AI – Risks and Benefits

Only a few days ago, it was announced that FacebookAmazonGoogleIBM and Microsoft have come together to create the Partnership on AI. Almost at the same time, Microsoft announced expanding its AI efforts with creation of new Microsoft AI research group consisting of 5000 people worldwide and Amazon offered a $2.5M Alexa prize for an AI that can chitchat for 20 minutes!

Putting these side by side to other emerging technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing, IOT and 3D printers, it would remind many of us of the “Terminator” or even “Matrix” movies and the possibilities of what is named as “AI takeover” (machines defeating and taking over humans).

While there are many hot discussions these days about the moral and ethical aspects of AI as well as its risks and dangers, in this Article I would try to share some ideas from an engineer’s point of view.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

In the shortest definition, Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. Some of main goals in AI are natural language processing, learning and self-evolving, reasoning, and planning.

While AI has been a hot topic since the early days of inventing computers and the term was mentioned as early as 1950s.

However with the increased computer processing power especially through Cloud computing, access to large amounts of data (Big Data), and advances in programming techniques, AI is now back on the scenes stronger than ever, and with daily fascinating achievements.

However, at the end they are sophisticated software applications developed by humans to do tasks faster and with less error.

Pictured below is Google’s self-driving car using artificial intelligence.

Pictured below is Sony’s Artificial Intelligence Robot (AIBO) robotic pets.

RoboCup is the leading and largest competition for intelligent robots, and one of the world’s most important technology events in research and training for artificial intelligence.

Risks and Dangers

The core reasoning for fears and doubts spread around AI can be summarized as below:

  • By giving self-learning, reasoning, and self-evolving capabilities to machines, who can guarantee that these machines will not reach conclusions not initially predicted by their designers resulting into fatal actions?
  • With the integration of AI with technologies such as IOT and 3D printers, the impact of AI software is not limited to software world anymore – such AI software solutions can actually make physical impacts and take control in real world.
  • Who can guarantee what hackers or bad guys can do with such complicated AI technology?

Benefits of AI

On the other hand, supporters of AI list all the unbelievable opportunities and benefits that can be provided by enhancement of AI:

  • Unbelievable acceleration of calculation and analysis of huge amounts of data, helping us to make faster and more accurate decisions.
  • Saving human lives by preventing human errors like the case of self-driving cars preventing accidents.
  • Doing the consistent, repetitive tasks in mass quantities without getting tired or being affected by personal emotions.
  • Enabling a much easier and human-like interaction with computers and access to information.


Like any other technology, AI can serve or harm humans based on how it is utilized. The more sophisticated the technology, the more it can impact our lives positively or negatively.

Hence there is a very good reason for why Partnership on AI is so important and necessary and just on right time: if AI is not quickly regulated with the needed frameworks and safety procedures, we should all fear about the outcomes of AI rapid advancements. Such rare partnership formations once embraced by large population of interested parties, would on the other hand provide the needed means to ensure AI would be secured as a new instrumental and very effective tool for improving human life and nothing to fear of.

What is Big Data and 4 Reasons Why it is so Important

Big Data is one of the new terms that we hear regularly these days along with “Internet of Things” (IOT), “Artificial Intelligence” (AI), and “Cloud Computing”. Interestingly, when you Google the term, you can read a wide variety of definitions – which is not unexpected considering how new the concept is!

In this article, I would like to try to provide a simple understanding of the concept from a technical point of view.

One of the best definitions I encountered is this one: “any voluminous amount of structuredsemi-structured, and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information”.

This definition will make more sense when we compare it with how data was traditionally handled. For old developers like myself, useful data always meant structured tables of data organized in relational databases.  It enabled you to do meaningful searches and display the results in a useful format – like what you see in CRM or ERP applications you daily use. But as the above definition describes, the Big Data is now about big volumes of data that are not necessarily structured in tables of databases.

Why is Big Data mentioned now?

The first question that arises after reading the above lines would probably be: What has changed in the past couple of years that has made Big Data so important?

In my opinion, there are 3 main reasons:

  1. Advance of Artificial Intelligence technologies: masses of unstructured data have always been available – they are the source for any structured data! One of the main reasons we have been organizing such data into structured databases over the past few decades has been the lack of search and data mining algorithms. Finding and presenting the data in a meaningful and useful way is a complicated process that would require very sophisticated programming algorithms. However, these sophisticated programming algorithms are now available.
  2. Advances in computer hardware: storing high volumes of data, searching through them, and accessing useful data on a timely manner calls for advanced computer hardware that enables super-fast data access and very high-speed processing power. Such hardware was not widely available a decade ago.
  3. Advances of the Internet: there is no doubt that the invention of the Internet has been one of the most important events of the 20th During the 21st century, the internet has constantly provided connectivity at higher speeds with more mobility. The result is an access to an incredible amount of unstructured data from all over the world in the form of videos, pictures, text, and codes.
  4. Increased amount of data: this is usually referred to as the three ‘V’s – Volume, Velocity, and Variety. The volume of data, the speed it is becoming available, and the variety of the data has simply made traditional methods of structuring them impossible!

As the world becomes more connected, not only do we face a huge growth of man-created data, but also an exponentially increasing amount of data created by machines. Some examples of such machines are:

  • CCTV Cameras: there are an increasing number of constant streaming videos captured from CCTV cameras. The volume of data created by CCTV cameras would simply not enable any timely analysis by humans. It is also not possible to “structure” them in any meaningful way.
  • IOT sensors: it is expected that there would be over 20 billion IOT devices by 2020. Each of these devices would be constantly creating data. The variety of devices and hence the data they create would again call for the “Big Data” solution.
  • Network Equipment Logs: network switches, routers, security appliances, servers, and other network equipment each create their different logs which again is a huge amount of useful data, if it can be analyzed efficiently.


We’re obviously at the verge of a new technological revolution which would be known by the emergence of robots, artificial intelligence, IOT devices, virtual reality, auto-driven vehicles, and many other great technologies. But at the core of this revolution is the “data” and how it can be analyzed efficiently and intelligently. “Big Data” is the concept for making that happen and includes technologies on how to store such volumes of data, and more importantly how to extract the required information efficiently from it.

CAT8 Cabling – What Is It and When Will It be Out for Use?

If you’ve been in LAN cabling business, you should have heard about CAT5, CAT6 and probably CAT7 standards. It would not be therefore hard to guess that the next standard in network copper cabling would be CAT8 (Category 8) standard.

In this article I try to give a very short and effective idea of what all these category standards are about and then explain what you should expect from the next upcoming standard – CAT 8.

Category Standards for Twisted Pair Cables

Category standards defined by ISO/IEC 11801 international standard define the characteristics of telecommunication cabling systems for both twisted pair and FO cabling. Here I will only focus on twisted pair.

Without making it should too complicated, the reason you see copper cables used in communications (being it voice or data) are twisted as pairs, is because by twisting the two wires that are used for transmission of communication signals, the wires would to some extent “contain” the electromagnetic field that would be created as a result of such electrical signals passing the wires.

The actual speed of data you can pass through a twisted pair would be limited by the frequency characteristics of the twisted wire/cable. The higher the frequency characteristics, it means that the cable can “contain” the electromagnetic fields at higher frequencies allowing higher speed throughputs. (If can be mathematically proved that the higher the data speed, the higher is the created frequency).

One of the factors that increases frequency characteristics of twisted pair cables is how much “twisted they are” – more twist equals better frequency characteristics. The other factor would be the separation between different twisted pairs including by using individual shielded pairs.

Now, as the technology evolves there is increasing demand for higher data speeds and hence the need for defining and manufacturing twisted pair cables that can support those higher speeds.

The table below briefly shows the current Category standards for twisted pair cables (I’ve simplified it a bit):

Standard Frequency Limit Data Speed Date of Usage
CAT 2 1 MHz 4 Mbps 1980s
CAT 3 16 MHz 10 Mbps 1990s
CAT 5/5e 100 MHz 100 Mbps 2000-2010
CAT 6 250 MHz 1 Gbps 2005 – onwards
CAT 7 600 MHz 10 Gbps 2010 – onwards
CAT 7a 1000 MHZ 10 Gbps+ 2014 – onwards

Note: CAT5e standard was introduced as improvement of CAT5e and can actually support up to 1Gbps. There is a CAT6a standard commonly referred to by manufacturers but that is not actually an official ISO standard.

Category 8 Standard

As explained above, obviously CAT8 standard is expected to provide better frequency characteristics / hence support for higher speeds of data.

The standard has been under development since March 2013 and a draft was finally published for review in June 2016. The final version of the standard can be out as early as Q4 2016.

CAT8 is expected to support bandwidths of up to 2 GHz (2000 MHz) for up to 30 meters of cabling and can support 25Gbps / 40Gbps speeds.

CAT8 cables will look similar to lower category cables and will most probably still be terminated in RJ45 connections.

As the cable length for such speeds is limited to 30 meters, they will most probably be used in form of factory-made patch cords for interconnection of equipment in data centers.


The current CAT8 standard is expected to be finalized sometime in late 2016. We might need to wait for another year before seeing related products (CAT8 cables, connectors, patch panels …) in the market.

However at least for now, it seems that CAT8 usage will be more limited to server rooms and data-centers as an easier alternative to make high-speed interconnection between servers and networking appliances by using the very much familiar copper patch cords.

Simplicity in Procurement

A reliable procurement system is designed for speed, efficiency and accuracy, and one of the best ways to achieve the intended design is to keep things simple. However, despite all precautions, problems ranging from human error to organizational shortcomings can still have a negative effect on procurement and purchasing ability, and the greatest issue plaguing procurement today is complexity.

The complexity in the procurement process is one of the main reasons why procurement has a diminished reputation today, as compared to previous years. The teams in the procurement community are aiming to help their business counterparts lessen and ease the pressure on their budgets, and making sure that standards like consistency and quality are upheld in their suppliers.

The huge problem is that no matter how hard procurement tries to ease the burden of companies, complexity is still a huge factor in the business. If procurement asks the company to use a specific software, or to fill out a form to make a purchase, that is an additional process that was not done before. In the old days, the mantra was: “Buy what is needed, when it is needed”. However, in today’s business, complexity in the procurement process is mounting, and the industry must work together to bring back simplicity as one of the core precepts for procurement.

The reasons to bring back simplicity in procurement:

1) Simplicity means speed

If the procurement team can prove to the stakeholders that working with them doesn’t slow things down, that can remove a huge amount of anxiety from the stakeholders. For stakeholders, the purchasing process shouldn’t be complex. Procurement may require intelligent solutions to manage suppliers and handle payments, but it should be kept as simple as possible. Simplicity in the procurement process frees up resources for value-adding activities, rather than consuming it.

2) Simplicity enables big ideas

In order to function better, procurement departments must understand their company’s concerns and be able to demonstrate how they measure up against these concerns. If the company’s requirement spans across different disciplines making it very complicated, the procurement department’s job must be to convert that complicated requirement into a simple one. Procurement must come up with simple ways and big ideas of measuring a requirement and then turning that into a strategy that takes the complexity away.

3) Simplicity means lean

No company needs to have thousands of suppliers. Procurement should learn to do more with less. The key to the future of procurement is deploying the most effective capabilities where they can make the most impact and automating everything else to keep operations lean and simple, without the unwanted complexity.

4) Simplicity is inevitable

The longer you spend creating a complex system, the more you consequently spend updating, rolling out and enforcing that system. Complexity breeds complexity and it’s only a matter of time until the complexity lessens efficiency and drives up costs immensely. Procurement is at its best when it can help stakeholders make a quick decision, rather than impose a lot of rules and forms that bogs the process down. The direction where procurement must go to achieve simplicity is stepping beyond the established automated purchasing setup and using data and expertise to enable strategic decision-making. This can be done with the help of sophisticated set of inputs and informed analysis that can help transform business complexity into a simple process.

What is Virtual CTO – Who needs one?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO), as the name suggests, is a key executive role inside a company or organization responsible for understanding the business drivers and align the technologies that are required for meeting the business objectives. Considering the speed of technology advances, it is extremely important (if not vital) to constantly adapt the business with these advances in order to keep up with the competition which makes the role of CTO critical for any modern business.

However, despite the importance of the CTO position for any organization, many Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) simply can’t afford the overhead of a full-time CTO or simply are not of the size that would require a full-time CTO.

So is there a solution? Of course – Virtual CTO!

What is Virtual CTO?

Like so many other examples (such as Cloud Computing), the advance of communications has created many business models and facilities where you only have to pay for a service as much as you need it. And Virtual CTO is exactly that.

Just like in a cloud server where you don’t need to pay for the costs of a dedicated server, a Virtual CTO is actually a consulting service provided by some service providers that fulfills the exact role of a CTO when required for any size of a business at very competitive prices.

This is an ideal service for any SMB, enabling these companies to keep up with the technology and make the best out of it.

What services should you expect from a Virtual CTO Service?

Like almost anything else in this world, you have a range of good and bad Virtual CTO services offered at different costs. The services you should expect from a good Virtual CTO would include:

  • Carefully analyzing your business models and your available resources and infrastructure and giving you a clear analysis of your system efficiency.
  • Providing consultation and suggestions on how your organization can utilize new technologies to increase outcome and improve efficiency.
  • Enabling you to take informed technology decisions and properly manage technology within your business.
  • Providing unbiased technical consultation for your business problems.
  • Ensuring you would receive the highest ROI (return of investment) for all your technology investments.
  • Helping you in saving on costs by utilizing the right technology.
  • Managing your vendor relationships and negotiations for best interest of your company in new purchases.
  • Ensuring correct software solutions are designed and developed.
  • Managing your technology projects.

What are the benefits of a Virtual CTO for SMBs?

I would highly encourage a Virtual CTO service to SMBs because:

  • It can maximize the ROI (return of investment) in IT systems, saving great time and effort without the need to pay for a full-time position.
  • It can provide you the combination of knowledge and expertise of a full team of experts, rather than depending on a one-person’s ideas and knowledge.
  • It enables you to focus on your core business, while experts fulfill this important aspect of your business.
  • There are many ways that by utilizing the correct IT technologies you are boost your performance, save costs and stay ahead of your competitors – you simply can’t take the risk of missing the opportunity.

What is Cloud Computing? A short, simple explanation

The term “Could Computing” is heard and read everywhere these days, and many companies are constantly wondering what exactly it is, and whether they should apply for it or not.

While cloud computing can be discussed from many aspects (for example your Google search can also technically be called cloud computing), I’ll try in this article to give a very simple and short explanation of what this is all about as far as companies are concerned.

Very simply put, cloud computing means storing and accessing applications and data over the internet instead of the hard disks of local servers or computers.

The whole idea behind cloud computing is that instead of businesses needing to handle their own servers and data storage devices locally (which would mean purchase of hardware and software, upgrading and maintaining them and handling their security), they rent the needed services from companies like Amazon or Apple who provide these resources as a service over the internet on a pay-as-you-go basis.

How does Cloud Computing work?

Companies that provide cloud computing services actually host data centers with multiple servers interconnected to each other, and utilize special virtualization software to create a large computing and storage resource that can be divided into virtual resources which are rented to users and clients as a service.

What are benefits of Cloud Computing?

The main users of cloud computing services are SMBs (Small-medium businesses) as it enables them to quickly setup the computing resources they need and pay for only what they use.

The main benefits of cloud computing can be summarized as below:

  • Quick and easy setup: instead of needing experts to configure your local servers and installing the needed applications, you can simply set up the cloud services and resources by going through a few web pages that guide you step by step on how to setup your needed computing resources.
  • Elasticity: You won’t need to worry about upgrading your hardware when your business grows – this can be simply done at any stage you see a need for it.
  • Pay for your use: Instead of investing on hardware and software, their upgrade, and maintaining all that, you simply pay for the services as much as you need and use them.
  • High Accessibility: Most cloud computing services allow you to access your data and applications from anywhere on the internet and by using any connected device such as your tablets or smartphones.

What Services are provided by Cloud Computing?

Services that are provided by cloud computing are divided into 3 sectors:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This means buying access to raw computing hardware such as servers or storage over the internet. You pay for these resources per amount of usage instead of purchasing the hardware.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): This means using applications that are hosted on the internet. You pay for the software per usage instead of purchasing the software and host it yourself.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): This means you develop applications using Web-based tools so they run on systems software and hardware provided by others.


Cloud computing would come with many benefits for SMB companies. However, it also has its drawbacks which I’ve listed below:

  • It fully depends on highly reliable internet: Although this is not an issue these days for most locations, it can be a challenge when you are working in remote/undeveloped locations where you simply don’t have reliable, high-speed internet access.
  • Higher Operation Costs: Cloud services are charged either per user/time or per amount of resource used. While this is a benefit for many SMBs, it can make a cloud solution a costly solution for larger companies, when compared to setting up your own servers and services.
  • Greater Dependency on Service Providers: In cloud computing you are to a big extent dependent on the services provided by the hosting company. If they decide to drop a service, it can cause a big issue for your business.


Cloud computing is rapidly growing and will continue to grow. The issue is not whether you will use cloud computing or not – you are already using cloud computing in many ways if you are using the internet.

But as far as using cloud computing vs setting up your own servers are concerned, it would highly depend on the size of your business: if you are an SMB and your business is not “IT”, then a cloud solution would be most probably the correct choice. For large businesses, you might want to have a second calculation of overall costs before you decide.

How to Properly Maintain Your Digital Projector

Digital projectors are delicate and expensive, and they should be properly maintained and taken care of. Taking proper care of the projector can greatly prolong its lifespan and can make sure that it will always perform at its optimal level. Performing regular maintenance on all the various parts of the projector will ensure that the projector will always display the best quality image possible to the audience. Certain precautions should also be taken when operating the projector on a daily basis in order to improve its lifespan.

Listed below are the steps to take to extend your digital projector’s life:

Correct Locations for the Projector

Thoroughly read the manufacturer’s manual recommendation to know where the proper places and locations to install the unit are. The rule of thumb to follow is to have at least two feet of free space around the projector to allow for ventilation and heat dissipation. Never place the projector directly in sunlight or directly next to a heatsource. If the projector is mounted on the ceiling, make sure that the projector is not directly next to a heat vent or an air conditioning unit, and do not use the projector in smoke-filled rooms as this greatly increases the chance of damaging the projector optics.

Digital projectors produce large amounts of heat during their operation by themselves, and the heat must be channeled away from the projector to prevent overheating and avoid projector malfunction. It is especially important for the life of the projector lamp that this heat is removed effectively since projector overheating is the primary cause of projector lamp failure.

Proper Storing and Transporting

When unpacking a new projector, make sure that the box and packaging that the projector came in is stored away safely. If it becomes necessary to transport the projector to another location, storing it in anything other than the original box and packaging means that there is a higher risk of damage during transportation. Original packaging have protective styrofoam molded to the exact shape of the projector, and this prevents the projectors from moving while in transit. When transporting the projector, never leave it in environments with extreme temperatures.

Regular Projector Maintenance: Protecting Your Investment

Digital projectors have filters, which is where all the dust particles removed from the air end up. To ensure that the filters keep performing well, they must be maintained regularly. This is very important since damage to the projector caused by dirty filters may not be covered by the projector warranty. Generally, digital projector filters should be cleaned once every 100 to 300 hours, and the manual should be checked to find out what the recommended filter cleaning cycle specific to your specific projector is.

Hiring 3rd Party Professionals for Projector Maintenance

More than 80% of projectors and 90% of projector lamps that fail could have had an extended life span through regular cleaning. Periodic cleaning is required in order to extend the projector’s life and maintain optimum performance. To ensure periodic maintenance is carried out properly, many companies hire 3rd party professionals that maintain digital projectors. These cleaning professionals provide extensive design, installation, monitoring, and maintenance services to deliver and support high-impact digital display systems. They have years of experience in the field, and provide cleaning and maintenance solutions for multiple digital projector systems.