PSC Labs 2018 review

PSC Labs was founded in 2015 to provide unbiased, vendor-agnostic technology insights. Our mission is to ensure client
delivery excellence and new solution offerings through the adoption of emerging technologies.

For more information check us out at https://labs.psclistens.com

2018 review

PSC Labs undertook a wide-variety of projects in 2018. From Robot Process Automation to Event Driven Architecture seven projects were undertaken to improve our understanding of these technologies/capabilities.

Blockchain

The team looked into how Blockchain worked and then on a more practical level looked specifically into Ethereum and the ability to incorporate Smart Contracts into the chain. We looked at the services provided by various cloud vendors and found that at the time, the examples for implementations were on a very large scale.

Blockchain is not difficult to understand technically, but the broad questions about scalability, long term viability and adoption though are still quite open ended.

Custom Vision API

The team looked at the newly released Azure Cognitive Services Image process capabilities and built a custom app capable of recognizing every day images. The application built on top of a Xamarin iOS mobile app provides a user with the ability to take a number of pictures of an object, from different angles, and store them within the application.

The Azure Cognitive Services are used to generate a Machine Learning model which can then be downloaded back to the device. The application is then capable of using the camera to identify objects with a predicted level of accuracy.

Grouping Models Training The Model Running Locally

The investigation team successfully demonstrated the ability to build a real-world application around the Azure Cognitive Service.

Azure/AWS IoT

The team investigated the IoT services available in Azure and AWS. To build on the previous work the Labs had done with GE’s Predix platform, these investigation teams were focused on using the available abstraction services from the cloud vendors and not on the low level device/data interaction.

We discovered that both platforms were very good at easily setting up the ability to handle data ingestion from devices. The ease of setup on the device to allow for secure authenticated transmission of data was simple and easy to understand in both cases.

The Azure platform service stood out however with their Azure IoT Suite and Remote Monitoring. Once the data ingestion was set up, the IoT Suite enabled us to create a monitoring dashboard and set controls for performance monitoring. The ability to configure limits for data and automate notifications based on those limits promise considerable potential.

The Azure IoT Suite highlighted how far IoT as a service has come in a short period of time and is a viable solution to any company seeking to set up and start to take advantage of the burgeoning IoT landscape.

Fly.io

The investigation team looked at the intriguing concept of a programmable CDN and the promise of being able to enhance website performance without having to change any of the code on the site directly. An example of this capability would be the adding of a watermark to an image. The Fly.io server would proxy in between the image server and programmatically add the watermark. The watermarked version of the image would then be cached for the next user, at the CDN closer to the user than the original image on the server.

The fly.io Edge Application runtime is an open core Javascript environment built for proxy servers. It gives developers powerful caching, content modification, and routing tools.

The runtime is based on V8, with a proxy-appropriate set of Javascript libraries. There are built in APIs for manipulating HTML and Image content, low level caching, and HTTP requests/responses. When possible, we use WhatWG standards (like fetch, Request, Response, Cache, ReadableStream).

The team found that the implementation of Fly.io as a developer was not complex and the examples provided were easy to set up and run. But overall the team found that this capability feels more like a solution waiting for a problem.

Event Driven Architecture

Kafka

At the start of 2018, as part of their 10 technologies to watch Gartner declared “Event Driven Architectures” as something to pay attention to. The Labs team looked into Kafka specifically although there are others (Azure Event Hub being one) with this in mind. Kafka was originally a project created by LinkedIn to handle their massive data volume and was subsequently open sourced through the Apache foundation.

The team created a demo application which ingested data from an HR application managing people and their records. From the input of the data multiple complex processes were initiated and executed by the event driven architecture. The response of the application, even running locally was very impressive.

Robot Process Automation

UIPath

While Robot Process Automation (RPA) is not a new technology, it’s coming to the forefront of business rapidly. With VC funding for major RPA vendors more prevalent (AutomationAnywhere, UIPath), it demonstrates the capacity for the market to absorb this new technology quickly.

RPA as an industry is all about the automation of repetitive mundane tasks, such as manual data entry into multiple systems. Many companies have long established manual business processes, mainly due to the cost to automate the process. RPA can help address this problem by accurately and repeatedly following the same steps a person would.

We looked at UIPath as a vendor for RPA and looked into the more advanced capabilities of the platform. We created an ability for a code check-in process within AzureDevOps, to trigger a build process chain and instruct the RPA robot to automate a UI test through a browser. If the robot found a failure it created a bug within AzureDevOps related to the failing test.

RPA is mature and already being used across many industries, there is significant opportunity for cost effective savings for companies to use RPA.

GraphQL

GraphQL is a technology created by Facebook in response to a problem they found themselves when facing a growth model based on a service-based architecture. As Facebook pages grew in complexity and functionality, the number of services being called increased and caused various performance issues. The PSC labs team set up to investigate whether or not GraphQL would be applicable to the projects we were planning to work on in the future.

The investigation team took an existing mobile application where the load time was in excess of 10 seconds and was able, using GraphQL, to reduce the load time of the page by over 50%. In a case where the user was on a mobile network with high latency the loading speed was increased by over 65%.

GraphQL has many advantages for a developer and project team when considering a services architecture, from the creation of a standard endpoint, to the reduction in network calls and speed of time to page load, it proved itself very valuable.

 

Conclusion

PSC Labs had another successful year investigating many broad technology innovations. As in previous years, some of the projects show great promise and we will be working on new iterations of them in 2019.

If you want to find out more about PSC Labs and/or have an interesting project you would like us to share with you please contact

info@psclistens.com for more information

 

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PSC Hosted Meetup: Internet of Things (IOT) in the Cloud and Why Industries Care

I approached the IBM Cloud Chicago team, back in November last year,  about hosting an Bluemix focused Meetup event in the Chicago suburbs during a lunchtime. I felt that downtown Chicago from 6-8pm on a weekday evening excludes a large number of people who would otherwise like to attend, and they agreed!

With that in mind we set a plan in motion to organize a meeting and get some of the IoT industry’s foremost experts to come and share their knowledge and experience with us. In Skip Snyder and Mark Peterson, I believe we have accomplished just that.

I met Skip and Mark last week when I was at InterConnect in Las Vegas. They gave me a preview of what was in store for this meetup and I am really excited about it. This meetup is going to be very industry focused and deal with the “why should I?” not so much of the “how do I?”. There are going to be some very pertinent examples from real industry engagements IBM has worked on.

If you are in the area and able to attend please follow the link below, it’s going to be very informative.

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 (12:00 PM to 1:30 PM)

http://www.meetup.com/Chicago-PaaS-Bluemix-and-Cloud-Computing-Meetup/events/227294136/

This event is designed for business leaders and executives to understand from a business perspective what  Internet of Things (IOT) is, how technology has changed driving IOT’s dominance in business discussions today and then focus on IOT case studies.

Case studies will be used to demonstrate how companies  are changing the way they engage do business because of what IOT makes possible.  The focus industries examples will come from Manufacturing, Transportation Logistics and Healthcare.

Skip Synder IBM Partner – Internet Of Things and Asset Management, Global CoC, Global Business Services and Mark Peterson Partner and Global Lead, Predictive Analytics, Internet of Things and Asset Management IBM Global Business Services will be the speakers for the event.

 

 

We will be following this meetup in a month or so with a developer focused Bluemix “How?” meetup which will be hands on with the actual technology.