Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New coin project Tezos faces internal fights after successful ICO

Only three months ago tech project Tezos was able to raise $232 million online in what was a very successful initial coin offering (ICO) in which a new project is financed and a new currency is created.
Now the Tezos project is in grave danger of falling apart as two groups battle for control. On one side are the founders of Tezos, Arthur and Kathleen Breitman and on the other, Johann Gevers, who is president of the Swiss foundation that helped the two establish the offering and also to develop the Tezos computer network.
Under Swiss law, the foundation is supposed to be independent. The foundation holds all of the funds raised which now are valued at about $400 million. However, the Breitmans still have control of the source code for Tezos through a Delaware company. They are seeking to oust Gevers from being head of the foundation.
Breitman's attorney sent a letter to the two other board members of the foundation asking for Gever's removal and demanding the couple have a substantial role in carrying out the boards' responsibilities for Tezos. The letter accuses Gevers of "self-dealing, self-promotion and conflicts of interest". The two other board members have asked that Gevers step aside while they investigate.
However, Gevers told the press that he would not step down saying: “As Arthur has done to others before me. This is attempted character assassination. It’s a long laundry list of misleading statements and outright lies.” He also accused the other two board members of attempting an illegal coup. Gevers complained that the Breitmans were trying to control the foundation as if it were their private entity. They were bypassing the legal structure of the foundation and interfering with management and operations. The result has been delays in launching the Tezos network and the new currency that were putting the entire project at risk.
The Breitmans, however, claim to the press that they were acting in accord with all applicable laws and regulations and their priority remained the launch of the Tezos network. Yet the internal division has delayed the coins's release without any date being set for its future release. Until the network launches the fundraisers will receive nothing.
The value of tezzies (XTZ) has been falling lately in relation to its value compared to bitcoin as shown on the graph here. The graph will show you the comparison over the most recent hour, day, week or even a month and longer.Cryptocompare says of Tezos:Tezos is a new decentralized blockchain that governs itself by establishing a true digital commonwealth. It facilitates formal verification, a technique which mathematically proves the correctness of the code governing transactions and boosts the security of the most sensitive or financially weighted smart contracts. Tezos takes a fundamentally different approach to governance by creating governance rules for stakeholders to approve of protocol upgrades that are then automatically deployed on the network. When a developer proposes a protocol upgrade, they can attach an invoice to be paid out to their address upon approval and inclusion of their upgrade. This approach provides a strong incentive for participation in the Tezos core development and further decentralizes the maintenance of the network.
The true digital commonwealth may never come to be and there is no guarantee that participants will ever receive a single Tez in return for their investments. Participants agree to and accept the risk that the project could be abandoned. However, foundation head Gevers said that he is committed to resolving the feud with the Breitmans so that the project can proceed.
The Tezos case exemplifies the risk of investing in cryptocurrencies. China and South Korea have already banned ICO's. While this temporarily resulted in a drop in the price of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, bitcoin bounced back and set a new record high last week. Even bitcoin, the most popular and valuable cryptocurrency, has suffered security issues. More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen since 2011 according to Reuters that today would be worth about $5 billion.
Nevertheless, from January to September ICO's brought in $2.2 billion an amount triple that invested in similar startups by traditional venture capital firms according to data collected by Novum Insights. Contributors to the ICO's receive coins or tokens that they typically need to access the new networks. Authorities in the US, Switzerland and a number of other nations are looking at ICO's carefully and no doubt more regulation will take place in the future in many countries.
Alistair Milne, of the London-based Altana Digital Currency Fund that has avoided ICOs said: “Most ICOs are bought by people looking to ‘flip’ their tokens to a greater fool for a quick profit.” He predicted that over 90 percent will plunge to a near-zero value over time. However, several investors and entrepreneurs claimed that the Tezos technology had great potential because it was easy to upgrade and also could be more secure than other blockchains.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A year after Trump promised to drain the swamp it teams with new creatures

In late October 2016 it looked as if Donald Trump would lose the election to his rival Hillary Clinton as she led in the polls by eight percent. On October 17th Trump announced in a press release that it was time to drain the swamp in Washington.

Trump was claiming that special interests had inordinate influence over the government and was a main reason why the government was ineffective. The press release listed five ways that Trump would make the government honest again. Most measures involved restricting the power of lobbyists to influence the federal government. In a rally the next day in Colorado Springs Colorado he again brought up the issue and promised again to drain the swamp.
Trump did on January 28 sign Executive Order 13770 which was designed to curtail the back-and-forth movement between government and lobbyists. One senior White House official claimed that it was far more sweeping than restrictions Obama had in place. However, Obama's ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen pointed out that the bill effectively allows for anyone to receive a waiver from its provisions. The waiver can even be granted retroactively. Obama had been subject to criticism for using waivers.
Lobbying booming
Many Washington lobbyists claim business is better than ever under Trump. Spending on lobbying rose to almost $1.7 billion in the first half of this year, the most since 2012 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Brian Wild, a Republican lobbyist and former aide to the House Speaker John Boehner said: “I don’t think that anything’s really changed. If anything, the lobbying business is booming right now.”
Although draining the swamp as a slogan was used by Trump to lash out at many aspects of the Washington establishment when it was first announced it was tied to five specific rules for lobbyists a package of ethics reforms to make the government honest again.
However only the one reform discussed earlier has been fully implemented and it contains provisions allowing for waivers. The executive order banned executive branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments and overseas political parties after they leave the administration. It has never been clarified exactly how the ban will be enforced.
In the executive order, another pledge was watered down in that it would have barred executive branch officials from lobbying for five years but this was watered down to barring them from lobbying the agencies where they worked. He also promised to make this a law but he has not asked Congress to pass such a law yet.
Pledges and bills
Trump also promised to broaden the definition of lobbying, to ban lobbyists for foreign interests from making campaign contributions, and finally to lengthen the time former lawmakers are banned from lobbying. The Trump administration has given little attention to these pledges. When Trump addressed Congress last February when presidents typically set out their agenda, Trump said nothing about these three pledges but just praised the steps he claimed to have already taken to "drain the swamp of government corruption".
However, Representative Bill Posey a Florida Republican who in July introduced a bill that would ban former members of Congress for lobbying for five years and former staffer for two years claimed that the Trump administration had encouraged his office and other offices to proceed with "drain the swamp" legislation. Posey has introduced this bill several times since 2012.
Other lawmakers who introduced bills to place more restrictions on lobbyists claim they have heard nothing from the Trump administration, including bills by Al Franken, and Republican Cory Gardner. Peter DeFazio a Democrat introduced a bill that would make into law Trump's executive order ban on administration officials lobbying until 5 years after leaving government but he has not heard back from the White House.
Brad Gerstman a New York lobbyist claimed that Trump voters understand the "drain the swamp' slogan as being a much broader promise and that the new lobbying rules were small-ticket items. A recent article in The Atlantic goes into some detail about the ways that the Trump administration has violated his pledge to drain the swamp.
Here are just a few examples of additions to the swamp:Corey Lewandowski, who worked as Trump’s campaign manager, moved to Washington, D.C., and started a Beltway lobbying firm, where he accepted lots of money from special interests that were trying to influence Trump.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported, “Established K Street firms were grabbing any Trump people they could find: Jim Murphy, Trump’s former political director, joined the lobbying giant BakerHostetler, while another firm, Fidelis Government Relations, struck up a partnership with Bill Smith, Mike Pence’s former chief of staff. All told, close to 20 ex-aides of Trump, friends, and hangers-on had made their way into Washington’s influence business.”
This is just a small sample of many listed in the article.
Trump is not the first president to promise to drain the swamp. On the first anniversary of his inauguration Ronald Reagan reminded his Cabinet that they were there to drain the swamp. In 2006 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used the phrase as the Democrats were running to gain control of the House. So far the swamp survives and is replenished periodically.

New Microsoft laptops will run on Qualcomm chipset

Microsoft revealed new details about its ARM-powered Windows 10 laptops. The laptops will be powered by a Qualcomm chip rather than by Intel or AMD. The new laptops should be on the market by this December.

Asus, HP, and Lenovo who all make laptops are also preparing new devices. Battery life appears to be a key selling point for the new laptops. ARM, originally Acorn RISC Machine but now Advanced RISC Machine is reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture for computer processors.
The U.K. company ARM Holdings develops the architecture and then licences it to other companies who design their own products that implement the architectures including systems-on-chips(SoC) and systems-on-modules (SoM). The firm also designs cores to implement designs that are licenced to companies to incorporate into their products. As of 2017 ARM was the most widely used instruction set architecture in terms of number produced at over 100 billion.
The laptops will run on the Snapdragon 835 chipset, the same mobile processor that is now used in many phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG V30. Qualcomm claims of the chipset: " The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform can support phenomenal mobile performance. It is 35 percent smaller and uses 25 percent less power than previous designs, and is engineered to deliver exceptionally long battery life, lifelike VR and AR experiences, cutting-edge camera capabilities and Gigabit Class download speeds."
Qualcomm is a US-based multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company. It designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services. Most of its revenue comes from chipmaking and its profit from patent licensing. The company has headquarters in San Diego California but 224 different locations worldwide.
A battery life that dreams are made of
Pete Bernard a Microsoft program manager claimed that the laptop would have a multi-day battery life: “To be frank, it’s actually beyond our expectations. We set a high bar for [our developers], and we’re now beyond that. It’s the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life.”
Microsoft hopes that the new laptops will not have the issues that emerged when Microsoft used ARM with Windows earlier: "Microsoft previously promised great battery life with ARM-powered Windows RT devices, but that largely fell short. RT was a messy and confusing experiment that included a desktop mode that couldn’t run traditional desktop apps, and Microsoft will be keen to avoid any issues again." The new laptop will be able to run traditional desktop apps as shown on the appended video.
Holiday release
The new laptop should be out by Christmas this year. Don McGuire VP of Global Product Marketing at Qualcomm said: “In December last year, [we] set a timeline for one year out, that we would be able to announce devices. We are still moving towards that timeline. I think that expectation will be met. You’ll be hearing more from us over the next coming weeks regarding that.”
Hundreds of the new Snapdragon-powered laptops are being tested at Microsoft headquarters. Pete Bernard of Microsoft said that his group had been working on the project for almost a year and were working furiously both at Redmond and with partners at Qualcomm in San Diego in California. In time, there may be cheaper versions of the laptops.
Bernard said: “Over time, there’s going to be a portfolio of devices from manufacturers. We’ve had some conversations with other OEMs too, for future devices, that are very exciting about bringing their own spin.” Bernard said that eventually there will be a range of different devices with varying prices. While it is claimed that the new laptop will be a game changer, it remains to be seen how the laptop will sell and if it meets stiff competition from other manufacturers.

Bitcoin reaches new high in middle of October

(October 17)In spite of many warnings that the purchase of bitcoins was risky and even claims that it was a fraud, bitcoin went above $5,000 per coin on Thursday reaching a new high of $5,856. 10 during the day.

For this year alone, bitcoin the biggest cap cryptocurrency has advanced in price 500 percent . Bitcoin is less than nine years old and was worth virtually nothing when first created. Its price is still quite volatile and the coin is less liquid than traditional currencies or gold and silver and many stocks. The reasons for its recent increases are not that clear.
Some of the reasons for the advance are reports that Goldman Sachs is considering offering trading in bitcoin. There are also rumors that China may ease restrictions on bitcoin trading after it had earlier banned IPO and also shut down exchanges.
While Goldman Sachs is said to be considering trading in bitcoin Jamie Dimon CEO of JP Morgan has called it a fraud. Nevertheless, the rumor that Goldman Sachs may trade bitcoin may have helped increase its price.
A main factor may simply be that the bitcoin market has provided astronomical gains in every year but one since 2010. Ryan Nettles at Swiss bank Swissquote said:“People are just wanting to be part of it.” Nettles who is head of FX trading and market strategy at the bank said that interest from banks, hedge funds, and brokers was much higher than he anticipated. He claimed that much of the interest came from media hype of bitcoin.
Even though Russia's president Putin warned of serious risks in the current market and Russia's central bank said it would ban cryptocurrency trading websites, investors appeared to pay little attention. Bitcoin had almost reached $5,000 at the beginning of September but fell back sharply after Chinese actions against trading and IPOs. Jamie Dimon's remarks did not help. Bitcoin dropped below the $3,000 level in the middle of September only to bounce back by more than 75 percent in a mere four weeks.
Iqbal Gandham, managing director at the retail trading app eToro which has seen huge increases in cryptocurrency trading said: "Bitcoin was designed to operate outside of the influence of governments and central banks, and is doing exactly that.” Even European Central Bank governor Vitor Constancio warns investors of a bitcoin bubble, but some analysts claim the price could go much higher. However, there seems to be no agreed upon way of determining the value of bitcoin beyond the present market price.
In just a few weeks, bitcoin may face a contentious split in its blockchain as the second part of the plan Segwit2x is introduced. Before the deadline for accepting the original Seqwit2x plan at the beginning of August a group unilaterally decided to make the block size 8 times larger without introducing Segwit or making blocks twice as big or 2x. This created a rival coin Bitcash. Alhtough it is much less valuable than bitcoin it has done much better than some predicted. Last I looked it was trading at $460-470 dollars Canadian. The introduction of Segwit later in August did not create another coin as happened when Bitcash was created but was in contrast a "soft fork" as explained in the appended video:
You would think all the uncertainty and possible decline in value associated with the coming fork would result in a fall in the value of bitcoin whereas exactly the opposite is happening. Chris Pacia who helped develop OpenBazzar an open marketplace, said on Facebook: "Bitcoin traders are some of the most irrational investors you'll come across." Yet there may be some sense behind the move.
When a hard fork occurs owners of the present bitcoin will not only keep their present bitcoins but receive an equal amount of the new coin created by the fork. When bitcoin split in August to create Bitcash the value of the original bitcoin fell steeply but it then recovered and continued up. As this article notes: "Distributed to all bitcoin owners at the time of the fork, investors were suddenly given an equal amount of valuable cryptocurrency ... Far from a risky proposition, investors see that extra value as just created out of thin air and delivered to existing investors for free." Harry Yeh, of the cryptocurrency investment firm Binary Financial said:"Investors are just looking at it like, 'I'm going to get more tokens right now.' It's just that simple." He said that often these are well-established investors not newbies. Yeh said that traditional economic rules do not apply and that previous hard forks not just of bitcoin but of ethereum actually created value rather than destroying it.
Roger Ver a bitcoin investor and promoter claims that consensus between opposing camps looks increasingly unlikely a view echoed by many mining pool operators and programmers who helped develop the original bitcoin network. A recent Bloomberg article details the issues that are creating division. Ver has been moving some of his funds into Bitcash. He is not perturbed by a coming hard fork in bitcoin: “There’s probably going to be another split between bitcoin legacy and SegWit2X version of bitcoin but that just gives me more coins that I can sell for the Bitcoin Cash version." Investors in bitcoin could be in for a wild ride.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

New Samsung Connect Tag uses narrowband technology

Samsung claims that its new Connect Tag will be the first mobile product to use narrowband network technology (NB-IoT) . The Connect Tag will provide location information using GPS, Wi-Fi based positioning and cell ID for location tracking.

 1 of 2 
Narrowband networks connect Internet of Things(IoT) devices through cellular communication bands. Greater communication is becoming key, as experts estimate that by 2020 the IoT will contain about 30 billion objects.
What will work on the narrowband?
The narrowband networks are meant for devices that use small amounts of data and power and they provide the capability to securely connect to the Internet for location services. The Connect Tag has a three-coloured LED and is claimed to have a battery life of seveĊ‰ days before it needs to be recharged. As of now, the device will only work with Android devices.
The tag can be connected to a child's backpack, a dog's collar, or to personal belongings. If you are one of those people who are always losing keys or a purse, you can attach a Connect Tag to them. The Connect Tag has some similarities to Bluetooth trackers such as Tile, although Tile has a much longer battery life.
The Connect Tag has a geofence feature that will notify you when your child, pet, or even your wallet moves beyond the limits set by you. The tag can be linked with other Samsung SmartThings or smart devices within your house.
For example the device can trigger turning on the light when a user enters a room, or it can notify you when your child enters school grounds. There is a function that allows you to request the tag's location. You can set up location alerts that would periodically tell you where your child or pet is.
The tag is quite small at just 1.19 cm thick and 4.21 cm wide. It is dust and water proof. The Connect Tag will be sold only in South Korea initially but will be rolled out in other countries in the months thereafter. No price has been announced as yet. As noted on the appended video, the Connect Tag could also be helpful if you constantly lose track of where you car is in a parking lot.

New device generates Nitric Oxide from the air to help patients with pulmonary hypertension

- A new device, the Third Pole is able to generate nitric oxide (NO) from the air that can help improve oxygenation and treat pulmonary hypertension a common problem among some newborns.
As it is now, newborns with pulmonary hypertension have their oxygenation improved using bulky tanks or regulators that are quite expensive. Pulmonary hypertension (PH or PHTN) is an increase in blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Symptoms include, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain, swelling of the legs and a faint heartbeat There are many forms of PH. Some newborn babies have PH:
Neonatal respiratory failure affects 2% of all live births, and is responsible for over one third of all neonatal mortality. Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) complicates the course of approximately 10% of infants with respiratory failure, and is a source of considerable mortality and morbidity in this population.
The Third Pole is a device about the size of a milk jug. It is able to generate nitric oxide from the air without the use of bulky tanks or regulators as is the norm now. Warren Zapol who is an anesthesiologist and Harvard professor was among the first to use NO in the early 1990's to treat babies suffering pulmonary hypertension using tanks and regulators. Warren together with his son David, who has advanced degrees in public health, biology and immuneology from MIT, Columbia and Stanford, founded Third Pole in 2014 after spending several years trying to find an easier and cheaper way of delivering nitric oxide.
The startup has managed to raise about $9.5 million in venture funding. It has received grants of $3.5 million from the National Institutes of Health. Although for now, Third Pole is concentrating on its jug-sized unit to be used in hospitals. the company hopes that it can develop a smaller unit about the size of a paper-back that can be clipped on a belt and used at home.
The company hopes that it will be shipping the jug-sized device by by 2019. Louis Ignarro, the Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist said that the new device was a very big deal for patient care as it made NO treatment much more affordable compared to the cost of the present treatment. There would be much less drain on scarce health care funds. Bloomberg provides the following information on Third Pole: "Third Pole, Inc. develops products that generate and deliver electric nitric oxide for hospital, ambulatory, and home use, as well as for use in malaria, heart attacks, and strokes. The company was incorporated in 2014 and is based in San Francisco, California." The appended video shows the father and son developers of the Third Pole discussing the background and creation of the Third Pole.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sony launches new Xperia Touch projector

Sony introduced the Xperia Touch projector at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year. The device will now be made available in the United States priced at 1,699.99 through Amazon.

It will also be made available through some T-Mobile stores in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami and also the Sony Square display room in New York City. The Xperia Touch projector will be able to turn the surfaces of doors, cabinets, and walls into touchscreens. Users can view calendar events, weather data, and there is a memo board where family members can leave messages to be viewed. The project is also able to access Skype video chats, and leave video notes. It comes with a 13-megapixel camera.
The projector runs OS Android Nougat allowing it to do anything that an Android tablet can do. It can web browse, watch videos and even download apps from the Google Store. A charge should last about an hour but it can be plugged in through a USB-C port. The projector allows any member to broadcast what they are doing throughout the house. Of course family members may not always want to do this!
The Experia was also shown at the annual |Consumer Electronics Show in January. The projector uses IR sensors combined with a 60fps camera that allows the projected imaged to also serve as a 10 point multi-touch touch screen. The image can be projected horizontally or vertically The touch screen is 23 inches. Google Play is available as is access to PlayStation. There is also an 80 inch projection mode.
The Experia is small enough that it can be carried around the home without difficulty. You can at one time use it as an interactive recipe book projecting on to a kitchen surface and then as an 80 inch TV or as a web browser with a display far larger than any tablet. The Experia is already for sale in Europe.
Sony, not to be confused with Sanyo, is a Japanese multinational corporation with headquarters in Minato, Tokyo. The firm produces consumer and other electronics, games, entertainment and financial services. It is one of the leading producers of consumer electronic products. In the 2017 Fortune Global 500, Sony was ranked 105th. In the entertainment sector alone there are Sony Pictures, Sony Mobile, Sony Music, Sony Interactive Entertainment among others! Sony is the fifth largest television manufacturer in the world.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Over next 3 years Chinese giant Alibaba will invest $15 billion in new technology

The Chinese giant firm Alibaba has announced that it will invest $15 billion over the next three years into cutting edge technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

Alibaba has called its new initiative "DAMO Academy" standing for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook. Research labs will be created not only in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Hangzhou but in San Mateo and Bellevue in the United States. Other cities in which there will be new facilities include Moscow in Russia, Tel Aviv in Israel, and Singapore, Malaysia. All the facilities will be overseen by an advisory board of the best researchers and professors from leading global universities including the MIT in the US. The new units will explore developing technologies relating to data intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), quantum computing, and human-machine interacting. Jeff Zang, Alibaba's chief technology officer said: "We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end-users and businesses everywhere."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a big supporter of AI and claims it could be used to build safer cars and better detect diseases. However others such as Elon Musk of Tesla suggest that government regulation of research is needed to ensure that research does not threaten humanity. Other critics such as John Giannandrea AI chief at Google are concerned about biased algorithms used in AI as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
The DAMO Academy project is just part of a much broader plan that would see Alibaba serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years the company maintains. The company is busy trying to entice US small businesses to sell their goods to its huge Chinese market of 443 million customers.
As of last April, Alibaba was the world's largest retailer surpassing Walmart. It operates in more than 200 countries. It is also one of the largest internet companies. Since 2015 its online sales and profits have surpassed those of Walmart, Amazon, and eBay combined. It is expanding quickly into the media industry. As of August this year, Alibaba has over 529 million mobile users across its platforms. It also hosts a digital distribution service 9Apps that hosts a huge amount of content plus apps for downloads. As of this October, the market cap of Alibaba was $463 billion making it one of the top ten most valuable companies in the world.

Dubai police using cutting edge technology

Dubai police have adopted a new crime fighting instrument that can be a drone or a hoverbike. Earlier this year they introduced a robocop and robocop cars.

The Hoversurf
Dubai police have teamed up with the Russian drone manufacturer Hoversurf. The Hoversurf, combines the capabilities of a drone and a hoverbike. The craft has four large propellers that enable it to fly at a height of five meters or 16 ft when piloted. Without a pilot the vehicle can go another meter higher. The craft can be operated remotely or piloted.
The Hoversurf can fly for 25 minutes when fully charged and can travel at speeds up to 70 km per hour or 43 mph. It is able to carry an additional 300 kilograms or 662 pounds. The Hoversurf is just one of several futuristic devices that Dubai is rolling out this year. Dubai signed a deal earlier in the year that will see self-driving cop cars on the street helping to fight crime. Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The O-R3
The UAE has reached an agreement with a Singapore firm Otsaw Digital for an autonomous security vehicle known as O-R3. The four-wheeled vehicle can navigate its surroundings via a series of sensors attached to the body. The company says the vehicle will come with a number of cameras that will enable it to carry out "facial and license plate recognition".
When the O-R3 comes to an obstacle it cannot traverse it can launch a surveillance drone to keep track of any fleeing suspect. Human monitors can always take control of the robot remotely.
The Otsaw Digital website praises its product: “In an industry plagued with high turnover, OR-3 ensures fulfilment of 24/7 security shifts that keeps premises secure at all time and reduces the reliance on human guards. No off days… OR-3 performs its security duties with machine driven efficiency, 24/7, 365.”
Major General Abdullah Al-Mari the Dubai police commander also praised the new robo-car: “Dubai Police are keen to get the latest technology to fight crime. The self-driving robot is the latest addition to intelligent forces of the Dubai Police, and it has been specifically designed to be used on the streets of the city. It will also help to combat crime, maintain safety and enhance people’s happiness.”
Although the OR-3 is expected to appear at a technology fair in Dubai this month, full deployment is not expected before 2021.
The robocop
Back in May, the first of Dubai's new devices turned up in the form of a robocop. The robotic policeman will help identify wanted criminals and collect evidence as it patrols busy areas of the city.
The introduction of the robocop is part of a government program that will see some human police personnel replaced by robots. If the experiment is successful, the Dubai Police expect to replace 25 percent of its patrol force with robots by 2030.
The robot sports the colors of the Dubai Police uniform. It can shake hands and perform a military salute. Brigadier Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, director general of the Smart Services Department of Dubai Police said: “These kind of robots can work 24/7. They won’t ask you for leave, sick leave or maternity leave. It can work around the clock.”
The robot is outfitted with cameras and facial recognition software that allows it to compare faces with those in a police database and flag headquarters. It can also read licence plates. It can help police identify such risks at unattended bags in crowded areas. The robot is shown on the appended video.
Members of the force can communicate with the robot by using a touch screen computer in the robot's chest. The robot was built by PAL Robotics based in Barcelona Spain. The cost has not been made public.
Al Razooki said that the new generation liked smart devices:“We now see the new generations who are using smart devices - they love to use these kind of tools. A lot of them have seen the Robocop movie and they said: you guys, you have done it.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Water witching still used though scientific evidence does not support it

Dowsing is one type of divination used in attempting to find ground water (water witching) , buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, grave sites and much else. Most consider it a pseudoscience.

There are numerous studies that show dowsing is no more effective at discovering water or whatever than pure chance or a guess. Sometimes dowsing is referred to as divining. In the US and elsewhere when it is used to determine where to dig an oil well it is called doodlebugging. When used to determine where to dig a water well, it is called water finding, water witching, or water dowsing.
Dowsing has a long history. It could have originated in Germany as early as the 15th century to try to discover metals. In 1518 Martin Luther claimed that dowsing violated the first commandment. Some think dowsing for water is very ancient but the first account of the practice was in 1568. In southern France in the 17th century dowsing was used to track criminals and heretics. In 1701 the Inquisition forbade the employment of dowsing for purposes of justice.
In modern times, there have been supposedly "high tech" dowsing rods and other devices that have been marketed for police and military use but none have been shown to be effective. One of the more infamous of these devices was manufactured by Advanced Tactical Security and Communications Ltd. headed by John McCormick. The hand-held ADE 651 was described as follows:This simple device consisted of an antenna attached loosely to a handgrip. The detector has a "substance detection card" that supposedly could be tuned to detect anything, including explosives, banknotes, or human bodies.
This claim ought to have aroused suspicion, but the Iraqi government bought thousands of them. Advertising material claimed the detector used "nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR) or nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)." Later, though, McCormick admitted it worked the same way as water dowsing. Others agree, with the BBC describing the device as "a glorified dowsing rod."
As mentioned, the Iraqi government bought thousands of the devices and even continued to use them after they were revealed as frauds.
In water dowsing a forked stick, rods, a pendulum or a similar device is used. Many diviners still used the traditional forked stick often coming from willow trees but also peach and witch hazel. The forked stick method is described as follows: "In the classic method of using a forked stick, one fork is held in each hand with the palms upward . The bottom or butt end of the "Y" is pointed skyward at an angle of about 45 degrees. The dowser then walks back and forth over the area to be tested. When she/he passes over a source of water, the butt end of the stick is supposed to rotate or be attracted downward." As the appended video shows, a rod or rods are also often used.
I personally have tried to use both the forked stick and the two rods but when I walked about with them they failed to do anything even in areas where I was sure there was water. I once had over seventy acres of land that was over the Oak Lake Aquifer. A map of the aquifer can be found in this article. Most of the land was bush and sand hills but there was plenty of land available for a large garden. However, the sandy soil needs a lot of water to grow vegetables well. Although some friends suggested I use a diviner, I just picked a spot where it was relatively flat with a bit of topsoil. Neighbours all had good water with shallow wells. No doubt local diviners had stellar records.
I used a sandpoint and drove it in by hand as shown on the appended video. I hit water at about 8 feet a very shallow well. I used just a hand pump which gave enough water to keep the garden growing but with quite a bit of effort. Many years later I bought very cheaply an old schoolhouse on ten acres. It too was on the aquifer. Again some neighbours said that diviners had successfully found water. I used a sandpoint again and reached good water at just 12 feet. I first used a hand pump and hauled water as well but later was able to buy and set up an old windmill. I chose where to dig because it was not far from the back door and was right next to where I wanted to plant a garden. I can boast of having one hundred percent success at finding water.
In spite of the lack of scientific evidence that water witching works many still use it as seen on the appended video. In the late 60s during the Vietnam War U.S. Marines used dowsing in an attempt to locate weapons and tunnels. In 1986 when 31 soldiers were buried by an avalanche in Norway, the Norwegian army tried to locate them using dowsing. No doubt one of these days with all the digital transformation that is going on we will see smart divining rods being developed

Farmers using GPS and self-driving tractors as they shift towards precision agriculture

Farmers have been using GPS systems on their tractors for some time. Now they are being used with self-driving tractors and soon with autonomous tractors that drive themselves.

The shift towards precision agriculture is promising a major boon for farmers and their businesses. Now self-driving tractors are adding to this smart farm effort, allowing farmers to find even more efficiency an value for their businesses. According to Market and Markets this shift in agricultural technology is just the beginning: the research firm predicts precision farming could reach almost $8 billion in market value by 2022.
Farming with precision
Precision agriculture involves the use of GPS has been popular for some time now, allowing farmers to better apply fertilizer, seed, herbicide etc. much more efficiently, reducing expenditures while producing a higher yield and creating less stress on the environment.
This method of agriculture typically involves farming management that uses GPS and satnav systems to get up to date information about crops and administer resources accordingly. An example of this would be crop dusting planes equipped with GPS enabling them to apply chemicals only where needed.
Self-Steering Tractors
Gene Hart is a technician at the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory. He is helping to evaluate the performance of a tractor that gets its steering signals from the $21 billion U.S. Defense Department's GPS system. The researchers hope to boost efficiency of farms and also free farmers from having to drive a tractor all day. The research may lead to other advances in robotic agriculture.
Hart still needs to be in the tractor in case there is an obstacle in the field or something goes amiss. He also has to make U -turns at the end of rows. Although according to Wikipedia : "In early 2008, Deere and Company launched its ITEC Pro guidance product, an automated system based on global positioning technology which automates vehicle functions including end turns." The self-steering tractor can go faster, work in fog or at night when there might be difficulty seeing landmarks to guide operators.
After he makes a turn, Hart watches a line on a computer display to make sure the tractor is back on course. Researchers believe that the self-steering tractor can traverse a field with no more than a three inch variation. Hart said operating the tractor was a lot easier and less tiresome than driving a conventional tractor. The equipment needed to convert a regular tractor to a self-steering one is said to cost about $50,000. Qin Zhang, an agricultural engineer at the University of Illinois, claimed that conventional tractors required operators to spend about 50 percent of their time just steering. The appended video shows the operation of a John Deere self-steering tractor.
Autonomous Tractors
Zhang sees the self-steering tractors as simply a forerunner of robotic agriculture where tractors would be autonomous running without a driver.
The University of Illinois has already developed a tractor that uses GPS, gyroscopes, a camera and a computer to drive itself from the implement shed to the field. It can then plant the field and return to its shed without the intervention of a human operator on board the tractor.
Back in the 1990's John Deere sought only to manufacture tractors that could function effectively. After more than two decades the company decided that more was needed: in order to create a satisfactory self-driving tractor, they had to replicate the farmer.
Dan Leibfried, of John Deere's Intelligent Solutions Group said: “We have to have the ability to sense everything the human would inside of the system related to the quality of the job. Whether it be preparing the soil, planting the seed, protecting the crop, or harvesting it.”
A blend of GPS and other location tracking sensors, plus image sensors and telematics allows advanced John Deere tractors to navigate fields today and self-steer. The latest model, the S700 combine, can automatically adjust its equipment based on the harvest it sees — but it still has a camera so that the farmer can look to see if it is operating correctly.
It may be some time before the farmer will simply be able to sit at his kitchen table and watch on a monitor as his tractor automatically plows, seeds, or swathes and his combine harvests the fields by itself. He will be able to correct any errors remotely.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Google Aritificial Intelligence chief claims biased algorithms are a big danger

Social concerns are at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence conversations right now. John Giannandrea AI chief at Google is concerned that bias is being built in to many of the machine-learning algorithms by which the robot makes decisions.

At a recent Google conference on the relationships between AI systems and humans Giannandrea said: “The real safety question, if you want to call it that, is that if we give these systems biased data, they will be biased.”
This problem is likely to become more widespread as AI technology spreads to areas such as law, and medicine and as more people use the technology who do not have a deep understanding of the technical problems with the algorithm's being used. Indeed many who use the technology stress that it eliminates human bias, as is boasted in the following ad:
Two flavours of AI
In the early stages of the development of AI there were two main models. There was a logic, rules-based model and a competing biological model. The logic model would have developed AI in a manner that anyone who cared to could determine exactly how a robot or other device made decisions but the biological model took a quite different approach:
Instead of a programmer writing the commands to solve a problem, the program generates its own algorithm based on example data and a desired output. The machine-learning techniques that would later evolve into today’s most powerful AI systems followed the latter path: the machine essentially programs itself.

Tommi Jaakkola a professor at MIT who works on applications of machine learning said: “It is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future. Whether it’s an investment decision, a medical decision, or maybe a military decision, you don’t want to just rely on a ‘black box’ method.”
Giannandrea elaborated on the problem: “It’s important that we be transparent about the training data that we are using, and are looking for hidden biases in it, otherwise we are building biased systems. If someone is trying to sell you a black box system for medical decision support, and you don’t know how it works or what data was used to train it, then I wouldn’t trust it.”
There have already been complaints of bias in AI algorithm programs. A system called COMPAS predicts defendant's likelihood of re-offending and is even used by some judges in determining whether an inmate is to be granted parole. Although the workings of COMPAS are kept secret an investigation by ProPublica has argued that there is evidence that the model used may involve bias against minorities.
The issue is complicated and Northpointe, the company that created COMPAS, has issued rebuttals to ProPublica's arguments and there has been a continuing back and forth debate that is discussed in detail in this article. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the use of COMPAS in sentencing.
The COMPAS program assigns defendants scores from 1 to 10 based on how likely they are to re-offend based on more than 100 factors none of which directly include race. The scores have been found to be highly predictive of re-offending. However, ProPublica questions whether they are fair.
Northpointe argued that the assessments were fair in that the scores meant the same regardless of race. However, ProPublica pointed out that among defendants who ultimately did not re-offend, blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be classified as high risk, 42 percent versus 22 percent. Hence, even though these black defendants did not go on to commit a crime they were subjected to harsher treatment by the courts.
Complex intelligence
Another issue that is not being adequately faced is that the new deep learning techniques are so complex and opaque that they often cannot be understood. However, researchers are attempting to create ways that give them at least some approximation of how they work to engineers and end users.
Karrie Karahalios, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois showed that even commonplace algorithms, such as those used by Facebook to filter the posts they see in their news feed are not usually understood by users and thus it is difficult to detect bias. The appended video discusses some of the controversy over Facebook filters. Facebook showed clear evidence of censoring Conservative media as shown on the appended video. Google has been accused of censorship by left wing sources in the ranking algorithm it uses for its search engine.

Large Canadian prairie farm uses 21st century technology

Farms on the Canadian prairies have grown much larger over the years. In 2016, the agriculture census counted 43,457 incorporated family farms, along with 5,135 non-family corporations. New tools are helping farmers grow these developing businesses.

Trevor Scherman is a Saskatchewan farmer who farms 4,400 acres or 1,780 hectares just south of the town of Battleford in west-central Saskatchewan. Scherman's farm is four times as large as Vancouver's Stanley Park.
An edge on the competition
To cover the huge costs of equipment, seed and fuel and still make a profit, Scherman has to make sure that he is operating efficiently. To do this he has the help of a single app created by Farmer's Edge, a company that specializes in providing cutting edge technology to farmers such as Scherman. Scherman has access to a huge range of management and data tools that could not be imagined just a decade ago.
From three weather stations on Scherman's property plus five others on neighbouring farms, Farmer's Edge gathers data and can assess when there is a wind headed his way that might disrupt pesticide spraying. The app contains a gridded map of his farm, using precise info derived from satellite imagery, and also with info from soil samples taken from each square on the grid.
All this information is incorporated into a predictive model based on data from Farmer's Edge client farms across Western Canada. Based on this information Scherman can determine how much seed and fertilizer is needed for each grid on his land. The app can also set schedules for hired hands and keep track of his finances.
Efficiency and peace of mind
Scherman had already been using multiple weather apps and a number of websites, plus spreadsheets downloaded on his computer, but these have been replaced by the Farmer's Edge app. Scherman says in the seven years he worked with the company he has seen his inputs decline while yields have climbed. He claims he is spending about the same amount of money but produces more.
Scherman notes: “I’ve been able to wake up in the morning and, with the weather stations Farmers Edge has installed on my land, I know if I’m going spraying at four in the morning or if I’m going to my son’s ball game that day. Before, you used to wake up and drive all around the country and check rain gauges to see how much rain we got, so you could make your decisions. Well, it was noon before you figured out what you were doing.”
Farmer's Edge was started by two Manitoba agronomists way back in 2005 based in Winnipeg. The venture looked so promising that the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers invested early on, back in 2014. It was later joined by a Japanese commodity trading firm raising $58 million in finances. Later in 2016 they were bought out by the Canadian Investment firm Fairfax Financial. According to a recent article:Two years ago, the company’s app and data-crunching tools were in use on 600,000 acres of farmland. Today, the number is 6 million, with substantial market penetration in western Canada — nearly one-tenth of all land in cultivation on the prairie is now managed by Farmers Edge clients — and new growth in Australia, Brazil and eastern Europe.
Farmer's Edge was awarded the Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award in September of 2017. With the rapid transformation of agriculture and the business of farming, we can expect to see more innovations such as Farmer's Edge in the future.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thailand held "Digital Big Bang 2017"

Thailand just recently staged "Digital Thailand Big Bang 2017" as part of what is termed Digital Transformation Thailand. It is part of a broader plan to reform the Thai economy and society called Thailand 4.0

Thailand 4.0 is an ambitious vision involving the fourth stage of economic development that is meant to transform Thailand's economy and society by technological innovation.
In Stage 4.0 the economy is to be transformed from an industry-driven economy to one driven by innovation. For example agriculture must become more modern, adopting new technologies which are expected to enrich farmers. Small and medium enterprises must transform themselves into smart enterprises and startups making use of new technologies. The service sector should concentrate upon high value services rather than the low value services prevalent at present.
The 4.0 program intends to use public-private partnerships as a model. To achieve this Thailand must have quality communications and telecom infrastructure so that sectors may have smooth connectivity. All sectors must join in building 4.0 if the transformation of Thailand's economy is to be successful.
The Big Bang
The Big Bang 2017 exhibition brought together more than 120 companies engaged in digital technology to share their insights into transformation. The event took place at Challenger Hall in Muang Thong Thani a satellite city of Bangkok, with special facilities for large conferences at Impact.
The Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said: “Digital Thailand Big Bang 2017 is the milestone event which propels the whole nation into the digital era. It is organised by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and co-organised by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). " He said that the government had maximised the use of digital technology in three aspects.
The Big Three
First it has been used to create new opportunities for economic growth as well as improving the delivery of government services to the people. The Pracha Rat Internet had provided high speed Internet access to 74,700 communities within a year. The government was aiming to apply technology so that people can run their businesses online.
E-health developments would allow swift information exchange between experts and individuals. E-education offers many opportunities for distance learning for people in remote and rural areas. E-agriculture would help farmers become entrepreneurs. Finally e-service would serve as a central information center that would make it easier for people to obtain public services.
Secondly, a large Digital Park Thailand is slated to be built in Sri Racha, Chon Buri as the center of the Eastern Economic Corridor. It will give support for the Internet of Things (IoT) to local tech startups. It will also provide smart city initiatives. Through helping to develop smart cities Digital Park will improve the quality of life and the local environment and help the country use resources more efficiently.
Thirdly, the government will increase global connectivity by facilitating through international cooperation the setting up of digital platforms. The government is developing a one-stop service related to setting up business. The government intends to improve the ease with which global partners can do business.
The Chinese tech giant Huawei set out plans for 10 major Thai industries including energy and agriculture: "The company showcases its products and solutions including Smart City, Smart Energy, Smart Parking, Digital Railway, Smart Airport, Smart Government, Smart Agriculture, among others, at its booth at the Digital Thailand Big Bang, the largest digital technology expo in Southeast Asia."
Qiang Hua, managing director of Huawei Thailand said that Huawei had been working on a strategy called Embrace Digital Life that was consistent with the theme of the Big Bang conference and would contribute to Thailand 4.0. The conference took place from September 21 to 24

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from t.co, its URL-shortening system....