My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

UWI Dr Louis-Ray Harris PEAKS nanosatellite needs CARICOM funding and NASA or SpaceX

“We believe that the development of a regional space industry will benefit the region in many respects. In addition, such a thrust is expected to yield an increased interest in science by students at all levels, particularly in areas related to space and satellite technology”

University of the West Indies, Mona, lecturer Dr Louis-Ray Harris during UWI, Mona Research Day event on Thursday February 8, 2018

Jamaica we have liftoff of the PEAKS (Programme for the Enhancement and Application of our Knowledge of Space). Soon we'll have our own satellite to send back weather maps and live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean.

At least that is the vision of University of the West Indies, Mona, lecturer Dr Louis-Ray Harris who is developing Jamaica's first Nanosatellite as explained in the article “UWI Lecturer Working On Ja's First Operational Satellite”, published Friday February 9, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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He made this declaration during UWI, Mona Research Day event, which ended Thursday February 8, 2018. He leads a team working on a satellite that they are hoping to launch into space. The team, which comprises of Jevaughn Dixon and Brandon Campbell, are also students at the University of the West Indies.

If successfully, Jamaica will become one of several Third world countries, including India, that have successfully placed a satellite in orbit.

But what exactly is the PEAKS nanosatellite?

Dr. Harris PEAKS Nanosatellite- Make this a Caribbean project and the mission is a go

The term 'nanosatellite', or 'nanosat', is applied to an artificial satellite with a wet mass between 1kg and 10kg (2.2lb and 22lb).  Approximately 1,000 nanosatellites are said to have been launched since 2014, mainly by small universities hitching a ride aboard a NASA or private sector owned launch vehicles such as Space X, owned by Elon Musk.

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PEAK is powered using both a solar as well as on-board batteries. Its solar panels can also be remotely controlled from a ground station that it communicate with via a Ku-Band communication link. The earth-based mission control is really a remote server with the appropriate interface and control software to read telemetry data from the satellite and to issue commands to stay in orbit and keep it on mission.

That mission of course is to:

1.      Create weather maps of the Caribbean
2.      Produce Live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean

It may also be used to do imaging work for Jamaica, which would be great for urban planning, as hinted by Dr Louis-Ray Harris, quote: “When launched, the satellite will be used as a tool to engage students for several programmes. It could be used to send back weather maps and live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean, using its high-resolution cameras and other on-board instruments”.

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Hopefully, if he's able to secure the necessary funding, Jamaican can get their nanosatellite into the hands of NASA or SpaceX. I said “Nanosaltellites” as the cost to launch several instead of just one is significantly less, given the nature of the payload.

Also, one satellite might not do, a constellation of them may be needed to do the work that Dr. Harris has in mind.

Most likely, this may become a Caribbean wide effort powered by CARICOM (Caribbean Common Community) as hinted by Dr. Harris, quote:  “It is the first in a series aimed at putting Caribbean technology into space and to generate interest in the application of science and technology”.

Once it becomes CARICOM, the vision will be shared...and the funding will become available.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dr Noel Brown from UTECH predicts Robots, AI replacing Jamaican Workers by 2020

“We've embarked on a digital agenda, where we are looking at providing a more digital experience for our customers. So within that context, [some] roles will become redundant, and new roles are being created at the same time. There is a demand for programmers, data specialists, programme managers in implementing our agile programme, and we have a need for agile coaches, scrum masters, data interface designers.”

CEO, NCB Financial Group, Dennis Cohen, on NCB laying off 200 workers

Get ready for the rise of machines in the Jamaican workforce. Welcome to the new world of work in Jamaica and around the world, which will soon see more robots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems in use

At least this is the opinion of Head, School of Engineering and associate professor at the University of Technology, Dr Noel Brown, as laid out in the article “By 2019, 20% of jobs in Jamaica may be done by artificial intelligence”, published Friday, February 16, 2018 , by Dennise Williams, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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He made his opinions known in a presentation at the JSE (Jamaica Stock Exchange) Regional Conference at the Pegasus Hotel in early February 2018. He asserted that jobs in certain sectors that were repetitive and laborious may be ripe for the application of robotics as Jamaicans may not want to work in these sectors due to the low wages associated with such labour.

He then made the bold declaration that by 2019 robotics and artificial intelligence will impact the following sectors:

1.      Agriculture
2.      Finance
3.      Contact Centers

So what exactly are these bold predictions he is making?

Jamaica, Robotics and AI - Customer Service and Agricultural Jobs in Danger

Dr Brown predicts up to 20% of Customer Service jobs (read "Call Centers and Face-to-face Customer Care") will be done by AI systems.

This is actually already happening as Digicel's Customer Care already uses Wysdom AI to handle to handle Social Media and Instant Messenger queries as noted in my blog article entitled “How Digicel and Wysdom AI will handle BackOffice as AI prepare to take over 24-7 Customer Care”. 

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In the agriculture sector, he predicts robotics, coupled with AI, may be used to do the following repetitive and labour-intensive tasks:

1.      Taking Soil Samples
2.      Measuring moisture levels
3.      Measure weed and insect infestations by using cameras

Collecting these data metrics would result in a more precisely controlled farm and improve agricultural output, as it give you the ability to make minute changes that can improve crop yield, to quote Dr Brown: “We can see where the infusion of robotics in agriculture will lead to increased productivity, improved crop yield, pest control, reduction in costs, and reduction in spoilage.”

This is already actually happening, with drones being used by Agrocaelum and Hi-Pro to determine these same metrics as reported in my blog article entitled “Why Agrocaelum and Hi-Pro herald the JCAA allowing Drone Racing in Jamaica”. 

That info does indeed help with the usage of fertilizer or chemicals, based on the infrared signature of crops. This helps the farmer can save money on chemicals, minimizing the waste of chemicals on crops.....and yes, may herald the coming of Drone racing.

But it is his predictions about the banking sector that may have many College Students worried.

Banking Sector and Robotics - Workers being replaced by Machines and IT Specialists required

Some of those 20% of Customer Service jobs (read “Call Centers”) will be done by AI systems may not only just be in call centers, but also in regular face-to-face customer care interactions, such as in Banks and the Fast Food industry.

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Already, robotics may be slowly taking over the fast Food industry in the US of A as predicted in my blog article entitled “Fast Food Robot taking over by 2017 - How Drones like Amazon and PrimeAir and not Humanoid Robots will be the first Robots by 2015”. 

The same may be happening in the Banking Sector as well. ATMs have long been replacing human tellers in providing 24/7 access to funds, with many banks shutting down.  First Global Bank recently invested in technology to allow for virtual tellers at its Liguanea branch.

Redundancies at the bank does necessarily mean that robotic systems such as ATM and AI are replacing them, as specialized skills will be needed to build and maintain these systems as deputy CEO, NCB Financial Group, Dennis Cohen, quote: “The fact is that it is always happening because we are constantly making changes, and there may be a number today but a bit of a trickle tomorrow.”

Some of these specialized skills can be used to launch entrepreneurial ventures such as the case with Blue Dot Data Intelligence as described in my blog article entitled “How Blue Dot Media CEBS Platform uses IoT to deliver 15 second Audio Ads in NCB ATM” .

He said this in the context of the layoff of some 200 this is real and happening.

Combined with the IoT (Internet of Things) via Tablets, smartphones, microphones, speakers and cameras, they can measure the heartbeat and track eye patterns of customers who enter NCB ATM's to determine their true reaction to advertisement for goods and services.

This removes the need for bulky paper surveys, making the information as it relates to the likes and dislikes of customer on hearing a particular add more easily accessible. The result is that they can more easily target certain NCB ATM with certain Ads as they know what customer using certain ATMs' prefer.

 So with a more IT (Information Technology) coming to these career fields, does it now mean that University students wanting to go into these field should reconsider?

Jamaican Student and Career paths - Upgrade IT Skills and consider Virtual Work from Home

In a short answer, yes!

This has long been the case, though, as may University students often choose career paths that and not strongly established or have a demand for their skills as pointed out in my blog article entitled “UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study reveals Bad choices, Entrepreneurship and brain-drain in 2016”. 

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According to the UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study 2015, the career fields that are seeing a steady demand for graduate are:

1.      Education
2.      Medicine
3.      Engineering

Career strategist and UWI researcher Dr Carolyn Hayle says technology is coming to every field. So if you not up to the game, you may have to reconsider entering that field. As such, she has been advising student to consider the technology variant of these traditional career fields such as:

1.      Financial technology
2.      Real estate software management
3.      Virtual health 

There is indeed a push towards more Virtual Workers, requiring many Jamaican to start considering setting up a Home office as explained in my MICO Wars blog article entitled

These jobs while offering more personal flexibility, are not steady earners and require you to be very self-motivated, to quote Dr Hayle: “More jobs are going online, so people can now work remotely as independent contractors. This may require that you acquire some new skills: self-assessment, self-motivation, reliability, and self-discipline. Working remotely has at least two downsides: 1) the unpredictability of income, and (2) no job benefits. However, this gap provides an opportunity to those offering health insurance coverage to independent contractors. The skills you need to become a successful independent worker can be acquired or improved upon at minimal cost. You can practise these every day.”

So what can Jamaicans do to prepare, aside from changing our careers!?

Jamaicans and Empathy - Robotics and AI may usher in UBI for being Jamaican

Still, us human do have an advantage; empathy.

Those of us who are skilled at emotional intelligence will still find work in these career field threatened by Robotics and AI in the coming AI revolution in Jamaica to quote Dr Hayle: “One of the complaints about artificial intelligence is that it lacks empathy. It is unlikely that it will ever replace humans in areas that are underpinned by empathy, such as the healthcare sector. So right away this is an area in which we can begin to improve our skills”.

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Training Jamaicans to develop our own AI systems is also going to be necessary, as more home-grown programming and network talent will be needed, seeing as AI may herald Call Center extinction by 2021 as predicted in my blog article entitled “Jamaica Computer Society and Ministry of S.E.T. fears AI will eliminate Call Center Jobs in 2021”.

Also innovation in the banking sector may see more use of Mobile money and cryptocurrencies as Jamaicans avoid going to the bank altogether as predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Western Union and GraceKennedy may use Ripple in GK MPay App”.

And there is a plus side to AI, as it may push the Government of Jamaica to introduce UBI (Universal Basic Income), effectively paying Jamaicans simply to be humans and Jamaican as predicted in my blog article entitled “How UWI Lecturer's Fourth Industrial Revolution AI doom will usher in UBI for Jamaica”.

We have ample time to prepare for the Robotics and AI revolution, as 2020 is just 2 years away.

Friday, April 13, 2018

How the Facebook Data Scandal involving Cambridge Analytica is a Storm in a Teacup

“This was a breach of trust, and I'm sorry we didn't do more at the time. We're now taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again”

Excerpt from Facebook's full-page apology ad has appeared in many US and British Sunday newspapers

Facebook is hot water....or a storm in a teacup, depending on how you look at the situation.

Facebook has been apologizing for the leak of their consumer data via the Cambridge Analytica psychological profile quiz app back in 2014 as noted in the article “Facebook Ads Apologise For Cambridge Analytica Scandal”, Published Monday March 26, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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Their full-page apology ad has appeared in many notable US and British Sunday newspapers including:

1.      The New York Times
2.      The Washington Post
3.      The Sunday Times
4.      The Sunday Telegraph in the United Kingdom

Apparently, the 270,000 Facebook users who did the quiz and were paid by the researcher to do the psychological profile quiz back in 2014, probably gave more information that they wanted.

The Cambridge Analytica psychological profile quiz app also went on to collect the data from some 50 to 86 million friends connected to those people. What seems to be creating the problem is that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm affiliated with President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, created psychological profiles that were used to:

1.      Influence how people vote
2.      Influence how people think about politics and society

US$6 million was paid by the during the 2016 election by President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. However, now that he's in power, he has since denied any connection to the data collection practices of Cambridge Analytica, being as they are a contractor.

So why is there so much fuss about the collection of personal data by Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica  and Facebook - How Facebook makes money from your Profile

It's good to note that the ads have allowed voters to stop collecting so much data from users smartphones when the login, quote: “We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected”.

This is nothing new really.

The Facebook app already has been known to take up a lot of space on most smartphones as note in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to stop Facebook and Messenger from draining your battery”.

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The Facebook app causes the following problems in most smartphones:

1.      20% reduction in the battery life for Google Android
2.      15% reduction in the battery life for Apple iPhone
3.      500GB Internal Storage when installed (Facebook)

Despite this, users and advertises benefit! Facebook uses this access to your smartphones to collect a vast amount of information on your smartphone usage including:

1.      Email address
2.      Strength of your phone’s battery
3.      Type of smartphone you are using
4.      News Feed you read
5.      Types of Ads you enjoy clicking on
6.      Websites that you visit outside of Facebook

Most of the data collection is done by AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms as explained in my blog article entitled “How Facebook Ads is using AI to build their version of Google Adwords and Adsense”. 

To be clear, Facebook doesn't sell your data but access to your presence on their Social Network as pointed out by their Data Policy, which was recently updated in light of the scandal. This information is sold to Third Party advertisers and analytics companies such as Cambridge Analytica, in order to generate more targeted ad campaigns.

The result is more ads in your Facebook feed as well as when you visit and login to certain website that are tailored more to your Facebook profile. Facebook’s business is valuable because it has so much personal data about its users.

Hence, selling that data to advertisers would significantly decrease Facebook’s value, as that what makes them valuable to advertisers and analytics companies in the first place.

Facebook and Instagram – Security Settings allow you to control Facebook Ads

Facebook also taps into information shared on Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook as noted in the article “Most Americans don't know Instagram is owned by Facebook ― and that's no accident”, published  April 12, 2018, CBS News.

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Instagram also taps into Facebook data, so anything you do on their Social Network influences what types of ads you see. To see exactly what information Facebook has about you, do the following:

1.      Visit Settings on Facebook
2.      Click on Download a copy of your Facebook data under the General Tab

This will give you all of the data Facebook has collected about you, from private messages to photos to your search history.

You can also control what ads Facebook can share with you as follows:

1.      Click on Settings 
2.      Click Ads 
3.      View Ad Preferences

This show the interests Facebook thinks you have and advertisers use to target you. They also show other information they might use to target you with, which you can remove if you don’t want Facebook using the information to target you with advertising.

Still, you can stop Facebook from tracking you altogether by following these simple hand instructions as noted in my blog article entitled “How to stop Facebook from tracking you on your smartphone and the Real World”.

Good to note, your Security settings allow anyone, even casual advertisers with the right software to scrape profile and collect data on as many people who have left their Facebook Profiles as searchable by Google.

Most Third-party apps such as Uber or Spotify are granted permission to tap into your personal data via Facebook's Graph, in order to produce a better experience more tailored to your personality.

To be fair, advertisers and analytics companies that used access to your Facebook metrics do not know that you clicked on their ads. Advertisers and analytics companies can see demographic details about who sees their ads e.g. the number of males or females in a particular part of Jamaica that clicked on an ad but not the names and addresses of those persons.

This is how Cambridge Analytica got access to so many users data via their psychological profile quiz app: bulk data with no names. So they merely created political campaigns to target certain people in certain part of the country with certain ads that were tailored to their likes and dislikes, making to easy to sway them to vote for Donald Trump.

So if they have that level of access to your phone, is it possible that they may also be spying on you.

Facebook is not spying on you – If you opt in, your Data is for sale

Facebook may be selling access to advertising products tailored to your profile, but they do not know you.

According to their Data Policy, Facebook does not collect your private messages, call history or off-Facebook text message data, even your microphone as noted in the article “This is how Facebook uses your data for ad targeting”, published Apr 11, 2018 by Kurt Wagner, Recode.

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 They might monitor your private messages, call history or off-Facebook text message data to determine if they violate the company’s policies, but they do not sell that information to advertisers. However, if you did opt in to letting Facebook uses that data when you signed up for an app, they can use this as indication to go ahead to sell that data.

This was indeed the case with Cambridge Analytica psychological profile quiz app, as the persons who took the quiz back in 2014 may have unwittingly given the app full access to their phone in exchange to be paid for the data that was being collected on them.

In fact, many apps actually pay you via Paypal, Skrill, PerfectMoney or even Bitcoin just to do surveys and quizzes as explained in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “How Jamaicans with 5″ smartphone can make money using Apps”. 

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica - Media will soon stop swirling this teacup storm

So to summarize, the main problem here is not that Facebook was selling its access to your customer data to Cambridge Analytica, but rather that it was being used by the Donald Trump Political campaign to influence people to vote in an election.

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Cambridge Analytica has committed no wrong, as all the 270,000 Facebook users were paid, as is currently the case with most apps that pay you for your information.

Facebook need not worry, for as soon as the media stop swirling this teacup storm, it’ll be back to business as usual, as many, including these very same newspapers, benefit from their targeted advertising services.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How GOJ JA$30 million for UWI Research into Sea Sponges is better spent on Energy Solutions

“A special sponge has been found underwater at Port Royal by the university that is now being developed as an anti-cancer agent and it carries the name Port Royal. For me, that is just great”

Minister of sports, culture, entertainment and gender affairs, Olivia Grange, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, 19th staging of its Research Days opening ceremony on Wednesday February 7th 2018

Who knew that sea sponges can possibly be a part of the fight against cancer?

Apparently that sea sponge, which has been found underwater in Port Royal is worth JA$30 million in research money as noted in the article “Research On Special Sea Sponge Could Hold Vital Anti-Cancer Properties”, published Friday February 9, 2018 by Paul Clark, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This allocation, which is a part of an agreement on research and development between Jamaica and South Africa in the areas of indigenous knowledge and water research, has been set aside for the next three (3) years to fund such ventures.

This was revealed by Minister of sports, culture, entertainment and gender affairs, Olivia Grange, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, 19th staging of its Research Days opening ceremony on Wednesday February 7th 2018.

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The sea sponge (Porifera) is basically a simplest multicellular living organisms that grow in all different shapes, sizes, colours, and textures. The name, which literally means “pore-bearing” refers to the countless tiny openings or holes visible on all sponges.

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She also mentioned that the UWI, Mona, was betting on researchers at UWI to come up with more money making ideas that could benefit the government, quote: “As we seek to cement a growth doctrine in our society, the university must ensure that its research modalities continue to enlighten and mould socio-economic policies, which are readily adaptable to the needs of our society”.

But is this the best way to spend Government resources?

Government and Research - Focus should be on Energy

Apparently, this is a global thing, as Government, Private Sector and Universities with the research facilities have been collaborating in this way.

 The Government merely is seeking to partner, fund and benefit when the research is commercially applicable, quote: “The Government also plays a key role in facilitating development of a research and development ecosystem, and as our fiscal space improves, we will continue to commit additional funding for research”.

However, Energy, not health should be our focus, as lifestyle changes will improve health.
The prevalence of lifestyle disease such as cancer, heart attack and stroke are linked to the type and amount of food we eat.

This is especially true of fast foods and foods with added sugars that are consumed by children and may be linked to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) in children as noted in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How to Spot Hidden Sugar and How to Avoid Eating Too Much”. 

The sale of unregulated Bag juice should be the government focus along with more Agricultural Gardens in High schools as pointed out in my blog article entitled “Why Ministry of Education must support School Gardens as Sugar in Bag Juice linked to Lifestyle Diseases”.

Hopefully, too, they'll expand on the research done by UWI and UTECH on the use of Hydrogen as a Cooking Gas substitute as that would reduce our dependence on imported fuel as noted in my blog article entitled “Why UTECH, GOJ and UWI developing Hydrogen Cooking Gas Cylinders for Hydrogen-Electron Economy”. 

We can even go further and make Hydrogen into Hydrogen fuel cells to be use in Electric Vehicles as explained in my blog article entitled “UTECH and Hydrogen as Cooking Gas – How Hydride Salts make Hydrogen Cooking Gas and Fuel Cells possible”.

No to mention producing Hydrogen for export via using excess Wind energy to convert seawater, with the extracted salts being sold as a value-added product as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How PCJ Offshore Windfarm may be used to export Hydrogen and Uranium”. 

So stay tuned for more articles on University of the West Indies, Mona, 19th staging of its Research Days!!