3 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Improving Software Quality

Marc Andreessen famously said that software is eating the world. This notion, that every company must become first and foremost a software company, is hardly a radical notion these days.

However, even as businesses across industries have invested deeply in their software capabilities, they are now struggling with the complexities of modern software development and deployment — software is more distributed, is released in a continuous fashion, and increasingly incorporates aspects of machine learning into the code itself, making the testing and QA function all the more challenging.

Today most enterprise labs require engineers to write testing scripts, and their technical range of skills must be equal to the developers who coded the original app. This additional overhead in quality assurance corresponds with the increasing complexity of the software itself; current methods can only be replaced by systems of increasing intelligence. Logically, AI systems will be increasingly required to test and iterate systems which themselves contain intelligence, in part because the array of input and output possibilities are bewildering.

AI in software testing is already being applied in a variety of ways. Here are three areas in which AI is making the most immediate impact:

Regression Testing

One aspect of testing that is particularly well suited for AI is regression testing, a critical part of the software lifecycle which verifies that previously tested modules continue to function predictably following code modification, serving as a safeguard that no new bugs were introduced during the most recent cycle of enhancements to the app being tested. The concept of regression testing makes it an ideal target of AI and autonomous testing algorithms because it makes use of user assertion data gathered during previous test cycles. By its very nature, regression testing itself potentially generates its own data set for future deep learning applications.

Current AI methods such as classification and clustering algorithms rely on just this type of primarily repetitive data to train models and forecast future outcomes accurately. Here’s how it works. First, a set of known inputs and verified outputs are used to set up features and train the model. Then, a portion of the dataset with known inputs and outputs are reserved for testing the model. This set of known inputs are fed to the algorithm, and the output is checked against the verified outputs to calculate accuracy of the model. If the accuracy reaches a useful threshold, then the model may be used in production.

Machine Vision

Getting computers to visualize their environment is probably the most well-known aspect of how AI is being applied in the real world. While this is most commonly understood in the context of autonomous vehicles, machine vision also has practical applications in the domain of software testing, most notably as it relates to UX and how Web pages are rendered. Determining if web pages have been correctly rendered is essential to website testing. If a layout breaks or if controls render improperly, content can become unreadable and controls can become unusable. Given the enormous range of possible designs, design components, browser variations, dynamic layout changes driven, even highly-trained human testers can be challenged to efficiently and reliably evaluate rendering correctness or recognize when rendering issues impact functionality.

AI-based machine vision is well suited to these types of tasks and can be used to capture a reviewable ‘filmstrip’ of page rendering (so no manual or automated acquisition of screen captures is required). The render is analyzed through a decision tree that segments the page into regions, then invokes a range of visual processing tools to discover, interrogate, and classify page elements.

Intelligent Test Case Generation

Defining software test cases is a foundational aspect of every software development project. However, we don’t know what we don’t know so test cases are typically limited to scenarios that have been seen before. One approach is to provide an autonomous testing solution with a test case written in a natural language and it will autonomously create the test scripts, test cases, and test data.

Among the diverse techniques under exploration today, artificial neural networks show greatest potential for adapting big datasets to regression test plan design. Multi-layered neural networks are now trained with the software application under test, at first using test data which conform to the specification, but as cycles of testing continue, the accrued data expands the test potential. After a number of regression test cycles, the neural network becomes a living simulated model of the application under test.

As AI becomes more deeply embedded in the next generation of software, developers and testers will need to incorporate AI technologies to ensure quality. While it may be a frightening prospect to imagine how a program could train itself to test your apps, it is as inevitable as speech recognition and natural language processing appeared to be a few years ago.

About the Author

Jon Seaton is the Director of Data Science for Functionize, providers of an autonomous software testing platform that incorporate AI and machine learning technologies to automate software development.

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Researchers use CRISPR gene editing to disrupt antibiotic-resistance in bacteria- Technology News, Firstpost

An encouraging new study from researchers at University of Colorado has shown that disrupting multiple bacterial genes at once is a successful strategy to use against deadly superbugs and emerging antibiotic-resistance in bacteria.

The study was  Communications Biology on Monday, and widens the scope of using genetic tools to address the growing antibiotic resistance problem by limiting the organism’s functioning.

The newly-discovered approach, called Controlled Hindrance of Adaptation of OrganismS (CHAOS) uses the gene-editing tool to alter multiple in bacterial cells to impair its core functioning abilities.

This cripples some of the central processes in the bacteria — the cell’s defence mechanisms being an important one.

Researchers have developed a combination of “kill switch” genes in for the approach.

When a single gene in the group is switched off, the bacteria appears to be able to cope, compensate and survive. But on tweaking a combination of 2 or more of these genes, the bacteria got weaker and more sensitive to antibiotic treatments.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

“We saw that when we tweaked multiple gene expressions at the same time —even genes that would seemingly help the bacteria survive — the bacteria’s fitness dropped dramatically,” Peter Otoupal, lead author of the study University Press.

Using this technique doesn’t alter the genome of the bacteria itself, but how the genes are expressed by the cell.

“This method offers tremendous potential to create more effective combinatorial approaches,” Anushree Chatterjee, senior author of the study, University Press.

The researchers explain that the method could be further optimized for more efficient disruptions — something the team is pursuing in ongoing research.

“In the past, nobody really considered that it might be possible to slow down evolution,” Otoupal said.

“But like anything else, evolution has rules and we’re starting to learn how to use them to our advantage.”

Why Computer Software Firms Rate As Top Artificial Intelligence Stocks

Investors looking for top artificial intelligence stocks should focus on computer software vendors Salesforce.com (CRM), Splunk (SPLK), Zendesk (ZEN), Appian (APPN) and Twilio (TWLO), because they can move quickly to improve existing products by layering on AI tools, says an analyst.

X

William Blair analyst Bhavan Suri also includes Amazon.com (AMZN) in his list of artificial intelligence stocks. Amazon utilizes AI in consumer-facing products such as smart Echo-branded home speakers. It also uses AI in cloud computing services.

Suri estimates the value-added AI software market will grow to $15.07 billion by 2020, up from $1.56 billion last year.

“It is still early to gauge which companies can best leverage machine learning to create new revenue opportunities,” Suri said in a note to clients. “In our coverage universe we tend to favor a few application vendors, including Amazon, Appian, Salesforce, Splunk, Twilio, and Zendesk. Still, we expect AI to be an important aspect of the story for other vendors we cover, such as Alteryx (AYX), HubSpot (HUBS), and Tableau Software (DATA).”

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He says in other markets companies need to build AI products from scratch.

How AI Works

AI involves computer algorithms — software programs that aim to mimic the human ability to learn, interpret patterns, and make predictions.

“Since these technologies can be used in many different applications and industries, we expect AI to ultimately take the form of both a feature in enterprise software applications and as stand-alone products,” added Suri. “We expect AI as a feature to be more prominent, because application vendors should be able to quickly build associated capabilities directly into their existing offerings.”

While Suri follows software firms, chip makers such as Nvidia (NVDA) are also among the top AI stocks to watch.

Amid a broad sell-off in technology stocks this week, many computer software firms have taken a licking. The software sector trades at a high multiple to estimated revenue growth. That’s one financial metric analysts watch.

Salesforce.com, though, is holding up better than most enterprise software stocks. Salesforce.com still trades above its 50-day-moving average.

Splunk, a database and security software firm, has dipped below its 50-day line. So has Zendesk, a provider of customer-support software.

Salesforce.com closed up 1.4% to 135.12 on the stock market today. Amazon rose 2.5% to 1,701.45.

RELATED LINKS:

Where Are The Early Investing Hot Spots In Artificial Intelligence?

AI In Business: This Is What The Future Holds

How Google Can Race Ahead Of The Pack In Self-Driving Cars

Sell And Take Profits Or Hold? Here Are Several Guidelines To Follow

The Basics: How To Analyze A Stock’s Cup With Handle

On Computers: How to ramp up safety for your cellphone

Users and Apple say the iPhone is the safest smartphone out there, but you can make it safer still.

Start with the log-on. Do you use a fingerprint? You should. Joy initially had difficulties getting her Android phone to recognize her index finger. The solution was to use more fingers. Now she uses her middle finger to get into the phone, and this one rarely misses. (No comments, please.) If you have an iPhone X, you can use your face instead of a fingerprint. It’s rumored that all iPhones coming out this fall will have “Face ID.” It’s inevitable.

What about a hacker breaking into your iCloud account on the web? It’s a good idea to set up “two-factor identification.” If you Google that phrase, along with “iPhone,” (or Android if that’s what you use), you can find simple instructions for setting it up. With two-factor ID, you’ll need a code that was just emailed, phoned or texted to you as well as your password, whenever you’re logging on from a new machine. This stops the bad guy or girl in their tracks.

There is a device called “GrayKey,” which its maker claims can crack any iPhone password or code. It comes in two versions, one for $15,000 and one for $30,000, used by some police departments and presumably some government agencies. An Israeli firm, “Cellebrite,” will crack a cellphone code for you for $5,000 a pop. That’s plus airfare, because you have to bring the phone to Israel.

If it’s installing phone apps you’re worried about, try the free Malwarebytes mobile app for iPhone or Android, which blocks anything suspicious. In our test, it tagged an app called “Lost Android,” so we removed it. If we ever lose our phone and it isn’t in range of Alexa or our Google Home speaker, either of which can make our phone ring to announce its location or its address, we can go to MyAccount.Google.com and click “find my phone.”

A $12-a-year version of Malwarebytes’ mobile app can screen and block scam calls and texts. It can also unlock your phone if you’re a victim of “ransomware.” In a ransomware attack, you’re asked to pay a sum of money to get your phone unlocked, but Malwarebyes can do that for you for no extra charge. You get a 30-day free trial of this premium version when you download the free version.

Book shout

Joy has a bookstore habit and buys more books than she reads. A free app called “BookShout” fixes that.

BookShout sets a daily goal for you, with a progress bar that moves along as you’re reading a book. After reading just 1,000 words, Joy got a congratulatory email. After 5,000 words, she received 50 cents in BookShout bucks. The first day, she ranked 1,535 among her friends, but quickly moved up to 534 a few days later. It’s all so gratifying, she might just finish a book called “Only Humans Need Apply,” which chronicles the rise of robots. (These robots can also read books, though their reviews are somewhat mechanical.)

To start, either download the app from the app store onto your phone, or go to bookshout.com to read books on your computer. We compared Bookshout’s e-book prices with Amazon’s and found them to be identical. BookShout also has a category called “free books.”

Though some reviewers have balked at reading books inside anything other than the Amazon Kindle app, Joy likes seeing the progress bar move along towards the daily goal. You can switch from one book to another and still get credit for reading. If you don’t like getting congratulatory emails, you can turn those off.

Internuts

• AffordableCollegesOnline.org ranks online programs at a huge variety of colleges, from state schools to the Ivy League.

• MrOwl.com lets you save your favorite websites to a page that others can see. If they like your collections or you like theirs, you can “heart” them. We clicked “history” and learned that a Union commander in the Civil War issued orders freeing the slaves in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia, though this was well beyond his authority. The orders were rescinded by President Lincoln 10 days later.

Recovering photos on your iPhone

We don’t own an iPhone, but the site Comparitech.com gave us some good tips for recovering photos from one.

First, open the Photos app on your iPhone. Look at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and tap “Albums.” Scroll down and look at “Recently Deleted,” which has all the photos you deleted in the last 30 days. Your lost photo might be there. Now tap “Select” in the upper right and choose the photos you want back. Then tap “Recover.”

Next, try logging on to iCloud.com. Your photos may have been automatically backed up there. Tap “Photos” to see everything saved. If your storage is full, use the iTunes app to back up your photos to your computer. If you’ve done this regularly, you can recover any lost photo. Even easier: Download the free “Google Photos” app. It will automatically back up any photos you’ve taken with your phone. Google Photos gives you unlimited storage space if you are willing to limit photo resolution to 16 megapixels and video resolution to 1080p. If you store at higher resolutions, it counts against your Google Drive quota of 15 gigabytes.

The numbers report

Google has 31 percent of the world’s digital ad market, according to research firm eMarketer, generating $85 billion in revenue. Facebook is second, with 18 percent. Google also owns YouTube and gets another $9.13 billion in ad revenue from there.

Hey Google!

If you have the “Google Home” speaker, you no longer have to say “Hey Google,” every time you want its attention. If eight seconds or less have passed since your last question, you can just ask a follow-up, which doesn’t have to be related to the first one.

But first you have to set this up. Go to the Google Home app on your phone. Look for the three stacked lines called the “hamburger icon” or the word “menu.” Tap it, then tap “more settings.” Tap “preferences” and turn on “continued conversation.” While you’re there, tap “Getting Around” and tell Google how you usually get around – car, public transportation, walking, biking, jet pack, etc. The next time you ask for directions, the Google assistant will tailor her response to your preferred mode of movement.

How Artificial Intelligence May Make A Dent In The Technology Productivity Crisis

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