For the 5th time globally and for the 3rd time in Southampton, 30+ cities came together over the past weekend to work on problems related to humanity and the environment. Even though I had already organized the last two Random Hacks of Kindness events, setting up this one proved much more challenging due to changes in my professional life and a recent family extension.
However, helped by Alejandro of HackaSoton, the the awesome DigiChamps (Olja, Nader) and Dominic from SUSU.tv we still managed to pull it off. Exams still in full swing meant the turnout was lower than expected but, as I always say, the good people were there.
We had a number problem statements from Medecins Sans Frontieres (through Ben Holt), as well as from Konekta (through Mark Herringer), and, of course, Taarifa. Three teams started working but only two made it through the whole weekend. The first was Mindful Music, led by Mark Blackwell, and worked on music therapy for Alzheimers. The second was on Taarifa and they were working remotely from the Hub in London.
A bit late after the fact but I have been meaning to do a short post about the latest UAV test flight. A new airframe was developed as part of the European 2Seas 3i project. 2Seas is an EU funded project looking at high reliability UAVs for civil and maritime surveillance.
Its a twin petrol engine aircraft with twin carbon fibre booms, an H-tail and modular payload pod. These pods can be specified to carry a range of cameras and overall endurance can be 12 hours or more. Twin on-board generators maintain the avionics capability for extended duration flights. All up weight is about 20kg.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by somebody from Google who asked if I was interested in running a demo booth at their upcoming Zeitgeist Europe conference in London. This was triggered by my involvement in Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) and the plan was to showcase some of the work that came out of RHoK events.
It being an internal event there is little information about it online. But its invite-only, high profile nature made it a unique opportunity to show the tech elite what can be achieved when applying technology to social, humanitarian, and environmental problems.
There is so much polemic surrounding the use of drones these days that it can get frustrating for somebody who also sees the positive contributions the technology can make. Never mind the great potential unmanned technology has for driving innovation and getting youngsters interested in STEM (something that is severely needed).
Of course there are lots of questions to be raised about the use of unmanned systems (and remotely piloted aircraft in particular) in military conflict. These topics have been, and still are, debated at length in the media, wikipedia, and blogs such as DroneWarsUK. Instead, like Drones For Good, I will focus on some of the positive projects the technology has enabled in the humanitarian, environmental, and social space. I am not the only one who would welcome more balanced coverage here.
Not quite hot off the press any more but definitely worth mentioning as I was fortunate to be part of the founding team at the London WaterHackathon. Last week Taarifa was lucky enough to be named as one of the three Grand Prize Winners from the Sanitation App Challenge which took place last December. We even made The New York Times and the BBC.
We were already honoured to be selected as one of the 10 finalists and the news that we were also one of the 3 final winners was fabulous. Congratulations for those of the team that put in all the hard work to get us here. Congratulations also to the two other grand finalists: mSchool and SunClean. Members of each of the three teams were given tours around Silicon Valley last week.
So great news for Taarfia and its nice to feel the momentum. The road ahead is still long and challenging but its been amazing to see how much has been achieved already.
As Mark Iliffe always so aptly says, Onwards!
Update: a writeup of the event by Lorraine is here.
A shot post to say that I am co-organizing a Raspberry Pi workshop with The IET Solent Branch at the University of Southampton on 25 April. For personal reasons I cannot make it myself that day but do go along if you want to learn about how to use the GPIO pins on your Pi board!
Btw, if you can’t make it but live in the area, do checkout somakeit.org.uk. Recently launched and we now have a space!
For some reason I never did any podcast listening until about 10 months ago. At that point I decided to give it a go and quickly assembled an initial list of subscriptions by googling around to see what similar minded peers were listening to. Its amazing (and frustrating) how much interesting stuff is out there.
My current list has evolved considerably since then and the purpose of this post is to give an overview of the shows I’m currently subscribed to and why. Hopefully it may inspire others to listen to some of them and share their own.
The different subscriptions cover my interests in technology & software, programming, (aerospace) engineering, and socio-economic/political topics. As well as a broader interest in science related topics and the scientific method.
Earlier this month a report was released entitled: A strategic vision for UK e-infrastructure: a roadmap for the development and use of advanced computing, data and networks.
The report was chaired by Professor Dominic Tildesley (a University of Southampton alumni by the way) and was commissioned by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. It was triggered by a July 2011 meeting bringing together academics, industrialists, hardware and software suppliers and experts from the Research Councils to discuss the establishment of an e-infrastructure for the UK. The participants concluded at the end of the meeting:
.. we are experiencing a paradigm shift in which the scientific process and innovation are beginning in the virtual world of modelling and simulation before moving to the real world of the laboratory. [... and] that to exploit this revolution we would require a fresh, collaborative approach to software development to bring scientific, industrial and public sector users and hardware and software developers and vendors closer together.
A couple of months ago I was asked by somebody at the Global South Forum to give a talk about some technology related topic. My initial idea was to talk about Taarifa but after some thought I decided to open it up more and talk about the wider ICT4D field. In particular related to my own experiences and assumptions.
I have been wrestling with the whole concept of ICT4D for some time and thought it would be a good opportunity to engage with “the experts”.
My slides are below. Though they contain very little text the narrative should be clear from the pictures. As background reading I strongly suggest Can Technology end Poverty from Kentaro Toyama and The Subtle Condescension of “ICT4D” by Erik Hersman.