UK ditches homegrown COVID-19 tracing app for Google-Apple model – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Britain will switch to the Apple and Google model for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app, ditching an attempt to develop an app by itself after the homegrown system did not work well enough on Apple’s iPhone, the government said on Thursday.
The test-and-trace program is key to reopening the country but has been dogged by problems. A smartphone app developed by the Tempemail Health Service (NHS) was initially expected to be rolled out nationwide in May but did not materialise.
Health minister Matt Hancock appeared to blame Apple in part for the pivot, adding that the decentralised Google-Apple system would benefit from work done on the abortive NHS app.
“As it stands, our app won’t work because Apple won’t change their system, but it can measure distance. And their app can’t measure distance well enough, to a standard we are satisfied with,” he said at the daily news conference.
“So we’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together.”
Dido Harding, head of the test-and-trace programme has described the app as the “cherry on the cake” of the overall test-and-trace system, playing down its centrality to the programme.
But figures for the second week of England’s test-and-trace showed that while over 85,000 people who had tested positive for the new coronavirus had been reached in the first two weeks, over 25% of positive cases could not be reached.
Officials running the programme admitted that the change of tack on the app was unplanned but denied that it was a setback, emphasising that they did not want to rush out an app which fell short of standards.
But the opposition Labour party said that warnings about the homegrown app had not been heeded.
“This is unsurprising and yet another example of where the government’s response has been slow and badly managed. It’s meant precious time and money wasted,” Labour health spokesman Jon Ashworth said.
Britain’s adoption of the ‘decentralised’ approach for its app followed a growing number of European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
But Apple and Google’s model has frustrated governments, as they undercut the technology’s usefulness by prioritising user privacy.
The pivot happened after the NHS app, which was being tested on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England, was found to work well on Google’s Android operating systems but not on Apple iPhones.
However, Britain wants further improvements to the Google-Apple platform, meaning that the original hope of a launch in May is set to be missed by months rather than weeks.
“We’re not going to put a date on it I’m afraid because I’m absolutely determined that whilst this technology can help, it’s got to be working effectively,” Hancock said.

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DTA moves to review broken government IT funding model – Strategy – Cloud- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The Digital Transformation Agency will formally review the federal government’s outdated IT funding model in a bid to better support agile delivery approaches and common, reusable platforms.
Long-held issues with the federal budget approval process have been top of mind for the peak IT agency since a fundamental shake-up of the federal budget approval process was flagged late last year.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert has called on the agency to explore different funding models with key departments like Finance and Defence to address decades of deep-set problems with the current paradigm.
He is keen to introduce a new investment model that would allow “agencies to try things, learn and scale up or share their learnings before significant amounts of money and reputation capital are sunk into projects that may not deliver what they set out to do”.
However, the funding model as it currently stands, is “inhibiting the take up of more agile ways of delivery”, as it has “failed to keep up with the growth of cloud and other service and subscription-based models”, he said.
This is largely because the investment model is orientated around capital and operational expenditure, which is designed for owning IT assets – especially software intangibles – rather than consuming them as services.
The DTA has now taken its exploration to the next level, appealing to the market for “whole-of-government digital and ICT policy and governance advice” to inform its thinking on a future investment strategy.
In a brief issued on the digital marketplace, the DTA called for “experienced sellers who have proven capability to support development of options and strategies for whole-of-Government ICT and digital governance and investment policy reform”.
“The project seeks to review and assess the current whole-of-Government digital and ICT investment policy landscape and governance arrangements, and to develop a roadmap of future work to address gaps and opportunities,” it said.
The DTA said the “forward work program”, which is slated to begin later this month and run for approximately six weeks, will provide it with “a roadmap for focused ongoing strategic policy and governance activity”.
“The project will identify policy opportunities to optimise funding arrangements for digital and ICT investments – to better support development and sustainment of shared capabilities, and more flexible approaches to resourcing for agile delivery,” the agency said.
“In addition, it will consider models and processes for good whole-of-government digital and ICT decision-making, to ensure robust governance of performance, risk, strategic alignment, architecture, investment planning, stakeholder engagement, etc.”
One of the policy opportunities that is likely to be highlighted through the process, is a digital investment fund or central pot of money that can be used to support technology projects with an agile delivery mindset.
The NSW government has already gone down this path by creating a digital restart fund to support and accelerate government-wide digital projects, which other states and territories are now looking at. 
Senior government technology executives have been calling for changes to the IT investment process, which favours big-bang, waterfall-based technology projects, for a number of years now to address what are considered “fundamental” problems.
The DTA itself has been lobbying Finance to better support agile delivery since at least April 2018, including through the creation of a digital-specific investment fund that looks somewhat similar to NSW’s.

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Telstra’s Belong moves to fully digital support model – Software – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Telstra-owned Belong accelerated plans to switch to a fully digital customer support model after COVID-19 slashed the capacity of its contact centres and caused 11,000 unanswered requests to pile up.
Head of social media & digital content, Dion Van de Kamp, told Customer Contact Week A/NZ that a move to fully digitised support was already on the cards, forming part of Belong’s “strategic ambition”.
“COVID-19 just sped up the process,” he said.
The company has support teams in Melbourne and overseas. 
While the Melbourne-based teams moved to a work-from-home arrangement, which already existed, “85 percent of our customer service workforce overseas weren’t able to work anymore,” Van de Kamp said.
Support requests quickly ballooned, which led Belong to adjust its Australian operations.
“I think at our worst we had about 11,000 requests that needed attention at any given time,” Van de Kamp said.
“We made the call really early on to stop selling to most of our new customers, and we asked our Australian partner TSA to switch completely to service mode, which enabled us to really quickly focus all of our efforts on serving our existing customers. 
“The other decision we made pretty quickly was … to go digital
“We did manage to get our service levels back to normal after a week by doing a few things which are mostly around self-service, a chatbot, and deflections.”
Van de Kamp said the company saw a fully digital operation as a way to handle and triage the volume of support requests, given it was down on staff.
“We knew that we wouldn’t be able to reply to every customer, so we needed a lot of low-effort ways to handle our backlog but without causing additional pain,” he said.
“We didn’t want to just bombard [customers] with self service articles and create extra pain further down the line. 
“But our backlogs and service levels wouldn’t be where they are today without some of that triaging and deflection.”
Customers that look for support on Belong’s page are now directed to a chatbot in the first instance, which is powered by Zendesk software.
“The chatbot started solving tickets for us literally without any effort at all or build-time,” Van de Kamp said.
“The AI is improving every month. At the moment the chatbot is doing the equivalent work of almost three agents, and that’s without investing any time into it at all. It’s getting better every month without us building any extra knowledge into it. 
“That cost saving of three agents is great, but I think the real value lies in all of those customers it is helping. 
“Those customers aren’t waiting days for a reply. They are getting the answer instantly and going back on with their day.”
Certain customer service requests, such as financial hardship and service outages, are recognised and escalated internally.
“The second thing we built were priorities and some skills-based routing rules,” Van de Kamp said.
“We acknowledged early on that we can’t reply to all customers so we needed to find those ones that really needed us urgently.
“People without a working service, people with financial hardship or anything else that’s urgent, we really needed to rise to the top.”
The company is also using software to recognise problems across subsets of users, and then to reply to those customers “en masse”.
“[We can] see trends quickly, organise requests into different buckets, and deflect different cases down to really micro levels,” Van de Kamp said.
“We’re not giving broad robot answers. We’re creating fairly ‘micro’ responses, but replying to hundreds of people at a time.
“That just helped us make sure that our human time was spent with the customers that really needed that extra level of care and attention.”
Van de Kamp said that one advantage of moving to a full digital support operation is that it reduces pressure in interactions, affording agents time to seek out answers internally and respond appropriately.
He also said that the systems put in place would now be refined, though he noted the company had taken the approach of not implementing software that would require a great deal of rework following the “initial scramble” to implement it.
“Through the crisis we really didn’t want to scramble and do things that were going to cause more pain or things that we had to undo and reverse, or have to pivot too many times [from],” he said.
“For us it was really about staying true to our strategy, making sure that everything was reprioritised and able to be brought forward.”

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Victoria University successfully adapts radical Block Model for online delivery – Training & Development- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The latest academic results from Victoria University suggest the institution’s radical (and at times controversial) ‘Block Model’ has successfully integrated with remote teaching initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students at the university only take one course at a time during an intensified and condensed period known as block, as opposed to the de facto practice of running courses concurrently over the course of a semester.
Block Model critics questions whether the blocks are too short to consolidate a course’s knowledge and synthesise it with content from other courses, but it proponents point to an improvement in student numbers and results at Victoria University as proof of the method’s efficacy.
The university recently invested considerable time and effort ensuring content and its delivery (both in class and online) were we up to the challenge of the new delivery method, and overhauled its digital learning management system to support students through the changes.
Figures from VU suggest that students took the abrupt switch to online learning well, with their performance for the second block of semester one (spanning the lockdown-ridden month of April) marginally improving at the top end of the spectrum, with fewer recorded instances of dropouts or failures overall.
Data from Block 2, 2020 compared to Block 2 in 2019 (for all Melbourne students) show:• 25.0 percent of students achieved high distinctions, compared with 24.7 percent in 2019;• 26.3 percent of students achieved distinctions, compared with 27.8 percent in 2019;• 18.8 percent of students achieved credits, compared with 21.1 percent in 2019;• 8.0 percent of students achieved a pass, compared with 10.9 percent in 2019; and• 9.8 percent of students failed/withdrew, compared with 11.6 percent in 2019.
Given the disruption to the overall tertiary sector that has resulted in some student associations calling for refunds due to the lowered quality of teaching as universities went largely online, vice-chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins is hailing Victoria University’s results as a success for the Block Model.
“Students at VU are continuing to perform well both on and off-campus and have adapted successfully to the transition to flexible and remote learning, which is shown through this testing period,” Dawkins said.
“The results also reflect the commitment of our teaching staff who have undergone rapid and significant professional development to ensure teaching quality as well as successful student engagement and outcomes through innovative learning strategies.”
It’s worth noting, however, that students at most other universities are yet to complete their studies for the semester or trimester – a period of time that spans back to before isolation and video conferences became the norm for large swathes of society.
One thing many other universities are also having to come to terms with is a higher rate of students dropping courses, either due to dissatisfaction with remote delivery or other COVID-19 related causes.
While VU hasn’t broken out which students failed versus how many dropped out, the numbers are better than this time last year.
It’s also experienced a strong increase in the number of students enrolled for Block 3, a rise of 20 percent compared to 2019, which may be partly attributed to the growing number of unemployed people seeking to retrain or upskill in the wake of mass lay-offs.

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UK may ditch NHS contact-tracing app for Apple and Google model | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

The government has left open the prospect of ditching its own contact-tracing app in favour of the “decentralised” model favoured by Apple and Google after it was revealed that a feasibility study into such a change is under way.
After repeated warnings that the UK will be an outlier if it insists on using its own centralised app rather than relying on Google and Apple’s technology, rights groups and MPs said on Thursday that the lack of privacy and data protections could mean that the app would be illegal.
With growing questions over that approach, it emerged that the Swiss-based consultancy Zühlke Engineering has been hired to undertake a two-week “technical spike” to investigate implementing Apple and Google’s system “within the existing proximity mobile application and platform”.
Zühlke has already been working on the contact-tracing app since March, documents published this week show, but a new outsourcing contract, first reported by the Financial Times and uncovered by public sector analysts Tussell, shows that the government is now seriously considering changing how the application works to overcome problems with its initial approach.
After one source told the Guardian that Downing Street was now sceptical of decisions made in the health service to create a separate app, No 10 sources played down the idea of any division.
But the prime minister’s official spokesman left open the possibility that a change could be made, telling reporters: “We’ve set out our plans for a centralised model and that’s what we are taking forwards but we will keep all options under review to make sure the app is as effective as possible.”

Under the current plans, NHSX would build its own app, and use a “centralised” model for the service, in which information about who has had contact with who would be shared, in anonymised form, with the health service itself.
The centralised model brings advantages in terms of useful insights into the spread of the disease, but also imposes technical limitations that the government has not been able to fully overcome. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the app relies on a form of “Android herd immunity”, facing connectivity issues in situations where there are not enough users of Google’s smartphone operating system.

contact tracing graphic
A switch to the decentralised approach created by Apple and Google themselves would solve these connectivity issues, but limit the visibility the NHS has on the wider spread of the virus.
On Monday, Matthew Gould, the head of NHSX, told a parliamentary committee that the decision to build the app without the involvement of the Californian companies was not fixed in stone. “If it becomes clear that a different approach is a better one and achieves the things that we need to achieve more effectively, we will change. We are not particularly wedded to a single approach. It is a very pragmatic decision about which approach is likely to get the results that we need.
“If we want to take a different approach, we might have to do some heavy-duty engineering work to make that happen. But I want to provide some reassurance that just because we have started down one route does not mean that we are locked into it.”

How Covid-19 contact tracing can help beat the pandemic
The day after that, on Tuesday, NHSX awarded the contract to Zühlke Engineering to explore the feasibility of a switch.
News of a potential rewrite was welcomed by those who had criticised the government’s previous approach to the app. Michael Veale, a privacy expert at UCL, said: “It looks like academics, civil society and parliament would rush to vocally support the app if the government pivots to the decentralised approach that other countries’ epidemiologists and technologists promote, and place real safeguards into hard law. This has been clear for weeks.”

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Ex-CIO, Daya Prakash launches unique Pay-As-You-Wish model to help IT people hit hard by the Covid 19 crisis- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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As the whole world has rolled up sleeves against the novel coronavirus and Covid19, the effect of pandemic and lockdown is showing its ugly face in India too. Amidst the national lockdown, many firms have chosen layoffs to cut on costs and thus thousands of real talented employees are now jobless.
In these uncertain times, Daya Prakash, Ex-CIO of LG India, has innovated by offering a unique pay-as-you-wish model, through his firm, TalentOnLease.
The firm had been successfully serving about 20-25 small, medium and large customers before Covid-19 hit the global economy. Suddenly, within a few weeks it realized that things weren’t moving in the right direction as the candidates who had offers in hand, and were supposed to join new companies suddenly saw their offers getting revoked. The firm also got communication from some of its clients to put all open positions on hold till further communication.
Says Daya Prakash, Founder of TalentOnLease, “We studied industry wide impact on jobs in India and quickly realized that many people had already lost jobs and many were going to in coming weeks to months. We have seen a vast majority of people coming out to support human kind in different ways i.e. donating money and providing food etc to fight this pandemic. We at TalentOnLease strongly feel that it’s our social responsibility to do its bit in helping the Indian economy to stand back on its feet. So we were thinking of ways to do our bit of contribution beyond donation and other charity work. We realized that we had enough resources with us to support especially those people who have lost their job due to #Covid19. We initially thought to extend our recruitment services absolutely free of cost for our customers. However this would have left us high and dry and we could face the challenge of self survival.”
This led to the creation of the unique pay-as-you-wish model. “We thought of creating a fine balance where the objective is not to earn profits but we make sure that we do it in a self sustainable manner. Thus the rise of the “Pay-As-You-Wish” model. This gives flexibility to customers in deciding if they wish to ask us for a 100% discount. Eventually we want to measure the impact of our contribution by the number of people we could help through this initiative and not by any other means. It would also be an important benchmark for us to be able to retain the current team through this tough time. To achieve our goal, we are introducing this option for our recruitment service where clients could ask up to 100% discount on our services till the end of June’20.”
Daya Prakash has urged companies to share their open IT positions with it and in turn, the company will will help in identifying who to hire from a pool of talented resources.

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Ashoka University and ThoughtWorks to build simulation model to track Covid 19 spread- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Ashoka University and ThoughtWorks today announced a research collaboration to develop the first ultra-large-scale agent-based simulation model for the spread of COVID-19 in India. The model, called BharatSim, builds on EpiRust, an open source framework developed and released recently by ThoughtWorks.
In BharatSim each individual is simulated as an “agent” on a computer. The properties of agents are chosen to match those known from district and state-level demographic studies, including age distributions, sex ratios, population densities and health indicators. The model will also include geographical information.
The model will initially represent 5% of the Indian population at a level of detail most useful to epidemic modeling. In the coming months, it will be expanded to represent up to 40% of the Indian population.  The team of developers is led by Gautam Menon, Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University, and by Harshal Hayatnagarkar, Computer Scientist at ThoughtWorks, Engineering for Research (E4R) team.
Professor Menon said, “Scientists understand that working collaboratively frees us to concentrate on what we are best at. Once completed, BharatSim will be made freely available to the community of researchers and policymakers in India and elsewhere.”
Professor Malabika Sarkar, Vice-Chancellor, Ashoka University added, “While data on Covid-19 keep pouring in, the country has not been able to understand how the pandemic has spread across the country yet and if it has had a controlled spread. BharatSim will enable us to understand the effects of the measures taken by India and what the future looks like for us.”
Agent-based models provide ways of understanding how epidemics spread in a way that no other models are capable of. They incorporate a high level of detail and are also flexible, since they can allow agents to modify their behavior as time proceeds. The approach can model interventions such as a lock-down or a local quarantine, as well as incorporate the effects of different levels of compliance with these measures. It can also provide estimates of hospital bed and critical care requirements in an epidemic situation. Because the model allows for comparing different interventions, it will provide a powerful tool for decision making.
Commenting on the partnership, Gunjan S & S Mahale, Directors, ThoughtWorks Engineering for Research (E4R) said, “Some of the toughest problems and challenges in science today need scientists, academics and technologists to come together. Given the unprecedented nature of the problem at hand, teaming up with Ashoka University we believe we can provide the right tool for policy makers”

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How traditional Australian brands can change business model during coronavirus- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Traditional Australian brands should focus on four key areas, according to the IAB, to adapt to the direct brand model to address the rapidly changing market condition during the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
Brands need to understand the opportunity of direct-to-consumer, including the value of using new channels and routes to market that offer first-party data relationships, return to a clear brand purpose and position the brand as a master of a category to demonstrate authority.
Finally, they need to employ a nimble test and learn approach to marketing and innovation in product development.
This is according to a report called Direct Brands Australia that was commissioned by IAB Australia to help the local industry understand the implications of the rise of direct brands.
The report also refuted the idea that direct brand shoppers are just millennials, with nearly two-thirds of those who have purchased from a direct brand aged over 40.
It also found that almost 80% of all direct brand shoppers always research before making a brand purchase for the first time, versus 66% for people who do not purchase from direct brands.
“Direct brands are redefining what it means to be a customer-centric, data-driven business. Even though this research was conducted pre-Covid-19, the findings are more important than ever for marketers,” said Gai Le Roy, the chief executive of IAB Australia.
“These direct brand organisations are engaging resilient and well-rounded marketers who are hands-on with the promotional components, as well as driving product, pricing and distribution strategies. While direct brands will find themselves in a learning phase as they mature, the success of sustainable direct brands offers important lessons for the wider retail and advertising industries.”
The report also noted the convergence of commerce, data and content, popularised by direct brands and e-tailers, is also surfacing the opportunity for direct brands to potentially disrupt traditional media companies.
The IAB felt this could result in a few savvy, highly successful multi-disciplined direct brand companies becoming the new media gatekeepers, using their own first-party user data and selling ads on their own content.
Read the full report here.

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Facebook AI model beats Google, runs 5 times faster on GPUs- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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A team from Facebook AI Research (FAIR) has developed a novel low-dimensional design space called ‘RegNet’ that outperforms traditional available models like from Google and runs five times faster on GPUs.
RegNet produces simple, fast and versatile networks and in experiments, it outperformed Google’s SOTA EfficientNet models, said the researchers in a paper titled ‘Designing Network Design Spaces; published on pre-print repository ArXiv.
The researchers aimed for “interpretability and to discover general design principles that describe networks that are simple, work well, and generalize across settings”.
The Facebook AI team conducted controlled comparisons with EfficientNet with no training-time enhancements and under the same training setup.
Introduced in 2019, Google’s EfficientNet uses a combination of NAS and model scaling rules and represents the current SOTA.
With comparable training settings and Flops, RegNet models outperformed EfficientNet models while being up to 5× faster on GPUs.
Rather than designing and developing individual networks, the team focused on designing actual network design spaces comprising huge and possibly infinite populations of model architectures.
Design space quality is analyzed using error empirical distribution function (EDF).
Analyzing the RegNet design space also provided researchers other unexpected insights into network design.
They noticed, for example, that the depth of the best models is stable across compute regimes with an optimal depth of 20 blocks (60 layers).
“While it is common to see modern mobile networks employ inverted bottlenecks, researchers noticed that using inverted bottlenecks degrades performance. The best models do not use either a bottleneck or an inverted bottleneck, said the paper.
Facebook AI research team recently developed a tool that tricks the facial recognition system to wrongly identify a person in a video.
The “de-identification” system, which also works in live videos, uses machine learning to change key facial features of a subject in a video.
FAIR is advancing the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence through fundamental and applied research in open collaboration with the community.
The social networking giant created the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) group in 2014 to advance the state of the art of AI through open research for the benefit of all.
Since then, FAIR has grown into an international research organization with labs in Menlo Park, New York, Paris, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and London.

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Tesla begins deliveries of the Model Y crossover – Blog – 10 minute

In brief: Tesla’s highly-anticipated crossover, inspired by and priced similarly to its Model 3 sedan, is finally reaching customers in the US, with the first delivery reportedly made to a buyer in Utah.
Thanks to production capacity boosted by its Shanghai factory, along with improvements made to existing facilities, Tesla was able to shrink the Model Y’s release window by six months, with production commencing in late January.
The automaker had set deliveries for sometime in March and was able to achieve this milestone recently after shipping a Model Y to its first buyer in Utah. Details of the mid-sized crossover were revealed over a year ago by Elon Musk, who was particularly optimistic about the Model Y.
“I think we’ll probably do more Ys than S, X and 3s combined,” he stated at the time.

Model Y deliveries begin!https://t.co/ZhuiM5MTOf pic.twitter.com/3gX6MBPmhp
— Tesla (@Tesla) March 16, 2020

Given the public’s booming interest and liking for high-riding, spacious transport, Musk’s notion about the Model Y outdoing all of the company’s other currently available models is certainly plausible, with rival Porsche seeing similar consumer interest for its mid-sized Macan SUV in the US last year.
In terms of vehicle dimensions, Model Y buyers can look forward to a 63.9-inch tall body (7.1 inches more than the Model 3), a 113.8-inch long wheelbase (0.6 inches longer than the sedan) with 6.6 inches of ground clearance. These figures appear in the Model Y’s owner manual, with Electrek drawing more comparisons of the car with the Model 3 for interested readers.
Another noticeable detail about the Model Y is that it isn’t officially equipped for towing, with the corresponding capacity listed as zero. While a lack of this feature could bother some potential buyers, those living in colder climates would certainly appreciate the heat pump which now comes as standard on the car, and first for a Tesla, ultimately increasing efficiency (more range) by putting less stress on the car’s batteries that would otherwise be spending valuable energy in warming up the cabin.

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