Home' Greymouth Star : 01-May-2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Brendan Manning and Sophie Ryan
fridge that can buy
groceries when supplies
get low could be in
homes of the future, a
report weighing up the
risks and benefits of
sharing personal data has said.
LG, Samsung and Microsoft have all
talked about developing a smart fridge
that can monitor what food is inside and
when the expiry dates are.
Personal data installed in the fridge
could allow it to purchase groceries and
have them delivered automatically.
However, open slather personal data
sharing would put New Zealanders at
very real risk, states a report from The
New Zealand Data Futures Forum.
“It would be foolish not to try to
minimise the potential harms that arise
from the use of shared data,” the report
The forum is comprised of individuals
from government, the private sector and
academia, and was established by the
Ministers of Finance and Statistics earlier
Its first report, released this week, states
they are aiming to promote discussion
about what is possible for New Zealand’s
data future, what kind of benefits and
opportunities should be aimed for and
what risks and challenges need to be
The forum’s chairman, former World
Bank executive director John Whitehead
said maintaining the status quo was not
“U ltimately, data is about people and
so it’s important everyone has a voice in
what ’s going to be good or bad in terms
of data sharing and what New Zealand is
or isn’t willing to give up, compromise or
miss out on,” he said.
Since the 1980s, individuals’ daily
activity had been increasingly stored
electronically as data, the report stated.
“So, when you interact with business,
or government, undertake digital activity
yourself, or indeed, when you’re going
about your normal daily life, you are
leaving digital breadcrumbs (in the form
of data) behind.”
While bungles involving personal data,
including security issues with the Xtra
email ser vice, weaknesses with WINZ
kiosks and information mistakenly sent to
the wrong address by ACC and the EQC
had highlighted the risks involved, it also
had its benefits, the report stated.
Data scientist Alex Pentland said a lot
could be discovered about a person by
analysing their data.
“They can tell whether you are the
sort of person who will pay back loans.
They can tell you if you’re likely to get
The promise of big data was for
financial systems that did not melt down,
governments that did not get mired
in inaction and health systems which
actually worked, Mr Pentland said.
Examples of the way businesses used
data included the way Fonterra used real-
time data on milk volumes in farm milk
tanks to optimise milk transport.
Dairy farmers also used data-driven
precision agriculture to get the most
out of fertiliser and water application,
thereby increasing production, the report
Benefits of increased data sharing
Better public ser vices: Using
geospatial, population, traffic, and travel-
to-work information, it is possible to
locate the best place for new hospitals
and schools, better ser ving communities
and cutting travel times. The Ministry
of Education already uses population
projections, building consents data, and
school enrolment data to work out where
new schools are needed.
Data-based urban planning decisions
can improve public transport routes and
roading to fit real work travel patterns.
Real-time data can also be harnessed to
make sure ambulances get more green
lights as they rush to an accident, and pot
holes can be identified and fixed faster.
Natural resources can be better
utilised through smart meters linked with
smart appliances. For example, heaters
can predict when to turn on or off and
individuals’ homes could prepare for their
arrival using their phone’s GPS data.
Mundane everyday transactions
can be automated — smart fridges can
order you more milk when you need it
and health and education records can be
automatically be transferred when you
Doctors and medical professionals
could use individuals’ data to identify
their health risks and provide preemptive
or personalised care — it is already
possible to predict where impending flu
outbreaks are likely to be.
Those willing to share their bank,
supermarket data and bills payment
information could be provided with
automated budgeting and savings ser vices,
helping them to discover where savings
could be made and how to forecast their
retirement savings in real time.
Individuals’ personal data can be
stolen by criminals planning on carrying
out theft or identity fraud offending.
Bungled personal data handling can
expose thousands of people’s personal
information, with the vulnerable most
likely to suffer.
Individuals could be marginalised
by insurance companies, banks and
governments which refused to provide
services to those living off the grid.
Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 7
digging in a New Mexico landfill
on Saturday unearthed hundreds
of ET the Extra-Terrestrial”
cartridges, considered by some
the worst video game ever made
and blamed for contributing to
the downfall of the video game
industry in the 1980s.
Some gamers speculate that
thousands or even millions of
the unwanted cartridges made by
Atari were buried in a landfill in
Alamogordo, about 320km
south-east of Albuquerque.
Who dumped the videos,
how many they buried and
why they did it inspired the
dig and a documentary of the
event by Microsoft Corp’s Xbox
The first batch of ET games
was discovered under layers
of trash after about three
hours of digging, a Microsoft
spokeswoman said, putting to rest
about whether the cartridges
would be found at all.
She could not immediately
provide an exact count of how
many cartridges were uncovered.
The game was a design and
marketing failure after it was
rushed out to coincide with the
release of Steven Spielberg’s
1982 hit movie ET the Extra-
Terrestrial, and it contributed
to a collapse of the video game
industry in its early years.
Atari is believed to have been
sadd led with most of the 5
million ET game cartridges
According to New York Times
reports at the time, the game
manufacturer buried the games
in the New Mexico desert in the
middle of the night.
A game enthusiast later tracked
down the suspected burial site
and spread the word about the
location, said Sam Claiborn, an
editor at video game news site
The approximate size of the
dig site at an old Alamogordo
landfill measures 150 feet by
150 feet off the city’s main
“For a lot of people, it’s
something that they ’ve wondered
about and it’s been rumoured and
talked about for 30 years, and
they just want an answer,” Zak
Penn, the film’s director, said.
When the game was first
released in 1982 it retailed for
around $29.99, but now often
sells on eBay for less than $5.
“I don’t know how much people
would pay for a broken ET game,
but as a piece of history, it has a
much different value,” Penn said.
Howard Scott Warshaw, centre, creator of ET the Extra-Terrestrial
game, gives an interview to television media at the old Alamogordo
landfill, in Alamogordo, New Mexico on Saturday.
Infamous Atari cartridges found in landfill
A TOT STOP: If you are teaching your child
to ride a bike you may be worried about being
able to stop them if they ’re heading for danger.
The MiniBrakeshould do the job: it gives you the
power to remotely bring their bike to a gentle
stop. The MiniBrake is fitted just above the rear
wheel on a small bike. Aremote operates from
up to 50m away to deploy the brake, lowering it
to apply pressure to the wheel and slow the bike.
If the battery ’s depleted or the remote is out of
range the device automatically deploys as a safety
measure. A moving bike will be stopped within
about half a metre. Many parents would welcome
SHAPES OF REALITY: Prosthetic legs may
not be very comfortable because of how they
fit. Sometimes they ’re sufficiently painful that
an amputee refuses to wear them. At the MIT
Media Lab researchers are working on solving
this problem by using MRI to map residual limb
shapes and 3D printing to create multi-material
sockets. The precise fit means much greater
comfort for the wearer. And that in turn could
change their lives.
DRINK, DROUGHT AND DIRT: Beijing
is a huge city, and it has a water problem, thanks
to a drought that ’s been going on since 1999.
They bring in water from the surrounding area,
but that ’s still not enough. From 2019 they
plan to source a third of their water from a 1
million tonne desalination project, piping water
from the relatively clean Caofeidian coastal
land reclamation project about 200km away.
A chemical plant will take the water, using a
proprietary reverse osmosis membrane technique
developed last year, while a saltworks will process
the salt. The big downside to the project is
that desalination can cause pollution, already a
problem in that part of the world.
WATER WORKS: Our homes are great places
to find running water: toilet flushes, showers,
washing clothes or dishes, even drainpipes from
the gutters. Researchers in Korea adapted a
transducer to convert the mechanical energy
from the motion of water into electrical energy.
In their system the motion from a 30ml water
droplet generated enough electricity to power a
single green LED. The researchers say the flexible
and transparent electrodes could be used to coat
surfaces such as windows, roofs and even toilet
bowls to generate electricity from raindrops and
water flow. It would be interesting to combine that
with a super-hydrophobic surface.
A CLOSER LOOK: Your smartphone or tablet
almost certainly includes a camera or two. The
Micro Phone Lens is a tiny pliable lens that sticks
to the device without adhesive and turns it into a
microscope. The first model magnifies by 15 times,
but a new lens in the works will magnify up to
150x. Focus by moving the camera. Once you have
finished magnifying things just peel off the lens
and store it in its case that can also be used as a
DRINK OR DRIVE?: When astronauts
spend a while on a mission, dealing with their
urine and other waste becomes quite a problem.
Urine can already be processed into drinking
water, but now there is the possibility it could
become fuel as well. First for ward osmosis is
used to filter contaminants from urea in urine
and other wastewater. Then a Urea Bioreactor
Electrochemical system converts the urea into
ammonia which is then turned into energy
with a fuel cell.The system was created with
space missions in mind, but could be useful for
any wastewater treatment systems where urea
or ammonia are a problem. Water or fuel is an
WAVE TO THE LIGHT: Tall buildings in
cities tend to block sunlight, and the more densely
they are packed together the darker streets and
alleyways can become. That affects health and
safety as well as business. Egyptian researchers
have developed a corrugated, translucent panel
that can be mounted on rooftops and hung over
the edge at an angle, where it spreads sunlight
onto the street below. The panels are made of
polymethyl methacrylate, the same acrylic plastic
used in Plexiglas. Panels are smooth underneath,
but the top is corrugated in a specific sine wave
pattern that most efficiently redistributes light
from a wide range of sun positions all year
round. In simulations the panels gave the area
below up to 4 times as much sunlight. The next
step is to test full size panels on real alleyways.
Regular cleaning will be a must. The Optical
— Miraz Jordan of the New Zealand Herald.
Archaeologist Andrew Reinhard, right, shows off the first ET the
Extra-Terrestrial cartridges recovered from the old Alamogordo landfill.
Fridge of the future
Google says that cars it
is programming to drive
themselves have started to
master the navigation of city
streets and the challenges
they bring, from jaywalkers
to weaving cyclists a critical
milestone for any commercially
available self-driving car
Despite the progress over the
past year, the cars have plenty
of learning to do before 2017,
when the Silicon Valley tech
giant hopes to get “autonomous
driving’’ technology to the
None of the traditional
automakers has been so bullish.
Instead, they have rolled out
features incrementally, including
technology that brakes and
accelerates in stop-and-go
traffic, or keeps cars in their
“I think the Google
technology is great stuff.
But I just don’t see a quick
pathway to the market,’’ David
Alexander said, a senior analyst
with Navigant Research who
specialises in autonomous
vehicles. His projection is that
self-driving cars will not be
commercially available until
Google’s self-driving cars
already can navigate freeways
comfortably, albeit with a driver
ready to take control. In a new
blog post, the project ’s leader
said test cars now can handle
thousands of urban situations
that would have stumped them a
year or two ago.
“ We’re growing more
optimistic that we’re heading
toward an achievable goal
a vehicle that operates fully
without human inter vention,’’
project director Chris Urmson
The benefits would include
fewer accidents, since in
principle machines can drive
more safely than people.
Urmson’s post was the first
official update since 2012 on
a project that is part of the
company ’s secretive Google X
lab. In initial iterations, human
drivers would be expected to
take control if the computer
fails. The promise is that,
eventually, there would be no
need for a driver. Passengers
could read, daydream, even sleep
or work while the car drives.
That day is still years away,
cautioned Navigant ’s Alexander.
He noted that Google’s
retrofitted Lexus RX450H
SUVs have a small tower on the
roof that uses lasers to map the
surrounding area. Automakers
want to hide that technology in
a car’s existing shape, he said.
Even once cars are better than
humans at driving, it will still
take several years to get the
technology from development to
large-scale production. Google
has not said how it plans to
market the technology. Options
include collaborating with major
carmakers or giving away the
software, as the company did
with its Android operating
system. While Google has
the balance sheet to invest in
making cars, that is unlikely.
Certainly not in the 2017 time-
frame that Google co-founder
Sergey Brin has laid out.Urmson
said in an interview that 2017
is “a pretty great time frame’’ for
people living near Google’s San
Francisco Bay Area headquarters
to expect to have access to the
technology, but in what form
remains to be seen.While Brin
is his boss, and he wants to keep
the boss happy, Urmson said
safety will come first. He added
that he has another milestone
in mind: His 10-year-old son
can get behind the wheel in
about five years, and knowing
how teens drive, he would like
to see the technology available
by 2019. For now, Google is
focused on the predictably
common challenges of city
To deal with cyclists, engineers
have taught the software to
predict likely behaviour based
on thousands of real-life
encounters, according to Google
spokeswoman Courtney Hohne.
The software plots the car’s
path accordingly then reacts if
something unexpected happens.
Before recent breakthroughs,
Google had contemplated
mapping all the world’s stop
signs. Now the technology can
read stop signs, including those
held in the hands of school
crossing guards, Hohne said.
A new mobile messaging application
called Fire Chat is empowering nearby
smartphone users to stay in touch even
when there is no cellular service or
In just two weeks since its release on the
iPhone, Fire Chat already has provided a
flicker of hope for people pining for more
effective, secure and affordable ways to
communicate. That is because the free
messaging app harnesses a technology
called wireless mesh networking, which
might someday allow a myriad of devices
to connect like links in a chain.
The technique might someday be used
to tie together thousands of devices with
built-in radios and make it possible to
be online without having to pay for
the access. It could also enable on-line
communications in remote areas or
disaster zones without wifi or cellular
signals. Furthermore, the conversations
in these so-called “off-the-grid” networks
can’t be easily hacked into by spies
and mischief makers or shut down by
governments trying to stifle free speech.
“ We trying to create networks built
by the people for the people,” Micha
Benoliel said, CEO of Open Garden,
maker of the Fire Chat app.
Open Garden, a San Francisco start-
up with just 10 employees, is taking
another step toward its ambitious goal
with the release of a Fire Chat app for
Android phones. Fire Chat could be an
even hotter commodity on Android given
the demographic differences between
that platform’s user base and the typical
iPhone owner. The app already has been
installed on more than 1 million iOS
Many smartphones running on Google
Inc’s free Android software are cheaper
than Apple Inc’s iPhone. That has
made Android phones the top-selling
mobile devices in less affluent countries,
including in regions where internet access
is inadequate or expensive.
Google is among the big Internet
networking’s potential to bring more of
the world on-line.
Sundar Pichai, Google’s executive in
charge of Android, has touted mesh
networks as a way to connect wearable
computers, such as the company ’s Glass
eyewear. Mesh networks also could be
used to bring a wide variety of everyday
appliances online, helping to build an
Internet of things instead of just websites.
Fire Chat ’s reach so far is limited. When
connecting off the grid, iPhone app users
have only been able to send text and
photos to other Fire Chat users within a
range of 10 to 30m.
Later this year, Open Garden plans to
upgrade Fire Chat ’s iPhone app so off-
the-grid users will be able to hopscotch
through a daisy chain of devices to extend
the reach of a local network. If this works,
a Fire Chat user sitting in the right-field
bleachers of a baseball game would be
able to text with a friend on the other side
of the stadium if enough other iPhone
users in the ballpark also are on Fire Chat.
Keeping in touch
with Fire Chat
Driverless cars mastering challenges
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