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About machine learning

Machine learning is changing the world.

In near future electronics systems(our phones, our cars, our watches, our smart home, …) will be able to achieve results that will bring us in another dimension.

Machine learning is a technology really rising since 2 years and creating huge business value. It’s pushed by the big ones as it’s at the heart of their business : Google, Facebook, Baidu, Tesla, … When Netflix recommands you a film, they use machine learning, when gmail filter your spam, they use machine learning, and so on. These are “simple” examples, more important ones are coming.

First example: autonomous cars.

Soon ( Elon Musk recently announced it will be in 2 years from now) cars will be able to run autonomously in ‘normal’ streets.

They will be able to ‘drive’ better than normal humans.

Recently, George Hotz claimed he is building an autonomous car, by himself, and using a software he wrote made of only 2000 lines of code.

You should read the article and watch the video, very impressive : the software does not explain the car how to drive, but how to learn to drive. George has to drive kilometers (he even plan to be a uber driver to gather more datas) and the car learns to drive looking at George’s rides data.

Another example is image or speech recognition.

Google Photos is now able to search your pictures based on people, things or places.

Andrew Ng from Baidu Research presented a device (a simple camera plugged on a smartphone) that is able to analyze and describe what it sees. Baidu Eye.

There’s also a cool video with Kyle McDonald walking in an Amsterdam Street with his opened laptop and the software is describing what it can see throw the webcam, for example ‘a man eating a hotdog in a crowd’ or ‘a person riding a skateboard on a city street’. It’s amazing to see in real timing the algorithm reacting to new real-life situations.

The business applications for these image recognition capabilities are huge.

For example, a user takes a picture of a something he’d like to buy and the application is able to recognize the object and propose offers.

So what is machine learning?

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.

(source)

For an extensive explanation, there is Wikipedia.

The best and simplest explanation I’ve seen is recently is in the book ” Robbie the Robot Learns to Read” (by the way it’s a book for kids).

The story is about Robbie the robot that want to learn to read.

First, Robbie is taught about syntax and grammar rules. This is not a Succes, Robbie is in fact not able to read books because he often encounters text that do not follow the rules he learned. This is “standard” programming. The second method is to simply let Robbie “read” as many books as possible (as he doesn’t know how to read, it means he will just parse texts). Based on all these “reading”, Robbie will be able to self-learn how a text is structured, how it works, and then learn how to read.

In this video Andrew Ng from Baidu Research gives an example about how they fed a software with youtube videos for 1 week. After 1 week, the software has been able to autogenerate a neural network to recognize the most common image on youtube: a cat! (even if he even doesn’t know what a cat is). The beauty of machine learning is that the most it gathers data, the most it’s accurate.

Why is Machine learning coming now?

The theory behind machine learning is quite old. It’s about neural network type algorithms that has been established years ago.

The theory is nice but like a rocket in order to fly it needs 2 things: a big motor and a big fuel tank. A rocket with a big motor and small tank will not go very far, a rocket with a small motor and a lot of fuel will even not take off.

For machine learning, the motor is the computing power, the fuel is data.

Thanks to Moore’s law processors (CPU or GPU) are always more powerful, thanks to cloud computing a huge amount of processing are accessible for everybody, this is key to power the machine learning algorithm.

The fuel is data. 90% of world’s data have been generated over last two years. Because storage is cheaper and cheaper (people thinks it may be 0$ soon), and accessible easly thanks to cloud, a machine algorithm can find fuel easily.

What’s next ?

Today machine learning is just at the beginning. It’s often used as buzz word, a lot is still to be done, but machine learning is changing the world and that’s a great news!


  

My only resolution for this year : Focus

Focus
I like new year time. It’s a time when business really slows down for few days and when I’ve time to think about long-term stuff. It’s a good time to take a fresh start and take some good new-year resolutions. For example, one of the best resolutions I took was back in ’12 when I decided to implement “Zen To Done” productivity method from Leo Babauta, it really changed my life.

Of course like all of us I’m struggling to find sustainable new year resolutions that I’ll not forget after few weeks or even few days.

For this year, I’ve been inspired by Benoit Curdy who proposed to make it simple and only take 1 word (he took “Quality” for this year).

For me, the word will be “Focus”. For 2016, in all my actions I’ll focus as much as possible:

  • in meetings, I’ll be 100% focused on what happen in the room (i.e. not checking my phone, browsing the internet or answering emails)
  • when I’ll be with someone I’ll focus on what he or she is telling me
  • I’ll keep only 1 browser tab open to focus on the action I’m currently doing (writing a document, answering an email, reading news, …). I took this one from a recent post from Leo Babauta, I already tried it, it’s not easy, but cool.
  • to create new habits, I’ll focus only on 1 per month (taking 30 days challenges)
  • every week I’ll choose which big project I want to focus on to make a move
  • when I run (I do it 4 times per week) I’ll listen to nothing and just focus on the run (not all runs, but maybe 1 / week)
  • I’ll read only 1 book at a time (I’ve currently 4 books in progress)

What I expect from this focus is:

  • be more efficient avoiding multitasking, and being really concentrated
  • be able to move on a big complicated project by focusing on 1 specific action
  • be a better manager for my team
  • be a better dad and husband

This word “Focus” will be always in my mind.
In order to change my behaviour, I’ll proceed step by step and implement changes 1 by 1, with focus! (not trying to do all objectives that are in the post starting tomorrow) .

I wish you a very good year!


  

The most important word today is “API”

These days I’m working a lot of Digital Transformation.

What does it mean ? What are the opportunities ? What are the challenges ?

As an IT guy, my conviction is that all is about cloud (of course, and that’s not new) and APIs.

APIs are the real game changer that allow all IT systems to be open for interfaces and collaboration by design.

Part of Amazon’s success is a consequence of Bezos initial choice to go for 100% Apis back in 2002. He even wrote a memo about it :

  1. All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
  2. Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
  3. There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
  4. It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter.
  5. All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
  6. Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.
  7. Thank you; have a nice day!

For example, having IT systems exposed throw APIs allowed Amazon to launch their cloud offer AWS for everybody  even if it the software were developped for internal purpose (running their private datacenters supporting Amazon’s retail business).

In order to convince people and explain what all this is about, I’m constantly using this presentation :


  

Netflix culture in 124 slides

Netflix is an impressive company. I’ve already posted slides from them about thier cloud journey (how and why they migrated their IT from internal to fully cloud at Amazon). The purpose of this presentation is to describe Netflix culture. I like the fact that it’s fully public (older versions are even available) , this transparency shows that people at Netflix are very confident their values are the good ones and want to spread the word. One of my prefered slide is slide number 83 : Managers: When one of your talented people does something dumb, don’t blame them Instead, ask yourself what context ...    


  

Summary of the book ” Reinventing Organization” in a 9′ video

I’ve not yet read the book “Reinventing Organization” , this video  proposes a summary in 9 minutes.

The main points I’d like to highlight are :
– the explanation on why implementing “Lean” can be a problem if the organisation is not at the good level.
– the idea that the world is not black & white and that all tipe of organisations can be useful based on the company history, challenges and objectives.

Lean and Agile Adoption with the Laloux Culture Model from Agile For All on Vimeo.


  

5 cool startups in Wearables

Last week I had the chance to attend the the Wearable Technologies Conference in Munich (#WTEU2015)
I has been a great opportunity to have a view on wearables market and meet some very cool startups.

Bitbite : first wearable device that helps you lose weight and improve your eating habits.

It’s a device that you put in your ear and listens to the way you eat (chewing sounds). The promise is that the device will be able to analyse your eating habit and will coach you to improve them. For example, you have the bad habit to eat a snack everyday at 11am because you’re hungry. To correct that, at 9am, the device will just tell you “you should eat an apple now”. Funny.
What I like in this idea is the way they use an easily available data (chewing sounds) and get value from it.

Bragi :The device want to know what you are doing.

It’s another device you put in your ear. It will have some sensor to monitor your activity (speed, heart rate, …) and will embed an mp3 player.
What interest me more here is the positioning of Bragi team about data privacy. Their view is that wearable should not store your data in cloud, because of data privacy issue. No other speakers took this position.
2 quotes :
“If you give your data to big companies they will use it. If they say they will not, it’s bullshit”
“I urge you not to talk about datas, it’s your life. You do not share your life with everyone”.

I like the idea and agree with the concern, but I’m also convinced that sharing data brings value so people will accept to share…

Heddoko : a complete solution compression suit with sensors that gives feedback.

Heddoko from heddoko on Vimeo.

A very promising solution (by cool Canadian guys) based on sensors that record your movement and promise to help you to improve. For a start, they focus on Yoga, golf and swimming.
The challenging part will be to develop efficient algorithm to analyse datas and provide a valuable feedback to users.
I really love the idea of “personal coach”.

UPRight Perfect posture in just few weeks.

UPRight is a small device that you put in your back and will vibrate if you don’t keep a good posture. The idea is to coach you for few hours for few weeks in order to teach you how to have the good posture.

Another good example of a device that promise to help us to stick to our resolutions.

Upright – Perfect posture in just a few weeks. from Oded Cohen on Vimeo.

Sensoria : smart socks for running

Sensoria Coaching Evolved from Sensoria Inc on Vimeo.

As I’m a runner, Sensoria is a dream for me. In order to avoid injuries and improve my running efficiency I’ve read many books that describe the good running form. Then I try to use them and adapt the way I run. But I’ve to say it’s almost impossible to get results because of lack of feedback. My Garmin 620 smartwatch gives me some datas (cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time) but these are just numbers and it’s difficult to improve based on this.
The promise of Sensoria is to really coach the runner and give him feedback to improve.
I’ll buy it as soon as it will be available !

All these 5 startups are at early stage (not product yet on the market, let’s keep an eye to see what they deliver.


  

Let’s fight the “conference call tragedy” !

Everyday we are struggling to deploy new tools to collaborate better with remote teams (in my case using Google Hangouts but it could be skype or Lync or …).

What we try to avoid is the “conference call tragedy”.

This video explains perfectly what I mean by “conference call tragedy”.

Using a system like Google Hangouts mixing sound, video, document sharing is a strong help to improve this kind of meeting because :
– it’s easier to connect (no need of pin number, …)
– every participant knows who is connected
– with some video, we bring some “humanity”
– we can share the document easily so be sure everybody is on the same page.

That said, switching from conference call  to hangout can be difficult because of some technical problems : you need a correct data connection which some times not the case, you need a correct earphone / microphone, people you are interacting with need to have an account or a piece of software, you also need to learn how to use it (even if it’s very easy, still some tricks to know…)
But the biggest barrier to switch is people resistance to change : we have been using phones for so many years…

The transformation is in progress, it will take some time, but companies who will be able to make the switch can improve dramatically the way they work !


  

[MUST SEE] Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s Own Boy

Tonight I watched the movie about Aaron Swartz.
This guy was a genius, I highly recommend you to watch it.


  

My new todo manager is todoist , I love it.

So I’m using a new application to manage my actions list.

Todos Santos - Greg Long

Todos Santos – Greg Long (Photo credit: nathangibbs)

I’ve been a happy user of wunderlist

for some months, but some synchronisation bugs that impacted my lists (the lists were not the same between devices) make me lose confidence and that’s not a good situation for a todo manager !

Looking around I came to todoist

I’m using it since 6 months and I’ve even subscribed a premium account last week (first time for me !).

If you are looking for a todo application (and even if you are not) I highly recommend you to have a look at todoist, I promise you’ll not regret it.

The main reasons that make me happy about it are :

 

1- simplicity

todoist is very simple with no extra features.
The UI is ‘human oriented’, for example if you want to plan a task for tomorrow, you just write ‘tomorrow’ in the date field…
The interface is clean, no extra buttons.

2- all devices and gmail integration

It’s a must have for a todo manager to be accessible from all devices. Todoist web is very efficient, the android and ipad applications gave me great experience.
I use it mainly from my android phone on mobility but also in chrome when I’m on my laptop.
The chrome extension is great.
As I’m a gmail user, I appreciate the gmail integration that allow me to transform an email in action in just 1 click.

3- projects, sub projects, tasks, sub tasks, labels

Managing my todo, I need to structure tasks to group them by topic or project, …
todoist is very flexible for that. It offers to create projects , and subprojects, and even sub tasks.
It’s very nice.
It’s even possible to use tags (just by adding @tag) in the task description.
So I can to organise my tasks very easily,

4- sharing with others

Even with the free version you can share tasks with others.
You can share a project (everybody will see all the tasks within the project), and assign task to a specific person.
It’s the first time I see a todo tool really good for sharing actions.

5- apis

todoist offers a REST api to access your actions, it opens a lot of possibilities for future integration. I’m starting to play with it, and plan to integrate some statistics about my actions in my ‘personnal analytics’ dasboard (more about that soon).

6- and even fun !

todoist implement a metric ‘the karma’ that monitor your level of productivity. If you add action, complete them on time, the karma goes up. If you have late actions, the karma goes down.
It’s not very important, but it’s fun and gives some motivation when I tend to be out of control and don’t update my actions…

So know, just click here and enjoy !


  

The 3 promises of cloud computing

People often ask me what is cloud computing added-value.
My answer is :

 1- Lower cost of ownership

Going to the cloud means the big modification, infrastructure sharing, same software for all. This will necessarily bring lower cost of ownership.

2- Better functionalities.

Cloud based applications (Software as a service) are new software. They use last available technologies and implement new functional concepts. The major improvement is about collaboration. Because ‘file’ as we knew it for ever does not exist anymore, people can collaborate easily in a totally new way.

3- Better agility and flexibility

With cloud infrastructure can be started up or stopped on demand, applications do not need to be installed. They just need to be used. This brings a totally new dimension in term of agility and flexibility.


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