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AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world

A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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In short, the Internet of Things, big data and Artificial Intelligence is being used to interpret the language of bees to gain a true understanding of biodiversity and environmental health.

“We’re starting to understand the characteristics of communication in the beehive,” says John Abel, vice president of cloud and technology at Oracle for the UK, Ireland and Israel.

“Already, we understand certain actions of the bee. For example, flying in a figure 8 is not random. It is very specific. Certain tones bees use will indicate food or water. The way the bee shudders and rotates within the figure 8 will indicate to the rest of the colony what it found and where it is. If the heat or sound in the hive changes, it can mean the hive is preparing to swarm.

“If the queen bee is too large to fly – because when it is in the hive, its job is to create the future bees of the hive – the queen’s workers have to prepare the queen for flying, and that takes 20 odd days. You can hear a difference in the noise when they are doing that. If the queen not getting a lot of food, it’s preparing to lose weight to leave the hive.

“Thanks to artificial intelligence analysing the acoustic recordings in the hive, we can hear all of this clearly from the sound in the hive. Are they talking? No. But are they communicating? Definitely.”

If it were left only to AI, however, the project would be a dead end. Experts from Reading University and the World Bee Project initially visited Oracle’s sprawling campus in Reading to teach the machines the patterns that they already understood. The machines, in turn, used these patterns to build further knowledge by inference. This is the fundamental process of machine learning, which can ultimately evolve into artificial intelligence.

“Once the machines understand these patterns, they begin to learn more quickly, and the more quickly they learn, the quicker they can self-teach. We can then use big data to correlate sounds with behaviour.”

At first sight, it is not obvious why Oracle would get involved in a project like this. Its branding appears nowhere on the hives or even on the website of the World Bee Project. The clue lies in the lessons that are being learned about how big data can be leveraged more effectively by organisations when human experts give machines their basic training.

“Most enterprises struggle with big data, because they have to learn a bunch of technology they have to wire together,” says Abel. “When businesses look at data and analytics, they work in isolation, and they get insight in a one-dimensional way. In the same way, if we just analysed the sound of bees in isolation of other data, it would have no correlation with the biodiversity of the environment.”

The result, in the business world, is that organisations analyse data in silos, and have tremendous difficulty combining data and insights across these silos. It is a similar issue to what banks face when they know all about clients’ patterns of use of their current accounts, but cannot link it to their home loan history, and therefore are unable to make informed decisions about new products or loans for those clients.

In the world of bees, that would be the equivalent of understanding the sounds they make, on the one hand, and having climate and food production data on the other, but not being able to understand the link between the two. Oracle uses what is called a data lake, literally to pool all forms of data – acoustic, relational, spatial, among other – and then use machine learning to spot the patterns not just within each data set, but between the sets.

“Our big advantage is that we can handle all those in a single data repository. We then use machine learning to start creating a single data view of all the data we capture, and teach it what relationship we already know exists between data. The machine can then find the metaphorical needle in the haystack.

“Knowing there’s pollution data doesn’t help us. We need to know what type of pollution is impacting the bees in what way. We need that relation between what is affecting the hive and how we can fix it.”

Oracle and the World Bee Project have set up similar IoT hives in London and Tel Aviv. The variety of ecosystems represented – from rural England to its urban heart to the Middle East – provides an evolving picture of the impact of different environments on the ability of bees to do their job.

Abel believes that the benefits of the project will flow through strongly to many countries on the African continent.

“Across Africa, farmers use mobile devices to find crop grain prices at market. Now we’ve developed a chatbot which lets farmer engage with experts in beekeeping in different countries to understand how to improve biodiversity, which improves pollination, which improves crops.”

According to the World Bee Project, more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals.

“There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination,” it states. “Pollinated crops include those that provide fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils. Many of these are important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals, without which the risks of malnutrition might be expected to increase. Several crops also represent an important source of income in developing countries from, for example, the production of coffee and cocoa.”

In short, understanding the language of bees contributes not just to technology advances, but to the very survival of the human race.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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LHI is coming to save your car from hazards

Local Hazard Information will give drivers advance warning of potential dangers lurking around the corner

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There are many times when knowing what is around the corner could be useful. But for drivers that knowledge could be critical. Now, thanks to Ford’s new connected car technology, it is also a reality.

Local Hazard Information (LHI) marks a significant step on the journey towards a connected transport infrastructure by helping drivers prepare for and potentially avoid dangers on the road. When drivers ahead encounter sudden tailbacks, accidents or spilled loads, the driver behind – and possibly out of sight – is given advance warning. This could also apply to everything from freak hailstorms, to sudden flooding, or even landslides.

The triggers for the system come from what is happening in the cars ahead. It could be that airbags have been activated, hazard warning lights are flashing, or windscreen wipers are in operation. Previous traffic incident alert systems have relied on drivers to input information in order to generate alerts. LHI works autonomously, without the need for any driver interaction, to generate information and issue warnings.

Hazards are only displayed – via the dashboard display – if the incident is likely to impact on the driver’s journey. LHI is designed to be more beneficial to drivers than hazard information from current radio broadcasting systems, which often deliver notifications not relevant to them.

Already featuring as standard and free of charge for the first year on the new Ford Puma, LHI technology is being rolled out across more than 80 per cent of Ford’s passenger vehicle line-up by the end of this year. Crucially, the benefit will not be limited only to those travelling in Ford vehicles. Information sent can be used to alert drivers of other manufacturers’ vehicles, and vice-versa.

“What makes Local Hazard Information different is that it is the cars that are connected – via the Internet of Things. There is no reliance on third party apps. This is a significant step forward. Warnings are specific, relevant and tailored to try to help improve your specific journey.” Joerg Beyer, executive director, Engineering, Ford of Europe

How it works

Sensors monitor activities including emergency braking, fog lights and traction control to detect adverse weather or road conditions. Data from these activities is then computed to determine the hazard location and whether a traffic incident has occurred.

The vehicle automatically provides updates through a secure connection to “the cloud” using the Ford Pass Connect modem. Ford’s technology partner HERE Technologies operates the central cloud-based platform that collates information from multiple vehicle brands, governed by a business-to-business agreement.

The more cars are connected to the network, the greater the efficiency of the system. When many vehicles generate the same warning, others in the vicinity receive incident information from the cloud via the cellular network, enabling drivers to reduce speed or take appropriate action.

Additional information is sourced from public authority incident databases and traffic reports to provide drivers with further advance warnings including approaching vehicles driving on the wrong side of the carriageway, animals or people in the road ahead, and roadworks.

The on-board modem will be connected at the time of vehicle delivery. Customers may choose to opt in/opt out of certain data sharing.

Local Hazard Information data provided by HERE Technologies.

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Bundesliga plans to “revolutionise football viewing”

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Germany’s Bundesliga football league has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its official technology provider to deliver more in-depth insight into every live broadcast of Bundesliga games and enable personalised fan experiences. 

Bundesliga says it will use AWS artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics, compute, database, and storage services to deliver real-time statistics to predict future plays and game outcomes. It will also use the technology to recommend personalised match footage across mobile, online, streaming, and television broadcasts.

Using AWS technology, Germany’s premier national football league will build new cloud-based services that automate processes, increase operational efficiency, and enhance the viewing experience for the league’s rapidly growing global fan base. By developing a new, next-generation statistics platform on AWS, using Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed service to build, train, and deploy ML models, Bundesliga will offer fans real-time predictions on when a goal is likely to be scored, identify potential goal-scoring opportunities, and highlight how teams are positioning and controlling the field, based on live data streams and historical data from over 10,000 Bundesliga games. Bundesliga also plans to leverage AWS ML services, such as Amazon Personalize, an ML service to create real-time and individualized recommendations, to offer fans personalized game footage, marketing promotions, and search results based on their favourite teams, players, or matches.

Using other AWS ML services, including Amazon Rekognition, an intelligent image and video analysis service, Bundesliga will build a cloud-based media archive that will automatically tag specific frames, from its more than 150,000 hours of video, with metadata such as game, jersey, player, team, and venue, so that the league can easily search historical footage and surface pivotal plays for in-game broadcasts, in more than 200 countries. This archive will enable Bundesliga to search across its entire history of football footage to provide a more enhanced viewing experience for fans and automate the current manual process of searching and tagging match highlights.

“We are extremely excited to be working alongside AWS to develop the next generation of football viewing experience,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of Bundesliga. “Innovation means challenging the status quo. Working closely with AWS, as one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, significantly enhances the investment we’ve made in innovation over the past two decades, all of which contributes to us being able to deliver a world-class football experience for our fans.”

“As the league with the highest average number of goals per game, and the highest stadium attendance globally, the Bundesliga is one of the most entertaining sports leagues in the world,” says Andy Isherwood, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We are thrilled to work with the Bundesliga and help them use cloud technology to give football fans around the world a more engaging match day experience and look forward to helping them leverage our deep portfolio of ML and AI services so they can deliver even greater insight into the world’s favourite game.”

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