About this blog

What you will read about

This blog is about “smart IoT” thus you will read about the application of machine learning (ML) to the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

This sounds gibberish to you? That’s exactly why you should read on as machine learning and IoT are mega-trends that will affect everybody, in your working and private life.

The blog targets executives and consultants that want to understand the topics and its implications to make the right decisions for their company or clients as well as software engineers, data scientists and makers that want to understand how to work on the technical side of things.

As the main and adjactent topics such as Kubernetes are complex and the complexity is growing, there is lot’s of ground to cover - this is why you can expect one blog post per week at least in the near future. The frequency might go down when I am fully focused on paid work again - read more about this below ,-)

Be warned: as some of the stuff I will cover in this blog might feel quite dry I take the freedom to add a personal anecdote here and there to lighten it up.

Why this blog was created and why you should care

First and foremost this blog is an experimental way to get back my Zen. Having worked too much in the past my work life balance got lost. Time will tell if blogging is a good way to stimulate my creative side again and have fun.

“Express Yourself”. Madonna, 19891

Second the topic “smart IoT” and all it entails is of great interest for me personally. As part of my formal studies in Technical University of Berlin I proudly worked as a researcher in the “FLP/KIT institute” managed by Prof. Dr. Bernd Mahr with KIT standing for “Künstliche Intelligenz beim Textverstehen” (“artificial intelligence for understanding text”). I studied formal and statistical ways to make machines “smart”. However the computational barrier was to high for some of the algorithms, given the throughput and efficiency of central processing units of that time - GPUs were not even invented back than. Some of the algorithms we studied than are called “machine learning” nowadays - I remember telling my peers that I will be back working with machine learning when computational power increased by one order of magnitude - which is now2.

Third “smart IoT” is one of the few mega-trends that will effect everybody and every business. I worked for a lot of clients in the past that were hard to convince when mega-trends arrived and tried to stick to what was known and working. Interestingly enough the bigger and more obvious the change ahead the more rigid was the belief that nothing will change. Sadly enough this let to some frogs boiling3. This blog might help some to invest in “smart Iot” early and experiment with what it might mean to their business, before others take it away.

Fourth “smart IoT” is just an application of “machine learning” to “edge devices” - it is complex but not really complicated. If some of the articles lower the barrier for software engineers, data scientists and makers to study it, I have already succeeded.

In addition I am lazily looking for a new job4 - I needed some place to guide headhunters to so I can ingress opportunities in a more structured and efficient way - this is the place and the little chatbot Ask Helmut! is there to help me focus on the part time holiday I am currently taking.

Last but not least I am tinkering with the idea of having a secondary income by being an author and educator. This blog is a way to challenge myself and check if I am capable of going into this direction before I take the decision to create some paid content. In the meantime you can gift me a vegan smoothie - at the end of each article you will find a related button - click it and pay with your credit card or PayPal to wire me a micro-payment.

secondary income

By the way: All photos in this blog are shot with my iPhone and a little help provided by the embedded A11 bionic chip that accelerates the inference based on a neural network pre-trained by Apple for computational photography - which is actually a good example of the machine learning on edge devices this blog is about.

I cherish your feedback

Some of the thoughts I will express in this blog are quite opinionated so you might beg to differ.

Furthermore there will always be something I missed when doing the research for an article.

… and don’t forget, this is the first time I am writing a blog which is why I am feeling quite insecure and long for confirmation.

This is why I added multiple possibilities that allow you to provide feedback:

  • Below each article you will find a little forum that allows you to provide a reaction - such as an upvote - with one press of your finger or to take more time and write down your own thoughts and insights on the topic at hand. Simply click on “Show comments” below each article to see the forum and please respect the comment policy so everybody feels at home.
  • If you have an interesting article i should read for my next blog post or want me to cover a specific topic feel free to use Ask Helmut! - it will ask you about it and forward your suggestion to my mobile phone.
  • Let’s not forget buying me a smoothie! I learned that nothing is more honest feedback than giving money - so if you like what you read and have 5 dollars to spare feel free to give them to me :-)

A word on accessibility

I tried my best to make the content of this blog as accessible as possible to everybody:

features

  • For those with reading disabilities or that want to enjoy the content in a fully relaxed mode every blog post can be read aloud - simply click on the play button above the text of each article.
  • For those that are not yet into the terminology used throughout this blog certain phrases and acronyms are highlighted and marked with down-arrow - hover over or tap them to see the definition or read the growing glossary.
  • All blog posts are fully tagged. Click on tags to find more articles related to the given topic.
  • As I started my professional career by building Germany’s first major Internet search engine FIREBALL I could not prevent myself from integrating a simple but speedy search engine. You can find articles by searching in the full text of all posts - enter any keyword or phrase of interest.
  • If you want to stay up to date without having to visit this blog repeatedly to check what is new I welcome you to subscribe to the newsletter. I will mail out an update listing all new articles about once a month.

How this blog was built

features

The following might astound you: This blog was not built using Wordpress or any other CMS! Actually writing this feels strange to me as well as Wordpress and commercial content management systems is one of many skills I executed on in dozens of projects.

This time however I wanted to experiment with a fully lean approach and thus chose Jekyll in combination with GitHub Pages.

After a few hours playing with it I can already say by heart. “I love it!”:

  • Jekyll generates fully static HTML pages from Markdown5 which are than published to GitHub Pages which hosts the site.
  • As I use Markdown and GitHub daily when doing software development and documentation there is no break when context switching from engineering to blogging which helps me stay efficient.
  • There is a lot of stuff Wordpress can do but Jekyll doesn’t - however everything a blog needs Jekyll can do.
  • Jekyll is easy to set up and extend - the site including all features was built in 20 hours.
  • As GitHub pages is free of cost I don’t have to pay for a server or a CDN.

As this blog is about sharing you can find the full source code in the polarize-ai/blog repository on GitHub. Feel free to pick and choose what you want to reuse - except the content ,-)

polarize.ai logo

As stated in the sidebar of this blog “polarize.ai” is a personal blog about smart IoT now - a top secret, world changing, machine learning stealth project to be incubated later given resources.

The TLD “ai” is obviously about artificial intelligence.

“Polarize” came to be as there is actually a little side-project I am working on that uses machine learning in the field of eCommerce to drive conversion by using polarization. I will blog about this in a few months or go stealth if some investor calls.

By coincidence one of the phenomens that arises together with the penetration of machine learning in our working life is called “job polarization” in research literature - as this is a very important development I wrote a blog post about it.

The logo is a visualisation of a brain and shows quite nicely how artificial neural networks are structured. It was created by an unknown artist and found in the public domain.

About the author

polarize.ai author

As you might have guessed my name is Helmut Hoffer von Ankershoffen with my maiden name being Oertel. It was an easy decision to take on her surname when I married my beloved wife Sandra.

I was born in 1973 in Weinheim a.d. Bergstraße and moved to Berlin 18 years later to study computer science and mathematics as major subjects, psychology and philosphy as minors.

I concluded my studies “with distinction” while helping to launch Germany’s first commercial Internet search engine FIREBALL as lead engineer in 1996 as contract work for Gruner+Jahr, Europe’s biggest magazine publishing house than and today.

While at it I co-founded a software agency Neofonie (called Infonie when founded) with two peers from university, managed it as CTO and CEO and proudly helped build some relevant online businesses for our reknown clients.

After accidentally colliding with some Cupertino based heavy weight, helping launch WeGreen and getting an award for it I built another digital agency.

In summer 2017 I decided to finally switch perspective, not be self-employed for the first time of my life and apply all I learned for the benefit of one company.

Currently I am lazily looking for the next opportunity as CTO or CDO in a stable, well-structured and process-oriented company that wants to grow with innovation and values tech as an important means to drive business.

If you are an executive, headhunter or hr manager feel free to use Ask Helmut! to get my full CV and make a date - you will have to answer some simple questions first just to make sure we have a match!

Footnotes

  1. The quote “Express Yourself” is the title of a song written and performed by Madonna, produced in cooperation with Stephen Bray in 1989.

    She has this to say about the song:

    “The ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don’t express yourself, if you don’t say what you want, then you’re not going to get it.

    And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want. No matter how in control you think you are about sexuality in a relationship there is always the power struggle… always a certain amount of compromise. Of being beholden, if you love them. You do it because you choose to. No one put the chain around this neck but me.

    I wrote ‘Express Yourself’ to tell women around the world that pick and choose the best for yourself, before that chain around your neck, kills you instead. It’s my take on how man can express what they want, the same prerogative should be there for a woman too.” ↩︎

  2. While writing this I remember telling to reporters in press interviews that I want to have a chip in my brain in two decades and they thought I was a little crazy - this was in 1999. Now there is “Neuralink” (a startup of Elon Musk) working on it - but that’s enough content for a future blog post … ↩︎

  3. The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.

    Important notice: Don’t try this at home as this is really just a fable not a true natural phenomen - seems like frogs are smarter than some human beings after all ,-) ↩︎

  4. The day I am writing this is the 1st of August 2019 - the company I am currently working for had to let go staff yesterday. ↩︎

  5. Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. Its design allows it to be converted to many output formats, but the original tool by the same name only supports HTML. Markdown is often used to format readme files, for writing messages in online discussion forums, and to create rich text using a plain text editor. ↩︎

Thank You for reading.