Friday, March 14, 2014

From Wired to Wireless Electricity

It just boggles my mind when I find myself surrounded by the spaghetti of wires in this age of technology. Why do we need to plug all of our gadgets and appliances to the power sockets attached on the walls? To do so, we need to keep the appliances closer to the power sockets which limit our options to arrange our rooms according to our wishes. And that must hurt the ‘interior decorator’ in us.  I always thought that why can’t we simply take the clues from the telecommunication industry that has succeeded to become wireless to a significant extent.  

So one day I came across a segment on Richard Quest’s show on CNN ‘QUEST MEANS BUSINES’. The segment featured a company named ‘WiTricity’ that is involved in the innovation of wireless electricity. I straightaway browsed their website ( and gathered the following details:

The beginnings:

WiTricity Corp. was founded in 2007 to commercialize the exciting new technology for wireless electricity invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

MIT Professor Marin Soljačić conceived the idea while staring at his cell phone on the kitchen counter. It was probably the sixth time that month that he was awakened by his mobile phone in need to be charged. At that moment, it occurred to him, “There is electricity wired all through this house, all through my office—everywhere. This phone should take care of its own charging!” But to make this possible, one would have to find a way to transfer power from the existing wired infrastructure to the cell phone, without wires. Soljačić started thinking of physical phenomena that could make this dream a reality.

To achieve wireless electricity transfer in a practical and safe way, it is necessary to use a physical phenomenon that enables the device and the power source to exchange energy with no or minimal interaction with living beings and other environmental objects. The phenomenon of strongly coupled resonators did the trick and the physical theories were developed.

Afterwards, the experimental design consisted of two copper coils was developed. One of the coils, connected to an AC power supply, was the resonant source. The other coil, the resonant capture device, was connected to a 60 watt light bulb. The power source and capture device were suspended in mid-air with nylon thread, at distances that ranged from a few centimeters to over 2.5 meters.  Not only was the light bulb illuminated, but the theoretical predictions of high efficiency over distance were proven experimentally. By placing various objects between the source and capture device, the team demonstrated how the magnetic near field can transfer power through certain materials and around metallic obstacles.

How it works:

WiTricity power sources and capture devices are specially designed magnetic resonators that efficiently transfer power over large distances via the magnetic near-field. These proprietary source and device designs and the electronic systems that control them support efficient energy transfer over distances that are many times the size of the sources/devices themselves.

Practical application:

WiTricity technology can be used to provide:

Direct Wireless Power—when all the power a device needs is provided wirelessly, and no batteries are required. This mode is for a device that is always used within range of its WiTricity power source.

Automatic Wireless Charging—when a device with rechargeable batteries charges itself while still in use or at rest, without requiring a power cord or battery replacement. This mode is for a mobile device that may be used both in and out of range of its WiTricity power source.

So now we can say that the wireless electricity is here and soon we will be able to live in a wire-free world. I hope our future generations will not even have any idea about these wires.

Note: The technical parts of the content has been taken from WiTricity website (

Monday, June 3, 2013

EdgeRank - Facebook's algorithm to decide what will appear in newsfeed

EdgeRank is the algorithm used by Facebook to determine what will be displayed in the user's news feed. The algorithm is based on three factors: affinity, weight and time. For brands, it is essential to understand what shows up in your news feed and why. Understanding the EdgeRank algorithm is the foremost step for brands to improve their content strategy. 

So now let's discuss what these EdgeRank algorithm factors are:

Affinity: Affinity is based on the relationship between the user and the creator of the post, i.e. either a brand or an individual user. It depends on how often a fan/friend engaged with the content creator in the past, including page visits, likes, comments and shares. More the interactions, higher the affinity score.

Weight: Weight (or popularity) is based on two elements, type of post and quantity of engagements received by the post (i.e. likes and comments). The order of priority of the types of posts are as under:

1. Photos/Videos
2. Links
3. Text

The overall weight depends on the combination of the two elements. Plain text update with more likes and comments may have more weight than a photo post with no engagement.

Time: Time and decay of the post matters a lot. As the post ages, its value continuously drops. The factor is also dependent on the log in interval of the Facebook user. If the user occasionally logs in, posts that are a bit older still have a chance to show up in the news feed.

Just knowing about EdgeRank is not enough to improve the brand's content strategy, the real deal is how to implement it to improve the page's EdgeRank. Here are few tips to help:

Eye catching: Posting of photos and videos draws more user attention as compared to links and plain text updates. 

Short and quality: Small but meaningful posts get more likes and comments. Quality content is the key factor to expand Facebook reach.

Related: Always post stuff that is somehow relevant to the brand but not directly about it. While posting one should always keep the brand and target audience in the mind.

Engaging: Asking questions is the best way to encourage fans to comment on the post. User action driven posts are more engaging and help keep the posts visible for a longer period.

Timely and daily: Find out the best time when the posts get maximum user attention and keep posting at that time. Most users don't come back to the page, posting regularly is essential to stay connected with the fans.

Follow the guidelines to help Facebook's EdgeRank serve your page in the best possible way. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saving the Pakistani drama

Nowadays Pakistani media industry is criticizing the airing of dubbed soaps on the local TV channels. They say that our local drama industry will be destroyed as these foreign plays will replace the domestically produced dramas if the matter is not taken care of. Specially they will occupy the prime-time hours which have a significant history of showing us some of the finest Pakistani dramas that gained popularity not only in Pakistan but abroad as well. Last night, I saw a talk show on a news channel in which celebrities from our drama industry were invited to discuss this issue. I was deeply touched by a statement of the famous actor, Faysal Qureshi. He said, 'I'm very surprised to see that we need to explain it to people to give priority to the Pakistani dramas'. That is the point. Apart from the debate about the quality of our dramas. We should have a patriotic feeling about our TV dramas. At least it is something of our own, of our own country. It belongs to us.   

Pakistani drama industry has a dignified and glorious past of producing the unsurpassed dramas like 'Dhoop Kinaray', 'Tanhaiyaan', 'Chand Girhan', 'Dhuan', 'Alpha-Bravo-Charlie' and the list goes on. These plays were famous for creating a pin-drop silence on the streets. Even in the recent past we saw some noticeable plays like  'Manay Na Ye Dil', 'Qaid-e-Tanhai', 'Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan' etc. The DVDs of the aforementioned and many other plays were interestingly seen overseas not only by Pakistani expatriate community but other nationalities also. Pakistani dramas are also shown in the acting schools of the neighboring country as inspiration.

There was a period when an attempt was made by the Indian TV channels to invade this industry through their low-quality soaps that had weak concepts and senseless stories. Those dramas left negative impact on our society such as hatred, jealousy, greed and revenge. These behaviors entered our houses and females of our country were largely affected. These substandard plays also influenced the fashion sense of our people. Honestly, I never saw a man wearing a shocking pink embroidered suit before. 

Then enters the dubbed plays. Urdu1 ventured into dubbed programming with a Turkish soap 'Ishq e Mamnu'. Pakistanis loved the Urdu-speaking ladies of the Bosphorus and the play went viral as far as the ratings are concerned. For channels, this is a jackpot. With minimal production cost, just buy foreign content, dub it in Urdu and you are good to go. I've read some arguments on the web that dubbed programming is a common feature of primetime across the world. I say, this might be a trend worldwide but the countries where this practice is followed might not have their own quality content. Pakistan is a different case. Pakistan has a legacy of producing good quality dramas. From writers to actors, from producers to directors, Pakistan has a vast variety of talent which is increasing day by day. We don't need any foreign content to amuse our television viewers. I agree that there are some shortcomings in our dramas but those deficiencies could be fixed. 

I'm not against the screening of foreign content of on our local TV channels. People like change and I agree with that. But, it should be controlled, it should be limited. The prime-time should be reserved for the original Pakistani drama only. We should also keep in mind that local production of the drama is also connected to our economy. A huge number of people are associated with this industry. Display of too much foreign content on TV channels will ruin the careers of people (including many labor and low category technical staff) associated with the drama industry. Let us save our drama industry from foreign influence before it is too late.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Internet of Things - The next level of technology

LeWeb is Europe's biggest technology conference and it takes place twice a year in Paris and London. This December, at the event in Paris, LeWeb is focusing on hyperconnectivity and 'The Internet of Things'. The idea is, it's not just us who are connected to the internet, but the objects around us too. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) will likely be one of the most important technological advances of this century. It is said that by 2020, an estimated 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. This hyperconnected world is driving the formation of an IoT that will bring devices, infrastructure and people closer. It’s about blending of the physical world and the virtual world.

We have been talking about connected objects for years now, but with smartphones, systems, networks and software platforms enabling them to communicate, it is finally becoming a reality. Any physical object can connect to the internet and can communicate with other objects to transfer information to people. In the future, many everyday objects will be connected to the internet and many tasks that we do with our hands can be automated through the information exchanged between these objects. 

The appliances and devices will work through radio frequency identification technology (RFID). RFID chips are small and inexpensive. These chips use radio waves to send data to the RFID readers that are connected to the internet. The IoT will use smartphones and devices containing embedded chips and sensors that allow them to connect and talk to each other.

In the house of future, appliances will communicate with each other to make our routine tasks easier and simpler. The shower will be on before a person wakes up. The breakfast will be ready by the kitchen appliances as soon as one comes out of the shower. The car will start as soon as you plan to leave for office.  Appliances like refrigerator would be able to place online orders as soon as the level of the stock goes low and you can pick them up from the stores on your way back home. All this would be possible through a task scheduling application running on a smartphone and is connected to all the appliances. 

The self-driving cars would become a norm in the days to come. These cars would take us to any desired location as scheduled or simply through a command if not preset. The data they transmit would adjust the tasks scheduled at the office according to the calculated arrival time suggested by the satellite traffic monitoring feature of the navigation system.

China seems to lead the IoT race. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao identified IoT as an "emerging strategic industry" in an interview on state media, Beijing has focused on developing technology by which devices can communicate via infrared sensor, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and other Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology. The government has established state-owned enterprise zones such as the Chengdu Internet of Things Technology Institute in Sichuan province, which is developing a health care system in which rural villagers can step into a telephone booth-sized "health capsule" to get a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor in a distant hospital.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will make our lives easy and organized, but on the other hand we would be completely relying on technology even for our simple daily routine tasks. The design standards of appliances and devices will dramatically change in the days to come so as our lifestyles. The next version of internet will impact a broad range of industries that are involved in making products and services for the humans.    

Monday, November 19, 2012

The workplace transformation is taking place

Our working environment is swiftly evolving. The new generation is demanding freedom and flexibility so that they could work at office, at home or even on the go. Technology and the tech-savvy generation is changing the expectation of how we go to work today. Office is where you are. Going to work no longer means travelling to a certain place, employees can work where they are, when they want. Work has now become a task, an activity, rather than spending hours at some place. 

The vision of the 'future workplace' is surfacing. The employee is seldom bound to a physical location and performance is measured by the quality of the output submitted on a pre-decided timeline instead of the number of hours spent. Transforming the workplace to follow these growing trends in order to achieve high-quality performance in today's challenging and competitive environment is the top priority of the organizations and technology is playing its role to change the environment and work culture.  

The future workplace model follows a connected, collaborative and socially engaged work-space. So it is high time to say goodbye to permanent desks, cabins, structured meeting rooms and hence embrace a free and social workplace setting where employees are encouraged to choose between different environments that best suit their task on any given day. If people are working collaboratively and using technology instead of face-to-face they are able to meet more often and can make decisions quickly. 

It is already happening in companies and Microsoft's office in Amsterdam is an example. For instance, staff no longer have a desk, quiet areas are built for people who need to concentrate on their work, large open areas are made for workers who need to work with the collaboration of other team members, open refreshment zones like restaurants and coffee bars are prepared for meetings between employees. They are also encouraged to work from home. The bottom-line is to gain maximum productivity. According to Microsoft, the results of implementing the new way of working are as under:

- Reduction in real estate costs
- Increased productivity
- Benefits for the environment
- Satisfied and happier workforce

Microsoft is not alone in making the future work environment flexible and smart. Dell, Google and Unilever are also among the companies that are striving to make this world a better place to work. The new way of working is spreading all over the world with the help of technology to bring positive change in the traditional working practices, transforming the way people work, communicate, collaborate and finish their day-to-day tasks in efficient and effective manner. 

Environment is also a major part of the shift, helping companies reduce their carbon footprint. Also, consider the amount of pollution we produce by coming to our offices in the morning and by going back home, causing massive traffic jams. This could also help us save some money.

Finally, it reduces cost of business. According to, people will use other spaces to congregate and work outside the office. With around 45% of office desk space vacant at any one time, this could lead to significant savings.