Ahold Delhaize expands into robotics with TU Delft

Ahold Delhaize is partnering with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to expand the company’s Artificial Intelligence for Retail (AIR) Lab. The expansion comprises a robotics research program and test site for developing state-of-the-art innovations in the retail industry. This is the first expansion of Ahold Delhaize’s AIRLab, an industry-academic collaboration set up to conduct research into AI. By expanding its focus to robotics, AIRLab Delft will further drive innovations for daily business while building more knowledge of the intersection among retail, AI and robotics.

Based in RoboValley, a robotics research center developed by TU Delft Robotics Institute, a team of international researchers will explore robotic solutions that can be applied throughout the retail supply chain, from warehouses and stores to customers. To ensure these explorations result in tangible solutions, Ahold Delhaize will open a test site where researchers can work with partners, students and start-ups, supported by the technology incubator of TU Delft – YES!Delft – to build and test prototypes of robotic solutions. At the test site, which will be operational in early 2019, they will explore how robotics can be deployed in a retail setting, how robotic grippers can handle delicate items such as fruits and vegetables, or how to improve image-recognition of products and packaging.

More on AIRLab Delft

Bedrijven en wetenschappers publiceren 1e aanzet voor een nationale AI-strategie

Om te zorgen dat Nederland succesvol wordt in het toepassen van Artificial Intelligence (AI) publiceert het publiek-private samenwerkingsverband AINED vandaag een 1e aanzet voor een Nederlandse AI-strategie. In het rapport staat een breed scala aan mogelijke acties voor overheden en bedrijven die helpen om de goede uitgangspositie die Nederland nu nog heeft te kunnen verzilveren. Zo kan het gebrek aan talent worden ondervangen door te zorgen dat buitenlandse studenten na hun studie langer in Nederland mogen blijven. Daarnaast moet Nederland meer gaan samenwerken in bestaande ketens, werk maken van een nationaal AI-onderzoekscentrum van wereldklasse, betere ondersteuning van nieuwe bedrijvigheid en beter gebruikmaken van al beschikbare data.

AI is een generieke technologie die bijna alle aspecten van onze samenleving raakt. In een wereld waarin landen volop inzetten op AI en de opkomst van nieuwe machtige platformen razendsnel gaat, is het van groot belang om AI te omarmen, om zo de Nederlandse concurrentiepositie en welvaart veilig te stellen. Het winner-takes-all effect is een belangrijke reden om te zorgen dat Nederland bijblijft. Daarnaast heeft juist Nederland volgens het onderzoek op diverse terreinen een goede positie om juridische, ethische en technische risico’s te ondervangen en te zorgen dat we de ontwikkelingen omzetten in kansen waar alle Nederlanders van profiteren.

De belangrijkste conclusies van het onderzoek op een rij

  • – Nederland was er vroeg bij waar het gaat om de ontwikkeling van AI-kennis, maar we verliezen momentum. Bijvoorbeeld bij het aantal wetenschappelijke publicaties en de financiering van onderzoek.
  • – Er is onvoldoende capaciteit om de sterk groeiende vraag naar AI-studenten bij bedrijven en wetenschappelijke instellingen op te vangen. Ook is de dreiging van een braindrain van succesvolle AI-wetenschappers serieus.
  • – Weinig Nederlandse op AI georiënteerde bedrijven groeien echt door naar het internationale toneel. Als dit wel lukt komen ze vaak in Amerikaanse handen. Voorbeelden zijn onder meer Booking.com, Euvision en Scyfer. Dit kan consequenties hebben voor het eigendom van de data en de ontwikkelde technologie.
  • – Binnen delen van het MKB ontbreekt vaak kennis om met AI aan de slag te gaan en ziet men nog onvoldoende de kansen en bedreigingen, zoals dreigende afhankelijkheid van grote platformen.
  • – Andere landen investeren vele malen meer en hebben vaak al een duidelijke nationale AI-strategie/aanpak ontwikkeld, hetgeen ook weer tot meer investeringen leidt. Dit in tegenstelling tot Nederland.

De barrières die bedrijven ervaren bij het toepassen van AI
Voor het eerst is door BCG ook onderzoek gedaan onder een grote groep bedrijven en de barrières die zij ervaren om AI meer te gaan toepassen in de praktijk. Hieruit komen gebrek aan talent (23%), gebrek aan (geschikte) data (20%) en onzekerheden over regelgeving (17%) als de grootste zorgen voorbij. Zo wordt sommige zorgdata nog nauwelijks gedeeld waardoor nieuwe producten (waar patiënten, zorgverleners en bedrijfsleven baat bij kunnen hebben) niet tot stand komen. Ook bespeuren bedrijven nog weinig strategische activiteiten bij de overheid om de positie van Nederland te verbeteren waar het gaat om onderwijs en het openstellen van data.

Het vervolg
De komende maanden gaat AINED de in het rapport voorgestelde doelen en acties breed toetsen en bouwen aan een nog bredere coalitie van bedrijven, overheden, wetenschappers en onderwijsinstellingen. Daarna moet dit voorwerk uitmonden in een officieel strategisch actieplan van bedrijven en de overheid dat kan worden gepubliceerd op de Conferentie Nederland Digitaal  en waar iedereen concreet mee aan de slag kan.

AINED is een samenwerking van VNO-NCW, TopTeam ICT, ICAI, NWO en TNO ondersteund door The Boston Consulting Group en Denkwerk.

Lees hier het volledige rapport

Towards a national AI ecosystem

 

150 visitors gathered Friday Octobre 19th for ‘ICAI: AI for the Netherlands’, organized by the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). This afternoon 11 speakers from universities, companies and governmental institutes showed the diversity of areas in which AI research is present nowadays, from predicting diseases, the engineering of automated cars, solving cybercrime, to the search and recommend tools of Albert Heijn. This diversity will only increase in the years to come. There was a general positivity. “AI talent and technology in the Netherlands put us in the world’s top ranked countries in terms of innovation power”, according to Alexander van Boetzelaer (Executive Vice President Strategy at Elsevier).

But it was also an afternoon of warnings, because if the Netherlands doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities that AI offers our society, it will fall behind very badly. In the words of Vladimir Putin (as professor Holger Hoos from Leiden University quoted): ‘‘Whoever becomes the leader of AI will become the ruler of the world.” Although Hoos usually doesn’t quote Putin he says that this time “he is quite right”.

“If we want to play a role in Europe, a single university won’t make a difference. We have to connect with each other”, as Inald Lagendijk (Wetenschappelijk boegbeeld TopTeam ICT) put it. The word ‘ecosystem’ was mentioned a lot by the different speakers: an open AI ecosystem in which the whole of the Netherlands participates.

ICAI, as an open network of cooperating AI innovation Labs, will help strengthen this ecosystem and accelerate innovation. This way we can keep the AI talent in the Netherlands, combine excellence and will not become dependent on AI made elsewhere. “The entrance ticket to ICAI is easy”, says Maarten de Rijke (one of the ICAI founders): “Start a lab. ICAI started half a year ago with 2 knowledge institutes and three companies. Right now seven knowledge institutes, 5 companies and 2 government institutions are involved. In the beginning there were three labs and now there are four running labs with three potential new labs, among which a Police Lab and a Startup Lab. The aim for the next ICAI update meeting is 13 labs. Only one thing to do: Let us get down to work.”

New Elsevier AI Lab

ICAI and information analytics business Elsevier announce the opening of the Elsevier AI Lab. The lab underscores the impact of academic-industry collaboration to strengthen the Netherlands’ global position in Artificial Intelligence.

As a true win-win situation, the collaboration allows Elsevier’s data scientists to work closer with data scientists in academia, contribute to education and science, and pursue a PhD. Academics in turn gain a better understanding of how AI is used to innovate research platforms to solve real-world societal problems. Through this multi-year partnership ICAI gains a focussed environment for AI researchers to help solve challenging, real-world problems in collaboration with an AI industry front runner. ICAI in turn brings state-of-the-art AI technology and insights to Elsevier.

Alexander van Boetzelaer, Executive Vice President at Elsevier said: “VU and UvA together, via ICAI and the Amsterdam Data Science initiative, are very strong AI players in the region with international reputation. Teaming up with these formidable organizations demonstrates our commitment to strengthen the Netherlands as technology hotspot globally and adds to the impact academic-corporate collaborations can have.”

Elsevier’s involvement in this initiative fits with the prominence it has gained in recent years as an industry leader in Artificial Intelligence. This is demonstrated best through its Artificial Intelligence Program, which undertakes to build a comprehensive global examination of artificial intelligence by combining semantic research with insights from AI experts, practitioners and policy makers. The program will publish a comprehensive report in late 2018 which will be freely available.

Ilya Markov appointed Scientific Manager of AIRLab Amsterdam

Credit: Xinyi Li

We are happy to announce that from October 1st 2018 Ilya Markov joined the AI for Retail Lab (AIRLab) Amsterdam as Scientific Lab Manager. Markov has also been appointed as Assistant Professor at the Informatics Institute, University of Amsterdam. His work at AIRLab – a joint UvA-Ahold Delhaize industry lab – will consist of supervising multiple workstreams and PhD students and exploring new scientific opportunities within this collaboration. In his new role as a lab director, he will conduct research into socially responsible algorithms that can be used to make recommendations to consumers and into transparent AI technology for managing goods flows. This research will take place at Albert Heijn and bol.com, both brands of Ahold Delhaize.

Markov holds a BSc and MSc, with a major in Computer Science and Software Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. He got his PhD (2014) at the Information Retrieval Group from the University of Lugano (USI) on the topic of uncertainty in distributed information retrieval. After that, he became a postdoctoral researcher at the Information and Language Processing Systems group (ILPS) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), where he worked on user behavior models and algorithms that learn from users in information retrieval. Markov has been extensively involved in supervision of undergraduate students and PhD students and gained industry experience by collaborating with companies such as Yandex and JetBrains.

Read more on AIRLab here

Hinda Haned from Ahold Delhaize appointed professor

Credit: Dirk Gilissen

Hinda Haned, principal scientist at Ahold Delhaize, has been named professor by special appointment of Data Science at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Faculty of Science. As professor at UvA, Haned will focus on fair and responsible data science and machine learning. Haned has been lead data scientist at Ahold Delhaize since 2015 and principal scientist since 2018. Her activities at Ahold Delhaize involve designing and building solutions to answer business questions with data mining and machine learning techniques. Read more

Erasmus Descartes Conference 2018 – Artificial Intelligence

On 15 and 16 November 2018 the Erasmus-Descartes Conference will take place in Paris, organised by the Dutch embassy in cooperation with the French embassy in the Netherlands. A total of 150 experts from the private sector, civil society organisations and the public sector have been invited to take part in this year’s conference, which will focus, after Big Data in 2017, on Artificial Intelligence in 2018. Max Welling and Arnold Smeulders will give presentations on the 15th.

More info

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Welcome to the ICAI Meetup

ICAI now has a meetup, see https://www.meetup.com/Innovation-Center-for-Artificial-Intelligence/. Interested in the use of artificial intelligence for innovation? The first edition of the meetup will be on September 14, at Ahold Delhaize.

The AIRLab is looking for five PhD students

The AIRLab has just opened five vacancies for PhD students. The general area is AI for Retail, and the lab is looking to fill the positions as soon as possible.  Areas range from recommendation to federated search and conversational search to replenishment. Please see this page for more details.