Driving home from the office last night, I saw a couple of guys waving from behind their placards as they do in the time leading up to the elections. I wondered if they felt stupid. I didn’t want to wave or beep the horn because I’d never heard of them before and really didn’t know what they were about. Just a couple of guys with wide grins that looked just like the photos they were standing next to.
I’ve had a little ‘junk mail’ from some of them which don’t tend to say much unless they are on the fringe with a cause and hats off to them for that. One was promoting a futuristic rapid transit system which looked absolutely amazing, something looking like it came straight out of New Scientist. He was a mayoral candidate, can’t remember his name because I figured he didn’t stand a chance anyway.
I just have one question for the Mayoral and other political candidates and that’s about our Auckland drinking water. As you may have noted if you are a reader of my blogs, water is a subject dear to me. I’m basically made of it and what’s in it therefore, makes me.
In a previous blog about Oceanic Dead Zones, I coincidentally touched on the fact that the Metrowater back room handshake between the Auckland Mayors of the day, that Waitakere would get first use of all fresh water from the Auckland rainforest dams and the rest of us would get a percentage of Waikato River water when required.
The plan about the Waikato Water (which Joel Cayford said was unsafe to drink) was that it would only be used at times when the dam levels were insufficient to meet Auckland’s needs. However I believe that because it cost something like $10,000 on maintenance costs every time the sluice was opened that most of the time it now stays open, despite its purpose being only for emergency use.
Now I’d like you to have a look at a couple of photos which I will link to. The first is of Dr David Sinclair and Dr Virginia Hope, showing their faith in filtration by drinking Waikato River water. Damn, the other photo I wanted to show you doesn’t seem to be available on the net, but it was of the French Defense Minister Michael Debre, swimming in the Mururoa Atoll lagoon after a nuclear test, to show how safe it was. Enough on that.
What I want to know from the new candidates in Auckland is what is their policy on having Aucklanders drink Waikato River water? Will Waitakere continue to get a monopoly on their fresh water from the West Auckland dams? Will the dams be better maintained (i.e. make them deeper by removing the silt mountain on the bottom?
With all the rain we have in Auckland, we should have much better than acceptable water quality (I noted a politician, can’t remember who it was in the media recently called it).
A couple of years ago I wrote about the potential to grow your own food including in vitro meat. The first experiments produced something rubbery and inedible, but things have moved on since then.
For a country like New Zealand the idea of creating artificial meat is anathema. We made history in 1882 when the SS Dunedin successfully arrived in London carrying 4931 refrigerated carcasses of mutton, lamb and pork.
Whilst in the past meat represented better than 50% of NZ’s export revenue, in 2009 it was a modest 13.2%. On the other hand biotech is becoming so important in New Zealand that it has even made the Secondary School curriculum. Significant consideration is being given to Animal Biofarming in NZ as evidenced by this comprehensive document from the NZ Foundation for Research Science and Technology FRST.
Why would you consider doing something like this. Simple really. A large chunk of the population of the world is hungry and unable to feed itself. Over 1 Billion people fit the definition of living in hunger. That’s more than 3 times the population of the USA! Then there’s water. There is debate in some places that there is no water crisis, but fresh water represents only 3% of the total water on the planet. I won’t go into the countries where drinking water is an issue, its common knowledge and drought as a news search on Google draw almost 13,000 results.
According to Fred Pearce who wrote the book When the Rivers Run Dry, it requires around 24,000 liters of water to grow the feed to make a kilo of beef, or 2,400 liters for a Quarter Pounder.
Now while a cow also produces leather and pet food, and other product a massive amount of each beast is expensive waste product, even if some of it goes back in the ground as fertilizer. Wouldn’t it make sense to be able to just make the meat if you could?
I’ve focused on some of the why’s. I haven’t even touched on the widely held ethical views on growing animals purely so we can eat them. I definitely like my meat, don’t get me wrong. Anyway I will leave with a link to the In Vitro Meat Foundation and a quote from Winstone Churchill in 1932:
“Fifty years hence (…) we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”
The last word goes to Jason Metheny of New Harvest
As you do, conversation at the dinner table last night went to prosthetics. It started with her school planning assignments on innovation and her plan to get her class thinking about how people could cope without the use of their hands.
She mentioned the story of Mariatu Kamara who had both her hands hacked off in Sierra Leone, which is the subject of her book Bite of the Mango. She decided that she would get her kids to spend a day not being able to use their hands and then get them to think about how they could cope with this. The next step would be how to use innovation to come up with a solution to this problem.
I told her about the Kiwi company Rex Bionics who are helping people who are wheelchair bound and thought they would never walk again, to get on their feet with an exoskeleton. This is a topic I have covered on a number of occasions including my recent blog on Singularity.
Anyway, this is an area that is being well researched and just to prove that learning to control a prosthesis via the brain, check out this video where a University of Pittsburgh team trained a monkey to feed itself using a prosthetic arm controlled via a brain implant.
Now I do have to warn you not to try this at home folks. Implants produce scarring and scarring inhibits conductivity. Now of course the problem is how to produce this technology at a price that is affordable. Probably decades away, but pretty exciting, don’t you think?
I just read a blog by Kevin Pomfret, Executive Director of the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy, about the decision of Craigslist to pull it’s Adult Services section after finding out that people had been using it for prostitution and trafficking of women and girls. He suggested that people developing geolocation applications needed to also consider privacy of users in the same way.
I totally agree. Already there are many anecdotal stories of people using Facebook and other stories to target empty homes. One story in Mail Online called Facebook a shopping list for burglars. It went on to suggest that insurance companies might increase the risk profile of clients who have social networking accounts.
Now of course we have Facebook Places, which starts by checking the city your IP Address is based in and then invites you to let it know exactly where you are. There are bound to be loads of Facebook applications for mobile that will use the GPS in your phone to check exactly where you are. Great for stalkers who want to find you and for others who want to know where you aren’t and such as when you are not at home.
For more on this, check out my blog on Who’s Looking at you on Facebook?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am totally into location based services. I just want to make sure that people understand what they are getting into when they start using them. An application I really like is foursquare. It has rewards for people who use it such as points and badges. You can see where your ‘friends’ are, which is great if you want to catch up with them. I recommend if you do that, you make sure you actually know and trust your ‘friends’.
As foursquare starts to work towards monetizing, a good thing to do for application developers:) they are now selling advertising and encouraging locations to offer deals based on proximity. For example, if you become Mayor of a location you can get special deals. If you are Mayor of Auckland Airport for example, you can get free entry into the Koru Lounge. The cool thing about that is that the advertiser doesn’t have to know who you are and has no way of knowing who you are unless you tell them.
That’s one of the places I want to go with proximity based marketing. I would like to see Happy Hour applications and be offered deals based on product segments I’m interested in, at times when I am not only in proximity, but also when I am open to an offer. Offer me a 2 for 1 deal at a bar on a Friday evening, but not on a Monday morning. Give me the ability and an incentive to invite my friends, but I don’t want the advertiser to to have access to my friends details unless they want to provide them.
Opting in and informed consent is crucial for location based marketing. There is a Code of Practice for Direct Marketing in most countries. Proximity Based Marketing is even more important and for applications to become accepted, we need to be able to trust that our privacy and security is protected. This is particularly important for children and young adults who could easily be targeted by dangerous criminals.
Informed consent is a key issue here. Most people don’t read End User License Agreements. Do you know the rights you have bestowed on Microsoft when you open Microsoft Office? Did you read them, or did you just tick the box and start using it. In the Windows 7 EULA it says “b. Use of Information. Microsoft may use the computer information, accelerator information,
search suggestions information, error reports, and Malware reports to improve our software and services. We may also share it with others, such as hardware and software vendors.”
If you use any application, especially a location based application, you need to clearly understand what privacy it allows you and what your potential risks are. More on this in the future. In the meantime, the onus is on the application developers to protect the interests of the users if they want to encourage them to use their applications.
When The Hyperfactory started in mobile marketing, they got together with advertising agencies and other interested parties and formed a wireless marketing association. One of the first things the association did was to form a voluntary code of practice. I believe the same thing needs to happen for location based applications and quickly.
The home, its technology and its inhabitants are now becoming more and more connected. Many of us now have WiFi networks in the home. We can sit with notebooks on our laps, wireless routers connected to our internet connection allow us to connect entertainment systems, iPads and other network appliances, printers, external drives, Smartphones and more.
Many other devices are now being developed that also offer the benefits of connectivity. For example Internet TV is almost here with products like Google TV being right on our doorstep.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Arthur Anderson offices in Chicago for a glimpse of the future. An example was an intelligent fridge with a bar code reader that created a shopping list and could automatically send the list to the local grocery delivery company.
Bill Gates had a master plan of having a Windows CE engine in home appliances, creating an intelligent house. Smart Appliances will I’m sure be in the home soon and the idea Gates had was that if they all used Windows CE, they would all have a common platform to communicate not only with each other and with your mobile computer, perhaps your home appliances.
The European Commission has perhaps seen the light in setting up The Hydra Project. “The Hydra middleware allows developers to incorporate heterogeneous physical devices into their applications by offering easy-to-use web service interfaces for controlling any type of physical device irrespective of its network technology such as Bluetooth, RF, ZigBee, RFID, WiFi, etc. Hydra incorporates means for Device and Service Discovery, Semantic Model Driven Architecture, P2P communication, and Diagnostics. Hydra enabled devices and services can be secure and trustworthy through distributed security and social trust components of the middleware.”
This has the potential to reduce the risk of being tied to specific brands of computing, communications and other technology by providing middleware that everyone can work with. Of course the home is only one place that can benefit from this concept. It applies equally to telemedicine (monitoring patients in the home), business automation, security, agriculture, manufacturing, warehousing and pretty much any industry you can think of.
Once again Science Fiction is about to become reality. It’s taken a while, but looks like we are getting there.
The following video shows an e-home controlled by voice or even by your X Box Controller and of course you can control it from your iPhone: