Tag Archives: connected

Why Would Prosthetic Arms Need to See or Connect to Cloud AI?

Based on “Connected Arms”, a keynote talk at the O’Reilly AI Conference delivered by Joseph Sirosh, CTO for AI at Microsoft. Content reposted from this O’Reilly Media website.

There are over 1 million new amputees every year, i.e. one every 30 seconds – a truly shocking statistic.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 30 to 100 million people around the world are living with limb loss today. Unfortunately, only 5-15% of this population has access to prosthetic devices.

Although prostheses have been around since ancient times, their successful use has been severely limited for millennia by several factors, with cost being the major one. Although it is possible to get sophisticated bionic arms today, the cost of such devices runs into tens of thousands of dollars. These devices are just not widely available today. What’s more, having these devices interface satisfactorily with the human body has been a massive issue, partly due to the challenges of working with the human nervous system. Such devices generally need to be tailored to work with each individual’s nervous system, a process that often requires expensive surgery.

Is it possible for a new generation of human beings to finally help us break through these long-standing barriers?

Can prosthetic devices learn to adapt to us, as opposed to the other way around?

A Personalized Prosthetic Arm for $100?

In his talk, Joseph informs us about how, using the combination of:

  • Low-cost off-the-shelf electronics,
  • 3D-printing, and
  • Cloud AI, for intelligent, learned, personalized behavior,

it is now becoming possible to deliver prosthetic arms at a price point of around $100.

Joseph takes the smartARM as an example of such a breakthrough device. A prototype built by two undergraduate students from Canada who recently won the first prize in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, the smartARM is 3D-printed, has a camera in the palm of its hand and is connected to the cloud. The magic is in the cloud, where a computer vision service recognizes the objects seen by the camera. Deep learning algorithms then generate the precise finger movements needed to grasp the object near the arm. Essentially, the cloud vision service classifies the object and generates the right grip or action, such as a pincer action to pick up a bunch of keys on a ring, or a palmar action to pick up a wineglass. The grip itself is a learned behavior which can be trained and customized.

The user of the prosthetic arm triggers the grip (or its release) by flexing any muscle of their choice on their body, for instance, their upper arm muscle. A myoelectric sensor located in a band that is strapped over that muscle detects the signal and triggers the grip or its release.

Simple, Adaptable Architecture

The architecture of this grip classification solution is shown below. The input to the raspberry pi on the smartARM comes from camera and the muscle sensor. These inputs are sent to the Azure Custom Vision Service, an API in the cloud which has been trained on grip classifications and is able to output the appropriate grip. This grip is sent back to an Arduino board in the smartARM which can then trigger the servo motors that realize that grip in the physical world, i.e. as soon as the smartARM gets the signal to do so from the muscle sensor.

This is an adaptable architecture. It can be customized to the kinds of movements you want this arm to generate. For instance, the specific individual using this prosthetic can customize the grips for the objects in their daily life which are the ones they care the most about. The muscle sensor -based trigger could be replaced with a speech trigger, if so desired.


AI is empowering a new generation of developers to explore all sorts of novel ideas and mashups. Through his talk on “Connected Arms”, Joseph shows us how the future of prosthetic devices can be transformed by the power of the cloud and AI. Imagine a world in which all future assistive devices are empowered with AI in this fashion. Devices would adapt to individuals, rather than the other way around. Assistive devices will become more affordable, intelligent, cloud-powered and personalized.

Cloud AI is letting us build unexpected things that we would scarcely have imagined.

Such as like an arm that can see.

The AI / ML Blog Team

AARP, startups partner to study digital healthcare technology

Research from AARP has found 90% of adults aged 50 and older use technology to stay connected. Based on that research, AARP has partnered with two Boston-based digital health startups that have combined technology and healthcare with a friendly face to provide a health-focused robotic companion in the homes of individuals selected to participate in a pilot study of the product.

Pillo, a HIPAA-compliant digital healthcare companion robot, will be placed in the homes of six to 10 pilot study participants later this month for about four weeks to determine how the robot can improve disease management for individuals who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Pillo, which was created by Pillo Health and given a voice through Orbita’s voice experience management platform, is a voice- and video-enabled intelligent assistant that’s able to dispense medication, connect to caregivers, issue voice reminders and perform daily tasks, like reporting the weather and playing radio stations. Emanuele Musini, CEO and co-owner of Pillo Health, said the robot features a 7-inch touchscreen and facial recognition technology. Once Pillo recognizes the patient, it is able to dispense medication that has been preloaded into the robot.

In-home digital healthcare technology is “the future of healthcare,” said Brian Jack, chief of family medicine at Boston Medical Center. Jack said, over the next several years, he expects there will be gradual to rapid movement of care from the office and hospital settings to the home. And he said he believes in-home digital healthcare technology is an opportunity to “provide better care at a lower cost.”

Investing in digital health startups

AARP chose to partner with Orbita and Pillo Health in May as a result of the PULSE@MassChallenge event — a digital health innovation hub established by the city of Boston, MassChallenge and other entities to support digital health startups. AARP launched its $40 million Innovation Fund in 2015 that allows the organization to invest in companies working in three major health-related areas: aging at home, convenience and access to healthcare, and preventive health.

We want to help bring solutions to market that make life better for people 50-plus and increase their health security, financial well-being and personal fulfillment.
Andy Millersenior vice president of innovation and product development, AARP

AARP’s purpose is to “empower” people to choose how they live as they age, said Andy Miller, senior vice president of innovation and product development at AARP, based in Washington, D.C.

“Innovation is a major way to make this happen,” Miller said. “We want to help bring solutions to market that make life better for people 50-plus and increase their health security, financial well-being and personal fulfillment.”

Technology makes it easier for providers to monitor and diagnose patients at critical moments and to provide ongoing care without having the patient always in the room with them, Miller said.

Bringing robotics into the home

Orbita CEO Bill Rogers said Pillo will empower older adults by reminding them to take their medication on time and providing education about diabetes. Pillo can also communicate information to caregivers, alerting them if a person’s medication has not been taken or if some other issue occurs. 

Rogers said the challenge with mobile applications and web portals is the user needs to learn that experience to be able to collaborate with their doctors and physicians. Voice technology “changes the whole game of engagement,” he explained.  

“It allows people to be able to engage and interact with their voice, which is the natural way people engage,” Rogers said.

Pillo’s Musini said the idea to create Pillo stemmed from his own personal experience with his father, who had serious health issues and would forget to take his medication and follow the doctor’s orders.

“We started it with a mission to empower older adults living at home with chronic conditions,” Musini said. “The approach I had was, ‘What if there was someone with my father at that time?’ There was something that could be with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and was alert.”

Providing aftercare in-home help

Jack, who leads Project Re-Engineered Discharge (RED), a Boston University Medical Center research group responsible for developing and testing strategies to improve the hospital discharge process, helped design an animated health information technology system named Louise that provides aftercare information to people recently discharged from the hospital.

Project RED studied the system and found twice as many people who used Louise preferred to receive their discharge information from the system, rather than a doctor or nurse for several reasons, including Louise’s availability and accessibility. After returning home, Jack said patients and their caregivers are able to sign onto the Louise technology and learn about medication, proper care and follow-up appointments, as well as easily connect with their clinicians.

“When patients leave the hospital, in our studies, when we ask them what they are most worried about, they say that, ‘I’m all by myself,'” Jack said. “When there are at-home technologies, where the patient can access the technology, the technology can access the clinicians, and the patients are super happy. Plus, they can get their problem fixed in a timely way, rather than waiting for an appointment.”

Identifying best practices for digital healthcare technology

Jack said thorough study of in-home digital healthcare technology is critical before sending it out into the public — a sentiment echoed by John Torous, co-director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Torous said it’s up to researchers and groups like AARP to find best practices for in-home digital healthcare technology to avoid potentially harmful consequences.

“I think together we can learn how to use this technology in a productive, ethical and meaningful way, and it will have a bigger role in healthcare,” Torous said.

Miller said the goal of AARP’s collaborations with companies like Pillo Health and Orbita is to “gain useful and impactful information that can be used to continue to improve the customer experience and help make these products as beneficial as possible.”

Along with Orbita and Pillo, AARP has partnered with digital health startups like Folia Health and One Medical Group.

“When considering which startups to work with, we are looking for mission-aligned companies who have transformational solutions and those we can work with to co-create ageless design solutions that could have meaningful impact in the lives of the 50-plus consumer,” Miller said.

IoT investment into field management software slow in coming

BOSTON — In today’s connected world, data is everywhere. McDonald’s knows that it sells roughly 75 hamburgers every second across its locations. Airline companies know that a plane lifts off every two seconds in the U.S. What’s the use of this data, however, if companies can’t access it or act on it to provide better efficiency or prevent downtime?

Field management software provider ServiceMax Inc. is hoping its alignment with asset performance management through General Electric’s Predix platform helps customers tie their data to actionable outcomes with the hopes of IoT investment, the main theme at the Maximize 2018 Boston conference, a day-long event taking place in a select number of cities throughout the year.

“The mission of field service management is less service equals more,” said Scott Berg, CEO of ServiceMax, to the roughly 300 attendees. “Customers think of uptimes and outcomes — your customers bought something to produce. They don’t want you there in the first place.”

In the opening keynote, Berg touched on the unfulfilled promise of IoT. Roughly $3 trillion will be spent on IoT investment and connectivity and service by 2020, according to Deloitte, yet there’s still a disconnect or unfulfilled promise according to Berg.

“What people want to evolve to is a predictive model for maintenance,” he said.

‘Technical hell’

The IoT movement is already here — its scope depending on the industry you’re looking at. According to 2017 research by Gartner, the consumer segment is the largest user base of connected devices, with smart TVs, security cameras and electric meters among the consumer devices that have taken an IoT approach.

The B2B market for IoT is also substantial; a seemingly endless array of machines require updates and maintenance. By 2020, Gartner expects there to be more than 20 billion connected devices between consumer and business uses — all requiring some form of field management software to help monitor and alert users when something goes awry.

While this influx of connected devices is real and upon us, there still exists this unfulfilled promise of the return of an IoT investment for some customers — mainly due to the initial cost of the investment to upgrade or replace connected products.

What people want IoT to evolve to is a predictive model for maintenance … Before IoT, the customer was the sensor.
Scott BergCEO, ServiceMax

Several attendees at the Maximize event, ranging from customers to vendor partners, cited the initial investment required to make manufacturing tools or construction machines smart. If a manufacturing company is investing in its equipment today, there’s a good chance that IoT capabilities and field management software will be a cornerstone of that growth.

But many companies that on the surface fit the description for IoT capabilities don’t see now as the right time for an IoT investment — whether that’s due to market maturation, the cost of upgrading inventory to be connected or if their use cases don’t reap the benefits of IoT measurement and the need for field management software.

“A lot of IoT is applied at medical device and life science [companies], and it’s ‘Look at this problem we’ve discovered and we fix it and the problem goes away,'” Berg said in a roundtable with media and analysts. “What’s lost with that is the [field management software] benefit doesn’t live on; it doesn’t repeat and learn from itself.”

This one-and-done aspect of some IoT projects should “scare C-level executives to death,” according to Eddie Amos, CTO for GE Digital. “If you go out and build a one-off customized solution, you’re in technical hell forever.”

A predictive model for maintenance

What this movement toward more connectivity and IoT investment means for customers — and the customers of field management software — is less maintenance and more timely repairs.

“Before IoT, the customer was the sensor,” Berg said.

And while field service management is evolving to a more proactive maintenance approach, the industry is still a long way from complete predictive maintenance.

“We can tell you based on algorithms that there may be an issue,” Amos said. “But you still need to go out and service it. Right now, it’s about getting the right people at the right place at the right time.”

Feds issue new alert on North Korean hacking campaigns

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released an alert on Tuesday regarding malware campaigns connected to a North Korean hacking group known as Hidden Cobra.

The alert, which includes indicators of compromise (IOCs) such as IP addresses, attributes two malware families to the North Korean government by way of Hidden Cobra: a remote access tool called Joanap and a worm known as Brambul, which spreads via Windows’ Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. Both malware families were first identified by Symantec in 2015 and were observed targeting South Korean organizations. Other cybersecurity vendors later attributed the two malware campaigns to the nation-state hacking group Hidden Cobra, also known as Lazarus Group.

However, Tuesday’s alert, which was issued by US-CERT, marks the first time U.S. authorities publicly attributed the malware families and their activity to North Korean hacking operations.

“FBI has high confidence that HIDDEN COBRA actors are using the IP addresses — listed in this report’s IOC files — to maintain a presence on victims’ networks and enable network exploitation,” US-CERT said. “DHS and FBI are distributing these IP addresses and other IOCs to enable network defense and reduce exposure to any North Korean government malicious cyber activity.”

The alert also claimed that, “according to reporting of trusted third parties,” Joanap and Brambul have likely been used by the North Korean hacking group since at least 2009 to target organizations in various vertical industries across the globe. The FBI and DHS didn’t identify those trusted parties, but the alert cited a 2016 report, titled “Operation Blockbuster Destructive Malware Report,” from security analytics firm Novetta, which detailed malicious activity conducted by the Lazarus Group.

DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center conducted an analysis of the two malware families, and the U.S. government discovered 87 network nodes that had been compromised by Joanap and were used as infrastructure by Hidden Cobra. According to the US-CERT alert, those network nodes were located in various countries outside the U.S., including China, Brazil, India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The FBI and DHS attribution case for Brambul and Joanap represents the latest evidence connecting the North Korean government to high-profile malicious activity, including the 2014 breach of Sony Pictures. Last December, the White House publicly attributed the WannaCry ransomware attack to the North Korean government; prior to the U.S. government’s accusation, several cybersecurity vendors had also connected the WannaCry source code, which also exploited the SMB protocol, with the Brambul malware.

The US-CERT alert also follows tense, back-and-forth negotiations between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un regarding a U.S.-North Korea summit. Last week, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the summit, but talks have reportedly resumed.

Huawei MT992 Modem for G.fast

I’ve recently been connected to G.fast or BT Ultrafast.

Long story short, BT now supplies a ‘Super Hub’ rather than a modem and Home Hub. But the Super Hub isn’t so super…

Therefore, whilst I’m still in my cooling off period, I’m hoping someone might have a Huawei MT992 G.fast modem they’re will to part with? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Or perhaps you may know a BT Engineer who could get hold of one for me?

Any help welcome! Thanks.

Location: Swindon…

Huawei MT992 Modem for G.fast

Huawei MT992 Modem for G.fast

I’ve recently been connected to G.fast or BT Ultrafast.

Long story short, BT now supplies a ‘Super Hub’ rather than a modem and Home Hub. But the Super Hub isn’t so super…

Therefore, whilst I’m still in my cooling off period, I’m hoping someone might have a Huawei MT992 G.fast modem they’re will to part with? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Or perhaps you may know a BT Engineer who could get hold of one for me?

Any help welcome! Thanks.

Location: Swindon…

Huawei MT992 Modem for G.fast

A series of new IoT botnets plague connected devices

Internet of things botnets continue to plague connected devices with two new botnets appearing this week.

The first of the IoT botnets causing trouble was discovered by security researchers at Bitdefender and is called Hide ‘N Seek, or HNS. HNS was first noticed on January 10, “faded away” for a few days and then reemerged on January 20 in a slightly different form, according to Bitdefender senior e-threat analyst Bogdan Botezatu. Since then, HNS — which started with only 12 compromised devices — had amassed over 32,000 bots worldwide as of January 26. Most of the affected devices are Korean-manufactured IP cameras.

“The HNS botnet communicates in a complex and decentralized manner and uses multiple anti-tampering techniques to prevent a third party from hijacking/poisoning it,” Botezatu explained in his analysis of HNS, also noting that the bot can perform device exploits similar to those done by the Reaper botnet. “The bot embeds a plurality of commands such as data exfiltration, code execution and interference with a device’s operation.”

Botezatu also explained that HNS works sort of like a worm in that it uses a randomly generated list of IP addresses to get potential targets. The list of targets can be updated in real time as the botnet grows or bots are lost or gained. Luckily, like other IoT botnets, the HNS “cannot achieve persistence” and a device reboot will remove it from the botnet.

“While IoT botnets have been around for years, mainly used for DDoS attacks, the discoveries made during the investigation of the Hide and Seek bot reveal greater levels of complexity and novel capabilities such as information theft — potentially suitable for espionage or extortion,” Botezatu said.

Unlike other recent IoT botnets, HNS is different from the infamous Mirai malware, and is instead similar to the Hajime botnet. Like Hajime, HNS has a “decentralized peer-to-peer architecture.”

The Masuta botnets

Two other new botnets on the scene do show similarities to Mirai, however.

The Masuta and PureMasuta variant were discovered by researchers at the company NewSky Security and appear to be the work of the Satori botnet creators. The Satori botnet targeted Huawei routers earlier this month, and the Masuta botnets now also target home routers.

According to the research from NewSky Security, Masuta shares a similar attack method with Mirai and uses weak, known or default credentials to access the targeted devices. PureMasuta is a bit more sophisticated and exploits a network administration bug uncovered in 2015 in D-Link’s Home Network Administration Protocol, which relies on the Simple Object Access Protocol to manage device configuration.

“Protocol exploits are more desirable for threat actors as they usually have a wider scope,” Ankit Anubhav, principal researcher at NewSky Security, wrote in the analysis of the botnets. “A protocol can be implemented by various vendors/models and a bug in the protocol itself can get carried on to a wider range of devices.”

PureMasuta has been infecting devices since September 2017.

In other news

  • Kaspersky Lab filed a preliminary injunction as part of its appeal against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ban on the use of the company’s products in government agencies. The ban was originally issued in September 2017 in response to concerns that the Moscow-based security company helped the Russian government gather data on the U.S. through its antivirus software and other products. The ban, Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 17-01, was reinforced in December 2017 in the National Defense Authorization Act, despite offers from Kaspersky to have the U.S. government investigate its products and operations. In response to the National Defense Authorization Act, Kaspersky Lab filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government saying that the ban was unconstitutional. As part of the lawsuit, the injunction would, for now, stop the government ban on BOD 17-01.
  • The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) published new security requirements for mobile point-of-sale systems. The requirements focus on software-based PIN entry on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) mobile devices. Requirements already exist for hardware-based devices that accept PINs, so these standards expand on them. The so-called PCI Software-Based PIN Entry on COTS (SPoC) Standard introduces a “requirement for a back-end monitoring system for additional external security controls such as attestation (to ensure the security mechanisms are intact and operational), detection (to notify when anomalies are present) and response (controls to alert and take action) to address anomalies,” according to PCI SSC CTO Troy Leach. The standard consists of two documents: the Security Requirements for solution providers, including designers of applications that accept PINS; and the Test Requirements, which “create validation mechanisms for payment security laboratories to evaluate the security” of the PIN processing apps. The SPoC security requirements focus on five core principles, according to Leach:
    • isolation of the PIN from other account data;
    • ensuring the software security and integrity of the PIN entry application on the COTS device;
    • active monitoring of the service, to mitigate against potential threats to the payment environment within the phone or tablet;
    • Required Secure Card Reader for PIN (SCRP) to encrypt and maintain confidentiality of account data; and
    • transactions restricted to EMV contact and contactless.
  • Alphabet, best known for being Google’s parent company, launched a new cybersecurity company — Chronicle. Chronicle is an offshoot of the group X and will be a stand-alone company under Alphabet. Former Symantec COO Stephen Gillett will be the company’s CEO. Chronicle offers two services to enterprises: a security intelligence and analytics platform and VirusTotal, an online malware and virus scanner Google acquired in 2012. “We want to 10x the speed and impact of security teams’ work by making it much easier, faster and more cost-effective for them to capture and analyze security signals that have previously been too difficult and expensive to find,” Gillett said in a blog post announcing the company launch. “We are building our intelligence and analytics platform to solve this problem.” The announcement did not provide many specifics, but the launch could pose a significant threat to cybersecurity vendors that do not have access to the same resources as a company with the same parent as Google.

Intelligent Retail

At NRF Microsoft will showcase connected solutions for customer engagement, workforce empowerment, operational insights, and business transformation that combine the excitement of the latest innovations around Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality, Internet of Things & Blockchain technologies with the trust of the industry’s most reliable and secure platform. Together with our customers and partners, Microsoft is building the future of intelligent retail.

From digital experiences that make shopping fun and rewarding, to the productivity and collaboration solutions that allow retail employees to provide outstanding customer service, to the intelligent systems that provide deep insights and empower advanced decision making and personalization. Microsoft is transforming the future of retail by empowering people throughout the shopping experience. 

Questions? Contact us here.

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Join us on a Booth Tour. Explore our latest and greatest industry solutions and hear firsthand stories of innovation from your industry peers as to how they are transforming their business. Booth Tours are 45 minutes in length, and are first-come, first-served – complete the request form below to secure your spot.

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Startup Showcase:

The extremely popular Microsoft NRF Startup Showcase is back for 2018! This exclusive, invitation-only event will host more than a dozen disruptors in retail technology. Please contact your account executive directly to RSVP. Each company will showcase select solutions that help retailers and brands to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Major global retailers have credited the 2017 event with inspiring fresh, strategic conversations around reimagining retail. These engagements will be hosted at the Microsoft 5th Avenue Flagship Store and has a capacity of 40 guests per event. Please note: unless previously arranged, we are unable to offer private showcase events for individual customer accounts.

Sunday, January 14 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
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