13 tech terms you should know

Was ist ein Bitcoin oder ein NFT? Und was speichert man in einer Blockchain? Solche Begriffe begegnen uns jeden Tag. Dennoch wissen viele nicht, was sich hinter ihnen verbirgt. atechbook hat die Erklärung.

Do you know what a blockchain is? Don’t? Then you’re in good company. That’s because it’s the same for at least every second person in Germany, according to a survey by industry association Bitkom. Less than one in five would dare to explain this technology term. So that they can have their say in the future, here are 13 currently frequently mentioned terms explained simply.

Technology terms explained briefly

5G

Behind the technology term 5G is the fifth generation of mobile communications, the expansion of which has been underway in Germany since 2019. The successor to 4G offers significantly higher transmission rates and much shorter delay times. This means that more sensors, software and other technologies can be connected simultaneously than before. At the moment, however, the network is still under construction at the German network operators Telekom, Vodafone and O2.

Many 5G smartphones have problems transmitting over 5G

Blockchain

“In very simple terms, a blockchain is just a database,” says Caspar von Allwörden, editor at the trade magazine “t3n.” However, it is stored decentrally on many computers. A blockchain can be used, for example, to document money transfers in cryptocurrency, expressed in simple terms like this: “Person A sends person B sum X”. Because this is stored identically on a very large number of computers, it is quite tamper-proof.

A blockchain could also store vaccination data, for example, or contracts between individuals or companies. Each computer that stores itself in the blockchain becomes, in principle, another node in the network and takes over a complete copy of the database. This makes it possible, for example, to verify and document transactions. The blockchain gets its name from the way it works: Transaction data is summarized in blocks and strung together – like in a decentrally managed cash book.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency – in fact, the first and largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization based on the Bitcoin Blockchain. New Bitcoin are created by users using mathematical processes, which is called “mining.” “There is a fixed number of Bitcoin and the more that are created, the more costly it becomes to create more,” says Caspar von Allwörden. Although digital, bitcoin is a limited resource; there can be a maximum of 21 million of them. “That makes it interesting for speculation.”

Transaktionen in Bitcoin sind schwer einzelnen Personen zuzuordnen. Die Cryptocurrency wird deshalb auch gerne zu Zahlungen in illegalen Bereichen genutzt.

Big Data

This technology term describes the mass collection of data on a specific topic or subject area, which can then be evaluated according to certain criteria with the help of clever computer algorithms. Applications include decision-making aids for companies or predictions that are as accurate as possible.

For example, a bakery company collects traffic data, commodity prices, weather data, the sales history of each store, and more. This data can then be analyzed to give very specific recommendations on how many buns a very specific branch needs to bake today.

Chat bot

Einen Chat bot trifft man häufig als ersten Kontakt im Kundenservice auf Internetseiten. Man schreibt seine Frage, das Computerprogramm hinter dem Bot gibt mehr oder weniger hilfreiche Antworten. Ist der Chat bot schlau? “Nein”, sagt Caspar von Allwörden. “Das ist ein Katalog an Stichwörtern, die da abgearbeitet werden.”

An example: someone has forgotten their password and writes that to the bot. It sees the keyword “forgot password” and sends a link to reset it. So in the best case, the chat bot can solve minor problems and refer customers to help documents – thus relieving service staff on the phone. At worst, it’s just an annoying hindrance.

Cloud Computing / The Cloud

Roughly speaking, these are computers that are located elsewhere. With cloud computing, you use one or many computers in data centers and have the work done there. For example, you no longer need your own powerful computer to play an elaborate game. This is because the computing power now takes place elsewhere and only the image is transmitted via the Internet.

There are many applications: People rent memory, computing power or entire services such as software packages for office work. Well-known examples for private users include Google’s storage and software services, Apple’s iCloud, or cloud gaming services such as Playstation Now or Google Stadia.

The advantage: You don’t always need the latest hardware or bigger hard drives yourself. The disadvantage: “You have to trust the provider,” says Caspar von Allwörden. “The cloud is also my Google backup or my e-mail account. Almost everything runs on a cloud now, and you don’t really notice it.”

The best free cloud alternatives to Google Photos

Cookies

The technical term “cookies” refers to small text files. They are stored by websites in the browser or directly on the computer. According to Bitkom, a distinction is made between technically necessary cookies and tracking cookies (sometimes also called marketing cookies).

The former are necessary for the technical operation of a website, for example for storing an item in the shopping cart of an online store. The latter are used to collect additional data about user behavior, for example for advertising purposes or other data collection by website operators and third parties.

Artificial Intelligence / AI / AI

Artificial intelligence, often referred to as the short technology term AI or AI, stands for the ability of systems to learn from users. “It’s a branch of computer science that deals with automation or machine learning,” says Caspar von Allwörden. AI, according to Bitkom, enables computers to learn from experience, adapt to new incoming information and handle tasks that require human-like thinking skills.

Computers are mostly trained to perform very specific tasks with large amounts of data by processing the data and recognizing patterns in it. For example, computers can then recognize images or speech, make predictions, or play chess.

Cryptocurrency

Hierbei handelt es sich um digitale Währungen mit einem kryptografisch abgesicherten und dezentralen Zahlungssystem. Sie werden auf einer Blockchain transferiert und nicht von einer öffentlichen Stelle ausgegeben. Übertragen, handeln oder speichern lässt sich Cryptocurrency dabei nur digital. Einige Personen nutzen sie gern als Tausch- oder Anlageobjekt.

Was ist Ethereum? Die Cryptocurrency im Überblick

Machine learning

This tech term is a subset of AI. It involves training computer programs with representative data to recognize images, objects and voice commands. Machine learning is the most successful subfield of artificial intelligence.

Caspar von Allwörden cites captchas as an example. These are the sometimes annoying queries on the Internet when logging in or shopping to find out whether you are really a human being. Here, by clicking on any photo that shows a traffic light, a car or a hydrant, for example, you might end up teaching the object recognition model of a self-driving car what traffic lights, hydrants or other cars look like.

Non-fungible token / NFT

In short, the technology term NFT is a kind of certificate of authenticity for the digital art market. A bit curious, since digital goods can always be copied in principle. All copies would actually be of equal value, explains Caspar von Allwörden. With the NFT, however, a digital good is declared original and is unforgeable due to its storage on a blockchain. “With the NFT, an artist signs, “This is the work I created, and I’m auctioning this off.””

Examples of NFTs sold include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet and, most recently, the source code of the World Wide Web. Both the tweet and the source code continue to circulate, but the single “original” now belongs to one person. “You could also call it a pure speculative object,” says von Allwörden. “t3n” magazine just sold about 64 digital variants of the current issue to get to the bottom of NFT. Each buyer received a unique PDF document.

What are NFTs and what do they have to do with crypto?

Quantum computing

According to Bitkom, quantum computers, unlike classical computers, perform calculations using effects of quantum mechanics. This enables them to solve certain problems much faster than classical computers. The latter still work with the two states 1 or 0, called bits. Quantum computers, on the other hand, rely on qubits, which theoretically can be 1 and 0 and an infinite number of other states in addition to 1 or 0. Sounds complicated, and it is.

Ein Quantum computing berechnet keine exakten Ergebnisse, sondern Wahrscheinlichkeiten; erst die mehrfache Berechnung erlaubt daher klare Aussagen. “Das sind Spezialcomputer für besondere Aufgaben wie Wettervorhersagen mit riesigen mathematischen Modellen”, nennt Caspar von Allwörden ein Beispiel. Im eigenen Smartphone wird man Quantum computing erstmal nicht finden, aber vielleicht aufbereitete Ergebnisse vom Quantencomputing.

Virtual reality / VR

Here, digital worlds are created that can be accessed with the help of special video glasses and operating devices. The glasses thereby completely seal the field of vision and create the illusion of being in the artificially created worlds. “Virtual reality is more for entertainment,” says Caspar von Allwörden. “In games, it can be really fun.” But there is also VR training in industry or VR as visualization when buying a car or planning a building.

In contrast, there is AR, or augmented reality. Here, digital elements are integrated into the real world with the help of cameras, screens and computer technology. For example, in the case of head-up displays in cars, when the systems project speed, navigation or warnings of obstacles into the windshield.

What’s the difference between VR, AR and MR?

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