I would give the same advice that I would give to anyone working in AI which is that we should make sure that we adopt a multi-faceted approach to implementing these technologies. Think about ethics as you build out your algorithms and products and make sure that what you put into the world is something that is thoughtfully and fairly designed. Additionally, it’s important to work with interdisciplinary teams, especially in AI. If you only work with engineers, there will be no one there to ask questions and challenge assumptions, and you’ll quickly go down the wrong path. Getting insight from people with different mindsets makes a big impact.
As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Trisala Chandaria, the CEO and co-founder of Temboo, an NYC-based software company that’s reimagining programming by empowering organizations to implement their own Industrial Internet of Things solutions through machine-generated code. Her passions include disruptive networks (of environmental sensors!), creative platforms, empathy and, via Temboo, making technology more accessible. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Freelancers Union, she is actively involved in envisioning the future of work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?
As software increasingly affects more parts of society, we need to ensure that people remain engaged & empowered to participate in building and developing it. But what are the most effective ways to make this happen?
One approach is to make everyone learn how to code. But, on the flipside, you can enable people by giving them machine-generated code to build whatever they want. You don’t need to know punch cards or command line interface to use a computer effectively now. Why shouldn’t more people be able to build technology without a background in software development?
This is particularly powerful in the realm of IoT because working with sensor data is so relevant to so many industries from manufacturing and energy to health and agriculture.
That’s what I was thinking about when I started Temboo — directly addressing this gap by building tools to enable anyone to build systems at the intersection of hardware, software, and human aspiration.
What lessons can others learn from your story?
One thing that I’ve always done, and will continue to do, is to make sure that whatever Temboo does as a company is also a reflection of my values and the values of the team as a whole. We approach building our tools as a way to help people make the world a better place and to solve real problems that people are having. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs to build a successful company and you’ll get much more satisfaction from your successes if they help others in a real way.
I would also include perseverance. It might sound mundane, but it’s one of the most important qualities that has contributed to my journey at Temboo.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
In July of 2018, Temboo released the Kosmos IoT System to empower everyone to build their own interoperable, intelligent, industrial IoT systems. It’s designed to be easy to use and widely accessible to enable everyone to stand taller with hard technologies.
Through solutions like Kosmos, Temboo is enabling workers without backgrounds in software development or embedded engineering to reap the benefits of IoT in an easily implemented and cost-effective way.
We’re working with a few different companies on some really interesting projects with Kosmos. One that I am really excited about is a smart building system we are implementing with a major U.S. city. We’re upgrading a historic building complex to improve on-site maintenance, gain insight into equipment statuses, automate data collection, and use AI for predictive and preventive maintenance.
We’re also working with a company in emerging markets that provides solar generator networks to areas that previously didn’t have electricity. Temboo’s Kosmos System will enable them to remotely control the networks and view power usage.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I think it’s important to have a strong network of people that you trust. For me, it’s not just one person — sometimes it’s my team, sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s an advisor. It makes a big difference to know who to go to for what.
Another thing that I think is important is to talk to people outside of your industry. Getting perspective from an outsider can offer viewpoints that you might not have thought of yourself or heard before.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?
1. The Internet of Things & AI — The ability to combine AI techniques with low-cost, wireless sensor hardware has opened up so many exciting possibilities. With the Internet of Things, we can know more than ever about how our physical world really works, and combine this data with AI applications to discover and enable new opportunities.
2. Sustainability & AI — I’m passionate about this topic so I always get excited when I hear of AI being used in ways that contribute to a greener planet. For example we’ve seen some really exciting things done with machine learning to help reduce carbon emissions in data centers or boosting the value of wind energy.
3. AI for Human Empowerment — When AI is used to solve hard problems non-invasively and fits seamlessly into our lives, it can be a tool of empowerment. Additionally, there’s a possibility that all of the effort we’re putting into developing intelligent machines will give us a greater understanding of ourselves as people. We may get a clearer answer about how our bodies (minds) work and what it means to be human.
4. AI in Healthcare — The early work being done here is fascinating, especially around diagnostics. We’re starting to see image recognition used for diagnosing things like eye disease or cancer. Most of these uses are still in the early stages, but it will be exciting to see where AI in healthcare goes.
5. Range of Industries Using AI — The range of application areas that AI can deliver high-value is growing rapidly. We’re on track to see AI applications implemented in energy, life sciences, cybersecurity, government, and more. It’s inspiring to think about all the ways that AI can have an impact on society.
What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?
1. Obviously privacy is a huge one, and something that everyone should be concerned about. But in addition to that, I think we need to think about the loss of agency in regards to that privacy. If people don’t fully understand the way their world is shaped by technology systems, they can have a hard time protecting their own privacy and that of their loved ones.
2. The lack of public datasets is concerning. It makes solving machine learning problems more difficult and inhibits experimentation.
3. AI systems and algorithms have the potential to incorporate racial, gender, or ideological biases as they are being trained. This type of bad data is a huge problem that has real world implications. It’s another reason why having access to large and diverse data sets is so important. We need to make sure that we maintain the principle of fairness.
4. There’s a possibility that AI might create subtle unforeseen negative consequences that could ultimately damage our quality of life. I’m not talking about killer robots — I’m referring more to examples like the way that algorithmic social media feeds have been shown to have negative consequences on mental health.
5. Finally, the lack of best practices and ethics in the field of AI is something that affects all of the other concerns I’ve mentioned. There are well known standards and ethics of data collection in fields like anthropology, medicine, and scientific research. Can we look to those fields for ways to develop these best practices in the field of AI? How can we make sure that designers and engineers are trained with an ethical framework in mind, similar to the Hippocratic Oath in medicine? Industry leaders need to answer these questions now, as AI applications are becoming more and more omnipresent.
As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?
All new technologies provide opportunities but also have the potential to post a danger to humanity. That’s the nature of technology.
Think about when cars were first introduced. We had to build infrastructure, safety measures, and other technologies to accommodate them. Things like roads, driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags were all needed to ensure that the public could safely and effectively use cars.
Similarly, there has to be a multi-faceted approach for implementing new technologies on the part of both the public and private sector. We need to take into account safety, infrastructure, laws, and more when we build out these technologies. As long as we those things into consideration, we can use AI for good. However, those measures are still being built out, and need to be prioritized at this time.
What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?
We shouldn’t try to prevent people from having concerns. A concerned public is an informed public. People should ask questions about how their data is being used, what technologies are touching their lives, and how AI is impacting society.
There’s a difference between concerns and fears. We don’t want to scare people off of new technologies, but we do want to make sure they’re given choices around the technologies that affect their daily lives. It’s up to the leaders in the AI world to make sure that the public feels empowered and informed enough to make those choices.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Temboo’s machine-generated code has been resonating with the next generation of knowledge workers. Over 200 universities across the world currently use Temboo in research, classes, and more.
Take the Yale Bee Space — a student group at Yale University that has built the next generation of smart, connected beehives using Temboo. With sound, humidity, temperature, and weight sensors, these students aim to use data to address the mysterious collapse of bee colonies around the world.
On the healthcare front, a prominent research university in Europe is using Temboo to help identify factors that influence seizures in people living with epilepsy. Temboo’s machine-generated code aids in the secure collection of sensitive data from participants in the study. The goal is to develop an alert system for those with epilepsy to improve their safety and well-being.
Another story that is really special to me is about a factory engineer with no formal IoT background. He decided to retrofit his company’s production lines and facilities with sensor systems for food quality monitoring purposes and turned to Temboo’s machine-generated code to get his project up and running quickly. From there, he evolved the system to monitor furnaces and refrigeration systems across multiple factories, and began scaling up the systems to get a bigger picture of the production process. Now, he’s employed as an Internet of Things Engineer at a global supply chain company because of those very skills he picked up from using Temboo.
As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?
I would give the same advice that I would give to anyone working in AI which is that we should make sure that we adopt a multi-faceted approach to implementing these technologies.
Think about ethics as you build out your algorithms and products and make sure that what you put into the world is something that is thoughtfully and fairly designed.
Additionally, it’s important to work with interdisciplinary teams, especially in AI. If you only work with engineers, there will be no one there to ask questions and challenge assumptions, and you’ll quickly go down the wrong path. Getting insight from people with different mindsets makes a big impact.
Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?
As the use cases for AI expand I think we’ll see more types of people working with AI. Applications in healthcare, government, wellness, environmental sciences and more will draw in all types of people including women.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
There are two quotes that inspire me. The first is an African proverb “Alone I go faster. Together we go further.” In many tech companies there’s a mentality of “move fast and break things”. But I think it’s actually important to think about how much more you can do in the long run when you work together as a group. Teamwork is hard but it’s the only way to reach those goals that will have a large and positive impact on the world.
The other quote is from The Little Prince. “Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” which translates to “Here is my secret. It’s very simple: you can only see with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” When you deal with new ideas and people it takes time to see what the actual essence of something or someone is. Looking at labels or titles will never give you a complete picture of what someone or something’s potential might be.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We lack useful and uniform air, water, and soil quality data throughout the world, and existing data lack granularity at the local level and are difficult to use for comparative purposes. This makes it difficult to identify, address, and evaluate many environmental problems, from local ones to world wide ones. Because people aren’t aware of how their local environment affects them and how to manage it, environmentalism is inhibited in many communities, making it difficult to gather the will to address environmental problems.
But what if there were a Wikipedia/Waze-like resource for environmental data? What potential for change could be unlocked if anyone could access global yet granular information on air, soil, and water quality?
Together, with local communities, companies like Wikipedia or Waze, and initiatives like C40 Cities helping out, we can create this dataset using sensors and Temboo’s software toolset. Having this information available will help people address local environmental problems and become more environmentally minded. It will also contribute to a large set of valuable and publicly accessible data that could inspire other communities to take part in the project and help organizations and governments to address environmental issues from local to global scales. So hopefully, you can make sure that Michael Bloomberg and Jimmy Wales will see this and we can get started soon!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the Author:
Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.