Michael on Linked

Showing posts with label Exploring creative solutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exploring creative solutions. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND CHILDREN OF THE 21ST CENTURY AND BEYOND

When I was a youngster in the latter part of the 1940s, my siblings and I would spend holiday time at a relative's farm. The only communication with the outside world was a telephone with the mouthpiece attached to the body of the phone and the receiver at the end of a cord. As the farm was miles from nowhere, the telephone was on a party line, a circuit shared by two or more subscribers.

As I remember, there were approximately a dozen subscribers in the party, each distinguished by a particular phone ring. When a phone call had to be made, the caller would crank a handle on the side of the phone a couple of times to reach an operator. The caller would then ask the operator to put the call through to a particular number. There was little privacy as any party member could listen in on any other party member's call.



Seventy years have gone by and the world is now connected with digital communication devices called smartphones. These phones incorporate artificial intelligence in many ways; voice recognition, facial and fingerprint recognition, camera object recognition and digital assistants with two examples being Siri and Alexa.



The words artificial intelligence or AI were first used by John McCarthy one of the "founding fathers" of artificial intelligence. He together with Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon supported the first academic conference and organized the famous Dartmouth conference in the summer of 1956 on the subject matter.

 However, the journey towards understanding whether machines could actually think for themselves began sometime before that date with the invention of the programmable computer in the 1940s. The workings of this new machine were based on mathematical reasoning and the deliberations and research behind it inspired some scientists into discussing the possibility of establishing an electronic genius, thus, an artificial intelligence.

Children born in the 1950s are now in their sixties. AI has been around for approximately fifty percent of its lifetime. Over the years, this generation and subsequent generations have adjusted to AI being commonplace in their lives; particularly those who live in the more advanced technological societies. Children born in the 21st century are born into a world where AI is integral to their daily work and personal lives. Voice-activated smartphones, AI in toys, GPS devices for family vehicles, smart homes, banking, and the internet are of the few of the applications most commonplace in the lives of children today.



Babies born in the 21st century no more think of AI as a wonder as they grow into childhood than children born in the '30s, '40s and '50s thought about radio. From the time they are old enough to grasp objects, they are subject to a broad variety of AI applications. AI is as much a part of kids lives today as radio was in the lives of children in the 1940's and 50's and television in the '70s and '80s.

As self-driving vehicles become more commonplace, children will be driven to school in autonomous school buses. Children in small rural communities will be taught by robot teachers or over the internet by intelligent bots. They will grow up in smart homes where instead of physically turning on and off lights, rooms will light up for them as they enter and darken when they leave. When they arrive home from school, AI technology will recognize them and open the door to the family home and lock it behind them where they will be greeted by their friendly AI home care bot. Children are now interacting with smart toys, refrigerators, entertainment centers, heating, lighting systems; all a part of their everyday life. And, AI researchers are now realizing that by paying attention to how children learn and process information, they can gain valuable information about how best to develop machines that learn.

Young adults and children born surrounded by digital technology for the past five years are defined as of digital natives. This group is growing exponentially. By 2025, digital natives are expected to comprise as much as 75% of the global workforce. With their comfort and knowledge of AI and machine learning technology, digital natives are now having a tremendous impact on the worldwide business landscape.

As well as the soaring number of digital natives there will be a predictable decrease in the price of digital technologies, an increase of their geographical extension and a drop in the age of users. In the most wired areas, it is now commonplace to see small children in different parts of the world watching the same cartoon or interactive children's program on their parents’ laptop, smartphone or tablet at a beach, a park or on a plane or bus, providing downtime for their parents. This is one aspect of using artificial intelligence and digital technology as a mobile child caregiver. And this is only the beginning.



Imagine children, immersing themselves into virtual reality worlds while robot nannies supervise them. Having AI friends or artificial teachers will become commonplace. As digital technology passes over our technological doorsteps, current and future parents must familiarize themselves with the latest digital tech aimed at kids to try to prepare for the impact AI will have on their lives. It is somewhat difficult for Millennial parents for children growing up with AI technologies simply take them for granted. Pre-millennial parents or digital immigrants as they are sometimes known as, still remember the time when portable, WIFI-enabled technology was the stuff of science fiction.

New parents of today and ongoing into the future need to teach their kids how to survive in the digital as well as the real world. The first generation to grow up in the 21st century will never remember a time before smartphones or smart assistants. They will likely be the first children to make riding in self-driving cars commonplace. As well, they will become the first human beings whose health care and education could be turned over to intelligent machines.

Futurists, demographers, and marketers are now beginning to agree on the specifics of what defines the next wave of humanity to follow Generation Z or Millennials. The term Generation Alpha now denotes children born into a fully-realized digital age. The term applies to children born since 2105. By 2025, Generation Alpha will account for 2 billion of the global population. These children are considered to be the most technologically savvy demographic to date.

Generation Alpha is born into the world of smartphones and tablets. They don't know or can't imagine life without them. A new generation of children's toys with personalities powered by artificial intelligence will give kids more than holiday playthings. Unlike electronic pets of the past, such as  Furby and Tamagotchi that sparked holiday crazes in the late '90s, the new robotic drones and droids on store shelves are comprised of genuine AI technology. They include face recognition; they respond to voice commands with reasonable consistency and have very sophisticated AI processors. They are microprocessors and computer systems designed specifically as hardware acceleration for artificial intelligence applications in the areas of machine learning, neural networks and machine visualization.

A very gifted little AI toy with a mind of his own is Cozmo. He is a real-life robot of a kind previously only seen in science fiction movies. This little toy has a one-of-a-kind personality that evolves the more a child plays with it. It will even nudge its owner to play and keeps kids constantly surprised. Cozmo and its more advanced cousin, Vector have been developed by Anki, a company founded by three graduates of Carnegie Mellon's robotics Ph.D program. These little tank-like robots are so full of personality that even AI experts have to take an educated guess at how intelligent their artificial intelligence is. As advances in AI progress, technology will progress from using pre-programmed responses to truly showing adaptive learning in its responses.



Parents will soon have to ask themselves the following question: Do we really want toys to grow with our children? The answer is yes; parents should. Not only will it be less drain on parents' wallets, but the new AI toys will incorporate optimal learning information because they can tailor their entertainment and messages to the level of skill a child exhibits.

Educators have long known that knowledge can be more lodged in a student’s brain when the student has to explain what they have learned to another student. In other words; peer learning. This was not anticipated in interactions with intelligent machines and is leading to a whole new field of development, not only in children but in machines that will learn for themselves.

Groundbreaking research in children's education is now indicating that a robot toy is more valuable to a child’s education, not as a teacher but as a student. In other words, by creating an intelligent robot that purposely makes mistakes and prompting the child to correct does more for the child’s education than lecturing them. 

Educational AI researchers propose that AI educational toys always need to display slightly less intelligence than their child user so as the child “teaches” the robot, the robot steps up its game and continuously challenges the child.

Where AI and the education and entertainment of children go from here, nobody knows. The only certainty is AI is here to stay. 





Monday, July 8, 2019

RENEWABLE ENERGY - CANADA and GERMANY

My wife and I recently drove from Vancouver to Saskatoon to visit friends. Neither of us had travelled through the prairies since the 1970's before we met; my wife by train from Toronto to Vancouver and me by car after crossing the border from North Dakota into Western Saskatchewan to drive back to Vancouver after an extended driving tour in the USA.

We were both amazed at the wide open spaces and the almost unlimited amount of uncluttered landscape which reminded us a great deal of northern Germany where we travelled extensively in 2017. The big difference between the prairies and northern Germany is the lack of renewable energy producing sources on the Canadian prairies. In Germany, we came across huge solar farms and wind farms, kilometer after kilometer. Farm houses, barns and most buildings had solar panels on the roofs. Towns had clusters of wind vanes on high ground near each town.
Saskatchewan grows many crop including canola and wheat that contribute a great deal to the Canadian economy, but much of the countryside we drove through lay fallow or was unused. While I understand the highest wind speeds in Saskatchewan are in the southwest, it seemed the unused land in the rest of this very flat land could be used to create massive solar farms. Given that Saskatchewan is the sunniest province in Canada, in all seasons, and boasting almost 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, building environmentally friendly, clean energy solar farms across the province would seem to be a no brainier.

Upon our return, I did a bit of research on Germany and came across the following information. Germany recently increased its renewable energy goal from 55 to 65 percent by 2030 to compensate for the decommissioning of aging nuclear and coal plants. Germany has been called "the world's first major renewable energy economy." Renewable energy in Germany is mainly based on wind, solar and biomass. Germany had the world's largest photovoltaic installed capacity until 2014, and as of 2016, it is third with 40 GW. It is also the world's third country by installed wind power capacity, at 50 GW, and second for offshore wind, with over 4 GW.

In Germany, the share of renewable electricity rose from just 3.4% of gross electricity consumption in 1990 to exceed 10% by 2005, 20% by 2011 and 30% by 2015, reaching 36.2% of consumption by year end 2017. As with most countries, the transition to renewable energy in the transport and heating and cooling sectors has been considerably slower.

Now however, more than 23,000 wind turbines and 1.4 million solar PV systems are distributed all over the country. According to official figures, around 370,000 people were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2010, particularly in small and medium-sized companies. This is an increase of around 8% compared to 2009 (around 339,500 jobs), and well over twice the number of jobs in 2004 (160,500). About two-thirds of these jobs are attributed to the Renewable Energy Sources Act.

Germany's federal government is working to increase renewable energy commercialization, with a particular focus on offshore wind farms. A major challenge is the development of sufficient network capacities for transmitting the power generated in the North Sea to the large industrial consumers in southern parts of the country. Germany's energy transition, the Energiewende, designates a significant change in energy policy from 2011. The term encompasses a reorientation of policy from demand to supply and a shift from centralized to distributed generation (for example, producing heat and power in very small cogeneration units), which should replace overproduction and avoidable energy consumption with energy-saving measures and increased efficiency.

Compare these statistics to Canada's record. In the electricity sector, hydroelectricity is the largest renewable energy source in Canada, accounting for approximately 60 percent of Canada's electricity generation. Other non-hydro renewable energy sources, such as biomass, wind, tidal and solar, contribute 3 percent, compared to Germany's 36% at the end of 2017.

The big issue with hydroelectricity is its impact on the environment due to the enormous amounts of concrete required. A major component of concrete is cement; the cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Concrete causes damage to the most fertile layer of the earth, the topsoil.

Solar energy systems have some certain negative impacts on the environment just like any other energy system, but solar energy is a lot cleaner when compared with conventional energy sources. Solar energy systems have many advantages such as being cheaper and not producing any pollutants during operation and, being almost an infinite energy source when compared with fossil fuels.
On a closing note, a common myth is that solar panels do not work during winter, but on the contrary, cold temperature will typically improve solar panel output. The white snow can also reflect light and help improve PV performance. Winter will only hurt solar production if the panels are covered with snow, a problem easily solved.

Saskatchewan, if not Canada could be a leader in this field climate and geography.



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

SUCCEEDING IN BUSINESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Executives, entrepreneurs and luminaries committed to advancing a transformation of the working world are redefining what it means to be a successful company in the 21st century.

Convening the exchange of leading practices, deepening research and recognizing those on the leading edge of forward thinking transformation, futurists aim to catalyze a global shift toward humanity in business, inspiring and enabling organizations to cultivate purpose-rich cultures that better serve their employees, customers and the world.

Its original research and year-round events, including at global forums such as the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting and the World Economic Forum, are bringing together a diverse mix of business leaders, academics, scientists, entrepreneurs and storytellers to advance the science and execution of purpose in business.

More and more, customers are making their buying decisions based on an organization's stated aims and more millennial's are choosing their employer based on its purpose. Now that companies are armed with the impetus and the business case to transform around purpose, the discussion needs to shift from ‘why’ to ‘how.’ And this is where forward thinking planning and strategies comes into play. The old quote by Mark Twain: "To stand still is to fall behind",  is more relevant today than it has ever been before.
IT'S HERE NOW



Monday, November 6, 2017

10 BUSINESS TIPS TO CONSIDER

  1. Do one thing perfectly, not 10 things poorly. 
  2. Businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success.
  3. Always be ready to pitch your business. State your mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
  4. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors who will nurture you to become a better leader and businessman. 
  5. Your wallet is your company's life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal.
  6. Never jump right into a new business without any thought or planning, but don't spend months or years waiting to execute.
  7. Find ways to prove your business model on a shoestring budget.
  8. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession.
  9. Know when it's time to walk away. If your idea doesn't pan out, reflect on what went wrong and the mistakes that were made.
  10. Failure is not inevitable. A true entrepreneur will prevail over adversity.




Sunday, November 5, 2017

FIVE THINGS YOU MUST DO WHEN STARTING BUSINESS

ONE
Own your name. Make sure the company name you choose is one with an available trademark and Internet domain name. To see if a trademark is available, you can do a trademark search online through the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website. Failure to properly obtain a trademark could put your fledgling business at risk -- not to mention that the time and money you have invested in establishing your business name could go to waste if someone else owns the trademark. Don't assume your new business name is not trademarked because you were unsuccessful finding such name on the Internet, either. Someone could have used the name for a business that closed, or filed a trademark and never used it.

TWO
Get in with the law. Understand what regulations, licenses and taxes you will need to follow, obtain and pay for your new business. After doing some initial research on your own, consult with a lawyer and accountant to confirm your understanding and to help structure your business to be in compliance with the law. Generally speaking, you will need to need to (i) ensure you are charging the correct amount of tax your service or product that your business is promoting, if applicable and (ii) obtain all of the proper licenses needed to run your new business, at a minimum. Establishing a successful business is hard enough. The last thing you need is some technical legality or administrative detail to stand in the way of your success.

THREE
How much do you need to live? When working on your business plan, do not forget about the most important factor: YOU. You need to take into account your living costs. Rent, mortgages, and health insurance -- these are all things that don’t pay for themselves. You will most likely need to cut out all the unnecessary extras you can live without. Make sure you account for unforeseen or unexpected expenses by factoring a little flexibility into your budget for those “just-in-case” moments. You might even consider taking a part-time job until things pick up with your new venture and speak to a financial planner to help you budget yourself properly.

FOUR
Where are you in your life? Starting a new business takes brains, bravery, and what will seem to be endless hours of hard work. When you own your own company, there is always something that has to get done. You will most likely find yourself working at least 60-80 hours a week for the first two years. With that said, I’ll ask you one very important question: Are you ready to give up your personal life for the next three years?

FIVE
Don’t over -- or under -- spend. Starting a business can be incredibly financially taxing on you and your family. You will need to learn where and when to spend. It’s important not to waste those precious seed dollars but it’s equally important to spend where necessary. In any business, you often have to spend money to make money.  Don’t skimp out on things your company needs. For example, it may be worth it to put $1500 in an online vendor listing, but it may not be necessary to give every new customer a $15 mug. Be sure to keep up with technology too -- there are many time-saving programs and apps (including free or inexpensive ones) that can help you keep track of it all, and as we all know, “time is money."



Thursday, November 2, 2017

5 REASONS WHY YOUR SMALL BUSINESS NEEDS A BUSINESS PLAN

1. To map the future

A business plan is not just required to secure funding at the start-up phase, but is a vital aid to help you manage your business more effectively. By committing your thoughts to paper, you can understand your business better and also chart specific courses of action that need to be taken to improve your business. A plan can detail alternative future scenarios and set specific objectives and goals along with the resources required to achieve these goals.

By understanding your business and the market a little better and planning how best to operate within this environment, you will be well placed to ensure your long-term success.

2. To support growth and secure funding

Most businesses face investment decisions during the course of their lifetime. Often, these opportunities cannot be funded by free cash flows alone, and the business must seek external funding. However, despite the fact that the market for funding is highly competitive, all prospective lenders will require access to the company’s recent Income Statements/Profit and Loss Statements, along with an up-to-date business plan. In essence the former helps investors understand the past, whereas the business plan helps give them a window on the future.

When seeking investment in your business, it is important to clearly describe the opportunity, as investors will want to know:


  • Why they would be better off investing in your business, rather than leaving money in a bank account or investing in another business?
  • What the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for the business arising from the opportunity is?
  • Why people will part with their cash to buy from your business?
  • A well-written business plan can help you convey these points to prospective investors, helping them feel confident in you and in the thoroughness with which you have considered future scenarios. The most crucial component for them will be clear evidence of the company’s future ability to generate sufficient cash flows to meet debt obligations, while enabling the business to operate effectively.


3. To develop and communicate a course of action

A business plan helps a company assess future opportunities and commit to a particular course of action. By committing the plan to paper, all other options are effectively marginalized and the company is aligned to focus on key activities. The plan can assign milestones to specific individuals and ultimately help management to monitor progress. Once written, a plan can be disseminated quickly and will also prompt further questions and feedback by the readers helping to ensure a more collaborative plan is produced.

4. To help manage cash flow

Careful management of cash flow is a fundamental requirement for all businesses. The reason is quite simple–many businesses fail, not because they are unprofitable, but because they ultimately become insolvent (i.e., are unable to pay their debts as they fall due). While the break-even point–where total revenue equals total costs–is a highly important figure for start-ups, once a business is up and running profitably, it becomes less important.

Cash flow management then becomes more vital when businesses pursue investment opportunities where there are significant cash out flows, in advance of the cash flows coming in. These opportunities need to be assessed against any seasonal variations in the business and the timing of the flows. If you are a “cash-only” business, you can bank the income immediately; however, if you sell on credit, you receive the cash in the future and hence may need to pay some of your own expenses before that income hits your account. This will put a further strain on the company’s solvency and hence a well structured business plan will help you manage funding requirements in advance.

5. To support a strategic exit

Finally, at some point, the owners of the firm will decide it is time to exit. Considering the likely exit strategy in advance can help inform and direct present day decisions. The aim is to liquidate the investment, so the owner/current investors have the option of cashing out when they want.

Common exit strategies include;


  • Initial Public Offering of stock (IPO’s)
  • Acquisition by competitors
  • Mergers
  • Family succession
  • Management buy-outs
  • Investment decisions can be taken in the present with one eye on the future via a well-thought-out business plan. For example, if the most attractive exit route appeared to be selling to a competitor, present day management and investment decisions could focus on activities that would increase the company’s attractiveness to that competitor.


Given that valuing firms is notoriously difficult and subjective, a well-written plan will clearly highlight the opportunity for the incoming investors, the value of it and increase the likelihood of a successful exit by the current owner.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

BUSINESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Adaptability to the ever-changing marketplace is a characteristic that will help 21st century businesses thrive. The ability to innovate and execute is essential, but without adaptability, your business will fall behind in our rapidly evolving world. Exploring creative solutions to challenges is fundamental in the 21st century business world because businesses constantly face trade-offs. A successful manager will be adaptable by being open-minded and bringing in new perspectives to confront new business challenges.

New forms of marketing including advertising, improving customer satisfaction, competitive product or service pricing, staff training, taking advantge of new technology and trimming overheads are just a few of the many challenges facing today's business owners and managers.

Accurate foresight is another essential trait for 21st century business people. You need to have a clear and forward looking vision of who you are, your business goals, and where you see you and your business develop. Many managers spend their days dreaming about te future without taking initiative. Articulate a compelling future vision, develop an operations strategy, and execute that strategy. As a part of the aforementioned adaptability trait, reevaluate your strategy from time to time so it stays current with the changing times in which we live.

And update your business plan or business model as you proceed. If you don't know where you are going, you won't know when you have arrived. The old adage; "the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary" is so very true. And often, it is not a matter of working harder, just a matter of working smarter.