So, 2015 came and went, and disappointingly still no flying cars or genuine hoverboards. I guess the writing team for Back to the Future 2 didn’t include Nostradamus after all. But just how far away from the futuristic utopia envisaged by 80’s cinema are we? The last few years have seen us leap towards a more automated, robot-assisted world. We have come to know and love robots such as Roomba, BigDog & ASIMO (Who sadly entered retirement earlier this year). We seem to be shifting closer and closer, albeit at a slower pace than previously expected to a world not too dissimilar to Alex Proya’s I, Robot.
Development in robotics and automation has been trundling along at a relatively slow pace, with several years between each ground-breaking innovation, that was until 1994 when cloud-based data management changed the game. The last 24 years have been more of a space race as businesses act fast to bring their latest innovation to the market. Companies such as Apple & Samsung have been neck & neck following the 2007 release of the iPhone, with bi-annual releases of updated models since then, trading blow for blow in advancements of what a mobile phone can offer. Cloud-based data storage has a major impact on these advancements giving companies the ability to provide massive data files to users without impacting the speed of their device that would be lost using local storage. Companies such as Amazon, Google & Microsoft are currently leading the way in terms of cloud-based technology, as mentioned in Rhianne’s article about Microsoft in 2018, these companies are providing the spring board for other businesses to host their data allowing them to streamline their processes.
But you may be wondering where automation & DevOps ties into all of this…
Automation relates to the process of connected devices communicating with each other with the information the user has provided, for example, you may ask your Alexa device to turn on the lights in the kitchen, to which it would communicate with your smart bulb and illuminate the room. These systems are known as the ‘Internet of Things’ with companies such as Aston based LightWaveRF producing Smart Home devices to create a home controlled by the power of voice. Development and Operations (DevOps) is defined by Ernest Mueller of The Agile Admin as
“The practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.”
Where in the past the development and maintenance of software were looked after by separate operations within a business, DevOps is a way to deliver software with shared pain & responsibility. By combining both processes, companies can now take advantage of managing the production of software products with maintenance considerations at the front of their mind ensuring efficiency can be maximised for continuous delivery. As Guv found out when bringing together her article on Testing & QA trends in 2018, Continuous Delivery is the gold standard of software deployment and this is where DevOps engineers really earn their corn. The ability to develop a software product that is ready for the market can be hard enough but deploying a piece of software to a cloud service such as smart speakers to be used as a service at the demand of the consumer, however often they wish can get a little more involved. With a service as advanced as smart speakers, it is so important for software packages to be free of bugs to maintain consumer trust and loyalty. Web service providers such as Amazon & Microsoft can be used to build, test & deploy apps in an efficient manner to ensure the lead time between concept and deployment is as short as possible.
With the adoption of these processes, software developers can make adaptations and improvements to their products on an almost daily basis. This is what gives the technology market the fast pace it is well known for, DevOps and its principles has gone a long way in speeding up the lead time of taking a product to market, giving developers the safety net of automated bug reporting as the software is in its incubation stage, allowing glitches to be identified at an early stage to ensure a successful launch when the product is ready.
The biggest players in the public cloud provider space and web services scene at present are Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM with their AWS, Azure, Cloud Platform & IBM Cloud services respectively. They have each made a commitment to breaking down the barriers to this technology where possible by offering a limited free platform for their customers. This opens the technology to businesses that don’t necessarily have the spending power of the larger enterprises, creating a more competitive market which encourages innovation & development to improve the overall quality of service experienced by the user. AWS & Google’s Cloud Platform both offer a pay-as-you-go option to their pricing plans that allow clients with a limited budget can maximise the impact this budget has to the overall performance of their offering adding scalability and ensure that small to medium enterprises cannot be priced out of utilising the tech. On Tuesday 23rd October, Microsoft announced that they were making their DevOps platform available on their private connections platform ExpressRoute to provide additional security assurances to clients using the platform that requires a higher level of sensitivity around the data involved.
So, when you ask Alexa to add ketchup to your shopping list, who are you really confessing your love for the red sauce to? There are sceptics out there that would have you believe that your daily routines and shopping habits are of high importance to the intelligence services out there. Although I would suggest they are more interested in Bond-esque Villains than what radio station you start your day with. You are instead chatting with an interactive butler service ready to wait on you in any way they can. Smart speakers are now capable of managing your household temperature, lighting and deliveries.
Amazon is consistently adding to the array of services provided by their Alexa device, this is a prime example of continuous delivery. Their software teamwork to maintain, update and make improvements to the offering of their service accessed via the Alexa device. It is imperative that their software launch is successful without glitches and bugs in their software as the value of their products is in the services users can access the hardware.
Putting Science-fiction aside, how has the development of DevOps systems affected the employment market? the successful integration of new tech to the industry is always likely to have an impact on the employment market of that industry, to paraphrase Charles Darwin:
“Those with the skills and abilities best suited to their environment shall thrive, whilst those who are not optimised shall struggle to survive”
The introduction of machinery to the assembly line made assembly line workers obsolete, while engineers for said machinery were in demand and the introduction of video in digital marketing created a boom in demand for videographers whilst simultaneously rendering content writers obsolete to many company’s looking to jump on the video marketing bandwagon. The software industry is no different, favouring the worker with the skills that are of most prominence at any given time. According to IT jobs, DevOps roles have doubled since 2016 with the median salary also rising by £3,000. This is as a clear indication that organisations are recognising the changing environment of the tech industry and are acting proactively to ensure they are not left behind when the robots really take over.
Perhaps we are closer to the reality of I, robot than we think, though I would hope that Alexa is kinder natured than VIKI turned out to be.