Turbo Todd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Mizuho Financial Group and IBM to Test Blockchain Technology for Virtual Currency Settlements

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Mizuho Financial Group and IBM announced today a test of the potential of blockchain for use in settlements with virtual currency.

By incorporating blockchain technology into settlements with virtual currency, Mizuho will explore how payments can be instantaneously swapped, potentially leading to newfinancial services based on this rapidly evolving technology. The pilot project uses the open source code IBM contributed to the Hyperledger Project.

Mizuho is working with the newly-opened IBM Bluemix Garage in Tokyo, which offers IBM Blockchain services, including blockchain application development using Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, and assessments to determine the best uses for blockchain within the enterprise and across various industries.

Based on global insights across various industries and the experience of system development at Mizuho FG, IBM is helping the bank transform the design and development of business applications using blockchain.

Mizuho has a long history of promoting projects that create new customer experiences and business value by applying technologies in response to changes in environments inside and outside Japan.

IBM is actively working with hundreds of clients to understand what it takes to make blockchain ready for business. Through its open source contributions and resources for blockchain software developers, IBM is advancing the science of blockchain, helping to remove complexity, and making it more accessible and open.

For more information about IBM Blockchain, visit www.ibm.com/blockchain.

Written by TurboTodd

June 23rd, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Drones Rule…Drone Rules

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Adminstration has announced new drone rules that limit most small commercial drone Operations to daylight hours and require operators they get certified every two years.

The FAA had already granted special permission for more than 5,300 commercial drone uses as it developed these rules. Expect to see tens of thousands of more drones in the sky soon for education, research, and routine commercial use, because now they won’t need to seek case-by-case approval.

Under the new rules, drone flights will be approved for agriculture, research and development, educational and academic use, and powerline, pipeline and antenna inspections. They will also be approved for aiding rescue operations, bridge inspections, aerial photography and wildlife nesting area evaluations.
– via Reuters

However, don’t expect pizza deliveries anytime soon from Dominos, as such commercial use will require separate regulations.

Also, drone operators will have to be at least 16 years of age and have a remote pilot certificate, and must report to the FAA on any drone incidents that result in serious injury or property damage.

The trade group Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects over 70,000 jobs and $13.6MB in economic impact within three years of drones being allowed to fully share the skies over the U.S.

No word yet on the reverse economic impact likely to be seen by shotgun-toting drone hunters everywhere.

Written by TurboTodd

June 22nd, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Betting On The Brexit

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The “Brexit” vote is almost here.

So whom do you believe, the pollsters or the gamblers?

A recent Wall Street Journal article warns that the pollsters have have had a string of recent misses, including the landslide margin of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron last year, the victory for the “No” vote in the 2014 Scottish referendum, and even the margin of President Obama’s 2012 victory.

On the other hand, Rajiv Sethi is an economics professor at Barnard College who said in the story that “The consensus among people who’ve studied them is that the prediction markets are at the frontier of forecasting accuracy.”

The evidence?

In the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, the most popular of prediction markets — Irish-based Intrade — correctly called the outcome for all but one state. While the online exchange abruptly shut down in 2013, millions of dollars continue to trade hands on other platforms, like U.K.-based Betfair and Ladbrokes, which successfully predicted the outcomes of the Scottish referendum vote, the 2016 London mayoral election, and the U.K.’s 2015 general elections, among other events.
– via WSJ

The latest odds on Betfair have demonstrated that the betting money has swung way back to the side of the “Remain” camp, reaching some 76 percent in recent betting.

So where’s your money, “Remain” or “Leave”?

Written by TurboTodd

June 22nd, 2016 at 6:22 pm

IBM Unveils New Tools to Speed Development of IoT Apps on IBM Cloud

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IBM has announced advancements for Bluemix OpenWhisk, its event-driven programming model which utilizes Docker containers.

The new tools will allow developers to build feature-rich, intuitive apps which easily connect into the Internet of Things, as well as tap into advanced services such as cognitive, analytics and more – without the need to deploy and manage extra infrastructure.

The new tools, NPM Module and Node-RED, will enable developers to more rapidly build event-driven apps, which automatically execute user code in response to external actions and events.

IBM will also begin rolling out new updates to the OpenWhisk user experience to make it easier for developers to create these portable, intelligent apps, including step-by-step workflows, new wizards to configure third party services and feeds, and a new editor to manage sequences of actions.
OpenWhisk, which runs on Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, is one of the only serverless models which enables developers to deploy their code as Docker containers, transforming how containers and OpenWhisk can be used together to innovate. Unlike other platforms, developers can immediately begin building with containers on Bluemix, without the hassle of configuring and connecting prerequisite programs and code. 
For more information on how developers can use OpenWhisk to manage Docker containers as serverless functions, visit: http://developer.ibm.com/openwhisk/?p=821

Written by TurboTodd

June 22nd, 2016 at 1:40 pm

India Eases Foreign Firm Investment

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The Boston Globe is reporting that India announced far-reaching measures on Monday to ease foreign investment in a variety of sectors, including defense, civil aviation, pharmaceuticals, retail, food trade, and broadcasting.

The sweeping reforms are aimed at shoring up confidence in the Indian economy among foreign investors at a time of global uncertainty arising out of fears ahead of Britain’s vote on whether to remain in the European Union, said analysts. The new measures also come two days after India’s globally known central banker Raghuram Rajan announced that he would quit after his term ends in September, a step that disappointed many economists and dampened the stock markets here early Monday.
– via BostonGlobe.com

This past Friday, IBM furthered its own investments in India by hosting an event in Bangalore (and via livestream) for cloud and software developers across the subcontinent.

Research firm Evans Data projects that by 2018, India will have 5.2 million software developers, a nearly 90% increase over the past decade.

You can learn more about the announcements made at IBM DeveloperConnect here, and watch the livestream replay of the event here.

Written by TurboTodd

June 21st, 2016 at 3:59 pm

China Tech Is On The March

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China tech is on the march, and not just in China.

First, Huawei has a new Microsoft Surface competitor called the “Matebook.” will arrive in the U.S. on July 11th, according to Engadget, and will cost $699.

Speeds and feeds: 12-inch laptop/tablet hybrid, 1.4 pounds, 6.9 millimeters thin, stylus pen accessory, 2,160×1,440 pixels, various storage options (4GB, 8GB RAM, 128GB to 512GB SSDs).

Next, ZTE is expected to introduce its flagship smartphone on June 28th in Beijing, reports TechTimes, but it may also launch in the U.S. simultaneously (may being the key word).

Speeds and Feeds: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor (2.15GHz), at least 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, 8-megapixel front-facing camera, 2,900 mAh battery.

Next, Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. is paying $8.6B to buy an 84.3 percent state in the maker of “Clash of Clans” mobile game. That deal values the Finnish game maker at $10.2B, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Walmart is selling its Chinese venture, Yihaodian, to JD.com (a Chinese rival) in exchange for a staken in the Chinese e-commerce giant. JD.com is based out of Beijing and is China’s second largest e-commerce company, according to C:NET, with $28B profit in 2015.

And on the supercomputing front, China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer using domestic chip technology.

The Sunway TaihuLight more than triples the speed of the former record-holder, Tianhe-2, reports The Verge, and is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second.

Speeds and Feeds: 41,000 chips, each with 260 processor cores (for a total of 10.65M cores), 1.3 petabytes of memory, and drawing just 15.2 megawatts of power. That test performance is approximately five times faster than the leading U.S. system ranked in the most recent rankings.

The Sunway TaihuLight is expected to be used in the fields of manufacturing, life science, and earth system modeling.

Written by TurboTodd

June 21st, 2016 at 2:08 pm


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Once again, my invite to the Cannes Advertising Festival got lost in my SPAM folder (or maybe it wouldn’t fit in my snail mail box??)

So I decided to take a virtual tour instead, and AdAge gave me a big lift up with a story about how much stuff costs there.

You can read the full story here, but some excerpts with my commentary added in bold.

$22,715: Price of a Yacht Pass — I’m going to have to pass on this one, as my john boat is currently getting a restoration so I can fish for something other than large-mouthed bass. But it’s good to know I could have a place to park my “yacht” for future Cannes.

$161: Price of Black Angus chateaubriand from La Palme d’Or restaurant — I’m partial to steak frites, so no major loss here.

$1,398: Cost of duplicate trophies for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lions — Question: Do those trophies have any drone capabilties? Like, can they fly around CANNES and pick up and deliver my steak frites?

$404: Entry fee for least expensive categories (Design and Product Design) — So much for user experience. Designers, please take a number to get into that afterparty.

$1,565: Entry fee for priciest category (Titanium) — These are “creative ideas that point to a new direction for the industry and redefine the creative landscape.” Sounds like the perfect category for Don Draper!

$4,194: Price of VIP pass for delegates — Hopefully that comes with at least a bottle or two of Veuve Clicquot!

Party like it’s 1999 while you can, CANNESers!!!

Big data-driven, digital performance marketing requires no champagne, no yacht slips, no chateaubriand….and it never, ever stops working — not even for CANNES.

Written by TurboTodd

June 20th, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Dell Software Sold For ~$2B, Twitter Buys A Magic Pony

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Austin area’s Dell Inc. has agreed to sell its software unit to buyout firm Francisco Partners Management LLC, along with the new private equity arm of hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., according to a report from BloombergTechnology.

The sale of the unit, which is focused on advanced analytics, database management and data protection, will help Dell make good on its commitment to shed non-core assets as it nears completion of its $67 billion purchase of EMC. Terms weren’t provided in the statement released Monday.
– via Bloomberg.com

The price was estimated at a little over $2B, reported Bloomberg.

In other Monday M&A news, Twitter acquired machine learning firm Magic Pony Technology for $150M.

Based in London, Magic Pony has developed neural network techniques to provide expanded data for images, but judging from TechCrunch’s rundown, one wonders if this is largely an acquihire to build up Twitter’s AI talent bench.

Written by TurboTodd

June 20th, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Game of Bones

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It was quite the weekend in sport.

The Copa America 2016 continued on, with Argentia not crying for Venezuela, whom they beat 4-1, and Mexico-Chile, with Chile providing the Mexican team with a 7-0 drubbing.

If you watched the final round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, you will know that there was an unprecedented ruling announced after the fact against golfer Dustin Johnson, the peculiarities of which aren’t worth going into.

The ruling left a cloud of doubt lingering over the leaderboard for the rest of the round, and raised questions of how the USGA ruling body exerts its authority during a major golf tournament.

In response, the normally calm golf crowd turned to social media and into an unruly mob, ready to storm the 19th hole and have the head of golf officials everywhere!

Ultimately, the after-the-fact imposed one-stroke penalty on DJ (which the crowd chanted as Johnson walked modestly up the 18th fairway of historic Oakmont) wasn’t enough to keep him from (FINALLY!) taking his first major championship.

In the meantime, real heads were rolling in the always sporting fictional universe of “Game of Thrones” as the “Battle of the Bastards” episode last night brought things…dare I write it…to a head.

Many heads, in fact. And many arms. And legs. And much blood and guts.

I’d venture to say that had to be the single bloodiest episode of any TV show I’ve seen maybe ever.

But this was no deus ex machina, this was the real deal showdown that the warring factions in the show’s world promised, and so the denouement was delivered in brutal fashion, even if this viewer had to wince once in a while at all the gore.

Not your typical Sunday night sporting event, but it certainly exhausted me, as I was watching that because I wasn’t watching the NBA final between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, which somehow, amazingly, as if by random chance, Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series, bringing Cleveland its first major sports franchise victory since way back sometime in the last century.

With all the referee and rules controversies in sports these days, I wonder how long it will be before our artificially intelligent overlords start to provide more objective oversight of our very human sporting endeavors.

Ref Watson, anyone?

Written by TurboTodd

June 20th, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Keeping An Eye Out For The Turbulence Ahead

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Have you ever been on that plane ride? The one where everything is going so smoothly, just cruising along at 40,000 feet and playing a little Angry Birds, and then out of nowhere, the turbulence?

I know I’ve been in some doozies, where the turbulence was so bad I thought the wings were gonna snap. But the costs from those bumps are not just in passenger stress.

Every year, turbulence incidents cost airlnes some $100 million due to crew and passenger injuries, unscheduled maintenance, operational inefficiencies, and lost revenues while planets are out of service.

To help improve aviation safety and hopefully avoid some of those bumps, The Weather Company, an IBM Business, has announced a groundbreaking deal with Gogo Business Aviation that will enable the delivery of real-time turbulence reports and alerts directly to pilots, dispatch and other operations personnel.

Mark Gildersleeve, president of business solutions at The Weather Company, announced today at The Weather Company Aviation Conference that Gogo will be implementing Weather’s patented Turbulence Auto PIREP System (TAPS), a turbulence detection algorithm, on their aircraft-based communications server.

The TAPS software will reside on Gogo’s server, which provides access to the necessary data generated by the aircraft to create reports of turbulence intensity. Gogo’s US-based air-to-ground and global satellite communication network is used to send the reports for immediate action in flight operations and weather forecasting. This is the first time a non-traditional system on the aircraft will be used to help enhance flight safety.

Traditionally, flight operations personnel, pilots and aviation meteorologists received coded verbal reports with limited information on flight conditions, also known as PIREPS.

Due to multiple reasons, including a lack of cockpit data connectivity, pilots were not able to get real-time updates. Using the Gogo network, pilots in the cockpit will now be able to access real-time turbulence reports and forecaster created alerts through Weather’s flight planning and operations applications like WSI Fusion and WSI Pilotbrief, and aircraft communication displays.

“Leveraging Gogo’s expanded fleet of aircrafts, The Weather Company can quickly share real-time turbulence data directly with pilots and dispatchers, thereby improving crew and passenger safety,” said Gildersleeve. “It is a great example of the Internet of Things in action, where we are collecting massive amounts of data very quickly and then using that insight to provide guidance to all flights that will be traveling through impacted air space.”

In addition to real-time alerting, Weather will be able to leverage the TAPS reports to continually improve turbulence forecasts, the skill of Weather’s overall forecast model, and the WSI Total Turbulence solution. 

Some customers of WSI Total Turbulence have seen a reduction in turbulence injuries and unnecessary turbulence-induced maintenance inspection by about 50% each. The reports will also empower Weather’s team of 40 aviation meteorologists to alert clients of weather-related safety risks globally.

For more information on WSI Total Turbulence, visit business.weather.com.

Written by TurboTodd

June 16th, 2016 at 2:03 pm

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