Republicans and Democrats in Congress don’t agree on much, especially when it comes to the U.S. Department of Energy, but they agree that the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), is a good thing. Last year, when they were cutting every program in sight, they actually voted to increase the agency’s funding by 50 percent. The bipartisan support was clear last week at the agency’s third Innovation Summit, attended by a mix of liberal and conservative politicians and business leaders. ARPA-E has been popular in large part because it’s inexpensive—for about the same amount the government gave to failed solar-panel maker Solyndra in the form of a loan guarantee, ARPA-E has funded 180 projects. But how important is the agency for solving major energy challenges like volatile oil prices and climate change? At the summit, several speakers warned that the sort of short-term, two-to-three-year funding that the agency provides … [Read more...] about Can ARPA-E Solve Energy Problems?
Solve business problems
On July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin climbed gingerly out of Eagle, Apollo 11’s lunar module, and joined Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility. Looking up, he said, “Beautiful, beautiful, magnificent desolation.” They were alone; but their presence on the moon’s silent, gray surface was the culmination of a convulsive collective effort. Eight years before, President John F. Kennedy had asked the United States Congress to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” His challenge disturbed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s original plan for a stepped, multi-generational strategy: Wernher von Braun, NASA’s chief of rocketry, had thought the agency would first send men into Earth’s orbit, then build a space station, then fly to the moon, then build a lunar colony. A century hence, perhaps, humans would travel to Mars. … [Read more...] about Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems
From picking stocks to examining x-rays, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to make decisions that were formerly up to humans. But AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on, and in many cases we end up baking our all-too-human biases into algorithms that have the potential to make a huge impact on people’s lives. In a new paper published on the arXiv, researchers say they may have figured out a way to mitigate the problem for algorithms that are difficult for outsiders to examine—so-called “black box” systems. A particularly troubling area for bias to show up is in risk assessment modeling, which can decide, for example, a person’s chances of being granted bail or approved for a loan. It is typically illegal to consider factors like race in such cases, but algorithms can learn to recognize and exploit the fact that a person’s education level or home address may correlate with other demographic information, which can … [Read more...] about New Research Aims to Solve the Problem of AI Bias in “Black Box” Algorithms
There's no denying that social media is migrating from the consumer realm to the business arena. What can still be debated is how quickly this technology is making its way into the core of the enterprise, and becoming something more than marketing and sales tools.Some people -- primarily analysts, vendors and media types -- contend social media already has a prominent place within the core of business enterprises. They are even using the term "social business" to describe the use of this technology in support of backend business processes.The term is catchy, and it's probably destined to become the new buzzword for the use of social media in the business world. I would argue, however, that we're still at a point when the actual practice of social business is not commensurate with the hype.I say this because I still see a lot of evidence that both vendors and users are struggling to define exactly how social media can be an effective tool for improving business processes. If not used … [Read more...] about OPINION The Leader of the Social Business Pack
Thanks to the increased processing power of today's microprocessors and significantly improved data access and storage technology, it has become easier than ever to apply some rather sophisticated statistical analyses to better understand both business processes and customer behavior.However, the rapidly growing amount of data that businesses are collecting and storing begs for better and faster organization and processing.That places a strain on people throughout an organization from management to staff down on the manufacturing floor, in the field, customer service center, storefront and IT department.Combining data mining, statistical and numerical analysis and data visualization, the use of business intelligence (BI) applications is, as a result, spreading fast.What is differentiating competitors in the field is the BI application's ability to perform compound, ad hoc queries on large data sets on the fly and graphically display and distribute results in an intuitive, easily … [Read more...] about Putting the Business Intelligence Puzzle Together, Part 1
The difficulty of harnessing the power of e-business is the second most widely held concern among chief executive officers worldwide -- with 38 percent citing it as the primary challenge facing their businesses in the next year -- according to a study released Wednesday by Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) and research firm The Conference Board.The percentage of CEOs naming e-business navigation as their top concern was more than double last year's level, the study said.The report, "The CEO Challenge: Top Marketplace and Management Issues 2001," attributes the spike to a growing awareness among executives that their companies' survival is increasingly dependent on using technology to create "new business value.""As the Internet makes pricing more transparent, as customers demand faster service at lower costs, and as Internet competition intensifies, it is not surprising that the Internet is the concern that has risen dramatically for CEOs," said Conference Board president and … [Read more...] about Study: E-Business is Top Concern for CEOs
Having apparently not received its fill of litigation over the past several years, Microsoft Corp. filed eight federal lawsuits alleging copyright and trademark infringement against small companies in North Carolina and Tennessee Wednesday. The software giant alleges that the defendants distributed pirated copies of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.The firms in question assert that they are innocent victims who unwittingly purchased illegal software from a rogue distributor.Ismal Elamar, president of Hi-Tech Systems, Inc., told the E-Commerce Times that his company made mistakes in purchasing illegal software but that Microsoft's reaction is wholly disproportionate. "Microsoft is targeting small business owners to shut them down," he said.Microsoft did not specify damages in any of the suits.The software giant sued four Tennessee companies: Cardinal Computer Corp. of Gainesboro, Computer Outlet of Lebanon, Computer Solutions/Point-N-Shoot of Joelton, and Hi-Tech Systems.Suits … [Read more...] about Microsoft Accused of Targeting Small Businesses
Microsoft announced a new alliance with Partner America on Friday designed to help small businesses venture into the world of e-commerce.Partner America, a public-private partnership between the United States Conference of Mayors and American Management Services, will be co-sponsoring a series of Microsoft "Big Day" seminars, workshops and roundtables at locations across the United States to teach small businesses how to succeed online.Partner America chairman George Cloutier told the E-Commerce Times that the key for small businesses on the Web is to take it slow and be cautious."You have to use e-commerce carefully," Cloutier said. "Small businesses were just jumping online thinking e-commerce was going to solve all their business problems. We're trying to use Microsoft resources to make sure small businesses can do [e-commerce] economically and do it right."According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 23 million small businesses in the U.S., representing 47 percent … [Read more...] about Microsoft Alliance Targets Small Businesses
Spammers, perhaps the most hated denizens of the Internet, are under siege as the U.S. Congress and courts step up the pressure to reduce junk e-mail volume. Private companies are taking action, too: On Monday, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo forged an alliance to fight spam.Moreover, AOL announced on April 15th that it was filing lawsuits against five individuals, accusing them of sending unsolicited e-mail pitches for products ranging from pornography to discounted software. The company claimed its action was motivated mainly by "over 8 million individual spam complaints from members."In a political and corporate climate that is increasingly tough on spam, will AOL's new efforts work?Although the recent moves signal a new level of potential legal consequences for senders of bulk e-mail, the nature of spam makes it unlikely that lawsuits alone will solve the problem. Pending litigation could help, but technology may yet be the solution to this persistent and costly dilemma.The sheer volume … [Read more...] about E-BUSINESS SPECIAL REPORT Is AOL’s Anti-Spam Campaign Working?
A funny thing happened to open source CRM over the last few years: It stopped being all about open source and started being about delivering CRM -- at least, for some vendors.That shift makes sense. Customers of CRM products want applications that meet their business needs, not their desire to have access to the source code. That access is a bonus -- especially for those in a vertical market with unique requirements. However, it's not the core reason businesses invest in CRM, which is to accomplish things.By itself, open source confers no value on your business. If the ability to alter the source code is your primary concern, then you might as well develop your own CRM application in-house. What's most important is functionality. Does the application do what you need it to do to make your business successful?So, led by SugarCRM, the smart open source CRM vendors are backing away from open source as their leading selling proposition. It's a wise move -- it not only shifts the emphasis … [Read more...] about OPINION Open Source, CRM and the Realities of Business