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.


1. SA Government's Torrens Building accommodates multiple universities:

2. The  ANU Marie Reay Teaching Centre, is build from pre-assembled wood panels.

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, with 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.