quarta-feira, 2 de agosto de 2017

7- The new world`s factory and the industrial automation

Yesterday I watched an interesting talk entitled “The new world`s factory”, and surprise! Africa has its chance now. Nothing certain, but if Africa countries chose the right policies, they will get there. 

The industries started in Europe, moved to the United States and nowadays are in China and far-east countries. In this moment, China has the power and the money to decide which region is the best to be promoted and they decided by Africa. In her talk to HarvardBusiness Review, Irene Yuan Sun goes deep on this topic.

As interesting as this topic and the future possibilities and changes in the world are the automation involved in new factories. What will be the benefits to people if the workers would be machines? When a couple of questions about robots and automation arose, Irene Yuan Sun explained that after visit between 50 and 60 factories in China, she was surprised with the speed of production line changes. Every 6 months the production line must be adapted because the products are updated. Not only the machines but also the workers change some of their tasks.

Nowadays, robots are not able to do very sophisticated tasks compared with human abilities. They are not resilient to a dynamic environment like humans. New factories in Africa, China or other countries don’t stop to hire people. The costs of re-design machines/robots or even re-program robots are higher than hire people to do the tasks.

This is the link with previous posts 4 and 5. It is likely that the robots will be present in all areas of industry and will do the repetitive jobs, remaining to humans the creative tasks. That is the next step. But maybe, it will not happen as fast as expected. We can divide the robot`s revolution into 2 stages. The first is already taking place in those more static production areas. The second, in the future, will include those industries that demand fast flexibility to adapt to new tasks.

The turning point to the second stage is sparkling of technology advances, which is pushed by how much money the robot`s companies save and what are the incentives to enter into new markets.
In my opinion, the stimuli are high for either one: capital accumulated and perspectives of new markets to robot`s companies. Even with this promising future, don’t expect that the robots will take all the factory`s jobs so fast.

segunda-feira, 24 de julho de 2017

6- Smart Systems to support elderly

Lonely elderly – depression – apps – smartphones – embedded systems

How these words are connected and how we can develop smart systems to help elderly don’t fall in depression?

Here you can find a brief discussion and some insights about this relevant topic.


We are experiencing an important demographic change around the world, with the increase of elderly people in our society[1]. In the United States, the elderly population has grown 10-fold within the last century. According to projections by the US Census Bureau, about 1 in 5 Americans would be considered elder by the year 2030.
Depression is a mental health disease which is characterised by having a depressed mood or a loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities[2]. Most importantly, it disrupts the normal functioning of a person. There are multiple proposed underlying mechanisms which cause depression. One of them is Beck’s classic cognitive triad theory[3]. Beck believes depression is the result of a downward spiral of negative views about oneself, the world and the future. The subjective and often faulty perception of the individual plays a key role in maintaining a depression.
Another classic theory is the hopelessness theory proposed by Abramson, Seligman and Teasdale[4]. This theory assumes that depression-prone individuals often see themselves as the cause for negative events. Whenever positive events occur, they are often seen as caused by others or external events. This attributional style causes individuals to take the blame for all negative events and leads to feelings of hopelessness about the future which in turn promotes depression.     
This phenomenon brings many economic impacts and also the increasing sensibility of society to provide a happy and healthy life for elderly. There are organisations and companies that offer very useful teleassistance services in many communities around the world. For the most part, these services are based on the demand by the user by simply pushing a button on a small device that he/she carries on him/her[5].

What are symptoms of depression in elderly?

What are the reasons behind depression among elderly?

What is being done at this moment in order to prevent depression?

Smart Systems to support elderly

Many smart systems are being developing to support people, few to support elderly don’t fall in depression. Here you find some start hints that could help to develop such systems. The design attends to specific conditions: Elderly, Living alone and be aware of his vulnerability condition, what means that he is engaged in a help group because of his historic prognostic of depression. The stakeholders are: the person, the family, the help group and the automatic house system. Figure 5 shows the workflow of system and the link among stakeholders.

Figure 5: System workflow.
In Figure 5, the yellow tones represent stakeholders, while blue blocks are aspects of the system. The model is presented in blocks highlighted in red. The system monitors elderly, evaluating the level of depression according to with his activities and contact with other stakeholders. The model decides by continue monitoring his behaviour or if is necessary act directly in elderly or activating the other stakeholders.

How to evaluate depression and translate to code and actions.

Based on the previously described symptoms, it is possible to define some strategies in order to estimate the depression level of people. This requires using sensors that are installed in home and forms to evaluate the current mood of people. Combining the method established by American Psychiatric[6] mixed with input values collected from the system, some thresholds are established to infer the risk of the beginning of a depression process. The risk is based on quantity of events by period of time. An event is the detection of one of symptoms described in Table 1. While external factors are related to weather, economy, particular situations that could mask or push a depression situation.
   (2 events or less + (external factors)) in 2 weeks: pre-depression - stage 0.
   (3 events + (external factors)) in 2 weeks: starting pre-depression process - stage 1.
   (4 events + (external factors)) in 2 weeks: pre-depression - stage 2.
(5 events + (external factors)) in 2 weeks: eminence of depression - stage 3.

If you want know more about the actions and the backend system, visit:

[1] United Nations, "World population ageing 2013", Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2013.
[2]  DSM-IV
[3] Beck, A.T. (1970). The core problem in depression: The cognitive triad. In J.H. Masserman (Ed.), Depression: Theories and therapies (pp. 47-55). New York: Grune & Stratton
[4] Dykman, B., & Abramson, L. (1990). Contributions of Basic Research to the Cognitive Theories of Depression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,16(1), 42.
[5] Aguilera, S., Colas, J., Campos, E., "Multi Functional Call Center for Disabled and Elderly
People. Assistive Technology Shaping the future", In AAAT 2003.
[6] American Psychiatric Association, “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, Fifth Edition, 2013.

sábado, 7 de janeiro de 2017

5- The current-new world with robots

Who likes to do always the same tasks? After some hours or days, it becomes boring and does not contribute to developing our skills. Nobody wishes this for its sons. The robots are coming to do those repetitive works and maybe more, and that will save our time to do more refined tasks.

 We already have technology to put robots in our daily life, but don’t think only in those humanoids, think in smart cars, autonomous trucks, mechanical arms in industrial lines or independent machines with long life battery, many sensors, intelligence and precise movements.
Ten years ago, I visited Chuquicamata, the biggest mine in the world. At that time they were testing autonomous trucks, with no human intervention. The trucks transport material from inside the mine to the processing plant. I talked with the people and they told that some trucks were lost at that time, but nowadays, 10 years after, the scenario is completely different, autonomous trucks are a reality.
All these things are happing now, see the example in Japan: [1]. In South Korea, for instance, there are 478 robots per 10,000 workers; in Japan, the figure is 315; in Germany, 292; in the United States it is 164. The industry is investing heavily on AI and robots because these technologies will promote a new revolution in human life. As I posted in 2015 [2], not only the industry but the governments believe that robotics is a strategic area. The US is injecting money on research and, on March 16, Chinese government officials approved the latest Five-Year Plan for China’s economy, which is reported to include an initiative that will make billions of yuan available for manufacturers to upgrade to technologies including advanced machinery and robots [3,4].
The robots will produce faster and cheaper than us, especially in developed countries where human workforce cost every day more. This movement in the industry and governments is pushing the necessity of specialized people and new abilities to work on a new market. The countries of future will be those that invest on robots and AI and prepare their citizens to work in this new environment.