Sunday, November 20, 2022

PARKROYAL Hotel on Pickering Street Singapore

ParkRoyal on Pickering in Singapore.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY 2022

Singapore is leading the way with Biomorphic Architecture, and the PARKROYAL Hotel, 3 Upper Pickering St, is a good example. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Luggage Market Singapore

The Luggage Market in Singapore,
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY November 2022
The Luggage Market in Singapore is worth a visit, if just to see the spectacle. Took me while to work out it is not a market for selling luggage, but one where people bring things (mostly clothes) in a suitcase, open it on the floor and allow others to rummage through.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Battlebox Singapore


Standing outside the bunker where the decision was made to surrender Singapore in World War Two, there is very much a sense of history. It must be confronting for British tourists to hear how their military lost. There are lessons for Australians, on the limits of alliances. The "Battlebox" tour of the bunker is worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Ez-link isn't easy

The friendly staff at Changi Airport called around until someone came to open the Travelex booth. They quickly handed me my Singtel combined SIM & travel card. Took some time to get the SIM to work, as the number to use was on a label which sealed the card in a bag, and had to be split in half, through the serial number, to open. Tried to top up the travel part of the card, but the MRT station machines only accept Singapore credit cards, no cash. So I had to wait until the staff arrived at 6am. They only take cash, but I had some. With all that done the SIM and the transport works well. 

SIMless in Singapore

Greetings from the arrivals hall at Changi Airport Singapore, where I await someone to open a booth to give me the Singtel SIM card I ordered. The two 24 hour Traveled booths remain closed.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Flying Hamburgers at Sydney Airport


Greetings from Mcdonald's Restaurant at Sydney International Terminal. This is a remarkable sight, the size of a three story house, with a counter on the ground floor, and the kitchen in a translucent yellow glass box above. You order on a touch screen, and this is relayed upstairs, where your meal is prepared, placed in a paper bag, and clipped to a metal belt which lowers it to the counter, where the bag is automatically unclipped and slides down a chute. At least that is what is supposed to happen: I watched as a quarter pounder plunged two floors, after slipping out of the clip. No one was harmed, and the mess was soon cleaned up by the efficient staff. In theory the computer takes care of communications, but in practice staff have to shout up the void with the conveyor in it. An added complication is that the order slips are placed inside the paper bags, so counter staff have to open each, to then shout out the number. A little research by the people at Hamburger University would pay dividends here, I suggest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Where are my digital health records?

Amanda Cattermole, CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency
Greetings from the Tech in Government conference in Canberra, where Amanda Cattermole, CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency, is speaking on "The Future of Health is Digital". The CEO is claiming rapid increases in the use of My Health Record.  However, when I contracted COVID-19 in March, and became a patient of NSW's virtual hospital, my health record was of no use. I registered my details with NSW Health, and was contacted by a nurse from the virtual hospital. They had no access to any of my medical details, and I had to go through everything which might have been relevant. The care I received was excellent, but could have been better if there were national medical records available. I paid my taxes, I attended hospitals pharmacists, and I did not opt out of digital health records, so where are they?

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Solar Shed at Addison Road Sydney

Dropping in to the Addison Road Community Center for the Sunday Markets in Sydney today I noticed a new two space carport added in front of the community hall. What looked like a simple structure with a roof and no walls turned out to be a revolutionary development which can save the world. 

The roof is made of photovoltaic solar panels. Let me repeat that: the roof is
 made of solar panels
. This is not the case of a building with a roof, where panels have been added, they are what keeps the rain off and is part of the structure. There are cover-strips with flexible seals to prevent water leaking in between the panels, and channels to carry the cables from each panel, so they don't hang down. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Black Mirror Meets Dr Who at the New Theater Sydney

Control by Keziah Warner at the New Theatre Sydney, has a Black Mirror sensibility, with Dr Who 60's set design. This is a dystopian future where Big Brother is always watching, memories can be edited, and the robots have more emotion than the people. The cast all do a fine job of switching characters from empty headed social media influencer, to more sympathetic robot. The set looks suitably sci-fi and bleak. 

Some seems of a far distant future, and some looks like my day job. Earlier today I was discussing the benefits of Augmented versus Virtual Reality for teaching English to Japanese students, with researchers around the world, on Zoom, of course. Also, yes, in the office there is a robot.

You can purchase a copy of Control, or catch it at the New Theatre, until 30 July, or wait for it to come true. 

ps: For an immersive sc-fi conspiracy theory experience, join International Strategic Deepspace Command (ISDC), hidden behind the Milesham Organisation, on Paramatta Road, Sydney. ;-)


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Direct Train to Train Grain Transfer for Break of Gauge at Ukraine Boarder?


Media reports indicate that the transfer of bulk grain by train from the Ukraine is hampered by the break of gauge at the boarder of the EU. Ukraine uses the broad Russian gauge, while Europe uses the narrower standard gauge. So grain has to be transferred from train, to storage and back to another train. But could grain be transferred directly from train to another, under gravity, in a few minutes? To do this an elevated track would be built with Ukrainian gauge. There would be fixed chutes to direct grain down between the tracks to a standard gauge train underneath. The elevated track could be constructed in a few days using a combination of timber, steel, concrete, and earth embankments. No moving parts would be required, or complex control mechanisms. Of course there would be limitations, with compatible trains in place at the same time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Warrangu River Story by DOBBY

Dobby performing Warrangu River Story,
at the Art Gallery of NSW, 13 June 2022.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC BY
Warrangu River Story by the performer Dobby, on Sunday night was a remarkable event. We lined up outside the Art Gallery of NSW not quite knowing what to expect. 

This was a very different venue to the last performance I attended by the rapper, at the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival, in far western NSW in 2019. That was in a dry sand circle, during a drought, with a fire, and stars overhead. This performance was very different: in the Entrance Court of an art gallery with uniformed staff, and Champaign. A small stage had been built half way down the hall, with indigenous artworks about the western rivers on the wall behind ("Down river" by Uncle Badger Bates). The wall had been treated with florescent paint, so that an animated pattern moved along the rivers depicted. There was a small ensemble. 

There was less rap music than I was expecting, not as loud or as raw. This was reminiscent of David Fanshawe's African Sanctus, blending traditions of indigenous, western classical, and rapping. Recordings of elders, and bird song, were incorporated. 

The audience, like one at a classical concert, was very polite and passive, sitting still and applauding at the right places. The music deserved more active participation from the audience. But I noticed one young teenager in the front row, who was vibrating with excitement, and resisting a strong urge to get up and dance. Perhaps more dance could be incorporated into the work.

At the previous performance by Dobby, one act was cancelled, so he improvised rapping with members of the audience. This showed a natural talent for interacting with people, which I suggest could be incorporated into further performces.

Warrangu River Story could become a very popular multimedia work on streaming services, as well as for live performance. I suggest it could be pitched to Netflix as like "Hannah Gadsby's Nanette". 

Monday, June 06, 2022

Turkish Drones for Australian Aircraft Carriers?

Baykar Bayraktar TB3,
photo from Ali Özkök
The Chinese Navy's southern fleet have released a video showing the aircraft carrier Shandong, with seven drones on the flight deck (Drones deployed on aircraft carrier Shandong,  Liu Xuanzun, Global Times, Jun 05, 2022 09:36 PM). These are relatively small UAVs. However, I suggest Australia could acquire much larger armed drones for shipboard use. These could be the Baykar Bayraktar TB3, which is a shipboard version of the TB2 which has been operating successfully in Ukraine. The TB3 was modified to operate from the Turkish  amphibious assault ship, TCG Anadolu, which is to the same design as Australia's HMAS Canberra and Adelaide. 

photo by Selçuk Bayraktar

Turkey is also developing the jet powered supersonic stealth Baykar Bayraktar Kızılelma UAV. Turkey was forced to adapt UAVs for  shipboard use, after the USA decided not to supply F-35B aircraft. Australia is hosting the development of the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat (aka Loyal Wing-man). The MQ-28 is a similar size and configuration to the Kızılelma, and it may be possible to adapt the MQ-28 for operation from Australian ships.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Optionally Crewed Submarines for the Australian Navy?

In the 2022 Australian election campaign, the Australian Liberal Party has proposed an "Autonomous undersea warfare capability for Australia's navy" as part of its electoral platform (5 May 2022). The Liberal Party lost the election, but there is merit in the new government implementing this idea. Rather than a purely autonomous craft, I suggest optionally crewed submarines, with the ability to carry about seven people (three crew and four special forces passengers). Australia could acquire a dozen such submarines and two submarine tenders to support them, for the cost of one Collins size boat. This would also ease staffing, as the submarines would require far fewer crew.

The proposed submarines would be eXtra Large Autonomous Underwater Uninhabited Vehicles (XLAUVs), designed to operate in Australia's large maritime region. These could be developed using an engineering approach similar to that of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX took the approach of first proving an uncrewed cargo version of their spacecraft, before adding manual controls and seats. With a submarine this would allow for more rapid development and operational use.

Such a small craft could be used for the same primary roles as a full size submarine:  surveillance, deployment of mines, and delivery of special forces. They would not be carry large conventional torpedoes, for a direct attack. However, they could deploy self-propelled smart mines in this role, with the submarine leaving the vicinity before the attack, to increase its chances of survival.

Cosmos-class submarine
Pakistan Navy, 
CC BY-SA 4.0, 2018 
Mini-subs, such as the Cosmos-class submarine, are about 110 tons, with a complement of 14, allowing for 6 crew, and 8 special forces passengers. XLAUVs under development are about half this size. They would be able to be operated with a smaller crew, as the autonomous systems would require less manual supervision.

XLAUVs and mini-submarines have a shorter range than conventional and nuclear submarines. The range can be extended by the use of submarine tenders, to refuel, rearm, and exchange crews, closer to the area of operation. The tenders would be able to be designed and made in Australia, derived from Australian stealthy warship and fast military transport ship designs developed for the US military. 


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Free Balance Testing at Seniors Expo in Canberra

You know you are getting old, when the most exciting thing happening is an invitation to test your balance at a Senor's Expo (Thursday 26 May 2022, at Exhibition Park in Canberra). Canberra is having its Seniors Day, with 200 booths. As it happens, I was lunching with Roger Hausmann today at Badger & Co (Australian National University), who mentioned the Balance Mat, will be on display at the expo. The idea is you stand on the mat, sensors measure the pressure changes from your feet, and a computer provides an analysis of your balance. Dr Maryam Ghahramani, from University of Canberra is researching the use of the data for diagnosis.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Art by the Canal


Greetings from Inner West Edge, an art festival in Sydney. Set up between a film studio and a canal are a series of shipping containers, each with an artist, making, collaborating, and performing. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Jet Suits Bunkum?

I was surprised to get a note from the publication Lifewire, to say I was quoted in their article on Paramedics in Jet Suits (Mayank Sharma, April 1, 2022):

"[A] one person drone might be more useful. The paramedic could strap the patient in and have it fly them to safety, then return empty [for the paramedic]," Worthington wrote on Twitter.

Which I did, but I was bemused to have this summarized as "Tom Worthington, an independent educational technology consultant, thinks the whole idea is bunkum". I can't recall ever using the word bunkum. ;-)

Saturday, May 07, 2022

HMAS Assault

 

Greetings from the Port Stephens Community Arts Center, at Nelson Bay, New South Wales, Australia. The meeting rooms of the center are named after Australian warships, with the shield of each ship. It turns out that during WWII this was the sick bay for HMAS Assault, a training center for amphibious warfare. A "stone frigate" in navy jargon, the building is actually made of wood, as many hastily constructed military building were, but is in remarkably good condition. The art of amphibious assault was revived by the ADF a few decades ago,  with the acquisition of specialized ships.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Robot Submarines for Australian Navy

The Australian Liberal Party has proposed an "Autonomous undersea warfare capability for Australia's navy" as part of its electoral platform (5 May 2022). Unlike many political promises, this is a very detailed proposal for the Defence Department and the company Anduril. Interestingly the Australian arm of the company was formed only a month ago, and the parent company in 2017, and appears to have limited experience building large long endurance robot submarines. 

The proposed submarines would be eXtra Large Autonomous Underwater Uninhabited Vehicles (XLAUVs). These are the size of crewed mini submarines used in WWII, and can cross an ocean, thus suited to operation in Australia's large maritime region. Unlike smaller torpedo sized AUVs, the XLAUVs can't be launched from a submarine, and would normally be supported by a specially fitted out submarine tender vessel. However some US nuclear submarines have the capability to carry an external cargo, and may be able to transport a XLAUV covertly to its launch point. The XLAUV may in turn launcher smaller AUVs, and  UAVs, as well as conventional torpedoes, mines, and missiles.

XLAUVs are conceptually similar to the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat UAV aircraft being developed for the RAAF. The ADF would need to develop tactics and train personnel for operating this equipment and learn how to use it effectively, at the same time it is developed. Support personnel, and equipment would also be required. In the case of the XLAUV surface ships would need to be acquired, built, or adapted in support. Oil industry support ships, which the RAN now has two of, may prove useful in this role. Australian designed fast ferries could also be used to deploy and replenish the robots.

If development proceeds well, the XLAUV may render the proposed Australian nuclear submarines obsolete even before they are ordered. The XLAUVs would be superior in the surveillance role to a nuclear submarine, being more stealthy. They would also be superior to deny large ocean areas via the threat of attack. They would not be able to provide as heavy conventional salvo attack as a larger submarine, however, that is not a role Australia is likely to require. In geopolitical terms XLAUVs may have an advantage by not appearing as threatening  as large nuclear submarines, while actually being militarily more useful. Australia could support and supplement the robot submarines with a small number of conventionally powered, crewed boats, such as the Korean KSS-III.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Will Australia Defend Taiwan?



Greetings from the ANU Australian Centre on China in the World, where Iain Henry from the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is speaking on "ANZUS and Taiwan: What are Australia’s obligations?". He went back to the formation of the ANZUS pact, arguing neither Australia or New Zealand wanted to defend Taiwan. The USA argued that an attack on their forces in Japan obliged Australia and NZ to act, but Taiwan was not mentioned.

While an interesting academic argument, I am not sure that the wording of the ANZUS treaty would have much to do with what Australia would do. The only time the treaty has been invoked was by Australia on 14 September 2001, after terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. This was an attack by a non state actor, based outside the Pacific, on the US Atlantic seaboard. If Australia would act similarly over Taiwan would perhaps depend more on the likely reaction of Australian popular opinion, than the wording of the treaty.  

On 24 April Australian PM, Scott Morrison said a Chinese military base at the  Solomon Islands would be a "red line": saying "We won't be having Chinese military naval bases in our region on our doorstep." This is a very serious statement, given the last time a regional power attempted to establish a base around the Solomon Islands was May 1942, resulting in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The USA and Australia met the Japanese Navy, with 13 ships sunk, and more than 1,500 lives lost.


Friday, April 08, 2022

Canberra World Center

The Canberra Innovation Network and ActewAGL are running a competition for ideas for a Canberra of the future. So I submitted "Canberra World Center".

My "Canberra 2020: World Information Capital" is from a previous ACT Government future history project in 1993. In this I envisioned Canberra replacing New York as the headquarters of the UN. That didn't happen, but is something I envisioned in 1998 did happen, with CBRIN being set up.

Canberra World Center

Combine a new sustainable fast built conference center, with facilities for dozens of universities to provide blended learning.

Canberra needs a new conference center, but such buildings stand empty much of the year. Canberra is a center for learning, but COVID-19 has shown how we need more flexibility in where and how we learn. These needs can be answered with a combined conference center and multi-institution vocational and university campus. This facility will have large multi-purpose halls, which can be used for conferences and courses. 

Dozens of educational institutions will be permanently based at the center, sharing the facilities, and bring vibrancy, and cash-flow(1). Some students will be full time on campus, but many will come for a week or two per year, staying in the conference accommodation, between events. 

The conference center will be rapidly constructed using the latest in prefabricated sustainable materials (2). The center's roof can be covered with solar panels, making it capable of operating independently of the grid, and offering an emergency center in times of crisis.

The Adaptive City needs to re-imagine Canberra for living and learning in 2040. Canberra needs to operate how it plans. It needs a place, an idea for  business innovation, sustainability, to create, connect, and thrive.

Notes

1. SA Government's Torrens Building accommodates multiple universities: https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2014/07/how-many-universities-in-torrens.html

2. The  ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre, is build from pre-assembled wood panels. https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2019/02/learning-to-teach-in-new-anu-teaching.html

Who will benifit?

People wanting to host, or attend, major national conferences will benifit from the facilities, as will universities and their students.

What is the problem?

Canberra lacks an up to date conference center, and somewhere for nimble post-COVID educational institutions.

How will it make Canberra Better?

A conference center will attract events, and visitors to the city. An education center will attract academics, support staff to live in Canberra, and students to come to study.


Sunday, April 03, 2022

Strategic Drone Material Stockpile for Australia

The Australian Government has been investing in billions in big weapons systems. But the Ukraine conflict has demonstrated the value of small smart systems. Perhaps there could be government funding to provide an Australian stockpile of carbon fiber, & other materials needed for airborne & underwater drones.

Companies such as Carbonix could buy from the stockpile at a discounted price, to keep the stocks fresh. In time of need, the government would order military drones made using the materials.


The avionics could be made just-in-time by companies like Core Electronics, from a stockpile of components.


This way the military could have a supply of up to date drones, suited to whatever situation arises.


The same could be done for underwater drones (UUVs). Imagine the number of small robot submarines which could have been built with the
$5B Australia is paying for French non-nuclear, non-submarines
. ;-)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Virtual Hospital Provides Real Help With COVID-19

Oximeter on my finger. 
I spent a week as a COVID-19 patient of NSW's first virtual hospital, and it was good. Having had a head cold, with runny nose and cough for a couple of days, last week I took a COVID-19 test. This came back positive. I was in NSW, so filled in their web reporting form (which was remarkably short and easy). I was expecting to be enmeshed in a complex bureaucratic process. But it was not that bad.

In response to the form, I got a text message telling me to self isolate for 7 days, or longer if not well. It also said "To help you get the care you need, please complete this questionnaire". However, by then I felt fine, did not think I needed care, and so did not fill the form in.

Some time later I got a call from "RPA Virtual Hospital". At fist I thought this was a scam, as most unsolicited calls are. But the caller said I had been referred to them by NSW Health. They seemed a little confused as to why they did not have me on file (no reason why they should). They asked about if I was vaccinated, which seemed odd, as they should have access to my vaccination, and medical records online. They also seemed surprised I felt so well. They asked if I needed groceries or medicines. I didn't, as I had been keeping two weeks supply on hand since the start of the pandemic for just such a situation+. They asked about existing health conditions and decided to send me a Oxiometer. Most usefully they explained that I did not need a COVID-19 test to leave isolation after a week (if well). 

The Oxiometer was delivered the next day and is a clever little gadget*. This  indicated my oxygen level was fine, and it was a relief to leave isolation. 

The PRA Virtual is an excellent service. It could be improved by having an easier to find web page. This would help reassure patients it is not a scam. Some sort of app where you enter your pulse & Oxygen reading regularly might be useful, not so much for the readings, but to reassure the hospital the patient is coping. NSW Health might want to amend their instructions to say the questionnaire should be filled in even if you are feeling well.

Also it might be good if the government system, or the hospital, was to contact the patient at the end of the isolation period, to confirm it was now okay to leave isolation. 

+ I am one of the most prepared people for using tech in a pandemic. In 2006 I gave a series of talks around the world on using the web in a pandemic, & in 2009 I set my ANU students the task to design a pandemic web site for the Australian public
* I ended up ordering an Oximeter online for $15, without a Bluetooth interface. This unit has an Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) registration number. There many units offered online claiming Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) "approval", but only 227 listed. Most are around $30.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Second Hough COVID-19 Home Test With Flat Battery

This week I purchased a Hough SARS-Cov-2 Rapid Antigen Rapid Test Kit from a supermarket in Sydney. This contained 5 tests and a UV torch. The battery for the torch is flat. A previous Hough kit purchased from a different supermarket a few weeks ago also had a flat battery. 

The battery supplied is branded "Malt Max" and has the date 01-2027 printed on it. Unlike the previous kit, this one had a card explaining how to insert the battery in the torch. But it doesn;t say how to test the torch is working, or that any AA battery can be used. The kit has a manufacturing date of 2022.01.08, Lot SA220108 Use by date 2023-01-07 and bar-code 8 60006 49851 1.

I have reported the problem to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, as well as letting Hough Pharma, and the supermarket. One faulty kit from one batch is understandable, but two manufactured a month apart is of concern.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Hough COVID-19 Home Test With Flat Battery

A few weeks ago I purchased a Hough SARS-Cov-2 Rapid Antigen Rapid Test Kit from a supermarket in Sydney. This contained 2 tests and a UV torch. The battery for the torch is flat. Placing a new AA battery in the torch fixed the problem (the battery from the kit did not work in another torch). Note that while UV light is invisible, the torch should should emit a visible soft violet glow.

The battery supplied is branded "Malt Max" and has the date 11-2026 printed on it. While AA batteries are readily available, it could cause difficulties in remote areas, and in disaster recovery areas. I suggest it would be prudent to provide a spare AA battery and battery test instructions with the kits. The kit has a manufacturing date of 2021-11-15, Lot SA211111 Use by date 2022-11-12 and bar-code 8 60006 49853 5.

I have reported the problem to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, as well as letting Hough Pharma, and the supermarket know.