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.

 

A-Z of Digital – D is for Digital

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superhero-534120_640Following on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “D is for Digital”.

Digital is a word that we hear in everyday conversations and its connotations grow on a daily basis. In short it is a term that is used to describe the advancements in how we consume and use technology within our everyday lives and enhance and improve businesses and it’s effects on the human race.

Being Digital is not necessarily just about having the latest gadgets, but more around how you are using them and what you do to intergrate things together, automate things and improve your work and home lives.

From a business view this is about growth and transforming through processes and technology, utilising the latest inventions and ideas to automate and reduce costs. Bringing together systems and solutions through API’s and Intergration, changing the way business is done.

The “Journey to Digital” (#Journey2Digital) is about how you can achieve these things in little or big steps depending upon what your goals are.

The journey can include:

  • Strategy and Direction
  • Vision and Roadmap
  • Outside-in approach
  • Working with partners and companies that can provide digital capabilities
  • Agile approach
  • Funding digital changes and learning to fail fast
  • Customer demands
  • Competition advancements
  • Industry directions (ie Industry 4.0 for Manufacturing)

The main part of the journey is being able to accept change and encourage innovation to create enhancements that drive the direction towards being digital.

 

 

A-Z of Digital – C is for Cobots

CobotFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “A is for Automation”.

Cobots are collaborative robots that work and interact with humans.

Wikipedia defines Cobots as:

A cobot or co-robot (from collaborative robot) is a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots, designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance, which is what most industrial robots were up until the decade of the 2010s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobot

Robots have been around for sometime within industries and work places mainly in manufacturing verticals. These are now moving towards being cobots with many research and development programs now underway within companies and academia to produce the next generation of cobots. From ones that help carry loads and work along side military personnel, assisting a production line assembling items alongside a skilled worker to cobots helping a medical technician with clinical research.

Robots have often been seen as a replacement for humans in many roles. Cobots, however are not, they instead work and interact with humans in various tasks and levels. Cobots have been around for the past few years, mainly in industrial workplaces such as manufacturing, automotive and supply chains. Their evolution is now bringing cobots into many other workplaces and use cases.

Source: Say ‘hello’ to your new colleague, the Cobot

Cobots will not replace jobs, but allow a different way of working to be experienced, helping to remove repetitive and tedious tasks allowing the more complex tasks and ones that need more time to be undertaken by the worker. As cobots are introduced into the workplace the adoption of new working practices will help to reduce stresses and improve the workplace.

 

 

A-Z of Digital – B is for Blockchain

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LearningFollowing on from my blog post outlining an A-Z of Digital, here is “B is for Blockchain”

What is a Blockchain. Well there are lots of articles on Blockchains that explain them, so rather than repeat, I will reference a some colleagues blog posts.

A blockchain– originally block chain – is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. Functionally, a blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.”

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

One common train of thought that can occur when talking about Blockchains is to also think about Bitcoins. Often associated due to Bitcoins using Blockchains for their transactions, there are other uses for Blockchains.  A colleague Neil Fagan covers this point in his blog on Bitcoins and Blockchains

Blockchains are secure by design (another colleague Faisal Siddiqi discusses this in his blog post Blockchains and Birthdays). The ledger method makes their use ideal in many industry sectors including, Healthcare, Banking, Insurance and Legal where transactions can be time stamped, verified automatically, encrypted and trusted. This helps reduce the amount of fraud with transactions being proved. Some of these verticals are covered in a number of posts by colleagues listed below with some excerpts from their blogs:

Exploring Blockchain in Banking

Blockchain or, more precisely, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is currently one of the hot topics in the banking industry.

Its main focus is on clearing and settlement, where DLT can reduce reconcile efforts, address liquidity needs and accelerate processing. Several reports and studies suggest benefits and substantial savings – in particular, when DLT is applied in financial market infrastructures spanning multiple jurisdictions. But there are also a number of open points, not least in the legal and regulatory realms.

On the blockchain, nobody knows you’re a fridge

A compelling scenario could be an insurance policy blockchain smart contract with multiple transactions throughout its lifecycle. An initial purchase transaction would trigger an automatic deposit of monetary assets into the contract. A second transaction might add documentation proving ownership and value of real world property being insured. Subsequently, a loss notice event from an external claims system might trigger a Claim transaction which would execute autonomous Verification and Payout smart contracts. The policyholder would not need to file a claim, and the insurer would not have to administer it. This would reduce the potential for fraud, decrease administration costs and simplify the claims process.

Decentralization – The Napster-Metallica connection

In addition to the elegant technology behind distributed blockchain applications, there is a solid business proposition to be made. With Bitcoin having successfully demonstrated the decentralization of money, it becomes feasible to consider that all kinds of other transactions can also be decentralized on blockchains with similar benefits. Decentralized applications are being developed on blockchains for tracking the provenance of diamonds, simplifying interoperability of electronic health records, adding IoT smarts to the power grid and disrupting a range of industries with these other fascinating use cases.

Blockchain: Trusting the Genie in the Lamp

In some cultures, a handshake is as good as a contract. In some situations, emotional intelligence plays a role in shaping how a person responds to another person, and the trust level you build. In the blockchain world, this interaction will be unnecessary; a person will simply trust another through the use of a software program.

Additional Reading:

A-Z of Digital – A is for Automation

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API

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

Automation is nothing new and the instinct to automate things has been around for a long time. There are lots of automated things in our lives that we now take for granted that at one time were not. The level of automation today does however seem to have a different set of goals. By this I mean the ability to fully automate something so no manual intervention is needed and the automation can think for itself. The future of systems auto detecting and joining themselves together presenting a tick list of the things that can be automated automatically is not that far away.

A house heating system is a good example of this. Starting with a very manual based system of stoking up the boiler to gas powered central heating controlled to come on by means of a thermostat or mechanical clock interface, to now where you can simply control your heating from a mobile device. Systems can learn your habits and settings to ensure the environment you live in stays at the right temperature for your needs.

Automation is available in many forms and tools that we can either purchase a solution to add, complement or replace an existing one, or create our own. As the world moves towards the “World as Code”- the manual tasks of today should be the automated tasks of tomorrow, achieved using tools that interface with systems using API’s and commands that join them together to carry out tasks, with the ability to control everything by means of code. We have more control over what we can automate, starting with the repetitive tasks before moving onto more complex tasks.

The LEF’s Lewis Richards has discusses “How Will Automation Change Us and Businesses?” in one of his latest videos and using tools such as IFTTT or Zapier to start your journey to automation. IFTTT has over 430 service API’s that you can link into.

Using these tools you can create simple automation linking services together with API’s and a user interface to set certain conditions, such as “Automating leaving a geolocation area“. API’s are a growing area within services and applications with more being made available to allow better integration and automation. Normally 3rd party applications take advantage of these API’s to provide additional services on top and compliment existing platforms. With the growth of the “Citizen Developer”, a user who can create simple code to perform functions, these API’s are now being used in a wider context to automate things. Anyone can become a Citizen Developer and start to code and interact, join systems together.

You have probably been doing this already with tools such as Excel, Access and Word. If you want to start discovering automation start with tools such as:

 

A to Z of Digital

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ABCBeing Digital, Journey to Digital, Digital, 21st Century Humans, are phrases that are common place in many conversations around business and technology. But what does it mean to be “Digital”.  This is a wide subject to cover in a single blog post, so here is an A-Z of Digital to help.

I will break these down in further blog posts going into each subject in more detail.

A – Automation

The manual tasks of today should be the automated tasks of tomorrow, achieved using tools that interface with systems using API’s and commands that join them together to carry out tasks. From turning your heating on using an application to automatically carrying out a set of repetitive tasks to allow other more complex tasks to be undertaken.

B- Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. (Wikipedia).

C – Cobots

Cobots are Robots that are adapted and programmed to work and interact with humans in various tasks and levels of activity. Imagine you’re working buddy is a cobot that can perform tasks hand in hand with you, take over if you need to do something else, increase its speed of completing the tasks, then sense your return and slow to the speed your working at.

D – Digital

“Digital” is an umbrella word that covers many different topics. There are many definitions available, but for me this is about how we unlock the capabilities available today and use them to better our lives and society. From a business view this is about growth and transforming through processes and technology. Being Digital is not necessarily about having the latest gadgets, but more around how you are using them and what you do.

E – Evolution

Evolution covers the advancements and new technologies that are being discovered and created every day.  There are lots of new ideas and products coming out of sites such as crowdfunding and crowdsourcing sites, some work however some do fail. These sites are worth tracking to see what developments are coming around the corner.

F – Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers are probably one of the most common wearable that is available today and have been around for a number of years.  Trackers have developed to include a wide range of functionality including heart rate, blood pressure, location, altitude making the data useful to the health and medical industries to understand how we lead our lives.

G – Geolocation

Geolocation ties into a lot of the items in this list and provides a basis for providing location and tracking capabilities for devices and applications. It is also used to locate and pinpoint where users are. Some services cannot be consumed these days without agreeing to having this information shared with a site. The most common type of application in wide use is a Sat Nav.

H – Hybrid

Hybrid is used as a term to describe a mix of public and private services, such as a Hybrid Cloud where services can be mixed between traditional on premise/data centre services and cloud services, providing some control or orchestration layer across both to allow users to consume based on policy or requirements.

I – 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 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.

J – 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. This also covers Bioables which collect data on your body such as glucose levels using sensors that penetrate into the under the skin.

K – Knowledge

Understanding what is going on in your streams, market places and industries is a big task. Lots of information coming in on a daily basis – drinking from the fire hose, not able to consume it all. Creating your Personal Knowledge Management System will help navigate the sea of information and pick out what is key to your situation and what can be dropped.

L – Legal

With the increasing about of things interacting with our daily lives, the area of Legal and Security play a big part. There are a number of important questions to ask – Where is your data being stored and who actually owns it. Is your data secure and have you implemented all the right controls? What does Legistlation such as GDPR mean to you?

M – Machine Learning

Machine Learning (ML) allows a computer to learn and act without being explicitly programmed with that knowledge. An example of Machine Learning Algorithm is a web search engine that brings up a number of results based on your search criteria and shows which could be most relevant to what you are looking for.

N –  Networks

Networks and connectivity form the backbone of the systems in use today. Using a number of different types of network from Cellular (3G, 4G) to traditional networking and futures of 5G and Neural Networks speeding up how we create, consume and process data.

O – Organisation

Infrastructure as Code looks at making hardware being able to controlled at a code level, allowing Microservices and the ability to consume capability quickly. The next stage is the Organisation as Code. A great example of an Organsation as Code is Uber, building services and the supporting organisation in the cloud that allows it to be consumed anywhere and the drivers to login and become part of that organistation for the period that they are employed.

P – Programming

Everyone should learn to code. Learning to code (Programme) in a language like Scratch, Python, Java, C, etc. The ability to code will allow someone to understand how they can automate a task using tools and API’s.

Q – Quantum Computing

A computer which makes use of the quantum states of subatomic particles to store information (Dictionary). Quantum Computers are being developed with the ability to compute data at an exponential rate allowing for quick computing of complex data.

R – Robots

The vision of Robots has been around in early Science Fiction and are very much a reality today. From an automated manufacturing plant to a robot to help you shop and carry out tasks. The field of robotics is advancing bring in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to boost their capabilities and means to learn, self-think and complete tasks.

S – Social

Being social is not just around how you use the tools and what you tweet, but also what you don’t say and being Social Media savvy on your communications. There is a large number of social tools available with some well-known such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked in to those not so. It is also about how you organise your life with these tools and use them for productivity and security.

T – Twenty First Century Digital

The term 21st Century Digital applies to the current century and how you are using Digital to better your organisation and yourself. The LEF (Leading Edge Forum) has information that covers these two topics as the 21st Century Organisation and 21st Century Human.

U – Usability

The usability and user experience of devices is key.  Understandoing and being able to interact with devices is important. If a someone can’t use the application or device they may start looking for an alternative that they can use.

V – Visionables

Visionables moves the wearables market to technologies that help enhance our experiences through what we see. This covers things like Smart Glasses, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality.

W – Wearables

The field of wearables is expanding with more ways to attach sensors and record data about our daily lives. This typically covers anything that you can wear or attach to your body and in the main interfaces with a mobile to be the central data point, although many devices operate separately and can transmit data themselves.

X – Xperience

Xperience covers how we use these technologies and advancements to shape our lives and the effects that they have on them. How we have moved from the days of the first computer to today’s wearable and interactive society.

Y – Yottabyte

Yottabyte is a term used to define an amount of storage.  The prefix yotta indicates multiplication by the eighth power of 1000 or 1024 (Wikipedia). The amount of storage used today is seeing huge daily growth with systems currently using petabytes of data. The trends will increase the amount of storage needed to hold data.

Z – Zabeta

Zabeta is a noun meaning Tarrif or Tax. As we move to a more automated society there is a view point that automation and robots should be Taxed.

This is my current A to Z and some of the entries may be different in your version. Do you agree with the list? Whats in your “A to Z of Digital”?

 

How much trust should we give apps with device permissions

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spyware-2319403_640Have you every gone to the app store and just installed something on there because it looks good and something you want to look at, or purchased a product and then installed the app without thinking or checking it out first? Lots of people do, but do they really know what is going on under the covers?

How often do you install an application onto your personal device without checking the permissions that it requires or know what the app has access to and what its doing?

These are relevant questions that we should be asking ourselves as we become more connected and joined together sharing our personal data. This is a subject that I have written about before on app permissions and is still relevant today.

I have recently been asked to look at a fitness braclet that someone had who wanted to install the app. What struck me about this app that basically allows you to control a basic fitness tracker was the permissions to allow access to the Camera and Microphone, when there is clearly no reason within the product or app to have them. Is this a lazy programmer who hasnt set the right permissions on the app or is there something else going on.

Invite

One of the great things I like about mobile devices now is the ability to actually turn these off myself.

So do I want my coffee app to know where I am all the time, maybe not, but I do know that it may need access to the storage to download the latest offers and store those discount vouchers.

Of course stopping a permission may cause application issues, however the important thing is that a user can say no.

So when was the last time you checked the apps installed on your device and their permissions?