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AWS chief architect says AI is boosting human intelligence

Key takeaways from Glenn Gore from CIX 2018

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Amazon Web Service’s Chief Architect, Glenn Gore. - Photo by DX Journal
Amazon Web Service’s Chief Architect, Glenn Gore. - Photo by DX Journal
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Every talk about artificial intelligence at a technology event inevitably ends up in a comment about robots replacing human jobs. But for Amazon Web Service’s Chief Architect, Glenn Gore, humans benefit from the process of designing artificial intelligence (AI).

“We are seeing human intelligence being brought back with the rise of artificial intelligence,” he said during his keynote speech at CIX 2018.

Gore spent the next 30 mins talking about how various companies leverage big data for insight, and how designing artificial intelligence frameworks is creating new innovation and ways of thinking for humans.

Here are three major takeaways from his talk:

AI is boosting human intelligence

During his keynote, Gore turned to a quote from Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab, to get to the heart of the appeal of AI and cloud: “Want to increase innovation? Lower the cost of failure.”

Gore cites time, rather than money, as the biggest cost that failure incurs. Across multiple industries, AWS is seeing inventive uses of AI and machine learning (ML) that allow companies to innovate faster, using speed as a compelling sell point.

For example, GE Healthcare is innovating around medical imaging in order to provide better diagnosis and make preventative discoveries for patients. Their medical scanning equipment produces terabytes of data from each incredibly detailed scan, so it takes time for images to be processed. Using a combination of connected devices and machine learning tools is allowing GE to speed up image process for doctors who seek to improve early detection of tumors and other abnormalities.

AI and cloud are also being used by financial services giant Moody’s to filter through complicated financial documents.

The company has tens of millions of financial documents to mine for insights, but it is incredibly time-consuming to process manually. Moody’s now uses AWS’ AI Lab Solutions to find insights around trends and patterns, reducing the need for teams of people to work through the same quantity of documents.

Gore said it’s now becoming a question of proving an idea’s effectiveness over six weeks rather than six months. And thanks to the array of AI and ML tools available, you don’t have to be a ML engineer or a data scientist to develop a concept and get it running.

Amazon Web Service’s Chief Architect, Glenn Gore. - Photo by DX Journal

Amazon Web Service’s Chief Architect, Glenn Gore. – Photo by DX Journal

Get business out of the way of the customer

Gore also spoke about how technology can have a negative impact on customer interaction if it gets in the way.  Data is often the culprit.

As a business grows, you need to remain close to customers. The data may signal positive signs for a business, but at the end of the day a customer’s satisfaction and experience is the most important thing to a business.

One company that is taking a customer-centric approach to its technology is the NFL, Gore said.

The league is running an advanced stats platform on AWS that draws from thousands of games, providing valuable data about every level of the game. The organization doesn’t keep these insights to themselves, either – technology is used to provide an immersive experience for fans by combining statistical analysis with real-time video footage, allowing fans to engage with the sport like never before.

It’s never been easier or cheaper to collect data at any scale

One of the key factors behind the AI and ML renaissance is that businesses are dealing with “hundreds of millions of interactions” that can be tracked, stored in the cloud, measured and mined for insights.

An example of a business doing big data analysis at scale is the online multiplayer game Fortnite.

Gore said the game supports 125 million players worldwide, with 92 million “events” tracked every minute in the cloud minute.

Fortnite uses AWS to leverage the scale of the data, store it, and process it to gain insights that can be used to change the game. The 40 gigabytes of analytical data per minute that is tracked by gamemakers allows the company to constantly improve, helping to win the attention of players and retain them as customers.

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Avoiding the falsification of medicines with blockchain

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pharmaceuticals
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Counterfeit medicines are a problem around the world, with many producers of false medicines attempting to illegitimate drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Blockchain could be the answer to stem the tide and the U.S. FDA are interested.

Concerns with falsified medicines extend to where drugs which are targeted at those who are seriously ill. These types of medicines may be contaminated or they can contain the wrong ingredient or no active ingredient at all. Alternatively, the drugs may have the right active ingredient but at the wrong dose. In other words, such medicines may harm the patient or exert no beneficial effect at all.

The rise in counterfeit medicines is linked to a general increase in the number of people using the Internet to purchase commodities and this includes those using the Internet to self-diagnose and self-prescribe. This practice can lead to people purchasing ineffective medicines; medicines that normally require a prescription; or purchasing what they think are legitimate medicines but which are in fact fake.

For many years regulators, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency have taken measures to prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the drug supply chain. One such example of a practice designed to reduce counterfeiting is by implementing product serialization. Serialization requires a comprehensive system to track and trace the passage of prescription drugs through the entire supply chain.

An alternative could be based on blockchain. “Blocks” on the blockchain are made up of digital pieces of information, which store information about transactions, say the date, time, and transaction price. Blocks also store information about who is participating in transactions, and information that distinguishes the block from other blocks. The system is designed to provide transparency and security.

In theory, with a pharmaceutical blockchain it would be impossible to tamper with a medicine or to swap legitimate medicines with fake medicines. In addition, someone purchasing a medicine would be able to assess where the medicine came from (that is, did it come from a bona fide manufacturer?)

It is for this reason that the U.S. FDA is examining the potential for blockchain, as Engadget reports. The federal agency has begun a pilot program that enables the drug supply chain explore ways to track prescription medicine.

According to the FDA, blockchain will enable the “use of innovative and emerging approaches for enhanced tracing and verification of prescription drugs in the U.S. to ensure suspect and illegitimate products do not enter the supply chain.”

Pharmaceutical companies have until March 11, 2019 to apply. The pilot will not produce actionable results until 2023. In the meantime, more conventional methods for seeking to eliminate counterfeit medicines will have to suffice.

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Agriculture

Big data analytics provides first world vegetation maps

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agriculture
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Artificial intelligence and big data analytics have been applied to produce the first global map of the world’s regions where vegetation can and cannot be grown.

The Valencia University study assesses the global abundance of the phosphorus and nitrogen content in vegetation. Also assessed is the efficiency in water use. The scientists’ aim is to show where the best places are for agriculture and where environmental conditions are changing in response to climate change. The application of artificial intelligence and big data methodologies also enables an assessment to be made of our planet’s biodiversity.

Together with carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus are the principal chemical elements incorporated into living systems. They are strong signals of the suitability of different parts of the Earth for agriculture. Both nitrogen and phosphorus are needed by plants in large amounts (although excessive quantities can also cause environmental damage). In soil, nitrogen and phosphorus are typically found in the form of nitrates and phosphates.

The new global maps produced by the researchers gathered information from Google mass satellite observation data and then used a specially developed artificial intelligence program to assess the data and produce the color-coded maps. The satellites gathered temporal and spatial observations, and this produced a series of maps characterizing different biophysical parameters. To develop the maps required numerous observation-measurement pairings to be number crunched.

Speaking with Phys.org, lead researcher Álvaro Moreno explained why the maps were significant: “Until now, it was impossible to produce these maps because the required conditions weren’t available. We didn’t have powerful and accurate machine learning statistical tools, nor did we have access to great bodies of data or cloud computing.”

The new maps and the process behind them are published in the journal Remote Sensing, in a paper titled “Regional Crop Gross Primary Productivity and Yield Estimation Using Fused Landsat-MODIS Data” and an companion article in Remote Sensing of Environment titled “A methodology to derive global maps of leaf traits using remote sensing and climate data.”

The next steps are to use the technology to further assess the impact of climate change and to assess other important societal and ecological questions like the pressure on food production to meet population growth and the development of new technologies, like biofuel production.

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Culture

Which innovations will shape Canadian industry in 2019?

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Canada
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Canada is in the midst of an economic shift. New and traditional industries are increasingly being driven by innovation and these advances in technology are shifting the economic landscape at an unprecedented pace.

This is the assessment by Borden Ladner Gervais, which is Canada’s largest law firm. The company has issued a new thought leadership report, titled “Top Innovative Industries Shaping the Canadian Economy”.

The report weighs in on the opportunities and risks Canada faces in order to maintain its status as an international leader in innovation across eight key industries: cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, smart cities, cryptocurrency and blockchain, autonomous vehicles, fintech, renewable energy and cannabis.

To find out more about the report and its implications for Canadian businesses, Digital Journal spoke with Andrew Harrison, a partner at BLG.

Digital Journal: Where does Canada stand as a global tech innovator?

Andrew Harrison: Canada has always been at the forefront of innovation. Products developed by Canadians or Canadian companies encompass a variety of industries and include medicinal insulin, the snowmobile, the telephone, the pager, BlackBerry Messaging, IMAX, the Canadarm and the goalie mask, to name a few. Canadians are also fast adopters of new technologies; email money transfer between individuals, which was inconceivable only a few years ago, has been used by 63 per cent of Canadians.

This is why Canada is recognized worldwide for its research and technological know-how, but we have to be mindful of the challenges in a global competitive market.

DJ: What potential does Canada have to grow faster? Is this sector specific?

Harrison: Canada is well positioned to succeed and take the lead in all innovative industries, but there are definitely sector-specific challenges that could limit this growth. For example, the lack of regulation as to whether cryptocurrencies are considered securities or not is creating uncertainty, which may restrain investment in this sector.

DJ: What are the risks that could hamper innovation and development?

Harrison: For any new product, financing is always an issue; with innovation, money becomes an even more crucial element. Companies must have access to capital – including from individual and institutional investors – if they want to bring their innovative product/process to life. Evolving politics and policies can also have a significant impact.

DJ: What framework will Canada need in the future to secure its innovation potential?

Harrison: The key element is finding a proper balance between regulating the issues that might be created by the innovation itself or its use and providing a space where innovations can thrive without too many restrictions.

DJ: What does the Canadian government need to do?

Harrison: In many cases, laws and regulations were enacted long before we saw these innovative technologies and products brought to life, so they need to be updated. In certain sectors, such as cryptocurrencies and autonomous vehicles, the Canadian government has yet to provide a framework that would define the playing rules for all participants.

The government will also need to take a look at its current regulations on privacy: the coming into force in May 2018 of the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and recent high-profile data breaches have created the need for stronger privacy guidelines. Failure to do so could prevent Canadian businesses from accessing the European market.

DJ: What can academia contribute?

Harrison: Universities play a big role in fostering innovation – they could be the home of research and innovation and incubators of ventures, entrepreneurs, and tech talent. Universities can partner with industry players and have their researchers work closely to solve key industry issues. This is already happening in Canada. The Smith School of Business and Scotiabank, for instance, have partnered to set up the Scotiabank Centre of Customer Analytics at Smith School of Business to bring together professors, graduate students and analytics practitioners to collaborate on applied research projects in customer analytics. The academia plays a big role in creating an innovation ecosystem.

DJ: What is Canada’s most pressing technological need?

Harrison: There is still much work to be done to connect with Canada’s rural and remote communities. In 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared that broadband Internet amounted to an essential service and adopted minimal performance standards across Canada: 50 megabit per second download and 10 megabit per second upload. However, the evidence presented to the Committee by a variety of stakeholders shows that the digital divide remains prominent in Canada – it is estimated that it will take roughly 10 to 15 years for the remaining 18% of Canadians to reach those minimums. Canada needs to develop a comprehensive rural broadband strategy in partnership with key stakeholders and make funding more accessible for small providers.

DJ: What type of investment is needed with skills and training?

Harrison: Canada has a serious shortage of tech talent, which makes it imperative for both the government, the education, and the business sector to invest in raising and fostering STEM talents. To help businesses attract the talent they require, the federal government is offering hiring grants and wage subsidies to offset payroll costs for recent post-secondary STEM students and graduates.

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