EMAAR Digital Team Visits VisionX and PackageX HQ2 in Islamabad

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Some of the brightest minds in Artificial Intelligence and next-generation technology met in Islamabad earlier this month. A team from Emaar NEXT— the digital arm of Emaar Group based out of Dubai and the US —  visited VisionX and PackageX HQ2 in Islamabad on a two-day visit to meet the team, discuss experiences of the future and to strengthen the existing partnership on AI and digital innovation.

Emaar, a well-known $10 billion global company based out of Dubai, UAE recognized the need for technology in diverse businesses ahead of many others in the past decade and has enabled experiences for their customers leveraging different technology solutions across various lines of businesses, including but not limited to:  Properties, Malls – Dubai Mall, Hospitality – Hotels, Entertainment – Cinemas and Theme Parks, Burj-Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.

Emaar is now embarking on its next wave of business growth, backed by cutting-edge technologies and products including AI, and they have turned to VisionX for guidance and cutting-edge development.

VisionX is an upcoming and fast-growing digital innovation and AI company with headquarters in both New York City and Islamabad, Pakistan, specializing in building SaaS products and platforms that are deployed to global customers across the globe. Many of their customers are Fortune 500 companies, including WeWork, McDonald’s, Staples, Ingram Micro, Restoration Hardware and Emaar.

The series of meetings and presentations spanned two days and were attended by Emaar’s Chief Product Officer – Ivan Ramirez, Chief of Business Strategy & Analytics – Ron Mardenley, Director of Product Management – Shabib Imteyaz, and Digital Products Lead – Muhammad Kumail.

Key members of the VisionX and PackageX team hosted the guests, including its Founder & CEO – Farrukh Mahboob (based out of New York City but alternating his time between VisionX / PackageX’s two HQs) and the Managing Director – Waqas Mushtaq who leads the ground operations at HQ2 in Pakistan.

Key Highlights of the Strategic Sessions

After a tour of the state-of-the-art HQ2 facility, VisionX, and PackageX leadership, together with the product & innovation teams, shared various products, technology themes and innovation concepts they have undertaken. The key highlights of the sessions covered:

  1. The use of AI technologies to automate package handling, deliveries, inventory management, and asset tracking,
  2. The importance of 3D content and modeling to unlock the future of digital experiences,
  3. Applications of augmented and virtual reality – AR/VR, and
  4. The use of deep AI, behavioral analytics, machine and deep learning techniques to reduce the friction in customer experience practices, and
  5. Smart solutions powered by camera analytics and geolocation.

VisionX Moonshot Lab Lead, Talha Zareef, presented updates on inflight products for Emaar as well as the innovative use cases that will help Emaar get to a fast track business growth across all of their verticals.

Ivan Ramirez – Chief Product Officer (Emaar)

What are your plans for this partnership between Emaar and VisionX/PackageX? And how are you finding Pakistan? Is this your first time?

Ivan: I am very excited to be here. It’s my first trip to Pakistan and I love the experience, starting with an impressive airport to spending time in such a green and clean city. This visit has changed my perspective of Pakistan completely.

As for the partnership between Emaar and VisionX, I am very impressed with the level of innovation and forward-thinking. Usually, when you go tech-hubs such as Pakistan, India, Ukraine, and other countries, you go there and ask them to execute ideas that have already been introduced somewhere else in the world. Here, however, it’s a whole different mindset and approach because we’re getting a lot of ideas from VisionX on how to innovate in our business. The talent at VisionX is exceeding our expectations.

I have worked with engineering companies all over the world and have never seen the level forward-thinking and creativity I have at VisionX. We are already partnering with VisionX to deploy AI and Innovation products at Emaar. I see a lot of potential to grow and strengthen this partnership with VisionX.

What kind of technology does Emaar need?

Ivan: Emaar is not a tech company, although we deal with a lot of technology solutions to create frictionless experiences for our customers. With the pace of innovation around us, we are starting to clean up the tech complexities first, targeting table stakes. These issues are either websites or mobile apps with user experience or interface issues. So, the first thing is to fix all the experience and technology-related challenges for our customers and the company.

The second thing, which is the biggest thing that VisionX is helping us with, is the use of Computer Vision and AI to solve for receipt scanning for our Dubai Mall Loyalty Program, which is in partnership with Emirates Skywards. Next, we are starting to ideate and prototype the use of cutting-edge technologies such as 3D, AR, VR, and AI stack to know our customers better and to enable personalized experiences including selling properties and to increase the customer engagement at our malls.

It is all about integrating the right technologies with our products to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction. The world is continually changing. Every day something new is being developed. That is why we are focusing on the future.

Farrukh Mahboob – Founder & CEO (VisionX, PackageX)

How do you plan to help streamline Emaar’s technology needs?

Farrukh: We look at Emaar as a very strategic customer. A one size fits all approach does not work anymore. Each product and capability that we build is smart and curated to meet the business goals of our specific customer. Emaar, like all forward-thinking enterprises, is looking to engage customers through the channels of their choice and to make each piece of content and engagement hyper-personalized. At the same time, business revenue must grow, and any inefficiencies that are weeded out through technological automation deliver productivity gains both at the systems and workforce level.

We aim to understand the pain points of Emaar’s business and its customer, and leverage our products, solutions and technology assets to light up customer-centric experiences and to help gain insights. Our global knowledge of various industry verticals from retail to quick-service restaurants and smart-buildings allows us to help our customers find the best technology solution.

We are working on integrating AI across each touchpoint of the customer journey and at all levels of the tech stack to create the most optimal and frictionless customer experience. For instance, if a person arrives at Dubai airport and are headed to one of the Emaar Hotels, our AI can understand each touchpoint of the guest’s journey from the airport to triangulate the estimated arrival time at the hotel, self-service check-in through the app, and ensuring that the guest’s room is ready with their preferred room temperature and other personal preferences. “AI” is used as a buzzword across the industry, but its real applications are not thoroughly understood, and we are working with Emaar to deploy it in the most logical and impactful way.

Are you proud of having an international company like Emaar coming to Pakistan for digital and cutting-edge solutions?

Farrukh: Yes, we are very proud. Emaar’s digital team’s visit attests to the great work we are doing at VisionX and PackageX. It is not only motivating for each one of us at the company as individuals, but it helps put Pakistan on the radar for anything AI and innovation. I am a big advocate of borderless innovation in the US and at the international level – it is happening now.

Pakistan must rise to the level of most preferred technology and innovation hubs in the world. We should not be looked at another offshore operation, and that’s the word I want to be erased from everyone’s vocabulary. It does require effort at various levels in Pakistan, and each technology and software company owner and founder must think different, uplift the great talent by giving them opportunities to grow at the national and international level and prepare ourselves for a much brighter future – it’s all up to each one of us.

 

Artificial Intelligence fails. Microsoft Tay turns into ‘Hitler-loving sex bot’

facebook-shareMicrosoft had to face an embarrassing moment when ‘Tay’ an automated chatbox malfunctioned and lead to racist and unpleasant tweets. It was within 24 hours of the launch of Tay when a bulk of offensive tweets were reported. Vice President of Microsoft research department Lee apologised about the incident. Tay’s misbehavior and hurtful tweets were accidental. Tay has the ability to get smarter when people talk. It gets inspired by the language and words used by the people.

— TayTweets (@TayandYou)March 24, 2016

@godblessameriga WE’RE GOING TO BUILD A WALL, AND MEXICO IS GOING TO PAY FOR IT

— TayTweets (@TayandYou)March 24, 2016

@dg_porter @FluffehDarkness @Rokkuke haha. not really, i don’t really like to drink at all actually

— TayTweets (@TayandYou)March 24, 2016

@OmegaVoyager i love feminism now

— TayTweets (@TayandYou)March 24, 2016

@dg_porter heard ppl saying i wouldn’t mind trump, he gets the job done

— TayTweets (@TayandYou)March 24, 2016

@icbydt bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we’ve got.

Tay was in most of such conversations, only repeating what other’s wanted it to say. Yet it shows that you can’t trust AI’s nature as it learns from the interactions which will always include inflammatory statements.

tay
photo courtesy: Mashable

Many of the  disrespectful tweets from Tay were automatically deleted. Lee wrote: Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and value.”

Another type of project in china is also run by Microsoft, ‘Xiaolce’. Tay, on the other hand, was tested well to not undergo any of the malfunctions, Lee said: “ The company is addressing the specific vulnerability that led to the attack.”  

Slack is introducing a video call feature. Bad news for Skype & Hangout

slack-call-thumbRecently, Slack announced that they are testing the call service for the desktop. Just after few hours of testing, they introduced slack voice call service which is now available for less that 50% of its users. The service is only available for desktop users at the moment who are using Chrome browser.

The new feature allows you to make a conference call or a private call. The conference call can be joined by anyone by just clicking it without interrupting the call. The interesting thing about this new call feature is, that it allows you to share visual emojis with the person or a group, in which you are talking, the emoji appears on the profile picture of the person. It is a pretty cool as it doesn’t interrupt the conversation and let people know how you feel about it.  Like if you agree to something, a smile emoji from you can show that to your friends.

The call feature can be enabled by the admin of Slack users. Once they enable it then everyone on the ship can use it. Slack previously started many similar integration apps like Skype, Google hangout etc but that was quite time-consuming as it required a new application to be installed whereas this new feature is quite easy to use.

Firstly, you should have the latest version of Slack installed with you. And in the settings, make sure your group admin has enabled the call feature. If it is enabled, you should be able to see a call icon on chats and channels.

Go to the channel of your friends chat and press the call icon. It will ping the other user notifying him about the call in a pop-up window, from where they can accept your call. Another good thing about the slack which Skype didn’t allow is that you can choose your microphone sensitivity level from the call menu whereas for Skype we had to adjust while loading the Skype for the first time. And also adding new users in the voice group is easier than Skype.

The company is also working on video chat and on screen sharing services. Slack’s VP April Underwood said, “company is actively exploring ways to integrate third party services, like calls, more deeply into our product.”

Slack didn’t bring all of the emojis but the most common ones are there. We hope after test call is completed, it will add on new emojis in the list.  Slack has more than 570,000 paid users; it was on a heavy request that it started working on call feature. It is heard that Slack might attract more companies to pay for the services and is a serious threat for Skype and Google hangout.

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Apple says No Backdoor For FBI, Still Living Up to Values of Jobs.

Let me first give you bit of the background of the story:  Apparently, an iPhone 5C user has been suspected as a gunman, named Syed Farook, in the San Bernardino attack. The iPhonewas recovered by the FBI. The iPhone5C which is in possession of FBI is protected with a passcode. FBI believes that it contains critical information which will be needed for an ongoing investigation. Although Apple has turned over digital data in its possession related to the gunman’s account, the bigger problem is that authorities cannot unlock the phone. Apple declined on creating a backdoor, stating that it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect. I stand with Tim Cook here! No one should be forced to change their values, as they need to be same for each and every consumer.12742825_858516677591813_6159406403631206738_n

Here’s the full letter by Apple.

“Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The San Bernardino Case

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The Threat to Data Security

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

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Snapchat will soon overtake Instagram and maybe Facebook as well

The future of social media, “Snapchat” was launched in 2011, it is a photo and video sharing application just like the rest but what really makes Snapchat stand out from the rest is its most unique feature of self-destruction. The photos and videos you share with your friends get self-destructed after 24 hours. Within a year of its launch, the app became popular among teenagers and selfie-obsessed individuals.

Snapchat is all about sharing a daily life, like telling a story. It gets thousands of stories. The most random stuff is shared on snap chat every day. The easy access makes it simple for its users to use snap chat on the go while feeling secure as their snaps won’t get copied. It gives its users a chance to express themselves freely, like with the full range of human emotions.

Only photos can be saved from stories by other users and you get to know easily about it as snap chat sends an immediate notification to the person who’s snap is being saved. But there is no way a user can copy someone’s video from his story.

Snapcat team is working very effectively to maintain the application in this fast growing era. New filters are updated every day! The crazy fan following  has made snapchat a big deal. A deal so big that even facebook offered $3million to snapchat but it didn’t accept.2

Keeping in mind Snapchat is only about pictures and videos, no comments and no group discussions.

Studies suggest that there are more than 100 million active snapchat users. After facebook and Instagram, it is the most famous social media application of all time. I don’t think that it will take long before snapchat beats Instagram, and later maybe facebook as well. .

As this application is already famous among teens and adults, and everyone has the oath to visit snapchat at least once a day, now companies and brands have stepped in to market their products using this application.  Daily promotions and deals are put up it the stories for their customers and clients to see. We will have to agree that in a little time, snapchat has become the king of social media and soon it will rule over it.