Are You Ready to Lose Control?

Swarm Intelligence relies on rigid adherence to simple rules about how immediate neighbors in a group relate to each other: If you do this, I do that.

Swarm Intelligence relies on rigid adherence to simple rules about how immediate neighbors in a group relate to each other: If you do this, I do that.

It may be the best way to improve your organisation’s performance.

Control: It’s the essence of management. We’re trained to measure inputs, throughputs, and outputs in hopes of increasing efficiency and producing desired results. In a world of linear processes, such as in the factories of the Industrial Age, that made sense. But in today’s knowledge economy, where enterprises are complex, adaptive systems, it’s counterproductive.

The real problem is confusion between control and order. Control implies centralized control and hierarchical relationships. The person with control tells others what to do and whether they are successful or not. Order, on the other hand, emerges from self-organization. There may not be anyone telling others what to do, yet things get done—often with great efficiency and effectiveness. People know what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.

But how can this be true? Mustn’t an orchestra have a conductor? A dance troupe, a choreographer? A company, a CEO?

Not necessarily. Nature abounds with examples of what is known as swarm intelligence. Termites build intricate dwellings without the benefit of set of plans or engineers with advanced degrees. Birds migrate thousands of miles in formations where the lead position rotates to optimize their collective capacity. There are no marching orders or hierarchies dictating who leads. Massive flocks of starlings engage in intricate maneuvers known as murmuration with neither collisions nor confusion. There is order without overarching control. Indeed, our obsession with control helps explain why human-designed organizations fail to achieve such beautiful synchronicity.

Swarm intelligence was first described by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989 in the context of cellular robotic systems. It relies on rigid adherence to simple rules about how immediate neighbors in a group relate to each other: If you do this, I do that.

The leaders of an enterprise need to identify the few core rules—thoughtfully developed and rigorously tested—that set the stage for success and mitigate the risk of failure in an operational context. Then they must give managers freedom to operate in the space between the rules. Too many regulations stifle the adaptive capacity necessary in fast-moving markets; opportunities are overlooked and threats spring up as surprises.

So how can you use simple rules and swarm intelligence to boost performance in your organization?

The first step is to embrace the inherent adaptive capacity of the individuals in your organization.
Trust is central to enhancing order. How much dysfunction has been spawned in your organization because sales doesn’t trust marketing, or because finance tries to micromanage operational decisions?

The essence of the order-centric mindset is to calibrate the exercise of control in service to order. Where it adds to order, control is beneficial; where it detracts, restraint is the wiser course. Where order prevails, there is clarity around the overall objective. Freedom of action is not only possible but encouraged. There is less concern about whether this is “my project” or whether “I” get the credit than whether “we” achieve our desired outcome.

Achieving alignment within the organization and across the value chain has always been a challenge.

Order is something we all generally seek, but few of us want to be controlled. Putting order ahead of control taps into these intrinsic impulses and unleashes initiative and innovation. It simply requires the courage to give up a little control.


Edited from the original Article by Eric j. McNulty at:

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Wishing you all a Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Posted in Customer service, Energy, Engineering, Global strategic Management, Green Energy, Green Technology, Lions Club, RS Components, supply Chain, Technology, Transportation, UAE | Tagged | Leave a comment

How To Leave Work At 5 P.M. And Still Get Everything Done

The people who are the most creative and efficient in their careers prioritize time away from the office.

The people who are the most creative and efficient in their careers prioritize time away from the office.

It’s a pattern with which most full-time professionals are familiar–you’re spending increasing amounts of time at your desk, but it feels like you’re getting less done. The hours stretch on, the to-do list grows, and you find yourself facing a future where you might let go of your apartment and just start keeping a toothbrush and slippers in your desk. Otherwise you’ll never get it all done—right?


It’s an understandable assumption. Most people feel they have too much to do at work, and the time-space continuum did not change when people started using organizational buzzwords like “multi-tasking.”

Does this mean that starting Monday morning you’ll be a fully-optimized task wizard who never sees another 6:30 p.m. in your cubicle? Probably not. But whatever your title, industry, or rank within an organization, a few conscious decisions about how you spend your time can mean not just shorter hours at the office, but better ones.

Why not start by figuring out what you’re actually doing with all of your time? It will probably surprise you.

The additional challenge of figuring out what you do all day? Morgenstern warns that time spent on modes of communication–responding to email, listening to voicemails, marathon meetings–doesn’t count. You’re only really productive when you’re engaged in the true content of your job description.

See what tasks make the short list–and eliminate the rest.

One of the biggest mistakes people make at work is putting absolutely everything–big and small, essential and inconsequential–on the to-do list. Approach that potential client! Order wraps for the reception! Label those hanging folders!

Alarm clocks aren’t just for waking up in the morning.

Don’t underestimate the power of one of the simplest tools on your smartphone–the alarm. Morgenstern says being time conscious can help you target and overcome all manner of personal foibles, from being easily distracted to not knowing when to call a task complete.

Which brings us to…

Isn’t it time you broke up with email?

When was the last time you thought, “I just wish I had more email in my life?” (Probably back when you had a handle that included the name of your favorite athlete from childhood.)
It’s not you. It’s email. Shut it down.

Plan your workdays three days in advance–including when you’ll go home.

Banking on having the time to plan your day as it’s starting is a bad idea–at that point you’re already in the trenches with the tasks flying fast.

Instead, save some time towards the end of the day to plan for tomorrow and the two following days. It will not only keep you on track during the day, you’ll have a better understanding of your workload and whether you’re in a position to step up to an additional challenge, or focus on what’s already on the docket.

When all else fails?


If you’re committed to leaving work at a certain time, and a late-afternoon task arises that requires your attention but isn’t a matter of corporate life or death, you need to assess and attack within the time you have remaining–not simply commit to an evening spent in the office.

Everyone wants to be known for going that extra mile–but learning to identify when that’s truly necessary is critical. Especially because…

The best thing you can do for your life at the office is to build a dynamic life outside of it.

Whatever your work/life preferences, it’s a point on which almost everyone is in agreement: The people who are the most creative and efficient in their careers prioritize time away from the office.

“Work expands to fill the available space,” says Vanderkam, “so treat the end of the workday as something that matters.


Edited from an article in Forbes by Kathryn Dill. Full Article:

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UAE has role in space exploration

The UAE is positioning itself to lead the Middle East into space, lifted by investment in technology, expertise and facilities.

The UAE is positioning itself to lead the Middle East into space, lifted by investment in technology, expertise and facilities.

Abu Dhabi: The UAE will play a role in the next stage of space exploration as the industry moves from being government policy-driven to commercial development-driven, according to former American astronaut, Buzz Aldrin.

Aldrin, who was speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, was one of the first men to land on the moon, along with Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Aldrin said the UAE is showing a growing commitment to the space industry and that the country will be involved in future projects and industry developments.

Taking the lead

Aldrin reiterated throughout his address that it is time for the commercial sector to take the lead on space exploration, with the goal of reaching mars. He said that NASA might not be the right agency to exploit space exploration. However, other US agencies and the commercial entities could be.

Globally, companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and American-based SpaceX are investing in commercial space exploration.

Virgin Galactic is due to launch its first commercial spaceflight from Spaceport America in New Mexico later this year.

The US-based company has reportedly raised $80 million from passengers paying around $250,000 for a ticket.

Not just for the elite

On Monday, Virgin Galactic chief executive, George T. Whitesides, said that there have been discussions for Mubadala to supply parts to the commercial spacecraft fleet.

Prospective Emirati astronauts will not be the only UAE presence on board, with the spaceships sporting the logo of Abu Dhabi sponsor Aabar Investments, which has a 35 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic. Abu Dhabi government-backed Mubadala Development Company is looking at opening a spaceport to service the region.

On Monday, Virgin Galactic chief executive, George T. Whitesides, said that there have been discussions for Mubadala to supply parts to the commercial spacecraft fleet.

Earlier, Masood Sharif M. Mahmood, Yahsat chief executive, said that the UAE has nine indigenous satellites including future programmes and three homegrown satellite companies. He said Yahsat connects a billion people across the Middle East, North Africa and South West Asia.


Excerpt from :



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Automation is bigger than you can imagine

It is likely that most of the research data you might read in relation to M2M is greatly underestimated. This truly is a revolution.

It is likely that most of the research data you might read in relation to M2M is greatly underestimated. This truly is a revolution.

There certainly is a lot of interest in the Machine to machine (M2M) market. Telstra has proudly announced it now has more than one million M2M connections, and we hear similar success stories from around the world.

But what we are seeing is only what is happening on the surface. Most of the M2M activities are taking place unnoticed and their numbers are many times greater than those being put forward by researchers and services companies.

The reason for that is that M2M – or automation as it was called then – has been under development for more than two decades. The problem, however, was that the technologies were expensive and connectivity was difficult. Both of these issues have now changed – technology has become dirt cheap and mobile operators have opened up their networks and are offering services based on costs that make M2M deployment far more affordable.

In many situations including an M2M capability in a new product or service adds only one per cent to the cost. Retrofitting, of course, is a rather different matter.

So what we now see is that many organisations that have been involved in these automation processes for many years – and who therefore have a very good understanding of what they can do with M2M – are now speeding up their deployments. These include manufacturers, the mining industry, transport organisations, infrastructure organisations and so on.

Furthermore, all new electronic devices are now M2M devices. Tens of millions of smart meters have already been deployed by the electricity industry, with literally hundreds of millions of them in the pipeline. The recent acquisition by Google of NEST, the manufacturer of smart home devices such as thermometers, will see another explosion of M2M devices.

One of the fastest growing M2M markets is that of the smartphones and the tablets. All of these devices are connected and, as we can already see with the many apps that are available, they have an enormous capacity for a wide range of M2M applications.

So, if anything, it is likely that most of the research data you might read in relation to M2M is greatly underestimated. This truly is a revolution.

The challenge now is how to best interconnect these systems. In the past systems were built around certain questions that were asked, and this formed the basis for a system that would provide the answers. This is no longer the case. These systems are now interconnected and clever people are needed to look at all that big data, see what it tells us and take it from there.

Early adopters of such connected systems report daily about ‘wow moments’ – finding out things about their organisations that they did not know, and thus enabling these organisations to be more effective and efficient. Half of the costs of M2M projects is in relation to this system integration process; in contrast 10 per cent are network costs, with applications and management split roughly equally to make up the remaining 40 per cent.

This is an excerpt from a post originally published on March 24 by Paul Budde

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Will Internet of Things spark supply chain reaction?

The Internet of Things – Digitizing the Supply Chain

The Internet of Things – Digitizing the Supply Chain

Supply chain, as a business management practice, is now 30 years old, but we are just beginning. We have a bright future ahead of us if we can adapt.

Anyone that thinks that we have best practices, versus emerging practices, is not in tune with what is happening; the growth of the “internet of things” - The internet of things (IoT) is the term used to describe the growing network of physical devices that are internet connected.

Sure we have had logistics operations for centuries. No doubt about it, logistics was the difference between success and failure in many wars. (It is a litany that is too long to list here.)

But it is not about logistics. Instead, it is about the processes of source, make, sell and deliver as taken together and managed end-to-end from the customer’s customer to the supplier’s supplier. While many companies write about building end-to-end supply chains, they really are not. Instead, they are automating the enterprise.

Today, a huge increase in the number of devices making up the Internet of Things will have a significant impact on how the supply chain will operate. IoT connected devices will reach 26 billion by 2020, up from 0.9 billion in 2009 according to a report by analyst firm Gartner.

The rise of the IoT will transform supply chain to provide, “more differentiated services to customers more efficiently.” Supply chain leaders must design their processes to operate in this digital business world.

Digital marketing will benefit from increased customer data and the ability to segment audiences to a greater extent. Designers, meanwhile, will be required to find ways to embed technology into products that will enable them to communicate with other devices.

Supply chain leaders must design their processes to operate in this digital business world.

Supply chain leaders must design their processes to operate in this digital business world.

Supply chain matters. It creates economies and can save the planet. To move forward, we have to learn from the past 30 years, but we also need to unlearn some things to challenge ourselves how new technologies and processes can help us to do it better.

The future is bright, but we have to lift the shades to see the new horizon of possibilities.


This post is an excerpt from these related articles:

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US Navy’s Solar Panels In Space Could Power Entire Cities

The solar panels will be made up of two types of "sandwich" module to form a one-kilometer wide satellite.

The solar panels will be made up of two types of “sandwich” module to form a one-kilometer wide satellite.

Solar panel satellites, built in space by robots that beam power down to Earth – sound like science-fiction?

Well, even the team behind the idea admit it sounds “nuts” but that’s not going to stop them trying.

US Navy scientists are developing the project which in theory could power entire cities- or military endeavours.

What the panels could look like

The solar panels will be made up of two types of “sandwich” module to form a one-kilometre wide satellite.

Each module consists of a photovoltaic panel on top to absorb the Sun’s energy, an electronics system in the middle to covert it to a radio frequency and a bottom antenna layer to beam the power back to Earth.

Dr. Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), said: “`It’s hard to tell if it’s nuts until you’ve actually tried.”

“People might not associate radio waves with carrying energy, because they think of them for communications, like radio, TV, or cell phones.

The modules

Each module consists of a photovoltaic panel on top to absorb the Sun's energy, an electronics system in the middle to covert it to a radio frequency and a bottom antenna layer to beam the power back to Earth.

Each module consists of a photovoltaic panel on top to absorb the Sun’s energy, an electronics system in the middle to covert it to a radio frequency and a bottom antenna layer to beam the power back to Earth.

” They don’t think about them as carrying usable amounts of power.”

The implications of successfully developing the technology are profound. Obviously it could solve many of our energy needs in an efficient and green manner.

But it could also enable a giant lumbering war machine – like the US Navy – to conduct global operations without the constraint of transporting and refuelling traditional fuels.

When you consider the Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of energy (excluding countries) this will be of particular interest to US military planners.

Dr. Paul Jaffe

The technology is promising and has even spawned new ways of testing materials for space conditions.

Jaffe said: “One of our key, unprecedented contributions has been testing under space-like conditions.”

Using a specialized vacuum chamber at another facility would have been too expensive, so Jaffe built one himself.

He said: “It’s cobbled together from borrowed pieces.”

The vacuum chamber is just big enough for one module. In it, Jaffe can expose the module to the simulated extreme cold of space and concentrated solar intensities (mimicked by turning on two powerful xenon lamps in the same spectrum as the sun).

By hooking the module up to a tangle of red and blue wires, he measures how well it radiates heat.

Jaffe says most solar panels orbiting with today's satellites are never tested in space-like conditions because the technology is already mature: "But if you wanted to test anything under concentrated sunlight you would need something like the simulator we've put together here."

Jaffe says most solar panels orbiting with today’s satellites are never tested in space-like conditions because the technology is already mature: “But if you wanted to test anything under concentrated sunlight you would need something like the simulator we’ve put together here.”

Jaffe says most solar panels orbiting with today’s satellites are never tested in space-like conditions because the technology is already mature: “But if you wanted to test anything under concentrated sunlight you would need something like the simulator we’ve put together here.”

Through trial and error, Jaffe has learned a lot. “The capability we’ve built up with the testing and vacuum under sun concentration is something that’s pretty unusual.

“And we’ve actually gotten a couple inquiries from people who may want to use this.”

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Lose yourself to dance, know yourself better

Creative movement harnessing the whole body may give rise to new knowledge about management interactions.

Creative movement harnessing the whole body may give rise to new knowledge about management interactions.

Could managers gain a new kind of understanding about their interaction with colleagues and employees by ‘dancing’?

That’s the question arising from new research published this month in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion.

Management is usually considered a stiff and rational business, decisions made based on fiscal studies, profit margins and market forces. However, Anneli Hujala, Sanna Laulainen and Kaija Kokkonen of Department of Health and Social Management, University of Eastern Finland, in Kuopio, have studied whether creative movement (‘dance’) might improve a manager’s awareness concerning their management interaction.

The team encouraged volunteers to “dance their feelings” and videotaped them so that hidden insights and emotions might be extracted. They suggest that creative movement harnessing the whole body may give rise to new knowledge about management interactions. Most intriguingly, they suggest that a person’s dance moves might reveal unconscious and unnoticed thoughts about their life and their position in the workplace and so highlight the aesthetic and embodied dimensions of management. The researchers point out that being good at dancing is irrelevant to their research: it is simply about creative expression through music – losing oneself to dance, as it were, to borrow from a recent pop song.

They concede that they received a great deal of doubtful feedback on how applicable the method would be in ‘real life’ and how many ‘real’ managers would dare to surrender themselves to creative movement when the purpose is to research something pertaining to their professionalism. However, their volunteers, although known through personal connections to the team, were all too willing to take part in this kind of experimental study, in which ‘dance’ was used as a method, instead of a conventional research interview.

It would be interesting for any of us to test what our body, through creative movement, could tell us about how we interact with each other.

It would be interesting for any of us to test what our body, through creative movement, could tell us about how we interact with each other.

It remains to be seen whether this novel and evocative embodied research approach is more widely adopted. However, it would be interesting for any of us to test what our body, through creative movement, could tell us about how we interact with each other.

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Harvest Energy from Earth’s Infrared Emissions

"We’re talking about the use of physics at the nanoscale for a completely new application," says Federico Capasso, who proposes capturing planetary emissions of infrared light.

“We’re talking about the use of physics at the nanoscale for a completely new application,” says Federico Capasso, who proposes capturing planetary emissions of infrared light.

Infrared: A Renewable Energy Source? Infrared energy emitted from the Earth into space may be potentially harnessed as a renewable energy source in the future.

Physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) proposed a device that would resemble a photovoltaic solar panel. But instead of capturing incoming visible light, it would generate electric power by harvesting energy from Earth’s infrared emissions into outer space.

The researchers proposed two possible designs (one macro, one nano) for an emissive energy harvester (EEH) to harness such infrared emissions.

The first design, a thermal EEH, would generate electricity by drawing the heat of surface ambient air through a cold plate that could radiate the energy into the atmosphere, with the flow of heat generating work.

Keeping the cold plate cooler than the ambient temperature would be difficult, but this device illustrates the general principle: differences in temperature generate work, the researchers said.

“The key is in these beautiful circuit diagrams,” says Capasso. The three diode-resistor generator circuits shown have different temperature inputs. A circuit at thermal equilibrium (A) generates no current; (B) is a conventional rectifier circuit. The Harvard team proposes a twist—shown in (C).

“The key is in these beautiful circuit diagrams,” says Capasso. The three diode-resistor generator circuits shown have different temperature inputs. A circuit at thermal equilibrium (A) generates no current; (B) is a conventional rectifier circuit. The Harvard team proposes a twist—shown in (C).

The alternative design uses rectifying antennas, or rectennas, warmed by ambient air as part of a circuit that generates direct current using temperature differences between electrical components.

“Today’s technology is not sufficient to make an efficient, cost-effective, optoelectronic EEH, but we have described a number of paths that could plausibly lead there over time,” the researchers wrote.

“Now that we understand the constraints and specifications we are in a good position to work on engineering a solution.”

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Easier Customer Service Increases Consumer Satisfaction

Getting help with a product started to become as easy as pressing down on one of its buttons.

Getting help with a product started to become as easy as pressing down on one of its buttons.

Pushing a button for service is becoming a growing reality.

Customer service has always been critical for enterprises, and this year, more customers of smart companies will find it as easy as clicking a button. As a matter of fact, 2014 might well be called “The Year of the Easy Button.”

Take Amazon. Last year, the company added a “mayday” button to its Kindle Fire tablets. A user who pushes the button will be immediately launched into a live session with someone from the Amazon help desk, who knows all about the ins and outs of the device.

Sony offers an “assist” button in its VAIO line of computers, which takes users to a Web page designed for their specific model. Industry analysts expect more such “SOS” buttons to be included in consumer products released this year.

The form this service takes will depend on the company, the customer, and the product. But more than at any time in recent years, it will involve providing easy access to information either through self-help or through a real person at the other end, whom the customer can interact with by voice or via the Web through text chat or video engagement.

Pushing a button for service is becoming a growing reality.

Pushing a button for service is becoming a growing reality.

Many companies have moved away from live service in the past several years, believing it was too expensive. It is a false economy. Properly serviced customers are not only happier customers; they are also more willing to open their wallets. Numerous studies of Web sites that offer live chat to their customers as part of the checkout process show that average purchases from these experiences are as much as four times higher than for customers who check out on their own.

Make no mistake. Customers are not moving away from self-service tools, but instead prefer a blend of service offerings that meet their specific needs. The ultimate customer experience is one that seamlessly integrates self-service with unassisted self-service and live customer service options, all with the click of a button.

In addition to being one-button simple, the “omniservice” that will become increasingly important this year has another crucial element: Customers will be getting better access to information by finding more consistent and relevant answers, no matter which channel they use.

Customers will be getting better access to information by finding more consistent and relevant answers, no matter which channel they use.

Customers will be getting better access to information by finding more consistent and relevant answers, no matter which channel they use.

Businesses no longer need to worry about customers getting different answers, or about the quality of the support varying based on the channel over which it is being offered. This is because knowledge is increasingly being viewed as a strategic business imperative. Crowdsourcing knowledge to establish a single source of truth allows companies to scale their customer service initiatives across devices (Web, mobile, tablet) and channels (voice, email, chat, social).

Where is all this heading? To a small version of the future made famous by The Jetsons, which imagined a world in which all work was done by just pushing a button. We don’t have home robots yet, but we do have machines that let us cook dinner, wash the clothes, or do the dishes with the touch of a single finger.

Unfortunately, customer service hasn’t always kept up with product development. The good news is that this year will be remembered as the year when that finally changed, when getting help with a product started to become as easy as pressing down on one of its buttons.

By Nikhil Govindaraj

Original Article:

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Urgent Ethical Dilemmas for Wearable Tech

Urgent Ethical Dilemmas for Wearable Technology!

Urgent Ethical Dilemmas for Wearable Technology!

Every truly disruptive technological advance leads to its own set of ethics standards

Making small talk based on information you just grabbed from the Internet is unethical because it implies that you care more about someone than you actually do.

Wearable technology is a human right: Many of us who use a wearable computer to augment our vision have come to rely on it as our normal way of seeing, understanding, and making sense of the world. As we get older, whether we become reliant on the technology through loss of natural function or merely grow further acclimated to it from many years of use, it becomes a part of our own selves in mind, body, and spirit.

These devices are not simply pieces of clothing or a variation on conventional eyewear. They have profound effects on how we see, understand, and remember the world.

As more people grow to depend on this technology in all facets of their lives (for example, as a memory aid or face recognizer), we must balance their rights with the desire to allow other people privacy and confidentiality. It is absurd to forbid people to remember things. Imagine an elderly gentleman being asked his whereabouts on a particular night, to which he replies, “I was not allowed to remember.” We can’t hold people responsible for their actions if we prevent them from doing what it takes to recall them.

Google is officially putting the users of its Glass headset on notice with a set of do’s and don’ts — not least among which is an unambiguous warning not to be “creepy or rude (aka, a “Gla**hole).” This is the first such document from Google.


Explore the world around you.

Take advantage of the Glass voice commands.

Ask for permission.

Use screen lock.

Be an active and vocal member of the Glass Explorer Community.



Rock Glass while doing high-impact sports.

Wear it and expect to be ignored. .

Be creepy or rude.

Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy… In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules apply to Glass…

In places where cell phone cameras aren't allowed, the same rules apply to Glass.

In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules apply to Glass.

As wearable computers and cameras become more widespread, we will certainly need to adopt new protocols and social attitudes toward the capture and sharing of visual information and other data. But these protocols should not include discrimination against users of these valuable assistive devices.

Read more:,2817,2453616,00.asp

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‘Mission: Impossible’ Self Destructing Electronics

Self Destructing Electronics: Mission Impossible or Not?

Self Destructing Electronics: Mission Impossible or Not?

In the old television version of “Mission Impossible,” Jim Phelps’ tape self-destructs after the voice says, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”

Now if the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is successful, not only will the tape self-destruct, but the whole device will disappear.

The agency’s new Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program aims to develop a new generation of devices “capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner,” rendering the devices useless to the enemy.

developing electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner

developing electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner

Efforts to build degradable electronics have tended to rely on polymeric or biological materials, and that has resulted in poor electronic performance and “weak mechanical properties,” according to the agency.

“DARPA has previously demonstrated that transient electronics might be used to fight infections at surgical sites,” says Jackson. “Now, we want to develop a revolutionary new class of electronics for a variety of systems whose transience does not require submersion in water”.

The project is still a long away from being deployed in a real battle, and will require years of research.

DARPA doesn’t have the manpower or resources to develop these kinds of electronic devices by itself, and so now it’s reaching out for help from industry experts.

In the latest contract for the program, announced on January 31, DARPA provided $3.5 million to IBM for a proposal to use a radio frequency to shatter a glass coating on a silicon chip, reducing it to dust.

The Palo Alto Research Center in California received $2.1 million to build devices with dummy circuits that would be triggered to “crumble into small, sand-like particles in a fraction of a second.”

DARPA’s vanishing electronics initiative

DARPA’s vanishing electronics initiative

Defense giant BAE Systems was awarded $4.5 million on January 22 and Honeywell Corporation won a $2.5 million contract on December 3 for more “vanishing” technology research.

And DARPA announced in December a $4.7 million contract for SRI International to develop “SPECTRE” batteries designed to self-destruct.

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World Cancer Day: A Tribute to DAD

My Loving Dad

Ibrahim Abi-Aad, My Loving Dad

“Cancer” is still one of those words that can steal your breath, ring so loudly in your ears that your surroundings go silent, and simultaneously make your mind race and time slow to a crawl. 

The disease crept into our home March 2013 when my dad was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma….

I’ll never forget the look on his face. Anger, confusion, sadness, and fear. Why did this have to happen to him? He didn’t deserve this.

Dad got four cycles of chemotherapy. The fourth cycle was probably the worst as I think the cumulative effects of the drug became apparent…. Lost all his body muscles, osteoporosis, 5 spine fractures… He was operated on 21st January for Kyphoplasty to ease the pain as morphine had no more effect… He was too weak to recover….

My dad passed away this January 23rd. It seemed really sudden, but at the same time, almost perfect timing. He stayed alive long enough to see my brother who came 2 days earlier from South Korea. I think at that moment he was finally content and happy, and he no longer felt the need to hold on. What is helping get through it though, is knowing that he is not suffering anymore, and remembering him for all the good he has done, keeps dad alive in our hearts and no person or illness can take that away.

Today, the incidence of cancer worldwide is growing at an alarming pace, and there is an urgent need to implement strategies to prevent and curb the disease, according to a report from the World Health Organization.

The eighth annual World Cancer Day is focusing on debunking the four key myths shown above. (Union for International Cancer Control )

The eighth annual World Cancer Day is focusing on debunking the four key myths shown above. (Union for International Cancer Control )

New cancer cases will skyrocket globally from an estimated 14 million in 2012 to 22 million new cases a year within the next two decades, the report says. During that same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million annually to 13 million a year.

The estimates and predictions are in a new report, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). The project is a collaboration of more than 250 leading scientists from more than 40 countries.

There’s a need for access to effective and affordable cancer treatments in developing countries, including for childhood cancers, which would significantly reduce mortality, the report says.

The total annual cost globally of cancer was estimated to reach approximately $1.16 trillion in 2010, which is damaging the economies of even the richest countries and is way beyond the reach of developing countries, the report says.,0,849741.story#ixzz2sQqDC0Wf

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Why Is Wrong with Your Business Model?

How do you get the why right?

How do you get the why right?

Do not adjust your computer screen—that’s not a typo in the headline. Your instinct may be to change that why to a what, but why is actually the right question for leaders to ask themselves about their business models. It’s this distinction between why and what that makes all the difference.

The essential questions leaders must ask themselves and challenge their teams with are all why questions: Why would a customer want to do business with us? Why would top talent want to come to work with us, and contribute their best to our efforts? Why would suppliers want to become our long-term strategic partners? Why would communities welcome our facilities? Why would institutional investors want to trust their money to us?

what answer to any of these questions can disguise itself as a why: Customers choose us because we are the low-cost supplier. Talent is attracted to us because we offer a good salary. Suppliers had best stay in line or we’ll find others. Communities want the jobs. And investors will put their cash wherever they can get the best return.

How do you get the why right? One way is to challenge yourself to articulate how your company is going to change the world for the better. Not just increase revenues, but actually Change The World.

A second way to find the why is to begin with your values and work your way there. Almost every organization has a lofty statement of its values, but for too many firms, these values don’t actually guide daily operations. Ask yourself how each of your values is manifest for your various stakeholders. How can it be made more integral and more apparent in your products, services, and even your internal processes?

Smart suppliers find ways to add value to their customers’ businesses beyond selling them things.”

The lessons are these: First, once you get the why right, the what will follow. Second, the what will change, but the why should transcend numerous strategic and tactical shifts. And, finally, the what is often easier to measure, but the why is more important to assess.

We do business in a turbulent world. Some firms, however, find a way to succeed amidst the tumult. They inspire and cultivate stakeholder loyalty. Look closely and you’ll see they do it by spending more time focusing on the why of their business than the what. Make sure you know why is right with your business model.

(An excerpt from an article by Eric J. McNulty). The full article:

Posted in Business Analysis, Business Ethics, Customer service, Global strategic Management, How it works, Retail, supply Chain, Turnaround | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Your home will soon be a giant iPhone

Google may have a future selling robots to consumers and devices for your smart home, with yet another acquisition paving the way for the internet giant's new vision.

Google may have a future selling robots to consumers and devices for your smart home, with yet another acquisition paving the way for the internet giant’s new vision.

“Smartphones are increasingly the remote controls for our lives,” says Jeff Kagan, a technology analyst. “They will control everything in your house and car.”

Google’s GOOG -0.49%  purchase of home automation company Nest Labs gives the world’s biggest search engine a foothold in people’s homes. But experts say Internet companies are already tracking the habits of Americans at home — and it’s only just begun.

For decades, futurists have been predicting the era of the “smart” home, where you don’t need to be home to lock your doors, dim your lights or adjust your thermostats. But except for the homes of the wealthy and a few hobbyists, the smart home has been a dream of the distant future. The necessary gadgets have been too expensive and too difficult to configure, and there have been few standards to ensure that the various pieces would work together.

“You can expect to see more companies attempting to do this in coming years, tracking nearly every movement in your home,” says Neil Strother, senior research analyst at Navigant Research. There is already a small army of apps doing just that. SmartThings, a free app for iOS and Android, monitors light switches, unlocked doors and car keys.

But new products unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week suggest that the smart home may soon be within reach of the average American.

Instead of having to spend thousands of dollars to have a custom installer put in a home automation system, consumers now can get one for $30 to $50 a month from their broadband provider.

WunderBar is a set of wireless, detachable sensors and smart modules which can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone via the Internet.

WunderBar is a set of wireless, detachable sensors and smart modules which can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone via the Internet.

“We’re close,” said Chet Geschickter, an analyst who covers home automation services for Gartner.

Home automation company Vivint , bought for $2 billion by Blackstone Capital Partners in 2012, says it services 800,000 customers in North America. Its free iOS app can act as a motion detector, remote-controlled security system and electronic door lock. AT&T’s Digital Life offers plans from $4.99 per month that track water leaks, energy usage, unlocked doors and home security cameras. Tech company Belkin even launched asmartphone-controlled slow cooker .

How does this affect your privacy? What companies learn when you check in at a restaurant on Facebook or plug your location into Google Maps pales in comparison to the wealth of data that they’ll glean from (and possibly use against) consumers in the not-so distant future, says Adi Kamdar, an activist at the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation, a consumer advocacy group focusing on online privacy. “Connected cars may report unsafe driving, raising or canceling your insurance,” he says. Similarly, a home insurance company might be interested in a smoke detector that goes off several times a day. “During a divorce, your spouse subpoenas a thermostat company for records to prove that you set low temperatures in the house, keeping your kids too cold.

Diapers, monitors, thermostats, fridges, lights—whatever you want to imagine in the realm of everyday objects around your house may one day be a core part of the Internet of Things

Diapers, monitors, thermostats, fridges, lights—whatever you want to imagine in the realm of everyday objects around your house may one day be a core part of the Internet of Things

Is that something you want to even deal with?

Does potential use of consumer data take into account data hacking? “What happens if someone gets into your phone?” says Rick Singer, CEO of Or into your smart meter?

For more info:

Posted in Electronics, Engineering, Facebook, Global strategic Management, Green Energy, Green Technology, Internet security, online media, robotics, social media, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ship-before-you-buy system! (Amazon patent)

Items shipped before an order has occurred deliverable to geographical area but not to any delivery address. (Credit: Amazon España por dentro image by Álvaro Ibáñez, CC BY 2.0)

Items shipped before an order has occurred deliverable to geographical area but not to any delivery address. (Credit: Amazon España por dentro image by Álvaro Ibáñez, CC BY 2.0)

Amazon has been awarded a patent for a new system that ships potential purchases to your area even before you’ve ordered them, based on your purchase history.

Amazon believes that, with your purchase history, it can predict your buying habits before you do — and can have your package in transit before you’ve even made an order. The company has been awarded a patent for a system designed to have your items in your hands at record speeds.

Called “Method and system for anticipatory package shipping“, the patent describes a system whereby the company anticipates your buying habits and sends your packages to the closest delivery hub, waiting for the order to arrive, or, in some cases, even shipping directly to your door.

To anticipate what you might order, Amazon will look at your purchase history and browsing patterns, as well as surveys and questionnaires you’ve completed, to determine your interests, cross-referencing to predict what items you’re likely to buy. Then, once interest has been determined, that item can then be offered at a personalised discount.

ship-before-you-buy system. (Credit Amazon)

ship-before-you-buy system. (Credit Amazon)

There is, of course, margin for error — for example, a package that gets shipped to the customer without the customer ever placing an order. In those cases, Amazon — rather than incurring the cost of having the item returned — may offer the item as a gift to valuable customers.

“In some instances, the package may be delivered to a potentially interested customer as a gift rather than incurring the cost of returning or redirecting the package,” the patent reads. “For example, if a given customer is particularly valued (according to past ordering history, appealing demographic profile, etc), delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill.”

As we have already seen in the case of the Kindle e-reader, Amazon is willing to operate at a loss if it builds customer loyalty and repeat business. However, we have also seen that the company may be willing to overstate its capabilities in order to garner free publicity — so we’re not quite willing to bank on the arrival of anticipatory shipping just yet.

Original Article by Michelle Starr @:

Posted in Customer service, eBusiness, Global strategic Management, How it works, Marketing, Retail, supply Chain, Technology, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hang up or hold on? Study helps call centers know when patience is running out

Puts you on hold forever, hopes you'll hang up!

Puts you on hold forever, hopes you’ll hang up!

Call centers can sometimes try our patience, especially when we are in a hurry, anxious for an answer to a problem, and all we get is a recorded voice telling us to press a number depending on our requirements, only to find we then have to push another number, and then another….

An efficient and seamless call center that works rapidly makes everybody happier

An efficient and seamless call center that works rapidly makes everybody happier

However, customer service cannot be packaged to simply sit on a shelf at our beck and call whenever we need it; everybody has to “get in line” with help from technical support, banks, credit card companies and stores.

Understanding caller patience is vital

For people who work in call centers, understanding caller patience is vital.

Professoors Che-Lin Su and Baris Ata from theUniversity of Chicago Booth School of Businesscarried out a study which was published in the journal Management Science. They say they offer a more accurate approach to modeling caller patience, which should reduce customer waiting time and will help businesses.

Su, a professor of operations management said: “Knowing when a person decides to hang up or hang on is vital to streamlining call center operations, minimizing caller frustration and maximizing each customer service encounter.”

Call centers can design better systems, or improve the ones already in use if they can predict caller behavior.

Understanding how callers behave and what triggers specific reactions is especially important when firms plan changes in their business, or launch a major marketing campaign that produces a surge in inquiries.

Bad call centers can undermine advertising campaigns

Ata, also a professor of operations management, said: “It’s no use spending millions on advertising a new product, service or event if your call center can’t cope with the customer response.”

More precisely predicting caller behavior can help call centers design better systems going forward as well as fine-tune those already in place; particularly important when companies plan changes in their business or major marketing promotions that produce a surge of calls.

More precisely predicting caller behavior can help call centers design better systems going forward as well as fine-tune those already in place; particularly important when companies plan changes in their business or major marketing promotions that produce a surge of calls.

An efficient and seamless call center that works rapidly makes everybody happier, including customers who stay calmer, phone agents who become less agitated, and business gets done more efficiently.

The authors add that these insights may also help businesses negotiate smarter contracts for outsourcing these services.

Ata explains: “Since the model produces more realistic results for how long a caller will stay on the line, it enables a more precise estimate for the number of callers who can be served per hour, day and month.”

The authors gathered and analyzed caller behavior data from 1.3 million calls made to a bank’s customer service center.

They tested their new model to determine whether previous research assumptions that caller patience never changes held true, even if the center improved call priority and routing systems.

Su explained: “The previous models used assumptions of caller abandonment that were easy to apply and analyze, but didn’t provide a reasonable picture of people’s patience.”

Caller patience is often overestimated

They ran four scenarios that simulated changes in call priority on both models, and found that the older-style assumptions were probably misleading, because they produce caller-abandonment predictions that were highly inaccurate.

In many cases, assumptions had overestimated how long a caller is willing to stay on the line waiting, or underestimated how much it would take for a caller to hang up.

Your call is important to us, please stay on line until your call is no longer important to you!

Your call is important to us, please stay on line until your call is no longer important to you!

Su concluded: “When a call center alters its discipline to improve speed and service, add agents, or change call routing and priority, we theorized those things should influence caller patience – and our model shows that such improvements do indeed make a difference in whether people decide to hang up or hang on.”

Source: University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Journal Reference:

  1. Zeynep Akşin, Barış Ata, Seyed Morteza Emadi, Che-Lin Su.Structural Estimation of Callers’ Delay Sensitivity in Call CentersManagement Science, 2013; 59 (12): 2727 DOI:10.1287/mnsc.2013.1730
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Ultra-flexible chip can be wrapped around a hair

Scientists in Switzerland said Tuesday they can create electronic chips so flexible they can be wrapped around a human hair.

Scientists in Switzerland said Tuesday they can create electronic chips so flexible they can be wrapped around a human hair.

Scientists in Switzerland said Tuesday they can create electronic chips so flexible they can be wrapped around a human hair.

 (Excerpt from and world news)

The technique entails building an electronic circuit on top of a sandwich of polyvinyl layers perched on a hard base.

The wafer is then placed in water, which dissolves two of the polyvinyl layers and causes the base to be released, sinking to the bottom of the lab dish.

Ultraflexible electronics can be achieved by dissolving a sacrificial polymer layer and releasing a thin polymer film from a host substrate. Credit: Salvatore et al

Ultraflexible electronics can be achieved by dissolving a sacrificial polymer layer and releasing a thin polymer film from a host substrate. Credit: Salvatore et al

What remains is a circuit embedded on a light, transparent non-soluble polymer film called parylene that is just one micrometre, or a millionth of a metre, thick.

Substrate wrapped around hairs. Credit: Salvatore et al

Substrate wrapped around hairs. Credit: Salvatore et al

The transistors continue to work even when wrapped around a human hair, which is about 50 micrometres thick, according to the research published in the journal Nature Communications.

The ultra-bendable chip may have medical uses, and has already been tested on an artificial eye in the lab.

The use of transparent materials enable the realization of transparent devices which can be transferred on to plastic contact lenses and can be used to monitor intra-ocular pressure for glaucoma. Credit: Salvatore et al

The use of transparent materials enable the realization of transparent devices which can be transferred on to plastic contact lenses and can be used to monitor intra-ocular pressure for glaucoma. Credit: Salvatore et al

It was added to a contact lens to provide a monitor for glaucoma, in which pressure builds up dangerously in the eyeball, said the team.

The invention also has many other potential outlets, from flexible solar cells to wearable bio-sensors, they said.

Devices containing tiny LEDs and other electronics — and narrower than the eye of a needle — can be injected deep inside the brain.

Devices containing tiny LEDs and other electronics — and narrower than the eye of a needle — can be injected deep inside the brain.

The electronics “can be transferred on any object, surface and on biological tissues like human skin and plant leaves,” according to the study led by Giovanni Salvatore at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETZ).

Rogers and colleagues’ first electronic “skin” placed electronic components on a thin, elastic polymer sheet that could be applied like a temporary tattoo.

Rogers and colleagues’ first electronic “skin” placed electronic components on a thin, elastic polymer sheet that could be applied like a temporary tattoo.

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Dear Santa: Consumers Prefer DIY Products

DesignSpark Mechanical unleashes your ability to create. Free download:

DesignSpark Mechanical unleashes your ability to create. Free download:

Bottom Line: Consumers value a product more highly when they make it themselves—but only if the assembly procedure is structured in a way that allows them to make creative decisions throughout the process. 

Still looking for that special last-minute holiday gift for your friends or family members? You might want to give them something they can make themselves. A new study suggests that under the right conditions, consumers value a product more when they have customized and assembled it themselves. But this DIY favorability boost arises only when the assembly procedure emphasizes consumers’ autonomous, real-time decision making.

This excerpt from an article by Matt Palmquist in Strategy+Business will be my last post for this year. My next post will be on Wednesday 08 January 2014.  I convey to all of you my season’s greetings with all good wishes for the new year 2014″ – Georges Abi-Aad.

In theory, consumers should want to put their own spin on a product but avoid the time-consuming process of actually making it. And yet, in a variety of contexts, consumers seem happy to open the instruction manual, pull up their sleeves, and get down to work. And they may even pay more for the privilege.

But to really get consumers to love a DIY product, companies have to do a little more than just provide an instruction booklet and an Allen wrench. The more creative effort people put into their product, the more they would be willing to pay for the kit—but only when customization and assembly occurred simultaneously.

“The more creative effort people put into a project, the more they are willing to pay for it.”

Product customization and assembly can create value for companies, but the conditions have to be carefully manipulated to gain the approval of DIYers.

Marketers and managers are encouraged in any product category in which consumers have the ability to customize their options (think of coordinating clothing or purchasing electronics) to emphasize creative choices alongside practical considerations.

Sectors that are normally associated with supreme effort rather than inspiration could especially benefit. For example, gyms should allow members to incorporate their own choices into their live training sessions, a subtle way to let consumers creatively “build” their own experience.

Even the cooking industry could learn something from these findings. At first glance, a cookbook might seem like a strange place for DIY projects. But choices in ingredients, cooking techniques, tools, and plating all give a consumer creative control over the process. Indeed, instruction manuals could be improved immediately if they were formatted to emphasize a consumer’s creative choices throughout the assembly procedure, and not just at the beginning.

And if companies can appropriately structure consumers’ customized assembly tasks, they “should be able to charge consumers for the opportunity to assemble the customizable product,” the authors write. In other words, it’s a win-win. Companies can create less, charge more, and give consumers the satisfaction of a job well imagined and well done.

Source: A Lot of Work or a Work of Art: How the Structure of a Customized Assembly Task Determines the Utility Derived from Assembly Effort, Eva C. Buechel (University of Miami) and Chris Janiszewski (University of Florida), Journal of Consumer Research, Feb. 2014, vol. 40

Original article:

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When It Comes to Customer Service, Don’t Say No

The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty

The Effortless Experience:
Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty

The mind is a powerful thing. But almost all our mental processing takes place unconsciously; neuroscience suggests that as few as 5 percent of a person’s decisions are based on conscious, rational thought. Whether companies realize it or not, they’re constantly delivering clues that influence their customers’ unconscious thinking—shaping their impressions and ultimately, their actions.  

Consider customer service. Chances are you have bailed on a company you’d been satisfied with for years because of a bad experience with its customer service department. But chances are you would have stayed with the company if its customer service reps had just made it easier for you to place your order or resolve your problem.

This doesn’t mean that customers expect to be swept off their feet by customer service reps. What they really want, explain Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi, is an “effortless” experience.

You can’t always say yes to every customer request. It would be great if you could, but there are many situations in which the thing a customer wants and the thing you have to give are not the same. Then what?

Well, of course, the opposite of yes is…no. So let’s consider the word “no” for a moment. How do you react when you hear that word? For most of us, “no” is a trigger that sets in motion an entire chain of negative emotions. Anger, outrage, argumentation.

That’s a lot of bad outcomes just because of one word. So, of course, it only makes sense that you’d want your people to avoid using it as much as possible. Reps need to find a way to both be truthful (because the answer in many cases is, unfortunately, still no), but in a way that doesn’t trigger the negative emotional reaction and all the bad outcomes that come along with it. This is where the use of positive language can make such a big difference….

So if you could just teach your reps how to use a simple response substitution when these situations came up, creating a positive conversation that moves forward rather than backward –  instead of saying, “We don’t have that item in stock right now,” you could say “We will have availability on [date] and I can get that out to you immediately once it comes in.”

It’s a seemingly tiny little thing, but think about how these situations become amplified over thousands and thousands of customer interactions every day, mitigating the corrosive effect of negativity and its impact on customer loyalty. It all adds up and has a meaningful impact on customers.

Again, this isn’t just about being nice to customers. Nor is it just about using positive words. It is to be trained to react in the most common situations where we are very likely to be entering into the high-effort zone, since saying no (as well as words like “can’t,” “won’t,” “don’t,” etc.) is such a huge effort trigger….

Just because there’s nothing you can do, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.

—Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi

Original article :


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RS Components “Special Award” 2013

Emerging Markets Conference 2013

Emerging Markets Conference 2013

RS Components Distributors conference 2013 held in Dubai with the following theme: The journey to an… “effortless customer experience“.

A special reward was presented to me by RS Components at the end of the conference;

Outstanding Individual Contribution & Leadership 2013 MENA Region

Outstanding Individual Contribution & Leadership 2013 MENA Region

I am deeply honored to have been selected by RS Components for this special award. I am one of the leaders who have made their marks in RS Components business. I am sincerely grateful for the recognition from the RS Components Emerging Markets Channel which initiated the whole event.

I wouldn’t be here getting this award without the blood, sweat, and efforts of all my brilliant teams in Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Lebanon.

I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Thank you very much.


Posted in Customer service, Electronics, emergin markets, Engineering, Global strategic Management, RS Components, supply Chain | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Digital Simulator Allows You To Taste Virtual Food

It doesn't quite work like that

It doesn’t quite work like that

A new digital simulator can produce tastes right on a person’s tongue. The simulator, developed by a team at the National University of Singapore led by Nimesha Ranasinghe, uses an electrode to reproduce all four taste categories: sweet, salty, bitter and sour. (An excerpt from an article in Wall Street Insanity by Katherine Pilnick).

The recently discovered fifth taste, umami, has not yet been added.  Also, the simulator doesn’t simulate smell and texture, important components of taste, although the team is working on ways to develop those features

The simulator works by sending an alternating current through an electrode touching the tip of the tongue. Combined with small changes in temperature, a person’s taste receptors are “fooled” into tasting a designated food.

The device is noninvasive but a bit large. According to New Scientist, Ranasinghe hopes that a redesign will allow users to keep their mouths almost closed while maintaining contact.

Applications Of Virtual Tasting

The applications of taste simulators are seemingly endless. The simulator’s informational video suggests commercial applications in games and other media. “The system will allow players to sample food in video games,” the narrator says. “Taste could also be used as a reward system: a sweet treat could be delivered for completing a level, while a blast of bitterness could be produced for a low score.”

Ranasinghe has larger dreams for the invention, speaking of healthcare applications. “People with diabetes might be able to use the taste synthesizer to simulate sweet sensations without harming their actual blood sugar levels,” he said on New Scientist. “Cancer patients could use it to improve or regenerate a diminished sense of taste during chemotherapy.”

Now, Ranasinghe’s team is working on other, similar devices. A so-called digital lollipop would give the experience of a continuous sugary taste without any actual consumption. The team is also working on TOIP, taste over internet protocol. The system would allow the easy transmission of data required to recreate different tastes.

Digital taste Simulator

Digital taste Simulator

Original article:

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Kyocera Floats Mega Solar Power Plant in Japan

Kyocera floats mega solar power plant in Japan. Image courtesy of Kyocera

Kyocera floats mega solar power plant in Japan.
Image courtesy of Kyocera

Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera has recently unveiled a 70 megawatt solar power plant in Kagoshima prefecture, now becoming japan’s largest utility-scale facility.

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami off the coast of japan in 2011 — a disaster which brought monumental nuclear accidents to affected cities — the country has had an increasing motivation to consider and exercise solar energy production.

A restructured fit program launched by the government stipulated the requirement of local utilities to purchase 100% of the power generated from solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts for a period of 20 years, a promotion for the use of renewable energy.

The major project that began in July 2012 has finally begun operation on November 1st, 2013.

‘Kagoshima Nanatsujima mega solar power plant’ sits off the coast of southern Japan, overlooking the ocean bay and grand Sakurajima volcano. Occupying 1.27 million square meters — roughly the same area as 27 baseball stadiums — the massive plant is comprised of 290,000 arranged panels.

An adjacent tour facility provides visitors, students, and tourists with expansive panoramas of the facility from a circular viewing room and relevant information about environmental issues, a stimulus in the understanding of renewable energy resources for the public sphere.

1.27 million square meters — roughly the same area as 27 baseball stadiums

1.27 million square meters — roughly the same area as 27 baseball stadiums

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A Wearable Bionic Suite Allows Paralyzed to Walk (w/ Video)

Iron Man Suite?

Iron Man Suite?

What if certain patients could get a bionic pick-up without undergoing the pain and lengthy recovery of surgery? University of Cincinnati researchers are working on just that idea, with the start of an exoskeleton to support people who – through age or injury – are limited in their movement.

Gaurav Mukherjee, a UC master’s student in mechanical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), will present the interdisciplinary research on Nov. 15, at the International Human-Centered Robotics Symposium, which will be held at UC’s Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center.

Working with a senior student design team in , Mukherjee and Grant Schaffner, an assistant professor in UC’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, designed and built a spring-assisted leg exoskeleton that can help people stand and sit. Further research partnerships with Shikha Chaganti, a master’s degree student in computer science, and her advisor, Anca K. Ralescu, a UC professor of computer science, are examining how a brain-computer interface can interpret how to operate the exoskeleton with what the user wants to do.

Mukherjee says that a  analysis study has been underway in the lab – using markers on the body to build a virtual model. The results of the experiment can help researchers design the exoskeleton to supplement the capability of the user.

Additionally, researchers are exploring muscle activity to produce a suit that will work in cooperation with the natural movement of the patient/user, rather than forcing a predetermined motion.

Mukherjee says the exoskeleton could hold promise for the nation’s aging Baby Boomer population, adding that as many as 3 million American senior citizens currently require some form of nursing supervision. The interdisciplinary research is hoped to one day benefit geriatric patients, patients affected by stroke and paraplegics, in gaining independence in movement.

The exoskeleton research is a collaboration with the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computing Systems and the UC College of Nursing.

Future research will involve further development of the  in building supports to enable movement of ankles and hips, as well as developing better fluidity in movement.
(Article by Dawn Fuller in Phys.Org, provided by University of Cincinnati)
Read more at:


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Laser Technology to Communicate Between Planets

Laser Technology to Communicate Between Planets

Laser Technology to Communicate Between Planets

Since the dawn of the space age, NASA probes have beamed data home to Earth using radio-frequency communication. But that’s all set to change soon.

The space agency is working hard to develop laser-based space communications systems, which officials say are key to ensuring rapid and accurate transmission of information from spacecraft around the solar system. The agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration mission (LCRD), which is slated to lift off in December 2017.

Communicating with Deep Space: How it Works

Demonstrating Laser Communications

LCRD will launch to geosynchronous orbit as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite developed by the company Space Systems/Loral.

The experiment’s two optical modules will use lasers to send information to two ground stations, one in California and one in New Mexico, at rates of up to 1.25 gigabytes per second. LCRD will operate for at least two years, with the aim of demonstrating the long-term viability of a space-based laser communications system.


LLCD has already set a record, using a pulsed laser beam to send data 239,000 miles from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622 megabits per second. The previous record from the moon had been 150 megabits per second, achieved by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), said Bernard Edwards, chief communications systems engineer at the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The LLCD system is also more efficient than the radio-frequency approach employed by LRO and other spacecraft, requiring significantly less mass and power.

Excerpt from an article by Mike Wall, senior writer for

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Solar LED lantern for people in areas without electricity

Panasonic Solar LED Lantern

Panasonic Solar LED Lantern

Panasonic Corporation today announced that it will start selling a solar LED lantern that doubles as a charger for people living in areas without electricity. With a built-in rechargeable battery to store solar energy during the day, the lantern provides light at night and can also be used as a power source to charge small mobile devices, such as mobile phones. The company plans to bring the lantern to regions without electricity, starting from Asia and Africa in December this year. The functions of the BG-BL03 Solar LED Lantern, such as 360-degree illumination and a charging time of approximately 6 hours, make it practical and convenient for everyday use in these areas.

About 1.3 billion people, or approximately 20% of the world’s population, are still living without electricity. Many of these people use kerosene lamps for lighting. However, kerosene lamps not only fail to provide sufficient light but also emit toxic fumes and pose a fire risk. In addition, there are also problems with the infrastructure for charging mobile phones, which have become a popular communication tool in areas without electricity.

Panasonic’s new Solar LED Lantern, with a 3.5-watt output solar panel and a USB port, offers a clean and safe alternative as a light source as well as a power source for people living in areas without electricity. The portable lantern can be used in homes and various other locations including hospitals, schools, shops and outdoors. The lantern can be charged in about six hours to provide up to six hours of light at the maximum brightness setting.

The Solar LED Lantern will be launched in Kenya, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia, followed by other countries. Starting with the solar lantern, its first product for BOP markets, Panasonic will continue to accelerate the development of BOP markets and strengthen product development to help improve the lives of people in regions without electricity.

Last year, as part of its corporate citizenship activities, Panasonic launched the “100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project”, with the goal of donating a total of 100,000 solar electric lights to people in regions of the world without electricity by 2018, the 100th anniversary of the company’s founding, through local social institutions including NPOs and NGOs.

The Solar LED Lantern from panasonic

The Solar LED Lantern from panasonic


1. Light suitable for everyday life with 360-degree illumination

The lantern contains five LEDs and is designed to emit light 360 degrees. This wide emission angle makes it suitable for use in everyday life such as at family dinners and for children studying. With a touch of button on the lantern, the brightness can be adjusted between High (100 lx), Medium (40 lx) and Low (6 lx). The lantern has a handle, which allows for flexibility in setting up the light. It can be hung in the room, placed on a table or carried with the user.

2. A 3.5 W solar panel which recharges the battery in approximately 6 hours, giving 6 hours of use

The Solar LED Lantern is designed to be fully charged in one day and last one night so that it is useful for everyday life in areas without electricity. With a 3.5 W solar panel, the lantern’s built-in battery can be fully charged in appoximately six hours under fine weather conditions. When fully charged, the battery run time is approximately six hours on High setting, about 15 hours on Medium and roughly 90 hours when set at Low.

3. Power source for mobile phones with a USB port

The Solar LED Lantern has a USB port, via which small devices such as mobile phones can be charged. A mobile phone with a 700mAh capacity battery can be fully charged in approximately two hours. The fully-charged lantern can provide enough power to charge such a mobile phone once or twice.

4. IP34- rated protection against dust and water

The Solar LED Lantern can be used safely in the rain, as it comes with an ingress protection rating of IP34 set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for dust and water resistance.

The Solar LED Lantern has been awarded the Good Design Award 2013, which is organized by Japan Institute of Design Promotion, and the IAUD Award 2013 which is organized by International Association for Universal Design.

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Dubai Switches on First Solar Plant in Bid for Energy Diversity

Dubai a role model to the world in energy security and efficiency.

Dubai a role model to the world in energy security and efficiency.

Dubai began operating the first in a series of solar power stations it plans as part of a push to diversify energy supplies in the United Arab Emirates, an OPEC member nation holding about 6 percent of global oil reserves.

The 13-megawatt photovoltaic plant is the biggest of its type in the Middle East and North Africa,Saeed Al Tayer, the head of Dubai’s state utility, said today at an inauguration ceremony in a desert inland from the Persian GulfFirst Solar Inc., the biggest U.S. solar-panel manufacturer, built the facility.

“This is the first part of Dubai’s plan to develop a solar park with 1000 megawatts of power by 2030,” said Al Tayer, chief executive officer of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

DEWA is seeking to reduce its use of natural gas as a fuel for power stations while boosting generating capacity to meet a 5 percent annual growth in electricity demand in Dubai, the U.A.E.’s second-largest sheikhdom. The government-owned utility plans to hire private companies to develop and run a 100-megawatt solar power plant as it expands further into renewable energy, Al Tayer said.

Sheikh Mohammed reviews a model of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park with Dubai's Supreme Council of Energy.

Sheikh Mohammed reviews a model of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park with Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy.

Dubai is targeting by 2030 to generate 5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and 12 percent from coal, while buying an additional 12 percent of its power from nuclear reactors planned in neighboring Abu Dhabi. The remaining 71 percent will come from gas, according to a 2011 plan.

A scale model of Dubai's flagship solar park

A scale model of Dubai’s flagship solar park

The U.A.E. is the fourth-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, with Abu Dhabi holding most of its crude reserves.

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Harvest Energy from Rubbing a Paper (w/video)

Disney researchers harvest energy from rubbing, tapping paper-like material

Disney researchers harvest energy from rubbing, tapping paper-like material

Electric current sufficient to light a string of LEDs, activate an e-paper display or even trigger action by a computer can be generated by tapping or rubbing simple, flexible generators made of paper, thin sheets of plastic and other everyday materials, researchers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, have demonstrated.

This new approach to energy harvesting uses electrets, materials with special electrical properties that already are used in microphones and in tiny MEMS devices. This latest application, developed by researchers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh and at Carnegie Mellon University, could make possible new types of interactive applications involving books, posters and other printed materials that require no batteries or external power.

The design of a Paper Generator is simple: one approach is to sandwich a thin, flexible sheet of polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE – best known by the brand name Teflon –between two conductive layers, such as sheets of metallized polyester, that serve as electrodes. Electrical charge accumulates on the PTFE sheet when paper is rubbed against it. Then, if the electrodes are made to move relative to each other against the PTFE, a tiny, alternating electrical current is generated. This electrical current can be used to power a broad variety of devices such as LED arrays, e-ink displays, sound buzzers and infrared communication devices.

“Though the fundamental principles of operation remain the same, it’s possible to build Paper Generators that respond to a number of different gestures, such as tapping, touching, rubbing or sliding,” said Ivan Poupyrev, director of Disney Research, Pittsburgh’s Interaction Group. “We can imagine any number of ways to use this to add sights, sounds and other interactivity to books and other printed materials inexpensively and without having to worry about power sources.”

The researchers, who also include Mustafa Emre Karagozler and Yuri Suzuki of Disney Research, Pittsburgh and Gary Fedder of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Robotics Institute, will present their findings at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST), Oct. 8-11, in St Andrews, Scotland.

Electrets are the electrostatic equivalents of permanent magnets, carrying a quasi-permanent electric charge. These dielectric materials include natural materials such as quartz as well as man-made materials such as PTFE. Other researchers have demonstrated that electrets could be used to convert finger tapping into power to light LEDs using expensive, microfabricated structures. The Paper Generators produced at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, by contrast, are decidedly low-tech and cheap.

“There’s nothing here that I can’t build by hand in five minutes,” Karagozler said of the Disney Research, Pittsburgh demonstration devices, which included a cartoon of a rocket ship outlined by a string of LEDs that light up when a paper button is tapped. The researchers also printed Paper Generators using conventional ink-jet printers equipped with cartridges with conductive ink. “That’s the future of this technology,” Karagozler added.

Though the current produced by the devices is low – measured in hundreds of microamperes – the voltage is high, up to 1000 volts. That is ideal for triggering e-paper displays, Karagozler said. One demonstration device, for instance, features cartoon characters of astronauts and friendly aliens; when the energy harvesting patch is rubbed, an e-paper display reveals H-E-L-L-O one letter at a time.

Running the alternating current through a small rectifier converts the power to DC to operate LEDs. The power also can be fed into store-and-release circuitry, enabling a buzzer to sound when enough power is stored, or to send an infrared signal to trigger action by a computer. Transmitting the current to an analog voltmeter produces mechanical motion of the needle.

“It’s very simple, it’s flexible and it’s printable using conventional printers,” Karagozler said. “It’s a technology with potential applications we’ve only begun to explore.”

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Glasses Enabling Instant Language Translation

NTT Docomo will have the world reading one language.

NTT Docomo will have the world reading one language.

A head-mounted visor that will instantly translate any foreign language into your native tongue.

Augmented reality glasses that can translate a menu in real time have been unveiled at a Japanese gadget fair, with promises they could be ready for visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The country’s telecommunications giant NTT Docomo on Monday was showing off its latest development where cameras, computers and know-how combine to give the wearer a whole different view of what they are looking at.

One function of the gizmo overlays the wearer’s first language onto unfamiliar text, making signs and menus instantly understandable – a boon to travellers in Japan, where foreign-language menus are not commonly found off the tourist trail.

“Character recognition technology enables instant language translation for users travelling abroad and reading restaurant menus and other documents,” Docomo said in a statement, as it showcased the gadget at CEATEC Japan.

Another application turns any flat surface into a touchscreen, with a finger ring relaying positioning information to the device that lets wearers touch tags that only they can see, perhaps to perform an internet search.

Other uses include facial recognition that is intended to look up someone’s identity – and job title – from a smartphone’s directory.

Using a Vuzix M100 as the base model, carried facial and character recognition ability. Let us say that you are bad with names – wearing this smart glasses would be able to assist you.

Imagine walking around and seeing someone whom you want to talk to, but for the life of you, could not remember his or her name. This pair of smart glasses will check the person’s face against the employee manifesto, and relay other metadata such as position and department.

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New device to revolutionize gaming in virtual realities (w/ Video)

Cyberith - Virtualizer - Omnidirectional Treadmill

Cyberith – Virtualizer – Omnidirectional Treadmill

How is it possible to walk through 3D virtual realities while staying in one place? Engineers from the Vienna University of Technology have solved this problem and are now introducing their “Virtualizer”.

Head-mounted devices, which display three dimensional images according one’s viewing direction, allowing the users to lose themselves in computer generated worlds are already commercially available. However, it has not yet been possible to walk through these virtual realities, without at some point running into the very real walls of the room. A team of researchers at the Vienna University of Technology has now built a “Virtualizer”, which allows for an almost natural walk through virtual spaces. The user is fixated with a belt in a support frame, the feet glide across a low friction surface. Sensors pick up these movements and feed the data into the computer. The team hopes that the Virtualizer will enter the market in 2014.

Digitized motion

Various ideas have been put forward on the digitalization of human motion. Markers can be attached to the body, which are then tracked with cameras – this is how motion capture for animated movies is achieved. For this, however, expensive equipment is needed, and the user is confined to a relatively small space. Prototypes using conveyor belts have not yet yielded satisfactory results.

Tuncay Cakmak, a student at TU Vienna, had a much better idea; when the feet slide across a smooth low-friction surface, almost natural walking movements are possible without in fact changing one’s position. Together with some other students and virtual reality expert Hannes Kaufmann (TU Vienna), he developed the “Virtualizer”.

In the Virtualizer’s metal frame, the user is kept in place with a belt. The smooth floor plate contains sensors, picking up every step. Rotations of the body are registered by the belt. “Coming to terms with the low friction takes a little bit of practice”, says Tuncay Cakmak, “but soon one can run across the smooth sensor plate quite naturally.”

Run, look, duck, jump

The Virtualizer can be used with standard 3D headgear, which picks up the users viewing direction and displays 3D pictures accordingly. This is independent from the leg motion, therefore running into one direction and looking into another becomes possible.

Moving through virtual realities using a keyboard or a joystick can lead to a discrepancy between visual perception and other body sensations. This is a problem for the brain: “Many people become nauseous in such situations. This is called ‘cybersickness’”, says Tuncay Cakmak. In the Virtualizer, however, the displayed visual data is in line with one’s physical motion. The feeling of presence in the virtual world is stronger, and it becomes easier to assess distances and proportions. In addition, movement in the Virtualizer has an element of physical exercise.

Entering the market

The prototype developed at TU Vienna already works very well – only some minor adjustments are still to be made. The Virtualizer has already caused some a stir. “Some major companies have already expressed their interest – for us, however, it is important that the technological development remains in our hands”, says Tuncay Cakmak.

The Virtualizer is scheduled to enter the market as soon as 2014. The price cannot be determined yet. “Our first priority is to create a high quality product, but of course we want to offer it at the lowest possible price”, says Cakmak. “Our product should lead virtual reality out of the research labs and into the gamers’ living rooms.”

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RS Components brings free 3D design capability to all engineers

DesignSpark Mechanical

DesignSpark Mechanical

Free, fast and intuitive design software opens up new possibilities for engineers from concept design through to manufacturing. Introducing DesignSpark Mechanical, a new 3D solid modeling and assembly tool that is available to all – totally free of charge.

Great news for all the electronic and mechanical engineers, students and practicing: a free 3D DesignSpark Mechanical software that will enable conceptualization and rapid prototyping, reduce costs, and dramatically accelerate product development. In short, this software is like a “Gift of invention that will bring your ideas to life!”

To see this little beauty in action, feast your eyes on the following video and then return to this column to discover more.

From the above video, it’s easy to see that the DesignSpark Mechanical 3D design tool is applicable to every engineering student and practicing engineer on the planet. In fact, DesignSpark Mechanical is also of interest to non-technical marketing folks. In the case of today’s designs, it is no longer sufficient to create a mega-cool electronic system and then simply sling it into an “agricultural” package. Modern customers and end-users now demand products that are not only highly functional, but are also aesthetically pleasing to the hand and eye.

This “industrial-strength” software has been lovingly crafted so as to be easy to learn and use. You can quickly create 3D objects, manipulate shapes, grab and drag faces and/or edges, set levels of transparency (allowing you to, for example, see through a semi-transparent enclosure to the contents inside). You can combine/merge objects, fragment them, and perform Boolean operations on them. You can “Copy” and “Paste” within a drawing or between drawings. And you can perform unlimited “Undo” and “Redo” operations.

But wait, there’s more… You can create individual parts or full-blown assemblies. In addition to your enclosures, you can import 3D models of electronic components, electro-mechanical devices, circuit boards, and so forth. But where do you get these models? Well, the folks who are bringing DesignSpark Mechanical to us –Allied Electronics and RS Components – have 38,000 3D models as part of their online catalog. Each of these free-to-use models is available in 24 different formats, which means they work with just about every 3D design package in the known universe. Furthermore, the folks at boast 100+ million 2D drawings and 3D models that can also be freely accessed and used in your designs.

Last but certainly not least, you may know Allied Electronics and/or RS Components as one of the world’s largest distributor of electronics and maintenance products. If this is all you know, you may wonder what they are doing distributing free 3D design software to anyone who wants it. In fact, you may also start to ask yourself, “What other amazing tools and technologies do these little rascals have up their sleeves?” Well, keep watching this space!

DesignSpark Mechanical will be available for free download via from 16 September 2013 with support available through the DesignSpark community at

Excerpt from RS Press release and the following article at EEtimes by Max Maxfield :

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Researchers’ Tweets Move Science Forward

This infographic illustrates the impact of social media, specifically Twitter, on scientific research. Credit: Catherine Pratt

Impact of social media, specifically Twitter, on scientific research. Credit: Catherine Pratt

Social media is changing the way that scientists are interacting with each other and with the global community. One example is the way that researchers use Twitter to increase the impact of their research. David Shiffman, a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami‘s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, describes the advantages of tweeting during the development of scientific publications.

Incorporating Twitter into the different stages of a scientific publication allows scientists to connect more quickly, facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration and makes it possible to communicate results to a large and diverse audience, according to Shiffman. It also encourages post-publication conversations about the findings.

“Social media, which allows information to be shared instantly around the world, gives internet-savvy scientists the ability to drastically accelerate the pace of scientific communication and collaboration,” says Shiffman, who was recently named one of the top biologists to follow on Twitter (@WhySharksMatter) by the Huffington Post.

Although some scientists have mixed feelings about using Twitter for scholarly purposes, it’s only a matter of time before the scientific community embraces social media, says another author of the study, Emily Darling, a Smith Conservation Research Fellow at the University of North Carolina.

“Many scientists may think they don’t have time for Twitter,” says Darling, “But a little effort can provide enormous value for communication and outreach. The solution is to just give it a try.”

Shiffman and his collaborators document examples that support the scientific and scholarly use of tweeting, in a study titled “The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication,” published in the journal Ideas in Ecology and Evolution.

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Command Your Dog Via Your Smart Phone

Command Your Dog via your smart phone!

Command Your Dog via your smart phone!

What if there were a way to command your dog with a remote control, or even via your smart phone…or even without hands?

Jeff Miller and David Bevly of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, have devised just such a system and describe details in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control. The device based on a control suite with a microprocessor, wireless radio, GPS receiver, and an attitude and heading reference system provides autonomous guidance of the canine using an embedded command module with vibration and tone generation capabilities. Tests in a structure and non-structured environment show obedience accuracy up to almost 98%. It sounds like a boon for the lazy dog owner.

Of course, there is a serious side to the development of such a technology that allows dogs to be given commands remotely and for them to respond consistently. Dogs remain, for instance, the most accurate and sensitive mobile detection system for hidden explosives, people trapped after earthquakes and other disasters and in sniffing out drugs. However, the dog handler in such environments may not be able to safely access the place the dog can reach. Moreover, in a noisy environment or where the dog’s hearing is compromised giving the necessary commands might also be impossible.

The team has demonstrated that a search & rescue or other working dog can be trained to respond “virtually flawlessly” to remote control tones and vibrations as if they were immediate commands from a human handler. “The ability to autonomously control a canine has far reaching,” the team says. They also point out a similar system might be extended to a variety of applications allowing emergency responders to be guided remotely in hazardous situations such as a collapsing or burning building or for a haptic feedback GPS system to assist navigation by the visually impaired.

Of course, from this dog-owner’s perspective, I can picture the scene: village pub, lazy Sunday afternoon, pint of beer in one hand, canine remote control in the other…

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Retaining Top Talent: Yes, It Really Is All About Them

Losing Top-Quality Talent

Losing Top-Quality Talent

Think back. Reflect on your career and write down your top five leadership disappointments.

If your experience is typical, your list will include losing top-quality talent. The memory of “suddenly” losing one of your best and brightest never seems to fade. The story is always the same: They weren’t looking, but a great opportunity just fell into their lap (yeah, right). An excerpt from an article in Strategy+Business by Susan Cramm.

Hearing the news makes your heart sink and shifts your reality. It’s not just business; it’ personal. They aren’t just leaving the organization; they’re leaving you. In spite of all the time spent together making plans, overcoming adversities, and celebrating accomplishments, they have decided that your best efforts as a leader weren’t good enough. To cope, you rationalize: “People are responsible for their own careers.” You think to yourself: “They come and they go. Nothing I could have done. No one is indispensable. No big deal.

But it is a big deal. Losing high performers is painful, both personally and professionally. An estimated 25 percent of these high-potential employees plan on leaving their jobs within a year.

However, leaders can reduce the risk of losing the right people for the wrong reasons by working collaboratively with them to identify challenging assignments that tap into their passions and career goals.

Most leaders sidestep career discussions, buying into the philosophy that it’s not their responsibility. While this is fundamentally true, most people don’t have well-articulated career goals or feel comfortable talking with their supervisors about the type of opportunities that would help them develop. As a result, they find it easier to converse with a recruiter rather than their boss as they consider the future of their careers.

Customizing opportunities to each employee are important, and you should care. Know your people by meeting with them one-on-one for 90 minutes. When scheduling the meeting, let them know that you want to get to know them better and discuss their passions and career goals, requesting that they provide written responses along with their most current resume prior to the meeting.

Make the meeting all about them. Ask questions, reflect back what you hear, and be encouraging. Don’t provide feedback or advice—just listen and learn. Your people will leave the meeting feeling honored, respected, and energized, and you will have the insights necessary to help them define their development objectives and sculpt their future assignments in a way that synchs up with how they want to live and what they want to achieve.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of staying in close contact with your high potentials. You may have high expectations of them, but they also have high expectations of you. Make it hard for them to leave you by making sure you don’t leave them.

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Foldable Micro Electric Car, Armadillo-T (w/ Video)

Armadillo-T is a small and light pure-electric car that can fold in half. Credit: KAIST

Armadillo-T is a small and light pure-electric car that can fold in half. Credit: KAIST

Looking for a parking space for hours at a busy shopping mall or being stuck on roads jammed with cars releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide are all-too-familiar scenes for city dwellers.

A group of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) recently developed a possible solution to such problems: a foldable, compact electric vehicle that can be utilized either as a personal car or part of the  to connect major transportation routes within a city.

In-Soo Suh, Associate Professor of the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST and his research team introduced a prototype micro electric car called “Armadillo-T,” whose design is based on a native animal of South America, the armadillo, a placental mammal with a leathery armor shell.

The research team imitated the animal’s distinctive protection characteristic of rolling up into a ball when facing with threat from predators. Just as  hide themselves inside the shell, Armadillo-T tucks its rear body away, shrinking its original size of 2.8 meters (110 inches) down to almost half, 1.65 meters (65 inches), when folding.

Armadillo-T is a four-wheel-drive, all-electric car with two seats and four in-wheel motors. Since the motors are installed inside the wheels, and the 13.6 kWh capacity of  pack is housed on the front side, the battery and motors do not have to change their positions when the car folds. This not only optimizes the  but also provides stability and ample room to drivers and passengers.

Once folded, the small and light (weighs 450 kg) electric vehicle takes up only one-third of a 5-meter parking space, the standard parking size in Korea, allowing three of its kind to be parked. With a smartphone-interfaced remote control on the wheels, the vehicle can turn 360 degrees, enhancing drivers’ convenience to park the car, even in an odd space in a parking lot, the corner of a building, for example.


In addition to all the essential features required for a generic 4WD electric car, Armadillo-T has smart functions that boost the level of conveniences for drivers. Credit: KAIST

The concept car has loads of smart features on board, too: the cameras installed inside the car eliminate the need for side mirrors and increase the driver’s ability to see the car’s right and left side, thereby reducing blind spots. With a smartphone, the driver can control Armadillo-T and enable remote folding control. The  has a maximum speed of 60 km/h, and with a ten-minute fast charge, it can run up to 100 km.

Particularly, this car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer, to offer major transportation links in a city. In addition to the urban application, local near-distance travels such as tourist zones or large buildings can be another example of application.”

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No More Batteries for Wireless devices (W/Video)

New Communication technique

New Communication technique

( —We might be one step closer to an Internet-of-things reality. University of Washington engineers have created a new wireless communication system that allows devices to interact with each other without relying on batteries or wires for power.

The new communication technique, which the researchers call “ambient backscatter,” takes advantage of the TV and cellular transmissions that already surround us around the clock. Two devices communicate with each other by reflecting the existing signals to exchange information. The researchers built small, battery-free devices with antennas that can detect, harness and reflect a TV signal, which then is picked up by other similar devices.

The technology could enable a network of devices and sensors to communicate with no  or  needed.

“We can repurpose  that are already around us into both a source of power and a communication medium,” said lead researcher Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “It’s hopefully going to have applications in a number of areas including wearable computing, smart homes and self-sustaining .”

“Our devices form a network out of thin air,” said co-author Joshua Smith, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering. “You can reflect these signals slightly to create a Morse code of communication between battery-free devices.”

Smart sensors could be built and placed permanently inside nearly any structure, then set to communicate with each other. For example, sensors placed in a bridge could monitor the health of the concrete and steel, then send an alert if one of the sensors picks up a hairline crack. The technology can also be used for communication – text messages and emails, for example – in wearable devices, without requiring battery consumption.

Groups of the devices were tested in a variety of settings in the Seattle area, including inside an apartment building, on a street corner and on the top level of a parking garage. These locations ranged from less than half a mile away from a TV tower to about 6.5 miles away.

They found that the devices were able to communicate with each other, even the ones farthest from a TV tower. The receiving devices picked up a signal from their transmitting counterparts at a rate of 1 kilobit per second when up to 2.5 feet apart outdoors and 1.5 feet apart indoors. This is enough to send information such as a sensor reading, text messages and contact information.

It’s also feasible to build this technology into devices that do rely on batteries, such as smartphones. It could be configured so that when the battery dies, the phone could still send text messages by leveraging power from an ambient TV signal.

The applications are endless, the researchers say, and they plan to continue advancing the capacity and range of the ambient backscatter communication network.

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Not a car or bicycle, but a blend—an ELF vehicle

Not a car or bicycle, an ELF

Not a car or bicycle, an ELF

Introducing the ELF, a battery-powered car-bicycle hybrid.

( A Massachusetts man is taking his car-bicycle blend “Organic Transit Vehicle”—also known as an ELF bike—on a 1,200-mile trip from North Carolina to Massachusetts this summer, turning heads as the unusual-looking green vehicle zips through city streets.

What Mark Stewart is driving looks like a cross between a bicycle and a car with , a gently humming motor and a futuristic shape. It’s a “green” option for today’s commuters.

“It reminds me of when I saw a Smart car the first time,” said Joanne Bury as she emerged from her Reston condominium building to take a look at the . “This is incredible. What is it?”

Stewart, a 65-year-old family therapist and school psychologist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, took the summer off in order to drive his new vehicle more than 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) on trails and roads using the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Canada to Key West.

Stewart began his journey by flying down to Durham, North Carolina, on July 15, and estimates that the entire trip will take about a month. He covered the first leg, from Durham to Reston, Virginia, over roughly five days, 60 miles (95 kilometers) at a time.

The ELF, or “Organic Transit Vehicle,” can go for 1,800 miles (2,895 kilometers) on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. It does not require the insurance, repair and car maintenance costs of the average vehicle. Besides the cost of the occasional new tire, the ELF runs completely off what it costs to charge its battery.

Stewart bought the ELF from Durham-based Organic Transit, which sells them for a base price of $5,000. He said he wanted to avoid the almost $1,000 delivery charge, so he decided to fly down to pick up the bike in person and learn how to operate it before taking the long trip back home.

“I spent three days in the shop hanging with the guys there and learning the vehicle,” Stewart said. “This is just an unsupported solo trip up here in a vehicle that nobody else really knows.”

Stewart’s ELF is only about the 40th to come off the production line. While few bike shop workers have seen the contraption, the materials, such as the tires and pedals, are items on your average bicycle.

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‘Smart’ Homes Open Doors to Hackers

Smart Homes Hackers

Smart Homes Hackers

If someone can access your home network, but doesn’t have a key to your home, they can still unlock your door and get in.

Phys.Org- Smart homes that let residents control alarms, locks and more over the internet are opening doors for crooks with hacker skills, according to computer security specialists.

“The  trend is growing, and it evolves quickly into a story of security,” Trustwave managing consultant Daniel Crowley told AFP.

“Connecting things to a network opens up a whole range of vectors of attack, and when you are talking door locks, garage doors, and alarm controls it gets scary.”

Crowley and Trustwave colleague David Bryan found security “pretty poor” on the  devices they studied.

“If someone can access your home network, but doesn’t have a key to your home, they can still unlock your door and get in,” Crowley said of what he found in gear on the market.

Trustwave researchers will share their findings Thursday with peers at a premier Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas and at the infamous Def Con hacker gathering taking place in that city through the weekend.

A vulnerability of particular concern to the researchers was that once hackers joined local home networks, perhaps through poorly protected wireless routers or using malware slipped onto computers, they could control devices with no password or other authentication required.

“The fact that you need to be on someone’s  to exploit these things is not as big a hurdle as you’d imagine,” Crowley said.

And the trend of providing people with smartphone applications for controlling smart home devices while away means that crooks who hack into handsets could potentially grab the reins, according to the researchers.

There are also ways to use computer “IP” numbers to figure out real-world addresses, and some smart home applications, themselves, reveal location information, according to Trustwave.

Combing that capability with hacking tools could put an Internet age twist on home burglaries, the researchers said.

“I don’t think this will be something that enables the ordinary criminal to do something they weren’t doing before,” Crowley said.

“The big risk is that a compromise could give you access to hundreds of thousands of homes all at once; I could see that as an attack someone could actually use to launch a crime spree.”

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Power Your Mobile Phone Using Urine!

Urine Charge your Mobile

Urine Charge your Mobile

British scientists on Tuesday reported they had harnessed the power of urine and were able to charge a mobile phone with enough electricity to send texts and surf the internet.

Researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory in south west England said they had created a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down urine to generate electricity, in a study published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

“No one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it’s an exciting discovery,” said engineer Ioannis Ieropoulos.

“The beauty of this  is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy.

“One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine,” he added.

The team grew bacteria on   and placed them inside ceramic cylinders.

The bacteria broke down chemicals in urine passed through the cylinders, building up a small amount of  which was stored on a capacitor.

Ieropoulos hoped that the cell, which is currently the size of a car battery, could be developed for many applications.

“Our aim is to have something that can be carried around easily,” he explained.

“So far the microbial fuel power stack (MFC) that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call.

“The concept has been tested and it works – it’s now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery.”

They hope the technology will eventually be used to power domestic devices.

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Harness Energy from Ocean Currents?

Ocean Currents Energy

Ocean Currents Energy

Researchers at the UPM, within the framework of PROCODAC-GESMEY project, have participated in the construction and testing of the prototype of a device to harness energy from ocean currents able to work in deep water.

In  with the Astilleros Balenciaga company and the Fundación Centro Tecnológico Soermar, researchers at the Group of R&D GITERM, assigned to the Higher Technical School of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, are participating at the PROCODAC project, focused on the design, construction and testing on a marine environment of an experimentation prototype at a ten to one scale of what would be an industrial unit able to provide a 1MW of electricity (GESMEY project).

This prototype is complemented by an underwater buoy that was designed to operate in areas of 40 metres of depth. The test results were very successful and have confirmed that this prototype can produce the expected energy and to be maneuvered by remote control, what can be of interest to use it in future underwater power plants.

Today, to  is an issue of interest, particularly those related to sea. The first generation of systems of harnessing energy from ocean currents was only feasible in areas of maximum depth of 30-50 metres (because the generators were joined at the bottom) and its maintenance was expensive. Consequently, second-generation systems came out: anchoring systems with diverse solutions that allow us a submerged operation with the possibility to put afloat the main elements for its maintenance.

The tested prototype of the GESMEY project belongs to these second-generation systems, the design is protected by patents and the co-owner is the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid within a Framework Agreement signed between UPM and Soermar. The main unit of the prototype includes, as we can see on the image, a structure of stainless steel with a central body and three peripheral parts joined by arms. The generator, the multiplier, and the instrumentation system are inside while the rotor that captures  is outside.



During the development of the project, tests of integration and the tune-up were conducted in the LEEys Lab of the ETSIN and at the shipyard. They also conducted sea trials divided into tests of maneuvers and trailer. The project was complemented with a research on hydrodynamics and structures as well as maneuvers and energy control.

These studies were embodied in various numerical simulations. The test results were very successful and have confirmed that the prototype has accomplished their objectives by reducing costs of construction, installation and maintenance. In addition, the development and construction of these units of marine renewable energy production are affordable for a medium sized shipyard.

Provided by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

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RAPIRO – joy of robots with Raspberry Pi

RAPIRO Raspberry Pi Robot Kit

RAPIRO Raspberry Pi Robot Kit

( —The Raspberry Pi is a computing milestone as a very low-priced computing device running Linux; now a Japanese inventor wants to rev up another kind of breakthrough, with an affordable robot kit that can work with the Raspberry Pi and its camera module. Say hello to RAPIRO, as its makers say, “the robot you always wanted as a kid,” and, as its makers ask, pledge some money for it too, because it is a Kickstarter campaign.

The makers want to raise funds to get it off and running in full production mode. RAPIRO is billed as an affordable and easy to assemble humanoid robot kit. This comes with 12 servo motors and an Arduino-compatible servo control board. RAPIRO was designed to mount with the Raspberry Pi and camera module in the head. Taking its selling points one by one, the question is, how affordable? The makers claim the kit is 1/10th the price of current Linux-powered humanoid robot kits.

Next, the RAPIRO robot is billed as cute. How cute? Its 12 servo motors are for the neck, waist, feet, and arms. RAPIRO can grip a pen, and can turn its head and waist. Then there are RAPIRO’s LED eyes, lit brightly by RGB LEDs. Next, the claim is that it is easy to put together. How easy? Assembling RAPIRO just takes a . No soldering is involved.

The developer behind RAPIRO is Shota Ishiwatari of Kiluck Corp. in collaboration with three other small companies in Japan. Ishiwatari designed RAPIRO with 3-D CAD, built , and wrote the code. Now he and colleagues are in promotion mode. They want to start a  revolution, in the spirit of Raspberry Pi, where the robots can not only be enjoyed as cute but also eventually customizable and programmable.

“If we are successful in our Kickstarter, we will publish 3-D data (.stl) on our website, allowing you to customize the RAPIRO with a ,” according to the campaign page.

Kits available on Kickstarter do not come with a Raspberry Pi and camera module.

As for progress, the campaign has taken in more donations than its original £20,000 goal. The initial offer of a full kit at £199 was already snapped up. The offer was for a full kit with estimated delivery date of December; prices after that start at £229, up to £5,000 for a custom-designed RAPIRO, where the shape would be 3-D printed especially for the pledger. At the time of this writing, the campaign has taken in £31,002 with 178 backers.

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Juiced roads: Volvo explores electric power for trucks, buses

Juiced Roads

Juiced Roads

( —How are engineers doing in solving the problem of large-sized all electric transport vehicles traveling long distances without the burden of large batteries? One workaround that has been the topic of much discussion is the use of power lines that are built into the surface of the road. The Volvo Group has issued its state of progress and says it has come a long way in its research but that there’s still work and planning decisions ahead. The goal is to find a cost-efficient way to supply electricity to vehicles in long-distance traffic. Work continues on technical development of the collector, electric motor and control systems, not to mention issues of road construction, road maintenance, electricity supply along the roads and payment models. Translation: You won’t see long-distance buses using this method any time soon.

The Volvo Group nonetheless cannot stop its research momentum for a sustainable transport solution to a problem of a long distance vehicle obtaining its  while on the road.

A plug-in bus equipped with battery is all well and good if it can be charged quickly when the buses are at  but that is not the scenario for long-distance hauls where stops are not frequent. To cope with the task, say experts, they would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any passengers. The Volvo Group is engaged in a Swedish research project to find solutions for this, with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency. The project includes the Swedish Transport Administration, Vattenfall, several universities and suppliers.

They are working on a method where power is continuously supplied to the vehicle from an external source—in the form of power lines built into the surface of the road. Along with a power and transport firm, Alstom, the company built a 400 meter-long track at a facility in Hällered near Gothenburg. They are testing a special collector fitted to a truck. The collector draws power from the rails installed into the road surface.

Specifically, two  are built into the surface of the road along the entire length of the road. The power line is designed in sections; live current is delivered to a collector under or at the rear of the truck if an appropriate signal is detected.

According to Richard Sebestyen, project manager at Volvo Group Trucks Technology, the electricity flows into a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck.

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French nuclear designers tap American expertise

Naomi Takes Over Nuclear Reactor

Naomi Takes Over Nuclear Reactor (Photo credit: tomkellyphoto)

The world’s nuclear experts have reached out to U.S. Department of Energy engineers for help evaluating a new nuclear reactor design that could increase safety margins while reducing waste. (Article from Phys.Org by Nicole Stricker).

The project marked a series of firsts for nuclear engineers on both sides of the Atlantic. They fostered a new collaboration and tapped state-of-the-art analysis tools to evaluate a first-of-a-kind reactor design.

France’s Atomic Energy and  Commission (CEA) collaborated with nuclear engineers at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory for the project. Its goal: assess  and performance parameters for a new fast reactor design.

The Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) is intended to significantly improve resource utilization, potentially produce less radioactive waste, and increase safety margins compared to current technology. The design offers inherent protection because the fission process would slow down naturally even if the reactor shutdown capability is lost, and passive decay  systems would keep the  cool.

Before such a  can be built, those safety assumptions need to be checked and rechecked. That’s where the DOE national labs come in. The effort used cutting-edge analysis tools, and the findings verified French predictions while highlighting where to focus future efforts.

“We have tools and data today that we didn’t have 15 years ago,” said INL Fellow Giuseppe Palmiotti, who led the lab’s contribution. “Plus, this enabled young American engineers to evaluate a unique design with a promising outlook.”

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Helicopter takes to the skies with the power of thought (w/ Video)

EEG electroencephalophone used during a music ...

EEG electroencephalophone used during a music performance in which bathers from around the world were networked together as part of a collective musical performance, using their brainwaves to control sound, lighting, and the bath environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A remote controlled helicopter has been flown through a series of hoops around a college gymnasium in Minnesota. It sounds like your everyday student project; however, there is one caveat… the helicopter was controlled using just the power of thought. (An excerpt from an article in

The experiments have been performed by researchers hoping to develop future robots that can help restore the autonomy of paralysed victims or those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.

Their study has been published today in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

There were five subjects (three female, two male) who took part in the study and each one was able to successfully control the four-blade helicopter, also known as a quadcopter, quickly and accurately for a sustained amount of time.

Lead author of the study Professor Bin He, from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, said: “Our study shows that for the first time, humans are able to control the flight of flying robots using just their thoughts, sensed from noninvasive .”

The  used was  (), which recorded the  of the subjects’ brain through a cap fitted with 64 .

Facing away from the quadcopter, the subjects were asked to imagine using their right hand, left hand, and both hands together; this would instruct the quadcopter to turn right, left, lift, and then fall, respectively. The quadcopter was driven with a pre-set forward moving velocity and controlled through the sky with the subject’s thoughts.

The subjects were positioned in front of a screen which relayed images of the quadcopter’s flight through an on-board camera, allowing them to see which direction it was travelling in.  were recorded by the cap and sent to the quadcopter over WiFi.

“In previous work we showed that humans could control a virtual helicopter using just their thoughts. I initially intended to use a small helicopter for this real-life study; however, the quadcopter is more stable, smooth and has fewer safety concerns,” continued Professor He.

After several different training sessions, the subjects were required to fly the quadcopter through two foam rings suspended from the gymnasium ceiling and were scored on three aspects: the number of times they sent the quadcopter through the rings; the number of times the quadcopter collided with the rings; and the number of times they went outside the experiment boundary.

A number of statistical tests were used to calculate how each subject performed.

A group of subjects also directed the quadcopter with a keyboard in a control experiment, allowing for a comparison between a standardised method and brain control.

This process is just one example of a brain–computer interface where a direct pathway between the brain and an external device is created to help assist, augment or repair human cognitive or sensory-motor functions; researchers are currently looking at ways to restore hearing, sight and movement using this approach.

“Our next goal is to control robotic arms using noninvasive brain wave signals, with the eventual goal of developing brain–computer interfaces that aid patients with disabilities or neurodegenerative disorders,” continued Professor He.

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Beer-pouring robot programmed to anticipate human actions (w/ Video)

Beer Pouring Robot

Beer Pouring Robot

A robot in Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab has learned to foresee human action in order to step in and offer a helping hand, or more accurately, roll in and offer a helping claw. (Excerpt from an article in Phys.Org)

Understanding when and where to pour a beer or knowing when to offer assistance opening a refrigerator door can be difficult for a  because of the many variables it encounters while assessing the situation. A team from Cornell has created a solution.

Gazing intently with a  Kinect 3-D camera and using a database of 3D videos, the Cornell robot identifies the activities it sees, considers what uses are possible with the objects in the scene and determines how those uses fit with the activities. It then generates a set of possible continuations into the future – such as eating, drinking, cleaning, putting away – and finally chooses the most probable. As the action continues, the robot constantly updates and refines its predictions.

“We extract the general principles of how people behave,” said Ashutosh Saxena, Cornell professor of  and co-author of a new study tied to the research. “Drinking coffee is a big activity, but there are several parts to it.” The robot builds a “” of such small parts that it can put together in various ways to recognize a variety of big activities, he explained.

Saxena will join Cornell graduate student Hema S. Koppula as they present their research at the International Conference of Machine Learning, June 18-21 in Atlanta, and the Robotics: Science and Systems conference June 24-28 in Berlin, Germany.

In tests, the robot made correct predictions 82 percent of the time when looking one second into the future, 71 percent correct for three seconds and 57 percent correct for 10 seconds.

“Even though humans are predictable, they are only predictable part of the time,” Saxena said. “The future would be to figure out how the robot plans its action. Right now we are almost hard-coding the responses, but there should be a way for the robot to learn how to respond.”

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Organizing for Advantage

English: Cover for the Business Strategy Wikibook.

English: Cover for the Business Strategy Wikibook. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to design a mix of formal and informal factors to advance your company’s strategy.

How to design a more effective alignment between your strategy and your business structure: how to gain a consistent advantage, or a “right to win” in the marketplace, through the way you are organized. (An excerpt from an article in Strategy+Business by Ashok Divakaran, Gary L. Neilson, and Jaya Pandrangi).

To succeed consistently in the marketplace, a company must have a clear and differentiated way of creating value for its customers, supported by well-defined capabilities—things it does exceptionally well that are central to its ability to perform, and hard to replicate. All this should be reflected in its portfolio of products and services. But those elements will only lead to sustainable success if the company has the right organizational design, one that enables it to execute its strategy.

Every company’s situation is unique, and therefore the right design for one company will probably not work for others, even within the same industry. But the symptoms of ad hoc organizational design are regrettably common. They include business units and functions that protect their own domain’s priorities to the detriment of the overall business, hoarded or wasted resources, strategic goals without follow-through, and a culture that dismisses or ignores accountability. These problems are not just a matter of personal ill will, incompetence, external pressure, or cultural resistance. They exist because organizational design determines behavior. When a company’s organizational forms are inconsistent with the broader objectives of the business, that misalignment affects the day-to-day actions of individual employees. It leads perfectly competent people to chronically underperform. Conversely, companies with a strong link between their strategy and their organizational structure can, like an engine firing on thousands of cylinders instead of a few, generate energy and creativity at all levels.

Even when leaders recognize that their problems are organizational, they try to solve them in ineffective ways, by making rapid, reactive changes to the organizational structure. They shift the “lines and boxes” of the org chart, or divide up responsibilities differently. They may also force a few recalcitrant leaders to resign, sending an implicit message to current executives: “If you can’t deliver, I’ll get someone who will.” But these fixes don’t address the actual cause of underperformance: a misaligned organizational design.

Designing for Strategic Fit

How do you translate a business strategy into an organizational design? How can you connect the dots between company-wide objectives and the concrete details of reporting relationships, information flows, decision rights, and social networks? The answer is not obvious. Figuring it out requires a new way of thinking about organization: what might be called organizing for essential advantage.

The way to play is how a company engages with the market, its fundamental value proposition. For example, some companies choose to distinguish themselves as innovators, continually introducing new products and service, whereas others are value providers, offering their products or services at an attractive price point. Capabilities are cross-functional combinations of technology, processes, skills, and mind-sets that work together synergistically. Differentiating capabilities are the few (typically, three to six) capabilities that enable a company to stand out from competitors and consistently provide value for its chosen customers that no one else can match.

A successful company doesn’t gain its way to play and capabilities system by accident. The company seeking a strategy looks to build on both its strengths and its prospective market opportunities by choosing the path that encompasses both. Inevitably, this means choosing not to pursue some directions. That’s a difficult decision for many companies, particularly those in rapidly evolving sectors, where there are many opportunities and few certainties. Nonetheless, being clear and consistent about where to play and where not to play is a necessary step toward building a coherent strategy, where everything the company does fits well together.

A coherent strategy also provides the necessary starting point for the organizational design process. Without clarity about the “what” (the way the company creates value), one can’t possibly define the “how” (the way to organize to create value).

A process like this one can help any company, ensuring that its strategy, capabilities, and organization are all aligned to support each other.

That quality is often overlooked in organizational design, but it is probably the most important factor of all: a critical enabler of your company’s ability to deliver on its strategy.

For a blueprint for effective organizational design, and to read the full article, please visit

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KSA: more Solar power in the next 20 years than the rest of the world

Saudi Arabia & NREL

Saudi Arabia & NREL

Saudi Arabia looks to NREL for solar monitoring expertise.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working with the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for training and expertise in measuring its solar resource. (Excerpt of an article in by Bill Scanlon).

The importance of setting up networks to gauge and predict the strength of  in varying  convinced the Saudis to choose NREL as a partner.

Nine Saudi engineers spent nine days at NREL last month, studying and discussing topics as theoretical as Ångström’s law and the scatter-absorption ratio for the atmospheric effects on solar radiation, and as practical as the effect of sandstorms on . NREL experts also engaged the Saudi staff with topics including waste-to-energy, geothermal technologies, calibrations, and solar resource forecasting.

NREL and its partner Battelle will support the installation of more than 50 monitoring stations in the Middle East kingdom this year to measure the solar resource and gauge the best spots for  and will also train local Saudis to operate and maintain the instruments and stations.

It’s a crucial part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to spend billions of dollars over the next two decades to install more than 50 gigawatts of  in the country and meet at least 30% of its electricity needs with solar energy by 2032. That’s more gigawatts of renewable energy than were installed in the entire world as of 2012.

The overarching goal is to double electricity capacity by 2030 and have half of that energy originate from  such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The kingdom is expected to write a number of large contracts in 2013 alone.

Why Saudi Arabia? Why does a nation that has huge oil reserves want to become a leader in renewable energy?

“Saudi Arabia is determined to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons,” said Wail Bamhair, the project manager for the Saudi team that visited NREL. “Renewable energy isn’t just an option, but absolutely necessary. We have the means to build renewable energy, and we need to do it.”

Because Saudi Arabia is lacking in coal and natural gas, it uses a tremendous amount of energy to desalinate water and heat turbines to bring electricity to homes and businesses. Electricity is particularly in high demand during the Saudi summer when temperatures routinely top 110 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioners are rumbling. Economists have suggested that a big move into renewable energy can strengthen Saudi Arabia’s economy and free up millions of extra barrels of oil for export. Bamhair said that while Saudi Arabia has a lot of sun, it also has challenges such as a variable climate, sandstorms, and even the occasional snowstorm in the northern regions. He shared photos he took of a sandstorm that in a few short minutes plunged an afternoon into darkness along a busy thoroughfare near the capital, Riyadh.

“We are working hand-in-hand with experts from NREL and Battelle who have these amazing minds,” Bamhair said. “We are looking for them to build our human capacity. We are here to see, to learn, and to transfer the knowledge.”

Forty years ago, Saudi Arabia had a population of about 5 million mostly nomadic people. Now, it’s home to 27.5 million people, and most live in cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

Concentrating Solar Power to Play Critical Role

The Saudis also plan to make a big leap into concentrating solar power (CSP), the cousin of solar PV technology. In fact, 25 of the 41  of planned solar energy will come from CSP.

PV panels convert photons from the sun directly into electrons for electricity, but only work when the sun is shining. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the sun’s heat. This thermal energy can then be used to drive a steam turbine that produces electricity.

CSP can store that heat in molten salts for up to 15 hours and can thus team with PV to help bring electricity to homes and businesses when it’s most needed – in the evening hours when the sun has set, but the appliances, TVs, and air conditioners are still in demand. NREL’s recent paper on that capacity, Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power via Use of CSP with Thermal Energy StoragePDF, has sparked renewed interest in the two solar technologies sharing the load.

“The first project – installing the monitoring stations – is important for the CSP piece, too, because CSP depends on knowing the measure of clean-sky radiation,” NREL’s Scott Huffman said.

NREL will be overseeing the installation of the solar monitoring stations. The K.A.CARE  Atlas will be ready for access by late summer, with the full monitoring network in place before the end of the year.

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Eye-Tracking: Where does the consumer look? (W/Video)

Side-ways Eye-tracking

Side-ways Eye-tracking

(Phys.Org) – Marketers partnering with software innovators are thinking up new ways to know customers better, to take the guesswork out of product targeting. Technologies hold out hope that companies will minimize the toll that product duds can take on advertising budgets and name-brands.

Eye-tracking is seen as one of the technology tools with potential for selling smart. Where does the consumer look? What catches the most attention? What is that person’s viewing behavior? A prototype system introduced at a Paris show this week takes the comment, “Oh, I’m just looking” and turns it into good news for shopkeepers and retail giants. “I’m just looking” customers may reveal how to target brands and, fundamentally, sell.

The  shown at the Conference on  in  in Paris this week is called SideWays, by Andreas Bulling of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany, and Yanxia Zhang and Hans Gellersen at Lancaster University in the UK.

The system can track what the customer is looking at; it detects the faces of people walking by and calculates where the eyes are relative to the eye corners. Potentially, the store could readjust ads and displays for optimal positioning of products that appear to grab the greatest interest.

The device uses a single camera positioned close to the screen. In their paper, “SideWays: A Gaze Interface for SpontaneousInteraction with Situated Displays,” the researchers wrote, “SideWays robustly detects whether users attend to the center of the display or cast glances to the left or right.”

The viewer can control the screen, using eyes to control content such as scrolling through items on a list. Attention to the central display is the default state, but sidelong glances can trigger input or actions.

The authors think they have made a contribution in their work by validating that “SideWays enables  as input for , without the need of prior calibration or specialist hardware.” They said the significance lay in the achievement of “robust gaze control, albeit coarse-grained, without need for calibration means that our system is person-independent.” Any user can walk up to a display fitted with their system, and interact with it using their eyes only.

“Person-independence and interaction without preparation are critical steps toward genuinely spontaneous interaction with displays we encounter in public environment.”

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Revolutionary shape-changing phone curls upon a call

revolutionary Phone

revolutionary Phone

Researchers at Queen’s University‘s Human Media Lab have developed a new smartphone – called MorePhone – which can morph its shape to give users a silent yet visual cue of an incoming phone call, text message or email.

“This is another step in the direction of radically new interaction techniques afforded by smartphones based on thin film, flexible display technologies” says Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing), director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University who developed the flexible PaperPhone and PaperTab.

“Users are familiar with hearing their phone ring or feeling it vibrates in silent mode. One of the problems with current silent forms of notification is that users often miss notifications when not holding their phone. With MorePhone, they can leave their smartphone on the table and observe visual shape changes when someone is trying to contact them.”

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First Braille Smartphone

Braille Smart Phone

Braille Smart Phone

Kriyate Design Solutions testing first Braille smartphone ( by Bob Yirka)

Indian company Kriyate Design Solutions, headed and run by post-graduate student Sumit Dagar, has built a prototype Braille smartphone that makes use of a type of shape metal alloy to cause pins to raise and lower on a touchscreen—it allows users to read what is being sent using only their fingertips.

The project is being funded by the Rolex Awards—five people with promising ideas are given money every two years to develop . Dagar and his company are working with the Indian Institute of Technology and the prototype they’ve created is set to be tested by the L V Prasad Eye Institute. Dagar reportedly came up with the idea for a  phone on his own while attending India’s National Institute of Design. Upon graduation he formed Kriyate Design Solutions with the express goal of creating a fully functional Braille smartphone.

His idea all along has been to build a smartphone that fully implements Braille, allowing those who use it to send and receive text messages. The prototype is able to do just that by making use of metal in the form of pins that expands and contracts just enough to be felt by the fingertips. Incoming text is converted to Braille allowing the phone to express letters, numbers and even pictures allowing users to read information that others send, or from the Internet.

kriyate Design

Braille Smartphone

Up till now, blind people have had to rely on apps (such as Georgie developed by Sight and Sound Technology) to use their smartphones. Such apps typically make use of GPS to help those that cannot see find their way around unknown areas and to help read signs, menus, etc. With this new innovation,  will be able to send and receive text messages, read web content, use custom apps (including those with GPS abilities) and even take pictures of things and look at them using their fingers. It’s a significant step forward and likely would not have occurred had not an insightful person come up with a workable idea, and then been backed by a company with very deeppockets and no expectations of making a profit from its investment.

The phone has been under design and development for three years and is now ready for testing. If successful, Dagar and his company plan to begin selling the phone to the public for as little as $185.

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Posted in Electronics, Engineering, How it works, Technology, Tutoring | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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