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Monitoring is heart of IoT

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Connected devices result in an increase in the volume of data flowing into companies. But, while companies are able to analyse the data, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels, writes WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG, Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.

We’re all becoming pretty familiar with the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT). Often, when thinking of the IoT, the first things that come to mind may be a wearable fitness tracker or a smartphone app that can control a thermostat. In fact, adoption of the IoT is so widespread that Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected things in the world. The IoT is not only having an effect on the consumer world. It is also driving rapid digital transformation in the realm of business. We’re already seeing IoT powering a wide range of applications across industries. For example, The William Tracey Group, one of the UK’s largest recycling management companies, is using the IoT to collect data from chipped wheelie bins, smart weighing arms on collection trucks and on-board computers. This data is then used to help enterprises protect the environment while creating new business opportunities.

The growing business case for connected things means that the volume of data flowing into companies’ data collections is increasing. However, whilst companies are able to analyse the volumes of data supplied by connected devices in order to improve decision-making processes and efficiency, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels as enterprises bring more connected devices online.

Implementing application performance monitoring (APM) establishes the end-to-end visibility IT needs in order to immediately identify what’s causing an application to perform poorly, so that the issue can be fixed before it escalates.

The challenges of IoT

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the IoT come to life. While users may be launching a simple app on their smartphone, there are a number of factors that go into making that simple digital experience work.

By considering how a wearable fitness tracker works, we can understand the complexity that can be constructed by the IoT. The user interface is simple, but the wristband is always working to send and receive information via Bluetooth from a smartphone, upload that information to a cloud-based app that analyses a range of metrics, including activity levels, nutrition, sleep quality and heart rate. The application then supplies that analysis to its dedicated smartphone app, and possibly also to other mobile and web-based applications.

Users expect all of this to occur in real-time. In order to meet these expectations, network communication and interdependent application processes taking place on a grid of distributed environments need to perform to perfection. If just one piece of this application fails, so will everything else.

The complexity of this process is further amplified if we consider a company managing a fleet of delivery vehicles such as UPS. UPS has installed a variety of connected devices their vehicles to monitor mileage, optimum speed and overall engine health– all in real-time. This enables the company to ensure the driver is driving safely, automatically schedule maintenance, and provide immediate updates to customers. The operation becomes even more complex when scaled across an entire fleet of vehicles.

Achieving seamless app performance

With businesses storing information in the cloud as well as on local systems – creating what are known as hybrid environments – and enabling employees to access that data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, the number of things that can go wrong within applications as well as within the network increases.

Monitoring the performance of all the applications and systems that run across hybrid networks has become more and more difficult, costly and time-consuming for IT. This is why many organisations are seeking the help of technology in order to achieve real-time visibility to oversee the performance of massively distributed applications. By implementing the use of specialised APM tools, companies can:

1.                   Monitor distributed applications and the underlying networks: By achieving complete visibility over the organisation’s apps, IT can examine the type of information flowing through the network and map out how it is being collected and shared between devices, applications, cloud services and the analytics systems. IT can then quickly identify if there are any issues affecting the end user experience.

2.                   Pinpoint the causes of bottlenecks or errors: IT can then identify the causes of information bottlenecks, determine which are affecting business critical processes, and address these first.

3.                   Look for opportunities to improve performance: Because APM tools continuously monitor applications and information transactions, IT can amass a wealth of information that can then be analysed for patterns in order to identify minor bugs before they become severe, or to seek opportunities for performance improvement.

What next?

Business-critical IoT applications now span both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments and end-users’ expectations are continuing to grow. IDC predicts that within three years, 50 per cent of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices, to being network constrained with nearly 10 per cent of sites being overwhelmed.

With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever to monitor the performance and availability of the business applications that employees and customers rely on so business productivity can increase. Companies need to be able to pre-empt an inevitable rise in the flow of data and ensure that they have adequate bandwidth to cope with this upsurge.

Application Performance Management tools can provide the end-to-end visibility and diagnostics necessary for identifying issues with complex networks and distributed applications as well as for taking action before issues escalate. Additionally, the detailed analytics provided by APM enables companies to not only take control of performance improvement, but to also evaluate the business impact of all applications in their network.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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