Palantir Technologies: Hobbits 1, US Army 0

October 31, 2016

I read “Judge Rules in Favor of Palantir in Lawsuit against US Army.” Palantir is probably celebrating the decision which ruled in its favor. According to the write up in Defense News:

Palantir filed a bid protest in the US Court of Federal Claims against the US Army June 30 for issuing what it says was an unlawful procurement solicitation for the service’s next iteration of its internally developed intelligence software suite that shuts the company’s commercial offering out of the competition.

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Caesar and the Battle of Alesia. Who’s Caesar? Who is Vercingetorix?

Palantir’s argument is that the US Army was reinventing the wheel. Palantir has a very good wheel, and the US Army should use that wheel on its intelligence system. The write up points out that Palantir perceives the US Army’s reluctance to use Gotham as “illegal and irrational.”

The write up adds:

The lawsuit opened up a can of worms on top of what has been a lengthy controversy over whether the Army should scrap its DCGS-A program after spending more than a decade and $3 billion to develop it and go with a commercial off-the-shelf solution.

The question which rises from this smoking hot ruling is, “What’s next?”

I can envision a Tolkien-like scenario in which the US Army chuckles and says, “That’s a great idea. We have been thinking about doing the Palantir thing for a while now.” Fade to a sunrise with Gotham and a US Army general chatting on the veranda at Donald Trump’s Washington, DC hotel.

There are other scenarios as well. These range from the US Army digging in its legal heels and implementing a Caesar like maneuver with Palantir playing the role of Vercingetorix? Or, is it the other way around?

The Gauls may support Caesar or Vercingetorix? I can envision powerful tribes of government contractors with dogs in the DCGS fight rallying.

One thing is certain: More excitement to come when there are billions in government contracts at stake and when some of the tribes fight under the banners of the US government’s go-to vendors. Will IBM embrace a new approach to the DCGS system? Will General Watson enter the fray?

So many questions. Definitely exciting for the firms currently billing for the existing DCGS system implementation, development, engineering, training, and support. Palantir, at least for this Halloween day, can plop one treat in its Filson backpack.

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2016.

Palantir Technologies: IPO Chatter

October 31, 2016

I read “Why the Secretive Startup Palantir Is Seriously Considering an IPO.” The Fortune story appeared after the video interview became available and a transcript diffused. You may be able to access the information at this Wall Street Journal link, but you may have to pay to read the transcript.

Here’s what I noted in the Fortune write up:

  • An IPO allows employees to “cash out their shares at a fair price”
  • But Palantir may not go public and “do something on the private equity side”
  • An alternative is to “redistribute” profits

The Fortune article included this statement from Palantir’s CEO Alex Karp as well:

“I have f-cked up so many things at Palantir,” Karp said. “The one thing I have never screwed up is discriminated against anybody based on any variable that they would care about, and I’m very proud of that.”

I noted that none of the write ups about this interview mentioned that a decision from the US Army matter may be made as early as October 31, 2016. A positive decision will increase Palantir’s sales among the intelligence and law enforcement markets; for example, the French DGSI.

A negative decision may curtail Palantir’s growth in the intelligence and law enforcement sectors. Losing out on the DCGS opportunity means that Palantir may have to look to other markets to provide new opportunities for the company.

The question is, “Trick or treat for Palantir this Halloween?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2016

Cyber Security Factoids

October 31, 2016

I came across “Luxembourg to Become a Cyber Security Hub.” I usually ignore these blue chip consulting firm public relations love fests. I did not some interesting factoids in the write up. Who knows if these are correct, but some large organizations pay a lot of money to have the MBAs and accountants deliver these observations:

  • “In Luxembourg, 57%* of players expect to be the victim of cybercrime in the next 24 months.” (I assume that “players” are companies which the consulting firm either has as clients or hopes to make into clients.)
  • There are four trends in cyber security: “1) digital businesses are adopting new technologies and approaches to Cyber Security, 2) threat intelligence and information sharing have become business-critical, 3) organizations are addressing risks associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), and 4) geopolitical threats are rising.”
  • “In the 2017 Global State of Information Security Survey, PwC found more than 80% of European companies had experienced at least on Cyber Security incident in the past year. Likewise, the number of digital security incidents across all industries worldwide rose by 80%. The spending in the Cyber Security space is also increasing with 59% of the companies surveyed affirming that digitalization of the business ecosystem has affected their security spending.”
  • Companies the consulting firm finds interesting include: “Digital Shadows from the UK, Quarkslab from France, SecurityScorecard, enSilo, Skybox Security and RedOwl from the US, NetGuardians from Switzerland,Ironscales and Morphisec from Israel, and Picus Security from Turkey.”

Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2016

Microsoft Can Understand Human Conversation Like a Human

October 31, 2016

I read “Microsoft Speech Recognition Technology Now Understands a Conversation As Well As a Person.” My wife’s Amazon Alexa does okay with her commands. I noted this passage in the write up:

This marks the first time that human parity has been reported for conversational speech.

Okay, I will inform my wife that Alexa is not able to do the speech recognition thing. She gave up on Microsoft Windows, laughed at the Windows phone I gave her, and bought a Mac laptop. She seems okay with what her iPhone 6 can do, but I will try again to explain that Microsoft really, really has solved a hard problem.

The write up points out:

In a paper published this week the Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research group said its speech recognition system had attained “human parity” and made fewer errors than a human professional transcriptionist.

Oh, not a product or a service she can test yet. The innovation is embodied in a paper. Is this content marketing or public relations? I suppose I could ask Cortana if we had a machine running that particular Microsoft invention. Windows 10 left us some time ago. Sorry.

The error rate of about six percent seems okay until you think about six words in 100 being incorrect. Some situatio0ns pivot on a single word, don’t they?

I will wait for the new system to be hooked up to Microsoft Tay. I remember Tay. The system learned some of the less savory aspects of language before the demonstration was sent back to the lab. The interaction of speech recognition and Tay will be something I want to test.

Maybe my wife will have a change of heart with regards to Apple and Amazon products.

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2016

Be Prepared for Foggy Computing

October 31, 2016

Cloud computing allows users to access their files or hard drive from multiple devices at multiple locations.  Fog computing, on the other hand, is something else entirely.  Fog computing is the latest buzzword in the tech world and pretty soon it will be in the lexicon.  If you are unfamiliar with fog computing, read Forbes’s article, “What Is Fog Computing? And Why It Matters In Our Big Data And IoT World.”

According to the article, smartphones are “smart” because they receive and share information with the cloud.  The biggest problem with cloud computing is bandwidth, slow Internet speeds.  The United States is 35th in the world for bandwidth speed, which is contrary to the belief that it is the most advanced country in the world.  Demand for faster speeds increases every day.  Fog computing also known as edge computing seeks to resolve the problem by grounding data.  How does one “ground” data?

What if the laptop could download software updates and then share them with the phones and tablets? Instead of using precious (and slow) bandwidth for each device to individually download the updates from the cloud, they could utilize the computing power all around us and communicate internally.

Fog computing makes accessing data faster, more efficient, and more reliably from a local area rather than routing to the cloud and back.  IBM and Cisco Systems are developing projects that would push computing to more local areas, such as a router, devices, and sensors.

Considering that there are security issues with housing data on a third party’s digital storage unit, it would be better to locate a more local solution.  Kind of like back in the old days, when people housed their data on CPUs.

Whitney Grace, October 31, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Big Brother Now in Corporate Avatar

October 31, 2016

Companies in the US are now tracking employee movements and interactions to determine how productive their assets are. Badges created by Humanyze; embedded in employee IDs track these key indicators and suggest appropriate measures to help improve employee productivity.

An article published on Business Insider titled Employees at a dozen Fortune 500 companies wear digital badges that watch and listen to their every move reveals:

Humanyze visualizes the data as webs of social interaction that reveal who’s talking to whom on a by-the-second basis. The goal: Revolutionize how companies think about how they organize themselves.

The badges though only track employees who have explicitly given permission to track their working hours, imagination is the only inhibiting factor that will determine how the meta-data can be used. For instance, as the badges are being embedded into employee IDs (that already have chips), it can also be used by someone with right tools to track the movement of an employee beyond working hours.

Social engineering in the past has been used in the past to breach IT security at large organizations. With Humanyze badges, hackers now will have one more weapon in their arsenal.

One worrisome aspect of these badges becomes apparent here:

But the badges are already around the necks of more than 10,000 employees in the US, Waber says. They’ve led to wild insights. One client moves the coffee machine around each night, so the next morning employees in nearby departments naturally talk more.

The ironic part is, companies are exposing themselves to this threat. Google, Facebook, Amazon are already tracking people online. With services like Humanyze, the Big Brother has also entered the corporate domain. The question is not how the data will be used by hacked; it’s just when?

Vishal Ingole October 31, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

UK Public Annoyed with GHCQ Data Collection

October 30, 2016

I don’t have a dog in this fight, and I don’t want this type of pooch. The annoyance story “Public Wants Illegally Collected Data on Them Deleted.” The write up explains that a survey “proves” that the citizens of the United Kingdom want allegedly illegally collected data about them deleted. Here’s the passage I highlighted:

Comparitech.com and OnePoll have polled 1,000 members of the UK public, and 70 per cent wants that data gone. This is something the IPT failed to stipulate in its ruling.  For almost half (45 per cent), a compensation is in order, as well. The ruling has decreased the trust the UK public had in the government, and two thirds (68 per cent) also said it had lost trust in social media and email. Half (51 per cent) is more concerned about hackers stealing data, 14 per cent were most concerned with the government, and 31 per cent couldn’t decide between the two.

Let’s assume the sample size for a country with a population of about 70 million is just dandy. The two major data points of removing data and compensating citizens for the data are interesting. But what does “deleted” mean? How does one know if the data have been deleted or just converted to values in a metadata repository? And what’s with the compensation? What is the value of a single datum for a single person? Data gain value when normalized and aggregated. Calculating what a single UK citizen should receive might be a challenge for the wonks at Cambridge U. but I am confident someone in the economics unit is up to the task.

The really fascinating item in the write up is this statement:

A third (38 per cent) is willing to pay to increase their online privacy. There’s a good business idea for you.

A lot of people will fork over cash to have privacy. What a quaint notion in the UK and for some folks in the British government.

Stephen E Arnold, October 30, 2016

Wow Revelation: AI and the Proletariat

October 29, 2016

IBM’s week long Watson conference WOW marks the starting gun for end of year marketing. I read “IBM Says New Watson Data Platform Will Bring Machine Learning to the Masses.” I like the headline. It reminded me of a part time lecturer at the one horse college I attended 50 years ago. Wild eyed, the fellow was a fan of “ism”, almost any flavor was okay with him. I read the books on the reading list and dutifully took the tests. To be candid, I was delighted when the course ended.

Watson, if the headline is to be believed, may be drifting into the lingo of that now ignored adjunct lecturer. I learned:

IBM unveiled a cloud-based AI engine to help businesses harness machine learning. It aims to give everyone, from CEOs to developers, a simple platform to interpret and collaborate on data.

There we have it: An “everyone.” Really?

The write up, which I assume to be spot on, told me:

“Insight is the new currency for success,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice president at IBM Analytics. “And Watson is the supercharger for the insight economy.” Picciano, speaking at the World of Watson conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, unveiled IBM’s Watson Data Platform, touted as the “world’s fastest data ingestion engine and machine learning as a service.” The cloud-based Watson Data Platform, will “illuminate dark data,” said Picciano, and will “change everything—absolutely everything—for everyone.”

Interesting. “Insight” is the “currency of success.” The idea is that if someone understands an issue, that mental perception is money.

I like the superlatives too. I found this statement amusing: …Watson will illuminate Dark Data” and “will change everything.”

There we have it: An “everything.” Really?

Now Watson is no longer Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology. Watson is an enabler. The write up told me that “I haven’t made it a reality yet.” The “it” is the potential of Watson. I liked the concept that I am going to have to do more with Watson.

Okay, but we sort of like the Facebook and Google tools. The IBM approach was important when I worked in my university’s computing center as a JCL go-fer. I even embraced IBM servers for projects at outfits like Bell Communications Research. Ah, the joys of MVS/TSO.

But now the Watson categorical superlatives are noise.

I highlighted this statement attributed to an IBM wizard:

“The number of people in today’s business who have to be able to leverage data as part of their everyday lives, to make sense of it, to drive intelligent decision-making, has grown rapidly,” she said. Gunnar pointed to the need for businesses to collaborate with data across departments to make decisions. The simple interface, she said, helps give everyone, from those who are data savvy to “citizen analysts,” a chance to work with data. “The notion of being able to work on data together, to share across the business, is a huge opportunity to accelerate insights and uncover things that weren’t able to because of the silos within the organization that prevented working on common information,” she [Ritika Gunnar, VP of offering management] said.

There we have it: “everyone.” Really?

The sheer overstatement and superlative density underscore that IBM is trying hard to make Watson a success. I am reasonably certain that Watson’s all-embracing range of functions will generate revenue for Big Blue.

But compare the coverage of the IBM Wow conference with the hooting and hollering for the Apple event which took place during the Wow event.

And remember the proletariat. Yep, wow.

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2016

Palantir Awaits a Decision on its US Army Matter

October 28, 2016

More information is available about the Palantir – US Army legal matter. You can find the write up at this link. The decision, according to Bloomberg, may arrive on Monday, October 31, 2016. Palantir awaits its trick or treat day.

Kenny Toth, October 28, 2016

A Decision on the Palantir US Army Dust Up Looms

October 28, 2016

I read “Inside Palantir’s War With the U.S. Army.” The article follows a somewhat familiar line of thought about why a Sillycon Valley outfit wants to take the US Army to Federal court.

One of the major reasons, according to the article, is choice of clothing. I highlighted this passage:

The slacks and dress shirts with a few buttons undone that Palantir executives wore may have been a step up for sunny California where hoodies are the norm but were a sign of disrespect at the Pentagon, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Senior officials, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Dean Popps, were not impressed, this person said. They told Palantir: “Don’t come to the E-ring without a tie unless your name is Gates or Buffet,” said the person, referring to the portion of the Pentagon occupied by senior officials. “They couldn’t get over the tie thing. They didn’t care about the technology.”

The culture disconnect between the Silicon Valley type and the Department of Defense type is real. The externalities of uniforms versus business casual are easy to spot. I read:

Because Palantir wasn’t able to show how its technology could work with the Army’s existing intelligence systems—the purpose of conducting both tests—it was sidelined from competing for a new contract and pigeonholed by Army officials as a niche player, Palantir claims in the documents.

One question is, “Why wasn’t Palantir able to show interoperability?” From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, I thought that this question was an important one. I wandered around my mental filing cabinet for some angles on this question about “Why?”

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The decision about the Palantir –US Army legal matter may be made public on October 31, 2016. That’s Halloween in the US. Will Palantir be treated with a favorable decision with regard to its efforts to license Gotham to the US Army? Will Palantir be tricked by the legal maneuvers of US government legal eagles?

Three points struck me as I reflected:

First, Palantir Technologies was funded in part by In-Q-Tel. Some folks in the CIA love In-Q-Tel’s investments. Some folks point out that In-Q-Tel often gee whiz but often difficult to integrate into what are called “as is” systems. Most vendors make it difficult to integrate certain types of operations, data, or functions with their “as is” systems. The idea of open interchange of information is talked about and enshrined in SOWs (statements of work) but the reality is to keep the “as is” folks contracting for lucrative integration work. As logical as “snap in” and “seamless interchange” are in go go Palo Alto / Berkeley mindset, the “as is” crowd is a reluctant bride in many procurements, particularly multi-year deals.

Second, the Pentagon professionals have specific rules to follow when it comes to licensing software. For a company focused on being disruptive with gee whiz technology the rules are “not logical.” Software, for example, has to be free from backdoors. Software has to conform to various features and functions set forth in an SOW. Software has to be more than just disruptive, pretty, or state of the art. The software has to arrive via a process and be accompanied with people who can work within the often illogical rules of the US government. In my experience, this notion of “conforming” is one that does not compute for Googley-type companies.

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