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Monday, April 30, 2018

Managing Insurance with a Blockchain

Why use the architecture of Blockchain to manage insurance?   A well told piece makes the case.  Said to be the first significant application in insurance.

A well stated insurance application, with link to an excellent tech white paper.  Insurance is often a leader in digital applications and also in analytics, since insurance grew out of direct statistical methods, both in its management and measurement.

ANZ and IBM build insurance management blockchain for New Zealand   By Kyt Dotson in SiliconAngle

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group along with IBM Corp. and banking company Suncorp New Zealand Ltd. today announced the development of blockchain distributed ledger technology aimed at easing payments and reconciliation in the insurance industry.

Blockchain technology is used across numerous industries as a way to secure distributed data in a decentralized manner that also makes it difficult to tamper with. Each transaction sent through the blockchain is cryptographically secured in a ledger that is shared between multiple parties and transactions are not added until all members agree.

After the transaction is added, each subsequent transaction strengthens that security. The blockchain also becomes a historical record of all past transactions that can be audited by third parties and regulators to ensure legal compliance or investigate data patterns.

A press release from IBM and ANZ claimed that this is the first insurance industry-related blockchain of its kind released in New Zealand. .... " 

White paper on the effort:

Distributed Ledger Technology for Reconciliation between Insurance Companies and Brokers.

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited’s (‘ANZ’) Proof of Concept demonstrates how distributed ledger technology (‘DLT’) can solve inefficiencies in the reconciliation of bordereau statements, which detail the insurance policies that brokers manage, and the corresponding payments to insurance companies. DLT can be used to create a ‘single source of truth’ for brokers and insurance companies, removing the need for reconciliations in the process and providing greater visibility for more informed management decisions ... " 

Serverless Computing

Paul Gillin does a good job of describing the latest architecture thing.  Destined to replace the Cloud?

Finally comfy in the cloud? Get ready for another jolt: serverless computing   By Paul Gillin in SiliconAngle ...

Google Analytics Sample Dataset for BigQuery

Worthwhile if you are using Google Analytics.  I like the idea of a usefully big and complex sample database and sample code.

Introducing the Google Analytics Sample Dataset for BigQuery

The Google Analytics 360 integration with Google BigQuery gives analysts the opportunity to glean new business insights by accessing session and hit level data and combining it with separate data sets. Organizations and developers can analyze unsampled analytics data in seconds through BigQuery, a web service that lets developers and businesses conduct interactive analysis of big data sets and tap into powerful data analytics.

To help you learn or teach practical experience with analyzing analytics data in BigQuery, we are pleased to announce the availability of a Google Analytics sample dataset. This is accessible directly through the BigQuery interface. The dataset includes data from the Google Merchandise Store, an Ecommerce site that sells Google branded merchandise. The typical Google Analytics 360 data you would expect to see such as AdWords, Goals and Enhanced Ecommerce data can be queried. You can see the fields part of the export schema that you can query here.   ..... "

Podcast on GDPR Implications for Startups

In Andreessen Horowitz

a16z Podcast: What to Know about GDPR  with Lisa Hawke and Steven Sinofsky

Given concern around data breaches, the EU Parliament finally passed GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) after four years of preparation and debate; it goes into enforcement on May 25, 2018. Though it originated in Europe, GDPR is a form of long-arm jurisdiction that affects many U.S. companies — including most software startups, because data collection and user privacy touch so much of what they do. With EU regulators focusing most on transparency, GDPR affects everything from user interface design to engineering to legal contracts and more.

That’s why it’s really about “privacy by design”, argues former environmental scientist and lawyer Lisa Hawke, who spent most of her career in regulatory compliance in the oil industry and is now Vice President of Security and Compliance at a16z portfolio company Everlaw (she also serves as Vice Chair for Women in Security and Privacy). And it’s also why, observes a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky, everyone — from founders to product managers to engineers and others — should think about privacy and data regulations (like GDPR, HIPAA, etc.) as a culture… not just as “compliance”.  ... " 

Charlene Li Looks at Groundswell

Happened on this, interesting to see some predictions of the future and how they played out.

Reflecting on 10 Years of Groundswell and What To Do Next by Charlene Li

10 years ago, my co-author Josh Bernoff and I released our first book, “Groundswell: Living in a World Transformed by Social Technologies”. On this anniversary, I wanted to reflect on what our expectations were when we published that work, what has changed, and what has not. Josh has shared his thoughts as well.

Our Expectations
When we started working on the book in early 2007, we could see the makings of a revolution, even through many people around us considered social media to be a fad, something that the young and crazy did. We could see that social would challenge our conventional definitions of relationships, hierarchies, control, permission, and privacy. The things that business and society held as true, sacred, and unchanging would be toppled. Hence, the need for a book to explain what social would mean and very importantly, what to do with it. ... " 

Age Detection using AI

A problem we looked at in recent years. 

Scientists Use AI to Predict Biological Age Based on Smartphone, Wearables Data

MIPT News (Russia)

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) researchers in Russia have demonstrated that physical activity data obtained from wearable computing devices can be used to generate digital biomarkers of aging and frailty. "Recent promising examples in the field of medicine include neural networks showing cardiologist-level performance in detection of the arrhythmia in ECG data, deriving biomarkers of age from clinical blood biochemistry, and predicting mortality based on electronic medical records," notes MIPT's Peter Fedichev. "Inspired by these examples, we explored AI potential for Health Risks Assessment based on human physical activity." The scientists analyzed physical activity records and clinical data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and trained a neural network to predict biological age and mortality risk of participants in a week-long stream of activity measurements. A convolutional neural network was used to deconstruct the most biologically relevant motion patterns and establish their relation to general health and recorded lifespan. ... " 

Stanford Develops Technique to See Objects Around Corners

Recall testing clamp and fork lifts in warehouses for better viewing.

Stanford researchers develop technique to see objects hidden around corners

Someday your self-driving car could react to hazards before you even see them, thanks to a laser-based imaging technology being developed by Stanford researchers that can peek around corners.

Stanford Researchers Develop Technique to See Objects Hidden Around Corners

in Stanford News   By Taylor Kubota

Stanford University researchers have developed laser-based imaging technology that can produce images of objects hidden from view, which could enable self-driving cars to react to hazards before the driver even sees them. While the researchers are focused on applications for autonomous vehicles, some of which already have similar laser-based systems for detecting objects around the car, other applications could include seeing through foliage from aerial vehicles or giving rescue teams the ability to find people blocked from view by walls and rubble. The team is continuing its efforts to better handle the variability of the real world and complete the scan more quickly. ... "

Towards an Autonomous Future

Good read.  Yes, expect more autonomy, more technology.    More at the link.

How Organizations Will Produce in an Autonomous Future

Big Idea: Artificial Intelligence and Business StrategyBlog
By James Gips, Brendan Guerin, and Sam Ransbotham

Can AI-enabled automation replace your company’s entire labor force?

 Autonomous workforce jobs

How much will technology change affect labor? According to research informing our 2017 research report, “Reshaping Business with Artificial Intelligence,” not as much as one would expect. Less than half of more than 3,000 survey respondents expect AI to reduce their organization’s workforce in the next five years, and just 30% are fearful that AI will automate their own jobs. But as technology relentlessly improves, significant changes may still be on the horizon. To what extent can AI-enabled automation replace the entire labor force of an organization?

Consider these companies:

The Moby Mart, a store on wheels, brings groceries to customers in Shanghai. Unlike most other retailers, each mobile store has no staff, not even cashiers.

The Aidyia hedge fund consolidates recommendations generated with multiple types of artificial intelligence. Free from the constraints of physical products, algorithms trade digital assets without human involvement.   

BottleKeeper, a producer of stainless steel containers, has no employees.

These companies, encompassing both physical and purely digital products, showcase the potential of autonomous companies. They are taking the replacement of labor with technology to an extreme. While most organizations are far from this extreme, what can managers in far less autonomous companies learn from — and be wary of — the trend toward autonomous companies?   ... "

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sales Growth with Analytics

Some reasonable thoughts from McKinsey.  Get the data right.

Starting the analytics journey: Where you can find sales growth right now

By Charles Atkins, Mitra Mahdavian, Katelyn McCarthy, and Michael Viertler

By getting five basic elements right, sales teams can drive new revenue while building analytics muscles for the future.

If data is the oil of the digital age, then analytics is the engine that turns it into energy. What excites the most forward-thinking executives today is analytics’ strategic value: the ability to enable and inform broad commercial growth and transformation, not just incremental efficiency gains. ... "

Never-Ending Learning Continues at CMU

Was reminded of this effort.  During our early work with AI, based on very large and messy rule bases, we tried to introduce learning capabilities.   I note this has been going on at CMU since 2010.  How might this connect with other kinds of applications like CYC?   Ultimately such efforts will build the foundation of broad AI.  Here an update, examining further and will now stay in touch.

Though technical, some useful discussion of the underlying motivations.

Here the site for the project, which includes a simple statement of purpose.

A paper of depth with statements of progress:  Never-Ending Learning

By T. Mitchell, W. Cohen, E. Hruschka, P. Talukdar, B. Yang, J. Betteridge, A. Carlson, B. Dalvi, M. Gardner, B. Kisiel, J. Krishnamurthy, N. Lao, K. Mazaitis, T. Mohamed, N. Nakashole, E. Platanios, A. Ritter, M. Samadi, B. Settles, R. Wang, D. Wijaya, A. Gupta, X. Chen, A. Saparov, M. Greaves, J. Welling 

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 5, Pages 103-115

Whereas people learn many different types of knowledge from diverse experiences over many years, and become better learners over time, most current machine learning systems are much more narrow, learning just a single function or data model based on statistical analysis of a single data set. We suggest that people learn better than computers precisely because of this difference, and we suggest a key direction for machine learning research is to develop software architectures that enable intelligent agents to also learn many types of knowledge, continuously over many years, and to become better learners over time. In this paper we define more precisely this never-ending learning paradigm for machine learning, and we present one case study: the Never-Ending Language Learner (NELL), which achieves a number of the desired properties of a never-ending learner. NELL has been learning to read the Web 24hrs/day since January 2010, and so far has acquired a knowledge base with 120mn diverse, confidence-weighted beliefs (e.g., servedWith(tea,biscuits)), while learning thousands of interrelated functions that continually improve its reading competence over time. NELL has also learned to reason over its knowledge base to infer new beliefs it has not yet read from those it has, and NELL is inventing new relational predicates to extend the ontology it uses to represent beliefs. We describe the design of NELL, experimental results illustrating its behavior, and discuss both its successes and shortcomings as a case study in never-ending learning. NELL can be tracked online at http://rtw.ml.cmu.edu, and followed on Twitter at @CMUNELL.  ... "

Will People Give Amazon Keys to their Cars?

Delivery to the car trunk, in collaboration with some automobile manufacturers.  Seems a very narrow niche, examples and use cases, but why not try it if the architecture is there?  This has been much in the news.  Amazon is certainly exploring all the channels and sub-channels of retail.

Will Prime members give Amazon the key to their cars?   in Retailwire with discussion by George Anderson with expert discussion.

Amazon.com has announced that Amazon Key, the service that affords the e-tailer access to the homes of customers to make deliveries, is being expanded to include cars, as well.

Amazon Key In-Car enables Prime members with compatible cars to give the e-tailer access to their vehicles when they are parked at home, work or other publicly-accessible space. The service is now available in 37 cities and surrounding areas with plans to further expand the offer. Millions of items will be available for same-day, two-day and standard shipping from Amazon.

A YouTube video of first-time users shows them praising the service. One of the featured customers on the video says, “I needed a few birthday presents for my daughter and thought this would be the perfect use because she won’t find them, and the packages won’t be stolen from my doorstep.”... "

Dealing with Health Data

Good and considerable piece.  Needs to be rethought before losing the complete power of medical data.

Finding a Healthier Approach to Managing Medical Data  By Samuel Greengard 
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 5, Pages 31-33

One of the formidable challenges healthcare providers face is putting medical data to maximum use. Somewhere between the quest to unlock the mysteries of medicine and design better treatments, therapies, and procedures, lies the real world of applying data and protecting patient privacy.

"Today, there are many barriers to putting data to work in the most effective way possible," observes Drew Harris, director of health policy and population health at Thomas Jefferson University's College of Population Health in Philadelphia, PA. "The goals of protecting patients and finding answers are frequently at odds."

It is a critical issue and one that will define the future of medicine. Medical advances are increasingly dependent on the analysis of enormous datasets—as well as data that extends beyond any one agency or enterprise. What's more, as connected healthcare devices flourish, at-home and remote monitoring blossoms and big data analytics advances at a staggering rate, the stakes—and the ability to use, misuse, and abuse confidential data grows significantly.

"Healthcare is at a very important crossroads. To move to a more value-based framework and one that rewards patient and doctor behavior, we need to have systems in place that manage data and protect individuals," says Ophir Frieder, professor of computer science and information processing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and professor of biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biomathematics at the Georgetown University Medical Center.     .... "

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Forrester Examines Conversational Computing Platforms

Passed along to me, useful, but ultimately this is about a choice in specific context.  In supporting architecture.

The Forrester New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018The Seven Providers That Matter Most And How They Stack UpBy Rob Koplowitz, Michael Facemire with Christopher Mines , Sara Sjoblom , Diane Lynch , Peter Harrison

Why Read This Report

In Forrester's evaluation of the emerging market for conversational computing platforms, we identified the seven most significant providers — Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Nuance Communications, Oracle, and Rulai — in the category and evaluated them. This report details our findings about how each vendor scored against nine criteria and where they stand in relation to each other. Application developers should use this review to select the right partners for their conversational computing platform needs.  .... "

AHold Partnership for AI Research

A major retailer makes an interesting play.   To better compete with the likes of Wal-mart and Amazon I am sure.  Some intriguing details.

Ahold Delhaize joins partnership for AI research

Ahold Delahize is launching a partnership with a Dutch research group to study how artificial intelligence can create better recommendations for shoppers. Another focus for the company's partnership with the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence will be better management of the movement of inventories.  .... " 

On Unintended Circumstances

There are always unintended consequences,   but what are their risks?  Always suggest a risk analysis to understand precise nature and magnitude over time.

 Unintended Consequences   By Vinton G. Cerf

Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. He served as ACM president from 2012–2014.  Was an an inventor of the Internet.

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 3, Page 7

When the internet was being developed, scientists and engineers in academic and research settings drove the process. In their world, information was a medium of exchange. Rather than buying information from each other, they exchanged it. Patents were not the first choice for making progress; rather, open sharing of designs and protocols were preferred. Of course, there were instances where hardware and even software received patent and licensing treatment, but the overwhelming trend was to keep protocols and standards open and free of licensing constraints. The information-sharing ethic contributed to the belief that driving down barriers to information and resource sharing was an important objective. Indeed, the Internet as we know it today has driven the barrier to the generation and sharing of information to nearly zero. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, Web cams, sensors, and other devices share text, imagery, video, and other data with a tap of a finger or through autonomous operation. Blogs, tweets, social media, and Web page updates, email and a host of other communication mechanisms course through the global Internet in torrents (no pun intended). Much, if not most, of the information found on the Internet seems to me to be beneficial; a harvest of human knowledge. But there are other consequences of the reduced threshold for access to the Internet. ... "

Tracking Diamond Provenance with TrustChain

Readily understandable proposition in Fortune.

IBM Blockchain Is Tracking Diamond Rings Across the Globe
 By Jeff  John Roberts in Fortune 

Couples who pick out an engagement ring will soon be able to trace its history from the mine to the jewelry store. This is thanks to a global jewelry consortium using blockchain technology to create an indelible tracking system for the diamond and gold in six types of popular rings.

The project, announced Thursday, is known as TrustChain and involves precious metal suppliers, refiners and manufacturers working with the U.S. retail jeweler Helzberg Diamonds. TrustChain will use IBM blockchain tools to allow anyone in the supply chain—and eventually the customer—to verify the provenance of the rings.

The jewelry industry has long relied on certificates to show a gem is not counterfeit, or sourced from conflict zones. But the process is cumbersome, relying on a scattered series of records, many of which might be transcribed only on paper.  ... "

CEOs and Machine Learning

Good piece, wordy but useful description. A set of charts or infograpics might be better.

How CEOs Can Decode The Alphabet Soup Of Machine Learning  By Mike Salvino in Chief Executive.

Two words that are spoken in every leadership and board meeting around the world right now are “machine learning”.  Technology buzzwords seem to monopolize these meetings.  Who could forget: digital, big data, internet of things (IoT), mobility, …-as-a-service, security, the cloud and the recent favorite, blockchain?  Now, machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement learning, and numerous other technological terms that describe the artificial intelligence space have become this year’s buzzwords.

I’ve been in meetings with other executives where most people, including me, can’t make heads or tails of what people are talking about when this subject comes up. It’s like listening to a foreign language. If you are a CEO, your closest confidants are throwing all these words at you and you are thinking to yourself: “How did they learn this concept so fast? When did they become the expert in this space?” Most of them are just serving up the alphabet soup of the latest buzzwords to mask their own ignorance.  It’s up to you to figure out who knows what they are talking about (“contenders”), who doesn’t (“pretenders”), and whether this machine learning technology really matters to your business. .... "

Supply Chain Enterprise Blockchain

Nicely done, well-explained, non-technical.

Supply Chain
Enterprise-ready blockchain brings transparency to supply chains
Written by: Todd Scott

Categorized: Blockchain Explained | Conference | Supply Chain

There are over 17 million shipping containers in the world, of which five to six million are currently being transported on oceans, rails and roads. In the shipping process, inconsistent information and limited transparency across organizational boundaries can sometimes hinder the efficient movement of goods. These costly inefficiencies could soon be eliminated by blockchain supply chain solutions.

Estimates say trade document processing and administration currently add a staggering 20 percent to the physical cost of shipping a single container. With more than $4 trillion in goods shipped each year, blockchain supply chain solutions such as the planned joint venture between Maersk and IBM could reshape the shipping industry — if not every other industry connected to it.  .... " 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Self Folding Origami

Consider the materials implications.

CMU Researchers Create Self-Folding Origami, Try for Pasta That Shapes as it Cooks 

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
BY Aaron Aupperlee

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU's) Human-Computer Interaction Institute have created origami that folds itself, in a project presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Montreal this week. The team believes the work could enable flat pasta that takes shape when cooked, flat satellites that unfold in space, and furniture that assembles itself inside homes. The lab created the self-folding shapes using a three-dimensional (3D) printer; researchers noticed a problem with edges and surfaces warping, "but we've taken this disadvantage and turned it to our advantage," says CMU researcher Lining Yao. The researchers control the printer's speed and use some materials found to warp and others that do not; when the printed objects are placed in hot water, some of the material warps and some does not, creating a 3D shape. .... " 

Google Assistant Providing How-tos

Visual how-to videos, to be delivered by a number of small screen devices.   Similar and competing with the Amazon Show.  Have been testing the Show, Google Home and Echos for how to's for time. 
Google already has this content,  a huge number of 'how to's on YouTube.   Amazon Show has no where near the content.    I also note the point being made by the statement 'How to cook pasta, brought to you by Barilla'.  The ads can easily overwhelm the content value of the knowledge provided.  I see that already in many YouTubes.   Especially when the link between knowledge and message is weak.   So beware of the Ads fouling the advice.

Long ago we did a similar thing when we created a Tide sponsored assistant, then delivered on a CDRom.  (See tags below)  We lobbied for less mention of Tide, but the brands and their own ideas.  Similarly with Mr. Clean.

Google reportedly planning sponsored how-to videos for Assistant
How to cook pasta, brought to you by Barilla  ... 

By Chris Welch  @chriswelch in TheVerge ...

New Research

Pointed out to me from HWK

Working Knowledge
Business Research for Business Leaders

Of special interest among new research papers, case studies, articles, and books released this week by Harvard Business School faculty .... "

Maersk Shipping on Blockchain

More on this example, previously reported:

Blockchain Is About to Revolutionize the Shipping Industry   By Bloomberg

Maersk, APL, Hyundai race to build paperless cargo system
Adoption of blockchain could generate $1 trillion in trade .... "

Routines for Process

Have now created a few.  The basic idea is good. You don't invoke one thing, but give an assistant a stream of things to do, but only their things.    So a  bunch of things might be tasks that comprise a job to do.   Both Alexa and Google Home now do it.    Was thinking of it term of a simple definition of Process. ...  Do 1,2,3 to do X ...  But still too simple, no logic,  no way to introduce you own components, only use theirs.  No way to save and Query  'States'.

Alexa Routines can now include music and podcasts
You can add artists, playlists, albums, stations and podcasts to a Routine.

Amazon launched Alexa Routines last year and they let users set up a list of automated smart home actions that can be triggered with a simple command. For example, "Alexa, good morning," could launch a Routine that turns on the lights, reports the weather forecast, reads news briefings and starts the coffee maker. Missing from the Routine capabilities, however, has been music. Well, no longer, because Amazon is now rolling out the ability to add playlists, podcasts and radio shows to your Alexa Routines. .... " 

Alexa to Sport a Bigger, more Conversational Brain

A good direction, needs to be continued.   Some very interesting details in the blog post.

Alexa’s bigger ‘brain’ is getting new skills, natural conversation, and memory  By Clayton Moore in DigitalTrends

The digital assistant Alexa is about to get smarter and potentially easier to use, according to a new presentation at the International World Wide Web Conference in Lyon, France. The platform will soon be able to remember information you have instructed it to keep handy, enjoy more natural conversations without having to voice the “Alexa” prompt, and merge commerce recommendations into everyday exchanges.

These evolutionary changes were detailed by Ruhi Sarikaya, the head of the Alexa Brain Group, in a developer blog post that gave more context to the announcement. The department’s primary mission is to make Alexa smarter and more engaging, while making it easier for users to access tens of thousands of Alexa Skills, and training the assistant to retain and utilize contextual information. .... "

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Where IFTTT is Going

Looking for a business model, and things to attract businesses.   I suggest that they think of how they can introduce business rules and machine learning to add to their capabilities.  Find real value in the streams of data.   By combining data with public data,  creating new data, delivering metadata and constructing analytic results of value.

IFTTT’s Latest Plan: Helping Legacy Companies Take On Tech Giants
The handy automation service has years of experience and millions of users. Now all it needs is a business model.   By Jared Newman in Fastcompany

A brick-and-mortar powerhouse like grocery giant Kroger might not appreciate being called a “legacy” enterprise, but that’s the reality IFTTT is pitching as it tries to turn its popular-but-geeky internet switchboard service into a viable business.

IFTTT, which launched in 2011, can connect products that aren’t designed to work together. You might use the service to automatically log Spotify songs in a Google Drive spreadsheet, sync your Instagram photos to Dropbox, or change the color of your smart light bulbs if it’s going to rain that day. (Its name is an acronym for “if this, than that,” a nod to the kinds of conditional statements used by programmers.) .... " 

Individualization vs Personalization

Will Gen Zers push personalization toward individualization?     by Tom Ryan in Retailwire

According to a study from the IBM Institute for Business Value, Gen Zers find value provided at an individualized level — such as when it is delivered through promotions and offers that match individual Gen Zers’ specific needs and desires — as more important than personalized experiences shaped by the brand. 

The study, done in collaboration with the National Retail Federation (NRF) and based on survey of 15,600 Gen Zers from 16 countries, said that while individualization and personalization are similar concepts, they are initiated differently: ... " 

Press Release.

Giant Touchpads

Talked to office furniture manufactures about some of these methods.

A coat of conductive paint can transform regular walls into giant touchpads   In Digital Trends By Luke Dormehl

The late Mark Weiser, the former chief scientist at Xerox PARC, once stated, “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Few tech projects summarize that vision of ubiquitous computing better than a new project carried out by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research. Through the use of conductive paint and some low-cost electronics, they have found a way to transform regular, boring internal walls into smart infrastructure able to detect human touch. .... "

Freeing Your Metadata

Late reported to me, but of interest.  An area I worked on in the enterprise.  Needs more application of analytical methods.

26 April 2018 noon US Eastern for 60 minutes

Mandy Chessell & John Mertic “Enabling Your Products for Open Metadata” 

You must pre-register here: https://www.odpi.org/projects/data-governance-pmc

IBM & Linux Foundation:    Free Your Metadata

Building on the its success at establishing standards in the Apache Hadoop data platform, the ODPi now turns its focus to the next big data challenge – enabling metadata management and governance at scale, across the enterprise.

Talk Recording and Slides will be placed here:  http://cognitive-science.info/community/weekly-update/ 

Microsoft Tests Productivity Bot

Another example of augmenting work, the paper mentioned

Microsoft looks to bots to make employees more productive

Microsoft is continuing its quest to try to make workers more productive via a variety of bots, including SwitchBot and Calendar help.   By Mary Jo Foley

Information about SwitchBot was made public in the form of a research paper published on April 21 for the 2018 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

SwitchBot is a Skype bot that aims to help workers detach and then reengage at the start and end of their workdays. It's goal: To make workers more productive by getting workers to better use their time on and off the job. .... " 

Detailed paper is here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

AI for Material Science

More about augmenting experimentation.  In a predictively generate plus test kind of approach. 

How AI is helping us discover materials faster than ever

We can predict which compounds can create materials before setting foot in a lab    By Angela Chen      @chengela

For hundreds of years, new materials were discovered through trial and error, or luck and serendipity. Now, scientists are using artificial intelligence to speed up the process.

Recently, researchers at Northwestern University used AI to figure out how to make new metal-glass hybrids 200 times faster than they would have doing experiments in the lab. Other scientists are building databases of thousands of compounds so that algorithms can predict which ones combine to form interesting new materials. Others yet are using AI to mine published papers for “recipes” to make these materials. .... " 

Functional Programming

Had not heard of this in a long time.  We examined the possibilities.  But is it enough?  Isn't it time to take a greater leap ahead to real intelligence-task level capabilities, and paste them together like Legos?   I know, still lots of grunt level work to do.

Using Functions for Easier Programming
By Neil Savage  in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 5, Pages 29-30

As computers become more powerful and the programs that run them grow more complex, programmers are increasingly trying to make their lives easier by turning to an idea that dates to the early days of computer languages, an approach called functional programming.

"Functional programming's on a long steady burn, starting 30 or 40 years ago," says Simon Peyton Jones, a researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K., where he focuses on the functional language Haskell.

Programming languages break down into broad categories. There are imperative languages, which say, "do this, then do that," specifying a series of steps to accomplish a task. Functional languages, on the other hand, rely on functions, which are mathematical operations.

"A function is just basically a piece of an algorithm," says Iavor Diatchki, a senior research and development engineer at Galois, a software company in Portland, OR. "It's something that you can give some inputs and it computes some outputs." For instance, "plus" is a basic function; it says to take two integers and combine them to produce one integer as a result.

Functional languages operate at a higher level of abstraction, automating a lot of the details that underlie a particular operation. That makes it easier to write programs quickly. Years ago, when computers were slower, that ease came with a cost, Diatchki says; the program's default steps were not always the most efficient, and a programmer could make it run better by taking the time to tweak the details. That has changed. "Computers are a lot faster, so things like that don't matter all that much," says Diatchki, who argues that making better use of a programmer's time has become more important. "Also, the kind of software we write tends to be a lot more complicated, so some of these small performance issues are not nearly as important. What's important is that you manage to put all the pieces together and get the program to work."  ... " 

Speech Emotion Recognition

Björn Schuller discusses "Speech Emotion Recognition: Two Decades in a Nutshell, Benchmarks, and Ongoing Trends," a Review Article in the May 2018 CACM.  https://vimeo.com/262450110

Speech Emotion Recognition from CACM on Vimeo.

Control Drones with a FlyJacket

In IEEE Spectrum.  With Images and video.  Impressive, integration with virtual reality?

FlyJacket Lets You Control a Drone With Your Body
EPFL's FlyJacket exosuit allows you to embody a fixed-wing drone, making it feel like you're flying
By Evan Ackerman  ...

More about EPFL.

Robots Do their own Experiments

There are robots as we typically interpret that term.  There is also robotic process automation (RPA).  Which does not have to look anything like a 'robot'.   And further just automation, such as in a manufacturing line, which in modern times is run by process automation.     All influence the jobs we do, and how we integrate human labor.

These Robots Are Learning to Conduct Their Own Science Experiments
Carnegie Mellon professors plan to gradually outsource their chemical work to AI.  by Jeff Wise in Bloomberg.

Inside a lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a robot arm lifts a bottle filled with chemical reagents and carries it over a bank of test tubes, where it dispenses a precise number of drops into each one. The arm swivels, replaces the bottle, swivels again, and picks up another container. Gracelessly, tirelessly, the machine thrums on, carrying out test after test. The experiments are part of an ongoing project to determine the ideal chemical makeup for high-capacity electric car batteries. Soon, machines won’t just run the experiments—they’ll devise them, too.

Over the next few months, an artificial intelligence algorithm will gradually take over the planning of experiments based on the battery test runs. Once fully functioning, this robot graduate student will decide how to modify the concentrations of the ingredients it’s testing. “It’s automating not only the manual part of doing the experiment but also the planning part,” says Brian Storey, the Toyota Research Institute scientist leading the project.

Science has long been considered one of the human activities least likely to be farmed out to robots. That’s changing as sensors, sequencers, and satellites churn out digital information by the terabyte. “We just cannot handle the amount of data anymore,” says Manuela Veloso, who heads Carnegie Mellon’s machine learning department. It’s a daily concern for biotech companies and a wide range of other businesses struggling to make sense of the unprecedented swell of raw information.

AI software designed to identify and sort patterns has been deployed across a wide swath of science, from marine biology (identifying wild dolphin vocalizations from hydrophone recordings) to astronomy (detecting the presence of planets from subtle fluctuations in the brightness of thousands of stars). To discover the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, an algorithm sifted billions of particle tracks generated within the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. AI is fast becoming an essential part of university science curricula.

Automating the process of discovery doesn’t just free up researchers’ time. It could potentially change what sorts of discoveries are made. “I can easily imagine cases in which AI would recommend experiments to try to synthesize a chemical molecule that you wouldn’t think possible, but the AI will be able to do it,” says Barnabás Póczos, a Carnegie Mellon machine learning professor collaborating on the Toyota project.  .... "

Talk on Use of Machine Learning in Retail

Informative piece.

[WEBINAR ON-DEMAND] Machine Learning: The Differentiator Retailers Have Been Seeking

It’s virtually impossible for retailers of any size to compete with the dominant online platforms based on pricing.

To maintain margins, SMBs are looking to differentiate in smarter ways — to carve out their own territory in areas rivals can’t match. Recent advancements have made Machine Learning suites available to SMBs that can help them fortify their competitive strengths.

We’ll cover ways retailers can start applying Machine Learning to:

Personalize recommendations based on learned intelligence
Improve customer service through chatbot technology
Make customer “churn” predictions
See this webinar for a “humanizing” look at Machine Learning, including an engaging panel discussion exploring how this emerging tech can offer your business greater competitive opportunities.  ... " 

Rand Says AI Could Protect the World

Used to have good connections to Rand Corp, but not so in recent years.  Liked some of their work regards design and risk.  Some remarkable statements quoted here.  Will look into how to reconnect.  See full Rand Corp article here.

AI could improve global stability from around 2040, claims US thinktank RAND Corporation
RAND claims AI could enhance strategic stability by improving accuracy in intelligence collection and analysis.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to prevent the end of the world by as soon as 2040, all thanks to its 'nuclear deterrence capabilities', a new RAND Corporation paper has suggested.

"While AI-controlled doomsday machines are considered unlikely, the hazards of artificial intelligence for nuclear security lie instead in its potential to encourage humans to take potentially apocalyptic risks," the RAND study says.  ... "

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wal-Mart Mobile Checkout

This could get lots of people trained in the idea of mobile checkout, beyond just Wal-Mart.  Check out the full article

Walmart’s mobile checkout trial is a major advance  By Evan Schuman, Contributing Columnist, Computerworld

In-aisle checkout gets a big push from the world’s largest retailer.   When Walmart rolled out its mobile Check Out with Me program last week, it made a meaningful first step toward the retail nirvana of full in-aisle mobile checkout.  ... " 

Wal-Mart new Website Design vs Amazon

Like the mention of  'Choice and Control'.   And thinking of retail as therapy?   Not really quite a science here, but reasonable design considerations.

This Is How Walmart Should Design Its New Website (According to Science)   For Walmart to succeed online, it has to do things a little differently.    By Yazin Akkawi  in Inc

In the beginning of May, Walmart will begin rolling out an updated web experience, describing it as a "cleaner and more modern digital shopping experience."

Don't get it twisted, this is a clear attempt to fight off online-shopping rivals such as Amazon. And while Walmart hasn't yet revealed the design of its new site, if it really wants to make a leap forward, it might need to do better than just a cleaner and more modern look and feel.

Otherwise the redesign could end up a giant waste of time. 

Build on the Most Human Element of the Shopping Experience: Choice and Control
Retail therapy--shopping motivated by distress--is a real thing. And for the most part we refer to it, and general consumerism, as a dark and dismal part of society.

But a study led by Scott Rick of the University of Michigan paints a different picture. 

Sadness, more than any other emotion, is associated with helplessness--when we feel like we don't have any control over a situation. According to the research, making shopping choices restores a sense of personal control and thus helps alleviate sadness, the researchers say.

So what does this have to do with Walmart's redesign?

Retail therapy, driven by a desire and need for enhancing your sense of control, is the single most important guiding factor for e-commerce innovation. It should be held front and center in the redesign process of any innovative e-commerce experience, not just Walmart's.

And yet, as Walmart has demonstrated in its announcement, online retailers are still focused on things like personalization and "specialty shopping experiences," whatever that means.

Here's the thing: according to WWD, Amazon owns 74.1 percent of e-commerce market share, and Walmart--number two on the list of top e-commerce retailers after Amazon-- owns 2.8 percent of e-commerce market share.   .... " 

Sony, CMU looking at Cooking Robots

The idea of further looking at task oriented interaction with recipes, techniques and recipes.  As a long time cook, and having worked in the Food industry.  Also involves close cooperation with people.  Been examining how assistants work with recipes.  Its a natural place to think about AI.  Lots of data, understood goals, sub-tasks and resources readily defined. 

Sony, Carnegie Mellon form partnership to research cooking robots
The skills needed for food preparation and delivery could be applied to a number of other industries and tasks, Sony and CMU said.      By Stephanie Condon for Between the Lines

Sony, Carnegie Mellon Form Partnership to Research Cooking Robots 

" ... Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Sony are working together to study how artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics can be used to improve food preparation, cooking, and delivery. The researchers want to teach machines to handle fragile and irregularly shaped materials, skills that could be applied to other household or small business tasks. The project, which be run primarily out of CMU's School of Computer Science, has the potential to make the vast possibilities of AI and robotics more familiar and accessible to the general public, according to project lead Hiroaki Kitano, president and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories. ... " 

Calm Software

We were members of the MIT Media Lab for some time and I got to visit many times.   The most unusual and intriguing part of it was the 'Tangible Media Group', which I recalled then studied things identifying themselves, known as RFID, which we spent lots of time testing.   But in organizing tours it was hard to find many other applications of tangible media that would be practical for a company like ours.   Here is another of those things, am intrigued but also mystified.  Their further list of projects  is worth a look.

MIT researchers turn water into 'calm' software
The Tangible Media Group has some bold ideas for the future of computing.   By Aaron Souppouris, @AaronIsSocial in Engadget

Our lives are busy and full of distractions. Modern computing. with its constant notifications and enticing red bubbles next to apps, seems designed to keep us enthralled. MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group wants to change that by crafting "calm interfaces."

The Tangible Media Group demonstrated a way to precisely transport droplets of liquid across a surface back in January, which it called "programmable droplets." The system is essentially just a printed circuit board, coated with a low-friction material, with a grid of copper wiring on top. By programmatically controlling the electric field of the grid, the team is able to change the shape of polarizable liquid droplets and move them around the surface. The precise control is such that droplets can be both merged and split.

Moving on from the underlying technology, the team is now focused on showing how we might leverage the system to create, play and communicate through natural materials. .... " 

Symantec Detects Threats with AI

Had some conversations on threats as specific patterns of behavior, by people or agents.  Seems there is lots of data of this type now being gathered to train systems.

Symantec seeks out targeted attacks with AI-based threat detection tool

By Mike Wheatley in SiliconAngle

Cybersecurity specialist Symantec Corp. says it’s targeting “targeted attacks” on enterprises with the launch of a new threat detection tool that was used to uncover some of the most infamous cyberattacks in history.

Symantec’s new Targeted Attack Analytics tool was created by the company’s Attack Investigation team, which used the technology to uncover malware attacks such as the Stuxnet bug that was responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program. The same team also helped to uncover the Regin malware, which is said to have been used by the U.S. National Security Agency to attack computer systems in countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia for gathering intelligence.

Symantec defines targeted attacks as those directed at a specific target or targets as opposed to widescale indiscriminate campaigns. “The primary motivation is intelligence gathering, sabotage, or financial. Broadly speaking they correspond to espionage,” said Adam Bromwich, senior vice president of Security Technology and Response at Symantec. “While these are the main disruptors, we have also observed these lines blur with private operators entering the picture and groups branching outside of espionage.” ....  "

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Nature of Shopping for Gen Z

How much are specific 'generations'.  Still have my doubts about how different the generations are. Still worth paying attention to understand measures involved.

Shopping for Gen Z     George Anderson in Retailwire with expert commentary.

The 35th semi-annual “Taking Stock with Teens” survey from Piper Jaffray Companies shows that teenage members of Generation Z have increased their purchasing in the past year, and a slightly higher percentage of the time they spend shopping is taking place online.

Teens have increased their spending by six percent from the fall and by two percent overall from last year. Erinn Murphy, senior research analyst for global lifestyle brands at Piper Jaffray, said the increase in teen spending “mirrors the economic expansion we are experiencing broadly.”  The average amount of time teens engaged in online shopping grew to 19 percent, up from 17 percent.

By a wide margin, the place that teens prefer to shop is Amazon.com. Forty-four percent of the kids surveyed named Amazon as their top online shopping spot, up from 40 percent last year. As a point of comparison, Nike is the second most popular online destination among this group at eight percent. American Eagle (four percent), Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 (both at three percent) follow.

Food remains the favorite category in which teens spend their money. Teens from households with an average annual income of $100,000 spent 24 percent of their funds on food. Those from average-income homes (earning $56,000) spent 21 percent of their total the same way, CNBC reports.

Chick-fil-A and Starbucks are the two favorite restaurants choices for teens. The chicken chain (13 percent) is tops among upper-income teens and the coffee giant number two at 12 percent. Starbucks is tops among average-income kids at nine percent, followed by Chick-fil-A at eight percent.

Clothing follows food as the second most popular category among teens, with athletic and casual streetwear brands gaining favor. The top clothing brands for Gen Z teens are Nike (23 percent), American Eagle (10 percent), Adidas (six percent), Forever 21 (five percent) and Urban Outfitters (five percent). Nike is also tops among footwear brands (42 percent) followed by Vans (16 percent), Adidas (14 percent) Converse (four percent) and DSW (three percent).

Beauty products among girls and video games among boys represent the third most popular categories determined by gender. Sephora is the top beauty destination among teens, with 44 percent shopping there, followed by Ulta (28 percent), Target (11 percent), CVS and Walmart at three percent.
... " 

Expectations of Communicating with Brands

The bar has been set high.  Communications yes, but meaningful conversations are yet another thing.  We did early experiments there, and found it tough to maintain them.

Survey Shows Consumers Have High Expectations for Communicating with Brands
From shipping times to expedited returns, how brands communicate with shoppers builds their reputation.
By Peter Roesler in Inc.

Besides having the right product at the right price, it's equally important for retailers to provide an experience that meets their shoppers' expectations. The retail industry in general has become much more competitive, and even long-standing retailers are having to close down stores or entire businesses. Even a small advantage may be what's needed to help business owners keep their customers coming back. A recent study highlights several ways retailers can meet or exceed the expectations of online shoppers.

The business platform developer Narvar recently released a report titled "Connecting with Shoppers in the Age of Choice". The report analyzed responses from 1,543 U.S. online shoppers and evaluating the ways they preferred to communicate with their favorite brands and their overall expectations for the shopping journey.

The report showed that there are a lot of ways that businesses communicate with consumers that can be just as important as interactions for customer service. A good example can be seen with shipping information. According to the survey, 54 percent of shoppers would give repeat business to a retailer that accurately predicts the date their package will arrive. .... " 

Measuring Innovation

Includes video.  Standards of measurement are always useful.

Taking the measure of innovation   By Guttorm Aase, Erik Roth, and Sri Swaminathan

Don’t overlook the insight that two simple metrics can yield about the effectiveness of your R&D spending.

You’ve probably heard the old joke about the two economists who saw $20 on the sidewalk. “Look,” exclaimed the first economist, “a $20 bill!” “It can’t be,” the other economist answered. “If it were a $20 bill, someone would have already picked it up.”

We were reminded of this story when we began to notice a pair of innovation metrics that seemed so intuitive that we assumed they must have been conspicuously applied and rejected before. So far, however, we’ve found no indication of widespread use—and a reasonable amount of evidence suggesting that, at least for most industries, the measurements work.

R&D conversion metrics for innovation performance

We call these indicators R&D conversion metrics: R&D-to-product (RDP) conversion and new-products-to-margin (NPM) conversion. Their core components—gross margin, R&D, and sales from new products—are not new, but combining them can reveal fresh insight on the relative innovation performance of business units, within an organization and relative to external peers (Exhibit 1). The first metric, RDP, is computed by taking the ratio of R&D spend (as a percentage of sales) to sales from new products. This allows organizations to track the efficacy with which R&D dollars translate into new-product sales. The second metric, NPM, takes the ratio of gross margin percentage to sales from new products, which provides an indication of the contribution that new-product sales make to margin uplift.  .... "

Amazon Wants to Build a Home Robot

Been following the Kuri as an existing example.   An Alexa with wheels sounds like a bit much, but they already have an existing infrastructure to build on.

Bloomberg: Amazon wants to build a home robot
'I need your clothes, your boots, and to offer you a discount on HDMI cables...'     by Daniel Cooper  ... "

McKinsey on the Frontier of Artificial Intelligence

An 80 page non-technical overview of AI today.  Perhaps not enough detail, but a useful exec view of where we are, where we are going , and some reasonable domain specific descriptions.

Mckinsey Global Institute
Artificial Intelligence, the Next Global Frontier

 Since its founding in 1990, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has sought to develop a deeper understanding of the evolving global economy. As the business and economics research arm of McKinsey & Company, MGI aims to provide leaders in the commercial, public, and social sectors with the facts and insights on which to base management and policy decisions. The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania ranked MGI the world’s number-one private-sector think tank in its 2016 Global Think Tank Index for the second consecutive year.

MGI research combines the disciplines of economics and management, employing the analytical tools of economics with the insights of businessleaders. Our “micro-to-macro” methodology examines microeconomic industry trends to better understand the broad macroeconomic forces affecting business strategy and public policy. MGI’s in-depth reports have covered more than 20 countries and 30 industries. Current research focuses on six themes: productivity and growth, natural resources, labor markets, the evolution of global financial markets, the economic impact of technology and innovation, and urbanization.

Recent reports have assessed the economic benefits of tackling gender inequality, a new era of global competition, Chinese innovation, and digital globalization. MGI is led by four McKinsey and Company senior partners: Jacques Bughin, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, and Frank Mattern, MGI’s chairman. Michael Chui, Susan Lund, Anu Madgavkar, Sree Ramaswamy, and Jaana Remes serve as MGI partners. Project teams are led by the MGI partners and a group of senior fellows and include consultants from McKinsey offices around the world. These teams draw on McKinsey’s global network of partners and industry and management experts. Input is provided by the MGI Council, which coleads projects and provides guidance; members are Andres Cadena, Sandrine Devillard, Richard Dobbs, Katy George, Rajat Gupta, Eric Hazan, Eric Labaye, Acha Leke, Scott Nyquist, Gary Pinkus, Oliver Tonby, and Eckart Windhagen. In addition, leading economists, including Nobel laureates, act as research advisers.

McKinsey & Company is a member of the Partnership on AI, a collection of companies and non-profits that have committed to sharing best practices and communicating openly about the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence research. The partners of McKinsey fund MGI’s research; it is not commissioned by any business, government, or other institution. For further information about MGI and to download reports, please visit   www.mckinsey.com/mgi. 

Minecraft Content as Business

A virtual world made of process rather than place?   And adding a business model?  Good descriptive piece.  And how Microsoft is supporting the idea.

Inside Microsoft’s Quest To Turn Minecraft Content Into A Business
Microsoft has paid out $7 million to Minecraft content makers since last June. But it’s just beginning to build out its marketplace.  By Jared Newman

Stefan Panic and Joe Arsenault used to dream of building things in Minecraft for a living. But until recently, they couldn’t quite figure out how.

While Panic worked odd jobs and lived with his father, and Arsenault climbed the corporate ladder at Best Buy, they ran a 50-person volunteer collective called Noxcrew that built intricate environments and mini-games within Minecraft . To date, their work has been downloaded more than 1 million times. Yet all their attempts at making money–from Patreon donations to ad-supported download pages–have only been enough to cover their hosting costs.

Noxcrew’s World Of Horses Ranch lets players train and ride horses on virtual tracks. 

In late 2016, Microsoft reached out with an offer that changed everything: The company wanted to discuss an official marketplace for Minecraft creations, which would allow groups like Noxcrew to sell their work directly to players. Like most of the other creators that Microsoft invited into the program, Panic and Arsenault trusted their guts and gave up their day jobs. Now, they make Minecraft content full-time, with help from 15 paid contractors.

“We got the Marketplace opportunity, and it turned from a hobbyist community into an actual business,” Panic says.   .... " 

Blockchain Jargon

(Update)  Poor on rereading, hardly any worthwhile detail at all ... Does MIT stand behind this?

Not Enough detail, but still interesting,  Might be useful to add at least a Wikipedia link to each. Further an example of practical use in each case.

A glossary of blockchain jargon
The terminology makes the technology seem either baffling or boring. Here’s a guide.
by MIT Technology Review Editors   .... "

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wal-Mart Humana Partnership

New partnerships, and in-store implications.

5 Ways A Walmart-Humana Partnership Could Change Everyone’s In-Store Experience   By Bryan Pearson 

If Walmart’s reported interest in acquiring or expanding its relationship with health insurer Humana HUM +1.44% is to materialize, it would be the widest-reaching move toward transforming retail from a seller of goods to a seller of health. And that would mean the traditional retail store, across a variety of segments, would change.

Walmart joins other retailers pursuing the insurance industry, including CVS Health, which is in the midst of acquiring Aetna, and Amazon, which is partnering with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Berkshire Hathaway to establish an independent company to provide affordable healthcare to employees.

The potential difference is while CVS and Amazon are focused specifically on providing healthcare services to consumers and employees, Walmart and Humana could focus on home health and preventing disease.   ... " 

Emerging Markets Innovation

Chief executive says the company’s innovation pipeline may be the strongest it has ever been.  By Keith Nunes in Food Business News.

Emerging markets, innovation drive Unilever’s 2017 results
Chief executive says the company’s innovation pipeline may be the strongest it has ever been. ... " 

Casinos Watching for Weapons

Good to watch what the Casinos are doing, as we did, they have immediate risk with regard to assets, so are closer to investing logically in advanced methods in their existing architecture.

Las Vegas Casino Uses Artificial Intelligence To ID Customers Carrying Weapons

Cognitive Microwave Radar combines short-range radar with machine learning algorithms to scan individual guests for guns, knives, and bombs in real time—without forcing them to line up and walk through metal detectors. Units are small enough to hide inside existing infrastructure. Most people never realize they're there - exactly how (the casino) wants it. "The best analogy is antivirus software. It's equipped with a set of signatures. But it’s constantly checking the database for new ones."
Activate satellite view in Google Maps and head to the Las Vegas strip, and you'll see it: a strange smattering of Y-shaped buildings. Mandalay Bay. Monte Carlo. Treasure Island. The Mirage. Their blueprints put gambling at the center of everything, funneling visitors past slot machines and card tables whether they're en route to a show, their room, a restaurant, or a retail shop. For years, the casino floor was where Vegas resorts made most of their money, and the Y was devilishly good at monetizing it.

The Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino was the first megacasino to feature the design—a bit of trivia that Mark Waltrip, Westgate Resort's chief operating officer, relays with a mixture of pride and irony. Y-shaped buildings have their issues, after all. For one thing, gambling isn't the moneymaker it used to be; revenues from other extravagances—hotels, food, booze, shopping—outstripped gaming in the late '80s. For another: Y-shaped buildings pose a unique security challenge. "The bulk of your guests are in this highly concentrated area, just lingering," Waltrip says. Ensuring their safety— and the safety of the resort's assets—requires more than a few cameras and guards.   .... "

Saturday, April 21, 2018

NASA Using Smart Contracts

Been examining applications of smart contracts in general,  and also as implemented by Blockchain architectures.   Here something new from work by NASA.    NASA has previously done quite a bit of work using autonomous navigation, say for planetary rovers,  how is this different?    Examining.    Welcome some input.

NASA Researches Ethereum Blockchain Tech for Deep Space Exploration 
CCN Magazine    By Samburaj Das

A U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research project aims to use the Ethereum blockchain's smart contracts technology to automate spacecraft maneuvering while avoiding space debris. The "Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm" project will leverage blockchain to make space communications and navigation more efficient and safer. Jin Wei Kocsis, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron, received a three-year, $330,000 NASA grant to develop a cognitive architecture for the project that will eliminate the need for spacecraft to rely on information from scientists on Earth. If successful, Ethereum-based smart contracts will help spacecraft "think on their own" to detect and evade floating space debris. The decentralized architecture could help the spacecraft automate data gathering, freeing up scientists on Earth to analyze the data rather than calculating flight paths to anticipate environmental hazards.  .... " 

Real Time Data, Real Time Decisions

Useful introduction.  Note the usefulness in many domains, from supply chain to manufacturing to finance.    There were some also some recent suggestions that this might be neeed because data cannot be held because of regulatory changes, and needs to be used immediately.  Whats the best decision you can make in limited time, before the data mush be released?

From big data to fast data
Designing application architectures for real-time decisions.
By Raul Estrada in O'Reilly

For more about building fast-data architectures that meet your real-time decision data needs, download a free copy of an excerpt from Designing Data-Intensive Applications, compliments of Mesosphere.

Enterprise data needs change constantly but at inconsistent rates, and in recent years change has come at an increasing clip. Tools once considered useful for big data applications are not longer sufficient. When batch operations predominated, Hadoop could handle most of an organization’s needs. Development in other IT areas (think IoT, geolocation, etc.) have changed the way data is collected, stored, distributed, processed and analyzed. Real-time decision needs complicate this scenario and new tools and architectures are needed to handle these challenges efficiently.  ... "

What is AI Anyway?

A definition we also struggled with.  Back then it was rule bases and much simpler learning analytics and updating.  Much has improved, but the expectations are still very high.  And that does, as he suggests,  distract us.    Especially when also heavily driven by tech company marketers.  Good thoughts here:

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. ....  "

Digital Twins for Personalized Medicine.

Reminds me in the human sense of agent based models.   And their use to address group behavior. Interesting, but not necessarily predictive.   The article quotes George Box, who said  'All Models are wrong, some are useful'.    How correct will the models be, how useful?   We expect personal accuracy from medicine.  Worth examining.

Digital Twins for personalized medicine: promising, with caveats    By Neil Raden  in SiliconAngle

" ... Digital Twins, a concept from the “industrial internet of things” or IIoT, is the discipline of devising highly capable simulation models, especially those that consume streaming data from sensors to anticipate maintenance issues, impending failure of components and improving performance. In terms of the degree of difficulty of modeling, Digital Twins for IIoT machines such as jet engines, oil wells and wind turbines are actually at the lower end as they employ detailed knowledge of the engineering of the objects. These Digital Twins may be quite complex, but because they are well-understood, the models are more likely to be useful.

Devising a simulation model of human behavior, such as the classical propensity models, is much more difficult because humans are so unpredictable and engineering approaches obviously don’t apply. In effect, these models may do a good job of predicting propensity based (on) many criteria, but at any given moment for any given individual, their predictive capability is quite low.  .... " 

What Machine Learning Engineers Need to Know

Useful piece. 

What machine learning engineers need to know
The O’Reilly Data Show Podcast: Jesse Anderson and Paco Nathan on organizing data teams and next-generation messaging with Apache Pulsar.     By Ben Lorica

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pattern Recognition in Road Tracing

We had a similar challenge when we managed roads and their quality in Alberta.   We were mostly interested in if the roads had degraded, and needed to manage resources to improve them to a level where they would satisfy predicted transport needs.   We had Aerial and Satellite images.   Now you can selectively deploy drones.   And we needed to include predicted changes like tree growth, storms  and forest fires.  This does some of the things we could have used then.  Perhaps also some applications to supply chain needs?

A new way to automatically build road maps from aerial images
“RoadTracer” system from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory could reduce workload for developers of apps like Google Maps. ....  By Adam Conner-Simons | MIT, CSAIL 

A New Way to Automatically Build Road Maps From Aerial Images 

" ... Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) researchers have developed a system for automatically constructing road maps from aerial images with 45-percent more accuracy than existing methods. The RoadTracer system “is well-suited to map areas of the world where maps are frequently out of date, which includes both places with lower population and areas where there's frequent construction," says MIT professor Mohammad Alizadeh. RoadTracer begins with a known location on a road network, using a neural network to examine the surroundings and determine which point is most likely to be the next part of the road. It adds that point and repeats the process to plot out the network of the road step by step..... " 
(Updated) See also 'Automated site Mapping'  Used in Archaeology,  related method beyond examining just roads.

Alibabas AI Chips

Much more at the link. 

Alibaba is developing its own AI chips, too in Technology Review
The Chinese e-commerce giant will join a raft of other tech firms in designing its own processors tailored to in-house machine learnings tasks. It's another sign of China's increasing desire to use its own chips. ... " 

AI and Bad Process

More evidence you have to get the context process right, with or without advanced methods. 

Don’t Let Artificial Intelligence Supercharge Bad Processes   in Sam Ransbotham in Sloan Review

When artificial intelligence is used to expedite certain legacy processes, it can act more like a Band-Aid than a cure.

Scenarios describing the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) seem to gravitate toward hyperbole. In wonderful scenarios, AI enables nirvanas of instant optimal processes and prescient humanoids. In doomsday scenarios, algorithms go rogue and humans are superfluous, at best, and, at worst, subservient to the new silicon masters.

However, both of these scenarios require a sophistication that, at least right now, seems far away. Our recent research indicates that most organizations are still in the early stages of AI implementation and nowhere near either of these outcomes.

A more imminent reality is that AI is agnostic and can benefit both good and bad processes. As such, a less dramatic but perhaps more insidious risk than the doomsday scenario is that AI gives new life to clunky or otherwise poorly conceived processes. .... "

Skill Blueprints, Private Skills

More on Skill Blueprints in ZDNet.   Via Walter Riker.

Why Amazon's Alexa Skill Blueprints are a master stroke
Amazon has opened up Alexa to the masses with Alexa Skill Blueprints and integrated the digital assistant even more with families. Here's why these Alexa code-free templates make good business sense.  .... " 

and further, the point is made about PRIVATE skills.  Is that a key aspect of this, like private knowledge?

How to create private Alexa skills without code
Amazon's Alexa Skills Blueprints let anyone with an Alexa device make household skills.
 By Sharon Machlis in TechConnect  .... "

Microsoft Securing the Intelligent Edge

Still in private test.   A considerable piece.

Introducing Microsoft Azure Sphere: Secure and power the intelligent edge

Galen Hunt,  Partner Managing Director, Microsoft Azure Sphere .. 

" ... Here, you can read more about how in 2015 a small team of us within Microsoft Research began exploring how to secure this vast number of MCU-powered devices yet to come online. Leveraging years of security experience at Microsoft, and learnings from across the tech industry, we identified The Seven Properties of Highly-Secure Devices. We identified the need for a hardware root of trust to protect and defend the software on a device. We identified the need for multiple layers of defense-in-depth, both in hardware and in software, to repel hackers even if they fully breach one layer of security. We identified the critical need for hardware, software, and cloud to work together to secure a device. Over time the Seven Properties gained traction and became the foundation for a movement within Microsoft – which ultimately brings us to today. ... " 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Retail uses for Machine Learning

Machine Learning for SMB Retailers and Brands.  Talk and panel discussion.  Sponsored by Retailwire.

Here is the recording of the webinar and supporting slides.

Meeting Description: 

Machine Learning can provide SMBs the edge they need to level the playing field.

For small and mid-size retailers and brands (SMBs), it's virtually impossible to compete with the dominant online platforms based on pricing. To maintain margins, SMBs are looking to differentiate in smarter ways — to carve out their own territory in areas rivals can't match. 

Most companies, large and small, already use advanced analytics to optimize processes and decision making, so that's just table stakes in this market. And yet recent advancements have made Machine Learning suites available to SMBs that can help them fortify their competitive strengths. 

We’ll cover ways the retailers can start applying Machine Learning based on their individual readiness, and how it can benefit many areas of their organizations through:

Personalized recommendations based on learned intelligence 

Customer service through chatbot technology

Customer "churn" predictions through Machine Learning

Join us for a "humanizing" look at Machine Learning, including an engaging panel discussion exploring how this emerging tech can offer your business greater competitive opportunities ... 

Alexa Releases Skills Blueprint

OK, easy, and may kick up the Skill count.   But will it increase quality?   No code involved.   It might be better to make it easier to create plug-in capable micro skill-services that can be readily shared.  Not as easy,  as it depends on architecture to make that do-able.    Also note the implication that you might want to create your own private set of skills.  .Say for your home, family, company.   I like that idea.  Perhaps starting from a provided template.  Reaches closer to IFTTT involvement?

Amazon’s new ‘Alexa Blueprints’ let anyone create custom Alexa skills and responses   By Sarah Perez   @sarahintampa in TechCrunch.   

Amazon this morning is introducing “Alexa Blueprints,” a new way for any Alexa owner to create their own customized Alexa skills or responses, without needing to know how to code. The idea is to allow Alexa owners to create their own voice apps, like a trivia game or bedtime stories, or teach Alexa to respond to questions with answers they design – like “Who’s the best mom in the world?,” for example.

You could also create a skill that includes helpful information for the babysitter, which could be triggered by the command, “Alexa, open My Sitter,” Amazon suggests.

“Alexa Skill Blueprints is an entirely new way for you to teach Alexa personalized skills just for you and your family,” explained Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Alexa, in a statement about the launch. “You don’t need experience building skills or coding to get started—my family created our own jokes skill in a matter of minutes, and it’s been a blast to interact with Alexa in a totally new and personal way.”  .... " 

Talk: AI and Business Process

Reminder, later this morning:

Talk by: Chitra Dorai,  IBM Fellow, Vice President and CTO  
“The Real World of AI: Business Processes Reimagined End to End”

19 Apr 2018: 10:30 AM, ET  Access Instructions below.

Talk slides.   Audio Recording.

Abstract: This talk will cover how enterprises are reimagining business processes with Al to bring about a frictionless  front office to back office transformation. Chitra will describe more than 30 cognitive solution use cases that we have  defined to change the way work is done today in Finance, HR and Procurement. I will discuss Al solutions deployment  experience, client case studies and business results that underscore how IBM is helping companies to embed Al in their  processes, and deliver end to end frictionless experiences and new outcomes 

Short bio: Dr. Chitra Dorai is an IBM Fellow and a Master Inventor, and is responsible for Cognitive Solutions and  Services in IBM's Global Business Services as its CTO. Dr. Dorai is a world renowned computer vision researcher and a  banking industry expert, and has received numerous awards and recognition both externally and at IBM for her  groundbreaking research and industry-transforming projects over the last twenty-seven years. 

Cognitive Systems Institute Group Speaker Series Thursdays 10:30am US Eastern Time
Join the meetings by pointing your web browser to:  https://zoom.us/j/7371462221 ; Callin: (415) 762-9988 or (646) 568-7788 Meeting id 7371462221 ; International Numbers: https://zoom.us/zoomconference.  .... 

Intel Backs off Smart Glasses

Perhaps a bit surprising given the enthusiasm they gave only a short while ago.    They had been working on object analysis as well.   So will we see new moves in this space?  I expect it from Asia.

Intel is giving up on its smart glasses    By Dieter Bohn in TheVerge

Intel has confirmed that it plans to shut down the New Devices Group (NDG), and cease development on the Vaunt smart glasses project we revealed earlier this year. The story was first reported this evening by The Information, which also notes that the closure will probably result in “some layoffs” from the team that was reportedly around 200 people.

Here’s Intel’s statement:

Intel is continuously working on new technologies and experiences. Not all of these develop into a product we choose to take to market. The Superlight [the codename for Vaunt] project is a great example where Intel developed truly differentiated, consumer augmented reality glasses. We are going to take a disciplined approach as we keep inventing and exploring new technologies, which will sometimes require tough choices when market dynamics don’t support further investment. ... " 

Microsoft Does Offline Translations

Looks impressive based on a demo I saw.   We are closer yet to a universal, mobile and free Babel Fish.  Was never expecting such a combination of features, the very basic idea seemed like fantasy not too long ago.  21 supported languages.  Offline packs for most popular languages.   Camera image text translation.   What other AI will be be carrying around soon?

Microsoft's AI-powered offline translation now runs on any phone
Translator should be more accurate when you're traveling abroad.

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas  in Engadget