My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: March 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018

University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry discovers microplastic in Bottled Water

Dear reader, what I'm about to publish is so disturbing, I might have to put out an alert for this. Not to mention thinking of making my own water as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to Make Distilled Water using a Solar Desalinator”.

Turns out that your favourite brands of bottled water may be contaminated with microplastic according to a study done by University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry as reported in the article “Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: report”, published March 15, 2018 by Kerry Sheridan, PhysOrg.

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Their research has been vetted and is considered accurate to quote lead researcher Andrew Mayes, from UEA's School of Chemistry: “We have been involved with independently reviewing the findings and methodology to ensure the study is robust and credible…. The results stack up”.

Representatives from the International Bottled Water Association, the asociation that represents the bottled water industry took issue with the findings, claiming that the research was not peer-reviewed and quote: “not based on sound science” and point out that, quote: “A recent scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Water Research in February 2018 concluded that no statistically relevant amount of microplastic can be found in water in single-use plastic bottles”.

They even threw in a bit of uncertainty on fact that if microplastic is present, it would have no known health effects to quote the International Bottled Water Association: “There is no scientific consensus on the potential health impacts of microplastic particles. The data on the topic is limited and conclusions differ dramatically from one study to another”.

So how did the researchers conduct their research?

University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry Bottled water Research - Microplastic exposed

The Researchers tested the water by staining it with the fluorescent Nile Red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

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They then did as chemical assay on the plastic discovered in these samples and realized that it was of the following types:

1.      Nylon
2.      Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
3.      Polypropylene

The researcher conducted a three months study and discovered that 93% of samples taken from the following top brands of bottled water have microplastic suspended in their water:

1.      Aqua
2.      Aquafina
3.      Bisleri
4.      Dasani
5.      Epura
6.      Evian
7.      Gerolsteiner
8.      Minalba
9.      Nestle Pure Life
10.  San Pellegrino
11.  Wahaha

They took their samples from some 250 bottles of water purchased in the following countries:

1.      Brazil
2.      China
3.      India
4.      Indonesia,
5.      Kenya
6.      Lebanon
7.      Mexico
8.      Thailand
9.      United States

These are basically the material used to make the bottled water, with Polypropylene being used to make bottle caps.

Dr. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia was quick to point out that the particles were not as small as expected and seem to have been produced during the manufacture of the bottle, quote: “In this study, 65 percent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibers. I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself.
It is coming from the cap. It is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water”.

In other words, the plastic bottles are not disintegrating and dissolving into the water, but have angular shapes when viewed under microscope, suggesting that they were mechanically cut, not gradually worn by chemical attack by the water. 

On average the concentration of the particles range from “zero to more than 10,000 likely plastic particles in a single bottle” as stated in their research paper or roughly 10.4 plastic particles per liter. Even smaller particles were more common, averaging about 325 per liter.

These irregularly shaped particles ranged from 100 micron (0.10 millimeter) in size and are thus microparticle. These are considerably smaller than microbeads found in bathing products such as soaps, gels and scrubs as noted in my blog article entitled “How US microbeads ban by 2017 means NEPA ban coming to protect Coral Reefs”. 

It is true that water is slightly negative, and bottle water, being almost ultrapure, can attack positively charged ions in the bottle, as this video explains:

But unless the water contains metallic ions this is unlikely. So clearly there were the result of the mechanical process involve in making plastic bottled.

So what does this mean for our health?

Microplastic and Human Health - Unknown side effects as we may just pass it out

For one, it means that I'll be drinking more Tap water as of now.

That's because it's safer as previous research by Orb Media has found plastic particles in tap water but in smaller amounts to quote Dr. Sherri Mason: “Tap water, by and large, is much safer than bottled water”.

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As for the effect on humans, this is unclear as no definitive studies have connected microplastic, being as most research has mainly being correlations and have not ruled out other external environmental factors as pointed out by Dr. Sherri Mason, quote: “There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism. We know that they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies”.

Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer for North America at Oceana, a marine advocacy group that was not involved in the research says that this is more evide3nce that we need to stop using plastic bottles, as the long term health risks are still unknown, quote: “We know plastics are building up in marine animals, and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day.
It's more urgent now than ever before to make plastic water bottles a thing of the past”.

Already the WHO (World Health Organization) has begun investigating this discovery of microplastics in bottled water as well as tap water and its potential health risks as noted in the article “WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water”, published Thursday 15 March 2018 by Graham Readfearn,  The Guardian. 

Then again, being as this plastic is undigestible by the human body, would we not pass it out in our stool, as no enzymes exist that can break it down?

I'd be a little more worried if this was nanoparticle sized particles, as those could effectively be nano-machines, as at that size they are basically high reactive nanoparticles that can react with enzymes and cheimcals and cause real harm.

Still more reason to invest in a water filter.....and drink piped water!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

How MIT MOF makes Moisture Farms for use in Space Travel possible

“The advancement we have achieved over our proof-of-concept demonstration last year is the testing of a small-scale prototype in desert conditions where we believe absorption-based water harvesting systems are most practical. In addition, we have made several design improvements which enabled operation at greatly improved efficiencies.

Sameer Rao, a post-doctoral research associate who worked on the project in an interview with Digital Trends.

MIT is at it again!!! This time they've developed the technology that makes the Moisture farms on Tatooine from Star Wars seem possible.

They've basically developed a MOF (metal-organic framework) that attract water molecules and condenses it as vapour as explained in the article “MIT’s latest invention pulls clean drinking water out of thin air”, published 23 March 2018 by Luke Dormehl, Digitaltrends.

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First a quick reminder of what a Moisture farm is and what life is on an automated farm run by droids.

The MOF is technology that MIT has developed will make it possible to extract water from the driest desert, making it survivable, if not habitable. The MIT Team consists of the following notables:

1.      MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang
2.      MIT postdoc  Sameer Rao
3.      Graduate student Hyunho Kim
4.      Research scientist Sungwoo Yang
5.      Research scientist Shankar Narayanan who is currently at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and alumnus Ari Umans SM ’15

The team reported their findings in the journal Science in a article that was co-authored by Berkeley graduate student Eugene Kapustin, project scientist Hiroyasu Furukawa, and professor of chemistry Omar Yaghi as noted in the article “Water, water everywhere … even in the air”, published April 14, 2017 by David Chandler, MIT News Office.

The MIT's team has been testing their tech in the dry air of Tempe, Arizona to provide more evidence that it truly can extract water from even the driest air.

So how does the MOF work to extract moisture from the air?

MIT and MOF Moisture Farming – Space Colonization Now within grasp

Indeed, harvesting water from the air is nothing new.

Fog harvesting is already done in Chile and Morocco but requires very moist air, with a relative humidity of 100 percent as this video explains.

Fog harvesting works in very limited regions. The alternative, which is to chill the air to its dew point, is called Dew Harvesting.

This is basically a refrigerator turned inside out and is energy intensive, as power has to be expended to keep the condenser plate cool. Worse, it need humidity levels as high as 50% to generate any significant amount of water and as such, is best done at night where the cooling equiptment can operate more efficiently as this video explains.

There are also “air wells” that are designed with special hydrophobic material that require no energy to collect water.

The MOF Method has none of these limitations and is completely passive as this video explains.

The researchers believe that a scaled-up version of their miniature MOF extraction system could output more than a quarter-liter of water per day per kilogram of MOF as predicted by Sameer Rao, a post-doctoral research associate who worked on the project, quote: “…By careful design and optimization, we developed a device which is well suited for operation in arid conditions and under negative dew points in which competing commercially mature technologies such as refrigeration-based dewing cycles are infeasible.”

Still, its cost might make it impractical for all but the driest of places on earth. But its application for Space Travel seems more feasible, making colonizing the solar system and the Asteroid belt possible.

Combined with extracting water from Urine as explained in my blog article entitled “University of Ghent Solar Powered Urine to Beer Converter can end African Water Crisis” it could be use to extract water from the living habitats to be set up on the Moon and Mars, making the recycling of water for drinking purposes possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How GraceKennedy Hi-Lo Upgrade heralds GK MPay Amazon-like Retail in Jamaica

One day in the future, shopping at Hi-Lo Store can be done online. But if you decide to go to a Hi-Lo Store, you may find the express line is a bit different!

GraceKennedy, not satisfied with their Hi-Lo Stores, have plans to introduce self-checkout machines as reported in the article “Self-checkout for Hi-Lo?” published Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Observer.
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GK Group CEO Don Wehby made this announcement at an investor briefing on Thursday 8th of March 2018.

GraceKennedy is predicting that with the right capital investment and training customer will like the idea of shopping online from a Hi-Lo Store by the end of 2018 as reported in my blog article entitled “How GraceKennedy Hi-Lo Online e-commerce features MPay and Courier delivery”. 

Already they've renovated the following locations:

1.      Hi-Lo Manor Park in 2014
2.      Hi-Lo Barbican in 2015
3.      Hi-Lo Liguanea and Montego Bay in 2016
4.      Portmore Pines Hi-Lo Food Store in 2017

The rest of their chain of 13 Hi-Lo stores islandwide will be renovated a cost of US$8 million, with Hi-Lo Cross Roads in Kingston and Hi-Lo Spanish Town to be completed in 2018.

So how does this tie in with their shopping online?

GraceKennedy and Hi-Lo Upgrades – Online Shopping with GK MPay using remittances

Clearly, they’re trying to become the Amazon of shopping in Jamaica.

With an online website for their renovated stores, GraceKennedy may be making it possible for Jamaicans to call their relatives abroad and have them purchase groceries and delivered to their front door.

Alternatively, you can receive your remittances in your Bank Account from Western Union as explained in my blog article entitled “How Western Union Cash to Bank Program may boost GK MPay Push if BOJ makes it Mandatory”. 

Then you can use MPay to purchase your groceries and have them delivered to your home.
This may suit their clever long term to encourage more use of their GK MPay platform as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to get Jamaicans to use Quisk, GK MPay for more than just Phone Credit”.

Combined with a push towards cryptocurency as predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “GraceKennedy’s Innovation Lab planning to launch a GK MPay cryptocurrency” this will definately be a win-win for customers and GraceKennedy.

How Diehl Metering Prepaid Water meters for NWC enables Prepaid Water and Rainwater Harvesting

Finally some more details on the Digital Water Meters to be installed at the homes of NWC customers.

The contractor is Diehl Metering and they'll initially be installing some 9600 with more later as reported in the article “NWC To Get 9,600 Smart Metres”, Published Tuesday March 6, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.
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The US$43.9 million contract will see Diehl Metering replacing mechanical water meters with Digital Water Meters as shown below.

These are the same Prepaid Digital Water Meters I’d mentioned in a previous blog article  entitled “How NWC Prepaid Water means Digital Water Meters, Rainwater Harvesting Legislation on the horizon”.

A total of 450,000 meters are being provided under this contract with Diehl Metering. The implementation of the smart water infrastructure technology is expected to be completed by the NWC and Diehl Metering in 5 years time.

So what does this mean for NWC Customers?

NWC US$43.9 million contract Diehl Metering - Prepaid Water meters heralds Rainwater Harvesting boom

These Digital Water Meters not only have a digital display but use non-mechanical electronic circuits in a flow meter to determine water flow based on electric Induction or ultrasound in the case of the Diehl Metering Digital Water Meter.

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To better understand a Digital Water Meter, here is how the previous Mechanical Water Meter technology works as explained in a video.

Now here is how the Diehl Metering Digital Water Meter works as explained in the video below.

Consequently, with no moving parts, they are more efficient and are the equivalent of the smart Digital meters that JPS Co is slowly rolling out as pointed out my blog article entitled “JPS Co New Digital Meters are all Smart Meters - Winsome Callum's A Simple Twist of Fate”. 

And yes, expect to see increases in your water bill, especially if you have leaks in your house!!!! These Prepaid Digital Water Meters are more accurate, making a dripping faucet or a broken pipe cost you thousands of dollar as pointed out in this video.

So fellow Jamaicans, If I were you, I'd start investing in a Black tank and a rainwater capturing system before Rainwater Harvesting starts to be billed as well as predicted in my blog article entitled “How NWC Prepaid Water means Digital Water Meters, Rainwater Harvesting Legislation on the horizon”.

Rainwater harvesting is the equivalent of what Solar Power is to electricity; a means of saving on the use of a utility that is putting in place infrastructure to charge you for every Watt....or Drop...of their Prepaid Water service!!

Here's the link

Saturday, March 17, 2018

How Microsoft, Google Android P and Apple iOS HEIC supports Photographers with Blockchain

As Microsoft gets ready to launch a new versions of Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 2019 in June 2018 as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Microsoft Office 2019 can use Cloud Registration to stop Piracy”, compression may be the flavour of the year.

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The tech in question is the use of HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) as reported in “Windows embraces new space-squeezing photo format”, published March 16 2018 by Stephen Shankland, CNET News.

Based on HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) used in video compressions, HEIF, which when using HEVC is called HEIC (High Efficiency Image Compression), reduces files sizes of a typical JPEG (Joint Pictures Expert Group) image by as much as 50% without loss in quality!!!

Microsoft and HEIC - Photographer to benefit from included Blockchain support

Even more stunning, it can act as a compression format, enableing smaller versions of the following photo effects:

1.      Live photos
2.      Bursts of photos
3.      3D scene data useful for special effects
4.      Audio

Still complex requirements for patent royalty payments may prevent this from becoming widely adopted, even though it's already baked into Apple's iOS from 2017 and Google's Android P launched just this month. What makes HEIC attractive to photographers is that it makes image sharing difficult, due to its use of blockchain.

This makes images harder to steal and renders images uneditable and unviewable once it can be confirmed that you did not give permission for it to be used. Any tech that’ll make data plans last longer is always welcome. But I suspect this may find use among photographers seeking to profit from their images.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

How Growth Tech Limited and the JUTC are launching Free Wi-Fi by June 2018

“This is a revolutionary partnership with the JUTC to provide free Wi-Fi access to passengers. Our vision is to eventually see data services in Jamaica become like oxygen, available to everyone, everywhere. In a few months, a sizable number of Jamaicans will have a new avenue to access connectivity - email, browsing, and messaging - facilitating a more productive and enjoyable commute”

Growth Tech's Chief Executive Officer Neil Lawrence, speaking at the contract-signing ceremony at the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology in St Andrew.

Looks like I might soon have another reason to take the JUTC Bus again!

Growth Tech Limited has signed a partnership deal with the JUTC (Jamaica Urban Transit Company) to provide Wi-Fi connectivity on approximately 450 buses as reported in the article “JUTC Passengers To Enjoy Free Wi-Fi Service”, published Thursday March 8, 2018 by Jason Cross, The Jamaica Gleaner. 

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The implementation is slated to start in June 2018 in the KMTR (Kingston Metropolitan Area) with other JUTC buses being upgraded by December 2018.

So how does Growth Tech plan to make money from this venture if the Wi-Fi service is free?

Growth Tech Limited and the JUTC - Free Wi-Fi with a sprinkling of local Advertising

The answer is advertising!

Commuters may have to install an app to access the free W-Fi and thus be bombarded with a lot of local ads as pointed out by Growth Tech's Chief Executive Officer Neil Lawrence, quote: “We are a business, so there is an opportunity for us to earn. We will be selling ads”.

This is not much different from the model Red Stripe uses to promote Beer-Fi, which is advertising based free Wi-Fi at Bars that sell their brewed products as noted in my blog article entitled “How Red Stripe Beer-Fi gives Bar Patrons Free Wi-Fi Internet”. 

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Growth Tech Wi-Fi Hotspots may also be solar powered and can handle up to 100 devices. Most likely they'll be using Digicel 4G Network to provide backhaul to their Network as was the plan back in September 2016 as noted in my blog article entitled “Why JUTC Wi-Fi by September 2016 means Digicel Mobile Money launch imminent”. 

Growth Tech will remotely monitor their Wi-Fi Hotspots which have been tested to withstand the day to day commute on Jamaica's pothole ridden roads.

As for porn and other content, forget about it. The usage will be monitored and abusive behavior such as streaming may be banned; this may just simply be free Wi-Fi for checking social media and Whatsapp calling.

They may even have login restrictions similar to the USF (Universal Service Funds) CAP (Community Access Points) located at various Parks and Public places as noted in my blog article entitled “How Free Wi-Fi and Smart City upgrade coming to New Kingston in Q3 2017”. 

The JUTC benefits as more Jamaicans will ride the Bus just to get the free Wi-Fi, increasing their revenue as pointed out by JUTC's Managing Director Paul Abrahams quote: “We are looking for this initiative to increase ridership significantly, and that is where our interest is, and, possibly, generating revenue from advertising”.

So with the JUTC going towards LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) and eventually Hybrid Gas-Electric Buses by 2020 as predicted in my blog article entitled “Why JUTC going Hybrid indicates removal of 60% import duty on Electric Vehicles”, the future is looking very interesting for commuters of the JUTC.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

How Jamaicans can setup and activate ReadyTV Box

As many Jamaicans may have heard, ReadyTV is making plans to expand islandwide in June 2018, just in time for Summer as noted in my Geezam blog entitled “How ReadyTV will go National in June 2018 to reach Montego Bay and Manchester”. 

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With a single tower in Coopers Hill, St Andrew, they’ve managed to supply service to the following parishes:

1.      Kingston
2.      St Catherine
3.      Clarendon
4.      St Ann
5.      Parts of St Mary
6.      Hills of Manchester

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That's 35% of Jamaica with two (2) more transmitters in the following areas:

1.      Flower Hill, St James
2.      Huntley tower in Manchester

This would extend their reach to the Western and central part of Jamaica to cover the following parishes:

1.      St Ann
2.      Clarendon
3.      Trelawny
4.      St Elizabeth

Their prepaid cable subscription model is also a part of the attraction, with 10 free digital cable channels as I'd pointed out in my Geezam Wars blog article entitled “ReadyTV’s prepaid cable TV comes with 10 free digital TV channels 

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So how does their service work?

How ReadyTV Service Works - The Installation

ReadyTV's Technicians come to your home and based on your location, they determine if you can get coverage from their tower. Three options exist as listed in the table below:

Delivery Method
Additional Information
Home Delivery
Within 24 hours
Kingston, Portmore & Spanish Town
$900. The cost of the box is not included.
$1800 in other areas.
Home Delivery & Installation
48 hours
Kingston, Portmore & Spanish Town
$2500. The cost of the box and outdoor antenna is not included. 
$4000 in other areas within 48 hours.
Installation Service Only
4 hours (Premium Service)
Premium service in Kingston, Portmore & Spanish Town
$4000 in 4 hours $2500 within 24 hours
 $3500 for Standard Installation for other areas

The $4,000 setup cost is far cheaper than any cable company on the market and you get 10 free channels; eight local and two overseas. While your Prepaid TV Starter Pack includes a basic indoor antenna to help get you started, and outdoor antenna to optimize your viewing experience is highly recommended. 

An outdoor antenna will overcome most signal interference issues you might encounter, including:

1.      Distance from our broadcast tower
2.      Obstructed lines of sight
3.      Hilly terrains
4.      Buildings or environmental factors

There are many types of powered and unpowered UHF outdoor antennas that will work with your digital box. Always check the manufacturer’s label to ensure the antenna covers the UHF 470-862MHz frequency range.  

Coverage is not a guarantee from their one Tower in Cooper's Hill so call 1-888-429-5RTV (788) to find out if we have coverage in your area.

So now on to the packages!!!!

How ReadyTV Service Works - The Packages

Subscribers have a choice of one of five (5) packages of 33 channels each:

1.      ReadySTART
2.      ReadySET
3.      ReadyGo
4.      ReadyWIN
5.      ReadyMax

Please see the ReadyTV brochure for more details on the Packages and their codes.

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The cost of packages depends on how long the subscriber wishes to enjoy watching these packages and how many channels they wish to have:

1.      $150 per day
2.      $900 per week
3.      $2,700 per month

Please see the ReadyTV brochure for more details on the channel offering for the different packages.

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They purchase their packages using ReadyCredit Scratchcards/e-vouchers, which is denominated in a manner similar to Prepaid Phone Card used by Telecom Providers.

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These ReadyCredit Scratchcards/e-cards are denominated in a manner similar to Prepaid Phone Card used by Telecom Providers:

1.      $100
2.      $200
3.      $500

They also purchase ReadyCredit Scratchcards/e-vouchers from some local merchants who help to sell their prepaid card use to log on to the services listed out in my Geezam blog article entitled “ReadyTV garners support from Local Merchants to reach 800000 subscribers”.

How ReadyTV Service Works - Registering your ReadyTV Box

After Installation, setting up the ReadyTV box is also very simple as the video shows:

So too is as registering it and adding on the prepaid service as can be seen from this Twitter post on their ReadyTV Twitter page.

To register follow the simple steps:

1.      Find the Box ID# on the base of your Digital Box
2.      Send text message to REGISTER to 822-4788 in the format *FirstName*LastName*BOXID#1
3.      You will receive a text message with you User ID

So how do you buy service on ReadyTV?

How ReadyTV Service Works - Topping up, Buying Service and Checking Balance

Topping up with ReadyCredit is very simple:

1.      Use the Scratchcard or E-voucher purchased at one of several ReadyTV Sales Location to Top Up your account.
2.      Dial 822-4788 (4RTV) on your smartphone
3.      Enter the following code; *USER ID*16 DIGIT PIN#1
4.      Read the text message with your purchase confirmation and remaining credit balance
5.      Allow up to 30 minutes for purchased channels to be authorized

You can also check you balances using the following code:

1.      Dial 822-4788 (4RTV) on your smartphone
2.      Enter *USERID*Bal#1 to see your balance

Good to note that your “USER ID” is the four digit number you will receive upon registering your box. You'll also receive a text with Top Up approval and credit balance and codes available to buy channel packages.

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Folks, with ReadyTV going National in June 2018, expect more news from the Geezam blog as well as on this blog as we'll be testing out their product and doing a video von their service

Here's how to get in contact with ReadyTV:

Juven Montague-Anderson
Marketing Manager
Telephone: 549-6017, 704-2426
Suite 13-15, The Palms Plaza,
23 West Trade Way,
Portmore , St. Catherine, Jamaica.