Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Item on the List of Future THings We Are Still Waiting For…

As usual, Google is working to invent a future that rocks. And the autonomous car is high on their list. At the moment Google's "self-driving cars" must always have someone seated at the controls, whether in Nevada -- which recently licensed Google's cars -- or elsewhere. Safety is clearly in the forefront of engineers' minds, but Google's approach is not the only effort in this area. In Europe, companies such as Volvo are working on other forms of the self-driving auto. In anticipation of autonomous vehicles hitting the road – and with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance already taking some control from drivers – the federal government and General Motors worked with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to conduct a study of driver behavior when they aren’t actively driving. The goal of the Limited Ability Autonomous Driving Systems study was to learn how drivers react when a car takes over primary tasks they’re used to performing. The Pegasus car system has been hovering in the wings for awhile. A company called Pegasus Holdings has been looking around for an area to build a test lab for a while, and has finally settled on the city of Hobbs in New Mexico. While the city itself, complete with traffic automation prototypes and even self-flushing toilets, will have no inhabitants, the project is expected to revitalize the surrounding area on the whole, an area which has been suffering since the 80s. The ghost town, called The Centre for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation or CITE, is to be 15 square miles and start out costing around $400 million. Testing using magnet-embedded roadways is one approach to providing sensor data to cars and trucks. Still waiting on Jet Packs, Tube Subway, and Pill Meals.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Augmenting Reality As the Ultimate Knowledge Management Tool

Hands-free means more than just phone calls while jogging, or sipping your latte while reading your iPad. Other ways of merging multiple data sources based on your geo location (i.e., context-aware mapping of information) are emerging. As usual, Google is out in front with Information Architecture. So what does Google's Glass look like? Well, press photos show a spare-looking frame that sits above the wearer's right eye -- not terribly fashionable, meant more like a HUD (heads up display) found in military-style helmets, some automobiles, and in many computer games. This interesting info graphic gives a better idea of what the functionality is, since you won't be winning any fashion awards for the pre-production prototype. Unlike other systems, Google's doesn't overlay data completely in front of the wearer's entire field of vision. Instead, datagrams appear only in one’s peripheral vision -- relevant to what the wearing is looking at. Of course, the Project Glass video is a marketing effort as much as a look at the product -- which, after all, doesn't exist yet. But opening eyes to the possibility of augmented information displays is certainly a way to motivate the competition. You've got such data mashups on the iPhone already. One example is WorkSnug, an iOS app that helps you locate a place to work. It identifies Wi-Fi hotspots and potential workplaces -– from coffee shops to professional rent-a-desk office space. Combining social media (user reviews cover power provision, atmosphere, noise levels and even the quality of the coffee), this is a cool way to find what you need on the go. It's clear that the future promises the continued blending of technology and the eye (such as Google’s project glass) and other amazing emerging optical technologies on the very near horizon. Graphic from Zenni Optical.

Running with Scissors Today, Leading Winners Tomorrow

Enabling the youth of America for leadership is a key theme at my children's school (and the subject of the principal's parting remarks at my daughter's promotion). I have been a huge proponent of the hands-on approach to leadership training, in both 10 year olds and in staff aiming to take up the reins at various technology efforts I've been involved with. I watch with great interest this TED Talk on the subject of letting kids do dangerous things... The speaker, Gever Tulley, is a co-founder of the Tinkering School. At this week-long camp, kids get to play with power tools to learn how to build, solve problems, use new materials and hack old ones for new purposes. Recently, Suzanne Lucas compares the approach here in the states to Switzerland (not Sweden, where she is residing: "Would you let your 3-yr play with a real saw? You would if you were a parent in Switzerland... Every Friday, whether rain, shine, snow, or heat, my 3-yr old goes into the forest for four hours with 10 other school children. In addition to playing with saws and files, they roast their own hot dogs over an open fire. If a child drops a hot dog, the teacher picks it up, brushes the dirt off, and hands it back.' Ms Lucas is provocative in her assertion that such kids grow up and lead the ones who were coddled... but her point is well-taken.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Will Your SAAS offering meet GSA's FedRAMP Security?

Bluedog successfully marketed our SAAS offering, Workbench "Always on the Job!" after being the *second* software-as-a-service on the GSA schedule 70 (behind Salesforce, of course). With the federal sector jumping on the "utility company" model for software over the internet, how agencies will consume these services is still "somewhat up in the air" (j/k). The General Services Administration (GSA) is accepting security certification applications from cloud computing vendors to provide software services and data storage through the cloud as part of its Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. GSA recently issued a solicitation for cloud providers to apply for FedRAMP certification. The certification is available for both commercial and government entities. “The FedRAMP controls and processes create a standardized approach for agencies to leverage security assessments for cloud services. This ‘approve once, and use many’ approach will benefit [cloud service providers] by speeding the adoption of cloud services by agencies and reducing the cost and time required to conduct redundant, individual agency security assessments,” according to the solicitation, which provides instructions for applying for certification.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Feds Move towards Open Availability of Code

We've all heard GIT is good. Well, if you are a developer, presumably you have. GIT is a relatively new kind of source code repository, with a key difference in that it is decentralized. Imagine your developers are on the road, and develop on theirs laptops. It's a reasonable business case that you want source control so that developers can roll back. With older options, such as Subversion, there's a problem: The Code Repository may be in a location that is unreachable, so the mobile developer cannot commit. If a copy of code is needed, the only option is to copy/paste it. With GIT, the local copy is a repository, and one can commit to it and get all benefits of source control. When the on-the-road developer regain connectivity to the main repository, he/she can commit against it. Now the federal government is moving towards this approach. Early federal government GitHub adopters include the Federal Communications Commission, NASA and others. The Open Government Platform, a joint open source project between the United States and India, recently made the code source available at GitHub. Other federal agencies who have established official accounts, but have yet to contribute, include the U.S. Geological Survey and “We decided to use GitHub as our code repository for a couple of reasons. GitHub and Git are familiar to a lot of developers, and GitHub has a growing community,” said Chief Software Architect Chris Musialek. “Git makes it really easy to ‘fork’ someone’s code and provide enhancements back to the project, which encourages participation from a wider audience. It also has a nice interface on top of Git with additional, useful features such as the ability to view committed code and customize your project’s page.” Read more about this early adopter approach.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another Quantum Computing Leap

In the recent Science News Magazine, Alexandra Witze reports that long-distance quantum teleportation has succeeded,
In teleportation, two people — physicists call them Alice and Bob — share one each of a pair of entangled particles. Alice measures a property on her particle and sends Bob a note, through regular channels, about what she did. Bob then knows how to alter his own particle to match Alice’s. Bob’s particle then possesses the information that had been contained in Alice’s, which was obliterated by her measurement. Thus the information has been “teleported” from Alice’s lab to Bob’s.
Physicists first teleported quantum information in 1997 using a single pair of entangled photons, or particles of light. Since then researchers have slowly upped the ante, teleporting with larger groups of photons, over longer distances and sometimes using atoms as the entangled particles.

The phenomena of quantum teleportation may help quantum computers function as well as digital computing when doing calculations. Another article describes how this process works,
...researchers manipulated data for the gate using two input qubits, one with the state that would ultimately be read, and the other to be flipped. They also had four more qubits all entangled with one another in a special state that they would use to read and output the results of the gate.
To do the gate operation, they took each of the input qubits and paired it with one of the entangled qubits.... Each pair was then read, or measured... resolving them to some combination of 1 and 0. This process teleported the data of the two input qubits onto the set of four entangled ones.
Because two of the qubits being measured were entangled with the output qubits, the output qubits were resolved too.

Such experiments harken a time when computing power will exceed current trends by, well, a quantum leap.
- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Location:Silver Spring