Connect with us

Tech

Building great digital customer experiences with agile infrastructure

Published

on

Building great digital customer experiences with agile infrastructure


So then if I extend that. Two years ago, we launched DevCloud, UBS DevCloud, which is effectively an open ecosystem built on public cloud, where all our software engineers can have a seamless experience going from dev, to test, to deploy solutions while they’re running. That accelerates time to market, it decreased cost as well, which obviously impacts clients. With DevCloud, we can also constantly improve our apps, so they will never be 10 years old, but instead they will continue to be relevant.

Now, the biggest benefit as well of moving to the cloud is that things that used to take, say, five days, now only take one, which helps boost our engineers’ productivity and makes it a great place to work. We have an expression here we use quite a lot, which is, “All engineers, all developers wait at the same speed.” So, anything we can do to reduce their waiting time is value added. If we have the best engineering talent, if we have the best platforms, we can create the best experience for our clients, in terms of how they engage and interact with us.

Laurel: You mentioned cloud computing, and to create a more definitive timeline here, in late 2018 UBS announced a plan to make the firm more effective and efficient through cloud computing. Then as of February 2021, it was well ahead of that schedule, with 50% of computing happening on private and public cloud. So obviously, a huge transition, if you’re talking, just in 2016, about mainframes, but what has that shift to the cloud allowed the company to do?

Mike: The strategy we set at the end of 2018 was to move, within four-ish years, towards a cloud setup that was a third, a third, a third. So, a third hosted on private cloud, a third public cloud, and a third on mainframe. And we wanted super clear objectives, to try and transition and transform the organization, and how we then progress and what that means. We are ahead of schedule of what we want to do. I also would say our progress in cloud prepared us for the unpredictable, and we’ve seen that through COVID, we’ve seen it through surge volumes, which happened in high vol, due to some of the situations in the world. We need greater capacity in dealing with high trading volumes, and with cloud, you have burst elasticity, because you can burst out for extra capacity. At the same time, we were always able to ensure that business-critical applications are stable, and actually, our availability is above 99.999%. So, the five nines of availability, and that really places us among the leaders in the financial industry.

Also, because we had our cloud-based employees set up, which we call A3, anytime, anywhere, from any device, which is now workspace, we enabled 95% of our employees to work from home. So, we saw more than 60,000 users logged in simultaneously, a huge increase in use of comms tools, so 3 million Skype calls a week. Cloud ultimately makes us more flexible, more stable, more transparent, I think our facilitation with other ecosystems is much easier. All this is great for our clients. It is something I keep repeating, even the piece that seems not client-related means that we can respond faster to their needs and actually maintain security.

Laurel: Part of this initiative across the company to think more strategically about those tech investments, UBS recently joined the Green Software Foundation as a steering member, in part to support the company’s push also for net zero greenhouse gas emissions across all of its operations by 2050. So how does joining the Green Software Foundation affect the choices you make when building and deploying software?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, at a strategic level, UBS is absolutely committed to sustainability, and I think as an individual, but also as a GEB member, it’s a priority overall. We have thousands of applications running across our global business, and I think one of our big steps in our evolution is not just accelerating our digital transformation, but how do we do it in the right way? So how do we use those greener development principles as a huge part, an integral part, of our approach going forward?

We’ve made advances in reducing our carbon emission, and that can be moving from on-prem data centers to the cloud, or reducing, or actually removing idle, power-hungry resources. Now, we’re also looking more and more at whether we can use carbon aware applications and then users can take options with the lowest emission. The Green Software Foundation is a really cool group, partnering with them to share the best practice and knowledge with other members is part of that journey to continue cutting carbon emissions. I think we, with others, can really lead the way here.

Tech

IBM wants to build a 100,000-qubit quantum computer

Published

on

The Download: IBM’s quantum ambitions, and tasting lab-grown burgers


Quantum computing holds and processes information in a way that exploits the unique properties of fundamental particles: electrons, atoms, and small molecules can exist in multiple energy states at once, a phenomenon known as superposition, and the states of particles can become linked, or entangled, with one another. This means that information can be encoded and manipulated in novel ways, opening the door to a swath of classically impossible computing tasks.

As yet, quantum computers have not achieved anything useful that standard supercomputers cannot do. That is largely because they haven’t had enough qubits and because the systems are easily disrupted by tiny perturbations in their environment that physicists call noise. 

Researchers have been exploring ways to make do with noisy systems, but many expect that quantum systems will have to scale up significantly to be truly useful, so that they can devote a large fraction of their qubits to correcting the errors induced by noise. 

IBM is not the first to aim big. Google has said it is targeting a million qubits by the end of the decade, though error correction means only 10,000 will be available for computations. Maryland-based IonQ is aiming to have 1,024 “logical qubits,” each of which will be formed from an error-correcting circuit of 13 physical qubits, performing computations by 2028. Palo Alto–based PsiQuantum, like Google, is also aiming to build a million-qubit quantum computer, but it has not revealed its time scale or its error-correction requirements. 

Because of those requirements, citing the number of physical qubits is something of a red herring—the particulars of how they are built, which affect factors such as their resilience to noise and their ease of operation, are crucially important. The companies involved usually offer additional measures of performance, such as “quantum volume” and the number of “algorithmic qubits.” In the next decade advances in error correction, qubit performance, and software-led error “mitigation,” as well as the major distinctions between different types of qubits, will make this race especially tricky to follow.

Refining the hardware

IBM’s qubits are currently made from rings of superconducting metal, which follow the same rules as atoms when operated at millikelvin temperatures, just a tiny fraction of a degree above absolute zero. In theory, these qubits can be operated in a large ensemble. But according to IBM’s own road map, quantum computers of the sort it’s building can only scale up to 5,000 qubits with current technology. Most experts say that’s not big enough to yield much in the way of useful computation. To create powerful quantum computers, engineers will have to go bigger. And that will require new technology.

Continue Reading

Tech

How it feels to have a life-changing brain implant removed

Published

on

How it feels to have a life-changing brain implant removed


Burkhart’s device was implanted in his brain around nine years ago, a few years after he was left unable to move his limbs following a diving accident. He volunteered to trial the device, which enabled him to move his hand and fingers. But it had to be removed seven and a half years later.

His particular implant was a small set of 100 electrodes, carefully inserted into a part of the brain that helps control movement. It worked by recording brain activity and sending these recordings to a computer, where they were processed using an algorithm. This was connected to a sleeve of electrodes worn on the arm. The idea was to translate thoughts of movement into electrical signals that would trigger movement.

Burkhart was the first to receive the implant, in 2014; he was 24 years old. Once he had recovered from the surgery, he began a training program to learn how to use it. Three times a week for around a year and a half, he visited a lab where the implant could be connected to a computer via a cable leading out of his head.

“It worked really well,” says Burkhart. “We started off just being able to open and close my hand, but after some time we were able to do individual finger movements.” He was eventually able to combine movements and control his grip strength. He was even able to play Guitar Hero.

“There was a lot that I was able to do, which was exciting,” he says. “But it was also still limited.” Not only was he only able to use the device in the lab, but he could only perform lab-based tasks. “Any of the activities we would do would be simplified,” he says. 

For example, he could pour a bottle out, but it was only a bottle of beads, because the researchers didn’t want liquids around the electrical equipment. “It was kind of a bummer it wasn’t changing everything in my life, because I had seen how beneficial it could be,” he says.

At any rate, the device worked so well that the team extended the trial. Burkhart was initially meant to have the implant in place for 12 to 18 months, he says. “But everything was really successful … so we were able to continue on for quite a while after that.” The trial was extended on an annual basis, and Burkhart continued to visit the lab twice a week.

Continue Reading

Tech

The Download: brain implant removal, and Nvidia’s AI payoff

Published

on

A brain implant changed her life. Then it was removed against her will.


Leggett told researchers that she “became one” with her device. It helped her to control the unpredictable, violent seizures she routinely experienced, and allowed her to take charge of her own life. So she was devastated when, two years later, she was told she had to remove the implant because the company that made it had gone bust.

The removal of this implant, and others like it, might represent a breach of human rights, ethicists say in a paper published earlier this month. And the issue will only become more pressing as the brain implant market grows in the coming years and more people receive devices like Leggett’s. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

You can read more about what happens to patients when their life-changing brain implants are removed against their wishes in the latest issue of The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

If you’d like to read more about brain implants, why not check out:

+ Brain waves can tell us how much pain someone is in. The research could open doors for personalized brain therapies to target and treat the worst kinds of chronic pain. Read the full story.

+ An ALS patient set a record for communicating via a brain implant. Brain interfaces could let paralyzed people speak at almost normal speeds. Read the full story.

+ Here’s how personalized brain stimulation could treat depression. Implants that track and optimize our brain activity are on the way. Read the full story.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2021 Seminole Press.