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CES 2019: The world’s biggest tech show has not changed much

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ces 2019Dave Smith/Business Insider

  • I went to CES, the biggest tech show in the world, for the first time since 2012.
  • To be honest, not much has changed since the last time I went seven years ago.

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of people flock to Nevada in the first weeks of January for the biggest annual tech show in the world — and this year, I was one of them.

I hadn’t been back to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — or Las Vegas, for that matter — since 2012, which was the last time I had been sent on assignment to cover the tech showcase.

Seven years is a very long time in the world of technology. Just think about smartphones made seven years ago: We were on the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 back then.

So, I was expecting the 2019 show would be different. Better. More interesting.

Perhaps, I would see tech that addressed issues that have only gotten more important over the past decade, like climate change.

That didn’t really happen.

What I saw in 2012, I saw in 2019

At CES 2012, 8K displays were the star of the show. In 2019, 8K displays are still the star — albeit more companies are making them than ever before.

lg oled waterfall ces 2019Without big companies like LG, what would CES be?Dave Smith/Business Insider

Electric cars and concept cars were also a hit back in 2012. It’s the same deal in 2019.

In 2012, I took dozens of photos of smartphone accessories, robots that can clean your home and keep you company, and smart appliances that talk to each other. In 2019, I felt like I was seeing all the same stuff again, including Roomba knock-offs, smart refrigerators and washing machines, and smart home-monitoring equipment.

Read: The best smart-home device we saw at CES 2019

And, of course, I saw dozens upon dozens of people napping in the showroom floor. Many of them lined the hallway leading to the media rooms, but most of them set up shop in one of the hundreds of massage chairs on display at CES. That was just like my last trip, too.

Some things are definitely better

For what it’s worth, the Consumer Electronics Show has certainly improved in some areas.

Cars, in particular, seem to have vastly improved. Most companies are now pushing all-green, all-electric, and mostly autonomous experiences. And while their outside form factors haven’t changed too drastically, companies are experimenting with more unique designs for the car’s interior, to provide more customizable experiences. This year, one of my favorite exhibits was from Magna, which showed how seats could automatically shift around in a next-generation car or van to fit the changing needs of the passengers.

I also noticed fewer instances of female objectification — “booth babes” — than the last time I attended CES, and that’s a good thing. Still, I was not happy every time I saw a woman wearing an ornate, revealing outfit for the sole purpose of presentation, and I still saw this more often than I would like.

These women are not expected to talk to people; just to stand, smile, and look pretty as random men take their pictures. While I didn’t notice as many gross instances as I did in 2012, I was still disappointed to see so many companies like Nikon failing in this regard.

nikon booth babeTwitter/Nikon

You can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle

The last time I was at CES, it was Microsoft’s final year of attending, and having a big booth, at the show.

Years later, I definitely notice the impact of bigger companies pulling out of CES.

microsoft ces booth 21CES 2012 was Microsoft’s last major appearance at the show.Ellis Hamburger, Business Insider

The biggest companies commanded the most attention at CES 2019: Google, Amazon, Samsung, LG, and the big automakers like Mercedes-Benz were on everyone’s lips. Smaller companies did have some unique inventions to show off, but they didn’t offer anything nearly as impressive or futuristic as the bigger companies, which makes sense. Tech giants have more money to spend toward research and development, sales, advertising, and of course, having massive booths and hotel suites at the biggest tech show in the world.

Still, the absences of Microsoft and Apple at CES are meaningful. They’re two of the most influential tech companies in the world and they choose to hold their own events throughout the year instead of participating in this massive show. And that sets a precedent. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Google and Amazon ditch CES in the coming years, too, for similar reasons — perhaps to give their own announcements more oomph and exclusivity.

CES is probably not going to change anytime soon

coffee robot ces 2019This robot doesn’t make coffee, it just takes orders and payment.Dave Smith/Business InsiderWhile some attendees go to CES every single year, many people are first-timers, and this show is their first glimpse into the future. And that’s great!

Overall, I like what CES symbolizes — optimism, and progress — which are nice things to think about at the start of a new year.

But I hope CES continues to improve: I hope it finds a way to keep bigger companies coming back to the show, and I hope it encourages even more outlandish innovations, displays, and presentations to make the show feel a little more different from year to year.

I also hope CES finds a better way to showcase tech that addresses prevalent and immediate issues, like climate change, because if that tech was at the show I couldn’t find it.

CES does a great job at introducing people to the world of cutting-edge consumer tech. But for those people who go every year, or every few years, it doesn’t offer much in the way of newness. Many technologies shown off are iterative improvements, not radical reimaginings.

CES may not be able to control the companies that attend and present at the show, but I hope to see the Consumer Technology Association, the group that operates CES, try harder to make each show look and feel a little different from past years.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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