Techonomy http://techonomy.com Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Is Inequality an Unavoidable Consequence of Innovation? http://techonomy.com/2014/04/innovation-always-good-thing/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/innovation-always-good-thing/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:20:08 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16102 The economics of innovation and its impact on society was the theme of the annual economists' pow-wow in Toronto last weekend, the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference. And there was no presumption that it is, on the whole, a plus. Authoritative speakers at the three-day conference included former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and James Heckman, former co-CEO of Research In Motion Jim Balsillie, and Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane. But the event's opening keynote featured a panel of experts who explored the duality inherent in innovations that create new inventions, products, sources of demand, and markets while simultaneously imposing job losses and "significant distributional consequences for society." Read more at TIME

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(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

The economics of innovation and its impact on society was the theme of the annual economists’ pow-wow in Toronto last weekend, the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference. And there was no presumption that it is, on the whole, a plus.

Authoritative speakers at the three-day conference included former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and James Heckman, former co-CEO of Research In Motion Jim Balsillie, and Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane. But the event’s opening keynote featured a panel of experts who explored the duality inherent in innovations that create new inventions, products, sources of demand, and markets while simultaneously imposing job losses and “significant distributional consequences for society.”

Reporting from Toronto for Time Magazine, Rana Foroohar noted that among the issues the economists sought to address was: “…how can we make sure that the benefits of the digital economy–which currently accrue mostly to the top quarter of society–are more equally shared?”

By way of demonstrating the way innovation is widening the gap, Foroohar writes:

“People who make their living interacting with technology and the digital world make a median salary of $74,000 a year. Those that don’t make $34,000. Women and minorities (with the exception of Asians) lag behind. Seventy percent of people in the ‘innovation economy’ are non-Hispanic whites. And even for women with technology degrees, there’s a big pay differential. Men in the innovation economy make $80,000 per year and women make $53,000, in part because they tend to be concentrated in areas like life sciences, which pay less than physics or engineering or computer science.”

Also last week, in a conversation about the fallout of the Heartbleed bug on WNYC’s Money Talking, Foroohar shared a stat gleaned from the Toronto meeting:

“It’s only the top quarter of the socioeconomic ladder that really believes in technology and trusts it. And it’s no surprise, because that’s the group of people who are receiving the most benefits from it. These are the people who are part of the innovation economy that are seeing their wages and jobs improving because of the Internet,” she said.

For the majority of society that is feeling crunched by technology, she said, “Innovations can produce a sense of dread and despair and fear.”

Read more at TIME

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U.S. Intelligence Community Supports Sharper Satellite Images http://techonomy.com/2014/04/u-s-intelligence-community-supports-sharper-satellite-images/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/u-s-intelligence-community-supports-sharper-satellite-images/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:51:49 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16100 In the increasingly competitive business of satellite imaging, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe is getting a welcome boost from some powerful friends. U.S. government agencies, particularly those in the intelligence sector, have traditionally worried that allowing private companies such as DigitalGlobe to sell increasingly high-resolution images could undermine one of the government’s key strategic advantages on the geopolitical scene. However, in light of advances made by non-U.S. satellite imaging companies, the intelligence community is now supporting DigitalGlobe’s push to make those higher resolution images publicly available on the open market. Why? Market share and global competitiveness. Read more at Reuters

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DigitalGlobe offers a range of high-resolution satellite images.

DigitalGlobe offers a range of high-resolution satellite images.

In the increasingly competitive business of satellite imaging, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe is getting a welcome boost from some powerful friends. U.S. government agencies, particularly those in the intelligence sector, have traditionally worried that allowing private companies such as DigitalGlobe to sell increasingly high-resolution images could undermine one of the government’s key strategic advantages on the geopolitical scene. However, in light of advances made by non-U.S. satellite imaging companies, the intelligence community is now supporting DigitalGlobe’s push to make those higher resolution images publicly available on the open market. Why? Market share and global competitiveness. Walter Scott, DigitalGlobe’s founder and CTO and a participant at Techonomy’s 2013 conference, was quoted as saying, “DigitalGlobe appreciates the intelligence community’s support for reforms to the current U.S. regulations…. We are hopeful that the administration will act promptly on this issue to advance the nation’s commanding lead in this strategically important industry.” If approved, the new resolutions made available could allow images in which users could not only see a vehicle from space but identify what specific make of vehicle it was.

Read more at Reuters

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Kirkpatrick: Amazon Smartphone Move “Brilliant” http://techonomy.com/2014/04/kirkpatrick-amazon-smartphone-move-brilliant/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/kirkpatrick-amazon-smartphone-move-brilliant/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 21:42:11 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16088 Come September, the hottest phone on the market might not be the iPhone, Galaxy, or Nexus, but a new 3D-capable smartphone developed by none other than Amazon. The Internet behemoth has been considering making a foray into the smartphone market, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, and is likely to publicly announce plans in June and go to market as early as September. Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick spoke on Bloomberg Surveillance on Monday about Amazon's possible push into smartphones, calling the move "brilliant" and noting its potential for connecting customer relations with mobile payments. "If you were trying to keep an ongoing relationship for all kinds of commercial relationships with everybody, you have to have a phone," Kirkpatrick said. And for companies hoping to get a return from consumers, transactions are paramount.

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Come September, the hottest phone on the market might not be the iPhone, Galaxy, or Nexus, but a new 3D-capable smartphone developed by none other than Amazon. The Internet behemoth has been considering making a foray into the smartphone market, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, and is likely to publicly announce plans in June and go to market as early as September.
Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick spoke on Bloomberg Surveillance on Monday about Amazon’s possible push into smartphones, calling the move “brilliant” and noting its potential for connecting customer relations with mobile payments. ”If you were trying to keep an ongoing relationship for all kinds of commercial relationships with everybody, you have to have a phone,” Kirkpatrick, who is also a Bloomberg contributing editor, said. And for companies hoping to get a return from consumers, transactions are paramount. ”You want to be in the position where you get into the transaction because that’s where money is,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s much bigger than putting ads in front of people’s faces.”

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McKinsey’s Michael Chui on How Tech Transforms the Economy http://techonomy.com/2014/04/mckinseys-michael-chui-tech-transforms-economy/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/mckinseys-michael-chui-tech-transforms-economy/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:35:12 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16085 For insight into big emerging tech trends, look beyond Silicon Valley and Alley, said McKinsey's Michael Chui at a recent Techonomy dinner salon in San Francisco. The developing world is about to jump into the innovation economy. "Only half of the people that we can possibly connect in the world are actually connected." Once those people get connected, he believes, the world will see double the innovation it sees today, as potential innovators in now-developing countries get online. This expansion of connectivity will be enabled by the global mobile revolution, or what Chui called "the proliferation of form factors"—ranging from tablets and phablets to appliances and cars. Chui pointed to education, healthcare, and public services as sectors of the economy with the greatest potential to gain efficiency as they are transformed by tech.

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For insight into big emerging tech trends, look beyond Silicon Valley and Alley, said McKinsey’s Michael Chui at a recent Techonomy dinner salon in San Francisco. The developing world is about to jump into the innovation economy. “Only half of the people that we can possibly connect in the world are actually connected.” Once those people get connected, he believes, the world will see double the innovation it sees today, as potential innovators in now-developing countries get online. This expansion of connectivity will be enabled by the global mobile revolution, or what Chui called “the proliferation of form factors”—ranging from tablets and phablets to appliances and cars. Chui pointed to education, healthcare, and public services as sectors of the economy with the greatest potential to gain efficiency as they are transformed by tech.

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Legislation a Top Priority in Cybersecurity Fight Says RSA’s Coviello http://techonomy.com/2014/04/legislation-top-priority-cybersecurity-fight-says-rsas-coviello/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/legislation-top-priority-cybersecurity-fight-says-rsas-coviello/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:36:47 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16076 Cybersecurity expert and RSA executive chairman Art Coviello says it's crucial for privacy advocates and industry leaders to come together to create modern laws to protect society from cybercrime. But the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA and the Rogers-Ruppersberger Bill, was introduced in Congress in 2011. And while the House of Representatives has passed it twice, the bill still languishes in the Senate. In part two of a conversation recorded at Techonomy's recent Data Security Lab, Coviello talks about the responsibilities both of the government and of private companies that have suffered security breaches.

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Cybersecurity expert and RSA executive chairman Art Coviello says it’s crucial for privacy advocates and industry leaders to come together to create modern laws to protect society from cybercrime. But the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA and the Rogers-Ruppersberger Bill, was introduced in Congress in 2011. And while the House of Representatives has passed it twice, the bill still languishes in the Senate. In part two of a conversation recorded at Techonomy’s recent Data Security Lab, Coviello talks about the responsibilities both of the government and of private companies that have suffered security breaches.

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Can Mobile Apps Heal American Healthcare? http://techonomy.com/2014/04/can-mobile-apps-heal-american-healthcare/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/can-mobile-apps-heal-american-healthcare/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:26:24 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16034 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.

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PC_David_KarabinosWhat 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.

Why does a healthcare software company acquire a mobile app developer?

We develop enterprise and web applications for clients like Walgreens, the Centers for Disease Control, and Greenway Medical Technologies. We especially seek to work with VC-backed companies that are trying to innovate healthcare. All of them want to provide mobile experiences for patient care. We’ve done some of that in-house, but the demand is so strong that I felt we needed to develop that competency through an acquisition.

If you look at mobile apps on a continuum left to right, on the left side are intensely high-touch consumer apps like Angry Birds or apps that are very much business-to-consumer. These apps are consumer driven, and you’ve got to get it right. On the other end of the continuum, all industries are developing mobile apps defensively, just to say they have one. Frankly, many of those are not very good; companies are just throwing them out there.

One thing we really liked about Worry Free Labs is that they have developed apps for Disney and Apple—very discerning clients. We want to take Worry Free Labs’ experience developing high-touch user experience apps and apply that to healthcare, around patient and consumer engagement in healthcare.

We’re not trying to sell mobile apps commercially. Our strategy is to continue being a services company that develops apps for small, medium, and large companies.

Yours is a rare software company that employs nurses.

We apply a heavy dose of user experience and clinical skill set knowledge and competency. The team includes people with patient-care experience, including nurses who got involved in technology products during their careers and jumped the fence to focus on technology instead of healthcare delivery.

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

What do you think the future holds for consumer experience in healthcare technologies?

In the last 5 years there’s been a wave of tech adoption in healthcare, primarily forced by public policy and laws such as the Affordable Care Act and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

There’s been a big gulp of technology adoption by the healthcare provider community. This wave of forced adoption is going to end in 2017 because the HITECH law says that’s when doctors must have adopted electronic health records or their Medicare benefits will be cut.

The healthcare industry has been a laggard. So the question is, how is the industry going to react? Are they going to say, “we’re good, we’re done with this,” or will they say, “we want more innovation; we’re going to continue on this journey”?

We believe healthcare innovation will be among the top five areas where venture capital will be applied—in particular around healthcare consumers and doctors and clinicians. I’m a VC guy, and I ping my network all the time to cultivate their opinions, so this is a somewhat informed opinion.

On the consumer side you hear about patient empowerment and engagement. It’s been lip service, but these things take time. The big game changer is going to be the advent and deployment of really good mobile apps to help consumers in purchasing and managing health insurance and healthcare.

Obamacare is forcing consumers to be more engaged in purchasing health insurance. Over the next several years, employers are going to abandon the existing model and force employees to go buy their own insurance. This is a sea change. Consumers are going to have the tools and access to go shopping for insurance, to make choices.

My thesis is that mobile apps are going to overtake web apps over time. As a consumer, I want to engage with my healthcare provider, make appointments, renew subscriptions, and see lab results through my mobile device. Those are transactional things that matter to me. I don’t want to go to a website, log in and wade through a complicated set of screens. I think mobile apps are going to have a huge impact on how patients as consumers take more responsibility and get more engaged with their health care.

What are some examples of apps you see PointClear developing?

We’re already developing them. Our client Walgreens bought Take Care Health Systems a few years ago. They run employer-based clinics. Companies including Intel, Microsoft, and HP are outsourcing to systems like Take Care Health to provide healthcare to employees at clinics on their own campuses. PointClear has developed portals for all of that to work.

Walgreens is strategically shifting from being a retail pharmacy to a healthcare provider. They’re not only putting these clinics inside their stores, but they’re providing family and chronic care. We’ve developed apps for that business, such as mobile appointment reminders.

Other apps we’re developing are around doctors and clinicians at medical practices and hospitals. These apps won’t be just inside the healthcare facility, but helpful in the delivery of healthcare around the clock. Here’s one example: I play golf, and a lot of my buddies are doctors. On a Saturday morning I cannot tell you how many times we’re walking down the fairway and one of them is on the phone, texting, or calling in a prescription to a pharmacy. Mobile apps are going to replace that analog experience with a digital experience where the doctor can click a few buttons and be engaged with a patient through the app on the golf course.

We’ve also developed apps that interface with a lot of devices and fitness applications. At PointClear we target anybody interested in innovation, and that comes in small, medium, and large flavors.

We do have clients that are taking quantum leaps or creating destructive innovation. An example of that is a client that has developed groundbreaking 3D scanning technology and is applying it to the hearing-aid market, which, by the way, is huge.

Traditionally, if you need a custom hearing aid, you have a mold of your ear cast and sent off to have the device made. The process takes weeks and when you get it back it may or may not be the right fit.

Our client has developed a scanner called Otoscan. They put it next to your ear and it creates a 3D rendering of the inside of your ear. We’ve developed the technology to take that through to order fulfillment. The cycle time becomes hours, not weeks. It’s going to be disruptive. It will be brought to market by United Sciences, the largest distributor of hearing aids, and will be in doctors’ offices in the next six months.

As an investor in this space, as well as a CEO, what else excites you?

I really like the Healthcare Unbound segment of healthcare, and Health 2.0, where communities of companies and investors are looking at technology for delivering care outside of traditional facilities.

Telehealth is a big one, and adoption of that is finally accelerating. The insurance industry now says telehealth has proven itself, so they’ll start paying for it. It took off originally in rural settings, but now it’s taking off even in urban areas. The main apps there are not only for doctor-patient engagement, but to enable doctor-to-doctor consultations about patients.

[Ed. Note: To learn more about what Karabinos and other investors are looking for in healthcare technology companies, check out a free webinar panel discussion he will host on Wednesday, April 16, at 2:00 pm EDT, with three healthcare technology venture capitalists.] 

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Programming Trees to Self-Destruct Could Save Energy http://techonomy.com/2014/04/programming-trees-self-destruct-save-energy/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/programming-trees-self-destruct-save-energy/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 20:18:25 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16070 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. Read more at Science

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(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

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. The study, published last week in Science magazine, was a joint project of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University, and the University of British Columbia-Vancouver.

Read more at Science

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We’re One Step Closer to Robots on the Battlefield http://techonomy.com/2014/04/one-step-closer-robots-battlefield/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/one-step-closer-robots-battlefield/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 17:39:27 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16062 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.

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(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

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. There are two versions of the robot—one that stands five feet tall was a simple legs and control mechanisms. Its six-foot tall brother is more advanced, capable of complicated locomotion.

During the test, to be conducted at a ship graveyard in Alabama, the robots are expected to keep its balance on a moving boat; turn valves; pick up, haul and turn on a hose, and then turn the water toward a fire. Sensors that allow the robots to essentially see through smoke using a combination of laser, stereo and infrared sensors will also be tested. The Navy also said it would test a small drone that can fly through a sub, looking for victims.

“Its upper body will be capable of manipulating fire suppressors and throwing propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT) grenades,” the Navy announced. “It is battery powered and holds enough energy for 30 minutes of firefighting. Like a sure-footed sailor, the robot will also be capable of walking in all directions, balancing in sea conditions, and traversing obstacles.”

The robots are also capable of making some autonomous decisions, including how to move their joints and where to step. A human is expected to supervise the test and will have the ability to manipulate the robot.

TFT_FINALThe Navy said the use of these robots is still years away. But their ability to perform tasks like hauling a fire hose and turning valves is not far from the skills required by a soldier on the battlefield, raising questions about the ethics of the military use of robots.

SAFFiR is just one of many robots currently being developed, and many of the projects are funded by DARPA, the secretive defense research branch of the U.S. military. DARPA is also offering a $2 million prize for companies and universities to develop robot technology.

DOD is not the only one developing robot technology, of course. Boston Dynamics, which was recently acquired by Google, is working on its own humanoid robot, and has developed a robotic mule designed to haul gear on the battlefield.

A Fine Line

The blistering pace of robotic technology development scares some within the defense and ethics communities. Human Rights Watch and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots have already launched campaigns to create prohibitions against the militarization of robots.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch, said in a November 2012 statement announcing the release of a study, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.” He said, “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”

Michael Gennert, the director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s robotics engineering program, said DOD funding of technological advances has led to amazing consumer products and services.

“A lot of technologies that DARPA funded have fabulous uses. The Internet, GPS systems, cell phones, all of this tech that was developed by DOD and used for defense purposes have great applications beyond that. This is a huge technology investment,” Gennert said.

Gennert and a team of scientists are competing in DARPA’s challenge with Atlas, a six-foot-tall, 330-pound humanoid robot, meant to respond to disasters. He said that robots like this can save lives.

“If you had that kind of robot for Fukushima, you could prevent a huge loss of life,” he said, referring to the number of sick first responders to the disaster. “In robotics, you have the same technology that might appear on the battlefield that could appear in disaster recovery.”

Building Ethics into Robotic Technology

The potential use of robots on the battlefield is certainly a concern, Gennert said. “Is it possible to weaponize a robot? It’s conceivable. Right now, and hopefully for the future, you have to have a person making decisions about firing weapons.”

Gennert said he considers robo-ethics so important that he requires all of his undergraduate robotic students to take a course on social issues connected to robotics. “It’s a university’s role … to develop the wisdom in our students and beyond to use that technology for humankind’s benefit. That’s part of our mission,” he said.

Gennert also cautioned that the use of autonomous humanoid robots is more than five years away. In the near future, he envisions the use of robotic assistants for first responders.

“It’s not hard to imagine having a robot assistant that could help [firefighters], carry a hose and extra air. It’s a bit closer in time,” he said. “You can imagine that a smoke jumping firefighting crew could carry a small reconnaissance robot, a little UAV. If they’re fighting the fire and they lost contact with it, you launch your robot, get over the trees, and you can find the fire.”

This article originally appeared in The Fiscal Times. More from The Fiscal Times:

World’s Most Lethal Drone Just Flew over Florida

Killer Robots: If No One Pulls the Trigger, Who’s to Blame?

Scramjet: DOD’s New Screaming Fast Hypersonic Weapon

Lifelong Pensions for Vets Could Be Whacked Under Pentagon Proposal

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E-Services Help Tame Manila’s Traffic Mess http://techonomy.com/2014/04/tech-helps-tame-manilas-traffic-mess/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/tech-helps-tame-manilas-traffic-mess/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:38:56 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16005 Traffic problems are acute in many of Asia’s teeming megacities. Millions in Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, and elsewhere endure commutes that can last hours each way. In Manila, where many people travel in open-air vehicles called jeepneys, the pollution can be especially evident. It will take years and many billions of pesos to fix Manila’s infrastructure, but in the meantime, new apps and websites are emerging there that can reduce strain on the city’s transit networks. They can even liberate people from the burdens of commuting altogether.

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(Photo courtesy Tigercub Digital)

Open-air jeepneys contribute to Manila’s thick pollution. (Photo courtesy Tigercub Digital)

Like many of the world’s largest and most densely populated megacities, Manila faces grinding traffic problems. The city’s overloaded highways and public transit networks subject countless people to indignities each day. Many see the situation as hopeless, but new technologies and online services may help ease the burden.

Traffic problems are acute in many of Asia’s teeming megacities. Millions in Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, and elsewhere endure commutes that can last hours each way. Rapid urbanization, poor city planning, inadequate traffic enforcement, and other factors compound the problem.

Endless gridlock poses environmental and public health risks as well. Aging cars and buses crowd the roads, spewing emissions that pollute the air and damage lungs. In Manila, where many people travel in open-air vehicles called jeepneys, the pollution can be especially evident. It’s not uncommon to see jeepney passengers holding pieces of cloth over their faces when stuck in traffic in an effort to avoid breathing the thick clouds of exhaust.

It will take years and many billions of pesos to fix Manila’s infrastructure, but in the meantime, new apps and websites are emerging there that can reduce strain on the city’s transit networks. They can even liberate people from the burdens of commuting altogether.

Tripid, a ride-sharing app funded by mobile carrier company Globe Telecom’s Kickstart Ventures, offers one potential solution. The app encourages carpooling by letting drivers earn extra cash while providing passengers a low-cost alternative to taxis and public transport. It also helps match drivers with like-minded passengers so that the driving experience can be more social and enjoyable.

A slew of taxi-booking apps that launched in Manila last year also grease the wheels of the transit system. Services like Grabtaxi, Easy Taxi, and various others make it easier to find a taxi in a city where many drivers routinely turn down passengers or force them to haggle over fares. The sites tap into unused capacity in vehicles that might otherwise be circling aimlessly for passengers.

Another set of online services enables Filipinos to find remote work, eliminating the need to commute altogether. For those living inside major cities, these services help keep people off the roads at busy hours. For those outside cities, they provide a viable alternative to urban migration, easing the strain that growing populations put on Manila and other cities.

Many digital technologies and services facilitate telecommuting, but freelance job websites have garnered special attention in the Philippines. Due to strong English-language skills, high levels of digital engagement, and other qualities, Filipinos make great hires for the kind of independent contract work that more and more companies need today. Freelance websites are expanding quickly in the country as both global employers and local job seekers wake up to the opportunity.

Most of the world’s leading freelance sites now host large virtual workforces in the Philippines. Freelancer.com, the biggest in the country, counts roughly 500,000 Filipinos onboard. Elance.com, another leading platform that is currently merging with oDesk, had more than 150,000 in 2013. A growing number of niche services, such as 199jobs and Virtual Staff Finder, also help people find freelancing gigs and let them work from anywhere.

At this point, services like Tripid and the taxi-booking apps can dramatically improve an individual’s transport experience, but add only marginal efficiencies to the broader transit system. Freelance sites keep potential commuters off the roads, but not enough to prevent traffic from turning Manila’s highways into parking lots every day.

Over time, however, tech-enabled efficiencies in transport networks might snowball. Even for perpetually gridlocked cities like Manila, traffic could eventually become just an annoying memory.

Will Greene is a writer and digital strategist whose blog, TigerMine Research, covers economic development in Southeast Asia today. He recently co-authored Perfect Digital Storm: Philippines, a new study on digital, social, and mobile trends in the Philippines today. 

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Educating Executives to Disrupt, Not Be Disrupted http://techonomy.com/2014/04/educating-executives-disrupt-disrupted/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/educating-executives-disrupt-disrupted/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:00:09 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16009 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.

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

The Forum Academy adapts the MOOC model to expand access to discussions held at WEF annual meetings.

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?

Executives have always needed to keep abreast of what’s on the horizon in their industry, a need becoming more acute as technology prompts ever faster change. Traditionally, industry-specific media and corporate training met this need, focusing by their nature on an industry’s core more than on its periphery. Increasingly, though, disruption comes from the periphery. Business leaders need new mechanisms to keep on top of trends that emerge on the edges of their industries, or that cross over from different sectors altogether.

For example, start with the sharing economy. Specifically, take Airbnb, which was founded in 2008 and is now valued at about $10 billion. Airbnb connects people who possess rentable property, from spare rooms to second homes, with travellers seeking short-term accommodation. While not an exact substitute for hotel hospitality, it certainly competes. So where might a hotel executive have looked, in 2008, to be alerted to such a potential competitor?

Part of the answer: eBay. By then the auction site had popularized the idea of mutual peer-to-peer ratings of individuals’ trustworthiness as buyers and sellers. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the model could also be applied to rate the trustworthiness of individuals as guests and hosts—and that this element of trust could unlock people’s natural reticence about handing over their house keys to a stranger.

Likewise, the implications of Airbnb’s success should by now be clear to executives in, say, the car hire or tool hire industries. But these are straightforward examples of applying a model directly from one sector to another, while the most interesting and unexpectedly disruptive change often comes from combinations of diverse ideas.

So take a totally different example, such as Tesla’s rejection of the outsourcing trend in the automotive sector. It opted instead to vertically integrate by producing components in-house. In your own industry, what might happen if you combine the idea of the sharing economy with the idea of vertical integration? Possibly nothing. The point is that this is the kind of question executives need to be thinking about.

How can executives most efficiently structure their thinking about possible intersections of ideas? Encouraging discussion about emerging trends in diverse sectors is one aim of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meetings in Davos, but participation there is limited.

And that’s where the ongoing technological revolution in education comes in.

Most discussions of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, focus on their disruption of the higher education sector by offering students from around the world free access to lectures and course materials. Much less attention has been paid to the implications for lifelong learning, including in the corporate sector, though these are just as profound.

It’s not difficult to see why students might prefer to listen virtually to lectures from the best minds in the field, rather than listening in person to lectures at their local institution. The same dynamic is applicable to corporate training.

Online platforms for education have the potential to revolutionize the idea of continuous learning for executives. 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.

With time, there is potential for technology to deliver highly personalized continuous education to individual leaders. In a growing range of fields, machine learning is increasingly able to anticipate users’ needs before the users themselves are aware of them. The same principle could be harnessed to profile an executive’s learning needs and tailor an online course accordingly.

Technological change is intensifying the need for lifelong learning among executives. Fortunately, it also promises to help executives to access the learning they need.

Jeremy Jurgens is Managing Director, Chief Information and Interaction Officer, at the World Economic Forum.

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Is There a Hacker Hiding in Your Air Conditioner? http://techonomy.com/2014/04/hacker-hiding-air-conditioner/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/hacker-hiding-air-conditioner/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:29:45 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16044 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. Read more at The New York Times

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(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

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. A tiny chink in a company’s data-security armor—often through a third-party system, as in the Chinese menu case—can give hackers a huge level of access. “We constantly run into situations where outside service providers connected remotely have the keys to the castle,” Vincent Berk, chief executive at network security firm FlowTraq, told the Times. Negligence and a failure to stay up-to-date lie at the core of such vulnerabilities. Hackers target companies that run older software and fail to update the default security settings on mundane devices like videoconferencing equipment and printers.

Read more at The New York Times

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The Quantified Farm: How Fields Yield Big Data http://techonomy.com/2014/04/quantified-farm-big-data-changing-big-agriculture/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/quantified-farm-big-data-changing-big-agriculture/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:45:09 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16018 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. Read more at Gigaom

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photo: The United Soybean Board

(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.

On its website, Farm Intelligence asks customers: “What if you could add 30-50 bushels per acre in your corn product? Where would you look to for an opportunity to increase your soybean yields by an additional 6-10 bushels per acre? How could you identify the best opportunities for action?”

The company has trademarked the term “Decision Agriculture,” one-upping “precision agriculture,” the phrase that describes how farming operations large enough to have their own IT infrastructures have been using sensors, satellites, and drones to optimize not just crop planting and harvesting, but product distribution.

Farm Intelligence customers don’t need an internal IT team. The data are analyzed by the company’s proprietary WingScan software, stored on the cloud, and delivered to farmers’ smartphones or iPads. Kickert tells Gigaom: “Our primary and, frankly, only goal is to help the farmer … increase the yield they’re getting on their crops.”

Read more at Gigaom

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BlackBerry’s Chen: “This Is Not Science Fiction” http://techonomy.com/2014/04/blackberrys-chen-science-fiction/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/blackberrys-chen-science-fiction/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:25:27 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=16013 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.

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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.

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RSA’s Coviello: Opportunities for Cyberattack Multiplying http://techonomy.com/2014/04/rsas-coviello-opportunities-cyberattack-multiplying/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/rsas-coviello-opportunities-cyberattack-multiplying/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:09:32 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15999 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.

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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.

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FDA Approves Medical Device for Reversing Opioid Overdose http://techonomy.com/2014/04/fda-approves-medical-advice-reversing-drug-o-d/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/fda-approves-medical-advice-reversing-drug-o-d/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:19:57 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15985 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.

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EvzioWhen 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. FDA compares the device, available only by prescription, to using an epinephrine pen for severe allergic reactions with the coaching voice of an automated defibrillator. Device maker Kaleo Pharma of Richmond, Va., explains, “EVZIO uses voice and visual cues to assist in guiding a user through the injection process.”

Why the expedited government review of the technology? Death by opioid—largely due to overdoses of prescription pain meds such as OxyContin and Vicodin—has been increasing for more than a decade and has now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA. Driven by dependence on expensive prescription drugs, heroin use has also doubled since 2009. Last month, DEA Special Agent Jack Riley told BBC News that heroin addiction in the U.S. “is probably at its all-time high”now.

“Overdose and death resulting from misuse and abuse of both prescription and illicit opioids has become a major public health concern in the United States,” FDA’s Bob Rappaport, said in a statement. The director of the Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Rappaport calls Evzio “the first combination drug-device product designed to deliver a dose of naloxone for administration outside of a health care setting.”

Naloxone is not new. But until now, the drug was most commonly administered by trained medical personnel in emergency departments and ambulances.

FDA warns: “…use of Evzio in patients who are opioid dependent may result in severe opioid withdrawal. Abrupt reversal of opioid depression may result in nausea, vomiting, sweating, accelerated heart rate (tachycardia), increased blood pressure, uncontrollable trembling (tremulousness), seizures, and cardiac arrest.”

In other words, this DIY technology is no substitute for seeking treatment for a drug addiction.

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BlackBerry CEO Chen: Security Is Key to Comeback http://techonomy.com/2014/04/blackberry-ceo-chen-security-key-comeback/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/blackberry-ceo-chen-security-key-comeback/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:36:21 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15966 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."

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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.”

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Making Sense of the Mainframe, 50 Years Later http://techonomy.com/2014/04/making-sense-mainframe-50-years-later/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/making-sense-mainframe-50-years-later/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:18:01 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15957 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.

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ibm_360_colorComputing 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. IBM overwhelmingly dominates today’s mainframe market and has continued to invest far more in the technology than the few other stragglers still making machines. It’s a far cry from the days around the 360′s debut, when IBM faced significant competition from the so-called BUNCH, which included Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell.

Techonomy’s partner CA Technologies has created a media series celebrating the general-purpose mainframe’s 50th anniversary. It includes a short video about the anniversary and the mainframe in the enterprise (with an appearance by yours truly). I also moderated an online discussion about how the mainframe relates to the coming Internet of Things and one this past week on the current explosion of mobile technology. I learned much in those rich conversations with eminent panelists from ADP, CA, Ericsson, and Virginia Tech about the many ways mainframes dovetail with modern technology trends.

As the Internet of Things extends intelligence and connectivity to a vast array of objects and processes that surround us at home and at work, the mainframe will likely play a role in managing  the resulting explosion of data, and help us find the hoped-for efficiencies. Cloud computing, where all sorts of processing takes place these days, employs both vast arrays of microprocessor-based servers as well as plenty of mainframes. As users, we don’t know the difference. But 92 of the world’s 100 largest banks use IBM’s System z mainframes, and by some estimates as much as 80 percent of corporate data is still handled by mainframes.

It’s impossible to predict much about where technology will take us next, except to say that we are headed into what will almost surely be the most exciting period of innovation in human history. Just about every field of human endeavor is in the process of being transformed, including healthcare, nutrition, education, transportation, energy, and government. But the so-called “big data” that will be indispensable to these transformations will in many cases be digested and understood using mainframes in the cloud. We will get access to insights from mainframes on our mobile devices. And our increasingly small, social world will, we hope, get a lot better.

partner-insights

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Techonomic Top 5: Federal Inefficiency, Chromosome Breakthrough, Virtual Employers, and More http://techonomy.com/2014/04/techonomic-top-5-federal-inefficiency-chromosome-breakthrough-virtual-workforce/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/techonomic-top-5-federal-inefficiency-chromosome-breakthrough-virtual-workforce/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:02:18 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15949 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.

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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.

1. The Inefficiency Bunker

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

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.”

The subject of the Post’s first article in a series examining federal system failures, the Office of Personnel Management 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. ”The need for automation was clear—in 1981,” James W. Morrison Jr., office overseer under President Ronald Reagan, told the Post.

Now, in 2014, we’re still waiting for a solution. As the office’s processes of information intake and storage remain decades outdated—sometimes as archaic and counterintuitive as moving files from digital storage to paper printouts—its employees are struggling to keep up and make do. It’s a prime example of our government’s bureaucratic flaws and the urgent need for reform. Because if we’re using tech to design driverless cars, build 3D printers, and connect everything to everything else, we should be able to apply it to something as simple as organizing our paperwork—if only we can cut through all the red tape.

2. NYU Scientists Lead Synthetic Chromosome Breakthrough

Another huge milestone has been reached in synthetic biology. Scientists have created a working chromosome and inserted it into a living cell. The cell continued to act normally—what scientists consider a key measure of success. While chromosomes have already been created for bacteria, accomplishing the feat with a brewer’s yeast cell, a more complex organism, is a major accomplishment. Jeff Boeke, director of NYU’s Institute for System’s Genetics and the leader of the research team, was quoted as saying, “We have made of 50,000 changes to the DNA code in the chromosome and our yeast is still alive. That is remarkable… It is the most extensively altered chromosome ever built.” The potential efficiencies created by these synthetic strains of yeast open doors to remarkable medical and biofuel opportunities, to name just a couple.

3. These Companies Are Giving Virtual Workers a Home

iStock_000001267484SmallLast year we profiled Web engineering company 10up (which developed this website). Aside from its near-fanatical devotion to all things WordPress, one of the hallmarks of 10up is that it’s a distributed company—its 60-plus full-time developers and project managers live and work all over the country. That model is catching on, with “virtual” companies becoming more and more common in the tech sector. Some, like Mozilla, Basecamp, and Upworthy, are fast-growing software or media companies. Others are developers, marketers, digital designers, or online learning platforms. “Web based” best describes all of the companies that made a list compiled by job search site FlexJobs (which has the distinction of appearing on its own list), but each blend offline and online collaboration in different ways and to varying degrees. A recent New York Magazine profile of Upworthy illustrates that although the company invites its workforce to “work from home, from a coffee shop, from a coworking space—anywhere with good enough Internet to do a Google Hangout,” the leadership team convenes regular in-person strategy meetings. Footwear is optional.

4. Using Software to Program the Building Blocks of Life

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

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

“What’s beautiful about software is that it makes complex jobs easy,” opines Andrew Hessel, a distinguished researcher at Autodesk, the software company best known for the design software, AutoCAD. What’s really beautiful about what Hessel and others at Autodesk are working on is what they’re building new design tools for—life itself. Hessel, who spoke at Techonomy’s November conferences in 2011 and 2013, sees the work Autodesk is involved in as a way to create greater access to the burgeoning field of synthetic biology and, along the way, turbocharge fields like energy and food production, manufacturing, and hopefully developing personalized, genetic-level tools for fighting, maybe even curing, things like cancer. The work underway at Autodesk would, in essence, allow synthetic biologists to create and program genetic sequences and, in turn, living organisms, much in the same way engineers now program computer code. As tech and biology become more intertwined, these new fields of research, design and fabrication open more and more doors to what’s possible, reimagining applications, tools and treatments for challenges that have bedeviled humanity for far too long.

5. From Messaging to Gaming, Mark Zuckerberg Is Buying

Just five weeks after acquiring mobile messaging app WhatsApp (for a whopping $19 billion), Facebook announced it plans to buy Oculus, the virtual reality headset startup that’s been the talk of the town—the gaming town, that is—even though it has yet to send a single product to market. The $2 billion buyout includes 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock and $400 million in cash.

Techonomy CEO and Bloomberg contributing editor David Kirkpatrick appeared on Bloomberg Surveillance Wednesday to talk about Facebook’s objectives in acquiring Oculus, both now and in the future. “They can win with this purchase,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that Oculus can help Facebook achieve its short-term goal of building a stronger gaming platform. “The long-term vision is to basically create a new platform that could in effect even compete with Facebook as we know it today as a platform for interaction.”

While Zuckerberg’s growing arsenal of acquisitions continues to draw criticism, Kirkpatrick believes the young CEO will be able to manage them—and with tact. “Look at the results. He has a company with 1.2 billion users in 10 years,” Kirkpatrick said. “How much can you really cavil about that?”

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A Website That Attempts the Impossible http://techonomy.com/2014/04/website-attempts-impossible/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/website-attempts-impossible/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:42:27 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15930 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. Read more at Charlie Rose

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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. On Impossible, users post their wishes, which range from “I wish for a nice cake recipe” to “I wish I could go home to visit my grandmother,” and other users fulfill them. When they do, they won’t get paid, but they might get a heartfelt “thank you” and a feel-good dose of dopamine—which, for many, are more than enough to encourage them to keep on 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. Kirkpatrick and Zittrain talked about the development of the gift economy and its impact on conventional economics. “The Internet is so disruptive of the economy that we think of traditionally. [Impossible] is a really good example of one of the ways that’s happening,” Kirkpatrick said, calling the concept “wonderfully unpredictable.”

Kirkpatrick and Zittrain also compared Impossible to other platforms disrupting traditional economic models, including crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo and travel community site Couchsurfing. A sort of generalized version of Couchsurfing, Impossible seeks to connect users to the giving opportunities they might not otherwise be aware of. “Nowadays society is so complicated that it’s often very hard to see the opportunities,” Cole said. It was this observation that made her wonder: “What if there was an Internet platform that would do just that, that would try and surface those possibilities?” Enter Impossible, whose mission is far from impossible.

Read more at Charlie Rose

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Magisto’s A.I. Helps Anyone Produce Polished Video http://techonomy.com/2014/04/magistos-helps-anyone-produce-polished-video/ http://techonomy.com/2014/04/magistos-helps-anyone-produce-polished-video/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 21:04:48 +0000 http://techonomy.com/?p=15908 Magisto wants to do for video what Instagram did for photos—provide intuitive tools to edit and enhance them and make them easy to share. Founded in Israel in 2009 by two experts in computer vision and artificial intelligence, Magisto enables a user to simply select photos and videos on their smartphone, choose a visual theme, and automatically create a sophisticated edited product in minutes. There's a lot of computer science on the back end making that possible. Magisto launched in January 2012 at the Consumer Electronics Show, won an app competition there, and now has 20 million registered users worldwide, up from 3 million last year. With 30 employees, the company has offices in Tel Aviv, New York, and San Francisco. Techonomy sat down with Magisto CEO Oren Boiman for a wide-ranging talk about video, social media, and how people want to express themselves.

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DSC_0522Magisto wants to do for video what Instagram did for photos—provide intuitive tools to edit and enhance them and make them easy to share. Founded in Israel in 2009 by two experts in computer vision and artificial intelligence, Magisto enables a user to simply select photos and videos on their smartphone, choose a visual theme, and automatically create a sophisticated edited product in minutes. There’s a lot of computer science on the back end making that possible. Magisto launched in January 2012 at the Consumer Electronics Show, won an app competition there, and now has 20 million registered users worldwide, up from 3 million last year. With 30 employees, the company has offices in Tel Aviv, New York, and San Francisco. Techonomy sat down with Magisto CEO Oren Boiman for a wide-ranging talk about video, social media, and how people want to express themselves. Boiman, like so many Israeli entrepreneurs, began in high-tech while in the military, where he worked in intelligence. The following are edited highlights. Download a PDF of the full interview.

How did Magisto get started?

When my daughter was born, it was the first time I actually did real video, not just in a lab. You have a newborn and you want to capture their life experience. I bought a Sony Handycam in 2005 and I was shooting for two months. I thought, “I’m curating the family experience, it’s going to look great.” Then we wanted to have a party and share our young family’s experience. I looked at the videos and they were just horrible. We had to do something. Me and my wife—both engineers—said, “Let’s do video editing. It will probably take us an hour or so.” We spent two weeks slaving to get to five minutes we were proud enough to show. On the one hand I’m doing my Ph.D. in video analysis. On the other hand I cannot do anything to help with our home videos. But then again, when my mother saw the final video, she cried.

So after all, it worked.

But because of that experience I understood the solution needs to be as simple as pressing a button.

So you took the expertise you developed doing your PhD and began to apply it in this context.

My PhD is about one mechanism which can address many, many problems in computer vision. But when it comes to video editing, you have to deal with freeform consumer video and photos. You cannot do just face detection or face recognition. You have to have a general understanding of what is in a video, who are the important characters, what are the important scenes, when do they interact with each other, the speech parts, the audio. You need to create something that moves people. That’s what video editing is about.  But even one video has so many pixels you need to analyze, so people were doubtful whether we can do it. There was nothing that analyzes videos and photos so deeply at that scale when we started.

So you do really do deep analysis of the imagery?

You have to. Without getting to the level of understanding characters, scenes, interactions, actions, speech, you cannot get to storytelling, because this is what stories are built from.

What’s the long term vision for Magisto?

There are endless ways to improve our platform. For instance, we introduced different editing styles. So when the user chooses “travel,” or “cute,”  we don’t change just the looks. We use different algorithms and choose different parts of the video. So if I want it to feel sentimental, we might take dialog between the main characters. But if I’m going to do fast paced music video editing with the same footage, I’ll choose completely different parts. It’s not about what’s important, but what’s important to tell the story in a certain way. What we’re doing is injecting emotion.

So everything you do is about video.

Yes. When it comes to mobile, video is the best form of consumption. Video as a medium is like a thousand times more powerful than photos and text. Video has another layer of emotion, another layer of story. Today’s social media is very shallow. I mean, we use smileys to try to put some emotion there, but it’s not there. But when people see things in video, they really laugh. With Magisto if you want to make it cute, we’ll make it cute. You want to make it sentimental, we’ll make it sentimental. You want to make it funny, let’s make it funny.

Where is the technology headed?

We’re trying to reimagine the next stage of photography. We want Magisto to be your 24/7 video editor, to put Magisto in the background to always be there for you. So if you capture things with photos and videos on your phone’s camera, Magisto will surprise you with a produced movie. You don’t even have to open the app if you don’t want to. We announced a technology with Qualcomm at CES, called CamCrew. It’s a camera crew inside your phone. We take some of the storytelling brains of Magisto and run it in real time, so now you have not just an editor, but you suddenly get a 24/7 photographer and director to help you get better photos. When you’re shooting video or photos, you get notified by Magisto, “Here’s some people you might want to highlight.”

[Boiman picks up his phone.] So let’s highlight Josh [who is sitting at the table]. When I move the camera, Magisto knows that and will start to track him, resetting the focus and exposure, instead of me obsessing on the camera controls. Okay, smile for a second. It reframed the picture, saw you smiling, and it’s taken it for you. This is starting to do the thinking for you. If I’m starting to cut off your head or something, Magisto will tell you to put it in the middle. It helps the average photographer start to capture like a pro. When you press “done,” Magisto produces the movie in minutes.

You have an ambitious agenda.

Disruptive technologies often start from the root, not with high-end users. The first lousy digital cameras were used by consumers. They were not used by prosumers or by professionals. So that’s exactly what’s happening here. We cannot yet address the high end needs of professional video editors and brands, but this is exactly what consumers want. We will just build in more and more sophistication, and add more and more tools. It has to happen this way.

Techonomy has created a series of videos from events around the world using Magisto technology. Click on the links below to watch.

The Vibe at Davos

At Europe’s DLD: Innovation, Anxiety, and Inspiration

A Techonomist’s View of CES

Techonomy at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona

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