Daily Tech Digest - March 06, 2017

Cobalt's robot is like a superhuman security guard

As far as design is concerned, the robot is nothing like the RoboCop we envisioned when we first heard about robotic security guards. Instead, it is a large cloth-covered gadget that is meant to blend in with minimalistic office décor. The Cobalt robot was designed by Yves Béhar, the industrial designer whose body of work includes iconic designs for Jawbone, Herman Miller, and Puma, to name just a few. According to Béhar, "The Cobalt robot's semi-cylindrical self-driving mechanism, sensors and cameras are covered by a tensile fabric skirt. This helps maximize the access and usability of the internal technologies, creates airflow to prevent overheating, and conveys a soft and friendly persona." The sensors include 360 degree day-night cameras, thermal cameras, point cloud cameras, laser scanners, a directional microphone array, long-range RFID, a badge reader, and environmental sensors including carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.


Mozilla Partnership Provides No-Cost Firefox Mobile Device Testing

Desktop testing is also being offered free for one month, reflecting the growing emphasis on the mobile Web, which recently surpassed desktop browsing for the first time, according to StatCounter. Under the program, developers can also accrue up to 30 minutes of testing across all browser/OS/device combinations available in the BrowserStack device cloud, a Mozilla spokesperson told ADTmag. Mozilla said the free testing will simplify the complicated device testing process, which adds even more complexity to mobile Web development where it's notoriously difficult to even create equivalent cross-browser functionality. Running Web sites on the multitude of mobile devices introduces many more variables, such as different screen sizes, display densities and more.


FinTech unleashed: Has FinTech outlived its usefulness?

The term FinTech may have outlived its usefulness, or at least be weakened by overuse since the industry is using the term to describe not only new start-up firms but also the entire concept of financial services innovation. In addition, the connection between ‘FinTech’ and ‘disruption’ is often misused since most new services are more of an evolution of what has been done in the past as opposed to a revolution in banking. Both terms are great descriptors but using them together is often done in error. ... Good FinTech start-ups should be disruptive if they want to succeed because why else would someone become a customer if the start-ups don’t offer something better than what’s out there? So, to answer your question, great FinTech companies never stop trying to be disruptive and providing value to customers.


Making sense of machine learning

Deep learning is the hottest area of machine learning. In most cases, deep learning refers to many layers of neural networks working together. Deep learning has benefited from abundant GPU processing services in the cloud, which greatly enhance performance (and of course eliminate the chore of setting up GPU clusters on prem). All the major clouds — AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform — now offer deep learning frameworks, although Google’s TensorFlow is considered the most advanced. If you want a full explanation from someone who actually understands this stuff, read Martin Heller’s “What deep learning really means.” Also check out his comparative review of the six most popular machine/deep learning frameworks.


Driving Innovation in Your Cloud Adoption Program

Within the cloud, lean & agile methodologies fully realize their potential. The central tenet of lean philosophy is to maximize value, while minimizing waste. The agile approach seeks to shift from large scale releases to smaller work increments, including frequent releases and iterations, prototyping and increased collaborations with stakeholders and users. A primary benefit of agile methodology is to reduce risk and increase success rate. Cloud PaaS development platforms, containerization, microservices and the increased adoption of cloud serverless computing fully complement an agile approach. Any organization that is serious about innovation as part of a cloud adoption strategy, will need to require its people to adopt an agile approach to software development.


Lessons learned from data center outages, but still a long trip ahead

Change control and tests are the keys to keep any environment healthy, Mansfield said. Robust change control is needed to recognize and review changes, and there should be a plan to back out of them. When IT pros get ready to make a change, they need to rigorously test in an environment representative of the one to be changed. Users are most often the cause of a mistake, and automation helps avoid this, he said. Despite the progress that airlines are making in the eyes of some experts, a six- to eight-hour outage is substantial, and airlines must address the severity and duration of data center outages, said Ahmed Abdelghany, a professor of airline operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and a former analyst in United's information services division.


Does Your Association Need Cyber-Liability Insurance?

“Depending on your organization’s exposure to cyber liability, you may feel the cost of purchasing a cyber-liability policy is not cost-effective for your organization,” said Pam Townley, VP of cyber at AXIS Capital, during a recent ASAE webinar “Ask the Insurance Nerds: Cyber Security.” So, how do you go about determining your exposure to a cyber breach, figuring out if you need a cyber insurance policy, and determining which kind of cyber coverage is required? ... Organizations tend to not realize that the cost of responding to a cyber data breach can be very expensive, Townley said on the webinar. As of November 2016, Townley said that the average estimated cost per compromised record was $214. (Warning: Multiplying that cost by the number of member records your association has could keep you up at night).


7 Tips For Managing An IT Outsourcing Contract

Those professionals managing the engagement often don’t understand how their conduct or communication can impact their company’s legal rights, which can cause a number of problems should disputes arise. “The result is that the benefits for which you negotiated hard and are paying great amounts may be lost,” says Peterson. What’s more, disputes may be more difficult to resolve, and those that aren’t becoming costly to litigate, requiring interviewing dozens of witnesses and sorting through thousands of emails to figure out what has happened and who is responsible. The real value of IT outsourcing is achieved through active governance—not only of the projects in play, but of the communication and interaction between customer and provider. “Protecting the value of the contract after the ink is dry is about motivating suppliers to deliver on their promises,” says Peterson, “and preserving remedies for failure.”


Big data disruption gets real for car insurers

The insurance industry has long feared the entry of companies such as Google, Amazon.com Inc. or Facebook Inc. which have a closer relationship to customers -- and above all better data on them. The potential disruption to the market is adding to pressure on providers already seeing their investments hurt by record-low interest rates. Insurers are reacting to the challenge. Allianz SE Chief Executive Officer Oliver Baete has pledged to make Europe’s biggest insurer “digital by default” to help boost productivity and retain clients. Thomas Buberl, CEO of Axa SA, told investors last year that “customers are now used to buying things at Amazon to interact with Google and Facebook, they are demanding the same from us and, as you can imagine, buying an insurance policy at Axa is not yet quite the same as buying a book at Amazon.”


Cyber security readiness study finds widespread shortcomings

Overall, 40 per cent of firms say they have taken out cyber insurance, a higher figure than generally quoted elsewhere. The figure is highest in the US, at 55 per cent, while nearly two-thirds of the ‘expert’ companies say they are insured for cyber risks. These higher than expected take-up figures may also reflect confusion over what exactly constitutes cyber insurance cover with some companies believing they are protected under their existing insurance coverage. Steve Langan, chief executive, Hiscox Insurance, comments, ‘With fewer than a third of businesses qualified as ‘expert’, our study reveals a worrying absence of cyber security readiness among business consumers. ‘By surveying those directly involved in the business battle against cyber crime, this study provides new perspective on the challenges they face and the steps they are taking to protect themselves.



Quote for the day:


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -- Arthur C. Clarke