What’s new in blockchain, AI and IoT: May 5 – 11, 2017

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

PokitDok to use Sawtooth blockchain to record healthcare transactions
The healthcare software development platform PokitDok announced on May 10 that it would use Hyperledger Sawtooth, the open-source blockchain project from the Linux Foundation and Intel, to support its DokChain offering for healthcare transaction recording. “In the healthcare sector, protecting patient data is paramount, as is sharply reducing blatant inefficiency, which is why we chose to work with Intel to do business on the blockchain,” said Ted Tanner Jr., co-founder and CTO of PokitDok.

Microsoft unveils new AI and IoT offerings
At its Build developer conference on May 10, Microsoft announced a number of new offerings incorporating artificial intelligence, including Bing Custom Search, new Cognitive Services Labs and support for real-time translations in PowerPoint. Company executives also unveiled Azure Batch AI Training, a public preview of Cortana Skills Kit, a soon-to-be-released AI-powered virtual sales platform called Tact and Azure IoT Edge, which “extends the intelligence — and other benefits — of cloud computing to edge devices.”

VMware Pulse IoT Center is ‘first in new family’ of IoT offerings
VMware on May 9 announced the launch sometime later this year of the VMware Pulse IoT Center, the company’s “first solution in a new family of VMware IoT offerings.” Designed for enterprises seeking to manage IoT infrastructure and devices, the VMware Pulse IoT Center will provide IT and operational technology teams with “visibility and control across their IoT use cases,” according to Mimi Spier, vice president of IoT for VMware. Among its early adopters are Dell EMC, which will offer the VMware Pulse IoT Center as the preferred management and monitoring solution for Dell Edge Gateways.

Report: Hong Kong should promote blockchain for financial services
The Hong Kong-based Financial Services Development Council on May 9 released two reports exploring opportunities for financial technology development and applications in Hong Kong. One report, titled, “Hong Kong – Building Trust Using Distributed Ledger Technology,” describes various ways to promote the use of blockchain across the region. It recommends that the government and financial services industry work together by creating a leadership function in government for distributed ledger technology (DLT), establish a hub for the DLT community, support the development of digital currencies and act to commission proofs of concept for DLT-based projects.

PwC names new leader of UK Artificial Intelligence
PwC on May 9 named Euan Cameron to the newly created position of UK Artificial Intelligence leader, a role that will focus on driving business growth in the area of AI. Cameron will be assisted by more than 30 specialists in AI, robotic process automation and machine learning, with that team expected to grow to over 200 by 2020. “We are exploring a wide range of opportunities to deploy this technology internally, but also to help our clients with many of their critical business issues,” Cameron said. “To be successful, AI needs to be implemented as part of a broader business transformation strategy.”

Report: IoT could help U.S. control security, law-enforcement personnel costs
“Smart Security IoT” could help U.S. customs, border and law-enforcement agencies become more efficient while reducing personnel costs, according to a recent report from Govini, a big-data intelligence provider for companies selling to the public sector. “The promise of Smart Security IoT is one way for Federal agencies to slow their exponentially growing costs, which are driven primarily by personnel,” the report stated. “Nearly 40 percent of DHS’s [Department of Homeland Security’s] FY16 budget went towards personnel. The share of budget is expected to increase as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) have staffng plans to add thousands more full-time employees.” However, the report added, “IoT’s promise does not come without significant tradeoffs related to privacy and data security. Advancements in Cybersecurity, particularly Endpoint Defense, are critical to unlocking the potential of the IoT.”

Blockchain pilot aims to increase transparency in fashion supply chain
Blockchain technology is being tested as a way to provide greater transparency in the world of fashion design. In a May 10 interview with Forbes, designer Martine Jarlgaard describes a pilot that will track the clothing supply chain from raw material to finished item; the pilot is being jointly run by the blockchain firm Provenance, A Transparent Company and the Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion. “Getting a window into this world — a world that until now has been a secret or seen as insignificant — is a really important thing,” Jarlgaard told Forbes. “Full transparency and traceability becomes a stamp of approval allowing consumers to make informed choices with no extra effort.”

Cisco to acquire AI firm MindMeld for $125M
Cisco on May 11 announced plans to acquire the San Francisco-based artificial intelligence firm MindMeld for $125 million in cash and assumed equity awards. Expected to close in the fourth quarter, the deal is aimed at incorporating MindMeld’s machine learning technology into new conversational interfaces for Cisco’s collaboration products. “For example,” Cisco said, “users will be able to interact with Cisco Spark via natural language commands, providing an experience that is highly customized to the user and their work. Together, Cisco and MindMeld can bring voice AI to meeting rooms throughout the world, where Cisco’s near-ubiquitous presence of video and telephony hardware will help increase adoption of AI technology across the workplace.”

Academic makes case for IoT ethical framework
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute computer science professor Francine Berman told The Atlantic in a recent interview that development of the Internet of Things is missing a key element: a framework for ethical behavior. “The Internet of Things is just emerging, so this is a great time for experimentation,” Berman said. “You can’t come out full force with a law about something you don’t really know about, because it’s unlikely to work effectively. But we can get a lot of experience in more circumscribed systems now. And if we make it a priority and we start looking at smart cities in that way, or smart buildings, then I think we have a chance of starting to organically grow a sensible governance and ethical system for the Internet of Things.” Earlier this year, Berman co-authored a journal article on the same topic with “Father of the Internet” Vinton G. Cerf titled, “Social and Ethical Behavior in the Internet of Things.”

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