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Can the Wi-Fi chip in your phone help feed the world?

In his latest Gates Note, Bill Gates talks about new technology that can help farmers know more about their soil to help them grow more crops.

 

The main innovation is in how FarmBeats sensors transmit data. Most farms have poor or no access to the Internet. In the United States, 20 percent of people living in rural areas don’t have access to even the slowest broadband speeds. Most farm data systems require expensive transmitters to connect, but FarmBeats relies on a clever workaround: it uses TV white space.

White spaces are unused TV broadcast spectrum. If you’ve ever watched an old TV, you’ve seen white spaces before. They’re the “snow” you’ll sometimes see while flipping through channels. These gaps in spectrum are plentiful in the remote areas where most farms are located, so data can be sent over them the same way that data gets transmitted via broadband.

A very good example of how thinking out of the box can solve a problem.

 

Think Smartwatches Are Dumb? They Saved These Peoples’ Lives

Caitlin McGarry writing in Tom’s Hardware brings us some examples of a very important aspect of smartwatches. – Health Monitoring.

Currently, smartwatches from Apple, Fitbit and others can tell you your heart rate and track your workouts. Some can even analyze your sleep. But these companies want to go beyond the basics by developing ways to tell you when something is wrong. A smartwatch could even diagnose your condition all on its own.

In fact, it’s already happening.

As each generation of smartwatch comes out it’s another example of mass market driving product size and prices down to help people.  The article also goes into detail about some other advances going on in both research and regulation.

 

Tolkien Exhibit at Oxford

Dust jacket of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Photograph: The Tolkien Trust 1977

There is an exhibition at Oxford University called Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth until October. Looks like it’s going to be a great exhibition.

Samantha Shannon from the Guardian has a great piece about how she found inspiration from Tolkien’s work.

Throughout my career as a writer, I have found Tolkien to be a source of both self-doubt and inspiration. On the one hand, it can be tempting to give up in the face of his brilliance. He began to invent his first Elvish language when he was a student at Oxford, and eventually built a “Tree of Tongues” – one of the items on display in the exhibition – that charted his constructed languages from source.

It is not very often items from the Bodleian Libraries Tolkien collection are available to view so if you are lucky enough to be in Oxford it would be well worth checking out.

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