Day: September 8, 2017

Technology brought us fake news — and it will help us kill it – Seattle Times

Technology

Technology brought us fake news — and it will help us kill it – Seattle Times

EDGAR Maddison Welch and Khawaja Muhammad Asif may have nothing in common. Welch, a North Carolina resident, opened fire in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria, while Asif, the minister for foreign affairs of Pakistan, made nuclear threats to the nation of Israel. But both men were driven to take action by fake news or misinformation or disinformation. Whatever we choose to call it, fake news has real consequences.

To understand fake news, one has to understand the underlying drivers — and technology is a major driver. The success of the internet and social media led to various opportunities to monetize our news feeds and viewing habits. Programmatic advertising and ad exchanges cropped up to slice and dice our online attention.

The increasingly low costs in setting up websites and the monetization opportunities offered by internet advertising have resulted in a mushrooming of fake-news sites, many operated by foreign actors in Macedonia and other countries, purely for financial gains. Some have likened the economics behind this to the growth of subprime mortgages before the housing crisis.

Fact vs. Fake: Fighting back against fake news

The Seattle Times LiveWire event Sept. 13 at University of Washington’s Kane Hall is sold out, but it will be streamed live at 6:30 p.m. on Facebook at facebook.com/seattletimes

Readers can replay the live feed on Facebook shortly after it finishes airing.

Delip Rao is the founder of Joostware, an AI research consulting firm. He created the Fake News Challenge, which brings AI researchers and technologists together to assist the journalism community by identifying and streamlining fact-checking workflows. Rao recently won a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The advances in technology, particularly in artificial intelligence, have also made it possible to create increasingly realistic fake audio and video. Project VoCo from Adobe and speech synthesis projects such as Lyrebird and Facebook’s Project Loop seem precursors to a potent “Photoshop of voice” tool.

Augmented-reality projects from Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have made it easy for anyone with reasonable programming skills to create videos of real-life scenes containing fake objects or persons inserted by the creator.

A facial feature manipulation project, Face2Face, promises to create videos of anyone saying anything. Behavior engineering companies like Cambridge Analytica are known to employ artificial intelligence and big data to shape narratives and affect mass-opinion shifts. The 2016 election may have been the first U.S. election fought using technology enabled narrative shaping and will not be the last election to do so. Without proper checks and balances, we might innovate our way to dystopia.

Working from the trenches of technology creation, I am making a case for hope. Fortunately, “technology solves the problems it creates” may as well be the refrain of humanity’s innovative spirit. Leaders of technology companies such as Facebook and Google have pledged openly to fight fake news by partnering with reputed third-party fact-checking organizations and by investing significant resources with the goal of disincentivizing fake-news purveyors and educating content consumers of disputed content.

Initiatives such as Google’s Project Redirect aim to penetrate thought bubbles and are being deployed to counter radicalization of individuals by extremists.

The global participation of more than 900 AI researchers, hackers, journalists and fact-checkers in the Fake News Challenge, created with no budget or sponsorship, gives me immense hope. Fake News Challenge’s goal is to enable the sharing of ideas among these communities and investigate solutions that minimize the burden of fact-checking.

Artificial intelligence, in particular, has tremendous potential to combat fake news. Our company, Joostware, is working with the support of the Knight Foundation and the Internet Archive to build an audio and video claim verification tool for fact checkers and journalists. AI can be used to build trust and reputation systems, and for early detection of potentially viral content to decide what to fact-check proactively. AI also can be applied to identify content evoking strong emotional reactions like many fake news stories do.

Of course, technology alone will not help. Like the email-spam problem, a less complex problem than fake news, we will require a multipronged solution involving technology, education and policy. Educators like Jevin West, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, are training young minds to be more discerning about what they read online. Countries such as Germany are considering legal options for the fake-news problem. Above all, journalists and fact-checkers are working tirelessly to prevent the truth from being stifled or distorted. I am hopeful that, working together, we can build a society cemented in truth.

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Biotech Forum Daily Digest: Synergy's Financing Deal In Focus

Finances

Biotech Forum Daily Digest: Synergy's Financing Deal In Focus

“Your attitude will either make or break you, we cannot change fate and the tragedies that enter our lives but we can choose how we want them to change us.” – Nikki Rowe

Biotech continues to be one of the strongest sectors in the market. The main biotech indices are up some 10% over the past few weeks and managed to post a small gain in trading yesterday while the overall market posted small declines. The sector stands at levels not seen in two years while still down some 15% from its last peak in July of 2015.

Intra-Cellular Therapies (ITCI) continued to add to its substantial rally over the past few weeks in trading Thursday. The company announced positive top-line data from the first part of an open-label safety switching study. This study had 302 patients with stable symptoms of schizophrenia were switched from standard-of-care antipsychotic medications to ITCI’s lumateperone with no dose titration of lumateperone required for a 6-week treatment duration, then switched back to standard-of-care. The stock has been “en fuego” since a favorable FDA action on Aug. 23rd.

The stock of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY) took a bit of a hit on Thursday after the company announced it was suspending the dosing in a Phase 2 open-label extension study of RNAi therapeutic fitusiran for the treatment of hemophilia A and B with or without inhibitors after a patient death. The company expects to resume dosing after reviewing the safety data and developing a risk mitigation strategy.

Adamas Pharmaceuticals (ADMS), one of only two holdings that is both in the Insiders Forum and Biotech Forum model portfolios, continues to pick up fans in the analyst community after recent FDA approval of its compound GOCOVRI for Parkinson’s. Today a five star ranked (TipRanks) analyst at JMP Securities chimes in with a reiterated Outperform rating and $33 price target. He actually notes another early stage compound in Adamas’ pipeline for some of his optimism on the stock:

Phase 1b data for ADS-4101 for the treatment of partial onset seizures in epilepsy showed the potential ability to dose to higher levels without adversely affecting safety/tolerability, which should result in a superior clinical benefit compared to the approved doses of VIMPAT.

Verastem (VSTM) is getting a lot of analyst mentions since encouraging Phase III results were disclosed Wednesday. Cantor Fitzgerald, Oppenheimer and H.C. Wainwright all reiterated Buy ratings on this Tier 4 developmental concern on Wednesday and Thursday. Price targets proffered are in a wide $6 to $17 range.

Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPT) seeing similar action after it announced positive results from a Phase 1/2 study (4053-101) assessing golodirsen (SRP-4053) in 53 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Piper Jaffray, Oppenheimer and JPMorgan all reissued Buy ratings on this DMD play on Wednesday and Thursday with price targets ranging from $55 to $76.

Newlink Genetics (NLNK), a recent Spotlight feature, rocketed up 75% in trading on Thursday. It announced very encouraging results from a Phase II trial evaluating the combination of its drug indoximod with Merck’s (MRK) KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) in patients with advanced melanoma. While it involved a relatively small subset of patients, results showed that complete response rate improved from 12% to 20%, and recorded an overall response rate of 61% and a disease control rate of 80%.

Earlier this week, Synergy Pharmaceuticals (SGYP) addressed the biggest overhang on its stock; a funding overhang. We discuss the impacts of this transaction in today’s Spotlight feature.

This small biopharma secured a debt deal with CRG LP to provide some $300 million in debt financing on Tuesday. The first tranche of $100 million was funded on closing, the second $100 million installment will be provided on or before the end of February 2018 and two $50 million tranches on or before the end of March 2019.

The loans matured at the end of the first half of 2025. Payments under the loan will be interest only and paid quarterly for the initial five-year period. This will followed by a dozen quarterly installments of principal and interest during the final three years of the term. This could convert to an eight-year interest only period if certain milestones are achieved.

The interest on the debt was 9.5%. This compares favorably to other similar deals I have seen on some of the biotech companies I have held in similar situations. Relypsa (RLYP) obtain half the financing and at 11.5% before it was bought out several months later. Merrimack (MACK) paid 12% last year.

The debt deal does a couple of important things for Synergy Pharmaceuticals. It obviously removes the funding overhang that has cut the stock more than in half since Trulance was approved in January. It gets the company to 2019 where its CFO has stated the firm will be cash flow positive. Most importantly, it keeps the company in play as an acquisition target. Synergy did not have to issue convertible debt or sell any global rights to Trulance in this deal. Therefore, in no way did it diminish its appeal as an acquisition or hinder its ability to negotiate a purchase on favorable terms.

I don’t see a buyout as a likely possibility over the next six months. I believe the company would like to get into early 2018 before considering any serious offers. Trulance should be approved for IBS-C expanding the potential market for the compound by roughly a third. New insurance coverage contracts should also kick in on January first. Both should help Trulance sales nicely enhancing Synergy’s negotiating position.

Oppenheimer and Canaccord Genuity both reiterated Buy ratings on the stock after the announcement of the debt deal with the latter also posting a $13 price target on the stock. Canaccord’s analyst adding this take on the financing deal:

Based on cash flow analysis, we expect the debt financing to sustain the company through 2019, which is highly encouraging. We believe the non-dilutive method of financing is a prudent measure to sustain company financial health without causing pressure on the share price

My own view is the company is bought out for $8.00 to $11.00 a share over the next 18 months, providing serious upside potential from current trading levels.

I have a full position in Synergy already but am adding exposure using a Buy-Write strategy to mitigate some risk and pick up some premium income as well. Buying the stock for ~$3.00 a share and looking to get 50 cents for the April $4 calls might be a nice risk/reward play at current levels, and one I plan to pursue. I offer it up for others that might be in a similar situation on Synergy.

“The strongest backs bear the heaviest burdens” – Will Bly

Disclosure: I am/we are long ADMS,ALNY,ITCI,SGYP,SRPT,VSTM.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

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Technology Is Evolving Property Management And Leasing — And Investors Need To Keep Up – Forbes

Technology

Technology Is Evolving Property Management And Leasing — And Investors Need To Keep Up – Forbes

Shutterstock

Real estate is an attractive investment for a variety of reasons, but managing a real estate asset brings a number of challenges for which an average investor isn’t ready.

A typical real estate purchase is a safe and secure investment. It is a predictable place to put money and generate consistent annual returns. But there is no “typical” real estate investor. Look no further than your own street to find one property owned by a single landlord with a modest one-property portfolio, next to another owned by a real estate investment trust (REIT) like Blackstone with tens of billions in holdings. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and more often than not, much (or all) of the processes and software used to manage these properties have lagged behind the wave of Silicon Valley technology that has inundated the rest of our lives.

Finding the perfect property is one thing, but effectively managing residential real estate requires an entirely different set of skills. A landlord has to excel at marketing their property, determining rent prices, screening and processing tenant applications, collecting rent payments, performing maintenance and understanding all the legal aspects of landlording that govern tenant-landlord relationships. Additionally, they must always be available for the tenant phone calls that come in at all hours, day and night.

Neglecting just one of these functions could lead to a catastrophic loss that negates all recent earnings for an investment. It’s no wonder many landlords choose to hire a professional property manager.

There are an estimated 34,000-plus property management companies in the United States, and all of them require an office, a team of employees, a network of service providers and contractors, and well-defined processes for all the aforementioned tasks. This can all be very expensive to create as a business owner or to contract as a landlord. In a competitive marketplace, managers are always looking to reduce their costs. Technology offers ways to accomplish this without sacrificing a high quality of service.

How Technology Narrows The Gap

Technology is underused in property management but has the potential to drastically reduce expenses while improving the quality of service. Every tedious process should be streamlined or automated.

To start, leasing is a time-consuming process. Posting advertisements, responding to leads, handling showings, collecting and processing applications, and eventually preparing a lease, all require lots of manpower. This process would benefit from automation, but where do you draw the line between automation and human-centric customer service?

The trick is to automate as many processes as possible, while always providing a personal touchpoint. You still need leasing agents, but every part of the process aside from phone calls and showings can be automated: things like 3D virtual tours, self-serve scheduling of showings, automated tenant notifications, online applications and background checks, online lease signing and payment collection. All of this can now be either automated or heavily optimized with off-the-shelf software, a bit of non-technical customization and some defined processes.

This same philosophy should be applied to maintenance. A typical maintenance department revolves around phone calls, paper work orders and manual status updates. The result is hours and hours spent on manual data entry and long delays between when work is completed and when tenants and owners are notified.

Most of these manual functions can be eliminated with software. There are mobile apps that allow maintenance coordinators to monitor the progress of work orders and track the location of technicians. They can streamline check-ins and check-outs and prompt for photos to be taken before and after work is completed. Generally, for a product like this, a property management company will have to pay for an additional software product that integrates with their core property management software. This can be time-consuming and expensive but is almost always worth the investment.

It’s difficult to strike a balance between the importance of customer service and the value of automation. People will always be critically important to property management. Right now there isn’t a computer that can fix a toilet, and customers always need a friendly voice at the other end of a phone line. But with the pace at which technology is evolving, it’s critical that real estate investors and managers figure out how to leverage it to improve their service and rental experience.

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Shutterstock

Real estate is an attractive investment for a variety of reasons, but managing a real estate asset brings a number of challenges for which an average investor isn’t ready.

A typical real estate purchase is a safe and secure investment. It is a predictable place to put money and generate consistent annual returns. But there is no “typical” real estate investor. Look no further than your own street to find one property owned by a single landlord with a modest one-property portfolio, next to another owned by a real estate investment trust (REIT) like Blackstone with tens of billions in holdings. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and more often than not, much (or all) of the processes and software used to manage these properties have lagged behind the wave of Silicon Valley technology that has inundated the rest of our lives.

Finding the perfect property is one thing, but effectively managing residential real estate requires an entirely different set of skills. A landlord has to excel at marketing their property, determining rent prices, screening and processing tenant applications, collecting rent payments, performing maintenance and understanding all the legal aspects of landlording that govern tenant-landlord relationships. Additionally, they must always be available for the tenant phone calls that come in at all hours, day and night.

Neglecting just one of these functions could lead to a catastrophic loss that negates all recent earnings for an investment. It’s no wonder many landlords choose to hire a professional property manager.

There are an estimated 34,000-plus property management companies in the United States, and all of them require an office, a team of employees, a network of service providers and contractors, and well-defined processes for all the aforementioned tasks. This can all be very expensive to create as a business owner or to contract as a landlord. In a competitive marketplace, managers are always looking to reduce their costs. Technology offers ways to accomplish this without sacrificing a high quality of service.

How Technology Narrows The Gap

Technology is underused in property management but has the potential to drastically reduce expenses while improving the quality of service. Every tedious process should be streamlined or automated.

To start, leasing is a time-consuming process. Posting advertisements, responding to leads, handling showings, collecting and processing applications, and eventually preparing a lease, all require lots of manpower. This process would benefit from automation, but where do you draw the line between automation and human-centric customer service?

The trick is to automate as many processes as possible, while always providing a personal touchpoint. You still need leasing agents, but every part of the process aside from phone calls and showings can be automated: things like 3D virtual tours, self-serve scheduling of showings, automated tenant notifications, online applications and background checks, online lease signing and payment collection. All of this can now be either automated or heavily optimized with off-the-shelf software, a bit of non-technical customization and some defined processes.

This same philosophy should be applied to maintenance. A typical maintenance department revolves around phone calls, paper work orders and manual status updates. The result is hours and hours spent on manual data entry and long delays between when work is completed and when tenants and owners are notified.

Most of these manual functions can be eliminated with software. There are mobile apps that allow maintenance coordinators to monitor the progress of work orders and track the location of technicians. They can streamline check-ins and check-outs and prompt for photos to be taken before and after work is completed. Generally, for a product like this, a property management company will have to pay for an additional software product that integrates with their core property management software. This can be time-consuming and expensive but is almost always worth the investment.

It’s difficult to strike a balance between the importance of customer service and the value of automation. People will always be critically important to property management. Right now there isn’t a computer that can fix a toilet, and customers always need a friendly voice at the other end of a phone line. But with the pace at which technology is evolving, it’s critical that real estate investors and managers figure out how to leverage it to improve their service and rental experience.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link
________________________________________
For additional technology articles, visit my site: Through The Eyes of Geek

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