Tuesday, 17 July 2018

How do you emulate real world hyper-scale load?

And relax; the World Cup is over - congratulations to France on their win – and a huge well done to the England team too. However, the World Cup isn’t just about setting records on the pitch, with the changing ways we consume content the BBC and ITV have been setting records off the pitch for the number of online coverage.

BBC Sport pictureLive match streaming requests at the BBC increased from a total of 15.9m for Brazil 2014 to 56.3m this year (including those watching after matches the grand total of streams was 66.m); and visitors to the World Cup content on the BBC Sport website went up from 32.3m UK unique browsers in 2014 to 49.2m this year. If the same growth of online viewers happens again for 2022 then we could be looking at maybe 200m total streams.

Friday, 6 July 2018

The journey from machine learning to true artificial intelligence

In my view we are around half way along the seven level journey from ML to AI and the true potential this can offer to us is still to come. If you listen to the marketeers the world is already full of AI systems, and this is only a half truth. There are now countless machine learning systems out there but real AI systems are a long way off. The difficulties to overcome are real but there are a lot of people working to solve this.

I've been very interested in machine learning and artificial intelligence for nearly 20 years. In fact, my PhD was on this very topic and in a paper written as part of my PhD studies I wrote, back in August 2000, about the potential benefits these will have for humanity - my particular focus was on creating "Next Generation Intelligent Agents" and using these to "help both abled-bodied and disabled people interact with each other across the Internet" where my focus was on how to "advance the field through exploiting natural language processing techniques" with a direction of travel "to develop and integrate the natural language parser part of the software into a new computer operating system and perhaps one day enabling a computer to respond to voice commands making the mouse and keyboard a thing of the past." Well, that world is (finally in my view) very nearly here as covered in last week's post "Voice - its beginning to be everywhere".

This week at the BBC within Platform Engineering I chaired a fantastic discussion on the journey we are on and what comes next after Voice on our journey to true Artificial Intelligence. I've mentioned this journey several times now - about time I explain what mean by it... Basically there are seven fairly distinct levels at which sets of systems can be grouped together each building on the last as we transition from systems that are basic rules based machine learning systems to the potential of hive minds and true artificial intelligence.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Voice - its beginning to be everywhere

Voice. And by Voice I mean the advent of a Voice based UI for systems is beginning to be everywhere. Since exploding onto the scenes in 2006 based on mobile phones its grown almost exponentially. Looking at its latest incarnation - the smart speaker (Amazon Alexia and Google Home are examples) recent estimates show around 50 million American’s have access to one of these in their home, although true sales figures are a little hard to come by but various estimates indicate that around 34 million smart speakers were sold in 2017 and we are heading for a further 57 million this year...!

OK its accepted that some homes will have more than one (we for example have three) but, there is probably significantly over 100 million smart speaker enabled homes out there on a global basis and the number is only going to continue to increase dramatically going forwards. Amazon Echo as first to market is comfortably in first place with around 70% market share. A bit more research to share with you – around two thirds of smart speaker owners interact with their speaker on a daily basis and three in four on a weekly basis.

This is now taking us down the path to where smart voice initiated conversations can become the default interaction point which is a significant shift from where we have been over just the last couple of years. So what does this mean for us, businesses and their customers?

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

And.. I'm back!

I can't believe its been over two years since last wrote an blog entry, for a blog called "A week in IT" which was intended to be a collection of weekly discoveries that's a bit poor - and for which I can but apologize. I have spotted I have a number of"draft" entries waiting to be published so those will be tidied up and slotted back into their correct weeks over the past two years.

However - to the current and June 2018... And, how to get started and "catch up" on 113 missing weeks... Well, a lot has happened over that time some of which will make great topics for blog entries too as and when the time is right.

As a key update - After 9 years in retail (with Tesco and Marks and Spencer) it was time for a bit of a change, and I'm now the "Head of Software Engineering" at the BBC for the BBC Platform. The next question everyone typically then asks is - what does that mean?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

What do customers really want..? Is the web now dead..?!

I'm discussing on Thursday at the NEC as part of a panel at IRX (Internet Retailing Expo) the topic: "what customers want?" And it's had me thinking...

We all know data wise what customers (for retail) want, countless surveys and research articles have shown its:

  • Cheapest price.
  • Best quality.
  • "Free" shipping.
  • Loyalty bonuses.
  • As convenient as possible.

But.. What do they *really* want..? I think and this is where I'm focusing is that it's actually a subtle play on the last one of these - "convenient"...

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Bash on Windows

Sometimes as a Windows user, and particularly a Windows 10 user you can feel a bit out of place within the developer/engineer community. Years ago when Mac's were actually trendy to have, most people developed on Windows and had a a bit of a sneer about anyone who used a Mac.. There was also always the set of people who were the other extreme with a Gnome or KDE linux desktop but those were rare. And, currently Elementary is the latest trendy OS to be different with...

Now I work in a trendy office fully of trendy people all with shiny silver Mac laptops, there is a debate as to if an Air or a Macbook is the best choice - and the new Macbook is very close to an Air to blend the line between them and I myself am one of only a couple of Windows hold-outs left. I have my Dell XPS 13 laptop which weighs less than an Air, has a 4K touch screen and is more powerful than most Mac's - so I smile smuggly at them whilst thinking that I am in fact already on the next trend wave and ahead of the curve of a switch back to developing on Windows. And maybe this is getting a step closer to reality...

Monday, 24 August 2015

Windows 95 - happy 20th birthday

Is it really 20 years since I spent what felt like a day feeding 13 floppy disks into a computer to nervously upgrade my trust 486 running Windows 3.11 to Windows 95. The new all fangled, all shiny brave new world of a "Start Menu" that replaced the classic "Program Manager" that we had all been used to in the past. Wow what a legacy it has produced.

Windows 95 also introduced the most distinctive change that I think stood the test of time even better than the Start menu, the Task Bar, often neglected and overlooked it sits there quietly at the bottom of the screen allowing a visual clue as to what is running and allowing easy application switching.