Changing the Way We Sleep

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Sleep is pretty important to most of us, and getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult for some. There are a slew of sleep-aids out there, but a recently successful Kickstarter campaign ($100,000 goal, so far over $300,000 has been raised) has pushed a company named “Hello” to create the module called Sense.

The Sense Sleep Tracker system consists of three parts; the sense module, the sense pill, and the app. The Sense module looks like a trendy rubber band ball, but it monitors things while you snooze along with the sleep pill. It’s a pill by name only, as it clips onto your pillow and tracks how much you toss and turn with a 6-axis accelerometer and gyroscope

What makes Sense interesting, though, is what else it takes into account. By tracking noise, light, temperature, humidity, and even air condition, it figures out a “Sleep Score” based on the potential for rest and how much you actually managed to get. Events such as car alarms sounding outside, or dogs barking are figured into the calculation as well.

The Sense module can record any rumblings it hears, but will also keep an eye on light levels, temperature and other disturbances near the bedside. Just want to relax? That funky module can put out white noise or other soothing sounds to put you to sleep and then wake you up at the perfect time with its Smart Alarm, which wakes you when you are out of your deepest sleep cycle.

The first units are scheduled to roll out in November.

Is There a Future in Cloud Computing?

 

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Over the last year, the concept of cloud computing has continued to build momentum, as it has rapidly moved into the mainstream.  In fact it is now fair to say that cloud as a distinct topic has started to fade into the background; organizations are now simply leveraging all kinds of cloud services as a necessary component of their digital strategies.

This increase in cloud usage means that the boundaries of the enterprise are starting to blur, in particular enterprise IT is no longer defined by ownership or the location of the technology but rather by the value it can bring. But what does this mean for the future of cloud? What will continue to drive this change?

Companies can now create reliable and scalable systems in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years, using cloud platforms to create components that instantly have global scale and reach.  The speed of application development in the cloud – as a result of both higher productivity and the ability to build on the work of others through integration – is therefore a key trend and a real game changer in terms of both the value of IT and the way in which companies leverage it for advantage in an increasingly digital era.

A factor that will continue to have prominence in everybody’s minds in the coming years is security. While security is a critical topic it is also one which is frequently driven by perception and emotion rather than a comprehensive assessment of the risks and benefits involved.  When thinking about it logically, in-house systems often use their position inside the firewall as the single most important factor in ensuring security – but this attitude often simply justifies a lack of development in the kinds of comprehensive security capabilities required to truly secure data and protect it against access from different groups.  Cloud services on the other hand have usually been built from the ground up to be both secure and to keep the information and activities of different tenants separate; perhaps counter-intuitively this means that they are often more deeply built for security than many traditional on premise systems.

These issues may seem obscure at first glance, but with more and more corporate data needing to be made accessible to people and systems outside the bounds of the firewall – e.g. for mobile access, API exploitation or digital supply chain creation – it becomes critical.  The firewall as a security mechanism ceases to make sense when the majority of actors are outside its boundaries – the key is rather to have a much more granular security model focused on securing the actual assets and resources rather than simply creating an isolated community. As a result, many consider the security of cloud services to be higher for emerging use cases, since security is a multi-faceted problem and not simply a factor of ‘where’ data physically resides.

It appears clear from many observations and experiences that the implementation of cloud within businesses will only continue to increase and accelerate. As every business is different, however, so will each business’s journey be unique. The general opportunity they all share, however, is to use the cloud and its integration potential to simplify their business models and to diminish the risks of change by adopting the new behaviors of moving quickly, testing ideas at low cost and rapidly scaling successful outcomes.  In the future, such speed and adaptability will simply be accepted as the only viable route to sustainable and meaningful business execution.

Cool and Cubical

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Google comes out with all kinds of stuff…most of it interesting but occasionally they come up with something which even my jaded eye finds compelling. Their latest addition is cool in exactly the same way Google Glass isn’t. What they have created is a multimedia ‘platform’ which allows the artist to embed video and music on to each side of a virtual cube, each side can be as unique and different as you wish. In the Chrome browser or on an Android device you can rotate the cube in 3D. As each face comes round to your point of view so the sound and images playing on that face at that time become the focus….but each face which you can see something of contributes a little. You can try it here http://nofun.thepresets.com/ just paste that URL into a Chrome browser. This is a techno/trance number from an Oz band and it’s predictably clubby but I think this could go way beyond just something else to project at a rave. This concept allows parallel narrative from six simultaneous perspectives.

Apparently this started as an experiment inspired by Rubik’s cube and as a challenge to see just what could be done with a browser…turns out quite a lot. It’s not a completely new concept..multiple parallel video has been used in things as diverse as the documentary about Woodstock and the TV series 24. What’s different is that the viewer can manipulate and investigate the cube which makes each individual’s perspective unique. Imagine taking a single incident then telling it from six different perhaps opposing perspectives. Now add in maybe virtual reality and it gets even more interesting. Perhaps we could walk through and around a set of multiple cubes each of which is virtually controlled by the viewer. It sounds arty and maybe a bit trippy…and maybe it is…but it might also be a rather cool new way to experiment with how we express our perspectives through art and Google deserves credit for making that available to anyone with enough imagination and code skills to make it happen

Score One for Big Cable

Atlanta-AereoIn the same way any strategy which relies on your soccer team figuring out how to get past Germany to continue in the World Cup so any new media strategy which relies on the Supreme Court letting you loosely interpret laws is likely to run into difficulties. So is was with a real sense of sadness that I watched the Supreme Court finish of the Aereo business model with a crushing 6-3 defeat today…if that were soccer half the crowd would be gleefully chanting “slaughter” at the top of their drunken voices.

What is it and why do you care? Here’s why….this week my Verizon contract is up. I have Fios Internet and TV a DVR and three set top boxes and that costs a shade under $200 a month. I also pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime to the tune of another $20 per month. I can get pretty much all the TV I watch minus the live broadcast of the big 5  for just the $20 I pay to Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon.  With the smart antenna offered by Aereo i could plug that into a laptop get the big five over the air broadcast on the rare occasions I watch them and cut the cable bill down to  only $25 a month. All in I’d get pretty much all I watch for $50 total.

The supreme court ruled that Aereo was essentially turning an over the air free signal into a public performance which meant they would have to pay royalties. That shut the entire venture down. It’s a pity but given the lobbying power of the cable industry not much of a surprise. A time is coming when the ad soaked garbage put out by the big five will reach a point where many perhaps most of us will simply cut the cable and we will make do with the great independent programming and content we can get through places other than the big cable companies.  This decision has perhaps pushed that a little further into the future…but it’s coming.

The Great AntiFoot Hoax?

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Every so often you come across a marketing story which is so clever you really have to wonder if it actually happened. Such a story of sweeping through the media and chatterati of France. It’s World Cup season worldwide (everywhere except here in the US that is) and those very clever folks at Orangia have announced and claim to be selling the Orangina Antifoot…this has nothing to do with athletes foot I’m pleased to report.  The commercials show some boffins adding electronics to an Orangina can which allows the smart lady in the bar who doesn’t love ‘the beautiful game’ to surreptitiously turn off all the TVs in the bar. Such devices do exist…indeed a few years back when I was traveling a lot more than I do now and was tired of endless commercials and CNN news loop repeats being played at my poor head I did invest in such a device and it will indeed turn off any TV from 30 feet away..it’s a kind of universal off remote and yours for just $20.

What’s so clever about this campaign is that is that apart from the one pictured in the commercial nobody (that I have read about) has been able to get hold of the real thing.  It looks like it’s simply a very clever commercial hoax masquerading as reality.It’s technically feasible and makes for a hilarious commercial but the amount of adverse publicity it would cause if actually used …let alone the spontaneous outbreaks of mob violence against anyone caught drinking Orangina leads me to think that it never went into actual production or sale…which is a pity.

Would You Live in a 3D Printed House?

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Researchers from the University of Southern California have invented a 3D printer that is able to build a 2500 square foot house within a day. It is believed that this new technology will transform the construction industry. This tool will enable to erect skyscrapers without the team of builders and equipment. Though, the industry is very much optimistic about the potential of 3D printers, until now it is mostly used to produce small-scale objects. Soon, the days when you have to wait for months for your new home to be ready will be in the past.

In such a scenario a question remains, are the 3D printers effective enough to create an entire house? There is nothing to be skeptical about the capacity of this futuristic tool. A Chinese company utilized 3D-printing technology to create 10 one story houses within a day and proved that 3D technology has ultimately succeeded. The houses are cheaper and can be constructed within few hours. The printer that is used to build the houses in Shanghai is 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters high. Mixtures of cement and construction wastes are the raw materials and walls of the houses are created in layers using these ingredients.

The method of construction not only decreases the time required to erect a building, it also means that the workers will be far less exposed to hazardous construction materials and working environment. Architects in Amsterdam are also using this latest technology to build a full-sized 3D-printed house. They are using a bio-plastic mix, which is industrial adhesive containing 75% plant oil and reinforced by microfibers.

This is may be only the beginning. Modern architects and designers are interested to put the process in test as 3D printing results in zero waste, reducing the transportation costs and that every piece used can be melted down and recycled- look for this to be the thing of the future revolutionizing of cities.

Driving US to Distraction

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Anyone who has glanced at this blog over the years will know that I’m no lover of our traffic police. That we the citizens of this great country have given a group of folks (whose salary we pay) the right to essentially lay in wait for law abiding citizens even more power over us is incredible to me.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to control the apps on our phones where those apps aid navigation. That might well prevent Google Maps or Waze from working on our phones as we drive. The justification (as always) is ‘safety.’  Our government is perfectly happy that any depressed or deranged high schooler can get hold of an assault weapon to take out his peers…that’s perfectly safe…but heaven forbid we run Google Maps through our blue toothed cars. This ridiculous provision is part of the proposed transportation bill working its way through congress. Giving the government oversight on which aps are or aren’t ‘safe’ to use in our cars is insanity…how would they decide which was safe and which wasn’t. Where would they find the software engineers to do a comprehensive job.  If I have Google Maps on my phone and I run it whilst I’m driving a car ‘illegally’ what would be my status if I use it while I’m the passenger or even riding a train? As far as the app is concerned it all looks the same… the only way to reliably regulate it would be to ban it entirely. Let’s criminalize every smartphone user. 

Not surprisingly the automakers are pushing for this regulation.  If they could persuade the government to essentially outlaw GPS navigation by phone that (I’m sure they think) will force more car buyers to pay the premium to get GPS in their new cars. My Google maps app is a much better GPS device than either of the BMW or Nissan navigation systems in my household.  I was recently sent about five miles out of the way when attempting to reach a location in downtown San Diego. If there’s and doubt I trust the Google app over the car every time.

What has clearly stuck in our overlords craw is a recent California case where someone navigating on their iPhone was ticketed for ‘phone use’ by one of CHIPs finest.  He fought the ticket that conviction was overturned. God forbid that any traffic conviction be overthrown based on fairness.  We have so many real problems to address why on earth would we waste tax dollars attempting to resolve a problem which doesn’t exist. How about we tackle mental health, obesity, gun control or even patent reform first.

GOAL!!! New Smart Watch Technology Being Used at the World Cup

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With the World Cup officially underway, new technologies have been introduced in order to help minimize those crucial missed calls. One of those new technologies uses multiple cameras around the stadium to help the referee make a decision. With thousands of fans screaming what they think should be the “correct” judgment, referees at the World Cup this year will wear watches that will vibrate and display the word “GOAL” each time a ball crosses the goal line.

FIFA officials has been discussing goal-line technology since the months following the 2010 World Cup. That tournament saw England denied a score in a match against Germany even though the ball had clearly passed the goal line.

FIFA began testing goal-line technology and approved its use in 2012. The device can be used only to determine if the ball has crossed the line, and referees must be notified within one second. Only match officials can receive these scoring notifications.

The buzzing watches serve only as a recommendation, and the referee still makes the final call on a goal. The smartwatches used in Brazil are made by a German company called GoalControl, which installs 14 cameras that track the ball around the pitch. It was first used in the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, a tournament that passed without goal-line controversy.

FIFA is also open to other types of systems that track the ball through magnetic fields created by underground cables, although these would require physical alterations to the ball itself. This has obvious downsides, given soccer players’ particular desire about the balls they use.

Google and Apple Squeezing into the Home Security Market

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Home security is big business. It’s worth in the region of $25Bn per year projected to grow to north of $35Bn by 2017. It’s also an industry ripe for technological enrichment, as our homes get smarter it makes sense that our home security systems get smarter too. My home security is a 100lb American bulldog called Hedwig…we also happen to have ADT installed…but I have to believe Hedwig is a more effective deterrent albeit probably not as smart as some of the new home systems. It looks like Google is planning a move further into home security through Nest, its recent $3.2 billion acquisition that has put a high-tech twist on thermostats and smoke alarms. The company is considering buying the connected camera startup Dropcam.

Dropcam’s main product is a camera that saves its footage to the cloud, letting users check the recordings anytime and anywhere. The startup recently bolstered its security offering with improved video analysis technology and waterproof Tabs, which can detect motion in areas you couldn’t place a camera. Last year it announced a $30 million round of venture funding.

An expansion into home security would be in keeping with Nest’s mission of rethinking household technology for the 21st century. “Safety shouldn’t be annoying,” Nest CEO Tony Fadell told The Verge last year when unveiling the Protect smoke detector. ”We’re about reinventing unloved categories.” That’s a mission that Dropcam’s investors got behind, with Kleiner Perkins’ Trae Vassallo saying last year that “Dropcam can do for surveillance cameras what Nest did for the thermostat.”

Apple is set to make its own play for the connected home next month, according to a report in the Financial Times. Cupertino will reportedly offer a platform for third-party vendors to hook into the iPhone, allowing it to control lighting, security systems, and more. Apple is said to consider privacy an advantage over Google, which leverages user data for advertising revenue and recently told the SEC it could serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats” in the future — though it later denied any connection with the Nest acquisition. The iOS smart home software may be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 2nd.

Solar Panel Roadways: Lighting the Future Ahead?

 

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I haven’t had an electricity bill in nearly two years.  Each month our household is more or less net neutral…on a good month we are actually net contributors to the national grid. This is possible because I live in sunny SoCal and I have solar power. Two years after being proposed as an alternative power for many homes and businesses, US electrical engineer Scott Brusaw’s system of solar powered roads is in the second prototype stage, which could lead to wide spread use. Scott’s idea is to cover highways and other roadways with photo-voltaic panels that would collect energy and feed it into a decentralized power grid. If successful, these panels could generate enough energy to power the entire country. It’s an interesting perhaps genius idea with several barriers to entry.  Solar is pretty big here in SoCal, I inherited mine with the house so I didn’t have to put up the capital directly. If I had it would likely have cost enough that I’d be looking at a twenty year payback. Photo voltaic is expensive to manufacture….scaling the current technology up in such a grand way is a very impressive idea.

As a kid in the 1960s, before most people had even heard of solar power, Scott Brusaw imagined “electric roads.” Almost five decades and two government-funded prototypes later, the electrical engineer from Ohio is on his way to raising $1 million to start producing solar panels for our streets and highways. Not to power the light, mind you—to function as streets and highways. Soon you may be driving on solar panels that power the buildings you’re passing by. One million bucks isn’t going to get anyone much past a Ted Talk…let alone re-engineer our infrastructure.  It’s barely enough to buy the horse to tilt at windmills with…even if the windmills were actually generating wind energy at the time.

“We can use these panels to create roads, parking lots, tarmacs—anything under the sun,” Brusaw says. “All of the current asphalt and concrete currently soaking up the sun can be covered with our technology to turn that sunlight into clean, renewable electricity.”

The biggest challenge Brusaw faced was engineering a case to protect the fragile solar cells. He began by researching the technology used in black boxes for airplanes and ended up using thick hardened glass. It sounds fragile, but after impact resistance and traction testing, it has proved able to handle trucks weighing several times the legal limit. A prototype solar parking lot in Sandpoint, Idaho, has been successful as well.

It may take some time to see them on highways, though. Neil Fromer, executive director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology, says installing solar power on large structures will take a lot of testing and paperwork.

“The tremendous amount of solar energy that hits the earth’s surface in an hour is enough to power the planet for a year,” Fromer explains. “So when you think about renewable energy in the long term, solar is a huge part of that.” Considering that pavement covers as much as half of many U.S. cities, a lot of electricity could be generated by covering it all with solar panels.

Brusaw’s project could have a huge impact, especially if it overcomes the many challenges to getting it out into the real world.

“I think this is pretty cool, and I don’t want to sound too pessimistic about it,” Fromer says. “It’s really just a question of integrating solar energy into our existing electrical system. Roads are great surfaces to try it…. Technology innovation always helps.”