms. While these techniques are useful and do make life easier by reducing the number of events entering investigation, they do not answer the key question at hand: “What is the root cause of a problem?” Understanding how two time series correlate does not imply which one caused the other to spike. Such analysis does not imply causation. To get beyond that, we need to understand the cause-effect relationship between data sources.

Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room for meaningful work instead

David Autor, professor of economics at MIT, adds that the remaining non-automated tasks “tend to become more valuable.” This is because automation is likely to take over mundane or repetitive tasks, leaving professionals more time to do the things that really require their skills. For instance, automation will help mortgage-loan officers spend less time scouring paperwork when processing loan applications and free them up to issue more mortgages. ... This trend is even true in the era of artificial intelligence (AI). In the legal sphere, a bot’s ability to sift through large volumes of legal documents using software during the “discovery” phase of a trial was thought to reduce the number of the legal clerks and paralegals who traditionally performed this role. Instead, by reducing the cost of discovery, automation increased demand for it. The number of paralegals has increased since the introduction of discovery software in 1990.

Storage fails the business as data balloons, survey finds

For a sizeable majority (71%), data volumes are increasing by 27% a year. This amounts to storage being seen as a brake on digital transformation projects. Those are some of the findings of a survey carried out for open source software supplier Suse, which questioned 1,202 senior IT decision makers in 11 countries. The survey found that while two-thirds of UK businesses (66%) say demands from the business for IT to be more agile have increased in the last two years, more than half of them (58%) struggle to make storage sufficiently responsive. Almost all UK respondents are concerned about data growth and storage slowing down digital transformation initiatives (91%). The main frustrations with existing storage solutions are overall cost (83%), performance concerns (77%) and an inability to support innovation (74%).

Bridging the gaps in data lineage: FIGI and the future

The lack of a standard framework to reconcile data sets across business functions or asset class allows the problem of poor data quality to persist by disrupting data lineage and hampering efforts to improve data management controls. To bridge the gap and address this problem, some financial and data professionals are considering how an instrument identification framework can support the data management process. Specific to this need, more than 76 percent of firms surveyed by Tabb called for an instrument identification framework that uses open and freely distributable identifiers. Almost a quarter of asset management firms surveyed said they were embracing the Financial Instrument Global Identifier (FIGI) expressly to address data quality and operational reconciliation issues.

IBM unveils Blockchain as a Service based on open source Hyperledger Fabric technology

Although the blockchain piece is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric project of which IBM is a participating member, it has added a set of security services to make it more palatable for enterprise customers, while offering it as a cloud service helps simplify a complex set of technologies, making it more accessible than trying to do this alone in a private datacenter. “Some time ago, we and several other members of the industry came to view that there needs to be a group looking after, governing and shepherding technology around blockchain for serious business,” Cuomo told TechCrunch. The Hyperledger Fabric project was born around the end of 2015 to facilitate this, and includes other industry heavyweights such as State Street Bank, Accenture, Fujitsu, Intel and others as members.

How to stop your smart devices from spying on you

There aren’t many options, if the WikiLeaks dump is true (CIA officials have refused to confirm or deny the content of the documents, suggesting it’s probably true). This has been dubbed a “zero-day exploit” because there is zero warning, and no time to prepare for this hack. Because information is transferred through networks you could theoretically disconnect your devices from WiFi and cell service, but that would render them, in many cases, virtually useless for their purposes, particularly in a world of increasing hyper-connectivity. If you want to ensure privacy in a given moment, ensure that all devices around you are unplugged, with batteries removed when applicable. Other good steps to protect yourself include standard safe online practices: download updates immediately, don’t click suspicious links, run regular malware scans and turn your devices off when you don’t need them.

Quote for the day:

"If you torture the data long enough, it will confess." -- Ronald Coase

Daily Tech Digest - March 20, 2017

It's time to face the ugly reality of face recognition

Face recognition does not require permission or knowledge. Any photograph will do. You have been photographed hundreds or thousands of times already. And with surveillance cameras, you're being photographed regularly. Every time you use an ATM, for example, you're having your picture taken, and that picture is associated in the bank's database with your name and bank account. Photographs can be taken from a distance without the knowledge or permission of the target. Other biometric data is private or more difficult to obtain without your knowledge or permission. For example, if you've been fingerprinted for a passport or by the police, you've agreed to it and those agencies will keep your data to themselves. If I provided you with somebody's fingerprints, you couldn't use that data unless you were a cop and had access to the database.

Supply chain technology: achieving next-gen visibility

Three primary forces drive this need to achieve greater supply chain visibility. The first is the emergence of the consumer-centric supply chain. People now have increased power and choice, allowing them to buy virtually anything, anytime, across a variety of methods. This has put tremendous pressure on supply chains that were originally designed for volume and scalability to become agile, responsive, and fluid. The second force is the transformation of previously linear supply chains devoted to shipping pallets and full truckloads to grid-based, or many-to-many, nodal value chains, therefore enabling greater consumer responsiveness. This, in turn, has led to smaller and more frequent shipments, an emphasis on achieving a smooth flow of data, and an increase in complexity in providing inventory visibility.

Business Model Transformation and What it Means to the Data Industry

Organizations have traditionally treated data as a legal or compliance requirement, supporting limited management reporting requirements. Consequently organizations have treated data as a cost to be minimized. The financial valuation of data technology companies has been based upon those perceptions and relationships. ... Data technology companies tend to sell to the part of the organization where data is a cost to be minimized and the sales processes focuses on negotiating with Procurement on price, margin, terms and conditions, instead of engaging with the part of the organization where data is a corporate asset to be exploited for business value, and discussions focus on time-to-value and de-risking projects.

Machine learning proves its worth to business

Machine learning couldn’t be hotter. A type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to learn to perform tasks and make predictions without explicit programming, machine learning has caught fire among the hip tech set, but remains a somewhat futuristic concept for most enterprises. But thanks to technological advances and emerging frameworks, machine learning may soon hit the mainstream. Consulting firm Deloitte expects to see a big increase in the use and adoption of machine learning in the coming year. This is in large part because the technology is becoming much more pervasive. The firm’s latest research shows that worldwide more than 300 million smartphones, or more than one-fifth of units sold in 2017, will have machine learning capabilities on board.

Meet Lorek, the Robot That Communicates in a Remarkable Way

It not only recognizes an object a human being is pointing at and talking about, but asks questions to clarify what they mean. Lorek is limited to trafficking in specific objects, sure, but the robot is a big deal for the budding field of human-robot interaction. The robot—from researchers at Brown University—works like so. A human wearing a headset stands in front of the machine, which sits on a table with six objects in front of it. The human points at, say, a bowl, and asks, “Can I have that bowl?” A Microsoft Kinect atop the robot’s head tracks the movement of the hand to determine which object the subject means and combines that data with the vocal command.

Coders And Librarians Team Up To Save Scientific Data

Some fear the data will be intentionally lost or altered. Others want to make sure the data is available in more than one location, especially more than one government website, since budget cuts could mean server space and upkeep of these data sets might no longer be a priority. "We're most concerned that data might be taken offline and public accessibility will be gone and it'll only be available as [Freedom of Information Act] requests," said Margaret Janz, a data curation librarian at the University of Pennsylvania. "Our goal is to make trustworthy copies of data so it will be available to the public and suitable for research. ... This data should never have been in just one place."

What Biosecurity and Cybersecurity Research Have in Common

More recently, biosecurity experts have begun to scrutinize not just pathogens and publications but also the activities and techniques that create them, identifying seven research categories that demand closer scrutiny. These include a subset of experiments that increase pathogens’ stability, transmissibility, or host range (the animals that could harbor the disease). This type of research gained notoriety in 2011 when two labs engineered a highly pathogenic form of bird flu to transmit more easily between mammals. These efforts, while still a work in progress, signal a way for regulators to begin to focus less on pathogens and code and more on the risks and intent of research projects themselves. For all of their similarities, key differences between biosecurity and cybersecurity risks and timelines will dictate varied regulatory strategies.

Intel claims storage speed record with its large-capacity Optane SSD

The first large-capacity Optane SSD drive is the DC P4800X, which has 375GB of storage and started shipping on Sunday. The $1,520 SSD is targeted at servers. (Intel didn't provide regional availability information.) Intel says an enterprise Optane SSD with 750GB will ship in the second quarter, and that a 1.5TB SSD will ship in the second half of this year. These SSDs will fit as add-in cards in the PCI-Express/NVMe and U.2 slots. That means they could work in some workstations and servers based on AMD's 32-core Naples processors. Optane will also ship in the form of DRAM modules next year. Intel did not share information on when it would ship consumer SSDs.  Optane has been hyped as a new class of superfast memory and storage that could replace today's SSDs and DRAM. Intel has claimed Optane is up to 10 times faster than conventional SSDs.

Online Denial of Service Attacks Are a Growing Concern

Describing that situation, Stephanie Weagle, vice president of Corero Network Security, told SC Media UK that DDoS attacks have become many things over the last decade: weapons of cyberwarfare, security breach diversions and service-impacting strategies. “The motivations for these attack campaigns are endless — financial, political, nation-state, extortion and everything in between,” she said. ... Weagle added: "Continuing to rely on traditional IT security solutions, and/or human intervention to deal with the growing DDoS epidemic will continue to prove devastating to businesses. As recent events have confirmed once again, proactive, automated protection is required to keep the Internet-connected business available in the face of DDoS attacks.”

ColumnStore: Storage Architecture Choices

To provide data redundancy, ColumnStore relies on external storage to provide resilient storage and enable a particular DBRoot volume to be remounted on another PM server. This generally implies a remote networked storage solution, although filesystems such as GlusterFS can allow deployment without additional servers.  When internal storage is utilized, journaling filesystems and RAID deployment provide for resilient storage. However, since the storage is only available within a given PM server, the storage cannot be remounted on another PM server should one fail. In this case, the failed server must be recovered before ColumnStore can support additional queries. With external storage, ColumnStore can provide automated failover and continuity in the event a PM server fails.

Quote for the day:

"Big data is at the foundation of all of the megatrends that are happening today, from social to mobile to the cloud to gaming" -- Chris Lynch