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Here’s why Huawei’s new Harmony OS won’t solve its problems

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Huawei CEO Richard Yu even claimed that, if push comes to shove, the company can do a global rollout of Harmony OS across all its smartphone devices on a one-to-two day notice | Aspioneer
Huawei

Huawei’s meteoric rise in the telecoms business was brought to a dramatic halt in April when the US government put a ban on US companies doing business with the Chinese firm. This includes Google and, crucially for Huawei’s smartphone users, access to the Android operating system updates.

Under pressure to come up with a solution, Huawei announced a new, lean operating system, Harmony OS, to the world on August 9. Similar to Android, Huawei’s new operating system can easily work across multiple device types, from TVs to smartphones.

The technology behind the OS certainly looks promising. The launch presentation included some staggering benchmarks of improved performance and security, even when compared to what we know about Google’s latest in-development Android operating system, Fuchsia OS.

To some, the announcement was much needed relief for Huawei smartphone owners who have been rightly worried that their expensive purchases would become obsolete more quickly. After all, a new and improved Huawei OS that can easily replace Android OS on Huawei phones will help remove the firm’s dependence on Google’s technology.

Huawei CEO Richard Yu even claimed that, if push comes to shove, the company can do a global rollout of Harmony OS across all its smartphone devices on a one-to-two day notice. Unfortunately, Yu was also the first to admit that going head-to-head with Android with a substitute mobile OS is not Huawei’s preferred strategy.

He is right, of course. Here are four reasons why Huawei’s latest OS is not a magic solution to the company’s problems:

1. App shortage

Most users have no idea what an operating system does. They use their phones for the apps. App developers target operating systems with large user bases since it means they will recoup their development costs much quicker. No one is interested in operating systems with small market shares.

Although Huawei can theoretically just switch all of its users to its new operating system, the associated apps would need to be altered, as Harmony OS is not compatible with Android. With over 2m apps on Google’s Play Store, it would require a lot of patience and deep pockets to convince app developers to port their apps from Android to Harmony and keep them updated.

Even with the right financial incentives for developers, just porting apps across is not a surefire recipe to get customers to adopt a new OS. A good example here comes from RIM, the company behind the ill-fated Blackberry phone. When RIM launched its Blackberry 10 in 2013 it held a big “port-a-thon” event that brought 15,000 apps onto its platform in under two days. As well as making it easy for developers, it gave them a financial reward of US$100 per app. But 15,000 apps is a drop in the ocean of then then one million Android apps and was simply not enough to bridge the gap to save RIM’s struggling smartphone business.

While Huawei claims similar ease of porting between Android and Harmony, it would take a mammoth effort to get thousands of developers across the board and then to stay there.

2. Lock in

Switching operating systems is much harder now than it was in the past. A mobile OS today generates and stores most of your personal online passwords, carries a virtual version of your credit card for easy spending, backs up all your videos and images to their respective cloud drives, and much more.

Shifting all of that information across mobile operating systems has so far been a broken process. Even dedicated transfer apps by Apple and Samsung have failed to do this seamlessly for various strategic, security and technical reasons. With a third OS in play, it will not get any better.

3. The trade ban goes beyond Android

The trade ban on Huawei is in full force on all US companies and not just Google. This means that apps from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Uber, eBay and Paypal among others cannot be simply ported over to the new operating system without a special license.

With increased trade tensions between the US and China, the chances of leeway for these companies to obtain such a license any time soon seem low. Huawei smartphone owners in the West will then have to contend with expensive devices that cannot run their favourite apps – dramatically reducing their value.

4. Impact on non-mobile business

Given the dramatic and very public nature of the US ban on Huawei, its financial impact will likely affect Huawei’s telecoms equipment business everywhere else. For consumers and governments increasingly worried about privacy and data protection, working with a technology provider in the throes of controversy isn’t exactly comforting. For Huawei, launching a new mobile operating system will not help solve that issue and will continue to put pressure on the technology giant’s exports outside of China.

The Chinese government can do more than any other country to help Huawei out of this pickle, but not nearly enough. Given China’s own ecosystem of highly popular apps, users there will not be as badly affected. But outside China it’s a different story.

Even if the Chinese government were to retaliate by banning Apple and handing its declining market share to Huawei, that still wouldn’t solve the firm’s global conundrum. Huawei was in the vanguard of China’s march towards technological dominance but Donald Trump’s trade ban has stopped it in its tracks. Relenting on Huawei would mean letting the world’s dependence on US tech slip – something the US just isn’t prepared to allow.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A major cyberattack could wreak destruction comparable to a nuclear weapon, says scientist

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People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork | Aspioneer
cyber attack

People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork.

With the U.S. and Russia pulling out of a key nuclear weapons pact – and beginning to develop new nuclear weapons – plus Iran tensions and North Korea again test-launching missiles, the global threat to civilization is high. Some fear a new nuclear arms race.

That threat is serious – but another could be as serious, and is less visible to the public. So far, most of the well-known hacking incidents, even those with foreign government backing, have done little more than steal data. Unfortunately, there are signs that hackers have placed malicious software inside U.S. power and water systems, where it’s lying in wait, ready to be triggered. The U.S. military has also reportedly penetrated the computers that control Russian electrical systems.

Many intrusions already

As someone who studies cybersecurity and information warfare, I’m concerned that a cyberattack with widespread impact, an intrusion in one area that spreads to others or a combination of lots of smaller attacks, could cause significant damage, including mass injury and death rivaling the death toll of a nuclear weapon.

Unlike a nuclear weapon, which would vaporize people within 100 feet and kill almost everyone within a half-mile, the death toll from most cyberattacks would be slower. People might die from a lack of food, power or gas for heat or from car crashes resulting from a corrupted traffic light system. This could happen over a wide area, resulting in mass injury and even deaths.

This might sound alarmist, but look at what has been happening in recent years, in the U.S. and around the world.

In early 2016, hackers took control of a U.S. treatment plant for drinking water, and changed the chemical mixture used to purify the water. If changes had been made – and gone unnoticed – this could have led to poisonings, an unusable water supply and a lack of water.

In 2016 and 2017, hackers shut down major sections of the power grid in Ukraine. This attack was milder than it could have been, as no equipment was destroyed during it, despite the ability to do so. Officials think it was designed to send a message. In 2018, unknown cybercriminals gained access throughout the United Kingdom’s electricity system; in 2019 a similar incursion may have penetrated the U.S. grid.

In August 2017, a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant was hit by hackers who tried to blow up equipment by taking control of the same types of electronics used in industrial facilities of all kinds throughout the world. Just a few months later, hackers shut down monitoring systems for oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. This primarily caused logistical problems – but it showed how an insecure contractor’s systems could potentially cause problems for primary ones.

The FBI has even warned that hackers are targeting nuclear facilities. A compromised nuclear facility could result in the discharge of radioactive material, chemicals or even possibly a reactor meltdown. A cyberattack could cause an event similar to the incident in Chernobyl. That explosion, caused by inadvertent error, resulted in 50 deaths and evacuation of 120,000 and has left parts of the region uninhabitable for thousands of years into the future.

Mutual assured destruction

My concern is not intended to downplay the devastating and immediate effects of a nuclear attack. Rather, it’s to point out that some of the international protections against nuclear conflicts don’t exist for cyberattacks. For instance, the idea of “mutual assured destruction” suggests that no country should launch a nuclear weapon at another nuclear-armed nation: The launch would likely be detected, and the target nation would launch its own weapons in response, destroying both nations.

Cyberattackers have fewer inhibitions. For one thing, it’s much easier to disguise the source of a digital incursion than it is to hide where a missile blasted off from. Further, cyberwarfare can start small, targeting even a single phone or laptop. Larger attacks might target businesses, such as banks or hotels, or a government agency. But those aren’t enough to escalate a conflict to the nuclear scale.

Nuclear grade cyberattacks

There are three basic scenarios for how a nuclear grade cyberattack might develop. It could start modestly, with one country’s intelligence service stealing, deleting or compromising another nation’s military data. Successive rounds of retaliation could expand the scope of the attacks and the severity of the damage to civilian life.

In another situation, a nation or a terrorist organization could unleash a massively destructive cyberattack – targeting several electricity utilities, water treatment facilities or industrial plants at once, or in combination with each other to compound the damage.

Perhaps the most concerning possibility, though, is that it might happen by mistake. On several occasions, human and mechanical errors very nearly destroyed the world during the Cold War; something analogous could happen in the software and hardware of the digital realm.

Defending against disaster

Just as there is no way to completely protect against a nuclear attack, there are only ways to make devastating cyberattacks less likely.

The first is that governments, businesses and regular people need to secure their systems to prevent outside intruders from finding their way in, and then exploiting their connections and access to dive deeper.

Critical systems, like those at public utilities, transportation companies and firms that use hazardous chemicals, need to be much more secure. One analysis found that only about one-fifth of companies that use computers to control industrial machinery in the U.S. even monitor their equipment to detect potential attacks – and that in 40% of the attacks they did catch, the intruder had been accessing the system for more than a year. Another survey found that nearly three-quarters of energy companies had experienced some sort of network intrusion in the previous year.

But all those systems can’t be protected without skilled cybersecurity staffs to handle the work. At present, nearly a quarter of all cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are vacant, with more positions opening up than there are people to fill them. One recruiter has expressed concern that even some of the jobs that are filled are held by people who aren’t qualified to do them. The solution is more training and education, to teach people the skills they need to do cybersecurity work, and to keep existing workers up to date on the latest threats and defense strategies.

If the world is to hold off major cyberattacks – including some with the potential to be as damaging as a nuclear strike – it will be up to each person, each company, each government agency to work on its own and together to secure the vital systems on which people’s lives depend.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What will travel look like in 2050?

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If the aviation industry was a country, it would rank among the world’s top ten emitters of carbon dioxide (CO₂) | Aspioneer
plane wing

If the aviation industry was a country, it would rank among the world’s top ten emitters of carbon dioxide (CO₂). Aviation emissions have risen by 70% since 2005 and as demand increases in rich and poorer countries, they’re forecast to increase by between 300% and 700% by 2050.

Arresting this incline will be the first step towards a sustainable system of international travel – but how could it be done? A frequent flyer tax would be relatively easy to implement but it could mean the richest can still afford to fly while the poorest are priced out.

Most plane passengers are already relatively wealthy. Only 18% of the world’s population have ever flown and in any given year, an elite 3% of the world flies. That’s about 230m people, but flights carried four billion passengers in 2017. So the average flyer takes eight return flights and aeroplanes rack up seven trillion air miles each year.

Rationing might be a fairer and more effective alternative.

Flight rationing

Every person could be allocated a maximum number of “flight kilometres” each year. This allowance would increase the longer a person abstained from flying. The first year allocation would be 500km, then the following year it would be 1,000km and would double every year. It would take seven years to accumulate enough to fly from the UK to Australia and back.

Buying a ticket for a flight of any distance would reset the allocation rate to year one, but the kilometres saved in a “flight bank” could still be used. Anyone not travelling could exchange their flight kilometres for money, but anyone exceeding their ration could be fined or banned from flying for some time.

Expanded and improved high-speed rail lines could also replace many flights. These journeys could be as fast as aeroplanes in some instances and emit 90% less CO₂. Solar-powered train journeys are already a reality in Australia. The Byron Bay Company uses solar panels on trains and platforms to power onboard batteries and exported 60,000kWh to the grid last year.

Coupling low-carbon train travel with flight rationing would limit emissions in the short term, but people are accustomed to travelling half the world in a matter of hours, often at relatively low cost. The demand won’t go away, so what could replace carbon-intensive air travel?

Electric aeroplanes

Most electric plane designs are grounded on the drawing board, but there are some flight-ready aircraft. The world’s first all-electric commercial airliner was unveiled in Paris in June 2019. The craft is called Alice and it carries nine passengers for up to 650 miles (1,040km) at 10,000ft (3,000 metres) at 276mph (440km/h) on a single charged battery. It’s expected to enter service in 2022.

The fossil fuel costs of small aircraft are about US$400 per 100 miles. For Alice, the costs are projected to be as little as US$8 for the same distance, and if the electricity is from renewable energy – perhaps generated by solar panels at the airport – then the plane could be zero-carbon.

How much energy each battery can store is increasing rapidly. But there are also strategies which can make electric planes more efficient. Capacitors are lightweight batteries that can hold a huge charge but only for short periods. They could be used for takeoff – the largest energy requirement of a flight – then more traditional batteries could power the majority of the flight.

Innovation could deliver mass electric flight in the next few decades, but an alternative to fossil fuelled flight exists right now.

Bring back the zeppelin?

For as long as humans have taken to the skies we’ve had a low carbon alternative to burning vast amounts of fossil fuels to keep us up there – balloons. The Hindenburg disaster may have condemned the industry to relative obscurity for almost a century, but it has never really gone away.

The balloons of most modern airships are filled with helium rather than the explosive hydrogen used in the Hindenburg. Concentrated helium is lighter than air and when divided into gas sacks, the vessel can stay aloft if any are breached while propellers powered by flexible solar panels can help navigation.

Extracting enough helium fuel will be energy-intensive and there’s a looming global shortage. Luckily, advances made since the Hindenburg now allow airships to fly on cylinders packed with hydrogen jet fuel, which is cheaper, lighter, and relatively abundant.

Using hydrogen for fuel has become a lot safer since the 1930s – so much so that it’s now being considered for use in the home. Unlike jet aircraft, once airships are aloft they don’t need lots of energy to keep them there. At that point, the energy costs become comparable with rail travel.

Airships won’t get passengers to their destinations very fast – the Hindenburg set the current record for a transatlantic crossing at just under 44 hours – but they do allow time to enjoy stunning vistas. Think of them instead as air cruises. In the romantic era of early commercial flight, airships were expected to become “flying hotels” that could accommodate dining rooms and ballroom dances.

Orbital rings

There’s one more option, but you might struggle to believe it’s possible within the next thirty years. Still, the materials needed to build it already exist. An orbital ring is a strong steel cable in orbit just above the atmosphere – 80km above Earth. It rotates, creating forces which try to make the ring fly apart into space, while gravity tries to pull it down to Earth.

If the ring is spun at the correct speed, the two forces balance one another, allowing it to rotate seemingly weightlessly. A “cuff” can be built around the cable which would hold itself in place, unmoving, by magnetic repulsion. The structure would be connected to the ground by cables, with an elevator giving access to the ring in less than an hour.

Two Maglev train tracks – which use magnets to move trains along without friction – on the underside of the ring and another on the outside could transport passengers at incredible speeds, reaching the other side of the world in 45 minutes.

If these options sound unrealistic, then remember that our current course of expanding carbon-intensive air travel is unrealistic for avoiding catastrophic climate change. Bold ideas are one thing, we need radical action to revolutionise how we travel the world.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

orderbird AG Continues to Demonstrate Strength with more than 30% Growth of Annual Recurring Revenue

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Berlin — August 16th, 2019 — orderbird AG, the Berlin-based tech company focused on making independent restaurants more successful, announced today its unaudited financial results for the first half of calendar year 2019.

Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), which consists of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) ailicenses, card-processing commissions, and recurring fees from partners for data and API access, amounted to EUR 3.9 million for the six-month period, up 32% over the same period in 2018. ARR finished the period at an annualized run rate greater than EUR 8.4 million.

“Our key financial metric is Annual Recurring Revenue,” said CEO Mark Schoen. “Our software-as-a-service business model keeps us focused on growth and sustainability as we know our long-term ability to provide innovative products and excellent service to our customers are key differentiators in this market.” 

Growth in total revenue was up 13% over the first six months of 2018, trailing the high growth rate of the payments and software revenue.  “We have shifted the focus of our business away from commoditized, low-margin hardware,” explained Schoen. “You can see that in the P&L since we are selling less hardware now than we did a year ago.” 

Cash flow from operations was (-12.9%) of revenue for the six-month period with the second quarter nearly breakeven with a burn of only 1.7% of revenue.

“Balancing cash burn and growth is always an important consideration,” said Schoen. “We have decided to conserve cash this year so that we can deploy significantly more resources next year when buying activity is dramatically higher and customer acquisition costs are lower.”  A new fiscalization law called the “Kassensicherungsverordnung” (cash register security regulation) goes into effect in Germany on January 1st, 2020, requiring that restaurants and retailers use only point-of-sale systems that are certified by the Federal Office for Information Security.

“We believe that demand for new point-of-sale systems will be four or five times this year’s level,” said Schoen. ”Because of our brand, market-leading services, and our ease of on-boarding, I am confident that we’ll sign on double the number of new customers in Germany as our closest competitor next year.” orderbird technology currently serves more than 10,000 restaurateurs in Europe with more than EUR 3 billion in gross transaction volume.

Payments-related business is playing a larger role at orderbird than with other point-of-sale companies in the market.  “One of our strategic objectives is to enable our customers to accept any type of payment,” said founder and Chief Strategy Officer Jakob Schreyer. “German small businesses will see a lot of benefit as card and other cashless payments become more accessible, more efficient, and more economically attractive for everyday purchases. To accelerate payments innovation with our customers, we are planning to embark on the process to become a payment facilitator in 2020.”  

The company will publish its audited financial results after the close of its fiscal year, which ends on September 30th.

About orderbird AG

orderbird (www.orderbird.com) offers intuitive software solutions and additional services for independent restaurateurs. The company has more than 15,000 active Software as a Service (SaaS) licenses in use in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.. With Europe’s leading payment-led, cloud POS system, restaurants, cafés, bars, and clubs can easily comply with rapidly changing fiscal laws, take mobile orders, accept cashless payments and digitally connect with trusted suppliers.  orderbird AG was founded in 2011 and employs more than 100 people in Berlin and Vienna. Investors include Digital+ Partners, METRO Group, ALSTIN and Concardis.

How the U.S. labeling China as a currency manipulator threatens global stability

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What was a relatively symbiotic economic relationship between the US and China is beginning to fracture – with serious implications for both countries, and the rest of the world | Aspioneer
Donald Trump

The US has escalated its trade war with China by accusing the country of devaluing its currency to make its exports unfairly cheap. When China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB) fell below the symbolic seven-per-dollar level on August 5, President Donald Trump reacted by labelling China a currency manipulator on Twitter. His Treasury department followed suit, making it the official government position.

It is the latest development in a fight that was never purely about economics. And it marks a fundamental shift in relations between the world’s two largest economies. What was a relatively symbiotic economic relationship between the US and China is beginning to fracture – with serious implications for both countries, and the rest of the world.

The charge of currency manipulation has been thrown around by Trump since the early days of his 2015-16 presidential campaign. It is not, however, a classification that should be used lightly. Economic growth forecasts have worsened as a result and this kind of rhetoric makes matters worse.

What is currency manipulation?

Currency manipulation involves the artificial movement of a domestic currency valuation through government intervention such as by printing more money or buying and selling other currencies on the foreign exchange market.

Currency valuation is particularly important in the early stages of a country’s economic development. China is no exception. For instance, from the mid-1980s to late 1990s China kept its currency low to make its labour and production costs cheap. Managing its currency in this way proved a significant advantage for attracting foreign investment and enabled China to accumulate foreign exchange reserves. All of which are necessary for sustained growth.

But devaluing the currency also translates into more expensive imports for China’s domestic consumers, and a higher risk of foreign investors pulling their money out of the country. Plus, with China’s recent efforts to transform the RMB into an international reserve currency that is held by central banks around the world, foreign holders of the RMB expect a stable value. So manipulation can have real – and potentially destabilising – costs for China and its economy.

A year and a half into the US-China trade war, things are starting to take their toll for China. On July 15, the country reported a 6.2% growth rate, its slowest in 27 years. With record levels of debt and consumer inflation rates reaching a 15-month high, currency devaluation would in many ways exacerbate the situation. While China is known for state intervention, there’s no foul play here.

To understand China’s currency regime, it is important to recognise that China prioritises stability. Its economic policy, and its approach to currency flows in particular, has been preoccupied with minimising volatility.

The drop in value of the RMB followed an announcement by the Trump administration that it was raising tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese goods. This went against the consensus the two sides reached at the G20 in June and Chinese government officials say that the RMB devaluation came from the market reacting to this announcement, with escalating trade tensions putting the currency under pressure.

Similarly, in its annual assessment of China’s economy, published in the wake of US accusations, the IMF stuck with its position that the RMB is in line with China’s economic fundamentals. If anything, according to the IMF, the US dollar is overvalued.

Interdependence

America’s decision to label China a currency manipulator has significant implications for world markets. It not only exacerbates the uncertainty surrounding the state of relations between China and its largest trading partner, but as an escalation of tensions it is bad for both China’s and global economic growth.

Markets have been on edge since the US and China began putting tariffs on each other’s goods in July 2018. Immediately following the Treasury’s designation of China as a currency manipulator, volatility in the markets was seen around the world.

China is at the heart of the world’s global supply chain. Any economic slow down will extend to its major production and resource partners. Big American and multinational businesses have been hit by the uncertainty surrounding the costs of production, parts and components that come with an escalating trade war. Accusations of currency manipulation raise these tensions, further denting consumer confidence and their purchasing power around the world.

Plus, Trump’s approach to managing negotiations with China ignores the highly interdependent relationship of the two countries. One of the ways that China keeps the RMB from appreciating in value is by buying US debt with its large amount of US dollar reserves. This, in turn, enables China to keep producing and exporting cheap goods, which are bought by US consumers. Dubbed “Chimerica”, this situation has been a win-win for the two countries.

The Trump administration’s approach to China prioritises short-termism and immediate gain by appealing to the populist sentiment of his voter base over economic reality. By breaking the recent G20 accord and challenging the decisions of international institutions like the IMF, the US is ramping up the US-China trade war. And this cuts to the heart of how America’s global leadership is increasingly unreliable.

The rest of the world has long looked to the US and the institutions it spearheads (such as the IMF and World Bank) as a guide for global economic governance. So the accusation of currency manipulation not only raises genuine concerns for markets, but could help foster a global split along economic lines. If China gets cut off from US consumers it will be forced to turn elsewhere and, as the single largest holder of US debt, it has a serious weapon up its sleeve.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Artificial intelligence is in danger of becoming too male, says a new study

Lack of gender diversity results in AI failures that uniquely affect women, such as an Amazon recruitment system that was shown to discriminate against job applicants with female names | Aspioneer
AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are becoming smarter every day, beating world champions in games like Goidentifying tumours in medical scans better than human radiologists, and increasing the efficiency of electricity-hungry data centres. Some economists are comparing the transformative potential of AI with other “general purpose technologies” such as the steam engine, electricity or the transistor.

But current AI systems are far from perfect. They tend to reflect the biases of the data used to train them and to break down when they face unexpected situations. They can be gamed, as we have seen with the controversies surrounding misinformation on social media, violent content posted on YouTube, or the famous case of Tay, the Microsoft chatbot, which was manipulated into making racist and sexist statements within hours.

So do we really want to turn these bias-prone, brittle technologies into the foundation stones of tomorrow’s economy?

Minimising risk

One way to minimise AI risks is to increase the diversity of the teams involved in their development. As research on collective decision-making and creativity suggests, groups that are more cognitively diverse tend to make better decisions. Unfortunately, this is a far cry from the situation in the community currently developing AI systems. And a lack of gender diversity is one important (although not the only) dimension of this.

A review published by the AI Now Institute earlier this year, showed that less than 20% of the researchers applying to prestigious AI conferences are women, and that only a quarter of undergraduates studying AI at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley are female.

The authors argued that this lack of gender diversity results in AI failures that uniquely affect women, such as an Amazon recruitment system that was shown to discriminate against job applicants with female names.

Our recent report, Gender Diversity in AI research, involved a “big data” analysis of 1.5m papers in arXiv, a pre-prints website widely used by the AI community to disseminate its work.

We analysed the text of abstracts to determine which apply AI techniques, inferred the gender of the authors from their names and studied the levels of gender diversity in AI and its evolution over time. We also compared the situation in different research fields and countries, and differences in language between papers with female co-authors and all-male papers.

Our analysis confirms the idea that there is a gender diversity crisis in AI research. Only 13.8% of AI authors in arXiv are women and, in relative terms, the proportion of AI papers co-authored by at least one woman has not improved since the 1990s.

There are significant differences between countries and research fields. We found a stronger representation of women in AI research in the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, and a lower representation in Japan and Singapore. We also found that women working in physics, education, biology and social aspects of computing are more likely to publish work on AI compared with those working in computer science or mathematics.

In addition to measuring gender diversity in the AI research workforce, we also explored semantic differences between research papers with and without female participation. We tested the hypothesis that research teams with more gender diversity tend to increase the variety of issues and topics that are considered in AI research, potentially making their outputs more inclusive.

To do this, we measured the “semantic signature” of each paper using a machine learning technique called word embeddings, and compared these signatures between papers with at least one female author and papers without any women authors.

This analysis, which focuses on the Machine Learning and Social Aspects of Computing field in the UK, showed significant differences between the groups. In particular, we found that papers with at least one female co-author tend to be more applied and socially aware, with terms such as “fairness”, “human mobility”, “mental”, “health”, “gender” and “personality” playing a key role. The difference between the two groups is consistent with the idea that cognitive diversity has an impact on the research produced, and suggests that it leads to increased engagement with social issues.

How to fix it

So what explains this persistent gender gap in AI research, and what can we do about it?

Research shows that the lack of gender diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is not caused by a single factor: gender stereotypes and discrimination, a lack of role models and mentors, insufficient attention to work-life balance, and “toxic” work environments in the technology industry come together to create a perfect storm against gender inclusion.

There is no easy fix to close the gender gap in AI research. System-wide changes aimed at creating safe and inclusive spaces that support and promote researchers from underrepresented groups, a shift in attitudes and cultures in research and industry, and better communication of the transformative potential of AI in many areas could all play a part.

Policy interventions, such as the £13.5m investment from government to boost diversity in AI roles through new conversion degree courses, will go some way towards improving the situation, but broader scale interventions are needed to create better links between arts, humanities and AI, changing the image of who can work in AI.

While there is no single reason why girls disproportionately stop taking STEM subjects as they progress through education, there is evidence that factors including pervasive stereotypes around gender and a teaching environment that impacts the confidence of girls more than boys play a part in the problem. We must also showcase those role models who are using AI to make a positive difference.

One tangible intervention looking to tackle these issues is the Longitude Explorer Prize, which encourages secondary school students to use AI to solve social challenges and work with role models in AI. We want young people, particularly girls, to realise AI’s potential for good and their role in driving change.

By building skills and confidence in young women, we can change the ratio of people who study and work in AI – and help to address AI’s potential biases.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Srijan Technologies: Your Digital Transformation Partner

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Srijan Technologies: Your Digital Transformation Partner

RPA

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Srijan is a digital engineering company that builds and modernizes digital systems to help enterprises adapt to changing business models and market demands. Srijan’s product management and software engineering teams behave as ‘Thought Partners in your Digital Transformation Journey’. The company leverages technology and 17 years+ extensive expertise in delivering complex and high-performance applications. Srijan uses agile and lean processes to help enterprises modernize digital strategies, build quick products to validate their ideas, streamline product marketing platforms, and adopt a holistic omnichannel strategy.

“At Srijan we have always believed in continuous learning and improvement. And that is at the heart of our solutions and services that leverage new and emerging technologies,” says Ashish Goyal, CEO, Srijan Technologies.

Founded in 2002, Srijan started out as a Drupal company and became the largest pure-play Drupal company in Asia. In addition to Drupal, Srijan has expanded its technology portfolio to include API Management, DevOps, data engineering and analytics; and rapidly advancing to strengthen its capabilities in the areas of Data Science, MarTech and cloud-native (with AWS, and Google Cloud Platform).  

Furthermore, Srijan is an Advance AWS partner, Apigee Services Partner and Signature Supporting Partner to the Drupal Association. In 2018, Srijan became a Great Place to Work®certified organization.

Srijan delivers innovative solutions and acts as a trusted technology partner for enterprises across industries such as media, travel, healthcare, telecom, retail, pharmaceuticals, eCommerce, banking, insurance, and financial services. Among its key customers are Estee Lauder, CRAIN, Humanity United, OXFAM, YES Bank, cleartrip, Flight Centre, TUI, OnCorps, Conde Nast Traveller, India Today Group, Zoho, Getit/AskMe, TheRecordXchange, as well as one of the top management consulting firms in the world.

Srijan is headquartered in New Delhi with delivery centers in Goa, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Manila; and also has a presence in the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, and Australia. 

 

“At Srijan we have always believed in continuous learning and improvement. And that is at the heart of our solutions and services that leverage new and emerging technologies”

Proven Leadership

Ashish Goyal, CEO, Srijan Technologies: Ashish is the strategy powerhouse while being a lifelong practitioner devoted to new and emerging technologies at Srijan. For over two decades, Ashish has been providing thought leadership for profitability to several Fortune 500 companies and large enterprises through innovative adoptions in the tech space. Many people know him as a veteran management & sales consultant to companies such as KPIT, Infosys, Philip Morris International, and Dominion Virginia Power. He is an alma mater of Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the field of tech, Ashish has led solution designing across IoT, Web Technologies, Analytics & Data Science in several market verticals such as manufacturing, energy, and life sciences. 

Ashish Goyal, CEO, Srijan Technologies

Some of his particularly famous work revolves around building unconventional use cases for asset tracking, asset monitoring/utilization, asset maintenance (predictive & preventive), and new connected product development. His core business philosophy remains to create sustainable value that can only be achieved through building contextual, timely and hyper-personalized solutions.

Besides being a technologist and digital evangelist, Ashish is also a philanthropist and works on altruistic initiatives which impact many lives.

Innovative RPA Solutions

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has paved the way for organizations to create efficient operations and mitigate human errors. Automating repetitive processes also results in cost savings, and frees up resources for more productive engagements. Srijan teams help enterprises implement RPA solutions based on: 

● Rule-based automation: Monotonous processes across HR, finance, customer support, manufacturing, and beyond are often prone to human errors.  Srijan has been able to transform such repetitive processes with rule-based automation for faster turnaround and zero defects. 

● Knowledge-based automation: Srijan offers knowledge-based automation for processes that require human intelligence or judgment to execute. This is done by blending automation with artificial intelligence through process learning and big data analytics. Srijan has created near-zero touchless knowledge processes with their domain expertise in RPA. Srijan has automated complex processes by 30-40%, through strong collaboration between software robots and human interventions. 

Srijan’s approach involves:

Discover: In-depth analysis of business processes to identify the scope for automation.

Validate: Idea validation with use cases, workflow analysis, and risk-benefit comparisons.

Implement: Automation scripting, application integration, deployment, and testing.

Support: Training and managed support.

How enterprises benefit? Srijan’s RPA solutions give enterprises operational benefits such as robust and scalable solutions; enhanced productivity, as teams can focus on tasks with higher value-add; faster turnaround – significant reduction in process execution time; 100% accuracy of automatically executed processes; insights through audit trails and event logs data can be populated to identify patterns and develop business intelligence; quick implementation of regulatory and compliance changes. As well as economic benefits such as cost savings through reduced manpower requirements; helps in saving manpower costs and overheads while scaling-up; and staying competitive with efficient operations.

Find out more about Srijan Technologies at https://www.srijan.net/

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Delta Life Fitness: The ‘Women’s Only’ wellness franchise that is changing how women approach fitness

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Delta Life Fitness: The ‘Women’s Only’ wellness franchise that is changing how women approach fitness

Franchises

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In 2009, two families with five children between them saw a need for a training center for women. A place where one could attain fitness without compromising on childcare. Shortly, the founding families opened facilities in Texas and Florida. Continuous feedback from their clients helped them make their services better than most. A service which started off as group training classes in parks and parking lots evolved into the beautiful boutique studios that they are today. 

The Woodlands-based Delta Life Fitness has come a long way since then. Today they are operating 32 franchised locations across the country. They do not want to rest on their laurels though. In the next 3 years, they intend to open 100 additional locations across the country. Their endgame is to foster a wellness community of more than 1 million women by 2028.

The adventure continues...

“This place, these workouts, this community means so much to the ladies we serve. It is truly life-changing. It’s amazing to watch.”

Boosting Health

Delta Life Fitness can best be described as ‘a place for women to train right’. Their fitness routines comprise of planned intervals of cardiovascular and strength training. By incorporating the science of female metabolism, Delta Life has designed a training regimen which allows the human body to enter a state of increased metabolism and energy. Skilled trainers push participants to their limits with the help of a variety of equipment such as TRX suspensions, free weights, and battle ropes. This combination of high-intensity interval training burns through a surprisingly high amount of calories in just 30 minutes. Members thus experience greater energy, improved toning, higher weight loss and improved post-workout calorie burn.

Centered around the needs and wants of women, Delta Life Fitness offers its community supervised childcare at all of its locations. This allows women to focus on their fitness without worrying about their children. Men stay clear of the studios during the workout sessions, allowing women to enjoy a safe, comfortable and ogle free environment. Furthermore, since the workouts are both scientifically and creatively designed, women can not only achieve their desired fitness and weight loss goals but at the same time have fun while working out. 

The community at Delta Life Fitness

Sharing the Spirit

“Delta means change, Delta Life Fitness changes lives. Women are the matriarchs of their families and their communities and by us serving these moms that do not have a safe place to work out currently we are changing families and communities,” affirms Josh Cherry, CEODirector of Franchising, Delta Life Franchising, LLC

Josh is particularly proud of the positive community of women that Delta Life Fitness has nurtured. There was this one instance where a member was going through a tough time in her life and therefore could no longer afford her membership. The community stepped up. An anonymous member covered her membership for three months. “We see stuff like this all the time,” says Josh. “This place, these workouts, this community means so much to the ladies we serve. It is truly life-changing. It’s amazing to watch.” 

Indeed Delta Life Fitness has created a niche of its own. It has created a space where busy, multitasking women can experience challenging yet non-competitive workouts, focus on getting healthier and most importantly make new friends. 

At the Helm, Founders (The Marlow & Cherry family), DLF

Encouraging Women Entrepreneurs

When Josh said that Delta Life Fitness changes lives, he meant that in more than one way. Owning a Delta Life Fitness franchise enables women to achieve economic independence. It allows women to enjoy work/life balance due to business ownership and invite/ overcome challenges by becoming an entrepreneur. What Delta Life Fitness wants as ideal franchise partners are women who are dedicated to their communities and are willing to be an owner as well as an operator. Women who are positive, outgoing and business-minded. Apart from having a passion for fitness, prospective partners must have a minimum of 75k in liquid assets and a credit score of 620 or above. Such qualities allow prospective partners to achieve success as a part of the Delta Life Fitness family. 

“Thanks to her well-established community ties, strong financial support, and managerial experience she’s ready to build an asset for herself,” says Josh.

“After much thought and research into different franchises, my husband and I decided that Delta Life Fitness was the franchise for us. Throughout the last several months I have been satisfied with this decision. The Headquarters Staff for Delta Life Franchising has been so supportive and accessible. I am also very thankful for all of the “done for you” items that are perks of this great franchise. I have been able to focus more of my time and energy into growing my business because I do not have to create a marketing plan from scratch or develop a sales strategy from the ground up. The items that are already structured for me as a franchisee are endless. From the paint colors on the wall to the suggested employee schedules, almost everything in between has been drawn out so I am able to decide what will work best for my studio. The support that I have received from the people at Delta Life Franchising goes beyond what I expected and I am proud to be a part of this great team.”
COURTNEY SEGAL
DELTA LIFE FITNESS FRANCHISEE

To make sure that their partners thrive in their business right from the start, Delta Life Fitness has created best in class practices and support structures. “We are a true partner with you all the time. It is your business and you are in business for yourself but not by yourself,” adds Josh. 

The success of Delta Life Fitness’s values and business model has been validated by the feedback of their franchise partners. Krista Fudge is one of those people. She shares the experience of owning a Delta Life Fitness franchisee: “Before Delta Life Fitness, I thought I’d continue to be an underpaid and overworked trainer but I now have more financial freedom and quality time with my family than ever before. I am building a successful business that gives me the life I want while also helping change women’s lives for the better.” 

All of us have a desire to improve ourselves. We often want changes in our lives, from physical fitness to economic independence. Delta Life Fitness believes in the pursuit of change. Change for their members, partners, and their community. Such change can only happen by believing in the infinite potential of human beings. And that is what Delta Life Fitness believes in… 

"Delta Life Fitness has allowed me to live my passion of fitness while running a successful business that supports my family. This is something I can be proud of."
CODY BISHOP
DELTA LIFE FITNESS FRANCHISEE
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Bewildering complexity makes regulating Facebook, Google and Amazon hard

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Over time, these platforms have achieved greater and greater control over how information flows through them. But it is an unfamiliar type of control, increasingly involving autonomous, self-teaching systems that are increasingly inscrutable to humans | Aspioneer
looking at google with a magnifying glass

Back in the 1990s – a lifetime ago in internet terms – the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells published several books charting the rise of information networks. He predicted that in the networked age, more value would accrue in controlling flows of information than in controlling the content itself.

In other words, those who positioned themselves as network hubs – the routers and switchers of information – would become the gatekeepers of power in the digital age.

With the rise of internet juggernauts Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, this insight seems obvious now. But over the past two decades, a fundamentally new business model emerged which even Castells had not foreseen – one in which attracting users onto digital platforms takes precedence over everything else, including what the user might say, do, or buy on that platform.

Gathering information became the dominant imperative for tech giants – aided willingly by users charmed first by novelty, then by the convenience and self-expression afforded by being online. The result was an explosion of information, which online behemoths can collate and use for profit.

The sheer scale of this enterprise means that much of it is invisible to the everyday user. The big platforms are now so complex that their inner workings have become opaque even to their engineers and administrators. If the system is now so huge that not even those working within it can see the entire picture, then what hope do regulators or the public have?

Of course, governments are trying to fight back. The GDPR laws in Europe, the ACCC Digital Platforms report in Australia, and the DETOUR Act introduced to the US Congress in April – all are significant attempts to claw back some agency. At the same time, it is dawning on societies everywhere that these efforts, while crucial, are not enough.

Gatekeepers reign supreme

If you think of the internet as a gigantic machine for sharing and copying information, then it becomes clear that the systems for sorting that information are vitally important. Think not just of Google’s search tool, but also of the way Google and Amazon dominate cloud computing – the largely invisible systems that make the internet usable.

Over time, these platforms have achieved greater and greater control over how information flows through them. But it is an unfamiliar type of control, increasingly involving autonomous, self-teaching systems that are increasingly inscrutable to humans.

Information gatekeeping is paramount, which is why platforms such as Google, Amazon and Facebook have risen to supremacy. But that doesn’t mean these platforms necessarily need to compete or collude with one another. The internet is truly enormous, a fact that has allowed each platform to become emperor of a growing niche: Google for search, Facebook for social, Amazon for retail, and so on. In each domain, they played the role of incumbent, disruptor, and innovator, all at the same time.

Now nobody competes with them. Whether you’re an individual, business, or government, if you need the internet, you need their services. The juggernauts of the networked age are structural.

Algorithms are running the show

For these platforms to stay on top, innovation is a constant requirement. As the job of sorting grows ever larger and more complex, we’re seeing the development of algorithms so advanced that their human creatorshave lost the capacity to understand their inner workings. And if the output satisfies the task at hand, the inner workings of the system are considered of minor importance.

Meanwhile, the litany of adverse effects are undeniable. This brave new machine-led world is eroding our capacity to identify, locate, and trust authoritative information, in favour of speed.

It’s true that the patient was already unwell; societies have been hollowed out by three decades of market fundamentalism. But as American tech historian George Dyson recently warned, self-replicating code is now out there in the cyber ecosystem. What began as a way for humans to coax others into desired behaviours now threatens to morph into nothing less than the manipulation of humans by machines.

The digital age has spurred enormous growth in research disciplines such as social psychology, behavioural economics, and neuroscience. They have yielded staggering insights into human cognition and behaviour, with potential uses that are far from benign.

Even if this effort had been founded with the best of intentions, accidents abound when fallible humans intervene in complex systems with fledgling ethical and legal underpinnings. Throw malign intentions into the mix – election interference, information warfare, online extremism – and the challenges only mount.

If you’re still thinking about digital technologies as tools – implying that you, the user, are in full control – you need to think again. The truth is that no one truly knows where self-replicating digital code will take us. You are the feedback, not the instruction.

Regulators don’t know where to start

A consensus is growing that regulatory intervention is urgently required to stave off further social disruption, and to bring democratic and legal oversight into the practices of the world’s largest monopolies. But, if Dyson is correct, the genie is already out of the bottle.

Entranced by the novelty and convenience of life online, we have unwittingly allowed silicon valley to pull off a “coup from above”. It is long past time that the ideology that informed this coup, and is now governing so much everyday human activity, is exposed to scrutiny.

The challenges of the digital information age extend beyond monopolies and privacy. This regime of technologies was built by design without concerns about exploitation. Those vulnerabilities are extensive and will continue to be abused, and now that this tech is so intimately a part of daily life, its remediation should be pursued without fear or favour.

Yet legislative and regulatory intervention can only be effective if industry, governments and civil society combine to build, by design, a digital information age worthy of the name, which doesn’t leave us all open to exploitation.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fortnite’s successful World Cup shows esports is here to stay

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Fortnite Battle Royale is emerging as one of the most popular computer games with an estimated 250m players around the world | Aspioneer
boy wearing headsets

Kyle Giersdorf, or Bugha to give him his game name, is US$3m better off after winning the 2019 Fortnite world cup. The American teenager took home the largest-ever payout for a single player in an esports tournament. His win reflects the growing popularity of the game and the power of the esports market. British teenager Jaden Ashman shared US$2.25m with his teammate as the runners-up in the doubles competition.

The finals, at the end of July, followed ten weeks of competition involving more than 40m competitors and a total prize pot of over US$30m. The tournament packed out the 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York’s largest tennis arena.

Fortnite Battle Royale is emerging as one of the most popular computer games with an estimated 250m players around the world. Essentially, it is a First-Person Shooter game (FPS) where players fight to survive in a battle against other human players. Unlike some other games in this genre, such as PUBG or Counter-Strike, its graphics are cartoonish, which means parents of teenage players are less likely to object to the content – it doesn’t look violent of feature excessive blood, bullets and bombs.

Fortnite is rising to prominence in an increasingly lucrative market. Out of 7.6 billion people on the planet, there are approximately 2.2 billion gamers. This includes social gaming, mobile gaming, as well as free-to-play and pay-to-play multiplayer gaming. Of these players, there are about 380m esports viewer fans – 165m of them regular viewers and 215m occasionals.

Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, attracts players by making the game itself free to play. But they also sell “V-Bucks” to the players, which cost US$9.99 per 1,000 and can be spent on a variety of customisation and enhancements for players’ characters.

None of these influence the actual performance of the character in the battle – accuracy and pace still depend on the skill of the individual competitor. This is similar to most esports titles. But according to research firm Superdata, between its release in July 2017 and May 2018 Fortnite netted US$1.2 billion in revenue.

Competitive edge

So what exactly are esports? They are defined as competitive tournaments involving electronic games – especially among professionals. Players compete in leagues or play for an audience on a live-streaming service in exchange for payment, which can range to several million dollars for the most successful players.

Top players and teams are well remunerated. Forbes reported that the “average starting North America League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) player salary is now over US$320,000, with over 70% of the players performing on multi-year contracts”. An article in Business Insider in 2018 reveals that top teams such as Evil Geniuses earn more than US$10m a year in revenue. This is almost the same budget as a top second division team from La Liga, in Spain.

The recent Fortnite world cup had a total prize pool of US$33m and, as we have heard, the top winners took away several million each. Even players who ranked as lowly as 65-108 took away US$50,000 for their pains.

When it comes to training for competition, you could be forgiven for thinking that esports players are not like traditional athletes, building strength and endurance over long hours in the gym or pounding the streets. But, as the growth in prize money means the potential rewards for success grow ever larger, a new generation of esports professionals is finding that fitness aids concentration. Some of the more successful teams are even drafting in coaches from other sports.

I have connected with several teams and, even in those with low budgets, they are aware of the importance of their physical and mental well-being through nutrition and exercise to perform better in games.

What’s next?

Esports look to be here to stay, but the degree of success will depend on a variety of factors, including general entertainment trends, industry governance and the possibility of government censorship in certain regions. To help the various players in the market understand consumers better and react proactively to changes in the business environment, it is essential to highlight the critical value of esports data – something that I have been researching for some time.

The huge and rapid growth of esports – and the massive revenues this promises – are thought by many industry insiders to be indicative of a bubble. Commenting on headlines which implied that gaming tournaments were “bigger than the Superbowl”, Sebastian Park, vice-president of esports with the Houston Rockets (which owns a majority stake in professional League of Legends team Clutch Gaming) said recently: “When I read a lot of these papers, I don’t know where they derive 50% of those numbers”.

For the health of the industry, it’s critical to be able to establish how different esports industry stakeholders are collecting data and information from the fans to understand their behaviour and consumer trends. There has been speculation that Nielsen, which has been collecting data on TV viewing since the 1950s, is working on a solution. This could be the next big step in establishing esports credibility.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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