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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Apple Doing Mixed Reality

 A bit of a surprise, not much in the space as yet, but certainly, a place where their AI will be quite useful. Business oriented or consumer? 

Apple mixed-reality headset will reportedly launch in ‘the next several months’  By Alex Blake  in DigitalTrends

Rumors that Apple is working on a top-secret mixed-reality headset have exploded in recent months. Excitingly, they just got another boost from reputable reporter Mark Gurman, who claims Apple will unveil the device at an in-person event within “the next several months.”

In a newsletter discussing Apple’s future Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) events, Gurman wrote: “Sometime in the next several months, the company is poised to announce a mixed-reality headset, its first major new device since 2015. If possible, Apple won’t want to make such a critical announcement at an online event. It wants employees, the media, its partners, and developers in the room.”

Tantalizingly, WWDC itself falls within that date range, as it is due to begin on June 7 this year. However, before we all get too excited, this year’s WWDC event is set to be digital-only, which seemingly rules it out for the mixed-reality headset reveal.  ... " 

Google Privacy with FLoC

Here is how Google is thinking the demise of cookie tracking and how it will handle tracking and maintain privacy. 

Privacy, sustainability and the importance of “and”   from the Google Blog.

Marshall Vale  Product Manager, Privacy Sandbox

When other browsers started blocking third-party cookies by default, we were excited about the direction, but worried about the immediate impact. Excited because we absolutely need a more private web, and we know third-party cookies aren't the long-term answer. Worried because today many publishers rely on cookie-based advertising to support their content efforts, and we had seen that cookie blocking was already spawning privacy-invasive workarounds (such as fingerprinting) that were even worse for user privacy. Overall, we felt that blocking third-party cookies outright without viable alternatives for the ecosystem was irresponsible, and even harmful, to the free and open web we all enjoy. 

Since 2019, we’ve been working on a collaborative open-source effort — the Privacy Sandbox — to develop a set of new privacy-preserving technologies that make third-party cookies obsolete and enable publishers to keep growing their businesses and keep the web sustainable, with universal access to content. It’s a polarity to balance, but one we think is critical to keep the web open, accessible and thriving for everyone.

Today, a new piece of web technology — Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) — will start to roll out as a developer origin trial in Chrome. Keeping in mind the importance of “and,” FLoC is a new approach to interest-based advertising that both improves privacy and gives publishers a tool they need for viable advertising business models. FLoC is still in development and we expect it to evolve based on input from the web community and learnings from this initial trial.

Here’s a bit more information on how FLoC currently protects your privacy:  .... " 

Map Your Customer Journey

Always found the idea useful, even if not formally done.  And especially if you are including technological links.     Or perhaps a form of 'Digital-Customer-Twin' idea that might adapt to multiple products, needs, wants?    Or more of a process map-model? 

5 Reasons You Should Map Your Customer Journey

Kelechi Okeke -March 25, 2021 in CustomerThink

Today before any business can satisfy its customer needs or even exceed their expectations, good knowledge of what the customers truly want is required. This entails having an end-to-end understanding of the customers’ journey with the brand, from the awareness to loyalty stage of the buying cycle. A Customer Journey Map is a powerful tool for achieving this.

A Customer Journey Map is a diagram that shows how customers go through each stage of the buying cycle with a brand, from the customers’ point of view. The customer journey map highlights key interactions as well as customer motivations and emotional state at each touchpoint as they go through the buying cycle.

History of the Customer Journey Map

I was unable to identify the exact origin of the Customer Journey Map, but from my research, the concept evolved from Jan Carlzon’s Moments of Truth which advocated for an ecological view of the customer experience that involved looking across touchpoints.

Oxford Corporate Consultants (now OxfordSM) first introduced the concept of customer journey mapping in 1998 during their work with Eurostar to establish and implement a corporate mission and brand proposition.

OxfordSM continued to use the concept widely after this, even with the UK Government through which they eventually published the Customer Journey Mapping Guide for Practitioners.

Today more brands are turning to customer journey maps to gain insights into their experience. Here are 5 major reasons you should also map your customer journey.

#1. Identify gaps & opportunities for improvement

A customer journey map is a great tool to visualize how your customers go through each phase of the buying cycle, from Awareness to Advocacy (or Detraction). It outlines steps taken by the customer, their goals and motivation at each phase.

With this visual laid out before relevant stakeholders in an organization, it is easier to understand the current customer experience, identify pain-points and process gaps, as well as opportunities to improve the experience at each stage of the journey.  ... '

Learning from Big Mistakes

How about linking it to after action reviews?   Move closer to the process and the results.

How to Learn from the Big Mistake You Almost Make  by Kristen Senz

A brush with disaster can lead to important innovations, but only if employees have the psychological safety to reflect on these close calls, says research by Amy C. Edmondson, Olivia Jung, and colleagues.

What if businesses could learn from their worst mistakes without actually making them? How might the same progress and innovation occur, without firms incurring the costs associated with such errors?

The results of a recent study about close calls in health care suggest that when people feel secure about speaking up at work, incidents in which catastrophe is narrowly averted rise to the surface, spurring important growth and systems improvement.

“People don't pay enough attention, especially in the business world, to the potential goldmine of near-misses,” says Harvard Business School Professor Amy C. Edmondson, who studies psychological safety and organizational learning.

Incidents that almost result in loss or harm often pass unnoticed, in part because workers worry about being associated with vulnerability or failure. But when leaders frame near misses as free learning opportunities and express the value of resilience to their teams, the likelihood that workers will report such incidents increases.

That was the main finding of Resilience vs. Vulnerability: Psychological Safety and Reporting of Near Misses with Varying Proximity to Harm in Radiation Oncology, a study by Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, and Olivia Jung, a doctoral student at HBS. Co-authors on the paper, which was published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, included UCLA physicians Palak Kundu, John Hegde, Michael Steinberg, and Ann Raldow, and medical physicist Nzhde Agazaryan.  ... "

Is Reinforcement Learning the Next Big Thing?

Moving forward but not there yet.  What specifically will it take? 

Reinforcement learning: The next great AI tech moving from the lab to the real world

M M Hassan Mahmud, Digital Catapult in VentureBeat    March 28, 2021 10:20 AM

Reinforcement learning (RL) is a powerful type of artificial intelligence technology that can be used to learn strategies to optimally control large, complex systems such as manufacturing plants, traffic control systems (road/train/aircraft), financial portfolios, robots, etc. It is currently transitioning from research labs to highly impactful, real world applications. For example, self-driving car companies like Wayve and Waymo are using reinforcement learning to develop the control systems for their cars. 

AI systems that are typically used in industry perform pattern recognition to make a prediction. For instance, they may recognize patterns in images to detect faces (face detection), or recognize patterns in sales data to predict a change in demand (demand forecasting), and so on. Reinforcement learning methods, on the other hand, are used to make optimal decisions or take optimal actions in applications where there is a feedback loop. An example where both traditional AI methods and RL may be used, but for different purposes, will make the distinction clearer.  .... '

FLoC vs SWAN Tests Cookies for Browse Tracking

 Which have the higher potential for misuse? 

Online advertisers take on Google with their own third-party cookie alternative

Google has "FLoC"; these advertisers propose "SWAN."

D. Hardawar    @devindra  March 31st, 2021  in Engadget

When Google announced its plans to stop supporting third-party cookies for ads, a move away from tracking users based on their individual browsing history to create personalized ads, it was like a nuclear bomb for the online advertising industry. Yesterday, Google started officially testing its alternative solution, FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts)  , which anonymously serves ads to groups based on similar behavior. The major problem for the ad industry? FLoC is entirely Google's creation, which isn't exactly appealing to the company's competition in the space. So a group of online advertisers is proposing an alternative (with an appropriately cute name) of their own, SWAN, Bloomberg reports.   ... '

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Changed but Sticky Grocery Habits

 Grocer habits changed for good?  

COVID Buyer Habit Index Quantifies Stickiness of New Consumer Behaviors

Data and tech company finds fresh seafood, wine and baking ingredients among most habit-forming

Marian Zboraj in ProressiveGrocer

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected at-home food consumption and food delivery, but as vaccines become more readily available to the general public, retailers are wondering what, if any, of the pandemic buying behaviors are likely to remain in the public’s post-COVID routines. ..." 

Mixed Integer Programming

In our enterprise, Mixed integer Programming (MIP) was one of the most widely used and powerful techniques, long before AI.   But there are lots of tricks to make it really applicable.   Its still very useful.   Here a useful introduction with links to implementation systems.  Also makes a very good point about understanding how the structure of the problem is important.  And efficiency is crucial.  Also this is one space where maturing quantum methods are likely to become very useful.  By necessity is technical.  

A comprehensive study of Mixed Integer Programming with JuMP on Julia (Part 1)

Some basics of Linear/Mixed Integer Programming & How to use a heuristic callback inside a MIP solver.

By Ouaguenouni Mohamed  in TowardsDataScience


One of the primary purposes of the computer sciences and operation research is to solve problems efficiently; problem-solving is a field where we often find very “ad-hoc” methods of resolution, they can be efficient, but they rely on some specific properties of the problem which are not necessarily easy to notice.

In this series of posts, we will introduce and discover a very versatile and generic way of thinking and of solving a wide variety of problems, and this introduction will occur on three sides:.... ' 

AI and IOT Use Cases

 Via link from O'Reilly.   Obvious perhaps but work thinking through the reasons why again.  As noted security is a particular concern for IOT.

AI and IoT – 5 use cases where it’s gathering pace  in TechHQ

While IoT sensors detect external information, replacing it with a signal that humans and machines can distinguish, it’s AI that helps to build intelligent machines.

The convergence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) unlocks a huge potential for businesses worldwide.

While IoT sensors detect external information, replacing it with a signal that humans and machines can distinguish, it’s AI that helps to build intelligent machines that learn from that data to support the decision-making process with little or no human interference.

Humidity and temperature sensor prototype at school for IoT device. Weather box IoT DIY in education campus

5 steps to making IoT networks more secure

The use of IoT is surging, and by the end of this year it’s predicted there could be up to 50 billion connected devices. Married with AI, this tide of new technology could usher in new opportunities, changing the way entire industries operate.

To illustrate the potential, we’ve put together a whistlestop of ten emerging applications of AI-enabled IoT. .... '

Facebook Wants Watch like Controllers for AR Glasses

 Is Facebook aiming to take us long and deep with augmented reality controlled from our watches?    I still think there is something missing to make the idea universal.

Facebook reveals new watch-like controllers for its future AR glasses

The wearable devices will read nerve signals from the brain and deliver tactile feedback through haptic buzzers around the wrist.... 

By Mark Sullivan   in FastCompany

While other tech companies tend to keep their R&D under a blanket of secrecy, Facebook is opening its labs and showing the world how it’s developing its future augmented reality (AR) glasses. The company held the second in a series of its “Inside the Lab” media roundtables on Tuesday and introduced new technology that would enable users to control their AR glasses using their fingers.

AR glasses project light onto the eyes and seem to overlay the real world with digital imagery. As you’re looking through the glasses at a statue, for instance, the glasses might display a label with helpful information right next to it. Many people in tech circles believe AR glasses, in some form, will eventually replace the smartphone as our go-to personal computing device.

In this week’s roundtable, company executives, starting with chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, showed off wrist wearables that detect the movement of the glasses wearer’s fingers. The wearable uses a technology called electromyography (EMG), which intercepts the electrical signals the brain uses to direct finger movements. It then translates the electrical pulses into digital commands that can control functions of the device functions. ... "

Quantum Developer Certification

More seriousness in this space.

IBM launches its first quantum developer certification in TechCrunch

While quantum computing may still be in its infancy, most pundits in the industry will tell you that now is the time to learn the basic concepts. Qiskit has already proven quite popular, with more than 600,000 installs, and when IBM Quantum and the Qiskit team hosted a quantum summer school last year, almost 5,000 developers participated.  ... " 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Online Art

For those of you interested in online art collections, I am a follower, here is a newly established free, online displayed collection from the Louvre:   Below link takes you through to more detail and to the collection. 


The database for the Louvre’s collections consists of entries for more than 480,000 works of art that are part of the national collections and registered in the inventories of the museum’s eight curatorial departments (Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Paintings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Sculpture; Prints and Drawings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Decorative Arts), those of the History of the Louvre department, or the inventories of the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, administratively attached to the Louvre since 2004. ... " 

Overall Index.

Machines Writing for Us

Will such robotic systems do all our writing for us?  A lot of words being spewed.

OpenAI’s text-generating system GPT-3 is now spewing out 4.5 billion words a day

Robot-generated writing looks set to be the next big thing

By James Vincent in The Verge

One of the biggest trends in machine learning right now is text generation. AI systems learn by absorbing billions of words scraped from the internet and generate text in response to a variety of prompts. It sounds simple, but these machines can be put to a wide array of tasks — from creating fiction, to writing bad code, to letting you chat with historical figures. ... " 

Stretch Robot Works the Warehouse

Having much analyzed the process, I much like the self staging and unloading of a truck demoed above. 

Say hello to Boston Dynamics’ newest robot: Stretch  By Trevor Mogg in Digitaltrends

Boston Dynamics has just unveiled its latest robot, but don’t expect the kind of entertaining shenanigans that we enjoy with its other creations like Spot and Atlas.

The new wheel-based robot, called Stretch, is designed for straightforward warehouse work. Using a long automated arm and a “smart gripper” featuring embedded sensors, the machine is able to work quickly, handling around 800 boxes an hour. ... '

Answers for the Bullwhip Effect

A classic problem with supply chain predictability.  Often covered here.  Oracle and Retailwire provide a survey and means to  approach to address it.

Reverse the Supply Chain Bullwhip Effect

The entire supply chain has been upended by the pandemic. Flexibility and resiliency will be critical for retailers as they move forward.

With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, shopper panic buying imposed severe stress on supply chains, resulting in significant out-of-stocks. What resulted was a bullwhip effect — an increasing supply chain error that creates false supply and demand fluctuations — disrupting not only retailers but also distributors, manufacturers, and suppliers.

In this whitepaper, you'll learn how retailers can better manage their supply chains, meet today's consumers' demands and, ultimately, "Reverse the Bullwhip Effect".

  Get their whitepaper here: Reversing the Supply Chain Bullwhip Effect

By Oracle Retail

Virtual Reality at a Touch

A new kind of interaction with your reality.     Perhaps easier and more productive. 

Virtual Reality at Your Fingertips

ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Leo Herrmann, March 16, 2021

Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed a dual-sensor wristband that facilitates intuitive free-hand interaction within virtual productivity spaces. The prototype TapID technology incorporates two acceleration sensors in a rubber wristband, which detect when the hand touches a surface and which finger the user has employed. This design senses tiny differences in the vibration profile on the wrist and differentiates between each unique finger movement, while a custom machine learning pipeline processes the data in real time. TapID generates extremely precise input when used with cameras embedded within virtual reality (VR) glasses, which capture hand positions. The researchers designed a virtual keyboard and piano to demonstrate TapID's capabilities, and ETH Zurich's Christian Holz said the portable technology "has the potential to make VR systems suitable for productivity work on the go."

A Look inside Boston Dynamics Workshop

Impressed by some of the videos from inside Boston Dynamics,  and some of their agile and assistive designs that have obviously broad applications.  Here is some more:

Robot specialist Boston Dynamics offers rare look inside its workshop  By Trevor Mogg, March 28, 2021

Robot specialist Boston Dynamics has made a name for itself in recent years, building incredibly agile machines that can run, leap, somersault, and even pull nifty dance moves designed to give the best human hip-shakers a run for their money.

Its rare for Boston Dynamics to open its doors to anyone other than employees, but after “years” of asking, CBS’s 60 Minutes team was recently granted special access to the company’s Massachusetts workshop.

A video on the 60 Minutes website  features Anderson Cooper touring the workshop and meeting some of the personnel, including Marc Raibert, the founder and chairman of Boston Dynamics. ... '

Wal-Mart Embraces Immersive VR Learning

Good piece with useful details of the effort.   Consider the volume of training required.   Was involved with some sales training efforts, but this takes it quite further.  Our innovation centers also allowed us to stage sales interactions with actual consumers.  And with the CEO of our company as well.    Did some experimentation with VR, but that was still too immature for the typical consumer to use. 

Case study: Walmart embraces immersive learning

Virtual reality is revolutionizing the way the retail giant’s associates learn.

By  Sarah Fister Gale   In Chief Learning Officer

In 2016, Walmart had an emerging issue among its learning programs. The $4 trillion retailer has 1.5 million workers in the U.S., and most of them needed training on how to handle complex customer situations — specifically, training that wouldn’t be disruptive to the customer experience.

“We can’t do that in the store,” says Kate Kressen, senior manager II of learning content and development for Walmart in Bentonville, Ark. “And it’s very hard to recreate a live store environment in a training program.”

For a long time they relied on classroom instructors giving lectures and quizzes, or static online courses that associates clicked through on their own. But neither format could convey the heightened experience of dealing with certain situations in the flow of work.

“We can talk all day, but until you understand the tension that associates and managers feel, it doesn’t really translate,” Kressen says.

Armchair coach

Around that same time, Derek Belch was launching Strivr, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based athletic training company that uses virtual reality as an immersion tool to give athletes a way to practice their craft off the field. Belch had previously been an assistant football coach at Stanford while writing his master’s thesis on using VR to train football players. The project was so impressive that Stanford’s head coach provided Belch with funding to launch Strivr, which he co-founded with Stanford VR professor Jeremy Bailenson.

“When we started Strivr, we were only focused on the sports world,” Belch says. But about a year after launching, he got a surprising call from Brock McKeel, senior director of digital operations at Walmart, who’d seen Strivr’s VR software being used for quarterback training. “He wanted to talk about employee training,” Belch says.

By that time, Strivr had worked with more than 30 NFL and college teams, but Belch had never considered the potential of using his immersive training technology to teach store employees.

However, as he and his team discussed the opportunity, it started to make sense. “As I talked to Walmart about how they train their employees, and what they needed them to learn, we realized that our formula for athletes wasn’t that different,” he says. His developers wouldn’t need to reinvent the software, they just needed to reengineer the experience for a store environment. “It turned out to be a little easier than we expected,” he says. “Stores are a lot more static than a football field.”

Belch was convinced he could create a course that would work for Walmart, though the potential scale of the project was daunting. Walmart wanted Strivr to create programs that could be run in all 200 learning academies, which are training centers attached to larger Walmart stories. And eventually, the retailer wanted to roll it out to 4,000 locations. “It was important that Strivr be able to scale their solution to meet our needs,” Kressen says, “because we needed to get a handle on training 1.2 million associates.”  ... '

Sunday, March 28, 2021

New CCPA Addresses Dark Patterns

First I had heard of this, the definition of  'dark patterns' seems quite loose. 

California Passes Regulation Banning 'Dark Patterns' Under Landmark Privacy Law

in Gizmodo, Brianna Provenzano, March 15, 2021

New rules enacted under California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will bar so-called dark patterns, or underhanded practices used by websites or applications to get users to behave atypically. Examples include website visitors suddenly being redirected to a subscription page, even when they have no interest in the product being marketed. According to an infographic from the California Attorney General's office, dark-pattern strategies rely on "confusing language or unnecessary steps such as forced clicking or scrolling through multiple screens or listening to why you shouldn't opt out of their data sale." The new CCPA regulations will further add a Privacy Options icon, which Internet users can use as a visual cue to opt out of the sale of their personal data.  ... '

Towards Deception Detection? In Humans, in Machines? In Crowds?

Following this in the Language Log Blog for some time.  We even looked at large databases of human comments on products. But could such comments really be marked as 'deception'?    And when our brands started to converse with customers, relating their experiences, concerns and needs,  could such conversations be closer to speaking 'truth'?  Or not?  How about if we linked it to other behavioral  cues?   Or is that a violation of privacy?    All that detail, though discussed, was never implemented.  But can it be done better now?   Is there truth in a crowd response?   See the tags under 'deception'  here, which I am about to review.

New directions in deception detection?

March 28, 2021 @ 11:23 am · Filed by Mark Liberman under Nonverbal communication, Psychology of language

Jessica Seigel, "The truth about lying", Knowable Magazine 3/25/2021

You can’t spot a liar just by looking — but psychologists are zeroing in on methods that might actually work

The featured research is a review by Aldert Vrij, Maria Hartwig, and Pär Anders Granhag, "Reading Lies: Nonverbal Communication and Deception", Annual Review of Psychology 2019   :... '

TensorFlow3D and Audio

 More on Google 3D Scene understanding inTensorFlow3D  with links to audio.   Quite interesting, why not build a broader notion of context?   Like the direction.

3D Scene Understanding   And building audio filters

By Bugra Akyildizin in  Mlops Substack  Technical

Google published their 3D scene understanding models in Tensorflow and wrote a blog post   explaining their work. They released the library as a separate package in here    . They are extending Sparse Neural networks by implementing 3D kernels for pooling and sparse convolutions.  .... " 

Future of Today's Retail

 All will have an impact, demise no, efficiency yes. 

The future of retail: Do robots, A.I., and AR spell demise for stores?   By Jeremy Kaplan, in DigitalTrends

A robot started prowling the aisles at my local Stop & Shop grocery store a few months ago, a tall, thin drink of water with big, ridiculous googly eyes at the top of its 7-foot-tall frame. Called Marty, the 140-pound robot was first rolled out in 2019 and is continuing to expand his empire, finally reaching the Long Island store I’ve been frequenting. Huzzah?

Marty spots spills and other hazards, and … well, that’s it. Sure, “cleanup on aisle nine” just got more interesting, but his capabilities are limited. Nice try, guys.

Meanwhile, Amazon Go stores are pioneering retail at a whole different level, automatically detecting you as your car enters the parking lot, leaning on A.I. to determine whether you’re merely eyeing the aioli or purchasing those potatoes, and automagically charging your credit card as you stroll through the exits — no swipe required. Retail today is nothing like the shopping malls of yesterday, and the future of retail is headed in a new direction entirely.

Today: What’s in your cart? Amazon knows

The retail world was prepared to be upset by beacons a few years ago. Using tiny Bluetooth sensors from Apple, Kontakt, Estimote, BlueSense and others, retailers were reportedly going to track our progress down the aisle and inundate us with offers, sensing us dawdling over the tie rack. “Buy this right now and I’ll give you 10% off!” That concept clearly hasn’t soared, yet technology has poured into retail at an unprecedented pace.

Consider those Amazon Go stores. How exactly do they know what you’re doing in the store, and determine what’s in your basket and what you need to pay for? Do cameras simply look over your shoulder and record what goes in the cart? .... ' 

Measuring Microfailures (Again)

Not really a new thing, but thinking about effectively measuring them is.    Which we attempted to deal with directly. ... 

Elsevier:  Business Horizons   Volume 63, Issue 4, July–August 2020, Pages 573-584

Full article 

How small service failures drive customer defection: Introducing the concept of microfailures

 By Sean Sands, Colin Campbell,  Lois Shedd,  Carla Ferraro,  Alexis Mavrommatisa


Service that falls below customer expectations is framed as a service failure. While many researchers have investigated service failures, they have tended to focus on large service failures. This is likely because large failures are more noticeable by firms and more likely to prompt customer complaints than small failures. However, we argue that smaller service failures can cause as much damage as larger failures, and in some cases even more. We introduce the concept of service microfailures, which we define as instances when a customer’s expectations go unmet in some small way. While minor in isolation, repeated service microfailures that go unnoticed and unrecovered can compound in effect and drive customer defection. For this reason, we propose that service microfailures are a potentially much larger managerial problem than they may appear on the surface. In this article, we conceptualize microfailures as a distinct form of service failure and outline the mechanism through which they cause damage. We then develop a multifaceted approach through which managers can detect, repair, and prevent service microfailures.... '

Good Overview of Blockchain

 Very nice non-technical video overview.   Passing this on for a talk I am giving. 

What is BLOCKCHAIN? The best explanation of blockchain technology

6 minute Youtube video:    https://youtu.be/3xGLc-zz9cA

By Lucas Mostazo      Centre for International Governance Innovation   www.cigionline.org 

Understanding how blockchain works and identifying myths about its powers are the first steps to developing blockchain technologies.

Blockchain is an algorithm and distributed data structure for managing electronic cash without a central administrator among people who know nothing about one another. Originally designed for the crypto-currency Bitcoin, the blockchain architecture was driven by a radical rejection of at (government-guaranteed) money and bank-controlled payments.

Blockchain is a special instance of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs), almost all of which have emerged in Bitcoin's wake.


Blockchain is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that was invented to support the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Bitcoin was motivated by an extreme rejection of government-guaranteed money and bank-controlled payments. The developer of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned people spending money without friction, intermediaries, regulation or the need to know or trust other parties.

Technically, the original blockchain is separable from Bitcoin, but this report will show that the blockchain design is so specific to Bitcoin that it's not a good fit for much else.

The central problem in electronic cash is Double Spend. Because pure electronic money is just data, nothing stops a currency holder from trying to spend it twice. Blockchain solves the Double Spend problem without a digital reserve fund or similar form of umpire.

Blockchain monitors and verifies Bitcoin transactions by calling upon a decentralized network of volunteer-run nodes to, in effect, vote on the order in which transactions occur. The network's algorithm ensures that each transaction is unique.

Video created by the Centre of International Governance Innovation.

www.cigionline.org   Waterloo, Canada

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Fewer UK Troops, More Tech

Another inevitable thing.   How do we make sure the decisions are applied in the right way? 

Fewer Troops, but More Tech: U.K. Military Downsizes as it Shifts to AI, Drones, Cyber

By ZDNet, March 26, 2021

 The U.K. government has unveiled plans to re-organize its defense over the next decade, with heavy investments in new technologies to be matched by a reduction in the number of military personnel.

Automation is increasingly making its way into the modern-day battlefield, and the armed forces are being re-shaped accordingly. The UK government has unveiled new plans to re-organize defense over the next 10 years, with heavy investments in new technologies to be matched by a reduction in the size of military personnel. 

In an effort to adapt the armed forces to the modern age of information technology and digital warfare, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has laid out a new vision for the military up to 2030, with a focus on responding to the rapid changes happening in the field. These include new threats ranging from the spread of terror through cyberspace, to novel AI-infused war capabilities, through to the rapid modernization of the Russian and Chinese military.

From ZDNet

Microsoft Launches Identity Platform on Bitcoin’s Blockchain

Via Walter Riker.    Microsoft is working a number of strategies in identity I am exploring. 

Microsoft Launches Identity Platform on Bitcoin’s Blockchain

By Emmanuel Young,  in BeinCrypto

Microsoft has revealed the launch of a decentralized identity platform built on Bitcoin's blockchain.

Called, ION, the platform is Microsoft's solution for credential verification in the digital space.

Whilst Ethereum still remains the most popular platform for dApp development, Bitcoin-based dApps are growing in number.  ... '

Unilever on Our Brave New Post Pandemic Work Future

Lots of future predictions, here from the CPG world we studied. 

Fit for the postpandemic future: Unilever’s Leena Nair on reinventing how we work

As Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO), responsible for 150,000 Unilever employees, Leena Nair prepares for postpandemic work by focusing on both the care of people and the competitiveness of the business.  ... '

Sent from McKinsey Insights

Anomaly Detection

Humans in conversation also look for anomalies to build a model of the interaction and its direction and value. 

Explainable AI (XAI) design for unsupervised deep anomaly detector

Interpretable prototype for detecting Out-of-Distribution Samples and Adversarial Attacks

By Ajay Arunachalam  in TowardDataScience  (Technical)

An interpretable prototype of unsupervised deep convolutional neural network & lstm autoencoders based real-time anomaly detection from high-dimensional heterogeneous/homogeneous time series multi-sensor data

Hello, friends. In this blog post, I will take you through the new features of the package “msda”. More details can be found on the GitHub page here

What’s new in MSDA v1.10.0?

MSDA is an open source low-code Multi-Sensor Data Analysis library in Python that aims to reduce the hypothesis to insights cycle time in a time-series multi-sensor data analysis & experiments. It enables users to perform end-to-end proof-of-concept experiments quickly and efficiently. The module identifies events in the multidimensional time series by capturing the variation and trend to establish a relationship aimed towards identifying the correlated features helping in feature selection from raw sensor signals. Also, it provides a provision to precisely detect the anomalies in real-time streaming data an unsupervised deep convolutional neural network & also a lstm autoencoders based detectors are designed to run on GPU/CPU. Finally, a game theoretic approach is used to explain the output of the built anomaly detector model.   ...  '

DARPA Subterranean Challenge

 Always intriguing, how can robotic systems autonomously navigate complex and messy environments, like virtual tunnels, caves, underground urban environments, or even the interiors of buildings or warehouses, to achieve some stated goals.     Often requiring sensing and mapping to aid as part of the challenge.   Can include collaborative challenges.  Obvious military and policing applications.


Home/News/DARPA's Subterranean Challenge Scores/Full Text

ACM NEWS.  DARPA's Subterranean Challenge Scores

By R. Colin Johnson  Commissioned by CACM Staff

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has already awarded more than $3 million in funding and prizes to robot designers competing in its Subterranean Challenge (SubT) underground autonomous robotic vehicle contests.

For the last three years, DARPA has sponsored multiple underground circuit competitions for robotic hardware systems constructed by contestants and tested in real underground environments constructed by DARPA with rock, concrete, steel, wood, and dirt. Concurrently, DARPA has sponsored software robot competitions programmed by contestants and tested in virtual underground facilities constructed by DARPA with software simulations (akin to video games). So far, DARPA's SubT has successfully advanced the state of the art in making quick, accurate maps, as well as demonstrating the need for better cooperative skills among different types of autonomous robots.

"Regarding autonomy, robots have a range of control depending on their environment," said Sanjiv Singh, a consulting professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute and editor-in-chief of the journal Field Robotics. Singh said the journal " covers the areas where robots must operate outside of a controlled environment — like a warehouse — which includes the mining tunnels, urban underground facilities, and the geological caves featured in DARPA's Subterranean Challenge."  ... '

Friday, March 26, 2021

Chipotele Wants to use Autonomous Nuro Delivery

 Surprising to me, given the number of delivery services out there.   Note the use of Nuro, which many retailers have tested.   Still want to  see one of these operating autonomously, have not heard much new of late about its operations. 

Chipotle is the latest company to get behind robot cars. Here’s why

Chipotle just invested big in an autonomous delivery company. Their CTO explains why and what the process will look like.

By Mark Wilson

Nuro is the autonomous vehicle company that big brands love. With a focus on delivery, Nuro’s cute, driverless vehicle that’s optimized to hold goods has attracted partnerships with Walmart, Kroger, and CVS, along with over $1 billion in funding since 2017.

This week, Chipotle joined the list of Nuro’s backers, investing an undisclosed amount in the company’s latest round of funding.

Nuro has been a golden child of the startup world since 2017. Like many other AV startups, it’s been testing its technologies tentatively over several years to polish them for wider release. The strategy seems to be paying off for Nuro. Its Nuro R2 vehicle has become the first autonomous car approved to operate without a driver on roads across three different states (California, Arizona, and Texas).  ... " 

Lip Reading Software for Messaging

 Intriguing idea.   An air gap indeed, but secure? 

Lip-Reading Software Helps Users of All Abilities to Send Secure Messages

University of California News,  Lorena Anderson,  March 18, 2021

Lip-reading software developed by researchers at the University of California, Merced (UC Merced)'s Human-Computer Interaction Group can continuously learn from its users. LipType allows users to send texts or emails on their computers and mobile devices, and contactlessly engage with public devices without speaking aloud. The UC Merced team incorporated filters for different lighting conditions and a mistake-corrector based on different language models into LipType, which was faster and less error-prone than other lip-readers. UC Merced's Laxmi Pandey said, "LipType performed 58% faster and 53% more accurately than other state-of-the-art models in various real-world settings, including poor lighting and busy market situations."

Technology Will Create Many Jobs, Can we fill them?

The considerable challenge.   Adaptable workers, processes and systems will be required.

Technology Will Create Millions of Jobs. The Problem Will Be to Find Workers to Fill Them

ZDNet, Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, March 19, 2021

Economic analysis by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) indicates that new technologies will create tens of millions of jobs by 2030, but are unlikely to offset job losses from automation over the same period. Models of prospective changes in labor supply and demand in Germany, Australia, and the U.S. forecast that the next decade's job losses will be matched by even greater job creation. BCG's Miguel Carrasco said, "It is unrealistic to expect perfect exchangeability—not all of the surplus capacity in the workforce can be redeployed to meet new or growing demand." Occupations facing the biggest shortages include computer-related professions and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math. BCG recommends aggressively upskilling and retraining the workforce, to ensure the timely fulfillment of demand for talent. ... ' 

Quantum Computing for Chemical Characteristics

An local example of the use of quantum simulation.

UC Chemists Use Supercomputers to Understand Solvents

University of Cincinnati News, Michael Miller, March 19, 2021

University of Cincinnati (UC) chemists Thomas Beck and Andrew Eisenhart used a supercomputer to understand the basic characteristics of an industrial solvent via quantum simulation. The researchers employed the university’s Advanced Research Computing Center and the Ohio Supercomputer Center to investigate glycerol carbonate. Said Eisenhart, "Quantum simulations have been around for quite a while. But the hardware that's been evolving recently—things like graphics processing units and their acceleration when applied to these problems—creates the ability to study larger systems than we could in the past." Eisenhart said the analysis provided insights into how small modifications to molecular structure can have larger effects on the solvent overall, "and how these small changes make its interactions with very important things like ions and can have an effect on things like battery performance."

Enhancing Exoskeletons

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Interesting approaches to add AI to exoskeletal robotics solutions.  Broad applications?

Engineers Combine AI, Wearable Cameras in Self-Walking Robotic Exoskeletons

University of Waterloo News (Canada),  March 15, 2021

Researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo have combined computer vision and deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI) technology in an effort to develop robotic exoskeleton legs that can make decisions. Current exoskeleton legs must be controlled manually via smartphone applications or joysticks. The researchers used wearable cameras fitted to exoskeleton users and AI software to process the video feed to recognize stairs, doors, and other aspects of the surrounding environment. Waterloo’s Brokoslaw Laschowski said, "Our control approach wouldn't necessarily require human thought. Similar to autonomous cars that drive themselves, we're designing autonomous exoskeletons that walk for themselves." ... ' 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Amazon Lookout for Metrics

This was just pointed out to me today  'Amazon Launches Lookout for Metrics in AWS '.    As described this seems quite useful.  Detecting anomalies can be done with AI style methods, here Machine Learning, which is a form of compliance to safe and proper operation of any kind of business.  - FAD

Amazon Lookout for Metrics

Automatically detect anomalies in metrics and identify their root cause

Amazon Lookout for Metrics uses machine learning (ML) to automatically detect and diagnose anomalies (i.e. outliers from the norm) in business and operational data, such as a sudden dip in sales revenue or customer acquisition rates. In a couple of clicks, you can connect Amazon Lookout for Metrics to popular data stores like Amazon S3, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), as well as third-party SaaS applications, such as Salesforce, Servicenow, Zendesk, and Marketo, and start monitoring metrics that are important to your business. Amazon Lookout for Metrics automatically inspects and prepares the data from these sources to detect anomalies with greater speed and accuracy than traditional methods used for anomaly detection. You can also provide feedback on detected anomalies to tune the results and improve accuracy over time. Amazon Lookout for Metrics makes it easy to diagnose detected anomalies by grouping together anomalies that are related to the same event and sending an alert that includes a summary of the potential root cause. It also ranks anomalies in order of severity so that you can prioritize your attention to what matters the most to your business.   ... " 

This was also mentioned and discussed in Venturebeat.

Battlefield History Training and Simulation

 Certainly not a new thing, saw and participated in such wargaming simulations as early as the late 70's with very advanced graphics.  But was clearly not what we would call 'virtual reality' today, but what might be something like keyboard or pen input and then output of simulated results, in non real-times.  Much less than computer gaming speed.   And here aimed at historical data.  Note to the use of 'liquid' interaction models, also an intriguing advance. Still a telling example of advances made since then.

Virtual reality battlefield technology designed to train military leaders  by Purdue University in TechXPlore

A new and modern approach to understanding battlefield history may soon help prepare future military leaders in the U.S.

Purdue University innovators have developed battlefield simulation technology that they used to produce a virtual reality tour of the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

"We have worked with military education partners to refine our virtual reality technology to provide a useful tool for future military leaders," said Sorin Adam Matei, a professor of communication and associate dean in Purdue's College of Liberal Arts. "We apply what we know from the field of physics and treat the virtual soldiers almost like liquids that are interacting on the battlefield. Military educators can use this tool to teach future leaders lessons learned from historic battles in a visually exciting way that brings them to life for the students."

Their work is part of the FORCES (4S)—Strategy, Security and Social Systems Initiative in Purdue's College of Liberal Arts. More information is available at purdue.university/forces.

The initiative supports the use of social scientific research in strategy and security activities to shape long-range and global military, political and organizational decision-making for a just, stable and secure world. Other members of the team are Jonathan Poggie, a professor of engineering; Robert Kirchubel, an educator and retired Army lieutenant colonel; and Matthew Konkoly, a research assistant.  ... "

Consumer Goods Simulation and Digital Twins

This article points out that simulation can be essential in dealing with the understanding of consumer goods.  Even mentions the idea of  'digital twins' as a model design approach for simulations.  Simulation was originally called 'Monte Carlo' simulation,  because at least some of the activity modeled was driven by chance.  And in fact that is still the case.  Things like human behavior or weather or accidents or activity by people or machines are still driven partially by chance.  You expect a twin to be close, but not exactly the same as another agent.   None of this is new, or even close to new. The very earliest models I did for CG were of that type.  But I accept it as a hint for the new generation.  Contact me if you want more insight.

Making Products Without Really Making Them: The Role of Simulation  in CGT Mag.

CGT Staff

Whether by default or design, the consumer goods industry has innovated its way into a continuous cycle of better, faster, more. With demand in their palms (thanks to the consumer electronics vertical), unlimited choice and expectation of brand intimacy, consumers generate an ultra-competitive business environment for manufacturers.

Warp speed is required to deliver — often to the door in one day — high-quality, smart products in a personalized way at reasonable prices. Globalization adds further complexity to all parts of the supply chain, impacting product lifecycles as well. Only the companies that can most effectively deal with the layers of intricacy will survive.

With so little margin for error — and smaller margins in general — CG companies are looking at new ways to improve their products and processes. To provide the best service levels and experiences, while keeping costs low to accommodate shifts in consumer purchasing patterns, many are turning toward more flexible manufacturing — a combination of manufacturing simulation, execution and automation that results in truly agile operations.  ... ' 

Coindesk Crypto Newsletter

New State of Crypto weekly newsletter, which covers both cryptocurrency and blockchain global usage, events, regulation and technology.  From the Coindesk folks.   Good scannable content.   Link below to subscribe. 

State of Crypto  How policy and regulation impact the crypto world – and the other way around, weekly.

By Nikhilesh De from Coindesk.

Digital Clothes

 Because the company I worked for is one of the largest manufacturer of detergents, we got lots of questions about the future of the design, use, manufacture and care of clothing.   Got the feeling that none of this ever went anywhere, but perhaps now?  Covered it loosely over the years.  Still wonder about the 'wild' aspect, but good overview here.

 The clothes we wear are about to undergo a wild digital revolution  By Jared Lindzon in FastCompany

The way clothing gets made has changed surprisingly little over the years. But new advances are adding intelligence and customization to the process.

Imagine an article of clothing that could tell your washing machine how to keep its colors from fading. Imagine a piece of clothing that could warm your body in the winter and cool it down in the summer. Imagine wearing clothes that weren’t designed last year, or last season, but yesterday, in response to that day’s buying patterns. Imagine being able to fully customize every article of clothing in your wardrobe for the same cost as mass-produced items.  ... ' 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Advances for Reinforcement Learning

Very interesting,   The very first para below does a good job of  'why' this could change RL methods,  the rest of the article then carries on more technically.  Supporting images are at the link . Is this a big deal?  Humans determine they have reached a solution by comparing it to something they perceive is 'correct'.  Like an image of correctness.   Considering how this would be most useful.    Could we teach a system to learn to learn patterns of correctness? 

Recursive Classification: Replacing Rewards with Examples in RL

Wednesday, March 24, 2021    Posted by Benjamin Eysenbach, Student Researcher, Google Research

A general goal of robotics research is to design systems that can assist in a variety of tasks that can potentially improve daily life. Most reinforcement learning algorithms for teaching agents to perform new tasks require a reward function, which provides positive feedback to the agent for taking actions that lead to good outcomes. However, actually specifying these reward functions can be quite tedious and can be very difficult to define for situations without a clear objective, such as whether a room is clean or if a door is sufficiently shut. Even for tasks that are easy to describe, actually measuring whether the task has been solved can be difficult and may require adding many sensors to a robot's environment.

Alternatively, training a model using examples, called example-based control, has the potential to overcome the limitations of approaches that rely on traditional reward functions. This new problem statement is most similar to prior methods based on "success detectors", and efficient algorithms for example-based control could enable non-expert users to teach robots to perform new tasks, without the need for coding expertise, knowledge of reward function design, or the installation of environmental sensors.

In "Replacing Rewards with Examples: Example-Based Policy Search via Recursive Classification," we propose a machine learning algorithm for teaching agents how to solve new tasks by providing examples of success (e.g., if “success” examples show a nail embedded into a wall, the agent will learn to pick up a hammer and knock nails into the wall). This algorithm, recursive classification of examples (RCE), does not rely on hand-crafted reward functions, distance functions, or features, but rather learns to solve tasks directly from data, requiring the agent to learn how to solve the entire task by itself, without requiring examples of any intermediate states. Using a version of temporal difference learning — similar to Q-learning, but replacing the typical reward function term using only examples of success — RCE outperforms prior approaches based on imitation learning on simulated robotics tasks. Coupled with theoretical guarantees similar to those for reward-based learning, the proposed method offers a user-friendly alternative for teaching robots new tasks.  ... " 

Successful AR Solutions for the Enterprise

Took some long hard looks at AR for the Enterprise, but with little success.   Are we there yet?  Here a good piece, with some directions. 

How Augmented Reality Fits into AR  IoT

  Last year, we decided to add the German IoT company TeamViewer (TMV.F) to our Disruptive Tech Portfolio. It scratched all of the right itches – highly profitable with a 100% subscription model, crazy growth across different metrics, strong regional diversification, and foreign currency exposure. (It also doesn’t suffer from the ARK effect.) Its connectivity platform offers a suite of solutions that enable customers to remotely access, control, manage, monitor, and repair devices of any kind, from laptops and mobile phones to industrial machines and robots. We also like the fact that the company is integrating augmented reality into its IoT enterprise platform, adding a German AR applications startup to its portfolio in 2020. 

TeamViewer continued to build that part of the business in 2021, acquiring a U.S.-based AR startup, Upskill, this month. As investors, we want to understand the value that this new acquisition brings to the table.  ... ' 

IEEE Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.

A long list with images from the 60s to the present of consumer electronic devices that can be seen as forerunners of those we use today.   And some we still use today.   An inspirational list.   Made me think of what to expect in a future list, 

IEEE Spectrum

Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame

The Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

Over the past half century, countless consumer devices have charmed, muscled, or seduced their way into our lives. Among these gadgets, a select few can be called great. Some of them started a new product category, others dazzled with their engineering; still others fundamentally changed the way we worked or played. Or they simply made it hard for us to remember what life was like without them. A couple of them—the smartphone, the personal computer—did all of the above.

What they had in common was that they emerged from a moment of communal genius among electrical engineers, industrial designers, product visionaries, and others. In this report, we celebrate those moments. And where we can, we honor the people who made them possible. .... ' 

AI Curbing Traffic Accidents in Cities

 Analysis of patterns from city images recommends changes to decrease accidents.  

How AI Can Help Curb Traffic Accidents in Cities

By Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain), March 19, 2021

A research project at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain is harnessing the capabilities of artificial intelligence to make decisions that will make urban traffic safer.

The researchers trained neural networks to detect probable hazards in an area and found that certain patterns in urban scene layout—such as the arrangement of street furniture and the location of parked cars, advertisements, and facades—may impact accident rates.

The researchers developed a heuristic method to improve urban scenes, but it requires urban planners, architects, or engineers to implement changes based on the algorithm-driven data.

UOC’s Javier Borge said, “Our biggest hurdle is data availability: the analysis requires a rich collection of street view images and open, geolocalized data on accident rates with details of those involved, which are not currently easy to obtain."

From Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain)

Enterprise Blockchain

 On the emergence of enterprise Blockchains.

Enterprise Blockchain Is at a Private-Public Crossroads

By Guido Molinari in Coindesk

Looking back 12 months, our (Prysm’s) review of 2019 was naive, to say the least. We cited challenges to a successful 2020 for enterprise blockchain. And, while those predictions were not far off, they were overshadowed by a global shore-up of innovation budgeting, a mountain of layoffs and just about every other form of disaster that might get in the way of a technology revolution. 

To say that 2020 was a complete miss for enterprise blockchain would not be accurate. A few new networks and major corporate initiatives were announced, including PharmaLedger, Dole and a group of major Japanese maintenance companies, the Japanese government and IOTA.

Guido Molinari is the managing partner at Prysm Group, an economic advisory focused on the implementation of emerging technologies. He is a member of the Economic Advisory Committee at the Algorand Foundation and a Fellow at the Royal Society of Arts. This post is part of CoinDesk's 2020 Year in Review – a collection of op-eds, essays and interviews about the year in crypto and beyond. 

But many of these projects barely grew. According to Prysm Group internal data dating back to 2016, the average enterprise blockchain consortium has gained less than one new participant beyond its founding members. There are a few outliers such as Italy’s banking network Spunta. But, for an industry whose primary purpose is to build a network adopted by other future members, this is not an encouraging figure.  ... ' 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

DHS Promises Help for States Struggling with Digital Attacks on Critical Services

 Notable are the recent increases in ransomware, and the broad issues with Microsoft servers, and how much we depend on digital systems.   This will have to be the solution until we develop others. 

The Cybersecurity 202: DHS Official Promises Help for States Struggling with Digital Attacks on Critical Services   By The Washington Post,  March 23, 2021

State and local governments have been begging the government for more resources since they are on the front lines of a growing number of cyberattacks that lock up the computer systems of government services even more critical in a pandemic – including hospitals, schools and benefit distribution systems.

A surge in efforts by hackers holding data hostage in exchange for a fees has become a top concern for the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity division, its acting director now says.

"Because right now, if there was a catastrophic cyber incident affecting states and they did lack the resources to address it, we would not be able to move as quickly and expeditiously as we need to respond and recover," acting Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Brandon Wales said at an event hosted by the Auburn University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security yesterday.

From The Washington Post

View Full Article

Is AI Moving Too Fast for Retail?

Not well enough, not fast enough.     Unless we want China to eat our lunch.

Is AI adoption moving too fast?  by Tom Ryan in Retailwire  with further expert comment.

According to KPMG’s “Thriving in an AI World” study, 53 percent of business leaders in retail said COVID-19 increased their pace of AI adoption, yet 49 percent believe adoption is moving faster than it should in their industry.

The broader survey of 950 business and/or IT decision makers found similar sentiments for other industries, including industrial manufacturing, 55 percent; and tech, 49 percent. The concerns were traced to debates surrounding the ethics, governance and regulation of AI.

Among retail respondents, 78 percent said it is difficult to stay on top of the constantly evolving AI landscape — a sentiment higher than leaders in other categories. Cybersecurity breaches (47 percent) and possible AI bias (45 percent) were found to be the top two greatest potential risks of AI adoption. Eighty-seven percent believe the government has a role to play in regulating AI technology.

Matt Kramer, national consumer and retail sector leader at KPMG, said in a statement, “The concern about the speed of adoption raises a caution flag for retailers, reminding them to ensure proper process and controls along with change management and effective training are put in motion to address the AI adoption risks.”   ..."

Wal-Mart Validating Vaccines

Using health passport app on smartphones.

March 17, 2021, 2:14 p.m. ETMarch 17, 2021
By Natasha Singer

People who get Covid-19 shots at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores may soon be able to verify their vaccination status at airports, schools and other locations using a health passport app on their smartphones.

The retail giant said on Wednesday that it had signed on to an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people. The company joins a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic.

“Walmart is the first huge-scale administrator of vaccines that is committing to giving people a secure, verifiable record of their vaccinations,” said Paul Meyer, the chief executive of the Commons Project Foundation, a nonprofit in Geneva that has developed health passport apps. “We think many others will follow.”  ... " 

Monday, March 22, 2021

On Recommendation Systems

 Anther well considered piece, on recommendation systems, link to original post includes more useful references.  Note the inclusion of elements of 'trust'.  Intro below. 

The Increasing Influence of Recommendation Systems in Our Everyday Lives by Irving Wladlensky-Berger in his blog ... 

A few years ago, I attended a seminar by University of Toronto professor Avi Goldfarb on the economic value of AI. Goldfarb explained that the best way to assess the impact of a new radical technology is to look at how the technology reduces the cost of a widely used function. Computers, for example, are powerful calculators whose cost of arithmetic and other digital operations have dramatically decreased over the past several decades. As a result, we’ve learned to define all kinds of tasks in terms of digital operations, e.g., financial transactions, inventory management, word processing, photography. Similarly, the Internet and World Wide Web have drastically reduced the cost of communications and of access to all kinds of information, - including numbers, text, pictures, music and videos.

Viewed through this lens, the data and AI revolution can be viewed as reducing the cost of predictions. Predictions mean anticipating what is likely to happen in the future. Over the past decade, increasingly powerful computers, advanced machine learning algorithms, and the explosive growth of big data have enabled us to extract insights from the data and turn them into valuable predictions. As was previously the case with digital operations, communications and access to information, - we’re now able to reframe all kinds of applications as prediction problems. A major such family of applications are recommendation engines or recommender systems, which Wikipedia defines as “a subclass of information filtering system that seeks to predict the ‘rating’ or ‘preference’ a user would give to an item.”  ... '

Cade Metz and Nathan Benaich: Podcast on the Emergence and Direction of AI

By Nathan Benaich, Air Street Capital@nathanbenaich  ...  Looking forward to hearing this.  

Dear readers,  This week I had the opportunity to interview Cade Metz, New York Times technology correspondent and author of Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World. I’ve featured Cade’s writings (at NYT and Wired) many times in this newsletter over the years, so this was a real treat for me!

We dive into the history of AI, how academia drove industry to adopt deep learning, which companies “got it right” and which didn’t, geopolitics and China, Europe’s role on the world stage, semiconductors, AI in science, and more.

See the podcast:   'Conversation with Cade Metz in Your Guide to AI'  ... '

See you in 2 weeks for the next regular issue of Your guide to AI: March 2021! As always, thanks for hitting forward to a couple of friends  ..... 

By Nathan Benaich, 21 March 2021,   Air Street Capital | Twitter | LinkedIn | State of AI Report | RAAIS | London.AI  ....   Air Street Capital is a venture capital firm investing in AI-first technology and life science companies. We’re an experienced team of investors and founders based in Europe and the US with a shared passion for working with entrepreneurs from the very beginning of their company-building journey.  ... ' 

Continued Worsening of Ransomware

Is there no solution?    A means of detecting the patterns left by this kind of malware?  

The Worsening State of Ransomware   in the ACM    By Samuel Greengard

Communications of the ACM, April 2021, Vol. 64 No. 4, Pages 15-17   10.1145/3449054

No things elicit terror quite like switching on a computer and viewing a message that all its files and data are locked up and unavailable to access. Yet, as society wades deeper into digital technology, this is an increasingly common scenario. Ransomware, which encrypts data so cybercriminals can extract a payment for its safe return, has become increasingly common—and costly. A 2019 report from security vendor Emisoft pegged the annual cost of ransomware in excess of $7.5 billion in the U.S. alone.1

"Individuals, businesses, hospitals, universities and government have all fallen victim to attacks," says Chris Hinkley, head of the Threat Resistance Unit (TRU) research team for security firm Armor. In a worst-case scenario, ransoms can run into the tens of millions of dollars and close down an organization's operations entirely. It has forced hospitals to redirect patients to other facilities, disrupted emergency services, and shut down businesses.

The problem is growing worse, despite the development of new and more advanced ways to battle it, including the use of behavioral analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). "Cybergangs use different cryptographic algorithms and they distribute software that is remarkably sophisticated and difficult to detect," Hinkley says. "Today, there is almost no barrier to entry and the damage that's inflicted is enormous."

Money for Nothing

The origins of modern ransomware can be traced to September 2013. Then, a fairly rudimentary form of malware, CryptoLocker, introduced a new and disturbing threat: when a person clicked a malicious email link or opened an infected file, a Trojan Horse began encrypting all the files on a computer. Once the process was complete, crooks demanded a cryptocurrency payment, usually a few hundred dollars, to unlock the data. If the person didn't pay in cybercurrency, the perpetrator deleted the private key needed to decrypt the data and it was lost permanently.

Today, a dizzying array of ransomware exists, with each variation developed by different cybergangs. Once they reside on a computer, the likes of Dharma, Maze, Ryuk, Petya, Sodinokibi, Lazarus, and Lockbit unleash malware that spreads across systems and networks—until the crooks decide to pull the trigger. Making matters worse, some cybergangs sell ransomware kits for as little as a few hundred dollars (or via a subscription that may run as low as $50 to $100 per month). These "customers," who have zero coding skills or software expertise, take advantage of a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model to gain sophisticated capabilities, says Keith Mularski, a former FBI agent and now managing director of the cybersecurity practice at Ernst & Young.   ... " 

AI Device to Spot Hidden COVID-19

 What appears to be a unique solution. Cautions in the article say this does NOT claim to diagnose.

FDA clears first AI device to spot hidden signs of COVID-19 in Engadget

The armband uses light sensors and a processor to identify a virus biomarker that can cause blood clots.

Alongside the rapid development of vaccines, the FDA has cleared a number of COVID-19 breakthroughs for emergency use as part of the ongoing fight against the devastating virus. So far, we've seen the agency approve medical advances including lab-made monoclonal antibodies for moderate infections that risk turning more severe, a rapid test that uses CRISPR gene-editing tech and Fitbit's Flow ventilator. The latest tool to gain clearance is the first AI-based screening device designed to pinpoint lurking signs of COVID-19 in asymptomatic people.   ... ' 

Microsoft Points to Future Disruptions of Work

 Microsoft has done a good job in following the changes that have happened in the last year,  Now they need to make sure they protect that work by better securing their systems.

Microsoft releases findings and considerations from one year of remote work in Work Trend Index

Exclusive research and expert insights reveal urgent trends for leaders as the next phase of work unfolds. in PRNewswire.

REDMOND, Wash., March 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced findings from its first-annual Work Trend Index. Titled "The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?"     the report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader must know as we enter a new era of work.

The report indicates that business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid work as business as usual. It will require the rethinking of long-held assumptions.

"The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It's a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset," said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365. "These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation." 

The findings suggest that this past year has fundamentally changed the nature of work:  ... ' 

Better Storytelling

Thoughts on better storytelling

3 Ideas for Better Storytelling in Knowledge Management   By Mercy Harper  in the APQC Blog

In her role, Mercy works with APQC’s Principal Research Leads to create whitepapers, case studies, and reports. She focuses developing targeted content for a global business audience. ... 

Storytelling is the number-one way to get people to participate in knowledge management (KM). Most of the time, you can’t force people to “do KM”—and even when you can use requirements and performance goals to make KM a must-do, that’s usually not enough. KM teams need to find and promote stories that show how KM works and why it matters.

All of us share stories every day, so integrating storytelling into a KM program should be easy, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A lot of KM teams struggle to pull stories out of the business and share them back in compelling ways. To learn how KM can find and tell better stories, I reached out to two of the best storytellers I know: Miriam Brosseau, principal at Tiny Windows Consulting, and Dr. Carla O’Dell, APQC Board Chairman. They shared so many amazing insights, but these three ideas really struck me.

Three ideas for better KM storytelling:

Use appreciative inquiry to find stories

Build storytelling into process

Steal ideas from internet culture to share shorter, more powerful stories  .... "  

Data Augmentation for Brain-Computer Interface

Very good piece that also connects with some of our neural explorations.  The linking to GANs is fascinating.    (See tag links)

Data Augmentation for Brain-Computer Interface

New Business applications combined with Brain-computer interface and Generative Adversarial networks

Alexandre Gonfalonieri,  AI Consultant @Philips | I write about AI and BCI 

Despite significant progress in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), many issues remain associated with collecting Electroencephalography (EEG) signals in real-world environments. This situation makes it difficult for BCIs to become a scalable device.

Brain-computer interface has always been facing severe data-related issues such as lack of sufficient data, lengthy calibration time and data corruption. In my latest project, we explored the idea of leveraging data augmentation methods such as generative adversarial networks to create synthetic EEG signals.

Indeed, data augmentation (DA) is a potential solution to address these issues. Among data augmentation techniques, the method of generative adversarial networks (GANs) with successful image processing applications has gained a lot of attention.

In this article, I’ll explain the issue of creating enough training data in the context of non-invasive BCIs and present a non-exhaustive list of data augmentation techniques for EEG datasets. I will also explain how GANs can be used to help BCIs in real-life applications.  .... " 

Japanese Smart City Offers Residents Quake, Privacy Protection

Makes much sense given the higher likelihood of natural disasters in Japan.

Japanese Smart City Offers Residents Quake, Privacy Protection  By Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Digital tools launched in a Japanese smart city that can send disaster alerts to safeguard residents are part of an optional technology push aiming to overcome social and economic challenges, while also allaying privacy fears.

March 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Digital tools launched in a Japanese smart city that can send disaster alerts to safeguard residents are part of an optional technology push aiming to overcome social and economic challenges, while also allaying privacy fears.

The smartphone alerts were introduced in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima prefecture, last week by consultancy firm Accenture, which has worked with researchers to revitalise the city using technology since a devastating earthquake in 2011.

Aizuwakamatsu residents can choose to subscribe to the digital services - a markedly different approach to the mandatory initiatives in other smart cities that have been held back by data privacy and surveillance concerns, said Shojiro Nakamura, co-lead of Accenture Innovation Center Fukushima.

"Opt-in is the fundamental approach in our smart city initiatives," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  ... 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

IOTA New Dawn Chrysalis Changes Announced

 Late to this but of interest, the IOTA Foundation, mentioned here a number of times,   was an interesting change in the idea of blockchains and how they were delivered.  I was impressed by the direction of  their methods.  But it clearly needed quite a bit of live testing to proof.   Due to a number of emerging problems, and losses, they have decided to make major changes, which were announced this February, below the intro to the announcement, with the rest attached.   Will follow as I can.  See also the IOTA Foundation Blog.

IOTA - A new dawn     Announcements,   Feb 05, 2021

The launch of the first IOTA mainnet in June 2016 was the start of our journey to revolutionize Blockchain. We introduced the very first distributed ledger based on a directed acyclic graph (DAG) - a scalable and lightweight protocol to overcome rising costs and power consumption by removing miners and fees. We called it “the Tangle”. The Tangle was designed to be a more equitable, democratic and secure network, where every node would directly contribute towards the security of the overall system.

Our vision was that this system would go on to revolutionise industries, from Automotive to Supply Chain, Industrial IoT to Personal Identity, ushering in a wave of innovation that would coalesce in the formation of an altogether new economy - the Machine Economy - where devices would exchange information, value and digital assets autonomously.

In pursuit of this vision, we began a quest that would mean breaking down barriers by sometimes taking unconventional steps. This included a fundamental deviation from technical norms, which to onlookers made us an outsider, and to our community, an underdog. But by going against the grain to create something new, we made some missteps along the way.

Some of our early design decisions were found to be suboptimal, others reaching far beyond the foreseeable horizon. This was not only perceived by members of the IOTA Foundation, but also a range of external developers, security researchers, enterprises and organisations, who together contribute to the development of the IOTA protocol.

In our interactions outside the community, criticism has sometimes been dismissed too quickly and a number of situations have not been handled appropriately. Maturing means admitting the poor decisions from our past, and publicly showing our commitment to the principles of collaboration, transparency and openness. We can only move forward by admitting to these mistakes today, and by building and rebuilding bridges in 2021.

We have to dare to continuously reinvent ourselves and improve our technologies, in order to fulfil our vision. Being a pioneer in a nascent, fast-paced industry means that you get some things right, while others have to be discarded. “Fail fast, fail early and fail often” they say. We did, and we have learned from our failures, and have become a stronger, more mature organization and ecosystem as a result.

Acting on your feedback

With the upcoming upgrade to the Tangle we will conclude our efforts to resolve the outstanding technical issues and inefficiencies. The name “Chrysalis” represents a fundamental, natural transformation into one’s mature form. An apt name for the upgrade we are about to undertake.

In August 2020 we released the first set of changes to push IOTA towards production readiness, “Chrysalis Part 1”. The release of the second and final part of Chrysalis is now approaching, with which we will deliver major improvements in performance, stability, reliability, and security. We will replace exotic aspects of the protocol with established standards and provide a wealth of new tooling for developers, enterprises and exchanges.

Chrysalis is the most extensive upgrade in IOTA’s history, touching all aspects of the protocol, libraries, wallets and software implementations developed by the IOTA Foundation. It truly marks “a new dawn” for IOTA, becoming production ready and forming a foundation for upcoming features like smart contracts and tokenization. With these long-awaited features, our community will be able to build many of the compelling innovations we have seen in the last few months, including scalable Automated Market Makers, feeless decentralized finance platforms, powerful oracles, and smart contract based startups that can leverage the power of the IOTA Tangle.  ..... 

Majorana Meltdown Jeopardizes Microsoft's Quantum Computer,

This is an example of the danger of converting reported research results into working systems.  Without the complete validation of those results.    Large companies are willing to invest large sums towards potential novel results.  The pressure to win is huge.    And validation in academia, say by sharing tests, data and results, may be insufficient.   Here an example in the development of commercially useful quantum computing.  This article is research-process technical.


Majorana Meltdown Jeopardizes Microsoft's Quantum Computer, By Arnout Jaspers

Commissioned by CACM Staff, March 11, 2021

In the race to build a large-scale quantum computer, Microsoft invested heavily in a scientific breakthrough by Dutch physicist Leo Kouwenhoven, then at QuTech in Delft, the Netherlands. Kouwenhoven first reported evidence of Majorana particles in 2012, and transferred from QuTech to Microsoft in 2016 on that ticket. In 2018, his group claimed in Nature to have actually detected these elusive particles in a nano device they designed    ... " 

UK Protecting Critical Undersea Cables

This piece made me think.  And consider from who, using what .... and what are the implications?

New Royal Navy ship to protect 'critical' undersea cables  in the BBC

A new Royal Navy surveillance ship is to be built to protect "critical" undersea cables.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned "the lights could go out" if national infrastructure was lost, and the cables were "incredibly important".   He also told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Russia had "taken a deep interest" in the cables and the UK would be "deeply exposed" without further measures.

It comes ahead of Monday's publication of the defence command paper.

The document will give more detail for the armed forces on the conclusions of the integrated review of the UK's foreign and defence policies.  ... " 

Consider the Humble Roundabout

In my very early days of analytics, much involved with civil engineering data.    So this transcript of a Freakonomics article on the traffic roundabout was good.  These traffic management structures are often  seen in England, more rarely in the US.   But here locally getting more common.  This article contains traffic and accident statistics and arguments for and against, which I could have used back then.   Too late, but still interesting.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Refining Audience Advertising Context Mixing

 Interesting method altering acquired video and mixing it to change advertising context.  Would seem the same method could be used for advertising with augmented reality contexts in goggles or smart glasses.    Uses AI, they say,  to recalculate perspective angles and distortions to provide realistic views.

Press Release, Sport and advertising

Refined audience targeting for perimeter advertisements during live TV events

Research News / March 01, 2021

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed an AI-driven technology that allows the perimeter advertisements shown during live broadcasts of soccer games or other events to be changed without viewers noticing. This means every TV station can show its own content on the boards. The Swiss company ViboTec AG is bringing this technology to the market.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed an AI-driven technology that allows the perimeter advertisements shown during live broadcasts of soccer games or other events to be changed without viewers noticing. This means every TV station can show its own content on the boards. The Swiss company ViboTec AG is bringing this technology to the market.

For sports fans who regularly tune in to track and field sports, soccer, or other events on their TVs, the long advertising boards on the sidelines are a familiar sight. These earn good money for sports event organizers and media rights distributors, and allow advertisers to reach an audience of millions. However, in the age of digitalized advertising with precise audience targeting, this format has its drawbacks: All viewers see the same advertisements, regardless of which country or region they are in.

Now, the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS has developed a technology that makes it possible to adjust the content on the perimeter advertising boards to suit each target group. Then TV stations will be able to use the boards to show content that advertisers have tailored to a certain audience or content focused on a specific country. When a soccer game is broadcast worldwide, millions of viewers will see the same perimeter advertising boards, but each with different content. ....'

Human Robot Cooperation

 More good thoughts on the complexity of human-robot cooperation.

How many robot helpers are too many?

Khari Johnson  @kharijohnson   March 20, 2021 6:21 AM TechCrunch via VentureBeat

AI that can follow a person seems like a simple enough task. It’s certainly a simple thing to ask a human to do, but what if people or objects get in the way of the robot following behind a person? How do you navigate an environment that’s in a constant state of change?

About a year ago at a robotics conference TechCrunch held at UC Berkeley, AI startup founders explored solutions for common problems encountered when trying to automate construction projects. Tessa Lau, CEO of Dusty Robotics, called attention to the challenge of moving machines in an unstructured environment filled with people.  ... "