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Microsoft releases 18M building footprints in Africa to enable AI Assisted Mapping

In the last ten years, 2 billion people were affected by disasters according to the World Disasters report 2018. In 2017, 201 million people needed humanitarian assistance and 18 million were displaced due to weather related disasters. Many of these disaster-prone areas are literally “missing” from the map, making it harder for first responders to prepare and deliver relief efforts.

Since the inception of Tasking Manager, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) community has mapped at an incredible rate with 11 million square kilometers mapped in Africa alone. However, large parts of Africa with populations prone to disasters still remain unmapped — 60% of the 30 million square kilometers.

Under Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action program, Bing Maps together with Microsoft Philanthropies is partnering with HOT on an initiative to bring AI Assistance as a resource in open map building. The initiative focuses on incorporating design updates, integrating machine learning, and bringing new open building datasets into Tasking Manager.

The Bing Maps team has been harnessing the power of Computer Vision to identify map features at scale. Building upon their work in the United States and Canada, Bing Maps is now releasing country-wide open building footprints datasets in Uganda and Tanzania. This will be one of the first open building datasets in Africa and will be available for use within OpenStreetMap (OSM).

In Tasking Manager specifically, the dataset will be used to help in task creation with the goal of improving task completion rates. Tasking Manager relies on ‘ML enabler’ to connect with building datasets through an API. This API-based integration makes it convenient to access not just Africa building footprints, but all open building footprints datasets from Bing Maps through ML Enabler, and thus the OpenStreetMap ecosystem.

“Machine learning datasets for OSM need to be open. We need to go beyond identifying roads and buildings and open datasets allow us to experiment and uncover new opportunities. Open Building Dataset gives us the ability to not only explore quality and validation aspects, but also advance how ML data assists mapping.”
– Tyler Radford (Executive Director, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team)

Africa presented several challenges: stark difference in landscape from the United States or Canada, unique settlements such as Tukuls, dense urban areas with connected structures, imagery quality and vintage, and lack of training data in rural areas. The team identified areas with poor recall by leveraging population estimates from CIESIN. Subsequent targeted labeling efforts across Bing Maps and HOT improved model recall especially in rural areas. A two-step process with semantic segmentation followed by polygonization resulted in 18M building footprints — 7M in Uganda and 11M in Tanzania.

Extractions Musoma, TanzaniaExtractions in Musoma, Tanzania

Bing Maps is making this data open for download free of charge and usable for research, analysis and of course, OSM. In OpenStreetMap there are currently 14M building footprints in Uganda and Tanzania (the last time our team counted). We are working to determine overlaps.

We will be making the data available on Github to download. The CNTK toolkit developed by Microsoft is open source and available on GitHub as well. The ResNet3 model is also open source and available on GitHub. The Bing Maps computer vision team will be presenting the work in Africa at the annual International State of the Map conference in Heidelberg, Germany and at the HOT Summit.

– Bing Maps Team

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Author: Microsoft News Center

MyPayrollHR collapse stirs allegations, questions, anger

For Tanya Willis, executive director at Agape Animal Rescue, last Thursday began like any other day — until an employee called. The employee’s deposited pay had been withdrawn from her account. The same was true for all seven of the organization’s employees. Willis called her payroll provider, MyPayrollHR.

A MyPayrollHR employee said there was a “glitch in the system,” to keep track of the missing money, and that there were “no worries,” according to Willis. But it wasn’t just a glitch in the system and the worries were only beginning.

Money continued to drain out of the animal rescue employees’ personal accounts. It didn’t stop with one paycheck reversal. “Most of our employees are still sitting with negative overdrafts in their accounts,” Willis said. One employee was told by a bank that it would be 45 to 60 days before she was made whole, she said. 

Some of the bank reversals sought arbitrary amounts, Willis said. The personal account of one employee of this Nashville-based organization showed “a negative $999,000.” She provided a screenshot of the employee’s account to SearchHRSoftware.

Employee checking account after MyPayrollHR collapse
The collapse of MyPayrollHR set into motion unusual activity in employee accounts. Many were subject to reversals in pay. But one Agape Animal Rescue employee saw reversals nearing $1 million.

Agape Animal Rescue wasn’t alone in its experience. Not long after Willis spoke with MyPayrollHR, the Clifton Park NY-based firm said it was closing “due to unforeseen circumstances.” The firm had some 4,000 customers, mostly SMB-sized businesses. The total payroll involved was about $26 million. That money is gone and there is no explanation for it. It’s unclear how many workers saw reversals in their personal bank accounts.

With MyPayrollHR’s announcement, the company also shut its doors to answers, including press queries. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an investigation late last week. “We will not allow these bad actors to take money away from the hard-working people in this state,” he said.

The questions pile up

The MyPayrollHR story has left people shocked. Employees, including low wage workers, discovered money removed from their accounts. Employers are scrambling to cover the amounts. Questions have multiplied.

A key player in this is MyPayrollHR’s automated clearing house (ACH) network vendor Cachet Financial Services. An ACH facilitates electronic payments. Cachet, which is based in Pasadena, Calif., said it is a fraud victim. It is pointing the finger at MyPayrollHR and its parent company, Valuewise Corp.

One of the services that Cachet offers is direct deposit for payroll processing firms. It was providing these services for MyPayrollHR for about 12 years.

There are two parts to an ACH transaction: First, the payroll processing firm directs the ACH to take money out of an employer’s account; the money is moved into a settlement or holding account, which is under the control of the ACH. Second, money is moved from the settlement account into various employee accounts. The process is standard in the industry, according to Wendy Slavkin, Cachet general counsel.

MyPayrollHR uploaded a file instructing Cachet to take money out of employer accounts for payment to employees. Once Cachet did that, the money should have been put into a Cachet settlement account. But that didn’t happen here.

Account numbers were manipulated

“MyPayrollHR manipulated the account numbers in that electronic file so that the money was taken out of the employer’s account and put into an account controlled by MyPayrollHR, not a Cachet settlement account, as it should’ve been,” Slavkin said.

That problem did not stop the ACH transaction process.

The ACH system then automatically tried to access MyPayrollHR accounts, which came back as frozen. To fulfill the transaction, money was taken out of Cachet’s holding account and placed into employee accounts. “Now all of a sudden Cachet is out $26 million because it’s effectively made the payroll for all these companies,” Slavkin said.

Slavkin said Cachet then initiated reversals to get its money back from employee accounts. She said that is a standard process. But some accounts were dinged twice for reversals because the first reversal was not coded in accordance to National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA) standards. 

Slavkin said initial reversals “should have been by law and by NACHA standards rejected by the receiving bank,” so it initiated a second reversal to reclaim the money. They said banks, for the most part, rejected the first and second reversals. But many were still affected, including some of MyPayrollHR’s largest payroll processing customers.

But Cachet, apparently, had a change of heart about its direction. It then began a process to alert the hundred-plus banks involved in the employer wage payments and advised them to reject both sets of reversals so the employees could have their money, according to Slavkin.

The employees will be made whole

Cachet has been in touch with the FBI, Slavkin said. It said it is out about $26 million as a consequence of the MyPayrollHR incident.

“The employees will have their pay back, but in a sense, they’ve been paid by Cachet, and not their employer,” Slavkin said.

The total losses from MyPayrollHR may be as high as $35 million, if it includes an additional $9 million in unpaid tax withholding managed by a second ACH provider, according to Cachet.

“We just have to see how this plays out and how effective the FBI can be in helping us recoup our money,” Slavkin said.

Cachet said there were no more than two reversals, but some of the employers say there have been three.

What is clear is that this problem unfolded suddenly, and employers had very little time to react. 

Among those with questions is Jeff Salter, founder and CEO at Caring Senior Service in San Antonio, which has 1,500 employees in 23 states. As many as 1,200 of the elder care provider’s employees were affected by the problem. It was a customer of MyPayrollHR for more than three years and it was happy with the service — until last week. 

A scramble to fix the problem

At about 7 a.m. on Thursday, Salter discovered his own paycheck had a pending reversal. He started investigating and discovered a larger problem.

Cachet had initiated the reversals to Caring Senior Service’s accounts, Salter said. “I know [Cachet] may claim that one of the transactions was to reverse a non-funded transaction to them, but they have done the withdrawal twice and in some cases three times,” Salter said.

Salter questions how banks can approve two reversals.

“It is clearly evident that there is something nefarious occurring, yet they are allowing reversals to occur even when their account holders are being hurt by their decisions,” Salter said. “We’ve been focused on supporting our employees first; 90% of our employees are caregivers and none of our employees deserve this treatment.”

MyPayrollHR’s abrupt shutdown is forcing some affected businesses to use reserves to cover employees. Meanwhile, employees are in various stages of getting the banks to cover the payroll amounts.

Brad Mete is the managing partner of two recruiting and staffing firms, Affinity Resource, an employment agency, and IntellaPro LLC, a professional staffing firm. The Fort Lauderdale-based firms employ about 800. About 600 of their employees were impacted. Mete learned about the problem from an employee Thursday. 

In the absence of clear answers from MyPayrollHR, Mete and his partners suspected a big problem. “We knew the writing was on the wall, that there was probably something going down there,” he said.

It was chaos times two

Mete and his team stayed late Thursday in the office and paid people directly out of its financial cushion. People had to be paid Friday. They issued direct deposits on cash pay cards, which are similar to debit cards.

In the meantime, Mete has questions. They weren’t pulling the money out of the employees’ accounts, but who was, and why? What was happening to it? They had no way of getting answers to these questions, but they had to solve the problem.

At 5:45 a.m. on Friday, Mete’s phone started ringing.

“I didn’t have time to breathe — it was chaos times two,” Mete said.

Mete had to talk to employees, clients and banks to work through the problem. Explaining the problem to employees and the plan to pay them wasn’t easy. Some of the employees work in warehouses, “and they’re not going to give you a hug when you take two weeks of pay out of their pocket,” Mete said. 

Mete worried clients might blame him. He had to tell them: “We’re not the ones that pulled the plug here. We are the victims. We are stepping up. I need you to stand by me. We’re going to do the right thing here,” he said.

Explanations leave questions

Cachet’s explanation is unlikely to satisfy the questions. Money is still missing from employee accounts. Employees are still struggling with banks to fix the problems, and there are transactions that make no sense.

Agape Animal Rescue’s Willis said Thursday there was one withdrawal from employee accounts. On Friday there was another withdrawal or reversal to employee accounts.

Agape’s bank established an advocate to help employees work with their various banks to get the money returned. Some banks have been cooperative; in other cases, employees are still fighting for their money, she said.

Some of the second withdrawals on Friday were for the amount of an employee’s pay, and others were for arbitrary amounts, Willis said.

One Agape employee’s account was pinged again and again “by whatever company was trying to get the money,” Willis said. “It just continuously did it and it finally stopped at almost a million dollars.” The employee only had a relatively small amount of money in the account.

The reversals, or attempts to pull money out of employee accounts, haven’t ended, Willis said.  On Monday, there was another attempt at a reversal.

Willis has been reading the victim accounts on a new Facebook group. “You’re just inundated with horrible stories of people that were affected in different ways.”

The stories from victims “just continue and continue,” Willis said, and there are still people whose bank accounts are getting pinged for money.

What would the people responsible say?

Willis said the shelter has suffered, so far, about $10,000 in losses. Employee taxes were taken out of employee checks, but the payments weren’t made to tax authorities. “We still owe taxes in the next few weeks,” she said.

They are now appealing for financial help.

The organization rescues as many as 200 dogs a year, and it’s an expensive process that includes medical support such as spaying or neutering, helping owners who can no longer take care of their pets, taking in dogs from animal control and dealing with abuse cases. The shelter’s work can include behavioral help for dogs, as well as grooming to get them ready for their “forever families.”

Willis was asked what she would say to MyPayrollHR if the people responsible were in front of her.

“I would have to ask, what made you feel like you have the right to disrupt so many lives?” Willis said. “People don’t do this to people.”

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Economic worry may be impacting HR budgets

On last week’s earnings call with financial analysts, Workday Inc. CEO Aneel Bhusri was asked for his opinion on the broader economic outlook. He was both vague and definitive. His company wasn’t seeing problems in its own product pipeline, “but there is no question there is uncertainty in the air,” he said.

In HR departments, the uncertainty has turned into action, according to Gartner. In a survey of 171 HR managers, 92% said they are now “prioritizing budgeting and cost optimization initiatives.”

This means HR managers are taking specific steps to control spending, said Daniel Dirks, managing vice president at Gartner’s HR practice. The most likely effects are on department hiring and technology buying decisions, he said.

A hiring freeze would be near the top of HR budget actions, “because it is relatively easy to do,” Dirks said. HR managers are also taking a hard look at their tech vendor contracts. They are “making sure what was promised in the contract is really being delivered,” he said.

But no worries, so far, in HR tech

The concern about an economic downturn is not turning up in HR vendor spending.

On Aug. 29, Workday, for instance, reported total revenues of nearly $888 million, an increase of 32% from the same quarter a year ago.

There is no question there is uncertainty in the air.
Aneel BhusriCEO, Workday

ADP LLC recently reported a revenue increase of 6% to $14.2 billion. Lisa Ellis, a MoffettNathanson partner who leads its payments, processors, and IT services business, described the increase as “great results” on a July 31 analyst call. Ellis also noted on the call that ADP’s guidance for 2020 “implies a pretty robust outlook on the U.S. economy.”

Venture capital (VC) investments in HR remain strong, according to HRWins, which reported nearly $1.5 billion in global HR VC investment in the second quarter. It sees 2019 VC investment outpacing last year by a strong margin.

Nonetheless, Dirks said there is a “change in sentiment and in mindset” in HR because of the economy. For the last 10 years, HR priorities have focused on finding talent and investing in tech; cost optimization is now emerging as a new priority. But Dirks said the new priority isn’t necessarily emerging at the expense of HR’s other priorities.

Gartner is also advising HR managers to play a broader role in watching the economy. It recommends teaming up with peers in finance and sales, for instance, to look at broader economic data.

HR managers have expertise in the labor market and may be able to identify market shifts. This could include, for instance, an increase in part-time hiring, if firms are becoming more conservative in hiring full time.

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Gears 5 Versus Multiplayer Tech Test Now Open to All Xbox Live Gold Members – Xbox Wire

The Gears 5 Versus Tech Test began last weekend, inviting both those players who have pre-ordered Gears 5 and Xbox Game Pass members to rev up their Lancers and roadie run through their opponents on the way to victory. Thanks to the incredible Gears fans, both new and veteran, who made our initial Gears 5 Versus Tech Test weekend a smashing success. This weekend we’re extending the invitation to join the action to all Xbox Live Gold members as part of Xbox Live Free Play Days this weekend.

Starting at 10 a.m. PDT tomorrow, COG hopefuls who are new to the Gears 5 fight can enlist in the Boot Camp training mode and then jump right into Arcade, the new game type designed for over-the-top fun. If you’re returning for another round following last week’s Tech Test, be sure to check out fan-favorite King of the Hill, the updated competitive game type Escalation and continue your Tour of Duty, a series of challenges that grant sweet rewards. A new reward has also been added – the Wreath Bloodspray, which can be earned by completing one match during the Tech Test from 5:30 – 6:30 pm PDT on Friday, July 26. No matter your level of Gears familiarity, Gears 5 offers a game type for you.

To ensure you’re ready for battle, search the Microsoft Store for Gears 5 Tech Test and download to your library. The Tech Test is available for download right now, but servers will be offline until tomorrow at 10 a.m. PDT. We also wanted to remind you that online multiplayer will require Xbox Live Gold for Xbox Game Pass for Console members, and that because this Tech Test is to help test our servers, you might encounter some queueing as you start to play. We hope to make Gears 5 a great online experience for all players and Xbox Game Pass members on launch, and this Tech Test will help.

Thanks for your support and we look forward to seeing you online! Be sure to visit www.gears5.com and follow @GearsofWar on Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date with the latest on Gears 5 ahead of its worldwide launch on September 10.

Gears 5 will release on September 10 for Xbox One, Windows 10 PC and Xbox Game Pass. Early access starts on September 6 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members and Gears 5 Ultimate Edition purchasers. Pre-order details can be found on the Microsoft Store.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

For Sale – WD MY CLOUD HOME 6TB

Please note this is the MY CLOUD HOME nas

I bought this just last week from WD direct thinking it was a newer version of my existing MY Cloud. In fact it is nothing like it therefore I have decided to sell it on.

IMG_0037.jpg

Price and currency: £150
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: BT. PPG
Location: Welling
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

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.

For Sale – WD MY CLOUD HOME 6TB

Please note this is the MY CLOUD HOME nas

I bought this just last week from WD direct thinking it was a newer version of my existing MY Cloud. In fact it is nothing like it therefore I have decided to sell it on.

IMG_0037.jpg

Price and currency: £150
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: BT. PPG
Location: Welling
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

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.

How government is transforming with AI – part 3

In our last two blogs in this series, we discussed how governments are using digital assistants—often with cognitive services such as language translation built in—to engage their community in more accessible ways and support their teams.

Another way that governments are using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) is to help them predict needs and anticipate issues so they can prepare accordingly.

For example, to keep Alaska’s highways open and safe during severe winter weather, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities uses the Fathym WeatherCloud solution and Microsoft Azure IoT technologies to make better, hyper-local decisions about deploying road crews. Being able to make more informed decisions with better data is helping Alaska save lives and significantly reduce road maintenance costs.

“The information we get from WeatherCloud puts us miles ahead in creating accurate forecasts,” says Daniel Schacher, Maintenance Superintendent at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, in this article. “We’ve become much more proactive in our responses.”

Read How Alaska outsmarts Mother Nature in the cloud” to learn about what led Alaska to deploy the system, how it works, and the way it’s helping the state keep residents safer and save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in resource usage.

Another example of keeping vital infrastructures up and running with insight from AI and IoT solutions comes from our partner eSmart Systems. With its Connected Drone portfolio, utilities can send smart drones out on beyond-line-of-sight missions to inspect power lines and pinpoint faults and weaknesses.

Utilities are using Connected Drones to stay ahead of power grid maintenance issues and help them prevent or reduce blackouts in the communities they serve. And by using drones to inspect lines, which can be dangerous for personnel, they can keep their teams safer.

Utilities are also using Connected Drones to get power back up and running after a disaster, as was the case in Florida after Hurricane Irma. Watch this video to see how the drones helped to assess the damage quickly—inspecting hazardous areas so human inspectors wouldn’t have to be put in harm’s way. With insight from the Connected Drones, the utility company was able to know not only precisely where repairs were required, but also which crew and equipment were needed to get power restored as quickly as possible in the affected communities.

Those are just a few examples of how governments can gain insight with AI and IoT that can help them keep the infrastructures their citizens rely on up and running. To learn about more vertical and horizontal areas where your government agency can benefit from AI, read the Gartner report: “Where you should use artificial intelligence—and why.” It provides research on the potential of various use cases and offers recommendations on the most effective strategies for applying AI.

For Sale – Corsair Vengeance DDR4 RAM 2x4GB 3600Mhz

Hi guys,

I started to build a new computer for myself over the course of the last 6 months while moving house, and by the time it was finished I ended up getting 16GB.

So, here you go! the fan has never been used, and the RAM has been used for a few months.

2x 4GB sticks, max 3600 Mhz. On my new system I had them at 3200 mhz on an x470 board and 3000 on a previous b350 board.

Price and currency: £100
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: BT or PPG
Location: Redcar
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

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.

For Sale – Corsair Vengeance 8GB 3600Mhz

Hi guys,

I started to build a new computer for myself over the course of the last 6 months while moving house, and by the time it was finished I ended up getting 16GB.

So, here you go! the fan has never been used, and the RAM has been used for a few months.

2x 4GB sticks, max 3600 Mhz. On my new system I had them at 3200 mhz on an x470 board and 3000 on a previous b350 board.

Price and currency: £100
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: BT or PPG
Location: Redcar
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

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.