Allan Hanbury is Professor for Data Intelligence at the TU Wien, Austria, and Faculty Member of the Complexity Science Hub, where he leads research and innovation to make sense of unstructured data. He is initiator of the Austrian ICT Lighthouse Project, Data Market Austria, which is creating a Data-Services Ecosystem in Austria. He was scientific coordinator of the EU-funded Khresmoi Integrated Project on medical and health information search and analysis, and is co-founder of contextflow, the spin-off company commercialising the radiology image search technology developed in the Khresmoi project. He also coordinated the EU-funded VISCERAL project on evaluation of algorithms on big data, and the EU-funded KConnect project on technology for analysing medical text.
contextflow is a spin-off from the Medical University of Vienna and European research project KHRESMOI. Could you tell us about the KHRESMOI project?
Sure! The goal of Khresmoi was to develop a multilingual, multimodal search and access system for biomedical information and documents, which required us to effectively automate the information extraction process, develop adaptive user interfaces and link both unstructured and semi-structured text information to images. Essentially, we wanted to make the information retrieval process for medical professionals reliable, fast, accurate and understandable.
What’s the current dataset which is powering the contextflow deep learning algorithm?
Our dataset contains approximately 8000 lung CTs. As our AI is rather flexible, we’re moving towards brain MRIs next.
Have you seen improvements with how the AI performs as the dataset has become larger?
We’re frequently asked this question, and the answer is likely not satisfying to most readers. To a certain extent, yes, the quality improves with more scans, but after a particular threshold, you don’t gain much more simply from having more. How much is enough really depends on various factors (organ, modality, disease pattern, etc), and it’s impossible to give an exact number. What’s most important is the quality of the data.
Is contextflow designed for all cases, or to simply be used for determining differential diagnosis for difficult cases?
Radiologists are really good at what they do. For the majority of cases, the findings are obvious, and external tools are unnecessary. contextflow has differentiated itself in the market by focusing on general search rather than automated diagnosis. There are a few use cases for our tools, but the main one is for helping with difficult cases where the findings aren’t immediately apparent. Here radiologists must consult various resources, and that process takes time. contextflow SEARCH, our 3D image-based search engine) aims to reduce the time it takes for radiologists to search for information during image interpretation by allowing them to search via the image itself. Because we also provide reference information helpful for differential diagnosis, training new radiologists is another promising use case.
Can you walk us through the process of how a radiologist would use the contextflow platform?
contextflow SEARCH Lung CT is completely integrated into the radiologist’s workflow (or else they would not use it). The radiologist performs their work as usual, and when they require additional information for a particular patient, they simply select a region of interest in that scan and click the contextflow icon in their workstation to open up our system in a new browser window. From there, they will receive reference cases from our database of patients with similar disease patterns present as the patient they are currently evaluating plus statistics and medical literature (e.g. radiopedia). They can scroll through their patient in our system normally, selecting additional regions to search for additional information and compare side-by-side with the reference cases. There are also heatmaps providing a visualization of the overall distribution of disease patterns, which helps with reporting findings as well. We really tried to put everything a radiologist needs to write a report in one place and available within seconds.
This was designed initially for lung CT scans, will contextflow be expanding to other types of scans?
Yes! We have a list of organs and modalities requested by radiologists that we are eager to add. The ultimate goal is to provide a system that covers the entire human body, regardless of organ or type of scan.
contextflow has received the support of two amazing incubator programs INiTS and i2c TU Wien. How beneficial have these programs been and what have you learned from the process?
We owe a lot of gratitude to these incubators. Both connected us with mentors, consultants and investors which challenged our business model and ultimately clarified our who/why/how. They also act very practically, providing funding and office space so that we could really focus on the work and not worry SO much about administrative topics. We truly could not have come as far as we have without their support. The Austrian startup ecosystem is still small, but there are programs out there to help bring innovative ideas to fruition.
You are also the initiator of the Austrian ICT Lighthouse Project which aims to build a sustainable Data-Services Ecosystem in Austria. Could you tell us more about this project and about your role in it?
The amount of data produced daily is exponentially growing, and its importance to most industries is also exploding…it’s really one of the world’s most important resources! Data Market Austria’s Lighthouse project aims to develop or reform requirements for successful data-driven businesses, ensuring low cost, high quality and interoperability. I coordinated the project for the first year in 2016-2017. This led to the creation of the Data Intelligence Offensive where I am on the board of directors. The DIO’s mission is to exchange information and know-how between members regarding data management and security.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about contextflow?
Radiology workflows are not on the average citizen’s mind, and that’s how it should be. The system should just work. Unfortunately, once you become a patient, you realize that is not always the case. contextflow is working to transform that process for both radiologists and patients. You can expect a lot of exciting developments from us in the coming years, so stay tuned!
Please visit contextflow to learn more.
Power Your ML and AI Efforts with Data Transformation – Thought Leaders
The greater the variety, velocity, and volume of data we have, the more feasible it becomes to use predictive analytics and modeling to forecast growth and identify areas of opportunity and improvement. However, getting the greatest value from reporting, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) tools requires an organization to access data from many sources and ensure that data is high-quality and trusted. This is often the greatest barrier to transforming big data into business strategy.
Data professionals spend so much time gathering and validating data to prepare it for use that they have little time left to focus on their primary purpose: analyzing the data and deriving business value from it. Unsurprisingly, 76 percent of data scientists say data preparation is the least enjoyable part of their job. Moreover, current data preparation efforts like data wrangling and traditional ETL require manual effort from IT professionals and are not enough to handle the scale and complexity of big data.
Companies that want to leverage the power of AI need to break away from these tedious and largely manual processes that increase the risk of “garbage in, garbage out” results. Instead, they need data transformation processes that extract raw data in multiple sources and formats, join and normalize it, and add value with business logic and metrics to make it ready for analytics. With complex data transformation, they can be sure that AI/ML models are based on clean, accurate data that delivers trustworthy results.
Leveraging the power of the cloud with ELT
The best place to prepare and transform data today is a cloud data warehouse (CDW) such as Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Microsoft Azure Synapse, or Snowflake. While traditional approaches to data warehousing require data to be extracted and transformed before it can be loaded, a CDW leverages the scalability and performance of the cloud for faster data ingestion and transformation and makes it possible to extract and load data from many disparate data sources before transforming it inside the CDW.
Ideally, the ELT model initially moves data into a section of the CDW reserved for raw staging data. From there, the CDW can use its near-unlimited computing resources available for data integration and ETL jobs that cleanse, aggregate, filter, and join the staged data. The data can then be transformed into a different schema – data vault or Star Schema, for example, optimizing the data for reporting and analytics
The ELT approach also allows you to replicate raw data within the CDW for later preparation and transformation when and as needed. This lets you use business intelligence tools that determine schema on read and produce specific transformations on demand, effectively letting you transform the same data in multiple ways as you discover new uses for it.
Accelerating machine learning models
These real-world examples show how two companies in different industries are leveraging data transformation in a CDW to drive AI initiatives.
A boutique marketing and advertising agency built a proprietary customer management platform to help its clients better identify, understand, and motivate their customers. By transforming data within a CDW, the platform quickly and easily integrates real-time customer data across channels into a 360-degree customer view that informs the platform’s AI/ML models for making customer interactions more consistent, timely, and personalized.
A global logistics firm making 100 million deliveries to 37 million unique customers in 72 countries needs vast amounts of data to power its daily operations. Adopting data transformation within a CDW enabled the company to deploy 200 machine learning models in a single year. These models make 500,000 predictions every day, significantly improving efficiency and driving superior customer service that has reduced inbound call center calls by 40 percent.
Best practices for getting started
Companies that want to support their AI/ML initiatives with the power of data transformation in the cloud need to understand their specific use case and needs. Beginning with what you want to do with your data –reducing fuel costs by optimizing delivery routes, boosting sales by delivering next best offers to customer service agents in real-time, etc. – lets you reverse-engineer your processes so you can identify which data will deliver relevant results.
Once you determine what data your AI/ML project needs to build its models, you need a cloud-native ELT solution that will make your data fit for use. Look for a solution that:
Is vendor-neutral and able to work with your current technology stack
Is flexible enough to scale up and down and adapt as your technology stack changes
Can handle complex data transformations from multiple data sources
Offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model in which you pay only for what you use
Is purpose-built for your preferred CDW so you can fully leverage that CDW’s features to run jobs faster and transform data seamlessly.
A cloud data transformation solution that caters to the common denominators of all CDWs may provide a consistent experience, but only one that enables the powerful differentiating features of your chosen CDW can deliver the high performance that speeds time to insight. The right solution will enable you to power your AI/ML projects with more clean, trusted data from more sources in less time – and generate faster, more reliable results that drive previously unrealized business value and innovation.
Ingo Mierswa, Founder & President at RapidMiner, Inc – Interview Series
Ingo Mierswa is the Founder & President at RapidMiner, Inc. RapidMiner brings artificial intelligence to the enterprise through an open and extensible data science platform. Built for analytics teams, RapidMiner unifies the entire data science lifecycle from data prep to machine learning to predictive model deployment. More than 625,000 analytics professionals use RapidMiner products to drive revenue, reduce costs, and avoid risks.
What was your inspiration behind launching RapidMiner?
I had worked in the data science consultancy business for many years and I saw a need for a platform that was more intuitive and approachable for people without a formal education in data science. Many of the existing solutions at the time relied on coding and scripting and they simply were not user-friendly. Furthermore, it made data difficult to manage and maintain the solutions that were developed within those platforms. Basically, I realized that these projects didn’t need to be so difficult so, we started to create the RapidMiner platform to allow anyone to be a great data scientist.
Can you discuss the full transparency governance that is currently being utilized by RapidMiner?
When you can’t explain a model, it’s quite hard to tune, trust and translate. A lot of data science work is the communication of the results to others so that stakeholders can understand how to improve processes. This requires trust and deep understanding. Also, issues with trust and translation can make it very hard to overcome the corporate requirements to get a model into production. We are fighting this battle in a few different ways:
As a visual data science platform, RapidMiner inherently maps out an explanation for all data pipelines and models in a highly consumable format that can be understood by data scientists or non-data scientists. It makes models transparent and helps users in understanding model behavior and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses and detecting potential biases.
In addition, all models created in the platform come with extensive visualizations for the user – typically the user creating the model – to gain model insights, understand model behavior and evaluate model biases.
RapidMiner also provides model explanations – even when in production: For each prediction created by a model, RapidMiner generates and adds the influence factors that have led to or influenced the decisions made by that model in production.
Finally – and this is very important to me personally as I was driving this with our engineering teams a couple of years ago – RapidMiner also provides an extremely powerful model simulator capability, which allows users to simulate and observe the model behavior based on input data provided by the user. Input data can be set and changed very easily, allowing the user to understand the predictive behavior of the models on various hypothetical or real-world cases. The simulator also displays factors that influence the model’s decision. The user – in this case even a business user or domain expert – can understand model behavior, validate the model’s decision against real outcomes or domain knowledge and identify issues. The simulator allows you to simulate the real world and have a look into the future – into your future, in fact.
How does RapidMiner use deep learning?
RapidMiner’s use of deep learning somethings we are very proud of. Deep learning can be very difficult to apply and non-data-scientists often struggle with setting up those networks without expert support. RapidMiner makes this process as simple as possible for users of all types. Deep learning is, for example, part of our Auto machine learning (ML) product called RapidMiner Go. Here the user does not need to know anything about deep learning to make use of those types of sophisticated models. In addition, power users can go deeper and use popular deep learning libraries like Tensorflow, Keras, or DeepLearning4J right from the visual workflows they are building with RapidMiner. This is like playing with building blocks and simplifies the experience for users with fewer data science skills. Through this approach our users can build flexible network architectures with different activation functions and user-defined number of layers and nodes, multiple layers with different numbers of nodes, and choose from different training techniques.
What other type of machine learning is used?
All of them! We offer hundreds of different learning algorithms as part of the RapidMiner platform – everything you can apply in the widely-used data science programming languages Python and R. Among others, RapidMiner offers methods for Naive Bayes, regression such as Generalized Linear Models, clustering such as k-Means, FP-Growth, Decision Trees, Random Forests, Parallelized Deep Learning, and Gradient Boosted Trees. These and many more are all a part of the modeling library of RapidMiner and can be used with a single click.
Can you discuss how the Auto Model knows the optimal values to be used?
RapidMiner AutoModel uses intelligent automation to accelerate everything users do and ensure accurate, sound models are built. This includes instance selection and automatic outlier removal, feature engineering for complex data types such as dates or texts, and full multi-objective automated feature engineering to select the optimal features and construct new ones. Auto Model also includes other data cleaning methods to fix common issues in data such as missing values, data profiling by assessing the quality and value of data columns, data normalization and various other transformations.
Auto Model also extracts data quality meta data – for example, how much a column behaves like an ID or whether there are lots of missing values. This meta data is used in addition to the basic meta data in automating and assisting users in ‘using the optimal values’ and dealing with data quality issues.
For more detail, we’ve mapped it all out in our Auto Model Blueprint. (Image below for extra context)
There are four basic phases where the automation is applied:
– Data prep: Automatic analysis of data to identify common quality problems like correlations, missing values, and stability.
– Automated model selection and optimization, including full validation and performance comparison, that suggests the best machine learning techniques for given data and determines the optimal parameters.
– Model simulation to help determine the specific (prescriptive) actions to take in order to achieve the desired outcome predicted by the model.
– In the model deployment and operations phase, users are shown factors like drift, bias and business impact, automatically with no extra work required.
Computer bias is an issue with any type of AI, are there any controls in place to prevent bias from creeping up in results?
Yes, this is indeed extremely important for ethical data science. The governance features mentioned before ensure that users can always see exactly what data has been used for model building, how it was transformed, and whether there is bias in the data selection. In addition, our features for drift detection are another powerful tool to detect bias. If a model in production demonstrates a lot of drift in the input data, this can be a sign that the world has changed dramatically. However, it can also be an indicator that there was severe bias in the training data. In the future, we are considering to going even one step further and building machine learning models which can be used to detect bias in other models.
Can you discuss the RapidMiner AI Cloud and how it differentiates itself from competing products?
The requirements for a data science project can be large, complex and compute intensive, which is what has made the use of cloud technology such an attractive strategy for data scientists. Unfortunately, the various native cloud-based data science platforms tie you to cloud services and data storage offerings of that particular cloud vendor.
The RapidMiner AI Cloud is simply our cloud service delivery of the RapidMiner platform. The offering can be tailored to any customer’s environment, regardless of their cloud strategy. This is important these days as most businesses’ approach to cloud data management is evolving very quickly in the current climate. Flexibility is really what sets RapidMiner AI Cloud apart. It can run in any cloud service, private cloud stack or in a hybrid setup. We are cloud portable, cloud agnostic, multi-cloud – whatever you prefer to call it.
RapidMiner AI Cloud is also very low hassle, as of course, we offer the ability manage all or part of the deployment for clients so they can focus on running their business with AI, not the other way around. There’s even an on-demand option, which allows you spin up an environment as needed for short projects.
RapidMiner Radoop eliminates some of the complexity behind data science, can you tell us how Radoop benefits developers?
Radoop is mainly for non-developers who want to harness the potential of big data. RapidMiner Radoop executes RapidMiner workflows directly inside Hadoop in a code-free manner. We can also embed the RapidMiner execution engine in Spark so it’s easy to push complete workflows into Spark without the complexity that comes from code-centric approaches.
Would a government entity be able to use RapidMiner to analyze data to predict potential pandemics, similar to how BlueDot operates?
As a general data science and machine learning platform, RapidMiner is meant to streamline and enhance the model creation and management process, no matter what subject matter or domain is at the center of the data science/machine learning problem. While our focus is not on predicting pandemics, with the right data a subject matter expert (like a virologist or epidemiologist, in this case) could use the platform to create a model that could accurately predict pandemics. In fact, many researchers do use RapidMiner – and our platform is free for academic purposes.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about RapidMiner?
Give it a try! You may be surprised how easy data science can be and how much a good platform can improve you and your team’s productivity.
Thank you for this great interviewer, readers who wish to learn more should visit RapidMiner.
Owkin Launches the Collaborative COVID-19 Open AI Consortium (COAI)
After a fresh round of funding, Owkin recently launched the Covid-19 Open AI Consortium (COAI). This consortium will enable advanced collaborative research and accelerate clinical development of effective treatments for patients who are infected with COVID-19.
The first stage of the project is on fully understanding and treating cardiovascular complications in COVID-19 patients, this will be performed in collaboration with CAPACITY, an international registry working with over 50 centers around the world. Other areas of research will include patient outcomes and triage, and the prediction and characterization of immune response.
Owkin’s manifesto perfectly states the company’s vision:
“We are fully engaged in this new frontier with the goal of improving drug development and patient outcomes. Founded in 2016, Owkin has quickly emerged as a leader in bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies to the healthcare industry. Our solutions improve the traditional medical research paradigm by turning a previously siloed, disjointed system into an innovative and collaborative one that, above all, puts the privacy of patients first.”
To understand the model that Owkin is engaging one must fully understand a new technology which is called Federated Learning. Federated learning offers a framework for AI development that enables enterprises to train machine learning models on data that is distributed at scale across multiple medical institutions without centralizing the data. The benefits of this are two-fold, there is no loss of privacy since the data is not directly linked to any specific patient, and the data is maintained at the healthcare institution that collects this data.
The use of Federated Learning thereby enables a significantly wider range of data than what any single organization possesses in-house. What this means is that by used Federated Learning researchers have access to as much data as available, and the more big data a machine learning system possesses, the more accurate the AI becomes.
There are currently multiple national efforts in using AI to tackle COVID-19. The problem with many of these nationalistic disjointed efforts is that the data is specific to one country. Collecting data from a single region may fail to reveal important information that would enable researchers to fully understand how exposure to environmental elements, ethnic makeup, genetics, age, and gender may play important roles in understanding this disease. This is why collaboration is so important, and why gathering data from multiple jurisdictions is even more important.
As described by Owkin, they seek to used Federated Learning for the following:
“We aim to help them understand why drug efficacy varies from patient to patient, enhance the drug development process and identify the best drug for the right patient at the right time, to improve treatment outcomes.”
Understanding and treading cardiovascular health issues will be the first challenge undertaken by Owkin. As important as data is, what is even more important are the efforts of researchers and contributors who are spearheading this effort. This is why Unite.AI will be releasing three interviews with researchers that are contributing to the COAI project.
Sanjay Budhdeo, MD, Business Development:
Sanjay is a practicing physician. He holds Medical Sciences and Medical degrees from Oxford University and a Masters Degree from Cambridge University. Sanjay has research experience in neuroimaging, epidemiology and digital health. Prior to joining Owkin as a Partnership Manager, he was a Senior Associate at Boston Consulting Group, where he focused on data and digital in healthcare. He sits on the Patient Safety Committee at the Royal Society of Medicine and was previously a Specialist Advisor at the Care Quality Commission.
Dr. Stephen Weng, Principal Researcher:
Stephen is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Epidemiology and Data Science who leads the data science research within the Primary Care Stratified Medicine Research Group.
He integrate traditional epidemiological methods and study design with new informatics-based approaches, harnessing and interrogating “big health care data” from electronic medical records for the purpose of risk prediction modeling, phenotyping chronic diseases, data science methods research, and translation of stratified medicine into primary care.
Folkert W. Asselbergs, Principal Investigator
Folkert is professor of precision medicine in cardiovascular disease at Institute of Cardiovascular Science, UCL, Director NIHR BRC Clinical Research Informatics Unit at UCLH, professor of cardiovascular genetics and consultant cardiologist at the department of Cardiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, and chief scientific officer of the Durrer Center for Cardiovascular Research, Netherlands Heart Institute. Prof Asselbergs published more than 275 scientific papers and obtained funding from leDucq foundation, British and Dutch Heart Foundation, EU (FP7, ERA-CVD, IMI, BBMRI), and RO1 National Institutes of Health.
The hope of Unite.AI is that by using biomedical images, genomics, and clinical data to discover biomarkers and mechanisms associated with diseases and treatment outcomes this will propel the next generation of treatment to tackle COVID-19. We are contributing to this important project by highlighting the personalities behind this important global effort.
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