Mobile applications have become a must for any business that wants to succeed in this modern world. The mobile applications allow users to access your products or services anywhere, anytime at the tip of their fingers. Several trends have emerged concerning mobile applications. The two most important of these are native and hybrid applications. Let’s [read more here…]
New partnership with CFgO
We are glad to announce that we signed a new partnership with CFgO – a young and promising startup specialized in providing digital CFO (Chief Financial Officer) as a service. Its mission is to enable startups and SMEs to manage their financial accounts in a cost-efficient way to help them scale up.
CFgO is an innovative startup: it allows its client companies to manage the fundraising, growth and sale of their company. Indeed, CFgO provides an experienced CFO to help its clients fundraise and obtain the liquidity needed to grow the businesses. Then, CFgO can also accompany its clients to grow by setting up, controlling and optimizing the financial process. Finally, CFgO also accompanies entrepreneurs to help them sell their companies at the right price to the right buyer.
CFgO understood the needs of startups and SMEs regarding time and money management. Managing its own accounts can be time-consuming. Hence, the startup developed an in-house software that automatically prepares everything a modern CFO needs. The accounts are then imported in seconds via API or CSV upload. Then, startups and SMEs often have limited funds: finding a CFO is often unnecessary and too costly. That is why CFgO offers its services for a competitive price and a flexible formula where you pay what you need every month. For example, if you need more services on a given month because you are in a round of financing, you can pay more only for that month.
It is a pleasure to begin a partnership with CFgO. We hope that we will mutually enrich one another with our expertise. Learn more about their company at https://www.cfgo.de/
Go Digital: Where and What for
Everybody heard about digitalization, but the concept is still vague for many. In most cases, it is about business. But it can be misleading. It is not even a question of reaching your customers on the Web – it is a new lifestyle you can’t avoid.
What is Digitalization?
Digitalization concerns all aspects of your business, like storing the data, communication, workflow, training, and so on. In brief, it means that you add the most cutting-edge digital technologies to all spheres of your work, and use them at full-load.
At the same time, there are enough myths as well. You know them – it is too expensive, it is so difficult to master the new products and so on. In fact, it is not.
- Digitalization does not demand to spend lots of money. Tools and services available now make everything faster and cheaper than you expect.
- Each new generation of technologies is more comfortable to master. New professional products often work under the same UI/UX principles as the most popular public services. Exclusive innovations look and perform like good old friends. Besides, it encourages your employees to improve their skills.
- Digitalization is vital for customers. They are impatient, but you can meet them on their home territory and immediately react to their needs. If they ask urgent questions, you get a chat-bot to answer them at any time. To make it simpler to use your services, offer them a mobile app. When customers get what they need quickly and easily – they become satisfied, loyal clients.
- Innovations help your business grow. Most of the significant players of today are young companies, and the market changes rapidly. As soon as your business becomes prosperous, you will have to serve many more demands. Here is where you need helping digital tools. Even if you are small right now, think about the more prominent future. Digitalization gives you flexibility and speed, and this is vital.
Digitalization in Practice
It suits any business. For a small team, it gives useful tools to communicate with customers. As for large companies, they also need digitalization on all levels – communication, internal processes, training, document flow, and so one.
The thing is, you can always find an appropriate solution for your business. If there is not a ready thing at the moment – you can get it created for you.
The most evident field changed by digitalization is customer experience. It is valid for all businesses, big and small. At the end of the day, it is all about people.
Old persuasive means don’t work as before – the customers get far and further. That’s why sophisticated systems gather data on people’s behavior. Each case of interaction becomes the food for thought. What makes our users happy or sad? What do they expect to get from us? How do they react to changes? How can we speak the same language?
Digital wonders can help. They compile tons of the patterns, and Artificial Intelligence analyzes them more precisely than any human being could. It is their job to calculate how efficient the new strategies will be.
The retail sphere is the most obvious example of digitalization benefits. We can relate it to the more general Marketing field of customer researches.
Digital media are faster and available via many channels. The influence of social networks is crucial, as they are sources of information for many users. People want to see or get the same things they learned about on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Hence, every company utilizes these services to learn more about their customers and influence their decisions.
There are more practical means, as well. Remember all those smaller things like discount coupons and loyalty cards? You don’t need to keep another piece of paper or plastic in a wallet – you can get the digital card and present it on the screen of your phone.
And though interactions between suppliers and customers are evident samples, new technologies help in more areas. Digitalization comes to healthcare, finances, education, and even world politics.
Healthcare got the most efficient digital tools for daily tasks – running tests, diagnoses, and managing sophisticated machines. We also have telemedicine to obtain quality medical consultations from leading experts online.
Or, did you ever think about how many people use mobile apps to track vital statistics in real-time? And how important is that information for medical researches? Digitalization in medicine is no less important than the invention of antibiotics.
Banks and finances
Banks were always the strongholds of traditionalism. But now they are among the primary clients for digitalization. Perhaps, it was not an easy decision to reconsider the whole structure, but it turned out to be a winning choice.
You have to attend your bank in person in rare cases, as almost all regular transactions and services are online. There are web portals and mobile apps for your convenience. Major payment systems like PayPal introduced alternatives to plastic cards – you can already pay for anything with your smartphone!
With a digital transformation, anyone can visit the world’s best museums in virtual reality, or translate any language in passing. Both governments and citizens need digital services. It is our life now: digitalization is everywhere.
The Digital Future is Waiting Around the Corner
Remember futuristic predictions from the end of the XIX and the beginning of XX centuries? The great futurists of the past were mistaken in many aspects – the future turned out different from what they imagined. Can we predict the future for, at least, the next five years?
The things we imagine are based on evident trends. It looks like there won’t be “Terminator” or “The Matrix” variants – at the current stage AI are far from becoming so advanced. However, the importance of AI and automation will only grow and dominate. Many aspects of blockchain came into prominence in the last couple of years, and this technology won’t disappear. There are many more capabilities of blockchain hidden so far. The world technological leaders experiment with quantum computing that itself can be a revolution.
Speaking of more practical cases, we can’t omit communication. The world will let the people of all cultures understand each other better. Language barriers will eventually be broken by machine translation, as it becomes more accurate every day. Digitalization will help to preserve the best works of art and make them available for everyone.
We will get more breakthroughs in medicine and new ways to diagnose and cure diseases. There will be more online universities and new jobs. The digitalized world will definitely have much more freedom and transparency.
Governments will have to lead these trends to survive and evolve. There will be more threats too. People are always people! But we will be able to fight them more efficiently.
Maybe we’ll see the optimistic future from science fiction books. Things are changing rapidly, and tomorrow may bring us a new invention that will become the giant leap for all humanity.
4 years of partnership with Blockchain Applications
We are thrilled to announce that this month, we will be celebrating the 4th anniversary of our partnership with Blockchain Applications – a young and promising startup specialized in blockchain. Its mission is to enable companies to be more sustainable by using Blockchain. Blockchain Applications is a cutting-edge startup: they enable businesses to leverage the [read more here…]
Partnership with Open Technologies B.V.
Today we are pleased to announce our new partnership with Opentalent.co – a young and promising online service that helps clients from large companies to find employees for their companies. We as alphaX have recognised the importance of this product and believe that we can successfully work together and offer any kind of support to our clients.
Opentalent is a startup that hits the mark: new opportunities for remote jobs from large, industry-defining companies. Due to the invite-only policy, the freelancers are screened and the high standards of qualification of the freelancers can be guaranteed.
Due to the Invite-Only-Policy the professionals are checked and the high demands on qualification can be guaranteed. Furthermore, as early adopters we are sparring partners and give feedback as intensive users and help to make the service even better.
We want to support Opentalent to create together with them the best solution in the field of project-based employment services. Learn more at OpenTalent.co
Partnership with Loci ML from Mannheim
Partnership with Loci ML from Mannheim
Self-driving Cars, Traffic Rules, and Blockchain
Every time that movie directors want to demonstrate technical excellence in the future, they show self-driving vehicles. Even James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997) used a remotely-operated car on some occasions. It seems taken for granted: once the technical progress makes such things possible – we all will migrate to autonomous vehicles.
It is 2020, and such cars are already on the roads. The world-leading companies like Amazon, Google, General Motors, and Tesla develop their own models. Even traditional cars include automated modules to avoid collisions, cope with parking pirouettes, and do many more useful things.
A few words about autonomous vehicles
First of all, they are different. There are five degrees of autonomy at the moment: from the level 1 car where everything depends on the human driver to level 5 with all features fully automated. Most of the existing self-driving cars are of level 3, meaning they can navigate themselves under the right conditions. Rarer are vehicles of level 4, doing all the primary functions without the driver. Elon Musk claims to launch a fully automated self-driving car of level 5 later in 2020.
So, has the future from books and movies already come? Not really. We still have to overcome a couple of obstacles to bring the things existing in fantasies to life.
The real pluses of self-driving cars
It turns out that traditionalism is the main obstacle to technical progress. People always oppose innovations. However, things making life easier will invariably prove their capabilities.
Speaking of self-driving cars, let’s mention the most significant pluses:
- They are safer. The human factor causes a better part of automobile accidents. Being tired, impatient, or distracted leads to tragedies. Self-driving cars don’t have such problems – they are machines driven by algorithms.
- They can move more compactly and make the traffic not so heavy. Electronic modules evaluate the traffic conditions and react to them much faster to avoid building jams.
- They allow getting time for yourself. You won’t need to stay focused for hours – you will be able to work on more useful things instead. Self-driving cars would set people free of emotional and physical stress on the road.
Arguments are in favor of self-driving cars. But they remain a wonder. So, why do people resist these autonomous vehicles?
The road rules for people and machines
The results of polls at Reuters are pessimistic: only one-third of adults would agree to let their cars drive themselves. People seek control and don’t trust technologies. They tend to forgive human-caused risks. But it is far from it with the uncertainties brought by technologies. Developers of autonomous vehicles know for sure that these cars must be much better drivers than human beings.
An automated car will always obey the rules. But the road traffic is regulated by written rules and much more significant collections of rules unwritten.
Local laws and unofficial rules
Should we deal with the official codes only, they vary in different cities and states. Besides the most evident cases, like the differences between the traffic rules in Germany and England, there are less visible issues. Human drivers usually don’t dig so deep – they tend to drive “safely in general” and rely on the experience and practical understanding of things on the foreign territory. Trained drivers react to thousands of road scenarios within a split second, almost subconsciously. In most cases, it is enough to pass safely; but sometimes, they have to deal with local police officers.
It is different with self-driving cars – they must know all rules applicable in every city. No one would build an autonomous vehicle that can operate only within a restricted area.
One code to rule them all?
Actually, we can collect and register both official and unofficial traffic rules for every city. There are also ideas to develop a general traffic code, but it looks too optimistic. At the same time, a comprehensive library of the road rules might work.
Self-driving vehicles are controlled by software that must deal with each rule applicable in this or that area. It means there must be a comprehensive database to track and check any minor command. It must also contain the latest information – always. But the most critical factor is trustworthiness. Such systems already exist – the blockchain technology is their foundation. Blockchain principles prove themselves perfect for managing similar registries.
If we succeed in compiling a global library of all traffic rules, there won’t be accidents because of ignorance. No matter where an autonomous car is working at the moment, it will always get full information on local regulations.
Traffic rules breakable and unbreakable
City traffic is a super-sophisticated system even if the city is not big. Many thousands of cars and pedestrians interact every moment with different results. Still, existing traffic rules keep this system from turning into chaos. Problems take place when participants break them.
It is not always because of evil intentions – just interpretation. Many accidents on crossing the intersections, for instance, happen because of interpreting rules in their own favor instead of obeying the written regulations. Too often, it depends on “eye contact,” personal experience, instincts, and many other vague things that software can’t learn. A driver who merely obeys all rules will most likely have a tough time on the road.
The road agreements
Let’s have a look at the traffic system in general. It is a bunch of instant agreements between participants taking place every moment. These agreements can be based on rules or additional circumstances. A driver can give way to some car on a courtesy basis or refuse to obey the rules for personal reasons. Traffic systems resemble the human mind with its myriad emotional triggers and subconscious decisions.
Can we teach a car to behave like a human being on the road? It’s not a good idea. An unpredictable car? No way!
The trap for automated cars lies here: self-driving vehicles need to interact with human drivers and their chaotic reactions. Perhaps, it won’t be able to regulate this model properly until all machines on the road become automated.
But it is possible to help all the participants now. Like it could be with the potential “great code” code of all traffic law regulations, the traffic itself can be supported by the blockchain technology. Those countless instant subconscious recognitions that the human driver makes while going from point A to point B are very much like the smart contracts – the bases of blockchain-based software.
The blockchain-supported traffic management
The data in the blockchain network don’t conflict. It is the basis and nature of the technology: every new entry must comply with the rules set for the system. The implementation of such a system could even resolve an implacable problem of the intersection crossing!
Intersections are where most accidents happen, despite numerous rules regulating this problematic area. If every participant obeyed them, the traffic would be safe and smooth. But in reality, car drivers tend to interpret these rules in any way possible, so that intersections remain the most vulnerable segment of the city traffic.
It would be different if all vehicles operated as particles of the same blockchain network, already “knowing” their rights for every scenario. Machines would estimate their own positions, the distances separating them from other cars, directions of movements, and actions of every vehicle on the intersection. Arguments on who has the right to cross it first would not even appear – the rules will define it precisely, and each participant will act according to the rules.
And this will go for every “instant contract” you make. It won’t let the speeding cases happen where they are not allowed; it will regulate overtaking instances and even unofficial turns. The traffic law covers even rare cases – the trick is to make everyone obey it.
One of the significant advantages of using blockchain technologies for automated car management is the stability of data. Most likely, you’d remember a couple of examples from popular dystopias frightening us with the dominance of technologies. What if someone or something gets access to the controls that assure stable interaction of all vehicles on the road? What if they turn the traffic into a major crash? Well, the blockchain-based networks are so resistant to the intrusion that even villains from the James Bond movies would give up on attempts to hack a traffic system.
Self-driving cars are already conquering their niche of ridesharing services – no wonder that the Uber giant is an adept of autonomous vehicles. More other companies hire autonomous buses and shuttles. Their passengers then mostly tell about the safest and most boring rides of their lives. But is it vital to get stressed and pump the body with adrenaline on the road?
The picture of the future
The future of robots-taxi drivers and fully automated cars remains distant. It still faces lots of major and minor milestones to cross. But the trends are towards the automation of vehicles and making them advanced enough to drive anywhere. And don’t forget about the efforts of marketing strategists! They work hard to fight the prejudice regarding technologies becoming too smart.
In ten or twenty years, all types of self-driving cars will occupy the roads and carry people and things. Being included in one universal system, they will continually interact, predict all possible problems, and avoid them before their passengers might even think of those.
The general speed on highways may increase due to the much better control, and all deliveries will become faster. Possible that we won’t need the traffic lights for machines, as their sensors will provide much more data for calculations than the visual perception of a human eye.
Even now, in a mixed-mode with autonomous cars going side by side with traditional vehicles, we can make their interaction more efficient. And the future certainly holds many more exciting possibilities for us all.
Remote Work in Blockchain Style: Safe, Effective, Decentralized
Remote Work in Blockchain Style: Safe, Effective, Decentralized
Remote work was always on the list. In the IT sphere, it is a more or less conventional style of work. Almost every employee of any IT agency had to work remotely time after time. But it was not until the COVID-19 global pandemic that it got a real impulse.
With the states on lockdown and quarantines all over the world, it became inevitable. Too many businesses faced a vital challenge: either change or die. Fortunately, the IT field could adapt. Our sphere had previous experience, especially in outsourcing. It helped to quickly set working patterns and adjust our work to the usual standards. Many other businesses did not have this advantage.
The future is undefined. Many European countries start to plan the lockdown releases. At the same time, they all mention that quarantines can return any moment if the odds favor the coronavirus side. It means that remote work organization remains in focus. It many cases, it is the only way to save the business and be productive while staying at home.
Distributed teamwork: goals and challenges
It is a standard situation that IT agencies work with remote teams located in different countries. Thus, there are methods of remote management. But to switch 100% was a new test. It is necessary, as we have to protect our specialists. At the same time, we have to keep our business operations running as usual and remain productive. Besides, it is not a question of a couple of days – it is the working style for weeks and months.
The task was to manage several dozens of people working separately from different locations. Two possible approaches are applicable:
- To try to imitate office in all its entirety.
- To develop a decentralized way.
Most likely, you heard resounding names like the “Aikido principle.” It is taking distinction features of one concept and applying them to another idea. It can be useful. For the challenge of setting the distributed team management, we used the principle of Blockchain that is a decentralized system of elements agreed with each other.
The truth is, no one could get prepared for the pandemic consequences on time. Every organization tries different methods and approaches. As for alphaX, the weeks of quarantine provided enough data for some conclusions:
- Yes, it is possible to work efficiently as a remote distributed team.
- A well-formed experienced in-house team can cope with any “remote” challenge.
- Security and organization are key factors.
Having the whole team in one office was always an advantage of alphaX. Still, quarantine regulations were relentless, and we had to move to the remote work.
So we took the Blockchain principles and applied them to organize our home offices and ensure quality communications. Mutual trust and coherence were what we needed for the team management. Define the duties and responsibilities and agree on the decentralized way of work.
From the very beginning, we had to care about the most essential tasks:
- Develop and adapt working procedures to work in a distributed team. The goal is to identify responsibilities for every employee.
- Identify all equipment and devices necessary to work from home. Each employee needs to have granted access to the environment.
- Check the communication means and develop schedules for regular online meetings and conferences.
- Discuss these changes in work with business partners and clients. We informed them about all new conditions related to meetings, reports, product features’ delivery, and any other vital issues. The primary goal is to keep the ongoing processes as usual and ensure our continuous delivery on schedule.
- Adjust the security and confidentiality policies for the remote work. Make sure that each of the employees is informed about them.
The New Security Challenges in Working From Home
The question of security is crucial for outsourcing teams. To work from home, agencies need their customers’ consent and understanding. Clients, as a rule, are not very happy about switching to remote work. It is valid for both their own offices and agencies they hire. The main concerns are communication, reporting, and security issues.
Under the current circumstances, it is clear why they worry. All agencies sign NDA and obey their rules. But it is much easier to adhere to these provisions in office. Thus, the first and foremost task before turning into the distributed team is to adjust the security policies.
No one would let the information leak deliberately. To make sure that it won’t come out accidentally, the team has to review all standard regulations and re-evaluate risks. The goal is to determine which additional factors might affect security in home offices. Remember, if any provision is ambiguous, you must clarify it. Every member of the team must understand it and accept it.
So, the IT team must take all such things into consideration and try to predict as many potential issues as possible. The human factor is the most important one at this stage. The rest depends on technologies – means of protecting computers and platforms for videoconferencing.
Let’s note the Zoom case, for instance. This tool for video conferencing has received a significant rise recently. It quickly became one of the favorites for distant learning and work. In essence, it is convenient and consumes fewer resources than Skype. But, it turned out it had a security breach, and a lot of data leaked. It’s very unpleasant, with all its mass popularity. The Zoom developers are improving the safety of their products and claim that it is their primary focus now.
Here, new requirements arise:
- The IT-agency should use only enterprise-level solutions for videoconferencing. Needless to say, the safety settings must be at a maximum degree as well. Enterprise editions of such products as Google Hangouts Meet and Microsoft Teams are even free of charge now.
- It is essential to use the latest software versions. The leading providers stress that they are concerned about increasing the safety options in their products. Each new version is always the most protected one.
- Employees should get personal invitations to join videoconferences with direct links by protected channels.
- It is critical to monitor all participants of the videoconference, and block audio for those not participating in the conversation.
Ensuring the required security level does not require much effort. Once configured, it will remain. When your customers know that their sensitive and commercial data are protected, they won’t worry anymore. Confidentiality protection is the responsibility of every respectful IT agency.
Home-Office Organization: Keep Stable and Productive
Working from home regularly for weeks and months is has its peculiarities. Every agency equips employees with working means, but it is more essential to help people to organize home offices.
The product development process requires collaboration. It does not concern regular meetings only. For instance, team members discuss plenty of work issues in informal communication. Often they share experiences and get quick updates during the lunchtime or the “water cooler conversations.” But when the in-house team turns into the distributed team, its members lose this constant information space.
Working-from-home must focus on management and information. Having experienced managers and team leaders is crucial under all circumstances. But for the 100% remote distributed team, it is vital.
- Review the work activities of each team member. Define which tasks require a high degree of collaboration, and which ones are more independent.
- Help the teams to develop working agendas. Each member should get assistance with their own work schedule if needed. General calendars serve excellently for the organization.
- Update the team regularly about all changes. Ensure that access to the necessary information is continuously enabled. Working in isolation increases the risk of misunderstanding some details. So, team managers must track all minor issues and post updates via official channels.
- Another risk is the tendency to misjudge colleagues’ knowledge and visions. Regular conferences can’t substitute for routine office communication completely, but they are essential. Everybody can clarify vague issues. Never ignore the opportunity to talk in real-time.
- Stick to the corporate culture. When the team is not in the office, each member has to develop their own schedule. There is a temptation to postpone minor aspects to “later when everything is back to normal.” It not a winning strategy in the long run. A decentralized team needs the feel of integrity.
- It is needless to say that the effectiveness of work depends on how good the in-office management is. When all your processes are precise, it is much easier to keep the appropriately configured work routine from home.
- Documenting is a must. You need to record all your work activities like the meetings and discussions’ results on all levels. Keep notes of all decisions about the features and functionality, plans, and remarks. Keep these documents shared with the people involved. Don’t forget to update them whenever you change anything! The best way is to set notifications of updates.
- Analyze every success and every failure. Both positive and negative discoveries must work for your effectiveness. Update your policies and schedules with the new information. If any trouble happens more than once – you’ll know what to do.
- Double all essential updates by email. If an important decision emerged during the workshop discussion in Slack – record it separately in the documentation. This way, you won’t need to search for it in the conversation thread and filter tons of messages.
- Respect your teammates – always update them when you are absent. Use the AFK status and react to requests within the appropriate period. If you can’t respond – inform the colleagues when you are available.
The current situation is unique in many ways. For us all, it was not a voluntary decision. Developers and managers suffer from many aggravations. Besides, we all have other duties in our families. But we have to resolve these countless daily issues. They start from the working place organization, and the most demanding challenge is to find the balance in routines.
However, it is an all-embracing experiment that we all participate in. We don’t know when and how we can return to our usual lifestyle. The home offices may remain a constant alternative for long.
We all got priceless experience. We’ll use our new knowledge and skills to become even more proficient specialists. At the end of the day, it is all about professionalism and mutual trust.
Agile Software Development
Agile Software Development
Agile is a general term that stands for a complex set of methods in the software development process. It is one of the main approaches at the moment, as it proved itself to be very efficient in this field. Most of the software development teams prefer these methods. They are the best for managing efforts and communication.
The distinction of the Agile approach is splitting the process into many smaller steps. On completion of the tasks from every step, the obligatory retrospective takes place. This guarantees that the working product comes to the market quickly and that it can improve constantly under a changing environment.
Also, this software development process will focus on direct communication. This way it helps the team to get feedback and resolve all issues as soon as possible. The team members share their knowledge and gain more experience to apply the new skills for the next iterations of the product development.
More pluses of Agile methods
The main advantage is the mentioned faster development and precise delivery while keeping room for flexibility. The more arguments in favor of the Agile principles are as follows:
- Possibility to change the priorities and plans themselves when new requirements appear;
- The processes become more productive;
- Constant improving the quality of the backend and UI;
- Constant testing of each feature guarantees the stable performance of the product;
- Much better risk management and significant reducing of risks;
- Cost-wise Agile software development is much more efficient;
- It is convenient for cooperation with remote teams;
- Fair and transparent budgeting of individual product iterations becomes possible
- Constant optimization with changes in the environment and the market conditions.
These methods are suitable for most of modern software products. However, this approach is favored when it comes to the development of mobile applications. The speed of production and flexibility of the Agile approach match this task best of all.
Agile practices in action
Extreme Programming (XP) is a systematic approach to programming that focuses on the engineering process itself. This method is applicable in the following cases:
- Software requirements undergo regular changes;
- New technology is used for the product;
- The team is small and works in the same location;
- The development process includes constant functional testing.
Feature Driven Development (FDD) is a set of methods that concentrate on the required functionality. It includes the direct cooperation of the UI designers with the developers. These parties work on the common task to create a feature of the product. FDD starts from the definition of the general concept and “narrows” the focus. It aims to understand and describe the separate pieces of functionality. Thus, it has to pass the below steps:
- The scoping analysis;
- Defining the list of properties;
- Developing a plan on how and when to put in place each of the defined properties;
- Design and implementation for each of the properties.
How we develop applications with the Agile approach
- The team will get your idea and build the vision of the project – the summary of the goals of the product. Then we compose the roadmap with the software requirements and list the features that are going to be in the product. This way the team determines the estimated time of delivery of the product.
- The team will remain in touch with you constantly to report about the progress, discuss the plans, and adjust the requirements.
- All team members exchange information concerning the process of software development. This way they can track all obstacles and failures that happen in different areas, and fix them at once. Constant sharing of the information also assures that the product can be adapted quickly due to the new requirements.
- We gather feedback from all important participants: the internal QA experts, the product owner, and the users. Agile methodology allows tracking the process on each stage with the immediate reaction.
- The team and each team member are highly motivated. We gather the right team members to assure there will be the best experts in the field who can collaborate and complement one another.
- At the end of each stage – iteration – we present a new product version. The retrospect procedure lets us optimize the work further.
- If needed, the project itself or some of its parts can be revised. We take into consideration all your remarks to create the relevant product that is essential on the market.
Agile software development is not the only option. We combine elements from different approaches and methods to ensure the best productivity of work and quality of the product. However, Agile practices are best suitable for the current highly competitive market and promised delivery were mutual expectations of all shareholders can be met.
Quantum Computing 2019: the Year of Supremacy
2019 was indeed the year of the quantum computer. The idea of a computing device based on the quantum physics principles is as old as the personal computer itself, but it seemed fantasy for long decades. However, in 2019, leaders of the sphere reported a breakthrough progress. Now we are on the threshold of even more significant discoveries waiting for us right behind the door.
But what is a Quantum Computer?
At the beginning of the 21st century, people understood two things. Classical computing devices have their limits, and we have almost reached them. We already know about the problems where traditional computers won’t help. People needed a new computer and a much more powerful one.
The usual computers use the binary code to process the data. There is the minimum unit – a bit. It has two basic states: “one” and “zero.” It’s almost the Shakespearian “to be or not to be.” The combination of these states can describe any physical object and turn it into a digital compilation of “zeros” and “ones.” For a long time, this approach let us solve all theoretical and practical tasks. Unfortunately, that time ended.
The new informational unit is a “qubit” – “a quantum bit.” Unlike the traditional bit, a qubit can be in several conditions at the same time. “To be and not to be, and everything in between” or the state of superposition. When you have several qubits in superposition, we may connect them and have them communicate with each other.
The classical computer takes tasks one by one, but it calculates much faster than a man. The quantum computer can deal with several aspects of a problem at once, speeding up the calculations. However, it is not the main advantage. The crucial factor is that it comes to correct conclusions, since its calculations are of probabilistic nature. The quantum waves make the false solutions sink, and the right answers will rise.
Scientists claim the quantum computers will be a million times more potent than even the best existing supercomputers. Tasks that now demand hundreds or thousands of years of calculations may be done in a couple of minutes. This will become possible with the “quantum supremacy.” When we get it – the door will be open.
In 2019 Google reported reaching quantum supremacy.
The Quantum Race of 21st century
Google is an unconditional leader. It created the most powerful of all the quantum computers with 72 qubits, and is going to prove the quantum supremacy using own quantum processor.
The rivals of Google are IBM, Intel, smaller companies like D-Wave in Canada, and even the Chinese government – it invested heavily in the quantum researches.
IBM was the company that changed the world when it introduced the first personal computer. It is not going to give up now. Following its initial path, it creates solutions for public usage. The most potent IBM machine is the 50-qubit computer, but there are 5- and 16-qubit computers that everybody can use. The more programmers practice calculations on quantum computers, the more data they collect – the better IBM can develop this technology.
The Intel company explores a different qubit technology and is going to present the 50-qubit computer in the nearest future. Alternative methods ensure that investigators will try various means and choose the most efficient ones.
The D-Wave company might not be so famous to the public, but its name is well-known to all people interested in quantum computing. They made a practical service and let their clients use the cloud-based quantum computer once a month. The clients get only one minute, but it is enough because this computer will do the job within a millisecond. D-Wave is a leader among the “practical” companies – its clients are Airbus and Volkswagen, for instance.
The Tasks they solve with Quantum Computing
There are two main approaches: focusing on one specific problem or a universal approach. But the main scope of these computers are the optimization of processes, modeling, and simulations.
One of the most complex problems of today is dealing with over-complicated systems with loads of elements. The standard computers get stuck – they can’t calculate all the variety of probabilities.
Here quantum computers emerge, as uncertain elements and interactions are their “cup of tea” – provided that machines needed a cup of tea. Some of the pundits claim that the purpose of a quantum computer is to guess. The guess can relate to anything – the best route from A to B, the best shape of the airplane wing, or the most efficient combination of atoms in a synthetic molecule. These computers offer an assumption – and the quantum waves would raise the right variants.
The Practical Usage of Quantum Computers
Though it still sounds like something from science fiction, in some fields, quantum computers are already welcome guests and helpers.
Chemical and Pharmaceutical spheres
The top advantage of the quantum computer is the possibility to model chemical reactions and find catalysts. Classical computers can also “draft” some new chemicals, but the quantum computer will do it much faster and more precisely. Hence, it can compose new chemicals and materials. The batteries for electric cars or new types of fuel, or the new materials for machine building and aviation – they all can rely on quantum opportunities.
Medicine pins high hopes on the powers of quantum computers. They can model complex structures of atoms or cells that will turn into the prototypes of future drugs. Or, these machines can give humanity an utterly new cure based on the genome decryption.
It is a new approach that emerged as a combination of machine learning and quantum physics. The goal is to use the technical supremacy of the quantum calculations to speed up the learning algorithms. Google sees this direction as one of the most beneficial for the future. Maybe we’ll see a full-functional AI based on quantum neural networks soon?
Optimization of the existing processes and services
City traffic is a black hole consuming a lot of time by its terrific jams. It is the most ambitious task of our modern days to predict the traffic flow and manage millions of cars in such a way that they won’t provoke jams. It is possible in theory, but in practice, the idea meets the human factor.
The task is to know how many vehicles will be on the roads at any moment, where they will be, and how they will interact. Classical computers can’t do this in a reasonable timeframe – the solution they find will become obsolete at that very moment. But the quantum computers could potentially model that terrifying system with all its elements, and calculate the shortest and safest route for each vehicle. It might not be possible so far to resolve every issue, but Volkswagen could optimize the traffic flow in such a megapolis as Beijing successfully.
The range of such sensors would help to detect any smallest changes of both the huge objects like volcanos and the minor issues of human bodies. The possibility to detect abnormal cells when there is only a couple of them before they turn into the malignant tumor will be the most efficient weapon to fight cancer.
These fields are few examples of the quantum computing application. Even the scientists still don’t know all their possibilities. Though it is quite understandable that we are at a very early stage, and quantum computers would hardly take the place of the laptops in the nearest future, we are living in a world where everything can change overnight.
The Dark Side of the Quantum Computing
It is an inevitable problem of each discovery – there will always be a possibility to use it with evil intents. The quantum computer can potentially do the “factoring large numbers” exercise easier than any of the supercomputers. It means breaking some of our widely used cryptographic algorithms. The existing quantum computers are not capable of doing this – so far. But they will become more powerful, and then the protective algorithms won’t be an obstacle for them.
The scientists are already aware of this threat. They know we won’t evade it – so, we have to get prepared. The new class of algorithms of the so-called post-quantum cryptography is already in work. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has already winnowed a set of 26 such algorithms. The goal is to develop new standards of digital security to parry the quantum attacks.
These algorithms are “prototypes,” but the extensive testing should answer to the main question: will these keys protect the data in the real world? They will have to work on all devices, from large computers to microchips. The next 12 months should prove their sustainability or make the researchers find a different solution.
The Quantum Future
What if the quantum computers could replace the classical machines and just perform their functions? Will this difference mean so much to transfer the world onto a new level?
Most likely, it will be so. Computers already regulate our lives. Every smallest feature of the urban environment that we take by default and can’t even think of being without it relies on the power of computers. Actually, this is the reason why the humanity needs much more powerful machines – the system we all live in is too complex to manage it. Quantum computers, in their turn, would cope.
Imagine you get up earlier and breath the fresh air – the quantum computers will help to invent eco-friendly fuel. New materials invented thanks to these machines will replace the current plastic in the room. Then you will go to work – the cars will become lighter and faster. Will they be able to fly? Possibly. We will need updated traffic rules to regulate the vehicles moving in the air. Have you already imagined the classical case of crossing the intersection from several dozens of directions? Let’s hope that the quantum computers will be able to develop these rules, apply them to the traffic in a megapolis, and ensure that the cars will obey them.
People will be able to focus on interesting and creative tasks, as the AI will take all the routine on it. And, of course, they will discuss the latest news of pharmacology – which new cure comes to the market to beat the next ex-incurable disease.
You might think it’s Utopia. May be. But the possibilities that the quantum computers may open for us will be able to change the entire life on the Earth.
The future with quantum computing might look like an illustration from the science fiction story. It would be a world more organized, faster, and more responsive. But would it overcome the chaotic nature of humanity? The discoveries the scientists make every day just prove that the more we learn, the more remains unknown. And, perhaps, we’ll have longer before we can play Call of Duty on the quantum smartphone.
Picture by Joshua Sortino https://unsplash.com/photos/LqKhnDzSF-8