Daily Tech Digest - November 05, 2020

Deep Neural Networks Help to Explain Living Brains

Artificial neural networks are built with interconnecting components called perceptrons, which are simplified digital models of biological neurons. The networks have at least two layers of perceptrons, one for the input layer and one for the output. Sandwich one or more “hidden” layers between the input and the output and you get a “deep” neural network; the greater the number of hidden layers, the deeper the network. Deep nets can be trained to pick out patterns in data, such as patterns representing the images of cats or dogs. Training involves using an algorithm to iteratively adjust the strength of the connections between the perceptrons, so that the network learns to associate a given input (the pixels of an image) with the correct label (cat or dog). Once trained, the deep net should ideally be able to classify an input it hasn’t seen before. In their general structure and function, deep nets aspire loosely to emulate brains, in which the adjusted strengths of connections between neurons reflect learned associations. Neuroscientists have often pointed out important limitations in that comparison: Individual neurons may process information more extensively than “dumb” perceptrons do, for example, and deep nets frequently depend on a kind of communication between perceptrons called back-propagation that does not seem to occur in nervous systems.

Future of Corporate Governance Through Blockchain-powered Smart Companies

In essence, Smart Company is an entirely new form of business type (LTD., IBC) except it rivals all traditional models by being fully automated by blockchain. And certainly, it makes just that big of a difference. When you have the ability to run your business in a structure that is legally compliant yet all its transactions happen in real-time and are verified directly on the blockchain, this changes the game. What this means for business owners is that managerial ownership structures become more transparent. Corporate voting is easier, more accurate and secret strategies such as ‘empty voting’ become more difficult to execute. The ability to have corporate shares as ERC-20 tokens modified for security laws offers the means to assert and transfer ownership and liabilities of real-world assets with actual value. Just to give you a rough understanding of the magnitude of this untapped potential, it has been estimated that the total value of illiquid assets, including real estate, gold., is no less than $11 Trillion . Roughly the nominal GDP of China, the world’s second largest economy today. For shareholders, Smart Company model offers nearly free trading and transparency in ownership records while simultaneously showing real-time transfers of shares from one owner to another. 

Agile development: How to tackle complexity and get stuff done

Holt believes his key role as CTO is to create a culture in the organisation where his people feel comfortable and confident to try new things. Rather than being scared of risk-taking, he says tech leaders should encourage their IT professionals to innovate and develop customer-centred products and services in an iterative manner. "Those are the kind of people who aren't afraid of the complexity, who are able get in amongst it, and that's where you get really good solutions," he says. Holt says engaging with a challenge involes great teamwork. He says his organisation is always on the lookout for people who have an ability to manage complexity and the solution often involves agility in organisational culture as well as product development. ... Danny Attias, chief digital and information officer at British charity Anthony Nolan, says tech executives looking to deal with complexity must ensure they're working to create a joined-up organisation. More often than not, that means using Agile principles to break down problems into small parts that can be managed effectively across the organisation. "My career has been about decoupling dependencies wherever you possibly can," he says.

The world needs women who code

A lot of women are not aware of the power of IT. The industry’s reputation as a boy’s club belies the fact that women are actually rising in many technology fields, both in number and in title. They may think they have to already know a bunch of code to get started. It's likely that many women simply don’t realize how much opportunity there is for them, even as beginners. A slightly different, yet related, reason is fear. Because of the percentage of men in this field, some women may feel that there will be too much competition, that they won’t be able to measure up against men with experience, or that they'll be overlooked for men without experience. But nowadays, IT companies are making strong efforts to welcome and support women, conducting various programs to encourage women to learn about various tech disciplines, and provide pathways for them to join the industry. And whenever a woman joins this industry, it gives a boost of confidence to other women too. I constantly get inspired by the many women I know that are doing amazing things in tech. ... Admittedly, coding can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but don’t worry—it’s like that for almost everyone. Soon enough, what seems like gibberish at first starts to come together, and you learn to harness it to make things work and accomplish tasks. 

Kafka at the Edge — Use Cases and Architectures

Event streaming with Apache Kafka at the edge is not cutting edge anymore. It is a common approach to providing the same open, flexible, and scalable architecture at the edge as in the cloud or data center. Possible locations for a Kafka edge deployment include retail stores, cell towers, trains, small factories, restaurants, etc. I already discussed the concepts and architectures in detail in the past: "Apache Kafka is the New Black at the Edge" and "Architecture patterns for distributed, hybrid, edge and global Apache Kafka deployments". This blog post is an add-on focusing on use cases across industries for Kafka at the edge. To be clear before you read on: Edge is NOT a data center. And "Edge Kafka" is not simply yet another IoT project using Kafka in a remote location. Edge Kafka is actually an essential component of a streaming nervous system that spans IoT (or OT in Industrial IoT) and non-IoT (traditional data-center/cloud infrastructures). The post's focus is scenarios where the Kafka clients AND the Kafka brokers are running on the edge. This enables edge processing, integration, decoupling, low latency, and cost-efficient data processing. Some IoT projects are built like “normal Kafka projects”, i.e., built in the (edge) data center or cloud. 

How smartphones became IoT’s best friend and worst enemy

Relying on the ubiquity of smartphones and the rise of remote controls, users and vendors alike have embraced the move away from physical device interfaces. This evolution in the IoT ecosystem, however, brings major benefits AND serious drawbacks. While users enjoy the remote capabilities of companion apps and vendors bypass the need for hardware interfaces, studies show that they present serious cybersecurity risks. For example, the communication between an IoT device and its app is often not properly encrypted nor authenticated – and these issues enable the construction of exploits to achieve remote control of victim’s devices. It is important to explain that connected devices have not always been this way. I’m sure others like myself do not need to cast their minds far back to remember a time when smartphones did not even exist. User input during these halcyon days relied on physical interfaces on the device itself, interfaces that typically consisted of basic touch screens or two-line LCD displays. Though functional, these physical interfaces were certainly limited (and limiting) when compared to the applications that superseded them. Devices without physical interfaces are smaller, consume less power, and look better. 

Singapore government rolls out digital signature service

Called Sign with SingPass, the service is being rolled out by Assurity, a subsidiary of the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), together with eight digital signing application providers, including DocuSign, Adobe and Kofax. GovTech said each digital signature is identifiable and cryptographically linked to the signer, while signed documents are platform agnostic and can be viewed with the user’s preferred system. No document data will be transferred during the digital signing process. Assurity will also issue digital certificates for signatures created under the service. Upon Assurity’s accreditation under Singapore’s Electronic Transactions Act, signatures made with the service will be regarded as secure electronic signatures. GovTech said the service will be useful for organisations and their customers amid the growing number of online transactions and will test the service with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for the digital signing of property caveats in the coming weeks. Kok Ping Soon, chief executive of GovTech, said the high security document signing service will help businesses save cost and manpower by alleviating the need to manually verify physical paperwork.

Is your approach to data protection more expensive than useful?

With the recent increase in cyberattacks and exponential data growth, protecting data has become job one for many IT organizations. And in many cases, their biggest hurdle is managing an aging backup infrastructure with limited resources. Tight budgets should not discourage business leaders from modernizing data protection. Organizations that hang on to older backup technology don't have the tools they need to face today's threats. Rigid, siloed infrastructures aren't agile or scalable enough to keep up with fluctuations in data requirements, and they are based on an equally rigid backup approach. Traditional backup systems behave like insurance policies, locking data away until it's needed. That's like keeping an extra car battery in the garage, waiting for a possible crisis. The backup battery might seem like a reasonable preventive measure, but most of the time, it's a waste of space. And if the crisis never arises, it's an unnecessary upfront investment, making it more expensive than useful. In the age of COVID-19, where cash is king and on-site resources are particularly limited, some IT departments are postponing data protection modernization, looking to simplify overall operations and lower infrastructure costs first. That plan can block a company's progress. 

Taking Control of Confusing Cloud Costs

It’s difficult to compare services across multiple clouds, because each provider uses different terminology. What Azure calls a ‘virtual machine’ is called a ‘virtual machine instance’ on GCP and just an ‘instance’ on AWS. A group of these instances would be called ‘autoscaling groups’ on both Amazon and GCP, but Scale Sets on Azure. It’s hard to even keep up with what it is you’re purchasing and whether there is even an alternative cloud comparable service, as the naming convention is different. As outlined above in regards to the simple web application using Lambda, it would be very time consuming for someone to compare what it would cost to host a web application in one cloud versus another. It would take technical knowledge of each cloud provider to be able to translate how you could comparably host it with one set of services against another before you even got into prices. Cloud pricing uses an on-demand model, which is a far cry from on-prem, where you could deploy things and leave them running 24/7 without affecting the cost (bar energy). In the cloud, everything is based on the amount of time you use it, either on a per hour, per minute, per request, per amount or per second basis.

Five ways to avoid digital transformation fatigue

Change fatigue stems from uncertainty and a lack of clarity around the strategic intent and implementation of the program. Too often, digitalisation and new tools are being taken into the company without proper project planning and thinking about how the benefits will be explained to the employees. Have a deep-dive into the thinking of the value proposition narrative before the new digital tool is implemented. Start by finding out if the management and leadership teams are aligned on the transformation's strategic intent and outcomes. If not, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This should ideally map out clear target business outcomes as well as the impact of the transformation to the people, processes, and tools of what’s happening and how it will affect them. Many workers might feel that they should be doing their 'actual job' instead of learning how to navigate with something that they are not sure will benefit them. Be ready to present to each role the necessities of the new tool, and avoid explaining it so that it sounds like the company is the only one that will benefit from it. Incentives for the employees should be clearly stated before the change starts.

Quote for the day:

"Don't just see what others do to you. Also see what you do to others." -- The Golden Mirror

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