My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kik buys Blynk - Why chatbots are the future of music and shopping

“We’re open minded and we think about how to build the best experience. If [there are] teams that help us to do that and accelerate that, we’re always interested. We see a lot of people building on chat [and] a lot of ways to partner with them.”

Head of strategy and partners, Jae Kim in an interview with Techcrunch about the purchase of Blynk

The Kik Messenger App is bringing on the Robots.

On Monday December 21st 2015, Canadian company Kik Interactive Inc. purchased Blynk, a fashion App as reported in the article “Kik Messenger Buys Fashion App Blynk to Build More Chat Bots”, published December 21, 2015 By Kurt Wagner, Recode.

The staff of four that runs Blynk will now become a part of Kik as reported on the Kik Blog in a post entitled “Fashion advice startup Blynk is joining Kik!”.

Kik most likely plans to use Blynk Style to chat with customers via the Kik Messenger, now 150 million users strong as reported in my blog article entitled “150 million users @Kik Messenger with Promoted Keywords and better Photo Sharing – Teenagers say Kik me Please with Love from the Canadian with the Golden Gun”.

Blink will help them to build better text-based semiautonomous program or chatbots like Blynk Style to assist teenagers with make decisions about music and fashion as explained in the article “Kik Invests In Its Platform, Buys Fashion Startup Behind Popular Kik Bot”, published December 21, 2015 by Jon Russell, Techcrunch.

So who are the developers at Blynk? Also why did Kik Interactive Inc. purchase Blynk?

Kik buys Blynk - Why chatbots are the future of music and shopping

Blynk was founded in 2013 by Jaclyn Ling and Shums Kassam.

The App uses a Tinder-like swipe interface with a visual Q&A voting system within the Kik Messenger to help users chose from various outfits show to them as explained in the article “Messaging company Kik acquires fashion App Blynk”, Published Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 by Shane Dingman, The Globe and Mail.

Swiping left means you dislike the outfit and swiping right to give it some love is how Blynk Style works, narrowing down you preferences. Gradually, as Blynk Style gets to know your style, it shows you fewer and fewer things that you like and more of what you prefer.

Blynk's business plan was to make money from commission fees from retailers on any purchase of clothing, a sort of like affiliate or referral links but based on sales as explained in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How Jamaicans can make Money from Referral Websites”.

Despite the failure of this business model, they amassed an amazing three to five million swipes a month on its iOS and Android apps even though less than 10,000 persons had downloaded Blynk Style. This attracted the attention of Kik who want to use Blynk tech to create an army of these chatbots similar to the Facebook Messenger chatbot but specialized to assist customer making purchases in one specific area.

Expect Blynk bots to start sprouting up like poppies inside of your Kik Messenger to assist you with everything from music, fashion and even telling you what the future holds for you!

@StandardsJa closes 17 Gas Stations as Bad Gasolene testing expands

“We are quite clear that we have a responsibility to protect our consumers, and once it is determined that players in the industry are involved wittingly or unwittingly in contaminated products being put on the market, we're going to ensure that we stop it and there are a number of things that we can do [including] revoke licences”

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell during a meeting that was hastily arranged at the New Kingston headquarters of the Ministry

Well it looks like I was wrong about nothing coming out of the BSJ and Petrojam Bad Gasolene Report. Then again, I might be right and this is all just a charade.

Seventeen (17) Gas Station have been closed as of 12 am on Wednesday December 29th 2015 as reported in the article “Police Called In; 17 Gas Stations Ordered Shut Down By Midnight Yesterday”, Published Wednesday December 30, 2015, by Neville Graham, The Jamaica Gleaner

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell made this disclosure during a hastily arranged meeting at the New Kingston headquarters of the Ministry on Tuesday December 29th 2015 at 5 pm.

Good to note here that the PCJ (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica) did not close the seventeen (17) gas stations. That was done by the BSJ under the authority of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining as noted in the tweet by PCJ ‏@PetroleumCorpJa:

Also PCJ & Petrojam are not the same company; PCJ owns 51% of Petrojam in a joint venture with PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as per the tweet by PCJ ‏@PetroleumCorpJa  below:

These Seventeen (17) Gas Stations are located in the parishes that I'd specified in my blog article entitled “BSJ and Petrojam Bad Gasolene Report – Who was selling Bad Gasolene, the contaminant and its source”.

The number of Gas Stations in each of those parishes that were selling contaminated Gasolene as listed in the article “Gov't Orders Closure Of Petrol Pumps At 17 Stations Over Bad Gas”, Published Tuesday December 29, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner is as follows:

1.      7 in Kingston and St Andrew 
2.      3 in St James 
3.      3 in Clarendon 
4.      2 in Manchester 
5.      2 in St Catherine
6.      1 in St Thomas 

The names and locations of these Seventeen (17) Gas Stations has not been disclosed. But as these Gas Stations are being closed by the Jamaica Police, by the morning motorists all over of Jamaica will know which Gas Stations were in the report. This might lead to some altercation at these Gas Stations, so expect the employees to not only not report to work at these Gas Stations but protestors to start gathering, seeking compensation.

The service station operators will also be facing criminal investigation from the Jamaican Police to quote Minister Paulwell: “The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency of the Jamaica Constabulary Force has been contacted and they were present today in our briefing, and they will be engaged to do further investigation in terms of illegal trading of petroleum products and to ensure that the law is properly enforced”.

This as the number of closures could increase as the BSJ inspectors are still conducting tests, to quote Minister Paulwell: “The inspectors of the Bureau of Standards will now intensify their testing across the island. The dispensing of contaminated E10 90 and E10 87 gasolene will be prohibited where they have been found”.

However, reopening seems to be a possibility as soon as they can prove that they are on the level it seems, as Minister Paulwell points out: “The Bureau will be utilising the powers that it has to ensure that these stations will not be selling those products for the time being, until the proprietors can indicate to the Bureau of Standards, which will have to be verified by further testing that the products meet specifications”.

More Gas Stations to be closed as tests ongoing – Gum named as a possible contaminant

So aside from not revealing who the service station operators are or their location, there is also no word on the contaminant or its sources, as this was not revealed!

Instead it appears they collected forty five (45) samples so far. Of that number, only (30) samples had been tested and according to the BSJ Chairman Dr Winston Davidson, the majority of them were contaminated, quote: “Of the 30 samples, 25 - or 83 per cent - were found to be non-compliant or, in fact, contaminated”.

Assuming one (1) sample per Gas Station, the Seventeen (17) Gas Stations are among the twenty five (25) or 83% that tested positive for this as-yet named contaminant. That means eight (8) have not been listed to be closed tonight.

No reason was given for why this was so. So far BSJ testing of Clarendon, Manchester and Westmoreland Gas Stations is complete, with Kingston, St Thomas, St Mary, St Ann and Hanover are to be finished by Wednesday December 30th 2015. Testing of the major importers would not be completed until Saturday January 2nd, 2015.

Also a gel adhesive or gum is being identified as one of the contaminants as reported in the article “Gas pumps ordered closed at 17 service stations”, published Wednesday, December 30, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

However, the composition of this gel adhesive was not revealed, or how it managed to get into the service station operators storage tanks without being noticed by BSJ Inspectors.  This suggests that the contaminant could have been introduced at any point in the Gasolene Trade, making it difficult to assign blame.

 Government seems to be protecting service station operators – Tighter regulation of Gasolene Trade coming

So now we have a mystery; Seventeen (17) out of twenty five (25) Gas Stations closed, their names cannot be revealed, most likely for legal reasons and the contaminant is unknown.

I'm still saying its homemade gasolene made via vacuum pyrolysis of rubber and plastic that has too much sulphur or other gasoline soluble salt contaminants in it as explained in my blog article entitled “BSJ and Petrojam investigating contaminated Gasoline in Jamaica - Why Homemade Gasoline is to blame”. 

Even more troubling is that the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, BSJ or Petrojam is not revealing how to make the contaminated gasolene usable again as well as compensation for damaged vehicles. However, he’s promised traceability of the Gasolene trade i.e. tracking devices on tankers, computerized receipts at ever point, from importer to Gas Station.

Seems like the Government, for some strange reason, is trying to protect the service station operators, as no word seems to be emerging as to how Jamaica motorists are to be compensated for damage to their vehicles!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Google Glass prototype GG1 filing with FCC suggests smartphones replacement in 2016

For those doubting Thomas’s who want proof of the Resurrection of Google Glass, this one is for you.

Google has now made filings with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for Google Glass 2.0 as reported in the article “Google Glass 2.0 is real, and here are photos to prove it”, published December 28, 2015 by Jessica Dolcourt, CNET News.

A part of the FCC's job involves reviewing personal electronics like phones and wearables and then giving it their stamp of approval. Named as model GG1, it looks a lot like the original Google Glass Explorer Edition, with the screen floating above your right eye.

The submission includes internal photos, test setup photos and yes a manual as noted in “Google Glass 2.0 comes in a folding version”, published 29 Dec2015, by Ians, Economic Times.

The manual indicates that the new Google Glass 2.0 has a new Power button and sports a camera light that turns green when in operation. Taking pictures and recording videos involves pressing a button, with the green light coming on in each case, to quote the manual: “The camera button is located on top of the device near the display. Press the camera button to take a photo. Hold it down to record a video. The green light shows when the camera is on”.

So no more secret filming of people and being a “Glass-hole”, sure to make it more acceptable in public!

There is also a new set of charging pins that look like metallic chamfered pegs with circles on either side, suggesting that this may be some type of magnetic charging. According to the manual, on startup, you'll be greeted with the time, quote: “The plastic cube just above your right eye allows you to interact with the device. The Home Screen is your starting point. By default, the display shows you the current time”.

Google Glass 2.0 coming in 2016 - Replacement for smartphones and Gaming Consoles in 2016

Still, the dosing doesn’t look like an ordinary pair of glasses, drawing inspiration from frame maker Luxottica as I'd envisioned in my blog article entitled “Google Glass partners with Luxottica to design Google Glasses for 2015 Launch - Google Glass now on the Path to going Mainstream with US$199 Glasses”.

Also there is no mention of Wireless Charging or even the use of Hydrogen Fuel cells to give the Google Glass a longer battery life like those Apple has in the pipeline as reported in my blog article entitled “Apple files patent for Hydrogen Fuel cell – Why Portable Hydrogen Fuel Cells needed to cut the Analog Power Cord”.

Google might finally be making a push towards Enterprise users after all as I'd reported in July 2015 in my blog article entitled “Google Glass coming to Enterprise users - Personal PC beginnings to replace smartphones and Gaming Consoles in 2016”.

Whatever the case, they'll have to compete with Microsoft Hololens in the Augmented reality space along with other Virtual reality headset makers as reported in my blog article entitled “Rivalry between @Facebook and @HTC – @Google, @Microsoft, @Sony and @Samsung in VR as Video Game Console Savior and smartphones Extinction”.

Albeit Google Glass is a different product, in the customers mind it'll be hard to differentiate from other Virtual reality and Augmented Reality products on the market.

One such potential product is Amazon’s Smart Glasses as detailed in my blog article entitled “Amazon Smart Glasses Patent - Why 3D Portable Fuel Cell Power will compete against Microsoft, HTC, Oculus and Samsung”, while albeit a patent filing, may become a real product in 2016! 

2016 is the year of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality! Call me crazy, but I still believe that model GG1 aka Google Glass 2.0 will replace smartphones and Gaming Consoles in 2016.

BSJ and Petrojam Bad Gasolene Report – Who was selling Bad Gasolene, the contaminant and its source

Today is a day before the tabling of the Bad Gasolene report from the BSJ (Bureau of Standard Jamaica) and Petrojam as reported in my blog article entitled “BSJ and Petrojam investigating contaminated Gasoline in Jamaica - Why Homemade Gasoline is to blame”.

And as I'd expected, it's inconclusive based on the Jamaica Gleaner Summary in the article “Highlights Of The Fuel Quality Report”, published Tuesday December 29, 2015 by Neville Graham, The Jamaica Gleaner

Before I get into this, please note that this isn't the full report from the BSJ; it’s just a summary of the Gasolene Retail trade in Jamaica as islandwide trusting is still ongoing as noted in the article “Results of petrol samples will be ready today — BSJ”, published Tuesday, December 29, 2015, The Jamaica Observer

According to chairman of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Professor Winston Davidson, the BSJ already have some 45 out of the hundreds of service station retailers that they sampled.

No word on the contaminant or which member service stations from within the ranks of the JGRA (Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association) was caught, but I'm sticking to my guns and saying that the contaminant is homemade Gasolene with too much sulphur in it.

So with that out of the way, on to the Jamaica Gleaner Summary!

Jamaica Gleaner Summary on Bad Gasolene – Gasolene Retail Trade open to corruption

According to what the Jamaica Gleaner saw, it appears that the contaminant could have been introduced into the Gasolene Retail Trade by anyone, namely:

1.      Dispatchers
2.      Tanker drivers
3.      Service station supervisors or managers
4.      Owners of haulage contractors
5.      Scoundrel gas stations who buy the fuel

But this issue of conflict-of-interest aside, consumer need to watch to for the following parishes where it is alledged the mixing of the bad gasolene to dilute the regular high octane gasolene is done:

1.      St Thomas
2.      Kingston
3.      St Catherine
4.      Clarendon
5.      St Ann

The Gasolene Retail trade in Jamaica is very open, with little no restrictions on who or where service station retailers can buy their gasolene, Diesel or kerosene be they local or foreign suppliers. There also seems to be no import restrictions, as apparently no-one in customs ask questions as to the source of the fuel.

As for monitoring agencies, the BSJ is ties, as many of the specialized tests that can be done are available to Petrojam only. It had struck me as odd too that Petrojam was a part of the team tasked with analyzing the gasolene, as that mean that they could use the opportunity to cover any wrongdoing on their part.

Something tell me that nothing will come of all of this as hinted in the article “Bad Gas BACKLASH - Energy Minister Warns Of Severe Sanctions For 'Bad Gas' Culprits”, published Tuesday December 29, 2015, by Neville Graham, The Jamaica Gleaner, despite the Bad Gasolene report posse being ahead by a day and Minister of Energy Phillip Paulwell promising sanctions.

When 2 pm comes I’ll update this article with more information. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

How UNFAO and IICA Reports indicate that Wealthy Jamaicans are malnourished

“Although they are attractively packaged, tasty and filling, empty calorie foods, often called 'junk foods', contain little or no nutritional value. Choosing to consume too much empty calorie foods is detrimental to good health”

Nutritionist Lisa Hunt commenting on the findings of the IICA (Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture) research paper titled “Hunger and nutrition from bellyful to body fuel”

Jamaicans today, despite living a better lifestyle then their forefathers, are still malnourished.

To be precise, approximately 200,000 Jamaica are undernourished according to the UNFAO (United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation) as declared in the article “200,000 Undernourished People In Jamaica - UN Report”, published Monday December 28, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

According to the UNFAO's report, the following countries have undernourishment levels of 10% or higher:

1.      Bahamas
2.      Belize
3.      Dominica
4.      Jamaica
5.      Trinidad and Tobago

The UNFAO cited the following factors that contributed to this situation:

1.      Income inequality
2.      Food access
3.      Poverty
4.      Unemployment

Still, we're not that bad in the Caribbean, as the undernourished are getting, well, better nourished:

1.      8.1 million in 1990-92
2.      7.5 million in 2014-16

Strangely enough, the UNFAO report claims that income inequality exist in the following countries:

1.      Haiti
2.      Jamaica
3.      Suriname

I guess by “Income inequality” they mean the gap between the wealthy in Jamaican society and the poor somehow affects our diet. However, this is the flaw in the UNFAO, as that's not quite the case; the wealth in Jamaican society are also undernourished as well.

Wealthy Jamaican making bad food choices - Eating foods high in processed sugar, fats and salt

Researchers from IICA (Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture) have published some interesting research under the title “Hunger and nutrition from bellyful to body fuel”.

The IICA's research came to light at the Caribbean Pacific Agri-Food Forum held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus in the week of Sunday November 1st 2015.

The IICA's research points to a very strange situation occurring within the Caribbean. Caribbean nations who based on their demographics are counted among the wealthy, are making bad food choices. Good to note that both the IICA and the UNFAO reports are valid; the IICA is a little more specific in terms of identifying the malnourished as being the wealthier class within Jamaica.

Even though they can afford to eat more nutritious food, they are instead lavishing their money on food that's high in refined carbohydrates, fats and salt and offers little or no nutrition. At the same, they are not consuming enough fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, legumes and nuts, to quote the IICA report:  “This has resulted from a rise in consumption of a diet high in refined carbohydrates, fats and salt, and a fall in consumption of fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, legumes and nuts”.

The result: an increase in CNCD's (chronic non-communicable diseases) such as obesity which can lead to stroke, heart attack and cancer. All associated with eating processed foods i.e. canned foods and packaged snacks.

Many of these foods, be it canned or fast food, contain empty calories as Jamaica eat less of the foods that our forefather ate. Contrary to popular belief, malnutrition isn't a disease of the poor but one that's associated with the wealthy, to quote the IICA report: “Under nutrition is no longer automatically associated with the poor, downtrodden and hungry. Malnutrition is now increasingly being associated with the other extreme - over- nutrition - which is linked to rising affluence, availability, easy access and affordability of a diverse range of food products generally referred to as 'empty calories'”.

As such, albeit you may feel a sense of well-being as well as satisfying your desire to be associated with a certain social class, you are not getting the adequate amount of nutrition from the food that you eat. The result is that many Jamaicans are becoming obese and experiencing deteriorating health in terms of their immune system and energy level.

This affect the proper function of their internal organs, their immune system and external functions e.g. defection and excretion, all taking a toll on their overall health and making susceptible to CNCD's.

So why is this happening? And what can we do about it?

Fast food, canned foods and packaged snacks - The source of malnourishment in Jamaica

It may mainly be because of the increasing influence of North American media as well as the experience of Jamaican travelling to the US of A.

Jamaicans, in their desire to be seen as being modern, mimic the eating habits of their American counterparts, eating and drinking the same processed foods that they eat.

This includes fast food, canned foods as well as packaged snacks high in refined carbohydrates, fats and salt as pointed the IICA research, quote: “It is the overconsumption of such foods that has caused a sharp spike in CNCDs among Caribbean populations. Even more worrisome is that CNCDs are now strongly linked to a rise in adult diseases, among infants and children, particularly diabetes”.

To fix this problem, the diet of children and adults has to be changed. This includes diversifying the foods that children, mainly consisting of consisted mainly of bread made of white flour, with cheese or butter, rice and skimmed milk to include more fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, legumes  and nuts.

Nutritionist Robert Best suggests that attempts should be made to wean children off eating this regular fare as well as fast food and canned foods.

They should also be dissuaded from eating packaged snacks such as biscuits and bag juice, which is yet to be properly regulated by the BSJ (Bureau of Standards Jamaica) as noted in my blog article entitled “BSJ's Bag Juice Regulations – Why Ministry of Education must support School Gardens as Sugar in Bag Juice linked to Lifestyle Diseases”. 

This can be done by making fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, legumes and nuts more attractive to children. Once they are hooked from a very young age, they'll continue onwards with these good eating habits, thereby reducing their chances of becoming obese and co-morbidity of CNCD's.

Ministry of Health Junk Food Tax – Expand to processed foods as well as packaged snacks

As for the Ministry of Health, a Junk food or Fast Food tax is needed to not only tax sellers of Fast food as argued in my blog article entitled “Min. of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson proposes Junk Food Tax - Jamaican High Schoolers Addiction to American Fast Food”. 

This Junk food tax should also be expanded to include canned foods as well as packaged snacks, many of which are imported as opined out in my blog article entitled “Why Jamaica's Basic Item Food Bill mostly from 1st World Countries despite being Made in Jamaica”.

The US$5 billion per year Imported food bill that’s' shared between Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and The Bahamas needs to be reduced, as we need to grow more of what we eat.

This is preferred to partaking of the rich First World fast food, canned foods as well as packaged snacks high in refined carbohydrates, fats and salt that leaves us malnourished or undernourished, whichever study you choose to believe.

Here’s the link: