A-Z of Digital – N is for Networks

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Network CablesFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “N is for Networks”.

Networking in general is well known and understood as its an integral part of the worlds infrastructure today. In this post I will cover two areas at a high level where there is significant developments going on – Neural Networks and 5G.

Neural Networks

A Neural network is a network that is modeled on a biological brain and nervous systems pathways (synapses) that allows computations to take place at speed and across many nodes.  Neural networks have been used across a vast number of tasks but are probably best recognised  today as the underlying network of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning.

You are using neural networks in your every day lives without knowing it with things like the voice activated assistants Alexa, Siri, Google Home, Cortana, which deploy neural networks at the back end to provide the basis of the AI and machine learning algorithms that take your voice commands and transact the outcomes based on the instruction. These networks are constantly being developed and improved to provide the services of today and tomorrow.  There are lots of other services that we use daily that have neural networks behind them.

Businesses are looking at neural networks as part of their move to AI and machine learning, especially as neural networks are becoming easier to use with availability via online services for developers, scientists, companies or even a home user to start to consume.

A great site to play with a neural network and look what they can achieve is at Tensorflow (Google).  http://playground.tensorflow.org/ Here you can operate a neural network in your browser and increase and decrease the input and hidden layers to change the output.

Tensorflow

Further Reading

 

5G

One of the latest developments in networking and mobile communications is 5G (the fifth generation of wireless systems). A set of criteria that 5G should fulfill has been set out by the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance:

  • Data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users
  • Data rates of 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas
  • 1 Gb per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors
  • Spectral efficiency significantly enhanced compared to 4G
  • Coverage improved
  • Signalling efficiency enhanced
  • Latency reduced significantly compared to LTE.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G

There are currently field trials of test networks across the world operated by some of the telecom providers using the 28GHz spectrum band and development in to using Drones across the 5G networks.

5G will not only provide improved bandwidth to mobile devices, but provide the next generation communications infrastructure to things like autonomous cars requiring a low latency (around 20Gbps download, 10Gbps upload speeds and 1ms latency) and the IoT (Internet of Things) allowing a greater performance for large scale deployments.

The timescales for 5G are expected around 2020 for a release of the networks following development and testing till then.

Further Reading

 

A-Z of Digital – M is for Machine Learning

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learnFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “M for Machine Learning”.

Machine Learning (ML) allows a computer to learn and act without being explicitly programmed with that knowledge. For example, if you get a computer to recognise a picture of a car and show it some examples of a car, it will then be able to recognise cars going forward and apply what it has learnt against new pictures shown.

Machine learning tasks are typically classified into three broad categories, depending on the nature of the learning signal or feedback available to a learning system. These are

Supervised learning: The computer is presented with example inputs and their desired outputs, given by a “teacher”, and the goal is to learn a general rule that maps inputs to outputs.

Unsupervised learning: No labels are given to the learning algorithm, leaving it on its own to find structure in its input. Unsupervised learning can be a goal in itself (discovering hidden patterns in data) or a means towards an end (feature learning).

Reinforcement learning: A computer program interacts with a dynamic environment in which it must perform a certain goal (such as driving a vehicle or playing a game against an opponent). The program is provided feedback in terms of rewards and punishments as it navigates its problem space.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_learning

Machine Learning has opened a lot of uses and applications within business and industry such as a manufacturing process that looks for defects in products by telling the computer what good looks like, with imperfections being identified for further investigation.

One common place for interacting with Machine Learning is through the use of Chat Bots. You may have used a chat bot without knowing it, with machine learning helping to provide the answers to your queries.

An interesting chat bot to try out through Facebook Messenger is Keiko, a people search droid. The search can provide a series of questions to help narrow the search to who you are looking for. Yes you could do this through a normal search engine, but the thing I like about Keiko is the ability to interact and respond to the query with additional questions or suggestions for the search. Keiko can provide other functions other than just searching for a person. Search engines themselves have a lot of machine learning involved in ensuring that the results returned are the best match to the person searching and the search criteria.

If you want to have a go with a Machine Learning program try Googles Autodraw https://www.autodraw.com/. In this application you can draw an object and Google will try and suggest clip art that is similar to your drawing. As the program is used it learns from the drawings and selections that people make.

Further Reading

 

A-Z of Digital – L is for Legal

Legal

Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “L is for Legal”.

With the increasing about of things interacting with our daily lives, the area of Legal and Security play a big part.

The most common of these is the Terms and Conditions (T’s and C’s).  We are presented with a myriad or applications each with their own T’s and C’s to tick a check box to say we have read them when we install or update them. Most people will just click the box and accept them, but when was the last time you actually read the Terms and Conditions and you have just signed up to clean toilets for a couple of weeks? Makes you wonder what you have actually agreed to in all those T’s and C’s previously accepted!

With further adoption of the as a service economy, it is important to  read the T’s and C’s and keep up to date with any changes that are made to them as they are updated. Changes could mean that your data can be used by the provider – e.g. Robot vacuum company mulls selling maps of homes.

One of the next big legal items to come along is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation);

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. The primary objectives of the GDPR are to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU. When the GDPR takes effect, it will replace the data protection directive (officially Directive 95/46/EC) from 1995. The regulation was adopted on 27 April 2016. It becomes enforceable from 25 May 2018 after a two-year transition period and, unlike a directive, it does not require any enabling legislation to be passed by national governments and is thus directly binding and applicable.

Source: Wikipedia

GDPR will introduce one of the biggest shakeups of data protection in years. Understanding its impact on your businesses is an important role for legal, IT and the business to ensure compliance going forward when it takes over the current data protection laws on 25 May 2018.

The main points of GDPR cover new rights that need to be considered include:

  • Valid consent must be obtained to store data
  • Right to be forgotten
  • Access to data and sharing and portability of data
  • Protection of data by design and default
  • Obligation to notify of any breaches

Are you ready for GDPR?

Further Reading

 

 

A-Z of Digital – K is for Knowledge

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books-2158737_1920Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “K is for Knowledge”.

Understanding what is going on in your streams, market places and industries is a big task. We can be deluged with information, news and articles coming in on a daily basis through many streams/channels (as well as all the work emails you get in a day)  means that we tend to drink from the fire hose and not be able to assimilate all of the data coming in.

One way of helping is to create your own Personal Knowledge Management System, that will help navigate the sea of information and pick out what is key to your requirements and what can be dropped.

Here is my updated Personal Knowledge Management System that I use to sort and store useful artefacts, blogs, information, inspiration, articles and bits that get in a day.

Personal Knowledge Management System

Personal Life

Personal Journal

Journalling in both a Personal and Work life is a useful tool to keep notes on your thoughts and ideas. In my personal life I opt for recording these in a Moleskine – See my blog post No batteries required for further details.

Social Media

I separate from my work life from my personal life using things like Instagram and Facebook for friends and family with appropriate security settings in place. Even with those settings you still need to consider that once something is online, it could be public in the future.

Work Life

Research

This is split into several areas and these are a few of the inputs that I use to grab information, feeds, data from:

  • Podcasts
  • Audio subscriptions
  • RSS Feeds
  • Web Searches
  • Blog Posts

Podcasts cover both Audio and Video casts that I watch/stream online or download to my Media Player (Audio and Videos) to listen to on journeys (Audio)

Flipboard

Flipboard provides another stream of data that I consume bringing in news feeds from many sources around a series of topics. It does work well on a mobile device allowing you to flip the pages through the articles.

Feedly

Feedly provides an aggregation tool which I use to collect the stories from blogs and web sites I regularly pull information from.  This provides a list of stories that can be scanned tin a few minutes on a single screen without going via multiple sites. Clicking on a story will bring up a snippet from the source site and provide the link to read the source article if required. Using a series of key strokes you can read the headlines, then move down the articles at a reasonable speed, stopping and opening when needed.

Sources can be categorised to allow an all view or just whats new in a category.  There is a new noise filter to take out articles that are not relevant which I will be looking at shortly (paid for version).

Instapaper

Instapaper is one of several tools I use to store the articles I need to keep to refer back to and want to save. There is a link from Feedly to provide this (paid for version) which saves the articles. Instapaper then tweets the link out on a separate @Hemingwayreads Twitter Account when I want it to.

IFTTT

IFTTT (If This Then That) provides a level of automation to my lists from saving articles to creating alerts on topics and triggering different actions as needed to my devices.

Thinking Time

This is where view the data streams through the tools and assimilate and think about what has been reported/said.

Blogging and Being Social

From thoughts and research I will write about things through my blogs and publish these into Social Media streams such as Twitter, Linkedin and G+/

Future Tools

Future additions to my tools will probably include some machine learning and further automation to bring out more of the articles I am interested in and filter out the noise. Then bringing in a voice based capability to read out targeted articles to me when I am mobile and travelling.

Do you have a Personal Knowledge Management System or using tools not mentioned above?

Further Inspiration from others

Some other good Personal Knowledge Management Systems from colleagues:

A-Z of Digital – J is for Jacking

Cyborg Eye

Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “J is for Jacking”.

Jacking is a term used when you plug into something. Body Jacking is a growing area where the body is being used from generating power through movement to implanting chips to interact with the environment such as open a door or unlock a computer.

Previously the main development area for jackables has been in the medical industries with things like robotic limbs, artificial organs, pacemakers and implanted hearing aids. The market is now shifting with recent examples of this include someone who had lost their eye replacing an eye with camera to create films of what they see to employees being implanted with chips to open doors and use the vending machines. There are also Bioables which collect data on your body such as glucose levels using sensors that penetrate into the under the skin.

Whilst there are some medical and ethical questions to be looked at around the growing use of Jacking, the evolving market for non medical use (ie chips implanted under the skin) is starting to create a demand that will trigger these debates.

Being implanted with a chip under the skin may not be for everyone, this is a growing area where it may become part of an induction to a new company on your first day.

There are no clear standards at the moment and chips can use a number of technologies such as NFC or RFID to operate the surrounding environment. Consideration should be give to those that do not want to be implanted or contractors who may not want lots of chips in their bodies.

There have been a number of demonstrations around the insertion of the chips. In some instances professional tattoo artists are used to insert the chips as they have a level of training around injecting the skin. What has yet to be seen is the removal of the chip should someone leave a company or it needs replacing for some reason.

A-Z of Digital – I is for IoT

ThingsFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “I is for IoT”.

IoT (Internet of Things) is where physical things are connected by the internet using embedded sensors, software, networks and electronics. This allows the items to be managed, controlled and reported on.

There are lots of news stories of IoT devices being developed to enhance our lives. Some of these are user controlled and some with a central control such as the ability to turn on a washing machine when renewable energy is available. Some supermarkets already use a similar service to reduce power bills by allowing remote control of power to refridgerators.

There are many reports estimating the number of IoT devices likely to be connected in the future, these are between 20 and 50 Billion devices by the year 2020.

With all the developments in IoT, the main concern is that of security and the ability to stop a hack or a control takeover of the IoT devices.

Hybrid IoT networks will help with protection for businesses providing a perimeter for protecting IoT devices and data, but end users will need additional security to help protect themselves.

A number of IoT Standards have been drafted such as:

  • IOT Security Compliance Framework
  • Connected Consumer Products
  • Vulnerability Disclosure

however there are a number of groups introducing a set of standards and frameworks across the industry for IoT.

Choosing to follow best practices is a good thing. Choosing which best practice to follow can be a harder choice to make.

Until such time as a couple or even one set of standards, a hybrid Best Practice may present a good approach, picking the synergies between the best practices and standards, then bringing in the other ones needed.

These latest best practice standards do state that they are generic and up to the indivudal to adopt.

Further reading:

Blog Series on:  IoT Device Security Considerations and Security Layers. 

A-Z of Digital – H is for Hearable

microphone-1209816_1280Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “H is for Hearable”.

A Hearable is a device that enhances or adapts our hearing. The most common developments in this area is the hearing aids to help with hearing and the headphones.

Hearing aids have come a long way from being a large unit sometimes carried on straps around the body to small devices that fit around the back of the ear. There have also been developments which implants have been used to enhance these devices helping the user to hear sounds. Headphones have also used these developments with Bluetooth earpieces that allow the user to listen and talk as an extension to a mobile phone.

Bone Conducting devices allow a device to be placed next to the ear and allow sound to be heard by sending sound from transducers to the inner ear through the skull. This technology allows the user to hear a conversation or sounds through the transducers whilst still being able to hear the surrounding environment. Popular with runners as they can hear the traffic for crossing the road whilst listening to a podcast or music.

Devices are being developed to provide Layering to the sounds to allow the filtering out of some sounds and allowing others. You can purchase noise cancelling headphones today that filter out all of the background noise, however some of this we may still need to hear. Going the other way, Personal Sound Amplifier’s are also available on the market for boosting sounds. Working in a similar way to a hearing aid, a search and rescue team use them for listening for small faint sounds of someone trapped under rubble in a building collapse. shrinking these devices and placing one in every teams ears increases the chances of someone being found in this scenario.

Language translation is another growing area in hearables. The Babel Fish first introduced in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams has spurred a range of companies to design a 21st century digital version in the form of hearable that can translate languages.

“The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish”

Source: http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Babel_Fish

We are not walking round with small, yellow, leech-like fish in our ears, however we are using the next best thing – the Earbud. Language translators and headphones are being modeled around this concept, providing a compact device that can fit inside your ear with enough charge to keep it running for a few hours and  recharging when placed back into its carry case.

The next level of hearables will probably take the form of thin tattoo electronics that could be placed on the skin around the ear and provide bone conduction through small. Hand Phone anyone?  (Total Recall 2012) Just place it against a solid surface…”

 

 

 

 

A-Z of Digital – G is for Geolocation

earth-2254769_640Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “G is for Geolocation”.

The ability to track items and devices is a common technology these days with the prime example being a mobile phone. From being able to pin point a device using triangulation of cell towers being developed into onboard GPS passing location details into applications.

Geolocation provides one of the backbone services of Digital and IoT (Internet of Things) being able to track item or triggering things to happen at certain locations (Automating leaving a geolocation area).

An example of an application using Geolocation is Google. Having Google maps installed on your mobile device and being sigend in allows your location to be tracked. This has the advantages of providing related services:

  • Traffic Reports
  • Weather Reports
  • Location reviews
  • Local Photos
  • Events in the location

A new Location Sharing tool allows family members to share their locations with each other. There is also the ability to upload photos of locations based on the GPS tagged information that can be added to the photo when taken.

Location based events can also be triggered using beacons (such as Estimote Beacons) set in locations that can be triggered using applications such as Google or Physical Web. An example of this is beacons placed in a shopping mall by shops providing offers and discounts to those with the applications running, or using the beacons to track shoppers around the shop to identify browsing and buying patterns.

Leisure based activities and gaming are making use of geolocation with the ability to find things such as Geocaches, which has been around since 30 May 2000.  Geocaching has evolved to using additional beacons (such as Chirp) and GPS location tools to provide a popular game with over 2.5 million caches and 10 million registered users located around the world.

Games such as Pokemon Go use location and mapping to show Pokemon, Pokestops and Gyms in your area.

As with all services there are opt out options in the applications not to be tracked or give out location, however as we move to a more social and digital society does opting out mean your missing out on services and information.

A-Z of Digital – F is for Fitness Trackers

Fitness TrackerFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “F is for Fitness Trackers”.

Fitness Trackers are one of the most popular wearables available today. They can take many forms with the most recognisable being ones worn on the wrist, others using capablities on mobile phones or devices worn on the chest or embeded into clothing.

The number of devices being sold in 2017 is estimated by Gartner to be around 176 million, taking the categories that have fitness tracking capabilities.

From a basic pedometer function to recording additional statistics such as Heart Rate, Location, Altitude etc. these devices are collecting and generating a huge amount of data. Mainly used on a personal basis, industries are now tapping into this information bank such as Health Care looking at monitoring the health of patients and Insurance companies looking at how an adaptive health insurance policy can be influenced by our fitness.

The power of this data can be seen in the data collected through a popular application called Strava which connects people together to record and share their activities. in 2016 350 million Strava activies were collected and the data is availble to view via Strava Labs which has clustered the information together over a map of the world. At a high level there doesnt look to be a lot of data highlighted however zooming in shows a lot of data in different areas around the world.

Businesses are starting to utilise these devices to benefit the business and employees by collecting data to monitor and analyse areas such as:

  • Employee Health – working in areas of concern
  • Monitoring for lone workers

The devices are also adapting and evolving to meeting this growing demand.

The trackers are only one part of a solution for collecting the information as shown in the Strava example an integrated analaytical back end is needed to gain useful meaning to the data.

 

 

 

 

A-Z of Digital – E is for Evolution

earth-2254769_640Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “E is for Evolution”.

Evolution covers the advancements and new technologies that are shaping the Journey to Digital.

The most impacting area that is shaping the conceptions around Digital is that of the end user devices. End user devices such as Tablets, Mobiles, Watches, Smart Glasses, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, 360 Degree Cameras, Voice Activated Home Interfaces and Fitness Trackers are probably the most reported on items shaping how we consume and use services and data.

A good way to look at evolution is to recall the number of mobile phones you have had and how they have changed over the years from being large and heavy with the ability to just make a call to being a smartphone capable of providing information and take pictures as well as make a call.

The Evolution of the Mobile Phone in Pictures provides a brief history of these devices and how they have evolved.

From this evolution, the mobile phone is becoming the central hub of the connected person allowing connectivity of the devices that we wear and use and send data to and from the various related services.

Other areas of technology sees competition between vendors driving new developments as they become the first to patent and develop new technologies. Games consoles providing Virtual Reality capability with some vendors now developing Mixed Reality for future releases.

There are also lots of new ideas and products coming out of sites such as crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing sites, some work however some do fail or not enough funding is reached. These sites are worth tracking to see what developments are coming around the corner. (Sites such as https://www.kickstarter.com and https://www.indiegogo.com can provide a glimpse into what is being developed).

However there is as much innovation and development happening in the back end such as  Virtualisation, Cloud Computing, Containers, Micro-Services, API’s and Automation. These form an important part of the Digital Evolution as they help deliver the applications and delivery to the end user devices.

Examples of technologies proving containers and enabling micro-services would be a service running on Amazon Cloud, using Docker and Ansible to script automated deployments of servers and solutions with the ability to grow or shrink as need by a business or service.

It is important to understand what is available and feasible by taking advantage of today’s technologies as a step on the Journey to Digital, whilst also keeping a view on the future to help shape a roadmap for your business.