If you walk along the Westerdok canal in Amsterdam, you might not notice a line of bubbles moving across the surface. But underwater, a tube stretches along the bottom of the canal, pushing air upward. It’s a pilot test of new technology, called the Great Bubble Barrier, designed to help catch plastic waste before it flows into the North Sea.
“It can stop plastics that are drifting not only on the surface, but also underwater,” says Philip Ehrhorn, the coinventor of the device, who works on technical development at the startup that created it, also called the Great Bubble Barrier. An air compressor—connected to renewable energy from Amsterdam’s local grid—pumps air into the tube, and holes in the tube let the air escape as bubbles. Because the tube sits diagonally across the canal, the flow of bubbles combines with the natural flow of the water to help push plastic to the side, where it lands in a catchment system and can be collected by the city. In a previous test in a Dutch river, the system was able to capture 86% of the plastic flowing through the water.
[Image: courtesy The Great Bubble Barrier]Amsterdam already has a set of garbage boats that travel through canals collecting all types of trash that end up in the water. Waternet, the organization that manages water for the city, collects around 90,000 pounds of plastic waste each year. But the system tends to miss small pieces of plastic and plastic that has drifted below the water surface. The screen of bubbles can catch more. Unlike a physical barrier, it also doesn’t interfere with boat traffic or block wildlife in the water. “A lot of times these waterways are used for ship traffic, but they also play an ecological role,” Ehrhorn says. “So we shouldn’t be blocking a river—a river is a live ecosystem.”
[Image: courtesy The Great Bubble Barrier]Ehrhorn, originally from Berlin, first started thinking about the technology when he happened to visit a wastewater treatment plant as a student in Australia. At the plant, a section of water was swirling like a Jacuzzi, and plastic waste was accumulating at the side. “That was for me the first spark to say, if I see this here, what if I do this in a way that is a lot more directed?” he says. Simultaneously, three women in Amsterdam were beginning to consider the same idea, and they won a competition to begin working on it; Ehrhorn discovered them online, and they all decided to work together. In November 2019, the city began piloting the startup’s device in a test that will last for three years; if all goes well, it will be installed in other canals.
SPONSORED: VERIZONThe rationale for readyWhy businesses looking to thrive need to be gearing up for the digital revolution today
[Image: courtesy The Great Bubble Barrier]The company is interested in working in other cities where plastic waste currently escapes to the ocean through rivers and canals, though it doesn’t want to work in areas where plastic is dumped in rivers as a matter of course. “We don’t want to be the replacement for waste infrastructure,” Ehrhorn says. Instead, the device is meant to help supplement existing systems. And even in Amsterdam, where the city is working to increase recycling rates and reduce single-use plastic (at events, for example, organizers are now required to use reusable cups), a large amount of plastic is still littered in the water.
Other organizations are testing devices to help in similar ways: The Ocean Cleanup released a robotic trash-collecting system last year that also pulls waste out of rivers. (The Ocean Cleanup, by contrast, is working in areas where recycling infrastructure is currently poor or nonexistent, noting that most ocean plastic comes from key rivers where the worst dumping occurs.) “I think the plastic problem is so complex that there’s not going to be one solution that’s going to solve everything,” says Ehrhorn. By one estimate, as much as 2.4 million metric tons of plastic flows into the ocean from rivers each year, along with millions of additional tons from other sources.
The Great Bubble Barrier is working with a nonprofit, the Plastic Soup Foundation, which is counting each piece of plastic collected and noting the brands on the packages. The data will be publicly available. “We still don’t know enough about how much plastic we actually have in our rivers or how much it’s actually ending up in the oceans from the rivers,” he says. With the data, the team also wants to help solve the problem upstream—by identifying what types of trash show up most, the city can potentially start to draft new policies to stop the problem. “Hopefully, in the future, these will not end up in the water in the first place.”
#TechnologyAndInnovation; #KrogerTechnology&DigitalInnovationLabs, #Kruger, #FosuingOnNutritionHealth&WellnessAndVideoAnalytics; #Partnership;
Kentucky (U.S.), Jan 18 (Canadian-Media): The Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Labs was officially unveiled by the partners, Kroger (NYSC: KR) and Northern Kentucky University (NKU) with a ribbon-cutting event on Friday in NKU's Griffin Hall, media reports said.
The new Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab is the most significant addition to Griffin Hall since the JRG Cyber Threat Intelligence Lab in 2018.
Hands on experience would be provided to NKU students alongside associates from Kroger’s Research & Development group and 84.51⁰ with focus on initiatives that directly impact Kroger customers across the nation, including nutrition, health and wellness and video analytics.
“This reinforces our outstanding and rich partnership with Kroger. The KT & Digital Innovation Lab directly aligns with Success by Design’s goal of increasing applied learning opportunities for NKU students,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “Our students are gaining valuable skills and competencies, with support from faculty and business leaders right here on NKU’s campus. I’m excited to see the results of our talented students and faculty working together to address unique challenges with Kroger Tech.”
Kroger’s partnership with NKU deepens with the opening of innovation lab coming less than one year after the opening of the Zero Hunger/Zero Waste FUEL NKU student food pantry.
Company’s commitment to developing future talent in the region is exemplified by the lab and pantry. Financial awards to four NKU students were presented by Kroger as part of the celebration.
“Our partnership with Northern Kentucky University provides the opportunity for our associates to work with NKU faculty and students on projects aimed at solving real, innovative business challenges,” said Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer of Kroger Technology & Digital.
#Robotics, #FirstLivingRobert; #DeadCellsRepurposed; #livingTechnologies
Vermont (U.S.A.), Jan 13 (Canadian-Media): A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need, techxplore.com/news reports said.
Robotics expert Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist at the University of Vermont, co-led new research that led to the creation of a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism a called xenobot. Credit: Joshua Brown, UVM
A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need.
Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells—scraped from frog embryos—and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "xenobots" can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient)—and heal themselves after being cut.
"These are novel living machines," says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism."
The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM—and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. "We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can't do," says co-leader Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, "like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque."
The results of the new research were published January 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Bespoke living systems
People have been manipulating organisms for human benefit since at least the dawn of agriculture, genetic editing is becoming widespread, and a few artificial organisms have been manually assembled in the past few years—copying the body forms of known animals.
But this research, for the first time ever, "designs completely biological machines from the ground up," the team writes in their new study.
With months of processing time on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM's Vermont Advanced Computing Core, the team—including lead author and doctoral student Sam Kriegman—used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for the new life-forms. Attempting to achieve a task assigned by the scientists—like locomotion in one direction—the computer would, over and over, reassemble a few hundred simulated cells into myriad forms and body shapes. As the programs ran—driven by basic rules about the biophysics of what single frog skin and cardiac cells can do—the more successful simulated organisms were kept and refined, while failed designs were tossed out. After a hundred independent runs of the algorithm, the most promising designs were selected for testing.
A team of scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University designed living robots on a UVM supercomputer. Then, at Tufts, they re-purposed living frog cells -- and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These tiny 'xenobots' can move on their own, circle a target and heal themselves after being cut. These novel living machines are neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. They're a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism. They could, one day, be used for tasks as varied as searching out radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, or traveling in human arteries to scrape out plaque. Credit: Sam Kriegman, Josh Bongard, UVM
Then the team at Tufts, led by Levin and with key work by microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston—transferred the in silico designs into life. First they gathered stem cells, harvested from the embryos of African frogs, the species Xenopus laevis. (Hence the name "xenobots.") These were separated into single cells and left to incubate. Then, using tiny forceps and an even tinier electrode, the cells were cut and joined under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer.Assembled into body forms never seen in nature, the cells began to work together. The skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while the once-random contractions of heart muscle cells were put to work creating ordered forward motion as guided by the computer's design, and aided by spontaneous self-organizing patterns—allowing the robots to move on their own.
These reconfigurable organisms were shown to be able move in a coherent fashion—and explore their watery environment for days or weeks, powered by embryonic energy stores. Turned over, however, they failed, like beetles flipped on their backs.
Later tests showed that groups of xenobots would move around in circles, pushing pellets into a central location—spontaneously and collectively. Others were built with a hole through the center to reduce drag. In simulated versions of these, the scientists were able to repurpose this hole as a pouch to successfully carry an object. "It's a step toward using computer-designed organisms for intelligent drug delivery," says Bongard, a professor in UVM's Department of Computer Science and Complex Systems Center.
Many technologies are made of steel, concrete or plastic. That can make them strong or flexible. But they also can create ecological and human health problems, like the growing scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans and the toxicity of many synthetic materials and electronics. "The downside of living tissue is that it's weak and it degrades," say Bongard. "That's why we use steel. But organisms have 4.5 billion years of practice at regenerating themselves and going on for decades." And when they stop working—death—they usually fall apart harmlessly. "These xenobots are fully biodegradable," say Bongard, "when they're done with their job after seven days, they're just dead skin cells."
Your laptop is a powerful technology. But try cutting it in half. Doesn't work so well. In the new experiments, the scientists cut the xenobots and watched what happened. "We sliced the robot almost in half and it stitches itself back up and keeps going," says Bongard. "And this is something you can't do with typical machines."
Cracking the code
Both Levin and Bongard say the potential of what they've been learning about how cells communicate and connect extends deep into both computational science and our understanding of life. "The big question in biology is to understand the algorithms that determine form and function," says Levin. "The genome encodes proteins, but transformative applications await our discovery of how that hardware enables cells to cooperate toward making functional anatomies under very different conditions."
A time-lapse recording of cells being manipulated and assembled, using in silico designs to create in vivo living machines, called xenobots. These novel living robots were created by a team from Tufts University and the University of Vermont. Credit: Douglas Blackiston, Tufts UniversityTo make an organism develop and function, there is a lot of information sharing and cooperation—organic computation—going on in and between cells all the time, not just within neurons. These emergent and geometric properties are shaped by bioelectric, biochemical, and biomechanical processes, "that run on DNA-specified hardware," Levin says, "and these processes are reconfigurable, enabling novel living forms."
The scientists see the work presented in their new PNAS study—"A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms,"—as one step in applying insights about this bioelectric code to both biology and computer science. "What actually determines the anatomy towards which cells cooperate?" Levin asks. "You look at the cells we've been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they're frogs. It's 100% frog DNA—but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?"
"As we've shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be," says Levin. He and the other scientists in the UVM and Tufts team—with support from DARPA's Lifelong Learning Machines program and the National Science Foundation— believe that building the xenobots is a small step toward cracking what he calls the "morphogenetic code," providing a deeper view of the overall way organisms are organized—and how they compute and store information based on their histories and environment.
Many people worry about the implications of rapid technological change and complex biological manipulations. "That fear is not unreasonable," Levin says. "When we start to mess around with complex systems that we don't understand, we're going to get unintended consequences." A lot of complex systems, like an ant colony, begin with a simple unit—an ant—from which it would be impossible to predict the shape of their colony or how they can build bridges over water with their interlinked bodies.
"If humanity is going to survive into the future, we need to better understand how complex properties, somehow, emerge from simple rules," says Levin. Much of science is focused on "controlling the low-level rules. We also need to understand the high-level rules," he says. "If you wanted an anthill with two chimneys instead of one, how do you modify the ants? We'd have no idea."
"I think it's an absolute necessity for society going forward to get a better handle on systems where the outcome is very complex," Levin says. "A first step towards doing that is to explore: how do living systems decide what an overall behavior should be and how do we manipulate the pieces to get the behaviors we want?"
In other words, "this study is a direct contribution to getting a handle on what people are afraid of, which is unintended consequences," Levin says—whether in the rapid arrival of self-driving cars, changing gene drives to wipe out whole lineages of viruses, or the many other complex and autonomous systems that will increasingly shape the human experience.
"There's all of this innate creativity in life," says UVM's Josh Bongard. "We want to understand that more deeply—and how we can direct and push it toward new forms."
#BBQLighter; #HighTechLabDevice; #ElectroPens
United States, Jan 11 (Canadian-Media): Researchers have devised a straightforward technique for building a laboratory device known as an electroporator — which applies a jolt of electricity to temporarily open cell walls — from inexpensive components, including a piezoelectric crystal taken from a butane lighter, phys.org/news reports said.
This image shows a common butane lighter (left) from which the researchers obtained a piezoelectric component used in the ElectroPen (right), an inexpensive electroporator which has a 3D-printed case. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
searchers have devised a straightforward technique for building a laboratory device known as an electroporator—which applies a jolt of electricity to temporarily open cell walls—from inexpensive components, including a piezoelectric crystal taken from a butane lighter.
The goal would be to make the low-cost device available to high schools, budget-pressed laboratories and other organizations whose research might otherwise be limited by access to conventional lab-grade electroporators. Plans for the device, known as the ElectroPen, are being made available, along with the files necessary for creating a 3-D-printed casing.
"Our goal with the ElectroPen was to make it possible for high schools, budget-conscious laboratories and even those working in remote locations without access to electricity to perform experiments or processes involving electroporation," said M. Saad Bhamla, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "This is another example of looking for ways to bypass economic limitations to advance scientific research by putting this capability into the hands of many more scientists and aspiring scientists."
In a study to be reported January 9 in the journal PLOS Biology and sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the researchers detail the method for constructing the ElectroPen, which is capable of generating short bursts of more than 2,000 volts needed for a wide range of laboratory tasks.
One of the primary jobs of a cell membrane is to serve as a protective border, sheltering the inner workings of a living cell from the outside environment.
Georgia Tech undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli and assistant professor Saad Bhamla are shown with examples of butane lighters they used to create the inexpensive ElectroPen - an electroporator device useful in life sciences research. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
But all it takes is a brief jolt of electricity for that membrane to temporarily open and allow foreign molecules to flow in—a process called electroporation, which has been used for decades in molecular biology labs for tasks ranging from bacterial detection to genetic engineering.
Despite how commonplace the practice has become, the high cost of electroporators and their reliance on a source of electricity has kept the technique mostly within the confines of academic or professional labs. Bhamla and undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli set out to change that, with help from collaborators Soham Sinha, Yan Zhang, Assistant Professor Mark Styczynski and Lambert High School teacher Janet Standeven.
"Once we decided to tackle this issue, we began to explore the inner workings of electroporators to understand why they are so bulky and expensive," said Byagathvalli. "Since their conception in the early 1980s, electroporators have not had significant changes in design, sparking the question of whether we could achieve the same output at a fraction of the cost. When we identified a lighter that could produce these high voltages through piezoelectricity, we were excited to uncover new mysteries behind this common tool."
In addition to the piezoelectric lighter crystal—which generates current when pressure is applied to it—the other parts in the device include copper-plated wire, heat-shrinking wire insulator and aluminum tape. To hold it all together, the researchers designed a 3-D-printed casing that also serves as its activator. With all the parts on hand, the device can be assembled in 15 minutes, the researchers reported.
While the ElectroPen is not designed to replace a lab-grade electroporator, which costs thousands of dollars and is capable of processing a broad range of cell mixtures, the device is still highly capable of performing tasks when high volumes are not required.
Georgia Tech undergraduate student Gaurav Byagathvalli and assistant professor Saad Bhamla are shown with examples of the inexpensive ElectroPen — an electroporator device useful in life sciences research. Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech
The researchers tested several different lighter crystals to find ones that produced a consistent voltage using a spring-based mechanism. To understand more about how the lighters function, the team used a high-speed camera at 1,057 frames-per-second to view their mechanics in slow motion.
"One of the fundamental reasons this device works is that the piezoelectric crystal produces a consistently-high voltage, independent of the amount of force applied by the user," Bhamla said. "Our experiments showed that the hammer in these lighters is able to achieve acceleration of 3,000 Gs, which explains why it is capable of generating such a high burst of voltage."
To test its capabilities, the researchers used the device on samples of E. coli to add a chemical that makes the bacterial cells fluorescent under special lights, illuminating the cell parts and making them easier to identify. Similar techniques could be used in a lab or in remote field operations to detect the presence of bacteria or other cells.
The team also evaluated whether the device was easy to use, shipping the assembled ElectroPens to students at other universities and high schools.
"The research teams were able to successfully obtain the same fluorescence expression, which I think validates how easily these devices can be disseminated and adopted by students across the globe," Bhamla said.
To that end, the researchers have made available the plans for how to build the device, along with digital files to be used by a 3-D printer to fabricate the casing and actuator. Next steps of the research include testing a broader range of lighters looking for consistent voltages across a wider range, with the goal of creating ElectroPens of varying voltages.
#NASA; #NASAAnimation; #Smoke&Aerosol; #AustralianFires; #pyrCbs; #NASA-NOAA; #NPP; #BUV; OMPS-NM
Washington, Jan 10 (Canadian-Media): The fires in Australia are not just causing devastation locally. The unprecedented conditions that include searing heat combined with historic dryness, have led to the formation of an unusually large number of pyrocumulonimbus (pyrCbs) events, NASA reports said.
VIIIRS Red-Green-Blue imagery provides a “true-color” view of the smoke. (Note that these images do not represent what a human would see from orbit. In these images, the effect of Rayleigh scattering, which would add “blue haze,” has been taken out.) While useful, it is often hard to distinguish smoke over clouds and, sometimes, over dark ocean surfaces.
Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
PyroCbs are essentially fire-induced thunderstorms. They are triggered by the uplift of ash, smoke, and burning material via super-heated updrafts. As these materials cool, clouds are formed that behave like traditional thunderstorms but without the accompanying precipitation.
PyroCb events provide a pathway for smoke to reach the stratosphere more than 10 miles (16 km) in altitude. Once in the stratosphere, the smoke can travel thousands of miles from its source, affecting atmospheric conditions globally. The effects of those events -- whether the smoke provides a net atmospheric cooling or warming, what happens to underlying clouds, etc.) -- is currently the subject of intense study.
NASA is tracking the movement of smoke from the Australian fires lofted, via pyroCbs events, more than 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) high. The smoke is having a dramatic impact on New Zealand, causing severe air quality issues across the county and visibly darkening mountaintop snow.
Two instruments aboard NASA-NOAA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite -- VIIRS and OMPS-NM -- provide unique information to characterize and track this smoke cloud. The VIIRS instruments provided a “true-color” view of the smoke with visible imagery. The OMPS series of instruments comprise the next generation of back-scattered UltraViolet (BUV) radiation sensors. OMPS-NM provides unique detection capabilities in cloudy conditions (very common in the South Pacific) that VIIRS does not, so together both instruments track the event globally.
The UV aerosol index is a qualitative product that can easily detect smoke (and dust) over all types of land surfaces. It also has characteristic that is particularly well suited for identifying and tracking smoke from pyroCb events: the higher the smoke plume, the larger the aerosol index value. Values over 10 are often associated with such events. The aerosol index values produced by some of the Australian pyroCb events have rivaled that larges ever recorded. .
Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
At NASA Goddard, satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. The UV index is a qualitative product that can easily detect smoke (and dust) over all types of land surfaces. To enhance and more easily identify the smoke and aerosols, scientists combine the UV aerosol index with RGB information.
Colin Seftor, research scientist at Goddard said, “The UV index has a characteristic that is particularly well suited for identifying and tracking smoke from pyroCb events: the higher the smoke plume, the larger the aerosol index value. Values over 10 are often associated with such events. The aerosol index values produced by some of the Australian pyroCb events have rivaled that largest values ever recorded.”
Beyond New Zealand, by Jan. 8, the smoke had travelled halfway around Earth, crossing South America, turning the skies hazy and causing colorful sunrises and sunsets.
The smoke is expected to make at least one full circuit around the globe, returning once again to the skies over Australia.
NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass. Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars. NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our understanding of fire in the Earth system. Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet several times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit provide coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke and clouds every five to 15 minutes.
#Vancouver; #B.C.; #FullyElectricCommercialAircraft; #NASA
Vancouver (B.C.), Dec 10 (Canadian-Media): Fraser River in Vancouver, B.C. enjoyed a spectacular historic moment when Harbour Air founder and chief executive Greg McDougall was able to complete the Vancouver-based Harbour Air test flight of the world's first fully electric commercial aircraft on Tuesday morning, media reports said.
Vancouver-based Harbour Air test flight/Twitter
The joint partnership between Harbour Air and Seattle-based company MagniX resulted in the design the e-plane's propulsion system, which is powered by NASA-approved lithium-ion batteries that were also used on the International Space Station.
McDougall had taken off solo in the DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver float plane and after spending three minutes in the air over Richmond, B.C., he circled back and landed in front of about 120 gathered onlookers and media.
This is the first exercise after a two-year process to get the e-plane certified for commercial use.
#Kaolin, #PyTorchOpenSourceLibrary; #3-Ddeeplearningresearch; #NVIDIA; #California
California (U.S.), Dec 4 (Canadian-Media): To address the lack of readily available technological tools such as robots, self-driving vehicles, smartphones, and other devices that currently generate a growing amount of 3-D data, a team of researchers at NVIDIA (California) had recently created Kaolin, a PyTorch open-source library aimed at advancing and facilitating 3-D deep learning research to meet the demands of real-world environments, media reports said.
Kaolin, a PyTorch open-source library/Twitter
Kaolin offers valuable tools for both experienced developers of deep learning models as well as for beginners. Several state-of-the-art architectures can be found within the library, as a starting point or as a source of inspiration for their own models.
"While active 3-D deep learning researchers view Kaolin as a means to accelerate their research, newcomers into this field are turning to Kaolin for an idea of where to begin," Krishna Murthy Jatavallabhula, one of the researchers who carried out the study said.
"Currently, there is not a single open-source software library that supports multiple representations of 3-D data, multiple tasks, and evaluation criteria," Jatavallabhula told TechXplore.
"We decided to address this gap in the literature by creating Kaolin, the first comprehensive 3-D deep learning library."
Kaolin includes several graphics modules to edit 3-D images, with functions such as rendering, lighting, shading and view warping. Moreover, it supports a wide range of loss functions and evaluation metrics, allowing researchers to easily evaluate their deep learning algorithms.
Kaolin also contains a variety of tools for constructing deep learning architectures that can analyze 3-D data and allows researchers to load, preprocess, and manipulate 3-D data before it is used to train deep learning algorithms.
"Typically, 3-D deep learning researchers need to write a lot of boilerplate code for their research projects," Jatavallabhula explained. "With Kaolin, however, researchers only need to implement the novel parts of their project, as Kaolin packages a comprehensive set of utilities for data loading, conversion and evaluation."
Meanwhile, Jatavallabhula and his colleagues are planning to work on extending Kaolin and enhancing its capabilities further.
"Our plan is to add more deep learning models to our model zoo (collection of AI models)...in short, we plan on making Kaolin a one-stop platform for 3-D deep learning research," said Jatavallabhula
#GamechangingEntrepreneurs; #DigitalEconomy; #eFoundersFellowshipProgramme; #UNCTAD
Africa, Nov 29 (Canadian-Media): Game-changing entrepreneurs in the digital and technology space are turning problems into business opportunities, creating jobs and improving lives, UNCTAD reported.
Prof. Patrick Awuah, Founder & President of Ashesi University with eFounder Martin Stimela, Founder and Group CEO of Brastorne Enterprises, Botswana. Image credit: UNCTAD
The transformative power of the digital economy is real and impactful.
In 2035, one third of the global workforce will be in Africa, according to estimates. Today about 85% of people on the continent work in the informal sector. Improving their fortunes requires a mindset change.
“Boosting the digital economy in developing countries will require a new way of thinking, including from entrepreneurs,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi says.
According to Dr. Kituyi, while many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries have yet to switch to digital technologies, a digital transformation is happening across Africa, led by SMEs and young entrepreneurs who are willing “to take a risk and pioneer new business models as game-changers.”
Making connections to markets
Take the story of Leah Uwihoreye, a Rwandan computer engineer, who founded Made in Rwanda, an e-commerce platform connecting women artisans to online markets.
She started the business after visiting her family’s village and realizing that many women were producing unique high-quality pieces of handicraft, but only selling them to the few foreign visitors who would sporadically stop by the village.
While these sales represented a key source of earnings for the women, the income was not enough to provide for a sustainable livelihood. "I believe that technology is a powerful tool to lift people out of poverty," says Ms. Uwihoreye.
In addition to her managerial role in the start-up, Ms. Uwihoreye is helping others harness the power of technology.
She trains women from remote areas of Rwanda to become computer literate and delivers regular talks to female university students to encourage them to embrace the digital economy.
And in South Africa, Basson Engelbrecht founded Hoorah, also an e-commerce platform.
"We aim to empower African entrepreneurs, including rural and informal vendors, by providing to them an online platform to sell, grow and expose their businesses," he said.
As e-commerce remains a relatively new concept to many, offering such services to small and informal vendors comes with some challenges.
"We had to make an extra effort to understand the constraints the vendors face, such as the lack of digital literacy and business management skills, to develop a service that would enable them to use our platform," Mr. Engelbrecht said.
eFounders Fellowship Programme
Ms. Uwihoreye and Mr. Engelbrecht are part of a cohort of 122 entrepreneurs in the digital and technology space who operate open platforms related to e-commerce, logistics, fintech, big data or tourism.
They joined the eFounders Fellowship Programme, a partnership between UNCTAD and the Alibaba Business School, which was launched in 2017 to mentor 1,000 entrepreneurs from developing countries over a period of five years to empower them to become champions for the new economy.
The programme started when Jack Ma, Alibaba Group’s founder and former chairman, became UNCTAD’s special adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business.
It offers a unique learning experience about the transformative impact of e-commerce and technology as well as follow-up sessions on lessons learned, including a two-week stay at the Alibaba Business School campus in Hangzhou, China, with site visits.
“The course was a mind-blowing two weeks,” said Derrick Muturi of Herdy, a Kenyan e-commerce platform that handles orders, payments and logistics for small-scale farmers and their customers. His key take-away lessons were the importance of having a clear vision and a business culture, alongside long-term planning and networking.
Thousands of jobs, millions in revenue
Since the inception of the programme two years ago, the businesses of the 122 fellows spread over 17 African countries have created 3,400 direct jobs on the continent and generated US$100 million in annual revenues. And these numbers are growing.
Some of the fellows, joined by other young entrepreneurs from the continent, gathered from 15 to 17 November in Accra, Ghana, where they had a reunion and attended the Africa Netpreneur Conference as well as the inaugural Africa’s Business Heroes Show.
During the exciting show, 10 candidates were selected to pitch for the Netpreneur Prize, with Nigerian entrepreneur Temie Giwa-Tubosun winning with her business, Lifebank, which delivers blood to hospitals in the country.
In the presence of a competent panel led by Mr. Ma, the show was a source of inspiration for many entrepreneurs across the continent and it invigorated the transformative power that young entrepreneurs have. “We are a new Africa,” said supermodel Naomi Campbell.
The event organized by the Jack Ma Foundation and partners, gave the fellows a platform to share their entrepreneurial journey in the high-level presence of President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other dignitaries.
Pioneers and champions
In his message to the fellows in Accra, Dr. Kituyi urged: “As pioneers and champions for the new economy, you have a role to play to make transformations happen across the continent. With your background and experience, you have a lot to give and you owe this much to Africa.”
On 17 November, the upcoming entrepreneurs toured the business premises of two Ghanaian fellows.
First was Seyram Kofi’s e-commerce and logistics platform, Kikuu Express, where Kofi explained how clients could purchase goods online and have them delivered to local pick-up shops.
Then they went to the offices of Henry Cobblah’s Ahwenepa, an e-commerce platform for Ghanaian fashion, where a lively exchange took place among the fellows on issues such as delivery times of ordered products and payment methods.
“It is amazing to see the drive of the fellows and how they turn problems into business opportunities,” says Arlette Verploegh, coordinator of UNCTAD’s eFounders Fellowship Programme, who accompanied the fellows in Ghana.
“They change mindsets through their business models in which data play an important role and educate consumers on the use of online platforms and apps, and so much more,” Ms. Verploegh said.
She added: “What strikes me the most is their passion to support vulnerable groups and those working in the informal sector. These young entrepreneurs have the ability to change the socio-economic landscape and help get things right, if they receive proper support from the public sector and investors.”
#Google&Facebook; #World'sDominantInternationalCorporations; #AbuseHumanRights; #AmnestyInternational; #HumanRights
New York, Nov 21 (Canadian-Media): Google and Facebook, the world's dominant internet corporations were accused by the Amnesty International, London-based global rights group's new report, of being incompatible with the human right privacy including freedom expression and the right to equality and non-discrimination, media reports said.
Facebook & Twitter/Facebook
Based in United Kingdom and founded in London in 1961, Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI) is a non-governmental organization with a focus on human rights.
In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the third longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights
Amnesty International Official Logo
The report said the company's use of algorithmic systems to create and infer detailed profiles on people interferes is a breach of privacy of human rights.
Amnesty called on governments to legally guarantee people's right not to be tracked by advertisers or other third parties rectify current regulations and privacy-shielding measures.
Both Facebook and Google disagree with the Amnesty International report that their business practices "are inconsistent with human rights principles."
#California, #UnitedStates; #LaunchOfApple'sNewPrivacyWebsite
California (U.S.), Nov 6 (Canadian-Media): Apple's expansion of its new privacy website provides more explanations about its commitments but its policies and practices remain unchanged, media reports said.
The new site Wednesday is part of Apple’s ongoing push to distinguish itself from its rivals such as Google and Facebook, the later of which is more data-hungry and advertising-fueled .
Apple’s privacy website is mostly a users’ guide with papers on how to prevent apps and other third-party services from unnecessarily tracking users’ location and behaviours.
Many of the new privacy enhancements were announced earlier as part of Apple’s iOS 13 software update for iPhones. Changes include the ability to sign in to third-party services with an Apple ID account rather than Facebook’s or Google’s, plus more notices and warnings about apps tapping location data.