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Nuggets of knowledge

The Batmobile

by Myka Basco

1. No Hands, No Feet; Fasten Your Seatbelts
Before, a car that drives by itself like the famous “Batmobile” of Batman or “KITT” of the Knight Rider is science fiction. Can an automobile really have a mind of its own? Yeah right, I guess this may all be true…in the movies.

Technology, however, has been thinking more and more out of the box as fast and as constant as the oil price increase. Before we know it, what we see in fiction TV series and movies is little by little becoming a reality.

In 2010, Google, led by one of its engineers Sebastian Thrun, unveiled the Driverless Car. This concept was borne out of a need to give a driver more freedom to enjoy the ride. It was envisioned to make driving even more efficient, safer and enjoyable while decreasing road accidents especially during traffic hours.

Fast forward to the present, self-driving cars are made legal in some American states and the United Kingdom.

Other carmakers are now developing the concept to further advance Thrun’s overall picture of reducing traffic accidents, decreasing the number of cars and saving commute time and energy.

Also called the autonomous driving system, it truly revolutionized driving that has been already boosted with softwares that allow, among others, to be connected while on the road. The driverless car is primarily about convenience. You can read the newspaper, eat your breakfast, or even talk/text to someone on the phone while you are “driving”. Now what can be cooler than that?

Prior to the mass production, the Driverless Car concept underwent a series of trial and error tests. In one instance, a test fleet of 10 vehicles (six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT and three Lexus RX450h), each accompanied by a professional driver together with Google engineers in the passenger’s seat were set on the road. The fleet crossed San Francisco’s Lombard Street, which is known for its abrupt hairpin turns, and all the way to the usual heavy city traffic.

The results of the test were then used to improve on some features.

Driverless Car concept has a system that follows road markings and sound markings. It then corrects the steering if a vehicle starts to shift to the wrong lane. This is what they call the Lane-keeping System. This will also help drivers to be aware on some road safety policies.

Other systems to consider are:

  • Adaptive cruise control – rather than a constant speed, it sustains a continual distance from the vehicle in front.
  • Auto-parking system – automatically reverses a car into a parking space.
  • Emergency Braking – If another vehicle, obstacle or a pedestrian is detected in front of the car, it will spontaneously slam on the brakes.
  • Satellite-Navigation Systems – By using its system of sensors, the system drives at the speed limit that has been stored on maps and sustains its distance from other vehicles.

So for a car to function properly, these systems should all be tied together. The system also allows a human driver to take control of the car when needed by turning the wheel or stepping on the break because the system provides an override similar to the cruise control system found in many cars today.

Apart from its science fiction-feel, driverless car has a lot of consequences for our economy, society, and for its users.

If ever the Driverless Car would be mass-produced, the stability of countries and economies worldwide would still be threatened because of the use of fossil fuels. What could be the ideal vehicle for the twentieth-century may just be a conflict to our environment

Bottom line, we must bear in mind that new technologies such as these are not just tools to make our lives easier. They are also made to make us appreciate new ways of relating to this world, changing how we think, feel and do things.

2. High Performance Inflight Connectivity and Entertainment
Flights are naturally boring. You sit in a confined space that tightens by the hour. This is actually what you feel when you have nothing else to do while you’re thousands of feet up in the air. Thankfully, there is in-flight entertainment. At least, this makes life up there a bit more bearable; even more so now that it includes WiFi connection.

Row44 is an airline company based in Westlake Village, California. It is a local company that offers inflight broadband connectivity and wireless entertainment for commercial aircrafts around the world. The company has seven airline customers like Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air in North America, Norwegian Air Shuttle in Europe, Transaero and UTair Aviation in Russian Federation, Icelandair in Iceland, and Mango Airlines in Africa as of October 2012.

Row44 utilizes its broadband solution on several commercial planes than any other satellite-based connectivity providers. It can provide all things you need even in a branded, customizable inflight entertainment with their powerful Wi-Fi, high-speed connectivity and a various entertainment options.

Row 44’s Inflight Entertainment platform features: Live Television, Video-On-Demand (VoD), Shopping, Destination Services, Real-time Flight Map and Flight Updates, and games. These programs offer several points of differentiation in the Inflight Entertainment & Connectivity or (IFEC) industry.

Row44 even utilizes the portable devices that passengers bring onboard to deliver entertainment thru internet connectivity. Row44 is first to launch live television programming direct to passengers’ mobile devices.

It is currently acknowledged as the world’s widely deployed satellite-based inflight Wi-Fi service provider.

Row44 has been Southwest’s longtime satellite Internet and entertainment partner. Through this partnership, they have a new inflight offering called ‘TV Flies Free’ launched in July 2, 2013. For the first time, passengers can use their own devices to freely watch 50-on demand television shows streamed courtesy of DISH.

Recently, Row44 and Global Eagle Entertainment announced their partnership with China Telecom Satellite Communications Co. Ltd to offer inflight connectivity services. With this partnership, all airlines flying into and over China can access high-quality connectivity. Likewise, this will provide strong support to Chinese airlines to develop and operate a unique, reliable and enjoyable in-flight connectivity service that reflects the preference of the airlines and its passengers. It will extend high-quality connectivity services to non-Chinese airlines that have travel routes into and over China.

Row44 has its own test bed, the Albatross One, which affords them to meticulously test new technologies before the commercial launch. It utilizes the most modern technologies available from Ku-band, the most widely deployed frequency band in satellite communications.

Soon, Row44 will offer free, live and on-demand TV to customers using iPad, iPod touch, and other personal devices, on the 400 Southwest airplanes that have Wi-Fi service.

3. Currency Like No Other
Tired of going to the bank or meeting up with people you hardly know to pay for something that you ordered online? Do you want to speed up the process of your transaction? Try the Bitcoin.

Bitcoins are digital coins that are sent through the internet to pay obligations. With these coins, you can purchase video games, gifts, books, atc. It is the first decentralized digital currency that verifies transactions with the same state-of-the-art encryption used in military and government applications.

Bitcoin transactions are transferred directly from person to person through the internet without actually going to the bank or clearing house. This means, fees are much lower and/or you can use them in every country. Your account will not be frozen, no pre-requisites or arbitrary limits.

For those new to bitcoins and are interested, you can start by getting a “Bitcoin Wallet”. You will need a place where you can keep your Bitcoins since it is an internet-based currency. The process is fairly easy:

  1. First, you need to go to http://www.bitcoin.org and download the Bitcoin client. Install it to your computer and the client will begin to download the blockchain.
  2. After downloading the blockchain, click the “order the bitcoin blockchain by mail” and when the client is up to date, in order for you to get your wallet address, click “New”.
  3. Once you have your wallet address and the client, make sure to print out a copy of ‘wallet.dat file’ and keep it in a safe place.
  4. Now you have your own address, you need to make your own Bitcoin by joining a pool. A pool is a group that makes more Bitcoin. Once you join a specific pool, you’ll be awarded 50 blocks.
  5. Now you earned your first bitcoins and if you want to earn more of it, proceed to ‘Buying Bitcoins’. Procedures are already stated and it depends whether you want to buy bitcoins via Bank Transfer (International) that allows you to buy and sell bitcoin by connecting to any bank account. You can already buy right away once you choose instant account verification.

There are other ways. You can send cash in the mail or you can buy bitcoins thru other bitcoin users, which sellers will trade-in bitcoins online using MoneyPak codes or other cash-like gift codes that can be purchased in a local store with cash.

As mentioned above, with bitcoins you can purchase video games, gifts, books, and more for a very minimal fee. Bitcoins are generated all over the Internet by anybody running a free application that generates bit coins, called the Bitcoin Miner. Mining requires a certain amount of work for each block of coins. The network automatically adjusts this amount because the bitcoins are always created at the predictable and limited rate.

Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet. Those who use the service of online banking would find the process very similar. When you transfer bit coins, an electronic signature is added. After a few minutes, the transaction will be verified by a Miner. It will then be permanently and unanimously stored in a network. Once your computer generates a 64-digit number from a complex algorithm, you’ll get a reward of Bitcoins, in blocks of 25. The concept of bitcoins wherein commodity being mined is way better and helpful rather than we think of it as a traditional currency that banks can always produce more.

Some currency exchangers exist where you can trade your bit coins for dollars, euros, peso and more. It is a great way for small businesses and freelancers to get noticed. It doesn’t cost anything. Just start accepting them without chargebacks and fees and you’ll surely get an additional business from the bit coin economy.

We, Filipinos are still not that familiar on how Bitcoin works and how can we benefit from it. It is too early to offer this to Filipinos and say that it is safe and consistent. But once you use bitcoin, you will find it safe, simple and cheap.

By using bitcoin, buyers cannot take the money back and the seller can safely ship the product or perform the service that the client purchased. Sending money between accounts is simpler and cheaper because it is peer-to-peer rather than through intermediary.

As new to the bitcoin concept, you must bear in mind that when sending money for an exchange, you should check the operator’s credibility. Make sure that their site is secure. It is also not recommended to exchange or store significant amounts of funds with third parties. To get to know more about Bitcoins, you can visit their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bitcoinph.