7 Publications in 2018

At EURA NOVA, we believe investing in research allows us to continuously become more proficient, to maintain our know-how at the cutting edge of IT, and to share its benefits with our customers. As we look back on the year 2018, we are both proud and happy to announce that our R&D department has published 7 publications this year:

 

Firstly, our paper “Pairwise Image Ranking with Deep Comparative Network” was published at the 26th European Symposium on Artificial Neural Networks. The paper, written by our Lead R&D engineer Aymen Cherif and Salim Jouili, discuss how using the pair-wise ranking model can provide better results for instance-level image retrieval.

Aymen Cherif, Salim Jouili, Pairwise Image Ranking with Deep Comparative Network. ESANN 2018: ES2018-200

 

Secondly, our R&D engineer Cécile Pereira participated in the redaction of a paper published in Bioinformatics in May 2018. They propose a novel end-to-end deep learning approach for biomedical NER tasks that leverage the local contexts based on n-gram character and word embeddings via Convolutional Neural Network.

Qile Zhu, Xiaolin Li,  Ana Conesa, Cécile Pereira, GRAM-CNN: A deep learning approach with local context for named entity recognition in biomedical text, Bioinformatics – May 2018

 

In July, our R&D engineer Katherine Krasnoschok was in Melbourne, Australia to attend the ACL conference. She presented her poster on topic modelling. Her paper, co-written with Salim Jouili, indicates that involving more named entities positively influences the overall quality of topics.

Katsiaryna Krasnashchok, Salim Jouili, Improving Topic Quality by Promoting Named Entities in Topic Modeling, Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers). Vol. 2. 2018

 

Moreover, our paper “Graph BI & Analytics: Current State and Future Challenges” was accepted for publication and presented at the 20th International Conference on Big Data Analytics and Knowledge Discovery, taking place in Germany in September. The paper presents the state of the art of graph BI & analytics, with a focus on graph warehousing.

Amine Ghrab, Oscar Romero, Salim Jouili, Sabri Skhiri, Graph BI & Analytics: Current State and Future Challenges. DaWaK 2018: 3-18

 

In September as well, our paper Data Mining and Machine Learning Techniques supporting Time-based Separation Concept Deployment, co-written with Eurocontrol and WaPT, was presented at the 37th Digital Avionics Systems Conference (DASC) in London, U.K. The paper presents two methods to allow air traffic controllers to deliver separation minima accurately and safely, on the basis of time intervals instead of distances.

De Visscher, I.; Stempfel, G.; Rooseleer, F. & Treve, V.; Data mining and Machine Learning techniques supporting Time-Based Separation concept deployment, in 37th Digital Avionics Systems Conference (DASC), pp 594-603, London, UK, September 23-27, 2018

 

Finally, our engineer Katsiaryna Krasnashchok presented in October her poster on Hierarchical Attention-Based Neural Topic Model at the 6th International Conference on Statistical Language and Speech Processing. Furthermore, our Lead R&D engineer Aymen Cherif and our bootcamper Luca De Petris presented as well their poster on LSTM Siamese Network.

Katsiaryna Krasnashchok, Salim Jouili, Hierarchical Attention-Based Neural Topic Model, SLSP 2018

Luca De Petris, Aymen Cherif,  LSTM Siamese Network for Question Answering System, SLSP 2018

IEEE Big Data 2018: a summary

At the beginning of the month, our R&D director Sabri Skirhi and our R&D engineer Syrine Ferjaoui travelled to Seattle to attend IEEE Big Data. The conference is one of the most influent in this domain, gathering more than 1100 attendees, 5 keynotes, 9 tutorials, and 8 daily tracks in parallel. Back in Belgium, our R&D director gives you his opinion on the conference itself and the important elements from the keynotes, the tutorials, the workshops and the interesting papers.

 

Favourite Talks

 

Keynote 1: Decentralized Machine Learning – Google AI

The IEEE Big Data conference started with the inspiring keynote of Blaise Agüera y Arcas, a distinguished researcher at Google AI. Our director details: “The straightforward thesis of the talk is that we can, and we must, use the mobile device for local deep neural network computing. Blaise Agüera explained that since the launch of Tensorflow, Google Brain has built specialised hardware servers to run efficiently deep neural network computing jobs. Nowadays, we find on the market specialised chips that are smaller than a coin of 1 cent and that costs less than a cappuccino. Using them, you can run very efficiently deep neural net computing jobs on mobile at low frequency, low energy and even continuously. For example,  the Google camera embeds deep neural nets and does not need to send data to the server side for face or situation detection. But Dr Blaise is going further. He works on reusing the existing techniques in distributed neural net and sharing the learned gradient in a parameter server and sharing them to all device. This is what we call federated learning, and it has impacted many research areas, such as edge computing. The idea of edge computing is to execute light tasks on the edge of the network in order to offload the server/cloud. But here, this is changing the game since the nature of the job is not light anymore. In addition, the concept of federated learning does not try to offload the server but changes the role of the server as a coordinator between edge devices. Secondly, it has impacted neural net compression. The question is then: do we still need to compress networks when we can either distribute the neural net on the server side or have specialised chips on the device side?”

 

Keynote 2: Big Data for Speech and Language Processing – MSF Research

The second keynote, Xuedong Huang, is a Microsoft Technical Fellow of Microsoft Cloud and AI. He was presenting the latest advances in Speech recognition and Text To Speech (TTS). The key papers behind this technology can be found here and on the research group page. Our director explains: “The first part of the keynote was about the MSF live captioning that will be soon integrated natively in PowerPoint. That is just impressive. Everything that the speaker is saying is capturing by the tool. I personally tested the Translator Android application and it works just fine!  The second part of the keynote was focused on the Text To Speech (TTS). The speaker was showing a set of very interesting examples of how voice can be modelled. For instance, if the system learns a model out of hours of discussions, it can apply my voice in Chinese or Arabic or it can learn from a group of person in order to get a better accent and expression”.

 

The Tutorials

This year, IEEE Big Data organised 9 tutorials. Our R&D director explains: “This is probably what I like the most at an academic conference. A research group presents a complete state-of-the-art review in their domain and usually position their own work in the story. My favourite was Progress in Zeroth Order Optimization and Its Applications to Adversarial Robustness in Deep Learning. It was one of the coolest research topics I have seen so far. They discussed how you can fool a deep neural network in order to get a wrong classification. The idea is great: finding the minimal noise you can add to a picture in order to increase the probability of a wrong classification. In this setting, you don’t know anything about the classifier, but you can submit images and you will get a label. Indeed, that looks like a black box optimisation setting. That is precisely why they use Zeroth order optimisation. The research topic is so cool, you can manage to fool the classifier to make it recognize a piano in an image picturing a bagel! Can you imagine the impact, at the era of the electronic passport, where image recognition starts to be used in the signature process?  What if I can find how to fool an algorithm to be classified as someone else with just a few grey pixels on my picture?”

 

The Workshops

EURA NOVA research centre organised the third workshop on Real-time and Stream analytics in Big Data, collocated with the 2018 IEEE conference on Big Data. Our Research Director Sabri Skhiri talked about data management, and stream and real-time analytics. Thank you to our keynote speaker Fabian Hueske, and all the attendees and speakers! They had a great time, with captivating talks and a lot of interesting questions and comments. The summary of the event is available on our website. The slides of the opening session and the slides of the second keynote are available here.

 

Final Feelings

In the early age of the conference, IEEE Big Data was mainly focused on the big data infrastructure. In the following years, the conference became data science oriented, with a significant increase in the number and the complexity of data science use cases. When we asked how he felt about the event, Sabri explained: “I have been attending this conference since the first occurrence. The most important shift I have seen is really about the content. This year, the infrastructure papers have almost disappeared. On the other hand, the vast majority of the publications are on data science. We can really see that it is becoming a conference for ML practitioners. The side effect is the complexification of the discussed topics. Machine learning notions are supposed to be known, deep neural networks are becoming the norm. Going further, the authors are also good at using distributed frameworks, especially Spark. For them, the infrastructure is not a problem anymore, this is part of the daily job”.

 

The Papers

A personal selection of interesting papers:

Spark+AI Summit: a summary

A few weeks ago, Sabri Skhiri and Florian Demesmaeker were in London to attend the Spark+AI summit. They came back with a lot to say about the new features of Spark and the presented use cases! In this article, they will give you their opinion about Databricks’ main announcement, the intakes of their favourite talks and training, and what they thought of the new name of the conference.

 

A new name

This year, Spark expanded the summit’s scope and renamed it “Spark + AI Summit”. The goal of Databricks, announced by its co-founder Ali Ghodsi, is to incorporate unified aspects of data and AI.

Florian Demesmaeker, our R&D engineer, explains: “In some of the keynote talks, the speakers talked about use cases where the job of the data engineer is strongly reduced. The data scientists can easily experiment with data, travelling back and forth in time. This means more focus on AI, rather than on the data engineering part that makes all data accessible to the data scientists”.

 

Main announcement

In line with this change of name, Databricks announced the release of a complete data science lifecycle on the cloud.

Sabri Skhiri, our R&D Director, explains “It is interesting to see that the change in the event name is actually very visible in the change of Databricks’ strategy. Their tools are now completely dedicated to stream ETL, and there is a huge focus on integrated data management”.

Databricks’ new features include Databricks Delta which creates data pipeline and provides data views and exploration features. Secondly, the Databricks Runtime ML is a ready-to-use environment providing a set of pre-loaded ML frameworks where the data scientist can play with data. Finally, the MLflow tool allows to simplify the ML models development at enterprise scale.

Our R&D Director precises: “Together, these features provide a complete and unified approach to machine learning lifecycle and pipeline automation. This looks like a very competitive SaaS offer for integrated data management, available on AWS and Azure. However, the metadata management and the security aspect is still the missing piece”.

 

The training day

The first day of the conference was dedicated to training workshops that include a mix of instruction and hands-on exercises to help attendants improve their Apache Spark skills.

Florian gives insights into his favourite training Tuning and Best Practices. He explains: “The aim of the training was to make programmers aware of how Spark works internally, in order to be able to write optimised applications. They presented a few situations, each one showing one relatively slow process. Then they presented a step-by-step procedure to debug the situation and to find the points that could be improved in the current situation. In summary, tips and tricks to adapt to different situations”.

 

Favourite talks

The sessions at the conference covered data engineering and data science contents along with best practices for productionising AI. The talks were divided into roughly two categories: Spark programming and deployment, and applications on top of Spark (AI applications).

Florian Demesmaeker explains: “I attended 28 talks. The keynotes from Databricks were quite interesting, they presented Delta and MLflow. I also enjoyed the talks about tools to optimise the internals of Spark, these provided good technical details. Other talks were about use cases on top of Spark, it was interesting to see what challenges other companies face and how they address them”.

Sabri Skhiri adds: “The talk Learning to Rank Datasets for Search was very inspiring. Oscar Castañeda-Villagrán, a data scientist working at Xoom (a Paypal service) talked about learning to rank R data set. The idea is that we can extract metadata when the data pipeline is arriving in the lake. Going further, you can not only extract metadata but also calculate a kind of judgment relevance score that will be used for bootstrapping the learning to rank process. In this way, a user can search and retrieve the relevant R data set in the lake. A very good idea for the metadata-driven exploration”.

 

 

Early September 2018, 8 EURA NOVA engineers travelled to Berlin to attend the Flink Forward Conference, dedicated to Apache Flink users and stream processing communities. You can read their feedback here.

Flink Forward 2018: What You Want to Know and What You (Will) Need to Know.

Early September 2018, 8 EURA NOVA engineers travelled to Berlin to attend the Flink Forward Conference, dedicated to Apache Flink users and stream processing communities.

They came back with a lot to say about the hot topics in stream processing and the presented use cases! In this article, they will give you their opinion about data Artisans’ main announcement, the intakes of their favourite talks, and what they thought makes Flink Forward different from other conferences.

 

First keynote announcement:

During the keynote speech, data Artisans announced that they now bring ACID transactions directly on streaming data with data Artisans Streaming Ledger.

Charles Bonneau, our software architect, says: “This feature allows ACID transactions between multiple operators’ event-processing operations and internal states. This means that streaming applications can now update multiple states in one transaction. For example, an application that transfers money from one bank account to another can finally be implemented using Flink with strong consistency guarantees. Both bank accounts will have their balance updated at the same time as if there was a master data-management state”.

For Sabri Skhiri, our R&D director, this opens the doors to a brand new range of applications, especially in data-driven real-time services but also in streaming data management. He explains: “They are pushing forward the concept of streaming. Now, you could imagine a master data-management state that can be updated by operational streaming applications in real time. This will allow even more complex and advanced use cases of stream processing!”.

 

Favourite talks:

In 2 days, each Euranovian attended about 18 talks and use case presentations, with speakers from tech giants such as IBM, Netflix, Alibaba, and Uber as well as speakers from smaller companies.

Charles explains: “The conclusions are reassuring: most of them face the same issues that we see at our clients’ and our solutions are all valuable. They include a stream-first data architecture, a stream-first data pipeline product, and Flink developers skills. Even though a number of companies are at the very edge of the technology and their issues do not yet require continuous flows of a considerable amount of events, we are ready”.

For our R&D Director Sabri Skhiri, the keynote speech from Lightbend was one of the most interesting ones. He explains: “Viktor Klang, Lightbend deputy CTO, talked about the convergence between microservices and stream processing.  At EURA NOVA, we have been advocating for this convergence for more than a year in our architecture practice. The idea is simple: asynchronous microservices can be designed as stream processing stages. This is fantastic because it makes modern stateful stream processing frameworks the perfect target for implementing reactive microservices. With stateful deployment, exactly once semantics, high availability and ACID access to states, microservices can become stateful streaming apps.”

 

Vision-oriented Flink Conference:

Our colleagues came back with sparkles in their eyes. When we asked them how they felt about the event, Sabri Skhiri explained:

“Very often, this type of conferences tend to be business oriented. They are focused on how to make the framework easy to use and available to as many people as possible. By contrast, this year’s Flink Forward conference was all about innovation and vision. data Artisans shared their vision of what the Flink framework will be within 3 to 5 years and talked about what role stream processing and big data have within this vision.  In fact, almost all the talks were very technical. They were testimonies of big names in the industry, such as Alibaba, Netflix, and ING about problems encountered on the field and how they have been solved, which is often out of the box. The Flink-Alibaba partnership is a sharing one. Alibaba are way ahead with their technology. They keep their lead for 1 year and then they share their work and make their code open source. data Artisans have a great long-term vision of stream processing. I can see a lot of very interesting architecture discussions in the coming months!”

 

Stream Processing Technology:

When most frameworks cannot process considerable streams of live data and provide results in real time, Flink provides a single runtime for the streaming and batch processing while being highly scalable.

Cyrille Duverne, our Lead Data Architect, confirms: “Flink is definitely a real-time processor! We’re speaking about true real time, not only mini batches etc… Plus, the introduction of ACID transaction management in the new version of data Artisans’ Flink distribution creates a good marketing edge”.

Sabri Skirhi and our R&D engineer Florian Demesmaeker were at the Spark Summit this week. Stay tuned for part 2 with their feedback!

Installing TensorFlow with distributed GPU support.

Today, I wrote my first “Hello World” script using the freshly open-sourced version of TensorFlow with distributed GPU support. At the time of this writing, the binary releases of TensorFlow don’t come with the distributed GPU support therefore I had to build TensorFlow from sources. All the documentation to do this already exists but is a bit scattered on multiple websites. Here is a condensed version of the install process (on a Linux Ubuntu 14.04 platform).

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Graph Data Management: Status and Trends

Today’s social environments are getting more interconnected and the business market is becoming increasingly open and competitive. Organisations require a better awareness of their state and an accurate prediction of their evolution. To cope with this surging demand, new models and tools need to be developed. In my opinion, graph models are of a crucial interest for addressing these challenges.

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High Availability in RoQ

In the last year, we have worked with Benjamin Van Melle on implementing High Availability in RoQ, our proof-of-concept distributed pub-sub messaging system. As a consequence, we needed to expand our JUnit tests to cover individual component failure scenarios and prove they were handled as expected. This piece will show how we used Docker to achieve this.

Elastic Messaging for the Cloud
Elastic Messaging for the Cloud

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EURA NOVA Master Theses, 2013-2014 Season

Similar to the previous years EURA NOVA R&D has been supervising Master students either for their internship or for their Master Thesis during the 2013-1014 academic year. This year, 5 students have had the opportunity to work in the fields of Machine Learning, GPU compute, distributed processing, metabolic pathways and social graphs. This blog post summarizes their breakthroughs.

EURA NOVA Master Theses

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