Kotlin is unveiled as Google’s preferred language for Android App Development.

Googleplex - Google Headquarters with Android figureEarlier this week, Google announced that the Kotlin programming language is now its preferred language for Android app developers.

2 years ago at I/O 2017, Google announced that it would be supporting Kotlin in its Android Studio IDE.  At the time, this was a surprising, but a well-applauded move. Prior to this, Java had been the preferred language for Android app development.  The last two years have seen the popularity of Kotlin grow, however; more than 50% of professional Android developers now use the language to develop their apps.  Not only this. The most recent data from the 2019 Stack Overflow developer survey suggests that Kotlin is the fourth most loved programming language, behind Rust, Python and TypeScript.

In an announcement from Google, the search giant predicts that “Android development will become increasingly Kotlin-first”, and that “many new Jetpack APIs and features will be offered first in Kotlin”.  They go on to recommend that developers who are embarking on a new project should write it in Kotlin. Code written in Kotlin is often less labour intensive; involving less code to type, test, and maintain.

Chet Haase, Chief Advocate for Android at Google, said that Kotlin’s popularity amongst the dev community warrants Google’s increased support.   Although it is understood that not everyone is using this language at the moment, Haase believes that this is the path that ought to be trod. He remarked, “We understand that not everybody is on Kotlin right now, but we believe that you should get there”.  

This was just one of the big reveals announced at the I/O 2019 Keynote earlier this week.  For more on this and a rundown of all the latest Google goings-on click here to read a summarised report!

Microsoft Word will change your words to be gender inclusive.

US tech giant, Microsoft has added new editing software to its latest version of Word to ensure our writing is politically correct.  This piece of widely used software will now apply artificial intelligence to recommend users write in a way that does not discriminate against a particular gender.

For example, this new Word feature would suggest we use “Police Officer” in place of “Policeman”.  

Although this is a new adaptation to the Word software, it is not an entirely new concept for Microsoft.  The company first brought its Ideas feature to PowerPoint last year. In a rival move, Google announced an AI writing tool which would “incorporate the complexity and nuances of grammar correction”.

However, as these changes suggest, AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated.  It is helping us to do so much more than just correct a misspelt word. As well as suggesting these helpful edits, the changes will ensure that we are using synonyms and language which encourage brevity and shorter sentence structures.   

There is a question mark over the timeline for the full release of this package. However early reports indicate that a trial version will be available to limited users in June. Microsoft have pencilled in ‘the autumn’ for the wider release of this product. The service will initially be implemented across Word Online; the cloud-based version of the Microsoft product.

Microsoft’s push toward gender inclusivity is timely. There has been a well-publicised shift amidst all sectors to ensure greater care in ensuring the language being used is gender neutral and non-discriminatory.  

It is no secret that the tech industry has long grappled with problems tied to diversity and inclusion.  Just last week for instance, a job listing from Cynet Systems, a tech recruiting firm based in Virginia, sought an account manager who is “preferably Caucasian who has good technical background”.  After a massive (and justifiable) backlash from users on Twitter, this particular post was – quite rightly – removed. Worryingly, this was not the first time the lack of inclusivity of this particular agency has been called to question.  Another listing from the same source called for applications for an account manager from “female candidates only”.

Of course, such recruiting strategies have an implication upon the ecosystem as a whole. Google are a case in point. They employ more than 100,000 workers. Of those, 69% are men and just 2% are African American, while just 20% of all the technical jobs at Google are held by women.  There is also a massive disparity in pay. Women and non-white workers are consistently paid less at tech firms across the industry. Indeed, data from across the Atlantic shows that tech has some of the highest wage disparities in the US.

Modification to such widely used software is to be welcomed.  Maybe it will provide food for thought to those scribing job ads or blog posts across our industry.   Seeing a red line appear under our words always provides a red flag or sanity touch point as to how we are presenting ourselves.  Here at Ignite Digital Talent we are committed to equal opportunities, and welcome job applications from all those who are qualified and eligible to work in the UK; regardless of colour, ethnic or national origin, race, gender, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, marital status or family circumstances.

We believe a diverse workforce is crucial in ensuring the UK tech scene continues to flourish, and that at large, this will ensure that the UK continues to be seen as a global employer.  

Do you share our vision?  We would love to partner you…either with filling your latest tech, digital or data onboarding need or with placing you in your next role.  Get in touch with one of our recruitment partners today.

Binance exchange hackers steal Bitcoin worth $41M.

One day this will probably form the storyline of a Hollywood blockbuster, starring George Clooney et al! “Oceans 30” perhaps…but for now it has been reported this week that Binance exchange hackers have stolen $41m (£31m) worth of Bitcoin in a major crypto-currency heist.

The attackers were said to have used a variety of techniques such as viruses and phishing attacks to break down the defences of The Binance Exchange which stores Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for its members.  The hackers were then able to access the exchange’s “hot wallet”; an online cache of bitcoins readily available for customer transactions. The hot wallet contained about 2% of Binance’s total crypto-currency assets. The firm have confirmed that other wallets were “secure and unharmed”.

Withdrawals have since been suspended on the platform, and the exchange has confirmed that the lost coin would be replaced with the help of its emergency insurance fund.

Patience, in this case, does seem to have been a virtue.  According to Binance, the hackers “had the patience to wait” in order to acquire access to a number of accounts before withdrawing the huge 7,000 haul of bitcoins.

The company released a statement explaining that although it was “unfortunate” they were not able to block the attack before it was executed, once the withdrawal had been made, company security alarms were triggered and that no further withdrawals were able to be made after that.

In a live video chat, Binance’s chief executive Changpeng Zhao reassured Binance users that he and his team were working to secure the exchange and prevent any further hacks.  He added that he was asking other exchanges to block bitcoins associated with the hacked wallet from being transferred elsewhere. Thus rendering them largely useless.

Despite being one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges on the block (!), this Binance heist is not largest the Bitcoin world has seen. Back in 2014, Mt Gox suffered a $470m loss.

Matthew Hickey is a cyber-security expert at Hacker House.  He believes that “Cyber-insurance is a common necessity” for blockchain businesses today.  Blockchain and cryptocurrency companies are becoming increasingly targeted by malicious attackers.   Identity theft, malware and cyber-attacks are becoming more and more prevalent in the space, and that as a result “blockchain businesses will need to implement controls more commonly seen in the traditional banking sector if they are to win over consumers”.

Waymo and Lyft partner up to grow self-driving robotaxi service.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik has confirmed that Waymo will add 10 of its self-driving vehicles onto the Lyft platform over the next few months as the company ramps up its commercial robotaxi service.  

Once Waymo vehicles are on the platform, Lyft users in the Phoenix area of the US will have the option to select a Waymo directly from the Lyft app for eligible journeys.

Since December last year, Waymo has significantly accelerated its efforts to push its autonomous ride-hailing network in Phoenix.  In April the company made its ride-hailing service, and accompanying Waymo One app, more widely available by putting it on the Google Play store.

In a blog post released on Tuesday, Krafcik confirmed that this early step in their partnership will allow them to introduce the Waymo Driver to Lyft users.  A pioneering move; these trips will be for many, their first in a self-driving vehicle.

At this early stage, the partnership seems to be pretty similar to the one between Lyft and auto supplier and self-driving software company, Aptiv.  Under this team up, Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles operate on Lyft’s Las Vegas ride-hailing platform. A good move. Figures released last month, indicate that the vehicles had provided more than 40,000 paid autonomous rides via the Lyft app in Sin City.

The terms of the deal have not been released, so it’s unknown how Waymo and Lyft will be splitting the fares or will handle customer service issues.   What we do know though, is that this partnership has been 2 years in the making. They first announced their plans to collaborate back in 2017, but never explained what they would do.

This news comes on the same day that Lyft announced its first quarterly earnings report as a public company.  These figures suggest it had lost $1.1 billion in the last quarter, compared to a $243 million loss over the same period in 2018.   Lyft explained this loss as being due to costs associated with its IPO. They went on to say that its revenue was $776 million, nearly double the amount from last year.

Although just a 10 vehicle fleet looks like small news, the deal represents a big leap forward for both ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles.  As we mentioned earlier, both Lyft and Waymo have separately been facilitating trips in self-driving cars for some time. The team up will significantly scale up operations;  Waymo are widely believed to have some of the best tech in the business. Watch this space!

Hey Jobs raises $12m in Series A funding.

Berlin startup, Hey Jobs is a service aimed at helping large employers scale up their recruitment efforts.  This week it has been announced that Hey Jobs has secured $12 million in Series A funding.  

Hey Jobs was launched back in 2016 with the intention to tackle the recruitment problem employers are experiencing on the continent.  The available workforce is in steep decline as the so-called “boomer” generation nears retirement. This is a considerable problem and one that is thought to cost Germany alone a significant 500,000 workers annually.

Hey Jobs uses a fully automated technological approach to foster relationships between candidates and companies through targeted marketing, a personalised application and assessment flow. It promises to match talent with job profiles and draw in the best candidates through leveraging machine learning.  As such it eases recruitment efforts for large scale employers who experience an overwhelming volume of applications – most of which will be unsuitable.

HeyJobs co-founder and CEO Marius Luther describes the product in more detail;  

“We deploy multiple machine learning algorithms to find the right potential candidates for a specific role…we deploy multiple machine learning algorithms to find the right potential candidates for a specific role”.

Additionally, Luther says that HeyJobs’ personalised assessment procedures ensure that only high-quality, hireable candidates are delivered to the client; something he calls “predictable hiring” at scale.

Hey Jobs currently serves more than 500 large enterprise clients from the worlds of logistics, retail and hospitality.  It counts United Parcel Service, PayPal, Five Guys, Vodafone and Securitas as customers. Reading between the lines though, it appears that Hey Jobs are more proud of their ability to help the small guys.  Luther remarks that the “real customer” is the “non-academic job seeker who is looking for a job that will help him/her live a more fulfilling life — be it by being paid more, switching to better employment conditions or finding a job closer to home.”

This latest round is being led by Notion Capital.  They are being joined by existing investors Creathor Ventures, Rocket Internet’s GFC and the newly re-branded Heartcore Capital.  It has not been disclosed what Hey Jobs plan to do with their latest funding however, but it’s our guess it will be ploughed back into the tech; machine learning and AI look set to disrupt our industry and recruitment software over 2019 and beyond.

Digital GPs startup raises £2.1m

Cambridge based startup, Closed Loop Medicine has raised £2.1m from venture capital firms Longwall Venture Partners, IQ Capital and Martlet in a pre-Series A funding round.  Previously in what is known as “stealth mode”, the company were playing their cards close to their chest.

At the moment, Closed Loop have backing solely from private investors.  However, the company suggested another investment from a government body is likely to take place in the coming months.

These rounds of funding have been disclosed ahead of a series of NHS clinical trials penned in for later this year.  Closed Loop goes on to say that they would be raising further cash towards the end of the year. Early analysis suggests that they will be using the funding to bulk up its teams ahead of these trials.

In sum, Closed Loop develops technology to track how drugs and therapy are affecting patients, and tweak their prescriptions accordingly.  

It is not just physical ailments that Closed Loop and its tech is seeking to address.  Chief executive and co-founder Hakim Yadi anticipates a day when therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could be delivered digitally through smartphone apps, for example.  Quite rightly, he approaches this with caution, however. He said very few of those apps currently in use had been put through the “rigours of clinical trial and regulation” – something which would apply to the Closed Loop system.

The tech would capture patient information, looking at variables such as sleep quality and mood.  They would then go on to use the data to suggest “changes and modifications to care… without the involvement of a clinician”.  There would however be an oversight from a healthcare professional.

Yadi added, “When you get to a certain level of data and certain level of understanding about a population, that’s when you start to automate and think, ‘Actually we’ve noticed this trend in your outcome, we’re going to modify the amount of therapy we’ll give you next week'”.

Health tech startups such as Closed Loop are growing in number.  This swell comes just months after a report from The Taxpayer Alliance suggests that a tenth of the £13.5bn NHS budget could be saved by introducing “automation” across the health service. However, this ‘Closed Loop level’ of automated care decisions would take years to come to the NHS.

Mr Yadi says, “First we (would) have to develop it within the NHS, validate it, and start to work with clinicians around informing how they make their care decisions”.   A process which would be three to four years in the making.

In our experience, it is becoming more and more difficult to book an appointment with our GP, especially for “routine” appointments, so for these procedures, this type of tech certainly has its place.  Mental health services require a different level of care and monitoring however and as such CBT on a digital platform will require considerable monitoring from a professional standpoint. This leads us to question the responsible use of automation within this particular area of medicine.

What do you think? We’d love to read your views.  Please leave your comments below!

About the author: As a Digital Marketing Executive, my role is quite varied. From creating the marketing strategy to execution and reporting... My hands are always full and I love it!

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