Archive | October 6, 2015

An app makes your flight fly faster

More than looking at starts, NASA is also being very down to earth.

Recently, NASA completed a few tests of its new Traffic Aware Planner (TAP) application aboard a PiAggio P.180 Avanti pusher prop and continue a formal test program corporate with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America in the next three years (Lynch, 2015).

TAP connects to the aircraft monitor station which is able to locate the aircraft current position, read its altitude, in charge of the flight route and other real-time information to specify the aircraft’s situation. Then, TAP will automatically start searching a variety of route or altitude changes that could save flight time, reduce fuel costs or carbon emissions and send the detailed analysis result to the pilots.

Moreover, making a connection between TAP and receiver ADS-B ensure the application to sweep the signals of nearby air traffic in order to avoid potential risks in proposed flight route changes, it will be more easy for the controller in the monitor station to approve a pilot’s route change request (Unknown, 2015). By doing so, it will improve the efficiency between pilots and controllers.

In addition, once the aircraft cockpit has Internet connection, TAP can obtain the information on real-time weather conditions, wind speed, temperature, visibility, cloud cover and other information to increase flight efficiency.

TAP can be operated on a tablet and easily implemented. Basically, it doesn’t need any changes of the roles or responsibility of flight pilots and controllers; therefore, it can be implemented on the aircraft to produce benefits in a timely manner.

TAP

William Cotton, one of the test pilots said that TAP can save four minutes off the flight time after he requested a route change which granted by air traffic control (Lynch, 2015). Four minutes cutting seems not a big deal, however, with thousands of airplanes travel on each day, there will be an enormous amount of cost savings on fossil fuel and an incredible decrease of carbon emission. Here is an example: shaving off four minutes reduces the fuel costs for a Boeing 767 aircraft for around 330 dollars, if half of the aircrafts take off from Atlanta airport are able to save four minutes flight time each day, cost savings will reach to around 165,000 dollars (Ren, 2015).

Researchers from NASA anticipate this application is going to take a big step forward in the national airspace, since TAP is really doing a nice job on reducing delays, increasing the flight efficiency, protecting environment and offering passengers a better flight experience.

References:

Unknown. (2015, 9 23). NASA’s Traffic Aware Planner to Increase Efficiency of Airliners. Retrieved from World Industrial Reproter: http://worldindustrialreporter.com/nasas-traffic-aware-planner-to-increase-efficiency-of-airliners/

Lynch, K. (2015, 9 23). NASA Tests New Traffic Planning App Aboard Avanti. Retrieved from AIN online: https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2015-09-23/nasa-tests-new-traffic-planning-app-aboard-avanti

RenZong. (2015 9 24). NASA developed an app for helping piolts find optimal flight route. Retreved from Leifeng: http://www.leiphone.com/news/201509/IdoiTYvPCPDnqhFR.html

The future of computing

One of the most fascinating prospects of the future is a quantum computer. Probably some of you will be thinking: “Wait, what?” Yes, a quantum computer, a processing miracle. The processing power of just one quantum computer already exceeds the processing power of all computers that we have right now! This is all made possible by quantum mechanics, which operates under some pretty crazy conditions. At this point of reading, you might still not have the slightest clue of what is going on here, so let’s try to explain more in detail, without going in too much detail.

Let’s start with the computers we have right now. These computers, based on transistors, require data to be encoded into bits, which can have a state of 0 or 1. This basically means that the traditional computers calculate the same way as we do, but instead they can do it way faster.

Quantum computers on the other hand operate with qubits, or quantum bits, which can be in superpositions of states. So instead of being just 0, or just 1, they can be both 0 and 1, and all values in between, at the same time! The qubit could be, for example, twenty percent 1 and eighty percent 0 at the same time, which basically represent the odds. If you would explore that qubit, 8 out of 10 times you would find the qubit at 0, and just 2 out of 10 times at 1.

superneg

  • The linear line represents the superposition a qubit appears in.

Combining this with one more term, entanglement, which basically represents a ‘mysterious connection between the parts of a qubit’. To keep it simple, if you measure one part of a qubit, both parts of the qubit will return to their original state. So measuring one part unveils all the parts! 

Let’s frame this into a visual example, called ‘Schrödinger’s Cat’. This example is about a cat in a box with a bottle of poison. The box is closed, so without opening the box you won’t know whether the cat is alive or not. This can be seen as a superposition: basically, the cat is dead and alive at the same time. You, the observer, will become ‘entangled’ once you open the box. Your observation will correspond with the cat’s state. Therefore you (part 1) will trigger the cat’s state (part 2). If you observed the cat as being dead, the cat is dead. If you observed the cat as being alive, the cat is alive. sixdollar_schrodingers-cat-fla.full


So, coming to the point, quantum computers can perform numerous calculations at the same time, with all potential inputs, while normal computers will perform these numerous calculations in sequential order. To visualize this, imagine there is a warehouse with 20 doors, behind one of these doors is a treasure chest. Our current computer will open these doors one by one, as fast as possible, until it finds the treasure chest. Whereas the quantum computer will open all these doors at the same time!

The reason why this is still atleast 10 to 20 years away is because of the unstable state of these qubits (quanta in normal quantum mechanics), researchers have been able to perform processes with these qubits, but they haven’t been able to stabilize the states for a longer period of time however..


It’s not easy to talk about quantum mechanics without going too technical….. So if you’re really interested in quantum computing (and therefore quantum mechanics), I would suggest you dig in the matter some more! Let’s move over to the real life implications of the technology, because that’s whats most interesting!


The exact implications of the quantum computer are hard to know beforehand. At the point of the creation of the http-protocol, to send data, who would’ve thought of Facebook?

But let’s start thinking in the future.
For example, weather predictions. The extreme power of quantum computers might enable us to reach a 100% certainty on weather conditions.
It can be huge for the pharmaceutical industry as well, the process of developing medicines is now mainly trial and error, because our computers right now would take forever to calculate solutions for missing parts. With quantum computers, these processes might be possible within weeks. Of course, this is still wishful thinking, but it could be possible in the nearby future.
The same goes for the finance world, the most difficult and comprehensive calculations would become possible with the enormous processing power of quantum computers.
Or moving over to Bitcoins, at the moment there are so-called ‘Bitcoin-factories’ that are already really dependent on the processing power of the computers. Therefore having Bitcoins as a normal currency is not realistic at all at the moment, but who knows, with quantum computing Bitcoins might revive?

As we are more and more into the Internet of Things, the amounts of data reach extreme amounts, and will grow to unbelievable amounts in the future. With quantum computers the possibilities in data analysis will be groundbreaking.

But as the title says ‘the future of computing’, we are still atleast 10 to 20 years away from the first practical quantum computers. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel and IBM are working hard to make these quantum computers work. 

I wonder what your thoughts on this topic are, what are things you think will be possible with the enormous computing power of quantum computers?
I hope I provided some explanation towards this phenomenon, although it’s really hard to explain without digging into physics! Even for physicians, the seemingly unrealistic laws are still hard to comprehend..


http://www.thphys.nuim.ie/staff/joost/TQM/QvC.html

http://www.dutchcowboys.nl/Technology/27691

https://blendle.com/i/new-scientist/niet-een-beetje-sneller-maar-heel-veel-sneller/bnl-newscientist-20150924-81473_niet_een_beetje_sneller_maar_heel_veel_sneller

http://www.newscientist.nl/nieuws/quantumteleportatie-verwijst-bezwaren-einstein-naar-prullenbak/

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer.htm

Happy Snapday!

The fast growing company Snapchat was celebrating its fourth birthday last month. And what is the best way to celebrate it? Of course by adding some new features. Snapchat is famous for changing the ways of photographs. You just simply make a picture or video, set the time that the picture will be shown and send it to your dear friends. You also have the option to upload the picture or video on your ‘Story’ and display it to everyone for 24 hours. The feature ‘Story’ has become very popular among the teens to follow their favorite celebrity.

At first, Snapchat had to gain customers by offering their application for free. But eventually they had to make some profits as every other company. So at the beginning of 2015, they added the feature ‘Discover’. This feature began to earn advertising revenue for the company with ad partners such as People, CNN and Daily Mail. Advertisements are estimated to be worth between ten to fifteen cents per view. Additionally, these advertisements are roughly viewed 500,000 to 1,000,000 times a day. Resulting in Snapchat’s first profitable interface feature.

snapchat

But obviously, Snapchat wants to become bigger. So for its fourth birthday they added three features. The first feature is called ‘Lenses’, it enhances selfies by recognizing the facial structure and then choosing one of the filters. These filters can distort your face, make you look older or adding some sounds and animations. The second feature is called ‘Trophies’, this turned Snapchat into a game by granting users virtual rewards and stickers if they fulfill a task. The last feature is ‘Paid Replays’, users were allowed to replay one snap a day from their list. With this new feature, users are able to replay three snaps. However, these three snaps are only available when you pay $0,99. This results into Snapchat’s first attempt at in-app purchases and it could be a major tool to increase revenues. Unfortunately, the last two features are currently only available in the U.S. What do you guys think of these new features? Are you having fun with making silly faces and do you want the last two features to become available in the Netherlands?

References:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/snapchat-adds-lenses-and-paid-replays-2015-9?r=US&IR=T

http://uk.businessinsider.com/snapchat-is-on-track-to-generate-100-million-in-revenue-2015-10?r=US&IR=T

Technology of the Week: team 39. Amazon Kindle vs. Blendle

Information goods can be described as products whose market value is derived from the information it contains. We will focus on pay-per-piece model, in particular Blendle and Amazon Kindle.

Blendle

Blendle is called the iTunes for journalism. Readers are able to read articles from different authors instead of paying for multiple issues to reach those articles. The readers only pay for articles that he or she finds interesting. Blendle gives refunds on articles, if readers find that the article was not worth the money. Blendle offers not only the possibility to read articles of multiple authors, but also they have a wide range of categories. Blendle works together with traditional journalism instead of competing with them, but they are dependent on their articles. Investors are important, as Blendle needs the money to pay their employees, but also because big names come with great publicity, like The New York Times. A big threat for Blendle is the offering of online articles for free.

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-06 om 22.38.29

Amazon

Amazon provides an online bookstore. Their strategy is built on overall cost leadership, and they aim to offer the lowest possible prices. Therefore they have very low margins. They realized the potential online market and developed Kindle. Kindle allows customers to download hundreds of books and bring those with them. Customers do not have to wait for their order or go to a store; they can have immediately access to an unlimited amount of literature on one device. It should be simple to find for a customer what he or she is looking for. Customization is very important for Amazon. They like a personalized approach to their customers, for example personal recommendations based on search history and purchases. Amazon also gives the customer freedom of choice. This concerns both the various selection of having the greatest set of titles available, but also tools provided the customer so that they can choose between titles based on reviews and free trials of literature.

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-06 om 22.38.38

Discussion

A difference between Amazon Kindle and Blendle is the pay-per-piece or subscription. Blendle offers users to pay per article. Amazon Kindle uses this method as well, but they also offer subscription. Users of Amazon Kindle can take a monthly subscription or pay for each book separately. Amazon and Blendle also give suggestions to the readers, but both in different ways. Amazon uses observation. The reader gets suggestion after he already made a purchase. The next time he will open his account, he will see those suggestions. Blendle has this as well, but they also give suggestion based on the reader itself. This is similar to the concept of registration and billing. Another theoretical concept that can be linked to these case studies is the concept of intermediation and its adherents disintermediation and reintermediation. Both Amazon and Blende are disintermediating the book and article industry. They aim to replace bookstores and newspaper stands by going online. They both have network effects. Amazon lets readers interact through reviews and stars. Blendle has created a following-tool. Users can follow prominent users. These interaction points between users provide the readers with more information.

References

Team 39

N. C. Barendregt 371391

L. H. Møller 439323

N. S. van der Lee 375253

F. J. M. Bevelander 339384

360 Degree Movie App – Spotlight Stories from Google

I recently found a very interesting app that as I believe has not received enough attention from the public yet given its potential. This is why I decided to share it here and I hope it will bring some joy and excitement to many of the readers of this post.

Spotlight Stories from Google Play, which is available for both iOS and Android run devices, is an application that allows you to watch movies in 360 degrees format on your smartphone or tablet. Given the limitations of the human vision you are, of course, not able to see all 360 degrees at one instant of time. However, as you move your device either sideways, up or down the image changes as if you were moving your eyes into the respective direction. So far the app offers four different short animated movies ranging from a windy day in the life of a frog to a very futuristic chase with an alien.

This kind of movie experience, as you can imagine, brings with it a couple of challenges for the directors. One of them being the issue on how to make sure the spectator is always looking into the right direction to not miss any of the main action. In the four exemplary movies that were released so far this potential problem is solved with the inclusion of 360 degree accustic adaption. To put this into simpler words: As you move your device away from the view of the main action the music and conversations in the movies diminuish in volume. As your brain registers this you “automatically” adjust your view.

Although both the app and movies are still for free at the time, the notion “free for a limited time” gives us a hint that Google may be planning to sell movies through this application in the future (Perez, 2015). I therefore inivite you to try the app out as long as it still is for free and give me your opinion on it in the comments below.

Link to Spotlight Stories in the Google Play Store

Source:
Perez, 2015.‘Google Brings Its 360-Degree Movies App, Spotlight Stories, To iOS‘, http://techcrunch.com/, last visited: 06 October 2015.

Zombie Phones

Just last week Cloudflare reported that as many as 650,000 mobile phones in China had performed a massive DDoS attack on a website that uses their DDoS defense service. According to Cloudflare, using mobile devices for DDoS attacks instead of desktop PC’s or laptops is a dangerous trend.

In short, a DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service attack is one where numerous devices connected to the internet flood the servers of a website or service with data. This usually results in slow or no connection to the website or service for legitimate users. The attacks are usually carried out by compromised systems without the owner’s knowledge.

So how come the popularity of mobile devices in carrying out DDoS attacks? First of all, the sheer increase in mobile devices. According to Gartner, roughly 1.95 billion smartphones will be shipped in 2015, as opposed to ”only” 316 million PC’s and laptops. Secondly, the increased computing power of mobile devices has also contributed to the attractiveness of using mobile devices for malicious purposes. Lastly, the growing penetration of mobile data also contributes its share. The mobile technology has caught up to cable internet. It is currently possible to obtain speeds of 120 Mbit/s when using a supported phone. Combine this with the observation that mobile devices are often connected more continuously and longer than PC’s or laptops and then you see why it is interesting for criminals to abuse this platform.

The solution to limiting the abuse of mobile devices is not an easy one. According to a CloudFlare blogpost, the compromised users in last week’s attack were targeted by a malicious advertisements that were injected with JavaScript. Although JavaScript is easily disabled on both PC’s and mobile devices, doing so has its drawbacks. Sites rely on JavaScript to be more responsive, dynamic, and interactive. Disabling JS might impede your ability to login or interact with a website. So what can be done to combat this threat? One option is to improve security on mobile operating systems, especially Android which is vulnerable to multiple threats like Stagefright which has been in the news recently. A more secure and privacy sensitive Android device is possible, as shown by Silent Circle with their Blackphone 1 and the all new Blackphone 2.

All in all, it is undeniable that smartphones form an attractive platform to abuse for people with less than good intentions. Given the information above and what is available on the internet, what do you think that can be done to combat the rising threat to mobile devices?

Sources:

Will your future be dark?

Your vision in the future?

It might be. Unless pattern recognition saves your eyes.

Pattern recognition might sound pretty nerdy, but you come across it more often than you think. Shazam created an app to find out which song is playing in the club, Spotify predicts which other artists you might like and Google created an algorithm to identify cats in YouTube videos. But while it is cool that a computer can recognize a cat video, there might be more important possibilities for pattern recognition as well, such as in the medical sector.

The CHCF, the California HealthCare Foundation, is one of those organizations that decided to use pattern recognition for more important things. They created an application to detect a premature medical implication: diabetic retinopathy, a long-term complication of diabetes. The implication is caused by damage to the tiny blood vessels that support the retina. If left untreated, you will lose all your vision. This complication actually affects 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more (Kertes et al., 2007).

So how did they figure out how to detect this issue?

The CHCF organized a competition – with a $100,000 prize – on a website called Kaggle. This website has all sorts of competitions for some of the smartest people on the globe – statisticians and data scientists. The CHCF gave participants a database with thousands of images of healthy and affected retinas and let them figure out a solution.
In the end, one smart bloke called Benjamin Graham – who worked as a statistician at the University of Warwick – came up with an algorithm that identifies signs of diabetic retinopathy from an eye scan.

The big advantage of the algorithm is that it is faster, cheaper and more accurate than real doctors. Images are analysed instantly, instead of first having to be sent to a lab. This gives the advantage that there is less work involved, lowering the medical expenses involved. And while normally doctors only agree 84% of the time with each other on a diabetic retinopathy diagnosis, the algorithm agrees with a doctor’s opinion 85% of the time (The Economist, 2015) – so the algorithm can actually be more accurate than a human doctor. Jorge Cuadros, the CEO of Eyepacs, a company interested in using the algorithm, is intrigued by the high correlation between the algorithm and human experts. Even more so when there is a disagreement, sometimes the algorithm proves to be right, not the human doctor (Farr, 2015).

So does this mean the diagnosis will be conducted by computers now?

Even though the algorithm offers so many advantages, it will still take a long time before it has taken a place in clinical practice. Currently the solution is being held back by regulations, such as those from the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. Fear is another obstacle that needs to be overcome, because who is going to take the blame when something goes wrong?

But in the end it will probably all work out. As pattern recognition software applied in medicine becomes better, institutions will have more incentives to bring the algorithms into the clinic.

– 377578nb


The Economist,. (2015). Now there’s an app for that. Retrieved 6 October 2015, from http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21664943-computers-can-recognise-complication-diabetes-can-lead-blindness-now

Farr, C. (2015). This Robo Eye Doctor May Help Patients With Diabetes Keep Sight. KQED Future of You. Retrieved 6 October 2015, from http://ww2.kqed.org/futureofyou/2015/08/20/this-robo-eye-doctor-may-help-patients-with-diabetes-keep-sight/

Kertes PJ, Johnson TM, ed. (2007). Evidence Based Eye Care. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

World’s most valuable brands

Gadgets and other technological products are becoming more and more important in our lives. We cannot imagine a life without a smart phone or a laptop. The technological companies are playing a major role these days. We can see this in the 100 list of most valuable brand names, made by Interbrand. Six out of the top ten companies are tech companies. What’s also really striking, Apple grew  in brand value with 43% in the last year.

Top 10

1: Apple (1) 170,28 billion dollar (+43%)
2: Google (2) 120,31 billion dollar (+12%)
3: Coca-Cola (3) 78,42 billion dollar (-4%)
4: Microsoft (5) 67,67 billion dollar (+11%)
5: IBM (4) 65.10 billion dollar (-10%)
6: Toyota (8) 49,05 billion dollar (+16%)
7: Samsung (7) 45,30 billion dollar (+-0%)
8: General Electric (6) 42,27 billion dollar (-7%)
9: McDonalds (9) 39,81 billion dollar (-6%)
10: Amazon (15) 37,95 billion dollar (+29%)

For the second year in a row Apple is the most valuable brand in the world, followed by Google according to the Interbrand ranking of the 100 most valuable brands. In the thirteen years before Coca Cola was the most valuable brand. To come up with this list Interbrand uses the following figures en data:

  • financial performance;
  • the power the brand name has for a customer;
  • the power the brand has in contrast to their competition.

In this year’s top 100 28 tech companies occur, which makes the technology sector the best represented one. So we can see that the tech companies are nowadays dominating the life’s of normal people. We can also see that the tech companies in the top ten, are growing while the other companies are losing in perspective of brand value. Furthermore, Facebook (rank 23) is becoming a more valuable brand than several car brands, like Volkswagen (rank 35) or oil companies like Shell (rank 78). That’s quite an surprising development.

Personally, I think this trend will proceed the next years. The technological sector will become even more important in our lives, as technological developments will continue and the possibilities grow further.

How do you feel about this? Do you think tech companies will continue to dominate these kind of lists? Or do you think that this is only a hype that will disappear?

Sources:

http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2015/ranking/

http://www.nu.nl/internet/4138860/apple-en-google-meest-waardevolle-merken.html

Why API-Centric Software Will Dominate the Future

Why API-Centric Software Will Dominate the Future

There are thousands of apps around. For multiple platforms (iOS or Android) or in multiple browser. You probably use them on many devices: Your phone, tablet or laptop. But all those applications have very limited functionality on their own. Only by communicating to their user, connecting them between each other and swapping all kinds of information they become powerful.

And that’s where APIs come in. API stands for Application Programming Interface and describes the information and rules software programs interact with each other.

The traditional way of development focusing on web frameworks (e.g. Microsoft .NET, Ruby on Rails, PHP) can require costly integration into other software when not set up properly. Adaption to special needs can easily amount to a project in middle five figures.

An API centric piece of software executes most or all functionality through API calls. So why is this important?

API Centric Design

Source: Nikko Bautista

API-Centric Design

With API-Centric Design the core function of a software (for example the Twitter Stream of new Tweets) is build separately from the way a user accesses it (in our example Twitter can be accessed through a browser, an iOS app from an iPhone, iPad, Android devices, aso.). There is only one core product running in the background and then many different customized front-end ways of accessing the core product running in the back-end. All the communication between those parts happens over? You guessed it: APIs!

No more changing and tweaking the core product because on a windows phone was a display error. You just handle that over the windows phone front-end client.

Bah…. that was a lot of techie talk. So what?! Well that brings us to our next big thing:

The Internet of Things

There are estimates that until 2020 there will be more than 50billion connected devices. That’s a lot! And it will shift who and what communicates over the internet. Today people communicate with people or people communicate with machines and systems. But in the age of the internet of things systems mostly communicate directly with systems. And they don’t care about pretty graphical interfaces on some gadget with touch screen. For those systems to work you need solid APIs connecting many back-ends fast and in a reliable way. And what would be more suitable for this task than software created through API Centered Design?

Oracle recently released an API Management Tool. So did IBM and Intel. These big corporations undertake those steps to be well prepared for what is about to come: The internet of things. It’s gonna be a paradigm shift.

But Where is the Money?

APIs aren’t new. And there are a lots of them. In the Programmable Web Database are more than 14’000 APIs registered. But with the emergence of mobile and the internet of things, they’re in the spotlight again. API centered software enables micro services that fit a specific need an solve a well detailed problem. Other programs can build upon existing APIs using their functionality to expand and build their own. This layer structure can help to automate tedious tasks by integrating and arranging the right APIs. There are many offerings already that allow fast creation of API-based back-ends (e.g. Treeline or Stamplay). APIs therefore build a solid foundation others can build upon. Google does that for a while already and offers a ton of APIs for others to use (e.g. Google Maps). But if you and especially your users call them regularly you have to pay for them. And they’re not cheap:

Google Maps API Prices

Google Maps API Prices

This example brings us to our first business model with APIs: If you’re providing some service that is of value to others, you can charge for every time a user or program is calling your API and uses its functionality. Even if it’s just a couple cents per call, if your API gets used thousand times a day, that’s steady income.

Another business case is to offer your API for free and animate other developers to build upon your existing API. Through  referrals from that software you then generate additional sales. Uber does this with success: By offering their API for free they animate developers to build upon their core product. If someone signs up for Uber through another program that uses the Uber API, they pay the developer who build the new product a commission of $5-10.

There will be many more business models emerging around API. Especially connected to the Internet of Things. The paradigm shift opens up new business opportunity ready to exploit.

What  business models including APIs do you see? I’m very interested in reading about them, so please leave a comment!


Sources

http://blog.cloudoki.com/the-new-era-in-software-engineering-api-centric-design/

http://apigee.com/about/blog/technology/api-centric-architecture-all-development-api-development

http://techcrunch.com/2015/09/27/the-future-of-coding-is-here-and-threatens-to-wipe-out-everything-in-its-path/

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2920792/apis/ibms-next-big-bluemix-move-api-management.html

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13259862/1/intel-stakes-future-on-internet-of-things-at-developers-forum.html

http://www.programmableweb.com/news/oracles-api-management-portfolio-aims-digital-enterprise/press-release/2015/06/02

http://www.zingdesign.com/top-10-web-development-trends-and-predictions-for-2015/

Towards functional Human-Machine communication

Introduction

Currently, the most interaction between humans and machines happens between people and smartphones. As presented earlier, we interact with our smartphone three hours and fifteen minutes per day. This will change, according to Blaise Thomson. We will interact with a lot more devices, as more devices become “smart”. However, before we can interact effectively with our devices, including our smartphone, there is one important problem that needs to be solved. In this blogpost, that problem is being addressed and a solution will be presented.

Examples

Let’s start with exploring problems which occur nowadays when it comes to communicating with devices.

Let’s say you are in you car, which has a “smart” navigation system. The navigation system can recognize your voice when you tell it you want to go somewhere. For example, you tell your navigation system that you want to go to the Oostzeedijk number 364 in Rotterdam. The system probably asks for a confirmation, and will proceed to show you the right way to go.

This example assumes that you actually know where you want to go, and you know what the address is. But what happens if you do not know where you want to go? The only thing you know is that you want to fulfill some sort of demand or want to complete some task.

For example, you are driving in a city you do not know very well, and you want to have lunch. You ate meat yesterday, so you want to have fish now. You are pretty short on budget and the weather is nice so you want to sit outside. You tell these preferences and limitations to your navigation system. This is a problem for current state-of-the art navigation systems: They do not understand what you say as they are only programmed to understand cities, street names and house numbers. Accordingly, they will not send you to a lunchroom you will like.

This problem also occurs is more advanced communication devices: You can actually try this at home if you have a speech recognition application on your mobile device that interacts with your mobile phone (such as Siri). Add a contact that is named Koen, and give this contact a phone number (your own for example).

Now tell Siri: “Call Koen”.

It comes up with websites related to “Kalkoen” (Dutch for Turkey).

Initial speech recognition problems can be caused by a noisy background or a sore throat. We cannot blame Siri for not totally understand you. So you try again::

“Call Koen”.

And again, it comes up with websites related to “Kalkoen”. This also occurs when you change the language.

That does not make any sense because you literally pressed away that result of Siri seconds ago, and now it thinks that you want Siri to execute a search for “Kalkoen” again. Why would you want to do that?

The problem

The problem that these three examples reveal, concern the inability of a system to understand a conversation. It can only understand singular individual orders, and has no clue of the context. This is because they way these things are designed is wrong. The state-of-the art is not really sufficient when it comes to interacting with systems.  The underlying problem concerns the way that these systems are designed. All these systems are made via handcrafting, and having systems understand entire conversations is very difficult to program by hand. That is why machine learning is important.

There are three elements of human-machine communication. The first is speech recognition, the translation from sound waves to text. The second is a decision making process: What does the text mean? And the last is text to speech, communicating the proposed decision of the device to you, the user. Machine learning could typically be relevant for the second process.

At this moment, the decision making process is typically being designed through supervised or semi-supervised learning. The first implies that a programmer enters every part of the decision making process itself. Evidently, this is a very costly and time-consuming process. In semi-supervised learning, the programmer links basic decision making processes to a more extensive database of decision making implications and rules. This is less time-consuming, but limited to the rules available in the database.

The solution

To overcome these limitations, reinforced learning is proposed. Reinforced learning is based on semi-supervised learning, but with self-learning algorithms that improve and add rules to the currently used databases. The system uses elements (words or sentences) from each command and assesses the relevance and impact of the used element to the final solution. Through learning, the system will provide solutions with success probabilities and will adjust the success probability based on final decision (solution) that the user takes. The success of a solution will be provided through a reflection of the user. If the system is totally unsure, posing the question again is a solution as well, although undesired. Surely, it works inaccurately at the beginning, but will improve fast through the interconnection between different self-learning systems.

The future impact

Are system taking over the world? This is a question for later. The system interface will be the same (unified) for every device and it will learn from the questions to all these devices which action should be taken.

Machine learning is going to be key in this. It is important to keep the conversation going, this will change the way people live.

References

Thomson, B., (2015) The future of human-machine interaction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX4wlMQAK8o accessed on 10-5-2015

Brown, J., (2015) Review: Apple 6s It’s Shoe http://www.wired.com/2015/10/iphone-6s-review/ accessed on 10-5-2015

The driverless car, would you?

A driverless car, some say yes, some say no, however once again Google is involved and seems to become a pioneer in this field of technology. Why do I state this? I noticed that this year already 13 blog post are dedicated to Google, or at least Google is embedded in the title. Again an ode to Google when it comes to driverless cars.

Everyday people commute 50 minutes on average in the Netherlands (Dutchdailynews, 2010), multiplied by the 7,2 million workers (CBS, 2014), turns out to be 360 million wasted minutes everyday on commuting. Putting this in perspective by dividing it by the average life expectancy (nationaalkompas, 2012), turns out to be 8,5 lifetime spent everyday, getting from A to B. Not only time consuming, facts tell us that 1,2 million people are killed in traffic on the world road’s every year. That’s the same as a Boeing 737 falling out of the sky every working day. Traffic is getting worse, that’s not only in your brain it is true, we travel 40 percent more than in 1990 and roads grew by 6 percent (Urmson, 2015).

Human drivers make a mistake once every 100 000 miles leading to traffic accidents in the USA (Urmson, 2015). A driverless system makes decisions 10 times per second or in order of magnitude, 1000 times per mile. Showing that driverless systems would drastically reduce casualties in traffic, probably by 80 percent (Urmson, 2015). Driverless cars, and yes again I am going to use Google’s driverless car, they work with a map, Google maps. The map will be aligned with the sensors on the car so it knows exactly where it is in the world. A layer will be put on top with everything what it sees. Resulting in the picture below:

driverless car

The hardest part of course is to let the car react on unpredictable situations, such as a police cop waving you to stop or changed lanes because of a construction zone. Google’s simulators do 3 million miles of testing everyday to learn from these situations so the driverless system can cope with it in the future. Near future?

When we look at the stats and the facts in might be a really good solution to the many fatalities every year in traffic. Google is pretty convinced this technology will come to the market (Urmson, 2015). But are we willing to drive without a steering wheel?

This video shows that most of the people driving a driverless car,  do like it. But if I may speak for myself, I would not! I think many people are with me when I say that most (male) drivers like having a steering wheel in their hands. Still we are the ones willing to buy whether or not… Are you?

Sources:

Urmson C., 2015. ‘How a driverless car sees the road’,  ‘https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_urmson_how_a_driverless_car_sees_the_road, march 15, 2015

Dutchdailynews, 2010. ‘Dutch spent the most time on commuting of all Europeans’, http://www.dutchdailynews.com/commuting/, used on 6/10/2015

CBS, 2014. http://www.cbs.nl/nl-NL/menu/themas/arbeid-sociale-zekerheid/publicaties/barometer-beroepsbevolking/barometer-werkzame-beroepsbevolking-art.htm, used on 6/10/2015

Nationaalkompas, 2012. http://www.nationaalkompas.nl/gezondheid-en-ziekte/sterfte-levensverwachting-en-daly-s/levensverwachting/wat-is-in-nederland-de-levensverwachting/, used on 6/10/2015

Pre-ordering apps making your life easier, or not?

strabucks

Who has ever stood in line at Starbucks and it took you more than 10 minutes? I don’t know, because I don’t like coffee (got you). I know from friends that it sometimes can take forever till your special macchiato Frappuccino soya milk with cacao has been made. But Starbucks has the perfect solution for you now, IF you move to London or the USA. Starbucks has developed an app that lets users order ahead from the menu for collection from a specific store, with payment taken in the app (Lomas, 2015). This way, users can skip the ordering line and can go straight to the pickup line. But how does Starbucks manage this logistics system without getting the drinks cold? That is indeed a mystery, because it is already hard for the baristas to quickly make the drinks for people waiting in line and now they also have to make extra drinks coming though the app. According to Starbucks there has been a significant increase in transactions, so it probably works. So why is Starbucks developing this service?

This is not new to only Starbucks. Companies are continuously developing technology methods to make their services more efficient. Everyone has been to a show or sport match where, in the break, you rush to the bar to get drinks and food. To make this process more efficient, the Aviva stadium in Dublin has developed an app where visitors can already order and pay for their half-time drinks and food (Digby, 2015). Even the San Francisco International Airport gives passengers the opportunity to use the app AirGrub to pre-order food at three selected restaurant at the airport (Future Travel Experience, 2015). If you have a quick transfer, you can still eat something without waiting in the queues.

We all know the reason behind a company incentive, such as more efficient processes and increasing customer loyalty. So why are these apps so successful? Customers have begun to value their time more and more. People are not willing to wait in long queues anymore. These apps offer convenience and a high quality service, without losing a lot of your time. Apps such as Starbuck’s will probably pop up in the coming years and will keep making our lives easier. What’s next? A Starbucks, Aviva stadium and airport delivery service?

What do you think is next? And would you use the current apps if they were available here?

References:

Digby, M. C., 2015. Avoid the queues by pre-ordering drinks and food at Saturday’s Aviva rugby match. [Online] Available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/avoid-the-queues-by-pre-ordering-drinks-and-food-at-saturday-s-aviva-rugby-match-1.2101693

Future Travel Experience, 2015. New food pre-ordering app helps travellers avoid queues at SFO. [Online] Available at: http://www.futuretravelexperience.com/2015/07/new-food-pre-ordering-app-helps-travellers-avoid-queues-sfo/

Lomas, N., 2015. Starbucks’ Mobile Pre-Ordering Goes International With London Launch. [Online] Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/10/01/starbucks-takes-mop-to-london/

Macbook Users Attention: OS X El Capitan is Here

Picture Source: Apple.com

Macbook users, did you know that the newest version of OS X is already available for download on 30 September? Are you still unsure whether to update it or not? Here is something you would like to know before you upgrade.

WHAT IS NEW?

Honestly, this update of OS X is not a real breakthrough, rather a more routine refining of Yosemite. It mainly improved user experience in some details. Five major changes are:

  1. Split View

OS-X-El-Capitan-on-MacBook-640x346

Source: Apple.com

This is ranked as the first major change in this new OS X. Now users can arrange two windows under the full screen mode. To enter the Split View, you simply long click the green button on the left up corner. Then it will enter the full screen Split View mode and let you select another opened window to fill in the other half.

Picture1

Honestly, the long click seems not an intuitive gesture for myself. The function will be very useful for users who need to multitask or need to refer to one window to work on another. However, for users who are not big fun of full screen mode, this new function will be rarely used. And there are already plug-ins that can realize a very similar effect, but not in a full screen mode.

In one word, Split View would be a good reason to upgrade for users who love full screen mode.

  1. New Layout in Mission Control

Another big change is in the layout of Mission Control. In previous OS X, windows of same application will be categorized and overlap with each other. Now, every single window is spread over the screen, with No overlapping, like this

Picture1

It is hard to say if it is a good or bad move. It can a disaster for users who love to keep a lot of windows open at the same time (like me, never close a pdf in preview). It may take time for users to get used to the change.

  1. More powerful Notes

Finally, Notes can be a fast text editing tool, not only a plain text editor any more. Now you can have pictures, bullet points, and checklist. Maybe it is a move towards merging the Notes and Reminder.

Picture1

  1. A better graphical experience

Apple claims to have a new graphic technology called Metal and it makes the graphic experience better and faster. It is a good news, especially for basic users like myself, who use mostly browser and PDF reader everyday.

Picture1Picture1

Source: Apple.com

  1. Something Else

Some other features include minor new functions in Safari, link to third party editing tool in Photos, improvements in Maps, better input methods for Chinese and Japanese. Apple also claim to have a better overall performance since they optimize their system to work more efficiently.

Conclusion:

After all, OS X El Capitan worked more optimizing the details instead of making breakthroughs. There is no feature that enables a further collaboration with mobile devices this time, which I would say is quite disappointing. There is no big incentive to upgrade right away. But since it is only 6GB to download, maybe you will do this in some random afternoon break. It does not hurt right?

The top 10 Google searches for Syrian refugees

 

Syrian refugees search terms [1]

With the above search terms it is no wonder that the Syrians are trying to get out. As Ben Webster [2], said; ‘People are just living day-to-day, so obviously in a conflict situation they are going to be separated, just trying to access health care and things while there is fighting going on around them’. It might be clear the Syrian refugees are in a very complicated situation and Google can tell us a lot about their worries. Refugees’ Google a lot and the two search terms used most are clearly ‘immigration to Germany’ and ‘asylum in Germany’. People are determined to flee and especially to Germany. You might wonder why Germany is such a focus point for the refugees. Well, after Angela Merkel said earlier that Germany would not turn away any Syrian asylum seekers, it must be no surprise that refugees are seeing Germany as there safe haven. Other European countries provide shelter to refugees as well, in total Europe expects 800.000 refugees this year.

Via Google it is possible to see Syrians try to figure out how to get to Europe. The next top search terms are the map of Greece and a map of the sea separating Turkey and Greece. Furthermore Syrians also Google maps of Europe in Arabic and again, maps of Germany.

It looks like they try to determine which route is the best to take. Syrians Google the distance between Edirne and Izmir, Izmir and Istanbul and Turkey and Greece. After that they will be on foot and they search for the distance between Macedonia and Serbia.

Hungary declared a state of emergency and uses force, by using rubber bullets and tear gas, to prevent people entering his borders. This makes refugees interested in their political state as well. Keywords for search for are ‘news of Hungary’ and ‘Hungary Syrian refugees’. Hereby Syrians want to check whether Hungary is a go or no-go.

The whole situation is very complicated. While the war in Syria continues to take a toll on those left behind, the web seems to provide some answers in a time of need and uncertainty.

Bibliography

Aljazeera. (2015, 9,29). The top Google searches in Syria. Used on 10 6, 2015, Aljazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/top-google-searches-syria-150929151549994.html

Global Dialy. (2015, 10 1). The top Google searches in Syria. Used on 10 6, 2015, http://globaldaily.com/#!article/the-top-google-searches-in-syria

Snowdon, K. (2015, 9 29). Top Google Search Terms From Syria show just how Desperate Refugees Are. Used on 10 6, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/29/top-google-search-terms-syria-refugees-desperate_n_8214586.html

[1] Examples of search terms used in the past two weeks

[2] Head of Emergencies at British Red Cross

Big food

IS blog 2

There are many discussions going on in the area of food production, distribution, and consumption. For a significant part, this discussion can be divided into two sides: people advocating we should go back to traditional ways of the food industry and people promoting the interference of scientific developments. Both sides are strong supporters of a food industry that produces and distributes food in a way that is less harmful for the environment, and to develop healthier food for consumption. The group that promotes science is highly criticised because of a fear of losing the human aspect in the food system (Parasecoli, 2015). But would it really be that bad to involve technology on a greater scale in the food industry? While many industries have already faced opportunities, and challenges, from great disruptive technologies and developments, the food industry seems to have stayed behind.

When we think about disruptive technologies in the food industry, things like robot-chefs and 3D printed food comes to mind. Even though these kind of technologies are currently being developed (Davis et al, 2015) the great advantage for now might lie in less extravagant developments. Developments that we already find pretty common, like sensors, WiFi, smartphones, and drones, are actually disrupting the traditional ways of producing food (Byrnes, 2015). Not so much individually, but combined they offer great potential for one of the potential great disrupters of the food industry: Big data. You might say that this is nothing new, but for the food industry to change we have to go back to where the production of food starts, which are the farmers. And if you then consider that the broad availability of WiFi in great farmer areas, the usage of smart phones, and the development of accurate but cheap sensors, has not been around for that long it is not surprising that there have been little farmers taking advantage of the possibilities. The different data coming from these sources offer farmers the possibility to combine this information with for example weather forecasts and make better decisions. This results in better quality crops, less costs for the farmer because of for example more efficient use of fertilizers, and consequently more revenue (Byrnes, 2015).

The use of big data in the food industry can be relatively easily implemented by the farmers, no big investments are necessary and information can be readily available. It enables a more efficient use of resources, which is better for the environment and the farmers, and it leads to be a better quality of crops which is beneficial for the consumer. All without technology genetically modifying our food or removing the human aspect in our food production.

Sources

Byrnes, N., 2015. Internet of farm things. [online] Technology review. [available at] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/537596/internet-of-farm-things/ [Accessed 6 October 2015]

Davis, N., Burgen, S., & Corbyn, Z., 2015. Future of food: how we cook. [online] The Guardian. [available at] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/13/future-of-food-how-we-cook [Accessed 6 October 2015]

Parasecoli, F., 2015. Food and technology: clash or synergy? [online] Huffington post. [available at] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fabio-parasecoli/food-and-technology-clash_b_8206410.html [Accessed 6 October 2015]

The Dark Net Rises

The Dark Net rises!

Most of us might have heard about the ‘Dark Net’. Seeing it in movies, on the news or from other sources it intrigued me, and therefore I started a research on the ‘Dark Net’.

What is the Dark Net?

We are all familiar with stories that the Dark Net is a place for people to gather child pornography or dealers who buy and sell their drugs anonymously. Well, journalists who entered the Dark Net for journalism purposes confirmed those prejudices. Using a TOR browser will give you access to the Dark Net, and allows you in the world where the possibilities go beyond the standard web browsers.

Tor browser

Internet through time

The internet has changed over the last decades and so it will, maybe even more rapidly, change in the future. We can say that internet is becoming more innovative, more interesting and widens the possibilities of our (digital) life. But on the other hand, it could be considered as a dangerous place. In short we could say that the Dark Net is one of the most interesting an exciting places in the world, because of its mysterious and untraceable or anonymous features.

An upcoming trend on the internet is privacy. The revelations of Edward Snowden opened up our eyes and we are now more concerned who is watching/listening along with us while we are on the internet, we are concerned what happens to our personal information that is posted on the internet and we want to know what happens to our data. That is where the Dark Net comes in.

Possibilities of the Dark Net

The Dark Net with all its negative aspects opens up some possibilities as well. A practical recent example is uploading a new released album on the net and gives permission to download the album for free (legal in the Netherlands, illegal in other parts of the world), because the download is untraceable.

Another political advantage is the ‘freedom’ of speech. In most Arabic countries censorship is a big issue. In Turkey for instance, Youtube was blocked and therefore not Turkish citizens were not able to access Youtube on a standard browser. Blocking Youtube (or other individual sharing websites) may have many reasons, but mostly it is to prevent criticism of a ruler, government or laws, to be spread across the country, this could cause political unrest. Social media played a big role in the Arabic revolution, and so did the Dark Net. Critics could anonymously write down their thought and could not be prosecuted, because of the intractability the critics are free to post what they want.

Finally to give one more example why the Dark Net might become more important, Facebook started a page there as well.

Dangerous facets of the Dark Net

At the opposite site of all the possibilities and advantages are the dangerous aspects of the Dark Net. As I said in the introduction, the Dark Net is a place where the pedophiles could find what they want, where drug deals are as normal as buying something on eBay. Also something against the freedom of writing anything you want, there are some rumors that the IS is planning attacks on the Dark Net.

So dangerous or will it bring possibilities?

To conclude we can say that the biggest advantage is that there are no more authorities checking your internet traffic, there are no more companies saving and storing your browser history or data. These components will bring the most relieve among the current internet users. Also the fact that there will be no more advertisements or disturbing pop-ups is a advantage and decrease the level of irritation among the internet users.

I believe the Dark Net is going mainstream and more people will start using it. The Dark Net is already used in different levels of the civilization, from students to outcasts to army people. So will we all be on the Dark Net soon?


References:

http://electronician.hubpages.com/hub/A-Beginners-Guide-to-Exploring-the-Darknet

http://ideas.ted.com/the-moral-dark-side-of-reporting-on-the-dark-net/?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=ideas-blog&utm_term=technology

“The Dark Net” (Jamie Bartlett, 2015)