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Federal Government Investments in AI Beginning to Pay Off

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The Department of Energy is among federal agencies showing results from investments in AI technology being made by the US government. (Credit: Getty Images)

By AI Trends Staff

The federal government’s investments in AI since President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order calling for the US to maintain its leadership in AI in early 2019 have been substantial and are playing out in a range of agencies, as several speakers outlined on day two of the Second Annual AI World Government conference and expo held virtually this week.

Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy Assistant Director, CISE, National Science Foundation

Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy Assistant Director, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation, described NSF investments in AI, NSF’s National AI Research Institutes and other partnership models. The NSF invested $500 million in AI in fiscal year 2020 just ended, broken down by $320 million in computer and information science, $131 million in engineering and $48 million in math and physical sciences. “We put a spotlight on specific areas of AI and machine learning, often in collaboration with partners,” he said in a talk on AI at the NSF. As an example, he pointed to a $4.5 million investment in Partnership on AI, a nonprofit coalition committed to the responsible use of AI, to help research the social challenges that can arise from AI.

Another example is the Real-Time Machine Learning program in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to build new hardware and software systems that can combine complex ML algorithms and advanced hardware to stream new data in real time. Yet another is a program on Fairness in AI in collaboration with Amazon, with a focus on transparency, explainability and bias. “This illustrates the breadth of investment we have and how we have worked across government agencies and the public and private sectors,” Gianchandani said.

Funding of some $180 million for a new round of AI Research Institutes is coming in 2021, building on $1 billion in awards given this summer to 12 institutes nationwide, and partnering with Amazon, Google, Intel, and Accenture for support.

Cheryl Ingstad, Director of the AI and Technology Office, DOE

Over 600 AI projects are underway at the Department of Energy, said Cheryl Ingstad, Director of the AI and Technology Office of the DOE, in a talk outlining the agency’s AI efforts. Appointed in February and from a background at 3M and in the Defense Intelligence Agency before that, Ingstad said, “The DOE is positioned to lead the government’s efforts to advance AI.”

One example effort is the First Give Consortium, announced in August in partnership with Microsoft, to use deep learning algorithms to provide near real-time data to improve the decision-making of the nation’s first responders. “The power to save lives is where I see a great opportunity for AI,” Ingstad said.

The DOE’s strategic objectives in AI include an effort to cultivate an “AI-Ready Workforce” by offering new hires AI career pathways and helping meet the demand for AI training. “We have a lot of passion about this, and we are hiring to execute on this strategy,” she said. “I am impressed with the talent we are seeing.” The DOE is also actively seeking partnerships with AI firms. Ingstad provided an email address for interested partners to send queries or proposals: doe_AI_gateway@hq.doe.gov.

Amazon launched Amazon Web Services in 2006, the first cloud computing platform. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a boom in remote work, Amazon is well-positioned to be of service. “We are experiencing a renaissance in machine learning and AI in the cloud,” said David Levy, a VP at AWS who focuses on the US Government sector, in a talk on how the government is using AI in the cloud. “The cloud is providing computer scientists with the scale they need to run machine learning algorithms. And COVID-19 research shows the importance of being able to run ML models in the cloud,” he said. Amazon is a cofounding member of the recently-formed COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium along with many other industry players, federal agencies, and universities.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs late last year launched the National AI Institute for advancing the health and well-being of veterans. “The VA has over nine million patients, making it the largest integrated healthcare system in the US,” said Gil Alterovitz, PhD, Director of AI at the VA, in a talk on how the agency is using AI to improve health services.

The VA’s chief areas of AI concentration are deep learning, explainable AI, privacy protection, trustworthy AI and multiscale AI analysis, he said. A number of stakeholders are consulted to decide what projects to pursue. The VA uses AI Tech Sprints, time-limited engagements to foster collaboration with industry, academic and nonprofit partners. The first was conducted in 2019; the second concludes in November. “The Tech Sprints enable the VA to have a bidirectional link between the government and users of data,” he said.

One example result is the Clinical Trial Selector, developed by a group of high school students from Fairfax County Va., to help connect veterans with clinical trials that could be helpful. The students were members of the Girls Computing League nonprofit that fosters the interest of young people in computer science and technology. The work is continuing through a grant from AWS.

Day three of AI World Government continues tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 30.

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-world-government/federal-government-investments-in-ai-beginning-to-pay-off/

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Work of the Future: Addressing Skills Gap with Education, Training, Expanded Pool 

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Community Colleges working with high schools are seen by the MIT Future of Work study group as critical to the ability to close the skills gap between qualified workers and job opportunities. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor   

Thousands of jobs go unfulfilled today because of the gap in skills between requirements of the job and available labor, according to speakers at a session on education and training at the AI and the Work of the Future Congress 2020 held virtually recently.  

The conference was held following the release of the 2020 report from the MIT Task Force on the Future of Work, which recently released its 2020 Final Report. 

Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

“The only way to fill these jobs is with certificate graduates,” stated Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which has been working with the Greater Washington Partnership non-profit civic alliance of 27 employers to help address the issue. ”We have been looking at ways to develop certificates to increase the number of people to file these jobs,” he said. 

The Future of Work report refers to the nation’s 1,100 community colleges as the “linchpin of America’s training ecosystem,” providing training to seven million students annually in credit courses, with 46% of them over the age of 22. 

“It’s about a journey the worker is on to continue to invest in their education, and community colleges are the starting points,” stated Juan Salgado, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago.  

Juan Salgado, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago

One of the seven schools in his network that is focused on healthcare, saw enrollment increase five percent during the pandemic, while the others averaged a 14% decrease. “People are moving to where there is opportunity and into programs that work,” he said.   

Pandemic Has Led to Requirement to “Reallocate” Labor 

Paul Osterman, Professor of Human Resources and Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, said, “The core challenge is about low-wage workers. Some 25% of workers today earn less than is needed to support a family. And the Covid-19 pandemic has presented a “huge question around reallocation” of workers from industries that have shrunk, such as restaurants, to industries that need workers, such as healthcare. 

Over 55% of workers got skills training from their employers, based on a January 2020 survey Osterman conducted. He cited “huge disparities” by ethnic background, with African-Americans and Latinos receiving much less skills training from their employers than white people.  

“In the public system, we know what works,” Osterman said. “We know that community college pays off, and high quality job training also pays off. The issue is how to expand and scale what we know works, and getting employers to buy into it,” he said.  

He sees the answer as getting education “stovepipes” to work together, such as K-12 educators working with higher educators. “We need to get those bureaucracies to cooperate and create a seamless system, and get employers to take it seriously,” Osterman said. He often hears business CEOs saying they want to work with community colleges, but, “Making it happen is the challenge.”     

Community Colleges Working with K-12 Educators in Chicago  

Salgado of City Colleges of Chicago said he has engaged in a joint strategic plan with the Chicago public schools, which gets the K-12 systems and the community colleges working together. “We are going to be one team,” he said. Community college certification programs are introduced to high school students, so they become familiar with those options.   

In Baltimore County, community colleges are working closely with public educators and employers. “Those middle school years when students build their math and reading skills, and a sense of self-worth, are critical,” said. He noted that while many students, not only many from low-income backgrounds, are “afraid of math and science” many opportunities are also available to them.   

While many students in the Chicago and Baltimore areas may be benefiting from the K-12 and community college education partnerships, Osterman said, “I would suspect that thousands of people who need the kinds of skills that are in demand now are not getting that opportunity. We need to change that. It’s a political issue that needs to be front and center.” 

Startup pyrometics Seeks to Expand Hiring Pools by Assessing Soft Skills 

Dr. Frida Polli, CEO and founder, pymetrics

Another way to approach the skills gap is to expand the pool of potential hires. This is the approach taken by pymetrics, a startup focused on spotting talent with the right “adjacent skills” though they may be non-degree holders, minorities and women. CEO and founder Dr. Frida Polli, also a member of the Future of Work panel on education and training, is a neuroscientist aimed at ‘democratizing’ career search and hiring. The firm’s product seeks to match candidates to the best job while removing render and ethnic bias from the hiring process. The company has over 100 enterprise clients, including Unilever and Accenture.   

“We need to refocus on soft skills to understand future potential, to see whether a person has the social and emotional aptitude for work they have never done,” Dr. Polli said. “That allows us to mitigate the process we have for evaluating hard skills, which map to race, general and socioeconomic background. We want to at a minimum marry our love of hard skills with a soft skill assessment.” 

While difficult to quantify, her company has developed a means to do it. “We have developed more objective ways to measure these soft skills,” she said. “But whatever system you use, it will help to balance some inequalities we see in society.” 

Her own experience as an English major who became a scientist is telling. “Soft skill assessment is one of the ways you can compare an MIT grad with someone who has many of the same soft skills,” she said, adding, “The notion that to expand diversity, quality must suffer, is offensive.” 

A consortium of partners including pymetrics, Infosys, Merit America, Per Scholas, Revature and Woz U is working together to expand the hiring pool.  

Learn more from the MIT Task Force on the Future of Work 2020 Final Report, at the Greater Washington Partnership and from  pymetrics, 

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/workforce/work-of-the-future-addressing-skills-gap-with-education-training-expanded-pool/

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Construction Industry Beginning to use AI-powered Robots and Drones on Site 

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AI is beginning to be employed to help manage a mix of robots, drones, cameras, and sensors on construction sites, as the industry rolls out more automation. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By AI Trends Staff 

Robots and drones directed and managed with the help of AI are appearing on construction sites, as the construction industry gains experience with uses ranging from improving site security to management of multi-year projects.   

Such large scale, multi-year projects require the coordination of many complicated tasks and moving parts including designs and blueprints, permits, and unexpected delays and changes. These can quickly challenge the ability of humans to manage without the assistance of technology, according to a recent account in Forbes.  

For scheduling, the use of advanced AI can help to prevent costly delays on sites or among suppliers, vendors, and others involved in the process. AI is also being applied to contingency planning, running through multiple scheduling scenarios for example if a permit is delayed or an incident happens.   

Drones are being used for surveying and taking overhead images of construction sites through stages of construction. Robots are being used to help with tasks such as bricklaying, pouring concrete, or installing drywall, augmenting the labor force to help with labor costs and to keep the project on schedule.  

Increasingly, construction sites are being equipped with cameras, IoT devices, and sensors that monitor many aspects of construction operations. AI-enabled systems are able to watch what is going on 24/7 without distraction.   

Startups Eye Opportunity; Built Robotics Moves Earth 

Gaurav Kikani, VP of Strategy, Built Robotics

A number of startups are taking advantage of this opportunity. Built Robotics, for example, got its start using autonomous skid-steer loaders to move sand or gravel on construction sites. Today the company has autonomous systems for bulldozers and 40-ton excavators. 

 “We have a software platform that actuates the equipment that takes all the data being read by the sensors on the machine every second to make decisions and actuate the equipment accordingly,” stated Gaurav Kikani, VP of strategy for Built Robotics, in an account in VentureBeat.  

Built has focused on earth moving projects at remote job sites in California, Montana, Colorado, and Missouri that are far removed from human construction workers. Autonomous heavy equipment monitored by a human overseer tills the earth in preparation for later stages of construction, when human crews arrive to do things like build homes or begin wind or solar energy projects. In the future, the startup wants to help with more infrastructure projects. Built raised $33 million last fall in a series B round, making its total funding $48 million, according to Crunchbase.  

Built started out focusing on standalone activities at a site, with one machine working alone to complete a job, and later moved into excavators and smaller dozers working together. The dozers would push material away or create space for the excavator to be more productive. 

Software Needed to Manage “Morphologies” on Construction Sites  

“The fleet coordination element here is going to be critical. Realistically, to get into the heart of construction, I think we’re going to start to coordinate with other types of equipment,” Kikani stated. “The trickiest thing about construction is how dynamic the environment is. Building technology that is pliable or versatile enough to account for the changing conditions, and being able to update in real time to plan to accommodate for that is going to be the key here.”  

Computer vision systems are being used to track progress on construction sites. Startup Indus.ai, among a handful of companies in the business, offers cameras to track the flow of trucks entering a site, the number of floors completed in a building and the overall pace of progress. It is capable of following daily work production and helps supervisors determine whether the work of individuals and teams follows best practices.  

Matt Man, CEO, Indus.ai

“We can observe and use a segmentation algorithm to basically know every pixel—what material it is—and therefore we know the pace of your concrete work, your rebar work, your form work and [can] start predicting what’s happening,” stated Indus.ai CEO Matt Man to VentureBeat. 

He envisions a mix of working humans and machines collaborating on construction sites. “There could be armies of robot-building things, but then there is an intelligent worker or supervisor who can manage five or 10 robotic arms at the same time,” Man stated.  

Software for directing the on-site activity will become more critical as contractors embrace robotics, in his view. “Having all these kinds of logistical things run together really well, it’s something I think AI can do,” Man stated. “But it’s definitely going to take some time for the whole orchestration to be done well.”  

Brian Ringley, construction technologist, Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics, known for years as the maker of cutting-edge robots, also entered construction sites last year as part of its transition from an R&D outfit to a commercial company. Boston Dynamics construction technologist Brian Ringley echoed the notion that software platforms will emerge to coordinate multiple machines on construction sites. 

“In  the same way we use lots of different people and lots of machines on sites now to do things, I believe there will be multiple morphologies on construction sites and it will be necessary to work together,” Ringley stated.  

That seems to be happening. For example, the International Union of Operating Engineers, which has over 400,000 members, last spring established a multi-year training partnership with Built Robotics.   

Read the source articles in Forbes and VentureBeat. 

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-in-industry/construction-industry-beginning-to-use-ai-powered-robots-and-drones-on-site/

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Cryptographic Breakthrough on iO Said to be a ‘Crown Jewel’ for Security 

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Hiding the functionality of code running remotely to protect it from hackers is the breakthrough seen by cryptographers as the “crown jewel’ of cybersecurity. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By AI Trends Staff 

A team of scientists has achieved what one account referred to as “the crown jewel of cryptography” with a breakthrough in a technique studied for many years. 

The technique of “indistinguishability obfuscation”iOis a low-level cryptographic algorithm that hides the implementation of a program while still allowing users to run it.   

Our top math geniuses point to iO as a cornerstone needed to unleash the full potential of artificially intelligent (AI) programs running across highly complex and dynamic cloud platforms, soon to be powered by quantum computers,” states a recent account in SecurityBoulevard written by Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido. “Simply put, iO must be achieved in order to preserve privacy and security while tapping into the next generation of IT infrastructure.” 

The future in automation is driverless ground transportation, green cities that optimize energy usage and self-improving medical treatments. But to get there, these next-generation, AI-dependent systems need to run securely and in ways that preserve individual privacy.  

Dr. Amit Sahai, professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

While iO is the consensus solution, to date it has been the missing piece. Achohido recently spoke with Dr. Tatsuaki Okamoto, director of NTT Research’s Cryptography and Information Security Lab, and Dr. Amit Sahai, professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. NTT Research sponsored research led by Sahai that has recently resulted in an iO milestone.  

Drawing an analogy to the human brain, Sahai said to consider what would happen if a mind reader could not only see everything stored in your brain but also could tinker with your synapses and manipulate your critical thinking.  

Ability for Hackers to Alter Remote Code is Today’s ‘Core Security Challenge’  

The software programs running digital services are the equivalent of human critical thinking. “It’s currently trivial for a proficient hacker to remotely access and alter just about any piece of software coding,” Acohido wrote, adding, “This is the core security challenge companies face defending their business networks.” 

As the move to cloud infrastructure and IoT systems marches on, the risks increase. Sahai stated, “Sending your program out to an untrusted cloud to be executed raises the stakes even more.”  

Huijia Rachel Lin, associate professor, the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

iO promises to render software coding unintelligible while preserving its function. The first iO theories date to the 1970s and have been viewed as unsolved problems. Sahai’s team, which included Aayush Jain, a UCLA graduate student, and Huijia Rachel Lin, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering—puts us one step closer to a working iO prototype, Acohido wrote. 

“We are still at a very early stage here,” Sahai stated. “For the first time, we can prove that reverse engineering the software is as hard as solving certain standing conjectures in mathematics.”  

Urgency is high to deliver new tools commercially that can deepen cybersecurity and reinforce privacy. Cloud and mobile computing continue to accelerate; our reliance on IoT systems and 5G networks is rising. The race is on to extend AI-enabled automation services, soon to be further enabled by quantum computers. 

In this environment, telecom giant NTT Corp. of Tokyo chose to open NTT Research in Silicon Valley in July 2019 and begin to recruit top scientists and researchers. NTT funded its US research lab with a portion of its $3.6 billion budget.   

“Our labs only conduct basic research,” Okamoto told Acohido. “We do not require any contributions to any of NTT’s business. We focus on basic research.” 

All attempts to build practical obfuscators have failed to date. “The ones that have come out in real life are ludicrously broken,… typically within hours of release into the wild,” stated Sahai in a recent account in Quantamagazine  

“It really is kind of the crown jewel” of cryptographic protocols, stated Rafael Pass of Cornell University. “Once you achieve this, we can get essentially everything.”  

Lin in 2016 began to research a way to overcome the weaknesses of iO. Several years ago, she joined forces with Jain and Sahai to work on a new technique. “We were stuck for a very, very long time,” Lin stated. Eventually, they arrived at a technique“the pseudo-randomness generator”that  expands a string of random bits into a longer string that can fool computers. This is what is described in the new paper and results in an iO protocol that avoids the security weaknesses of the previous approaches.   

“Their work looks absolutely beautiful,” stated Pass. 

Schneier Sees iO Breakthrough as ‘Not Remotely Close to Being Practical’ 

A sobering thought was offered on the blog of Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer who works at the intersection of security, technology and people, Schneier on Security. Author of a number of books, he lectures at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is chief of security architecture at Inrupt  

This is a pretty amazing theoretical result, and one to be excited about. We can now do obfuscation, and we can do it using assumptions that make real-world sense,” Schneier stated of the breakthrough on iO.   

“But—and this is a big one—this result is not even remotely close to being practical. We’re talking multiple days to perform pretty simple calculations, using massively large blocks of computer code,” Schneier stated. “And this is likely to remain true for a very long time. Unless researchers increase performance by many orders of magnitude, nothing in the real world will make use of this work anytime soon.” 

Another view of this is that the iO breakthrough from Jain, Lin, and Sahai will inspire more researchers into the field to work on making the scheme and to develop new approaches, suggested the account in Quantamagazine. Researcher Yuval Ishai of the Technion in Haifa, Israel, stated, “Once you know that something is possible in principle, it makes it psychologically much easier to work in the area.”  

Read the source articles in SecurityBoulevard,  Quantamagazine and Schneier on Security. 

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/security/cryptographic-breakthrough-on-io-said-to-be-a-crown-jewel-for-security/

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KDP Using AI to Fuel Expansion Strategy, with Sales Boosted During Pandemic 

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Keurig Dr Pepper is pursuing AI to fuel an expansion strategy as it commits to Google Cloud and enjoys a market share increase from coffee-drinkers. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By AI Trends Staff 

Keurig Dr. Pepper (KDP), experiencing dramatic volume increases as people drink more coffee at home during the pandemic, is pursuing AI to help fuel its expansion strategy.  

Keurig Green Mountain acquired the Dr Pepper Snapple group in 2018, in an $18.7 million deal. The rationale from Keurig CEO Bob Gamgort was to combine hot and cold beverages to create a platform for higher growth.  

“The business and Wall Street appeared in cold and hot as two entirely different sectors,” Gamgort stated in an article in Fortune. KDP is now rated the seventh-largest food and drink business in the US, with $11.1 billion in earnings last year.  

KDP in early March formed “related panels” that 10,000 home brewers could connect to digitally, to browse pictures of each K-Cup pod to see changes in titles and mixes. Along with this data being viewed by consumers sheltering in place during the pandemic, “Coffee intake has been through the roof, Gamgort stated. He anticipated that customers would look to stockpile supplies so they would shop where they could buy major quantities, in the megastores. He positioned to meet the demand by increasing production of cans, including from Mexico which had cut back beer production after the government deemed beer unessential.  

Its moves have resulted in increased market share. In the 20-week period ended July 26, KDP garnered 34.1% of the $1.4 billion increase in revenue for all U.S. carbonated soft drinks, according to Consumer Edge, quoted in Fortune That boosted its overall market share from 22.7% to 24.0%. “KDP has done the best job of any beverage company in navigating the crisis,” stated Consumer Edge analyst Brett Cooper.   

Move to Google Cloud and AI   

At the same time, KDP is overhauling its compute infrastructure. In July, the company announced it was making a multi-year commitment to Google Cloud to house its “data footprint,” according to an account in CIODive.  

By the end of 2020, KDP plans to shift to virtual machines running on Google Cloud, retiring two data centers with more than 1,000 servers. The migration represents most but not all the company’s data footprint.  

The move is critical to KDP’s “merger integration and modernization efforts,” stated John Gigerich, SVP and CIO for Keurig Dr Pepper, in a statement.  

Carrie Tharp, VP of Retail & Consumer at Google Cloud.

Several consumer product good brands are working to “expedite their digital transformations to really understand their data, deepen relationships with consumers and ultimately drive their business forward,” Carrie Tharp, VP of Retail & Consumer, Google Cloud told CIO Dive in an email. Similar to retailers and direct-to-consumer brands, CPG companies want data from direct customer interaction. 

Also in a play for more personalization, The Procter & Gamble Company is using Google’s data analytics and AI technology, Google announced earlier this month. The company is working to integrate consumer, brand, and media data for deeper insights.  

“We’re always looking to ensure a great consumer experience across all our categories, from healthcare to beauty products and much more,” stated Vittorio Cretella, CIO, Procter & Gamble, in the statement. “As a leader in analytics and AI, Google Cloud is a strategic partner helping us offer our consumers superior products and services that provide value in a secure and transparent way.” 

Google Cloud’s Live Migration Services Tapped to Move KDP’s Servers 

John Gigerich, SVP and CIO for Keurig Dr Pepper

Meanwhile at KDP, CIO Gigerich stated in an account from aiTechPark, “Google Cloud is a true partner that gives us the stability and flexibility to support critical business applications needed to drive innovation and ensure business continuity.”  

He added, “The migration to Google Cloud has been seamless and was a key project in our merger integration and modernization efforts as Keurig Dr Pepper. We look forward to exploring additional partnership opportunities with Google in the future.”  

KDP used Google Cloud’s Live Migration service, which enables enterprises to move virtual servers from one physical machine to another with what is hoped to be a minimum of disruption. For applications like SAP, where even a few minutes of downtime can cost tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. 

“Data is the fuel to help companies transform their businesses, and those that leverage the cloud will thrive in this new era of retail,” stated Carrie Tharp, VP of Retail & Consumer at Google Cloud. “We’re thrilled to partner with Keurig Dr Pepper, and we look forward to helping the company reach the next level in its digital transformation journey.” 

The contract with Keurig Dr Pepper will be implemented in conjunction with Google Cloud services partner HCL America. 

Elsewhere in AI news at KDP, the company is moving to insert more intelligence into its recycling efforts. The company has committed to making all its K-cup pods recyclable by the end of 2020, starting with changing the material used in the container to polypropylene, a plastic sought for recycling, according to an account in Vox. 

Keurig is also working with AMP Robotics to bring AI to the sorting process at recycling facilities. (See AI Trends for account of AI in recycling.) 

Read the source articles in Fortunein CIODivefrom aiTechPark and in Vox. 

Source: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-in-business/kdp-using-ai-to-fuel-expansion-strategy-with-sales-boosted-during-pandemic/

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