Monday, July 27, 2015

Artificial Intelligence: The new "space race" for the tech-giants?

When IBM's Watson defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Ritter on Jeopardy!, it was a shock. As Ken Jennings describes in this Ted Talk, he had no idea that a computer could possibly defeat him at Jeopardy! On this Ted Talk, Ken Jennings describes how he never thought that a computer could beat him:

And he's right.

How can a computer possibly understand that "feel can smell" and a "nose can run"? 

But on February 16th 2011, IBM's Watson did precisely that: it was able to defeat the two reigning human champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. And with that IBM ignited the space race for artificial intelligence.

Although people may point to the wide array of personal digital assistants from Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana) or Google Now as the true birth of the AI space race. However, these application are limited to the use of the personal arena. Anyone who used things like Google Now - which can link your calendar to traffic patterns and tell you if you'll be late for appointment - can tell how amazing it is to how have a digital assistant work behind the scenes to keep your day on track. That, however, is limited to the consumer realm. Where AI gets real interesting is the B2B realm: Watson has made some strides in automating the FAQ process. However, it's real promise has been demonstrated in the cancer treatment realm, where it enables doctors to "race with the machine" combining the millions of pages of medical journals and articles to determine the best cancer treatment for patients.  Watson is available in a cloud offering to developers who submit applications.

But IBM is not alone and so the AI Space Race is on!

As for the other vendors, see the following:

However, the one that I am really waiting to hear about is coming from the makers of the Siri, They are hoping to build AI as a service, similar to Bluetooth, that will be embedded in all hardware. I will leave you with the following quote from the Wired article that discusses the possibilities of

"Viv...generat[es] its own code on the fly, no programmers required. Take a complicated command like “Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in.” Viv will parse the sentence and then it will perform its best trick: automatically generating a quick, efficient program to link third-party sources of information together—say, Kayak, SeatGuru, and the NBA media guide—so it can identify available flights with lots of legroom. And it can do all of this in a fraction of a second."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Driverless Cars and the end of car insurance (can't we dream?)

Great piece on Brookings on Driverless Cars, or what they call Autonomous Vehicles. As it turns it, driverless cars are safer than human driven cars. The Brookings refers to the following DW article to note the safety record of the Google driverless car experiment:

"Google's 11 accidents happened during 1.7 million miles of driving, working out to 0.6 percent per 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers). The national rate for reported "property-damage-only crashes" in the United States is about 0.3 per 100,000 miles driven, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety administration. But as Google noted, as many as 5 million minor accidents are not reported to authorities each year."

(On a side note: Google's analysis of the official accident rate is a valid one. The real rate of human accidents is quite significant in determining how safe autonomous cars actually. Data integrity strikes again!)

What Brookings points out is that for years the various governments across north America have been able to exploit human weakness and use that to prop up their revenues: speeding, accidents, and driving related fines. They also point that there will be tremendous savings in the US (approximately $10 billion a year to the overall infrastructure) as state and federal governments will be paying less for the damages caused by accidents.

With the rise of "smart machines" such as, driverless cars or IBM's Watson, the society will under go economic shifts that are going to cause massive impacts on the way we do things. Just think of all those who currently benefit from the "human inefficiency" of traffic errors and infractions:
  • Insurance companies: Ideally, governments will eliminate mandatory insurance as it can no longer by justified in such a low-accident environment. We can dream can't we? Perhaps the manufacturer can take on the risks associated with the vehicle instead of the driver
  • Police departments: Police spend time catching motorists speeding, etc. They will need to be re-assigned to other areas. Although these areas are likely potentially less revenue generating, they may be more helpful to society. 
  • Courts: Courts get bogged down and take months to process cases. This backlog will be a thing of the past and then they can work on other cases. 
  • Lawyers and paralegals: If there are no court cases, then there's no need for these guys either.
  • You and me: People will no longer to take time off work and spend time defending themselves against these charges and extra tithes we have to pay to our insurance-feudal-corporate overlords.
The counter-argument is that there's less freedom to drive as you please. But should you be able to driver faster than the speed limit if it's illegal? It's an inconvenient truth, but either speed limits are not necessary or fast cars are unnecessary. But why are we driving so fast? It's usually we are needing getting places to do things.  If we can shift our schedules to handles those task as we are taken where we need to go in our "e-chauffeur driven car" doing what needs to get done while driving at safe speeds. I, for one, welcome our new autonomous-car future. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Can BlackBerry get back in the game with using the Android OS?

Late last year I wrote in a post reminiscing about those good old BlackBerry Days: days when Canada's very own tech darling, Research-in-Motion (as it was called back then), was the hot technology that executives and business savvy individuals had in their pockets.

In the post, I discussed the possible factors that led to the decline, wondering how the RIM exec's did not just go out and try one of the Android or iPhone devices to see why these brands were overtaking theirs. 

Well, not sure if they read my post - in fact I highly doubt it :) - BlackBerry appears to be toying with the idea of using the Android OS instead of its BB10. As noted in the following edition of Android Authority, rumours are a swirling about the Android OS being loaded onto BlackBerry phones (starts around 1:10). 

If this ends up being true, then this could be (for real this time!) that could get BlackBerry into the game. However, this hinges on BB being able to leverage their corporate customers to get this device to integrate with the corporate IT (especially email and calendar). For example, my employer support iPhones and BB but not Android.

So I have been contemplating on whether I should get a iPhone on my next upgrade.

However, if BlackBerry were to switch to Android then I would definitely consider that as an option. For me the issue is when I am travelling on business, I need to use my phone. However, the native BB apps are simply not the greatest and I miss using the Google Maps and other services.

There's definitely a good strategic analysis of how BB can benefit from the Android App store or offer users cutting edge services. However, it probably just simply boils down to a strategy of if you can't beat them you might as well join them!