The rise and fall of the automobile

Back in September 2015 the world discovered that a leading car manufacturer had been cheating in its emissions tests. The company had illicitly installed engine management software, known as a “defeat device”, in its diesel vehicles. The software switched the engine to a lower performance, cleaner exhaust emissions mode that allowed it to pass the US Environmental Protection Agency, and other regulators’ emissions tests. When the car was on the road rather than on the test ramp, however, the software switched the engine to a more polluting, higher performance mode and allowed the vehicles to spew out higher levels of pollution than are allowed under regulations.

The defeat device gave drivers the performance they were after from the vehicles but hid the e environmental cost of that performance behind false emissions data. The company in question, Volkswagen, one of the most prestigious vehicles marques of the last half a century is now paying the price in terms of perception of its global brand. Research published in the Journal of Global Business Advancement, suggests that this fraud has had a significantly detrimental impact on the company and muses on how consumer trust in the brand might be rebuilt.

Adnan Latif of the College of Business Administration, at the University of Dammam, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, asks “Is it the beginning of the end for this giant brand or will it restore its image among its millions of consumers?” Volkswagen has its origins as a company founded in Nazi Germany in 1937 as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later it was renamed Volkswagenwerk but was operated and controlled by the German Labour Front, the Nazi Party initially. After World War II it subsumed Audi and Bentley but it was many years before the US market would ignore its Nazi origins. By 2014, however, the company had factories in 31 countries and was a multinational company with an enormous share of the ever-expanding vehicle market. Global brand value was $8 billion and brand revenue $139.5 billion.

Latif has an interesting take on the VW deceit and scandal in that it does not represent a fault or safety issue but rather suggests even greater engineering skills, albeit illicit, among the companies’ designers, engineers and programmers to have pulled of such a deception for many years. “Even though the news is negative it does have a twisted positive side and is different from all the rest of auto malfunction cases,” Latif explains. “It does not carry the scar of incompetent auto engineering as has happened with several other manufacturers in recent years.” He adds that “Instead it could be perceived as a well-planned genius covert engineering operation that fooled the world for almost half a decade.” Adding: “Young high-tech consumers might now be attracted even more to VW diesel cars which they might perceive as not being made by incompetent people but by VW engineers possessing the hacker’s evil genius mind.”

Latif, A.A. (2017) ‘Volkswagen brand: the fall of an auto empire‘, J. Global Business Advancement, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.281-304.

Research Picks Extra – June 2017

Signing on the dotted line, online

A new efficient and dynamic approach to signature recognition has been developed by an international research team. Their approach extracts the stroke-associated features of the signature for the global recognition phase as well as for signal pre-processing prior to local recognition. They explain in detail how the algorithm works and how it can distinguish between genuine and forged signatures with a good degree of accuracy against 100 signatures randomly selected from a database of 5000, with half fake and half genuine in their samples. The algorithm defeated the forgers 96% of the time.

El_Rahman, S.A. (2017) ‘An efficient approach for dynamic signature recognition‘, Int. J. Intelligent Engineering Informatics, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.167-190

Using weeds to optimize

Optimization algorithms are an important component of countless complicated problems, especially those involve multiple inputs and outputs, random factors, and networks. Scientists in Iran have now turned to the way in which weeds colonize a garden to develop and algorithm that finds solutions to a complex problem by colonizing the network, for example. The green shoots of the weeds represent the solutions to the problem that best fit. The team has demonstrated proof of principle for their discrete invasive weed optimization (DIWO) algorithm to successfully solve a maximum-weighted tree matching problem (MWTMP) a problem of efficiency in hierarchical systems such as sales networks.

Zandieh, M., Shokrollahpour, E. and Bagher, M. (2017) ‘Maximum-weighted tree matching problem: a novel discrete invasive weed optimisation algorithm‘, Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.95-105

Fixing autocorrect

There’s a joke that one might say is an old joke, at least in terms of modern technology: “The computer scientist who invented autocorrect has died, the funfair will be held next monkey”. It’s old, I didn’t say it was funny! However, it does cut to the quick of a problem many of us face in modern society, the lack of context recognition in autocorrect that leads to spelling errors and malapropisms galore in our personal and business messages, even our presidential tweets. Now, researchers from India are working on developing a new mechanism that can identify context and so boost the accuracy of autocorrect. No more monkey funfairs when the funeral is to be held on Monday from now on.

Nejja, M. and Yousfi, A. (2017) ‘Context’s impact on the automatic spelling correction‘, Int. J. Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.56-74

Do you like good music?

Cataloguing music has been an issue for music publishers, artists and shops and suppliers since the days of printed sheet music back in the 19th century, all the way through vinyl era of the 20th century to vinyl’s digital successor the CD and then into the digital download era of mp3, Ogg, and FLAC files. It is possible to categorize a piece of music based on artist and perceived genre, it is also possible to search lyrics for songs. However, a universal classification system that ignores genre (much music crosses genre or cannot be pigeonholed) and does not rely on a listener’s opinion would be most valuable to the music industry, musicians and artists and music consumers alike. A team from Algeria is developing a system that might solve this perennial problem by providing a faithful representation of the semantic content of songs, facilitating music information retrieval in heterogeneous collections by indexing all types of songs from the same concepts, and enabling intelligent search by exploiting the semantic relations between indexing concepts.

Lachtar, N., Bahi, H. and Bouras, Z.E. (2017) ‘Conceptual search of songs using domain ontology and semantic links‘, Int. J. Intelligent Systems Technologies and Applications, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.153-168

Cost effectiveness in AIDS interventions

Improving the cost effectiveness of HIV/AIDS interventions in South Africa

An international African collaboration has turned to statistical analysis to determine the cost effectiveness of major HIV/AIDS interventions in South Africa with a view to advising policy makers on the optimal approach to managing the disease. Details are reported in the International Journal of Economics and Business Research.

Josue Mbonigaba of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban, South Africa, working with Saidou Baba Oumar of The University of Bamenda, in Bambili, and the University of Buea, both in Cameroon point out that a shortage of resources in South Africa to address the high burden of HIV/AIDS requires that different strategies must be adopted in rural and urban regions. The team explains that despite major advances in coping with AIDS elsewhere in the world, South Africa continues to suffer the burden of this devastating disease with many millions living with HIV/AIDS (ca 5.51 million in 2015). The high prevalence is a consequence of an exponential increase in infections through the late 1990s and early 2000s, which the team attributes to the slow response of the government to the crisis.

The team has used Markov state transition models, the spectrum policy modeling system and sensitivity analysis to estimate the cost-effectiveness (CE) of different interventions. The interventions discussed are: prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, use of highly active antiretroviral drugs in adults and in children.

They have found that running HIV/AIDS interventions and expecting to achieve the same cost effectiveness across both rural and urban areas is erroneous. They point out that, factors affecting cost effectiveness, such as earlier or increased access to interventions have more significant influence in rural areas than they do in urban areas. “This result is crucial for South African policymakers, who have been seeking to address the dichotomy between rural and urban areas,” the team reports. “Factors linking earlier access and usage of interventions include stigmatization and other cultural factors.” As such, these issues must be addressed if interventions are to have the deepest impact and bring South Africa out of this medical crisis sooner rather than later.

Mbonigaba, J. and Oumar, S.B. (2017) ‘The cost-effectiveness of major HIV/AIDS interventions in rural and urban areas in South Africa’, Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.413-434.