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December 15, 2018
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Healthcare

China’s Infervision is helping 280 hospitals worldwide detect cancers from images

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Until recently, humans have relied on the trained eyes of doctors to diagnose diseases from medical images.

Beijing-based Infervision is among a handful of artificial intelligence startups around the world racing to improve medical imaging analysis through deep learning, the same technology that powers face recognition and autonomous driving.

The startup, which has to date raised $70 million from leading investors like Sequoia Capital China, began by picking out cancerous lung cells, a prevalent cause of death in China. At the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference in Chicago this week, the three-year-old company announced extending its computer vision prowess to other chest-related conditions like cardiac calcification.

“By adding more scenarios under which our AI works, we are able to offer more help to doctors,” Chen Kuan, founder and chief executive officer of Infervision, told TechCrunch. While a doctor can spot dozens of diseases from one single image scan, AI needs to be taught how to identify multiple target objects in one go.

But Chen says machines already outstrip humans in other aspects. For one, they are much faster readers. It normally takes doctors 15 to 20 minutes to scrutinize one image, whereas Infervision’s AI can process the visuals and put together a report under 30 seconds.

AI also addresses the long-standing issue of misdiagnosis. Chinese clinical newspaper Medical Weekly reported that doctors with less than five years’ experience only got their answers right 44 percent of the time when diagnosing black lungs, a disease common among coal miners. A research from Zhejiang University that examined autopsies between 1950 to 2009 found that the total clinical misdiagnosis rate averaged 46 percent.

“Doctors work long hours and are constantly under tremendous stress, which can lead to errors,” suggested Chen.

The founder claimed that his company is able to improve the accuracy rate by 20 percent. AI can also fill in for doctors in remote hinterlands where healthcare provision falls short, which is often the case in China.

Winning the first client

A report on bone fractures produced by Infervision’s medical imaging tool

Like any deep learning company, Infervision needs to keep training its algorithms with data from varied sources. As of this week, the startup is working with 280 hospitals – among which twenty are outside of China – and steadily adding a dozen new partners weekly. It also claims that 70 percent of China’s top-tier hospitals use its lung-specific AI tool.

But the firm has had a rough start.

Chen, a native of Shenzhen in south China, founded Infervision after dropping out of his doctoral program at the University of Chicago where he studied under Nobel-winning economist James Heckman. For the first six months of his entrepreneurial journey, Chen knocked on the doors of 40 hospitals across China — to no avail.

“Medical AI was still a novelty then. Hospitals are by nature conservative because they have to protect patients, which make them reluctant to partner with outsiders,” Chen recalled.

Eventually, Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital gave Infervision a shot. Chen with his two founding members got hold of a small batch of image data, moved into a tiny apartment next to the hospital, and got the company underway.

“We observed how doctors work, explained to them how AI works, listened to their complaints, and iterated our product,” said Chen. Infervision’s product proved adept, and its name soon gathered steam among more healthcare professionals.

“Hospitals are risk-averse, but as soon as one of them likes us, it goes out to spread the word and other hospitals will soon find us. The medical industry is very tight-knit,” the founder said.

It also helps that AI has evolved from a fringe invention to a norm in healthcare over the past few years, and hospitals start actively seeking help from tech startups.

Infervision has stumbled in its foreign markets as well. In the US, for example, Infervision is restricted to visiting doctors only upon appointments, which slows down product iteration.

Chen also admitted that many western hospitals did not trust that a Chinese startup could provide state-of-the-art technology. But they welcomed Infervision in as soon as they found out what it’s able to achieve, which is in part thanks to its data treasure — up to 26,000 images a day.

“Regardless of their technological capability, Chinese startups are blessed with access to mountains of data that no startups elsewhere in the world could match. That’s an immediate advantage,” said Chen.

There’s no lack of rivalry in China’s massive medical industry. Yitu, a pivotal player that also applies its AI to surveillance and fintech, unveiled a cancer detection tool at the Chicago radiological conference this week.

Infervision, which generates revenues by charging fees for its AI solution as a service, says that down the road, it will prioritize product development for conditions that incur higher social costs, such as cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Quantum computing, not AI, will define our future

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The word “quantum” gained currency in the late 20th century as a descriptor signifying something so significant, it defied the use of common adjectives. For example, a “quantum leap” is a dramatic advancement (also an early ’90’s television series starring Scott Bakula).

At best, that is an imprecise (though entertaining) definition. When “quantum” is applied to “computing,” however, we are indeed entering an era of dramatic advancement.

Quantum computing is technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level. It relies on the existence of mind-bending quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement.

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous 1930’s thought experiment involving a cat that was both dead and alive at the same time was intended to highlight the apparent absurdity of superposition, the principle that quantum systems can exist in multiple states simultaneously until observed or measured. Today quantum computers contain dozens of qubits (quantum bits), which take advantage of that very principle. Each qubit exists in a superposition of zero and one (i.e., has non-zero probabilities to be a zero or a one) until measured. The development of qubits has implications for dealing with massive amounts of data and achieving previously unattainable level of computing efficiency that are the tantalizing potential of quantum computing.

While Schrödinger was thinking about zombie cats, Albert Einstein was observing what he described as “spooky action at a distance,” particles that seemed to be communicating faster than the speed of light. What he was seeing were entangled electrons in action. Entanglement refers to the observation that the state of particles from the same quantum system cannot be described independently of each other. Even when they are separated by great distances, they are still part of the same system. If you measure one particle, the rest seem to know instantly. The current record distance for measuring entangled particles is 1,200 kilometers or about 745.6 miles. Entanglement means that the whole quantum system is greater than the sum of its parts.

If these phenomena make you vaguely uncomfortable so far, perhaps I can assuage that feeling simply by quoting Schrödinger, who purportedly said after his development of quantum theory, “I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”

Various parties are taking different approaches to quantum computing, so a single explanation of how it works would be subjective. But one principle may help readers get their arms around the difference between classical computing and quantum computing. Classical computers are binary. That is, they depend on the fact that every bit can exist only in one of two states, either 0 or 1. Schrödinger’s cat merely illustrated that subatomic particles could exhibit innumerable states at the same time. If you envision a sphere, a binary state would be if the “north pole,” say, was 0, and the south pole was 1. In a qubit, the entire sphere can hold innumerable other states and relating those states between qubits enables certain correlations that make quantum computing well-suited for a variety of specific tasks that classical computing cannot accomplish. Creating qubits and maintaining their existence long enough to accomplish quantum computing tasks is an ongoing challenge.

IBM researcher Jerry Chow in the quantum computing lab at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.

Humanizing Quantum Computing

These are just the beginnings of the strange world of quantum mechanics. Personally, I’m enthralled by quantum computing. It fascinates me on many levels, from its technical arcana to its potential applications that could benefit humanity. But a qubit’s worth of witty obfuscation on how quantum computing works will have to suffice for now. Let’s move on to how it will help us create a better world.

Quantum computing’s purpose is to aid and extend the abilities of classical computing. Quantum computers will perform certain tasks much more efficiently than classical computers, providing us with a new tool for specific applications. Quantum computers will not replace their classical counterparts. In fact, quantum computers require classical computer to support their specialized abilities, such as systems optimization.

Quantum computers will be useful in advancing solutions to challenges in diverse fields such as energy, finance, healthcare, aerospace, among others. Their capabilities will help us cure diseases, improve global financial markets, detangle traffic, combat climate change, and more. For instance, quantum computing has the potential to speed up pharmaceutical discovery and development, and to improve the accuracy of the atmospheric models used to track and explain climate change and its adverse effects.

I call this “humanizing” quantum computing, because such a powerful new technology should be used to benefit humanity, or we’re missing the boat.

Intel’s 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing has unique features for improved connectivity and better electrical and thermo-mechanical performance. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

An Uptick in Investments, Patents, Startups, and more

That’s my inner evangelist speaking. In factual terms, the latest verifiable, global figures for investment and patent applications reflect an uptick in both areas, a trend that’s likely to continue. Going into 2015, non-classified national investments in quantum computing reflected an aggregate global spend of about $1.75 billion USD,according to The Economist. The European Union led with $643 million. The U.S. was the top individual nation with $421 million invested, followed by China ($257 million), Germany ($140 million), Britain ($123 million) and Canada ($117 million). Twenty countries have invested at least $10 million in quantum computing research.

At the same time, according to a patent search enabled by Thomson Innovation, the U.S. led in quantum computing-related patent applications with 295, followed by Canada (79), Japan (78), Great Britain (36), and China (29). The number of patent families related to quantum computing was projected to increase 430 percent by the end of 2017

The upshot is that nations, giant tech firms, universities, and start-ups are exploring quantum computing and its range of potential applications. Some parties (e.g., nation states) are pursuing quantum computing for security and competitive reasons. It’s been said that quantum computers will break current encryption schemes, kill blockchain, and serve other dark purposes.

I reject that proprietary, cutthroat approach. It’s clear to me that quantum computing can serve the greater good through an open-source, collaborative research and development approach that I believe will prevail once wider access to this technology is available. I’m confident crowd-sourcing quantum computing applications for the greater good will win.

If you want to get involved, check out the free tools that the household-name computing giants such as IBM and Google have made available, as well as the open-source offerings out there from giants and start-ups alike. Actual time on a quantum computer is available today, and access opportunities will only expand.

In keeping with my view that proprietary solutions will succumb to open-source, collaborative R&D and universal quantum computing value propositions, allow me to point out that several dozen start-ups in North America alone have jumped into the QC ecosystem along with governments and academia. Names such as Rigetti Computing, D-Wave Systems, 1Qbit Information Technologies, Inc., Quantum Circuits, Inc., QC Ware, Zapata Computing, Inc. may become well-known or they may become subsumed by bigger players, their burn rate – anything is possible in this nascent field.

Developing Quantum Computing Standards

 Another way to get involved is to join the effort to develop quantum computing-related standards. Technical standards ultimately speed the development of a technology, introduce economies of scale, and grow markets. Quantum computer hardware and software development will benefit from a common nomenclature, for instance, and agreed-upon metrics to measure results.

Currently, the IEEE Standards Association Quantum Computing Working Group is developing two standards. One is for quantum computing definitions and nomenclature so we can all speak the same language. The other addresses performance metrics and performance benchmarking to enable measurement of quantum computers’ performance against classical computers and, ultimately, each other.

The need for additional standards will become clear over time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

A pair of new Bluetooth security flaws expose wireless access points to attack

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Security researchers have found two severe vulnerabilities affecting several popular wireless access points, which — if exploited — could allow an attacker to compromise enterprise networks.

The two bugs are found in Bluetooth Low Energy chips built by Texas Instruments, which networking device makers — like Aruba, Cisco and Meraki — use in their line-up of enterprise wireless access points. Although the two bugs are distinctly different and target a range of models, the vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to take over an access point and break into an enterprise network or jump over the virtual walls that separate networks.

Security company Armis calls the vulnerabilities “Bleeding Bit,” because the first bug involves flipping the highest bit in a Bluetooth packet that will cause its memory to overflow — or bleed — which an attacker can then use to run malicious code on an affected Cisco or Meraki hardware.

The second flaw allows an attacker to install a malicious firmware version on one of Aruba’s devices, because the software doesn’t properly check to see if it’s a trusted update or not.

Although the security researchers say the bugs allow remote code execution, the attacks are technically local — in that a would-be attacker can’t exploit the flaws over the internet and would have to be within Bluetooth range. In most cases, that’s about 100 meters or so — longer with a directional antenna — so anyone sitting outside an office building in their car could feasibly target an affected device.

“In the case of an access point, once the attacker gained control he can reach all networks served by it, regardless of any network segmentation,” Armis said in a technical write-up.

Ben Seri, vice president of research at Armis, said that the exploit process is “relatively straight forward.” Although the company isn’t releasing exploit code, Seri said that all an attacker needs is “any laptop or smartphone that has built-in Bluetooth in it.”

But he warned that the Bluetooth-based attack can be just one part of a wider exploit process.

“Once the attacker gains control over an access point through one of these vulnerabilities, he can establish an outbound connection over the internet to a command and control server he controls, and continue the attack from a more remote location,” he said. That would give an attacker persistence on the network, making it easier to conduct surveillance or steal data once the attackers drive away.

“Bleeding Bit” allows an unauthenticated attacker to break into enterprise networks undetected, take over access points, spread malware, and move laterally across network segments. (Image: Asrmis/supplied)

Armis doesn’t know how many devices are affected, but warned that the vulnerabilities are found in range of other devices with Bluetooth Low Energy chips.

“This exposure goes beyond access points, as these chips are used in many other types of devices and equipment,” said Seri. “They are used in a variety of industries such as healthcare, industrial, automotive, retail, and more.”

Seri said that the vulnerabilities aren’t within the Bluetooth protocol, but with the manufacturer — in this case, the Bluetooth chip itself. As an open standard, device makers are largely left to decide for themselves how to implement the protocol. Critics have long argued that the Bluetooth specifications leave too much room for interpretation, and that can lead to security issues.

For its part, Texas Instruments confirmed the bugs and issued several patches, but attacked Armis’ findings, calling its report “factually unsubstantiated and potentially misleading,” said spokesperson Nicole Bernard.

After Armis privately disclosed the bugs in July, the three affected device makers have also released patches.

Aruba said it was “aware” of the vulnerability and warned customers in an advisory on October 18, but noted that its devices are only affected if a user enables Bluetooth — which Aruba says is disabled by default. Cisco, which also owns the Meraki brand, said some of its devices are vulnerable but they too have Bluetooth disabled by default. Fixes are already available and the company has a list of vulnerable devices noted in its support advisory. A Cisco spokesperson said that the company “isn’t aware” of anyone maliciously exploiting the vulnerability.

Carnegie Mellon University’s public vulnerability database, CERT, also has an advisory out for any other devices that might be affected.

News Source = techcrunch.com

New plans aim to deploy the first U.S. quantum network from Boston to Washington DC

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About 800 kilometers of unused fiber optic cable running down the U.S. eastern seaboard is set to become the first stateside quantum network.

The aim is to get the quantum network up and running and accepting customers by the end of the year, making it the first time that quantum keys will be exchanged commercially on U.S. soil.

Quantum Xchange, a Bethesda, Maryland-based quantum communications provider, has inked a deal for Zayo, a fiber network giant, to provide the stretch of fiber from Boston to Washington DC. Its first aim is to help connect Wall Street financiers with their back operations in nearby New Jersey, but the hope is that other industries — from healthcare to critical infrastructure — will soon use the network for their own secure communications.

Quantum cryptography and networking aren’t new concepts but have risen to prominence in recent years as both a threat to some encryption and also the savior of future secure communications. Relying on photons and the laws of quantum physics to share encryption keys over a long distance from one place to another makes it significantly harder to intercept the keys without breaking the beam or perfectly cloning a copy. This technique, known as quantum key distribution (QKD), is seen as a likely contender for the future of end-to-end encryption.

Although quantum cryptography has been around for years, it’s only been in recently that scientists and computer engineers have harnessed the technology for practical uses. Soon, the technology could be used for protecting elections, transmitting payments, and securing communications between datacenters — even from satellites back to earth.

Europe has already seen some success in building a small-scale quantum network, but “shortcomings” made bringing the system to the U.S. more difficult, said Quantum Xchange chief executive John Prisco.

His company uses trusted node technology that passes quantum key data from point to point over a larger distance, making it easier to scale a quantum network over wider geographical spaces.

“Organizations with offices in Boston will be able to send secure communications to a partner in D.C., and eventually even further – as the goal is to keep buying up optical fiber that is already in the ground all over the country so that we can provide a secure quantum network that will serve the entire nation,” he said.

Prisco said it’s “critical” to establish a quantum key distribution network as a defensive measure “before the unprecedented power of quantum computers become an offensive weapon.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Keeps parent company Thirty Madison raises $15 million to fight male pattern baldness

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Thirty Madison, the healthcare startup behind the hair loss brand Keeps, has brought in a $15.25 million Series A co-led by Maveron and Northzone.

The company provides a subscription-based online marketplace for men’s hair loss prevention medications Finasteride and Minoxidil. Keeps sells these drugs direct-to-consumer, working with manufacturers to keep the costs low.

On Keeps, a subscription of Minoxidil, an over-the-counter topical treatment often referred to as Rogaine, is $10 monthly. A subscription to Finasteride, a prescription drug taken daily, is $25 per month.

It’s an end-to-end platform that is the single best place for guys who are looking to keep their hair,” Thirty Madison co-founder Steven Gutentag told TechCrunch.

Keeps is tapping into a big market. According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of American men experience some hair loss by the age of 35.

You may have heard of Hims, a venture-backed men’s healthcare company that similarly sells subscriptions to hair loss treatments, as well as oral care, skin care and treatments for erectile dysfunction. Keeps is its smaller competitor. For now, the company is focused solely on haircare, though with the new funds, Thirty Madison plans to launch Cove, a sister brand to Keeps that will provide treatments to migraine sufferers.

The company was founded last year by Gutentag and Demetri Karagas with a plan to develop several digital healthcare brands under the Thirty Madison umbrella.

“Going through this process myself of starting to experience hair loss, I was not sure where to turn,” Gutentag said. “I went online and looked up ‘why am I losing my hair,’ and if you search on Google, really for any medical condition, you usually walk away thinking you’re going to die … I was so fortunate that I got access to this high-quality specialist who could help me with my problem and I was in the position to afford those treatments but most people don’t get that access.”

Keeps also provide digital access to a network of doctors at a cost of roughly $30 per visit.

TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos wrote last year that “it’s never been a better time to be a man who privately suffers from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss” because of advances and investments in telemedicine. Since then, even more money has been funneled into the space.

Hims has raised nearly $100 million to date and is rumored to be working on a line of women’s products. Roman, a cloud pharmacy for erectile dysfunction, raised an $88 million Series A last month and is launching a “quit smoking kit.” And Lemonaid Health, which also provides prescriptions to erectile dysfunction medications and more, secured $11 million last year.

Greycroft, Steadfast Venture Capital, First Round, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, HillCour and Two River also participated in Thirty Madison’s fundraise, which brings its total raised to date to $22.75 million.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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