Friday, March 30, 2012

#MATERIALS: "Flexible Transparent Smartphones On The Way"

All the different components in mobile gadgets like cell phones now have transparent versions, heralding a day of bendable, see-through electronic devices.

Flexible transparent gadgets with touch-screens, processors, memory and batteries will begin appearing a few years now that all the components have been demonstrated in the lab. (Source: Rice University)

Over the last few years all of the electronic components (processor, memory, touch-screen, batteries) in a modern gadget like a smart phone have been demonstrated in transparent versions in the lab. Now it is only a matter of a few years before all the pieces are integrated into see-through, bendable electronic gadgets that will rock your world.

One recent development in this front was presented at this week’s American Chemical Society 2012 conference. There, visionary Rice University professor James Tour described his transparent memory invention and how it can be combined with transparent processors from the University of Cambridge and transparent batteries from Stanford University to create flexible touch-screen electronic gadgets, such as a see-through smartphones you can wrap around your wrist.

The technology behind Tour's transparent memory invention was first revealed in a New York Times story, which reported that startup PrivaTran Inc. was developing the technology. Tour's invention uses silicon dioxide--normally an insulator--in a semiconductor mode by using a high voltage to force electricity to flow through it, thereby stripping out the oxygen atoms in channels of pure silicon less than five nanometers wide during the "writing" of digital bits. Smaller voltages can then be used to read-out the stored 1s and 0s until such as time as they need to be erased and rewritten with a high-voltage.

Researchers at Rice have made progress in developing a three-dimensional (3D) version of Tour's memory so that ultra-thin multi-layer transparent memories could be built up to store enough bits to be useful in future transparent electronic gadgets.

To build a compete see-through gadget, processor circuits can be built by ink-jet printing crystalline carbon films--called graphene--on transparent polymer substrates using technology developed at the University of Cambridge by professor Andrea Ferrari. These processors too could be stack in ultra-thin layers in 3D to enable enough transistors for a complete see-through processor.

The transparent batteries have been demonstrated in the Stanford University lab of professor Yi Cui. By using a novel grid-structure to fabricate thin-film battery electrodes using microfluidics, Cui has demonstrated see-through batteries in the lab with enough energy storage potential to power a transparent cell phone or similar mobile electronics gadget.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

#MEMS: "Akustica develops analog microphone"

Akustica is entering the mobile device market with its first analog microphone, a low-cost two-chip solution that it hopes will widen its market share. The Bosch subsidiary pioneered the single-chip digital MEMS microphone back in 2006, when its biggest competition was analog mics designed for hearing aids.

Akustica is the world leader in digital MEMS microphones with its elegant one-chip CMOS solution that has captured the lion's share of the microphone market for digital devices like laptop computers. However, the larger mobile phone market has been slow to adopt digital microphones, opting instead to stick with the ultra-inexpensive analog microphones produced by high-volume manufacturers like Knowles Acoustics (Itaska, Ill.). Now Akustica, backed by Bosch's high-volume manufacturing capabilities, hopes to carve out a bigger share of the billion-unit mobile phone market.
Further Reading

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Enterprise App Stores Widen Charter"

A recent survey of potential Enterprise App Store users reveals that business users expect an experience that not only mirrors the security and ease-of-use of consumer app stores, but also should be integrated with IT remote management of laptop and desktop computers.

Private enterprise app stores enable IT to offer secure, vetted access to approved programs, as well as remote management of bring-your-own devices. (Source: Partnerpedia)

Today most enterprise users have to visit the Apple App Store to download even the apps approved by their own company. However, according to a recent survey corporate users want private enterprise app stores that not only distribute malware-free apps, but which also distribute multi-media content and which integrate IT management functions for the all computing devices, from smartphones to tablets to laptops to desktop computers.

In fact, according to Gartner Inc., 60 percent of IT organizations plan to deploy their own Enterprise App Stores by 2014, a sentiment echoed by a recent Partnerpedia survey which found that 58 percent of its corporate IT respondents planned to open their own app stores within the next 12 months.

"Mobile devices and apps are the driver behind companies reformulating their enterprise mobility strategy," said Sam Liu, vice president of marketing at Partnerpedia, whose enterprise survey indicates that corporate thinking and planning should move beyond just mobile apps to support laptops, desktops, and their media files.

Apple itself has acknowledged this trend by opening an App Store for its laptop and desktop users, as well as integrating the kind of remote management and cloud-computing resources assessable from its smartphones and tablets into the latest version of it laptop and desktop operating system OS-X Mountain Lion (due out this summer).

Partnepedia's enterprise survey mirrors these sentiments finding that corporate users not only support the bring-your-own-device philosophy (77 percent), allowing corporate users to use their own favorite smartphone or tablet for company work, but also that those same corporate users favor IT managing all their devices including laptops (76 percent) and desktop computers (64 percent).
Nearly all respondents favored Enterprise App Store policies that vet apps for malware, whether they were written by enterprise IT or by third parties, and the overwhelming majority also favored iTunes-like multi-media content distribution for all types of content including documents like PDFs, eBooks, spreadsheets, and videos.

The survey also asked IT managers and software authors what formats they were planning on using to release their next-generation apps, revealing only a slight edge to native apps, with universal HTML5 apps being favored by nearly half the respondents.

Regarding Enterprise App Store services, over 86 percent of corporate respondents rated the need for self-service functions as high to very high and nearly all respondents expected IT managers to use the Enterprise App Store to control publishing, distribution and management of approved apps to end-user devices.

#SECURITY: "Cyber Security Prospects Improving"

A new report claims Internet security improvements in spam, plugging application vulnerabilities, and cross-site scripting, but the bad guys are adapting.

As the cyberwar against malicious online attacks continues, a few bright spots appeared in 2011, according to IBM's annual X-Force Trend and Risk Report. The good news is that email spam is down dramatically, known vulnerabilities are being patched, and cross-site scripting (XSS)--where attackers inject client-side scripts into Web pages--is on the wane. The bad news is that the attackers are adapting their tactics to exploit new vulnerabilities in mobile devices, social networks, and cloud computers.

This latest assessment was drawn from IBM's database of more than 50,000 computer security vulnerabilities gathered by global Web crawlers and spam collectors, which perform real-time monitoring of 13 billion events per day--more than 150,000 per second--for nearly 4,000 clients in more than 130 countries at nine global Security Operations Centers. Participating enterprises make use of IBM's Internet Threat Alerting System. The system is a web-based portal that assesses the current threat level, measured on a scale of one to five, plus allows drilling down to all aspects of an enterprise's current security status.

Command central for IBM's Internet Threat Alerting System which monitors security for enterprise customers. (Source: IBM)
"Enterprises depend on the Internet for their success today," said Tom Cross, X-Force Strategy and Threat Intelligence Manager. IBM's alerting system ensures "the availability, the reliability and the integrity of their entire online operation as well as the privacy of the data [enterprises are] entrusted with handling,"
The improvements in Internet security for 2011 included a 50 percent decline in email spam compared to 2010, mostly due to authorities taking down several large spam botnets. Also spam filtering showed improvement, yet spammers continued to change their techniques preventing a total elimination of the problem.

IT organizations also made more diligent efforts to patch known vulnerabilities, with 36 percent of software vulnerabilities remaining un-patched in 2011 compared to 43 percent in 2010. Unfortunately, some security vulnerabilities are never patched for technological reasons (such as code in read-only memories of inexpensive mobile devices which cannot be patched).
Higher quality new web-applications were also in evidence in 2011, with a 50 percent reduction in cross-site scripting vulnerabilities compared to four years ago, due to improvements in software quality. Unfortunately, 40 percent of new applications submitted to services like IBM's AppScan OnDemand still contained known vulnerabilities, which had to be found and fixed before release.

The improved security assessment was partly due to changes made by software developers that make it more difficult to exploit vulnerabilities with an associated 30 percent decline over the last four years in the availability of exploit code posted online by skilled hackers.

Unfortunately, attackers also began a regime of adapting their techniques. SQL injection attacks--where users type code into data fields in online forms--dropped by 46 percent in 2011. But automated shell command injection attacks--where software programmatically executes command lines--almost doubled at over the same period. There was also a sharp spike in automated password guessing, with automated scans uncovering many poorly formed passwords, especially on secure shell servers (SSHs).
Phishing attacks impersonating social networking sites and mail-parcel services were also on the rise in 2011 to levels that have not been seen since 2008. The phishing sites entice victims to click on links that then infect their computers with malware, many of these exploits were only performing advertising fraud by redirecting traffic to retail websites.

For the future, IT security staffs need to be especially diligent in the code they distribute under "bring your own device" policies, since mobile device exploits rose 19 percent in 2011. Social media has also been increasingly targeted by exploiting personal data as pre-attack intelligence. Cloud computing also presents new challenges to IT as data leaves an enterprise's control when it is uploaded to cloud providers. IBM recommends that service-level agreements (SLAs) be carefully crafted to exercise control over the ownership, access management, and termination of computer services over the entire lifecycle of a cloud deployments.

#MEMS: "Mobile MotionEngine empowers apps"

The Freespace MotionEngine has already empowered the smart TV revolution at LG, Roku and Sony by enabling remote controllers to point-and-click on-screen air-mouse style. Now Hillcrest Laboratories Inc. (Rockville, Md.) has repurposed the Freespace MotionEngine for mobile tablets and smartphones running the Android and Windows Phone operating systems.

The new Freespace MotionEngine for Mobile is on display this week at DESIGN West 2012 in San Jose, Calif., where Hillcrest CEO Chuck Gritton will describe in his presentation entitled "MEMS Integration: Building Immersive Apps & Reaping the Rewards."
Further Reading

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#CHIPS: "Multi-cores tackle human interface"

The diverse demands of realtime process control which must nevertheless offer a touch-enabled user-interface—from smart appliances to point-of-sale terminals to medical monitors—is best addressed by heterogeneous multi-core processors, according to Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which introduced its new Vybrid family of microcontrollers Monday (March 26) at DESIGN West 2012.

Further Reading

Monday, March 26, 2012

#MARKETS: "Online Video Spells Death for DVD"

A surge in viewership thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon video services will make 2012 the first year that more movies will be watched online than on DVD or Blu-ray disk.

Online movie viewing has been steadily growing, but a surge in 2012 will for the first time cause views to surpass DVD and Blu-ray disk combined. (Source: HIS)

For over 30 years, video tapes and disks made up the large majority of at-home views of movies. But in 2012 a surge on online viewing will for the first time surpass both DVD and Blu-ray disks. This trend in the U.S. is slated to presage a worldwide migration to watching movies online, in a manner similar to how more audio listens are now done from electronic media. However, like the CD which is still widely available for audiophiles, it will probably take over a decade for the DVD to become obsolete.

This marks the beginning of the end of the era when movies were viewed on physical media like DVD and Blu-ray. "This year will be the final nail to the coffin on the old idea that consumers won’t accept premium content distribution over the Internet," said Dan Cryan, senior principal analyst of broadband and digital media at information and analytics provider IHS.

If illegal online viewing is put into the equation, then online movie viewing has already passed DVDs, but 2012 will mark the first year that legal online viewing will surpass legal DVD and Blu-ray viewing.

In 2011 online views were just 1.4 billion compared to 2.6 billion for disks, but a 135 percent surge in online movie viewing will cause it to pass the 3.4 billion views in 2012, compared with just 2.4 billion views for DVDs and Blu-ray disks combined, according to a new report from IHS Screen Digest Broadband Media Market Insight.

IHS predicts a continued slow decline in DVD and Blu-ray movie viewing, while online movie viewing will continue to grow, albeit just 20 percent in 2013 before settling in to steady single digit growth out to 2016.

The reason for the surge of popularity in 2012, according to IHS, is the overwhelming popularity of flat-rate subscription services at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Plans can be had for as little as $79 per year.

Revenue wise, however, the DVD and Blu-ray will continue to bring in more overall profits than the online services, because the average cost of viewing an online movie is just 51 cents compared to $4.72 per view for DVDs and Blu-ray disks. This revenue discrepancy will continue for a while. Even in 2016, online viewing will only account for about 17 percent of the total revenue, compared to 75 percent for DVDs and Blu-ray (the remaining 8 percent going to cable- and satellite on-demand viewing) according to IHS.

#CHIPS: "Multi-cores tackle human interface"

The diverse demands of realtime process control which must nevertheless offer a touch-enabled user-interface—from smart appliances to point-of-sale terminals to medical monitors—is best addressed by heterogeneous multi-core processors, according to Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which introduced its new Vybrid family of microcontrollers Monday (March 26) at Design West 2012.

Further Reading

Friday, March 23, 2012

#QUANTUM: "Microcosm Mimics Observable Universe"

When cooled to ultra-cold temperatures, the quantum behaviors of microscopic systems, such as electrons encircling atoms, behave in a manner similar to macroscopic systems, such as planets encircling stars. Understandings derived from such experiments have implications in the study of crystalline semiconductors, superconducting wires, and next-generation magnetic materials.

Recent experiments reveal that the quantum behaviors of ultra-cold atoms may be able to simulate the evolution of the early universe, as well as the gravitational dynamics of black holes, fulfilling a prediction by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman who said that if scientists understand one quantum system well enough, they might be able to use it to simulate the operations of other systems that are too difficult to study directly.

The ultra-cold state that makes these similarities observable is called "quantum criticality," which is a state where atoms slow down to such as extent that the only properties they have left to exhibit are those they have in common with other phenomena. In this study, performed by scientists at the University of Chicago, atoms were slowed by temperatures below six nano-Kelvin--just six billionths of a degree above absolute zero (-459 degrees Fahrenheit) where atoms come to a complete stop. At temperatures this low, atoms behave in a manner strikingly similar to cosmological events that are nearly impossible to study.
According to professor Cheng Chin at the University of Chicago, such ultra-cold states produce conditions that will enable the study of the conditions that existed at the beginning of the universe--the Big Bang--as well as those that exist today inside the giant black holes at the center of most galaxies.

Together with doctoral candidate, Xibo Zhang, Chin has begun study of these exotic phase transition to quantum criticality. Others have obtained similar results under the influence of ultra-high pressures, magnetic fields, and other conditions, however the ease with which Zhang and Chin's experiments are conducted gives them a better chance to make their results applicable not only to cosmology, but to crystalline semiconductors, superconducting wires and next-generation magnetic materials.
Instead of refrigerators, the experimenters are using twin laser beams to cool a trap containing 20,000 cesium atoms inside a vacuum chamber, transforming them into what is called a superfluid with extremely high thermal conductivity, and almost zero viscosity. With their current experimental set-up, the researchers can hold the atoms in this state for up to seven seconds--eons compared to other experimental methods with exotic matter.

A charge-coupled device (CCD) is used to image the atoms in this state, essentially recording the shadows cast by the atoms after the intense laser beams pass through the vacuum chamber. By studying these images, the scientists hope to unlock the secrets of other quantum phenomena that are nearly impossible to observe, but which have been predicted by Nobel laureate Richard Fey to obey the same laws of physics.

#WIRELESS: "Tablets, Smartphones Obsolete PowerPoint"

PowerPoint slides printed out or projected during meetings used to be standard faire, but business intelligence (BI) prepared on the web and presented under control of tablets and smartphones could soon obsolete tradition.

Environmentally conscious green-seeking ultra-chic business executives have already ditched their laptops for tablets, but still have to print-out their presentations for meetings (or lug their laptop to the conference room in order to project their PowerPoint slides). Business intelligence (BI) apps, however, could soon obsolete printed and projected slides by allowing presentations to be projected wirelessly under control of a tablet or smartphone.
Further Reading

Thursday, March 22, 2012

#MARKETS: "Sharing Patents Encourages Innovation"

Instead of preventing competitors from infringing on their patents with costly litigation, business researchers now say that patent holders can often profit even more by free-licensing their patents to competitors

Apple has enforced cease-and-desist judgements against Samsung's Galaxy Tab for its obvious attempt to mimic the iPad, but business researchers claim that sometimes free-licensing patents can increase profit for patent holders.

Litigation attorneys may disagree, but economists now maintain that free-licensing patents to competitors can sometimes fatten the bottom line of patent holders. Consumers almost always benefit when competitors independently extend important innovations, and since the overall market expands, the original patent holders can often benefit too.
All too often technology innovators either spend big bucks to protect their patent portfolios from infringement by competitors, or they ask for big royalty payments in return for licensing them. But according to a new study by a University at Buffalo economist, the practice of free-licensing important patents can sometimes profit patent holders even more. (The study will be published this summer in Economics Letters.)

Free-licensing is an "evolutionary step" in patent practices, according to visiting professor of economics at the University at Buffalo, Gilad Sorek, who claims that "too-tight" patent protection policies at enterprises can hinder technological progress, restrict consumer benefits, and ultimately reduce overall profits.

Free-licensing is the practice of allowing all comers to use patented innovations in order to increase the pool of users and thus stimulate the number of competitors who independently expend their creative talents developing its ideas. If patents are closely held, then only a single enterprise can develop them, resulting in one-dimensional creativity that can only result in limited value to consumers. When an enterprise licenses its patents to a single collaborator, then two-dimensional development efforts can result, but often both enterprises will either succeed or fail together. However, by free-licensing patents to all comers, an expanding three-dimensional matrix of innovation results that can spread to areas that were unforeseen by the original patent holder. This can expand the overall market and benefit the consumer, developers, and the original patent holders. The result is an expanding horizon of success that gave rise to the aphorism: "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Sorek's study admits that the original patent holder may lose market share as a result, but their selfless efforts create not only technological value, but also inflate the esteem felt by consumers for the original patent holders brand.
The most famous example of this phenomenon, perhaps, is when Adobe put the Portable Document Format (PDF) into the public domain, and as a result created a lasting contribution to all computer users everywhere.

A more recent example is when IBM, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DuPont and Pfizer donated a massive database from their group's vast patent portfolio to the National Institutes of Health to facilitate drug discovery and other medical innovations. The vast database containing more than 2.4 million chemical compounds extracted from about 4.7 million patents and 11 million biomedical journal abstracts from 1976 to 2000. Its use will facilitate immeasurable benefits to mankind in the area of drug discovery, especially in support of advanced cancer research.

The massive database was extracted using the IBM's strategic IP insight platform (SIIP) and leveraged analytics delivered by IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#MATERIALS: "Materials science pioneer honored"

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientist responsible for major paradigm shifts that have repeatedly redefined modern materials science, American scientist John Werner Cahn, recently received the Kyoto Prize in advanced technologies in San Diego.

Born in Cologne, Germany, Cahn immigrated to the U.S., where he made his first paradigm-shifting discovery at General Electric's research lab (Schenectady, N.Y.), solving a long-standing problem in metallurgy with John Hilliard. The resulting Cahn-Hilliard Equation enabled designers to specify the properties required of a metal, then calculate the methods needed to create it. Before this paradigm shift metallurgical breakthroughs required long trial-and-error methodologies to achieve results.
Further Reading

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#MARKETS: "Success Depends on Phrasing"

Much ado has been made by marketing experts on how to describe a product or service qualitatively, but researchers now claim that using the correct quantitative descriptions, six-of-one or half-dozen-of-the-other, can make the difference between success and failure.

Marketing professionals have spent long arduous research sessions trying to discover the best way to present products and services to consumers, for instance claiming higher unit sales for a $4.99 price tags over $5. Other studies have claimed that "7s" often beat "9s" as in 77¢ over 99¢ where the 22¢ deficit is made up by more than 30 percent high unit sales. But the difference between six-of-one and half-dozen-of-the-other had yet to be explored by business marketing experts, until now.

According to market researchers at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina there really is a difference between six-of-one and half-dozen-of-the-other, but only sophisticated analytics that incorporate hitherto unplumbed distinctions can inform companies as to which is the best way to quote the price of a product or service.

The most important unplumbed distinction, according to University of South Carolina business professor Ashwani Monga, involves time. The difference, for instance, between two weeks and 14 days--the first of which emphasizes larger units, whereas the second maximizes the numerical value by using smaller units--can spell the difference between success and failure of a marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to which aspect to emphasize--bigger units or bigger numerical values--since the answer, according to a study performed by Monga and Rajesh Bagchi, a marketing professor at Virginia Tech, depends on whether a consumer is thinking in abstract or concrete terms.

For instance, a two-for-one offer for a beach rental property could offer "two weeks for the price of one" or "14 days for the price of seven." What Monga and Bagchi found was that consumers making last minute plans were thinking concretely thus valued the bigger numerical values--14 days for the price of seven. On the other hand, consumers planning ahead in the spring for a trip in the summer valued more highly the bigger units, preferring the "two weeks for the price of one."

The difference between consumers thinking concretely or abstractly, and thus preferring bigger numbers or bigger units respectively, translates to all aspects of pricing strategies. In particular, the study verified the same consumer preferences for delays in product deliveries, maturity of financial products, the weights of nutrients, the length of tables, and the height of buildings. In every case, the mindsets of consumers mattered, with the concrete thinkers preferring bigger numbers and abstract thinkers going for larger unit sizes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "Smart Cities Win Awards"

IBM added 33 more cities to the roster of recipients of its Smart Cities Challenge Grants.

Dashboard used by Edmonton, Alberta, a recipient of IBM's Smarter City Challenge Grant last year, to analyze traffic data more rigorously for improved road safety.

The 2012 Smarter Cities Challenge Grant recipients have been announced by IBM in its three-year 100-city program started in 2011. The $50 million Smarter Cities Challenge is IBM's single largest philanthropic initiative ever. Recipients receive in-person, in-depth engagements by a team of IBM experts who study each city's idiosyncratic needs, then make recommendations as to how to improve city services and efficiency by working smarter.

In an intense competition among the cities of the world to win an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant, each city proposed areas of focus for their particular needs. Projects of economic and workforce development were proposed to attract jobs and industries to particular cities. Many cities had concerns over growth of transportation that integrated automobile, bus, railway, bicycle, and pedestrian modes. Pollution from transportation was also a concern for many cities, where sustainable growth was dependent on lowering the vehicle miles traveled per day per capita. Health concerns were the focus of other cities, where air quality improvements were needed to reduce the incidence of respiratory ailments. Education was the primary focus of some cities where analytic tools were desired to determine how best to spend limited funds to improve school systems. Finally, urban planning was a concern for many cities, both to smartly allocate resources in newly developed areas, as well as determining how best to revitalize and redevelop aging neighborhoods.

Dashboard used by Edmonton, Alberta, a recipient of IBM's Smarter City Challenge Grant last year, to analyze traffic data more rigorously for improved road safety.

IBM grant recipients were chosen for a variety of reasons, but one common theme was an expressed willingness to use social media and other modern means of exchanging ideas between citizens and city-officials, agencies, businesses, and non-profits. Each city will begin its year-long assistance program by participating in IBM's free City Forward program where any city can sign-up to explore trends and solutions to the outstanding urban issues of cities worldwide.

Of the 24 Smarter Cities Challenge grant recipients in 2011, and the seven pilot cities of 2010, many have already made sweeping public policy changes including the launching of new initiatives as a result of recommendations made by IBM's teams of experts. For instance, Edmonton, Canada has begun using more rigorous analytics to improve road safety from real-time traffic data. Glasgow, Scotland, has begun subsidizing the heating bills of qualifying seniors using proceeds from clean-energy projects. And Chicago, Illinois is opening five technology schools, in cooperation with local corporations, to bridge high school and community college with marketable business skills.

The cities awarded Smarter Cities Challenge grants in 2012 include: Accra, Ghana; Ahmedabad, India; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, UK; Boston, Massachusetts; Cheongju, Korea; Chonburi, Thailand; Curitiba, Brazil; Da Nang, Vietnam; Dortmund, Germany; Durham, North Carolina; Eindhoven, Netherlands; Geraldton, Australia; Houston, Texas; Ishinomaki, Japan; Jacksonville, Florida; Jurong Lake District, Singapore; Louisville, Kentucky; Malaga, Spain; Medellin, Colombia; New Taipei City, Taiwan; Nanjing, China; Nairobi, Kenya; Omaha, Nebraska; Ottawa, Canada; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Pune, India; Rabat, Morocco; Rosario, Argentina; Siracusa, Italy; Surrey, British Columbia, Canada; Tshwane, South Africa and Toluca, Mexico

Friday, March 16, 2012

#MEDICAL: "Nintendo Wii Diagnoses Eye Malady"

The inexpensive Nintendo Wii game console can be repurposed to detect eye maladies by making use of its infrared camera and micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) motion sensors.

Dual Nintendo Wii remote controllers can be head mounted to track motion with their integral MEMS accelerometers, infrared sensors, and a snap-on gyroscope (right) for detection of rotation.

Consumer-grade infrared cameras in the Nintendo Wii game controller have enabled motion analytics capable of identifying an important eye disorder. A proof-of-concept demonstration showed that affordable medical-grade systems can be built from consumer-grade infrared sensors and opens the door to ultra-precise instruments that harness the Wii's inexpensive micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) accelerometers and gyroscopes.

Today medical diagnostics is often dependent on the precise measurement of body posture, to determine if abnormalities fall into a known pattern. If the diagnosis is accurate enough, known conditions and therapies can be quickly invoked to help patients who otherwise might have to wait until symptoms become so acute that no cure is possible.

Unfortunately, precision diagnostic instrumentation is often expensive and cumbersome, opening an opportunity for MEMS sensors to downsize traditional posture measuring instruments using inexpensive components.

Medical researchers at Seoul National University (Korea) recently demonstrated that the consumer-grade infrared camera in the Nintendo Wii controller could be harnessed to create a medical instrument that could diagnose ocular torticollis--an abnormal twist of turn of the neck that patients with ocular defects adopt in order to adopt to maintain binocular vision.

"Accurate measurement of the angle of the abnormal head position is crucial for evaluating disease progression and determining treatment," said medical professor Jeong-Min Hwang at Seoul National University's College of Medicine.

Two Wii remotes were used to jury-rig a three-dimensional (3D) motion sensor the researchers called an infrared optical head tracker (IOHT). A four light-emitting-diode array was used as an invisible infrared beacon that the Wii infrared camera could use to evaluate the distance and orientation of the patient's head.

"We believe IOHT has the potential to be widely used as a head posture measuring device in clinical practice," said Hwang.
Software analytics performed feature detection and pattern recognition on the Bluetooth data streams from the infrared camera to measure and record the angle of the head in real-time. The results were found to comparable those obtained from an expensive laboratory-grade Cervical Range of Motion (CROM) instrument. Sensor readings from the MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes could be used to further enhance accuracy and real-time tracking capabilities.

For the future, the team hopes to develop a working prototype of an instrument that could rival the clinical utility of a CROM. More extensive analytics could also enable even more precise readings obtained from the MEMS accelerometer and gyroscopes in the Wii remote.

#ROBOTICS: "Robo-Glove Could Reduce Assembly Worker Fatigue"

The human hand is a marvel of biology, but works even better when its strength is multiplied by a new robotic glove developed by the NASA in cooperation with GM.

The new Human Grasp Assist device, or Robo-Glove (bottom) multiplies the strength of a human’s grasp and is derived from technology developed for Robonaut (top). (Credit: NASA)

Last year Robonaut became the first humanoid robot in space and now, less than a year later, the developers are finding uses for its advanced technologies here on Earth, the first of which is the Human Grasp Assist device--affectionately called the Robo-Glove--which multiplies the strength of its human wearer.

NASA developed the Robonaut to lend a helping hand to astronauts by taking over tedious and dangerous tasks on the International Space Station (ISS). General Motors (GM) was brought into the project, along with Oceaneering Space Systems, to help find ways to capitalize on Robonaut with ground-based technologies based on its achievements. Since Robonaut, currently in its second generation, was designed to use human tools, the task of finding ground-based uses was simplified. Robo-Glove is the first ground-based application of a Robonaut technology which GM hopes will aid human automobile assembly workers to perform their jobs more easily, as well as reduce the risk of repetitive-stress injuries.

Robonaut's hands were designed with a supersensitive skin manufactured by Oceaneering Space Systems using a quantum tunneling composite (QTC) invented at Peratech Ltd. QTC changes its resistance in response to pressure. By using it to fabricate the fingers of Robo-Glove, an accurate control signal can be sent to the synthetic tendons in the glove, to multiply the pressure applied by the fingers. As a result, the fatigue that typically afflicts a human worker after only a few minutes of tight gripping is mitigated. In practice, as little as five pound pressure by a human is multiplied to as much as 20 pounds pressure when wearing Robo-Glove.

The team has been perfecting the Robo-Glove design since it was first prototyped last year. The current second generation prototype weighs about two pounds including the control electronics, tendon actuators, and a small display for programming and diagnostics. An off-the-shelf lithium-ion battery pack, repurposed from a power tool, is currently attached to a belt-clip to power Robo-Glove. However, the third generation prototype, due out later this year, will repackage the components into a smaller, lighter, self-contained system.

NASA and GM have 46 patents pending for Robonaut, including 21 for its hand and four for the Robo-Glove alone.
The Robo-Glove is just the first many spinoffs to be derived from Robonaut for ground-based applications. The team is likewise developing a complete robotic arm to be used on NASA's upcoming multi-mission Space Exploration Vehicle. Much of this technology could be used on the ground for automobile assembly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#WIRELESS: "3M and Polaris Spearhead eLibrary-of-Future"

Integrating eBooks with physical books listed in the traditional card catalog allows libraries to catapult into the 21st century rather than be left in the digital dust.

3M's Cloud Library eLending system allows readers to continue to patronize their local libraries while checking out digital books with their normal library card.

Libraries have been struggling to remain relevant in the eBook digital era where cheap online downloads have challenged local brick-and-mortar book repositories. Some libraries have already begun lending eBooks by integrating online offerings in Amazon or Adobe formats. But these attempts required users to have credit-cards and to maintain multiple user-names and passwords.
3M has introduced a different approach. The 3M Cloud Library claims to be the first system that allows patrons to use their normal library card to check out both physical and eBooks from a common card catalog.

3M Library Systems integrates digital media, circulation management, and security. It will be available this year to the nearly 2,000 libraries across the United States and Canada which are managed by Polaris Library Systems. The 3M Cloud Library service will roll out from 10 beta sites already in use, with 30 additional library systems to be added next month and the rest over 2012. The growing 3M Cloud Library currently has more than 40 publishers participating with over 100,000 titles already available.

The 3M Cloud Library eLending system announced its integration with the Polaris Integrated Library System (ILS) at the Public Library Association Conference (PLA 2012, March 13, Philadelphia, Penn.) claiming that it is the first patron-friendly system to combine physical and digital books into a single electronic card catalog.

Participating libraries will allow users to browse the common card catalog from their digital device at home, or at the library using 3M's kiosk-style touch-screen-enabled DiscoveryTerminal. Likewise, patrons can download eBooks into their own eBook or PC, or can check-out a free 3M E-Reader that instantly synchs with their personal library without the need for a credit-card. Books can be browsed using the library's own public-access catalog (PAC) or a special 3M Cloud Library app for their reader (the app is available for Android, iOS, or PC devices). Full access to normal PAC services is maintained, such as the ability to place holds on physical books as well as instantly check-out digital titles.

The 3M Cloud Library serves as the digital content distributor, supports library eBook license ownership after the transaction, and requires no multi-year service contract to get the service up and running on a local library. Libraries can also opt-out of the 3M Cloud Library and move to a new platform provider taking all their eBook licenses with them to the new provider's system.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#ROBOTICS: "Shipboard Humanoid Robot to Aid Navy"

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are developing a seaworthy humanoid robot that can fight fires on ships, navigate autonomously, and help humans by interpreting their gestures, language, and reasoning.

SAFFiR is a humanoid model designed for shipboard firefighting. (Source: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps plan to conceive, train, and deploy autonomous humanoid robots as shipboard firefighters. And, if the program is successful, they envision other assistance roles for the robots within the Navy and Marine Corps.

Called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot, SAFFiR was conceived by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to be a humanoid robot that operated with autonomous navigation capabilities in the confines of spaces that were originally designed for humans. The first prototypes will be tested in 2013, when the Navy aims to demonstrate autonomous mobility throughout a ship, interaction with human supervisors, and the ability to take over dangerous firefighting tasks from humans.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the Navy's central laboratory, will be working on the SAFFiR humanoid robot project with its Technology Center for Safety & Survivability (TCSS). This group specializes in combustion, fires, damage control, and atmosphere hazards. TCSS also has the world's only fire test ship where advanced damage control concepts can be realistically evaluated.

Also working on SAFFiR is the Navy's Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence. NCARAI researches AI, human factors, and human-centered computing applications of artificial intelligence. NCARAI will develop the algorithms that allow the SAFFiR firefighting robot to work naturally with human firefighters by using high-level reasoning. SAFFiR will also involve the Navy's Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research where sensor-, power-, energy- and, human-system interaction, networking, and communications can be simulated in littoral, desert, or tropical environments. NLASR will also assist with instrumented reconfigurable high-bay spaces that facilitates the integration of components into research prototypes.

SAFFiR will employ multiple sensors including a video camera, gas sensor, and stereo infrared cameras that can see through smoke. It will be designed to deploy standard fire suppressors including propelled extinguishing agent technology (PEAT). With a 30 minute firefighting battery life, navigation algorithms will allow SAFFiR to walk in any direction, balance during rolling seas, and traverse ad hoc obstacles.

SAFFiR's will also be able to deduce the focus of attention of its human supervisors, enabling it to makes decisions as a team member. The robot will also respond to gestures, such as pointing and other hand signals. It will also be able to understand natural language commands from supervisors.

Virginia Tech will work with the Navy, contributing the technology developed from its existing Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence. CHARLI was designed for domestic chores and elder care, but will serve as a starting point for SAFFiR. The University of Pennsylvania is also working with NRL on the project.

Monday, March 12, 2012

#ROBOTICS: "Robots Construct Reconfigurable Buildings"

Smart materials will allow robotic construction workers to assemble, repair, and even tear-down buildings to reuse their components in new structures.

Construction robot assembling a T-joint (translucent at left).

Unlike the one-way construction methods used today that make it hard to repair and impossible to reuse most building materials, smarter structures could one day be assembled by robots from reusable components.

Cornell's Creative Machines Lab is "exploring a smarter way to allow the assembly, disassembly and reconfiguration of structures," said lab director Hod Lipson, a professor of both mechanical and aerospace engineering, as well as computing and information science at Cornell University. "Right now, [humans] are very bad at recycling construction materials."

Lipson's Creative Machine's Lab envisions transforming the construction industry with robots that deliver smart construction materials to a site, then assemble them into structures which can be efficiently reconfigured when necessary.

When repairs need to be made, the robots remove damaged structure components and return them to the manufacturer for refurbishing, then reassemble the refurbished components in place. When changes need to be made, or a structure's size or configuration needs to be changed, the robots bring in new smart materials and dovetail them to the existing structure. Finally, instead of tearing down an outdated structure, the robots could disconnect each component piece-by-piece and return them to the warehouse.

If Lipson's dream is realized, then modern construction sites will become seething masses of autonomous construction robots which work together by virtue of electronic tags on the smart materials that only allow them to be put together in the desired configuration. Likewise, sensors detecting damage inside already built structures will automatically inform repair-robots as to the location and type of repair needed, with the robots handling the job autonomously without human supervision.

To prove the concept, Lipson's Creative Machine's Lab has produced prototype construction robots, and scale-models of their smart building materials, then demonstrated how they can autonomously assemble and disassemble structures. Key to the success of the demonstration was a smart truss component that allows the geared robot to engage grooves that rotate and secure interlocking joints, thus permitting the robots to autonomously assemble complete structures.

All the details of the smart materials and construction robot's assembly and disassembly methods will be revealed in the IEEE's Robotics and Automation magazine. Besides Lipson, co-authors include former visiting scientist Franz Nigl, former visiting doctoral candidate Shuguang Li, and Cornell student Jeremy Blum. Also contributing to the project was professor Daniela Rus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), professor Mark Yim at the University of Pennsylvania, and professor Eric Klavins at the University of Washington.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program.

#MARKETS: "Top 10 Innovations of 2012"

The top 10 innovations for 2012 were drawn from a pool of hundreds across the entire spectrum of emerging technologies.

Technology innovations are coming fast and furious across all sectors, making it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff even for the experienced investor. Professional help from research organizations often adds even more data points, but the list below tries to cut through the veils by picking the top 10 innovators for 2012.

Based on research profiles of 262 companies across 12 different emerging technology sectors performed by Lux Research at the end of 2011, the following 10 companies stood out as the most innovative:

eIQ Energy has created its vBoost technology to reduce the installation, maintenance, and operating costs of solar panels by allowing arrays to be easily wired in parallel like other appliances, rather than requiring the complex serial-interconnection schemes used today.

Topell Energy converts wood waste products into bio-coal pellets in a process called torrefaction, and is positioned to profit from European Union incentive programs.

Kurion Inc. proved that its water decontamination process really works by assisting the Japanese Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to clean up their spill, generating short-term windfall profits and positive long-term prospects.

Diamon-Fusion International makes ultra-hard, finger-print proof, and water-repellent protective coatings for glass and other silica-based surfaces, from shower stalls to solar panels.

Spirae Inc. assists renewable energy generators in the management of their fluctuating outputs when connecting to the grid, often making the difference between profitability and failure.

Pervasive Displays offers ultra-inexpensive electrophoretic ePaper displays that are inexpensive and easy to read in direct sunlight. Perfected for the One Laptop per Child program, Pervasive Displays claims to now be ready for prime time in a variety of applications, such as warehouse signage and electronic shelf labels.

Citic Guoan MGL is a state-owned lithium-ion battery innovator in China that is already serving the hybrid-electric bus market there with its sights on partnering with foreign companies to serve electric vehicles worldwide.

Hycrete Inc. has created a water-proof concrete that lowers the cost of current membrane-based waterproofing, promising to improve the durability and longevity of smart sustainable building materials.

Ablynx produces what it calls nanobodies, which are therapeutic proteins that can deliver drugs to target sites, attracting a stellar list of partners including Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck Serono, Norvartis, and Pfizer.

Proterro Inc. has created a photosynthetic organism that produces sugars for biofuel production at the "holy grail" price point of five cents per pound.

Friday, March 09, 2012

#CHIPS: "Intel Courts Green Datacenters"

Intel’s first server processor designed exclusively for the "green" datacenters of the future features eight cores per chip, a supercomputer-on-a-chip architecture, and novel new turbo- and energy efficiency-modes.

With Facebook, Google, Apple, and IBM all touting their efforts to lower power consumption in the datacenter, Intel made special efforts to optimize its latest server processor, the Xeon E5, claiming a 70 percent boost in performance for the same power consumption. That translates to a 40 percent datacenter space reduction for the same number of connected users.

Intel's new Xeon E5 incorporates a number of innovations, which together achieve higher performance at the same energy consumption, but with a much smaller footprint in processors-per-rack in the datacenter. Citing forecasts of 15 billion connected devices for over three billion users by 2015, Intel's Xeon E5 was specifically designed to match the 33 percent growth rate for IP traffic and three-times boost in throughput to 4.8 zetabytes (trillion gigabytes or 4-Gbytes per person per day).

Intel's newest Xeon E5-2680 processor offers a 70 percent improvement in performance for the same power consumption.
To meet this demand for at least a three times increase in the number of datacenter servers over the next three years, Intel's Xeon E5 incorporates a raft of innovations including integrated Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe 3.0) for three-times more input-output (I/O) throughput, plus datacenter software support that allows 23 energy-efficiency parameters to be adjusted with its Node- and DataCenter-Manager.

Intel's innovations are not confined to energy efficiency, however, but also include a revamped "turbo" mode that trades off increased power consumption for higher performance. Under the control of the Node- and DataCenter-Manager software suites, one of the Xeon E5 eight cores can be switched into turbo mode where a boosted voltage and clock-rate increases performance for time-critical algorithms. To keep energy consumption in check, the increased energy consumption of the turbo core is compensated for by lowering the voltage and clock rate of the other seven cores on the E5.

The Xeon E5 also features enhanced vector processing for analytics and other compute-intensive tasks as well as improved hyper-threading and virtualization capabilities for dynamic infrastructure tuning, as well as LAN-on-motherboard technology for integrated support for 10Gbit Ethernet.

Security got a boost too by the Xeon E5's Advanced Encryption Standard New Instruction that speeds encryption and decryption tasks for both transactions and applications using Intel's Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) which automatically validates users accessing datacenter resources.

Server manufacturers already committed to releasing systems using the Xeon E5 include Acer, Appro, Asus, Bull, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, Inspur, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle, Quanta, SGI, Sugon, Supermicro and Unisys.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

#MEDICAL: "Personal DNA Testing Made Easy"

University of Illinois chemists coupled functional DNA sensors and glucose meters for fast, easy, portable detection of drugs, toxins, disease markers and other molecules in blood, water or food.

Today DNA tests are performed in the laboratory to detect all sorts of toxins, diseases, drugs and other substances-of-interest. However, chemists now want to allow unskilled personnel to perform those tests at home, potentially enabling anybody to identify which flu-virus, bacterial infection or drug is in their bloodstream.

Personal glucose meters are routinely used by millions of diabetics today who take a small sample of blood from which the meter counts the number of glucose molecules. University of Illinois chemists maintain that by adding a testing liquid that is known to bind to the pathogen DNA, the glucose meter can be persuaded to count the number of pathogen molecules present in the blood, serum, water, or food sample.

As a home DNA detector, the ubiquitous glucose meter could become a general purpose detector that not only determines which type of virus or bacteria is in your bodily fluids or foods, but also quantifies the seriousness of the infection by revealing how much is present.

The device is the brainchild of chemistry professor Yi Lu, and postdoctoral researcher Yu Xiang, both at the University of Ill. The group proposes creating a whole array of low-cost test kits for use by the public for the early diagnosis of diseases, infections, and contaminants in foods. The technique could be especially useful in remote areas without local laboratory facilities, and will also be much less expensive than standard lab tests.

The system works by placing a sample of blood, serum, water, or food into a sugar-water solution of sucrose combined with the binding substance for a specific test--say for flu virus or food bacteria. If the virus or bacteria is present in the sample, then it will bind causing the sucrose to be converted into glucose.

The binding substance is itself a fragment of DNA that matches the virus or bacteria being detected, but with the addition of an enzyme (called invertase) which converts the sucrose in the solution into glucose. Because the amount of glucose converted is in exact proportion to the level of contamination, the glucose meter becomes a quantitative DNA detector capable of measuring the seriousness of an infection.

To prove the concept, the researchers detected the hepatitis virus is the blood of known carriers, giving almost instant measurements that were as accurate as laboratory tests that take a day more to perform at a much higher cost.
Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

#MEMS: "Motion Control Vaults Augmented Reality"

Augmented reality (AR) dazzled consumers at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC 2012, Feb. 27-Mar.1, Barcelona) where splashy "x-ray-glasses" revealed hidden content. However, new behind-the-scenes motion-processing developments promised that there is much more to come.

Motion processing abounded at the Mobile World Congress (MWC 2012, Feb. 27-Mar.1, Barcelona), with novel new apps reaching beyond augmented reality (AR) to harness the untapped potential of today's smartphone's and tablet's micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).

AR uses MEMS-provided location and orientation data to overlay tactical information atop camera views of the real world. The technology can be used to display user-posted reviews outside restaurants, to 3D games that pop-up from 2D boards, to revealing hidden content in newspapers and magazines. For instance, Qualcomm's software development kit (SDK) dubbed Vuforia at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012, Jan. 10-13, Las Vegas, Nev.), was responsible for numerous AR demos at the recent MWC. Even Google chairman Eric Schmidt touted AR in his keynote, although he did not reveal any more details about Google's X Glasses which are rumored to provide a heads-up AR display inside a pair of spectacles.

Novel AR demo developed with Qualcomm's Augmented Reality SDK by independent gaming developer Sahar Fikouhi reveals 3D objects hovering above an iPad's screen when scanning it with an iPhone's camera.

Developers, however, are already moving beyond AR with newer SDKs aimed at pioneering new markets for MEMS-enabled motion-processing algorithms.

For instance, motion processing IP developer, Movea SA showed the industry's first motion processing IP cores designed exclusively for mobile devices at the MWC. Movea's MotionCore family consists of SmartMotion algorithms married to microchip accelerators that fuse the sensor data from the MEMS sensors in smartphones and tablets (namely, accelerometers to sense tilt, gyroscopes to sense rotation, magnetometers to sense location, and altimeters to sense height).

Movea's SmartMotion algorithms already enable those smart TV remote controls that allow point-and-click Internet surfing, but its MotionCore IP will enable a new breed of motion-processing-unit similar to graphics-processing-units, potentially pioneering a whole new category of co-processor dedicated to motion algorithms for AR, activity monitoring, and gesture-based controllers.

Likewise, the world's foremost MEMS chip maker, STMicroelectronics, announced its own sensor-fusion suite at MWC--called SiRFusion--which it demoed in its booth running on a mobile device by Cambridge Silicon Radio. Using SiRFusion, CSR's inertial navigation unit was able to track the position and orientation of users inside buildings, for location-based services that work indoors. ST and CSR are currently hawking their motion-processing technologies to smartphone and tablet vendors for applications like museum auto-tours which use AR to explain exhibits.

Freescale Semiconductor was also showcasing how its i.MX processors and Xtrinsic MEMS sensors work with its free eCompass sensor-fusion software. At MWC Freescale demonstrated AR applications including a Virtual Nurse (who coached patients on drug dosage when aimed at their pill bottles), a Virtual Teardown (that revealed the innards of an i.MX-based tablet) and a Virtual Interactive Showroom (which displayed hidden product information).

#ALGORITHMS: "Mobile Apps Driving Global Services"

As mobile apps proliferate wildly, savvy enterprises are crafting strategies for satisfying their customers' needs to stay connected and conduct business using smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices.

Mobile apps are quickly becoming the primary manner by which consumers interact with the Internet. In fact, there will be more mobile devices than people on Earth by the end of 2012, according to a recent Cisco report entitled Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

As a result, enterprises worldwide are quickly gearing-up to offer their workforce and customers access to all their products and services from the convenience of their mobile devices. In fact, enterprise mobility services has almost overnight become one of the fastest growing IT market segments, growing to nearly a $17 billion market by 2015, according to the recent Forester Research report.

Nestle's used Capgemini's professional technology services company, Sogeti, to create a free app that keeps its customers abreast of its news, announcements, presentations, and events.

While many enterprises are hiring mobile IT staff to roll-their-own apps and analytics, an increasing number of CIOs are choosing to outsource their entire mobility solution efforts to professional organizations specializing in providing not only the apps, but also the infrastructure and cloud computing resources necessary to mobilize their user base. For instance, Capgemini and its professional technology arm Sogeti have just announced a new Mobile Solutions Global Service Line.

"We are creating an across-the-board service line which consolidates all our worldwide efforts, pooling our global know-how to support each vertical market with either on-premises or with cloud-based resources," said Fernando Alvarez, Mobile Solutions Global Service Line Leader, Capgemini.

Capgemini is already a $12 billion consulting, outsourcing, and technology services supplier, with high-caliber mobility customers like Nestles and Coca Cola, but the newest incarnation of its Enterprise Mobility Orchestrator platform aims to bring mobility-as-a-service to medium and small enterprises too, offering both app development and the cloud-based delivery mechanisms to support them.

"We typically host the apps we develop for our customers on our cloud-based service centers, while they test the waters," said Alvarez. "Then when they decide they like our app, we offer to bring delivery mechanisms on-premises or to continue hosting them on our cloud computers for a monthly fee."

Focusing on centralizing support for mobility apps that untethers the enterprise workforce and its customers, Capgemini will also maintain country-by-country "Centers of Excellence" that focus on the idiosyncratic needs of each region.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

#CHIPS: "Intel rolls first processor optimized for datacenters"

Intel Corp. says it has designed its first processor built from the ground up for the "green" datacenters of the future, claiming a 70 percent increase in performance for the same energy consumption.

The new E5-2600 also features a high-speed bi-directional ring encircling its up to eight cores per socket connecting up to 20 Mbytes of cache, quad DDR3 memory controllers and 40-lanes of PCI-Express 3 for input/output (I/O).
Further Reading:

#MARKETS: "China Plans Increased R&D Spending"

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently delineated a five-year plan targeting research and development (R&D) budget levels that rival developed nations, boosting its investment in innovation while sustaining its lead in low-cost manufacturing.

The Chinese government aims to move its technology prowess beyond low-cost manufacturing toward innovative R&D, especially in emerging sectors, by partnering with foreigners. This could present unprecedented opportunities for U.S., European, and Asian enterprises.

Last year the Chinese government widely missed its R&D target to rival developed nations with an R&D budget at least three percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), but the latest Chinese Five-Year Plan aims to remedy that shortfall by targeting emerging technologies with a new strategy that seeks to leverage foreign partnerships to spawn Chinese innovation.

China's new five-year plan targets 22 urban development areas where it hopes to promote increased R&D spending.
"The R&D expenditure goal of three percent of the GDP was set up by the Chinese government as a target," said Richard Jun Li, China research director at Lux Research. "But in 2010, the R&D expenditure in China was around $110 billion, which accounted for only 1.76 percent of the Chinese GDP of $6.218 trillion."

According to the biennial report Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 produced by the National Science Board of the US National Science Foundation, the U.S. still leads the world with R&D spending at about 31 percent of the global $1.25 trillion budget, or about $388 billion, rivaling the combined R&D spending of China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

China's newest effort to boost its R&D spending to U.S. levels, however, ditches its long-held domestic-market protectionism in favor of partnering opportunities with U.S., European, and other Asian enterprises that increase Chinese innovation prospects. In particular, China's latest five-year plan targets emerging technologies as the focus of its partnering opportunities for foreign enterprises, earmarking a 159 percent increase in R&D for eight emerging technologies sectors, or $18 billion.

"[Chinese] government research funding is being planned by the central government in a few emerging technology domains, namely Biotechnology, Advanced Agriculture, New Materials, New Energy, Environmental Technology, Smart Grid, Electric Vehicles, and Traditional Chinese Medicine," said Li.

In its report entitled Profiting from Predictable Policy: Interpreting China's 12th Five Year Plan for Emerging Technology, Lux Research details the new opportunities afforded China's new emphasis on partnering.

The official five-year plan details that 48 percent of its $18 billion boost will go to environmental technologies, 32 percent for new energy projects, and 12 percent for smart grid development. However, Lux Research has identified 34 subcategories that present unprecedented business opportunities for foreign partnerships.

Monday, March 05, 2012

#ALGORITHMS: "IBM Heralds 2001st Smart City in China"

No one is counting, but China's quick-growing Zhenjiang could be the 2001st smart city to take advantage of centralized monitoring and real-time analytics that anticipate traffic jams before they happen.

Dashboards in IBM's Intelligent Operations Center monitor city services providing operational insight and centralized intelligence capable of optimizing efficiencies and improving planning.

As more and more people flock to urban centers worldwide, 2000 of them have already met the challenge by switching to smart monitoring and real-time analytics that optimizes public transportation and roadway management. China's Zhenjiang being the latest addition to this list of smart cities worldwide makes it symbolically the 2001st.

"Working with forward looking cities like Zhenjiang, and 2000 other smarter cities projects around the world, IBM is able to help make cities smart," said an IBM spokesperson in a recent video entitled IBM Helps Zhenjiang Build a Smarter City.

Regardless of the exact number of cities involved, over $36 billion is slated to be spent on smart city infrastructure projects over the next decade, according to Pike Research, with China representing the largest single market.

"By integrating technology and intelligence into the physical transportation infrastructure, cities can improve capacity, enhance the traveler experience, and make transportation systems more efficient, safe, and sustainable for future growth," said Gerry Mooney, General Manager of Smarter Cities at IBM.

The heart of Zhenjiang's smarter city efforts will be the installation IBM's Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) which will use sensors installed at the city's 400 transit centers and 1000 public vehicles to analyze traffic patterns, obtain and disseminate real-time traffic updates, and anticipate traffic flow disruptions before they become a problem.

Together with the government of Zhenjiang, IBM hopes to improve the city’s transportation system, as well as "support the government's effort of building a harmonious society, and accelerate the economic growth and transformation of this vibrant country," said Dah-Chuen Chien, General Manager, IBM Greater China Group.

By investing in a system-wide transportation upgrade using IBM’s Intelligent Transportation software, centralized dashboards will provide city managers with a consolidated view that includes real-time analytics that track and categorize traffic patterns over 80 routes in and around Zhenjiang.

As a result, Zhenjiang IOC will increase traffic throughput with optimized routing and improved efficiency, plus the system will provide advance warning of potential traffic jams, giving managers a chance to mitigate or even eliminate them before they happen. By simulating the entire transit fleet and passenger flow across the transportation network, the IOC also maximizes road capacity as well as rapidly responds to incidents.

Our aim in partnering with IBM is to "make our public transportation system faster and more efficient, while making our city a better place to live in," said Mingnian Yin, Director of Reform Commission, City of Zhenjiang.

Friday, March 02, 2012

#CLOUD: "Cloud Desktop Boosts Small Business"

The next generation of cloud-based apps will be integrated by virtual desktops targeting small businesses with software-as-a-service (SaaS) that is accessible from any popular browser for smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers.

Cloud-based services are enabling small businesses to handle their customer relationship management (CRM), accounting, marketing, workflow, and other professional applications using the software-as-a-service model, albeit by logging directly onto a different server for each application. In the future, however, cloud-based desktops will allow enterprises to access all their business apps in a single browser-based environment.

Cloud-based servers already allow you to run Windows apps from iOS, Android, Mac and Linux computers, essentially renting a virtual-PC in the clouds. And for the enterprise, desktop virtualization is allowing businesses to take advantage of cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), which enables a workforce to run business apps remotely using tools like Norton's Ghost, Citrix' XenDesktop, or VMware's View.

A new trend, however, aims to lower the entry barrier for small businesses, by integrating access to professional cloud-based applications that today are available only to subscribers that have to log-into a different server for each app.

Infostreet's SkyDesktop gives small enterprises access to a suite of popular business applications from any device running a browser including Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

"Today small business users may have one account at Salesforce, one at gmail, one at Quickbooks, and so forth, forcing them to log-into multiple accounts in all these different places," said Siamak Farah CEO of InfoStreet Inc. "What small businesses need is a cloud-based desktop that integrates all their cloud-based apps."

For the next 45 days, InfoStreet will be beta-testing its solution that integrates the best cloud-based business apps into a single virtual desktop environment. This software-as-a-service environment, which is free during beta-testing, offers InfoStreet's SkyDesktop as the repository of cloud-based apps. Once the small business user has set up a SkyDesktop account, all cloud-based apps used by a business can be housed on a single desktop accessible from any browser.

The different business apps that can be installed into the SkyDesktop will be sold in InfoStreet's SkyAppMarket, where name-brand business apps will be purchased and made accessible on a user's SkyDesktop. The SkyKeyChain then allows users to access all their business's apps using a single user-name and password.

Today the SkyAppMarket has just a few applications available, all of which have the InfoStreet brand. However, the company is quickly signing up popular cloud-based apps for the most popular business categories, all of which will debut together after the beta-testing period.

"We won't have 50,000 apps at launch, but we will have 4 or 5 of the highest rated professional business app solutions for each market we serve, which will be the 10 or so most popular small business categories including CRM, email marketing, and accounting," said Farah.

InfoStreet will also be offering in-house technical support for each of the apps in the SkyAppMarket, for the first year, instead of forcing its user to contact each app developer separately for advice.