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The World Sized Robot

I felt this needed to be shared with a broader audience. It may not be news to everybody but far from enough people understands we are just on the verge of something large happening.

We are building a world sized robot

Bruce Schneier writes in his latest CRYPTO-GRAM about something that has been bothering some people for a while as the implications are yet an undiscovered country. But his words are better than mine, so here goes:

We no longer have things with computers embedded in them. We have computers with things attached to them.

Your modern refrigerator is a computer that keeps things cold. Your oven, similarly, is a computer that makes things hot. An ATM is a computer with money inside. Your car is no longer a mechanical device with some computers inside; it’s a computer with four wheels and an engine. Actually, it’s a distributed system of over 100 computers with four wheels and an engine. And, of course, your phones became full-power general-purpose computers in 2007, when the iPhone was introduced.

We wear computers: fitness trackers and computer-enabled medical devices — and, of course, we carry our smartphones everywhere. Our homes have smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart door locks, even smart light bulbs. At work, many of those same smart devices are networked together with CCTV cameras, sensors that detect customer movements, and everything else. Cities are starting to embed smart sensors in roads, streetlights, and sidewalk squares, also smart energy grids and smart transportation networks. A nuclear power plant is really just a computer that produces electricity, and — like everything else we’ve just listed — it’s on the Internet.

The Internet is no longer a web that we connect to. Instead, it’s a computerized, networked, and interconnected world that we live in. This is the future, and what we’re calling the Internet of Things.

Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things has three parts. There are the sensors that collect data about us and our environment: smart thermostats, street and highway sensors, and those ubiquitous smartphones with their motion sensors and GPS location receivers. Then there are the ”smarts” that figure out what the data means and what to do about it. This includes all the computer processors on these devices and — increasingly — in the cloud, as well as the memory that stores all of this information. And finally, there are the actuators that affect our environment. The point of a smart thermostat isn’t to record the temperature; it’s to control the furnace and the air conditioner. Driverless cars collect data about the road and the environment to steer themselves safely to their destinations.

You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet. You can think of the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet. And you can think of the stuff in the middle as the brain. We are building an Internet that senses, thinks, and acts.

This is the classic definition of a robot. We’re building a world-size robot, and we don’t even realize it.

To be sure, it’s not a robot in the classical sense. We think of robots as discrete autonomous entities, with sensors, brain, and actuators all together in a metal shell. The world-size robot is distributed. It doesn’t have a singular body, and parts of it are controlled in different ways by different people. It doesn’t have a central brain, and it has nothing even remotely resembling a consciousness. It doesn’t have a single goal or focus. It’s not even something we deliberately designed. It’s something we have inadvertently built out of the everyday objects we live with and take for granted. It is the extension of our computers and networks into the real world.

This world-size robot is actually more than the Internet of Things. It’s a combination of several decades-old computing trends: mobile computing, cloud computing, always-on computing, huge databases of personal information, the Internet of Things — or, more precisely, cyber-physical systems — autonomy, and artificial intelligence. And while it’s still not very smart, it’ll get smarter. It’ll get more powerful and more capable through all the interconnections we’re building.

It’ll also get much more dangerous.

— Bruce Schneier, cryptographer and computer security expert and educator, from his news letter CRYPTO-GRAM of february 15, 2017.

Swedish papers dubs LTE ”Super 3G”


Cell tower on the Faroe Islands

Apparently Swedish news papers have dubbed the LTE technology developed by among others Ericsson to ”Super 3G” and are waiting to call it 4G.

I have heard rumours that Ericsson internally are very careful not using the term 4G on LTE but waiting for LTE-Advanced with even higher bitrates to see if it is deserving the designation.

Super 3G gives the impression that it evolves from Turbo-3G which is not really the case, this is a new radio system and although some things such as MIMO actually was specified in HSPA it still was not in widespread use as it will probably become in LTE.

LTE can deliver a gross maximum bitrate in the downlink pushing 300 Mbit/s and LTE-Advanced is said to be pushing towards the 1 Gbit/s which would be really getting mobile broadband to take off.

For me the major hurdle is the uplink however which in all systems, today as well as LTE systems are considerably lower in bitrate than the uplink. This limits the use for mobile applications that transmits lots of data (video cameras) and the industry is looking for cheap way of communicating with cameras in vehicles such as taxis, buses and trains and even with a good coverage for LTE it will not be enough.

Geotag your photographs

This is going to be a rather lengthy post again but bear with me. It will also be a bit technical so I will have to explain some of the basic technical points before we start on the really nifty things here. But in the end you will learn how to use your GPS receiver to track your movments when shooting outdoor, you will learn how to download this information and use it to geocode your pictures so that when they are uploaded on sites such as Flickr your photographs will automatically appear on the map in the correct location.

The resons for geotagging

It is a way of organising your photographs that is pretty new actually. Never before has it been so easy to know where a certain photograph was taken and it is a great way of finding other people’s photographs from a certain location.

Hacking in the tent

My good friend Torbjörn hacking in the tent

It also means that if you use your GPSr when you are on holiday you know exactly on which spot you were when you took that picture and it is a great way of sharing information about good photographic spots, not to mention that it sort of becomes a photographic diary, tracking your movements around with your camera and GPSr.

There many be also personal reasons for geotagging, for me it started because I am a map freak. I love maps in all sorts of ways and I spend half a fortune on them. These days I mostly use electronic maps because they are more versatile but when I go hiking I always have a paper map as a backup – you never know when electronic will fail you.

There are two kinds of photographers, those who has experienced equipment failure and those who will.

This is very true.
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