Monthly Archives: December 2018


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YOU decide who to share your identity with.

The year 2018 showed how difficult and important the issue of keeping users data safe is. Organisations such as Marriot and Facebook had been exposed to hackers attacks. The first one (3rd largest hotel chain in the world) lost control over the personal information of 500 million people.

Nowadays being in possess of personal data may give hackers a huge control over your identity. In digitalised world unwanted use of your ID, passport number or address can result in serious problems – for example becoming unexpectedly an owner of a massive loan!

The company which wants to fight with uncontrolled use of your personal information is Passbase. Startup founded in August 2018. The application gives its users a control over their data. As a user you scan your ID and the systems checks by taking short video of your face if you are a person from a given document. Then a digital identity is given not to a company but to the user. You have an access to an account in which you can decide with who to share your identity with.

Passbase uses blockchain, but their solution is not described in detail on their website. Their facial recognition system uses AI technology. Application is free for first 1000 uses, then you have to pay $1 for each check of your identity. Currently they produced MVP (minimal viable product) and they plan to launch full application in a year 2019.

Another function of this application is its offer for B2B. The companies which would like to buy an access to Passbase will have an ability to check all accounts of its users. In result they will have an opportunity to delete all fake accounts in their database.

Passbase helps you create a verified digital identity

Drones that change the world for the better

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The first drones were used on a battlefield. Now they are used in many other areas and their potential is still growing. Solutions offered by drones improve the quality of life and sometimes can even save it. Here are some interesting applications of drones that are possible to use on daily basis.

Ambulance Drone

A project that aims to improve current emergency infrastructure with a network of drones capable of saving lives.[1] The drone can carry lifesaving technology such as an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Thanks to this fact, it is possible to help in cases of respiratory issues or heart attacks. Moreover, assistance provided by drones is faster than an ambulance. It is possible because drones move in the airspace in a straight line at speed of  100 km per hour, thereby avoids typically difficulties encountered in road traffic. This may increase the chances of survival from 8 to 80%. The ambulance drone is carefully designed and made using 3D printing and carbon fibre frame construction so that it is more efficient and can move faster. It is also equipped with a camera and microphone thanks to which it not only supplies the necessary equipment but also enables to contact with an emergency medical dispatcher who provides professional instructions and controls situation.

Smog fighters

Drones equipped with sensors that check the number of undesirable substances in the air can successfully fight with smog. Such drone flies close to the chimneys and captures substances characteristic for the combustion of waste, not coal or wood in the smoke. This solution is supposed to help to identify households in which rubbish are used for heating. These drones are successfully tested in Poland. However, this is not the only country which use drones to fight smog. In China, drones are also used to spray substances that bind air pollution to reduce smog. It is especially useful in case of low visibility within airports.

 Instead of fireworks

All over the world, on the occasion of such events as the New Year’s Eve, spectacular firework shows are organized. However, not everyone realizes that fireworks cause a lot of damages to the environment. Significant air pollution is one of them. A huge amount of toxins, chemicals and metal particles gets into an atmosphere in a short period of time. Next defect is the noise that has a harmful effect on the animals. Moreover, drones are safer and much cheaper than fireworks. The drone displays are often more glamorous than traditional shows. They are becoming more and more popular and have been used during the 2018 Winter Olympics, a Super Bowl halftime show in 2017, and a 2018 4th of July celebration. [2]

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Facebook sells its users’ data!

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The fact that web portals manage the data of their users without their awareness is known not from today, but the way in which Facebook does, it’s just beyond comprehension.

The New York Times is showing the truth.

In connection with recent reports from The New York Times, we read that Facebook sold access to various types of “sensitive data” about its users to such companies as: Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Spotify. Netflix and Spotify had even access to private correspondence. In most cases, the data obtained by the companies were to help in the selection and positioning of advertisements for users of the said portals. It does not change the fact that through the sale of these data Facebook broke an agreement from 2011 with the American Federal Trade Commission, which clearly states that Facebook can share user data only if it is given accurate and explicit consent.

Companies answer the allegations!

All companies mentioned in the report of The New York Times issued a special statement. One of them is the statement of the Netflix press office regarding access to private correspondence of Facebook users. We read in it about:

“Over the years, we’ve tested various solutions to help Netflix understand the wider community, one of which was a feature introduced in 2014 that allowed site users to recommend their favourite series and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or a Netflix account. It has not been that popular as we assumed, which is why we decided to remove it in 2015. At no time did we have access to private messages of Facebook users, or we asked for the possibility of receiving them. “ – Netflix press office says.

The New York Times was really well prepared for this investigation.

It doesn’t change the fact, that The New York Times interviewed more than 60 people, including former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates. Thanks to that we can be sure that Facebook did something illegal and now tries to bury the truth.

“The Times also reviewed more than 270 pages of Facebook’s internal documents and performed technical tests and analysis to monitor what information was being passed between Facebook and partner devices and websites.” – as The New York Times said.

What is my view about this situation?

In my opinion, companies that have access to sensitive data of their users should make every effort to ensure that this data does not leak. In this way, eg. Apple, which extremely highly appreciates the safety of data users of their products and whenever they commit some “mistakes at work”, they plead the guilty and try to repair the whole situation (eg. icloud leaks affair).

Facebook approaches similar situations in a different way, which tries to whitewash the truth and pass the buck on others. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a perfect example of frauds and deceptions, thanks to which we learned how Facebook can influence election results in one of the most powerful countries in the world, such as the USA is. That sort of stuff is not conducive to peace but exacerbates the conflict on the Facebook and Users relations.

Counter-argument to this whole situation is the fact that the majority of Facebook users do not care about privacy policy. They accept all consents without prior reading. They do not follow the basic security rules on the Internet. They share their private lives via Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc. For this reason, it can be assumed that such users agree to full surveillance, which is not said to be bad. If we have nothing to hide, why should we be disturbed by the fact that someone can earn from it. I believe that if there is already such a situation, it would be great if the company / person who earns money on their users, would inform them about everything and admit theirs guilt when they fails.



author: Michał Żelazo

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Musk makes a big promise for next year

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With Christmas being, Elon Musk still is feeling the urge to give presents.

Kamil Podworski

In one of recent tweets, the Tesla CEO wrote about company’s plans for next year – covering the whole Europe with the Supercharger network, “from Ireland to Kiev, from Norway to Turkey.”  Such a station can charge a vehicle to around 80 percent battery capacity in 40 minutes, it’s the fastest and most widespread system in the world.



Those news fit with claims from November, earlier this year, that Tesla is going to double the amount of Superchargers by end of 2019. This means that chargers would be “within range of 95% to 100% of population in all active markets.”

Despite big news,  lets not forget that Musk often over-promised many things in Tesla history. It’s obvious that amount of charging points grown in rapid pace, but the company originally had plans of creating up and running 18000 stations by the end of this year and ended up with 6000 less.


If news about Europe wasn’t enough, following tweet spreads news about Africa.



Apparently, Tesla is going to start setting up chargers in Africa by 2020 but there is no specific data given. According to their coverage map, currently the tech- giant doesn’t have any points on that continent.


Still, if you want to check out Tesla full expansion plans, they cover it on their site.



Arnav Kapur reads minds. What’s your superpower?

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AlterEgo is an early-stage prototype of wearable headset that allows a user to communicate with machines by verbalising words in head without speaking them loudly.

How it works? User just have to articulate words internally. Then, electrodes pick up neuromuscular signals and send them to AI assistants, services or applications where machine learning system interprets these signals like words and finally the user receives an answer. But not an ordinary answer. It can be execution of the command by the device or even aural words given by bone conduction without speaking them. AlterEgo claims that their product “allows humans to converse in natural language with machines… without disrupting the user’s usual auditory perception, and making the interface closed-loop”.

Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at MIT Media Lab, was the lead researcher of this invention. He said that  “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”

Interestingly, Arnav perceives AlterEgo as antidote to the anxiety concerning AI. He emphasizes that he is aware of the doubts and fears that people have while thinking about AI and he claims that his device will help us rather than replace us. He believes that AlterEgo will save our time and not disrupt our minds. It is meant to improve our relation with electronical devices and make them less involving. Furthermore, AlterEgo aims at helping the ones that have voice disorders.

Examples of usage of AlterEgo include asking about weather, time, date or any information from the phone, advice on how to win chess, summing up the prices of products we are buying, connecting with IoT by for example switching channels on TV, putting the kettle on, turning the light off etc.


There are many nonobvious ways in which this device could be beneficial. Thad Starner, a professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing suggest using it in the military where communicating silently is often a must for the success of the operation. More down-to-earth example is ordering an uber while being at the meeting or during the lessons.Sometimes we also need to check infomation discreetly and quickly for example with our lawyer at the hearing.

Tanzeem Choudhury, an associate professor at Cornell University who runs the school’s People-Aware Computing Lab, thinks that AlterEgo will be useful with situations in which we are embarrassed to talk or even write about something.

The main challenge that Kapur has to face in the near future is building a data set for the device since silent speech is something completely groundbreaking. At the moment they are working on different languages versions, extension of vocabulary as well as new functions of the device.

How would you use AlterEgo? Do you think that this device can cause any negative consequences like deteriorating the way we speak for example? Let me know in the comments!





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Big boost for renewable energy

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As you probably know, using solar panels is a great way to generate electricity with benefits to the environment due to their green energy and lack of emissions when running.

Nowadays, many companies from all around the world are working on new solar technology that could further boost the adoption of renewable energy. In September 2018, startup working with Oxford University called Oxford PV, received $3 million from the U.K. government in order to find new material to make solar cells.

On 25th of December 2018, U.S. company Swift Solar got $7 million to find a technology that can use new materials of solar cells and bring it into the market.

Let’s have a look at the efficiency of solar panels we already have.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania efficiency of solar panels

According to the most efficient are monocrystalline panels (pure silicon) which efficiency stands at 27%.


Perovskite cell – the new photovoltaic tech, uses hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material as the layer. It offers better efficiency in the conversion of light to electric power at a lower cost than existing technologies.


“Perovskite has let us truly rethink what we can do with the silicon-based solar panels we see on roofs today,” said Sam Stranks, one of the co-founders of Swift Solar, in a Ted Talk. “Another aspect that really excites me: how cheaply these can be made. These thin crystalline films are made by mixing two inexpensive readily abundant salts to make an ink that can be deposited in many different ways… This means that perovskite solar panels could cost less than half of their silicon counterparts.”


Perovskite was incorporated into solar cells in 2009 by Japanese researchers but firstly was not efficient and suffered from lacked stability. It means that it wasn’t really used in manufacturing.

Luckily, over the past nine years researchers have improved both the stability and efficiency that these solar cells generate.

Oxford PV is now working on solar cells that could reach the efficiency of conversion at 37%.

I personally think that idea of Perovskite is really promising and deployed into everyday functioning can be a great step into sustainable world.





This wristband will warn you of imminent opioid overdose

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Photo: Carnegie Mellon University

This project could save lives

The problem of a drug overdose has never been worse with over 41 000 deaths just from the opioid overdose in the US this year. Now, a team of software engineering students at Carnegie Mellon has developed the HopeBand – wearable device which monitors the oxygen level in blood by using pulse oximetry and measuring light reflected back from the skin to a sensor. The wristband detects an imminent overdose and not only alarms the user by emitting sound and flashing red, but also will send a text message to the emergency number giving the wearer’s location. An early alert could give enough time to administer naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist that can reverse the overdose.

“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” – says Rashmi Kalkunte, a software engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University

The team’s focus is to develop a cheap wearable device which will track user’s health no matter where they go. They started working on the project after being approached and sponsored by Pinney Associates, a pharmaceutical consulting firm. Their idea was also recognised during the Health 2.0 Conference held in Santa Clara where they won third place in finals of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge.

The future development

For now the device is still in the phase of lab trials, however, the tests so far look promising.

“The challenge is that we cannot actually just test the device on a human subject,” – says Puneetha Ramachandra, a master’s degree candidate in software engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

There is still room for much more things to implement. One can see that there might be a lot of false positives since every person is different and reacts differently to certain drugs. Luckily the team does have knowledge of this fact and they have a lot of ideas what can be changed in the future.

“I can absolutely see additional sensors being incorporated to give a machine-learning backend a bigger dataset to work with, reducing the number of false positives, for example. Or, once clinical trials are open, assembling a much larger, more diverse corpus for ML training that encompasses a wide range of physical variables – like age, sex, race, etc. – that could affect what an overdose state looks like!” – says Soham Donwalkar.


The HopeBand will initially be distributed free-of-charge to opioid users through needle exchange programs. If this works out, they plan to start selling the device for the commercial use with the price tag of around $16 and 20$. Of course, this is a device for people who are actually worried about their health state. It won’t help those, who are so addicted that nothing will change their mind. Overall, this can be a very useful product.



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This could help build future AI chips – Artificial synapses

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Illustration of synapse



Researchers in the emergin field of “neuromorphic computing” at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology have built something that might make a huge impact on the advancement of AI.  A magnetically controlled electronic synpase.

Some of you may wonder what a synampse is. MIT News explains it here better than I ever could:


“Packed within the squishy, football-sized organ are somewhere around 100 billion neurons. At any given moment, a single neuron can relay instructions to thousands of other neurons via synapses — the spaces between neurons, across which neurotransmitters are exchanged. There are more than 100 trillion synapses that mediate neuron signaling in the brain, strengthening some connections while pruning others, in a process that enables the brain to recognize patterns, remember facts, and carry out other learning tasks, at lightning speeds.”


Let’s not get too technical. What is interesting about this artificial synapse, is that it can fire millions of times faster, and use 1000 times less energy than the synapses in your brain. That means that this has the potential to allow us to build super-fast computer chips. These chips work like the human brain and are not limited to binary like digital ones today.

Like the human brain, these chips could efficiently process millions of streams of parallel computations. Today we can only to this with massive super-computer banks. This would make the chips perfect for modern AI and would allow us to solve one of the biggest challenges we have had with AI. Building portable, low-power chips for use in pattern recognition and learning tasks. This has been particularly tricky to reproduce in hardware because of the lack of neural synapse technology.


Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania artificial neural network



MIT News writes that their engineers have build a small chip using this technology. In simulation, it can be used to recognize samples of handwriting with 95% accuracy, only 2% less accuracte than existing software algorithms.

There are, however, problems. For example, we have not yet managed to create a large device with this technology, so its future is not exactly clear. Another big problem is that they run at temperatures of 5K, which is way too cold for any practical computin device.


Podobny obraz

Jeehwan Kim, the Class of 1947 Career Development Assistant Professor in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, and principal investigator in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and Microsystems Technology Laboratories


Jeehwan Kim, principal investigator in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, says:


“Ultimately we want a chip as big as a fingernail to replace one big supercomputer, this opens a stepping stone to produce real artificial hardware.”



MIT News

Technology Review



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Just before Christmas, New York Times surprised us with a ‘wonderful’ gift. A report that clearly shows that Facebook has been sharing our private conversations with major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Yahoo and many more.

Discovered report included information of over 200 pages of leaked documents, which contained the data about secret partnerships with third-party companies, that enabled them to allegedly read, compose or even delete the messages. Regarding them as ‘partners’, allowed them to not be controlled with usual privacy regulations. The number of companies that was discovered, when it comes to that level of clearance was estimated to be over 150.

“The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017,” The Times reported. “Some were still in effect this year.”

Major companies that were included in the document started addressing the issue after the controversy bursted out. Moreover, all of the companies are trying to separate themselves from the scandal.

Let’s start with something ‘less dramatic’. I will give you a simple example of how it worked. In the report, New York Times stated that Facebook gave Apple access user’s contacts and calendar, even if the sharing option was switched off. This way they could access the useful data that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Apple publicly denied these allegations and declared that they had never requested that kind access and never used it.

What also probably will warm your heart is the fact, that one the biggest company in the world, Amazon, is also connected with this controversy. They retrieved user’s name’s and contact information from Facebook database. Organisation confirmed getting it all, but didn’t reveal why and what for they used the data.

The more frightening case is with SpotifyNetflix and The Royal Bank of Canada. They have been granted a full access to user’s information and even private conversations. Furthermore, these companies were allegedly able to read, compose and even delete messages. All of the organisations stated that they were not aware of this kind of ‘unique’ access and they were not involved in this matter.

“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social,” a Netflix spokesperson told Business Insider. “One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.” —Netflix (@netflix ; Twitter)

“Spotify’s integration with Facebook has always been about sharing and discovering music and podcasts,” Spotify told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “Spotify cannot read users’ private Facebook inbox messages across any of our current integrations. Previously, when users shared music from Spotify, they could add on text that was visible to Spotify. This has since been discontinued. We have no evidence that Spotify ever accessed users’ private Facebook messages.” – Spotify (@Spotify ; Twitter)

The Royal Bank of Canada “disputed that the bank had any such access,” The Times wrote.

The problem lies in the law, because according to the 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent decree, Facebook isn’t violating any laws. Why you may ask? Well they do not need your permission to share your information to other companies, because they are partners, so they are sort of ‘cooperating’. This is a major issue and we can see that in many areas of law with many other cases. Countries and their regulations just can’t keep up with the growth of technological world. The whole process of creating new rules is just too slow. That’s something we should focus on looking forward.

As a result of this controversy, Facebook tried to defend themselves.

“Facebook’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do,” Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy, said in their statement for Business Insider. “Over the years, we’ve partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don’t support ourselves. Unlike a game, streaming music service, or other third-party app, which offer experiences that are independent of Facebook, these partners can only offer specific Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.”

Facebook has encountered a lot of controversies lately, especially when it comes to the sensitive data they have been gathering from years from their users. They had many leaks, breaches, even the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to USA Congress earlier this year.  Taking all of that into consideration, do you still want to use Facebook? 

Reference list:

  1. Gray, S. (2018, December 19). Bombshell report shows Facebook let companies like Spotify and Netflix read private messages.
  2. Keach, S. (2018, December 19). Facebook secretly let Netflix and Spotify read your PRIVATE messages – as tech giants rocked by bombshell report.
  3. Muskit, S. (2015, July 14). What Does Happiness Mean To Mark Zuckerberg?.
  4. Zuver, J. (2018, July 26). Drew And Mike – July 26, 2018.

Facebook shares our private conversations with other companies?

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Are you addicted to your smartphone?

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Smartphones give us ability to connect with our friends, our relatives, help us to get news, great source of entertainment and all this possible with just a tap of a touchscreen. From the other hand overuse of mobile devices can interfere with work, school and relationships. Moreover, approximately 72% of people say that they are rarely more than 2 meters away from their mobile devices. This is what is known as nomophobia (no mobile phobia) and it is real addiction.


How smartphone addiction affects our lives?

Phone addiction especially among children modify the way they interact with one another. Recent study shows that 10 years old children prefer communicating with others through mobile devices and social media than face to face communication. This might lead to serious consequences. Face to face interactions helps a child to develop emotionally and behaviourally which is impossible when a child communicating over mobile device. Adults can get addicted as well and the consequences are not less destructive. Overuse of smartphone leads to number of different physical problems such as: digital eye strain, neck problems, increased illnesses, car accidents. What is more it can lead to psychological problems such as interrupted sleeping patterns, obsessive compulsive disorder and even depression.

How to overcome smartphone addiction?

First of all we have to be aware that smartphone addiction exists. Secondly, we have to identify how much we use our smartphones for non-work and non-essential activities and reduce usage to minimum. Nowadays it is easier to do, using digital tools like “screen time”(iphone) and “digital wellbeing” (android).Finally, engage in real human contact, instead communicating over social media with friends and family try to spend some real time with them.

If you are not encouraged enough to reduce phone usage to minimum. “VitaminWater” company offers $100K for those who will not be using smartphone for 365 days…