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IDG Contributor Network: 5 machine learning trends that will define 2017

May 15, 2017 - 12:29pm

Machine learning has been quietly working in the background for years, powering mobile applications and search engines. But recently it has become a more widely circulated buzzword, with virtually all recent technological advancements involving some aspect of machine learning. An impressive rise in data and computing capabilities has made this exponential progress possible. 

The remarkable growth in sophistication and applications of machine learning will define the technological trends of 2017. Their effects will depend on whether the application adds value and benefits to society as a whole and whether it has the potential to solve real world problems. Here are the five major trends that will define machine learning in 2017.

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U.S. law allows low H-1B wages; just look at Apple

May 15, 2017 - 11:00am

If you work at Apple's One Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino as a computer programmer on an H-1B visa, you can can be paid as little as $52,229. That's peanuts in Silicon Valley. Average wages for a programmer in Santa Clara County are more than $93,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the U.S. government will approve visa applications for Silicon Valley programmers at $52,229 -- and, in fact, did so for hundreds of potential visa holders at Apple alone.

To be clear, this doesn't mean there are hundreds of programmers at Apple working for that paltry sum. Apple submitted a form to the U.S. saying it was planning on hiring 150 computer programmers beginning June 14 at this wage. But it's not doing that.

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How Airbnb rebuilt its employee-facing data resource portal on top of a graph database

May 15, 2017 - 7:38am

Airbnb has completely rebuilt its employee-facing data resource portal in an attempt to democratise reports and dashboards and to encourage a data-driven approach across the organisation.

The portal provides access to information such as sales data, user metrics or app performance and is now accessible to all Airbnb staff, be it a data scientists, software engineer or customer service agent.

Speaking at graph database vendor Neo4j's annual GraphConnect conference in London yesterday software engineer John Bodley and Airbnb data visualisation engineer, Chris Williams, explained how they rebuilt the back and front-ends of its employee-facing data portal.

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Western Digital dispute with Toshiba heads for arbitration

May 15, 2017 - 6:03am

Western Digital is seeking arbitration, demanding that its consent has to be taken before Toshiba can go ahead with plans to sell a stake in its memory business to raise funds.

The storage technology company acquired SanDisk last year and has been rumored to be a bidder for a stake in the Toshiba memory business, which has reportedly attracted a large number of other bidders including Apple and Foxconn Technology. SanDisk has been a long-term partner of Toshiba, with the two companies collaborating in the fabrication of nonvolatile memories, but is not seen as a front-runner in the auction.

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How a logistics firm leverages SD-WAN for competitive advantage

May 12, 2017 - 7:01pm

A gamble on a relatively unknown technology four years ago is paying off for a logistics company, which is using the software to shave millions of dollars off its bandwidth connectivity costs. Today freight forwarding company JAS Global is leveraging a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) to run cloud applications, according to JAS CIO Mark Baker. Eventually, Baker hopes to use the SD-WAN as the backbone of a predictive analytics strategy to grow the business.

SD-WANs allow companies to set up and manage networking functionality, including VPNs, WAN optimization, VoIP and firewalls, using software to program traffic routing typically conducted by routers and switches. Just as virtualization software disrupted the server market, SD-WANs are shaking the networking equipment market.

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Coca Cola’s investments in startups is the real thing for innovation

May 12, 2017 - 2:55pm

SAN MATEO, CALIF. – Coca-Cola as an incubator for fast-growing startups? It may seem an odd match, but Alan Boehme, chief innovation officer at the $42 billion beverage giant, says it’s a smart move.

[ Related: 8 tech startup trends to watch in 2017 ]

“You can’t innovate in a vacuum, you need to reach out to partners and customers,” Boehme said at the CIO Perspectives conference here this week. “We scan the broad spectrum of trends, and get inspiration from -- not trying to solve specific business problems because that is incremental - but where we have to go.”

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IDG Contributor Network: Can Amazon maintain its AI dominance?

May 12, 2017 - 12:22pm

Amazon is winning the home assistant wars, and the tech company took another step forward on Tuesday by unveiling the Echo Show, a touchscreen version of the Amazon Echo. The Echo Show practically combines the Echo with a tablet, meaning that it can play videos, perform video calls, and even display the lyrics to the a song it is playing.

The Echo Show has prompted some privacy concerns as well as controversy about whether Amazon ripped off a partner’s product to build the Echo Show. But regardless of how successful the Echo Show may be, Amazon has secured a decisive advantage in the home assistant wars. Investor’s Business Daily notes that Amazon has an estimated 70 percent of the home assistant market and has sold over 10 million Echo devices altogether, compared to 24 percent for Google and the Google Assistant.

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Mixed reviews for Trump’s Executive Order on cybersecurity

May 12, 2017 - 12:00pm

The reviews of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) on cybersecurity were coming in within hours of its signing yesterday afternoon, and they were most definitely mixed.

There was general agreement that the intent of the EO – delayed more than three months from late-January, when it was originally scheduled to be signed – was good.

Several experts called it “a good start,” and a few, including Jacob Olcott, vice president at BitSight and former legal advisor to the Senate Commerce Committee and counsel to the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, thought it was much better than a good start.

Olcott called it, “smart policy and a big win for this administration.”

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This Mother’s Day, a look at women in IT

May 12, 2017 - 11:00am

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. It is a time to celebrate the women who have helped shape our lives, and to recognize their achievements. For women in tech, those successes happen both in the office and at home (and sometimes work and home overlap). For the past three years, Computerworld has asked IT pros who are also moms for their tips and tricks for balancing work life with home life, and to share some stories about when the two worlds collide.

This Mother’s Day, we are taking a different approach by stepping back to take a wider look at women in tech. Computerworld has been covering this topic for years, but now we have gathered many of these related articles here, in one place.

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CIO Career Coach: Bringing a product management mindset to IT

May 12, 2017 - 8:00am
In a world where software drives revenue for many organizations, blogger Martha Heller demonstrates the importance of bringing a product management mindset to IT.

Waymo, Uber dispute referred to US attorney for investigation

May 12, 2017 - 6:21am

A lawsuit by Waymo, alleging the use by rival Uber Technologies of stolen trade secrets relating to autonomous vehicle technology, has been referred by a federal judge to a U.S. attorney, raising the possibility of a criminal prosecution.

“This case is referred to the United States Attorney for investigation of possible theft of trade secrets based on the evidentiary record supplied thus far concerning plaintiff Waymo LLC’s claims for trade secret misappropriation,” wrote Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California late Thursday.

“The Court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney,” Judge Alsup added.

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This Microsoft wearable is helping Parkinson's patients write again

May 11, 2017 - 9:42pm

Emma Lawton is finally able to write her name again. The 33-year-old graphic designer was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease back in 2013. It's a progressive movement disorder that took away her ability to draw and write -- until now. 

It's all thanks to a wearable with her namesake designed by Microsoft researcher, Haiyan Zhang, who was inspired to help Lawton after the two met in London. The device pairs with a tablet that controls the wearable's vibrations. Something about the vibrations is enough to block the feedback loop between Lawton's hand and brain, easing her tremors and allowing her to write and draw once again. 


Haiyan Zhang and Emma Lawton show off the Emma Watch during Microsoft's Build event in Seattle, Washington, on May 10, 2017. 

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A woman with Parkinson's can write again thanks to a Microsoft wearable

May 11, 2017 - 7:57pm
Microsoft has developed a prototype wearable device that pairs with a tablet to counteract some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

EDF wants AI to optimize its nuclear power stations and the smart home

May 11, 2017 - 6:12pm

EDF Energy is looking to use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help make its nuclear power stations more efficient and to reduce customer's home energy consumption.

Speaking at the AI Summit in London this week, David Ferguson, head of digital innovation at EDF joked that the tech sector mantra -- originating with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook -- to "move fast and break things" doesn't really work when the environment you work in includes nuclear power stations.

Despite working in a "historically cautious industry" Ferguson said that there is plenty of room for digital innovation in energy, especially in improving the mostly manual, paper-based processes currently in place.

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How Uber for Business helps the ridesharing company grow

May 11, 2017 - 4:57pm

Uber, like the smartphones and wireless networks that enable it, entered the enterprise market uninvited or at least unbeknownst to most levels of management. However, since late 2014 Uber has been developing more direct relationships through a specialized service for enterprises that assists companies with billing, reporting and management.

The 8-year-old company is now the most expensed line item for business travel -- ahead of Starbucks -- and ground transportation accounts for half of all business expense line items overall, says Travis Bogard, Uber’s global head of enterprise. “Companies started using Uber a lot because employees started using Uber a lot,” he tells

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DHS 'likely' to expand laptop ban on flights

May 11, 2017 - 4:48pm

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is considering expanding existing bans on laptops and other large electronic devices on flights, a situation that could pose a nightmare for many business travelers.

DHS spokesman David Lapan said via email early Thursday that "no decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however it is under consideration."

He added that there was no announcement of any expansion on Thursday, contrary to some reports, saying, "When there are changes, we'll announce that. DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe," Lapan added.

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Why digital disruption leaves no room for bimodal IT

May 11, 2017 - 4:20pm

Saying bimodal IT is dead may be a tad premature. But as digital disruption continues to sweep across sectors -- driven by companies such as, Uber and Airbnb -- two-speed IT is beginning to look and feel antiquated. Some CIOs and consultants argue that the operating model hinders innovation at a time when companies must accelerate their digital initiatives.

Introduced by Gartner in 2014, bimodal IT splits technology departments into two groups: a stable mode (Mode 1) where the bulk of technology is carefully cultivated and refined and a second mode (Mode 2) that espouses experimentation, free-thinking and agility. Forking IT into separate tracks made sense a few years ago, as many CIOs worked to plug gaps in talent, process and technology, Forrester Research analyst Matthew Guarini tells

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Every day should be Bring Your Child to Work day

May 11, 2017 - 12:01pm

My 6-year-old was sick a few weeks ago. It started with the normal whine I'm sure most parents are used to hearing on a school day: "I don't feeeeel goooood."

I immediately suspected he was faking. He'd been fine the night before. He got a decent night's sleep. He didn't look sick -- but just as I was about to roll my eyes and tell him, "Too bad, you're going to school," he pushed past me and threw up all over the bathroom floor.

OK. Guess he was serious.

I cleaned him up, mopped the floor, got him settled on the couch with cartoons, Saltines and some ginger ale, called the school and got ready to go to work. In this regard, I'm especially lucky. I have the freedom to work from home and I have a great boss-slash-editor who gets it. But I realize not everyone is so lucky.

All I had to do was dash off a quick message: "Hey, my son is sick, so I'm keeping him home from school with me today," and I was good to go. I don't have to change much to make this work, aside from moving my laptop to the kitchen table instead of my home office and locking the door if I have to do an interview. My editor and I had a good laugh when I realized it was "Take Your Child to Work Day." The thing is, all working parents should be that lucky; if we're going to improve diversity in tech -- and that includes increasing the number of women -- we have to accommodate working parents. One way to do that is normalizing kids in the workplace.

Sabrina Parsons, who's been the CEO of Palo Alto Software for 10 years, is a huge advocate of this idea, and she's been putting it into practice for quite some time. Her three kids have accompanied her to the office and even on business trips, and it's been of great benefit for her personally, but also her company and her kids.

"The whole concept of 'Take your child to work day' is so indicative of how corporate America is still stuck in this post-World War II, Mad Men-type idea of the workplace. That's so not the reality for the majority of working parents, especially working moms. And there's a huge number of single working moms -- and dads for that matter -- who are left out of the conversation altogether. Companies need to have a realistic view of their employees as complete, whole people with lives and families, and help them balance and juggle all of these elements," Parsons says.

As a CEO, she's empowered to make child- and family-friendly policies available and accessible to her workforce, because she understands that without them, people would have to make an impossible choice.

"If you have a family member who needs you -- whether it's a sick child, or a parent or a spouse -- and you're not 'allowed' to take the time to help them, well, that's just not right. No one in the world wants to put their company before their family, and if you are a company forcing your employees to make that choice? You're going to lose, every time, and in every meaningful way," Parsons says.

You might be able to get away with it for a while, but as soon as a better opportunity comes up, you'd better believe those employees you penalized for taking care of their families are going to walk out the door and never look back. And they'll tell their friends, their families, their new co-workers -- seriously, it's just the wrong way to do business, Parsons says.

Policies that allow workers to bring their kids with them aren't as impossible or as disruptive as they sound, either. Older kids can do homework, read, draw or play games on an iPad or a laptop. Parsons and I agreed that the toddler ages, from about 1 to 3, might not work as well, but younger kids and babies sleep a lot -- and really, who wouldn't love to hold a cute baby at work?

Marissa Mayer famously took a whole lot of crap for having a nursery installed next to her office when she took over at Yahoo, but it's actually a pretty smart idea. If only every working mom had that luxury -- and if only the rest of Yahoo's workforce was able to do that. But, I digress.

It's also great for the kids. Parsons' kids have a unique understanding of the inner workings of a software company, and they're exposed to a lot of different people and experiences, and a completely different side of their mom.

"My kids know how marketing works. They know what the role of software developers is. They've put together business plans and come up with their own ideas for products and projects -- it's important for them to be exposed to all this. I think we do our kids a major disservice if we're not showing them these sides of ourselves, and seeing how you can manage work and life and family at the same time," Parsons says.

While my own son doesn't get to come with me to an actual office, he loves talking to me about what I'm working on and who I spoke with on any particular day. On a personal level, he's learning by watching me multitask, plan, schedule and manage my workload both at home and on the job. He's also one of my biggest cheerleaders. One day, he informed a woman at the grocery store that his mom is a "famous" magazine writer who "talks to important people and writes stories about technology." OK, so maybe he inherited my tendency for exaggeration. I also think it's important for him to grow up seeing women in all of our roles -- not just as a mother -- because it normalizes it. And we all know Silicon Valley could do with a lot fewer stereotypes and discrimination and lot more women and inclusion.

"It's going to take all of us talking about these issues and pushing them to the forefront of workplace conversations until it's just a normal, everyday thing," Parsons says, and I absolutely agree. "Bring Your Child to Work Day" should be every day.

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GE Power's Ganesh Bell: How not to fail at digital transformation

May 11, 2017 - 11:00am
Chief Digital Officer Ganesh Bell shares the three keys to a successful digital transformation and explains how GE Power turned "digital exhaust" to $4 billion in new business.

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