3D printing is one of those alluring parts of the technology world that has people bubbling with ideas of what they can and will print.
But the time, cost and varying quality of current consumer 3D printers has meant they have yet to take the hobby and craft market by storm.
You are more likely to find 3D printers being used by startups to create cheap and cheerful prototypes; some even use 3D printing to create prosthetic limbs that are markedly cheaper and faster to produce than current alternatives.
Arguable it is in the business world, from startups to large enterprises, where 3D printing will have the most impact in the near future.
Case in point would be Ford's use of industrial 3D printers to create prototype parts to inform the design of its next range of cars.
The car maker uses 3D printing to bring to life sketched designs and 3D models of car parts created with computer-assisted design software.
The printers can rapidly and cheaply produce plastic prototypes of car parts (pictured below), such as steering wheels, gear sticks, grilles and various other bodywork parts, all of which can be assessed in the physical world by engineers and designers.
Previously the process for complex parts would be carried out using clay models that required specific tooling, moulds and specialist technicians.
This meant producing prototypes could take months, depending on the complexity of the part, as well as cost Ford a hefty amount.
While Ford still uses clay models to create scale versions of its cars and less complex car parts, it now uses laser 3D printing to create detailed plastic prototypes within days or hours, saving the firm time and money, and giving its engineers and designers more scope to optimise each part for the car.
Ford is probably a few years away from creating mass market 3D printed cars, but with 3D printing allowing for the creation of metal and plastic models, it could only be a matter of time before cars are constructed mostly from printed parts.
Big data platforms are found in a variety of industries, from manufacturing firms using analytics to identify maintenance needs in a production line, to healthcare companies crunching large databases to aid medical research.
Tennis, a game that has gradually evolved over the past 150 years or so, is not the place you would expect a big data platform to reside.
But the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) thinks otherwise, which is why the organisation has worked with Infosys to collect and analyse all the data generated during the ATP World Tour competition, from systems such as Hawkeye and statistical information gleaned from each game.
To do this Infosys provided the ATP with a customised version of its Information Platform, a cloud-based data ingestion and analytics service designed to mix real-time data with historical information to enable the public, media and players to see a range of information based on games and tournaments, all displayed through a web portal or app.
For example, you can compare the serves of different players during an all-important break point, or see how different players apply topspin.
Infosys and the ATP wanted the platform to serve information that can get tennis fans more engaged in the games, provide the media with extra insights beyond the action on the court, and give players more information on their performance.
Serving such data is one thing, but the clever part of the Infosys Information Platform is the way it can tap into historical data from ATP tennis matches and five years' worth of Hawkeye replay data and apply machine learning to effectively predict the outcomes of games.
This required Infosys to train the machine learning algorithms to understand the nuances of tennis rather than the operations of enterprises, but the platform itself is created from a host of open source components put together by Infosys and controlled through a user interface that hides the complexity below the surface.
You could argue that adding predictive analytics to tennis erodes some of the fun of watching a tightly contested match, but what it does showcase is the flexible applications of the Infosys platform and the ways in which big data analytics can be applied to all manner of things.
Infosys has capitalised on this flexibility by basing the Information Platform on open-source engines and frameworks such as Hadoop and Apache Spark, commonly used in the IT and enterprise world, thereby enabling the platform to be deployed across numerous sectors without requiring masses of retooling and integration.
Further adding to this flexibility is the ability to deploy the Information Platform in the cloud or on-premise, with support for global cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Looking for extra-terrestrial life is not usually associated with big data analytics and IBM technology, and is usually left to enthusiastic stargazers and people who may have been in the Mojave desert for too long.
But the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute begs to differ. SETI was showcased as an IBM customer at the company's Insight 2015 conference in Las Vegas, and makes use of IBM's Cloud Data Services and Apache Spark to analyse huge amounts of data harvested from the Allen Telescope Array in California.
SETI's goal is to find obvious narrow-band aspects of radio signals that differ from background astrophysical and human signals.
Dr Jill Tarter, holder of the Bernard Oliver Chair at SETI, said that four years of listening to signals has resulted in a collection of 100 million signals and a vast amount of raw data on the frequencies to which they relate.
This has given SETI a large database of signals that it has identified as interference from humans and non-alien sources.
SETI uses a combination of analytical resources in IBM's Cloud Data Services portfolio and Apache Spark to query this data and determine whether SETI may have missed something in the recorded interference.
The institute also uses this combination of cloud-based analytics and in-memory framework to find faster ways to diagnose signals.
"Capabilities like Apache Spark are opening up these previously unexplored data sets. We want to do what we've been doing faster and we want to do things that we didn't know we could or should do. Ultimately, we want to be able to analyse that overwhelming fire hose of data flowing from antennas. We want to listen better. We want to really find a signal," said Tarter.
So while such data processing and analytics tools have been championed as a way for enterprises to derive business-boosting information from data, they could also help discover whether humanity is alone in the universe. After all, the truth is out there.
'Don't be evil' has long been Google's motto, enshrined in its code of conduct while the firm casually rebuffs a litany of Right to be Forgotten requests and antitrust probes, while eroding individual privacy down to a wafer-thin margin.
But since Google created its own parent company in the form of Alphabet, the motto now applies only to the core divisions of the search firm, such as YouTube and Android, while other areas have a new set of rules to follow.
Revealed on its investor pages Alphabet's code of conduct includes rules dictating that employees should "avoid conflicts of interest", "obey the law" and the pithy "ensure financial integrity and responsibility".
"Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates should do the right thing - follow the law, act honourably and treat each other with respect," it said.
We could extrapolate from this that Alphabet's employees are now allowed to be evil so long as it is legal. Somewhere someone is rubbing their hands in glee.
X, Alphabet's experimental division, also falls under this new code of conduct, and those with an active imagination could foresee a future of drones and driverless cars doing what they please on public highways, given that it is now legal for them to do so.
Alphabet also offers its senior members a kind of get-out-of-jail clause just in case they act evilly and against the law.
"Any waivers of this code for directors or executive officers must be approved by our board," the code of conduct said.
There are clear demarcations between the rules to which Google and Alphabet employees must adhere, notably over pets. Google has declared itself pro-canine: "We like cats, but we're a dog company."
Alphabet has no preference on pets, but will no doubt frown on employees bringing in endangered white rhinos, what with their movement strictly prohibited.
Perhaps this could see a strong separation in the division. Google may end up sporting a workforce of nice yet reckless do-gooder dog lovers, akin to the calamity prone Wallace of Gromit fame.
While Alphabet's future ranks could be formed of disciplined, cat-stroking evil geniuses, adept in working legal loopholes. Think lawyers merged with Connery-era Spectre Bond villains.
30 Sep 2015
Brevity is a lovely thing. Short sentences are sweet. A few words often trump many. This is why Twitter is a beloved social platform. Users are limited to a mere 140 characters per post, so their public ravings can be kept concise and clear.
Vitriol-spewing racists and misanthropes are kept relatively in check, while the annoyingly positive and smug show-offs are limited in their scope to ram words down your newsfeed.
This includes a new product that does away with the 140-character limit, and could enable people to post long-form content on Twitter.
People can already post images of long blocks of writing to bypass the limit, but such a workaround is not commonly used by the average Twitterer posting updates on their meals or raging against the UK's rail and transport services.
Twitter has already made moves to support longer comments when retweeting links, so the move to allow lengthier self-expression in general is not entirely unsurprising.
It would also appear that Dorsey is keen on exploring other changes to Twitter, even if his tenure in the hot seat is temporary.
"People have been very precious at Twitter about what Twitter can be and how much it can be evolved," a current senior employee told Re/code. "Having Jack come in and say it's OK makes all the difference in the world."
Dorsey may have his eye on expanding Twitter's reach beyond that of celebrities, brands, online extroverts and cynical media types, but many may oppose the idea of expanded tweets. Such a change could prompt a deluge of manifesto-length musings, rants, views and pontification, eroding the rapidly digestible nature of short tweets.
One could argue that these rumoured plans might turn Twitter into more of a Facebook-like platform. Mark Zuckerberg's social network sports a user base of around 1.5 billion people, so perhaps aping it a little is not such a bad thing for Twitter.
The definition of cool is abstract at best; one person's Rolls Royce is another's Reliant Robin. But that has not stopped The Centre for Brand Analysis deciding which companies have the ‘coolest' brand.
Possibly with too much time on its hands, the Centre has compiled a list of the top 20 cool brands of the year, embracing a range of sectors such as technology, fashion and cars. Sadly, waste disposal, sanitation and tone distribution were not considered.
Technology dominated the list, and the likes of Apple, Spotify, Google, Instagram, Sonos and YouTube made it into the top 20.
Surprising absolutely no one in the world who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade, Apple took the number one spot. The company won the coolest brand for the fourth year running, no doubt fuelled by Jony Ive's rather fetching, if over-enthused about, product designs.
If Apple is as cool as a bath full of liquid nitrogen, Ray-Ban is the equivalent of a dip in the Arctic ocean while cradling a penguin, as the sunglasses company took the second spot.
One-time hippy commune and world's largest mud convention, Glastonbury, took the bronze medal, giving it the cool factor equivalent of ice-skating naked in a hailstorm.
Netflix, Nike, Instagram and YouTube also featured in the top 10, gaining the cool factor of having a massage from a yeti.
James Bond fans will be distraught to discover that Aston Martin, maker of the most beautiful cars to grace the planet, took only the tenth position.
That's right, the chariot of Britain's beloved fictional spy is held in less regard than a social media site known for pictures of people's food.
Google will be licking its wounds as it came outside the top 10, in the respectable position of twelfth but some way behind rival Apple.
Virgin Atlantic represented the world of transport at position 19, the cool equivalent of eating ice cream really fast, probably owing to its in-flight film service and cabin crew in Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms.
Many technology and tech-related brands made it into the cool list, so perhaps the lack of diversity in the sector will be eroded as more women and under-represented groups turn their attention to the world's coolest tech brands.
IT conferences are normally an excess of major brands excitedly enthusing over their latest products and touting aspirational but theoretical use cases for their technology.
But the 2015 iteration of Spunk's .conf conference held in Las Vegas is a different beast all together.
Rather than announce a new product that shakes up its portfolio but lacks a real-world use, Splunk preferred to release a series of small but solid updates and products that evolve its core operational analytics platform.
One could argue that Splunk has done nothing revolutionary to its software offerings, but having attended the main conference hall full of whooping attendees and spoken to several customers at the conference, V3 can attest that what the company is doing is garnering strong praise from its followers.
This is probably because Splunk seems to have simply given its customers what they want with updates set to benefits them, and then sitting back to see what the customers do with the extra functionality and enhancements.
With the likes of Gatwick airport, shoe brand Kurt Geiger, BMW, and luxury smartphone maker Vertu showcasing different uses of Splunk at .conf, it is not surprising the company has almost taken a back seat in its own conference, allowing customers to showcase its technology rather than dictate uses for their products.
Snehal Antani, chief technology officer at Splunk, said this fandom Splunk has from its customers, means the company allows its direction be dictated by its customers.
"People come up with really cool new ideas that I've never thought of," he told V3. "Our customers are inventing these uses cases and letting us know what they're doing and we're trying to internalise it. [Splunk] is customer driven and so customers are teaching us, it's not the other way round."
It is this approach that paints Splunk as the Lego of the IT world, whereby Splunk provides the pieces for users to build with, rather than providing an overly ridged and closed platform with uses cases limited to specific industries.
And Splunk is being very smart here, as the world of machine data analytics is still a relatively immature facet of the technology world with a myriad of use cases, and if the company tried to prescribe the path the tech trend should be on then it may end up stifling innovation rather than enjoying the fruits of its open platform.
02 Sep 2015
Fresh from announcing the creation of a new company called Alphabet to oversee the various weird and wonderful units that form Google, the company has now unveiled a new playful logo.
Tamar Yehoshua, vice president of product management at Google, said in a blog post that the redesign was an effort to create a logo that was more suited to the numerous ways in which people reach Google’s services.
“Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens,” he said.
“As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”
"You’ll see the new design roll out across our products soon. Hope you enjoy it!"
In a back-slapping video Google showed how it has evolved its services over time and that the four colours used across its services are indicative of its brand.