Amazon Image Recognition: Industrial Parts

August 9, 2018

Amazon has come out with a handy little app for iOS that could save users some time and frustration. SiliconAngle reports, “Amazon Rolls Out Part Finder to Help Find Nuts and Bolts and More.” Reasonably dubbed Part Finder, the app uses image recognition to identify that little screw, bolt, washer, or nut so you can go get more of the (exact) same. Writer James Farrell tells us:

“Amazon said it identifies about 100 types of fasteners, which ‘represents thousands, if not millions of parts.’ You will, however, have to take the part and place it on a white surface next to a penny, presumably to help scale the object. Then some tilting of the phone will have to be done until the camera is aligned correctly, something the app will tell you. You might also be asked for some additional information. Although the app uses augmented reality technology, Part Finder actually employs computer vision technology. Does it work well? Early reviewers of the app have said it takes a bit of getting used to, or that it’s a great idea that just doesn’t work well enough.”

Farrell observes that Amazon released the app to little fanfare several weeks ago. No word on when Part Finder will be available for Android, but Amazon has said they plan to expand its repertoire well beyond fasteners to all manner of replacement parts.

Cynthia Murrell, August 9, 2018

Has Alexa Become Unstoppable?

August 8, 2018

But for 98 percent of Alexa users’ failure to buy stuff by talking to Alexa, the device looks like a successful one.

Some at Beyond Search believe that digital home assistants are basically spying on us. Perhaps conversations and requests are being cataloged, and in some cases used against some in court. Is it possible that Amazon’s intelligence services have access to the Alexified content.

One hopes Google and Amazon and the like aren’t aiming to be big brother, Perhaps a different objective is in play. The CNBC story, “Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home: Advertisers Weigh In.”

We learned:

“The most expensive ad space in the future will be Alexa…hey are really just integrated in the shopping platform…. This has also opened up the door for marketers to sell items through Alexa apps. VaynerMedia worked on converting popular mobile game “Heads Up!” for Alexa, and was the first to integrate a voice-activated one time payment functionality to buy add-ons.

This story is not alone in predicting this. The Wall Street Journal called your home assistant “the new battleground” for ad dollars. If that is the case, we predict the advertisers are right and Amazon will have the advantage. While it might be projecting, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is already the end of Google Home. Money talks and Amazon has a giant window into that world. But the intelligence angle continues to capture our attention.

Patrick Roland, August 8, 2018

Amazon and Special Data

August 6, 2018

Amazon Web Services is ubiquitous with cloud computing and big data power. We all know dozens of companies use these tools, but until recently it was all a little hazy as to who was and how. But, a Silicon Angle gives us some tea leaves to read. According to the story, “In Conversation With: AWS Serverless Chief Tim Wagner Peers at the Future of Cloud Computing:”

“If you have traded any stocks, or had any stocks traded in your behalf, FINRA processes those stock trades at the end of the closing day using Lambda, so there’s a big chance here that the trade you made was evaluated and validated by FINRA using Lambda. Thomson Reuters does four thousand transactions every second with it, Fannie Mae runs its 20 million mortgage calculations through there. So these are not ancillary, some line-of-business, or over-in-the-marketing-department kinds of pieces These are mission-critical software that is now tied at the hip to a serverless architecture.”

This is significant, because we get a little first hand confirmation of AWS client base. Doing a little more research, it suddenly comes as no shock that Fannie Mae reported big earnings in its last quarter and Thomson Reuters is venturing into new territories. It’s fascinating to finally get to put a story to AWS’ offerings and it would not shock us if more big name corporations jump on board.

Quick question: What new revenue opportunities do these data create?

Patrick Roland, August 6, 2018

Amazon Joins Visual Search Parade

July 30, 2018

Text search is long past done as a frontier. Verbal search is already being nailed down by more startups and tech giants than you can tell Alexa to shake a stick at. So, the new frontier? It’s visual search and, you guessed it, one of the biggest names in the industry is already working their way in, as we discovered in a recent Fortune story, “Snapchat and Amazon are Working On Visual Search Feature.”

According to the story:

“Snap appears to be laying the groundwork for a partnership with e-commerce giant Amazon. “According to TechCrunch, a version of Snapchat being developed for Android phones includes code for a new feature called “Visual Search” that can use Snapchat’s camera to send images of a product or a barcode scan to Amazon, which then display search results.”

Amazon is not alone, however. Microsoft is also developing a visual search tool that can simply look at items and begin shopping for them. The controversy about the accuracy of Amazon’s Rekognition system may inhibit some of Amazon’s plans for image centric features and functions. I I search for a product with my mobile phone and Amazon returns matches which are incorrect, what happens to consumer confidence?

Error rates are likely to matter, probably more when looking for a shirt than when trying to figure out which elected official is a bad actor. Shirts are different. Bad actors not so much, some may suggest.

Patrick Roland, July 30, 2018

Amazon and Its Unrest Prediction

July 24, 2018

The Guardian, a “real” newspaper, published “Why the Amazon Boss’s Warning of No-Deal Brexit Unrest Rings Hollow.” The write up is a response to an Amazon executive’s prediction that muffing the Brexit trade deal bunny will lead to “civil unrest.” My interest is not the fate of the UK. I am, however, intrigued by an Amazon executive making a statement similar to those offered by individuals with access to intelligence centric next generation information access systems. (If you want additional information about NGIAs, check out CyberOSINT.)

The question which crossed my mind when I heard about the prediction was:

Does Amazon have access to an NGIA system similar to an IBM Analyst Notebook or a Palantir Gotham?

If the answer is, “No,” then I asked myself:

Does Amazon have its own intelligence analysis system?

From my vantage point in rural Kentucky, I have zero first hand information about Amazon and its possible intelligence capabilities.

It is indeed interesting to have this prediction emitted from what is usually a quite secretive outfit. My instincts suggest that Amazon does have an active intelligence system. This prediction may be a planned or unanticipated factoid by an Amazon executive.

Amazon does have some interesting capabilities, new functions which have been patented, and a number of vendors of policeware and intelware who use the Amazon AWS plumbing.

My takeaway from the prediction and the Guardian type coverage suggests that a closer, more informed look at what Amazon does to inform its executives of possible developments is warranted.

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2018

Amazon Clarification on Network Switches

July 19, 2018

I read an exclusive on Marketwatch. (I did not know it was “real” journalism.) The story is “Exclusive: Amazon Denies It Will Challenge Cisco with Switch Sales.” The story’s main point struck me as: Inc.’s top cloud-computing executive has officially denied that Amazon Web Services plans to start selling network switches to other businesses, after a report last week claiming that move was in the works damaged stocks of Cisco Systems Inc. and other major networking companies.

I think I understand.

Amazon may be building switches with Amazon Web Services and maybe its streaming data marketplace baked in. But these switches will not be old to “other businesses.”

Such a switch would add some functionality to Amazon’s own infrastructure. I wonder if these switches, assuming they exist, would add some beef to Amazon’s government client activities. For example, some lawful intercept activities take place at network tiers where there are some quite versatile switches.

The write up adds:

Amazon would not comment on whether it is creating its own networking equipment, just that it did not plan to sell such equipment to other businesses.

If Amazon wins more US government cloud and AWS centric work, certification of these devices eliminates possible questions about backdoors or phone home functions in gear sourced from other companies.

To sum up, Amazon does not deny it is building switches (whatever that term includes).

Worth watching in the context of the on going dust up between Oracle’s data marketplace and Amazon’s designs on building a new source of revenue with its marketplace innovations.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2018

An Amazon Statistic and the Word All

July 14, 2018

I read “Amazon’s Share of the US E Commerce Market Is Now 49% or 5% of All Retail Spend.” The idea of “all” is reassuring. One does not have to worry about precision. All means all, right. Cantor struggled with his view of all. That worry does not trouble the expert writing this article.

infinity symbol

Setting aside word choice, the factoid is semi interesting. Amazon has, according to this source, about half of the e commerce market in the US. Now the sample has to ask people who own a computing device, are able to get online, and who have some method for making a digital payment. If one considers what percentage of the US population checks these boxes, the “all” becomes a subset of the US population. The reason check cashing services exist pivots on the individuals who do not have a banking relationship either directly or via the mostly available prepaid credit cards. Using these prepaid credit cards can be interesting.

Let’s assume that Amazon does have a big chunk of the US e commerce market. The write up suggests that Amazon is heading toward a tipping point. The idea, I think, is that the “all” really will mean every nickel and dime spent online for “retail products.” The idea that Amazon’s growth is surprising strikes me as interesting. The key metric is the rate of change between each major financial milestone. At one time, Google was smoking along. Has Amazon’s growth been chugging along with a nifty slope between time and financial data (remember those?)

An outfit called eMarketer provides data which illustrates how Amazon is making revenue in clothing, beauty items, and groceries.

The only problem I have is that Amazon’s online success is old news. Not far from our log cabin in rural Kentucky, Wal-Mart closed three of its retail outlets. I think that Amazon’s success in e commerce was a contributing factor. In some demographic segments, Amazon’s share of the US retail market is nosing toward 80 percent. Even in rural Kentucky, our rescue French bulldog can be run over by one of the six or seven Amazon deliveries each day unless we are on our toes.

So what?

  • Amazon’s tipping point was reached a couple of years ago? Amazon is now just running plays from its 20 year old playbook. We’re into déjà vu territory.
  • Amazon’s e commerce system is part of a slightly more sophisticated online store. I think it may be helpful for some whiz kid analysts to think about Oracle’s data marketplace and ask, “What does that have in common with Amazon’s retail business?”
  • The notion of “all” is not a helpful way to explain what Amazon has achieved. eMarketer like many other professionals think about consumer products. Big market indeed. There are other ways to look at Amazon’s platform.

Why are these questions important? If Amazon is going to generate enough revenue to double or triple its revenue, it will have to do more than sell T shirts, avocados, and vinyl records.

Wal-Mart’s “Amazon disease” is now spreading to other markets. The “all” misleads when used without a more informed context.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2018

Some Happy, Some Sad in Seattle Over Cloud Deal Review

July 12, 2018

I know little about the procurement skirmishes fought over multi billion dollar deals for cloud services. The pragmatic part of my experience suggests that the last thing most statement of work and contract processes produce is efficient, cost effective contracts. Quite a few COTRs, lawyers, super grades, and mere SETAs depend on three things:

  1. Complex, lengthy processes; that is, work producing tasks
  2. Multiple vendors; for example, how many databases does one agency need? Answer: Many, many databases. Believe me, there are many great reasons ranging from the way things work in Washington to legacy systems which will never be improved in my lifetime.
  3. Politics. Ah, yes, lobbyists, special interests, friends of friends, and sometimes the fact that a senior official knows that a person once worked at a specific outfit.

When I read, “Deasy Pauses on JEDI Cloud Acquisition,” I immediately thought about the giant incumbent database champions like IBM Federal Systems and Oracle’s government operations unit.


Department of Defense CIO Dana Deasy wants a “full top down, bottom up review” of the JEDI infrastructure acquisition.

But there was a moment of reflection, when I realized that this procurement tussle will have significant impact on the Seattle area. You know, Seattle, the city which has delivered Microsoft Bob and the Amazon mobile phone.

Microsoft and Amazon are in the cloud business. Microsoft is the newcomer, but it is the outfit which has the desktops of many government agencies. Everyone loves SharePoint. The Department of Defense could not hold a briefing without PowerPoint.

Let’s not forget Amazon. That is the platform used by most government workers, their families, and possibly their friends if that Amazon account slips into the wild. Who could exist in Tyson’s Corner or Gaithersburg without Amazon delivering essential foods such as probiotic supplements for the dog.

Microsoft is probably thrilled that the JEDI procurement continues to be a work in progress. Amazon, on the other hand, is likely to be concerned that its slam dunk for a government cloud game home run has been halted due to procedural thunderstorms.

Thus, part of Seattle is really happy. Another part of Seattle is not so happy.

Since I don’t’ have a dog in this fight, my hunch is that little in Washington, DC changes from administrative change to administrative change.

But this Seattle dust up will be interesting to watch. I think it will have a significant impact on Amazon and Microsoft. IBM Federal Systems and Oracle will be largely unscathed.

Exciting procurement activity is underway. Defense Department CIO Deasy Deasy’s promise of a “full top down, bottom up review” sounds like the words to a song I have heard many times.

With $10 billion in play, how long will that review take? My hunch is that it will introduce the new CIO to a new concept, “government time.”

Stephen E Arnold, July 12, 2018

Amazon: Its Artificial Intelligence Is Not Up to Snuff

July 10, 2018

I read “AI Is The Weakness In Amazon’s Push To Take On Google And Facebook.” I am not sure I can hop on board this train. One reason is technologies like Amazon’s Integration Based Anomaly Detection Service. I do not want to slog through this particular artifact from 2011, but it does reveal that the online bookstore has some reasonably sophisticated smart software.

The capitalist tool, however, takes a different viewpoint. I learned from the article:

Amazon has made a good start but to really move forward it will need to make its targeting much more effective. There are many users who have been on the receiving end of Amazon advertisements for products that they have already purchased. If Amazon’s advertising system is not even able to get this bit right, it will be a long time before it can really understand user behavior and make its advertising that much more effective.

Okay, Amazon does not use smart software the way Facebook and Google do. I think I understand.

The article continues:

This comes down the quality of the AI algorithms that it uses to understand its users and work out what products and services they are more likely to respond to. When it comes to this, Amazon is way behind Google but ahead of Facebook meaning that advertisers currently using Facebook might be lured away more easily. That being said, Amazon has been losing some sellers to Instagram (see here) where product discovery is easier given the lower volume of sellers and where the costs and conditions of selling are not nearly as onerous. Hence, for the simple stuff on its own website, Amazon’s advertising revenues should continue to grow nicely.

I like the idea that Amazon’s approach lacks the quality of Facebook’s and Google’s approach. Nifty assertion. I would suggest that perhaps Amazon offers advertisers a different value proposition based on cross correlation and specific real time browsing and purchasing behavior.

Probabilities are useful. But knowing what a person wants to buy at a particular point in time might cause some advertisers to sit up and take notice.

Artificial intelligence hoo-hah is sort of fun, just not as compelling as real time streaming data about specific user intent and actions.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2018

Amazon Wake Up Call Arrives Late

July 9, 2018

I read “Jeff Bezos and Amazon Have the Adveretising Industry Looking over Its Shoulder.” In my mind, the dusty alarm clock has emitted a “ringy dingy.” But some appear to have overslept.

Google and its DoubleClick goodies have been sucking ad dollars for years. Facebook jumped on the bandwagon. Even the Silicon Valley fave Twitter has seen the light.

Now is it a surprise that Amazon is likely to nose into the advertising business?

Not in Harrod’s Creek. Product question? Check out Amazon. One can learn about a product. Get information about alternatives. See charts which make it easy to compare products.

CNBC reports:

Amazon has what many in the advertising industry regard as the most important piece of the puzzle: what people buy.

It is interesting that CNBC has now recognized that quite specific data anchored directly to an individual identity in real time has value. Spewing probable ads to individuals who may be interested in a probably interesting ad is different from knowing that a specific person buys a specific type of probiotic for a dog. You get frequency. You get method of payment. You get delivery location. You get quite a bit of cross correlated data. In short, you get identify of the first order kind, not a probabalistic pot of possibllities.

The article notes that Amazon is a disruptive force.

No kidding?

Check out this factoid:

A big part of Amazon’s advantage is its use as a search engine, with one consumer survey finding almost half of all product searches start on Amazon rather than Google.

As you may surmise, the Beyond Search and DarkCyber research teams think that advertising may be important to Amazon.

We would like to point out that advertising is not where the Amazon big buck revenue will originate. Advertising is one revenue stream, not the revenue stream.

What’s the bigger picture? CNBC doesn’t reveal this point. Should Facebook and Google worry? I think both companies are already worried but like CNBC, both may have overslept.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2018

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