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Friday, August 17, 2018

Google to Deliver Assistant with a Screen

Google is bringing forward a speaker with a display capability to compete with Echo Show.    Google has the advantage of having the huge content supply called Youtube, while Amazon only have much lesser content to display without access to Youtube.    Have had a test Echo Show in place for some time,  and we have found the visual display to be largely useful in support, rather than as the key interface.  Like best the voice/sound/device interaction in both directions.  Note too the Asian competitors.  Good detail in article below:

Google to debut display-equipped AI speaker before holidays  In Asia Nikkei
Taiwan suppliers told to prepare for hardware blitz to challenge Amazon
CHENG TING-FANG and LAULY LI, Nikkei staff writers

TAIPEI -- Google is preparing to release a smart speaker equipped with a display for this year's holiday season, sources have told the Nikkei Asian Review, escalating the competition with rivals like Amazon.com and Alibaba Group Holding in the market for voice-activated gadgets.

The new product, which is likely to be similar to the Amazon Echo Show, would round out the Google Home range of smart speakers running the artificially intelligent Google Assistant, akin to Amazon's Alexa..... " 

Democratizing Data Access

Note enough is done to link such data with your own, in particular as metadata to support, clarify and validate decisions.  Why not?  Often because the data's existence is not known.

How Data.World Wants to Unify the Data World  in K@W

Most organizations today know that data has value, but they are unable to extract its full potential. Typically, data is buried deep in organizations, in silos, and accessible only to a few people. Brett Hurt and Matt Laessig, co-founders of data.world, want to change all that.

They believe that a unifying and collaborative platform could make data accessible to people within an organization, across organizations and around the globe. This democratization of data and a collaborative approach, they say, can not only help companies become more efficient and more competitive, it can also help solve big global problems such as climate change. In a recent conversation with Knowledge@Wharton, Hurt, CEO, and Laessig, COO, discussed their vision for data.world and why they believe it can change the world.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows:

Knowledge@Wharton: You announced the launch of data.world in July 2016. What was your original vision? Two years on, how has that changed?

Brett Hurt: Our vision was to create the most meaningful, the most abundant, and the most collaborative data resource on the planet. This is one of those “100-year missions.” It’s very ambitious. We want to change the world. [In the two years since we started,] we have become the world’s largest collaborative data community. We’ve launched a tremendous amount of enterprise functionality for our clients. We’ve grown faster than GitHub [a leading software development platform] grew at this stage, which is really exciting, especially given the fact that Microsoft recently announced that it will buy GitHub for $7.5 billion. .... " 

Streaming Low Power Video on IOT

The ideahas been being talked for some time, low power will likely be important.

Researchers’ low-power video streaming breakthrough could boost the IoT  By  Maria Deutscher in SiliconAngle

University of Washington researchers have developed a method of transmitting video using up to 10,000 times less power than existing techniques that could enable the development of much more capable connected devices.

To demonstrate the breakthrough, the team built a prototype implementation (pictured) that was announced on Wednesday. They also shared details about the system’s power savings approach, which is based on a communications method known as backscattering. .... "

Ethics via Science Fiction

A way to stretch thinking beyond the realm of current science and into its evolution.

How to Teach Computer Ethics through Science Fiction
By Emanuelle Burton, Judy Goldsmith, Nicholas Mattei

Communications of the ACM, August 2018, Vol. 61 No. 8, Pages 54-64
10.1145/3154485
Computer science faculty have a responsibility to teach students to recognize both the larger ethical issues and particular responsibilities that are part and parcel of their work as technologists. This is, however, a kind of teaching for which most of us have not been trained, and that faculty and students approach with some trepidation. In this article, we explore the use of science fiction as a tool to enable those teaching artificial intelligence to engage students and practitioners about the scope and implications of current and future work in computer science. We have spent several years developing a creative approach to teaching computer ethics, through a course we call "Science Fiction and Computer Ethics."7,8,9,18,28 The course has been taught five times at the University of Kentucky and two times at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been successful with students, as evidenced by increasing and full enrollments; high teaching-evaluation numbers; positive anonymous comments from students; nominations and awards for good teaching; and invitations to speak about the course on conference panels and in talks. .... " 

Scientists Favorite Algorithms

Have never thought of algorithms this way ... but we all have favorites.  What we learned first, is easiest to use, is most useful, has the fewest cautions.  Course that is also a bias. So the fact that a scientist has one is not necessarily a good thing.   But with that caution in mind, hearing the reasons why the method is their favorite is instructive.

World class AI experts share what their favorite algorithm is   By Jim Stolze in TNW

From keeping our inboxes free from SPAM to mining your favorite cryptocurrencies, algorithms are all around us. While we feel like we’re drowning in an ocean of big data, clever algorithms are actually helping us to make sense of it all. And although these algorithms are ruling the world, we seem to know very little about them. How do they work? By whom were they created?

I decided to ask the top experts (professors and professionals) which algorithms they think made the biggest contribution to artificial intelligence and science in general. All answers will be at display at the official Algorithm Hall of Fame, but for now we’re giving you the exclusive. ... "

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Wal-Mart Soars, Plus Big Online Jump

The online move is a big deal.

Walmart soars with fastest sales growth in a decade, big online jump   By Marianne Wilson in CSA

Walmart showed its might in the second quarter, with earnings and sales that topped the Street amid surging digital sales and a jump in store sales.

The discount giant’s revenue rose 3.8% to $128.03 billion in the quarter ended July 31, beating analysts’ estimates for $125.97 billion. Same-store U.S. sales increased 4.5%, led by grocery, apparel and seasonal; foot traffic was up 2.2%. Grocery sales rose the most in nine years, helped by improved fresh-food offerings. Same-store sales at Walmart’s Sam’s Club rose 5%, the biggest increase in five years.

Walmart has been making significant investments online — from its improved e-commerce site to expanded grocery delivery options — and the results appear to be paying off. Online U.S. sales jumped 40% during the second quarter, and the retailer reiterated it is on track to increase U.S. e-commerce sales by 40% for the full year.   ... "

Kroger Rolls out Autonomous Delivery Test

Not completely driverless, and not using the Nuro autonomous 'shelf' (at the right)   But still it shows the seriousness of Kroger about the idea.  Still think a completely autonomous system will  get in the way of regulations and roadway management  issues, so it may take some time to have this concept happen.  But at least now you can go and see this mockup of the idea.   I live just across and down the street from a Kroger, so I volunteer to manage a local test and publicity. 

Kroger starts testing self-driving grocery delivery in Arizona in Engadget

You can try it at one store in Scottsdale.

You now have a chance to try Kroger's self-driving grocery delivery... if you happen to live in the right part of Arizona. The chain has launched its driverless delivery pilot at a single Fry's Food Stores location in Scottsdale, giving you a chance to receive foodstuffs courtesy of Nuro's autonomous vehicles. Order through the Fry's website or app and the robotic courier can deliver either the same day or next day for a $6 flat fee. You'll have to live in the same 85257 ZIP code, so you can't make them drive across town just to satisfy your curiosity.

Sadly, you won't see Nuro's custom R1 vehicle (above) roll up to your home in the earliest stages of the pilot -- it'll be a modified Toyota Prius instead, and the very first phase will include a just-in-case driver. The purpose-built machines will only start delivering your goods sometime in the fall, after they've completed certification and testing. ... "

Alibaba Looks at Shopping Experience with VR

Have been asked to take a closer look at this.   The extent to which it engages consumers,and the type of products being sold will be essential. Video at the link.

Alibaba Is Using AR To Change The Shopping Experience   by Bobby Carlton in VRScout

Alibaba is launching Taobao Buy, a new shopping experience that uses AR technology to bring 3D versions of products into the real world.

E-commerce supergiant, Alibaba Group, recently announced Taobao Buy, an AR infused shopping experience that reimagines how you shop online with an interactive experience that looks and feels futuristic, but is also easy to use.

Alibaba’s new AR infused shopping app perfectly blends the real-world with 3D images for a result that looks like something straight out of big budget science fiction movie.

To bring this experience to life, a 3,200-square-feet ‘futuristic shopping district’ will be assembled inside a building along scenic West Lake in Hangzhou, which is an area known for having influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history, as well as being a location for reflecting an idealized fusion between humans and nature; something the designers behind Taobao Buy wanted to be sure to capture.  .... "

L'Oreal and Augmented Reality

We worked on beauty applications that used aspects of augmented reality to market.   Had not heard of Facebook Camera Products.   Note L'Oreal's acquisition of Modiface.

L’Oreal Teams with Facebook on AR Initiative  By CGT 

L’Oréal has partnered with Facebook to develop augmented reality experiences through Facebook Camera products. The effort will be driven by ModiFace, the beauty AR specialist that L’Oréal acquired in March.

Through direct, seamless connections between the two platforms, ModiFace and Facebook will let worldwide consumers “try on” cosmetics from L’Oréal brands including Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris, Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Urban Decay and Shu Uemura. The first experience will be launched by the NYX Professional brand at the end of August.

“Facebook and L’Oréal share the vision that AR is becoming key for product and brand discovery and purchase,” said Lubomira Rochet, chief digital officer at L’Oréal.“We’re at that magical moment when technologies have matured enough and consumer appetite is growing. One fascinating aspect of this partnership is that it keeps us innovating the beauty user experience. After having adapted our creatives and contents to a mobile-first world, it will be interesting to see how AR is going to change the creative playbook of our industry." .... " 

Question Database for Assistants

Useful to have a benchmark dataset of context and questions. 

New Data Could Help Siri, Alexa Know When They're Being Unhelpful
in Quartz      By Dave Gershgorn

A new dataset from Stanford University is designed to train artificial intelligence (AI) systems to understand how to answer questions more effectively by knowing when they lack sufficient information to answer them accurately. The update to the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD 2.0) upgrades a dataset companies often use to tout the question-answering precision of their language-understanding AI systems. Earlier datasets operated by providing a paragraph of text to the algorithm, and then asking it to answer some questions. Those datasets usually assumed the answer actually existed in the text, but SQuAD 2.0-trained AIs must decide either how to answer the question correctly or whether it is answerable. SQuAD 2.0 has about 50,000 unanswerable questions that loosely relate to the subject matter of the reference text. The first attempt to train question-answering systems on the dataset yielded 66% accuracy. The publishing of SQuAD 2.0 will enable other scientists to train algorithms to improve their question-answering capability. ... "

AI Use Cases

Useful, based on a study of 400 use examples.  Still speculative, since it depends on the complexity of these use cases.  In what was needed to solve the problem and the nature and stability of the data involved, and the support from decision makers.  Still a proponent of finding simpler problems for quick wins, to learn the context.  Follow the  most attention, which is often driven by money.  Or risk or disruptive competition.

Most of AI’s Business Uses Will Be in Two Areas
By Michael Chui, Nicolaus Henke,Mehdi Miremadi in HBR

While overall adoption of artificial intelligence remains low among businesses (about 20% upon our last study), senior executives know that AI isn’t just hype. Organizations across sectors are looking closely at the technology to see what it can do for their business. As they should—we estimate that 40% of all the potential value that can created by analytics today comes from the AI techniques that fall under the umbrella “deep learning,” (which utilize multiple layers of artificial neural networks, so-called because their structure and function are loosely inspired by that of the human brain). In total, we estimate deep learning could account for between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in annual value.

However, many business leaders are still not exactly sure where they should apply AI to reap the biggest rewards. After all, embedding AI across the business requires significant investment in talent and upgrades to the tech stack as well as sweeping change initiatives to ensure AI drives meaningful value, whether it be through powering better decision-making or enhancing consumer-facing applications.

Through an in-depth examination of more than 400 actual AI use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions, we’ve discovered an old adage proves most useful in answering the question of where to put AI to work, and that is: “Follow the money.”  .... " 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

More on Kroger and Alibaba


More and expert comments on this.   Also notice the assistant augmented Tmall platform, testing for US application?  Large CPG's now getting private label competition from abroad in new markets?

Kroger teams with Alibaba to sell private labels to half-a-billion Chinese consumers
Who doesn’t want to access a billion-plus people who are much further along on the digital adoption journey than the U.S.?

by George Anderson in Retailwire

Kroger is looking to make its first overseas move a big one. America’s largest operator of supermarkets announced yesterday that it will test an online store selling its private label goods in China using Alibaba’s Tmall platform.

The pilot program will initially test sales of Kroger’s Simple Truth natural and organic private label. Last year, sales of Simple Truth products exceeded $2 billion, making it the largest natural and organic brand in the U.S., according to Kroger. Simple Truth is the second largest label in Kroger’s private brands portfolio. .... " 

DefCon Reports on Whats Hackable

Wired reports on the Defcon hacker conference.  As usual fairly scary, and I am not that paranoid.

A weekend of security updates from the DefCon conference has confirmed what the most paranoid of us already knew: Pretty much anything is hackable. From Macbooks to Androids, pacemakers to hotel systems, this list may terrify you but—as your internet friend—we felt you needed to know. ... " 

Cortana and Alexa are Talking

Always been intrigued by this, and how it would work.   How will the work be handed off?  Just by a choice of their users?   I like to think of this as a conversation between two agents, that could cooperate to provide value.  Look forward to see a clear example, and a look at the future.  Includes video announcement.   And could this also include other Azure based chatbots?    I have both assistants in place, so if they want to test it ....

After a long delay, Amazon’s and Microsoft’s bots are finally talking  By Daniel Terdiman in Wired

Nearly a year ago, Amazon and Microsoft said they had worked out a deal to integrate their two digital assistants, Alexa and Cortana. You’d be able to get your Amazon Echo device to do things like check your Exchange email or set or check calendar appointments, while also being able to use Cortana to get Alexa to do things like turn on the lights, play Jeopardy, place orders on Amazon.com, access Alexa skills, and so on....."

Follow a Tuna on the Blockchain

An example of the most straightford use of blockchains.  Follow a Tuna on the Blockchain.  From Fiji to Brooklyn.   from a post in Wired. By Jeffrey Rotman

Seeking Cognitive Infrastructures for Process ML

Have been reviewing work we did with machine learning as far back as 1998.  We initially installed and used inductive techniques to learn and adapt rules from data.  This was useful, but not for big data applications.   At the time we also chatted with SOAR which was working on the problem as well.  Our efforts ended.  But now I am reexamining the problem of general machine learning.

Convolutional Neural nets and their variants have been very successful for solving difficult, data greedy pattern problems.   But are not necessarily useful for dealing with complex business process  where the operations that need to be learned consist of many steps, and depend on complex context defined by data.

I also discovered that while most AI oriented companies we worked with then no long exist.  A  SOAR applying company still exists: (https://soartech.com). A quick scan of the work they mention seems to indicate much of what they are working on is for DOD and Government applications.

Wikipedia provides an overview of SOAR
The SOAR architecture still exists and is posted at a U of Mich site: https://soar.eecs.umich.edu/

Anyone have experience with SoarTech as a means of machine learning in process?  Willing to talk?  Collaborate in learning or use?  Contact me.   On Linkedin.   Will be diving deeper.

" ... At SoarTech, our focus is in the development of intelligent software that reasons like humans do, to automate complex tasks, simplify human-machine interactions, or model human behaviors. Our philosophy is three-fold: to be an augmentation to, not a replacement of, the human; to think “top-down, not bottom-up;” and to be transparent so that decisions and processing are communicated to the human and in human-like terms.  ... " 

( note that some of their efforts deal with drone swarms, also mentioned here.  I also note there is not much mention of 'learning' in the applications they mention)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Kroger Teams with Alibaba in First International Venture

Big news.   Getting Kroger's premium private label into China. Will there bean exchange of technology as well?   See Alibaba's Tmall effort.

Kroger teams with Amazon rival Alibaba to sell groceries in China
By Alexander Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer

In a bold move against Amazon, Kroger is teaming with internet giant Alibaba to sell groceries in China.

The move will be the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain's first-ever international venture and focus on selling dietary supplements and private label goods, including natural and organic foods. Kroger characterized the venture as a "pilot" that will showcase its house brands.

"E-commerce enables Kroger to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don't operate physical stores, starting with China," said Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer. 

Kroger's products will appear on Alibaba's Tmall Global platform, China's largest business-to-consumer marketplace. Launched in 2014, Tmall targets China consumers who want premium products. The platform provides brands and retailers without operations in China to build virtual storefronts and ship products into China.  ... " 

AI Hasn't Happened Yet

A thoughtful piece.   We have experienced much of this.   It has not happened, but we have achied some new hints as to directions.

Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet  By Michael Jordan in Medium

Michael I. Jordan is a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and the Department of Statistics at UC Berkeley.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the mantra of the current era. The phrase is intoned by technologists, academicians, journalists and venture capitalists alike. As with many phrases that cross over from technical academic fields into general circulation, there is significant misunderstanding accompanying the use of the phrase. But this is not the classical case of the public not understanding the scientists — here the scientists are often as befuddled as the public. The idea that our era is somehow seeing the emergence of an intelligence in silicon that rivals our own entertains all of us — enthralling us and frightening us in equal measure. And, unfortunately, it distracts us. ... " 

Potential of Drone Swarms

We examined, and here Wired debunks their current capabilities.  Teleoperation is not an autonomous swarm.  But if cars can be autonomous, how soon can swarms?

Drone Swarms as you Know them are Just An Illusion - For now.   By Liam Cobb in Wired

" ... It’s an evocative word, swarms, and innocuous enough when applied to one of Intel’s drone light shows. But it’s tinged with alarm—if drones can dance at twilight, they can also attack. Sure enough, a gang outside Denver sent a small fleet to harass FBI agents on a raid earlier this year. In Syria, rebels reportedly sicced a squadron of quadrotors on a Russian base. To the media, both events were swarms.... 

Take comfort, then, in this buzzkill: “The swarm is really an illusion,” says Mac Schwager, an assistant professor at Stanford who studies multi­robot systems. Schwager, along with many of his colleagues, resists the word. Too entomological, conjuring as it does frillions of bugs surging as a single superorganism through the air. (Flocking birds, in fact, were the field’s original inspiration—though the occasional roboticist does try studying insects.) When drones “swarm,” on the other hand, they’ve been choreographed in advance, or else are being controlled by human minders with joysticks. Even the DOD’s recent military demos have required teleoperators. ... "

50 Plus Examples of Business Blockchains

Interesting to see the breadth,   here the descriptions are not consistent, but instructive.  'Taking over' is an overstatement.  'Showing they can be useful' would be more accurate.  I see only one example clearly to use a 'smart contract', one by AIG in the Insurance domain.

50+ Examples of How Blockchains are Taking Over the World
Posted by Kelly Quintana in DSC
Article written by Matteo Gianpietro Zago.
An infographic and text.... " 

Books only Physical Media with Growing Sales

Found this remarkable since I have been radically downsizing my own physical library.

PwC's Entertainment and Media Outlook in Strategy+Business 

Why books are the only form of physical media whose sales are growing.

The media and entertainment industry has a long history of embracing disruptive innovations, from the printing press to the personal computer. But the rapid shift from physical to digital over the past decade or so has been truly revolutionary. In general, physical media has suffered a great deal. Printed newspapers and magazines have migrated to online versions, while DVDs and CDs have been supplanted by film- and music-streaming services.

But the oldest form of physical media is actually holding up quite well. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2018–2022, the consumer market for physical, printed books is holding its own in an increasingly digital world (see “Print Presses On”). Between 2018 and 2022, sales of physical video games, home video, and music are expected to decline each year, in some instances by double-digit percentages. By contrast, sales of physical books are expected to grow modestly, by about 1 percent annually, every year. By 2022, PwC expects consumers around the world will spend US$50.3 billion on books in physical or audio (i.e., non-electronic) form, compared with $47.8 billion in 2017. ... " 

Virtualitics

 I had previously mentioned Virtualitics here.  Currently examining.  Here is a new short presentation:

Michael Amori, Virtualitics' CEO presents at Fintech Innovation Lab NYC demo day.

Fintech Innovation Lab NY Presents: Virtualitics

" ... In SiliconAngle:  Virtualitics offers a data visualization platform that combines artificial intelligence, Big Data and virtual reality to create interactive 3D data models. Virtualitics’ platform is a VR application that allows users to generate complex data models composed of up to 10 dimensions of data, all in a shared virtual office where users can collaborate and analyze the data together. Using machine learning, Virtualitics’ platform is also able to recommend optimal visualizations that gives users a better understanding of the whole picture for their data. ... "  

Online Overview and Documentation.   Continuously being updated.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Modeling User Journeys

Have had a few explorations into 'User Journey's.  Its a trace of how people travel through coded interaction. From where they begin, what choices they make and where they end up. Ideally measuring how much the journey results in value.  Its a kind of business process model based on a path of interactions.  It can be used to plan, construct and even optimize user interactions.  Here an example by the marketplace Etsy.  with considerable detail regarding integration of machine learning.

Modeling User Journeys via Semantic Embeddings  Posted by Nishan Subedi in O'Reilly

Etsy is a global marketplace for unique goods. This means that as soon as an item becomes popular, it runs the risk of selling out. Machine learning solutions that simply memorize the popular items are not as effective, and crafting features that generalize well across items in our inventory is important. In addition, some content features such as titles are sometimes not as informative for us since these are seller provided, and can be noisy.

In this blog post, I will cover a machine learning technique we are using at Etsy that allows us to extract meaning from our data without the use of content features like titles, modeling only the user journeys across the site. This post assumes understanding of machine learning concepts,  specifically word2vec. ... " 

A good Tensorflow Tutorial on Word2vec.

Health Wristband

Have heard of a number of related applications, gets back to the applications that run on these to provide value.   Most notable recent Apple monitors via a watch interface.  The picture included  made this one look primitive.

Smart Wristband With Wireless Link Could Monitor Health, Environmental Exposures  By Rutgers Today 

   Rutgers University–New Brunswick researchers say they have created a smart wristband with a wireless connection to smartphones that will enable a new era of personal health and environmental monitoring devices.

The university’s Mehdi Javanmard said, “It's like a Fitbit but has a biosensor that can count particles, so that includes blood cells, bacteria, and organic or inorganic particles in the air.”

The wristband includes a flexible circuit board and a biosensor, as well as a circuit to process electrical signals, a microcontroller for digitizing data, and a Bluetooth module to transmit data wirelessly.

Information from the biosensor is sent to a smartphone, where an app processes and displays the data. ... " 

Animating Sprites

We worked with very early versions of this idea to animate prototypes of advertisements.

AI-driven animations will make your digital avatars come to life
You've never seen sprites move like this.
Andrew Tarantola, @terrortola

Even with the assistance of automated animation features in modern game-development engines, bringing on-screen avatars to life can be an arduous and time-consuming task. However, a recent string of advancements in AI could soon help drastically reduce the number of hours needed to create realistic character movements.

Take basketball games like the NBA2K franchise, for example. Prior to 2010, the on-screen players -- be it Shaq, LeBron, KD or Curry -- were all modeled on regular-sized people wearing motion-capture suits. ... " 

More on Ford Exoskeletons

Not only that we will use Robots, but that we will become robots.

Exoskeletons Debut at Ford Factories 
in ZDNet  By Charlie Osborne

Ford plans to offer exoskeleton technology to its factory employees worldwide. The EksoVest exoskeleton is designed to elevate a worker's arms during overhead tasks, both allowing wearers to move their arms freely and also delivering 15 pounds of assistance and support for each arm; the higher a user reaches, the more support the exoskeleton offers. The automaker’s assembly line workers lift their arms during overhead tasks about one million times per year, creating substantial risk for fatigue and upper-body injuries. EksoVests will reduce the physical stress experienced by staff working on overhead tasks. Ford's Bruce Hettle says ergonomics research, assembly improvements, and lift-assist technologies have helped the company design safe and efficient assembly lines “while maintaining high vehicle quality for our customers.”... " 

Intelligent Automation Starting Simply

ts not general intelligence, its intelligence that augments and automates business process.  Including the design of that process.  RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is a useful start.  It may include advanced machine learning capabilities to address specific subproblems, but it is often useful to start with simpler elements.

Opinion Looking beyond RPA to intelligent automation     By Wayne Butterfield

The automation journey can be long and arduous for many organizations. Beginning with robotic process automation allows organizations to immediately find opportunities to increase productivity and accuracy in the back office. This is, however, just the first stage of a process that can increase operational efficiency and create even more value across the organization.

This stage is defined by technologies that build on RPA: intelligent automation. These technologies provide a structured output, which is exactly what RPA bots require in order to be at their most efficient.

Intelligent automation technologies provide the following features:  ... "

Research on Sound in Shopping

We researched the idea of how sound changed shopping behavior,  in laboratory and real store environments.  Ambient background music can create mood.  Focused multidimensional sound can influence interest in specific areas of a shelf.  Sound can be mixed with visual cues to change attention.   More on this topic can be found here at the 'Sound' and "Senses" tags.  Note how this is a means of augmented reality.    Here is more recent research with expert comments at the link.

What’s the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping?    by Tom Ryan in Retailwire.

A new study from the University of South Florida finds that loud music in a restaurant or grocery store leads to more unhealthy food choices, while quieter music leads to heathier ones.

Ambient music can influence healthy or unhealthy food buying, according to the researchers, because it directly impacts heart rate and arousal. Softer music has a calming effect, making people more mindful of what people order in a restaurant. Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, leading to less-mindful choices.

Beyond restaurants, the research offers insights into how grocers can influence in-store buying behavior.  ..... " 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Survey: Understanding the Agile Workplace

McKinsey Survey.  Definitions and Organzations.

The agile manager     By Aaron De Smet in McKinsey
Who manages in an agile organization? And what exactly do they do?

The agile workplace is becoming increasingly common. In a McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 people across company sizes, functional specialties, industries, regions, and tenures, 37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations. The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands. Indeed, more than 80 percent of respondents in agile units report that overall performance increased moderately or significantly since their transformations began.  ... "

The IOT and Smart Factories

Notes on IOT, AI and Smart Factories     - Franz

Draft Outline for an upcoming presentation to a global company ....

In the earliest days of AI our management come to us and asked:   How will these methods allow us to manufacture, market and deliver our goods in new and much more efficient ways?  The term 'Lights out' manufacturing was brought up.  Manufacturing operations that would adjust themselves, repair, ingest raw materials, work with minimal human labor and deliver goods.

In the early 1990s the technology was not yet ready to make this happen, though we had some narrow, limited successes.   But things have changed now.   How much more can we do today?   And in the coming years, how will we advance to the goals expressed then? 

The piece mentioned below starts to address this.    About leveraging IOT infrastructure, Embedded analytics, AI, Machine learning, Robotics, Human/Machine Collaborative systems, Process Models,  .... and more .... Thoughts?
---------------------------------------

The Internet of Things in Manufacturing: Integration of Smart Factories  Posted by Diana M , in IOT Central 

From smart devices and home automation systems to smart cars and smart buildings, the Internet of Things brings important innovations in our life. In the next years, IoT solutions will continue to take the center stage in the tech environment.

With huge investment in this technology, the global IoT spending is expected to reach $1.29 trillion by 2020 and $1.4 trillion by 2021 (IDC report).

For now, manufacturing industry is still the main investor in the Internet of Things. According to recent surveys, 66% of manufacturers say that the use of IoT solutions is essential for staying competitive and resolving various issues.  .... "

Replacing Apps with Neural Nets

Well perhaps some of them.  We wrote neural nets from the ground up before they existed in conveniently usable libraries, and they are good for some things, but not others.    I don't see how the straight logic coding, also a part of an OS,  would be best done with nets.

Google Has Begun Replacing Apps With Neural Networks from Psfk
Google is advancing its AI capabilities to give 'ambient awareness' to the Pixel 2 phone   By Jennifer Passas

Google is making phones smarter with machine learning—and essentially replacing apps with a more advanced operating system. Now Playing, a new feature for the Pixel 2 phone, is essentially a new-and-improved Shazam: it is constantly listening and able to match 70,000 songs without help from the internet.

Instead of users having to ask what song is playing in the background, Now Playing shows the answer immediately on the phone’s locked screen. Google is calling this anticipatory technology “ambient awareness,” which took years of development. Since the audio matching is done on the phone rather than the cloud, a database is needed. In order to ID a song, it must match an audio fingerprint stored in the phone’s database.

The researchers who created Now Playing first built a database of 70,000 sound fingerprints that are a snapshot of a song’s waveforms. To do so, they used a neural net that transformed audio fingerprints into recognizable and unique tiny files. This was difficult because the audio fingerprint had to have enough data to be useful with distorted samples. ... "

What is Machine Learning?

Straightforward introduction.

How to Think About Machine Learning    by Jason Brownlee 
Machine learning is a large and interdisciplinary field of study.

You can achieve impressive results with machine learning and find solutions to very challenging problems. But this is only a small corner of the broader field of machine learning often called predictive modeling or predictive analytics.

In this post, you will discover how to change the way you think about machine learning in order to best serve you as a machine learning practitioner.

After reading this post, you will know:

What machine learning is and how it relates to artificial intelligence and statistics.
The corner of machine learning that you should focus on.
How to think about your problem and the machine learning solution to your problem.

Let’s get started. ... ." 

Leveraging Social Determinants of Health

As I understand this,  the high ROI comes from decreasing unnecessary costs.   Which shows sometimes simple data analysis can provide value.  Just make sure to continue to measure these results.

What Montefiore's 300% ROI from social determinants investments means for the future of other hospitals ...   in Healthcarefinance  via Ryan Doherty of MidMark

By Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Montefiore Health System in the Bronx has tackled the social determinants of health by investing in housing, a move that has cut down on emergency room visits and unnecessary hospitalizations for an annual 300 percent return on investment.

"The lowest I've seen is 300 percent ROI, some years it's higher," said Henie Lustgarten, consultant and president of the Bronx Health & Housing Consortium, an organization Montefiore helped to develop.

Investing in the social determinants of health is becoming more commonplace even as hospitals and physicians ask whether it is their place to step outside of traditional care to not only look at, but try to fix, other reasons that keep patients from getting better.

Value-based care and managed care has spurred many to realize that food insecurity, isolation, lack of housing and other factors must be addressed in their populations for continuity of care to succeed as a real goal.

For many hospitals, buying food and investing in housing becomes less expensive than having a patient return to the emergency room numerous times a year. 

The big opportunity for any hospital 

America's Health Insurance Plans has shown that payers support social determinants issues. By collecting information from members about their social determinants and running that up against claims and other data, insurers can get a more complete picture of members' health, and opportunities for improvement, AHIP said in blog posted Monday.

Addressing social determinants has led to a 26 percent decrease in emergency spending, AHIP said, citing a recent U.S. News op-ed by Ken Burdick, CEO of WellCare Health Plans.

The WellCare findings saw an additional 10 percent reduction in healthcare costs – equating to more than $2,400 in annual savings per person – for people who were successfully connected to social services compared to a control group of members who were not.  ...  "

Watson and Healthcare

IBM responds to recent suggestions that they have not made enough progress on Watson for Healthcare.   And that the bet on Watson has not been successful.   Interesting information and links to more:

Watson Health: Setting the Record Straight
August 11, 2018 | Written by: Dr. John E. Kelly,  IBM

We at IBM have a lot to be proud of, including our pioneering work with Watson Health. Unfortunately, some media reports, including an August 11th story published by The Wall Street Journal, distort and ignore facts when suggesting IBM has not made “enough” progress on bringing the benefits of AI to healthcare.  I feel it is imperative to set the record straight.

First, let’s level set.  It is true, as the article reports, that we at IBM have placed a big bet on healthcare.  We have done this for two reasons: 1) Most importantly, we know that AI can make a big difference in solving medical challenges and supporting the work of the healthcare industry, and 2) We see an enormous business opportunity in this area as the adoption of AI increases.

Our focus at IBM Watson Health is in applying next-generation AI technology to cancer care and other major healthcare challenges so people around the world can live better, healthier, longer lives. We have built three distinct cancer tools that help physicians around the world treat patients: ... " 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Data as Capital Asset

Looked at this in some depth, with an aim to measure it. And consider also its element of risk.

Data will be a ‘capital asset’ in the future; companies must monetize, capitalize now   By Teryn O'Brien in SiliconAngle.

As the economy begins to become increasingly digitized, big data is becoming a crucial asset for companies and organizations moving forward. It is the currency that will move and influence customers, and companies are wrestling through many questions and challenges as they move forward into a digital transformation in order to capitalize on big data growth.

“We actually are starting to call data a capital asset. It’s not very different from the other things that you have on your balance sheet — there just isn’t a scientific method or an agreed-upon method to really value it yet,” said Varun Chhabra (pictured), senior director of product marketing, storage and analytics, at Dell EMC. “But I am sure that 10 years from now or maybe earlier, just like we have stock exchanges, you could probably have data exchanges where you have data be traded. It’s monetized; it’s valued.”  ... "

Chhabra spoke with Lisa Martin (@LuccaZara), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, and guest host Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor), principal at The CTO Advisor, at the Dell Technologies World event in Las Vegas. They discussed the increasingly digitized economy and big data challenges. (* Disclosure below.)   .... "

Augmenting Humans with Exoskeletons

Course we have been augmenting people with tools for ages.  But the idea of more directly augmenting the body with exoskeletons is interesting too.  Ford is now doing this more generally, which will be interesting to watch, will all physical workers soon have exoskeletons?  To add strength, to limit injury?  Is this a step towards general robotics? 

Ford thinks exoskeletons are ready for prime time in its factories
Automaker hopes to reduce injuries with mechanical help.

Roberto Baldwin, @strngwys in Engadget via O'Reilly Newsletter
08.07.18 in Transportation  ... "

Tutorial for Genetic Algorithms

A code up via of GA's here for a traveling salesman problem.  I would use existing tested codes for this, but laying this out is instructive.

By Eric Stoltz

" ...Evolution of a salesman: A complete genetic algorithm tutorial for Python
Drawing inspiration from natural selection, genetic algorithms (GA) are a fascinating approach to solving search and optimization problems. While much has been written about GA (see: here and here), little has been done to show a step-by-step implementation of a GA in Python for more sophisticated problems. That’s where this tutorial comes in! Follow along and, by the end, you’ll have a complete understanding of how to deploy a GA from scratch. .... "

Friday, August 10, 2018

More on IBM, Maersk Supplychain and Blockchain

I see that a number of companies that have to take supply chain management very seriously are involved.    So they believe in the use of this technology.  Includes my former company, Procter & Gamble, where we were involved in using very deep analysis of the supply chain via analytics of many kinds.  It also very good that the problem addressed is supply chain operational management.  Note also the integration of Smart Contracts. Worth a deep look,  following.

IBM and Maersk launch TradeLens blockchain shipping platform to lower costs and ship faster By Kyt Dotson in Siliconangle.

IBM Corp. and A.P. Moller-Maersk Group are establishing a new jointly owned company to promote and sell a blockchain-based system for managing global shipping.

The yet unnamed company will use a platform developed by the two companies as part of trial announced in March last year that involved digitizing Maersk’s shipping manifests and operations. The initial offering will include two blockchain-based options: a shipping information pipeline that provides a real-time, transparent view of merchandise movement and smart contracts that replace traditional paper-based processes.

“The objective of the platform is to connect and provide benefits to the supply chain ecosystem,” IBM said in a statement. “A global network of interconnected shipping corridors linking the ports and terminals, customs authorities, shipping lines, third-party logistics (3PLs), inland transportation, shippers and other actors, all together.”

Multiple parties are said to have already piloted the platform, including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, Port Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A number of others are said to have expressed interest in trying out or working with the platform, including Singapore Customs, Peruvian Customs, General Motors Co. and Procter & Gamble Co.   ... " 

Forrester on AI in Retail

Could not agree more, its not about things like image recognition. Its first about automating business process with deep and transparent data.   And insert the pattern recognition if you need it. 

AI In Retail? Nope — Start With Automation
Rob Koplowitz Vice President, Principal Analyst
Sucharita Kodali Vice President, Principal Analyst

Stories of thrilling, new AI use cases in retail have been popping up in our tech news feeds, whether computer vision, facial recognition, or elimination of human workers. But these sensational accounts miss an important piece of the AI learning curve. A complex infrastructure of end-to-end process automation underpins the flashy technology reflected on the front end.

Process gaps shatter customer journeys and lead to a lack of transparency in supply chain and customer interactions, which together form a composite of the AI backbone. If your retail organization suffers from process gaps and manual routing — and 37% of business and technology decision makers report that they are — you must start with laying the groundwork before leaping to AI bling.  ... "


What Does AI Mean for Supply Chain Jobs?

Augmenting jobs, net leading to more collaboration between people and technology, and changes in that technology.  Jobs too will be invented as part of a new, data rich collaborative technology.  Note specifics of jobs below.

New Supply Chain Jobs Are Emerging as AI Takes Hold   By Gary Hanifan, Kris Tremaine in the HBR

Companies are cutting supply chain complexity and accelerating responsiveness using the tools of artificial intelligence. Through AI, machine learning, robotics, and advanced analytics, firms are augmenting knowledge-intensive areas such as supply chain planning, customer order management, and inventory tracking.

What does that mean for the supply chain workforce?

It does not mean human workers will become obsolete. In fact, a new book by Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson debunks the widespread misconception that AI systems will replace humans in one industry after another. While AI will be deployed to manage certain tasks, including higher-level decision making, the technology’s true power is in augmenting human capabilities — and that holds true in the supply chain.

How companies are using artificial intelligence in their business operations.

In this new environment, both machines and humans are essential: By collaborating in roles such as supply chain planning and inventory management, the combined power of humans and machines will create new sources of value for businesses. We’ve explored the nature of the new value-enhancing roles that will emerge and identified three new categories of AI-driven jobs: ... " 

Customer Centricity Playbook

Forthcoming in October, sign up for alert at the link:

The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customr Lifetime Value    By Peter Fader and Sarah Toms

How did Global Gaming Company Electronic Arts go from being named 'Worst Company  in America' to clearing a Billion Dollars in Profit?

They discovered a simple truth—and acted on it: Not all customers are the same, regardless of how they appear on the surface. The most successful companies, from Amazon to Best Buy, understand their best customers are their most valuable asset, and they tailor their acquisition, development, and retention efforts to those customers.

In The Customer Centricity Playbook, Wharton School professor Peter Fader and Wharton Interactive’s director Sarah Toms help you see your customers as individuals rather than a monolith, so you can stop wasting resources by chasing down product sales to each and every consumer. 
... Fader and Toms offer a 360-degree analysis of all the elements that support customer centricity within an organization. In this book, you will learn how to:

Develop a customer-centric strategy for your organization
Understand the right way to think about customer lifetime value (CLV)
Finetune investments in customer acquisition, retention, and development tactics based on customer heterogeneity
Foster a culture that sustains customer centricity, and also understand the link between CLV and market valuation
Understand customer relationship management (CRM) systems, as they are a vital underpinning for all these areas through the valuable insights they provide .... "     

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Predicting the Future to Understand the Present

Had covered this in progress,  can it be directed against more abstract kinds of process as well?

To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future

A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modeled expectations.

By Jordana Cepelewicz   Staff Writer in QuantaMag

Last month, the artificial intelligence company DeepMind introduced new software that can take a single image of a few objects in a virtual room and, without human guidance, infer what the three-dimensional scene looks like from entirely new vantage points. Given just a handful of such pictures, the system, dubbed the Generative Query Network, or GQN, can successfully model the layout of a simple, video game-style maze.

There are obvious technological applications for GQN, but it has also caught the eye of neuroscientists, who are particularly interested in the training algorithm it uses to learn how to perform its tasks. From the presented image, GQN generates predictions about what a scene should look like — where objects should be located, how shadows should fall against surfaces, which areas should be visible or hidden based on certain perspectives — and uses the differences between those predictions and its actual observations to improve the accuracy of the predictions it will make in the future. “It was the difference between reality and the prediction that enabled the updating of the model,” said Ali Eslami, one of the project’s leaders. ... "

Cognitive Services APIs from Microsoft

They have published a guides I am reviewing.  Note they are using the term Cognitive rather than AI, probably a good idea given the confusion.

Deliver a more personal experience to customers

Easily infuse your apps with Cognitive Services APIs that enhance productivity by seeing, hearing, speaking to, and comprehending your customers who interact with them.

In this free guide—Artificial Intelligence: A Developer's Guide to Getting Started with Microsoft Cognitive Services—get an overview of Cognitive Services and links to APIs that enable intelligent features in your apps, such as:

•    Emotion and video detection
•    Facial, speech, and vision recognition
•    Speech and language understanding  .... " 

Proof of Concept Malware Uses Intelligence

I know executives who are alarmed when they see programmers or major companies outline how new kinds of Malware can be built.  Isn't it bad enough?  But it does help to outline the vulnerabilities to plan for them. This example might be Outlined:  If we can use intelligence to feel you out and trick you as to who we are , we can more likely be successful.    All Phishing does this.   Recent demos of Google Duplex hint at this.   Somewhat unusual to see IBM doing this.   Expect to see more of this.

IBM's proof-of-concept malware uses AI for spear phishing   in V3
The neural network running DeepLocker hides its intent until it finds the right victim  The world is beginning to transition from the cloud era to the artificial intelligence (AI) era, as systems and networks grow and learn. But just as the web and cloud eras had their own threats, the same applies to this new landscape - and it is AI itself.

Excitement and confusion abound over AI, but despite - or perhaps because of - this, the technology can pose a real danger to computer users.

"As machine learning matures into AI, nascent use of AI for cyber threat defense will likely be countered by threat actors using AI for offense," Rick Hemsley, managing director at Accenture Security, told us earlier this year.

So on the face of it, IBM's development of DeepLocker - ‘a new breed of highly targeted and evasive attack tools powered by AI' - seems like it sets a dangerous precedent.

There is method to the madness. IBM reasons that cybercriminals are already working to weaponise AI, and the best way to counter such a threat is to watch how it works ... " 

Here is the report on Deeplocker by IBM.

China Biomind AI

China Focus: AI beats human doctors in neuroimaging recognition contest    Source: Xinhua

BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) -- An artificial intelligence (AI) system scored 2:0 against elite human physicians Saturday in two rounds of competitions in diagnosing brain tumors and predicting hematoma expansion in Beijing.

The BioMind AI system, developed by the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre for Neurological Disorders at the Beijing Tiantan Hospital and a research team from the Capital Medical University, made correct diagnoses in 87 percent of 225 cases in about 15 minutes, while a team of 15 senior doctors only achieved 66-percent accuracy.

The AI also gave correct predictions in 83 percent of brain hematoma expansion cases, outperforming the 63-percent accuracy among a group of physicians from renowned hospitals across the country.

The outcomes for human physicians were quite normal and even better than the average accuracy in ordinary hospitals, said Gao Peiyi, head of the radiology department at Tiantan Hospital, a leading institution on neurology and neurosurgery. .... " 

See Also: 
China plans to dominate AI, with a vanguard of robotic doctors like 'Biomind'  By Robyn Dixon ... "

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Other Assistant, Baidu gets Broad Distribution

Note the 'Show' style device.   Previously took a look at Baidu through reports, was available only in Chinese.

Baidu’s DuerOS AI assistant is now installed on 100 million devices    By Kyle Wiggers in Venturebeat

Amazon’s Alexa. Microsoft’s Cortana. Apple’s Siri. The Google Assistant. They’re among the world’s most popular voice assistants, but a Chinese up-and-comer — Baidu’s DuerOS — is joining the ranks. Baidu yesterday announced that its conversational AI assistant has reached an install base of 100 million devices, up from 50 million just six months ago.

DuerOS, for the uninitiated, is a suite of software developer kits (SDKs), APIs, and turnkey solutions that allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to quickly integrate Baidu’s voice platform with smart speakers, refrigerators, washing machines, set-top boxes, and more. To date, its more than 200 partners have launched 110 DuerOS-powered devices.

A few high-profile examples are Xiaoyu Zaijia (“Little Fish” in English), an Amazon Echo Show-like device with a swiveling screen and camera, and Baidu’s Xiaodu Smart Speaker, which launched in June 2018 and sold out within 90 seconds of availability. ....  "

Microsoft’s New Ethereum Blockchain Product

Microsoft enters the fray here.   Intriguing notion of proof of authority vs Proof of work.  Examining implications.

Microsoft’s New Ethereum Blockchain Product Gets Rid of Mining

Software giant Microsoft has debuted a new Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) product that allows businesses across industry verticals to deploy a flexible instance of Ethereum tailored specifically for enterprise environments.

Announced on Tuesday, Ethereum Proof-of-Authority on Azure allows enterprises to build applications on an Ethereum blockchain that is not secured by a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm and consequently does not require mining — features that are better suited for networks in which participants do not trust one another.

PoW “works great in anonymous, open networks where cryptocurrency promotes security on the network,” said Azure Global software engineer Cody Born. “However, in private/consortium networks the underlying ether has no value.”

Born explained that, since all participants on an enterprise blockchain network are known and reputable, governance can be separated from network operation.  ... " 

Background:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethereum

https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/microsoft-azure-blockchain.azure-blockchain-ethereum?tab=Overview


Hands Free Skype Calling via Cortana, and Beyond?

I see you can now do Skype calling hands-free.   A use of Cortana that is fairly obvious.  And one of the few assistant-type serious interactions from Microsoft. I am waiting for.  Would also like some real intelligent integration with their Linkedin acquisition.   Say a search of Linkedin using pattern recognition to extract particular kinds and depth of expertise, and then engaging these people to filter into a team.  And further into an application. And ...   From in our outside your company?

Names in Speech Recognition for Assistants

An example of the complexity of natural language understanding in assistants. Accuracy gets more essential in business applications.  Likely technical.  Usually all slides and recordings are placed in the site at the bottom within a few days.

CSIG (Cognitive Systems Institute Group) Talk — Aug 9, 2018 - 10:30-11am US Eastern

Title: Correcting person names for automatic speech recognition (ASR) vendor-agnostic voice assistants

Speaker: Vijay Ramakrishnan, Tue Minh Vo (Cisco)

Abstract: 
ASR systems trained on generic data often mis-transcribe domain-specific words and phrases. For voice assistants, errors  in the ASR transcript cascade to the assistant's natural language understanding (NLU) components. We focus on the  problem of ASR errors in person names and describe a novel method of correcting person names by leveraging a domain- specific language model (LM), and character and phoneme-based information retrieval (IR) techniques.

Short bios:
Vijay Ramakrishnan is a ML/NLP engineer at Cisco's Cognitive Collaboration Group where his team develops  conversational Al products for Cisco's collaboration portfolio. His research interests include deep networks for domain-  specific ASR, empirical methods for NLP and ML for sequence models.

Bio: Minh-Tue Vo is a senior engineer at Cisco's Cognitive Collaboration Group where his team develops conversational Al
products for Cisco's collaboration portfolio. His research interests include deep networks for domain-specificASR,  empirical methods for NLP and ML for sequence models.

Zoom meeting Link: https://zoom.us/j/7371462221
Zoom Cailin: (415) 762-9988 or (646) 568-7788 Meeting id 7371462221
Zoom International Numbers: https://zoom.us/zoomconference
( Check the website in case the date or time changes: http://cognitive-science.info/community/weekly-update/ )

Retail Robotics Initiative

Via The Platt Research Institute:

Retail AI Lab and Retail Robotics Initiative Announced by Retail Analytics Council

The Retail Analytics Council is pleased to announce the Retail AI Lab on Northwestern University's Evanston, Ill., campus and the launch of the Retail Robotics Initiative to focus on robotic and data applications in retail.

The Retail Analytics Council, an initiative between the Platt Retail Institute and Northwestern University, was established four years ago. "Since that time, we have made significant progress," said Steven Keith Platt, the Council's Research Director. "Major milestones include four major educational events (including the first-ever Retail Robotics and AI Conference), building an outstanding board of advisors, publishing cutting-edge research, and presenting and publishing student research."

Retail AI Lab

To continue to build on this progress, the Retail Analytics Council is launching the Retail AI Lab at Northwestern University. The primary objectives are to undertake additional research projects by broadening faculty involvement, and engaging students on research projects, with the goal of raising awareness of careers in retail AI and analytics.

"There is tremendous retail industry demand for students skilled in AI and analytics," said Professor Martin Block, Executive Director of the Council. "The RAC, with access to many retailers, can secure training data sets that will aid students in further developing their skills, as well as equipping them with subject matter expertise to enhance their employment prospects with retailers."

Retail Robotics Initiative

The Retail Robotics Initiative seeks to unite industry, academia, and investors around the common objective of advancing robotic and data applications in retail environments. Some key activities include:

Publish articles to raise industry awareness. 
Work with existing and emerging robotics companies to aid them in expanding their business by introducing them to retailers and helping them to secure pilots. 
Assist retailers in understanding the benefits associated with introducing robots into their stores and for process automation.
Publish research. Currently, we are interested in a test of a robotic RFID project.
Sponsor a competition for both existing and emerging robotics companies to present their technology at the annual RAC Retail Robotics and AI Conference. .... "

Choosing a Neural Network

Another excellent piece from Jason, suggest you join up with his service:

Jason Brownlee writes:   What neural network is appropriate for your predictive modeling problem?

It can be difficult for a beginner to the field of deep learning to know what type of network to use. There are so many types of networks to choose from and new methods being published and discussed every day.

To make things worse, most neural networks are flexible enough that they work (make a prediction) even when used with the wrong type of data or prediction problem.

In this post, you will discover the suggested use for the three main classes of artificial neural networks.

After reading this post, you will know:

Which types of neural networks to focus on when working on a predictive modeling problem.
When to use, not use, and possible try using an MLP, CNN, and RNN on a project. ... To consider the use of hybrid models and to have a clear idea of your project goals before selecting a model.

Let’s get started.  ... "

Next for Apple?

Interesting podcast addresses Apple's direction.   Platforms and Ecosystems that support their goals are key.

Crossing $1 Trillion: What’s Next for Apple?  in K@W

Former Apple CEO John Sculley and Erik Gordon from the University of Michigan discuss Apple's $1 trillion market capitalization. 

Consumer electronics giant Apple is finding itself in a whole new race after last Thursday, when its share price rose to $207, making it the first U.S. company to cross $1 trillion in market capitalization.

As Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, set their sights on the future, experts from Wharton and elsewhere point out that the company does face some challenges: Apple’s smartphone sales have slowed (although margins have gone up); it has no big-bang product around the corner, notably in augmented reality or artificial intelligence (AI); its R&D investments are lagging; and its next big leap may take place under a different CEO.

Meanwhile, other tech giants such as Amazon, Google’s parent Alphabet and Microsoft are close runners-up in the trillion-dollar race, heralding a new era of large, cash-rich companies. Platforms and ecosystems are critical to success in the next round, and some predict that Amazon looks poised to become the first $2 trillion company, especially with its ability to seemingly enter any industry it chooses to.  .... " 

Alexa Will get back to You on that

Its unclear what is happening here.  Is the delay because it is computationally intensive?   More accurate?  Comes from slower sources?  The answer depends on information that will only be known  (accurately enough) in the future?  Generally the 'I will get back to you' is allowed in a human conversation, and we usually know what we don't know almost immediately.  And we take the risk of a guess.   All part of a realistic conversation.  So the results should be intriguing.

In Business Insider:

" ... Amazon says its Alexa voice assistant will soon be able to come back to you with a response to a question it can't initially answer.

The company is rolling out an update to Echo smart speakers that is essentially meant to allow Alexa to memorize a question it can't answer and then come back to the user once it's fetched an adequate response.

The feature was first spotted by Voicebot. The writer Bret Kinsella was asked by his Alexa whether he wanted to activate Answer Updates. When he asked what this was, Alexa replied: "If you ask me a question and I don't know the answer but I find out later, I'll notify you."  ... ' 

My first test:

I Said:  "Alexa turn on Answer update"   This worked for me, but not sure what new information will trigger the resolution of a question.  The concept can approach the philosophical.  Can I assume the wait is open ended?   She still tells me she can't answer things, but without any indication she is working on it.

(Update)  The system will support only factual information, and be triggered when it receives new facts, says another article ....    Which then begs for a definition of fact and 'in process'.   All elements of a conversation.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Starbucks Testing Bitcoin

No mention, but will they integrate more general blockchain experiments?  Could be good to follow.

Starbucks prepares for a Bitcoin future  with comments by Retail Experts   by George Anderson in Retailwire

Starbucks is not jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon, not just yet. Reports last week that Starbucks is ready to begin accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as payment for drink and food orders at its locations were a tad premature.

Instead, Starbucks announced it is working with the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Microsoft and others to create Bakkt, a platform with a mission to enable “consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets on a seamless global network,” in the future.

The Bakkt platform will initially be used for trading and converting Bitcoin into traditional forms of currency that businesses such as Starbucks accept as payment. The network is currently prepping for its launch, with further details expected in the weeks to come.....  "

By 2020, 1 in 5 Healthcare Orgs will Adopt Blockchain

Quite a strong prediction, which they claim gets back to the drive of having only one, verified version of the truth.  Also the natural need for a completely connected health IOT needing new kinds of security.   Makes a point of the broader idea of 'Smart Contracts' as well. 

By 2020, 1-in-5 healthcare orgs will adopt blockchain; here’s why
Blockchain lets the healthcare industry exchange data in a standard format, automate complex processes and apply AI against large silos of medical data. It might even allow patients to sell their data for rewards.
               
 By Lucas Mearian in Computerworld

While the financial services and shipping industries have been quick to deploy blockchain, the healthcare industry could soon follow their lead as it looks to increase efficiency and security, reduce costs and expand services with the distributed ledger technology.

In essence, blockchain could help reshape healthcare interoperability by serving as a next-generation middleware that couples health data with decentralized, distributed, and immutable qualities, according to a new report by IDC Health Insights.

As a result, by 2020, 20% of healthcare organizations will have moved beyond pilot projects and be "using blockchain for operations management and patient identity," the report said.

Blockchain's interoperability could underpin data exchange, serving as an alternative to today's health information exchanges (HIEs); essentially, it would act as a mesh network for transmitting secure, near real-time patient data for healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance payers and clinical researchers, according to IDC..... " 

Turning TV Upside Down

By former colleague Bob Herbold.  On a major change of business model that changes marketing.  We have seen it happen, but what does it mean?

Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog
Netflix: Turning TV Viewing Upside Down

Completely changing the business model in an industry is not an easy thing to do.  On the other hand, it creates incredible rewards for the innovators.  Netflix is a primary example of this.  It basically put the Blockbusters of the world out of business in the late 1990’s as it introduced DVD’s by mail versus going to a store and renting a VHS tape.  It refined that model in the late 1990’s moving to an “all-you-can-watch” monthly subscription model for its DVD mail service.  The next change occurred in 2007 when it began offering streaming.

In the last few years, it has turned TV viewing habits upside down.  Traditional broadcast channels have schedule programs once a week at a certain time period.  You had to wait until, for example, next Thursday evening at 9:00pm to watch the next episode. Netflix has ignored tradition and offers all episodes at one time; it is called “binge programming.”.... " 

Data Driven Engineering

Al engineering should be data driven.

Metrics in Context for Data-Driven Engineering Leaders
GitPrime uses data from GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket—or any Git based code repository—to help engineering leaders move faster, optimize work patterns, and advocate for engineering with concrete data. ... "

Start with Why

Good thing,  easy to remember.

Starting with “Why”  By Bob Apollo  in CustomerThink

In September 2009, Simon Sinek took the stage at a TEDx event and delivered an 18-minute presentation that has now been viewed around 50 million times across a variety of different sites.

In it, Sinek offered a model for inspirational leadership that he explored in his best-selling “Start With Why”. He has gone on to be widely recognised as an expert in how leading organisations and people think, act and communicate.

I’m a fan. I believe what he believes.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sinek’s work, I’ve included a link to his presentation below. His concept of the Golden Circle – grounded in the biology of human decision making – helps us understand why some messages resonate while others fail. And it has tremendous relevance for successful B2B sales conversations  … '

Walmart Testing Bot System to Fill Orders

Robotics continue to advance in fulfilling orders. A considerable move forward in using Bots for consumer goods.

Walmart tests automated system to help fill online grocery orders

Alphabot will retrieve and transport items to employees that package orders.

BY Mallory Locklear, @mallorylocklear in Engadget

Walmart is testing out a new system that will help put together grocery orders placed by customers online. The service lets users order groceries, choose a pickup time and have their order delivered to their car, and the new automated system, called Alphabot, will take over some of the legwork that goes into collecting order items. It will automatically gather certain items from a location's storage area and transport them to employees who will then package the order.

The first Alphabot system will be tested at a supercenter in Salem, New Hampshire and Walmart expects it to be up and running by the end of the year. The company is currently adding a 20,000-square-foot extension to the store, which will house Alphabot and include drive-thru lanes for grocery pickup. ....  "

Monday, August 06, 2018

AI Device Identifies Objects at Speed of Light

Quite an impressive statement.   And delivery method.  much more at the link.

UCLA-developed artificial intelligence device identifies objects at the speed of light  Public Release: 

The 3D-printed artificial neural network can be used in medicine, robotics and security
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering ... 

A team of UCLA electrical and computer engineers has created a physical artificial neural network -- a device modeled on how the human brain works -- that can analyze large volumes of data and identify objects at the actual speed of light. The device was created using a 3D printer at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.
Numerous devices in everyday life today use computerized cameras to identify objects -- think of automated teller machines that can "read" handwritten dollar amounts when you deposit a check, or internet search engines that can quickly match photos to other similar images in their databases. But those systems rely on a piece of equipment to image the object, first by "seeing" it with a camera or optical sensor, then processing what it sees into data, and finally using computing programs to figure out what it is.  ... "

Hyperledger Fabric for Smart Contracts

A technical look at Hyperledger Fabric Open Source Project for possible use.  This is one of the applications I have started to examine for agreement level contracts.   Bottom line from this is that the technology is immature and ready for only very narrow applications.   Details may be useful to understand what needs to emerge further and cautions involved.   More on Hyperledger.

AI Depends on Trust, Sometimes

Good piece.  Though it depends on our own analyses of trust and risk.   Sometimes very inaccurate.  Highly dependent on context.  If we doing something of low risk,  look up some trivia online, or getting the current weather, we are willing to accept it.  We trust the system in that context.  But if the risk is high, much less so.    But sometimes we make poor estimate of risks and their connection to trust.   So would say that in general most people would trust an AI with little proof involved. 

3 Steps to Building Trust in AI  in Strategy-Business

It is human nature to distrust what we don’t understand, and much about AI may not be completely clear. For further insights, read “The Future of Artificial Intelligence Depends on Trust.”

by Anand Rao and Euan Cameron

Alternatives to Quantum Recommendation

In our early look at Quantum Computing we tried to make these comparisons, and and found little then.  Is this fair?   Combinatorially difficult.   Following.  I note that the title of the article claims 'Quantum-Inspiration' in the classical algorithim, forgotten by most all of the commenters, would like to follow that thread.   Could such inspiration take us further?


18-year-old Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the “recommendation problem” nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result eliminates one of the best examples of quantum speedup.

 A teenager from Texas has taken quantum computing down a notch. In a paper posted online earlier this month, 18-year-old Ewin Tang proved that ordinary computers can solve an important computing problem with performance potentially comparable to that of a quantum computer.

In its most practical form, the “recommendation problem” relates to how services like Amazon and Netflix determine which products you might like to try. Computer scientists had considered it to be one of the best examples of a problem that’s exponentially faster to solve on quantum computers — making it an important validation of the power of these futuristic machines. Now Tang has stripped that validation away.

“This was one of the most definitive examples of a quantum speedup, and it’s no longer there,” said Tang, who graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, in spring and will begin a Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the fall.   .... " 

Full paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1807.04271     Considerable discussion.

Why The Data can be Very Wrong

Colleague Kaiser Fung on why the data can be very wrong, or at least very fragile.  His site is required.

Do we really know what the data are measuring? Hint: no
The tech industry has turned us into an omni-surveillance society.

Any shop that uses modern, digital, connected technologies is probably collecting, storing and selling your data to someone. The people receiving and analyzing the data form a much larger set than those collecting the data. These data analysts typically ingest the data as are, and write software that controls this or that aspect of our lives. However, such data are riddled with inaccuracies and bias, which is a form of inaccuracy.

While in Vancouver last week, I encountered the following two scenarios that illustrate the fragility of data collection.  .... "