Dark Pools Demystified

February 13, 2017

Have you ever heard of dark pools? You may be hearing more about them as Bitcoin pioneer Jered Kenna and TradeZero offer digital currency dark pool trading. According to this International Business Times article, these two have created the world’s first dark pool exchange for Bitcoin. Their plan is to eventually scale to include other digital currencies. What is a dark pool? It is a private exchange to trade securities in a way where large transactions can occur without impacting the marketing. This means it can be used to avoid adverse price movements. We learned,

The Bitcoin market is less liquid than traditional FX and hence more volatile. Dark pool trading in Bitcoin would be useful to mainstream investors who may want to make large trades in Bitcoin, or use it as a currency hedge without alerting the market to their positions. Kenna, who launched the first US Bitcoin exchange in 2011, brings a wealth of experience to the table. He told IBTimes UK: “Dark pool trading certainly mitigates volatility where individuals making large trades are concerned.

Apparently, the size of the trade one would need to impact the Bitcoin market in is much smaller than what traditional traders experience. Jared Kenna appears to be projecting the future of Bitcoin, and non-traditional currencies in general, to explode. Why else would there be such a need for this kind of service? This is something we will be keeping an eye on, especially as it may come to be more interconnected with Dark Web matters.

Megan Feil, February 13, 2017

Alphabet: The Bets Are Losing Less

February 1, 2017

I read “Alphabet’s Bets Beyond Search Are Starting to Pay Off.” Nothing like a story which uses the name of this blog. The main point is that the Alphabet Google thing continues to make money from online advertising. This particular discussion of Alphabet’s financials included this stat3ement:

In the fourth quarter, Alphabet’s other bets recorded $262 million in revenue, a healthy jump from $150 million in the fourth quarter a year ago. But more importantly, the company’s losses in the division shrank from the previous year, from $1.2 billion in Q4 2015 to around $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter this year. Google’s other bets consists of products like Nest, and while this represents a tiny fraction of Google’s overall business, it’s important because it represents a lot of the market Google envisions itself occupying in the years to come — and it’s equally important to see strong performance in that category.

These moon shots and bets are among the best funded start ups in history. For more than 15 years the company has been saddled with Steve Ballmer’s “one trick pony” observation. Reducing loses of $100 million is a positive step forward. There is that loss of $1.1 billion, however.

The “beyond search” plays have, in our view, not moved too far from online advertising.

Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2017

IBM Watson: Now About Generating Big Revenue

January 27, 2017

To IBM’s credit, since the “weather” changed, IBM’s Watson marketing has been less fun for me. I did enjoy reading “Elementary, My Dear IBM: When Will Watson Make Money?” I prefer the concept of substantial, sustainable revenue which generates profits for stakeholders, but the write up’s title is pretty good.

After asking this important question, the write up states:

IBM Watson has taken heat from Wall Street for not adding to Big Blue’s revenue as the company reported a 19th successive quarter of decline.

That’s quite a track record. Nineteen of anything in a row is difficult to pull off. Way to go, IBM.

I highlighted this passage as well:

But quizzing executives following IBM’s financial report on the fourth quarter of 2016, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty noted that although Watson was getting a “pretty significant share of the press” – to put it mildly – unlike the other businesses that it was cited alongside, Watson was “not contributing to revenue”. Huberty probed when Watson would start bringing in money. IBM admitted to shaving spent a combined $16bn on R&D and acquisitions during 2016, including buying 15 companies such as the $2.6bn acquisition of Truven Health Analytics.

I put a Big Blue exclamation point next to this passage. IBM’s CFO commented about Watson’s payoff this way:

revenue would come through Watson serving IBM’s strategic imperatives and cognitive software. Watson is the “silver thread” running though Watson Health and Financial Services, IBM’s IoT and security, he said. “Watson is firmly, firmly established as the silver thread that runs through those cognitive solutions and you can see all of that in the solution software performance.”

Okay, shareholders, there’s your answer. What can one weave with silver thread? How about some silver thread pants for the executive who needs to slay financial dragons in World of Warcraft.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2017

The Software Behind the Web Sites

January 17, 2017

Have you ever visited an awesome Web site or been curious how an organization manages their Web presence?  While we know the answer is some type of software, we usually are not given a specific name.  Venture Beat reports that it is possible to figure out the software in the article, “SimilarTech’s Profiler Tells You All Of The Technologies That Web Companies Are Using.”

SimilarTech is a tool designed to crawl the Internet to analyze what technologies, including software, Web site operators use.  SimiliarTech is also used to detect which online payment tools are the most popular.  It does not come as a surprise that PayPal is the most widely used, with PayPal Subscribe and Alipay in second and third places.

Tracking what technology and software companies utilize for the Web is a boon for salespeople, recruiters, and business development professionals who want a competitive edge as well as:

Overall, SimilarTech provides big data insights about technology adoption and usage analytics for the entire internet, providing access to data that simply wasn’t available before. The insights are used by marketing and sales professionals for website profiling, lead generation, competitive analysis, and business intelligence.

SimiliarTech can also locate contact information for personnel responsible for Web operations, in other words new potential clients.

This tool is kind of like the mailing houses of the past. Mailing houses have data about people, places, organizations, etc. and can generate contact information lists of specific clientele for companies.  SimiliarTech offers the contact information, but it does one better by finding the technologies people use for Web site operation.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2016

Google Drones Down, Loon Balloons Up

January 16, 2017

I read “Alphabet Grounds Titan Solar-Powered Drones, Shifts to Project Loon Instead.” Whatever is going on at Google seems to make life tough for those involved in high school science projects. Bummer. Drones down. Balloons still aloft.

The write up explains:

One of X’s most hopeful initiatives involves providing universal internet access via sky-based wireless routers. One of them, Project Loon, uses high-altitude balloons to loft the routers in the air, and that project is still on track. Another, dubbed Titan and using fixed-wing solar-powered drones, isn’t so lucky…

I learned:

Titan made high-altitude, solar-powered drones that can stay in the air for extended periods of time and could likely serve a variety of purposes for Alphabet. The idea at the time seemed to be to combine the Titan drones with Project Loon balloons to provide internet access to underserved areas of the globe, but it appears that idea has been abandoned.

Alphabet Google needs to find a way to deal with the Alexafication of search. Ad revenue could be the next thing coming down. Will Loon balloons keep the company’s Yahoo-inspired online ad contraption aloft?

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2017

Improve Your B2B Search with Klevu

January 6, 2017

Ecommerce sites rely on a strong search tool to bring potential customers to their online stores and to find specific products without a hassle.  B2B based companies have the same goal, but they need an entire different approach although they still rely on search.  If you run a B2B company, you might want to take a gander at Klevu and their solutions: “Search Requirements For A B2B Retailer.”

In the blog post, Klevu explains that B2B companies have multiple customer groups that allow different pricing, products, discounts, etc.  The customers see prices based on allocation from the store, but they cannot use a single price for every item.  Search is also affected by this outcome.  Klevu came out with the Klevu Magneto plugin to:

With the help of our partners and our in-house expertise, we came up with a solution that allows such group prices to automatically work with Klevu. The Klevu Magneto plugin fetches the group prices and, at the time of showing the search results, Klevu’s JavaScript determines the relevant price for rendering. We’ve also ensure that this works in Ajax / quick search as well, as this was an important requirement.

The Klevu Magneto plugin also has an SKU search option, maintaining the same landing page within search results, and instant faceted search.  Klevu researched the issues that its B2B customers had the most problems with and created solutions.  They are actively pursuing ways to resolve bothersome issues that pop up and this is just the start for them.

Whitney Grace, January 6, 2017

Bank App Does Not Play Well with Tor Browser

December 22, 2016

Bank apps are a convenient way to access and keep track of your accounts.  They are mainly used on mobile devices and are advertised for the user on the go.  One UK bank app, however, refuses to play nice with devices that have the Tor browser, reports the Register in the article, “Tor Torpedoed!  Tesco Bank App Won’t Run With Privacy Tool Installed.”

Tesco is a popular bank present in supermarkets, but if you want to protect your online privacy by using the Tor browser on your mobile device the Tesco app will not work on said device.  Marcus Davage, the mainframe database administrator, alerted Tesco patrons that in order to use the Tesco app, they needed to delete the Tor browser.  Why is this happening?

The issue appears to be related to security. Tesco’s help site notes that the Android app checks for malware and other possible security risks (such as the phone being rooted) upon launching and, in this case, the Tor software triggers an alert.  The Tor Project makes two apps for Android, the aforementioned Orbot and the Orfox browser, both of which allow users to encrypt their data traffic using the Tor network. According to the Play Store, Orbot has been downloaded more than five million times by Android users.

App developers need to take into account that the Tor browser is not malware.  Many users are concerned with their online privacy and protecting their personal information, so Tor needs to be recognized as a safe application.

Whitney Grace, December 22, 2016

Palantir Factoid: 2016 Government Contract Value

December 21, 2016

I read “Palantir CEO at Trump-Tech Summit Raises Red Flags.” The idea is that Palantir is a peanut when compared to publicly traded giants like IBM and Microsoft. The presence of Peter Thiel, an adviser to the Trumpeteers, adds some zip to both Facebook and Palantir. But Palantir’s Alex Karp was at the meeting as well. The idea is that the Trumpeteers continue to get stereophonic inputs about technology and other matters.

This is the factoid which caught my attention. I assume, of course, that everything I read online is dead center accurate:

Palantir received about $83 million from the government this year tied to 71 transactions, according to USASpending.gov.

What happens to Palantir’s bookings if some changes to the DCGS program come down the pike? Perhaps Palantir will be running some meetings at which giants like IBM are going to be eager participants. On the other hand, IBM and some of the folks at the Trumpeteers’ technology summit might not be happy.

Net net: I was dismayed at the modest bookings Palantir has garnered. I expected heftier numbers.

Stephen E Arnold, December 21, 2016

Lucidworks Sees Watson as a Savior

December 21, 2016

Lucidworks (really?). A vision has appeared to the senior managers of Lucidworks, an open source search outfit which has ingested $53 million and sucked in another $6 million in debt financing in June 2016. Yep, that Lucidworks. The “really” which the name invokes is an association I form when someone tells me that commercializing open source search is going to knock off the pesky Elastic of Elasticsearch fame while returning a juicy payoff to the folks who coughed up the funds to keep the company founded in 2007 chugging along. Yep, Lucid works. Sort of, maybe.

I read “Lucidworks Integrates IBM Watson into Fusion Enterprise Discovery Platform.” The write up explains that Lucidworks is “tapping into” the IBM Watson developer cloud. The write up explains that Lucidworks has:

an application framework that helps developers to create enterprise discovery applications so companies can understand their data and take action on insights.

Ah, so many buzzwords. Search has become applications. “Action on insights” puts some metaphorical meat on the bones of Solr, the marrow of Lucidworks. Really?

With Watson in the company’s back pocket, Lucidworks will deliver. I learned:

Customers can rely on Fusion to develop and deploy powerful discovery apps quickly thanks to its advanced cognitive computing features and machine learning from Watson. Fusion applies Watson’s machine learning capabilities to an organization’s unique and proprietary mix of structured and unstructured data so each app gets smarter over time by learning to deliver better answers to users with each query. Fusion also integrates several Watson services such as Retrieve and Rank, Speech to Text, Natural Language Classifier, and AlchemyLanguage to bolster the platform’s performance by making it easier to interact naturally with the platform and improving the relevance of query results for enterprise users.

But wait. Doesn’t Watson perform these functions already. And if Watson comes up a bit short in one area, isn’t IBM-infused Yippy ready to take up the slack?

That question is not addressed in the write up. It seems that the difference between Watson, its current collection of partners, and affiliated entities like Yippy are vast. The write up tells me:

customers looking for hosted, pre-tuned machine learning and natural language processing capabilities can point and click their way to building sophisticated applications without the need for additional resources. By bringing Watson’s cognitive computing technology to the world of enterprise data apps, these discovery apps made with Fusion are helping professionals understand the mountain of data they work with in context to take action.

This sounds like quite a bit of integration work. Lucidworks. Really?

Stephen E Arnold, December 21, 2016

Google Stretches Its AI Wings

December 19, 2016

Google has been very busy launching AI solutions. For example, ReCode tells us, “Pow! Bang! Google Uses Its AI to Bring Visual Punch to Digital Comic Books,” while the New Atlas reports, “DeepMind AI Slashes Cooling Costs at Google’s Data Centers.” Making comic books easier to read is nice, and reducing electric consumption is even better. We would be happy, though, to finally see more relevant search results; perhaps Google will tackle that side project soon.

Recode’s Mark Bergen describes Google’s comic-book enhancement tool, called Bubble Zoom:

The latest [AI] insertion is a neat visual trick to make it easier to read comic books within the Google Play Books app. Unfurled at Comic-Con International, it’s called Bubble Zoom and does just that — zooms in on text bubbles in comics with one touch. Last fall, Google introduced new mobile formats for digital comics, an attempt to get more comics readers, a devotee-heavy group, spending time and money within Google’s digital media store.

That could work. Meanwhile, Google is certainly seeing financial benefits from its AI-enhanced data center cooling project. Michael Irving at the New Atlas explains:

Now, Google has set its DeepMind system loose on its massive data centers, and drastically cut the cost of cooling these facilities in the process. Running Gmail, YouTube, and the all-knowing Google Search guzzles a tremendous amount of power, and while Google has invested heavily in making its servers, cooling systems and energy sources as efficient and green as possible, there’s always room for improvement. Especially when the industrial-scale cooling systems are difficult to run efficiently, given the complex interactions that occur between equipment, environment and staff in a data center. To account for all those factors that a human operator or traditional formula-based engineering might miss, the team put DeepMind to work on the problem, and the result was a drastic reduction in power consumption for the center’s cooling systems.

The article goes on to describe how the difference was measured, using the PUE metric and the record-breaking results they achieved. Naturally, Google expects to apply this successful tool throughout their buildings. We’re told they also plan to share the methodology with other organizations, so they can reduce their energy consumption, too. No word yet on how they plan to monetize that initiative.

Cynthia Murrell, December 19, 2016

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