Feeding the world with AI-driven agriculture innovation

In the 1950s and 1960s, plant biologist Norman Borlaug famously led the “Green Revolution,” developing high-yield grains that helped drive up global food production when paired with innovations in chemical fertilizers, irrigation, and mechanized cultivation. By so doing, Borlaug and his peers helped save a billion people from starvation. However, this new form of farming was not sustainable and created multiple environmental issues.

Today, farmers are using technology to transform production again, driven by the need to feed more with less and to address the impacts of industrial farming on the environment. Currently, nearly half of current food produced, or 2 billion tons a year, ends up as waste, while an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries face food insecurity or worse. In addition, new sources of arable land are limited, fresh water levels are receding, and climate change puts pressure on resources and will lower agricultural production over time. Governments need to solve these issues swiftly, as the world’s population is slated to grow from 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion 2050. Agencies and companies will need to team with growers to drive a 70 percent increase in food production.

The good news is that we’re now in the midst of a second Green Revolution that’s part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here’s how technology innovation, driven by big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, will reap a more bountiful harvest.

A vision for AI in agriculture

Farmers are deploying robots, ground-based wireless sensors, and drones to assess growing conditions. They then capitalize on cloud services and edge computing to process the data. By 2050, the typical farm is expected to generate an average of 4.1 million data points every day.

AI and machine learning interpret findings for farmers, helping them continually tweak crop inputs to boost yields. Farmers can use AI to determine the optimal date to sow crops, precisely allocate resources such as water and fertilizer, identify crop diseases for swifter treatment, and detect and destroy weeds. Machine learning makes these activities smarter over time. It can also help farmers forecast the year ahead by using historic production data, long-term weather forecasts, genetically modified seed information, and commodity pricing predictions, among other inputs, to recommend how much seed to sow.

Such precision farming technology augments and extends farmers’ deep knowledge about their land, making production more sustainable. Advanced technology can increase farm productivity by 45 percent while reducing water intake by 35 percent. However, the key is ensuring equitable access: Often the communities that need AI the most lack the physical and technology infrastructure required to support it.

Connecting communities with broadband

Access to high-speed connectivity and reliable power are still challenges in many parts of the world. That’s one reason Microsoft and its partners are bringing affordable broadband to rural communities in countries such as Colombia, India, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States through the Airband Initiative.

When communities are connected, farmers can benefit from AI and machine learning, even if they lack internet access to their individual farms. Microsoft employee Prashant Gupta and his team used advanced analytics and machine learning to create a Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard for 4,000 farmers in 106 villages and a Sowing App for 175 farmers in a district in the southeastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh in India. Farmers with simple SMS-enabled phones can access Sowing App recommendations, which apply AI to data such as weather and soil conditions to optimize planting times. Farmers who followed the AI-driven advice increased yields by 30 percent over those who adhered to traditional planting schedules.

Using IoT and AI on individual farms

Farmers with connectivity can use IoT to get customized recommendations. The Microsoft FarmBeats program, driven by principal researcher Ranveer Chandra, has developed an end-to-end IoT platform that uses low-cost sensors, drones, and vision/machine learning algorithms to increase the productivity and profitability of farms. FarmBeats is part of Microsoft AI for Earth, a program that provides cloud and AI tools to teams seeking to develop sustainable solutions to global environmental issues.

In the United States, FarmBeats solves the problem of internet connectivity by accessing unused TV white spaces to set up high-bandwidth links between a farmer’s home internet connections and an IoT base station on the farm. Sensors, cameras, and drones connect to this base station, which is both solar- and battery-powered. To avoid unexpected shutdowns due to battery drain, the base station uses weather forecasts to plan its power usage. Similarly, drones leverage an IoT-driven algorithm based on wind patterns to help accelerate and decelerate mid-flight, reducing battery draw.

IoT data processing—for bandwidth-hogging information like drone videos, photos, and sensor feedback—is done by a PC at the farmer’s home. The PC performs local computations and consolidates findings into lower-memory summaries, which can be distributed over bandwidth more easily, while also serving as a backup during network outages.

AI for everyone means more food for the world

Over time, AI will help farmers evolve into agricultural technologists, using data to optimize yields down to individual rows of plants. Farmers without connectivity can get AI benefits right now, with tools as simple as an SMS-enabled phone and the Sowing App. Meanwhile, farmers with Wi-Fi access can use FarmBeats to get a continually AI-customized plan for their lands. With such IoT- and AI-driven solutions, farmers can meet the world’s needs for increased food sustainably—growing production and revenues without depleting precious natural resources.

Be the first to know about new advancements in the Microsoft AI farming initiative. Follow us at FarmBeats.

To stay up to date on the latest news about Microsoft’s work in the cloud, bookmark this blog and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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Author: Steve Clarke

Tango Networks acquisition expands enterprise mobility services

Tango Networks Inc. acquired Simetric Telecom, a mobile services and telecommunications provider, to expand its enterprise mobility services.

Tango, based in Frisco, Texas, plans to use the acquisition to include more mobile unified communications offerings. The company recently launched Kinect Cloud, a cloud-based mobile communication service, which includes features such as recording compliance, mobile application integration and text messaging.

Simetric, based in the U.K., provides fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) with its Mobile-X platform that allows workers to access enterprise telephony capabilities on their mobile devices.

With the acquisition, Tango looks to serve distributed enterprises, telecom resellers and communication providers with a combined portfolio of enterprise mobility services that allow employees access to enterprise telephony capabilities from any location.

“We are seeing a ‘second wave mobility’ emerging now,” said 451 Research analyst Raúl Castañón-Martínez. “While ‘first wave mobility’ centered on the needs and interests of consumer, the new wave is focused on enterprises with distributed work environments that demand better communications flexibility and tighter application integration and stronger security.”

Simetric will operate as a subsidiary of Tango Networks. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Tango also announced partnerships to support the combined platform. Gamma Telecom Ltd., a U.K.-based provider of voice, data and mobile services, will offer wholesale interconnect and platform partners integrated radio access to support FMC. ASC Technologies, an omnichannel compliance recording and management provider, will support compliance for the mobile offerings.

Speech-to-text service offers real-time language translation

Speechmatics and Clique have partnered to offer real-time translation and transcription over voice calls.

The new product partnership aims to help business connect with their teams worldwide by offering real-time transcription translations into 74 languages. The real-time transcription and translation service is available to any user of the Clique API.

Speechmatics, based in the U.K., is an automatic speech recognition technology provider that provides real-time transcription capabilities. The vendor’s speech-to-text service includes the ability to understand native accents and filter out background noise and sound distortion.

Los Angeles-based Clique provides an HD voice offering through its cloud-based API that can integrate with company and network contacts. The combined offerings will provide transcriptions with a focus on accuracy of spelling for names, acronyms, products and trademarks through custom dictionary and sound features.

Jabra wireless earbuds meet enterprise mobile needs

UC audio equipment vendor Jabra launched its new Evolve 65t wireless earbuds that are designed to meet the communications needs of mobile workers.

With fewer people tied to a traditional desk or office setting, employees have a growing need for audio connectivity that meets their mobile needs and delivers quality experience.

The Evolve 65t is Jabra’s enterprise response to the popularity of wireless earbuds in the consumer market. As the newest edition to Jabra’s Evolve office headset portfolio, the earbuds focus on sound quality and UC-compatibility, including dual connectivity for laptops and smartphones.

The Evolve 65t earbuds offer the ability to connect to a digital assistant for voice commands. The four microphone technology in the earbuds focuses on call quality and attained the Skype for Business certification.

The Evolve 65t wireless earbuds will be available in December and include features such as:

  • 15-hour battery life and 15-minute fast charge capabilities
  • Dual connectivity to connect to two devices at once
  • Noise cancellation options
  • Personalized sound settings

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For Sale – Dell poweredge T410 plus i5 6600k pc 16GB DDR4

Discussion in ‘Desktop Computer Classifieds‘ started by moores211, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. moores211

    moores211

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    Dell poweredge t410
    running windows server 2008
    4 x 1TB SAS drives
    1 x 450GB Cheeter 15K
    Xeon E5620 2.4GHz quad core
    4GB RAM
    £60

    next pc
    i5 6600k
    16GB hyperx savage DDR4
    ASUS Z170-P Motherboard
    after market CPU cooler
    Corsair VS650 PSU
    think of the case as a freebie as the sleds are missing for the hard drives and it’s a cheap thing anyway.
    £220

    Price and currency: 50 220
    Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
    Payment method: CASH BANK TRANSFER
    Location: bolton
    Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
    Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

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    DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

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  2. Eddie Twadds

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    Couple of Qs about the I5 pc if that’s OK?

    Obviously no HDD but does everything work OK? Have never built a PC before so presume it’s just a case of adding HDD and Win10 OS from my existing build? Does the board come with software/instructions etc. Also, can you upload more pics of the case? Thanks.

  3. moores211

    moores211

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    everything works great, you’re exactly right add hdd/sdd and you are away. no software/instructions but these can be downloaded from the asus website. pic uploaded

  4. moores211

    moores211

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  5. Eddie Twadds

    Eddie Twadds

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    Thanks for info. Buying on behalf of son number 2 so he’s budget limited. Any chance of £160 collected. Appreciate it’s cheeky but….

  6. moores211

    moores211

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    sorry, I’d go to £200 failing that I’m splitting it
    i5 6600k £110
    ram £100
    motherboard £30
    psu £20
    case and cooler £10

  7. Eddie Twadds

    Eddie Twadds

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    OK – would go to £200 if you can include snail mail delivery?

  8. moores211

    moores211

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    sorry I’d prefer pick up and i really wouldn’t goo under 200.

  9. Eddie Twadds

    Eddie Twadds

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    Understood. Can’t get to Bolton for a bit (based in Brighouse). Offer still on table if no other interest. GLWS.

  10. Dave26

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    Hi mate – cheeky offer of £190 and can sort out pick up over the weekend as I’m local?

  11. moores211

    moores211

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    I’d go 190 without the psu(i could use it in another build)

  12. Dave26

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    I’ll stop being tight and agree £200

  13. moores211

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    ha no probs – pm

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Xbox Game Pass: The Gardens Between, Mutant Year Zero, and Strange Brigade Coming Soon – Xbox Wire

Hello, Xbox Game Pass members!

Now that we’ve had our annual dose of turkey and family, normal service resumes here at Xbox Game Pass. And on that note, we’re excited to share three important public service announcements:

  1. If the 16 games we announced at X018 were not enough, we are adding three more to the Xbox Game Pass catalog over the coming week, starting with The Gardens Between on November 29, Mutant Year Zero on December 4, and Strange Brigade on December 6. We require you to play these, as well as the over 100 other great games included in your membership – no negotiation.
  2. If you have a mobile telephone, you need to download the Xbox Game Pass app for iOS and Android. Through this app you can remotely install Xbox Game Pass games to your Xbox One so they’re ready to play when you come home from school or work. We’ll also send you notifications to let you know when games are added, so say goodbye to FOMO (and your job/free time).
  3. Follow our Xbox Game Pass Instagram and Twitter You don’t want to miss out on life-changing memes and gaming banter.

What’s that sound? It’s like a voice on the wind saying “We want more…” We hear it. Keep it tuned here to Xbox Wire, the Xbox Game Pass Twitter and Instagram channels (see above) and the Xbox Game Pass app (again, see above) where we’ll be dropping even more games throughout the month of December.

Without further ado, let’s dive into some details on the new games coming soon to Xbox Game Pass:

The Gardens Between (November 29)

Follow two best friends Arina and Frendt who fall into a surreal world full of dreamlike garden islands. Together they’ll embark on a nostalgic journey through a world built around objects from their childhood, lighting constellations and illuminating threads from a time when friendship was the most important thing in the world. Manipulate time to solve puzzles and traverse each precious memory to reach the summit of each island in this single-player puzzle adventure.

Mutant Year Zero (December 4)

A tactical adventure game with turn-based combat and real-time exploration of a post-apocalyptic world, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden puts you in command of a unique squad of mutant soldiers as you scavenge through the remains of civilization to survive. From the creators of Hitman and PayDay, experience a mix of story, exploration, stealth, and strategy in the brutal environment of a decimated planet Earth as your band of heroes embark on a quest to discover the legend of Eden.

Strange Brigade (December 6)

Join an elite agency of extraordinary adventurers and investigate the darkest corners of Egypt, where mythological menaces manifest! Strange Brigade offers a rip-roaring, 1930s-style campaign full of peril, intrigue, and good old derring-do for one to four players as you tackle an army of mummified monsters! Solve mind-bending puzzles, defy dastardly traps, unearth incredible treasure in a mysterious, ancient landscape and use the most marvelous firearms known to man in thrilling third-person combat to defeat the witch queen Seteki and send her petrifying minions back to the afterlife.

Join Xbox Game Pass Today

With over 100 great games for one low monthly price, including highly-anticipated new Xbox One exclusives the day they’re released, including the highest-rated* Xbox exclusive of this generation Forza Horizon 4, plus more games added all the time, Xbox Game Pass gives you the ultimate freedom to play. If you haven’t tried Xbox Game Pass, join today and get your first month for $1, and discover your next favorite game.

For the latest Xbox Game Pass news, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and stay tuned to Xbox Wire. Until next month, game on!

*Source: Metacritic

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Author: Steve Clarke

SamSam ransomware actors charged, sanctioned by US government

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury both announced actions being taken against threat actors based in Iran and involved with the SamSam ransomware attacks.

On Wednesday, the FBI indicted Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri on charges of deploying the SamSam ransomware which was known to be used against 67 organizations in 2018, including the city of Atlanta. The FBI noted that the SamSam ransomware has been used in attacks dating back to 2015, infecting more than 230 entities, earning $6 million in ransom payments and inflicting as much as $30 million in damages to its victims.

The investigation was a collaborative effort between the FBI, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency and West Yorkshire Police, and Canada’s Calgary Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The indictment charged the two men with “one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers, two substantive counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, and two substantive counts of transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer.”

SamSam ransomware attacks have been highly successful, especially in terms of ransom paid, in part because the attackers carried them out in a more methodical fashion than many other ransomware attackers. Unlike other ransomware — which is often designed to spread quickly and infect as many systems as possible in hopes of getting many smaller ransom payments — SamSam was much more targeted, as Christopher Glyer, chief security architect at FireEye, described on Twitter earlier this year.

“[The] threat actor targets an org, moves laterally, escalates [privileges] to domain admin, deletes backup tapes — and then deploys the ransomware to all systems at once,” Glyer wrote. “This isn’t an automated worm that spread once landing on a single system. A targeted threat actor and ransomware is an incredibly effective combination — especially if they’ve deleted your backups.”

Martijn Grooten, security researcher and editor for Virus Bulletin, described SamSam ransomware as “one of the most successful ransomware campaigns in recent years, thanks to the clever targeting of specific organizations, including universities, hospitals and local governments.”

“This targeting allowed the attackers to ensure the targeted organization really couldn’t recover the files without the private key, enabled them to create a very smooth ‘support’ process for those victims that did pay, and to make very large ransom demands,” Grooten wrote in a blog post. “It is unclear whether in the current political climate (and given the fact they do not appear to have targeted Iranian organizations) the alleged SamSam authors will face justice, or even whether their indictment will bring an end to their activities. But it does serve as a reminder that even attackers with good OPSEC, such as those behind SamSam, have a very hard time staying hidden.”

Additional actions

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two other Iran-based individuals — Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan — for their role in exchanging the Bitcoin payments gathered in SamSam ransomware attacks into Iranian rial.

Designation by the Treasury Department is a power granted by a 2001 executive order and means the agency can “freeze the assets of individuals and groups who seek out to commit terrorist acts, as well as those entities who attempt to support them.”

“Treasury is targeting digital currency exchangers who have enabled Iranian cyber actors to profit from extorting digital ransom payments from their victims.  As Iran becomes increasingly isolated and desperate for access to U.S. dollars, it is vital that virtual currency exchanges, peer-to-peer exchangers, and other providers of digital currency services harden their networks against these illicit schemes,” Sigal Mandelker, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence said in a statement.  “We are publishing digital currency addresses to identify illicit actors operating in the digital currency space. Treasury will aggressively pursue Iran and other rogue regimes attempting to exploit digital currencies and weaknesses in cyber and AML/CFT safeguards to further their nefarious objectives.”

The two Bitcoin addresses identified by the Treasury Dept. in connection with SamSam ransomware attacks were used “to process over 7,000 transactions, to interact with over 40 exchangers — including some US-based exchangers — and to send approximately 6,000 bitcoin worth millions of USD, some of which involved bitcoin derived from SamSam ransomware.

The Treasury Department said designating the two men will result in “all property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within or transiting the United States are blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from dealing with them.” However, it is unclear what exactly this will mean in practice because the list of transactions on those addresses show the threat actors routinely transferred out any payments made soon after receipt, so neither address held much currency at any given time.

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Wanted – Mid range Graphics card

Discussion in ‘Desktop Computer Classifieds‘ started by Hughwp, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. Hughwp

    Hughwp

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    Some thing like a HD7770/GTX 750 or R7 or R9 270 thats no too power hungry and no longer than 10″
    WHY?
    Please quote price inc postage

    Location: Yeovil

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    DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

  2. Is a GTX 970 overkill? I have one I’m about to list due to upgrade. Looking for £90 plus postage.

  3. Pics.

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  4. Hughwp

    Hughwp

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    Bit overkill for my needs only want it to resurrect an old PC and sell on so need to be cheap as not much market for s/h PCs
    Thanks anyway

  5. Devotee101

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    I’ll take it at £90 plus postage if you’re still selling @monkeyfist

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