Tag Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Recognising Intelligence at the Edge: AI Earns a Degree at CMU

In May 2018, CMU (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) announced that it is offering, what is believed to be*, the first undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence in North America. It will be a B.S. in AI (BSAI).

Artificial intelligence is changing the way we work, play, and live. We interact with AI every day, even though we may not realise it. Think Siri or Alexa. Smart offices. Self-driving cars. Music recommendations. IoT devices everywhere from hospitals and transportation hubs to the factory floor. AI is the embodiment of the intelligent digital edge and its impact is growing exponentially right alongside the demand for AI specialists. This new undergraduate degree is designed to address the increasing need for talent in the incredibly tight AI job market.

The leaders in AI have been the movers and shakers in the tech industry. Think Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber. They’re fuelling the demand for AI expertise.

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” according to Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”

A statement from the university says the new AI program is intended to give students in-depth understanding of “ways to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.”

The program is intended to educate students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, Research Professor of Robotics and Computer Science and director of the new AI degree program. It will focus more on how complex inputs like vision, language, and huge databases can be used “to make decisions or enhance human capabilities,” he explained in a statement. But he also says the curriculum will include classes on ethics and social responsibility to encourage students to use AI for social good, such as healthcare and transportation.

“We believe that students will be well prepared for graduate work in AI and related disciplines, such as machine learning, robotics and language technologies. The coursework will give students a very solid foundation in math, statistics and computer science, along with a comprehensive exposure to the breadth of subjects in artificial intelligence, including symbolic and probabilistic reasoning, search and planning, graphical models, robotics, computer vision, language understanding, and human-AI interaction. Students will learn the fundamental theory behind these subjects, along with how to use and develop AI techniques. Many opportunities will be available for undergraduates to do research, which will further help prepare them for graduate work.”

The Original Tech Incubator
For more than half a century, CMU has been at the forefront of computer science and AI. The first AI computer program, Logic Theorist, was developed there in 1956. The school launched the first computer programming course in 1958, the world’s first PhD program in robotics as well as the world’s first Machine Learning Department. In 1982, grad students developed the first IoT device, a Coca Cola vending machine that checked stock and measured temperature. The school has always been ahead of the tech curve and it still is. In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked CMU’s School of Computer Science (SCS) as the number one graduate school for artificial intelligence in the USA. Now it will be the number one school for undergrads as well.

Tough Competition
The program, set to begin in autumn 2018, will only accept 100 students who can choose AI as a major after their first year. So that’s about 30-35 students per year. Competition for spots will be tough as SCS enrols approximately 700-750 students a year. That means the AI program will account for only about four percent of newly enrolled students.

CMU is known as a hotbed of talent and student start-ups and spin-offs are common. On graduation or before, student AI projects may end up in commercial applications. CMU’s Centre for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation helps undergrads and grad students take student projects to market.

The Tech Talent Grab
Pittsburgh is also a hotbed for talent in the tech industry. The city is home to CMU’s Robotics Institute and its National Robotics Engineering Centre, which develops robotics solutions from concept to commercialisation. CMU’s Entertainment Technology Centre is also a geek haven and has been called the Disneyland of video game schools and interactive entertainment.

Adding to the mix in Pittsburgh and the grab for talent are some high-tech giants. Google landed in Pittsburgh in 2006 and has recruited many CMU SCS grads to develop new digital edge applications such as voice assistants. Facebook recently announced that it is opening new artificial intelligent research labs in Pittsburgh and Seattle, Facebook AI Research Labs (FAIR), making competition for recent grads even stronger. In addition, Uber is developing self-driving technologies at its Advanced Technologies Group, which is right down the road from the Robotics Centre. Pittsburgh is also on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2.

Lastly, south of Pittsburgh, is Black Box’s headquarters and where we are quite proud to be considered one of the leading providers in intelligent digital edge solutions, including those used to make AI possible. AI is big and getting bigger. The artificial intelligence market is predicted to be a $100 billion industry by 2025. The question now is how can businesses use AI to give them a competitive edge. To do that, they need the right partner to help them embrace digital transformation and leverage the right technologies at the intelligent digital edge.

To learn more about how we can help you with your transformation at the Intelligent Digital Edge, go to BlackBox.co.uk


  • The Milwaukee School of Engineering announced a Computer Science degree focused on AI that’s also scheduled to launch in September. The school said it will offer a bachelor of science in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence.


Edge Technologies Make Amazon Go

Amazon recently opened its revolutionary, no-check out convenience/grocery store, Amazon Go, at its headquarters in Seattle, WA. The store, announced in December 2016, opened to the public in January 2018 after beta testing for a year with employees.

We don’t know how the concept of a no-check out store will change the face of retail in the future. But for now, it’s truly marketing at the intelligent digital edge, the place where people and devices (and groceries) meet.

What is Amazon Go?

The Amazon Go concept is that customers can walk in, pick up items off the shelf and “Just Walk Out.” There are no baskets, no registers and no cashiers. But there are plenty of employees: shelf stockers, ID checkers in the wine and beer section and chefs making sandwiches and grab-and-go meals.

Here’s how it works. Customers download the Amazon Go app, which is linked to the customer’s Amazon account and the associated credit card. As they enter the 1800 square foot store, they scan their smartphone code at one of several glass security gates that are futuristic versions of subway turnstiles.

Shoppers then pick up the items they want. Once selected, the system adds the items to a virtual cart. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, it’s automatically deleted from the virtual cart. As customers leave the store, the app automatically charges the account and Amazon sends an electronic receipt logging what was purchased, how much it was and how long the customer was in the store.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology said “People are rushed. They’re in a hurry. People don’t like waiting in lines.” He added that the store concept is “to be respectful of your time as a customer.” The idea is to create an “effortless experience for customers.”

How Does it Work?

Amazon isn’t saying how the system works other than it combines computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion technologies, much like the technologies that guide self-driving cars. Kumar says the idea behind the technology is to “push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning.”

While the AI and machine-learning technology to make Amazon Go work was four years in the making, the foundational technology that enables the intelligence at the digital edge is based on wired and wireless connectivity.

Walk into Amazon Go and look up. You’ll see a hundred black, boxy cameras covering the ceiling. These cameras do the computer vision work, detect motion and see what interactions customers have with the shelves. (Amazon did say the cameras include infrared sensors, but that it is not employing facial recognition technology.) The cameras provide seamless detection as the shoppers move from area to area in the store. The computer vision enables computers to process the information and determine which items were selected.

The sensor fusion technology is embedded in the store shelves. It detects motion and registers when a customer picks something up or puts it back on the shelf. Because the system knows everything by its weight, customers can’t “accidentally” pick up two of an item. The last part of the technology is the artificial intelligence or the machine-learning algorithms, which enables the computers to determine what the item is and to learn by continuously collecting and analysing data.

What’s Next?

The entire concept of Amazon Go brings up some questions. Does Amazon plan to roll-out this technology to its recently acquired Whole Foods stores or to its current 13 brick-and-mortar bookstores? The company says there are no plans for a national rollout and it plans on using the no-register shopping technology only at this Amazon Go. There are no more Amazon Go stores planned at this point.

In addition, the data collection and tracking technology Amazon is using can raise some privacy concerns. The data Amazon is collecting from its customers will accumulate exponentially over time. How will Amazon use that data? What about Amazon Prime customers? Will Amazon Go purchases data be incorporated in regular Amazon shopping suggestions and recommendations? Every time an Amazon Go customer visits the store, the Go system learns more about their shopping behaviour and preferences. As a smart marketer, it’s a good guess that Amazon will use this data, tailor products and services for its customers and offer them a more engaging, personalised shopping experience at the digital edge in the store and online.

Foundational Edge Technology

Engineering the right foundational and enabling technologies for a smart store like Amazon Go is more than artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s the right connectivity environment that makes it all possible. For instance, it’s the wired infrastructure that connects and powers the cameras. It’s the wireless capabilities that enable the system to talk to your smartphone. It’s the IT framework that provides 99.9% uptime. It’s a partner that understands the intelligent edge and can help you realise your digital transformation to some really cool technologies. Learn more at BlackBox.co.uk/Intelligent-Digital-Edge


How Artificial Intelligence is Used Across Industries

In our last post, we took a look at how artificial intelligence is the digital edge. In this post, we’ll take a look at some examples of how AI is being used in different industries.

First, let’s define artificial intelligence (AI). It is automating processes that previously required human interaction. A high-end example is a driverless car. A simpler example is a chess-playing computer. AI is changing how we work and play and it is touching every aspect of our lives. AI is the intelligent digital edge. It’s where people and devices meet. It’s processing data on the spot rather than sending it to the cloud.

AI is becoming a game changer in the financial industry. Because AI learns through progressive, deep learning algorithms, it can be predictive. In the financial industry, that means AI can be used to prevent fraud rather than just detect it. AI can also be used to change the customer experience too. For example, Capital One became the first financial services company to enable customer account access through Alexa. Today, 20% of people do their banking digitally and most financial executives believe that AI will become the primary customer touchpoint by 2020.

In a survey of 2500 senior IT decision makers conducted by Opinion Research for Mitel, 95% say digital transformation is a key component in improving the customer experience. 56% say a better customer experience results in higher customer satisfaction.

Today, customers, especially millennials, already embrace digital technology. They expect a highly personalised experience that ties together voice, video, movie and online channels. AI has already changed shopping by providing personalised recommendations based on previous customer preferences. AI can also help with store management in terms of stock, layout analysis, sales predictions, and more.

Machine learning, as a subset of AI, is already a fixture in factories and monitoring stations. But, AI has more critical uses in manufacturing and industry. By analysing IoT data, AI can forecast loads and demand, predict hardware failures and initiate recovery procedures so crews can be sent out for preventative maintenance. It’s estimated that by 2020, more than 50% of internet traffic could come from IoT sensors as the number of connected devices grows to 34 billion.

Security and Public Safety
AI is becoming a critical component in public safety. For security and surveillance cameras, AI can become the digital eyes, instead of human eyes, and analyse movement. This can help police spot crimes and monitor public spaces for accidents and disturbances.

In addition, facial recognition is a big part of security systems at borders, airports, etc. Computers can scan through thousands of images faster and more accurately than a human can. Facial recognition security is now also being used almost everywhere from smartphones and building access systems to credit cards and driver’s licenses.

Artificial intelligence is transforming every aspect of healthcare and 2018 is expected to be an explosive year for AI in healthcare. The possibilities are limitless. AI can act as a virtual assistant and help doctors diagnose patients, provide treatment plans, analyse lab tests, etc. It can also act as a life coach reminding people to take their pills, track medication consumption and provide pain management procedures. AI is becoming a critical component in healthcare from the OR and ER to remote patient visit systems.

Personalised AI
Artificial intelligence is personal too. You interact with it every time you ask Siri a question or tell Alexa to turn on the lights. Music recommendation systems, such as Spotify or Pandora, are based on artificial intelligence as well.

Smart buildings
Artificial intelligence is the basis for smart buildings. A great example of this is The Edge, possibly the smartest building in the world. It’s also officially the greenest office building in the world. The Edge is Deloitte’s headquarters in the Netherlands and a building that knows where you live, what car you drive, who you’re meeting with today, where to find a desk, your preferences for temperature and light, and more. The Edge is the most fully realised example of using intelligent edge technology and the IoT to change the way, how and where we work. For example, every light is powered by an Ethernet cable. The building is packed with 28,000 sensors. It’s a cool place where people want to work. Take a look at The Edge and see for yourself.

Learn more about The Edge in this Bloomberg article.

Begin your digital transformation
These are just a few examples of the rise of artificial intelligence. As the world of internet of things expands, many devices are being created to process data on their own. These intelligent IoT devices do more than simply collect and deliver data. Many process data on the spot rather than send it to the cloud for analysis. Intelligent IoT devices are beginning to effectively analyse diverse sets of data to produce value in real-time – and at the edge.

Learn how you can begin your digital transformation to the intelligent digital edge at BlackBox.co.uk