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Positive initiatives
Stories and studies at the intersection of technology and positive social impact.

Transforming Singapore Thro...

Singapore is building a Smart Nation. Termed SG100, the vision is to improve the lives of people with more opportunities and stronger communities through a digital economy, government, and society. Citizens and businesses will be empowered through increased access to data. More importantly, they will have the ability to make sense of information to generate the right ideas and solutions. We know that in the midst of this digital revolution, new waves of technologies will  forever transform the way we live and work. One of the anchor initiatives in Singapore is the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP). It is a nation-wide sensor platform used to ingest, distribute, contextualise, and act on sensor data, to enable data-driven decisions to improve citizen’s quality of life. It is certainly an ambitious and complex undertaking with multiple milestones. As a tech for good company that recognises the growing imperative of digitalisation and the importance of collaboration, we are proud to support this journey that involves the co-creation of infrastructure and common technical architecture. The Trouble With Data Exchange Many government agencies have a huge quantity of IoT sensors. Take the National Environmental Agency (weather sensors) and Land Transport Authority (traffic sensors) for example. Exchanging data generated between different agencies is a huge undertaking. It is also difficult to manage the massive volume of data generated from the sensors, process it, and then make sense of it.  Furthermore, the exchange of data between sensors is also regulated by certain protocols. The big challenge here is security. To establish a secure connection and validate credentials, government agencies would have to go through the arduous process of contacting each other to obtain an SSL certificate before they can access sensor data. We worked with GovTech on a Sensor Data Exchange (SDX) platform that can integrate myriad forms of sensor data for seamless  exchange, management, and interpretation.   Introducing The One Stop Shop SDX leverages open-source and cloud services. It is an unified, scalable, and extensible platform that encompasses public IoT sensors. Government agencies can now publish and subscribe to real-time data using a self-service portal both on-premise and in the commercial cloud.  By co-creating data-rich services for planning and operations, government agencies can work together more effectively to improve our quality of life and unlock new possibilities. Government agencies could publish and subscribe to each other’s real-time on the SDX application. For example, an ambulance would be able to discern the fastest route to the hospital in an emergency situation. How Did We Do It? Here is where we get technical. On the technology front, we used:  Angular (frontend),  Golang (backend),  RabbitMQ,  GCC-AWS,  Terraform The middleware uses a publish and subscribe model, where senders of messages are called publishers and receivers are called subscribers. Publishers are not required to program published messages to be sent directly to specific subscribers, but instead characterise them into topics. Subscribers who have expressed interest and requested to receive messages in one or more topics can then receive them once their request has been approved.  Fine-grained quality of service (QOS) and automatic discovery will be enabled. Software-defined abstraction layering also ensures that sensor data will be managed in a centralised system with built-in security so that users will not or need to have access to physical sensors. As simple as we’ve made it seem, putting everything together behind the scenes was not as easy as it sounds. Navigating Roadblocks To Success The first task the team reviewed was working with legacy systems. We needed to work out how to build an application logic that is different from conventional implementation. Transitioning from old features to new features and developing change of functions was  an issue with no prior use cases or scenarios to learn from. This was technically challenging from a developer’s perspective. Then we needed to define the project’s aim. This project had to optimise and monitor the core engine's behavior to achieve a high rate of request per second. However, we did manage to set up monitoring and found solutions to optimise the performance.  Each sensor was connected in a secure way with control permissions over a topic that can be published or subscribed. We used Elasticsearch as a search engine to ensure search performance was good given the volume of data. For monitoring, we used Splunk for security-related reports, ELK to monitor application logs, and  Prometheus/Grafana for visualising application performance metrics. Lastly, the DevOps onboarding process was also tedious with many moving components. To mitigate our roadblocks and enhance the team’s practices, we:  Began with version control by defining proper git-flow and branching strategy Used Bamboo for continuous integration & continuous delivery  Ensured continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines with integration to different scanning tools like SonarQube, NexusIQ, and HP Fortify Built notifications in every stage of the pipeline A good practice when hosting the application in a public cloud is to follow strict security guidelines. We followed CIS benchmark set of rules in order to access the security related loops. Laying The Foundations Despite the challenges of remote working, our team managed to go live on the first phase (SDX 1.0) of our roadmap without any complications, and successfully onboarded a few government agencies to the application (SDX 2.0).  One of the key highlights was also the implementation of blue-green deployment by taking advantage of swapping autoscaling groups in a cost-effective way and with zero downtime. Along the way, we learned a lot about new tools and services, including Terraform, Bamboo, and a variety of GCC-AWS APIs. Projects like these are a great place to experiment with new technology. The flexibility to choose what best worked for us and presenting several options to the discussion table quickly resulted in the creation of stories that could bring the most value to our client. The journey doesn't end here - the work we have completed is a piece of an unfinished and exciting puzzle. With the building blocks in place, we are exploring to expand SDX and its capabilities beyond just the public sector. Turning Ideas Into Reality In becoming a Smart Nation with endless opportunities enabled by technology, citizens and businesses need to have access to information that allows them to make more meaningful choices to improve their quality of life. SNSP will enable government agencies to facilitate better sense-making by collecting, analysing, and sharing data to people in a cost-effective manner. Shaping the future one step at a time, our work on the SDX project brings us closer to making this happen.

Vision And Values As...

Late January this year, our executive team held the first of many conference calls to discuss what was then thought to be an ‘aggravated flu’. We lined up our business continuity plans and our communication strategy. We felt confident that not only were we prepared for whatever would come, but COVID-19 would be solved in a matter of weeks.  We were very wrong. We were not equipped for this. Weeks passed as the magnitude of this health crisis unfolded before us. We went from basic sanitary recommendations to shelter-in-place orders. All our strategies and plans were thrown out of the window. We had no best practices in place and a whole new paradigm to reckon with. From macro concerns to micro metrics, we had to redesign everything. Access to capital, client partnerships, company culture, overhead costs, and supporting our employees during this transition became ‘our new normal’. No level of preparedness could have helped mitigate this crisis. Coming to this realisation shifted our action plans from preparation to agile reaction. But in every adversity, there is an opportunity to adapt and evolve. This is what we have learned along the way.  People First. Always. Like most organisations, we were not able to fully comprehend and decipher how to endure this crisis. Every new day came with additional uncertainties. In a period of tremendous ambiguity, we reviewed, revamped, and redesigned our financials, roadmaps, and strategies trying to mitigate the immediate fallout. And till today, we are still unsure if we had adopted the right methods and tools to navigate the storm. The only certainty we have had from the beginning is our commitment to serve and protect our employees.  We employ a diverse workforce from all walks of life. We worry for their health, mental well-being, family, and jobs more than ever before. Naturally, designing solutions to keep our business afloat keeps us awake at night. But until we get to the other side of the pandemic, we need to carry on bringing meaning, support, connection, and purpose to our employees.  What we learnt early during this transition is that prolonged mandates to work remotely does not have to turn into ‘people distance’. Wherever it was possible, we repurposed our internal roadmaps to bring new meanings to work through remote coaching, conscious leadership, new health benefits, and more adequate tools.  More importantly, we did not figure this out on our own. These initiatives emerged from open conversations with our employees. We communicated extensively about our challenges and concerns. We included all of them in brainstorming solutions. We asked for help and they came forward with much more: compassion, creativity, servant leadership, care, courage, and innovation.  Change Mindset, Our Vessel Through the Storm Since the start of this unprecedented worldwide crisis, the information that was true yesterday may no longer be relevant today. We are constantly flooded with unpredictable news, change in regulations, and erratic events. It makes it extremely difficult to predict and anticipate what’s coming next. Governments, companies, and individuals have had to continuously adapt exclusively to the immediate situation.  To be able to navigate through our current VUCA world, we have been leveraging on one preponderant dimension of PALO IT’s culture: Our change mindset. Change has always been deeply rooted in our DNA. As an agile technology company specialised in digital transformation, we’ve always focused on adapting to change, but more importantly on embracing it. This key asset of agility has taught us so much throughout this crisis. It not only boosts collaboration in a distributed set-up, but it also supplies you with the right behaviours in moments of unpredictability and triggers the right response when there is fear of uncertainty. Agile is not a keyword anymore; it is no longer the private turf of forward-thinking companies through their transformation journey. It has become a way of living, a way of parenting, and even a way of designing our own lives.  Empowerment and Trust Leading through a crisis does not rest on one person’s shoulders, be it a board member, a CEO, or a Managing Director. It is a collective responsibility that belongs to all employees. For this, you need to ask yourself a simple question: Do you have the right people? When times are good, you don’t necessarily notice them much. But what happens when the wind turns? You immediately start seeing the true nature of people and determine if you have the right team. Nonetheless, having the right team is not enough. The authenticity of your messages, the transparency you give on challenges, and the honesty and vulnerability that you display will increase the commitment, support, and sense of belonging of all your people. Over the last three months, we have seen our Palowans stepping up and bringing tons of ideas to help the company with remote collaboration, business continuity, and project delivery. It was so heart-warming to witness a collective consciousness arising from every corner of the organisation. The two main success factors that unleashed a unified responsibility were the empowerment we put in our people to help share the load and the full trust we placed in them to perform their duty in a remote and uncertain environment. A great way to assess the efficiency of empowerment and trust is to actually listen to the voice of your customers. What is the productivity and delivery quality of your remote teams? In our case, these key metrics have been maintained and even improving in some instances, incidentally showing and reassuring our clients that this Agile model is sustainable.  Back to the Future of Work  Our world is on the mend right now. Work is no longer a place; it has become a digitally-based activity which can be performed from any location. But this did not happen overnight - this COVID-19 episode is the catalyst of what millennials and Gen Zs have been preaching for quite some time now: Mobile ways of working. Most companies around the world were forced to allow their employees to work from home. While this has been a major constraint for all, it has proved one thing: The future of work has actually been happening for a while. Companies that leveraged virtual tools and adopted new working behavioral norms are likely to be more resilient to navigate upcoming challenges. This paradigm shift will push companies to rethink their organisation models, to focus on entrusting more employees with responsibilities and empowerment. Corporate culture will play a central role as remote collaboration will become the new norm. Leaders will have to embrace new ways of managing expectations and develop a stronger sense of belonging. They will naturally be less hands-on with operations and more focused on values, trust, motivation, and interest in their people. Finally, the future of work post COVID-19 will be much more than a simple shift to digital channels. Organisations will have to rethink their work/life balance policies, hiring strategies, management and leadership practices, and how to best handle employees expectations by redesigning the whole working journey. Afterword It has been nearly half a year since the first reported case of COVID-19 in Singapore. And yet, we are still not out of the woods. While we have managed to steer the ship towards calmer waters, we don’t feel safe. We doubt that ‘safe’ will ever be a destination again.  As we carry on our work to protect our employees’ jobs, our clients’ projects, and provide care for our community, the only assurance we have is that leading with our values and tech for good vision in mind has never felt more critical. The organisation will not look the same as it did before, but we are without a doubt, the same community of innovators, employees, and partners dedicated to building a new work paradigm and a more human way of thinking of our ecosystem. 

Innovation for the p...

It took us a couple weeks to catch our breath and reflect on our participation at the ChangeNOW Summit, the world's largest gathering of innovation for the planet. It was uplifting to see so many people join forces in Paris (over 28,000 according to the organisers), all moved by the same urgency: acting now to find innovative solutions to our planet’s biggest challenges. Symbolism was in full force, as the summit was hosted under the mighty nave of the Grand Palais—an iconic Parisian monument built for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, for which the Eiffel tower was also built... Too many impressive innovations (1,000+!) were on display, at various stages of development, to fit into a single blog post, but a few stand-out projects stoked our interest in a big way. Our oceans, our planet Waiting lines were so long on opening day to pick up badges that after locking our bikes in the dedicated space in front of the Grand Palais (much appreciated!), we missed the opening session featuring crème de la crème tech entrepreneur for the planet, Boyan Slat, from Ocean Cleanup. The project, in short, aims to clean up 90% of ocean plastic pollution.  In lieu of that, we had an inspiring chat with the founder of the Plastic Odyssey, a floating laboratory and three-year “human scale” sea expedition set to recycle and reduce plastic waste. We also had the chance to listen to and loudly cheer on start-up Zephyr et Borée, who is designing some incredible, low-carbon “sail ships” that could very well upend the cargo transport industry. The work of underwater artist Julie Gautier and apneist world champion Guillaume Nery was featured at the summit’s film festival. If you haven’t seen their latest film “A Breath Under the World”, stop everything and hold your breath! Changing our world also means reconnecting with our own humanity, consciousness, and inner emotions, so it was great to see the arts featured in such a distinct way. Gaming and storytelling as solutions Back on dry land, we stopped by the Citeo stand, promoting recycling and circular economy habits in France, and enjoyed taking part in their “adventure game”: a three-minute challenge in which you enter an apartment and have to put as many recyclable packages in various bins as you can. We didn’t do too bad! We’re big believers in bringing ‘serious games’ to user experience, starting with Design Thinking and seamlessly building it into the product. This strategy is a powerful way of nudging users into virtuous behaviours. At the ChangeNOW Summit our team of UX designers hosted a workshop where they co-created a card game with participants, focused on triggering crucial questions about new products and innovation and their impact on our world. The blueprint for this activity? None other than the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This all brings us back to storytelling. More and more, we as consumers are questioning where the products we buy are coming from, and in what conditions they were produced, shipped, packaged, etc. In one word what’s their story? So, kudos to start-up ViJi, which traces this cycle to support brands in their approach to transparency and traceability, and gives ethical decision-making elements to consumers. Playing a part in our ecosystem It’s no secret, the smartest innovation we could possibly produce will not solve all our problems on its own. We need to think, work, and act at the ecosystem level. We nodded to every word of Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s speech on thinking beyond sustainability, and striving to build economies, companies, products, and services that are restorative and regenerative by design. We’re convinced technology has a huge role to play in this change, and committed to making a difference. This is why the ChangeNOW Summit was also a good occasion for PALO IT to announce its support of Tech For Good France, a network association mobilising entrepreneurs and investors in France, and harnessing the power of technology for the greater good. Operating across five continents, we can testify to the tremendous potential of French companies, start-ups, and the tech community as a whole in spearheading innovation for positive impact.   Thanks again to the organisers for putting together three days of inspiration, amazement, and progress at the ChangeNOW Summit.  And one last thing—we were blown away by the veggie burgers from Beyond Meat. The hype is real! Foodies, you can try them out at Hank Restaurants in Paris.

The Power of SSI: En...

Today, when we interact with someone, be it an individual or an entity, can we be really sure he, she or it is whom they are claiming to be? Anyone can create and fake a social media profile in an instant, while a hacker can easily develop a malicious website and trick someone to visit it (phishing). The fundamental issue here is that identification always happens on one end. The problems can be summarised with a single word… trust. And it doesn’t just end here. The Problems in Today’s Internet Identity Landscape To identify ourselves in the digital realm, we generally use an id and a password. However, we interact with numerous applications daily and it is practically impossible to remember multiple strong passwords. Thus, many of us usually use weak passwords and often a single password for many sites, making us easy preys for dictionary attacks. Additionally, we also tend to use federated identity providers like Google or Facebook. For convenience sake, we give these providers access to our private data on a whim. When these sites/providers get breached, our private data is at risk of being compromised. Unbeknown to the majority, these providers also sell our data to other companies, who then co-relate our data and sell it to a third company. The data breach of a relatively unknown Floridian company called Exactis brought to light the horrible repercussions of such a massive breach, which affected almost all American companies. What was more disturbing was the nature of the data. Over 400 elements per record were collected from different sites and co-related to create a user persona. They then sold this data to anyone willing to pay. One well-known example was consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, infamous for its 2018 political scandal. And the worst thing was… no one gave consent to Exactis to collect this data! Putting Privacy Back Into The Hands of Users With Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), we ensure that connections are always unique and data can never be leveraged. A PALO IT Innovation Lab project, SSI provides a lifetime, portable identity to any person, organisation or thing, does not depend on any authority, and can never be taken away. We are essentially solving a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) problem in a decentralised way (DPKI). SSI is a two-party model where you form a connection directly with a peer, and what makes this possible is distributed ledger technology. Distributed ledger technology enables each party in the SSI model to trust each other cryptographically, and provides a way to store and verify public keys that anyone else can reference. Fundamentally, what you have with SSI are digital wallets. Whether it’s your smartphone, laptop, car or any place where you require a digital presence, digital wallets operate on all of your edge devices. With these digital wallets, you form connections with all other peers. Like a conventional wallet, it also “collects” credentials — for example, a passport or a driving license from an issuer. When you need to verify your identity, you have control of what credential you want to show and to whom. With SSI, you are a first-class citizen of the internet. You will have your own unique and persistent identifier. And you completely own and control your relationships. Our work on SSI is to simplify the user experience by changing the way credentials are requested, developing apps (mobile and desktop) for end-users, and streamlining the legal and technological connections for organisations willing to participate in Sovrin, the open-source public service utility enabling SSI on the internet. We have also developed a new protocol that provides a way for communication to be established in a decentralised way. In summary, the four open standards that have emerged to enable SSI are: 1. DID — Decentralised Identifiers 2. DKMS — Decentralised Key Management System 3. DID Authentication 4. Verifiable Credentials SSI — A Great Potential for Positive Impact The video below highlights the various use cases of SSI and its possibilities: At PALO IT, we are committed to harnessing the power of technology for the greater good. We see a future where tech brings positive change. Aside from using SSI to reinforce an individual’s ability to own their digital identity, this technology could also be applied to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as shown in our video. For example, SSI can be applied to reimagine refugee identity, tackle child labour, and secure voter registration systems. If our work triggers questions and ideas for your organisation or business, please reach out to us to explore a potential partnership!

Time to fast-forward...

In case you missed it, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently ranked the top five global risks in terms of likelihood over the coming years, all of which were linked to climate change and related environmental issues. This is the first time one category has swept all five spots. In regards to confronting these risks, emerging technology in particular has been a focal point for WEF, especially when it comes to governance, standards, and widening socioeconomic gaps across the globe. [Note: this post was originally released before the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, global risk and emerging technology are even more pertinent.] Let’s not dance around the issue at hand—PALO IT plays a part in this quandary. If you are invested in technology, you’ve got a hand in the pot. So, how do we address these concerns? How do we grapple with such a massive swell of change in 2020 and beyond? The first step, as our founder and CEO Stanislas Bocquet puts it, “is acting with courage, and getting out of our comfort zone. Taking a hard look at our current business model and stepping up to the challenge at hand, that’s number one on our to-do list.” The state we’re in When PALO IT was founded in 2009, our success—and the success of the tech community as a whole—was directly measured in the amount of money earned. But that simple-minded definition of success, the almighty $, leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth does it not? All this proclamation about drastic change is to say that, as beneficial as our current model of success has been for some, there aren’t as many winners as there used to be. The richest 10% of the population own 82% of global wealth, and 1% alone own 45%. Ouch… Not to say we drop all we’ve done and start from scratch, but there’s got to be a more inclusive business paradigm out there than what’s been so firmly ingrained in our collective business psyches. “It’s not that grandiose, we do have the capacity and the ability to use tech as a force for good, to build a new social model, a new environment,” says Bocquet. “It’s pointless and selfish to play the blame game for who’s responsible for what’s been done in the past. What’s important now is being an engine for change.” High time for change We’re likely preaching to the choir when we say “it’s time to reassess”. You know that, you’ve heard that, but the simple fact is doing can be a lot tougher than saying. And don’t get us wrong, we’ve run into our own snags when striving to be an impact-driven company. Flipping the way you think and operate at an organisational level is not for the faint of heart. But if there’s one thing we’ve tried to keep in mind throughout our journey, it’s that doing is of utmost importance, and in 2020, that’s what we’re all about… Awareness is the first step in change, and sitting front and centre in our company consciousness are the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)—a set of global targets designed by the UN to build a better and more sustainable future for all. Within this prototype for change (visualised below), and contrary to the popular lexicon of today, sustainability is not a very inspiring goal. “Sustainability isn’t a target, it’s not enough,” says Bocquet. “We can’t get back what’s already been destroyed, but we can generate something new.” Source: Graphic adapted from Ethan Roland 2018 by Daniel C. Wahl Bocquet goes on, “The regenerative mindset, that’s our strategy now and for the future, encouraging transformative innovation. As a consultancy this naturally means change isn’t just happening internally, but externally, with our clients and partners as well.” The 17 SDGs are a sort of North Star for PALO IT, and they allow us to benchmark this ‘regeneration’ in the work we do. We’re not the only ones, 75% of CEOs say they are investing in digital to address sustainability challenges, and what’s more, 63% of CEOs see fourth industrial revolution technologies (digital, physical and biological) as critical accelerators in the socioeconomic impact of their companies. Our own unique position sits at the intersection of these two trends that are currently shaping business. First, digital transformation. With more than 50 percent of the world online, this isn’t so much a trend as it is a prerequisite for doing business nowadays.  Second is impact transformation, finding that bedrock of purpose on which you can build. This might not be as omnipresent as digital, but it’s not far off. Even investment managers—some of the most financially accountable, money-minded individuals—are touting impact-driven businesses as a good investment, not just a good deed, and ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria are becoming mainstream in evaluating corporate performance. Operating at this intersection, we’ve found that we can affect a much larger ecosystem of businesses dealing with: impact technology, positive impact innovation, and products that are ethical by design. These like-minded organisations are searching for a way to use their work to make positive change—like creating less waste, supporting the marginalised, or lobbying governments for change. Beyond these individual project evaluations, having a sort of dashboard in keeping tabs on our processes and progress is crucial in measuring impact. For example, becoming a B Corp certified company has done wonders for this purpose. When it comes to our own benchmarks for 2020, we’re dedicated to what we’ve termed a regenesis program. This program tackles three distinct dimensions: mindset, skillset, and ecosystem. Mindset is a no-brainer (no pun intended). In the words of our Chief Innovation Officer, Cedric Mainguy, “We need to take a step back and understand the many crises that are of our making, that are linked and intertwined, but that’s just the starting point.” He goes on, “You cannot change systemic crises unless it comes from the people, and fundamentally, we need to come to the realisation that we need to change our ways, change how we conduct our lives and do business. Whether it's consumerism, transportation, going on holiday...it incorporates broad parts of our lives, and this change is for everyone to undergo. When we no longer interpret ourselves separate from nature, we understand that what we do to nature and to others, we ultimately do to ourselves.” “So, it's time to elevate our perspective, look at the big picture and understand what’s going on in the world. You might call this a holistic approach. It's a very unique journey for each person, yet we're all united in our goal." Speaking of goals, in 2020 we’re aiming to train 100% of our company in practically using their skills to make an impact through their careers. As they say, “knowing is half the battle”, and this is especially important in a company that operates across five continents. Skillset is when we start putting this ethos into action. In 2020, every office aims to head at least one impact project. “Most offices will lead at least two, and honestly, we hope to overachieve in this aspect,” says Mainguy. “Our big goal for this KPI is being able to assess the impactfulness of our projects and company as a whole. Not just doing the work, but evaluating how it’s affecting our world.” This dimension is our end-to-end offering in a nutshell, as it takes the corporate benefits of technological innovation and shines them through the lens of positive impact. From our offering, to our practices, to marketing, finance, every aspect of our organisation—our skillsets should create value for both our clients and our world as a whole. Ecosystem is the dimension when others join us in our journey. From governments, to startups, to NGOs and corporations, right down to individuals, our hope is to address global challenges as a cohesive and diverse community. Instead of approaching issues in a fragmented fashion, or with siloed initiatives, we have the opportunity to come together to make a difference (both internally and externally), uniting around a common objective.  For that purpose, each PALO IT office will carry out five joint, impact-driven actions with partner organisations in 2020. We want to start building roadmaps together, looking at what we can work on outside of our company, and branching into other organisations. Our regenesis program signals an exciting new chapter for our organisation, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg in what we hope to accomplish, “This year is all about creating a framework,” says Mainguy, “so that in 2021, we’ll start to see it implemented everywhere.” Interested in being part of the solution? Give us a shout anytime, we’re always searching for new partners in making a difference, and new players in the market’s growing, impact-driven ecosystem.

What I Learned From ...

The first Women Who Code Connect Asia conference was held in Singapore on August 31, 2019. Joined by my fellow Palowans, Ariel and Andre, it was my first time attending a conference and I was glad I did it! It was also attended by different WWCode members all over Asia such as Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, China, and Australia. The event was opened by Amanda Hill-Attkisson, the Program Innovation Director of WWCode, who shared the Global Keynote. She introduced WWCode and its vision, networks, highlights, and upcoming events. Women Who Code is a non-profit organisation founded in Los Angeles with a special set of programs curated for engineers to build on the careers they want. They produce free technical events, training, workshops, hackathons, and conferences. Becoming a part of the organisation also means gaining access to programs and services designed to support women in the technology world. “We envision a world where women are proportionally represented as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members, and software engineers. “ — WWCode Vision The next keynote was about Community, which was presented by Chee Yim Goh, WWCode Director in Kuala Lumpur. The best part about connecting with other people is the exchange of knowledge. She was inspirational in sharing on how individuals can change their community, and vice versa. The event soon broke off into different sessions and workshops, and we were free to choose which one we were most interested in. Since I am more into Cloud and Infrastructure, I chose sessions about “Cybersecurity”, “Fault Tolerance in Wireless Networks”, “Hybrid Cloud”, “Creating Art with CSS”, “Data Pipelines” and “Serverless with Containers”. The first session I attended was “Why Cybersecurity is crucial for developers” presented by Magda Lilia Chelly, a Cybersecurity Evangelist. She shared about encryption, which is the best way to keep your data protected from black hat hackers. She also talked about the 3 pillars that should work together to create strong Cybersecurity in the organisation: People, Process, and Technology. Besides these key aspected, she also highlighted the significance of the Data Flow diagram, DAST vs. SAST, and when we should do Penetration Testing. Perhaps, the most important thing I’ve learned from this session was that it is our responsibility to keep our data secured. #ITSTARTSWITHYOU The second session was about “Fault tolerance in wireless networks for rescue operations” by Amulya Sannergowda. She shared about a feasibility study of routing and QoS. Here, I realised that I needed to read more about networking to refresh and expand my knowledge in this area. The third session — The Journey of Hybrid Cloud, was the programme that excited me the most. This was presented by three ladies from India: Ramya Victor, Ranjani Swaminathan, and Shwetha Lakshman Rao. The first part of the session was conducted by Ramya. She talked about what was life before and after Cloud, and the evolution of Hybrid Cloud, which is the combination of public and private clouds. The second part of the session was presented by Ranjani, who discussed present Hybrid Cloud use cases and challenges. The final part of the session was all about Edge Computing, which is the processing of data by the device itself, a local computer, or near the edge of your network where the data is being generated, instead of in a centralised data-processing warehouse. This was presented by Shwetha. The next session I attended was “Creating Art with CSS” by Chen Hui Jin. I was amazed by her creativity and humour. This session taught me that nothing is impossible with CSS. Through the power of computation, we can create an image that seems like it was captured by a camera, limited only by our imagination. After a quick lunch break, I attended the Building Data Pipelines with Monitoring & Observability session by Jiaqi Liu. She shared about the ETL pipeline which extracts, transforms, and loads data into a warehouse. I learned that knowing your pipeline is healthy is not sufficient, you also have to be aware that the data being processed is accurate. Thus, building a data pipeline that supports interpretability and observability is very important. The next session was about Cloud Run: From Code to Serverless with Containers presented by Thirumalai Aiyalu, a Cloud Solutions Engineer from Google Cloud. Serverless means that you build your application with no Infrastructure Management and you only pay for your usage. He also discussed the advantages of using containers that support any language, library, binary, and ecosystem of base images. Containers are awesome but we need to make sure that we solve problems like scaling, scheduling, updates, service discovery, monitoring, health-checks, and orchestration, which can be delivered by using a platform like Kubernetes. He also introduced Knative, an abstraction on top of Kubernetes and an open-source project, which provides you with a set of building blocks to construct your own Faas/Paas. The conference ended with a Panel interview with Daphne Choong, CTO of Unixus Solutions, and Choy Peng Wu, CTO of GIC Pte Ltd. They were interviewed by Yue Lin Choong, Director of WWCode Singapore. They shared about their journey from when they were first starting up to where they were now. Their advice inspired me in so many ways and I feel empowered to apply this to both my professional and personal life. Reflecting on my experience and thoughts after this event, I realised how truly blessed I am to be in this field. But most importantly… we need more WOMEN in the technology world!

Leading The Change A...

For the past two and a half years, in between exciting projects and ventures, we’ve been on a slightly different path. PALO IT has just become a Certified B Corporation, making us the first tech company and the 9th overall to achieve B Corp status in Singapore. What is a B Corp? B Corps are the leaders of a global movement of people using business as a force for good, voluntarily meeting the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. We’re joining over 2,700 Certified B Corporations from more than 150 industries in 60+ countries. Why did we want to become a B Corp? Simple… it’s in our DNA! Becoming a B Corp is an embodiment of our culture and reinforces our core commitment to harness the power of technology for the greater good. We’re on a mission to do work that will eventually help individuals become better human beings and produce tangible outcomes that will benefit the world. Now that we’re a B Corp, our current (and future) clients, partners, and employees have a guarantee that we truly care about our world and how we affect everything around us. But don’t just take it from me. I recently sat down with two of our greatest advocates who could give us a little more insight into our incredible B Corp journey — none other than our Co-founder Tanguy Fournier Le Ray and Chief Innovation Officer Cédric Mainguy. Hi guys, can you share with us the thought process behind this massive endeavour? Tanguy: The tremendous power of exponential technologies has brought the tech industry to a critical crossroad where tech leaders are going to have to make a decision about the path they take and its great impact on our world. At PALO IT, we are eternal optimists who believe that technology can help us build a better world. As a result, we decided two and a half years ago to change our vision to ‘Tech For Good’, making a conscious choice to become the gatekeepers of the usage of technology to make a positive impact. Cédric: We asked our Palowans what their “dream” version of PALO IT was, and out of their aspirations came the idea of ethical innovation. We managed to raise the level of consciousness of our organisation, and understand what we cared about and what to do about it. What were some of the core initiatives that contributed to our B Corp certification? Tanguy: In Singapore, we have developed two apps: an easy-access platform that supports cancer patients and their caregivers during their illness, and a reward-based fitness platform specially designed for athletes with disabilities in partnership with Special Olympics. On a grander scale, we support Passerelles numérique, an NGO that enables young underprivileged people to build their employability in the digital industry. We have also launched a positive impact Tech Innovation Lab to generate more ‘Tech for Good’ solutions that are readily accessible by everyone. Concurrently, in Australia, we have established a partnership with Singularity University, a Certified B Corp global learning and innovation organisation using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Moving forward, we aim to participate in their Global Impact Challenge, an annual competition that focuses on ideating solutions that have the potential to help a billion people in 10 years. Cédric: Our positive impact canvas is an ongoing initiative of the B Corp/Impact Lab that identifies ways to make a positive impact with each of our client projects. Our approach ensures we design and integrate both social and environmental performance into our products, business models, and practices such as training and technology choices. We also place significant social and environmental consideration at the heart of PALO IT leadership in terms of mission and KPI. In what ways do you think we can collaborate with other members of the B Corp community and other partners in our ecosystem? Cédric: Together, we can share and leverage on a list of suppliers and providers that champion sustainability, as well as exchange good business practices. We will also continue supporting and participating in joint local initiatives that help address local and global challenges. Our certification does not mean the end, but the beginning of our journey. So in what ways can we improve? Tanguy: Although our B Corp certification is a good validation of the efforts we did in the past two years to become more sustainable, we still have a long way to go and the long-term plan is to shift a part of our commercial portfolio to include more social businesses. Cédric: Out of the five B Corp pillars, we scored lower in the “Customers” segment of our assessment, which entails embedding purpose and impact into our value proposition. Our next step is to uncover more ways to make an impact through our work, thereby adjusting what we do (design/develop technology that truly improves the quality of life), how we do it (implement new frameworks, tools, practices, and expertise), and with whom (diversify our customer base to include social businesses, NGOS, and purpose-driven organisations). To end off our chat, what do you hope to achieve now with this B Corp Certification? Tanguy: We believe we can have a greater positive impact if we join forces with other companies. We hope to create an ecosystem of companies in Singapore that share our vision, especially in the tech space. Cédric: It all comes down to raising the consciousness of people by making them aware of their purpose and responsibility to make the world a better place, as well as encouraging organisations to become more purpose-driven. Afterword Thank you gentlemen! Indeed, PALO IT’s certification journey has certainly helped us reflect on our own operating model and become more conscious of the many ways we are making an impact on our world, all while uncovering empowering truths and revealing ways to become more sustainable. And along with the rising B Movement in Asia that measures success in terms of contribution to the well-being of people, communities, and the natural world, we will work together to achieve our goals and forge a brighter future for all.

Artificial Muscle St...

Years ago, I discovered Arduino during a four-month project. I was amazed by the technology and all the possibilities it offered. Through this post, I’d like to share my personal experience with Arduino, along with more generally embedded technology. I hope that by sharing this experience, you will develop a keen interest as much as I have. Context: In 2014, I joined a small French medical technology research company. The project that I worked on was called the “Myo-Neuro Simulator”. This device was initially developed in a neurologic laboratory in Moscow and designed to artificially contract muscles using electrical impulses. The purpose of the device was to give partially paralysed patients the ability to walk. This experiment was proven to have worked in Moscow on children with Cerebral Palsy (weakened muscles pathology) for several 20-minute sessions. Piqued by this technology, the CSTL (Scientific and Technological Cooperation of Lorraine) contacted the company to adapt it to European medical standards and norms. By the time this project was assigned, a clinic in Nancy showed interest in the project and expected a functional device within the next months to perform clinical trials on rehabilitating patients. The first phase of the project was to study the actual device to understand its behaviour and correct what couldn’t fit into European medical norms. Studying The Product: After receiving a prototype, a hardware engineer studied the device and found that the original flow of impulses could be dangerous for patients. The Russian device actually used to send modular charged impulses regularly. This setup could produce burns of the cutaneous fabric (the tissue located between skin and muscle) by overcharging it on tension. Therefore, we modified this signal by sending a negative impulse after each positive impulse to lower the tensions in muscles, shaping the signal like this: This modification led us to change the whole device by replacing the actual firmware with a brand new microcontroller. After studying several technologies, we ended up picking an “Arduino Due”, a microcontroller card which we could reprogram using its own language based on C and C++. Using Arduino: Programming a microcontroller enabled us to create a link between the hardware and the software. Basically, the entry and the result of the program are made through analogical inputs and outputs (while the program itself is digital). On the entry side, elements such as a potentiometer can be added to tune the signal. Doing so allows you to drive the analogue signal that your binary program will receive. At the other end, you can plug a component that allows you to monitor the activity such as an LED. One specific constraint of using a microcontroller is that the program runs in an infinite loop. This means that once the program is launched, you cannot stop it. It is as though the program is constantly in a “listening mode,” waiting for any analogue input that could come at any time. It doesn’t have the option to end like other programs usually do. There is also a “communication input” on the card where any communication device, a bluetooth receiver for example, can be plugged in to feed the microcontroller with information. This input can receive more details than any switch could give. This comes in handy when setting up the parameters of a stimulation session on the device. As we were changing the firmware, with the agreement of the clinic, we decided to make better use of the potential of the microcontroller by giving it an upgrade. Our Device: As an upgrade to the initial device design, we added an angle sensor. The purpose of this sensor was to calculate the walking cycle of patients. By plugging it on his valid knee, the Arduino could evaluate his walking cycle, and stimulate his calf and thigh to reproduce this cycle on his partially paralysed leg. After discussing with clinicians, and with the constraints of the infinite loop as core function, we decided to set up 3 different modes to manage different uses of the product: Rest Mode: The device is just listening, waiting to receive information from the analogical inputs Test Mode: The device sends a flow of impulse during a second; this mode is used to gauge the strength of the impulse to adapt it to the patient Stimulation Mode: This mode is the most complex one; it needs several parameters such as the strength of the impulses (previously determined using the same device in Test Mode) and the time of the session (20 minutes by default) It’s possible to easily change the device’s state and impulse strength through the bluetooth receiver connected to the card. In the end, the prototype was tested in a local clinic on a patient whose body was partially paralysed after a stroke. The device worked successfully and had opened up many more possibilities when it comes to improving patients’ life. Conclusion: By the end of this project, I was amazed by the ease of use and the great potential of this technology. This experience offered me proof that a harmonious combination between physical elements and algorithms can lead to endless possibilities. It has also shown me that, with simple and easily accessible technologies and components, such as Arduino hardware and components, we are able to drive change and make the world a better place.

Behind The Scenes: P...

Last week, I shared about the launch of the PALO IT Lab, a new initiative driven by open innovation and collaboration, and a place where Palowans can work together to create more ‘Tech for Good’ solutions that are readily accessible by everyone. As a continuation from my quick chat with our CTO Dimitri Baikrich, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with our Palowans in the Lab, who launched their first project — Secure Cloud OS. They were: Rohan — Developer Vidarbha — DevOps Engineer Quee Boon — Senior Developer Ashish — Senior Developer Amulya — Developer Their task was to develop an easy-to-use and secure remote desktop solution for the elderly, with a focus on USB fingerprint identification as the authentication method. Although our pioneers came into this project with no significant experience in DaaS and Biometric authentication, they expressed excitement with working on new technology. Brainstorming “We started the kick-off meeting with a fair amount of uncertainty; we all had different ideas about what the project was actually about.” — Rohan The first phase involved an idea generation session, where they broke down the scenario into a series of questions, including: Which USB fingerprint scanner key to use? How do you authenticate the fingerprint? What do you need to change on a cloud virtual machine so it can work like a desktop PC, except remotely? Since our use case is for elderly people, what do we need to prioritise in the UI? After this exercise, they grouped similar questions together and were given full freedom to pick any module they were interested in working on, along with any available tools. Iterative Development Our Palowans encountered many challenges while working on their prototype, each exploring and experimenting with different options and combinations to arrive at the most practical choice. “While comparing, there was no clear winner. All tools/software come with their own added advantages and downsides. I finally realised why they called this the PALO IT Lab.” — Vidarbha Rohan, in particular, had successfully managed to redirect sound from the cloud desktop to the local PC after testing various remote desktop protocols. But if it were only so simple, right? “However, the desktop quality was poor. It was slow to respond to mouse & keyboard events, and there was significant screen tearing when too many parts of the screen were changing too fast,” he said. The key takeaway from this phase was that there was no universal solution, but the prospect of working with no well-defined role and deliverable has been the most enjoyable aspect. Final Thoughts “It’s a great experience working in PALO IT Lab where we are free to use any technology to implement the pilot MVP model. I am very happy to be a part of this team.” — Ashish Overall, the first week at the Lab was a quiet yet eventful one. I left our sharing session with a greater understanding of their work, while also ruminating on some of the questions that have formed during my own introspection. What will they have at the end of two months? How are they going to get there? What other blockers are they likely to meet? Am I ever going to get my hoverboard? Till next time.

Building The Future,...

If you’re working in the tech industry, you would’ve probably heard all the buzz around PALO IT’s new initiative — the PALO IT Lab. Launched early this year, the Lab is a huge and portentous stepping stone towards creating a positive impact with the work we do through technology. It’s a place outside client servicing, where our Palowans build stronger capabilities around exponential technologies, and also a creative hub where amorphous ideas begin to take shape. To gain more insight into what really goes on in the Lab, I recently sat down with Dimitri Baikrich, PALO IT’s Chief Technology Officer, who was kind enough to answer some of our questions, while also lifting the veil on some of the cool projects they’re currently working on. Hi Dimitri, could you start by sharing with us the thought process behind the launch of the PALO IT Lab? What are you hoping to achieve with the Lab? Firstly, it was to increase engagement with our Palowans, to open up the opportunity to research, discover and try new tech that we do not usually work with on the client side. We are also hoping to foster a POC and innovation mindset, instead of a project where you actually have to deliver something. Most importantly, our vision has, and will always be, harnessing the power of technology for the greater good. This is the heart of the Lab — to create a positive and lasting impression on the world through purpose-driven projects that reinforce the values of PALO IT. How do you go about choosing the individuals who are going to be a part of the Lab? Our Palowans can share their ideas and express interest, giving ownership to them in that aspect, followed by a certain criteria of how long you’ve spent in PALO IT. There’s also your current skills and the ones you’re going to develop. Could you share with us some of the projects that you’ve outlined? We have a project called Secured Cloud-Based OS that is meant to simplify technology for people who might have difficulties with computers. Security is a huge concern for the elderly generation who are generally less tech-savvy, making them easy targets for hackers who might want to access their personal data. To avoid that, we’re developing a solution that uses a thumbdrive that requires fingerprint authentication. Upon insertion, a web connection software allows the OS to run on Cloud instead of locally. Through constant updates and scans, this next-gen security system will ensure there is never any malware. The OS has also been customised, simplified, and will have a credentials management system. We’re also working on developing pseudo-drivers, building on top of some existing open-source tech, that will allow peripheral devices on a local machine, such as a webcam or mic, to remotely and securely connect to another machine hosted on the Cloud. Our goal is to use the secure cloudOS to run a video chat program for instance, or to use a voice chatbot for help. Our next project will be on SSI, Self-Sovereign Identity, likely relying on the Sovrin Network. We would like to simplify digital ID and self-sovereign identity management. On top of these projects, we’re constantly having back-and-forth sessions with our Palowans to contribute ideas that will help tackle our modern society’s problems and challenges. What were the risks involved with the PALO IT Lab? Is there a definition of failure? When you do research, there’s a big possibility that you are going to prove that something is not working, or that you’re not going to find anything. For example, when you look at research in a pharmaceutical company, they spend a lot of time before they actually find something. It can be years before they finally have a breakthrough. However, this is perfectly fine. The goal of the Lab is not commercially-driven. We’ve known that when we invest in the Lab, we’re investing in our Palowans that are part of the Lab. We’re giving them a safe environment to take risks.We know that the journey itself is the goal. If we can produce something, it’s great, but the journey itself is more important. In what ways do you think we can potentially collaborate with our ecosystem partners? Are there opportunities for our partners to work with us at the PALO IT Lab? Definitely — the Lab serves as a place where we can test and integrate our partners’ technologies. We’ve had all types of discussions with financial institutions, global service providers and other corporate entities. If they have problem statements or challenges we think the Lab can help look into, we’ll always keen on exploring and sharing our ideas with them. What’s the final outcome you’re hoping to achieve with the PALO IT Lab? If possible, most of what we’re going to do is going to be open-sourced. And the biggest outcome I would say is to learn as much as possible, and find a way to put the blocks together to make something interesting. To end off our chat, list down 3 things you’re most excited about. Sharing our findings with our Palowans in the company, getting good engagement with the public through knowledge sharing, and having a working prototype in the end. Thank you Dimitri. On behalf of everyone at PALO IT, I echo the excitement of finding out what the future of the Lab has in store for us! P.S. I want a hoverboard. PALO IT Lab The vision of the PALO IT Lab is to create more ‘Tech for Good’ solutions that are readily accessible by everyone, and to encourage open innovation and collaboration. This is in line with PALO IT’s vision — to do work that will eventually transcend lives, help individuals become better human beings, and produce tangible outputs that will benefit the world.

Customer Story: 1859...

1859 Cloud is one of marmelab‘s customers. The digital product we’ve developed for them is both typical of our work (Lean Startup, agile iterations, API-centric architecture, full-stack JS) and very unique (long running, finance sector, very high quality requirements). Let’s see that in detail. Helping Charities Using a FinTech The vision of 1859 Cloud is simple: attract and select high quality professional investors, build a financial markets idea-based meritocracy, and capture the collective intelligence derived from the collaboration and competition within the community. This intelligence is used to drive the performance of a low cost investment fund, but with very attractive performance profile. Investors in the fund will pay a normal fee, but given its low cost base compared to traditional funds, 1859 Cloud aims to redistribute a very large share of the difference to charities. For a usual fund managing several billions dollars, this can represent up to a million dollars a year given to charities. Who said FinTechs can’t have a soul? But how do you create a high performing fund with lower fees? In usual funds, the fees (about 1 or 2% of the invested funds, and 10 to 20% of the performance realised) pay the fund manager, a highly skilled trader who knows where and when to invest. The bet of 1859 Cloud is to use the wisdom of crowds, i.e. to delegate the sourcing of the most attractive investment ideas to a group of volunteer contributors. The Wisdom of Crowds, a book written by James Surowiecki, describes how a group of well-organized individuals can outperform highly skilled experts. Building up on this mechanics, 1859 Cloud is a private club of investors, selected for their performance, diversity of expertise, and investment style. Inside the club, members/contributors share investment ideas. Each member can invest virtual risk units (like casino chips) on each other’s ideas. These investments are a signal of trust, and allow the best ideas to surface. This swarming process is monitored and consistently evaluated, and this drives the fund to invest real money on some of the ideas – ideally the best performing ones – without ever needing a human fund manager. Tips Why would professional investors share their best investment ideas? Well, first because of the quality, multiplicity, and diversification of the other ideas they receive in return. They share something obvious to them, with the likely chance to get quite a few ideas they did not think about. Also, those who share an idea get valuable feedback from their peers, without the risk of tarnishing their reputation if the idea doesn’t work. This is because members are anonymous in their interactions. Anonymity is a strong condition for the wisdom of crowds to emerge. If investors know the authors of the investment ideas, they might invest based on the authors’ reputation rather than on the idea merit. So 1859 Cloud completely hides the investor names, and all they can see in the club is the members’ grade – a representation of the member observed performance or judgment quality over a multi-year horizon. The Domain: Ideas, Investments, Portfolio As for any B2B business, the 1859 Cloud domain is large, and sometimes hard to understand for non-specialists. For instance, here is a typical idea shared by a 1859 Cloud club member: " Long CAC/Short DAX (sell ratio) " The rationale behind that idea will only make sense if you have strong financial background: " Global selloff has brought French index almost back to pre-election level. Stronger EUR and potential global rally topping out makes the DAX an attractive hedge while the French government seems to have a good start and reforms ahead of it. Also, equities maybe to be exempt of French wealth tax in fiscal reform to come. German election in September another excuse for underperformance ahead. " Tips This is a real idea from the club, but it’s an old one. Current ideas have a potential strong value, and therefore cannot be shared outside of the club. Inside the club, investors submit suggestions. The club administrators need to vet these suggestions according to some set of rules, they adjust the size notional to make them comparable in terms of risk, and they format the suggestions so they can become ideas, i.e. a published suggestion. Investors invest tokens on ideas, defining the limits when they will sell (a target price and a stop price). Each idea has a daily value taken from financial markets. An idea can also have events (like dividends, or roll for a Future), which add to the investment value. This value determines the performance (gain or loss) of an investment, and, by extension, the performance of an investor’s portfolio (the sum of all their investments). There are many more concepts on the 1859 Cloud’s platform, in addition to complex calculations to get exact performance for a given investment on a given day. Besides, using financial products involves a big focus on properly handling dates, timezones, currency conversions, and roundings. The Lean Startup Needs Adjustments for Finance 1859 Cloud came to Marmelab mid-2014 to build the club’s digital platform. Marmelab has provided a team of 3 people: 2 full-stack developers full-time, plus an agile projet pilot part time. The pilot is, at the same time, a scrummaster, a proxy product owner, a UI/UX advisor, and a software architect – think a Chief Operating Officer in a startup. In many aspects, the building of 1859 Cloud is typical of The Lean Startup approach. Customer-centric design, features seen as experiments, early and frequent releases, metrics-based decisions, even a pivot to change the business model about a year ago. But the 1859 Cloud case is also very different from your usual move fast and break thingsstartup. Mostly because the 1859 Cloud customers are wealthy people with very little spare time, and high expectations for super slick products with zero bug. In addition, this Fintech activity falls into the “providing advice for investment” category, which means it is regulated, and 1859 Cloud’s legal obligations translate into strong software requirements. We had to accommodate our process to deliver a super stable product every two weeks. In developers terms, this means more thorough backlog grooming, a certain formalism in acceptance tests, longer qualification time, and a polished UI even for the first release. The Minimum Viable Product took 9 months to develop. Tips Fun Fact: The 1859 Cloud name comes from the year of the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species”, which unveils the theory of evolution via natural selection. Performing ideas are selected by the club, the ideas unfit for a world of profit die quickly! Building A Fund With JavaScript In collaboration with a London-based web agency, we designed a classic API-centric architecture, and started developing 3 apps: A responsive frontend app, used by the club members An admin app, used by the 1859 Cloud staff A REST API, used by both the frontend and admin apps The frontend app is responsive: it has to work on desktop (in web browsers), as well as on iOS and Android devices (tablets and phones). We chose PostgreSQL, Node.js, Cordova, and Angular.js for the main tech stack (remember that this project started in 2014). Along the years, we added a queuing system, asynchronous workers, cron jobs, a notification system, and many other bricks. 1859 Cloud uses several cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) (including VPC, ECS, ELB, RDS, SES, SQS, S3, CodeBuild, CodePipeline, CodeDeploy, etc), which allows the infrastructure to scale easily without high upfront costs. After more than 3 years of development, the 1859 Cloud apps totals about 150,000 lines of code, mostly JavaScript, HTML and CSS, with bits of Bash and Python. It’s been up and running for more than a year, mostly without hiccup. We don’t manage the production servers – 1859 Cloud appointed another contractor, Osones, for that. If you’re looking for a host company relying on AWS with great engineers, we can definitely recommend them. Lessons Learned About Developing A Mobile App in The Financial Sector Of course, we had our share of troubles. The performance of a large angular.js (1.6) app is, by default, very poor. We had to invest a lot in web performance optimization. Dealing with offline access, concurrent editing, live notifications synchronized on several devices, and highly interactive data visualizations required significant research, as the JavaScript landscape does not offer enough solutions (or sometimes too many half-baked solutions) for mobile usage problems. And a large share of our efforts has been dedicated to building a full-fledged admin – in fact, more of an ERP. We pushed ng-admin, our open-source admin dashboard development framework, to the extreme to allow all sort of custom screens, optimized for speed of use. Anyone who develops a mobile app knows this, but we learned it at great cost: deploying updates to the app is always a risk. First, all modifications must be done in a backwards-compatible manner, as the mobile apps will update way later than the API server (and therefore the new server must be able to serve the old apps for some time). Second, when it works on one device, it doesn’t work on all the devices of the same manufacturer. Mobile testing takes a lot of time. Last but not least, in-app analytics are a must, otherwise you’re blind to any problem the end users may have. We invested a lot into a custom Continuous Integration service based on Travis and AWS. In addition to running automated tests, it automatically deploys the code according to the branch it’s been merged to (integration, staging, production). We can deploy with one click, and it doesimprove the quality of the apps significantly. Oh, and about those tests – we’re so happy we started writing them on day one. The code has a strong coverage of unit, integration and e2e tests, and this has saved us countless times. I’d even say that e2e tests, which are very expensive to setup, write and maintain (especially with Angular.js), have a strong return on investment. With this test base, we can start large refactorings with confidence, and that’s the reason why the codebase is still fresh after 3 years. It's The People, Stupid Over the course of the project, the Marmelab team has changed at least 6 times. We try to rotate developers on a yearly basis, so that our developers see a variety of projects and technologies. Developers are notably hard to find, but easy to lose if they do the same thing for too long. You can imagine how painful it is for the Product Owners at 1859 Cloud, who must re-explain and share invaluable domain expertise twice a year, and support some periods of suboptimal productivity. However, this also brings some strong benefits. For example, to avoid relying on a developer’s knowledge, we automated many processes – from configuration management to developer onboarding. The project has great technical documentation, which is unusual for us (we believe in code as documentation). And the codebase has no dark place – many developers have seen the code many times. The variety of experience of the developers who participated in the project has brought innovative ideas about architecture, performance, or system administration. Projects at Marmelab usually last for a few months – we bootstrap products up to the MVP, then train developers working for our customer to take the code from there on. The 1859 Cloud project tests the solidity of our model on longer projects. A continuing collaboration for 3 years only works if the parties trust each other. The project works because every individual involved in the project demonstrate goodwill. The Future The 1859 Cloud High Conviction Fund will launch in the second-half of 2018, and hopefully the first check will be sent to a charity in January next year. The 1859 Cloud company is raising more capital, and hiring more people, to accelerate their growth. They just closed successfully their Series A. Soon, 1859 Cloud will start analysing its members’ behaviour even more thoroughly, looking for new signals pointing at great ideas – using Machine Learning. On the technical side, we’ve started the transition from Angular.js to React.js in the frontend. There is so much code that it will take long, but we’re confident that we can integrate Angular and React together to allow a continuous migration. We alternate technical iterations to consolidate the platform, and the development of new major features inspired by the feedback we get from the investors. We’re super happy with this project, which is not only innovative, but also challenging, and motivating. It’s a great achievement by the 1859 Cloud and the marmelab teams, and we’re looking forward to making the word a better place thanks to the wisdom of Charles Darwin! Find the original blog post here !

Startup Weekend Sing...

“Startup?” “Weekend!”… That was the cheer used over the past weekend at Startup Weekend Singapore 2017! Deemed as the biggest startup event in the whole of Asia, the 72-hour event was a resounding success as 150 over participants attended the event held at Google’s APAC office. The event saw a wide range of talent, ranging from developers and designers to hustlers (those who do not have experience in either), coming together to pitch ideas and launch startups in the 54-hour hackathon. Individuals came in with ideas that were personal and relatable, in hopes of getting the right people from the pool of talent during the weekend to kick-off their startup. Teams then went on to work on their selected idea with the end-product in mind. They also rendered the help of mentors who contributed 15 minutes of their time to give tips and advices on the team’s ideas. Then on Sunday, 22 January 2017, teams rallied together to pitch their ideas to the esteemed judges that were invited specially by the organisers of Startup Weekend Singapore. The judging panel comprised of individuals that have had experience in the startup ecosystem. List of Judges: Vishal Harnal, 500 Startups Arthur Brejon, Lazada Guillaume Sachet, Mediacorp Jacqueline Poh, GovTech Vivek Kumar, NTUC Chris Chen, Nielsen Innovate   To be honest, I was extremely thrilled and excited to hear the pitches since the teams had innovative ideas that addresses the needs of the community. I actually would consider investing in some (if I had the money, that is!). The teams that stood out the most for me were ‘The Whisky Guys’ and ‘Team Class’. Team Whisky Guys speak for themselves, as they aimed to produce a “Made in Singapore” whisky. They captured the hearts of the audience by providing a sample of their whisky to the judges, with the promise of localizing it using pandan, orchid and jackfruit. All these were done within 54 hours, by the way! Team Class who classify themselves as ‘dating experts’ Team Class, on the other hand, were rather classy *ahem*. They started their pitch by asking the ladies in the audience how they would feel having their potential dates screened by their best friends before meeting him in person. It got the audience riled up when they promised to offer the service at only SGD$2 while comparing it with its predecessors like Tinder and Match.com that offers their services at SGD$9.90 and SGD$50+ respectively. Phew, I was glad I wasn’t part of the judging panel because the ideas that were pitched all sounded exciting. I am pretty sure the judges had a hard time deciding on the winners. Just like what Vishal Harnal from 500 Startups nicely said in his closing speech, “It’s the teams that were forged, relationships that were formed and ideas that were shared the past weekend that matters the most.”   “It’s the teams that were forged, relationships that were formed and ideas that were shared the past weekend that matters the most.” – Vishal Harnal, 500 Startups   As cliché as it sounds, I thought that all the teams came out as winners from the weekend because they came up with pitches and even prototypes to present to the judges, all within 54 hours! List of Winners:   Most Creative Award – Team ‘The Whisky Guys’ 3rd Place – Team ‘Weaver’ 2nd Place – Team ‘Blinked’ 1st Place – T eam ‘Githip’

Take the start of La...

Have you ever heard of La Route du Rhum? If not, Google it right now because this is going to be the most exciting adventure this Autumn! For the first time, PALO IT will take part in an international sporting event: the legendary Route du Rhum. We are talking about a transatlantic solo boat race between Saint-Malo, Brittany, and Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. The route has never changed since its origins in 1978. Every 4 years in November, this race welcomes the most adventurous skippers from all around the globe to challenge their limits on physical endurance and human courage. Ship's Ahoy! PALO IT will sponsor one of these wild sailors. His name is Antoine Carpentier and he is a tough cookie! Antoine has spent most of his life on the seas, where he built a rock-solid reputation. La Routedu Rhum will be his first time competing in a solo race. He will run on a Class40 (a monohull sailboat) called “Beyond The Seas”. The competition will be extremely tight. 50 experienced sailors will strive for the victory. A lot of emotion and suspense expected! Sea-proofed vision and values We act with COURAGE Taking part in this mythical race requires a great deal of courage and a little touch of madness. La Route du Rhum is a gruelling regatta. With determination, boldness, and mental strength, only the toughest of the sailors reach their goal. We believe Antoine is one of them. We choose POSITIVITY Antoine’s journey to the starting line was full of mishaps. With the help of his friends and family, he convinced major sponsors, found a boat to race and started his physical preparation by himself. Like Palowans, Antoine dreams big and undertakes everything he can to make it happen. We CARE about our world Antoine will spotlight a unique positive initiative every day during the race. By doing so, he will offer media coverage to these change-makers. Making a positive impact is at the heart of everything Antoine and PALO IT do. We SHARE, it's in our DNA We also admire Antoine’s endeavour to share his passion through coaching on Class40 and corporate sporty regattas. For him, sailing is a way of life and a wealth of knowledge for anyone willing to embark. What's next? Awesomeness! Get to know La Route du Rhum here: https://www.routedurhum.com/en Follow Antoine on Facebook to know more about the preparation of his boat and his sea excursions. Antoine was qualified for the race on September 6th. He is looking forward to starting the race on November 4th! About Antoine Carpentier Sailing since 5 years of age, Antoine became a professional skipper in 2004. Always in between competitions and training, the experienced sailor spends around 150 days on land, for his family and the preparation for new challenges. He made a name for himself taking part in numerous national races, especially multihull regattas. His most recent claim to fame was winning the Transat Jacques Vabre in November 2017, with his teammate Maxime Sorel. These achievements spurred him to engage in his first solo race: La Route du Rhum. ⛵️⛵️Let's wish Antoine fair winds!⛵️⛵️ Stay tuned on our PALO IT Facebook page. Last weekend, 11 lucky Palowans from PALO IT Paris had the chance to navigate together with Antoine on his boat: check our photo album here!

HK Service Jam: 48-h...

Last week, the Jam kicked off in around 100 cities worldwide! Thousands of Jammers all over the world cooperated with strangers, identifying needs, building interactive prototypes of brand new services and testing them. And as they did it, they were learning new tools, experiencing new ways to work, changing the world – and had a great time! Check out how Marivi – Senior Scrum Master, Herbert – Agile Coach, and Samson – UX Designer at PALO IT Hong Kong, who participated in the HK Service Jam session, took up this challenge – and even won! 1/ Hi Guys, can you explain to us what did the HK Service Jam consist of? Herbert: The main goal of this event was promoting Service Design in an exciting way. It is the end-to-end design of a total experience, including both tangible and intangible elements, like communication, environment and behaviour. Marivi: A bunch of experts from various backgrounds participated in this event, including designers, developers, agile coaches and even lawyers, from agencies, consulting firms and editors. 2/ How did you feel when you discovered the Secret Theme? Here is the video which started the Jam and introduced the uncanny Secret Theme of “Hello-lo-lo”: Samson: We were all surprised, because the theme was quite unusual! So we had to be creative enough to imagine what was the message behind it. And we had to think about a prototype in a very short term: indeed, we had only 10 minutes to draw something clear enough, so people can understand it without explaining it. 3/ Can you describe us all the steps of this hackathon? Marivi: Friday night, after having unveiled the Secret Theme, the Service Jam staff played some music and all the participants had to exchange their ideas. When the music stopped,  we had to discuss with someone the understanding of our idea and “sell” our product. Then, we had to select and vote for our favourite idea. 13 projects were shortlisted. Every participant had to choose the project they wanted to contribute to. Herbert and Samson (who were members of the winning team): Saturday morning, we were asked to find the central user research question. For our team, it was: “How might we personalize our diet and nutrition needs in a restaurant experience?” Then we went outside and interviewed people in the street to capture as much as data as we could. 4/ What kind of feedback did you manage to capture from people? Herbert: Here is a bunch of answers we collected: “I don’t really care about the nutritional value, or the price, or if it is tasty or not, or if it is a clean place”. We were surprised, but usually, people seem to eat healthy only when at home. On the top of that, most of them said they often skipped their breakfast or their lunch time meal because of their busy schedules. Samson: After analysing our first round of data, we realized that we did not get anything relevant. Then we had further discussions with the team and with the facilitators to still deliver the design. One of the team members even played the role of “super hater”. We finally decided to focus on bringing health to people at the workplace. 5/ Your team won this hackaton. Can you tell us more about the service you imagined? Herbert: We designed the “Hello Box”, which is a healthy, balanced and yummy meal with a little tailor-made extra in it, depending on the company and its concerns (it can be a message, some innovation gaming material like Legos or cards, or some instructions to facilitate meetings or workshops). This box mainly targets team leaders, executives or managers: they can order it to make their Monday meetings more joyful, for example! Samson: Over several hours, we tried to reframe the solutions in order to improve it, as it perfectly matched the users’ needs. Fortunately, we were helped by the HK Service Jam mentors in this. We asked them to rate the solution and to give us their feedback on it. Eventually, we designed some slides to present our project. The jury selected ours as the most innovative and added-value solution. There were 13 projects, so we are really happy to win! By the way, we won tickets for the UX Hong Kong conference!  6/ How was the Service Jam programme any different from the previous events you’ve attended? Samson: The format (48-hour hackathon) is much longer, so you got a lot to do… but you learn more! We even did meditation and yoga. I had a lot of fun! I really loved this event because it mixed workshops and presentation. For example, Cedric Mainguy, Head of Innovation at Palo IT Singapore, conducted a talk on “Prototyping”. And there was also a User Research talk conducted by Louise SCHENK, Service Designer at MAKE Studio. Herbert: It was my first time to attend a workshop related to service design. It was interactive and fun. I experienced a new way to gather information from the users through face–to-face interviews and phone calls. It was quite challenging to improve ideas in a very short time! Marivi: The whole experience was really challenging and yet fulfilling! Everyone was happy and excited about the new experience we gained. Materials provided were amazing. And the venue was great! 7/ What were some of your key takeaways from the conference? Samson: Get a “superhater” in your team! He will give you more insights than a “superfan” about your product. Sticking with the initial idea might not be a bad idea if you have a “superhater” in your team. By the way: don’t skip your breakfast! Herbert: Understanding of the service design itself. It is quite similar to the Agile mindset because it embraces fail fast and learn fast. It is great to ideate and fun! Marivi: Never be afraid of giving your ideas, nor interviewing people! It is OK to fail! Thanks to the feedback of the people you are able to improve continuously. It enables you to narrow your ideas and focus on the goal set. This conference gave me some tips on how to be creative and liberate myself, as well as how to identify painpoints and solve them it in a diverse team. Thank you guys for the feedback. And congratulations again to the winning team! (including Leo Chak from Cogs Agency, Jessica Pang from Asia Miles, and Gordon Lee, freelancer)   HK Service Jam website: https://www.jamhk.org/ Global Service Jam website: http://planet.globalservicejam.org/