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