Digital Life Science

Can Mobile Apps Heal American Healthcare?

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What do smartphones have to do with medical care? Ask any doctor who has called in pharmacy prescriptions from a golf course, reviewed brain-imaging results in a taxi, or video-chatted with emergency room physicians in another city. Or ask PointClear Solutions, an Atlanta-headquartered custom healthcare software development company that recently acquired NYC-based app developer, Worry Free Labs (profiled here last summer). We did, when we spoke with PointClear CEO David Karabinos about the acquisition and the future of mobile apps for patient care.   More

Manufacturing

Programming Trees to Self-Destruct Could Save Energy

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Mother Earth could benefit from the degradation of, oddly enough, one of her own, as scientists search for ways to deteriorate trees in order to improve industrial processes. New research shows that by weakening the walls of plant cells we can render them more susceptible to deconstruction during industrial processing, making procedures like pulping, paper-making, and biofuel production less wasteful and more energy efficient. To degrade plant structures, researchers redesigned the polymer that fortifies plant cell walls, lignin, using high heat and alkaline treatments to weaken bonds between molecules.   More

Global Tech

We’re One Step Closer to Robots on the Battlefield

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Last week, the robotics industry made a huge leap forward, with the Navy announcing that it planned to test a humanoid robot built to fight fires at sea this August. The robot, called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) and developed by a team of scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia Tech, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the most advanced robotic machines ever developed.   More

Business Learning

Educating Executives to Disrupt, Not Be Disrupted

The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business: Overview

Much has been written about how technology is transforming education. Still more has been written about how technology is driving disruption in business. Less explored is a question posed by the intersection of those ideas: how can technology help business leaders to educate themselves about potentially disruptive opportunities and threats? The MOOC model is ripe for adaptation to deliver structured courses to business leaders, helping them to think about potentially transformational combinations of ideas at the periphery of their industries. The Forum Academy, launching this month with a course on global technology leadership, is a foray into this space. The World Economic Forum is partnering with edX to use its education delivery platform for expanding access to the kind of conversations that happen at Davos.   More

Security & Privacy

Is There a Hacker Hiding in Your Air Conditioner?

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Hackers will try any point of entry they can find to access private data. In a recent interview with Techonomy, RSA Security’s Art Coviello said that the number of vulnerable access points—or what he calls the “attack surface”—is growing rapidly, with the number of digitally controlled devices connected to the Internet expected to reach 200 billion by the end of this decade. The New York Times reports that hackers recently breached the computer networks of a large oil company by implanting malware in the online menu of a Chinese restaurant favored by the company’s employees. With increasingly sophisticated hackers targeting a proliferating volume of corporate data, our pervasive connectivity—through everything from heating and cooling systems to accounting software and even vending machines—presents a constant challenge to security experts.   More

Analytics & Data IoE

The Quantified Farm: How Fields Yield Big Data

photo: The United Soybean Board

U.S. farmers working with a Minnesota company called Farm Intelligence have been harvesting more than corn and soybeans lately. Their fields, comprising about 1 million acres, have yielded close to a petabyte of data that they hope will inform smarter decisions throughout the growing season. Farm Intelligence CTO Steve Kickert tells Gigaom this week that his company "analyzes sensor data, data from other precision agriculture tools, aerial images, government data, and weather data to try and figure out what’s going on in the field." The tools provide early warnings of disease, pests, or other troubling crop conditions that farmers can act quickly on.   More

Digital IoE

BlackBerry’s Chen: “This Is Not Science Fiction”

From advanced automation in the developed world to smart phone adoption in the developing world, global society is getting more information-driven at a mind-boggling rate. As John Chen says, "This is not science fiction. This is real-time stuff." Chen, the CEO of BlackBerry, sat down with Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick at our San Francisco dinner salon to talk about the future of tech and the trends he's seeing in markets around the world. Chen's longtime business leadership and experience both in the U.S. and Asia give him a unique perspective. In the developed world, Chen said, "all the players are talking about machine-to-machine, they're talking about connected cars, they're talking about making your life more automated." But in the developing world, Chen added, people are just starting to get into the consumer space. "More and more people are moving into the middle class, more and more people are knowledgeable, are trained," he said.   More

Security & Privacy

RSA’s Coviello: Opportunities for Cyberattack Multiplying

On top of the more than 2.4 billion people using smartphones, tablets, and PCs, another 1 billion devices—including sensors, card readers, and vending machines—currently access the Internet. But by the end of this decade some 200 billion items will be connected to the Internet and digitally controlled, predicts Art Coviello, executive chairman of RSA, the security division of EMC. The attack "surface," as Coviello calls it—meaning the range of potential points of entry for cyber criminals—will grow vast. At our recent Data Security Lab Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick talked to security veteran Coviello about changes in the industry, emerging risks, and what kind of leadership and governance we need to address them.   More

Life Science

FDA Approves Medical Device for Reversing Opioid Overdose

Evzio

When mobster wife Mrs. Mia Wallace overdoses on heroin, hit man Vincent Vega brings her screaming out of a comatose state by jabbing an adrenaline-filled syringe into her heart. Had the talking medical device that the FDA gave fast-track approval to last week existed 20 years ago, that Pulp Fiction scene between Uma Thurman and John Travolta might not have been so dramatic. The new pocket-sized naloxone hydrochloride auto-injector, called Evzio, coaches a user through the procedure of administering the opioid-O.D.-reversing drug into a victim's muscle.   More

Business Security & Privacy

BlackBerry CEO Chen: Security Is Key to Comeback

BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who's been at the helm for just four months, has a looming task ahead of him—bring the once-booming brand back to its glory days. At Techonomy's recent San Francisco dinner salon, Chen talked with us about the future of BlackBerry, citing its security systems as one key way the company can turn itself around. "It's the most secure mobile environment," Chen said. "Today in this world of security complexity, people are not only stealing the data but they're modifying the data. It's an enormous opportunity."   More

Digital Partner Insights

Making Sense of the Mainframe, 50 Years Later

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Computing has changed a lot in the last 50 years, but one 50-year-old technology remains significant. The durability of the mainframe illustrates the maxim that new technologies don't usually replace old ones, but rather coexist alongside them. When the IBM System 360 debuted on April 7, 1964, it was, in effect, the first general-purpose computer of any type. We don't call today's app-laden smartphones mainframes as we use them for everything from texting to watching Netflix movies, but they are the descendants of the 360. Meanwhile, real mainframes that use the basic architecture of the 360 are still essential in business. IBM's current-generation zEnterprise systems have extraordinary capabilities, and can manage 1.1 million transactions per second.   More

Government Jobs Life Science

Techonomic Top 5: Federal Inefficiency, Chromosome Breakthrough, Virtual Employers, and More

Andrew Hessel (l) with Stewart Brand and Eri Gentry at Techonomy 2013 in Tucson, Ariz.

Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention.   More

Digital

A Website That Attempts the Impossible

Impossible.com is showing us that doing kind acts for others—even perfect strangers—is in fact very much possible. The new online community, already established in the U.K. and currently launching in the U.S., aims to advance the gift economy by serving as a platform for transactionless giving and receiving—that is, people doing nice things for other people without expecting anything in return. Created by British model, actress, and brand ambassador Lily Cole, Impossible is meant to explore the social value of connecting through giving. Cole traveled to New York last month to promote Impossible, appearing on Charlie Rose alongside Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and the co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.   More

Global Tech

Do-Gooder Drones to the Rescue

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When Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet, asked a TED audience last year to "imagine if the next big network we built in the world was a network for the transportation of matter," he wasn't talking about delivering pizzas and your Amazon orders. Raptopoulos is among the growing ranks of social entrepreneurs who want to put advanced technologies to use for causes more noble than enabling more consumption. His Palo Alto startup seeks to employ drones to deliver humanitarian aid to the billion people in the world's most remote areas.   More

Digital

Jaron Lanier on Facebook and the Creepy Possibilities for Virtual Reality

(Flickr / The American Library Association)

When Facebook announced last week that it had agreed to acquire Oculus VR, “the leader in virtual reality technology,” for $2 billion, techies and journalists everywhere wondered: What does Jaron Lanier think of this? Lanier, the dreadlocked futurist now working at Microsoft Research, was a virtual reality pioneer—he coined the term. More recently, he’s been a prolific critic of so-called Web 2.0 companies like Google and Facebook, bucking very publicly against their business models in books like "Who Owns the Future?" The Fiscal Times spoke with Lanier this week to get more of his thoughts about the deal, Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, and the future of virtual reality. Among his insights: “The biggest variable as to how creepy Facebook will be in the future is whether Zuck has kids or not.”   More

Global Tech Government

Can We Hold Back Data-Secessionism?

Web

German Chancellor Merkel has called for a "European data network" that would prevent Europe-to-Europe information from passing through the U.S., and the EU has joined with Brazil to build a new undersea fiber optic cable that would be out of the control of U.S. telecoms companies. Up until now, however, Net infrastructure outside of countries like China has sent data packets on routes based on efficiency, not on national origins. Now a former German Defense Minister in Merkel's own government has come out against the mindset that leads to these parochial policies that would "balkanize" the Internet. In an article for Techonomy, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg argues against what he calls "data secessionism."   More

Global Tech Government Opinion

European Legislators Face “Data Secessionism”

The key players in the public and private sector are now working to protect their interests in a world that is shifting from government to “Googlement”—driven by the unprecedented ability of companies to gather, store, and evaluate vast amounts of personal data. Adding to the challenge will be unabated progress on more invasive technologies such as biometrics, household robotics, smart homes, and connected cars, coupled with widespread adoption of cloud computing. Even overconfident U.S. tech titans must concede that Europe is in the pole position to shape this process and that the Old Continent’s success or failure will reverberate around the world.   More

Cities Startup Culture

Idea Village: 5 Things We Can Learn from the Folks Bringing Startups to New Orleans

New Orleans Skyline During Sunrise

In the mid-1980s, New Orleans was in a downward spiral, in part because of its longstanding political corruption and failing education system, but also because the once-thriving Louisiana energy industry tanked as soon as oil prices fell to $10 a barrel. Statewide, one out of every eight people was unemployed. Economic hardship drove residents toward opportunities in more prosperous places such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, New York, and Boston. The exodus was most prevalent among 23-to-35-year-olds, the very demographic that could have provided the fresh ideas and innovative businesses essential for growing the state’s economy and addressing its pressing social issues.   More

Government

The Inefficiency Bunker

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It's housed 230 feet underground in an old mine in rural Pennsylvania. The official government paperwork it processes follows a long and winding procedure that takes more than three months to complete. And despite all of today's advanced computing technology, its operations rely on physical paper records and manual data entry. This is the Office of Personnel Management, which The Washington Post calls "one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government." It is the department that processes the retirement papers of government employees. From the time the office receives a retiree's papers to the time it issues a retirement check, the process takes about 61 days. That's not a day less than it took back in 1977.   More

Jobs

The Online, Freelance, Globalizing World of Work

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The monthly ups and downs of American employment as recorded by the Department of Labor don’t track the full story of modern jobs. The agency doesn’t take into account U.S. freelancers. This is a major omission. There are 70 percent more self-identified independent or freelance workers (17.7 million) than unemployed professionals (10.5 million). While the most recent report eased concerns about the jobless growth (the economy added 175,000 new jobs this February), we will continue to see the transformation of the way we work and hire. Many of today’s traditional office jobs will soon be a relic of the 20th century.   More