Global Tech

Smart Car Race Speeds Up in China

(Image via Shutterstock)

China is quickly living up to its copycat reputation in the smart car space, with the latest word that Tencent will enter the business in a tie-up with Taiwanese contract manufacturing giant Foxconn. That pair are following Google into the area, but they certainly aren’t the first Chinese to mimic the world’s largest Internet company. That distinction would probably go to Chinese Internet search leader Baidu, which last year announced its own smart car initiative that was also back in the headlines this week as CEO Robin Li discussed the plan. Yet another similar initiative is also in the headlines today, as online video sensation LeTV discussed its own plans to show off its first smart car at the Shanghai auto show next month. This kind of copycatting and bandwagon mentality has become all too common among China’s Internet companies, who all worry about getting left behind by the competition.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

The Vast Implications of the Networked Economy

(Image via Shutterstock)

Connections are changing the world. The connectivity enabled by the Internet has huge implications for the very structure of the global economy. While estimates of the Net's contribution to economic output vary, it's generally thought that it exceeds individual industry sectors like education, agriculture, and energy. The total value of transactions occurring today online are more than all but three or four of the world's largest national economies. In the past few years, many governments have recognized that there are momentous opportunities to increase their own GDP growth through e-commerce and digital channels, despite the economically challenging times. Data, it is generally agreed, is central to everything.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Next Week’s Techonomy Bio: A Focus on Systems of Life

eb418553-07d1-4b93-a9a9-55b436540ddf

At last year's Techonomy Bio, we put venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson on a panel of investors. In his enthusiasm for the unbridled potential of innovation in the life sciences to transform society, Jurvetson at one point said "we're sitting on a can of miracles." Why a can? He did not say, but his observation became a kind of touchstone for us at Techonomy for why we continue to build this event. "Sitting on a Can of Miracles" is what we're calling this year's session on investing in bio-progress. Jurvetson himself we have promoted to our opening panel, which our Director of Programs Alex Cudaback christened "You Say You Want a Revolution?" Here we ask where we'll see the most impact from life sciences innovation, and how information technology is driving bio-progress.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Startup Culture

The New Biohackers: How (and Where) They Work

Larry Melnick, left, and Andy Berks chat over lunch in the common kitchen area of Brooklyn-based community biolab Genspace. (Image via Ellen Jorgensen)

In a laboratory in New York City, molecular biologist Roy Buchanan is finishing up at the bench for the day. It is eight o’clock in the evening, and while late night work is a familiar scenario for most scientists, the presence of Buchanan’s two young sons playing a game in the common area outside the lab is not. “My wife let me work on this project only if I promised to continue sharing the child care responsibilities,” he explains. A computer programmer by day, Buchanan pursues a self-funded genome editing project in his spare time, enabled by the shared facilities and low price point of Genspace, a community biolab in Brooklyn. Buchanan is not alone. The economic downturn has resulted in a surfeit of unemployed and underemployed scientific experts itching to get back into the lab and flex their underused intellectual muscles.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

A Glowing Plant: the First Fruit of “Digitized” Genetic Engineering

(Image via Glowing Plant)

Synthetic biology is entering an exciting new phase. An ecosystem of companies is now developing services to enable faster, cheaper, and better genetic engineering. They are, in effect, "digitizing" genetic engineering through relatively inexpensive cloud-based and robotic laboratories that bring capabilities that were once the exclusive domain of large corporations to academic groups and small startups. To use an old computing analogy, this is biotech’s PC moment: Digitization allows those without technical expertise to operate at higher, more abstract levels. The digital keys to synthetic biology—reproducibility and protocol sharing—could make biological apps as easy to develop as mobile apps are today.   More

Analytics & Data Bio & Life Sciences

How to Get and Protect Your Genetic Data

(Image via Shutterstock)

Maybe it was the Jolie effect. Or you want to find out if you’re carrying a silent genetic mutation that could be passed on to a child. Or perhaps you’re just really hoping you can blame your DNA for how awful cilantro tastes. Whatever the reason, you’re interested in finding out something about your genome. Now what? Though consumer genetic testing and personal genome sequencing are still nascent fields, every indication suggests that the public will have a virtually insatiable appetite for genetic data. And as scientists get better at establishing links between DNA and diseases or specific traits, that demand will only increase. But are we ready for this data?   More

Global Tech Learning

Emerging Market Medical Education Goes Digital

HIV specialists in Vietnam use video conferencing to train local health workers. Photo courtesy of HAIVN.

A shortage of skilled health workers is an acute and ongoing problem in many emerging markets. Weak medical education systems bear a major part of the blame. But a big opportunity for rapid progress has emerged as online medical education becomes increasingly common. Doctors and nurses in even the poorest countries can now get better training.   More

Global Tech

Why the “Luxury” of Apple’s Watch Is Beside the Point

og_apple_watch_edition

After putting down yet another slavishly admiring profile of top Apple designer Jony Ive this weekend in the egregiously-named "How to Spend It" magazine published by the Financial Times, I had a nagging sense that something was wrong. Of course, like all the strategically placed articles about Ive in recent weeks, this one was yet another indirect attempt by Apple to create a slavishly admiring article about the incipient Apple Watch. The Watch, Apple is desperate to let us know, is imminent, and we ought to care. But what is it, exactly, that Apple is telling us we ought to care about?   More

Bio & Life Sciences

How Biotech Can Help Feed the Planet

(Image via Shutterstock)

It's going to be a big global challenge to feed our growing population without destroying the environment. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that worldwide food supply must increase by 70 percent by 2050. We don't just need calories; we need nutritious calories that reduce the risk of disease. Chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes impair quality of life and burden the global healthcare system.   More

Business

Chinese Net Giants Head Towards U.S.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Just a day after I wrote that online gaming giant Tencent may be planning a major new drive into the U.S., we’re hearing that its top rival NetEase is also moving into the neighborhood with plans for a new California R&D center. NetEase’s move comes after search leader Baidu and Tencent both set up U.S. offices last year, though only Baidu actually announced a major new product development center. All of these moves represent the Chinese companies’ efforts to tap into the Silicon Valley ethos, which has far more of the skills they will need in their quest to enter global markets outside of China.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Healthcare Internet of Things

The IoT of Health: Big Data Can Make Us Healthier

(Image via Shutterstock)

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a lot to offer in the medical realm, but such connectivity lags far behind what's happening with other consumer goods and electronics. A few early glimpses of possibilities in this field show there are tremendous advantages to be had if we can get past these current hurdles and establish a bio-based IoT. (A session entitled "The Internet of (Bio)things" at the upcoming Techonomy Bio conference on March 25 in Mountain View explores this question.)   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Tencent’s WeChat Trounces Alibaba at Chinese New Year

(Image via Shutterstock)

I remember a time not long ago when we China tech reporters used to write annual stories about the number of people who sent billions of simple Lunar New Year text greetings over their mobile phones. Those days now seem like a distant memory, and new data from Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay are showing just how small those earlier figures were, even though they seemed impressive at the time. But the real story in this new tide of “red envelope grabbing wars” is the huge victory for Tencent over Alibaba.   More

Keen On

KeenON: CEA’s Gary Shapiro on the Digital Revolution in 2015

There are few more optimistic thinkers than Gary Shapiro, the CEO and president of the Consumer Electronics Association and the author of "Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Companies." Shapiro–who is also the guy behind the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas–believes 2015 might be the year the digital revolution reaches its tipping point and truly starts to change the world. New technologies as varied as 3D printing, drones, self-driving cars, and networked clothing, Shapiro thinks, are going to solve many of our most entrenched problems.   More

Global Tech Jobs

Vietnam’s IT Workers Value Passion Over Pay

In Ho Chi Minh and elsewhere in Vietnam, some IT workers are seeking passion over profit.

As Vietnam emerges as a global hotspot for offshore IT services, the country’s tech workers have more employment opportunities than ever before. With IT talent in high demand, job seekers can be selective. Many want more than just good pay. Increasingly, they also want jobs that allow them to learn and to build products that make a difference. A new survey by ITViec, a jobs platform for Vietnam’s tech industry, suggests that Vietnam’s IT workers are driven as much by passion as by profit. Unfortunately, some outsourcing and product companies do not provide such opportunities.   More

Business Internet of Things

How to Ride the Smart Home Wave

(Image via Shutterstock)

There’s a sizeable "smart home" wave building. The smart home and building technology market was $4.8 billion in 2012 and a report by Allied Market Research predicts it will grow to $35.3 billion by 2020. Not surprisingly, many startups, retailers, and established tech companies hope to ride the wave. Surfing is hard to do. Not everyone will get the timing right. But some strategies will make it a lot less likely that companies will wipe out.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Ubiquitous Biotech in a Time of Ignorance

(Image via Shutterstock)

Biology has recently found solutions we didn’t imagine were possible, such as the recent discovery that plants’ chlorophyll molecules act at the quantum mechanical level to maximize energy harvested from the sun. Yet, when it comes to understanding biotechnology innovations, the general public is sadly misinformed about the science. Unfounded fears have prompted the European Union to place stringent controls on the use and growth of GMO crops, and many EU countries require permits to do basic molecular biology and genetic engineering.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Biomimicry Enters Academic Mainstream with ASU Center

Scientists and inventors have long turned to nature for inspiration.

Arizona State University will launch a new Biomimicry Center devoted to the research and development of initiatives that use nature’s own time-tested strategies to tackle our biggest sustainability challenges. A joint venture of ASU and Biomimicry 3.8, the Biomimicry Center will kick off March 3 with an interactive symposium of lectures, discussion, and hands-on activities at ASU’s Tempe campus. The center’s aim is to bring together the expertise of a wide range of disciplines—including biology, chemistry, engineering, business, material science, psychology, design, and architecture—to create a new multipronged approach to sustainability.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Opinion

Why It’s So Hard for Americans to Talk About Science

shutterstock_92733499

Talking about science is a lot harder than it should be. We talk all the time about things we don’t fully understand: the polar vortex, how footballs can get underinflated during games, why the Kardashians still get so much attention. We’re not experts in these areas, but we’re happy to weigh in with theories and opinions. But when it comes to scientific topics, both scientists and lay people hide behind the excuse that the general public in this country simply doesn’t have the education to process such complex information.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Geoengineering: Smart Science or Hail Mary?

(Image via Shutterstock)

In a recent report, a committee appointed by the National Research Council issued a recommendation that the federal government fund research on geoengineering as a means to address global warming. Geongineering, sometimes known as “Plan B,” encompasses technologies that seek to counteract climate change. During a session at Techonomy in 2012, Harvard physicist David Keith said, “If you want to actually reduce the risks to many of the people who will suffer real climate impacts in the next decades, including some of the poorest people in the world, this is essentially the only thing you could do.”   More

Global Tech

Tesla Looks for New China Formula

(Image via Shutterstock)

After roaring into China last year on a wave of hugely positive publicity, electric car superstar Tesla has rapidly lost momentum and now appears on the cusp of a major overhaul in a bid to jump-start its prospects. This kind of development isn’t hard to understand, as Tesla’s charismatic CEO Elon Musk set the bar incredibly high when he sold his company’s first electric vehicle (EV) in China last April.   More