Author Archives: davidjohnkaye

Radio Garden: cool map app showing global radio

Today I found an amazing little app courtesy of Mike Sutton. The app is called  Radio Garden.

Radio Garden shows a 3D model of the globe with green dots representing all the radio stations in that place, which you can then click to pick a station to listen to.

It is a project from Studio Puckey, an “experimental interactive design practice” based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Radio Garden main interface (source: Studio Puckey)

Why is it cool?

Radio Garden is the confluence of three of my main interests: maps, music, and travel.

I love that you can instantly learn about a place that interests you by scrolling to the location and listening to the different radio stations there. It is literally a meeting point for all of the world’s voices.

For example, today I have listened to: a Malian dance station, Gambian pop, and a Scots Gaelic talk show from Stornoway in the Hebrides. How amazing is that?

Future of the app

My biggest concern is whether Studio Puckey can they monetise it in order to keep it alive for the future.

Could they get referral revenues for driving traffic to sites? Offer merchandise or ticket sales via the app? Perhaps just some simple adverts that are shown in a way that doesn’t adversely affect the user experience?

Whatever the route forward, I hope they figure out a way to make it financially sustainable to operate in the long term.

Protecting investors against earthquake risk in Silicon Valley

I’ve often wondered what would be the impact on companies in Silicon Valley when the inevitable earthquake hits. Turns out I’m not the only one.

Earthquakes in the Bay Area: a “ticking time bomb”

The Bay Area is subject to major earthquakes roughly every 145 ± 60 years at the current rate. Given that it is 150 years since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1868, the next “big one” could happen any day now.

Apparently, about 2 million people live on the Hayward Fault and 7 million are in the surrounding area. A magnitude 7 quake would cause damage in the range of $95 to $190 billion, which would be a disaster for the citizens of the area.

Impact on the tech giants

However, my curiosity centers on what would be the impact on the giant tech corporations that are based in Silicon Valley and the wider Bay Area? Companies like Google, Facebook, Oracle, and Salesforce have their HQs and major footprints in the region, so they will be adversely affected by a natural disaster.

It doesn’t seem like they are particularly well-prepared for such an event, according to this report. Although most of the companies have data centers and operations distributed around the world, an earthquake could still cause potential disruption to the main office and therefore the leadership of the business.

As listed entities, this marks a real risk for their shareholders. Could their share prices or even the whole NASDAQ take a tumble if a major earthquake hits the Bay Area? After the 9/11 terror attacks, the Dow dropped by 14%, so this is not unthinkable.

However, I think the impact goes beyond just their own businesses. The services provided by these tech titans represent critical infrastructure for many European and American businesses, so any disruption could have a huge wider impact.

Early warning: a vital tool to prevent damage

Scientists are getting better at detecting earthquakes early. In Silicon Valley, there will soon be an app called QuakeAlert that can give up to 2-20 seconds of warning of an impending earthquake.

This might not sound like much, but even 2 seconds can be long enough for Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices to perform vital preparations such as: opening the doors of fire stations to prevent fire engines getting stuck; isolating certain parts of the electricity, water, and gas networks; slow down trains; and tell elevators to open their doors at the closest floor.

Solution: seismic sensor network to short the NASDAQ

Could it be possible to set up a network of seismic sensors to warn when an earthquake was just about to hit the Bay Area and then send an order to a trading algorithm that could short the NASDAQ?

A similar system could be used to create an early warning for tsunamis. One candidate is the mega-tsunami that geologists once predicted could be created by a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands which would devastate the northeastern US coast (although further review of the original study showed that this is a worst-case scenario and probably will not happen for another 10,000 years at the earliest).

Randy Pausch: the Last Lecture

This is a video that I can categorically say has changed my life for the better.

I will never forget when I first watched this video 10 years ago during my final year of university. Watching this talk was the first time I had ever really thought about what I wanted my adult life to be like and the specific things that I had always wanted to do.

Until that point, it was all pretty vague and there was a rough list of goals, but I had never put any intention into discovering and planning them in a systematic manner.

Dr Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science and specialist in Virtual Reality at Carnegie Mellon University.

The university organised a series of lectures, setting speakers the task of presenting what they thought was the most vital wisdom that they would confer if they only had one last lecture to give before they died.

However, before his lecture, Dr Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, in a case of life imitating art, the hypothetical became real.

What follows is Dr Pausch’s touching talk, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, posted below.

It is full of wisdom, humour, and kindness. Some great learning points in there include:

  • “head fake” = teaching kids one thing secretly by actually getting them to learn something else (i.e. learn teamwork and perseverance by playing sports)
  • “Brick walls are there to how much you really want it.”
  • “Loyalty is a two-way street.”
  • For women: “When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s simple. Just ignore everything they say and watch everything they do.”
  • “Don’t bail; the best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap.”
  • “Don’t complain; just work harder.”

Causes to support in memory of Dr Pausch:

You can also buy a copy of his book, the Last Lecture, on Amazon.

Hyperloop Alpha project concept

In 2012, Elon Musk and SpaceX published this project concept document for Hyperloop Alpha, a radical new method of intercity transportation.

The document is a 58-page proposed solution with rigorous calculations on all socio-techno-commercial aspects of the idea.

Hyperloop Alpha concept sketch (Source: original Hyperloop Alpha concept document)

How does it work?

Hyperloop Alpha is a public transport system that sends people in pods at high speeds through a tube kept at low pressure to reduce air resistance.

By using an electric fan at the front, you can mitigate the Kantrowitz Limit (think of the maximum speed limit of a liquid pushing through a tube such as a syringe). It also has the unique benefit of creating a low-pressure air cushion for the pod to ride on – known as an air bearing.

The design envisages using linear accelerators on the bottom of each pod to achieve a target speed of 760mph (1,2220 kph or Mach 0.99 at 20°C), albeit lower at points where there is a curve in the journey so that the g-forces experienced by passengers are lower.

On the topic of renewable energy, Elon mentions that the installation could be self-powered using solar panels installed on top of the tube. He also mentions that LightSail could provide energy storage, but this shows the age of the document as in late 2017 they all but went bankrupt. Perhaps Elon could consider Highview Power’s Liquid Air Energy Storage technology now!

Future of Hyperloop

SpaceX hosted a 1-mile long test track to help incubate Hyperloop technologies around the world. Now there are several organisations developing Hyperloop solutions, including Virgin’s Hyperloop One and a team from MIT.

Inspiration for me

The Hyperloop Alpha project concept was actually one of the main inspirations for me to create and write this blog, along with a previous thought of mine about Leonardo Da Vinci.

By publishing open source project concepts like this one, Elon found a neat solution to one thing that has always bothered me about Da Vinci’s notebooks.

The ever-creative Da Vinci noted down his abundance of ideas in personal sketchbooks that were way ahead of his time. However, as he didn’t always have the time or resources to follow them up and connect them with the right people that needed them, many of them represent lost opportunities for technology to advance.

Publishing an idea in an open source format, allowing access for others that are better placed to work on it, ensures that technology moves forward in a way that benefits humanity (even though the ideator as an individual may not benefit directly).

I am not assuming that anything I put on this modest site will be anywhere near the same league as those guys, but given that good ideas can come from anywhere it is a possibility that something I put up in my Ideas section may be useful to somebody, somewhere.

The Hyperloop Alpha concept document is more detailed than any of mine, but Elon Musk does have a big team of world-class engineers to draw from as needed!

LightningMaps.org: community lightning detection and mapping project

After three nights in a row of awesome thunderstorms at the end of May 2018, I became fascinated by the work that people are doing to study thunderstorms, such as the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) of the USA and another great initiative below.

I found an excellent real-time map of lightning strikes. Check it out here on LightningMaps.org.

Turns out that it is a community project of citizen scientists, which in my mind makes it even cooler!

It even shows the thunder wavefront so you can see when the sound wave of the lightning should hit your area. Genius!

The community project, Blitzortung.org, is a network of people around the world who have set up a total of more than 500 detectors (currently priced at less than €300 each) who then upload the data to some central processing servers.

The detectors are VLF (“Very Low Frequency”) receivers based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method.

You can see a coverage map of global network here.

The general documentation for the project and assembly instructions for the current generation of their detectors, “System Blue”, give useful a background on the science behind the project and what it takes to get involved.

To support their network, you can make a small donation via PayPal or credit card here.

The UK’s most important 21st century infrastructure project? Cybersecurity

I believe that the most important 21st century infrastructure project for the UK will be the development of world-class cyber-security.

So much of our national infrastructure is being digitalised that it is easy to lose track.

My sector, the energy industry, is in a massive state of change. The emerging “smart grid” scenario comprises connected renewable generation, storage, metering, and demand response. This deep level of decentralised control will yield enormous benefits for cost and sustainability. However, these will come at the price of potential vulnerability to cyber-criminals and attack from state/non-state actors. A hijack of our energy infrastructure would have catastrophic consequences for our economy, security, and general way of life.

This is not just a problem for the energy sector. Digitisation is sweeping through our industries at breakneck pace. The automation of vehicles, the proliferation of digitally connected appliances in the home and industry (the “Internet of Things”), digitisation of medical records, and even the cultivation of food in “vertical farms” means every aspect of life will be affected.

Improving the resilience of these assets must be of paramount importance. However, the rise of high-profile hacks of data and growing incidences of “ransomware” attacks show this is not translating into action.

Increasing cybersecurity literacy for all ages must be a priority for the government. Many people still use easily-hackable passwords and can be fooled by a simple phishing attack. Education must start at school and continue in the workplace, even at board level.

The 2017 ransomware attack on the NHS shows how crippling cybercrime can be for our institutions. The attack exploited a vulnerability which would not have been an issue if the IT infrastructure had been the latest available. Budget cuts at the NHS Trusts meant that they had de-prioritised IT upgrades and exposed themselves to cyber-risk.

The UK Government must make it clear to leadership at all critical organisations that IT security has to be priority #1 for all spending, with ring-fenced budgets. HM Government should set up a unit of “white hat” hackers that is responsible for penetration testing the Police, NHS, and other assets of national importance on a constant basis.

Our economic advantage as a nation arguably rests on our ability to innovate. Therefore it is also critical to help the private sector to protect itself against industrial espionage, which is often sponsored by nations with low respect for Intellectual Property rights.

The physical communications network underpinning the internet also needs to be protected. The vulnerability of our undersea cable connections to other countries to attack by hostile actors needs to be addressed, and the UK needs to have a strong presence in the Space sector to remain at the leading edge of innovations.

Developing the world’s best cybersecurity infrastructure will put the UK in pole position to capitalise on the opportunities of digitalisation while protecting itself against future threats. All other infrastructure will need to build on this platform, which is why I regard it as the most important.

Tom Hulme’s Business Model Canvas

I’ve stumbled upon an intriguing version of the Business Model Canvas, courtesy of Tom Hulme (link here).

Below is a 15-minute video as he explains it visually:

HackFwd: Visualize Your Business Model in 15 Minutes Flat from IDEO on Vimeo.

You can download a clean version here:

Tom Hulme’s Business Model Framework (clean)

Oh! I must be a #linkybrain

#Linkybrain #Linkybrains

#linkybrains — it all started with this post by Doug Scott, then this enlightening piece by Chris Tottman, and this by Alex Dunsdon.

The virality of this conversation across LinkedIn and Medium shows how deeply the concept has resonated with people.

And I can understand why.

Most of Chris Tottman’s points struck close to home for me.

I’ll briefly pull out a couple before hitting my own confession.

# 1. Extended or Semi-permanent Adolescence

My curiosity and dislike of the well-trodden path mean that I am averse to the idea of a job for life and all the trappings of it.

#3. High Creative Output

I am brimming with new ideas and always have some form of personal project on the go. However, I’ve got to get better at completing and monetising them!

#4. Own Boss

I have a deep-seated need for control of my work and life in general. Autonomy and freedom are key tenets of my life.

#7. Restless – prone to multiple careers, verticals and j curves

I am always looking at the next thing. Honing this instinct and forcing myself to finish tasks before the next one has been a key project of recent years.

#10. Outsider

Yes. My distrust of the herd mentality folly runs deep.

#15. Obsessive Nature

When I find a problem that captivates me. I can’t let it go. I’ve got solutions to problems that have been bubbling away on the stove for a decade.


So, it’s time for my very own #linkybrain confession:

  1. My curiosity is like a black hole, slowly pulling everything in the universe towards it.
  2. I AM ALWAYS DAYDREAMING.
  3. I see problems, and therefore opportunities, e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
  4. I am unsatisfied with my achievements to date, even though people advise me otherwise.
  5. A stable job doing the same thing for life is my own version of hell.
  6. If I am not working on something risky, new, and potentially world-changing, I lose interest almost immediately.
  7. I am a voracious reader.
  8. Many people have told me that I am the hardest person on myself that they have ever met.
  9. I cannot stop having new ideas. The flow is relentless.
  10. I work best in an empty room in silence. Libraries are my heaven.
  11. I am both an introvert and extrovert.
  12. My desire to empathise with other people means that I can see and hold multiple viewpoints at once. This can often make it confusing to choose a side of the argument or make a decision.
  13. Inefficiencies and illogical legacy issues enfuriate me.
  14. Deep down I feel I can do anything (except give birth, obvs).
  15. All conversations with me will drift towards the deep and meaningful if left unchecked.
  16. People who are not altruistic scare me.
  17. I will never understand how people cannot be curious.
  18. Historically I left many projects unfinished.
  19. I frequently wonder whether I’m working on the wrong project or if I will ever finish anything.
  20. I instinctively distrust something that is trending. (Yes, even this #linkybrains fiasco!).
  21. My mind is a battleground in the war against perfectionism.
  22. I believe there is no such thing as a bored person, only a boring one.

From time to time I publish new business and product ideas on my blog, davidjohnkaye.com. Here is a little list of the ones so far.

Idea: Social Impact Bonds for mental health

The case for improved mental health services

The consequences of poor mental health on human well-being are becoming more widely understood, as are their impacts on other areas of society such as use of drugs, violence, lack of productivity, obesity, lack of creativity, unemployment, smoking and other addictions. Improvements in mental health can cause a cascade of positive multiplier effects throughout society.

Social Impact Bonds as a concept

As noted in my recent post on tackling homelessness, I am fascinated by the potential of Social Impact Bonds to help drive positive social change.

One idea that really resonates with me is the use of Social Impact Bonds to drive positive change in people’s mental health.

Inspiration for the idea

I was inspired by the potential for improvements years ago after reading Healing Without Freud or Prozac by the late Dr David Servan-Schreiber (which was once lent to me by the late Ismena Clout).

In the book, Dr Servan-Schreiber talks about combatting depression with the following:

  1. Meditation and heart coherence
  2. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  3. Maximising exposure to natural light
  4. Acupuncture
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  6. Exercise
  7. Social Interaction and Emotional Communication

Most of these activities can be undertaken by a beneficiary without any qualified medical assistance, which made me think that this would be an ideal area for a for-profit company or social enterprise to provide a service that would support sufferers of depression.

Indeed, people like Tony Robbins have companies focussed on this area with many of these areas being employed.

However, with Tony Robbins, the emphasis is on the beneficiary directly paying for services themselves. This means that many people that are not currently in a financial position to access the services can benefit.

Use of Social Impact Bonds to reward positive outcomes

What if a company or social enterprise could provide beneficiaries with all the benefits of this approach at no cost at the point of use but instead could be rewarded by a government or health service for delivering the beneficial outcomes?

I drafted this paper below on the back of the idea that Social Impact Bonds could be used to reward social enterprises for just this:

Concept Paper_ Social Impact Bonds for Improved Mental Health

Originally I designed this business so that it could be implemented by a Tony Robbins company because I am a big fan of the work they do to help people achieve transformational change in their lives. However, it could be undertaken by any organisation with a mission to help people make positive change in their own lives.

Below is a diagram explaining the value flows in the concept (note in this diagram I referred to beneficiaries as “patients”, which is not a terminology that I would use anymore):

Diagram: Social Impact Bonds for Mental Health

Risks and risk management

One major risk of this approach is that it could contribute to “privatisation of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by stealth”, with private sector organisations slicing off more and more of the NHS’ workload and sweating the assets for profit in the way that UK train franchises have done.

This could be mitigated by the fact that a lot of these activities are things that can be undertaken by individuals without any form of medical intervention, such as regular exercise, socialising, and improved diet. Therefore these would fall outside of current NHS services and would carry a low risk of this.

Another challenge is whether or not the activities would count as, or have the perception of, being medical treatment and therefore need to be regulated.

For the same reasons above, I think a strong argument could be made that this is not the case. Effective protocols that signpost beneficiaries to NHS services should be in-built so that the NHS and other authorities can have confidence that the social enterprise is not masquerading as a healthcare provider, but a “wellbeing-support provider”.

UK Government support

It’s interesting to see that the UK Government also sees the potential for Social Impact Bonds to stimulate change, as they have launched an Inclusive Economy initiative that includes a funding stream for Social Impact Bonds.

Contact me to discuss

I’d welcome any contact via my contact page from anyone interested in starting a social enterprise in this field. I’d be happy to share my ideas for potential methodologies that exist for the service, as well as potential funding streams to launch a pilot project.