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Have you considered buying nothing this Christmas? Here are some tips to reduce, reuse and recycle in gifting

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When coming up with your list of what to buy your friends and family for Christmas this year, have you considered — nothing?

That’s what one Winnipeg woman aims to do during the holidays.

Courtney Worden and her family usually give to charity rather than giving items, but when they want to give something material, she turns to an online community of gift-givers called the Buy Nothing Project.

“Before I spend any money or go to a store or even think about the economy, I will look on Buy Nothing first and see if there’s somebody there who might want to share something with me,” she said.

The group has local chapters in countries around the world, and Worden is the administrator of her Windsor Park and Southdale chapter. When she needs to make a gift for someone, Worden asks the roughly 200 members of the chapter’s Facebook group for materials.

“I’ve personally received gifts of fabric for sewing, ingredients for baking something,” she said.

Other people on the page have shared invitations to holiday dinners, offers of car-seat inspections from a certified technician, and an afternoon of child care from a licensed child-care provider.

If Worden wants clothes or a new toy for her 15-month-old son, she asks the Buy Nothing group.

Courtney Worden often finds gifts for her 15-month-old son on the Buy Nothing Project Facebook group. (Submitted by Courtney Worden)

It’s a way for her to practise the three Rs — reduce, reuse, and recycle — while getting to know her neighbours.

“I like meeting the recipient and knowing on a personal level that I’m making a difference for someone in my community. Just because something isn’t useful to me, that doesn’t mean it belongs in the garbage.”

Memorable and durable

By sharing non-material gifts like services, meals or simply spending time, Worden and the Buy Nothing Project are practising many of the sustainable-giving strategies recommended by the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg.

Bethany Daman, the green living co-ordinator at the centre, has experienced first-hand how finding alternatives to buying gifts can make those gifts more meaningful.

Last year, she and her partner decided to give each other handmade wooden gifts. She took an old piece of wood and turned it into a photo calendar, while he made a cribbage board, complete with handmade wooden pegs.

“And so that was a very sustainable gift, and one that has created memories for much longer than just a cheap gift that somebody got at the mall that I would forget about in two years,” she said.

Taking pieces of wood and transforming them into treasured gifts is an example of upcylcing — reusing waste or byproducts to make something new, Daman said. It’s one of the ways the Green Action Centre suggests people can make holiday gift-giving more sustainable.

Bethany Daman made her partner a photo calendar, and he made her a crib board out of recovered wood. (Submitted by Bethany Daman)

One of most important considerations when deciding on what gift to give is to avoid giving people things they don’t need, and try to focus on things they will actually use, Daman said.

The same year she and her partner made each other gifts, Daman made her parents freezable meals that they could easily heat up in a slow cooker.

“I have gotten texts from my parents saying, ‘Thank you so much for the gift, we’re having your supper tonight and it was so helpful,'” she said.

“It just took more time in thinking, ‘What kind of items am I going to put into these meals, how am I going to package the meal?’ But it ended up being something that made more memories throughout the year.”

Making memories instead of buying things is one of the main ways people can reduce the environmental impact of their gifts. Giving someone an experiential gift, like tickets to a concert or a movie, or taking them to a restaurant are ways people can make memories that will last longer than most material items.

“Overall, it ends up being a much more special experience and it’s something that you think about for much longer,” said Daman.

Sustainable giving

Occasionally, Worden says she needs to go to the store to buy a gift for someone. When she does, the Green Action Centre recommends she look for products that are made ethically and sustainably.

Sherry Sobey, owner of Generation Green — an Exchange District shop that specializes in eco-friendly products — considers the environmental and social impacts of the items she sells on her shelves. She says consumers also need to do some research into the products they’re buying.

“Dig a little bit deeper into that and ask the questions about, is it being made ethically? Is it fair wages? is it a healthy workplace? You do have to care about some of these things,” she said.

Giving durable gifts like stainless steel straws can help reduce the waste created during the holidays. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Sobey recommends customers think about the durability of the products they buy and look for gifts that help people reduce their waste, like stainless steel straws, coffee mugs, or reusable bags. Many of the products she sells come in refillable bottles that can be brought back to the store.

Also, try to find products that come in minimal packaging, and avoid plastic as much as possible.

“I would put that at the top of the list, is that plastic use and minimizing that wherever we can,” she said.

Few gifts are more sustainable than hand-crafted ones made from recycled or reused materials — and the Green Action Centre’s Daman says in the case of something like the crib board her partner made, they’re the ones that leave a more lasting impression.

“It’s something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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