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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Data Preparation is the Most Important Thing

A very good O'Reilly piece, not very technical.  Essential thoughts.

The unreasonable importance of data preparation
Your models are only as good as your data.
By Hugo Bowne-Anderson in O'Reilly

Edit note: We know data preparation requires a ton of work and thought. In this provocative article, Hugo Bowne-Anderson provides a formal rationale for why that work matters, why data preparation is particularly important for reanalyzing data, and why you should stay focused on the question you hope to answer. Along the way, Hugo introduces how tools and automation can help augment analysts and better enable real-time models.

In a world focused on buzzword-driven models and algorithms, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the unreasonable importance of data preparation and quality: your models are only as good as the data you feed them. This is the garbage in, garbage out principle: flawed data going in leads to flawed results, algorithms, and business decisions. If a self-driving car’s decision-making algorithm is trained on data of traffic collected during the day, you wouldn’t put it on the roads at night. To take it a step further, if such an algorithm is trained in an environment with cars driven by humans, how can you expect it to perform well on roads with other self-driving cars? Beyond the autonomous driving example described, the “garbage in” side of the equation can take many forms—for example, incorrectly entered data, poorly packaged data, and data collected incorrectly, more of which we’ll address below.

When executives ask me how to approach an AI transformation, I show them Monica Rogati’s AI Hierarchy of Needs, which has AI at the top, and everything is built upon the foundation of data (Rogati is a data science and AI advisor, former VP of data at Jawbone, and former LinkedIn data scientist):  .... '

Cobol: Its Still Here

Surprised to see this,  but should not be.   Its still around in many forms.

New Jersey Needs Volunteers Who Know COBOL, a 60-Year-Old Programming Language
By Kif Leswing

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has called for volunteers skilled in the 61-year-old COBOL programming language, as many state systems use older mainframe computers are seeing record demand for services while the coronavirus pandemic disrupts the economy. For example, New Jersey's information technology department is using four-decade-old mainframes to process unprecedented numbers of unemployment applications. Said Murphy, "Literally, we have systems that are 40-years-plus old, and there'll be lots of postmortems. And one of them on our list will be how did we get here where we literally needed COBOL programmers?" Said New Jersey CIO Beth Noveck, “We are using a lot of volunteer help already and we are going to stand up a site this week to allow us to take volunteers of a wide variety.” ... ' 

Fingerprint Cloning?

I recall  this came up when we set up our innovation labs.    Retails suggested it was much discussed at the time.  It was ultimately discounted because it was too hard to do.   Seems things have changed.  Via the Cisco blog 

Fingerprint cloning: Myth or reality?
Phone, computer fingerprint scanners can be defeated with 3-D printing
By Paul Rascagneres and Vitor Ventura.


Passwords are the traditional authentication methods for computers and networks. But passwords can be stolen. Biometric authentication seems the perfect solution for that problem. There are several kinds of biometric authentication, including retina scanning, facial recognition and fingerprint authentication, the most common one. Everyone's fingerprints are unique, and it is commonly accepted that they can identify a person without being reproduced.

Technological evolution expanded fingerprint authentication to all kinds of devices, from laptops to mobile phones, to padlocks and encrypted USB drives. Fingerprint authentication became commonly available on phones with the launch of Apple TouchID in the iPhone 5 in 2013. That technology was bypassed shortly after being released. Since then, the technology evolved into three main kinds of sensors: optic, capacitance and ultrasonic.

Our tests showed that — on average — we achieved an ~80 percent success rate while using the fake fingerprints, where the sensors were bypassed at least once. Reaching this success rate was difficult and tedious work. We found several obstacles and limitations related to scaling and material physical properties. Even so, this level of success rate means that we have a very high probability of unlocking any of the tested devices before it falls back into the pin unlocking. The results show fingerprints are good enough to protect the average person's privacy if they lose their phone. However, a person that is likely to be targeted by a well-funded and motivated actor should not use fingerprint authentication.  ... " 

Wal-Mart Automates Supplier Negotiations

Procurement and related supplier contracts and negotiations addressed with AI type methods:

Walmart automates supplier negotiations
By Dan Berthiaume - 03/26/2020 in ChainstoreAge

Walmart is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to negotiate more valuable supplier contracts at lower cost.

The discount giant is deploying the AI-based commercial negotiations platform from Pactum to automate negotiations with part of its global supplier network. 

Walmart is set to pilot the Pactum platform with some of the company’s long tail vendors who provide low-volume, niche products. 

Pactum’s team of analysts begins each project by mapping what they call the “value function” in a given set of negotiations. This is combined by the vendor’s negotiation chatbot, which is capable of autonomously conducting best practice negotiations. Once a negotiation is complete, all information will be updated automatically in Walmart’s relevant systems, such as ERP and CRM.  ... " 

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Publix Goes Contactless

Contactless payment influenced by virus fears?

Publix Goes Contactless
By Bridget Goldschmidt - 04/03/2020  in ProgressiveGrocer

Contactless payment station in a Tampa, Fla., Publix store

Publix Super Markets is offering a contactless payment method at all of its stores, including GreenWise Markets, to address customer concerns about touching surfaces that might be contaminated by the coronavirus. At presstime, the rollout of the system was expected to be completed by Saturday, April 4.   ... " 

When Will the Jobs Return?

On many people's minds.  even if you don't need a job, the economy will be greatly influenced depending how jobs are filled, or not.     Will this be an opportunity to replace workers with tech?

When Will the Jobs Return?  In Knowledge@Wharton
MIC LISTEN TO THE PODCAST (At the link below) 

Diane Lim from the Penn Wharton Budget Model talks with Wharton Business Daily on Sirius XM about the latest unemployment numbers.

After a double whammy during the past week, the unemployment pains triggered by the coronavirus pandemic seem likely to worsen in the U.S. in the coming months. The number of people filing for unemployment insurance doubled to 6.65 million in the latest weekly report on April 2, taking the two-week total to nearly 10 million. On April 3, the unemployment report for March logged a loss of 701,000 jobs, making it the worst month for unemployment since the last recession. It also took the unemployment rate to 4.4% in March from 3.5% in February, the largest one-month increase since January 1975.

Workers are more pessimistic about losing work in the coming year as they expect overall unemployment to be higher, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations, which was released on April 6. The survey found that workers also expect the growth in their earnings to fall and are less optimistic about finding a new job in the coming year.

The latest unemployment report came as a surprise to many labor economists, because they did not expect much of the pandemic’s impact to show up in the last monthly jobs report as it did, according to Diane Lim, director of outreach and senior advisor at the Penn Wharton Budget Model. “It’s very telling,” she said, pointing out that the survey covers only one week of March 8 through March 14. “That seems like an eternity ago, in terms of how much has happened in the economy with the shutdown since then.” Lim shared her views on the Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast above.)   .... " 

Content Management and Consumption

Thoughtful site by a correspondent of mine ...

Rethink Content Management to Include the UX of Content Consumption
By Sunnie Southern, MS, RDN, LDN

Enabling health and life sciences to effectively leverage the cloud. Google Partner of the Year Award Winner 9-times.

Article excerpt - read the full article via the link below.

The content services approach, we believe, looks beyond the consideration of where content is being stored and focuses on other important questions, such as:

Who is storing and processing the content?
How can a unified content strategy help those individuals work more efficiently?
What additional technologies can be integrated with the centralized storage platform in order to achieve business goals?

Answering these questions allows organizations to take a more comprehensive, strategic approach to improving their operations. It helps them leverage multiple resources at their disposal to improve collaboration, increase productivity and work smarter. .... "

Full article:

McKinsey on Supply Chain Recovery

Essential for us to catch up on for the next event.

Supply-chain recovery in coronavirus times—plan for now and the future

Actions taken now to mitigate impacts on supply chains from coronavirus can also build resilience against future shocks.

By Knut Alicke, Xavier Azcue, and Edward Barriball

Actions taken now to mitigate impacts on supply chains from coronavirus can also build resilience against future shocks.

Open interactive popup   Article (PDF-1MB)

Even as the immediate toll on human health from the spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the COVID-19 disease, mounts, the economic effects of the crisis—and the livelihoods at stake—are coming into sharp focus. Businesses must respond on multiple fronts at once: at the same time that they work to protect their workers’ safety, they must also safeguard their operational viability, now increasingly under strain from a historic supply-chain shock. ... "

Monday, April 06, 2020

Google Launches Local Home SDK

In the Google Developer Blog.  Permits you to create better home integration with Google Assistant. Looks to be a considerable direction.  Developer Technical.

Local Home SDK Ready for Actions
Monday, April 6, 2020 Google Blog
Posted by Dave Smith, Developer Advocate

Last year we introduced the developer preview of the Local Home SDK, a suite of local technologies to enhance your smart home integration with Google Assistant by adding local fulfillment. Since then, we've been hard at work incorporating your feedback and getting the experience ready for production. Starting today, we're exiting developer preview and allowing you to submit local fulfillment apps along with your smart home Action through the Actions console using Local Home SDK v1.0.

As part of the Smart Home platform, local fulfillment extends your smart home Action and routes commands to devices through the local network, benefitting users with reduced latency and higher reliability. If a local path cannot be successfully established, commands fall back to your cloud fulfillment.

The Local Home SDK v1.0 supports discovery of local devices over Wi-Fi using the mDNS, UDP, or UPnP protocols. Once a local path is established, apps can send commands to devices using TCP, UDP, or HTTP. For more details on the API changes in SDK v1.0, check out the changelog.  ...."

 Local Home SDK Video Intro:  https://youtu.be/aaaUSeQGLAA 

In-Car Voice Assistants

A look at voice assistants and the Connected Car

In-Car Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Webinar Replay with Cerence and Full    By Bret Kinsella 

Last week, Cerence CEO Sanjay Dhawan joined Voicebot’s Bret Kinsella to record a webinar on the findings of the recent national survey on voice assistant use in the car. Below is the video recording which includes responses to several questions from the audience during the webinar. There were many questions that Sanjay and Bret did not get to in the recording so we captured some written responses to many of those below. If you have additional questions feel free to post them on Twitter to @bretkinsella or @CerenceInc.   ... "  (53 minutes)  

Music Helping us Understand Viruses

Much more about the idea at the link.     There have been many explorations of using sound to 'visualize' data, though in my own experience I have never used the idea.   In some cases has been used as a demonstration of what data sounds like.  An example of a 'hand free' and 'eyes free' alert or interaction.   But useful?

MIT researchers use AI to turn the coronavirus into a haunting melody

The music offers unique insights into how the virus works

An AI system that turns the coronavirus‘ structure into music could help scientists spot details about COVID-19 that a microscope would miss.

The AI-generated tune is an audible representation of the coronavirus’ “spike” proteins, which spread the infection by poking out of the virus and binding to human cells. These spikes make the surface of the virus look like a crown — or “corona” in Latin.

The spikes are formed of protein building blocks called amino acids. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned these structures into sounds by giving each amino acid a unique note in a musical scale.  .... "

Quibi Emerges. Short form Mobile Only Content

What does this mean overall?   After the crisis?    Do we want to get content on mobile?   Examining for an analysis effort. 

Quibi’s Mobile-Only Viewing Is Already Frustrating Some People    By Todd Spangler in Variety

A few hours into Quibi’s much-hyped debut, people have expressed irritation over something that’s supposed to be one of the streamer’s key differentiating features: You can only watch its lineup of original movies and shows on a mobile device.

Why, amid the stay-at-home COVID-19 crisis, is Quibi limiting itself only to the smallest screens in the house?

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the movie mogul who founded Quibi, has maintained that the mobile-only approach — delivering premium content in snackable episodes of under 10 minutes throughout the day — gives it a use case and value proposition that’s very distinct from other subscription VOD players like Netflix.

“Mobile video is the white space,” he told me in an interview last year.

That may or may not be true (given the flood of free and popular short-form stuff on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Facebook). But by fencing itself off in that white space, Quibi is by definition limiting its addressable market. That was already true before the coronavirus struck, and the inability to stream Quibi’s programming to TVs looks like an even more acute shortcoming now.  ... "

Working Paper on Identification

Ultimately key to  any kind of system.  To what degree is the data valid and accurate?  If we hope to learn and use decisions based upon the data.   See below a reference to an  HBS Working Knowledge Paper,  with details at the link.   Technical.

A General Theory of Identification   by Iavor Bojinov and Guillaume Basse

Statistical inference teaches us how to learn from data, whereas identification analysis explains what we can learn from it. This paper proposes a simple unifying theory of identification, encouraging practitioners to spend more time thinking about what they can estimate from the data and assumptions before trying to estimate it.

Author Abstract
What does it mean to say that a quantity is identifiable from the data? Statisticians seem to agree on a definition in the context of parametric statistical models—roughly, a parameter θ in a model P = {Pθ : θ ∈ Θ} is identifiable if the mapping θ 7→ Pθ is injective. This definition raises important questions: Are parameters the only quantities that can be identified? Is the concept of identification meaningful outside of parametric statistics? Does it even require the notion of a statistical model? Partial and idiosyncratic answers to these questions have been discussed in econometrics, biological modeling, and in some subfields of statistics like causal inference. This paper proposes a unifying theory of identification that incorporates existing definitions for parametric and nonparametric models and formalizes the process of identification analysis. The applicability of this framework is illustrated through a series of examples and two extended case studies.

Paper Information
Full Working Paper Text (pdf)
Working Paper Publication Date: February 2020
HBS Working Paper Number: HBS Working Paper #20-086
Faculty Unit(s): Technology and Operations Management  ... " 

Amazon Develops AI to Improve Knowledge Graph Performance

More about knowledge graphs,  their quick manipulation can be key to provide intelligence to the edge for assistance.

Amazon researchers develop AI that improves knowledge graph performance
  By Kyle Wiggers in VentureBeat 

In a new study  researchers at Amazon describe a technique that factors in information about knowledge graphs to perform entity alignment, which entails determining which elements of different graphs refer to the same “entities” (which might be anything from products to song titles). The idea is to improve computational efficiency while at the same time improving performance, speeding up graph-related tasks like product searches on Amazon and question answering via Alexa.

The work, which was accepted to the 2020 Web Conference, might also benefit graphs beyond Amazon, such as those that underpin social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as graphs used by enterprises to organize various digital catalogs.  .... "

Food Supply Chain Slows Around the World on Trucking Bottlenecks

Useful piece on what is now a serious problem.

Food Supply Chain Slows Around the World on Trucking Bottlenecks in SupplyChainBrain

Truckers hauling food are facing delays across the globe in the latest disruption to supply chains snarled by the coronavirus pandemic.

They’re enduring lengthy wait times in Europe because of restrictions that have been imposed to control the virus’s spread. In South America, local laws have at times conflicted with country-wide ordinances that deem hauling food an essential service, leaving supplies sometimes stuck in storage. In parts of Africa, the shuttering of public transportation means drivers aren’t even able to make it into work. And huge spikes in demand have caused lags for loading at some U.S. warehouses.

Just about everywhere, drivers’ access to critical services has been reduced or even cut off. It’s getting harder to find places to eat with restaurants shut down and rigs too big to go through drive-thru lanes. A decent place to sleep, shower, even use a clean toilet is becoming difficult to track down.

Faced with these difficulties, some truckers in places like Brazil, one of the world’s biggest food exporters, have even refused to take on new trips in recent weeks.  ... " 

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Apple to Improve Siri with Voysis?

Most voice assistants today do a rocky job of interpreting complex conversation and context.  Beyond just simple interpretation, but on to understanding.  Beyond just 'Do this' or 'Do That'.   The basis of conversation is useful and credible response.   I know, I use several different assistant versions in context every day. Will Voysis help?  They claim domain specific voice AI.   Is that sufficiently similar to conversation context specific?

Apple's latest acquisition could help Siri understand what you're saying in Engadget

Voysis focused on AI that could respond to natural language requests.

The battle between AI voice assistants continues to rage on, and now Apple has acquired a tech firm, Voysis, that is all about helping computers understand natural language. As reported by Bloomberg, the firm's now-deleted website said it could produce search results from phrases like "I need a new LED TV, my budget is $1,000."  ... '

See also an article in TechCrunch.

Accelerating Discoveries with Data

Had not seen this effort yet, worth a look.

Accelerating data-driven discoveries

Life science companies use Paradigm4’s unique database management system to uncover new insights into human health.

Zach Winn | MIT News Office

As technologies like single-cell genomic sequencing, enhanced biomedical imaging, and medical “internet of things” devices proliferate, key discoveries about human health are increasingly found within vast troves of complex life science and health data.

But drawing meaningful conclusions from that data is a difficult problem that can involve piecing together different data types and manipulating huge data sets in response to varying scientific inquiries. The problem is as much about computer science as it is about other areas of science. That’s where Paradigm4 comes in.

The company, founded by Marilyn Matz SM ’80 and Turing Award winner and MIT Professor Michael Stonebraker, helps pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, and biotech companies turn data into insights.

It accomplishes this with a computational database management system that’s built from the ground up to host the diverse, multifaceted data at the frontiers of life science research. That includes data from sources like national biobanks, clinical trials, the medical internet of things, human cell atlases, medical images, environmental factors, and multi-omics, a field that includes the study of genomes, microbiomes, metabolomes, and more.

On top of the system’s unique architecture, the company has also built data preparation, metadata management, and analytics tools to help users find the important patterns and correlations lurking within all those numbers.

In many instances, customers are exploring data sets the founders say are too large and complex to be represented effectively by traditional database management systems.

“We’re keen to enable scientists and data scientists to do things they couldn’t do before by making it easier for them to deal with large-scale computation and machine-learning on diverse data,” Matz says. “We’re helping scientists and bioinformaticists with collaborative, reproducible research to ask and answer hard questions faster.”  .... " unique database management system to uncover new insights into human health.   ... "

Brain Navigation

Combining visual inputs and motion to better understand the implications of navigation.     Help us predict the implications, e.g the context implications of planning for motion.

How the brain encodes landmarks that help us navigate
Neuroscientists discover how a key brain region combines visual and spatial information to help us find our way.  By Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

Press Inquiries
When we move through the streets of our neighborhood, we often use familiar landmarks to help us navigate. And as we think to ourselves, “OK, now make a left at the coffee shop,” a part of the brain called the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) lights up.

While many studies have linked this brain region with landmark-based navigation, exactly how it helps us find our way is not well-understood. A new study from MIT neuroscientists now reveals how neurons in the RSC use both visual and spatial information to encode specific landmarks.

“There’s a synthesis of some of these signals — visual inputs and body motion — to represent concepts like landmarks,” says Mark Harnett, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “What we went after in this study is the neuron-level and population-level representation of these different aspects of spatial navigation.”

In a study of mice, the researchers found that this brain region creates a “landmark code” by combining visual information about the surrounding environment with spatial feedback of the mice’s own position along a track. Integrating these two sources of information allowed the mice to learn where to find a reward, based on landmarks that they saw.

“We believe that this code that we found, which is really locked to the landmarks, and also gives the animals a way to discriminate between landmarks, contributes to the animals’ ability to use those landmarks to find rewards,” says Lukas Fischer, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the study. ... "

Anticipating the Need for Ecosystem Support

Not too unexpected.  Some of our early work with retail data indicated that it could be a useful source of predictions.  And that same data might help you work and support the total ecosystem.  Seeing that in local chains now.

A Supermarket Chain Was One Of The First To Anticipate Coronavirus. Then It Made A Truly Thoughtful Gesture To Help Local Restaurants

In a crisis, don't just look at your own business. See if you can support your whole business ecosystem.   By Chris Matyszczyk in Inc.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Small businesses everywhere are wondering what will happen next.

In the next hour, the next day and the next week. They hope the federal stimulus will help. And my colleagues at Inc have prepared an extremely thorough guide to how it all works for small businesses.

Small businesses also hope that those in their wider business ecosystem might lend a hand, especially if their businesses are strong.

After all, it's not as if any one business works in isolation. It may have employees, customers and suppliers. Those suppliers, in turn, may have their own employees, customers and suppliers. ...

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Next Steps in the Pandemic

More Business advice from McKinsey on next steps.

Getting ahead of the next stage of the coronavirus crisis
April 2020 | Article
By Martin Hirt, Sven Smit, Chris Bradley, Robert Uhlaner, Mihir Mysore, Yuval Atsmon, and Nicholas Northcote

Article (PDF-414KB)
The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading at an extraordinary speed. You have put a crisis team in place and are doing all you can to keep your people safe, stay on top of your business, and deal with the uncertainty amid constantly changing conditions. However, that isn’t likely to be good enough.

Close on the heels of the coronavirus outbreak, the next wave of disruption—the biggest economic shock since World War II—is headed our way. And it isn’t just an economic shock: it is a shock to customer behaviors and business models too. The challenges associated with it will be orders of magnitude bigger than what we are used to dealing with. To handle them, you need to adopt an operating model that accommodates the extreme level of uncertainty facing your business. .... " 

Google Doing Mobility Reports

More on what Google can track.

Google Is Tracking Whether You're Staying Home

The company released "mobility reports" that show how people are social distancing in your area. By Jason Aten in Inc.

If there has ever been a question about the amount of information Google has about you, let this sink in--the company just released county-level reports about exactly how our travel patterns have changed over the past few weeks. Most of us have some sense of the reality that we're always being tracked, especially when it comes to what we do online, but this data may give some of us pause. ... "

Friday, April 03, 2020

Talk on the AI Revolution

Cable TV Future Talk: “The AI Revolution”
by Steve omohundro

On February 26, 2020 Steve Omohundro was interviewed by Marty Wasserman for the Palo Alto Cable TV program "Future Talk" about "The AI Revolution": Long time artificial intelligence researcher Steve Omohundro, Chief Scientist at the AI company AIBrain, discusses the exponential growth of AI, how it's affecting every aspect of our lives, and the tradeoffs  


Cloud Based Reactions to Natural Disasters

Basic idea is good,  support the system with useful and readily available knowledge to support operations.  Probably harder though to actually make decisions based on quality of data available.

Cloud-Based Electronic System May Help First Responders Better React to Natural Disasters
Purdue University News
By Chris Adam

Purdue University researchers have developed a cloud-based supply chain management system to help emergency responders track inventory and distribution in countries hit by natural disasters. Purdue's Yuehwern Yih and colleagues worked with first responders to understand their requirements when responding to areas struck by catastrophic events; the system is designed to replace paper forms and ad hoc spreadsheets often used in developing nations to track vital resources. Data can be entered offline for syncing to the system through Wi-Fi or network connections, and the full life cycle of items in the system can be traced. Yih said, "The Purdue system can provide real-time data to allow better tracking of supplies and aid so that help reaches those most in need."  ... '

Engineers 3D Print Brain Implants

Considerably more at the link.

Engineers 3D-Print Soft, Rubbery Brain Implants
MIT News
Jennifer Chu
March 30, 2020

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing soft, flexible neural implants that can conform to the brain's contours without irritating the surrounding tissue. The team turned a polymer solution that is normally liquid-like into a more viscous substance that can be fed through a three-dimensional printer to create stable, electrically conductive patterns. These flexible electronics could replace metal-based electrodes used to monitor brain activity and may be useful in brain implants that stimulate neural regions to treat epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and severe depression. Said MIT's Hyunwoo Yuk, "This process may replace or supplement lithography techniques, as a simpler and cheaper way to make a variety of neurological devices, on demand." ... "  ... 

P&G Speaks to the Role of Data in Marketing

Relatively short interview on the topic.   I like to see that Procter is pulling thoughts together as to what digital means for marketing.

P&G’s brand chief on what he demands from digital platforms
P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard speaks to CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal about the role of digital platforms like Facebook and Google for his brands and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. In the interview, recorded before the COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines were introduced, they discuss the role of data in marketing.  .... "

Wearable Strain Sensor

Appears to be a new method, brought to my attention by a colleague looking at new sensors. Note implications beyond healthcare.   Image at the link.

Wearable Strain Sensor Using Light Transmittance Helps Measure Physical Signals Better
By KAIST College of Engineering in CACM

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology researchers have developed a wearable strain sensor that can complete sensitive, stable, continuous measurements of physical signals.

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a wearable strain sensor based on the modulation of optical transmittance of a carbon nanotube (CNT)-embedded elastomer.

The sensor can complete sensitive, stable, and continuous measurements of physical signals.

The optical strain sensor is based on the light transmittance changes of a CNT-embedded elastomer; the technology addresses the low sensitivity problem of conventional optical stretchable strain sensors.

Said KAIST's Inkyu Park, "Our group developed a new wearable strain sensor platform that overcomes many limitations of previously developed resistive, capacitive, and optical-type stretchable strain sensors. Our sensor could be widely used in a variety of fields, including soft robotics, wearable electronics, electric skin, healthcare, and even entertainment."

From KAIST College of Engineering  ...

New in Alexa Skills

Understanding and leveraging the confidence of what you are hearing and presenting for a 'Skill' is important.  As in human conversation it is often not perfect.   Technical for skill developers.

Use the Intent Confidence Dashboard to Improve Skill Accuracy
Omkar Phatak, Amazon

Build Tips & Tools Developer Console Analyze Voice User Interface News

Today, we are excited to announce the launch of intent confidence as part of ASK analytics dashboard. Intent confidence indicates your interaction model’s performance by mapping customer utterances to intents with high, medium and low confidence. In aggregate you can see how your skill is performing against how customers are using it. This blog covers a few methods you can use to improve the overall intent confidence of your skill if it is not performing to your expectations. You can view the intent confidence metric under the analytics tab of the developer console.  ... "

Hands-on Look at Quantum Computing

A look at several kits from IBM and Microsoft that demonstrate the concepts for public access.

A hands-on look at quantum computing in InfoWorld

While we wait for the quantum cloud services, let’s explore the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit and IBM Q and Qiskit SDKs By Martin Heller

Quantum computing, which was proposed in the 1980s, is just beginning to become available, albeit with small numbers of qubits, high decay rates, and significant amounts of noise. As we’ll discuss, IBM and Microsoft are beginning to offer quantum computer and quantum simulator access in their clouds.

Elsewhere, Google has demonstrated quantum computing capabilities (and claimed quantum supremacy) in its labs, but hasn’t announced public access. Intel is also working on quantum chips and systems, but hasn’t announced commercial availability.  ....

(Requires sign in)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Cheap Simple Monitor Camera for Indoor Use

Designed, it sees for smart home security applications.   Are there other commercial office applications to track indoor devices, devices?  Recall using something similar to track activity and stocking on a store shelf.  Much earlier might have used it to monitor the test of some operations in a plant, to generate data to optimize operation.

Amazon's latest Blink camera costs just $35 in Engadget
For the price, you get 1080p recording, motion detection and two-way audio.

By Igor Bonifacic, @igorbonifacic

Amazon's Blink is known for making affordable, easy-to-install cameras like the XT2. Its latest camera continues the trend. At $35, the Blink Mini is Blink's most affordable product at the moment and a close competitor to devices like the Wyze Cam Pan. For that price, you get an indoor camera that can capture 1080p footage, detect motion and send alerts to your smartphone. With two-way audio, you can also use the device to talk to your pets and, in a worst-case scenario, intruders. .. "

Search Tool for Science Metadata

Interesting idea to connect public and private data in science databases.    Have worked on this kind of application, and the key is having the right kind of data to support the goal.

Research Tool Creates Metadata for Scientific Content   By ResoluteAI in CACM

ResoluteAI has launched Nebula, an enterprise search solution for scientific organizations. Nebula tags and categorizes content, connecting public and proprietary information to ResoluteAI's platform of comprehensive scientific databases.

"Nebula deploys domain-specific artificial intelligence on the institutional knowledge that is mission critical to science-driven enterprises," says Steve Goldstein, CEO of ResoluteAI. "Nebula lets our clients find, analyze, and visualize their own data that was — until now — unsearchable in existing storage and knowledge management systems."

Nebula ingests content in any file format — text, video, audio, embedded documents, and more — from any storage system — SharePoint, Azure Blob, S3, Box, Dropbox, and the like — and creates what it calls Precision Metadata that can then be applied to connecting concepts, ideas, and discoveries across an organization.

"We are extremely interested in products that apply artificial intelligence to enable search of our proprietary scientific and technical content, and believe that ResoluteAI provides a practical, user-friendly, and smart solution," says Mike Dale, Digital R&D Director of Unilever. "We are truly excited about Nebula's potential impact on our internal knowledge management, and anticipate significant benefits to our organization as we continue with the deployment."

"Our Foundation solution already creates structured metadata from unstructured content that's available via public databases," says Matt Doherty, CTO & Founder of ResoluteAI. "Nebula applies ResoluteAI's signature search techniques to proprietary enterprise data, analyzing and tagging enormous inventories of legacy content. We allow teams to find anything, anywhere, like an image in a PowerPoint, a phrase in a video, or a graph in a document."

Foundation is ResoluteAI's discovery engine for scientific content — a multi-source research hub that accesses scientific content about patents, companies, grants, clinical trials, publications, and technology transfer opportunities to be searched from a single source. Nebula can be connected to external content through Foundation, bridging the gap between proprietary information retrieval and public content search.  ... " 

Lets Eliminate Wastes of Time

Can we finally strictly identify messages and scrubb robocalls?  Like the completion date.

 FCC Tells U.S. Telcos to Implement Caller ID Authentication by June 30, 2021
Catalin Cimpanu  in ZDNet via ACM
March 31, 2020

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced new rules requiring all U.S. telecommunication providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication standard in the Internet Protocol (IP) portions of their networks by June 30, 2021. The STIR/SHAKEN protocol is viewed as the best current defense against robocalls, employing cryptographic certificates to sign a caller's ID. The telco network signs calls where they originated, and the voice provider where the call connects verifies the calls through a remotely-hosted third-party certificate repository. The FCC said it “estimates that the benefits of eliminating the wasted time and nuisance caused by illegal scam robocalls will exceed $3 billion annually, and STIR/SHAKEN is an important part of realizing those cost savings." ... " 

Polinode System Adds Features

I see that the Polinode system, which I have followed for some time, has added some interesting new features.   Much more at the link.

Five New Features Including an Integration with Office 365
By Andrew Pitts

A number of new features have recently gone live in Polinode so we wanted to pull them all together and summarize them for you. They are all designed to make organizational network analysis even easier and more powerful!


As a platform, Polinode allows you to conduct both active organizational network analysis (where you ask respondents questions like “who do you turn to for advice?”) as well as passive organizational network analysis (where you use communication data such as email metadata). For quite a few years, organizations have successfully used Polinode for both types of organisational network analysis. Typically, where the platform has been used for passive organizational network analysis, organizations have prepared their own communication data as networks and uploaded that prepared data to Polinode. With this new integration though it’s possible for an admin user to simply provide authorization for Polinode to access Office 365 metadata and the platform will then automatically collect and store this metadata on a rolling daily basis. This data is then available to run queries against with these queries then producing interactive networks, i.e. networks that a user can then calculate different measures of centrality, community detection and brokerage on. The screenshot below illustrates our new Office 365 add-on and how easy it is to connect (note that you can click on any of the images below for larger versions).    .... "

Role of Robotics in Public Health, Infectious Disease

Opinion piece about use of robotics in this area.  Makes sense, but not enough about the specifics of how.  Will introduce new ways to do better and consistent data gathering for ongoing and future efforts.

The Role of Robotics in Managing Public Health and Infectious Diseases   By Science Robotics

Could robots be effective resources in combating COVID-19? Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls. As epidemics escalate, the potential roles of robotics are becoming increasingly clear.

Workshops organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation in 2015 identified three broad areas where robotics can make a difference: clinical care (e.g., telemedicine and decontamination), logistics (e.g., delivery and handling of contaminated waste), and reconnaissance (e.g., monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines). The COVID-19 outbreak has introduced a fourth area: continuity of work and maintenance of socioeconomic functions.

COVID-19 has affected manufacturing and the economy throughout the world. This highlights the need for more research into remote operation for a broad array of applications requiring dexterous manipulation—from manufacturing to remotely operating power or waste treatment plants.

For each of these areas, there are extensive developments, as well as opportunities, to be explored in robotics.

From Science Robotics  .... '

Role of Design Leaders

McKinsey talks design.   Is design mostly strategically long range, or not?    Do you design your reactions to difficult times?

Are you asking enough from your design leaders?   By Melissa Dalrymple, Sam Pickover, and Benedict Sheppard  from McKinsey

Are you asking enough from your design leader?
Companies that excel at design grow revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry peers.1 So why aren’t more companies joining their ranks?

To answer the question, we interviewed 200 senior design leaders and 100 top executives and analyzed the answers of more than 1,700 respondents to the McKinsey Design Index (MDI) survey tool.2 What we found was striking: some 90 percent of companies weren’t reaching the full potential of design, even as, in the past five years, double the number of companies have added senior design roles to their organization.3

Of the four areas tied directly to improved revenue growth and shareholder return—which include design leadership, cross-functional talent, iterative processes, and end-to-end user experiences—CEOs must address design leadership first if their companies are to capture the full business value of design.4 Yet two problems exist, according to our research: a lack of clarity about where and how senior design leaders can contribute, and uncertainty about how much to expect of them in their role (Exhibit 1). To elevate the organization’s design ambition, and to clarify the leadership needed to deliver it, top executives must make three interconnected interventions:   .... '

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

NOAA Expands Drone Fleet

Note mention of AI strategy, from increased specific data.

NOAA Expands its Data Drone Fleet 
By George Leopold in Datanami

As it ramps up a national AI strategy, the U.S. government is beefing up its drone fleet to collect ever-greater amounts of environmental data.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said this week it will use new funding to launch its Unmanned Systems Operations Program. Congress appropriated $12.7 million in fiscal 2020 to establish the earth science data initiative. Those funds will be used to expand current operations that use drones to collect environmental data on seafloor and habitat mapping as well as fishery assessments and ocean surface observations used for hurricane forecasting.  .... " 

Thoughts to Text

Continued advances in this space, in this case primarily for patients with inability to to control devices with their limbs.    Detailed article.

Neural implants plus AI turn sentence-length thoughts to text
The key was to think of this as a translation problem.
By John Timmer in  ArsTechnica

For people with limited use of their limbs, speech recognition can be critical for their ability to operate a computer. But for many, the same problems that limit limb motion affect the muscles that allow speech. That had made any form of communication a challenge, as physicist Stephen Hawking famously demonstrated. Ideally, we'd like to find a way to get upstream of any physical activity and identify ways of translating nerve impulses to speech.

Brain-computer interfaces were making impressive advances even before Elon Musk decided to get involved, but the problem of brain-to-text wasn't one of their successes. We've been able to recognize speech in the brain for a decade, but the accuracy and speed of this process are quite low. Now, some researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are suggesting that the problem might be that we weren't thinking about the challenge in terms of the big-picture process of speaking. And they have a brain-to-speech system to back them up. ... " 

Dark Malicious Patterns

A term I had not seen before, but its wide use for malicious activities in smartphones is described here.   Considerable detail below.

A Vector for Skulduggery   By Paul Marks in CACM
March 31, 2020

Dark Patterns.

An analysis of hundreds of popular smartphone apps found that 95% of them have user interfaces that use "Dark Patterns," maliciously crafted menus, buttons, and sliders designed to deceive users into either buying goods or services they do not want, or leading them into unknowingly selecting risky privacy settings.

Dark Patterns are a well-known vector for skulduggery on websites, and have been studied and called out over the last decade, most notably by the name-and-shame website darkpatterns.org, founded by Brighton, U.K.-based user experience (UX) specialist and cognitive scientist Harry Brignull. It was Brignull who first coined the term Dark Pattern (DP).

The chief types of malicious activity DPs enable include sneaking unwanted items (like insurance for other goods being bought) into online shopping baskets, signing users up to expensive recurring magazine subscriptions, or misleading people with preselected sliders labelled with baffling double-negative instructions (like "uncheck here not to download the add-on").

How prevalent Dark Patterns are in the smartphone app arena, rather than regular websites, was not known, so a team of human-computer interaction experts led by Linda di Geronimo, formerly of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, (and now technical cooperation manager in the Zurich Research Center of Huawei), set out to find out just how pervasive Dark Patterns are in the mobile arena.  ... " 

Amazon Detective: Analyze and Visualize Security

Interesting capability released by Amazon in AWS.    Intriguing capability needs a deeper look.

Amazon Detective  in AWS.amazon.com

Analyze and visualize security data to rapidly get to the root cause of potential security issues

Amazon Detective makes it easy to analyze, investigate, and quickly identify the root cause of potential security issues or suspicious activities. Amazon Detective automatically collects log data from your AWS resources and uses machine learning, statistical analysis, and graph theory to build a linked set of data that enables you to easily conduct faster and more efficient security investigations.

AWS security services like Amazon GuardDuty, Amazon Macie, and AWS Security Hub as well as partner security products can be used to identify potential security issues, or findings. These services are really helpful in alerting you when something is wrong and pointing out where to go to fix it. But sometimes there might be a security finding where you need to dig a lot deeper and analyze more information to isolate the root cause and take action. Determining the root cause of security findings can be a complex process that often involves collecting and combining logs from many separate data sources, using extract, transform, and load (ETL) tools or custom scripting to organize the data, and then security analysts having to analyze the data and conduct lengthy investigations.

Amazon Detective simplifies this process by enabling your security teams to easily investigate and quickly get to the root cause of a finding. Amazon Detective can analyze trillions of events from multiple data sources such as Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Flow Logs, AWS CloudTrail, and Amazon GuardDuty, and automatically creates a unified, interactive view of your resources, users, and the interactions between them over time. With this unified view, you can visualize all the details and context in one place to identify the underlying reasons for the findings, drill down into relevant historical activities, and quickly determine the root cause.

You can get started with Amazon Detective in just a few clicks in the AWS Console. There is no software to deploy, or data sources to enable and maintain.  .... " 

Also Discussed in SiliconAngle.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Webinar from iRobot, IFTTT on the Smart Home

Recently signed up for this and missed it, of interest: 

Checking in to see if you watched the replay of our smart home webinar featuring iRobot.

It features iRobot's CTO, Chris Jones, talking in-depth about the future of the smart home, and how they were able to solve the dual challenges of customer experience and integrations by working with IFTTT.

Smart Home hardware companies are placing increased strategic importance on software services to address future opportunities.
Join IFTTT Founder and CEO, Linden Tibbets and iRobot Chief Technology Officer, Chris Jones, as they discuss the integration choices Smart Home companies face and the future of the Smart Home.

In this webinar we discuss:

The ongoing transition of hardware companies to software services companies
Connecting Smart Home products to other products in the Smart Home and beyond
Direct integrations, Developer platforms and iPaaS
IFTTT Data Insights – Integration trends in the Smart Home
Why customer experience will ultimately decide .... 

Best, Skyler
Skyler Saulovich, Sales at IFTTT ... "

Procter Donates Face Masks, Hand Sanitizer

UPDATE: P&G to make and donate face masks, hand sanitizer in response to coronavirus  By Barrett J. Brunsman  – Staff reporter, Cincinnati Business Courier

Mar 26, 2020, 2:47pm EDT Updated Mar 26, 2020, 6:14pm EDT
Instead of selling the new products, Procter & Gamble will use them to safeguard its employees and to donate needed supplies of face masks and hand sanitizer to hospitals, health authorities and relief organizations.  ... " 

Towards a Taxonomy for Automated Assistants

Like the idea of identifying and constructing tasks for assistants so they can be more readily be challenged and compared.   This article suggests this be done and gives some examples.

A Taxonomy of Automated Assistants
By Jerrold M. Grochow
Communications of the ACM, April 2020, Vol. 63 No. 4, Pages 39-41  10.1145/3382746

Automated cars are in our future—and starting to be in our present. In 2014, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published the first version of a taxonomy for degree of automation in vehicles from Level 0 (not automated) to Level 5 (fully automated, no human intervention necessary).8 Since then, this taxonomy has gained wide acceptance—to the point where everyone from the U.S. government (used by the NHTSA5) to auto manufacturers to the popular press are talking in terms of "skipping level 3" or "everyone wants a level 5 car."1 As technology gets developed and improved, having an accepted taxonomy helps ensure people can talk to each other and know they are talking about the same thing. It is time for one of our computing organizations (perhaps ACM?) to develop an analogous taxonomy for automated assistants. With Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and cohorts selling in the "tens of millions"2 and with more than 20 competitors on the market,7 having an easily understandable taxonomy will help practitioners and end users alike.

There is already a significant body of literature aimed at improving the design and use of automated assistants in both industry and academic arenas (with a variety of category names for these devices and systems, using some combination of "automated," "digital," "smart," "intelligent," "personal," "agent," and "assistant"), as the bibliographies of cited works show. Some recent work focused on task content, use cases, and features. The task content of human activity has been widely studied over a long period of time, but Trippas et al.9 note that "how intelligent assistants are used in a workplace setting is less studied and not very well understood." While not presenting a taxonomy of assistants, this type of task content analysis could be used as an aid in intelligent assistant design. Similarly, Mehrotra et al.4 studied interaction with a desktop-based digital assistant with an eye to "help guide development of future user support systems and improve evaluations of current assistants." Knote et al.3 evaluated 115 "smart personal assistants" by literature and website review to create a taxonomy based on cluster analysis of design characteristics such as communications mode, direction of interaction, adaptivity, and embodiment (virtual character, voice), and so forth—a technology and features-based taxonomy. A commercial study of 22 popular "intelligent ... or automated personal assistants"7 reported "Intelligent Agents can be classified based on their degree of perceived intelligence and capability such as simple reflex agents, model-based reflex agents, goal-based agents, utility-based agents and learning agents." While this is an arguably useful taxonomy, it also primarily addresses the technology used and not the actual use of the automated assistant. The website additionally presents editor and user ratings of ease of use, features, and performance that may be of value to end users. .... '

Monday, March 30, 2020

Can Tech Disrupt the Virus?

Here is a challenge:  Can AI and Tech confront and disrupt evolved biology in new ways?  Can we think beyond methods that currently exist? 

Tech's Next Disruption Target: The Coronavirus
The Wall Street Journal
Asa Fitch; Rolfe Winkler; Deepa Seetharaman
March 25, 2020

Silicon Valley technology experts are pursuing various projects to combat the coronavirus, with thousands of volunteers contributing to hundreds of hastily organized initiatives in their spare time. Projects range from developing applications to deliver groceries to vulnerable seniors to simulating the virus' spread and sharing findings with specialists. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom built a model that predicts virus propagation and publishing it online. Alphabet enlisted its DeepMind artificial intelligence unit to find a vaccine, and its Verily life-sciences research unit to develop virus-detection techniques. Alphabet's Brian McClendon sees the pandemic as an opportunity to design a smartphone app for tracking health status, using blockchain to protect privacy; he hopes it will give people confidence to return to normal life after the crisis passes..... " 

Hybrid AI Examined

Big proponent of the idea.   Neural methods solve specific problems well, yet we solve many other problems symbolically, logically.  Math gives us solutions with algorithms, but the applied use of these methods is logically driven.   The next AI decade should seek the power of both methods.

The case for hybrid artificial intelligence  By Ben Dickson in bdTechtalks

This article is part of our reviews of AI research papers, a series of posts that explore the latest findings in artificial intelligence.

Deep learning, the main innovation that has renewed interest in artificial intelligence in the past years, has helped solve many critical problems in computer vision, natural language processing, and speech recognition. However, as the deep learning matures and moves from hype peak to its trough of disillusionment, it is becoming clear that it is missing some fundamental components.

This is a reality that many of the pioneers of deep learning and its main component, artificial neural networks, have acknowledged in various AI conferences in the past year. Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio, the three “godfathers of deep learning,” have all spoken about the limits of neural networks.

The question is, what is the path forward?

At NeurIPS 2019, Bengio discussed system 2 deep learning, a new generation of neural networks that can handle compositionality, out of order distribution, and causal structures. At the AAAI 2020 Conference, Hinton discussed the shortcomings of convolutional neural networks (CNN) and the need to move toward capsule networks.

But for cognitive scientist Gary Marcus, the solution lies in developing hybrid models that combine neural networks with symbolic artificial intelligence, the branch of AI that dominated the field before the rise of deep learning. In a paper titled “The Next Decade in AI: Four Steps Toward Robust Artificial Intelligence,” Marcus discusses how hybrid artificial intelligence can solve some of the fundamental problems deep learning faces today.

Connectionists, the proponents of pure neural network–based approaches, reject any return to symbolic AI. Hinton has compared hybrid AI to combining electric motors and internal combustion engines. Bengio has also shunned the idea of hybrid artificial intelligence on several occasions.

But Marcus believes the path forward lies in putting aside old rivalries and bringing together the best of both worlds.   .... " 

Anomaly Response: How we Respond to the Unexpected

Intriguing piece.   Made me think of our current predicament as well.    Can we model human adaptation to expected and unexpected events?   I like the notion of exploring different responses.  Would add then we could simulate them via a properly an agent or twin model.  Technical article.

Cognitive Work of Hypothesis Exploration During Anomaly Response
A look at how we respond to the unexpected
Marisa R. Grayson in Queue ACM

Web-production software systems operate at an unprecedented scale today, requiring extensive automation to develop and maintain services. The systems are designed to adapt regularly to dynamic load to avoid the consequences of overloading portions of the network. As the software systems scale and complexity grows, it becomes more difficult to observe, model, and track how the systems function and malfunction. Anomalies inevitably arise, challenging incident responders to recognize and understand unusual behaviors as they plan and execute interventions to mitigate or resolve the threat of service outage. This is anomaly response.1

The cognitive work of anomaly response has been studied in energy systems, space systems, and anesthetic management during surgery.9,10 Recently, it has been recognized as an essential part of managing web-production software systems. Web operations also provide the potential for new insights because all data about an incident response in a purely digital system is available, in principle, to support detailed analysis. More importantly, the scale, autonomous capabilities, and complexity of web operations go well beyond the settings previously studied.7,8

Four incidents from web-based software companies reveal important aspects of anomaly response processes when incidents arise in web operations, two of which are discussed in this article. One particular cognitive function examined in detail is hypothesis generation and exploration, given the impact of obscure automation on engineers' development of coherent models of the systems they manage. Each case was analyzed using the techniques and concepts of cognitive systems engineering.9,10 The set of cases provides a window into the cognitive work "above the line" (see "Above the Line, Below the Line" by Richard Cook in this issue) in incident management of complex web-operation systems (cf. Grayson, 2018).  .... "

New Rules for Remote Work

Reasonably done look at things that make sense,  we have done much remote work for some time now, years in many cases, but now its just lots more of it.

HBRWK: Business Research for Business Leaders

The New Rules for Remote Work: Pandemic Edition  by Dina Gerdeman

Welcome to the new world of remote work, where employees struggle to learn the rules, managers are unsure how to help them, and organizations get a glimpse into the future.

With many people working remotely for the first time, many of us have experienced a videoconference interrupted by barking dogs or hungry kids demanding snacks, punctuated, perhaps, by slamming cabinet doors and grinding ice makers in the background. We all understand, of course—we’re living it, too.

Welcome to the new world of remote work, pandemic style.

Before the coronavirus hit, 5.2 percent of US employees reported telecommuting most of the time, while 43 percent worked from home at least some of the time. Now, with the pandemic shuttering workplaces, that figure has skyrocketed globally.

But remote work during this bizarre time is certainly not business as usual, even for work-from-home veterans. While some of the typical remote work rules apply, others don’t. Business leaders need a new game plan.

We asked Harvard Business School professors to provide practical advice for managing large-scale, long-term remote work at a time when many employees are not only distracted by the commotion in their homes, but are shaken by the crisis unfolding outside their doors.


Here are 10 ways that leaders can support employees who are working remotely during an unprecedented and uncertain time:  ...

Virtualitics for Insight Extraction

A company of interest for advanced data visualization.  We worked with them in the Enterprise.

Virtualitics Selected fof the Air Force Strategic $7 Million Award
March 16, 2020 By Amy Gunzenhauser

Virtualitics is pleased to announce that it has been selected for the Air Force’s first ever Strategic Fund Increase (STRATFI) award through AF Ventures. The $7 million contract will enable Virtualitics to provide our groundbreaking AI data analytics software, Virtualitics Immersive Platform (VIP), to Air Force Global Strike Command to help airmen solve pressing data challenges in the U.S. strategic bomber fleet.

The award was announced by the Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Dr. Will Roper, at the Air Force’s virtual “Pitch Bowl” event.

Dr. Roper has described the winners of the STRATFI award as companies providing “game-changing” technologies to the Air Force. “The thing that we’re working on now is the big bets, the 30 to 40 big ideas, disruptive ideas that can change our mission and hopefully change the world,” Roper said. “We’re looking for those types of companies.”

Virtualitics is proud to be one of the “big bet” startups the Air Force is counting on to preserve the U.S. military’s technological advantage.

Receiving the STRATFI award at the Pitch Bowl culminates an impressive trend of recent Department of Defense contracts for Virtualitics. Virtualitics is the only commercial startup to win contract awards at the Air Force’s first ever Space Pitch Day and the F-35 Pitch Day, in addition to the STRATFI. Winning the “triple crown” of contract awards at the Air Force’s seminal innovation events is a clear indication of product-market fit for our solution in the DoD.

We are very proud of our work with the DoD. We have found great satisfaction in helping our men and women in uniform unlock actionable insights in their data...." 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Data Resources: Our World in Data

As part of a larger project that is looking at Data Sources, Open Source Data, Data as an Asset, Data Quality, Data for Machine Learning, Semantic Data, Knowledge Mapping, Metadata and related topics.  This looks to be a great resource, just examining

Specific Data of the Coronavirus/COVID-19  (Updated frequently)

And via the Center For Disease Conrol:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Our World in Data:  (Used widely for teaching, research etc) 


Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems

Poverty, disease, hunger, climate change, war, existential risks, and inequality: The world faces many great and terrifying problems. It is these large problems that our work at Our World in Data focuses on.

Thanks to the work of thousands of researchers around the world who dedicate their lives to it, we often have a good understanding of how it is possible to make progress against the large problems we are facing. The world has the resources to do much better and reduce the suffering in the world.

We believe that a key reason why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of this existing research and data: the important knowledge is often stored in inaccessible databases, locked away behind paywalls and buried under jargon in academic papers. 

The goal of our work is to make the knowledge on the big problems accessible and understandable. As we say on our homepage, Our World in Data is about Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.  ... " 

Recent Posts relating to Pandemic Conditions and Related Emergent Tech

Recent posts that relate to Contravirus and COVID-19 in this blog.  Primarily dealing with data, prediction, data visualization, Modeling, communication, AI and emergent technologies role in addressing pandemic issues.     Please pass along anything you would like added to this stream.

IBM, Oracle Team for WHO Virus Data Hub: MiPasa

Now have looked at lots of sites claiming to provide accurate data in this space,  and it is clear you can drive wrong results from much that is out there.  So this effort addresses a need.

World Health Organization Teams With IBM, Oracle on Blockchain-Based Coronavirus Data Hub
In Coindesk

Big names including IBM, Oracle and the World Health Organization (WHO) are among the collaborators on an open-data hub that will use blockchain technology to check the veracity of data relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

The solution, dubbed MiPasa, is launching as a “COVID-19 information highway,” said Jonathan Levi, CEO of Hacera, the company that built the platform. 

MiPasa, built on Hyperledger Fabric, is expected to evolve as a range of data analytics tools are added, followed by testing data and other information to assist with the precise detection of COVID-19 infection hotspots.

“We feel that there isn't enough information out there to make informed decisions,” said Levi. “How can we help all the people that would like to get access to data, analyze it and provide insights?”  ... " 

On Multisensory Adventures

Vint Cerf on a favorite topic.   The senses.  He points to two inspirational books on the topic.  We are starting to 'understand' senses, at least if we use as a measure how we are able to mimic them.

Multisensory Adventures
By Vinton G. Cerf
Communications of the ACM, April 2020, Vol. 63 No. 4, Page 7

Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton G. Cerf 
In this column, I want to draw your attention to two books. One has been published to great acclaim and the other is still in process. They resonate with a visceral intensity for which I was honestly unprepared and surprised. The first, Multisensory Experiences, Where the Senses Meet Technology, by Carlos Velasco and Marianna Obrist, is to be published by Oxford University Press. The authors explore concepts we experience every day but don't necessarily understand fully. We are familiar with the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Our brains transduce these physical phenomena into neural pulses that flood along many pathways and interact in many ways. Interestingly, all these senses are translated into essentially similar neural signals but they are processed in a complex and interconnected neural web producing what we call experience.  .... "

Recognizing Objects

More advances in fast vision systems.

Optical System Could Lead to Devices That Can Recognize Objects Instantly
UCLA Newsroom
Matthew Chin
March 4, 2020

An optical neural network developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering that concurrently works with multiple wavelengths of light could potentially lead to devices that instantly recognize objects without additional computer processing, with potential applications for robots and autonomous vehicles. The network is a maze with an array of translucent wafers made of different materials like plastic or glass, engineered at a smaller scale than the wavelength of light to split beams into various directions. Said UCLA's Aydogan Ozcan, “There is richer information when you can see colors through different wavelengths of light. Most scenes naturally contain information in vivid color, so the more wavelengths that a network can ‘see,’ the more it increases the amount of information it can process.” .... ' 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Emergence of the AI Risk Manager

In our day this was integrated with other kinds of analysis and management.   It may well make sense to focus this more generally. 

The emergence of the professional AI risk manager

By Kenn So  in Venturebeat

When the 1970s and 1980s were colored by banking crises, regulators from around the world banded together to set international standards on how to manage financial risk. Those standards, now known as the Basel standards, define a common framework and taxonomy on how risk should be measured and managed. This led to the rise of professional financial risk managers, which was my first job. The largest professional risk associations, GARP and PRMIA, now have over 250,000 certified members combined, and there are many more professional risk managers out there who haven’t gone through those particular certifications.

We are now beset by data breaches and data privacy scandals, and regulators around the world have responded with data regulations. GDPR is the current role model, but I expect a global group of regulators to expand the rules to cover AI more broadly and set the standard on how to manage it. The UK ICO just released a draft but detailed guide on auditing AI.  https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/ico-and-stakeholder-consultations/ico-consultation-on-the-draft-ai-auditing-framework-guidance-for-organisations/   The EU is developing one as well. Interestingly, their approach is very similar to that of the Basel standards: specific AI risks should be explicitly managed. This will lead to the emergence of professional AI risk managers.  ... "

Rand on Force Planning

Rand piece on the topic developed for Military scenarios, but could it be used for systems that include coopetition as well?    Costs, resources, strategies.

Force Planning in the New Era of Strategic Competition
The RAND Blog by Jacob L. Heim  
March 28, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense announced (PDF) in 2018 that it was elevating the priority it placed on developing the capabilities necessary to deter Chinese and Russian aggression. That means that the Department needs new analytical frameworks to reassess what force development looks like during an era of peacetime military competition. In particular, analysts need techniques for estimating how much it costs each side to maintain a fixed military balance over time.  ... "

Low-Code Taking Over

 Ultimately this will take over for most coding.

Low Code And No Code: A Looming Trend In Mobile App Development   By Nitin Nimbalkar -

Today’s businesses are implementing enriching their operations with capabilities little by little on a variety of different products. But the trend is clear before you know it, the distinction between tools that are powerful enough for professional development teams and to be simple enough for citizen developers.

At this point, Low-Code and No-Code will merge into a single market segment for both enterprise-class and user-friendly developers at the same time.

Before heading, let’s identify the distinct functions of low code and no code in app development, by bifurcating them.

Difference between low code and no code development
• Low Code: Low code is a development move that automates time-consuming manual processes, without manual coding, using a visual IDE environment, which is automation that connects to backends, and application management system.

• No code: In the same way as low-code platforms, no code platform uses a visual application system that allows users to create applications without coding. Usually this includes drag and drop functions. An example of this is Salesforce CRM, which enables people with coding skills to code, and those who don’t have those skills can build simple apps without using the system.

Further, as the need for low code and no code is surging due to increased requirement, trends depict how the picture of coding might get changed.   ... " 

The COVID-19 Virus and What the Recommendations Mean

Very nicely done,  just eight minutes plus animated video about the topic.  For the whole family to understand.   By the German Kurzgesagt animation studio.

Kurzgesagt Animation Studio  (with other language translations)

And via the Center For Disease Conrol:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Friday, March 27, 2020

Watermarking Control Data for Safety from Hackers

Thoughtful and apparently simple idea.

Approach Could Protect Control Systems From Hackers
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
March 26, 2020

Researchers at Siemens and Croatia’s University of Zagreb have developed a technique to more easily identify attacks against industrial control systems (ICS), like those used in the electric power grid, or to control traffic. The researchers applied the concept of "watermarking" data during transmission to ICS, in a manner that is broadly applicable without requiring details about the specific ICS. In such a scenario, when data is transmitted in real time over an unencrypted channel, it is accompanied by a specialized algorithm in the form of a recursive watermark (RWM) signal; any disruption to the RWM signal indicates an attack is underway. Said Siemens' Zhen Song, “If attackers change or delay the real-time channel signal a little bit, the algorithm can detect the suspicious event and raise alarms immediately."

Linden Labs Gives up on VR Spin off

Note our examination of virtual world retail, mentioned here earlier.  This piece gives us a look at the current status of world tech with current supporting tech like VR.   Last I looked SL was not heavily used.

Why 'Second Life' developer Linden Lab gave up on its VR spin-off
'We decided that Linden Lab wanted to become cash-positive.’
Nick Summers, @nisummers in Engadget
Second Life developer Linden Lab has sold Sansar, a platform for virtual 'scenes' that could be explored with a VR headset or traditional PC setup.

Back in 2016, I described the service as "WordPress for social VR." A foundation that allowed creators to import custom assets and quickly build their own shareable world. The company hoped that this mix would attract commercial clients — think museums, car manufacturers and record labels — that want their own VR experience but don't have the technical expertise to deal with game engines and digital distribution.

Similarly, Linden Lab hoped Sansar would attract users who crave diverse worlds — like those promised in movies such as Ready Player One — and, if they have a creative spark, possibly make their own assets that can be shared and sold to the rest of the community.

Sansar's VR compatibility was a big draw. At the time, there were many 3D chat room experiences — including Second Life — but few that allowed large groups to strap on a headset and freely converse. Linden Lab knew that the number of people with high-end VR headsets was small, though. And the team didn't want to dilute the experience so it could run on mobile-powered hardware like Google Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR.    ... " 

Tesla Autopilot Detecting Traffic Lights

An example of systems including more environmental context for making decisions, ultimately essential.

A video shows a Tesla stopping autonomously at a red light.   ....

By Christine Fisher, @cfisherwrites in Engadget

On Novel Risks in the Enterprise

Something we studied in some detail, solution was to have sufficient knowledge and resources, internal and access to external to be able to address the context of such problems.   Making them less 'Novel'.    Not sure how well that works in the current situation.

Novel Risks   by Robert S. Kaplan, Dutch Leonard, and Anette Mikes  in HBSWK

Companies can manage known risks by reducing their likelihood and impact. But such routine risk management often prevents them from recognizing and responding rapidly to novel risks, those not envisioned or seen before. Setting up teams, processes, and capabilities in advance for dealing with unexpected circumstances can protect against their severe consequences.

Author Abstract
All organizations now practice some form of risk management to identify and assess routine risks for compliance—in their operations, supply chains, and strategy, as well as from envisioned external events. These risk management policies, however, fail when employees do not recognize the potential for novel risks to occur during apparently routine operations. Novel risks—arising from circumstances that haven’t been thought of or seen before—make routine risk management ineffective, and, more seriously, delude management into thinking that risks have been mitigated when, in fact, novel risks can escalate to serious if not fatal consequences. The paper discusses why well-known behavioral and organizational biases cause novel risks to go unrecognized and unmitigated. Based on best practices in several organizations, the paper describes the processes that private and public entities can institute to identify and manage novel risks. These risks require organizations to launch adaptive and nimble responses to avoid being trapped in routines that are inadequate or even counterproductive when novel circumstances arise.  .... 

Paper:  http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/pages/download.aspx?name=20-094.pdf 

Attacks on Deep Reinforcement Learning

On the safety of Reinforcement Learning.  Considerable,largely technical piece.

Physically Realistic Attacks on Deep Reinforcement Learning  Bair Berkeley  By Adam Gleave     

Deep reinforcement learning (RL) has achieved superhuman performance in problems ranging from data center cooling to video games. RL policies may soon be widely deployed, with research underway in autonomous driving, negotiation and automated trading. Many potential applications are safety-critical: automated trading failures caused Knight Capital to lose USD 460M, while faulty autonomous vehicles have resulted in loss of life.

Consequently, it is critical that RL policies are robust: both to naturally occurring distribution shift, and to malicious attacks by adversaries. Unfortunately, we find that RL policies which perform at a high-level in normal situations can harbor serious vulnerabilities which can be exploited by an adversary.... " 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wal-Mart Joins Hyperledger

Wal-Mart's early looks at this seem to be identification and tracking related supply chain applications.    Is this an indication of further dives into the space?

Walmart Joins Hyperledger Alongside 7 Other Companies  By Samuel Haig

Walmart has become the latest major conglomerate to join open-source blockchain consortium Hyperledger. Walmart is among eight new members to join the platform. The new members were announced on March 3 at the Hyperledger Global Forum 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sanjay Radhakrishnan, the vice president of Walmart Global Tech, expressed excitement in joining the platform, stating:

“We've seen strong results through our various deployments of blockchain, and believe staying involved in open source communities will further transform the future of our business."  ... '

Positive Tools for Challenging Times

I see that long-time correspondent Sunnie Southern of ViableSynergy has a newsletter about 'Positive Tools for Challenging Times'.   Check it out:

Positive Tools for Challenging Times
This is the second in a series of emails with resources our team has personally compiled to make life a little easier during this difficult time.  We have added a couple of new categories based on your feedback and suggestions from last week's message. Please take our short survey and check-out new innovations.   ..... 

If you have a resource or an inspiring story that you would like to share, please email us at Hello@ViableSynergy.com and we'll share in a future message.     .... 

It has been a while since connecting with many of you. We'd love to reconnect and exchange updates.  Send us a message at Hello@ViableSynergy.com or via your favorite social media channel (click below) and let's get something on the calendar.   ... '

IBM Tracks Virus 'Weather'

A nicely done Covid-19 tracking app is part of the IBM 'Weather Channel' App.   Shows location and trends continually updated, based on your location.  Nicely shown on the bottom of the App with a red button to click.  With other virus news and video.  I see the IBM CEO talks about it below.  I am following on my smartphone.

What are the best ways to make this influence behavior?    Some sort of simple behavior-effect prediction?

Later I noted that the warning included: (Some locations do not currently provide all data).  So we have the classic problem of incomplete and even faulty data.

IBM CEO: Covid-19 tracking app can help modify behavior
Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, explains what the company is doing to help during the coronavirus crisis. It launched a tool on its Weather Channel app that tracks the outbreak. .... 

Read in CNN Business: https://apple.news/A_YGufs01RRiCOpb8GNl2eg\

Neural Networks Search for New Materials

Mentioned previously here.   Novel use of 'creativity' to search among possible solutions.

Neural networks facilitate optimization in the search for new materials
by David L. Chandler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

An iterative, multi-step process for training a neural network, as depicted at top left, leads to an assessment of the tradeoffs between two competing qualities, as depicted in graph at center. The blue line represents a so-called Pareto front, defining the cases beyond which the materials selection cannot be further improved. This makes it possible to identify specific categories of promising new materials, such as the one depicted by the molecular diagram at right.  

When searching through theoretical lists of possible new materials for particular applications, such as batteries or other energy-related devices, there are often millions of potential materials that could be considered, and multiple criteria that need to be met and optimized at once. Now, researchers at MIT have found a way to dramatically streamline the discovery process, using a machine learning system.

As a demonstration, the team arrived at a set of the eight most promising materials, out of nearly 3 million candidates, for an energy storage system called a flow battery. This culling process would have taken 50 years by conventional analytical methods, they say, but they accomplished it in five weeks.

The findings are reported in the journal ACS Central Science, in a paper by MIT professor of chemical engineering Heather Kulik, Jon Paul Janet Ph.D. '19, Sahasrajit Ramesh, and graduate student Chenru Duan. ... "