AI Evolution: Survival of the Smartest

Posted on : 21-05-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation, Predictions

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Artificial intelligence is getting very good at identifying things: Let it analyse a million pictures, and it can tell with amazing accuracy which show a child crossing the road. But AI is hopeless at generating images of people or whatever by itself. If it could do that, it would be able to create visions of realistic but synthetic pictures depicting people in various settings, which a self-driving car could use to train itself without ever going out on the road.

The problem is, creating something entirely new requires imaginationand until now that has been a step to far for machine learning.

There is an emerging solution first conceived by  Ian Goodfellow during an academic argument in a bar in 2014… The approach, known as a generative adversarial network, or “GAN”, takes two neural networksthe simplified mathematical models of the human brain that underpin most modern machine learningand pits them against each other to identify flaws and gaps in the others thought model.

Both networks are trained on the same data set. One, known as the generator, is tasked with creating variations on images it’s already seenperhaps a picture of a pedestrian with an extra arm. The second, known as the discriminator, is asked to identify whether the example it sees is like the images it has been trained on or a fake produced by the generatorbasically, is that three-armed person likely to be real?

Over time, the generator can become so good at producing images that the discriminator can’t spot fakes. Essentially, the generator has been taught to recognize, and then create, realistic-looking images of pedestrians.

The technology has become one of the most promising advances in AI in the past decade, able to help machines produce results that fool even humans.

GANs have been put to use creating realistic-sounding speech and photo realistic fake imagery. In one compelling example, researchers from chipmaker Nvidia primed a GAN with celebrity photographs to create hundreds of credible faces of people who don’t exist. Another research group made not-unconvincing fake paintings that look like the works of van Gogh. Pushed further, GANs can reimagine images in different waysmaking a sunny road appear snowy, or turning horses into zebras.

The results aren’t always perfect: GANs can conjure up bicycles with two sets of handlebars, say, or faces with eyebrows in the wrong place. But because the images and sounds are often startlingly realistic, some experts believe there’s a sense in which GANs are beginning to understand the underlying structure of the world they see and hear. And that means AI may gain, along with a sense of imagination, a more independent ability to make sense of what it sees in the world. 

This approach is starting to provide programmed machines with something along the lines of imagination. This, in turn, will make them less reliant on human help to differentiate. It will also help blur the lines between what is real and what is fake… And in an age where we are already plagued with ‘fake news’ and doctored pictures are we ready for seemingly real but constructed images and voices….

OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri – The Rise of Voice Control Technology

Posted on : 30-04-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : Consumer behaviour, Finance, FinTech, Innovation, Predictions

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OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri…. All too familiar phrases around the home now, but it was not that long ago that we did not know what a ‘smart phone’ was! Today most people could not live without one. Imagine not being able to check your email, instant message friends or watch a movie whilst on the move.  How long will it be before we no will no longer need a keyboard, instead talking to your computer will be the norm!

The development of voice activated technology in the home will ultimately revolutionise the way we command and control our computers. Google Home has enabled customers to shop with its partners, pay for the transaction and have goods delivered all without the touch of a keyboard. How useful could this be integrated into the office environment? Adding a voice to mundane tasks will enable employees to be more productive and free up time allowing them to manage their workflow and daily tasks more efficiently.

Voice-based systems has grown more powerful with the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based computing power and highly optimised algorithms. Modern speech recognition systems, combined with almost pristine text-to-speech voices that are almost indistinguishable from human speech, are ushering in a new era of voice-driven computing. As the technology improves and people become more accustomed to speaking to their devices, digital assistants will change how we interact with and think about technology.

There are many areas of business where this innovative technology will be most effective. Using voice control in customer service will transform the way businesses interact with their customers and improve the customer experience.

Many banks are in the process of, if they haven’t done so already, of introducing voice biometric technology. Voice control enables quick access to telephone banking without the need to remember a password every time you call or log in. No need to wade through pages of bank account details or direct debits to make your online payments instead a digital assistant makes the payment for you.

Santander has trialled a system that allows customers to make transfers to existing payees on their account by using voice recognition. Customers access the process by speaking into an application on their mobile device.

Insurance companies are also realising the benefits voice control can bring to their customers. HDFC  Insurance, an Indian firm, has announced the launch of its AI enabled chatbot on Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa. It aims to offer a 24/7 customer assistance with instant solutions to customer queries. Thereby creating an enhanced customer service experience, allowing them to get easy access to information about policies, simply with the use of voice commands.

It could also help to streamline the claims process where inefficiencies in claims documentation take up insurers’ time and money. Claims processors spend as much as 50% of their day typing reports and documentation; speech recognition could rapidly reduce the time it takes to complete the process. US company Nuance claims that their Dragon Speech Recognition Solution can enable agents to dictate documents three times faster than typing with up to 99% accuracy. They can use simple voice commands to collapse the process further.

Retailers too are turning to this technology. With competition so tough on the high street retailers are always looking for the ultimate customer experience and many believe that voice control is a great way to achieve this. Imagine a mobile app where you could scan shopping items, then pay using a simple voice command or a selfie as you leave the store. No more queuing at the till.

Luxury department store Liberty is a big advocate of voice control and uses it for their warehouse stock picking. Using headsets and a voice controlled application, a voice controlled app issues commands to a central server about which products should be picked. For retailers voice control is hit on and off the shop floor.

So, how accurate is voice recognition? Accuracy rates are improving all the time with researchers commenting that some systems could be better than human transcription. In 1995 the error rate was 43%, today the major vendors claim an error rate of just 5%.

Security is a major factor users still face with verification requiring two factor authentication with mobile applications. However, as the technology develops there should be less of a need to confirm an individual’s identity before commands can be completed.

As advances are made in artificial intelligence and machine learning the sky will be limit for Alexa and her voice control friends. In future stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned.

 

How long will it be before you can pick up your smart phone talk to your bank and ask it to transfer £50 to a friend, probably not as far away prospect as you might think!!

Battle of the Algorithms Quantum v Security

Posted on : 28-03-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : Cyber Security, data security, FinTech, Innovation, Predictions

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Like black holes, quantum computing was for many years nothing more than a theoretical possibility. It was something that physicists believed could exist, but it hadn’t yet been observed or invented.

Today, quantum computing is a proven technology, with the potential to accelerate advances in all aspects our lives, the scope is limitless. However, this very same computing power that can enhance our lives can also do a great deal of damage as it touches many of the everyday tasks that we take for granted. Whether you’re sending money via PayPal or ordering goods online, you’re relying on security systems based on cryptography. Cryptography is a way of keeping these transactions safe from cyber criminals hoping to catch some of the online action (i.e. your money!). Modern cryptography relies on mathematical calculations so complex—using such large numbers—that attackers can’t crack them. Quantum could change this!

Cybersecurity systems rely on uncrackable encryption to protect information, but such encryption could be seriously at risk as quantum develops. The threat is serious enough that it’s caught the interest of the US agency National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Whilst acknowledging that quantum computers could be 15 to 20 years away, NIST believes that we “must begin now to prepare our information security systems to be able to resist quantum computing.”

Many believe that quantum computers could rock the current security protocols that protect global financial markets and the inner workings of government. Quantum computers are so big and expensive that—outside of global technology companies and well-funded research universities—most will be owned and maintained by nation-states. Imagine the scenario where a nation-state intercepts the encrypted financial data that flows across the world and are is able to read it as easily as you are reading this article. Rogue states may be able to leverage the power of quantum to attack the banking and financial systems at the heart of the western business centres.

The evolution of the quantum era could have significant consequences for cyber security where we will see a new phase in the race between defenders and attackers of our information. Cryptography will be the battlefield in which this war of the future will be fought, the contenders of which are already preparing for a confrontation that could take place in the coming years. The evolution of quantum computing will crack some cryptography codes but how serious is the threat?

In theory, a quantum computer would be able to break most of the current algorithms, especially those based on public keys. A quantum computer can factor at a much higher speed than a conventional one. A brute-force attack (testing all possible passwords at high speed until you get the right one) would be a piece of cake with a machine that boasts these characteristics.

However, on the other hand, with this paradigm shift in computing will also come the great hope for privacy. Quantum cryptography will make things very difficult for cybercriminals. While current encryption systems are secure because intruders who attempt to access information can only do so by solving complex problems, with quantum cryptography they would have to violate the laws of quantum mechanics, which, as of today, is impossible.

Despite these developments we don’t believe there is any cause for panic. As it currently stands the reality is that quantum computers are not going to break all encryption. Although they are exponentially more powerful than standard computers, they are awkward to use as algorithms must be written precisely or the answers they return cannot be read, so they are not easy to build and implement.

It is unlikely that hacktivists and cybercriminals could afford quantum computers in the foreseeable future. What we need to remember is that most of attacks in today’s threat landscape target the user where social engineering plays as large, if not larger a part than technical expertise. If a human can be persuaded to part with a secret in inappropriate circumstances, all the cryptography in the world will not help, quantum or not!

It is important that organisations understand the implications that quantum computing will have on their legacy systems, and take steps to be ready. At a minimum, that means retrofitting their networks, computers, and applications with encryption that can withstand a quantum attack.

Quantum computing presents both an unprecedented opportunity and a serious threat. We find ourselves in a pre-quantum era, we know it’s coming but we don’t know when…

Are you ready for Y2Q (Years to Quantum)?

Will Robotic Process Automation be responsible for the next generation of technical debt?

Posted on : 28-03-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : FinTech, Innovation, Predictions, Uncategorized

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All hail the great Bill Gates and his immortal words:

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

With the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) wave crashing down all about us and as we all scramble around trying to catch a ride on its efficiency, cost saving and performance optimising goodness, we should take a minute and take heed of Mr Gate’s wise words and remember that poorly designed processes done more efficiently will still be ineffectual. In theory, you’re just getting better at doing things poorly.

Now before we go any further, we should state that we have no doubt about the many benefits of RPA and in our opinion RPA should be taken advantage of and utilised where appropriate.

Now with that said…

RPA lends itself very well to quick fixes and fast savings, which are very tempting to any organisation. However, there are many organisations with years of technical debt built up already through adding quick fixes to fundamental issues in their IT systems. For these organisations, the introduction of RPA (although very fruitful in the short term) will actually add more technological dependencies to the mix. This will increase their technical debt if not maintained effectively. Eventually, this will become unsustainable and very costly to your organisation.

RPA will increase dependencies on other systems, adding subtle complex levels of interoperability, and like any interdependent ecosystem, when one thing alters there is an (often unforeseen) knock-on effect in other areas.

An upgrade that causes a subtle change to a user interface will cause the RPA process to stop working, or worse the process will keep working but do the wrong thing.

Consider this; what happens when an RPA process that has been running for a few years needs updating or changing? Will you still have the inherent expert understanding of this particular process at the human level or has that expertise now been lost?

How will we get around these problems?  Well, as with most IT issues, an overworked and understaffed IT department will create a quick workaround to solve the problem, and then move on to the myriad of other technical issues that need their attention. Hey presto… technical debt.

So, what is the answer? Of course, we need to stay competitive and take advantage of this new blend of technologies. It just needs to be a considered decision, you need to go in with your eyes open and understand the mid and long-term implications.

A big question surrounding RPA is who owns this new technology within organisations? Does it belong to the business side or the IT side and how involved should your CIO or CTO be?

It’s tempting to say that processes are designed by the business side and because RPA is simply going to replace the human element of an already existing process this can all be done by the business side, we don’t need to (or want to) involve the CIO in this decision. However, you wouldn’t hire a new employee into your organisation without HR being involved and the same is true of introducing new tech into your system. True, RPA is designed to sit outside/on top of your networks and systems in which case it shouldn’t interfere with your existing network, but at the very least the CIO and IT department should have an oversight of RPA being introduced into the organisation. They can then be aware of any issues that may occur as a result of any upgrades or changes to the existing system.

Our advice would be that organisations should initially only implement RPA measures that have been considered by both the CIO and the business side to be directly beneficial to the strategic goals of the company.

Following this, you can then perform a proper opportunity assessment to find the optimum portfolio of processes.  Generally, low or medium complexity processes or sub-processes will be the best initial options for RPA, if your assessment shows that the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) savings are worth it of course. Ultimately, you should be looking for the processes with the best return, and simplest delivery.

A final point on software tools and vendors. Like most niche markets of trending technology RPA is awash with companies offering various software tools. You may have heard of some of the bigger and more reputable names like UiPath and Blue Prism. It can be a minefield of offerings, so understanding your needs and selecting an appropriate vendor will be key to making the most of RPA. In order to combat the build-up of technical debt, tools provided by the vendor to enable some of the maintenance and management of the RPA processes is essential.

For advice on how to begin to introduce RPA into your organisation, vendor selection or help conducting a RPA opportunity assessment, or for help reducing your technical debt please email Richard.gale@broadgateconsultants.com.

 

Battle of the Chiefs

Posted on : 25-01-2018 | By : Tom Loxley | In : Predictions, Uncategorized

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2018 Prediction – Deep Dive

Chief Information Officer 1 – Chief Digital Officer 0

Digital transformation is undeniably the main driving force for change in businesses today. We have seen the financial sector being completely transformed by new technologies that offer the ability to engage customers in very different ways, driving more profits. Originating in the marketing department, digitally morphed into E-commerce where it gained more budget and more power. This led to the establishment of a new executive role of the Chief Digital Information Officer (CDiO). The more traditional role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) faded in many organisations as CIO’s concentrated on their legacy systems, often accused of being slow to change in this new fast-paced environment. The CDiO rose as the star of the transformation show moving at lightening digital speed, propelling the competitive advantage and adding value to the business.  The two Chiefs have been working alongside each other uncomfortably over the past few years, neither understanding the boundaries between them. Not for much longer ….

We are starting to see some CDiOs come adrift as the main power point, with the promised world of digital failing to emerge. They too are being slowed down and unseated by the weight of legacy systems and legacy ideas in many organisations. Business leaders are getting impatient with the time to deliver ‘revolutionary’ change. Is it that these changes take time or is there a hint of the ‘Emperor’s new Code’ about this?

Broadgate believes that 2018 will see the resurgence of the CIO as the leading force. The digital buzzword is fading as digital is increasingly seen as a core part of any business strategy, intrinsic to the organisation. The development of the CDiO was a good short-term fix to turbo charge the digital roadmap, taking some of the weight off the CIO shoulders and enabling change. It could be said that the CDiO role developed as a result of an early division of labour between old and the new as digital models emerged. However, recently we have seen a considerable shift across all major sectors with four trends leading the charge for change: cloud, mobility, IoT and big data. It is this technological innovation that has enabled the role of the CIO rise once more.

This is the big moment for the CIO essentially becoming the hero of the digital age, not only embracing the new but also connecting the old with the new and really enabling organizations to move forward. That said, we must not underestimate the scale of the challenge CIO’s face, there is a level of complexity in this new age of digital transformation that isn’t going away. Compounding this issue, business processes are often overlooked when technology is being rapidly applied. In many cases the CIO needs to reach out to their business counterpart in the area where technology is going to be deployed to ensure not only that there is complete connection but also that, working together, they understand how the business will function in that new environment and how orchestrating business technology will produce and deliver a strong result. CIOs must now take ownership of both to ensure they are not locked out of future technology decisions. The CIO who can keep up with the pace of new technology adoption can stay ahead of potential CDiOs encroaching on their territory.

The 2018 Broadgate Predictions

Posted on : 19-12-2017 | By : richard.gale | In : Predictions

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Battle of the Chiefs

Chief Information Officer 1 –  Chief Digital Officer 0

Digital has been the interloper into the world of IT – originating from the Marketing Department through the medium of Website morphing into Ecommerce. The result was more budget and so power with the CDiO than the CIO and the two Chiefs have been rubbing along uncomfortably together, neither fully understanding the boundaries between them. 2018 will see the re-emergence of CIO empire as technology becomes more service based (Cloud, SaaS, Microservices etc) and focus returns to delivering high paced successful transformational change.

 

Battle of the Algorithms

Quantum 2 – Security 1

All the major Tech companies now have virtual Quantum computers available (so the toolkits if not the technology). These allow adventurous techies to experiment with Quantum concepts. Who knows what the capabilities are of Quantum but through its enormous processing power it will have the capability to look at every possible combination of events for a giving situation at once. That is great in terms of deciding which share to buy or how people interacting on Facebook but it will also have the potential to crack most current encryption mechanisms. Saying that it will enable another level of secure access too!

 

Battle of the Search Engines

Voice 2 – Screen 0

OK Google, Alexa, Siri…. There’s a great video of Google talking to Alexa on infinite loop. That’s all fun but in 2018 Voice will start to become a dominant force for search and for general utility. Effectively stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned. OK in the office we may not all start shouting at our computers (well not more than normal) but around the home, car using our phones it is the obvious way to interact. This trend is already gathering momentum. VR and especially AR will add to this, the main thing holding it back is the fact you look like an idiot with the headset on. Once that is cracked then there will be no stopping it.

 

RoboWars – to be continued…

Robots 1 – People 1

AI and ‘robot process automation’ RPA are everywhere. Every services firm worth its salt has process automation plans and the hype around companies such as Blue Prisim is phenomenal.  This is all very exciting and many doomsayers have been predicting the end of most jobs (and some the end of most people!). Yes. Automation of processes is here. It’s been here for years – that is what most ERP (aka workflow) systems do. It makes absolute sense to automate mundane processes and if you can build in a bit of intelligence to deal with slight differences in the pattern then all the better. Will it result in the loss of millions of jobs… well maybe and probably in the short-term but once again, as every time in the past, technology will replace human endeavour whilst humans will be busy building the next creative, innovative wave.

 

The Lightbulb Moment

Internet 1 – Internet of Things 3

Is there anything left which is not internet connected? Two years ago, there were very few people that had any interest in communicating with a lightbulb – apart from flicking a light-switch. Now IoT connected lightbulbs appear be everywhere and the trend will grow and grow. The speed this happening is accelerating and the scope of connected devices is expanding beyond belief. Who would have thought we needed a smart hairbrush? This is all fine and will enrich our lives in ways we probably haven’t even thought about yet but there is a cost. We are allowing these devices to listen, see, control parts of our lives and the data they gather has value both for good and bad reasons. There is no ‘culture of security’ for IoT. Many of the devices are cheaply designed and manufactured with no thought towards security or data privacy. We are allowing these devices into our lives and we don’t really know what they know and who knows what they know. This may be a subtler change for 2018 – the securing of ‘the Thing’ – well lets hope so!

 

Welcome to our ESports Day

Call Of Duty 2 – Premiership Football 1

Sport is a big business. From Curling to Swimming to Indy Car racing it has a thousand differing forms, millions of participants and billions of armchair viewers. Top class athletes in a popular sport can earn millions of dollars a year both from performing and through product endorsements.

Video games have been popular for years. They started as single, two player games and now are worldwide multiplayer extravaganzas where you can battle, race or fight against people throughout the world. A number of superstars or EAthletes have emerged, first through winning competitions and then through youtube etc where their tournaments are recorded and watched again and again. This business has now broken the $1B mark – still way off ‘real’ sport but its growing massively and some point soon will become part of the mainstream.