SiliconANGLE Extracting the signal from the noise. Mon, 24 Oct 2016 07:57:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World’s first claimed as cotton shipped to China using blockchain based smart contract Mon, 24 Oct 2016 07:57:15 +0000 88 bales of cotton have created history by being the fi […]]]>

88 bales of cotton have created history by being the first physical commodity to be traded and settled by banks using a blockchain based smart contract system.

The cotton bales were purchased in Texas and shipped to Qingdao, China using the Skuchain Brackets distributed ledger in conjunction with Brighann Cotton, Wells Fargo and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Utilizing the Skuchain platform, the trade involves an open account transaction which mirrors a traditional bank letter of credit, with payment made upon the cotton bales being in transit, or being delivered and scanned depending on the contract terms, without the need for physical paperwork or human involvement.

“Existing trade finance processes are ripe for disruption and this proof of concept demonstrates how companies around the world could benefit from these emerging technologies,” Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager Michael Eide said in a statement. “We strive to stay at the forefront of disruptive technologies to understand how they can be used to enable greater efficiencies and solve the real world challenges our customers face.


The new system is said to improve efficiency in the trade finance market by digitizing every step of the process.

“The benefits of lower costs and improvements to security through reduction of errors, risk and time, enable a company to achieve greater efficiency and have more predictable working capital,” Brighann Marketing General Manager Cameron Austin noted.

The delivery of the cotton did not involve R3 (R3CEV LLC), the consortium of over 50 financial institutions building fintech solutions using the blockchain, a group in which both the Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo are members of. Skuchain is a Mountain View based startup backed by Amino Capital, the Digital Currency Group and Fenbushi Capital.

That R3 was not involved is notable as ultimately further growth in the space will eventually require standards and interopability.

“Absolutely trade finance is going to move this way,” Deloitte analyst Jonathan Perkinson told Fairfax Media. “Really the question becomes how quickly the sector can align to one solution.”

The cotton shipment is currently between Singapore and Hong Kong, and is due to arrive in China in early November.

Image credit: visitmississippi/Flickr/CC by 2.0
]]> 0
Philippines’ blockchain remittance firm raises $5 million Series A Mon, 24 Oct 2016 07:18:46 +0000 Philippine Bitcoin startup has raised $5 milli […]]]>

Philippine Bitcoin startup has raised $5 million Series A in a round led by the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund that included Innovation Endeavors, Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Wavemaker Labs, Global Brain, BeeNext, and Rebright Partners.

Founded in 2014, offers a mobile-focused blockchain payment platform that provides users with access to basic financial services such as remittances, bill payments, and mobile airtime.

As we covered back in August 2015, the company’s main “Teller” product works by utilizing accounts and retailers who currently accept Bitcoin payments via the network to transfer actual fiat currency between two parties, offering an easy to use, low-cost money transfer service without the use of banks.

“Coins is collaborating with key ecosystem players to architect a new financial and payment infrastructure in Southeast Asia,” Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund’s Ganesh Rengaswamy said in a statement. “Its innovative technology and use of blockchain allow Coins to enable digital access, cut costs, and improve the quality of financial services for the unbanked and underserved across Southeast Asia. We are excited to support this mission.”


While the Philippines isn’t the poorest country in the world, it is poor compared to many of its neighbors, and as a flow on effect continues to remain highly unbanked, with 69 percent of locals believed to not have a bank account.

Smartphone penetration, on the other hand, is rapidly growing, which is where steps in with its services. The company now has 500,000 users with partners in a presence in over 40 countries, catering in particular to the 10 percent of Filippinos who live overseas and send money home, a market that is said to be around $30 billion in remittances a year.

It’s not clear how much has raised to date as the amount raised in previous rounds was not disclosed.

The company said it would use the new funding to “continue to build new partnerships with banks, financial institutions, and retailers to connect customers across Southeast Asia with best-in-class financial services.”

Image credit:
]]> 0
IBM uses blockchain to track pork supply chain in China Mon, 24 Oct 2016 07:10:23 +0000 IBM Corp. is teaming up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and T […]]]>

IBM Corp. is teaming up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Tsinghua University to bring safer food to Chinese tables using blockchain technology as a guarantee.

China has developed an unenviable reputation for its poor quality food standards in recent years. The most famous incident was the notorious tainted milk scandal, where six infants died as a result of consuming baby formula contaminated with the chemical melamine. Other scandals include tales of dead pigs found floating in rivers being resold as fresh pork, and restaurants recycling cooking oil after scooping it out of the sewers, among other stories. To prevent such incidents from happening again, Chinese authorities are turning to technology to give them better control over the manufacturing and supply chain of food products.

The technology of choice is the blockchain, the distributed ledger, which they plan to use for authentication and record-keeping in supply chains, creating a permanent record of every transaction.

“China’s rapid economic growth has led to massive opportunities for innovation, but it has also presented quality of life challenges, including ensuring that food sold in the country is safe to eat,” Professor Chai Yueting, National Engineering Laboratory of Electronic Commerce Transaction Technology, Tsinghua University, said in a statement.

To overcome that challenge, IBM, Wal-Mart and Tsinghua plan to use the blockchain to authenticate and keep records of every transaction in the food supply chain. They’re starting out with pork, which is one of China’s major staple foods, and a product that can easily spoil if it’s not handled correctly at every step of the supply chain.

The idea is simple enough. The blockchain allows authorities to digitally track pork products all the way from the farm, through the slaughterhouse, onto the shops and finally into consumer’s cupboards. The technology will ensure that food items are digitally linked to data such as their farm of origin, batch numbers, factories, shipping details, expiration dates, storage temperatures and other relevant information. The data will be agreed upon by all parties in the network, and once entered into the ledger the record cannot be altered, thus ensuring accuracy and preventing fraud.

By the time the pork ends up on the store shelves, each individual product will have been authenticated with transparent and traceable data available for all to see. In addition, retailers will know they can trust the data when it comes to managing the shelf-life of their products, helping to boost confidence in China’s wary consumers.

“Advanced technology has reached into so many aspects of modern life, but it has lagged in food traceability, and in particular in creating more secure food supply chains,” Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, Industry Platforms, IBM, said in a statement Wednesday. “Food touches all of us, everywhere, and ensuring the safety of what we eat is a global effort.”

Image credit: Jai79 via
]]> 0
The Artificial Intelligence that is predicting the outcome of human rights trials Mon, 24 Oct 2016 06:56:26 +0000 Researchers from the University College London, as well […]]]>

Researchers from the University College London, as well as the universities of Sheffield and Pennsylvania, have announced that they have developed an A.I. that has already successfully predicted the outcome of hundreds of cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

According to reports the A.I. “Judge” examined data sets for 584 cases, with all cases either relating to torture, degrading treatment and privacy. The algorithm analyzed the English language information for each case and then made a decision – a decision that proved to be 79 percent accurate.

The vast majority of applications lodged with ECHR are deemed inadmissible, due to the fact the applications don’t meet the court’s required criteria. This means that each year the court receives thousands of applications it must read through to determine admissibility. The A.I. judge has been designed in part to help expedite this labor intensive process.

We don’t see automation  replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes,” said Dr Nikolaos Aletras, research leader at UCL’s department of computer science. For the study the A.I. was given both violation and non-violation cases to prove its efficacy.

Dr Vasileios Lampos, also a UCL scientist and co-author of the study, said, “The court has a huge queue of cases that have not been processed and it’s quite easy to say if some of them have a high probability of violation, and others have a low probability of violation.”

To do this the scientists fed a database of court decisions into a natural language processing neural network. The A.I. then learned the outcomes after looking at certain factors including the applicants involved, where they came from, the circumstances of the case and the laws that apply to the case. Following this the A.I. was then given more cases and asked to determine what decision the judge would make. It was right, most of the time.

Lampos went on to say that even though the technology was promising as a filter, “Laws are not structured well enough for a machine to make a decision.” Courts interpret laws differently on any given day, he added.

Photo credit: bloomsberries via Flickr
]]> 0
AWS updates Budgets tool to help customers limit cloud spending Mon, 24 Oct 2016 04:54:24 +0000 Amazon Web Services has updated the AWS Budgets tool it […]]]>

Amazon Web Services has updated the AWS Budgets tool it launched last year, to help customers better keep their cloud-computing costs under control.

Judging from AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr’s blog post, it’s safe to assume that some of AWS’s customers might have had a nasty shock at just how much they were spending on its cloud wares.

“This feature is designed to be used by Finance Managers, Project Managers, and VP-level DevOps folks,” Barr writes. He then explains that the tool can be used “…to maintain a unified view of your costs and usage for specific categories that you define, and you can sign up for automated notifications that provide you with detailed status information (over or under budget) so that you can identify potential issues and take action to prevent undesired actual or forecasted overruns.”

With the update clients can now create up to 20,000 budgets, allowing them to allocate monies for each project team or business unit that uses AWS’s cloud. Alternatively, companies might want to create separate plans for calculating the cost of each AWS service they use, Barr said.

Controlling costs is a key aim for any good business, and so Barr offers up a few interesting examples of how the tool could be used in order to do just that:

“I could create a new web app with a fixed budget, and then invoke a AWS Lambda function if costs are approaching the budgeted amount,” he suggests. “The app could take corrective action to ensure that the budget is not exceeded. For example, it could temporarily disable some of the more computationally intensive features, or it could switch over to a statically hosted alternative site.”

One has to wonder how that will go down, since it seems that AWS is implying that companies diminish their customer’s experience when they’re approaching their cloud budget threshold so as not to run up bigger bills. Such tactics might make the accounting department happier, but could also frustrate customers of the companies that do so. Still, it’s an intriguing option for companies worried about overspending.

More likely, AWS is just getting creative in response to similar moves by Microsoft, which has just revamped its Azure Pricing Calculator, and Google, which introduced its own pricing tool earlier this year.

]]> 0
Gartner: Dell EMC is top choice for distributed file systems and object storage Mon, 24 Oct 2016 04:19:39 +0000 Gartner Inc. has published its first ever “Magic […]]]>

Gartner Inc. has published its first ever “Magic Quadrant” for distributed file systems and object storage, the software and hardware that’s intended to enable companies to deal with the rapid growth of unstructured data.

The analyst firm reckons that tech behemoth Dell EMC is leading the way in the newly defined segment, and is some distance ahead of other “leaders” IBM Corp. and Scality. The only “challenger” in the ranking is data storage provider Hitachi Data Systems Corp., while Red Hat Inc. and SwiftStack Inc. landed in the “visionaries” box. There are, however, no less than seven “challengers” bringing up the rear in the shape of NetApp Inc., Cloudian Inc., DataDirect Networks (DDN), SUSE, Caringo Inc., Panasas Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

In its report, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each company’s offering, Gartner says that Dell EMC’s position at the top of the tree is thanks to the strength of its popular Isilon and Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) line of products. The analyst firm says they have a proven track record of large production deployments across a variety of enterprises. It also points to Dell EMC’s broad product portfolio, deployment and consumption models, and aggressive pricing as key reasons for its No. 1 ranking.

IBM also ranks highly as a result of the maturity and flexible deployment options of its IBM Spectrum Scale and IBM Cloud Object Storage products, and also the differentiated way the latter product allows users to secure data at rest, or inactive data that’s stored in digital form. Scality, meanwhile, gets a big thumbs-up for providing a native unified platform both both files and objects, its strong channel partnerships and OEM relationships with Dell and HPE, and its high performance with smaller files.

One of the more interesting entrants is little-known SwiftStack, which edged out a number of more illustrious rivals. Gartner singled SwiftStack out for developing significant capabilities that enable customers to reduce the costs of implementing and operating an OpenStack Swift cluster.

In a blog post, Mario Blandini, the company’s vice president of marketing, said the company’s licensing model allows customers to “pay as you grow,” providing an alternative to the traditional licensing models used by other companies in Gartner’s list.

For now, distributed file systems and object storage is still an emerging niche category in enterprise information technology, but with the exponential growth in big data, it’s one that will probably grow to become quite important. As such, Gartner warns that it’s still “early days” and that means it’s likely that we’re going to see some big movements in coming editions of its Magic Quadrant rankings as competitors compete to learn exactly what kind of solution their customers will want.

]]> 0
Silicon Valley Friday Show podcast: TechTruth fellows chart the future of journalism Sun, 23 Oct 2016 21:33:15 +0000 meet the fellowsThis week’s Silicon Valley Friday Show podcast (episode 5), recorded in Houston at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Women in Computing, features young journalists in the TechTruth Fellowship sponsored by SiliconANGLE Media and The GroundTruth Project.

The fellows, who produced news stories from the conference and did reporting for upcoming features, are Karis Hustad, Pooja SivaramanTori Bedford and two junior fellows and aspiring journalists from Palo Alto High School, Alicia Mies and Peter MaroulisOther stories reported from the conference can be found at SiliconANGLE, the TechTruth Women in Tech site and the GroundTruth Project.

The TechTruth initiative and nonprofit fellowships were launched at the Grace Hopper conference as a joint effort of SiliconANGLE Media and The GroundTruth Project founded by Charles Sennott, who has a mission to advance the next generation of correspondents.  The inaugural project is a technology-focused fellowship that focuses on Women in Tech. More broadly, the new initiative will cover the intersection of technology and social justice.

“Our real mission [is] to bring a new generation of journalists along and have them cover the biggest stories of their generation, but to do it from being there, being on the ground,” said Sennott, who counts the Ford and MacArthur foundations among the project’s donors. “This generation of journalists are really coming up in a time of great disruption in media. Traditional media is failing. The new media is not giving them the opportunities they need.”

Join me every Friday at 8 a.m. Pacific for our live podcast from Palo Alto. Spread the love.

In a three-part interview series (below), Dave Vellante, co-host of theCUBE from the SiliconANGLE Media team spoke to Sennott and the fellows:

]]> 0
Death by a thousand cuts: Why are women dropping out of tech? | #GHC16 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 14:57:12 +0000 While many of us may think of the world of banking as s […]]]>

While many of us may think of the world of banking as staid and stuffy, Capital One is staying on the cutting edge of not only financial technology, but it’s also making investments in its technologists — especially women. The company is also doing its part to keep more women from dropping out of the tech field. It is focusing on the inclusion and empowerment of women in tech.

Julie Elberfeld, SVP, Commercial Bank CIO at Capital One, joined Rebecca Knight (@knightrm), co-host of theCUBE, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, during the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, TX. They discussed the role of AI and machine learning in banking, as well as issues around retaining and nurturing women in the workforce.

Bringing AI into banking

Early this year, Capital One became the first company to offer its customers a way to interact with their financial accounts through the Amazon Echo smart speaker system. Amazon Echo deploys a voice-command service called Alexa (similar to Apple’s Siri) to help users perform such tasks as turning on smart lights, playing music or purchasing items from Amazon. Elberfeld announced a new product at the Grace Hopper conference, a new extension for Alexa, called How Much Did I Spend?

Knight touched on how AI is bringing so many new features to the banking world and asked Elberfeld where she thought companies were on that continuum.

“This whole data revolution around machine learning and AI, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the opportunity that it creates. In banking, we have all kinds of ideas on how we can simplify people’s lives and give them the information they need through all of these technologies,” said Elberfeld.

The ‘problem that has no name’

Two years ago, Capital One started its Women in Technology initiative, and it’s one of the big reasons they participate in Grace Hopper.

Knight and Elberfeld discussed the problem of how women in the technological field are known to drop out of their careers at the midpoint, just when they’re on the verge of being the leaders of tomorrow. Knight asked if it was primarily to raise their children.

“The research shows that it’s not so much that women drop out to have children, it’s mainly because women don’t feel included. You hear things like, ‘death by a thousand cuts’; it’s things they can’t even identify themselves that really cause them to feel like this wasn’t the right field for them. But something just doesn’t feel right,” said Elberfeld.

Knight remarked, “It’s that problem that has no name.”

Elberfeld brought up Capital One’s management training to recognize and help mitigate biases — mostly unrecognized — that can get in the way of hiring and retaining the best people for the job, no matter if they’re male or female.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Photo by SiliconANGLE
]]> 0
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff calls out tech execs on gender pay gap Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:25:05 +0000 Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff spent $3 millio […]]]>

Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff spent $3 million last year adjusting salaries to ensure that men and women are paid equally within the company. Now he makes a habit of asking other tech CEOs when they’re going to do the same.

“Industries have spent billions of dollars to put in human resource management systems,” he said Friday at the closing keynote of the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, the largest gathering of women in technology. “But the funny thing is with one button any CEO can know: Do they pay women the same as men? But are they willing to press that button?”

A March report by Glassdoor found that male computer programmers make an average of 28.3 percent more than female programmers.

“The fear comes from something simple: they don’t know,” Benioff explained to the audience of 15,000, 14,000 of them women. “They don’t know if they’re paying women the same as men, and if they find out there’s some major discrepancy, how much will it cost to make that change, and will it impact them in some dramatic way in their company?

“All of us together need to take away that fear,” he said. “We need to make that change.”

Benioff addressed tech companies’ responsibility to use their influence to improve equality for women and people of color in the workplace. “Business is a platform for change, and CEOs are the leaders of business that can make this change happen,” he said. “We have a room full of future CEOs here.”

Benioff aims to make that happen through setting an example with Salesforce. The company has a policy called 1:1:1 in which they leverage 1 percent of the company’s technology, resources and people to make change. When Salesforce acquires a company (it made $4 billion in acquisitions this year), he encourages leadership to adhere to same pay equality philosophy. Last month, Benioff hired the company’s first chief equality officer.

Last year, he also threatened to pull out of Indiana when Gov. Mike Pence approved a “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed discrimination against LGBTQ people.

To some criticism on social media, he spoke “colorfully” about his responsibility to represent his employees. “I’m from San Francisco, I’m married, I’m straight, I’m heterosexual,” Benioff said. “And I’m lesbian, I’m gay, I’m bisexual, I’m transgender, I’m queer. I’m all of our employees.

“I’m the whole rainbow,” he added. “I have to be. I have to represent everybody.”

Although some members of the audience applauded Benioff’s comments on Twitter, others thought he took the comments a step too far — or wondered why a white male was keynoting Grace Hopper. Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States, followed him.

“Sorry Marc Benioff, you don’t represent all of us. you may sympathize with those who are oppressed but you’re not oppressed yourself,” wrote Ling-Yi Kung.

Onstage, Benioff encouraged every attendee to do just one thing, anything, to push for equality. “Each and everyone of us has to decide what personal action we’re going to take to make the world more equal,” he said. “I’m not saying you have to do everything, but you need to do something.”

He wryly looked forward a Hillary Clinton presidency. “I’m not going to tell you who is going to win this election,” he said. “I’m just going to tell you what I’m going to tell her — that we need more equality.”

Photo: Benioff speaks with CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston

This story was written as part of a Women in Tech fellowship sponsored by the GroundTruth Project and SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Other stories reported from the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Houston can be found at SiliconANGLE, the TechTruth Women in Tech site and the GroundTruth Project.

]]> 0
We have liftoff: How NASA promotes diversity in STEM | #GHC16 Sat, 22 Oct 2016 01:28:59 +0000 Many companies have begin to address the issue of women […]]]>

Many companies have begin to address the issue of women in technology, but what about women in space? Is there diversity at NASA, and how is it recruiting talent?

Mimi Valdes (@MimiValdes), executive producer at Hidden Figures; Dr. Jeanette Epps, astronaut at NASA’s Johnson Space Center; and Christina Deoja, electrical engineer at NASA, addressed these and other important issues regarding diversity in STEM. Valdes, Epps and Deoja talked with Rebecca Knight (@knightrm), host of theCUBE, from the SiliconANGLE Media team, during the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing about women in NASA and diversity in STEM.

Women at NASA

All three of these women are encouraging girls across the globe to look into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) careers. As NASA makes leaps and bounds in space travel, Epps hopes that the national push to put humans on Mars will “inspire a new generation to do great things.”

Valdes is working on the movie Hidden Figures, which tells the story of three women who were vital to putting man on the moon. She hopes the film will encourage more girls to look for careers in STEM and even work for NASA.

Being an inspiration

As an electrical engineer for NASA, Deoja directly works on the power systems for rockets in various space programs. She’s been with NASA for over nine years and hopes to be an inspiration to girls everywhere. All three women agree that working for NASA, whether directly or indirectly, is important for visibility.

To be successful in any career, “it’s important to see positive images and role models,” said Epps. The more STEM careers that are made visible “the more beneficial for humanity,” said Valdes. These women are hoping to be positive role models and examples for girls to follow and hopefully emulate.

Striving for progress

Although the number of women in STEM is low in comparison to men, it is on rise, according to Epps. NASA and other organizations in STEM are actively seeking more women and recruiting the brightest minds, she added.

One important bit of advice the trio gave was to always move forward and never be afraid to fail. Failure doesn’t mean stop trying and can in fact be “an opportunity to learn,” said Valdes. With every failure comes a learning opportunity, both for the individual and the organization they’re a part of.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Photo by SiliconANGLE
]]> 0