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Projects

A few projects from my archives

Most projects here were part of a wider technology-transformation effort that I championed to generate growth. In many cases I built a lab to develop deep tech, often in the 10% region of the 70-20-10 “rule” of R&D.

Most projects involved direct C-suite sponsorship. Besides hands-on building of tech, I have constructed many tech-transformation visions for clients, such as Acision, Navteq (Nokia), Microsoft, Vodafone, Naspers, GSMA, Ericsson etc.

I am also a partner at Interpret Design (ID), a design-thinking business focussed on digital transformation via AI, co-founded with leading design-thinker Professor Rick Lewis (ex-Ideo, ex-Frog).

Want to discuss a potential project? Contact me.

Digital Experience Platform (DXP) AI Strategy and Research

For Sitecore, a sales-focussed DXP vendor with >5000 clients, including many of the world’s leading brands (Revlon, Volvo, Microsoft) I developed an “AI-first” tech/product roadmap with a particular focus on intersections between composable headless CMS and Web3 (tokenized commerce) and Metaverse (immersive commerce, or 3D stores). Work included development of novel “No Design” approach to web authoring.

Digital Experience

Web3 Metaverse Platform

For a Bay Area start-up, I helped define a set of Web3 protocols and dApps for the implementation of a hybrid Metaverse-Web3 data platform for building customer experiences that can exist in the emerging “Decentralized Metaverse”. This is based upon my experience with cryptographic techniques (for which I have patents) from my earlier career in mobile signal processing.

Web3 Network

AI-Powered Data Fabric

For a stealth start-up out of UC Berkeley’s incubator program, I led architecture for a Data Fabric solution using MMOG gaming (back-end) technology that is “Metaverse” compatible via the novel use of the highly composable Entity-Component-System pattern.

My contribution was Data Fabric architecture and design of the AI services layer. The work involved NLP, Elasticsearch and novel AI solutions related to knowledge management, including graph processing. The architecture was AWS “serverless” designed to support massive simulations of enterprise scenarios.

Deep AI Personalization for Fintech Customer Acquisition

For Prosper Inc, I built a series of PoCs and filed related patent applications in the area of user-journey personalization. This included novel AI multimodal embeddings and a variety of related techniques. The guiding principle was to develop tools that marketing folks could “self-serve” to assist with automating marketing decisions across the entire user journey without relying upon data scientists and bespoke analyses.

The work including handling “AI Alignment/Safety/Bias” to mitigate “disparate impact” wherein users must not be discriminated against based upon parameters that are illegal (e.g. gender, race). These factors are easily masked in certain types of AI approach, so I developed a framework for “explainable AI” using “adversarial” techniques.

Attempts were made to model “financial personality” via correlation of financial activity with psychometric profiles. This work was patented.

image to abstractly represent personas

AI Chat Bot – “Finance Speak”

I architected an AI bot that can understand all things “consumer finance”, especially lending. The goal was to provide a novel technical capability for the client in order to pivot towards a more horizontal market (e.g. consumer financial management). Calling an agent is too much friction whereas chatting to a regular “support/faq bot” is too frustrating due to their typical lack of sophistication.

Much of my patented work was attempting a so-called Level-3/4 bot with conversational capabilities via a “financial-speak language model”. Some of the research was coping with dialogs that stray from the happy path by attempting to track user attention as it meanders from subject to subject, as happens in conventional dialog. Techniques included a novel application of embeddings in a conjoined vector space that attempted to model typical finance-speak pathways. A blend of supervised and unsupervised techniques were used to improve the handling of ambiguity in customer intent.

 

Blockchain: Retail Lineage

Combining my work to develop blockchain protocols for lending with my experience in e-commerce, I attempted to build a platform to tackle fraud in the multi-billion luxury goods market.

There are two types of fraud – blatant knock-offs and deceitful trading of goods claiming them to be originals. The latter has led to specialized websites like Flight Club who act as an intermediary to vouch for authenticity of branded luxury goods.

I developed on-chain protocols to produce transferable point-of-sale digital receipts via what are called NFTs. The project was framed as an ecosystem approach whereby consumers and merchants could trade goods with digital receipts. I spoke to various luxury brands, such as Yeezy, Burberry and Louis Vitton. The project was shelved due to early concerns with NFT energy consumption that would clash with brands’ sustainability goals.

The image is an MVP website to attract vendor interest in the scheme. Yes, I spoke to the Yeezy CEO, but they were not interested in the scheme as they don’t make the products.

ML: Dynamic Pricing

I provided technical consultation for the Credit Risk division in Prosper Inc. to explore the mathematical and computational foundations of elastic pricing (see my slides) for unsecured loans based upon the seminal work of world-leading scientist Dr. Robert Philips.

Pricing of loans by lenders is typically a function of credit risk, but this can be extended to be a function of demand elasticity and competitor pricing.

My job was to interpret the foundations of pricing credit products using dynamic methods to the point that our credit team had a basis for a product. Most of my contribution was in parsing the dense literature and interpreting some of the key mathematical principles into Python code to demonstrate how to map the methods to an on-line architecture. Later on, this project was adopted using MLOps methods to achieve dynamic releases of the algorithms.

The image is one of my slides from the project showing how to find the optimal price via hazard functions.

Computer Vision: Financial Document Verification

For Prosper Inc, I explored the bottleneck problem of financial document verification for online lending.

Using a novel ensemble of computer vision techniques, such as Microsoft Research’s stroke-width-transform, I built a containerized patented pipeline in Numpy that, unlike conventional “check deposit” systems, could analyze financial documents at any angle and with any degree of background noise, such as a user might casually snap with their mobile camera (unconstrained due to the lack of a mobile app). Under such conditions, my solution out-performed leading finance-OCR solutions by Lead Tools and DL solutions using Google Cloud Vision. The end result was an easier and quicker application process for customers with overall conversion increase.

The image is a one of the outputs from my implementation of the Stroke Width Transform.

Blockchain: Lending IaaS

Prosper Inc. is a fintech leader who pioneered marketplace lending, connecting individual lenders with borrowers. Using digital orchestration and ML-based credit rating, unsecured loans are closed far quicker than banks.

But what’s next? Running an innovation lab, I led development of a suite of patented blockchain protocols that would allow frictionless instant lending, and even pre-emptive lending via “smart money” (read my article on Medium). This is more than just publishing loans on chain. That would be like storing photos of dollar bills and calling it “Bitcoin”. Hardly!

The project was part of an engagement to explore Horizon 3 futures and IP generation as a future-proof vehicle for growth via category-defining user experiences (instant “smart” loans).

AI: Perceptual Color Harmony and Natural Language Generation (NLG)

Color sits at the center of any decor project. However, the computational, biological and perceptional reality of color are very different, especially within the realities of consumer life. For example, it is insufficient to merely count color pixels in an image and use the histogram to characterize the art, as done by naive color-matching algorithms. Color perception is highly influenced by saliency, or what we find interesting in a picture, even more so within a decor context. The perception of art is deeply mysterious — it is possible to hang a picture in our lounge, glance at it a hundreds of times and yet fail to notice its true (veridical) colors.

Working at Art.com for the CTO, where I founded an innovation lab with significant risk-investment from the CEO, I led development of some of the world’s best (and patented) color-perception technology to provide a means for Art.com to pivot into a wider decor market with novel customer-satisfying solutions. Additionally, I built a Natural Language Generation (NLG) algorithm (pre LLMs) that could describe the colors of any piece of art using the vernacular of an interior designer (using a language model derived from interior design blogs and a novel “art style” classification method). 

The image is a collection of UIs from tools we developed to curate and analyze color schemes. The lower left image shows the output from a language-machine used to generate artificial color-based descriptions of products.

Hardware/IoT: Digital Art

After extensive analysis of how to solve the Discovery problem in art and decor, I helped create a skunkworks project to build a novel digital art display that could adapt to user tastes and interests over time.

I created a hardware lab (metaphorically and physically) to create a hardware device, embedded software and a mobile app at lightning speed with tight budgets. We also created (and patented) a novel file player format (called .art) to support long-playing artworks that evolve over periods of up to 1 year. And, to bootstrap the art platform, I worked with the marketing team to create an extensive network of early adopter artists.

The pilot was a success with excess demand for devices and a number of key patents. It was shut down when Walmart acquired Art.com (years after I left).

E-commerce Digital AI Lab

Discovery of art and decor (or any aesthetic product) is complicated by the tendency of users to say “I know what I like when I see it“. As consulting Chief Scientist, I led comprehensive design research programs using AI, neuroscience, neurobiology, psychology and ethnography to find foundational (and computational) methods that could predict what a user might like upon seeing it. [Image to the right shows tastes in art as discovered via social curation networks in the data.]

The work was done in a “innovation lab” that I directed. Some of the concepts are documented in this slide share.

I collaborated with world’s experts in color at the Pantone Color Institute and many leading decor brands.

Among other things, I invented a method to discover the theoretical limits of how quickly a user could “like it when they see it”. This was an extension of perceptional vision work at MIT.

The work generated substantial IP patent portfolio for the client that significantly impacted valuation multiples at the time.

The image is a real map of connetions between user-curated collections as a method of theme discovery.

Causal/Graph AI: Consumer Prediction

Sixth Sense was a start-up that I co-founded in Cupertino, CA with a stellar team lead by Silicon Valley luminary Bobby Srinivasan. Its goal was to predict consumer “next action” or “in the moment” behaviors as close to real-time as possible using mobile network, supplemental location and financial transaction data (from the Visa network).

I proposed a platform to use a novel method called Knowledge Signature Analysis using techniques that are now more commonly called Causal AI or Knowledge-Graph CNN techniques.

From our initial pitch deck.

IoT/ML/AI: Sensor Networks

McLaren is a tour de force in the world of high-precision F1 racing and luxury sports cars. McLaren’s brand is synonymous with “performance engineering”.

I was hired by McLaren’s Applied Technologies to extend the reach of “performance engineering” to new clients (and revenue streams) by architecting a sensing “stream-processing” platform that could ingest data from any number of IoT devices and process the data in real-time using ML, AI or functional programming.

The work exploited McLaren’s reputation with real-time sensing of F1 racing cars. The goal was to  attract clients in the “performance sports” industry (e.g. Nike, Specialized) to build new and sustainable revenue streams with low volatility.

The platform and vision were central to the initial growth and reputation of the MAT division.

Designing a stream-processing architecture.

O2 UK Labs: Building at the “speed of thought”

I was a technical co-founder as part of an agile cross-functional team — an “intrapreneurial” unit — inside of O2 (UK) and Telefonica R&D (Spain). I formulated and executed the idea of “Operator 2.0” — the translation of Web 2.0 methods and tech stacks into carrier ops. Projects I created include:

#Blue – a text-messaging API built using “lean” methods and modern software techniques at 1/10th the cost of historical carrier product costs: one of the earliest applications of “Lean” inside of a large org (use case shared with Eric Ries.)

O2 Incubator – the first start-up incubator created by a telco in Europe, sponsored by Sir Simon Devonshire who went on to run Telefonica’s Wayra London.

connFu — see next project.

During this engagement, I evangelized the concept of Connected Services and wrote a book to explain it (read review here). It has been widely read by carrier executives globally.

I am proud of this slide as it convinced a Telefonica CFO to invest in more labs projects as a means to “fail early” and thus avoid massive capital wastage.

cPaaS Innovation: connFu

Whilst consulting for O2 UK, I approached the internal fund of the R&D division of Telefonica to fund a radical new approach to building carrier services: connFu.

This was both a platform and a scripting language (“Domain Specific Language” – DSL) — see example in adjacent image. I designed the scripting language to be based upon Ruby given its popularity at the time (Ruby on Rails) with developers.

connFu enabled developers (internal/external) to create telco services “at the speed of thought” – i.e. as fast as someone could code, versus the old carrier waterfall method that hindered innovation via unrealistic timelines and budgets.

The telephony services were powered by a telephony server product (Voxeo) atop of the Jajah IP-telephony network (strategically acquired by Telefonica). The lab included an extension into Silicon Valley to “infuse” the telco with modern software techniques, such as Lean, Agile and TDD.

This was the first – and seemingly only – time that a carrier built its own developer-friendly scripting language and fully embraced the APIs and Open Platforms approach. This work led to me writing the book “Connected Services” to explain how to understand and map open platform methodologies to telcos. 

 

This is real code from the project, showing a custom DSL that I designed (connFu Script) to write telco-based applications. This was before Twilio was doing it and, keep in mind, done within the behemoth of a telco.

Motorola Labs: Mobile Mash-Ups

Motorola hired me as a technical “co-intrapreneur” to build a brand new business unit that offered scalable apps services to carriers. I assumed the role of Chief Architect, bringing “Web 2.0” methods into a more traditional J2EE world.

Besides providing the entire apps strategy, I was hands-on with architecting numerous solutions, including content management systems, mobile TV platforms, voice services, push-to-talk and music streaming using SIP signaling extensions.

I also created a “Mash-Ups Lab” in Chicago for building service mash-ups atop of the platform. We built the world’s first location-based taxi-hailing system that also included single-click voice connections (using IMS) between driver and passenger. It was Uber before Uber.

Later, I provided IMS consulting expertise to Microsoft Exchange team as they started to embrace IP-telephony services. I also consulted for the GSMA to benchmark proposed IMS chat protocols against existing protocols like Jabber etc.

This is a slide from a deck I used to present on a carrier roadshow in the MENA region about the newly emerging “always on” economy of apps. A pity that most carriers didn’t see it, even when pointed out to them.

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