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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Supply Chain at McCormick

On supply chain and planning at McCormick.   Not an uncommon approach.  More in the article:

In Consumergoods: 
" ... Fast-forward to today, and ensuring McCormick’s products are available when and where consumers expect them has made for a much more complex supply chain. That is why about 12 years ago, McCormick embarked on an initiative to develop close, collaborative relationships with a number of its retailers and national food wholesaler customers. This initiative evolved into its customer collaboration platform, which has allowed McCormick to develop formal vendor managed inventory (VMI) relationships today.  ... "

Smarter Health Devices

An example of how predictive weather data might be used to make devices smarter.

IBM Is Using Weather Data To Help Predict Asthma Attacks
IBM is entering into the race to develop "smart" inhalers and software systems for asthma patients. ... "

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hidden Treasures of Procurement

Was involved in procurement at a number of different levels in the enterprise.  This Bain & Co article on the topic.   It is a gold mine of possibilities.    A good place to first think about analytical methods.   Lots of solutions are floating out there, off the ehelf and tailored to your needs.

Unearthing the Hidden Treasure of Procurement
October 12, 2016 Bain Brief By David Schannon, Sam Thakarar, Klaus Neuhaus and Raymond Tsang

The CEO of a global insurance company knew procurement was sitting on a trove of hidden savings. Year after year, regional teams working separately trimmed only a modest $15 million from the company’s $3 billion cost base. Determined to unearth greater gains, he gave the chief of procurement a strategic remit and agreed to build a new global operating model. As the company’s purchasing experts began to work side-by-side with the CFO and business unit leaders, big savings started to flow. Within two years, the company had transformed its buying and spending patterns, netting more than $200 million in savings.

Most companies only scratch the surface of procurement efficiency. Those that dig deeper discover that the savings can be dramatic. External purchasing is the largest single expense category for most firms, averaging 43% of total costs (see Figure 1). Bain research shows that world-class procurement organizations can reduce a company’s purchasing cost base by an average of 8%–12% and deliver additional annual savings of 2%–3%. .... " 

A Conversation with David Bunnell

A visionary of the personal computer.  I remember reading of his work long ago.

David Bunnell (1947-2016): A Remembrance

A Conversation with David Bunnell [3.13.00]

My epiphany came while I was looking at microfiched back issues of Scientific American. I came across an article penned by a nerdy Xerox scientist named Alan Kay. The article discussed some experiments for which Kay had built a prototype "personal computer" called the Alto that used a mouselike pointing device and a keyboard to communicate through a connected video screen. The great, unbelievable thing about this was that no one at that point had commercialized the idea because each Alto machine cost a few hundred thousand dollars to build. And Xerox was a bit lame in any case.

My vision started to take shape: As chips got cheaper and faster and could hold more memory, the day would come when we could build a true personal computer—one that was affordable to most people.     ...  " 

Judea Pearl on Engines of Evidence

A favorite researcher on the topic.  How do we understand how evidence models results?  In the Edge: 

Engines of Evidence,  A Conversation With Judea Pearl
A new thinking came about in the early '80s when we changed from rule-based systems to a Bayesian network. Bayesian networks are probabilistic reasoning systems. An expert will put in his or her perception of the domain. A domain can be a disease, or an oil field—the same target that we had for expert systems. 

The idea was to model the domain rather than the procedures that were applied to it. In other words, you would put in local chunks of probabilistic knowledge about a disease and its various manifestations and, if you observe some evidence, the computer will take those chunks, activate them when needed and compute for you the revised probabilities warranted by the new evidence.

It's an engine for evidence. It is fed a probabilistic description of the domain and, when new evidence arrives, the system just shuffles things around and gives you your revised belief in all the propositions, revised to reflect the new evidence.         

JUDEA PEARL, professor of computer science at UCLA, has been at the center of not one but two scientific revolutions. First, in the 1980s, he introduced a new tool to artificial intelligence called Bayesian networks. This probability-based model of machine reasoning enabled machines to function in a complex, ambiguous, and uncertain world. Within a few years, Bayesian networks completely overshadowed the previous rule-based approaches to artificial intelligence.

Leveraging the computational benefits of Bayesian networks, Pearl realized that the combination of simple graphical models and probability (as in Bayesian networks) could also be used to reason about cause-effect relationships. The significance of this discovery far transcends its roots in artificial intelligence. His principled, mathematical approach to causality has already benefited virtually every field of science and social science, and promises to do more when popularized. 

He is the author of Heuristics; Probabilistic Reasoning in Intelligent Systems; and Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference. He is the winner of the Alan Turing Award.  .... " 

Staples Tests Echo Competitor

Seems like an unexpected direction, but is not.  Also I like the fact that this could open interactions to the workplace.  'Easy Button', though no longer in their ads,  states the premise.  Increases engagement.

Staples develops an office competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home
The office supply company turns its Easy Button into device that will be the assistant's assistant  ... 

Massachusetts-based Staples is testing a smart assistant device that looks like its Easy Button, which was launched as a marketing campaign and gained a bit of a cult following, but that customers can use to order products, track shipments and help with returns. ... " 

Computers as Furniture

Interesting suggestion, that we are not all that interested in the evolving capabilities of computing.  Its furniture, we need it, but the details are unimportant.   So the announcements being made in the fall are less closely watched.by the public.   Industry though,  often in the process of digitization, needs to know the details to make good decisions.  And anyone who works with computers at work, and that is now most everyone, should be aware.  In The Verge: 

Mossberg: The PC has become part of the furniture
New designs are coming, but not that old excitement
by Walt Mossberg@waltmossberg  ... " 

Automating Big Data Analysis

Automating big-data analysis

With new algorithms, data scientists could accomplish in days what has traditionally taken months.
Larry Hardesty | MIT News Office

Last year, MIT researchers presented a system that automated a crucial step in big-data analysis: the selection of a “feature set,” or aspects of the data that are useful for making predictions. The researchers entered the system in several data science contests, where it outperformed most of the human competitors and took only hours instead of months to perform its analyses.

This week, in a pair of papers at the IEEE International Conference on Data Science and Advanced Analytics, the team described an approach to automating most of the rest of the process of big-data analysis — the preparation of the data for analysis and even the specification of problems that the analysis might be able to solve.

The researchers believe that, again, their systems could perform in days tasks that used to take data scientists months.

“The goal of all this is to present the interesting stuff to the data scientists so that they can more quickly address all these new data sets that are coming in,” says Max Kanter MEng ’15, who is first author on last year’s paper and one of this year’s papers. “[Data scientists want to know], ‘Why don’t you show me the top 10 things that I can do the best, and then I’ll dig down into those?’ So [these methods are] shrinking the time between getting a data set and actually producing value out of it.” ...  '

Google Re-inventing the WhiteBoard

Have seen a number of attempts at this.  None really successful.  Perhaps the ultimate solution will be some augmented reality approach.    Surprised in particular that Google is playing here.  In CWorld:

Google is trying to reinvent the whiteboard

Jamboard is a cloud service and 55-inch display aimed at enhancing collaboration

What's big, red and supposed to be the next big thing in workplace collaboration? Google's new Jamboard, a massive touch display and accompanying cloud service that's supposed to help business users brainstorm together. 

Jamboard works like a digital whiteboard, letting users sketch out ideas, attach digital sticky notes, plus bring in content from the web into a single, constantly updating workspace. People can use Jamboard to collaborate both on the 55-inch mega-display of the same name, or using accompanying tablet and smartphone apps for iOS and Android. .... " 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

IBM Announcements: Linking Watson to Reality

Today's announcements, which included considerable new thoughts for the use of Data, Machine learning and Bot shaped designs.     So better interfaces to data, analytics and humans.   Comes down to how easily and cheaply such skills can be prototyped, tested and delivered.  In existing business environments.    In SiliconAngle:

IBM Augments Watson to Better Understand Humans and Data  by Maria Deutscher

Microsoft to Democratize Deep Learning

Continued tendency to create and liberate tools for Cognitive. I like that.   Still will take considerable design and data management tools and skills.   Deep learning is a very useful, but still narrow skill for generalized AI.

Microsoft releases beta of version 2.0 of its Cognitive Toolkit to 'democratize AI'
Microsoft is releasing a beta of its Cognitive Toolkit for developers looking to make use of deep-learning techniques in their apps and services.  by Mary Jo Foley

Retail Marketing to Millennials

In Retailwire.  Good overview on the use of channel interactions by millennials in Retail, and discussion.   In the discussion, Peter Fader makes a good point:

Peter Fader
Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School of the Univ. of Pennsylvania

Allow me to expand on Ralph’s key point: “not all Millennials are alike” — in fact they’re vastly different. All these efforts to stereotype and target Millennials are doing more harm than good for retailers. Any effort to paint all consumers in a large demographic group with the same brush is a terrible mistake.

A modest proposal: let’s stop stereotyping and focus instead on finding/leveraging *meaningful* differences across consumers …  " 

Manufacturing System Security Updates

Recent malicious attacks have highlighted the need to update systems to provide security.  In the Cisco Blog:

Have you ever told your team, “Upgrading our equipment is too expensive and likely to cause downtime. Let’s just keep it running.” Ultimately, you made a risk decision. While cyber security hasn’t been a critical risk factor until recently, it has quickly emerged as one of today’s biggest risks.

Manufacturing risk management often comes down to a cost and safety discussion. These costs include downtime, IP theft, counterfeiting, brand damage, personal injury, and loss of life. Furthermore, significant security attack costs must be reported on your company’s SEC filings. ... "

' ... “Manufacturers are increasingly being targeted not just by traditional malicious actors such as hackers and cyber-criminals, but by competing companies and nations engaged in corporate espionage. Motivations range from money and revenge to competitive advantage and strategic disruption.”  – Deloitte

Analog Methods for AI

Came into computing at the very end of analog computing systems being taught.     I remember asking why,  and got the answer that they were being replaced by digital methods.  Essentially a digital system could simulate any analog system and was more flexible and programmable.    Is the world changing for AI applications?  In IEEE Spcetrum, a guest article on the topic. How Analog and Neuromorphic Chips Will Rule the Robotic Age  By Shahin Farshchi

Solving the Problem of AI

Stanford's Fei Fei Li Looks to Solve the Problem of Artificial Intelligence

Right after the Startup of the Year competition finished, Fei Fei Li, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University, took the stage at Innovate! and Celebrate to welcome entrepreneurs, founders, and attendees to the conference with an in-depth discussion of artificial intelligence. And when we say in-depth, that is exactly what we mean.

Learning Visual Intelligence:

Li started the discussion off by discussing the importance of vision when it comes to general intelligence. Going back more than 500 million years, she explained that there was no bigger evolutionary expansion than the development of one particular body part: the eyes.  ... " 

Defining Cognitive Computing

I like to see what the definitions, and thus perceptions of new technologies are from varied kinds of customers. Here from Customerthink.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Marketing with a Watson Bot - GSK: Cough and Cold Pharma

An example of a bot style interaction with a product.   Using IBM Watson as a means to provide natural language, cognitive knowledge.  Again recall our Mr Clean efforts in this area. We did not have the Tech to deliver this directly through an ad.   More details to follow.  Look forward to trying this.  In CWorld:

With IBM's Watson, GlaxoSmithKline tackles sniffle and cough questions
If you start feeling a cold or flu coming on this season, you will be able to reach out to IBM's artificial intelligence-fueled Watson to find some answers to your sniffly, coughy questions.

GlaxoSmithKline, (GSK) the world's sixth-largest pharmaceutical company, is teaming up with IBM to use Watson to better connect with customers.

The London-based company plans to start using Watson Ads in November, enabling people to ask questions by voice or text right through GSK's online ads. ... "

Considering the Correctness of AI

More from Cambridge University and the newly formed Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI):    Artificial intelligence: computer says YES (but is it right?)

My comments:

As long as we measure business results, and statistically measure results that are significantly better, we will be OK.   This is similar to the argument of better vs best.    Best, also called optimal,  almost always exists under some context that can be difficult to repeat, but assuring you get better can still provide real value.   All my experiences have dealt with this.

True there are scenarios where we want perfection,  correctness, optimal or best solutions.   But humans cannot always achieve that, and neither can AI.  So we add layers of checking, constraints, regulation and even ethics to both humans and machines to protect ourselves from this ultimate liability.   Which is why we further add risk understanding and analysis.  The integration with the use of smarter machines is no different.

(update)  And related, in Nature:  http://www.nature.com/news/there-is-a-blind-spot-in-ai-research-1.20805

Beware of Rating People Online

Not usually a follower of this, but happened on this bitingly vicious satirical look at the online 'ratings' game for people and businesses.   Exaggerated, as all satire should be.  Has a glaring hole in its logic, as pointed out in an excellent The Verge review below.  Still makes its point well.  Plausible that we might head in this direction.  Have seen systems proposed that derived personal reputation. Could make any consumer technologist squirm.   First episode of 'Black Mirror' on Netflix.

Black Mirror's third season opens with a vicious take on social media by Tasha Robinson

Alexa Design Studio

Elev8  Alexa Application Design Studio

Interesting claims to allow the development of Alexa skills without programming for home or business use.  Local company here.  Good idea, examining.

" ... Elev8 harnesses the power of Amazon Alexa's innovative technology by providing users the ability to create applications without any prior developer experience. The intuitive interface allows content creation to be simple and quick, removing the barriers currently set for non-programmers. ... " 

Practical Uses of AR in Maintenance

Practical case of the use of AR, with some similarity to our investigations before the tech had evolved to this point.  Some of the biggest issues, we discovered, were that wearing the devices were cumbersome, say in the hot environment of a plant.   Especially for time consuming service tasks. These operational details are important.  Inclusion of cognitive/AI and digital Assistant capabilities, linked to system data also make much sense.  More detail at the link ..

Going down: Bringing AR to elevator servicing with HoloLens
ThyssenKrupp recently launched its use of Microsoft HoloLens technology in its elevator service operations worldwide. Currently, the global elevator service industry is valued at over $44 billion per year and more than 12 million elevators transport over 1 billion people each day.

The special mixed reality device is set to empower more than 24,000 of the company’s service technicians to do their jobs more safely and efficiently, and keep people and cities moving better than ever before. ... " 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brainspace Data Visualization


Augmenting intelligence to accelerate human potential

Welcome to the future of digital investigations.  ... 

Discovery 5 is the fastest and most powerful weapon for conducting digital investigations. Developed using our patented machine learning platform, Discovery is a comprehensive investigative application designed to help you quickly decipher the truth. ... " 

I see that the CIA is funding brainspace via IQT (IN-Q-Tel) .   Like the fact that Brainspace is emphasizing specific business challenges (investigations) .  More on the funding here.

" .... Partnership will empower the U.S. Intelligence Community with advanced machine learning and data visualization for investigations and cyber security.

Dallas, Texas – October 11, 2016 – Brainspace, creators of Brainspace Discovery™, an industry leader for unstructured data analysis, today announced a strategic partnership agreement with an investment from In-Q-Tel, Inc. (IQT). IQT is the non-profit strategic investor that identifies and accelerates the development of innovative technologies to support the mission of the U.S. intelligence community. This strategic partnership accelerates the emergence of Brainspace as the market leader in analytics for digital investigations and further validates the company’s machine learning technology in supporting the operational requirements of the U.S. intelligence community. ... " 

Also their blog.

Thinking Drive-Through Data

Been involved in several drive-through retail analyses.    So this is interesting.  It is pointed out that this will allow the connect of your car generated data to your Amazon online purchase data.  Deserves some thought.  In the Atlantic.

End of the Data Scientist Era? Not Right Away.

In Forbes.  Insightful article by Margaret Harrist of Oracle.   An interesting view of how data science is moving towards becoming automated.     Agree this is happening,  though the time required and dynamics it will require to become common will vary considerably by business domain.    It is pointed out there are three broad skills sets involved:

" -  The business-savvy data scientist, typically hired by lines of business.

   - The programmer data scientist who’s adept with statistical analysis toolkits, often hired to work in the IT department.

   - The algorithm expert who can build hypothesis and statistical models, frequently hired by startups and marketing agencies.  ... "

True its  rare to see all of these in one person.  And also inefficient to have them in one person.  Saw this at several enterprise interactions.  Companies try to hire programmers/algorithm experts, with no business saavy.  Difficult to establish ongoing expertise linked to the business.  We are evolving towards systems that will operate by the business process and data experts, not programmers.  Timing will vary, and there will still always be need for some 'science' to develop new techniques.   But probably not as many coders as before.

Microsoft Releases five Data Viz and Storytelling Courses

 Following up now ...

Microsoft Power BI team releases courses on data visualization and storytelling by Pradeep

With Microsoft Power BI, data journalism goes beyond data exploration and allows reporters, bloggers, broadcasters, and analysts to spend their time telling stories. Data visualization tools like Power BI helps emphasize messages and engage audiences through immersive and data rich stories. Microsoft Power BI team recently collaborated with renowned visualization expert Alberto Cairo to share the methodology behind graphics and how they can support data storytelling by developing five Data Visualization and Storytelling courses.

The Data Visualization and Storytelling courses include an introduction to visualization, an overview on data exploration, detail on truthful visualization, tips for choosing the right graphics, and insights on design and narrative. Additionally, the classes feature Power BI demos throughout, so viewers can follow along and apply their learnings.   ... "    
See more info at the link.

Buckminster Fuller Page

I was brought to the attention of the Buckminster Fuller page of Artsy.net.  We had some brief interactions in the 70s about his innovation and architectural design.  See my post in 2008 about retrospectives then.

" .... Best known for popularizing the geodesic dome, R. Buckminster Fuller produced theories and contributions to science, architecture, and design that amounted to a sweeping and utopian vision for the future. Self-described as a “comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist,” Fuller sought to alter the landscape of daily life with his prefabricated homes and cutting-edge vehicles. “My objective was humanity’s comprehensive success in the universe,” he once said. His projects include the “Dymaxion” house and car, whose simplicity and adaptability to different landscapes were intended for mass production and efficient living, though neither was ever made widely available. The spirit of Fuller’s inventiveness remains influential to present-day entrepreneurs, artists, and inventors alike. ... " 
American, 1895–1983, Milton, Massachusetts, based in Los Angeles, California  ... " 

Longer Career Models

A look at exended and multiple careers, from the view of the company and individual.

In the HBR: What Happens When Careers Last 20 Years Longer?  by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Keep Your Home Devices from Being Hacked

Apparently yesterday's denial of service attack that brought down a number of key services on the Internet was caused by a distributed denial of services (DDOS) attack.  Some are saying this was launched from hijacked home devices.

Keep your home IOT devices from becoming zombies on the internet.

Change default passwords.
Change passwords, use 2 factor authentication, or services like Lastpass
Accept all security updates.

But as long as there are enough people/things out there that are not doing this,  you can still lose access to crucial services.  All this points to the continued fragility of the internet.  Considering how many ways we and businesses depend on the Internet, this is worrisome.

More in Mashable.

Machine for all Trades

Watson as a machine of all trades.  Or at least some trades for now.   A good view of where IBM has been applying cognitive applications based on the Watson model.  Natural to see the currently  implemented narrowly defined applications.  Have been involved in a couple of these attempts over the last two years.   There is still lots of room for application.

Beginners Guide to Convolutional Neural Nets

A beginners intro by a student, about how they work, how they are used and the data required.  Nicely explained.

Consumer Brands Using Chatbots

I have in the talked some of our efforts about using chatbots for consumer brands.  FastCompany more generally has an examination of current brands that use chatbots, including Sephora.  Good general design ideas and cautions.

Very Human Lessons From Three Brands That Use Chatbots To Talk To Customers ... Seamless interactions make for happier and more engaged users who want to keep coming back. ... " 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Stephen Hawking Opens British AI Hub

Will be interesting to see the varying views of Hawking and colleagues on different aspects of AI.  Building these 'Centers' for studying complex and disruptive tech seems to be growing.  Following.

Stephen Hawking Opens British Artificial Intelligence Hub
Agence France-Presse (10/19/16) 

Scientist Stephen Hawking on Wednesday opened an artificial research (AI) center at the U.K.'s Cambridge University. Funded by a $12.3-million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) will bring together researchers, industry representatives, and policymakers to make sure AI technology is used to benefit humanity. The ethics of AI is a core concern for Hawking, who has warned the technology's misuse could pose serious risks to civilization. "It will bring disruption to our economy," Hawking says. "And in the future, AI could develop a will of its own--a will that is in conflict with ours." Researchers will be tasked with developing systems that have goals aligned with human values and are sufficiently trustworthy. The center also will pursue projects ranging from the regulation of autonomous weapons to the impact of AI on democracy. "We don't need to see AI as replacing us, but can see it as enhancing us: we will be able to make better decisions, on the basis of better evidence and better insights," says Stephen Cave, the center's director. "AI will help us to learn about ourselves and our environment--and could, if managed well, be liberating."  ... " 

Sal Kahn on Mastery Based Learning

Sal speaks at TED about mastery-based learning

Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why, then, do we rush students through education when they haven't always grasped the basics? Yes, it's complicated, but Sal shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.  Created by Sal Khan.  ... " 

Autonomic Platforms Evolving

I had not used this precise tag 'Autonomic'  before, but it is understandable:  How do you fully or partially automate systems that support business process?  The definition is broad.  And to be clear has been around for a long time.  Notably in process control.

Need to now link these systems to current architectures and systems, and to people who are still making decisions.  Cognitive systems, AI, Machine learning, Predictive Algorithms ... have all evolved to the point this will lead to more autonomy.  Topic often mentioned in this blog.

Good Overview from Deloitte-WSJ:

Autonomics Shake Up IT Systems Management
IT organizations are increasingly pursuing self-managing autonomic platforms, which can detect and fix their own problems without human intervention.

Autonomic computing platforms, which are IT systems capable of configuring, optimizing, and even healing themselves, could free up IT staffers to focus on more valuable activities and help relieve strain on IT budgets. Many traditional IT operations are candidates for autonomics, including those that are workflow-driven, repetitive, or require reconciliation between systems. CIOs overseeing large, complex IT operations stand to benefit enormously from these burgeoning systems, says George Collins, CTO at Deloitte Digital.

“Autonomic platforms have arisen from a confluence of advancements in technology, from virtualization to containerization, more intelligent configuration management, and a more agile manner of delivering technology environments,” Collins says. “Autonomic platforms allow us to shift attention away from building the scaffolding of IT to creating a more repeatable way of packaging, delivering, and managing IT.”  .... " 

Macy's to RFID Tag Everything

We were early innovators in the RFID tagging space. Saw it expand widely at the case level.  I now see this as an area where you can use some of the same learning for the internet of things,    The 'thing'  here simply announces its ID number to a reader or beacon.

Especially useful where you are seeking the ability to look for key value equations for visibility into the supply chain.  A powerful analytic tool.  Here the point is made that there is real value into letting the customer 'see' the supply chain.  Macy's taking the process to the item level for everything, still unusual in retail.  Described below in Retail Wire, with discussions.

Macy’s to RFID tag everything by George Anderson

Macy’s plans to expand its use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track every item in its stores and fulfillment centers by the end of next year. The move is expected to give the department store the visibility into its supply chain needed to fully deliver on the promise of a seamless omnichannel shopping experience for its customers.

“I don’t know how, in an omnichannel, data-driven … world, you can take data accuracy lightly,” Bill Connell, senior vice president of logistics and operations at Macy’s, told RFID Journal. “The customer base is increasingly demanding. ‘I want it. I want to know you have it. I want to tell you how I want you to get it to me. And I want to do that right now.’ If you don’t have that level of confidence in your data, you have a pretty big problem.”  ... ' 

Amazon's Bezos: Echo and AI for Health Care

Had brainstormed some possibilities here, but still felt the devices had not evolved enough in terms of accuracy and dependability.  Will be watching Amazon Echo and new entries into the voice activated and AI driven space.

Jeff Bezos sees a big future for Amazon Echo, Alexa and AI in health care
by  Monica Nickelsburg  ...

Quantum Dot Energy Extraction

In IEEE Spectrum.  Quantum dot research at Los Alamos points to efficient window coatings that can extract useful energy.