Archive for the ‘Technology Related Articles’ Category

NEVER MIND THE CANNABIS ? THE REAL BUZZ IS AROUND AI

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

This technology will change world even with bubbly signs, Kevin Carmichael says.

The Vancouver Sun

The temperature in Montreal was close to freezing on Oct. 18, yet the lineup at the Société québécoise du cannabis store on Ste-Catherine Street wrapped around the block for a second consecutive day.

Irrational exuberance? Or a symbol of all the wealth that suppliers will generate? There surely is some degree of excess when factory farms are likened to Amazon and Google just because they grow marijuana instead of tomatoes.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchains were going to change the world in 2017. Now, it looks like those innovations will be used simply to upgrade the plumbing of the existing financial system. Valuations are correcting as a result. Bet you a Bitcoin that pot is on a similar path.

This brings us to another technology that definitely will change the world, and also has some bubbly characteristics.

If the fun Canadian business story of the moment is cannabis, the serious one is artificial intelligence (AI). When Stephen Poloz, the Bank of Canada governor, devoted a speech to creative destruction last month, he wasn’t thinking about pot. AI will reshape entire industries; tens of thousands of jobs will be taken over by computers, (hopefully) at least as many will be created in the process.

“In the future, AI is going to be as normal and as natural as the electricity in this room right now,” Carolina Bessega, chief scientific officer at Stradigi AI, told me in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Montreal earlier this month. “Nobody is going to talk about it because everyone is going to use it and have it.”

Bessega’s future is coming at us quickly.

Less than five years ago, Stradigi was just another developer of custom software. Then a retail chain asked the company to clean up a very messy inventory system. The job required sorting tens of thousands of items into a single database. It would have taken a human months to do it. So Bessega went to her boss, Basil Bouraropoulos, the chief executive, and said that she might be able to build an AI system that could do the work in a couple of hours. She was right; the gamble worked and the client was happy.

Bouraropoulos, an entrepreneur with a background in coding, refocused his company immediately.

“We didn’t go into AI because it was a bubble, because in 2014 the bubble wasn’t there,” he said. “The bubble really started in 2016.”

Like pot, crypto, and blockchain, there’s some froth around AI too. Thousands of tickets for the annual Neural Information Processing Systems conference, which this year will be held in Montreal during the first week of December, apparently sold out in about 10 minutes. Something called the AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster, spanning the “Quebec-Windsor corridor,” won a share of the Trudeau government’s $950-million fund to create innovation hubs, enough to convince some of you that AI must be a loser if it needs Ottawa’s help. One of Bouraropoulos’s challenges is convincing clients that Stradigi is legitimate and not party of the hype.

“You see companies just adding ‘AI’ or ‘dot AI.’ I’ve seen it over and over,” he said. “We’ve even had questions from clients, ‘Are you really an AI company?’ My answer is always, ‘I’d love to have you visit our offices and see that we really have 30 PhD’s sitting in here’.”

I saw the 30 PhD’s; they exist. They soon will be joined by about a dozen more to help Stradigi keep up with a surge in demand, including a new partnership with Seattle-based Cray Inc., the publicly traded maker of supercomputers that generated US$392 million in revenue in 2017. After taking its time, Stradigi is stepping out from under the shadow of Mila, the Montreal-based AI lab founded by Yoshua Bengio, a pioneer of the field.

“They are doing a fantastic job and if you look at their plans for the future, I really see that Canada is going to be the leader in AI,” Bouraropoulos said. “I am very confident saying that, and I’m very confident that we are going to be a huge part of it as well.”

I’m inclined to believe him, because Bouraropoulos and Bessega were rare executives I’ve talked to this year who didn’t complain about a labour shortage. That’s a serious issue in a lot of industries, but not in AI apparently. If talented scientists are lining up to work for companies such as Stradigi, the industry should be able to grow quickly.

Only a couple of years ago, Canada’s best graduates were rushing to the United States. Now, that migration pattern has reversed. That might surprise those who think Canada’s personal tax rates are too high to compete in tech. The cost of living in places such as San Francisco and New York has become so expensive that Canadian cities such as Montreal and Toronto can compete easily, even if the taxes are higher, said Bouraropoulos.

It also helps that the U.S. has become hostile to immigrants. Canada becomes an easy second choice, especially if it means working in the orbit of worldclass researchers such as Bengio.

“For people who are not from the United States, the situation in the United States is not easy,” said Bessega, a native of Venezuela. “That plays in our advantage.”

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc

New rules for Facebook business use

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

other

The latest Facebook breach has bigger implications for business users who represent their organizations on Facebook, or for organizations that have their own Facebook account. This is because the risks of a presence on Facebook can damage your organization’s reputation if you’re not careful. 

In extreme cases, the damage could be worse. This means that there need to be rules for business on Facebook. Here are some examples: 

  • Do not assume Facebook is secure. Despite the company’s assurances, its record indicates that any information on Facebook is at risk of public disclosure. This is probably not an issue for most customer service uses, but not for anything beyond that.
  • Never believe that your Facebook account can’t be (or won’t be) compromised.
  • Don’t expect Facebook to come to your assistance. While the company does make global changes to react to security incidents, helping individual users can be problematic.

With those issues in mind, here are some practices to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use your Facebook login anywhere except Facebook. This may mean having to set up a special email address just for Facebook use.
  • Don’t use your Facebook password anywhere else. Have your password manager generate a unique password that’s hard to guess, and then have the password manager log you in.
  • Don’t fall for those offers to use your Facebook login on other websites. This is where those tokens come into play.
  • Use two-factor authentication for your Facebook account (and for your other accounts as well). It’s free, and it can help protect your account against credential theft.
  • Make sure you control access to the company account so that you can prevent unauthorized employees or others from posting as if they were speaking for the company.
  • Ownership of the company Facebook account belongs to the company. Your social media staffer shouldn’t be able to simply leave and take your followers.
  • Require that employees who post on behalf of the company know your social media policy and agree to adhere to it. 

Of course, none of these steps will necessarily protect you if your information is taken in the next breach, but at least you can minimize the damage. For example, if you only use the Facebook login information on Facebook, then it won’t matter if it’s stolen, because the thieves can’t use it elsewhere. But even then, you should change your password from time to time. 

A Lot of Good Reasons to Use Social Networks in Business 

All of this is enough to discourage companies from using Facebook or other social media, but it shouldn’t. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram along with other such sites are effective and efficient ways to reach your customers. Your discussions and interactions with them can also help instruct others who have questions, and you can provide product and service information in a casual, non-threatening way.

But with that in mind, there are a few more rules: 

  • Never use Facebook to accept personal information, payment information or anything else that can’t stand being completely public.
  • Never use Facebook or other media to make any future-looking statements unless you’ve already issued the press release. If you want an example of how bad that can be, just refer to Elon Musk’s $40 million tweet.
  • Never assume your competitors aren’t reading every word of your Facebook page. 

If the Facebook breach has done nothing else, it has demonstrated that there’s a huge potential for security risks there, and you can’t just cruise along thinking that it’s a form of recreation. For your company, Facebook is a totally serious but highly effective tool. 

The social network can be highly effective in providing customer support, provided you use it to make initial contact but then handle the details elsewhere. With Twitter you can take it to a DM. With Facebook, perhaps you can use Messenger. 

Facebook can also be effective in introducing potential customers to your company and all of the things your company cares about. You can demonstrate products, show videos, even set up meetings for your sales department. 

Depending on the type of business you have, Facebook can be your primary face to the world, and it can be very good at that. 

But like all powerful tools, you need to be careful how you use it.

How has the on-demand economy impacted real estate?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Clients want real estate on-demand

REP

Everyone wants everything. Right now. For centuries, thinkers and philosophers have dreamed of a world where if you could think of something, you could have it—instantly. But now, that’s more than just a vision. Millions around the world simply can’t imagine any other way to live.

And thanks to smartphones, they can get it. With more than 207 million smartphones in the U.S. today, 2 out of 3 people use one. They love the fast, satisfying technology. But even more than that, they love the promise: Getting what you want, with a few touches. Today, not tomorrow.

A successful business is an accelerated business. Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Go, Uber and the entire mobile banking industry have all built their reputations on instant gratification. And now, real estate is joining the party, too—if you’re ready.

We asked 476 real estate agents how on-demand technology has changed client relationships. Results were surprising.

Copyright © 2018 Key Media Pty Ltd

Everything You Need to Know for Perfect Meta Tag SEO

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Jennifer Yesbeck
other

You spend time carefully crafting content for your readers and customers. But you must do the same for search engines. Meta tag SEO is one way to help search engine crawlers absorb, understand, and index your content .

What Is Meta Tag SEO?

Meta tag SEO is the process of adding hidden information – or meta tags – to the code of a webpage to help search engines better recognize what the page is about. If search engines clearly recognize what a page is about, and determine it to be highly valuable to readers it is more likely to rank well in search..

A meta tag is a snippet of code that describes a page’s content. Each meta tag description explains a different element on the page and helps crawlers learn about the content.

Most meta tag information is invisible to users and only readable by search engine crawlers, as it is added to the code of the page and not the visible content. Although, some meta information is visible on search engine results pages such as title tags and meta descriptions.

What Are the Most Useful Meta Tags?

Because meta tags provide information about page content, they have a significant impact on SEO. However, not all meta tags are created equal. Some tags that were popular a few years ago are nearly irrelevant today .

For example, at one time, meta tag keywords, a series of top keywords that described a page and were placed in the code of the page, were closely tied with SEO and ranking. But meta keywords have lost most of their relevance compared to other elements of meta tag SEO.

The authorship meta tag is another example of an outdated element. Back in 2013, authorship was a hot topic in the SEO world, as bloggers scrambled to make sure their icons topped the list of search results. A few years later, the authorship program was discontinued, meaning author tags no longer hold the same significance they had five years ago.

The rest of this article will focus on meta tag examples that have staying power, so you can improve your SEO without chasing the latest and greatest trends.

Title Tag

Title tags are one of the most important meta tags to include in SEO content. The title tag tells search engines the title of the page, which may be different from the headline that appears on the page. You can change the title to simplify the phrase and make it easier for search engine crawlers to read and understand.

The title tag is included in the code of your page.

It is also visible to audiences on search engine results pages.

As you create a title tag, keep these content writing tips in mind:

  • Limit your title to 60 characters.
  • Place your keywords close to the front of the title.
  • Create unique titles for each page.
  • Don’t write just for search engines; make sure humans find value in the title.

While you can use long and colorful headlines at the top of your page, your title tag should have an SEO focus and get to the point, helping both readers and search engines understand the body of the article. A relevant, descriptive, but succinct title is more likely to convert.

A relevant, descriptive, but succinct title is more likely to convert. #SEO #tips Click To Tweet

Meta Description

A meta description is a summary of what a page is about. It’s code that consists of two to three sentences describing what the content is about. While it doesn’t have a direct impact on a page’s rankings, that doesn’t mean it lacks SEO value.

Like the title tag, SEO meta descriptions are forward-facing for your customers. The meta description is what readers see in the SERPs, so marketers should use this blurb as an opportunity to drive clicks and traffic to their page.

As you write your meta description, consider these factors.

  • Limit your meta description to less than 320 characters.
  • Provide a value proposition to the readers.
  • Include keywords, but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Add a soft call to action and sell readers on your brand.

The best meta descriptions concisely summarize content to help people see the value in clicking on the search result .

Viewport

Meta tag SEO best practices also include a viewport tag. The viewport tag has become increasingly valuable with the rise of mobile phone usage.

A viewport is the area of the window where web content can be viewed. This area is often different from what the user sees, leaving audiences to pinch or scroll to read the content. The viewport tag gives developers the power to address the content’s size and scale, making websites more mobile-friendly.

Site speed and mobile friendliness are important white hat SEO best practices that make up a good website experience.

If your site loads slowly or your audience bounce because of a poor rendering, then Google notices and flags your website as being a bad experience . A bad mobile experience hurts your SEO while driving away your users. Taking time to add a viewport tag can improve your mobile view and results.

Robots Selection

A robots meta tag tells search engine crawlers how they should (or shouldn’t) crawl and index your page. It tells crawlers what items you want them to notice or ignore.

You don’t necessarily need this tag on your page if you simply want search engine crawlers to approach all of your content normally. But you may want to use limiting tags to prevent negative SEO problems if you use borrowed images or syndicated content.

Like meta tags, there are multiple robots meta tags you can use. However, there are a few common ones you are likely to turn to over others:

  • Noindex: tells search engines not to index the page
  • Noimageindex: tells search engines not to index the images
  • None: tells search engines not to do anything with the page at all
  • Nofollow: tells search engines not to follow any links on the page
  • Noarchive: tells search engines not to archive the content

These commands can boost your meta tag SEO by preventing duplicate content penalties or making your page look like it links to spammy websites. It serves as a housekeeping tool for how you want to present your brand.

Quickly Check Your Meta Tag SEO

While it may seem complicated to keep up with meta tag SEO best practices, there is a simple way to ensure you are properly tagging your page .

Use Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker to enter a URL from a page on your website along with the page’s assigned target keyword. The tool will provide a report on meta tag errors and available optimization tactics you can implement to improve the page.

For other meta tag considerations, use Alexa’s SEO Audit Tool. The tool runs a full report on dozens of SEO factors for your site, including the status of meta tags. Enter your site to receive a report and list of tips on how to fix issues and better optimize your website.

With tools by Alexa, you can update your meta tag SEO and create an optimization plan that boosts your rankings. Sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan and see what you can learn about your SEO status, audience, competitors, and content opportunities.

Safety or cash grab? Cops go high-tech to catch distracted drivers

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Mike Smyth
The Province

Bad drivers of B.C., beware.

The government — and the cops — are coming to get you. And they’re loading up with more traffic-ticketing technology than British Columbia has ever seen before.

Attorney General David Eby has promised to get tough with rule-breaking road warriors as he attempts to cut down on soaring accident rates and extinguish the “financial dumpster fire” at ICBC.

How will he do it? With new high-tech equipment and gadgets designed to catch highway lawbreakers.

Let’s say you’re one of those drivers who occasionally takes a peek at your cellphone while behind the wheel.

That’s called distracted driving, it’s against the law, and it carries a heavy fine — even if your car is stopped at a traffic light. But why worry if you don’t see any cops around to catch you, right?

Well, say hello to Eby’s newest little friend: The Laser Technology TruSpeed Sxb Scope, with Bluetooth compatibility.

British Columbia just took delivery of two of these American-made gizmos, which cost ICBC a total of $17,000.

In the last few days, the two scopes were given to a B.C. police department (that ICBC declined to identify). Now those cops are testing their ability to catch distracted drivers in the act.

“The units will be tested by police in varying weather and traffic conditions for usability and effectiveness,” said ICBC spokeswoman Joanna Linsangan.

According to its manufacturer, the beauty of the TruSpeed Sxb is its ability to capture high-resolution photographs of a law-breaking driver from a distance of 610 metres.

The Bluetooth connection then allows a police officer to instantly beam the photograph to another cop up the road, who then stops and tickets the driver.

 “That officer will then have the ability to show the image to the distracted driver,” Linsangan said.

The advantage of confronting the driver with incriminating evidence? It greatly reduces the chance of the driver fighting the ticket in court because the jig is clearly up.

But if the driver does dispute the ticket, the TrueSpeed Sxb will deliver the goods in court.

“Unmatched technology, superior performance, courtroom credibility, pinpoint targeting and unbeatable value are what the TruSpeed series bring to your department,” the company boasts on its website.

The B.C. government, meanwhile, just cranked up the fines and penalties for distracted-driving tickets.

Starting in March, anyone caught distracted driving twice within three years could face punitive ICBC premiums and fines of up to $2,000 — a 58 per cent increase over the previous penalty.

Is it any wonder the government now wants a bigger cut of the action?

Last week, the B.C. government officially notified local municipal governments of its intention to renegotiate the sharing of traffic-fine revenue.

Municipalities currently receive 100 per cent of net ticket revenue. But not for long.

“There are some fundamental changes underway related to automated traffic enforcement that may require updates to the agreement,” Eby said, adding it’s “critical” for the B.C. government to access new revenue streams to fix the mess at ICBC, set to lose $1.3 billion this year.

Municipalities are not happy with the move.

“It’s a shock to us,” said Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne. “Municipalities put that money toward public safety.”

But the B.C. government seems determined to increase traffic-fine revenue, keep more of the money for itself, and use high-tech hardware to get it done.

In addition to the distracted-driving scopes, the government is also rolling out:

  • RED-LIGHT CAMERAS: Currently deployed at 140 dangerous intersections, these automated cameras catch drivers running red lights. The government says the cameras are currently being programmed to run 24 hours a day and may be expanded to other locations.
  • INTERSECTION SPEED CAMERAS: Red-light cameras will be repurposed to catch speeders, too, though the camera locations have still not been decided.

“Further analysis of crash and speed data will inform these decisions,” said government spokesman Colin Hynes, adding the “speeding threshold” for issuing a ticket is also under discussion.

“We know thousands of vehicles do go through these dangerous sites at more than 30 kilometres an hour over the speed limit each year.”

  • SPEED-INTERVAL CAMERAS: The government is currently reviewing a request to install speed-interval cameras on the accident-prone Malahat highway near Victoria. Also know as “point-to-point technology,” the cameras would photograph cars at various locations on the highway, calculate their speed, and issue tickets as required.
  • ELECTRONIC TICKETING: The new “e-Ticket” system allows police to quickly scan a driver’s licence, automatically uploading their personal information onto a digitally printed traffic ticket while beaming the details directly to ICBC, who will make darn sure the fine gets paid.

“It’s moving the ticketing of speeders into the 21st century,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

All of which should produce a windfall of money for the B.C. government, something Liberal justice critic Mike Morris calls “a cash grab” by the ruling NDP.

“They should leave that money with municipalities,” Morris said. “We should make sure this isn’t a cash cow for the provincial government.”

The bottom line for drivers? Don’t speed. Don’t run red lights. And don’t even think of touching that cellphone.

With the cops going high-tech, your wallet will feel the pain if you do.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Safety or a cash grab? B.C. goes high-tech to nab distracted drivers

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Province ramping up efforts to crack down on bad drivers by issuing more fines

Mike Smyth
The Province

Bad drivers of B.C., beware.

The government — and the cops — are coming to get you. And they’re loading up with more traffic-ticketing technology than British Columbia has ever seen before.

Attorney General David Eby has promised to get tough with rule-breaking road warriors as he attempts to cut down on soaring accident rates and extinguish the “financial dumpster fire” at ICBC.

How will he do it? With new high-tech equipment and gadgets designed to catch highway lawbreakers.

Let’s say you’re one of those drivers who occasionally takes a peek at your cellphone while behind the wheel.

That’s called distracted driving, it’s against the law, and it carries a heavy fine — even if your car is stopped at a traffic light. But why worry if you don’t see any cops around to catch you, right?

Well, say hello to Eby’s newest little friend: The Laser Technology TruSpeed Sxb Scope, with Bluetooth compatibility.

British Columbia just took delivery of two of these American-made gizmos, which cost ICBC a total of $17,000.

In the last few days, the two scopes were given to a B.C. police department (that ICBC declined to identify). Now those cops are testing their ability to catch distracted drivers in the act.

“The units will be tested by police in varying weather and traffic conditions for usability and effectiveness,” said ICBC spokeswoman Joanna Linsangan.

According to its manufacturer, the beauty of the TruSpeed Sxb is its ability to capture high-resolution photographs of a law-breaking driver from a distance of 610 metres.

The Bluetooth connection then allows a police officer to instantly beam the photograph to another cop up the road, who then stops and tickets the driver.

 “That officer will then have the ability to show the image to the distracted driver,” Linsangan said.

The advantage of confronting the driver with incriminating evidence? It greatly reduces the chance of the driver fighting the ticket in court because the jig is clearly up.

But if the driver does dispute the ticket, the TrueSpeed Sxb will deliver the goods in court.

“Unmatched technology, superior performance, courtroom credibility, pinpoint targeting and unbeatable value are what the TruSpeed series bring to your department,” the company boasts on its website.

The B.C. government, meanwhile, just cranked up the fines and penalties for distracted-driving tickets.

Starting in March, anyone caught distracted driving twice within three years could face punitive ICBC premiums and fines of up to $2,000 — a 58 per cent increase over the previous penalty.

Is it any wonder the government now wants a bigger cut of the action?

Last week, the B.C. government officially notified local municipal governments of its intention to renegotiate the sharing of traffic-fine revenue.

Municipalities currently receive 100 per cent of net ticket revenue. But not for long.

“There are some fundamental changes underway related to automated traffic enforcement that may require updates to the agreement,” Eby said, adding it’s “critical” for the B.C. government to access new revenue streams to fix the mess at ICBC, set to lose $1.3 billion this year.

Municipalities are not happy with the move.

“It’s a shock to us,” said Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne. “Municipalities put that money toward public safety.”

But the B.C. government seems determined to increase traffic-fine revenue, keep more of the money for itself, and use high-tech hardware to get it done.

In addition to the distracted-driving scopes, the government is also rolling out:

  • RED-LIGHT CAMERAS: Currently deployed at 140 dangerous intersections, these automated cameras catch drivers running red lights. The government says the cameras are currently being programmed to run 24 hours a day and may be expanded to other locations.
  • INTERSECTION SPEED CAMERAS: Red-light cameras will be repurposed to catch speeders, too, though the camera locations have still not been decided.

“Further analysis of crash and speed data will inform these decisions,” said government spokesman Colin Hynes, adding the “speeding threshold” for issuing a ticket is also under discussion.

“We know thousands of vehicles do go through these dangerous sites at more than 30 kilometres an hour over the speed limit each year.”

  • SPEED-INTERVAL CAMERAS: The government is currently reviewing a request to install speed-interval cameras on the accident-prone Malahat highway near Victoria. Also know as “point-to-point technology,” the cameras would photograph cars at various locations on the highway, calculate their speed, and issue tickets as required.
  • ELECTRONIC TICKETING: The new “e-Ticket” system allows police to quickly scan a driver’s licence, automatically uploading their personal information onto a digitally printed traffic ticket while beaming the details directly to ICBC, who will make darn sure the fine gets paid.

“It’s moving the ticketing of speeders into the 21st century,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

All of which should produce a windfall of money for the B.C. government, something Liberal justice critic Mike Morris calls “a cash grab” by the ruling NDP.

“They should leave that money with municipalities,” Morris said. “We should make sure this isn’t a cash cow for the provincial government.”

The bottom line for drivers? Don’t speed. Don’t run red lights. And don’t even think of touching that cellphone.

With the cops going high-tech, your wallet will feel the pain if you do.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Cryptocurrencies the coin of the future

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Vancouver lawyer Michael Stephens is working on cryptocurrency regulation

Ian Mulgrew
The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver lawyer Michael Stephens was at a recent convention in the Bahamas socializing in a crowded room when he couldn’t help watching and eavesdropping on two men.

“Their eyes just locked,” he recalled. “One said, ‘I have 10,000 bitcoin I want to sell you,’ and the other guy said, ‘I have X-amount of dollars I can pay you for them.’ They sat down with their laptops and transmitted the bitcoin and cash went the other way.” 

Two years ago, you wouldn’t have found a major bank, big accounting firm or top lawyers like Stephens, a partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, anywhere near cryptocurrencies.

The reason for the sea change is that digital money has become too profitable and beneficial to leave to the crooked and brazen.

What has until now been the grease of the Dark Net, a black-market barter system, cryptocurrencies are moving into the light, from the Back Street to Wall Street.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Zcah, Monero, Ripple, there are thousands of them — putatively worth nearly $300 billion in capitalization and generating $500 billion a day in daily volume of unregulated trading.

In Jan 2017, bitcoins were pegged at about $1,000 a token, by December they were reputedly worth more than $25,000 and this week they were going for about $12,000.

Still how do you get them and where do you spend them?

“You can buy them from individuals personally — like I saw — or on unregulated crypto exchanges,” Stephens explained.  “But there are relatively few commercially viable ways you can spend your bitcoin.”

In the eyes of the law, bitcoin transactions are simply bartering. 

“You can’t buy a Big Mac with 10 bitcoin, but maybe that day will come. Though 10 bitcoin is a lot of money right now (about $120,000), that would be an expensive Big Mac.”

Some cryptocurrencies are the equivalent of the trade beads, the coloured glass once used as money within the West African slave trade, others are like Canadian Tire money that you can use it to buy items from that particular retailer.

“Most transactions using Bitcoin or Ether are transactions to acquire other cryptos, other tokens within a crowd sale or an ICO (initial coin offering),” he pointed out. “I’m not a banker, but I’ve heard on the street that these crypto-millionaires are keeping the ICO market afloat because they need to keep rolling their gains into new crypto offerings.”

Most of his clients are creating one of two types of tokens: The first is designed to be used and consumed solely on their platform, to reward certain interfaces with users, grow their user base and increase engagement with their software program. The other is a form of fund-raising like a security or share offering.

 “A simple equity fund-raising, like a junior mining company — send me the money and I’ll send you securities in the form of tokens. That’s really the direction that things are going.”

Regardless of their purpose, cryptocurrencies are all children of the 2008 global financial crisis.

“People lost their jobs, people jumped off tall buildings,” Stephens remembered. “This was a sort of visceral reaction by crypto-enthusiasts to find a better way to transact that essentially did away with the middleman. This is the fundamental principle of a cryptographic token — you have essentially a trustless system that doesn’t require brokers, middlemen, bankers to facilitate transactions for goods and services.”

Bitcoin was the first, created in 2009 according to lore by an apocryphal figure named Satoshi Nakamoto. There had been attempts to produce digital cash before but ultimately success required advances in encryption methods and digital distributed ledger technology, better known as blockchain.

“You literally have a token that has a storage value that is recognized across the user base and every transaction using that token can be tracked for time immemorial and is immutable and is not capable of being re-written, or collateralized or kind of played with,” Stephens explained.

That’s why regulators are paying attention and want to bring the market out of the shadows.

“What we are going to move to in the future is treasury-backed, cryptocurrency that essentially replaces the currency of a jurisdiction,” Stephens insisted. “The Canadian dollar will become a crypto-coin that people will hold in their (electronic) wallet and that will result in instantaneous, trustless transactions without the requirements of Interac, without the requirement for bank fees, without the requirement for banks to hold deposit reserves.”

That’s going to fundamentally change banking, he added.

“There’s nobody who needs to manually do anything. So there is no human error. If one system breaks down, you have 27 other systems still running (the “distributed” ledger in operation) and other nodes that can update that one node when it comes back on line. I think adoption is going to be massive.”

Europe already is experimenting with eliminating notes and coins; China is considering it.

Cryptocurrency technology can enhance transparency (transactions are pseudonymous not anonymous — each is attached to a specific computer address) which aids regulators and taxation authorities.

But the big boon is eliminating the lag time that physical recording and implementation require — a huge saving.

For example, Stephens said settlements on stock exchange trades take two days to process.

“It’s two days of risk they would no longer have to deal with, which means they don’t have to post capital, which means their overhead on trades is lower, they’re saving a ton of money and sadly it means that a lot of admin people will be redundant in these banks and institutions because there is no need for anyone to manually update a silo-ed ledger.”

With such a spectacular upside, Canadian regulators are mulling a proposal to allow cryptocurrencies to legally trade.

“That doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” Stephens said. “If we were to create a regulated marketplace to clear and settle trades in a cryptographic security — not necessarily an equity — that would bring a ton of new issuers to B.C. and the crypto-marketplace would exponentially grow here. The last chat I had with the (Canadian Securities Exchange) was that they are about nine months away. Detractors, including the TSX Venture Exchange, would have you believe it’s a longer runway. I think it’s probably somewhere between that and 15 months. Which is very cool.” 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

DNA printing could spark next Industrial Revolution

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Derrick Penner
The Vancouver Sun

Biological teleportation sounds like something futuristic, but it’s something bio-engineer Dan Gibson has already done and continues to refine, which he laid out in a presentation Friday for the TED Talks conference in Vancouver.

Teleportation is the term Gibson’s team came up with to distil 15 years’ worth of science that has gone into decoding genomes — the DNA instructions in living organisms — then taking the code to write out fully functioning synthetic versions of those organisms.

It isn’t exactly teleportation, but with it, Gibson said scientists can email the decoded DNA instructions for vaccines or other materials around the globe to be downloaded and printed using biological printers that the company he works for, Synthetic Genomics, makes. Synthetic Genomics is the firm created by human-genome pioneer Craig Ventner.

“Synthetic-cell technologies will power the next Industrial Revolution and transform industries and economies in ways that address sustainability challenges,” Gibson said.

One early and important task the firm has used it for in 2013 was to receive, download and print the DNA instructions for the H7N9 bird-flu virus from a team of scientists in China. That, he said, was used to start manufacturing a vaccine in a matter of days versus the months it would take using traditional methods, and the technology has vast potential to quickly send vaccines to the front lines of a pandemic zone or deliver customized therapeutics to patients almost at their bedside.

Because the technology can print any biological material, it can be used to produce bad things too, so Gibson said his company worked with government on protocols to prevent that before embarking on experiments.

Eventually, Gibson envisions possibilities to use biological printing to manufacture clothes from renewable materials, biofuel produced from bio-engineered microbes, and plastics and biodegradable plastics.

The current version of Synthetic Genomics’ printer is called the Digital to Biological Converter, Gibson said, and their objective is to keep improving and shrinking the devices and making the DNA printing more accurate to the point where they could be used in homes to print out prescriptions.

“The applications go as far as the imagination goes,” Gibson said, but for the moment he is happy with its capabilities to send medicines or customized therapies around the world.

Gibson was one of 25 speakers Friday, the fourth day of TED, who talked about developing new technologies that solve the world’s problems, and he wasn’t the only speaker working on harnessing genetics.

Chemist and synthetic biologist Floyd Romesberg, from the Scripps Research Institute in California, talked about his lab’s work in synthesizing new building blocks of artificial DNA to engineer specific proteins to solve specific human problems.

“Proteins are being used today for an increasingly broad range of different applications from materials to protect soldiers from injury to devices that detect dangerous compounds,” Romesberg said.

However, what excites him the most is the potential to devise protein-based drugs that are difficult to devise now.

TED considers itself a media platform that operates on the sub-theme, “ideas worth spreading.” The TED Talks conference is presented to a live audience of some 1,500 well-heeled patrons, but videos from the conference are eventually made freely available to the public.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Amazon is looking at establishing a second headquarters in North America

Monday, October 9th, 2017

The case for Canada

other

Amazon has made the unprecedented move to announce its intention to build a second headquarters in North America.  More than 100 cities are lining up for the chance to attract Amazon, and the potential 50,000 jobs and over $5 billion in investment that comes with it.  To be eligible, a city must have a population of more than one million, and be able to offer development sites within 30 miles of the city that are served by mass transit.

A key question that comes up is whether or not Amazon would locate outside of the United States.  Certainly, its growth needs are significant and a large proportion of its staff are technology workers.  As of September 19, 46% of the 16,719 jobs posted on Amazon’s global job board are in technology .  These jobs tend to be more challenging to fill and many technology firms recruit from a worldwide pool of candidates.  For this reason, Canada may offer a more appealing growth market due to a potentially more accommodating immigration regime at present.

As well, Canada offers many key benefits to employees in terms of quality of life and attitudes that may mirror Amazon’s corporate philosophy.  Furthermore, Amazon already has significant operations in Canada and is already familiar with the country from an operational perspective.

Canada can offer six cities that meet the minimum population count dictating candidacy for the HQ2 development.  These are Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, in descending order of size.

Factors that may be of importance to long-term employee retention and satisfaction are related to quality of life and cost of living.  All the contender cities in Canada rank well above Seattle in terms of quality of life, with Vancouver holding down the top spot with a 5th place global ranking according to Mercer.  In the same survey, Seattle ranked 45th.  The Economist’s cost of living rankings show Toronto and Montreal to be less costly than Seattle, but that Vancouver is more costly, giving Amazon employees less bang for their buck.  

All Canadian cities boast at least one significant research university and a strong high-tech environment, and all can accommodate the growth in jobs anticipated from Amazon, particularly since this growth will be metered out over time.

From a campus location perspective, each city can offer distinct alternatives, some with a number of different choices.  The question really is, “Will Amazon look past sovereign issues and tax breaks to find an alternative where they can grow long-term employees, taking into consideration the many less tangible benefits that a Canadian location can bring?” If Amazon is looking to a new location because it has outgrown Seattle, then Vancouver is an easy move north, with the same time zone and a quick flight or drive city to city.  If the desire is to find a different place where new ideas challenging conventional standards will germinate, then the other cities in Canada can offer an environment where such ideas may develop.

Copyright © 2017 Colliers International Canada

Turo drives Airbnb for your car into British Columbia

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Company tailored a framework specific to the province?s own insurance system

ANDREW McCREDIE
The Vancouver Sun

The simplest way to describe peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo is Airbnb for your car. Just like with your condo or house, the concept is connecting a private vehicle owner with a customer — in Turo-speak, a traveller — using the company’s website or app.

For a price set by the vehicle owner, the traveller rents the vehicle for a pre-determined amount of time.

Founded in San Francisco — where else? — Turo operates in all U.S. states except New York, and in 2016 rolled into three Canadian provinces — Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. There are about 220,000 Canadian Turo members.

In those three provinces, Turo created an insurance model using third-party insurers, allowing private owners a simple solution to renting their vehicle out with coverage. But B.C.’s public insurance system proved problematic, so it took the company a little longer to launch here.

“Seven per cent of our (Canadian) members are residents of B.C., so people here do know the Turo brand, and for the past year and a half they have been asking us when are we coming to B.C.,” said Cedric Mathieu, Turo’s director for Canada.

“We want to make sure that everyone feels safe, and work within the province’s regulatory framework. That’s why we’ve decided to partner with (vehicle owners) who are able to provide their own insurance that covers commercial rental use, so that they can protect the travellers on the road and the cars on the road.”

According to ICBC’s Lindsay Olsen, that is the only way private owners can have coverage renting their vehicles out through Turo.

“If the vehicle is being rented out, it would need to be rated for U-drive (rental use) and this would command a higher premium than other uses such as pleasure, to (and) from work or business use,” she said, adding that the premium would take into account such factors as the territory the vehicle is rated for, the year, make and model of vehicle, and the coverage the owner carries on the policy.

So, in what Mathieu describes as the car-sharing company’s first step into B.C.’s regulatory waters, Turo acts merely as a platform that connects what in essence are small rental car companies — the company refers to them as car rental entrepreneurs — with individuals.

He reports such entrepreneurs are already signed up to rent out vehicles in B.C., including a Victoria-based hotel.

“That’s a first anywhere in the world for Turo, having a hotel participate on the platform,” he said.

“This is a hotel company that saw an opportunity, bought a few cars, got the right insurance coverage and are making the cars available — an interesting model.”

A quick scan of the Turo website Tuesday for vehicles available in Vancouver turned up plenty, ranging from a 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA ($170 per day) to a 2015 Fiat 500L ($98) and a 2017 Mazda 3 ($42).

So what are Turo’s expectations in B.C.?

“We think B.C. is a very exciting market,” Mathieu said. “It’s one of the top travel destinations in Canada, if not the world. There’s a great outdoor culture, which resonates with us as Turo is about adventure and putting fun back into the car rental business.”

In addition, he cited the high penetration of car sharing, particularly in Metro Vancouver.

“So we have high expectations,” he said.

“The first thing we need to do is grow the supplier base.”

The next step, Mathieu said, is in the next few months to “find a way for individual private car owners in B.C. to be able to list a car on Turo at no extra (insurance) cost.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.