Smart farming with ‘AI at the edge’


July 17, 2019

Cambridge Consultants has announced to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to the edge of the network, using low-cost, low-power devices to perform complex machine learning tasks

‘AI at the edge’ is set to enable AI to solve many of the real-world challenges, out in the field. The approach is demonstrated by Fafaza, a precision crop spraying technology that performs plant recognition and individual treatment in real time.

Precision agriculture means harnessing technology to optimise production. It relies on precise granular data at the individual plant level, on the scale of large industrial farms, supporting everything from weed identification to crop health and yield estimation. This understanding can inform real-time actions, for example, the application of herbicide to an individual weed. This is the challenge that Fafaza addresses: deploying AI ‘at the edge,’ on the back of a moving tractor and without the need for connectivity.

Fafaza is designed to spot broadleaved weeds amongst the grass and to treat individual target leaves with herbicide. The system identifies, classifies and applies treatment in real time while moving at tractor speed. The Cambridge Consultants team chose this tough ‘green on green’ challenge to demonstrate the potential of state-of-the-art machine vision and AI.

Although AI techniques have been able to achieve plant recognition for a number of years, the challenge has been in moving from powerful specialist platforms with delayed processing of data, to processing and acting in real time: this is ‘AI at the edge’. To be technically practical, a system must be fast enough to distinguish and identify plants using ambient light and to apply treatment while the plant is still in view. To be commercially viable, a system must be rugged and affordable.

Fafaza has been developed to run on off-the-shelf components, including a low-cost camera that can capture images at around 20 frames per second and an AI platform that costs less than US$100. Major processor vendors continue to invest heavily in devices that can run AI inference algorithms, bringing costs down further. These developments are opening up new areas for real-time AI processing in the field, without the need to rely on a communications infrastructure or the cloud.

Read the article here: Smart farming with ‘AI at the edge’

Smile, Your City Is Watching You


June 2, 2019

Local governments must protect your privacy as they turn to “smart city” technology.

Walking through the streets of New York City, you can feel the thrill of being lost in the crowd. As throngs of people filter past, each going about their days, it seems possible to blend in without being noticed.

But as municipalities and companies pursue the dream of “smart cities,” creating hyper-connected urban spaces designed for efficiency and convenience, this experience is receding farther and farther from reality.

Consider the LinkNYC kiosks installed across New York City — more than 1,700 are already in place, and there are plans for thousands more. These kiosks provide public Wi-Fi, free domestic phone calls and USB charging ports.

Yet the LinkNYC kiosks are not just a useful public service. They are owned and operated by CityBridge (a consortium of companies that includes investment and leadership from Sidewalk Labs — a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google) and are outfitted with sensors and cameras that track the movements of everyone in their vicinity. Once you connect, the network will record your location every time you come within 150 feet of a kiosk.

And although CityBridge calls this information “anonymized” because it doesn’t include your name or email address — the system instead records a unique identifier for each device that connects — when millions of these data points are collected and analyzed, such data can be used to track people’s movements and infer intimate details of their lives.

In other words, this free Wi-Fi network is funded the same way as Google itself: using data to sell ads. As Dan Doctoroff, a deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration and now the founder and C.E.O. of Sidewalk Labs, told a conference in 2016, the company expects to “make a lot of money from this.”

LinkNYC exemplifies the trend in “smart cities” today: the deployment of technologies that expand the collection of personal data by government and corporations. Certainly, this data can be used for beneficial outcomes: reducing traffic, improving infrastructure and saving energy. But the data also includes detailed information about the activities of everyone in the city — data that could be used in numerous detrimental ways.

Whether we recognize it or not, technologies that cities deploy today will play a significant role in defining the social contract of the future. And as it stands, these smart city technologies have become covert tools for increasing surveillance, corporate profits and, at worst, social control. This undemocratic architecture increases government and corporate power over the public.

First, smart city technologies make it easier than ever for local and federal law enforcement to identify and track individuals. The police can create and gain access to widespread surveillance by acquiring their own technology, partnering with companies and requesting access to data and video footage held by companies. In Los Angeles, for example, automatic license plate readers recorded the location of more than 230 million vehicles in 2016 and 2017, information that, through data-sharing agreements, could have found its way into the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Similarly, the police in suburban Portland, Ore., hoping to aid crime investigations, have used Amazon’s facial-recognition software to identify more than 1,000 people who have appeared in camera footage.

Second, the smart city is a dream come true for companies eager to increase the scale and scope of data they collect about the public. Companies that place cameras and sensors on Wi-Fi kiosks, trash cans and streetlights will gain what had been unattainable insights about the behavior of individuals. And given the vast reach of hard-to-trace data brokers

that gather and share data without the public’s knowledge or consent, one company’s data can easily end up in another’s hands. All of this data can be used to exclude people from credit, jobs, housing and health care in ways that circumvent anti-discrimination laws.

Once these smart city technologies are installed, it will be almost impossible for anyone to avoid being tracked. Sensors will monitor the behavior of anyone with a Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-connected device. Given the expansive reach of cameras and the growing use of facial-recognition software, it is increasingly impossible to escape surveillance even by abandoning one’s personal digital technology.

This reality suggests that if you want to avoid being tracked in a smart city, you must stay out of that city.

Read the article here: Smile, Your City Is Watching You

5G to play a significant role in entertainment and education


May 27, 2019

With the deployment of a fifth-generation network in China that comes with high speed and low latency, industrial applications including education and entertainment will discover new market opportunities.

At the Mobile World Congress Shanghai, China Mobile signed a partnership agreement with firms like NetDragon and TAL on smart education applications to be run on 5G networks.

Interactive education will soon become a reality with high-speed and low-latency 5G-enabled data transfer, especially in the developing and rural regions which struggle for quality education. It will make educational resources more accessible and interactive, said Xiong Li, CEO of NetDragon.

Fuzhou-based NetDragon has developed a virtual reality lab for physical and chemical experiments and digital board for schools. With 5G development and cooperation with China Mobile, the new services will be available online and in more schools nationwide.

Kazakhstan’s Ali Almira, founder of AR in Education, is showcasing its AR applications that are used in education, health care and marketing. She attended the MWC Shanghai to look for potential partners to promote AR application that is specifically designed in Chinese for kids and students.

China Mobile’s subsidiary Migu also signed an agreement with Mango Media to establish a joint 5G lab. Besides Mango, it has invited overseas partners like BBC, NBA and Discovery to seek opportunities on HD contents in the 5G era.

Migu broadcasts 350 sports and entertainment events now. It will increase the number of broadcasting programs after the 5G deployment. The company also works with Sichuan’s panda base to produce documentaries and ringtones and music with panda themes.

China Unicom has established a 5G research center with iQiyi on edge computing, super high definition, VR and AR applications. Both sides will try to build a new ecosystem for VR, said iQiyi, China’s leading online video website with 100 million paid users already.

BOE, China’s biggest LCD panel vendor, showcased its latest technologies in Shanghai such as ultra-high-definition screens and foldable display.

4K or 8K high-definition screens will become more popular in China with a jump in contents. 5G, with high-speed data transmission, will help content providers and journalists to obtain and produce more HD contents, including live broadcasting with 5G networks, analysts said.

Consumers want to deal with more contents as the picture, webpage, social network, game and video on smartphones will require bigger screen spaces. It’s a potential opportunity for BOE, which is offering foldable screens with Huawei’s Mate X phones.

Read the article here: 5G to play a significant role in entertainment and education

Are Smart Cities The Next Great Disruptor?


May 27, 2019

When the city of Columbus, Ohio, submitted its bid to become Amazon’s HQ2, city officials rolled out the usual fanfare: an assortment of tax incentives, promotion of its major educational institutions and real estate deals. But the hallmark of its proposal was a pitch to create a smart city by “embracing the reinvention of transportation to accelerate human progress.” The proposal noted that Columbus had just won the first-ever U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge, beating out 77 other communities with its proposal to become a model for connected cities of the future.

Columbus is not alone. Around the world, as increasingly mobile workforces prize connectivity, seamless transportation and sustainability as the determining criteria for quality-of-life, cities – large and small – have recognized that technology has become the great equalizer. From Boston to Bangkok, cities are unveiling plans to link fiber optics, light rail lines, automated vehicles and 5G networks in a seamless grid of always-on mobility.

An estimated two-thirds of cities globally are investing in smart city technology, with spending projected to reach $135 billion by 2021. Currently, the top applications being pursued include; smart utility meters, intelligent traffic signals, e-government applications, wi-fi kiosks and radio frequency identification sensors in pavement.

However, not everyone is on board with this movement. Privacy advocates recently launched a campaign to stop Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs smart city project in Toronto, citing a lack of transparency and concerns about how the company is collecting and using citizens’ personal data. As more smart city initiatives continue to gain momentum, they will raise significant questions about the role of private enterprise in government, the reliance on untested new technologies and the very definition of infrastructure spending. Sidewalk Labs released its master plan for the project this past Monday in an effort to address some of those concerns and promise to create “the most innovative district in the world.”

One example that shows both the real-world progress and the complex maze of regulatory and infrastructure-related issues that go along with these types of initiatives is the U.K.’s recently-announced effort to revolutionize the way people find parking spots with mobile apps that identify open spaces and allow you to pay for parking from your phone. Before the project can get off the ground, however, government and local authorities need to agree on a single standard for parking data. Only then will app developers be able to access the information on available parking spaces, permitted times and pricing that they need to begin the process of creating digital parking apps.

While the initiative seems completely logical, it introduces a debate on data privacy and level of collaboration between governments and private sector companies that can make some people skittish. As parking consultant Steve Vollar told the BBC, “There will be a lobby who will object to online payment details and knowledge of their movements.”

Read the article here: Are Smart Cities The Next Great Disruptor?

Pavegen, which harvests energy and data from footsteps, secures crowd and Hinduja Group funding


April 27, 2019

Pavegen, a UK startup which harvests energy from people’s footsteps and also tracks that data, has raised £2.6m on its crowdfunding push having doubled its initial £950k target.

The campaign secured funds from over 1,400 investors, including partnership and anchor investment from major global engineering conglomerate Hinduja Group and family investment firm Tamar Capital.

The Hinduja Group, whose Co-Chairmen topped the UK 2019 Rich List, aims to use the technology to reduce the cost of manufacturing and provide access to fast-growing markets in India and South East Asia.

The funding round follows expansion into 36 countries worldwide, and £1.8m in revenues in 2018, with installations including smart city developments, retail destinations, transport hubs and education institutions in Hong Kong, India, Korea, Thailand, UAE, UK & USA.

In 2018, Pavegen also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with global engineering and technology giant, Siemens, to develop smart city projects together.

The key to Pavegen is not just power generation. Pavegen which converts the kinetic energy of footsteps into both electricity and data, and it is also developing an ecosystem allowing people to be rewarded for steps on Pavegen walkways.

The company says its first shopping center deployment at The Mercury mall in East London has raised engagement with the site by 15%.

Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO of Pavegen, said: “We believe in placing people at the heart of the smart city. With the support of Hinduja Group, Siemens and Tamar Capital, our plan of making our technology ubiquitous for all cities becomes achievable.”

Hrag Sarkissian, Founding Partner, Tamar Capital, said: “Pavegen is very relevant when it comes to Smart cities, from a power and a data play. As cost comes down, large scale deployments could really change the game.”

Shom Hinduja, President of Alternative Energy and Sustainability Initiatives at Hinduja Group said: “It’s an exciting time for Pavegen with new projects in airports, retail sites and smart city developments in Asia, the Middle East and North America. We believe the Hinduja team will be able to play a key role in enabling the Pavegen team to rapidly bring their ambitious vision to life.”

Read the article here: Pavegen, which harvests energy and data from footsteps, secures crowd and Hinduja Group funding

LG tries to bring webOS to cars, robots, and the smart home with new partnership


March 26, 2019

LG and The Qt Company have announced an expanded partnership to bring webOS to more devices including cars, robots, and other smart home products. LG says the partnership will make it more efficient to port webOS to new devices.

LG and The Qt Company have been working together on webOS since 2014, after LG acquired the Palm-developed operating system from HP. LG used Qt’s software developer framework and GUI tools to scale webOS from a phone OS into one that can now be found in TVs, smart refrigerators, and even a smartwatch for a short time. Last year LG open-sourced webOS, in an attempt to drive its adoption. While this latest move doesn’t guarantee an increase in webOS adoption, it will make it easier for device makers to adapt webOS to a variety of experiences.

It should come as no surprise that LG’s arch rival, Samsung, has similar ambitions for its own open-source Tizen operating system, which can already be found in the company’s wearables, cameras, and yes, smart refrigerators. In the past, Samsung has said it wants to bring Tizen to other home appliances such as robot vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and air conditioners, and has also attempted to bring it to cars.

Read the article here: LG tries to bring webOS to cars, robots, and the smart home with new partnership

Digital Health Startup Omada Snags Another $73 Million in Funding: Brainstorm Health


February 26, 2019

Sean Duffy, the co-founder and chief executive at digital health upstart Omada Health, approached the company’s new $73 million funding round with a philosophical question: “What will healthcare delivery look like in 20 years? How should it look?”

Duffy’s firm has taken a decidedly digital approach to the business of diabetes prevention and maintenance, creating an online platform that links patients to online coaches with the help of medical biometrics communicated via connected devices. The latest funding round was led by Wellington Management and joined by a host of big names from Kaiser Permanente Ventures to Andreessen Horowitz. CNBC reports that Omada’s overall VC haul now brings it to about a $600 million valuation, or more than halfway to “unicorn” status.

But Duffy’s vision, to borrow an entirely overused term, is to make the company a true disruptor through the use of sleek technology and personally tailored advice for patients—he even goes so far as to say the biggest and most effective health care providers of the future will be digital ones.

“Digital care means providing holistic, preemptive support to avoid the adverse outcome in the first place, instilling small changes that add up to powerful—and lasting—gains in health,” wrote Duffy in a post on Wednesday. “That’s our vision for Omada, and for healthcare: human-centered, elegantly designed digital experiences for patients. We can increase access to life-altering care, improve outcomes, and lower costs. We’re eager to help millions of people in their journeys to lifelong health, one step at a time. In short, it’s time to build the healthcare provider for the 21st Century.”

As I reported in Fortune‘s July issue, digital health firms enjoyed a record $8.1 billion in venture funding in 2018. The money doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Read the article here: Digital Health Startup Omada Snags Another $73 Million in Funding: Brainstorm Health

New York Label & Box Co. expands to become ‘a vehicle for smart packaging’


January 25, 2019

New York Label & Box Company provides packaging to companies in the Cosmetic, Health, Food, Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Vitamin and Nutraceutical industries.

Read the full article here: New York Label & Box Co. expands to become ‘a vehicle for smart packaging’

DesignLights and CABA Sign Smart Buildings Collaboration Pact


December 6, 2018

CABA is a global non-profit industry association dedicated to advancing home and intelligent building technologies.

The DesignLights Consortium (DLC) and the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) announced a new agreement designed to enhance and promote development and adoption of smart building technology.

CABA is a global non-profit industry association dedicated to advancing home and intelligent building technologies that foster better utilization of building space, occupant comfort and energy savings, said a DLC press release on the agreement. The DLC is devoted to driving efficient lighting by defining quality, facilitating thought leadership and providing tools and resources to the lighting market. The DLC’s just-released Networked Lighting Control System Technical Requirements V4.0 policy addresses roadblocks to wider adoption of technology capable of serving as a smart building gateway while significantly boosting the energy efficiency of light emitting diode (LED) fixtures.

The scope of the DLC-CABA Reciprocal Agreement includes establishing forums for exchange of information on current and planned activities and increasing engagement with hardware and software manufacturers, service providers, the utility industry, regulatory organizations, technology companies, vendors, consumer and non-profit groups, and government entities.

The two organizations will also work together in working groups developing, reviewing and commenting on policy and technical materials and commenting on each other’s research relevant to the lighting and home and building automation industries.

“The DLC has become increasingly interested in networked lighting’s ability to increase energy savings, while unlocking the Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities of commercial and industrial lighting,” DLC Executive Director Christina Halfpenny said. “We were thrilled to include CABA’s expertise in this arena at our recent Annual Stakeholder Meeting. This agreement cements our relationship and formalizes our intention to work together to advance smart building technology.”

Read the article here: DesignLights and CABA Sign Smart Buildings Collaboration Pact

2019 Smart Cities Award winners announced


November 30, 2018

The winners of the 2019 Smart Cities Awards have been revealed at a Gala Awards Ceremony as part of the Smart Cities 2019 Conference in Melbourne.

Awards were handed out in six categories, celebrating the greatest achievements in the development, technological advancement and interconnection of cities around Australia.

The aim of these awards is to gather some of the best ideas and talent when it comes to the development and enhancement of our cities, so that we can all learn and benefit from the exciting work already being undertaken across the sector.

The winners are:

Smart City of the Year – Metropolitan

City of Newcastle

City of Prospect

Smart City of the Year – Regional

Latrobe City Council

City of Darwin

Best Integration of an Individual Technology

City of Wanneroo – RailSmart Planning Support System

Best Residential Innovation

Solar Analytics

Smart Innovator of the Year

David Klingberg

Young Smart Innovator of the Year

Oliver Lock

Read the article here: 2019 Smart Cities Award winners announced