Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Crowdsourced maps should help driverless cars navigate our cities more safely

Anne says: I’ve written about flying taxis over the past few weeks – but time to put your feet back on the ground. Let’s revisit autonomous vehicles – driverless cars to be precise. Have you ever wondered how the cars are programmed to navigate their way around cities? They need maps, but not maps like Google maps or navigation assistants – they need detailed information on infrastructure. Items like streets signs, perhaps potholes or the standard of surfaces, all sorts of peripheral information beyond just the road and route they’re driving taking. And here’s the challenge – how do you collect so much detail? (Even Google Street View is only updated every few years). You crowdsource. You enlist people, not robots (because they’re going to need this information too).

Crowdsourcing maps is not a new concept. In the UK, Fix My Street has been around since 2008, and used by residents to notify their councils of problems that require fixing. All these initiatives are enabled by our smartphones: take a photo, upload to a site where the information is processed.

In this article, Mapillary, are using these photos to build databases of street-level imagery all over the world.

“Mapillary uses computer-vision software to analyze the crowdsourced images and identify objects. Its database of 422 million images covers 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) of the globe. And it’s growing all the time: its software has just put 186 million objects, like utility poles, benches, and manhole covers, on the map, locked to a specific location with coordinates.”

That’s an enormous amount of data and the ongoing input (from the crowd) and processing of this data will require sophisticated processing systems and resources. At this point, I’d like to raise a few questions (concerns). Who owns this raw data? Clearly uploading it to a proprietary site is likely to pass ownership to that site. Sites like Fix My Street is contributing to the community, everyone benefits. Contributing to Mapillary, you could imply it’s for the common good, everyone benefits – except can we be sure of that? Firstly, our data is valuable and we seem to be prepared to give that away. But, our privacy and that of others in public places start to become more akin to surveillance. Can we be sure personal data and identities are being de-identified? The raw data must still exist somewhere – is this secure? Really secure?

Then, perhaps we’re past that point. And perhaps contributing to the broader community usage – as highlighted in the article – could be used for accessibility for disabled people. While Mappillary is providing their maps free of charge to charities and educational institutions, they charge the use of the maps for commercial purposes. I’m not suggesting that Mapillary may be misusing any data, or have any intention to do so – their manifesto and team commitments in no way indicates misuse. But these days, with more and more data breaches and privacy abuse occurring, we need to consider how we can unwittingly be contributing to these situations.

Nonetheless, the technology advancements, community participation, and data now publicly available to create maps and information for autonomous vehicles are phenomenal. It’s also powerful data that we need to understand how it’s being protected and what impact might result if there is a data breach.


Hellish E-Waste Graveyards Where Computers are Mined for Metal

Helen says: It is scary reading articles like this one – our world keeps filling up with endless amounts of rubbish and there is no end in sight. The situation on e-waste described in this article is particularly disturbing. Much of the world’s e-waste, from computers to electronic toys, are being dumped in third world counties. As if this isn’t bad enough, their poverty-stricken residents are resorting to dangerous methods to retrieve traces of gold and other valuable materials from these stockpiles of rubbish in an effort to carve out a living.

“…children tossing copper cables into fires to burn off their rubber coating, sending plumes of noxious black smoke into the already polluted air.”

Read about how photographer, Kai Löffelbein, documented the electronic waste trail across the globe and published a book, Ctrl-X: A Topography of E-Waste. It is a complex global problem, well supported by consumerism and unfortunately there are no answers found here, only awareness. When things used to break we repaired them, now we replace them. How can we change our disposable mindset and what can be done to bring about change at the commercial level to reduce waste?


Bees can solve math problems with addition and subtraction now

Joel says: Math is something quite a lot of people have problems with. While I’m personally quite good at math I understand that a lot of people just don’t get it. Or don’t put in the effort to understand it.

But a new study has shown that even the common honeybee is capable of understanding and learning basic mathematics, demonstrating that they’re able to perform basic addition and subtraction after just a few classes.

The team of researchers from Australia and France have shown that the bees have demonstrated their ability to add and subtract after studying colour-coded shapes and being positively rewarded by treats when correct – much the same way you would train another animal such as a dog.

The testing method is detailed below:

To test the buzzers’ ability to perform arithmetic, the team used a three-chambered maze shaped like a Y, training bees to enter through a hole into a small chamber where they would see their first stimulus: blue or yellow shapes on a plain, grey background. The number of shapes varied between 1 and 5 and the colour of the shapes told the bee whether it needed to add one (blue) or subtract one (yellow) from the initial number. The bee then flew into a subsequent chamber which presented both a correct option and an incorrect option. To train the bees, the correct option rewarded the critters with a drop of tasty sugar solution. Although selecting the incorrect solution resulted in a nasty drop of quinine — like a slab of Brussels sprouts slathered in chocolate

That finding suggests that the honeybees miniature brain can, at the very least, use symbols to add and subtract numbers. Check out the full article to learn the science behind how the bees are learning and how different a bee brain is to a human’s.

See, if a bee can learn basic math you can too! If you’re bad at math perhaps your primary school teacher should have tried food-based reinforcement?


Google’s new extension tells you if your passwords have been compromised

Jakkii says: A quick share this week on an important subject – cybersecurity – that will hopefully prove useful for some! Do you have concerns about the security of your passwords with all the data breaches that seem to occur on a regular basis? You should! Do you use Chrome? You might not, perhaps you prefer FireFox or some other proprietary browser. Either way, read on!

Google has just released an extension for Chrome that will alert you if your password to a site has been compromised, allowing you to immediately change your login credentials. You can read more about it at the link below, but essentially it runs your login through a database of known breached accounts (over 4B of them) and pops up an alert if it finds a match. As such, something like this extension may  be well worth a go, I think – but to be very clear, using an extension like this doesn’t replace using a password manager as your best bet for password security, as they enable you to use different complex passwords for every site without having to remember them all yourself. Install LastPass or your password manager of choice, and install the extension on Chrome, and keep yourself as cyber-secure as you can. And please – stop reusing your passwords!


This Week in Social Media


Everything else

Sydney Business Insights – In Conversation: Women and the future of work

The Future, This Week is on holiday hiatus, so this week we bring you a podcast from the archives of SBI’s ‘In Conversation’ series, “Women and the future of work”

In this podcast:

At the same time that revelations of sexual harassment of women at work and the rise of the “me too” movement were making headlines, a team of researchers from The University of Sydney were investigating the working lives of women.

In this podcast, we talk with Professor Rae Cooper about The University of Sydney’s landmark study into what women want at work.

For more than 20 years Professor Cooper has been studying workplaces and the changing nature of the labour force. She is currently the Co-Director of the Women, Work and Leadership Research Group.

Show notes and links for this episode:

Professor Rae Cooper’s bio

Women, Work & Leadership Research Group

Women and the Future of Work: Report 1 of the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project


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