- Amazon Web Services has added several new features to its facial-recognition technology, Rekognition.
- This includes expanded age-recognition capabilities and the new ability to recognize fear.
- Rekognition is a controversial technology and has been the subject of much criticism and protests — from both inside and outside Amazon.
- These new features drew some flack from commenters on Twitter.
- Meanwhile, the US Customers and Border Patrol is looking for quotes on a sweeping new border protection system that includes more facial-recognition tech.
Amazon Web Services has expanded the capabilities of its controversial facial-recognition technology called Rekognition.
It now better detects more age ranges and it can also detect fear, the company announced in a blog post on Monday.
The company explained (emphasis ours):
“Today, we are launching accuracy and functionality improvements to our face analysis features. Face analysis generates metadata about detected faces in the form of gender, age range, emotions, attributes such as ‘Smile’, face pose, face image quality and face landmarks. With this release, we have further improved the accuracy of gender identification. In addition, we have improved accuracy for emotion detection (for all 7 emotions: ‘Happy’, ‘Sad’, ‘Angry’, ‘Surprised’, ‘Disgusted’, ‘Calm’ and ‘Confused’) and added a new emotion: ‘Fear’.Lastly, we have improved age range estimation accuracy; you also get narrower age ranges across most age groups.”
Earlier this month AWS also announced that Rekognition can now detect violent content such as blood, wounds, weapons, self-injury, corpses, as well as sexually explicit content.
But it was the news of more age ranges and fear detection that was met with comments on Twitter.
Just last month several protesters interrupted Amazon AWS CTO Werner Vogels during a keynote speech at an AWS conference in New York.
They were protesting AWS’s work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the family separation policy at the Southern Border. Amazon hasn’t acknowledged whether ICE uses its Rekognition technology, but the company did meet with ICE officials to pitch its facial-recognition tech, among other AWS services, as revealed by emails between Amazon and various government officials obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations.
Amazon’s Rekognition has come under fire from a wide range of groups who want the company to stop selling it to law enforcement agencies. In April, AI experts penned an open letter to Amazon about it. Civil rights group have protested it. 100 Amazon employees sent a letter to management last year asking the company to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement. Another 500 signed a letter this year asking Amazon to stop working with ICE altogether.
“AWS comes under fire for Rekognition sales to the federal government, who in turn is building concentration camps for children, and AWS’s response is to improve ‘age range estimation’ and ‘fear detection’ in the service? Are you f– KIDDING ME?!” tweeted Corey Quinn from the Duckbill Group, a consultant that helps companies manage their AWS bill. Quinn also hosts theScreaming in the Cloud podcast.
Another developer tweeted, “In 25 years we’re going to be talking about how AWS handled this situation in the same way we talk about how IBM enabled the holocaust. Every engineer and ML researcher who worked on this should be ashamed of themselves.”
The CBP is looking to buy more facial-recognition tech
Meanwhile, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a sister agency to ICE, has put out a new request for quotes on a sweeping new border-security system that includes expanded use of facial-recognition technology.
“Integration of facial recognition technologies is intended throughout all passenger applications,” the RFQ documents say.
The CBP already uses facial recognition at various airports, such as in Mexico City, where it matches passenger’s faces with photos taken from their passports or other government documents, it says.
And the CBP uses other biometric information, such as taking fingerprints of people at the border if it suspects that they are entering the country illegally, it says.
“CBP’s future vision for biometric exit is to build the technology nationwide using cloud computing,” the agency wrote in a 2017 article about the use of facial recognition and finger-print tech.
This new contract for new border security technologies is expected to begin in early 2020 and could be worth $950 million over its lifespan, according to the RFQ documents.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2019.
Accenture Cloud First launches with $3B investment
New business unit is designed to help clients rapidly become ‘cloud-first.’
While not a cloud technology company, Accenture is known as a leading partner of most major cloud providers around the world. This investment will form Accenture Cloud First, described in the company’s press release as:
“a new multi-service group of 70,000 cloud professionals that brings together the full power and breadth of Accenture’s industry and technology capabilities, ecosystem partnerships, and deep commitment to learning and upskilling clients’ employees and to responsible business, with the singular focus of enabling organizations to move to the cloud with greater speed and achieve greater value for all their stakeholders at this critical time.”
Cloud First will be led by Karthik Narain, a tech industry veteran who most recently headed up Accenture Technology in North America.
Announcing @Accenture Cloud First, a new team of 70,000 backed by $3B investment – bringing our clients the full set of capabilities they need to become cloud leaders at speed and scale. https://t.co/Bxwmukdrzk
— Paul Daugherty (@pauldaugh) September 17, 2020
(Paul Daugh is Group Chief Executive – Technology & CTO at Accenture)
Cloud computing has seen a massive increase in demand — especially with the surge in remote working and need to cut costs, both as a result of COVID-19. Numbers from Gartner show that the worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow by 6.3% in 2020. The total in dollars? $257.9 billion, up from $242.7 billion in 2019.
As Accenture CEO Julie Sweet is quoted in Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter, “today we are 20% in the cloud. We are moving to 80%…instead of happening in a decade, it is going to happen in five years.”
“This is the Henry Ford moment of the digital era,” she added.
In Accenture’s press release, Sweet emphasized how the pandemic has brought to light the importance of accelerating digital transformation across all organizations and industries.
“COVID-19 has created a new inflection point that requires every company to dramatically accelerate the move to the cloud as a foundation for digital transformation,” she says, “to build the resilience, new experiences and products, trust, speed, and structural cost reduction that the ongoing health, economic and societal crisis demands — and that a better future for all requires.”
BC First Nation becomes first to use digital twin for land management and stewardship
LlamaZOO’s TimberOps software will support Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation.
In signing an agreement with Spatial Business Intelligence provider LlamaZOO, Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation is the first-ever First Nation to use digital twin technology. The First Nation will implement the software to improve management and stewardship of their over 350,000 hectares of unceded territory near the western coast of Vancouver Island.
According to a press release, leveraging LlamaZOO’s TimberOps software will help the First Nation to “facilitate meaningful reconciliation through shared decision-making, as well as provide greater certainty for responsible development proposals of the land with industry (forestry and mining), and government.”
“This technology will assist our people in showing the world what is within our Traditional Territory,” elaborated Chief Maquinna of Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation in LlamaZOO’s release. “It will provide prospective business partners and forestry companies with a real-time view of the results of logging, mining and other resource extraction. TimberOps is going to play a critical role in how we manage our lands and resources.”
The technology will “help the nation identify ‘absolute no-go zones’ where industrial activity is not welcome,” Dorothy Hunt, lands manager for the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation, told the Globe & Mail. Examples include archeological sites, recorded Culturally Modified Trees, and places to gather food/seafood — all recorded in the First Nation’s traditional land use assessment that was integrated into the software.
Ultimately, both Hunt and LlamaZOO chief executive Charles Lavigne agree that TimberOps has the potential for application across First Nations and communities.
As Lavigne explained to the Globe & Mail, “with this digital twin, you can effectively fly down to the ground floor and see the individual trees and fly up into the sky and see the rivers and the roads and the communities.”
Within the 3D digital twin, there are currently 76,000 timber cut blocks and nearly 87 million trees. Additional data such as fish stocks and water flow could also be added in the future. As it stands, according to the press release, this digital twin has “the most data layers ever seen in a digital twin at LlamaZOO and over 100 years of historical BC logging data.”
(Featured image by David Stanley via WikiCommons)
Indigenous-led digital transformation in the face of a pandemic
Projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario are ensuring online learning access and the continuation of Indigenous tourism during COVID-19.
A pair of Indigenous-led projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario are ensuring online learning access and the continuation of Indigenous tourism during COVID-19.
A self-contained signal relay network is helping all students from the Peepeekisis Cree Nation get online and back to school.
As reported in the Regina Leader-Post, Peepeekisis Cree Nation operations director Ernest Standingready — along with Pesakastew School principal David Still and education director Joy Sapp — saw this solution as a way to manage COVID-related physical distancing requirements.
“This technology allows us to broadcast that beam a few kilometres away and pick it up with another node and then repeat it and keep amplifying the signal down the road,” Standingready told the Leader-Post.
Mage Networks, based in Calgary, supplied the nodes which have been placed throughout the 38-square-kilometre reserve. Standingready, Still, and Sapp maintain control of the network, with only registered devices allowed and restrictions placed on website access.
Only 30% of the school’s registered families had internet access, explained Still, with 70% using cell data. The school gave each registered child a computer. In consideration of siblings, specific learning times are booked for each grade.
“It makes it that much more difficult when we’re on a First Nation that doesn’t have the basic infrastructure for the Internet, or even reliable, fast internet,” said Standingready. “A lot of houses are a few kilometres away (from each other); they’re not even tied into public infrastructure … Trying to find a way to get a signal out there was the biggest hurdle, but we were on that early.”
Boosting Indigenous tourism
According to Indigenous Tourism Ontario CEO Kevin Eshkawkogan, before COVID-19 there was “an increasing global demand” for Indigenous tourism.
Now, as reported by CBC Sudbury, the organization is working with Indigenous businesses to create virtual reality tours to help manage the pandemic-related decline in business.
In one example, Eshkawkogan explains that a company like Northern Ontario’s Mukwa Adventures — which provides guided ATV tours — could benefit from VR technology.
“He’s only got so many ATVs that he can take people out on the land and teach them different things,” he said, “but if you imagine … how much more accessible his business if he could do a virtual tour.”
Ultimately, it comes down to Indigenous-led solutions.
“We just want to help tell the Indigenous story on Indigenous terms while helping business operators who are Indigenous grow their business.”
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