FiRe 2017: Small data, AI, and the future of analytics

By Rainey Cornaby

The second panel on the final day of the Future in Review 2017 conference consisted of Gahl Berkooz, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Acorns, and Murray Cantor, Author and former IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of Aptage. The panel was moderated by Robert Anderson, chairman and CEO of HEVT LLC and discussed fintech and the future of analytics.

According to Berkooz, Fintech is defined by its disruption of current financial institutions including banks, and their high fee based revenue models. These institutions have traditionally favored wealthy individuals, with many services and offerings only making sense or available to those belonging to the highest income bracket. Approximately 70% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. The value proposition of Acorns, Berkooz explained is automatic enablement of savings and investment removing the transactional fees. Removing the transactional fees enables consumers with lower income to make investments. Berkooz also mentioned his company Acorns is not the only form of disruption arising in financial services. Fintech startups offering robo-advising and low-cost trading are also disrupting industry by providing services previously unavailable to a broader, lower-income market.

The conversation soon shifted to artificial intelligence(AI), Data Science, and the future of analytics. Berkooz discussed the monumental impact these fields will see due to massive data collection, large compute power, and changing consumer expectations for personalization .

“We are just at the beginning of a golden age of data,” said Berkooz.

Data Science is also being approached in new ways. When speaking to the trends in data science and analytics Cantor explained a shift is occurring towards small datasets. He used the example of the growing trend of data utilization in project management with small teams. Cantor emphasized the importance AI is beginning to play in this solution due to the inherent challenges surrounding smaller sets of data and incorporating information from various datasets.

There are, however, still systemic obstacles to developing these fields. Berkooz and Cantor agreed Data Science and AI are unique fields in which academia severely lags industry. Both agreed the fields would greatly benefit from more open-ended exploration and study as opposed to the objective focused development currently happening in industry. Cantor elaborated to say development of AI and data dependent systems are “very adhoc right now.”

There also remain many unanswered questions and challenges involved with AI implementation. How do you measure the intelligence quotient of an AI system? According to Cantor, there is currently no answer to this question.

“We need some way of knowing which AI’s are better than others, and which are better suited to solve which problems. “ said Cantor

Though not all questions have been answered nor best practices established, both men were optimistic regarding near future application and abilities of systems with respect to risk assessment and management, and personalization of content. They stressed solutions are already coming and they will involve a synthesis of human and machine work.

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FiRe 2017: Building Elon’s World

By Arunabh Satpathy

In an arresting afternoon session on day 3 of the Future in Review conference, Cynthia Figge, CEO and Co founder, CSRHub moderated a panel consisting of representatives of companies that could complete Mark Anderson’s carbon trifecta. Will Perego, Founder and CEO, 24-Hour Solar Roof, Mark Godsy, CEO, Exro Technologies, and Ray Gibbs, CEO, Haydale came together to offer their perspectives on building Elon Musk’s vision of a sustainable energy future.

Figge set up the session by defining the three parts of the Carbon Trifecta: carbon capture, especially via direct air capture, processing CO2 into useful carbon based materials like graphene, carbon based polymers etc., and 3D printing.

To contextualize the companies’ work, Figge asked the representatives what their companies do and how it applies to the Trifecta.

Pereo started by speaking of his passion about real estate and sustainability and how clean energy was the next logical step. He also spoke of his fortune in being at a time and place where his aspirations could be realized and how those not at the right place should be helped.

“It dawned on me that we are lucky to be in a country in the United States,” he said. “If there is anything that I can do to bring some of our wealth to them [billion people without electricity], it would be an incredible experience.”

Godsy took a more statistics driven description of Exro’s future. He underlined the need for sustainable energy, because each year, human are putting in 36 million tons of CO2 into the air. Even signatories to the Paris Climate Accord, he said, fall short.

In a more direct rejoinder to the responses, Figge further drilled into the problem of scalability, asking how the companies aimed to scale.

Perego said that solar is growing exponentially, and how he envisions 50 percent market penetration in approximately 20 years. Already, he said, solar is the cheapest energy source in several states, so as more people switch to solar, a virtuous cycle will establish itself wherein existing utilities’ prices will go up.

Godsy told a story in the Bahamas, where he met an electric engineer whose eyes welled up at the mention of Exro’s vision of using tidal energy to generate power.

“Ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of these waves will power our island,” said Godsy, quoting the engineers.

Gibbs chimed in by talking about the size of the composites market.

“Composite materials market is 100 billion dollar market,” he said.

He spoke further of the energy savings that could be made if composites were replaced with nanomaterials and the savings that could be made by using graphene, which is a great head dissipator.

Asking about what the companies were doing right now, Figge quizzed the companies on what they were doing currently and if any new products were coming up.

Perego started by saying that 24-Hour should have a fully functioning unit by years end. The next year, a product for flash charge batteries is coming up. Finally, he expressed the need for the company to allow for neighbors to trade their renewable electricity among themselves.

Godsy said that Exro’s business plan is a combination of chess and dominoes. Three prototypes are being created internally, and four technical areas are being commercialized: generators (propulsion systems for drones), motors (confidential), reversible machine for bicycles, and the wind initiative. He shared his vision of seeing their technology in at least half a billion machines.

Gibbs started by mentioning an element of waste often overlooked. He said the oil and gas industry has leaky pipes, which are huge polluters, saying that the repair bill for a Saudi company is a billion dollars a year. He said that many problems could be solved using silicon carbide.

Figge ended the session by asking what the financial models for the developing world are.
Perego started by pushing for a pay-as-you-go model, giving the example of building a center with a 24-Hour Solar Roof for electricity and water and how time and money could be saved.

Godsy said that there’s abundant energy that could power the entire country with tidal forces. He said that they hope to be an important player so as to have people have access to things.

Gibbs ended on a driven note, when speaking about the need for water.

“It’s criminal that people in developing countries don’t have access to water,” he said.

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FiRe 2017: Thinking in Systems: Misdiagnosed to Undiagnosed – Part Deux

By Ahrash Poursaid

Katia Moritz, filmmaker and psychologist led a breakout session continuing the discussion about her upcoming film “Undiagnosed” at the FiRe conference on patients with terminal disease. The session was collaborative with all the participating members.

Moritz began the panel discussing further about Alex, the eleven year old boy who suffers from seizures, and the importance on the focus of undiagnosed patients. Moritz mentioned that Alex and his mother were planning on making an appearance to the conference but unfortunately this was not the case because Alex was in the ICU due to respiratory complications.

This fear of the unknown can be paralyzing for parents taking care of their children with terminal disease. Not knowing how to take care of their children or how much longer time to live they may have can be strenuous on these parents.

Hospice care can be a challenge not just on the patients but on the families as well. Many of the patients go into hospice not knowing what disease/condition they have or how much longer they have to live. They end up leaving and going into regular hospitals or some cases leave in general.

Moritz quoted Jeff Lowe, an avid climber who has been in and out of hospice care, who said that every time he moved his ice pick while climbing, it was more terrifying than worrying about when he may die sitting in hospice.

“Being sick is the furthest you can be from dying,” said Moritz and “These people try to live the most normal life they can”.

Moritz said patients in hospice care can be a strain on the families because they prepare to lose a loved one and many cases the patient does not die.

The talk turned to talk about supporting the supporters and one of the audience members, Diane Tober, Assistant Professor at UCSF asked Moritz what can be done about the stresses on caregivers.

When it comes to taking care of the patients and their supporters, Moritz compared it to “war triage, [they] have to choose a path to focus on.” Moritz expressed her passion about helping these parents, but claimed she and her team initially need to focus on the patients and provide them the required care.

Moritz ended the session on an optimistic note.

“New technologies plus collaboration equals hope”, she said.

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FiRe 2017: Evolution and Revolution: Disrupting Business Models

By Charly Kuecks

Ed Butler of the BBC interviewed Bill Ribaudo, the managing partner of Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory’s Digital Risk Venture Portfolio. In a session titled “Investors Redefine Value: Impact on Public Policy and Education Content,” Ribaudo outlined his theory of four business models. He discussed how these models differ in both how they’re valued on public markets and how they affect the trajectory of the nations that adopt them.

Ribaudo shared the following framework, which formed the basis of his analysis. It is illustrated in the image below.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Ribaudo and his colleagues collected 40 years’ worth of data on the performance of S&P companies.

They grouped the first two business models, Asset Builders and Service Providers, into industrial and backward-looking models. They grouped the latter two, Technology Creators and Network Orchestrators, into information-driven models, which Ribaudo said were the types of businesses most likely to have success in the future, given that they create much more value for their stakeholders.

Ribaudo thought of the business model evolution in terms of revolutions, namely, the industrial, services, information, and network revolutions.

“Whose pictures are on the covers of magazines?,” Ribuado said.

He illustrated how this answer has changed, from Carnegie and Rockefeller at the turn of the twentieth century, to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates a century later, up through thirtysomething tech billionaires today.

This means that over time, successful businesses leverage different assets, moving from purely physical assets, to human and physical assets, and finally to value based on interactions.

He elaborated on ridesharing as a service that has been ripe for disruption, leading to legal and philosophical disputes between more-established taxi services and app-based ridesharing services. Ribaudo believes that not only is technological change inevitable, but also that it leads to much higher growth in the nations that support such change.

Ribaudo said, “Value has shifted from owning factories and producing stuff to controlling eyeballs.” With over ninety percent of business education at top institutions focused on teaching old-school industries, Ribaudo believes that there is a lot of room for disruption in training the next generation of business leaders to move their firms towards more valuable investments.

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FiRe 2017: The Rebels Win

By Charly Kuecks

Mark Anderson, the founder of the Strategic News Service (SNS), reflected on a successful fifteenth year of the Future in Review conference in a session titled “Your Turn: The Next Five Years.”

He compared the participants’ impromptu discussions in the hallways to the Rebel Alliance camps gathered around campfires in the “Star Wars” film franchise.

Anderson discussed a mechanism of how to put technologically rebellious ideas into practice through the following framework, which he termed a “mantra:”

  1. In the post-information age, all economic sectors are driven by tech.
  2. All data is Big Data.
  3. Artificial intelligence is the key to all Big Data analysis.
  4. Pattern recognition is the key to this analysis.
  5. Flow and interaction are the drivers of patterns.
  6. Patterns of flow and interaction are the key to knowledge.
  7. Pattern computing is the future of design.

Anderson invited the audience to check out the SNS-supported books, the most recent of which is “The Universal Powers of Flow and Interaction,” available for purchase online. The session ended with a call by student intern Hannah Littell to join FiReFilms, the documentary film arm of FiRe.

In closing, Anderson made an optimistic reference to both FiRe’s participants and the “Star Wars” heroes.

“I think the Rebels win,” he said.

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FiRe 2017: Setting the Startup World on FiRe with Four FiReStarters

By Charly Kuecks

Ed Butler of the BBC hosted a panel titled “FiReStarters I: Five Companies Improving the World,” where he interviewed four FiRestarter companies ( was missing). Across a wide variety of disciplines, these CEOs are pushing the envelope of innovation and truly embody FiRe XV’s theme of breaking through on a century scale.

1) 24-Hour Solar Roof — Will Perego

24-Hour Solar Roof builds roofs out of solar panels, rather than layering the panels on top of other roofing materials. This eliminates waste while providing 24/7 electricity.

Perego’s company’s mission is to provide everyone in the world electricity and fresh drinking water directly from their roofs, so no one has to worry about a blackout ever again. It’s easy to see how this tech is timely, in light of devastating power outages in Puerto Rico among other places.

The panel system made by 24-Hour Solar Roof circulates the heat captured by the sun and provides hot water by using a different type of A/C system. It reuses rain water instead of using electricity. As an atmospheric water generator, it extracts the humidity from the outside air.

Perego discussed financial models for developed and developing countries. In the United States, consumers’ costs for traditional solar panels vs. 24-Hour Solar are very similar. In developing countries, there are no upfront costs for installation. A use case Perego discussed was to build a solar roofed community center where residents can eliminate travel time to charge electronics and hassles to acquire drinking water.

With traditional solar panels, over 85% of energy is wasted. 24-Hour Solar Roof’s panels provide security for both electrical power and water, two vital building blocks to health and development. By installing a solar roof, consumers can reduce 80% of their energy consumption.

2) Aptage — John Heintz

Aptage leverages artificial intelligence for project management, to predict the outcomes of projects, and to give advice on decisions. If you are a project manager with a deadline 3 months out, and you knew it was at 60% risk of failure, what would you do differently? Aptage has developed a risk language that displays these risks using visualizations.

Heintz claims that the human mind is not good at assessing risk. He points to the Big Dig in Boston, which is estimated to cost up to $22 billion, including interest. One of the key contributors to this failure was the project managers not knowing things were going off track.

Heintz quoted Nobel winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, from his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

“Even statisticians are not good intuitive statisticians,” he said.
Aptage provides burndown charts to help project managers overcome the challenges inherent in any risky long-term project and make the statistical risk of missing deadlines more intuitive.

3) Exro Technologies — Mark Godsy

Exro’s technology bridges the gap between hardware and software. They develop electric motor technology found in wind and automotive applications.

This tech enables motors to become self-optimizing: Godsy discussed a computer program that reconfigures a motor dependent on torque.This makes motors more efficient especially in electric vehicles.

Exro has validated their technology by building three prototypes, applicable to motors, generators, and software intelligence

An audience member asked if these optimized motors were adaptable to an elevator, or a subway, or to a hybrid bus? Godsy answered that Exro is “enabling these machines to be intelligent — [they] do have application in all those areas.”

Breakthroughs in material science drive discovery at Exro. Godsy is focused on the possibilities of graphene. When motors themselves improve, Exro’s software leverages those changes, harnessing more energy.

4) ÉlpisÉremo Inc — James Ryan

ÉlpisÉremo develops breakthroughs in tissue generation. Ryan is optimistic that this research in the body’s signaling pathways will lead to applications in regenerating the body.

Ryan discussed orchestration of two factors involved in gene over-expression. He claimed the body’s mechanism to turn proteins directly on and off is “like a symphony — [with] lots of moving parts.” By directly affecting gene expression, Ryan’s hopes that “we’re entering a whole new era of medicine.”

ÉlpisÉremo’s scientists were inspired by Tesla’s electric oscillator: they monitored nanomechanical signatures during stem cell development. Ryan played an audio recording of what these oscillations at the molecular level sound like.

Ryan was inspired to co-found ÉlpisÉremo after successfully using a then-experimental stem-cell treatment when his infant son fell ill. By targeting the next wave of epigenetic research, Ryan and his team of research scientists are bypassing traditional stem cell therapies.

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FiRe 2017: A bleak forecast on Ukraine

By Arunabh Satpathy

From left to right: Greg Ness, Dmytro Shymkiv, Phillip Lohaus,

Greg Ness introduced the panel consisting of Bob FloresPhilip Lohaus and Dmytro Shymkiv in an afternoon session at the Future in Review conference titled “Ukraine: On the Front Lines of Russia’s Infowar Machine.” Ness summarized the aims of the session as answering three vital questions: Why us Ukraine strategically vital? What is happening at Ukraine today? Where do we go from here?

As for the first question, Shymkiv started of by mentioning a previous panel on China’s infowar strategy. He stated that Russia’s infowar machine wants to disrupt and destroy western presence in Ukraine and also experiment with the kinds of tools can be used to influence behaviors and decision making in the West.

Charles Cleveland(?) mentioned that traditional areas of strength possessed by the United States, including sea, land, air, and space. However, he also mentioned two new fronts where the US is losing: cyberspace and humans who are “easily influenced.”

On the second question, Shymkiv spoke about the systematic dismantling of critical infrastructure in the Ukraine, giving special mention to the whole Ministry of Finance being wiped out and energy grid being disrupted.

“The Russians used tax report software for 400,000 computers extracting financial information and digital signatures,” he said.

He further said that the Russians followed a pattern previously used by the Soviets of “burning” the machines. He said that within the first few hours of the virus, the companies they hacked lost 90 percent of their infrastructure.

Further clarifying Russia’s use fake news, Shymkiv said that when Crimea was annexed, Russia used social media to influence people. Military recruitment was also done by social media. He also said that typically, fake news stories have 40 percent truth, so they look true while being true.

As for the spread of these tactics beyond Ukraine, the panel said that these tactics have also been used in Georgia, Estonia and other places. They drew comparisons with China, in that Russia has developed a military doctrine based on the US’ doctrine’s weaknesses, to which the US has not yet adapted.

Faced with a bleak situation, the panel wasn’t optimistic about things becoming better. Shymkiv mentioned a Russian experiment in the black sea to control GPS. When mentioning quantum computing, the panel agreed that while it would provide an advantage for a short time, it the advantage would eventually be closed by others.

There was a call for the education system to teach kids to understand cyber better. Critical thinking was also highlighted as important, with Finland’s system being hailed for teaching it.

Ness’ question about the efficacy of the current security stack was also met with pessimism. Shymkiv said it was inadequate and said that pattern recognition could have been the only way forward.

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FiRe 2017: Setting the Startup World on FiRe with Five More FiReStarters

By Charly Kuecks

Ed Butler of the BBC hosted a panel titled “FiReStarters II: Five Companies Improving the World,” where he interviewed five more CEOs of FiRestartercompanies. From cybersecurity to parent-teacher communication, these startups are breaking new ground and making compelling tech applications.

You can read here about Part I of this two-part FiReStarter panel series.

  1. RedSeal — Ray Rothrock

“You have been hacked, you’re under attack. What do you do about it?” Rothrock began his presentation with this rhetorical question, immediately connecting his service to urgent real-world problems.

RedSeal differentiates itself in a crowded cybersecurity market by consulting companies on the security vulnerabilities that are most likely to affect their bottom line. Rothrock pointed to the recent Equifax hack, which was devastating to consumers as well as halving the firm’s stock price. Rothrock claimed that RedSeal’s tools would have detected the issue that led to the Equifax breach.

Rothrock’s experience sitting on several corporate boards, as well as his background in investing, means that he is able to see the big picture on corporate security. When asked about the value RedSeal adds, Rothrock responded that nobody calculates every path and downstream risk the way his firm does.

“Even a small network might have millions of vulnerabilities,” he said. “We focus on the ones that matter.”

2) Haydale Technologies — Trevor Rudderham

Haydale may be a familiar name to FiRe attendees: it’s the U.S. subsidiary of UK-based Haydale, which was a FiReStarter two years ago.

Rudderham discussed his firm’s world leading capability in silicon carbide fibers and microfibers. Silicon carbide is used in aerospace and military applications.

These silicon carbide fibers are one one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Rudderham pointed out that this type of fiber was invented forty years ago at the University of Utah not far from the conference venue.

He explained the difference between graphene. another carbon-based nanomaterial sold by Haydale, and silicon carbide. The latter really shines when it comes to strength, and is effective in metal and ceramics. Graphene is high in electrical conductivity and is well-suited to improving polymers.

Rudderham’s goals as a FIRestarter can be summed up as,”make more from less.” He calls his philosophy “functional intensity” — getting more function per weight and volume.

3) ParentSquare — Anupama Vaid

Educators are implementing project-based learning to capture the interest of students in contrast to prior models of one-size-fits-all education.

ParentSquare’s CEO Anupama Vaid believes that her software is especially well-suited to meeting parents of students where they are, while not overburdening already-busy teachers. Unlike existing social media platforms whose workflows are not designed with teachers in mind, ParentSquare optimizes parent-teacher communication by putting the scholastic use case first.

Vaid claimed that as much as 50% of testing variance is caused by non-classroom factors originating in the home. ParentSquare’s mission is the help educators bring parents “into the fold,” regardless of family background.

With ParentSquare, it’s seamless for teachers to share with parents. The app can send email, voicemail, or an app notification. These messages are delivered in language that parents understand, including a built-in translation capability.

Vaid is passionate about empowering educators to teach kids to learn how to learn. She deemed this the “most important twenty-first century skill.”

4) TruTag Technologies — Hank C. K. Wuh

TruTag Technologies was conceived to solve the problem of counterfeiting. The impact of counterfeiting is large in the food and drug industries. The CTO of TruTag developed an optical memory device that is the size of a piece of dust. This tag allows consumers to authenticate food or pills before they ate or swallowed them.

The second application of the technology was discovered in Wuh’s words, “almost by accident.” TruTag developed a handheld optical reader that can process 400 unique colors, which is up to 10 times more precise than the human eye.

This camera has enormous applications, including the ability to identify tumors through imaging tissues.

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FiRe 2017: Size matters. In telescopes, that is…

By Ethan Annis

From left to right: Mark Anderson, Andrew Connolly

In a mind-bending session about the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the world’s most powerful telescope, Mark Anderson, CEO of Strategic News Services interviewed Andrew Connolly, Director, DIRAC Institute, Department of Astronomy, University of Washington. They discussed the reason for the building of the $187 million camera and what it will mean for scientific discovery.

At start of the session, the two discussed the specifications of the LSST. The telescope is made up of 29 individual cameras and a mirror the size of a large conference room. The building where the telescope is located is an hour north of Santiago, Chile, at an elevation of 7,000 feet. It is the biggest observatory in the world.

Connolly shared pictures of what the telescope is capable of capturing. Each star in the picture is located somewhere between one and thirteen billion light years away. One picture that the telescope takes covers 3.5 degrees of the sky and incorporates over 3 billion pixels. Connolly recounted a story of his previous work to give an idea of the capability of the LSST compared to history.

Before this telescope was built, it took 8 years to photograph a quarter of the sky. Today, with the power of the LSST, it is possible to photograph the entire sky once every three nights. Telescope operators obtain 30 terabytes of data each night and can process that data in 60 seconds.

Connolly explained that the applications of this data are invaluable to science. The information provides astronomers new insights into our place in the universe and what surrounds us. They can use this information to track planetary movement in the sky and predict upcoming changes.

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FiRe 2017: You are your data. Protect it

By Rainey Cornaby

Personal data is everywhere and the attack surface which can be hacked has become very large with the use of apps and cloud computing. In a conversation with Evan Anderson, CEO, INVNT/IP, Rob Loeb, Solution Architect at Micro Focus explained that individuals tend to look at data on a personal scale and forget where they put their information. For this reason, he stated personal data ends up in places like Azure, in the cloud, and on government computers maintained by people who do not have the same level of concern for the data security of individuals as those individuals do.

Additionally, hacking and leveraging this information has become a greater source of income for those living in developing nations. Hackers are currently focused on correlating your personal and financial data and leveraging them for profits.

“People think the new currency is bitcoin,” said Loeb. “The new currency is you.”

According to Loeb, firewall and code scanning are necessary measures, but ultimately inadequate to address the security concerns facing us today.

What then, is the solution to protect your data from threats at all levels? For adequate security today, Loeb argued the data of an individual must be encrypted.

“You literally have to do full stack protection,” Loeb said.

Traditionally this process was very resource heavy but with the advent of new methods and faster computers, encryption can be performed with fewer resources.

“When you translate the data the data is you,” Loeb said.

He ended by emphasizing the importance of implementing this solution.

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