My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: February 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

How Jamaica plans to fight Dengue with Sterilized male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

“We are projecting to start releasing by March 2020. We have about a million in the lab. If you go there now, you would witness the mosquitoes going through the processes. We keep them in cages and feed them on human blood from the Blood Bank and other blood as well.”

Sherine Huntley Jones, head of the Vector Control Programme within the Ministry of Health

There have also been a number of suspected deaths from the illness. Thus the Government of Jamaica has decided to pull out the equivalent of a Neutron Bomb.

They've decided to release sterile mosquitoes to halt the reproduction of the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carries and spreads the disease as reported in the article “Gov’t To Release Sterile Mosquitoes To Combat Dengue”, Published Wednesday February 20, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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The statistics so far looks grim. As of February 8, there were have been:

1.      1,166 suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases since the start of the year
2.      1,023 suspected, presumed or confirmed dengue cases in 2018

So come 2020, the Government of Jamaica will release 500,000 sterile male mosquitoes into the environment per week. The idea is that will mate with the female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes responsible for spreading the deadly dengue virus and produce stillborn eggs that never hatch.

So how is this being done?

How male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are sterilized

Sterilize Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is basically making it so that their reproductive organs cannot fertilize the female mosquitoes.

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According to Sherine Huntley Jones, head of the Vector Control Programme within the Ministry of Health, there are three (3) ways to sterlize the mosquitoes:

1.      Gene manipulation
2.      Irradiation
3.      Wolbachia Bacteria

Jamaica has chosen the Irradiation, as it is more suited to quick mass production of 500,000 sterile male mosquitoes per week. “Jamaica is using the radiation methodology. At the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston, we are into mass production of mosquitoes. We are now standardising our procedure for mass growing, with the intention of rearing enough males so we can sterilize and release them,” said Sherine Huntley Jones, head of the Vector Control Programme within the Ministry of Health.

This makes it more like a factory production line where batches of them can be made and quality control procedures can be performed to makes sure they are all sterile, as pointed out by Sherine Huntley Jones, quote: “Jamaica is using the radiation methodology. At the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston, we are into mass production of mosquitoes. We are now standardising our procedure for mass growing, with the intention of rearing enough males so we can sterilize and release them.”

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With a million already being processed for sterilization, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is counting on them to do a better job than fogging. Clearly they cannot keep using the same approach, as it is not working, as pointed out by Minister Tufton, quote: “We cannot engage the same approach to tackling and controlling the mosquito population, like fogging and applying chemical to water. We visited Cayman and looked at their mosquito-control centre. They told us the mosquitoes used to literally bite cattle till death. Mosquitoes are not so much of a nuisance [there] anymore”.

So are there any potential hazards to the environment?

 Sterile Mosquitoes and Reproduction - Females can potentially mutate

Sherine Huntley Jones was speaking with The Gleaner at the Spanish Court Hotel, Valencia, during a seminar titled ‘Mosquito-Borne Diseases: Dengue Fever Impact on the Workforce and Communities’.

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The event, put on by the Manpower and Maintenance Services Limited and held in collaboration with the Caribbean Health Management Consultants Ltd and H&L Agro, was fairly well attended.

Good to note here that it is the females that bite and transmute; males merely fertilize the females, hence the reason why they are being targeted. “Males do not transmit disease. Males do not bite. When you hear we are releasing mosquitoes, do not panic! The females are the ones that bite. They need the blood to develop eggs. So we will release the males with view of them mating with wild females to reduce the population,” Jones pointed out.

Albeit there is no danger as it related to irradiated mosquitoes as pointed out in the article Scientist Says Nothing To Fear From Release Of Sterile Mosquitoes, Published Wednesday February 20, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner. 

But here is the problem.

Mosquitoes and Parthenogenesis – Mutations possible to adapt to decline in males

The female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is not the only mosquito in town; a new breed is already in the island as pointed out by Minister Tufton, quote: “So what we do is go out, collect samples, breed them, and dissect them. Through the unit, we have discovered that there is a new species of mosquito in Jamaica, which we never knew of before. So we have to apply different methods to control it”.

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Albeit different breeds of mosquitoes cannot interbreed, it might be able to interbreed with the sterile males and reproduce. This is because for some insects, they can reproduce asexually, needing only the stimulation of sexual contact to reproduce i.e. male courtship stimulates them.

This method of reproduction is called parthogenesis and is common among Greenflies, stick insects, aphids, water fleas, scorpions, termites and honey bees (Folden, 2018). Albeit it has not been seen in mosquitoes, scientists are yet explain how other insect and animals evolved to develope this trait.

The examples listed are all capable of reproducing without males, using parthenogenesis. In the case of the honey bee, the use of parthenogenesis has evolutionary benefits, as they elect to use parthenogenesis when the local population requires more workers, or more queens.

The possibility exists that millions of years ago, during their evolution, the female gender of these insects and animals that are capable of parthenogenesis developed this trait due to a response in a drop in their male sex partners. Albeit mosquitoes have never faced this problem as honeybees doe, being as they are not communal creatures, they can potentially evolve this capability due to deliberate generic mutation if their reproductive system senses a threat to their continued existence.

Thus, albeit unlikely, the mosquitoes over time, may evolve a mechanism to basically switch from sexual to asexual reproduction and thus thwart irradiation and other threats to their existence.

Being as they reproduce so fast and the Aedes aegypti have a live cycle of 1.5 to 3 and produce on average 100 to 200 eggs per batch (Dengue virus Net, 2019), this evolutionary adjustment may occur rapidly, allowing them to adapt possible in less than 1000 or iterations or life cycles.

Thus by 2025, they may be back at it again, this time reproducing via parthenogenesis, having recovered from the initial shock of their numbers being depleted by irradiation. Such insects, once they interact with each other, can be induced to fertilize their eggs without male gamete.

If the females adapted to irradiation in this way, by 2025 they could continue to reproduce irregardless, producing females that can self-fertilize via parthenogenesis and pass on this trait to their young.

1.      Dengue virus Net. (2019). Retrieved from 

2.      Folden, S. (2018). ANIMALS THAT DON'T HAVE A MALE FOR REPRODUCTION. Retrieved from

Friday, February 22, 2019

How Samsung removing Plastic Packaging can Spur Jamaican Organic Waste Recycling

“This is not the first move into sustainable packaging the company has made; Samsung has been introducing environmentally friendly packaging to its notebook computer line since 2018. Going forward, Samsung looks to expand this ‘eco-conscious packaging’ initiative into its wider product lines, including its mobile devices, wearables, TVs, refrigerators and other home appliance products,”

Samsung in a news release declaring that they are banning plastic packaging. 

Plastic Bags are a problem. So too is plastic packaging...and at least one company is taking action

Samsung Electronics is implementing sustainable packaging practices for its products to reduce plastic consumption and waste as reported in the article “Samsung Electronics Adopts New Product Packaging Policy, Steps Up Commitment To Sustainability”, published Thursday February 14, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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Samsung has already begun the switch to more environmentally-friendly packaging since 2019 for all products in their portfolio, as pointed out by Samsung in their Press Release, quote: “Additionally, in order to further support full-cycle sustainability, Samsung has committed to only use sustainable forest management-certified paper materials in its packaging and manuals by 2020”.

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Samsung will replace plastic with the following alternatives:

1.      Moulded pulp trays
2.      Recycled paper containers
3.      Recycled plastic and bio-based bags
4.      Fossil fuel-free materials like starch for bags

So why is this happening?

Samsung and Plastic Packaging - Imported products still packaged in Styrofoam

This is very good to hear as according to information out of the United Nations, since the 1950s:

1.      8 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year
2.      8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced
3.      1% of that figure comes from renewable, non-fossil fuel-based resources

Thus countries like Jamaica banning single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam is a response to the growing threat of plastic to our Environment and sectors that are dependent on the environment, such as the Tourism Sector as noted in my blog article entitled “How the Jamaican Plastic Ban is creating Entrepreneurs but Styrofoam Alternatives needed”.

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But as I had pointed out in that article, a lot of single-use plastic and Styrofoam is still coming into Jamaica in the form of imported products that are packaged using these plastics. Jamaica has no power to ban them, so they have to act on conscience.

So what caused Samsung to make this announcement?

Samsung and the EU - Largest market means Organic packaging in demand

Samsung is clearly patterning their moves after the European Union.

Earlier in October 2018, they had declared that they would also be banning Single-use plastic within their country by 2021 as reported in the article “Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament”, published 24 October 2018, BBC.

The European Union happens to be their biggest customer outside of the US of A. For them, this is not just out of concern over the environment, but out of fear of their products being banned from this large developing market that seems to like their products, especially the S9 that I had recently test driven as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands on –Matryoshka doll in a Mercedes 300SL”.

In their press Release, Samsung also said, “This commitment to sustainable practices in product packaging is part of a wider series of midterm initiatives put in place by Samsung to transform the way the company manages its resources.”

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Whatever their motivation, this may also be good for Jamaica as well, as we can get into the making some of these alternative packaging solutions.

Moulded pulp is a fusion material that uses no wood fibres. It incorporates waste by-products such as sugar cane residue, basically making it possible to recycle everything from wood waste cuttings and sugar cane trash or bagasse and even paper to make packaging....

Jamaica now needs to gear up for another new initiative - collecting and recycling paper to make packaging!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Alternatives to Whatsapp for Jamaicans as Facebook Messenger, Instagram to merge soon

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plan to make WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram communicate seamlessly as reported in “Facebook to merge WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram messaging”, published JANUARY 25, 2019 by Queenie Wong and Lori Grunin, CNET.

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While Whatsapp is ad-free and has E2EE (End to End Encryption), Facebook Messenger and Instagram are not encrypted.

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Knowing Facebook, this is just another way to add data to their social Graph and sell it to Third party Advertising companies.

Or worse, with the CIA, the FBI or even GCHQ as predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger may be sharing E2EE Keys with the NSA”.

So are there alternatives to Whatsapp?

Alternatives to Facebook merging WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram

Actually there are three (3) alternatives as laid out in the article “3 WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger alternatives”, published February 15 2019, by Jason Cipriani, CNET:

1.      Signal
2.      Telegram
3.      Apple iMessage

The previous 2 work on Android devices.  All these options sport E2EE and come with VoIP calling.

However Apple iMessage is great once you have an Apple device. At least you get FaceTime and iMessages from a close group, itself a great security feature.

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Telegram is especially handy, offering encrypted chats with self-destructing messages. Of the two, it has the same look and feel like Whastapp, making users feel quite at home. It is both app and browser based and its messaging feature, called Secret Chats, allows the sender of a message to enable and disable E2EE for each conversation.

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Signal is possibly the simplest and best. It is renowned for its E2EE, which is applied by default on all conversations. And yes, it was indeed endorsed by Edward Snowden.

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Still, I wouldn't mind if all of these apps could make calls to landline as opined in my Geezam blog article entitled “Microsoft, Signal E2EE needs Free Local, International Mobile and Landline Calling”.

So, are you ready to jump ship?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How Jamaicans can watch Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2019

There’s just a day to go until GalaxyUNPACKED 2019!

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The event takes place on February 20th in San Francisco and will introduce the world to the newest additions to the Galaxy family, revealing an exciting future for the smartphone as Samsung celebrates 10 years of leadership in mobile innovation.

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If you can’t make it to the event in person, don’t worry! You can still watch the action unfold live from the comfort of your own home at 11 a.m. PST via any of the links detailed below.

Samsung Galaxy UNPACKED 2019 - Samsung, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube

The Samsung Galaxy Unpacked2019 celebrates a decade since the launch of the first Galaxy and will present a new device designed to satisfy today’s Smartphone market, so consumers can do more of what they love. Here is the link for the YouTube Channel to watch:

Tune in on Facebook
Visit Samsung Global’s Facebook page when the event begins.

Tune in on Twitter

Visit Galaxy Unpacked's Twitter page when the event begins.

Don’t forget to follow all the latest news about the Galaxy lineup on the Samsung Newsroom Galaxy page.  Visit Samsung Newsroom when the event begins.

Friday, February 15, 2019

How smartphone Apps collect MAC address, IMEI and Android ID to sell to Advertisers

A new day is coming for users of Social Media and companies that profit from our data.

California has plans to implement European-style privacy law that would allow customer to know what Social Media comapneis and Websites know about them a noted in the article “California Governor Wants Users To Profit From Online Data”, Published Thursday February 14, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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The coming law would require that companies:

1.      Tell customers upon request what personal data they have collected and why
2.      Which categories of third parties have received it
3.      Allow consumers to delete their information and not sell it

But...what if you wanted a slice of the action? After all, those free social media services are paid for by these Silicon Valley tech giants collecting your why can you not get a cut of the profit?

Apps and device signatures - Third party advertisers making billions from your data

This seems to be the arguement of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is seeking to do just that as noted in his first State of the State speech Tuesday January 12th 2019, quote: “Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetising our personal data have a duty to protect it...... California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that send targeted ads to users. This data is often collected from apps that collect the data even when you opt out of their advertising and access to your Smartphone as noted in “These Android apps have been tracking you, even when you say stop”, published February 14 2019 by Laura Hautala, CNET.

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According to research from the International Computer Science Institute, some 17,000 Android apps are collecting your Smartphone’s unique device signatures:

1.      MAC address
2.      IMEI
3.      Android ID

This data allows these apps to create a permanent record of the activity on your device. They can then resell this data to third party advertisers who can continuously send you advertising. By right, they are only allowed by Google to use the Advertising ID assigned to developers for their apps.

But according to research from the International Computer Science Institute, less than 30% of these 17,000 Android apps surveyed follow Google's best practices for developers.

You can clear your Advertising ID in much the same way you can clear browser cookies as explained in my blog article entitled “How to Delete Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera browser history on an iPhone”. 

Clearing this Advertising ID could stop advertisers from building up data about you over time. But you can't reset other identifiers, like the MAC address and IMEI.

How smartphone data is used by Advertisers - MAC address, IMEI and Android ID track you forever

The MAC (media access control) address is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller (NIC) in your Smartphone.

It is used for communications at the data link layer of a network segment for internet connections with devices such as Wi-Fi routers. MAC addresses are used as a network address for most IEEE 802 network technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

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The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15- or 17-digit code that uniquely identifies mobile phone sets. The IMEI code can enable a GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service) network to block a stolen phone from initiating calls. 

The Android ID can be reset, but only if you run a factory reset of your device to erase data before you resell a Smartphone as described in my blog article entitled “How to erase personal information from your Android smartphone before selling”.

If this is even a bit true, advertising networks can send you advertising as long as you have the phone. So ultimately something has to give; either you accept giving up your privacy for free services while Silicon Valley makes billions from studying your personal data or they share the profits with the “Free” services have to be financed one way or the other.

Quitting your Smartphone may be good for you in the long run to combat Smartphone addiction as explained in my blog article entitled “How to deal with Smartphone Addiction as Wearables trend indicates it is getting worse”.....but I doubt you'll be doing that anytime soon....

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Why the 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-In Hybrid heralds Electric and Hybrids by 2030

Electric Vehicles are on the horizon. Jamaica will soon have to start changing over to all-Electric vehicles or Hybrids, as the world's automakers are shifting gears come 2030.

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This was the sentiment expressed at the launch of the 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman by ATL Automotive Group on Friday February 7th 2019. The Plug-In Hybrid Countryman was on display at their showroom along Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew.

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Among the speakers at the event were:

1.      Dionne Nugent, senior vice president of business development of Jamaica Public Service
2.      Sloane Jackson, ATL Automotive’s head of business for BMW and Mini
3.      Jason Robinson, CEO of SolarBuzz
4.      Eleanor Jones, managing director and consulting principal of Environmental Solutions Limited and chairperson of the Environment Committee of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.

So what so special about the Plug-In Hybrid Mini Cooper Countryman? Does this mean that other All-Electric or Hybrid vehicles are on the horizon?

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman - Regenerative charging means on Eco Mode is king

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman is able to run on either its Li-Ion Batteries or gasoline or use both.

The 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman combines a 3 cylinder twin turbo gasoline Engine with a synchronous electric motor. Combined, that's a total power output of 224 horsepower or 165 kW.

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If the synchronous electric motor and its Li-Ion Battery pack weren't present, you would only have 134 horsepower or 100 kW of power, which means that the Battery pack add an additional 90 horsepower or 65 kW or power.

The work is divided between the two power sources, with the Gasoline engine running the front wheels and the synchronous electric motor running the rear wheels.  Initially, when you move off, you're running on the electric motors, and then a balance between the gasoline Engine and the synchronous electric motor is established, with the Mini Cooper Countryman shifting more to the gasoline the faster you go.

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The 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman has three modes of operation:

1.      Max eDrive Mode - Uses the least amount of Battery power
2.      Auto eDrive Mode - Uses the most efficient mixture of gasoline Engine and the synchronous electric motor
3.      Save Mode - Uses Regenerative Braking to trickle charge the Li-Ion Battery

The Mini Cooper Countryman comes with regenerative charging, meaning as it runs on gasoline only at higher speeds, it trickle charges the battery. Albeit slowly, if you are someone who likes to travel on the highways a lot, you may notice that the battery, which at low speed can manage 42 kilometres, will hardly need to be recharged.

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This is great if you live in the city, as you can use that battery power for your work commute and back and will last you for at least two weeks if your workplace is super close. You can even carry a portable solar charger to give it a trickle charge when you have it parked in the sun.

With fuel consumption of 2.3-2.1 litres per 100 kilometers and carbon dioxide emissions figure of 52-49 grams per kilometre, you'll soon realize that you can stop spending on gasoline for the entire month!

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman - Savings in gasoline are worth it

Mini Cooper Countryman accounts for 85% of Mini sales in Jamaica over the last three years. Its price is not for everyone…..but the technology adoption is a must as you will see.

But if you care about the environment and saving on the use of gasoline, then this may be the vehicle for you as pointed out by Sloane Jackson, ATL Automotive’s head of business for BMW and Mini: “…..for the environment, it helps us in cutting down the use of fossil fuels, by cutting down the end product, which is carbon monoxide”.

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But there is the added plus of regenerative charging as pointed out by Jackson, quote: “However, the car can also charge itself, so if you are in petrol mode and you want to get back some charge on the battery, there is a way to actually have the battery charged by the car while driving and then you can go right back into petrol mode”.

In numbers it works out like this for a typical regular vehicle e.g. Toyota Corolla:

1.      JA$3,000 per week to top up with gasoline with a regular vehicle
2.      JA$156000 per year to top up with gasoline with a regular vehicle

With the Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-in Hybrid, the costs work out as follows:

1.      JA$3,000 to $4,000 per month on electricity to charge
2.      JA$48,000 per year on electricity to charge
3.      JA$3,000 per month to top up with gasoline
4.      JA$36000 per year to top up with gasoline

That works out to be JA$84000, thanks to the reduction in the need to use gasoline, as most of the time you will be driving at low speed to conserve on gasoline and get the most out of the synchronous electric motor.

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So what of the future of Electric Vehicles and Hybrids in Jamaica?

Electric Vehicles and Hybrids in Jamaica - Change is coming as by 2030 we'll have no choice

Along with the long-term benefits of reducing the carbon footprint in the environment and the cost effectiveness of having such a vehicles in terms of reduced gasoline consumption, the case for Electric Vehicles and Hybrids is compelling.

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The cost, however, is too high, thanks mainly to the 60% duty on such vehicles as noted in my blog article entitled “JPS, USAID and How removing 60% import duty on Electric Vehicle will reduce Jamaica's Oil Bill”.

Jamaica needs to remove the duty on these vehicles in order to spur their adoption in the island.

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This as soon we may have no choice, as ATL Automotive’s Group Marketing Manager, Christina Taylor, change is coming, quote: “If you look at the way that the automotive industry is developing, the future is electric. There is going to be a point in time where a lot of the automotive brands, by 2030, are mandating that their entire lineup will either be hybrid or electric. So it is not a matter of waiting to join, it is when you join, because it is inevitable”.

JUTC is already making the shift to Hydrid drive systems for their buses as noted in my blog article entitled “Why JUTC going Hybrid indicates removal of 60% import duty on Electric Vehicles”.

The 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-in Hybrid may be the start of that shift...with Toyota and more popular brands to follow in the next two years leading up to 2030.