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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Task Journey Maps of the Smart Home

Robotic vacuum activity maps of the home.   In Technology Review.  Some fascinating views that tell you about smart home complexity, and even other applications of simple ideas.   A kind of Journey to task completion mapping?

" .... The home robotics company Neato makes vacuums that do much the same thing as their better-known counterparts, iRobot's Roombas. But today the company announced a new feature that may give them an edge: Neato's newest vacuum, the D7, will build maps of its surroundings that users can then interact with. ... " 

About Google Posts

Instructive piece, In Curatti: 

" ... Every now and then, something new sneaks into the marketing equation largely unnoticed. Did you know anything about Google Posts? Neither did we! So this article by John Jantsch is an important read. It is another in our “Great Articles You may have missed” series. .... 

Introducing Google Posts

Google is at it again! After much anticipation, Google has released Google Posts for all Google My Business users. Originally this feature was only available to select small businesses, celebrities, sports leagues, movies studios, and even political candidates (you may have noticed “candidate cards” throughout 2016 which were essentially the same as Google Posts).

Now that this feature is available to all, should you jump on board? Let’s dive into some of the basics and see how it may be useful for your business.  ....  "

Walmart and Google Pushes an Online Boost

Thoughtful podcast, but I think the final para here misunderstands Wal-Mart's customers, they are more sophisticated and widespread than they think.

Will Walmart’s Partnership with Google Give It an Online Boost?
Walmart has been going all out in the past year to grow its e-commerce business, and the latest move is a partnership with Google that it announced last week. According to Walmart, beginning in late September, it will offer customers “hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google Assistant” – the largest number of items from a single retailer available on the Google Express online shopping platform. While the Google partnership will certainly help Walmart drive online sales, it promises limited gains and doesn’t seem to be part of a larger e-commerce strategy, according to experts.

The stakes in the online shopping game are constantly rising, especially when it comes to taking on Amazon – which, with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market, is now encroaching on Walmart’s brick-and-mortar territory. “People feel competing against Amazon is a very tough proposition, and I want to see competition there,” said Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn.

According to Mark A. Cohen, director of retail studies and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, the deal “doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere…. The intersection of Walmart’s customer base and Google’s users is so small that this is likely to be insignificant.”  ... ' 

Roots of Inorganic Growth

Interesting stats, in particular how this can be driven by analytics.

The roots of organic growth      By Kabir Ahuja, Liz Hilton Segel, and Jesko Perrey

There are many paths to growth, and high performers take more than one—supported by reinforcing capabilities such as advanced analytics and digital customer-experience management.

Growth is a tonic for most companies. It attracts talent and creates strategic options while generating financial resources to fund new moves—provided the growth is profitable. It’s also been harder to come by over the past decade, as a sluggish macroeconomic environment and accelerating, technology-driven disruption have ratcheted up pressure on businesses. ....

The potential of advanced analytics

Across all the growth lenses, we found significant potential for an upside in advanced analytics. As Exhibit 2 shows, even at today’s low levels of penetration, advanced-analytics capabilities were strongly associated with the highest levels of growth, suggesting they will be a critical platform for the next generation of performance. ....  " 

Sharing your Smartphone Location

When you should and shouldn't share your location via smartphone.  Some best and worst Scenarios.  But the experts now say it is impossible to not infer your physical location when you use a smartphone.  ... "   In the NYT, full article may require registration, payment.  .... 

AI Video Recommendations

In the Verge: AI and Video recommendations: 

How YouTube started using Google Brain's AI to improve video recommendations in 2015, which now drive 70% of videos' watch time  —  Google Brain gave YouTube new life  —   .... " 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Culture for a Digital Age

From McKinsey. Good piece, though I think that there is value in diversity of culture as well, even outside these proclaimed boundaries.

Culture for a digital age
Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, solving these cultural problems is no longer optional. ..."

Shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main barriers to company success in the digital age. That is a central finding from McKinsey’s recent survey of global executives (Exhibit 1), which highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer. .... " 

More Social Robotics

Been intrigued by social robots, attempts at making  interactive and friendly devices for the home and elsewhere.  Is this problem solvable before we figure out how to do intelligent conversations between humans and machines?  How much does soft and doll-like buy you in social?   Expecting too much from the Eliza Effect in AI?   I am following several interesting examples.

Blossom: A Handmade Approach to Social Robotics from Cornell and Google  By Evan Ackerman

As excited as we are about the forthcoming generation of social home robots (including Jibo, Kuri, and many others), it's hard to ignore the fact that most of them look somewhat similar. They tend to feature lots of shiny white and black plasticky roundness. That’s for admittedly very good reasons, but it comes at the cost of both uniqueness and visual and tactile personality.

Guy Hoffman, who is well known for the fascinating creativity of his robot designs, has been working on a completely new kind of social robot in a collaboration between his lab at Cornell and Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC. The robot is called Blossom, and we'd describe it for you, except that it's designed to be handmade out of warm natural materials like wool and wood so that every single one is a little bit different.  ... " 

Alexa and Cortana Collaborate for the Enterprise

About the surprise collaboration announced today between Amazon and Microsoft, good thoughts about this.   How much market is there for strong connections between home and enterprise?  Ultimately how much competition will occur for the consumer market? (Thanks to Walter Riker)

“Alexa, ask Cortana to get me into the Enterprise”  by Werner Goertz in the Gartner Blog|  

With today’s announcement of Alexa and Cortana combining forces, Amazon and Microsoft leverage the other’s strengths while fortifying their own positions: Amazon is making a move to bring Alexa’s skills, communications and devices a step closer to enterprise adoption while Microsoft’s core assets in Cloud and Azure finally find the hardware home that Cortana so woefully lacked outside of Windows 10.

At first glance, a clear win-win scenario:  Gartner had identified the lack of  Active Directory or LDAP support as an inhibitor to access enterprise assets (see: “Forecast Snapshot: VPA-Enabled Wireless Speakers, 2017-2021”). Once Alexa and Cortana start having direct conversations (later this year), users of Echo devices will be able to use the communications feature of Alexa to access their Exchange Server’s Outlook calendar. And hopefully, someone will create a bot that allows me to say “Alexa, ask Cortana to dial into my 9 a.m. conference call.” – no dial-in numbers to remember, access codes to enter, or confirmation numbers to press!

Conversely, Cortana will be able to manage my connected home devices while I am at the office using my Windows 10 laptop: I will be able to remotely turn on the lights and feed the pets while outside of the connected home. The intrusion of Echo devices into the work space is inevitable and through this collaboration, Cortana will finally have hardware devices to deliver its core assets: the world of Azure. Don’t expect entirely smooth sailing as the first use cases emerge,though. Hand-offs will fail and especially threaded conversations will go awry. Over time though, Alexa and Cortana will get along fine, just like real sisters.   ...... "

More in Technology Review.

Its an AI Pary:  Alexa, Cortana to Team up; Siri, Google Home get an invite.  By Bill Roberson In DigitalTrend ....

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval

I was late pointed to a a number of posts from the recent Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) of the CACM.   Information retrieval is the most essential  aspect of any system, often forgotten in our hype driven world.  First post below which points to others.  Useful to see how these methods continue to progress.

The ACM Community is excited to host the first ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) Conference ever in Japan this month, in Tokyo.   ....   See coverage by Mei Kobayashi 

Augmented Reality Challenge

A look at Hololens vs ARKit

Is Augmented Reality going to be Microsoft’s next smartphone moment?
HoloLens was inspirational, but it’s ARKit and ARCore that are going to win developers.  By Peter Bright in ARsTechnica

Amazon Adding Multiroom Audio Control

Reported in Engadget.  Another trick soon to be added to the Alexa set to position it against capabilities by Google Home and Sonos, and reportedly soon to be released Siri and Cortana devices. Multi room speaker aggregation and control.  Look forward to trying, but still think it will be used by relatively few people.

Though it is linked to the most commonly used Echo feature,  playing music.   So lots of people, who have more than one Echo device, are likely to try it.   Still looking for the intelligence killer skill that will be used by all. Also in CNET. 

Tech Changing the Job of the CEO

Remarking on the quote below, we consulted  directly with the C-Suite before execs had become used to using social communications, or even email with their employees.     So that is an opportunity today. Creative reward systems had not, and have still not caught up.

How technology is changing the job of the CEO   by Claudio Feser.
More than 75 chief executives and board chairs recently gathered to share concerns and offer one another advice.... "

Sent from McKinsey Insights .... 

" ... Technology provides new ways to listen to and engage with employees. “Lead with your ears, follow with your mouth,” as the CEO of one property company crisply put it, citing his father’s advice many years ago. One way of listening today is to crowdsource ideas, using digital-communications platforms. There was general agreement on the value of internal crowdsourcing to take advantage of knowledge on the factory floor and the front line. But Forum members acknowledged the challenge of finding an appropriate reward system for those who come up with new ideas—suggesting that this is another area where top-management attention is needed. ... " 

Robots and Eldercare

An area we looked at closely, in particular following what Japan was doing in this area. Robotics still do not cover this demand well enough.   A look at the topic.

How robots could bridge the elder-care gap
August 28, 2017 by Cynthia Matuszek, The Conversation.  .... 

Backdoors in Deep Learning Neural Nets

Even Artificial Neural Networks can have Exploitable Backdoors.  In Wired

EARLY IN AUGUST, NYU professor Siddharth Garg checked for traffic, and then put a yellow Post-it onto a stop sign outside the Brooklyn building in which he works. When he and two colleagues showed a photo of the scene to their road-sign detector software, it was 95 percent sure the stop sign in fact displayed a speed limit.

The stunt demonstrated a potential security headache for engineers working with machine learning software. The researchers showed that it’s possible to embed silent, nasty surprises into artificial neural networks, the type of learning software used for tasks such as recognizing speech or understanding photos.

Malicious actors can design that behavior to emerge only in response to a very specific, secret signal, as in the case of Garg's Post-it. Such “backdoors” could be a problem for companies that want to outsource work on neural networks to third parties, or build products on top of freely available neural networks available online. Both approaches have become more common as interest in machine learning grows inside and outside the tech industry. “In general it seems that no one is thinking about this issue,” says Brendan Dolan-Gavitt, an NYU professor who worked with Garg. ... " 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Seeking Conversational AI

Quite an interesting post.  Back to a favorite issue: what does dialog look like, both with current capabilities of 'intelligence',  and proposed future approaches.  Both a architecture and a process point of view.  This has advanced a long way since the days of Elisa, when we built our original conversational systems.  Good points here:

6 practical guidelines for implementing conversational AI
How organizations can create more fluid interactions between humans and machines.   By Susan Etlinger  ....  in O'Reilly.

Emerging Micro Moments

In Think with Google:

Micro-Moments Are Multiplying—Are You Ready for the Future of Marketing?  Sridhar Ramaswamy May 2017 Emerging Technology, Micro-Moments

Mobile has changed everything, but it's only Act One. Machine learning in marketing is set to drive the industry's next revolution. Google's Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, reflects on the implication of this change and how leading brands will navigate the shift.

What's the next big thing? What comes after mobile? Where is marketing headed?

I often get asked these types of questions. Many of us who work in ad tech do. And while fortune teller is a job title most of us wouldn't claim, I am increasingly confident about what the future will hold because it's coming so clearly into view.

Here's why: The future coming into view is an acceleration of what we see today. It's unfolding before our eyes. And if we press pause and reflect for a moment on what's happening, it's as exciting as anything I've witnessed or worked toward during my 14 years at Google.

For consumers and marketers alike, mobile has forced a rewriting of the rules. .... " 

Linkedin and Kafka

Been interested in how Linkdin could produce value for companies, this post is an interesting hint. And beyond this, how about integrating Linkedin People into Process?  What is process but the integration of people, decisions, data and process?  There is a potential gem here.  Reminds me of long ago discussions with Linkedin integrating corporate HR data architecture.    See further hints at WP:Apache Kafka.

LinkedIn’s latest open-source project aims to automate Kafka   By Maria Deutscher
 Apache Kafka, the framework used to manage the internal flow of data at companies such as Netflix Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., is getting a usability boost.

The credit goes to a new open-source project from LinkedIn, which originally created Kafka back in 2011. Dubbed Cruise Control, the tool was developed by the social network to automate its internal deployment of the data streaming framework. LinkedIn said the cluster contains more than 1,800 individual Kafka instances, with more to come.    ... "

Focusing Digital Investments

New research indicates where to focus digital investments so that they will reap rewards in online and face-to-face channels.  In McKinsey Insights.

Innovation Spaces by Google to Test Cars

I helped design and manage innovation spaces and their technology for years,  so am always interested in how they can be best designed for purpose.  And also how that purpose can change over time.  See the below, for an example, but also clearly where they had the money and technology to do it right.

Google Built an Entire Fake City to Test the AI of its Driverless Cars  By Mark Austin in DigitalTrend  ... 

Embedding AI into Tiny Devices

We should ask what AI means here.  I am assuming training and applying machine learning architecture. Then the power of the systems involved may be key.

Microsoft Researchers in India, US Embedding AI Into Tiny Devices 
A team of 30 researchers at Microsoft labs in Redmond and Benguluru are busy developing a new class of machine-learning software and tools to embed artificial intelligence (AI) onto bread-crumb size computer processors.

The project is part of a paradigm shift within the technology industry that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described recently, by saying that "We're moving from what is today's mobile-first, cloud-first world to a new world that is going to be made up of an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge".

"Creating the intelligent edge is a step toward realising the promise of a world populated with tiny intelligent devices at every turn - embedded in our clothes, scattered around our homes and offices," said John Roach, a world-renowned expert in AI and machine learning, in a Microsoft blog post.

The researchers imagine all sorts of intelligent devices that could be created, from smart soil-moisture sensors deployed for precision irrigation on remote farms to brain implants that warn users of impending seizures so that they can get to a safe place and call a caregiver.

The computer scientists and software engineers are taking top-down and bottom-up approaches to the challenge of deploying machine-learning models onto resource-constrained devices.

The top-down approach involves developing algorithms that compress machine-learning models trained for the cloud to run efficiently on devices such as the Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi Zero. ... " 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tailoring Voice Command Marketing

Somewhat general but useful thoughts,  how should it be different, and I add:  how should the architecture and capabilities of the delivering systems be changed to make this work well?

Tips for Tailoring Inbound Marketing to Voice Command Technology  by Roman Kniahynyckyj  
 in Business2Community

From a time in the 1950s when speech recognition technology had a numbers-only vocabulary (one, designed by Bell Laboratories, was named “Audrey”), to a time when Siri and her friends Alexa and Cortana seem to be taking over the world, voice command has evolved to a level where many people now prefer it over typing on a keyboard. As the evolution of technology continues, we find ourselves regularly evaluating our marketing strategies to incorporate the latest and most effective technology.

So how does voice command technology affect the way that we tailor our inbound marketing content?    ... ' 

AI Seeking Sharks

Been working recently on detection type algorithms with video feeds.  None are perfectly accurate,  so always consider a risk analysis as well.  Note its augmenting humans here.   Here the liability would seem to be high.

Drones will watch Australian beaches for sharks with AI help
They'll spot sharks with greater accuracy than humans alone.  .... "    By Jon Fingas, @jonfingas  in Engadget.

Facebook's Static vs Dynamic Software Analysis for Bugs

Recall using just such tools a long time ago,  to test out simulations of software in operational conditions, now there are open source tools, produced by Facebook, which manages some of the most used software on earth.  Open source.   Many resources at the link:

Facebook’s evolutionary search for crashing software bugs
Ars gets the first look at Facebook's fancy new dynamic analysis tool.  By Sebastian Anthony in Ars Technica.  

" ...   There are two ways of automatically analysing a piece of software in the hunt for bugs, security vulnerabilities, and other potential issues. Static analysis, as the name implies, is only interested in the source code of the program. Dynamic analysis is the opposite: you run the program, feed it a bunch of inputs, and record how it behaves.

Each technique serves a different purpose, and a big software company would usually use both. Static analysis is perfect for formally verifying that an algorithm works as intended, or for highlighting bad code that might allow for a buffer overflow or other security vulnerability. Dynamic analysis is better at finding the gnarly edge cases that cause crashes. Humans can manually perform both analyses, of course, but computers are obviously a lot quicker when it comes to testing millions of possible inputs.

Facebook's static analyser is called Infer. The company open-sourced the tool in 2013, and a lot of big names (Uber, Spotify, Mozilla) use it. There isn't a whole lot to say about it, other than it seems to be very popular and effective; download it today!  ... " 

Moving Groceries

Interesting example of the delivery problem.

Space, Time and Groceries
Grocery delivery visualized in python with datashader.

At Instacart, we deliver a lot of groceries. By the end of next year, 80% of American households will be able to use Instacart. Our challenge: complete every delivery on-time, with the right groceries as fast as possible.

Over the course of a week, we traverse cities all over the United States many times over while delivering groceries:

In the remainder of this post, we’ll first introduce the logistics problem Instacart is solving, outline the architecture of our systems and describe the GPS data we collect. Then we will conclude by touring a series of datashader visualizations ...." 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tizen Operating System

Was brought to my attention through its use as an operating system for phones, watches and appliances.    Best known for its use by Samsung as a standard OS.  I am told that although it is framed as open source,  Samsung attaches a non open EULA.  The Bixby Voice assistant system is written in Tizen.

Tizen Experts is a site covering things Tizen.  They define it this way:

What is Tizen?
Tizen is a open source operating system which is designed for a variety of form factors, from smartphones to in-vehicle infotainment, Camera, Fridges and more. Tizen utilises HTML5 (HTML, Javascript, CSS) as the main focus for application development, allowing developers to maintain a single codebase. .... " 

Samsung Bixby to Expand

Despite my less than stellar interaction with Samsung appliances, we saw that they were likely to be champions in the Smart Home through sheer presence in complex devices.  Saw a demo of their Tizen systems in our own innovation settings, with indications of AI abilities.

Recall Samsung's acquisition of Harman-Kardon for advanced audio.  Now since, their Bixby voice recognition and intelligence is expanding, I will be following.  What will appliances and smart home look like in 2020?   Expect to hear much more of this

Samsung to expand Bixby, voice recognition features to more smart home appliances by 2020 By Deidre Richardson

For four consecutive quarters up through May, Samsung has dominated the home appliances market. With the announcement of the Galaxy Note 8 and its expanded Bixby capabilities such as Quick Commands (using small phrases to perform multiple actions simultaneously), as well as the global rollout of Bixby voice in English to over 200 countries earlier this week, Samsung is making a firm statement: that its Bixby AI, whether you want it or not, is here to stay. ... " 

Coverage of other AI Assistant systems in this blog.

Executing Intelligence at the Edge

You would like to get the execution of deep learning neural nets to the edge of the network.  It is ultimately where we want to execute learned knowledge.    Training them has evolved to new efficiencies by using adapted net architectures and parallel chips, but now we need new ways to make them work at this edge, in mobile devices.

Google Researcher Invented New Technology to Bring Neural Networks to Mobile Devices  by Roland Meertens in InfoQ

Recently many companies released applications that use deep neural networks. Neural networks can require a large amount of computation. For this reason, they often appear in software as a service applications on GPU powered servers. For applications that should run without internet access, must be fast and responsible, or in which privacy is a concern using networks on servers is not possible. ... " 

On the Hype of AI

Been rare lately that I have seen the word 'Hype' in an article on AI.   Oliver Schabenberger Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer  of SAS makes some reasonable and non-technical comments on the topic.   We continue to look for computationally and logically  'better' solutions, and we continue to find these,  and somewhere out there is intelligence, an amalgam of these and more.   Still in narrow domains, but not as narrow as those of the late 80s.

Data Science Terms

In DSC,  a good list of common data science terms. 

" ... post by Mic Farris. Mic is a Decision Science & Analytics Leader at CenturyLink. Two of the biggest buzzwords in our industry are “big data” and “data science”. Big Data seems to have a lot of interest right now, but Data Science is fast becoming a very hot topic.

I think there’s room to really define the science of data science – what are those fundamentals that are needed to make data science truly a science we can build upon?  ... "

I was expecting some more definitions, or links to more information, which DSC has lots of,  this is more of a glossary.  Would have liked for example a clear distinction between Data Science and Big Data.  Even from one industry's perspective.   Still useful to have at hand.

Swarms of Internal Drones

Precisely what we proposed at one time internally, but the tech of the time did not permit it.  Primary issues was battery life, size and sensor capability.  Linking to RFID was attractive.   Tasking these swarms to look for maintenance issues as well as taking inventory.

MIT researchers use drone fleets to track warehouse inventory
The small, safe UAVs can be used with existing RFID-tracking setups.  by David Lumb

Imagine a warehouse buzzing with tiny drones that automatically track and monitor inventory from afar, leaving workers free to manage and move material. That's the new system developed by MIT researchers, which could prevent mismatches and help employees find particular items faster on top of looking really cool with a bunch of worker drones zipping around.  ... " 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Why Andrew Ng Teaches AI

Why AI Visionary Andrew Ng Teaches Humans to Teach Computers 
Associated Press  by Ryan Nakashima

Stanford University professor Andrew Ng's current area of concentration is teaching next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) specialists to train computers. As a pioneer in such AI-training courses, Ng says he envisions AI as a tool to "free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery." He expects AI to have a transformative effect on virtually every industry, and eventually enable any job that takes less than a second of thought to become automated. Ng is an advocate of machine-learning neural networks, and his breakthrough in the field of AI was discovering a new way to give neural networks a significant performance boost by using chips typically found in video-game machines. Neural networks function much better if they can run thousands of calculations concurrently, an operation well suited to graphics-processing units. Ng and his Stanford team's research in this field was able to accelerate machine learning by as much as 70 times in 2008.  ... " 

Find the Best Way to Deliver These

Its an old problem.   It was one of the first problem types I worked on at the enterprise.   It has been declared solved a number of times, but some other little complexities are always being added,  just to make it difficult once again.  Its often a part of the larger supply chain problem, and often the most difficult part, especially with regard to customer service.  Good overview piece on the challenges today.   In Technology Review:

Inside the Increasingly Complex Algorithms That Get Packages to Your Door
Working out the best way to deliver parcels is a near-impossible job, and it’s only getting harder.  by Jamie Condliffe  

If you had to hand-deliver 50 packages, how would you go about planning the best route?

That’s a theoretical problem mathematicians and computer scientists have long tussled with, and you might even be familiar with the traveling-salesman problem yourself. Simply put, it asks: given a list of locations and the distances between them all, what is the shortest possible route that visits each location once and returns to the origin? Clearly, solving that problem is an attractive proposition for any e-commerce business that delivers goods, because it means lower fuel costs and fewer drivers. ... " 

APIs for Data Scientists

Good piece here,  the architecture is key, and well written APIs can make that happen.

How will APIs change the role of data scientists?  
By Gregor Herrmann on Hidden Insights   in SAS.com 

Application programming interfaces, otherwise known as APIs, are set to radically change the face of analytics. These little bits of code are working behind the scenes, hidden treasures that allow two pieces of code to talk to each other. This means that developers can borrow functionality from other apps. For example, Facebook’s API means that other apps can use its standard sign-in process. Google Maps’ API allows other apps to draw on its maps and location-finding technology, and not have to develop their own.

The potential impact of APIs in analytics is huge. From gathering data from new sources, through modelling and getting the results out to consumers, to evaluation, they can be beneficial to various steps across the whole analytical lifecycle. And this, in turn, is changing the role of data scientists, including citizen data scientists. .... " 

AI Fashion Designer

Note the use of a classic recommendation approach.  Does this embody creativity as well?  Would like to see this compared direct to human design and measures like sales.

Amazon Has Developed an AI Fashion Designer 
in Technology Review  by  Will Knight 

Amazon researchers are working on machine-learning algorithms for analyzing, predicting, and leveraging trends in fashion design, with one Israel-based team having developed software that can infer how stylish a particular look is by analyzing only a few labels attached to images. Meanwhile, Amazon's Lab126 group has developed an algorithm that gleans a specific fashion style from example images so it can produce new items in similar styles from scratch, via a generative adversarial network. 

A recent Amazon-hosted workshop on machine learning and fashion highlighted research with broader applications to human behavior, including a project conducted by Cornell University professor Kavita Bala and colleagues. Bala says her team is using data collected from Instagram "to understand how people live their daily lives." In addition, a team from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign developed an algorithm for identifying fashion-focused social-network accounts, and Myntra unveiled software for guessing a person's correct apparel size based on past purchases.  ... " 

Tacobots: Brands Telling Stories, Taking Orders

How well we know this.   See the tags on our approaches.    Chatbots can make it happen.  But carefully applied.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reinventing the creative landscape for marketers. One big leap: Brands are no longer merely seen as objects, but entities with personalities that can interact dynamically with people, according to Winston Binch, chief digital officer for Deutsch North America, the ad agency behind Taco Bell’s award-winning taco-ordering chatbot, the Tacobot. Binch spoke to Catharine Hays, executive director of the Wharton Future of Advertising Program, on the Marketing Matters show, which airs on Wharton Business Radio, SiriusXM channel 111. .... 

An edited transcript of the Podcast conversation follows. .... 

Winston Binch: The first thing I’ll say is that I’m not an expert. I consider myself an explorer of sorts. AI is one of the most exciting things to come around in a long time. It’s just an incredible canvas for creativity and brand storytelling.

“AI is one of the most exciting things to come around in a long time. It’s just an incredible canvas for creativity and brand storytelling.”

In fact, I think we’ll see AI impact media more than anything. I think you are really seeing us now with voice from a brand perspective. There’s over 10 million Alexas (digital assistants) out there. From a brand perspective, we have to start thinking about brands not as these objects but more as humans and entities that you interact with and have conversations with. To me and to our team, that felt amazing in the sense that we can now create content that really, truly interacts dynamically with customers.

Hays: You were the chief creative officer before becoming chief digital officer, correct?

Binch: No, I’ve actually had this title for quite a long time. It’s funny because it’s 2017 and we still use “digital” when everything is digital. But what it means is that I generally focus on everything that doesn’t look like a TV ad. My role is focused on driving innovation and invention on behalf of the agency and our brands, our clients.   .... " 

How is Amazon Changing Whole Foods?

Announcements not very remarkable, would like to see more technology in store,  that supports the idea of fresh,  integration of ingredients, cooking and innovation. How about robotic virtual and physical assembly of fresh recipes.  Integrate AI creativity?  Many possibilities.   How can you get tech to help with creative choices?  How about a deeper linking of their Alexa capabilities?

Amazon Just Announced How It's Changing Whole Foods.
A new era begins with this sentence: "Starting Monday, Whole Foods Market will offer lower prices."   By Bill Murphy Jr. in Inc.

Here are the changes that are coming to a Whole Foods near you, in greater detail. In short, they're cutting prices across the board -- and as many have predicted, will ultimately be adding more benefits for Amazon Prime members. .... "

First, Amazon said it would cut prices immediately on many products, including: "bananas, organic avocados, organic large brown eggs, organic responsibly farmed salmon and tilapia, organic baby kale and baby lettuce, animal-welfare-rated 85 percent lean ground beef, creamy and crunchy almond butter, organic Gala and Fuji apples, organic rotisserie chicken, 365 Everyday Value organic butter, and much more."

Second, "after certain technical integration work is complete, Amazon Prime will become Whole Foods Market's customer rewards program, providing Prime members with special savings and other in-store benefits."

Next, Whole Foods Market's private label products "will be available through Amazon.com, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, and Prime Now." ....  "

More on Tacobots, the future of ordering Tacos.

Forecast and Fulfillment

Discussion in Retailwire.     This remains a most important question.  The results of forecasts are driven by context, and that is always changing.    Even with large quantities of data.  Is inept forecasting holding back online fulfillment?     by Tom Ryan

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Microsoft Claims new Level of Speech Reco Accuracy

Claims to yet better cognitive performance.  Note the claim to improved contextual dialogs, utimately essential to speech interaction.  More open AI please.

Microsoft Claims New Speech Recognition Record, Achieving a Superhuman 5.1% Error Rate
By GeekWire 

Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research Group on Sunday said it achieved a 5.1% error rate for its speech-recognition technology, an improvement over its 2016 record of 5.9% and IBM's 2017 milestone of 5.5%.

Microsoft's Xuedong Huang credits the achievement to "a series of improvements to our neural net-based acoustic and language models."

Huang says the team introduced an additional convolutional neural network integrated with a bidirectional long-short-term memory model for better acoustic modeling.

He also notes the researchers' approach to blend predictions from multiple acoustic models currently does so at both the frame/senone and word levels.

In addition, Huang says the team fortified the recognizer's language model by employing the complete history of a dialog session to predict what is likely to come next, which enables the model to adjust to the topic and local context of a conversation.  ... "

Beyond the Turing Test

Issue Cover Photo
Video overview:  https://vimeo.com/226955559

Carissa Schoenick discusses "Moving Beyond the Turing Test with the Allen AI Science Challenge"

(http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2017/9/220439), a Contributed Article in the September 2017 CACM

Chatbots in Retail

Good piece, with expert discussion. Consider how any assistant model could evolve into recommendation.  Does this work?  What does it need to make the model work?  What aspects of dialog are most important?

Will chatbots lead consumers to more purchases?   By Cristian Grossmann  in Retailwire

Chatbots have been rapidly gaining popularity in the last few years. Twenty-five percent of U.S. consumers use chatbots daily, and that figure spikes to 40 percent among Millennials. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said positive interactions with chatbots make them buy more, a trend that should perk up retailers’ ears.

Large brands like H&M and eBay have been utilizing chatbots in various ways. When customers tell H&M’s bot what they’re looking for, it will build an outfit for them based on personal preferences. Ebay takes the “chatbot as a personal assistant” model and applies it to its whole catalogue, including enhanced search functionality, the main benefit being the chatbot remembers personalized information like the customer’s sizes.  ... " 

Advertising's Amazon Problem

Brought to my attention.

Madison Avenue's Amazon Problem   By Leila Abboud in Bloomberg

When you run an advertising agency, your clients' problems are your problems. That's why Martin Sorrell, the CEO of WPP Plc, has spent so much time fretting about Amazon.com Inc. lately.WPP Shares fell as much as 12%. The makers of consumer and packaged goods, which are among the world's biggest advertisers, are spooked about Amazon's pending $13.7 billion takeover of U.S. supermarket chain Whole Foods Market Inc.. For Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever Plc, the deal's direct impact will initially be modest given Whole Foods' tiny market share and high-end positioning. But given how fast shopping is changing in the Internet era, it underscores how consumer goods companies' prices, margins and customer loyalty face long-term threats.   ... "

What is a Robot?

New series of article in Wired:  What is a Robot?   Articles and videos.

Editor’s note: This is the first entry in a new video series, HardWIRED: Welcome to the Robotic Future, in which we explore the many fascinating machines that are transforming society. And we can’t do that without first defining what a robot even is.

When you hear the word “robot,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is a silvery humanoid, à la The Day the Earth Stood Still or C-3PO (more golden, I guess, but still metallic). But there’s also the Roomba, and autonomous drones, and technically also self-driving cars. A robot can be a lot of things these days―and this is just the beginning of their proliferation.

With so many different kinds of robots, how do you define what one is? It's a physical thing―engineers agree on that, at least. But ask three different roboticists to define a robot and you’ll get three different answers. This isn't a trivial semantic conundrum: Thinking about what a robot really is has implications for how humanity deals with the unfolding robo-revolution. ... " 

Sectors without Borders

And how will regulations adjust to these global digital conditions?

Competing in a world of sectors without borders
By Venkat Atluri, Miklos Dietz, and Nicolaus Henke  in McKinsey

Digitization is causing a radical reordering of traditional industry boundaries. What will it take to play offense and defense in tomorrow’s ecosystems?

Rakuten Ichiba is Japan’s single largest online retail marketplace. It also provides loyalty points and e-money usable at hundreds of thousands of stores, virtual and real. It issues credit cards to tens of millions of members. It offers financial products and services that range from mortgages to securities brokerage. And the company runs one of Japan’s largest online travel portals—plus an instant-messaging app, Viber, which has some 800 million users worldwide. Retailer? Financial company? Rakuten Ichiba is all that and more—just as Amazon and China’s Tencent are tough to categorize as the former engages in e-commerce, cloud-computing, logistics, and consumer electronics, while the latter provides services ranging from social media to gaming to finance and beyond. ... " 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Google Analytics Communicates in Natural Language

In an interesting cognitive/AI development, Google Analytics can answer queries in natural language, another move in the direction of analytics assistant.  Not unexpected from a company with Googles AI/Cognitive abilities:

Ask a question, get an answer in Google Analytics
What if getting answers about your key business metrics was as easy as asking a question in plain English? What if you could simply say, "How many new users did we have from organic search on mobile last week?" ― and get an answer right away? Today, Google Analytics is taking a step toward that future.  .... "

Food, Retail Aim for Blockchain Ledger Data

A considerable endorsement of a technology.  Where in more general terms is non-food is CPG?   Is this mainly driven by food safety considerations?

Walmart and 9 Food Giants Team Up on IBM Blockchain Plans    by Robert Hackett

Walmart and a group of food giants are teaming up with IBM to explore how to apply blockchain technology, also known as distributed ledger tech, to their food supply chains.

The coalition includes retailers and food companies such as Unilever (UL, -0.19%), Nestlé , and Dole (DOLE). They will be aiming to use blockchains, a technology that made its name as the basis of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, to maintain secure digital records and improve the traceability of their foodstuffs, like chicken, chocolate, and bananas.

These companies see blockchains as an opportunity to revamp their data management processes across a complex network that includes farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers. One potential benefit: investigations into food-borne illnesses to take weeks (see this summer's fatal Salmonella outbreak linked to papayas), but a blockchain-based system has the ability to reduce that time to seconds.  ... " 

Also, are they ready, legally and otherwise, for prime time? 

More on Walmart/Google Voices

More on this, with an interesting ongoing discussion.  In Retailwire:

Will the Walmart/Google voice deal give Amazon’s Alexa a run for its money?  by George Anderson

Move over Alexa. Walmart shoppers will soon be able to buy thousands of products online by speaking to their Google Home device or a mobile phone loaded with the Google Express app.

Beginning later next month, hundreds of thousands of items sold by Walmart will be available via Google Assistant, making Walmart the retailer selling the most products through the platform.

Walmart and Google broke the news earlier today in separate posts on their company blogs.  (See below) 

“One of the primary use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials. That’s why we decided to deeply integrate our Easy Reorder feature into Google Express,” wrote Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com. To take advantage of this personalization, customers only need to link their Walmart account to Google Express.” .... ' 



Charging Moving Vehicles

In Spectrum IEEE

Wireless Power for Moving Electric Vehicles Closer to Reality     By Charles Q. Choi

 Two men stand in front of and beneath a pair of large white wheels trimmed with copper foil. Electronic equipment hangs from the bottom of the wheels and more equipment is on a table behind one wheel.

Wireless charging of moving electric vehicles is one step closer to hitting the road, Stanford University researchers say. Such technology could also help charge mobile devices, medical implants, and factory robots, the scientists add.

Wireless charging via a technique known as magnetic induction is currently used to power electric toothbrushes, power tools, robotic vacuum cleaners, medical implants, and other devices. Inductive charging depends on at least two coils—one in the power transmitter, and one in the power receiver. When the transmitter coil is energized, it generates an electromagnetic field that can transfer energy to the receiver coil. ... " 

Powering new Chips with Better Algorithms

A continued race between hardware and software ...

We Need Next Generation Algorithms To Harness The Power Of Today's AI Chips
 by Greg Diamos is the Head of Systems Research at Baidu Silicon Valley AI Lab.

At the GTC technology conference this year, NVIDIA launched their latest and most advanced GPU called Volta. At the center of this chip is Tensor Core, an Artificial Intelligence accelerator that that is poised to usher in the next phase of AI applications. However, our current AI algorithms are not fully utilizing this accelerator, and for us to achieve another major breakthrough in AI, we need to change our software. ... " 

Google and Walmart Team Up

New multi retailer giant teaming proposed.

Watch out Amazon: Google and Walmart form e-commerce alliance to battle online retail giant  By Nat Levy

" ... Starting in late September, customers will be able to make Walmart purchases through Google Express, an online marketplace where customers can purchase and set up delivery from stores like Target and Walgreens. Walmart items will also be available through the Google Assistant and Google Home smart speaker, which competes with Amazon’s Echo, the market leader for voice-controlled devices. Walmart shoppers can link their customer accounts to Google and get personalized recommendations. ... " 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Machine Learning for Photography

Worked in this space, interesting how this was able to break through.

Supercharging your image: Machine learning for photography applications
Advanced capabilities for image retrieval and processing are relatively new and powered to a large extent by advances in machine learning technology. We present a brief history of this space, and share the story of how Shutterstock has embraced this technology and what it does for them. ... " 

By George Anadiotis   In ZDnet

AI, Machine Learning Cheat Sheets

I am intrigued by the notion of 'cheat sheets'.   These are short,  usually visual reference sheets for complex topics.    They can be useful for reference of you are an expert in a topic, and you just need the syntax,  or if you need a quick learning reference on a topic you are less expert about.  Nice idea, and since we can have all this available online now with a link, very handy.   Here via O'Reilly. Took a look, good job, but as in all of these efforts, value depends on needs. Would like to see more links to 2nd level references.   A set of term definitions, linked to specific sheets,  is also often useful.

Cheat Sheets for AI, Neural Networks, Machine Learning, Deep Learning & Big Data,   collected by Stefan Kojouharov 

Frequent Flaw of AI Implementation

Good cautious piece regarding implementation in the complex enterprise.  But hardly unique to AI.   Cae of any analytics, unless you are plugging a number into a strictly defined process control system. Results are statistical and often implemented inexactly by people.  So I remove 'fatal', its always a strong caution: how you implement the results into process.    Mention of ERP is also good here, its often part of a larger system, but rarely considered that way, was our experience.

In MIT Sloan Management Review
The Fatal Flaw of AI Implementation   by Jeanne Ross

There is no question that artificial intelligence (AI) is presenting huge opportunities for companies to automate business processes. However, as you prepare to insert machine learning applications into your business processes, I’d recommend that you not fantasize about how a computer that can win at Go or poker can surely help you win in the marketplace. A better reference point will be your experience implementing your enterprise resource planning (ERP) or another enterprise system. Yes, effective ERP implementations enhanced the competitiveness of many companies, but a greater number of companies found the experience more of a nightmare. The promised opportunity never came to fruition.

Why am I raining on the AI parade? Because, as with enterprise systems, AI inserted into businesses drives value by improving processes through automation. But eventually, the outputs of most automated processes require people to do something. As most managers have learned the hard way, computers can process data just fine, but that processing isn’t worth much if people are feeding them bad data in the first place or don’t know what to do with information or analysis once it’s provided.

With Cynthia Beath, Monideepa Tarafdar, and Kate Moloney, I’ve been studying how companies insert value-adding AI algorithms into their processes. As other researchers and practitioners have observed, we are finding that most machine learning applications augment, rather than replace, human efforts. In doing so, they demand changes in what people are doing. And in the case of AI — even more than was true with ERPs — those changes eliminate many nonspecialized tasks and create skilled tasks that require good judgment and domain expertise.   .... " 

Samsung Bixby Rolling to 200 Countries

Virtual Assistant Bixby is interesting to watch for the large number and types of devices that Samsung can use it for.   Still no indication of how 'AI' it is, please point me to somewhere I can test.

Samsung's Bixby rolled out in 200 countries  In the BBC
Samsung's voice-controlled digital assistant Bixby is being rolled out in 200 countries from today. It is Samsung's equivalent of Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant - which is pre-installed already in Samsung phones as they run the Android operating system.

Bixby will initially be available in only two languages - US English and South Korean. The launch had been delayed since April.

Samsung did not give a reason at the time but early testers of a limited demo model - including the BBC - had reported that it failed to understand commands.

The firm's latest device, the Galaxy Note 8, is due to be launched on 23 August.

What makes Bixby different from other voice assistants is that it is deeply integrated with functionalities unique to Samsung devices, said Ian Fogg, analyst at IHS Markit.

"Samsung always differentiates its phones by adding a lot of its own features to Android," he said. These include tailored support for its own hardware such as the curved edge screen, stylus, VR support and camera. .... " 

Links to all my coverage of assistants.

Biology of the Evolution of Cooperation

Very old problem in Biology.   Why should organisms cooperate? A solution?  Could this same technique be used when solving genetic algorithms?  Or say the collaborative genetic evolution of intelligent swarms?

New Model of Evolution Finally Reveals How Cooperation Evolves

By treating evolution as a thermodynamic process, theorists have solved one the great problems in biology.    by Emerging Technology from the arXiv  June 21, 2017

One of the great unanswered question in biology is why organisms have evolved to cooperate. The long-term benefits of cooperation are clear—look at the extraordinary structures that termites build, for example, or the complex society humans have created.

But evolution is a random process based on the short-term advantages that emerge in each generation. Of course, individuals can cooperate or act selfishly, and this allows them to accrue benefits or suffer costs, depending on the circumstances. But how this behavior can spread and lead to the long-term emergence of cooperation as the dominant behavior is a conundrum that has stumped evolutionary biologists for decades. ... " 

An AI with Imagination

Google's DeepMind creates an AI with 'imagination'

The AI firm is developing algorithms that simulate the human ability to construct plans   By Libby Plummer

 " ... The real world is complex, rules are not so clearly defined and unpredictable problems often arise," explain the DeepMind researchers in a blog post. "Even for the most intelligent agents, imagining in these complex environments is a long and costly process."

The researchers have developed "imagination-augmented agents" (I2As) – a neural network that learns to extract information that might be useful for future decisions, while ignoring anything irrelevant. These I2As can learn different strategies to construct plans, choosing from a broad spectrum of strategies.

"This work complements other model-based AI systems, like AlphaGo, which can also evaluate the consequences of their actions before they take them," the DeepMind research team told WIRED.

"What differentiates these agents is that they learn a model of the world from noisy sensory data, rather than rely on privileged information such as a pre-specified, accurate simulator. Imagination-based approaches are particularly helpful in situations where the agent is in a new situation and has little direct experience to rely on, or when its actions have irreversible consequences and thinking carefully is desirable over spontaneous action." .... " 

Kroger Begins Home Delivery in Cincinnati

Have been watching Kroger assemble online orders in their Sharonville Ohio store for some time now as I shopped.   These were for packing lot pickup..  Now they are starting to provide an option to directly ship the orders to homes.  At about $12 per shipment.   More in this article from The Cincinnati Enquirer:  Kroger begins home delivery in Cincinnati.  "... The service is provided by a vendor, West Chester The Grocery Runners, which has been independently providing local delivery since 2016 from Krogers offering the grocer's store-pickup service ClickList. ... " 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Camera Obscura Eclipse

91%  Eclipse, Camera Obscura, Pinhole effect,  filtered through a Maple, dramatically reflected on our front porch.

And on same Porch, closer focusing tree creates tiny suns and 3D effect:

NYC Algorithms and Optimization Site

Some interesting writeups.   In the Google Research Blog:

Announcing the NYC Algorithms and Optimization Site
Monday, August 21, 2017

Posted by Vahab Mirrokni, Principal Research Scientist and Xerxes Dotiwalla, Product Manager, NYC Algorithms and Optimization Team

New York City is home to several Google algorithms research groups. We collaborate closely with the teams behind many Google products and work on a wide variety of algorithmic challenges, like optimizing infrastructure, protecting privacy, improving friend suggestions and much more.

Today, we’re excited to provide more insights into the research done in the Big Apple with the launch of the NYC Algorithms and Optimization Team page. The NYC Algorithms and Optimization Team comprises multiple overlapping research groups working on large-scale graph mining, large-scale optimization and market algorithms.     ....  " 

Using the Blockchain to Clean Up the Niger Delta

This seemed new, and wondered how it worked, gets back to how a Blockchain  is a database.   And here connected to an online sensor database of  participants.

Using the Blockchain to Clean Up the Niger Delta

“We’re on the cusp of proving that blockchain has the potential to really change the way we think about social impact.” –Ben Siegel

“We’re looking to use feature phones and create a communication channel [between] the villager and our platform so that there’s an ability for the villager to be a 24/7 monitor” — not only for spills, but also for acts of terrorism such as bombing of pipelines and illegal refineries, Nnadi says. Such activities cost oil companies and the government a fortune and thus they could be motivated to help groups like community nonprofits. The basic thesis of the pilots is to “empower the 99 actors against the one bad actor.”

Sustainability International is planning to launch several pilots in the Niger Delta over the next year, starting with small, controlled tests. Its initial endeavor is actually to glean information about the clean-up process by doing the work manually at first and then adding layers of technology as appropriate. The nonprofit plans to work with people in the village instead of bringing in workers from outside the area; the blockchain will be piloted afterwards. “The core problems of our use case that we are looking to solve are provenance, payments, security and identity,” Nnadi says. ... " 

What do Customers Want from VR or AR?

What do consumers want when using AR or VR to shop?    by George Anderson in RetailWire

It no longer seems like a question of if but when retailers will begin using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to improve the customer experience and drive sales. Recently released research provides some insights into how consumers familiar with the tech want to use it for shopping.

“For retailers, the appeal is obvious,” said Rob Haslehurst, a managing director at L.E.K Consulting, which surveyed 1,000 early adopters for its research. “These technologies are a new way for retailers to do what customers want them to — create compelling shopping experiences and have rich communications with them.”

According to the survey’s finding, 80 percent want to use AR and VR technology to design rooms for their homes. This would involve them browsing virtual or physical showrooms where they can get information about furniture and décor and then use AR/VR to see what their rooms would look like with the items added. L.E.K. pointed to Lowe’s Holoroom and Wayfair’s VR showrooms as examples of retailers putting the technologies to work. .... "

Microsoft's Coco for Enterprise Blockchain

Announcing the Coco Framework for enterprise blockchain networks
by Mark Russinovich CTO, Microsoft Azure

Blockchain is a transformational technology with the potential to extend digital transformation beyond a company’s four walls and into the processes it shares with suppliers, customers and partners. A growing number of enterprises are investing in blockchain as a secure and transparent way to digitally track the ownership of assets across trust boundaries and to collaborate on shared business processes, opening up new opportunities for cross-organizational collaboration and imaginative new business models. .... " 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Changing the Face of Retail

Not enough detail thoughts in this CustomerThink piece, but surely we will be doing increased automation and thus augmentation of how we buy and sell.    In part depends on how we define AI. Points here are worth considering and preparing for.

How AI Is Changing The Face Of Retail Industry   by Ankit Singh

Who doesn’t want to have a blissful shopping experience? I think everybody counts in this list, but unluckily the very few get the real blessing while shopping, whether it is the online or offline mode of shopping. Many shoppers prefer to opt for brick and mortar shopping to avoid the horror of the unbearable shopping experience borne by a few unlucky chaps in online shopping, but the busy schedule, demanding lifestyle are two of the major barriers for opting the offline shopping mode, because it is not possible for everyone to indulge in shopping keeping the other important tasks at a bay. On the other hand, the online shopping experience is not always pleasing and can turn into an unforgettable pain, since it always does not deliver what it shows, because as a shopper, you cannot feel the color, texture or get the feel of the product through online shopping, which is the prime reason users prefer an offline shopping mode on online.

Why AI Is Must for Your Retail Business

--- 85% of Customer Interactions will be managed by Artificial Intelligence in Retail by 2020, a report from Gartner. ---

No doubt, online shopping is time-saving and convenient enough, but the loopholes attached to its existence, make it lose its charm, but now there is a bigger turn has been marked with the invasion of Augmented Reality in the retail industry. The emergence of Augmented Reality is nothing new to the users, and it has been experienced well in the Pokemon Go, wherein users were highly engaged and experienced the true taste of virtual reality through their Smartphones, in the same way, AI has made a revolution in the retail sector and is going to surprise the shoppers and the businesses further with its unique inventions. .... " 

Category Management

Admit its been a long time since I have heard of  digitized category management prescription.   It deserves much better analytic method application.  More discussion below:

Is it time to reinvent category management?   In Retailwire   by Graeme McVie

Brian Harris, the “father of category management,” says that it’s past time to reinvent the effort and suggested there’s a need to move onto category management 2.0. Win Weber, another leading proponent, says the retail industry needs to change the way merchandising works because the concept of category management was formed before the internet was commercialized.

It’s not just the internet that wasn’t around when category management came into vogue. Data analytics capabilities were a fraction of what they are today. Data capture and the ability to deliver actionable information to front line employees are now several generations advanced. So how do we reinvent category management with technology that is geometrically more powerful? ... "

Saturday, August 19, 2017

More Replenishment

More looks at the retail replenishment angle,  with discussion,  also see Amazon's use of this idea:

Will the ‘SmartStockUp’ program drive replenishment sales for Boxed?   by Matthew Stern

Consumers buy staple products in bulk to avoid running out, but it still invariably happens. E-tailer Boxed, whose business model is often said to resemble an e-commerce take on wholesale clubs like Costco, is trying a new method to remind customers to replenish.

Boxed has piloted a new program called SmartStockUp with about a quarter of its user base and is now expanding it to all its B2C customers, according to TechCrunch. SmartStockUp uses information it has about customer habits, such as purchase data, along with broader restocking trends to anticipate when customers will need to replenish a particular item. Boxed then displays a “Need this Now” or “Need this Soon” recommendation when the customer visits the website. .... " 

Introduction to GAN Engine, Applications

Good piece I have sent forward as an introduction to Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)  Especially with regard to useful applications.

Posted by Luba Belokon in DSC:

GAN Engine and Applications: 
Generative adversarial networks (GANs) are a class of neural networks that are used in unsupervised machine learning. They help to solve such tasks as image generation from descriptions, getting high resolution images from low resolution ones, predicting which drug could treat a certain disease, retrieving images that contain a given pattern, etc.    Our team asked a data scientist, Anton Karazeev, to make the introduction to GANs engine and their applications in everyday life.  ....  " 

More on the Jinan Project

China Set to Launch the World’s First Quantum Communication Network  in Futurism. 

China has successfully tested the Jinan Project, and is set to begin using the system by the end of August. This marks a world milestone in the development of quantum technology, and identifies China as one of the world leaders in the field.  .... "

China Advances in Quantum Computiing

Quantum computing followed here for years, before China was even mentioned in the space:

China has successfully tested the Jinan Project, and is set to begin using the system by the end of August. This marks a world milestone in the development of quantum technology, and identifies China as one of the world leaders in the field.

By the end of August, China plans to rollout the Jinan Project — the world’s first unhackable computer network, which is based on quantum principles. The project uses the city of Jinan as a quantum computer hub that boosts the Beijing-Shanghai quantum network due to its central geographical position between the two larger cities.  ... " 

Apple and Augmented Reality

We have seen AR demonstrated on the phone for a long time, but it has not broken through to real value or common use.   Is that about to change?

Apple Bets the Future of Augmented Reality will be on your Phone
THE AR REVOLUTION will come not with a bang, but a tape measure. At least, that seems to be the lesson so far from ARKit, Apple’s new augmented-reality platform.

ARKit lets developers build AR apps—which integrate digital experiences into the physical world via iPhone or iPad, a la Pokemon Go. Those apps will be available to consumers when iOS 11 arrives in September. But developers have started tinkering—creating tools that let you see how furniture fits in a room, or quickly calculate the area of your kitchen. Compared to the likes of Magic Leap or Google Glass, these apps are simple, almost trivial. But that smallness might be precisely what makes them so potentially huge.

Matthew Miesnieks, a VC who led AR research and development efforts at Samsung, calls ARKit “the biggest thing that’s happened to the AR industry since it began,” and he’s not alone in his enthusiasm. By getting AR in the hands of millions of iPhone users, Apple is poised to become the world’s most powerful and popular purveyor of augmented-reality apps. And by opening up its developers’ kit, it’s powering hundreds of experiments into what, precisely, this medium is good for. ....  "

Friday, August 18, 2017


Continue to look at means to automate the specific process of business. Making it better, faster, cheaper. And ultimately include intelligent and cognitive elements to streamline and have these systems adapt to context.  I see that Deloitte is a partner.

Brought to my attention: WorkFusion.

NEW YORK, July 18, 2017 — WorkFusion today released Intelligent Automation 2017 Sunbird, a comprehensive product update that enables WorkFusion customers to automate more work with less effort and easily scale the benefits of automation across a business. Sunbird brings more of WorkFusion’s vision of low-code RPA and cognitive automation into reality and makes its flagship product, Smart Process Automation (SPA), faster, simpler, more scalable and more secure.

“We created Intelligent Automation 2017 Sunbird update in collaboration with our customers,” says WorkFusion’s Head of Product, Mikhail Abramchik. “Their feedback inspired us to build features and improvements to make our product easier to use and more efficient.”

Key customer-driven benefits of the Sunbird update release include:
• Cognitive bots that learn 8 times faster, delivering automation quicker
• More out-of-the-box use cases for faster, easier deployment
• RPA recorder to create bots without coding
• RPA API and universal driver means 50% less effort for surface and Excel automation
• Best-in-class password vault for enterprise-grade security
• Load balancing to eliminate redundancy, which reduces infrastructure cost

These improvements translate to a better experience for WorkFusion’s customers across the boardfrom business users to developers to the C-suite. A simpler process for setting up cognitive bots allows business users to automate more with less coding, while enhanced developer tools and OCR plugin reduce the time and resources developers spend on RPA coding. From an executive perspective, all these enhancements help to scale Intelligent Automation across an entire operation to meet pressing transformation goals, which means increased ROI and better service delivery.

Says Abramchik: “We’re proud to say that Intelligent Automation 2017 Sunbird offers more possibilities to transform and reinvent businesses than any other RPA or cognitive automation product on the market today.”

About WorkFusion
WorkFusion Intelligent Automation empowers enterprise operations to digitize. WorkFusion delivers the quick wins of robotic process automation (RPA) and the longer-term transformation and ROI of AI-powered cognitive automation through products purpose-built for enterprise operations. The world’s leading global banks, insurance, healthcare companies, and BPO firms use WorkFusion Intelligent Automation to become leaner, more productive and agile.  .... " 

Disruption is not the Measure

Sometimes all I hear is disruption, but it is not all there is, and itself is not a measure.  We made money for many years on improvement alone.  So look for disruption, but include hints to value along the way.  By Deloitte in the WSJ:

Disruption Is Not the Key to Winning
Companies can create competitive advantage by leveraging digital technologies to provide exceptional experiences for customers. Six enablers can help.

“Disruptor” is a term used frequently to describe successful modern companies. Airbnb is often credited with disrupting the lodging industry, Uber is cited as a disruptor of the transportation business, and Amazon is widely seen as disrupting retail. Yet while these companies have certainly transformed their industries through innovative business models, disruption isn’t the yardstick for measuring success.  ... " 

Stats on Privately Funded Drone Companies

CBInsights: A look at privately funded drone companies.   " ... .While the US accounts for nearly two-thirds of all drone investment activity, there are at least 11 other countries making bets in the space  ....  Since 2012, private drone companies have raised over $1.6B across 300+ equity investments. Drones make up the second largest sub-category in IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and account for roughly 20% of total deal activity.

Three of the earliest private drone companies and largest in terms of total funding are 3D Robotics, Airware, and RedZone Robotics. While they lead in the US, expanding internationally has been a challenge because of the complex international regulatory environment, both at country and local levels.  ... " 

Mixed Reality Partner Program


Introducing the Mixed Reality Partner Program

If your company is a digital agency, systems integrator, or solution provider, the Mixed Reality Partner Program can equip your company with the skills to successfully drive commercially-focused mixed reality solutions for your clients. .... " 

Georgia Institute of Technology Robotarium

Magnus Egerstedt, executive director for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the new Robotarium. Been a while since I have been to Ga Tech's lab spaces, we visited while I ran tech in our company's innovation centers.  Impressive then, and they continue to improve.   Had seen the remote lab idea suggested before, but did not know they were doing this.   Need to get there.

This Robot Lab Has No Idea What Its Robots Are Doing    By The Wall Street Journal 
Magnus Egerstedt, executive director for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the new Robotarium. 

In the Robotarium, a 10-square-foot table inside the Atlanta laboratory of Magnus Egerstedt, executive director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, up to 50 ground bots and 20 aerial copters can be remotely controlled by researchers often from other schools, or even foreign countries ....

The Georgia Institute of Technology's (Georgia Tech) Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines supports the Robotarium, an arena where scientists can run experiments on remote-controlled machines.

Georgia Tech's Magnus Egerstedt says unpredictability is a regular feature of the Robotarium, where swarms of ground and airborne robots are put through their paces. Researchers use these swarms to test search-and-rescue scenarios, model flight formations for the U.S. Department of Defense, and predict the interactions of fleets of autonomous cars. Cameras located throughout the arena record the trials so the researchers conducting them can see the results of their experiments.  ... " 

Fingerprint Analysis Scoring

Recall seeing this problem as a classic pattern recognition issue,  closer to being solved.  Note this addresses knowledge content in a pattern, where else might this be used? Anywhere you might want to prioritize an action.

Scientists Automate Key Step in Forensic Fingerprint Analysis
By U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology 

Researchers at Michigan State University and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed an algorithm that automates the fingerprint-analysis process.

The researchers trained the machine-learning algorithm on data from 31 fingerprint experts who had analyzed 100 latent prints each, scoring the quality of each on a 1-to-5 scale. The prints and their scores were used to train the algorithm to determine how much information a latent print contains.

The researchers tested the algorithm by having it score a group of new latent prints. The team submitted those scored prints to Automated Fingerprint Identification System software connected to a database of more than 250,000 rolled prints. The researchers found the scoring algorithm performed slightly better than the average of human examiners involved in the study.

They next want to test the system on a larger dataset, which will enable them to improve the algorithm's performance and more accurately measure its error rate.

From U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology

(More details at the link)

Every Possible Song Has Some Non-Zero Streaming Value

When looking at the streaming concoctions of smart speakers. I quickly noticed the increase of so called 'mood' music playlists, aimed at providing backgrounds for sleeping, studying, working, concentrating, cooking, vanity, etc.   Unclear if any of this works.  But the user, including myself, is quick to bite and try.  And a slightly manipulated search can quickly get you there.   I was not the first to notice this.  Even giants like Spotify can create such 'fake' music.

One company is already commissioning  a version of 'Happy birthday to your name', for every possible given name.  Starting with the most common.  The one for 'Matthew' has already been included in 400,000 playlists.  What is 'fake' is debatable.  Perhaps written by machine and performed by studio artists.   Or created out of bits and snippets of real music.  Or created in its entirety by AI.   Regardless, cheaper to license than music by real artists, and much less expensive than from real, famous composers and artists.   Will we ultimately have to specify detect and specify 'real' music?

The accusation against Spotify in particular is written about in the NYT.  And an article about related efforts in Vulture.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

1,600 Alexas put in AZ State Engineering Dorm Rooms

This could be a very big deal, if loaded with the right software.  And for prompting potential forward looking skill development.   Think smarter.  Will continue to follow what come out of that.  Anyone from the AZ State project, please do contact me.

Amazon will put 1,600 Echo Dots in Arizona State University’s engineering student dorms ... Talk about real-world application   By Dani Deahl on August 17, 2017

This year, students at Arizona State University will have the opportunity to live in college housing with Echo Dots in a program that encourages engineering students to practice voice user interface development skills on consumer hardware.

ASU has built a new work / live space for first-year engineering students called the Tooker House, and those moving into its residence hall will be able to opt in to the program and receive an Echo Dot for their dorm room. The school says Amazon has donated 1,600 Echo Dots and is also providing developer kits to help add the technology to ASU’s existing engineering curriculum.

Outside of Tooker House, any student in ASU’s engineering school can enroll in one of three upcoming fall courses that teach concepts like voice user interface development, which includes Alexa skills. The students will be encouraged to independently build Alexa skills outside the classroom using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which can ideally be incorporated into student project programs, or solve needs in the local community. ... " 

Respecting Absurd Ideas

Always liked the idea of exploring the edge of possibilities.  Here a look at how to exploit absurd suggestions.   Which break down into Respect the idea, and Play with it.   I would add,  always use the promoter of the idea as the 'expert' in its application .... they can school you in its application, or even why it won't work in context.   Stretch it.  Explore with analogies.   Absurdity can be good.

strategy+business: Corporate Strategies and News Articles on Global Business, Management, Competition and Marketing
 Two Simple Concepts for Getting the Most from Absurd Ideas ... " 


We all like to classify things,  its efficient.   Mathematicians just like to classify more formally.  And we use that in data science so we can make use of the results.  It is learning.  An article in Quanta Mag talks this:  Why Mathematicians Like to Classify Things.

Agile in the C-Suite

In Bain & Company:

How to Make Agile Work for the C-Suite   By Eric Garton, Andy Noble

Many companies are attempting a radical — and often rapid — shift from hierarchical structures to more agile environments, in order to operate at the speed required by today’s competitive marketplace. Companies like ANZ, the Australian-based banking giant, have made explicit commitments to adopt agile principles, while others like Zappos, are on the bleeding edge of organizational transformation. Many stopping points exist along the continuum from hierarchy to holacracy. To successfully transform to a more agile enterprise, companies must make conscious choices about where and how to become agile. They have to decide where to adopt agile principles and mindsets, where to use agile problem-solving methodologies to dynamically address strategic and organizational challenges, and where to more formally deploy the full agile model, including self-managed teams.

At Bain & Company, we do not believe that companies should try to use agile methods everywhere. In many functional areas, such as plant maintenance, purchasing, sales calls, or accounting, more traditional structures and processes likely will deliver lower cost, more repeatable outcomes and more scalable organizations. Sorting through every function and every part of your company’s operating model to determine which parts of the agile playbook to adopt requires some deep thinking. It also means you have to figure out how to make the agile and traditional parts of your organization effectively operate with one another. This takes time. .... "