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2017: The Year of Intelligence



Happy New Year! If 2016 has been a year of many surprises, 2017 is the time for intelligence and bold actions. Technology is getting smarter, and so must we.

Looking back for a moment

As always, the passing to January is a time to meditate on what we’ve accomplished, and on what happened around us. Quite a lot last year, as it turns out. We lost several artistic geniuses, particularly musicians. The citizens of the UK have embraced their islander identity to a deeper level. Our Southern neighbours have made a drastic turn in terms of both policy and tone at the last presidential election. I remember being riveted at my screens more than a couple of times, watching the British Pound and major stocks rise and fall in matters of hours. No wonder why business leaders have been advancing very cautiously last year.

However, the conversation dramatically shifted in Canada during the first days of January as gas prices rose in Mexico (20%) and Ontario (~10% at the pump), along with rumors of companies leaving due to the cost of doing business, and as people (including our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) are getting ready to handle the big NAFTA renegotiation with the US. Some wonder what will happen to Ontario’s (and Mexico’s) car industry. Thankfully there is a note of optimism coming from CES 2017. The time is for bold and decisive action. More than ever we need intelligence. Luckily, it has been a theme in the technology sector.

Looking forward from CES 2017

I like to start the year thinking about new ways technology can help us live fuller and richer lives. The car industry, for example, has done remarkable progress. Toyota presented the Concept-i car, while intelligently setting expectations about what robotics and artificial intelligence can do, particularly when safety is a prime concern. BMW may have a more robust approach, however, calling industry partners to join them with Intel and Mobileye to collaborate on an open platform. BMW aims to release its first fully autonomous car iNEXT in 2021.

I believe this approach is more robust because it leverages both people and technology at the same time. In this regard, the French Renault group, allied with Nissan and Mitsubishi, came up with a very bold plan to create the world first mass-market open source vehicle. The group sells 10 million vehicles a year, placing it on the coveted top 3 list of car manufacturers in the world. Renault is opening the Twizy entirely: both hardware and software will be open. ARM and OSVehicle are key partners in this venture, inviting other car manufacturers, and the broader community of developers and car enthusiasts to join their efforts into building the car of the 21st century.

The first mass-market open source car
Picture By JwhOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0 lu, Link

The challenge is set. The call is made. The best and brightest are working together to create the fully autonomous smart car. I’m excited about Intelligent technology, yes, but I really believe we’re on a fast track to achieve this goal because intelligent professionals collaborate in a free and open manner. The more eyeballs and brains at it, the better the data, and the better the solution.

Intelligent technology

New industrial and commercial applications coming up today leverage some kind of artificial intelligence. Over the years, technology has moved from analytics to big data, to artificial intelligence. These techniques have in common the massive use of data (the more data the better the training and the resulting performance). Fully autonomous cars for example will only be possible through computer vision, and techniques like deep learning are key to achieve this goal.

Interestingly, many of these technologies are available under a Free/Libre Open Source Software license. For example, TensorFlow, originally created by the Google Brain Team, is available from GitHub under an Apache 2.0 License. TensorFlow is used by Google, Twitter, Airbus, Uber, Snapchat… While IBM, Microsoft (e.g. CNTK, DMTK), Facebook, Amazon and others are actively working on their own projects. Datamation presents 15 of the top Free/Libre Open Source AI projects. Most people familiar with Big Data will already have heard about Hadoop, Spark, R, Python, MongoDB…

Intelligent professionals

Still, artificial intelligence doesn’t build itself. Intelligent people design this technology, as discussed last year at Davos. For once, the industry (all industries) need to recruit a lot of talents (read: there are many good job opportunities) in Free/Libre Open Source Software. The automobile industry is just an example where technology needs to be invented as consumer products are built. There is really a high demand for scientists and engineers (Youth out there if you’re listening…).

Work intelligence rests in what people know, in what they do (their skills), and in how they do it (their ability to reflect and to improve). The Free/Libre Open Source Software community demonstrates everyday how software and solutions improve when people share their knowledge and skills. For young professionals, it is a great way to learn the ropes (acquire best practices, learn the art from experienced professionals). For industrials, it is a great way to build complex and yet scalable and interoperable systems that can be maintained relatively easily over a long period of time. For example, Bosch is building a number of Free/Libre Open Source Software for the car industry.

RU Secure panel at the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association (RCGA) –From left to Right: Diane Francis (Award-winning Canadian author and entrepreneur), Alex Goncharenko (CPA from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services), Marc Lijour (Director, Savoir-faire Linux Toronto)

Contributions from Savoir-faire Linux

Savoir-faire Linux is committed to the community, an important part of its triple-bottom line strategy. We’re helping the Youth by sponsoring initiatives like the Maison du logiciel libre in Montreal (with Google and Red Hat). In Toronto, we gave a number of presentations to postsecondary and high school students exploring the thought of building a career in technology.

A few months ago, we gave an Introduction to Android at T.Hacks 2016, and an Introduction to Python to Women in Computer Science and Women in IT Management at Ryerson University. These slides are available on GitHub. We discussed privacy rights and cybersecurity at RU Secure, organized by the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association (RCGA). Starting 2017, we’re partnering with ICTC on an innovative training program funded by the Government of Ontario. We’re empowering Youth to find a job faster in ICT, while helping small businesses digitize with intelligence.

We’re calling all intelligent youth and professionals to join us in our journey to make the world more connected, more secure, and more human. And when the time is right, join us to Free the World!

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