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More than 180 neuroscientists have signed an open letter to the European Commission calling on it to reconsider the technical goals and oversight of one of the world’s largest brain-mapping projects, predicting it is likely to fail.

The European Union agreed last year to invest more than one billion euros in the Human Brain Project (HBP), a 10-year effort involving dozens of research institutions to create a simulation of how the human brain works, using supercomputers.

But according to a letter released by dissenting scientists, the project is doomed by opaque management and the pursuit of goals not widely shared by neuroscientists. “We believe the HBP is not a well-conceived or implemented project and that it is ill suited to be the centerpiece of European neuroscience,” the letter says.

Governments, including those of the United States and China, have all launched large neuroscience projects to study the brain (see “Brain Mapping”). But the brain is so massively complex—it has roughly 86 billion neurons and trillions of connections—that there’s little consensus on how to study it.

Europe’s HBP has been particularly controversial because it emphasizes large-scale mapping of the brain and computer simulations over traditional, small-scale bench research. The project’s core goal, according to its website, is “to build a completely new information computing technology infrastructure for neuroscience.”

Signers of the letter, including neuroscientists from the University of Oxford and the Institut Pasteur, intend to boycott 50 million euros per year of neuroscience research grants that have been linked to the EU project.

“Why should an information technology project determine neuroscience funding?” says Zachary Mainen, a researcher at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal, which gathered the signatures after a component of the project it was involved with was cancelled. “It’s not a project that was planned by the neuroscience community. They say they are going to simulate the brain, but I don’t think anyone believes that.”

According to a report in the Guardian, the neuroscientists hope to influence a review of the project by European officials that is expected to be complete by the end of the summer.

The HBP is led by Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, who says critics are upset because there’s a scientific “paradigm shift” under way that threatens their way of working.

“It’s a natural reaction when you move from an old paradigm to a new one. It happened with the Human Genome Project,” says Markram. “That was also about large-scale, systematic teams working together, and you also had the individual labs saying ‘Oh my, I am going to be out of business.’ It’s very similar to that.”

Within two years, Markram says, the HBP will release the first phase of its technology platform, which will let any scientist contribute data and run simulations. He says this will bring neuroscience up to speed with disciplines like astrophysics or climate research, where scientists use simulations all the time. “You can’t measure everything in the Universe, but you can simulate it,” he says. “You can’t measure all of the brain, either, so we are going to have to predict a lot of it.”

That focus on computer simulations is what’s generating the most withering criticism. Konrad Kording, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, calls the European project “useless and misleading” and says there is “genuine concern that the neuroscience community in Europe will be damaged by a very high-profile project that is deeply misguided.” Continue reading…
 

The way we navigate in cities has been revolutionized in the last few years by the advent of GPS mapping programs. Enter your start and end location and these will give you the shortest route from A to B.

That’s usually the best bet when driving, but walking is a different matter. Often, pedestrians want the quietest route or the most beautiful but if they turn to a mapping application, they’ll get little help.

That could change now thanks to the work of Daniele Quercia at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona, Spain, and a couple of pals. These guys have worked out how to measure the “beauty” of specific locations within cities and then designed an algorithm that automatically chooses a route between two locations in a way that maximizes the beauty along it. “The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant,” they say.

Quercia and co begin by creating a database of images of various parts of the center of London taken from Google Street View and Geograph, both of which have reasonably consistent standards of images. They then crowdsourced opinions about the beauty of each location using a website called UrbanGems.org.

Each visitor to UrbanGems sees two photographs and chooses the one which shows the more beautiful location. That gives the team a crowdsourced opinion about the beauty of each location. They then plot each of these locations and their beauty score on a map which they use to provide directions.

The idea here is that the user enters a start and end location and an algorithm then finds the most beautiful route, rather than the shortest one. It does this by searching through every possible route, adding the beauty scores for each and choosing the one that ranks highest.

Quercia and co say that on average these routes turn out to be just 12 percent longer than the shortest routes, which makes them reasonable alternatives for a pedestrian.

To work out whether the routes chosen by the algorithm are really more beautiful, Quercia and co recruited 30 people who live in London and are familiar with the area, to assess the recommended paths. And indeed, they agreed that the routes chosen by the algorithm were more beautiful than the shortest routes.

But that’s just the start. Crowdsourcing opinion for every possible location in a city is clearly a time-consuming and potentially expensive business. So Quercia and co have automated this process using photos from Flickr and the data and tags attached to them.

They chose some five million pictures taken in the same places as their original photos and then mined the data associated with them to see what parameters correlated with beauty.

Factors that turn out to be a good indicator of beauty are things like the number of pictures taken of a particular scene and comments associated with positive emotions. So looking for locations on Flickr that fulfill this requirement ought to produce a list of beautiful places in any city.

Quercia and co tested this idea in Boston to find beautiful locations on Flickr and then used their algorithm to find the most beautiful path between two locations. They then asked 54 people to evaluate these paths. Sure enough, the participants generally felt that the routes chosen by the algorithm were more beautiful than the shortest parts.

If you know Boston or London yourself, you can evaluate the routes chosen by the algorithms yourself by examining the maps in the paper.

Of course, there are potential problems. Some locations are less attractive at certain times of the day, for example during rush hour when traffic is heavier or at night when the character of some parts the city can change dramatically. The algorithm cannot account for these differences

Nevertheless, this is an interesting approach that has the potential to change the experience people have in interacting with the city. It’s not hard to imagine that tourist authorities might use an application like this to help visitors experience the best parts of a city on foot.

Quercia and co have a plan like that. Their next goal is to build a mobile app and test it in the wild across different cities in Europe and the U.S. Keep an eye out for it.

The newest idea in home automation is letting your thermostat track your smartphone, and only blast the air conditioner when you're at home. WSJ Personal Tech Columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler put Honeywell's new Lyric thermostat to the test.

When it's hotter than Hades outside, wouldn't it be nice if your air conditioner knew you were coming home and cooled things down inside?

That's the idea behind two new "smart" climate-control systems, the $279 Honeywell Lyric thermostat and the $279 Aros window air conditioner made by Quirky and General Electric. GE -0.56%  They blast the AC when you're at home, and not when you're out.

Welcome to the era where your AC keeps tabs on you. These Internet-connected appliances take commands from apps and work by tracking the location of every smartphone in your household—yours, your spouse's, and Grandma's too. (In a pinch, you can still control them manually.)

I installed Lyric and Aros in my San Francisco home, and in two friends' homes in warmer Bay Area climes. We found both devices can go a long way toward liberating you from fiddling with thermostat dials, and possibly saving energy. But neither are quite smart or simple enough to just set and forget.

These appliances are attempts at reinvention by Honeywell and GE, two of the biggest brands in climate control, now under attack from Silicon Valley. Nest Labs raised the bar in two ways when it launched its first consumer-installed "smart" thermostat in 2011: First, we now expect our home heating and AC to be smartphone-controllable and have some intelligence to supposedly help save us money. Second, many of us no longer balk at paying $250 for a dial that used to cost less than $50.

To make their systems more competitive, Honeywell and GE (working with partners at product development firm Quirky) added Wi-Fi and remote-control apps and simplified their interfaces with big, clear displays. But their biggest innovation is tracking location.

The app knows when your family is or isn't home by drawing a virtual circle around your house, visible only to your smartphone, called a "geofence." In my tests, this worked as promised: Every time I moved past the perimeter, my phone would quietly alert the app, which then sent commands to the appliances via the Internet. Both were also smart enough to understand my family—it conserved energy only when everyone had left the house and kicked back on for the first person to return.

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Self-tracking devices like the Fitbit do a fair, if imperfect, job at measuring how much you move and then inferring how many calories you’ve burned in a day. But they don’t measure how many calories you consume. You can enter calorie estimates into an app, but doing so is a tedious and often inaccurate process.

GE researchers have a prototype device that directly measures the calories in your food. So far it only works on blended foods—the prototype requires a homogenous mixture to get an accurate reading. But they’re developing a version of the device that will determine the calories in a plate of food—say, a burrito, some chips, and guacamole—and send the information to your smartphone.

Matt Webster, the senior scientist in diagnostic imaging and biomedical technologies at GE Research who invented the calorie counter, says eventually the device might be incorporated into a microwave oven or some other kitchen appliance. Heat your food, and at the same time get a readout of the precise calorie count, without measuring out portions and consulting nutritional charts.

Webster analyzed nutritional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which contains detailed information on thousands of foods—and determined that it’s possible to get an accurate calorie estimate using just three pieces of data—fat content, water content, and weight. The calories from all the other constituents of food—such as sugar, fiber, and protein—can be approximated by subtracting the water and fat weight from the total weight.

In tests using the prototype to measure mixtures of oil, sugar, and water, results were within 5 to 10 percent of the results from standard, destructive means of measuring calorie content, such as the bomb calorimeter that measures food calorie content by burning it.

The device works by passing low-energy microwaves through a weighed portion of food and measuring how the microwaves are changed by the food—fat and water affect the microwaves in characteristic ways. Getting a reading is easy using existing equipment if the food is liquid or blended. Getting a good reading for a sandwich and chips will require “virtual blending” Webster says. That could be done by developing microwave antennas that form a more uniform distribution of microwaves than the current equipment and using algorithms to get an average, or by progressively scanning the food. In either case, the complete measurement could be taken in a second or two.

Others are developing devices that are being marketed as being able to count calories. For example, a pair of devices have emerged recently on crowd-funding sites. But those devices are limited to analyzing the surface of most foods (they work by measuring reflected light). This approach might work to recognize a piece of food as an apple, for example, whose caloric content can be looked up in a database. It wouldn’t easily work with a burrito, where most of the calories are wrapped up inside.

“We’re looking at waves that pass all the way through the food. So you’re getting a complete measurement of the entire food,” Webster says.

380

Mastercard warns: invest or face economic consequences.

Many UK businesses are struggling to expand and develop to their full potential due to a lack of proper investment into new technologies such as alternative payment methods, a senior Mastercard executive has told CBR.

Marcia Clay, the groups' UK and Ireland head of strategy and commercial development, explained that UK consumers are increasingly calling for innovative technologies such as mobile payments as they look to simplify their everyday lives.

"I believe we need to prioritise support for innovative start-ups, businesses in the eCommerce and mobile payments sector for example, which are in a unique position to propel the UK economy forward in 2014 and beyond," she said.

Clay detailed how Mastercard is working with London-based Startupbootcamp FinTech, providing the expertise, mentoring and access to a network of industry professionals that most early-stage FinTech start-ups would not be able to access otherwise.

Mastercard has found that many small businesses still do not use electronic payments, despite almost 80% of UK businesses having a website or some sort of online presence. A much smaller percentage can currently accept card payments, and the company believes that businesses of all sizes should be encouraged to invest in new technology and services that give consumers more choice.

The company also found that UK consumers are using mobile and contactless payment methods and wide-spread adoption is reaching a critical mass; with around 5.7m transactions taking place on UK smartphones every day. This has been spurred on by a major growth in contactless payments, which grew by 383% from 2012 to 2013 across the country as more UK banks began rolling out the technology.

Figures released today by the British Bankers Association show that more than 15,000 people are downloading banking apps every day, with transactions using the internet or mobile banking methods are now worth £6.4bn a week up from £5.8bn last year.

"It is important to always understand what really matters to consumers," Clay says. "Through our research we have identified what really matters is feeling safe and secure from fraud, whether it be physical point of sale or online, experiencing a simple and speedy process, and confidence that wherever they are, whatever they are doing their payment method will be excepted.

"The UK is leading, but the world is catching up with us and if UK businesses don't embrace the fast evolution of commerce, we will be left behind."

Adapting to change is hard, especially when your family’s livelihood is on the line. That’s why, when companies face competition, their tendency is to reach out to the government to ask for protection and demand that competition be squashed using the regulatory and coercive power of the state.

The best example is the fight between taxicabs and companies such as Uber and Lyft, two innovative up-and-coming alternatives to cabs. It’s been going on for months, but it culminated a few weeks ago in Virginia when the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sent cease-and-desist letters to Uber Technologies and Lyft ordering them to stop operating.

Over at the Washington Post last week, Emily Bagger had a piece explaining what is really at stake for cab companies: cab medallions. As the piece explains “a medallion in Chicago fetched around $350,000. . . . In New York, taxi medallions have topped $1 million. In Boston, $700,000. In Philadelphia, $400,000. In Miami, $300,000.”

One way to think about medallions is that they are the reward for companies subjecting themselves to the insane and punishing licensing laws imposed by the government.

CHICAGO — A taxicab is a car remade by government, modified dozens of ways by edicts within subsections of articles of the city’s taxi code.

“Everywhere on this car has been regulated,” John Henry Assabill says. “Look at it!”

He throws up his arms in the direction of his gold-colored 2012 Ford Transit Connect. The car’s medallion number — 813 — is painted in black plain gothic figures (must be black plain gothic figures) on the driver’s-side hood, on both passenger doors and, for good measure, on the rear. Inside, there is a camera mounted over the rear-view mirror, a dispatch radio bolted to the console, a credit-card reader snapped to the passenger headrest.

From the back of Assabill’s seat hangs a sign — lamination required — spelling out the city’s fare structure: $3.25 for the base rate, $2 for the airport departure/arrival tax, $50 vomit cleanup fee. Everywhere, there are mandatory stickers. “That one costs a dollar,” Assabill says of a window decal reminding passengers to LOOK! before opening the door into the possible path of cyclists and pedestrians. “The fine for not having it is $100.”

Then there are the holes. Several have been drilled into the roof to mount the top light that distinguishes cabs from other cars at a distance. Another has been punched right into the hood, bolting down the palm-size metal plate — the “medallion” itself — that gives Assabill the right to operate this cab, one of 6,904 in Chicago.

The losers of this ban are low-income Americans looking to make a living. These ride-sharing companies allow anyone who has a car to become a businessman: Drivers can provide travel services directly to customers using apps.

And this is where Uber and similar companies come in: They are alternatives to traditional anti-competitive, highly regulated taxis. Taxi medallions, fare price-fixing, and other regulatory barriers to entry have all but drained the last competitive juices from the legacy taxi system. Without these limitations, Uber and Lyft are able to offer their customers better services at more reasonable prices. In addition, being new companies in a competitive market, they understand that they had better make sure their customers are satisfied so they will come back often. And this is a key point that seems lost in the current debate: Consumers are the ones at the core of the existence of Uber and Lyft.

Unfortunately for consumers and low-income workers who were making a living from these new ventures, lawmakers are only too happy to get captured by incumbents in the cab industry. As I wrote in the Examiner on Friday:

Of course, politicians and regulators are the ones to blame. It is because lawmakers allow themselves to be captured by special interests who want to fence off competition that innovators and new comers have to ask for permission to give customers what they want. Without over-the-top economic regulation over rates, entry, and new technologies, incumbent cab drivers would have to compete for customers over the quality of the services they provide. And in fact, it is the decades of protection from competition that has left taxi companies complacent and largely unequipped to nimbly improve their businesses.

There is a reason consumers like companies such as Uber and Lyft. They provide them with the service they want at a price that suits them. I understand that after having been forced to comply with onerous licensing laws and fees, cabbies are invested in the current system. But I think that a better course of action going forward is to minimize barriers to entry and regulations; that is the way innovation occurs and consumers are better served. There is no stopping this new era of consumer-driven transportation companies. The State of Virginia may crush Uber this time around, but other companies will appear now that consumers have gotten a taste for freedom.

As a matter of principle, conservatives should be against licensing laws. They hinder employment, especially for lower-income workers, and create artificial barriers to entry in order to protect incumbents against often very needed competition. AEI’s Michael Strain made that case in a book chapter called “Employment: Policies To Get Americans Working Again,” and then in piece in the Washington Post last week. As he explains, conservatives should strive to address long-term unemployment, which means making it easier to find work. Getting rid of occupational-licensing laws would really help, he argues.

Here is my Reason piece on the issue.


The Corliss Group Latest Tech Review – The concept of crowd funding new technology companies took a hit earlier this year when Oculus was bought by Facebook FB  for about $2 billion.

Participants in a $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign that helped fund Oculus and its development of a virtual reality headset, wound up with nothing to show for their support, while the founders and early investors scored astronomical gains.

In the wake of the bitterness over the deal, there are movements to change laws that limit the sale of equity stakes to small investors.

Slava Rubin, CEO and founder of crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, says that eventually those laws, including the so-called JOBS Act, will evolve in a positive way.

“It’s about access to capital. It will democratize investing,” he told MarketWatch at the Nantucket Conference in Massachusetts, a gathering for tech entrepreneurs and others recently.

Current laws, including the JOBS Act, prevent private companies from selling shares to unqualified investors, those with less than $1 million in assets and $200,000 income.

While changes in the laws would open access to capital for startups, regulators argue that unsophisticated investors in such companies could easily lose their shirts. After all, such equity tends to be highly illiquid, and many  startups fail.  In addition there are concerns over fraud.

Rubin said that people should differentiate between fraud and failure. “Since its launch, Indiegogo has not had a single case of fraud. But failure is not a fraud, and that happens,” he said.

Anticipating such changes in laws that limit small investor equity stakes, Wayne Mulligan founded Crowdability.com, a company with the purpose of educating retail investors.

“We aim to be the place an investor visits before making an investment decision,” Mulligan wrote on the company’s blog post. “Morningstar has done a great job building a place like this for mutual-fund investors. Our goal is to build the most trusted place for equity crowdfund investors”
 


The Corliss Group Latest Tech Review – Drawing on their experience building complex software for simulating spaceflight, Portuguese scientists have created a 21st-century way of detecting banking fraud here on Earth.

Today, every electronic purchase in Portugal runs through their software. Around the globe, Feedzai products screen some US$229 billion-worth of payments every year.

But what do space missions and software designed to find thieves have in common? More than you might think – in addition to high-tech hardware, space missions require a great deal of sophisticated software.

“When you launch a spacecraft, you need software to guide it,” explained Feedzai’s Paulo Marques, who was an ESA consultant before founding Feedzai in 2009. “You also need software for communications from the ground.”

Long before a spacecraft is launched, the software must be thoroughly tested for flaws. There’s just one problem, explained Paulo: “You don’t have an actual spacecraft yet.”

So, scientists build a software universe to simulate the mission.

“What you need to have is something that represents the spacecraft, mission control and ground stations, along with many other components, in order to check it all.”

At ESA, Paulo and Feedzai’s Nuno Sebastiao called on high-performance computing techniques to create virtual satellites: “Clusters of computers pretend to be everything involved. A computer acts like a spacecraft.”

The software must be very robust in order to mimic each element of the mission and spacecraft perfectly.

And it must be able to do this quickly – in far less time than it would take to complete an actual mission.

“The software has to be able to process all the information it gets in a very, very effective way,” said Paulo, “as if it were the real spacecraft.”

Spacecraft operators also train using this software. “You are not going to put a spacecraft in the hands of someone who hasn’t trained before.”

Space experience for stopping fraud

Fraud detection and space mission software face similar challenges. For one thing, both need to process huge amounts of information in real time. “If we talk about a bank, you need to process thousands of transactions every single second.”

In bank fraud detection, as in space, software must recognize anything that is out of the ordinary.

In space, an unexpected change in temperature could indicate a crack in the wall. In banking, anomalies often point to fraud: if a petrol station suddenly starts generating sales figures like those of a luxury car dealership, it is a sign of trouble.

However, there are differences. While hard-and-fast rules are set to detect an anomaly in space, fraud requires decisions on a case-by-case basis. A sudden temperature change in a spacecraft is always a problem, but each bank customer has his own, individual habits.

As a result, the software must recognize what is normal for a business-owner and what is normal for a teacher, based on the past practices of each, before it can identify any odd behavior.

To make this possible, Feedzai came up with an artificial intelligence software system.

“We developed software that can process a huge number of transactions,” said Paulo. This software can look at every transaction a customer has made for the last four years.

By applying both ‘machine learning’ and ‘big-data techniques’ to look at all the data, the software learns to distinguish fraudulent-looking from non-fraudulent-looking transactions.

“The software creates the rules.”

Feedzai’s software is certainly robust. Tracking over 300 variables per person, it creates very detailed, individualized spending profiles for as many as 20 million credit cardholders per system. “In total we are tracking over five billion variables continuously.”

“It’s like having 500 very intelligent people looking at every single transaction and making a call based on their experience if it’s fraud or not. It’s a huge amount of computing power.”

Carlos Cerqueira from Instituto Pedro Nunes, the Portuguese broker in ESA’s Technology Transfer Network part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme, believes Feedzai’s technology will mean savings for banks, as well as improved customer loyalty: “Feedzai’s machine learning models and big data science are able to detect fraud up to 30% earlier than traditional methods, and illustrate how the competencies developed at ESA research centres can be useful to other sectors.”

Space knowledge generates growth

This year, Feedzai moved its headquarters from Portugal to California as they expand further into the world market.

”It is great to see that the expertise and knowledge generated on European space programs also can lead to innovative techniques in fighting credit card fraud,” said Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office.

“It illustrates very well the spin-off potential from our space programmes. Dealing with space calls for leading-edge technological solutions, which explains why the space industry is often far ahead of others.”

Portugal’s delegate to ESA, Luís Serina, emphasised that, “This success case shows us that the investment in ESA also contributes to the creation of jobs and growth through technological innovation, which is even more important nowadays.”

Certainly, there is plenty of fraud to go around: each year, $11.4 billion is lost to credit card fraud. As cybercriminals grow more sophisticated, that number is likely to grow.

“We’re part of the defence mechanism,” said Feedzai spokesperson Loc Nguyen. “The invisible layer you as a consumer never think about. If you don’t know about us, it means that we’re working.”

More related articles


 

Drawing on their experience building complex software for simulating spaceflight, Portuguese scientists have created a 21st-century way of detecting banking fraud here on Earth.

Today, every electronic purchase in Portugal runs through their software. Around the globe, Feedzai products screen some US$229 billion-worth of payments every year.




But what do space missions and software designed to find thieves have in common? More than you might think – in addition to high-tech hardware, space missions require a great deal of sophisticated software.

"When you launch a spacecraft, you need software to guide it," explained Feedzai's Paulo Marques, who was an ESA consultant before founding Feedzai in 2009. "You also need software for communications from the ground."

Long before a spacecraft is launched, the software must be thoroughly tested for flaws. There's just one problem, explained Paulo: "You don't have an actual spacecraft yet."

So, scientists build a software universe to simulate the mission.

"What you need to have is something that represents the spacecraft, mission control and ground stations, along with many other components, in order to check it all."

At ESA, Paulo and Feedzai's Nuno Sebastiao called on high-performance computing techniques to create virtual satellites: "Clusters of computers pretend to be everything involved. A computer acts like a spacecraft."

The software must be very robust in order to mimic each element of the mission and spacecraft perfectly.

And it must be able to do this quickly – in far less time than it would take to complete an actual mission.
"The software has to be able to process all the information it gets in a very, very effective way," said Paulo, "as if it were the real spacecraft."

Spacecraft operators also train using this software. "You are not going to put a spacecraft in the hands of someone who hasn't trained before."

Space experience for stopping fraud

Fraud detection and space mission software face similar challenges. For one thing, both need to process huge amounts of information in real time. "If we talk about a bank, you need to process thousands of transactions every single second."




The Corliss Group Latest Tech Review, Space simulation technologies inspire anti-fraud systems on Earth
In bank fraud detection, as in space, software must recognise anything that is out of the ordinary.

In space, an unexpected change in temperature could indicate a crack in the wall. In banking, anomalies often point to fraud: if a petrol station suddenly starts generating sales figures like those of a luxury car dealership, it is a sign of trouble.

However, there are differences. While hard-and-fast rules are set to detect an anomaly in space, fraud requires decisions on a case-by-case basis. A sudden temperature change in a spacecraft is always a problem, but each bank customer has his own, individual habits.

As a result, the software must recognise what is normal for a business-owner and what is normal for a teacher, based on the past practices of each, before it can identify any odd behaviour.

To make this possible, Feedzai came up with an artificial intelligence software system.
"We developed software that can process a huge number of transactions," said Paulo. This software can look at every transaction a customer has made for the last four years.

By applying both 'machine learning' and 'big-data techniques' to look at all the data, the software learns to distinguish fraudulent-looking from non-fraudulent-looking transactions.

"The software creates the rules."






Feedzai's software is certainly robust. Tracking over 300 variables per person, it creates very detailed, individualised spending profiles for as many as 20 million credit cardholders per system. "In total we are tracking over five billion variables continuously."

"It's like having 500 very intelligent people looking at every single transaction and making a call based on their experience if it's fraud or not. It's a huge amount of computing power."

Carlos Cerqueira from Instituto Pedro Nunes, the Portuguese broker in ESA's Technology Transfer Network part of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme, believes Feedzai's technology will mean savings for banks, as well as improved customer loyalty: "Feedzai's machine learning models and big data science are able to detect fraud up to 30% earlier than traditional methods, and illustrate how the competencies developed at ESA research centres can be useful to other sectors."

Space knowledge generates growth

This year, Feedzai moved its headquarters from Portugal to California as they expand further into the world market.

"It is great to see that the expertise and knowledge generated on European space programmes also can lead to innovative techniques in fighting credit card fraud," said Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office.

"It illustrates very well the spin-off potential from our space programmes. Dealing with space calls for leading-edge technological solutions, which explains why the space industry is often far ahead of others."

Portugal's delegate to ESA, Luís Serina, emphasised that, "This success case shows us that the investment in ESA also contributes to the creation of jobs and growth through technological innovation, which is even more important nowadays."

Certainly, there is plenty of fraud to go around: each year, $11.4 billion is lost to credit card fraud. As cybercriminals grow more sophisticated, that number is likely to grow.

"We're part of the defence mechanism," said Feedzai spokesperson Loc Nguyen. "The invisible layer you as a consumer never think about. If you don't know about us, it means that we're working."


 

The Corliss Group Latest Tech Review – The leadership team at online fraud detection firm iovation had a choice to make: remodel their existing 18,500 square feet in U.S. Bancorp Tower or move into new, bigger space to accommodate its growing 88-person Portland team.

They decided to stay, work with their landlord and retool what was previously a very traditional office.
The new space should hold about 100 people, which is what the company’s Portland team is projected to be by the end of this year. The company currently has about 90 people worldwide. The company also expects business to grow 30 percent this year over last year.

iovation is the latest tech firm to reimagine what a workspace within a corporate tower can look like. The others were New Relic, SurveyMonkey and Webtrends.

For iovation, the company is reducing the size of workspace cubicles, from roughly eight feet by eight feet to six feet by six feet — though Vice President of Operations and co-founder Molly O’Hearn assures that they will still be roomy. The cubicle walls are also coming down in height allowing for more of an open feel and more sight lines.

Walls for offices and conference rooms around perimeter will also now incorporate glass so people will be able to see in and see the view from the 32-story perch.

“We’re taking advantage of the views and being efficient,” said CEO and co-founder Greg Pierson.
The company is also paying attention to the amenities in the kitchen — which employees said is an important aspect of the office — and doubling the number of conference rooms.

While the work is occurring the company has decamped to another floor in the building. The team expects to be back in the space by mid-August. The company has more than 2 billion unique Internet devices in its knowledge base and from a production standpoint the temporary move hasn’t been a problem.
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