Analytics & Data

Nate Silver Is Not the Only Useful Pundit

Nate Silver at South by Southwest, 2009

Data is nothing new. We at Techonomy get excited because there is now more of it, in more massageable forms, which will likely assist society in adding efficiency to all sorts of processes and systems that have heretofore been sloppy or unfair. However, we don't worship at the foot of data, especially not at the cost of deprecating other forms of analysis and interpretation. Which is why we found this essay by the redoubtable Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic gratifying. We admire Nate Silver's election work as much as the next citizen, but I and we agree with Wieseltier that thinking and arguing based on experience and values can be equally, and sometimes more, valuable.   More

Business

Techonomy Tips Our Hat to the Great Pat McGovern

(Image via IDG)

The worlds of technology, business, science, and philanthropy lost a true revolutionary when Patrick J. McGovern passed away on March 19th of this year. McGovern was best known as the founder of International Data Group and its many related interests, including tech magazines, research, and events. He spent much of the past decade and a half promoting and championing research and discovery around the field of neuroscience. In 2000 Pat and his wife, Lore Harp McGovern, made a $350 million commitment to MIT, one of the largest philanthropic contributions in the history of higher education, which led to the formal establishment of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. According to its website, the Institute is, “committed to meeting two great challenges of modern science: understanding how the brain works and discovering new ways to prevent or treat brain disorders.”   More

Digital Startup Culture

SwiftKey CTO Debuts Our “Three Questions” Video Series

Techonomy hosted Ben Medlock, CTO and co-founder of Britain's SwiftKey, in our Manhattan offices for a short video interview. It was the first episode of a new online series we call "Three Questions from Techonomy." Medlock talked about his company, the growing importance of AI, and how tech is changing the world. This modest CTO has a company with outscale success—now on about 150 million smartphones globally, including most Samsung phones. His software autocompletes typing on the Android keyboard, and is the state of the art in keyboard technology. The company recently completed a $20 million funding round with venture capital firms Accel and Index Ventures.   More

Life Science

Talking with the Government’s $1,000 Genome Man

(Photo courtesy NHGRI)

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the tremendous progress in making DNA sequencing so cheap that scanning a person’s genome could cost just $1,000. This pricing free-fall has occurred markedly faster than with comparable drops for other technologies, such as computers. Most people would assume that credit is due mostly to the progress made by companies, but in reality the man most responsible for approaching the $1,000 genome is Jeffery Schloss, an unassuming federal employee who works as a program director for the National Human Genome Research Institute.   More

Digital

Can Smart Cars Curb Road Rage?

Road rage 2

Road ragers beware. Get too angry behind the wheel and you'll have to answer to ... your own car? That's right, our vehicles may soon be able to detect our emotional states while driving, automatically limiting speeds or issuing warnings to calm down when we become too aggressive, according to Gizmodo. The in-car emotion detector, invented by a joint research team from the Swiss technical school École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, monitors stress levels by using an infrared camera to measure feelings of anger and disgust.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

NetEase Moves into U.S., Vipshop Tries Russia

vipshop

Two of China’s leading Internet companies are taking their first baby steps outside their home market, with word that online game maker NetEase is moving into the U.S. and fast-rising discount e-commerce firm Vipshop is tying up with a Russian partner. The pair are joining China’s “big 3″ Internet firms, Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, in making recent moves outside their home market, as each looks for new growth opportunities. All of these companies also want to convince the world that they can compete in the real world outside their own highly protected and heavily restricted home market.   More

Global Tech

Tech Innovation Takes Root in the Philippines

arlu phone shot

Companies developing tech-based solutions for consumers in emerging markets see great opportunities in the Philippines today. A growing number of innovative visionaries view the country as a testing ground for products and services with potential for global scale. More are likely on their way. This may come as a surprise to those who think of the Philippines as a tech laggard. Although the country’s tech and startup ecosystems are growing, skeptics often point to the limited post-seed funding, unfavorable business regulations, and other challenges that await would-be innovators.   More

Analytics & Data Life Science

How IBM’s Watson Will Advise Oncologists on Patient Care

Director of Computational Biology Ajay Royyuru points to a drawing of the chemical formula for DNA at IBM Research headquarters in Yorktown Heights, NY. (Courtesy IBM Research)

Scientists at the New York Genome Center announced Wednesday that they would collaborate with IBM to test "a unique Watson prototype designed specifically for genomic research" that has been under development for the past decade in IBM’s Computational Biology Center at IBM Research. Will oncologists trust IBM Watson's cognitive abilities enough to rely on it as an advisor? It's likely they will if the supercomputer proves it can produce in seconds actionable information about an individual's cancer that would take a dozen doctors weeks or months to discover.   More

Digital

Are the Smart Machines Taking Over?

At CES this year, all the talk was about smart machines: smart cars, smart glasses, and, of course, smartphones. But should we be scared of these smart machines? Are they about to become too smart—so smart, indeed, that they are calling the shots? This was one of the most interesting audience questions at a keynote panel I moderated featuring Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs and AT&T’s SVP of Network Operations John Donovan. Interestingly enough, the panelists seemed less afraid of our networked future than the audience.   More

Finance Global Tech

Alibaba Changes IPO Course, Heads For New York

(Image via Shutterstock)

All my previous predictions that e-commerce leader Alibaba would ultimately make its mega IPO in Hong Kong were wrong, with word that the company is now firmly fixed on New York for its highly anticipated share sale. In my defense, I should say that a huge surge in positive sentiment over the last 5 months towards China Internet stocks on Wall Street undoubtedly helped change Alibaba’s mind. The company had previously stated on numerous occasions that Hong Kong was the preferred venue for its blockbuster IPO, which reports are now saying could raise up to $15 billion, making it the world’s biggest Internet offering since Facebook raised $16 billion in 2012.   More

Digital

Spectrum, Spectrum, Spectrum: The Three Key Issues in The Future of Mobile Technology

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 the CES audience was pretty impressive too—including such luminaries as FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. After the formal discussion, Rosenworcel was the first to ask the panelists a question. “Do we have enough spectrum for mobile commercial use?” she asked. “And if we don’t, how can technologies like small cells help us use it more efficiently?” “Spectrum is the life blood of the industry” Donovan said, and “the oxygen for commerce.”   More

Life Science

Your Garden Is About to Go Bionic

(Image via Shutterstock)

Imagine shrubs monitoring pollution levels, weeds storing electronic devices, and flowers detecting explosives and chemical weapons. Sounds like science fiction, but bionic plant life is not as far-fetched as you might think, according to new research from M.I.T. In the emerging field of plant nanobiotics, researchers are studying plants' potential as technology platforms. By embedding various nanomaterials within plant cell structures, research shows, run-of-the-mill plant life can be transformed into high-tech sensors, monitors, and energy producers. "The potential is really endless," M.I.T. researcher Michael Strano told M.I.T. News.   More

Business Digital

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

Digital 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

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

Digital IoE

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

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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

Digital IoE

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

tencent_penguin

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 JD.com 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 JD.com, which will also receive some of Tencent’s e-commerce assets including a minority stake of its flagship Yixun.com 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

Digital 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