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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Amazon, Microsoft and Healthcare

Will it be head to head or collaborative?  Microsoft  has already said they were collaborating with Alexa systems in their recent meeting.  Future health systems may need to do more listening than speaking.    More below:

Amazon may be going head-to-head with Microsoft in healthcare
Amazon isn't the only one of the big cloud vendors looking to expand its healthcare footprint. Microsoft's been there, done that, and is continuing to invest in the space.....   

 By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft

Intelligent Workflow Drones

Logical, first I had seen this stated this way. But then anything that does work to perform useful tasks or gather data should ideally be integrated into a workflow. Formally or informally.

Intelligent Workflow Drones  by Biren Gandhi   in Cisco Blog

Commercial drones are moving from a novelty item to an indispensable business tool, with PwC pegging the potential opportunity size at $127B in its report, “Clarity from Above”. However, there is a key element that is needed before drones can be successful in enterprise applications: they must be integrated into regular workflow systems, instead of existing in their own silos.

It’s like saying “let’s talk” instead of “let’s talk over a telephone” in the world of voice communication.

An example of this is showcased below. A few months ago, Cisco’s Enterprise Routing and Mobility team partnered with FlytBase and AeroTestra to showcase end-to-end enterprise workflows involving fleets of drones. Cisco’s Spark, WebEx and Drone ASAP products were integrated with Built.io’s Digital Transformation Platform to create this unique solution .... "

Algorithms teaching Algorithms

The ultimate AI play has devices teaching each other in context.

AI Algorithms Are Starting to Teach AI Algorithms

Automating machine learning will make the technology more accessible to non–AI experts.   by Will Knight,  Technology Review

At first blush, Scot Barton might not seem like an AI pioneer. He isn’t building self-driving cars or teaching computers to thrash humans at computer games. But within his role at Farmers Insurance, he is blazing a trail for the technology.

Barton leads a team that analyzes data to answer questions about customer behavior and the design of different policies. His group is now using all sorts of cutting-edge machine-learning techniques, from deep neural networks to decision trees. But Barton did not hire an army of AI wizards to make this possible. His team uses a platform called DataRobot, which automates a lot of difficult work involved in applying such techniques. ... " 

Garmin Speak Adds Alexa Option

Garmin Speak puts Amazon Alexa in your car,  It's now available for $150.   By Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon

Gamin's GPS devices already feature voice control, but if you'd prefer to have Alexa onboard, its latest product is more your jam. The GPS device maker has just released Garmin Speak, which it says is the first in-vehicle device with hands-free access to Alexa. It's a tiny little thing, measuring just around an inch-a-half with a LED light ring and an OLED display that shows turn-by-turn directions. You can talk to the voice assistant through it the same way you'd talk to Alexa through an Echo: just say "Alexa" and follow it up with a voice command. ... "

Report from the Smart Kitchen Summit

Used to attend these kinds of meetings,  to feed our own innovation center experiments, always had to separate the reasonable from the outlandish.  In say a decade long frame.  I am a cook from way back so I do appreciate what is useful and is not.  Even for volume or time stressed situations.   Good piece, with useful links, note the considerable number of Alexa enabled appliances, but how to make voice control a generally useful capability will be a creativity challenge.

Your Future Kitchen has a Smart Oven, a Burger flipping bot, and 36 Bacon Programs   By Jenny McGrath from DigitalTrend.

Last year, we predicted some of the changes that we’d see in cooking over the next decade, including precision cookware. The Smart Kitchen Summit, which was held this week in Seattle, brings together device makers, chefs, and other experts to discuss the future of food. And based on some of the items that were featured at the annual event, we may be able to get precisely cooked, hyper personalized dishes from our ovens sooner than we thought.

Major appliance brands such as Kenmore and Whirlpool are on board with embracing the smart kitchen. Both announced Alexa-enabled appliances, including fridges, dishwashers, and ranges earlier this year. There aren’t a ton of ways for Alexa and these appliances to interact yet, but manufacturers see including smart technology as a way to continuously add new features to old machines. But even people who swear they’ll never talk to their oven will see a benefit.... "

Monday, October 16, 2017

Put Humans at the Center of AI

Worked with the Stanford AI lab, and a number of the startups and students that came out of it.

Put Humans at the Center of AI  in Technology Review

At Stanford and Google, Fei-Fei Li is leading the development of artificial intelligence—and working to diversify the field.     by Will Knight  

As the director of Stanford’s AI Lab and now as a chief scientist of Google Cloud, Fei-Fei Li is helping to spur the AI revolution. But it’s a revolution that needs to include more people. She spoke with MIT Technology Review senior editor Will Knight about why everyone benefits if we emphasize the human side of the technology.

Why did you join Google?

Researching cutting-edge AI is very satisfying and rewarding, but we’re seeing this great awakening, a great moment in history. For me it’s very important to think about AI’s impact in the world, and one of the most important missions is to democratize this technology. The cloud is this gigantic computing vehicle that delivers computing services to every single industry.

What have you learned so far?

We need to be much more human-centered. If you look at where we are in AI, I would say it’s the great triumph of pattern recognition. It is very task-focused, it lacks contextual awareness, and it lacks the kind of flexible learning that humans have. We also want to make technology that makes humans’ lives better, our world safer, our lives more productive and better. All this requires a layer of human-level communication and collaboration.

How can we make AI more human-centered?

There’s a great phrase, written in the ’70s: “the definition of today’s AI is a machine that can make a perfect chess move while the room is on fire.” It really speaks to the limitations of AI. In the next wave of AI research, if we want to make more helpful and useful machines, we’ve got to bring back the contextual understanding. We’ve got to bring knowledge abstraction and reasoning. These are all the most important steps. .... " 

Google Improves, Automates Pet Tagging

We were involved in work that sought to autotag pictures of people and pets in still images and video.  So this is quite a step forward.  Not too long ago this was not achievable.   Some details at the link below. 

Meow it’s even easier to find your furry friends in Google Photos
By Lily Kharevych,  Software Engineer, Google Photos

If you have a bunch of photos of your furry friends, you now have the oppawtunity to see them all in one place in Google Photos.

When you want to look back on old photos of Oliver as a puppy or Mr. Whiskers as a kitten, you no longer need to type “dog” or “cat” into search in Google Photos. Rolling out in most countries today, you’ll be able to see photos of the cats and dogs now grouped alongside people, and you can label them by name, search to quickly find photos of them, or even better, photos of you and them. This makes it even easier to create albums, movies, or even a photo book of your pet.   .... " 

Facebook Releases Video Neural Training Data

More generally available training data for Deep Learning systems.

Facebook debuts new video datasets for training neural networks  by Maria Deutscher

 Facebook Inc. unveiled its latest contribution to the artificial intelligence ecosystem at the GitHub Universe conference on Thursday.

Researchers from the social network have put together two datasets designed to help with creation of machine learning models that process video content. Typically, the information used in AI projects doesn’t receive as much attention as the sophisticated technologies that underpin the development process. But it’s an equally important component that in many cases can be harder to obtain .... " 

Seeking Voice Assistants in the Workplace

Now been involved in a number of brainstorm meetings addressing now virtual assistants can be used in the workplace.  Especially how voice can be used without disrupting a typical workplace.    Makes sense to use these for mundane topics.   Handsfree and non disruptive.   Probably with chatbot like feedback on alternatives.   Contact to talk this with me.  Here the first general example I have seen suggested:

In ComputerWeekly:
" ... Within the next three years, workers will be using Alexa-style devices to book time off, update their addresses, and file their expenses.

Voice recognition, powered by intelligent software bots, will take off as companies look to make their IT systems easier for employees to use, according to a specialist on the future of work. ... " 

Next Gen Personalization

Good piece shows the breadth of tech being used to personalize.

Shop.org Takeaway: Three steps to next-gen personalization
 By Deena M.Amato-McCoy in ChainStoreage.

Consumers are becoming more digitally influenced on a seemingly daily basis — but omnichannel retailers find themselves hard-pressed to keep up the pace. Retailers need to meet their needs across all touchpoints, and create a frictionless shopping experience despite where the shopping journey starts and ends.

To achieve this goal, successful retailers are adopting a new digital tools that allow them to “connect the dots,” and personally engage shoppers before, during and following the shopping experience. Industry observers discussed this new level of personalization during Shop.org, held in Los Angeles, Sept. 25-28.

Among the top solutions are:

Voice: Conversational commerce is shaping up to be one of the year’s hottest disruptors, and momentum continues to grow. As customers grow more comfortable using digital voice assistants found on devices like Amazon Echo and Dot, Google Home, and others, retailers have a new way to personalize the shopping experience, and remove some of the friction that still occurs via online and mobile transactions.

Jet.com Walmart’s e-commerce arm, is so bullish on voice that it is one of the company’s “top priorities this year,” Marc Lore, president and CEO, of Walmart e-commerce U.S., said at shop.org.

“You have to look beyond the technology and toward what it enables,” Lore added. “It’s more than a tool that helps customers order product for delivery. It gives us the chance to connect with shoppers one-on-one. And we can use data to become better merchandisers.”

Artificial intelligence: Retailers that use AI are essentially adopting programs that teach their computers to learn patterns. Then brands can use results to deliver better customer experiences.

AI is playing a critical role across Disney’s retail channels. Committed to delivering “a more immersive, personalized, and robust omnichannel experience than ever before, “Disney is adding AI to our e-commerce site so we can help improve the guest experience online and in-store,” said Mike White, senior VP and chief technology officer for Disney consumer products and interactive media.

AI is helping Disney understand its best-selling category SKUs searched online, and then using this data to evaluate customer affinities. “Then we can expand online and in-store assortments, which add more value to their experiences,” he added.  .... "

Brain Machine Interface

The idea has been around for years, now approaching reality.  In Wired: 

 " .... 2017 has been a coming-out year for the Brain-Machine Interface (BMI), a technology that attempts to channel the mysterious contents of the two-and-a-half-pound glop inside our skulls to the machines that are increasingly central to our existence. The idea has been popped out of science fiction and into venture capital circles faster than the speed of a signal moving through a neuron. Facebook, Elon Musk, and other richly funded contenders, such as former Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, have talked seriously about silicon implants that would not only merge us with our computers, but also supercharge our intelligence. But CTRL-Labs, which comes with both tech bona fides and an all-star neuroscience advisory board, bypasses the incredibly complicated tangle of connections inside the cranium and dispenses with the necessity of breaking the skin or the skull to insert a chip—the Big Ask of BMI. Instead, the company is concentrating on the rich set of signals controlling movement that travel through the spinal column, which is the nervous system’s low-hanging fruit. .... " 

Blockchain and the Energy Grid

How Blockchain Could Give Us a Smarter Energy Grid

Energy experts believe that blockchain technology can solve a maze of red tape and data management problems. .... " 

by Mike Orcutt  in Technology Review

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Time Measurement Productivity Tools

Had not heard of many of these tools.  Rarely is time measured this carefully.

8 Productivity Tools Illustrate You Have Way More Time Than You Think

The scarcity of time is an illusion that most entrepreneurs struggle to overcome. The first step is to measure what you (and your team) do day in and day out. What gets measured gets managed.

By Bill Carmody, Founder and CEO, Trepoint  @BillCarmody  in Inc.

Ad Tech Emerging for Tactical Decisions

When I first joined the enterprise we constructed some near autonomous systems to analyze, select and insert ads optimally.    If anything today, we have much better data to drive such systems.  Is this the near future?  Where we wont need tactical decision making, but only strategic?

This in Ad Age, may require some registration to read. The Tenuous Future of Ad Tech Middle Men

Russian Voice Assistant

Russian Voice Assistant Alice Sounds as Natural as Developer Yandex Claims   By Brenda Stolyar in Digital Trend

It’s sometimes tough to remember the days when we didn’t have the convenience of a voice assistant. Whether it’s through your smartphone or a home device, it’s as though a new one is popping up everyday. In the U.S., this type of technology is always available for us in the English language, while that’s not always the case for other countries. This week, we have an international app that takes the concept of voice assistants and create its own.

Yandex — available for iOS and Android — is particularly known as a Russian search engine. Since it’s been around for quite some time, Yandex has also branched out into language translation, a real-time bidding platform, and antivirus software. Most recently, it also introduced its own voice assistant, Alice, and integrated the new feature into the Yandex app. While the app can be downloaded in Ukrainian and Turkish as well, Alice can only speak Russian at the moment.  .... " 

A Creative Promotion Machine

Just now examining the creative personalization angle addressed here.  A mix of personalization and creativity.  But how much?

AI-Based Promotions – Welcome to the Creative Machine    By Vince Jeffs 

As a Marketer, when you craft successful promotions, you’re especially proud of their creative aspects And it’s understandable because creativity seems our last bastion against the perceived onslaught of machine domination, so we fiercely defend that turf. The tenuous argument being, “robots are no match for human creativity!” This viewpoint, besides inviting a cage match between humans and machines, also smacks of keeping math and machines out any solution, lest boring and stiff digital influences ruin the warmth of our marketing art and experience show. However, for all the aspiring “Michelangelos” out there, it’s time to rethink this, lest you find yourself selling one-off ad creatives at street-side craft shows.

A promotion is fundamentally your story; your pitch in a nutshell – delivered through a channel to an audience of one – assuming it gets through. And the fact that it oozes creativity and garners the right emotional response can be critically important to a customer’s reaction. But what is its true worth? Compared to what? Is there a chance that for most eyes it will succumb to fading into the backdrop with all the other one-size for all advertising clutter?    .... "

Listening to Your Patients

Could virtual assistants act as a means to start efficient dialog with patients?  Consider the patient interaction to be three-way.  An assistant starts the interaction,  to establish basic facts, fears, directions.  Suggests how the patient can learn about what should be the next steps.  Constructs a knowledge graph personalized to the needs of the patient.   Then the doctor (or health professional) is added to the conversation to augment the details .... schedule procedures, add research results, etc.

Making Time to Really Listen to Your Patients
Rana L.A. Awdish, Leonard L. Berry

Modern medicine’s true healing potential depends on a resource that is being systematically depleted: the time and capacity to truly listen to patients, hear their stories, and learn not only what’s the matter with them but also what matters to them. Some health professionals claim that workload and other factors have compressed medical encounters to a point that genuine conversation with patients is no longer possible or practical. We disagree.

Our experiences — as a critical-care physician whose own critical illness led her to train physicians in relationship-centered communication (Rana Awdish) and as a health services researcher who has interviewed and observed hundreds of patients, doctors, and nurses (Len Berry) — teach us that hurried care incurs hidden costs and offers false economy. In other words, it might save money in the short term but wastes money over time. .... " 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cautions About Using this Blog

Because of the nature of a blog,  and the way it presents information serially, please be careful to read the publication date of information.  It may render information invalid.    Also note that I cannot guarantee that links presented in this blog are still active.  Over time the information pointed to may no longer be there.  I only sometimes repair or remove bad links if they are important to me.    Also over time my interests,  connected to my work, will change.  So my coverage cannot be assured to be complete or correct.   Blog Posts:  15,457      Reads:   1.72M

Infrastructure Automation

Basic Infrastructure Automation is a No-Brainer – Why Aren’t You Doing It?    Chris Gardner,  Senior Analyst  Forrester

Everyone knows they need to automate. That is not a thought-provoking statement. In fact, when we ask infrastructure decision leaders their top priorities, automation shows up at #3, just behind consolidation and implementing operations analytics.

However, when we dig deeper with clients, we find hesitation. I would break their concerns into three broad camps:

Some are just starting their journey. For those, I suggest understanding the infrastructure-as-code landscape and learning how their operations people need to become developers. (Even for those well on their way, a refresh on these topics does not hurt).

Some have fairly sophisticated DevOps strategies and need to take them to the next level. For those, continuous delivery release automation (CDRA) tools are essential. A Forrester Wave™ by Rob Stroud and myself outlines the best.

Most, however, are struggling to achieve an automation baseline. It is not uncommon to see duplicate efforts across the organization using different tools for the same job. Some are using old tools. Some only have half their systems automated. The bottom line: their automation strategy is confused at best and broken at worst.

People are confused, but who can blame them? Between enterprise and open source, there are dozens of options for infrastructure automation. Which ones are best? .... "

(More at the link, ultimately this links to an expensive Forrester report)

Fake Data

My colleague Kaiser Fung talks fake data.  Good thoughts and pointers to examples and resources. Read his whole article at the link.

Here is a problem staring many digital/Web/social media analysts in the face today: what if you are told that the majority of the data you have been dutifully reporting, analyzing and (gasp!) modeling are fake data?

By fake data, I mean, useless numbers that have no bearing on reality: visits to websites that never happened, clicks on ads by hired hands, clicks on ads by bots, clicks on ads that are buried layers deep invisible to any humans, video "views" that result from automatically playing clips, video "views" that last one second, ad reach (i.e. number of people who have seen the ad) that exceeds Census counts, reviews planted by hired hands, etc. etc.  .... " 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ahold Digital Strategy

Considerable detail in this Progressive Grocer piece.

Ahold's digital strategy pays off
Ahold USA has seen success with a new digital strategy that has brought on 1 million new digital users, increased monthly app usage by 76% and driven a 179% increase in digital coupon activation over last year, the company reported. Ahold's new strategy focuses on enhancing promotions, personalization, and as a result, loyalty through investments in more relevant digital coupons, an improved mobile app, a recipe center, new sites and other digital tools. .... " 

Capturing the Value of APIs

Good general discussion of the architecture.   Good choices can make API possible and an asset.   In McKinsey.

What it really takes to capture the value of APIs

By Keerthi Iyengar, Somesh Khanna, Srinivas Ramadath, and Daniel Stephens

APIs are the connective tissue in today’s ecosystems. For companies who know how to implement them, they can cut costs, improve efficiency, and help the bottom line.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) were once largely limited to technical domains but have now become a significant engine of business growth. As the connective tissue linking ecosystems of technologies and organizations, APIs allow businesses to monetize data, forge profitable partnerships, and open new pathways for innovation and growth.

Early adopters across industries are already using APIs to create new products and channels and improve operational efficiency. Within the automotive industry, for instance, APIs are used to embed efficiency data, driving statistics, route information and real-time alerts into dashboards. Some retailers are using APIs to set up multi-brand shopping platforms, track inventory, and help consumers locate stores. And a handful of banks are partnering with fintechs and retailers, among others, to develop APIs that help customers integrate banking data into bookkeeping and investment software, and provide faster internal access to a range of account information. .... "

Shopping Free with the Google Assistant

Starting an examination of the user experience of hands free voice shopping at well known retailers.   The Google Home assistant has this capability using what they call Google Express.  I just received some instructions by mail for shopping at Target, Costco and Walmart.   Simply expressed, seems easy.   Here are their Voice Orders from Google Home instructions.  More impressions to follow.

More on this effort, from retailers perspective.
Example of its use with Target.

G-Drive Tips

We were previously a shop that worked entirely with Microsoft Office 365, but connecting with Universities find ourselves working with Google drive products.   Which I have grown used to for collaborative efforts.  Found these tips useful.  They are hardly hacks, but good to know.

5 Google Drive Hacks That Will Transform the Way You Work
For millions of businesses, G-Drive is an essential collaboration tool. Here's how to make it work even harder for you.   By Amanda Pressner Kreuser   Co-founder and managing partner, Masthead Media .... "

Short Sentences are not Always Better

Today you rarely see short sentences.  So it is best to at least best to think about shortening your expression.

Why Writing ShortSentences may be Short-Changing Your Reader
Ubiquity,  | By Philip Yaffe

" .... Virtually every article on good writing includes the advice to keep sentences short. On a list of writing tips, this is often number one. However, the advice is meaningless, and even detrimental.

In the first place, "short" is a weasel word. It has no real meaning because what may be "short" in one case may be "long" in another.

Secondly, and more importantly, a series of short sentences often gives less information than a well-crafted longer one, because the short sentences don't show the links between the different elements. The key word here is "well-crafted." Long rambling sentences are confusing and tiresome. However, a well-crafted longer sentence flows like a stream. The reader is seldom aware of how long it is because everything in it is exactly where it ought to be. They simply absorb everything as if by osmosis, never really realizing how much information they are getting in such easy, palatable form. ... "

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Alibaba Wants to put Virtual Helpers Everywhere

The idea of virtual assistance continues to expand. Look for more contextually focused solutions from a number of directions.

Alibaba Aims to “Master the Laws” of AI and Put Virtual Helpers Everywhere

CTO of the e-commerce giant says its new $15 billion research academy will explore AI, fintech, and quantum computing.  by Yiting Sun  in Technology Review

Alibaba’s CTO, Jeff Zhang, speaking at an event in Hangzhou, China.
China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has announced plans to invest more than $15 billion over the next three years in researching emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s CEO, announced his decision to establish the Alibaba DAMO Academy (DAMO stands for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) on the first day of the company’s 2017 Computing Conference, which opened on Wednesday. Ma said the academy will do research aimed at “solving problems” related to the Internet of things, fintech, quantum computing, and AI. It will open seven research labs in China, the U.S., Russia, Israel, and Singapore.  .... " 

  See my index of players in this field.     We built some of the earliest assistants both within the company and consumer facing.   Connect to discuss.

Amazon Teen Prime Logins

Good further discussion at the link.  Will this lead to more use of assistants.  Good further discussion at the link.

Amazon gives teens their own Prime logins   by George Anderson in RetailWire.

Many teens already think of Amazon.com as their family’s default shopping app. What’s going to happen now that they can have their own Amazon accounts?

Amazon has introduced a new program that allows teenagers to have their own login and make use of Prime account benefits if their parents are members. In a nod to nervous parents, Amazon has designed the system to link to their accounts, which can be set up with pre-approved spending limits or require approval of all orders.

“As a parent of a teen, I know how they crave independence, but at the same time that has to be balanced with the convenience and trust that parents need. We’ve listened to families and have built a great experience for both teens and parents,” said Michael Carr, vice president, Amazon households. “For teens who have a parent with a Prime membership, they can also access Prime benefits at no additional cost, including fast, free shipping, Prime Video and gaming benefits with Twitch Prime.” 

Registered teens sign into the site using the Amazon App to make a purchase. Parents then receive a text or email with the order details. Kids may include a personal note for their parents providing a rationale for their purchase. In its press release, Amazon provided the example of a student needing a book for school as the type of message that might be sent. Other absurd examples also come to mind to anyone who has ever parented a teenager.   .... "

Kasparov Book: Deep Thinking

See Garry Kasparov's blog featuring information about his book: Deep Thinking

“Writing this book became type of therapy. It was a painful process, but I learned a great deal about myself and my opponent, and am now very glad I had the opportunity to turn all this experience into a positive story that I could share with the world. I make it clear in Deep Thinking that my loss to Deep Blue was also a victory for humans — its creators and everyone who benefits from our technological leaps. That is, everyone. This is always the case in the big picture, and why the book rejects the ‘man vs machine’ competition storyline. The machines work for us, after all. The last third of the book is about the bright future of our lives with intelligent machines, if we are ambitious enough to embrace it. I hope my optimism is contagious.”  .... ' 

This Medium article discusses this further.   And more on Amazon.

Engaging with Customers on Facebook

We looked at ways to connect effectively to customers to do product development.  How should it be done?

Does Engaging with Customers on Facebook Lead to Better Product Ideas?    By Irene Bertschek, Reinhold Kesler

Feedback on social media can serve as a valuable source of information for companies, helping them to improve and develop products and services. Examples include Gillette, which launched the very first product for assisted shaving based on feedback inferred from social media, and Tesla, which improved the company’s app based in part on CEO Elon Musk’s reading a customer’s complaints on Twitter. At end of 2016, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky asked on Twitter what the company could launch in 2017.

Anecdotes aside, does this user feedback actually help create better products? In our study, we analyze the role that Facebook plays in the innovation process. For our analysis, we used data from nearly 3,000 German manufacturing and service firms from a 2015 survey by the Centre for European Economic Research. In contrast to studies focusing on large listed companies, our data set includes a large share of small and medium-size enterprises reflecting what’s typical in the German economy. With this data, we set out to study how important social media is for smaller firms. ... " 

Thinking the Science in Data Science

Evocative piece:

The scientific method to approach a problem, in my point of view, is the best way to tackle a problem and offer the best solution. If you start your data analysis by simply stating hypotheses and applying Machine Learning algorithms, this is the wrong way.

By Rubens Zimbres, Data Scientist & Machine Learning Researcher.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of hype surrounding -- and lots of newcomers to -- the Data Science field. But what exactly is SCIENCE in Data Science? The scientific method to approach a problem, in my point of view, is the best way to tackle a problem and offer the best solution. If you start your data analysis by simply stating hypotheses and applying Machine Learning algorithms, this is the wrong way.

The picture below shows the steps necessary for scientific research, corresponding data analysis and simulation. In fact, it is a sketch of what I did in my PhD thesis. In a few words, I studied the past 27 years of Business Management literature and I tried to develop an epistemologically disruptive approach to measure and predict service quality, mixing Business Administration with Electrical Engineering concepts. Over the course of 4 years I performed quali-quantitative longitudinal research and developed a simulation using Agent-Based Modeling to try to find a 5 State Cellular Automata rule that could mimic human behavior. I approached Complexity concepts, self-organizing systems, emergence of order, and social networks. .... "  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Deep Learning from Neural Inspiration

So this is what all the fuss is about.  These things gather data and appear to learn.  They were inspired by biological neurons,  but are really not anything like a real neuron, either in structure or in the way the exact way they learn.  We are still learning about their biological details.

Quanta Mag piece on Deep Learning,   which describes the basics.  Some of the history.  This reminds me of when we were first introduced to the idea, and they were just called ANN or Artificial Neural Networks.   And there was less worry about the architecture,  or how the data would be effectively applied.     Now they have matured.

A quite non technical piece that introduces the concept, and a bit of the method.

How to Win at Deep Learning   By Pradeep Mutalik    In Quanta Magazine
What happens when you increase the number of layers in an artificial neural network? ... " 

Knowing Who You are Talking to

Amazon’s Alexa can now recognize different voices and give personalized responses.    Your Echo just got smart enough to tell you apart from the people you live with  .... "    by Chris Welch in TheVerge    

This has been mentioned as the best feature on Google Home, with greatest potential for intelligence. Understanding who you are talking to is the most important first part of a conversation, and a step a contextual dialog.

Superforecasting for Better Prediction

I was reminded today again of the need for the best forecasting possible when doing many kinds of analytics.     I have covered the concept of Superforecasting here a number of times.   Basically the idea that there are people out there who have a style of prediction that is significantly better than others, and can be used to provide this value.  

See  the book  Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner on this, and my tag below. Also their frequently updated Good Judgement blog, which contains updated news and challenges.   They are even looking for volunteer forecasters there to compete.

A must read.   I will be following more closely and reporting on items from their blog now.  I taught forecasting, and this rings very true in value, beyond the usual analytic methods, or even Machine Learning or Big Data,

Podcast on the Nudge Nobel

How Richard Thaler’s ‘Simple Insights’ Led to a Nobel Prize
Wharton's Katherine Milkman discusses the awarding of the Nobel Prize to behavioral economist  

Richard H. Thaler, the “father of behavioral economics,” has this week won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in that field. Thaler has long been known for challenging a foundational concept in mainstream economics — namely, that people by-and-large behave rationally when making purchasing and financial decisions. Thaler’s research upended the conventional wisdom and showed that human decisions are sometimes less rational than assumed, and that psychology in general — and concepts such as impulsiveness — influence many consumer choices in often-predictable ways.

Once considered an outlier, behavioral economics today has become part of generally accepted economic thinking, in large part thanks to Thaler’s ideas. His research also has immediate practical implications. One of Thaler’s big ideas – his “nudge theory”  – suggests that the government and corporations, to take one example, can greatly influence levels of retirement savings with unobtrusive paperwork changes that make higher levels of savings an opt-out rather than an op-in choice. In fact, he co-authored a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, which became a best-seller.

In this Knowledge@Wharton interview, Katherine Milkman, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions — and a behavioral economist herself — discusses Thaler’s influence in economics and the practical applications of his ideas already underway. She attributes part of his success to his great clarity in thinking and in writing. She had interviewed professor Thaler for Knowledge@Wharton in 2016 regarding his then-new book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.  ... " 

Optimizing Production

My earliest responsibilities in industry were to use optimization technology to improve quality and cost of manufacturing.  So the concern is not new.   We continue to improve this.   In McKinsey:

Optimizing production in the age of the machine
As machines play an ever more important role in production, companies need smarter and more holistic ways to optimize performance. .... ' 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thinking Platform vs Process

Clever way to think about this.

Instead of Optimizing Processes, Reimagine Them as Platforms   by Michael Schrage in HBR

Process optimization can transform user experience. Rethinking process optimization — visualizing processes as platforms — can transform your business model.

One applications outsourcing team, for example, proposed a clever UX tweak to help optimize a global fulfillment process their company managed for its biggest client.

The idea was simple: Instead of making buyers go through the entire online ordering sequence only to find stock-outs or delivery delays, why not alert them to product availability upfront? A little dab of inventory data would enhance both customer expectations and process efficiencies. Surely this cheap, customer-centric, and data-driven innovation would impress the client. .... " 

Honda Robotics for Disaster Response

Quite an impressive piece.  An obvious place to use robotics of this type.   A number of images and videos in the article.  Honda has been known for a long time to provide advances in such extreme applications of robotics.  Applications where the nature of the problem context is chaotic.

Honda Unveils Prototype E2-DR Disaster Response Robot in IEEE Spectrum by Evan Ackerman ...

 .... At a recent IEEE robotics conference, Honda researchers discussed the latest prototype of their disaster-relief robot, called E2-DR. The new humanoid has an impressive design and broad range of capabilities. It can transition from bipedal to quadrupedal locomotion, squeeze itself through narrow spaces, climb vertical ladders, walk over rubble, and even work in the rain.   ... " 

Connected Car as a New Way of Marketing

A Whole new Way of Marketing in KouponMedia

With connected cars on the rise and the number of minutes spent in the car also increasing, a powerful new marketing channel has emerged. 

The connected car enables brands and retailers to reach drivers in their vehicles with highly targeted messaging, creating a captive, high-intent audience. 

Download our case study to learn how you can maximize this new channel and opportunity! 

(Downloadable Case Study with registration) 

Gartner Blog on Conversational AI

Conversational Artificial Intelligence. We Need To Talk About It.   by Adrian Lee  in Gartner Blog

Gartner released its Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and beyond on 29th September. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw that one of the predictions by my esteemed colleagues read, “By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.” It goes on further to predict that “by 2019, half of major commerce companies and retailers with online stores will have redesigned their commerce sites to accommodate voice searches and voice navigation.  ... " 

Monday, October 09, 2017

Advertising Stats: A Cheat Sheet

At first I thought these would define the stats and how they are obtained,  but its a statement of their value, and in some cases trends.  Rounded values.  Mostly US numbers.  Still interesting.  A few links to sources.    In the Gartner Blog:

36 Advertising Stats: A Cheat Sheet
By Martin Kihn   .... "

Critical View of Data Viz Eye Tracking

Data viz expert Stephen Few looks at work done by Tableau using eye tracking methods to get insight about designing data visualizations.    I recall seeing some previous research in this area.   It is not too unlike similar work being done tracking how people look at advertising or placement on store shelves.   Where do people look, what do they see, what do they retain,  is what we think is important even noticed?   Stephen Few points out the issues.

Spending on Intelligent Assistants

Interesting piece,  note the list of companies sharing their experiences with an intelligence assistance strategy.

Intelligent Assistants Answer the Challenge of Omnichannel CX Editor's Pick!   by Dan Miller in CustomerThink

These days, customer care professionals are besieged by tech-infused buzzwords and buzzphrases. The proliferation of smartphones drove demand for a “Mobile Strategy,” to which the word “Social” was quickly appended. Then it became a global challenge to assimilate “Big Data & Analytics” in order to ingest the zettabytes of data and metadata surrounding customers activities, preferences and intents.  .... 

Then came an onslaught of solutions and platforms that introduced “Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning” as a cure for common CX problems. In brief, they promised rapid recognition customer intent. Quick on their heels came integration of Deep Neural Networking and Cognitive Computing. Aside from bringing more buzzwords into the CX fray, their advent got both Contact Center and Customer Experience professionals wondering whether they needed to staff up with computational linguists and knowledge management aficionados. ... " 

" ... Spokespeople from The U.S. Army USAA, ING Bank, Domino’s, FedEx, Telefonica, Hyatt Hotels, Coca-Cola and dozens of others have shared the wisdom they gained from the experience of designing and implementing an Intelligent Assistance strategy in their organizations. The unsurprising, overall finding is that these firms proved that increased automation rates correlated with increased levels of both customer satisfaction (usually measured in Net Promotor Scores) and employee satisfaction (measured in retention rates).

The technological miracle that is underway amounts to nothing short of “redefining self-service.” It used to be synonymous with “automated handling” and “call avoidance” (for expensive agents, at least). Now it means customer control and lower effort expended, in short “serving one’s self.” .... " 

Patient Centric Hospitals of the Future

Below was an article that came up in my survey of patient-centric hospital designs, and the use of Hospital Virtual assistants.    Where might virtual assistance be best inserted?

Building Patient-Centric Hospital Of Future 
By Vidya Priya Rao in CustomerThink

" .... To adopt a patient-centric lens and a holistic service-minded approach requires a shift in thinking. The hospital management team cannot confuse restructuring this complex digital disruption with traditional methods – myopic cost slashing, digitalisation of standard operation procedures and haphazard efficiency gains through in-house process improvements. On similar lines, for the sake of value creation and eagerness for cost savings, they can’t make ‘less value’ departments or clinics, redundant activities, overhead costs, and slack resources as their popular targets. They can’t compromise with safety, supervision, security, and surveillance requirements since zero risks often come at the cost of zero conveniences.

While technology will be a significant component in providing patient care in the digital future, it is even more critical for hospitals to strengthen the human element to support  hospital-physician-patient relationship. A better understanding of the patient population, enables them to be proactive and effective at managing their health. This is where design thinking makes it entry with its human-centric problem-solving approach, allowing hospitals to empathise with patients and their families while driving a measurable return on investment.   .... "

Nudge Behavioral Economist Gets Nobel

In the BBC, this has gotten criticism because it can be seen as manipulative.  Who has decided what nudges we need?   And to what extent?  This has always reminded me of work by BJ Fogg on Persuasive techniques, but Thaler chose a better buzzword.

'Nudge' economist Richard Thaler wins Nobel Prize
US economist Richard Thaler, one of the founding fathers of behavioural economics, has won this year's Nobel Prize for Economics.

Prof Thaler, of Chicago Booth business school, co-wrote the global best seller Nudge, which looked at how people make bad or irrational choices.

Judges said he had demonstrated how "nudging" - a term he coined - may help people to exercise better self-control.   .... " 

Pew Research: Automation in Everyday Life

An extensive report based on surveys. Pointer is to an overview, and then links further to a full PDF report I am reading.  Addressing fear about the future of technology.  Nicely done so far.

Pew Research Center for Internet & Technology

Automation in Everyday Life
Americans express more worry than enthusiasm about coming developments in automation – from driverless vehicles to a world in which machines perform many jobs currently done by humans ... " 

By Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson

Robots Train Ants to be Helpers

A novel application linking robots and insects.   Not really Biomimicy, but a sort of Biosynthesis. Not sure how practical this is for a real application, but impressed by the novelty of what EPFL in Lausanne is doing.

Two small robots with ants Robotic Bugs Train Insects to Be Helpers 
Horizon Magazine      Aisling Irwin

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, working as part of the European Union-funded CyBioSys project, are developing mobile robots that are learning to work with insects to help serve humans. "The idea is to be able to solve [a] problem with a better solution than they [the robots and insects] can produce individually," says EPFL's Bertrand Collignon. The robots, which "live" with a colony of ants, spot signs that food has been discovered with a camera mounted inside the nest. The camera alerts the robots when it detects an increasing number of ants leaving, which is a sign that food has been found. After the ants have led the robots to the food, the robots carry it home much faster than ants could by themselves. Collignon says this can be described as a "cyber-biological system," which improves both on the natural order and on what robots could achieve on their own. .... " 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Testing Voice Shopping at Walmart

This started a week ago.  I will be testing this in the coming weeks.  Will typical retail store searching and shopping work this way for the Wal-Mart shopper?

Walmart goes live  By  Marianne Wilson in ChainStoreAge

Walmart has officially gone live with voice shopping on the Google Home platform. As it was announced back in August, the discounter is partnering with Google to allow its customers to shop for Walmart items through voice via Google Assistant, the search giant's online shopping platform that lives on its smart speaker. On Wednesday, the partnership went live, with more than two million Walmart items available through voice.   ... " 

Outlined New Capabilities for Google Home

Perhaps mundane, but since I have a multiple assistant smart home and office, I like that fact that it will include multiple voices.   So you can readily know who you are talking to.  One of the most basic elements of any conversation.   Other updates also

Everything new you can do with Google Home
by Jacob Kastrenakes ... "   In TheVerge

The Amazon Playbook

Good overview, in general this has been my external view as well.

The Amazon Playbook for Speed and Agility 
Jeff Toister   In CustomerThink

It’s no secret Amazon is a customer-obsessed organization.

What’s fascinating to me is how they achieve this obsession. Former Amazon executive, John Rossman, shared some of the company’s secrets in a keynote address at ICMI’s Contact Center Demo and Conference last week.

His presentation shared insights from his book, The Amazon Way, which highlights 14 leadership principles Amazon follows to drive its legendary customer service. Rossman called this Amazon’s playbook for speed and agility. ... " 

Blockchain and Insurance Industry

Blockchain Could Make the Insurance Industry Much More Transparent
10 Voices - HarvardBusiness.org by Dante Disparte  

While Edward Lloyd is largely credited with commercializing the insurance industry, with the creation of his namesake firm, Lloyd’s, over 330 years ago, the original concept of spreading risk (or “mutualizing”) goes back even further. Hundreds of years before Lloyd’s was formed, Chinese merchants would spread their valuable cargo across multiple vessels, with each one carrying an equal share of another merchant’s goods. In this manner, no single loss would be catastrophic. This spread of risk, of course, also prevented a merchant from absconding with his ship’s goods and never reuniting with the other traders; he’d have too much to lose. In effect, they all had skin in the game, which remains one of the most elusive elements of modern finance. Both then and in 1686, when Lloyd’s was born in a London coffee house, the global insurance industry was a business of utmost good faith, as it remains today.

Thus a trust and efficiency engine like blockchain technology has the potential to drive radical change in the insurance industry while improving transparency and outcomes across the entire value chain. Intermediaries or “trust brokers” do not have to be written out of the equation — or “disintermediated” — as many blockchain enthusiasts argue. Rather, they can become early adopters of the technology. Admittedly, this shift will be hardest on the established monoliths in the industry, for it will require uncomfortable transparency and price corrections in their business models. This will be toughest on the portions of the industry that are the least differentiated, where consumers often decide based on price: auto, life, and homeowner’s insurance. However, even these commodity offerings can find ways to innovate and survive.  ..... " 

Brain Built from Atomic Switches

A Brain Built From Atomic Switches Can Learn
Quanta Magazine
By Andreas von Bubnoff

A tiny self-organized mesh full of artificial synapses recalls its experiences and can solve simple problems. Its inventors hope it points the way to devices that match the brain’s energy-efficient computing prowess.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles are constructing a device the California NanoSystems Institute's Adam Stieg says is "inspired by the brain to generate the properties that enable the brain to do what it does." The device is a mesh of highly interconnected silver nanowires that is self-configured out of random chemical and electrical processes. This network contains 1 billion artificial synapses for each square centimeter, and experiments found it can execute simple learning and logic operations, as well as filtering out unwanted noise from received signals. Instead of using software, the researchers leverage the network's ability to distort an input signal in various ways, depending on where the output is quantified; this implies voice- or image-recognition applications. Another implication is the mesh could support reservoir computing, enabling users to select or mix outputs in such a manner that the result is a desired computation of the inputs. ... "

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Microsoft Virtual Customer Service Agents

New means of virtual support by Microsoft.  Notably connected to their LinkededIn and their Knowledge Graph.  This could be a key means to useful enterprise AI.   Both are key sources of enterprise knowledge and organized data is key to delivering any kind of useful cognitive intelligence.

Microsoft readies new Dynamics 365-branded HCM apps, virtual customer service agents
Microsoft is expanding its Dynamics 365 lineup with new modular SaaS apps, and is selling customizable virtual support-agent services under the 'Dynamics 365 AI' brand. .... 
By Mary Jo Foley    for All About Microsoft   ... "

Revinventing the Design of Rx Labels

While we were in the Rx business this is an area we tinkered with,  like the re-design approach.

CVS Taps A Design Legend To Reinvent The Prescription Label. Next Stop: The Pharmacy
Inspired by service-design overhauls at companies such as Disney and Carnival, CVS is hoping to rethink the entire pharmacy experience.    by Cliff Kuang in FastCodesign

Deborah Adler has had a story book career in design. In 2004, she was a grad student at SVA in New York, looking around for a thesis project when she saw her grandmother accidentally take her grandfather’s medication. Thankfully it wasn’t a catastrophe, but it made Adler consider the confusing mess that is the modern prescription bottle. So that patients might never mistake what medication is for them, she designed a system that could be colored coded for the patient. That bottle was almost immediately picked up by Target, and for the MoMA permanent collection; It was later declared a Design of the Decade by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Since then, Adler’s studio has been focused on improving medical outcomes. Which brought her once again to pill bottles.  .... "

Deep Learning Trends

Four deep learning trends from ACL 2017  by Abigail See

Part One: Linguistic Structure and Word Embeddings


“NLP is booming”, declared Joakim Nivre at the presidential address of ACL 2017, which I attended in Vancouver earlier this month. As evidenced by the throngs of attendees, interest in NLP is at an all-time high – an increase that is chiefly due to the successes of the deep learning renaissance, which recently swept like a tidal wave over the field.

Beneath the optimism however, I noticed a tangible anxiety at ACL, as one field adjusts to its rapid transformation by another. Researchers asked whether there is anything of the old NLP left – or was it all swept away by the tidal wave? Are neural networks the only technique we need any more? How do we do good science now that experiments are so empirical, papers are immediately on arXiv, and access to GPUs can determine success?

I don't have money for GPUs! Is NLP dead? And language? I really like my features!
Mirella Lapata expresses the community's concerns in her keynote

Though these difficult questions were at the forefront of the conference (the presidential address even alluded to a recent high-profile debate on the subject), the overall mood was positive nonetheless. At ACL 2017, the NLP community continued to enthusiastically embrace deep learning, though with a healthy skepticism. As researchers are starting to reach a clearer view of what works and what doesn’t with current neural methods, there is a growing trend to consult older NLP wisdom to guide and improve those methods. In this post I take a look at what’s happening at this pivotal time for NLP research.  .... "

KPI in User Experience

Always good to think about useful measures.

What is the most important KPI in User Experience?
by Magnus Revang  in The Gartner Blog

I have many conversations about User Experience with many different organizations. A recurring theme is one of “what do we measure?” and “how much do we invest?”. The key to both these questions lie with the single most important metric in User Experience:    .... " 

Friday, October 06, 2017

DNA Barcoding of Trees

In our early work managing forest assets in Alberta,  for pulp in use in consumer products, we actively looked at ways of measuring tree growth and asset management in huge areas.   This has advanced considerably, and in this article it is shown what is being done.  I don't claim to understand it entirely,  but using technology to track and to make transparent the resources involved in exact measures makes considerable sense.   And then use deep learning against the data?   Of course. What analytics might now be done.

Internet of Things, People and Systems

Brought to my attention:

Smart Cities: The Internet of Things, People and Systems 1st ed. 2017 Edition
by Schahram Dustdar (Author), Stefan Nastić (Author), Ognjen Šćekić (Author)

They write: 

This book presents a coherent, novel vision of Smart Cities, built around a value-driven architecture. It describes the limitations of the contemporary notion of the Smart City and argues that the next developmental step must actively include not only the physical infrastructure, but information technology and human infrastructure as well, requiring the intensive integration of technical solutions from the Internet of Things (IoT) and social computing.

The book is divided into five major parts, the first of which provides both a general introduction and a coherent vision that ties together all the components that are required to realize the vision for Smart Cities. Part II then discusses the provisioning and governance of Smart City systems and infrastructures. In turn, Part III addresses the core technologies and technological enablers for managing the social component of the Smart City platform. Both parts combine state-of-the-art research with cutting-edge industrial efforts in the respective fields. Lastly, Part IV details a road map to achieving Cyber-Human Smart Cities. Rounding out the coverage, it discusses the concrete technological advances needed to move beyond contemporary Smart Cities and toward the Smart Cities of the future. .... " 

Mattel Cancels Aristotle, an Assistant for Children

It should be noted that neither Amazon nor Alexa was involved in this.

In FastCodesign: 

" ... Less than a year after the toymaker Mattel launched a AI-powered baby monitor called Aristotle, the company announced that it will table its controversial plans for the product after a petition from privacy and children’s health advocates gained traction.

Aristotle was supposed to be an Amazon Alexa for kids crossed with a smart baby monitor. It was designed to do things like soothe a child’s cries, answer their questions about the world, and even read bedtime stories–and it would learn over time from the child’s behavior. In essence, it was an AI that could act as an extra parent in the home. .... 

It’s one of the first AI-powered products to have been shelved due to concerns over data and privacy, and an example of how a compelling design idea can be undercut by shoddy execution when it comes to privacy (Aristotle was an honoree in Co.Design‘s annual Innovation By Design awards). Its demise is a cautionary tale for tech companies racing to put cameras and microphones into our homes. While Google, Amazon, and Apple battle it out in the voice assistant wars–including making those assistants easier for kids to use–it’s clear that children’s rooms are off limits.  ... " 

Index of my posts on assistants.

Sins of AI Prediction

Nicely thought out, with great cartoon images.  Its right about distraction.  There is lots of advancement here, but expecting the wrong things can confuse direction and investments.   Seen it all.

The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions  In Technology Review
Mistaken extrapolations, limited imagination, and other common mistakes that distract us from thinking more productively about the future.

by Rodney Brooks  October 6, 2017 ...

Rodney Brooks is a former director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT and a founder of Rethink Robotics and iRobot. This essay is adapted with permission from a post that originally appeared at rodneybrooks.com. ... " 

Google Announces More than Gadgets

TheVerge looks at all devices announced by Google this week, with lots of pictures.   Call them gadgets, but I think there was lots of interesting content there, both in design and technology.   Each one augmented, they said, with new AI.   Challenging both Amazon and Apple.   But was this also challenging Microsoft?   The article is nice because it provides so many images with the commentary. Each gadget was well documented, and reviewed as much as it could be at this point.  Lots of very expensive things too,  that made me wonder who all the people are who put this on subscription.

Google's 2017 Gadget Collection
A photographic portfolio featuring the company's new products
by James Bareham  @Happicamp  .... " 

Google Clips Gathering, Analyzing Images

Saw Clips introduced this week.  An interesting application of an always on,  AI driven camera.  With shades of Life-Logging, but with better ways to make sense of all the imagery gathered.  Creepy, I don't know since we have control of the images its far more secure than most other channels of data gathering.

Google Clips camera lays the groundwork for our AI-powered future
It's what's inside that counts.
Jessica Conditt, @JessConditt

Allow me to make a bold prediction: Google's Clips camera is going to flop.

Clips is a $250 camera powered by artificial intelligence and designed to snap images of important moments as they happen, no human input required. At best, it'll probably sell OK at launch -- there will be a handful of cute videos showing how the camera performs while attached to a dog or the top of a baby's toy mobile, and the internet will briefly swoon. Maybe a few months later, it'll catch a crime in action, and we'll be reminded that these odd, all-observant cubes exist.

But, regardless of the viral content that comes out of Clips, it's not going to be enough to convince mainstream consumers to run out and drop more than $200 on a clip-on camera. Smartphones have cameras (really good ones, even), and a lot of people have smartphones. Clips might address a real problem -- freeing up users to experience life without worrying about filming it -- but no one needs this technology right now. Besides, it's kind of a creepy concept overall.

Allow me to make another, less bold claim: Google knows all of this. And while it would be great for the company's bottom line (and its data-collection department) if Clips takes off, it doesn't need the hardware to sell well right now. Google most likely has larger plans for Clips' software .... " 

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Modeling Economy with Technology

We spent some time working with W Brian Arthur's thoughts about modeling economies and their outcomes at the Santa Fe Institute.   Good to take another look.

Where is technology taking the economy?  By W. Brian Arthur in McKinsey

We are creating an intelligence that is external to humans and housed in the virtual economy. This is bringing us into a new economic era—a distributive one—where different rules apply.

A year ago in Oslo Airport I checked in to an SAS flight. One airline kiosk issued a boarding pass, another punched out a luggage tag, then a computer screen showed me how to attach it and another where I should set the luggage on a conveyor. I encountered no single human being. The incident wasn’t important but it left me feeling oddly that I was out of human care, that something in our world had shifted.

That shift of course has been going on for a long time. It’s been driven by a succession of technologies—the Internet, the cloud, big data, robotics, machine learning, and now artificial intelligence—together powerful enough that economists agree we are in the midst of a digital economic revolution. But there is less agreement on how exactly the new technologies are changing the economy and whether the changes are deep. Robert Gordon of Northwestern University tells us the computer revolution “reached its climax in the dot-com era of the 1990s.” Future progress in technology, he says, will be slower.

So in what way exactly are the new technologies changing the economy? Is the revolution they are causing indeed slowing—or is it persistent and deep? And if so how will it change the character of the economy?

I argued a few years back that the digital technologies have created a second economy, a virtual and autonomous one, and this is certainly true. But I now believe the main feature of this autonomous economy is not merely that it deepens the physical one. It’s that it is steadily providing an external intelligence in business—one not housed internally in human workers but externally in the virtual economy’s algorithms and machines. Business and engineering and financial processes can now draw on huge “libraries” of intelligent functions and these greatly boost their activities—and bit by bit render human activities obsolete.

I will argue this is causing the economy to enter a new and different era. The economy has arrived at a point where it produces enough in principle for everyone, but where the means of access to these services and products, jobs, is steadily tightening. So this new period we are entering is not so much about production anymore—how much is produced; it is about distribution—how people get a share in what is produced. Everything from trade policies to government projects to commercial regulations will in the future be evaluated by distribution. Politics will change, free-market beliefs will change, social structures will change.

We are still at the start of this shift, but it will be deep and will unfold indefinitely in the future. .... " 

Translation in Your Ear

Saw this demonstrated yesterday.  Very impressive.   Still not completely automatic, transparent, though that may not be far away.   For the omni traveler certainly,  but perhaps not yet for technically or contextually difficult translation.

Google's Pixel Buds translation will change the world
Finally, a Babel Fish that doesn't feed on brainwave energy.    by Andrew Tarantola  ... "

Let there be Better LED Light

The Math That Promises to Make the World Brighter     Kevin Hartnett,  Senior Writer in Quanta.

The color of LED lights is controlled by a clumsy process. A new mathematical discovery may make it easier for us to get the hues we want.

n elaborate quantum dance powers LED lightbulbs. The more precisely the dance can be choreographed, the closer LEDs will come to fulfilling their promise as the ubiquitous energy-efficient lighting source of the future (LEDs are already efficient, but they could be a lot more so). My latest story, “Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Lighting Up Future of LEDs,” is about a mathematical discovery that allows physicists to plan out that quantum dance step by step, like directors of a Broadway show.

LEDs work when electrons can be coaxed to collide with “holes,” particle-like entities with a positive charge found in semiconducting material. When an electron hits a hole, the LED emits a photon of light.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In practice, it can be hard to push electrons around with such precision. The semiconducting material used to make most LEDs has a highly messy atomic structure. This means that electrons will sometimes “localize” (or get stuck) before finding a hole. If electrons localize in the wrong place, they emit a phonon of heat instead of a photon of light, and we end up using LED lightbulbs to heat our living rooms. .... "  

Identifiying Plant Disease

Out of the fall garden and back to the possibilities of pattern recognition.  Back to my alternate botanic tech universe.  Penn State work using deep learning to identifying plant disease.  Great example:

 Phone Powered AI Spots Sock Plants with Remarkable Accuracy,   by Matt Simon, Science

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) say they have designed a smartphone-based neural-network program that can automatically identify diseases in the cassava plant with near-flawless accuracy. The network is based on Google's open source TensorFlow machine-learning library, and Google's Pete Warden notes the TensorFlow Mobile app requires only about 25 million parameters, versus the hundreds of millions some networks need. "It only requires about 11 billion floating point operations to actually calculate its result, and some other networks require hundreds of billions of operations to do a similar job," Warden notes. He also says thanks to transfer learning, the network was trained to recognize cassava leaves on much less data. "It really comes down to the data, because garbage in, garbage out," says PSU's Amanda Ramcharan. She believes the growing affordability of smartphones and the continuing simplification of algorithms will combine to make such tools more widely available to farmers. ... " 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

3D Printing Human Body Parts

3D-Printing Human Body Parts    By Keith Kirkpatrick 

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 10, Pages 15-17 

The advent of three-dimensional (3D) printing is already yielding benefits in many fields by improving the speed and efficiency of product development, prototyping, and manufacturing, while also enabling true on-off customization to suit individual needs. While this is certainly a boon for manufacturers, 3D printing holds even greater promise when considering the possibilities for creating body parts or tissues to replace or repair organs or limbs that have worn out, become damaged, or have been lost to due injury or disease.

Indeed, significant ongoing research is being conducted at the university level into the use of 3D printing to create a variety of replacement parts for aspects of the human anatomy. .... "

Field Farmed by Drones

A Field Farmed only by Drones

The experience of the Hands Free Hectare team suggests that drone agriculture offers some substantial benefits. ... 

Across the United Kingdom, the last of the spring barley has been brought in from the fields, the culmination of an agricultural calendar whose rhythm has remained unchanged for millennia. ... "

Home/News/A Field Farmed Only by Drones/Full Text    ACM NEWS

A Field Farmed Only by Drones
By The New Yorker 

Millennial Attitudes

 Millennials' Attitudes Toward IT Consumerization in the Workplace
By Heiko Gewald, Xuequn Wang, Andy Weeger, Mahesh S. Raisinghani, Gerald Grant, Otavio Sanchez, Siddhi Pittayachawan 

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 10, Pages 62-69

" ... Our research investigates the attitudes of millennials who have not yet entered the workforce toward the use of information technology (IT) in terms of "IT consumerization." Specifically, we want to know how this significant part of the population weighs benefits against risks when it comes to intention to use technology in a business environment.  ...."

Abstract and conclusions.

D-Wave and Quantum Computers

Have followed D-Wave systems for years.   Quite a good and detailed piece about what they are doing, their clients and direction.

Is Quantum Computing for Real?
An Intervew with Catherine McGeoch of D-Wave Systems ... 
Ubiquity, Volume 2017 Issue July,   By Walter Tichy .... 
 .. In this interview, computer scientist Catherine McGeoch demystifies quantum computing and introduces us to a new world of computational thinking. ... "

Ubiquity Blog from the ACM

New blog by the ACM.

The digitally connected world has become a large, swirling sea of information stripped of context. We help our readers make sense of it, find meaning in it, learn what to trust, and speculate on our future. 

  Peter J. Denning,    Editor-in-Chief


Microsoft Seeking to Dominate VR

Technology Review reports on Microsoft's view.  Again, lets see examples beyond gaming.  There is real value here.

Microsoft Is Going All-in on Virtual and Augmented Reality
Hardware partnerships, content, and even plans for social interaction are among the software-maker's latest attempts to dominate the nascent VR industry.

A flurry of of announcements made yesterday serve to highlight the company’s desire to make a success of augmented and virtual reality. At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft showed off a series of so-called mixed reality headsets—essentially its catch-all for AR and VR—that will be available from later this month. They include, reports TechCrunch, an impressive new premium device by Samsung that will cost $500. ...  "

Explaining Smart Contracts

Have worked with companies that set simple alarms to warn them of renewal dates and expiration of contracts.  This takes it much further.  Good simplified view.

What Are Smart Contracts? They Could Help Optimize Your Business Processes   Should your business consider implementing smart contracts? Let's explore how complicated or automated the process involves.     By Drew Hendricks  in Inc.

Advances in technology continue to impact all areas of our society, including business. These advances will help solve everyday problems and help increase our efficiency. As Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, becomes more popular, a new workflow automation technology was created - smart contracts.

Value proposition of Blockchain

In order to understand smart contracts, we first have to understand the value of Blockchain. It is infamous enough in itself for its inherent notoriety in the learning curve. Smart contracts can then make or break whatever one has learned in Blockchain.

The beauty, though, with this is that business transactions are now more transparent. Each involved user will then see the respective operations of each transaction, so that the latter becomes much more optimized.  .... "

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Google Releases the Teachable Machine

From the Official Google Blog.  No coding. Quite a thought. Exploring.

Now anyone can explore machine learning, no coding required

From helping you find your favorite dog photos, to helping farmers in Japan sort cucumbers, machine learning is changing the way people use code to solve problems. But how does machine learning actually work? We wanted to make it easier for people who are curious about this technology to learn more about it. So we created Teachable Machine, a simple experiment that lets you teach a machine using your camera—live in the browser, no coding required.

Teachable Machine is built with a new library called deeplearn.js, which makes it easier for any web developer to get into machine learning by training and running neural nets right in the browser. We’ve also open sourced the code to help inspire others to make new experiments.

Check it out at g.co/teachablemachine.

Redesigning Voice and Scanning Shopping Lists

We spent much time looking at ease of use and psych of the shopping list.  Often mentioned here (see the tag below).   Here is a unitasking solution to grocery lists.   By voice, and with much better design, they say.   Current voice lists do have problems with complex names and descriptions, and could foul up cooks and gourmands.   Scanning works, if you have a code handy.  Inclined to think the market will be limited, and those folks will use multitasking assistants.  Kickstarter at $79.

Alexa Gets some Company, LYSTR Takes the Headache out of Creating Grocery Lists  By Lulu Chango in DigitalTrends

With all of the other lists you’re creating and keeping tabs on in your head, the last thing you need is a complicated grocery list, too. Luckily, there’s a new app that wants to take all the thinking out of shopping — for food, that is. Meet Lystr, a new Internet of Things product that just made its Kickstarter debut, and aims to take the hassle out of your grocery shopping.

Anytime you realize you’re running low on an essential kitchen supply like milk, olive oil, or eggs, simply tell your new connected device something like, “Hey Lystr, add milk.” If you want to remember an exact brand of a product, you can use Lystr’s sensor to scan the item’s bar code. No matter which method you opt for, the item will automatically be added to your shopping list so the next time you make a trip to the store, you won’t be wracking your brain trying to remember what you forgot.

The companion Lystr smartphone app contains the entirety of your grocery list, and you can share the contents of said list with any of your contacts, or email it to your personal assistant (if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Lystr founder Kara Scanlin sees the product as the equivalent of Amazon Alexa or Dash. Rather than talking to an Amazon Echo, you’ll be talking to a discreet device that plugs into any outlet in your kitchen, and can be taken just about anywhere you go.

“We put an insane attention to detail in designing the product,” Scanlin noted of the design process. “I’m picky, and I know my customer is picky about what they put in their kitchen, so we had to make it beautiful.”   .... '

Why we are Social

Something to think about whenever we do Social.   I note Davis mentions Byron Reeves, who we used as the basis for some of our work with consumer facing chatbots.  His book,  The Media Equation, is worth a look.

Why Facebook Is the Junk Food of Socializing  By Jim Davis  In Nautil.us

ave you ever been walking in a dark alley and seen something that you thought was a crouching person, but it turned out to be a garbage bag or something similarly innocuous? Me too.

Have you ever seen a person crouching in a dark alley and mistaken it for a garbage bag? Me neither. Why does the error go one way and not the other?

Human beings are intensely social animals. We live in hierarchical social environments in which our comfort, reproduction, and very survival depend on our relationships with other people. As a result, we are very good at thinking about things in social ways. In fact, some scientists have argued that the evolutionary arms race for strategic social thinking—either for competition, for cooperation, or both—was a large part of why we became so intelligent as a species. .... " 

Wal-Mart Buys Parcel to Compete with Amazon

Walmart buys Parcel in latest attempt to battle Amazon delivery machine  by Valentina Palladino in ArsTechnica

Walmart comes to New York in the most Amazon-like way.

Walmart is trying to beat Amazon at its own game and the company's latest acquisition will give it a better shot at that, at least in the New York City area. Walmart announced it has acquired Parcel, a Brooklyn-based delivery company that specializes in scheduled and same-day package delivery of traditional items as well as groceries, meal kits, and other perishables. The acquisition price has not been disclosed by Walmart or Parcel, but a Recode report suggests the deal closed at less than $10 million..... " 

Deep Learning's Advance

Why did these methods not work in the late 80s? We used them, but could only get them to replicate the performance of classic statistical techniques,  to analyze marketing data, but not take it beyond to tougher problems.  So we essentially put them aside.

New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning  In Quanta Mag

A new idea called the “information bottleneck” is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn.

Even as machines known as “deep neural networks” have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, dream, paint pictures and help make scientific discoveries, they have also confounded their human creators, who never expected so-called “deep-learning” algorithms to work so well. No underlying principle has guided the design of these learning systems, other than vague inspiration drawn from the architecture of the brain (and no one really understands how that operates either).

Like a brain, a deep neural network has layers of neurons — artificial ones that are figments of computer memory. When a neuron fires, it sends signals to connected neurons in the layer above. During deep learning, connections in the network are strengthened or weakened as needed to make the system better at sending signals from input data — the pixels of a photo of a dog, for instance — up through the layers to neurons associated with the right high-level concepts, such as “dog.” After a deep neural network has “learned” from thousands of sample dog photos, it can identify dogs in new photos as accurately as people can. The magic leap from special cases to general concepts during learning gives deep neural networks their power, just as it underlies human reasoning, creativity and the other faculties collectively termed “intelligence.” Experts wonder what it is about deep learning that enables generalization — and to what extent brains apprehend reality in the same way. ... '