Archive for December, 2017

Artificial Intelligence and The Future Of Jobs

December 28th, 2017

The job of IoT Evangelist working for SAP is  to go around and speak about how the Internet of Things is changing the way to live, work, and run our businesses. IoT Evangelist is a job title that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago – mainly because the Internet of Things wasn’t a “thing” 5 or 10 years ago. Today it is, so is the job of an IoT Evangelist.

The fact is, technological change has a tremendous impact on the way we spend our working lives. Many of today’s jobs didn’t exist in the past. Of course, the reverse is true as well: a lot of jobs – mostly tedious/manual labor of some variety, think miners, lift operators, or similar – have gone away.

Robots and much more

Much of the discussion today about the relationship between technology and jobs is a discussion about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Robots in manufacturing is the most obvious example. A lot of AI has to do with big data analysis and identifying patterns. Thus, AI is used in data security, financial trading, fraud detection, and those recommendations you get from Google, Netflix and Amazon.

But it’s also used in healthcare for everything from identifying better subjects for clinical trials to speeding drug discovery to creating personalized treatment plans. It’s used in autonomous vehicles as well – to adjust, say, to new local conditions on the road. Some say it’s also coming for professional jobs. Think about successfully appealing parking fines (currently home turf for lawyers), automated contract creation, or automated natural language processing (which someday could be used to write this blog itself – gulp!).

The spinning jenny

Will AI continue to take jobs away? Probably. But how many new jobs will it create? Think back to the spinning jenny – the multi-spindle spinning frame that, back in the mid-18th century, started to reduce the amount of work required to make cloth.

By the early 19th century, a movement known as the Luddites emerged where groups of weavers would go around smashing these machines as a form of protest against what we’d now call job displacement. But these machines helped launch the industrial revolution.

As a result of the spinning jenny’s increased efficiency, more people could buy more cloth – of higher quality, at a fraction of the cost. This led to a massive uptick in demand for yarn – which required the creation of distribution networks, and ultimately the need for shipping, an industry that took off in the industrial revolution.

As the spinning jenny came into use, it was continuously improved – eventually enabling a single operator to manage up to 50 spindles of yarn at a time. Other machines appeared on the scene as well. This greater productivity, and the evolution of distribution networks also meant there was a need for increasingly comprehensive supply chains to feed this productivity boom.

Muscle vs caring

Economists at Deloitte looked at this issue of technological job displacement – diving into UK census data for a 140-year period stretching from 1871 to 2011. What they found, not surprisingly perhaps, is that over the years technology has steadily taken over many of the jobs that require human muscle power.

Agriculture has felt the impact most acutely. With the introduction of seed drills, reapers, harvesters and tractors, the number of people employed as agricultural laborers has declined by 95% since 1871.

But agriculture is not alone. The jobs of washer women and laundry workers, for example, have gone away as well. Since 1901, the number of people in England and Wales employed for washing clothes has decreased 83% even though the population has increased by 73%.

Many of today’s jobs, on the other hand, have moved to what are known as the caring professions, as the chart below shows. The light blue bars represent muscle-powered jobs such as cleaners, domestics, miners, and laborers of all sorts; the dark blue, caring professions such as nurses, teachers, and social workers. As you can see, these have flipped.

The Deloitte study also points out that as wealth has increased over the years, so have jobs in the professional services sector. According to the census records analyzed, in England and Wales accountants have increased from 9,832 in 1871 to 215,678 in 2015. That’s a 2,094% increase.

And because people have more money in general, they eat out more often – leading to a fourfold increase in pub staff. They can also afford to care more about how they look. This has led to an increase in the ratio of hairdressers/barbers to citizens of 1:1,793 in 1871 to 1:287 today. Similar trends can be seen in other industries such as leisure, entertainment, and sports.

Where are we headed now?

Will broader application of AI and other technologies continue the trend of generating new jobs in unexpected ways? Most assuredly. Already we’re seeing an increased need for jobs such as AI ethicists – another role that didn’t exist 5-10 years ago.

The fact of the matter is that technology in general, and AI in particular will contribute enormously to a hugely changing labour landscape. As mentioned at the start of this post that the role in SAP as an IoT Evangelist – this is a role to no longer exist in 5 years time, because by then everything will be connected, and so the term Internet of Things will be redundant, in the same way terms like “Internet connected phone”, or “interactive website” are redundant today.

The rise of new technologies will create new jobs, not just for people working directly with the new technologies, but also there will be an increasing requirement for training, re-training, and educational content development to bring people up-to-speed.

Will there be enough of those jobs to go around – and will they pay enough to support a middle-class existence for those who hold them? That’s another question – but it’s one that’s stimulating a lot of creative, innovative ideas of its own as people think seriously about where technology is taking us.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and writer Tom Raftery



Get SAP Certification from your home ONLINE and at 1/6 of the cost!

December 18th, 2017

To my surprise, SAP has started delivering most of the certifications on SAP Cloud hub, a SAP Portal for Certification and Education, where you can register, pay and appear for the online proctor monitored exam from the comfort of your own home!

The best part is that you get a package of 6 exams in one fee of CAD$ 720 or USD$535 (subject to change as per SAP policies).

You can appear up to 3 times for the same exam (just in case you fail) or 6 separate modules of SAP.

Compare this cost with SAP training center or Pearson Vue based certification, where you pay CAD$ 720 for each exam or attempt irrespective if you fail or pass.

Here is more information:

  1. Find your SAP certification: List of SAP Certifications (Cloud certifications are marked by cloud)
  2. Book Cloud Certification (Canada)

Book Cloud Certification (US)

3. Appear for exam

Here are more blogs on similar topics:

SAP Cloud Certification

A general blog, how to pass SAP Certification

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Praveen Kumar





A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Blockchain

December 12th, 2017

You may have heard the term ‘blockchain’ and dismissed it as a fad, a buzzword, or even technical jargon. But blockchain is a technological advance that will have wide-reaching implications that will not just transform the financial services but many other businesses and industries.

A blockchain is a distributed database, meaning that the storage devices for the database are not all connected to a common processor.  It maintains a growing list of ordered records, called blocks. Each block has a timestamp and a link to a previous block.

Cryptography ensures that users can only edit the parts of the blockchain that they “own” by possessing the private keys necessary to write to the file. It also ensures that everyone’s copy of the distributed blockchain is kept in synch.

Imagine a digital medical record: each entry is a block. It has a timestamp, the date and time when the record was created. And by design, that entry cannot be changed retroactively, because we want the record of diagnosis, treatment, etc. to be clear and unmodified. Only the doctor, who has one private key, and the patient, who has the other, can access the information, and then information is only shared when one of those users shares his or her private key with a third party — say, a hospital or specialist. This describes a blockchain for that medical database.

Blockchains are secure databases by design.  The concept was introduced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, and then implemented for the first time in 2009 as part of the digital bitcoin currency; the blockchain serves as the public ledger for all bitcoin transactions. By using a blockchain system, bitcoin was the first digital currency to solve the double spending problem (unlike physical coins or tokens, electronic files can be duplicated and spent twice) without the use of an authoritative body or central server.

The security is built into a blockchain system through the distributed timestamping server and peer-to-peer network, and the result is a database that is managed autonomously in a decentralized way.  This makes blockchains excellent for recording events — like medical records — transactions, identity management, and proving provenance. It is, essentially, offering the potential of mass disintermediation of trade and transaction processing.

Some people have called blockchain the “internet of value” which is a good metaphor.

On the internet, anyone can publish information and then others can access it anywhere in the world. A blockchain allows anyone to send value anywhere in the world where the blockchain file can be accessed. But you must have a private, cryptographically created key to access only the blocks you “own.”

By giving a private key which you own to someone else, you effectively transfer the value of whatever is stored in that section of the blockchain.

So, to use the bitcoin example, keys are used to access addresses, which contain units of currency that have financial value. This fills the role of recording the transfer, which is traditionally carried out by banks.

It also fills a second role, establishing trust and identity, because no one can edit a blockchain without having the corresponding keys. Edits not verified by those keys are rejected.  Of course, the keys — like a physical currency — could theoretically be stolen, but a few lines of computer code can generally be kept secure at very little expense.  (Unlike, say, the expense of storing a cache of gold in a proverbial Fort Knox.)

This means that the major functions carried out by banks — verifying identities to prevent fraud and then recording legitimate transactions — can be carried out by a blockchain more quickly and accurately.

Why is blockchain important?

We are all now used to sharing information through a decentralized online platform: the internet. But when it comes to transferring value – money – we are usually forced to fall back on old fashioned, centralized financial establishments like banks. Even online payment methods which have sprung into existence since the birth of the internet – PayPal being the most obvious example – generally require integration with a bank account or credit card to be useful.

Blockchain technology offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating this “middle man”. It does this by filling three important roles – recording transactions, establishing identity and establishing contracts – traditionally carried out by the financial services sector.

This has huge implications because, worldwide, the financial services market is the largest sector of industry by market capitalization. Replacing even a fraction of this with a blockchain system would result in a huge disruption of the financial services industry, but also a massive increase in efficiencies.

But it is the third role, establishing contracts, that extends its usefulness outside the financial services sector. Apart from a unit of value (like a bitcoin), blockchain can be used to store any kind of digital information, including computer code.

That snippet of code could be programmed to execute whenever certain parties enter their keys, thereby agreeing to a contract.  The same code could read from external data feeds — stock prices, weather reports, news headlines, or anything that can be parsed by a computer, really — to create contracts that are automatically filed when certain conditions are met.

These are known as “smart contracts,” and the possibilities for their use are practically endless.

For example, your smart thermostat might communicate energy usage to a smart grid; when a certain number of wattage hours has been reached, another blockchain automatically transfers value from your account to the electric company, effectively automating the meter reader and the billing process.

Or, let’s return to our medical records example; if a doctor or patient issues a private key to a medical device, say a blood glucose monitor, the device could automatically and securely record a patient’s blood glucose levels, and then, potentially, communicate with an insulin delivery device to maintain blood glucose at a healthy level.

Or, it might be put to use in the regulation of intellectual property, controlling how many times a user can access, share, or copy something. It could be used to create fraud-proof voting systems, censorship-resistant information distribution, and much more.

The point is that the potential uses for this technology are vast, and that more and more industries will find ways to put it to good use in the very near future.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and writer Bernard Marr

How Safe are Blockchains? It Depends

December 6th, 2017

or intermittently active nodes. Nodes may go offline for innocuous reasons, but the network must be structured to function (to obtain consensus on previously verified transactions and to correctly verify new transactions) without the offline nodes, and it must be able to quickly bring these nodes back up to speed if they return.

Consensus Protocols and Access Permissions in Public vs. Private Blockchains

The process used to get consensus (verifying transactions through problem solving) is purposely designed to take time, currently around 10 minutes. Transactions are not considered fully verified for about one to two hours, after which point they are sufficiently “deep” enough in the ledger that introducing a competing version of the ledger, known as a fork, would be computationally expensive. This delay is both a vulnerability of the system, in that a transaction that initially seems to be verified may later lose that status, and a significant obstacle to the use of bitcoin-based systems for fast-paced transactions, such as financial trading.

In a private blockchain, by contrast, operators can choose to permit only certain nodes to perform the verification process, and these trusted parties would be responsible for communicating newly verified transactions to the rest of the network. The responsibility for securing access to these nodes, and for determining when and for whom to expand the set of trusted parties, would be a security decision made by the blockchain system operator.

Transaction Reversibility and Asset Security in Public vs. Private Blockchains

While blockchain transactions can be used to store data, the primary motivation for bitcoin transactions is the exchange of bitcoin itself; the currency’s exchange rate has fluctuated over its short lifetime but has increased in value more than fivefold over the past two years. Each bitcoin transaction includes unique text strings that are associated with the bitcoins being exchanged. Similarly, other blockchain systems record the possession of assets or shares involved in a transaction. In the bitcoin system, ownership is demonstrated through the use of a private key (a long number generated by an algorithm designed to provide a random and unique output) that is linked to a payment, and despite the value of these keys, like any data, they can be stolen or lost, just like cash. These thefts are not a failure of the security of bitcoin, but of personal security; the thefts are the result of storing a private key insecurely. Some estimates put the value of lost bitcoins at $950 million.

Private blockchain operators therefore must decide how to resolve the problem of lost identification credentials, particularly for systems that manage physical assets. Even if no one can prove ownership of a barrel of oil, the barrel will need to reside somewhere. Bitcoin currently provides no recourse for those who have lost their private keys; similarly, stolen bitcoins are nearly impossible to recover, as transactions submitted with stolen keys appear to a verifying node to be indistinguishable from legitimate transactions.

Private blockchain owners will have to make decisions about whether, and under what circumstances, to reverse a verified transaction, particularly if that transaction can be shown to be a theft. Transaction reversal can undermine confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the system, but a system that permits extensive losses as a result of the exploitation of bugs will lose users. This is illustrated by the recent case of the DAO(Decentralized Autonomous Organization), a code-based venture capital fund designed to run on Ethereum, a public blockchain-based platform. Security vulnerabilities in the code operating the DAO led to financial losses that required Ethereum’s developers to make changes to the Ethereum protocol itself, even though the DAO’s vulnerabilities were not the fault of the Ethereum protocol. The decision to make these changes was controversial, and underscores the idea that both public and private blockchain developers should consider circumstances under which they would face a similar decision.

Weighing the Rewards

The benefits offered by a private blockchain — faster transaction verification and network communication, the ability to fix errors and reverse transactions, and the ability to restrict access and reduce the likelihood of outsider attacks — may cause prospective users to be wary of the system. The need for a blockchain system at all presupposes a degree of mistrust, or at least an acknowledgement that all users’ incentives may not be aligned. Developers who work to maintain public blockchain systems like bitcoin still rely on individual users to adopt any changes they propose, which serves to ensure that changes are only adopted if they are in the interest of the entire system. The operators of a private blockchain, on the other hand, may choose to unilaterally deploy changes with which some users disagree. To ensure both the security and the utility of a private blockchain system, operators must consider the recourse available to users who disagree with changes to the system’s rules or are slow to adopt the new rules. The number of operating systems currently running without the latest patch is a strong indication that even uncontroversial changes will not be adopted quickly.

While the risks of building a financial market or other infrastructure on a public blockchain may give a new entrant pause, private blockchains offer a degree of control over both participant behavior and the transaction verification process. The use of a blockchain-based system is a signal of the transparency and usability of that system, which are bolstered by the early consideration of the system’s security. Just as a business will decide which of its systems are better hosted on a more secure private intranet or on the internet, but will likely use both, systems requiring fast transactions, the possibility of transaction reversal, and central control over transaction verification will be better suited for private blockchains, while those that benefit from widespread participation, transparency, and third-party verification will flourish on a public blockchain.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided byHarvard Business Review and writer Allison Berke