Facial Recognition, Literally?

Artificial Intelligence is transforming the way consumers purchase, the way business is conducted across industries, and the multi-billion dollar beauty industry is not getting left behind. In fact, there are a multitude of companies using AI to personalize and revolutionize skincare, haircare and everything in between.  Using AI to personalize the experience may prove to be one of the best ways to differentiate in a heavily saturated market.

Is AI the answer to not only changing how consumers interact with beauty product, but also the answer to future product development?

In a market as personal as cosmetics, specifically skincare, where everyone has unique concerns and desires, the ability to use Artificial Intelligence to personalize could be truly revolutionary. Is it possible that the key to ageless, flawless skin is Artificial Intelligence? The women behind PROVEN skincare believe that it is. PROVEN uses AI, aggregating data into the world’s largest skincare database, The Skin Genome Project, 8 million consumer reviews, 100,000 skincare products, 20,000 ingredients and 4,000 academic journals, to tailor skincare products to consumers’ specific needs. Consumers go to PROVEN’s website, take a three-minute skincare quiz and are provided with a skincare routine, taking the guesswork out of which products will deliver the best results.

“Using your answers to our Skintelligence QuizTM, our database instantly sifts through this incredible amount of information to select the best ingredients for your skin. This means you won’t waste time and money trying out products that may or may not work. And if your skin changes, your skincare can evolve right along with you.”

Proven

Taking the concept of Facial Recognition quite literally, FOREO, a tech-enabled skincare and oral care corporation, has recently launched a product that uses facial mapping and artificial intelligence to up your skincare routine. The Luna Fofo analyzes your skin and produces real-time readings that in turn customize your smart facial massage and cleansing routine. The Luna Fofo doesn’t do a one time analysis, rather it continuously analyzes your skin and constantly customizes your routine to your skincare concerns, even tracking your skin’s hydration levels. All of this is stored in a user friendly app so you can track your daily skin health with ease.

These are just a few consumer product-enhanced forms of AI that are transforming the beauty industry and the way consumers interact with AI daily. Beyond customer interaction, could AI enable advanced data capture and analysis to drive product development?  Manufacturing?  Sourcing?

Where is the limit of expansion for AI technology in business?


Challenge SolvetheUnsolvable to change your industry with AI.


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DNA Testing: Is knowing your heritage worth risking your privacy?

Consumer data is becoming a form of currency for most corporations. If it seems like every company is constantly trying to get you to share your data, it’s because they are. Data, especially when it’s connected to your specific demographic profile, is extremely valuable to companies to gain insights about a multitude of trends in order to target advertising and more. But what makes our personal genetic data so valuable? And why are we so willing to give it to genetic-testing companies?

Do we realize what personal rights we are forfeiting in the future when we eagerly dive into knowing about our past?

If data is so valuable, we should be protecting it the way we would protect our wallets, but often there is little care given to our personal data or meta-data. When genetic-testing companies exploded into the market, consumer response was huge. It felt like every one of our family members, friends, and co-workers were finding out more information about their genetic makeup and sending the kits out as gifts. All the hype and the benefit of having a deeper understanding of genetic history was enough for many people to jump on the trend without giving much thought to the risk.

“The key thing about your genetic data … it is uniquely yours. It identifies you, so if you are going to entrust it to a company, you should try to understand what the consequences are”

Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society

The risk of giving so much genetic data to these companies, whether they are helping you learn more about your allergens or genetic makeup, may outweigh the benefits. One of the biggest risks with data privacy is when third parties get involved and both Ancestry and 23andMe have been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over their third party policies.  Most of the third party sharing is able to be opted in or out, but many consumers choose to opt-in regardless of if they know what they are truly sharing.

Another large risk we take when using genetic- testing is the physical sample submission. With Nest or Alexa, often times we can delete our data and profile but how could our society regulate the destruction of our physical sample if we decide we no longer want companies to have it. The physical sample has also been something of major interest to law enforcement. This could definitely be viewed as a positive, considering the suspected Golden State Killer was identified due to a DNA partial match. This technology allowed a partial match to shrink the suspect pool from millions to one family tree.

But is law
enforcement looking to these privatized genetic-testing companies a violation
of our rights? Is the regulation of technologies quick enough to protect us?

Artificial Intelligence combined with the in-home healthcare testing industry could very well be the key to solving the global healthcare crisis, as discussed in previous articles at solvetheunsolveable, but data protection remains a key concern. Artificial Intelligence is allowing patients and doctors to connect to vast databases and learn more about their personal diagnoses in just moments, something that not too long ago could take months or years. However, the data harnessed could be used for the wrong reasons when in the hands of for profit organizations. When consumers opt-in to sharing their data under the guise of finding the cure to a disease, they believe they are making the world a better place but who really stands to profit from that data?

People do think they are helping the world, helping society, even though they may not as an individual benefit. But if your DNA helps develop a drug for a pharmaceutical company, there is nothing governing what they do. It could be a drug they sell at a high profit but doesn’t help the world become a better place.

Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society

The lack of transparency is confusing to consumers and this is often an intentional strategy from companies in order to profit off of consumer data. Consumers should be very careful of releasing their most intimate data, their very own DNA. In the effort to learn more information about our history using our genetic data, we could be negatively impacting our future.


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Up next: Data Privacy Part Four

Facial Recognition, Data Privacy and Your Identity

For age old reasons, the government issued ID or passport has been the official link between our facial features and our identification. And the two in combination have been the traditional way of both authenticating and identifying us on an ad-hoc and transient basis at bars, banks, airports, and so much more…

The range of how our identity and facial features can be used in both private affairs and civil procedures is virtually endless, even without our knowledge or explicit consent. The regulation of usage is a difficult topic for unanimous agreement surrounding our privacy and safety in the same world where freedom of expression, movement and liberty contribute to our livelihoods.

Then we introduce technology to the equation.

Where technology adds a level of magic, comfort and efficiency to our lives, never experienced before relieving us of the boring, mundane and impossible it also adds a level of risk to our data privacy and security. And we all know that once something has been introduced to the internet, it’s near impossible to remove.

Take Google Nest Hub Max – we entrust it to connect us to our homes when we are far away for us to track and see for ourselves key events – saving energy, ensuring comfort and convenience whilst maximising the surveillance and security of our babies, dogs and homes. But can we trust where Google is storing our most sensitive data and what they are doing with it? Nest uses Face Match, facial recognition software, which is enabled by the front facing always-on camera for security, to understand which user is using it and for video calls. If the feature is on, the detection is constant and the security of our data, how it is being processed and stored, cannot be guaranteed. The detection can however be turned off, but at the detriment to functionality.

Turn to Apple photos, Google Photos and Facebook tagging – instances where facial recognition is applied to data you provide, aka your photos. The ease of photography, the popularity of the selfie and the constant desire to update your friends, family and followers on your day-to-daymeans bulky streams consisting of hundreds if not thousands of photos. Manually organising these photos is administrative and time-consuming, in other words, something AI and automation can now do for us. So when Apple’s algorithms can identify the faces of your family and friends, even your pets, organise them and allow you to search by face, does this functionality make the security risk worth it?  

Facebook’s facial recognition feature notifies you when others upload photos of you. Whilst recent developments enable an individual to opt-out of this function, there is no guarantee that Facebook itself is not scanning and processing your image. Harnessing your identity to potentially create an online profile of you to sell to advertisers and who knows what else. Likewise with Google – which uses facial recognition and automation to autotag photos of you and your friends – you can also choose to opt out, but you have no control over what your friends may decide to do with photos of you and where that data publicly ends up.

All of these technologies and instances of applied facial recognition also enable facial mapping, providing swift and secure entry into our smart phones – deeming them impenetrable when in the wrong hands. Once unlocked, a further safeguarding layer of facial recognition is provided for mobile payments like Apple Wallet, which unlike other touch-less forms of payment, has no limit.

Whilst there is an enigma surrounding where our facial image data actually lives inside of Google, Facebook and Apple’s servers, how secure it is and how effective is the encryption?  One thing is certainly clear, the multi-purposes of our devices and their built in sensitivity to our changing environments that simplify and augment our lives  – be it Nest which knows, in real time, the occupancy of our homes and our preferred weather, or our phones which house our banking details alongside thousands of images, text and browser history – the future of our data privacy begs the question:

Is the cost of convenience and our need to publish and
document our life’s moments  worth more
right now than the risk of jeopardizing our privacy and possibly identify?


Up next: Data Privacy Part Four


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Enterprise Artificial Intelligence – Academic Theory or Ready for Primetime?

Solvetheunsolvable has already explored various aspects of consumer AI and products purporting to leverage AI technologies, but is AI for Enterprise ready for primetime?

Investors aren’t the only ones betting big on Artificial Intelligence, it turns out Higher Education is also investing heavily into the space. With heavy investment in research and development, enterprise level AI seems to be having a rocky start.  Earlier this month Northeastern University allocated $50 million to an Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence. This institute will be dedicated to uniting leading experts to solve the world’s unsolvable problems.

“This new institute, the first of its kind, will focus on enabling artificial intelligence and humans to collaborate interactively around solving problems in health, security, and sustainability. We believe that the true promise of AI lies not in its ability to replace humans, but to optimize what humans do best.”


Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun

This isn’t Northeastern’s first step into the world of Artificial Intelligence and Automation. They already have an Institute for Experiential Robotics that is bringing together engineers, sociologists and other experts, including economists, to design and build robots with abilities to learn and execute human behaviors.  Northeastern isn’t just building Institutes for experts to conduct research, they are making it a priority to prepare their students for success in the age of artificial intelligence. They have an entire curriculum dedicated to what they call, humanics which is a key part of their strategic plan, Northeastern 2025.

Northeastern 2025 Promo Video

“We are building on substantial strengths across all colleges in the university,” said Carla Brodley, dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “Experiential AI is highly relevant to our mission.”

Though Northeastern is an example of one university betting heavily on AI, they are not alone in their quest to equip students with proper education for the AI-enabled future. In fact, government agencies are getting involved in funding AI in Education. The UK has pledged to invest £400 million in math, digital and technical education through the government’s AI sector deal to protect Britain’s technology sector amid Brexit and an additional £13 million for postgraduate education on AI. In the US, just a few days ago, the National Science Foundation announced a joint federal program to fund research focused on artificial intelligence at colleges, universities and nonprofit or nonacademic organizations focused on educational or research activities. 

The National Science Foundation is awarding $120 million to fund planning grants and support up to six institutes, but there’s a catch. Each institute must have a principal focus on at least one of six themes:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics

As universities and governments bet big on the future of AI and education, it underscores the importance of AI on a global scale in the future, but does it call into question the current existence of AI solutions ready to take business to the next level? Utilizing AI and automation will be imperative for corporations to remain competitive and for the advancement of business, but when will the floodgates be swept open, and by who, remains a mystery.

Will you leap into the future and embrace AI now? How do you see the futuristic vision of enterprise AI transform your business? Challenge Solvetheunsolvable with your business conundrum or leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s explore what AI can do for you. 


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Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Healthcare

What’s more important to parents than the health and well being of their children? Not much, if anything. So imagine this… your child could have a disease that an Artificial Intelligence enabled iPhone app would diagnose more than a year before doctors and all you have to do to find out is take some photos. Sound too good to be true? With the power of Artificial Intelligence, alternative health care tests, such as this one for children, could literally be in your hands right now…

A post from Government Technology explains:

“CRADLE makes use of artificial intelligence to look at baby pictures taken with a flash and pick out instances of white eye. When tested on 50,000 images of 40 children, half of whom had been diagnosed with an eye disease, the technology was able to identify white eye in pictures taken up to 1.3 years before the child was diagnosed.”

This non-intrusive, ultra- convenient Artificial Intelligence enabled technology is pushing the boundaries of digital health diagnosis, and this is just one example. In addition to convenience, your data privacy is less at risk as the app analyses the photos right on your device, reducing latency and increasing privacy by not uploading to a server. This type of technology, when developed further, could be very useful to detect a variety of health issues.

In fact, there are other apps that are already utilizing AI to address a host of mental and physical health concerns. Some of these health applications range from AI chat bots programmed to treat mental health all the way to AI-enabled apps that can help women track and predict fertility. Investors are betting big on these AI-enabled health apps with millions in funding being pumped into these companies of the future.

The
future of AI-enabled apps is certainly bright. Wearable tech, like FitBit or
Apple Watch, when equipped with built-in Artificial Intelligence, could one day
utilize personal health data to identify diseases such as cancer in the very
early stages. Apple Watch
is already able to use AI
to identify
irregular heart beats known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (Afib) with 97%
accuracy.

Image result for healthcare cost rising

With the continuous rise of healthcare costs, for individuals and the country as a whole, consumers are looking towards AI for more affordable self-diagnostics. This is evident in more than AI health apps, but also in many at home health kits such as, EverlyWell and QuestDirect, stay tuned for our Data Privacy Series article on at home diagnostics coming soon.

Artificial Intelligence is improving the healthcare space at rapid speed and the technology is only getting better. So the question that must be posed is:


Could AI be the key to solving the $760 billion healthcare crisis?


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Alexa, How are you using my data?

Smart Home technology is a well saturated market with technology that just a short few years ago many thought could not be possible. We have long talked about voice assistants and video enabled devices but now technology that was once thought to be futuristic has arrived, seemingly omnipresent in many households around the global. Not only are Artificial Intelligence enhanced video enabled devices now available but they come in many varieties, from home protection to two-way video chatting with your pet.


Video “chat” with a pet?….

When did animals start chatting?


With these ever present devices in so many households – cameras, digital assistants, smart TVs, smart thermostats and more – are we enhancing our physical privacy or actually putting it in jeopardy? Are the benefits, such as automation, smart phone remote capabilities and more, worth the risk of data privacy?

Are you taking advantage of Smart Tech, or is it taking advantage of you?

So what’s the big deal if your smart home has data that’s making your life easier? Amazon’s Alexa can make it easier for you to order more household items. Google Home can integrate with Google Nest to allow you to control your A/C by simply telling it to change the temperature. All great features that help make things a little bit more convenient in our day to day, but what exactly are these companies doing with our data?

Amazon is pretty transparent in regards to the voice data Alexa is storing, a quick look on their website tells us that. But what about Google, their biggest competitor in the Smart Home space? Google is fairly transparent as well, though as previously mentioned in the intro post, changing your privacy settings may impact your service. Google’s privacy policy website tells us that they are mostly using your saved data to improve searches and targeted ads, see this video below:

These are great examples of transparency from these corporations and they outline relatively mundane uses for your data but it’s still important to understand. The future consequences of these corporations having your stored data should be the biggest concern. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2010:

“One of the things that eventually happens … is that we don’t need you to type at all,” later adding: “Because we know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less guess what you’re thinking about.”

Eric Schmidt

Adapt that quote to the Smart Home and eventually Google doesn’t need you to speak to Google Home, rather the A/C just changes to suit your pre-determined preferences when you arrive home because of patterns in your stored data combined with Artificial Intelligence. Alexa doesn’t need you to tell her to order paper towels, they just show up because all of your stored data has told them it’s time for another shipment.

While these specific examples of transparency regarding data storage are promising, consider how much you’re willing to give away and where the line is with your data privacy. Consider the fact that these devices are always listening and while the corporations behind them may be simply using this data to “train” their AI, the government or third party apps could be using this data for other reasons.

In 2018 law enforcement subpoenaed Amazon for Amazon Echo data as evidence in a criminal trial for murder. The lines between privacy, technology and criminal justice are changing daily. Amazon is not the only tech company that has had this happen, Fitbit and Apple have run into similar situations.  While most technology companies are quick to defend consumer privacy the question still stands:


How much of your personal privacy are you willing to
give away?


Letting AI into our daily lives is not something to fear but maintaining control over data and privacy should be a top concern. There’s many ways to protect your privacy, or at least limit your exposure, while utilizing the benefits of Smart Home tech. Awareness is the first step in achieving enhanced privacy. Visit 101 Data Protection Tips for a comprehensive list of ways to attempt to protect your privacy.


Up next: Data Privacy Part Four


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Robotics: Automation or Artificial Intelligence?

The rise of robotics – a long touted seismic shift in human existence, the day an inanimate creature is brought to life.  A scary reality in the minds of many conspiracy theorists, and a reality many tech leaders would have us believe is already upon us.  But how close are we to engineering a robotic race?

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell, 1984

It’s difficult to not think about physical robots tackling common human tasks when we see the word robotics, but now robotics refers to a much larger application of technology and rising industry. Robotics refers to a focus on creating efficiency and replicating mundane tasks, a world that exists beyond purely physical robots, giving rise to automation bots.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an example of an automation bot operating in a digital world. You may be thinking, obviously it’s automation, it’s even in the name, but what is RPA? Used to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as data entry, RPA is a programmable “bot” that automates a process in order to free up more time for humans that would otherwise be doing these mundane tasks. RPA cannot be considered Artificial Intelligence as it does not have the ability to understand the implications of the tasks it is performing, or predict future scenarios arising from the performance of these tasks.

Amazon Scout

In contrast, Amazon’s Scout is out on the streets in California, a physical robot, making package deliveries.  This Scout robot may be physical and operate in the real world but similarly to RPA it is another example of automation, lacking human intuition. Just like RPA this Scout robot is programmed to deliver a package straight to your door, removing this repetitive task, lessening the burden on man and machine, but the bot is not capable of modifying the delivery location to the back door under the overhang when rain is predicted, unless the delivery instructions are explicitly programmed to do so.  Far from artificial intelligence, the Scout is simply a machine programmed to automate a repetitive human function.

While individuals commonly mistake robotics as artificial intelligence, it’s important to understand why RPA and delivery robots are not examples of true artificial intelligence. Are they intelligent bots? Maybe. They certainly process and execute complicated instructions and factor many variables, but they lack inherent cognitive function.  Humans are constantly concerned about the demise of humanity as robots are brought to life, but because artificial intelligence still lacks the ability to replicate common sense, the rise of the robotic race will still remain in the halls of science fiction.



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Data Privacy Series

When’s the last time you read the terms and conditions before clicking “accept” as you downloaded the hottest new app to your smartphone? Do you really know what companies are doing with your data from your search history, the pictures on your phone, or even your personal health records?

How our data,
personal details and digital patterns, is being used by the scores of apps,
programs, and devices we interact with on a daily basis remains a mystery. When
we click “Accept” on the terms and conditions page, usually in a
hurry, we are blindly 
“choosing” to opt in to whatever data collection and privacy
infringements the developer has built into the technology. What’s more, most
companies use vague statements on their websites regarding what they are doing
with your data and even threaten to impact your service if you decide not to
share your data.

For example, this snippet comes directly from Nest’s FAQ’s:

Nest FAQs

How important is that app or device?  Is it worth signing over your digital rights?


Join the
SolvetheUnsolvable team this month to explore how private your data really is…

Facial Recognition,
friend or foe? Family Heritage Mapping, a key to the past or losing control of
your future?… Who else is checking in on grandma? The hidden dangers in Smart
Home technology. Are you using your cell phone, or is it using you?

Check back in on
Wednesdays this October to learn more about data privacy…

Up next: Data Privacy Part Four


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Data Bias on the Daily: Is AI hindering her job search?

The gender pay gap and women’s representation in leadership roles continues to captivate headlines but what action is really being taken… It’s time to take a journey through the application process for a young adult female, let’s call her Mira, looking to land an interview in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) focused corporation…

A large part of Mira’s job search is online, where she will turn to various social platforms to seek out new opportunities, and depending on the channel she picks, she will be shown job advertisements that ultimately will be based on biased pay per click (PPC) and purchasing algorithms.

Advertising a STEM job across various social networks reached 20% fewer females than males, even though it is illegal to gender bias in both the US and Europe.

Management Science Study

Since advertising algorithms are designed to optimise advertising spend, and maximise reach, less potential female candidates were exposed to the ad and therefore did not get the opportunity to apply. To put it simply, the algorithms are biased against female candidates due to the higher cost of reaching them, even if ultimately the female candidate would be a better hire and take less resources to train.

Despite all of these challenges and biases facing her, Mira chugs along and finds a job posting in her field that captures her attention. Upon reading further into the job and the company, she is both consciously and unconsciously influenced by the language used to describe the role which will determine her next step. The STEM industry, particularly, is imbalanced due to a lack of women being trained and therefore is an industry that remains largely male-dominated. This transfers into the biased language used in the industries’ job listings, which in turn biases the data the job board algorithms are trained on.

A University of Waterloo and Duke University study showed that male-dominated industries (STEM industries) use masculine-themed words (like “leader”, “competitive” and “dominant”) which when interpreted by female applicants deteriorated their perception of the “job’s appeal” and their level of “belongingness” even if they felt able to perform the job. Above this, it is proven that a female will only apply for a job if she fulfills 100% of the criteria, whereas males will apply if they feel they fulfill only 60%.

Determined as ever, Mira eventually finds a job description and company she feels confident about, she submits an application. Her CV and cover letter are parsed and ranked alongside other applicants, male and female. Each success factor identified within the words Mira has used, like her programming skills, is weighted according to what has been historically successful in the past for that particular company.

In the age of Artificial Intelligence, past hiring decisions are used to train algorithms to identify the best suited candidates for the company. The issue with biased data is that even if gender is excluded from the application itself, the gender distribution of the training data may be strongly imbalanced since the industry has been historically male-dominated. This means that even if Mira gets to the point where the hiring company or job board puts her resume through their fit algorithm, she still may not receive the interview based on the inherent bias in the program.


If you’re not convinced by Mira’s journey, here’s a real life example: Amazon’s experimental hiring tool was used to screen and rate resumes based on historical hiring patterns. To date, a majority of Amazon employees were males and inevitably the system taught itself to penalise female resumes, with far greater efficiency than a human.


Still unsure if data bias is
perpetuating gender bias in STEM? Check out these articles from others in the
industry:

How Unconscious Bias Holds Women Back

Mitigating Gender Bias

AI Is Demonstrating Gender Bias


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