Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Bitcoin is something I have been sceptical about. I appreciate the mathematical and security wizardry involved but it still feels like a solution seeking a problem at this point.
Today Bitcoin received, from of all places, support from Bernanke and potentially from the US Senate with specific mention of Bitcoin as a future method of money transfer. What?
I cannot for the life of me think why they would even hint at such support for Bitcoin when they cannot even agree on something as mundane as converting to chip cards. I makes one wonder if there is not some serious and expensive lobbying going on somewhere in Washington.
Bitcoin leaps ahead of Senate boost | ft.com
A US Senate hearing on the “risks, threats and promises” of virtual currencies sparked a new leg up in the price of Bitcoin, the experimental currency which has risen by more than 4,700 per cent in value this year.
An intervention by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, enabled Bitcoin enthusiasts to put the spotlight where they believe its potential value lies: as a cheaper alternative to the current system for transferring money around the world.
Mr Bernanke, in a letter to the Homeland Security committee, pointed out the Fed’s longstanding view that while virtual currencies pose money laundering and other risks, “there are also areas where they may hold long-term promise”.
Now the article goes on to note the concerns of law enforcement following the revelations of Bitcoin as a currency on the anonymous marketplace, Silk Road, to purchase drugs and other highly illegal activities that I won’t even mention here for fear of tarnishing my poor little blog for in the search engines. But thsi background makes the above comments from the Fed all the odder.
The Department of Homeland Security took a tougher line, saying in a letter dated November 12 that the ease with which criminal organisations could exploit virtual currencies made its “aggressive posture” necessary
Don’t get me wrong – I am all in favour of break-out thinking in the payments world and it needs that. I spend a fair bit of time thinking and writing about trends there. However the timing of this on the heels of the Silk Road revelations along with the known speculation which Bitcoin attracts just feels odd.
I spent some time with a P2P Startup in Canada and our largest hurdle was to convince the Securities regulator that investing in properly adjudicated retail loans with diversified risk was a reasonable investment. We failed. The regulator would never allow anyone who was not an Accredited Investor to participate.
Now compare that experience to Bitcoin. Are people purchasing a virtual currency or a speculative investment? I would love to be fly on the wall overhearing that debate in the SEC boardrooms.
This will be an interesting theme to follow. i am curious what others may think.
In 2009 shortly after the banking crisis was unfolding, I wrote a piece on the danger of spreadsheets. It turns out that danger costs in the billions.
In January 2012, losses on a derivatives portfolio that ultimately cost the bank more than $6bn stood at a mere $100m. A review team at that time identified that an important risk calculation for the portfolio was error-prone.
Spreadsheets offer a fabulous and awe inspiring power to produce analysis and presentation of numbers that is hitherto unforeseen. The power lies in the functions that allow rapid calculation of enormous amounts of data. “Spreadsheet jockeys” are valued because the depth of analysis that is provided is so powerful that it becomes unimaginable to the lay person.
I have been in a bank meeting where a risk analyst developed a spreadsheet that highlighted enormous risk in a portfolio that almost killed the project. Once we highlighted the vlookup error all was well, but it shouldn’t have to be that hard, and the lost weeks and lost credibility on both sides took a lot of time to get back.
To those who are knowledgeable about spreadsheets, there is a suspicion that is borne of past mistakes, a formula that used ‘relative’ copying in an unexpected way, or a range that incorrectly excluded data. We have all been there and watching the new guy with his sheets pronounce some new found insight can be rightly questioned until the data and analysis is evaluated by third parties.
The danger of spreadsheet lies in the personal creation without validation. First Lotus, then Microsoft created an unimaginably powerful tool that is very hard to validate. Everyone has their own ways of laying out data, and building the formulae. Its personal.
Lucy speaks in the FT article above about enterprise software, but that starts to sound like loss of functionality. She also speaks of better spreadsheet consistency and practices, that makes more sense:
Not all efforts to control spreadsheets need to come from on high, though. There are various grassroots control efforts. Analysts at investment banks, for instance, often adopt norms that make spreadsheets easier for peers to review. New hires learn these practices.
There will still be losses from incorrect spreadsheets, but it is incumbent on spreadsheet creators to follow rules and maintain simplicity and transparency.
What new technologies and products will fundamentally change the way we interact with the payments system? | CD Howe Conference Toronto
There is a payments conference on this week in Toronto, and its asking the right question about the future; What new technologies and products will fundamentally change the way we interact with the payments system?
I would go further and add to “technologies and products”, what companies, e.g. Stripe. Only by looking at examples will the participants start to see the true potential for change.
Session VI – Innovations, Implications, and Next Steps for the Payments Sector
- Innovations: What new technologies and products will fundamentally change the way we interact with the payments system?
- Implications: What are the possible implications of new technologies? How can/will the payments sector evolve with these new products?
- New Regulatory Approach/Issues: What are the largest challenges that will be faced by the payments sector moving forward? How can these challenges be addressed, and how can regulation evolve to assist both the regulator, regulated, and the consumer?
- Darrell MacMullin, Managing Director – Canada, PayPal
- Jeremy Rudin, Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Finance
This is interesting. We know that Cisco routers form a large percentage of the internet traffic yet that is now about to be disrupted by Software Defined Networking (SDN). Cisco are smartly not allowing this trend to get ahead of them and have been secretly working through a Cisco funded start up, Insieme, to remain firmy part of the new trend.
One of the key drivers was when Amazon replaced a planned purchase of $1bilion of routers with an $11 million purchase supported by SDN software.
SDN is a huge threat to Cisco because it changes the way companies build networks. It takes the high-end features built into expensive routers and switches and puts them into software that can run on cheaper hardware. Corporations still need to buy routers and switches, but they can buy fewer of them and cheaper ones. It also leads to all kinds of new startups based on networking software.
As we previously reported, Insieme is technically not part of Cisco, but a startup, wholly funded by Cisco with a $100 million investment. If it does well, Cisco has an option to buy it for $750 million.
Healthcare.gov – “They should have asked NSA to do the integration as they have expertise in this area”
The wags on Reddit are discussing the technical aspects, lines of code, issues of insurance company integration, and legacy systems.
But this statement from T1LT captured the conundrum for the US Government perfectly; read slowly and consider the subtlety …
They should have asked NSA to do the integration as they have expertise in this area
Here is a quick refresh for long time readers. Once upon a time, many years ago, O’Reilly summed up the post 2001 tech crash revitalisation as Web 2.0.
At the time, in 2005, it seemed so clear. Yet when we study the 2nd column, which was supposed to be the future, it is a very weak picture with blogging, Napster and participation as leading lights.
Publishing –> Participation –> oops! Facebook and Twitter kind of blew that extrapolation.
I recently noted the efforts spearheaded by the Bank of England to create a more integrated (across Banks) cyber security strategy.
The Canadian Bank regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) has developed this template which they will use in future oversight visits. Frankly I find it weak, lacking breadth in its content and approach. It is overly skewed towards black and white automatic shutdown in case of events for example. Rather, art of the reality of cyber security lies in managing greyness and acknowledging such realities as the potential similarity of Denial of Service attacks and a bloated log file.
Looking beyond the individual bank the checklist is silent on the key component of the Bank of England strategy to address threats within the interconnected systems such as payments that sit partly within individual banks, and partly with non bank third parties.
Nevertheless its easy to criticise and a checklist is always a good place to start, and here it is.
All the talk about wearable gadgets as the next big thing got me thinking again about the Internet of Things.
The Internet of things is not a new concept. I remember listening to an academic at an NCR conference (yes ATM’s) circa 1997 speaking about a future when everything has a chip and IP address that will identify itself over the internet. The best and most easily understandable set of examples provided were food. Your milk carton would tell the screen on the fridge that it is about to reach its maturity date and automatically add to your shopping list. This example worked because fridges with computer screens were generally accepted as the future of PC’s.
Where this fell down and resulted in glazed expressions lay in the PC based reality, very few laptops except at banks and consulting companies that I was fortunate enough to be part of. Then layer on the fact that less than 5% of the population were even online and its understandable that the concept that would eventually be coined in the phrase in 2011 as “the Internet of Things” (IoT) lay dormant in the eyes of the general population.
Also the fridge PC is interesting because it truly shows how wrong we can be when it comes to predicting the future we are really bad at it. It’s a great example that extrapolation of historic trends is a terrible way to predict. The future comes lateral steps that are unexpected and anything but extrapolations.
According to the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), IoT (the Internet of Things) is simply the point in time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people.
Fast forward to 2013 via 2007 and the introduction of smartphones we now have location aware, miniature PC’s in our pockets. Then throw in the advent of cloud computing which amongst other things facilitate syncing of data across devices and now The Internet of Things starts to make sense. We don’t need the fridge PC.
The Cisco paper from 2011 forsaw the advent of wearable gadgets, but to me that is simply an extension of mobile. The real Internet of Things will see equivalent of wearable gadgets on currently inanimate objects such as your milk carton. You should be able to automatically monitor what you wish from your application and device of choice.
That vision is not very clearly laid out yet as far as I can tell. I found this picture which has potential on the interestingly named but hopelessly vague website called the Internet of Things run by the EU.
A bit more searching turned up this on Wikipedia supported by much better lateral thinking about where this could go. Its typical Wikipedia and a bit all over the place but some germs of ideas in there.
The Wikipedia entry refers to Songdo, a new city in Korea designed to be virtual. It is mainly about recycling and reclamation, but also about being wired.
Nearly everything in this digital metropolis of smart homes is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analyzed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention. Thus, Internet of Things, or embedded intelligence in things, with "smart systems that are able to take over complex human perceptive and cognitive functions and frequently act unnoticeably in the background" is a close reality.
But city design is just one aspect. There is still the darned milk carton and everything else in your fridge, then your car, and your office as well as your home.
This entire concept just gets so large as to be unimaginable again. So maybe the wearable objects thing is a logical step along the way towards the real full Internet of Things and as we watch for the next big thing.
The death throes at Blackberry continue. Cut and paste gaming of reviews at the Google Play Store are the latest. The ars technica folks are very kind in their review here.
A tremendous number of the reviews all contain identical or near-identical awful text, including missing commas and a painfully absent preposition: