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Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Look at Digital Buttons: Amazon Dash

Below is the first piece in TheVerge on 'Buttons', which I loosely define as simple as possible interfaces to otherwise complex processes.    Probably the best known is the Amazon Dash. I remember discussing it with folks from Amazon at our innovation center not long after they started selling things other than books online.   Not claiming we got the idea first,  but we certainly had discussed having a re-order button for detergent on a washing machine long before.  After that we got a beta version, and I have been using it ever since in my Smart Home.  Later we talked about having a 'button' on a process model to measure when things were done.  Or to use to vote or bid on something.  Using one of Amazon's proto-buttons. Which you can probably get cheap now.  But that never happened.  Still much like the button as a kind of IOT simple-as-possible interface.  Let me know if you want to talk that.  Nice piece below, and more upcoming I will comment on.

The Amazon Dash button was a physical interface to digital shopping
Button of the Month: Amazon Dash button    By Chaim Gartenberg   @cgartenberg

In today’s digital age, it can sometimes feel like hardware has taken a back seat to the software that drives devices. Button of the Month is a column that looks at some of these buttons and switches on devices both old and new to appreciate how we interact with our devices on a physical, tactile level.

Shopping on Amazon is a vastly digital experience. Until the last few years, there hasn’t been a physical way to go and buy things from Amazon. For the overwhelming majority of Amazon purchases, there’s still no checkout lane, no aisles to browse, no physical interactions at all — famously, the company’s “One Click” software removes nearly all barriers between wanting something and buying it.

Amazon’s now-defunct Dash buttons — small, Wi-Fi connected pods with a single button on them that would reorder a specific product — were meant to change that when they were introduced in 2015. They offered a physical manifestation of that traditional Amazon experience: buy what you need with just one click. ....."

Supply Chain by the Numbers

Thought provoking numbers from the industry

 Supply Chain by the Numbers   from Supply Chain Digest
  Supply Chain by the Numbers for March 28, 2019
  Wisconsin Paper Mill gets Second Life; UPS First Revenue-Generating Drone; I, DC Robot; Chinese Ship Building .... "

Gestures, Perception and Meaning

Long followed gesture as alternate interface, is it far beyond that?

How the Brain Links Gestures, Perception and Meaning in QuantaMagazine

Neuroscience has found that gestures are not merely important as tools of expression but as guides of cognition and perception.  By Raleigh McElvery    Contributing Writer

Remember the last time someone flipped you the bird? Whether or not that single finger was accompanied by spoken obscenities, you knew exactly what it meant.

The conversion from movement into meaning is both seamless and direct, because we are endowed with the capacity to speak without talking and comprehend without hearing. We can direct attention by pointing, enhance narrative by miming, emphasize with rhythmic strokes and convey entire responses with a simple combination of fingers.

The tendency to supplement communication with motion is universal, though the nuances of delivery vary slightly. In Papua New Guinea, for instance, people point with their noses and heads, while in Laos they sometimes use their lips. In Ghana, left-handed pointing can be taboo, while in Greece or Turkey forming a ring with your index finger and thumb to indicate everything is A-OK could get you in trouble ..... "

Discovering Contracts

The idea of 'discovering' contracts struck me.   Take it further to discovering agreements embedded in text.   Does not have to be as complex as 'legal' contracts.   Takes it beyond to the  the discovery of the implications of these agreements.  Like risks, embedded predictions, regulations, governance needs ... and the interaction of these and related considerations.  Leads also to the need for  better process models.

DocuSign invests $15 million in AI contract discovery startup Seal Software  By Kyle Wiggers  @Kyle_L_Wiggers  in Venturebeat

DocuSign is investing heavily in AI. Literally. The San Francisco provider of electronic signature and digital transaction management services today announced that it’s putting $15 million toward Seal Software, a seal contract discovery and analytics startup that uses machine learning to find and parse contracts, building on an existing partnership between the two companies.

It follows DocuSign’s acquisition of intellectual property rights from machine learning startup Appuri in December 2017, and its purchase of text search and document indexing startup SpringCM last September. And it comes after Bay Area-based Seal — which was founded in 2010 by Kevin Gidney and Ulf Zetterberg, and which recently reported growth of more than 85 percent year-on-year — raised $30 million from Toba Capital, bringing its total raised to $43 million.  .... "

Scenarios for the Future of Work

As usual excellent pointers to learning in this area.

Via the O'Reilly Next Economy Newsletter

4 scenarios for the future of work  (70+ page PDF)

Based on a methodology called morphological analysis, new research from the UK’s Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce on prospects for the future of work by the year 2035 finds four potential scenarios: the “Big Tech Economy” of fast-paced technological innovation; the “Precision Economy” of hypersurveillance, algorithmic optimization, and ratings-driven professional reputations; the “Exodus Economy” of slower growth and alternative economic models; and the “Empathy Economy” of corporate responsibility and greater appreciation of human-touch sectors. .... " 

AI is Transforming Marketing

Very good overview piece on marketing and AI in CustomerThink.   Intro is below.    Statistics they gathered are also interesting:

Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Digital Marketing And For Good Reason!   By Evan Brown  in CustomerThink

Artificial intelligence has, irrefutably, revolutionized our lifestyle as well as business processes, including digital marketing, in ways once impossible to imagine.

Artificial Intelligence… This long, wordy term may sound perplexing to you, but what’s more perplexing is the fact that we are using AI technology every day and most of us didn’t even realize it till now.

Surprised? Let’s just take a reality check.

Think of all those times when Gmail suggested you smart replies for an email or Spotify recommended new releases and old favorites as per your music taste. Artificial Intelligence lies behind all this; it capitalizes on the algorithms that determine our online activities and thereby makes suggestions relevant to how we behave online.

AI has overshadowed the app industry to get deep-rooted into our lives. Google Maps app uses AI to assess the traffic conditions on the roads and propose quickest routes to its users. Similarly, the LENS tool in Pinterest identifies the images and provides similar image results to the user.

But what if it’s just a beginning? Let’s dig out some stats…

85% of the customer interactions will be managed without any human interaction. (Gartner)
AI technology can help businesses increase the labor productivity by almost 40%. (Accenture)
83% of businesses who adopted AI technology before everyone else have driven either substantial (30%) or moderate (53%) economic benefits from AI projects. ( Deloitte)
47% of digitally mature organizations, or enterprises with advanced digital practices, claimed that they have implemented a defined AI strategy. (Adobe) 
77% of consumers are actually using AI platforms, whereas 33% think they use AI-powered technology. (Pega)   .... "

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Google Shuts Down Fusion Tables

More criticism for Google ditching tests.   Here one that has been around for some time.  I recall looking at and recommending it for a trial.  Certainly promotes your cloud.  This was an impressive visualization service.   I do wonder how many of these were constructed and are being used and how many of those customers will raise their voices.

Google will shut down Fusion Tables

After more than a decade in service, Google's easy-to-use cloud visualization service is being shuttered.

Google is shutting down its Fusion Tables cloud service, a Google Drive option that offered an easy way to create online visualizations, especially maps. Google announced today that the service will end on Dec. 3, 2019, and "maps using the Fusion Tables Layer in the Maps JavaScript API v3.37 will start to see errors in August 2019."

The news highlights the risks of relying on "free" cloud services from for-profit private companies.

"Mapserver, Geoserver, PostGIS, GEOS, and all the other open source software you were using 9 years ago when Google Fusion Tables was the new hotness are still available [and] will not be shut down next year," taunted open-source advocate Paul Ramsey on Twitter ..... "

Sources of Marketing Data

Interesting challenge, made me think about sources of information and their value.  Recently talked to companies about this problem and solutions.

Instead of surveillance, what if we told advertisers what they wanted to know?
Companies may one day decide to forget everything they think they know about us, and just use the data we give them.    By Serenity Gibbons  in FastCompany

After last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook announced a major change to its ad targeting system. As of October, the company has permanently eliminated its “Partner Categories” feature, which had enabled advertisers targeting hyper-specific user demographics to do so by purchasing access, through Facebook, to consumer data gathered by third-party brokers like Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon, BlueKai, Oracle, and others.

In effect, the social network decided it no longer wanted to be responsible for data that it didn’t directly control. Advertisers can still use Facebook’s own powerful internal tools to micro-target users, but if they wish to use third-party data, they’ll need to acquire it themselves and certify that it has been obtained appropriately. .... "

Driving Information Diffusion

Never thought it was just about central users, but it helps to create uniformly consistent reactions.   

Even Central Users Do Not Always Drive Information Diffusion
By Chao Gao, Zhen Su, Jiming Liu, Jürgen Kurths
Communications of the ACM, February 2019, Vol. 62 No. 2, Pages 61-67

Community structure, a significant and useful statistical characteristic, is ubiquitous in social networks.17 Based on it, a network can be viewed as consisting of multiple units. The nodes (users) are highly connected to each other inside a unit, while the connections between units are sparse.4,17 For example, people with similar interests or backgrounds might join together to form a community or web-pages with related topics might cluster together. Different types of information, including rumors,5 virus attacks,10 and even cyber epidemics diffuse through social networks,8 possibly leading to unexpected social effects. A typical example is the worldwide cyberattack by WannaCry ransomware, as first reported May 12, 2017, that resulted in the infections of more than 200,000 organizations worldwide.15 The underlying attack reflects a malicious diffusion in the presence of communities; that is, the homogeneous feature of individuals leads to the community's vulnerability. It is against this back-drop that understanding the potential dynamics could help network administrators gain insight into controlling unwanted information diffusion. Much research today involves networks with community structure (such as to detect potential communities,21 model diffusion dynamics,6 and control information dissemination and sharing19). In particular, the influence of each node in the diffusion process must be taken into consideration. In simulation experiments, the source nodes that trigger diffusion are selected by researchers at random from a network or based on predefined measures of centrality. ... " 

Friday, March 29, 2019

AI in the Fresh Supply Chain

Colleagues speak on this application, ts hard because Fresh is hard to to replenish effectively.   And people like myself who are avid cooks like a diverse selection.  First thing I look at in a new Grocery is what do they have that is fresh and novel.

Will AI transform Ahold Delhaize’s fresh food supply chain? 

This is a terrific AI use case that all grocery retailers either should be looking at or are doing already."   Gib Bassett Customer Success Director, Salesforce 

"...How fresh is fresh? Apparently, the answer is quite a bit fresher than previously thought if you bring artificial intelligence into the grocery supply chain. Earlier this week, Ahold Delhaize, which owns Food Lion, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Hannaford, Peapod and Stop & Shop, announced that it is rolling out an “end-to-end forecasting and replenishment solution” that uses AI to optimize supply chain performance.

Ahold Delhaize’s Retail Business Services unit revealed that the company has been testing the fresh distribution forecasting and replenishment system at its Food Lion and Hannaford chains since early last year. Based on the success of the pilots, the company has decided to roll out the solution across all its U.S. grocery chains and its Peapod home delivery business. ...."   By George Anderson in Retailwire

Smart Contracts as BlockChains Killer App?

Still quit a bit to achieve to make smart contracts clear and understandable.  Smart contracts can be embodied in any code, but code can be prone to error depending on context.   Note point on the 'intent of the code'.   The regulators are at work to make sure the frameworks will be there.  Good piece below, good links to specific legal detail.   With an emphasis on Supply Chain. 

Smart Contracts: Has Blockchain's Killer App Finally Become a Reality?
By Marisa Brown (see all posts) on  Posted in Supply Chain Management

“As the [blockchain] technology pushes the globe towards new economic models, we will only demand more from smart contracts,” Forbes, July 2018.

From the American Bar Association this September: “In the future, litigation attorneys may no longer be litigating the ‘four-corners’ of the contract, but rather expanding into the intent of the code.”

Smart contracts. We’ve been hearing a lot of hype about them in the media, but are they a business reality yet? Back in 2014, Fast Company called smart contracts “cryptocurrency's killer app.” At that time, it was all about the promise and potential of blockchain and smart contracts. The digital world was coming. And that has not changed: in APQC's 2018 supply chain management priorities and challenges research, respondents rated digitalization as the number one impact on the supply chain in the next three years.  ... "

" ... One common point of murkiness and misconception around smart contracts is that they will replace regular contracts completely. However, this is not the case. Smart contracts are subject to established contract law, and according to a March 2018 publication by Perkins Coie partner, Dax Hansen, will never replace natural-language law—even though they offer increased clarity, auditability, predictability, and ease of enforcement. With so many benefits of smart contracts, several states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, and New York, are working to hammer out legal frameworks for dealing with the new technology and to make it clear that these new techno-contracts can indeed have legal impact.  ... " 

Open Source Code to Extract Sensor Insights

Ultimately all analytics and AI is about extracting insights from sensors and productively re-using them. So any way to speed up the prototyping of that process is useful. Especially useful if you already use Matlab.

Open Source Software Helps Researchers Extract Insights From Sensor Datasets   In R&D Magazine

At Germany’s Saarland University, researchers have released a free data processing tool that allows rapid evaluation of signals, pattern recognition, and data visualization when processing huge datasets. The MATLAB toolbox known as Dave enables very large volumes of data, such as those produced by modern sensor systems, to be processed, analyzed, and visually displayed so researchers can optimize their measurement systems interactively. Dave makes the calculations completely transparent, showing the user that when they alter a particular parameter, it has an identifiable consequence. Said Saarland University researcher Andreas Schutze, "Using Dave as a tool, we were able to rapidly achieve some widely acclaimed results in the field of condition monitoring in 'Industry 4.0' applications."

Podcast: Business, Disruption and Technology

Harvard professor Thales Teixeira explains why customer behavior, not technology, ultimately drives disruption.

The emergence of a new technology is often cited as what drives the disruption of an industry or business. But that’s not true in most cases, according to Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira. Instead, startups disrupt established companies by decoupling the customer value chain — picking one aspect of the business and doing it better than the incumbent.

His findings, based on eight years of researching startups, tech companies and incumbents, are explained in his new book, Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption. Teixeira joined the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM to talk about his book. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Knowledge@Wharton: Why do we believe that technology has enabled so much disruption in business?

Thales Teixeira: Pure and simple, because it is sexy and interesting to hear about new technologies. The media fuels all of our needs for figuring out what are the new tools and new technologies, and it just creates momentum in the market. The companies are developing these things, so there are a lot of PR agents out there. We do have a few very prototypical examples of actual technologies being game changers. The mobile phone is one of them.

I visited many startups, and I also visited the incumbents that said they were being disrupted by these startups. I started realizing that there are very few technologies that are really game changers and disruptors in that sense. In the vast majority of the cases, these startups have the same technologies as the incumbents that they are fighting. So, this idea that technology is disrupting markets is not really [true in] the majority of the cases.

Knowledge@Wharton: Can you explain this idea of decoupling? .... " 

Digital Procurement

A current area I am looking at closely.   An area to also make things precise, smart, and  predicatively alert.  Strategic considerations also make much sense,

Digital procurement: For lasting value, go broad and deep   To get the most from procurement digitization, leaders must raise their ambitions along with their skills.  In McKinsey  By Amine Abidi, Fabio Russo, Marc Sommerer, and Alexander Streif

Procurement digitization seems to be on every CPO’s agenda nowadays. But too many CPOs tell us of frustration at digitization projects that take too long, cost too much, and produce results that are too slow and meager.

Some organizations discover that their IT capabilities aren’t mature enough to implement certain digital solutions. Others finish implementing new tools only to find that users simply fail to adopt them, or that scaling up across the whole enterprise takes too much time and effort. But when prompted to examine why digitization has fallen short, many CPOs point to three central factors.

First, amid the initial rush to pilot proposed solutions, no one may ever have completely defined what digitization’s scope should be. Second, digitization may have been driven more by what technology could do than by the real value it could create. Third, procurement may have focused mainly on solving its internal challenges, rather than on what the company as a whole needs.

In our experience, these three problems share the same root cause: starting too small, usually by looking for the right off-the-shelf solutions for single pain points. The truth is that we have found only one way to realize the full potential of digitized procurement: through a user-oriented, end-to-end transformation of the entire source-to-pay (S2P) process, so that the users involved in procurement can operate in a fully digital environment. That goal translates into a single focus for procurement digitization: the user experience. .... "

McKinsey: Global Energy Perspectives

A perspective of energy use, production.

From McKinsey

Global Energy Perspective 2019
Energy systems around the world are going through rapid transitions that affect many aspects of our lives, including the way we fuel our cars, heat our homes, and power our industries. In this interactive, a reference case provides an expert-consensus view on how energy demand will evolve.... "

Templates for Alexa in Business

Finally a movement forward here. To date have not seen much useful in this space.

Amazon’s Alexa for Business Blueprints lets employees make custom voice apps   By Kyle Wiggers @Kyle_L_Wiggers in Venturebeat 

Use Alexa in your place of work? There’s cause for minor celebration: Today marks the launch of Alexa for Business Blueprints, a set of dozens of preconfigured templates for Amazon’s intelligent assistant that let customers create and publish private skills without having to write code. They’re currently available in the U.S., with additional territories presumably on the way.

As Amazon product marketing manager Ben Grossman explains in a blog post, Alexa for Business Blueprints stay within workplaces — they can’t be used on devices outside of an organization — and any employee can use them to submit voice app requests. How? Simply by signing in with an Amazon account, filling in the requests and responses fields, and supplying an Alexa for Business organization identifier (or ARN). It’s up to IT administrators to review and selectively enable apps for rooms (or the entire organization) as they come in. .... "

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Handle Robot for Warehouses

Looking for an autonomous and adaptable robot for warehouse environments.  Some quite impressive examples have now come from Boston Dynamics.

Boston Dynamics' new Handle robot heads to the warehouse
Play time is over.   By Richard Lawler, @Rjcc in Engadget

When we first met Handle the wheeled robot was hopping and jumping to show off its agility, but a new demo video from Boston Dynamics is much more practical. In this one, larger Handle units work autonomously to move boxes around inside a a warehouse environment. According to the company, the boxes weigh about 11 pounds each, but the robots can handle up to 33 pounds. ... "

Digital Experience in Retail

Clearly important, but how to effectively use it is the challenge.

Digital Experience Matters: Kroger VP  In Progressive Grocer By Kat Martin 

Kroger VP Digital Experience Jody Kalmbach presented at the Food Marketing Conference

Drawing customers into your business – whether it’s the physical store or your digital footprint – is all about inspiration, engagement and the experience, noted Jody Kalmbach, VP digital experience for The Kroger Co., during her presentation at the Western Michigan Food Marketing Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich.

One of the biggest challenges for grocery retailers when they're moving to ecommerce is how to take the store experience online without overwhelming the consumer with all of the choices. The answer lies in data collection and data science, using what you know to curate the experience they need. In all aspects of grocery retailing, generic experiences are out and customization is in, Kalmbach noted. This is especially true when it comes to how shoppers interact with your company digitally.  ...."

The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds

A topic that has long interested me.  How biased is the Wikipedia?

Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds
A lesson in how to break out of filter bubbles.
By   Brian Gallagher

In 2013, James Evans, a University of Chicago sociologist and computational scientist, launched a study to see if science forged a bridge across the political divide. Did conservatives and liberals at least agree on biology and physics and economics? Short answer: No. “We found more polarization than we expected,” Evans told me recently. People were even more polarized over science than sports teams. At the outset, Evans said, “I was hoping to find that science was like a Switzerland. When we have problems, we can appeal to science as a neutral arbiter to produce a solution, or pathway to a solution. That wasn’t the case at all.”

Paper:  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-019-0541-6

Medical Delivery Drones

Probably most useful for specific and perhaps temporary contexts. But shows how this can be useful.

Operator prepares drone to carry medical specimens Hospital Using Drones to Fly Blood Samples Between Buildings

Associated Press   By Jonathan Drew

United Parcel Service (UPS) and startup drone manufacturer Matternet this week launched the first continuing commercial drone delivery service in the U.S., with a short flight transporting a medical sample between North Carolina hospitals. UPS intends to make multiple daily drone flights for the state's WakeMed Health & Hospitals network, enhancing the ground service performed by another company, and eventually rolling out similar services to other U.S. hospitals. Matternet is operating the WakeMed drone as part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Integration Pilot Program. The quadcopter drone is flown remotely by a pilot....."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Walmart Battles Amazon with Jetblack

Mentioned previously here, back to product selection curation.  Would be a good place to model the process of consumer interaction with needs.  The journey involved could produce places for useful interaction.   A Concierge model?  Note also the use of human agents who are training an AI.

Walmart Builds a Secret Weapon to Battle Amazon for Retail's Future 
In The Wall Street Journal   By Sarah Nassauer

Last summer, Walmart launched Jetblack, a personal-shopping company targeted at mothers and designed to compete with Amazon. Users pay $600 a year to order anything by text message except for fresh food. The orders go to Jetblack headquarters where dozens of agents field the requests. Then, couriers fetch the items and bring them back to a delivery hub, where they are packaged and hand delivered, usually the same day. Walmart is using Jetblack's human agents to train an artificial intelligence system that could someday power an automated personal-shopping service. In addition, Jetblack's software is learning to make agents more efficient, suggesting language to use for text interaction. Over time, the company aims to use these interactions to train the computer algorithms to learn to respond to requests with human-like nuance but with machine efficiency. .... "

Example of Blockchain Use with SAP

An example of secure tracking using Blockchains.

Blockchain Is Better Than a Database for Tracking Tuna    In Computerworld   By Lucas Mearian

Bumble Bee Foods has partnered with enterprise software producer SAP to launch a blockchain ledger that tracks yellowfin tuna across the complete processing cycle, offering all participants and consumers real-time viewing of that information. Bumble Bee is the first company to use SAP's Cloud Platform Blockchain, deploying the tracking system in about three months, so it could store shipment data and support a tamper-proof supply chain history. Consumers also can use the platform to scan quick response (QR) codes and view data on where the tuna was caught, and its journey en route to the store. Said Bumble Bee chief information officer Tony Costa, "We're talking about best-in-class blockchain technology, [in that SAP] helped us create the interfaces, create the standards, and work with third-party partners to help define the integration."  .... '

Alexa forBusiness Blueprints.

Augmented Reality Adoption in Retail

I think this still has some way to go, especially with regard to getting consumers comfortable with the idea of using AR publicly.   That is why some wearable like smart glasses may be key to making that happen.    Even Microsoft with its HoloLens has admitted this by for now targeting the enterprise rather than consumer with their AR offering.    When with average consumer in average contexts be ready?

Will retailers be ready when AR adoption takes hold?    by Nikki Baird in Retailwire with Expert comment on the link

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the blog of Nikki Baird, VP of retail innovation at Aptos. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.

If consumers want to shop and pay on Instagram or use Facetime to co-shop with distant friends, retailers better figure it out. That challenge is no different when it comes to augmented reality (AR).

The challenge for retailers, who operate thin-margin businesses and don’t have a lot of extra cash available to experiment, is trying to decide when the time is right to “get in” on a new technology.... "

AI Neural Pioneers get Highest Tech Award

Appreciate this because we worked with the same tech in the 90s.  Laboriously training neural nets to classify brand reactions.   Based on that, we thought that neural approaches would have little impact beyond classical statistical methods.   We did think that ultimately learning  would be the way to enable systems. Yet only a decade plus or so later some very useful things were being done.    There have been suggestions that the direction has now stalled,  but I think it is too soon to tell.

ACM Press Release with technical detail on this.

Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech's 'Nobel Prize'   by Michael Liedtke in TechXplore

Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don't think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as "artificial intelligence," or AI ..... "

McDonald's Acquires Dynamic Yield for Decision Logic

Companies leveraging advanced analytic methods for their data by acquisition.  Have recently stood in front of McDonald's store kiosk and after looking for the coffee I wanted, wondered  what recommendation it should suggest, and what data and context it had at hand to make that recommendation.

McDonald's Bites on BigData with $300 Million Acquisition By Brian Barrett in Wired  

Mention McDonald’s to someone today, and they're more likely to think about Big Mac than Big Data. But that could soon change: The fast-food giant has embraced machine learning, in a fittingly super-sized way.

McDonald’s is set to announce that it has reached an agreement to acquire Dynamic Yield, a startup based in Tel Aviv that provides retailers with algorithmically driven "decision logic" technology. When you add an item to an online shopping cart, it’s the tech that nudges you about what other customers bought as well. Dynamic Yield reportedly had been recently valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars; people familiar with the details of the McDonald’s offer put it at over $300 million. That would make it the company's largest purchase since it acquired Boston Market in 1999.  ... " 

and also:

McDonald’s to use A.I. to tempt you into extra purchases at the drive-thru  By Trevor Mogg in DigitalTrends   ...  "

The Well Connected European Consumer

How does the European consumer differ from other regions in its use of information and communications technology.   Infrastructure.  Statistics.

Europe's Well-Connected Consumers  By David Pringle 
Communications of the ACM, April 2019, Vol. 62 No. 4, Page 36

Home to approximately 740 million people, many of them affluent, Europe spends a lot of money on information and communications technology (ICT). The European ICT market was worth $769 billion in 2017 (up 1.8% from 2016).a

Yet, despite the best efforts of the European Union (EU), Europe is not one market. There are major cultural differences and economic disparities between northwest Europe and southeast Europe. Whereas Germany, the U.K., the Nordics, and the Netherlands tend to attract migrants from all over the world, many countries on the eastern and southern rims of Europe are seeing an exodus of young people and low birth rates. Indeed, the continent as a whole is aging: One fifth of the people in the 28 members of the EU (the EU28) are now 65 or over, compared with 17% in 2007.b In the U.S., the equivalent figure is 15% and in China 11%.c

The vast majority of Europeans are online. It is relatively cost-effective for the region's telecoms companies to provide connectivity: Europe is densely populated and heavily urbanized—three quarters of the EU population lives in cities, towns, or suburbs. Across the EU28, more than 87% of households had Internet access and 85% broadband Internet access at the end of 2017.d Moreover, the broadband is relatively quick: Of the top 50 countries ranked by broadband speeds worldwide, 36 of them are in Europe.e Sweden has the fastest broadband in Europe, offering an average speed of 46Mbps. However, interference between Wi-Fi networks is common in the many districts where people live in apartment buildings, while cellular networks can also be heavily congested in city centers. .... " 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Research on Edge Computing

Been following the idea and progress of preforming analytics and AI at the 'edge',  or physically close to where it will be used.  Here an abstract for an article on current research. Note this had been called by some 'fog' computing,  but the term 'edge computing' seems to have taken over.  I also link to other articles about OpenFog,  but little seems to be happening there.  Note the suggestion of more direct competition between cloud and edge architectures.

Research for Practice: Edge Computing   By Nitesh Mor in the ACM
Communications of the ACM, April 2019, Vol. 62 No. 4, Page 95

Cloud computing, a term that elicited significant hesitation and criticism at one time, is now the de facto standard for running always-on services and batch-computation jobs a like. In more recent years, the cloud has become a significant enabler for the IoT (Internet of Things). Network-connected IoT devices—in homes, offices, factories, public infrastructure, and just about everywhere else—are significant sources of data that must be handled and acted upon. The cloud has emerged as an obvious support platform because of its cheap data storage and processing capabilities, but can this trend of relying exclusively on the cloud infrastructure continue indefinitely?

For the applications of tomorrow, computing is moving out of the silos of far-away datacenters and into everyday lives. This trend has been called edge computing (https://invent.ge/2BIhzQR), fog computing (https://bit.ly/2eYXUxj), cloudlets (http://elijah.cs.cmu.edu/), as well as other designations. In this article, edge computing serves as an umbrella term for this trend. While cloud computing infrastructures proliferated because of flexible pay-as-you-go economics and the ability to outsource resource management, edge computing is a growing trend to satisfy the needs of richer applications by enabling lower latency, higher bandwidth, and improved reliability. Plus, both privacy concerns and legislation that require data to be confined to a specific physical infrastructure are also driving factors for edge computing. .... "

Analytics for Management

Good piece in the ACM, full text linked to below. And further it is not only about classical analytics but also about the emergence of cognitive aspects of AI in this space.    These approaches are more closely connected to the actual decisions that managers make. And how those decisions link together into a decision process.   We are not completely there yet, but approaching.  Management decisions are always a sequence of decisions, by multiple people,  in context.  That's not expressed enough in the below.

Analytics for Managerial Work  By Vijay Khatri, Binny M. Samuel 
Communications of the ACM, April 2019, Vol. 62 No. 4, Page 100

A 2014 IDC report predicted that by 2020, the digital universe—the data we create and copy annually—will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.10 With the explosive growth in organizational data, there is increasing emphasis on analytics that can be used to uncover the "hidden potential" of data. A 2014 Society for Information Management survey found analytics/business intelligence to be #1 among the top 15 most significant IT investments in the prior five years.12 It is not surprising that business analytics is increasingly central to managerial decision making within business functions: finance, marketing, human resources, and operations. For example, cash-flow analytics, shareholder-value analytics, and profit/revenue analytics are increasingly important aspects of the finance function. A 2017 survey of chief marketing officers found companies spend 6.7% of their marketing budgets on analytics and expect to spend 11.1% over the next three years.16 A 2017 Deloitte survey of HR managers found over 71% of the surveyed companies see people analytics as a high priority.3 Analytics is increasingly used in operations management for demand forecasting, inventory optimization, spare parts optimization, warranty management, and predictive asset maintenance. Acknowledging extreme deficiency of data literacy among today's managers, by 2020, 80% of organizations will embark on data-literacy initiatives.  .... "

Clippy and Teams

Been using MS Teams, like it.    But with such systems the question ultimately arises, should we have a system that tracks our activity and offers to help,  assists, or even nag-nudges us to better results?
Used Clippy when it was first implemented in the late 90s.  It was useful, clever, perhaps a bit over played.  There was a howl of ridicule, joking and derision, ..... that was also much overdone.   It could have been fixed,  but MS bagged it too quickly.  Someone should have the courage to take on the challenge of a helpful but strong online assistant.  Its apparently not Microsoft.

Microsoft revived and killed Clippy in a single day
The office assistant briefly popped up in Microsoft Teams.  By Christine Fisher, @cfisherwrites in Engadget

The dream of the '90s was alive in Microsoft Teams this week when Microsoft's old office assistant, Clippy, showed up. If you used Microsoft Office between 1997 and 2001, you likely remember Clippy as the animated paperclip that popped up and offered tips for using the software. Microsoft did away with Clippy in 2001, so people were surprised to see Clippy stickers appear in Microsoft Teams this week. And they were even more surprised when, just a day later, Microsoft offed the little guy again.... "

Huawei and Smart Glasses

Will the consumer accept 'smart glasses', and what functions should they have. Interweaving these with fashion is a good idea.  This kind of wearable needs a opening signature effort.  Initial details are sketchy.   Pictures seem to show typical scale glasses.

Huawei’s Eyewear smartglasses aim to fuse fashion and tech   By Simon Hill in Digitaltrend

Huawei Eyewear smart glasses

Huawei just announced the fruits of its partnership with trendy South Korean glasses brand, Gentle Monster. The Huawei Eyewear smartglasses are designed to be stylish first and foremost, so they look like regular sunglasses or glasses. But they are packing some technology inside to enable you to make and take calls and to use a smart voice assistant. Huawei described them as a fusion of fashion and technology.

The sneak peek in Paris was very scant on details and there weren’t many tech specs revealed, but we know the new smartglasses are equipped with dual microphones and speakers so that you can take hands-free phone calls. We assume they hook up to your Huawei P30 Pro, or other smartphone, via Bluetooth. Huawei promised that its A.I. would reduce noise to give you crystal clear call quality.

We also learned that the Huawei Eyewear glasses are IP67 rated, which means they can be submerged in shallow water for a short time without sustaining long term damage. The glasses charge up wirelessly and use NFC to pair with the Gentle Monster case that ships with them. The case has a 2,200mAh battery inside.

An interesting presentation saw Hankook Kim, the Gentle Monster CEO, poke fun at the look of Google Glass and Snapchat Spectacles, as he talked up the stylish aesthetic of Huawei Eyewear. The new glasses seem to be co-branded and Huawei CEO, Richard Yu, came on stage sporting a pair, though he admitted they were too big minutes later..... "

The Sound of Your Brand

Former colleague Lou Killeffer continues to talk about the sound of your brand, essential in these days of in-home personalized  assistants.  Continuing to follow.  Thanks Lou.

Yes, it matters what your brand sounds like

By Lou Killeffer,  FiveMileRiver Marketing   ... "

Economy of Supply Chains

An economy of Supply Chains.  Thoughts and Statistics.

In HBS Working Knowledge

Business Research for Business Leaders

The Secret Life of Supply Chains
By Michael Blanding:  While US policymakers and politicians focus on reviving the manufacturing sector, Mercedes Delgado and Karen Mills unearth a source of better jobs hidden in plain sight. Call it the supply chain economy.

Like archeologists digging on a remote hillside, business researchers have unearthed an important segment of the United States economy all but hidden from traditional innovation policy, yet accounting for tens of millions of jobs crucial to America’s ability to produce goods and services.

The research rethinks what academics and practitioners have simply called the supply chain—a loose federation of individual suppliers that feed companies with the goods and services necessary to create products for consumers and businesses. But a deeper look reveals existence of an important “supply chain economy.”

According to the researchers, “Supply chain industries are a distinct and large segment of the economy. In 2015, they accounted for over 53 million jobs, 43 percent of US employment.”

“We think this is a breakthrough—a new way of categorizing the economy that recognizes the unique role of suppliers, and seems to have implications for policies that promote innovation and good jobs,” says the study’s coauthor, Harvard Business School Senior Fellow Karen Mills.

For example, the research challenges the focus on reviving the manufacturing sector as the main way to rebuild the American economy. Since 2000, domestic manufacturing jobs have slid on a roller-coaster drop, falling more than 30 percent, or 5 million jobs, largely due to import competition and automation. About 12 million jobs remain in the sector..... "

Monday, March 25, 2019

Dark Side of AI in Healthcare

This example requires making deceptive prediction based on goals.  Expressing goals and being transparent about them is good,  but can be problematic in context for any kind of analytic method.

 Warnings of a Dark Side to AI in Health Care 
The New York Times
By Cade Metz; Craig S. Smith

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers warn in a recently published study that new artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to enhance healthcare is vulnerable to misuse, with "adversarial attacks" that can deceive the system into making misdiagnoses being one example. A more likely scenario is of doctors, hospitals, and other organizations manipulating the AI in billing or insurance software in an attempt to maximize revenue. The researchers said software developers and regulators must consider such possibilities as they build and evaluate AI technologies in the years to come. MIT's Samuel Finlayson said, "The inherent ambiguity in medical information, coupled with often-competing financial incentives, allows for high-stakes decisions to swing on very subtle bits of information." Changes doctors make to medical scans or other patient data in an effort to satisfy the AI used by insurance firms also could wind up in a patient's permanent record.  .... "

Designing Neural Nets Faster

Automating the design of nets has been a long time goal. 

MIT researchers have developed an efficient algorithm that could provide a “push-button” solution for automatically designing fast-running neural networks on specific hardware.

Kicking neural network design automation into high gear Algorithm designs optimized machine-learning models up to 200 times faster than traditional methods.    By Rob Matheson | MIT News Office

A new area in artificial intelligence involves using algorithms to automatically design machine-learning systems known as neural networks, which are more accurate and efficient than those developed by human engineers. But this so-called neural architecture search (NAS) technique is computationally expensive....."

Video Analytics

Or will other advanced techniques remove checkout lines entirely?

NRF: Is video analytics the solution to ending long checkout lines?  in Retailwire  by Matthew Stern  with expert commentary

Customer disdain for standing in long lines can lead them to leave the store before making a purchase or even avoid entering a store entirely. A session yesterday at NRF’s Big Show  explored how the European convenience chain, Rossmann, has reduced wait times with the implementation of a predictive video analytics solution, which aims to stop lines before they form.  

The solution used by Rossman incorporated facial recognition technology through its CCTV system to identify and count entering and exiting customers. Stores identify the age and gender of shoppers and, in conjunction with statistics on average dwell time, determine when a given customer is likely to head to the checkout. The system sends text messages to associates or makes PA announcements when customers, statistically speaking, are likely to be on the way to check out their purchases.

Rossman has found that wait times of eight minutes of more have been virtually eliminated, while those more than five minutes in length have been cut by some 70 percent.

When using facial recognition is used, however, retailers will undoubtedly face shopper concerns about privacy. The service provider, Ultinous, claims that while its system is able to recognize repeat customers, it does so without personally identifying them.  ... ' 

Bootstrapping Techniques

Useful and good introduction.     Was used long before AI techniques.

The bootstrap. The Swiss army knife of any data scientist
Applications of the bootstrap techniques in R
By Gianluca Malato

Bootstrap in a nutshell
Bootstrap is a technique made in order to measure confidence intervals and/or standard error of an observable that can be calculated on a sample.

It relies on the concept of resampling, which is a procedure that, starting from a data sample, simulates a new sample of the same size, considering every original value with replacement. Each value is taken at the same probability of the others (which is 1/N).  .... "

Sunday, March 24, 2019

On Transfer Learning

Short, non technical introduction,with cautions.

Transfer learning: the dos and don’ts      By Chris von Csefalvay from Starchema Blog

If you have recently started doing work in deep learning, especially image recognition, you might have seen the abundance of blog posts all over the internet, promising to teach you how to build a world-class image classifier in a dozen or fewer lines and just a few minutes on a modern GPU. What’s shocking is not the promise but the fact that most of these tutorials end up delivering on it. How is that possible? To those trained in ‘conventional’ machine learning techniques, the very idea that a model developed for one data set could simply be applied to a different one sounds absurd.

The answer is, of course, transfer learning, one of the most fascinating features of deep neural networks. In this post, we’ll first look at what transfer learning is, when it will work, when it might work, and why it won’t work in some cases, finally concluding with some pointers at best practices for transfer learning. ...."

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transfer_learning

Interaction Insights in Alexa Skills

This piece was published last year, but gave me some interesting insight recently about usage of skills.

Gain Interaction Insights Using New Analytics in the ASK Developer Console   By BJ Haberkorn

Today we added interaction path analysis to the Analytics tab on the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Developer Console. Interaction path analysis shows aggregate skill usage patterns in a visual format, including which intents your customers use, in what order. This enables you to verify if customers are using the skill as expected, and to identify interactions where customers become blocked or commonly exit the skill. You can use insights gained from interaction path analysis to make your flow more natural, fix errors, and address unmet customer needs.

(Note the Use of Sankey Diagrams)

View Interaction Paths over Multiple Time Intervals
As shown in the example below, interaction path analysis provides a visual representation of the flow of users from the invocation of your skill to subsequent intents. In this example, most customers moved from LaunchRequest to Intent1. A smaller segment invoked Intent2 instead. Interaction path analysis shows both custom intents and built-in intents, such as

The Efficient Mathematics of Cells

Neural nets are great simplifications of how real neurons work,  but have now been used to solve very tough computational goals.  can other examples given by nature help us as well?  I see it every day in my gardens, plants know how to seek light and water.   Converting sensing into seeking.   But are there other deeper levels of value we can adapt for our use?  A kind of learn and mimic among forms among life forms? A form of synthetic biology?  But with our own goals inserted.  Here an possible example:

The Math That Tells Cells What They Are    in Quanta Magazine

During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life.

'..Cells in embryos need to make their way across a “developmental landscape” to their eventual fate. New findings bear on how they may do this so efficiently....'

Adrian du Buisson for Quanta Magazine
By Jordana Cepelewicz Staff Writer

In 1891, when the German biologist Hans Driesch split two-cell sea urchin embryos in half, he found that each of the separated cells then gave rise to its own complete, albeit smaller, larva. Somehow, the halves “knew” to change their entire developmental program: At that stage, the blueprint for what they would become had apparently not yet been drawn out, at least not in ink.

Since then, scientists have been trying to understand what goes into making this blueprint, and how instructive it is. (Driesch himself, frustrated at his inability to come up with a solution, threw up his hands and left the field entirely.) It’s now known that some form of positional information makes genes variously switch on and off throughout the embryo, giving cells distinct identities based on their location. But the signals carrying that information seem to fluctuate wildly and chaotically — the opposite of what you might expect for an important guiding influence....."

Turning us into Artists with AI

Have long wanted to have a system that would improve our sketching and doodling into art.  Or even just cleanws it up into a clear graphic sketch.  Something I supposedly learned in an early drafting class.  Even remember some things that claimed this, but were never satisfying.  Do need a 'Smart Paintbrush'.  From an unexpected direction for me, NVIDIA.  Maybe not all that I want, but looking forward to a trial.

NVIDIA AI turns crude doodles into photorealistic landscapes
If only it was around in the MS Paint era.      By Saqib Shah, @eightiethmnt in Engadget

Imagine if you had the power to turn your old-school Microsoft Paint doodles into actual art. Well, NVIDIA's latest AI-driven software can do just that. The GauGAN image creator, named after the French post-Impressionist painter, uses generative adversarial networks to transform even the crudest of sketches into a photorealistic landscape. NVIDIA describes the tech behind it, a deep learning AI trained on a million images, as a "smart paintbrush."

The software shows just how far neural networks have come. In the past, apps like Prisma have utilized AI-powered filters to turn your photos into paintings that evoke art masters like Van Gogh or Picasso. Both Facebook and Google also brought the so-called "style transfer" feature to their respective platforms. But NVIDIA's new tool goes one further by creating lifelike pieces from the most basic of outlines (in other words, something from nothing). ... "

Motor Babbling Generates Data for Walking

Seeing some of these kinds of examples always makes me think of early AI work.  If we could design very good learners (and re-learners) we could start them like a human baby,  without knowledge,  put them in a context and just let them learn.    But there is still today much work to do to arrange the data, check it for correctness,  figure out what features are important, test it for bias, ethics  and consistency.    And much more.

A Robotic Leg, Born Without Prior Knowledge, Learns to Walk 
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
By Greta Harrison; Amy Blumenthal

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have developed a bio-inspired algorithm that enabled a robotic limb to learn a new walking task by itself after only five minutes of unstructured activity, and then adapt to other tasks without additional programming. This breakthrough is similar to the natural learning that happens in babies, as the robotic limb was first allowed to understand its environment in a process of free play, known as "motor babbling." The random movements of the leg that take place during motor babbling allow the robot to build an internal map of its limb and its interactions with the environment. The robots use their unique experience to develop the gait pattern that works well enough for them, producing robots with personalized movements. Said USC researcher Francisco J. Valero-Cuevas, "Because our robots can learn habits, they can learn your habits, and mimic your movement style for the tasks you need in everyday life—even as you learn a new task, or grow stronger or weaker.". ... '

Humans Thinking Like Computers

Its well known that humans can be tricked by images.   Computers too, and apparently sometimes in the same way.  What are the implications?   Can we have them check each other?    About images? About ethics?  In what contexts?   In a system like  a Robotic Process Automation (RLA), where would we best insert a human agent, a computing AI agent?

People Agreeing with Neural Networks

Do You See What AI Sees? Study Finds That Humans Can Think Like Computers  By Johns Hopkins University 

Even powerful computers, like those that guide self-driving cars, can be tricked into mistaking random scribbles for trains, fences, or school buses. It was commonly believed that people couldn't see how those images trip up computers, but in a new study, Johns Hopkins University researchers show most people actually can.

The findings suggest modern computers may not be as different from humans as supposed, demonstrating how advances in artificial intelligence continue to narrow the gap between the visual abilities of people and machines. The research is described in "Humans Can Decipher Adversarial Images," published in the journal Nature Communications.

"Most of the time, research in our field is about getting computers to think like people," says senior author Chaz Firestone, an assistant professor in Johns Hopkins' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "Our project does the opposite—we're asking whether people can think like computers."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

AI and Patents in the WIPO

In a meeting a few weeks ago I asked the question about how findings using AI methods were being protected,  and got a somewhat unclear answer.    This perhaps shows why. Here much more about what is happening in this space.  Interesting stats about directions. - Franz

Based on the:WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Trends Report  (158 page PDF) 

AI and patents - trends to watch  from the WIPO technology trends report
WIPO Technology Trends report 2019  came as a surprise to me. We in AI are not used to thinking about patents so much because tools / platforms are mostly Open sourced.

Here are the key takeaways from this report:
AI and patents - trends to watch  from the WIPO technology trends report.Posted by Ajit Jaokar in the DSC

The ratio of scientific papers to inventions has decreased from 8:1 in 2010 to 3:1 in 2016 – indicative of a shift from theoretical research to the use of AI technologies in commercial products and services.
Among AI functional applications, computer vision, which includes image recognition, is the most popular. Computer vision is mentioned in 49 percent of all AI-related patents (167,038 patent documents), growing annually by an average of 24 percent (21,011 patent applications filed in 2016).  

functional applications with the highest growth rates in patent filings in the period 2013 to 2016 were AI for robotics and control methods, which both grew on average by 55 percent a year.  
Many AI patents include inventions that can be applied in different industries – telecommunications, transportation , medical sciences , personal devices, computing and human–computer interaction (HCI) featured highly in the related industries.  ...."   (Considerably more at the link)

Explainable AI

Here some basic thoughts.  Not necessarily an easy thing,  we can't even fully explain what intelligent people do.

An introduction to explainable AI, and why we need it   By Patrick Ferris

Neural networks (and all of their subtypes) are increasingly being used to build programs that can predict and classify in a myriad of different settings.

Examples include machine translation using recurrent neural networks, and image classification using a convolutional neural network. Research published by Google DeepMind has sparked interest in reinforcement learning.

All of these approaches have advanced many fields and produced usable models that can improve productivity and efficiency.... "

Securing IOT in the Quantum Age

Its been long suggested that quantum computing may add new ways to break encryption.   MIT says they have a way to prevent that.

Securing the “internet of things” in the quantum age
Efficient chip enables low-power devices to run today’s toughest quantum encryption schemes.
Rob Matheson | MIT News Office

MIT researchers have developed a novel cryptography circuit that can be used to protect low-power “internet of things” (IoT) devices in the coming age of quantum computing.

Quantum computers can in principle execute calculations that today are practically impossible for classical computers. Bringing quantum computers online and to market could one day enable advances in medical research, drug discovery, and other applications. But there’s a catch: If hackers also have access to quantum computers, they could potentially break through the powerful encryption schemes that currently protect data exchanged between devices.

Today’s most promising quantum-resistant encryption scheme is called “lattice-based cryptography,” which hides information in extremely complicated mathematical structures. To date, no known quantum algorithm can break through its defenses. But these schemes are way too computationally intense for IoT devices, which can only spare enough energy for simple data processing.

In a paper presented at the recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference, MIT researchers describe a novel circuit architecture and statistical optimization tricks that can be used to efficiently compute lattice-based cryptography. The 2-millimeter-squared chips the team developed are efficient enough for integration into any current IoT device.  .... "

Gmail Functions will Soon Stop in IFTTT

This is very unfortunate, most of the functionality I used  in IFTTT sensed Gmail.   Apparently for security reasons?   It shows you how you cannot rely on other architectures in such systems.   Will follow to see if anything can be fixed, or other services can be used.  Will this seriously damage the IFTTT method?

Most IFTTT applets using Gmail will break this month   By Corbin Davenport

IFTTT is an extremely powerful automation tool that combines hundreds of different online services. You can make your Hue lights flash when your phone gets a notification, save your liked YouTube videos to a Google Sheets document, and much more. However, if you make heavy use of the Gmail service in IFTTT, you might have some adjusting to do.

In October of last year, Google made a series of changes to the Gmail API, in response to criticism it received about data access from third-party apps. New restrictions were enforced on applications using Gmail data, and some had to undergo security assessments.  .... "

Friday, March 22, 2019

Ford to Build Autonomous Vehicles

Perhaps an indication that such vehicles are not far away. Note the specifics of manufacture goals quoted in the article.

Ford to Build Factory in Michigan for Autonomous Vehicles 
CNBC  By Phil LeBeau

Ford Motor has announced plans to construct its first autonomous vehicles (AVs) at a $50-million production center in Michigan. Fabrication of the self-driving vehicles is expected to begin in 2021. The new plant will take new commercial-grade hybrid models and incorporate the self-driving technology needed to turn them into autonomous vehicles. Said Ford’s Joe Hinrichs, "This facility will be about more than just putting the brains into these autonomous vehicles. We will use the AV production center to upgrade the interiors and add the technology customers will want for a particular self-driving model.” Ford's development of autonomous and electric vehicles is at the core of CEO Jim Hackett's plan to remake the automaker. .... "

Electrolux Allies with Google in the Smart Home

Smart homes move forward, the two major platforms continue to expand.    Now Swedish maker Electrolux is embedding assistants.   Many makers in the space are including both of the biggest home platforms, and even a hint they are working further with Amazon Alexa.

Electrolux continues to shape the future of connected living by partnering with Google’s voice activated speaker Google Home, powered by the Google Assistant, with both its Frigidaire Cool ConnectTM Air Conditioners and the Anova Precision Cooker being integrated into the new platform.

Frigidaire and Anova are two of just 12 brands – and Electrolux the first white goods company – to be announced as partners to Google Home which launched last November in the US.

Electrolux has worked actively with over 300 brands to unlock the huge potential of the Internet of Things market through the Open Connectivity Foundation so that companies and brands can create products that work seamlessly together. Now Electrolux is expanding this work through partnerships with some of the largest ecosystems including Google and Amazon to create new experiences for the consumer through voice and Artificial Intelligence. ... "

Computer Vision in Retail

From the Platt Retail Institute, thoughts on further use of computer vision:

Computer Vision Is Here. Now What?
By George Shaw, CEO/CTO, Brain of the Store

By now, you have probably heard about computer vision and recent advances in the field. Compared to even just 10 years ago when computer vision was in its infancy, deep learning software and algorithms now make it possible to accurately recognize objects, faces, and even emotions from common video streams. Additionally, the computer hardware that performs these computer vision operations is advancing at an unusually fast pace. Where do these developments lead? And what happens then? More importantly, what does this all mean for brick and mortar retail?...."

Defense Agencies Move to AWS Cloud

Amazon wins another participant.

The Defense Health Agency joins a growing list of defense agencies moving their data to the commercial cloud.   in NextGov

The Defense Health Agency, which supports the delivery of health and medical services to millions of Army, Navy and Air Force personnel worldwide, is Amazon’s newest cloud customer.

Amazon Web Services will now host DHA’s Armed Forces Billing and Collection Utilization Solution in GovCloud U.S. West region, a cluster of data centers built specifically to host some of the government’s most sensitive data.

DHA joins the Army, U.S. Transportation Command and other defense agencies moving increasingly large—and sometimes highly sensitive—data sets to commercial clouds. ... " 

A Look at Future HoloLens Mixed Reality

Good half hour Podcast interview about HoloLens-2 current and future on Twit-TV

Gives a good update of HoloLens at Microsoft and how they are now focusing its uses

Today's special guest engineering GM for mixed reality apps, Lorraine Bardeen of Microsoft.  Lets talk more about what MS is doing with HoloLens, iOS, Android in mixed reality. ... 

Links to Dynamics 365 Mixed Reality and Perception Apps

Use for First line workers.  Field service inspection.

Initially will be partially delivered on IOS, Android phones. Then to applications with a HoloLens.

Now looking directly at manufacturing and supporting live demonstration, inspection, maintenance.

Apparently are not driving at a consumer orientation at this time.

This is exactly what we saw in the 80s for plant maintenance, and in some much rarer areas for previewing marketing in place.

Detecting Potential Electrical Failures

One plant maintenance context we examined was the potential of electrical failures.

Energy monitor can find electrical failures before they happen

Sensor can monitor wiring in a building or ship, and signal when repairs are needed.   By David L. Chandler | MIT News Office 

A new system devised by researchers at MIT can monitor the behavior of all electric devices within a building, ship, or factory, determining which ones are in use at any given time and whether any are showing signs of an imminent failure. When tested on a Coast Guard cutter, the system pinpointed a motor with burnt-out wiring that could have led to a serious onboard fire.

The new sensor, whose readings can be monitored on an easy-to-use graphic display called a NILM (non-intrusive load monitoring) dashboard, is described in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics, in a paper by MIT professor of electrical engineering Steven Leeb, recent graduate Andre Aboulian MS ’18, and seven others at MIT, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Naval Academy. A second paper will appear in the April issue of Marine Technology, the publication of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

The system uses a sensor that simply is attached to the outside of an electrical wire at a single point, without requiring any cutting or splicing of wires. From that single point, it can sense the flow of current in the adjacent wire, and detect the distinctive “signatures” of each motor, pump, or piece of equipment in the circuit by analyzing tiny, unique fluctuations in the voltage and current whenever a device switches on or off. The system can also be used to monitor energy usage, to identify possible efficiency improvements and determine when and where devices are in use or sitting idle.  .... " 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Intelligent Display Scans Your Face

Is this invasive?   Saw something like this years ago,  but with no implication of seeing who it was. Advertising based on iris movement and facial analysis to extract demographic information.   Iris scanning is known to be imprecise in uncontrolled environments.

Cooler Screens' Display Cases Scan Your Face to Size Up Buying Habits
Boston Globe   By Hiawatha Bray in Boston Globe

Chicago-based Cooler Screens has developed a facial-profiling system that tries to guess what consumers will buy next based on how they appear. The doors on a Cooler Screens refrigerator are LCD video screens that display images of the items inside the case. In addition, the refrigerator doors are equipped with cameras that send images of each customer to a computer that predicts his or her sex and age. The system uses an iris tracker to detect exactly where in the case the customer is looking. The system instantly analyzes the data on each customer, then starts displaying advertisements on the screen. Drugstore chain Walgreens will test the technology at six of its U.S. locations. ... " 

Google Celebrates Bach Birthday with AI

Nicely done, with a basic description about how current AI systems work.   And some creative and playful Bach arrangements as well!   All guided by a learning database of 306 genuine Bach compositions.  All at the link.

Google writes:

Today we celebrate world renowned German composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach with our first ever AI-powered Doodle! Made in partnership with the Google Magenta and Google PAIR teams, the Doodle is an interactive experience encouraging players to compose a two measure melody of their choice. With the press of a button, the Doodle then uses machine learning to harmonize the custom melody into Bach’s signature music style (or a Bach 80's rock style hybrid if you happen to find a very special easter egg in the Doodle...:)). 

The first step in developing the Doodle? Creating a machine learning model to power it. Machine learning is the process of teaching a computer to come up with its own answers by showing it a lot of examples, instead of giving it a set of rules to follow as is done in traditional computer programming. The model used in today's Doodle was developed by Magenta Team AI Resident Anna Huang, who developed Coconet: a versatile model that can be used in a wide range of musical tasks—such as harmonizing melodies or composing from scratch (check out more of these technical details in today’s Magenta blog post).

Specifically, Coconet was trained on 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. His chorales always have four voices, each carrying their own melodic line, while creating a rich harmonic progression when played together. This concise structure made them good training data for a machine learning model. 

Next came our partners at PAIR who used TensorFlow.js to allow machine learning to happen entirely within the web browser (versus it running utilizing tons of servers, as machine learning traditionally does). For cases where someone’s computer or device might not be fast enough to run the Doodle using TensorFlow.js, the Doodle is also served with Google’s new Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), a way of quickly handling machine learning tasks in data centers— yet another Doodle first!

These components, combined with art and engineering from the Doodle team, helped create what you see today.... "

Neural Nets need to Learn to Forget

We were exposed to this and related issues when we first worked with neural methods. This is a big deal for all kinds of learning interactions.

Neural Networks Are Learning What to Remember and What to Forget  MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review
Deep learning is changing the way we use and think about machines. Current incarnations are better than humans at all kinds of tasks, from chess and Go to face recognition and object recognition.

But many aspects of machine learning lag vastly behind human performance. In particular, humans have the extraordinary ability to constantly update their memories with the most important knowledge while overwriting information that is no longer useful.

That’s an important skill. The world provides a never-ending source of data, much of which is irrelevant to the tricky business of survival, and most of which is impossible to store in a limited memory. So humans and other creatures have evolved ways to retain important skills while forgetting irrelevant ones.

The same cannot be said of machines. Any skill they learn is quickly overwritten, regardless of how important it is. There is currently no reliable mechanism they can use to prioritize these skills, deciding what to remember and what to forget.

Today that looks set to change thanks to the work of Rahaf Aljundi and pals at the University of Leuven in Belgium and at Facebook AI Research. These guys have shown that the approach biological systems use to learn, and to forget, can work with artificial neural networks too.  ... "

Nulogy Case Study

Brought to my attention, aspects of the case study are of interest.    At this time no pieces in this blog are sponsored.   I do from time time get items that are of particular interest and I pass them along.

In SupplychainBrain, via Nulogy

Brands today are under immense pressure to meet the demands of modern consumers and retail customers. As a result, CPG brands need to improve agility by collaborating and strengthening trust with their outsourced contract packaging partners. Cost, quality, and speed-to-market are of the highest priority. To deliver guaranteed outcomes, you need a system that can help you predict, track, execute and report on your workflows. This is where the Nulogy’s Agile Customization Platform comes in.

Nulogy’s cloud-based Agile Customization Platform allows consumer brands to respond with ease and speed to a volatile retail and consumer environment while reducing waste and costs. Designed to optimize contract packaging operations and enhance supply chain collaboration, Nulogy’s software solution allows CPGs and their external suppliers to unleash innovation in the consumer products value chain and accelerate brand growth.

Download the following case study to see how Summit Container increased OTIF to 99.7% and made over 2 million savings in inventory waste reduction.   .... "

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Amazon Private Label: Skincare

Another interesting attempt at private label.   Marketing? How will consumers react? 

Amazon creates its own skincare line called Belei
Don't expect to see Amazon's name plastered over it, though. .... "

By Jon Fingas, in Engadget

SAS Invests Big in AI

Another indication that the AI surge may not wither.   SAS knows its analytics, we used them  extensively, and it is investing heavily in AI tech.    Much different than in the last emergence of the idea.  Gets back to the definition of the term, which we debated at a talk last week.  My view: AI is more than JUST analytics,  it is analytics with cognitive, augmentative and autonomous capabilities added.  To make these ideas more readily implemented and delivered.

SAS to invest $1 billion in AI for industry uses, education, R&D
The AI investment is part of SAS' efforts to make data, AI, machine learning and algorithms more return driven and consumable.   By Larry Dignan in ZDNet

SAS said it will invest $1 billion in artificial intelligence over the next three years as it develops its analytics platform, educates data scientists and targets industry-specific use cases.

The investment is part of SAS' effort to build a higher profile. SAS is an analytics and data science pioneer, but the privately-held company has been quietly retooling its business and products.... "

Qualcomm Enhances Voice, Audio with AI

Intriguing move.    How will it change the Assistant space, with voice control.  An SoC is a System on a chip. See more about Qualcomm's example of an SoC: SnapDragon.  Will provide more AI power to the Voice and computer 'edge'?  It should.

Qualcomm Launches New, AI-Enabled Highly Integrated SoCs and Dedicated Smart Speaker Platform to Help Drive the Evolution of Smart Audio | from Qualcomm

QCS400 SoCs designed for “smarter” Speakers, Soundbars, Home Assistants and AV Receivers, with Integrated Compute, Mesh Wi-Fi, BLE Mesh, Voice-User Interface, Audio technology, and support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Security Features

Qualcomm products mentioned within this press release are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), today launched the new Qualcomm® QCS400 SoC series. In these SoCs, Qualcomm Technologies brings its unique high-performance, low-power compute capabilities together with its unrivaled legacy in audio technology - to help deliver highly optimized, AI-enabled solutions that are designed for smarter audio and IoT applications.  ... " 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Overdue Debate?

More thoughts on mind, machines, and humanity.   Is it a debate or a inevitable journey?    I was Inspired by the Stanford HAI effort, which seems to be chipping away at just the tiniest pieces of this.  Should we first look very broadly, to set our goals and understand the risks?

The Overdue Debate     In The Edge By Andrian Kreye

Technology in turbo gear: Humanities and Natural Sciences must finally be united to talk about artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is a subject in which the imagination switches to turbo speed. From the medieval myth of the golem to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Odyssey in Space" to Frank Schätzing's bestseller "The Tyranny of the Butterfly", literature and film have long been concerned with what would happen if machines could develop consciousness and free will. But even if they never will, the possibilities of this technology exceed even the imagination of scientists.

As AI enters a new phase with the latest advances in digital technology, there is a growing demand that the natural sciences and the humanities join forces to think about the impact on society and people of machines that can learn and make decisions on their own.

The Spirit In The Machine
What does artificial intelligence mean?
A series of essays seeks answers.
Part 1: .... "

Jason Brownlee Reviews Stanford CNN Course

Thoughtful piece on a seminal course.  Useful if you are considering taking a deeper dive.

Stanford Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition Course (Review) by Jason Brownlee 

The Stanford course on deep learning for computer vision is perhaps the most widely known course on the topic.

This is not surprising given that the course has been running for four years, is presented by top academics and researchers in the field, and the course lectures and notes are made freely available.

This is an incredible resource for students and deep learning practitioners alike.

In this post, you will discover a gentle introduction to this course that you can use to get a jump-start on computer vision with deep learning methods.

After reading this post, you will know:

The breakdown of the course including who teaches it, how long it has been taught, and what it covers.

The breakdown of the lectures in the course including the three lectures to focus on if you are already familiar with deep learning.

A review of the course, including how it compares to similar courses on the same subject matter.
Let’s get started.  ...." 

Simulators for Virtual Learning

Simulation as a means of generating test data. 

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers  By Bruce Brown

Nvidia’s Drive Constellation autonomous vehicle simulation system is ready for manufacturers to use to rack up millions of virtual miles testing and proving their technologies.

Nvidia announced the availability of its data center simulator for testing self-driving automotive technologies at the company’s annual GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California. Designed to speed up autonomous driving development, Drive Constellation is an open, cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads. ... "

Amazon and Private Label

Amazon has not bee very successful in this space in the past,  but there is evidence that are now pushing harder and more carefully.

Amazon and Private Label

In CustomerThink,  By: Bryan Pearson

The Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger and the Keebler Elves have co-existed harmoniously in groceries, superstores and warehouse clubs for generations. But they may not survive the Amazon.

If Amazon opens a chain of grocery stores, as The Wall Street Journal reported, the most vulnerable competitors won’t be Kroger, Target and other supermarket chains. Rather, Kraft, Nabisco, Coca-Cola and similar makers of the brands that fill grocery shelves stand to lose the most. Or they stand to gain the least.

Amazon likely would carry a large number of private-label goods, a strategy it’s exploring now and is basically a must-have across all of retail. Aldi and Trader Joe’s specialize in private label, while Kroger, Target and Walmart are expanding their offerings aggressively. (Kroger Manufacturing in fact makes goods for other sellers, while its private label brands generate 26% of its own revenue).

It’s simply good business for retailers, which can better control the costs and distribution of house-made products. The profit margins on private-label items are estimated to be 25% to 30% higher than from national brands, CBInsights reports. The only real risk of introducing them is in displacing national brands shoppers come expressly to their stores to buy.

To put it simply: Crackers are fair game, but keep your hands off my Tide.  ..."