Why You’re Probably Thinking About Real-Time Systems in the Wrong Way
Organizations in numerous industries are increasingly interested in and are attempting to build, real-time systems that far exceed the limited capabilities of the software systems of the recent past. The issues that these systems need to address impact internal operations and customer experiences, and also extend beyond the walls of the individual organization to change the expected capabilities of the industry, and even the health of the planet.
The next generation of real-time systems come into play in extremely diverse uses:
- Safety and security: Delivering new levels of health and public safety in smart buildings that automatically detect and stop the spread of disease,
- Retail: Enabling new personalized proximity marketing experiences in physical retail environments,
- Emergencies: Detecting floods and other emergency situations and then automatically triggering evacuation protocols
In all these scenarios – there can be no compromise in terms of responsiveness, reliability, and scalability. This demands that those in charge of development embrace a more modern way of thinking about the way these high-performance real-time systems should be architected.
When the Database First Way of Creating Real-Time Systems Fails — How Many Elevators Can You Actually Monitor — Before It Breaks?
A modern super-city might have buildings with hundreds of thousands of elevators – all of which require constant monitoring to detect situations of interest such as security and safety concerns. The best way to address this kind of ‘smart building’ challenge is through real-time stream processing that can handle data analytics at scale and deliver consistent and timely situational awareness.
Development would likely start with information from a single elevator with analysis done in a simple time-series database and small batch queries. But it would be incorrect to assume that what works for one should work for hundreds and then thousands.
The flaw in this assumption is that the database queries will be able to handle the explosion of data without massive loss in performance speed. This approach works as expected with a small number of elevators, but the whole system fails when the amount of data (elevators) grows beyond the capabilities of the database
Regardless of placing other real-time capabilities around the periphery of the traditional database in this system, the use of a database itself is what inherently breaks the system at scale.
The solution to creating a robust scalable system is to perform the analytics of anomaly detection in memory, and then move information to the database for historical purposes. The database is the last step, not the first, in a modern real-time system.
The Three Kinds of Real-Time Systems
While there is growing interest in real-time systems, there is accompanying noise, confusion, and misinformation about the different kinds and capabilities of real-time systems, as well as the relevance (or not) of databases to their ability to scale and perform as required. There are three types of real-time systems, each of which is relevant for solving a different class of problems.
- ‘Hard’ Real-Time Systems – hardware-based,
- Micro-Batch Real-Time Systems – ‘soft’ real-time systems that use more traditional data processes and queries,
- Event-Driven Real-Time Systems – ‘soft’ real-time systems that use stream or event processing.
1. “Hard’ Real-Time Systems
These types of systems are needed to solve problems that cannot tolerate any missing ‘deadlines,’ with performance speed measured in a few milliseconds. No database could ever deliver on this kind of performance, and in addition, all hardware equipment and computing need to be done on-premise. High precision automated robotic assembly lines require the rigor of this type of real-time system.
2. Micro-Batch Real-Time Systems
This approach to real-time systems is most appropriate for problems that only require some real-time processing with latencies in the hundreds of milliseconds (or even seconds,) and that require little scaling. eCommerce ordering systems can be a good match for this.
Traditional approaches to data processing are performed against small amounts of data (micro-batches) at a fast ‘duty cycle.’ Ground zero for creating fatal problems is found in attempts to scale the system and diminish the latency between batches to make these systems function, similar to event-driven real-time systems.
As the number of batches increases linearly, the compute overhead and cost to continually run the queries in the growing volume of micro-batches increases exponentially (up to the square of the database size.) At some point, the law of physics kicks in, and it becomes impossible to make the data analysis layer of the system perform in the defined ‘real-time’ at high volume. Ultimately, a database will never be as fast as event processing.
3. Event-Driven Real-Time Systems
This is the ‘goldilocks’ solution for applications that require action within a very short time period in the 1-10 millisecond range. A recommendation system is an appropriate use of this kind of real-time system – such as in eCommerce or in industrial automation.
In-memory processing, not a database, is the driving force in this system. Information (from IoT sensors, embedded AI, event brokers, etc.) is processed in flight using stream analytics, and it can then be sent to a database for historical purposes.
As the amount of data increases — the compute work scales linearly — not exponentially – as in the case of the micro-batch approach.
Finding and Avoiding the Performance and Scale Choke Points in Real-Time Systems
The analysis of the three types of real-time systems shows us that systems that use a traditional database storage model can never be scalable in real-time, even if the ingestion was real-time.
It takes time to perform queries, and query performance degrades as a database grows – which is exactly what happens when you try to scale a system. In our earlier elevator example, ingestion was real-time, but accessing and performing queries on the information stored in the database was NOT real-time.
The performance of that system was ultimately gated by the worst performing part of the entire system – the database.
In designing the next generation of real-time systems, it is essential to consider the time frame in which different information must be accessed and understood and the scale to which you ultimately want to grow your system.
It’s Not an Either-Or Decision — Next-Generation Real-Time Systems Will Need to Be Hybrid
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to real-time systems. But it’s always important to start with understanding which information needs to be stored over longer periods of time in a database for historical reporting, deeper analytics, and pattern recognition.
Next, as opposed to the information that requires immediate action (on the order of milliseconds) for real-time event processing. The best systems will be those that combine the different models of data processing to take advantage of the benefits each offer.
Featured Image Credit: Natã Romualdo; Pexels; Thank you!
A Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Top Crypto Scams
The surge in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has a dark underbelly. It is spurring the growth of a vast cybercrime industry rife with numerous scams. Cunning wrongdoers are preying on unsuspecting Internet users, hoping to trick them into losing their Bitcoins. In this article, I will shed light on the most common cryptocurrency-related scams, providing tips on staying safe when using crypto.
Some websites may entice you with irresistible crypto offers that seem too good to be true. They promise to multiply your Bitcoin holdings in a short span, like doubling them overnight. However, this is often a classic sign of a Ponzi scheme. Once you part with your Bitcoin, the chances of even recovering your original amount are slim to none.
- Be suspicious of any investment that promises guaranteed returns. Investments always come with risk, and anyone promising a sure profit is likely not being honest.
- Legitimate investments make money through a clear business model. If you cannot understand how an investment makes money, that is a red flag.
- Ponzi schemes are highly dependent on recruiting new members. If you are pressured to bring in more people to make money, it might be a Ponzi scheme. These websites often incorporate referral programs enabling members to earn money by bringing in new customers. If you spot a referral link in URLs, it should raise a red flag. These referral links typically look something like this: superwebsite.com/?ref=9472.
- Before investing, check with your country’s financial regulators to see if the company is registered and if any complaints or actions have been taken against it.
- Do not invest more than you can afford to lose.
Cloud mining is a cryptocurrency mining process that utilizes a remote data center with shared processing power. In essence, cloud mining providers rent out their mining hardware and their computational abilities to clients, who can then mine cryptocurrencies without having to purchase and maintain expensive mining equipment. While the concept itself is excellent and entirely legitimate, fraudsters often launch deceptive schemes. They entice potential investors with lofty promises, only to deliver significantly lower returns than promised if any at all.
- Ensure the website provides clear and transparent information about which mining pool is used and who manages it. This also includes information about their mining facilities, the types of hardware they use, and their mining capacity.
- Check contract details. In a legitimate cloud mining contract, details like the cost of the contract, the amount of processing power you will receive, and other terms should be clearly stated. If these details are not precise, be cautious.
- Seek advice from an independent cloud mining advisor or someone knowledgeable about cryptocurrency mining.
Bogus crypto exchanges
Beware of advertisements promising to sell Bitcoins at bargain prices or with minimal transaction fees. These could be a bait to draw you to a fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange website. Another telltale sign of a scam is the PayPal to BTC exchange ruse. Websites running this scam typically present you with a form asking for your PayPal email and the amount you wish to spend. Following this, a QR code is generated to authenticate the transaction. But, alas, the promised Bitcoins never arrive, and you are left with a compromised PayPal account instead.
- Before using any Bitcoin exchange, do your research. Read reviews from reputable sources and seek opinions from experienced users. You can also check the exchange’s website for information about the company, including how long it has been operating, its physical address, and the names of its team members.
- Many countries require crypto exchanges to be registered and comply with specific regulations. Check if the exchange is compliant with these regulations in your country.
- Be careful not to click on any suspicious links that might be trying to lead you to a fake exchange. Always double-check the URL of the exchange before logging in.
Identifying deceptive Bitcoin wallets can be a bit trickier, as the main purpose of a wallet is to hold crypto, not to trade it or execute BTC smart contracts. This means that these scams are not usually about immediate financial gain. While they may ultimately pilfer your assets, these rogue wallets often first aim to snatch sensitive data.
- Always download wallet software from the official website or a reputable app store. Rogue wallets often disguise themselves as the real thing, but they can only be found in unofficial or unregulated app stores.
- Enable MFA for added security. This requires you to provide two forms of identification, usually a password and a verification code.
- If you are dealing with large amounts of cryptocurrency, consider using a hardware wallet. These are physical devices that store your cryptocurrency offline.
- Ensure your device and any applications you use are kept up to date. This includes the wallet software, your device’s operating system, and any security software.
- If the Bitcoin wallet comes as a downloadable application, it is a good idea to scrutinize it for any potentially harmful code first. Websites such as VirusTotal can be quite useful, as they scan software binaries for recognized threats using multiple antivirus programs at once. If the wallet is open-source, you can check its code on platforms like GitHub. While this may require some technical knowledge, it can provide insight into the wallet’s security and functionality.
- Many crypto wallets provide a way to back up your wallet, often in the form of a seed phrase. You can use this phrase to recover your funds if you lose access to your wallet. Keep this phrase safe and secure.
Good old phishing
Phishing, arguably the most common scam in the digital realm, aims to trick users into visiting a deceptive website masquerading as a well-known and trustworthy service. The malicious email could seemingly come from a cryptocurrency exchange or wallet service you currently use. Cybercriminals typically gather your personal details from numerous past data breaches to use in their phishing emails.
Scammers might also employ online advertisements or dubious SEO tactics to lead you to a counterfeit Bitcoin exchange or wallet when you search for terms like “Buy Bitcoin,” or “Bitcoin exchange,” or “Buy Crypto.” These trapped sites often appear among the top search results.
- As a rule of thumb, avoid clicking on links within emails. A deceptive link might appear authentic at first glance, but it uses multiple redirection steps to ultimately land you on a hacker-controlled site. To avoid this risk, directly type URLs into your browser or use your bookmarked links.
- Also, be sure to treat every email attachment with caution. Hackers often use attachments as a means to distribute malicious software.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited communications. When in doubt, check the email address or phone number and get in touch with the company using the contact details provided on their legitimate website.
On-the-spot crypto trading hazards
As Bitcoin theft reaches beyond the digital sphere, new laws and regulations controlling cryptocurrency trading are emerging globally. In some areas, these changes pose challenges to conventional online buying and selling of Bitcoins. This has spurred a shift in the Bitcoin economy, with traders turning to in-person meetings for transactions.
There have been several incidents highlighting the potential dangers of in-person Bitcoin exchanges. For instance, in India, an entrepreneur fell victim to a robbery while attempting to purchase BTC at an appealingly low price. He arranged a meeting with the alleged sellers at a shopping center, only to be ambushed by them and lose the $50,000 he had brought for the transaction.
- Avoid in-person meetings with strangers for Bitcoin exchanges, especially if you are carrying large amounts of money.
- If in need, conduct transactions in public places like coffee shops or shopping centers. These locations are generally safe as they are often crowded and have surveillance cameras. Inform others of your whereabouts.
- If possible, bring a friend along with you.
- Use reliable peer-to-peer platforms with features like blind escrow.
- Utilize the platform’s reputation and feedback systems to select trustworthy traders and thoroughly clarify all trading specifics using encrypted chat before proceeding with any transactions.
- Ensure the other party shows you the agreed sum of money first before you send any coins.
- Trust your instincts; if something does not feel right, walk away. It is better to miss out on a trade than to risk your safety.
Crypto “pump-and-dump” schemes are a type of manipulation where the price of a cryptocurrency is artificially inflated (pumped) through coordinated buying or spreading of misleading positive news. Once the price has significantly increased, the manipulators sell off their holdings (dump), leading to a rapid price drop. This can result in substantial profits for the scammers but causes significant losses for those who bought in during the pump. These schemes are illegal in many jurisdictions due to their fraudulent nature. However, cryptocurrencies’ decentralized and global nature can make them difficult to prevent.
- Do not rush into investments based on hype or pressure. “Fear of Missing Out” can lead you to rash decisions.
- Spread your investments across different assets. This can reduce the impact of a bad investment.
- Be skeptical of “Get Rich Quick” promises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Set Stop-Loss Orders. This will limit potential losses if the price of a cryptocurrency suddenly crashes.
Fake airdrops are a common type of cryptocurrency scam where fraudsters promise free coins in an attempt to lure unsuspecting victims. These scams require participants to provide sensitive information like private keys or personal data or make a small payment to “unlock” their supposed reward. However, after fulfilling the conditions, victims receive nothing in return. By creating an illusion of a free giveaway, scammers prey on the desire for easy profits.
- Always confirm the airdrop is from a legitimate and reputable company. Check their official website and social media channels for announcements.
- Legitimate airdrops will never ask for your private keys. Your private key is your most sensitive piece of information. Never share it with anyone.
- Be cautious if an airdrop asks for excessive personal information. Although you might need to provide some data, consider any unreasonable requests as potential red flags.
- It is likely a scam if an airdrop requires you to send cryptocurrency to receive tokens. Legitimate airdrops do not require a purchase.
Cryptojacking is a form of cybercrime where hackers covertly use other people’s computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies. This is often done by infecting a website or an individual’s computer with malicious code. Once the unsuspecting victim visits the compromised website or installs the infected software, their computer’s processing power is harnessed to mine crypto without their knowledge. This can lead to degraded system performance, increased power consumption, and hardware wear and tear. It is a stealthy and unethical way for hackers to profit at the expense of others’ resources and can pose significant cybersecurity risks.
- Use reliable and powerful antivirus software that includes features to detect and block cryptojacking scripts.
- Install browser extensions that can help prevent cryptojacking scripts from running in your browser.
- Regularly monitor your system’s performance. Unusually high CPU usage might indicate a cryptojacking attack.
- Regularly update your operating system and all software, including browsers, as updates often include security patches.
Despite the initial hype surrounding cryptocurrencies subsiding, the industry continues to grow with the emergence of new projects. Cryptocurrencies are here to stay and will remain a part of our lives. However, as a relatively new form of currency, the crypto sphere will always attract new scammers. By being aware of popular scams and following the recommended protection measures, you can reduce the potential risks involved in trading cryptocurrencies.
How Can TQM Empower Employees?
In the present day, there are a myriad of challenges that developing enterprises have to contend with in the pursuit of success, not least of which is the ever-changing needs of the modern consumer. Recent years have brought about a tangible shift in customer preferences, as consumers are placing more importance on experiences with brands than ever before.
In such a climate, companies that boast the best product or service are not guaranteed to win over their competition as they once might have been. Rather, to accommodate modern consumers, businesses must create a cohesive and wholly-gratifying modern customer experience for their consumers. That means achieving excellence company-wide and empowering employees to maximize your organization’s value.
This is where Total Quality Management (TQM) can be a genuine game-changer for your business.
What is a TQM?
Total Quality Management is a management approach that embodies a holistic view of business success. With TQM, a business strives to achieve an exceptional level of performance in every facet of its operations, on both a macro and micro scale and aims to reach its goals organically by optimizing processes.
At the heart of the TQM philosophy is a strong concept of quality. Those who embrace this approach view quality as something intrinsic rather than superficial. As such, TQM adopters do not seek to create or even achieve quality but rather to embody it and make it a core part of their companies’ identities.
Due to its scope, TQM encompasses a wide variety of principles that serve to foster excellence at a company, from manufacturing and product testing to marketing, sales, and customer service. By putting measures in place to encourage continuous improvement in every area, companies can improve efficiency and achieve greater ROI on their efforts.
What can TQM do for a business?
TQM can bring a variety of significant benefits to an ambitious, developing enterprise.
One of the primary benefits is operational efficiency. By creating an internal culture of continuous improvement, a company can iterate on its processes to optimize them over time. This eliminates resource wastage and revenue leakage, which improves the overall performance of the business.
Adopting TQM also encourages companies to embrace a data-driven approach to business. This promotes an analytical mentality and more intelligent, informed decision-making at the top level. By garnering actionable insights from data analysis and incorporating them into future planning, companies can devise more comprehensive business strategies that drive growth and yield greater ROI in the long term.
Most importantly, TQM helps to produce a high level of customer satisfaction. Through the creation of an improvement culture and the continuous optimization of processes, it’s possible to exceed customer expectations on a routine basis. This result is immense consumer engagement, a positive brand perception, and increased revenue through repeat business and referrals.
For those who embrace Total Quality Management, the customer is at the top of the totem pole, but is the employees who allow it to stand tall. For the principles of TQM to take root and yield dividends, there must be a high degree of employee involvement at every organizational level. For this reason, employee empowerment is considered one of the core tenets of TQM.
How can TQM affect employees’ experience and productivity?
When implemented effectively, TQM can have a substantial effect on both the experience and productivity of employees. There are three primary reasons for this:
Firstly, TQM helps to create more effective training and development programs for employees. By consciously seeking out the latest training methods and most advanced onboarding technologies, companies can help employees to acquire new skills and achieve optimal proficiency in their roles. This makes them more efficient and increases employee satisfaction due to an elevated sense of competency.
Secondly, TQM creates a culture of innovation. In the pursuit of organization-wide excellence, a company can create an environment in which employees have the bandwidth to engage in critical thinking and problem-solving. This helps to create a more engaged and dynamic workforce that is continually evolving itself.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, TQM instills a sense of responsibility in employees. By creating a workplace that emphasizes excellence in every aspect, businesses place their evolution in the hands of their employees. This trust helps them to understand that their contributions have value, which boosts morale and performance, and encourage active participation in the improvement culture. The result is a more gratifying employee experience and higher levels of productivity.
Total Quality Management has the potential to revolutionize a business’s output as well as how it evolves over time. By continuously striving to enrich the employee experience, companies can empower their staff and imbue them with a sense of responsibility that enables them to drive optimization organization-wide and bring ever-greater value to customers.
To sustain growth and success in the long term, employee empowerment is a must, and TQM is currently unrivaled in this regard.
Making Data Talk: How Marketers can Humanize their Campaigns through Zero- and First-Party Data
Without a comprehensive U.S. consumer privacy law, U.S. state and federal lawmakers have been looking toward Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to serve as inspiration as states begin to introduce data privacy laws in 2022. But this year, roads are being paved. Now on the heels of the E.U. announcing their Digital Markets Act to combat Big Tech’s hold on the world, the U.S. is working to pass the Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, on top of the already existing state-led legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act. For example, Massachusetts announced its intent to pass Massachusetts Information Privacy and Security Act (MIPSA) in late 2021, a digital-privacy bill that would protect the residents’ safety and privacy, giving them more autonomy over personal information in the digital world. If the bill passes, Massachusetts would be the fourth state joining Colorado, Virginia, and California to enact comprehensive data-privacy legislation.
And with Google announcing a slew of privacy updates following increased privacy concerns with another new cookie replacement and new features on Android devices to limit user tracking, marketers are anxious to see how the data-privacy battle unfolds.
While it may seem like these laws and regulations will limit the personalization capabilities of marketers, zero- and first-party data remain key to humanizing digital interactions and experiences.
Personalizing campaigns through existing data
The first step to creating digital experiences that satisfy the human experience is for companies to get to know their customers. Think about your interpersonal relationships: you take the time to understand your friends and family’s needs and wants, and humanizing digital experiences requires the same effort. Zero-party and first-party data, which customers share voluntarily, or marketers collect through behavioral patterns, can create personalized marketing experiences without sacrificing customer privacy.
By leveraging this customer data, marketers can develop campaigns that inform customers of relevant information such as the closest physical store’s hours, cart reminders, or product suggestions that anticipate customer needs. These tactics improve customer experience by putting the customer first. There’s an important and understood value exchange between consumers and marketers. Consumers willingly give brands information about them and their interests, and marketers leverage it to build a seamless shopping and browsing experience.
Humanizing the digital world through the omnichannel
Digital can also help bridge human connection. For example, if your friend is making a recommendation on a TV show, workout, or pair of jeans, that “social proof” is valuable information that we use as cues in our everyday lives. Digital experiences can achieve the same thing. At a pivotal moment in the consumer journey, companies should show consumers the social proof in the form of ratings and reviews or how many other shoppers are engaging with the product they’re viewing. This connects other people’s behaviors to their own, making the experience feel more personal than transactional.
Zero- and first-party data have been and always will be fundamental components of marketers’ toolkit to create personalized marketing campaigns. As the consumer path to purchase becomes increasingly non-linear, however, brands now must incorporate and prioritize omnichannel strategies to level up the overall experience.
For example, estimates show that consumers now check their phone between 52 and 80 times a day. Consumers use their phones for new product discovery and identifying brick-and-mortar locations for in-store purchasing, creating a heightened need for more seamless omnichannel communication strategies. Consumers don’t shop Brand X in Mobile, Brand X in email, Brand X in Social – they shop Brand X.
Once marketers collect first-party data, they can then leverage the consumer data when focusing on personalizing the omnichannel experience. With 71% using multiple channels to start and complete a single transaction, we’re continuing to experience rapid growth in mobile commerce.
A first-party use case that became very popular during COVID-19 and remains a core tenet of retailers’ strategy is BOPIS and curbside pick-up, i.e., leveraging zip codes to drive consumers to in-store availability (and not just at-home delivery). Similarly, as COVID-19 closed borders and brought long distance travel to a standstill, travel brands were able to leverage first-party data to surface hotel destinations within driving distance (using zip codes).
Lastly, 68% of marketers gained new customers during COVID and loyalty programs became a key trend for many marketers where they can leverage first-party data to communicate the value of their brand and elevate the role of loyalty in their communications with consumers. We expect the importance of loyalty programs to continue growing as retailers begin leveraging their existing troves of data to personalize their marketing.
To provide digital experiences that satisfy and personalize human experiences, the experiences need to be connected regardless of channel. Failure to do so would be akin to texting with your friend about upcoming plans, and then you call them “not knowing” what you’re talking about. The experience can’t be siloed.
Embracing the legal landscape with data
This is uncharted territory for marketers. However, it needs to be recognized that a push towards greater privacy is a good thing for the consumer and the marketer. Brand marketers will have to earn each customer relationship and deliver value. For years, our most successful customers have been personalizing content from zero- and first-party data from data stores like internal APIs, CDPs, and CRMs, solving the content bottleneck to realize the 1:1 personalization that customers have come to expect from the brands they trust.
But the legal landscape on data privacy is just beginning to develop, making many industry experts nervous since data is the fuel marketers live on. However, this is why knowing how to leverage existing customer data to produce valuable business results is so vital. By establishing the right data strategy by leveraging zero- and first-party data, the overall digital experience will improve.
When Apple rolled out its new privacy measures last fall, marketers were signaling the doomsday bells. In Movable Ink’s analysis of iOS 15’s content caching, we found that 45% of consumers use the Apple Mail client. According to Wired, the new caching protocol routes tracking pixels “through a relay that strips out (recipient) data gathering.” Contextual personalization was thrown for a loop after this update.
For marketers trying to navigate the new data-private world, the challenge and opportunity is to devise new modes of data collection through existing zero- and first-party data. Data is something that needs constant attention. How marketers collect and integrate data with other systems and how they measure it should be under constant review and optimization, especially with the fluctuating legal landscape.
The future of marketing has always been data, but now that third-party sources are dwindling and more consumers are fighting for control of their data, it’s time to work smarter. The next two years will be a turning point in how marketers collect data and build personalization campaigns.
Instead of focusing on what brands cannot do with all the new laws coming to fruition, this is an opportunity to evolve what marketers’ can do. Balancing personalization with consumers’ increased demands for more privacy, can–and if dont right, will–ultimately lead to more personalized, scalable campaigns that drive revenue and build better relationships with customers.