Radio in the digital age

  

Radio in the digital age

From Guglielmo Marconi's first transatlantic transmission in 1902 to the DAB radio and live internet streaming that we use today, the use of entertainment radio has developed and somewhat changed meaning over the years. After surviving the introduction of television, satellite networks and music streaming, the entertainment platform still exists.

With the invention and introduction of digital media, radio stations have become so much more than an analogue audio platforms. For starters, the use of DAB and online streaming now allow stations to transmit their material abroad and all over the world. This is particularly good for gaining an international audience and for expats living abroad who want to listen to radio shows in their own language, and can also help to spread knowledge of foreign cultures in a more connected world. Radio stations are often connected to YouTube and Facebook which create an extra dimension for the broadcasters; visual. Cloud storage systems allow users to access past radio shows on demand and to listen at their own convenience.
Radio stations are also becoming branding techniques. If you take the example of Australia's Triple J station which is popular among underground and unsigned artists, the company is not only a broadcasting station but also incorporates festival hosting and also an online music sharing platform, amongst other social media options. Triple J have a huge following throughout Australia and even overseas, and by allowing users to upload their own music to the Triple J website, it has made radio even more accessible for aspiring artists.
Radio stations have had to heavily adapt to changing demand. In a world where it is so quick and easy to type a song name into YouTube, or to find new music through Spotify's discover weekly playlists, radio broadcasters have still managed to maintain a steady audience through a touch of familiarity. Car users are among the largest consumers of radio entertainment, where radio has the advantage over streaming services for providing information like local traffic and weather reports, as well as music. Many new cars are being designed with inbuilt DAB radio sets, showing that the platform is still standing strong.
Podcasting and online streaming have blurred the boundaries between radio and listening to private music collections. Radio is becoming more interactive through online platforms, but linear scheduling still defines it as radio. Online music services like Spotify and Deezer create playlists and can randomly play music based on various parameters, much like a radio station. Queueing up videos on YouTube could also be argued as a vague form of radio-like consumption. Despite this, traditional linear programming continues to be consumed, and new platforms seem to work alongside traditional radio rather than to replace it, allowing radio broadcasters to take their content further and in ways they never could before.
The future of radio is, as anything, somewhat uncertain, but we can expect to see a lot more personalisation and automation integrated into our music services. We will most likely still require a human element of music selection through DJs as, while algorithms can do so much, music is such a personal thing that AI technology cannot grasp the full gravity of emotion that comes with each song that a human can, and often the enthusiastic voices that speak to us through our speakers to introduce the music are half of the reason we listen to a radio show. Radio's are likely to become more visually appealing and touch screen friendly and to include more on demand features as younger generations are not used to tuning into a television or a radio at a particular time for a show, but to watch or listen to something when it is convenient for them.
That being said, the humble idea of radio is fully ingrained into our existence and not likely to go away any time soon. We may have to redefine the meaning of the word and the values that come with traditional broadcasting, but there will always be a demand for music, news, interviews and entertainment. Digital platforms will continue to shape how we receive this, but we will continue to receive this none the less.

 

Smartphones and Airports

  

Smartphones and Airports

With 98% of all airline passengers carrying a mobile phone when they travel, the demand for a more streamlined airport experience as a result of smartphone technology is always on the rise. Airports are just as eager to push you through the security process as quickly and efficiently as possible, and the amount of time your smartphone can save you is incredible.

It is no secret that you can check in to your flight through airline smartphone applications or from your personal computer a few days before your flight. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, require you to do this to avoid a large additional fee. It is easy to understand why, as by automating the service, less staff are required on the check-in counter, and so the airline saves money on labour fees. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, provide you with either option, but seasoned travellers will know that they can save considerable amounts of time by skipping the check-in line. By downloading the airline app to your smartphone, you will also most likely be able to download your boarding pass as an electronic document to your smartphone, reducing paper waste and reducing the amount of vital things you can potentially lose as you navigate the airport.
What this means, is that if you just have a small piece of hand luggage, after arriving at the airport, you can skip check-in and luggage drop and head directly to security. If you do have luggage to check in, this is also often automated. Self-serve stations allow you to print out your own luggage tags and drop off points automatically weigh your luggage as while you make an electronic declaration that your luggage is safe. The need for human staff in airports is quickly diminishing as technology becomes smarter.
Airline applications are always developing and, alongside checking into your flights, you can often upgrade your flight class, choose your seats, track your flights for delays, hire cars, check out hotel deals at your destination, and even reserve parking spots at the airport, depending on which app and airline you are using. More universal applications are also available such as Tripit, which combs your emails for booking confirmations and puts all of your flight information, tickets and passes into one place, and GateGuru which provides you with airport maps, arrival and departure times, restaurants at the airport and waiting times in security lines. Google has a similar application built into many smartphones which also provides travel times to and from the airports, traffic updates, and weather reports, all in the palm of your hand.
Another way in which smartphones are speeding up the journey to the other side of security is often active, but a little more hidden than through intelligent applications. Airports are often tracking the locations of smartphones to find out how many people are in queues at security to provide estimations on how long you will be waiting to pass the checkpoint. This provides vital data online and in the terminal to passengers so they know how much time they need to comfortably make their flight on time. This technology is also used in immigration halls so that passengers know how long it will take to cross the border, and airports know where to dispatch more staff to when the demand for more help is high.
Other airports use this technology to track how long people spend in parking lots, walking routes, entrances and exits and provides airports with early warnings about congestion points and can really improve the flow of passengers through the terminal. Smartphone tracking works as each mobile device emits a MAC address which is not linked to any individual user data, meaning no personal information is revealed and aligns the process of smartphone tracking with EU data privacy laws.
Aside from intelligent applications, airport navigation, passenger streamlining, check-in and electronic passes, smartphones can also provide an endless world of entertainment as you wait for your plane in the departure hall. Smartphones are brilliant tools to increase your comfort and to reduce the time you spend at the airport, meaning you have a few more minutes of precious vacation and less time waiting for your flight.

 

Spotify Algorithms

  

Spotify Algorithms

Spotify is a music platform with over 190 million users. Once a week, users receive two playlists in the discover section of the music browsing function, one of which informs people about newly released music from artists that they listen to, including a few new recommendations based on an algorithm, and the other suggesting new music that the user may like based upon what they frequently grace their ears with.

The results are surprisingly accurate, with many users shocked at how well their music platform understands their listening needs. While this may seem like voodoo, the results are achieved using digital algorithms which are constantly being refined to be as accurate as possible. With so many music streaming platforms available, all of which have access to most of the music out there, Spotify has had to do something to stay ahead of the competition and to set them apart from the rest. This is why this algorithm is so important for retaining their paying customers.
The program was initiated in June 2015 and grew quickly in popularity, so much so that when there was a glitch in the server which delayed the release of the weekly playlist in September 2015, many users expressed their dissatisfaction on social media. The brains behind the algorithm boast that it is also beneficial to the musicians putting their media onto the database, claiming that they have the technology to find the twenty users who would enjoy the most diverse of compositions out of the millions of users who rely on the music service.
The ingredients in this digital concoction begin to make sense, the more you dive into the subject matter. Spotify begins by pooling data from other user's playlists. Those users who have some sort of a crossover with your own music taste are likely to enjoy similar pieces of music, and by pooling large amounts of data together, this can be refined down with unfathomable accuracy. Playlists from all levels are entered into the algorithm, from celebrity users to the playlists of your hairdresser down the road. Naturally, more popular playlists have more importance in the algorithm. To put it simply, if you share two songs with another playlist, but a third song is on the other playlist which you haven't heard, Spotify will recommend the third song. The reality is more complex than this, but it should give you an idea of how your music platform understands you so well.
To make it even more accurate, Spotify creates a digital profile of your individual music taste, refined into not just sub-genres but micro-genres, the names of which you may well have not heard of. Using this and adding the element of shared interests with other users, Spotify uses the open-source software Kafka to bring both elements together, combining this with collaborative filtering, and produce a list of songs that you may like and that you haven't listened to yet.
This opens up the potential for artists and labels to bribe Spotify so that their songs appear on the frequently played discover playlists. A spokesperson for Spotify claims that, despite having many requests, this is not the case, although sometimes it seems that songs can pop up in multiple playlists all at the same time.
Of course the picks aren't perfect, and often while a user might really enjoy one or two songs and like a few more, there will be a few on each discover weekly playlist that the user will not enjoy. The fine tune your weekly playlists, you can make extra effort to add songs that you do like to playlists in your own library. You should also skip the songs you don't like, as if songs are skipped in the first thirty seconds, the algorithm counts this as a rejection and will include this data for the next playlist. Exploring outside of the mainstream music and “going down the rabbit hole” is also noticed by the algorithm, and the more you explore micro-genres, the more this will influence what comes up on your playlist. The result is that the music platform will be providing more accurate music for you to listen to every week, and you will be supporting the smaller independent artists who rely on music streaming to provide an income.

 

Smart Homes

  

Smart Homes

You've heard of smart phones which, with their growing power and technology, allow us to to open a universe beyond calling and messaging. You've probably also heard of smart televisions, which can connect to the internet and even messaging services, alongside catering to your daily television needs. The first big shock was maybe the smart watch which, while telling the time, can also tell you the weather forecast and to send simple messages. Now there's something new; the smart home.
Smart homes harness the power of handsfree technology to assist the user with day to day tasks. Rooms can be fitted with microphones which receive verbal instructions which are then digitally perceived and carried out. Instructions can be something simple such as “lights on” or “dim lights”, or they can be more complex such as requesting a particular song to be played on a speaker setup which is wired to the system. Instructions can be room specific, or apply to the whole house, for example, when playing a song, you can ask for it to be played in just one room, or throughout every room that the smart home technology is set up in.
The main functions include controlling media, moderating the temperature, adjusting the lights, and also security. These components create the basis on which the smart home is built, however there are new advances within these systems being developed. One example is the smart plug, which can be programmed to turn on and off, for example, after your phone is finished charging, and also to make it look like you're still home while you're travelling. There are also smart smoke and carbon dioxide detectors that can be programmed to detect a hazard, to alert the inhabitants of the home of the hazard and in which room it is in, and to turn on the lights in case of an emergency. The level of detail can potentially give you life saving information if a fire were to strike your home.
This technology not only makes day to day life considerably easier, but also can be a substantial help to those with disabilities who find simple movements difficult or tiring. While this is all very impressive, there are obviously a few concerns over the new technology. Firstly, when technology does half the work for you, owners of smart homes could potentially become lazy and reliant on the system. There is also the issue of security as, in this day and age, it is always a case of when the systems will be compromised and not if. While listening to your conversations through the microphone is terrifying enough, if you rely on digital technology to let you in and out of the house, naturally you want to be certain that nobody else can compromise the security of the system and to access your personal property. While we may be excited by all the new gadgetry and unique systems, we should focus more on how to keep it secure from digital threats as we develop it into the future.
There is huge potential to develop this further in the future. If your smart home can anticipate your arrival, it can potentially idealise the atmosphere by amending the lights and thermostat before you've opened the door. As more people are ordering their groceries on the internet, perhaps your refrigerator can detect what is missing and automatically order what you need. When developers factor in the data that we share with digital devices, even something as small as a location marker on a smartphone, they can develop technology that automates everything around our needs. Artificial intelligence is already being introduced to our daily lives, and, as it becomes more efficient, less manual labour will be needed in every aspect of our lives. Imagine coming home to an opening door which has detected your arrival, to a house that has been set with music, lights, and temperature to your favourite settings, to have a meal automatically cooked for you as you sit down to watch your favourite television show without lifting a finger. While it's not quite a reality yet, the smart home is the beginning of this movement, and has the potential to change the world as we know it.

 

Replacing jobs with AI technology

  

Replacing jobs with AI technology

Times they are a-changin', and with developments in AI technology happening every day, it's just a matter of time before our jobs are taken over by robots who are cheaper to run than the cost of manual labour. Right?

Well, it is safe to say that a large number of jobs will be able to be automated by these advancements. If employers can save money on labour costs, why would they not? But there will (probably) always be jobs that require a human input. If anything, while some jobs will be replaced, most will just be altered to work alongside the algorithms and machinery that will take out a lot of the manpower and allow companies to focus on developing their products and work while the robots do all the hard work.
Any work that is repetitive and data heavy will be the first to be replaced. Telemarketing and data input are likely to be heavily AI operational in the coming years, however this doesn't mean that telemarketers and data inputters will lose their work. Telemarketing is a form of sales in which there will always be work, and so telemarketers will maybe have to make a sideways step to continue working in a similar field. Data inputters might have to readjust as data analysts, as we will still require people to interpret all of the data otherwise it is pointless to possess data in the first place. The repetitive part of the job will be replaced, and the human input will revolve around more strategic roles that require interpreting, analysing, and creativity, which is harder to automate.
The key to retaining your job is looking at how human touch can compliment the work. This is particularly obvious in creative roles, such as music and art. While there were attempts to create a fully automated song using algorithms to create melody and lyrics, the results were deracinating, alienating, and nothing like the music we hear on the radio today. Work that requires negotiation and persuasion (such as working as a lawyer), community building and empathy is difficult to automate as it requires so heavily on human input. Also, work creating AI technology is not yet automated, and if it becomes so, results could be potentially dire, so the human input is vital and the demand for AI development is very high.
Another point worth mentioning is that candidate sourcing and interview scheduling work is likely to be automated quickly. Human decision making is easily reduced to a computer algorithm, which means that when you are applying for work, you will not only have to think about how the employer will look at your resume, but also how a computer would read and interpret it and whether or not you are well represented from both perspectives.
From the bottom of the ladder, the thought of a robot taking your job is quite scary, but there are plenty of benefits to AI technology in the workplace from a larger perspective. Working with robots and algorithms reduces the human error margin substantially, and accuracy levels are likely to be much higher (particularly good for roles such as surgery). Demeaning and repetitive work can be automated so minds can be better stimulated working on challenging decisions and development that would otherwise not happen due to a heavy workload requirement. While initial startup costs are high, companies can potentially save thousands, even millions of dollars over time. Even by replacing simple tasks in your day to day life, such as cooking and cleaning, with automated systems, will save time and energy which can be focussed on living a happier, healthier lifestyle with less to worry about, or even on work and development.
While the world is changing and we are advancing quicker into the future than ever before, we will always require a need for human interaction, for empathy, sympathy and creativity which are qualities that we are yet to be able to teach to robots and computers. By being open to change and accepting it, we can work alongside the new technology to also advance our businesses and work faster than ever before, and to reach possibilities that ten years ago were absurd to even dream of.

 

Quotes by Indian Entrepreneurs

  

Indian Entrepreneurs

If you are looking for some inspiration to start your business, then look no further. These quotes detail Indian entrepreneurs' stories of success, struggles, challenges and failures and how they made it.

“As a company, you have to look at growth both vertically and horizontally.” - Rajesh Prasad, Innoviti
“There is a rich heritage behind khadi, and it also contributes to the livelihoods of many.” - Siddharth Mohan Nair, DesiTude
“Reputation is an ongoing process.” - Tamanna Mishra
“Companies with paperless technology platforms are well-positioned to leverage the latest trends in consumer technology.” - Ben Elliott, Experian
“Most people fall in the trap of solving problems all the time and not thinking enough about how to not have them at first place.” - Vasan Subramanian, Accel Partners
“Consumers are juggling today with less time available for cooking, lack of healthy options, tasteless frozen foods — the joy of cooking is dying.” - Prayank Swaroop, Accel Partners
“You constantly think about what next and build things that work. You must learn constantly.” - Amar Chokhawala, Reflektion
“Collecting customer satisfaction score is an easy and cost-effective method to gauge consumer sentiments.” - JD Pawar, Wheelstreet
“You need to have a good education. It serves as a fallback if things don't work out. It opens up many doors and people take you more seriously.” - Ujval Nanavati
“A lot of companies focus only on the new customers coming in and forget about their existing customer base.” - Prabhakar Reddy, Accel Partners
“Art is both universal and personal at the same time.” - Giridhar Khasnis, Gallery Manora
“We need bias free organisations with diverse and inclusive cultures to create happier workplaces.” - Viji Hari, KelpHR
“The way to construct online learning content is to sequence learning much the same way as a TV soap.” - Abhijit Bhaduri, ‘The Digital Tsunami'
“SMEs are vital for the economic growth and competitiveness of the country. But absence of digitised data has forced them to face a lot of challenges.” - Atul Banga
“A composting revolution – no food waste to landfill – should become the mantra.” - Pink Chandran, Solid Waste Management Roundtable
“We have till date created less than $35 billion market cap for all tech startups combined in India. In the next decade, this number can become $500 billion.” - Rahul Chowdhri, Stellaris Venture Partners
“India's service-centric and fragmented healthcare industry is plagued with a reactive care, curative mindset.” - Hari Thalapalli, CallHealth
“The government should support startups that create solutions right from soil analysis to produce marketing. Such startups must look at farming in a holistic way.” - Sathya Raghu V. Mokkapati, Kheyti
“Every third Indian still lacks access to amenities such as nutrition, education, healthcare, electricity, and safe drinking water.” -Raj Janagam, Surge Impact
“Use of wetland for agriculture and fisheries would change the face of rural Bihar.” - Mangala Rai, ICAR
“The biggest real estate available in the city was on rooftops.” - Sriram Aravamudan, My Sunny Balcony
“The story of fintech in India will not be the story of David vs Goliath. It will be the story of Goliath vs Goliath. And the smarter Goliath will win.” - Pranay Bhardwaj, SlicePay
“Scale is always a barrier to entry. Who can compete with an Ola or an Uber?” - Raja Lahiri, Grant Thornton
“The barrier to enter consumer internet businesses doesn't exist anymore.” - Rahul Chari, PhonePe
“If you don't bring different marketing channels together, competitors will take advantage of your silo approach.” - Deepak Kanakaraju, Razorpay
“It is ultimately the market that proves everyone right or wrong.” - Sartaj Anand, egomonk
“Consumers are increasingly looking for such quirky merchandise.” - Arvind Singhal, Technopak
“It is not services that will make you money, it is software with Machine Learning and AI that makes money.” - Vishal Sikka, ex-Infosys
“Co-working spaces are better than business centres.” - Shiv prasad Singh, RICSSBE l Sikka, ex-Infosys

 

Technology scans your minds holiday

  

Realeyes(1)

You might think you know where you want to and what you want to do when you travel, but new technology is seeking to tap into you subconscious to uncover where you want to go.

Thanks to a prototype created by UK travel company TUI - formerly Thomson - you don't have to be torn two or three great destinations anymore. This prototype takes soul-searching out of the equation and uses emotionally intelligent technology to discover travellers‘ true holiday desires and develop a personalised travel itinerary based on subconscious thoughts.
It sounds like Minority Report, doesn't it? You are probably wondering how this works as it sounds like an invention from the future but the idea is fairly simple. While viewers watch a rapid series of moving images of different travel destinations and experiences, the device measures their facial response and uses the data to create a “perfect holiday” based on their natural reaction to what they are viewing.
The prototype, named “Destination U”, is undergoing consumer testing with plans for public retail trials in “the near future.” According to the company, in just a matter of time, the prototype could be using facial coding and emotion measurement to help their customers “choose a trip that matches their emotional needs.”
The prototype, developed by the company Realeyes, directs cameras at 149 different points on the face to track subtle facial reactions while the person watches a two-minute video, showing a series of people engaged in different travel activities, such as skiing, relaxing on the beach, trekking through greenery, bungee jumping, surfing, and so on.
Destination U is founded on the notion that viewers will have subtle facial reactions to the videos that will uncover their true, subconscious thoughts and feelings about each destination. At the end of the video, Destination U will reveal which activity/destination your face responded to most positively.
Its founder, Mikhel Jaatma, explained that 90 percent of human decision-making is done subconsciously. He said that the current method many companies have to find out what customers want is through verbal or written questionnaires, which can be rather tedious.
He added: “Emotion measure measurement technology captures and delivers unfiltered emotional responses in real-time, delving much deeper and detecting non-conscious signals to stimuli. People aren't considering their responses, they are organically reacting, giving a far more intuitive and raw response.”
According to the company, the prototype is now “well into testing.” UK managing director Nick Longman explained that the “Destination U prototype enables holidaymakers to intuitively unlock different travel possibilities and think about options they may not have considered before.”
He explained: “After taking more than 100 million customers on holiday over the last six decades as Thomson we understand that one size no longer fits all when it comes to travel. People are looking beyond the traditional package holiday, they want a holiday that is handpicked just for them and the next evolution in mass market travel is personalisation and customisation.”
He added: “It is our ambition to create holidays so personalised that they ‘choose you'. Or to put it another way, take customers to their perfect ‘Destination U'.
The software is still in prototype and not widely available to customers, but once TUI launches the product on the market, it could be implemented on a webcam, allowing anyone where uncover the secret travel desires of their subconscious from the comfort of their homes.
If this software sounds familiar to you, that's because this is not the first prototype that uses facial recognition and scanning for feelings to reveal your travel desires. Indeed, Expedia released in 2016 a web campaign called “Discover Your Aloha” which recognised facial reactions to different activities in Hawaii with a webcam and a series of videos.
Martin Salo, Co-Founder of Realeyes, said, “what's special about Destination U is that it really takes facial expression data and creates personalised experiences, so it learns whether you like beaches or city breaks and then creates a unique destination recommendation specially for you.”
Nick Longman added, “Thompson is a great heritage business, but TUI is much more modern, much more contemporary business. We've been introducing virtual reality into stores and that has had a great reception. This is now taking it to the next level. I think customers are definitely ready to come in and be inspired.”

 

Technology Wizards

  

Technology New Website Blog MRI

Behind every great invention, there's a great mind working towards progress. From mobile technology medical inventions, these technology wizards have revolutionised the way we live.

Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield's invention - magnetic resonance imaging - has transformed almost every area of surgery, enabling doctors to see inside a patient's body without cutting it open first.
“MRI has totally changed neurosurgery,” says Nirit Weiss, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Mouth Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “If you open the skull and look at the brain, it looks like a blob - you can't just look at it and see the different cell groups. But MRI has allowed us to visualise the brain's structures so we have a map in our head of where to go and where to avoid.”
Some revolutionaries were neglected by the scientific establishments of their time. For instance, Rosalind Franklin was excluded from sharing in the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, despite her great contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA. In fact, she gave her life to the cause by exposing herself to massive amounts of radiation just to try to get the best possible X-ray photograph of a strand of DNA, which led her to die of cancer at the early age of 37. Her contribution made through the double helix provided the crucial evidence James Watson and Francis Crick needed to complete their model, and even so, neither scientist acknowledged her work when they received the Nobel Prize in 1962.
Another tech inventor that has changed the world is Tim Berners-Lee, credited with investing the World Wide Web in 1989. Upon designing and building the first Web browser, editor and server, he changed the way information is created and consumed.
Bill Gates also revolutionised the world today. He had an early interest in software and began programming computers at the age of thirteen. Later on, he founded Microsoft which became famous for their computer operating systems and killer business deals.
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it,” Bill Gates said, in reference to the popular belief that inventors are lazy people who find a way to make their lives easier. “He also once said, “I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” He has also been quoted saying: “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.”
Still in the field of computers, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce independently invented the single integrated circuit - the microchip - in 1959. This invention powered through the greatest obstacle to fast and more powerful computers. The microchip sparked a revolution in technological miniaturisation. Although Kilby was the one awarded with the Nobel Price, it was Noyce's silicon-based chips that became popular, founded Intel in 1968, which is today the largest manufacturer of semiconductors. That year, Kilby also invented the personal calculator.
Filmmaker George Lucas revolutionised special effects in the movies by pioneering motion control camera techniques and spearheading the computer-generated imaging revolution in the 1980s. This revolution had its roots in Lucas‘ ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), which he founded in 1975 to bring his vision of Star Wars to life.
“A special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story,” Lucas said. “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”
He has also revealed that “the secret to film is that it's an illusion.”
Many has wondered where he got the inspiration from to revolutionise the film industry, he has stated: “As a kid, I read a lot of science fiction. But instead of reading technical, hard-science writers like Isaac Asimov, I was interested in Harry Harrison and a fantastic, surreal approach to the genre. I grew up on it. Star Wars is a sort of compilation of this stuff but it's never been put in one story before, never put down on film. There is a lot taken from Westerns, mythology, and samurai movies. It's all the things that are great put together. It's not like one kind of ice cream but rather a very big sundae.”

 

Simulation technology to predict refugee crisis

  

refugees are welcome

A new computer simulation of refugees' journeys when they flee major conflicts can correctly predict more than 75% of their destinations, and may become a vital tool for governments and NGOs to contribute to allocate humanitarian resources more effectively and at strategic points.

Researchers at Brunel University London - Diana Suleimenova, Dr David Bell and Dr Derek Groen - from the Department of Computer Science, used publicly available refugee, conflict and geospatial data to construct simulations of refugee movements and their potential destinations for African countries.
The data-driven simulation tool was able to predict at least 75 percent of refugee destinations correctly after the first 12 days for three different recent African conflicts. It also proved to be more accurate than established forecasting techniques (‘naïve predictions') to forecast where, when and how many refugees are likely to arrive, and which camps are likely to become full and need a higher number of resources and assistance. These results were published in Scientific Reports.
The research team created their simulations for Burundian crisis in 2015, which took place after Pierre Nkurunziza attempted to become president for a third term; the Central African Republic (CAR) crisis in 2013, triggered when the Muslim Seleka group overthrew the central government; and the Mali civil war in 2012, which was caused by insurgent groups campaigning for independence of the Azawad region.
The team relied on open data resources to both enable these simulations and validate their accuracy. These sources included refugee registration data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and geographic information from Microsoft Bing Maps.
While not all refugee movements are accurately predicted in these simulations, their approach emulated the key refugee destinations in each of the three conflicts, thus it can be re-applied to simulate other conflict situations reported on by the UNHCR.
For instance, in Burundi, the simulation correctly predicted the largest inflows in Nyarugusu, Mahama and Nakivale throughout the conflict's early stages. Meanwhile, the simulation correctly reproduced the growth pattern in East camp of Cameroon, as well as the stagnation of refugee influx into Chad's camps. In Mali, the simulation accurately predicted trends in the data for both Mbera and Abala, which put together account for around three-quarters of the refugee population.
The researchers used a new-agent based modelling programme named Free, which was revealed to the public with the publication of their paper. Although agent-based modelling has been used more widely to study population movements, and has become a prominent method to explain migration patters, this is the first time it has been used to predict the destinations of refugees fleeing conflicts in the African continent.
Suleimenova, Bell and Groen explain in Scientific Reports that their simulation is not directly tailored to these conflicts, but a ‘generalised simulation development approach' which can forecast the distribution of refugee arrivals across camps, given a particular conflict scenario and a total number of expected refugees.
This simulation development approach allow organisations to quickly develop simulations when a conflict occurs, and enables them to investigate the effect of border closures between countries and forced redirection of refugees across camps. It also serves of assistance to define procedures for collecting data and validating simulation results, aspects which are usually not covered when presenting a simulation model on its own.
According to the authors, “Accurate predictions can help save refugees' lives, as they help governments and NGOs to correctly allocate humanitarian resources to refugee camps, before the (often malnourished or injured) refugees themselves have arrived. To our knowledge, we are the first to attempt such predictions across multiple major conflicts using a single simulation approach."
The authors also urge greater investment in the collection of data during conflicts and they explain what this is important and what it's hard to get. "Empirical data collection during these conflicts is very challenging, in part due to the nature of the environment and in part due to the severe and structural funding shortages of UNHCR emergency response missions. Both CAR and Burundi are among the most underfunded UNHCR refugee response operations, with funding shortages of respectively 76 and 62%".
With record levels of 22.5 million refugees on a global scale, "more funding for these operations is bound to save human lives, and will have the side benefit of providing more empirical data – enabling the validation of more detailed prediction models."
The research group aims at collaborating with humanitarian organisations, adapting their technology to help specific humanitarian efforts, and to further reduce the time of development by automating the creation of these simulations.
'A generalized simulation development approach for predicting refugee movements' by Diana Suleimenova, David Bell and Derek Groen (Department of Computer Science, Brunel University London) is published in Scientific Reports.

 

Google’s DeepMind: Advance in AI

  

DeepMind

Acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is a British artificial intelligence company founded in September 2010. The company has created a neural network that learns how to play video games in a fashion similar to that of humans, as well as a Neural turing machine, a network that may be able to access an external memory like a conventional turing machine, resulting in a computer that imitates the short-term memory of the human brain.

The company became famous in 2016 after its AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player for the first time, and made headlines again after beating Lee Sedol, the world champion in a five game tournament.
Google's DeepMind has made another big advance in artificial intelligence by getting a machine to master the Chinese game of Go without help from human players. Although AlphaGo started by learning from thousands of games played by humans, the new AlphaGo Zero began with a blank Go board and no data bar the rules. After learning the rules, AlphaGo Zero played itself. Within 72 hours it was good enough to beat the original program by 100 games to zero.
DeepMind's chief executive, Demis Hassabis, said the system could now have more general applications in scientific research. “We're quite excited because we think this is now good enough to make some real progress on some real problems even though we're obviously a long way from full AI,” he said.
The software defeated leading South Korean Go player Lee Se-don by four games to one last year in a game where there are more possible legal board positions than there are atoms in the universe. AlphaGo also defeated world's number one Go player, China's Ke Jie.
Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the goal is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China over 2,500 years ago, and thus, it's believed to be the oldest board game that is still played today. The rules are simpler than those of chess and the player usually has a choice of 200 moves throughout the game, compared with about 20 in chess. Top human players usually rely on instinct to win.
The achievements of AlphaGo required the combination of vast amounts of data - records of thousands of games - and a vast computer-processing power.
David Silver, lead researched on AlphaGo, said the team took a different approach with AlphaGo Zero. "The new version starts from a neural network that knows nothing at all about the game of Go," he explained. "The only knowledge it has is the rules of the game. Apart from that, it figures everything out just by playing games against itself."
While AlphaGo took months to get to the point where it could take on a professional, AlphaGo Zero got there in just three days, and only using a fraction of the processing power.
"It shows it's the novel algorithms that count, not the computer power or the data," says Mr Silver.
He highlighted an idea that some may find scary: in just a few days a machine has surpassed the knowledge of this game acquired by humanity over thousands of years.
"We've actually removed the constraints of human knowledge and it's able, therefore, to create knowledge itself from first principles, from a blank slate," he said.
While AlphaGo learned from and improved upon human strategies, AlphaGo Zero devised techniques which the professional player who advised DeepMind admitted had never seen before. It is able to do this by using a novel form of reinforcement learning, in which AlphaGo Zero becomes its own teacher. The system starts off with a neural network that knows nothing about the game of Go. It then plays games against itself, by combining this neural network with a powerful search algorithm. As it plays, the neural network is tuned and updated to predict moves, as well as the eventual winner of the games.
This updated neural network is then recombined with the search algorithm to create a new, stronger version of AlphaGo Zero, and the process begins again. In each iteration, the performance of the system improves by a small amount, and the quality of the self-play games increases, leading to more and more accurate neural networks and ever stronger versions of AlphaGo Zero.
This technique is more powerful than previous versions of AlphaGo because it is no longer constrained by the limits of human knowledge. Instead, it is able to learn tabula rasa from the strongest player in the world: AlphaGo itself.
Many of the research team have now moved on to new projects where they want to apply the same software to new areas. Demis Hassabis stated that some areas of interest include drug design and the discovery of new materials.
Some might see AI as a threat, but Hassabis looks into the future with optimism. “I hope these kind of algorithms will be routinely working with us as scientific experts medical experts on advancing the frontiers of science and medicine - that's what I hope," he says.
Nonetheless, he and his colleagues are aware of the dangers of applying AI techniques to the real world at a fast pace. A game with clear rules and no element of luck is one thing, but the random real world is another.
  
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