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Friday, September 25, 2020

Self Erasing Chip

Some intriguing applications, could have used this for counterfeiting applications.  Expiring analysis applications.

A Self-Erasing Chip for Security, Anti-Counterfeit Tech

University of Michigan News

September 24, 2020

University of Michigan researchers have developed self-erasing chips based on a material that temporarily stores energy, changing the color of light it emits. The chips are assembled from a three-atom-thick layer of semiconductor material deposited on a thin strip of azobenzene-based molecules, which shrink under ultraviolet light; those molecules tug on the semiconductor so it emits longer wavelengths of light. The stretched azobenzene naturally releases its stored energy, losing stored data, over the course of about seven days in no light, or it can be erased on demand with a pulse of blue light. A self-erasing bar code printed on the chip within a device could flag whether someone had opened it to install a spying device. ...'

Ring Makes a Home Patrolling Drone

This could be a life and home changer.  Have seen some things that were similar.  Can this work in the messy environment of a home? 

Ring made a security drone that flies around inside your home

The Ring Always Home Cam can fly around your house when you're out.

Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper  in Engadget

Ring knows that there are only so many places in your home that you want to permanently put a camera, and sometimes that isn’t enough. That’s why the company is building the Ring Always Home Cam, a small drone that can patrol from room to room and keep watch over your stuff. As well as offering an extra layer of security, you can use the device to check specific worries, like if you left a window open or the burners on.  

(Available in 2021)

Training Machines to see 3D in the Dark

 A kind of enhanced sensory interaction.  Security an obvious application. Low light applications.

How to Train a Machine to See 3D in the Dark

Australian National University

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a method that uses machine learning to generate a close-to-perfect optical hologram in near-darkness. Three-dimensional (3D) holograms typically appear grainy in low light due to the shot noise limit, but ANU’s Holo-UNet was trained over thousands of learning cycles to master the appearance of an ideal hologram. Once trained, the researchers would show the Holo-UNet a hologram with missing optical information. ANU's Zhiduo Zhang said, "Much like a master painter, the machine 'remembers' how to digitally fill in those missing photons and so restore the hologram to near-perfect conditions." The researchers said their development will permit the use of holograms for purposes ranging from security to real-time imaging of living cells, with far less light than was previously required.  ... '

Google Maps now Providing Pandemic Warnings

Accuracy involved and reported?

COVID-19 Google Maps updates

If your area is affected by COVID-19, you can use Google Maps to obtain relevant information on impacted places.    Tip: In some regions, you might find additional information related to COVID-19. If you select the alert on the Google Maps home screen, you'll find locally relevant links based on your current map view.... 

Measuring Why Users Click on Fraudulent Emails

 What seems a useful measurement scale for understanding this.  Its still very basic behavior.

The Phish Scale: NIST-Developed Method Helps IT Staff See Why Users Click on Fraudulent Emails


Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed the Phish Scale, which could help organizations better train their employees to avoid being deceived by seemingly trustworthy emails. The scale is designed to help information security officers better comprehend click-rate data, in order to gauge phishing training programs' effectiveness more accurately. NIST's Michelle Steves said, "The Phish Scale is intended to help provide a deeper understanding of whether a particular phishing email is harder or easier for a particular target audience to detect." The scale employs a rating system based on message content in a phishing email, highlighting five elements rated on a 5-point scale associated with the scenario's premise. Trainers use the overall score to analyze their data and rank the phishing exercise's difficulty level as low, medium, or high.  ... "

Exploring World of Smart Contracts with MadMax

 A space we have now looked at for some time, a somewhat technical example well worth going through.   Note close attention to 'vulnerabilities' which remain at disturbing levels. 

MadMax: Analyzing the Out-of-Gas World of Smart Contracts

By Neville Grech, Michael Kong, Anton Jurisevic, Lexi Brent, Bernhard Scholz, Yannis Smaragdakis  Communications of the ACM, October 2020, Vol. 63 No. 10, Pages 87-95   10.1145/3416262

Ethereum is a distributed blockchain platform, serving as an ecosystem for smart contracts: full-fledged intercommunicating programs that capture the transaction logic of an account. A gas limit caps the execution of an Ethereum smart contract: instructions, when executed, consume gas, and the execution proceeds as long as gas is available.

Gas-focused vulnerabilities permit an attacker to force key contract functionality to run out of gas—effectively performing a permanent denial-of-service attack on the contract. Such vulnerabilities are among the hardest for programmers to protect against, as out-of-gas behavior may be uncommon in nonattack scenarios and reasoning about these vulnerabilities is nontrivial.

In this paper, we identify gas-focused vulnerabilities and present MadMax: a static program analysis technique that automatically detects gas-focused vulnerabilities with very high confidence. MadMax combines a smart contract decompiler and semantic queries in Datalog. Our approach captures high-level program modeling concepts (such as "dynamic data structure storage" and "safely resumable loops") and delivers high precision and scalability. MadMax analyzes the entirety of smart contracts in the Ethereum blockchain in just 10 hours and flags vulnerabilities in contracts with a monetary value in billions of dollars. Manual inspection of a sample of flagged contracts shows that 81% of the sampled warnings do indeed lead to vulnerabilities.  ... '  

Vulnerability Disclosure in Cryptocurrencies

Very good, piece.  Its  been difficult to accept the vulnerabilities that have been revealed to expose monetary systems to it.   A good review of recent examples

Responsible Vulnerability Disclosure in Cryptocurrencies

By Rainer Böhme, Lisa Eckey, Tyler Moore, Neha Narula, Tim Ruffing, Aviv ZoharCommunications of the ACM, October 2020, Vol. 63 No. 10, Pages 62-71   10.1145/3372115

Despite the focus on operating in adversarial environments, cryptocurrencies have suffered a litany of security and privacy problems. Sometimes, these issues are resolved without much fanfare following a disclosure by the individual who found the hole. In other cases, they result in costly losses due to theft, exploits, unauthorized coin creation, and destruction. These experiences provide regular fodder for outrageous news headlines. In this article, we focus on the disclosure process itself, which presents unique challenges compared to other software projects.15 To illustrate, we examine some recent disclosures and discuss difficulties that have arisen.  ... " 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Amazon Refreshes Echo Lineup

Amazon Echo Moves forward, looks to be a considerable update.

Amazon refreshes Echo lineup with new custom chip 

By Stephanie Condon for Between the Lines | in ZDNet

The updated smart speaker lineup also features a sleek new design and new capabilities for kids. Meanwhile, the new Echo Show 10 features a screen that follows you as you move throughout a room.

Amazon on Thursday unveiled a refreshed lineup of Amazon Echo smart speakers, featuring a new, custom chip that will help the AI-powered assistant Alexa respond to commands more quickly. The new devices also include a new design and new features for kids.  Amazon also unveiled the Echo Show 10, a smart speaker with a screen that can follow you as you move throughout a room.  

"In processing, milliseconds matter," Miriam Daniel, VP of Amazon Echo, said during a virtual event hosted by Amazon's Devices and Services team. 

"Imagine asking Alexa to turn on the light, and there's a slight delay," she explained. "Our team worked really hard to shave off hundreds of milliseconds" in Alexa's response time. 

The new devices include a new  AZ1 neural edge processor -- a new silicon module purpose-built to run machine learning algorithms on the edge. It works with new neural speech recognition models that run on the AZ1.   "Together, they make all commands faster on the new Echo," Daniel said. 

The new devices have been redesigned with a spherical shape and a fabric cover, and they come in three colors. Like the Echo Studio, the new devices automatically adapt to the acoustics of a room. 

They also include a built-in smart home hub and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support, and it also serves as an Amazon Sidewalk Bridge. Sidewalk is a low-bandwidth network that uses BLE and the free 900 MHz spectrum to control devices. The protocol is part of Amazon's effort to spur the development of low-cost IoT devices that don't rely on a cellular connection. As a Sidewalk Bridge, the new Echo devices extend the range of your connected Sidewalk devices.   .... " 

AI Decoding Emotions?

A problem we spent much time on, depends on what you expect from such a classification.    Much like: could you hire a human 'expert' to do this?   Training and background?  Implications and risk of error?    What sensors are being used?  At what required level of accuracy and for what prescribed need?  Here a reasonable overview, but does not address the broader need.

How close is AI to decoding our emotions? Emotion AI is becoming a big business. We talked to leading researchers about how good the tech actually is.  In TechnologyReview

 years trying to crack the mystery of how we express our feelings. Pioneers in the field of emotion detection will tell you the problem is far from solved. But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of companies from claiming their algorithms have cracked the puzzle. In part one of a two-part series on emotion AI, Jennifer Strong and the team at MIT Technology Review explore what emotion AI is, where it is, and what it means.  ... " 

Baidu Announces Quantum Leaf

Quantum infrastructure a new term, but makes sense.

Baidu announces Quantum Leaf, a cloud-based quantum infrastructure servic   By Mike Wheatley  in SiliconAngle

China’s Baidu Inc. announced a new cloud-based quantum computing platform called Quantum Leaf today that it says is designed for programming, simulating and executing quantum workloads.

Baidu is one of a number of big technology firms racing to develop quantum computing, which relies on quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superposition and entanglement to perform computation. The technology promises to usher in a new era of computing and upend disciplines such as artificial intelligence, cryptography and physics. ... "

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Participation Washing?

Stated term was new to me,  but a important in any kind of data that is crowd sourced.  Should always be a consideration.  A fix?  Not that either.

Participation-washing could be the next dangerous fad in machine learning
Many people already participate in the field’s work without recognition or pay.  by Mona Sloane in Technology Review
 ...  Now, machine-learning researchers and scholars are looking for ways to make AI more fair, accountable, and transparent—but also, recently, more participatory.

One of the most exciting and well-attended events at the International Conference on Machine Learning in July was called “Participatory Approaches to Machine Learning.” This workshop tapped into the community’s aspiration to build more democratic, cooperative, and equitable algorithmic systems by incorporating participatory methods into their design. Such methods bring those who interact with and are affected by an algorithmic system into the design process—for example, asking nurses and doctors to help develop a sepsis detection tool.

This is a much-needed intervention in the field of machine learning, which can be excessively hierarchical and homogenous. But it is no silver bullet: in fact, “participation-washing” could become the field's next dangerous fad. That’s what I, along with my coauthors Emanuel Moss, Olaitan Awomolo, and Laura Forlano, argue in our recent paper “Participation is not a design fix for machine learning.”  ... " 

Advances in Splitting Water into Hydrogen/Oxygen efficiently

This could be a very big deal, considerable details at the link.  Had a job in a chem lab long ago that looked at this problem. 

Researchers develop a solar tech that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen with record efficiency   By Mark Anderson   in IEEE Spectrum

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.

The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes. ... '

Security Risk Analytics from IBM

Rarely carefully done in the enterprise, glad to see IBM doing this.   Historically we worked with IBM on large scale problems, and don't remember them bringing this up often, so this is a good direction.  Note the connection to security here. 

IBM Brings Risk Analytics to Security Decision Making  PrNews CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) Security today announced a new risk-based service designed to help organizations apply the same analytics used for traditional business decisions to cybersecurity spending priorities. IBM's new Risk Quantification Services creates risk assessments to help clients identify, prioritize and quantify security risk as they weigh decisions such as deploying new technologies, making investments in their business and changing processes. .... " 

Mimicking the Sense of Touch

We examined how consumers interacted with product in retail.

Glove-Like Device Mimics Sense of Touch  University of New South Wales Sydney Newsroom,   Caroline Tang

A soft wearable device developed by engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney in Australia recreates the sense of touch using haptic technology. The researchers created a three-way directional skin stretch device that is built into the fingertips of the haptic glove. Said UNSW's Thanh Nho Do, "Our soft, wearable haptic glove enables people to feel virtual or remote objects in a more realistic and immersive way. The inbuilt soft artificial muscles generate sufficient normal and shear forces to the user's fingertips via a soft tactor, enabling them to effectively reproduce the sense of touch."

Research Teaches AI How People Move with Internet Videos

New ideas continuing to emerge.   Here in how video can be enhanced, utilized. 

Research Teaches AI How People Move with Internet VideosThe Michigan Engineer News Center

The project enables neural networks to model how people are positioned based on only partial views of their bodies, like perspective shots in instructional videos or vlogs

Research at the University of Michigan (UM) has led to a breakthrough in video training for neural network models, enabling the models to simulate people's movement based on partial views of their bodies. UM's David Fouhey and Chris Rockwell first cropped the networks' earlier training dataset to more closely resemble online videos; they then retrained existing models on these cropped videos, facilitating more reasonable results with new data from Internet videos. The retrained model yielded significantly improved approximations of people's positions compared to two human three-dimensional mesh recovery methods. A second technique enabled models to self-train on unlabeled videos, in order to make good guesses without knowing the solution. Rockwell said, "Modeling people is a step towards understanding them, and before this it was really tough to understand people in consumer videos. With these techniques we can much more readily recognize them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Microsoft Licenses OpenAI’s GPT-3 Language Model

Exclusively.  Now this is very good and somewhat unexpected.   Thinking of ways it might be used within the context of work needs in Teams.    Say for example constructing documents that describe the agreements made a meeting.   Or summarize results.   Is it good enough to do those things?  More at the link.

Microsoft gets exclusive license for OpenAI’s GPT-3 language model   By Kyle Wiggers  in VentureBeat

 Microsoft today announced that it will exclusively license GPT-3, one of the most powerful language understanding models in the world, from AI startup OpenAI. In a blog post, Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott said that the new deal will allow Microsoft to leverage OpenAI’s technical innovations to develop and deliver AI solutions for customers, as well as create new solutions that harness the power of natural language generation.

“We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at scale,” Scott wrote. “The scope of commercial and creative potential that can be unlocked through the GPT-3 model is profound, with genuinely novel capabilities — most of which we haven’t even imagined yet. Directly aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language — the possibilities are limited only by the ideas and scenarios that we bring to the table.”    ... " 

More on Endpoint Security

More on this topic by Cisco, see the other parts of this pointed to. Note its particular relevance for remote work.

Why Endpoint Security Matters in Protecting Remote Workers – Part 2    By Pat Correia

As attack surfaces expand customers see improved visibility with AMP for Endpoints!

In part 1 of this blog series we discussed how securing your workforce on any endpoint, anywhere, at any time, is more important now than ever before, and that Cisco AMP for Endpoints plays a critical role in the new Cisco Secure Remote Worker solution that connects and protects people and devices working remotely.

In the first entry of this blog series we promised to take a more in-depth look at our customer’s thoughts on the value that AMP for Endpoints brings to their business.  As a quick recap the Top 3 business values from that Endpoint survey are:

-Better visibility – for insights and protection to stop threats from the expanding attack surface
-Better efficacy – to remediate faster and fully expose, contain and resolve threats
-Getting time back – for improved security effectiveness, eliminating complexity and enhancing security admin productivity  ... " 

Future of Work by Microsoft Teams

Nice to see Microsoft Teams expanding their capabilities.   Have now used Teams now many times, like it. Now lets see more assistance built in.

Microsoft aims to enable the future of work with new Teams features and devices  By  Mike Wheatley

Microsoft Corp. is doubling down on what it says will be the “future of work” amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At its Ignite 2020 virtual event today, it announced a host of new products and services it says will help people to become more productive, whether they’re working remotely or simply being careful to maintain social distancing upon their return to the office.

For remote workers the main focus has been on expanding the capabilities of Microsoft’s Teams collaboration app, Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President Jared Spataro said in a blog post. For example, Teams Together Mode, which is an experience that’s meant to help participants feel closer together even when they are apart by placing them in a shared background, is getting more options, including auditoriums, conference rooms and even a virtual coffee shop.  ... " 

Europeans Would Consider Augmentation

Depends on what you mean by augmentation,   we already pay for lots of it already.   Health vs intelligence, vs requested assistance?    Inevitable if properly demonstrated.

Majority of Europeans Would Consider Human Augmentation, Study Finds
The Next Web
Thomas Macaulay

A survey of more than 14,000 people in 16 countries by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky found most Europeans would consider technological augmentation to their bodies, with 81% of Italians saying they would mull this, versus 33% of those in the U.K. Older respondents were more supportive of augmentation that would enhance their health, while younger persons were more interested in augmenting their appearance and sporting abilities. Nearly half (48%) of men surveyed considered human augmentation "completely" or "mostly" acceptable, compared to roughly a third (38%) of women surveyed. All supporters prioritized improving physical health and quality of life via augmentation, yet 69% expected only wealthy individuals would be able to afford such enhancements, and 88% fear their augmented bodies could be exploited by cybercriminals.  ... "

When Bots Negotiate, Will Humans Deceive?

Interesting piece that approaches the meaning of 'cooperation'.   

When bots do the negotiating, humans more likely to engage in deceptive techniques  by University of Southern California

 Recently computer scientists at USC Institute of Technologies (ICT) set out to assess under what conditions humans would employ deceptive negotiating tactics. Through a series of studies, they found that whether humans would embrace a range of deceptive and sneaky techniques was dependent both on the humans' prior negotiating experience in negotiating as well as whether virtual agents where employed to negotiate on their behalf. The findings stand in contrast to prior studies and show that when humans use intermediaries in the form of virtual agents, they feel more comfortable employing more deceptive techniques than they would normally use when negotiating for themselves

Lead author of the paper on these studies, Johnathan Mell, says, "We want to understand the conditions under which people act deceptively, in some cases purely by giving them an artificial intelligence agent that can do their dirty work for them."

Nowadays, virtual agents are employed nearly everywhere, from automated bidders on sites like eBay to virtual assistants on smart phones. One day, these agents could work on our behalf to negotiate the sale of a car, argue for a raise, or even resolve a legal dispute.

Mell, who conducted the research during his doctoral studies in computer science at USC, says, "Knowing how to design experiences and artificial agents which can act like some of the most devious among us is useful in learning how to combat those techniques in real life."

The researchers are eager to understand how these virtual agents or bots might do our bidding and to understand how humans behave when deploying these agents on their behalf.  ... '

Paper is here:  https://www.jair.org/index.php/jair/article/view/11924

Google Does Fact Checking of Images

Hmm ... 'more likely to know?   I like the idea.  And who will get the benefit of likelihood?   Any changes in the pictures having been made?   Ones that make them 'False'?    What percentage is false as determined by whom?  Verified sources of course.

Google adds fact checking to image searches
You're more likely to know if an image is fake.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas

Google’s fact checking now extends beyond standard searches and YouTube. The internet pioneer has introduced fact check labels for image search results. Tap a bogus picture for a detailed view and you’ll see a blurb from a verified source indicating what’s false and offering a link to the full article debunking the image. If a photo is a known fake, you’ll find out before you start sharing it with your friends in disbelief.  ... " 

Colds Have Nearly Vanished?

Fascinating piece. 

Colds Nearly Vanished Under Lockdown. Now They’re Coming Back  in Wired.
The return of non-Covid respiratory illnesses is putting a new strain on testing supplies around the world—and is a preview of what’s in store for the US.

THE QUESTION MAY seem odd in the midst of a global pandemic, but among people in places with serious mask-wearing and social-distancing measures, and with the luxury to hunker down, it is forgivable to wonder: Will I ever get sick again? In the southern hemisphere, in places like Australia and South Africa, winter flu season came and went without a trace. The western United States is coughing through clouds of smoke, and people everywhere have endured wet-eyed allergy seasons. But over the past 6 months, people were far less likely to get sick sick—at least from respiratory viruses that aren’t called SARS-CoV-2.... "

Amazon to Open Small Delivery Hubs

New move by Amazon for improved delivery.

Amazon to open 1,000 neighborhood delivery hubs
By Marianne Wilson  in Chainstoreage

Amazon is taking some of its fulfillment closer to where its customers live.

The online giant is planning to open 1,000 small delivery hubs in suburban neighborhoods and cities across the U.S., reported Bloomberg. The move comes as Amazon looks to compete with other retailers, particularly Walmart, who are using their network of stores as mini-fulfillment centers to provide convenient same-day deliveries. The Amazon hubs would eventually expand to 1,500 locations. 

Amazon faced shipping delays during the height of the pandemic. With the holidays approaching, the online giant is now focused on honoring its pre-pandemic pledge to get many products to Prime subscribers on the same day, according to Bloomberg.  Now it is doubling by investing billions in building out small warehouses. 

The U.S. industrial real estate sector is expected to grow https://chainstoreage.com/jll-new-darling-commercial-real-estate-industry to more than 1 billon square feet by 2025, fueled by e-commerce’s pandemic boom.    ... ' 

Singapore to Pay Citizens for Using Apple Watch

Seem a boon for Apple.   Has it been proven the watch significantly improves health?

Singapore to Pay Citizens for Keeping Healthy with Apple Watch  

Bloomberg,  Vlad Savov    September 15, 2020

Apple and Singapore's government have partnered on the two-year LumiHealth initiative, which will monitor and reward user behavior via the Apple Watch and an iPhone application. Singaporeans will be able to earn as much as S$380 ($280) in financial compensation and vouchers by fulfilling goals and tasks—like exercise—set within the LumiHealth app. The app will offer personalized coaching and reminders for health screenings and inoculations, in addition to wellness challenges to encourage healthier dieting and sleep habits. Apple said all user data will be encrypted, with none to be sold or shared for marketing purposes. ... ' 

Monday, September 21, 2020

CIA to Establish a Lab to Study Blockchain

Seems CIA is taking this very seriously.

CIA’s New Research Lab to Study Blockchain
In Coindesk by Danny Nelson

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched a new research and develop laboratory on Monday that features blockchain technology among its focus areas.

CIA Labs' webpage said the labs will research "distributed ledger/blockchain-enabled technologies" alongside other tech stacks: wireless telecommunications, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and data analytics, to name a few.

Officers who develop tech inventions in the lab will be permitted to patent, disclose and partially profit from their work, according to MIT Technology Review. 

MIT's reporting notes the labs will give CIA a useful incentive to woo tech talent that might otherwise turn to Silicon Valley's giants.

That the CIA, one of the U.S. intelligence community's two code-breaking hubs, would take an interest in researching a technology secured by cryptography should come as no surprise to observers.
The Block first reported CIA Labs' blockchain focus. .... " 

CPG in Pandemic Growth and Challenges

And piece related to previous item regards growth and inventory post Pandemic.

For giant food companies, the pandemic has fueled growth — and challenges

Theresa F. Lindeman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The past six months have been both a bonanza and a trial for the giant food companies that make products like cereal, canned soup, and macaroni and cheese. 

Pre-pandemic, there had been talk of their growing irrelevance, despite iconic brands and supply chains built up over decades. But there was a sudden shift as COVID-19’s spread kept people housebound and sent sales of many products spiking for companies like Kraft Heinz, which is dually based in Pittsburgh and Chicago, as well as General Mills, Mondelez and Campbell Soup Co. 

They’d all be happy to see the sales growth continue after there’s a vaccine on the scene.

“While the uptick in buying is partly driven by the pandemic, we are intentionally fueling this trend with sizable communication investments and media choices, and we’ll continue to leverage our momentum,” vowed Carlos Abrams-Rivera, the U.S. zone president for Kraft Heinz, during an investors’ day presentation last week.

At times in recent months, the heavy demand has strained the industry’s factories and supply chains, but the sudden intensity also sped up changes that the industry had been working on. Andrew Lazar, an analyst leading chats with food executives at a Barclays investors conference in early September, noted the 2020 crisis has been described as “essentially the greatest [consumer packaged goods] trial experiment of our lifetime.”

Consider the shift to shopping online for groceries, which avoids the risks of picking up the virus in crowded grocery stores.  .... " 

Another Blogging Note

Some of the the changes in this blog require me to repeat some rules.
Plain text mean I am the author, unless quoted otherwise, for special cases like multiple authors.

Italic text means it is a quote.  Almost always with an author attribution.   Dots .... indicate skipped text, mostly to shorten it.   Quoted text will almost always include a link to any part I had access to.  but sometimes those links may have gone stale. 

I welcome comments, but I have to approve them,  but they have to add to the blog entry itself, not just be advertising.   Similarly with visiting posts, which I do sometimes.   Contact me   ...

Companies Trying to Predict Post Pandemic

Can Retail predict post pandemic?  In the car today we discussed how drive through fast food will exist after pandemic.  Two effects. Very large increase of drive-through during.   But also a large number of new customers being trained in this new kind of shopping/eating.  Our own experience: we had only very very rarely in many years, done drive through food,  but then in pandemic had done it often.    And would likely continue.  Behaviors like this will persist.  Delivery? 

Whole Foods CEO does not think online grocery will remain the norm post-pandemic: 'Food is different'

Daniel Roberts, Editor-at-Large, Yahoo Finance, September 17, 2020

Amid the pandemic, big retail names like Walmart, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, and Chipotle have all highlighted the surge they’ve seen in online shopping (or in the case of food chains, mobile ordering) and curbside pickup. Online grocery ordering and fulfillment has seen the same trend: Coresight Research in May predicted online grocery sales will surge more than 40% in 2020, after growing 22% in 2019. (Online grocery was already big for Walmart before the pandemic: Walmart U.S. president Greg Foran told Yahoo Finance in June 2019 that online grocery was creating a “halo effect” on the rest of Walmart’s business.)

The question now is whether these trends will continue on the same breakneck pace once the pandemic is behind us.

Many analysts think it will, including McKinsey retail partner Sajal Kohli, who told Yahoo Finance that BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) is “exceptionally sticky” and that consumers have “discovered this newfound convenience and they will actually stick to curbside.”

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey isn’t convinced that will be the case for grocery specifically. ... "

Siemens Covid Resources

his was recently pointed out to me by a Siemens contact:

Siemens Healthineers:  COVID-19: Scientific publications
This collection of information about the COVID-19 pandemic from trusted sources offers useful information to clinicians and healthcare providers fighting the virus worldwide. The content linked on this page includes clinical studies, the latest data, webinars, and clinicians’ first-hand experiences .... " 

Breakthrough Extends Quantum State Stability by 10,000 Times

More movement in improving results stability for Quantum.

Breakthrough Extends Quantum State Stability by 10,000 Times
Brooks Hays
August 14, 2029

Scientists at the University of Chicago (UChicago) have developed the means to maintain quantum state stability 10,000 times longer than previously. UChicago's Kevin Miao said, "We don't try to eliminate noise in the surroundings; instead, we 'trick' the system into thinking it doesn't experience the noise." The team exposed the quantum system to electromagnetic pulses and a continuous alternating magnetic field, tuning it to the rapid rotation of the electron spins with the quantum system so it would tune out noise. The system remained functional for 22 milliseconds, and the same method tuned out temperature fluctuations, physical vibrations, and electromagnetic noise. UChicago's David Awschalom said, "This approach ... should make storing quantum information in electron spin practical."... '

Sunday, September 20, 2020

YouTube in ChromeCast with Assistant

I have  just noticed the business perspective of having Youtube more closely connected with Chromecast. You can create lots of business snippets for projects there.  And if the assistant provides another useful capability with other angles?   And then link it all to Google docs too.

New leak of Google’s next Chromecast shows full remote with dedicated Netflix and YouTube buttons

There’s also a Google Assistant button

By Jay Peters@jaypeters

We might have just gotten our best look yet at the long-rumored new Chromecast and its dedicated remote, thanks to what appear to be leaked marketing renders posted by WinFuture. We already know Google plans to launch hardware, including a new Chromecast, at its September 30th event, so these renders could be showing off a product Google is very close to revealing.  ... " 

Wal-Mart Testing Drone Delivery too

Will drone retail delivery direct to consumer ever succeed? 

Walmart testing drones for deliveries in North Carolina city    by Anne D'innocenzio in TechExplore

Walmart launched a pilot program Wednesday using drones to deliver groceries and household essentials in a North Carolina city.

The retail giant is using drones from Flytrex in Fayetteville, where it says it hopes to gain insight into customers' and its workers' experience with the technology.

Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer products at Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, acknowledged that it will be a while before drones are widely used for package deliveries.

"That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we're at a point where we're learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers' lives easier," Ward wrote in a corporate blog.  ... "

More Japanese Humanoid Robotics

Why humanoid?  Impressive look and restocking a key retail problem.  Telepresence example.  In IEEE Spectrum

Video Friday: This Robot Will Restock Shelves at Japanese Convenience Stores

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

By Evan Ackerman, Erico Guizzo and Fan Shi

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):...   (events at the link) 

Tokyo startup Telexistence has recently unveiled a new robot called the Model-T, an advanced teleoperated humanoid that can use tools and grasp a wide range of objects. Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart plans to test the Model-T to restock shelves in up to 20 stores by 2022. In the trial, a human “pilot” will operate the robot remotely, handling items like beverage bottles, rice balls, sandwiches, and bento boxes. ... "

Strategic Decisions from Wargaming?

In my early days worked with the DOD,  Used wargaming, but mostly about testing new technology as part of operational warfighting decisions.  Not broader strategy decisions.    So this interests me.

What Strategic Decisions on the Horizon for the Department of Defense Can Best Be Shaped Through Wargaming?
by Sebastian Joon Bae  RAND

August 3, 2020
Two strategic decisions hang heavy over the Department of Defense (DoD): 1) How does the DoD redesign the Joint Force to meet the challenges of future contingencies and wars? 2) How will the department pay for it? These questions are not new, but their importance cannot be understated. For years, all the services have been diligently pursuing potential answers, spurring a litany of emerging warfighting concepts and organizational restructuring. Examples abound from the Army's Multi-Domain Operations (PDF) and the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations to the establishment of Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability and Army's Future Command.

So, how could wargaming shape these decisions? The answer is simple: wargaming is already an integral part and should continue to be. As an incredibly adaptable analytical tool, wargaming can examine competing courses of action, explore the effects of emerging technologies, and assess operational concepts. This is reflected in the plethora of wargames examining the future force, both within the military and its federally funded research and development centers.

The role of wargaming in the ongoing transformation of the Marine Corps serves as a poignant example. In his 2019 Commandant's Planning Guidance, General David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), repeatedly emphasized the pivotal role of wargaming in force design, education, and training. The CMC argues that wargaming will not only inform future force design but could help educate and train future commanders. In the subsequent Force Design 2030 (PDF), the CMC again reinforced the utility of wargaming—ranging from concept refinement to the programming process. Moreover, Expeditionary Warrior, the Marine Corps' Title 10 wargame series, continues to support future concept development, including Future Maritime Operations and the Joint Operational Access Concept. The forthcoming state of the art wargaming center at Marine Corps Base Quantico reflects the service's embrace of wargaming, both as an educational and analytical tool. ...

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Uncertain Future of Corporate HQs

Questionable, though major HQs will likely still need the presence.   My guess is that many will be threatened. 

The Uncertain Future of Corporate HQs    in HBR by Richard Florida

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen tens of millions of Americans engage in a gigantic experiment in working from home — one that looks to be more permanent than anyone might have imagined. Corporation after corporation has announced that they won’t be reopening their offices until mid-2021, at least.  Some commentators are even predicting the death of the office and the end of cities.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Now, more than ever, the issue of where we work — of place and location — remains a fundamental question.

Pandemics and other crises can disrupt or change the status quo, but history shows they can also accelerate trends already underway. The question of where to locate corporate facilities has been increasing in strategic importance for a long time. Corporations were facing a rising backlash to their perceived effects on housing prices and gentrification in superstar cities and tech hubs, and from attempts to hoard taxpayer-financed incentives   ....   '

This Device Keeps Voice Assistants From Snooping on You

For those with concern about this.seems a reasonable solution.  Still a  prototype as mentioned.

This Device Keeps Voice Assistants From Snooping on You
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
July 14, 2020

A team of researchers from Germany's Darmstadt University, France's University of Paris Saclay, and North Carolina State University has developed a Raspberry Pi-based device that eventually may be able to warn users when Amazon's Alexa and other voice assistants are snooping on people. The researcher said the $40-prototype LeakyPick tool detects the presence of devices that stream nearby audio to the Internet with 94% accuracy. LeakyPick periodically emits sounds and monitors subsequent network traffic to identify audio transmissions, triggering an alert whenever the identified devices are confirmed as streaming ambient sounds. LeakyPick also tests devices for words that incorrectly trigger the assistants, having to date found 89 words that prompt Alexa to send audio to Amazon.  ... ' 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Cosmetic Surgery Goldmine?

A look at consequences of behavior in pandemic, suggested by a former colleague.

Zoom has turned into a goldmine... for the cosmetic surgery industry

Martin Lindstrom   Brand and Culture Transformation Expert and Founder of Lindstrom Company

Plastic surgery is booming. Despite the coronavirus (or more likely because of it), record numbers of consumers are sneaking out of their homes, visiting clinics, and putting down as much as $20,000 to convert today’s version of themselves into a younger self. The number of cosmetic procedures has tripled.

The world continues to work from home, with no sign of returning to the office anytime soon, and isolation in our home offices has brought huge, often unexpected changes to our lives. For one thing, you’re suddenly spending lots of time on Zoom, where you’re in constant communication with a stamp-sized window that features … you.

It’s as if we’ve affixed tiny mirrors to our monitors. We’re suddenly watching ourselves, and we’re keenly, painfully aware of how others see us. ... '

3D Printing Poses a "Grave and Growing Threat" to Privacy

Had never thought of the premise suggested here, but yes is a consideration.   Grave?  Also mentions watermarking which we also studied for retail applications.

3D Printing Poses a "Grave and Growing Threat" to Privacy, Experts Warn
University of Exeter
September 8, 2020

Researchers at Durham University and the University of Exeter in the U.K. warn that three-dimensional (3D) printing technology poses a "grave and growing threat" to individual privacy and that governments and companies are unaware of these privacy issues. Said Exeter's James Griffin, "Every physical product that is 3D-printed has the potential to be tracked in a way that has never occurred before." The study is based on 30 in-depth interviews with representatives of Chinese 3D printing companies, most of whom believed the tracking technology incorporated into 3D printing would be used to handle piracy or copyright issues, and not for invading users’ privacy. The researchers called for a voluntary code of conduct that would encourage self-regulation of 3D printing and watermarking, and a specific software component that can isolate and protect private information collected from a watermark.

The Story of 'Have I Been Pwned'

Rather late saw this mentioned in TWIT Security Now.  Where Steve Gibson comments from a security point of view.  Deserves a read by people attempting to innovate and sell the results.  Considerable blog post below after a quick intro:

Project Svalbard, Have I Been Pwned and its Ongoing Independence  by Troy Hunt
03 March 2020

This is going to be a lengthy blog post so let me use this opening paragraph as a summary of where Project Svalbard is at: Have I Been Pwned is no longer being sold and I will continue running it independently. After 11 months of a very intensive process culminating in many months of exclusivity with a party I believed would ultimately be the purchaser of the service, unexpected changes to their business model made the deal infeasible. It wasn't something I could have seen coming nor was it anything to do with HIBP itself, but it introduced a range of new and insurmountable barriers. So that's the tl;dr, let me now share as much as I can about what's been happening since April 2019 and how the service will operate in the future.  ... "

Now it has been open sourced:


Pointed out to me.  Book that links to my past technical life. With some interesting links into our current situation.  Probably a good read for those getting into this space.

The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket   by Benjamin Lorr 

What does it take to run the American supermarket? How do products get to shelves? Who sets the price? And who suffers the consequences of increased convenience end efficiency? In this alarming exposé, author Benjamin Lorr pulls back the curtain on this highly secretive industry. Combining deep sourcing, immersive reporting, and compulsively readable prose, Lorr leads a wild investigation in which we learn:  .... '


Seems we have done little in the space since Freud.  Is interesting to see Nokia in the space.  Gathering data is again a good place to start.   AI I assume to mine and classify in new ways.

Insights Into Dreams and What They Say About Us
The Wall Street Journal
Robert Lee Hotz

Computer scientists are using artificial intelligence and digital databases to examine dreams and potentially identify mental issues. Researchers at Cambridge University's Nokia Bell Laboratories in the U.K. devised the Dreamcatcher data-mining system to seek patterns in dreams, and analyzed transcripts in the DreamBank, the largest known public archive of dream reports. The system identifies and measures dream characters, interactions, and emotions by processing the natural language dreamers use to communicate their visions. Insights derived from this analysis add credibility to the theory that dreams reflect waking situations, with no deeper prophetic, mythological, or religious significance. ... " 

Fourth Industrial Revolution and Manufacturing’s Great Reset

Manufacturing rushes towards a fourth industrial revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and manufacturing’s great reset by McKinsey
By Francisco Betti, Enno de Boer, and Yves Giraud

Manufacturers that are ahead in scaling advanced production technologies are successfully navigating four durable shifts that are critical to managing unprecedented disruption.

Since its inception in 2018, the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) of advanced manufacturers has demonstrated how leading companies can work toward realizing the full potential of the innovations and advances at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Beginning with a select collection of leading-edge organizations, we have seen how lighthouse factories can help entire organizations navigate their modernization journeys, inspiring and catalyzing change among partner organizations along the way.

That’s why GLN now comprises 54 sites, with ten sites added in Q3 2020 (Exhibit 1). This growth reflects the accelerating adoption of core 4IR technologies, and their infusion into daily manufacturing and supply-chain operations, as organizations act on a new urgency to remain competitive—even as others have fallen behind, still stuck in pilot purgatory.  ... " 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

IFTTT Lets You Set Price Forever

And from IFTTT expands their offering, pricing, with demonstrations and a contest.

....Set your price, forever

You spoke, we listened. No more confusion on the length of IFTTT Pro pricing. Set your price before October 7th and we’ll honor it, forever.

Watch Jeff create
Take a look at Pro for yourself. Watch Jeff, product leader extraordinaire, create a multi-step Applet with queries and logic.  ... 

Applet competition
Win big. Create an Applet using Pro tools, document and submit it. Most creative, impressive Applet wins $500.   ... ' 

Approximately Correct is Useful

Brought to my attention, and made me smile.  Al, as all human decision making, is approximately correct.   Yes you can define problems tightly enough so that they will be exactly correct.  Say that 2+2 =4.   But in the real world, you can often say, it depends.   On context and changes, and influences.  On use and application and embedded ethics.   On beliefs.  On risk and unintended consequences. Bottom line is you need to pay attention.   Lots good below, but I would have taken it further:

Approximately Correct Machine Intelligence (ACMI) Lab
Building intelligent systems applicable in the real world requires more than prediction. Driving decisions requires causal insights. Reliability requires models that are provably robust under clear assumptions. Deploying data-driven technology in society requires accounting for the complex dynamics and feedback loops mediating this interaction. Aligning with social desiderata such as fairness requires a philosophically coherent treatment. ACMI lab studies core machine learning methods, their applications in healthcare, and their social impacts. We seek to address these outer loop questions, while leveraging breakthroughs in representation learning to address the diverse raw data sources that deep learning has made accessible.  .... '

Alibaba Blockchain Patents

How much are patents driving this competition?

Alibaba on Track to Be the Largest Blockchain Patent Holder by End of 2020: Study
In Coindesk by Paddy Baker

 Alibaba is on track to supersede U.S. computer giant IBM as the single-largest holder of blockchain-related patents, according to a new study.

A report from intellectual property consultancy KISSPatent Thursday found the Chinese tech conglomerate was "definitely running the show," having already published ten times more blockchain patents than IBM, its nearest rival.

Should Alibaba continue at its current pace, the study predicted it would become the biggest patent holder in blockchain by the end of 2020.  .... "

The Sciences of Reflection

Another example of advanced sensory analysis that can improve 'seeing' in multiple complex  environments. 

Research reflects how AI sees through the looking glass   by Cornell University

AI learns to pick up on unexpected clues to differentiate original images from their reflections, the researchers found. Credit: Cornell University Things are different on the other side of the mirror.

Text is backward. Clocks run counterclockwise. Cars drive on the wrong side of the road. Right hands become left hands.

Intrigued by how reflection changes images in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, a team of Cornell University researchers used artificial intelligence to investigate what sets originals apart from their reflections. Their algorithms learned to pick up on unexpected clues such as hair parts, gaze direction and, surprisingly, beards—findings with implications for training machine learning models and detecting faked images.

"The universe is not symmetrical. If you flip an image, there are differences," said Noah Snavely, associate professor of computer science at Cornell Tech and senior author of the study, "Visual Chirality," presented at the 2020 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, held virtually June 14-19. "I'm intrigued by the discoveries you can make with new ways of gleaning information."   Zhiqui Lin is the paper's first author; co-authors are Abe Davis, assistant professor of computer science, and Cornell Tech postdoctoral researcher Jin Sun.

Differentiating between original images and reflections is a surprisingly easy task for AI, Snavely said—a basic deep learning algorithm can quickly learn how to classify if an image has been flipped with 60% to 90% accuracy, depending on the kinds of images used to train the algorithm. Many of the clues it picks up on are difficult for humans to notice.

For this study, the team developed technology to create a heat map that indicates the parts of the image that are of interest to the algorithm, to gain insight into how it makes these decisions.

They discovered, not surprisingly, that the most commonly used clue was text, which looks different backward in every written language. To learn more, they removed images with text from their data set, and found that the next set of characteristics the model focused on included wrist watches, shirt collars (buttons tend to be on the left side), faces and phones—which most people tend to carry in their right hands—as well as other factors revealing right-handedness. ... "

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Robots Harvesting Coconuts

In earlier days I was introduced to harvesting coconut trees in south Florida.  Even knew people who could climb up them to do that.   Who then attempted to teach it to me, but left me only with the knowledge of how hard it was to do.  And also quite un-safe.  Now robots can?   

Amaran the Tree-Climbing Robot Can Safely Harvest Coconuts
The robot could one day reduce the need for humans to take on the risky job of climbing coconut trees   By Michelle Hampson

Coconuts may be delicious and useful for producing a wide range of products, but harvesting them is no easy task. Specially trained harvesters must risk their lives by climbing trees roughly 15 meters high to hack off just one bunch of coconuts. A group of researchers in India has designed a robot, named Amaran, that could reduce the need for human harvesters to take such a risk. But is the robot up to the task?

The researchers describe the tree-climbing robot in a paper Published in the latest issue of IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. Along with lab tests, they compared Amaran’s ability to harvest coconuts to that of a 50-year-old veteran harvester. Whereas the man bested the robot in terms of overall speed, the robot excelled in endurance.    ... " 

USAF Seeks Shift in How Jets, Missiles, Satellites Are Designed

Makes sense to construct a digital model of any complex system. The robustness of the model will be important.  Also depends on contexts of use.  Risks. 

USAF Seeks Shift in How Jets, Missiles, Satellites Are Designed
The Washington Post
Aaron Gregg; Paul Sonne

U.S. Air Force acquisition and technology official Will Roper aims to make computer modeling a requirement for designing military jets, missiles, and satellites. He envisions government-owned, computer-generated models powered by artificial intelligence that test millions of potential weapons designs virtually before going to prototype, at significantly lower cost. Roper was inspired by Boeing and Saab's use of digital models in designing the T-7 Red Hawk trainer aircraft, especially "digital threading," in which designers produced a digital twin of the jet before manufacture. The National Defense Industrial Association's Hawk Carlisle said with digital engineering, "you can produce an airplane that is much faster, has fewer challenges in the manufacturing process, and is much more accurate and perfect."

IBM Promises 1000 qubit Quantum Computer

To what kinds of problems are likely to be addressed by Quantum computers?  Will this then be a narrowly focused 'supercomputer'.   HPC (High performance Computing) for specific problem types and domains. We worked with an early player in this space, and found the assignment still difficult to do.  How will this changed?   I like IBM's roadmap, gives us a process to push back on, which I look forward to examining. 

IBM promises 1000-qubit quantum computer—a milestone—by 2023
By Adrian Cho   in Science Mag

For 20 years scientists and engineers have been saying that “someday” they’ll build a full-fledged quantum computer able to perform useful calculations that would overwhelm any conventional supercomputer. But current machines contain just a few dozen quantum bits, or qubits, too few to do anything dazzling. Today, IBM made its aspirations more concrete by publicly announcing a “road map” for the development of its quantum computers, including the ambitious goal of building one containing 1000 qubits by 2023. IBM’s current largest quantum computer, revealed this month, contains 65 qubits.

“We’re very excited,” says Prineha Narang, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aliro Quantum, a startup that specializes in code that helps higher level software efficiently run on different quantum computers. “We didn’t know the specific milestones and numbers that they’ve announced,” she says. The plan includes building intermediate-size machines of 127 and 433 qubits in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and envisions following up with a million-qubit machine at some unspecified date. Dario Gil, IBM’s director of research, says he is confident his team can keep to the schedule. “A road map is more than a plan and a PowerPoint presentation,” he says. “It’s execution.” ... '

Japan Flying Taxi Services

Closer to filling up the skies?  Good detail at the link.

Japan on Track to Introduce Flying Taxi Services in 2023
SkyDrive’s success in conducting a piloted eVTOL test indicates short-hop flights are close to commercial reality     By John Boyd

Last year, Spectrum reported on Japan’s public-private initiative to create a new industry around electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and flying cars. Last Friday, start-up company SkyDrive Inc. demonstrated the progress made since then when it held a press conference to spotlight its prototype vehicle and show reporters a video taken three days earlier of the craft undergoing a piloted test flight in front of staff and investors. ... "

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Towards Robotic Chemistry

Better, faster, cheaper are the claims being made, with links to previous IBM work in the space.  Worked with a company analysis lab, and know the time and complexity involved.   This will replace experienced personnel.

Robotics, AI, and Cloud Computing Combine to Supercharge Chemical and Drug Synthesis
IBM looks to revolutionize industrial chemistry and in the process may have cut the discovery time for Covid-19 treatments in half  By Dexter Johnson  in  IEEE Spectrum

IBM must be brimming with confidence about its new automated system for performing chemical synthesis because Big Blue just had twenty or so journalists demo the complex technology live in a virtual room.

IBM even had one of the journalists choose the molecule for the demo: a molecule in a potential Covid-19 treatment. And then we watched as the system synthesized and tested the molecule and provided its analysis in a PDF document that we all saw in the other journalist’s computer. It all worked; again, that’s confidence.

The complex system is based upon technology IBM started developing three years ago that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to predict chemical reactions. In August 2018, IBM made this service available via the Cloud and dubbed it RXN for Chemistry.   ... " 

Critical Failure Detection, Prediction and Risk Analysis

We did related work which included risk analyses on solutions of many types, including AI machine learning and classical analytics.   Even those that could be considered less than 'critical'.  Typically using elements of predictive analyses.   Prediction could also be used to produce test sets for failure and recovery analyses.   Simulation also essential.  So the approach here is quite interesting. Can see the methodologies being intertwined.

AI researchers devise failure detection method for safety-critical machine learning
Researchers from MIT, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania have devised a method for predicting failure rates of safety-critical machine learning systems and efficiently determining their rate of occurrence. Safety-critical machine learning systems make decisions for automated technology like self-driving cars, robotic surgery, pacemakers, and autonomous flight systems for helicopters and planes. Unlike AI that helps you write an email or recommends a song, safety-critical system failures can result in serious injury or death. Problems with such machine learning systems can also cause financially costly events like SpaceX missing its landing pad.

Researchers say their neural bridge sampling method gives regulators, academics, and industry experts a common reference for discussing the risks associated with deploying complex machine learning systems in safety-critical environments. In a paper titled “Neural Bridge Sampling for Evaluating Safety-Critical Autonomous Systems,” recently published on arXiv,  https://arxiv.org/abs/2008.10581  the authors assert their approach can satisfy both the public’s right to know that a system has been rigorously tested and an organization’s desire to treat AI models like trade secrets. In fact, some AI startups and Big Tech companies refuse to grant access to raw models for testing and verification out of fear that such inspections could reveal proprietary information ...."

Inconsistent Benchmarking Found

Important finding.   Further classification of form of inconsistency would also be useful for later pre checking new papers.
 Researchers find ‘inconsistent’ benchmarking across 3,867 AI research papers    By Kyle Wiggers in Venturebeat

The metrics used to benchmark AI and machine learning models often inadequately reflect those models’ true performances. That’s according to a preprint study from researchers at the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Decision Support in Vienna, which analyzed data in over 3,000 model performance results from the open source web-based platform Papers with Code. They claim that alternative, more appropriate metrics are rarely used in benchmarking and that the reporting of metrics is inconsistent and unspecific, leading to ambiguities.

Benchmarking is an important driver of progress in AI research. A task (or tasks) and the metrics associated with it (or them) can be perceived as an abstraction of a problem the scientific community aims to solve. Benchmark data sets are conceptualized as fixed representative samples for tasks to be solved by a model. But while benchmarks covering a range of tasks including machine translation, object detection, or question-answering have been established, the coauthors of the paper claim some — like accuracy (i.e., the ratio of correctly predicted samples to the total number of samples) — emphasize certain aspects of performance at the expense of others. ... "

Monday, September 14, 2020

Radar Trends

See the O'Reilly Radar Trends.    Very nicely done, brought up a number of interesting surprises.  But many have been on my list for sometime.   Its now on my on going reading list:

Radar trends to watch: September 2020
Trends in AI, COVID-19, Programming, and more.
By Mike Loukides
September 1, 2020

Compared to the last few months, there are relatively few items about COVID. And almost no items about Blockchains, though the one item I’ve listed, about China’s Blockchain Services Network, may be the most important item here. I’m seeing a steady stream of articles about various forms of no-code/low-code programming. While many programmers scoff at the idea of programming-without-programming, spreadsheets are an early example of low-code programing. Excel is hardly insignificant. On the AI front, the most significant change is discussion (see the thread below) of a “Deep Learning Recession,” as companies under pressure from COVID look for results and can’t find them.  ... "   (Much more at the link) 
(and join the O'Reilly Newsletter)

Data Science Fails If it Looks too Good to be True

Not sure if I completely agree.  Have seen very good results come out of an analytic solution.  I agree that if it makes recommendations very different from current practice, or suggests buying into high risk, depends on unknown future states or or high investments, it deserves very close examination.    But if it simply has different methods, results or valuation.  Why not?  Hype bothers me too, but much value started there.

DSC Podcast

Data Science Fails – If It Looks Too Good To Be True...

You’ve probably seen amazing AI news headlines such as: AI can predict earthquakes. Using just a single heartbeat, an AI achieved 100% accuracy predicting congestive heart failure. AI can diagnose covid19 in seconds from a chest scan. A new marketing model is promising to increase the response rate tenfold. It all seems too good to be true. But as the modern proverb says, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.

In this latest Data Science Central podcast, https://dsc.news/3fhbOt9  we look behind the hype to show whether there is substance to these claims, and then show you how to avoid these types of data science fails.
Speaker: Colin Priest, VP of AI Strategy - DataRobot
Hosted by: Sean Welch, Host and Producer - Data Science Central

via DataRobot

How AI Fits into Today's Economy

TNW looks into AI, and provides a non technical view, points to Prediction Machines Book. good starting place regarding economics involved.

A realistic picture of how AI fits into today’s economy

There’s a difference between a shiny new thing and a thing that works. You just need to look at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to see how much of the technology we create just doesn’t cut it and gets tossed into the wastebin of innovation because it doesn’t find a working business model.

Where does artificial intelligence stand? Recent advances in machine learning have surely created a lot of excitement — and fear — around artificial intelligence. Game-playing bots that outmatch human champions. A text-generating AI that writes articles in mere seconds. Medical imaging algorithms that detect cancer years in advance.

How much of these technological advances are actually making it to the mainstream? How much of it is unwarranted hype? How will AI affect jobs? How is machine learning changing the business model of companies?

In their book Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence, professors Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, answer these and many other questions and paint a very realistic picture of the how machine learning fits into today’s economy.

Prediction Machines provides a very accessible and high-level overview of machine learning and the power and limits of the predictions provided by AI algorithms. The book is a must-read for business leaders and executives. But it is also a very valuable study for engineers and scientists who want to understand the implications of their innovations and how the technology they create integrates into the greater economy.

The book contains plenty of detailed and useful information and examples of how machine learning is changing how we do things. Here are some of my key takeaways.

The power of prediction machines
There are many misunderstandings about the meaning and difference of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other related terms. There’s are also a lot of scientific discussions about AI’s advances toward human-level thinking and understanding and whether singularity is within reach or not.   .... " 

Antipatterns and Tech Transforms

Antipatterns that are derailing technology transformations | in McKinsey

By Sven Blumberg, Thomas Delaet, and Kartikeya Swami

Ten ‘antipatterns’ that are derailing technology transformations

Shortsighted solutions to recurring problems—antipatterns—often sabotage a company’s transformation.

Most major organizations today have embarked on transformation programs in response to changes in customer, competitive, and regulatory landscapes. Whether the transformations are labeled agile, digital, or DevOps, their fundamental premise is to build value by establishing short, iterative, and continuous feedback loops between product and customers that dramatically improve both the product and its time to market. .... " 

Blogging Note

I am being forced by Google into using the latest version of Blogger now. And it has led me into an increase of errors.  And more editing.   I will fix them as I see them.   If you notice something that I have missed, and is important to you,  inform me and I will correct.

NVidia Buys ARM for 40 Billion, Plans new AI Research Center

Considerable detail in this ExtremeTech piece, On China connections.

Nvidia Buys ARM for $40 Billion, Plans New AI Research Center
 In ExtremeTech by Joel Hruska

The Nvidia-ARM rumors we’ve been reporting on for the past few months have culminated in a major announcement: Nvidia will acquire ARM for ~$40B in cash and stock. After the deal, Nvidia will own ARM and SoftBank will be the largest shareholder of Nvidia stock.

The conditions of the deal are reportedly complex and required that SoftBank settle a dispute between Allen Wu, the former CEO of ARM China who claimed to retain legal control of the business unit, and ARM, who steadfastly claimed it had fired him. A spokesperson for Wu told the Financial Times “he remains the chairman of ARM China,” so whether that means the issue is still percolating or that Nvidia is going to retain his services is anyone’s guess.  ... "

Sunday, September 13, 2020

On Ensemble Methods, the How and Why

Nicely done piece on the topic.  The general overiew motivates the use of all kinds of group solutions, even without analytics methods involved.  We often used them if we were at all uncertain of best solution methods.   They also could give better indication  of the breadth of value in a solution.  Worth reading.

How and why of the ensemble models  in TowardsDataScience  
why does crowd intelligence work?
Dr. Saptarsi Goswami

 There is a famous game show in India named “Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC)” inspired by “Who wants to be a Millionaire”. It was kind of a quiz show with multiple choices of answers. If the participants can choose the right option for all questions, he or she can win 10 Million Indin Rupees. The participants had some options to resort to if he is unsure about any question. One such option was taking an audience poll and go by the majority choice.

The questions could be from Sports, Mythology, Politics, Music, Movies, Culture, Science, etc that is from a variety of subjects. The audience were no experts of any such subject. Interestingly, more often than not the majority opinion will turn out to be the correct answer. This is the central concept behind ensembling.

Seems like a Magic right, let’s look at the mathematical intuition of the same.
The idea is presented using the following simple diagram, in the context of ML. Now each person is equivalent to a classifier and like the audience is diverse, the more uncorrelated the classifiers better it is.  ... " 

Alexa and HIPAA

 Skill directions in healthcare.  Requirements are interesting.

Amazon Opens Applications for HIPAA-Eligible Alexa Skills
 Eric Hal Schwartz on September 11, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Amazon is expanding its HIPAA-compliant Alexa skill program, a year after it first debuted. Any interested voice app developer may now apply for the special certification proving the skill complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and with Amazon’s standards for those skills. As applying voice technology to healthcare becomes more popular, offering a guide toward HIPAA compliance could help position Amazon as a leader in the space.

Amazon unveiled its HIPAA-compliance program over a year ago. Six voice apps and the Alexa platform were certified by the government as safe to collect and distribute Protected Health Information (PHI) appropriately. Talkspace, Boston Children’s Hospital, and the others were all invited to participate in the program, and until now, it has remained an invite-only program. At the time, Amazon painted the limits as necessary to test and improve how the program would operate, including the release of an Alexa Skills Kit specifically for healthcare. T Developers must explain why they want the certification, how they will get people to find and use it, and how it will offer a “compelling experience” for users. Just technically complying with all of the guidelines is not enough, and Amazon has made it clear that not every application will be approved, regardless of a developer’s technical ability.  ... " 

Finding the New from the Old

Makes the case that you can use older data to make useful conclusions.  Though in our experience the required meta data was often not available.    Physics/astronomy is at least often based on some strong science foundations.

AI Identifies 50 New Planets From Old NASA Data
Jessie Yeung
August 26, 2020

Machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) developed by astronomers and computer scientists at the U.K.'s University of Warwick found 50 new planets by mining old data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The researchers educated the algorithm on data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope, teaching it to differentiate real planets from false positives. The AI was then tasked to analyze old datasets of planetary candidates, in which it discovered the 50 previously unknown exoplanets. Warwick's David Armstrong said this is the first time machine learning has been used to rank planetary candidates in a probabilistic framework, and the research suggests the AI could "validate thousands of unseen candidates in seconds."... '

Publishers vs Internet Archive

Came across this pre pandemic when I received a letter from my local library about them decreasing the number of digital 'copies' of books available.    Had previously been connected to the Google Books program, that sought to digitize many books.   Still under way, but now far reduced.   There the publishers fought the digitization, even when the books involved were orphaned,  and had no remaining copyright owners.   Had not heard of the case with the Internet Archive,  which we used to track the emergence of web sites.   What does it mean to own a book?  And what does it mean in these times?    The Internet is a great resource, but shouldn't it have access to all publications?
Publishers Are Taking the Internet to Court
In a lawsuit against the Internet Archive, the largest corporations in publishing want to change what it means to own a book.    By Maria Bustillos   in TheNation.

When Covid-19 struck, hundreds of millions of students were suddenly stranded at home without access to teachers or libraries. UNESCO reported that in April, 90 percent of the world’s enrolled students had been adversely affected by the pandemic. In response, the Internet Archive’s Open Library announced the National Emergency Library, a temporary program suspending limits on the number of patrons who could borrow its digital books simultaneously. The Open Library lends at no charge about 4 million digital books, 2.5 million of which are in the public domain, and 1.4 million of which may be under copyright and subject to lending restrictions. (This is roughly equivalent to a medium-sized city library; the New York Public Library, by comparison, holds 21.9 million books and printed materials and 1.78 million e-books, according to 2016 figures from the American Library Association.) But the National Emergency Library wound up creating an emergency of its own—for the future of libraries. ... "     (Much more in the article) 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Voice Interoperability Initiative: Combining Assistant Contexts?

Had seen this mentioned before, but had not completely understood its implications.  Considerable piece in Venturebeat.    Overall implications for ultimate intelligence of an assistant are unclear to me,but this takes an interesting step. Still think that intelligent interaction based on context is most important.   But if we can make multiple assistants collaborate, say based on particular focused context?     Looking further.    Have some other docs you can point me to?  See intro and key links below:

Facebook and Dolby join Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative   By Kyle Wiggers / VentureBeat:

Amazon's Voice Interoperability Initiative, which lets multiple assistants work on a single device, adds 38 new members including Facebook, Dolby, and Xiaomi  —  Last September, Amazon unveiled the Voice Interoperability Initiative, a program aimed at ensuring voice-enabled products …
Last September, Amazon unveiled the Voice Interoperability Initiative, a program aimed at ensuring voice-enabled products like smart speakers and displays allow users to choose among multiple voice assistants. Today, the company announced the addition of 38 new members including Dolby, Facebook, Garmin, and Xiaomi to the initiative, bringing the total number of member companies to 77. (Google remains conspicuously absent from the list.) To mark the milestone, Amazon published what it’s calling the Multi-Agent design guide, a whitepaper outlining design recommendations Voice Interoperability Initiative members should use in building multi-assistant products.

The Voice Interoperability Initiative is organized around four core principles, the first of which is developing voice services that work “seamlessly” with others while ostensibly preserving privacy. (Amazon in particular has a spotty track record when it comes to voice privacy, but the company claims to have made strides in recent months.) Members seek to build devices that ship with multiple assistants as they work to accelerate conversational AI research, with the goal of enabling users to leverage the capabilities afforded by Alexa, Cortana, and other services on a single platform.  .... " 

AI and Restaurants

Instructive insights about an industry that is now under considerable pressure.

  ... AI Issues and Advances in the Restaurant and QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) Industry
Via Northwestern and Platt Institute

The Retail Analytics Council (RAC) recently hosted a roundtable discussion regarding AI in the restaurant and quick service restaurant industry. 

Five panelists were asked to respond to a series of questions. Generally, the questions probed the participants’ thoughts on the challenges and successes with AI implementation in the restaurant and QSR space.

Read the Roundtable:   
"AI Issues and Advances in the Restaurant and QSR Industry"  (20 pages) 
Panelists include:
Zipporah Allen, Vice President, Digital Experiences, Taco Bell
Nitin Chaturvedi, Chief Digital Transformation Officer, KFC Global
Sherif Mityas, Former Chief Experience Officer, TGI FRIDAYS
Mark Patton, Chief Technology Officer, Studio Movie Grill
Grant Riewe, Senior Digital Expert and Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company

Read: AI Issues and Advances in the Restaurant and QSR Industry

The Retail Analytics Council (RAC) is the leading organization focused on the study of consumer shopping behavior across retail platforms and the impact of technology. Established in August 2014, RAC is an initiative between Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications department, Northwestern University, and the Platt Retail Institute.
Platt Retail Institute Offices... 

Wolfram Alpha Notebook Turns One: Does Chemistry

This remains taking a close look at.   We explored WolframAlpha itself.  What I liked here was its use in specific context, like here: Chemistry.  Does this help or diminish teaching in the basics of analytical chemistry?  Note the inclusion of 'inferences' in your queries,  how should they be validated?

Peter Falloon, Jeremy Stratton-Smith:The Wolfram Alpha Chemistry Team
Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition Turns One: Now with Support for Chemistry, Demonstrations and 
Brad Janes, Wolfram|Alpha Math Content Manager
Peter Falloon, Data & Semantics Engineering
Jeremy Stratton-Smith, Math Developer, Wolfram|Alpha Math Content

The WolframAlpha Chemistry Team
Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition was released nearly a year ago, and we’re proud to share what the team has been working on since. In addition to the improvements made to Wolfram|Alpha itself, new input and output suggestions were added. There were parsing fixes, additions to the Wolfram|Alpha-to-Wolfram Language translation and some of the normal improvements one would expect. There are also some bigger features and interesting new capabilities that we will explore in a bit more detail here.

If you haven’t checked out Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition in a while, we’d like to invite you to revisit. With education looking a little different for many people right now, this could be a great time to explore this exciting new way to interface with Wolfram technologies.

One of the most useful features of any notebook-based computational environment is the ability to reuse the result of a prior calculation as the input to a new one. Using this, computations can be built up using an intuitive “step-by-step” approach and the need for cutting/pasting or retyping is reduced. 

In Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition, previous outputs can be referenced in a variety of ways, ranging from familiar Wolfram Language constructs such as %n or Out[n] to natural language expressions such as “simplify the last result,” “plot the above” or “square it.” In certain cases, an explicit reference needn’t even appear: e.g. if you input “y = sin(x^3)” followed by “make a plot,” Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition will infer that you want to make a plot of the previous equation. 

This functionality, which has been under continuous development since the release of this product, has recently been extended to leverage the powerful semantic capabilities that power the Suggestions Bar. This allows for context-dependent tailoring of results containing references to previous outputs based on the semantic types of those results. As we build out this functionality, you can expect to see Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition becoming even smarter in helping you to build up your computations.   .... "

Robot Dogs Exercise with Troops

Not unexpected, seems most of the examples shown are remotely controlled via tele operation as opposed  to  autonomous,  but the latter,  especially in supporting roles, are sure to quickly follow.

Robot Dogs Join U.S. Air Force Exercise
Brad Lendon
September 9, 2020

A recent U.S. Air Force (USAF) exercise utilizing robot dogs offered a potential preview of things to come on battlefields, with the legged machines dispatched to visually scout for threats after planes land in potentially hostile areas. The Vision 60 autonomous unmanned ground vehicles from Ghost Robotics can operate on any terrain and in any environment and can carry multiple sensors and radios. The electronic canines are part of the U.S. military’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which employs artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to detect and counter threats to military assets in space, as well as possible attacks against the U.S. USAF assistant secretary Will Roper said, " Valuing data as an essential warfighting resource, one no less vital than jet fuel or satellites, is the key to next-gen warfare.”

Secure Quantum Communications

Intriguing application of quantum communication.  Reminds me me some papers read in the way back about use of split wavelength data streams.    Worth a look. 

Secure Quantum Communications Network the Largest of Its Kind
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
September 2, 2020

Scientists at the U.K.'s University of Bristol have developed a secure quantum communications network based on multiplexing entanglement, a process that can be used to produce a secure encryption key. Multiplexing entanglement splits photons from a single laser based on their wavelength, rather than linking users one-to-one. Bristol's Siddarth Joshi said each wavelength can support a data stream, allowing the system to accommodate 50 to 100 users with existing hardware. Joshi says this method can be used to link millions of devices together, and his goal "is to build the quantum Internet."... '