Week 10: Reflection on Open Source Development

Prior to taking this Open Source for the Common Good course, I never had any experience with the topic and was initially still pretty fuzzy as to the applicability of the field in the real world. However, over the course of the semester the class and I have reflected on various subjects where Open Source has become an extremely viable solution to many of our problems as opposed to intellectual property. After experiencing Open Source first hand during our Food Computer project, it became clear as to the plausibility of widespread support and use of Open Source projects. The Food Computer that we built through Open Source is a sustainable and robotic food producing system that uses 90% less water than traditional agricultural methods. Open Source projects such as this, are perfect examples of how people with little to no experience in any particular field can quickly become informed and capable of building an incredible product.

As part of the build team for the Food Computer, I was forced into a division which I had very little previous knowledge. However, through helpful Open Source steps and videos, we were able to almost successfully complete the entire Food Computer in a mere 5-6 weeks. Though we encountered a few hiccups on the way as a result of confusing instructions, we saw much success in the project. Also, we built a website that documented our struggles and is now able to inform future readers of the necessary measurements or steps that are required to successfully complete the task. It has become obvious to me the importance of documentation throughout the process. Open Source is completely based on a person’s ability to easily present, to an assumed reader with no knowledge on the subject, the steps required to build the system. I hope that our ability to redefine the way to build the Food Computer will help other builders finish the system with much more ease.

The Food Computer, along with our lessons throughout the course, gave me confidence in the plausibility of effectively spreading the word about Open Source and being able to implement the idea throughout the world. This course has been extremely influential for me. I was able to study a variety of fields throughout the semester and the realistic applications that Open Source has in each one. I have become knowledgeable in the subject, and most specifically the Food Computer, and I am very excited about the possibilities that Open Source has in the future.

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Week 9: Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Along with the subject of health, this week we are also concentrating on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Apache Open Climate Workbench is “a platform designed to create climate evaluations using models developed from a range of sources including NASA, the U.S. National Climate Assessment, and the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment, among many others.” (Apache) The system is able to create climate computations based on these analyses and then projecting the predictions. Through an open source platform Apache is able to realistically forecast climate change and thus the effect of humans on it. The realistic assessment of our climate and its changing tendencies is becoming extremely important towards creating environmental change. Apache is able to provide information critical for proving our effect on the climate and thus creating economic and political change. “A core element of the climate assessment is numerical model predictions that not only provide a foretelling of physical indicators of future climate but also indirectly provide information on societal impacts and thus provide a key resource for addressing adaptation and mitigation questions.” (Apache) Apache is helping create much needed change in our political system that hopefully will increase our positive involvement with the environment and implement severe consequences for hurting it.

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WIPO has become increasingly involved in the fight against climate change. They claim that total investment in Climate Change and Mitigation Technologies (CCMT’s), but specifically renewable energy and fuels, was $244 billion in 2012. The growing investment in CCMT’s has also strongly increased the global patent filing rates. In some cases the average annual growth rates of patents in this sector grew 8x between 1975-2006. “The growth in patenting rates in the respective technology is likely a combination of the positive impact of policies and response to market conditions, including increased levels of R&D investment, shifts in policy incentives, such as feed-in-tariffs, as well as technological advances, such as cost reductions in manufacturing.” (WIPO) The reasons for growth in patent rates above are most likely correct, however, filing for intellectual property and installing the designs have become increasingly time intensive. Intellectual property, and specifically in the field of climate change, has become not as effective compared to open source design. Open source design provides an easily accessible way to get involved in the fight against climate change without the need for resource and monetary intense research like that needed for intellectual property. Like that of the Danish Concept, mentioned in my Energy blog, OSD has provided an incredible system for sharing information and the adaptation for products especially in the sphere of climate change mitigation.

Week 8: Health

This week we are focusing on health as the main subject in our Open Source for the Common Good course. Open Medical Record System or OpenMRS is “a software platform and a reference application which enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS’ model is based on the belief that medical information should be stored in a way that is extremely easy to analyze and is easily accessible in rural communities. OpenMRS is an open source application that allows medical professionals from around the world be able to access the records of individuals. It essentially enables doctors to give recommendations or diagnoses from across the world. In rural countries where “over 40 million people are infected with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and malaria – most (up to 95%) of these afflictions are present in developing countries.” (OpenMRS) OpenMRS is capable of severely reducing the number the illnesses, and most importantly undiagnosed illnesses, around the world. Through an open source platform, clients and doctors in rural communities can professionally present their cases for the evaluation by multiple medical professionals with access to more modern tools and diagnostic systems.

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The Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property Team, or PHI, is a group under the umbrella of the World Health Organization. PHI “is responsible for promoting innovation in the discovery, development, production and delivery of essential health technologies.” (WHO) The main goals of PHI are to adhere to the purposes and uses of intellectual property, while at the same time trying to make as impactful of a difference as possible in global health. Though intellectual property may not be as effective as open source in regards to curing global illnesses, PHI is determined to provide patented products to communities and people that need it most. Their two most important goals are to: “1) Develop policy guidance and provide technical assistance on management and application of intellectual property with a view to promote needs based innovation and access to patent protected essential medicines and health products and 2) Facilitate technology transfer to and build capacity in developing countries for the manufacturing of strategically selected health products in order to improve access.” (WHO) During the majority of my blog posts, I have rejected the need for intellectual property as an alternative to open source since open source has become so much more effective in developing successful solutions much quicker. Although I still agree that open source is a much better alternative, PHI and the WHO have also been able to make significant impact around the globe regarding the health of rural communities.

 

Week 7: Infrastructure

Our course is currently focusing on infrastructure. Cleber LLC and their Oggun tractor have been working on revolutionizing the farming industry. Though the design is based on a 60-year-old model, they have managed to change some key components in the machine regarding the frame. The design is perfect for subsistence farming found all over the globe and will assist in increasing agricultural production in those countries. Cleber has also created an “open source manufacturing model that will be easy to fix and maintain.” (NPR) By doing so, farmers will be able to keep their tractors running and up to date. Contrastingly to other companies whose goal is to force consumers to buy a new machine once theirs breaks down, Cleber focuses on maintenance. Their tractors are expensive, between $8,000-$10,000, and most farmers in their market would not be able to afford new tractors if theirs were to break down. Their business model is perfect for subsistence farming. Through open source maintenance, farmers will be able to continuously produce more goods on their farm. As Cuba begins to attract more and more tourists and businesses, the need for tractors will only continue to grow in order to counter the demand for goods. This, in turn, could help drive industry and encourage a shift from a subsistence lifestyle to an urban one.

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The infrastructure sector is a billion dollar industry. With firms such as Bechtel Corp., who built the Hoover Dam and the Dulles Airport Silver Line expansion, and Fluor Corp., who built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, there has been significant amounts research and development put into their projects. They have completed some of the largest modern architectural designs in the world. There is a lot of IP that is created as a result of the designs of these projects, however, if these firms were to use or upload their open source designs, they could make their projects much cheaper and safer. With the help of other infrastructure firms, through the use of open source, a firm could significantly increase their efficiency and greatly decrease the time it takes to complete their tasks. “The problems on the $1-billion-plus megaprojects Bechtel had in mind reflect the shortcomings of engineering and construction.” (ENR) The construction industry runs into continuous problems in the design and development of their projects. The use of open source could greatly reduce the number of setbacks that they face. Not only will their firms perform better, but the infrastructure that they create will be better fit for society as well.

Week 6: Communication

The focus of our course this week revolved around communication. Kaa IoT development has provided an incredible resource for enabling the creation of highly innovative and groundbreaking products. “Kaa is a multi-purpose middleware platform for the Internet of Things that allows building complete end-to-end IoT solutions, connected applications, and smart products. The Kaa platform provides an open, feature-rich toolkit for the IoT product development and thus dramatically reduces associated cost, risks, and time-to-market.” (Kaa) Kaa has, through open source design, enabled users to create much more efficient and useful products in a much shorter time frame. Kaa perfectly satisfies the goals of open source design and it has become an extremely beneficial asset for product developers. It handles all of the communication across a user’s devices and creates a platform that is designed to facilitate efficient interaction between a user’s hardware and their application. It is through programs such as Kaa that there is increasing recognition of the substantial benefits of open source communication.

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In a world that is becoming increasingly technologically advanced, the desire to stay one step ahead of competition is also on the rise. IP is becoming a vital part of our culture  at least for the time being. However, open source design and the applications through which it is used, such as Kaa, have been driving more innovation than IP alone. Open source design has become a much more beneficial platform for not only firms, but for everyday consumers as well. The only downside has become data security. There have been an increasing number of hacks through communication platforms, which has led to serious concern over the safety of open source design. Though there have been many measures put into place to counter hack attempts, the number of large-scale attacks have risen 40% since 2015. (Bloomberg) Our growing reliance on communication and open source have greatly increased our vulnerability to attacks.

Open source communication is an incredible resource that has been able to stimulate innovation. We rely on virtual communication every day and it has become imbedded in our lives. Though our Internet safety is becoming increasingly more at risk, our communities and businesses will rely more and more on open source forms of communication. Open source communication is driving the way we progress and if we are to continue using these methods, we must be aware of the possible consequences.

Week 5: Food and Agriculture

The focus of our course this week revolves around food and agriculture. A leader in the open source agriculture sector is the program Growing Innovation. Growing Innovation, started by Rural Advancement Foundation International and Farm Hack as a Kickstarter, is “an online library of agricultural innovations developed by farmers to create a book celebrating their ingenuity.” (Growing Innovation) It is a project that documents new and groundbreaking sustainable methods by farmers. The library will include detailed plans of blueprints and budgets that are highly adaptable to most farming plots. The goal of this open source site is to provide farmers with substantial knowledge on how to successfully and efficiently grow their own food. Many supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods will provide healthy organic foods, however, many of their goods have been picked days or even weeks before arriving to the market. 80% of the nutritional value disappears within two weeks as vegetables age and dehydrate. Though kale and broccoli for instance, among other vegetables, are very healthy, if they are aged for too long, the vegetables provide little benefit to us. Transportation of foods across the world has also become a large part of the food industry. In the US, we have become accustomed to being provided year-round foods that only bloom during certain periods in our country. This means that these products must be shipped from the southern hemisphere during off-seasons. With the development of quick transportation, foods such as avocados or mangoes can be sold in the US prior to their rotting. Though this seems like an incredible luxury, the transportation of millions of pounds of food each year have had drastic impacts on climate change due to the energy it requires for travel. With the implementation of open source local farming, we could significantly reduce emissions, while providing ourselves with much healthier products. Though we might lose the year-round fruits and vegetables, we will be in a much better place in the long run.

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Companies like Cargill and Monsanto have taken over the food industry. Cargill now touches almost every piece of food that we eat since they have operations in every aspect of food around the world. From energy to pharmaceuticals to food production, Cargill has created an evasive presence through IP. Monsanto has also played a huge role in the use of IP to further their profits. Monsanto began genetically modifying soybeans, however, they have shifted into many fields. For example, they began licensing their modified cotton to farmers in India, promising the benefits of drug resistance. However, the rural farmers quickly began to fall back on their payments and were unable to pay for the cost of the seeds. Many of the poorer farmers committed suicide due their heavy load of debt. Though IP has been extremely beneficial in many ways, especially in the food industry, it can easily be seen the drastic negative effects of its use.

Open source agriculture is the future of the farming industry. Through the transfer of knowledge provided by open source, any person can become an efficient farmer. With a growing shift to local growth, transportation costs are diminishing, and people are eating healthier and healthier. In a world that is becoming exponentially obese, the importance of health is critical. I believe that open source farming could provide an end to many of our worlds current problems.

Week 4: Education and the Control of Knowledge

This week in our Open Source course, we are focusing on education and the control of knowledge. A leader in the education sector for open source is Open Up Resources. Open Up is an openly licensed, nonprofit collaborative that was formed in an effort to develop comprehensive and high quality standards-aligned core programs to K-12 schools. (Open Up) School districts spend more than $8 billion on textbooks and other instruction materials annually, however, there are huge gaps between district needs and publisher offerings for these materials. In a study done by EdReports, they reviewed 16 middle school math programs and found that only one was deemed standards-aligned across every middle school grade. (EdReports) Open Up’s goal is to deliver consistent educational materials to the changing K-12 student’s needs. Before releasing their open source curriculums, Open Up beta tests them with hundreds of students in multiple districts in order to strengthen the curriculum through feedback. Open Up also provides curriculum support for students with disabilities. They cover the entire educational spectrum for grades K-12. Through open source publications of their curriculum, Open Up provides incredible savings to districts. This also reduces the royalty payments made to the instructional material publishers and authors providing a further decrease in costs to schools. Open Up is proving to be an extremely beneficial tool in changing our education system through the use of open source.edu_open20up

Not only have there been drastic changes in the Open Source education sector, but IP in education, and specifically college research, has seen policy change as well. Penn State announced that the University no longer owns intellectual property from research done with or by the college. It was quoted that Penn State aims to “spur growth with more flexible IP policies, manage master agreements by building end-to-end partnerships, create a culture of entrepreneurship, and raise revenue by aggressively marketing existing Penn State IP.” (IP Policies) This policy change exemplifies an incredible step towards open source innovation through education. Though certain researchers may obtain patents on their products or discoveries, the fact that the University as a whole will no longer seek to obtain ownership rights to over the inventions is incredible for open source. Penn State could lay the groundwork for much more inclusive University-sponsored research between colleges and other research-based firms.

There has been other concern as to the increase in the number patents by Universities across the US. It is believed that such a drastic increase, as a result of the technological boom, may lead to less innovation. “The increased focus on patenting academic inventions has raised a number of concerns. These concerns range from the effect on the direction of research, on the actual costs and benefits of patenting and licensing, to the effects on the diffusion of and access to publicly funded research results.” (Academic Patenting) Open source has quickly become a popular solution to innovation. Companies such as Tesla, who are now releasing their tools and data to the public, have given much attention to the Open source community. Although there are many benefits of patents, the general trend to secure data and research among educational institutions should

Week 3: Energy

This week in our Open Source for the Common Good course, we are focusing on the development of OSD for wind energy, most specifically for Danish turbines. In the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Danish government was forced to invest in either nuclear or renewable energy in order to counteract the oil shortage. Collaboration from college students, activists, and professors prompted the quick development of wind energy as a substitute for potentially harmful nuclear energy. A plausible solution seemed to point towards wind turbines. Over time, and through open source communication, wind turbines evolved from one to two to three blades. Research suggested that the third blade could significantly increase efficiency and that the wind turbines now only needed 12 m/s of wind to generate a substantial amount of sustainable energy. Today, through collaborative study, wind turbines now only need 4 m/s of wind to operate as a result of increasing the size of each blade to 80 meters in diameter. The new triple bladed wind turbine has been named the Danish Concept. As a result of OSD, renewable wind energy has become a viable replacement to other carbon emitting methods for obtaining energy.

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OSD provides an incredible solution for developing sustainable energy, however, there have been instances of IP within the energy sector that have prevented such rapid invention and production as seen above. Jesús Alonso, the R&D Director at Isofoton, has acquired many IP rights in an effort to remain on top of the solar energy industry. Isofoton is a world leader in photovoltaic and thermal solar energy technologies and they have commercial business in over 60 countries. Alonso and Isofoton aim to own and create only IP in an effort to retain their leading status in the market of solar energy. “For Isofoton, the basic goal is that the company should as far as possible generate and own all IP as a result of its internal research and development activities, so as to be independent from the competition in generating new technology and ahead of competition in the applications market.” (WIPO) Although this goal for Isofoton might prove beneficial for its investors and clients since they would essentially rule the market for renewable solar energy, it is extremely detrimental for the rest of the world. Due to their significant resource and research capabilities, they have an incredible upper hand in development and production. However, if they were to instead incorporate open source into their strategy, the development of new and more efficient renewable solar energy technologies could occur at a much faster rate.

The Earth’s climate is being destroyed by the release of 30 billion tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere annually. A possible solution to such a huge problem is a shift to renewable solar and wind energy since the harnessing of both types of energy emits 0 carbon. Humans must work together to develop renewable technologies on a worldwide scale as quickly as possible in an effort to counteract our carbon release. In order to do so, companies like Isofoton must put an end to their commercial greed and sacrifice potential profit to help counteract global warming and the destruction of our planet.

 

 

Week 2: The Inequality Crises

This week in our Open Source for the Common Good course, we are focusing on the inequality crises, most specifically in the US. The use of intellectual property patents has skyrocketed since the beginning of the technological boom. In 1980, 112,000 intellectual property patent applications were filed and 62,000 were approved. In 2015, 630,000 applications were filed and 298,000 were approved. (USPTO) With such vast access to knowledge via the Internet and other forms of modern communication, the drive to beat the competition has drastically increased our belief in the need for patents and has consumed our economic and political spheres. For example, in the case Association for Molecular Pathology vs. Myriad Genetics, Myriad Genetics had claimed that they had a patent on two human genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2, mutations that predispose women to breast cancer. Until the court ruled in favor of the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), Myriad Genetics had charged $4000 for comprehensive testing on the two genes. However, gene tests can be administered for $1,000 and can sequence all 20,000 of a human’s genes as stated by the AMP. (NYTimes) Myriad Genetics, upon losing the case, claimed that they needed to maintain a high price level in order to continue to fund research. The use of intellectual property, and most specifically in this case, has led to extreme commercial greed. IP has generated a lack of desire for knowledge and has led to commercial schemes designed for the creation of wealth.

Another company that has reaped the lower class of wealth at the hands of IP is Monsanto. Monsanto created patents for their genetically modified seeds that they hoped would protect them from competitors who were trying to enter the market for GMO’s. However, Monsanto took this patent even further. Due to the effects of cross-pollination, the genetically modified seeds traveled to other farms, leading Monsanto to claim that the farmers must pay them or face the possibility of a lawsuit. Monsanto has filed 145 lawsuits against farmers who have “improperly reused their patented seeds” and they have yet to lose a case. (Monsanto Lawsuits) Monsanto is just another example of commercial greed that comes at the hands of the lower class.

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The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, was a government sponsored, international research project with the goal of mapping all of the genes in the human genome. It was a 13 year project that represented OSD at its finest. Through public effort, the project was completed light-years before any private institution would have been able to. Not only was this project groundbreaking in the world of genetics, but it paved the way for exponential growth in the health industry. Discoveries of vaccines and mutations quickly became much more plausible (and eventually even created in some cases). All knowledge is based on prior knowledge and the Human Genome Project created an incredible database that has led to life-saving discoveries. If we removed commercial greed in our society and became more focused on knowledge and discovery, we could see incredible progression in multiple fields.

Week 1: Innovation and Product Development

During my first week in my Open Source for the Common Good course, we compared and contrasted Open Source Design (OSD) and Intellectual Property (IP). OSD can be defined as a product or piece of work that is distributed to the public in an effort to stem conversation and development of that work. It has been seen as a faster and more effective method for innovation and product development. IP, on the other hand, is a developed work or product that is then legally protected from replication or use by any other person or organization apart from the creator. IP is in the form of patents, copyrights, or trademarks, while OSD can take many forms. An example of OSD is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is public and constantly being edited by its users to provide more detailed and useful information.

The use and IP and OSD have skyrocketed since the introduction of the Internet and the technological boom. However, I believe that the increase in OSD has proven significantly more important. Don’t get me wrong, Intellectual Property has many necessary benefits as well. For the inventor of the patent, it could prove to become a key financial asset. If the patent suddenly becomes desirable to another party, the creator now has the financial upper hand and can trade the use of their patent in return for compensation. Entrepreneurs especially desire patents for their products, as it could be a key asset for securing funding from possible investors. Patents suggest protection since no other competitor will be able to use their work and they have sole ownership over that portion of the market that the patent holds. If other competitors find themselves stuck behind a previously owned patent, it forces them to search for other solutions, driving innovation and further product development.

Understandably, Open Source Design shares many of the same incentives as well. OSD can significantly decrease the need for finances. Through the use of open source, people have access to the information and the product at hand, which allows quicker and more effective solutions. However, most importantly, it can prove to be much cheaper than IP product development. OSD has the ability to reduce the length of time needed to move from the idea stage of a product to a final product stage. This could in turn greatly improve the number of successful start-ups and small businesses since the need for capital is decreased due to less R&D. OSD is developed by the public, while IP is stuck to development within that company. Not only is OSD cheaper, faster, and more effective than traditional product development, but the probability that product improvement occurs is much higher than that of IP. For example, as we discussed in class, the Zika virus was discovered in Africa in the 1950’s. It was believed that it would never escape the small area that it inhabited, so no research was conducted on the virus. However, if OSD had been used for the development of a vaccine for the past 70 years, a vaccine may have already been created.

The use of both IP and OSD can be seen across many technology-based products around the world. For example, Eero, a 2014 start-up, has recently made headlines as “the world’s best-reviewed WiFi system.” (Eero) They strategically use both IP and OSD to make their products as effective as possible. Eero is patent pending for their systems and methods for intuitive home networking. Following patent approval, they hope to protect their product from being replicated and used by its competitors. With the patent to secure their sole use of their networking methods, Eero strategically uses OSD to constantly evolve its software for better use. As stated on Open Hub, Eero has had 296 contributors representing 862,169 lines of code. Without the use of OSD, this code would have taken an estimated 240 years of effort. OSD is providing incredible mechanisms for development that we have never seen before.