The Digital Na(t)ive

The promise of digitalisation is everything will be easier, faster, more efficient, … you name it. Also important: you integrate your customers. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I work in IT myself and benefit directly from this narrative, but sometimes I am not only speechless, but really infuriated at how badly it can be messed up. What got me in this state? The instrument of direct debit authorisation.

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Digital blues

The experiences of the last few weeks make me think of the popular German phrase: “Why make it simple when you can make it complicated?”

While the rest of the world is busy with going digital, there seem to be some pockets of resistance in Germany. My health insurance company – let’s call it Medisure – likes to present itself as efficient and customer-friendly. I was pleasantly surprised when they introduced an app that allowed you to photograph a multi-page bill and send it to them for processing, instead of filling out an ancient-looking form by hand with information they mostly already had. A year later, they added the feature of an email telling me a message had been received in the app. Which cryptically means the app can also show what reimbursement they just granted. Why the app can’t send me a notification, I don’t know. They will probably tell me it has something to do with data security.

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Magic Numbers…

Actually, I had reserved this particular Friday especially for an OpenShift4 Bare-Metal installation, but you know Murphy: Firstly, anything that can go wrong will go wrong and secondly, Murphy was an optimist. So I will report on my experiences with RedHat another time.

On the morning of the Friday in question, a colleague called with the usual phrase that technicians have learned to dread: “Please take a look.” The dreaded “5 minutes”. But unfortunately, it was important, because a critical application on the production system was at a standstill and nothing worked. So I went looking for the problem and tried to find the cause. Since the error occurred from one day to the next without any changes to the program, I suspected a data constellation that was problematic for the program as the reason for the crash.

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Harlekin Exclusive: Artificial Intellisense

You probably missed the short article last week that related how the UK was funding a programme to explore the feasibility of dogs recognizing Covid-19 from its scent. Labradores, Spaniels and other smart-nosed breeds are already deployed to sniff out contraband, drugs, even apples if you dare to smuggle one into the States in your lunch box. They can also spot cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, though you wonder why bother with the last what with the striking visual clues of the disease.

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Take one, pay one, make two from that? No way…

In my last post I wrote something about crypto currencies and blockchain, but only hinted at what blockchains can be used for and what the fundamental innovations of blockchain technology are. For me, it’s the fact that the double-spend problem is finally solved – transparently and without having to trust a central authority.

But what does that mean in detail? The easiest way to explain double spending is as follows: If you buy a book in the real analogue world [1], you pay for a book once and get a book once [2]. And only you own the book physically. If your neighbours want to read it too because you raved on about how great the book is… Well, then you have to “lend” it, i.e. give it away – then your neighbour will have it. Thus there’s only one “instance” of the book, unless you copy it yourself and then distribute it (but let’s forget that now before we do overdo it 😊).

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Are we failing or learning?

Wow, 2018 was an eventful year. On the last day of the year I saw the news from OceanCleanup, a great project that first had to fight huge resistance and is now experiencing a setback. But actually this article is about Bitcoin and Blockchain. By the end of 2017, Bitcoin and many other crypto currencies had reached heights that made many dream (and some are converting all their belongings into cash (1) to invest in Bitcoin and benefit from the hype). You could also say: greed had gripped people and in 2018 the situation returned to normal. But what comes next?

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Riding a dead horse

According to Wikipedia, Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is “a word creation originating from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerisation of manufacturing.” Is this now the panacea for all the problems of the manufacturing industry? Is it enough to network a factory?

An industrial revolution is characterised by the fact that it brings about fundamental changes in all areas of social life and thereby changes and reorganises the economy. But a few more sensors, some big data here and a pinch of cloud services there are not enough. It’s about more than integrating planning, production and resources. Many companies have to ask themselves whether their business model will still function at all in the future in the environment of new technical developments and social changes.

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