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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Nest Protect Expands on IFTTT

Today an update of IFTTT capabilities for interacting with Nest-Protect sensor devices in the home. IFTTT lets you add layers of simple intelligence to the smart home (or business) based on streams of information from the an IOT.  As a simple example you could have all the lights in a home blink when Smoke or Carbon Monoxide is detected by a sensor.   Or notifications sent to an address.

Plan to experiment with these in our Smart Home.    More examples of this kind here.  It is recommended to understand the capabilities of IFTTT.  I have a number of applets in operation.

Retail Implications for Alexa on iPhone

Seems it just increases choice and lets competition play out. May well drive Siri to more shopping options as well.  Asking for trivia does not pay out.   I would bet that Amazon knows more now about how to make voice channel shopping work.

What happens now that Alexa is on the iPhone?    by Tom Ryan   In Retailwire: 
In a move onto Siri’s turf, Amazon has added Alexa to its iOS shopping app, letting users chat with the virtual assistant through an iPhone or iPad.

Alexa users will need to open the Amazon app and then press a microphone icon to converse with Alexa. Previously, the microphone icon allowed voice commands to be used to search for products and check up on orders, but the update provides access to almost all of the capabilities of Amazon’s speaker devices such as the Echo, Dot and Tap.  .... "   (Discussion) 

My List and survey of virtual shopping assistants.

Rallying Around Common Goals

A most important topic,  even more so today in our heavily interacting world.   Focus.

Podcast:   In Knowledge@Wharton
Meaningful Work: What Leaders Can Learn from NASA and the Space Race  ... 

New Wharton research looks at how thousands of NASA employees with vastly different roles were able to rally around the common goal of a lunar landing in the 1960s.  ...  "

Google Maps Location Sharing

Google Maps Location Sharing is being rolled out.  Google had a service like this some time ago, that allowed you to very selectively share your instantaneous location among trusted 'friends and family'.   We examined it for possible commercial applications.  Its back again,  with it appears, more alerting and selectivity about sharing.   Privacy considerations. Might it be used for things like ride or delivery sharing?  API for linking to commercial supply chain systems?  It is noted in Wired that they are gathering location data.

Amazon Powers Prime Now with Alexa Voice

Still wondering how broadly this will increase shopping volume, and the degree to a which voice channel convenience will influence this.   Essentially provides two hour delivery in 30 US markets via voice.

In Chain Store Age: 
" ... Amazon announced on Tuesday that Prime Now subscribers can now use Alexa to order from Prime Now and its two-hour delivery service in the cities where it is available (30 in total at the present time).

In addition, customers can also order from Prime Now’s newly launched alcohol delivery service in the markets where it is offered.

“Bringing Prime Now to Alexa voice shopping combines two of the most innovative shopping technologies available for an experience that our customers are going to wonder how they ever lived without,” stated Assaf Ronen, VP of voice shopping, Amazon. “We’re excited to offer the full Prime Now catalogue with Alexa, including tens of thousands of items, ... " 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Customer Engagement in the Cognitive Era

Watson Customer Engagement  

Watson Marketing. Watson Commerce. Watson Supply Chain
Every touchpoint is an opportunity to engage customers. Are you ready? Watson Customer Engagement offerings deliver a broad range of capabilities for marketing, commerce and supply chain activities. Designed to complement the skills of forward-thinking professionals like you. To empower you to make better, more informed decisions. Create and deliver personalized, intuitive experiences at every stage of the customer journey. Armed with insights, you can be at the forefront of what’s next—now. .... " 

Under way:  

.....  Amplify 2017 and discover how to redefine customer engagement in the Cognitive era. Learn how Cognitive is transforming customer engagement to make each customer feel recognized and special at every step of their journey. ... " 

Companies Leading the AI Revolution

An interesting piece, with a number of players I just heard of.

In KDNuggets:     By Thuy T. Pham, U. of Sydney.

 .... We detail the list of top 50 companies in Artificial Intelligence according to CBInsights. This list was KDnuggets most popular tweet recently, but the tweet only had the image and no company names or details. Here we list companies by category  and in the order of high to low equity funding in each group. Company overview (e.g., headquarters location and total equity funding raised)  is based on information as it have appeared  on crunchbase.com (as of 8 March 2017). .... " 

Smartphone Mechanics

Good thoughts.  Don't know how practical this is of yet,  but it maps out what standards and capabilities exist today.   A good starting point for using your phone as an automotive maintenance predictive device.   Also a good indicator of what you need for other systems.

Your smartphone: The mechanic in your pocket
You can use your Android or iOS device to gain access to a wealth of information about your vehicle’s operation.   ... By Michael Connell, Computerworld 

Issues of Face Recognition

Had always thought that bio face recognition would make us more secure.  But improvements in AI based systems may change this.

It's time to face the ugly reality of face recognition
The use of A.I. to recognize faces is growing fast. Here's why you should be worried about your personal privacy.   By Mike Elgan

Walmart Incubates Buzzword Solutions

Giving it more direct access to rapidly emerging technologies.

Walmart is opening its own tech incubator in Silicon Valley
The retail giant wants to get a foothold in emerging technologies.  by Andrew Dalton ... 

" ... According to Jet.com founder Marc Lore -- now CEO of Walmart's e-commerce division -- the group will be called "Store No. 8" and will focus on investing in companies that cover all the buzzwords from virtual and augmented reality, to machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence. .... " 

IBM Does Commercial Blockchains

Broad group of uses for the enterprise.

IBM Goes Live With First Commercial Blockchains
Michael del Castillo (@DelRayMan) |

Tech giant IBM is set to unveil what it's calling the first "commercial application" of Hyperledger’s open-source Fabric codebase.

Previously released in beta and scheduled for official release today, the offering – dubbed "IBM Blockchain" – is formally debuting in front of a group of 20,000 developers at the Interconnect conference. There, its first two major deployments will also be detailed.

One of those is a blockchain identity solution built with SecureKey, in which it will power a public-private partnership that saw six Canadian banks invest $27m. In addition, it will be revealed that a Chinese energy company is using the IBM Blockchain to create an exchange for trading carbon credits.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Jerry Cuomo, IBM's vice-president of blockchain technologies, described how the company used Hyperledger's open-source code to create a series of new features, which are now in use as part of its IBM Blockchain product. .... " 

Monday, March 20, 2017

More on Samsung Bixby Assistants

With backstory, and an indication of Samsung's considerable investment into AI.   Plus integration into more devices.  Seems a competitive position as advisory and smart home leverage.  Worth following.

Galaxy S8 and beyond: Samsung bets big on Bixby's AI
The digital voice assistant will debut soon on Samsung's next flagship phone, and the company plans to quickly add it to more products.  ... " 

And more on Bixby capabilities.    

My List and survey of personal assistants.

Stickers vs SnapChat

Can Apple’s new iMessage ad convince you that stickers are as cool as Snapchat?   There is a heavy history of the use of stickers, especially in Japan.   Difficult prediction to make.  Heavily advertised now in the US college basketball season.  by Chaim Gartenberg @cgartenberg

Apple and Augmented Reality

In CW: Some thoughts and speculations about how Apple might implement augmented reality.   Outside the obvious game spaces.  Apparently in evidence by their recent hires in the VR space and investments in parallel.   by Jonny Evans.

Samsung Unveils Bixby as Assistant

Another new virtual advisor emerges,  it seems  now just for the S8 phone and competing with Siri.  and Google Assistant.  Can we also expect this on TVs and addressing the Smart Home and other appliances?   Is likely.   Description positions it in an interesting way,   In Engadget: 

" ... It was only a matter of time until Samsung launched a full-fledged virtual assistant of its very own -- "S Voice" just never quite cut it. Today the company unveiled Bixby, a new assistant that'll debut with the Galaxy S8 on March 29th. Naturally, it's meant to help Samsung differentiate itself from Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant. Bixby seems different on a conceptual level: It's meant to serve as a new voice-based interface for controlling your apps, rather than just something that you can ask a few questions.

"Instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us," Samsung senior vice president InJong Rhee wrote in a blog post. "The interface must be natural and intuitive enough to flatten the learning curve regardless of the number of functions being added. With this new approach, Samsung has employed artificial intelligence, reinforcing deep learning concepts to the core of our user interface designs."  ,,,, "  

Alexa Delivers Medical Advice via WebMD

An example where an advisory system is essentially just replacing a long existing web service.  With the convenience of voice interaction. With no additional conversational interaction as yet implied.    A deeper connection to health data would be more interesting,  but like the online version would have deeper implications and liability risk.  Perhaps an interaction with your Doctor's network?

Alexa will now give you medical advice, courtesy of WebMD   by James Vincent   @jjvincent 
Amazon’s Alexa already boasts more than 10,000 skills, but has now added medical advice to its repertoire. WebMD announced today that it’s launched its own skill for all Alexa-enabled devices (including the Echo, Echo Dot, and Fire TV), which can answer basic health-related queries. Topics include treatments for common ailments (“Alexa, ask WebMD how to treat a sore throat”), definitions of basic diseases (“Alexa, ask WebMD what diabetes is”), and the side effects of certain drugs (“Alexa, ask WebMD to tell me about amoxicillin”).

WebMD stresses that, like its website, the new Alexa skill is only meant to offer supplementary information, and adds that the software is a work-in-progress.   ... "

Interpreting Machine Learning

By their nature the results from deep learning and neural methods can be non transparent. Via O'Reilly.

Ideas on interpreting machine learning
Mix-and-match approaches for visualizing data and interpreting machine learning models and results.   By Patrick Hall, Wen Phan,  SriSatish Ambati   .... " 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Google Tango Location is Testing at Lowes

Been a long time tester of retail location intelligence solutions.  Now news that Lowes is starting to test Google Tango location intelligence using augmented reality on phones.    Have also mentioned the interior space model building technology that Google is using a number of times here.   Again, impressed with Lowes broad use of new tech.  In CNet:

Google Tango means you'll never get lost in a store again ... Some Lowe's stores are testing out an augmented-reality app that shows the fastest way to get to your items. .... " 

See also Lowe's work on robotics and AR based DIY instruction at the tag below.

Will we be Dinosaurs in Three Years?

Reminds me of things said at the end of the last AI up tick ... Wildly exaggerated.   Most of us will use it rather than develop it. Mark Cuban via  Via O'Reilly.

Gadget Earth Video

A video view of the personalities and capabilities of drones and other semi autonomous gadgets out of the recent CES conference.   From the Verge.     Impressive.

" ... Wandering the halls of CES 2017 recently with video director William Joel, we were not only struck by how many different “breeds” of gadgets there are in the world, but also by just how many of those gadgets — particularly the robots and drones — seem to have unique personalities all their own. The wire and plexiglass that surrounded them made them look like wild animals in captivity. ... " 

Smartphones Revolutionizing Medicine

In the CACM:  New details on gow smrtphone devices are changing medicine and health data.

Will AI Transform Retail Marketing?

Will AI Transform Retail Marketing?   by Tom Ryan In Retailwire:   Discussion.

A survey from Sailthru finds more retailers using artificial intelligence (AI) to support marketing purposes.

The survey of more than 200 retail marketers showed that of the 66 percent who leverage AI for marketing purposes, the most common applications are in search (37 percent), product recommendations (33 percent), and programmatic advertising and data science (both 26 percent).

Still, the marketers leveraging AI in one or more channels/methods weren’t much more likely to have met or exceeded their 2016 marketing goals. Sailthru said this suggests “not all applications and methods are equally useful, and that simply employing AI-based solutions is not sufficient for marketing success.”  .... " 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Alexa and Roomba in the Smart Home

We worked with the Roomba concept.  Though I liked the idea, never found it useful enough to add to our smart home .... Will it be more useful enough when voice controlled?

With Alexa integration and mapping, iRobot aims to make Roomba the center of the smart home by Brian Heater

" ... iRobot CEO Colin Angle has been repeating for some time now that the next step in the evolution of the company’s hit Roomba vacuum is becoming a connective tissue for the smart home. This morning’s announcement from the company takes it a couple of steps closer to that dream, introducing Alexa voice integration and advances to the robotic vacuum’s mapping system that lay the groundwork for future smart home upgrades.

“Roombas are already becoming one of the commonly found connected devices in the home,” Angle tells TechCrunch. “The popularity of the Roomba has made it a very powerful ambassador for connected devices, but its ability to organize physical information in the home is making it a central player in allowing homes to be more intelligent. You need to be aware of where things are in order to have a home do the right thing without programming it.” .... " 

Cars Learning

 More broadly, what kinds of things can cars learn to make them better and cheaper?   Gets to better understanding the consumer needs and related processes.   Have been there.

Machine Learning and Data Are Fueling a New Kind of Car
Here’s why Intel just offered $15.3 billion for Mobileye, an Israeli company that specializes in machine vision and learning for cars.  ... by Will Knight ...

Amazon Outfit Compare

We worked on a number of related virtual comparison ideas over the years.    Aimed at things like eyeware and cosmetics.  None were completely successful.   Can Amazon crack this by funneling their large customer base through this?   What is the conversation needed?

Amazon will now tell Prime members what to wear via a new “Outfit Compare” feature  by Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa)   In Techcrunch: 

Amazon has been steadily pushing its way into fashion over the past several years, with investments in its own private labels – from workwear to activewear – plus increased fashion ad spending and even its own trend-obsessed TV show, Style Code Live. Now the online retailer is looking to dole out its fashion advice to the masses, too, through a new feature called “Outfit Compare,” which is currently available to Prime members.

In the latest version of the Amazon shopping app, Prime members will find “Outfit Compare” in the sidebar navigation under the “Programs and Features” section.

This is the area where Amazon often rolls out its newer services and offerings, like Restaurants, Launchpad, Watch & Shop, Dash buttons and, more recently, its curated recommendations storefront dubbed “Interesting Finds.” ... "

Friday, March 17, 2017

Singularity by 2045?

Says Kurzweil,  Google's Director of Engineering.  Will that mean Google Drive will be the approved recepticle?  Google Analytics the means of  understanding?  Deep Mind the means for running offline? Very ambitious I think.  Google presents the Singularity Cloud! But if so, there is lots to figure out before then.

Bots Build their Own Language

More on applications of reinforcement.    We did something similar using a genetic driver, but no mention of that here.  Would that improve learning?

It Begins: Bots are Learning to Chat in their own Language   by Cade Metz  In Wired: 

" .... As detailed in a research paper published by OpenAI this week, Mordatch and his collaborators created a world where bots are charged with completing certain tasks, like moving themselves to a particular landmark. The world is simple, just a big white square—all of two dimensions—and the bots are colored shapes: a green, red, or blue circle. But the point of this universe is more complex. The world allows the bots to create their own language as a way collaborating, helping each other complete those tasks.

All this happens through what’s called reinforcement learning, the same fundamental technique that underpinned AlphaGo, the machine from Google’s DeepMind AI lab that cracked the ancient game of Go. Basically, the bots navigate their world through extreme trial and error, carefully keeping track of what works and what doesn’t as they reach for a reward, like arriving at a landmark. If a particular action helps them achieve that reward, they know to keep doing it. In this same way, they learn to build their own language. Telling each other where to go helps them all get places more quickly. .... " 

Deep Mind Memory Trick

A deeper yet biomimicry?

How DeepMind’s Memory Trick Helps AI Learn Faster
While AI systems can match many human capabilities, they take 10 times longer to learn. Now, by copying the way the brain works, Google DeepMind has built a machine that is closing the gap.

by Emerging Technology from the arXiv  March 16, 2017 .... 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

UPS Testing Drones

How can they attached to the supply chain? Nests in the truck roof?   Discussion:  In Retailwire:

Can UPS fly past Amazon in drone delivery?  by Matthew Stern

Amazon has grabbed many of the recent headlines with its efforts to use technology to eventually dominate last-mile logistics. But other big names in delivery are not sitting idly by, as seen by UPS’s latest move.

UPS has begun testing a delivery truck that acts as a mobile drone base, Business Insider reported. The vehicle features a drone “nest” on the roof which houses a drone capable of flying for 30 minutes and carrying 10 pounds. The roof-mounted drone is meant to reduce the number of miles driven to deliver packages.

The idea of using a mobile base for drones has gotten popular as the industry tries to figure out a working paradigm for drone-based delivery. Last year, Amazon filed a patent for technology that enables drones to be deployed from a “floating warehouse” airship and another that uses lampposts and churches as perches for delivery drones.  .... "

Conversation: Beyond Moments of Truth

Its all about conversation.    It used to be about 'moments of truth',  but now more about much more fluid conversations that can be generated and sustained by initial interaction.  That interaction can come from data, Bots, intelligent prediction, even old fashion marketing.    Sometimes all of these can be analytically combined to produce something very prescriptive.   CustomerThink talks this:

In CustomerThink
Turning Data to Conversations: Intelligent Marketing  .... "

McKinsey on Home Bots

Good piece, though ultimately driving the smart home will need many new 'things' present to influence digitally.  We have started to see examples with Cortana, Alexa and Google Home.   Which all start with easy applications.  Delivering music, news and other 'radio' and web type services.   Specific controllable devices like the Nest.    Still a considerable way to go to drive the home with Bots. Standards are still not there.

Article - McKinsey Quarterly - January 2017
A smart home is where the bot is
By Jean-Baptiste Coumau, Hiroto Furuhashi, and Hugo Sarrazin

Within a decade, our living spaces will be enhanced by a host of new devices and technologies, performing a range of household functions and redefining what it means to feel at home.

The promise of devices that not only meet our household needs but anticipate them as well has been around for decades. To date, that promise remains largely unfulfilled. Advances such as the Nest thermostat by Alphabet (parent company to Google) and Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant are notable, but the home-technology market as a whole remains fragmented, and the potential for a truly smart home is still unrealized. .... "  

AI Dangers and Risks

Continued talk on the topic.

AI Dangers: Imagined and Real  By Devdatt Dubhashi, Shalom Lappin
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 2, Pages 43-45

AI Driven Automation in Law

In some ways, the most obvious application.   A heavily document and analysis driven world.   Was frequently mentioned in the 80s, but not implemented because the analysis of meaning in documents was very imperfect.

AI automation starts to transform legal profession

Artificial intelligence and automation are making inroads into legal work, but are more likely to support than displace lawyers and will draw IT more into legal service delivery

In February 2016, a London court supported the use of predictive coding software in a legal disclosure process, which often involves lawyers receiving huge volumes of documents from those representing the other side in a case.  ... 

In Pyrrho Investments v MWB Business Exchange, Master Paul Matthews of the Chancery division supported the use of software in scoring documents for relevance. He found there was no evidence that software would be less accurate than manual review and keyword searches. He added that software could provide greater consistency in searching more than 3 million documents that could be involved in the disclosure. A final reason was that both sides had agreed to the use of the software, which would be much cheaper than a manual search – they just wanted the court’s approval. ...  " 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Folding Clothes

In a long while ago meeting about how easy it was to do various household tasks,  it was brought up that while washing clothes was relatively easy, folding them from an arbitrary pile was hard.    Well now the problem is solved, though with quite a bit of technology, and no cost suggested.  Solving all these individual hard tasks independently could still be quite expensive.  See also, a related problem, about sewing clothing.

Doing Machine Learning in Excel

Although we never recommended using Excel for things like this in the enterprise, it might be useful for someone who is already an Excel expert to get started in machine learning methods.  From DSC, nicely done.

Doing real machine learning using only the basics of Excel.    Posted by Vincent Granville
In this article, I present a few modern techniques that have been used in various business contexts, comparing performance with traditional methods. The advanced techniques in question are math-free, innovative, efficiently process large amounts of unstructured data, and are robust and scalable. Implementations in Python, R, Julia and Perl are provided, but here we focus on an Excel version that does not even require any Excel macros, coding, plug-ins, or anything other than the most basic version of Excel. It is actually easily implemented in standard, basic SQL too, and we invite  readers to work on an SQL version. ... " 

Data Mining and Advertising Targets

How Data Mining Can Help Advertisers Hit Their Targets?

Wharton's Shawndra Hill discusses her research on TV ads and online search.

Podcast and text: 

Shawndra Hill, a senior fellow at the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, likes to dig into the details. As someone who studies data mining, she looks for new ways to apply what she finds to solve business problems. Hill’s latest research paper, “Television and Digital Advertising: Second Screen Response and Coordination with Sponsored Search,” focuses on TV ads, online search and the connections between them. The paper was co-authored with Gordon Burtch from the University of Minnesota and Michael Barto, a data scientist at Microsoft. Hill recently spoke with Knowledge@Wharton about what she found.  ... " 

Remote Repair Challenges in Orbit

In IEEE Spectrum, quite a detailed article.    Requires making satellites in standard ways and thus easier to repair.  The ultimate example of this.  Much to learn too about robotic challenges under constraints and gathering data to stage efforts.  This seems like a better commercial idea than sending tourists into orbit.

Inside DARPA’s Mission to Send a Repair Robot to Geosynchronous Orbit
The RSGS spacecraft could visit and inspect dozens of satellites
By Gordon Roesler, Paul Jaffe and Glen Henshaw ... 

Turn on HTTPS

Turn on HTTPS encryption.   A worthwhile security step.  This blog is using it.   No negatives to its use anymore.   More at the link.

It's time to turn on HTTPS: The benefits are well worth the effort
HTTPS websites get a speed boost, better search engine rankings and fewer browser warnings
 By Lucian Constantin  ..... 

Lowes Using AR to Show How

Lowes is always doing interesting tech things. On the surface of it sounds like a good idea.  But does visual understanding and experience equal physical skill?   Also see their tests of robots in store.

Lowe's is using AR and VR to make how-to easier
Coming soon: 'Tile Installation Simulator 2017'.

by Timothy J. Seppala, @timseppala

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Robots for Commercial Spaces

Good overview look at applications and demand in IEEE Spectrum. Have had conversations with several players in the space.

 Why Indoor Robots for Commercial Spaces Are the Next Big Thing in Robotics By Travis Deyle
Companies developing indoor robots for commercial spaces include Cobalt, Aethon, Simbe, Savioke, Diligent Droids, and PAL Robotics. .... " 

" ... Venture funding for robotics has exploded by more than 10x over the last six years and shows no signs of stopping. Most of this investment has been focused on the usual suspects: logistics, warehouse automation, robot arms for manufacturing, healthcare and surgical robots, drones, agriculture, and autonomous cars. In this guest post, tech entrepreneur Travis Deyle, founder of security robot startup Cobalt, explains why he's betting on a new, emerging segment: autonomous indoor robots for commercial spaces. ... " 

Cognitive Assistance for the Aging

Dear Professors, Students, IBMers and others, 

This a reminder about our Cognitive Systems Institute Speaker Series on Thursday, March 16, 2016 at 10:30 am ET US (7:30 am PT).  Our speaker is Hironobu Takagi, Senior Technical Staff Member and Technical Leader for Cognitive Computing Research at IBM Research, Tokyo, who will be presenting "Cognitive Assistance for the Aging."

Please point your web browser to https://apps.na.collabserv.com/meetings/join?id=2894-8491 password=cognitive.   Use audio on computer or dial 855-233-7153  ) PIN Code: 43179788    Non-IBMers please use the "Guest" option instead of entering your email.   

Please find the schedule of presenters herefor the next several calls.   A link to slides and a recording of each call should be available on the CSIG website (http://cognitive-science.info/community/weekly-update/).   We encourage those who join the calls to add questions and comments to the LinkedIn Discussion Group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Cognitive-Systems-Institute-6729452 and please ask questions at the end of the call.

Thank you!
Dianne Fodell

IBM Global University Programs

Random Numbers

A long time technical interest.  Used many random number generators, and in some cases tested them to determine their limitations.  Here a brief history.

Microsoft Teams is off Running

Seen it in Beta,  a group collaboration tool,  better than Slack, especially for users of other MS tools.    And who isn't?   Free for 365 users as I understand.   But it needs critical mass in groups to make it fly.   Continue to nurture it, Microsoft.  Keep it aimed at productivity, as opposed to another thing to update.   Connect it effectively to bot intelligence.   I had used Slack for real examples, but it was tedious.

Teams is Microsoft's most intriguing productivity app yet
The potential Slack-killer is rolling out to all Office 365 users today.

Devindra Hardawar, @devindra .... 

See also, related Google Hangout Chats.

Bot support is becoming common on these offerings.

SAS On Image Recognition

SAS Blog on image recognition.     Nicely done piece on the business implications.

" ... Image recognition is a hot and hyped topic in machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technology circles. Computer vision technology is essential for realizing advancements like driverless cars, face recognition, medical outcomes predictions, and a host of other breakthrough innovations.

Amidst the hype, organizations large and small are trying to understand the specific industry use cases potential for the variety of underlying techniques and processes involved in image recognition. For experienced data miners, there are some required paradigm shifts to move from predictive modelling to image recognition. In this blog post, I’ll try to outline some of these new concepts, the challenges they pose and some means for addressing them.... " 

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Quantum Computer Sees Trees

In Science via CACM:   Quantum Computer Learns to See Trees:

" ... St. Mary's College researchers trained a quantum computer to recognize trees, a breakthrough they say could help scientists use other quantum systems for complicated machine-learning problems such as pattern recognition and computer vision.

The researchers fed hundreds of U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite images into a D-Wave 2X processor, which contains 1,152 qubits, to determine whether clumps of pixels were trees and not roads, buildings, or rivers. The researchers then told the computer whether its classifications were right or wrong so the system could learn from its mistakes, altering the formula it uses to determine whether something is a tree.

Following the training, the system was 90% accurate in recognizing trees in aerial photographs of Mill Valley, CA.

The results demonstrate how researchers can program quantum computers to analyze images, and could lead to the possibility of using them to solve other complex problems   ... " 

Alexa and Cortana in the Office

In the WSJ.   How elements of Alexa and Cortana may be heading towards the office.   Thinking about this now in terms of how it connects business process and deeper computing technologies, like AI and analytics.  Article may require some sign-in.

Alexa and Cortana May Be Heading to the Office
Voice-activated assistants with artificial intelligence are moving from the home to the office By  Cat Zakrzewski

The next assistant in many offices could be named Alexa or Cortana.

In 2016, Silicon Valley obsessed over how text-based bots in apps like Slack could make employees more efficient, turning complicated tasks or forms into conversational texts. Now, following the success of Amazon Inc.’s Alexa and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home, people in the technology industry are increasingly thinking about how such voice-activated devices can be made useful in the workplace.

The products aren’t quite ready for office prime time yet. The workplace offers challenges that experts say intelligent assistants built for home use so far haven't effectively met, mostly in the area of voice recognition.  .... " 

Merging Brains and Machines

An odd debate.  But regardless we will have to collaborate.   We have been doing this for some time, but the the details of how this is done is getting more important. ....

Merging our brains with machines won’t stop the rise of the robots
February 26, 2017

Tesla chief executive and OpenAI founder Elon Musk suggested last week that humanity might stave off irrelevance from the rise of the machines by merging with the machines and becoming cyborgs.

However, current trends in software-only artificial intelligence and deep learning technology raise serious doubts about the plausibility of this claim, especially in the long term. This doubt is not only due to hardware limitations; it is also to do with the role the human brain would play in the match-up.

Musk’s thesis is straightforward: that sufficiently advanced interfaces between brain and computer will enable humans to massively augment their capabilities by being better able to leverage technologies such as machine learning and deep learning.

But the exchange goes both ways. Brain-machine interfaces may help the performance of machine learning algorithms by having humans “fill in the gaps” for tasks that the algorithms are currently bad at, like making nuanced contextual decisions. ...   " 

Zipf's Law

A favorite topic of interest: Zipf's Law.  by Vincent Granville.  Great topic for kids with an interest in numbers and patterns in data,

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sports Decision Making

Have seen lots of examples addressing patterns of athletic data, but not specifically decision making.  Makes this interesting.  Deep learning Techniques and athletic decision making.  Via the CACM.

Healthcare and IOT

From IOTCentral:  a set of useful articles for healthcare applications regarding the internet of things.

G Suite Aims at Enterprise Business Chat

More bots and enterprise oriented chat delivery.

G Suite Wants To Be Your Business Meeting Chat System

" ... Support for Chat Bots, Gmail Add-Ons  in CIO-Today: 

Meanwhile, the new Hangouts Chat app was created to "reflect the way modern teams talk business," Johnston said.

Chat lets users set up dedicated virtual "rooms" for different work projects, so team members can view threaded conversations starting from day one. The app also integrates with other parts of G Suite, enabling participants to view files and documents from Google Drive or Google Docs directly within their chats.

Johnston said Google is working with several companies, including Asana, Box, Prosperworks and Zendesk, to integrate other applications into Hangouts Chat. The chat platform will be able to support a wide range of partner applications, including intelligent bots. Hangouts Chat also has its own bot, @meet, designed to help users automatically schedule meetings via Meet and Google Calendar.    .... " 

Bots as the Next User Interface

Good thoughts on thinking of coneversation as iterface.   Is a challenge to do it well.   In Adage:

SXSW: 4 Best Practices to Make Bots the Next Big User Interface
By Nat Ives

People spend more and more time on their smartphones, but with such a limited set of apps that it's becoming harder and harder for newcomers to reach them.

Chatbots are the solution, two proponents told a crowded ballroom at SXSW on Saturday, day two of the conference. That's because they play out on one of the entrenched sets of apps that people already chronically use, they argued: messaging apps.

"We believe that conversations will become the new user interface," said Laura Newton, a product manager at the youth-oriented messaging app Kik.   .... "

Google Data Studio is Now Free

Have not examined this directly, but worth a look.

Making Google Data Studio Free for Everyone
February 2, 2017

Today, Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful is even more relevant and broad reaching. And last year’s launch of both free and enterprise versions of Data Studio, a new dashboarding and reporting tool, is a testament to our commitment to this vision. Over the past 9 months we’ve received positive feedback and seen tremendous demand for the product. And we’ve continued to enhance the product making it even easier to use via templates and adding many new data connectors. ... " 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Examining Facebook Messenger Bots

Had a number of times mentioned our experiments with chatbots here.  Illuminating approaches, but too early.  In a recent conversation I was told I really needed to look at the offering through Facebook Messenger.     Although a user have always felt nervous about using FB.    But now I am off on an exploration.   What will the basic underlying architecture of conversational knowledge exchanges be? First was this article in SiliconAngle:

Is FB Messenger AI bot the best social strategy for businesses and others?
By R Danes  ....

Overview of Data Governance

With a long time involvement in the big enterprise ... this was always being tested.  Later much more metadata considerations were considered.  Good overview here via O'Reilly..

Protecting yourself from Doxing

Computer security expert Bruce Schneier blogs about Doxing.  (spreading private information, true or not).  The solutions are not unexpected, but worth repeating.   Much in the news of late.  Its just to easy to spread information, once its retrieved. More on Doxing and examples in the WP.

Self Driving without Backup?

In Reuters.   Seems premature.    Though I agree that the behavior of such a car needs to be different and well understood.    Could that be best done in simulators?  How far away is this?  A decade, two? Sooner.

California paves way to self-driving car tests without humans  By Paul Lienert
California, the largest U.S. car market, plans to allow testing on public roads of self-driving vehicles without human backup drivers by the end of the year, state officials said Friday.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles is seeking public comment on proposed regulations for driverless testing and public use of autonomous vehicles that will no longer be required to have conventional manual controls such as steering wheels and pedals.

Current regulations require such vehicles to have those controls, as well as a backup driver   .... " 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Chatbot Concierge for your Hair

Not far different from some of our own attempts to provide a concierge style link that could help both the consumer and the brand.   An advisory

What a Chatbot Can Teach You -- and Unilever -- About Hair    By Jack Neff

 " .... THE IDEA
Enter the Hair Concierge, a chatbot launched on Facebook Messenger in November that uses artificial intelligence to answer women's questions about how to solve hair problems, and links them to Nexxus products they can buy direct online within the bot. The virtual Hair Concierge spawned more than 450,000 messages, around eight per conversation, during January alone, Ms. Grigoriou said. And that comes just from influencers, social sharing and word of mouth, before the brand has put any conventional paid media support behind the effort, which was led by new digital agency Cubocc.

 It's a new idea with roots deep in Nexxus' heritage. From Mr. Redding's day on, the brand was about using proteins found in nature to improve hair. Things like heat and ultraviolet radiation exposure deplete those proteins, leading to a range of hair problems, such as dullness, frizz and split ends. "We can actually map the DNA of the hair, identifying which ingredients can deliver the best results for each problem," she said. The Hair Concierge is part of a broader digital revamp for Nexxus, which aims to offer "mass customization" by matching existing products to women's stated needs. The effort also includes a redesign of Nexxus.com to align with how women search online and a series of 30-second-or-shorter, mobile-optimized videos matching Nexxus products to various hairstyles or problems.  ... " 

Walking the Experience Talk

In Customerthink, good consideration.

What is Walking the Customer Experience Talk? Featured Column by
Lynn Hunsaker  CustomerThink Advisor featured columnist  Top 10 Author: Rank = 5 | Mar 9,  
 What does it really mean to “walk the customer experience talk”? Executive sponsorship is certainly essential, yet there’s so much more to it. An ironic byproduct of any customer engagement effort is that it intrinsically sets up expectations — externally and internally. Walking the customer experience talk means you are following through on expectations you’re setting with customers, employees, channel partners and alliances. It actually means the whole company is getting its act together to deliver what it promised to customers.   ... " 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Designing for Alexa

Intriguing thoughts, and I then ask: Is Alexa Skill management best  architected to produce easy to create and maintain  knowledge?   The latter is a huge deal, it caused us to quickly lose momentum  the last time around.

Designing for Alexa
5 questions for Phillip Hunter: Designing voice interactions, deconstructing human behavior, and use cases for voice.  By Mary Treseler ... " 

On AI Adoption

Good thoughts.  really for any kind of  'automation'   adoption.  And the complexities of introducing any kind of non trivial change.  I recently taught this at Columbia.

AI adoption at the atomic level of jobs and work
O'Reilly Radar Podcast: David Beyer on AI adoption challenges, the complexities of getting an AI ROI, and the dangers of hype.  By Jenn Webb     ...

Product Recommender in Python

More Python example than recommender.  But also a useful view of programming in this domain. Via O'Reilly.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Predicting Flash Floods with Weather Data

Good case Study from O'Reilly.   I like the use of weather data, which can be problematic.  Here converted to classification and thus prediction from embedded decision trees.      Could have used the idea in a long ago US stream and estuary model.

Random forests to save human lives
Flash flood prediction using machine learning has proven capable in the U.S. and Europe; we're now bringing it to East Africa. ..... " 

By Zachary Flamig and Race Clark February 28, 2017  .... " 

Superforecasting and Decision Makers

This is such an important issue.  So many claims are made for good forecasting,  but it is only as good as it is integrated into good decision making.   Forecasting is an analytic method,  but of little use if it can't contribute to value and less risk in decisions.  And as the authors suggest, forecasts are always 'wrong'.  Which calls for a modification of contextual decisions, based on required operations.   In Knowledge@Wharton:

Are You a Superforecaster? What Good Decision-makers Have in Common
 Wharton's Barbara Mellers and Michael Platt discuss their research on superforecasters.

While nobody can get forecasts right 100% of the time, research shows that there are certain kinds of people who are better at forecasting outcomes than others. Wharton marketing professors Barbara Mellers and Michael Platt, who are also Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professors at the University of Pennsylvania, examine the intersection of marketing, psychology and neuroscience to understand the traits that “superforecasters” share and that can lead to better decision making. They recently talked about their research and its implications on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

Podcast, and an edited transcript of the conversation follows.  .... "

Who is winning at Monetizing AI?

I basically agree, though IBM leads now at the enterprise level, though it is still early.  some supporting details at the link.   I would also not eliminate startups from outside the list.

The race to monetize artificial intelligence is on
Artificial intelligence is becoming one of the most exciting technology trends in the market. Companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are actively leveraging A.I. as part of their technology stacks. However, in order to dominate the market, these vendors will need to monetize A.I. at a large scale. Who can win the early race to monetize A.I.?  .... 

Early rounds verdict: Google wins

The previous analysis clearly highlights the potential of Amazon, Facebook, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Google to monetize A.I.. However, we think in the short term Google has a bit of an edge and more options to quickly monetize A.I. at scale. Here are a few points that might help to explain this forecast   .... "   (Details at the link)  ... " 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

IBM and Salesforce Partner with Watson

I agree with the statement that cognitive systems will continue to touch increasing numbers of people.  If this will be by Watson, and how soon it will become universal, is still unclear.   In TechCrunch:

IBM and Salesforce Partner to Sell Watson and Einstein

" ... The new partnership amounts to a way for IBM to sell consulting services across both Salesforce’s Einstein and IBM’s Watson AI-branded businesses.

Insights from Watson will now be available directly in Salesforce’s Intelligent Customer Success platform, mixing Einstein’s customer relationship data with Watson’s stores of structured and unstructured data that include weather, healthcare, financial services and retail, the companies said.

“Within a few years, every major decision — personal or business — will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies,” said Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer, IBM, in a statement.

Rometty said that IBM expects Watson to “touch” 1 billion people — through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars (no word on whether they’re also including advertising in that figure, but they may be… IBM runs a lot of Watson ads).   ... " 

Kuri Robot to Add Facial Recognition

Been following the claimed advances in the Kuri home robot, which now says it includes facial recognition and reaction.  See their March Newsletter.   Also will have IFTTT support, which should be very useful for other goal areas, like home security.  Available for preorder, but no specific availability date yet.   Had been considering testing this directly, but will likely await early hands-on reviews at the $700 price.  I think ultimately there will be home companion/assistant robotics of this type.


On Genuine Smiles

In  Inc:  Smiles, real and fake.  The Duchenne smile was tested for machine interaction and positive reaction to products.

Examined for possible use in how people react to products ....

The Duchenne smile as indicator of genuine positive reaction?

Kroger Testing Uber for Delivery

Discussion on Kroger and Uber in Retailwire:

Will using Uber for home deliveries work for Kroger?  by George Anderson

Kroger’s streak of quarterly same-store gains has ended after 13 years, but the supermarket giant is intent on starting a new run. Part of the strategy may come in tests the company is running “to solve the last mile equation” for grocery consumers including a home delivery pilot with Uber, according to Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen (via Seeking Alpha).

“We’re testing with Uber delivery in several locations with plans to expand in 2017 where our customers can order through ClickList and choose to have their groceries delivered by a local Uber driver,” said Mr. McMullen on Kroger’s earnings call last week. “We have a couple of other home delivery tests as well,” he added.  .... " 

Tracking Ships, Containers with Blockchain

Another example of the used of blockchain as a database, a secure open distributed ledger.

The blockchain heads out to sea as IBM and Maersk develop ship tracking platform By Duncan Riley   In SiliconAngle:

The blockchain is heading out to sea with IBM Corp. and shipping operator A.P. Moller–Maersk Group (most commonly known as Maersk) teaming up to track shipping transactions using the technology that powers bitcoin.

The tracking system is being built on top of The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger platform and will link shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities with a goal to track 10 million shipping containers by the end of this year, some 14 percent of the 70 million containers shipped globally each year.

IBM estimates that the digitization of the supply chain process from end to end could save shipping carriers a whopping $38b billion a year.  .... " 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Data Science Blog Posts from DSC

A selection of very useful blog posts from DSC by Vincent Granville.   In particular about topics like deep learning.  From introductory tutorials to advanced.    You can also join their newsletters at the link,  great source of information.   Which also provide a trail of what's useful in this domain over time.

Lisp, the Language

For some of our earliest AI applications we used the 'intelligent' language Lisp.   It was key for us to implement learning modules.   But have not seen much about it since then.    Was then intrigued to see this article about it.  Is there reason to consider it now for low level  AI applications?    In some cases, yes.  But does it have the support or libraries to leverage its use? Investigating that.  Someone out there know of current uses?

Voice Banking Assistants

Security will have to be very well done.

Voice banking arrives on home virtual assistants
by Jack Dougal, BANKING.COM

Amazon’s Echo device has been one of the biggest tech hits of the last year, with some estimates suggesting the firm sold more than nine million of the gadgets in the 2016 holiday season alone.

As the tools appear in more homes around the world and more companies develop add-ons for the platform, users can expect to be able to do a lot more than control their thermostats and start Spotify playlists using its Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant.

Indeed, banking activities may be the next step for the device. D3 Banking recently launched a new intelligent voice banking service for Alexa, which it said will offer a valuable new way for banks and credit unions to connect with customers.   ... " 

AI Changing the 80/20 Rule

Interesting and perceptive thoughts about the implications of AI  In the HBR:

AI Is Going to Change the 80/20 Rule
by Michael Schrage

Many high-performance organizations remain passionate about Vilfredo Pareto, the incisive Italian engineer and economist. They continue to be inspired by his 80/20 principle, the idea that 80% of effects (sales, revenue, etc.) come from 20% of causes (products, employees, etc). As machine learning and AI algorithmic innovation transform analytics, I’m betting that next-generation algorithms will supercharge Pareto’s empirically provocative paradigm. Here are three important ways that AI and machine learning will redefine how organizations use the Pareto principle to digitally drive profitable innovation to levels beyond conventional analytics. ... " 

IBM Quantum in the Cloud Goes Commercial

IBM's Quantum Cloud Computer Goes Commercial

Company plans a bigger, better system aimed at creating a market for the still-immature technology.

by Davide Castelvecchi  in Nature.

Using the Perfect Office Surface

As part of our innovation spaces we worked with office furniture manufacturers to scope out the needs of the future office.  The question was always if there would be substantial offices in the future at all.   And can such offices significantly influence creativity?   Can the use of 'surfaces' in offices as displays and design spaces make a difference?    While augmented reality all these spaces to exist anywhere?   In Engadget:

Microsoft and Steelcase envision the perfect Surface office
They've unveiled five "Creative Spaces" with office furniture for Surface products.

Steve Dent, @stevetdent

With the Surface Book, Surface Studio and other products, Microsoft has managed to attract graphics pros, designers and engineers, many used to working with Apple products. It's now taking the next logical step by expanding into workspace lifestyle concepts via a partnership with Steelcase. The two companies have unveiled "Creative Spaces," which are office furniture layout concepts optimized to work with Surface products.

There are five sets of new products. The "Focus Studio," designed with Microsoft's Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 in mind, gives workers "alone time to focus and get into flow, while also allowing quick shifts to two-person collaboration." Meanwhile, the "Duo Studio" lets designers work in pairs or individually via a Surface Studio all-in-one. It also includes a lounge area for creative review with others on the giant-screened Surface Hub, an interactive white board.

The "Ideation Hub" is also a conference-style space that lets colleagues work on ideas in person or remotely on the Surface Hub. "Maker Commons" is aimed a rapid prototyping "hackathon"-style teams to "encourage quick switching between conversation, experimentation and concentration," using a mix of devices like the Surface Hub and Surface Pro laptops. Finally, the "Respite Room" is a fully private space that lets you relax and think.  .... " 

3D Printing at Ford

This is taking 3D printing further than we imagined in the short term.   Can it be done in volume?

Ford tests 3D printer that can manufacture car parts of any size and shape   Aircraft maker Boeing is also testing the new 3D printer

Ford today said it will be the first automaker to test a new 3D printer that can build parts of unlimited size. The company is also testing the printer to make prototypes of one-piece auto parts that could be used in production of future vehicles.

The use of a 3D printer capable of manufacturing parts of unlimited size and shape "could be a breakthrough for vehicle manufacturing," the automaker stated in a news release.

Ford is testing the Stratasys Infinite-Build 3D printer, which was one of two new industrial machines announced last fall. The printer can also build objects using materials such as carbon fiber for lighter weight and stronger parts. .... " 

Tracking US Innovation

In the HBR,  Fascinating piece.    I grew up in some of the regions tracked, and remember thinking about how industries worked together to produce innovative value.  But now it can happen everywhere.

When America Was Most Innovative, and Why
by Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigs and Tom Nicholas

The competitiveness of the U.S. economy depends on technological progress, but recent data suggests that innovation is getting harder and the pace of growth is slowing down. A major challenge in business and policy spheres is to understand the environments that are most conducive to innovation. One way to do that is to look to history. In our research we focused on the golden age of invention: the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when America became the world’s preeminent industrial nation.  ... " 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Conflicting Demands and Creativity

In MIT/Sloan:

Conflicting demands within a business can be a source of creativity and opportunity — if they are handled well.
The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

But within a business, opposing ideas typically lead to conflict, and in the face of conflicting demands, managers will feel anxiety, stress, and frustration. However, our research at Aeon Co. Ltd., one of Japan’s largest retailers, suggests that a positive approach to handling conflicts between opposing ideas can create new value for a company.

Like many retailers, Aeon faces a built-in conflict in its operations. On the one hand, managers in local stores want to adapt their stock to meet local communities’ preferences and needs. On the other hand, the executive team at Aeon’s national headquarters in Chiba, Japan, strives for greater economies of scale. .... " 

UC Center for Business Analytics

 Had .a conversation with Glenn Wegryn of the UC Center for Business Analytics.  More to follow.

Inform and Improve Decisions with Analytics

The UC Center for Business Analytics brings together organizations and a world-class, multidisciplinary group of faculty and students to educate and exchange ideas and best practices on how to apply analytical methods for enhancing business and organizational performance.

Through the sponsorship of visiting scholars and executives in residence, the center aspires to be the world-renowned venue for the exchange of ideas on the most critical problems facing organizations, and how to best apply analytics to help solve these problems.

In collaboration with its corporate sponsors, the center accomplishes this through symposia, student projects, community training and applied research focused on the use of techniques such as data visualization, data mining, predictive modeling, simulation and optimization to solve important problems faced by businesses, government and non-profit organizations. ... " 

@UCBusAnalytics @uofcincy

Baby Faces

We did experiments with packaging and advertising, using neuromarketing techniques.

Sweet Puppies and Cute Babies: Perceptual Adaptation to Babyfacedness Transfers across Species
Jessika Golle, Stephanie Lisibach, Fred W. Mast, Janek S. Lobmaier 
Published: March 13, 2013http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0058248


Infant faces are very salient stimuli. The Kindchenschema describes specific features that characterize a cute infant face. In this study we used a visual adaptation paradigm to investigate the universality of the perceptual properties of the Kindchenschema. In Experiment 1, twenty-four participants adapted to cute and less cute human infant faces and in Experiment 2, twenty-four new participants adapted to cute and less cute faces of puppy dogs. In both experiments the task was to assess the cuteness of subsequently presented human infant faces. The results revealed cuteness after-effects for human infant faces in both adaptation conditions, suggesting a common mechanism coding cuteness in human and non-human faces. This study provides experimental evidence for the universality of the well-described concept of the Kindchenschema.  ... " 

Flipboard ReDesigns

Had looked at Flipboard as a means of doing market and store design testing.   With ‘Smart Magazines,’ Flipboard uses machine learning to reinvent its app ...      By Robert Hof 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Deep Learning Frameworks

Well done, relatively non technical, pointing at existing software solutions.   In KDNuggets:  " ...  This post sketches out some common principles which would help you better understand deep learning frameworks, and provides a guide on how to implement your own deep learning framework as well. ... " 

An Interactive Storytelling Medium

Brought to my attention, Earplay is now also using the Alexa interface.    Might also be useful for training?  With bot driven intelligence based on data?

https://ear-play.com/   Interactive Audio Storytelling. 

Earplay is a new storytelling medium for audio entertainment lovers. Experience deeper immersion and emotional connection as you become part of the story in conversation with characters you love. ... "

See also their blog for examples. 

Predicting Earthquakes

A long time idea.   Will it work in the real world?

Intelligent Machines

Machine-Learning Algorithm Predicts Laboratory Earthquakes
The breakthrough has astonished geologists and raises the possibility that real earthquake prediction could be next.

by Emerging Technology from the arXiv  March 3, 2017  .... 

Looking at Amazon and Walmart Supply Chains

Some useful data and visuals on the topic, at the link below.

First Thoughts  by Dan Gilmore
    Editor  Supply Chain Digest

Supply Chain News: Walmart and Amazon by the Numbers 2017
Our Annual Review of the World's Two Most Important Retailers

I think it is rather safe to say that the two most important retailers in the world today are Walmart and Amazon.com.

Walmart earns that place due to its stature as the world's largest merchant (and company) and one that represents an often substantial share of many consumer goods companies' total sales. Amazon obviously earns a spot as the dominant ecommerce company, which is where all the action is right now, sucking most of the oxygen out of the retail room. It continues its phenomenal growth - hardly even slowing down in the face of the law of big numbers - and has been an innovation machine in terms of fulfillment and more (e.g., in the past  few months, the fascinating new Go store concept, new supply chain-related patents it seems almost weekly, and more). ....  "

Coding Their Own

Via CACM.  Implications about, but this still does not mean we have machines building their own yet.

Microsoft's AI Is Learning to Write Code by Itself, Not Steal It  By NextGov.com 

Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have developed an algorithm that can create code to solve simple math problems by searching through potential code combinations for how a problem could be solved.

The DeepCoder algorithm's creators stress it does not steal code from existing software, but instead when asked to solve a problem, it predicts what code would have been applied toward the solution to similar problems it has encountered before, and in what order.

The team produced a domain-specific programming language, and DeepCoder also can sift through potential code for workable solutions. ... " 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Amazon's New AI Blog

Emphasizing AWS, of course.  But from real experts in the field.

Amazon's New AI Blog: 

" ... From computer vision systems for autonomous driving, to FDA-approved medical imaging, AWS has driven innovation in existing products or helped define entirely new categories of products for customers such as Netflix, Pinterest, Airbnb, GE, Capital One, and Wolfram Alpha. It’s also used extensively at Amazon to decrease order delivery time with robotic fulfilment, to create novel features such as X-ray (showing themes, characters, and their interactions in video and text), or to bring new experiences to life such as Amazon Echo, Alexa, or the new deep learning-powered, line-free, checkout-free grocery store, Amazon Go (currently in beta testing in Seattle).

Our vision is to use the expertise and lessons learned from customers and the thousands of engineers focused on AI at Amazon to put intelligence in the hands of as many developers as possible, and that AI should be available to everyone, irrespective of their level of technical skill or ability. Today, our approach breaks down into three main layers which all sit on top of the AWS infrastructure and network. We call this, collectively, “Amazon AI.”  .... " 

Machine Learning and Campaign Response

Intriguing piece in GigaOm, reviewing.   We did this for decades. There are better methods now.  How well can this be done?  What are the risks involved?

Predicting Marketing Campaign Response Using Amazon Machine Learning by Chris Mohritz
Today, marketers are challenged with higher expectations and thinner budgets.

So figuring out where to invest your advertising dollars to drive the highest ROI is critical. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools are making that decision easier and easier every day.

Imagine if you had a crystal ball that allowed you to peer into the future and see exactly who is going to respond to your offer.  How profitable would your marketing campaigns be if you knew exactly who is going to convert and who isn’t before you even launch the campaign?

But the formula for a successful marketing campaign can’t be pinned down to a single factor. In fact, it could take a mountain of data to figure out the best strategy.

That’s where A.I. — or more specifically, machine learning — comes in.  ....  "

Facebook Releases Open Source Prophet

Doing time series forecasting well is important to every business.  Good to see this open sourcing underway by the Facebook Incubator.    Though the history of Facebook and the nature of its data has always made me worried about privacy

" .. Prophet is a procedure for forecasting time series data. It is based on an additive model where non-linear trends are fit with yearly and weekly seasonality, plus holidays. It works best with daily periodicity data with at least one year of historical data. Prophet is robust to missing data, shifts in the trend, and large outliers.

Prophet is open source software released by Facebook’s Core Data Science team. It is available for download on CRAN and PyPI. ... " 

AI Transforming Technology

How Will AI Transform Technology?   A Conversation with Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka.   In Knowledge@Wharton.

Phone to Measure Blood Pressure

I remember having a conversation with a person in the medical devices area some time saying that blood pressure still needs to be mechanically measured.     Here news of a sensor adaptation to a smart phone that claims to solve the problem.   Quite a step forward here if this plays out.

Practical Applications of Ontologies

A DSC followup on a previous piece on the use of ontologies,  organized ways to look at knowledge and leverage it against solving real business problems.  These kinds of problems use real terminology that refers to real data.  Keeping those definitions up to date and useful is the job of an ontology. Especially important as AI and machine learning methods are more closely tied to live business process.  The data and its business definition must be correct.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Automation and Productivity

In the Gartner Blog.  Touches on the obvious. Automation should improve.  And I like the idea of measurement.

Automation Can Make Elusive “Productivity Improvements” A Reality?  by Craig Roth   

For years proponents of content and collaboration technology such as portals, content management, search, and office suites used “productivity improvements” as the reason to buy their products. Back in the portal heyday I used to have our researchers pull an annual list of articles about “portal ROI” and the numbers got more extreme every year. 100% ROI in 18 months? 300%? 400%? Sure! ... " 

An IOT Newsletter

Brian Petro's IOT newsletter.  I won't always copy these in total,  but looks to be an interesting path of information to connect to.

Simple Bots for Questions and Answers

This was brought to my attention via Mary J Foley, who has a new site for innovation community.  Here is a current entry:   https://www.petri.com/community-champs/gary-pretty

QnA Maker Dialog for Bot Framework  By Gary Pretty

 Microsoft Bot Framework
The QnA Maker service from Microsoft, part of the Cognitive Services suite, allows you to quickly build, train and publish a question and answer bot service based on FAQ URLs or structured lists of questions and answers. Once published you can call a QnA Maker service using simple HTTP calls and integrate it with applications, including bots built on the Bot Framework.

Right now, out of the box, you will need to roll your own code / dialog within your bot to call the QnA Maker service. The new QnAMakerDialog which is now available via NuGet aims to make this integration even easier, by allowing you to integrate with the service in just a couple of minutes with virtually no code.   ... " 

Case for Digital Reinvention

Interesting statistics, at least, about what it takes to do such reinvention.

" ... As digitization continues its advance, the implications for revenues and profits will be dramatic. Bold, tightly integrated digital strategies will be the biggest differentiator between companies that win and companies that don’t, and the biggest payouts will go to those that initiate digital disruptions. ... " 

The Case for Digital Reinvention
By Jacques Bughin, Laura LaBerge, and Anette Mell

Digital technology, despite its seeming ubiquity, has only begun to penetrate industries. As it continues its advance, the implications for revenues, profits, and opportunities will be dramatic.

As new markets emerge, profit pools shift, and digital technologies pervade more of everyday life, it’s easy to assume that the economy’s digitization is already far advanced. According to our latest research, however, the forces of digital have yet to become fully mainstream. On average, industries are less than 40 percent digitized, despite the relatively deep penetration of these technologies in media, retail, and high tech. ... " 

Modeling the Correct Network

Had to miss this today, but looks good:

 ... iCeNSA is an interdisciplinary research center organized around network and data science problems in social, biological, physical, environmental, financial, business, and defense systems.  ... 

Nitesh Chawla of  iCeNSA  Talk on  “From Complex Systems to Networks: Discovering and Modeling the Correct Network” University of Notre Dame     Slides Recording

Electronics Shopping

Have been involved in some work that looked at why people choose technology, and below is related to this.   Here Google talks about the micro moments aspects of choice.   But how do we get the alternatives of choice into our head?

Winning the Consumer Electronics Shopping Moments That Matter
   New data shows how marketers can engage consumer electronics shoppers in their micro-moments. Below, we outline the key moments brands must own. ...   "

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Reinforcement Learning for Machine and Human Performance

Playtime's Over 
Technology Review
Emma Brunskill

" ... Reinforcement-learning techniques that enabled a computer to beat world-class human Go champions last year should be applied to much higher ambitions, according to Stanford University professor Emma Brunskill. She says "data smart" algorithms are an essential ingredient in the creation of artificial tutors via reinforcement learning. "In some cases there's not enough data, or not the right kind of data, which makes it challenging to develop systems that make good decisions," Brunskill notes. 

She says her team at Stanford is developing reinforcement-learning algorithms and statistical methods so computers can devise good suggestions while using less data. Brunskill also stresses humans should participate in reinforcement learning to enable algorithms to "reason" about their own performance and consult with humans for guidance and aid with conducting complex tasks. "Such human-computer collaborations could help students to learn using approaches we can't yet imagine," she says    ... "   Full article in Technology Review.

How IOT is Changing the World

Business emphasis and non-technical.  Pointer to DSC article:

How IoT is Changing the World: Cases from Visa, Airbus, Bosch & SNCF
Posted by Ronald van Loon on February 23, 2017 ...

Commercial Alexa to Field Calls

In Engadget.  A good direction with very high labor costs.  Such conversations are tough to do well.

Amazon wants Alexa to answer customer service calls
A new suite of AWS products is designed to put call centers in the cloud.

In the near future, Amazon's Alexa could be on the other end of your next call to tech support. With call centers expected to become a more than $15 billion industry in the next five years, the online retail giant has apparently identified another market that is ready for a shift in technology. According to a new report from The Information, Amazon is currently prepping a commercial version of Alexa developed specifically for fielding questions from phone calls and text messages. ... " 

by Andrew Dalton, @dolftown