Archive for AI

UK National Surveillance Camera Day – 20th June

In a world first, the UK is playing host to an awareness-raising National Surveillance Camera Day 20 June as part of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy.

National Surveillance Camera Day

The National Surveillance Camera Day, which is part of the UK government’s National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales consists of events around the country that are designed to raise awareness, inform and lead to a debate about the many different aspects of CCTV camera use (and facial recognition use) in the UK. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) is hoping that the public will take the day as an opportunity to have their say about the future of surveillance cameras with the regulators and service providers listening.

It is hoped that points raised in the debate triggered by the day could help inform policymakers and service providers about how the public feels about surveillance practices and how surveillance camera system use fits with society’s needs and expectations.

One of the key events to mark the day is the “doors open” initiative to allow the public to see first-hand how surveillance camera control centres are operated at the premises of signatories to the initiative e.g. local authorities, police forces, hospitals, and universities.

What / Who Is The SCC?

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) for England and Wales is appointed by the Home Secretary as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) and it is the Commissioner’s role to ensure surveillance camera systems in public places keep people safe and protect and support them. The current SCC is Tony Porter.

What Is The National Surveillance Camera Strategy?

The National Surveillance Camera Strategy is the government document, presented by the SCC that outlines the plans for surveillance camera use going forward.  The 27-page document is available online here:

Two Related World Firsts

Another related world first that is due to take place on the same day as National Surveillance Camera Day will be the launch by the SCC of a “secure by default” list of minimum requirements for manufacturers of video surveillance systems, designed for manufacturers by manufacturers.  The hope is that where manufacturers meet the new “secure by default” minimum requirements, this should ensure that the default settings of a product are as secure as possible, and therefore less likely to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could lead to data breaches.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most of us are used to (and often no longer notice) CCTV cameras in use in business premises and public spaces, and we accept that they have a value in protecting us and our businesses in terms of deterring criminals and playing an important role in identifying them, and in providing valuable evidence of crime.

Holding a National Surveillance Camera day highlights the fact that new and emerging technologies e.g. facial recognition and AI are currently causing concern in terms of possible infringements to civil liberties, privacy and security, and an ‘open-day’ style approach could have benefits both ways.  For example, it could serve to reassure the public and at least let them feel that their views and concerns will be listened to, while at the same time giving policy-makers an opportunity to gauge public opinion and gather information that could help guide their strategy and communications.

It is good news that manufacturers are setting themselves minimum security standards for their CCTV systems as part of “secure by default”, as this could have knock-on positive effects in protecting our personal data.

Revenue Risk To UK Companies Too Slow To Adopt AI

Research from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that UK companies could lose 20% of their cash flow if they are too slow to invest in and adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools.

Could Miss Out

Even though the report highlighted the UK’s higher than average AI-readiness, the country could miss out on a potential 22% boost to the economy and a 120% growth for individual businesses if organisations do not start investing now in AI tools that could help them gain considerable competitive advantages.

Investment Pockets

The research noted that the UK currently only has pockets of innovation for AI e.g. Google’s DeepMind AI division, and that in order to replicate this kind of innovation for growth, businesses need to be in a position where they can offer AI at scale, invest in the necessary talent and find ways to use the findings of the latest research to help achieve commercial success.

IT Skills Shortage

The UK already has an IT skills shortage and is experiencing a “brain drain” from UK university talent to US companies, a further brain drain pressure caused by Brexit fears, and the pull of attractive higher salaries and advanced tech sector careers in tech firms overseas.

Oxford University – Massive Donation For AI

One way of combatting an AI brain-drain and helping to grow UK AI talent which could help UK businesses with AI is to have an AI centre in the UK.  Oxford University has just received the largest single donation to a UK university of £150m from US private equity billionaire and Republican political adviser Stephen Schwarzman for the purpose of building an institute to study the ethics of AI. Mr Schwarzman is reported as saying that artificial intelligence is the major issue of our age.  He has also given £279m to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to establish a centre for computing and artificial intelligence.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Both this research, and some Nesta research from last year have highlighted how UK businesses may be facing added competitive challenges and missing out on revenue in the not-too-distant future due to an ongoing skills shortage that has been amplified and exacerbated by Brexit uncertainty, and by late investment in and adoption of AI.

McKinsey’s latest research builds on its research from last year where it attempted to simulate the effects of AI on the global economy.  The results showed that AI could deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 per cent higher cumulative GDP compared with today. This, of course, would be good for businesses that have invested in AI, and where many of the potential challenges are adequately tackled e.g. the UK’s IT skills shortage.  It should also be accepted that the productivity growth that AI could help fuel is likely to be affected by a host of different factors in different parts of the world e.g. labour automation, innovation, the pace of adoption of AI, and the global connectedness or labour-market structure of any given country.

It is also worth noting that AI can deliver threats as well as opportunities, in the form of AI-based cyber-attacks which are a developing risk to whole nations and economies as well as individual businesses. This is certainly one area where nations such as the UK must invest in its own AI defence structures and tools.

Mastercard’s AI-Based Digital Wellness Could Make Online Purchasing Easier and Safer

Mastercard has announced the introduction of its Digital Wellness program which utilises AI-based click-to-pay technology and new standards in order to provide an easier and safer online shopping experience.

The Program

The Mastercard Digital Wellness program provides tips and resources that are designed to help businesses (especially small and independent businesses) protect themselves from cyber-attacks and data breaches. The program includes Secure Remote Commerce, Mastercard’s Cyber Readiness Institute (a collective of business leaders), and The Global Cyber Alliance which provides SMBs with free cyber-security tools.

New Click-To-Pay Checkout System

Coming out of the Digital Wellness Program is Mastercard’s new click-to-pay checkout system which is enabled by Mastercard’s deployment of EMVCo’s (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) specification. The standards that make up EMVCO’s specification provide a foundation that enables the processing of e-commerce transactions in a consistent, streamlined fashion over a variety of digital channels and devices, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and other connected devices.

This means that the click-to-pay checkout system can be used for all kinds of online shopping, across multiple devices, and across cards, and can replace old key-entry checkout systems.

Tokenization and NuData

The click-to-pay checkout system incorporates tokenization and NuData, which represent Mastercard’s AI and machine learning tech. NuData can prevent fraud by (for example) monitoring website traffic changes, analysing changes in browsers and web surfing speeds, and verifying all the user data that makes a user unique (such as an individual’s scroll speed on their device).

The inclusion of AI technology means greater security and no need for customers to enter passwords when they pay.

The Advantages

The key advantages of the click-to-pay checkout system from the Digital Wellness Program are that:

  • It tackles the problem that customers feel unease when it comes to paying for things online because of the added security.
  • It’s fast and easy – the instant click-to-pay with no need for passwords tackles the reluctance of online shoppers to create a new user account.
  • Merchants who adopt the system have a system from a known and trusted provider that could give them a better chance of preventing fraud.

These factors mean that the system could make customers more likely to feel comfortable shopping for things on smaller websites or with unknown retailers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Mastercard, this is a way of selling its services to the huge market of smaller and independent businesses.

For merchants, it’s a way for them to leverage the latest AI tech to protect themselves and their customers from fraud, and tackle popular known barriers to purchases from smaller retailers online i.e. worries about security and the unwillingness to take the time to set up a new user account when they want to buy something.

For customers, the system should provide a safe and fast purchasing experience which can only reflect well on the merchant.  It remains to be seen, however, how many merchants take up the new system and what the cost versus benefit implications will be.

New AI Feature For Microsoft Word Online To Improve Your Writing

The new ‘Ideas’ feature, an AI-powered editor in the cloud for Microsoft Word is intended to provide intelligent suggestions to make your writing more concise, readable, and inclusive.


The new ‘Ideas’ feature, which is already being used with PowerPoint and Excel, is likely to be a value-adding improvement on traditional grammar and spelling checks because it is designed to help with the reading and writing of (online) Word documents.

The feature announced at Microsoft 2019 and scheduled for testing in June, will be able to follow along as you write, offer familiar fixes for spelling and grammatical errors, suggest improvements, be able to detect nuances in language and even suggest rewrites for tricky phrases or clunky paragraphs.

The Ideas feature will also be able to help with the reading of Word documents by, for example, providing estimated reading times, extracting key points, and decoding acronyms using data from the Microsoft Graph.

British Company Wins Google Money For AI

It’s not just Microsoft that’s making the news this week for its ongoing pursuit of augmenting its products and services with AI and machine learning.

British fact checking company Full Fact has just been named among the 20 winners of Google’s AI Impact Challenge.  The award will mean that they will receive a share of 19.1 million dollars worth of Google investment as well as consultation help and mentoring from Google.  The AI Impact Challenge from Google asked for organisations to submit ideas on how to use AI to help address societal challenges.  For Full Fact, this involved ideas about how to use AI to combat the kind of misinformation that affects millions of people’s health, safety and ability to participate in society, and is considered by many to be a threat to democracy in many countries.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The addition of an AI-powered, cloud-based enhancement to Microsoft’s online version of Word is considered to be the next, more intelligent step onwards from enhancements like predictive text.  It also offers Microsoft a way to compete with popular grammar programs such as Grammarly, and it will be interesting to see how such companies respond to Microsoft’s ‘Ideas’ feature.

The ‘Ideas’ feature is likely to be particularly good news for journalists and other writers as it will presumably be able to make the low-level composing work a little easier and may be able to save time and add value to their work.  It may even help Microsoft reach its aim of enabling people to design documents for maximum readability, and in doing so, make the workday more productive for many people.

One area where AI is predicted to offer some real promise in the near future is in the (cloud-based) cyber security market.  For example, the Visiongain ‘Artificial Intelligence in Cyber Security Market Report’ for 2019-2029 values the 2019 AI in cyber security market at $4.94bn.  Cloud-based cyber security that incorporates AI could prove to a cost-effective and affordable source of protection for SMEs and large enterprises.

Tech Tip – The JigSpace App

If you’d like to have the ability to instantly see a step-by-step interactive 3D breakdown of a complex idea, product, or phenomenon, so that you can understand exactly how it works, and be able to explain it (e.g. for a work or education project) then the JigSpace app could be for you.

The JigSpace app for iPhone and iPad is a platform to explore and share interactive, 3D ‘knowledge for anything’. When you ask, “How does that work?” the answer is right in front of you in … interactive 3D. The basic JigSpace app is available for free from Apple iTunes.

Tech Tip – Spark E-Mail App

If you’re looking for a well-organised email app for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Android with a clever interface, flexible customisation options, and tools for discussing and collaborating on emails with your team ‘Spark’ may be the app for you.

The Spark email app offers a very tidy email inbox that puts the most important emails first and saves the junk, newsletters, and less important tasks for later.

The app also features a good email search engine, offers the scheduling and snoozing of emails, smart notifications, integrations with other services, and a host of other features.

To find out more visit the Spark website , or go to iTunes or Google’s Play Store.

Tech Tip – Free, Online AI Business School

If you’d like to get an understanding of what AI is and its implications for business strategy, corporate culture and business ethics, Microsoft, in partnership with global business school INSEAD has established a free, online business school.

The AI course offers a series of 10-minute lecture videos as well as academic lectures, case studies, executive perspective videos and technology talks, which combined provide a grounding in AI and its possible applications in your business.

The online school doesn’t require registration, and the course material can be accessed on demand via mobile devices or the desktop.

Access Microsoft’s AI Business School resources here:

AI Used To Tackle Money Laundering

Banks and financial institutions are experimenting with AI technology to tackle the multi-trillion-pound problem of money laundering, thereby hitting the traditional funding sources of major criminal gangs.

Money Laundering

Money laundering is the process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money by passing it through legitimate business or a sequence of banking transfers.

According to figures from the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, money laundering accounts for up to 5% of global GDP – the equivalent of £1.5 trillion per year.  In the UK, National Crime Agency figures show that financial crime suspicious activity reports increased by 10% in 2018.

Also, in the UK for example, Companies House and estate agents (setting up new companies and investing in property) have been criticised by the government’s Treasury Committee as being key ways in which money laundering can take place in the UK.

The law in the UK (from 2017) relating to trying to tackle money laundering requires those businesses or sole traders who operate as “high-value dealers” i.e. you / your company accepts or makes high-value cash payments of €10,000 or more (or equivalent in any currency) in exchange for goods, must register with HMRC. 

Money Laundering In The News

Some recent high-profile cases of alleged money laundering involving banks include:

  • Swiss bank UBS being fined a staggering £3.2 billion for helping wealthy clients based in France to hide money from tax and launder the proceeds (the bank has lodged an appeal).
  • In September 2018, Dutch bank ING Groep NV being fined €775 million euros after failing to spot that criminals had been money laundering through its accounts.
  • In December 2018, 10 former employees of the local branch of Danske Bank in Estonia being arrested as part of an international investigation into (alleged) money laundering.

How AI Can Help

AI technology is being tested in the fight against money laundering because AI can crunch vast amounts of data (i.e. the data from millions of bank transactions) very quickly and accurately, thereby making it very good at detecting patterns and deviations from patterns.  AI can, therefore, quickly detect patterns of unusual activity e.g. behaviour consistent with money laundering (AI also learns with experience), as well as being able to spot smurfing attempts (breaking down a transaction into smaller transactions to avoid being spotted), accounts that are set up remotely by bots rather than humans, and suspicious behaviour by corrupt insiders (known to be an important element in many successful money laundering operations).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Money laundering is often used to help organised criminals / criminal gangs continue to finance many kinds of other serious crimes which have a negative impact on society and the economy. It is, therefore, good news for businesses (particularly in the financial and property sectors) that an accurate, and reliable technology-based early detection system, that works independently from human influence and error is being set to work to crack an old problem using the very latest means. 

Critics have said, however, that even though AI may be excellent at spotting unusual transaction patterns it will only be as effective as the data it is fed, and banks, financial institutions, governments and law enforcement agencies, therefore, need to share more information to get the best results from AI tools.

Some have also been sceptical of how effective an ‘off-the-shelf’ AI-based money laundering detection tool (of which there are several on the market) could be.

Chatbot Supports Students

Lancaster University has announced that it has launched a chatbot “companion” for students which allows them to ask almost any question about their university experience, from student life, and welfare, to academic studies and more.

Ask L.U.

The chatbot service, called ‘Ask L.U.’, was built on Amazon Web Services (voice) and delivers a voice interface that interacts with users.

The chatbot companion was designed and built by Lancaster University’s Information Systems Services (ISS) and enhances the existing iLancaster mobile app with a range of student-focused voice services.

The chatbot project also includes special facilities for disabled students, developed in conjunction with the University’s Disability Service.

Asked Students

In order to make the chatbot as relevant as possible to students, the University’s developers surveyed Lancaster University students to gauge which questions they were most likely to ask. From this information, they were able to compile a list of more than 300 queries that could be divided into categories such as learning & teaching and campus activities & social.  All of these could then be put to Ask L.U.


The chatbot can be accessed via the iLancaster App on mobile phones and tablets, or by asking “Alexa, Ask L.U.” on any Amazon Echo device.  Amazon Cognito is used to authenticate user data via the Echo providing a completely personalised experience.

Whole Suite of AWS Used

The Chatbot project uses the whole suite of AWS services, including AWS Cloudwatch, AWS Virtual Private Cloud and AWS ElasticSearch.  The natural speech is provided by Amazon Lex and Amazon Alexa.

Fast and Convenient

The chatbot companion is intended to enable students to get information in a fast, easy and convenient way, and delivering information via voice activation fits in well with the packed academic and social lives of students.


Chatbots are now used by many organisations, in conjunction with AI, to help deal with common enquiries, to save costs and resources, to free-up time for human staff to work on other aspects of the business, and to enable businesses to offer 24-hour customer service.

There has been criticism of bots where transparency is lacking and where they may possibly lead users to believe that they are talking to a human.  This is why the state of California passed laws to make AI bots ‘introduce themselves’ (i.e. identify themselves as bots).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many of us are now used to encountering chatbots on websites and voice-activated digital assistants, and this innovative new chatbot from Lancaster University shows how these new technologies can be put together in a value-adding and easy to access way, and in a way that is compatible with its target market.  It may also enable the university to save time and money, and free up valuable resources, and offer 24/7 help to student users.

Bearing in mind that it has been made at a University, it is also a good way of showcasing the technology skills of the university, and the voice activation aspect means that it has been built with an eye on the future.

This kind of chatbot could also have applications in many other businesses, organisations, venues, events, and experiences, and could help improve and support services where there are large numbers of users whose experiences could be enhanced by being able to get on-the-spot spoken answers to popular questions.

Report Says 90% of NHS Jobs Will Need Digital Skills, But AI and Robotics Could Enhance Services

A report, commissioned by health secretary Matt Hancock and led by US academic Eric Topol, has found that even though AI and robotics will enhance healthcare services, 90% of NHS staff will require fresh digital skills within 20-years.

Robotics and AI Enhancements

According to the report, although there has been fear that the implementation of AI and robotics to the NHS could be a step towards replacing human practitioners, they will in fact enhance services.

Smart Speakers Could Help

For example, the use of smart digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri could free-up more time for doctors which could be spent with patients. It is anticipated that smart speakers could reduce time spent on paperwork, possibly saving 5.7 million hours of GPs’ time across the country per year.

Mental Health Triage Bots?  

The suggestion that smart speakers could somehow be used as effective “mental health triage bots” by engaging in conversations while analysing text and audio for any suicidal ideas and emotions has been dismissed by mental health professionals. A smart speaker may be capable of listening and talking but as mental health professionals point out, smart speakers can’t pick up many of the visual cues that a skilled human professional can, they can’t quickly develop a relationship with a patient (as is needed in mental health assessment situations), and they may not be particularly useful in a situation where a patient is disordered.

Patient Records

The report indicates that smart speakers could also enhance the capabilities of NHS workers to update patient records.

Three Main Changes

In the report, Mr Topol predicts how, over the next 20 years there will be three main developments that will change patients lives, and how training should begin now to ensure that NHS staff have the skills to make the most of those changes going forward.  According to Eric Topol, who is a cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher, the three main changes will be:

  1. Patients having their genome sequenced.  This can help determine things like a person’s predisposition to certain diseases and how they will respond to medication or treatment.
  2. Patients being able to generate and interpret much more of their own health data at home.
  3. AI helping to exponentially increase the speed, accuracy and scalability of medical data interpretation.

Digital Appointments

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who commissioned the report, has also called on GP practices in the UK to be able to offer digital appointments within five years e.g. using Skype and Google.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

According to this report, AI, robotics and other new technologies could provide enhancements that may enable patients to be ultimately better informed about their own medical position and may help NHS staff to deliver a better quality of service while freeing them from spending too much time on paperwork and spending that time instead with patients.

There is, however, a challenge to be met in terms of making sure that NHS staff receive training that will enable them to make the best use of new digital technologies, and this will need planning and will have cost implications.

It is also important to consider, however, that the amount of data gathered about patients e.g. genomic information could be intrusive and has security and privacy risks.  Also, if AI bots are used to handle some communications with patients, those patients need to be informed that they are communicating with a bot and not a person.  Too much reliance on technological innovation could also bring some inequalities. For example, poorer people and ethnic minorities have been shown to have a lower uptake of things like digital health records.