A primer on Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning and Machine Learning  

These days, artificial intelligence (AI) is on everyone’s lips. The term generally brings to mind companies like Google, which offers its own Siri-like voice-command assistant and, more recently, NASNet, Google’s own artificial intelligence capable of recognizing in real time a multitude of objects such as cars or even people that appear in a video.

But let’s take a step back. Are you able to define artificial intelligence and identify what it refers to?

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning are often grouped together, but in reality, these notions are distinct. To understand the link among these concepts, it is best to visualize them in a timeline:

Artificial intelligence involves the idea of a machine that is capable of completing tasks associated with human intelligence. This definition includes activities like planning, interpretation of language, object and sound recognition, learning and the resolution of problems.


Machine learning is a realization method of artificial intelligence. The approach represents the capacity to learn without explicit training. Machine learning is one way of training an algorithm so that it may execute a task without explicit programming. This training involves the intake of a large volume of data by the algorithm, which gradually adjusts itself and improves its performance as it is exposed to more data.


(2010 to present)

Deep learning is one of several approaches made possible for the execution of automatic learning. The recent technique was inspired by the human brain and aims to imitate the perceptive and logical reasoning mechanisms of humans.

 When discussing digital developments, a frequent error is to start directly with the technology in a business. It is necessary to focus on new technologies, to explain them and to understand them, while knowing that, like artificial intelligence, they can sometimes be difficult to pin down.

SAPPHIRE NOW Conference 2017: Three Breakthrough SAP Innovations!

Every year, enterprise software solutions giant SAP gathers together people from around the world to its SAPPHIRE NOW conference 2017 in Orlando, Florida. At the event, business leaders, customers, prospects and other decision-makers meet and discuss the technological solutions of today and tomorrow. This event was a opportunity to obtain an overview of SAP innovations and industry trends.

Digital transformation is driving businesses to establish themselves to a greater degree in the digital economy. Today, it is no longer a secret that technologies and business lines must be brought together. For instance, when it comes to sales, customer experience is one of the primary methods by which businesses distinguish themselves from their competitors. But customers have never been as well informed as they are today. Irrespective of the size of businesses and the sector in which they operate, one of their main concerns remains the daunting task of continuously keeping up with new developments and adopting omnichannel strategies while offering a unique customer experience.

But which technological initiatives should businesses adopt in light of their needs? And how will these solutions disrupt and redefine their way of doing things moving forward?

Many interesting innovations were once again presented this year. We provide below an overview of three such innovations that particularly captured our attention:


Facilitating Collaborative Creation through Design Thinking

First things first – what is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking can be defined as a management model that advocates for a collaborative work style. A business that adopts Design Thinking will not have its departments collaborate in an isolated manner but will instead aim to promote collective intelligence. How? The answer is to combine the analytical skills of some teams (e.g. engineers) with the more intuitive skills of others (e.g. marketing or creative professionals) to the greatest extent possible.

Understanding its use

Experience is increasingly dominating the economy. In the coming years, Design Thinking will change the way that businesses improve products in addition to their general approach to technology. It allows employees and consumers to converge at the very core of their experience.

Design Thinking is implemented as part of a global strategy. It no longer means simply identifying where a problem is found and resolving it in an isolated manner, but instead consists of addressing the problem from the very start of one’s reflection up to the final integration of the solution.


Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: SAP Leonardo

Intelligently connecting people, things and businesses. If we do it right, you can care more and do more for your customers. And one key to do this right is data.” (Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP)


With its new Leonardo solution, SAP offers its clients a simple way to use emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced analysis and blockchain.

In so doing, SAP does not only wishes to accompany its clients as they find solutions, but now aims to address all of their business needs. It will be possible for businesses to connect smart devices with employees, products, infrastructures and markets to optimize their strategic and financial performance.

This offer seems promising for optimizing and transforming the bond among people, objects and technologies.


SAP Cloud Platform

According to a CEFRIO report on the subject of digital innovation, 68% of businesses in Quebec have presently adopted a cloud solution.[1] This figure is not to be frowned upon, as it appears only to be increasing. With their simplicity, accessibility and availability, cloud technologies offer a wide range of advantages to businesses by allowing them, among other things, to generate savings and to better control their costs associated with information technology and infrastructure.

SAP is a major player in the field due to the flexibility of its solutions. The agile environment offered through this type of platform allows businesses to develop, operate and instantly connect their applications with the help of data centres.

Together with Design Thinking, the SAP Cloud Platform could position itself as an interesting solution for responding to the niche business needs of organizations.

The innovations presented at the SAPPHIRE NOW conference 2017 are, and will continue to be over the coming years, major drivers for the improvement of business strategy, whether it is regarding the internal or external concerns of businesses, particularly with respect to optimizing customer experience.

For a business to benefit the most from its current technological environment and from potential process optimization solutions, it must have proper control over the available tools and products in addition to following market trends regarding digital transformation. To learn more, read Talsom. And for more information concerning the SAP innovations presented at the event, visit the Facebook page for SAPPHIRE NOW.



[1] Talsom’s 2017 Technology Radar.


Smart Contracts and Their Possible Applications within the Supply Chain

Customers, regulatory agencies and governments are increasingly requiring businesses to maintain proof of authenticity, origin, work at any stage in the supply chain and social impact of raw materials.

Proof of such elements is indeed required, but shouldn’t the information thereby reported also be reliable? You are going to say that contracts protect us, but does this give us absolute trust in such protection? No, because we need to maintain proof of due diligence and confirm that the contract is respected at all times. To do so, resources are required.

Today, with the complexity and speed of the supply chain, it is becoming increasingly difficult to establish trust and transactional transparency. At the very least, trustees must make efforts to validate and verify information, a task that complicates the process.

In short, this most certainly does not constitute value creation within the supply chain, but is instead one of the costs of doing business.

The Future Belongs to Smart Contracts

When digital transformation is applied to transactional contracts, one interesting repercussion is the almost instantaneous validation of the element of trust between two parties. This presents an opportunity to optimize the back-office workflow (e.g. quality control, accounting, inventory management, purchases) or event to eliminate the trustee in the chain.

Smart contracts rely on blockchain technology. The term “blockchain” is currently fashionable in the financial technology (FinTech) industry. This popularity is partly due to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as well as technologies such as Ripple that are designed for the instant transfer of fiat currencies between banks.

Blockchain 101

What is a “blockchain”? The term refers to a decentralized database composed of multiple storage nodes. This architecture prevents chronological blocks of exchanges from being falsified or modified. It consists of a decentralized protocol of exchange verifications. (Wikipedia, s.d.)

For example, the traceability of a product from its point of origin cannot be lost or altered. During the exchange of assets, the transaction is validated by several miners in the system such that a consensus is obtained. An anomaly inserted in a block would thus be quickly identified in the network. (Wikipedia, s.d.)

iBeacon Technology Overview

You have surely heard the term iBeacon or come into contact with this technology, which has been described as a transmitter that can awaken smart phones. This technology has been the subject of discussion in particular since the most recent Mobile World Congress.

What are iBeacons?

An iBeacon is a beacon that transmits a low-energy Bluetooth signal that allows for phones in close proximity to be detected.

How do they work?

An application is installed on the phone that receives the Bluetooth signal. Once the signal is received, either the phone decides to awaken the application such that the target receives a notification, or the application executes an action (e.g. recovering a video or providing a fact sheet).

What are some practical applications of this technology?


There are many ways in which this technology can be applied. For instance, iBeacons could be set up in shopping malls, where there is a growing interest in the potential to use them to send promotional offers to customers. In so doing, businesses may use iBeacons to collect qualified data, as is the case with e-Commerce, in addition to improving in-store sales. iBeacons also allow for the inexpensive geolocation of customers, who can be tracked by businesses during their shopping experience.

Another potential application of iBeacons is to the tourism industry, where they can be used to complete the automatic check-in of guests upon their arrival at a hotel. Guests enter the hotel’s iBeacon hotspot and receive a message informing them that their room is ready for them on the fifth floor! With iBeacons, tourism can thus become more interactive and personalized.

In the food service industry, customers who walk past a restaurant can receive a push notification containing the menu of the day or information concerning various future events.

How to set up an iBeacon


First, install your iBeacon. To do so, create your iBeacon, then start a new “project” for your iBeacon. What is a project? It is one of several content items that you can associate to the iBeacon in question (e.g. different sets of information sent to visitors at a museum according to whether the visitor is a teacher, a student or another member of the public).


Next, create your content. Create a “place”. What does “place” mean? This term refers to a given beacon (e.g. exhibit A in a museum). However, it is also possible to link several locations to a given beacon (e.g. one beacon in a room for exhibits A, B and C). Next, link a place to your beacon and add a “card” to this place.

Information that you may add as a “card” includes tests, images, audio, video, widgets and web links.

Finally, test your technology. To do so, publish your project, open your application on your smartphone, place your beacons and test them by walking close to them with your device.

You are now familiar with the iBeacon technology and will be able to explain this concept to others.

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, BPaaS: Do you speak cloud?

Everyone is familiar with the Cloud. But did you know that there are four broad categories of available services, namely IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and BPaaS?

Infrastructure as a Service (or “IaaS”) is the lowest level of service that is found in the Cloud. The service provider hosts a virtual infrastructure, which is composed of a storage space, servers and network elements (e.g. firewalls, load balancers). Customers can thus configure the infrastructure (e.g. memory, storage space, CPU) and use it as they see fit, according to the pricing models that are in effect, which can consist of either a fixed-price model or a price determined according to the volume used. The most known IaaS providers available include Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace and Google Compute Engine.

Platform as a Service (or “PaaS”) adds an additional layer to IaaS by proposing, in additing to the physical layer, an operating system, an operating environment, a database and software servers that customers can manage and configure as they wish (for instance, as regards security, user accounts and software parameters). The most well known PaaS providers include AWS Elastic Beanstalk (Amazon), Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine and Apache Stratos.

Software as a Service (or “SaaS”) is added above PaaS and offers access to an application. This type of model is frequently referred to as “on-demand software”. Customers no longer have to worry about installing, hosting or maintaining the application, as it is the service provider who takes care of this. The pricing is frequently determined according to a fixed-price model or according to the volume of the service that is used, calculated through various metrics (e.g. number of users, level of service). Most types of application now exist under this form: ERPs (e.g. JD Edwards, SAP HANA); CRMs (e.g. Salesforce); middleware (e.g. Talend); and office tools such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365. Some providers even offer integrated solutions that include both an ERP and a CRM, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Lastly, Business Process as a Service (or “BPaaS”) extends beyond SaaS and the scope of a sole application by handling business processes that are frequently cross-functional, such as payroll management. BPaaS thus allows for the coordination of the automatic (services) or partly manual activities of a process, which are spread out across several applications that are hosted in the Cloud or on the organization’s infrastructure. Customers can thus map their processes (BPO) as well as the activities that compose them on the different applications. The pricing is calculated according to the use of the service. Providers of BPaaS include IBM, Wipro, Ovum and Cognizant.

These different types of services stand in contrast to on-premises software, which refers to software that is hosted on the internal infrastructure of the organization, a solution that many organizations presently use. Businesses that choose on-premises solutions are thus responsible for hosting and ensuring the maintenance of their servers and of their network, in addition to resolving technical bugs that arise with each version upgrade. To do so often requires significant involvement from the IT team that is thus precluded from engaging in other activities that would add value to the business.

According to Gartner, businesses will over the next five years make over one billion dollars of direct and indirect investment to transition to cloud computing. Roughly 43% of this investment will be spent on BPaaS, with 37% being directed to SaaS, 10% to PaaS and 17% to IaaS.

According to a study conducted by NOVIPRO and Léger on IT trends within small and mid-size enterprises, 54% of IT managers in Canada agree that the future is in Cloud computing, and 52% of these respondents, 52% envision adopting Cloud computing in the next two years.

And what do you plan to do as part of this movement?

Mobile Application or Mobile Website: How to Decide?

Have you counted the number of applications (or “apps”) that you have downloaded onto your cellphone? The answer is probably in the 100 range, without including the number of updates that you are asked to install each week!

What should your business choose to offer: a mobile app or a mobile website?

Depending on the use that you wish to make of it, both of these solutions are worth considering. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

In the case of mobile apps, these are defined as software applications that are downloaded onto a mobile device, whereas mobile websites are Internet sites that are tailored to the formats of smartphones and tablets.

How long will mobile app remain on our devices before we decide to remove them? This is up for debate. Mobile websites, however, are at all times available to users.

Over time, the support and maintenance of a mobile app could require more effort compared to a website.

Mobile app updates must be downloaded by users, thereby reducing the available space on their devices, whereas web updates are less cumbersome both for users and for businesses.

Is it thus worth considering the abandonment of mobile apps?

By 2019, it is predicted that 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps (Pemberton, 2017). Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to entice users to download an app, as they have the luxury of choosing whether or not to do so.

This shows that the number of app downloads has plateaued due to user fatigue for downloading and using the apps that are available. It is accordingly difficult for businesses to maintain interest among users for their mobile apps (Leow, Baker, Marshall, Revang and Wong, 2016).

By 2022, it is predicted that 70% of software interactions will be completed on a mobile platform, but if the trend continues, apps will only be one element in the chain of interactions between users and their devices rather than being at the centre of these interactions. For example, virtual personal assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Google Now will become increasingly present in such interactions and will thus leave less room for the apps themselves (Leow et al., 2016).

You must be wondering: what are the recovery prospects for developers and promoters of apps?

Here are a few proposed solutions.

One suggestion is to put emphasis on the development of ultra-personalized user experiences. This means developing sophisticated apps that use cloud computing services as well as device functionalities to manage data to make predictions for user needs in real time and to offer a unique, personalized and dynamic experience (Leow at al., 2016).

In the case of a mobile app for a retail business, rather than sending the same notification to all users for a 30% rebate, the notification could be sent to one client in particular according to his or her needs, determined according to his or her online activity and profile saved in the customer relationship management (CRM) records of the business.

For example, according to the cumulative historical data on a user based on his or her past use, it is a lunchtime that this client is most likely to consult his or her mobile device. It is accordingly at this time that the customer receives a limited-time offer of 50% savings available at his or her favourite swimwear retailer, meanwhile a local heat wave is predicted for the following week!

It is anticipated that by 2021, 50% of all apps will generate personalized events according to user interest, thereby rendering mobile applications more efficient (Leow et al., 2016).

Brands who design such apps will thus have a better chance of success.

Imagine the Future of Your Business

On September 13 and 14, Talsom attended the Journées Technologiques Nationales en Alimentaire organized by the Conseil de la Transformation Alimentaire du Québec (CTAQ). Business executives, strategists, and equipment and service providers gathered together to discuss trends relating to a new manufacturing era: Industry 4.0.

This new industry hinges on data and object connectivity. The connection of software, equipment and mass data are becoming essential elements for intelligence creation in a manufacturing system that is more adaptable to production. We are entering the fourth industrial revolution.

From Traditional Factories to Smart Factories

Smart factories aim to optimize the manufacturing process. By connecting to computer control models and a mass quantity of data, food processors will be able to benefit from physical processes that are more adaptable and flexible, and from a more efficient allocation of their resources.


The use of digital technologies is not limited to transformation and production procedures. It is essential for optimizing communications between each actor in the supply chain.

For example, manufacturing machines could communicate among themselves so that different types of food packaging can be sorted more efficiently, and in so doing reduce errors considerably. In addition, consumer food preferences could be instantly integrated into the personalization process on a mass level with speed and efficiency.


IoT: The Industry’s Future Technology

In the agri-food industry, robots have become indispensable for the production and transformation of products. The use of robots allows for the automation of repetitive tasks and processes that are generally dangerous, based on specific steps and rules. Virtual robots remove humans from the sphere of product handling by working directly with ingredients, sorting finished products, detecting defects and packaging products. As a result, productivity and performance are increased while inefficiency is decreased.

Due to the Internet of Things (or “IOT”), motion sensors can directly control the quality of products by detecting vibrations and humidity.

Smart applications brought about through IOT and artificial intelligence could allow businesses to monitor manufacturing line productivity in real time. By using these applications, employees can thus follow the evolution of their daily production output in real time while executives can consult the data thereby collected on their computer or smart phone.



Even though 3D printing was still in its infancy two years ago, it is now even more sought out by food manufacturers. Most 3D food printers are deposition printers, meaning they deposit layers of raw material in a process known as additive manufacturing.

Other, more specific printers use edible products such as sugar or chocolate as printing material. This innovation allows manufacturers to avoid the difficulties associated with product testing during product design and, by drawing on imagination and personalization, to obtain more accurate results.



What Are the Benefits for Agri-Food Businesses?

In light of the technological procedures that we have just mentioned (there are many others not discussed here), manufacturers of food processing products will benefit from more efficient production and from an increase in product quality, thereby leading to a reduction of costs and the potential to offer more competitive prices in the globalized food market.

The smart use of resources also results in benefits on a human level. Businesses will reduce the risks of accidents and injuries on production sites while benefitting from a greater involvement of their teams. By assigning tasks to their employees that are more interesting to them, facilitated in part by the use of robots, businesses will thus reduce the retention rate of their employees.

Is Quebec Falling Behind?

In comparison to the United States, where 76% of businesses have joined the digital revolution, only 28% of Quebec businesses have done the same. Manufacturing and agri-food businesses must accordingly modernize by making greater investments in smart factories and in strategic thinking to remain competitive in this global market. However, Quebec is particularly involved in the excitement behind IoT technology. Initiatives relating to this technology are popping up at an increasing pace, leading to the formation of organizational ecosystems.