The internet of thought: a manifesto (part1/introduction)

Quadrati_low2

Scenario:

While representing only 2% of body weight, the brain receives 15% of cardiac output, 20% of the total consumption of oxygen and 25% of the total body glucose utilization. The energy required for mere survival to the brain is 0.1 calories per minute, but the value may rise by up to 1.5 calories per minute (100 W) while solving a crossword. Functional Neurobiology of Aging (Patrick R.Hof and Charles V. Mobbs (academic press, New York, 2000)

Interfaces: anyone?

Every since I started working on the internet of things arena I’ve wondered that the paradigm behind, even though related to things, is the dematerialization of the things themselves. We are inoculating pure binary intelligence in the things so that the type of information could be not correlated at all to the shape or the function. Starting from this vision, the objects are simply a neutral platform able to accept whatever information. I am not interested here (even if it interests me a lot) about the design opportunities that he Internet of Things opens up or to philosophically discuss about the reverse side of the paradigm of Horatio Greenhoug “form (do not anymore) follows function”. And I am also not intended to get in Bruce Sterling’s synthesis on SPIME as “an historical entity with an accessible, precise trajectory through space and time”. You can browse Wikipedia to get in deep on these theories how, when and where you prefer. My hypothesis question is

“what are the interaction opportunities given by this dematerialization if the shape of things no longer tied to the function, may be so broad as to be virtually infinite, and therefore, by extension, “meaningless”? This leads us to a syllogism: “can the access to informations – related to non-shaped objects – be a non-interface-like?”.

The way we interact

The typical access to things bring it in a conceptualization of the process of knowledge. We are tended to produce and provide concepts and again objects (to be read: interfaces) to access. I guess that the very interesting work on hype reality (please look at the brilliant Massimo Scognamiglio’s job on this) probably draw a trajectory, but it still relates to objects and their “touchability”. Hyper reality is a means to characterize the way consciousness defines what is actually “real” in a world where a multitude of media can radically shape and filter an original event or experience. I rather to enter the subject of “hyper unreality”, because if it is true that our brain is a real and tangible object is also true that it is a nonexistent and virtually inaccessible object: if you try to access, it usually stops working unless you are good neurosurgeon. So let this amazing device to work in his native housing and try to minimize those fractures between thinking and doing: if its true that the medium is the message,” why to put something between this supermedium and the message?

From Brain Computer Interface to the Internet of Thought

There is a vast literature on the topic of Brain Computer Interface, and there are hundreds of research projects that over half a century have explored the theme of the “possible transmission of thought.” Early observations of the P3b were reported in the mid-1960s. In 1964, researchers Chapman and Bragdon found that ERP responses to visual stimuli differed depending on whether the stimuli had meaning or not.
However,
 a news and trends show us a broader and more dynamic scenario.
On the one hand the news. IBM has announced it has released a chip that processes the data in a similar way to our brain.

Researchers
at IBM have been working on a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE). By reproducing the structure and architecture of the brain—the way its elements receive sensory input, connect to each other, adapt these connections, and transmit motor output—the SyNAPSE project models computing systems that emulate the brain’s computing efficiency, size and power usage without being programmed.
Where’s
 the news? Well the possibility of correlating information and events will follow a path a little less linear and a little more like the “intuition which has so far been recognized only in humans.
On the other hand
 the trend of the spread of smartphones coupled with the massive expansion of data networks suggests, butmost importantly – enables scenarios where you can transmit data and information (inbound and outbound) in a seamless form. In other words, it is and it will increasingly be able to interact with objects and “situations” without been forced to enter a dedicated application, select the context of reference and obtain an information or provide a command.
The convergence of these elements leads to something far more extensive than what we have defined so far as Brain Computer Interface.
I call it the Internet thought.

Internet of thought: my manifesto

The Internet of thought is the interaction between thoughts 
(and therefore
 the emotions) of one or multiple people and things around them (and therefore also the situations and feelings) through systems able to interpreter in a first native and then evolutionary way both desires, reactions to those desires and commands to trigger further actions knowing how to distinguish between these areas in a natural way and without the use of interfaces
as those are commonly
 known.

The fundamental principles of the internet of thought are:

 >>Purpose  
The final purpose of the internet of thought is to communicate seamlessly between two or more entities, one to many and/or many to many via T2T (Thought to Thought).

  >>Sense  
Data (informations, emotions, reactions, commands) refers to a living being (human & animal) and the entire surroundings perceived through:

a) the main five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. 

b) humans are considered to have at least five additional senses that can be detected and processed that include:

  • nociception (pain);
  • equilibrioception (balance);
  • proprioception and kinaesthesia (joint motion and acceleration);
  • tempusception sense of time;
  • thermoception (temperature differences);
  • and possibly an additional weak magnetoception (direction),

c) six more of interoceptive senses could be also considered with particular attention to Pulmonary stretch.
Cutaneous receptors in the skin not only respond to touch, pressure, and temperature, but also respond to vasodilation in the skin such as blushing.
Stimulation of stretch sensors that sense dilation of various blood vessels may result in pain, for example headache caused by vasodilation of brain arteries.

d) In addition to this field of data collection and interpretation, a whole series of animal based sensing system can be added. These sensing systems can be simulated or recreated (such as echolocation in bats and cetaceans which allows them to locate obstacles in the environment)

 >>Process  
Data (informations, emotions, reactions, commands) are processed following the brain process logic, i.e. without a pre-written code of chain-actions but based on the experience of single individuals while behaving as single or as social entities while in a social context, As it happens in real life, actions are influenced by the sourrounding environmen

 >>Interaction  
Inbound and outbound (informations, emotions, reactions, commands) actions and reactions occurs via brain commanded systems and without touchable interface. “Visualization” of informations, when needed, can occur through graphical interfaces or other type of sense based systems (voice, vibration, temperature…)

>>Data flow  
Typically
 we can identify two main information flows: the inbound and outbound.
Inbound refers to the monitoring of electrical responses from the brain to a variety of external stimuli and thus allows to characterize the reaction and monitor the type and intensity.
The outbound  allows you to associate a function/command to a brain activity, and then trigger actions to virtually any device with any connectivity capacity.


[To be continued: The internet of thought: a manifesto/ end of chapter1: introduction]
The photograph in this post have been shot by me at the Sandnes Science Museum, Norway
Thanks to Mr. Bharat Bedi (twitter: @BharatBedi) for suggestions, sharing and support.

 

A data, multiple meanings: a concrete example on how smarter analytics can support unexpected scenarios, as social care and drive to a philosophy of dignity

The ability to obtain information from different interconnections (and interpretations) of data is a hot topic: the so-called issue of analytics and (especially) the consequent possibility of exploiting this information to build predictive models. Sometimes, however, these possibilities are a concept or are applied to macro contexts (traffic, weather, macro behavioral algorithms …) rather than micro-contexts. Much can be done but also in the so-called “micro” and in industries other than those typically involved such as the retail and transportation: for example in the social field. In the Secure Living Project (Abitare Sicuri) project, deployed in the City of Bolzano, me and my team faced the need to check the well being status of people (disabled or elderly) who in the prime of their autonomy and independence in their home might have a need for aid.  This need is heightened, increasingly, by their social status (no relatives, no continuous contact points). The record speaks, for example, dozens of cases where people in this social context have suffered serious consequences (up to the loss of life) from a trivial domestic incident as a fall: simply because no one had bothered to check whether the person was feeling ” good” or simply was “present.” Being present and feeling good are two different sizes, related to, but with a different scope and time because they can practice for prospective to the present or future. In our solution, we were able to understand both.

Considerations on the study of behavior: a crucial matter 

The amount of personal data collected on ordinary citizens has grown steadily over the decades, and after 9/11, corporations that had been amassing this information largely for marketing purposes saw an opportunity to strengthen their ties with the government. Paradoxically on the medical point of view, “when it comes to lengthen the life span, many of us are more than willing to do something concrete. So it is quite probable to start, even on its own, to transfer personal information from a sensor to experts trained by the Numerati. But in the coming years, it must be said, anyone who offers services such forecasts will probably be a charlatan, because the behavior patterns of many diseases have not yet been defined. But once that research will have collected one or two decades of data, the onset of the disease can be identified in time (hopefully) to be nipped in the bud. The ability to predict disease undoubtedly will raise many issues of social and economic. But the debate is still open because research is at an embryonic stage.”* What is decisive is therefore collecting data to build models of behavior. It must be said that one thing is to collect a series of biological information and the other a set of attitudes that provide the indicators to establish a first layer of information directed more to care than to cure. The study of macro behaviors (i.e. getting up, walking, eating, etc.), in fact, allows us to understand that behavior if it undergoes a change from the standard and then foresee a situation that for the moment we can only be described as “abnormal.” And ‘in this context that mathematics plays a crucial role. On the one hand to maximize the information collected (which are not as punctual as a value out of the blood normally, but are faceted as related to human behavior) on the other hand to construct other scenarios in which “experts” will have to make decisions. In fact, doctors are too busy and the devices themselves are of little use.   

The Numerati” as he calls them Stephen Baker, “will have to read the patterns of movement, language and social interaction, to interpret their meaning. Only mathematics is able to follow these streams of data almost meaningless and then provide a stream of information for medical or social warnings specific applications”*. 

To make you understand the complexity of the scenario is worth mentioning again Baker: “even the simplest algorithm should be adapted to the individual case. For some disabled people to be out of their bed can be an alarm signal. For a healthy person who does not get out of bed, on the contrary, it can be a problem”*. The example of the bed is not random. Many studies, for example, identify sleep as a “behavioral frame”. All we sleep at some point in our day and so the bedroom and in particular the bed can be one of the sites of investigation. There are projects (and sensors) to verify the presence in bed. But the information is limited and limiting. I’m in bed, but am I sleeping? Reading? Doing what? I do not get up: Am I sick? Or do I just want to stay in bed? 

Tonight we improvise, the stage? The kitchen 

As well as in laboratories of Intel in Portland, Oregon where the team of Eric Dishman is experiencing a series of sensors, called “magic carpet”, drowned in the floor of the laboratory that can test the risk of falls, determine the weight of a person, but of course the mere presence, and ideally do it in a kitchen. A fascinating project, and full of ideas, in a precise direction of research. But together we need to research contemporary. Because reality is now, the need of care is already a must  as the need for collecting data behavior. We, too, in Bolzano, identified the kitchen as the hub-stage of our project, because we believe the kitchen is the place where it enacts one of the most significant human behaviour, richer of meanings than the sleep : nutrition. In the kitchen we installed our sensors to verify the presence of behavioral patterns and then photographs the status of expected behaviors, as “master” behavior, in order to use it as a reference. Unlike the magic carpet we chose a less invasive, more close to “reality” – and in the very short time – more effective approach. In fact, beyond the simple human presence was essential for us to understand whether a person was interacting with the stove and then was having to deal in some way with the food. Our current research project was not conducted in a laboratory, but in the homes of 30 people, taking account of the real life, of the status of the architecure (and housing) of flats like millions of other flats all over the world, the needs of real people and the budget of the “care machine” (public or private). In fact it is unthinkable to propose large-scale models involving invasive interventions on the grounds of both the cost (design, installation, maintenance), both for the inconvenience, both for the time that this entails. The traditional warning systems are typically based on a system of transmission (automatic or autonomous for example) where the person has to activate the alarm or are sensors that will communicate an event (i.e. non-standard values). But while the self-activation of the alarm is often impossible (the typical case study talks about the the transmitter is forgotten or not worn) on the other type of warning systems like sensors (most likely) is that no exceptional event occurred to trigger an alarm. Is it possible then to build a model of care and assistance on this basis? 

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The data: CO (carbon monoxide) 

Among the various parameters under control inside the house we monitored the level of CO, or carbon monoxide. The raw data allows us to monitor the level of the unburned gas (which we know to be associated with dangerously poisoning deaths) from a dwelling (and thus trigger an alarm email / sms / etc to the operations center in case of fault), but the same data shows us another set of information. This allows us to monitor:

1) presence 

 Rising CO value allows us to establish that the person is is alive and responsive because he/she is making an action. The time at which this occurs is almost constant throughout the monitoring period and therefore allow us to build a stream of alert in case of anomalies. Take the case, for example, that our subject has a routine of conduct (which, as mentioned, very common) involving 4 repated appointments such as breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner at almost fixed times: let’s say at 9, 12, 16, 19. If the system detects that the CO level does not rise at 9 (or in the range of + / -15 minutes) the system can monitor the later check points (lunch, snack or dinner) with a level of pre-alert, a “particularly close eye” on that situation. At the same time, other vital parameters (monitored throughout the project, as the level of CO2) can be extracted automatically and kept under the magnifying lens and cross so as to define in more detail the scenario. This allows the staff in charge of social services, (but also the relatives) immediately or within the day to keep on screening information and allow the necessary actions. 

 2) stay healthy 

The regularity of meals is one of the main ways to monitor the health and well-being of a person. Besides the fact that regular eating habits are more beneficial to your health than irregular (or chaotic) eating habits – all other things being wellness equal**.  The check for regular meals we can provide a wealth of information on both the current state of health and pote prevent the onset of some physical and psychological disorders. 

• Those that occur during the aging process naturally, Such as a reduced ability to absorb nutrients efficiently, a sore mouth or dentures to two 

• Disease-specific such conditions as cancer, which effectively place nutritional greater demands on people 

• Some drugs interact with nutrients and that prevent absorption, for example aspirin, which effectively can Interfere with the absorption of vitamin C 

• Social influences, such as not being able to get to shops, or social isolation 

Continuing to enjoy food and to eat a diet that maintains nutritional status is key to coping with illness. Poor nutrition has-been shown to increase the risk of infections, bed sores, poor wound healing and chest infections. Good nutritional status will help in quicker recovery ensure. Other common problems: loss of taste, loss of interest in food (older people can lose interest in food for a variety of reasons. Depression loss of independence to two or bereavement, or simply eating alone can reduce appetite.) poor appetite, difficulty in chewing, constipation, older people needing extra care, swallowing difficulties, care homes***

Bootstrapping 

Positioning the sensor in the kitchens, not only allowed us to have a crucial fact where the risk of generation of CO is the highest, but of course also showed that rising levels of CO corresponds to the performance of activities and then to the fact that a person is willing to prepare a meal. Whether it’s a meal or, for example, boiling water for washing, it is not possible to know, or rather, can be achieved in two ways. Requested directly to people (but it would take a long time) or by deducting the information on a large scale analysis of the data. And here is where, once again, mathematics can helps us. How? With the odds. If you try to write “Kitchen” into Google you get 1.620.000.000 web pages. If you add to kitchen “cooking” the pages become 363.000.000. If you add the word “fire” you get 29.600.000 pages. And so it is possible to deduce a conditional model indicating numbers of related events. As you add the information from a sensor the system adapts and refines the results. It ‘a process of self-defined statistical learning known as “bootstrapping”, or the ability to develop himself as Matthai Philipose well explains. The data item, in fact, may have a relative importance, but when combined in a time frame and compared with sequences and series, allows us to draw a person’s behavioral real trajectory, indicating if and when the routines are not repeated regularly and then suggesting to the supervisors – in case of anomalies and no repetitions – the need to investigate possible causes. This information is very effective if cross and shared with the normal activity of a person (doctor visits, physical activities, etc.). 

Benefits 

The advantages are obvious compared to other systems of monitoring and care, and outcomes are based on real experience. 

Non-invasive sensors, plug & play logic 

The devices are “transparent”, are hidden in the home (it may be enough to have only one sensor in the kitchen), should not be worn, remember, reloaded, activated. In our project we have developed a “plug and play” logic where we could only have need of electricity (and in some cases not even that, working with battery-powered sensors). We solved the transmission of data interconnecting the devices (when necessary) through a zigbee meshnetwork, concentrated in a single node connected via 3G for crucial savings  in terms of cost and time. Because the reality is that older people do not have a wifi network or an DSL at home.

Privacy 

It ‘s clear that the association with the clinical data allows a person to develop more clinically interesting scenarios, but the system can just agnostically highlight a chronic or puncutal anomaly. It is also true that the choice to install such systems arises from the need of the subject or family in accordance with the subject itself: it is therefore an explicit monitoring. 

Cost 

The costs of purchase, installation and maintenance of these sensors are very low. The cost is rather part of an overall picture of the monitoring system, transmission and data management, in the mechanisms of action and especially in the post-warning strategy for social care, but this is not the place for such a study. 

Reuse of data 

The figure has a dual function: information in a timely manner on a specific parameter, but when combined with other information gives us a much richer information framework. 

Alarm & Prevention 

A system of this type does the double duty of providing a timely warning and allow early detection actions which decisively reduce the cost of “ex-post” intervention of the whole apparatus.

Conclusions 

Knowing the behavior of people is very important, it not only serves the retail industry or the banks to suggest to buy some new products and anticipate our needs with the goal of making us consume (and spend) more. Knowing the behaviors and habits can save a life. Unfortunately, the demonization that comes from the obsession with which the industry tries to “observe” and thus to the rejection a priori of all that has to do with the “monitoring” means that sometimes you lose sight of reality , the possibilities related to it, the ultimate goal. I believe that our research is a first important step to start a process of customs clearance of some typical associations (monitor = control) and place them semantically in another context (monitoring = prevention). Secondly, it represents a real project in the field, with problems, situations, data and real people and then acts as a field of advanced but contemporary research. Thirdly suggests how the data may have very different facets and open scenarios into context with respect to the underlying assumptions. Finally, last but not least, addresses the crucial issue of an aging population (which can be simplistically summarized as follows: more people who will live longer in a state of better health, with opportunities for social interaction than ever before, at a time of economic downturn and budget constraints of the families and the public administration) and respect for their dignity as persons. Just as the UK Department of Health has noted,  telecare is “as much about the philosophy of dignity and independence as it is about equipment and services”. And if there is anything we need is to harness the power of technology to help even the weakest, and is an area yet to be discovered.

*http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Numerati/Stephen-Baker/e/9780618784608?itm=4…

**(see, for example, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity , and fasting lipid profiles in healthy obese women. HR. Farshchi, MA. Taylor, IA. Macdonald, et al. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005, vol. 81, pp. 16-24)

***http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/treatments/healthy_living/nutrition/life_diettips…

 

 

Smarter traffic? Some possible solutions are already there since 1990 (they are called RFID).

Telepass_parcheggio

If you have had a look at this blog “projects” section, you know it: I’ve worked for Telepass in the past, so I’m a not an independent source or better I am a Telepass fan. To be honest I am a fan of whatever makes life easier for humans. And this is one of those. Telepass let you pass by the gates in the italian highways without stopping: just pass by and the amount will be charged on your credit card. I have one of this devices since 1995 and always worked fine avoding hours of boring cues in over polluted highway barriers and the pain to stop and look for the ticket and the money. Since then I have always wondered why not to use the same logic (and device) in cities car parking. I guess political reasons stopped this natural extention of the service, but now it seems the time is over. I was in Malpensa last friday and – magically – I could park my car without stopping/taking the ticket/store it somewhere in my wallet >> and back << look for it/find the machine/put the ticket/put my credit card/tale the ticket/take the credit card/ask for the receipt/stop at the gate/put the ticket/take the ticke/go. Not bad and works also in the Linate Airport and in the Fiera di Bologna carparks. But can this be useful only for the car parking? Obviously not: i’m working for the so called “smarter planet”, so a soon as the so called ZTLs (limited traffic zones) or (with a wonderful neologism) “ecopass” areas start to grew up in downtown cities, I wondered exactly the same. I’m not discussing now the reasons behind this limited areas, but the process car drivers/citizens are forced to follow. So why not to allow drivers to use their Telepass device to pay when needed instead of forcing them to a crazy process? If traffic have to be smart and building up limited areas is (one of) the way to make this happen, well let’s support those 7,000,000 of drivers who already use this system. Then, if you are wondering that a faciltator like the Telepass is against the purpose of a limited traffic area that should discourage drivers to enter downtonwns, have a look at this. Drivers are entering anyway, without paying. So, tell me, who’s the smarter one here? 🙂

Voice Recognition and subtitling

I am involved in speech recognition and live subtitling and voice transcription since 2003. With my team we delivered a voice to chat system called Mambo.

I am also following the activities of the Liberated Learning consortium since 2005 and promoted it all over Europe. Between several other activities I supported the introduction of speech reco technologies in teaching to the University of Bologna which – thanks to this job and the illuminated view of people like Gianluca Garlaschelli – become the first non-aglosaxon University to participate the project within their “e-learning” activities. This sparked to a bigger project led by UniBo named Net4Voice. The matter of a voice reco system in education is quite relevant. First of all the process allows the teacher to litterally project his speech (words) on a screen. This is a must-to-have for deaf and cognitive disabled user which can read live what the teacher is saying. But this is quite relevant to for not native-language students. The business of a University is to attract the widest/selected amount of students as possible and this means to open doors to foreigners. So whatever system will allow an user to ease the cognitive process is more than welcome. So the combination of the spoken word with the written one is a huge facilitator. Finally, the system allow the teacher to create and e-share the spoken lesson content to his community of students.

 

I drove the future (?) and i liked it

Ionic

I have no idea if this will be the future for the masses, but for sure look like the image of future as far as we can see it today. The first thing to say is that the full electric Peugeot ion is a car. I mean, it looks like a car. So no undefined space-era design to show “this is the future” and this is a very good sign. We know this is the bare sister of the Mistubishi i-MiEV so design comes from Jap: basically looks like a compact four doors egg-shaped like a lot of other fuel powered cars of the same range. The second thing to say is that the little ion behaves like the car you always drove. You have a normal remote door opening system, you have a normal key, you put the key in, turn it and the car turns on. Like every other car. Well, there is a slight difference. No noise. And this is absolutely wild. It’s on? Or not?

Silence is probably the most amazing fact about the ion and the main reason for me to suggest to try the experience. No Jaguar V12 or Mercedes V8, even under tons of insulation foams inside the cockpit, will allow you to have this zero emission of noise (not considering CO2 obviously). We always wonder about the virtual CO2-zero-emission of the electric cars, but we forget about this incredible feature and how dangerous is noise for the Planet too. Imagine a city with zero engine noises. Can you do it? How would be Paris, Rome, Madrid without it? Another place. Said that, the other side of the coin is that zero noise is dangerous too. I tested it: in downtown Milan people drinking aperitivi in the middle of the road and chatting loud with phones and friends couldn’t spot me. I had one brave guy sat over the nose of the ion not realizing i was driving by and not stopped there for his ass. Total silence seems a dream over, but at least we could have a nice discussion on what type of noise add over it: Mozart? The Tired Ponys? Kermit’s the Frog voice?

The driving experience is smooth and exciting: a beautiful automatic transmission let you enjoy the torque produced by the electric engine. Push and go: no black holes of power in the middle. Good brakes, good steering system, enough space inside as every normal city car, no plastic noise inside thanks also to a super powerful radio system. The stress? Well, I can’t admit I always kept an eye over the power consumption device. The clock tells you how good you are to save energy, but there is a slighty hidden pleasure to bring the clock to the “full power” red zone. I have no idea about authonomy: the dealer said around 140 km, but I did around 50 in the city and I was still at 3/4 of the full charge. Anyway you have a nice blu cable+plug in the trunk (but you do not have any charging station in Milan…maybe within the famous Expo 2015).

Finally, rumors about price: would you spend around 30.000 euros for this stuff? Not me: i feel that the perceived retail price for this toys must be less than 10.000 euros. Probably only in front of such offering you could seriously decide to have a “real” city car like the cute ion. Cause on the contrary (if you can afford it) you can play the Sylicon Valley Green Tycoon and drive a Tesla.

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