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The growth of cognitive search in the enterprise, and why it matters

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Enterprises typically have countless data buckets to wrangle (upwards of 93% say they’re storing data in more than one place), and some of those buckets invariably become underused or forgotten. A Forrester survey found that between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends, while a separate Veritas report found that 52% of all information stored by organizations is of unknown value. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial — the Veritas report pegs it as a cumulative $3.3 trillion by the year 2020, if the current trend holds.

That’s perhaps why this year saw renewed interest from the corporate sector in AI-powered software-as-a-service (SaaS) products that ingest, understand, organize, and query digital content from multiple sources. “Keyword-based enterprise search engines of the past are obsolete. Cognitive search is the new generation of enterprise search that uses [AI] to return results that are more relevant to the user or embedded in an application issuing the search query,” wrote Forrester analysts Mike Gualtieri, Srividya Sridharan, and Emily Miller in a comprehensive survey of the industry published in 2017.

Emerging products

Microsoft kicked the segment into overdrive in early November by launching Project Cortex, a service that taps AI to automatically classify and analyze an organization’s documents, conversations, meetings, and videos. It’s in some ways a direct response to Google Cloud Search, which launched July 2018. Like Project Cortex, Cloud Search pulls in data from a range of third-party products and services running both on-premises and in the cloud, relying on machine learning to deliver query suggestions and surface the most relevant results. Not to be outdone, Amazon last week unveiled AWS Kendra, which taps a library of connectors to unify data sources, including file systems, websites, Box, DropBox, Salesforce, SharePoint, relational databases, and more.

Of course, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft aren’t the only cognitive search vendors on the block. There’s IBM, which offers a data indexing and query processing service dubbed Watson Explorer, and Coveo, which uses AI to learn users’ behaviors and return results that are most relevant to them. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s IDOL platform supports analytics for speech, images, and video, in addition to unstructured text. And both Lucidworks and Squirro leverage open source projects like Apache Solr and Elasticsearch to make sense of disparate data sets.

The cognitive search market is exploding — it’s anticipated to be worth $15.28 billion by 2023, up from $2.59 billion in 2018, according to Markets and Markets — and it coincides with an upswing in the adoption of AI and machine learning in the enterprise. But it’s perhaps more directly attributable to the wealth of telemetry afforded by modern corporate digital environments.

AI under the hood

AI models like those at the heart of AWS Kendra, Project Cortex, and Cloud Search learn from signals, or behavioral data derived from various inputs. These come from the web pages that employees visit or the videos they watch online, or their online chats with support agents and public databases of support tickets. That’s not to mention detailed information about users, including job titles, locations, departments, coworkers, and potentially all of the documents, emails, and other correspondences they author.

Each signal informs an AI system’s decision-making such that it self-improves practically continuously, automatically learning how various resources are relevant to each person and ranking those resources accordingly. Plus, because enterprises have far fewer data sources to contend with than, say, a web search engine, the models are less expensive and computationally time-consuming to train.

The other piece of the puzzle is natural language processing (NLP), which enables platforms like AWS Kendra to understand not only the document minutiae, but the search queries that employees across an organization might pose — like “How do I invest in our company’s 401k?” versus “What are the best options for my 401k plan?”

Not every platform is equally capable in this regard, but most incorporate emerging techniques in NLP, as well as the adjacent field of natural language search (NLS). NLS is a specialized application of AI and statistical reasoning that creates a “word mesh” from free-flowing text, akin to a knowledge graph, to connect similar concepts that are related to larger ideas. NLS systems understand context in this way, meaning they’ll return the same answer regardless of how a query is phrased and will take users to the exact spot in a record where that answer is likely to be found.

Cognitive search: the new normal

In short order, cognitive search stands to become table stakes in the enterprise. It’s estimated that 54% of knowledge workers are already interrupted a few times or more per month when trying to get access to answers, insights, and information. And the volume of unstructured data organizations produce is projected to increase in the years to come, exacerbating the findability problem.

“Productivity isn’t just about being more efficient. It’s also about aggregating and applying the collective knowledge of your organization so that together you can achieve more,” wrote Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jared Spataro in a recent blog post. “[Cognitive search systems enable] business process efficiency by turning your content into an interactive knowledge repository … to analyze documents and extract metadata to create sophisticated content models … [and to] make it easy for people to access the valuable knowledge that’s so often locked away in documents, conversations, meetings, and videos.”



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Uber Responds to Viral Tweet Poking Fun at ‘Walking Buddy’ Option – NBC Chicago

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What to Know

  • Twitter user @JReneex posted a viral screenshot last week showing a “walking buddy” option on the Uber app, spurring on mixed but mostly humorous reactions
  • Uber responded jokingly to the fabricated screenshot, commenting: “Gotta get those steps in”
  • Both Uber and the owner of the popular post confirmed that the “walking buddy” option is fake

Need a ride? Or an extra pair of feet?

Twitter user @JReneex posted a screenshot of several Uber transportation options for a trip to LaGuardia Airport last week that had users either raising their eyebrows or sharing a laugh.

The first two options show standard ride vehicles, while the last one offers the unconventional choice of a “Walking Buddy” for $7.50. Users were quick to pour in their assorted reactions:

Uber also joined in on the revelry, responding to the viral post with a comedic jab, tweeting: “Gotta get those steps in [sneaker emoji].”

No, the “Walking Buddy” option does not exist – both Uber and the owner of the viral tweet confirmed in a statement that the screenshot is a hoax. But there are several apps on both Android and iOS that help lend a sense of security to wary walkers, such as bSafe, My Safetipin and Life360, which offer to keep close contacts updated on your current location and immediately alert them when something goes awry.

Although they don’t offer a physical companion to pair up with, they might be just enough to provide some peace of mind if you need to forgo wheels for some sneakers.





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Chonky cats beware: There’s a new cat fitness tracker in town

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The PurrSong Pendant tracks your cat’s activity and sleep.


John Kim/CNET

This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Fitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes, and give you a way to find out things like how many steps you walk, how many calories you consume and how many hours you sleep. This type of info can be used to improve not only your own health, but also the wellness of your furry friends. Fitbit-like devices for pets are nothing new. And last week at CES 2020 I was able to check one out up close: the PurrSong Pendant, which is a fitness tracker for cats.

The idea of a cat fitness tracker might sound ridiculous. Cats don’t work out, so why would they need a kitty Fitbit? What’s next, a Peloton-like treadmill for cats so they can participate in online workouts with other cats? Fortunately, the PurrSong Pendant doesn’t go overboard with any gimmicks. It simply tracks your cat’s activity and sleep. The idea is to get real data about your pet’s normal routine and keep track of those times when your cat breaks it. The thinking goes, when your feline friend starts veering from the routine, this could be an indicator that there’s something wrong. As anyone who has ever owned a cat will know, detecting when your cat is sick just by observation can be tricky, especially since cats try to hide when they are ill. The Pendant hopes to identify an irregular pattern early so that you can seek veterinary care sooner.

The information from the tracker is shared over Bluetooth with an app on your phone that can alert you when there’s an abnormal pattern. For example, if your cat isn’t being as active as usual, you’ll be notified about that.

The PurrSong Pendant is roughly the size of a piece of Mentos candy, weighs 20 grams and has an IP56 rating for water and dust resistance. It attaches to your cat’s collar and will last one month on a single charge.

On the off chance that the name PurrSong sounds familiar, that may be because you heard it back when the South Korean company announced its LavvieBot S smart litter box at CES in 2019. The automated litter box cleans itself and refills the litter. The LavvieBot S can also track your cats’ weights (for multiple pets) and how often they use the litter box. The idea is that the data from the PurrSong Pendant along with the data from the litter box can give you a snapshot of your cat’s overall health.

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The tiny PurrSong Pendant is designed to attach to your cat’s collar.


John Kim/CNET

PurrSong is participating in Samsung C-Lab Outside, which is a joint startup incubation program with Samsung. The PurrSong Pendant will be released later this year. The tracker doesn’t have a price but PurrSong hopes to sell it for around $100. You can preorder the LavvieBot S smart litter box for $550 and it’ll ship in April or May.

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The PurrSong Pendant should retail for around $100.


John Kim/CNET


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Vaccine for Wuhan China coronavirus: timeline, development

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  • Several biotech companies have rolled out plans to develop vaccines to protect people against the Wuhan, China coronavirus, with support from global health groups and the US government.
  • But vaccine development has historically been an arduous, multi-year process. None of the biotechs provided expected timelines to get their vaccines on the market.
  • Previous infectious disease outbreaks, including for the Ebola and Zika viruses, show the challenges likely to face experimental vaccines for this virus as well.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US health officials and global organizations are racing to respond to the spread of a deadly virus coming out of Wuhan, China.

One piece of that effort is enlisting biotechs to begin searching for an effective vaccine. 

Several companies, including Moderna, Novavax and Inovio, have announced preliminary development plans. But a look back at recent history of other infectious diseases such as Ebola, Zika and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) show these vaccines have faced a challenging and lengthy path.

Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated the first clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine could begin before this summer, in an interview with the industry publication Biocentury.

“We likely will be able, unless there are unanticipated roadblocks, to start a Phase 1 trial in about three months,” he said.

The Wuhan coronavirus has now infected more than 630 people and spread to 9 countries. At least 18 people have died.

 

The first Ebola vaccine emerged from roughly 20 years of research

The first Ebola vaccine was approved last month in the US after roughly two decades of research and four years of clinical testing in thousands of people. The National Institutes of Health is testing a range of vaccine candidates against Zika, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes that began spreading widely in 2015.

A 2003 outbreak of SARS led to a similar rush for developing vaccines. More than 15 years later, there is still no approved SARS vaccine. In part, that’s because public health efforts helped halt the spread of the virus, leaving little need for a vaccine, according to Christopher Raymond, an analyst at Piper Sandler.

Part of the challenge is finding sources of funding that won’t dwindle once an outbreak is over, Maria Elena Bottazzi, a co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, told Business Insider.

Bottazzi said the reactionary nature of this funding is one of her biggest concerns for future vaccine development. In the case of her team, they were developing a SARS vaccine when Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, broke out. 

That led to shift in funding to focus on MERS, at the expense of the continued development of their SARS candidate. Now, considering the new coronavirus outbreak, she said that will be the key challenge to watch for as some candidates move into clinical testing.

“The scientific hurdles are the lower of the hurdles,” she said. “Scientifically, we can move quickly. It’s the hurdles of how to then mobilize the resources, create the partnerships, and eventually who is going to bring it to the point where we can deliver it to the population.”

It can take one to 3 years to develop a vaccine

Botazzi estimated that it can take one to three years to develop a vaccine and get it into people’s hands.

Moderna, a $7 billion biotech based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of these biotechs now in the early stages of producing an investigational vaccine. The company’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, acknowledged some of the disease’s unknowns are likely to create challenges in testing potential vaccines.

“We do not know the incubation time of the virus — 2 days or 2 weeks. We don’t know how long people stay sick — a day or three weeks,” Bancel said Thursday in an interview with Business Insider. “That has very big implications for the modeling you do.”

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci and two other scientists noted that we’re getting better at developing vaccines, thanks in part to innovations from companies like Moderna. They said it took about 20 months to get to early human trials of a vaccine for SARS, but the timeline has since been compressed to the span of a few months.



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