My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: October 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

US$250 Kindle Oasis is Amazon's first Waterproof Kindle in 10 years of Kindles

Amazon has finally done what many have been asking for: they've finally made a waterproof kindle...after 10 years of making the kindle.

Google Logo

The new US$250 Kindle Oasis has the same name as last year’s model but now boasts an IPX8 waterproof rating. It’s also moved up in size from a 6-inch screen to a 7-inch screen. It has an aluminum back, not soft-touch plastic, making it feel cool and look more like a real gadget and not a kid's play thing.

The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It can withstand different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths. Amazon recommends that the Kindle be upright after it’s been submerged, given that the USB port is not waterproof.

Google Logo

The Kindle Oasis itself got an upgrade and replaces last year model and joins Amazon's Kindle family; the original US$80 Kindle, the US$120 Kindle Paperwhite and the US$200Kindle Voyage.

It now has a fully internal battery while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The e-paper display has a 300 ppi resolution that is brighter looking and it has the added feature of ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness based on being indoors or outdoors.

Google Logo

For true e-reader fans out there, the Kindle Oasis bringing back page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option for a faster page-turning feel. There is also an Audible app but you have to use Bluetooth headphones or a speaker as it has no built in speakers.

Something for everyone as Amazon has finally brought us a Waterproof Oasis!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

IEA says Solar PV is fastest growing Energy source while Jamaica is adopting LNG

Solar is hot.

So says a IEA (International Energy Agency) report on sources of power around the world that shows solar as the fastest rising as noted in the article “IEA lifts five-year renewables forecast after record 2016”, published 3 October 2017 by Nina Chestney, Reuters

Google Logo

The IEA said solar panels capacity grew 50% in 2016, with China accounting for almost half the expansion.

Solar accounted for 2/3rd of new Energy capacity in 2016, surpasses any other fuel as a source of power. The conditions in China have increased photovoltaic panel installations in that country, with the United States the second-largest market.  These conditions are mainly:

1.      Strong government targets
2.      Economic incentives
3.      Air pollution concerns

It is the first time that solar energy growth has surpassed other types of fuel albeit Coal still continues to grow despite global targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Still, the IEA expects global renewable electricity capacity to rise by more than 920 gigawatts, or 44%, by 2022, possibly beating coal by 2050 to quote IEA executive director Fatih Birol: “While coal remains the largest source of electricity generation in 2022, renewables close in on its lead. In 2016, renewable generation was 34 percent less than coal but by 2022 this gap will be halved to just 17 percent”.

As usual with statistics, the devil is in the details.

IEA renewable energy since 2016 - Catching up with Coal

The IEA’s forecast saw net additions to renewable energy capacity from the following hit 165 gigawatts (GW), 6% more than in 2015. To be clear, renewable energy in their report refers to:

1.      Hydropower
2.      Solar
3.      Wind
4.      Bioenergy
5.      Wave
6.      Tidal 

Of all these sources of renewable energy, Solar PV (Photovoltaic) grew more than 50% to more than 74 GW last year. This is the first time in history that Solar PV additions rose faster than the net growth in coal. So what of the growth of Renewables in the next 5 years?

IEA renewable energy forecast - LNG rises in Developing World countries

The Paris-based IEA, the West’s leading energy forecaster, had been criticized in the pas for the following:

1.      Underestimating the growth of renewables
2.      Over-emphasizing the continued role of fossil fuels

However, environment campaigners will be pleased to learn that renewable electricity generation is on a rise to quote IEA executive director Fatih Birol: “Our expectation is that (growth in) renewable electricity generation in the next five years will be higher than electricity generation from coal and natural gas times two”.

The IEA expects a 33% increase in renewable power generation to about 8,169 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2022, a significant rise from 6,012 TWh in 2016 as noted in the article “Time to shine: Solar power is fastest-growing source of new energy”, published Wednesday 4 October 2017 by Adam Vaughan, The Guardian.

Google Logo

Albeit that could power China, India and Germany, LNG (liquid Natural Gas) will still grow in most Developing World Economies such as Jamaica to quote Fatih Birol: “Natural gas will continue to grow but moving toward the industrial and heating sectors. We still think LNG (liquefied natural gas) will be a key source for power generation especially in Asia, even though we expect renewables to grow as well”.

This is especially true of power hungry India, which could surpass the EU in 2022 to become the joint second-largest growth market alongside the United States.

Jamaica and Alternative Energy - Flirting with Solar while adopting LNG for Power and Vehicle Fuel

Here in Jamaica we are finally going LNG, with benefits expected due to lower energy costs for industry.

LNG may potentially lower the cost of motor vehicle fuel by being included as an alternative fuel as noted in the article “Introduction Of LNG To Jamaica Will Spur Development – Matalon”, Published Monday October 9, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

We are also going solar both in terms of individual businesses as well as on a large scale such as Content Solar as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “WRB Enterprises builds 20 MW Solar Farm in Content District, Clarendon”. 

Some companies have already committed to going solar such as Wisynco as noted in my blog article entitled “Wisynco Group 1 MW Solar Power Plant - British partnership with Padero Solar UK for conquest of Africa and India”. 

But with LNG in the mix, Jamaicans may soon have options not only for electricity but also for their vehicle fuel.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Why the Ministry of Health must vaccinate Jamaican Boys and Girls against the Human papilloma virus

Who knew vaccinating schoolchildren could stir up so much problems in Jamaica.

I am of course referring to mass vaccinations of grade seven for HPV (human papillomavirus vaccine) by the Ministry of Health as reported in the article “Ministry To Roll Out HPV Vaccine Amid Backlash”, published Saturday September 30, 2017 by Jodi-Ann Gilpin, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton as assured everyone that the girls are safe and they are not guinea pigs to test the vaccine before rolling out nationwide to girls in all grades, quote: “The ministry is not going to embark on anything that will put the population at risk - certainly not our young girls. This is not a trial-and-error programme and we are not using our people as guinea pigs. We are not trying to prove anything to the world, population or any pharmaceutical company or big-money interest. It is a tried and proven approach and a science that is intended to make our population healthy as it relates to the risk of cervical cancer”.

There are about 22,338 girls in Grade 7 based on 2016 entry data from the Ministry of Education.  So what really happened.

Ministry of Health and HPV Vaccinations – Ministry of Education call for halt of program

The Ministry of Health had begun vaccinating girls more than 20,000 grade seven girls islandwide on Friday 29th October 2017 as reported in the article “More Could Have Been Done, Tufton Says Of Controversial HPV Exercise”, published Tuesday October 3, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

So far only four high schools volunteered their Grade 7 as guinea pigs:

1.      Oberlin in west rural St Andrew
2.      Papine in eastern St Andrew
3.      Titchfield in Portland
4.      Happy Grove in Portland

Ministry of Health Dr Christopher Tufton reported only 309 females received the vaccine, while 21 said hell no. On Tuesday October 3, 2017 Grade 7 girls at the following schools were on the schedule to receive the HPV Vaccine:

1.      Westwood High School in Trelawny
2.      Muschett High in St James
3.      The Queen's School in St Andrew

So that's a lot of guinea pigs to keep track of, making this a mass experiment if it really was.

So concerned expressed by the Administration of several schools were voiced to the Minister of Education Minister Ruel Reid, as noted in the article “HPV Vaccine Programme Leaves Some School Admins Disgruntled”, published Tuesday October 3, 2017 by Jody Ann Gilpin, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

This as many school administrators called for a halt to the program and for more knowledge to be decimated to school administrations about the logistics of the programme, the benefits and reasons behind the initiative.

So if this HPV Vaccine offers protection against Cervical cancer, why all the noise about mass vaccinations intended to protect Grade 7 girls from contracting the disease?

HPV and Cervical cancer - Boys should also be vaccinated it causes Penile and prostate cancer

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. It is caused by a virus, the HPV (human papillomavirus) and curiously, is a multi-vector disease.

Google Logo

This as it is transmitted as follows:

1.      Sexually transmitted
2.      Skin-to-skin contact

Basically, you can get the virus via contact with sex or body fluids, a lot like the common cold. Infection occurs at age 25, with 80% of sexually active individuals contracting the disease. Three variants of HPV exist:

1.      Type 16 and 18 account for 70% of cases of cervical cancer,
2.      Type 45 and 31 the next most
3.      Type 6 and 11 cause genital warts

For young men thinking that this is a female disease, think again. HPV also causes penile cancer.

Which is why there is now a push for boys to also as noted in the article “Broaden HPV Vaccination To Schoolboys”, published Friday October 6, 2017 by Paul Jennings, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

This as the disease is not really gender specific, as it can be spread by boys to girls and it can cause prostate cancer in males as noted in the article “HPV and Men - Fact Sheet”. Truly troubling though, is the fact that in both men and women, HPV has no signs or symptoms, and some persons never develop HPV problems.

Of the 80% of sexually active individuals that contracting the disease, only 20% develope precancerous cervical lesions, which, if left undetected, become cancerous. Again all to like the common cold; many contract it but few may show signs if they have a strong immune system.

Google Logo

In Jamaica, HPV results in 30 cases for every 100,000 persons, second only to Breast Cancer but higher than the infection rate in Cuba, which has fewer than 10 for every 100,000 persons.

So is this disease preventable?

Pap Smear and HPV Vaccination - After sensitization campaign both Boys and Girls need to be vaccinated

The answer is yes; The Pap Smear along with the HPV Vaccine is the key to prevention.

HPV is indeed preventable but early detection is necessary via having women do a Pap Smear test.  Pap Smear detects the changes in cervical cells caused by HPV. This simple, yet necessary procedure detects changes in the cervical cells before they get to a precancerous stage.

Google Logo

For women it is usually done between the ages of 21 and 65 years and should be done every one to two years. Even after vaccination, it still has to be done to see the vaccine has boosted the immune system enough to prevent cervical cells reaching the precancerous stage.

Vaccinations are given in three doses over a six-month period.  It prevents the developement of HPV into cancer in 90% of those who are infected by the HPV virus. The Pap Smear occurs later in life, the vaccine is best done before the girls become sexually active, which is at age 10, around the same age as the 22,338 girls in Grade 7 based on 2016 entry data from the Ministry of Education.
Google Logo

However, it can still be given after being sexually active, and after having HPV. It works by giving the immune system a weakened version of the HPV to defeat, thus allowing it to learn how to deal with the active HPV and thus prevent it from invading the body's cells to do damage.

This is where the issues comes in for parents, as the current policy stance by the Ministry of Health stigmatizes Grade 7 girls, possibly making them feel embarrassed if it is not fully explained why they are being singled out. Still, the effects of the HPV vaccine are expected to be very mild according to Acting Director of Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Melody Ennis, quote: “Adverse effects are very mild. You are going to get a little redness, you are gonna get some swelling, you are going to get fever, possibly, but no severe reactions have been identified”.

Google Logo

Despite fears, one fear has already been alleviated; no long lines albeit the vaccine might make you dizzy as pointed out by Dr Melody Ennis, who addressed a media forum held at the Pan American Health Organization offices in St Andrew on Saturday September 30th 2017, quote: “It's not a case where students are going to be in long lines and persons just stick them, we have made special provisions. They must be seated, they must be observed for at least 15 minutes, and efforts must be made to ensure that they don't fall”.

It is not yet mandatory as noted by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton in the article “Ministry Not Ready For HPV Vaccine To Be Mandatory”, published Monday October 2, 2017 Jodi-Ann Gilpin, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

But if it becomes mandatory, after a proper sensitization campaign as requested by the PNP (People’s National Party) as noted in the article “Opposition Calls For Public Education Campaign On HPV Vaccines”, published Monday October 2, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner, it should also apply to both Grade 7 boys and girls islandwide.

How IBM Caribbean Bluemix is Open Architecture Cloud Foundry for Jamaica VoIP and AI

Members of the JCS (Jamaica Computer Society), take note of this on your Google Calendars!

IBM Caribbean recently launched their Twitter page and it has been abuzz with activity. 

Their very first post relates to their IBM Bluemix Workshop set to take place at the Jamaica Conference Center on Wednesday October 18th between 9:00am to 4:30pm in the Caucus Room.

Cost is as follows:
1.      JA$10000 for JCS members
2.      JA$16000 for non-JCS members

So what is this all about? Is it worth the entry fee?

IBM Caribbean and Bluemix – Developers with the Jamaica Computer Society meet AI in the Clouds

Presenters Peter Tomes and Alfredo Ramirez will focus on Bluemix, IBM's latest cloud offering aimed at Developers and organizations to quickly and easily create, deploy and manage applications in the cloud. Bluemix is an implementation of IBM's Open Cloud Architecture based on Cloud Foundry, an open sources PaaS (Platform as a Service).

Google Logo

Essentially this is an API script for developers to add cloud applications to websites without having to install or configure them. Simply write your application and the use the API script to add the cloud application to your website or app.

We may soon see Developers using this platform to create Cloud based VoIP Applications and even AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbots, such as the one on the IBM Caribbean Twitter feed:

Here you can login and get a free Bluemix Cloud account and follow the instructions to either build your own chatbot, a basic form of AI or play with the simple Food Coach chatbot. There are also a lot of thought-provoking articles on the IBM Caribbean twitter feed, such as this one on chatbots replacing customer care agents.

No surprise there…Digicel already has plans to do this 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”.

As Bluemix is an Open Source PaaS, this makes Bluemix, IBM's Open Cloud Architecture based on Cloud Foundry, very attractive and competitive. Developers can easily create Cloud based applications such as chatbots and VoIP platforms and just add them to a website via a simple API script…all done within Bluemix.

Especially when compared to Digicel Cloud, which is mainly used for Data Backup as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Digicel’s Cloud Backup Services – A deep Analysis” 

Interested? Then share this with your friends as AI is coming to Jamaica...whether you like it or not.....

Here's the link to register:

Call: 754-9640, 325-2301

Monday, October 9, 2017

How the National Irish Potato Programme can test Vertical Farming and Robotics in Jamaica

 “The National Irish Potato Programme has earned its reputation as a success story for Jamaican agriculture and in addition to that, it has become a model for our import substitution strategy, which we are also now applying to other crops such as onion

Minister without Portfolio in MICAF, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson speaking about the National Irish Potato Programme

Potatoes are set to get their far share of attention from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

This as the MICAF (Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries) has decided to spend $50 million on the National Irish Potato Programme as reported in the article “$50M Provided For National Irish Potato Programme”, published August 26, 2017 By Tashion Hewitt Stennett, The Jamaica Information Service.

Google Logo

The announcement was made on August 24 2017 by Minister without Portfolio in MICAF, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, at a national Irish potato stakeholders’ seminar at the National Irrigation Commission research station in Hounslow, St. Elizabeth.

 The aim is to provide money for pesticides and fertilizers to increase productivity by 11 per cent (equating to 17 tonnes per hectare and thus make Jamaica self-sufficient in our production of potatoes. Several government agencies, Private Sector companies and farm associations are already supporting the National Irish Potato Programme:

1.      PROPEL (Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages)
2.      Newport-Fersan
3.      H & L Agro
4.      POPA (Potato and Onion Producers Association)
5.      RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority)

This $50 million is the first part of a $1.6 billion set aside for the National Irish Potato Programme to provide crop care and productivity support. Already the National Irish Potato Programme has achieved 99% sufficiency rate in local table potato production; so importation of potatoes may soon be curtailed.

National Irish Potato Programme - Potential testbed for Vertical Farming and Robotics in Jamaica

The National Irish Potato Programme can potentially become a model for other crops such as Onions, which already has an Onion Development Programme as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Onion Development Programme by Agriculture Ministry hints at Drought Resistant Crops in the Future”.

The National Irish Potato Programme will also strengthen contracts with farmers and establish training programs with 20 farm tours for farmers not involved in the training exercise. Cayman is already set to receive local Irish potatoes via a pre-clearance arrangement, so the farmers already have a set export market.

Global warming may mean Vertical Farming may be the future that attracts a younger generation into Farming as predicted in my blog article entitled “RADA says more young Jamaicans pursuing Farming - Agricultural Towers and Robotics”.

Jamaican farmers need to adapt their agricultural practices to meet this uncertain climate-change future.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why Tullow Oil switching to 3D seismic surveys as Oil discovery is imminent

Looks like an offshore Oilfield discovery may be on the horizon.

This as Tullow Oil has shifted from a 2D to a 3D seismic surveys as noted in the article “Search For Oil In Jamaican Waters Intensifies”, published Thursday October 5, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

This announcement was made by Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley during the official opening of the inaugural Natural Gas Conference in New Kingston on Wednesday October 4, 2017.

Tullow Oil has certainly made a lot of progress since discovering signs of oil in 10 of the 11 onshore and offshore wells drilled in Jamaica as announced in early February 2017 as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Tullow Oil’s live Oil seep means Jamaica an Oil Producing Nation in 2017”.

This may signal to other oil exploration companies that oil may be in Jamaica. It may thus make them more willing to pay the Jamaican government to explore the additional 20 offshore blocks. Also, expect a major Oilfield discovery in 2018.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How Digicel and Wysdom AI will handle BackOffice as AI prepare to take over 24-7 Customer Care

“We are still in the testing phase but customers the world over are demanding these services. Our plan is to ensure the new AI technology will follow the MyDigicel app in having wide scale availability across all Digicel markets. We are in the pilot phase now and will only roll out more widely when we are sure that our customers will get the right experience”

Digicel regional communications manager Elon Parkinson, speaking about the use of AI to handle Social Media and IM (Instant Messaging) queries

Digicel is taking that leap toward introducing singularity in Jamaica...and in the process potentially eliminating back office work in Call centers.

This as the Digicel Group is testing AI (Artificial Intelligence) to handle Social Media and Instant Messenger queries as reported in “Digicel Group Testing AI For Customer Chatline And Social Media”, Published Sunday October 1, 2017 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner

Google Logo

Powered by Canadian company Wysdom AI, this AI will allow customers to resolve text queries themselves, freeing up Digicel Customer Care agent to do other tasks. Digicel already uses an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system similar to that used by FLOW Jamaica.

This is nothing new really, just a Natural Language and Text interaction upgrade of IVR.  Digicel has been using IVR technology for some time; this Wisdom AI is just text based.

It will make it easier for customers to self-serve, very similar to the MyDigicel app, which allows balance checks and top-ups as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “AppSeeker Launched on DL810 and DL1000 and MyDigicel on Apple iTunes Store”.

For a comparison, FLOW Call Center Agents also work with IVR, as we fondly call Ivy, as our version albeit having a male voice has a female characteristic. 

It's not a true AI, but rather a menu-driven expert system that is capable of answering queries via your keypad as described in my blog article entitled “Jamaica Computer Society and Ministry of S.E.T. fears AI will eliminate Call Center Jobs in 2021”.

Digicel plans to roll out their Wysdom AI in a pilot phase all 31 countries, who will experience quicker text responses in a system that's similar to Facebook's AI as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “Facebook 11,000 army chatbots with buttons as AI need Common Sense”.

So who exactly is Wysdom AI?

Wysdom AI and Digicel - Eliminating Backoffice and Overnight workers for truly 24/7 customer care

Wysdom platform uses an AI to respond to customer queries using NL (Natural Language) communications on Social Media and IM channels such as Facebook Messenger.

Google Logo

By making Telecoms more self-serve via an AI, it'll mean truly 24/7 customer care as pointed out by Digicel's chief digital officer Hernan Ozon, quote: “Digicel has a proud history of democratising communication in the regions we serve. With Wysdom, we have the tools to provide our customers with options in how they receive digital care, wherever and whenever they need it”.

According to a source of mine within Digicel, they also plan to integrate the Wysdom AI into their online webchat as well as their various apps such as the MyDigicel app. The Wysdom AI is capable of conversing in English, French, and Spanish and draws upon a database with 125,000 telecom-industry specific questions.

Google Logo

The AI understands queries with a 97.5% precision rate i.e. translation and delivering what is requested. Of those queries, 68% are answered, implying that this AI can actually pass for human as per the Turing Test as described in my blog article entitled “How Russian-Ukranian Researchers Eugene Goostman chatbot beat Natural Language Turing Test”.

The new system would not eliminate human interaction with customers....not at first. But with such a response rate, it might be better at achieving the KPI (Key Performance Indices) we human Call Center Workers find so hard to achieve. Thus AI can potentially replace other types of repetitive work as these video points out.

But that's obviously the plan as Digicel will still give you the choice of talking to a real persons as explained by Digicel regional communications manager Elon Parkinson, quote: “Of course, some customers will want to speak to a real person and they will continue to enjoy the convenience of reaching a live agent for support with the more complex questions and issues. Similar to the convenience of the MyDigicel app, the new technology is designed to give a helpful response to customers who make basic queries, especially outside working hours”.

So basically all the Backoffice workers who used to work on chat and email for Digicel will have to be reassigned.....ditto to the night shift people as Wysdom AI take over Digicel Jamaica.