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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Latest ITU Report states Internet use is up in world

By Mark A. Ollig

“Measuring the Information Society Report” was released to the public recently by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The data contained within this report is considered some of the most trustworthy, and is often referenced.

It provides statistics, and analyzes the current state of information and communication technology (ICT) throughout the world.

Dr. Hamadoun I. TourĂ©, ITU Secretary-General, calls this report “a critical part of the global ICT development process.”

The ITU gathers statistics for 200 economies across 100 indicators, which provide measurement data to track progress.

The report discloses the use of the Internet growing at a rate of 6.6 percent, globally.

In developing countries, the Internet growth is 8.7 percent, the number of Internet users in these countries has doubled from 2009 to today.

More economically developed parts of the world have seen a 3.3 percent increase.

Still, 4.3 billion people in the world do not use the Internet. Of these people, 90 percent are living in economically developing countries.

The ITU says of this 4.3 billion, 2.4 billion are living in what they call the world’s 42 Least Connected Countries (LCC).

The benefits provided from information and communication technology, are not available to those living in the LCC.

“ICTs have the potential to make the world a much better place – in particular for those who are the poorest and the most disenfranchised, including women, youth, and those with disabilities,” TourĂ© said.

The ITU report noted the improvement in LCC’s Internet bandwidth; from 9 percent in 2004, to 30 percent today.

This is a promising indication of the future availability of the Internet’s full potential being made available to the LCC.

Global rankings for ICT access, use, and skills, among 166 countries, according to the ITU’s Global ICT Development Index (IDI) level, were revealed.

In Europe, the top five IDI countries are Denmark, first; Sweden, third; Iceland, fourth; United Kingdom, fifth; and Norway sixth.

South Korea in the Asia and Pacific region was listed at 2nd.

The top five per region chart in The Americas, showed the US with a global IDI ranking of 14; Canada 23; Barbados 35, Uruguay 48; and St. Kitts and Nevis, 54.

The top IDI countries have high incomes, competitive markets, and a skilled population.

A breakdown of 230 countries, and the percentage of their population using the Internet, was displayed on an Excel spreadsheet from the ITU website.

Russia, in 2000, had 2 percent of its population using the Internet, as compared to nearly 62 percent today.

The US is shown having 84.2 percent of its population currently using the Internet, which is almost double the percentage of users since 2000.

In the United Kingdom, nearly 90 percent of the people there are using the Internet, which is a dramatic difference from 2000, when it was only 27 percent.

Almost 95 percent of Sweden’s population now uses the Internet.

The Excel file can be viewed at

The ITU also contains a wealth of historical statistics.

Yours truly, being in the telecommunications business, noticed the global General Telephone Statistics for 1948.

In 1948, the population of the US was 146.3 million.

During this time, the ITU reported there were 38.2 million (corded) telephones operational in the US.

The ITU’s ICT statistics home page is

In less than two months, it will be the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental telephone call from New York to San Francisco.

It was Jan. 25, 1915, and the person holding the patent for the first telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was in New York City.

His former associate, Thomas A. Watson, was located in San Francisco

Telephone wire lines and transmission equipment, spanning some 3,400 miles, connected Bell and Watson.

Bell spoke the words into the telephone’s transmitter he first said some 39 years previously, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”

Watson, upon hearing Bell, replied into his telephone, “It would take me a week to get to you this time.”

Indeed. For it was in Boston, March 10, 1876, while the two were working on an experimental telephone, when Watson first heard Bell’s voice over a telephone connected to wires.

The New York Times Jan. 26, 1915 article, “Phone to Pacific From the Atlantic” can be read at

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

China's Silicon Valley Fair

by Mark A. Ollig

The 16th China Hi-Tech Fair (CHTF) took place last week in the Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center Hall.

Shenzhen is a highly populated city in the southern China Guangdong Providence, next to Hong Kong.

This year’s theme was “Innovation and Green Growth.”

The CHTF is noted for being the most important electronic technology exhibition in China.

One could compare it to our annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

A large number of China’s technology companies; representing what is recognized as the Chinese Silicon Valley, participated in this year’s fair.

“In order to promote the economic and technological cooperation between China and the other countries in the world, the Chinese government decides to hold CHTF each year in Shenzhen,” said Zhu Rongji, former Chinese premier.

The CHTF reportedly had approximately 3,000 exhibitors, with over 540,000 people attending from more than 58 countries.

Over 1,000 reporters and 300 media outlets also attended this year’s event.

I visited the CHTF website (English version), as I am interested in how other countries exhibit and showcase technology.

The website states the CHTF brings together and promotes cooperation between different countries, by exhibiting new high-end products, and holding high-level forums.

Some of the forums focused on advanced technologies in the fields of solar energy and energy conservation, including new types of energy sources and vehicles. The next generation of information technologies was also discussed.

CHTF prides itself on being “an important window” for showing others China’s high-tech sector.

I noted the conferences held during the CHTF included talks from 12 Nobel Prize winners, 70 ministerial-level government officials, and more than 400 presidents of companies, scientific leaders, and “management elites” from countries around the world.

Some of the conferences and forums covered low-carbon technologies, new energy development, and information technology.

Promoting technological interaction, cooperation, and economic relations with other countries and regions is an important role for the CHTF.

Barcelona, the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain, was one region of the world represented during the CHTF.

Spokespersons presented the economic and business potential; along with other benefits the city of Barcelona could provide to technology companies, should they choose to invest there.

The CHTF also serves as an exhibition zone for various Chinese delegations, including state ministries, provinces, municipalities, and universities and colleges.

A presentation by Wan Gang, deputy director-general of Ministry of Science and Technology of China, was printed on the website.

“The world is going through a new wave of technological revolution and industrial restructuring. The layout of worldwide innovation is changing fundamentally. Opportunities and challenges co-exist,” Wan Gang stated.

An Overseas Hi-Tech Achievement Show was specially prepared for international organizations, including foreign government authorities and industrial associations.

This show encouraged creating negotiations between China, foreign companies, and their associations.

This years’ CHTF exhibited popular products and services including new, innovative information technologies applicable to cloud computing, next- generation high-tech wearable devices, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, mobile Internet applications, and fourth-generation advanced-mobile communications technologies.

Wireless lighting control systems, smart home devices, and smart healthcare technologies were also exhibited during the fair.

Panasonic, Toshiba Electronics, Samsung, and Phillips Lighting Company are some of the more well-known companies which demonstrated their products at the CHTF.

There were approximately 500 key exhibitors (companies) listed in a 24-page text document located on the CHTF website.

I noted many of these companies were from the CHTF host city.

Shenzhen TTS Network Technology Co. LTD, showcased an intelligent home-school communication platform, a high-speed attendance RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) system, and a digital campus-management RFID system. Its website (Chinese) is:

Another company participating, Eagle Vision Technology from Seattle, WA, is a provider of monitoring cameras, centralized monitoring software, and video recording servers and other-related accessories. Its website is:

The complete listing of CHTF key exhibitors (including their websites) can be viewed at:

The 16th China Hi-Tech Fair displayed some of the newest advanced electronic technologies to the world.

It promoted both economic and social development benefits, broad international scientific collaboration, and media attention from columnists like yours truly.

The English website for the CHTF is:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Futuristic predictions for 2064

by Mark Ollig

Keeping up with technology is both challenging and exciting.

Dr. Jennifer Healey, a research scientist at Intel Corporation, is looking ahead 50 years into the future.

While Dr. Healey was at MIT, she developed a wearable device allowing a person to track their daily activities using a video camera and physiological sensors.

This device was the first wearable computer.

Dr. Healey also worked at IBM on next-generation multi-modal smartphones, and helped design the voice-to-speech technology used in Interaction Markup Language.

During a recent “Conversations with Tomorrow” video posted on the Alger website, Dr. Healey stated technology can do things for us which we could never do for ourselves before.

She sees a gradual hand-off to automation during the next 50 years.

This automation will no doubt include autonomous robotics performing more of the tasks currently accomplished by you and me.

Artificial intelligence will become closer to human intelligence, so we can expect to see autonomous robots developing reasoning abilities as they acquire problem-solving skills using logic, and their own experiences.

Future artificial intelligent robots will be embedded with emotional sensing patterns, which, Dr. Healey says, is the foundation of artificial intelligence and rational decision making.

In other words, robots will develop human-like common sense.

These developing emotions will help the robots navigate and interact with humans.

My question is, “Will robots acquire self-awareness by 2064?”

If they do, this will present a whole new set of questions.

Transportation in 2064 will be much different than it is today.

Dr. Healey said a human driving an automobile “is an unnatural act.”

“It’s not like your skin, it’s not like your senses, and it’s not like your body. I have great control over my body; I don’t have that same sense with my car,” she declared.

Dr. Healey believes there will be a strong demand for autonomous, self-driving vehicles in the future.

She said the focus of driving in 2064 will be safety.

Intelligent vehicles, which can communicate with each other, would be able to maintain safe distances from one another, and react faster than a human driver to situations calling for the quick use of brakes, acceleration, or collision avoidance maneuvers.

Currently, the folks driving erratically and passing us on the highways are the supposedly “intelligent” ones driving the cars.

One statistic shows the average American spends more than one full work week stuck in traffic every year.

This statistic I can attest to.

Each workday morning, yours truly drives north on highway 169 without any traffic congestion problems; however, the vehicles in the opposite lanes traveling south (into the city), are usually stop-and-go.

After 5 p.m., this traffic congestion pattern reverses.

If we leave the frenzied-driving routine to our artificially-intelligent car, we could be reading an eBook, texting, watching a movie on our iPad, or simply relaxing, while our taxi-like intelligent vehicle drives us to our destination.

How would you feel about placing your trust in a car’s artificial intelligence taking control of the driving, instead of yourself?

I don’t know about you, but I am usually second-guessing and watching the road when someone else is driving; especially when the driver is the equivalent of an emotional HAL 9000 sentient computer.

This autonomous self-driving car will probably be talking with us, too.

I’m not sure what this means, but I just had a childhood flashback memory of the talking 1928 Porter automobile from the 1960s TV show, “My Mother the Car.”

There have been other talking TV cars, like KITT, the intelligent, logical, computerized car David Hasselhoff drove during the 1980s TV show, “Knight Rider.”

I clearly recall back in the ‘70s, when my father’s new car was constantly trying to convince me that “a door is a jar.”

But I digress.

Dr. Healey envisions artificial intelligence being used to alleviate city traffic routing problems.

She foresees future cities filled with autonomous vehicles, or “intelligent pod cars” traveling throughout urban areas in an orderly-fashion, while networking with each other like ants.

When someone needs to travel to a specific location within the city, an empty pod car will become immediately available.

Healey explains none of these autonomous pod cars would be sitting in a parking lot taking up space; they would be constantly traveling around the city in an orderly fashion, just waiting for the signal to transport us from point A to point B.

She even posted an estimation saying by having pod cars continually on-the-road, over 2 billion parking spaces could be reclaimed.

I learned Dr. Jennifer Healey is a firm believer in artificial intelligence, and how autonomous robotic assistance will be playing a major role in the lives of the people living in 2064.

Technology 50 years from now will take over people’s routine tasks, thus freeing their minds for envisioning and building future technological innovations.

Friday, November 7, 2014

They're here: Autonomous retail service robots

by Mark A. Ollig

A Lowe’s Orchard Supply Hardware store, located in tech-savvy midtown San Jose, CA, will soon begin using advanced, interactive robots for in-store customer service.

There will be two high-tech autonomous robots used. They are being called OSHbots, which stands for Orchard Supply Hardware robots.

These friendly-looking, and independently-operating robots, will listen with what appears to be a bit of empathy, while a customer explains, or shows the OSHbot what they are looking for.

Imagine a customer walking into a hardware store, holding up an item to an OSHbot and saying “I need more of these.”

This OSHbot would search its database, and display the item on its screen so the customer sees it.

The robot then asks in English (or the customer’s preferred language), “Is this the item?”

Not only that, the OSHbot then tells the customer where the item is located inside the store, and will even “walk” (via its wheels) with them to where the item is located on the store’s shelf.

Pretty cool, huh?

The OSHbot has a built-in 3D sensing camera, allowing it to scan an item brought in and shown to it by a customer. The OSHbot will then determine if the store has the item in stock.

One video demonstration shows an OSHbot approaching a customer as they enter the store. In a pleasing voice, it says “Hello, I am OSHbot, the Orchard store robot helper. What are you looking for today?”

This person asks for a specific-sized hammer.

The OSHbot is then seen traveling down a store aisle, along with the customer, saying “I’ll take you to the plumb 16 ounce flat contoured handle hammer aisle.”

Each OSHbot knows the complete inventory of what is in the store, and can tell a customer if an item is available on the store shelves, or is currently out of stock.

If a robot becomes confused, or needs an answer to a difficult question, it has the ability to communicate with the store’s human employees.

The OSHbots contain multiple sensors, including “collision avoidance” programming.

This programming allows them to navigate throughout a particular store without bumping into anything (or anyone).

Your always-investigative columnist found and read the Lowe’s Companies, Inc. October 28 press release titled, “The Future of Shopping has Arrived and its Name is OSHbot.”

“Using science fiction prototyping, we explored solutions to improve customer experiences by helping customers quickly find the products and information they came in looking for,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which is presenting the two retail service robots at the Orchard Supply Hardware store.

The media contact person at Lowes Companies Inc. responded to my request for an interview about the OSHbots with, “Unfortunately, we are in our quiet period ahead of earnings later this month and are unable to facilitate interviews at this time.”

So, my faithful readers, once I am able to have my OSHbot questions answered from Lowes, I will write an updated column about these Autonomous Retail Service Robots, and how they are handling real-life, in-store customer situations.

If you have any OSHbot questions, email them to me, and I’ll add them to my list for when I am granted an interview with Lowe’s.

Lowe’s also made this comment in their press release regarding the store’s human employees; “OSHbot will provide an additional layer of support by helping customers with simple questions, enabling more time for them [store human employees] to focus on delivering project expertise.”

Fellow Robots is the name of the Silicon Valley high-tech company Lowe’s Innovation Labs collaborated with in designing and developing these autonomous robots

This company was founded in 2012, and demonstrated its first concept robot during the January 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

Orchard Supply Hardware began in 1931, and was originally stocked with orchard ladders, picking pails, sprays, fertilizers, and other farming supplies.

Today, they focus on “paint, repair and the backyard” in 71 stores in California, and two in Oregon.

I learned Orchard Supply Hardware was purchased last year by Lowe’s, the national home improvement hardware store retailer.

Orchard Supply uploaded an informative two-and a-half minute video to YouTube introducing their new robots. It can be seen at:

Yes, dear readers, we are moving into an era of being provided in-store customer assistance via autonomous robots – hopefully, they’ll all have pleasant, engaging personalities.

Pictures of an OSHbot assisting a customer searching for a particular roofing nail, and traversing a store aisle, can be seen at: and