Updates from Siemens

How Orlando’s Work With Digital Twins May Change How We Engineer Everything
By Michael Keller – This is the home of BRIDG, a public-private partnership established to bring advanced microelectronics research to market through the fabrication of silicon wafers. Printed on these wafers are the microchips that enable everything from smartphones to aircraft guidance systems. The BRIDG facility, the newest of its kind in the country, can produce a mix of single wafers for prototyping and support low-volume production. Each wafer is capable of holding thousands of microchips.

“Whether we’re talking about the automotive industry, healthcare, or aerospace and defense, these chips are integral to microelectronics in our modern world,” said Fran Korosec, BRIDG’s vice president of program management.

Building chips on these wafers is no small feat. A chip could have tens of millions of transistors on every square millimeter. To help with this complex work, BRIDG is among the first in the semiconductor industry to rely on complete digital replicas of physical chip components and the physical manufacturing process used to make them.

It’s an innovation called the digital twin, and both BRIDG and Orlando are at the forefront of bringing this technology to industry. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Machine learning can help money managers time markets, build portfolios, and manage risk
By Michael Maiello – It’s been two decades since IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess champion Garry Kasparov, and computers have become even smarter. Machines can now understand text, recognize voices, classify images, and beat humans in Go, a board game more complicated than chess, and perhaps the most complicated in existence.

And research suggests today’s computers can also predict asset returns with an unprecedented accuracy.

Yale University’s Bryan T. Kelly, Chicago Booth’s Dacheng Xiu, and Booth PhD candidate Shihao Gu investigated 30,000 individual stocks that traded between 1957 and 2016, examining hundreds of possibly predictive signals using several techniques of machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence. They conclude that ML had significant advantages over conventional analysis in this challenging task.

ML uses statistical techniques to give computers abilities that mimic and sometimes exceed human learning. The idea is that computers will be able to build on solutions to previous problems to eventually tackle issues they weren’t explicitly programmed to take on.

“At the broadest level, we find that machine learning offers an improved description of asset price behavior relative to traditional methods,” the researchers write, suggesting that ML could become the engine of effective portfolio management, able to predict asset-price movements better than human managers. more>

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Updates from Ciena

Breaking Down the Barriers Between IT & Network
By James Crawshaw – “Digital transformation” initiatives in the telecom sector generally fall into one of three key categories: customer engagement, new services, and operational agility. The first category is all about meeting customer expectations for ease of ordering, delivery and problem resolution – for today’s existing services.

The second category is about finding new sources of revenue either by becoming aggregators of third-party content and services (platform companies), or by enabling internal innovation through the adoption of DevOps and a fast-fail mentality.

The third category may be less sexy, but it is no less important. Increased agility of network and IT operations through greater automation not only has potentially significant cost saving benefits, it is also an enabler of the better customer experience and faster time-to-market that underpin the first two transformation categories.

One of the great challenges with automation in the telecom industry is that the networking and IT domains remain heavily siloed in many service providers today with hundreds or even thousands of manual processes required to map data from Operation Support Systems (planning, fulfillment, assurance, etc.) to network management and orchestration systems.

Not only does this lead to a lot of “swivel-chair” operations to bridge the gap but fragmented data systems reduce the visibility into real-time service and network state.

The quick fix is to over-provision network resources to cope with this lack of visibility but that leads to unnecessarily high capex in addition to the opex overhead associated with highly manual operations. more>

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Updates from Adobe

Bringing Language to Life
By Amy Papaelias – Isabel Lea didn’t expect to fall down the rabbit hole of variable font technology. But since the London-based graphic designer started the Adobe Creative Residency in May 2018, she’s repeatedly found herself at the intersection between technological experimentation and typographic innovation.

If you haven’t spent much time on that particular corner, you may not be familiar with the variable font format. It can reduce web font file sizes and give you loads of typographic variations. (Let’s say you’re unsuccessfully searching for a condensed but slightly bold version of a typeface for a web design. If you choose a variable font, you simply tweak the font’s values using CSS until you get exactly what you’re after.)

However, the possibilities go way beyond the typographically practical, into animation and other areas people are just beginning to explore.

Lea first learned about variable fonts at a two-week intensive type design course at the University of Reading’s Department of Typography. “We had a hands-on workshop where we were looking at variable fonts,” says Lea.

“I thought, ‘Great, you can make a font pulse. Can you make it pulse to something, like music?'” more>

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The new spirit of postcapitalism

Capitalism emerged in the interstices of feudalism and Paul Mason finds a prefiguring of postcapitalism in the lifeworld of the contemporary European city.
By Paul Mason – Raval, Barcelona, March 2019. The streets are full of young people (and not just students)—sitting, sipping drinks, gazing more at laptops than into each other’s eyes, talking quietly about politics, making art, looking cool.

A time traveler from their grandparents’ youth might ask: when is lunchtime over? But it’s never over because for many networked people it never really begins. In the developed world, large parts of urban reality look like Woodstock in permanent session—but what is really happening is the devalorization of capital.

But just 20 years after the roll-out of broadband and 3G telecoms, information resonates everywhere in social life: work and leisure have become blurred; the link between work and wages has been loosened; the connection between the production of goods and services and the accumulation of capital is less obvious.

The postcapitalist project is founded on the belief that, inherent in these technological effects lies a challenge to the existing social relations of a market economy, and in the long term, the possibility of a new kind of system that can function without the market, and beyond scarcity.

But during the past 20 years, as a survival mechanism, the market has reacted by creating semi-permanent distortions which—according to neoclassical economics—should be temporary.

In response to the price-collapsing effect of information goods, the most powerful monopolies ever seen have been constructed. Seven out of the top ten global corporations by market capitalization are tech monopolies; they avoid tax, stifle competition through the practice of buying rivals and build ‘walled gardens’ of interoperable technologies to maximize their own revenues at the expense of suppliers, customers and (through tax avoidance) the state. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How sales taxes could boost economic growth
By Dee Gill – The fight against sluggish global economic growth has been expensive, protracted, and unexpectedly vexing, leaving central bankers in developed economies with a laundry list of shared frustrations. Meager economic growth, flagging wages, and low inflation persist, in spite of bankers’ monetary stimuli, and threaten to quash upward mobility for young job seekers and midcareer employees in even the richest countries.

There’s a poster child for what countries do not want to become: Japan. The former economic powerhouse has been stuck in low-growth purgatory since 1991. And yet, as much as they’d like to avoid it, some countries have been sliding in that direction.

Many big economies are stagnating, and economists are running out of options to fix them. The conventional monetary policy for encouraging spending has been to drop short-term interest rates. But with rates already near, at, or below zero, that method is all but exhausted. Some economists have also started to empirically and theoretically question the power of forward guidance, in which central banks publicize plans for future interest-rate policies, at the zero lower bound.

Central banks and governments badly need a new stimulus tool, preferably one that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Some researchers are proposing a fix that might sound unappetizing: raising sales taxes as a means of jump-starting economic growth.

Francesco D’Acunto of the University of Maryland, Daniel Hoang of Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Chicago Booth’s Michael Weber find evidence that a preannounced tax hike—a 3-percentage-point increase in Germany’s Value Added Tax enacted in 2007—provided just the kind of growth stimulus central banks desperately need today. more>

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Updates from Ciena

AI Ops: Let the data talk
The catalysts and ROI of AI-powered network analytics for automated operations were the focus of discussion for service providers at the recent FutureNet conference in London. Blue Planet’s Marie Fiala details the conversation.
By Marie Fiala – Do we need perfect data? Or is ‘good enough’ data good enough? Certainly, there is a need to find a pragmatic approach or else one could get stalled in analysis-paralysis. Is closed-loop automation the end goal? Or is human-guided open loop automation desired? If the quality of data defines the quality of the process, then for closed-loop automation of critical business processes, one needs near-perfect data. Is that achievable?

These issues were discussed and debated at last week’s FutureNet conference in London, where the show focused on solving network operators’ toughest challenges. Industry presenters and panelists stayed true to the themes of AI and automation, all touting the necessity of these interlinked software technologies, yet there were varied opinions on approaches. Network and service providers such as BT, Colt, Deutsche Telekom, KPN, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia, Telus, Turk Telkom, and Vodafone weighed in on the discussion.

On one point, most service providers were in agreement: there is a need to identify a specific business use case with measurable ROI, as an initial validation point when introducing AI-powered analytics into operations. more>

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All the ways recycling is broken—and how to fix them

You may throw a plastic container in the recycling bin and assume it’s going to easily become a new item. But every step of our recycling system—from product design to collection to sorting—has major flaws. Fortunately, promising technology is starting to come online that could revolutionize the process.
By Adele Peters – You may have read that there’s a recycling crisis in the U.S. After years of accepting our used plastic and cardboard, China now won’t take it, which often means there is no place for it to go. Some city recycling programs—unable to find other buyers—have quietly started sending recyclables to incinerators or landfills, news that could make anyone question the point of separating your trash at all.

Each year, by one estimate, Americans throw out around 22 million tons of products that could have been recycled. Tens of millions of homes don’t have access to recycling; for those that do, everything from broken blenders to old clothing still ends up in the trash. If you drop an empty package in a recycling bin and it’s trucked off to a sorting facility, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will be recycled. You might have unwittingly tossed something that your local recycling service doesn’t accept, or the package might have been designed in a way that makes it unrecyclable.

Some parts of the system do work. The aluminum in a beer can, for example, can easily be made into new beer cans, over and over again. But a plastic package might be chopped up, melted, mixed with other types of plastic, and “downcycled” into a lower-quality material that can only be used for certain products, like park benches or black plastic planters.

When the U.S. was sending much of its paper and plastic trash to China, for more than two decades, the bales were often so poorly sorted that they contained garbage. The system never extracted the full value from those materials.

When a truck picks up recyclables from curbside bins, they take them to sorting facilities. Inside these centers, called “MRFs” or materials recycling facilities, people work with automated equipment to sort through the detritus of everyday life. Trucks dump mixed materials into the facility, where it’s loaded onto a conveyor belt; typically, in a first step, people standing next to the machine quickly pull out trash and materials like plastic bags that can jam equipment.

As materials move through a facility, the system uses gravity, screens, filters, and other techniques to separate out paper, metal, glass, and plastics; optical sorting equipment identifies each type of plastic. more>

How digital technology is destroying our freedom

“We’re being steamrolled by our devices” —Douglas Rushkoff
By Sean Illing – There’s a whole genre of literature called “technological utopianism.” It’s an old idea, but it reemerged in the early days of the internet. The core belief is that the world will become happier and freer as science and technology develops.

The role of the internet and social media in everything from the spread of terrorist propaganda to the rise of authoritarianism has dampened much of the enthusiasm about technology, but the spirit of techno-utopianism lives on, especially in places like Silicon Valley.

Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist at Queens College in New York, is the latest to push back against the notion that technology is driving social progress. His new book, Team Human, argues that digital technology in particular is eroding human freedom and destroying communities.

We’re social creatures, Rushkoff writes in his book, yet we live in a consumer democracy that restricts human connection and stokes “whatever appetites guarantee the greatest profit.” If we want to reestablish a sense of community in this digital world, he argues, we’ll have to become conscious users of our technology — not “passive objects” as we are now.

But what does that mean in practical terms? Technology is everywhere, and we’re all more or less dependent upon it — so how do we escape the pitfalls? more>

How to govern a digitally networked world

Because the internet is a network of networks, its governing structures should be too. The world needs a digital co-governance order that engages public, civic and private leaders.
By Anne-Marie Slaughter and Fadi Chehadé – Governments built the current systems and institutions of international cooperation to address 19th- and 20th-century problems. But in today’s complex and fast-paced digital world, these structures cannot operate at ‘internet speed’.

Recognizing this, the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, last year assembled a high-level panel—co-chaired by Melinda Gates and the Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma—to propose ways to strengthen digital governance and cooperation. (Fadi Chehadé, co-author of this article, is also a member.) It is hoped that the panel’s final report, expected in June, will represent a significant step forward in managing the potential and risks of digital technologies.

Digital governance can mean many things, including the governance of everything in the physical world by digital means. We take it to mean the governance of the technology sector itself, and the specific issues raised by the collision of the digital and physical worlds (although digital technology and its close cousin, artificial intelligence, will soon permeate every sector).

Because the internet is a network of networks, its governing structures should be, too. Whereas we once imagined that a single institution could govern global security or the international monetary system, that is not practical in the digital world. No group of governments, and certainly no single government acting alone, can perform this task.

Instead, we need a digital co-governance order that engages public, civic and private leaders on the basis of three principles of participation.

First, governments must govern alongside the private and civic sectors in a more collaborative, dynamic and agile way.

Secondly, customers and users of digital technologies and platforms must learn how to embrace their responsibilities and assert their rights.

Thirdly, businesses must fulfill their responsibilities to all of their stakeholders, not just shareholders. more>