What’s new in blockchain, AI and IoT: May 12 – 18, 2017

Following are highlights from the past week’s news developments in blockchain, artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things technologies:

SAP launches Cloud Platform Blockchain service
SAP on May 16 announced the launch of a new SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service designed to help its customers create new applications and extensions using distributed ledger technology. The company also plans to roll out a co-innovation program in which clients can work with SAP to develop new blockchain solutions together. “By co-innovating with our customers, we strive to deliver tangible business value using distributed ledger technologies, ultimately unveiling the potential of blockchain in the enterprise sector,” SAP blockchain innovation manager Raimund Gross wrote in a news announcement.

Google announces Google.ai and new machine learning chips
Google this past week made a number of AI- and machine-learning-based announcements during its I/O developers conference in California. Among these was the unveiling of Google.ai and the company’s second-generation TPU processors, which are designed specifically for machine learning applications. “We believe huge breakthroughs in complex social problems will be possible if scientists and engineers can have better, more powerful computing tools and research at their fingertips,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote May 17 in a blog post. “But today, there are too many barriers to making this happen. That’s the motivation behind Google.ai, which pulls all our AI initiatives into one effort that can lower these barriers and accelerate how researchers, developers and companies work in this field.”

AT&T completes deployment of US network for IoT
US-based AT&T on May 18 announced it had launched its nationwide LTE-M network, which is designed to support Internet-of-Things devices and applications. Deployed across the carrier’s 4G LTE network, the LTE-M network provides connectivity for smart-city, asset-tracking, security and other IoT services. The company has also rolled out an LTE-M starter kit to “spur developers to open the doors to IoT innovation,” according to Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions at AT&T.

Microsoft develops framework for blockchain proofs of concept
Microsoft on May 18 introduced a new blockchain proof-of-concept framework to help developers more quickly build and test blockchain capabilities. According to a blog post by Marc Mercuri, Microsoft Digital’s director of applied innovation, customers and partners have said they can spend as much as $300,000 and take 8 to 12 weeks to develop their own blockchain proofs of concept. “We realized there were a common set of challenges related to PoC development that we could address by creating a type of ‘Proof of Concept Framework’ that would dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to build a blockchain PoC,” Mercuri wrote. Based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, the new framework, he said, lets users “focus on creating truly innovative applications that demonstrate the potential of blockchain, and spend less time and resources on integration tasks that required to get even a basic PoC up and running.”

Canada hosts annual AI conference
Held this week at the University of Alberta, the 30th Canadian Conference on Artificial Intelligence saw presentations on new research about data analytics for business, using cognitive computing to analyze personalities via Twitter and applying machine learning to academic articles to better understand citation linkage. Proceedings from the event will be published in “Advances in Artificial Intelligence.”

11-year-old demonstrates Bluetooth hack using IoT teddy bear
Reuben Paul, an 11-year-old from Texas, generated headlines around the world after demonstrating at a cybersecurity conference how an IoT toy can be used to hack into Bluetooth-connected devices. The boy led a presentation at the World Forum at The Hague in which he was able to use a connected teddy bear and a Raspberry Pi computer to access devices of attendees and use those to send commands to the toy.

US markets oversight agency creates FinTech lab
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission on May 17 approved the creation of its LabCFTC initiative to promote “responsible FinTech innovation to improve the quality, resiliency, and competitiveness of the markets the CFC oversees.” Acting chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo said, ““Simply put, LabCFTC is intended to help us bridge the gap from where we are today to where we need to be: 21st century regulation for today’s digital markets.” Among the technologies LabCFTC expects to explore are distributed ledgers, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

UK motor insurer adds AI to claims management
Motor insurer Ageas said May 18 it is the first such company in the UK to use AI for claims management. Working with the AI technology provider Tractable, Ageas has completed a pilot of AI Approval and plans to begin rolling out the program for wider use. “The results of our initial pilot are impressive and I’m keen to progress to using this technology at scale,” transformation director Rob Smale said in a news announcement.

India on track for IoT leadership, tech secretary says
India Information Technology Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters on May 17 that her country’s familiarity with technology should help it achieve leadership in IoT adoption. “The capabilities in entrepreneurship in different sectors, the aspirational and second-to-none startup community in India and the young demographics makes me optimistic that India can forge ahead in this direction,” Sundararajan told the First Post upon announcing the second IoT India Congress, scheduled to be held Sept. 14 and 15 in Bengaluru.

Kotak Mahindra Bank speeds transactions using blockchain
Mumbai-based Kotak Mahindra Bank on  May 17 said it had successfully used blockchain technology to speed up a letter-of-credit transaction to just a “couple of hours.” Such transactions have typically taken between 20 and 30 days to complete, the bank said. “In the Indian context, banks are experimenting with blockchain applications in various areas of transactions journey and processes, including paper intensive processes of trade finance and supply chain financing segments, which are ripe for disruption,” bank president K.V.S. Manian said in a press announcement. “Our proof of concept transaction will change the narrative hereon. We are leveraging this technology to give our clients hassle-free and profitable trades finance solution on an almost real time basis.”

‘Simple’ AI can improve human performance, Yale study finds
Even not-so-intelligent AI can help improve people’s lives, according to a new study by researchers at Yale University. Published in the May 18 edition of the journal Nature, the research led by professor Nicholas Christakis found that including bots in team play improved performance of both human individuals and groups. “Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings,” said Christakis, who is co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. “We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings.”

IoT, Blockchain, AI expos come to Berlin in June
Set for June 1 and 2 in Berlin, IoT Tech Expo Europe will feature a keynote address looking at how the Internet of Things offers the potential for multi-way communication between brands and consumers. The event, co-located with the Blockchain Expo and AI Expo, will also showcase exhibits from more than 150 companies.

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