We were privileged to host Christchurch East School for our first two-day school in Tūranga, a programme called ‘Smart’ City. Christchurch is the City Of Opportunity where new, advanced technology is helping the city use resources more efficiently.
This was the focus of our programme, looking specifically at the advanced technology in the library. Jack Hartley, the Operations Support Coordinator, gave Christchurch East students an in-depth, behind the scenes tour to discuss the range of sensors used within the building.
Little did we know there was an enormous aquifer underneath the site heating and cooling the building, or that the solar panels angle with the sun to adjust the temperatures and automate the blinds.
Our students used Microbit electronics to create their own sensors. They then filmed each floor using a 360 degree camera to capture the variety of sensors used. The footage collected was then uploaded as a virtual tour.
This holiday programme wasn’t a relaxed, laid back affair – this one really had children thinking. The challenge was to create an Eco-House using Minecraft.
We discussed the impact their house would have on the environment. This made the students think of the types of materials needed and how they could reduce the impact by utilizing their surroundings. Great discussions occurred, with the benefits of different materials and styles of buildings.
Many explored solar and wind power to create energy efficient houses. Others investigated the movement of water to create power.
One student harnessed the use of light sensors to store energy to allow his crops to still grow at night. Another created a wind turbine to light his house.
But the most interesting creation was an Eco Friendly Chicken House using a chickhouse nuclear reactor! See his amazing creation:
As the dust settles on Tech Week 2018, which was brilliantly opened in appropriate fashion by our prime minister appearing as a hologram, I thought I’d report back on the Smart Cities Expo, which was held in Christchurch last Monday. This was an opportunity for Christchurch City Council, and their commercial partners, to demonstrate some of the new technology they, and other cities around New Zealand, are using to increase their efficiency and provide better services to their citizens, while keeping costs as low as possible.
The smart city concept is essentially made up of three parts; (1) collection of data – often enormous amounts of it – about some aspect of the quality of the urban environment, or how the city is being used, (2) number crunching and visualization – often on maps – to make sense of all this information, and (3) using the results to make changes that improve the functioning of the city and enhance its citizens’ wellbeing.
Easy to say, but hard to do! To take a simple example; sensors inside rubbish bins could be used to tell refuse collectors whether they need emptying, so that needless trips can be avoided, and resources can be deployed more effectively. To take this idea to its extreme, we can imagine a day when most of the things we own are collecting and sharing data that is used to improve the overall efficiency of the vast interconnected system to which they belong, to all our benefits. This has sometimes been called the Internet of Things (IoT) – a phrase that was ubiquitous throughout the Expo.
The focus of the Expo was mostly on technology, but there are, of course, significant social, legal, and ethical issues to be considered. For Smart Cities to work, we must be happy for these data to be collected, shared, and used for this purpose. We also need to be sure that the data are secure. Imagine the chaos that might ensue if someone was able to hack into the systems that run our city. Nevertheless, the feeling at the Expo was, as one might expect, optimistic that these challenges can be met, and there was even some talk of making data open access, available to everyone (suitably anonymized, of course) to empower all citizens to use it themselves in whatever way they see fit. In fact, a lot of data collected by government (both local and central) are already available, if you know where to look and how to make sense of it. For example, freely available data from the last year’s general election were used to make an interactive map of how party votes were distributed across different polling stations.
Many of the exhibits at the Expo focused on the first part of this triangle. There were devices for detecting and sensing all manner of things such as traffic, pollution, noise, vibration, etc. etc., to name just a few – the list is endless. In most cases, the data being collected are objective and easily quantifiable, but one particularly interesting application comes from a tool called Sensibel, which enables cyclists to record their subjective experiences as they cycle around the city. They can record a thumbs-up or thumbs-down at any point on their journey by pressing a button attached to their bike.
Using GPS, this records the location where it was pressed so that later on they can log in and give a lengthier explanation of what made them feel the way they did. As they do so they are presented with a view of the street where they were to jog their memory. Data collected in this way can be used to make improvements that will hopefully make cycling in the city a much more enjoyable experience, perhaps increasing the number of people prepared to ditch their cars and switch to a bike. The possibilities for using real-time data about personal experiences to make changes that will enrich our lives seem almost limitless, as long as we are prepared to share that information.
The second part of the triangle – data analysis – is harder, but again there were lots of fascinating exhibits demonstrating that rapid improvements are being made in this area. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is to translate all of this into meaningful actions – either short-term responses, medium-term policy development, or longer-term strategic directions.
It’s still early days for the Smart Cities approach, and there is much more progress to be made, but one thing is for sure, our data are increasingly going to inform how our city is run, so to be fully engaged we all need to be a bit more aware of how our data are collected and used. There has been a slew of excellent popular books about the uses and abuses of what is sometimes called “big data” published recently. Why not check some of these out of the library and explore what our future city might look like? Here are a few places you might like to start…
Books about the uses and abuses of “big data” and statistics. A toolkit for life in the digital age.
Automating Inequality– Argues that the use of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk modelling by governments and law enforcement agencies selectively disadvantages the poor, reinforcing existing power relationships and inequality in society.
The Efficiency Paradox– Questions whether, in our relentless pursuit of efficiency, we may as a society be missing opportunities to benefit from “the powerful potential of serendipity”.
Human + Machine– Explores the many ways – good and bad – that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the workplace.
Randomistas– Looks at how randomised controlled trials are increasingly being used outside their traditional home of medical science in areas as diverse as social policy, politics, business, and law enforcement.
It is being promoted by CertNZ, an agency that exists to understand and advise both government organizations and New Zealanders about threats to their online security and how to minimize and respond to them.
They work closely with organizations such as the Police, NetSafe and Internal Affairs.
Like many things, prevention is better than cure. So, whether it is an offer that is too good to be true from a Nigerian Prince, or the fact that your password is – ahem – password, take a moment this week to think about how you can take a few simple steps to protect yourself and your family.
Pyrotechnics, Martin Jetpacks, MSLB Simulators and YikeBikes will take over Cathedral Square on 31 October. The occasion? Science Alive’s inaugural Big Science Day, an all-day Science and Technology extravaganza suitable for families and people of all ages.
The displays, demonstrations, science shows and workshops planned are too many to list, but here are some of the exhibitor highlights you can look forward to:
EVolocity will have a roped off circuit where people can take small electric vehicles such as bikes, low powered go-karts, scooters, etc. for a spin. If you own an electric bike / scooter / motor bike / go-kart / car, EVolocity invite you to exhibit your vehicle (if you are keen to bring your vehicle along, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Rob on 021 728 875).
COBi Digital will demonstrate its aerial filming capabilities. Using the latest UAV cinema technology, a camera can be mounted on top of the drone allowing unlimited camera angles.
MSLB Simulators will show its fully immersive, motion enabled boat simulators to recreate the experience of driving a small boat.
Code Club Aotearoa will be running learn to code sessions for children and adults throughout the day. Build your first piece of working software and share your creation on the internet.
YikeBike will exhibit its fully electric folding bike – check out the way in which many of us could be moving around in the not-so-far future.
As well as showcasing cool stuff and Canterbury innovation, the Big Science Day will reveal the many possible career paths in the area. Be inspired by the exciting courses offered by CPIT, the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University, and see how science and technology are used by the Police, the Defence Force and the Fire Service.
Make sure also to pop in to The Imagination Station at Cathedral Junction – if you haven’t discovered it yet, it’s heaven for Lego enthusiasts of all ages. There’s a huge Lego pit with tens of thousands of Lego pieces, as well as a Duplo area for the wee ones, plus computers for those who like their Lego digital.
Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Celebrated on the second Tuesday in October Ada Lovelace Day is a day for celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and science.
But who was Ada Lovelace?
Born in 1815, Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Annabella Milebanke. As a child she was fascinated with machines and this was fostered by the education she received, which for the time was rather unorthodox, with its emphasis on mathematics, logic and science.
Through her friendship with Charles Babbage she became intimately familiar with the earliest clockwork and punchcard “computing” devices. In 1842 she contributed to an article about Babbage’s latest machine or “Analytical Engine”. Part of her contribution to the article were several “computer programs”. This is why she is often described as “the first computer programmer”. She is also credited with seeing the possibilities of computing, greater even than Babbage, who saw his machine as an advanced number-cruncher, where Lovelace imagined more creative possible outputs –
Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.
When Alan Turing undertook his work that led to modern computers, it was Ada Lovelace’s notes that informed his work.
As many legends do Lovelace died young, at just 36 years of age, with only half a life’s worth of genius lived.
Today, Ada Lovelace Day is an opportunity to honour and celebrate the scientific achievements of women and to encourage the women technologists, mathematicians and scientists of the future.
If you know an inquisitive, tech/maths/science-obsessed girl, why not introduce her to one of the following titles?
Modern Romance by US comedian Aziz Ansari (of Parks and Recreation fame) is just another in a growing list of books I have started reading expecting one thing, but which turned out to be something else entirely (looking at you, High-rise).
What I had expected was a comedic look at modern courtship, man-woman relationships in the internet age etc. Having previously watched a bit of Ansari’s stand-up via YouTube, I knew this was a topic that he touches on a lot, so I expected to read a more or less extended stand-up routine. One man’s humorous philosophy on the opposite sex, feminism, relationship blunders and so on. Something similar to what Chris Rock was writing 10 years ago.
Um, yes. But also…no.
In fact, Modern Romance, is solidly non-fiction. Ansari, himself caught up in the changing courtship habits of a dating populace now fixated with mobile devices, became intrigued with what seemed a very flawed and frustrating process –
I got fascinated by the questions of how and why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance. I started asking people I knew if there was a book that would help me understand the many challenges of looking for love in the digital age.
He didn’t find exactly the book he was looking for SO HE WROTE IT.
He wrote the book with help (Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University is co-author), and after undertaking quite a bit of research with the help of online dating websites like OKCupid, as well as interviews, and focus groups. Most comedians don’t quote focus groups in their books, unless by “focus group” you mean “crazy cab drivers I’ve conversed with”. Nor do they have thorough indices and footnotes for the many research papers they cite.
So rather than being a written comedy routine with the occasional fact thrown in, Modern Romance is a book about the effect of technology on modern dating mores, (but with swearing and jokes). What Ben Goldacre did for Bad Science, Aziz Ansari has done for the sociology of modern dating.
But does it work? On the whole, yes. For someone who wasn’t intending to learn anything particularly much from Modern Romance (I am not on “the market”), it does a good job of entertaining and informing. I’ve learned that less choice can actually be a good thing, that the search for perfection in a mate is a fool’s errand, and though I’ve never used the dating app Tinder, I now understand better what it does and why it’s so popular. I’ve also been given a window into differing dating “cultures” via interviews with singles in Tokyo, Paris, and Buenos Aires.
And this isn’t really related to anything but I really wanted to include this quote about a Tokyo barman with an apparently quite active love-life who Ansari describes thusly –
Like most fedora wearers, he had a lot of inexplicable confidence.
This book has a lot of wisdom to offer, on a great many things, it seems.
So what are the takeaways from Modern Romance, other than ramen recommendations from Tokyo (Ansari is something of a “foodie” and the book is liberally littered with references to delicious meals), and the characteristics of hat-wearers?
Don’t get so caught up in the multitude of options that you forget to actually pay attention to and invest time in the person you’re with.
Make introductions online but don’t date online. Dating is a real world activity.
Treat potential partners like real people, not a bubble on a screen.
If you’re a bit sensitive to swear words then Modern Romance probably isn’t the read for you but thankfully Ansari and Klinenberg have included a bibliography of titles they consulted when writing their book, so one of the below may be of interest instead.
Any thoughts on how modern technology is affecting our approach to courtship? Is it okay to ask someone out on a date via text message?
E hiahia ana Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori kia muia ngā pae pāpāho pāpori e te tīhau, me te karere reo Māori mō Te Wiki o te Reo Māori mā te whakamahi i te tohumarau #WikiReoMāori The Māori Language Commission wishes social media to be swamped with Māori language tweets and messages for Māori Language Week using the hashtag #WikiReoMāori