TNG goes virtual
Sometimes, we have to make a virtue of necessity. In view of the spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus TNG started an experiment last Friday, a “Virtual Techday.” This consisted of virtual workshops, presentations and even a virtual “Weekly half-hour,” an informative in-house event hosted by the TNG partners. The Weekly Half-hour had previously been streamed, in addition to the actual presentation. However this was the first time as a purely virtual video conference. Up to 230 colleagues attended simultaneously, applauded via emoticons, and posted comments in the chat.
The feedback on the virtual Techday experiment was extremely positive. However, we are all looking forward to meeting again in person.
Remedy for Performance Issues
Black Friday: every year this top-selling day poses a unique challenge to our rapidly growing customer in the online retail industry. The webshop must operate reliably under an unprecedented load. Despite a hardware upgrade, in 2019 there were already short service disruptions observed at peak times prior to Black Friday. Trouble was clearly imminent.
We identified and resolved multiple performance bottlenecks. The configuration of the application was then optimised in an iterative fashion. This was done using a JMeter test plan with request distribution modelled on customer behaviour. Executing it from the cloud directly against the production servers enabled us to test different load scenarios. At the same time, technical and organisational measures were taken to ensure that customer shopping remained undisturbed. Elastic Stack, Prometheus & Grafana served as the main tools to identify and analyse backend metrics.
Ultimately the improvements yielded the desired result. The throughput doubled, but the system withstood this crucial phase without any issues. The new monitoring processes allows future performance problems to be detected, understood, and rapidly solved.
Conferences und User Groups
TNG colleagues were still out and about towards the end of the year, giving lectures at various conferences, for instance at the ContainerConf 2019 with the lecture "Tools for building container images". At the ObjektForum in Munich two colleagues supported the heroic mission to "Rescue the Mudolith". Colleagues were also pleased to speak in front of enthusiastic listeners at the WiMa Congress in Ulm and ML Conference in Berlin.
Deep Fakes in real time
Deep Fakes are imitations of pictures and video, created using artificial intelligence. Common scenarios include exchanging faces in order to create the illusion to see another person in a video. Within the scope of a research project, the TNG Innovation Hacking team investigated Deep Fakes to better understand what is technically feasible. Furthermore, we wanted to explore the limitations of the technology - especially if and with what image quality it is possible to create Deep Fakes in real time.
Our research shows that it is possibled to exchange the face of a person filmed via a real-time video streamwith the face of another person, including applying facial expressions and movements of the person filmed.
By applying various techniques from the area of computer vision and neural networks, faces in the video feed are recognized, transformed and embedded in the video output. The project uses autoencoder networks trained in Keras. They were trained using so called GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). Aditionally, the developers used different neuronal networks for face recognition and segmentation.
Conferences and User Groups
In September and October our colleagues were out and about again presenting the topics "Deep Fakes" and Style Transfer in showcases and lectures: at the NerdNite and Media Days in Munich, the Autumn Campus in Nuremberg, the JavaZone Conference in Oslo, the KanDDDinsky in Berlin and the JFall in Ede.
Colleagues also gave lectures on diverse topics, such as "7 ways to run Apache Flink on AWS" or "Automated Testing of an Angular Application" at various conferences. TNG was preset at the AWS Community Day Germany, the WDC Conference and the Open Source Summit Europe.
TNG also took part in Meetups and User Groups in September and October: the Piazza Meetup, the Software Architecture Meetup Nuremberg and Meetup der Wardley Mapping Community. We again organized the Haskell Hackathon MuniHac in September.
Big Techday 12 Videos now live
The Big Techday, our annual conference on science and IT, took place for the twelfth year on 7 June 2019, comprising more than 40 lectures in up to seven parallel tracks. The videos of many lectures can now be found on the program page.
We are proud of the successful twelfth edition of our Big Techday and are already looking forward to next year: Big Techday 13 takes place on 8 May 2020. Save the date!
Summer is internship time at TNG and we were happy to welcome 18 interns with ten different nationalities and from six different universities in June, July and August.
Many students joined us from the United Kingdom. This is partly due to our partnership with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2019 we were named Gold Standard Internship Host by the University of Oxford, due to the very good co-operation.
Conferences and User Groups
TNG gave a talk "Style Transfer AI - How Neural Nets generate Art" at the TDWI Conference and the DWX Developer Week. Also at the DWX Developer Week, TNG colleagues hosted a workshop on Kubernetes basics. TNG was represented at the Summer BOB 2019 in Berlin with a lecture, "Functional Design Patterns".
AI Size Recommender for Fashion
For a large fashion retailer, TNG developed an application that makes individual size recommendations for web shop customers. The task for the solution was – despite a large number of size ranges and partly low availability – to display to individual customers only those products really likely to fit. To do this, we started with an idea workshop, convinced our client by developing a prototype, and finally rolled out a production solution with measurable success. To create the individual size profiles, we experimented with various machine learning approaches. The final version was then implemented using AWS Lambda and Elasticsearch.
Conferences und User Groups
TNG was present at the Minds Mastering Machines in Mannheim with the keynote lecture "Style Transfer - How neural networks generate art" as well as a talk "AI-supported quality assurance in aircraft construction. At the TEQNation in Utrecht, colleagues gave a lecture entitled "Stereoscopic Real-time Style Transfer AI - Art is not what you see?"
At the Java User Group Stuttgart, a colleague gave a lecture "Test Driven Architecture". TNG also hosted the first meeting of the Wardley Mapping Community Munich and organized the Atlassian User Group Munich.