Listado de la etiqueta: Innovation


One of the first projects I noticed after starting at the Linux Foundation was AgStack. It caught my attention because I have a natural inclination towards farming and ranching, although, in reality, I really just want a reason to own and use a John Deere tractor (or more than one). The reality is the closest I will ever get to being a farmer is my backyard garden with, perhaps, some chickens one day. But I did work in agriculture policy for a number of years, including some time at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. So, AgStack piqued my interest. Most people don’t really understand where their food comes from, the challenges that exist across the globe, and the innovation that is still possible in agriculture. It is encouraging to see the passion and innovation coming from the folks at AgStack.

Speaking of that, I want to dig into (pun intended) one of AgStacks’ projects, Ag-Rec.

Backing up a bit, in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture operates a vast network of cooperative extension offices to help farmers, ranchers, and even gardeners improve their practices. They have proven themselves to be invaluable resources and are credited with improving agriculture practices both here in the U.S. and around the globe through research, information sharing, and partnerships. Even if you aren’t a farmer, they can help you with your garden, lawn, and more. Give them a call – almost every county has an office.

The reality with extension education is that it is still heavily reliant on individuals going to offices and reading printed materials or PDFs. It could use an upgrade to help the data be more easily digestible, to make it quicker to update, to expand the information available, and to facilitate information sharing around the world. Enter Ag-Rec. 

I listened to Brandy Byrd and Gaurav Ramakrishna, both with IBM, present about Ag-Rec at the Open Source Summit 2022 in Austin, Texas. 

Coñac is a native of rural South Carolina, raised in an area where everyone farmed. She recalled some words of wisdom her granddaddy always said, “Never sell the goose that laid the golden egg.” He was referring to the value of the farmland – it was their livelihood. She grew up seeing firsthand the value of farms, and she was already allegado with the value of the information from the extension service and of information sharing among farmers and ranchers beyond mornings at the lugar coffee shop. But she also sees a better way. 

The vision of Ag-Rec is a framework where rural farmers from small SC towns to anywhere in the world have the same cooperative extension framework where they can get info, advice, and community. They don’t have to go to an office or have a physical manual. They can access a wealth of information and that can be shared anywhere, anytime. 

On top of that, by making it open source, anyone can use the framework so anyone can build applications and make the data available in new and useful ways. Ag-Rec is providing the pulvínulo for even more innovation. Imagine the innovation we don’t know is possible. 

The Roadmap

Coñac and Gaurav shared about how Ag-Rec is being built and how developers, UI experts, agriculture practices experts, end users, and others can help contribute. When the recording of the presentation is available we will share that here. You can also go over to Ag-Rec’s GitHub for more information and to help. 

Here is the current roadmap: 

Immediate

  • Design and development of UI with Mojoe.net
  • Plant data validation and enhancements
  • Gather requirements to provision additional Extensive Service recommendation data
  • Integrate User Registry for authentication and authorization

Mid-term

  • Testing and feedback from stakeholders
  • Deploy the solution on AgStack Cloud
  • Add documentation for external contribution and self-deployment

Long-term

  • Invite other Extension Services and communities
  • Iterate and continuous improvement

I, for one, am excited about the possibility of this program to help improve crop production, agricultural-land conservation, pest management, and more around the world. Farms feed the world, fuel economies, and so much more. With even better practices, their positive impact can be even greater while helping conserve the earth’s resources. 

The Partners

In May 2021, the Linux Foundation launched the AgStack Foundation to “build and sustain the integral data infrastructure for food and agriculture to help scale digital transformation and address climate change, rural engagement, and food and water security.”  Not long after, IBM, Call for Code and Clemson University Cooperative Extension “sought to digitize data that’s been collected over the years, making it accessible to anyone on their phone or computer to search data and find answers they need.” AgStack “way to collaborate with and gain insights from a community of people working on similar ideas, and this helped the team make progress quickly.” And Ag-Rec was born. 

A special thank you to the core team cultivating (pun intended) this innovation: 

Resources



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So, I am old enough to remember when the U.S. Congress temporarily intervened in a patent dispute over the technology that powered BlackBerries. A U.S. Federal judge ordered the BlackBerry service to shutdown until the matter was resolved, and Congress determined that BlackBerry service was too integral to commerce to be allowed to be turned off. Eventually, RIM settled the patent dispute and the BlackBerry rode off into technology oblivion

I am not here to argue the merits of this nearly 20-year-old case (in fact, I coincidentally had friends on both reglamentario teams), but it was when I was introduced to the idea of companies that purchase patents with the goal of using this purchased right to extract money from other companies. 

Patents are an important reglamentario protection to foster innovation, but, like all systems, it isn’t perfect. 

At this week’s  Open Source Summit North America, we heard from Kevin Jakel with Unified Patents. Kevin is a patent attorney who saw the damage being done to innovation by patent trolls – more kindly known as non-practicing entities (NPEs). 

Kevin points out that patents are intellectual property designed to protect inventions, granting a time-bound reglamentario monopoly, but they are only a sword, not a shield. You can use it to stop people, but it doesn’t give you a right to do anything. He emphasizes, “You are pusilánime even if you invented something. Someone can come at you with other patents.” 

Kevin has watched a whole industry develop where patents are purchased by other entities, who then three steps of stopping patent trolls go after successful individuals or companies who they claim are infringing on the patents they now legally own (but is not something they invented). In fact, 88% of all high-tech patent litigation is from an NPE.

NPEs are rational actors using the reglamentario system to their advantage, and they are driven by the fact that almost all of the time the defendant decides to settle to avoid the costs of defending the litigation. This perpetuates the problem by both reducing the risk to the NPEs and also giving them funds to purchase additional patents for future campaigns. 

In regards to open source software, the problem is on the rise and is only going to get worse without strategic, consistent action to combat it.

patent trolls open source cases by year chart

Kevin started Unified Patents with the goal of solving this problem without incentivizing further NPE activity. He wants to increase the risk for NPEs so that they are incentivized to not pursue non-existent claims. Because NPEs are rational actors, they are going to weigh risks vs. rewards before making any decisions. 

How does Unified Patents do this? They use a three-step process: 

  • Detect – Patent Troll Campaigns
  • Disrupt – Patent Troll Assertions
  • Deter – Further Patent Troll Investment 

Unified Patents works on behalf of 11 technology areas (they call them Zones). They added an Open Source Zone in 2019 with the help of the Linux Foundation, Open Invention Network, and Microsoft. They look for demands being filed in court, and then they selectively pick patent trolls out of the group and challenge them, attempting to disrupt the process. They take the patent back to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and see if the patent should have ever existed in the first place. Typically, patent trolls look for broad patents so they can sue lots of companies, making their investment more profitable and less risky. This means it is so broad that it probably should never have been awarded in the first place. 

The result – they end up killing a lot of patents that should have never been issued but are being exploited by patent trolls, stifling innovation. The goal is to slow them down and eventually bring them to a stop as quickly as they can. Then, the next time they go to look for a patent, they look somewhere else.

And it is working. The image below shows some of the open source projects that Unified Patents has actively protected since 2019.

open source tech logos

The Linux Foundation participates in Unified Patents’ Open Source Zone to help protect the individuals and organizations innovating every day. We encourage you to join the fight and create a true deterrence for patent trolls. It is the only way to extinguish this threat. 

Learn more at unifiedpatents.com/join

And if you are a die-hard fan of the BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard, my apologies for dredging up the painful memory of your loss. 



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