Health service could be saved by robots with artificial emotional intelligence

My new resolution is to be less robophobic, says Nick Booth. There are good reasons to fear these electronic ‘jobsworths’. Robots write apps, books, songs and slaughter chess grandmasters. Worse still, some fiend has invented a prototype robotic reporter. I’m now competing with an ‘aggrievance’ (I believe that’s the collective noun for journalists) of freelance cyber-scribblers.

Still, not all robots are like that. Some of them might actually help us. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) could use some support at the moment. As I write, it’s been announced that 50,000 operations are going to be cancelled.

Believe me, it’s no fun queueing for an operation. For some reason, it takes two weeks for a surgeon to write a letter to your doctor and post it second class. (Why didn’t someone buy them a computer? You can get one for less than £11 billion (€12.54 billion) these days, if you’re prepared to shop around. And, if you avoid the traditional NHS suppliers, the computer might even work!).

But under the current system, you can wait three years after your bike crash for an operation. By the time the surgeons hack away the scar tissue on your arm, the nerve they are trying to un-trap is dead anyway. So, having operated on you too late, they send you on your way with the cheery advice to expect ‘atrophy’ in your arm muscles.

Artificial empathy

Having been the subject of that case particular study, I’m suddenly in favour of robot surgeons. Let’s hope they can learn artificial empathy.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was founded as an academic discipline in 1956. Its founding logic was that any human activity, if broken down precisely enough, could be done by a machine if we put enough thought into the instructions.

I can see why surgeons might not give patients much thought. The theatre work alone would put most mortals into early retirement. Then there’s the emotional toll of dealing with patients, the constant pressure to update skills and keep up with the waves of research. Not to mention the politics. Anything that relieves them of any of those burdens is a good thing, surely.

An artificially intelligent robot can scan through Gigabytes of data at lightning speed. Researchers at the North Carolina School of Medicine used IBM Watson’s AI engine to examine 1,000 cancer diagnoses. In 99% of the cases Watson came up with the same treatment plans as the oncologists in a fraction of the time.

Watson has a limitless capacity to digest complex information without tiring. Which is possibly why, in 30% of cases, Watson spotted treatment options that physicians missed.

Robot surgeon

In London’s Princess Grace Hospital, they use a robot surgeon called MAKO for knee and hip replacements.

Sixty-four year-old Bernice Glatt had a third of her knee replaced by MAKO under a procedure from which the patient recovers much quicker than they would from traditional surgery, the hospital says.

The MAKO robot allows surgeons to plan and execute surgery more precisely. With an increasingly aged and obese population, the number of hip replacements will rise accordingly, so anything that can surgically cut the queue will […]

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Editorial: Alibaba CEO believes AI could trigger WWIII

While many technology leaders are bullish about the positive aspects of AI, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has warned it could trigger World War 3.

Ma points towards previous technological revolutions triggering some of the darkest periods in history.

“The first technology revolution caused the First World War, and the second technology revolution caused the Second World War,” said Ma, according to a story in Business Today. “Now we have the third revolution.”

Alibaba is a $ 24 billion Chinese giant which focuses on e-commerce, retail, internet, and other verticals which are constantly disrupted by new technology. Overall, the company is keen on AI and its potential, but Ma remains sceptical.

“Technology should enable people not disable them,” he said. “We should spend money on technology that empowers us and makes life better. The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs as machines will replace humans in the future.”

Ma is not alone in his concerns. Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, has famously voiced his worries on several occasions about AI becoming weaponised.

Back in September, Musk tweeted ‘It begins…’ in reference to Russian president Vladimir Putin claiming the nation which leads in AI ‘will become the ruler of the world.’

Just a month prior, AI News reported on a survey of security experts at Black Hat USA 2017. 62 percent of the infosec experts believe AI will be weaponised for use in cyberattacks within the next 12 months. With regards to who poses the biggest cybersecurity threat to the United States, Russia came out number one.

Fast-forward to November, and the first ‘Robot Ethics Charter’ is created by Andrey Neznamov — head of Russian robot research centre, Robopravo — in response to fears machines possessing AI could lead to the “destruction of humanity” if they’re not sufficiently regulated. That same month, prominent researchers began sending letters to their respective leaders calling for a global stand against AI militarisation.

Robert Work, a former deputy US secretary of defence, warned the US military must now decide if it wants to “lead the coming revolution, or fall victim to it” amid the emerging challenges from China and Russia.

Russian state media have reported on the military developing automated drones, vehicles, robots, and cruise missiles. China, meanwhile, has published a roadmap with its national plan to prioritise AI and use it for defence purposes.

Needless to say, the fears of Ma and Musk are not without substance. Without due oversight, there is potential for AI to be devastating. However, if you’re reading this, you’re likely aware of the immeasurable benefits if AI is developed and used ethically.

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, just this week even went as far as to say AI was more important than fire or electricity in a one-on-one interview with WEF representatives. Certainly, without the latter, AI wouldn’t even be possible but the sentiment about how revolutionary it will be remains.

“Anytime you work with technology, you need to learn to harness the technology while minimising the downsides,” Pichai said. “The risks [of AI] are substantial, but the way you solve it is by looking ahead, thinking about it, thinking about AI safety from day one, and to be transparent and open about how we pursue it.”

European leaders have recently been having their say on AI. German Chancellor Angela Merkel highlighted the risks and benefits which big data collection by foreign companies poses to her fellow countrymen during comments at the World Economic Forum.

“…Large American and Chinese companies are collecting more and more data while Europe is doing little,” she said. Part of this reason is the anxiety over the upcoming innovation-stifling GDPR regulations — which I warned in an editorial places European AI startups at risk of being left behind their international counterparts.

Great Britain is a leader of AI in Europe — with established players such as Google-owned DeepMind — and a new startup in the field launched, on average, every week for the last three years.

The UK must comply with GDPR regulations while it’s an EU member, but it may relax these rules once it’s left. British PM Theresa May is expected to use her keynote speech at a summit of world leaders in Davos today to call for ‘ethical oversight of AI’ – a message we can all hope is received by the international community.

(Image Credit: "E-commerce week: Youth Employment in the Digital Economy” by UNCTAD, used under CC BY-SA 2.0)

What are your thoughts on the AI concerns? Let us know in the comments.

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IoT could remake the way we think about broadband

John Deere farm equipment needs broadband too.

Amid the gadgets at CES I had a profound moment where my thinking abruptly changed. In a conversation with John Deere about 5G one of the participants mentioned that for the last year the company had been trying to work with regulatory agencies to change the way they think about the value of spectrum that provides broadband in rural areas.

Traditionally, licensed wireless spectrum is valued based on the number of people in a given area covered by those airwaves. The formula is expressed as a dollar per megahertz per pop. This means cellular spectrum in rural areas is often cheaper than in urban areas, and there are fewer incentives to push fast wired broadband to those areas.

John Deere wants to add something new to the mix to encourage Washington to promote investment in faster wireless service in rural areas.

John Deere has been adding “smart” features to its industrial farming equipment for over a decade. As computing and broadband speeds have improved, it’s adding more and more capabilities. With the acquisition last year of Blue River Technologies, it now has the ability to use computer vision on tractors to recognize weeds.

With this technology, for certain crops John Deere equipment can identify individual weeds in a row of crops and zap it with a shot of weedkiller. Through precision agriculture enabled by computers, every plant in a field can get the loving care that my father-in-law’s three tomato plants get. That boosts yields and helps address some of the big demographic challenges facing the world’s food supply.

But to boost crop yields John Deere needs connectivity. In rural areas connectivity can be hard to come by, which is why John Deere is thinking about how to get regulators to think about the value of wireless broadband by more than the traditional licensed spectrum valuation formulas.

By getting regulators to focus on more than just people, it could encourage regulators to develop programs that push fast broadband even in remote areas. Currently, rural areas can be black holes of limited connectivity. And by encouraging carriers to view rural spectrum as more valuable, farms might get better coverage.

So instead of people, regulators should think about tractors. Or wind turbines that could be repaired with the aid of a local technician and augmented reality. Or any number of devices that could be made more productive with the addition of broadband-enabled technology.

“There’s no question that the internet of things will change the value of spectrum,” says Glenn Lurie, the CEO of Synchronoss. As President and CEO of AT&T’s mobility consumer operations Lurie handled the IoT for years. When I asked him this week about valuing spectrum in rural areas with an eye for the internet of things, he was adamant that connectivity could provide value, but skeptical that the way spectrum was valued would ever change.

Jan Geldmacher, president of Sprint Business, was even more skeptical. He was concerned that if we changed the way we looked at spectrum’s value, it might disadvantage rural areas because carriers would see the cost of rural airwaves rise.

But spectrum valuations aren’t the only tool available to regulators. If they could think beyond people when determining grant recipients, or build programs that advance rural connectivity, that could work.

With 5G wireless, the ability to provide gigabit wireless access to a fixed location such as a farm becomes possible (as long as there’s a fiber connection somewhere that can take traffic to the rest of the internet). Because developments in precision agriculture or using augmented reality to fix remote pipelines or wind turbines is now a possibility, it does seem short-sighted to focus solely on people when thinking about the value of our nation’s airwaves or broadband. Sure, a person’s phone calls are important, but so is delivering a bushel of organic corn or even offering telemedicine in a remote hospital.

It’s time to start thinking of machines as a market for broadband. Not just people.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Smart speakers could spill corporate secrets, researchers warn

Smart speakers could spill corporate secrets, researchers warn

Sonos and Bose speakers could enable hackers to identify access points via which they might infiltrate companies to steal information, says Trend Micro.

Security researchers have warned that internet-connected smart speakers could expose valuable information about corporate network access points to hackers.

In a recent blog post, Trend Micro senior threat researcher Stephen Hilt warns that hackers could use IoT search website Shodan to find internet-facing smart speakers, such as ones from Sonos and Bose, that could act as useful gateways to corporate information. In his research, Hilt discovered around 4,000 to 5,000 exposed Sonos speakers as well as hundreds of Bose speakers.

“The first glaring finding was access to email addresses that are linked to music streaming services synced with the device. Another was access to a list of devices as well as shared folders that were on the same network as the test device”, he writes.

“We also got BSSID information [a type of wireless access point address] that, paired with an existing API that queries specific BSSIDs, gave us the approximate location of access points used by the test unit. And lastly, we were able to see the device’s activities, such as current songs being played, control the device remotely, as well as play music through URI paths.”

Read more: Blueborne discovered to affect Amazon Echo and Google Home

Open to snoopers?

This doesn’t just meant that hackers could take control of smart speakers, but also that they could access data on devices sharing the same network as speakers. And that’s a very worrying prospect for businesses that have these speakers dotted around offices, warehouses and factories. 

“In a workplace scenario, an exposed device which identifies and lists down other IoT devices connected to the same network can give an attacker plenty of information to work on,” Hilt writes. “Bad actors could find machines such as printers with existing vulnerabilities and use that to gather further information or as an entry point.”

In a domestic setting, Hilt goes on to warn, hackers might keep an eye on wireless access points (WAPs) the device tries to access, in order to find a user and discover when they are out of their home in order to carry out a robbery. Hackers could also send tailor-fit emails to accounts tied to the music streaming applications. This time, the email could contain a fake message from the manufacturer along with a link that downloads malware instead of a software update.

Read more: Satori malware code made public by hackers

More safety precautions needed

“While IoT devices are connected to the internet, they should never be exposed. In the case of the test device, manufacturers should make sure that ports connecting to the devices cannot be accessed directly from the internet. Manufacturers should also secure data that’s being stored or compiled by these IoT devices and conduct security audits – including regularly reading public forums discussing their products,” said Hilt.

He added that consumers and enterprise IT administrators should not rely entirely on manufacturers to do all the heavy lifting. “Users should check their routers for rules that might provide outside access to devices and folders on the network. If access is needed, it should be limited to as few devices as possible. They should enable password protection on all devices if possible and replace default passwords immediately with stronger ones.” said Hilt.

Read more: Amazon onboards new recruit, Alexa for Business

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AI diagnostics could save NHS millions, Ultromics claims

AI diagnostics set to save the NHS millions

Ultromics has developed the world’s most accurate echocardiography AI diagnostics software to boost the detection of coronary heart disease to over 90 percent.

Building on the foundation of almost a decade of imaging research by its team at Oxford University, Ultromics is releasing a new approach to the world of cardiovascular diagnostics that leverages the power of machine learning.

The system is predicted to save the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) billions of pounds by enabling heart disease and lung cancer cases to be diagnosed earlier and more accurately, avoiding expensive treatment when it’s not needed and providing it as soon as possible, when it is.

Ultromics will become available to NHS hospitals for free this summer. Sir John Bell, Chairman of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research (OSCHR), told BBC news:

“There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50 percent. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS,” Bell said.

Read more: Apple Watch KardiaBand accessory shows it’s time for IoT in healthcare

The brains behind Ultromics AI diagnostics

We’ve previously reported on the potential of AI in diagnostics. AI is able to detect things in x-rays and ultrasounds that doctors simply can’t.

The technology extracts more than 80,000 data points from a single echocardiogram image and uses machine learning to analyse them, overcoming subjectivity and increasing diagnostic accuracy of coronary heart disease from 80 percent to over 90 percent. This is thanks to the AI being trained with one of the world’s largest imaging databases.

Clinical trials across six cardiology units have proved the system’s diagnostics capabilities. Professor Paul Leeson, a cardiologist who helped develop Ultromics, says that the results show that the system has greatly outperformed his fellow heart specialists.

“As cardiologists, we accept that we don’t always get it right at the moment. But now there is a possibility that we may be able to do better.”

Of the 60,000 heart scans carried out each year around 12,000 are misdiagnosed, costing the NHS £600 million in needless surgery and the treatment of patients who had heart attacks after being given the all-clear.

Ultromics is well aware of the potential of AI to transform ultrasound interpretation more widely. The company is continuing work on a product pipeline that is built on one of the world’s largest research databases of echo images. These are transformative times for diagnostic science and AI has a bright future in healthcare.

Plus, with budgetary restrictions straining the NHS to its limits, anything that can ease the pressure will be eagerly welcomed by hospitals across the country.

Read more: GDPR could have connected healthcare providers feeling queasy in 2018

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