/* ---- Google Analytics Code Below */

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Most Valuable AI Companies

Fascinating look from the Singularity Hub.  Who are the 32 AI Unicorn Hubs?   Useful to see the kinds of  things that are being worked on.

The World’s Most Valuable AI Companies, and What They’re Working On
By Peter Rejcek In the Singularity Hub

It recognizes our faces. It knows the videos we might like. And it can even, perhaps, recommend the best course of action to take to maximize our personal health.

Artificial intelligence and its subset of disciplines—such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision—are seemingly becoming integrated into our daily lives whether we like it or not. What was once sci-fi is now ubiquitous research and development in company and university labs around the world.

Similarly, the startups working on many of these AI technologies have seen their proverbial stock rise. More than 30 of these companies are now valued at over a billion dollars, according to data research firm CB Insights, which itself employs algorithms to provide insights into the tech business world.  ... "

Amazon: Sellers must Identify Themselves

Will this create a major change?  As is said, creates half of Amazon's sales.

Amazon Is Making a Simple Change that Will Change the Relationship Between Sellers and Customers Forever.    Starting September 1, sellers will have to prove who they are and where they're located--and share that information publicly.
By , Jason Aten,  TECH COLUMNIST in INC.

This week Amazon announced a change that affects every one of the almost half-million third-party sellers on its U.S. marketplace platform. That's a big deal because those third-party sellers, along with the 1.7 million more worldwide, account for roughly half of Amazon's sales, according to the company. 

Beginning in September, Amazon will require U.S. sellers to include their business name and address on their seller profile. It seems like such a simple move, and to be honest, it's actually a bit odd that it wasn't already policy that sellers had to identify themselves. That seems like a no-brainer, but it's just another way Amazon has previously taken a hands-off approach.  .... " 

Alexa Agency Curriculum

Still have not seen what I call voice-first strategies in many places.  Like businesses.   They are still matters of convenience, accessibility or cases where hands-free can be important. 

Introducing the Alexa Agency Curriculum  from Amazon.

More and more, customers are making Alexa part of their daily routines. And while building a voice-first strategy has multiple considerations, it’s also crucial for modern-day brands and their agencies. That’s why we’re excited to introduce the Alexa Agency Curriculum, a set of Alexa skill-building resources specially designed for agencies, brands working with agencies, studios, and tool providers. You can incorporate this curriculum into your voice practice and with your strategy, planning, and development expertise, help determine the optimal touch points across your client’s customer journey. Thank you for your continued strategic and creative approach for driving innovation and creating delightful customer experiences with Alexa.  ... " 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Combining iPhone Videos for 4D Viz

Another example of gathering more data that you would normally with a sensor, then combining the data in order to make it useful for more than normal, purely typical human-visual needs.   Also to  create manipulative and illusional scenes.   Now people are worrying about how this promotes 'fake' scenarios, but isn't this exactly what is done in cinema?   Film too manipulates the difference between reality and  illusion.   What is suggested below is manipulated view for better results.  The results/goals can always be changed for good or bad purposes.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Byron Spice
July 1, 2020

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers combined iPhone videos shot "in the wild" by separate cameras to produce four-dimensional (4D) visualizations that allow viewers to watch action from various vantage points, or even delete people or objects that temporarily occlude sight lines. CMU's Aayush Bansal and colleagues employed up to 15 iPhones to capture various scenes, then used scene-specific convolutional neural networks to compose different parts of scenes. The system can restrict playback angles to make incompletely rebuilt areas invisible, maintaining the illusion of three-dimensional imagery. The method also could be used to record actors in one setting, then insert them into another. Bansal said, "The point of using iPhones was to show that anyone can use this system. The world is our studio."

A Problem with Google's Open Usage Commons

IBM Suggests there is a Problem:

IBM has a problem with Google’s Open Usage Commons
The ties between the Open Usage Commons and Google may be too strong and clear.  By Jim Salterin in ArsTechnia

This Wednesday, Google announced a new open source initiative—the Open Usage Commons, a sort of stewardship project for open source trademarks. The move drew immediate criticism from IBM, which claims an interest in Istio, one of the three projects Google seeded the OUC with at launch.  ... "

From the IBM DeveloperBlog.

SAS And Microsoft Azure

Intriguing to see the linking of Azure and SAS.  Some particularly novel sample problems.

3 world-changing examples of SAS® on Azure   by  Oliver SchabenBerger

Last week we announced a new strategic partnership with Microsoft to further shape the future of AI and analytics in the cloud. This commitment will make it easy for SAS customers to move their analytics workloads to the cloud. And it will introduce SAS technologies to millions of Azure customers through APIs and deeper integrations that can enhance existing applications with analytics.

To help illustrate how you can use SAS on Azure, I am sharing three inspiring examples from a recent SAS hackathon. Participants in this event were challenged to solve problems related to the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development using SAS® Viya®. Submissions ranged from optimizing resources at refugee camps to encouraging more sustainable consumer habits.

A technology team developed each application in partnership with a nonprofit to solve existing and immediate problems. The three revolutionary projects I am featuring here all use SAS Viya running on Microsoft Azure.

Analyzing honeybee dance moves leads more bees to food ....'

Bio-Ink for 3D Printing Inside the Body

Quite a remarkable possibility when linked to medical robotics.

Bio-Ink for 3D Printing Inside the Body
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
July 1, 2020

Researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) have developed a bio-ink that can be three-dimensionally (3D) printed at human body temperature, and solidified using visible light. Bio-inks are composed of living cells suspended in a gel and are safe for use inside people, potentially paving the way for 3D printing inside the body. Using a 3D printing nozzle affixed to robotic machinery to dispense bio-ink in a controlled manner, the researchers were able to bio-print onto soft materials, with interlocking knobs left beneath the surface anchoring the printed structure to the body like surgical staples. OSU's David Hoelzle said the goal is not to bio-print an entire organ, but to "augment a standard surgery by delivering a biomaterial with a tethered growth factor to jumpstart healing, or a tethered drug to prevent infection. ... We envision a biomaterial bio-ink printing tool as another tool in the surgeon's toolset."  ... ' 

Tesla Close to Level 5

The legendary level 5 means completely autonomous, no driver input.   Once we get that level there is likely to be an explosion of data to gather, and answering questions like how safe is it versus car with driver?

Elon Musk says Tesla is ‘very close’ to level 5 autonomous driving

(Reuters) – U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday, referring to the capability to navigate roads without any driver input.

“I’m extremely confident that level 5, or essentially complete autonomy, will happen, and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said in remarks made via a video message at the opening of Shanghai’s annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC).  ....  '

Friday, July 10, 2020

A New Kind of Open Source: Open Commons

Google Open Usage Commons.   Considering this, there will be more to follow.  Thoughts?

Announcing a new kind of open source organization  Google Blog.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Google has deep roots in open source. We're proud of our 20 years of contributions and community collaboration. The scale and tenure of Google’s open source participation has taught us what works well, what doesn’t, and where the corner cases are that challenge projects.

One of the places we’ve historically seen projects stumble is in managing their trademarks—their project’s name and logo. How project trademarks are used is different from how their code is used, as trademarks are a method of quality assurance. This includes the assurance that the code in question has an open source license. When trademarks are properly managed, project maintainers can define their identity, provide assurances to downstream users of the quality of their offering, and give others in the community certainty about the free and fair use of the brand.

In collaboration with academic leaders, independent contributors, and SADA Systems, today we are announcing the Open Usage Commons, an organization focused on extending the philosophy and definition of open source to project trademarks. The mission of the Open Usage Commons is to help open source projects assert and manage their project identity through programs specific to trademark management and conformance testing. Creating a neutral, independent ownership for these trademarks gives contributors and consumers peace of mind regarding their use of project names in a fair and transparent way.

Understanding and managing trademarks is critical for the long-term sustainability of projects, particularly with the increasing number of enterprise products based on open source. Trademarks sit at the juncture of the rule of law and the philosophy of open source, a complicated space; for this reason, we consider it to be the next challenge for open source, one we want to help with.

To get the Open Usage Commons started, Google has contributed initial funding, and the trademarks of Angular, a web application framework for mobile and desktop; Gerrit, web-based team code-collaboration tool; and Istio, an open platform to connect, manage, and secure microservices, will be joining the Open Usage Commons. If you use a trademark of one of the projects currently, you can continue to use those marks, following any current guidance from the project. As the Open Usage Commons is focused on trademark management, the contributor communities and technical roadmaps of these projects are not changed by joining the Commons, although we hope this new model encourages anyone who has stood on the sidelines until now to participate in these projects .... " 

Recorded Webinar: Opportunity Marketplaces

Brought to my attention by Michael Schrage, a correspondent at MIT:

Organizations constrained to offer workers financial incentives might consider a new approach: opportunity marketplaces.

The COVID-19 crisis has made organizations vastly more aware of the need for greater flexibility, adaptability, and communications in the distributed workplace.

Getting work done well and on time is job one, but what needs to come next? How do you quickly, cheaply, adaptively, and thoughtfully set yourself up for a future requiring unprecedented workplace and workforce agility? One promising idea revealed by recent MIT SMR research is opportunity marketplaces. These internal project marketplaces offer transparency and visibility around opportunities within organizations and use data and assorted analytic techniques to make matching recommendations between opportunities and people.

In a time of reduced pay increases and constrained travel, what do most organizations have to offer workers to retain and motivate them over the next 12 to 18 months? The answer is opportunity.

Related Reading
M. Schrage, J. Schwartz, D. Kiron, R. Jones, and N. Buckley, “Opportunity Marketplaces: Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise,” MIT Sloan Management Review, April 28, 2020.

Watch this webinar with Michael Schrage, research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and MIT SMR editor in chief Paul Michelman and learn:

How top leadership — not just HR — defines and articulates an opportunity vision for the enterprise: These are the opportunities for personal/professional development and accomplishment they want their people to have as we come out of the crisis.
What digital/platform/network investments do companies need to make to support key opportunity market use cases?
How to effectively use data and analytics to support and improve the use cases for opportunity markets, and which parts of the process are best suited to automation and which to humans. ... 

Michael Schrage is a research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and guest editor of the MIT SMR-Deloitte research report, “Opportunity Marketplaces: Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise.” Paul Michelman is editor in chief of MIT Sloan Management Review. He moderated the session.  ... 

Testing Robotic Lab Assistants

Robotic Lab assistants are being tested broadly, here some initial results.

Robotic lab assistant is 1,000 times faster at conducting research
Working 22 hours a day, seven days a week, in the dark   By James Vincent

Researchers have developed what they say is a breakthrough robotic lab assistant, able to move around a laboratory and conduct scientific experiments just like a human.

The machine, designed by scientists from the UK’s University of Liverpool, is far from fully autonomous: it needs to be programmed with the location of lab equipment and can’t design its own experiments. But by working seven days a week, 22 hours a day (with two hours to recharge every night), it allows scientists to automate time-consuming and tedious research they wouldn’t otherwise tackle ...'

In a trial reported in Nature today,      (abstract) ...

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Google Earth: 15 Years and Still Mapping

Been a fan since the very beginning.  Used it at work.  It has replaced very messy geography.  The ability to answer geographic questions visually very quickly.      Here some good examples of use:

Here’s to you: 15 years of Google Earth stories
Rebecca Moore  in the Google Blog
Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach
Published Jul 9, 2020

We’ve always said that if Google Maps is about finding your way, Google Earth is about getting lost. With Google Earth, you can see our planet like an astronaut from space, then travel anywhere on it in seconds with a click or tap. Even after an entire afternoon exploring cities, landscapes and stories on Google Earth, you'll have barely scratched the surface.

Now 15 years old, Google Earth is still the world’s biggest publicly accessible repository of geographic imagery. It combines aerial photography, satellite imagery, 3D topography, geographic data, and Street View into a tapestry you can explore. But Google Earth is much more than a 3D digital globe. The underlying technology has democratized mapmaking allowing anyone to better understand our world, and take action to create positive change.

Of the billions of people who have used Google Earth over the years, here are 15 stories that have inspired us:

1. Responding to natural disasters. Two months after Google Earth launched, we quickly realized that people were not just using it to plan their vacations. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, and the Google Earth team quickly worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to make updated imagery available to first responders on the ground to support rescue efforts, relief operations and understand the hurricane’s impact.  .... "  

Teams Improving Capabilities with Cortana, Stadium Seating

Teams adds group meeting features.   More competition putting together useful capabilities for group remote meetings.   Transcripts.    Like to see what kind of assistance Cortana might give,  could be just the thing to get people involved and less annoyed by the experience.   But is it too late already with Zoom and other   players in the field.  First mover is a powerful thing.    Could AI make useful suggestions regarding context of the goals of a meeting?  Or even just record specific to-do agreements as they relate to goals?

Microsoft Teams is getting AI-powered features Together Mode, Dynamic View, suggested replies, and Cortana    By Emil Protalinksi   in VentireBeat

Microsoft today announced the latest slew of features coming to Microsoft Teams for people at work and in education. This batch aims to “make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human.” The majority of the additions are powered by AI, including Together Mode, Dynamic View, Cortana, suggested replies, and speaker attribution and translation for live captions and transcripts. Other new features include video filters, live reactions, chat bubbles, a Reflect messaging extension, Whiteboard updates, a new Tasks app, and support for more participants.... "

Axios also talks this:
Microsoft's plan to make video calls less miserable

By Ina Fried ... 

How Have People Responded to Pandemic?

Fascinating piece, recall using data from 'discovered' cameras to determine  city walking traffic patterns.   Also using data from public cameras, with scrubbed facial images, could be acquired for similar analysis.  Today with a increased attention to privacy,  much of this data would have to be further scrubbed of signs of identity.   Still very useful patterns of  usage and behavior of people over time in the pandemic could be derived.   Note the use of 120K cameras here to generate data worldwide.

How Have People Have Responded to Covid-19 Restrictions Around the World?
Purdue University News
By Kayla Wiles

Purdue University engineers have built a website that pools live public videos and images from about 30,000 network cameras in more than 100 countries, to make it easier to analyze responses to Covid-19 restriction policies. The system automatically discovers cameras in public spaces, then an algorithm saves image data and downloads videos every 10 minutes or so, to be sent to cloud data centers for processing. The discovered cameras are part of a system called the Continuous Analysis of Many CAMeras, which taps roughly 120,000 cameras worldwide. The data also is helping to construct models for human interactions and disease proliferation.  ... ' 

New Lab to Tackle Ethical Implications of Tech

Another effort in the space.   Good to have multiple efforts addressing this problem to get competing analyses and solutions.

Notre Dame, IBM Launch Tech Ethics Lab to Tackle the Ethical Implications of Technology
Notre Dame News
Patrick Gibbons
June 30, 2020

The University of Notre Dame and IBM have launched the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab to address ethical concerns raised by the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing, and other advanced technologies. Funded by a 10-year, $20-million commitment from IBM, the lab will operate as a separate unit within Notre Dame's Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). The goal is for academia and industry to collaborate on evidence-based ethics frameworks to address new and emerging technologies. Said ND-TEC's Mark McKenna, "Rather than following the 'ready, fire, aim' approach sometimes used in developing new technologies, we hope to provide resources that allow developers and industry to create better, more responsible technologies that positively benefit society."  ... '

AI gets a Poor grade of B- in Covid-19 Fight

A look about how AI is helping with vaccine development efforts. Sounds like a reasonable criticism, mainly that the event is too novel to learn from.   But is it that novel, or have we just never seen it in the modern world.   Similar viruses do exit.    Can we learn from it, or does it just not setup a reasonable restarting point for learning. 

Kai-Fu Lee Gives AI a B-Minus Grade in the Covid-19 Fight  in Wired
Robots and computer programs can help with social distancing and food delivery, but have been less helpful in developing a vaccine.

THIS PAST WEEK, as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival, I spoke with Kai-Fu Lee, the president and chair of Sinovation Ventures and a pioneer in artificial intelligence. We discussed his recent argument that AI has been of limited use in the response to the coronavirus crisis. And then we talked about the future of work and why he thinks that Covid-19 is going to accelerate trends toward automation. Because of the virus, and because of the way we all work now, we’re going to have many more robots and other machines in our factories, restaurants, and kitchens. A lightly edited transcript is below. You can watch the original video here.

Nicholas Thompson: You're a pioneer in artificial intelligence. You wrote my favorite book on artificial intelligence. You've taught us all a lot about artificial intelligence. And now we have perhaps the greatest crisis of our lifetime and you've given AI a B-minus in helping to resolve it! Why is that? Why such a low grade?

Kai-Fu Lee: Well, B-minus is a lot better than passing. It's not ideal. The reason is, AI works by accumulating a lot of data and seeing recurrence of similar events in order to make accurate predictions. And a pandemic is a once-a-century activity. There isn't a lot of experience building models and there isn't a lot of data. Despite that, there are many places where AI has added value. So therefore the B-minus.

Can you walk us through the places where artificial intelligence has been helpful in combating the coronavirus and the places where it hasn't done that much?  ... ." 

Biomimicry for Regenerative Medicine

Could the cells in these simple worms point towards a mechanism for regeneration of organs in humans?  Considerable,  non technical article with links to more .....

Flatworms muscle new eyes' wiring into their brains

Peter Reddien's lab at the Whitehead Institute takes a step forward in understanding how neural circuits could be regenerated in adults.

Eva Frederick | Whitehead Institute

If anything happens to the eyes of the tiny, freshwater-dwelling planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, they can grow them back within just a few days. How they do this is a scientific conundrum — one that Peter Reddien's lab at Whitehead Institute has been studying for years.

The lab's latest project offers some insight: in a paper published in Science June 26, researchers in Reddien's lab have identified a new type of cell that likely serves as a guidepost to help route axons from the eyes to the brain as the worms complete the difficult task of regrowing their neural circuitry.

Schmidtea mediterranea's eyes are composed of light-capturing photoreceptor neurons connected to the brain with long, spindly processes called axons. They use their eyes to respond to light to help navigate their environment.  .... 

This study is a step forward in a body of work that aims to expand the capabilities of regenerative medicine. “Imagine a scenario where someone experiences a spinal cord injury or an eye injury or stroke that leads to the loss of a neural circuit,” says Atabay. “The reason we can't fully cure these cases today is that we lack fundamental information regarding how these systems can regenerate. Looking at regenerative organisms provides a lot of insights. From this case, we see that regenerating the lost system may not be enough; you may also need to regenerate systems that are properly patterning that system.” ... ' 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

IBM to Buy WDG Automation

IBM linking process to detect AI opportunities to approaches like RPA.   And they already have integrated BPL capabilities.  WDG Automation is in the process of building/using RPA methods.

IBM to buy Brazil's WDG Automation to boost AI-infused capabilities  in MarketWatch

International Business Machines Corp. announced Wednesday a deal to buy Brazil-based provider of robotic process automation software WDG Soluções Em Sistemas E Automação De Processos LTDA, referred to as WDG Automation, for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is part of IBM's aim to advance its artificial intelligence-infused automation capabilities, which IBM believes is now more essential given uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. "IBM already automates how companies apply AI to business processes and IT operations so they can detect opportunities and problems and recommend next steps and solutions,"   .... ' 

Walmart+ vs Amazon Prime

Good expert comments on the just announced Walmart+ vs Amazon Prime.   With some more details and comments by experts in the area.  Like I have said, the competition is good.

Will Walmart’s best shoppers ditch Amazon Prime for Walmart+?    in Retailwire   by George Anderson

More than half of Walmart’s top customers have Amazon Prime memberships. Walmart wants them all to itself.

Vox’s Recode reports that the nation’s largest retailer is getting set to officially launch Walmart+, a rebranding of its Delivery Unlimited Grocery service with additional perks. The service, expected to go live this month, was originally set to launch in March or April but was pushed back due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The annual subscription program will cost $98, which covers unlimited same-day deliveries of groceries and general merchandise goods from the retailer’s supercenters. Subscribers will be able to reserve delivery time slots and receive notifications of open availability. As a Walmart+ member, they will also have limited access to the retailer’s Express two-hour service, which offers delivery of more than 160,000 products — from grocery and general merchandise to electronics and toys — a perk that costs non-members $10 tacked onto the chain’s standard $7.95 to $9.95 fee.  ... "

The Need for Loaded Dice

I remember having to explain to managers why dice had to be 'loaded' in some of the simulations we built.  Isn't that biased?  Yes, but being loaded is required in accurate models.   The article in Quanta Magazine shows why.  See also the link to the MIT work, which further explains the why.

How and Why Computers Roll Loaded Dice
Stephen Ornes, Contributing Writer   in QuantaMagazine

Researchers are one step closer to injecting probability into deterministic machines.
Here’s a deceptively simple exercise: Come up with a random phone number. Seven digits in a sequence, chosen so that every digit is equally likely, and so that your choice of one digit doesn’t affect the next. Odds are, you can’t. (But don’t take my word for it: Studies dating back to the 1950s reveal how mathematically nonrandom we are, even if we don’t recognize it.)

Don’t take it to heart. Computers don’t generate randomness well, either. They’re not supposed to: Computer software and hardware run on Boolean logic, not probability. “The culture of computing is centered on determinism,” said Vikash Mansinghka, who runs the Probabilistic Computing Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “and that shows up at pretty much every level.”

But computer scientists want programs that can handle randomness because sometimes that’s what a problem requires. Over the years, some have developed sleek new algorithms that, while they don’t themselves generate random numbers, offer clever and efficient ways to use and manipulate randomness. One of the most recent efforts comes from Mansinghka’s group at MIT, which will present an algorithm called Fast Loaded Dice Roller, or FLDR, at the online International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics this August. ... " 

New Qualcomm Mobile Chip

Advances in hardware improve where and how efficiently problems can be solved.  We are moving forward.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 Plus is its most powerful mobile chip, designed for gaming (and AI)     10 percent more power than the original Snapdragon 865  ... 

By Chaim Gartenberg@cgartenberg in TheVerge ... 

Short Examples of Emergent Analytic Tech

O'Reilly puts together four very interesting examples of Emergent tech.  Good and less so.Worth a look.

O'Reilly Radar by Nat Torkington
Four short links: 8 July 2020   AI Weirdness, Experimentation, ML Ops, and Engineer Productivity

- When Data is Messy — I love stories that illustrate the ways machine learning can draw the wrong conclusions. ...

-We propose a Bayesian setting that implicitly captures the opportunity cost of having multiple interventions to test. ...

-Ops for ML projects is interesting because it brings new problems with no widely-known solutions. ...

-Towards engineering productivity .....

(Join O'Reilly) 

Tool Turns Math into Pictures

Lovely thought, you can browse the images, and edit or choose the best.  To produce a best explanation.   A means to communicate math concepts with management, decision makers?   Good examples at the link.

Carnegie Mellon Tool Automatically Turns Math Into Pictures
By Byron Spice

A tool created by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers allows anyone to render mathematical abstractions as illustrations. The Penrose tool enables diagram-drawing experts to encode their math-into-diagram methods; users simply type in an ordinary mathematical expression, and Penrose produces the drawing. Once the computer learns how the user wants to visualize mathematical objects, it uses the encoded rules to draw several candidate diagrams, which the user can from choose and edit. The researchers created a special programming language for this purpose, which CMU’s Keenan Crane said mathematicians should have no trouble learning. Said Crane, "Our vision is to be able to dust off an old math textbook from the library, drop it into the computer, and get a beautifully illustrated book—that way, more people understand."  .. '

Wal-Mart Vs Amazon with Premium Subscription Services

Not too surprising, but closely follow the effectiveness of the execution used.  I like the emergence of competition here.

Walmart Spent Years on a Secret Plan to Attack Amazon. The War Is About to Begin    By Bill Murphy Jr   

Excerpt from Inc:

" ... Later this month, Walmart will launch "Walmart+," a subscription service that includes things like same-day delivery of both groceries and general products, Walmart gasoline discounts, and product deals.

Walmart has yet to make an official announcement, but Recode broke the story citing multiple sources. Here's the tale of the tape:

Walmart plans a $98-a-year price point, against Amazon's $119 basic annual fee. Walmart also has roughly 4,700 U.S. stores and a total of 2.2 million employees, including 1.5 million in the United States. 

But Amazon has a market cap of $1.5 trillion, versus Walmart's $359 billion, and a 15-year head start over Walmart in terms of a subscription delivery membership. ... " 

Marc Pritchard Says Consumer Expectations Are Greater Than Ever

in AdWeek   A former colleague of mine discusses consumer expectations of business,

Marc Pritchard Says Consumer Expectations Are Greater Than Ever
In his first keynote since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the P&G CBO said that the 'role of business in society has been forever disrupted.'  ... ' 

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Conifer: Revisiting Web Pages

Brought to my attention again, how effective is this to use?    Will be testing.

Conifer:  Collect and revisit web pages.
Conifer is a web archiving service that creates an interactive copy of any web page that you browse, including content revealed by your interactions such as playing video and audio, scrolling, clicking buttons, and so forth. ... 

Free accounts with 5GB of storage. Get more and support this project by becoming a supporter.

Conifer is an online service based on Webrecorder software.  ... "

Drones of all Types in the Smart City

Good general piece on the topic.  Inevitable.  Their form, security, management and capabilities are still to be worked out in sufficient detail.   Also the further specification of how autonomous these systems should be.

How drones and aerial vehicles could change cities   by Paul Cureton, The Conversation in TechxPlore

Drones, personal flying vehicles and air taxis may be part of our everyday life in the very near future. Drones and air taxis will create new means of mobility and transport routes. Drones will be used for surveillance, delivery and in the construction sector as it moves towards automation.

The introduction of these aerial craft into cities will require the built environment to change dramatically. Drones and other new aerial vehicles will require landing pads, charging points, and drone ports. They could usher in new styles of building, and lead to more sustainable design.

My research explores the impact of aerial vehicles on urban design, mapping out possible future trajectories.

Already, civilian drones can vary widely in size and complexity. They can carry a range of items from high resolution cameras, delivery mechanisms and thermal image technology to speakers and scanners. In the public sector, drones are used in disaster response and by the fire service to tackle fires which could endanger firefighters.

During the coronavirus pandemic, drones have been used by the police to enforce lockdown. Drones normally used in agriculture have sprayed disinfectant over cities. In the UK, drone delivery trials are taking place to carry medical items to the Isle of Wight.

Alongside drones, our future cities could also be populated by vertical takeoff and landing craft (VTOL), used as private vehicles and air taxis.  ... " 

AWS CodeGuru Available

Had not seen this yet, worth a close look.    When we coded we had experts review its quality along a number of metrics.  Automating this process should ensure better code.   Addressing both critical bugs and efficiency. See also below the link to the Amazon Announcement.

AWS Announces General Availability of Amazon CodeGuru  by  Steef-Jan Wiggers in Infoq

Recently, AWS announced the general availability of Amazon CodeGuru, a developer tool powered by machine learning. It provides intelligent recommendations for improving code quality and identifying an application's most expensive lines of code. 

Amazon CodeGuru was available in preview at re:Invent 2019 as a managed service that uses machine learning to recommend code quality and performance improvements. According to the blog post on CodeGuru by Danilo Poccia, chief evangelist (EMEA) at Amazon Web Services, a few updates have been made on the service:

Many improvements have been launched, including a more cost-effective pricing model, support for Bitbucket repositories, and the ability to start the profiling agent using a command-line switch, so that you no longer need to modify the code of your application or add dependencies, to run the agent.

Amazon CodeGuru consists of two components – Amazon CodeGuru Profiler and Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer. The Profiler helps developers find an application’s most expensive lines of code along with specific visualizations and recommendations on how to improve code to save money. Furthermore, the Reviewer helps enhance the quality of code by scanning for critical issues, identifying bugs, and recommending how to remediate them.  ... "

Get Started with the Alexa Skills Kit

Another introduction to how skills work in Alexa.

Get Started with the Alexa Skills Kit

Learn how Alexa skills work and how you can build one using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Check out the different types of skills you can build, and explore the self-service APIs and tools that make it easy to get started. Get inspired by the delightful experiences others have built, then start bringing your own vision to life.  ... 

How an Alexa Skill Works    |    Explore ASK Features    |    Next Steps    |    Get Inspired

How an Alexa Skill Works
An Alexa skill has both an interaction model—or voice user interface—and application logic. When a customer speaks, Alexa processes the speech in the context of your interaction model to determine the customer request. Alexa then sends the request to your skill application logic, which acts on it. You provide your application logic as a back-end cloud service hosted by Alexa, AWS, or another server.   ... "

Overview of Federated Learning for Privacy Critical Learning

A look at federated learning  (Via O'Reilly).  Intro useful for anyone, then technical.

Federated learning enables machine learning in privacy-critical applications like medical imaging. This article in Nature Machine Intelligence gives an “overview of current and next-generation methods for federated, secure and privacy-preserving artificial intelligence with a focus on medical imaging applications, alongside potential attack vectors and future prospects in medical imaging and beyond.”

Secure, privacy-preserving and federated machine learning in medical imaging
Georgios A. Kaissis, Marcus R. Makowski, Daniel Rückert & Rickmer F. Braren  Nature Machine Intelligence volume 2, pages 305–311(2020) 

The broad application of artificial intelligence techniques in medicine is currently hindered by limited dataset availability for algorithm training and validation, due to the absence of standardized electronic medical records, and strict legal and ethical requirements to protect patient privacy. In medical imaging, harmonized data exchange formats such as Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine and electronic data storage are the standard, partially addressing the first issue, but the requirements for privacy preservation are equally strict. To prevent patient privacy compromise while promoting scientific research on large datasets that aims to improve patient care, the implementation of technical solutions to simultaneously address the demands for data protection and utilization is mandatory. Here we present an overview of current and next-generation methods for federated, secure and privacy-preserving artificial intelligence with a focus on medical imaging applications, alongside potential attack vectors and future prospects in medical imaging and beyond .... "

Monday, July 06, 2020

Challenge and Workshop for Open Domain Question Answering

Answer questions based on open domain Knowledge.  Good general statement of the most important part of useful AI.   Details at the link.

Presenting a Challenge and Workshop in Efficient Open-Domain Question Answering 
Posted by Eunsol Choi, Visiting Faculty Researcher and Tom Kwiatkowski, Research Scientist, in Google Research Blog 

One of the primary goals of natural language processing is to build systems that can answer a user's questions. To do this, computers need to be able to understand questions, represent world knowledge, and reason their way to answers. Traditionally, answers have been retrieved from a collection of documents or a knowledge graph. For example, to answer the question, “When was the declaration of independence officially signed?” a system might first find the most relevant article from Wikipedia, and then locate a sentence containing the answer, “August 2, 1776”. However, more recent approaches, like T5, have also shown that neural models, trained on large amounts of web-text, can also answer questions directly, without retrieving documents or facts from a knowledge graph. This has led to significant debate about how knowledge should be stored for use by our question answering systems — in human readable text and structured formats, or in the learned parameters of a neural network.

Today, we are proud to announce the EfficientQA competition and workshop at NeurIPS 2020, organized in cooperation with Princeton University and the University of Washington. The goal is to develop an end-to-end question answering system that contains all of the knowledge required to answer open-domain questions. There are no constraints on how the knowledge is stored — it could be in documents, databases, the parameters of a neural network, or any other form — but entries will be evaluated based on the number of bytes used to access this knowledge, including code, corpora, and model parameters. There will also be an unconstrained track, in which the goal is to achieve the best possible question answering performance regardless of system size. To build small, yet robust systems, participants will have to explore new methods of knowledge representation and reasoning. ... " 

VR System to Turn Smells into Temperatures

Here is quite an interesting play,  hacking your nose to get a temperature experience?  Skiing VR  experiences?  Thinking about the reality of this.    Temperature sensations .... how about others?

VR System Hacks Your Nose to Turn Smells Into Temperatures
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
June 26, 2020

University of Chicago (UChicago) researchers have developed a power-efficient technique for generating different temperature sensations in virtual reality (VR) by essentially hacking the user's nose. The system disperses atomized chemicals to access the trigeminal nerve in the nose in order to replicate hot and cold sensations through odors. The device can produce discrete levels of hot and cold, and vary their intensity by tuning the frequency of the chemical dispersal. UChicago's Jas Brooks said, "Ultimately, any kind of new modalities for VR/AR (augmented reality) will only succeed if they are feasible in a mobile/untethered context. If we want to have thermal experiences that are portable, the device needs to be power-efficient."

Microphone Signature Tracking of Covid Exposure

Interesting approach,  with approval of the phone owner I assume, they could the release of such 'random tokens', and another phone within some radius, would pick it up.  Producing a map trace of exposure.  To be analyzed on a secure, trusted database.  Assuming that a significant number of people would approve.

Using Your Phone's Microphone to Track Possible Covid-19 Exposure
Ohio State News
Laura Arenschield
June 30, 2020

Researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) have proposed a Covid-19 tracking system that would rely on signals sent and received from cellphone microphones and speakers. The system would generate random, anonymous IDs for each phone and automatically send ultrasonic signals between the microphones and speakers of phones within a certain radius. A person who has tested positive for Covid-19 would update their anonymous IDs and the timestamp when the IDs were generated in the past two weeks to a central database managed by a trusted health care authority. The data would be used for contact tracing. Said OSU's Dong Xuan, "The phone will periodically generate some kind of sound token and send that token to nearby phones—and the key advantage over other technologies is that the ultrasound could have limited range and will not penetrate obstacles such as walls."... ' 

Cognixion: Unlocking Speech

Was reminded today of Cognixion,  formerly Smartstones,  and founder Andreas Forsland, which I have a connection with.  Their site features a system called: Speakprose :    " Giving Voice  Speakprose empowers people with communication challenges to achieve an independent life and truly engage with the world.  ... "   You can try it from the link, about to.

They further write about Cognixion,

AI-Powered People
Cognixion is a team of visionary technologists, researchers and designers focused on creating products that accelerate and enrich human communication and physical capabilities. .... 

Our Mission Matters
Cognixion is a mission-driven company, aiming to unlock speech for hundreds of millions of people worldwide affected by communication disabilities. By providing affordable and accessible technologies that are powered by AI (artificial intelligence), the world will look and feel very different in the next decade. We will be interacting with far more AI-Powered People at school, at work and on the go. Imagine a world where there are thousands of creators, scientists, artists, engineers, change-makers and philosophers just like Stephen Hawking, contributing to society now that they have a voice.

Areas of Focus
We build upon and create sound science, cutting-edge technologies and natural interfaces for accessing the world in new ways.

Our wireless BCI (brain computer interface) technology optimizes the signals from each user's unique brain and can be fitted to any head shape. By reading brain signals alone, our BCI solution detects attention toward an object that represents the intended speech.

Our advanced machine learning algorithms adapt to the nuances in how users interact with our technology. With each use, our technology gets smarter and more efficient at recognizing, and even predicting what the user intends to communicate.

We enable users to simultaneously interact with their physical environment and the overlaid digital world. As they select an object in AR to indicate their intended speech, we personalize communication options according to the user's current context and adapt the AR system based on changing environments.

We create solutions based on behavioral and brain science to support learning and operation. Our structured digital environments are motivating, easy to use, and quickly develop new capabilities.

We build on whatever abilities are available – hearing, touch, gesture, movement, or even simply attention to the environment – as we design interfaces to enable nonverbal individuals communicate their intentions.

We improve quality of life and create economic impact. Easier access to communication for the nonverbal individual means reductions in frustration, isolation, and costly behavioral interventions. Their newfound independence and social inclusion leads to new opportunities to close the equity gap. ... " 

McDonald's Adapts Menus to Consumers

Been observing McDonald's operational marketing for some years, after making a short analysis of their data and how it interacted with how they did in-store, real-time marketing.   Noted that Dynamic Yield was acquired by McDonald's last year.

McDonald's Just Made a Truly Stunning Change to Its Menu. (There's Only 1 Little Problem)Is this going to be an issue?    By Bill Murphy Jr. in Inc.

A few months ago, McDonald's spent $300 million to make its biggest acquisition in years, a tech company called Dynamic Yield.  

Company executives described its "personalization and decision logic technology" as a key part of their vision for the McDonald's of tomorrow.

So far, so good. The technology is about offering customers exactly the food items McDonald's wants to push at any given moment, literally changing the menu in real time from one customer to the next.

Except that as The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, some customers at McDonald's and elsewhere say they're bothered by the kinds of digital menus that come with the technology: too many choices, and not enough time to read and absorb them.

One former McDonald's manager said that before he left McDonald's last November, "one of the most common complaints was that the menu was confusing because these big sweeping animations would show up over the menu advertising new sandwiches."  .... ' 

Sweat Powering Wearables

Have heard this being proposed from time to time over the years,  but it never happened.   The power involved was always too low and the electricity too cheap.     Good to know it is still possible for particular on-demand applications.  Some intriguing details here.

Why Sweat Will Power Your Next Wearable
Biofuel cells can generate enough watts for fitness trackers and health monitors  By Patrick Mercier and Joseph Wang in IEEE Spectrum

Admit it—you love your smart watch and all the amazing things you can do with it. But the task of keeping it charged can be annoying. A longer battery life would be great—but with batteries, the amount of energy stored correlates with volume, and bigger batteries add bulk and weight. All wearables, including fitness trackers, audio-enhancing hearables that go in your ear, and augmented-reality contact lenses, have a similar power problem. And today’s batteries are too bulky and stiff for use in wearables that are woven into textiles or directly mounted on a user’s skin.

The power demands for these kinds of devices range from 1 milliwatt for a basic step counter to tens of milliwatts for more advanced smart watches. When using small, centimeter-size batteries, which have capacities on the order of 10 to 300 milliampere hours, this results in battery lifetimes of only a few days at most.

Some researchers are tackling the wearable power challenge by developing new types of stretchable batteries and supercapacitors. However, it’s hard to produce such batteries using screen printing, a process that dramatically lowers costs. Other developers are trying to bypass batteries altogether by using Near Field Communication chipsets for wireless power transmission. But NFC technology requires you to have an external power source, like a mobile phone, within a few centimeters of the wearable; once you move the phone away, the wearable stops working.  ... "

Voice Mental Health from Microsoft

Mental health likely a more useful direction using voice.

Microsoft Pilots Voice AI-Based Senior Mental Healthcare Program in South Korea  By Eric Hal Schartz on July 1, 2020 at 12:00 pm in Voicebot.ai

Microsoft is running a mental healthcare service program for older people using artificial intelligence, voice assistants, and wearable tech in South Korea. The pilot program aims to use the combination of technologies to improve the mental health of people as they age, as a growing body of evidence suggests they can.

The program is based on Microsoft’s Azure Kinect, essentially a sensor kit connected to artificial intelligence. Kinect combines a high-end camera and microphone with other sensors to detect human movement. That information will be combined with data from smartwatches and other wearable tech and analyzed by the AI. Smart speakers will allow participants to interact directly with the AI by voice or by typing on a keyboard, and the voice assistant will offer advice on how to manage and improve mental health. The ultimate goal is to use the information collected to build a better system of care for older people.  ... " 

Something Missing in Remote Work?

Nice view of the very nature of remote work.  What is essential, what is a waste of time?

Remote Work is Surprisingly Productive, But For Many… Something Is Missing in Wladawsky-Bergers Blog

What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?, asks science and technology journalist Clive Thompson in the title of his June 9 NY Times Magazine article.  “The coronavirus crisis is forcing white-collar America to reconsider nearly every aspect of office life.  Some practices now seem to be wastes of time, happily discarded; others seem to be unexpectedly crucial, and impossible to replicate online.  For workers wondering right now if they’re ever going back to the office, the most honest answer is this: Even if they do, the office might never be the same.”

A recent survey found that of the 56% of respondents employed pre-Covid-19, half were working from home, - 35% having recently switched to working from home, while another 15% were already doing so pre-Covid; 37% continued to commute to work, and 10% had been recently laid-off or furloughed.  The survey was  based on two separate national samples of US data, - one which gathered 25,000 responses in early April, and the second another 25,000 responses in early May.

Thompson’s article cites the experience of Accenture, which has around 500,000 employees in more than 200 cities in 120 countries.  Before the pandemic, no more than 10% worked remotely on any given day.  But, by the middle of March, nearly all were asked to work from home.  Employees adapted quickly, said Accenture’s CTO.  The volume of video calls went up by a factor of six while those of audio calls tripled.  Despite having to switch from face-to-face to audio and video interactions, overall productivity actually went up as measured by several metrics.    ... "

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Advance of Automated Trucking

Looked at this topic last year, it continues to advance.

Are automated freight trucks ready to carry retail’s heavy load?  in Retailwire  by George Anderson

TuSimple, an automated trucking technology company, announced the launch of what it is calling the world’s first Autonomous Freight Network (AFN), which will enable fleets of driverless trucks using digitally mapped routes to load and unload full truckloads of products at terminals strategically placed throughout the country.

UPS, McLane, Penske Truck Leasing and U.S. Xpress have all signed up to be part of the network, which will roll out in three phases.

By next year, the network will offer service between cities including Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Tucson. TuSimple currently operates seven different autonomous trucking routes between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso and Dallas. Each truck has a human operator on board in case they are needed to take over for some reason. The company plans to open a new shipping terminal in Dallas during the fall.  .... " 

Safety and Leadership in a Time of Change

Good overview of current and future considerations.

Psychological safety, emotional intelligence, and leadership in a time of flux

Two renowned scholars and two McKinsey experts illuminate the leadership imperatives of our time: bringing people together, energizing forward progress, and reimagining normalcy. ... ' 

Via McKinsey Insights

Covid Changing the Way we Eat?

Implications for food related industries.

How COVID-19 has changed the way we eat, according to five experts
Top executives from General Mills, Impossible Foods, Land O’Lakes, and more talk about how the pandemic has changed our relationship to food. 
  By Asmin Gagne and Ainsley Harris  in FastCompany

For Fast Company’s Shape of Tomorrow series, we’re asking business leaders to share their inside perspective on how the COVID-19 era is transforming their industries. Here’s what’s been lost—and what could be gained—in the new world order.  ... " 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Drone Deployed Sterile Mosquitoes

My son Steve is an expert at drone deployment and photography,  Need any help in that domain, let me know and I will introduce you.

Drone-Deployed Sterile Mosquitoes Could Check Spread of Insect-Borne Illnesses
in TechCrunch
By Devin Coldewey

French, Swiss, British, Brazilian, Senegalese and other researchers created a technique involving the drone deployment of sterile mosquitoes to more quickly control mosquito populations and reduce insect-borne disease. The team released sterile male mosquitoes into the wild, which compete with other males for food and mates while producing no offspring. The mosquitoes are grown in bulk, sterilized by radiation, and packed into cartridges at low temperatures, which prevent them from flying and biting. They are brought to a target site and loaded onto a drone, which then ascends to a set altitude and releases thousands of the insects over the target area. This method of dispersal can cover large difficult-to-navigate areas more quickly than manual techniques. ... "

NBA Uses Smart Tech Wearables

Expect continued use of wearable sensors.    Here another example.   Brings to mind the question of who owns the captured and derived data.   Similar agreements to what is currently done with the results of doctor's exams?

Inside the NBA's Plan to Use Smart Technology, Big Data to Keep Players Safe From Coronavirus
Jessica Golden
June 17, 2020

The NBA plans to use smart technologies to protect players and staff from the coronavirus as 22 teams prepare to play games at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. In addition to subjecting players to extensive testing, quarantining them from their families, and imposing strict rules for social behavior, each will be given a "smart" ring, a Disney MagicBand, an individual pulse oximeter, and a smart thermometer. Oura's titanium rings can measure body temperature, respiratory functions, and heart rate and predict Covid-19 symptoms up to three days in advance with 90% accuracy. The MagicBand will act as a hotel room key, allow players to check in at security checkpoints and coronavirus screenings, and help with contact tracing. The league also is considering a small device that will set off an audio alert when the wearer is within six feet of another person for longer than five seconds.  ... " 

Friday, July 03, 2020


I often follow university and lab work of interest that matches my long problem solving experience.  Sometimes I mention it for my own future purposes, or if I know someone else could find it useful.  We had many  people visit our innovation centers.  and I said the blog would be a place to follow new advances.   I do not get paid to place particular posts here,   but always glad to use or discuss the ideas involved. 

Manufacturing Cost Predictor

Overall a good idea, especially if a process model of existing manufacturing systems are maintained and this can be used to price out changes.

Manufacturing Cost Prediction

Purdue University News
Chris Adam
May 26, 2020

Researchers at Purdue University and the Indiana Next Generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC) have developed software that can help manufacturers better predict and adjust their costs. The software tool provides a drag-and-drop palette of process steps that allow the user to change the manufacturing process line with different configurations, such as equipment, robots, and employees. Users can see how each change affects the final cost of the product, as each process step is characterized by cost parameters that can be adjusted to study the effects on overall manufacturing costs. Said IN-MaC's Ben Haley, "This software helps manufacturers strategically plan their operations and then evaluate changes, all within the scope of understanding how everything affects the total cost."   .... '

Measuring Network Effects

Had mentioned this once before, the topic has come up again, so I repeat it again.  Good overview.  The 16 ways are specified at the link.

Andreessen Horowitz
16 Ways to Measure Network Effects
by Li Jin and D'Arcy Coolican

Network effects are one of the most important dynamics in software and marketplace businesses. But they’re often spoken of in a binary way: either you have them, or you don’t. In practice, most companies’ network effects are much more complex, falling along a spectrum of different types and strengths. They’re also dynamic and evolve as product, users, and competition changes.

For founders, it’s important to understand the nature of your company’s network effects — including deciding on the set of metrics that help you understand what’s working or not. So, building on our previous metrics lists (here and here), we’ve compiled a list dedicated to measuring and teasing apart network effects in particular. We share them below, divided into 5 main categories to measure network effects: acquisition, competitors, engagement, marketplace, and economics-related metrics.

Every single network effect business is different depending on the particular product, audience, and environment, so there’s no-one-size-fits-all list of measures. In general, however, for two-sided marketplaces matching supply and demand, pay special attention to the marketplace and unit economics sections; for social networks (including workplace ones), what matters most is engagement and activity. In the end though, it all comes down to the very definition of network effects: whether your product becomes more valuable as more people use it. Because only then can you go about creating and growing that value for users, and for your business.  ... " 

IBM Launches Watson Works

Addressing return to work challenges

IBM launches Watson Works to address the challenges of returning to the workplace
Provides data-driven insights to help employers make informed decisions on workplace re-entry and safety
ARMONK, N.Y., June 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced Watson Works, a curated set of products that embeds Watson artificial intelligence (AI) models and applications to help companies navigate many aspects of the return-to-workplace challenge following lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Returning people to the workplace during the continuing global pandemic demands new approaches to promote the health, safety and productivity of workers in a privacy-preserving way. Watson Works provides data-driven insights to help employers make informed decisions on workplace re-entry, facilities management, space allocation and other COVID-related priorities.

"We've designed Watson Works to help businesses navigate the workplace with the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as effectively as possible," said Bob Lord, Senior Vice President, Cognitive Applications, Blockchain and Ecosystems, IBM. "Applying AI models and applications is especially useful in this context, where there are so many different sources of information businesses must consider, and every aspect of the situation is in flux."

Watson Works is designed to help companies with these elements of returning to the workplace as they respond to COVID-19 related challenges:  ... " 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Towards a Software Defined Power Grid

Definition and value of a software defined power grid.

The Software-Defined Power Grid Is Here in IEEE Spectrum
It’s time to move away from our antiquated, hardware-dependent power grid to a modern, digital software-based grid
By Patrick T. Lee

My colleagues and I have been spending a lot of time on a project in Onslow, a remote coastal town of 850 in Western Australia, where a wealth of solar, wind power, and battery storage has come on line to complement the region’s traditional forms of power generation. We’re making sure that all of these distributed energy resources work as a balanced and coordinated system. The team has traveled more than 15,000 kilometers from our company headquarters in San Diego, and everyone is excited to help the people of Onslow and Western Australia’s electric utility Horizon Power.

Like other rural utilities around the world, Horizon faces an enormous challenge in providing reliable electricity to hundreds of small communities scattered across a wide area. Actually, calling this a “wide area” is a serious understatement: Horizon’s territory covers some 2.3million square kilometers—about one and a half times the size of Alaska. You can’t easily traverse all that territory with high-tension power lines and substations, so local power generation is key. And as the country tries to shrink its carbon footprint, Horizon is working with its customers to decrease their reliance on nonrenewable energy. The incentives for deploying renewables such as photovoltaics and wind turbines are compelling.  ... " 

Activ Surgical Joins with Qualcomm Smart Cities

Intriguing connection for healthcare in the smart city.

Activ Surgical Joins Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program
Participation to include a collaboration with Innominds to develop next generation surgical sensing capabilities that will reduce preventable surgical errors and complications across the U.S. and globally ... 

BOSTON, June 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Activ Surgical, a digital surgery pioneer, today announced that it has joined the Qualcomm® Smart Cities Accelerator Program and is collaborating with Innominds on the development of next generation surgical sensing capabilities that will usher in a new era of visibility and insights for surgeons around the world. As part of the Qualcomm® Advantage Network, the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program is designed to connect cities, municipalities.... '

Thoughts on AI in the Future of Work

How much and in what context will the human touch be most important? Ultimately an important aspect.  Seeing some testing of that now.

Does the Human Touch + AI = The Future of Work?
By Bryan Becker  In Datanami

Artificial intelligence has long caused fear of job loss across many sectors as companies look for ways to cut costs, support workers and become more profitable.  But new research suggests that even in STEM-based sectors like cybersecurity, AI simply can’t replace some traits found only in humans, such as creativity, intuition and experience.

There’s no doubt, AI certainly has its place.  And most business leaders agree that AI is important to the future success of their company. A recent survey found CEOs believe the benefits of AI include creating better efficiencies (62 percent), helping businesses remain competitive (62 percent), and allowing organizations to gain a better understanding of their customers, according to Ernst and Young.

And AI is already having a real impact across many industries including healthcare, financial services, retail, automotive, and critical infrastructure. According to a recent report by KPMG, AI improves access to medical care in healthcare, detects fraud in financial institutions, mitigates customer service issues in retail and improves traffic management systems in transportation.  .... "

Google Does Smart Home Virtual Summit

Does this mean more emphasis on 'Smart Home' from Google?   Will like to hear about their plans for ecosystem for the home. Hope to attend virtually.

Google I/O Replaced with “Hey Google” Smart Home Virtual Summit
By Eric Hal Schwartz
Google is replacing its annual conferences with a virtual presentation that will stream live on July 8. The “Hey Google” Smart Home Virtual Summit will provide Google Assistant developers a look at recent and upcoming changes in the voice assistant’s abilities related to smart homes.

The virtual summit is Google’s response to canceling its usual events due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Google’s I/O, Global Developer Summits, and EMEA Smart Home Summit have all been removed from this year’s calendar. The July 8 event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern but is set to stream at different times in different regions of the globe.

“Over the past year, we’ve been focused on building new tools and features to support our smart home developer community,” Google said in its announcement. “Join us for a discussion with some of the biggest names in smart home and hear their view on the impact of Covid-19 on their business, and a glimpse at the Smart Home industry in general.”

The virtual conference will be relatively brief compared to the multi-day extravaganzas of the standard tech conferences. The conference will begin with a keynote speech by Michele Turner, the product management director for Google’s Smart Home Ecosystem. She will discuss some of Google’s ongoing smart home projects and new products, specifically with how developers can leverage those new features and better apply their ideas to Google Assistant. She will be followed by a panel discussion led by Vera Tzoneva, Google’s head of assistant distribution partnerships. ... " 

Harnessing Graphs in a New Business Climate

Of interest, upcoming:

Tuesday, July 14    8:00 a.m. PT | 11:00 a.m. ET

Harnessing Graphs in a New Business Climate

Hi Franz,
As economies continue to reopen across much of Europe and North America, many organizations turn to graph technology to help rapidly reconfigure and reset operations.

Graphs are perfectly suited for handling connected data, like tracing connections through complex networks. Graphs can also identify complex relationships faster than human-only efforts by combining multiple isolated datasets and identifying missing data points.

Join us for this panel discussion with key Neo4j partners who are using graph technology to help organizations balance efficiency and innovation in today’s challenging times.


Dr. Alessandro Negro, Chief Scientist, GraphAware
Demian Bellumio, Global Vice President of Augmented Intelligence, NEORIS
Weidong Yang, CEO, Kineviz
Axel Morgner, Founder and Managing Director, Structr
Martin Preusse, Founder at Kaiser & Preusse
Lance Walter, CMO, Neo4j


Hope to see you there,     Lance Walter    Neo4j

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Cough Detection for IOT

Fascinating little application for real-time IOT, potentially as an inexpensive detector on a mobile phone.  Quite considerable and instructive detail at the link.

Cough Detection with TinyML on Arduino  in IOTCentral 
Posted by Zach Shelby on June 26, 2020 at 2:30am in Programming, Devices, and Data AI

There is a huge need for inexpensive, easily deployable solutions for COVID-19 and other flu related early detection. Together with the UN, Hackster, Edge Impulse and many others we recently launched the UN Covid Detect & Protect Challenge aiming to create easily deployable solutions for the prevention and detection of flu in developing countries. In this tutorial we show how to use Edge Impulse machine learning on an Arduino Nano BLE Sense to detect the presence of coughing in real-time audio. We built a dataset of coughing and background noise samples, and applied a highly optimized TInyML model, to build a cough detection system that runs in real time in under 20 kB of RAM on the Nano BLE Sense. This same approach applies to many other embedded audio pattern matching applications, for example elderly care, safety and machine monitoring. This project and dataset was originally started by Kartik Thakore to help in the COVID-19 effort.  ... " 

See also https://www.tinyml.org/home/index.html

Google and SmartReply in YouTube

Been following the use of replies on YouTube, which are very good overall, here a new extension.  More from the Google AI blog.  This has some interesting implications for the support of conversational interaction. Conversation with a goal can be seen as a series of questions and answers.

Google brings its AI-powered SmartReply to YouTube   By Kyle Wiggers

Google today brought SmartReply, its AI technology that suggests responses to messages, to YouTube. From within YouTube Studio, creators can now use SmartReply to respond to users who comment on their videos in English and Spanish. SmartReply will only make suggestions when it’s “likely to be useful,” Google says.

“[SmartReply for YouTube] helps creators engage more easily with their viewers,” Google Research scientist Rami Al-Rfou wrote in a blog post. “This model learns comment and reply representation through a computationally efficient [AI model], and represents the first cross-lingual and character byte-based SmartReply.”  ....  '

Book: Data Preparation for Machine Learning

Just saw this announcement from Jason Brownlee. Have read some of his previous works, nicely done.   This intro starts where it should, at data preparation and understanding.   Much more,  including examples at the link.

Data Preparation for Machine Learning
Data Cleaning, Feature Selection, and Data Transforms in Python
Data Preparation for Machine Learning
By Jason Brownlee
$37 USD

Data preparation involves transforming raw data in to a form that can be modeled using machine learning algorithms.

Cut through the equations, Greek letters, and confusion, and discover the specialized data preparation techniques that you need to know to get the most out of your data on your next project.

Using clear explanations, standard Python libraries, and step-by-step tutorial lessons, you will discover how to confidently and effectively prepare your data for predictive modeling with machine learning.

About this Ebook:

Read on all devices: English PDF format EBook, no DRM.
Tons of tutorials: 30 step-by-step lessons, 398 pages.
Foundations: intuitions feature selection, scaling, more.
Working code: 168 Python (.py) code files included.
Clear, Complete End-to-End Examples.
Click to jump straight to the packages.  ... " 

Necklace Reminds You not to Touch Your Face

Clever idea, in a long ago virus example we looked at, we estimated that approximately 75% of transfer opportunities were initiated by face touches. 

NASA Necklace Fights Coronavirus by Reminding You Not to Touch Your Face
By Alexandra Garrett

Researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a three-dimensionally (3D)-printed necklace containing a proximity sensor that vibrates when wearers are about to touch their face. Developed in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the vibrations emitted by the Pulse pendant get stronger as the wearer's hand comes closer to their face. NASA said the necklace is affordable and easy to make. Assembly instructions and a list of parts required to assemble the pendant are open source and free for public use.

Math Aware Search

Interesting  idea, and in some cases could be useful.  Perhaps search for similar math stated algorithms as starting points for analysis?

RIT Researchers Create Easy-to-Use Math-Aware Search Interface
Rochester Institute of Technology
By Scott Bureau
June 23, 2020

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researchers have developed MathDeck, an online search interface that allows anyone to easily create, edit, or look up complex mathematical formulas. MathDeck users can enter and edit formulas in multiple ways using the scientific markup language LaTeX, including handwriting, uploading a typeset formula image, and text input. The math-aware interface can identify formula images and hand-drawn symbols via image processing and machine learning. MathDeck also features an auto-complete function for formulas and keywords; users looking for a popular symbol or formula will likely find an entity card displaying the formula, the name of its associated concept, and a brief description. MathDeck is a component of the multi-institutional MathSeer project, which RIT's Richard Zanibbi said aims "to produce new technologies to provide 'math search for the masses.'"   ... '

Reduced Attack Surfaces

Quite a term: ... Attack Surfaces ... so government .... but a real issue now.   A former connection, 'Recorded Future' does a good job of talking it in the article pointed to below:

Reducing the Remote Education Attack Surface With Security Intelligence

This year, stay-at-home mandates issued by U.S. states and countries across the world for K-12 schools and higher-ed institutions created major challenges for educators, students, and families. Moving the entire education process online also opened a Pandora’s Box for security teams at education institutions.

This shift dramatically expands the attack surface for threat actors to go after — with ed-tech platforms, e-learning environments, video conferencing, email accounts, and websites managed by schools all presenting appealing targets. The amount of time students, teachers, and administrators spend connected to these environments will continue to be high in the coming months.  ... " 

Robot Adoption in a New Retail World

Was pointed out to me this was posted and updated:

Robot Adoption Trends in a New Retail World

The Retail Analytics Council (RAC) recently hosted a roundtable discussion regarding the state of robot adoption trends in this new retail world. 

Eight panelists were asked to respond to a series of questions. Generally, the questions probed the participants’ thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of robot adoption.

Read the roundtable transcript: Robot Adoption Trends in a New Retail World.

Panelists included:

Christopher Blum, Mechanical Engineer, Kroger Technology
Chris Daniels, Technology Engineer, Kroger Technology
Dr. Don High, Former Chief Scientist, Walmart
Gerry Hough, Senior Expert, Store Innovation, McKinsey & Company
Dr. Todd Murphey, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Wesley Rhodes, VP, R&D and Technology Transformation, Kroger
Dr. Adam Rigby, Senior R&D Scientist, Kroger Technology
Dan Whitacre, Senior Director, R&D and Technology Transformation, Kroger
Steven Keith Platt, Research Director, RAC and Adjunct Professor, Northwestern University and moderator of this roundtable discussion ... "

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

On Contact Tracing Apps

Intriguing piece I have only scanned so far.  What got me most interested is that the tracing aspect included a considerable human element, at least if you were not willing to do lots of sharing of location information that could well be seen as very privacy invasive, her a considerable, non-technical look at the challenge.   

Everything You Have Read About Contact Tracing Apps Is Wrong  in Knowledge@Wharton

Technology sounds like an attractive solution to contact tracing, but apps are at best a minor supplement to a large effort. In this opinion piece, Lyle Ungar writes that “we should be taking best practices from call centers, where human callers are supported by chatbots and information systems, supplemented with privacy-respecting apps on people’s phones that allow them to share information more easily and accurately. In the end, contact tracing is not an app, but a combined effort between technology, human tracers, and the general population.” Ungar is a machine learning researcher and professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Contact tracing is key to reopening society. Best estimates put widespread vaccination in the U.S. more than two years in the future, and we can’t safely resume public life until we can identify who has been exposed to COVID-19, test them for the disease, and isolate them if they are sick. The U.S. has far too few human contact tracers, with states planning to hire only a tiny fraction of the estimated 180,000 contract tracers needed. Contract tracing apps have been proposed as one way to mitigate this problem. People are worried about their privacy; they should be even more worried about whether the apps will help. Even expert articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), underestimate the challenges.

Most of the discussion of contact tracing focuses on exposure notification apps (i.e., TraceTogether, PwC), which use Bluetooth signals to identify individuals who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. The most widely supported protocols (by Google and Apple) respect privacy; they broadcast and receive random numbers from your phone, but don’t reveal your name or phone numbers. Google and Apple do not allow the apps to share geolocation or other private information. Such apps are only effective in relatively tight communities, such as universities, where high adoption rates can be achieved. In a general community, where adoption is voluntary, adoption rates are vastly lower (the highest adoption rates are 32% in Australia and 38% in Iceland) and so the apps are virtually useless.  ... "

Seeing Around the Corner

The general idea has been brought up a number of times.  Bouncing radar and cooperative systems can get more data, and if we interpret it to detect dangers, we can react.   Even to things around the corner. Back to the better sensors and smarter reactions to get better results.   As suggested much work to do to get all the data and reactions  in place

Radar Allows Cars to Spot Hazards Around Corners
Princeton University
John Sullivan
June 25, 2020

Researchers at Princeton University, Germany's Ulm University and University of Kassel, Mercedes-Benz, and Canadian software firm Algolux have developed an automated radar system that will enable cars to look around corners and spot oncoming hazards. The system employs Doppler radar to bounce radio waves off surfaces at an angle to detect occluded objects and determine if they are moving or stationary. Radar's spatial resolution is relatively low, but the researchers think they could design algorithms to read the data to allow the sensors to operate. The team used artificial intelligence techniques to refine processing and interpret the images, focusing on background noise rather than usable information to distinguish objects. Princeton’s Felix Heide said, “In terms of integration and bringing it to market, it requires a lot of engineering. But the technology is there, so there is the potential for seeing this very soon in vehicles.”  .. " 

Banning Facial Recognition

What I have been thinking.  Specifically, not generally accountable.   Even if the major players stop doing this, others quickly will.

Bans on Facial Recognition Are Naïve. Hold Law Enforcement Accountable for Its Abuse
by Osonde A. Osoba and Douglas Yeung

June 17, 2020

The use of facial recognition technology has become a new target in the fight against racism and brutality in law enforcement. Last week, IBM announced it was leaving the facial recognition business altogether, and its CEO questioned whether it was an appropriate tool for law enforcement. Within days, Microsoft and Amazon each announced that they would—at least temporarily—prohibit law enforcement agencies from using their facial recognition software. The Justice in Policing Act, also introduced in Congress last week, would specifically ban facial recognition analysis of officers' body camera footage.

Facial recognition technologies—with the assumptions of their developers embedded in their code—often perform poorly at recognizing women, older people, and those with darker skin. There's little question that these flaws exist. But banning facial recognition isn't necessarily the best response. ...

Smart Columbus Connects Everyday Vehicles

Yet another example of using more sensors and connections to build intelligent management of vehicles within large systems.   Just underway.

Pilot Test Begins for Tech to Connect Everyday Vehicles
IEEE Spectrum
Sandy Ong
June 19, 2020

Columbus, OH, will launch a connected-vehicle pilot program in July, with up to 1,800 public and private vehicles fitted with special onboard units and dashboard-mounted head-up displays. These vehicles will be able to receive messages from traffic lights at 113 intersections. The goal of the project is to study the impacts of connectivity on safety and traffic flow. The pilot is part of the Smart Columbus initiative, which was rolled out after the city was awarded $40 million through the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2015 Smart City Challenge. The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute's Debra Bezzina said connected-vehicle technology could save billions a year by preventing as much as 80% of unimpaired car crashes. It also could result in more efficient traffic management and greener commuting.  ... "