Posts tagged with "Business"

360 MAGAZINE, sara sandman, illustration, travel

How to Stay Productive on a Business Trip To London 

London is an incredible city filled with a diverse range of businesses, which is why it’s a popular destination for business and leisure travellers alike. 

For business travellers, visiting London can quickly become a chore. When you’re not going home in the evening, not sleeping in the same bed, not eating the same food or working at the same desk, it can get all too easy to switch into vacation mode instead of being in your usual hard-working mindset. 

Despite the jet lag, unfamiliar surroundings and the back to back meetings you’ve likely got planned, the good news is that there are some steps that you can take to make sure that any business trip you go on, is a productive one. Keep these tips in mind to help you minimize distractions and get work done, no matter where you are. 

Upgrade from a Hotel Room:

Anyone who’s ever tried to work from a hotel room will tell you that it’s certainly not the easiest of experiences. Even if you have a desk, space is limited, and the Wi-Fi might be patchy at the best of times. Plus, you’ve got the noise of all the other guests distracting you. Instead, upgrade your stay and find furnished apartments for rent for a month or more, that you can take advantage of. London’s fully furnished rentals provided by Blueground are ideal for any business trip; you get plenty of your own carefully designed space in a premium accommodation, with a separate living area and bedroom that can help you get more done. Plus, you get a fully equipped kitchen, so you can prepare your favourite meals without having to rely on hotel dining times. 

Utilize Technology:

Before setting off, determine which of your gadgets are going to be most useful to you on your trip and pack accordingly. Will you need your laptop for writing projects and spreadsheets, or will your tablet and smartphone do the job? Depending on the purpose of your trip, you might not need to take all your gadgets and leaving some at home will lighten your load. Whatever devices you decide that you need to bring, make sure that you have access to reliable Wi-Fi. If you’re flying, many airlines now offer this as an in-flight service but it’s worth checking, especially if you’re only taking a short flight where it’s less likely to be available. 

Keep Up with Your Office:

Keeping up with your normal workload in unfamiliar surroundings and settings is perhaps one of the hardest parts of going on a business trip. It can be difficult to stay on track when your day to day routine is nothing like normal, so one of the best ways to get around this is to keep up with the people at your office regularly. Before you go, meet up with your team to get status updates and review any upcoming deadlines; talk about the upcoming trip and get a plan in place together. Once you’re there, it’s a good idea to spend some time every day catching up with the office; you can do this via video chat, for example. 

Familiarize Yourself with Your Destination:

The last thing that you want is to be rushing around stressed out because you’ve got a meeting to get to and have no idea how to get there, so spend some time getting to know your destination both before you set off and once you first arrive. Find out which part of London you’ll be staying in and what’s nearby; figure out how far away the place is from anywhere that you will need to go for meetings and other work-related events to help determine how hard it is to get a cab or whether the nearby public transport will be good enough for getting you from A to B. Of course, you should also see if there’s anything interesting that you could do in your downtime; tourist attractions are always worth the visit. 

Be Productive When Commuting:

If you’ve got a long flight or train journey ahead when setting out on a business trip, you can take advantage of this time and really use it to be as productive as possible. Even if you’re not going to have Wi-Fi in transit – pretty rare these days, but it can happen – then figure out what work you can do without needing to be connected to the internet and get that done during your commute. The more you can get done while you’re traveling, the less you’ll have to do once you arrive and the more relaxed and focused you will feel. Signing up for airline or hotel loyalty programs that offer business traveller perks can be a good way to help boost your productivity when traveling; you can take advantage of first-class lounges that provide a quiet and relaxing place to get stuff done while you wait for your flight. 

Staying productive on a business trip can be difficult; after all, your routine has completely changed and you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. Keep these tips in mind to help achieve maximum productivity on your next trip to London. 

NYC, Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

Design Tips for Email Newsletters

When you send a newsletter or other communication from your business to your customers by email, you’re sending them something that should represent your company in every way. This means it should mirror your company culture and industry, and it should be a shining example of professionalism. It should also inspire your customers and subscribers to read and act on what you intend them to in your email. All of this is why design is so important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are some tips you can use to better design your email newsletters. 

Start with a Header

To see the importance of the header, walk past a magazine or newspaper stand and think about the first thing you noticed. Likely it was the name of each publication, which is essentially their header. That is why the header is so important. It identifies who you are and what readers might expect from your newsletters. It also dictates things like the color scheme and frames your whole email nicely below it, immediately creating a sense of structure.

The header should include your logo and the title of your newsletter if you have one – or the purpose of the email if it’s an alert or service interruption announcement.

Stick to a Color Scheme

Your business likely already has a color scheme, and likely these colors are dictated by your logo. When you design a newsletter, this is no different. When you create headings and titles, use the colors in your logo or header to inform the color choices throughout. This creates a sense of uniformity throughout the newsletter or email and keeps it on brand.

You should also try and stick to common or standard fonts so that the newsletter displays on every device correctly. The last thing you want to do is have a missing font destroy your email’s message or layout. This applies to legibility too. Choose fonts that are easy to read.

Divide Your Content into Sections

Don’t create your newsletter with a big wall of text right under your header. Make sure to break it up into easy to read and well titled sections, so that readers can choose what they want to read quickly. This is particularly important if your email is going to be long or text-heavy. Making use of photos and images is an effective way of breaking up text and borrowing design styles from newspapers will also help. By using font choices that are bold and clear and making extensive use of the best font for email, you can enable great design elements like color backgrounds and white text to make section headings pop out at you. 

By designing your newsletters with these tips in mind, you’ll create great looking and easy to read newsletters that will call your customers to action. It’s not difficult to create great looking and comprehensive emails with the tools available online today, so you have no excuse not to fully leverage the marketing power of your email subscriber list to increase and retain business.

NYC, Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

The New Wave of Digital Working Nomads

By Vaughn Lowery

As of late, tons of youthful business people have commenced to take the path less taken – entrepreneurship. With an insurgence of virtual office spaces, this demographic, primarily generations X, Y as well as Z, has found a means to make money while on the go. These digital nomads run businesses which heavily impact society and provide an array of services which are unparalleled by most industry giants like Google, Amazon and Apple. In this piece of prose literature, you will find that a virtual office for digital nomads is the way to go.

Virtual office spaces offer an incubator-like environment where small to medium size businesses as well as independent contractors can freely roam the world, embarking on adventure while creating personal connections which last a lifetime. Subsequently, personal contact and the ability to be able to share an intimate exchange is what successful business owners constantly recite in tons of authoritative magazines like Entrepreneur, Inc. and Fast Company.

Being in a high powered independent contractor position has its share of ups and downs. The number one downfall of not receiving a solid location has always been the inability to having packages securely delivered to a location. The problem has been easily worked with virtual offices as a receptionist can answer the phone, take messages and store packages on behalf of your emerging brand. Some virtual offices can store packages (small or large) for up to 30+ days without having to return to sender. Storage fees may apply. And, if all else fails, you can grant them the ability to have the package forwarded to another address so that you can have access to your mail sooner than expected.

Not to cite, a ton of these virtual facilities have a network throughout the world and with a monthly subscription package you will have access to many of their locations. In addition, if you are in penury of a quiet meeting area, you can book the venue’s conference room for a few hours. Many of them are well-fitted with wifi and video conferencing as well.

Another pro of having a rotating office is that most of them come with office managers as well. Having someone to restock the printer with ink/paper, order supplies and execute events is almost ideal for someone seeking additional ways to connect with and accost new business. Just imagine if you’re a freelance journalist, graphic designer and/or advisor, you could attend a virtual office promotion and potentially meet a new client. In the past, many virtual offices have implemented office gatherings to increase office morale. Some of the best office gatherings have included spirit/wine tastings, game nights and office ice breakers. Moreover, traveling chefs and restaurants can also set up food tastings on the premise in hopes that you visit their establishments while on lunch breaks or dinner meetings.

Instead of orchestrating a webinar on smart business practices, many virtual office spaces have started to arrange roundtables. A roundtable is an opportunity to have a group of notable community leaders and business owners come into the facility to hold panels on ways you can reestablish your brand, redesign your website, effectively conduct public relations and marketing strategies as well as lower customer retention.

These type of group discussions can strike up meaning conversations while helping you increase revenue. Being in the presence of other individuals whom are having difficulty with maintaining their business while on the go, can help those in need of assistance find solutions to fix issues right away.

In short, people who work while on the go can finally be at rest knowing that their phones are being answered and packages are being received/stored and in some cases forwarded to another secure location. All this can materialize for a nominal monthly subscription fee while you enjoy all that your destination has to offer – outdoor adventure, food and nightlife.

Vaughn Lowery, Alejandra Villagra, illustration, 360 MAGAZINE

5 Reasons You Should Create A Financial Budget

To successfully manage your finances, you must create a budget and stick to it. This may not be easy at first, but it is a rewarding endeavor that will benefit your life. Getting a handle on your hard-earned money makes a huge difference in your lifestyle. Making a financial budget is necessary to live a full life because your choices can make or break you. Here are the top five reasons why you should create a financial budget.

Gives You Control

Your financial budget will give you more control over your money. You will know how much you earn, where every penny is going, and how much you need to save each month. Everything is enumerated, so there is no room for errors. With this roadmap, you have a clear grasp of all your assets and liabilities. It will prevent arguments and protect your relationships because everyone in your family is on board. You all have a clear picture of what is happening with your funds, which helps avoid misunderstandings and arguments.

Helps Attain Goals

A budget is akin to a blueprint that will help guide you into achieving your financial goals, both short-term and long-term. Whether it is setting funds enough for investments, buying a new house, saving money for your kids’ college tuition, or preparing for an emergency, having a definite plan on how to get things done makes you more efficient. You can prioritize your objectives, so you can readily devote your resources to the things that matter to you. With a plan in place, you can crush your goals without getting super stressed out. As the saying goes, people who fail to plan, plan to fail. If you want to hit your targets successfully, you must be willing to do your part.

Keeps You Honest

When you document all your expenses down to the last cent, it allows you to see how you are spending your money concretely. You don’t get surprised that your paycheck has been depleted at the end of each month. With this mindset, you avoid nasty overdraft charges and steep credit card feels. When you hold yourself accountable every day, there is less risk of impulse purchases that drain your savings. When you are true to yourself about your spending habits, you can quickly achieve your goals.

Helps Improve Your Habits

It is a terrible habit to spend more than you earn. This sets you up for a lifetime of misery because you will be immersed in debt. If you continue your bad habits, you set yourself up for financial ruin. By accounting how much you spend and making a budget for your needs, you will make better choices. With these in place, your warning bells will ring when you notice that you are headed in the wrong direction. Consequently, you can take the necessary steps to avoid trouble by inculcating good financial habits. Keeping a budget or financial plan also trains you to be more systematic and consistent with your record-keeping.

Deters Debt and Improves Credit

With a solid financial plan in place for yourself and your family, you are in complete control of your spending. You can make adjustments with your choices if your budget doesn’t cut it. You may also be able to determine ways to help address your existing debt. Moreover, your budget will prevent you from accruing more debt and entering a dangerous downward spiral. When you have your plan in place, you are motivated to pay your bills on time because you see the results firsthand. All of these elements work in conjunction to help you build a good credit score. Better credit gives you more favorable options to lean on during financial emergencies.

Final Word

Crunching numbers may not be as fun as going on an all-out shopping spree, but you need to be more financially responsible as this equates to a better overall quality of life. Having a financial budget prevents you from spending money that you don’t have. Crafting a detailed budget that everyone follows is the only way to achieve real security for your family. Apart from keeping your short-term spending in check, it also sets you up for a more solid long-term financial future.

covid-19, coronavirus, sara sandman, 360 MAGAZINE, health

Working Through a Public Health Emergency

A conversation that all businesses need to have, especially during times of viral epidemics and other public health crises, is how to keep the business running efficiently during these times. 

If an employee experiences any symptoms associated with the ongoing epidemic, it’s highly advised that they stay home, especially if they’ve recently traveled to areas that have recently become epicenters of infection.

It’s a real possibility that when epidemics grow to a certain point, local health authorities will advise businesses to suspend operations at their normal place of work to lower the risk of spreading sickness. In the interest of public health and the well-being of their employees, businesses should take these advisements seriously, and have contingency plans for keeping the business running when most, if not all, employees are unable to come into the office. 

Having solid policies put in place for remote working will be invaluable for keeping your business running smoothly for when you are forced to have several or nearly all employees working from home. 

It’s in this state that your business should provide employees with all the necessary tools to do their jobs from their home, as well as be able to effectively communicate with coworkers. Luckily, SaaS applications make it easy for workers to access their most used software from nearly any computer, meaning that even if it’s impractical to take their computer from work home, they can still do the job from their home computer. 

Having the Right Tools

For businesses that rely on having constant access to their documents, it’s possible to have 24/7 access to your filing system, without having to compromise on security or convenience. A cloud-based document management system such as Rubex by eFileCabinet can allow you and your coworkers to get work done from just about anywhere. Documents are protected through a secured connection to the cloud server but are quick and easy for users to access. 

Communication is vital when it comes to remote work. It’s essential to have platforms for communication and collaboration that are intuitive to use and responsive. Both of these are achievable through Rubex, thanks to its versioning features which allows users to create new versions of a document and append/prepend documents with additional files. The preview view allows users with the right permissions to add annotations, redactions, and even draw on the document. A comment section is also attached to the document, so coworkers can exchange feedback and notes. Users can view the version history of each document, so they exactly what has changed, when, and who made the changes.

Even though you’re no longer at your office, there are still plenty of ways to interact with coworkers and even clients, right from your document management interface. When needing to share documents, whether they’re part of your company or an outside party like a client, you can share a document along with a message to those individuals. 

Clients can become guest users, so they can download the shared files from the same, encrypted environment. This tool is also useful for requesting documents, where they can be automatically uploaded to the location of your choice. 

Being able to work with your documents, whether you’re at the office or at home, is essential if your business faces closures due to a sudden public health crisis. Stay effective and stay healthy by preparing yourself and your coworkers for periods of mandatory remote work. 

Andreas Rivera is a technology writer with experience in both reviewing and marketing tech services and products. His areas of expertise include writing about B2B, SaaS companies and how they best address the pain points of businesses. Since early 2019, he has been the Marketing Content Writer for eFileCabinet and has become well versed in how document management software helps businesses reinvent their manual processes and spur growth. Contact him at arivera@efilecabinet.com

red 6ar, Daniel Robinson, Air Force, 360 MAGAZINE

Red 6

God didn’t give me many skills, but I am reasonable with an airplane.

By Sonya Haskins

Retired Royal Air Force Daniel Robinson, the first foreign pilot who qualified to fly the American F-22A Raptor, makes this statement with sincere humility, despite the challenges he has overcome to accomplish more than most people could ever dream of.

Robinson grew up in County Durham, a coal-mining region of northeast England that was the setting for Billy Elliot, a 2000 British film about a young boy who wanted to pursue a career in ballet rather than follow his father into the coal mines.

Like the main character in the film, Robinson felt as if “aspirations were really low” for young people in the seaside town. He says he attended a bad school, the community was experiencing severe economic decline and as the local coal mines and shipyards were gradually closing, unemployment skyrocketed. Options for local employment at that time were few and far between. Fortunately, Robinson had his own sights set on something a little different. 

While he was a teenager, he worked as a milkman and saved up his money to take flying lessons. Following his first lesson at age 15, a mentor recognized the potential in Robinson and encouraged him to apply for a Royal Air Force Scholarship.

According to the Royal Air Force website, “a career in the RAF is about discovering your natural talent.” The description goes on to describe ordinary people who have joined the RAF “often with nothing more than a desire to lead a less ordinary existence.”

This was certainly true of Robinson and at the end of five years of training, he graduated as a combat ready fighter pilot in August 2001.

Let that sink in. August 2001. 

A few short weeks later the world changed and Robinson’s formative years as a fighter pilot were spent on operations and exercises across the world, including time in the Middle East. 

In 2005, he was selected to attend the Royal Air Force Fighter Weapons School (the UK equivalent of Top Gun). It was early in his career and again, Robinson states that he was very lucky to be selected and even luckier to make it through the demanding course. Meanwhile, forged by shared security concerns in the wake of 9/11 and joint operations in the Middle East, the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom continued to go from strength to strength.

Following graduation from Fighter Weapons School, Robinson says that in 2006, he “became the luckiest fighter pilot in the world.”

The Lockheed Martin F-22 is a tactical stealth fighter developed for the United States Air Force and is the most capable combat aircraft on the planet. An aircraft  that is without peer in the air dominance role but one that is also capable of ground attack, electronic warfare, and the ability to intercept signals for intelligence-gathering.

The United States Air Force allowed one foreign pilot to train as an F-22 Raptor pilot at Langley Air Force Base in Langley, Virginia. That incredible honor was bestowed upon Robinson and he became the first non-American fighter pilot in the world to fly the F-22 Raptor. He then went on to become an instructor pilot for the stealth fighter.

“It was a huge, huge privilege, as you can imagine,” Robinson comments about being chosen, “being that guy and being a Brit. It was extraordinary.”

His experiences during the three years he served as an instructor pilot with the United States Air Force began to form the foundation of what would become Red 6. Before he began to pursue AR technology, however, Robinson would face some of the toughest moments in his life.

Tragedy and Change

In 2009, when his career as an F-22 pilot came to an end, Robinson considered what he might want to do outside the military. 

First he attended Georgetown University and earned a Master of Business Administration. Soon after, he took a “transition” job in the greater New York City area. Although he kept coming back to his passion for flying and the problems that industry was facing, he wasn’t exactly sure how to solve them.

Then in November 2011, Robinson received a call from England. 

Daniel’s father had built Gus Robinson Developments, a construction, plumbing, and electrical company, from the ground up in the early 1970s. Nearly 200 employees, mostly local Hartlepool residents, depended on the company as the primary source of income for their families and Gus was calling to tell his son that the family business was going bankrupt. He needed him to come home.

Although Dan told his father he’d catch the next flight out, the next morning he awoke to the tragic news that his father had committed suicide. The man who had been his best friend, a wonderful father, and the most formative person in his life was gone.

“My world collapsed at that moment in time,” says Daniel.

Although he had faced many challenges during his life, those moments were nothing compared to the days following his father’s death. He was trying to process what had happened, comfort his mother and sisters, and also make decisions that would affect hundreds of others in his small community.

“I called a meeting the next day,” explains Robinson, “I went in and told them the truth of what had happened.”

He calls it a pivotal leadership moment because he knew that his speech “would either bind them behind me or we’d collapse.”

Robinson isn’t one to mince words. He clarified that the business was in trouble and their success or failure would boil down to the next six months. Since so many local families depended on the company, any decisions would ultimately affect an entire community. He asked everyone to sacrifice collectively for the good of the team and he would sacrifice most of all. 

It was a critical, inspirational speech and a turning point in the company. 

The next day Robinson met with the bank and asked them for time. They pointed out that he was close to bankrupt, but he asked them for a month to come up with a business plan. When they agreed, he went straight to work, taking no time to mourn the father he loved so dearly.

Over the next several years, he rebuilt his father’s business and shaped it into a much bigger company worth several million pounds. When talking with Robinson, you can tell he is incredibly proud of what Gus Robinson Developments had become. He did what was necessary to create the best situation for everyone and he sold the highly successful company in 2018. However, it came at great cost to him in every area.

“At that point,” Robinson says, “I was exhausted, shattered, and moved back to the United States to try to get back on with my life.”

He initially moved to New York, but decided to seek a fresh start in California. It was during this time that he began to think about the continuation of his life purpose. No doubt his father’s death had a great impact on him in this area.

“I began to ask myself a simple question,” he explains, “if my life was up in a month of time, how would I spend my days?” He decided he’d want to spend time with his friends, eat good food, drink good wine, practice his beloved art of Brazilian Jiujitsu, and he would want to fly again.

Back in the Air

Soon afterwards, Robinson walked into a flight school at the Santa Monica Airport.

“There was a young trainer there – a kid who was about 21 years old,” he recalls. “After the first lesson, the kid said, ‘You know. I think you might have some potential as a pilot.’”

Of course Robinson had a nice chuckle. 

The time around airplanes again was integral to the formation of Red 6. Robinson explains that each day he had been visiting the hangar, walking past a guy named Dave. Eventually he began helping Dave work on his Berkut, a homebuilt aircraft with tandem seating for two.

One day Dave found out that his friend was in fact a former F22 pilot so he asked if Robinson would like to fly his Berkut. 

“I was just flying around with a big grin on my face,” he says. In fact, he enjoyed flying the Berkut so much that he told Dave he’d like to build one of his own. His friend strongly recommended against it, citing the cost and the complications of finding a kit and the complexity of the build.

Dave also recommended against it for personal reasons. His best friend, Rick had been a Berkut demo pilot who was killed in a Berkut accident during the 65th Annual Santa Paula Air Show in 1995.

Robinson was processing all of this for a while, but then a couple of months later, when he walked into the hangar, he was met by an elderly gentleman, Sam. Dave had told Sam about Robinson and the two of them took him to the desert to show him something. It was a kit. In fact, it was Rick’s Berkut kit.

“It has been sitting in the desert for 21 years waiting for you to build it,” Dave said.

At that moment, although he knew he should be focusing on the next stage of his career, the fighter pilot who had lost so much knew what he had to do and he committed to building the finest example of the Berkut that has ever been built.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

There are moments in life when we see a clear path, but most of the time we just do the best we can, hoping we end up somewhere worthwhile. Then there are those times when we feel compelled to do something, but we can’t possibly know all the ways it will impact our lives. 

Robinson’s decision to build the Berkut led to several key contacts, including technologists in the fields of virtual reality and augmented reality. One of them, Glenn Snyder had co-developed the famed virtual drift race car experience in VR.

As he began talking with these experts in AR and VR, his mind went back to the problems he had seen with the F-22s and he began connecting the dots.

Once he understood how VR and AR worked, he knew that some of the problems wouldn’t be solved with virtual reality, but he wondered if there was a way to use augmented reality to train pilots while they were in the air.

Together, they came up with a thesis and basically called up the U.S. Air Force, stating that they were developing a technology that could fundamentally help to solve their training crisis. He discovered that they had already been working on a research program when they referred him to the Air Force Lab.

It was at that point that Red 6 really began to come together. He began trying to find ways to answer the question, “How do we train in the future?”

The Problem

“Every time you go up and fly for training, you need an aircraft and an instructor to train against” explains Robinson.

There are some major challenges in training fighter pilots, including the fact that it’s incredibly expensive. In addition, we’re already critically short of fighter pilots because it’s difficult to recruit and train them. This also means there are fewer qualified instructor pilots available for the next generation of recruits.

Finally, Robinson points out that “the general public thinks you can just roll in and fight with relative impunity” because in the past we’ve pretty much been able to do this. He points out, however, that with the re-emergence of Russia on the world stage as well as the fact that China is really engaged in technology and innovation, we should be worried.

“The once technological advantage that we’ve enjoyed,” states Robinson, “is basically no more.”

Historically for training, our pilots would have other US fighter jets simulating the bad guys, but this isn’t feasible anymore, largely due to cost, lack of qualified pilots and critically, the inability to simulate modern near-peer adversaries.

Solutions

Once he had the attention of the U.S. Air Force, Robinson set about incorporating AR technology into an airplane so he could prove that their thesis was possible in a cockpit. In February 2019 he gave a demonstration on the ground.

Guests went into an AR headset that had been built by Red 6. They then flew up alongside a tanker, flew up into the sky, and then flew a mission against two Russian airplanes and did a visual dogfight. This was all simulated on the ground, but guests were introduced to augmented reality in a fighter cockpit. That was the goal of the first demo – simply to show possibilities.

Next Robinson had to prove that his concept was possible in the air. 

He obtained a small business innovation grant from the U.S. Air Force and since November, Robinson has been demonstrating the technology. The response has been incredibly positive.

Today, Red 6 has raised over $3.5m in seed funding and over $1.5m in non-dilutive USAF research grants. The company will be raising a Series A round in 2020.

“We’re solving AR outdoors and in dynamic environments as well,” Robinson states. “That’s something we should all be excited about.”

In fact, although he believes Red 6 is essential because the military must discover ways to address the national security crisis surrounding training, Robinson also believes the AR has many other practical uses.

“Today, AR is a solution in search of a problem,” he says, adding that “the consumer market is not here yet, but for a ubiquitous AR future to be realized, the technology has to be mobile in nature, be anchored around compelling use cases, and be a technology that people want to wear.” 

By helping to solve the challenges of using AR outdoors and in dynamic environments, Robinson’s team at Red 6 is not only helping the military, but they’re helping to provide answers to questions about an emerging technology that is sure to impact countless areas of our lives.

Demo HERE.

Rice University x SLIDE

Deep learning rethink overcomes major obstacle in AI industry SLIDE is first algorithm for training deep neural nets faster on CPUs than GPUs

Rice University computer scientists have overcome a major obstacle in the burgeoning artificial intelligence industry by showing it is possible to speed up deep learning technology without specialized acceleration hardware like graphics processing units (GPUs). Scientists from Rice, supported by collaborators from Intel, will present their results today at the Austin Convention Center as a part of the machine learning systems conference MLSys.

Many companies are investing heavily in GPUs and other specialized hardware to implement deep learning, a powerful form of artificial intelligence that’s behind digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, facial recognition, product recommendation systems and other technologies. For example, Nvidia, the maker of the industry’s gold-standard Tesla V100 Tensor Core GPUs, recently reported a 41% increase in its fourth quarter revenues compared with the previous year.

Rice researchers created a cost-saving alternative to GPU, an algorithm called “sub-linear deep learning engine” (SLIDE) that uses general-purpose central processing units (CPUs) without specialized acceleration hardware.

“Our tests show that SLIDE is the first smart algorithmic implementation of deep learning on CPU that can outperform GPU hardware acceleration on industry-scale recommendation datasets with large fully connected architectures,” said Anshumali Shrivastava, an assistant professor in Rice’s Brown School of Engineering who invented SLIDE with graduate students Beidi Chen and Tharun Medini SLIDE doesn’t need GPUs because it takes a fundamentally different approach to deep learning. The standard “back-propagation ” training technique for deep neural networks requires matrix multiplication, an ideal workload for GPUs. With SLIDE, Shrivastava, Chen and Medini turned neural network training into a search problem that could instead be solved with hash tables, his radically reduces the computational overhead for SLIDE compared to back-propagation training. For example, a top-of-the-line GPU platform like the ones Amazon, Google and others offer for cloud-based deep learning services has eight Tesla V100s and costs about $100,000, Shrivastava said.

“We have one in the lab, and in our test case we took a workload that’s perfect for V100, one with more than 100 million parameters in large, fully connected networks that fit in GPU memory,” he said. “We trained it with the best (software) package out there, Google’s TensorFlow, and it took 3 1/2 hours to train.

“We then showed that our new algorithm can do the training in one hour, not on GPUs but on a 44-core Xeon-class CPU,” Shrivastava said.

Deep learning networks were inspired by biology, and their central feature, artificial neurons, are small pieces of computer code that can learn to perform a specific task. A deep learning network can contain millions or even billions of artificial neurons, and working together they can learn to make human-level, expert decisions simply by studying large amounts of data. For example, if a deep neural network is trained to identify objects in photos, it will employ different neurons to recognize a photo of a cat than it will to recognize a school bus. “You don’t need to train all the neurons on every case,” Medini said. “We thought, ‘If we only want to pick the neurons that are relevant, then it’s a search problem.’ So, algorithmically, the idea was to use locality-sensitive hashing to get away from matrix multiplication.”

Hashing is a data-indexing method invented for internet search in the 1990s. It uses numerical methods to encode large amounts of information, like entire webpages or chapters of a book, as a string of digits called a hash. Hash tables are lists of hashes that can be searched very quickly.

“It would have made no sense to implement our algorithm on TensorFlow or PyTorch because the first thing they want to do is convert whatever you’re doing into a matrix multiplication problem,” Chen said. “That is precisely what we wanted to get away from. So we wrote our own C++ code from scratch.”

Shrivastava said SLIDE’s biggest advantage over back-propagation is that it is data parallel.

“By data parallel I mean that if I have two data instances that I want to train on, let’s say one is an image of a cat and the other of a bus, they will likely activate different neurons, and SLIDE can update, or train on these two independently,” he said. “This is much a better utilization of parallelism for CPUs.

“The flipside, compared to GPU, is that we require a big memory,” he said. “There is a cache hierarchy in main memory, and if you’re not careful with it you can run into a problem called cache thrashing, where you get a lot of cache misses.” Shrivastava said his group’s first experiments with SLIDE produced significant cache thrashing, but their training times were still comparable to or faster than GPU training times. So he, Chen and Medini published the initial results on arXiv in March 2019 and uploaded their code to GitHub. A few weeks later, they were contacted by Intel.

“Our collaborators from Intel recognized the caching problem,” he said. “They told us they could work with us to make it train even faster, and they were right. Our results improved by about 50% with their help.” Shrivastava said SLIDE hasn’t yet come close to reaching its potential.

“We’ve just scratched the surface,” he said. “There’s a lot we can still do to optimize. We have not used vectorization, for example, or built-in accelerators in the CPU, like Intel Deep Learning Boost. There are a lot of other tricks we could still use to make this even faster.”

He said SLIDE is important because it shows there are other ways to implement deep learning.

“The whole message is, ‘Let’s not be bottlenecked by multiplication matrix and GPU memory,'” Shrivastava said. “Ours may be the first algorithmic approach to beat GPU, but I hope it’s not the last. The field needs new ideas, and that is a big part of what MLSys is about.”

Additional co-authors include James Farwell, Sameh Gobriel and Charlie Tai, all of Intel Labs.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF-1652131, NSF-BIGDATA 1838177), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-18-1-0152), Amazon and the Office of Naval Research.

MLSys paper
Rice University News on Twitter

About Rice Univerisity

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as the best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Not Me App

Women of color experience harassment at greater rates than other women –studies show that 25% of all black women are harassed. Blacks also reported a 60% higher rate of discrimination compared to whites.
 
Ninety percent of employees who are the victims of harassment never file a formal complaint, now with the #NotMe App, safety is literally in everyone’s hands.
 
#NotMe is a free mobile misconduct solution that supports anyone who needs help. The open platform empowers anyone to safely report misconduct they’ve witnessed or experienced, in real time, right on their mobile device in as little as 3 minutes. Reporting can also be anonymous, eliminating fear of retaliation in the workplace.

6 ways AI can help reduce business spend

There’s a lot that can go wrong in the typical organization’s spend audit process. Manually auditing vendor invoices and employee expense reports is time-consuming and frustrating. Most companies resign themselves to conducting partial audits, which might catch a few discrepancies, but leaves your company at risk for errors, waste, and fraud. 

Luckily, there’s a solution: Artificial intelligence. In our new ebook, Artificial Intelligence in Spend Auditing For Dummies, we cover how AI can improve your audit processes. Below are six ways AI can help reduce business spend. 

1. Audit 100% of spend

At most organizations, the idea of humans manually reviewing every invoice and expense report is laughable. There are too many reports, too few people, and too many other responsibilities pulling at auditors’ time. Luckily, one of AI’s many superpowers is its ability to comb through documents and evaluate risk factors near-instantly. When an invoice comes in, AI systems can immediately check if its terms match those in the contract. Similarly, when an expense report is submitted, AI can look to see if it contains violations (e.g., duplicate receipts or out-of-policy spending); it’ll flag the reports with a problem for further investigation by your team and initiate an (immediate!) reimbursement for low-risk reports. Ultimately, a comprehensive audit process means a significant reduction in leakage, plus a faster process. 

2. Sniff out T&E misuse

In most companies, travel and entertainment (T&E) is the second largest controllable business expense after salaries and benefits. It’s also particularly hard to manage, given that there are so many small expenses continuously rolling in from many different sources. In our data, we’ve found that a whopping 10% of T&E expenses are either fraudulent or a mistake. We’ve heard of employees expensing everything from tattoos, to dog kennels, to strip clubs, to jewelry, and more. Other common violations include claiming personal trips as business-related, upgrading tickets to first class, expensing weekend meals with friends, and more. AI can help you track down these problems, ensure the incorrect expenses aren’t paid out, and give you the information you need to address any large-scale issues.

3. Double-check that invoices match the contract terms

Many organizations have procurement teams whose whole job it is to negotiate favorable contract terms with vendors. But too often that effort is squandered once the contract is signed, as AP teams may not have the bandwidth to check that the invoice matches the agreed-upon terms. AI can do this automatically with every invoice received, instantly checking to make sure early payment, loyalty, and/or quantity discounts are applied. 

4.Don’t let fraud slide

Unfortunately, invoice and expense report fraud is common and can have a not-so-small impact on your company’s bottom line. Shell companies might bill for services that were never provided, or send fraudulent invoices that are part of a larger phishing scam. Employees might submit the same dinner receipt as a colleague, knowing that they’ll likely both be reimbursed, causing you to be foot the bill for their dinner twice. With AI, you can check every invoice for risk factors and flag anything fishy for auditor review. 

5. Catch double payments

Invoices often get held up — maybe an approver is out of office or the invoice failed a three-way match. In the meantime, the vendor follows up and someone else intervenes to pay the invoice out manually without noting it in the system. Afterward, the system clears the hold and the invoice is paid yet again. This double payment happens more than you might expect and often no one catches it (after all, who is going to complain about receiving extra money?). AI helps prevent this problem by keeping track of all spend and always checking for duplicates. 

6. Audit before you pay

Once a payment is out in the world, it can be difficult if not impossible to get it back — even if you later prove that the charge was erroneous or fraudulent. Even if you are able to recover it, doing so takes up valuable time and there’s a significant disadvantage to not having the cash on hand for your business. AI makes it possible to audit all spend before you pay, rendering this problem moot. 

Want to save money with AI? Download our new ebook, Artificial Intelligence in Spend Auditing For Dummies, to learn more about how artificial intelligence can help you team. 

This article was originally published on the AppZen Blog

Josephine McCann is a Product Marketing Manager at AppZen, where she loves crafting content and telling interesting stories.

Vaughn Lowery, Armon Hayes, Beyoncé, IVY PARK, Adidas

Adidas × Ivy Park

By Armon Hayes × Vaughn Lowery

“These barriers are not going to stop me,” is the opening line of the latest #Adidas×IVYPARK campaign.

The highly anticipated collaboration with Beyoncé and ADIDAS made the world stop this past weekend. Like her music, the lifestyle brand is inclusive, evoking strength and identity. Gender fluid with neutral color pallets for effortless layering during the time of year. On trend. It’s aesthetically pleasing athleisure with the intended functionality backed by the workmanship of an apparel powerhouse.

The collection includes footwear which will entice any sneakerhead. Four sleek vibrant designs starting at $99 coupled with accessories and branded grillz.

In activation of the release, this week the Beyhive sent orange care packages to various celebrities: Megan Thee StallionReese WitherspoonCiaraCardi B and Diplo. Rolling racks, trunks and boxes were chosen by the superstar herself with ‘love and respect.’

360 MAGAZINE teammates rocked the unisex cargo sweat ($85) paired with matching sweatshirt. The Nite Jogger sneakers ($159) were enunciated with a branded key chain.

And, if you were one of the lucky handpicked few, you received a luggage tag alongside of an inserted note from the Queen Bey herself.

With many of the items being SOLD OUT within hours of its online discharge, this launch is sure to be one of the most successful drops in both brand’s histories. Definitely a strong departure from Topshop (originally a partnership with British billionaire Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green, she’s now the sole owner).

Buy HERE.

Available in select stores.

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