Manufacturing Startup Culture

In Defense of Dustpan Innovation, Product Developers Protest

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Outraged over ergonomic gadget maker OXO’s introduction of a $25 dustpan-and-broom design that closely resembles a two-year-old, $12 Quirky model, Quirky staffers staged a street protest in New York last week.   More

Business

Dongfeng-Volvo, VW Chase Low-End Market in China

Volkswagen Polo on display at an auto expo in Guangzhou, China (image via Shutterstock)

A couple of news bits from the Chinese auto space are underscoring how competitive the sector has become, with domestic carmaker Dongfeng Motor signing a new tie-up with Swedish truck maker Volvo, as Germany's Volkswagen moves closer to entering the low-end market traditionally shunned by foreign names. Both of these cases show that big-name automakers, both domestic and foreign, will have to look for creative new ways to keep their business growing in the hyper-competitive Chinese market, and that the days where companies could simply construct a new multibillion-dollar factory to fuel additional growth may be in the past.   More

Business

Is It Wrong to Outsource Your Own Job?

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Bob was a software developer who churned out code for a critical infrastructure company. And he was a good one. So good, in fact, that he was recognized in performance reviews as the best developer in the building, a reputation enhanced by an “inoffensive and quiet” demeanor that made Bob the sort of chap “you wouldn’t look at twice in an elevator,” according to a Verizon case study. That’s what made him so effective. Late last year, Verizon’s security team was hired by Bob's company to investigate the secrets of Bob’s success in pulling off what is either an epic ethical and security breach, or a brilliant operating model that reflects the beauty of the modern economy.   More

Manufacturing

Can Robots Be Job Creators?

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In their recent comments on "60 Minutes," and at the Techonomy 2012 conference, MIT economists Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfssonn may have given the impression that robots are poised to swipe the jobs of U.S. workers. As reported in The New York Times, robotics experts assembled at the Automate 2013 trade show in Chicago offered a different outlook. Henrik I. Christensen, Chair of Robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that while he agrees that automation could make certain types of jobs obsolete, it will also create new, higher-paying jobs. The International Federation of Robotics reinforced this argument with the release of findings from a report that predicts the robotics industry will help create 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs by 2020.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Why Memorize Shakespeare’s Sonnets When You Can Encode Them on a Speck of DNA?

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Technology has enabled us to collect and analyze unprecedented amounts of data. As Ray Kurzweil commented at the Techonomy 2012 conference, "The kid in Africa with a smartphone has access to more intelligently searchable information than the President of the United States did 15 years ago." But how do we go about storing all of this data? Hard drives and the Cloud require an electricity supply, while other storage devices such as disks or magnetic tape deteriorate over time. The answer to this archiving conundrum may lie in our DNA. As reported on NPR, scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute have successfully stored all of Shakespeare's sonnets on tiny particles of DNA.   More

Business Manufacturing

From Persecution to 3D Printing Pioneer: The Rise of Geomagic CEO Ping Fu

Geomagic CEO Ping Fu at Techonomy 2012 in Tucson, Ariz. (photo by Asa Mathat)

Removed from her family and forced to live as an orphan when she was just eight, Techonomy participant and Geomagic CEO Ping Fu endured the brunt of China's Cultural Revolution before ascending to the heights of American tech entrepreneurship. When she isn't blazing trails in the field of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing, or serving on President Obama's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, she apparently finds time to write books. Her new memoir, "Bend, Not Break," chronicles her youth in China, her improbable immigration to the U.S., and her rise as an inspiring voice for pioneering women in tech.   More

Business

Apple Invests in China—Finally

Apple store in Beijing (image via Shutterstock)

For a company of its size, Apple has been surprisingly conservative about its investments in China, opening just a few of its trademark stores in a country that is already one of its top global markets but otherwise making few major investments. But that could soon change with talk that the world's biggest tech company is aiming to open a research and development center in China, which has become an unspoken prerequisite for any company that hopes to successfully do big business in the country.   More

Media & Marketing

Tapiture Bets Men Will Say, “Hey Dude Check This Out”

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Young men are not a priority target for most e-marketers, but Leo and John Resig believe they have created a captive male audience that is eager to spend. The two brothers recently founded Tapiture, a “Pinterest for males,” that has quietly attracted over 1.5 million unique visitors in just a couple of months. Much like Pinterest, Tapiture allows users to browse through a mosaic of photos uploaded by other users and “tap” the ones they like (the equivalent of “pinning”).   More

Energy & Green Tech

Can Chinese Investment in Clean Tech Cut Through Record-breaking Smog?

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With Beijing suffering its worst levels of air pollution on record, news that China was the world's biggest investor in clean energy in 2012 may offer a ray of hope—hopefully one that can cut through the thickening smog. As reported at SmartPlanet, a year-end study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that Chinese investment in clean energy reached $67.7 billion in 2012, up 20 percent from 2011.   More

Manufacturing

Why Robots Might Boost Industry While Killing Jobs

Globalization is an easy culprit for the recent wave of U.S. unemployment, with domestic jobs shipped overseas to be replaced by cheap labor, often without adverse impact on the quality of a company's products or services. Apple is just one high-profile example of this trend. But automation and robotics may be contributing even more to our stubborn unemployment figures. Paradoxically, robots could also help bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. The Jan. 13 broadcast of 60 Minutes featured several Techonomists to help explain how this might happen.   More

Business

Online Brain Games Combat Web Fatigue

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Diving down Google search rabbit holes and mindlessly scrolling through Web pages may be dulling our brains without our even realizing it. If we’re going to spend so much of our lives online, is there a way to transform some of that time into brain-building activity? Companies like Lumosity and BrainHQ are now offering antidotes to the affliction of Internet-induced brain drain. They've developed challenging and entertaining online brain exercises, games with hundreds of levels, along with personalized training programs to help people improve memory, problem solving abilities, people skills, attention span, and overall mental wellness.   More

Business

Techonomy SuperSession at CES Explores Networked Society

Techonomy hosted the SuperSession "New Network Effect Changes Everything" at CES yesterday, featuring Rodney Brooks of Rethink Robotics, Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas, and Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg. Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick moderated the discussion, which explored the impact of a networked society on consumers, businesses, and industries ranging from farming to manufacturing, to automotive.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Life Sciences: What to Expect in 2013

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It’s still early enough in the year that we’re all still reminding ourselves to write “2013” instead of “2012”—which means that it’s just the right time to be considering what this new year has in store for us. Every news service loves to make predictions, and here at Techonomy we’re no different. So here are our best guesses for what’s to come for the life sciences field in 2013.   More

Business

As Augmented Reality Blurs Lines, How Will Companies Respond?

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Last summer, the rapper Tupac Shakur gave a surprise performance at the Coachella music festival in Indio, California, to an extremely enthusiastic crowd. The performance was stunning for two reasons. First, Shakur wasn’t listed on the line-up, and second, he has been dead for over a decade. Shakur’s postmortem performance was made possible by a computer-generated image of him paired with extremely high quality projection technology. Last month we wrote about the importance of face-to-face interactions. As technology permeates every aspect of our lives, however, the line between the physical and virtual worlds is increasingly blurry.   More

Energy & Green Tech

Canadian Company to Scour Carbon Dioxide from the Skies

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The Canadian company Carbon Engineering, formed in 2009 with partial funding from Bill Gates, has developed technology to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A pilot plant for capturing the gas will open by the end of 2014, reports The New York Times. While the process is aimed primarily at cleaning up the environment, there may be a profit opportunity as well. The oil industry could purchase captured carbon dioxide to inject into oil fields to help extract additional oil, a widely used procedure that Howard J. Herzog, a senior research engineer at MIT, says poses little environmental risk. As oil becomes scarcer, demand for carbon dioxide will likely increase.   More

Business

Splitting the Tab with Your Smartphone

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Everyone’s dishes arrive at the table, and friends settle into an excited chatter as they catch up on life, eat, and share their food. What started out as smiles and laughter end up turning into anxiety and headaches when the bill arrives. Most people ordered their own dishes, while a few also shared some appetizers. How much should each person pay?   More

Jobs

Is Telecommuting Overrated?

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The futurist Alvin Toffler predicted the rise of telecommuting, calling the home office an "electronic cottage" that could enhance family and community cohesion. A growing segment of today's workforce telecommutes—in a variety of ways and with varying frequency. But, as reported by Slate's Evgeny Morozov, research indicates that the outcomes of tech-enabled remote work arrangements are decidedly mixed. A Deloitte report about a flexible work pilot program at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management concluded that both employees and their managers had a hard time evaluating performance, and that the quality of work suffered. And while the insurance giant Aetna allows 47 percent of its employees to work from home, those workers tend to be heavier, spurring the company to hire an online personal trainer.   More

Business E-Commerce

Amazon Pushes E-tailers to Deliver Instant Gratification

Retailers big and small are trying to chip away at Amazon's growing competitive edge, in some cases even if it cuts into their own profits. A number of stores and e-commerce sites now offer same-day delivery as a way to ward off Amazon's incursion into the realm of immediate gratification—one of the few remaining advantages of brick-and-mortar shopping. With Amazon hinting at expanded same-day shipping services, small companies like Shoptiques, along with bigger fish like Walmart, Macy's, and Target, are exploring ways to offer same- or next-day delivery to their online customers.   More

Business

Why Gangnam Style Marks a Triumph of South Korean Tech

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When the sleek, sexy, preposterous world of PSY's “Gangnam Style” surged to become the number one video on YouTube, it offered us a glimpse of the new South Korea: an engineering powerhouse that rivals the West, a competitive economy that drives innovation, and an increasingly successful exporter of cultural memes.   More

Business E-Commerce

E-tailers Oblige Customers Who Want to Handle the Merchandise

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E-commerce stalwarts are beginning to see the virtues of opening brick-and-mortar retail stores. Andy Dunn, CEO of formerly online-only apparel company Bonobos, told The New York Times that he was losing about half of his would-be customers because they wanted to touch the merchandise before making a purchase. So in 2012 his company opened six retail stores, where the average transaction is double the average online transaction, according to Dunn. Piperlime, Gap's online spinoff, and Warby Parker, an eyeglass company, are opening stores too, and EBay and Etsy are trying out temporary stores. These retailers are not abandoning lessons learned through their online operations: they tend to carry less inventory and employ fewer staff members, treating their new locations more like showrooms than traditional retail outlets.   More