16 May 2017

Operating Systems for Cognitive Cities

Idea of exploiting a sort of Operating System for Smart Cities is not new, today. It's a few years that some Cities are developing and experimenting it. Just to mention some examples, there are the brilliant experiences of Bristol and Barcelona with the so-called CityOS.

We know that in Computing systems, the adoption of an Operating Systems facilitated applications development and diffusion by providing controlled access to high-level abstractions for the hardware resources (e.g., memory, storage, communication) and information (e.g., files, directories). Similarly, in a Smart City, one may imagine a sort of Operating System facilitating City's applications and services development by providing controlled access to high-level abstractions of the City resources.

In general, a City Operating System will allow:
  • collecting and sharing data in a city;
  • elaborating said data and inferring decisions (actuation) along multiple actuators, devices, smart things to communicate, control and optimize city’s processes, etc…;
  • providing any sort of ICT services for a City.

In other words a City Operating System will allow:
  • a sensing, collecting and storing (even locally) massive data sets (through terminals, smart things, intelligent machines);
  • transporting quickly huge sets of data (through high bandwidth and ultra-low low latency network connections) where it is more convenient (allocation of virtual functions);
  • elaborating big data (with A.I. and Cognitive methods in Cloud and Edge/Fog Computing) to infer decisions for actuating/controlling local actions

so it will introduce cognitive “control loops” into the City, creating a sort of Nervous System for it ! That's why I like to call the cities of the future, Cognitive Cities.

Obviously a Cognitive City OS will include some of the corresponding functions/capabilities, which are typical in an Operating System, but referring specifically to the resources and services of a City... and my take is that A.I. will be everywhere around us, fundamental to help taming the cyber-security risks.

In fact, up today, we are using quoting the well-known sentence "Software is eating the World", but looking ahead it will be more "Cognition will optimise the World" ! 

Take a look here link

02 May 2017

Technology evolution as a collective phenomenon

Today we are witnessing a growing interest on Artificial Intelligence methods and systems (from the terminals to the Network nodes to the Clouds), about on exploiting cognition capabilities into robots or autonomous vehicles, self-learning avatars, autonomic bots, etc... Even we are looking at a sort of Nervous System for the overall Digital Society and Economy (see my previous posts). It looks like we are pursing the embodiment of the "cognition and autonomic" paradigms into Telecommunications and ICT.

In this avenue I believe we need leveraging much more than we are doing on Biology, Neuroscience, Analytical Psychology and all those efforts which are targeting the understanding of Biological Intelligence; not also, also we need to leverage on Physics for the deeper physical phenomena governing the cognition. Some solutions are already there, and maybe we need just applying them to a specific new context. I could mention several of them.

The theory of F. Varela is one example of the still very popular approach to understand the roots of cognition in very simple living entities (see “The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience”, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) 

The theory argues that adaptive behaviour of simple living system (e.g., an ant or a bee) is based on two interrelated points: 1) perception consisting of perceptually guided action and 2) cognitive structures, emerging from the recurrent sensori-motor patterns, enabling action to be perceptually guided. In particular, during their life, the living systems cross several and diverse cognitive domains (called micro-worlds) which are generated from their (local and maybe also non-local) interactions with the external environment: within a micro-world the behaviour is determined by pre-defined sensori-motor loops, very simple and very fast and automatic; from time to time breakdowns occur which are unexpected disruptive situations determining the need to change from a cognitive domain (i.e. from a micro-world) to another one. Importantly, this bridging (during breakdowns) is assured by the “intelligence” of the nervous system (allowing a new adaptation and the consequent learning of new sensorimotor loops). So, within a certain micro cognitive domain, the behaviour is directed by a set of sensory-motor loops, which are fast and performing sort of well trained, automatic reactions to the local situation. When a breakdown occurs, which is an unexpected event, the nervous system reacts developing a set of possible alternative reactions. During these trail-and-error phases, eventually a specific sensory-loop prevails which allow reacting properly to the unexpected event. So, the living system, entering this new micro cognitive domain, has learnt a new sensory-motor loop, and so on. 

Example: imagine a termite bringing some food into the nest (a sensory-motor loop) when suddenly a collapse of a gallery happens: this is a breakdown. Termite should enter a new cognitive micro world to try overcoming the obstacle. A new sensory-motor loop is developed and learnt (how overcoming a collapsed gallery). They say that the connections between these systems, micro cognitive domains, happen through a sort of overall structural coupling with the overall environment (the colony), through  a sort “field”, i.e. space-time gradient of electromagnetic fields (and potential), sounds, intertwined with tactual and metabolic information. These gradients are triggering the overall collective reactions, e.g. in terms of alignment of micro cognitive worlds. This is collective intelligence, this is how Nature's technologies works in a sustainable way.

This cognition model (balancing local vs global cognition) could be perfectly applied to develop swarms of robots or drones in Industry 4.0 scenarios.

More in general I would argue that technology evolution, for being sustainable, should be seen as a collective phenomenon ! Have a look at this amazing paper: N. Goldenfeld “Life is physics: evolution as a collective phenomenon far from equilibrium”:

27 April 2017

A.I.: What's next ? Biological intelligence (B.I.)

Biological intelligence concerns all the control and adaptive systems that are not artefacts, but rather that are exploited by Nature in living entities after millions of years of evolution.

Normally when we think about Biological Intelligence we refer to human brains and nervous system functions, but there is much more in Nature. Think about the collective intelligence in colony species like ants, bees capable of adapting and co-evolving as ecosystems in changing environment. These colonies - as our organs! - are complex adaptive systems, open as exchanging matter, energy and information with the external environment. This Biological Intelligence is self-organizing. 

Biological Intelligence is, obviously, much beyond our most advanced thinking of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), today. A.I., in most cases, is still based on heuristics and algorithms (e.g., ML, DL, neural networks, etc), using binary logic but, above all, it is reductionist. Biological Intelligence leverages on the deeper quantum phenomena which are at the most basic level of life: binary logic is very different from the tangled interactions in quantum mechanics.

In A.I. avenues we are making outstanding progresses and we have great visions how to make a biz out of that! For example, two amazing projects have been announced last week aiming at progressing A.I.: Facebook’s plan to develop a non-invasive brain-computer interface that will let you type at 100 words per minute and Elon Musks’ proposal that we become superhuman cyborgs to deal with superintelligent AI. 

Also, a few days ago Apple suggested at a TED 2017 conference that "instead of replacing humans with robots, artificial intelligence should be used to give us super-human abilities”. 

No doubts that high bandwidth/low latency connectivity + massive A.I. (Cloud/Edge/Fog) + B.C.I (or similar advanced interfaces for humans) are likely to bring us to the next big Internet, which far reaching socio-economic implications...but beyond that there is a much more challenging and impactful frontier, for us, which is understanding Biological Intelligence and as such life. 

In fact, this implies looking at more subtle biological processes and interactions paradigms, maybe less familiar in Computer Science but surely nearer Quantum Biology.

Capturing the essence of Biological intelligence is the biggest bet we can make !

13 April 2017

A Network Operating System for becoming a "Differentiator"

Let’s now go a little bit beyond the plain metaphor of  future telecommunications infrastructures as nervous systems of the Digital Society and Economy.

At the beginning of this year, AT&T announced Network 3.0 Indigo as the next step after Network Domain 2.0: AT&T major push is now to create a trusted environment where organizations can share data and collaborate on analytics. It’s about moving, strategically, from playing the role of Architect to Differentiator to be very compete on data-powered services.

Let’s see an example, quoting the text on the link: “Imagine this simple example. A city has an electric utility, an internet company and a major heating/air conditioning repair company. They join a technician dispatch community to share their data – such as vehicle, traffic and appointment data. Through cooperative machine-learning and the broader data set, they get better and better at timing their dispatches. Their work becomes more efficient and customers are happier. And they are still able to keep their proprietary information safe”.

That brings to mind the concept of a Smart City as an organisms with a Nervous Systems! As a matter of fact, there are remarkable examples such as the CityOS of Bristol or Barcelona. We may reinforce this concept also by what is mentioned here  Indigo is yet another step in the network transformation of AT&T, and that network operating system will play a role to deliver the data-powered services that make all the rest of the work worthwhile".

So we can see here how network operating systems of future telecommunications infrastructures will eventually embed the features of a nervous system for the Digital Society and Economy. And also that the Operators’ infrastructures are the nerves and neurons of such a nervous system…including their processing capabilities: having said that, it’s clear the network operating system is not only about management, control and orchestration but it’s the most powerful instrument for implementing the biz strategies and novel forms of competitive advantages.

Quoting J. Doyle, for being successful, this network operating system should be robust yet fragile .

04 April 2017

Telecoms infrastructures will be the Nervous System of the Digital Society and Economy: what a better use case !

If you consider the metaphor of Nervous System you can soon realize the future Telecommunications infrastructures (e.g., 5G), Cloud-Edge and Fog Computing, Artificial Intelligence and IoT (i.e., pervasive sensoring and actuating) will have naturally to converge quite soon to exploit the Nervous System of the Digital Society and Economy.

The nervous system of a living entity, in fact, is a complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body. The nervous system includes both the Central nervous system and Peripheral nervous system: the former is made up of the brain and spinal cord (tube like structure which extends from the brain) and the latter of the Somatic and the Autonomic nervous systems. The somatic nervous system consists of peripheral nerve fibers that pick up sensory information or sensations from the peripheral or distant organs (those away from the brain like limbs) and carry them to the central nervous system. The Autonomic nervous systems controls the nerves of the inner organs of the body on which humans have no conscious control ( it includes the heartbeat, digestion, breathing).

These well-known simple definitions are enough to understand the metaphor about the evolution of Telecommunications infrastructures (e.g., 5G), Cloud-Edge and Fog Computing, Artificial Intelligence and IoT. And also the use-case is very clear! The nervous system of a living entity allows the survivability of a living entity enabling functions as to perceive, comprehend, and adapt to the world around us; moreover the nervous system operates the body’s essential physiologic functions, such as breathing and digestion… In the same way the Telecommunications infrastructures will become the Nervous System of the Digital Society and Economy allowing their sustainability by supporting functions as to perceive, comprehend, and adapt to the political and socio-economic environments; moreover it will operates the essential physiologic management and control processes of the Digital Society and Economy. As it is accepted generally now that Nervous System can learn, rearrange, and adapt, a process often referred to as neuroplasticity, so will do Telecommunications infrastructures running A.I. on Cloud-Edge and Fog Computing resources and collecting sensing information from the IoT devices. Virtualization (SDN and NFV) will provide such neuroplasticity to the Telecommunications Nervous System.

So, rather than talking about of CityBrains for SmartCities, it makes more sense referring to global Nervous System (which is much more than a brain) of the Digital Society and Economy.

Eventually my personal take on future Telecommunications infrastructures (e.g., 5G), Cloud-Edge and Fog Computing, Artificial Intelligence and IoT…is that they should be considered systemically as concurring to create an ecosystem, much beyond segmented sectors or verticals. And the biz cases is horizontal: bringing to digital life our Society.

14 February 2017

A.I. detecting early-warning signals …in the complexity of Digital Society and Economy

The Digital Society and Economy are literally becoming complex systems. All sub-systems, at the different levels, are hyper-connected with non linear relationships. Sudden regime/phase transition can occur radically changing the scenarios
Can we early detect tipping points of such sudden regime/phase transition ?

Predicting such tipping points before they are reached is quite difficult, but it might have a huge impact in several fields, from medicine to business, from biology to meteorology to social networking, from management to business and to cyber-security.

There are some nice research papers providing some guidelines. This is one of them “Early-warning signals for critical transitions”. In this case, the paper is suggesting the analysis of generic early-warning signals indicating, for a wide class of complex systems, the approaching of a critical threshold, where small forces can cause major changes in the state. Examples of such transitions might include the collapse of over-harvested ecosystems, climatic changes, or stocks markets dynamics.

For example one symptom is the critical slowing down: when the system approaches a critical transition, it becomes increasingly slow in recovering from small perturbations (which is translated mathematically into an increase in the autocorrelation and variance of the fluctuations). Another signal that can be seen in the vicinity of a catastrophic transition point is flickering. Stochastically, the system moves back and forth between the basins of attraction of two alternative attractors (bistable region). Spatial patterns is a third example: an ecosystem may show a predictable sequence of self-organized spatial patterns as it approach a critical transition (e.g. a semi-arid vegetation to increasing dryness of the climate).

Another recommended reading is this one:

Big Data analysis by A.I. systems could make a breakthrough in this promising area of research and innovation, also on the path towards a sustainable 5G.
The potential gains of investing in these studies are formidable.

24 January 2017

If there will be a 6G...it will be Quantum !

Today 5G is under the spot worldwide. The more we look at it the more we realise that the 5G infrastructure be a radical evolution of 4G/LTE and fixed networks. In fact, current trends are showing that 5G will not be just an increase of radio bandwidth, better performance and improved reliability: 5G will deeply integrate processing, storage and (fixed-mobile) network capabilities in highly flexible and programmable architectures, almost fully "automated".

As a matter of fact technology advances and the costs reductions are bringing these capabilities pervasively into the daily reality, around us, impacting deeply any segment of Society and Economy. Not only humans, but also machines, robots, drones, pieces of software processes will become the future Users of 5G in a newly developed Digital Society and the Digital Economy. 

In this sense, 5G is expression of digital transformation, starting to materialise from 2020, and maybe, one of the major issues still open is understanding the new value-chain making all of that sustainable !

But beyond that, "what's next" ?  My take is that if there will be a 6G, then it will be Quantum !

There are several evidences of increasing efforts and investments in R&D and Innovation of Quantum systems. Some notable example are: Microsoft, IBM, HP, Toshiba, Google, NASA, Intel, Alibaba, BT and other several Centres of Excellence. 

Take a look at these links:

It's true that Quantum technologies and approaches are showing different levels of maturity, but it is already widely believed that first Quantum Systems will be available within five-ten years: as a matter of fact advanced prototypes for quantum computing and communications are already available.

There is also already a Quantum Manifesto calling upon Member States and the European Commission to launch a €1 billion Flagship-scale Initiative in Quantum Technology, preparing for a start in 2018 within the European H2020 research and innovation framework programme

A future breakthrough in the development of quantum systems at affordable prices will have systemic and far reaching impacts, e.g.,
  • the exploitation of the Quantum Internet capable of exchanging information through fully optical networks and processing it, optically, in the form of encoded photons;

  • the development of disruptive applications in the areas of cryptography, cyber-security and anti-counterfeit transactions with “quantum money”, finance, but also in bioinformatics, quantum machine learning and artificial intelligence;

  • radical implications in other sectors and industries, such as new faster ways of processing genetic big data, quantum biology and medicine or developing of new nano-tech smart materials.
Would you bet on Quantum ?