China has issued guidelines for promoting the application of blockchain technology and industrial development.
According to the announcement, China’s Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has identified four main areas for applying blockchain technology.
This document introduces the basic principles and future development priorities of emerging technologies integrated with distributed networks, encryption technologies, smart contracts and other technologies in various provinces and cities in China.
The basic principles mainly focus on five aspects: application traction; innovation-driven, ecological cultivation; multi-party coordination; safety, and order.
Documents from the MIIT list the real economy, public services, industrial foundation, and modernisation as the main focus of the country’s blockchain development.
For the real economy, the Chinese government advocates making use of blockchain technology to optimise supply chain management and trace the source of food, medical, parts, and manufacturing products while sharing data to deepen the integration of applications at the same time.
In terms of building public services, the authority aims to promote the development of blockchain technology in the construction of smart cities and create a coordinated integration of government affairs systems with the people.
At the same time, the MIIT encourages the acceleration of the formulation of a standard system for blockchain technology to consolidate the industrial foundation. The intention is to develop a leading, high-quality enterprise after building a secure underlying platform. And carry out third-party quality evaluation and security risk assessment to construct a mature and self-disciplined industry that protects blockchain intellectual property rights.
While developing internationally competitive blockchain unicorn companies, the authority encourages establishing an open-source ecosystem, sharing blockchain resources, and jointly carrying out innovative research and development of blockchain-related products.
According to the Ministry of Information Technology, blockchain is one of the leading innovations, such as big data and artificial intelligence. It promotes blockchain integration with cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the industrial Internet, vital to China’s development.
As part of its development goals, the MIIT requires establishing at least three key enterprises and blockchain industry clusters. The document also suggests strengthening international cooperation and exchange of the platform under the support of the “One Belt, One Road” policy.
Digital Identity Verification Spends to Surge by 2026
The amount business spends on digital identity verification processes is forecast to nearly double over the next five years, data from Juniper Research suggests.
The processes, which include selfie scans, address checks and knowledge-based authentication will generate a $9.4 billion spend in 2021 but grow to $16.7 billion in 2026. COVID-19 is a main reason for the surge, as more companies were forced to digitally onboard users in socially distanced times. Like many online behaviors, the pandemic accelerated already present trends more than it created new ones.
The business climate is at the point where seamless digital onboarding is now table stakes. That can be a challenge for companies quickly forced to become more digital. They are faced with the need to provide a low-friction yet highly secure experience that incorporates such complex processes as artificial intelligence and behavioral analytics.
In 2026 the banking and financial services sectors will account for more than 60 percent of digital identity verification spend.
“Digital-only banks have shown that fully digital KYC can work and is very engaging for the user, therefore the pressure is on for traditional banks to deploy new identity verification services,” co-author Vladimir Surovkin said. “Managing this transition quickly, and getting the user convenience/security balance right will determine overall success.”
The number individual identity checks performed is expected to more than double from 45 billion in 2021 to 92 billion in 2026. In addition to financial services, mobile network operation and online gambling are two other ripe areas, the report states.
Nvidia’s Canvas AI painting tool instantly turns blobs into realistic landscapes
AI has been filling in the gaps for illustrators and photographers for years now — literally, it intelligently fills gaps with visual content. But the latest tools are aimed at letting an AI give artists a hand from the earliest, blank-canvas stages of a piece. Nvidia’s new Canvas tool lets the creator rough in a landscape like paint-by-numbers blobs, then fills it in with convincingly photorealistic (if not quite gallery-ready) content.
Each distinct color represents a different type of feature: mountains, water, grass, ruins, etc. When colors are blobbed onto the canvas, the crude sketch is passed to a generative adversarial network. GANs essentially pass content back and forth between a creator AI that tries to make (in this case) a realistic image and a detector AI that evaluates how realistic that image is. These work together to make what they think is a fairly realistic depiction of what’s been suggested.
It’s pretty much a more user-friendly version of the prototype GauGAN (get it?) shown at CVPR in 2019. This one is much smoother around the edges, produces better imagery, and can run on any Windows computer with a decent Nvidia graphics card.
This method has been used to create very realistic faces, animals and landscapes, though there’s usually some kind of “tell” that a human can spot. But the Canvas app isn’t trying to make something indistinguishable from reality — as concept artist Jama Jurabaev explains in the video below, it’s more about being able to experiment freely with imagery more detailed than a doodle.
For instance, if you want to have a moldering ruin in a field with a river off to one side, a quick pencil sketch can only tell you so much about what the final piece might look like. What if you have it one way in your head, and then two hours of painting and coloring later you realize that because the sun is setting on the left side of the painting, it makes the shadows awkward in the foreground?
If instead you just scribbled these features into Canvas, you might see that this was the case right away, and move on to the next idea. There are even ways to quickly change the time of day, palette, and other high-level parameters so they can quickly be evaluated as options.
“I’m not afraid of blank canvas any more,” said Jurabaev. “I’m not afraid to make very big changes, because I know there’s always AI helping me out with details… I can put all my effort into the creative side of things, and I’ll let Canvas handle the rest.”
It’s very like Google’s Chimera Painter, if you remember that particular nightmare fuel, in which an almost identical process was used to create fantastic animals. Instead of snow, rock and bushes, it had hind leg, fur, teeth and so on, which made it rather more complicated to use and easy to go wrong with.
Still, it may be better than the alternative, for certainly an amateur like myself could never draw even the weird tube-like animals that resulted from basic blob painting.
Unlike the Chimera Creator, however, this app is run locally, and requires a beefy Nvidia video card to do it. GPUs have long been the hardware of choice for machine learning applications, and something like a real-time GAN definitely needs a chunky one. You can download the app for free here.
How one founder realized satellite internet didn’t have to be fast or expensive to be useful
It’s hard to understand just how steeply the cost of launching and operating satellites has dropped, particularly since the introduction of lower cost launch services from a number of commercial players, and the maturation of the smartphone supply chain. Swarm co-founder and CEO realized just how much the cost curve had changed when she and her co-founder Ben Longmeir realized that they could outfit tiny satellites Longmeir had created as a kind of space lover’s hobby with the equipment needed to provide low-bandwidth connectivity to low-powered devices around the world.
In this week’s episode of Found, Sara walks us through how she went from an engineering career that included stints at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Google, to building Swarm as a first-time founder and CEO. We covered a range of topics including how Sara and Ben decided who would be CEO, what it’s like leading a small but growing team, and how to evaluate your decisions as a founder, and commit to a course of action to move forward.
Sara was extremely candid with us about her experience as a founder and CEO, and this is definitely one of our most open and honest conversations to date.
We loved our time chatting with Sara, and we hope you love yours listening to the episode. And of course, we’d love if you can subscribe to Found in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or in your podcast app of choice. Please leave us a review and let us know what you think, or send us direct feedback either on Twitter or via email at email@example.com. And please join us again next week for our next featured founder.
As clinical guidelines shift, heart disease screening startup pulls in $43M Series B
Cleerly Coronary, a company that uses A.I powered imaging to analyze heart scans, announced a $43 million Series B funding this week. The funding comes at a moment when it seems that a new way of screening for heart disease is on its way.
Cleerly was started in 2017 by James K. Min a cardiologist, and the director of the Dalio Institute for Cardiac Imaging at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College. The company, which uses A.I to analyze detailed CT scans of the heart, has 60 employees, and has raised $54 million in total funding.
The Series B round was led by Vensana Capital, but also included LVR Health, New Leaf Venture Partners, DigiTx Partners, and Cigna Ventures.
The startup’s aim is to provide analysis of detailed pictures of the human heart that have been examined by artificial intelligence. This analysis is based on images taken via Cardiac Computer Tomography Angiogram (CTA), a new, but rapidly growing manner of scanning for plaques.
“We focus on the entire heart, so every artery, and its branches, and then atherosclerosis characterization and quantification,” says Min. “We look at all of the plaque buildup in the artery, [and] the walls of the artery, which historical and traditional methods that we’ve used in cardiology have never been able to do.”
Cleerly is a web application, and it requires that a CTA image specifically, which the A.I. is trained to analyze, is actually taken when patients go in for a checkup.
When a patient goes in for a heart exam after experiencing a symptom like chest pain, there are a few ways they can be screened. They might undergo a stress test, an echocardiogram (ECG), or a coronary angiogram – a catheter and x-ray-based test. CTA is a newer form of imaging in which a scanner takes detailed images of the heart, which is illuminated with an injected dye.
Cleerly’s platform is designed to analyze those CTA images in detail, but they’ve only recently become a first-line test (a go-to, in essence) when patients come in with suspected heart problems. The European Society of Cardiology updated guidelines to make CTA a first-line test in evaluating patients with chronic coronary disease. In the UK, it became a first-line test in the evaluation of patients with chest pain in 2016.
CTA is already used in the US, but guidelines may expand how often it’s actually used. A review on CTA published on the American College of Cardiology website notes that it shows “extraordinary potential.”
There’s movement on the insurance side, too. In 2020, United Healthcare announced the company will now reimburse for CTA scans when they’re ordered to examine low-to medium risk patients with chest pain. Reimbursement qualification is obviously a huge boon to broader adoption.
CTA imaging might not be great for people who already have stents in their hearts, or, says Min, those who are just in for a routine checkup (there is low-dose radiation associated with a CTA scan). Rather, Cleerly will focus on patients who have shown symptoms or are already at high risk for heart disease.
The CDC estimates that currently 18.2 million adults currently have coronary artery heart disease (the most common kind), and that 47 percent of Americans have one of the three most prominent risk factors for the disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a smoking habit.
These shifts (and anticipated shifts) in guidelines suggest that a lot more of these high-risk patients may be getting CTA scans in the future, and Cleerly has been working on mining additional information from them in several large-scale clinical trials.
There are plenty of different risk factors that contribute to heart disease, but the most basic understanding is that heart attacks happen when plaques build up in the arteries, which narrows the arteries and constricts the flow of blood. Clinical trials have suggested that the types of plaques inside the body may contain information about how risky certain blockages are compared to others beyond just much of the artery they block.
A trial on 25,251 patients found that, indeed, the percentage of construction in the arteries increases the risk of heart attack. But the type of plaque in those arteries identified high-risk patients better than other measures. Patients who went on to have sudden heart attacks, for example, tended to have higher levels of fibrofatty or necrotic core plaque in their hearts.
These results do suggest that it’s worth knowing a bit more detail about plaque in the heart. Note that Min is an author of this study, but it was also conducted at 13 different medical centers.
As with all A.I based diagnostic tools the big question is: How well does it actually recognize features within a scan?
At the moment FDA documents emphasize that it is not meant to supplant a trained medical professional who can interpret the results of a scan. But tests have suggested it fares pretty well.
A June 2021 study compared Cleerly’s A.I analysis of CTA scans to that of three expert readers, and found that the A.I had a diagnostic accuracy of about 99.7 percent when evaluating patients who had severe narrowing in their arteries. Three of nine study authors hold equity in Cleerly.
With this most recent round of funding, Min says he aims to pursue more commercial partnerships and scale up to meet the existing demand. “We have sort of stayed under the radar, but we came above the radar because now I think we’re prepared to fulfill demand,” he says.
Still, the product itself will continue to be tested and refined. Cleerly is in the midst of seven performance indication studies that will evaluate just how well the software can spot the litany of plaques that can build up in the heart.
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