Kubernetes – a New Way to Bridge Cloud Infrastructures

As more businesses begin using Cloud computing, the concern over “lock-in” is increasing. For example, if a business chooses to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), the chance is that it will stay with Amazon Cloud for a while, since moving to another Cloud is expensive. If your company is using Office 365, the chance is that you are locked in with the Windows Azure. Your company’s emails and documents are stored in the Microsoft Cloud. This is how Microsoft obtains additional enterprise market with its integrated solution.

A friend told me that if he moved his product from AWS to Azure, it would cost him over $200,000. I replied, “Maybe you should have looked into RightScale, but then you would end up with a dependency on RightScale”.  There are tools like RightScale addressing the lock-in issues, and ultimately you will be locked in with a specific technology or vendor with these tools.

Last week, I attended a Cloud Talk Meetup session. Aja Hammerly, a developer advocate from Google Cloud platform was elaborating on the power of Kubernetes. AppOrbit, a Silicon Valley based start-up, demonstrated their platform that used Kubernetes.  Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration tool. It builds an abstract layer that can be used on top of different Cloud infrastructures. This presents a promising approach to solving the lock-in concerns.

The Kubernetes project was started by Google in 2014 and is now maturing. It is a platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts. According to Google, Kubernetes provides the following benefits:

  • Microservices: Having a cluster manager enables the management and scalability of smaller parts of an application.
  • Self healing: Auto-placement, auto start, auto-replication and auto-scaling can be performed in the face of failures.
  • Low friction horizontal scaling: Adding more capacity can be achieved easily.
  • High utilization and efficiency rates: Google was able to dramatically increase resource utilization and efficiency after moving to containers. Developers are able to focus more on the service they are building instead of on the underlying infrastructure.
  • Portable: It can be used on top of public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud.

It seems to me that Kubernetes has the true potential to make Cloud infrastructure interoperable. The key is to design an agnostic data base so that portability can be achieved for various Cloud infrastructures. I invite your comments about this type of database design. What are your experiences with Kubernetes?

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 6-5-2016]

Deep Learning

It’s a beautiful Friday night in Kirkland, WA. A Mandarin speaking meetup was hosted by the SeattleStartup on the subject of “Deep Learning” at 7:30pm. On my way there, I wondered who’s going to show up and why was Mandarin being used. By 7:40pm, to my surprise, there were 70+ young Chinese professionals in the room; a good number of Microsoft employees mixed with a good number of Amazon employees.

Deeplearning.net summarizes Deep Learning as follows: “Deep learning is a new area of Machine Learning research, which has been introduced with the objective of moving Marching Learning closer to one of its original goals: Artificial Intelligence.

This meetup agenda was as follows:

  1. Dr. Dong Yu, a principle researcher at Microsoft Research, Deep Learning Talk
  2. Panel Discussion about the Deep Learning Application with two AI companies:
  • Kitt AI founder Xuchen Yao and Guoguo Chen. Kitt AI is backed Paul Allen’s AI2, Amazon Alexa Fund and Madrona Venture.
  • Orbeus CEO Yi Li and her team. Orbeus was an AI startup from Silicon Valley in Image Recognition. It was acquired by Amazon and the company has recently moved to Seattle.

Dr. Yu introduced the basic concept of Deep Learning and described the key models such as Deep Neural Networks, Convolutional Neural Networks and Long Short-term Memory Recurrent Networks. He also illustrated the core design principles of Deep Learning models when introducing other new models.

He explained that Deep Learning is feasible only with the computer power and big data available today. It’s actually a rebranding and extension of neural networks. Among the three Deep Learning definitions he gave, the shortest one was “Any system that involves more than one layer of nonlinear processing”

He stated that Deep Learning’s essentials are:

  • Learn complicated feature representation through many layers of nonlinear processing
  • Learn representation automatically and jointly with classification (or whatever) tasks (end-to-end optimization)
  • Key: design the model structure and training criterion.

One of the examples given was AlphaGo; a computer program developed by Google DeepMind in London to play a board game.

AlphaGo’s deep learning is as follows

  • Supervised learning on expert games
  • Reinforcement learning; improve through self-play
  • Build a strategy network and a value network
  • Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) to determine moves through real-time play

Dr. Yu continued to explain Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

  • The intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can (Wikipedia)
  • An emerging field aiming at the building of “thinking machines”; i.e.: General purpose systems with intelligence comparable to that of the human mind (agi-society.org)
  • The general-purpose mechanisms and learning principles that allow machines to explore the world, form connects and clusters, develop and validate theories, learn and generalize from a small number of examples and reason and plan with uncertainty.

The Panel Discussion was quite interesting. In order to learn these two startup’s journey and products, the audience was very actively asking questions and obtaining information. Since these are Chinese startups, it seems using native language Mandarin is a natural way to network and brain storm. That answered my question: why Mandarin.

Personally, I was very happy to have the opportunity to learn about Deep Learning and was impressed by the positive energy brought by these young professionals. I see entrepreneurship emerging among the corporate employees and that’s a good sign. My next blog will explain my perspective about the entrepreneurial culture in corporation. Stay tuned!

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 5-3-16]

Wireless – A Vibrant and Growing Marketplace

Wireless is a vibrant world. I have been in this industry since 1992 and have never been bored with its rapid development.

My dad is 88 year old. Last year, I gave him my iPhone 4S so that we could do FaceTime. It has been a good experience which has made communication easier. Last month, his car was hit by another car. When I was notified, I rushed to the scene. He showed me the pictures he took with his phone. I was surprised that he remembered how to use the phone camera. Cell phones surely become a part of our everyday life.

My friend’s teen has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). He lost 3 trumpets this school year, but he didn’t lose his cell phone. We joked about it as I recalled that none of my three kids ever lost their phones either. Apparently, they were all intimately attached to their cell phones.

CTIA posted an analytics report last week that revealed some interesting data:

  • In 2014, the wireless industry generated $194.8 billion of domestic economic value (excluding imports and exports) in the US, up 34% from 2011.
  • In 2014, the wireless industry generated $282.1 billion in US GDP, up 44% from 2011.
  • The overall annual wireless consumer surplus in the US today is $640.9 billion.

There are 7 distinct groups of players in the industry according to the report:

  • Manufacturers that create, engineer and manufacture the devices
  • Wireless operators that sell and deliver services to users
  •  Retailers and third-party dealers that brings products to the public
  • Ad agencies that market products and services
  • Suppliers of equipment and services that provide hardware and know how
  • App providers that create a variety of apps engineered just for mobile devices
  • The on-demand economy

The wireless industry accounts directly for more than 4.6 million jobs and an induced employment of more than 7.0 million using the multiplier effect.

If you are interested in investing in the industry, check out this report “The Wireless Industry: Revisiting Spectrum, The Essential Engine of US Economic growth”  and familiarize yourself with the capacity and impact of this industry. If you are in your MBA program, the value chain model covered in the report could be an interesting case study.

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 4-15-16]

Keyword Trends – NFC vs IoT

** This blog was originally posted in LinkedIn on March 17th, 2016

In March 2015, I posted an article on the NFC Mobile Payment Trend in order to discuss the NFC Mobile Payment movement. Today, I did another trend analysis and want to share the data and insights.

It looks like “NFC/Near Field Communication” is still an interest and India is still the number one place that is interested in the technology. A search for “Mobile Payment” remains flat and the “Apply Pay” search went down after the initial launch in November 2014. To show the relative interest, I plugged in “IoT”. You can see that interest is picking up after 2015 but I am surprised to see the search trend is relatively low vs NFC.

India’s strong interest in NFC is not surprising. When you have a chance to read my post on “NFC In Action in an IoT World”, you would learn that NFC is making a huge difference in rural areas of India and saving children’s lives with the application of the Khushi baby (KB) necklace.

This insight encourages me to update my book, “Everyday NFC: Near Field Communication Explained”, to the 3rd edition since the interest remains high and NFC enables tons of connectivity in the IoT world. Please let me know if you have any NFC product or service to share with me and my readers.


A Smart Lock – NFC enabled Secure Access Control

** This blog was originally posted in the LinkedIn on March 1st, 2016

In February, I stayed at the Best Western Hotel twice; once in Vancouver BC and once in Denver. In BC, I noticed that I was given a chip card to unlock my hotel door by tapping the lock. In Denver, “ASSA ABLOY” was printed on my Best Western chip card so it became clear to me that Best Western has adopted the NFC technology from Assa Abloy.

Assa Abloy has been the leader for door opening solutions. The newer technology has been moving from using NFC chip smart cards to mobile keys; i.e. using your mobile phone to unlock the room with either Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC is a wireless protocol that transmits data within a 4 cm distance vs Bluetooth that transmits data within 32 ft.

Taiwan has deployed NFC chip cards for accessing buildings and homes. They are named “感應卡”i.e. “induction card” in direct translation but “proximity card” in real application. With Asia’s rapid adoption of NFC, this is not surprising to see a more wide usage of NFC locks and NFC chip cards replacing actual keys. It’s more environmental friendly and cost effective.

The disadvantage of using a proximity card is that it’s still another “thing” to carry around; even though it replaces keys. In order to use our phones to unlock the door lock, an infrastructure needs to be in place to sync the “key” in the phone and a door lock. That infrastructure can be simple or complex based on the applications. For hotels, the frequency of changing a mobile key will require a more sophisticated platform to be in place. A few companies are providing the solutions; for example: Assa Abloy, HID. This falls into NFC secure access control” category.

Today, the main block for deploying a mobile key is Apple’s lock on its NFC connectivity. Newer Apple mobile devices are all equipped with NFC but access is not open to public. You can enable NFC functionality from Settings on Windows or Android phones but not iPhones. Over 57 million of Apple devices (iPhones + iPad) were sold in Q4, 2015. Without Apple’s support, the future of mobile key will not be well positioned in the mass market.

Hopefully, this post has introduced you some new knowledge and provokes some innovative thoughts. Please share with us your thoughts.

Posted in NFC

Will Wearable Help Manage Our Lives?

** This blog was originally posted at LinkedIn January 29, 2016.

Many of us count on our mobile phones to track daily tasks and make connections.  I don’t think I could operate as efficiently if I don’t have one.  During this last holiday session, I got an Apple Watch as a gift. I was not sure it would be a useful tool for me. After wearing my Apple Watch for a month, I have a new realization – wearable technology will help manage our lives even more than mobile phones.

With Apple Watch’s alerts, I stand up when I am reminded. I answer a call without having to fumble in my purse for my phone. I see texts coming in and am able to reply via voice. I work out and know exactly how many calories are burned. I can also listen to music without my phone.

My daughter brings Apple Watch usage to the next level. She uses it to control her iPhone for taking family pictures, and its workout tracker and pedometer function integrates easily into her existing health and fitness apps. I am starting to wonder why anyone would ever return to wearing a watch that ONLY tells time.

Apple watch utilizes a near field communication (NFC) chip which can also be used to make mobile payments.  This function opens up the mobile payment world to iPhone5 users even though their phones are not NFC-enabled.  However, awkwardly positioning your wrist over a reader in order to enable the payment does take some getting used to.

Apple Watch interacts with iPhone through Bluetooth which transmit data within 32 feet. Thus, this range is roughly how far you can leave your iPhone away from the Apple Watch. Although the watch loses a lot of its functionality when it gets too far from my iPhone, it is still convenient not being entirely glued to my phone.

Do you use wearables? What are your insights about them? paring

NFC in Action in IoT World

KBNFCNear field Communication (NFC) is a technology similar to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). At the same time, it’s a powerful enabler. The nature of proximity connectivity realizes the potential of an Internet of Things (IoT). Khushi Baby is one example of the impact such products can make on the world.

Traditionally, haala khaago black thread is worn by Indian children for protecting them from the evil eye. The Khushi baby (KB) necklace is designed based on this tradition. However, the KB is also embedded with an NFC chip that can be scanned by health care providers with a mobile app in a cell phone to obtain the wearer’s immunization record. What is the significance of this technological addition that costs less than a dollar?

Over 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable disease each year. In under-developed countries, especially in isolated rural areas, a major barrier to healthcare and immunization provision is tracking health records.  With KB, a child’s data is synced to a cloud database and can be transformed into insights to be acted upon.  Currently, thousands of children are benefitting from simple and inexpensive this innovation.

Another example of NFC in action is the adoption by chip makers. Texas Instruments (TI) is marketing a new NFC-enabled transponder targeted at automotive infotainment apps. The RF430CL330H-Q1 is an NFC Tag Type 4 device that combines a wireless NFC interface and a wired SPI or I2C interface to connect the device to a host.  With a tap, the NFC interface enables end equipment to communicate with the infrastructure of NFC-enabled smart phones, tablets, and notebooks. It’s a path to IoT.

NFC will continue to serve as a powerful contributor to the IoT world. Vision and innovation will be the main driving force.  From rural healthcare to transportation and more, continued creativity and development will unlock worlds of potential for the future.

The Mobile Wallet Showdown: What’s Your Pick?

NFC technology has gained some strength in the mobile wallet arena since Apple released Apple Pay in October 2014 in USA. AppleWatch was released in April, and it supports Apple Pay when paired with an iPhone.

Globally, not only was Apple Pay launched in the UK in July 14, 2015, it also took a step into the Chinese market on June 10 by registering as an entity in the Shanghai free-trade zone. With Alipay, Apple’s main competitor in this market, already clocking over 400 million registered users, one wonders how the race will pan out between the two.

Android Pay, a successor of Google Pay was rolled out a couple of days ago. As of today, it has been downloaded over 81k times, and currently has a 3.9 star rating. Android Pay works on smartphones running Android 4.4 KitKat or newer.

Samsung Pay was released in Korea last month, and has hit 500,000 users now. It will be released in the USA on Sep 28th. Samsung’s smartwatch, Gear S2, will support Samsung Pay in November. Samsung has also formed partnerships in the US and China.

What NFC mobile wallet are you using or will you use?

Seattle folks, join us for a discussion on Mobile Payment on September 24th http://bit.ly/1LHi8Dz

About the Author: 

Hsuan-hua Chang, a mobile technology strategist and business coach,  has over 20 years of experience in wireless technology, holding many corporate positions ranging from software engineer, technical architect to product marketing manager. She is the author of “Everyday NFC Second Edition: Near Field Communication Explained” http://amzn.to/1INl703

Read more of her posts at http://bit.ly/1DG2af1mobile wallet

Agile Apple Pay – P2P Is Coming

Before Agile methodology surfaced, waterfall methodology was used for software development; after requirements were collected, the software was designed, developed, tested, deployed and maintained. This process could take a long time if the project had a large scope. Sometimes, the product might not be delivered on time or delivered but did not meet the needs of the customer.

An example would be the Softcard mobile wallet (formally named ISIS); a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon with billions in investments. Since its launch in November 2013, consumers didn’t adapt the product. It was finally shutdown in 2015 after Google purchased some of its IP. The technology (Near Field Communication) has great potential; yet, most of the consumers didn’t even know their mobile phones were NFC enabled.

Agile, a very different approach, works at a sustainable pace to develop minimal software with minimal functionality and a shorter development cycle. With shared responsibilities between the product owner, scrum master and development team, each development cycle delivers a work release.

Using mobile payment as an example, I think Apple Pay was implemented with an Agile approach. When the whole NFC world was waiting for an NFC wallet to be delivered on iPhone 5s and 5c (released in 2013) and it didn’t happen. Instead, iPhone 5s enabled Touch ID; a fingerprint authentication mechanism. Not until the iPhone 6 release in 2014, NFC payment came through with Apple Pay using Touch ID to provide a “single touch to pay” user experience. This year, Apple Watch enables Apple Pay for iPhone 5, 5s and 5c.

It might not be fair to compare Softcard and Apple Pay development since Apple owns its devices and can pace their software/hardware features/functionalities in a more integrated approach while Telecoms didn’t have this ability.

Now, what is next for Apple Pay? Apple was just granted a patent for peer to peer (p2p) mobile payment today. The Patent states that NFC and Bluetooth can be used for one device sending a payment to another device securely and at no cost.  This is another effort to enable quick communication between devices in order to move into the world of IoT (Internet of Things).

So shall we conclude that Apple Pay is an Agile product? Love to hear your thoughts.


NFC, Big Data, Internet of Things and a Connected Society

Sensors are powerful enablers for Internet of Things.

GE uses data collected by sensors to help in the reduction of millions in fuel costs [1]. Transport for London uses data collected by sensors to understand how people travel and respond quickly when a disruption occurs [2]. The healthcare industry uses data collected by sensors to monitor the activity of patients and provide better patient care [3].

All of these sensor data feed into BigData. Business intelligence (BI) that emerges from sensor data analysis (SDA) helps create new products and services as well as to enhance the existing ones.

Using GE as an example, last year The New York Times notedThomas Edison would be proud. General Electric, the company he started, still knows how to make a buck off cutting-edge technology.” Predix, an IoT (Internet of Things) big data product was implemented entirely with sensor equipped GE machines. Every day Predix gathers 50 million pieces of data from 10 million sensors; including those hooked up to jet engines.

Using Transport for London (TfL) as an example, not only is data collected through NFC enabled Oyster cards but also from sensors attached to vehicles and traffic signals. TfL provides open APIs to software developers to access the data in order to create new services and products. That is an open and forward looking approach since community effort always generates a win-win for consumers and businesses.

In the case of health care, sensors can be embedded in the hospital beds, medical devices or wearable. There are so many use cases to show the power of connected devices. For example, a monitor system that learns normal patient physiological and activity patterns would send an alert when abnormal data (change in blood sugar, for example) appears.

When all of these connected devices are talking to each other through a wireless infrastructure or the internet, we are in a world of Internet of Things. Products and services that collect, store and analyze data are just beginning of a transformation enabled by technologies like sensors, cloud and mobility. BI and business decisions are the focus right now. At the same time, new business opportunities are unlimited. How to seize the opportunity requires visionary ideas and technology agility [4]. The end result would be a Connected Society [5]; where people are more connected to each other and to their environment.

It’s an exciting time! What is one challenge you are facing?

[1] Enterprise Big Data (Data Lake) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140815010520-12418284-enterprises-big-data-data-lake?trk=mp-reader-card&trk=mp-reader-card

[2] How Big Data and the Internet of Things Improve Public Transport in London http://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/05/27/how-big-data-and-the-internet-of-things-improve-public-transport-in-london/

[3] Sensor Data Analytics – Unlocking Value in ‘Big Data’ http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1326715

[4] State Technology Welcome Idea Economy https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/state-technology-welcome-idea-economy-meg-whitman?trk=prof-post

[5] Beyond an Internet of Things: Building the Connected Society http://www.boozallen.com/insights/2015/05/beyond-an-internet-of-things/thank-you