WAVE

wave_copertina

Wave in Milan

This month Milan is hosting WAVE, an event that promotes the idea of frugal innovation in all of its different facets. I must say before beginning that the Bassetti Foundation (who employ me) are co-sponsors of the event, so I am a little partisan. It is however from any point of view an interesting project and concept.

The event includes an exhibition open to visitors and free of charge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Piazza San Fedele, Milan until 3 July, alongside a series of lectures and other events. The full program is here. There is a huge variety of stuff to see and hear, including debate about sustainability, smart city technology, citizen science and editing the human genome.

The WAVE Project

I take the following form the WAVE website. It gives a nice idea of what the project is all about:

At a time when the entire planet is facing tremendous economic, social and environmental challenges, a multitude of initiatives from around the world prove that solutions exist for doing more with less. The common ingredient in all this creative ferment? Collective ingenuity.
Being flexible, keeping it simple, seizing opportunities, thinking differently: in an unstable world, the ingenious innovator develops a state of mind that’s agile enough to turn obstacles into opportunities.
We live on a small planet where everything is interdependent. This is not a time for divisions, but for concerted action: citizens, associations, NGOs, local authorities, and companies both large and small are implementing new ideas for a better world. Driven by the digital revolution, most of these initiatives rely on social media. Some of them fall within the commercial sphere, others do not. But all of them demonstrate new ways of innovating together, differently.
A wave of collective ingenuity is sweeping across the world. Drawing on a wide range of concrete examples, the WAVE exhibition explores the major currents on every continent: co-creation, the sharing economy, the maker movement, the inclusive economy, and the circular economy. These examples feature people from all walks of life who share a positive vision of the world of tomorrow.

So as we see, WAVE as a concept is traveling the world. It started in France, now Milan before moving on to Senegal, USA and then India. It looks like an interesting series of events to me, and next week I am off to Milan to check it out in person.

 

The Online GM Foods Debate

gm-picGM Experiences

A few weeks ago I was invited to Vienna to participate in a 2 day workshop on Responsible Research and Innovation in the Context of GMO. Obviously, these two topics being my main interests in life, I accepted, and off I went with my extremely stylish new laptop/overnight bag to an equally stylish country hotel.

It was a really interesting weekend. The other participants were scientists, members of regulatory bodies and governmental institutions, professors and other professionals from across Europe. I should say that this weekend was part of a much larger project called RES-AGORA, which is funded by the European Commission. You can read all about it here.

If that tickles your fancy here is the 60 page long Stakeholders Report.

But anyway back to the experience of a Luddite blogger in a posh hotel. I learned a lot about genetic modification, legislation, the problems of getting seeds to test, companies not making life easy for those testing or reporting, property rights and their effects over publication possibilities, loopholes in laws in different countries that allow people to legally buy seeds without a contract with the manufacturers (oh don’t get me started), and it got me thinking about writing an article.

So I did, and got it published here, in an Italian online academic journal.

Writing Skills

Now why is this of interest to you I hear you ask. Well I wrote this article basing much of it on the food series that I wrote here  on Technology Bloggers last year. In writing the series I unearthed a real underbelly of food production, and a little organization and rewriting, updating, selecting and expanding, and I had an academic article. You can download it for free here if you like.

The article raises the issue of how the GM debate is played out online. The problem it seems (to me) is that there is no forum for constructive debate about GM, and this leads to a polarization of positions. So we can imagine a scenario in which website “A” points out as many problems as the author can think of, ethical issues, exploitation, altering nature, global takeover of seed production, and other nasties. In the same scenario website “B” is glossy and tells us that only GM will be able to produce enough food to feed an ever growing population, that it is all safe, that they are spending money on research just to help us out….

The problem is that in all scenarios website C is the same as website A, and D is the same as B and so on. There is little room for debate about GM in organic fuel production, or any other possible uses. It is the goodies against the baddies, and the baddies have more money, friends and power. The goodies however don’t seem to have a broad enough base to attack from.

Now the article looks nothing like the blog series I grant you, nor does this 2 paragraph description above, and I have to say that a lot of work went into the article. But having done all of the research for the series gave me a really good grounding. Now I am sure that many readers have written blogs that follow long and intricate lines of argument, but I wonder how many have thought about writing an article for a journal, newspaper or magazine and submitting it? It certainly broadens your writing capabilities, and if you feel you have something important to say it gives access to different readerships.

And it looks good in the portfolio and on the CV!

Smartphone battle: Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6 Plus

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone didn’t have the wow factor that we’ve come to expect from new smartphone releases. It was by no means a flop – with retailers ordering more S5s than they did S4s in the 25 days after both phones launched – however it didn’t impress as much as it could have.

The iPhone 6 PlusNow Samsung is back with a shiny new Galaxy S6 – it’s new metal and glass construct means it literally is shiny! – and it has clearly gone out of its way to set a new standard with the S6. For the first time, Samsung have released a phone which in terms of aesthetic build quality, is very similar to that of an iPhone. Also like Apple’s phone’s, Samsung’s latest Galaxy model does not have a removable back, meaning users cannot change the battery or add additional storage.

This is the first time that Samsung and Apple – the two giants of the smartphone world – have made devices which in terms of design and build, are actually pretty similar. That gives us a golden opportunity to compare the two phones spec for spec to determine which is truly the best.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are practicably identical in terms of tech specs, so for the purpose of this review I’ll be using the S6. Apple’s comparatively priced and sized phone is the iPhone 6 Plus, so that’s what I’ll be comparing the S6 to today – the iPhone 6 Plus versus the Galaxy S6!

Camera

You’d struggle to find a smartphone released these days which doesn’t come with a pretty competent camera. It’s a staple feature that most people have come to expect as standard from a new phone.

Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 boasts a phenomenal new 16 mega pixel rear camera, and a 5 mega pixel front facing camera – great for selfies. Speaking of selfies, the S6 is super selfie friendly, as you can take a selfie in loads of ways – pressing the volume buttons, covering the rear facing heart rate monitor with your finger, tapping the screen, or pressing the capture button. The S6 can also film in 4K, which for those who don’t know, is four times better than standard, 1080p HD. The ability to capture up to 120 frames per second (only 60 in HD) is also a handy feature.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone’s rear camera is only 8 MP and it’s front camera is just 1.2 MP. The iPhone supports face detection on both it’s front and rear camera’s – as does the S6. The iPhone 6 Plus can also video in sloooow mooootion (see what I did there?) at 60 frames per second in HD, but it trumps the S6 in terms of how slow-mo it can go – an amazing 240 frames per second.

Winner

Camera tests, such as this one, and this one, show that in terms of camera it’s really a no-brainer. The S6 wins hands down. It’s cameras are both able to shoot at higher quality and leave images looking sharper than those produced by the iPhone. So you can make good use of the camera, Samsung has sped the launch up to just over half a second. Double click the home button and within a second you could be taking shots or shooting video – way faster than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Speed

Now lets look at how fast each of the phones is.

Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphoneThe S6 has some very capable hardware behind it, with two physical processors (1.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz) each split into 4 logical preprocessors, the S6 packs a pretty hefty 8 core processor, which is supported by an impressive 3 GB of RAM. The S6 is running Android with Samsung’s (now significantly slimmed down) TouchWiz ‘Disney Layer’ integrated on top. This is much faster, and less bloated than the TouchWiz seen on the S5.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus has slightly more modest hardware, with one dual core 1.4 GHz processor, supported by 1 GB of RAM. It’s packed with the latest Apple mobile operating system iOS 8.

Winner

In speed tests, the S6 obliterates the 6 Plus. Despite it’s inferior software, iOS 8 does a really good job of using the iPhone’s limited hardware to get the best performance out of the phone. Whilst it seldom wins speed tests, it’s usually not far behind the S6.

Battery

One of the most important feature’s of any phone is the battery life. There’s no point in having a flashy gadget if you can’t use it because it’s got a shocking battery life. Battery life doesn’t appear to be improving that much, or too rapidly either, and if I want a phone purely for battery life, I’d still use my old Nokia 3510i!

Galaxy S6
Samsung’s S6 has gone backwards in terms of battery life compared to it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S5. GSM Arena ranks the S5 the 16th best smartphone/tablet ever in terms of battery performance; comparatively the S6 with its 2,550 mAh battery ranks a pitiful 46th.

Something to consider regarding the battery of the S6 is that it can charge wirelessly and it supports fast charging and ships with a fast charger. It also supports wireless charging.

A classic Nokia 3510i

Better battery life than all smartphones!

iPhone 6 Plus

On the same GSM rankings the iPhone 6 Plus ranks much better, coming in at 25th position – way ahead of the standard iPhone 6 which ranked a shocking 90th! This is largely thanks to its much bigger 2,915 mAh battery.

Winner

You can talk for up to 20 hours on Samsung’s S6 before it runs out of juice, whilst with Apple’s 6 Plus you’d get an extra 4 hours of nattering. The Galaxy S6 comes in slightly better than the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of web browsing time and video playback however. Ultimately, despite the fact that it’s easier to charge the S6, the 6 Plus has a bigger battery and seems to last longer, so this one’s a win for the iPhone.

Size, capacity, screen and price

Finally I’ll explore a few of each phone’s other features.

Size

The iPhone 6 Plus has dimensions of 158.1×77.8×7.1 mm. The Galaxy S6 is slightly smaller in all dimensions, including depth, where it is 0.3mm thinner than the iPhone; its dimensions are 143.4×70.5×6.8 mm.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus dimensionsCapacity

Samsung’s flagship phone comes in three sizes, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. Apple’s alternative also comes in 3 sizes, a smaller 16GB, 64GB and a huge 128GB. As I mentioned earlier, neither has expandable memory.

Screen

The iPhone’s screen is 5.5 inches, which is bigger than the Galaxy’s 5.1 inch display. Despite the iPhone’s bigger screen, Samsung wins in terms of pixel density, sporting an impressive 576 PPI, compared to the Apple alternative which has only 401 PPI.

Price

On the day of publishing, the iPhone 6 Plus costed £699 GBP from Apple’s website. This is for a SIM-free, 64GB version with the device. The Galaxy S6 costs slightly less with a SIM-free, 64GB version of the phone costing £640 from Samsung’s website.

The Winner

It has a better camera, it’s faster, it’s smaller, it’s got a better screen and it’s cheaper – how could I not choose Samsung’s Galaxy S6 as the winner. Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus does have a better battery, and it is a very good phone, but it is 6 months older than it’s Samsung rival and despite inferior technology it still costs more. No wonder Samsung has regained the smartphone sales crown.

Samsung have really upped their game with the S6 and that will no doubt cause Apple to up theirs when they release their next phone (expected to be the Apple iPhone 6S) in a few months time.

Experiences of an Online Conference

adobe

Online Conference

Last month I attended a conference with a difference, The INSS annual meeting was held in 5 different cities at the same time, as well as online, in an attempt to cut down on travel for participants. I attended the London site and was one of only 2 people to fly to the event. This is remarkable considering that last year we all met in North Carolina and dozens of people flew internal and trans continental legs.

The physical Conference was held at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, Oregon State university, Arizona State University, Michigan State University and University College London.

Very much an experiment, the practicalities of conducting a conference over several different time zones posed some issues, with early starts for those on the US West Coast and late finishes for those in Europe. The technology worked incredibly well, with very few glitches over the days’ events. Participants were able to ask questions, follow seminars in any of the sites they chose, and interact with the poster and key note presenters using online media.

The event was run out of North Carolina, and the web management was all taken care of from that site. I must say that I was rather skeptical at the beginning, having lived with Skype developments over the years, but how wrong could I be?

Communication Technology

The communication was taken care of using Adobe Connect, so anyone could participate through their own computer or by visiting any of the sites. We in London lost the last 5 minutes of a discussion after one of the lectures, but for the rest it all worked perfectly.

Now as someone who travels to a lot of these kinds of things I can only marvel at the progress made. Each site shared some seminars and papers, but all had different agendas. The London agenda included a day of field trips, as well as as a panel during which presenters discussed their experiences of building the Engineering Exchange, a university lead action group whose aim is to bridge the gap between communities and planners preparing urban regeneration projects. Read the abstract here.

We also toured some of the capital’s largest redevelopment projects, including a visit to Crossrail, a huge rail link and urban regeneration project that cuts through central London. A guided tour of the Elephant and Castle redevelopment area with the interest group “Social Life” followed, a context of urban regeneration that has caused many locals to question both existing and future plans in that area.

The context was also helped by the involvement of a member of a local interest group that aims to support people whose houses are under threat, and promote the idea of refitting houses to maintain communities, rather than rehousing and rebuilding. There is a lot more to think about in urban regeneration that you might imagine.

The Network

The closing panel was hosted in Charlotte and entitled Social Sustainability Initiatives in Planning and engineering Organization. Full details of all the participating site agendas can be found on the INSS website.

The network is open to all interested in participating, so keep an eye on the website for further information. We volunteer our time, we learn a lot, we try to raise social sustainability issues, and we always have a bit of a social at every event. I must say that the multi-site format was a worthy experiment that worked extremely well, and I think could offer a model for future events. Is the era of the online conference coming to life? Looks like it to me.