Inspiring the Next Generation in STEM Education

Design studios are putting users at the centre of modern IT development.  They stimulate multi-disciplinary teams to employ Design Thinking, agile, and DevOps to start delivering technology and iterate.  Learning and adapting sustains alignment to user needs.

Organisations are now investing in redesigning their offices to encourage these new ways of working more widely.  Yesterday, was a chance for me to explore how such thinking can be applied in secondary education with the development of a new Science, Maths and IT centre in a local school.  Representatives from many technology companies assembled to discuss how the needs of business could be reflected in its design.  It is an opportunity create a physical space able to inspire wider interest in STEM and better support teaching.  Clearly it can’t all be open plan.  Organisations have created pods and rooms for quiet working, and schools need classrooms.  However, the design point has changed.

Developing soft skills including story telling, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration were seen as most important.  It is necessary to have the flexibility to adapt the physical space to accommodate learning in many areas, not limited to technology and science.  So, the centre is more than banks of computers and labs, and some areas may be free of technology.

Everyone present had reinvented themselves multiple times in their careers.  Whilst technology is constantly changing, many foundational skills are enduring.  These include engineering principles, good enough design, coding principles, data exploration, continuous improvement, probability and algorithm development.  Then learning how to think about the application of technology and the implications becomes important.  Considerations include assessment of risk, ethics and handling bias.

One trend we are seeing in industry is the breaking down of barriers between organisational silos.  Building a new STEM centre, and similarly centres dedicated to other fields including art, music and drama, encourages physical separation.  It reinforces a myth in today’s world that school children become categorised as technical or not.  However, in a similar way that every subject uses English, technology is present in all fields.  Teaching of every subject can be freed from its building.

The school’s centre can also embrace wider interests by collaborating with the local University and local technology businesses to showcase technology.  It will also welcome junior school pupils.  The appeal of STEM subjects is to be encouraged at all ages, and not seen as a binary choice.  Rather on a spectrum for all spanning general education and deep specialisation.

I offered quantum computing as one example of where we should be aiming.   By the time the centre is built and the next generation girls benefit in their secondary education, quantum computing may be widespread.  It is a story of science now being applied in technology.  Engineering challenges are being overcome, and quantum computers will be able to run mathematical algorithms that can cannot scale on today’s architectures.  Quantum illustrates STEM in a nutshell, provoking consideration of design, bias, ethics and human judgement is use.

So it is also about people.  The centre can promote role models, telling the stories of women who pioneered technology as a constant reminder and inspiration for future generations of girls.  They can reach the top.  IBM has appointed 305 Fellows since 1963 who have changed the world.  It is a pinnacle of technical achievement.  The 2019 cohort is four men and four women.

Reinventing organisations as agile

Achieving 40% cost reduction in operations, delivering services four times faster and reducing errors by three-quarters are three benefits that governments can realise through digital reinvention.  It requires governments to take a citizen-centric approach just as expectations have been raised in the commercial world with the delivery of digital platforms by Netflix, Airbnb, Uber etc that are consumer-centric.

One enabler to becoming citizen-centric is the adoption of agile organisational culture, structure and practices.  But this is difficult transition for established organisations, especially government departments, to make.  I recently published a TechNote outlining steps that organisations can take to become more aligned to their customers and to citizens.  It summarises thinking from an IBM Academy of Technology initiative that produced an Agile Organization Guide last year to help technical leaders in our own transformation.

We have also been applying elements of that guide to assist various clients round the world in their transformation.   Here are three learning points from one client whose IT department strives to better serve lines of business.

  1. The product centric-customer intimacy-operational excellence triad (from, “The discipline of market leaders,” Treacy and Wiersema) helped the IT department shift itself to become business rather than product centric. Four value propositions were created: 1) access IT practitioners directly; 2) be close to the business; 3) instill pace using appropriate paradigms; 4) balance strategic versus technical debt, while managing the lifecycle.
  2. Business driven tribes were created, two for each of these four areas. Organisational layers have been removed and the access point to IT changed from management to the practitioners in the tribes.  A corresponding shift to sense and adjust servant leadership was made.
  3. Adoption of the scale free network approach and newly defined ‘intrapreneur’ and ‘extrapreneur’ roles help drive change. Empowering IT practitioners and equipping them the tools they need made a big impact.

The main challenge encountered has been with the group responsible for the largest applications.  It has been the hardest to change, and we hope that use of strangler pattern will help.

Find out more in the IBM Academy of Technology’s TechNote by asking yourself, “How agile is your organization?

Ensuring Trust in Government Services

One of the most impressive developments this week is the launch of the Government-backed Dubai Blockchain Platform.  It is a significant step forward in the digital reinvention of Government to deliver services that are citizen-centric.  Reimagining business processes to be cross-agency demands trust to build and sustain public confidence.  The first application to use the platform is Dubai’s Payments Settlement and Reconciliation System.  It eliminates friction from financial process, reducing the time taken to settle payments between entities from 45 days to near instantaneous.

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I presented on blockchain to over a hundred delegates at digitech18 in Leeds this week.  Blockchain offers opportunities to overcome the inefficiencies that arises when information crosses organizational boundaries.  Processes that span multiple agencies throw up variations in reporting and costly, slow reconciliation because each has its own system of record.  Typically, there is a proliferation of documents, and agencies revert back to these when disputes arise.


A single, shared system of record reduces friction and disputes


There is a single, shared system of record for all agencies when using blockchain.  All have the same view of what has been agreed, and disputes don’t arise because all have agreed consensus: what constitutes a valid transaction.  Only agreed transactions are posted and changes are tamper-proof.  Therefore, records in the blockchain are trusted as the truth and the cost and inertia of reverting to paper records is removed.

Simply underpinning today’s processes with blockchain will not realise the benefits.  Governments need to rethink how they can revolutionise service delivery end-to-end, across Government and beyond.  The expectations that citizens now have in a world where commercial organisations have reinvented industries using digital platforms is now being demanded of Government.


Enabling greater trust in Government


I highlighted two examples of blockchain in Leeds:

  • TradeLens is an open, neutral supply chain platform. It reduces international shipping barriers by overcoming the burden of paper-based processes, data trapped in organizational siloes, disparate perspectives on transaction states, and risk of fraud.  Governments can benefits from using the platform at borders and customs to reduce friction and gain greater visibility of the supply chain which can help target inspections.
  • IBM Food Trust is a platform that helps to build and sustain confidence in food, addressing provenance concerns by recording a complete history. One benefit is that stakeholders, such as supermarkets, are able to identify the exact food packages that should be removed from shelves in the event of a safety issue within minutes rather than days, or even weeks.

There are many other instances where Government can benefit from blockchain including the justice system, sovereign identity, and licensing.


Hyperledger Fabric: ready for Government


Blockchain is about enabling trust in an ecosystem through open governance.  In the same vein, IBM gave its blockchain platform code to the Linux Foundation and the Hyperledger Fabric was formed.  It is open source software with open management and governance, and no private control.  Furthermore, IBM took the view that a permissioned approach to blockchain where the participants are known and access control is intrinsic is the right one for business and Government.

In my blog post last week in the run up to digitech18, I described how a managed implementation of the Hyperledger Fabric is ready to use on the IBM Cloud.  It has enabled the Food Standards Agency to get up and running with its first iteration in three weeks, and gain the benefits of richer information to target an inspection on a suspected outbreak of liver fluke identified at an abattoir in the first week of operation.


Start with opportunities that benefit an ecosystem, not the technology


I closed my talk with three points:

  • The business of Government is no longer centralized but devolved. Ecosystems are now delivering services rather than being limited to processes of a department.  Each participant in the ecosystem has interests and benefits that can come together to make a case for blockchain.
  • Data sharing standards enable rapid implementation of blockchain. Government should lead the way and set the rule to facilitate adoption.
  • Governments should take a citizen-centric approach, and blockchain helps reduce the inertia of sharing information between parties.

Blockchain offers participants in ecosystems indelible, searchable and current views of records, with transaction visibility and transparency.  These are technology enablers of trust across the ecosystem.

You can start here today!

How ready is the public sector for AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) should now be seen as a core part of business transformation rather than merely an interesting technical project.  It means revisiting the relationship between government and its citizens, and rethinking how public services are delivered.

There are already numerous applications deployed that use AI in public sector.  These fall into five areas:

  • Improve customer service contact centres. Assistants are being used to increase both civil servant and citizen satisfaction through greater productivity and accuracy, and extended hours of support.  There is a reduction in mundane work for civil servants, and the burden from citizens on specialists is reduced.  Benefits are being realized within a few weeks.
  • Enhance knowledge workers. AI is particularly attractive in fields with massive volumes of domain-specific data to find patterns that offer improved results.  Fields include legal and regulatory, policy development, oncology, cyber security, and more generally taking this approach helps those on rotation become productive more quickly.
  • Manage the complexity of risk and Contract governance is one such use of AI by Governments.  Operational decision making has also been augmented by AI by monitoring current situations, assessing risks and making recommendations.
  • Find the best talent and modernise learning. AI is being used to analyse the talent market to find candidates who best fit a role.  Aptitude can be assessed to help build digital skills in scarce areas, eg cyber security.  Furthermore, AI aids learning in content, its delivery and management.
  • Empower developers to build AI-powered Equipping business teams to build applications using AI tooling and training platforms has facilitated integration of AI with both existing systems and emerging technologies such as blockchain.  Governments have been able to provide access to video content for its citizens using audio analysis, improve the way they deliver services using speech to text, and better protect critical infrastructure.

The opportunity apparent here is to deliver better services to citizens more quickly whilst reducing the burden on civil servants.  General characteristics can be drawn from these implementations that can be applied to assess those processes that are suitable for AI and likely to deliver benefits.  These are:

  • Does the process exploit a lot of data? And could it benefit from using other accessible content?
  • Is a personalised service required?
  • Is the process repetitive and reliant on a degree of knowledge and intelligence?

Business teams will need to be prepared to move away from the way things have always been done.  One technique to imagine new possibilities with AI is to creatively explore problems from an end user perspective using Design Thinking.

AI needs IA

Too few artificial intelligence (AI) projects succeed.  Many organisations approach AI believing that you can collect data for an algorithm in the hope that it realises the anticipated benefits.  Instead you should look at data and design a system to address a problem, not an algorithm.

Here are some keys to success for adopting AI.

  • Select the right business problem. This must be one for which a team already exists and has the data.  It avoids the pitfall where, “We need to test AI,” results in a deceptively attractive initiative which has low business value and is hard.  For example, a business process is required to collect data.  Nevertheless, there is a conundrum for many organisations that the business case to get the data requires a demonstration of AI.
  • Look at the data. Typically, organisations significantly underestimate the effort needed to orchestrate the data in readiness for AI.  AI needs accurate data, and data cleansing and preparation takes 80% of the effort.  This is a hard engineering problem and requires a sound approach to information architecture, technologies and a range of skills, not just data scientists.
  • Build systems, not algorithms. Many assume that a sequence of steps is sufficient to generate insight and recommendations.  However, feedback is crucial to improving overall accuracy.  It is complex with lots of moving parts and demands a multi-disciplinary approach.

AI must be transparent for the public to trust it.  This is especially significant for the public sector because important decisions must be explainable.  It is essential to understand who trains the AI system, what data was used to train it, and what went into the recommendations made by the algorithm.  This extends the realm of information governance.

In summary, AI needs IA: Information Architecture.

Wimbledon technology impressions

The dominant impression left with those taking IBM’s technology tour at Wimbledon this week is how artificial intelligence is used to enhance fans’ experiences of The Championships through automation and scale.  The magnitude of what it takes to amplify match data and content out to millions of fans is always a revelation.  This spans drawing fans to Wimbledon’s own digital platforms, supporting its media partners, through to providing a valuable service to the players.

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AI and Augmented Reality

The Championships Poster for 2018 applies artificial intelligence (AI) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.  AI is used not only to select 8,400 photographs that make up the mosaic from the archive of over 300,000, but also to match the colour, tone and content of the picture used in each tile to the part of the picture it represents.  The reaction when I enlarge a section of the mosaic, such as the umbrellas by the umpire’s chair which is made of photographs of umbrellas, is amazement.IMG_0066

IMG_1181There are various pictures displayed around the grounds when visitors can experience augmented reality (AR), including the mosaic poster.  Their locations are indicated on the map in the mobile app.  I show how you can tap on the ‘AR Experience’ tile in the app.  The camera recognises the picture, and in the case of the poster, the app launches the video showing how it was made.

You can experience augmented reality for yourself using Wimbledon’s phone app by pointing the camera at the poster on wimbledon.com.

Trusted data

Wimbledon Interactive is a system running on 400 press desks at The Championships that contains 2 million pages of data.  It is only available on site, and I explore the wealth of data of current matches and Wimbledon’s history all the way back to 1877 on my tours.  Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 08.10.24IBM employs tennis players to read matches and record the data associated with every point accurately within a second.  This trust in data is essential for amplification out to fans on Wimbledon’s own digital platforms and by the world’s media.

Players from the six show courts receive point-by-point video analysis about twenty minutes after the match completes to help them prepare for the next round.  This is always a highlight on my tours.  In addition, IBM has a data science team on site to assist Wimbledon and the media with access the best possible information, including bespoke reports for any angle a journalist might want to investigate.

One example of how data is made available to fans is the tactical Keys to the Match delivered in the IBM SlamTracker on wimbledon.com.  They are the top three areas that each player in a match should focus on to maximise their chances of winning.  Keys are custom generated from analysis of individual player data, including the 4.8 million tennis data points collected at last year’s Championships.  Analytics have been further honed using ball placement and player movement insights.  Fans are able to monitor players’ performance against their keys as the matches unfolds.

Brand quality

IBM uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate a video highlights package within five minutes of a match finishing.  Clients are amazed that the speed.  Video analysis of player gestures and detection of their emotions is combined with audio Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 08.07.59analysis of the crowd’s reaction, e.g. clapping and cheering, plus analytical insight from the data collected.  The points with the highest excitement score are assembled, along with captions generated from meta data that tell the story of the match, for Wimbledon to share with fans on social media and its digital platforms.

Wimbledon has become the host broadcaster of The Championships this year with the launch of Wimbledon Broadcast Services.  It is indicative of Wimbledon’s shift to become more of a data-driven media organisation rather than simply global sporting event – this digital transformation is food for thought for those joining my tours.  Despite this approach, Wimbledon is permitted one hour of tennis action coverage from each day so as to not undermine its media partners.  The digital team uses the excitement level calculated from analysis and AI to quickly search for the points of greatest interest.  This enables the team to optimise this hour to maximise fan engagement by easily identifying and sharing the moments that matter most.

Taking Wimbledon to its fans

IMG_1196Wimbledon aims to be where its fans are.  In 2018, it is widening its appeal to those that use messaging.  The Wimbledon messenger can be accessed from within Facebook Messenger to provide up to date scores on matches, monitor the progress of your favourite players, and access news.  It also provides assistance to all fans in natural language using an AI chatbot building on the ‘Fred’ in-app service that was introduced last year.

You can access the latest information from within Messenger by searching for Wimbledon on Facebook.

I found that all the clients that I took on tours this week, technical or not, are impressed with the scale, reach and focus of the Wimbledon’s digital operation.  Find out more about the technology at ibm.com/wimbledon.

 

Wimbledon’s use of AI to engage fans

At one o’clock this coming Monday, Roger Federer will walk out on to Centre Court to begin the defence of his Wimbledon Championship.  I particularly remember his semi-final match last year.  I was in the bunker where I runs the technology for Wimbledon, and about eight minutes after the match had finished, Wimbledon had produced a two-minute video highlights package of the match.  This was the first time that a sports highlights had been generated automatically.

The rise of video

Wimbledon continues to extend its appeal to a time-poor, younger demographic, and sharing short videos is a key element of the strategy to drive engagement on its digital platforms.  Video views were up 75% year-on-year to 201 million in 2017, of which 14.4 million were such match highlights.  Automatic generation accelerates production so that Wimbledon has first mover advantage, and it enables scale.

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It is achieved using artificial intelligence (AI): learning player reactions in analysis of video, detecting crowd reactions by applying AI to audio, and fusing both with statistical analysis of the data to identify the most important points in the match.  Meta data is used to generate captions that tell the story of the match in the highlights package which Wimbledon then shares with fans through its digital platforms and on social media.

AI becomes the artist

This is an example of technology innovation using AI, Cloud and Data at Wimbledon – 2018 is the twenty-ninth year of IBM’s partnership – that I described yesterday at the Cloud and Data Summit held at Landing Forty Two in London.

Cloud and Data Summit

I opened my talk with a video of the poster that Wimbledon created using AI to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC).  AI has become the artist to create a poster.  It looks like a water colour but is actually a mosaic made up of 9,000 images.  These were selected from over 300,000 images in the AELTC’s archive using artificial intelligence to match image recognised content and colour tone.  You too can watch how 150 years of archive photography has been used to stitch together a single beautiful image.

Social engagement

I told the story of data, how it is captured courtside by tennis professionals who can quickly read a match.  They aim to accurately capture all the data associated with every point within a second.  It’s about making data simple and building a trusted foundation that allows insights to be scaled on demand.

Wimbledon combines such insights with analysis of conversations and what is trending about the Championships on social media.  It uses Watson AI to exploit 23 years of articles, press and blogs – 11.2 million words have been analysed – so that it can share facts, video clips and stories with fans in the moment.

Digital resilience

IBM runs Wimbledon’s applications in the Cloud.  Four IBM public cloud and three private cloud data centres around the world are used, offering elasticity and resilience.  The software-defined operating environment allows capacity to scaled up quickly for The Championships.  Easy access to Wimbledon’s digital platforms is sustained through huge fluctuations in demand, such as a spike in interest in an epic match.  Capacity is quickly deprovisioned when no longer required to optimise the cost of infrastructure.

Over 200 million security events were halted during The Championships in 2017.  IBM correlates and normalises security event data to prioritise them and remove false positives.  Security analysts make use of threat intelligence from IBM’s X-Force research on vulnerabilities and malicious IPs, etc.  A knowledge graph is generated to help security analysts understand what is happening.  Watson for Cyber Security offers assistance through its application of AI on the corpus of security research, information on events, security notices, blog posts and more.  The result is a reduction in the time taken to analyse a threat from sixty minutes to one.

AI assistant

Wimbledon launched “Fred” last year, an AI assistant that helps visitors prepare for and make the most of The Championships.  This year, Wimbledon continues to put content where its audience is.  “Fred” powers the new Wimbledon Messenger, a service for millions of other fans available through Facebook Messenger.

Wimbledon’s digital platforms provide the window into The Championships for many fans.  A fabulous experience is enabled by AI that is powered by the IBM Cloud to exploit data.  Experience a little of this for yourself by downloading the Wimbledon app or visiting wimbledon.com/mobile.