Swedish research multiplies the life of rechargeable NiMH batteries

Researchers at Stockholm University have developed a method to multiply the lifespan of nickel-metal hydride batteries. This means that the batteries can handle a great many more charging cycles without losing capacity. The new method also means that the batteries can easily be restored once they have begun to wear out, unlike other rechargeable batteries that must be melted down for recycling.

Most rechargeable batteries are based on either lead, nickel-cadmium (NiCd) or various combinations with lithium. Batteries based on nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) with an aqueous electrolyte are both eco-friendly and safe. The NiMH battery is developed from the nickel-hydrogen battery (NiH2). It has long been known that (NiH2) batteries have a superior lifespan compared to other battery types. This is why they are (for example) used in satellites in orbit in space, where the batteries must function for decades without servicing. The Hubble space telescope is one example, but NiH2 batteries are also spinning around our neighboring planets. However, these structures of the batteries are impractically large, because the hydrogen is stored in gas tanks. NiMH batteries can be made much more compact, because the hydrogen is stored in a metal alloy/metal hydride with a hydrogen density equivalent to that of liquid hydrogen. Researchers at Stockholm University has now developed a technique by which to achieve the same long lifespan for NiMH batteries as in the large NiH2 batteries.

The inspiration for the new technology came from a new NiMH battery manufactured by Nilar AB in Gävle.

In a NiMH battery, hydrogen is bound in the metal alloy. This solution is effective, but the battery ages because it dries out as the alloy slowly corrodes and consumes its water-based electrolyte. The corrosion also interferes with the internal balance between the electrodes in the battery. The breakthrough came when the research group discovered that they could counteract the aging process almost completely by adding oxygen, which restores the lost electrode equilibrium and replaces the lost electrolyte. This can be easily done in Nilar’s battery construction, because all cells share the same gas space. With the right balance of oxygen and hydrogen, a lifespan is achieved which exceeds all of today’s common battery types.

“The electrification of society, not least of all future electric cars, places new demands on distribution networks. This battery type is very well suited to evening out the load on the power grid at all levels over a long period of time, something which is a prerequisite for a fossil-free society in which intermittent solar and wind power will be connected to the network,”

says Professor Dag Noréus of Stockholm University, who has extensive experience with NiMH development.

“This new battery technology is a major step along the way. Right now, Sweden is a world leader in the segment of rechargeable NiMH batteries,”

says Dr. Yang Shen, whose thesis Development of metal hydride surface structures for high power NiMH batteries—extended cycle-life and lead to more effective recycling methods was presented on December 10 of this year and has been a central element of the work.

Author: Stockholm University
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Blockchain and the 4th Industrial Revolution

Humankind is approaching a new industrial revolution. Unlike the previous three, it will impact every industry and interact between the digital, physical and even biological worlds while approaching at a neck-breaking speed due to the unprecedented amount of breakthroughs. This revolution is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace when compared with previous three (1).

This revolution can be summarized with data, its connectivity and what they will be used for. The amount and precedence of connectivity will be unmatched and unlike what the Digital revolution (3rd industrial revolution) has offered.  Furthermore, the number of connected devices is expected to grow to a mind boggling number that could reach somewhere between 28-50 billion by 2020, according to estimates published by multiple CEOs as mentioned in IEEE.

Having such a massive number of connected devices also entails that network speeds will be much faster than current networks. For example, “with 5G, users should be able to download a high-definition film in under a second (a task that could take 10 minutes on 4G LTE). Wireless engineers say these networks will boost the development of other new technologies, such as autonomous vehiclesvirtual reality, and the Internet of Things” (2).

In my opinion, Blockchain technology will be the core tech used among all others that will form the basis of the 4th industrial revolution. For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning will remain a challenge if the trust and privacy in gathered data is not present. Machine learning requires a large amount of data about a particular object, person or a thing in order to learn and predict its behavior and make decisions. However, if this data is breached, corrupted or manipulated it will make the job of machine learning a rather difficult one and thus prone to erroneous or even catastrophic decisions. Blockchain solves all aforementioned issues which will enhance the correct development and valuable uses of machine learning technologies. That, in addition to keeping privacy of users as they can contribute data to the blockchain while choosing what to share.

The pillars of the 4th industrial revolution will become a privacy and security nightmare without blockchain. Take for example the privacy concerns of Facebook. Merge that with the upcoming large number of connected devices and other technologies that will make connectivity embedded even biologically. This will produce an AI for every social network, eCommerce website, business and perhaps everyone that profits from data. Without Blockchain, your news feed, email, phone, social profile(s), and potentially smart home appliances will become an ads nightmare. Likewise, cyber criminals will have new and more powerful tools in their disposal. Machine Learning devices, eCommerce tools and algorithms, and autonomous systems can randomly gather information about you that may not represent your genuine interests.

The main pillar of the 4th industrial revolution is data and its connectivity, and the key issue will be how this data will be used and handled by the complicated society we live in. Privacy breaches, the correct use of data (especially by machine learning technologies), and other potential issues will become a far more complicated problem if Blockchain is not embedded with the rest of these technologies. Blockchain is the checks and balances system that ensures other technologies and actors will not use data in ways that are unauthorized by the owner of said data. Blockchain will also enhance these technologies by giving them the necessary and correct data, thereby avoiding data processing waste and enhance the correct and safe autonomous decision making.

Author: Mohammad A. Edaibat
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A new type of quantum computer has smashed every record

Quantum computing is progressing in leaps and bounds

Why it matters: As the quantum future looms closer, hundreds if not thousands of companies and research groups race towards constructing the first quantum computer that can outperform traditional supercomputers. However, the competition is not just between organizations, it’s also between competing methods of quantum computing.
IonQ was founded on a gamble that ‘trapped ion quantum’ computing could outperform the silicon-based quantum computers that Google and others are building. As of right now, it does. IonQ has constructed a quantum computer that can perform calculations on a 79-qubit array, beating the previous king Google’s efforts by 7 qubits.

Their error rates are also the best in the business, with their single-qubit error rate at 99.97% while the nearest competitors are around the 99.5 mark, and a two-qubit error rate of 99.3% when most competitors are beneath 95%. But how does it compare to regular computers?

According to IonQ, in the kinds of workloads that quantum computers are being built for, it’s already overtaking them. The Bernstein-Vazirani Algorithm, a benchmark IonQ is hoping will take off, tests a computer’s ability to determine a single encoded number (called an oracle) when the computer can only ask a single yes/no question.

When the algorithm is run for every number between 1 and 1023, a conventional computer gets a 0.2% success rate. IonQ’s quantum computer gets a 79% success rate.

“After two years of work, our against-the-grain bet is paying off,” IonQ’s CEO, Christopher Monroe, believes trapped ion quantum computing is the best bet. “The IonQ System is robust and industrial strength. Even at this early stage, the results show the ion trap design has all the advantages we expected and more.”

All quantum computers “isolate and manipulate quantum systems to create quantum versions of computer bits, called qubits” reads IonQ’s website. Quantum computers replace the traditional 0 or 1 logic gates processors rely on and replace them with 0 and 1 quantum gates, which are simultaneously 0 and 1 during calculations but output 0 or 1. This funky math has the potential to reinvent computing in fields like chemistry, medicine, energy, logistics and future fields like AI.

The specific ‘trapped ion technology’ the IonQ’s quantum computer relies on replaces the supercooled silicon that Google, IBM and Rigetti use with ytterbium, a silvery rare earth metal. The ionized ytterbium is suspended in an oscillating electromagnetic field, where it’s manipulated by engineers who program the lasers that input, store and retrieve information.

While ‘trapped ion’ quantum computing still has some hurdles to overcome, namely slow operation times and massive sizes, the accuracy and scalability of the technology means that IonQ will be letting companies use its computer sometime next year. It’s also got a peer-reviewed journal article on the developments that will be published in the coming months.

Quantum supremacy, the moment that the best quantum computer is better than the best traditional computer, is approaching rapidly. While even IonQ will admit that they don’t know what the “killer app of quantum computers” is yet, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too long before we’re all taking it for granted.

Author: Isaiah Mayersen
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IBM Helps Kenyan Agriculture Flourish On Twiga Blockchain

Blockchain tech helps farmers and vendors access financing.

It’s eight in the morning in Kinangop, a small rural town 55 miles north of Nairobi. For Joseph Kimani, a small-scale farmer, today is a big day. Kimani has been a farmer for two decades, but finding a market for his products has been a constant thorn in his side. There have been plenty of middle men to facilitate selling farm products, but they are all out to exploit the farmers.

Today, Kimani is having his vegetables picked by Twiga Foods, an agricultural marketplace that is changing many farmers’ lives. The startup buys food from farmers and then distributes it to thousands of vendors across the country.

The convenience alone is a godsend to farmers, but there’s more. Twiga buys at a higher price than local middle men and pays instantly via M-Pesa, the globally renowned mobile payment network. It also makes it possible for its clients to secure loans for their businesses, using blockchain technology.

The Informal Sector Continues To Be Marginalized
For most people, blockchain is the technology that powers Bitcoin. Beyond that, they don’t know much. However, in Kenya, blockchain is doing much more. It has given the thousands of farmers an immutable and real-time measure of their creditworthiness.

Twiga employs blockchain technology to keep track of the transactions carried out by its clients. Using its data, the clients can also assess their ability to access loans and other financial products. While in most developed countries such data is easy to acquire, the narrative is quite different in Kenya, and Africa as a whole.

Agriculture in Kenya accounts for over 50 percent of the GDP and provides the livelihood for 80 percent of the population. However, those involved in this sector continue to be marginalized by financial institutions, which deem them un-creditworthy. With most of the trading being done informally, data is difficult to collect.

Blockchain Changing Lives
Twiga is not only changing the lives of farmers but the vendors as well. The 5000+ vendors who use the platform get to request the products they require, which are then delivered at a day’s notice. Before, they had to go to the market, where the quality isn’t assured and where they had to haggle over the prices. After making the purchase, they then had to transport the products to their stalls. This consumed both time and resources.

The vendors also get the benefit of having their data collected and stored on the immutable distributed ledger. For vendors, the data is even more crucial than for the farmers as they require constant financing to grow their businesses.

According to the World Bank, the lack of an established credit bureau is one of the biggest challenges facing small enterprises. These enterprises face a $330 billion lending gap, with Kenya –East Africa’s largest economy- accounting for $7 billion.

The IBM Partnership
Twiga -which is Swahili for giraffe- was founded in 2014 and has grown by leaps and bounds since. It was last year’s partnership with IBM, however, that has transformed it into a multi-million dollar company and one of Africa’s most promising startups.

IBM used its expertise in distributed ledger technology, machine learning and data processing to develop Twiga’s blockchain platform. Now, the users can get the loan application process done entirely on the blockchain, making it easier, faster and more transparent.

Isaac Markus, a researcher with IBM, explained:

We analyzed purchase records from a mobile device and then apply machine learning algorithms to predict credit worthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms to repayment.

Providing Real Solutions
Blockchain technology has been hailed as revolutionary, and rightly so. In the future, even the internet could be decentralized. However, it’s the solutions that are available right now that matter.

For the 15,000 farmers and vendors, blockchain is not just a hype word that people are using to attract funding. It’s a real solution to a real problem that has plagued them for decades.


Author: Steve Kaaru
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Telecoms Giant AT&T Seeks Patent for Blockchain-Enabled Social Media ‘Mapping’ System

American telecoms giant AT&T is seeking a patent for a blockchain-based social media history “map.” The patent application was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Dec. 13.

AT&T’s patent application describes a blockchain-powered system that may include a transaction history controller to store subscribers’ data, which may be used for various purposes. The file outlines a number of particular cases, such as creating and sharing information, ideas, and career interests through virtual communities and networks.

Broadly speaking, by deploying the system users could purportedly track “micro-culture transactions,” like tracing current trends at a particular time or place, or behavior of their friends. That ability, per the patent application, “may have enormous value in e-commerce, marketing, and targeted advertising.” The document further states:

“The social media history map platforms described herein may take advantage of the immutable and permanent nature of blockchain records to store, and provide access to, data representing online transactions that occur on multiple social media applications.”

Per the filing, content creators would keep ownership of their data on the “mapping” platform:

“However, instead of passing ownership of blocks or data between users, a social media account owner maintains primary ownership of his or her online transaction data. What passes from the social media account owner to other users of the social media history map service, such as followers of the social media account owner, is a notion of elevated visibility rights.”

In November, the USPTO awarded printing and digital copying appliances manufacturer Xerox a patent for a blockchain-driven auditing system for electronic files. The technology offered by Xerox can supposedly detect whether a file has been altered and tracks the history of changes to documents. Owing to the decentralized verification mechanism, the system thus becomes resistant to tampering, the filing states.

Also that month, financial services giant American Express (Amex) filed a patent for a blockchain-based system to capture and transmit the image of a receipt. The filing describes how the system lets a user with a mobile device capture the image of a receipt. The system then, via “optical character recognition,” deciphers the image and matches it with “related records,” namely transaction history.

Author: Ana Alexandre
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Facebook Lite Crosses A Billion Downloads On The Play Store

The social networking giant released its Facebook Lite app so that users with entry-level devices and poor connectivity could also access the network. It was initially launched in markets like India but after seeing the response and demand from users across the globe, the company eventually rolled it out to many markets. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Facebook Lite has crossed over a billion downloads on the Google Play Store.

The term “lite” itself refers to the lightweight nature of the app. It doesn’t require as much data or system resources as the full-fledged Facebook app. It’s just 1.28MB in size compared to the full app which comes in at 67MB.

The app is particularly popular in developing markets but has since been rolled out in some major markets as well. It’s a good option for those who want basic access to Facebook without any of the fancy features that the social network offers.

Facebook Lite’s official Google Play Store listing now mentions that the app has crossed more than a billion installs. It joins the list of Facebook apps that have crossed this milestone. The primary Facebook app was the first non-Google app to cross a billion installs with Messenger also achieving this milestone back in 2015.

Author: Adnan Farooqui 
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Ascertaining Identity in the Digital World Using Schnorr Signatures

Since humans were able to put his words into a written form, cultures have needed a way to ascertain the origin of documents. Once it became possible to communicate on paper, without the need to physically be in the same location, the necessity arose to verify that the words inscribed on the paper came from the rightful originator.

This article will explain how human beings provide provenance to documents, as well as the role evolving technology has played, and continues to play in this area.

Provenance in History

There is evidence of the first attempts to authenticate the origin of the written word dating back hundreds of years. One of the earliest known records of this is from the Third Century during the epoch of Titus and Anthony in the Roman Empire.

Historical documents show that as early as 201 AD onwards, the Roman Empire had established methods through which documents could be corroborated and identified as true. History shows that:

“Jurists established protocols for the determination of Third Century forgery and the manner in which forgeries were to be detected.”

While in the early stages of history verification of the written word primarily focused on the study of handwriting and other aspects of penmanship, the signature quickly emerged as a simple yet powerful tool to provide both a provable identity. The signature also became a symbol of endorsement of the material or subject matter contained in the document on which the signature was appended.

Types of Signatures

Signatures exist in a number of forms. As technology has evolved, so has the ways which cultures corroborate to the written word. The most well-known of these is the wet signature.

A wet signature is simply a signature which is penned to paper with a pen, pencil, or any other inscribing tool. In the very early days of history, wet signatures also referred to those that utilized wax seals or stamps. The name is derived from the fact that the ink used to add a signature is wet at the time of signing and eventually dries.

While some of the more antiquated methods such as the wax seal have been phased out, wet signatures remain one of the significant ways in which the legal system recognizes and identifies identities.

Wet signatures can take on any form, and can accommodate varying levels of literacy and penmanship which explains why they are so essential in many cultures. Legally, a wet signature can take on the form of a complicated piece of writing, complete with flourishes and cursive, such as the famous John Hancock signature on the American Declaration of Independence, or can be a simple X, or the initials of the signee.

Due to the many variations that are legally and culturally acceptable when it comes to wet signatures, this form of identity provenance is not without its shortcomings. History is littered with numerous instances of people attempting to reproduce or replicate the signatures of others, mainly with the motive of financial gain. Legends abound of family members accusing each other of forging a will once a wealthy parent dies. These instances are common in many countries across the world.

Perhaps the most prolific document forger in history is Joseph Casey. Active in the 1920s, Casey, a heavy drinker, was able to replicate the signatures of historical signatures in a manner very close to the original. For the price of a drink, Casey would reportedly forge signatures for those who asked. He is credited with successfully and consistently replicating the signatures of many prominent historical figures, among them Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Casey brought to light the significant shortcomings the wet signature holds. It is relatively easy for those gifted in the areas of penmanship and calligraphy to replicate any signature with a little practice. Following such complaints, in 1962, the Journal of Law and Criminology published a paper declaring that it was possible for forged signatures to be more skillfully written than the genuine signatures.

The increasing instances of forgeries or suspected forgeries, as well as the many legal and scholarly publications showing the shortcomings of wet signatures, led to many viewing the notion of signatures as a potential exercise in futility. People were encouraged to make their signatures more complex to minimize the risk of a successful forgery. Despite these shortcomings, there was not much of an alternative, especially in the legal sense, and thus wet signatures are still common today. Moreover, the signing of documents is as much about marking an occasion and is an important ritual for those involved.

Electronic Signatures

As technology evolved, electronic signatures emerged. They are also sometimes referred to as synthetic wet signatures. Electronic signatures are produced by applications or services that convert a physical wet signature to a picture or PDF file, which can then be appended to digital documents to prove identity.

Examples of such services include HelloSign or Pandadoc. These services require the user to upload a picture of their wet signature, which is then digitized by the application. Other applications can attempt to create a new signature using features such as cursive typography.

While electronic signatures have gained traction in the last few years, they rarely reflect the users original wet signature. However, they allow both the signatory and the recipient of the document to feel that the signing ritual is being observed. In this way, the digitization of wet signatures is more symbolic than providing provenance.

It is important to note that, similarly to physical wet signatures, electronic signatures can take many forms. In addition to digitized wet signatures, examples of electronic signatures may include a typed name at the end of an email, a typed name on an electronic form or document, a personal identification number (PIN) for logging into secure financial networks as well clicking “agree” or “disagree” on an electronic “terms and agreements” contract, among others.

Some of these methods are more secure than others. For a long time, the legal system did not recognize electronic signatures because it is a trivial matter to reproduce a digital image of a person’s signature. For instance, if person X is able to gain access to person Y’s signature – online or on a previously signed document – they can simply use a digitizing service, reproduce it, and add it to a document without the knowledge of Y.

Despite these concerns, the development of services that allow users to electronically sign documents in a way that places great importance on security and provenance, minimizing the risks of impersonation of forgeries has helped the electronic signature receive legal recognition.

A search online yields a number of methods legally recognized as electronic signatures. On July 1, 2016, the European Union instituted the eIDAS (European Identity and Trust Services) regulation. The new law allows electronic signatures to be used in place of wet signatures across the entirety of the EU. Evolving technology has facilitated a greater level of security in this regard.

Digital Signatures

While they are regularly confused with electronic signatures, digital signatures are different from their electronic counterparts. Digital signatures are a type of electronic signature because they are created by electronic computing devices. However, digital signatures utilize secure cryptographic techniques which enable the highest level of security currently possible in this field.

In contrast to its wet signature predecessor, digital signatures do not rely on penmanship. Instead, they are a mathematically generated set of keys that allow a user to provide their endorsement of the material in question. Additionally, because of their design, digital signatures ensure that a message or document is not altered while in transit.

To understand how this works, one must delve into how digital signatures are created. This type of signature is created through a globally accepted standard called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). PKI refers to a standardized set of established practices, roles, and policies through which digital certificates are created, stored and transmitted. Moreover, PKI also defines how public key encryption should be handled across the web.

Using a mathematical algorithm, PKI uses cryptography to produce two keys. These are the private and public key. When signing a document, a person uses their private key to encrypt the data and produce a hash. The emanating encrypted document is the digital signature. The encrypted data typically includes the time of signing and can be amended to include other details if the signee sees it fit. The cryptography employed during the encryption ensures that it is impossible for a person to access the data without the corresponding public key.

For instance, if X would like to sell her house and signs the title deed using her private key then sends it to the buyer Y. Y receives the deed as well as a copy of X’s public key. If the public key is unable to decrypt the data, then it means the signature is not X’s.

It can also mean that the document changed since X signed it. Invariably, the signature is then considered invalid. In this way, digital signatures protect both the signee and recipient. Due to their high level of security and the fact that they are unique to a person, digital signatures are sometimes thought of as electronic fingerprints.

Signing Transactions in Digital Currencies

If you understand how digital currencies work, then you know PKI is employed by cryptocurrency networks. Bitcoin, for instance, uses a PKI method based on elliptic curve cryptography called ECDSA. This method produces two keys which are important in signing and verifying transactions on the network. While it is a secure method, it has its shortcomings especially in the event of a multi-sig transaction.

Currently, the Bitcoin network and Ethereum both allow multiple parties to authorize a transaction. However, they must first create a new signature. While this method works, its major shortcoming is that it reveals that the parties involved are working together. With the increased focus on privacy and financial sovereignty, this aspect of the current multi-sig architecture in the Bitcoin network, as well as other cryptocurrencies, is a significant flaw.

Additionally, the current multi-sig setup in many cryptocurrencies is inefficient in that the more parties involved in a transaction, the greater the resulting size of the aggregated signature. Moreover, this can also affect the fees levied on a multi-sig transaction. Bloated transaction sizes unnecessarily bloat a network leading to slow settlement speeds.

The Schnorr Aggregation Method

To solve the inefficiencies witnessed in multi-sig setups across digital currencies, attention has fallen on the Schnorr aggregation method. Named after the mathematician, Claus Schnorr, this method addresses the challenges in a relatively simple manner.

Schnorr signatures inherently support the aggregation of multiple signatures and their corresponding keys into a single one. Therefore, Schnorr multi-sig transactions are imperceptible from those originating from single signatures. This simple fix removes the privacy and size considerations.

Additionally, the Schnorr aggregation method negates the security risk inherent in writing new codes to accommodate multi-sig transactions. Schnorr multi-sig transactions are handled in the cryptography layer instead of the scripting layer, which does away with the possibility of scripting bugs.

The Schnorr method is linear which, unfortunately, can prove to be a concern. Simply put, combining two Schnorr signatures also produces a valid Schnorr signature. This can provide an attack vector for malicious actors and is referred to as the cancellation problem. However, it is important to note that this still a theoretical vector and may not be feasible in real-world applications.

However, ongoing research into Schnorr signatures by Blockstream has found a way to mitigate any risks. In their paper“Simple Schnorr Multi-Signatures with Applications to Bitcoin,” Gregory Maxwell, Andrew Poelstra, Yannick Seurin, and Pieter Wuille describe the ways in which the Schnorr signature is a “new multi-signature scheme [that] could improve both performance and user privacy in Bitcoin.” To this end, Wuille and his counterparts have also introduced a BIPdesigned to append the underlying Bitcoin codebase with Schnorr signatures.

If the Bitcoin network can successfully implement this upgrade, which would happen through a soft fork, then it is probable that other cryptocurrencies will follow suit. Schnorr signatures represent the natural progression of proving identity in a secure yet private manner in cryptocurrencies.

Author: Alexander Lielacher
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XRP Transactions via Apple’s Siri Are Now Possible Thanks to an Independent Developer

XRP continues to cement itself as a multipurpose cryptocurrency with enough merits to be the most important altcoin in the market. A few days ago, an independent developer known on Twitter as xRpTo_O managed to develop an iOS implementation that allows users to send XRP with simple voice command.

iOS jailbreak and development scene has been a bit quiet lately; however, this has not stopped some developers from joining their passion for cryptocurrencies with the creation of software to facilitate the lives of users beyond what official apps have to offer.

In a video, the user communicates with Siri through voice commands in a natural way and sends 0.5 XRP to a user that Siri found in its database.

Although the video only shows money transfer, the developer has been adding several features over time. The app establishes a communication link between Siri and XRP TipBot making the app much more functional with every new release.

Ripple, Apple, and Alexa: The Big Giants Have Not Yet Given Their Thumbs Up to Hands-Free XRP Tipping

Although neither Ripple nor Apple are directly involved in the development of this app, its creation is a sign of the growing interest of the community in this cryptocurrency. While on previous occasions some critics of Ripple’s philosophy claimed that XRP did not have the necessary properties to be considered a true crypto, the recent increase in the number of users and the software developments that are being achieved to boost the use of XRP in everyday life are a sign that Ripple is successfully finding a space within the community.

The announcement comes one month after Nixer achieved a similar implementation in which he managed to integrate such service with Alexa.

However, despite the efforts of the developer, shortly after his submission, the application was denied by Amazon:

Right now, Ripple’s token is the second cryptocurrency in terms of global market cap, with a capitalization of $12,236,145,454. The token has suffered the same bearish run of the whole crypto market, but actually the gap between XRP and ETH has been increasing almost at a daily basis.

Author: Jose Antonio Lanz
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Honda reveals fluoride battery breakthrough for next-gen power storage

Honda Research Institute has announced a new breakthrough battery chemistry developed in collaboration with Caltech and NASA JPL researchers. The technology, which was detailed in a newly published study, has a better eco footprint while enabling the use of higher energy density materials in comparison to existing battery tech.

Honda says the new technology sidesteps fluoride-based battery technology temperature limitations. The team successfully demonstrated the operation of fluoride-ion based energy cells at room temperature, opening the door for high energy-density batteries that better meet the high capacity needs of modern technology.

Even better, the researchers say that unlike popularly used lithium-ion batteries, which are known to be volatile, fluoride-ion batteries are safer without the risk of overheating. As well, this battery technology is better for the environment due to the lower environmental impact of its source materials.

Batteries created with the chemistry may have up to 10 times the high energy density of lithium-ion batteries, according to the study. Despite the upsides, this type of battery hasn’t replaced lithium-ion due to its temperature limitations — until now, it has required temperatures above 302F degrees to work properly.

Researchers with Honda, NASA, and Caltech overcame this limitation and developed a fluoride-ion cell that can operate at room temperature. The team achieved this using a fluoride-conducting liquid electrolyte that has high ionic conductivity, as well as a wide operating voltage. Such technology may one day be behind batteries that power everything from consumer gadgets to electric vehicles.

Author: Brittany A. Roston 
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Britain Is Developing an AI-Powered Predictive Policing System

The tantalizing prospect of predicting crime before it happens has got law enforcement agencies excited about AI. Most efforts so far have focused on forecasting where and when crime will happen, but now British police want to predict who will perpetrate it.

The idea is reminiscent of sci-fi classic Minority Report, where clairvoyant “precogs” were used to predict crime before it happened and lock up the would-be criminals. The National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS) under development in the UK will instead rely on AI oracles to scour police records and statistics to find those at risk of violent crime.

Machine learning will be used to analyze a variety of local and national police databases containing information like crime logs, stop and search records, custody records, and missing person reports. In particular, it’s aimed at identifying those at risk of committing or becoming a victim of gun or knife crime, and those who could fall victim to modern slavery.

The program is being led by West Midlands Police (WMP), which covers the cities of Birmingham, Coventry, and Wolverhampton, but the aim is for it to eventually be used by every UK police force. They will produce a prototype by March of 2019.

What police would do with the information has yet to be determined. The head of WMP told New Scientist they won’t be preemptively arresting anyone; instead, the idea would be to use the information to provide early intervention from social or health workers to help keep potential offenders on the straight and narrow or protect potential victims.

But data ethics experts have voiced concerns that the police are stepping into an ethical minefield they may not be fully prepared for. Last year, WMP asked researchers at the Alan Turing Institute’s Data Ethics Group to assess a redacted version of the proposal, and last week they released an ethics advisory in conjunction with the Independent Digital Ethics Panel for Policing.

While the authors applaud the force for attempting to develop an ethically sound and legally compliant approach to predictive policing, they warn that the ethical principles in the proposal are not developed enough to deal with the broad challenges this kind of technology could throw up, and that “frequently the details are insufficiently fleshed out and important issues are not fully recognized.”

The genesis of the project appears to be a 2016 study carried out by data scientists for WMP that used statistical modeling to analyze local and national police databases to identify 32 indicators that could predict those likely to persuade others to commit crimes. These were then used to generate a list of the top 200 “influencers” in the region, which the force said could be used to identify those vulnerable to being drawn into criminality.

The ethics review notes that this kind of approach raises serious ethical questions about undoing the presumption of innocence and allowing people to be targeted even if they’ve never committed an offense and potentially never would have done so.

Similar approaches tested elsewhere in the world highlight the pitfalls of this kind of approach. Chicago police developed an algorithmically-generated list of people at risk of being involved in a shooting for early intervention. But a report from RAND Corporation showed that rather than using it to provide social services, police used it as a way to target people for arrest. Despite that, it made no significant difference to the city’s murder rate.

Its also nearly inevitable this kind of system will be at risk of replicating the biases that exist in traditional policing. If police disproportionately stop and search young black men, any machine learning system trained on those records will reflect that bias.

A major investigation by ProPublica in 2016 found that software widely used by courts in the US to predict whether someone would offend again, and therefore guide sentencing, was biased against blacks. Its not a stretch to assume that AI used to profile potential criminals would face similar problems.

Bias isn’t the only problem. As the ACLU’s Ezekiel Edwards notes, the data collected by police is simply bad. It’s incomplete, inconsistent, easily manipulated, and slow, and as with all machine learning, rubbish in equals rubbish out. But if you’re using the output of such a system to intervene ahead of whatever you’re predicting, it’s incredibly hard to asses how accurate it is.

All this is unlikely to stem the appetite for these kinds of systems, though. Police around the world are dealing with an ever-changing and increasingly complex criminal landscape (and in the UK, budget cuts too) so any tools that promise to make their jobs easier are going to seem attractive. Let’s just hope that agencies follow the lead of WMP and seek out independent oversight of their proposals.

Author: Edd Gent
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