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Partner Communications Reports First Quarter 2019 Results1

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Adjusted EBITDA2 Totaled NIS 197
Million

Net Debt2 Remained Below NIS 1
Billion with Net Debt to Adjusted EBITDA Ratio of 1.3

Partner’s CEO, Isaac Benbenisti, Noted: “Partner’s Fiber Optics
Infrastructure Already Reaches More Than 400 Thousand Households in More
Than Half of Israel’s Cities across the Country, and Partner TV
Continues to Be the Fastest Growing Television Service in Israel with
over 152 Thousand Subscribers.”

First quarter 2019 highlights (compared with first quarter 2018)

  • Total Revenues: NIS 794 million (US$ 219 million), a
    decrease of 4%
  • Service Revenues: NIS 624 million (US$ 172 million),
    approximately unchanged
  • Equipment Revenues: NIS 170 million (US$ 47 million), a
    decrease of 15%
  • Total Operating Expenses (OPEX)2:
    NIS 472 million (US$ 130 million), a decrease of 5%
  • Adjusted EBITDA: NIS 197 million (US$ 54 million), an
    increase of 11%
  • Adjusted EBITDA Margin2: 25%
    of total revenues compared with 21%
  • Profit for the Period: NIS 2 million (US$ 1 million) a
    decrease of 78%
  • Net Debt: NIS 977 million (US$ 269 million), an increase of
    NIS 58 million
  • Adjusted Free Cash Flow (before interest)2:
    negative NIS 11 million (US$ -3 million), a decrease of NIS 32
    million
  • Cellular ARPU: NIS 56 (US$ 15), a decrease of 3%
  • Cellular Subscriber Base: approximately 2.62 million at
    quarter-end, a decrease of 1%
  • TV Subscriber Base: approximately 141 thousand subscribers
    at quarter-end, an increase of 76 thousand subscribers

ROSH HA’AYIN, Israel–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Partner
Communications Company Ltd.
(“Partner” or the “Company”)
(NASDAQ and TASE: PTNR), a leading Israeli communications provider,
announced today its results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019.

Commenting on the results for the first quarter of 2019, Mr. Isaac
Benbenisti, CEO of Partner noted:

In a saturated communications market, Partner succeeded in
starting the year 2019 with positive momentum. Partner’s fiber optics
infrastructure already reaches more than 400 thousand households in more
than half of Israel’s cities across the country, and Partner TV
continues to be the fastest growing television service in Israel with
over 152 thousand subscribers.

In the cellular segment, we continued to maintain a low rate of churn by
focusing on existing customers. This strategy is also reflected in the
moderate decrease in ARPU we recorded compared to the previous quarter
and the corresponding quarter in 2018.

In recent months, we have focused on the strategy of providing value to
Partner’s customers in all areas of the Group’s business: cellular,
internet, television and the business division. This strategy is
expected to bring results both on the revenue side and in increasing
customer loyalty with respect to all lines of products and services.

As part of this strategy, we are establishing a dedicated customer
service division that will handle all of our private customers’ needs,
across cellular and fixed line segments. We believe that this will
further strengthen Partner’s industry-leading level of service, and
differentiate us from all other players in the communications market.

Alongside continued growth in television and accelerated deployment of
the fiber optics infrastructure, we succeeded in maintaining a net debt
level of under NIS 1 billion. Partner’s financial strength offers us
considerable flexibility for making strategic investments and for
expanding activity in new and existing business areas.”

Mr. Tamir Amar, Partner’s Chief Financial Officer, commented on the
results:

“Partner closed another quarter characterized by significant competition
in its operating segments, achieving relative stability in service
revenues compared to the previous quarter, while continuing to grow its
fixed line segment activity, both in the number of subscribers and in
revenues. In the cellular segment, where competition continues to be
high, we continued to maintain a relatively low churn rate, which was
unchanged compared to the previous quarter and declined compared to the
corresponding quarter last year, and relatively low ARPU erosion by,
among other things, strategically focusing on customers that offer value
for the Company.

At the beginning of January 2019, an amendment to the network sharing
agreement between the Company and HOT Mobile was signed, as a result of
which, from the beginning of this year, the accounting treatment for the
jointly owned partnership with HOT mobile, PHI, is as a joint operation
instead of through the equity method. Therefore, the Company’s relative
share (50%) in PHI’s assets and liabilities was added to the Company’s
balance sheet. The change did not materially affect the Company’s
statement of income.

Starting with the first quarter of 2019, the Company adopted the new
accounting standard IFRS 16 – Leases, as required under IFRS. IFRS 16
requires the recognition of lease liability for lease payments and a
right-of-use asset, with respect to contracts that were previously
accounted for as operating leases. In the first quarter of 2019, the
impact of adopting IFRS 16 was an increase in Adjusted EBITDA for the
quarter by NIS 39 million.

We concluded the quarter with Adjusted Free Cash Flow (before interest
payments) of negative NIS 11 million. Cash flows from operating
activities totaled NIS 213 million. Lease payments, presented in cash
flows from financing activities, totaled NIS 39 million. CAPEX payments
totaled NIS 185 million, reflecting the Company’s strategy to continue
its leadership in telecommunications technologies with continued
significant investment in the Company’s fiber optics infrastructure.
This investment is only made possible by Partner’s strong balance sheet.

In addition, in recent months we have continued our preparations for our
future debt recycling with the private placement of untradeable option
warrants exercisable for the Company’s Series G debentures, thereby
arranging a significant portion of the Company’s expected funding
requirements for the years through 2021.”

Q1 2019 compared to Q4 2018

NIS Million   Q4’18   Q1’19   Comments
Service Revenues   625   624   The decrease resulted from decreases in cellular service revenues as
a result of seasonality and price erosion, partially offset by an
increase in fixed-line segment service revenues
Equipment Revenues 189 170 The decrease mainly reflected a lower volume of equipment sales
Total Revenues 814 794
Gross profit from equipment sales 42 39
OPEX 502 472

Excluding the impact of IFRS 16, OPEX would have totaled NIS 511
million, an increase of NIS 9 million, mainly reflecting increased
costs related to TV and internet services

Adjusted EBITDA 172 197

Excluding the impact of IFRS 16, Adjusted EBITDA would have
totaled NIS 158 million, a decrease of NIS 14 million, mainly
reflecting the increase in OPEX and the decrease in gross profit
from equipment sales

Profit for the Period 19 2 The decrease in profit was mainly a result of the decrease in
Adjusted EBITDA excluding the impact of IFRS 16 (this also reflects
the fact that the increase in depreciation expenses and in finance
costs, net, due to IFRS 16 was of similar magnitude to the increase
in Adjusted EBITDA due to IFRS 16)
Capital Expenditures (additions) 177 157
Adjusted free cash flow (before interest payments)

(22)

(11) Adjusted free cash flow increased mainly as a result of the increase
in operating assets and liabilities partially offset by the decrease
in Adjusted EBITDA (excluding the impact of IFRS 16)
Net Debt   950   977    
    Q4’18   Q1’19   Comments
Cellular Post-Paid Subscribers (end of period, thousands)   2,361   2,340   Decrease of 21 thousand subscribers

Cellular Pre-Paid Subscribers (end of period, thousands)

285 280

Decrease of 5 thousand subscribers

Monthly Average Revenue per Cellular User (ARPU) (NIS) 57 56
Quarterly Cellular Churn Rate (%)   8.5%   8.5%    

Key Financial Results Q1 2019
compared to Q1 2018

NIS MILLION (except EPS)   Q1’18   Q1’19   % Change
Revenues   826   794   -4%
Cost of revenues 688 677 -2%
Gross profit 138 117 -15%
Operating profit 32 9 -72%
Profit for the period 9 2 -78%
Earnings per share (basic, NIS) 0.05 0.01
Adjusted free cash flow (before interest)   21   (11)    

Key Operating Indicators

    Q1’18   Q1’19   Change
Adjusted EBITDA (NIS million)   177   197   +11%
Adjusted EBITDA margin (as a % of total revenues) 21% 25% +4
Cellular Subscribers (end of period, thousands) 2,649 2,620 -29
Quarterly Cellular Churn Rate (%) 8.9% 8.5% -0.4
Monthly Average Revenue per Cellular User (ARPU) (NIS)   58   56   -2

Partner Consolidated Results

  Cellular Segment   Fixed-Line Segment   Elimination   Consolidated
NIS Million   Q1’18   Q1’19   Change %   Q1’18   Q1’19   Change %   Q1’18   Q1’19   Q1’18   Q1’19   Change %
Total Revenues

644

  583   -9%

225

  252   +12%

(43)

  (41)

826

  794   -4%
Service Revenues

466

441 -5%

202

224 +11%

(43)

(41)

625

624 -0%
Equipment Revenues

178

142 -20%

23

28 +22%

201

170 -15%
Operating Profit

22

9

-59%

10

0

32

9 -72%
Adjusted EBITDA  

134

  150   +12%  

43

  47   +9%      

177

  197   +11%

Financial Review

In Q1 2019, total revenues were NIS 794 million (US$ 219
million), a decrease of 4% from NIS 826 million in Q1 2018.

Service revenues in Q1 2019 totaled NIS 624 million (US$ 172
million), a decrease of NIS 1 million from NIS 625 million in Q1 2018.

Service revenues for the cellular segment in Q1 2019 totaled NIS
441 million (US$ 121 million), a decrease of 5% from NIS 466 million in
Q1 2018. The decrease was mainly the result of the continued price
erosion of cellular services (both Post-Paid and Pre-Paid) due to the
continued competitive market conditions.

Service revenues for the fixed-line segment in Q1 2019 totaled
NIS 224 million (US$ 62 million), an increase of 11% from NIS 202
million in Q1 2018. The increase reflected revenues from TV services and
internet services, which were partially offset principally by the
decline in revenues from international calling services.

Equipment revenues in Q1 2019 totaled NIS 170 million (US$ 47
million), a decrease of 15% from NIS 201 million in Q1 2018, mainly
reflecting a lower volume of equipment sales and a change in product mix.

Gross profit from equipment sales in Q1 2019 was NIS 39
million (US$ 11 million), compared with NIS 43 million in Q1 2018, a
decrease of 9%, mainly reflecting the decline in sales volumes,
partially offset by higher profit margins from sales due to a change in
the product mix.

Total operating expenses (‘OPEX’) totaled NIS 472 million (US$
130 million) in Q1 2019, a decrease of 5% or NIS 26 million from Q1
2018. The decrease mainly reflected the effect of the implementation of
IFRS 16 which totaled NIS 39 million, a decrease in credit losses, and a
decrease in costs related to international calls. These decreases were
partially offset by an increase in expenses relating to the growth in TV
and internet services. Including depreciation and amortization expenses
and other expenses (mainly amortization of employee share based
compensation), OPEX in Q1 2019 increased by 3% compared with Q1 2018.

Operating profit for Q1 2019 was NIS 9 million (US$ 2 million), a
decrease of 72% compared with operating profit of NIS 32 million in Q1
2018. Excluding the adoption of IFRS 16, operating profit in Q1 2019
would have been NIS 4 million. See Adjusted EBITDA analysis for each
segment below.

Adjusted EBITDA in Q1 2019 totaled NIS 197 million (US$ 54
million), an increase of 11% from NIS 177 million in Q1 2018. The impact
of the adoption of IFRS 16 on Adjusted EBITDA in Q1 2019 was an increase
of NIS 39 million and, therefore, excluding the impact of IFRS 16,
Adjusted EBITDA would have been NIS 158 million. As a percentage of
total revenues, Adjusted EBITDA in Q1 2019 was 25% compared with 21% in
Q1 2018.

Adjusted EBITDA for the cellular segment was NIS 150 million (US$
41 million) in Q1 2019, an increase of 12% from NIS 134 million in Q1
2018, mainly reflecting the impact of the adoption of IFRS 16 which
increased cellular segment Adjusted EBITDA by NIS 34 million, and a
decrease in cellular operating expenses (OPEX), which were partially
offset by decreases in service revenues and in gross profit from
cellular equipment sales. As a percentage of total cellular segment
revenues, Adjusted EBITDA for the cellular segment in Q1 2019 was 26%
compared with 21% in Q1 2018.

Adjusted EBITDA for the fixed-line segment was NIS 47 million
(US$ 13 million) in Q1 2019, an increase of 9% from NIS 43 million in Q1
2018, reflecting the increases in fixed-line service revenues and in
gross profit from equipment sales, partially offset by the increase in
OPEX. The impact of the adoption of IFRS 16 in Q1 2019 on the Adjusted
EBITDA for the fixed-line segment was an increase of NIS 5 million. As a
percentage of total fixed-line segment revenues, Adjusted EBITDA for the
fixed-line segment in Q1 2019 was 19%, unchanged from Q1 2018.

Finance costs, net in Q1 2019 were NIS 14 million (US$ 4
million), a decrease of 22% compared with NIS 18 million in Q1 2018. The
decrease largely reflected the early loan repayment fee recorded in Q1
2018, partially offset by the impact of the adoption of IFRS 16 in Q1
2019, which resulted in an increase of NIS 5 million in finance costs.

Income tax expenses for Q1 2019 were an income of NIS 7 million
(US$ 2 million), compared with expenses of NIS 5 million in Q1 2018,
largely reflecting the loss before tax of NIS 5 million in Q1 2019
compared with profit before tax of NIS 14 million in Q1 2018.

Profit in Q1 2019 was NIS 2 million (US$ 1 million), compared
with a profit of NIS 9 million in Q1 2018, a decrease of 78%. The
impact of the adoption of IFRS 16 in Q1 2019 on profit was an immaterial
decrease of NIS 1 million.

Based on the weighted average number of shares outstanding during Q1
2019, basic earnings per share or ADS, was NIS 0.01 (US$ 0.003),
compared with basic earnings per share of NIS 0.05 in Q1 2018.

Cellular Segment Operational Review

At the end of Q1 2019, the Company’s cellular subscriber base
(including mobile data, 012 Mobile subscribers and M2M subscriptions)
was approximately 2.62 million, including approximately 2.34 million
Post-Paid subscribers or 89% of the base, and approximately 280 thousand
Pre-Paid subscribers, or 11% of the subscriber base.

During the first quarter of 2019, the cellular subscriber base decreased
by approximately 26 thousand. The Pre-Paid subscriber base decreased by
approximately 5 thousand, and the Post-Paid subscriber base decreased by
approximately 21 thousand.

The quarterly churn rate for cellular subscribers in Q1 2019 was
8.5%, compared with 8.9% in Q1 2018.

Total cellular market share (based on the number of subscribers)
at the end of Q1 2019 was estimated to be approximately 25%, unchanged
from Q1 2018.

The monthly Average Revenue per User (“ARPU”) for cellular
subscribers in Q1 2019 was NIS 56 (US$ 15), a decrease of 3% from NIS 58
in Q1 2018. The decrease mainly reflected the continued price erosion in
key cellular services due to the competition in the cellular market.

Funding and Investing Review

In Q1 2019, Adjusted Free Cash Flow (including lease payments) totaled
negative NIS 11 million (US$ -3 million), a decrease in Adjusted Free
Cash Flow of NIS 32 from positive NIS 21 million in Q1 2018.

Cash generated from operating activities increased by 36% from
NIS 157 million in Q1 2018 to NIS 213 million (US$ 59 million) in Q1
2019, mainly as a result of the adoption in Q1 2019 of IFRS 16, under
which lease payments are recorded in cash flows from financing
activities instead of in cash flows from operating activities, as well
as the impact of the change in the accounting treatment of PHI,
following the change in PHI’s governance (see below), where payments to
PHI for Right of Use of PHI’s assets which previously were recorded as
cash flows from operating activities under “Increase in deferred
expenses – right of use” are, as from Q1 2019, recorded as cash flows
from investing activities under “Acquisition of property and equipment”
and “Acquisition of intangible and other assets”.

Lease payments, recorded in cash flows from financing activities
under IFRS 16, totaled NIS 39 million in Q1 2019.

Cash capital expenditures (‘CAPEX payments’), as represented by
cash flows used for the acquisition of property and equipment and
intangible assets, were NIS 185 million (US$ 51 million) in Q1 2019, an
increase of 34% from NIS 138 million in Q1 2018, mainly reflecting the
impact of the change in the accounting treatment of PHI, as described
above, as well as increased investments in the fiber optics
infrastructure.

The level of Net Debt at the end of Q1 2019 amounted to NIS 977
million (US$ 269 million), compared with NIS 919 million at the end of
Q1 2018, an increase of NIS 58 million.

Change in PHI’s governance from the beginning
of 2019

At the beginning of January 2019, an amendment to the network sharing
agreement between the Company and HOT Mobile was signed, as a result of
which, control over the partnership, PHI, is now borne 50-50 by the
Company and HOT Mobile, and each nominates an equal number of directors
(three directors). Since, thereafter, decisions about the Relevant
Activities of PHI require the unanimous consent of both the Company and
HOT Mobile, PHI is considered a joint arrangement controlled by the
Company and HOT Mobile (joint operation). Therefore, from the beginning
of this year, PHI is accounted for as a joint operation by the Company,
and the Company recognizes its share (50%) in the assets, liabilities,
and expenses of PHI, instead of using the equity method for its PHI
interest.

This change was mainly reflected in the Company’s statement of financial
position at the beginning of 2019, with increases in non-current
right-of-use in leased assets of NIS 355 million, in current maturities
of lease liabilities of NIS 65 million, and in non-current lease
liabilities of NIS 290 million, and a recognition of property and
equipment and intangible assets of NIS 142 million, instead of deferred
expenses – right of use in PHI’s assets. The change was also reflected
in cash flows, where payments to PHI for Right of Use of PHI’s assets
which previously were recorded as cash flows from operating activities
under “Increase in deferred expenses – right of use” are now recorded as
cash flows from investing activities under “Acquisition of property and
equipment” and “Acquisition of intangible and other assets”. The change
did not materially affect the Company’s statement of income.

For additional details and implications, see note 9 to our consolidated
financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018 and Item 5A.1d
in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended December
31, 2018, filed with the SEC on March 27, 2019.

IFRS 16

The new leases standard, IFRS 16, came into effect on January 1, 2019.
The standard primarily affects the accounting for the Group’s operating
leases. The Company applied the simplified transition approach and did
not restate comparative amounts. As at January 1, 2019, the Company
recognized in the statement of financial position (including Partner’s
share in PHI’s lease contracts) a Lease – right of use asset of NIS 656
million and a lease liability of NIS 683 million (current and
non-current). The accumulated retained earnings decreased by NIS 21
million and the deferred income tax asset has changed in an immaterial
amount.

In the first quarter of 2019, the impact of adopting IFRS 16 on the
consolidated statement of income amounted to a decrease of NIS 39
million in operating expenses (OPEX), an increase of NIS 35 million in
depreciation and amortization expenses and an increase of NIS 5 million
in finance costs, net, which resulted in an immaterial increase in
operating profit and an immaterial decrease in profit for the quarter.
Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter increased by NIS 39 million, with
Adjusted EBITDA for the cellular segment increasing by NIS 34 million
and Adjusted EBITDA for the fixed-line segment increasing by NIS 5
million.

Lease payments made in the first quarter of 2019 in an amount of NIS 39
million were recorded in the statement of cash flows under the cash
flows from financing activities instead of under cash flows from
operating activities.

Conference Call Details

Partner will hold a conference call on Thursday, May 30, 2019 at 10.00AM
Eastern Time / 5.00PM Israel Time.

To join the call, please dial the following numbers (at least 10 minutes
before the scheduled time):

International: +972.3.918.0685

North America toll-free: +1.866.860.9642

A live webcast of the call will also be available on Partner’s Investors
Relations website at: www.partner.co.il/en/Investors-Relations/lobby/

If you are unavailable to join live, the replay of the call will be
available from May 30, 2019 until June 14, 2019, at the following
numbers:

International: +972.3.925.5929

North America toll-free: +1.888.254.7270

In addition, the archived webcast of the call will be available on
Partner’s Investor Relations website at the above address for
approximately three months.

Forward-Looking Statements
This
press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of
Section 27A of the US Securities Act of 1933, as amended, Section 21E of
the US Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the safe harbor
provisions of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.
Words such as “estimate”, “believe”, “anticipate”, “expect”, “intend”,
“seek”, “will”, “plan”, “could”, “may”, “project”, “goal”, “target” and
similar expressions often identify forward-looking statements but are
not the only way we identify these statements. Specific statements have
been made regarding the expected benefits of the Company’s strategy to
provide value to its customers in all areas of its business; the
expectation to increase the Company’s differentiation and competitive
advantage by establishing a private customer service division; the
Company’s strategy to continue its leadership in telecommunication
technologies with continued significant investments in the Company’s
fiber optics infrastructure; and the Company’s preparations regarding
its future debt recycling in anticipation of the Company’s expected
funding requirements for the years through 2021. In addition, all
statements other than statements of historical fact included in this
press release regarding our future performance are forward-looking
statements. We have based these forward-looking statements on our
current knowledge and our present beliefs and expectations regarding
possible future events. These forward-looking statements are subject to
risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including, whether quality offers,
attractive service bundles or low prices offered by the Company’s
competitors might prevent the Company from attracting and retaining
customers; whether market conditions will support the Company’s goal to
create differentiation and a competitive advantage by establishing a
private customer service division; whether the Company’s financial
resources and technological capabilities in fiber optics will enable it
to continue to lead in telecommunication technology, and whether such
leadership might be challenged by capabilities developed by competitors
or by changes occurring in the regulatory environment; and whether
unanticipated demands on the Company’s financial resources might cause
the preparations for future debt recycling to fall short of the
Company’s needs.

Contacts

Tamir Amar
Chief Financial Officer
Tel: +972-54-781-4951
E-mail:
investors@partner.co.il

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Strainprint™ Technologies Welcomes Organic Medical Cannabis Producer to Growing List of Subscribers

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Strainprint™ Technologies Ltd, the leader in cannabis data and analytics is pleased to expand their nation-wide coverage with the addition of Stewart Farms.

Stewart Farms is a late-stage applicant headquartered in Alberta that is building a 100,000 sq. ft. vertical aquaponics farm in Saint StephensNew Brunswick. They will be utilizing automation, vertical farming, and land-based aquaculture to produce medical grade organic cannabis for both recreational and medical markets in Canada. All of their products will be free of herbicides, pesticides and synthetic nutrients. At full capacity, they will reach more than 10,000 kgs per year of organically farmed cannabis and more than 200,000 kgs of organic tilapia.

Stewart Farms’ long term vision is to deliver tools and products to support  future customers and patients during their health and wellness journeys. “Through our partnership with Strainprint we gain direct access to their incomparable data and analytics tools. This will aid us in educating a wider audience on the medical benefits and best practices of cannabis-based medicine,” said Tanner Stewart, Co-founder & CEO of Stewart Farms. “We know our customers are looking to consume more than dried cannabis. We know Canadians of all legal ages are trying to sort through their personal engagement with cannabis as a medicine. What we want to know, on an ongoing basis, is what is and is not working for people. Strainprint’s patient-led data services will give us the insight needed to create custom products and further understand the benefits of our existing products. Finally, our goal is to partner with companies and teams that truly have people’s best interest at heart. Caring about a patient’s success is what makes up the core of the Strainprint team. We couldn’t be happier to move forward with them at our side.”

Stewart Farms will access the Strainprint Analytics web platform, the most sophisticated cannabis analytics platform available to improve product development. Strainprint Analytics is built on top of the largest and most granular scientific data set of its kind in the world, with more than 1.3 million anonymized, patient reported medical cannabis outcomes and more than 65 million data points on strain efficacy.

“We’re thrilled to provide our real-time, crowd sourced data to an environmentally conscious company that uses innovative, cutting edge farming technology to produce top-tier medical cannabis,” said Strainprint CEO, Andrew Muroff. “Our organizations are equally committed to improving lives using cannabis therapy, and our shared core motivation is to provide guidance and support to help cannabis patients achieve their health goals.”

 

SOURCE Strainprint Technologies Ltd.

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Field Trip Ventures Inc. Retains KCSA Strategic Communications as Public Relations Counsel

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Greenery Map, the world’s first and only cannabis search engine to allow users to search for cannabis products based on their desired mood, medicinal use, and method of consumption, is now offering users – both businesses and consumers – the opportunity to register and connect to the app in an entirely mobile way. Previously, businesses were required to access GreeneryMap.com from a desktop in order to manage accounts and connect to the inventory API system, but that road block has been removed, allowing for an entirely mobile experience through the Greenery Map app.

App users turn to Greenery Map to help them decide on the strain of Cannabis and product that is right for them depending on their desired mood or medicinal effect. Following the matching, consumers are given a detailed history and description of the strain so that they can make educated purchases, cutting down on time that budtenders need to spend with patrons and speeding up the purchase process. Consumers can then see all of the ways to purchase said product, including the nearby dispensaries that have it in stock, online options, and even delivery options through the app. Greenery Map fully integrates with a dispensary’s inventory API system to update in real-time and give consumers real-time information on dispensary stock for the item they are looking for. The Greenery Map system also provides cannabis businesses in both the B2B and B2C sectors a private database to share and sell information and products. For Cannabis businesses, Greenery Map also offers the opportunity to open bank and merchant accounts through their partnership with PayHouse Consulting Group.

 

SOURCE Greenery Map

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WeBank, IBM and Other Organizations Jointly Held the 1st International Workshop on Federated Machine Learning in conjunction with IJCAI 2019

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Once a concept, AI is now ushering in a key stage of application. What’s the solution to the data silos among businesses? Given the enhanced regulation on data at home and abroad, what’s the solution to data privacy and security concerns? What’s the status quo of Federated Machine Learning and how to establish an ecosystem for FML in the future?

WeBank, IBM and other organizations jointly held the 1st International Workshop on Federated Machine Learning for User Privacy and Data Confidentiality (FML’19) in conjunction with the 28th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-19) on Aug. 12, 2019, to further discussion on these issues.

President of IJCAI, Chair of FML Steering Committee, Chief AI Officer of WeBank Professor Qiang Yang delivered opening remarks at the workshop. Dr. Shahrokh Daijavad from IBM and Dr. Jakub Konečný from Google presented keynote addresses. In the panel discussion, top scholars from WeBank, Bar-Ilan University, IBM, Squirrel AI, Google, Huawei, Clustar, Sinovation Ventures and many other renowned enterprises and universities shared and discussed their findings and experience in FML as an emerging AI technology.

This workshop received 40 papers, of which 12 were presented during the workshop, 19 presented via poster. Awards include Best Theory Paper Award, Best Application Paper Award, Best Student Paper Award, Best Presentation Award. Selected high quality papers will be invited for publication in a special issue in the IEEE Intelligent Systems journal. All these attracted numerous scholars to engage in discussions and join efforts for building the FML ecosystem.

Experts from IBM and Google Share Groundbreaking Findings with a Focus on the Theory and Application of FML

Privacy and security are becoming a key concern in our digital age. On 25th May last year, the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the EU, the toughest Act on data privacy protection, stressed that user data collection must be open and transparent. A series of laws and regulations from China and overseas also pose new challenges to the traditional way of handling data and model for cooperation. Seeking ways for AI to adapt to this new reality became top priority, a demand that led to this workshop on FML.

A wealth of solutions and breakthroughs were shared by Dr. Shahrokh Daijavad from IBM and Dr. Jakub Konečný from Google in their speech on FML.

Besides how FML can help tackle challenges in the business world, Dr. Shahrokh Daijavad also shared the concept of Fusion AI, which means to train models on widely distributed data sets, but fuse them to produce one equivalent to what centralized training would yield. “Unlike traditional machine learning, in Fusion AI, model parameters are shared and data is not transferred, which makes Fusion AI model better than models that moving data centrally.” Given the widely distributed data, the development of Fusion AI and FML became ever important and imminent.

“FML enables machine learning engineers and data scientists to work productively with decentralized data with privacy by default,” said Dr. Jakub Konečný from Google. He also shared with us how FML works and its use cases at Google. In the case of Gboard, as on-device data is privacy sensitive or large or is more relevant than server-side proxy data, and labels can be inferred naturally via user interaction, the application of Federated RNN compared to prior n-gram model can increase the accuracy of next-word prediction by 24%, and the click rate of prediction strip by 10%.

Major Figure Panelists Discuss the Way Ahead for FML

The moderator of the panel discussion, AI Principal Scientist of WeBank Dr. Lixin Fan joined panelists including Professor Benny Pinkas from Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Shahrokh Daijavad of IBM Academy of Technology, Chief Architect of Squirrel AI Dr. Richard Tong, Research Scientist of Google Dr. Jakub Konečný, Dr. Baofeng Zhang from CTO Office of CBG Software in Huawei, Executive VP of Clustar Dr. Junxue Zhang, VP of AI Institute in Sinovation Ventures Dr. Ji Feng and other experts in a host of in-depth exchanges with attendees, to shed light on the way ahead for FML.

Experts shared thoughts in the panel discussion on questions including but not limited to: How to meet the security and compliance requirements? Is there a way to extend the value of data while observing user privacy and data security? Given the classic trade-off between data regulation and development of AI, how to achieve the long-term goal of establishing a stable and win-win business ecosystem?

List of Award-Winners

Best Theory Paper Award, Best Application Paper Award, Best Student Paper Award and Best Presentation Award selected by all attendees were announced at the closing of the workshop.

Best Theory Paper Award: 
Preserving User Privacy for Machine Learning: Local Differential Privacy or Federated Machine Learning? By Huadi Zheng, Haibo Hu & Ziyang Han;

Best Application Paper Award: 
FedHealth: A Federated Transfer Learning Framework for Wearable Healthcare. By Yiqiang ChenJindong WangChaohui YuWen Gao & Xin Qin;

Best Student Paper Award: 
Quantifying the Performance of Federated Transfer Learning. By Qinghe JingWeiyan Wang, Junxue Zhang, Han Tian & Kai Chen;

Best Presentation Award: 
Federated Generative Privacy. By Aleksei Triastcyn and Boi Faltings.

President of IJCAI, Chief AI Officer of WeBank Professor Qiang Yang, Chief Architect of Squirrel AI Dr. Richard TongandVP of AI Institute in Sinovation Ventures Dr. Ji Feng presented the awards.

“The mission of this International Federated Machine Learning Workshop is to facilitate further understanding in the academia, business community as well as legal and regulatory institutions by promoting the establishment of FML ecosystem in the hope that more businesses will join and build a platform for students aspired to work in FML to find research teams that suit them,” said Professor Qiang Yang.

Held Aug. 10-16, 2019 in Macao, China, IJCAI-19 is one of the leading International Academic Conference on AI, attracting over 3000 AI research personnel and experts. The 1st International Workshop on Federated Machine Learning (FML’19) was a highlight for experts joining this event. Visionaries in the academia and industrial sector expressed the willingness to be part of the effort for academic research, application of FML in the future, and the development and boom of AI ecosystem.

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