Artificial intelligence diagnoses pneumonia, wins international award


A prototype app using artificial intelligence to diagnose pneumonia has won the developer an international award.

Company-X senior software developer Jiadong Chen built the prototype for an international competition run by Microsoft. Chen built an image classifier for detecting bacterial and viral pneumonia using Microsoft Azure Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Unity, winning Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional Global Cloud Skills Challenge.

Microsoft Azure AI is a portfolio of AI services designed for software developers and data scientists. Unity is the leading platform for creating interactive, real-time content in 2D, 3D and virtual reality.

“Jiadong chose this project to contribute to fighting the public health emergency and help medical professionals diagnose lung diseases using AI,” said Microsoft MVP senior member Jeffrey Kitt on the Microsoft MVP Award Program blog.

“The world has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,” Chen said in a post chronicling his project.

“Medical staff around the world have shown bravery and resilience in the fight against COVID-19, and some even sacrificed their lives while performing their duties. As an ordinary person, as a programmer, I also want to help.

“My first thought was to use Azure and Unity to implement an image classifier that can be used for lung chest radiographs. In addition to the game industry, Unity can also play a role in other industries, so I think it is a very interesting idea to combine Azure and Unity to create some features that help people.”

Chen won a Microsoft Surface for his efforts.

“I am super excited because we all know that there is only one first place,” he said.

“This award gives me more confidence. In addition to excitement, I am also very happy sharing my knowledge with the community during this process by writing an article on Azure, AI and sharing tutorial collections. This makes me feel happy and fulfilled.”

Six-time winner of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, Developer Technologies award, Chen is one of 3,000 Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award winners internationally.

Chen joined Company-X in 2020 from Unity, the creator of the world’s most widely-used 2D, 3D, augmented and virtual reality development platform, where he worked as a field engineer.

Chen is the author of the 2016 book Unity 3D which has sold 15,000 copies in print and eBook editions and is working on a follow-up for Packt Publishing on Unity, .NET and Azure.

Company-X artificial intelligence specialist Lance Bauerfeind said:

“This win shows Jiadong is exceptionally innovative with Microsoft Cognitive Services. This is great news for Company-X and our clients who want technology to solve their problems.

“Proficiency in Microsoft Cognitive Services brings artificial intelligence within reach of every Company-X client that can be used in an infinite number of ways.”

Bauerfeind said voice user interfaces, rather than typing or touch screen, and intelligent chatbots, are just
two examples.

World-leading data quality project recognised

A world-leading data quality assurance project was recognised in the 2021 New Zealand Excellence in IT Awards.

The team behind the world’s first national roading performance reporting and data quality assurance tool was a finalist in the 2021 New Zealand Excellence in IT Awards.

The Road Efficiency Group (REG) and Company-X were one of three finalists for the Excellence in Govtech Award for a team or individual who achieved outstanding results through technology innovation in central or local government.

TEAM COMPANY-X- Company-X Waka Kotahi team members, from left to right, Marcel van de Steeg, Stephen Warren, Pete Stewart, Jeremy Hughes and Bryan Miles

REG, a collaboration between Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and 68 road controlling authorities, commissioned a data quality benchmarking project designed to lead to evidence-led decision making in the transport sector.

The project came out of an aeroplane conversation between Hughes and REG Data Sub Group chair Dawn Inglis. They imagined a future where users of the One Network Road Classification Performance Measures Reporting Tool could interrogate the quality of the data behind reports and discover how reliable the data is.

The Company-X team researched worldwide best practices for data quality assurance from world leaders. Hughes built a team, including an information science masters graduate, to research the best direction to take the data quality project. The team chose four dimensions, accuracy, completeness, consistency and timelines, and developed 63 metrics to measure and report on the roading data to ensure a successful data quality improvement program.

Company-X took an iterative approach to the project as it collaborated with REG and industry subject matter experts. The publication of data quality reports in the reporting tool changed the industry attitude and culture.

Since its launch in 2019, every road controlling authority has used the tool to view the quality of data they are responsible for, assisted with or been involved in. Having the information available and understandable has changed the culture and the attitude towards data quality in the sector. An improvement can be seen in data quality metrics over five years.

“If you want to make objective decisions repeatably and deliver good outcomes for road users and communities good quality, assessable data is essential,” said REG programme manager Andrew McKillop.

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with this project.

“Being chosen as a finalist for the Excellence in Govtech Award demonstrates the value of the REG partnership and smart people working together when we have a clear vision and permission to develop.

“The ultimate success is the roading data quality assurance tool  is being used by every road controlling authority in the country to improve, and the partnership is being harnessed to develop it further.”

“It’s been a fantastic project collaborating with REG and helping deliver its vision,” Hughes said.

“It is a prime example of how far you can go when you work in true partnership. This project is a real confirmation of what can be achieved in an iterative agile way with close partnerships and clear, absolutely unwavering direction.”

“The work REG is doing, and Company-X is supporting, is absolutely fantastic,” Inglis said. “There’s a real appetite in the sector to do this stuff.”

Local Government New Zealand deputy chief executive Scott Necklen said the roading data quality assurance project helped address high variability in service and costs across New Zealand.

“This project is creating savings through better asset management and procurement practice, making the dollar go further,” he said.

REG Chair and Waimakariri District Council Chief Executive Jim Harland said the tool delivered good quality evidence to the sector which was now using it improve the quality of business cases and benchmark data.

“We are clear on performance around different components in the network, we are clear on the value for money on the investment that goes in, and we have also got an understanding of how competent the sector is,” he said. The Excellence in Govtech Award was won by the Ministry of Health’s Data and Digital Directorate for the NZ Covid Tracing mobile app at the IT Professionals New Zealand awards dinner at Te Papa, Wellington, on July 16.

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