Tuesday, November 20, 2012

GS1 Technology Day: Nano, robots, humanoid reproduction

For the first time the leaders of the GS1 EPCglobal Board of Governors met at ETH Zurich for discussing future directions of RFID and barcode technologies. As part of this meeting, we organized a technology day which featured current develops of our labs associated companies and groups (find presentations and detailed agenda here).
In addition to our own work we could also invite renown keynote speakers from ETH Zurich.
Prof. Dr. Bertram Batlogg talked about recent developments of nano-technology and shared some insights about emerging display technologies.
As part of this program we had also the chance to meet Prof. Dr. Raffaello D’Andrea who motivated his research on controlling robots by sensors by the example of the steam engine controlled by a speed limiter.
Raffaello showed the tremendous developments regarding miniaturization when he compared their most recent quadrocopter with the table-sized model of a decade ago.
However, during his robot air-show the title of his talk "Controlling the artificial" become even clearer: Raefaello showed his trust into his technologies when he took a seat in his Flying Machine Arena and his students started the show, sometimes closely above his head.

In the first demo our visitors could control the helicopter with a stick by gestures. The system ensured that the helicopters did not collide with the walls or crash down because of too hectic movements. Other demos showed the ability of balancing a standing stick on the helicopter, coordinated movements of groups, kinect gesture control and the famous ball juggling (see here). Thus, this demonstration made me confident about getting the next doener delivered by drone pretty soon....
Finally, Prof. Dr. Markus Gross talked about how to visually reproduce the real-world based on special effects in several animation movies. He reported about the ability of 3D-scanning of still faces and reproducing movements with 7 artificial muscles in contrast to the natural 35 muscles. His prophecy was that in about a five year's time horizon simulated face-movements would be indistinguishable from the real. Thus, Holywood stars would already start protecting the rights on the visual appearance of their bodies, as movements can be done by the computers later rather easily and more cost-efficient.
In the second part of his talk Prof. Gross talked about humanoid robots that would mimic actors in amusements parks. Based on 3D scans and 3D printing faces can be modeled quickly. As a commercialization of this technology he showed customized barbie puppets carrying faces of the corresponding children. Technological progress sometimes can be fascinating and scary...

Friday, November 16, 2012

White collar crime

In my lecture management information systems Michael Schermann from Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftsinformatik of Technische Universität München presented on the incentives of in-company crime and instruments for preventing it.
He started off with the traditional explanation of crime where criminals would simply balance between their crime incentive and the opportunity of being punished. Thus, high punishment would be enough to move the balance and ban crime...
However, from practice and from recent experiments we know this does not really hold. People rather have a moral account from where they withdraw and upload credits for their activities: if you buy green, you're more likely to steal...[1].
Furthermore, the simple cost/benefit analysis of fraud is also overwritten by an inner concept relating to fraud of users. It could be shown that fraud outside one's peer-group is less accepted than one's inside peer-group [2].
As example of fraud Michael listed corruption, higher billing of services/products, and non-cash fraud, e.g. manipulation of salaries - he said 15% of salaries would be adjusted higher than they should be. This shows that the traditional concept of incentive-punishment does not hold and is rather being replaced with an inner self-concept of values: if people park illegally, they are more prone to donate to beggar - in order to compensate their wrong behavior by adjusting their moral inner account.
Interestingly, most fraud is detected by hints of others. Thus, companies have started introducing whistle blower channels in order to collect these hints in a more systematic way. Michael proposed to translate business strategy into core values, which have to be lived up by top-management. There should be a clear list of don'ts to be avoided in companies. Control in companies can focus either on input (if output is hard to measure, e.g. as in research) or on input (e.g. sales).
The practical challenge, however, is to smartly balance between burden and effect. IT can help to better manage and control performance and coherence in order to be more responsive to risks, e.g. software can help to crunch down 126k of suspect emails down to a 1,2k messages.
Michael's slides can be found here.
[1] Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong: Do Green Products Make Us Better People? Psychological Science February 2010 , first published on March 5, 2010 
[2] Gino, F., Ayal, S. & Ariely, D. (2009). Contagion and differentiation in unethical behavior: The effect of one bad apple on the barrel. Psychological Science, 20 (3), 393-398.
ariely: coke was gone, dollar where there -) distance to money increases crime

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Internet of Things 2012 in Wuxi

As a program co-chair I had the opportunity to visit the recent IoT conference hosted by Fudan University in Wuxi.
Elgar Fleisch opened IoT2012 by reviewing the potential of IoT to add things-generated data to the gulf of human-generated data. He listed standards, biz models, ownership management, and human behavior change as future research topics within the IoT domain.
Li-rong Zheng, general chair IoT2012, thanked the various organizers and conference chairs. Then, Junyu Wang reflected on the importance of Wuxi as the center of IoT in China walked through the program. A rigor selection of papers yielded an acceptance rate of only 24.7%.
Finally, I had the pleasure to introduce Stefan Ferber from Bosch who is not only a professional but also passionate private user of IoT technology (see his smart home here). In his opening keynote of IoT2012
Stefan Ferber (see his slides) introduced to various  IoT projects going on within Bosch and reflected on the significant differences between old and new economy in terms of organization structure, decision processes and effectiveness. He showed how technology finally helped to disrupt established hierarchies allowing for more flexible and dynamic patterns of collaboration. By refering to Conway's law ("organizations which design systems ... are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations") he underlined the importance of changing organizations correspondingly along the technological innovations.

Stefan used the very strong metaphor colliding galaxies to express the impact of IoT to organizations. He introduced the geigermaps project as an example of how a grassroot movement of people connecting their sensors to each other can provide a much faster and more fine-graine picture on radiation than the official authorities could or wanted to provide during the Fukushima accident. As a second example of grassroot movement he refered to the iot bill of rights signed during the open iot assembly by various stakeholders of IoT as a free movement of concerned individuals outside regulatory bodies.
Stefan went on reflecting on the properties of IoT-enabled products. Originally, purposeful systems were handled and controlled by their owners: the owner was responsible, the producer only provided the tool. However, once the tool becomes smart this might change: the tool's functionality grows outside its original physical purpose and follows the digital configuration the producer has set-up. Thus, the producer becomes responsible as well (see also his blog post on his talk).

Haitao Liu, Wuxi SensingNet Industrialization Research Institute talked about  IoT projects in China which focus on standardization and  applications, such as resolving traffic jams, better public transportation and parking guide systems. As part of public security initiatives he mentioned the "Golden Shield Project" which aims at improving communication of security data and management of capturing technology as cameras in public areas. He also mentioned smart homes as an emerging trend in China which would pose challenges of integration and interoperability. There would be also several activities of environment monitoring where single measurements stations are being gradually replaced by swarms of collective pollution meters. Furthermore, IoT projects in China would also focus improving efficiency of agriculture and food safety.

Overall, it became pretty obvious that IoT in China clearly relies on central power and control leveraging the the central governance system. I'm pretty sure that sooner or later this approach will collide with the rather distributed technical nature of IoT. Mr. Liu concluded his talk by referring to the current bottlenecks of limited understanding of requirements, insufficient standards and prevailing information silos. He mentioned IoT as a big market for Chinese companies for transiting from traditional manufacturing to highter value IT businesses. The Chinese government sees IoT as new enginge to accelerate the development of Smart City construction for upgrading the industrialization in China.

Then the technical program started, the proceedings can be found here. Overall, the conference had about 300 visitors. According to comments I received from visitors the mix between large variety of  scientific and industrial workshops, demos and posters was highly appreciated.
Finally, the show goes on in 2014: see you all at IoT2014 hosted by Prof. Sanjay Sarma at MIT.