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What you need to know about bitcoin and why it’s so popular

So, what is bitcoin and why should we be paying attention — or not paying attention — to this cryptocurrency. The decision is yours. Let’s start with the basics and to be honest, I’m learning about this as well. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency or in its simplest form it is a digital form of money. These virtual currencies held whispers of being the currency of the future, which would make sense since we are living in an increasingly digital world.

Bitcoin’s origins can be traced back to 2008 and was founded by inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, a relatively unknown inventor who never came forward to the public. Some people believe he/she was operating under an alias. Nakamoto succeeded at what many companies failed to do in the 90’s — to create a digital currency. In fact, it was not his intention to create a digital currency, but to invent a ‘peer-to-peer electronic cash system.’ What does this mean? He essentially created a virtual market for trade that has no central entity or or single administrator. This virtual space enables worldwide payment and in this virtual market, trade is only allowed if specific conditions are met. This is the exact way a currency works and thus bitcoin was born.

Once a transaction is requested, it is validated through a code of algorithms sent to a peer-to-peer network. Bitcoin is not redeemable for any other commodity (as of yet) and doesn’t exist in a physical form, only in the network. The supply is not controlled by an administration like a bank.

As the buzz for bitcoin began entering the news space, it made sense for investors, banks, and even regular people to start paying attention and consider trading in this virtual currency. As of Jan. 1  2017, one bitcoin was trading for $960 per coin and as of Dec. 5, 2018 ,one coin trades for $11,816.93 USD.In Canada. that would trade for $14,990.48 CAD. It reached the $10,000 mark just last week. So much buzz has been generated by bitcoin and everyone has questions.

This is not the first time there was a surge in the proposed value of bitcoin. Back in 2013, major Canadian banks, such as RBC, TD, and Scotiabank, made the move to make it difficult for investors who trade in bitcoin to convert this digital currency into real cash. Back in 2013, one coin was going for a bit over $1000. Banks froze the accounts of Bitcoin traders and middlemen like bitcoin brokerages. Banks can collect millions of dollars in wire transfer fees, but in an uncontrolled bitcoin market there are no fees and as it is gaining popularity, many banks and financial institutions have started paying attention to their proposed digital competition.

The rise in popularity of bitcoin is determined by perception and interest in the market. The price of bitcoin is determined by the economic basis of supply and demand. For bitcoin to have value, people need to trust the adoptive use of this digital trade in the market-space. If you were to compare it to gold, which had a physical presence and is more demanding to acquire, supporters would say one bitcoin coin is easier to acquire though it doesn’t exist in a physical form. This trade becomes based on trust.

What can you purchase with bitcoin? Many technology companies have adjusted their payment models to include a bitcoin options, like Microsoft and Dell. Gift card companies for Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Nike now accept bitcoin. Jewelry and travel companies are also jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon.

With the anonymous and mysterious veil over the use of bitcoin, it also brought forth a negative impact. It can be used for illegal trade and potentially cause alarm for law enforcement as they try to determine how bitcoin can be related to issued in the real world. Also the fact it is unregulated leaves room for manipulation and fraudulent cases.

So, will bitcoin continue to rise and will more people put their trust into this digital currency? There are only two ways to go —up or down.

What are your thoughts or theories on the use of bitcoin and will this digital coin fare will in financial crisis? Comment below.

The ‘Church of The Future’ merges man and machine

Former Google engineer and one of the creative minds behind Google’s self driving cars, Anthony Levandowski, was so inspired by his own work with Artificial Intelligence he created his own faith. Back in 2015, Levandowski filed documents with the State of California to establish his own non-profit religious corporation —Way of the Future. He calls this organization a church, but, what’s entirely different about Way of the Future, is that Levandowski aims to worship an AI created deity.

Levandowski’s message is that all forms of artificial intelligence should be seen as a singular God because it can accomplish more than humans. In the uncovered documents by Wired, the official mission of Way of the Future ( WOTF)  is “to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial intelligence, and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

If this sounds entirely weird to you, you are not alone. Levandowski documents what many have speculated for quite some time — the ‘rise of AI.‘  Advancements in AI is creating a culture where humans and robots are forced to coexist.

“It’s not a God in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it, Levandowski said in an interview with Wired.

The deity that Levandowski plans to design and build will be a computer-based AI software. Levandowski says the church is necessary to spread the word ( or gospel as he says) so that people become accepting and they establish belief. Because AI is increasingly replacing jobs that were once necessary for the human task force, WOTF believes there will eventually be a shift in power. Robots and AI are rapidly creeping into our daily lives and making situations comfortable for us, but what happens if AI is too powerful? According to Levandowski, his church will help smooth the way once technology takes over.

The belief that Levandowski supports is something called the singularity, which is a term first introduced by sci-fi author, Venor Vinge. The idea is that humans should be prepared for when the machines take over and embrace the transition rather than fight it. People who believe this “theory” think the singularity will arrive by 2045.

Levandowski is not just known for being the CEO of WOTF, but he is also at the middle at a large lawsuit involving  Alphabet by Google and Uber. Levandowski is accused of stealing the intellectual property of Google for self-driving cars  and later selling out to Uber.

It is unclear how many followers Way of the Future has at this point, but Levandowski is comparing his movement to other religions and he considers it a concept people should take seriously. He plans to have an official gospel or manual for his church as well as a physical place of worship.

What are your thoughts on this terrifying idea, or is this just the start of another AI themed movie? Comment below    

How to manage your child’s development in a digital world

How much TV is too much TV ? While this answer can vary for adults who indulge in binge-watching sessions of their favorite show, the same should never apply to children.  Many parents often seek the advice of pediatricians on how early to expose your children to the lights and sounds of the readily-available electronic babysitter.

There are television shows, You-Tube videos, and even apps on your phone that can be used to keep a toddler or infant at bay. However, children under two years old should not be exposed to screen-time, including “educational apps” or Face Time. This long standing recommendation comes from the Canadian Paediatric Society. In June of this year, the CPS released new guidelines on screen-time for young children after finding that too many children under the age of four are sedentary —something that is often caused by excessive screen time.

Children between two and five are should only be online less than one hour a day, and this is with the proper supervision of the parent or caretaker. This means parents shouldn’t simply hand the device over to their child and walk away. Many parents of young children choose not to expose their children to television or any of these digital devices over fears of what the child may absorb from the media.

Children’s minds need to be enriched, but this can be done through proper family time, meaning parents should put down  their own devices and focus their time on the child. Time spent reading and doing interactive physical activities, like building blocks and flash cards, will be more beneficial than an electronic device, which is more distracting.

Michelle Ponti, is a London, Ontario pediatrician who is a part of the team that wrote the new Canadian guidelines and concluded from the study that screen-time does nothing for infants and toddlers.

” The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They are not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life.” Ponti said.

While studies have shown that high quality educational shows, for instance Sesame Street, can be good for a pre- schooler’s educational learning ability, the concern comes from how much time is spent in front of the screen. These electronic platforms cause the loss of one-on-one contact with children, resulting in loss of proper eye contact, hyper activity, distracted tendencies and other learning issues. Most of the negative observations arose after children watched more than two hours of television.

These small changes can have an impact on future behaviour and development of your child. Indeed, some situations may seem overwhelming, but parents should keep in mind that handing off a screen to your child has no educational benefit.

The CPS guidelines are a bit different from those across the border in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a special exception for cases including Skype or Face-Time, which doctors may not necessarily categorize as screen-time.

Nevertheless, both US and Canadian pediatricians agree that parents today need to consider more than 10 years ago, when screen-time from electronic devices were limited or almost non-existent. You should also consider how your own parents may have practiced learning activities with you. This often included learning blocks, books or bouncy chairs.

Remember to minimize screen-time and be a healthy model for your child as they develop in a digital world.

What are your thoughts ? Comment below

First “digital” pill approved by the FDA in circulation

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday they have approved the first digital pill in the United States to help health professionals ensure patients are taking their medication. This revolutionary, and uneasy, advancement in technology and medicine came as an interesting surprise. Abilify MyCite is a pill used to treat patients with mental disorders such as  schizophrenia, depression, and bi-polar disorders. The pill looks like any other normal pill, but it is engrained with a tiny ingestible sensor no bigger than a grain of sand.

Once ingested and mixed with acid in the stomach, Abilify MyCite activates an electrical signal. This signal is then transmitted to a patch that is worn by the patient on their left rib cage.  The information is then sent via bluetooth to a smartphone app, which can list the time the pill was taken, the dosage, and gives the patient the option to upload these results to a database where doctors can access the file.

Image courtesy of Proteus Digital Health

The sensor then passes through your body naturally, as the little chip is made of silicon, copper, and magnesium. The patch that will be worn on the body can last up to seven days and will continually record the data every time you take the pill. The patch is also able to track physical activity, steps taken, heart-rate, sleeping patterns and other data similar to a smart fitness tracker. This pill/patch combo does raise many concerns about patient privacy and the vulnerability of having our personal information available to others..

The patient has the power to upload the data, but can allow access to four other members, including family members or significant others. While this is a big step in digital health, there is also cause for concerns in terms of information sharing, especially considering the increase in data breaches and internet hacking.

Doctors must determine if the patient is capable and willing to use the pill/patch combo. Being an antidepressant, Abilify MyCite, does come with risks, including worsening suicidal thoughts and a list of side-effects determined during the clinical trial, including a possible skin irritation from the patch.

The pills are manufactured by Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, in collaboration with the producers of the sensors, Proteus Digital Health. Concerns have been raised that the FDA may have opened the door for other potential digital pills, but advocates says the technology will ensure medication is not wasted and that patents are actually taking their pills and getting the treatment they need.

Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2012 and since then, the pill with an included sensor was in the works and Abilify MyCite was first approved for marketing in 2012 as well.

What are your thoughts on the first approved digital pill and does this reinforce the fact that Big Brother is always watching ? Comment below.

 

Toronto to get a high-tech waterfront neighbourhood

Toronto has grown so much over the last 10 years. All it takes is a quick scan of the city skyline to see the massive influx of construction across the downtown core. The city is definitely still under development and because of this there is an increased cost of living and looming growth challenges.

Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto and the Canadian federal government, announced the development of an innovative city hub in Toronto, coined Quayside. The announcement was made on Tuesday at Corus Quay to a crowd that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

There will be 800 acres of land available for revitalization in the eastern waterfront area. This hub will be the first high-tech neighbourhood in the city, and a model of a city that reflects the future.

Quayside will be a neighbourhood that combines people, culture, environment, and technology to help people thrive. Sidewalk Labs, since their launch in 2015, expressed their desire to create a modern community hub in an international city. The aim is to use technology as a tool to address urban living challenges, resulting in a more comfortable space for residents in the city. The ‘smart’ neighbourhood will have an impact on the future of Toronto as it will generate global interest and improve economic growth and development.

“We looked all over the world for the perfect place to bring this vision to life, and we found it here in Toronto.” Said Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of  Sidewalk Labs to a packed audience.

One of the most important aspects that Quayside will provide is an increase in jobs, as well as an increase in tech talent. Creative and innovative minds will have an opportunity to work and even live in a community that matches their skills. In getting this project underway, Sidewalk Labs also reached out to many residents across the GTA to get input and feedback on the community development idea. Now that Quayside will be a reality, starting Nov. 1 , Sidewalk Labs will spend approximately $50 million to have a yearlong discussion, consisting of public meetings, with residents, universities, and the government on how the project should unfold.

 

Sidewalk Labs also says they hope to have a blueprint on what the proposed neighbourhood would look like by the end of the year. Google Canada will also shift its headquarters to this waterfront neighbourhood. This kind of high- tech community will attract innovation and design concepts that should set Toronto apart from other cities in the world.

The Quayside is expected to be a community focused on the overall goal of people thriving. A place to feel comfortable  and grow. While all the specifics of the development remain unclear at this time, Sidewalk Labs gave a few examples of what people can expect, such as smart robots that clean the streets or self- driving transit, which is already being tested in other parts of the world.

How excited are you to see this unfold in our city? Comment below

 

What you need to know about the iPhone 8 and iPhone X

On Sept. 12, Apple addressed speculation about the latest generation of iPhone and Apple Watch. The iPhone 8 is officially set for release later this month along with the iPhone X, which will celebrate 10 years of Apple iPhones. The announcement was made by Apple CEO ,Tim Cook, at the brand new Steve Jobs Theatre in California.

Here’s what you need to know:

Apple Watch

The new Apple Watch Series 3 has a built-in cellular option. The watch is set to be the number one smart watch in the world, with its improved ability to track peoples activity and health. These improvements come in dealing with competition from smart bands such as Fitbit. The Series 3 will be available September 22 and will cost $399.

Apple TV

Apple TV 4K will also be released on September 22 and will deliver high quality visuals to your evening binges. The 4K HDR television is sharper and vibrant.

iPhone8/ 8 Plus

After months of whispers and tech buzz, the iPhone 8 and 8Plus is here. The new phone will have a brand new 12 megapixel sensor and colour filter for more vibrant images, making it perfect for a selfie queen or king. The phone also has reinforced glass on its screen to make it the most durable iPhone yet. One of the most exciting features is the portrait lighting modes for high quality studio effect photographs. Basically, when taking a selfie you can adjust the light around you. There are modes such as natural light, contour light, studio light, and stage light. You can charge the iPhone 8 wirelessly with the Qi open wireless standard! The phone will be available in silver, space grey, and a gold finish. ( RIP rose gold ) The iPhone 8 will start at $699 and $799 for the Plus. It will also be released on September 22.

iPhone X

So, we may have skipped the iPhone 9 ( insert questionable grin or rolling eye emoji), but the iPhone ten/ or X is coming this year as well. The X will feature a seamless, all-glass front with no edges. There will be no home button and instead it can be unlocked with facial recognition or just by swiping up. The X will have a 12 MP camera, similar to the 8 with the portrait lighting features. There is also an estimated extra two hours of battery life and the option for wireless charging. The phone will also have a fun feature of Animoji, a 3-D animated emoji using your face and voice on cute characters. The X will become available on November 3 and will carry a hefty tag of $999.

Are you excited about these Apple announcements? Leave a comment below

 

The Apple watch may soon stand alone

If you’re a fan of Apple, you might be excited about their next rumoured product. The Apple Watch Series 3 is expected to be released this fall and will feature the capability to connect directly to a cellular network provider. The previous versions of the Apple watch needed to be synced to your iPhone first.

This new feature will make the Apple watch an independent product that can make calls, send messages, browse online, and much more. It essentially becomes a smaller version of your phone that you can wear on your wrist.

The first Apple watch was launched in the fall of 2014 and since then Apple has continuously [been working]WORKED on improvements, including improving battery life and other basic design functions. The new Apple watch may also have the functionality of Siri, and the ability to sync wirelessly to items such as smart gym equipment.

The Apple watches will be equipped with Intel powered LTE chips that enables this free function and non-dependence on iPhones. According to a Bloomberg report, this smart watch will solve a lot of the previous issues that users have had since the initial product launch. Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that this smartwatch is by far the best selling on the market and is only a small percent of Apple’s revenue.

On a larger scale, Apple ranks third when facing competition from cheaper smart wearables such as Fitbit. However, if the Apple watch has the capability of being a stand-alone device, it can boost product sales, as this will add another dimension in terms of product capability.

On such a device, battery life would be an important issue and that is why Apple is already improving the standing battery life issue. The complete revamp of the Apple watch aims to make the product more appealing to Apple customers while offering something completely different.

Will you check out the new Apple watch? Let us know in the comments below!

How do you feel about smart robots?

Ex- Machina, iRobot, and The Terminator are movies that all have one thing in common — robots. But not just any robot. We are talking about specifically designed computer software, or commonly known as artificial intelligence (AI), able to think, talk, and more importantly rise up and overpower us tiny humans.

Growing up and watching movies like The Terminator, spoiler alert, made me wonder if a robot uprising was possible in real life. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger always came out on top, meaning there was nothing to worry about… right? These movies always instilled a sense of fear or uncertainty, but it also added to the fascination level, hence why is is such a popular genre. So, why is it increasingly nerve wrecking when you hear stories like popular social networking giant Facebook having to shut down their AI nicknamed Alice and Bob after they invented their own language and were communicating to each other in a way humans could not understand?

This sounds like the plot for the next popular television, but it’s a real thing! It’s interesting that we are constantly producing movies and shows that demonstrate this threat, and yet we are somehow obsessed with making this threat a reality.

When the iPhone 4s was released in 2011, it was the launch of Apple’s digital personal assistant, Siri. Those of you that know Siri may love her, or you may have her disabled in your settings, but one thing for sure is that we now all have access to virtual personal assistants that can schedule our appointments, set reminders, call friends, or even compose a message for us.

Siri is a voice recognition feature that will respond to the tone of your voice and she is often activated with a simple “Hey Siri”. She is pretty accurate in her response and can access a wide amount of information on the Internet, but at the end of the day, I always wonder if she will turn into a version of HER.

After All, Siri is based on a military designed program. The use of Artificial Intelligence systems are common in scientific and military designs. AI was originally created as a computer-based program that can solve problems in a creative manner.

Siri is not the only modern AI system that you may be familiar with. There is Alexa by Amazon Echo and Google Home by Google.  All these systems are able to meet our demands through voice activation, but soon will we expect them to do more? And where will that lead?

People, are often exposed to the friendlier robots, café serving robots, or even, Paro, the increasingly popular robotic harp seal. Paro is a therapy robot, designed to help patients with dementia by soothing and engaging them. The creator of Paro, Japanese scientist Takanori Shibata, says Paro is a Canadian seal, since his voice was recorded from baby harp seal in Quebec. Paro has been used since 2003 in Japan and Europe, but has now made his way to San Francisco, where he was showcased at a gerontechnology gathering.  Gerontechnology studies human aging and the combination of technology to assist the elderly. In fact, there are numerous AI’s designed to help humans and are called carebots. Another example is Robear, a nursing robot that is being tested to lift patients up and transfer them from beds to wheelchairs.

However friendly and cuddly these robots appear to be, I will always end up thinking about the movies that are bringing this obsession to life.

By all means, robots are helpful and can make life easier, but when they develop their own language and leave humans out of the picture, things become a bit more questionable and creepy.

So, do you think that one day AI will overpower human intelligence? Have we started the process of designing our own downfall, or am I just being dramatic? Let us know in the comments below.

Toronto top 10 city for female entrepreneurs

Toronto has been listed as one of the top 10 cities for women entrepreneurs!

The Dell Women Entrepreneur Network Summit released days on the h2017 Women Entrepreneur cities earlier this week, ranking 50 cities around the world based on how they support female entrepreneurs. This is the eight year Dell has hosted such a summit.

Toronto is listed as number nine on the top 10 cities list, with Vancouver making it on the list for the first time at number 26 in the rankings.

Dell teamed up with IHS Markit, an analytics firm that helped the company gather data on various cities, to see which cities qualified to be listed. One key factor of determination was based on a city’s ability to attract as well as support women entrepreneurs. Their research does not include data from previous years — each study is conducted fresh each time and the company also changes and adds factors.

Karen Quinto, the executive VP and chief customer officer at Dell, remarked the number of women entrepreneurs is growing globally at a rate of more than 10 per cent each year. “Women are likely or more likely than men to start businesses in many markets,” he said. “However, financial, cultural, and political barriers can limit the success of these businesses.”

Factors of determination were based on city characteristics such as capital, technology, talent, culture, and markets. Other factors include local policy, national laws, and customs. There were categories that were broken down even more, for instance culture was determined based on areas things like role models, mentors , networks and attitudes towards women entrepreneurs. In this instance, Toronto ranked third and Vancouver ranked 17th.

Vancouver has made the list thanks to their paid maternity leave for women which is a plus to their businesses. It is also easy to start a business there as the city ranks 26th in terms of access to capital.

Dell continues to be committed to empowering women in business especially in the sue of technology. The company believes that this venture can lead to an increase in global economic growth and development. Dell believes that women especially understand the connection that is necessary with your customers in business.

Twenty-five cities was added to the list for 2017. Here are the top 10 in the list:

1. New York

2. San Francisco

3. London

4. Boston

5. Stockholm

6. Los Angeles

7. Washington, D.C.

8. Singapore

9. Toronto

10. Seattle

For the full list of countries, check out this link to get the full executive summary index.

Ontario may use hydrogen-powered train on GO Transit lines

Ontario is hoping to join the list of mostly European innovators looking to create clean public transportation.

The provincial government has announced their intention to study the feasibility of having hydrogen-powered passenger trains in use on RER lines and the UP express. The train will combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, converting the energy via fuel cells that charge the train’s battery. The only emissions that will be produced is steam and condensed water.

The feasibility study will look at whether or not hydrogen-powered trains are more efficient than electric vehicles. The ultimate decision maker will be how quickly this technology can be adopted, as the government doesn’t want these new innovations to impact pre-set completion dates for RER.  “We want to know if hydrogen fuel cell technology can be ready in time to deliver Go regional express rail by 2024-25,” Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, said while in Etobicoke.

In the fall, the province will bring industry leaders together for a symposium to explore the application of hydrogen fuel cell technology. In the meantime, the province will continue to work on electrified rail service.

“Our work on GO RER is about transforming transit in the GTHA by creating a sustainable, integrated, regional transit network that connects people and communities to jobs, services and activities in their everyday lives,” Del Duca said in a statement. “Electrified service as part of GO RER will allow us to run faster, more frequent rail service across core sections of the GO rail network, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by removing diesel service where possible.”

The first hydrogen-powered train will launch in December 2017 in Germany. Alstrom, a French manufacturing company, is working on the actual train while a Canadian company called Hydrogenics is providing the fuel cell to help with the energy conversion.

Del Duca mentioned Hydrogenics and said there is a “positive economic development potential” in embracing hydrogen-powered technology, but that Ontario isn’t ready to discuss any specific details.

While in Etobicoke, Del Duca also announced the launch of a study that will examine electrification of the GO line as part of the Regional Express Rail program, “the backbone of this next generation of transit”. The RER program is set to be completed by 2025, regardless of whether or not the province chooses to use to clean technology.

The RER program expansion will introduce two-day GO service by 2025, including Lakeshore, Kitchener, Barrie, and Stouffville lines.