Category Archives: Technology

IET Meetup: A Cloud Enabled World, Neil Lewis (Hitachi)

meetup-cloud-enabled-worldThis evening’s presentation at the Institute of Engineering and Technology was sponsored by Hitachi on the subject of The Cloud.

As the Public Cloud is seeing explosive growth for modern internet based business and their web native applications, how can traditional IT originations with a more traditional IT landscape benefit from some of these trends whilst maintaining their legacy?

Neil Lewis explained that, despite years at the forefront of Data Services, Hitachi Data Systems is now re-positioning itself as a Cloud Solutions provider, rather than solely provisioning private infrastructure and software support to enterprises. Whether they can compete with Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, time will tell – but Hitachi have decided to adapt rather than see their business model become irrelevant.

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Artificial Intelligence Primer, David Kelnar published this excellent post on artificial intelligence.

The last 10 years have been about building a world that is mobile-first. In the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first.” (Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, October 2016)

Having witnessed the scope of AI-based projects referenced at 2016’s Intel Software Developer Conference, it’s hard to argue. The range of disciplines that have been revolutionised in the last couple of years by deep learning is deeply impressive. Step changes in speech recognition and image classification have been shown and there’s massive potential for development in other areas such as medical diagnosis. Here’s what Deep Mind Medical have to say:

We think that machine learning technology, a type of artificial intelligence, can bring huge benefits to medical research. By using this technology to analyse medical data, we want to find ways to improve how illnesses are diagnosed and treated. Our goal is to help clinicians to give faster, better treatment to their patients and all our research work is done in collaboration with doctors and professional healthcare researchers.

There could be very few jobs that remain untouched by artificial intelligence in the coming years, but hopefully there’ll still be plenty of programming jobs.

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IET Meetup: Rosetta Spacecraft Seminar

Meetup - Rosetta SpacecraftI was thrilled when the IET announced that they were organising a seminar on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. I’d followed the progress of the mission and the audacious landing of the Philae probe on the comet – it was fascinating to meet Paulo Ferri, the Operations Manager for the mission. Also speaking was Mark Bentley, Principal Investigator of the MIDAS instrument on board Rosetta.


I asked Paulo how the agency chose comet 67P as the target for the mission. Apparently, it wasn’t the original choice, but a failed Ariane rocket caused the mission to pause and the launch window for the original comet was missed. They re-examined the list of choices and given that Rosetta and Philae had already been built, the only other suitable comet for a mission of that type was 67P!

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IET Meetup: Robots Helping People, Yiannis Demiris

Meetup - Robots helping PeopleProfessor Yiannis Demiris gave the latest Prestige Lecture at the IET. His work is truly inspirational – his research aims to develop robots that can help both children with disabilities and adults with chronic or mobility problems. A running theme throughout his talk was the need for the robot’s behaviour to adapt during the life of the relationship with the person – as the person learns a skill, the robot can lower its levels of assistance. Or, the robot can take the person to the next level, for example in therapeutic exercises or in gaming.
The speaker heads the Personal Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London, where he conducts research in personalised assistive robotic systems, with applications in healthcare, in-vehicle intelligence, and support for children and adults with disabilities.

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BCS Meetup – The Trust Machine, Simon Taylor

BCS LogoThe BCS hosted a presentation by Simon Taylor of Barclays Bank.

Meetup - The Trust Machine

With the full potential of the uses of blockchain databases still yet to be discovered, there is a race, led by financial services, following the growth of Bitcoin, to find new, transformational business models that will exploit this technology.

Simon will explain that, while a Blockchain is just a kind of shared database, it is quite different because it creates a system of transparent, unalterable and permanent records of agreements. The impact of this is to allow all parties to organise themselves without fear of cheating. Simon will explain how cryptographic keys are used to create this trust, how it stops any single party from having more control than any other, and how, by allowing parties, for instance a buyer and a seller, to directly connect, it is seen as an opportunity and a threat by established trusted intermediaries, like his own organisation.

Simon covered a lot of interesting use cases in his presentation and shone light on the differences between bitcoin/blockchain as a technology. For example, this scenario was in his talk and on his blog:

Problem: When an investor comes to raise a Seed, things get messy, people fall out. Solution: Store this on a Blockchain at NASDAQ which has perfect time stamps, and digital signatures and no database administrator can edit the record without signatures of the founders. Could you do this with a database? Sure, but you’d lose that audit trail.

There are plenty of links to further reading on the blog post, 10 things you should know about Blockchains.  Also, What is the Blockchain and why should you care on Recode is worth a read.

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F# Meetup – Microservices Chaos Testing

Meetup - Microservice Chaos TestingThis was the first event I’ve attended by the F#unctional Londoners group and the venue at was excellent.

Some of the biggest growing pains we’ve experienced with our microservice architecture at Jet is in preparing for system outages.

In this talk, Rachel will discuss’s chaos testing methods and code in depth, as well as lay out a path to implementation that everyone can use.

I haven’t used chaos testing in my own work, but in the world of distributed services, it makes sense to test the robustness of the system to failures on individual nodes. Rachel’s story was quite compelling, even if her own developers aren’t all convinced of the attractions of chaos testing on the production system just yet!

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IET Meetup: Turing Lecture 2016, The Internet of Me, Robert Schukai

IETLogoThis years Prestige Turing Lecture was given by Robert Schukai, Head of Applied Innovation for Thomson Reuters.

TuringTrustAn opening address was given by the great nephew of Alan Turing, on behalf of This organisation builds on the legacy of Turing by distributing pre-owned computing equipment, both in the UK and particularly to schools in Africa who have no facilities.

The lecture hall was completely sold out for this talk and the speaker lived up to his billing, giving a mixed media presentation with great passion and insight. He took the audience on a journey from the introduction and incredible growth of mobile technology, both in terms of number of users, speed of data transfer, and bulk of data stored annually. Then he showed that, with the advent of new applications such as Genomic Profiling, and/or the Internet of Things, today’s data footprint will be blitzed by that of the future.

He introduced Cognitive Computing by way of IBM’s Jon Iwata talking about Watson and Robert Schukaithen illustrated the rate of progress of Artificial Intelligence with reference to Google’s Deep Learning having mastered the game Go a full decade earlier than predicted.

Schukai’s vision for the near future is of “DayFlow“, a seamless user experience where their needs are met across devices, throughout the day, with content being proactively displayed just as the user needs it.

I suspect my iPhone is already there – it volunteers the Bus Timetable app first thing in the morning, just as I’m ready to leave for work.

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