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Artificial Intelligence

Contact Tracing App Can Assist in Reopening Localities Safely, According to AI Task Force Panelists

Jericho Casper

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Screenshot of infectious disease physician Dr. Krutika Kuppalli from the webcast

July 9, 2020 — In the absence of federal leadership, the number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb in the United States, reaching a new single-day record number of infections on Wednesday with 60,000 cases recorded in 24 hours, according to infectious disease physician Dr. Krutika Kuppalli.

In a Wednesday hearing, members of the House Financial Services Committee’s task force on artificial intelligence were joined by contact tracing experts to discuss the importance of exposure notification and contact tracing apps in fighting the ongoing pandemic.

While some questioned the usefulness of tracking apps, many fought for their importance in allowing localities to safely reopen.

Kuppali called for the U.S. to learn from the global community by developing a national plan led by science.

She criticized the existing “patchwork system,” in which every municipality and state is making its own decisions. This approach makes it very difficult to combat the spread of the disease, she said.

Kuppali outlined three common components of successful domestic plans, crucial in fighting the pandemic: the development of a comprehensive national plan led by science, the rapid scaling up of testing and the implementation of contact tracing apps.

“Until we have a vaccine, maintaining cases will rely on surveillance, testing, contact tracing and isolation,” she said.

“We are still having problems with isolation and contact tracing,” Kuppali added, expressing frustration with the lack of federal initiative and overall progress. “We have been having these problems for months.”

According to the panelists, two-thirds of Americans say they would not trust a contact tracing app developed by major tech companies or the federal government.

Current adoption rates of contact tracing apps in the United States are extremely low, which panelists attributed to the fact that downloading these apps is often presented as a tradeoff to civil liberties.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., emphasized the importance of trust in getting Americans on-board with tracing apps, noting that it is extremely critical that citizens understand how data is being used.

Two experts on the panel have already developed software which could assist in the reopening process while avoiding the sacrifice of individuals’ privacy.

Ryan McClendon, CEO and founder of the CVKey project, which aims to help communities reopen responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic without compromising privacy, argued for the importance of using Bluetooth signals in tracing apps instead of GPS location data.

He maintained that the interface created by Apple and Google, which utilizes Bluetooth signals, could be extremely useful in countering the disease.

CVKey centralizes information for users, in an attempt to lessen the confusion caused by everchanging public health policies.

The app includes a symptom checker, clear guidelines on policies in the user’s area and a CVKey pass, which businesses can utilize to only allow low risk customers in.

Ramesh Raskar, MIT professor and founder of PathCheck, also argued for the worth of the Bluetooth tracking software created by Apple and Google.

PathCheck utilizes similar software, including a customizable mobile app and a production-ready exposure notification server based on the Google open source project.

Raskar argued that contact tracing apps can play a big role by allowing the country to track the spread of the disease cheaply, quickly and at scale.

He further contended that any app utilized should be built transparently and be open to scrutiny from the public.

McClendon said that local institutions, such as employers, universities and schools, play an important role in maximizing app adoption and so workplaces should be utilizing contact tracing to protect their workforce.

“We need 60 to 70 percent adoption for these apps to be useful,” said McClendon. “One of the best ways to do that is to work with local institutions — it is simply a marketing challenge.”

“Workplaces could become hot spots and shut down again, which people don’t like,” McClendon continued. “Preventing the shut down by keeping the communities safe is a strong argument for adoption, if we can communicate that message.”

Some panelists maintained doubt, saying that Americans are simply unlikely to adopt these apps.

“I can just tell you for a fact, my most rural counties are not going to utilize these apps,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, adding that he doesn’t blame them.

The experts contended that this is the greatest modern threat the country has seen and that how legislators choose to manage this disease will be their legacy.

Especially as a nation that enjoys boasting of its tech dominance, Kuppali said, the U.S., should lead in the arena.

Artificial Intelligence

Staying Ahead On Artificial Intelligence Requires International Cooperation

Benjamin Kahn

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Screenshot from the webinar

March 4, 2021—Artificial intelligence is present in most facets of American digital life, but experts are in a constant race to identify and address potential dangers before they impact consumers.

From making a simple search on Google to listening to music on Spotify to streaming Tiger King on Netflix, AI is everywhere. Predictive algorithms learn from a consumer’s viewing habits and attempt to direct consumers to other content an algorithm thinks a consumer will be interested in.

While this can be extremely convenient for consumers, it also raises many concerns.

Jaisha Wray, associate administrator for international affairs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was a panelist at a conference hosted Tuesday by the Federal Communications Bar Association.

Wray identified three key areas of interest that are at the forefront of AI policy: content moderation, algorithm transparency, and the establishment of common-ground policies between foreign governments.

In addition to all the aforementioned uses for AI, it also has proven to be an indispensable tool for websites like Facebook, Alphabet’s Youtube, and myriad other social media platforms in auto-moderating their content. While most social media platforms employ humans to review various decisions made by AI (such as Facebook’s Oversight Board), most content is first handled by AI moderators.

According to Tubefilter, in 2019 more than 500 hours of video content were uploaded to Youtube every minute; in less than 20 minutes, a year’s worth of content is uploaded.

Content moderation, algorithm transparency, foreign alignment

On this scale, AI is necessary to police the website, even if it not a perfect system. “[AI] is like a thread that’s woven into every issue that we work on and every venue,” Wray explained. She described how both governments and private entities have looked to AI to not only moderate somewhat mundane things such copyright issues, but also national security issues like violent extremist content.

Her second point pertained to algorithm transparency. She outlined how entities outside of the U.S. have sought to address this concern by providing consumers with the opportunity to have their content reviewed by humans before a final decision is made. Wray pointed to the European General Protection Regulation, “which enshrines the principle that every person has the right not to be subject to a decision solely based on automated processing.”

Her final point raised the issue of coordinating these efforts between different international jurisdictions—namely the U.S. and its allies. “We’re really trying to hone-in on where our values align and where we can find common ground.” She added that coordination does not end with allies, however, and that it is key that the U.S. also coordinate with authoritarian regimes, allied or otherwise.

She said that the primary task facing the U.S. right now is simply trying to determine which issues are worth prioritizing when it comes to coordinating with foreign governments—whether that is addressing the spread of AI, how to police AI multilaterally, or how to address the use of AI by adversarial authoritarian regimes.

Technology needs to be built with security in mind

One of Wray’s co-panelists, Evelyn Remaley, who is the associate administrator for the NTIA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development, said all multilateral cybersecurity efforts related to AI must be approached from a position of what she called a “zero-trust model.” She explained that this model operates from the presupposition that technology should not and cannot be trusted.

“We have to build in controls and standards from the bottom-up to make sure that we are building in the security layer by layer,” Remaley said. “It’s really that premise of ensuring that we realize that we’re always going to have vulnerabilities within this technical development space.”

Remaley said that increasing competition and collaboration can only be safely achieved with a zero-trust mindset.

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Artificial Intelligence

Connectivity Will Need To Keep Up With The Advent Of New Tech, Says Expert

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 24, 2021 – It used to be that technology had to keep up with the deployment of the growing ubiquity of broadband innovations. But the pace of technological advancements in the home is starting a conversation about whether connectivity can keep up.

That’s according to Shawn DuBravac, an accountant and author of a book about how big data will transform our everyday lives, who argues that the pandemic has illustrated the need for broader connections in the home to meet the need of future technologies. He was speaking on Tuesday at the conference of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.

Emerging consumer technologies, such as Samsung’s robots, which will perform tasks including loading a dishwasher, serving wine, and setting a dinner table, are redefining the conversation about how connectivity at home will manage them, DuBravac argues.

Health companies are also introducing “companion robots” focused on interacting with seniors. With its artificial intelligence and sensors, these robots develop a personality to adapt to the needs of consumers so social distancing does not become a disadvantage for care.

As such, the pandemic has grown the telehealth industry. With more people avoiding going to hospitals, the creation of watches, belts, scales that are connected to share information with medical professionals is further requiring better broadband connectivity to keep up.

But it’s not like the industry isn’t paying attention. Mesh network technologies, which utilize multiple router-like devices to enhance coverage inside the home, have started to emerge just as smart-home technologies illustrated the need for broader connectivity that better enhanced coverage as Wi-Fi signals experienced degradation through walls.

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Artificial Intelligence

AI the Most Important Change in Health Care Since Introduction of the MRI, Say Experts

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 7, 2021 – Artificial Intelligence is the most important technological change in health care since the introduction of the MRI, experts said at a Thursday panel discussion about European tech sponsored by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

AI will not be replacing doctors and nurses, but empowering decision-maker with new resources, according to those participating in the discussion on “How Can Europe Enhance the Benefits of AI-Enabled Health Care?”

For example, pharmaceutical companies are using AI for the speedy development of vaccines, panelists said. Additionally, AI is helping address the uneven ratio of skilled doctors to patients, assist health-care professionals in complex procedures, and deliver personalized health care to patients.

Yet, for AI technologies to reach their potential, European Union actors need to create regulations governing transparency, they said.

How AI works in healthcare

AI works through big collections of data that validate algorithms. These help explain certain solutions and detect anomalies in the data set of patients.

But algorithm-creation needs to be held to higher standards than they are currently. Systemic errors can easily enter in on a large scale, said Elmar Kotter, chairperson of the eHealth and Informatics Subcommittee of the European Society of Radiologists.

AI should have been used more during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Maria Manuel Marques, on the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age.

AI helps treat more patients at a faster rate, and with consistency and agility, said Chris Walker, chair of the working group on digital health for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. It helps provide new insights and improve treatment by allowing early-stage treatment of diseases.

Europe faces great challenges because of people’s misconception of what AI can do, panelists said. It is not to replacing doctors and nurses, but empowering with decision-making resources.

More trust would come if companies would conduct safe experimentation by testing and showing examples of how AI can improve the life of health care workers and patients, said Marques.

Regulations of data is crucial for hospitals to trust the products. Moreover, patients must have privacy with their information. Regulations will help them understand what’s been done in the manufacture of AI system, and to what use data will be put.

Ander Elustondo Jauregui, policy officer for Digital Health, added that data quality was an important indicator of the maturity of an AI system. That providing assurances for doctors, he said.

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