Ethereum Project: The New Skynet

Decentralized technologies have made a huge progress in the last decade. The first major decentralized application to go viral was BitTorrent in early 2000. It was a file sharing network that allowed its users to share files across the globe. Five years later, Satoshi Nakamoto came out with the idea of BlockChain (a distributed Database) and used it to built the Decentralized Currency, BitCoin. BitCoin was a huge success because it allowed users to send and receive payments to anyone in the world without the approval or involvement of the financial institutions.


SQL Database Joins

If you work with multiple tables at the same time, there is a high chance you will need to join then through queries. In relational databases, we do this by using Left Joins, Right Joins, Outer Joins and  Inner Joins. Since there are so many options, the question is, which join to use in what scenario. Because if used incorrectly, the queries from these joins can produce erroneous data.


When is Cheryl's birthday?

You may have seen the math question that appeared in a high school quiz in Singapore and went viral on the internet. It stumped many because it was more of a logical puzzle than a math problem. The answer to the conundrum lies in the conversation between Albert and Bernard.


What the heck is Population Health Management?

Looking at the name "Population Health Management", we can at least tell that it has something to do with the overall health of a population. But the questions that still linger in the mind are what kind of population we are talking about? how does this model work? what are its benefits? and why is it important?


Important initiatives for CIOs in 2015

The focus of healthcare accountability, quality outcomes and cost of care is driving a major shift in the healthcare industry. Whilst CIOs have always had their plate full, this year specifically will be a busier one. Each of the agenda items this year ties back to the transition from "Fee for Volume" to "Fee for Value" model. Strategically this means paying attention to how care is financed, delivered and managed. Here is my list of items that I consider to be important in 2015.


2015 The year of Analytics

It was 2001 when I read "The Age of Spiritual Machines" written by Ray Kurzweil and subsequently fell in love with his exponential growth and coming age of singularity ideas. Back then, I thought of Ray's predictions more so as herculean if not utterly impossible; but now, looking at the advancements from the last couple of years, it is quite clear that the future is about to arrive at a much faster rate than we had originally anticipated. The year 2015 will be one of the most important years for disruptive trends and will take us closer to Ray's singularity dream. The most prominent trend throughout this year will be getting the value out of implemented technologies rather than the technologies themselves.

IT as a Solution Center

The IT departments will not be able to survive as a mere cost centers anymore. Their function has been evolving for some time and will continue to shift towards becoming solution centers. The CIOs will have to leverage technology to derive change across organizations. The new era of data will demand that CIOs change their roles from technology professionals to someone who understands the business strategy, company direction, business operations and most importantly how the organization makes money. Successful CIOs will be the enablers of change that companies need.

Crowdfunded Startups

It would not be a stretch to say that the 2014 was the year of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Wherever millennials saw a problem, they tackled it by turning and asking communities to fund their solutions.

Take "One Fast Cat" as an example; it's a company which makes exercise wheels similar to hamster wheels but for Bengal cats. For over five years low quality cat wheels were being sold at high prices with cheapest being $500 dollars. In 2014, California resident Sean Farley managed to design his own wheel using Solid Works software and a 3D printer. Thinking he could help others with his solution, he took his prototype to Kickstarter and raised more than $320,000 in initial funding and thus the "One Fast Cat" was born. Today, they have more orders coming in than they can fulfill and are taking reservation orders with shipping dates of more than two months in the future.

Stories like "One Fast Cat" will become the new norm in our society and 2015 will bring a new batch of fresh millionaires.

Internet of Things

A well-known statement by Mark Weiser published in Scientific American (1991) was "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it." Today Mark's quote is true in every aspect of technology we look at. Facebook used to be a personal profile website meant for students to share pictures. Today, we use Facebook for many more purposes that just a mere profile. In 2011, it was used for revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia; something never been done before that.

IoT (Internet of things) will follow the same suit as Facebook. It will creep up slowly such that living without intelligent devices will be considered weird. Although we will not see a full scale implementation in 2015, it will however appear in larger frequency throughout the year.

At the moment notable advancements in IoT include Fuel Band by Nike, FitBit Bands, Nest's Thermostat, intelligent fridge and the majority of smart watches. IBM's "smart planet," Samsung's "smart things" and Google's acquisition of Nest indicates that big businesses are paying attention. So the question is not if Internet of Things will become reality but "when" will they integrate themselves into the fabric of everyday life.

Data Analytics

It is said that data engineers will be high in demand but short in supply in the coming years. We will see technology going in the background and the "value of technology" taking center stage. This is because the technology simply collects the data while the analytics conducted on that data provides the actual value. In 2015, the majority of the CIOs will try to acquire talent which will help them get the most value and insights out of their technologies.

The healthcare industry will utilize data analytics as part of their "Population Health" initiative. Physicians will be enabled to see a 360 degree view of their patients and receive suggestions from their analytical engines. Insurance companies will be able to provide better and appropriate care to their consumers. IT departments will mine healthcare data to help shift focus from treatment based models to value 7 prevention based care models.

Data Security Products

Given the increasing number of data breaches, security applications will be most prominent in 2015. Two prominent applications coming out this year are Illumio and SkyHigh Networks. Illumio is a visual security platform which operates with no dependencies on the infrastructure while SkyHigh is a security platform meant for clouds and gives a very fine level of control to system admins.

Bottom Line

For the past couple of years everyone have been collecting vast sums of data through various channels. This year the focus will shift from collection to utilization (analytics). Companies ahead of the curve will be able to successfully extract value from their data and strategize where they want to go. Aside from analytics, other prominent needs will be larger storage, data security and cloud. In a nutshell, it will not be about what technology one is implementing but what value one is trying to get out of it.


Big Data as the New Currency

The holy grail of Big Data lies in the ability of identifying the right set of data and thereupon properly using it for greater insights. Asking for such capabilities may have been difficult in the past years, but the recent flood of applications and softwares have made such tasks much easier (if not trivial). It is suffice to say that we are entering into an era where the power of predicting things seems to be within grasp.

Data Value

The moment we have a tangible use (such as predictability and decision insights) associated with the data, it becomes valuable; equally valuable to companies, individuals and the bad guys. Back in 2013, the most popular trend among hackers was to steal credit card information and to sell that info to third parties internationally. Now that trend is shifting towards stealing personal data. From PHI (personal health information) to things like emails, the possibilities are endless. Look no further than what happened to Sony in the recent breach.

Data Breaches

The sad part is that it will still take some time for us to take data security seriously. There is a risk of additional breaches, hacks and leaks in 2015 which will give the governments and companies the "push" they need to make data security reforms.

Looking back at some of the breaches in 2014 we can see a trend starting to appear. It will only get worse if nothing is done about the security.

Data Breaches in 2014

Onsite Health Diagnostics

When: January  2014

Number affected: 60 thousand

Data Type: patient names, DOB, addresses, emails, phone numbers and gender

Method used: Unknown party inappropriately accessed online scheduler system

Michaels Store Chain

When: January 2014

Number affected: 3 million

Data Type: customer debit and credit information

Method used: Payment system was breached by hackers

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

When: February 2014

Number affected: 170 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB, billing information and medical history

Method used: Eight computers containing the data were stolen from the billing company (Sutherland Healthcare Solutions)

American Express

When: March 2014

Number affected: 76 thousand

Data Type: California customer names, accounts numbers, expiration dates and four-digit CVS codes

Method used: Hacktivist group The Anonymous

Living Social

When: April 2014

Number affected: 50 million

Data Type: Customer names, emails, DOB and encrypted passwords

Method used: Hackers attacked the website

Community Health Systems, Inc.

When: April 2014

Number affected: 4.5 million

Data Type: patient names, addresses, DOB and SSN

Method used: Chinese hackers were believed to be behind the attack

Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

When: September 2014

Number affected: 82 thousand

Data Type: patient name, DOB and SSN

Method used: Vendor's employee stole the data

Home Depot

When: September 2014

Number affected: 56 million

Data Type: customer credit card information

Method used: Malware was installed on payment systems by a hacker group

New Jersey Doctor (Dr. Nisar A. Quraishi)

When: October 2014

Number affected: 40 thousand

Data Type: patient names, SSN, DOB and medical history

Method used: Break-in at the storage facility

JP Morgan Chase

When: October 2014

Number affected: 76 million

Data Type: patient phone numbers, DOB, addresses and SSN

Method used: Hackers gained root access to the secure servers

Bottom Line

Our discovery of the powers that data holds is turning it into a tradable commodity. We are entering into a world where stealing data is as lucrative (if not more) as stealing credit card information. Hackers have successfully demonstrated they can compromise governments, companies and law enforcement agencies. The large number of data breaches that occurred in 2014 proves the aforementioned points and demands that we pay equal attention to the security of the data.


Healthcare Cost Transparency is inevitable

Historically the healthcare model in the United States has been such that the total cost of care is generally not known until after the medical services have been rendered. Aside from having no knowledge of the cost, the insurance plans are looked upon as a primary source responsible for paying the healthcare bills. Although this model has been the status quo, the new healthcare trends are about to change everything.


How to become a Freemason

Freemasonry, just like any other institution, has its laws, rules and regulations. While it is open to all men, irregardless of their race or religion, certain restrictions do apply. And since I am frequently asked about the process of getting into Masonry I decided to write a post about it. Here I have tried to put them in easier to read format and hope this helps anyone looking into Freemasons.


HBO's Silicon Valley Episode 1 is out

When Ludicorp launched the game Neverending, they had no idea that it would turn into the image app giant today known as "Flickr". All they wanted was to build a massive multiplayer game on a web platform which never took off (in a viral sense). Eventually they spotted this "image sharing" capability hidden within their app and spun it separately as FlickrLive. FlickrLive was a chat room application with a real-time photo exchange functionality.


Predictive Analytics and Big Data in Real World

In 2012, national retailer Target sent some customers pregnancy coupons and one of the recipients was an 18 year old teenage girl. Her father received the coupons and arguably was angered. He contacted Target's management and rebuked them for sending the money saving offers to his daughter especially when she was not pregnant.


Should I pursue an MBA?

A friend of mine sent me a link to an MBA and asked me whether it would be worthwhile for her to pursue it. We went back and forth with series of questions until I could say anything about the degree being fit for her. Since this was about fourth time someone had approached me for advice in regards to their educational endeavors, I think it would be a good idea to assemble my thoughts in a post.

Find out exactly why you want to do it

Going after a degree with no goal in mind is a pure waste of money. Even Ivy League institutions can’t provide a career boost if there is a void in planning. From a practical point of view I can think of the following reasons that one would intend to move further in professional education:
  1. For fun and personal knowledge
  2. For vita enhancement (resume upgrade for career potential at other companies)
  3. For more money (degree will result in higher income)
  4. For career progression at current job
Let’s go through the above points one by one.

The love for the Education

Education for personal gain and interest is always a good idea and has no limits. So go ahead without hesitation if this makes you happy. I myself am a student at distant universities and at Coursera because I love to learn about various topics.

Career potential at other companies

I am a stern believer in the fact that employers never provide any kind of job security but we create them for ourselves. We all carry our own brands and it is our duty to keep our brand highly marketable. The more competitive, passionate and diligent we are the higher the job security we will create.

If the degree you are considering will add to your brand, then you should go for it. A rule of thumb is to do a hypothetical job search as if you were looking for new ventures and take note of the requirements for the kind of job you want. Use this info to come up with what sub-specialization you like to do in your degree work.

Degree will bring more money

Going after a new degree because it may increase your pay is very risky move. You should do a thorough analysis and ensure that your work performance and behavior are not the reason your career is stuck. The reason being the degrees never change your behavior or work performance but you have to do it yourself.

I have never hired anyone who has claimed that he or she is applying for a job because of more money. During interviews I look for passion, knowledge and attitudes, since these are the habits that will create your job security which will translate into higher income.

Bottom line: think twice before pursuing a degree just so that you may get more money.

Career progression at current job

Getting a degree for career progression at the current job depends on several factors.
The most important one is the career perception disconnect between employees and the management. Employees believe that they will have a better chance at proving themselves if their boss gives them a new role, position or promotion. On the other hand, Management believes that the employees who want it all will show motivation by taking initiative on their own and prove that they are ready for career upgrade by taking new responsibilities and doing things that are not even part of their current job.

So the crux of promotion is changing one’s daily activities for the job one wants and not limiting one’s work to the current job requirements.

The Target Job Requirements

You will need to talk to your manager in scenarios where you are not sure what additional responsibilities you can take on. Every good manager knows the answer to “what one has to do to advance in one’s career.” In most cases there is additional knowledge, responsibilities and work that are desired by the manager. The bottom line is that the manager should be able to give an idea of this “list” of things that he/she values the most and considers sufficient for career growth.

The Degree Decision

Once you have determined your target job requirements by either talking to your manager or by yourself, put all the information you gathered in the form of a list. Test your current skills against that list and check how many of them you currently have or don’t have.

You should go forward with furthering your education to fill in the knowledge gap if you find yourself lacking most of the skills.

You don’t need a new degree if you already have all the required skills. You only need to start using them and working hard.

Bottom Line

Pursuing new degree is never a bad idea as long as we do it for the right reasons. MBAs can easily cost us $50-$60k and that level of debt demands thorough investigation. It is also worthwhile to examine ourselves to check if there is something wrong with our aptitude, attitude, will and skill. Degrees are meaningless if the problem lies within!