Saturday, August 10, 2013

Open Source Space Satellites Launched

This news story in NewScientist by Lisa Grossman caught the attention of a lot of people this week – "Space station poised to launch open-source satellites". Known as CubeSats, these open source mini -satellites were launched into space this week aboard a Japanese resupply vehicle heading to the International Space Station (ISS). This citizen-science project was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

Paying customers will be able to program controls on the satellites and run experiments for three days for $125, or for $250 per week. The open source CubeSats run Arduino, an open source computer hardware and software platform popular with science hobbyists. Five years out, the project team expects to see hundreds of these satellites deployed in space.

Students of Sara Seager at MIT helped design and build CubeSats for planetary science.  "This definitely is helping open up space both to all people and all nations," Seager says of the Ardusat launch.

This is all kind of amazing to me – and to the rapidly growing open source global community. What's next? Open source space vehicles heading around the moon and off to Mars? 
BTW - how much would a large commercial company have charged for a similar solution? $50 million? $100 million? Interesting to speculate about.

Open source has come a long way over the past decade.  What other spectacular new innovative uses of open source platforms do you see coming down the road?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

'Open Data' can help protect our Cities, Citizens, and Workers

I was recently reading a blog by Open Data and Financial Crisis", particularly with regards to cities.  It was a timely piece given the recent issue of Time Magazine on the bankruptcy of Detroit and a growing number of other cities across the U.S.

What I have read about cities that have declared bankruptcy, is that financial organizations and corporations somehow seem to get their money back in the bankruptcy proceedings. However, city workers who have put in 30-40 years of work and paid contributions to pension funds get the shaft.  

The argument is usually that it's too bad, the politicians either raided the pension funds to pay off the financial creditors, or they simply never put enough money into the pension fund.  Bottom line, no politician is ever held accountable and the workers – well, they get blamed and then are robbed blind. 

It's time to change that everywhere across the country. By taking an 'Open Data' approach cities, workers, citizens, investors and financial institutions can build and ensure:

  • more transparency and accountability, clearly identifying when pension funds are being raided or are not fully funded by the government and its elected officials;
  • more trust in our government and its elected officials, especially when they enter into financial contracts and commitments;
  • citizens receive an early warning of potential problems regarding the financial condition of the government, especially fraudulent behavior;
  • steps are taken to constantly evaluate and stimulate innovative solutions to improve the efficient and quality of government services;
  • politicians are held accountable and build the will to make distasteful but required changes, by giving them reliable and 'transparent data' to back up their arguments in public.
  • all key data is 'open' to the public and government watchdog organizations

Citizens! Workers! Local governments! Wake up.  It's in your best interest to enforce new 'Open Data' policies and laws. We can do better. 

* The White House has taken the initiative by releasing an Executive Order on Open Data Policy to be followed by the Federal government. State and local governments need to follow suit.