Islam, a quick introduction

Hey everyone!

I only heard of EdgeRyders a few days ago and have been drawn to the depth and warmth of this community. Thanks @bilal for letting me know about this!

My name is Islam. I am originally Palestinian and most recently I was based in San Francisco. I have a software/AI background and have worked at several tech companies in San Francisco over the past few years. Last June, however, I decided to quit my job and leave San Francisco. I didn’t feel like I was connected with the work that I was doing, nor did I think the work I was doing was impactful enough.

I have been realizing as time goes by that I am very passionate about building out the tech ecosystem in MENA. I ended up spending most of this Summer in Lebanon where I was working with UNHCR to explore how software can help provide more efficient aid to refugees, and that was an eye opening experience in many ways.

At the moment, I am exploring business ideas that could be based in MENA and/or target the countries in MENA. I have a few ideas, but they’re all still in an early stage. Looking forward to be brainstorming with all of you!

I’ll try my best to make it to the gathering in Brussels if you’d have me :slight_smile:


Hey :slight_smile:
Welcome to our home on the internets, nice to read you.

Im one of the founders and do a lot of work behind the scenes for Edgeryders including running the series of workshops we just did in the region in the region (workshop notes/reflections are being posted here

Do come to Brussels for the festival if you can, we’d love to have you. I’m preparing some sessions for the final day and it would be good to have someone to bounce ideas with. Especially one who knows a bit about tech design, dev and deployment. A lot of it has to do with setting up the first OpenVillage space in MENA, which I think has some overlap with both your @baderdean @anu and @Yosser 's interests. Also @markomanka !

To anchor the discussion in a context I’d like us to use this as a point of departure: Deadline for Applications to OpenVillage Academy: November 4, 2017 - #2

You guys interested in a quick chat early next week to scheme a bit ahead of the event?


Absolutely @nadia, happy to chat early next week and bounce ideas. I happen to be in Spain at the moment, which makes it quite convenient to make it to Brussels next week :slight_smile:

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Hello Islam, and very welcome here :slight_smile: Very short comment for now, but hope to meet you in Brussels soon then.

AI background? So I can’t resist to run one of my latest ideas past you: “Open Source Optical Coffee Sorter”, using AI image classifiers and Raspberry Pi 3 hardware. For small coffee farmers worldwide. I’ll work on that during my time in the OpenVillage Academy early next year in Morocco – see the link that Nadia just sent to know more about it. And I’m open to join forces with anyone who likes this little machine as well.


Thank you @matthias! The sorter idea sounds really interesting. A couple of friends of mine work in the coffee industry (based in the US, but work with farmers in Yemen) - they could help beta test perhaps :slight_smile: Let’s talk more about that in Brussels!

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hello Islam, welcome on board : It was great to read about such passion about integrating humainties with technology like you mentioned in the refugee case.
very exited to see you in Brussels maybe I can deliver you with small experience I had with refugees here in Egypt .
good luck.

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Hi @matthias
rather than raspberry pi3, and in the same price range, maybe an odroid-c2 would be closer to the hw profile needed here, although most of the heavy weightlifting is done during training (which I presume you plan to run elsewhere), and just running the resulting DNN should be relatively light on both hardwares…

Anyway, I am a bit more curious about the sensors side at this stage… what hw do you envision testing for imaging, and what is the speed, and precision you would like to achieve here?


Welcome on board @imake

in order for me to try and prepare for this conversation in Bruxelles, would you by any chance feel comfortable sharing a bit more about the general gist behind your business ideas (fields of application, targeted needs, competitors, …anything)?

What are, at present, the obstacles (personal, or objective) you foresee and you would like to discuss in Brux?

See you soon

Hello Marko, thank you for the interest, great to find more people here who are into DNNs. Personally I don’t know much about it so far, the coffee sorter would be my learning project …

Looks very promising, thank you! I just didn’t come across these while looking for suitable hardware. (Found the Nvidia Jetson TX1 / TX2 though, which is also impressive but not open. And comparatively expensive.)

Didn’t look at camera modules in much detail yet, but the CMUcam 5 Pixy looks promising. Also Qtechnology makes very nice computer vision camera modules with a completely open source software stack (just way too expensive for this little machine). I might want to experiment with multi-spectral imaging and through-lighting as well to increase precision.

About throughput, I estimate that a ≤250 USD machine that can process 10 beans / s or more will be useful for small-scale coffee farmers. For details, see my longer more technical post here. It also has some nice references to related projects, such as an open source peanut sorter, open source walnut sorter, and TensorFlow based cucumber sorter.

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Hello Islam! Welcome to the crew, I too find this a generous and welcoming community.
@matthias - I have one of those pixy cams in Lebanon, had I known I could have brought it, ;D

I love all these vision processing projects - sounds like a lot of fun and I’ve been getting into learning about AI and these projects look like a fun and useful way to develop an understanding and do good work.

Huge hugs to yall!


Hi @matthias

I will have a look at the documentation you shared before we meet. Talk soon.

@m_tantawy Thank you! I look forward to hearing more about your experience in Brussels :slight_smile:

@markomanka Of course and thanks for asking. There are a few domains that I am currently loosely exploring.

  • Voice interaction in Arabic. This is an area that has been growing very rapidly in North America (think Amazon Echo, Google Home, wearables like smart watches that rely predominantly on speech for interaction) and will continue to grow. The software required to enable anything like this is far behind in Arabic, and I am exploring 1) how to change that and 2) if there is a business opportunity at the moment in doing so.

  • AI for living life. This may sound a bit abstract, but I find myself spending a huge chunk of my time trying to answer the question of “what should I do with my time?”. I have the hypothesis that AI can help with that question, but I need to dig deeper into that to know for sure. My theory is, if life is a set of experiences, then it should in theory be possible for computers to enumerate all the different experiences you could have and figure out the optimal experiences to pursue. I don’t have concrete thoughts on how something like this could be monetized, but I feel like there’s something there.

  • Intracity Logistics. The ultimate goal of this is that, if you and I live in the same city, and I want to send you something tangible, it would take me at most 5 minutes of work and you’ll receive it in at most 24 hours with no work on your part. Cairo was the city that inspired me to think about this. It’s incredibly busy with a lot of traffic, and having an efficient system to deliver goods would be incredibly valuable (for both people and businesses) given how much time people waste in traffic.

At the moment, ideas are a bit broad and there isn’t an overarching theme necessarily to the ideas just yet. I’d say the two obstacles I am facing right now are:

  • Finding people to brainstorm with (and potentially work with as well)
  • Learning about different industries and their problems. My knowledge on most industries (say, healthcare or aerospace) is super limited and I’d be interested in exploring how software and AI can be helpful in those arenas.

Learning about people’s experiences in the gathering in Brussels would be what I look forward the most, since it would serve as inspiration and/or remedy to the obstacles above.

@bilal So looking forward to catching up again in person!

@matthias Do you have a dataset to work with already, or is that something you plan on curating yourself?


Excellent. I share the same idea. I would focus more on Africa. Could you tell me if you have any idea or direction you want to work on? I read refugees as a population. And what about technologies? What kind of tech? For what purposes?

Salam Islam :slight_smile:

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where is it @bilal? @DeniseJabbour and @MurielAboulrouss are coming from Beirut, if they know where it is maybe they can bring it along with them?

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It’s a camera with onboard processing capability and the ability to respond, so it can be used as a sorter. It’s in the hackerspace in Beirut - I could guide someone if they wanted over video (it’s in a box in a bag on a shelf…needs some guidance). Not critical to play with it right away though, we could hypothesize :slight_smile:


Great thread everyone, and welcome @imake! I have nothing of value to contribute myself yet, just letting you know I’m reading.

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Bilal Ill put you and Muriel in touch in case you can make it happen - would be good to have camera there to play with :slight_smile:

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Bilal the camera technical description is Chinese to me :slight_smile: but if it is small and light I can bring it with me from beirut.
Let me know :ok_hand:

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For intracity logistics, I think my hometown Ghent is a good case study for how the future might look like. We have a lot of diversity (cargobike, trucks, electric transport, electric bike hybrids, …), a car-free city center (which keeps expanding) and a progressive government. Companies all over the world (self driving buses, logistics software, …) are asking our city government to demo their stuff here.

Haven’t found documentation online about it though, so maybe not so valuable right now.


Great to hear from you, @baderdean :slight_smile: I’d say my current exploration is along two “themes”:

  • AI: Given my AI background, I spend time looking into problems that I believe AI can solve and work backwards from there. Some of these ideas I shared in my earlier post. Currently, I am prototyping a voice assistant like Siri that works with colloquial Arabic (e.g. Egyptian, Lebanese, Moroccan, etc.)

  • Productivity: I am interested in a lot of ideas related to saving time. Having lived in Egypt and Lebanon, I found that a big portion of my time is wasted due to infrastructure issues. For example, in Cairo a lot of my time would be wasted in traffic, and that’s where the idea that I mentioned in my earlier post on intracity logistics came about. Or, in Beirut, internet connection is both terrible and expensive, and a (perhaps far-fetched) idea that I had was around providing high-speed satellite internet to that region.

Will you make it to Brussels this week? I’d look forward to continuing this conversation in person :slight_smile:

Thanks! I look forward to meeting up in Brussels this week :slight_smile:

That’s super interesting. Are all these logistic options controlled by one company, or are they all independent? Do you think a visit to Ghent would help? I have spare time after the festival so I can definitely pay a visit.

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