The bloom began falling off the blockchain rose a few years ago, as companies conflated the technology with the cryptocurrency frenzy. In a handful of sectors, however, companies continued to explore how blockchain could benefit them.

Now organizations in sectors well beyond the pioneers in finance are investing in blockchain to protect data, decentralize processes and facilitate asset and data transfer.

“It’s an appealing model for many sectors, promising transparency and trust as it helps make value exchange possible,” says a SmartBrief article. Although focusing mostly on the financial sector, which is where blockchain found its earliest uses, the article mentions the steady creep of the technology into other industries and even slowly becoming commoditized as “blockchain as a service.”

“Amazon and Microsoft both currently offer BaaS, and enterprises as well as startups are taking advantage of it,” says SmartBrief. Citing a Gartner survey of CIOs, the article notes that “60% expected their firms to start or continue adopting blockchain-based technology between now and 2023.”

Earlier this year, Deloitte issued a blockchain trends report. Besides describing the evolving technology and the features each different approach offers, Deloitte found that some of the fastest growth in blockchain investments was coming in such unexpected industries as professional services – a sector that includes the staffing and employment industry – and energy and resources. In each of those 38% and 43% respectively of the firms surveyed were spending at least $5 million each on blockchain initiatives.

Not unexpectedly, the largest percentage of businesses investing in blockchain were in technology, media and telecom.

“More organizations in more sectors — such as technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, health care, and government — are expanding and diversifying their blockchain initiatives,” Deloitte observes.

Like the financial sector, life sciences and health care deal with highly sensitive medical data they must protect or face legal consequences. Those two sectors are where blockchain “can have a more immediate and meaningful impact,” says Deloitte. They are in an industry, the report explains, “In which data transparency, speed of access, immutability, traceability, and trustworthiness can provide the information necessary for life-altering decisions.”

Interestingly, Gartner assigns a similar importance – not life or death, but still vital – to blockchain’s value to media.

“Organizations and governments are now turning to technology to help counter fake news, for example, by using blockchain technology to authenticate news photographs and video, as the technology creates an immutable and shared record of content that ideally is viewable to consumers,” Gartner said.

As companies increasingly see how blockchain can work for them, and, as SmartBrief observes, with issues of interoperability and standards being worked out and “well-known financial firms and governments” becoming ever more involved, blockchain is fast becoming “more than a passing trend.”

Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash


Programming Languages with Staying Power

Learning a new programming language takes time and money.

With fewer employers springing for the cost of training that isn’t immediately and directly necessary, developers understandably want to ensure that their investment will pay off.

No sense learning a language like Matlab, which had fast rise in popularity when it came on the scene in 2013 only to have a decline almost as quick. That’s what the latest rankings from RedMonk show.

No one is saying Matlab has disappeared. Just the contrary. It’s still being used in a variety of specialty areas. But as far as being discussed and referenced on Stack Overflow or code created on GitHub, it’s popularity has waned.

The chart RedMonk prepares shows that a few languages have strong staying power. JavaScript has held the top spot in all but two of the years between 2012 and 2021. Java, PHP, C# and Python have all been in the top five for years. Python unseated Java a couple years ago to take 2nd place in the rankings.

Explaining the methodology, RedMonk says, “The idea is not to offer a statistically valid representation of current usage, but rather to correlate language discussion and usage in an effort to extract insights into potential future adoption trends.”

That said, an article on the tech careers site Dice.com says the RedMonk rankings are a useful guide to languages that have staying power. “It’s always worth looking at the latest updates,” the article says.

Discussing the top ranking languages, Dice says, “Employers have an incredible hunger for technologists skilled in these languages, both to build new applications and maintain mountains of legacy code.”

RedMonk language ranks - blog.jpg

Based on an analysis of millions of job postings last year, the five most frequently mentioned languages in order are SQL, Java, Python, JavaScript and C#.

Citing data from Burning Glass, another Dice post explains that “SQL developers earn a median salary of $92,504, with the profession projected to grow 11.5% over the next decade. Database administrators, who utilize SQL quite a bit, make nearly as much ($89,561) with exactly the same projected growth.”

The RedMonk list, like so many other rankings, is just one bit of intelligence. However, it does show the endurance of legacy languages.

“You can feel safe learning an older language such as Python or JavaScript today, because it’s not going anywhere soon,” says Dice. “Newer languages such as Kotlin attract a lot of buzz, but it might take years for them to become as ubiquitous.”

Photo by James Harrison on Unsplash

Affective Computing Is Making AI More Human

One of the leading trends in IT that not even many technologists know much about is “affective computing.” It’s adding EQ to AI’s IQ,

The idea of computers that can engage and effect human emotions is as old as the first sci fi robots. A more modern example are video games that immerse players in environments designed to trigger a variety of emotions.

Today’s affective computing seeks to recognize human emotion and respond to it, not simply to evoke it. At MIT’s Media Lab, the mission of the affective computing group is to “bridge the gap between human emotions and computational technology.” The goal is to develop “new software tools to help people gather, communicate, and express emotional information and to better manage and understand the ways emotion impacts health, social interaction, learning, memory, and behavior.”

These are no mere high-minded aspirational hopes. Tools like these already exist, and not just in the lab. Many models of cars come equipped with sensors that detect drowsiness, warning the driver and urging them to take a break. At New York’s Fashion Week in September “Experience Management” technology analyzed attendees to customize drinks and fragrances just for them. McDonald’s is using technology to tailor drive-thru menu features based on weather, trending items and what the current restaurant traffic is like.

Deloitte report says uses like these are just the beginning: “Using data and human-centered design (HCD) techniques — and technologies currently being used in neurological research to better understand human needs — affective systems will be able to recognize a system user’s emotional state and the context behind it, and then respond appropriately.”

Human experience platforms employ a range of AI technologies like sentiment analysis, eye tracking, facial recognition and natural language processing to recognize and understand human emotion and, most significantly, respond to it in a natural, human-like way.

Deloitte gives us a practical example of how this could work:

“Imagine if you could walk into [a clothing retailer] and a bot appearing on the screen recognizes you and addresses you by name. This bot has been observing you walk around the store and has identified jackets you might love based on your mood today and your purchasing history. In this moment, technology engages you as an individual, and as a result, you experience this store in a very different, more human way. AI and affective technologies have scaled an experience with very human-like qualities to encompass an entire business environment.”

Each of these capabilities exists now in some form. Assembling them into an experience platform isn’t far off. Deloitte found that companies focusing on the human experience are already twice as likely to outperform their peers. They grow revenue 17 times faster than competitors that do not focus the human experience.

“The ability to leverage emotionally intelligent platforms to recognize and use emotional data at scale,” Deloitte predicts, “Will be one of the biggest, most important opportunities for companies going forward.”

Image: Deloitte Insights