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‘Precision agriculture’ technologies helping Alberta farmers irrigate their fields, survey shows

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J.P. Claassen is just one of hundreds of southern Alberta farmers using the latest technology to grow his fields.

“We mainly use satellite imagery, drone imagery and ground truthing to improve our crop and the quality of our crop,” he said.

Claassen Farms grows crops like potatoes and sugar beets, and he knows the vital the role irrigation plays on those plants.

“They want the right amount of water at the right time. If you put too much or too little on, it will affect your yield. Even if you’re late for one or two days, it affects your yield at the end. You can never backtrack to fix your crop.”

Instead of using a tradition irrigation system, he has been using a variable-rate irrigation (VRI) system.

He can collect data using a drone to see how much water is needed in each area of the 5,500 acres.

VRI is just one precision agriculture technology that is helping farmers get the best results at harvest.

University of Lethbridge researchers completed the first study of its kind in Alberta examining new technology and its benefits.

“They’re increasing yields by about 20 per cent and increasing the quality of crops by 16 per cent,” said Research Associate Lorraine Nicol.

“A big motivator for actually implementing precision technology is to reduce the cost of energy and to reduce the cost of labour and to reduce the cost of equipment time.”

The study found four in five irrigators have adopted some kind of precision agriculture, with the average participant owning five different technologies.

Claassen said his VRI system has been in place for about five years and has prevented them from drowning acres and getting the best possible crops out of the ground.

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Notable devices for an effective smart home

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The smart home industry is booming, and everyone is hopping aboard the bandwagon. This trend that was once derided as a gimmick is being vindicated as more and more users realize how useful smart devices can be.

There are a lot of smart devices and gadgets on the market right now, with more coming out every month. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so don’t feel too bad if that’s you right now.

According to www.makeuseof.com, the key is to start slow and small. Pick one device that looks interesting, then master it before adding another device to your home. It is a process, and there is no need to rush. You can even think of it as a hobby, if that helps. Stretch your smart home acquisitions out over many years and upgrade as needed.

Smart hubs and assistants

If every smart device is like an organ in the human body, then a smart hub is like the brain. It doesn’t do anything special on its own, but acts as a central operator that controls what everything else does.

A smart assistant is like a smart hub on steroids. It can do all kinds of stuff on its own, like recording notes or shopping online, in addition to controlling other devices in the network. If you know about Amazon Echo or one of its variants, then you know what a smart assistant can do.

In order for a hub or assistant to control another device, the controller and receiver need to support the same protocol. You can think of a protocol as a kind of language that smart devices use to communicate. Some devices only support one protocol, some support several, but none support all protocols.

Notable modern protocols include:

  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi
  • Clear Connect
  • Insteon
  • Thread
  • Z-Wave
  • ZigBee

As of this writing, no protocol is the industry standard. However, Z-Wave and ZigBee are the two most common, so stick with those two if you want as much versatility as possible. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support are good to have as well.

But with the growing popularity of smart assistants, smart hubs may become obsolete over the next few years. As such, a safer bet would be to opt for either the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Both devices are currently quite popular with bright futures ahead of them.

To be clear, you don’t need a smart hub or assistant for a smart home. Only a handful of devices require one — many smart devices operate just fine on their own. A hub or assistant simply grants more control, flexibility, and automation, especially if you plan on using multiple devices in tandem.

Anticipated cost: Between $80 and $125 for a smart hub, between $100 and $180 for a smart assistant. You will only need one, and it isn’t mandatory at all.

Smart lighting

Smart lighting allows you to control the lights in your home using your smartphone. When choosing smart lighting devices, there are three main types to consider:

  • Smart plugs, which are like outlet middlemen: the smart plug connects to an outlet, and another device plugs into the smart plug. You can control the on/off state of the smart plug from your smartphone, thus controlling its connected device.
  • Pros: Can be used with other devices, not just lamps.
  • Cons: Few devices are simple enough to work with just an on/off state.
  • Smart bulbs, which are like regular light bulbs that can be controlled individually by smartphone, and these bulbs are designed to be one-to-one replacements for incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs.
  • Pros: Easy to install. Can be creative with color-changing bulbs.
  • Cons: Extremely expensive on a per-bulb basis. Limited bulb varieties.
  • Smart switches, which are like regular light switches that can be controlled individually by smartphone. They are directly wired into your home’s electrical lines, which requires a bit more skill and caution than plugs and bulbs.
  • Pros: Works with any bulb type. Dimmer switches are available.
  • Cons: Hands-on installation is a pain. Not very cost-effective.

As for smart plugs, we recommend staying away. Spend your money on an actual smart device instead. Smart plugs were interesting when they first came out, but have since lost their novelty and don’t offer any unique benefits.

Anticipated cost: Between $15 and $35 for a smart plug, between $10 to $60 per smart bulb, and between $40 and $80 for a smart switch.

Smart entertainment

Smart entertainment comes in many forms, but the most common is media streaming. With the right smart entertainment setup, you won’t need cable TV anymore — just stream your favourite shows and movies off the Internet on demand.

The three most popular options are Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats are one of the few smart devices that can actually save you money. You’ll pay somewhere between $100 and $300 up front, but potentially shave hundreds of dollars off your energy bill every year. A smart thermostat will easily pay for itself.

Most people don’t know the most energy-efficient way to use the thermostat — and many who do know are too busy or lazy to keep it up all year long. A smart thermostat controls heating, cooling, and fan units to optimise comfort while minimising energy waste.

Some features you will find in smart thermostats:

  • Control remotely using a smartphone app.
  • Control by voice using a smart hub or assistant like Alexa.
  • Automatically turns down when nobody is home.
  • Automatically adjust based on weather and personal preferences.
  • Automatically adjust based on IFTTT events and triggers.
  • Energy monitor shows how much you’re saving.

You will need a bit of basic electrical knowledge to install the device. There is risk of injury if you aren’t careful! Not comfortable dealing with wires? Ask a friend or pay for expert installation.

Smart sensors

A smart sensor is a device that detects changes in the environment, then alerts you with a notification (by email, text message, or push notification). Common sensor types include motion sensors, smoke/gas sensors, open/closed sensors, moisture sensors, and even air quality sensors.

While these may sound mundane, they could end up being one of the best smart devices you ever buy, especially if you own a home. Are they worth the cost? Absolutely.

Motion sensors in particular are extremely versatile: if you’re clever about it, motion sensors can greatly improve your life. Open/closed sensors can track when windows are opened (e.g. when your teenager sneaks out at night) or when doors aren’t properly closed.

Moisture sensors can spot leaks long before they cause water damage to property, while air quality sensors can help with allergies, asthma, and other health issues. And most importantly, smart detectors can save your life.

Smart surveillance

A smart surveillance system is just a fancy way to say “hidden cameras that you can view and control using your smartphone.” Whether you’re at a friend’s house, a restaurant, or taking a road trip, you can pop in on your home at any time from anywhere.

Other useful features that may come with a smart surveillance device include footage recording, cloud storage, facial recognition, motion-based alerts, and night vision.

One more crucial note: Do not use Internet-connected baby monitors! You’d be surprised how easy it is for someone to hack into one of these and spy on your newborn. It’s also a reason to avoid smart assistants around your children. However, other baby-related smart gadgets can be useful, as can digital video monitors that use a dedicated signal instead of Wi-Fi.

Anticipated cost: Between $60 to $180 per camera.

Source: https://punchng.com/notable-devices-for-an-effective-smart-home/

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7 Must-Have Gadgets For Men Who Love Tech

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Father’s Day is just around the corner, but there’s also never anything wrong with a thoughtful gift for a special man in your life, regardless of the occasion. If you have a father, brother, significant other or friend who’s always obsessed with the latest and great technology, check out or roundup of must-have gadgets for some timely gift-giving inspiration.

Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show AMAZON

Amazon’s Echo Show is a necessity for anyone who wants to control their smart home with a handy device. It comes with a big color screen for watching videos and checking out lyrics while you listen to music. You can also rely on it to control your smart home by leveraging its Amazon Alexa virtual personal assistant and barking out voice commands to turn the lights down, change your thermostat settings and much more.

The Amazon Echo Show is available now for $230.

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Microsoft Xbox One X

Xbox One X

Xbox One X MICROSOFT

Microsoft’s Xbox One X is a popular option among serious gamers. It works with all Xbox One games launched over the last several years, and comes with a compelling design that won’t detract from your living room. The Xbox One X is a 4K console, which means you can watch Blu-ray movies and enjoy 4K games from the device, too, and it supports HDR for high-quality visuals.

Normally $500, the Microsoft Xbox X is on sale now for $400.

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Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K APPLE

If the man in your life is considering ditching his cable subscription and cutting the cord for good, consider gifting him the Apple TV 4K. The device is a set-top box that links your TV to an endless parade of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. You can also use it to play music and play video games, and since it’s a 4K device, its visual quality is guaranteed to impress.

The Apple TV 4K is available now starting at $180.

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Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4 APPLE

Smartwatches have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in large part to the Apple Watch. And the latest model, the Apple Watch Series 4, might be the best yet. The device comes with a streamlined design and faster processor to allow you to access apps with ease. It also offers cellular connectivity, so you can use it like a phone when you don’t have an iPhone with you on walks. And thanks to an EKG feature, you can even use it to track your heart health.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is available now for $430.

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Apple AirPods

Apple AirPods 2

Apple AirPods 2 APPLE

Apple recently released the second generation of its AirPods wireless earbuds. And although the design didn’t change, it didn’t need to — AirPods are already one of the best options on the market. The new AirPods come with improved battery life (about three hours of talk time) and have a wireless charging case for quickly boosting their power. And although they’re small, they shouldn’t fall out of your ears too easily. Best of all, if you’re an iPhone user, they’ll pair to your handset with ease. If you’re not, AirPods also work with Android devices.

The Apple AirPods 2 are available now for $160.

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DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic Pro 2

DJI Mavic Pro 2 DJI

If the man in your life would love to explore the world from far above, check out the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. The drone is a small device that can take flight and capture 4K video or 20-megapixel photos from the sky, and keeps it on 8 GB of internal storage or a microSD card with 128 GB in additional storage. The Mavic 2 Pro also has safety features that limit its chances of it hitting obstacles or crashing to the ground, and it’ll even keep you out of a no fly zone.

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is available now for $1,500.

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BrewArt BeerDroid Brewing System

BrewArt BeerDroid Brewing System

BrewArt BeerDroid Brewing System BEERDROID

If you want a nice, cold freshly brewed beer right at home, BrewArt’s BeerDroid Brewing System is a handy gadget that will help you do just that. It holds up to 2.6 gallons of beer and lets you make your own craft beer in house, a progress trackable with the digital display on the device itself. Check up on the BeerDroid’s progress via a mobile app and serve a foaming mug straight from the device.

The BrewArt BeerDroid Brewing System is available now for $500.

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Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-finds/2019/04/26/7-must-have-gadgets-for-men-who-love-tech/#63cdeb9878f6

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Google Translatotron translates and imitates user’s own voice

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We might be on the verge of reaching uncanny valley when it comes to real-time translation of the spoken word. It’s already amazing how systems, particularly Google’s, are now able to translate what we say on the fly but almost all of those speak in their own obviously synthesized voices. What would you feel if you heard yourself speaking another language you barely know? That’s the magical and almost unsettling future that Google Translate might offer thanks to Translatotron.

Translatotron isn’t a new Transformers character. It’s just the nickname that the AI researchers at Google gave their End-to-End, Speech-to-Speech Translation Model. EESSTM (Esteem?) just doesn’t sound as catchy nor as tongue twisty.

Translatotron’s ability to retain the source speaker’s voice even in the translated speech is actually just an effect of the system’s true nature. Most translation systems split the job into three parts. One turns speech into text, another takes that text and translates it into another language, while the third turns the text back to speech, often in a different voice from the original speaker.

This cascaded system has proven to be efficient and practical and is what drives most translation systems, including Google’s. Google’s AI researchers, however, believe that an end-to-end system can actually outperform it by removing the middle man. Literally, it skips the part where speech is translated into text first.

Translatotron didn’t yet outpace the traditional cascaded systems in the team’s tests but it proved that it was at least feasible. Like any machine learning model, it could improve over time. Given the advantage of preserving the speaker’s original voice even in the translated speech, further research in this field could prove to be fruitful for Google’s future AI-powered translation systems.

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/google-translatotron-translates-and-imitates-users-own-voice-16576889/

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