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  1. IBM creates the world’s first 2 nm chip IBM's new 2 nm process offers transistor density similar to TSMC's next-gen 3 nm. This slide from IBM's preview announcement gives more detail on the new process design. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. On Thursday, IBM announced a breakthrough in integrated circuit design: the world's first 2 nanometer process. IBM says its new process can produce CPUs capable of either 45 percent higher performance or 75 percent lower energy use than modern 7 nm designs. If you've followed recent processor news, you're likely aware that Intel's current desktop processors are still laboring along at 14 nm, while the company struggles to complete a migration downward to 10 nm—and that its rivals are on much smaller processes, with the smallest production chips being Apple's new M1 processors at 5 nm. What's less clear is exactly what that means in the first place. Originally, process size referred to the literal two-dimensional size of a transistor on the wafer itself—but modern 3D chip fabrication processes have made a hash of that. Foundries still refer to a process size in nanometers, but it's a "2D equivalent metric" only loosely coupled to reality, and its true meaning varies from one fabricator to the next. To get a better idea of how IBM's new 2 nm process stacks up, we can take a look at transistor densities, with production process information sourced from Wikichip and information on IBM's process courtesy of Anandtech's Dr. Ian Cutress. Cutress got IBM to translate "the size of a fingernail"—enough area to pack 50 billion transistors using the new process into 150 square millimeters. Manufacturer Example Process Size Peak Transistor Density (millions/sq mm) Intel Cypress Cove (desktop) CPUs 14 nm 45 Intel Willow Cove (laptop) CPUs 10 nm 100 AMD (TSMC) Zen 3 CPUs 7 nm 91 Apple (TSMC) M1 CPUs 5 nm 171 Apple (TSMC) next-gen Apple CPUs, circa 2022 3 nm ~292 (estimated) IBM May 6 prototype IC 2 nm 333 As you can see in the chart above, the simple "nanometer" metric varies pretty strenuously from one foundry to the next—in particular, Intel's processes sport a much higher transistor density than implied by the "process size" metric, with its 10 nm Willow Cove CPUs being roughly on par with 7 nm parts coming from TSMC's foundries. (TSMC builds processors for AMD, Apple, and other high-profile customers.) Although IBM claims that the new process could "quadruple cell phone battery life, only requiring users to charge their devices every four days," it's still far too early to ascribe concrete power and performance characteristics to chips designed on the new process. Comparing transistor densities to existing processes also seems to take some of the wind from IBM's sails. Comparing the new design to TSMC 7 nm is well and good, but TSMC's 5 nm process is already in production, and its 3 nm process, which has a very similar transistor density, is on track for production status next year. We don't yet have any announcements of real products in development on the new process. However, IBM currently has working partnerships with both Samsung and Intel, who might integrate this process into their own future production. Listing image by IBM IBM creates the world’s first 2 nm chip (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  2. To Make These Chips More Powerful, IBM Is Growing Them Taller The company reveals a process that it says can cram two-thirds more transistors on a semiconductor, heralding faster and more efficient electronic devices. IBM says its new process can cram 50 billion transistors on a chip, two-thirds more than the best current technology. Courtesy of IBM Computer chips might be in short supply at the moment, but chipmakers will continue wringing more power out of them for a while yet it seems. Researchers at IBM have demonstrated a way to squeeze more transistors onto a chip, a feat of nanoscopic miniaturization that could significantly improve the speed and efficiency of future electronic devices. The engineering feat might also help the US regain some ground when it comes to minting the world’s most advanced chips, something that has become central to geopolitics, economic competition, and national security. Chips are critical for a growing array of products, and access to faster, more advanced chips is likely to fuel progress in critical areas including artificial intelligence, 5G, and biotechnology. IBM says 50 billion of the new transistors—the electronic switches that let chips perform logical operations and store data—could fit on a chip the size of a fingernail, two-thirds more than what was possible using the previous process. It says the chip could help a smartphone or laptop run 45 percent faster or consume only one-fourth of the energy of the previous best design. “It’s a tremendously exciting technology,” says Jesús del Alamo, a professor at MIT who specializes in novel transistor technologies. “It’s a completely new design that pushes forward the roadmap for the future.” Making the new transistor relies on not simply etching the features of a chip into silicon, but also building them on top of one another. Chipmakers first began crafting transistors in three dimensions in 2009 using a design called FinFET, in which electrons flow through thin vertical fins—rather than a flat surface—to pass through transistors. The IBM design takes this further, stacking transistors on top of one another in the form of nanosheets that run through a semiconducting material like the layers in a cake. Dario Gil, senior vice president and director of IBM research, says making the transistors required innovations at various stages of the manufacturing process. The work comes from IBM’s research lab in Albany, New York, where IBM collaborates with the State University of New York as well as leading chip manufacturing companies. IBM sold off its chipmaking business in 2014, but it continues to fund research on next generation chip materials, designs, and manufacturing techniques. The company plans to make money by licensing the technology to chipmakers. For decades, chipmakers have been focused on shrinking the size of components to wring more performance out of chips. Smaller scale allows more components to be packed onto a chip, improving efficiency and speed, but each new generation requires incredible engineering to perfect. The most advanced computer chips today are made using a process that involves etching features into silicon with extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), resulting in features smaller than the wavelength of visible light. The process is called “7 nanometer,” but it no longer refers to the size of components; instead, it reflects the generation of technology employed, because of the stacked transistors and other changes in chipmaking. The new IBM chip is three generations ahead, using a process dubbed 2 nanometers. IBM first demonstrated transistors made this way in 2017 at 5-nanometer process scale. The fact that it has taken four years to move to 2 nanometers shows the challenge of mastering the techniques involved. The world’s most advanced chip companies have begun making 5 nanometer chips using existing approaches, which appear to be nearing their limits. Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research, an analyst firm, says fabricating the 3D components undoubtedly requires new manufacturing tricks. But “they’ve done the most difficult part. It’s a real milestone for the industry,” he says, adding that the performance improvements touted by IBM seem conservative. Chipmaking progress was most famously captured in Moore’s law, a rule of thumb named after Intel cofounder Gordon Moore which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years or so. Technologists have feared the end of Moore’s law for a decade or more, as chipmakers pushed the limits of manufacturing technology and novel electronics effects. Meeting the engineering challenges of making new generations of chips can have seismic importance. Intel, once the world’s most advanced chipmaker and still the most sophisticated in the US, has fallen behind TSMC in Taiwan and Samsung in South Korea in recent years, after struggling to master use of EUV in manufacturing. The US has used sanctions to target China over cybersecurity and trade issues. The sanctions have prevented technology companies such as Huawei from buying the latest chips, a move that has reportedly led the company to consider selling off its smartphone business. “It is an important signal that the United States is not is not only not far behind, but in some instances it's actually ahead,” Hutcheson says. “IBM research group in Albany has really been one of the best centers for this type of research for the last 10 years.” In March, Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, announced a turnaround plan, including an agreement to collaborate with IBM on research. Intel declined to comment on the IBM announcement. Recent events have served to illustrate the growing importance of silicon chips across the world economy. The economic shockwaves caused by the pandemic, combined with supply chain disruptions, stockpiling prompted by US chip sanctions, and growing demand for cutting edge chips in products have led to shortages across many industries. Carmakers who expected demand for new vehicles to fall during the pandemic have been especially hard hit, with many forced to shutter factories while they wait for chip supplies. Del Alamo at MIT says it will probably take chipmakers several years to master the tricks that IBM used to make the new transistors. Both Samsung and TSMC, the world’s leading chip makers alongside Intel, have signaled an intent to use nanosheet transistors, but have yet to do so in production. But del Alamo believes the new approach shows that Moore’s law can keep ticking along. “There’s quite a bit of life left in Moore’s law, and this IBM architecture shows the path forward,” he says. “It’s going to bring very serious manufacturing challenges and a learning curve, but once we overcome this initial, difficult step, we will be coasting for several generations.” To Make These Chips More Powerful, IBM Is Growing Them Taller (May require free registration)
  3. IBM creates a COBOL compiler – for Linux on x86 What’s this got to do with Big Blue's hybrid cloud obsession? Cloudifying COBOL ... until you repent and go back to z/OS IBM has announced a COBOL compiler for Linux on x86. News of the offering appeared in an announcement that states: "IBM COBOL for Linux on x86 1.1 brings IBM's COBOL compilation technologies and capabilities to the Linux on x86 environment," and describes it as "the latest addition to the IBM COBOL compiler family, which includes Enterprise COBOL for z/OS and COBOL for AIX." COBOL – the common business-oriented language – has its roots in the 1950s and is synonymous with the mainframe age and difficulties paying down technical debt accrued since a bygone era of computing. So why is IBM – which is today obsessed with hybrid clouds – bothering to offer a COBOL compiler for Linux on x86? Because IBM thinks you may want your COBOL apps in a hybrid cloud, albeit the kind of hybrid IBM fancies, which can mean a mix of z/OS, AIX, mainframes, POWER systems and actual public clouds. COBOL shops have been promised that "minimal customization effort and delivery time are required for strategically deploying COBOL/CICS applications developed for z/OS to Linux on x86 and cloud environments." The new offering does that by linking to DB2 and IBM's Customer Information Control System so that apps on Linux using x86 can chat with older COBOL apps. Big Blue has also baked in native XML support to further help interoperability, and created a conversion utility that can migrate COBOL source code developed with non-IBM COBOL compilers. But the announcement also suggests IBM doesn't completely believe this COBOL on x86 Linux caper has a future as it concludes: "This solution also provides organizations with the flexibility to move workloads back to IBM Z should performance and throughput requirements increase, or to share business logic and data with CICS Transaction Server for z/OS." The new offering requires RHEL 7.8 or later, or Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS, 18.04 LTS, or later. Source: IBM creates a COBOL compiler – for Linux on x86
  4. IBM Squashes Critical Remote Code-Execution Flaw A critical-severity buffer-overflow flaw that affects IBM Integration Designer could allow remote attackers to execute code. IBM has patched a critical buffer-overflow error that affects Big Blue’s Integration Designer toolset, which helps enterprises create business processes that integrate ap The flaw (CVE-2020-27221) has a CVSS base score of 9.8 out of 10, making it critical in severity. It stems from an issue in versions 7 and 8 of Java Runtime Environment (JRE), which is used by IBM Integration Designer toolset. JRE is a software layer that runs on top of a computer’s operating system (OS), and enables Java to run seamlessly on any system regardless of its OS. What is a Buffer-Overflow Flaw? The flaw is a stack-based buffer-overflow error. This is a class of vulnerability where the region of a process’ memory that’s used to store dynamic variables (the heap) can be overwhelmed. “By sending an overly long string, a remote attacker could overflow a buffer and execute arbitrary code on the system or cause the application to crash,” according to IBM’s Monday security advisory. The error exists when the virtual machine (VM) or Java Native Interface converts characters from UTF-8 to platform encoding. Java Native Interface is a programming framework that enables Java code running in a Java VM to call native applications and libraries written in other languages. IBM didn’t provide further information about what type of privileges an attacker would need, where they would need to send the string or the initial attack vector. IBM Integration Designer Affected Specifically, CVE-2020-27221 exists in Eclipse OpenJ9, a high-performance, scalable, Java VM implementation that is fully compliant with JRE. “Contributed to the Eclipse foundation by IBM, the OpenJ9 JVM underpins the IBM SDK, Java Technology Edition, which is a core component of many IBM Enterprise software products,” according to IBM. IBM Integration Designer versions 8.5.7, 19.0.0.2, 20.0.0.1 and 20.0.0.2, which use JRE versions 7 and 8, are affected. The vulnerability was first reported on Dec. 16 via the Eclipse Foundation, which is a global community of Eclipse open source software development members. A fix can be found here for each affected version of IBM Integration Designer. Another vulnerability (CVE-2020-14782) was fixed, stemming from the JRE implementation in IBM Integration Designer. This “unspecified” vulnerability existed in Java SE and was related to the Libraries component. However, according to IBM it had “no confidentiality impact, low integrity impact and no availability impact.” IBM Planning Analytics Workspace High-Severity Flaws IBM also patched a slew of high-severity flaws in its IBM Planning Analytics Workspace; a web-based interface for IBM Planning Analytics that provides an interface to create and analyze content. The flaws exist specifically in Release 61 of the Local v2.0 for Planning Analytics Workspace. Three vulnerabilities exist in Node.js, an open-source, cross-platform JavaScript runtime environment for developing server-side and networking applications, which is used in IBM Planning Analytics. These flaws include a denial-of-service vulnerability (CVE-2020-8251); an HTTP request-smuggling glitch (CVE-2020-8201); and a buffer-overflow error (CVE-2020-8252). Another flaw (CVE-2020-25649) exists in the FasterXML Jackson Databind, used to convert JSON to and from Plain Old Java Object (POJO) using property accessor or using annotations. The flaw “could provide weaker than expected security, caused by not having entity expansion secured properly,” according to IBM. “A remote attacker could exploit this vulnerability to launch XML external entity (XXE) attacks to have impact over data integrity.” IBM Continues Security-Flaw Fix Campaign IBM previously issued various fixes for vulnerabilities, including ones in Spectrum Protect Plus in September. This is Big Blue’s security tool that’s found under the umbrella of its Spectrum data storage software branding. The flaws could be exploited by remote attackers to execute code on vulnerable systems. In August, a shared-memory flaw was discovered in IBM’s next-gen data-management software that researchers said could lead to other threats — as demonstrated by a new proof-of-concept exploit for the bug. And in April, four serious security vulnerabilities in the IBM Data Risk Manager (IDRM) were identified that can lead to unauthenticated remote code execution (RCE) as root in vulnerable versions, according to analysis – and a proof-of-concept exploit is available. Source: IBM Squashes Critical Remote Code-Execution Flaw
  5. IBM may sell its $1B Watson Health business: Report IBM Watson was one of the “strategic imperatives” under former CEO Ginni Rometty. IBM currently has a market value of $108 billion, way behind Cloud-computing rivals like AMAzon and Microsoft. (Photo: iStock) IBM is mulling to sell its Watson Health business that is generating nearly $1 billion in annual revenue but is not profitable. The Wall Street Journal reported that IBM is exploring a potential sale of its Watson Health business, as CEO Arvind Krishna “moves to streamline the company and become more competitive in cloud computing”. “Watson was one of IBM’s highest-profile initiatives in recent years and a big bet on the growing healthcare sector, though results disappointed in part because physicians were hesitant to adopt artificial intelligence,” the report said on Friday. “IBM is studying alternatives for the unit that could include a sale to a private-equity firm or industry player or a merger with a blank-check company,” the report added, citing sources. IBM currently has a market value of $108 billion, way behind Cloud-computing rivals like AMAzon and Microsoft. In its fourth quarter, cognitive applications revenue, which includes Watson Health, came to $1.5 billion, a decrease of 2 per cent year over year. IBM Watson was one of the “strategic imperatives” under former CEO Ginni Rometty. A weak cloud and cognitive software performance saw IBM shares sliding 6.6 per cent after the company missed Q4 revenue estimates, posting its fourth straight quarter of revenue decline. The Q4 (December 2020 quarter) sales totalled $20.4 billion, down 6 per cent (on-year) and slightly below the $20.63 billion consensus. Cloud and Cognitive Software sales dropped 5 per cent to $6.8 billion, below the $7.18 billion estimates. Last quarter, this segment was up 7 per cent. IBM has appointed Martin Schroeter as the Chief Executive Officer of the independent company that will be created following the separation of IBM’s Managed Infrastructure Services business �NewCo’. NewCo will focus on the management and modernisation of IT infrastructure in every industry around the world. The previously announced separation is expected to occur by the end of 2021. Source: IBM may sell its $1B Watson Health business: Report
  6. IBM sets new climate goal for 2030 The company is focused on slashing emissions from its operations Inside IBM Research Headquarters IBM plans to get rid of its planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions from its operations by 2030, the company announced today. And unlike some other tech companies that have made splashy environmental commitments lately, IBM’s pledge emphasized the need to prevent emissions rather than developing ways to capture carbon dioxide after it’s released. The company committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this decade, pledging to do “all it can across its operations” to stop polluting before it turns to emerging technologies that might be able to capture carbon dioxide after it’s emitted. It plans to rely on renewable energy for 90 percent of its electricity use by 2030. By 2025, it wants to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent compared to 2010 levels. “I am proud that IBM is leading the way by taking actions to significantly reduce emissions,” said IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna in a press release. IBM is putting more emphasis on its cloud computing and AI after announcing in October that it would split into two public companies and house its legacy IT services under a new name. That pivot puts IBM in more direct competition with giants like Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud market, which is notorious for guzzling up energy. Data centers accounted for about 1 percent of global electricity use in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency, and can strain local power grids. All three companies have now made big pledges to rein in pollution that drives climate change. Microsoft’s climate pledge focuses on driving the development of technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; it reached net zero emissions in 2012 but still relies heavily on investing in forests to offset its carbon pollution. Amazon committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2040. Amazon’s emissions, however, continue to grow as its business expands. There is still room for more ambition in IBM’s new climate commitment since the company so far is not setting targets for reducing emissions coming from its supply chain or the use of its products by consumers. These kinds of indirect emissions often make up a majority of a company’s carbon footprint. IBM does not track all of the pollution from its supply chain, but other indirect emissions (like those from the products it sells) made up the biggest chunk of its carbon footprint in 2019. Microsoft and Amazon, on the other hand, consider all of these sources of emissions in their climate pledges. Source: IBM sets new climate goal for 2030
  7. IBM plans grant program to help schools fend off ransomware (Carson Masterson / Unsplash) IBM on Thursday announced it plans to distribute $3 million worth of in-kind grants to public school districts around the country in an effort to help the education sector defend itself from the ongoing scourge of ransomware attacks. The announcement of the new program, which will be parceled out among six school systems that the company will choose later this spring, comes as the ransomware threat against schools only worsens, including an estimate from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that 57% of all ransomware attacks reported last August and September targeted K-12 organizations. Each IBM grant will be used to send teams of six to 10 employees to the winning districts to help them develop incident response plans and implement basic cybersecurity training like online hygiene and password management. Applications for the grants, IBM said, will be open until March 1. During a briefing Wednesday, Christopher Scott, the director of security innovation in the office of IBM’s chief information security officer, concurred with other industry experts’ findings that ransomware actors are feasting on the online learning environments many schools have had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Stay-at-home orders, and the switch to remote learning, have changed the focus for cybercriminals looking for easy targets as everyone from kindergartners to college professors have adopted remote technologies,” he said. ‘A different time’ While public-sector ransomware victims do not pay off hackers as often or as lucratively as private-sector targets, the fact that some do — the school system in Yazoo County, Mississippi, paid a $300,000 bounty last October — only encourages more attacks against K-12 organizations, said Herb Stapleton, a section chief in the FBI’s cyber division. “As long as actors continue to profit, they will continue to propagate those campaigns,” he said. Stapleton also said ransomware has reached a point where school administrators can’t shrug it off. “Schools have to rethink cybersecurity the way they’ve rethought physical security,” he said. Accomplishing that, Stapleton said, should include schools incorporating cybersecurity into their conversations with law enforcement organizations like the FBI. But improving the security of networks being accessed by diverse populations of teachers, students and staff also requires resources that many school districts lacked even before the pandemic. “We have to look at how we’re funding things and set aside resources,” said Jeff Pelzel, superintendent of Newhall School District in Valencia, California, which suffered a ransomware attack last September that interrupted its virtual classrooms. Similar incidents occurred in Hartford, Connecticut, and Baltimore County, Maryland, among other places. “They’re just diversifying what they’re looking for,” he said. “In this era of remote learning, we’re more susceptible because everything is done through email, through Zoom. We’re in a different time right now.” Struggling for support But many school systems have not adapted their cybersecurity resources and training for the age of online classes. According to a survey of 1,000 K-12 and college educators accompanying IBM’s grant announcement, 59% said they have not received new cybersecurity initiatives or training for remote learning, while 54% said they had no basic cybersecurity training. In a broader survey that also included 200 school administrators, 59% said they are using their personal computers and mobile phones for remote instruction, rather than institution-issued devices. Furthermore, teachers have been struggling to get tech support from their schools during the pandemic. Just over 60% of K-12 educators said they were getting either limited IT support or none at all, according to the survey, which was conducted for IBM by the research firm Morning Consult. While IBM’s new grant program will benefit six school districts, there have been other recent efforts to raise the urgency of ransomware targeting schools. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency last month announced a new public campaign focusing on its resources designed to help local governments, K-12 systems and health care organizations, while some members of Congress have urged greater funding to help schools improve their IT security. Stapelton, the FBI agent, said there are lower-cost ways for schools to begin making improvements. “You can’t boil the ocean, especially with limited funds,” he said. “If the most likely way you’re going to get attacked is through a remote connection or phishing email, don’t spend your money on some sophisticated activity you’re never going to face.” Pelzel put it more bluntly: “Two-factor authentication is a simple step. It basically costs no money.” Source: IBM plans grant program to help schools fend off ransomware
  8. Quantum computing will bring about a sea change and provide the means to thwart existing defenses easily. IBM is pitching enterprises on future proofing. IBM Cloud said it will offer cryptography technology that will be futureproofed for quantum computing deployments. Big Blue, which is among the key players in the quantum computing race, launched Quantum Safe Cryptography for Key Management and Application Transactions. Quantum computing promises to solve new problems, leap past supercomputers and possibly used to easily break encryption algorithms and data security measures. BM's bet is that it can combine its security and hybrid cloud knowhow with its quantum computing research. The new tools under the quantum-safe effort from IBM include: Quantum Safe Crypto Support, a service to secure data transmissions between hardware externally and internally via a quantum-safe algorithm. Extended IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Service, a design to protect transactional data within applications. The protection covers encryption schemes in databases and digital signature validation. These services will support the following: IBM Key Protect and for Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud; IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service; IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Services. The quantum security efforts add to IBM's existing portfolio including confidential computing, IBM Cloud Data Shield, research and IBM Cloud Security and Compliance Center. Source
  9. IBM cancels its biggest event of the year over coronavirus fears IBM CEO Ginni Rometti IBM has canceled its biggest developer conference of the year over coronavirus concerns. IBM Think was set to be held in San Francisco in May, but it will instead it will hold a digital event. IBM also placed restrictions on employee travel, including limits on domestic work travel and a ban on attending events with more than 1,000 people. In a statement, IBM said: "The health of IBM's clients, employees and partners is our primary concern. In light of global precautions for the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and building upon recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), IBM is taking a new approach to its signature events and adopting new travel policies." As the coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, IBM is canceling its biggest developer conference, limiting employee travel, and restricting employees from participating in events with more than 1,000 attendees. IBM's client and developer conference IBM Think, which brought 30,000 attendees last year, was supposed to take place May 5-7 in San Francisco. Instead, IBM announced Wednesday that it will now hold a digital event with "live streamed content, interactive sessions and certifications and locally hosted events, which will highlight IBM's technology and industry expertise for developers and clients without the risk of travel." IBM is also placing new travel restrictions on employees through the end of March. IBM plans to suspend all domestic travel for internal meetings, and it plans to cut back on international travel to only "business-critical situations when virtual methods are insufficient." IBM is still allowing domestic travel for work with clients, although employees are encouraged to hold meetings virtually. In addition, if IBM employees have traveled recently to any restricted locations, they must inform their manager and self-quarantine for 14 days after their trip. "The health of IBM's clients, employees and partners is our primary concern," IBM said in a blog post. "In light of global precautions for the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and building upon recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), IBM is taking a new approach to its signature events and adopting new travel policies." IBM is also withdrawing its attendance in the HIMSS health care conference in Orlando next week. Recently, there has been a false rumor spreading around about an IBM employee in Austin who has coronavirus, and IBM has been working to assure employees that it's not true. IBM's cancellation and new rules highlights how COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been causing widespread disruption and uncertainty for major tech companies. The outbreak has infected more than 95,000 people and killed more than 3,250, mostly in China. Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon have taken measures in response to the spread of coronavirus, such as canceling conferences, encouraging employees to work remotely, and conducting interviews virtually. Source
  10. Infosys joins hands with IBM to launch industry-specific cloud services for businesses Indian IT services company Infosys has teamed up with tech giant IBM to help businesses go full bore with digital transformation through industry-specific cloud services. Infosys will offer clients across sectors, including regulated industries such as financial services, insurance and healthcare, access to a portfolio of open source offerings on IBM's public cloud platform, the companies said in a statement. Bengaluru-based Infosys will be the first so-called global system integrator to join IBM's new public cloud platform. IBM is looking to partner service providers such as Infosys to help bring its public cloud services to businesses in sectors such as financial services and insurance, among others. It has become imperative for businesses to invest in cloud computing as transactions and services are increasingly becoming digital. The portfolio of open source offerings is housed under Red Hat, which IBM snapped up for $33 billion in July 2019 — its biggest acquisition — to boost it cloud strategy. Cloud business is one of the fastest growing verticals for IBM and contributed about $21.2 billion for the year-ended December 2019. Explaining the rationale behind the collaboration, Bob Lord, Senior Vice President, Cognitive Applications and Ecosystems, IBM, said, “As businesses today continue to migrate critical workloads to the public cloud, they are demanding the highest levels of security and control to ensure their data is not compromised." Source
  11. Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM are under pressure to follow Google and drop gender labels like 'man' and 'woman' from their AI Google's API no longer uses gendered labels for photos Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon are under pressure to stop using gender labels such as "man" or "woman" for their facial recognition and AI services. Google announced its AI tool would stop adding gender classification tags in mid-February, instead tagging images of people with neutral terms such as "person." Joy Buolamwini, a researcher who found AI tools misclassified people's gender, told Business Insider: "There is a choice... I would encourage all companies to reexamine the identity labels they are using as demographic markers." Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM are under pressure to stop automatically applying gendered labels such as "man" or "woman" from images of people, after Google announced in February it would stop using such tags. All four companies offer powerful artificial intelligence tools that can classify objects and people in an image. The tools can variously describe famous landmarks, facial expressions, logos and gender, and have many applications including content moderation, scientific research, and identity verification. Google said it would drop gender labels from its Cloud Vision API image classification service last week, saying that it wasn't possible to infer someone's gender by appearance and that such labels could exacerbate bias. Now the AI researchers who helped bring about the change say Amazon's Rekognition, IBM's Watson, and Microsoft's Azure facial recognition should follow suit. Joy Buolamwini, a computer scientist at MIT and expert in AI bias, told Business Insider: "Google's move sends a message that design choices can be changed. With technology it is easy to think some things cannot be changed or are inevitable. This isn't necessarily true." Microsoft's AI continues to classify people in images by binary gender Source
  12. IBM reportedly axed as many as 100,000 employees in the last few years because it wanted to appear "cool" and "trendy" like Amazon or Google, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. IBM has been hit by several age discrimination suits filed by former employees. Asked about the accusation, the company said IBM has been "reinvented to target higher value opportunities for our clients." Image: IBM CEO Virginia "Ginni" Rometty Hoping to come across to millennials as "cool" and "trendy" like Amazon or Google, IBM may have axed as many as 100,000 employees in the last few years. The charge came up in the deposition of a former IBM vice president in an ongoing age discrimination suit, according to a Bloomberg report. Asked for a comment on the report, IBM told Business Insider in an email, "We have reinvented IBM in the past five years to target higher value opportunities for our clients." IBM has been hit by several lawsuits accusing the tech giants of discrimination against older workers. In one of the civil cases, Alan Wild, a former IBM human resources vice president, said the company "laid off 50,000 to 100,000 employees in just the last several years," according to Bloomberg, citing a court document filed Tuesday in Texas. Wild said in his deposition that IBM wanted to demonstrate to millennials that the company wasn't "an old fuddy duddy organization," and that it hoped to come across as "as [a] cool, trendy organization" like search giant Google or online retail behemoth Amazon. "To do that, IBM set out to slough off large portions of its older workforce using rolling layoffs over the course of several years," the court filing said, according to the report. In its email, IBM said it "hires 50,000 employees each year, and spends nearly a half-billion dollars on training our team." "We also receive more than 8,000 job applications every day, the highest rate that we've ever experienced, so there's clear excitement about IBM's strategy and direction for the future," the company said. IBM is a major player in the enterprise tech market. But the company has struggled against newer rivals, led by Amazon and Google, which dominate the fast-growing cloud computing market — and it's seen its revenues shrink continuously for the last seven or so years. IBM had 350,600 workers worldwide at the end of 2018, down 19% from 2013. Source
  13. IBM looks to enhance retail stores with 'Smart Mirror' technology Offline retailers face increasing competition from new-age rivals like Amazon and the Walmart-owned Flipkart. This has been the primary reason that offline retailers have been investing in their technology capabilities. Tech giant IBM is working on a technology, referred to as ‘Smart Mirror’, through which it plans to tie up with offline retailers. The company will launch the technology in fashion retail Vero Moda’s stores and is in talks with other retailers as well. Smart Mirror is expected to enhance customers’ offline shopping experience through interactive fitting rooms which will connect retailers and customers digitally. The mirror will assist customers in understanding what product features are suiting them and can recommend changes. “The plan is to convert more footfalls into actual sales at these stores,” said Kamal Singhani, managing partner, Global Business Services, IBM India and South Asia. The company is also integrating artificial intelligence into its supply chain to improve efficiency. “We are building fashion taxonomy by analysing current fashion trends from multiple sources (catalogs, articles, blogs, images, social media) and predict future fashion trends. It currently categorizes colours, print and style,” Singhani said. “The technology will bridge the gap between the customer and merchandiser, which will help in improvising the inventory for the retailer.” According to the company’s estimate, 50-60% of designs sell well while rest are marked down. Hence, with the sales data, the company looks to analyse why a particular product did not sell well and guide the designers. Offline retailers face increasing competition from new-age rivals like Amazon and the Walmart-owned Flipkart. This has been the primary reason that offline retailers have been investing in their technology capabilities. ET recently reported that Future Group has hired senior talent from online-first firms. The company is looking to build credit platform, last-mile delivery capabilities, and a rural distribution model, and is also developing its AI capabilities. According to Forrester’s Online Retail forecast, India’s ecommerce sales are expected to grow 29% annually over the next five years. Source
  14. IBM sends Blockchain World Wire for global payments into limited production Big Blue's latest blockchain play sees cross-border payments being sent via digital tokens in near real-time. How IBM Blockchain World Wire works (Image: IBM) IBM has announced that its blockchain-based global payments network has been sent into limited production, with the company touting it as the "new financial rail" that clears and settles cross-border payments in near real-time. IBM Blockchain World Wire, Big Blue claims, is the first blockchain-based network that integrates payment messaging, clearing, and settlement on a single network. "The concept of money is 2,000 years old. The world has been using the same network to process financial transactions for 50 years. And even though globalisation has changed the world, payment fees and other financial barriers remain the same. But now there's a new way to move money," the company pitches. "We've created a new type of payment network designed to accelerate remittances and transform cross-border payments to facilitate the movement of money in countries that need it most," IBM Blockchain general manager Marie Wieck added. "By creating a network where financial institutions support multiple digital assets, we expect to spur innovation and improve financial inclusion worldwide." World Wire uses the Stellar protocol -- an open-source, decentralised protocol for digital currency to fiat currency transfer -- to transmit monetary value in the form of digital currency. The blockchain-based network will support settlement using Stellar Lumens (XLM) and the US dollar stable coin through IBM's existing partnership with Stronghold. IBM said that pending regulatory approvals and other reviews, six international banks, including Banco Bradesco, Bank Busan, and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), have signed letters of intent to issue their own stable coins on World Wire. If successful, this will see the addition of the euro, Korean won, Brazilian real, Indonesian rupiah, and Philippine peso stable coins to the network. According to IBM, World Wire has enabled payment locations in 72 countries, with 47 currencies and 44 banking endpoints. "Local regulations will continue to guide activation, and IBM is actively growing the network with additional financial institutions globally," the company said. Source
  15. IBM to split into two companies by end of 2021 As-yet unnamed “NewCo” will handle IBM’s “managed infrastructure services.” 93 with 73 posters participating, including story author Enlarge / A big blue Big Blue chart showing how this is going to work. IBM IBM announced this morning that the company would be spinning off some of its lower-margin lines of business into a new company and focusing on higher-margin cloud services. During an investor call, CEO Arvind Krishna acknowledged that the move was a "significant shift" in how IBM will work, but he positioned it as the latest in a decades-long series of strategic divestments. "We divested networking back in the '90s, we divested PCs back in the 2000s, we divested semiconductors about five years ago because all of them didn’t necessarily play into the integrated value proposition," he said. Krishna became CEO in April 2020, replacing former CEO Ginni Rometty (who is now IBM's executive chairman), but the spin-off is the capstone of a multi-year effort to apply some kind of focus to the company's sprawling business model. Cloudy with a chance of hitting the quarterly guidance The new spin-off doesn't have a formal name yet and is referred to as "NewCo" in IBM's marketing and investor relations material. Under the spin-off plan, the press release claims IBM "will focus on its open hybrid cloud platform, which represents a $1 trillion market opportunity," while NewCo "will immediately be the world’s leading managed infrastructure services provider." (This is because NewCo will start life owning the entirety of IBM Global Technology Services' existing managed infrastructure clients, which means about 4,600 accounts, including about 75 percent of the Fortune 100.) Enlarge / IBM does cloud and stuff, NewCo does infrastructure hosting and stuff. IBM The Reuters write-up of the split quotes Wedbush Securities analyst Moshe Katri, who categorizes the managed infrastructure business as something IBM is smart to dump: "IBM is essentially getting rid of a shrinking, low-margin operation given the cannibalizing impact of automation and cloud, masking stronger growth for the rest of the operation." Investors are reacting bullishly on the news of the 109-year-old company's plans. IBM stock is up approximately 7 percent for the day as of press time. IBM to split into two companies by end of 2021
  16. Bloomberg) -- International Business Machines Corp. is planning to cut about 10,000 jobs in Europe in an attempt to lower costs at its slow-growth services unit and prepare the business for a spinoff. The wide-ranging losses will affect about 20% of staff in the region, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.K. and Germany are set to be most impacted, with cuts also planned in Poland, Slovakia, Italy and Belgium. IBM announced the job cuts in Europe earlier in November during a meeting with European labor representatives, according to a union officer briefed on proceedings. The person asked not to be identified because the talks are private. IBM shares fell 1.6% at 9:37 a.m. in New York. They’ve declined 8.6% this year. “Our staffing decisions are made to provide the best support to our customers in adopting an open hybrid cloud platform and AI capabilities,” an IBM spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We also continue to make significant investments in training and skills development for IBMers to best meet the needs of our customers.” Hardest hit will be IBM’s legacy IT services business, which handles day-to-day infrastructure operations, such as managing client data centers and traditional information-technology support for installing, operating and repairing equipment. IBM said in October it’s planning to spin off the business and focus on its new hybrid-cloud computing and artificial intelligence unit, which the company hopes will return it to revenue growth. IBM said it aims to complete the carve-out as a tax-free spinoff to IBM shareholders by the end of 2021. “We’re taking structural actions to simplify and streamline our business,” said IBM Chief Financial Officer James Kavanaugh during the company’s third-quarter earnings call in October. “We expect the fourth-quarter charge to our operating results of about $2.3 billion.” Once an iconic blue-chip company, IBM’s star has faded over the years as its legacy in mainframe computing and IT services fell behind while newer technology firms like Amazon.com Inc. swooped in to dominate the emerging cloud-computing market. IBM was already cutting jobs earlier this year, although the company wouldn’t say how many positions were being eliminated. The company has traditionally declined to disclose the numbers of job cuts for decades, with arguably one exception in 1993 when Lou Gerstner, a CEO hired from outside the company, announced 60,000 dismissals. The spin-off of its services unit is the first big move by Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna, who took over from Ginni Rometty in April and has been pushing to revive growth after almost a decade of shrinking revenue. Krishna earlier this year cut thousands of jobs as he began reshaping the business. The current round of job cuts should be completed by the end of the first-half of 2021, one of the people added. Source
  17. Arvind Krishna’s Elevation At IBM May Be India’s Gain, But It’s A Loss For Gender Equality As Indians beam with pride over Arvind Krishna joining the ranks of Silicon Valley’s crème de la crème, another group has a reason to rue. The newly-appointed chief of IBM adds to the long list of Indian-origin CEOs in America, including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai. However, he replaces Ginny Rometty—one of a handful of female leaders who have climbed to the top of the tech ladder. Her exit now leaves just 34 female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies, many of whom underperform on the gender-balance front. Take Apple, for instance, where just 33% of the staff are women. When it comes to leadership positions, this figure drops to a mere 29% at the Cupertino-based phonemaker. Facebook, which has oft made chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg the face of its brand, rejigged its executive teams in May 2018 and ended up having mostly white males in roles overseeing products and engineering. Google fares a little better. Although the internet giant’s workforce is 70% male, its management team, with 46% women, is among the most gender-equal. In fact, just over half of startups have at least one woman in an executive position, and less than half have one on their boards, according to Silicon Valley Bank (pdf), which surveyed 1,377 technology and health startups in the US, UK, Canada, and China in 2019. This crippling lack of women in senior roles stems from their dearth among entrepreneurs, experts say. Only 28% of Silicon Valley startups have female founders. For good reason…or not In the case of Krishna, his role in the acquisition and integration of the open-source software provider Red Hat in June 2019 was a major driving force behind the executive shuffle. The purchase was the biggest in Big Blue’s century-plus history. “Rometty is passing the baton to new leadership that is an integral part of that acquisition,” said Craig Lowery, vice-president analyst at Gartner, referring to Krishna and Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat who was named IBM’s new president. Krishna’s elevation is meritorious since “he is both a technologist and executive talent—the right blend for the new IBM,” David Bahnsen, chief investment officer at California-based The Bahnsen Group, told Quartz. While in Rometty’s case, the switch has more to do with skill sets than unsavoury dealings, that isn’t always the case. For example, last April, Microsoft’s women said the company was a toxic place for them to work. They complained of discrimination and harassment. The “bro culture” is insufferable in some cases. A March 2019 study by IBM itself revealed that advancing women is not a priority at almost one in eight organisations. Yet, there is not much of a concerted effort to retain the gender diversity. The fewer women there are, the more problems they will face. Role models are few and far between. The lack of women in leadership roles certainly has an impact on the gender and racial pay gap that exists today, Lisa Crooms-Robinson, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs at Howard University, told CNBC Make It. Gender parity also makes business sense—more women in corporate roles drive higher revenues besides making better female-oriented innovations from health-monitoring bras to fertility care. More women in tech may also mean less mishaps like Fitbit’s unreliable period tracker. Source
  18. HPE and IBM were attacked by hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government, multiple sources have claimed. News of the attack, thought to be part of a long-running campaign known as Cloudhopper, was reported to Reuters by five sources, and targeted secrets both the tech giants themselves and their customers. Cloudhopper targets the companies known as managed service providers (MSPs) tasked by the likes of IBM and HPE with managing their IT operations remotely. The attack was able to successfully target the MSPs used by IBM and HPE to gain access to their client networks, and then steal customer information. The MSPs targeted by the attack have not been named, but could cover a range of roles with either firm, from networking to hardware such as servers or storage. Cloudhopper Reuters' sources have claimed that other major technology firms could also have been affected, as Cloudhopper has been in operation for several years. Neither HPE nor IBM have commented on the specific details of the attack, but did provide statements. “IBM has been aware of the reported attacks and already has taken extensive counter-measures worldwide as part of our continuous efforts to protect the company and our clients against constantly evolving threats,” IBM said. “We take responsible stewardship of client data very seriously, and have no evidence that sensitive IBM or client data has been compromised by this threat.” HPE noted that it had spun out its MSP operations to form a new business, DXC Technology, as part of the 2017 merger with Computer Sciences Corp. “The security of HPE customer data is our top priority,” HPE said. “We are unable to comment on the specific details described in the indictment, but HPE’s managed services provider business moved to DXC Technology in connection with HPE’s divestiture of its Enterprise Services business in 2017.” source
  19. IBM Warns of Apple Siri Shortcut Scareware Risk "Hey Siri" is supposed to be a voice command that enables Apple's digital assistant, but in the wrong hands the new Siri Shortcuts feature could potentially be abused by an attacker. Apple's Siri voice assistant is intended to help users, but according to new research published by IBM on Jan. 31, attackers could potentially abuse the Siri Shortcuts feature. Apple introduced Siri Shortcuts with iOS 12, enabling users and developers to use Siri to automate a series of tasks. IBM's X-Force security division discovered that it is possible to use a Siri Shortcut for malicious purposes, including tricking a user into paying a fee to avoid having his or her information stolen in an attack known as scareware. In a proof-of-concept Siri Shortcuts scareware attack developed by IBM, a malicious shortcut is able to read information from an iOS device and then demand a fee from the user, all with the native Siri voice. "IBM X-Force has not seen evidence of attacks carried out using this method, but we developed the proof of concept to warn users of the potential dangers," John Kuhn, senior security threat researcher for IBM X-Force IRIS, told eWEEK. The IBM disclosure of the Siri Shortcuts risk comes during a particularly challenging week for Apple as the company struggles to deal with a critical FaceTime vulnerability that could enable an attacker to eavesdrop on an unsuspecting user. Unlike the FaceTime vulnerability, however, the Siri Shortcuts issue is not an explicit vulnerability in Apple's technology. "IBM X-Force conducted all of the research using native functionality of the Shortcuts app, so no exploitation of vulnerabilities was needed," Kuhn said. "We highly suggest that every user reviews Shortcuts before adding them to their devices." Kuhn added that IBM worked with Apple since the initial research discovery to share all the details. How It Works Siri Shortcuts provides powerful capabilities to users and developers. IBM's concern is that a hacker could abuse that power and trick a user with scareware. There is also the potential, according to IBM, for a Siri Shortcut to be configured to spread to other devices by messaging everyone on the victim’s contact list, expanding the impact of an attack. "Siri Shortcuts gives native capability to potentially send messages to contacts if the appropriate permissions are enabled," Kuhn said. "In theory, this could be manipulated by an attacker to spread a link to other contacts." There are, however, several caveats before a Siri Shortcut attack can spread. Kuhn noted that such an attack would require each user to install and run the Shortcut, which is more reminiscent of malware that uses email to propagate. The Siri Shortcut risk is also not a "drive-by" risk—that is, it isn't something that a user can get simply by visiting a malicious site. The user must install the Siri Shortcuts app as well as the malicious shortcut, he said. However, he noted that attackers could easily entice users to do so by socially engineering the intended victim. "This tactic is commonly used by attackers to get victims to install malware via email phishing attempts," Kuhn said. "Basically, the attacker needs to offer anything enticing enough to get the user to comply with installing an otherwise suspect piece of software." In terms of what data Siri Shortcuts is able to access and then send to an attacker, there are limits in place by default. "Siri Shortcuts does allow access to some system files on the phone. However, it does not allow access files with PII [personally identifiable information] as far as our research has determined," Kuhn said. "Siri Shortcuts does have native functionality to give the victim's physical address, IP address, photos, videos and more." So what should Apple users do? IBM suggests that users be careful when downloading third-party Siri Shortcuts and only install from a trusted source. IBM also suggests that users be mindful when running a Siri Shortcut and only enable actions that are needed. Source
  20. Symantec partners with IBM, Microsoft and others to cut cyber security cost San Francisco: California-headquartered global cybersecurity company Symantec said it had forged partnerships with 120 companies including Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBMSecurity, Microsoft and Oracle among others to drive down the cost and complexity of cyber security. The enterprise partners are now building or delivering more than 250 products and services that integrate with Symantec's Integrated Cyber Defense (ICD) Platform, the company said on Wednesday. Symantec's ICD Platform provides a unified framework for information protection, threat protection, identity management and compliance across endpoints, networks, applications and clouds. "There's a seismic shift happening in cyber security," Art Gilliland, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Products, Symantec, said in a statement. "The old way of fighting cyber-attacks using fragmented tools has become too complex and expensive to manage. Integrated platforms are the future," Gilliland added. Symantec started building ICD two and a half years ago with its acquisition of Blue Coat Systems, which added web and Cloud security technologies to Symantec's endpoint, email and data loss prevention (DLP) technologies. Source
  21. In the decade after the 9/11 attacks, the New York City Police Department moved to put millions of New Yorkers under constant watch. Warning of terrorism threats, the department created a plan to carpet Manhattan’s downtown streets with thousands of cameras and had, by 2008, centralized its video surveillance operations to a single command center. Two years later, the NYPD announced that the command center, known as the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, had integrated cutting-edge video analytics software into select cameras across the city. The video analytics software captured stills of individuals caught on closed-circuit TV footage and automatically labeled the images with physical tags, such as clothing color, allowing police to quickly search through hours of video for images of individuals matching a description of interest. At the time, the software was also starting to generate alerts for unattended packages, cars speeding up a street in the wrong direction, or people entering restricted areas. Over the years, the NYPD has shared only occasional, small updates on the program’s progress. In a 2011 interview with Scientific American, for example, Inspector Salvatore DiPace, then commanding officer of the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, said the police department was testing whether the software could box out images of people’s faces as they passed by subway cameras and subsequently cull through the images for various unspecified “facial features.” While facial recognition technology, which measures individual faces at over 16,000 points for fine-grained comparisons with other facial images, has attracted significant legal scrutiny and media attention, this object identification software has largely evaded attention. How exactly this technology came to be developed and which particular features the software was built to catalog have never been revealed publicly by the NYPD. Now, thanks to confidential corporate documents and interviews with many of the technologists involved in developing the software, The Intercept and the Investigative Fund have learned that IBM began developing this object identification technology using secret access to NYPD camera footage. With access to images of thousands of unknowing New Yorkers offered up by NYPD officials, as early as 2012, IBM was creating new search features that allow other police departments to search camera footage for images of people by hair color, facial hair, and skin tone. IBM declined to comment on its use of NYPD footage to develop the software. However, in an email response to questions, the NYPD did tell The Intercept that “Video, from time to time, was provided to IBM to ensure that the product they were developing would work in the crowded urban NYC environment and help us protect the City. There is nothing in the NYPD’s agreement with IBM that prohibits sharing data with IBM for system development purposes. Further, all vendors who enter into contractual agreements with the NYPD have the absolute requirement to keep all data furnished by the NYPD confidential during the term of the agreement, after the completion of the agreement, and in the event that the agreement is terminated.” In an email to The Intercept, the NYPD confirmed that select counterterrorism officials had access to a pre-released version of IBM’s program, which included skin tone search capabilities, as early as the summer of 2012. NYPD spokesperson Peter Donald said the search characteristics were only used for evaluation purposes and that officers were instructed not to include the skin tone search feature in their assessment. The department eventually decided not to integrate the analytics program into its larger surveillance architecture, and phased out the IBM program in 2016. After testing out these bodily search features with the NYPD, IBM released some of these capabilities in a 2013 product release. Later versions of IBM’s software retained and expanded these bodily search capabilities. (IBM did not respond to a question about the current availability of its video analytics programs.) Asked about the secrecy of this collaboration, the NYPD said that “various elected leaders and stakeholders” were briefed on the department’s efforts “to keep this city safe,” adding that sharing camera access with IBM was necessary for the system to work. IBM did not respond to a question about why the company didn’t make this collaboration public. Donald said IBM gave the department licenses to apply the system to 512 cameras, but said the analytics were tested on “fewer than fifty.” He added that IBM personnel had access to certain cameras for the sole purpose of configuring NYPD’s system, and that the department put safeguards in place to protect the data, including “non-disclosure agreements for each individual accessing the system; non-disclosure agreements for the companies the vendors worked for; and background checks.” Civil liberties advocates contend that New Yorkers should have been made aware of the potential use of their physical data for a private company’s development of surveillance technology. The revelations come as a city council bill that would require NYPD transparency about surveillance acquisitions continues to languish, due, in part, to outspoken opposition from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD. Skin Tone Search Technology, Refined on New Yorkers IBM’s initial breakthroughs in object recognition technology were envisioned for technologies like self-driving cars or image recognition on the internet, said Rick Kjeldsen, a former IBM researcher. But after 9/11, Kjeldsen and several of his colleagues realized their program was well suited for counterterror surveillance. “After 9/11, the funding sources and the customer interest really got driven toward security,” said Kjeldsen, who said he worked on the NYPD program from roughly 2009 through 2013. “Even though that hadn’t been our focus up to that point, that’s where demand was.” IBM’s first major urban video surveillance project was with the Chicago Police Department and began around 2005, according to Kjeldsen. The department let IBM experiment with the technology in downtown Chicago until 2013, but the collaboration wasn’t seen as a real business partnership. “Chicago was always known as, it’s not a real — these guys aren’t a real customer. This is kind of a development, a collaboration with Chicago,” Kjeldsen said. “Whereas New York, these guys were a customer. And they had expectations accordingly.” The NYPD acquired IBM’s video analytics software as one part of the Domain Awareness System, a shared project of the police department and Microsoft that centralized a vast web of surveillance sensors in lower and midtown Manhattan — including cameras, license plate readers, and radiation detectors — into a unified dashboard. IBM entered the picture as a subcontractor to Microsoft subsidiary Vexcel in 2007, as part of a project worth $60.7 million over six years, according to the internal IBM documents. In New York, the terrorist threat “was an easy selling point,” recalled Jonathan Connell, an IBM researcher who worked on the initial NYPD video analytics installation. “You say, ‘Look what the terrorists did before, they could come back, so you give us some money and we’ll put a camera there.” A former NYPD technologist who helped design the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, asking to speak on background citing fears of professional reprisal, confirmed IBM’s role as a “strategic vendor.” “In our review of video analytics vendors at that time, they were well ahead of everyone else in my personal estimation,” the technologist said. According to internal IBM planning documents, the NYPD began integrating IBM’s surveillance product in March 2010 for the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, a counterterrorism command center launched by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2008. In a “60 Minutes” tour of the command center in 2011, Jessica Tisch, then the NYPD’s director of policy and planning for counterterrorism, showed off the software on gleaming widescreen monitors, demonstrating how it could pull up images and video clips of people in red shirts. Tisch did not mention the partnership with IBM. During Kelly’s tenure as police commissioner, the NYPD quietly worked with IBM as the company tested out its object recognition technology on a select number of NYPD and subway cameras, according to IBM documents. “We really needed to be able to test out the algorithm,” said Kjeldsen, who explained that the software would need to process massive quantities of diverse images in order to learn how to adjust to the differing lighting, shadows, and other environmental factors in its view. “We were almost using the video for both things at that time, taking it to the lab to resolve issues we were having or to experiment with new technology,” Kjeldsen said. At the time, the department hoped that video analytics would improve analysts’ ability to identify suspicious objects and persons in real time in sensitive areas, according to Conor McCourt, a retired NYPD counterterrorism sergeant who said he used IBM’s program in its initial stages. “Say you have a suspicious bag left in downtown Manhattan, as a person working in the command center,” McCourt said. “It could be that the analytics saw the object sitting there for five minutes, and says, ‘Look, there’s an object sitting there.’” Operators could then rewind the video or look at other cameras nearby, he explained, to get a few possibilities as to who had left the object behind. Over the years, IBM employees said, they started to become more concerned as they worked with the NYPD to allow the program to identify demographic characteristics. By 2012, according to the internal IBM documents, researchers were testing out the video analytics software on the bodies and faces of New Yorkers, capturing and archiving their physical data as they walked in public or passed through subway turnstiles. With these close-up images, IBM refined its ability to search for people on camera according to a variety of previously undisclosed features, such as age, gender, hair color (called “head color”), the presence of facial hair — and skin tone. The documents reference meetings between NYPD personnel and IBM researchers to review the development of body identification searches conducted at subway turnstile cameras. “We were certainly worried about where the heck this was going,” recalled Kjeldsen. “There were a couple of us that were always talking about this, you know, ‘If this gets better, this could be an issue.’” According to the NYPD, counterterrorism personnel accessed IBM’s bodily search feature capabilities only for evaluation purposes, and they were accessible only to a handful of counterterrorism personnel. “While tools that featured either racial or skin tone search capabilities were offered to the NYPD, they were explicitly declined by the NYPD,” Donald, the NYPD spokesperson, said. “Where such tools came with a test version of the product, the testers were instructed only to test other features (clothing, eyeglasses, etc.), but not to test or use the skin tone feature. That is not because there would have been anything illegal or even improper about testing or using these tools to search in the area of a crime for an image of a suspect that matched a description given by a victim or a witness. It was specifically to avoid even the suggestion or appearance of any kind of technological racial profiling.” The NYPD ended its use of IBM’s video analytics program in 2016, Donald said. Donald acknowledged that, at some point in 2016 or early 2017, IBM approached the NYPD with an upgraded version of the video analytics program that could search for people by ethnicity. “The Department explicitly rejected that product,” he said, “based on the inclusion of that new search parameter.” In 2017, IBM released Intelligent Video Analytics 2.0, a product with a body camera surveillance capability that allows users to detect people captured on camera by “ethnicity” tags, such as “Asian,” “Black,” and “White.” Kjeldsen, the former IBM researcher who helped develop the company’s skin tone analytics with NYPD camera access, said the department’s claim that the NYPD simply tested and rejected the bodily search features was misleading. “We would have not explored it had the NYPD told us, ‘We don’t want to do that,’” he said. “No company is going to spend money where there’s not customer interest.” Kjeldsen also added that the NYPD’s decision to allow IBM access to their cameras was crucial for the development of the skin tone search features, noting that during that period, New York City served as the company’s “primary testing area,” providing the company with considerable environmental diversity for software refinement. “The more different situations you can use to develop your software, the better it’s going be,” Kjeldsen said. “That obviously pertains to people, skin tones, whatever it is you might be able to classify individuals as, and it also goes for clothing.” The NYPD’s cooperation with IBM has since served as a selling point for the product at California State University, Northridge. There, campus police chief Anne Glavin said the technology firm IXP helped sell her on IBM’s object identification product by citing the NYPD’s work with the company. “They talked about what it’s done for New York City. IBM was very much behind that, so this was obviously of great interest to us,” Glavin said. Day-to-Day Policing, Civil Liberties Concerns The NYPD-IBM video analytics program was initially envisioned as a counterterrorism tool for use in midtown and lower Manhattan, according to Kjeldsen. However, the program was integrated during its testing phase into dozens of cameras across the city. According to the former NYPD technologist, it could have been integrated into everyday criminal investigations. “All bureaus of the department could make use of it,” said the former technologist, potentially helping detectives investigate everything from sex crimes to fraud cases. Kjeldsen spoke of cameras being placed at building entrances and near parking entrances to monitor for suspicious loiterers and abandoned bags. Donald, the NYPD spokesperson, said the program’s access was limited to a small number of counterterrorism officials, adding, “We are not aware of any case where video analytics was a factor in an arrest or prosecution.” Campus police at California State University, Northridge, who adopted IBM’s software, said the bodily search features have been helpful in criminal investigations. Asked about whether officers have deployed the software’s ability to filter through footage for suspects’ clothing color, hair color, and skin tone, Captain Scott VanScoy at California State University, Northridge, responded affirmatively, relaying a story about how university detectives were able to use such features to quickly filter through their cameras and find two suspects in a sexual assault case. “We were able to pick up where they were at different locations from earlier that evening and put a story together, so it saves us a ton of time,” Vanscoy said. “By the time we did the interviews, we already knew the story and they didn’t know we had known.” Glavin, the chief of the campus police, added that surveillance cameras using IBM’s software had been placed strategically across the campus to capture potential security threats, such as car robberies or student protests. “So we mapped out some CCTV in that area and a path of travel to our main administration building, which is sometimes where people will walk to make their concerns known and they like to stand outside that building,” Glavin said. “Not that we’re a big protest campus, we’re certainly not a Berkeley, but it made sense to start to build the exterior camera system there.” Civil liberties advocates say they are alarmed by the NYPD’s secrecy in helping to develop a program with the potential capacity for mass racial profiling. The identification technology IBM built could be easily misused after a major terrorist attack, argued Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “Whether or not the perpetrator is Muslim, the presumption is often that he or she is,” she said. “It’s easy to imagine law enforcement jumping to a conclusion about the ethnic and religious identity of a suspect, hastily going to the database of stored videos and combing through it for anyone who meets that physical description, and then calling people in for questioning on that basis.” IBM did not comment on questions about the potential use of its software for racial profiling. However, the company did send a comment to The Intercept pointing out that it was “one of the first companies anywhere to adopt a set of principles for trust and transparency for new technologies, including AI systems.” The statement continued on to explain that IBM is “making publicly available to other companies a dataset of annotations for more than a million images to help solve one of the biggest issues in facial analysis — the lack of diverse data to train AI systems.” Few laws clearly govern object recognition or the other forms of artificial intelligence incorporated into video surveillance, according to Clare Garvie, a law fellow at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “Any form of real-time location tracking may raise a Fourth Amendment inquiry,” Garvie said, citing a 2012 Supreme Court case, United States v. Jones, that involved police monitoring a car’s path without a warrant and resulted in five justices suggesting that individuals could have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their public movements. In addition, she said, any form of “identity-based surveillance” may compromise people’s right to anonymous public speech and association. Garvie noted that while facial recognition technology has been heavily criticized for the risk of false matches, that risk is even higher for an analytics system “tracking a person by other characteristics, like the color of their clothing and their height,” that are not unique characteristics. The former NYPD technologist acknowledged that video analytics systems can make mistakes, and noted a study where the software had trouble characterizing people of color: “It’s never 100 percent.” But the program’s identification of potential suspects was, he noted, only the first step in a chain of events that heavily relies on human expertise. “The technology operators hand the data off to the detective,” said the technologist. “You use all your databases to look for potential suspects and you give it to a witness to look at. … This is all about finding a way to shorten the time to catch the bad people.” Object identification programs could also unfairly drag people into police suspicion just because of generic physical characteristics, according to Jerome Greco, a digital forensics staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, New York’s largest public defenders organization. “I imagine a scenario where a vague description, like young black male in a hoodie, is fed into the system, and the software’s undisclosed algorithm identifies a person in a video walking a few blocks away from the scene of an incident,” Greco said. “The police find an excuse to stop him, and, after the stop, an officer says the individual matches a description from the earlier incident.” All of a sudden, Greco continued, “a man who was just walking in his own neighborhood” could be charged with a serious crime without him or his attorney ever knowing “that it all stemmed from a secret program which he cannot challenge.” While the technology could be used for appropriate law enforcement work, Kjeldsen said that what bothered him most about his project was the secrecy he and his colleagues had to maintain. “We certainly couldn’t talk about what cameras we were using, what capabilities we were putting on cameras,” Kjeldsen said. “They wanted to control public perception and awareness of LMSI” — the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative — “so we always had to be cautious about even that part of it, that we’re involved, and who we were involved with, and what we were doing.” (IBM did not respond to a question about instructing its employees not to speak publicly about its work with the NYPD.) The way the NYPD helped IBM develop this technology without the public’s consent sets a dangerous precedent, Kjeldsen argued. “Are there certain activities that are nobody’s business no matter what?” he asked. “Are there certain places on the boundaries of public spaces that have an expectation of privacy? And then, how do we build tools to enforce that? That’s where we need the conversation. That’s exactly why knowledge of this should become more widely available — so that we can figure that out.” This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Source
  22. Microsoft highlights historical tech innovations, including the Windows Subsystem for Linux, that were enabled in the same way Google used Java APIs. IBM, Microsoft and other tech companies have filed court documents in support of Google ahead of the Supreme Court of the US hearing over whether copyright applies to software application programming interfaces. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Google vs Oracle case in March, after the court last year agreed to reconsider a favorable decision towards Oracle by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2014. The court reversed a federal court jury decision that Google's use of Java API packages in its Android operating system constituted "fair use". Google filed its opening brief on January 6 and since then dozens of stakeholders, including IBM, Microsoft, and Firefox-maker Mozilla, have filed a total of 27 'friend of the court' briefs outlining opposition to the idea that software APIs should be copyrightable. "Computer interfaces are not copyrightable. That simple, yet powerful principle has been a cornerstone of technological and economic growth for over 60 years," IBM opens up in its filing. "Not once, until this case, has a Court of Appeals held that software interfaces are protected by copyright separate and apart from the code embodying the implementation of those interfaces. This is not because this principle is fringe; it is because it has always been accepted – based on legal precedent dating back 140 years." Microsoft said the Court of Appeals decision "takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression in a novel". Microsoft added that the court also applied a "problematically narrow standard" for evaluating 'transformative use' of functional code. "While Google used the software interfaces at issue for the same purpose as in Oracle's Java platform – allowing a program to invoke computer functionalities – it incorporated them into a completely different platform that opened new possibilities for programmers and consumers," wrote Microsoft. The company argues that open APIs are critical to interoperable systems, spanning documents, Internet browsers, the cloud, the Internet of Things, and smart home products. It explains the implications of companies being able to copyright APIs in a way that non-technical judges may easily understand. "If, as in computing's early days, every device had its own proprietary interface, one could never add a product outside a particular vendor's offerings to the system. But in today's interoperable ecosystem, consumers generally can choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about compatibility with their existing system," wrote Microsoft. Microsoft details major historical examples where developers have repurposed functions in the same way that Google used Java APIs, pointing to Compaq, Dell, and others' use of functional elements of IBM's PC BIOS APIs in the 1980s to create an ecosystem of IBM-compatible PCs. It goes on to highlight the open-source WINE program that developers used in the 1990s to run Windows applications on Linux machines. "Years later, Microsoft created 'the inverse of WINE', reimplementing the structure of certain Linux APIs to create the Windows Subsystem for Linux, a program that allowed Linux programs to run on Windows," Microsoft explains. Microsoft's points are aligned with recent comments by Google's chief legal officer, Kent Walker. "Open interfaces between programs are the building blocks of many of the services and products we use today, as well as of technologies we haven't yet imagined," wrote Walker. "An Oracle win would upend the way the technology industry has always approached the important issue of software interfaces. It would for the first time grant copyright owners a monopoly power to stymie the creation of new implementations and applications. And it would make it harder and costlier for developers and startups to create more products for people to use." Source
  23. At CES, IBM today announced its first commercial quantum computer for use outside of the lab. The 20-qubit system combines into a single package the quantum and classical computing parts it takes to use a machine like this for research and business applications. That package, the IBM Q system, is still huge, of course, but it includes everything a company would need to get started with its quantum computing experiments, including all the machinery necessary to cool the quantum computing hardware. While IBM describes it as the first fully integrated universal quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use, it’s worth stressing that a 20-qubit machine is nowhere near powerful enough for most of the commercial applications that people envision for a quantum computer with more qubits — and qubits that are useful for more than 100 microseconds. It’s no surprise then, that IBM stresses that this is a first attempt and that the systems are “designed to one day tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle.” Right now, we’re not quite there yet, but the company also notes that these systems are upgradable (and easy to maintain). “The IBM Q System One is a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director of IBM Research. “This new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science.” More than anything, though, IBM seems to be proud of the design of the Q systems. In a move that harkens back to Cray’s supercomputers with its expensive couches, IBM worked with design studios Map Project Office and Universal Design Studio, as well Goppion, the company that has built, among other things, the display cases that house the U.K.’s crown jewels and the Mona Lisa. IBM clearly thinks of the Q system as a piece of art and, indeed, the final result is quite stunning. It’s a nine-foot-tall and nine-foot-wide airtight box, with the quantum computing chandelier hanging in the middle, with all of the parts neatly hidden away. If you want to buy yourself a quantum computer, you’ll have to work with IBM, though. It won’t be available with free two-day shipping on Amazon anytime soon. In related news, IBM also announced the IBM Q Network, a partnership with ExxonMobil and research labs like CERN and Fermilab that aims to build a community that brings together the business and research interests to explore use cases for quantum computing. The organizations that partner with IBM will get access to its quantum software and cloud-based quantum computing systems. Source
  24. Speculation that running joint venture with shipping giant Maersk might be off-putting to rivals IBM has admitted that its blockchain-based trade platform, set up with shipping giant Maersk, is struggling to gain traction with other carriers. The joint venture began about 10 months ago with the aim of simplifying the cost, complexity and size of global shipping networks, while offering more transparency and cutting the costs and time involved. The platform, named TradeLens, was officially launched in August. The product uses distributed ledger technology to establish a shared, immutable record of all the transactions that take place in the network, so the various trading parties can gain, with permissions, access to that data in real-time. Maersk’s Michael White said in a blogpost at the launch that this would tackle industry issues such as inconsistent data, “complex, cumbersome and often expensive peer-to-peer messaging” and “inefficient clearance processes”. IBM and Maersk began collaborating on blockchain in June 2016, and the reason for launching the joint venture was to allow them to commercialise the product. TradeLens – which is sold as an “open and neutral platform” – has had some successes in signing up port operators and customs authorities: in the summer, it named a group of almost 100 adopters, and just last week added the Port of Montreal to that list. It also announced that the Canada Border Services Agency, which processes more than 14,400 trucks and 127,400 courier shipments and collects more than CDN$88,200,000 in duty and taxes a day, was trialling TradeLens. However, if the platform is to be a success it needs to convince more container carriers to join, as this will allow traders to manage inventory across different carriers. And, with just one carrier – Asian firm Pacific International Lines – signed up, it is struggling. Even IBM is reported to have acknowledged the problem it is facing. As head of TradeLens at IBM Blockchain, Marvin Erdly, told blockchain publication CoinDesk: “We do need to get the other carriers on the platform. Without that network, we don't have a product. That is the reality of the situation.” There appears to be broad support for the principle of an industry-wide blockchain standard that can be used for ocean shipping, and so the companies are concerned that the prominent role of Maersk – the world’s largest container shipping company – is putting off rivals. "Obviously the fact that Maersk is driving this is both a really good thing and a worrying thing because they are such a big player in the industry,” Erdly is reported to have said. “As you can imagine that's going to be a factor." Indeed, Shipping Watch reported in May that execs at carrier giants Hapag Lloyd and CMA CGM had warned against platforms that one firm controlled, calling for wider governance. "Technically the solution (by Maersk and IBM) could be a good platform, but it will require a governance that makes it an industry platform and not just a platform for Maersk and IBM,” Hapag Lloyd CEO Rolf Jansen is reported to have told a conference. “This is the weakness we're currently seeing in many of these initiatives, as each individual project claims to offer an industry platform that they themselves control. This is self-contradictory.” IBM and Maersk do seem aware of the issue: Maersk has established an operational subsidiary to manage staff on the project, which the pair say “ensures TradeLens’ independence from other Maersk business units”. In addition, the duo say they are in the process of setting up an advisory board to work with TradeLens leaders “to address key issues such as the use of open and fair standards”. But the IP created from the work is jointly owned by IBM and Maersk – so the creation of a subsidiary and an advisory board could well be seen by the rest of the industry as sticking plasters not solutions. The Reg has asked IBM for further details on plans for the advisory board and any other measures it might have planned, and will update this article if we hear back. Updated - 30 October, 15.59GMT An IBM spokeswoman told us the company is taking the concerns about equity and governance on board and has worked with carriers to address them. “As a result, a range of carriers on both the global and regional level recognize the TradeLens solution,” she said. “Currently, discussions are progressing regarding potential pilots or full network participation with several of them.” The advisory board, the spokeswoman added, “will provide guidance and feedback to help drive open and fair standards for the TradeLens platform” Source
  25. IBM makes the Power Series chips, and as part of that has open-sourced some of the underlying technologies to encourage wider use of these chips. The open-source pieces have been part of the OpenPower Foundation. Today, the company announced it was moving the foundation under The Linux Foundation, and while it was at it, announced it was open-sourcing several other important bits. Ken King, general manager for OpenPower at IBM, says that at this point in his organization’s evolution, they wanted to move it under the auspices of the Linux Foundation . “We are taking the OpenPower Foundation, and we are putting it as an entity or project underneath The Linux Foundation with the mindset that we are now bringing more of an open governance approach and open governance principles to the foundation,” King told TechCrunch. But IBM didn’t stop there. It also announced that it was open-sourcing some of the technical underpinnings of the Power Series chip to make it easier for developers and engineers to build on top of the technology. Perhaps most importantly, the company is open-sourcing the Power Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). These are “the definitions developers use for ensuring hardware and software work together on Power,” the company explained. King sees open-sourcing this technology as an important step for a number of reasons around licensing and governance. “The first thing is that we are taking the ability to be able to implement what we’re licensing, the ISA instruction set architecture, for others to be able to implement on top of that instruction set royalty free with patent rights,” he explained. The company is also putting this under an open governance workgroup at the OpenPower Foundation. This matters to open-source community members because it provides a layer of transparency that might otherwise be lacking. What that means in practice is that any changes will be subject to a majority vote, so long as the changes meet compatibility requirements, King said. Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation, says that making all of this part of the Linux Foundation open-source community could drive more innovation. “Instead of a very, very long cycle of building an application and working separately with hardware and chip designers, because all of this is open, you’re able to quickly build your application, prototype it with hardware folks, and then work with a service provider or a company like IBM to take it to market. So there’s not tons of layers in between the actual innovation and value captured by industry in that cycle,” Zemlin explained. In addition, IBM made several other announcements around open-sourcing other Power Chip technologies designed to help developers and engineers customize and control their implementations of Power chip technology. “IBM will also contribute multiple other technologies including a softcore implementation of the Power ISA, as well as reference designs for the architecture-agnostic Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (OpenCAPI) and the Open Memory Interface (OMI). The OpenCAPI and OMI technologies help maximize memory bandwidth between processors and attached devices, critical to overcoming performance bottlenecks for emerging workloads like AI,” the company said in a statement. The softcore implementation of the Power ISA, in particular, should give developers more control and even enable them to build their own instruction sets, Hugh Blemings, executive director of the OpenPower Foundation explained. “They can now actually try crafting their own instruction sets, and try out new ways of the accelerated data processes and so forth at a lower level than previously possible,” he said. The company is announcing all of this today at the The Linux Foundation Open Source Summit and OpenPower Summit in San Diego. Source
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