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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Amazon Using Gamification in Warehouses

Had not heard of this, but always looking for ways we can augment work by tweaking behavior.  Like adding some elements of fun.   Don't know if it actually works in practice,  but it is worth the try.

‘MissionRacer’: How Amazon turned the tedium of warehouse work into a game  By Greg Bensinger in the WP   

Inside several of Amazon’s cavernous warehouses, hundreds of employees spend hours a day playing video games. Some compete by racing virtual dragons or sports cars around a track, while others collaborate to build castles piece by piece.

But they aren’t whiling the time away playing Fortnite and Minecraft. Rather, they’re racing to fill customer orders, their progress reflected in a video game format that is part of an experiment by the e-commerce giant to help reduce the tedium of its physically demanding jobs. And if it helps improve the efficiency of work like plucking items from or stowing products on shelves for 10 hours a day or more, all the better. .... " 

State of AI and Machine Learning

This looks quite good, reading now.  Figure-eight deals with the most important part of the problem:  Where do you get the right data to support the learning you need?   The right Data is used to teach the method used, the inclusion of business-owners/decision-makers makes sure the data is correct and the solution is used correctly.

The State of AI and Machine Learning   
A Figure Eight Report
Bridging the AI Gap Between Data Scientists and AI Line-of-Business Owners

Hi Franz,

For four years running, Figure Eight has conducted a survey of people who are making AI work in the real world. This year we expanded our survey beyond data scientists and included business leaders as well to create a fuller picture of the current state of AI and machine learning. 

Download The State of AI and Machine Learning to learn:

How much companies are budgeting for their AI initiatives
What the biggest bottlenecks to AI initiatives are
Where and how AI is being deployed in businesses
Which ML frameworks data scientists are using
What typical companies’ timelines are for launching AI

Download the report today.

Best regards,

Ashley Skiles   ashley.skiles@figure-eight.com 
Marketing Manager | Figure Eight  ...... 

Wireless Networking for Everywhere

What are the implications for new infrastructure of Wifi Networking Everywhere?

Enterprise Networks in Cisco Blog
Next Generation Wireless Infrastructure for Intent-based Networking Everywhere   By Anand Oswal

We’ve come to expect that our mobile devices are always connected to our favorite applications and data sources via Wi-Fi and LTE. As enterprises move more resources to multiple domains—data center, campus, branch edge, and mobile cellular—always-available wireless connectivity for devices is not just a convenience, it’s essential for keeping business operations running. With many business processes dependent on cloud data storage and processing, there is no tolerance for network latency, congestion, or down-time from maintenance upgrades. Waiting for applications to respond because of overloaded Access Points (APs) hinders employee productivity and degrades customers’ experience. The explosive growth of IoT devices is adding yet another layer of complexity for ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity at a scale that will only grow over time.

To meet the demand for always-available connectivity for business and personal applications—especially those using rich, visual content—organizations will rely on the new Wi-Fi 6 standard for campus and intra-branch connectivity and LTE/5G for mobile and field connections to enterprise resources. The new technologies and improvements in Wi-Fi 6 are one reason we re-engineered Cisco Aironet Access Points, creating the new Catalyst 9100ax AP and the Catalyst 9800 series wireless controllers with augmented Wi-Fi 6 capabilities to provide always-available wireless connectivity coupled with always on-guard security for a multi-domain world of data and applications. ... " 

Enterprise Needs to Invest for Machine Learning

Good piece.  Yes, usually in conjunction with companies and academia.   Also a way to train management and decision makers on its uses.  Enterprise wants examples of off the shelf results.  Also needs to be investment in understanding where the tech is best inserted into key process.

Becoming a machine learning company means investing in foundational technologies
Companies successfully adopt machine learning either by building on existing data products and services, or by modernizing existing models and algorithms.   By Ben Lorica  

In this post, I share slides and notes from a keynote I gave at the Strata Data Conference in London earlier this year. I will highlight the results of a recent survey on machine learning adoption, and along the way describe recent trends in data and machine learning (ML) within companies. This is a good time to assess enterprise activities, as there are many indications a number of companies are already beginning to use machine learning. For example, in a July 2018 survey that drew more than 11,000 respondents, we found strong engagement among companies: 51% stated they already had machine learning models in production. .... " 

Google Announces New Glass

Emphasis on enterprise makes sense, we looked at the early versions, and there was not enough useful business content to make these work for key applications like plant machine maintenance.  Once this emerges, the demand for a platforms and developer innovation will follow.  I have asked to see some examples of current usage, and have not seen any.

Google Announces an Updated Google Glass for Enterprise   By Ryan Whitwam in Extremetech

Google initially launched Glass as a consumer device in 2013, but the age of face computers never arrived. There was an undeniable creepy factor when talking to someone wearing Glass, and society wasn’t ready for that. Google ended up pulling Glass from sale in 2015, but an enterprise version has continued to exist. Unlike consumers, workers in some industries actually have a use for a head-mounted holographic display. To accommodate those workers, Google today announced a new version of Google Glass for enterprise.

Glass Enterprise Edition 2 still looks almost identical to the Google Glass of old. There’s a long arm on the right side of the glasses, which houses the hardware and battery. The prism display extends out in front of the right eye up toward the top of the lens. The effect is like having a small display floating at the top of your vision. It doesn’t completely overlay the world like HoloLens or MagicLeap, but that might be preferable for some industries. The inside of the new Glass is, well, new.  .... ' 

Telecom Customer Analytics

Good piece from DSC on definitions used for customer analytics in Telecom industry.   Specifics of the definitions are interesting, and can be further considered in other industries.   Need for measures and goals can be determined based on measures like these. 

Telecom Customer Analytics    by Dr. Moloy De in DSC
I was deputed to work at Lagos, Nigeria in 2011 to work for a telecom giant there. The project in hand was to develop customer analytics modules using SAS on customer's newly built Oracle data warehouse. We thought about developing following modules.

Customer Churn Analysis
Calculating Product Propensities
Customer Lifetime Value Calculation
Customer Segmentation   .... "        Continued at the link .... 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Machine Learning Book, Slides.

Had mentioned this once before, by its nature slightly out of date but good resource.  Continuing to read it now.

https://cs.nyu.edu/~mohri/mlbook/

Foundations of Machine Learning
Download:
book (PDF, HTML).
lecture slides.
Hardcopy (MIT Press, Amazon).
Errata (printing 1).
Foundations of Machine Learning
Mehryar Mohri, Afshin Rostamizadeh, and Ameet Talwalkar
MIT Press, Second Edition, 2018.  ... " 

Amazon Retail Ethics Challenge?

From a retailers and retail expertise and their customers perspective, with further expert comments at the link:

Just How big is Amazon’s Ethics Challenge? in Retailwire   by Tom Ryan

Axios Harris’ 2019 poll of the 100 Most Visible Companies shows that just 41 percent of U.S. respondents agree Amazon.com shares their values, 39 percent feel Amazon rewards its employees fairly and only 19 percent feel the corporation speaks out on social issues important to them.

Amazon dropped out of the top 10 rankings for Ethics and Culture in the study “amid a year of tabloid attacks on its CEO, backlash from Whole Foods employees and rising reports of fake products being sold online.” Fallout from the last-minute cancellation of its New York City headquarters was also cited.  ... " 

360 Degree AI Agent View

Intriguing idea.   Many applications to maximize information.  Although also likely a distraction as well. Like the idea of an 'Agent' being beyond a person with that role, but also any kind of information gathering system, human or not.

Glimpses' Give AI Agent 360-Degree View   in Futurity.org   By Marc Airhart

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can take a few quick glimpses of an area and infer its whole environment. The researchers used deep learning to train the AI agent on thousands of 360-degree images of different environments. When presented with a scene it has never seen before, the system uses its experience to choose a few glimpses that together add up to less than 20% of the full scene. Based on these glimpses, the agent infers what it would have seen if it had looked in all the other directions, reconstructing a full 360-degree image of its surroundings. Said UT Austin researcher Santhosh Ramakrishnan, "Using extra information that's present purely during training helps the [primary] agent learn faster." .... '

MIT and Air Force

Examining this now:

MIT and U.S. Air Force sign agreement to launch AI Accelerator
New program will focus on rapid deployment of artificial intelligence innovations in operations, disaster response, and medical readiness.

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office 
May 20, 2019

MIT and the U.S. Air Force have signed an agreement to launch a new program designed to make fundamental advances in artificial intelligence that could improve Air Force operations while also addressing broader societal needs.

The effort, known as the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will leverage the expertise and resources of MIT and the Air Force to conduct fundamental research directed at enabling rapid prototyping, scaling, and application of AI algorithms and systems. The Air Force plans to invest approximately $15 million per year as it builds upon its five-decade relationship with MIT. ... " 

Better, Faster Decisions: Faster is a Context

Its all about decisions.   Not only our own but also those we make based on help from systems.   And, increasingly autonomous decisions.   And faster may not be better without understanding risk in various contexts.  And speed to applying an assisted decision is a context.

Three keys to faster, better decisions in McKinsey.   By Aaron De Smet, Gregor Jost, and Leigh Weiss

Decision makers fed up with slow or subpar results take heart. Three practices can help improve decision making and convince skeptical business leaders that there is life after death by committee.

Two years ago, we wrote about how it was simultaneously the best and worst of times for decision makers in senior management. Best because of more data, better analytics, and clearer understanding of how to mitigate the cognitive biases that often undermine corporate decision processes. Worst because organizational dynamics and digital decision-making dysfunctions were causing growing levels of frustration among senior leaders we knew.

Since then, we’ve conducted research to more clearly understand this balance, and the results have been disquieting. A survey we conducted recently with more than 1,200 managers across a range of global companies gave strong signs of growing levels of frustration with broken decision-making processes, with the slow pace of decision-making deliberations, and with the uneven quality of decision-making outcomes. Fewer than half of the survey respondents say that decisions are timely, and 61 percent say that at least half the time spent making them is ineffective. The opportunity costs of this are staggering: about 530,000 days of managers’ time potentially squandered each year for a typical Fortune 500 company, equivalent to some $250 million in wages annually. ... "

Google Tracking What You Buy

Have known about this for a long time.  And before Google I knew that Amazon did this, and you could access it. When I found out about this I recall being impressed about being able to see that.  Don't remember of thinking about the privacy issue then.

Google tracks what you buy.  Article in TheVerge describe it:

Google has been tracking nearly everything you buy online — see for yourself with this tool

Google claims the little-known web tool keeps data private   By Nick Statt   @nickstatt  

Google has been quietly keeping track of nearly every single online purchase you’ve ever made, thanks to purchase receipts sent to your personal Gmail account, according to a new report today from CNBC. Even stranger: this information is made available to you via a private web tool that’s been active for an indeterminate amount of time. You can go view it here. .... ' 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Text Generating AI

Still have not seen an example of text generation that is completely convincing.  But having one, especially if it was context adapting, could be a real concern.

Get ready to waste your day with this creepily accurate text-generating A.I. in Digitaltrends.

Whether you believe it was one of the most dangerous versions of artificial intelligence created or dismiss it as a massive unnecessary PR exercise, there’s no doubt that the GPT-2 algorithm created by research lab OpenA.I. caused a lot of buzz when it was announced earlier this year.

Revealed in February, OpenA.I. said it developed an algorithm too dangerous to release to the general public. Although only a text generator, GPT-2 supposedly generated text so crazily humanlike that it could convince people that they were reading a real text written by an actual person. To use it, all a user had to do would be to feed in the start of the document, and then let the A.I. take over to complete it. Give it the opening of a newspaper story, and it would even manufacture fictitious “quotes.” Predictably, news media went into overdrive describing this as the terrifying new face of fake news. And for potentially good reason.  ... "

Google Wing Drone Deliveries Approved

Continued inclusion of advanced tech, like drone services, as needed.

Google Wing drones approved for US home deliveries

Alphabet's drone company will begin deliveries in the coming months
Drone home delivery company Wing has been approved as an airline by the US Federal Aviation Authority.

It means the company will start delivering goods in rural Virginia within months.

Wing, owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, says the drones will carry food and medicine from local shops.

In order to receive the certification, it said it had proved that its drone deliveries carry a lower risk to pedestrians than those made by cars.  ..... "

Locating Microscopes

Technical piece that lets devices learn about goal oriented use.  Likely broader applications as well.

Information-rich localization microscopy through machine learning
By aehwan Kim, Seonah Moon & Ke Xu
Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 1996 (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract
Recent years have witnessed the development of single-molecule localization microscopy as a generic tool for sampling diverse biologically relevant information at the super-resolution level. While current approaches often rely on the target-specific alteration of the point spread function to encode the multidimensional contents of single fluorophores, the details of the point spread function in an unmodified microscope already contain rich information. Here we introduce a data-driven approach in which artificial neural networks are trained to make a direct link between an experimental point spread function image and its underlying, multidimensional parameters, and compare results with alternative approaches based on maximum likelihood estimation. To demonstrate this concept in real systems, we decipher in fixed cells both the colors and the axial positions of single molecules in regular localization microscopy data.  ..  "

Simple, Scalable and Sustainable AI

Simple, scalable, and sustainable: A methodical approach to AI adoption
Rajendra Prasad explains how leaders in large enterprises can make AI adoption successful.

By Rajendra Prasad  

This is a keynote from the O'Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference in New York 2019. See other highlights from the event.

This keynote was sponsored by Accenture.

A Low-Code No-Code Future

Wrote many thousands of lines of computer code, built systems large and small.  Coding is powerful,  but also time consuming, non-transparent to most of the people that need its help and prone to error.

Sometimes you have to code from the ground up to do what you need to do, but its better to work with existing, maintained trusted capabilities.  We will need some coders for some time, but longer term they will be replaced by people who know how to choose and connect modules.   Ultimately the connecting and implementing will also be automated.

Thus, long term its probably not best to teach most students low level coding.  Teach them logic, business, augmentation, conversation, process, risk and results.  Some of those students will be needed to build, expand and maintain the modules of code needed.   But it will be a decreasing number.

When is this future?   I predict a decade from now far fewer people will be coding.   Another decade will complete automation. ...

Can't Code?
No Problem
We'll show you how to build your business without code - just tell us what you want to create - Or check out our free resources below! .... 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-code_development_platform
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-code_development_platform

Future of Car Rental

Largely agree.  But a decade out who knows?  Good overview.

Semi-autonomous and always available: A peek into the near future of car rental in DigitalTrends

The world is inexorably moving to an era where personal mobility is connected, shared, electric, and ultimately autonomous. But that utopian future — where we are whisked to work in an amorphous pod with IMAX movies and fresh popcorn, all the while checking emails and holding conference calls — is still pretty far out.  ... ." 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Augmenting Movie Making Using VR

Makes sense to use a visual medium to show alternative views to be chosen or combined.   Using game techniques.   No mention of a potential AR capability when combining shots with physical sets, but would be similar. How this would influence creativity remains to be seen.  It is likely that people who work with visual choices will start to see more of this kind of capability, with the further ability of seeing measures like cost, predicted audience reactions, continuity measures and more. So how might this work in other industries?  With these measures also leading to different kinds of optimization of overall goals.   On we go.

Directors Using VR on Set to Find the Perfect Shot 
New Scientist
By Andrew Rosenblum  in ACM

Technicolor has developed a virtual reality (VR) headset that allows film directors to instantly see what a scene will look like with computer-generated imagery added. Previously, directors had to send footage of human actors to render farms (groups of powerful computers) that would add graphical elements in a process that could take days to complete. The VR headset incorporates a stack of high-powered chips originally designed for gaming, which provide directors the opportunity to see immediately how a scene will look with the addition of computer-generated elements. The director can be immersed in the three-dimensional world of the scene and find the best camera angles. Independent filmmaker Kevin Margo said the technology can reduce the cost of visual effects up to 20% by trimming the expenses of lighting, and of the process to combine the elements into a single image. ... "

Wolfram Alpha is 10!

I was an early tester, loved it.   An assistant that emphasized the computable!  Free and amazing.  How great to see things as computable.   But somehow I drifted off to others.   You know the other glitzy assistants, often mentioned here.     And those I can ask computable things like:  how many ounces in a deciliter?... but that's not very fun or meaningful.

I saw WA as a semantic DB that could be made to answer questions like:  Calculate X using Y in region Z while also showing me the risk profile.  With our data and public data.  With the usual metadata.   Systematic data we use all the time.   But it was harder to set it up to do that kind of thing than I thought,  nobody bought.

 I was careful to include Wolfram/Alpha in my known assistant list, but rarely visited.  Few had head of it.   But now this considerable article about where Wolfram/Alpha is today and where it may be going.  But Have not read it yet, but about to.  I am back, WA are you listening, want to talk?

You can try Wolfram/Alpha here.

The Wolfram|Alpha Story  From the WolframBlog.

Today it’s 10 years since we launched Wolfram|Alpha. At some level, Wolfram|Alpha is a never-ending project. But it’s had a great first 10 years. It was a unique and surprising achievement when it first arrived, and over its first decade it’s become ever stronger and more unique. It’s found its way into more and more of the fabric of the computational world, both realizing some of the long-term aspirations of artificial intelligence, and defining new directions for what one can expect to be possible. Oh, and by now, a significant fraction of a billion people have used it. And we’ve been able to keep it private and independent, and its main website has stayed free and without external advertising.

For me personally, the vision that became Wolfram|Alpha has a very long history. I first imagined creating something like it more than 47 years ago, when I was about 12 years old. Over the years, I built some powerful tools—most importantly the core of what’s now Wolfram Language. But it was only after some discoveries I made in basic science in the 1990s that I felt emboldened to actually try building what’s now Wolfram|Alpha.

It was—and still is—a daunting project. To take all areas of systematic knowledge and make them computable. To make it so that any question that can in principle be answered from knowledge accumulated by our civilization can actually be answered, immediately and automatically. .... "

Comparison of Wal-Mart and Amazon as Online Retailers

Good review of the topic.  The details in the Why are interesting.

Walmart vs. Amazon: Which online retailer is better, and why  in Digitaltrends

Walmart vs. Amazon: Which has better prices, shipping, and customer service?
Back in the 90s, going out and physically shopping at the mall was a regular activity. You’d go there to shop for clothes, see a movie, grab lunch at the food court, or to grab that new CD you wanted from Sam Goody or Tower Records. Have you been to a mall lately, though? It’s nothing like it was back then. Most malls today are like ghost towns, with gates in front of many of the stores and few patrons shopping on any given day.

These days, so many of us do our shopping online. We can buy just about anything without getting off the couch, and have it delivered right to the front door. Two of the main players in the online shopping arena are Amazon and Walmart. Both have marketplaces, quick shipping options, and a wide variety of items ranging from electronics to clothing to kitchen gadgets to sex toys.

Walmart may be behind Amazon in terms of online performance, but the big box store has been rapidly growing its online customer base. Between early 2017 and early 2019, Walmart has seen 207% growth in its eCommerce buyer base. ....  " 

Ethically Deploying AI

Thoughtful piece, making the distinction between creating an AI and deploying it.   Deploying means how it operates in current and predicted future context.   Often with statistical outcomes.    But then any augmentation of humans has this conundrum.    As I suggested in a conversation ... the invention of binoculars could be said to make long distance facial recognition much easier, faster .... deployable ... so should we restrict their use?   And how?   Deployment is a slippery place, where lots about context and culture and other technologies come into play.

" ... In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast, Simon London speaks with MGI partner Michael Chui and McKinsey partner Chris Wigley about how companies can ethically deploy artificial intelligence.  .."

Driverless Electric Trucks

More driverless examples emerging.   Note the remote operation of these as well, so limitation of autonomous and public interaction.

Driverless Electric Truck Starts Deliveries on Swedish Public Road 
Reuters
By Esha Vaish; Inze Filks; Anna Ringstrom

A driverless electric truck has started delivering freight daily along a public road in Sweden, an achievement described as a world first by vehicle developer Einride and logistics client DB Schenker. Einride CEO Robert Falck said, “This public road permit is a major milestone ... and it is a step to commercializing autonomous technology on roads.” The developer plans to have 200 vehicles dispatched by the end of next year. The T-Pod employs an Nvidia Drive platform for real-time visual data processing; a remote operator can coordinate and operate up to 10 T-Pods simultaneously. The vehicle can make short trips between a warehouse and terminal on a public road in an industrial area in Jonkoping, at a top speed of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) an hour.  .... " 

Egeria for Sharing Metadata

We spent much time on the application of relevant contextual metadata.  One big issue is making sure the quantity and quality of metadata is preserved in context for specific goals.  Maintenance again.

ODPi Announces Egeria for Open Sharing, Exchange and Governance of Metadata

Industry’s First Open Metadata Standard Helps Organizations Better Understand, Manage and Gain Value from Data

Vancouver, BC, Canada – August 27, 2018 – Open Source Summit North America — ODPi, a nonprofit organization accelerating the open ecosystem of big data solutions, today announced Egeria, a new project from ODPi that supports the free flow of metadata between different technologies and vendor offerings. Egeria enables organizations to locate, manage and use their data more effectively.

Last year’s ODPi white paper on “The Year of Enterprise-wide Production Hadoop” found that Data Governance and Security were the biggest blocking factors to enabling enterprises to take big data into true production. Recent data privacy regulations such as GDPR have brought these concerns to the forefront, and enterprises around the globe need a standard for ensuring that data providence and management is clear and consistent across the enterprise. Egeria enables this, as the only open source driven solution designed to set a standard for leveraging metadata in line of business applications, and enabling metadata repositories to federate across the enterprise.

“A consistent view on data across the entire landscape is essential for any organisation that wants to become data driven. Not just where the data is, but also the quality, the ownership, and the full lineage across the entire set of technologies used,” said Ferd Scheepers, chief information architect, ING. “The open metadata standard delivered by Egeria delivers this consistent view across all the technologies, while reducing the cost of metadata capture, and the management challenges of working with various data tool vendors.”

Egeria is built on open standards and delivered via Apache 2.0 open source license. The ODPi Egeria project creates a set of open APIs, types and interchange protocols to allow all metadata repositories to share and exchange metadata. From this common base, it adds governance, discovery and access frameworks for automating the collection, management and use of metadata across an enterprise. The result is an enterprise catalog of data resources that are transparently assessed, governed and used in order to deliver maximum value to the enterprise.

“Egeria’s open source metadata management presents an exciting opportunity to rethink both management and governance of data to provide greater trust and flexibility in how we all share and consume data,” said John Mertic, director of program management, ODPi. “Egeria’s open governance model allows our community and practitioners to develop and evolve the base for use in any offerings and deployments.” .... '

Friday, May 17, 2019

Nissan Claims Updated Car is Highway Hands-Off

Quite a claim.   Not all the way to autonomous cars.  First of all the claim is for highway driving only.  And even there you wont be able to play cards with your passenger.   A driver facing camera will look for distractions, and I assume enforce your attention in some way.  Still an interesting step in an autonomous direction.  And once you had such a system working, you  have considerable data to tune and extend it further.

Nissan claims its upgraded ProPilot system enables hands-off highway driving  By Stephen Edelstein in Digitaltrends

Nissan is introducing a new version of its ProPilot Assist driver-assist system in Japan that marks a big step forward in automation. The current version of ProPilot Assist is basically adaptive cruise control with a lane-centering feature, but Nissan claims the new system — dubbed ProPilot 2.0 — allows for “hands-off” driving on highways.

ProPilot 2.0 is designed to work only on highways, similar to Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise systems. It has the capability to follow a route set in the car’s navigation system from on-ramp to off-ramp. Once the car reaches the off-ramp, the driver must retake full control. On the highway, though, Nissan claims drivers can take their hands off the wheel while the car cruises in a single lane. Drivers must still pay attention and be ready to retake the wheel at all times, Nissan noted. A driver-facing camera checks for signs of distraction. It’s a sensible precaution, given the antics some Tesla owners have gotten into with Autopilot. Systems like these may take some of the workload, but they do not allow cars to drive themselves. ... " 

Differential Programming

Intriguing description and demonstration code.    I am always looking at ways to connect process models and AI pattern recognition. (or any analytics)    Is this an alternative way?

Reinforcement Learning vs. Differentiable Programming

Go to the profile of #ODSC - Open Data Science
#ODSC - Open Data Science

We’ve discussed the idea of differentiable programming, where we incorporate existing programs into deep learning models. But if you’re a researcher building, say, a self-driving car, what does differentiable programming mean in practice? How does it affect the way we express our problem, train our model, curate our dataset, and ultimately the results we achieve?

This article shows what DP can bring to some simple but classic control problems, where we would normally use Reinforcement Learning (RL). DP-based models not only learn far more effective control strategies than RL, but also train orders of magnitude faster. The code is all available to run for yourself — they will mostly train in a few seconds on any laptop. ... "

Helping Employees Improve

New book at about jobs, work and employee improvement. 

What Really Helps Employees to Improve (It’s not Criticism)  In Knowledge@Wharton

“The best employees are well-rounded individuals.”

“People can reliably rate others’ performance.”
It’s safe to say most HR professionals wouldn’t take issue with these basic tenets. But Marcus Buckingham flat-out calls them “lies.”

In fact, Buckingham defied much of HR’s accepted wisdom in his keynote at the recent Wharton People Analytics Conference. The head of people and performance research at ADP Research Institute and a bestselling author, he drew in part from his new book Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World, co-authored with Ashley Goodall, a senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco.

Buckingham is perhaps best known as one of the founders of the strengths-based movement in HR, which holds that leaders should help people recognize and exploit their existing strengths rather than focus on remediating weaknesses. He authored the 2001 book Now, Discover Your Strengths (republished as StrengthsFinder) with the late Donald O. Clifton, a psychologist and former chair of Gallup. The book contains the Clifton Strengths Finder, a personal assessment test featuring over 30 “talent themes” to help people identify their strong points. The themes range from “Achiever” (having a constant drive for accomplishing things) to “Ideation” (being able to unite disparate ideas) to “Woo” (good at Winning Others Over).  ..."

(Update) GDPR Impact a Year Later

Its made browsing and gathering technical information harder, but for the corporation? (Update) in Fastcompany:  " ..... One year in, GDPR seems to have helped Google & Facebook ...  New projections from eMarketer show that Google and Facebook are both continuing to grow their share of the digital advertising market in the United Kingdom  ...".   I assume by making it more difficult for competitors.

GDPR’s Impact One Year Later   Alex Woodie in Datanami

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) granted Europeans unprecedented rights to control their own data, including the controversial “right to be forgotten.” The GDPR has been in effect for a year now, but what’s been the overall impact?

One thing is certain: There’s been no shortage of complaints around GDPR. According to a February survey by DLA Piper, there have been 59,000 complaints of data breaches in violation of GDPR since the law went into effect in May 2018. However the same report found only 91 fines have been handed out.

The biggest fines have been handed out to social media giants, like Google and Facebook. In January, Google was fined $56.8 million (€50 million) by the French data regulator CNIL for failing to sufficiently inform consumers about collecting data used in online ads, citing a “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent to personalize advertising.

Facebook is also bracing for possible GDPR fines as a result of a 2018 data breach, among other potential problems. The social media giant has stockpiled a reported $3 billion to pay Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fines that are expected as a result of its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016.

But overall thus far, the GDPR hammer hasn’t come down to the extent that many expect it eventually will, so the jury is still out on that aspect of the regulation.

Compliance a multi-part affair when it comes to GDPR, and many companies around the world are at various stages of their GDPR journey .... "

Network for Natural Disasters

Good idea, when will it move further, though also polluting.

IBM-Backed Project Creates Wi-Fi Network For Natural Disasters in SupplychainBrain

From a cramped living room in Brooklyn, New York, a handful of young computer nerds has developed a new way to use technology to help save lives in natural disasters.

They have designed tiny electronic nodes inside baseball-sized rubber casings that create a special Wi-Fi network spanning more than 100 square miles that can be used to connect victims and first responders. It’s a simple and relatively cheap concept, but during a natural disaster when cell towers topple, technology fails and entire communities fall into darkness — communication can be the difference between life and death.

The five young men met competing against each other at computer hackathons. They joined together to compete in a contest sponsored by International Business Machines Corp. last year called Call for Code, which asked developers to use cloud, artificial intelligence and other technologies to amplify preparedness for natural disasters. Their entry, Project Owl, which stands for Organization, Whereabouts, and Logistics, uses a “clusterduck” network made of hubs that resemble rubber ducks, which can float in flooded areas. Once deployed, civilians are able to get on their cellphone to connect with first responders. Emergency workers are also able to learn about weather and get information data analytics through the cloud. .... "

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Presentations from Retail Robotics and AI Conference

Impressive to see what is being done in this space:

RAC Retail Robotics & AI Conference Presentations

HINSDALE, Ill. – The second annual Retail Analytics Council Retail Robotics & AI Conference brought together more than 125 senior-level retailers, academics, and industry leaders for a unique educational event addressing current and future robot and AI trends. 

Topics addressed included: U.S.-China Retailers, Consumer Trends, and AI; Observations on the State of Retail Technology and AI; How to Implement a Retail Analytics Function; Advanced Analytics in Customer-Centric Strategies; AI Use Cases; How Bayesian Network Learning is Applied in Marketing; Data Privacy; Current Retail Robot Applications and Benefits; Robots in Retail Competition; Robust Perception for Robotics Systems; Intelligent Automation; and Future Retail Robot Applications. .... 

Speakers included:

Magali Bervillé, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, Moroccanoil
John Black, Senior Vice President, New Product Development, Brain Corporation
Dr. Martin Block, RAC Executive Director and Professor, Medill/IMC, Northwestern University
Jeff Burnstein, President, The Association for Advancing Automation
Cari Covent, VP, Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation, Canadian Tire Corporation
Justine Gottshall, Partner, InfoLawGroup LLP ....  (many more) 

Many of these speakers have made their conference presentations available to view. Visit the Platt Retail Institute website for more information.  Many presentations here.

Can You Buy Food with Crypto?

I made the cynical point recently with a Washington insider colleague who was concerned about regulating currencies.  What will make it real?  Is that day here?   Its at least an example of how it might work.

You can now pay with cryptocurrency at Whole Foods  In Technology Review

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss want you to pay for groceries, movies, ice cream, and many other everyday retail products using cryptocurrency. 

The news: The twins’ digital currency company, called Gemini, has formed a new partnership with payments startup Flexa to incorporate crypto-payment capabilities into the scanners that let you pay with services like Apple Pay.

Users can now use an app called Spedn to pay with Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, or Gemini’s dollar-backed stablecoin called the Gemini dollar for items at retailers including Whole Foods, Regal Cinemas, Baskin-Robbins, Starbucks, and others, according to Fortune.

Will crypto-payments stick this time? The cryptocurrency industry has wanted to achieve mainstream adoption in retail for ages. A number of merchants tried to accept Bitcoin payments in the past, but it was probably too early: paying with crypto had yet to take off, and many retailers stopped taking it. In many cases that’s probably been down to price volatility and slow processing times.

Speed merchant: In this case, Flexa will serve as a bridge between merchants and the blockchain, and will settle the payments in real time using its own network. Merchants can choose to take the payment in either cryptocurrency or dollars. According to Gemini, processing payments like this will be cheaper than using credit card networks. .... " 

James Burke on Predictive Analytics

Yes, this is that James Burke.  Heard his talks for many years.   Interesting but requires the whole talk.    I add the point that you can always predict, humans do it constantly,  but when are we close to correct,  what are the measures involved, and what are the risk implications?    All harder to quantify.

From the Strata conference, an excerpt:

Making the future
James Burke asks if we can use data and predictive analytics to take the guesswork out of prediction.

By James Burke May 1, 2019

This is a keynote highlight from the Strata Data Conference in London 2019. Watch the full version of this keynote on the O'Reilly online learning platform.

James Burke has been called “one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world” by the Washington Post. His audience is global. His influence in the field of the public understanding of science and technology is acknowledged in citations by such authoritative sources as the Smithsonian and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. His work is on the curriculum of universities and schools across the United States. In 1965, James began work with BBC-TV on Tomorrow’s World and went on to become the BBC’s chief reporter on the Apollo Moon missions. For over 40 years, he has produced, directed, written, and presented award-winning television series on the BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel, and the Learning Channel. These include historical series, such as Connections (aired in 1979, it achieved the highest-ever documentary audience); The Day the Universe Changed; Connections2 and Connections3; a one-man science series, The Burke Special; a mini-series on the brain, The Neuron Suite; a series on the greenhouse effect, After the Warming; and a special for the National Art Gallery on Renaissance painting, Masters of Illusion. ....... '

Language Training with Your Own Voice

When I started to use Google Assistant multilingualism, I immediately thought, why not have it teach you a language, with the aid of languages you know?   This is a start in that direction.

Via Kirk Borne:
Google's new #AI can help you speak another language in your own voice — the project is called Translatotron: https://t.co/P6y7ILWEIH 

More technical details at the Google AI blog:
https://ai.googleblog.com/2019/05/introducing-translatotron-end-to-end.html

Ultra Long Range Cameras

Further advances with Camera and image interpretation technology.  The AI to recompose the image from multiple components.

An Ultra Long Range Camera  Daily Mail (United Kingdom)
By James Pero

Researchers in China have developed new camera technology that can render human-sized subjects from up to 28 miles away. The camera, which relies on a combination of laser images and advanced artificial intelligence software, can cut through smog and other pollution. The software uses a technique called "gating" that helps ignore photons reflected by other objects in the camera's field of view. Since the camera uses a laser to determine the distance of a subject by measuring how long the light takes to reflect back to the machine, the new software can tell the camera to ignore everything else that falls outside of that time signature. The camera uses a new algorithm to stitch together the data collected and form a recognizable image.  .... " 

Transparency to understand, Control Risk.

To hope to get a handle on risk, you need to understand both the process involved, and known or predicted measures of risk.   To lead some useful management approach.  That's also a  key element of transparency.

Customers Deserve Transparency to Manage Risk   By Anthony Grieco  in Cisco Blog   Contributors: Russ Smoak

Our commitment to customers is to be open and transparent, especially as it relates to issues that could negatively impact their business. At Cisco, our leadership made the decision over twenty years ago that we would clearly communicate with customers about technical or other issues that could potentially expose their organizations to risk. It is one of the many ways we act as a trusted partner to our customers. Over those last twenty years, our team and security vulnerability process has evolved to meet customers’ needs. Ultimately, we want our customers to have the information they need to protect their networks.

We get called out from time to time about vulnerability disclosures we make. Yet… our policy remains unchanged: when security issues arise, we handle them openly and as a matter of top priority, so our customers understand the issue and how to address it. To fulfill this promise we follow a strict process to manage the receipt, investigation, and public reporting of security vulnerability information that is related to Cisco solutions and networks.

With that in mind, we’d like to address some of the most common questions and misconceptions we hear from our customers and the media about our vulnerability disclosure process.

What is a vulnerability and how are they identified?  .... "

Generating Speech from the Brain

I have heard that this was a solved problem many times.   Is it actually here now?   Seems that once this is really solved, we will immediately see it in working products.  The article is also cautious, the approach is interesting.  Awaiting that.

 Scientists pull speech directly from the brain in TechCrunch
By Devin     @techcrunch

In a feat that could eventually unlock the possibility of speech for people with severe medical conditions, scientists have successfully recreated the speech of healthy subjects by tapping directly into their brains. The technology is a long, long way from practical application but the science is real and the promise is there.

Edward Chang, neurosurgeon at UC San Francisco and co-author of the paper published today in Nature, explained the impact of the team’s work in a press release: “For the first time, this study demonstrates that we can generate entire spoken sentences based on an individual’s brain activity. This is an exhilarating proof of principle that with technology that is already within reach, we should be able to build a device that is clinically viable in patients with speech loss.”  ... ' 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Banning Facial Recognition

Police services need this, will create another un-safe regional situation.  Bias and errors will eventually be solved.

San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Technology 
The New York Times
Kate Conger; Richard Fausset; Serge F. Kovaleski

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has banned the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance purposes by police and other agencies in the city, making it the first major U.S. city to do so. City supervisor Aaron Peskin said this sends a message to the rest of the country, because "We have an outsize responsibility to regulate the excesses of technology precisely because they are headquartered here." Under the ban, city agencies cannot use facial recognition technology or data collected by outside systems that use the technology. Among those opposed to such a ban is the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's Daniel Castro, who argued facial recognition data should be accessible to law enforcement if they obtain a warrant from a judge, in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines for other types of electronic surveillance.  .... '

Dust Sized Brain Implants

Lots of uses for the very small

Wireless Network Brings Dust-Sized Brain Implants a Step Closer
Engineers have designed a scheme to let thousands of brain implants talk at up to 10 megabits per second  By Samuel K. Moore

Wireless brain implants called neurograins would form a network that can sense neural activity and send to an external computer for interpretation.

Brain-computer interfaces have managed some amazing feats: allowing paralyzed people to type words and move a robot using only their minds, to name two examples. Brown University neuroengineering professor Arto Nurmikko has had a hand in some of those developments, but even he says the technology is at only a rudimentary stage—the equivalent of the computer understanding the brain’s intention to bend a single finger.

“We’re trying to go from the bending-of-the-finger paradigm to tying shoe laces and even to the concert pianist level. That requires lots more spatial and temporal resolution from an electronic brain interface,” Nurmikko says. His team is hoping that kind of resolution will come along with the transition from a single, hard wired neural implant to a thousand or more speck-size neural implants that wirelessly communicate with computers outside the brain. At the IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference, engineers from Brown University, Qualcomm, and the University of California San Diego presented the final part of a communications scheme for these implants. It allows bidirectional communication between the implants and an external device with an uplink rate of 10 megabits per second and a downlink rate of 1 Mb/s.  .... " 

Edge: Rodney Brooks on Models of Brains

From the Edge, thoughts, podcast and transcript regarding Computation, machines and minds.

A Talk By Rodney A. Brooks [5.13.19]  in The Edge
Have we gotten into a cul-de-sac in trying to understand animals as machines from the combination of digital thinking and the crack cocaine of computation uber alles that Moore's law has provided us? What revised models of brains might we be looking at to provide new ways of thinking and studying the brain and human behavior? Did the Macy Conferences get it right? Is it time for a reboot?­­­

RODNEY BROOKS is Panasonic Professor of Robotics, emeritus, MIT; former director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); founder, chairman, and CTO of Rethink Robotics; and author of Flesh and Machines. Rodney Brooks's Edge Bio Page

RODNEY BROOKS: I’m going to go over a wide range of things that everyone will likely find something to disagree with. I want to start out by saying that I’m a materialist reductionist. As I talk, some people might get a little worried that I’m going off like Chalmers or something, but I’m not. I’m a materialist reductionist.

I’m worried that the crack cocaine of Moore’s law, which has given us more and more computation, has lulled us into thinking that that’s all there is. When you look at Claus Pias’s introduction to the Macy Conferences book, he writes, "The common precondition of the three foundational concepts of cybernetics—switching (Boolean) algebra, information theory and feedback—is digitality." They go straight into digitality in this conference. He says, "We considered Turing’s universal machine as a 'model' for brains, employing Pitts' and McCulloch’s calculus for activity in neural nets." Anyone who has looked at the Pitts and McCulloch papers knows it's a very primitive view of what is happening in neurons. But they adopted Turing’s universal machine  .... " 

Virtualitics Update

Some time ago I mentioned I had taken a look at the immersive data visualization and analysis environment Virtualitics.  Have received an update of their work with demonstration videos and motivations that is worth a look:

Virtualitics Update May 2019
Discover VIP
AI-driven Analytics and Immersive Environments .... 

China Tech Giants Known as the BATs

New to me.  Video at the link.

Who are the Chinese tech giants know as the BATs?  :  BBC

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google have become formidable tech giants. But China has come up with its own champions - Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Know as the BATs they are looking to compete outside China. The BBC’s Mariko Oi explains who are they and what they do.

Video by Pamela Parker.

Alexa, Join My Meeting

Slightly surprising given Google's recent moves, will work with Google Suite and also MS Office, Skype, Zoom, Chime and others.  For a limited time open to all Alexa users,  but apparently later will revert to only subscribers to Alexa for Business.   Have now seen a number of attempts to do conference support and assistance, none yet useful enough, but the assistance possibilities are considerable.

“Alexa, join my meeting” – Join conference calls with Alexa, now open to all Alexa users!  by aakarsh  in AWS  April 4, 2019

Starting today, Alexa device users can join meetings using their existing Alexa devices at home or work by saying “Alexa, join my meeting”! This feature is available for all Alexa users for a limited time, even if their organization does not use Alexa for Business yet. Just say “Alexa, join my meeting” to get started!

Alexa for Business at deskAlexa for Business already enables users to join meetings from conference rooms. Customers who have Alexa devices at home requested us to add the capability to join meetings even without a central deployment of Alexa for Business by their administrator. We are excited to enable this capability today for all Alexa device owners. You can get started by simply saying “Alexa, join my meeting” and following instructions to link your calendar with Alexa. Joining meetings is supported on most Alexa enabled devices that support Alexa Communication and works with a variety of popular conferencing solutions including Amazon Chime, Cisco WebEx, Zoom, and Skype.

By linking your Microsoft Office 365, Outlook, Google Gmail or G Suite, or Apple iCloud calendar via the Alexa app, Alexa will automatically find the next meeting and identify the right meeting ID and PIN numbers so you can join the meeting seamlessly. Once on the call, you can use the mute button to mute or say “Alexa, hang up” to leave the meeting. You can also say “Alexa, press 5” to enter touch tones. Echo Show or Echo Spot owners will join with audio and also see a keypad, the meeting title, call duration, and a hang-up button on screen.   ... "

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Blockchain: Why, When and How? Link it to Process

Cautionary tale about Blockchains and all that in the TechRepublic.  With links to Gartner stats.  Fatigue only if it is not appropriately linked to real process and business goals.      If you have not developed a process map of the business involved, you won't know if you are doing the right thing.

A lack of industry consensus as to what constitutes a blockchain solution and overzealous attempts to apply the technology is creating blockchain fatigue, according to Gartner.

Blockchain, as a technology, is often treated as a solution to every potential business or computing problem. Companies keep throwing money at it, with spending expected to total $2.9 billion this year. Successful deployments of blockchain projects are limited, with "initiatives failing to match the initial market exuberance that will lead to disillusionment and buyer fatigue," according to Gartner's Predicts 2019: Future of Supply Chain Operations report. Gartner also predicts that by 2023, "90% of blockchain-based supply chain initiatives will suffer blockchain fatigue for lack of strong use cases."

Depending on where you stand, the report has a quite realistic—or bleak—outlook for the blockchain market, noting that "companies struggle to identify how blockchain will be a better offering and provide higher value over conventional technology." Despite years of enthusiasm, "most organizations continue to struggle to understand what blockchain is, the capabilities it offers, what these might mean to their business, and what problems blockchain could or should solve," the report noted. ... " 

Via Walter Riker ...

Google Redesigns their Overall Shopping Experience

They needed to, and the outcome is worth understanding.  Remove confusion, intelligently combine sources, frictionless ....

Making it easier to shop across Google    By Surojit Chattarjee  Vice President, Product Management, Shopping,   in the Google Blog,    

Each day, hundreds of millions of people do shopping-related searches on Google. Now, we’re making the places where people come to browse and explore products on Google shoppable. These new shopping experiences let people shop and purchase frictionlessly right where they already turn to for research and inspiration: Search, Google Images, YouTube and a redesigned Google Shopping destination.

The new Google Shopping experience

This year we’re unveiling a redesigned Google Shopping experience with new, immersive ways for shoppers to discover and compare millions of products from thousands of stores. When they’re ready to buy, they can choose to purchase online, in a nearby store and now directly on Google. For retailers and brands, it brings together ads, local and transactions in one place to help them connect with consumers at the right time.

Shoppers will have a personalized homepage on the Shopping tab where they can filter based on features they care about and brands they love, read reviews and even watch videos about the products. For example, if they’re looking for headphones, they can filter for wireless and the brand they’re looking for.  .... " 

Clothes Folding Robot Closes

One of the ultimate examples for home chore completion was washing, drying, folding, ironing and putting away your laundry.    Well the company that had a demo doing that has folded (closed).    Implications for classic home tasks?  We have seen some home tasks become successes, like home security,  some wild successes, like voice managing your home entertainment and information, some partial successes, like vacuuming.  What should we aim at next?

Is There a Future for Laundry-Folding Robots? in IEEE Spectrum

The company behind the Laundroid robot folds itself, but that's not the end for laundry folding robots (yet) By Evan Ackerman

The original Laundroid concept was to combine washing clothes, drying clothes, ironing clothes, and folding clothes into one single (magical?) system that was fully autonomous, but the company had to scale back to a dedicated folding machine.

The promising thing about laundry-folding robots is that they target a job that everybody does frequently, and nobody really likes. But to be successful in robotics, especially in consumer robotics, you have to be both affordable and reliable, and robots are, still, generally awful at those things. Laundroid, a robotic system that could ingest wads of laundry and somehow spit out neatly folded clothes, put on a few demos at CES over the past few years, but the Japanese company behind it just announced bankruptcy—probably because the robot didn’t work all the time, and would likely have been absurdly expensive.

Laundroid may not have been a success, but does that mean that other laundry-folding robots, most notably Foldimate, are doomed as well? Of course it doesn’t, although I’m not particularly optimistic.  .... "

AI and the Dark Web

Intriguing interactions.   Again a pointer towards looking for patterns of data and activity.

Artificial intelligence shines light on the dark web
by Kylie Foy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

To match users from different forums who are likely the same person, an algorithm calculates similarities in profiles, such as their usernames; in content, such as similar phrasings; and in their network, such as the community with which they interact. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Beneath the surface web, the public form of the internet you use daily to check email or read news articles, exists a concealed "dark web." Host to anonymous, password-protected sites, the dark web is where criminal marketplaces thrive in the advertising and selling of weapons, drugs, and trafficked persons. Law enforcement agencies work continuously to stop these activities, but the challenges they face in investigating and prosecuting the real-world people behind the users who post on these sites are tremendous.

"The pop-up nature of dark-web marketplaces makes tracking their participants and their activities extremely difficult," says Charlie Dagli, a researcher in MIT Lincoln Laboratory's Artificial Intelligence Technology and Systems Group. Dagli is referring to the fast rate at which dark-web markets close down (because they are hacked, raided, abandoned, or set up as an "exit scam" in which the site shuts down intentionally after customers pay for unfulfilled orders) and new ones appear. These markets' short lifetimes, from a few months to a couple years, impede efforts to identify their users. .... 

To overcome this challenge, Lincoln Laboratory is developing new software tools to analyze surface- and dark-web data.  ... " 

Amazon Echo Adds Home Security Feature

An unexpected security feature for the smart home.    No additional  hardware required.

Amazon’s Echo can now detect when someone is breaking into your home in Fastcompany

Amazon has announced that all Echo devices in the U.S. will be getting a new app called Alexa Guard. The app is a home-security app of sorts but doesn’t require any third-party smart home security hardware.

Alexa Guard works by leveraging the Echo’s always-listening microphone. Users can activate Alexa Guard with the phrase “Alexa, I’m leaving.” That tells the Guard app to begin listening for ambient background sounds in your house, including sounds of breaking glass and smoke and carbon monoxide detector alarms. .... " 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Shape Structuralizing for Design and More

Liked this, especially as it could be connected to supply chains,  procurement, compliance ....

Smart software tool could pave the way for changing how things get designed, made, and supplied      Purdue.edu

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — If you don’t like wandering through big-box stores trying to find the furniture you need, and then struggle to assemble it, researchers have proposed a solution: Smart software that helps you design your own furniture, 3D print the joints and assemble the whole structure at home.

“This work has implications for changing how the supply chain works,” said Karthik Ramani, Purdue University’s Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “A tool like this turns consumers into producers.”

The researchers presented the tool, called “Shape Structuralizer,” at the 2019 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday (May 6).

There’s one problem: The industries for such a tool – a way to pick up parts to 3D print your designs or have the parts shipped to you – don’t exist yet. ....

A YouTube video of the tool is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1dSmxgI7wA&feature=youtu.be.  ... 

“We don’t know yet what form the ideas we have demonstrated will take when they’re available to consumers. But we’ve demonstrated one way that a tool can adapt to the user rather than the other way around,” Ramani said. “This would localize manufacturing and cut tedious steps between design and fabrication.”

Shape Structuralizer is a step toward creating these industries by making structure design “open-source,” similarly to how Apple provides a platform for anyone to make apps, or how Tesla made its patents on electric car technology freely available to the public.  ... " 

Linux Hyperledger for Supply Chains

Reported  earlier this year.  Finally getting to its implications in supply chain.  Smart Contracts

Linux Hyperledger to Give Developers Supply Chain Building Blocks
in Computerworld   By Lucas Mearian

The Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Grid Project will offer software developers tools to create supply-chain-specific apps that run atop distributed ledger technology. The project initially will deliver modular software and smart contract components to businesses to meet challenges like tracking and tracing shipped goods, electronic certifications, and bill of lading exchange. According to the foundation, "This project will accelerate the development of blockchain-based solutions to cross-industry supply chain problems." Grid encompasses libraries, data models, and software development kits to expedite development for supply-chain smart contracts and client interfaces. Grid also will employ other Hyperledger projects like Sawtooth, a modular framework for building, deploying, and running business blockchains. Hyperledger said it will pin much of the domain model work on GS1/Global Trade Item Number standards, "but many other implementations could be contributed and published, including models such as those being created by the Open Data Initiative, or more nuanced industry models like Identification of Medicinal Products (IDMP)." ... "

Deep Learning for Time Series and Signal Processing

We researched the topic of using deep learning to replace forecasting time series applications in the enterprise,  for faster and more accurate results, but were never successful.    The need to segment many small  time steps and solve the resulting large neural nets was too difficult.   Here a useful piece on the current related approaches with machine learning.   Reading and will comment further.  From DSC.   Join the group

Deep learning: the final frontier for signal processing and time series analysis?
Posted by Andrea Manero-Bastin  
This article was written by Alexandr Honchar.

People use deep learning almost for everything today, and the “sexiest” areas of applications are computer vision, natural language processing, speech and audio analysis, recommender systems and predictive analytics. But there is also one field that is unfairly forgotten in terms of machine learning — signal processing (and, of course, time series analysis). In this article, I want to show several areas where signals or time series are vital, after I will briefly review classical approaches and will move on to my experience with applying deep learning for biosignal analysis in Mawi Solutions and for algorithmic trading. I already gave a couple of talks on this topic in Barcelona and Lviv, but I would like to make the materials a bit more accessible.

I am sure, that not only people working with time series data will benefit from this article. Computer vision specialists will learn how similar their domain expertise is to signal processing, NLP people will get some insights about sequential modeling and other professionals can have interesting takeaways as well. Enjoy!  ... '

Purdue Hummingbird Drone

Flight bio-mimicry and the potential for swarming task completion.  AI being used to determine useful patterns supporting flight.

Tiny drone uses A.I. to learn from nature’s best pilot, the hummingbird   By Georgina Torbet

One of nature’s most remarkable creations is the hummingbird, which flaps its wings up to 80 times per second and which can hover in place and fly in any direction. Now scientists have used machine learning algorithms to study the way these birds fly in order to replicate their abilities in drones.

The robot, developed by researchers at Purdue University, has artificial intelligence (A.I.) which learns from hummingbird simulations and applies its findings to the movements of its flexible flapping wings.  .... " 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cisco Moves with MindMeld

Have we seen the emergence of a new general assistant?  I remember the acquisition of Mindmeld, but did not expect this direction.  Don't expect a device to follow,   but likely a business oriented conversational AI and assistance, with the ability to embed in other systems.   Smart homes?  There has been considerable posts about MindMeld in this blog.  Our innovation center did considerable work with Cisco.

Cisco opens up its MindMeld voice AI platform    By Maria Deutscher in SiliconAngle

Back in 2017, Cisco Systems Inc. shelled out $125 million to acquire MindMeld Inc., an early-stage startup that had created a platform for building voice assistants. The offering was one of the first development tools focused specifically on conversational artificial intelligence.

Cisco announced Wednesday that it’s releasing MindMeld under an open-source Apache 2.0 license. The move is meant to lower the adoption barrier for enterprises looking to add voice features to their applications. Just  as important, it will enable outside developers to improve upon to the platform and contribute their code back to the project.

MindMeld provides a set of tools that cover most of the core tasks involved in building a conversational AI. At the heart of the platform is a natural-language processing engine for parsing spoken commands. It can identify the topic a user is talking about, isolate what it is exactly they’re asking for and analyze “entities” such as restaurant names that require special interpretation.

Once a request is parsed, it’s passed on to MindMeld’s question-answering engine. The system can automatically generate replies by drawing on a corpus of information provided in advance by the application developer. MindMeld includes a dedicated module for managing a service’s knowledge repository that helps with tasks such as organizing data and finding alternative answers when an application’s first reply misses the mark..... " 

Google Changes its Smart Device Cooperation

Saw evidence of this when the ability to link with IFTTT ended, now a much broader set of changes will remove some of the cooperative capabilities among smart home systems.  From the customers perspective would like to see much more interaction, but there is much competition for the space.    Also, will Google customers be upset at this change?    More so I think than at Amazon. 

Been considerable speculation as to what this means to smart homes and assistants in general.  Still following the difference between Google and Amazon, in the sense that Google is seeking deeper AI, and Amazon is providing a means to make it easy to construct many narrower skills.    Amazon at this point is pushing assistants in industry and  and business.  But Google has a broad range of business infrastructure already in place.    Much conversation going on regarding this change.

Google is ending its “Works with Nest” system. Here’s what that means for you   By Tyler Lacoma  in Digitaltrends

A series of announcements at the Google I/O 2019 conference will utterly change how the company approaches smart device platforms. This is especially important for the “Works with Nest” program — which is being shut down.

Does that mean that your non-Google smart devices will lose compatibility with Nest devices? Yes, it does. But the issue is also more complicated than that. Let’s talk about this big Google change, why the company is taking such a risk with consumers, and what it means for your own smart home. ... " 

Walmart Follows Demographics

Was may own impression from some time ago that they did much better in leveraging demographics both in inventory and physical design of their retail spaces.

How Walmart stays ahead by following demographics

The rise of big data may have eclipsed demographics for many retailers, but Walmart has kept demographic trends in its sights, says Peter Francese, founder of "American Demographics" magazine. Falling birth rates, key differences between the baby boomers and the millennials, and the financial stresses faced by low-income immigrant groups and people of color all factor into Walmart's merchandising strategies, according to Francese.  .... " 

Price and Demand

A simple yet useful example of revenue  -  price elasticity.  With a full Python code example   We used to run these models in SAS in big CPG for every product we sold, advertised or proposed.  Despite all the fancy things being done these days, this is still a useful to do.   Also a good simple Python example.

Optimizing price, maximizing revenue

Posted by Mab Alam in DSC

Problem statement

Price and quantity sold are the two determinants of business revenue/profit. At higher price the revenue is expected to be high. But this is not the case all the time. We know from our everyday experience, as price of something goes up, people have less tendency to buy it.

The reverse is also true, that is, as price is down, sales goes up (think what happens in a block buster sales event in a nearby shopping mall). But sales going up doesn’t always mean that the revenue will also go up, because of the trade-off created by price drop.

Setting a right price of products/services is one of the most important decisions a business can make. Under-pricing and over-pricing both can hurt a company’s bottom line. So where is the sweet spot, the right price, that maximizes revenue and profit?

With a simple example let’s examine how to optimization price to maximize revenue/profit. ... " 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Customer Service Help and AI Agents

Inclined to agree, with only the most difficult examples handed over to groups of human or specialty agents.

How will AI powered Customer service Help Take over Support?  in MarutiTech Blog

Automation of services has picked up its fastest pace by now, giving users the much needed facility to fulfill their regular tasks. With advanced systems powered by automated solutions, users can now book a restaurant reservation, order a pizza, book a movie ticket, hotel room and even make a clinic appointment. Customer service industry is gaining much momentum especially due to disruption of Artificial Intelligence – a technological breakthrough that has taken almost every business industry by storm.

By transforming customer service interactions, AI-powered digital solutions are prepared to improve every aspect of your business including online customer experience, loyalty, brand reputation, preventive assistance and even generation of revenue streams. Digital market moguls project that by 2020 more than 85% of all customer support communications will be conducted without engaging any customer service representatives.

This blog delves into the subject a little more to convey how AI-powered customer service can possibly help customer support agents online.  ... "

A Look at Dash Buttons, Gone but not Forgotten

Used them from the beginning, from beta on to the regular use of a dozen of them on the frig.   We discussed the concept years before.    Still has a place I believe, they are a part of a consumer IOT that connects people directly to fulfillment.   Only slightly easier than using voice to start an order, but we found that aspect of easier can be a big thing.

Amazon's Dash Buttons Aren't Dead - They will Haunt us forever  in Wired

This story is part of a collection of pieces on how we spend money today.

AMAZON’S DASH BUTTONS were either the pinnacle of gimmickry—a bunch of plastic purchase-dongles that served no use except to stuff your cabinets with more home goods—or a prime example of streamlined, purpose-driven design. Like a lot of products: It depends on who you ask.

But what if Amazon Dash Buttons, which were discontinued as of February 28, were both? What if every time we pushed one of these silly buttons, we—the consumers—were helping Amazon build a bridge to a future of interface-free shopping? In this future, physical shopping apparatus will be quaint. No sooner will our eyes lock on an empty bottle of dish soap, or a pair of sneakers in a social media app, than the item will appear in a virtual shopping cart. If that doesn’t work, we can shout at Alexa to order it for us. That’s what Amazon seems to be angling for, anyway. Where they’re going, they don’t need buttons.

Amazon Dash Buttons launched in the spring of 2015. The March 31 birthday didn’t help things: People on the internet wondered if they were part of an April Fool’s Day joke. They were mostly plastic, mostly white, not much larger than a key fob. Each Dash Button included a Wi-Fi radio, an LED light, and, of course, a button. And each was sheathed in a specific #brand, tiny advertisements for Hefty or Brita or Gillette or Olay plastered all over your home. Provided you were an Amazon Prime subscriber, all you had to do was push the button. In a couple of days, the preset product would arrive at your door.    ... " 

Consumer Inertia

Never heard it called this, but makes sense.   And a precise measure?  intriguing work to evaluate the introduction of new or related products.

Consumer Inertia and Market Power  by Alexander MacKay and Marc Remer

Consumers are often more likely to buy a product if they have purchased it previously. This paper provides a means to estimate the magnitude of this phenomenon (i.e., consumer inertia) and shows how it affects the prices of firms in competitive settings. Perhaps surprisingly, greater consumer inertia can result in smaller price increases after a merger.

Author Abstract

We study the pricing decision of firms in the presence of consumer inertia. Inertia can arise from habit formation, brand loyalty, switching costs, or search, and it has important implications for the interpretation of equilibrium outcomes and counterfactual analysis. In particular, consumer inertia affects the scope of market power. We show that the effects of competition on prices and profits are non-monotonic in the degree of inertia. Further, a model that omits consumer inertia tends to overstate the marginal effect of competition on price, relative to a benchmark that accounts for consumer dynamics. We develop an empirical model to estimate consumer inertia using aggregate, market-level data. We apply the model to a hypothetical merger of two major retail gasoline companies, and we find that a static model predicts price increases greater than the price increases predicted when accounting for dynamics.    ... " 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Situational Design for Alexa Assistance

In once sense, its all about situations.   e.g. context.   So this is good.  Though its also about how the context is described (in storyboards)  and how it varies with more descriptive information.  The latter evolution is most important.    In our own experience maintaining usable knowledge for a non-trivial 'skill' is the most important part.   Not enough detail about that is included.    (More detail at the link)

New Alexa Design Guide: Create Engaging Alexa Skills Using Situational Design By Anna Van Brookhoven

We’re excited to announce the publication of the new Alexa Design Guide for skill builders, built around the principles of situational design so you can create more engaging and habitual skills. This new design methodology is rooted in voice-first design principles, versus screen-first design, ensuring that your skill can deliver compelling and delightful conversational experiences.

Whether you’re new to designing skills, or you need guidance on challenging skill use cases, this guide will help you:

Learn how to script engaging dialog
Create storyboards from your script
Discover voice design use cases and patterns for your skill
Get insight into special use cases for specific types of skills
Explore how to layer in complementary visuals using the Alexa Presentation Language (APL)
Check out the updated guide here.

What is Situational Design?  ... "

Podcast: When AI Meets Medicine

Once your expand the context of medical AI beyond 'simple' pattern recognition and include the patient and professional, it gets complex.

When AI Meets Medicine
Listen and subscribe to this podcast via Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts 

With healthcare under extreme commercial and political pressure, the doctor-patient relationship is at a low point — and risks further deterioration. But digital technologies promise to revolutionize the daily delivery of care. Renowned digital medicine pioneer Dr. Eric Topol and Azeem Azhar discuss what this could mean for medical professionals, patients, and national healthcare systems. .... "

Visualizing Census Data

R based capabilities.    More hints in this short article at the link.   I found myself needing this in a project where it could have been useful.

Making maps to visualize census data    Posted by Mab Alam in DSC

Visualizing census data could not be easier thanks to few great packages in R. 

Not that in Python you could not do spatial analysis/visualization of census data, but certainly not as easily as in R because of some tailored rstats packages for this purpose.

Kyle Walker developed a package called tidycensus. This package allows for easy access, analysis and visualization of Census Bureau data on hundreds of variables.  ... " 

Amazon Maps its Global Architecture

An interactive map of Amazon's  AWS general and global location architecture.   No exact locations,  but an indication of its breadth.   More in TheVerge.

Assistants for the Workplace

While Alexa continues to add many new but still narrow skills to choose from.  Still want to see more things that will enhance business and home office context.   Cortana and Google assistant are now providing more basic intelligence with the ability to add complex conversational 'turns'.   Like the progress I see there. 

New Cortana and Google Assistant updates highlight workplace potential
Microsoft and Google this week both showcased changes to their digital voice assistants designed to make them more useful in the office. ... 
           
By Matthew Finnegan   Senior Reporter, Computerworld |

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Data as Value Asset

Have now addressed this problem for some time,  its how the data gets used, including the risk of its use in context.

Managing data as an asset: An interview with the CEO of Informatica  in McKinsey

Anil Chakravarthy draws on his experience leading a data-management business to discuss new technical and organizational approaches that help companies create value with data. .... " 

Wal-Mart Tests Digital Price Labels

Kroger is testing similar approaches.

Walmart Testing Digital Price Labels, LED Projectors
By Patrycja Malinowska - In ConsumerGoods

Walmart is pitting two different types of digital price labels against each other at two stores near its Bentonville headquarters to see if they can be controlled through programming as quickly as price changes, saving time for employees and providing accurate, real-time pricing for shoppers. P2PI visited the two locations to check out the pilots.

In the bread aisle of its Pleasant Crossing test store in Rogers, AR, Walmart is trialing the more subdued of the two digital price labels: e-ink tags. About the same size as the retailer’s printed paper labels and positioned one-by-one along the shelf, the digital labels cover prices for merchandise that commands a larger shelf area. They appear relatively flat for digital signage, eschewing color for a streamlined look employing black font and a white border. The look is very similar to the digital price labels adopted by Amazon at its 4-Star stores, resembling visuals on an e-book device..... " 

Drones in the Aisles?

Certainly only after hours?  Even the order picking people in my local Kroger can create a traffic problem.

Drones in Aisle 5? Grocery Stores Becoming Unusual Hotbeds of Innovation  By The Washington Post 

Pensa says its drone probably will start appearing in stores later this year.  Data subscription service Pensa Systems has created a drone and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance grocery operations.

Texas-based data subscription service Pensa has created a drone and its underlying artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance grocery operations.

The drone can hover to scan grocery shelves and check inventory levels, and uploads this data to the cloud so grocers and brand manufacturers can leverage fine-grained information about customers' shopping habits.

Walmart is testing in New York its Intelligent Retail Lab, which incorporates AI-driven cameras, sensors, and processors to flag out-of-stock items to internal apps monitored by workers. ... "