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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Supply Chain Best Practices after Crises.

Good overview in APQC regarding management after and during crisis.

Keys to Maintaining Best Practices in Supply Chain After a Crisis

As one-third of 2020 is behind us, what’s next for supply chains? What are the keys to maintaining best practices in supply chains after a crisis? The answers are tied to foundational management practices: sound data management, strong process management, a focus on future-ready skills, and enhanced digitization. In short: an acceleration of trends already underway.

Many organizations are still hip-deep in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, with the impacts and degree of disruption varied by industry and business model. However, strong supply chains are vital to survival during the crisis and thriving after the crisis. While individual organizations may take different routes and while the crisis may exacerbate existing weaknesses in some organizations’ supply chains, the path forward to maintain best practices in the new/next normal/abnormal will have some similarities.

Sound Data Management
The number one enabler to making better data-driven decisions in many organizations is sound data management.

One regional supply chain master data manager APQC interviewed evaluated data quality, governance, and processes in his organization. “It all pointed to a lack of discipline, end-to-end process, and focus on data. Each department’s data responsibility was a small part of someone’s job. Regrettably, how that data impacted others upstream and downstream in the supply chain was not considered, nor was it understood.” His organization then created a supply chain data management program to standardize, align, and improve efficiency and quality in data management. (For more insights, read this APQC case study: Applying Supply Chain Data Management at a Large Healthcare Organization.)

Building a solid data management foundation is critical to enable advanced analytics. In APQC research into supply chain analytics, we found that almost 80 percent of organizations have seen their investment in supply chain analytics increase in the past three years. This is significant because supply chain leaders are turning to advanced analytics to help make business decisions specifically related to supply chain optimization, reducing cost, and improving customer satisfaction—and the insights from the analytics are only as strong as the data upon which they are based.  ... "

Chrome Extension for Browsing Etherium

Unusual application for browser understanding of Etherium blockchain.

Unstoppable Domains Chrome Extension Lets Users Browse Etherium-Based Sites

Unstoppable Domains, a censorship-resistant web developer, has released a Google Chrome extension in its bid to open up web 3.0.

The extension will give users access to .crypto domain names directly from the Chrome browser, currently the most-used web browser. Developed by Unstoppable Domains, .crypto domains are smart contracts on the Ethereum network, meaning to take down a site an attacker would have to take down the overall network.

The new tool closely follows Unstoppable Domains’ eponymous browser launch, unveiled at the ETHDenver conference in late February.  ... "

What Virus crisis Means for Business

Another short thoughtful piece on this topic, with some short 'answers' and links.    Worthwhile to spur possible work  ...

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Businesses
How can organizations and individuals adapt? What Kellogg faculty are saying as the situation unfolds.  By  Kellogg INSIGHT .... ' 

AI in Banking

Useful survey of AI uses in Banking..Notable use of BPM.

Barclays Innovating in use of AI in Banking

Barclays Bank is emerging as an innovator in the use of AI in financial services. The UK bank, ranked 20th on the S&P Global’s list of the top 100 banks, works with suppliers of AI products and services more than it develops AI applications in house, according to a recent account from  emerj.

Here are three AI initiatives underway at Barclays and the industry partners working on each one:

Risk Modeling with Simudyne, employs predictive analytics to assess loan risk
Voice Recognition for Authentication, with Nuance, aims to apply verification and authentication using voice recognition;

Business Process Automation with IBM, a project to automate debit card deactivation, and analyze customer feedback.

New Smart Assistant: Josh.ai

A new offering in the space, has been a while since seeing that.     Is it a time when people will want to invest in bew infrastructure?

Smart Home Voice Assistant Startup Josh.AI Closes $11M Funding Round   By Eric Hal Schwartz

Smart home voice automation startup Josh.ai has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round. The startup bills its platform as a premium, privacy-centered alternative to what Amazon, Google, or Apple offer, with minimal data sent to the cloud.

Josh.ai runs its eponymous voice assistant through its Josh Micro smart speakers. The AI is connected to whatever devices are available, and the entire system can be run by voice or through an iOS app. When the company began operating in 2015, it focused solely on software, with its platform operated through a Mac Mini. After closing an $8 million funding round in 2017, the startup began to work on the hardware side of the equation.

“We set out to be purely in software development, but we realized we were getting stuck as a software company integrating with Echo and others,” Josh.ai CEO Alex Capecelatro told Voicebot in an interview. “Building hardware allowed us to go a lot deeper into privacy. Now, it lets us not go into the cloud for much of anything. Everything runs on the microprocessor.”

The platform can handle any number of smart lighting, environmental controls, security, and entertainment devices, thanks to partnerships with the manufacturers. Capecelatro described Sonos as Josh’s number one integration partner, but pretty much any Internet of Things device can be part of the network. The AI is designed to understand what people want based on context and can run multiple commands from a single request. That’s part of what sets Josh apart from its competitors.

“All of the commands are based on context,” Capecelatro said. “For instance, if you say ‘turn it up,’ it will look at what it might refer to and what you’ve said recently. If a lightbulb is at 50% it will likely make it brighter. We’ve also been stringing mobile commands together for years. Google is only just starting to catch up to that now.” ... " 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Piloting Robots with Muscle Signals

More in free handed control and piloting, here with muscle signals.

Lead author Joseph DelPreto controls a  Muscle Signals Can Pilot a Robot
MIT News
By Rachel Gordon

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.  Laboratory (CSAIL) have invented a system that taps human muscle signals from wearable sensors to pilot a robot. Conduct-A-Bot uses electromyography and motion sensors worn on the user's biceps, triceps, and forearms to quantify muscle signals and movement, and processes that data with algorithms to identify gestures in real time. The researchers used Conduct-A-Bot with a Parrot Bebop 2 drone, translating user actions like rotational gestures, clenched fists, and tensed arms into drone movement. The drone correctly responded to 82% of roughly 1,500 human gestures when remotely piloted to fly through hoops, and correctly identified about 94% of cued gestures when not being piloted.  ... "

US Patent Office Says AI Cannot be an Inventor

Relates to some work underway.

US patent office rules that artificial intelligence cannot be a legal inventor

Only ‘natural persons’ need apply     By Jon Porter@JonPorty in TheVerge

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ruled that artificial intelligence systems cannot be credited as an inventor in a patent, the agency announced earlier this week. The decision came in response to two patents — one for a food container and the other for a flashing light — that were created by an AI system called DABUS.

Among the USPTO’s arguments is the fact that US patent law repeatedly refers to inventors using humanlike terms such as “whoever” and pronouns like “himself” and “herself.” The group behind the applications had argued that the law’s references to an inventor as an “individual” could be applied to a machine, but the USPTO said this interpretation was too broad. “Under current law, only natural persons may be named as an inventor in a patent application,” the agency concluded. .... " 

Artificial Inventor Project: http://artificialinventor.com/patent-applications/
DABUS/Creativity Machinehttp://imagination-engines.com/iei_dabus.php

Facebook Blender Chatbot Does Open Source

Anything that can make a chatbot more conversational, and have the ability to use and update context
continually is good. 

Facebook releases its 'Blender' chatbot as an open-source project
It could help tomorrow's AI converse more naturally with people

Andrew Tarantola, @terrortola in Engadget

The virtual assistants that inhabit our smartphones are helpful, sure, but they’re not going to pass the Turing test any time soon. They’re designed for understanding specific commands and actions like checking on restaurant reservations or getting updates on the weather, rather than, say, carrying on an in-depth conversation with a human. But chatbots could soon become far more loquacious thanks to Facebook, which this morning released a startlingly lifelike chatbot that it’s been developing, dubbed Blender, as an open-source resource for AI research.

Facebook has been pouring money and resources into its Natural Language Processing technologies for a few years now and those efforts appear to have paid off. The company claims that Blender is the single largest open-source chatbot created to date. It’s been trained on a whopping 9.4 billion parameters -- nearly 4x as many as Google’s Meena and more than 10x as many as the previous largest OS chatbot available on the internet.

“One of the recent findings in the area of NLP, and AI in general, has been that as you scale, as these neural network models larger and larger, they tend to perform better,” Stephen Roller, a research engineer at Facebook’s AI lab (FAIR), told Engadget. “We had a number of issues when we were trying to train this thing. When you start to get that large, these things no longer are able to fit on a single GPU anymore.”  .... "

See more on their Blended Talk Ability.

Allocating Scarce Medical Resources

Article asks:

How Should We Allocate Scarce Medical Resources?  in the HBR
by Max H. Bazerman , Regan Bernhard , Joshua Greene , Karen Huang and Netta Barak-Corren ....

We made similar analyses, but included more formal risk analyses for particular allocations that deserved them.   

Rethinking PCs and smartphones in a Pandemic World

Mobility and more, powerful tools and some loss of privacy.     Other implications for their use.

Rethinking PCs and smartphones in a post-COVID-19 world in Computerworld

We are still early into the COVID-19 disruption, but I have little doubt the world will be dramatically changed as a result. The tech hardware world that will exist post-pandemic will have a lot to do with what emerges at Blackberry, Cisco, HP, and IBM.
Personal technology started with terminals, typewriters and wired analog phones. Security was a simple concern, mobility was something out of science fiction, and we pretty much leased everything. Put  differently, everything was a service. From the 1960s until now, we have been trying – largely unsuccessfully – to get back to that simpler time when we didn’t have to be a technician, things just worked, and we could focus more on our businesses, less on and keeping technology running. 

[ Further reading: How AR and VR will change enterprise mobility ]

As the world moved from mainframes to PCs, from wired phones to smartphones, and as we layered on complexity, we often lost focus on what was important. For instance, 50-plus years ago our biggest driving concern was grandparents – who liked to look at us in the back seat while they drove – and drunk drivers. Now, we fear death from the person one car over looking at a smartphone, not the road.

We spend time now with our faces buried in screens: big screens, movie screens, small screens – especially now. The COVID-19 event, and we are only coming to the end of the beginning, is likely to be with us for at least a year longer, and it is already changing priorities. We are more concerned about people around us; we need to engage from a distance because we are working remotely. We aren’t traveling or going out, so sharing everything we do on Social Media isn’t as interesting. And we look longingly at movies, TV, and pictures of a world that once was. ... 

Informs Analytics Conference is Virtual

I remind people that the Informs conference in May is now free and virtual.  Have been a long time member, always good value to offer, attend and join!  .  More detailed information at the link:

The INFORMS Business Analytics Conference is going virtual!

Join us for this unique opportunity as we move to a free virtual analytics conference this year. Have you thought about attending in the past and didn’t have the time or funds to commit to a three-day event? Join us May 18-22 to get a sampling of what you have been missing from one of the top rated analytics conferences. The analytics conference will include 13 unique presentations covering the latest research and achievements in topics of great importance in the analytics community, including ethics in data, decision and risk analysis, revenue management & pricing, machine learning, and marketing analytics, along with the role of analytics in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. You may register for any or all of the sessions.  ... " 

Google and Microsoft Chase Zoom

Like to see the competition.  I see that many people today are using several options.

Google and Microsoft Chase After Zoon with new features and Free Services

The race to respond to Zoom’s popularity is well and truly on
By Tom Warren@tomwarren

oom’sZoom’s growth has exploded in recent weeks, leaving rivals like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook scrambling to respond. Millions of people have turned to Zoom to hold virtual get-togethers, birthday parties, and yoga classes during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This extra attention hasn’t gone unnoticed among Zoom rivals, who are looking on enviously at Zoom’s growth: up from 10 million daily users in December to more than 300 million in April. While Zoom now battles security and privacy concerns, its rivals are starting to hit back.

Google is announcing today that its Meet video conferencing service, known previously as Hangouts Meet, is now free for anybody who wants to use it. Previously geared towards enterprise and educational use, Google Meet can now be used by anyone with a Google account, and supports meetings of any amount of time (at least until October when they might be limited to 60 minutes) for up to 100 people. It’s a big move that’s clearly designed to counter Zoom’s popularity.... "

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Covid Scholar for Non Obvious Information

Interesting application here for virus search.  Much more detail at the link.

Machine learning tool could provide unexpected scientific insights into COVID-19  by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in TechXplore

Berkeley Lab researchers (clockwise from top left) Kristin Persson, John Dagdelen, Gerbrand Ceder, and Amalie Trewartha led development of COVIDScholar, a text-mining tool for COVID-19-related scientific literature. ....

A team of materials scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) - scientists who normally spend their time researching things like high-performance materials for thermoelectrics or battery cathodes—have built a text-mining tool in record time to help the global scientific community synthesize the mountain of scientific literature on COVID-19 being generated every day.

The tool, live at covidscholar.org, uses natural language processing techniques to not only quickly scan and search tens of thousands of research papers, but also help draw insights and connections that may otherwise not be apparent. The hope is that the tool could eventually enable "automated science."

"On Google and other search engines people search for what they think is relevant," said Berkeley Lab scientist Gerbrand Ceder, one of the project leads. "Our objective is to do information extraction so that people can find nonobvious information and relationships. That's the whole idea of machine learning and natural language processing that will be applied on these datasets."

COVIDScholar was developed in response to a March 16 call to action from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that asked artificial intelligence experts to develop new data and text mining techniques to help find answers to key questions about COVID-19.

The Berkeley Lab team got a prototype of COVIDScholar up and running within about a week. Now a little more than a month later, it has collected over 61,000 research papers—about 8,000 of them specifically about COVID-19 and the rest about related topics, such as other viruses and pandemics in general—and is getting more than 100 unique users every day, all by word of mouth.  ... "

On Behavior of Shoppers During the Pandemic

A  look at shopping behavior in SupermarketNews  Adds some understanding to current and future shopping behavior.   Online has not replaced in store shopping yet.

Most grocery shoppers choose stores over online during coronavirus crisis
Nearly half of consumers have paid more for a product, Harris Interactive/Toluna poll finds
Russell Redman 1 | Apr 20, 2020

The prevalence of coronavirus nationwide hasn’t kept grocery shoppers out of stores, and many are shelling out extra to get what they want, a new Harris Interactive/Toluna survey reveals.

Of 1,047 Americans polled between April 9 and April 14, 70% said they are still visiting stores to buy their groceries rather than ordering online, according to the latest Toluna and Harris Interactive COVID-19 Barometer, a biweekly index that taps into a community panel of 30 million consumers.

Related: More grocery shoppers making their first-ever online orders during pandemic

Survey respondents said the top purchases on their shopping list are frozen food (cited by 65%), cleaning products (56%) and toilet paper (53%). Those product categories remain among the hardest-hit in terms of grocery retailer out-of-stocks, and most respondents pointed the finger at shopper hoarding as the reason. Eighty-five percent of those polled blame shortages of items like hand sanitizer, pasta and toilet paper on other shoppers.

When asked how coronavirus lockdown measures have impacted their shopping, 60% of consumers reported they have gone without products or services, and 47% said they paid more for something than they normally would. 

Related: Grocery shopping behavior shifts into ‘home-confined buying’

“Despite the social distancing and government warnings to stay home, Americans are still shopping for their groceries in store, and if they can’t easily find what they need, they are willing to pay more,” explained Lucia Juliano, head of CPG and retail research at Harris Interactive and Toluna. “The survey also reveals that paper and cleaning products continue to top America’s shopping lists, which could explain why many stores and online retailers are experiencing shortages in these respective areas.”  .... "

Deloitte Insights on the Future of Work

Useful thoughts via Deloitte.

Future of work
The future of work is being shaped by two powerful forces: The growing adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace, and the expansion of the workforce to include both on- and off-balance-sheet talent. What changes could be in store for the workplace, the workforce, and the nature of work itself?  .... "

Further framework info in PDF.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Robot Helps with Treatment

By the image at the link the spot robot dog looks rather scary.   Previous applications were things like security patrolling drilling platforms.   

Robot Helping Hospitals Remotely Treat Coronavirus
The Verge
Nick Statt

A robot from Boston Dynamics is being used at Brigham and Women's Hospital of Harvard University to handle remote triage of patients suspected of having COVID-19. The quadruped Spot robot is equipped with a custom mount and enclosure for an iPad or similar-sized screen, and a two-way radio to transmit a live feed of a doctor in real time. Spot has helped nursing staff minimize time exposed to potentially contagious patients and conserve their limited supply of personal protective equipment. Boston Dynamics is open sourcing the hardware and software for Spot so other hospitals and robot makers can forge similar partnerships.  ... "

Drones Taking Your Temperature?

Sounds infeasible,  privacy?

Connecticut City Testing Drone That Detects Fevers, Coughs
The Hill   By Zack Budryk
April 23, 2020

A "pandemic drone" being tested by police in Westport, CT, in cooperation with drone manufacturer Draganfly, will use sensors to detect fever temperatures, heart rates, sneezing, and coughing in crowds. Police say the drone can monitor body temperatures from altitudes of nearly 200 feet. The drone will not be used on private land and is not equipped with facial recognition technology. Said Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas, "Using drones remains a go-to technology for reaching remote areas with little to no manpower required. Because of this technology, our officers will have the information and quality data they need to make the best decision in any given situation."... '

Critical Role of Human Performance in Software

Software is ultimately a collaboration between people and machines.  People still need to be adaptive in critical systems.     Which needs to lead to better designing of such systems.    Here quite a considerable look at the problem.

Revealing the Critical Role of Human Performance in Software
By David D. Woods, John Allspaw
Communications of the ACM, May 2020, Vol. 63 No. 5, Pages 64-67 10.1145/3380468

Four articles, published across the March through May issues of Communications, highlight how people are the unique source of the adaptive capacity essential to incident response in modern Internet-facing software systems. While it's reasonable for software engineering and operations communities to focus on the intricacies of technology, there is not much attention given to the intricacies of how people do their work. Ultimately, it is human performance that makes modern business-critical systems robust and resilient.

As business-critical software systems become more successful, they necessarily increase in complexity. Ironically, this complexity makes these systems inherently messy so that surprising incidents are part and parcel of the capability to provide services at larger scales and speeds.13 Studies in resilience engineering 2,12 reveal that people produce resilient performance in messy systems by doing the cognitive work of anomaly response; coordinating joint activity during events that threaten service outages; and revising their models of how the system actually works and malfunctions using lessons learned from incidents. People's resilient performance compensates for the messiness of systems, despite constant change.

Thus, incidents that threaten service outages are endemic as an emergent side effect of the increasing complexity of the interdependencies required to provide valuable services at scale. Incidents will continue to present challenges that require resilient performance, regardless of past reliability statistics. It is the cognitive work, coordination across roles, and adaptive capacity of people that resolve anomalies as they threaten to grow into service outages.4 To be more specific: modern business-critical systems work as well as they do because of the adaptive capabilities of people; and without the cognitive work that people engage in with each other, all software systems eventually fail (some with increasingly catastrophic impact, given the criticality of the services they provide). ... "

How to Fight Bias in ML Based Experiences

Forrester piece with interesting interview and links:

How To Fight Bias In ML-Based Experiences  By Andrew Hogan in Forrester Blog

Recently, I interviewed Carol Smith about AI and ethics — she’s a Senior Research Scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute, and she told me:

“You’re bringing yourself to the projects you do at work, and we’re all biased and flawed. We must accept that building a fancy system doesn’t change that. We’re going to make mistakes and there will be issues with what we make. The more imaginative we can be early on, the more prepared we can be for failure.”

I asked her about her paper “Designing Trustworthy AI: A Human-Machine Teaming Framework to Guide Development” because Forrester has written extensively about AI and ethics in reports and blog posts like this one: “The Ethics Of AI: Don’t Build Racist Models” and highlighted the importance of diverse teams in reports like this one Data-Fueled Products: How To Thrive On The Design And Data Science Collision. Here are the highlights that stood out to me from Carol’s paper and our conversation:  ... "

P&G Innovate Cooperation Model

Look at CPG innovation for e-commerce.  Looking for this.

P&G innovate cooperation model in e-commerce livestream
BEIJING and HANGZHOU, China, April 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Procter & Gamble (P&G) presents exclusive livestream "VVIP2.0" with top e-commerce livestream KOL Viya. The livestream features interaction with P&G executives, guest appearances by celebrity Zhou Shen, and product demonstration by the P&G scientists that shows how new products could be developed, which successfully drive sales. In April 2019, with its diversified brand power, rich products and extraordinary product quality, P&G ... " 

Organs on a Chip

Had seem examples of this some years ago, to what degree has it been predictively accurate?

Using “organs-on-a-chip” to model complicated diseases
A new approach reveals how different tissues contribute to inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

Press Inquiries
MIT biological engineers have created a multitissue model that lets them study the relationships between different organs and the immune system, on a specialized microfluidic platform seeded with human cells.

Using this type of model, sometimes called “organs-on-a-chip” or “physiome on-a-chip,” the research team was able to explore the role of circulating immune cells in ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases. They also discovered that a metabolic byproduct generated by bacteria living in the human gut plays an important role under these inflammatory conditions.

“We’ve shown that now you can start to attack some of these really thorny, chronic inflammatory diseases by designing experiments in these organs on chips,” says Linda Griffith, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation, a professor of biological engineering and mechanical engineering, and the senior author of the study.

This approach, described today in the journal Cell Systems, could also lend itself to studying many other complex diseases, the researchers say.

“Now we have options to really decrease or increase the level of disease complexity, under controlled and systematic conditions,” says Martin Trapecar, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the paper.

Complex models

Nearly 20 years ago, Griffith’s lab first began working on a model of the human liver known as the “liver chip.” This system, which consists of engineered human liver tissue grown on a specialized scaffold, can be used to test drug toxicity. More recently, she has been working on small-scale replicas of many interconnected organs, also known as microphysiological systems (MPS). In 2018, she reported the development of a platform that could be used to model interactions between up to 10 organs at a time. .... ' 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Virus vs CPG

IRI report of particular interest:

IRI continues to monitor COVID-19 and its impacts on the CPG retail industry.

Where consumers could afford to pantry-stock, they did so; and across all household income levels, trips to stores are down to support social distancing. When they must, large-format stores are the go-to for shopping trips as consumers prepare nearly all their meals at home, opting for larger-pack sizes across categories. Convenience stores, meanwhile are taking a hit as consumers and non-essential workers stay off the roads.

Download this most recent report for data reflecting consumers’ state of mind on the health crisis, as well as the economic fallout attributed to COVID-19. ... "

Blockchain and Public Health Solutions

How does blockchain technology link with public health data and aid in the future solution of current and future public health care problems like pandemics?  A considerable look at the issue by the former IBMer, with very useful links.

Blockchain and Public Health Solutions  by  Irving Wladawsky-Berger

The Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) is a global think tank dedicated to the strategic implications of blockchain technologies to business, government and society.  On March 26, I participated in a virtual roundtable convened by the BRI to discuss the potential use of blockchain technologies for public health solutions.  The roundtable’s findings and recommendations were released in early April in Blockchain Solutions in Pandemics: A Call for Innovation and Transformation in Public Health.

The report identified five key areas where blockchain could be deployed to fight Covid-19 as well as future pandemics: identity, health records and shared data; just-in-time supply chains; sustaining the economy; a rapid response registry for medical professionals; and incentives models to reward responsible behavior.  In each of these areas, the report presented uses cases where blockchain is already being deployed, and recommended a number of blockchain related public health measures that will help better prepare for future pandemics.  Given the broad scope of the report, I will focus my attention on one area in particular: identity, health records and shared data. ... " 

Oracle White Paper on Financial and Inventory for Retail

Interesting comparison, Noting the author.

Oracle White paper
Unifying Financials and Inventory for Retail

Why Retail Brands are Moving from QuickBooks to NetSuite

As innovation evolves faster than ever, heightened customer expectations and increased competition mean retail brands can no longer rely on the business models or business management systems of the past.

This white paper dives into why retail companies like yours are moving to the cloud and the signs that an add-on inventory solution might be limiting your business.   ... "

IBM Using Contract Tracing App with Employees in India

The general idea seems to be expanding, with resulting data.  Systems to date are voluntary.  Some details at link about use, data, privacy implications.

IBM testing COVID-19 contact tracing app with employees in India

IBM is testing an opt-in mobile app in India that will track employees' locations to help monitor the spread of the coronavirus, Protocol reported Thursday. The app will identify and notify employees who might have "come in close contact with a person affected in the last 14 days," a spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement. IBM joins major tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft that are leveraging location data to track COVID-19, raising concerns about how users' privacy will .... 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Wal-Mart Helps Neighbors in Community

An example of a grocery retailer aiming at improved local community regarding services tailored to current emergencies.

Walmart launches ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ program
Partnership with Nextdoor allows customers to shop for their neighbors when making a trip to Walmart   By Michael Browne in SupermarketNews

Walmart Neighbors Helping Neighbors The Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative follows recent moves by Walmart to make other shopping services contact-free, such as checking out with Walmart Pay and curbside pickup and delivery services.

Walmart and online neighborhood hub Nextdoor announced Thursday the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” program, an effort to make it easier for neighbors across the United States to help one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the new program, Nextdoor members in cities across the country can now request assistance — or offer to help someone in their community — with shopping for their essential items at Walmart. According to the companies, this support network makes it easier for vulnerable community members to coordinate the pickup and delivery of their groceries, medications and other essentials with a neighbor who is already planning a shopping trip to their local Walmart store — completely contact-free.

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative follows recent moves by Walmart to make other shopping services contact-free, such as checking out with Walmart Pay and curbside pickup and delivery services..... "

Belgian Port Testing Virus Bracelets

Aimed at enforcing social distancing,  while gathering data.

Belgian Port to Test Virus Bracelets Amid Tech Tracing Fears
Associated Press
Mark Carlson; Lorne Cook; Sylvain Plazy

Teams of workers at the Belgian port of Antwerp are preparing to test a bracelet designed to help contain the coronavirus pandemic by enforcing social distancing. Originally developed to find tugboat crew members that have fallen overboard, the plastic-coated bracelets vibrate when they are within about 10 feet of each other, with their vibrational intensity increasing and warning lights flashing as they come closer. The devices ensure physical distancing and can be programmed to provide data, although data collection is not planned for the Antwerp deployment. This effort comes amid European countries' scramble to design contact-tracing applications for mobile phones to help pinpoint outbreak sources. Experts and trade unions are concerned about such solutions becoming invasive, and the European Trade Union Confederation's Isabelle Schoemann said most people do not require technology to understand how far away they should stand from co-workers.  ... " 

Using Data from Tracking Studies

Friend Kaiser Fung looks at some of the tracking data is being used in studies.  Instructive about how data is being gathered and used.   Extensive piece at the link.

The first major study using Covid tracking app data stumbles out of the gate

The tracking app studies are on rush order, just like all sorts of Covid-related preprints that have come under scrutiny. I learned about this collaboration between King’s College (UK) and an app developer Zoe Global through a news article proclaiming that 13 percent of the UK have already been infected with the novel coronavirus. This is the catch of the moment, being able to declare that you know what proportion of the population has already been infected.

I discussed the Stanford study the other day, which has received robust criticism from the statistical community (e.g. Gelman). This Covid Symptom Tracker study is much less convincing as a way to measure population prevalence. Its potential value is for rationing test kits to those most likely to test positive but notice that the objective of targeting the most afflicted conflicts with the objective of measuring prevalence, which is a feature of the general population.  .... "

Knowledge Graphs versus Property Graphs

This came in the mail, it had been asked in an interaction recently.  Worth a look.  We worked with TopQuadrant.

New White Paper: Knowledge Graphs versus Property Graphs

We are in the era of graphs. Graphs are hot. Why? Flexibility is one strong driver: heterogeneous data, integrating new data sources, and analytics all require flexibility. Graphs deliver it in spades.

The two main graph data models are: Property Graphs and Knowledge (RDF) Graphs. People who want to take advantage of graph-based solutions for data and metadata management want to know what they are, what are their similarities and differences, and what they are each good for.

This white paper covers the following, it:
Describes the two main graph data models: Property Graphs and RDF Graphs and explains the key differences in their terminology and capabilities
Compares their strengths and limitations
Provides guidance on their respective capabilities

Other TopQuadrant resources to explore:
RECORDED WEBINARS, including this most recent one: "Getting Started with Data Governance"
WHITE PAPER COLLECTION, including: "Implementing Data Governance with Knowledge Graphs to Enable Enterprise AI"

Download Now    https://www.topquadrant.com/knowledge-assets/whitepapers/

This email sent by TopQuadrant   www.topquadrant.com

Is Your Chatbot Engaging?

Well yes, at least as it contributes to some goal.  If I want a question answered quickly and accurately it requires a certain level of engagement, for example enough to get the details of the question across.  If my Goal is to learn some about some topic, the engagement is different and likely more complex.  Defining a measure is a good idea.

That Chatbot May Be Chatty, but Is It Engaging?
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
By Rishbha Bhagi

University of Southern California (USC) researchers have developed a technique for evaluating chatbots' conversational skills, grading their responses on an engagement scale of 0 to 1 based on the concept that open-domain dialogue systems must be genuinely interesting to the user, not just relevant. Sarik Ghazarian in USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering Information Sciences Institute said understanding this assessment will help improve chatbots and other open-domain dialogue systems. Said USC Viterbi's Nanyun Peng, "We can use [this work] as a development tool to easily automatically evaluate our systems with low cost. Also, we can explore integrating this evaluation score as feedback into the generation process via reinforcement learning to improve the dialogue system." ... '

Friday, April 24, 2020

Tracking and Tracing Pineapple

More food  tracking and tracing as a key application.  As part of the IBM consortium. 

The Dole Food Company has a five-year blockchain plan for stronger food safety.  By Danny Nelson in Coindesk

Dole aims to launch blockchain product tagging and other “advanced traceability solutions” across its three business divisions – tropical fruits, fresh vegetables and other diversified products – in a bid to enhance food safety operations by 2025.

The deadline, contained in its sustainability report released Wednesday, charts a system-wide redesign of how Dole, one of the world’s largest fruits and vegetables distributors, traces its food. Top of mind is improving the speed with which Dole can identify trouble spots in the supply chain during a recall of contaminated products, something it has worked on improving for years through its association with IBM Food Trust.

“Blockchain cuts the average time needed for food safety investigations from weeks to mere seconds,” the report said. “Produce that’s been logged via blockchain can be instantly tracked back through the supply chain, giving retailers and consumers confidence in the event of a recall.” ... ' 

Organizing Information in the Age of the Coronavirus

From the recent Webinar, has links to a version of the Covid Brain.

Organizing Information in the Age of the Coronavirus
Covid-19 Online Brains from TheBrain Big Thinker Web Event

Check out our distinct Brains on the world pandemic. Each Brain offers a unique perspective with different Thoughts, connections and categorizing structures. Use these examples to get started on visualizing your own perspective on critical world events and everything that matters in your life.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #Covid19Brains

Creating Digital Brains for Analysis and Action

The recording will provide a broad range of perspectives and expertise on Brain creation for Covid-19 to help you get started on visualizing and sharing your own perspective. Whether you’re staying in to flatten the curve or out on the front lines, we all make a difference and we’re all connected.

Topics Include:

Why knowledge management is critical to solving complex problems
Visualizing and connecting large sets of information
Creating an information landscape that reflects your perspective
Aggregating world events, news items and scientific data from disparate information sources
Leveraging tags, thought types and link types to enhance organization

Interactive Q&A with Jerry Michalski and Dr. Mark Trexler

Robots Helping Astronauts

Heard about this a while back.   Uses IBM Watson AI.   But what were they helping with?   Specific micro tasks.  Anticipating needs.   Supporting technical conversations?  Providing information at the right time and place?  Reducing stress?   Just providing a smile?  How will it be measured?    Lots to be learned here.

This Robot Is Helping Astronauts on the Space Station With Tasks, Stress, Isolation   By Ashley Strickland

A ball-shaped robot built by Airbus at the German Aerospace Center is helping astronauts on the International Space Station manage tasks, stress, and the isolation of living 200 miles above our planet’s surface. In addition to autonomously navigating the European Columbus research module, the CIMON-2 robot can detect astronauts' emotions and tone during conversations and respond in different tones, from teasing to sad. It also can read instructions to guide the astronauts through various procedures. The robot is equipped with two cameras for facial recognition, and five additional cameras assist with navigation and recording video. Said IBM's Matthias Biniok, "CIMON is a technology experiment to find out how virtual agents can support astronauts and increase the efficiency of their work." ... ' 


Mission description: 


Why Remote Does not Feel the Same

Interesting thoughts, mostly about the micro aspects, useful to think about during your next remote meeting.  Like the thoughts about how conversations really work, which we will need to promote intelligent results. 

The science of why remote meetings don't feel the same

Zachary Yorke, UX Researcher
Published Apr 24, 2020

As COVID-19 has pushed more  teams to work remotely, many of us are turning to video calls. And if you’ve ever been on a video call and wondered why it doesn’t feel quite the same as an in-person conversation, we have something in common. As a researcher at Google, it’s my job to dig into the science behind remote communication. Here are a few things I’ve discovered along the way. 

#1: Milliseconds matter. 
As a species, we’re hardwired for the fast-paced exchange of in-person conversation. Humans have spent about 70,000 years learning to communicate face-to-face, but video conferencing is only about 100 years old. When the sound from someone’s mouth doesn’t reach your ears until a half second later, you notice. That’s because we’re ingrained to avoid talking at the same time while minimizing silence between turns. A delay of five-tenths of a second (500 ms)—whether from laggy audio or fumbling for the unmute button—is more than double what we’re used to in-person. These delays mess with the fundamental turn-taking mechanics of our conversations. 

On your next video conference, pump the brakes on your speaking speed to avoid unintended interruptions. If it’s a smaller group, try staying unmuted to provide little bits of verbal feedback (“mmhmm,” “okay”) to show you’re actively listening.   .... "

Following Legal Analytics: Contracts and Liabilities

Our recent looks at eDiscovery and related AI and analytics alerted us to this.  Accenture's connection would seem to indicate seriousness of these efforts.  It is a very obvious space for advanced natural language processing, analysis and cross referencing with current and future contexts.

Legal analytics: Accenture applies NLP to analyze contracts and liabilities

To find specific information in a million-plus contracts, the global professional services company turned to natural language processing and AI, launching a legal analytics hub in the process.
By Thor Olavsrud in CIO

Organizations steeped in text documents have an ally in their quest to streamline business processes. Natural language processing, a branch of AI focused on communication, is helping companies such as Accenture surface high-value information and cut costs by bringing text-based, unstructured communications into the machine learning age.  

With more than a million contracts in its records system and thousands more added monthly, Accenture’s legal organization of about 2,800 professionals was struggling to find specific information across contracts, thanks to a tedious, costly process for which detailed cross-document search capability was limited.   ... " 

Zoom Continues the Climb, with New Vulnerability

Looks to be something that can be easily patched once understood.    Now that Zoom is under the microscope, this is a good thing.

Zoom passes 300M daily users as new security vulnerability discovered

By Duncan Riley in SiliconAngle

Zoom Video Communications Inc. continues to surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic even as yet another security vulnerability has been revealed.

Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan revealed during a webinar on April 22 that the company now has more than 300 million daily users, up 50% from 200 million users it had at the beginning of the month.

“Clearly, the Zoom platform is providing an incredibly valuable service to our beloved users during this challenging time,” Yuan said. “We are thrilled and honored to continue to earn the trust of so many enterprises, hospitals, teachers and customers throughout the world.”

Zoom has been the No. 1 app of the pandemic, with millions using the videoconferencing service as they’re forced to work from home. After surging to the top of app charts in March, Zoom still remains at the top on both iOS and Android, according to data from App Annie.

With that popularity has come increased scrutiny over its security and Zoom has struggled. Various security vulnerabilities have been uncovered and there’s yet a new one.

Detailed Wednesday by Daniel Petrillo at Morphisec Technologies Ltd., the newly discovered vulnerability in the Zoom app allows potential attackers to record Zoom sessions and capture text chats without the knowledge of meeting participants...... ' 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

AI For Drug Design

See in  particular how these methods are designed

AI for Drug Design   By Sandrine Ceurstemont

Some recent breakthroughs in drug discovery have come about thanks to the use of artificial intelligence.

Traditional drug development is slow and expensive. It often takes more than 10 years for a new medicine to come to market, and it can cost up to $2.6 million. In the past few years, however, there has been a growing interest in using machine learning to help with the process.

"The idea is that you can screen billions of molecules on a computer and identify some which look promising, and then you just manufacture and test the small subset," says Regina Barzilay, Delta Electronics Professor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a member of the university's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

The vast size of chemical space is one of the main challenges when it comes to finding new drugs. Medicinal chemists look for new small molecules, and there could be up to 1 novemdecillion (1 followed by 60 zeros) of them, according to the American Chemical Society, more than some estimates of the number of stars in the universe. Although researchers have zeroed in on millions of these compounds through traditional methods, the number that have been synthesized and tested as drugs is thought to represent less than 0.1% of the potential drugs that exist. "The machine learning community identified it as an important area where we can contribute," says Barzilay.

There have been some recent breakthroughs in drug discovery, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). In recent work, Barzilay and her colleagues used a deep learning system to discover a new antibiotic, which is a first. The newly discovered medicine proved effective against a wide range of bacteria in tests on mice, including tuberculosis and bacteria strains that have demonstrated resistance to current antibiotics.

Barzilay and her team decided to focus on antibiotics since a lack of new antibiotics is creating a growing health crisis. Existing antibiotics are no longer effective against many infections, as bacteria have grown resistant. Just eight new antibiotics with limited effectiveness have been approved since July 2017, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization.

To tackle the problem, the researchers developed a deep learning convolutional neural network (CNN) that can predict the antibiotic properties of new compounds. It was first trained to recognize molecules that inhibit the growth of E. coli bacteria by feeding it a collection of about 2,500 molecules whose antibacterial capabilities were known. Then, the system was presented with a library, called the Drug Repurposing Hub, containing over 6,000 molecules identified as potentially interesting to fight various human diseases.  It was asked to predict which molecules are both active against E. coli and had different structures from existing antibiotics.

One result was the new antibiotic halicin (named for the intelligent computer HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey). The medication  was being investigated as a potential treatment for diabetes.  .... " 

Making Decision Trees Accurate and Explainable

Explaining AI, Decision Trees

Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research
Making Decision Trees Accurate Again: Explaining What Explainable AI Did Not   By Alvin Wan  

The interpretability of neural networks is becoming increasingly necessary, as deep learning is being adopted in settings where accurate and justifiable predictions are required. These applications range from finance to medical imaging. However, deep neural networks are notorious for a lack of justification. Explainable AI (XAI) attempts to bridge this divide between accuracy and interpretability, but as we explain below, XAI justifies decisions without interpreting the model directly.

What is “Interpretable”?
Defining explainability or interpretability for computer vision is challenging: What does it even mean to explain a classification for high-dimensional inputs like images? As we discuss below, two popular definitions involve saliency maps and decision trees, but both approaches have their weaknesses. .... " 

Otter Transcribes Zoom Meetings, It Also Needs to Augment Them

Now take it further.  Who has agreed to do what?     Wat input did we not get?  What resources and especially data do they need?  Has the meeting met pre-stated goals?  ...

This tool automatically transcribes your Zoom meetings as they happen     Otter.ai’s new feature can be launched directly from a call

By Jon Porter@JonPorty  in Theverge

Automated transcription service Otter.ai now integrates directly into Zoom calls to transcribe meetings on the fly. During a meeting, anyone on the call can click the “Otter.ai Live Transcript” button within their Zoom window to open up the Live Video Meeting Notes on Otter.ai’s site, and participants can then annotate them on the fly. Otter.ai quietly announced the new feature in a blog post earlier this month.  .... "

John Horton Conway Simulates Life

In the most recent Quanta Magazine, a obituary of John Horton Conway, who inspired many of us  to take up his 'game of life' to simulate life-like things, called cellular automata,  in a computer.  Some of my earliest programming implemented his simulation models.

A Life in Games
John Horton Conway claims to have never worked a day in his life. This adaptation from the biography Genius at Play shows how serious advances such as the surreal numbers can spring out of fun and games. ... "

  ... " Conway’s contributions to the mathematical canon include innumerable games. He is perhaps most famous for inventing the Game of Life in the late 1960s. The Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner called it “Conway’s most famous brainchild.” This is not Life the family board game, but Life the cellular automaton. A cellular automaton is a little machine with groups of cells that evolve from iteration to iteration in discrete rather than continuous time — in seconds, say, each tick of the clock advances the next iteration, and over time, behaving a bit like a transformer or a shape-shifter, the cells evolve into something, anything, everything else. Life is played on a grid, like tic-tac-toe, where its proliferating cells resemble skittering microorganisms viewed under a 
microscope..   ... "

A Game of life Pulsar:

The wikipedia has a good 'technical' overvew:    

Mirror Arrays Make Augmented Reality More Realistic

Augmented reality, adding realism.  Most AR systems today provide a 'gamelike' view of artificial objects.   A solution.

Mirror Arrays Make Augmented Reality More Realistic
IEEE Spectrum
By Michelle Hampson

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a compact augmented reality (AR) system that uses an array of miniature mirrors to create virtual images that appear more "solid" in front of real-world objects. The miniature mirrors in Stanford's system change positions tens of thousands of times per second, enhancing the system's occlusion. The system combines virtual projection and light-blocking abilities into one element, relying the dense array of miniature mirrors to switch between a see-through state and a reflective state. It computes the optimal arrangement for the mirrors and adjusts accordingly. Stanford’s Brooke Krajancich said the system uses a lot of computing power, and may require more power than other AR systems.  .. ' 

Requirements for Smart Manufacturing

Good overview out of Forrester, which links to further resources.

Smart Manufacturing Requires A Range Of Technologies To Succeed
CIO | Forrester Blogs   by Paul Miller

Principal Analyst Paul Miller introduces The Forrester Tech Tide™: Smart Manufacturing, Q2 2020, and highlights a webinar that will dive more deeply into the research and its findings.
As manufacturing becomes connected, digital and smart, manufacturers find themselves grappling with unfamiliar technologies. In the Forrester Tech Tide™: Smart Manufacturing, Q2 2020, we highlight 20 significant technologies. The report offers clients advice on whether they should experiment with, invest in, maintain, or divest from each of these.

I will be running a webinar on 20 May, during which I will discuss the rationale for the report’s recommendations and take questions from participants. Please do join us.

A set of reports later in 2020 will dive more deeply into a number of the technologies flagged for experimentation or investment. Clients can always see my current research plan at the bottom of this page, or discuss it with their account manager   ... " 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Microsoft and Open Data

Makes sense to have data open so it can be used to mine for solutions and alternatives.   Best practices in making this data findable and easily usable is also very useful.

Microsoft Throws Weight Behind Open Data Movement
Financial Times
Richard Waters

Microsoft has announced its support for the open data movement, urging governments and companies worldwide to share more data to ensure “digital power” is not concentrated in the U.S., China, and a handful of major technology companies. Microsoft pledged to make some of its own data available more widely, while developing standardized tools and legal frameworks to help others do the same. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the latest artificial intelligence innovations have raised the stakes, giving rise to "a looming data divide" that threatens to leave behind countries and companies with less access to data. Microsoft’s Jennifer Yokohama said the company is working on a shareable “live repository of best practices and resources,” along with “proof of concept initiatives to demonstrate how we can do open data better to really solve key societal challenges.”  ... '

Wolfram Needs Help Modeling Universe

Just mentioned related work:

Wolfram, Modeling Our Universe, Needs Your Help
Popular Mechanics
By Courtney Linder

Physicist Stephen Wolfram has launched the Wolfram Physics Project to crowdsource research to model the universe's fundamental physical laws. The project incorporates “the most important works in physics,” including 800 pages of documents Wolfram authored, and 430 hours of video documenting brainstorming sessions between Wolfram and his colleagues. Wolfram and project participants will use computational models to simulate possible universes. The project webpage lists a Registry of Notable Universes compiling about 1,000 rules for the project. Said Wolfram, “I hope soon there might just be a rule entered in the Registry that has all the right properties, and that we’ll slowly discover that, yes, this is it—our universe finally decoded." .... '

Changing Alexa's Voice, Language

 Adapt the speech and language of interaction, details at the link.

How to change your Alexa device's language or accent in 5 simple steps   By Ryan Ariano
You can easily change Alexa's language to the one that you are more comfortable interacting with.  By Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Alexa has a default voice setting to speak in a female voice with a non-regional United States English dialect.

You can change Alexa's language or accent, or choose a celebrity voice.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

After listening to Alexa's dulcet tones in American English for a while, you might want to change it up.

Luckily, Alexa has multiple accent and language options built in that you can change for free.

These range from accented English to actual foreign languages such as Mexican Spanish, European Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese and more.   .... "

Visualizing Covid-19 Creating Digital Brains for Analysis and Action

Join Us Tomorrow!

Visualizing Covid-19
Creating Digital Brains for Analysis and Action

A Special Big Thinker Presentation Featuring:

Visualizing Covid-19
This Thursday, April 23, 2020
11:00 am Pacific Time, 2:00 pm Eastern Time

Register Now  https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8728385502294360844

We are in unprecedented times. We wake up and go to sleep digesting a sea of information on the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s critical for everyone to shape their own perspective of world events and TheBrain enables this. Join highly acclaimed Brain architects: Jerry Michalski and Dr. Mark Trexler. Both master Brain creators will demo their own Brains on Covid-19. Shelley Hayduk and Matt Caton from TheBrain will also debut their Covid-19 TeamBrain, as well as make it available for download to all attendees.

The session provides a broad range of perspectives and expertise on Brain creation for Covid-19 to help you get started on visualizing your own perspective.

Topics Include:

Crafting an information landscape that reflects your perspective
Strategies for mind mapping complex information networks
Visualizing world events, news items and scientific data
Aggregating disparate information sources from online news to documents and twitter feeds
Creating an all-encompassing Brain or mini content-focused Brains
Visualizing information geographically
Also features interactive Q&A with Jerry Michalski and Dr. Mark Trexler

Visualizing Covid-19
Brains for This Session
Now Available!  https://www.thebrain.com/covid 

Get a sneak peek at the different Brains covered during this session. View online and get the sample Brain now.

Dopamine and Motivation Scan

We spend much time trying to understand how fmri scans could be used to judge potential engagement with product. Could this new Dopamine 'scan' be used to understand this more effectively?

 How dopamine drives brain activity
A specialized MRI sensor reveals the neurotransmitter’s influence on neural activity throughout the brain.

By Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences both nearby and distant brain regions.

Dopamine plays many roles in the brain, most notably related to movement, motivation, and reinforcement of behavior. However, until now it has been difficult to study precisely how a flood of dopamine affects neural activity throughout the brain. Using their new technique, the MIT team found that dopamine appears to exert significant effects in two regions of the brain’s cortex, including the motor cortex.

“There has been a lot of work on the immediate cellular consequences of dopamine release, but here what we’re looking at are the consequences of what dopamine is doing on a more brain-wide level,” says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT professor of biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and nuclear science and engineering. Jasanoff is also an associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the study.

The MIT team found that in addition to the motor cortex, the remote brain area most affected by dopamine is the insular cortex. This region is critical for many cognitive functions related to perception of the body’s internal states, including physical and emotional states.

MIT postdoc Nan Li is the lead author of the study, which appears today in Nature.   ... "

Full Immersion in a Delivery Economy

We thought we were in the delivery economy, but now we are fully immersed in it.   How can companies deal with it?   Its changed our behavior in ways that might not snap back.  A short article that discusses this and more:

Watch: Keeping Up With the Delivery Economy
in SupplyChainBrain

"The delivery economy" describes the transformation of retail, driven by customer demands for the highest possible level of service. But can companies provide it in an economic fashion? Christian Piller, vice president of value engineering with Project 44, offers a perspective.

SCB: How you define the “delivery economy”?

Piller: The delivery economy was the subject of a study that Project 44 did in 2019 to understand the sentiments of marketers, customers and transportation professionals, specifically around service expectations and the delivery experience.

SCB: Driven, I take it, by e-commerce.

Piller: Primarily, yes. But it's becoming broader than that. E-commerce is generally B2C, but it’s increasingly also becoming B2B. Businesses are expecting the same experience in the office that they get at home. And it becomes an increasingly bigger challenge to meet those expectations. .... "

Physics as Automata

Fascinating read.    And as a person with background in physics and computer science I find this fascinating.   Have read parts of Wolfram's 'big' book, which initially posed aspects of this solution.  Admit to being somewhat mysttified by the solution and what to do with it.   Technical, the article is a good start.

Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics…
and It’s Beautiful

Website: Wolfram Physics Project

Technical Intro: A Class of Models with the Potential to Represent Fundamental Physics
How We Got Here: The Backstory of the Wolfram Physics Project
Visual summary of the Wolfram Physics Project

I Never Expected This
It’s unexpected, surprising—and for me incredibly exciting. To be fair, at some level I’ve been working towards this for nearly 50 years. But it’s just in the last few months that it’s finally come together. And it’s much more wonderful, and beautiful, than I’d ever imagined.

In many ways it’s the ultimate question in natural science: How does our universe work? Is there a fundamental theory? An incredible amount has been figured out about physics over the past few hundred years. But even with everything that’s been done—and it’s very impressive—we still, after all this time, don’t have a truly fundamental theory of physics.

Back when I used do theoretical physics for a living, I must admit I didn’t think much about trying to find a fundamental theory; I was more concerned about what we could figure out based on the theories we had. And somehow I think I imagined that if there was a fundamental theory, it would inevitably be very complicated.

But in the early 1980s, when I started studying the computational universe of simple programs I made what was for me a very surprising and important discovery: that even when the underlying rules for a system are extremely simple, the behavior of the system as a whole can be essentially arbitrarily rich and complex.

And this got me thinking: Could the universe work this way? Could it in fact be that underneath all of this richness and complexity we see in physics there are just simple rules? I soon realized that if that was going to be the case, we’d in effect have to go underneath space and time and basically everything we know. Our rules would have to operate at some lower level, and all of physics would just have to emerge. ...."

Communications of The ACM, May 2020

Welcome to the May 2020 Communications of the ACM. The full issue and related content is available through the CACM     Online Edition.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Adversarial Attack Risks

Interesting case study,  stability not a common measure of this kind of system.

How Adversarial Attacks Could Destabilize Military AI Systems

Adversarial attacks threaten the safety of AI and robotic technologies. Can we stop them?
By David Danks

This piece was written as part of the Artificial Intelligence and International Stability Project at the Center for a New American Security, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project promotes thinking and analysis on AI and international stability. Given the likely importance that advances in artificial intelligence could play in shaping our future, it is critical to begin a discussion about ways to take advantage of the benefits of AI and autonomous systems, while mitigating the risks. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Artificial intelligence and robotic technologies with semi-autonomous learning, reasoning, and decision-making capabilities are increasingly being incorporated into defense, military, and security systems. Unsurprisingly, there is increasing concern about the stability and safety of these systems. In a different sector, runaway interactions between autonomous trading systems in financial markets have produced a series of stock market “flash crashes,” and as a result, those markets now have rules to prevent such interactions from having a significant impact1.

Could the same kinds of unexpected interactions and feedback loops lead to similar instability with defense or security AIs?  .... "

Games for Education

Will games work for this purpose?  Look forward to see a report on how well.  A very quick look at this makes me wonder, but look forward to seeing more details.  Gamification can provide a means of engagement, but must also have the best possible goals.    Thats why its very useful to emphasize recognized fundamentals in education.   Will this address these fundamentals?

 With Coronavirus Closing Schools, Here’s How Video Games are Helping Teachers
The Washington Post
By Elise Favis

The quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted teachers to utilize popular video games like Assassin's Creed, Minecraft, and Roblox to conduct lessons on a range of topics. Game publishers are facilitating this trend by making their platforms as accessible as possible to educators during the crisis. In 2018, Ubisoft added a new mode to Assassin's Creed: Origins, which is set in ancient Egypt, called Discovery Tour. This mode lets players embark on guided tours through famous historical sites and cities. This mode was recently adapted for Assassin's Creed: Odyssey—set in ancient Greece—complete with additional content like quizzes. Minecraft also comes with an education mode, which Microsoft has made free for educators and students through June 2020 due to the pandemic. Roblox is a platform that lets players create their own video games from scratch. The company has partnered with more than 170 educators from 35 countries to discuss applications for the game. ... "

Its Now Free to Sell on Google

This struck me,  A way to more directly compete with Amazon?  Implications for that and for retail in general?

Its now Free to Sell on Google

Bill Ready on The Google Blog.
President, Commerce

The retail sector has faced many threats over the years, which have only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic. With physical stores shuttered, digital commerce has become a lifeline for retailers. And as consumers increasingly shop online, they're searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.

In light of these challenges, we’re advancing our plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google. Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free product listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.

For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping Ads, you don't have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we'll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.  ... "

Monday, April 20, 2020

ACM Reports Best Practices for Virtual Conferences

Nicely done,  details at the link.  Taking a look.  Free.

ACM Reports Best Practices for Virtual Conferences
April 16, 2020

A new report from ACM outlines best practices for replacing live science and technology conferences with virtual ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is a practical guide covering a wide range of topics that conference organizers contend with, including required technology, high-level planning, accessibility, nurturing social interaction, navigation, and finances. The guide was created by a task force that included ACM members with experience organizing online conferences and conducting virtual planning sessions. The task force will periodically update and revise the report, and organizers are encouraged to share their own experiences, or make comments or queries. ACM president Cherri M. Pancake said, "Our hope is that the report will also encourage conference organizers to think about reducing their reliance on face-to-face meetings in the future." ... '

Full report here: https://www.acm.org/virtual-conferences

News from the Grocery Supply Chain

Been watching indications in the Grocery and general retail supply chain,  so far, except for might be called illogical hoarding, things are going well.  Suppliers are running manufacturing overtime.

Head of grocery group talks virus impact, shopping habits

NEW YORK (AP) — As Americans stockpile everything from canned soup to toilet paper, food and consumer products makers are scrambling to meet demand.

Companies like Clorox Co. and J.M. Smucker Co. are running their manufacturing plants 24/7 while reducing their product lines so they can get the products into stores faster. They’re also under pressure to protect their workers who’re on the front lines of the coronavirus.

The Associated Press recently interviewed Geoff Freeman, the CEO of the Consumer Brands Association — formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association — on a range of issues including the current status of supplies, protections for workers and customers’ shift away from organic food to packaged items like mac and cheese. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. How does the industry’s supply chain brace for a pandemic?

A. I’m not sure that any of us would have been prepared for something we have never seen in our lifetimes, frankly our grandparents didn’t see in their lifetimes. It isn’t much a playbook to dust off as there is a put your head down, rise to the occasion and do everything you can do, and this industry has done just that.

Q. Are you seeing consumers’ stockpiling leveling off a bit?

A. We’re seeing things settle into a new normal. The new normal isn’t back to 100%. There isn’t that much happening in the food service environment, the restaurant environment and the eating-away-from-home environment. So the industry is having to produce more for people to eat within their own homes. They’re doing that by increasing the productivity of their lines. They’re also taking food service products or lines that were focused on food service and reorienting them more to in-home consumption. That’s true on both the food side and consumer packaged goods.  .... "

Blockchain Officially Part of China's Tech Strategy


Blockchain Now Officially Part of China’s Technology Strategy
By Paddy Baker in CoinDesk

An influential government authority responsible for planning China's economy has said blockchain will form an integral part of the country's data and technology infrastructure.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told reporters Monday blockchain will join other emerging technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) in underpinning the systems China uses to manage the flow of information in the coming years.

Originally the State Planning Commission, the NDRC is a cabinet-level department that draws up policies and strategies for the direction of the Chinese economy. It has a wide brief that covers everything from investments into public transport to running anti-monopoly probes as well as overseeing corporate debt issuance.  ... "

Protecting Control Systems from Hackers

Was asked to produce a comment on this area, previously mentioned, probably one of the most important aspects of advanced infrastructure.

New Approach Could Protect Control Systems From Hackers

This algorithm creates “background noise” during data transmission to alert officials to hacking
By Michelle Hampson   in IEEE Spectrum

Some of the most important industrial control systems (ICSs), such as those that support power generation and traffic control, must accurately transmit data at the milli- or even mirco-second range. This means that hackers need interfere with the transmission of real-time data only for the briefest of moments to succeed in disrupting these systems. The seriousness of this type of threat is illustrated by the Stuxnet incursion in 2010, when attackers succeeded in hacking the system supporting Iran’s uranium enrichment factory, damaging more than 1000 centrifuges.

Now a trio of researchers has disclosed a novel technique that could more easily identify when these types of attacks occur, triggering an automatic shutdown that would prevent further damage.

The problem was first brought up in a conversation over coffee two years ago. “While describing the security measures in current industrial control systems, we realized we did not know any protection method on the real-time channels,” explains Zhen Song, a researcher at Siemens Corporation. The group began to dig deeper into the research, but couldn’t find any existing security measures. ... "

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sensors for Plant Stress

Possible applications for sensing problems with crops.

Nanosensor can alert a smartphone when plants are stressed
Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

MIT engineers have developed a way to closely track how plants respond to stresses such as injury, infection, and light damage, using sensors made of carbon nanotubes. These sensors can be embedded in plant leaves, where they report on hydrogen peroxide signaling waves.

Plants use hydrogen peroxide to communicate within their leaves, sending out a distress signal that stimulates leaf cells to produce compounds that will help them repair damage or fend off predators such as insects. The new sensors can use these hydrogen peroxide signals to distinguish between different types of stress, as well as between different species of plants.

“Plants have a very sophisticated form of internal communication, which we can now observe for the first time. That means that in real-time, we can see a living plant’s response, communicating the specific type of stress that it’s experiencing,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

This kind of sensor could be used to study how plants respond to different types of stress, potentially helping agricultural scientists develop new strategies to improve crop yields. The researchers demonstrated their approach in eight different plant species, including spinach, strawberry plants, and arugula, and they believe it could work in many more.

Strano is the senior author of the study, which appears today in Nature Plants. MIT graduate student Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew is the lead author of the paper.  ... " 


Examination of Machine Ethics

In preparation for an upcoming talk and effort that touches on ethics regarding autonomous systems, such as vehicles, but not necessarily restricted to them, I had  reason to look at now the classic 'trolley problem'.   Which is nicely covered in some detail in the Wikipedia entry on The Trolly Problem

Implications for autonomous vehicles:
Problems analogous to the trolley problem arise in the design of software to control autonomous cars.[12] Situations could occur in which a potentially fatal collision appears to be unavoidable, but in which choices made by the car's software, such as who or what crash into, can affect the particulars of the deadly outcome. For example, should the software value the safety of the car's occupants more, or less, than that of potential victims outside the car.[33][34][35][36][37]  ... " 

See also the MIT work called the Moral Machine:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Machine:

A platform called Moral Machine[38] was created by MIT Media Lab to allow the public to express their opinions on what decisions autonomous vehicles should make in scenarios that use the trolley problem paradigm. Analysis of the data collected through Moral Machine showed broad differences in relative preferences among different countries.[39] Other approaches make use of virtual reality to assess human behavior in experimental settings.[40][41][42][43] However, some argue that the investigation of trolley-type cases is not necessary to address the ethical problem of driverless cars, because the trolley cases have a serious practical limitation. It would need to be top-down plan in order to fit the current approaches of addressing emergencies in artificial intelligence.[44]  ... " 

Amazon can now find Acoustic A capella Versions of Songs

This struck me as interesting,   have followed the way musical pieces are classified, combined and described online.   In fact have had much trouble with systems like Alexa and Google Home, and voice search within their systems .    Even a slight 'mistake' in the voice description, which would be easily understood by a human musician, often  stymies the search leading to more wasted attempts.   This combined with slight mispronunciation of terms adds to the complexity of search.

Amazon can now find a cappella and acoustic versions of songs   By Kyle Wiggers in Venturebeat

Just over a year after Alexa gained the ability to announce titles and artists before songs play, Amazon’s voice assistant today gained a range of new music-focused features powered by AI and machine learning. With any luck, they’ll make it easier to request specific versions of a song or album or ask for music by language.

Starting today in the U.S. in the Amazon Music app for iOS or Android and on Echo devices, Alexa users with an Amazon Music account can request a cappella, live, remastered, remix, lullaby, deluxe, acoustic, instrumental, compilation, or kids’ renditions of songs, artists, and genres. Saying commands like “Alexa, play the Con Calma remix” or “Alexa, play live J. Cole songs” kicks off the search for an alternative recording. Alternatively, while a song is playing, asking “Alexa, play the acoustic version of this” switches to the requested version.

Amazon says that Amazon Music customers with Echo devices in the U.S. will also now hear a “more natural” version of Alexa’s voice when she introduces music, including curated content like playlists and stations, or when music is requested by mood, genre, lyric, and more. Additionally, language-based requests on Amazon Music have expanded to support over 60 languages, including Vietnamese, Persian, Nigerian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Maori, Icelandic, and more, allowing listeners to combine an era or genre with their preferred language. And artists including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Selena Gomez will announce their newest releases and hits on Amazon Music instead of Alexa for a limited time.

The enhancements follow the launch of Alexa’s Song ID, an opt-in feature that lets Echo smart speaker users ask Alexa to announce the title and artist name before each song plays. At the time, Amazon pitched it as a music, station, playlist, and chart discovery service for Alexa users, who it said ask Alexa devices “hundreds of thousands” of questions per day to find out more about the music they’re hearing. ... "