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What’s new in blockchain, AI and IoT: April 7-13, 2017

Following are highlights from the past week’s news developments in blockchain, artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things technologies:

IBM & Hejia launch blockchain platform for pharmaceutical sector
IBM and China’s Sichuan Hejia Co. Ltd. on Tuesday launched a blockchain-based platform to provide financial services to the pharmaceutical industry. The Yijian Blockchain Technology Application System, which uses Hyperledger Fabric, is currently being used by Hejia, a pharmaceutical retailer, a hospital and a bank. Hejia plans to expand the platform, which is designed to verify transactions through the pharmaceutical supply chain and reduce credit risks, to more participants in July..

Amazon’s Bezos says businesses without AI risk decline
In his annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Wednesday described how his company uses machine learning not only to optimize its own operations but those of its Amazon Web Services customers as well. He added that businesses that don’t embrace AI and machine learning trends are “fighting the future” and risking decline. “[B]ig trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace,” Bezos wrote in his letter. “We’re in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Radware issues ‘BrickerBot’ alert
Early this month, IT security firm Radware issued an alert about new malware called BrickerBot, which attacks on Internet of Things devices. “Imagine a fast moving bot attack designed to render the victim’s hardware from functioning,” the alert began. “Called Permanent Denial of Service attacks (PDoS attacks), this form of cyber-attack is becoming increasingly popular in 2017 as more incidents involving this hardware-damaging assault occur.” To protect against such attacks, Radware recommended that IoT device owners change factory default credentials, disable Telnet access and use security systems to block and identify attacks.

Ant Financial Services to expand use of blockchain
Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of China’s Alibaba Group, plans to expand its use of blockchain technology, according to an April 11 report in the South China Morning Post. The publication reported that Ant Financial CTO Cheng Li said in Hong Kong earlier this week that the company aims to bring its blockchain-based offering Ant Love — launched in 2016 — to more charity organisations to enable better tracking of donations, projects and governance.

IBM IDs malware with bitcoin miner slave
IBM’s X-Force security research team recently identified a new variant of the Mirai malware that includes a built-in component for bitcoin mining. X-Force first noticed the ELF Linux/Mirai variant activity in late March, and identified a new add-on: a bitcoin miner slave. “If the weaponization of IoT devices into DDoS botnets is the latest malicious trend, then turning them into bitcoin miners may be just around the corner,” IBM’s SecurityIntelligence site reported on April 10.

Researchers find machines can acquire human biases
Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Bath have found that machines exposed to word associations learned by humans can pick up cultural race and gender biases. “[S]tandard machine learning can acquire stereotyped biases from textual data that reflect everyday human culture,” researchers Aylin Caliskan, Joanna J. Bryson and Arvind Narayanan write in the April 14 issue of the journal Science. “Our work has implications for AI and machine learning because of the concern that these technologies may perpetuate cultural stereotypes.”

SoftBank eyes remotely provisioned eSIMs for IoT and M2M
Japan’s SoftBank Corp. is developing a platform for embedded subscriber identity modules (eSIMs) that could allow IoT and M2M devices to be remotely provisioned to connect to specific carrier networks. “When selling vehicles and other items embedded with Machine to Machine (‘M2M’) equipment to markets abroad, until now it was necessary to prepare dedicated SIM cards with the necessary profiles to connect to the respective communication networks of overseas carriers,” SoftBank said in a March 30 news release. “For tablets, wearables and other consumer devices equipped with eSIMs, the eSIM Platform will also enable the remote provisioning of pre-registered contract information and other types of information, in addition to the necessary profiles for network connection.”

Bitfury Group signs deal with Ukrainian eGovernance agency
The Bitfury Group, a blockchain technology company, on April 13 signed a deal to work with the State Agency for eGovernance of Ukraine. Under the agreement, the two organisations will look at pilot projects using blockchain for state registers, public services, social security, public health and the energy sector. “Blockchain has proved itself as a
good ground for cost reduction, government efficiency & transparency to help reduce corruption,” Oleksandr Ryzhenko, head of the agency, said in a news announcement. “All these are among our goals.”

Web inventor Berners-Lee expresses concerns about AI controlling finance
World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who was recently named winner of the 50th anniversary A.M. Turing Award, said during an April 10 talk at the Innovate Finance Global Summit that he worries artificial intelligence could one day wrest control of many financial decisions away from humans, and could even end up running companies without human input. “So you have survival of the fittest going on between these AI companies until you reach the point where you wonder if it becomes possible to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe to a computer what that means anyway?” Berners-Lee said.

Telkomsel, Huawei team up for IoT, 5G pilots in Indonesia
Indonesia’s Telkomsel on April 5 said it would work with Huawei to launch trials aimed at building an Internet of Things ecosystem and pave the way for 5G technology in Indonesia. Among the devices to be tested for the IoT platform are smart water meters and sensors that can detect when a parking spot is occupied.

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