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COVID-19: Implications for business


The Delta variant of the coronavirus spread to more countries in recent weeks, and the total number of cases officially logged soared past half a million per day. The global number of deaths is now about two-thirds as high as it was at the peak of the previous wave, in April of this year. As the virus spreads, the potential rises for a vaccine-resistant strain to emerge. Meanwhile, in poorer countries, vaccines are scarce, and most populations are little protected (exhibit).

US has lost AI race with China, ex-Pentagon chief says


China has the competitive edge against the US in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Pentagon's former chief software officer. "We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years," Nicolas Chaillan said in an interview with London-based business newspaper, Financial Times. He called the current situation "a done deal," adding that, in his opinion, the race between China and the US was "already over." Chaillan predicted that China is heading for global dominance because of its advancements in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber capabilities, the Financial Times reported. He slammed US cyber defense capabilities as at "kindergarten level" in some government departments.

NSW firefighters to be equipped with AU$57 million worth of new bushfire equipment


The deployment of new drones, cells on wheels, and vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi will form part of the New South Wales government's AU$57.4 million investment into arming firefights with new equipment. Under what the state government is calling the connected firefighter package, firefighters will have access to drones that can provide images and data from incidents in real-time that can be used to assist in incident planning, and for chemical and gas detection; cells on wheels equipped with communication technology to provide power, especially in remote parts of the state without coverage; vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi that can provide mobile 4G network in remote locations where satellite connection is limited. Fire and Rescue NSW mobile command centres will also receive upgrades to ensure there is communication between incident management teams and firefighters during incidents. "What is apparent is that our emergency services are entering a tech boom, one which rightly puts NSW ahead of the pack this bushfire season," Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot said in a statement on Friday. "These assets will ensure our first responders are safe as they enter dangerous and volatile fire grounds to protect their communities."

Clear the funding roadblock, AIIA urges on artificial intelligence


More than $124 million in new funding for artificial intelligence research and industry development support allocated in the federal budget in May is still locked up inside the Industry department, with no clear signal on how and when it will be rolled out. The Australian Information Industry Association says Australia can't afford to sit on its hands in relation to the AI research and commercialisation – the industry is moving too fast, and the nation can't afford to fall behind. AIIA chief executive Ron Gauci says national capability in artificial intelligence is critical, because of the transformational impact that AI-based products and services are having across all industries. The AIIA has been pressing government for a funding allocation to drive commercialisation outcomes in the sector. The industry association had been told its "modest" proposal to bring together industry partners and state governments in a dollar-for-dollar funding arrangement with the Commonwealth had been agreed to.

UK schools will use facial recognition to speed up lunch payments


Facial recognition may soon play a role in your child's lunch. The Financial Times reports that nine schools in the UK's North Ayrshire will start taking payments for canteen (aka cafeteria) lunches by scanning students' faces. The technology should help minimize touch during the pandemic, but is mainly meant to speed up transaction times. That could be important when you may have roughly 25 minutes to serve an entire school of hungry kids. Both the schools and system installer CRB Cunningham argued the systems would address privacy and security concerns.

The 2021 machine learning, AI, and data landscape


Just when you thought it couldn't grow any more explosively, the data/AI landscape just did: the rapid pace of company creation, exciting new product and project launches, a deluge of VC financings, unicorn creation, IPOs, etc. It has also been a year of multiple threads and stories intertwining. One story has been the maturation of the ecosystem, with market leaders reaching large scale and ramping up their ambitions for global market domination, in particular through increasingly broad product offerings. Some of those companies, such as Snowflake, have been thriving in public markets (see our MAD Public Company Index), and a number of others (Databricks, Dataiku, DataRobot, etc.) have raised very large (or in the case of Databricks, gigantic) rounds at multi-billion valuations and are knocking on the IPO door (see our Emerging MAD company Index). But at the other end of the spectrum, this year has also seen the rapid emergence of a whole new generation of data and ML startups. Whether they were founded a few years or a few months ago, many experienced a growth spurt in the past year or so. Part of it is due to a rabid VC funding environment and part of it, more fundamentally, is due to inflection points in the market. In the past year, there's been less headline-grabbing discussion of futuristic applications of AI (self-driving vehicles, etc.), and a bit less AI hype as a result. Regardless, data and ML/AI-driven application companies have continued to thrive, particularly those focused on enterprise use trend cases. Meanwhile, a lot of the action has been happening behind the scenes on the data and ML infrastructure side, with entirely new categories (data observability, reverse ETL, metrics stores, etc.) appearing or drastically accelerating. To keep track of this evolution, this is our eighth annual landscape and "state of the union" of the data and AI ecosystem -- coauthored this year with my FirstMark colleague John Wu. (For anyone interested, here are the prior versions: 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019: Part I and Part II, and 2020.) For those who have remarked over the years how insanely busy the chart is, you'll love our new acronym: Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, and Data (MAD) -- this is now officially the MAD landscape! We've learned over the years that those posts are read by a broad group of people, so we have tried to provide a little bit for everyone -- a macro view that will hopefully be interesting and approachable to most, and then a slightly more granular overview of trends in data infrastructure and ML/AI for people with a deeper familiarity with the industry. Let's start with a high-level view of the market. As the number of companies in the space keeps increasing every year, the inevitable questions are: Why is this happening? How long can it keep going?

Top Applications of Graph Neural Networks 2021


At the beginning of the year, I have a feeling that Graph Neural Nets (GNNs) became a buzzword. As a researcher in this field, I feel a little bit proud (at least not ashamed) to say that I work on this. It was not always the case: three years ago when I was talking to my peers, who got busy working on GANs and Transformers, the general impression that they got on me was that I was working on exotic niche problems. Well, the field has matured substantially and here I propose to have a look at the top applications of GNNs that we have recently had. If this in-depth educational content on graph neural networks is useful for you, you can subscribe to our AI research mailing list to be alerted when we release new material.

Sorry, but China is nowhere near winning the AI race


Nicolas Chaillan, the Pentagon's former Chief Software Officer, is on a whirlwind press tour to drum up as much fervor for his radical assertion that the US has already lost the AI race against China. We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it's already a done deal. Chaillan's departure from the Pentagon was preceded by a "blistering letter" where he signaled he was quitting out of frustration over the government's inability to properly implement cybersecurity and artificial intelligence technologies. Tickets to TNW Conference 2022 are available now! And, now, he's telling anyone who will listen that the US has already lost a war to China that hasn't even happened yet.

EU's AI law should serve as 'model across the globe'


The European Union wants its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act to be an example for the rest of the world to follow when regulating the emerging technology. EU Telecommunications ministers held their first debate on the proposed AI Act in Brussels on Thursday to decide the guidelines for the coming years, where Slovenia's Minister for Public Administration Boštjan Koritnik said the bloc's AI act should serve as a global model. "Ministers today voiced their clear support for one comprehensive law on artificial intelligence, which would serve as a model across the globe, in the same vein as the general data protection regulation, GDPR, in the area of protection of personal data," Koritnik said. "There is still substantial work ahead, as we want to make sure that the Artificial Intelligence Act will achieve its twin aims of ensuring safety and respect for fundamental rights and stimulating the development and uptake of AI-based technology in all sectors. The Slovenian [European Council] presidency will continue the intense work on this proposal, which it considers a top priority in the digital area."

U.S. Offers Payments to Families of Afghans Killed in Kabul Drone Strike


The United States has offered unspecified condolence payments to the families of the 10 civilians, including seven children, who were mistakenly killed in the Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that took place shortly before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan. The Pentagon also said it's working with the State Department to support family members who may want to relocate to the United States. The U.S. military insisted for almost three weeks that the drone strike was justified, claiming it had stopped an attack planned for Kabul's airport. But it later changed its tune amid an overwhelming amount of evidence. Weeks after the Pentagon acknowledged the strike had hit civilians, Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, held a virtual meeting with Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition & Education International.