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Tag: IBM

IBM THINKS of AI for mental health

Thursday, 22 March, 2018 0 Comments

One of the highlights of the IBM inaugural THINK Conference, which ends today in Las Vegas, was the announcement of what Big Blue describes as the world’s smallest computer. It’s smaller than a grain of salt, will cost less than 10 cents to make and can monitor, evaluate and act on data. It also packs several hundred thousand transistors into a tiny footprint to act as a crypto anchor technology.

Along with the tiny computer, the other headline-grabber at THINK was the list of predictions covering five technologies that IBM researchers believe will transform the world over the next five years. Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, lists them in a blog post titled The Power of Thinking Big: IBM Research’s ‘5 in 5’. There’s hyperimaging, macroscopes, medical “labs on a chip” and smart sensors, but the most fascinating idea is the potential role of AI in language analysis. Not the usual “instant translation”, this time, but the idea that what we say and write could be assessed by cognitive systems as indicators of our mental health and physical well-being. In theory, the patterns in our speech and writing could enable healthcare professionals to track mental illness and detect degenerative neurological diseases.

As Zadie Smith said, “The past is always tense, the future perfect.”


How Blockchain Will Change Your Life

Thursday, 10 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Blockchain offers a way to track items or transactions using a shared digital ‘ledger.’ Blocks of new transactions are added at the end of the chain, and encryption ensures that it remains unbroken—tamper-proof and error-free. This is significantly more efficient than the current methods for logging and sharing such information.”

So writes Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, in today’s Wall Street Journal. She says IBM estimate that applying blockchain to global supply chains could generate more than $100 billion in annual efficiencies. “More than 80 leading finance and technology organizations, including IBM, have joined the Linux Foundation Hyperledger, a project aimed at creating an enterprise-grade blockchain framework. More than 600 additional firms have already applied to join the consortium,” she adds.

blockchain

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum has created a new working group on blockchain co-chaired by the former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The goal is to explore how the blockhain “could impact industry, governments and society in the future, and design innovative governance models that ensure that their benefits are maximized and the associated risks kept under control.”

Blockchain resources:

Networking: The Blockchain Linkedin Tech Group
News: Blockchain Tech Report
Bitcoin: Coindesk


Cyberwar: Moscow? Beijing? Pyongyang?

Friday, 16 September, 2016 0 Comments

“Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down.” Says who? Says the Chief Technology Officer of Resilient, an IBM company that “empowers cyber security teams to transform their security posture.”

That CTO is none other than Bruce Schneier, and when he talks, people listen. When he issues a warning, people should act. In his blog post Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet, Schneier echoes the conflict of a previous era: “It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.”

Fancy Bear But this is not the work of a data fundamentalist like Julian Assange or a data thief such as Fancy Bear, Schneier believes. To him, it feels like a large nation state is at work. “China or Russia would be my first guesses,” he says, although he accepts that the identity of the country of origin for the attacks now being mounted could be disguised.

All this reminds the avid reader of espionage thrillers of the time when a rogue Russian spy warned an MI5 agent of a plot to hack into a top-secret US-UK military satellite system. Tomorrow, here, we follow Liz Carlyle to Geneva as she tracks the moles.


Watching Watson emote with redundant robots

Saturday, 27 February, 2016 0 Comments

Hollywood has become rather fond of depicting robots and artificial intelligence as threats to humanity and that’s not good for the image of the computing industry. Too much dystopia and people might begin to fear the machines. Time, then, for a spot of conviviality where people interact with the technology that will soon be bossing business, and that’s why IBM will present two ads starring its Watson cognitive computing system during the Academy Awards show.

In this clip we see Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher leading a support group for outmoded robots upset at being replaced by newer technology. She invites Watson to help them confront their anxieties and he tells them he’s a computing system that works with humans. But the “traditional” robots say they’re not interested in working with people and opt for a coffee break instead. Humour is not an easy thing to do at the best of times and it’s especially difficult for humans to make robots funny.

#OscarsSoRobotic: The bots in the Watson clip will be live-tweeting during the Oscars.


Time passes, love fades and Dylan meets Big Data

Wednesday, 30 December, 2015 0 Comments

Although he’s a poet and a philosopher, Bob Dylan is not so ivory-tower that he scorns advertising, especially if it helps the Bob Dylan business. Back in 2004, he appeared in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. In 2008 he did ads for Cadillac, and in 2009 he partnered with will.i.am for a Pepsi spot that aired during the Super Bowl. In October, IBM pulled off quite a coup when it coaxed Dylan into appearing in a commercial for its artificial intelligence software Watson. “I can read 800 million pages per second. My analysis shows your major themes are time passes and love fades,” Watson tells Dylan as the two riff on a song idea.

According to IBM, five Watson services analyzed 320 songs from Dylan’s archive and came up with the key trends of time passing and love fading. The message of the ad is that Watson not only thinks but learns about a topic. Among those topics are Big Data, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of which will be major themes here on Rainy Day in 2016.

The IoT is about connecting devices to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from phones to washing machines to wearables and almost anything else you can think of. The concept also covers machine components such as an airplane engine or the drill of an oil rig. According to Gartner, more than 20 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.


IBM brings Watson to Munich

Tuesday, 15 December, 2015 0 Comments

It would be an exaggeration to say that Germany has bet the farm on the Industry 4.0 concept, but the country certainly is investing a huge amount of credibility along with significant sums of money in its variant of the Internet of Things (IoT). That willingness to take manufacturing into the cloud and beyond got a big vote of confidence today when IBM opened its Watson IoT global headquarters in Munich. The city will also host IBM’s first European Watson innovation centre.

The declared goal is to add the power of cognitive computing to the billions of connected devices, sensors and systems that make up the IoT. The campus environment at the Highlight Towers on Mies-van-der-Rohe-Straße will bring together a thousand IBM developers, consultants, researchers and designers and will also serve as an innovation lab for data scientists, engineers and programmers “building new connected solutions at the intersection of cognitive computing and the IoT,” according to the IBM press release.

Along with the facility in Munich, IBM announced today that it is opening Watson IoT Client Experience Centres across Asia and the Americas. Locations include Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas. These will provide clients and partners access to technology, tools and talent needed to develop and create new products and services using the cognitive intelligence delivered via the Watson IoT Cloud Platform.

As Thomas J. Watson Jr. once said: “Wisdom is the power to put our time and our knowledge to the proper use.”

Watson


Printing, not plastics, young person

Tuesday, 8 December, 2015 0 Comments

This is a post about Industry 4.0, the next Industrial Revolution, in which everything from toasters to thermostats will be connected to the internet. But first, The Graduate, a 1967 film directed by Mike Nichols that tells the story of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), an aimless young graduate, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). With its air of rebellion and a soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, The Graduate captured the counter-culture of the Sixties and is now regarded as a classic. At one point, during a party, this exchange takes place between Benjamin and Mr. McGuire, a businessman, who embodies mainstream society:

Mr. McGuire: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
Benjamin: “Yes, sir.”
Mr. McGuire: “Are you listening?”
Benjamin: “Yes, I am.”
Mr. McGuire: “Plastics.”
Benjamin: “Exactly how do you mean?”
Mr. McGuire: “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Now, back to Industry 4.0. For Jaime Marijuán Castro, a consultant in the electronics industry, printing is the new plastics. More precisely, 3D printing. In a recent post for IBM’s Insights on Business blog, he placed a wager on 3D scanning and printing:

“This is my favorite and the one I am betting on. It is going to radically change the way products are built and marketed. Imagine 3D print vending machines at your nearby convenience store you can use to produce your own designs in a matter of minutes, or the ability to provide remote maintenance services and delivering a replacement part without shipping it. Some factories are already producing plastic parts with 3D printers but I still think this technology is slow and very limited. It will not reach economic viability before the next 10 years. Modularity, interoperability, virtualization and service orientation are brought in by the 3D tech and — like the autonomous vehicle — you don’t want to be the last exploring its potential.”

Is it a bet worth making? Right on cue, Fortune is reporting that a patent application submitted by Apple shows the company is thinking about 3D printing. Make of note of it. It might be the new plastics.


The new energy vampires

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 0 Comments

Most homes use a lot less energy to heat or cool indoor air than they did in the 1970s. “That’s the good news,” says Matt Power of Green Builder Media, “But the bad news is that during that time we’ve added electric gadget after gadget to our ‘normal’ household environment.” These are the new energy vampires that drain away power in standby mode and they’re abetted by the digital devices that are constantly running or charging. Around the corner is the Internet of Things that will draw down even more electricity to to churn out Big Data.

Today, it was announced that the technology giant IBM and the chip designer ARM are marketing a “starter kit” designed to speed up the invention of internet-connected things. They say that “it can take just five minutes to unbox the equipment and start sending readings to online apps.” Not a word about the energy needed to make all this happen, though.

Internet of Things


Technouvelle cuisine: Turkish bruschetta, madam?

Wednesday, 29 January, 2014 0 Comments

Turkish delight IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat Gary Kasparov at chess in 1997 and its Watson computer defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the US quiz show Jeopardy! in 2011. Thanks to the evolving ability of its machines to interpret large datasets, IBM continues to develop within the industry it has helped to define. Using big-data analytics techniques, the company’s Thomas J Watson Research Center has created extraordinary food recipes mined from resources such as Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, which are then tweaked by an algorithm designed to add novelty to the mix. As a result, we get concoctions like Swiss-Thai Asparagus quiche and Turkish bruschetta. Next up? Cantonese broccoli kebab and Irish brown trout bouillabaisse perhaps.

Along with exploring the potential of technouvelle cuisine, IBM is researching the market for “cognitive services” — computers that think, or appear to. The returns could be huge if it can develop artificially intelligent systems capable of answering questions posed in natural language, such as carrying out intelligent phone calls with customers. That’s why Big Blue is pouring $1 billion into Watson. According to Antonio Regalado writing in the MIT Technology Review, “the number of IBM employees working on Watson technologies, including engineers, salespeople, and consultants, will increase fourfold or fivefold to 2,000. The Watson Group will also be elevated inside IBM and report directly to the chairman and CEO, Virginia Rometty.”

But as Regalado points out, crunching cancer is going to be far more challenging for Watson than playing Jeopardy! or thinking up Creole Shrimp Dumpling.


As cities get smarter

Friday, 11 October, 2013 0 Comments

There will be nine billion people on this planet by 2050 and the number of mega cities — defined as those with more than 10 million residents — is set to rise from 24 at the moment to 100 by the middle of this century. As a result, IT that helps cities better manage their resources will be big business. Intel, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, GE, BMW, Siemens and many others are looking to use software and sensors to guide urban development by analyzing and visualizing the big data sets that will be amassed daily in cities. The goal is the “smart city,” where sustainability, technology, security and economic opportunity integrate, and the idea is to use water, power, transportation systems and communication networks much more efficiently.

To get to there from here, new thinking is needed and IBM’s “People for Smarter Cities” initiative is encouraging urban dwellers to think laterally. Take billboards. They’re ubiquitous, so why not have them do something practical along with selling stuff? How about adding a simple curve to the top or bottom of a billboard to create shelter or seating for passers by?

Enabling the future city with its smart grids, smart transport, smart waste management and smart building systems is going to be one of the major 21st century challenges, but the benefits will be enormous for the players — telcos, IT companies, utilities providers and property developers — who successfully harness the technologies needed to for the task. We’re still a long way from living in the data-driven cities that many have been envisioning, but the conversation has started.


Post written while using a Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Tuesday, 30 July, 2013 1 Comment

In fact, most Rainy Day blog posts are written using a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 as it happens to be our workhorse of choice. But what if the trusty old X1 were so configured that it might be sending these posts back to Beijing? Would that affect our thinking about it’s lightness and sleekness and reliability?

You see, Lenovo, which has its headquarters in Beijing, acquired IBM’s ThinkPad brand and technology in 2005 and it hasn’t looked back since then. It had revenues last year of $29 billion and has a market share of nearly 17 percent. Note: The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a public body, owns more than a third of Legend Holdings, which in turn owns 34 percent of Lenovo and is its biggest shareholder.

And now comes the disturbing news that the intelligence and defence services of Australia, the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have banned Lenovo machines from their networks because of concerns they are vulnerable to being hacked. According to the Australian Financial Review, “malicious modifications to ­Lenovo’s circuitry — beyond more typical vulnerabilities or ‘zero-days’ in its software — were discovered that could allow people to remotely access devices without the users’ knowledge. The alleged presence of these hardware ‘back doors’ remains highly classified.

In a statement, Lenovo said it was unaware of the ban. The company said its ‘products have been found time and time again to be reliable and secure by our enterprise and public sector customers and we always ­welcome their engagement to ensure we are meeting their security needs’..

A technology expert at the ­Washington-based Brookings ­In­stitution, Professor John Villasenor, said the globalisation of the semi-conductor market has ‘made it not only possible but inevitable that chips that have been intentionally and maliciously altered to contain hidden ‘Trojan’ circuitry will be inserted into the supply chain.

‘These Trojan circuits can then be triggered months or years later to launch attacks,’ he said.”

By the way, Lenovo is not the only company with links to Beijing to run into trouble about its hardware. Similar allegations were made against Huawei Technologies, the telecommunications giant earlier this year after it was banned from competing for a huge broadband contract in Australia. And Huawei was accused earlier this month by a former head of the CIA of passing details of foreign telecommunications systems to the Chinese government. It has repeatedly insisted its products are safe and challenged its detractors to provide proof for their claims.

Those who think that this is all tech talk, should read the brilliant and frightening Death in Singapore by Raymond Bonner and Christine Spolar of the Financial Times. This is a dangerous world and the stakes are higher than we can imagine.

ThinkPad X1