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Litterati app makes strides in ending global litter problem with NSF grant

 

It’s endearing to see mobile apps make strides to make the world better. Jeff Kirschner, founder of Litterati, made it his goal to create an app that helped end the global litter problem, and so far he’s seen success.

After a successful round of funding through a Kickstarter campaign, the National Science Foundation happily announced it would be making a substantial contribution of its own, promising this will be the next big step in making the earth a cleaner place to live.

“[Litter] is a massive problem,” Kirschner told Business Insider. “It impacts the economy, the environment, it degrades community pride, it decreases property value, it kills wildlife, and now with the plastic pollution in the ocean situation, it is literally poisoning our food system.”

The $225,000 grant will go towards developing an improved app allowing for more communities to come together in the fight against litter. Rather than tracking progress on a solo level, Litterati will allow users to keep track of how their own communities, schools, and other larger organizations are impacting global sustainability.

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Why net neutrality isn’t as necessary as many people claim

The argument that we are given Internet access by only a few companies who cooperate and divide up the land among themselves is totally valid. But there may be a silver lining we’re not seeing that is staring us right in the face. The potential of the free market. Specifically, Google Fiber.

Google entered the scene in the 90s solely as a search engine and its assets and capital at the time were no where near what they have today. Google is a brand people trust and depend on and they decided to start introducing fiber optic Internet access simply because it grew to a size where it could afford to begin laying down its framework.

Google did this on its own, seeing potential in drawing/stealing consumers in from other ISPs (and the other ISPs definitely took notice). Granted, Google Fiber is only in a select number of cities right now, but it literally had zero cities at the time of its inception. Google is just one example of a powerhouse that started small and then entered new markets we never saw coming.

Amazon started off as an Internet retailer for books. It now has its own streaming service, 2-day delivery for the things we want, potential drone delivery, and Alexa. Walmart also had its humble start as a retailer. It now offers banking, cell phone plans, 2-day delivery, and sell groceries.

These services were not within the companies’ visions at inception. Netflix used to only sell physical media and competed with Blockbuster, eventually eliminating them from the picture altogether. Now Netflix’s capital is through the roof. These companies and potentially more (Apple, Microsoft, Cricket Wireless, T-Mobile, Uber, Disney) have the potential and the capital to enter the ISP market and undercut what the current big guys are offering.

Google Fiber is already doing this, and no one told them to. It saw an open market and decided to act because it wanted to make more money. That is just how the free market works and we are better off if we let that dictate who wins and loses.

We cannot predict how the Internet will evolve and prosper. We probably could never have imagined that a ton of people could be walking around with Internet connected devices in their pockets back in the day. The free market created these innovations without government intrusion. So why are people so adamant about using the government to stop the big guys from doing what they know how to do when they can just fight among themselves and offer lower prices and better services to undercut their competition or raise its profits?

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New York City-based apartment to accept bitcoin as rental payments

In an effort to modernize and become a bigger player in the real estate market, New York City-based Brookliv has begun to accept bitcoin as a form of payment.

Brookliv’s owner, Ari Weber, has stated that he hopes bitcoin will help them attract more young clients. The ability to predict new trends in an ever-changing market is another reason they decided to make that move.

“The market is changing, whether we like it or not. We foresee the norm will be cryptocurrencies being used for rental market and beyond in the near future,” Weber says.

Allowing tenants to pay for rent in bitcoin is a calculated risk, as there is still a chance that bitcoin could crash at any moment. Weber states that this is a negligible risk, as bitcoin has largely stabilized around $13,500. He believes that attracting new tenants that want to pay in bitcoin is worth the small losses he’ll take if bitcoin dips slightly.

“We can take a little bit of a hit if it does dip, but it’s worth it,” Weber added.

This is no doubt a big step forward for owners of the cryptocurrency, as many mainstream vendors still do not take it as payment, but this is proof that it is becoming more widely accepted.

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Google machine learning helps predict voting patterns in U.S.

From the digital assistants like Siri in our phones to the algorithms that recommend us things to buy on Amazon, artificial intelligence is truly ingrained in the function of our technological society. Some of the most innovative forms of media exist because machine learning has exponentially become more prominent, and it is no surprise researchers at Stanford University use it to learn more about humans and their political patterns.

These researchers identified a unique association among U.S. voters and the type of cars they own. If a city has a higher percent of sedans than pickup trucks, then there is an 88% chance the city will vote Democrat in the 2020 presidential election. And vice versa, if a city has a higher percent of pickup trucks than sedans, then there is an 82% it will vote Republican.

Ultimately, the power of tracking data has proven to be of the utmost value for marketing, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to see machine learning applied in academic contexts. The researchers simply want to push the technology and explore the depths of what deep learning can be.

“For the first time in history, we have the technology to extract insights from very large amounts of visual data,” Harvard’s Nikhil Naik said on the New York Times. “But while the technology is exciting, computer scientists need to work closely with social scientists and others to make sure it’s useful.”

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Blockstack’s virtualchain technology helps accelerate blockchain development

Blockchain technology was a hot topic in 2017, as the ledger system saw exponential innovations added to its mainframe. Blockstack, founded in 2013, has put forth effort to creating a decentralized system for users to consume media content.

“We’re living in a time period where the new incumbents like Amazon, Google, and Facebook have firmly established themselves, and are near monopolists in their markets,” venture capitalist Albert Wenger told MIT Technology Review. “If we want a long-term, open playing field for innovation, we’re going to need new, decentralized infrastructure.”

This is why Blockstack is designing its decentralized architecture around user control, implementing virtualchain technology to help achieve this goal, at least according to the white paper.

“We’re trying to turn the existing model on its head,” added Ryan Shea, CEO and cofounder of Blockstack. “You can try to work with the existing model from within, but sometimes it’s easier to step outside of it and build something new from a clean slate.”

Blockstack introduces new decentralized apps that you access through the Blockstack Browser. With Blockstack, users can own their data to better maintain privacy, security and freedom.

Mess around with the browser and jump on the blockchain bandwagon in 2018. This could be the first big player in media entertainment becoming a key component of blockchain’s infrastructure. With apps like Ongaku Ryoho‘s music player and Guild‘s journalism services, the sky is the limit for new innovations on this decentralized network.

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Facebook Inc. admits to offering user data to major governments worldwide

Believe it or not, Facebook Inc. can relinquish your user data to the government at its request, at least according to Facebook’s latest Transparency Report.

In a graphic compiled by Bloomberg Law (seen in the newdle above), the United States ranks the highest in frequency with which Facebook Inc. requests data from users.

The United Kingdom, Italy, and France follow suit as major developed countries to request analysis of their social media using citizens. Apparently, most of the data requests involve criminal cases.

This information is readily available in Facebook’s semi-annual report, so hopefully the government will never feel inclined to breach user data for its sole benefit.

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Walmart reportedly has ‘no cashier’ stores in development

Walmart is infamous for having little to cashiers available when you are ready to check out your groceries after a shopping trip. It seems Walmart is continuing this wave by recently reporting that it is developing a personal-shopping service with no cashiers at all.

All jokes aside, the implications of this move can prove to be very beneficial for busy shoppers with limited time and high net worth. According to a few sources, Code Eight, a new Walmart subsidiary, is helping develop the technology to streamline the Walmart shopping process. The service will mirror a lot of what Amazon has been able to showcase with Amazon Go, but it will have its own unique twists.

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EU court legally defines Uber as a transport company, not a digital service provider

Users of the global transportation technology Uber in the European Union will have to reconsider how they do business, as the EU recently imposed certain regulations on the company’s business model. Before, Uber Technologies Inc. managed to have itself considered as a digital service provider for users, but new rules decided by the EU court determine it to be a transport company, much like taxis and other public transit options.

“The most important part of Uber’s business is the supply of transport — connecting passengers to drivers by their smartphones is secondary,” said Rachel Farr, senior employment lawyer at Taylor Wessing. “Without transport services, the business wouldn’t exist.”

This will disrupt business operations for Uber in the EU, as plentiful people use Uber as a middle man for setting up safe and secure transactions between drivers and customers.

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NASA’s Kepler telescope finds solar system similar to ours 2200 light years away

Just when you think you’re unique in the universe, discoveries from the innovative minds at Google prove that sentiment wrong.

Recently, NASA’s Kepler space telescope found a planet in the Kepler-90 start system, making it the eight planet to be discovered. This is now the only other solar system we know of with the same number of planets as our solar system in the Milky Way.

“For the first time we know for sure the Solar System is not the sole record holder for the number of planets,” said Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin.

But we may not be solar sisters for long, as certain experts believe this eighth planet is only the tip of the cosmic iceberg.

“There is a lot of unexplored real estate in Kepler-90 system and it would almost be surprising if there were not more planets in the system,” Vanderburg added.

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Google’s AI development team to create a new research lab in China

Although Google search engine services are nonexistent in China unless you have a VPN, the company has made great efforts to create new innovations in artificial intelligence. Knowing China is riddled with experts scientists in the field, Google is willing to cooperate with the Chinese government to advance AI technology worldwide.

“I believe AI and its benefits have no borders,” Google Cloud chief scientist Fei-Fei Li said in her blog. “Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, it has the potential to make everyone’s life better for the entire world. As an AI first company, this is an important part of our collective mission. And we want to work with the best AI talent, wherever that talent is, to achieve it.”

“It will be a small team focused on advancing basic AI research in publications, academic conferences and knowledge exchange,” Li added.

This could very well be the onset of China realizing what kind of company Google is. Global efforts focused towards a collective goal in technology may be the bridge this world need to come together as a cohesive unit.