Week Ending: 24th September - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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Where has September gone? It feels as though October is creeping up all too quickly. Luckily, one thing that won’t creep up on us is the latest I.T. and Technology news. Don’t worry, we’ll get you caught up with the latest.

This week’s round-up covers a new visual AI search engine, GSK teams partnering with King’s College to fight cancer with AI and how waste from one bitcoin transaction is the equivalent of throwing away two iPhones.

Let’s get you up to speed.

Design meets AI to create new visual search engine

Methods of searching collections in the nation’s galleries, libraries and museums could soon be transformed by visual search platform, the Deep Discoveries project.

Launched to explore ways of creating a computer vision search platform that matches and identifies images from digitised collections throughout the country, the Deep Discoveries project aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) rather than a traditional word search box. AI is used to match similar images based on properties including pattern, colour and shape.

As the sector worldwide moves more and more towards online collections, Dr. Jo Briggs and Associate Professor Jamie Steane, from Northumbria School of Design, were enlisted to help deliver the collaboration between The National Archives, the University of Surrey and the V&A Museum.

The project has not been without its challenges, including developing the user experience which involves representing complex search functions within interface designs. Bernard Ogden, Research Software Engineer at The National Archives, built the prototype platform. He commented,

“The design process allowed us to reach a shared understanding that permitted us to create a live prototype, accommodating the different points of view between in teams involved in this multi-disciplinary project.”

Project lead, Dr Lora Angelova, Head of Conservation Research and Audience Development at The National Archives added,

“The energy and innovation design vision brought to the project by the design team, sparked new ideas and possibilities around visually communicating a progressive way of deploying AI for the benefit of our audiences.”

The project findings were presented at the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH) annual conference.

Find out more here.

GSK teams with King’s College to use AI to fight cancer

Artificial intelligence will be used to develop personalised treatments while investigating the role of genetics. Pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is embarking on a five-year partnership with King’s College London to develop the treatments.

The team involved is made up of 10 of GSK’s artificial intelligence experts and 10 oncology specialists from King’s College who will use computing to work out why only a fifth of patients respond well to immune-oncology treatments.

The project will initially use GSK’s cancer drugs to begin with and will focus on solid cancers, such as thoracic malignancies and women’s cancers, to hopefully form a framework that others can then contribute to. GSK is one of many large drug makers that have been investing in AI in order to collect large quantities of data, which is used to develop new medicines but also to help show why it is that some people are more likely to get certain diseases, this then informs a more personalised, improved level of patient care. The team will use a 3D cellular model of a patient’s disease to enable them to study how tumour cells interact with immune cells while a patient is undergoing treatment.

Dr Kim Branson, the global head of artificial intelligence and machine learning at GSK commented,

“Only 20% of patients respond well to the new oncology drugs that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer. What if we could play chess with the cancer? Cancer is a tricky thing, you treat it with X, then you see resistance. We’re using the predictive power of AI to think of potential strategies to outmanoeuvre disease. Our partnership with King’s can make this a possibility.”

To identify those at high risk, the team will use the patient to create a “digital biological twin” in order to test multiple drugs, doses and timings. Linking the patient with the ‘twin’ will provide valuable information on the level of risk, immune system and will work as a “multimodal monitoring tool.”

The partnership could, if necessary, use the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, developed by the US-based firm, Nvidia which became operational this summer.

Discover more here.

Waste from one bitcoin transaction ‘like binning two iPhones’

A single bitcoin transaction generates the same amount of electronic waste as throwing two iPhones away, according to analysis by economists from MIT and the Dutch central bank.

Bitcoin has faced much criticism around its energy use but a recent study has now also highlighted the vast churn of computer hardware that the cryptocurrency incentivises. The study claims that the amount of electronic waste produced for a single BTC transaction is equal to binning two iPhone 12s.

Specialised computer chips, ASCIs, are sold with the sole purpose of running algorithms that secure the bitcoin network. This process, called mining, rewards those taking part with a bitcoin payout but, as only the newest chips are power-efficient enough to be mined for profit, miners constantly need to replace their ASICs with new, more powerful chips. As a result, it is estimated that the whole bitcoin network currently wades through 30.7 metric kilotons of equipment each year. Cryptocurrency e-waste is such a large problem because, unlike most computing hardware, ASICs have no use beyond bitcoin mining.

In their paper, Bitcoin’s growing e-waste problem, researchers Alex De Vries and Christian Stoll write, “The lifespan of bitcoin mining devices remains limited to just 1.29 years.” In 2020 the bitcoin network processed 112.5m transactions (compared with 539bn processed by traditional payment service providers in 2019), according to the economists, meaning that each individual transaction “equates to at least 272g of e-waste.”

The researchers found that the waste accumulated by bitcoin is comparable to the amount of small I.T. and telecommunication equipment waste produced by a country such as the Netherlands.

Discover more here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.