Picks – Future Decoded 2017


Innovation Keynote

Mixed Reality Modern Workplace

3D in Office Suite, Mixed Reality Meetings, Mixed Reality Data & Analytics.
There are many companies working in this space. They are adding more markets for HoloLens with an extra 29 markets – this is because they want to broaden availability of HoloLens. Getting 3D content and files ready to run on HoloLens is a challenge and they acquired a company that helps make this process better and help optimise 3D files and formats so existing assets can be used with Windows Mixed Reality and HoloLens.

Starting next year the Remote Instruction capability will be coming to HoloLens allowing integration with Microsoft Teams and Active Directory. HoloLens is fully certified for protective eyewear regulations from United States and United Kingdom, allowing people to do their jobs with HoloLens with protective eye wear and there will be hard-hat accessories available next year to allow it to be used on site easily in a range of situations, for first-line workers.

How Mixed Reality is acting as a catalyst for bringing more information within the workplace , you can buy the Developers or Commercial HoloLens kits or using Windows Mixed Reality support a range of other headsets, there are many tools and SDKs to help make it easier to use Windows Mixed Reality, and there are many partners with demos and solutions based on Mixed Reality.

Rising Cloud Trends – Mark Russinovitch, Azure CTO

Azure are helping to promote and support trends in the cloud. Intelligent

Cloud, Intelligent Edge. AI, IoT + Edge, Blockchain and Server-less Computing.
AI – Microsoft Azure is democratising AI, need to bring in data, process data and make decisions and understand that data – digital transformation. Have frameworks to support AI such as Microsoft Bot Framework, also APIs such as Cognitive APIS to infuse applications with intelligence such as vision, speech, search and knowledge – allow you to detect faces, detect objects from still images or videos. These services are trained from services such as Bing but if need domain specific information you can train your own solutions by uploading images of own products to be recognised.

Also work into building intelligence into big data solutions – infuse these with capabilities such as supporting R. They also strive to deliver a platform optimised for machine learning, such as delivering a High-density GPU SKY for AI with 8 GPUs, also they have FPGAs integrated into Azure Hardware with FPGA-Accelerated DNN serving in a Hyperscale Cloud allowing real-time AI, with leading performance and there’s customer choice to select preferred DNN framework – codenamed Project Brainwave, this allows maximum use of hardware and max out Teraflops of usage potential available and with lower latency, this is currently used internally with Bing but will be available to customers.

Internet of Things – Build things, control anything, gain insights and take action. IoT + Edge – allowing to put insights and actions on the Edge with Azure IoT Edge based on Docker Containers which allows rich computation on the Edge and can refine the code that goes with devices. They are working on the machine learning workbench which can be deployed in a module over Azure IoT Edge – such as cameras that look at images in real time and get it to understand these images so only the relevant ones are pushed to the cloud – so it only identifies those interesting images. They want to build a richer environment and a highly available platform such as redundancy with multiple devices, allow the creation of a microservice that can run in the cloud or on the device – but larger devices can have rich microservice application models run in the cloud.

Blockchain on Azure – secure, shared, distributed and ledger. You can have a verified supply chain or inventory data, this is where block chain solves this where every party has their own shared view of the ledger and when this is updated then everyone sees it. Block chain networks are designed where no one trusts anyone such as Bitcoin which uses a proof a work to solve a complex cryptographic puzzle – in case of bitcoin if first to do this you get some bitcoin, the throughput is low and the latency is high. There’s also a lack of confidentiality – you must be able to see the transactions or smart contracts, you can see what everyone else is doing. Microsoft have been trying to make Blockchain more amenable to business with Confidential Computing – this is based on Trusted Execution Enclaves such as Windows Server Virtual Server Mode or Intel SGX, this secures all date while in use, customer workloads are invisible to host fabric and customer data is always encrypted. With Project Coco, Ethereum has been ported and allows high throughput with millisecond range compared to minutes on Ethereum as it has pre-defined targets and proof of work, the secure enclaves allow high throughput.

Server-less – the future platform for next generation applications, how do you architect your app to become server-less? Server-less – is an abstraction of servers, event driven/instant scale and supports micro billing. Uses may include adding new users to a CRM or any action you may need to perform and only pay for the use of the service only when the functions execute. Azure Functions are pieces of code that can be executed on triggers and only pay for these when they execute, there’s then a high-level abstraction with Logic apps which also can be used.

Storing Digital Data in Synthetic DNS – Karen Strauss

A future where we’ll be storing data in synthetic DNA molecules – this is collaboration between University of Washington and Microsoft. How you can engineer biological molecules for the benefit of the IT industry. We are generating more data than we can store – storage capacity is growing too slowly. With DNS you can store over 10TB in very small quantity of DNA, it’s a very dense storage medium – the equivalent of two super data centres of storage would be barely visible. DNA synthetic fossils survive as long as kept in the right conditions and the readers will never become obsolete – you can store it at -18 degrees Celsius and store it for over two million years.
DNA storage basics – made of four bases A, C, G and T. It’s possible to encode binary data by representing those bits as bases in the DNA, it’s possible to store 10-20 bytes in a single DNA strand – this is just the material, there’s no life. The system starts with bits and encodes into the bases, these are then synthesised or written into the molecule and this can be preserved so it lasts, then when time to read this and then sequence it then this can be decoded into bits again. There’s sequence number used to reconstruct the data from the pieces of DNA along with additional redundant data added for error correction like how physical drives like SSDs and HDDs do.

DNA is written base-by-base one molecule at the top to grow it to the correct length with the bases set, this can then be placed with in a cartridge for long-term storage. To read these there may be multiple files stored, it’s possible using a chemical process to extract the relevant piece of DNA, this could also be done using Digital Microfluidics to handle droplets of DNA to prepare DNA for reading or sequencing. DNA decoding – extraction of individual files, clustering of DNA sequences, majority voting of sequences, error correction and translation into bits.

Blockchain in the Enterprise – Craig Hajuk and Brent Truell – Azure Blockchain Engineering

Blockchain is such an important technology there’s a team within Azure focused on Blockchain, and shows the potential of distributed ledger technologies. “Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to reimagine how the financial system can and should work in the internet era, and a catalyst to reshape that system in ways that are more powerful for individuals and businesses alike.” Marc Andreesen

Bank Guarantees – the traditional bank guarantee process is laborious, physical documents can be lost or destroyed. The impact was a blockchain enabled platform to replace this.

Marine Insurance – insurance can be complex and managed through complex web of underwriters, block chain can have real time visibility with location and cargo condition and allowing the actual risk to be accurately assessed.

Block chain is a truly cross-industry phenomenon. What’s the excitement about? Block chain is a secure, shared, distributed ledger. Secure – uses cryptography to create transactions and are impervious to fraud and establish shared truth. Distributed – there are many replicas of the blockchain database, the more replicas the more authentic it becomes. Ledger – transactions are written to the ledger. Shared – value is link directly to number of organisations or companies that participate in them. It was built originally for a system where there’s no trust of anyone but implemented a Consensus with Proof of Work – a one-way hash that produces an output that has to be calculated correctly and the mining process is validating these committed blocks, these extend the block chain, if there is another block which disagrees then only the consensus ones will continue otherwise this will be a fork.

Blockchain and a shared source of truth – traditional system has centralised system with stored ledger, block chain system has distributed system with distributed ledger. Block chain technology supports two main goals: efficiency and transformation, the former makes existing things quicker and the latter introduces new processes and even redefine an industry process.

Determine if Blockchain is appropriate? Trust boundaries – does business process cross trust boundaries, or is it completely inside on entity? Do multiple parties update data? Are multiple parties in the process updating information throughout the process or is it only one party who does the updates. Is there an intermediary. Is there an intermediary or a middleman that has a role that could be made more efficient, impactful or eliminated all together?

So why isn’t everyone using blockchain right now? Blockchain wasn’t built for the enterprise – ledgers designed for public networks, lack the performance, confidentiality and governance capabilities needed for commercial use. Smart contracts require specialised skills, not designed to leverage existing enterprise tools and skill sets. Integration is difficult and costly, connecting to existing IT architecture requires significant investment.

What is Microsoft doing about it? Azure Blockchain: Ready for the Enterprise. Flexible – block chain on your terms, choose the right ledger for your scenarios, work with the partner you prefer, deploy on premises or on the cloud. Integrated – connect to your apps and services, identity and key management, ingest from other applications, processes and devices and analyse and visualise as you want. Powerful – for true enterprise workloads, the right level of performance, confidentiality and governance capabilities for any ledger.

An open cloud – broad support for a wide variety of ledgers including Ethereum, Corda, Quorum and more are available within a section with Azure for Blockchain. It’s very easy to create an Ethereum network for example with just a few values it’s easy to get started and deploy it and set up mining nodes and transaction nodes and other values to get something started easily, in a few minutes. To get Microsoft engineers to get their first network started on Ethereum was about three weeks, and now it’s done in minutes even for complex topographies. Deploy the topology of your choice – do single node for dev and test, simulate production for multiple divisions within a single organisation etc.

Coco framework – coco framework addresses key enterprise requirements. Scalability – database-like speeds for transaction throughput and latency. Confidentiality – richer and more flexible confidentiality models. Governance – configurable constitution to govern membership. Coco reimagines leger construction specifically for consortium use – can use the ledger of your choice and removes need for heavyweight consensus and use a software or hardware enclave.

Enterprise smart contracts – today you can codify a workflow as a smart contract. Wrap up a contract and place this into a ledger – can execute a reliable contract that will happen, how do you know people will do what they say they will do – this is what smart contracts enable, but the code of this smart contract executes on every single node and some can have complex computation involved. Microsoft with smart contracts for the enterprise – this is written in the tech of choice with code attestation travels with transaction, agnostic to blockchain below, smart contract to ledger binding. Pieces of code that get executed that then can write to the block chain and can scale these tiers independently – can trust that some code ran and produced the result needed without needing to know what the code was. Deliver a secure off chain computation that lets enterprises select the right technology for their scenario – can have a traditional three tier architecture and separation of concerns – could even just execute a stored procedure to do the work. Smart contracts at the moment require domain specific languages and code and vary significantly from other programming languages and makes it hard to scale your platform, but be able to break away into a standard language such as C# to execute the smart contract. Should be able to work in whatever language is appropriate and when want to write into the ledger that should be taken care of, only need to focus on the logic.

Blockchain App Builder – Accelerate your development, reduce cost and time – building blockchain apps takes months. Connect to apps and services – build apps that use common services you rely on for your other applications. A way to create end to end applications – where the ledger is just a small part of the application, where it exists in concert with the application. There will be a tool coming soon that will help stand-up a Blockchain environment, one that also connects to existing enterprise tooling and not be isolated in a “Blockchain Island”. This allows you to quickly do a deployment and this can be integrated into Active Directory and creates a user interface – just need to provide some configuration files to deploy some Smart Contracts and write to Block chain – you can work simply with contract logic to create something easily. This is coming soon, and the tools and support will become available in due course.

Azure Block Chain: Flexible – build on your terms, support for multiple ledgers. Integrated – connect to your apps and services and with Azure App Builder connect to apps and services you rely on in your infrastructure. Powerful – for true enterprise workloads, coco improved confidentiality and governance. Get started now, model your workflow with the Azure Blockchain App builder, visit the Azure Blockchain Solutions page, learn more at the Azure Blockchain Blog, contact your account team to connect with a blockchain expert, join the conversation at the Azure Blockchain MSDN Forum.

Empowering Keynote

Microsoft CEO – Cindy Rose

This is the fourth annual event – 12,000 attendees and thousands streaming online. There’s many uses of the cloud from NHS for Blood Donation to British Gas / Centrica managing their employees. Microsoft Mission – empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Satya Nadella asked why does Microsoft exist? They are making a lot of changes and don’t need to make a complete break from the past – but a focus on culture is part of a strategy for change, also there’s a focus on renewal.

At Microsoft they believe that many new technologies form the bedrock of the next technology shift that will deliver many benefits but a risk of unintended consequences such as an impact on traditional jobs – 6 out of 10 employees in the UK are worried about their jobs with developments in technology automation. They have a Digital Skills programme to help develop new technology skills – they have a new UK Digital Skills website which is now live at

Developing Character Led Talent – Professor Amanda Broderick

It can be difficult to measure worker skills especially with new technology – or perceptions based on age such as Millennials but there could be up to five generations of workers working alongside one another. Graduate competencies for the fourth industrial revolution including critical thinking, creative participator, self-disciplined organiser, influential communicator, resilient problem solver, ethical leader, reflective achiever.

Microsoft are creating collaboratively and delivering digitally with digital skills and competency frameworks, digital career passport, industry co-creation to help revolutionise approach to talent development. Microsoft Apprenticeship Pledge is asking for your pledges and for you to reach out to your university partners.

UA92 – Gary Neville

UA92 – partnership between footballers and education. Working with young people with University Academy 92. As a footballer are taught to work well and be proud of what they do – the difference with UA92 is that Character Development is at the centre surrounded by academic discipline rather than the other way around in conventional university – people may have the same skills but what makes some one standout is that personality, so a character development based university could work to help with this. Ten principles that prepare students for life: Subject knowledge, life skills, work experience, survival, leadership, self & peer group analysis, participative learning, fitness, presentation skills, finance skills plus being digitally literate – these are the key skills that are needed, and this university can help make someone who not only has a degree but is “oven baked” and ready to go.

Disability Confident – Karen Jochelson, Head of Disability Issues, Department of Work and Pensions

Inclusive employment and assistive technology. Inclusive Hiring – people who develop a disability fid it difficult to get back into work, this is a massive tool of underutilised talent. The government is committed into getting one million disabled people into work, with schemes such as Microsoft’s Autism hiring process to allow candidates to demonstrate their skills in a less conventional way.

There is a disability confident scheme to help employers make their workplaces more accessible to those with disabilities, every government department is a member and gives preferred status for contracts to those companies in the scheme. Accessible design is good design that works for everyone, and provides an opportunity for innovation.

Innovating around accessibility – Haiyan Zhang

Over a billion people in the world have a disability – this is one of the really big challenges we face today, these challenges can help those with a permanent, temporary and situation loss of function, face old challenges with new technologies. We want to have employment and be productive to empower us to be successful – the needs of those with disabilities are the same as everyone else. Plea to developers is never underestimate the power and influence of your work and how it can change lives for the better by making assessable products, there’s also the benefit of AI to help make tools more accessible, such as getting description of images using cognitive AI to help blind people better relate to sighted colleagues, and provide more seamless ways of disabled people to interact with others, also open up opportunities for those with disabilities.


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