Daily Tech Digest - September 13, 2022

Data Analytics: The Ugly, But Crucial Step CEOs Can’t Ignore

Leaders only need to look around to see that the best CEOs are making data central to their business. This has become even more important as companies grapple with rising costs. Good data analytics allow companies to stay on top of their purchases and to roll costs over to their customers, a capability that is proving highly valuable these days in the manufacturing and automotive industries. Companies with low data maturity tend to keep data siloed, using different criteria across departments to collect and interpret it. This leads to missed opportunities from not integrating data to generate information at a granular level. They may know if they just had a good month but are not able to see how that breaks down on a per-item level or how it compares to other periods to give them a better understanding of “why” they had a good month and how they might be able to proactively make decisions to repeat or even further improve results. One manufacturing firm we know recently employed analytics to clean up its data and for the first time obtain a SKU-level visualization of the profitability of each item it sold.

Extended reality — where we are, what’s missing, and the problems ahead

What’s missing for immersion in the VR/MR is full-body instrumentation so you can move and interact in the virtual world(s) as you would in the real world. Hand scanning with cameras on a headset has not been very reliable and the common use of controllers creates a disconnect between how you want to interact with a virtual world and how you must react with it. This is particularly problematic with MR because you use your naked hand for touching real objects and the controller for touching rendered objects, which spoils the experience. Haptics, which Meta and others are aggressively developing, are only a poor stop-gap method; what’s needed is a way to seamlessly bring a person into the virtual world and allow full interaction and sensory perceptions as if it were the real world. AR standalone has had issues with occlusion, which are being worked on by Qualcomm and others. When corrected, rendered objects will look more solid and less like ghostly images that are partially transparent. But the use cases for this class are very well developed, making this the most attractive solution today.

Global companies say supply chain partners expose them to ransomware

Mitigation of ransomware risk should start at the organization level. “This would also help to prevent a scenario in which suppliers are contacted about breaches to pressure their partner organizations into paying up,” according to the research. In the last three years, 67% of respondents who had been attacked experienced this kind of blackmail to force payment. While ransomware mitigation starts inside the firewall, the research suggests that it must then be extended to the wider supply chain to help reduce the risk from the third-party attack surface. One of the best practices to reduce risk is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the supply chain itself, as well as corresponding data flows, so that high-risk suppliers can be identified. “They should be regularly audited where possible against industry baseline standards. And similar checks should be enforced before onboarding new suppliers,” according to the research. Some of the other practices include scanning open-source components for vulnerabilities/malware before they are used and built into CI/CD pipelines, running XDR programs to spot and resolve threats before they can make an impact, running continuous risk-based patching and vulnerability management.

Playwright: A Modern, Open Source Approach to End-To-End Testing

Contrary to other solutions, Playwright doesn’t use the WebDriver protocol. It leverages the Chrome DevTools protocol to communicate with Chromium browsers (Chrome/Edge) directly. This approach allows for more direct and quicker communication. Your tests will be more powerful and less flaky. But Playwright doesn’t stop at Chromium browsers. The team behind the project understood that cross-browser tests are essential for an end-to-end testing solution. They’re heavily invested in providing a seamless experience for Safari and Firefox, as well, and even Android WebView compatibility is in the works. Testing your sites in Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari is only a configuration matter. And this saves time and headaches! It’s not only about automating multiple browsers, though. If your tests are hard to write because you have to place countless “sleep” statements everywhere, your test suite will take hours to complete and become a burden. To avoid unnecessary waits, Playwright comes with “auto-waiting.” The idea is simple: Instead of figuring out when a button is clickable by yourself, Playwright performs actionability tests for you.

7 ways to create a more IT-savvy C-suite

Carter Busse, CIO at intelligent automation platform provider Workato, stresses the importance of networking with management peers. Each interaction provides an opportunity to ask questions, listen, and share information and insights. “We lack a water cooler in this remote world, but setting up biweekly meetings with my peers helps me understand their priorities and gives me an opportunity to communicate key knowledge,” Busse says. “These meetings also help build the trust that’s so crucial for success as a CIO.” Knowledge communicated to management peers should align with the enterprise’s basic mission. “As CIOs, we need to share our knowledge of the business first, followed by how the technology initiatives our team is working on are aligned with the company mission,” Busse says. “It’s important to work on a shared level of understanding first to ensure that the message lands.” ... Every enterprise leader has a different relationship to technology as well as a different level of IT knowledge. Creating personalized discussions, specific to both the enterprise and the leader’s role, will help develop a more tech-savvy C-suite, which can lead to improved support and adoption of proposed IT solutions.

Consider a mobile-first approach for your next web initiative

When going mobile first, it’s important to remember that content is king. Designers should focus on surfacing exactly the content a user needs and nothing more. Extra elements tend to distract from the user’s focus on the current task, and productivity suffers when screen real estate is limited. So, while it is typical to show all the options on a desktop view, well-designed mobile applications use context to decide what to show when and just as importantly, what not to show. It doesn’t mean mobile users can’t get to all those fine-grained options, it just means those options that don’t generally support the main use case are hidden behind low-profile UI constructs like collapsible menus and accordions. ... While more common in B2C apps, in recent years many B2B organizations are also taking advantage of mobile-first strategies. Because mobile-first development prioritizes the smallest screen, it effectively shifts focus and tough conversations around core functionality left. By starting with deciding how an app will look and operate on a smartphone before moving on to larger screens and devices, developers, designers and product owners quickly get alignment on what matters to users and customers.

AI Risk Intro 1: Advanced AI Might Be Very Bad

No one knows for sure where the ML progress train is headed. It is plausible that current ML progress hits a wall and we get another “AI winter” that lasts years. However, AI has recently been breaking through barrier after barrier, and so far does not seem to be slowing down. Though we’re still at least some steps away from human-level capabilities at everything, there aren’t many tasks where there’s no proof-of-concept demonstration. Machines have been better at some intellectual tasks for a long time; just consider calculators which are already superhuman at arithmetic. However, with the computer revolution, every task where a human has been able to think of a way to break it down into unambiguous steps (and the unambiguous steps can be carried out with modern computing power) has been added to this list. More recently, more intuition- and insight-based activities have been added to that list. DeepMind’s AlphaGo beat the top-rated human player of Go (a far harder game than chess for computers) in 2016. In 2017, AlphaZero beat both AlphaGo at Go (100-0) and superhuman chess programs at chess, despite training only by playing against itself for less than 24 hours.

Making Hacking Futile – Quantum Cryptography

There are many methods for exchanging quantum mechanical keys. The transmitter sends light signals to the receiver, or entangled quantum systems are employed. The scientists employed two quantum mechanically entangled rubidium atoms in two labs 400 meters apart on the LMU campus in the current experiment. The two facilities are linked by a 700-meter-long fiber optic cable that runs under Geschwister Scholl Square in front of the main building. To create an entanglement, the scientists first stimulate each atom with a laser pulse. Following this, the atoms spontaneously return to their ground state, each releasing a photon. The spin of the atom is entangled with the polarization of its emitted photon due to the conservation of angular momentum. The two light particles travel over the fiber optic cable to a receiver station, where a combined measurement of the photons reveals atomic quantum memory entanglement. To exchange a key, Alice and Bob – as the two parties are usually dubbed by cryptographers – measure the quantum states of their respective atoms.

Digital Transformation: Connecting The Dots With Web3

Let's remove the blindfold and have a look around. We can see that the metaverse of business interactions has multiple businesses or business contexts modeled as interconnected domains (and subdomains). In place of business boundaries naturally becoming system boundaries or bounded domain contexts, we now have systems at the enterprise level. You have spaghetti data integrations primarily driven by these systems and their interfaces. Still, the source of truth is fragmented across these multiple systems—whether it's a core operation, collaboration or content management system. Thanks to the advent of cloud computing, we have some solace in transcending these boundaries through a multitenant software/platform service. It's like we have built this world in silos as concrete islands first and then started erecting bridges as we discover more ways of interaction in the context of exchanging value. In a graph, you can picture systems and their integrations like nodes and edges. The digital transformation blueprint essentially translates to a specification for building the bridge between systems (both internal and external).

Third of IT decision-makers rely on gut feel when choosing network operator

Among the top line findings was that business leaders ranked trustworthiness, professionalism and experience as the top reasons for selecting a network operator. When asked whether consistent and transparent communication or speed (in terms of delivery and operations) was more important to them when choosing a network provider, 64% said communication was by far the prime practical quality required – speed was just 36% of the vote. However, decision-makers in the US are particularly driven by emotion, with 46% attributing more than half of their decision-making processes to it. Also, perceived “quality”, in a network services sense, was a broad and somewhat intangible concept, with no single commonly accepted definition. And while, for most leaders, network quality is a given – with service-level agreements (SLAs) acting as a key safety net – the survey suggested that it does not define or capture all the qualities that matter to decision-makers. In addition to this, 84% of decision-makers thought it should always be possible to speak with a customer services person without using chatbots or automated phone lines. In the US, 90% of leaders were adamant about this.

Quote for the day:

"Nobody is more powerful as we make them out to be." -- Alice Walker

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