Daily Tech Digest - November 02, 2019

Creating an agile mind-set at PepsiCo

Employees are expected to continuously learn new skills. They are expected to question practices and reduce or eliminate habits that are no longer useful. Time is allotted each week for every employee to “upgrade” themselves, and a large catalog of training materials and classes is available. Underpinning this effort is a belief that time is the most democratic and precious resource and that people can make much better use of it to be more productive at work and have more time outside of work. That is why the company has found ways to give employees back some time to innovate and better serve customers during working hours. Then, with work at the office streamlined and a culture that encourages disconnecting from the workplace during off-hours, employees no longer feel like they have to take time away from family during evenings and vacations to address work issues. Employees are encouraged to look carefully at how they spend their time in the office.

Tim Cook thinks Apple customers are rich and very sensitive

Now, though, there appears to be a new divide. Those who have one pair of AirPods and those who have two. For particular occasions, that is. This week's Apple earnings call happened to coincide with the launch of the AirPods Pro -- elevated, noise-canceling versions of Apple's earrings-gone-wrong buds. CEO Tim Cook was moved to discuss these new apparitions and who would buy them. He offered: "We're anxious to see the customers for the new AirPod Pro. But I would guess that one, particularly in the early going, will be people that have AirPods today and want to also have a pair for the times they need noise cancellation." Please forgive me if I'm anxious to immerse myself in a vat of cooling coconut balm and hum my calming meditations. Apple's CEO believes his customers are so wealthy and so very sensitive that they will take time to consider: "Hmm, is this a moment when I want to shut the world out? Or would my central nervous system prefer to hear a few tinges of intonation from the world outside?"

What goes into a user story vs. use case for Agile development?

A user story provides a short descriptive sentence that outlines the who, what and why of one or a set of software requirements. User stories put context around interactions, which enables developers to focus their efforts on perspectives, features, functionality and results. ... User stories are not ideal for every software development discussion. While user stories are quick and simple, they are often devoid of technical detail; that leaves developers with no discussion of how to accomplish a task. There is no assessment of relative difficulty, accounting for resources like developer hours, or prioritization of one user story vs. another. Project managers often make these assessments during the planning phase of each iteration. ... Use cases generally provide more detail and a deeper understanding of functional behaviors to contextualize a software requirement. Use cases help development teams define or discuss user interface designs, database access or query processes, and API communications. Group use cases together to organize them for complex projects.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on achieving quantum supremacy

You would need to build a fault-tolerant quantum computer with more qubits so that you can generalize it better, execute it for longer periods of time, and hence be able to run more complex algorithms. But you know, if in any field you have a breakthrough, you start somewhere. To borrow an analogy—the Wright brothers. The first plane flew only for 12 seconds, and so there is no practical application of that. But it showed the possibility that a plane could fly. ... Google wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the evolution we have seen in computing over the years. Moore’s Law has allowed us to scale up our computational capacity to serve billions of users across many products at scale. So at heart, we view ourselves as a deep computer science company. Moore’s Law is, depending on how you think about it, at the end of its cycle. Quantum computing is one of the many components by which we will continue to make progress in computing. The other reason we’re excited is—take a simple molecule. Caffeine has 243 states or something like that.

Wireless noise protocol can extend IoT range

Internet of Things (IoT) / security alert / wireless network management
The on-off noise power communication (ONPC) protocol, as it’s called, works via a software hack on commodity Wi-Fi access points. Through software, part of the transmitter is converted to an RF power source, and then elements in the receiver are turned into a power measuring device. Noise energy, created by the power source is encoded, emitted and picked up by the measuring setup at the other end. “If the access point, [or] router hears this code, it says, ‘OK, I know the sensor is still alive and trying to reach me, it’s just out of range,’” Neal Patwari of Washington University says in a Brigham Young University (BYU) press release. “It’s basically sending one bit of information that says it’s alive.” The noise channel is much leaner than the Wi-Fi one, BYU explains. “While Wi-Fi requires speeds of at least one megabit per second to maintain a signal, ONPC can maintain a signal on as low as one bit per second—one millionth of the data speed required by Wi-Fi.” That’s enough for IoT sensor housekeeping, conceivably. Additionally, “one bit of information is sufficient for many Wi-Fi enabled devices that simply need an on [and] off message,” the school says.

MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab: Robots will take over parts of your job, not all of it

Casey said business leaders and government officials should pay attention to recommendations from another researcher studying automation, Carl Benedikt Frey. Frey made an initial prediction about 47% of jobs being at high risk for automation and is quoted in the MIT-IBM research. As Frey stated in his initial automation research, business process and technology investment, regulatory concerns, political pressure, and social resistance will determine how automation affects jobs and wages. Frey's latest thinking is that the true concern is not about automation in general but that the revolution won't go far enough. The incomplete technology transformation will trap workers in a permanently unequal income distribution. If businesses only go so far toward automation, the full productivity benefit will not be realized. Casey said that the goal is to get to a point in the machine-learning revolution at which technology is creating new tasks and jobs for people to do. "What they're worried about is we'll get stuck at a place where there's nothing that could be transformative enough to create new tasks and create new jobs," he said. "What we want is sufficiently transformative tech that raises productivity enough so that new tasks emerge."

Google agrees to buy Fitbit in $2.1B deal to help boost Wear OS

While Fitbit's software is "solid ... it will be interesting to see how long Google keeps Fitbit separate or if it tries to integrate its apps into Android," Greengart adds. He notes while Google's promise on user data "is promising," the company's "users will have to trust that it stays that way." Alphabet released a sluggish financial report Monday, with $40.49 billion in sales, exceeding analysts' estimate of $40.32 billion, and earnings per share of $10.12, below the expected $12.42 per share. We can expect to see Fitbit's third-quarter earnings report on Nov. 6, the company said last month. Putting a dampener on the news for Google, however, House Antitrust Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline later Friday said the acquisition announcement has triggered more antitrust concerns as the tech giant's "dominance" is already being investigated. "By attempting this deal at this moment, Google is signaling that it will continue to flex and expand its power in spite of this immense scrutiny," Cicilline said in a statement. The acquisition would also give Google "deep insights into Americans' most sensitive information," including health and location data, according to Cicilline.

New 'unremovable' xHelper malware has infected 45,000 Android devices

Android malware botnet
Named xHelper, this malware was first spotted back in March but slowly expanded to infect more than 32,000 devices by August (per Malwarebytes), eventually reaching a total of 45,000 infections this month (per Symantec). The malware is on a clear upward trajectory. Symantec says the xHelper crew is making on average 131 new victims per day and around 2,400 new victims per month. Most of these infections have been spotted in India, the US, and Russia. According to Malwarebytes, the source of these infections is "web redirects" that send users to web pages hosting Android apps. These sites instruct users on how to side-load unofficial Android apps from outside the Play Store. Code hidden in these apps downloads the xHelper trojan. The good news is that the trojan doesn't carry out destructive operations. According to both Malwarebytes and Symantec, for most of its operational lifespan, the trojan has shown intrusive popup ads and notification spam. The ads and notifications redirect users to the Play Store, where victims are asked to install other apps -- a means through which the xHelper gang is making money from pay-per-install commissions.

The changing role of the enterprise architect

The need to focus on operational efficiency has diminished the EA’s role as a pan-organisation technology strategist. To address this and the needs of modern organisations, the current singular EA role must be devolved into its three component parts, eliminating the constraints it has experienced over the past decades, which have limited its strategic value to the organisation. These separate roles – strategist, engineer and custodian – must also reside and operate permanently in corporate strategy, the programme office, and the IT department, respectively. So how do we broadly define these roles? The Strategist role acts as a positive change agent, assessing outlier and newly adopted technologies to propose how their use can serve the corporate leadership’s vision, at the start of a business strategy’s development.... The technology engineer role is responsible for creating project technology designs that fit the business strategy. From the point of drafting to final design, the engineer consults with both the strategist and custodian roles.

Implement Agile IT Strategic Planning With Enterprise Architecture

In this modern age, Digital Transformation continues to be a priority for company executives. They know that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IOT), and Big Data are driving their ability to improve customer experience, stay ahead of the competition and generate business growth. However, with IT teams entrenched in managing day-to-day technology, it is difficult for IT to stay abreast of the strategic discussions occurring at the business level and proactively plan for associated IT upgrades, modifications, or new systems. This disconnect can result in a lagging approach to IT planning especially as business decisions are made in fast-moving agile environments. To remedy this, companies need a holistic approach that connects business and technology. Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the key to this foundation as it helps companies improve their IT Strategic Planning by helping companies precisely see and understand how IT systems support business objectives. An IT Roadmap that is built on foundational Enterprise Architecture yet designed to realize business outcomes enables a company to assess the impact of change on the existing IT landscape and therefore quickly adjust as needed.

Quote for the day:

"Teamwork is the secret that make common people achieve uncommon result." -- Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

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