My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: March 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How Facebook's AI is scanning Satellite images to connect 10% of the World without Internet

“This is an impressive project from our team developing solar-powered planes for beaming down Internet connectivity and our AI research team, [sic]”

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg post on their use of AI to scan millions of satellite images to determine who has Internet access
Facebook is trying to connect the 10% of the world’s population that has no Internet access.

Facebook is looking into ways to more efficiently deploy their drones to deliver Internet to more people as noted in  “Facebook to beam Internet using drones”, published March 15, 2016 By Niranjan R, Internet Business Times.

For this reason, Facebook's Connectivity Lab in collaboration with Facebook's data science division, infrastructure unit, and machine learning and artificial intelligence groups, has begun to analyze satellite imagery for 20 countries as noted in “Facebook is using AI to make detailed maps of where people live”, published February 22, 2016 By Nick Statt, The Verge

This data, some 350TB of data or 51.6 billion images of satellite data, covers some 21.6 million square kilometers of places on Earth with no Internet Access. The 20 nation’s part of this exercise was as follows:

1.      Algeria
2.      Burkina Faso
3.      Cameroon
4.      Egypt
5.      Ethiopia
6.      Ghana
7.      India
8.      Ivory Coast
9.      Kenya
10.  Madagascar
11.  Mexico
12.  Mozambique
13.  Nigeria
14.  South Africa
15.  Sri Lanka
16.  Tanzania
17.  Turkey
18.  Uganda
19.  Ukraine
20.  Uzbekistan

So why exactly is Facebook doing this?

Facebook AI scanning Satellite images - How to scan satellite images of remote areas to help the Unconnected

It's all a part of their initiative that uses drones, satellites, and lasers to deliver Internet to rural areas and developing countries. According to Facebook, this is more than just about getting more people to use Facebook, as the data can be used to help assess the risk for Natural Disaster: “We believe this data has many more impactful applications, such as socio-economic research and risk assessment for natural disasters”.

This method, which is assumed to be the least error-prone way of finding out who has Internet and who doesn’t, will be combined with data from Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network to create a more accurate population data set later in 2016.

This data is collated by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) program into a map showing areas where Internet access is lacking and helps Facebook determine whether Wi-Fi or Cellular Technologies can help to bridge the digital divide for this disconnected 10%. Once physical structures on the maps are added, Facebook can add census data, redistribute population data sets evenly across each location, to determine how many people lived in each building.

Google has similar ambitions as well using low orbit satellites to connect the last 10 percent of the Earth to their Google Services as explained in my blog article entitled “Google and O3B Network Limited partner on Satellite Broadband Project – How to set up a Satellite Broadband Network”. 

In so doing, it would help to power their Global Drone delivery ambitions as explained in my blog article entitled “How @Google X Labs Project Wing uses Global Satellite Network for Drone Delivery”. 

Hopefully, this effort will eventually result in free Internet to everyone on the planet, as Facebook stands to benefit immensely if they can cut out the telecom Providers and deliver Internet and Facebook directly to people who have no access.

How Rakuten and the Golf Drones means the Days of the Caddy are Numbered

 Drone deliveries on golf courses are now a thing in Japan.

This as Japanese firm Rakuten is testing the idea of delivering refreshments to golfers out on the green as reported in the article “‘Fore! Beers please.’ Golfers in Japan will soon get drinks delivered by drone”, published March 28, 2016 By Lulu Chang, Digitaltrends.

No one is quite sure which golf courses in Japan will be used to test out this form of drone delivery. However, good candidates are the golf courses in the eastern part of eastern Tokyo near the University of Chiba.

Whenever this testing it taking place, NOT in the US of A, where Amazon is lobbying Washington like crazy just to get a slice of the Drone Deliver game as noted in the article “Here's How Amazon Is Fighting for U.S. Drone Deliveries”, published MARCH 21, 2016 by Hilary Brueck, Fortune.

Still, to their credit, they've released an updated version of their deliver drones in November 2015 that look much uglier but are a lot more efficient as noted in my blog article entitled “Amazon Prime Air new Hybrid Drone - How VTOL Drone Design is best for Commercial Drone delivery services”, so they're not behind in term of technology

However, it'll be 2017 before the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) will allow commercial drones flights.

To hasten the decision of the FAA, Google, Amazon and other silicon Valley Tech titans have teamed up to develop standards for a ATC (Air Traffic Control System) as detailed in my blog article entitled “@NASA Air Traffic Control System – Why @Google, @Amazon and @Verizonwireless want an ATC ahead of FAA's New Guidelines in 2016”. 

So comparison with Amazon aside, how does Rakuten drone delivery of munchies onto the golf course work?

Rakuten and the Golf Drones - The Days of the Caddy are Numbered as Drones will replace them

Japanese firm Rakuten, however, is not as overly ambitious as Amazon. The idea is that golfer can place an order for anything using their smartphones and a companion app.

The quadcopter drone, which are Mini Surveyor drone developed by the Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory as reported in the article “Delivery drone flies drinks and balls to golfers in Japan”, published 28 March 2016 by Nick Summers, Engadget can carry replacement golf balls and even refreshment.

Once confirmed, these are then whisked via a quadcopter drone once the order has been confirmed, making the deliver in much the same way a caddy would deliver these items.

Suddenly, I realized, pizza delivery boys aren't the only persons whose jobs are in danger if the Domino's DRU (Dominoes Robotic Unit) begins rolling out as noted in my blog article entitled “How Marathon Robotics Dominoes Robotic Unit will replace Pizza Delivery in New Zealand”.

If this becomes a thing on golf courses, soon all college students who caddy to make end meet will have to find other means of making an extra buck, especially as fast food restaurants will be manned by robots as prophesied 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”. 

Well, it' nothing new really as I've seen this before in China with cake deliveries as far back as 2013 as noted in my blog article entitled “SF Express Drones in China Deliver Cake and Zookal Drones deliver Rental Textbooks”.

Deutsche Post aka DHL has been making regular deliveries to the island of Juist in Germany since September 2014 as reported in my blog article entitled “DHL Parcelcopters make deliveries to Juist off Germany’s coast – Why Progress of Drones in West slower than in the East for same-day delivery”.

Closer to Japan, Singapore’s Postal Service, SingPost in collaboration with IDS (Infocomm Development Authority) of Singapore had tested the delivery of Postal Mail via Drone since October 2015 as noted in my blog article entitled “SingPost Postal Package Delivery Drones - Why Postal Corporation of Jamaica Mini-Drone Airports for Jamaica”. 

If this becomes widespread in Japan, the world is next. The Days of the caddy are at an end as we send in the Drones.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Why Snapchat buying Bitstrips heralds Polaroid trend for Personal Printable Emoji Stickers

Snapchat is now officially jumping on a bandwagon even bigger than emojis.

This time it's via the purchase of Bitstrips some US$100 million in Cash and stock as noted in “Snapchat buys Bitstrips for its crazy, personalized emoji”, published March 25, 2016 by Christian de Looper, Digitaltrends.

In case you've been eating my Glow-In-The-Dark Foska Oats, Guinness Lasco Wray and Nephew Rum Ice Cream as described in my blog article entitled “How to make Glow-In-The-Dark Foska Oats, Guinness Lasco Wray and Nephew Rum Ice Cream” and you're hung over for the Easter (vvvvvery bad of you!), Bitstrips is a bit of an oddball.

Bitstrips is a Canadian startup circa in 2007 that began with the intent of riding the wave of personalized digital comic books as pointed out in “Exclusive: Snapchat Buys Bitmoji Maker”, published March 24, 2016 by Dan Primack, Fortune. They've since evolved into an app that makes customizable and shareable avatars called bitmojis that you can dress up and us for communications.

Kinda like the Mii's in Nintendo's first Mobile Gaming App Miitomo as described in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “How Nintendo’s Miitomo Social Gaming Network amassed 1 million users in 3 days”. 

Bitstrips got handed some US$11 million in venture capital funding from firms like Horizons Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. So why Snapshat splurging US$100 million on a cartoon avatar company!?

Snapchat buys bitmoji - Why printable stickers in you likeness is the Polaroid trend for emojis

First thing first, US$100 million is fairly modest for a purchase, suggesting that the acquisition was more about the covering the cost of bills, intellectual property and physical assets than anything else.

After all, this deal isn't yet confirmed by Snapchat. But if it's real, then it fulfilling a trend I'd predicted towards Americans buying stickers as Japanese users of the VoIP app LINE currently do as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Japanese Line introduces Line Call for Landline and Mobile is WhatsApp and Skype Competition”.

Possibly Snapchat plans to make their facial recognition software play nice with the Bitmojis, creating a mash-up of cartoons that look photo realistic. In other words, cartoon avatars that look a lot more like you in real life but without the design hassle associated with designing your own bitmojis

Eventually, I suspect, Snapshat will allow you to print and order physics copies of your stickers in the mail, possibly paid for using Snapcash, their mobile money platform launched November 2014 as described in my blog article entitled “Why @Snapchat is rolling out Snapcash Mobile Money Platform Teenagers and Millennials”.

As far-fetched as it may sound that Millennials and Generation Z and by extension foreign-minded Jamaicans would spend money to buy stickers, digital or physical, keep in mind the fact that these are personal sticker bitmojis based on your likeness.

This is the equivalent of Polaroid Snap, the device that allows you to print out your Smartphone pictures as described in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “US$99 Polaroid Snap is the perfect Christmas gift for your Vinyl loving Hipster Photographer”.

With Millennials and Generation Z embracing the idea of taking Polaroids, a trend that the hipster-esque Millennials started since November 2014 as noted in my blog article entitled “Why US Millennials are taking Polaroid Pictures as Analog Photography back in Vogue” , bitmoji sticker are the next big thing among Generation Z.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How Luke Bannister won the UAE's inaugural World Drone Prix as World Future Sports Games in December 2017

“The lights were awesome”

15-y-o Luke Bannister after he led his team 43 strong team Tornado X-Blades Banni UK to victory at the inaugural World Drone Prix in the UAE (United Arab Emirates)

Drone Racing seems to be becoming a thing.

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) had recently staged their inaugural World Drone Prix, which was held on Friday March 11th 2016 as reported in the article “Drone racing: Nascar in the sky”, published March 8, 2016, by Max Taves, CNET News
From March 2, 2016
The World Drone Prix, which took placed around a half-mile long illuminated track in Dubai, home of the Burj Khalifa, was won by 15-y-o Luke Bannister as reported in the article “15 year old wins $250K at World Drone Prix”, published Monday, 14 Mar 2016 by Alexandra Gibbs, CNBC News

He took home the grand prize of US$250,000 as the drone pilot for his 43 strong team Tornado X-Blades Banni UK on Saturday March 12th 2016.

The World Drone Prix has largest purse for Drone racing in the World, even bigger than the US Drone Nationals where the winner took home $25,000 as noted in the article “A teenager just won drone racing’s biggest ever prize”, published March 14, 2016 by Mike Murphy, Quartz

So how exactly does drone racing work?

UAE’s World Drone Prix – Robots get their own games at World Future Sports Games in December 2017

Basically the idea is that the Drone pilots, wearing FPV (First Persons Viewing) Goggles, pilot their craft around an illuminated obstacle course according to the World Organization of Racing Drones' rules and regulations on the event.
From March 2, 2016
Their FPV goggles allow them to see from the drone's point of view, making the flying experience as exhilarating as playing a first person video game as is evident from Luke Bannister's run.

With mad flying skills like that, it's no surprise that he beat out 150 other groups vying for the top prize as noted in “TAG Drones, Robotics, Unmanned Aerial Drone Watch The Final Race Of The World Drone Prix: 15-Year-Old Champ Takes Home $250,000” published March 14 2016 by Dave Calpito, Techtimes.

The World Drone Prix was organized by the World Organization of Racing Drones, as was done under the supervision of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, who chairs the city-state’s sports council.

The UAE also has plans to host a World Future Sports Games in December 2017 which will see robots competing in such sports as:

1.      Car racing
2.      Drone flying
3.      Running
4.      Swimming
5.      Wrestling

UAE is certainly embracing the future of drones, as was evident from their Drones for Good competition as described in my blog article entitled “United Arab Emirates starts Drones for Good Competition and How Jamaica can jumpstart Drone Designs”.

Truly this is a good start and it would be great to see something like this in Jamaica, preferable using the entire island as a racing track. Can't wait to see the robots in action at the World Future Sports Games in December 2017 as Drones and other Robots finally get the recognition they deserve.

Friday, March 25, 2016

How Ja REEACH 36 Portable Weather Stations helps MSJ, RADA and NIC prevent Drought by 2020

Jamaica is going to get Hyper-local Weather forecasting.

This as some 500 farmers are being given some JA$18 million worth of 36 portable weather station equiptment to more precisely track weather across the island as reported in the article  “Farmers to Benefit from Weather Stations”, published March 24, 2016 By Douglas McIntosh, The Jamaica Information Service.

The announcement was made during a forum marking World Meteorological Day, on March 23, under the theme: ‘Hotter, Drier, Wetter. Face the Future’, at the Knustford Court Hotel, in New Kingston. At that forum, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) who were providing the portable weather stations under the Ja REEACH II (Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change).

Signing the MoU were:

1.      Acting MSJ Director, Jacqueline Spence
2.      Chief Executive Officer of RADA Lenworth Fulton
3.      Chief Executive Officer of NIC – Dr. Mark Richards

In case you've been under the weather, Ja REEACH is an initiative focused on improving climate and weather forecast data for local and national weather forecasting. installation and maintenance of the weather stations will be undertaken by the following Government agencies:

1.      MSJ (Meteorological Service of Jamaica)
2.      RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority)
3.      NIC (National Irrigation Commission)

So how does this network of portable Weather stations work exactly?

How the portable Weather Stations will work - Hyperlocal Weather for better use of Rainwater Resources

Most likely, these portable weather stations consist of your standard weather equiptment to measure the following variables:

1.      Atmospheric pressure
2.      Dust particulate levels
3.      Humidity
4.      Rainfall
5.      Solar Radiation
6.      Sunrise and sunset
7.      Temperature
8.      Wind speed

These weather stations log this data into their onboard memory store, which can be retrieved either manually via a visit with a data reader, which can be a smartphone, or OTA (Over the Air) via a Telecom Provider Network. I'm willing to bet it will be the latter, but initially it may be the former, being as Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz was present at the signing of the MoU.

Still, whichever way the data is collected initially, it'll almost certainly involve some sending of data over a Telecom Network, mostly using GPRS (Global Packet Radio Service). This is because the data logged by the instruments is discrete bits of data and not massive amounts of audio or video that would require 3G or 4G Data.

This basically make the weather stations an example of the IoT (Internet of Things) in Jamaica, should Ja REECH choose to go this route.

This may mark Jamaica's foray into hyperlocal weather, this crazy idea that you can measure local weather more accurately down to a few hundred square kilometers in real time. On the face of it, it reminds me of Swedish startup Vaavud plans to interlink smartphones users of its portable wind meter or anemometer to predict the weather in their locations as explained in my blog article entitled “How Vaavud plans to introduce the first hyperlocal weather forecasts by 2016”.

To achieve this, the Ja REEACH would have to have a portable weather station in all 66 constituencies in order to make the weather so accurate, that you could tell the weather within your parish. Then this data could be sold to farmers, who would access it via a smartphone app whose database would be maintained by the MSJ.

Premium data could be sold to third party weather companies, local entrepreneurs and academia who would pay via subscription to this app, possibly via using mobile money as a payment option.

Most importantly, having access to hyper-accurate weather would allow the 500 farmers to accurately determine levels of rainfall and drought and help agencies such as NIC and RADA coordinate drought relief as well as farmer plan what crops to grow.

Combined with the Rainwater Bill as noted in my blog article entitled “How Rainwater Harvesting Bill means Rainwater Net Billing to end NWC's Water monopoly”, better use can be made of our Groundwater and Rainwater Resources, making Drought a thing of the past.

So fancy having the weather at your fingertips? It may be coming soon if this Ja REECH is expanded to reach all across Jamaica to make hyperlocal Weather a reality by 2020!  

How Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University Ideonella sakaiensis bacterium eats polyethylene terephthalate

“When I think it through, I don't really know where it gets us. I don't see how microbes degrading plastics is any better than putting plastic bottles in a recycling bin so they can be melted down to make new ones”

Associate Scientist Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Dr. Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution commenting on the discovery of Ideonella sakaiensis that eats plastic

Looks like PET (polyethylene terephthalate) the starting material used to make 50 million tons of PET plastic products annually, is biodegradable after all.

A Japanese research team from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University has discovered a bacterium that eats plastic as reported in the article “Newly discovered bacteria can eat plastic bottles”, published March 11, 2016 by Deborah Netburn, Physorg

The exotic bacteria, known as Ideonella sakaiensis, was discovered by the researchers who had taken a 250 PET-contaminated sample that included including sediment, soil and wastewater from a plastic bottle recycling site. The researchers were looking for evidence of bacteria that could eat plastic and their researchers, published in the journal Science, confirms this.

This discovery is huge as PET is used not only in plastic bottles but also in a wide array of products:

1.      Clothing
2.      Food Trays
3.      Packaging

Albeit cheap to produce, it doesn’t biodegrade, with only a variety of mushroom called Pestalotiopsis microspora (Yale University, 2012) and fungi such as Schizophyllum commune and Pleurotus ostreatus known to eat similar plastics as reported in my blog article entitled “Katharina Unger's Fungi Mutarium Mushroom Grower - How Plastic Munching Mushrooms can be a solution to Plastics in Jamaica”. 

So how does this Ideonella sakaiensis eat plastic?

How Ideonella sakaiensis eat plastic – Great Plastic Patch and Landfill eaten by GM bacteria

Based on the research by the Japanese research team from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University, it seems to use a two step process involving specially designed enzymes as noted in the article “Researchers discover a bacteria that can digest plastic bottles”, published March 17, 2016 By Kelly Hodgkins, DigitalTrends.

The bacteria they isolated from the 250 PET bottle samples lives on the PET bottles. It then secretes an enzyme that breaks down the PET into an intermediary compound which is then taken inside of the bacteria to be broken down by yet another enzyme. 

Alas, the bacteria has a flaw; it takes six (6) weeks to break down a thin film of plastic, taking it time to munch away at the plastic unto it is completely reduced to carbon and energy to grow. As far as Ideonella sakaiensis bacteria is concerned, a single plastic bottle is for it sustenance well as its offspring.

The next problem is that it only operates at one temperature, which is 30 C (86 F), which isn't a huge deal, as that's great for most industrial process. But it cannot be used directly to remove the islands of plastic out in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

However, if this bacteria along with fungi, mushrooms and other dentritovores exist that can eat plastic, then the possibility exists that other organisms might be out there that eat other plastics as well, as pointed out by Associate Scientist Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Dr. Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, quote: “This process could be quite common. Now that we know what we are looking for, we may see these microbes in many areas around the world.”

So recycling and banning the importation of plastics such as styrofoam as Guyana has done as described in my blog article entitled “Why Guyana banning Styrofoam and How Jamaican Bee farmers can benefit”. 

Still, this means that not only can the 1.5 billion pounds of PET items recycled in 2010 in the US. and Canada be reduced by using a GM (Generically modified) version of this bacteria, but it can also tackle the islands of plastic out in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. So hope burns anew as more of these dentritovores are discovered that can decompose plastics like PET.