Business Internet of Things

Will the Internet of Things Undermine Capitalism?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Jeremy Rifkin writes in the New York Times about the future of the collaborative, sharing, free economy, making some original new points. Most notably, he argues that because the Internet of Things will radically accelerate the growth of sharing and efficiency, it will implicitly lead to a reduction in capitalism itself and a further rise in the importance of non-profit institutions. The rise of "free goods," tackled directly at Techonomy 2012 by MIT economist Erik Brynolffson, is in Rifkin's opinion now going to extend well beyond the digital and virtual (where things like Gmail, this website, and innumerable other free opportunities are available). Rifkin argues that capitalism, while it has a future, will become a "niche" part of the economy. Philanthropy and NGOs may become much more central to all of our notions of social leadership and economic health.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Techonomic Top 5: Building with Mushrooms, Curbing Food Waste, the Selfie Mecca, and More

Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation. (Photo courtesy Ecovative)

When you want to make a mushroom omelet, you usually cut off the stems and use the caps—the tastiest, most tender part of edible fungi. But when it comes to putting mushrooms to more utilitarian use, the web of roots called mycelium has been getting a lot more love. Paul Stemets, author of “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World” has prototyped medicinal applications from fungi, including small pox, HIV, and malaria treatments, and used mushroom enzymes to clean up contaminated soil. Now he’s developed a building material that attracts and kills termites. Meanwhile, a company called Ecovative Design is using mycelium to make mushroom foam for packaging (Dell uses the stuff to ship its computer servers) and building insulation that’s grown between walls instead of injected or installed.   More

E-Commerce Finance

Does Bitcoin Bite, Bark, or Bumble?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Of all the surprises and gifts tumbling tumultuously from the world's startups and programmers, none are more daunting to the casual observer than Bitcoin. What is it, really? Should I buy some? What would that mean? Where would it be? Why are so many smart people doing so, and creating companies to help others do that? What problems does it solve? For one thing, a transnational currency that can be traded without intermediaries has appeal. But while we can say that confidently, it's not even clear Bitcoin fits that definition. Now at least a thorough examination of the phenomenon has emerged from Goldman Sachs. The company has great incentive to get its analysis of Bitcoin right, so when it says this is not really a currency, we should take note.   More

Internet of Things

What Is the Future of Our Networked Society?

Today, the smartphone is ubiquitous. But as the Internet of Things becomes more and more of a reality, what is the future of the phone? And, in the not too distant future, will it be replaced as our central operating device by such intelligent networked objects as smart clothing, smart glasses, and smart cars? At CES this year, I moderated a keynote panel featuring Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs and AT&T’s SVP of Network Operations John Donovan. And each of them spoke about their vision of a networked world in ten years time.   More

Media & Marketing

Critics Say Andreessen’s Analysis of the News Industry Is Broken

(Image via Shutterstock)

It’s doubtful that any publisher in the world was enlightened by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s recent blog post pronouncing that “the news business is a business like any business” and that “the news industry is going through a fundamental restructuring and transformation, for worse and for better.” But many likely wonder how he can be “more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone [he knows],” and why he envisions exponential growth in the next decade.   More

Healthcare Internet of Things

Quantifying Yourself? Your Doctor May Finally Notice

Now that so many of us wear Fitbits, Nike Fuelbands, Jawbone Ups, and other devices that track our steps, sleep, calories, and more stuff every day, it's about time that we did more with the information than just compete with each other. Wired explains that Practice Fusion, a major electronic medical records company, is partnering with companies that make heart-rate and diabetes monitors so doctors can start getting data from our devices methodically. It's a baby step but an important one. Practice Fusion expects to include other devices as well.   More

Global Tech

Tencent-JD Tie-Up Takes Aim at Alibaba


The new week is just beginning, but it could well go down as a pivotal moment in Chinese Internet history with Tencent’s new announcement of an e-commerce alliance with that could threaten the dominance of sector leader Alibaba. The tie-up, which was first rumored last month, will see Tencent pay $215 million for 15 percent of, which will also receive some of Tencent’s e-commerce assets including a minority stake of its flagship B2C service. The companies will merge their e-commerce businesses, creating a new player with nearly a quarter of China’s B2C e-commerce market.   More

Global Tech

The Scandal of “Modern” Airplane Communications

(Image via Shutterstock)

It's idiotic that the most important form of modern travel remains a prisoner of 1960s-era technology. Air travel needs a major technology upgrade. This article in the Guardian is just one of many observations emerging in the wake of the disappearance of a 777 traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. How can a modern aircraft just disappear, with nobody even knowing what it was doing for the last hour or so of its flight? Because it had less-sophisticated communications technology in some ways than in your smartphone.   More

Business Mobile

Is Mobile Dead?

Is mobile redundant? No, not the technology. But has word “mobile” become redundant? After all, mobile is so ubiquitous these days that it seems as if everything we talk about in tech—from apps to devices to the networks themselves—is inevitably “mobile.” And who better to ask about the ubiquity of mobile technology than the CEOs of Ericsson and Qualcomm and the SVP of Network Operations at AT&T. I had the great fortune at CES this year to moderate a keynote panel featuring Hans Vestberg of Ericsson, Dr. Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm and John Donovan of AT&T. And this was the first question that I asked this all-star panel.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Can Drones Help Scrub China’s Filthy Skies?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Just how bad is China’s air pollution? A recent M.I.T. study concluded that a huge swath of the Chinese population is losing an average of five years in life expectancy due to pollution. The Chinese government is getting serious about the issue, and not just because the thick smog actually interferes with domestic surveillance efforts. China's pollution has become a source of national embarrassment and outrage, with Chinese scientists comparing it to a nuclear winter. The government is now escalating the use of drones to fight its recently declared “war on pollution.” In a plan reminiscent of the futuristic geo-engineering discussed at Techonomy 2012, aircraft disperse chemicals that freeze pollutants, making them fall to the ground. But what becomes of this solidified smog, not to mention the chemicals, once it's been scrubbed from the sky?   More

Bio & Life Sciences Energy & Green Tech Government

Techonomic Top 5: Reanimating the Woolly Mammoth, Facebook Drones, and more

(Image via Shutterstock)

The passenger pigeon became extinct in 1914, though not long before it flew in flocks that could number in the billions (yes, with a "b"). But a group of scientists has teamed up with tech visionary Stewart Brand in spearheading an effort to bring the species back to life. The so-called de-extinction project could reanimate long-lost species like the woolly mammoth and even mitigate environmental threats like melting permafrost, according to some.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

DNA Diagnosis Works, But It’s Not Likely to Cure You Soon

(Photo courtesy of UC San Francisco)

At a recent scientific meeting for researchers working with DNA sequencing tools, Joe DeRisi from the University of California, San Francisco, gave a riveting presentation about the medical case of a young boy with acute encephalitis. The talk offered a glimpse into the tremendous clinical potential for DNA sequencing—and simultaneously highlighted just how far this technology still is from the mainstream. DeRisi is known for a major coup in 2003 when he led the first American team to identify SARS. At the time, the coronavirus was still an unknown terror sweeping across Asia. His lab focuses on identifying pathogens, which is how DeRisi got involved in the case of the young boy with encephalitis.   More


Will Bringing Big Data into the Classroom Help Students Learn Better?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Brad McIlquham was tutoring at-risk youth in Durham, N.C., when a former co-worker gave him the educator’s equivalent of the Social Network pitch. What if, instead of teaching at most 50 kids a year, you could help bring personalized tutoring to 100,000, or a million kids? McIlquham’s co-worker, Jose Ferreira—who had taught SAT and GMAT prep with McIlquham at Kaplan—was proposing an upending of the traditional “teach to the middle” classroom model. When teachers instruct students of varying ability in the same class, some students get bored, while others struggle. And often, teachers don’t discover which students have failed to understand key concepts until their tests get graded. But by then, they’ve already fallen behind.   More

Learning Partner Insights

Can Higher Ed Survive the Threat of MOOCs?

(Image via Shutterstock)

Massively open online courses are bringing creative destruction to the higher education industry, and incumbents must reconfigure their value chains to survive. MOOCs, as they’re known, are free online courses that use pre-recorded, asynchronous lectures, discussion boards, and peer-grading to reach hundreds of thousands of concurrent students. Among the non-profit MOOC platforms is the edX platform, which includes courses from MIT, Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley. It is funded by the Gates Foundation and Google, among others.   More


IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at Mobile World Congress

It is an exciting time, it is a disruptive time. So says the CEO of IBM, who believes “everyone in every industry” will be affected by today’s changing tech industry. Ginni Rometty appeared onstage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday, marking the first time for a CEO of IBM to attend the world’s largest mobile exhibition and conference. In her keynote, hosted by Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, Rometty discussed the main shifts taking place in today’s enterprise ecosystem, identifying three important trends: data, cloud, and engagement.   More

Security & Privacy

A Privacy Bill Should Impose Consequences

(Image via Shutterstock)

Lamenting a fast-approaching privacy crisis in the U.S., New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera this week reports what experts say should be included in a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, should Congress be so inclined to draft and pass one. Nocera suggests that not just consumers, but also companies in the business of collecting their data—including Google, Facebook, and Acxiom—stand to benefit from regulation; after all, he writes, credit card companies objected to the 1967 Truth in Lending Act that turned out to be to their advantage because it "showed consumers, for the first time, that they had some protection from fraud or shady practices." Nocera's conclusion: "Sometimes, government has to save business from itself."   More

Global Tech

How WhatsApp Can Succeed in China

Will WeChat remain the dominant messaging service in China? (Image via  Shutterstock)

I haven’t written about Facebook in a while, mostly because the company hasn’t made any concrete moves into China lately despite previous assertions that it would like to enter the market. But the company’s purchase of the popular WhatsApp mobile messaging service for up to $19 billion looks like a good opportunity to revisit the topic, and what this deal might mean for Facebook in China. Facebook’s own site has been blocked in China since 2009, making it inaccessible to the vast majority of more than 600 million Chinese Web surfers. But WhatsApp is widely available, even though it competes with the wildly popular rival WeChat service from local Internet giant Tencent.   More


Kirkpatrick: Zuckerberg’s Plan for Global Connectivity “Impressive and Amazing”

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 3.14.26 PM

It may be the tech acquisition everyone's talking about, but Facebook's $19 billion buyout of WhatsApp is just one step along the way of Mark Zuckerberg's larger-than-life quest: to connect every single person on the planet. Zuckerberg joined Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick onstage at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress Monday to talk WhatsApp, the future of communications, and, most salient in Zuckerberg's mind, his global connectivity initiative Launched in August 2013, is a global partnership between Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, and Qualcomm, which positions Internet access as a human right.   More


Zuckerberg’s Vision for Building a Benevolent Internet

Once your Internet company has amassed over 1 billion subscribers around the world, what’s your next move? The most obvious answer is to figure out how to leverage your extraordinary user base to generate revenue. But Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions for Facebook have always been more complex than simple profit motive. For starters, he’s not content connecting just 1 billion people. As he told Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick this Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, “Our vision isn’t to try to connect one-seventh of the world; it’s to try to connect everyone.” In order to do that, Facebook has to rally other billion-user companies to its cause. “We have to form these partnerships because no one company can change the way that the Internet works by itself,” said Zuckerberg.   More

Cities Startup Culture

Techonomic Top 5: Startup Slowdown, Euro Urban Innovation, Prescribing Addictive Games, and More


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. A new report from entrepreneurship advocacy organization the Kauffman Foundation indicates the number high-tech startups—defined as young companies with a high proportion of STEM workers—has been in decline since 2000. The study concludes that the slowdown in tech entrepreneurship “might have disproportionate effects on long-term economic growth,” noting that while tech startups often fail, they help to sustain a vigorous rate of net new job creation.   More