Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mash-up Government Data to Save the World

govhack team at the ANUGreetings from GovHack at the ANU in Canberra.This is an Australian Government supported event being held at the ANU. The Australian Government is providing access to government data sets and seeing what the community can do with the data.

I met the GovHack team at the Purple Pickle Cafe at the ANU this morning. I am actually in Sydney for a Climate Change talk by Professor Lambeck, of the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. The disturbing result from the extensive research presented by Professor Lambeck is that new models predict a larger rise in sea level than those used by the IPCC.

The situation with sea level rise due to climate change is much worse than previous thought. More and more prompt action will be required to address sea level rise than is being planned in current political processes. None of the proposals currently being prepared by government for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December (UNFCCC CoP 15) are sufficient to avert a global disaster.

One technology we have to mitigate and adapt is the Internet. Because the Internet is already widely available and is being rapidly expanded, it can be deployed far faster than other technologies, such as new power generating stations, carbon sequestration or sea walls. One resource to be used is existing government data which the Internet can make available for climate change.

One area the Australian Government could provide data to combat climate change is with its $100M Smart Grid Project. The government could require the successful bidders to make the data available in real time to authorised users and in near real time freely to the general public.

Some other proposals I put to the APEC Climate Change Symposium in Canberra this week:
  1. Green Technology Strategies education: Broaden the content and add multimedia, mobile phone and village classroom options to the Green Technologies strategy course to make it available in APEC countries at the local level.
  2. Innovation Climate Change: Expand the InnovationACT project to the APEC region. In a one year trial Australian and Korea will have teams of students working online on climate change innovations. Prizes will be awarded for the best project. Teams
  3. Green Certification: Expand the COA Green ICT certification scheme to APEC, providing web tools to ICT green certify organizations.
  4. Protect cultural records from climate change: Climate change represents a significant risk to cultural records in the Asia Pacific region. Many cultural institutions are located near the sea and will be at threat from inundation. The ANU course Systems Approach to the Management of Government Information would be expanded to provide training and resources for government and non-government cultural institutions to catalogue and digitally preserve their materials. Background: Report on a Workshop on the Use of Technology for Museums of the Pacific Islands Region 2005 and Semantic Web for Museums
    Final Report

Mesh network for Victorian smart meters

Responding to my post on WiMax smart meters, Robin Whittle responded with
"electricity meters use Zigbee and 915-928 MHz mesh", Fri Oct 30 17:56:59 EST 2009:
Two Victorian distributors - Jemena and United Energy, are going to use meters from PRI in the UK with a Silver Spring radio card (NIC):

The Jemena information shows a particular meter:

This looks the same as a particular meter shown here, a PRI meter with a Silver Spring NIC (radio card):

The meter is from PRI in the UK:

The radio interface (NIC), with a 1 watt transmitter: "dynamically discovers and self-heals its Neighborhood Area Network (NAN), notifies the Smart Energy Network of outages and restorations."

The datasheet: shows that while the meter uses Zigbee to communicate with devices in the home, it uses some unspecified protocol for its connection to the outside world.

"High data rate communications between the back office and the Meter, allow for thousands of meters to be read in minutes."

Two-way 915-928 MHz FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) communications
Dynamic network discovery and self-healing
Supports scheduled and on-demand meter reads
Supports "over-the-air" firmware upgrades, meter programming and tariff changes
Optional GSM / GPRS modem (in ETBC)
Data rate 100 kbps
Spread Spectrum Technology FHSS
Channels 43
Modulation Binary FSK
All the type approvals are for Australia.

The diagram shows a mesh between the meters, presumably using the 915-928 MHz FHSS system, and part of the mesh is "access points" which may be connected back to base via GSM-GPRS, Ethernet or CDMA. I guess they could use 3G too.

So from this, it seems they will plonk access points around the place and talk to them via GSM/3G, and each one of these will communicate directly or indirectly with a large number of meters. This sounds like a good arrangement to me.

I think that in country areas there may be such isolated meters that there would be a single access point, presumably linked back to base by GSM-GPRS. In principle it may be possible to put a GSM modem in the meter, but perhaps it would be simpler to keep all the meters much the same, and dedicate an access point on the nearby power pole for each isolated home.

I hope they won't turn on the ZigBee system by default. That would be another 2.4GHz transmitter in every house - in an already widely used frequency band.

We should have a Jemena meter installed in the next few months. Does anyone near here (north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne) have a 2.4 GHz scanner to see if it is emitting anything?

According to: the 915 to 928 MHz band is "Radiolocation" and most of it, 915 to 926 MHz, is an ISM (Industrial Scientific and Medical) applications band. I understand this is used for RFID. Does anyone know more about this part of the spectrum?

Tom Worthington has a page discussing another distributor's plans to use WiMax to the "smart" meters...

This will involve "Motorola WiMAX WAP 650 base stations on 2.3GHz connected by a microwave system". This looks a lot more expensive and presumably involves licensed spectrum and expensive microwave or fibre links.

Since almost all of the locations where there are electricity meters are covered by GSM or a 3G network already, I think the GSM/3G access point, with 915 MHz ISM band mesh network approach looks technically and economically the most attractive. However, the system relies on unlicensed spectrum.
Yes, SP AusNet plans to use spectrum licensed to Unwired. WiMax can use a mesh architecture, so they could reduce the number of base stations to lower the cost a bit, but this will cost more than the Jemena and United Energy approach.

But I suspect SP AusNet plans to create a wireless network suitable for selling broadband services, not just smart meters. As an example, if they put a WiFi chip in the smart meter, then they can offer a wireless broadband service to the household and to the street. Assuming that every second house in the street has such a meter, that would provide
complete wireless coverage of a suburb. Apart from data services, this could provide telephony (there would not be enough bandwidth for TV).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sea level rises worse than predicted by IPCC

Greetings from the University of Sydney where Professor Kurt Lambeck, of the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences and President of the Australian Academy of Science, is presenting Climate Change through the lens of the geological record: the example of sea level the Royal Society of New South Wales. The disturbing result from the extensive research presented is that new models predict a larger rise in sea level than those used by the IPCC. The situation with sea level rise due to climate change is much worse than previous thought. My conclusion from this is that more and more prompt action will be required to address sea level rise than is being planned in current political processes. None of the proposals currently being prepared by government for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December (UNFCCC CoP 15) and preparations in the background are sufficient.

Professor Lambeck started by showing a rock platform a metre above sea level from 6 thousand years ago. On Orpheus Island fossil coral is dated at 5,000 years 1 metre above current sea level and 4,000 years on Lizard Island. In contrast in the Mediterranean ancient fish tanks underwater indicate the sea level has been rising over the last few thousand years. Similarly in Bonaparte Gulf 21,280 years ago 120 metres below the present. He then took us on a fascinating world tour with a few equations up to the present.


Climate Change has been with the planet since the time of the formation of the oceans and atmosphere and is recorded, albeit imperfectly, in the geological record.

One of these records is the change in sea level through time, a complex variable that contains implicit information not only on climate but also on the tectonic and geological evolution of the planet. He will address aspects of the underpinning science and what we can learn from it, focussing on the best-known part of the record, that for the last glacial cycle.

The modern instrumental record is much more precise and has higher resolution but will also contain in addition to the `natural' variability any new signals that may result from human impact on climate. The challenge is to separate these "natural" and "anthropogenic" forcings if forecasts of future change are to be meaningful.

The problems encountered are similar to all other indicators of climate change – of separating natural and human forcing from instrumental and geological or historical records when the length of the latter are about the same as the time that human impacts may have been effective.

Professor Lambeck will use the sea level record as an illustration of many of the issues that need to be understood for a meaningful interpretation of the evidence. In so doing he will raise the role of the IPCC and where the IPCC findings are tracking in 2009; and how the public debate on climate change appears to be becoming increasingly confused while the underpinning science is becoming more robust.

Australian Government $100M Smart Grid Project

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is offering up to $100M for a Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. There is a Media Release, set of Guidelines and a Pre-deployment report. This is for networked sensors in an energy grid allowing finer control of the system. This can be used to send price signals to optimise energy use, particularly from renewable sources. It is usually claimed to reduce costs to the consumer, but is more likely be used to force the consumer to change their energy use habits.

A smart grid can be for any energy distribution system, but this project appears to be limited to an electricity distribution network. It would be useful to include two different energy sources, such as electricity and gas, in the project to look for synergies.

It is claimed that data and results will be made available publicly over the course of this project. However, smart grids provide data in real time and so there would seem to be no reason why data from the project should not be provided daily from the start date of the system. The proposed lengthy delays in providing data have no technical justification and appear to be the government planning to suppress any bad news about the project, even before it starts.

The government appear to be using a similar process to the NBN Taskforce, where an independent panel of experts is used to assess proposals, rather than a conventional public service tender board. Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet appears to have a head start having announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. Applications close 28 January 2010 and the date for the successful bidder to be announced is a somewhat vague some time in 2010.

It should be noted that smart grids do not require a high speed fibre optic broadband network. Only low data rates are needed and wireless networks can be used as in the Victorian system. Smart grids may not need to use the NBN.

I teach about smart grids in my Green ICT course and perhaps some of the graduates will be involved in the project.

Grant Guidelines

  1. Smart Grid, Smart City Grant Guidelines (PDF-347KB)
  2. Application Supporting Material
  3. Presentation on the Release of Draft Guidelines
  4. Presentation on the Draft Application Supporting Material
  5. Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era (PDF - 4000KB)
  6. Consultation Workshops - Smart Grid, Smart City, National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI)
  7. Summary of Stakeholder Workshops - July 2009
While there is extensive documentation provided about the project is is very large PDF and word documents. For a project which is supposed to be about smart use of information technology this shows a lack of smart information design and distribution. Here is an excerpt in plan text from the pre-deployment report:

Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era


Minister’s foreword 4
Executive summary 6
  1. Background, objectives and approach 11
  2. Smart grid business case: Expected benefits in Australia 30
  3. Program design for Smart Grid, Smart City 40
  4. Recommended approach to industry and next steps 89
  5. Role of government and regulatory bodies for broader smart grid adoption in Australia 102
APPENDIX A: Glossary of smart grid terminology 106
APPENDIX B: Smart grid trials in Australia 110
APPENDIX C: Pilot summary 111

The Australian Government announced in the 2009 Federal Budget the availability of up to $100 million for the implementation of a fully integrated smart grid at commercial scale, through the National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI). The government’s investment in Smart Grid, Smart City was subject to a pre-deployment study designed to provide further information to the government on the potential economic and environmental benefits of smart grid technologies and the best way to maximise the benefits of the government’s investment including the best governance framework and business model for the initiative, and how best to bridge any gaps in knowledge about the benefits. The results of the pre-deployment study undertaken in July and August 2009 are presented in this report.

It is the intent that the program design of Smart Grid, Smart City builds off and leverages the programs and lessons from other government and industry initiatives, including but not limited to the Smart Meter program (led by the Ministerial Council on Energy), Solar Cities, Solar Flagships and the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Near-universal access to cheap electric power has helped Australia achieve a high standard of living and a leading position in the global economy. Indeed, low-cost power has helped drive the country’s economic growth for decades. Today, the national power industry is large and complex, with $11 billion1 in revenue, over 45,000 kilometres of transmission lines and 700,000 kilometres of distribution network, and over nine million customers2, including many in remote areas.

An abundance of coal has helped keep the cost of electricity relatively low. But coal imposes environmental costs in the form of greenhouse gases, including 200 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) released in 20083, more than a third of Australia’s total CO2-e emissions.

Global and national trends are beginning to affect the entire value chain of the electric power
  • Expert scientific evidence confirms that human activities, power plant emissions in particular, alter the climate and affect the environment. The Australian Government is investing in measures to reduce reliance on fossil fuels
  • Rising and more volatile fuel prices and globalisation of fuel markets
  • Ageing electric infrastructure that will require costly upgrades to meet the demands of an expanding modern economy.
The nation will need to manage power more efficiently and effectively, lower the ratio of electricity consumption per economic output, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions with demand management and encourage energy efficiency, improve reliability, and reduce recurring costs while making prudent investments.

The global call to action has initiated a wave of innovation in distributed power generation, electric transport, energy efficiency and smart grid capabilities. Power utilities and solution providers across Australia and around the world are starting to experiment and deploy a wide range of these innovations.

To bring this vision to reality, Australia will need to integrate information processing and communications into power systems to create a unified smart grid that includes generation, transmission, distribution, retail and end-use. This smart grid vision encompasses a suite of applications which are currently at different stages of technical and economic maturity.

They can be categorised into grid-side applications, which reduce line loss and improve fault detection and restoration, for example, and customer-side applications, which help people understand and manage their power usage.

Preliminary analysis carried out in the course of this study indicates that implementing smart grid technologies across Australia could deliver at least $5 billion of gross annual benefit to Australian society. This includes improvements in the operation of the power industry and an estimate of the monetised benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and improved power grid reliability. The significance of the potential benefits and sizable range indicates that many applications are worthy of further investigation and refinement as part of the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration.

These potential benefits have attracted enormous interest in smart grid technologies and their implementation and governments around the world are making power grid upgrades a priority.

The United States (US), for example, has announced USD $4.5 billion in smart grid funding, while Europe has mandated smart meters as a critical component of a broader smart grid.

Although smart grids offer significant potential, the benefits are largely unproven at commercial-scale and like other countries, Australia faces barriers to a broader adoption, including:
  • Australian and international authorities have yet to agree on standards for many applications
  • Power industry leaders do not currently share a common understanding about the costs and benefits of different smart grid applications
  • Regulatory frameworks that may not reflect the full potential benefits of smart grid
  • applications or provide industry with critical guidance on cost recovery or risk
  • Utilities have no comprehensive national or global reference cases to guide them toward best practices or help them avoid mistakes.
There are no regulatory barriers for the successful implementation of Smart Grid, Smart City
but a regulatory reference group is recommended to identify potential barriers that could impact
a broader smart grid adoption in Australia.

The absence of standards for smart grid technology and applications are a significant investment risk for the wider adoption of smart grids and, to a lesser extent, the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. It is anticipated, however, that this risk will be mitigated by a
flexible approach to the deployment of the smart grid communications platform. This approach will see a variety of communications solutions adapted to suit different and varying network requirements, which will help spread the risk. A standards working group is recommended to identify standards needed to minimise technology investment risk for a broader smart grid
adoption in Australia.

This report contains the following recommendations:
  • Smart grid implementation in Australia should aim to optimise the overall value for society, including financial and non-financial benefits (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • Since some underlying technologies are too immature and their business cases too unproven to allow for accurate up-front cost estimates, analysis suggests that gross annual benefits, rather than a net present value, will best prioritise the allocation of funds across potential applications. The Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration should gather data to allow more accurate calculations of the net present value of each major application (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • The available funding should be directed at reducing or eliminating as many of the barriers to widespread deployment as possible—including business case uncertainty, technological immaturity, standards development and regulatory uncertainty—enablinga rapid and prudent market-led adoption of smart grid technologies and capabilities that could build on other relevant government initiatives such as the National Broadband Network (NBN), subject to commercial decisions. Funding disbursements should be split between project milestone outcomes and a final performance payment upon completion of project requirements. Consortium applicants should provide significant co-investment for the program to align interests and generate ‘ownership’ and to drive lessons for Smart Grid, Smart City. Finally, the Smart Grid, Smart City program design can be adjusted or scaled in terms of the breadth of the applications deployed pending the total available funding (see section 3.6.4).
  • To achieve this objective, Smart Grid, Smart City should provide a competitively solicited grant to a distributor-led consortium to fund a unified deployment of smart grid technologies within a single distributor’s region that rigorously assesses and analyses applications at a relevant commercial scale. This is consistent with the government’s recommendation for the initiative to be in one Australian town, city or region. Finally, distinct modules should address regulatory barriers and standards that could impact a broader smart grid adoption in Australia (see section 3.2).
  • Consumer-side applications deployed at commercial scale should aim to understand what drives customer behaviour and therefore should test several different packages across different consumer demographics. The packages should include various tariff programs (e.g. Time of Use and Critical Peak Pricing), the provision of more detailed information for consumers (e.g. real-time energy usage and environmental information via in-home displays or portals) and controls that maximise potential behaviour change (e.g. programmable controllable thermostats and home energy controllers; see sections 3.1 and 3.2). Smart metering will be a critical enabler of customer-side applications.
  • Grid-side applications to be deployed at commercial scale should include (see section 2.3):
    • Fault detection, isolation and restoration
    • Integrated Volt-VAR control, including conservation voltage reduction
    • Distributed storage.
    • Secondary applications that should be piloted (although not necessarily at commercial scale) include: electric vehicles; substation and feeder monitoring and diagnostics; wide-area measurement; and distributed generation support.
    • In order to effectively demonstrate a wide variety of customer-side applications, a minimum of 9,000 – 10,000 participating households is suggested (implying a total minimum population of some 200,000 people), depending upon the number and design of each trial, and the anticipated take-up rate of those trials within the population.
  • To ensure a broader adoption of the applications shown to have a positive net benefit, the successful consortium should provide detailed commentary on how it will ensure:
    • Close ongoing engagement with the regulatory reference group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify most pressing regulatory challenges and help create recommendations to government and regulatory bodies (see section 3.3)
    • Active dialogue and engagement with the standards working group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify standards required to minimise investment in new technologies and ensure broader industry participation (see section 3.4)
    • Mechanisms to involve other industry players and disseminate lessons, e.g. peer evaluation panels and secondments from other distributors/industry players (see section 3.5).
  • Government will require the consortium to ensure continuity of supply by using robust security procedures that include plans for handling breach or discovery of weakness (see section 2.3) ...

  • From: Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era

Thursday, October 29, 2009

E-documents can make government offices smaller

Media reports indicate that the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner has said that new federal government offices will be reduced from around 25 square metres per person to 16 square metres. In January I suggested that as most paper is replaced with computer storage in new offices and the computer storage is located off site, the size of offices should be able to be reduced down to 8 m2 per person. The m2 allocation for Australian Government offices therefore look generous.

Improving the efficiency of central government's office propertyThe UK Government report "Improving the efficiency of central government's office property" (28 November 2007) proposed 12 m2 per person. It should be noted that this is not the actual space each office worker gets, but is calculated from the Net Internal Area (the area within a building measured to the internal surface of the perimeter walls at each floor level), not just the floor space of individual offices. For comparison, The Pentagon was designed for 11.6 m2 per person.

APEC Symposium on Climate Change in Canberra

Greetings from the working group of the APEC Symposium on Climate Change at the ANU Canberra. About 20 delegates from around the Asia pacific are discussing issues in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December (UNFCCC CoP 15). I gave the symposium a presentation on "Technology transfer by collaborative online education for climate change mitigation" with the message that online collaboration and mentoring could be used to accelerate the distribution of knowledge of how to deal with climate change. I used the example of the postgraduate green technology course I run for the Australian Computer Society and the Australian National University. The deligates were particularly interested in the fact that the notes were available freely as web pages, as well as a paperback book and down-loadable e-book.

Also they asked about the role of mobile phones and traditional face-to-face teaching, so I was able to explain the course material was prepared in a format which could display on a smart phone and be printed. I was asked if this form of education could be expanded to a wider audience, not just postgraduate students. This would be feasible, but take much more work in preparing introductory material, and using multimedia. ANU is installing equipment and software for more easily developing multimedia and I am trialing this

The afternoon session started with a video linkup with the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research in Japan. The technology worked for the connection, but there was confusion as to from which end of the link the slides would be displayed, which took some time to sort out. The event continues tomorrow with small groups preparing proposed initiatives.

Here is the program so far:

APEC Symposium on Climate Change

28th - 30th October 2009


In the lead up to the Australia-Korea Leadership Forum in November and the UNFCCC CoP 15 in Copenhagen in December, the CCI, through AusAID sponsorship, is hosting a closed workshop consisting of APEC member economies....

Workshop Objectives

  • Identify opportunities to promote collaboration between business, government and educational and
    research institutions in the Asia-Pacific region on climate change issues, including:
    • Identify mechanisms for technology development and transfer to support action on climate change
      mitigation and adaptation;
    • Technology underpinning knowledge creation and transfer; and
    • Turning research into outcomes.
  • Identify impediments and solutions to effective collaboration around key issues, including:
    • IP challenges;
    • Knowledge gaps;
    • Capacity building; and
    • Governance.
  • Where to from now?
  • Identify achievable outcomes and timeframes; and
  • Road map ahead. ...

Workshop Outcomes

Workshop outcomes will include:

  • A road map for APEC economies to progress the challenges of knowledge transfer;
  • High level plan to turn research into outcomes;
  • Identification and potential solutions to impediments to effective collaboration;
  • Opportunities for AusAID to provide continued support in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • Road map ahead for follow up workshops / conferences; and
  • Report of proceedings.


9:00 – 10:45 CHAIR – Ms Octavia Borthwick
Assistant Director General, Asia Regional Branch, AusAID
Timing Speakers
08:45 - 09:00 Arrival and registration
09:00 - 9:05 Welcome and Introduction (Prof
Will Steffen
) Executive Director, ANU Climate Change Institute
09:05 – 09:15 Ms Octavia Borthwick (Australia) ADG, Asia Regional Branch, AusAID
09:15 - 09:40 Dr Heesu Park (R Korea) Policy Advisor, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)
09:40 – 10:05 Prof Haibin Zhang (PR China) Director, Centre for International Organisation Studies, Peking University
10:05 - 10:30 Dr Nguyen Dai Khanh (Viet Nam) Director, Technology and International Cooperation, National Hydro-Meteorological Service, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
10:30 – 10:45 Questions & discussion
10:45-11:00 MORNING COFFEE & TEA


11:00 – 12:30
CHAIR – Prof Will Steffen ANU Climate Change Institute
Timing Speakers
11:00–11:25 Dr Carmel Gacho (Philippines) Senior Science Research Specialist, Industrial Technology Development Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Philippines
11:25–11:45 Mr Tom Worthington, Green ICT e-learning Designer, ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Australian Computer Society
11:45–12:00 Questions & discussion
12:30-13:45 LUNCH


14:00 – 14:50 VIDEO CONFERENCE
CHAIR - Prof James Fox, Frank Fenner Building, ANU Medical School Director, ANU Korea Institute
Timing Speaker(s)
14:00 – 14:30 Mr Tetsuro Fujitsuka (Japan) Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), Japan
14:30 – 14:50 Questions and discussion ...

Canberra Carbon Cops Certified

The Hon Lindsay Tanner presenting John Lawler, Chief Executive Officer of ACC their Power management Certification award.The Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner handed the Australian Crime Commission their three Green IT certifications from Computers Off this morning at the ACC headquarters in Canberra. The ACC are the first organisation to receive all three certifications.

ACC also have a green headquarters building, but unfortunately few people will see the inside of it, due to security. The building uses chilled beam technology, rainwater harvesting and sensor lighting. The greening is subtle, but if you look up, you notice that what looks like a solid white ceiling is in fact a mesh designed to let cooling air circulate from the chilled beam above.

To achieve low energy IT certification, the ACC set its desktop computers to switch to low power mode, rationalized it servers down to about half the previous number and purchased carbon offsets for the remaining power use. They estimate savings at 435 tones of CO2 equivalent per year and $80,000 on electricity.

The minister said the government was under pressure to practice what they preach on greenhouse gas emission reduction. He said that it was easy to loose sight of the fact that not just old smoke stack technology causes pollution, but hi-tech computers do as well. He commented on the dilemma in the relationship between central coordination agencies such as Finance and the other departments, such as ACC. The job of ACC is to fight crime, not climate change. The Rudd government is crafting a hybrid arrangement to allow initiatives such as the rationalisation of data centres but allow individual agencies to use their initiative. He then handed the three certificates to the ACC.

I hope to be able to use the ACC as a case study for my Green IT students next semester.

The minister's media release and speech should be on the Minister's web site shortly.

ps: I couldn't blog this live from the ACC as their security system blocked my wireless access.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indian university to deliver via 3G to millions of students

Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) have announced an MoU with Ericson 3G mobile education delivery. Students of IGNOU will get 3G Mobile access for about Rs 25 (52 US Cents) more than a normal course cost. SMS is already used for course management. 3G will provide web pages, assignments and video clips. This will also be used for students with hearing and speech impairments.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 identified cost as a factor holding back the use of 3G Internet applications for education. But it is not clear if the low charge mentioned by IGNOU covers all the communication costs.

The students will most likely use a laptop (or netbook) with a 3G modem in it, rather than a smart phone for education. This might be used with devices similar to the Lanyu LY-EB01 $US98 netbook.

I met Professor Uma Kanjilal, Director of the School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) when she visited ANU earlier in the year. What was impressive was the scale of IGNOU's operations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Networking System for Innovation in Canberra

Greetings from launch of the Innovation ACT Portal at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research) the Australian National University in Canberra. This is a new social media enhanced web site designed to help students and staff at the ANU and University of Canberra to get together to turn their research into products and services. The new web site will be used in the Innovation ACT program which teaches innovation and then has a competitive process. The ACT Department of Business and Industry Development has funded a new web portal.

This year I talked to the Innovation ACT participants about "Innovating to lower costs and carbon emissions with ICT". Next year the Innovation ACT Portal will include a boot camp for new entrepreneurs and an "i-Prize" for addressing an important social issue.

"No matter what your achievements or future plans, chances are you will need to operate within the world of business. Whether you are planning to be the next high flying entrepreneur, an eminent scientist or one of the literati, you will need to attract funding, obtain industry support or get your own business running to disseminate your ideas.

InnovationACT will give you the skills you need to understand all aspects of business and commercialisation, as well as the chance to be awarded up to $20,000 for your business plan.

InnovationACT provides eight weeks of seminars and mentoring from industry leaders and business professionals. Each team will be guided through the process of writing a professional business plan and could be awarded up to $20 000 by our panel of judges.

Open to all staff and students at the Australian National University and the University of Canberra, with no costs and no strings attached. Come along to learn and mingle with industry professionals or put together a winning team and submit a business plan.

Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged and we provide team formation opportunities. ..."

From: InnovationACT, Innovation ACT Ltd., 2009.

E-learning courses save no teacher time

My students have just about completed the first COMP7310 Green ICT course at ANU. In terms of education it appears to have been successful, but was it cost effective to use e-learning? My conclusion is that the staff cost for this form of Mentored and Collaborative e-Learning for Postgraduate Professional Education is about the same as for conventional lectures and face to face tutorials. The time saved in not giving lectures and tutorials is taken up in feedback to students on the e-learning course. The time and cost for assessment is about the same as both use conventional manually marked assessment (and about the same proportion of the overall cost of the course).

Obviously there will be savings in not having to provide lecture theatres and tutorial rooms and extra costs in providing an e-learning system (the e-learning system is likely to be much cheaper than building costs). In addition there is the cost of the course materials used for conventional and e-learning courses (with e-learning material costing considerably more). Also there will be differences in the quality of the experience: students in a lecture rarely, if ever, get individual attention from a lecturer and get only a few minutes individual attention from a tutor per semester. But with an e-learning course each student gets hours of individual attention.

Calculating course cost

A typical ANU postgraduate course, such as "COMP6341 IT in e-Commerce" has three hours of lectures per week for ten weeks and seven two hour labs.

ANU Casual Sessional Rates range per hour from $95.44 to $238.61, depending on the amount of preparation required. Tutoring ranges from $69.15 to $122.95 per hour. The bottom end of the scale assume that the teacher has to spend an hour preparing for a one hour lecture or tutorial, thus taking two ours for one hour of student time.

Assuming that a lecture contains 100 students and tutorials have 24 students in each, there will be 4 tutorial groups. So there will be:
  • 3 lectures x 2 hours x 10 weeks = 60 hours, plus
  • 4 lab groups x 4 hours x 7 labs = 112 hours
  • Total = 172 hours teacher time
The course also has two assignments and a three hour examination (the ANU complex marking rate is $40.98 an hour). Assume it takes one hour for each assessment item: 3 assessments x 100 students = 300 hours.

The course also has to be administered, so let us add one our per week, for 12 weeks: 12 hours. At the ANU "Other required academic activity category this is" $40.98 per hour.

Assuming that a flexible course, such as COMP7310 requires 15 minutes of time per student per week for 12 weeks, plus 1 hour for each of two assignments and the same 1 hour a week of administration, the total hours and cost come out to be very similar:

Conventional E-learning Difference
Total Cost $31,983.96 $29,770.80 -7%
Total Hours 484 512 5%
Per student $ $319.84 $297.71
Per student H 4.84 5.12

Some of the interesting things about this are that 38% of the cost of the conventional course is from the assessment, which is about the same as the e-learning course.

Online collaboration for climate change mitigation in APEC

This is to request comments and corrections of "Technology transfer by collaborative online education for climate change mitigation". These are my notes for a short talk at an AusAID sponsored APEC Symposium on Climate Change in Canberra on Thursday, in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December (UNFCCC CoP 15). The aim is to promote collaboration between business, government, education and research organisations in the Asia-Pacific on climate change. My suggestion is the use of online collaboration and mentoring, as used in the postgraduate green technology course I run for the Australian Computer Society and the Australian National University (with notes available as free web pages, a paperback book and down-loadable e-book).

Monday, October 26, 2009

SPICE Learning Management System

Greeting from the ANU Software Engineering Showcase. Teams of third and fourth year students are showing off their projects. One of these is the SPICE Learning Management System. This uses Moodle and LAMS to provide a system to assist volunteer teachers in Canberra. The most interesting part of this is that normally the students write software. In this case they decided the original idea of custom software on a bootable flash drive was not a good one and configured an Internet connected web based learning manageemnt system instead. This was a good decision. I have been invvled in sevceral court cases as an expert witness where a system development team did not stop, question what they were doing and choose another path.

One aspect the students do not appear to have realised is that they can still provide paper based materials from the Moodle system.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?

"What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?" is the intriguing title of a collection of papers from by the modern library of Alexandria. These were edited by Mostafa El-Abbadi and Omnia Mounir Fathallah , with an introduction by Ismail Serageldin. In brief they suggest the library was not bur down in on confligration, but siffered a gradual decline.

Deployable Civilian Capability Disaster Management Software

According to media reports, the Prime Minister announced the creation of an Office of the Deployable Civilian Capability (DCC) within AusAid, at at the East Asia Summit today. This will have a register of up to 500 civilians ready to travel to disaster zones in the region at short notice. The DCC was included in the Government's response to the Australia 2020 Summit and the 2009-10 budget. A small Deployable Civilian Capability Group (DCC) was established in AusAid.
Regional Security - Deployable Civilian Capacity

Establish a deployable public service that will be able to more rapidly and effectively deliver development assistance.

Agree. The Government has agreed to develop a policy framework to enable rapid deployment of civilian experts to assist in international disaster relief, stabilisation and post conflict reconstruction efforts. An inter-agency task force is being led by AusAID to Undertake this work. Once established, a national deployable civilian capacity will allow more rapid and early delivery of stabilisation and recovery assistance to countries that experience conflict or natural disaster. The program reflects many of the ideas discussed at 2020, and also at the Youth Summit, and will be sufficiently adaptable to allow Australia to tailor our response to a particular event or emergency. It will also improve Australia's integration into multilateral reconstruction and stabilisation operations.

From: "Responding to the Australia 2020 Summit", Australian Government, 22 April 2009
AusAID is leading a whole-of-government taskforce to develop a Deployable Civilian Capacity, an idea raised at the Australia 2020 Summit. Once established, a national deployable civilian capacity will enable rapid deployment of civilian experts to provide stabilisation and recovery assistance to countries experiencing conflict, post-conflict situations or natural disaster. In cooperation with other government agencies, AusAID will pre‑identify, train, deploy rapidly and sustain civilian technical expertise. The program will build on Australia's experience of deploying civilian experts in post‑conflict situations, for example in East Timor and Solomon Islands, and improve Australia's integration into multilateral reconstruction and stabilisation operations.

From: Australia's International Development Assistance Program: A Good International Citizen, Budget 2009-10, Australian Government
As part of this I suggest the expansion of the Sahana open source disaster management system and online training.

Sahana was developed for the Boxing Day Tsunami and has been used in several subsequent disasters in Asia. A demonstration of Sahana available online.

Recently two New Zealand councils of issued a request for Expression of Interest for a Information and Communications System for a joint Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for emergency and disaster coordination. In response I suggested that a deployable system housed in a an airline carry-on size wheeled bag. Also I suggest that the Sahana system could be expanded from its disaster management role to cover coordination as well. The Sahana community saw this of interest, but not their core function. However, if the Australian Government provided some modest funding, this could be done.

The Deployable Civilian Capability Group could be equipped with low cost portable computer equipment allowing much more efficient coordinated relief operations. This would also take a load off the military communicators who are usually relied on during disaster operations, but are heavily committed elsewhere.

In addition I suggest using Mentored and Collaborative e-Learning to help train the group. The group members will rarely meet and have little time for face to face training. Using training in online groups will allow an esprit de corps to form, as well as make maximum use of limited resources.

In-flight entertainment system for military briefings

According to Flight International, the United Arab Emirates air force will equip three Airbus A330 Tanker Transport aircraft with an in-flight entertainment system for each seat. This is a result of using the same fit-out for the aircraft as used by the national carrier Etihad Airways. One consequence of this is that the entertainment system could be used for military briefings during the flight. The entertainment system would be able to provide briefings via the audio and video on demand system. The system has 10.4 inch touch-screens for economy seats.

Singapore airlines A380 airliners have's office software available from passenger seats, with plug in USB keybards. This would allow the passengers to watch powerpoint type presentations, as well as read Microsoft Word format word processing documents and spreadsheets. With th seats equipped with in-flight two way audio, this would provide the aircraft with limited capacity to be an in-flight command centre. The cost of this would be far lower than a custom military installation.

ANU Volunteers needed to help with GovHack

GovHack is a free event at the ANU 30 to 31 October on creating mashups and applications with government data and services. Volunteers are need to help look after the 130 people expected to attend. ANU staff and students who know their way around campus would be particularly useful. Contact: Laurent Lefort.

Green IT on University Campuses

The latest Educause Quarterly magazine is on Green IT on University campuses:

Mozilla Raindrop message manager for Google Wave

Mozilla Raindrop message manager is intended to combine email, twitter, blogs and social networking in one conversation. In "Introducing Raindrop" (22 October 2009) the Raindrop Team (who developed Thunderbird) explain the Raindrop 0.1 prototype.

From the explanation, it seems to me that Raindrop might provide some of what I found missing from Google Wave. Having sat through the Google Wave Hackathon Day the problem I most had was with the user interface. The protocols and architecture behind Google Wave are elegant, but the user interface is not. Perhaps Raindrop could be a people-centric front end to Wave. After all raindrops can result in Waves. ;-)

There is a flash video explaining the Raindrop design. The first iteration of the interface design "Inflow" shows just two panels on the screen, with a conversation shown by intending of the text. The second iteration of the interface design is called an "Inflow Grid", with a rectangular table of messages.

In all of this it should be remembered that there has been considerable work by others on how to intelligently sort messages (such as by Eric McCreath and Judy Kay).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

High Level Architecture Options for the NBN

The Communicators Alliance have released High Level Architecture Options for the NBN (October 2009). This is a draft paper for comment by 6 November 2009, as part of a National Broadband Network Reference Architecture. This is a very clearly and concisely written 26 page document. Unfortunately it has been formatted as 552 kbytes of PDF, making it hard to distribute and read.
3.1 Key Network Domains and Functions 4
3.2 Wholesale Point of Interconnect and Service Boundary Point Scenarios8
3.3 Roles and Relationships between Different Industry Players 10
3.4 Relationship between CPE and Retail/Wholesale providers 12
4.1 Option 1: Layer 2 Ethernet Access 14
4.2 Option 2: Wireless/Satellite Layer 3 IP Access 18
5.1 Sustainability 22
5.2 Robustness 22
5.3 Security 22
5.4 IPv6 22
5.5 Future Proofness 22


This document defines the following:
  • The end-to-end broadband network architecture framework, including domains and functions required to deliver a wide range of network services and application/content services to end users.
  • A range of potential passive and active NBN wholesale interconnect scenarios. This will be a key input to other Communications Alliance NBN work stream activities, in particular the wholesale services stream. In developing these options there has been some regard to overseas experience where different FTTH wholesale open access models are being adopted by different countries.
  • Terminology and definitions for different industry players taking into account a range of possible roles providing Wholesale and Retail services.
  • The relationship between the CPE (such as ONT and RG) and Retail and Wholesale Service Providers. ...

The next-generation broadband network will enable a wide range of network services and application/content services to be delivered to end users via FTTP, Wireless and Satellite access. Figure 1 shows the end-to-end architecture vision which identifies the different functional and service domains applicable to the provision of Next Generation Broadband Services. The retail network service providers and application/content service providers are those that provide services to end users and have a direct customer relationship with the end users. Wholesale service providers do not have this relationship. ...

The primary form of access to the NBN will be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). This section describes the end-to-end network architecture for FTTP access.
Figure 2 shows the end-to-end broadband network reference architecture, segregated into a number of functional domains. This architecture is based on the reference architecture defined by the Broadband Forum1 but has been adapted for the specific purposes of this exercise. In particular, the terminology used in this document is not fully aligned with that used by the Broadband Forum. It should be noted that the terminology used in this document will be reviewed and may change in future releases. ...

From: High Level Architecture Options for the NBN, Communicators Alliance, October 2009

Smart electricity meters may displace NBN

Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet has announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. These will be used for smart grid applications to allow better management of energy use and cut carbon emissions. But an obvious additional step would be to include WiFi in the home meters. This could be used to communicate with appliances in the home and as a by-product provide a broadband Internet service to rival the NBN.

The meters are part of the Victorian Government Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI). These will record electricity consumption in at least half hour increments, be remotely read and allow the electricity distributor to locate outages.

The system will use MotorolaWiMAX WAP 650 base stations on 2.3GHz connected by a microwave system. It will use a "flat" IP architecture.
Motorola will supply and deploy WiMAX WAP 650 base stations operating at 2.3GHz, Access Service Network (ASN) Gateway and new microwave systems to extend the wide area network (WAN) to new coverage areas. The system is based on a flat, all-IP architecture that enables high-speed machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It will facilitate communication with SP AusNet’s smart meters embedded with WiMAX chipsets, collecting measurements and sending instructions in real time, supporting the analysis of usage patterns and power generation needs. This wireless network also will allow SP AusNet to facilitate smooth communications for its field operations. The project spans a four-year period, and Motorola will start shipping and installing products by the end of 2009. ...

From: Motorola Powers World’s First WiMAX-based Electric Utility Smart Metering for SP AusNet, Press Release,Motorola, Inc., October 22, 2009

Partnering with SP AusNet in the AMI program are: Landis+Gyr, GE and GridNet, UXC Limited, Electrix,
Motorola, Unwired, eMeter, Logica, Accenture, Enterprise Business Services, and Geomatic Technologies. ...

From: Smart partnerships for SP AusNet’s smart meter roll out, Media Release, SP AusNet, 22 October 2009

Smart meters are being rolled out to all Victorian households and small businesses over the next four years to help people better manage their energy use and cut carbon emissions.

The new smart meters - also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - will provide two-way communication between your electricity meter and your power company, making more immediate information about your electricity use available to you both.

Victoria is the first state in Australia to give the go-ahead for the wide spread roll-out of smart meters. Covering 2.2 million homes and 300,000 businesses, this is a big task, representing one of the biggest improvements to energy infrastructure in the state’s history.

It’s a key step towards future smart electricity grids, which we need so that more renewable energy can be fed into the grid.

The meters will allow customers to access accurate electricity reads every 30 minutes, which helps to monitor and reduce electricity usage - and save money on power bills.

It will be easier to connect and disconnect power when you move house, and power companies will be able to identify outages and restore power more quickly. It will also mean the end of estimated bills or staying in for meter readings.

Electricity distribution companies - who own the poles and wires which deliver electricity to your homes and businesses - will start installing meters towards the end of 2009 and finish by the end of 2013.

Role of Government

Smart Meters Fact Sheet (PDF 113KB) ...

Smart Meters Questions and Answers
Smart meter rollout project
Smart meters in my home
Smart meter installaltion
Smart meter and my electricity bill
Security and privacy

From: Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI), Victorian Government, 30/09/2009.

Friday, October 23, 2009

University Students have Laptop Computers

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 is available from EDUCAUSE. This is the results of a survey of 30,000 students at 103 US universities. As well as Australian universities, this has some interesting implications for secondary schools.

The study found that almost all students have computers, mostly laptops. Almost all students were using course management systems at their university and most were happy with these.

Less than half of the students thought their teachers had adequate IT skills, nor provided adequate IT training for the students. Just over half the students had an Internet capable mobile phone and of those two thirds had used the Internt on their phone. For those not using the Internet on the phone, cost was the most common reason. Few were using the mobile phone for course related purposes and the phones were see as largely a distraction from study. One use favoured by students was to use the SMS function of phones for emergency messages from the unviersity.

If the results are applicable to Australia, which I suspect they are, then this would suggest:
  1. Campuses should be equipped to accommodate laptops, with less provision for desktop computers. As an example, power points and network access for laptops would be desirable. Some way to provide a larger screen and keyboard interfaced to the student's laptop would be desirable (perhaps using a desktop or thin client computer)
  2. Learning/Course Management Systems should be used for course administration, and where applicable, course delivery.
  3. Mobile phone Internet access should not be assumed, unless the unviersity provides some sort of low cost or free access (for example WiFi for smart phones).
The federal government is funding the provision of computers for schools. However, it is being left to school systems as to if the students get laptops or desktops. The university research would seem to favour laptops. With the cost of netbook coming down, this suggests that some of what is happening in universities is now applicable to secondary schools.


Since 2004, the annual ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology has sought to shed light on how information technology affects the college experience. We ask students about the technology they own and how they use it in and out of their academic world. We gather information about how skilled students believe they are with technologies; how they perceive technology is affecting their learning experience; and their preferences for IT in courses. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2009 survey of 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and students at 12 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 62 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2009 study also includes a special focus on student ownership and use of Internet-capable handheld devices.

Table of Contents

  • Entire Study: The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: Executive Summary
  • Chapter 2: Introduction: Higher Education—A Moveable Feast?
  • Chapter 3: Methodology and Respondent Characteristics
  • Chapter 4: Ownership of, Use of, and Skill with IT
  • Chapter 5: IT and the Academic Experience
  • Chapter 6: Undergraduates and the Mobile Revolution
  • Appendix A: Acknowledgments
  • Appendix B: Students and Information Technology in Higher Education: 2009 Survey Questionnaire
  • Appendix C: Qualitative Interview Questions
  • Appendix D: Participating Institutions and Survey Response Rates
  • Appendix E: Bibliography
  • Online Supporting Materials: Key Findings: Roadmap & Survey Instrument

    From: The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009, EDUCAUSE, 2009
  • Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Social Networking for Teaching Innovation

    InnovationACT is a program for Australian National University and University of Canberra students to learn entrepreneurship.
    The ACT Department of Business and Industry Development has funded a new web portal, to be launched 27th October 2009 at 6pm in the Finkel Lecture Theatre at The John Curtin School of Medical Research. The web portal will use social networking for teaching innovation. For catering purposes please RSVP to

    GovHack: Mashup Australian Government Data on 30 October

    GovHack is a free, intensive event at in Canberra on 30 to 31 October. This is sponsored by the Government 2.0 Taskforce and supported by CSIRO. Government agencies, locals, state, federal and international, might like to come forward with APIs and datasets to be used by the participants. Offer datasets and tools via the Wiki. University and industry researchers can contact Laurent Lefort at CSIRO. The event will explore some of the ideas for the use of government information discussed at Bar Camp Canberra.

    Shipping container apartment open for inspection in Canberra

    3D rendering of a modular apartment at Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANU by Quicksmart HomesOne of the studio units in the Australian National University's new shipping container apartment building is open for inspection by staff, students and members of the ANU community on weekdays between 12-1.30pm. It is at the corner of Dickson and Daley Roads, Acton. This will be known as the Laurus Wing of Ursula Hall and is made from ISO standard forty foot shipping container modules fitted out in China and stacked to form a building. The modules are from Quicksmart Homes

    Artist Impression of Laurus Wing, Ursula Hall, ANUThe building is in some ways a realisation of the concept of Le Corbusier, with his Unité d'Habitation. This was intended to be a modular steel frame building, with each apartment a slotted in module, but post-war material restrictions resulted in it being constructed on-site from concrete. With the provision of communal facilities in the building, the Laurus Wing also has some of the social aspects of the Unite d'habitation.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Web accessibility and Government 2.0

    The Australian Human Rights Commission has released its submission to the Government 2.0 Taskforce. The commission is not keen on PDF and recommends the W3C accessibility guidelines.The Sydney 2000 Olympics web case is described in the submission and my seminar notes for the Oxford University Computing Laboratory are cited.
    1. The Commission believes that government departments and agencies need to improve their provision of equal access to public information, especially for people with disability.

    2. Departments and agencies can improve their web presences by following the standards promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and the Commission.

    3. Basic web accessibility is mandatory for Australian Government departments and agencies. Allowing sites to be launched that are inaccessible risks complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

    4. The Commission recognises the value of Web 2.0 technologies for collaboration with the community, however many of these technologies are not currently accessible for people with disability. Government departments and agencies should provide sufficient technologies to allow participation for all.

    5. Additionally, the Commission believes that online forums developed by the Government should have adequate agency guidelines and Acceptable Use Policies to enable moderators and developers of forums to be alert to discrimination that may occur online. This will help to foster a discrimination-free environment when engaging with the community.

    Summary from: Web accessibility and Government 2.0, Australian Human Rights Commission submission to the Government 2.0 Taskforce – Towards Government 2.0 an issues paper, 1 October 2009

    Sustainability In The Pub Sydney

    Sydney Environmental Educators Network is holding "Sustainability In The Pub", in Sydney, 21 October, 6.30pm. These are fun events.
    The Sydney Environmental Educators Network invites you to join us for Sustainability In The Pub in October - an evening of ideas, discussion and sharing for environmental educators.

    Wednesday 21 October, 6.30pm start.


    Agincourt Hotel, cnr George and Harris Street Sydney.
    FREE, No RSVP required.

    "Choice, Imagination and Sustainability"

    We all know that climate change is probably the biggest threat to mankind ever, but often trying to change people's thinking and behaviour creates the opposite effect.

    How do we avoid the self righteous, evangelistic approach?
    How do we influence people without being didactic?
    How do we tap into people's deeper needs and aspirations?

    In this discussion with two innovative environmental educators, Thor Blomfield and Kylee Ingram explore creative approaches to a more sustainable future.

    Thor Blomfield co-founded Leapfish Environmental Education 6 years ago and since has created a range of effective arts based programs. Kylee Ingram established Australian Documentaries 7 years ago which partners with NGOs and the government sector to create media for sustainability and positive change.

    Kind regards,


    Report on Jessica Watson's yacht collision

    The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released a preliminary report on the collision between Jessica Watson's yacht Ella’s Pink Lady and the bulk carrier Silver Yang off Point Lookout, Queensland on 9 September 2009. While media reports have questioned the wisdom of a teenager solo sailing, what comes through in the dry technical language of the report is of a skipper acting calmly under pressure.

    After the collision the report says the skipper, seeing the mast was about to collapse retreated to the cabin, assessed the yacht was still seaworthy, radioed the Silver Yang that assistance was not required, reported the incident and returned to port.

    Ella’s Pink Lady was equipped with an Automatic Identification System to detect other ships electronically, a radar, a radar enhancer (to make the yacht show up better on radar). Navigation equipment included fixed and hand-held magnetic compasses, four GPS units, an integrated electronic chart-plotter/radar display and a laptop computer with a back-up electronic charting system. Also there were two VHF radios, a high frequency (HF) radio, an Inmarsat-M satellite email/telephone and an Iridium satellite telephone.

    At 0151½ on 9 September 2009, in a position about 15 miles east of Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, the Australian registered, single-handed yacht Ella's Pink Lady collided with the Hong Kong registered bulk carrier Silver Yang.

    At the time of the collision, Silver Yang was en-route to China and travelling at a speed of about 9 knots on a northerly heading. Ella's Pink Lady was under sail on a voyage from Mooloolaba, Queensland, to Sydney, New South Wales. The yacht was making good a course of 144°(T) and a speed of about 7 knots.

    Ella's Pink Lady was dismasted as a result of the collision, but the skipper was able to cut the headsail free, retrieve the damaged rigging on board and motor the damaged yacht to Southport, Queensland.

    The ATSB investigation is continuing.

    From: Abstract, Collision between Silver Yang and Ella’s Pink Lady off Point Lookout, Queensland, 9 September 2009, ATSB, 268-MO-2009-008, 20 October 2009

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Australian Green Property Fund

    Australian Ethical launched an Australian Ethical Property Trust in October 2009. This will invest in 5 Star Green Star and above rated buildings. A good example is Australian Ethical's 6 star rated HQ in Canberra. This was refitted at relatively low cost from an old brick building. Most of the examples of green office buildings are hi-tech ones, full of expensive and complex equipment.

    Of the hitech buildings around, the ones, one of the better seems to be the Majuira Park complex at Canberra Airport, with facilities like like Trigeneration. The buildings have their own natural gas powered electricity generating plant. Waste heat from the plant is used to heat the buildings in winter and, using absorption chillers, cool them in summer.

    Another hitech green building in Canberra is Canberra Data Centres. This is a low cost retrofit of an old warehouse, at least as low cost as a data centre with backup power supply can be.

    Automated Quality Assessment of Obesity Websites

    Ramesh Sankaranarayana will give a seminar on "Automated Quality Assessment of Obesity Websites", 4pm, 29 October 2009 at the ANU in Canberra. This follows previous work on "Automated quality rating of depression websites".

    ABSTRACT: We previously developed an automated quality rating technique (AQA) for depression websites and showed that it correlated 0.85 with expert ratings using evidence-based guidelines. AQA scores the pages within a site against complex learned 'quality' and 'relevance' queries using the BM25 ranking function. It then aggregates these scores across sites using a learned combining function. In this talk, we report on our generalisation of the AQA method and our evaluation of its application to a different health domain, namely obesity. We find that correlations as high as 0.80 averaged across ten folds can be obtained, but that performance is quite dependent on the choice of the high quality websites used for generating the 'quality' query. This is ongoing work ....

    From: Automated Quality Assessment of Obesity Websites, School of Computer Sciecne, ANU, 2009

    Supporting new tertiary teachers

    Recommendations for improving teaching by early career academics were discussed at the Australian National University Teaching & Learning Forum, 16 October 2009. The ANU has conducted a survey on issue with Early Career Academics (ECAs) and made recommendations (results are available to staff). Much of this would be applicable more widely for teaching at other universities.

    One result I found interesting was that only 36% of the ECAs were full time staff. The others are sessional, part time and "other". The result is that many programs designed to help new staff, such as induction training, are not available to the people they are intended for. This will become more of an issue as more flexible and online courses are introduced. In some cases the teacher may never be on the campus during office hours when support is available, or may never be on campus at all.

    The obvious way to address this issue is with programs which use similar technologies and resources to the online students. That is the resources should be available online, supplemented by on campus facilities.

    Other issues are the tension between teaching and research at the university. There is a danger in overly rigid procedures for teaching, as to some extent, it has to be lead by the research to get the benefits of the unviersity environment.

    ANU has an innovative approach in this area by emphasising research in support of teaching, so that they complement, rather than compete.