CanadianSpaceAgency, #NASA-ledspacetelescope; #DrMichaelHudson; #WideFieldInfraredSurveyTelescope, #WFIRST; #JustinTrudeau; #JohnHutchings; #GillesLeclerc
Ottawa, May 30 (Canadian-Media): Canadian Space Agency's plans to participate in a NASA-led space telescope, Canadian astronomers' top priority for the coming decade, would be aborted due to lack of funding, media reports said.
For space scientists and industry partners, this was a blow, which left them to contemplate of a long-awaited strategy from the Trudeau government for promoting Canada’s research-and-development goals in orbit.
Dr Michael Hudson, a professor of astronomy at the University of Waterloo and Canada’s representative on the keystone mission, known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST, learnt of the cancellation of funds earlier this month.
“It’s a gutting feeling,” said Hudson, who had been working on the project since 2013.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. Image credit: Wikipedia
Canada had already spent some $3.1-million in concept studies and technology development related to the instrument and felt it lost a golden opportunity to play a central role in fulfilling WFIRST’s search to determine the nature of dark energy, a mysterious phenomenon thought to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate and had planned its launch in the mid-2020s
Astronomers had voiced their concerns with Ottawa, earlier in the week, at a conference in Victoria, that space funding had been declining under Justin Trudeau, Canada's Prime minister.
“So far, there’s been almost no action, and the only action has been arbitrary, mysterious, ill-informed and inappropriate,” said John Hutchings, an emeritus researcher with the National Research Council and chair of the committee that developed the long-range plan for Canada’s community of professional astronomers.
Canadian space agency, said researchers and industry advocates, counted on a stable budget that was more transparent around which projects get funded.
“If we count ourselves as a world-leading country in science, we have to contribute financially, otherwise we’re just going to watch the great discoveries go by,” Dr. Hudson said.
Gilles Leclerc, the agency’s director-general for space exploration, confirmed that Canada was pulling out of WFIRST purely for budget reasons. “It’s that simple and that sad,” he said.
Leclerc added that it will not be possible for Canada to jump back into the project later because of timing.
But the science case for Canada’s involvement in WFIRST was strong.
“You could not have had a better proposal,” he said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#NexusRobotics; #agBOTChallenge; #ThomasTrappenberg; #NovaScotia, #Canada
Ottawa, May 28 (Canadian-Media): Nexus Robotics, a technology startup based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, won this month the weed-and-feed international competition at the agBOT Challenge, in Rockville, Ind., media reports said.
The autonomous machine, dubbed R2 Weed2 or Hal-Bot, uses artificial intelligence to distinguish between weeds and crops and is designed to both pluck weeds and spray herbicide,
"We want to get rid of the weed and keep the crop and even fertilize it. So one of the advancements … we made is vision systems can be better than humans at distinguishing them," said Thomas Trappenberg, part of the team behind the battery-powered robot.
Agriculture robot. Image credit: Wikipedia
A 1.5-metre square frame robot, with a central nozzle for spraying fertilizer or herbicide, has a cutting wheel to slice the weeds that have a less developed root system.
Teric Greenan, who grows vegetables on a farm in Lunenburg County in addition to his work with Nexus, came up with the idea, and hoped that the robot, with its super accuracy with where it is spraying, will be more cost-effective and less time consuming to farmers who would otherwise fight weeds with a combination of herbicides and manual labour.
"I think that our robot, it's going to have a really big part to play in integrated pest management and making sure that weeds don't become resistant to herbicides," said Greenan.
Jad Tawil, who writes the software, said it could operate with up to 99 percent accuracy if the plants were in a row.
Trappenberg said the startup's team worked 16-hour days, seven days a week for two months in preparation for the competition, where they competed with teams from large U.S. universities.
"I have to say, it was worth it," he said. "This gives us the encouragement to work even harder,,,showing that Nova Scotia can win a competition in North America, it … gives us the encouragement to work even harder."
This summer, the team would work with farmers, who would try out the prototype.
A second version of the design would also is being planned by the team which could be accessed to farmers by next year, with hopes of eventually selling it.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#EuropeanUnion’sGeneralDataProtectionRegulation; #JasonKint; #GPDR; #Google; #Facebook, #EuropeanConsumerOrganisation; #JeffChester
Ottawa, May 26 (Canadian-Media): European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR), which came into effect on Friday, as a defining moment for the digital economy, are a complex set of laws, said Data-privacy advocates, which empowers users more control over their personal information and check Big Tech companies to track users across the web, media reports said.
GDPR. Image credit: Pixaby
But others warn that the rules would reportedly further allow social-media giants Facebook and Google to consolidate their digital power.
Investors ar have been keeping a close watch on what the rules will mean for digital advertising by Google and Facebook.
Many changes have been put forth by these to comply with the new law such as privacy features, to users outside of Europe as well.
Dave Wehner, Facebook chief financial officer, expressed his concerns last month, that European user base of Facebook’s could decline after the GDPR comes into effect.
According to estimates of financial analysts, if users start denying permission to access their data, both firms could suffer a loss of billions in advertising income.
Regulators and activists who reportedly are keen to make big tech companies a test case for the new rules would reportedly be the biggest risk to Google and Facebook
Google and Facebook, which last year captured more than 80 percent of the growth in digital advertising, “are surely going to be on everyone’s list,” David Martin Ruiz, senior legal officer for the European Consumer Organisation, an umbrella group of consumer watchdogs, said
U.S. privacy activists are planning to work with their European counterparts to focus attention on U.S. companies operating across the EU, said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-based non-profit.
Tech companies “think they can get away with their business model without changing their practices,” he said. “This is going to be a serious war that will soon ensue.”
Many are also concerned that instead reducing the power of Big Tech, GDPR might allow social-media giants to extend their dominance over the digital-advertising market by favoring its own data-gathering capabilities,
“They literally have dominance over the entire supply chain in a way that you don’t see in other unregulated markets,” said Jason Kint, CEO of one of the trade organizations, Digital Content Next.
“Facebook has just become the biggest data broker in the history of humanity,” John Battelle, a digital advertising executive and co-founder of Wired Magazine, wrote on his blog. “It just doesn’t want you to know that.”
New restrictions had been posed by Google on advertisers to export some user data needed to measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns across multiple platforms, while it is still allowing markers to use that same data in Google’s own in-house ad measurement tools.
Google told publishers it was changing its policies around user consent for Google’s advertising services.
Publishers are now required to get consent on Google’s behalf and have been left with very little choice but to try to work with Google, since the company controls so much of the online-advertising business.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#CivicHallToronto; #MichaelThompson; #civicinnovation
Toronto, May 10 (Canadian-Media): A Civic Hall Toronto was launched today by Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City's Economic Development Committee, Councillor Paul Ainslie (Ward 43 Scarborough East), Chair of the City's Government Management Committee, and project partners Code for Canada and the Centre for Social Innovation, media reports said.
"Civic Hall Toronto will bring together City teams and outside innovators to collaborate on solutions to better serve our residents,” said Mayor John Tory. “I look forward to seeing the results of this work and the introduction of new tools and approaches to improve the way we work on behalf of the people of Toronto.”
Civic Hall Toronto had been inspired by Civic Hall in New York and Paris’ Superpublic and a unique combination of services are offered to its members, including hot desks in the collaboration space, networking opportunities, training, events and custom support, user testing, design sprints and more to help accelerate civic innovation projects.
“New ideas need new spaces where collaboration and outside the box thinking are encouraged,” said Civic Hall Toronto Program Manager Shea Sinnott. “Civic Hall Toronto will break down siloes, unite passionate and talented people with an interest in civic innovation, and enable the best ideas to be shared across sectors.”
"Around the world, entrepreneurs are finding success and sustainability delivering technologies that inform, engage and connect residents with government and one another to advance civic outcomes," said Councillor Thompson. "Civic Hall Toronto will grow the commercial civic tech sector in the GTA by helping civic entrepreneurs connect and collaborate with technologists, public servants and potential users."
Civic Hall Toronto will be managed by Code for Canada, hosted at the Centre for Social Innovation's Spadina location at 215 Spadina Ave. and welcome members from governments and communities across the GTA.
"This new home for civic innovation in the city will foster collaboration by creating a safe space for learning and testing ideas while engaging residents in improving government service design and policies," said Councillor Ainslie. "We are excited to see how this collaboration between the City, Code for Canada and the Centre for Social Innovation will evolve and encourage everyone to find out more about what Civic Hall Toronto is about."
"Civic Hall is bold and will bridge the gap between the City and citizens," said Adil Dhalla,
Executive Director of the Centre for Innovation. "It is unlike anything Toronto has ever seen and will be a hub for social innovation and new thinking. We can't wait to get started.”
Code for Canada is a national non-profit that enables governments to deliver better digital public services and empower communities to solve civic challenges using technology and design.