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  1. Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Agents and Things

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    One of the hottest trends in technology is autonomous agents and things. That nebulous-sounding term is actually quite precise – it’s a technology that takes advanced machine learning a step further, so that it can make complex decisions on its own, or autonomously. This is beyond simple automation, where something happens automatically according to hard-and-fast rules. Instead, autonomous agents and things make reasoned decisions based on multiple factors about the current situation – they choose actions designed to meet a certain goal without the involvement of people.

    Examples include technologies like self-driving cars, advanced robotics, certain computer programs (including some viruses), or even something like a smart thermostat that senses when people are home and when they’re not, as well as other environmental changes, and adjusts accordingly – as opposed to one that is merely automated, running on a pre-programmed schedule.

    This is an emerging technology, but we can see its evolution in technology most of us encounter every day. For example, virtual assistants like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) and Now (Google) began as little more than voice recognition search functions, but are now much more sophisticated. In fact, in 2016 Apple announced that it is allowing third-party apps to access Siri, so that users will be able to ask Siri to accomplish tasks such as sending payment or searching images. Eventually the user experience of a smartphone will likely have an autonomous agent as the entire user interface, rather than a screen full of buttons for different applications.

    Autonomous agents and things builds on the Internet of Things, in which devices are connected to the internet so that actionable data can be gathered. But the deluge of data provided by the IoT is becoming so overwhelming that it’s too much for humans to process. That’s where autonomous agents and things comes in — in the autonomous world, many technologies are interconnected and share data, and then act on it without the involvement of people. In fact, we’re now starting to refer to the Internet of Autonomous Things, or IoAT.

    Challenges with the technology

    We’re not close to the point where an autonomous agent could take over the world, as has been depicted in numerous sci-fi movies (2001: A Space Odyssey, or Her). But there are some significant, albeit more pedestrian, challenges to be addressed.

    Data security on the devices themselves is a significant problem, in that data can be easily recovered from decommissioned items such as smartphones – and people upgrade their phones at an extraordinarily rapid rate. And all kinds of IoT devices with capacity for storing and transmitting data are discarded frequently as well.

    But virtual data security is an even more significant issue. As we’ve seen, the IoT is vulnerable to hacks and security breaches. Currently, the most pervasive problem is that devices are inadequately protected by passwords, leaving them open to be recruited into giant, impersonal botnets used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. But as we move toward the Internet of Automated Things, where decisions are being made based on data collected by these devices, the potential implications of such hacks – either to the devices themselves, or the cloud where the data is stored – could become more directed, and even more serious.

    Furthermore, security issues – perceived as well as actual – might impact the growth of the technology in that they could cause people to distrust automated systems and things. We’ve already seen this effect with the IoT. It will be important for designers of automated consumer goods to learn from the mistakes of the IoT and effectively address security issues early in the technology’s evolution.

    Another potential issue for automated consumer goods is that people might find them too complicated to use. If, for example, consumers pay extra to buy cutting-edge automated thermostats but get frustrated trying to program them, they’ll give up on those advanced features and just use the manual settings – and might think twice before choosing an automated product again. To avoid this, designers will need to pay special attention to the user experience as they roll out new products.

    In the longer-term, liability will become more of an issue as systems become more and more autonomous – in other words, who will be held responsible if the system makes a decision that has harmful consequences? The manufacturer, or the owner of the system? It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which an autonomous system makes a decision that truly couldn’t be foreseen, especially as systems become more sophisticated. The regulatory framework will need to evolve along with the technology.

    Current applications of autonomous agents and things

    Computer programs are among the most well-developed applications of autonomous technology right now. For example, sophisticated supply chain management programs are capable of evaluating and reacting to needs such as ordering supplies, scheduling workers and so on without human involvement – going beyond simple automation.

    Driverless technologies are already utilized in cars – for example, cars that can park themselves into tight spaces, or automatically brake when they get too close to another car or object. Evolution of truly driverless cars isn’t far behind — in fact, experts think this is possible by 2021. Ford, Nissan, Google, BMW, General Motors, and Daimler are just a few of the big names working toward this goal. Data security is of particular importance with this potential application, as the implications of hacking could be dangerous or life-threatening.

    The world of autonomous agents and things is ever-changing. Keep up with your business’s advancing bandwidth demands with DQE’s secure fiber optic network services, where scalability is unlimited and customization is key.

  2. Why Choose Dark Fiber over Copper? Security, Flexibility, and Speed

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    If you use copper then you are familiar with the frustrations that come from a material that vandals like to steal, deteriorates quickly, is expensive to replace, limits innovative technology choices, and is so slow that it causes the world wide web to become the world wide wait.

    The solution? Dark Fiber.

    With Dark Fiber, as opposed to lit fiber, you have complete control and complete access to the entire bandwidth of the optic fiber. Dark Fiber is engineered for high rates of speed and loads of traffic that you can access and completely control for your particular needs.

    With control of the Dark Fiber comes the benefit of flexibility to your particular needs, application and brand preferences. Being “technologically neutral,” you can use your own preferred technology in conjunction with the Dark Fiber. For example, if you prefer a particular brand of switches, routers, VoIP Gateways, and so forth, it is possible to use your preferred brand with Dark Fiber to suit your particular custom application.

    Dark Fiber is ideal for many diverse industries and applications. First and foremost, it aids the speed of communication, data transfers and backups among buildings. Whether it is across manufacturing plants, corporate business parks, university campuses, healthcare centers or wherever you need to drop communication lines, Dark Fiber will enable you to outperform and increase your ability to transfer data.

    Let us look at three common applications, out of hundreds, that should use Dark Fiber.

    Most businesses and organizations today have significant security-camera applications that are capturing, transmitting and holding significant amounts of high-resolution data from all entrances, parking areas, secure areas and wherever a security camera is deemed necessary. The large bandwidth and speed of Dark Fiber makes this possible and under your control.

    Consider the intense demand for speed and bandwidth put on all colleges and universities. Students arrive each semester with more and more devices accessing the network and with intense demands for fast streaming and downloads. Many students even consider network speeds as a criterion for choosing a particular school. Today’s younger generation will not wait for interrupted streaming, buffering or long downloads. Dark Fiber enables the school to offer students the speed and bandwidth that students demand.

    What about the security and access demands of healthcare centers?

    Not only must a patient’s data be transferred securely, it must be transferred quickly to technicians, nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals, all while also providing access to the Internet for visitors, volunteers and other staff members. Again, Dark Fiber gives the speed and bandwidth necessary, 24/7.

    The basic truth is that fiber optic is the way of the future, and the future is now.

    According to Transparency Market Research, “The growing concerns of safety and security with the use of modern, sophisticated technologies are fueling the market for fiber optics, which is expected to reach $290 million in 2017.”

    In addition, according to a case presented to the US Green Business Council, “With the rise in bandwidth requirements, optical fiber versus copper has significant energy savings advantages. Energy savings associated with power and cooling of a 10Gbyte/s optical network vs. 10G copper network can range from 75-85% depending on port count. Further, innovative high fiber count pre-terminated optical solutions vs. traditional patch-cord solutions reduce cabling congestion and optimize air flow in the server racks and raceways further reducing cooling energy requirements.”

    Two areas to consider before running Dark Fiber, is the distance a light pulse has to travel and the optimum usage of the Dark Fiber. In each case, the engineering experts at DQE Communications can work with you and advise you on your particular, customized application.

    To learn more about DQE Communications and their expertise in fiber optics, visit http://www.dqecom.com

    If you are still unsure about the benefits of fiber optics over copper, check out these two informative sources of industry insights: LightWave at http://www.lightwaveonline.com/network-design.html and Electrical Contractor magazine at http://www.ecmag.com

  3. Key Network Service Attributes that Matter

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    Not all network service providers are created equal. While many may brag about quality and service (and we do that too), we feel very comfortable shouting that we deliver solutions that “fit the customer.” We work with some of the largest companies in the region, while attracting and servicing mid-market companies, as well as small businesses.

    We’ve worked with notable companies in the manufacturing, financial, and technology and media sectors. Through these dedicated projects and experiences, DQE Communications has become known for its:

    • Reliability
    • Security
    • Flexibility
    • Coverage
    • Speed
    • Local Support

    Service Attributes Unique to DQE 

    Speed & Security: Businesses today need the fastest data speeds possible, with the highest level of data security. DQE’s 100% fiber optic network guarantees the utmost security with 24×7 network monitoring, including automatic detection and redirection in case of a network failure, ensuring your business stays connected. With symmetrical upload/download speeds from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps, it’s no wonder why we’re the fastest route to the Cloud.

    Coverage & Reliability: DQE’s redundant ring architecture provides exceptional reliability across our all fiber optic network, encompassing over 2500+ route miles, 1100+ on-net buildings, 33+ business parks, 12 data centers and multiple hub sites. Located in nine counties throughout southwestern Pa., our network continues to expand to meet increasing customer demands.

    Local Support: As your dedicated local provider, we have experienced support teams based right in your area to respond to your company’s needs efficiently and most effectively, on-call 24x7x365.

    Take a look at how our Service Attributes stand up against our competitors.

    Reliability for the Manufacturing Sector

    We’ve jumped in to service some of the area’s largest manufacturing companies to support their mission-critical network connectivity.

    For example, one manufacturer added technological developments such as CAD files, 3-D additive printing, and RFID technology to help improve their processes. Their challenge soon became the unreliable network connection to support their newly implemented advancements. Companies like this one have “dealt with” old copper wire infrastructures, and often times, this network cannot support the expectations of advanced technological developments.

    That’s where DQE comes in; with dependability and reliability that truly sets DQE apart from the competition. DQE Sales Engineers work closely with companies to create tailor-made solutions that scale. “DQE’s custom solutions support the company you are today, and advances you to the company you’ll become tomorrow,” says one of the dedicated engineers.

    In another instance, we provided miles of new dark fiber to a local polymer development company as well as a local steel producer. Our network provided peace of mind, confident that their mission-critical operations will now continue to stay up and running. With DQE’s reliable fiber networks, both of these companies now enjoy:

    • Real time backup capabilities
    • Data center connectivity
    • Disaster recovery
    • Increased bandwidth
    • Proactive protection
    • Automatic re-routing in case of emergency
    • Fastest route to the cloud

    Network Performance for the Financial Sector

    DQE has worked with leading financial institutions in the region. These companies face the challenges of scalability, reliability and network performance.

    For example, 100 bank sites needed to connect to its data center. Each branch location has kiosks that offer remote video to act as a bridge for communication between the branches and the main bank. These videos are important elements to the essential work functions of their business, such as trainings and company meetings. Therefore, having a dependable network with guaranteed performance is key. Working with DQE, these 100 sites had an infrastructure they could heavily rely on for their critical services.

    Flexibility for Your Company

    Companies today are constantly developing new applications and utilizing the cloud. This requires more data storage and flexibility of services. With an online, easy-to-use web portal known as the Customer Control Center (CCC), customers can allocate and monitor bandwidth usage and network performance in real time. With the CCC, the power is in your hands. It enables you to scale your company’s bandwidth on-demand within minutes! No other local provider has these real-time capabilities.

    Enjoy the DQE Communications difference. The difference is our critical service attributes your company needs: reliability, security, flexibility, coverage, speed and local support. Our key service attributes go hand in hand with customer satisfaction, shown through our dedication to the vitality of your business. When you choose DQE as your premier network services provider, you gain a new competitive edge to your business through the most cost-effective, high-performing and reliable network solution customized to fit your business needs.

    Contact us today and start advancing your company to its “tomorrow.”

  4. Choosing an Internet Provider for Your Business

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    The Internet has become highly ingrained into today’s businesses. Some business owners equate the need for connectivity, or an internet provider, to electricity and other crucial services. One in three U.S. companies gain revenue from online sales and an even larger number use the Internet for pertinent company activities. These critical activities are enabled or improved by a reliable, high-speed network. Choosing the right network provider for your organization can be integral to your success. This is especially true in industries like healthcare and e-commerce in which the need is mission-critical.

    Key elements that a business should consider when choosing an internet provider:

    1. Speed
    2. Reliability
    3. Scalability
    4. Security

    Speed

    Speed is a high priority consideration for business’ Internet services. In order to determine what speed is necessary for operations, one should look at the following factors for guidance:

    1. Number of employees or users
    2. Type of Industry
    3. Applications used and their data rate requirements

    A high-speed connection can be essential for a business. It is also important to find the speed that fits your business needs. According to a McKinsey & Company report, Internet usage has increased productivity and growth by 10 percent for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). For more guidance on speed you can visit our article on fiber optic speeds here.

    Reliability

    Speed and reliability are interconnected to a quality internet provider. A network should be designed to optimize reliability while minimizing latency. An unreliable infrastructure can cost a company. The average cost for a data center outage alone is nearly $6,000 per minute. Therefore, a network’s architecture should have components like redundant rings to inhibit downtime and outages.

    Scalability

    Scalability may be heavily influenced by your company’s industry sector. For example, one industry that is likely to have high scalability standards for online services is healthcare – an industry that consumes 30 percent of the world’s data storage.

    The demand for big data storage capacity is growing. Today’s network infrastructures will need to evolve to keep up with tomorrow’s new technologies and services. Bandwidth scalability will need to be flexible to continue to meet these needs. When bandwidth scalability is crucial to your organization, an Internet provider with a fiber optic infrastructure is our recommendation. Fiber optic cables allow for extra capacity needed to make real-time bandwidth adjustments.

    Security

    Data security and privacy are important to every enterprise. Although most data breaches are caused by human error, an infrastructure that does not have the correct security safeguards in place to protect your critical data could result in devastating damage. IBM reported that every week companies face over two million cyber attacks and each breach could cost them over $300,000.

    If your organization wants to control its own network but does not have an infrastructure in place to support it, an Internet service provider with dark fiber is the best option. For instance, DQE Communications does not meter its dark fiber services. Our business clients control their data and transmission speeds and only the business has access to its data.

    However, if that does not apply to your organization, there are some key security components of a quality Internet service provider’s infrastructure. For instance, multi-layered data infrastructure, private network options, and protected data storage centers are just a few characteristics of a quality provider.

    Choosing an Internet provider isn’t like selecting a business card printer or painter for your office. In most cases, the quality of online services influences whether today’s companies thrive or perish. Because we use the Web for so many business functions, make sure you consider these four critical factors when selecting an Internet provider.

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