April 21, 2014

How Urban Anonymity Disappears When All Data is Tracked

Cities are our paradises of anonymity, a place for both self-erasure and self-reinvention. But soon, cities may fall first in the disappearance, or at least a radical remaking, of privacy. Information about our innocuous public acts is denser in urban areas, and can now be cheaply aggregated. Cameras and sensors, increasingly common in the urban landscape, pick up all sorts of behaviors. These are stored and categorized to draw personal conclusions — all of it, thanks to cheap electronics and cloud computing, for affordable sums.

(Source: The New York Times)

April 19, 2014
(via The Future of Facebook May Not Say ‘Facebook’ - NYTimes.com)
For software companies, one of the perils of success is becoming shackled to your customers; the more users you have, the harder it is to innovate, because most will be averse to any change. (Microsoft has suffered a version of this.) By filtering its innovations into new apps that lack an established user base, engineers and designers can take creative leaps that may not have worked if they’d simply been adding features to Facebook’s primary app.

(via The Future of Facebook May Not Say ‘Facebook’ - NYTimes.com)

For software companies, one of the perils of success is becoming shackled to your customers; the more users you have, the harder it is to innovate, because most will be averse to any change. (Microsoft has suffered a version of this.) By filtering its innovations into new apps that lack an established user base, engineers and designers can take creative leaps that may not have worked if they’d simply been adding features to Facebook’s primary app.

April 18, 2014
A report by Deloitte defines a smart city as “when investments in human and social capital, traditional (transport) and modern information and communications technology ICT infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources”. In that way Africa is right at the heart of the conversation. The UN Habitat Global Activities Report 2013 states that in 2009, Africa’s total population for the first time exceeded one billion of which 395 million (or almost 40 per cent) lived in urban areas. Around 2027, Africa’s demographic growth will start to slow down and it will take 24 years to add the next 500 million, reaching the two billion mark around 2050, of which about 60 per cent will be living in cities. Africa should prepare for a total population increase of about 60 per cent between 2010 and 2050, with the urban population tripling to 1.23 billion during this period. (via A Different Kind of ‘Smart’ City | CIPE Development Blog)

A report by Deloitte defines a smart city as “when investments in human and social capital, traditional (transport) and modern information and communications technology ICT infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources”. In that way Africa is right at the heart of the conversation. The UN Habitat Global Activities Report 2013 states that in 2009, Africa’s total population for the first time exceeded one billion of which 395 million (or almost 40 per cent) lived in urban areas. Around 2027, Africa’s demographic growth will start to slow down and it will take 24 years to add the next 500 million, reaching the two billion mark around 2050, of which about 60 per cent will be living in cities. Africa should prepare for a total population increase of about 60 per cent between 2010 and 2050, with the urban population tripling to 1.23 billion during this period. (via A Different Kind of ‘Smart’ City | CIPE Development Blog)

Many modern urban planners advocate higher densities because of the widely held theory that cities operate more efficiently when residents live in denser urban surroundings. However, there are mitigating factors such as higher traffic congestion when traffic thinning and parking capacity reductions are not in place. When cities have high densities, they tend to be more walkable and have greater transportation options. However, when cities are allowed to expand from the center without benefit of smart growth planning, they can become relatively unsustainable. Sustainability has several components germane to urban planners but the single most important of these is transportation – how people get around. When cities rely on automobiles as their primary means of transit, they lack sustainability and quality of life choices that can only come about when urban fabrics are built for their human users rather than their cars. (via Population Density and Sustaining Cities | Sustainable Cities Collective)

Many modern urban planners advocate higher densities because of the widely held theory that cities operate more efficiently when residents live in denser urban surroundings. However, there are mitigating factors such as higher traffic congestion when traffic thinning and parking capacity reductions are not in place. When cities have high densities, they tend to be more walkable and have greater transportation options. However, when cities are allowed to expand from the center without benefit of smart growth planning, they can become relatively unsustainable. Sustainability has several components germane to urban planners but the single most important of these is transportation – how people get around. When cities rely on automobiles as their primary means of transit, they lack sustainability and quality of life choices that can only come about when urban fabrics are built for their human users rather than their cars. (via Population Density and Sustaining Cities | Sustainable Cities Collective)

Surprisingly, very few online maps that show the distribution of bike-share docking stations include bike lane networks. Safe bike lanes, and the knowledge of how those bike lanes connect together and in turn connect to other forms of transport, help to mainstream bike-sharing as a mode of transport and improve overall bike-sharing system performance. One recent study even points out a statistically significant relationship between the number of trips by bike-share and the supply of bike lanes. For this reason, integrating bike-share systems with networks of bike lanes is key to increasing ridership and making bike-share safe and desirable for users. (via The bike-share report: Connectivity and bike lanes key to successful bike-sharing | TheCityFix)

Surprisingly, very few online maps that show the distribution of bike-share docking stations include bike lane networks. Safe bike lanes, and the knowledge of how those bike lanes connect together and in turn connect to other forms of transport, help to mainstream bike-sharing as a mode of transport and improve overall bike-sharing system performance. One recent study even points out a statistically significant relationship between the number of trips by bike-share and the supply of bike lanes. For this reason, integrating bike-share systems with networks of bike lanes is key to increasing ridership and making bike-share safe and desirable for users. (via The bike-share report: Connectivity and bike lanes key to successful bike-sharing | TheCityFix)

The [Chinese] Energy Foundation has come up with a whole set of criteria to explain urban sustainability to China’s mayors. The principles are well considered: places should be walkable; bicycling should be prioritized; networks of streets should be dense; public transit should be high-quality; developments should be mixed-use; and parking should be regulated. (via City Blocks and Urban Space Needs | Sustainable Cities Collective)

The [Chinese] Energy Foundation has come up with a whole set of criteria to explain urban sustainability to China’s mayors. The principles are well considered: places should be walkable; bicycling should be prioritized; networks of streets should be dense; public transit should be high-quality; developments should be mixed-use; and parking should be regulated. (via City Blocks and Urban Space Needs | Sustainable Cities Collective)

Vienna has singled out this year to be to theme of its own bid for a unique badge that it can wear to distinguish itself. It has launched a competition called City Hype to come up with ideas to make the Solidarity City work.
January 5, 2013
March 2, 2012
By losing the free and open Internet, and free and open devices to interact with it — and even such ordinary things as physical books and music media — we reduce the full scope of both markets and civilization. But that’s hard to see when the walled gardens are so rich with short-term benefits.
January 23, 2012
[Robots, war and democracy] Just 10 years ago, the idea of using armed robots in war was the stuff of Hollywood fantasy. Today, the United States military has more than 7,000 unmanned aerial systems, popularly called drones. There are 12,000 more on the ground. Last year, they carried out hundreds of strikes — both covert and overt — in six countries, transforming the way our democracy deliberates and engages in what we used to think of as war.
[…]
And now we possess a technology that removes the last political barriers to war. The strongest appeal of unmanned systems is that we don’t have to send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. But when politicians can avoid the political consequences of the condolence letter — and the impact that military casualties have on voters and on the news media — they no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.
(via Do Drones Undermine Democracy? - NYTimes.com)

[Robots, war and democracy] Just 10 years ago, the idea of using armed robots in war was the stuff of Hollywood fantasy. Today, the United States military has more than 7,000 unmanned aerial systems, popularly called drones. There are 12,000 more on the ground. Last year, they carried out hundreds of strikes — both covert and overt — in six countries, transforming the way our democracy deliberates and engages in what we used to think of as war.

[…]

And now we possess a technology that removes the last political barriers to war. The strongest appeal of unmanned systems is that we don’t have to send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. But when politicians can avoid the political consequences of the condolence letter — and the impact that military casualties have on voters and on the news media — they no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.

(via Do Drones Undermine Democracy? - NYTimes.com)

January 20, 2012
[R&D shifts toward Asia] The U.S. is rapidly losing high-technology jobs as American companies expand their research-and-development labs in China and elsewhere in Asia, the National Science Board said Tuesday. Global, U.S.-based companies such as 3M Co., Caterpillar Inc. and General Electric Co. have spent billions of dollars in recent years to expand their overseas research labs. Such companies aim to tap a broader pool of scientific talent, tailor products to overseas markets and curry favor with foreign governments by doing more research abroad.
January 8, 2012

[On the team work behind Watson, the victorious “Jeopardy” Computer] From the first, it was clear that we would have to change the culture of how scientists work. Watson was destined to be a hybrid system. It required experts in diverse disciplines: computational linguistics, natural language processing, machine learning, information retrieval and game theory, to name a few.

Likewise, the scientists would have to reject an ego-driven perspective and embrace the distributed intelligence that the project demanded. Some were still looking for that silver bullet that they might find all by themselves. But that represented the antithesis of how we would ultimately succeed. We learned to depend on a philosophy that embraced multiple tracks, each contributing relatively small increments to the success of the project. Technical philosophy was important, but so were personal dynamics. Early on, I made the unpopular decision to bring the entire team together in a war room, to maximize communication. The shared space encouraged people with wildly different skills and opinions to exchange ideas.
David Ferrucci

January 3, 2012
[surveiller pour pas cher] le coût de stockage de l’enregistrement de tous les appels téléphoniques durant une année en Syrie revient actuellement à 2.5 millions de Dollars — mais que si la tendance baissière se poursuivait, ce coût chuterait pour atteindre à peine 250.000 dollars d’ici 2016. La chute rapide des coûts de stockage de l’information signifie que les scénarii orwellien de surveillance video généralisée deviendrait très bientôt à la portée de toutes les bourses.
Un projet pilote de la municipalité chinoise de Chongqing consistant a couvrir la cité de 12 millions d’habitants avec 500.000 caméras de surveillance (fonctionnant, comme par hasard, avec des logiciels Cisco et HP) coûte actuellement 300 millions de $ par an rien que pour le stockage des données, ce prix devant chuter aux alentour de 3 millions vers 2020.
Perhaps to the chagrin of cellphone carriers, all signs point to text messaging’s continuing its decline in several parts of the world.
[…]
The fading allure of text messaging is most likely tied to the rise of alternative services like Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry Messenger and iMessage, which allow customers to send messages free using a cellphone’s Internet connection, analysts say.
December 31, 2011
En Afrique, le Kenya a marqué l’Histoire en étant le premier pays de l’Afrique sub Saharienne à implémenter une initiative d’Open Data, donnant aux citoyens un accès sans précédent à des ensembles de données de grande valeur. 40 pays dont 5 du continent africain ont depuis signé l’OGP, ils en sont à différents niveaux d’avancement dans le plan que dessine cette déclaration.