A thought on improving voice user interface while ensuring privacy

Voice user interface is going to be one of the ways we interact with our devices as we go about our daily lives. It is just a very intuitive way for us because we communicate primarily via voice with text and images to complement.

But there still are various problems that need people to work on them to improve the overall experience. One of it is related to how the AI behind voice user interface can interact with us more naturally, like how we interact with fellow human beings.

A premium Medium article written by Cheryl Platz got me thinking about that. It also covered a little on privacy and why it is a contributing factor that make it difficult for current generation of AIs to speak more naturally and understand the context when we speak. Unless, companies don’t give a shit about our privacy and start collecting even more data.

In this article, I am going to share what I thought could help improve the AI and ensure user privacy.

Current Implementations and Limitations

What an AI needs to be better at understanding and responding in ways most useful to us are processing power, a good neural network that allows it to self-learn, and a database to store whatever it has learnt.

The cloud is the best way for an AI to gain access to a processing power and huge enough database. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft offer cloud computing and storage services via their AWS and Azure platform respectively at very low cost. Even Google offers such services via their Compute Engine.

The problem with the cloud is reduced level of confidence when privacy is involved. Anything you store up there is vulnerable, available for retrieval through security flaws or misconfigurations. Companies could choose to encrypt those data via end-to-end encryption to help with protect user’s privacy but the problem is the master keys are owned by said companies. They could decrypt those data whenever they want.

Or you could do it like what Apple did with Siri, storing data locally, and use Differential Privacy to help ensure anonymity but it reduces the AI capabilities because it doesn’t have access to sufficient amount of personal data. Two, Siri runs on devices like Apple Watch, iPhones and iPads, which could be a problem when it comes to processing and compute capabilities, and having enough information to understand the user.

Although those devices have more processing power than room-sized mainframes from decades ago, it’s still not enough, energy-efficiency and capability wise, to handle highly complex neural networks for better experience with voice user interfaces.

Apple did try to change that with its A11 Bionic SoC that has a neural engine. Companies like Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies, and even NVIDIA are also contributing to increase local processing power with energy efficiency for AI through their respective CPU and GPU products.

Possible Solution

The work on the hardware by companies should continue so that there will be even more powerful and energy efficient processors for AI to use.

In addition to that, what we need is a standard, wireless-based protocol (maybe bluetooth) for the AI on our devices, irrespective of companies, to talk to each other when they are near to each other and in our home network. This way, the AI on each of those devices can share information and perform distributed computing, thereby improving its accuracy, overall understanding of the user, and respond accordingly.

A common software kernel is also necessary to provide different implementation of neural network a standardized way of doing distributed computing efficiently and effectively.

So now, imagine Siri talking to Alexa, Google Assistant or even Cortana via this protocol and vice versa.

Taking privacy into account, information exchanged via this protocol should be encrypted by default with keys owned only by the user. Any data created or stored should only reside on device also encrypted and nowhere else. Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, the generated keys should come from some kind of hardware-based “Secure Enclave”.

To further improve the neural network, Differential Privacy should be applied on any query or information sent by the AI to the cloud for processing.

Conclusion

The above is really just a thought of how current the AIs powering voice user interfaces can be improved.

At the end, it’s really up to the companies to decide if they want to come together and improve all our lives taking into account our privacy and security.

10 Tech News Roundup #18

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Apple’s iMac Pro is a love letter to developers – The iMac Pro exists because it turns out that there is a lot of air underneath the aging Mac Pro and above the incredibly popular MacBook Pro. A single-digit percentage of Mac customers buy the Mac Pro and, in recent years, Apple had been seeing a major rise in “pro” customers of all shades purchasing iMacs because of their incredible screens, all-in-one form factor and overall ease of deployment. Techcrunch

Knightscope security robot gets fired from its San Francisco job – A five-foot tall, 400-pound robot with four surveillance cameras just got fired from its security job. Right before Christmas. Mashable

Edge Mobile Payments buys what’s left of Plastc in hopes that there’s still life left in smart cards – The death of Plastc back in April looked to many like the final nail in the smart card coffin. After all, the news came only a few months after the space’s other big player, Coin, called it quits. Of course, the loss of Coin wasn’t totally in vain — the company was ultimately purchased by Fitbit, which ultimately incorporated its mobile payment tech into the Ionic smartwatch. Techcrunch

Xage emerges from stealth with a blockchain-based IoT security solution – Getting the myriad of devices involved in the industrial internet of things provisioned and communicating with one another in a secure way will be one of the great technological challenges facing companies in the coming years. Xage (prounounced Zage) emerged from stealth today with a blockchain-based security solution that could help simplify this. Techcrunch

Whoops, iTunes won’t be available in the Microsoft Store this year, after all – Earlier this year at Microsoft’s Build conference, the company revealed it was working with Apple to get iTunes included in the Windows Store. The promise was that it would be available by the end of 2017, but now it looks like that won’t be happening. The Verge

That revamped Mac Pro is still in the works, Apple reminds us – In the very same breath as its iMac Pro availability press release was uttered, Apple slipped in a reminder to the world that an overhaul to its Mac Pro desktop is still in development. Oh, and that homemade professional display is in the works, too. Techradar

Apple patent filing reveals potential whispering Siri functionality – Ever wanted to use Siri in a crowded place — such as a subway, bus or supermarket — without the assistant blaring her response to everyone in the vicinity? If so, you might be in luck if a patent filed by Apple back in 2016 ever becomes a reality. Techspot

Intel tips off potential 960 GB and 1.5 TB Optane SSD 900Ps – I was pretty impressed with the performance of Intel’s Optane caching solution when I messed around with MSI’s Aegis 3 gaming desktop. Still, some folks aren’t going to be satisfied with a simple Optane accelerator. If you’re in that category, the Optane SSD 900P is your jam, and you have a choice between 280 GB or 480 GB models. What, that’s not enough storage? Hang on a bit, then, because an Intel document suggests that 960 GB and 1.5 TB models of the 3D Xpoint-equipped SSD could be on their way. Techreport

US regulators ‘broke the internet as we know it’, VPN providers say – The US FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) decision on Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules has provoked an outcry among startups and NGOs, and also the wider public, both in the US and abroad. Techradar

A bombshell letter charges that Uber hacked into competitors’ networks and wiretapped people at a hotel – A security group within Uber hacked into competitors’ computer systems, stole data from rivals, and recorded the private conversations of competitors at a hotel, according to a letter made public Friday by the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit with Google-spinoff company Waymo. Business Insider

10 Tech News Roundup #17

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Zero-day iOS HomeKit vulnerability allowed remote access to smart accessories including locks, fix rolling out – A HomeKit vulnerability in the current version of iOS 11.2 has been demonstrated to 9to5Mac that allows unauthorized control of accessories including smart locks and garage door openers. Our understanding is Apple has rolled out a server-side fix that now prevent unauthorized access from occurring while limiting some functionality, and an update to iOS 11.2 coming next week will restore that full functionality. 9to5Mac

Apple hires yet another veteran TV programming exec for its original content efforts – As part of its growing original content efforts, Apple has hired programming veteran Michelle Lee to join its worldwide video department, as reported by Variety. Lee has previously worked on popular shows for several major networks as a producing partner at Universal Television’s True Jack Productions… 9to5Mac

Nvidia’s $2,999 Titan V is a 110 teraflop GPU for AI processing – Nvidia cards are the de facto standard for running machine learning workloads and today, the company added yet another high-end compute-centric card to its line-up: the Titan V. This card, which is based on Nvidia’s Volta architecture, features 21.1 billion transistors on a 815 mm2 chip that can produce a full 110 teraflops of compute power. Techcrunch

Uber lands investment from Singapore’s largest taxi operator in blow to rival Grab – Uber has struck a major deal in Southeast Asia after ComfortDelGro, Singapore’s largest taxi operator, announced [PDF] it has agreed to buy a majority share of the ride-hailing giant’s Singapore-based car rental business. Techcrunch

Uber reportedly paid a 20-year-old man to keep silent about security breach – A 20-year-old man was responsible for the massive data breach at Uber last year, and the company paid him to destroy the data through its bug bounty program, reports Reuters. In November, Uber revealed it suffered from a cyberattack in October 2016 that exposed the private data of 57 million drivers and customers, which it then covered up. Uber allegedly paid hackers a $100,000 ransom to delete the data and not disclose what had happened to the media and public. The company didn’t say how the hacker was paid, or who he was. The Verge

Bitcoin value tops $16,000 and shows no signs of slowing down – Bitcoin’s track record is a lot like a manic-depressive illness, defined by extremely high peaks and incredibly deep valleys. Judging by its latest rally, the popular cryptocurrency’s volatility isn’t going to normalize anytime soon. Techspot

Intel Nervana processor goes beyond terabit bandwidth with refined architecture – Earlier this year, Intel showed off its research and development efforts to build the Intel Nervana Neural Network Processor. The newly designed chip will far surpass any general-purpose processors for machine learning and artificial intelligence applications. Best yet, it is a product that actually is going to make it to market. Techspot

AirPods will be even more ubiquitous in 2018, says report – Get ready to see even more of those distinctive AirPod stems sticking out of ears everywhere you go next year. Mashable

Windows 7 users are officially dropping like flies – For the first time in a long time, Windows 7 is now being run by less than half of PC users. Only 43.12% still use the eight-year-old operating system, reports TechRadar. Mashable

Every 2018 iPhone model could get a battery boost thanks to this new tech – Hands up who wants more battery life from their smartphone? The good news is that noted mobile analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI Securities fame, reckons that all three of the 2018 iPhones are going to get a boost in capacity across the board, thanks partly to a new L-shaped battery design. Techradar

10 Tech News Roundup #16

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Wearable numbers get a bump, as consumers shift focus to smarter devices – The wearable space seems to still be figuring itself out — though in spite of some reports about the death of the category, overall growth remains one of the few constants. According to the latest numbers from IDC, the global bump was pretty modest for Q3 of this year, at about 7.3-percent, year over year. Techcrunch

Elon Musk’s giant battery is now delivering power to South Australia – The world’s largest lithium-ion battery is now live in South Australia after being delivered a few weeks ago, easily beating the promise Elon Musk made of “100 days or it’s free.” The South Australian Government notes that for the first time, clean wind energy can be siphoned to the grid 24/7 improving the system’s reliability, whether the wind is blowing or not. The 100MW battery farm has enough storage capacity to power more than 30,000 homes. The Verge

This new FDA-approved Apple Watch band measures the electricity in your heart – The Federal Drug Administration just cleared a new band for the Apple Watch that monitors the electrical rhythms in your heart. Mashable

Dell’s latest XPS 13 is fast, nimble, and kind of stale – When Dell first introduced its redesigned XPS 13 laptop nearly three years ago, it kicked off a renaissance in laptop design. Dell proved that you could have a full-size, 13-inch display in a computer that’s as compact and portable as an 11-inch model. Nearly every other laptop maker has followed down this path, and now there are a lot of laptop options with trim bezels and small footprints. The Verge

$3 billion in EA stock value wiped out in less than 30 days – Electronic Arts’ shareholders are biting their nails as they watch the company’s stock value plummet. For November, EA shares have dropped 8.5 percent. That equates to $3.1 billion in valuation wiped out in only one month. Industry analysts are blaming the plunging stock price on the debacle over Star Wars Battlefront II and its money-grubbing loot box / microtransaction system. Techspot

Top-secret US Army intelligence accidentally posted to public AWS bucket – Security is hard but you’d at least expect some level of protection to be made when dealing with top-secret military intelligence. Unfortunately, it appears that this wasn’t exactly the case for some data shared between the US Army and the NSA. Security firm UpGuard has discovered a publicly accessible AWS S3 bucket that contains classified information on the Distributed Common Ground System – Army as well as details of communications with federal IT environments. Techspot

Microsoft is adding tabs to apps in Windows 10 – Microsoft on Tuesday shared details on a new feature that’ll (eventually) make its way to Windows 10. It’s called “Sets” and, according to Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, it’s designed to help organize your workflow and mitigate time lost to interruptions.

Apple is reportedly looking into designing its own power management chips – A new report from Nikkei Asian Review says that Apple is planning to move design of power management chips – the ones responsible for battery life management and energy consumption – in-house. BusinessInsider

NASA and HPE Push the Envelope on HPC in Space – Technology is rapidly transforming the way we think and understand the universe. In the realm of space science, technological advancements have enabled man to study Earth, explore new worlds, and even walk on the moon. Today, high performance computing (HPC) is accelerating space research and scientific discovery like never before. Organizations like NASA are using the most cutting-edge HPC solutions to analyze troves of complex data, conduct experiments, advance the Mission to Mars, and much more. HPCWire

Automation threatens 800 million jobs, but technology could still save us, says report – A new report predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. The study, compiled by the McKinsey Global Institute, says that advances in AI and robotics will have a drastic effect on everyday working lives, comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution. In the US alone, between 39 and 73 million jobs stand to be automated — making up around a third of the total workforce. The Verge

10 Tech News Roundup #14

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Uber data breach includes UK users — but it’s still not clear how many – The UK’s digital minister has said the October 2016 data breach that Uber disclosed this week does affect UK users — though it’s still unclear how many are impacted at this stage. Techcrunch

In Israel, a blockchain and crypto hyper-cluster is just getting started – In recent times, it’s Eastern Europe and Russia which have become a hot-bed of crytpocurrency development. But on a recent trip to Tel Aviv, Israel, I took part in what might well turn out to be a historic lunch. Techcrunch

Microsoft confirms Surface Book 2’s power problem – Microsoft’s 15-inch Surface Book 2 laptop suffers from battery drain during heavy gaming or GPU usage, a problem The Verge first identified during our review of the device last week. While plugged into the supplied charger, the battery on the base of the device will drain during certain games if the power settings are set to max performance to fully utilize the power of the hardware. The Verge

Apple’s 2018 iPhones could have 62x faster internet speeds – Now that you’ve had plenty of time to come to grips with the iPhone X’s notch, let’s talk about next year’s iPhone. Yeah, seriously. Mashable

New paper from Apple research scientists dives deeper into work on autonomous systems – Tim Cook has publicly commented on Apple’s work in autonomous systems before, and a new research paper from two Apple research scientists dives deeper into the company’s efforts. The paper explains how Apple is using a combination of LiDAR with other technologies for 3D object detection that represents the future. 9to5mac

Millions of devices could be at risk from Intel Management Engine vulnerabilities – Intel has issued a security advisory over security flaws on its PC, server, and Internet-of-Things processors that make the platforms vulnerable to remote attacks. Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy of Positive Technologies Research identified the issues, and will reveal full details of the Intel Management Engine flaws in a talk at the Black Hat Europe security conference on December 6. Techspot

Intel increases production of Coffee Lake while Ryzen gets cheaper – Following the release of a product change notification, Intel has revealed that it has retrofitted an assembly line for Coffee Lake. Until now, Intel has been producing Coffee Lake CPUs in Malaysia, but will soon be shipping 8th generation i5 and i7 processors from Chengdu, China. Techspot

iMac Pro may feature A10 Fusion coprocessor, always-on Siri voice control – Back at its annual WWDC event in June, Apple revealed that a new iMac Pro model would arrive this December. We were told that “the most powerful Mac” it’s ever built would come in 8-Core, 10-Core, and up to 18-Core Xeon CPU configurations, but it seems Apple left out another detail: the presence of an A10 Fusion coprocessor that may enable always-on Siri functionality. Techspot

Companies Turn Blind Eye to Open Source Security Risks – Many software developers and enterprise users have been lax or oblivious to the need to properly manage open source software, suggest survey results Flexera released Tuesday. Linux Insider

Apple’s HomePod speaker delayed until next year – If you were hoping to buy a HomePod for your honey this holiday season, you’ll have to come up with plan b. CNN