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Google Gives Glass a Good Polish

Posted by MkTeam under Technology



 update to the software that runs Glass gives users of Google’s wearable computing device more control over their interactions with contacts.

The latest version of the software — also known as version XE20.1 — adds the flexibility to choose how to reach out to a contact after selecting the person from the contacts list.

“Now, when you tap on one of your contacts, you can swipe between Hangouts, email or SMS — whichever strikes your fancy at that moment,” explained Joel Kalmanowicz, a Glass product manager.

Users’ entire phone address books are now available on Glass as well, he added, with a selection of 20 contacts accessible by voice and the rest by swipe.

The new app is already available for Android users; iOS users will see it arrive “in the next week or so,” Kalmanowicz said.

In separate news, meanwhile, Google recently received a patent that suggests a new, less-conspicuous look might be in the works for Glass.

glass patent application

‘How Extensible Is That?’

The Glass software update offers “more choices for people who have contacts they want to reach,” Jeffrey Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices at ABI Research, told TechNewsWorld.

 However, “the first thought that came to mind was, how extensible is that?” he said. “You might have hundreds or even thousands of contacts that are part of your database, and now they’re getting pulled into Glass. I’m interested in how that works.”

 Twenty of a user’s most recent and starred contacts are accessible by voice, Google said, but “in a world where people are so socially connected, is 20 the right number?” Orr wondered. “How well does this align with the users, and if they’re going after business users first and foremost, is this type of update really going to be that meaningful?”

Products such as Glass are going to appeal to a range of business audiences, he pointed out, particularly in job classifications where individuals can benefit from workflow, efficiencies and productivity gains by not having to look away from their task, as well as jobs where safety and compliance are critical.

‘A Natural Evolution’

As for the future-focused design changes apparently in the works, “this seems like a natural evolution of the Google Glass product, going from a very purpose-built form factor to one that is a little bit more everyday,” Orr said. “I could see those types of frames working towards the subscription-type solution that many wear.”

There is not only a fashion component to the selection of eyewear, he pointed out, but also a safety component in industrial applications.

In any case, neither of the Google Glass developments to emerge this week indicates that we’re at a point where the general consumer market is going to find a use case, Orr opined.

“At some point, we think there’s going to be an opportunity for broader consumer appeal, but today most will continue to observe from a distance,” he explained. “Most will say, ‘cool tech’ and move on.”

In the meantime, however, “we’re continuing to see all these different barriers being chipped away,” he added.

‘A Necessary Redesign’

As the market moves toward different wearable form factors, it will need new user interface paradigms, Tuong Nguyen, a principal research analyst with Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

Toward that end, the new Glass software update is “a great and needed and possibly expected move,” Nguyen said. “This is part of a necessary redesign of the user interface for this next generation of wearable computing devices.”

Other vendors already have been working on similar design refinements to the eyewear-computing concept, but “that’s not to steal any of Google’s thunder,” he added. “This will raise awareness to the benefit of the market as a whole.”




Scientists at IBM Research have created by far the most advanced neuromorphic (brain-like) computer chip to date. The chip, called TrueNorth, consists of 1 million programmable neurons and 256 million programmable synapses across 4096 individual neurosynaptic cores. Built on Samsung’s 28nm process and with a monstrous transistor count of 5.4 billion, this is one of the largest and most advanced computer chips ever made. Perhaps most importantly, though, TrueNorth is incredibly efficient: The chip consumes just 72 milliwatts at max load, which equates to around 400 billion synaptic operations per second per watt — or about 176,000 times more efficient than a modern CPU running the same brain-like workload, or 769 times more efficient than other state-of-the-art neuromorphic approaches. Yes, IBM is now a big step closer to building a brain on a chip.

The animal brain (which includes the human brain, of course), as you may have heard before, is by far the most efficient computer in the known universe. As you can see in the graph below, the human brain has a “clock speed” (neuron firing speed) measured in tens of hertz, and a total power consumption of around 20 watts. A modern silicon chip, despite having features that are almost on the same tiny scale as biological neurons and synapses, can consume thousands or millions times more energy to perform the same task as a human brain. As we move towards more advanced areas of computing, such as artificial general intelligence and big data analysis — areas that IBM just happens to be deeply involved with — it would really help if we had a silicon chip that was capable of brain-like efficiency.



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There is an odd dichotomy in human exploration: While we think nothing of going up — jetting through the skies six miles up, skydiving from the edge of space, or launching humans hundreds or thousands of miles into deep space — going down has always proven rather difficult. To this day, the deepest humankind has ever gone is just 7.6 miles below our feet — or just 0.2% of the distance to the Earth’s core. It’s not that we don’t want to go deeper — and there are huge scientific and commercial gains to be made if we could go deeper — but, try as we might, despite millennia of developing ever more advanced tools and materials, and exploration that has taken spacecraft to the edge of the Solar System, the subterranean depths remain firmly off-limits. Why?
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Bull Aldrin and the US flag, on the Moon

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On July 20, 1969 — 45 years and one day ago — Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin would soon follow suit and climb down the ladder of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (the Eagle), and the pair would then spend two and a half hours being the first ever humans to explore the surface of another world. It’s funny, but also a little bit sad: More than four decades later, Apollo 11 and the six further landings between 1969 and 1972 are still some of humanity’s greatest technological achievements. In the years since, with political objectives sated and the Cold War diffused, funding for space exploration has all but dried up.


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In almost every industry, technology has made a dramatic impact on quality and cost.  Consider the finance industry.  Three years ago, you had to go to a bank or ATM to deposit a check.  Now that’s done via the bank’s smartphone app.  Technology has reset expectations of a “bank” to the point that many people will never use any bank that doesn’t allow this.  Car loans can now be sourced, secured, and signed – all via websites and apps.

The most noticeable exception to the rapid transformation of the customer experience is in routine medical care.  While technology has definitely impacted healthcare through higher-end diagnostic abilities and improved outcomes for acute cases, very little improvement has been made in the much larger range of basic healthcare needs.  In fact, this largest market segment has seen nothing but higher costs for the same degree of care.

However, with the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the market dynamics are changing from a “fee for service” to a “fee for outcome” model with new reimbursement mechanisms that finally incentivize higher quality for reduced costs.  Because of this, technology is poised to make a significant difference in both the patient and clinician experience.  Technology’s ability to bring services directly to the individual, wherever they happen to be, is finally making its way into healthcare.  Search “healthcare” or “wellness” in Apple AAPL -0.57% or Google GOOGL -0.44%’s app store and there are literally thousands of choices, from simple pedometers to full-blown lifestyle trackers that integrate with wearable sensor technologies such as Fitbit.

But how is this reimbursement model going to impact overall hospital design?  To understand this issue better, we contacted Eric Wilson, CEO of CPI Group, a firm specializing in total program management for the development or expansion of healthcare facilities.

“While the widespread adoption of new technologies into an industry ecosystem may take less than a year or two, it takes between two and five years to design, permit, build, activate, and begin serving patients in a new hospital,” says Wilson.  “That means any hospital being designed right now needs to account for the impact of emerging technology.”  Failing to do so puts reimbursements – the lifeblood of hospitals – at risk.  Even with outstanding clinical outcomes, if a facility cannot provide a quality experience, both in patient care and use of technology, revenue will be reduced as a result of the ACA, as well as competition from less obvious healthcare competitors, such as our smartphones.

Sentara Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach, Vi...

Will the hospitals of 2030 look like the hospitals of today? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But regardless of how “smart” our phones get, there will always be a need for direct, physical contact with clinicians.  When these interactions occur at a hospital, patient expectations will increasingly drive revenue.  Wilson describes four ways in which facility design needs to account for improvements in patient-centered technology:

1.    Rising connectedness:  Everyone has experienced the rise of connectivity – we get emails, listen to music, watch videos, and send photos via Wi-Fi connections or cellular networks.  Increasingly, it’s not just computers and phones using wireless networks.  Medical devices of all sorts can now report vitals, take measurements, and send instructions via the same networks.  This additional load requires hospitals to carefully consider how their IT backbone supports numerous segregated networks.

2.    Remote monitoring or diagnostics:  The new expectation is that this connectivity transcends the hospital walls, allowing measurements, monitoring, and instructions to follow the patient after they leave the facility.  Some hospitals are starting to discharge people with wireless scales, remote patient monitors, and other home-based devices to aid in recovery and compliance tracking.  So design efforts within the facility must now address how remote connectivity and distributed devices contribute to the patient experience.

3.    Efficient and useful spaces:  In addition to IT network designs, the physical buildings of hospitals, clinics, and medical offices need to change.  As healthcare technologies evolve and networks expand to include our own smartphones – as they have done for banks and other industries – we will be able to walk into a hospital and have it recognize who we are, when and where our scheduled appointment is, and how to direct us to an open exam room.  Even without an appointment, the hospital will be able to check you in via their app, so you can wait for your exam in the coffee shop or café.  The resulting gains in efficiency will make waiting rooms obsolete or, at the very least, convert them into more useful spaces than non-descript rooms full of chairs and outdated magazines.

4.    Personalization:  During your visit, the doctor may determine a need for additional testing that can be done the same day.  While you wait, new flat-panel displays in the exam room will offer you a choice of music, television, or movies, all tailored to your interests as a result of the app setup process on your phone.  If and when the test results determine the need for an overnight stay, those personalized settings will follow you to the patient room, changing the room temperature, lighting, music, and even dinner choices.

These technology-driven changes to the way we experience healthcare are coming and the impacts will be far-reaching.  As Wilson puts it, “As soon as patients experience the benefits of remote monitoring, shared information routing, and personalized care, their definition of quality will change.”  That means that the evolving expectations of patients, driven by advances in technology, will change how hospitals are designed, built, and operated.



Six innovations revolutionising farming

Posted by MkTeam under Technology



Farm Africa Project

In 1798, economist Thomas Malthus predicted that the world would exceed its food supply by the late 20th century. While he was right to identify the challenges of feeding a growing population with a finite amount of land, in the last half a century agricultural production has tripled. So, how did this happen?

The answer: innovations in farming technology. Smallholder farmers in particular have seen a rise in productivity over the last decade. So what are the innovations making the difference? We asked our community and crowdsourced the answers.


1. Dairy hubs

Not enough local beef in Indonesia

These hubs have already had huge success in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Photograph: Hotli Simanjuntak/EPADairy hubs link smallholder farmers to dairy processors, cutting costs and putting money back into local communities. Through this model, farmers gain higher income, education and healthier animals, while the production of safe and affordable milk in developing countries increases. These hubs have already had huge success in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and are being trialed in India and east Africa.

2. Fertiliser deep placement


FDP is used by farmers across Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. Photograph: Image Broker/REXTraditionally, rural farmers apply fertiliser to crops by spreading the seeds by hand. Fertiliser deep placement (FDP) is a new way of distributing fertiliser that increases small holder yields by an average of 18% and reduces fertiliser use by a third. FDP works by using a specialised fertiliser (called ‘briquette’) which releases nitrogen gradually. The fertiliser is placed 7-10 centimetres below the soil, which allows less nitrogen to be lost through runoff. FDP is used by farmers across Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.

3. Mobile apps

Accenture: Social Media Apps on Apple iPhone 4

The farming instructor app gives agricultural information to rural farming communities. Photograph: AlamyA mobile app called VetAfrica, developed by a software company called Cojengo, is enabling animal health workers and farmers to accurately diagnose livestock illness and find the most effective drugs to treat the disease. With over 100 million farmers spread across thousands of square miles in east Africa, the developers predict massive growth of mobile and cloud tech solutions in African markets.

Another innovative app our community highlighted is farming instructor, which provides online and offline agricultural information to rural farmers and their communities.

4. High-roofed greenhouses

A visitor looks through the glass of a greenhouse at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. The prestigious gardening show opens to the public on 20 May, and features hundreds of stands and exhibition gardens.

Greenhouses are a great way to increase production. Photograph: Dan KitwoodBecause of government restrictions, farmers in Turkmenistan often do not have access to large areas of land. Greenhouses are a great way to increase production, although a traditional greenhouse can only grow short tomato and cucumber plants. To combat this, experts from USAidhave created greenhouses with roofs of 12 feet or higher, which has been shown to double farmers’ yields.

5. New feeding systems

food rural

Using a ‘total mixed ration’ has been found to reduce labour costs and increase animal health. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/APA new way of feeding farm animals, which involves weighing and blending all foodstuff into a complete ration, makes sure all an animals’ nutrient requirements are met. Using a ‘total mixed ration’ has been found to reduce labour costs, increase animal health and give farmers greater flexibility with feed ingredients. All these factors together improve farm profitability by reducing feed costs – which make up 60-70% of total farm costs – and maximise milk production.

6. Farm management software and training

Rural farmer

Farm management software is available to make farm management as simple as possible. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesFinally, no development issue exists in isolation, and perhaps the biggest improvement for rural farmers comes from getting adequate training on animal care, pest management and crop development. New farm management software is available that calculates food rations and milking systems to make farm management as simple as possible.

While this technology is not widely accessible for rural farmers, farm management training has been found to make a big difference to farming output. For example, providing cows with housing containing suitable bedding and food troughs has been shown to increase milk yield and drastically improve farm sustainability.

Are there any we’ve missed? Drop us a line in the comments below to share your thoughts.







Keeping your smartphone running is even more important now that dead phones and other electronic devices will be banned from flights to the US. Photograph.


With the US’s Transportation Security Agency (TSA) ordering that peoplemay not carry “dead” devices on to plane flights as part of new security measures, and with many people heading off on holiday where the chance to charge their phone may be more limited, how do you extend your battery life?

These tips should help you get the longest life from your device.

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A loughborough University lecturer has developed a computer software concept that will enable clinicians with no experience in Computer Aided Design (CAD) to design and make custom-made 3D printed wrist splints for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.

 Dr Abby Paterson, from the Design School, said: “I wanted to give clinicians the ability to make splints they have not been able to make before. They can improve the aesthetics, the fit, and integrate extra bits of functionality they couldn’t do before as a result of our Additive Manufacturing facilities here at Loughborough University. Thanks to our Objet Connex machine, we can integrate multiple materials in a single splint such as rubber-like integral hinges or cushioning features but, more importantly, the specialised software prototype we’ve developed will enable clinicians to design these splints for their patients.”

The 3D printed splints are not only more comfortable and attractive but potentially cheaper than the current ones that are ‘ugly, bulky, and can make a patients arm sweat’. As a result patients do not use them as often as they should.

The splints, which provide joint protection, rest, and promote pain relief,could be a major boost for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common type of arthritis in the UK which affects more than 400,000 people.

The splints are made by scanning a patient’s arm in the ‘appropriate position’. A 3D model splint is then designed based on the scan to generate a computer model.

The 3D printer can then produce as many splints as are needed at the touch of a button. They can be any colour, feature multiple materials, have a lattice design to aid ventilation and any type of fastening the patient requires.

The 3D CAD software prototype was shown to certified splinting practitioners, such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Dr Paterson said: “The practitioners were very excited by new, novel ideas to expand the possibilities available to them, such as integrated rubber borders for increased comfort.”

The 3D CAD software prototype is the product of Dr Paterson’s PhD and development ‎work is still needed on the software and materials. ‎

Dr Paterson was supervised during her PhD by Dr Richard Bibb and Dr Ian Campbell. Dr Bibb came up with the idea for bespoke wrist splints in the late 1990’s.

Dr Bibb and Dr Paterson are currently pursuing opportunities to perform a ‘thorough cost analysis’ of providing the service.

Dr Bibb says the 3D splints could be cheaper than the current ones because the design and manufacture stages have been separated. He believes they will be cost-effective for the NHS while the ‘sky’s the limit’ in the private sector.

Dr Bibb, Reader in Medical Applications of Design in the Design School, said: “We are in the development phase. The research has proved that this is desirable and the clinicians want it. We know there’s lots of potential.”



comcast wifi hotspots
It’s been one year since Comcast started its monster project to blanket the entire nation with continuous Wi-Fi coverage. Imagine waves of wireless Internet emitting from every home.

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Facebook has revealed a new photo-messaging app after accidentally releasing it on Apple’s app store.

Known as Slingshot, the app’s features include sharing photos and videos with friends and sending “reaction shots”.

Like Snapchat, all images are deleted once sent and users can scribble or type over their photos.

Facebook has confirmed Slingshot’s existence, but it is not known when the app will be officially released.

Reporters from The Verge and TechCrunch took screengrabs of the app’s promotional material before it was removed by Facebook.

The images appear to reveal many of Slingshot’s features, the more unusual of which include an unlocking mechanism, whereby photos received from friends must be unlocked by sending a photo back to the original sender.

It is thought that the back and forth “slinging” of images is why the app is called Slingshot.

“Earlier today, we accidentally released a version of Slingshot, a new app we’re working on,” confirmed Facebook in a statement.

The company did not reveal when the app would be made available, stating: “It’ll be ready soon and we’re excited for you to try it out.”

Snapchat competitor?
In 2012 Facebook bought photo-sharing network Instagram for $1bn.

A year later, it was reported that Snapchat rejected a $3bn bid from Facebook, revealing the social media giant’s apparent continued and serious interest in photo-messaging services.

Previously Facebook attempted and failed to create a successful image-messaging app called Poke, which was recently abandoned and had been described by some as a “blatant copycat app.”

However, unlike Poke, Slingshot has a number of unique features not found in rivals such as Snapchat, which could make it a strong competitor.

Another similar app and potential rival is Taptalk, which is reportedly admired among some Facebook engineers.

Taptalk provides a comparatively minimalist and simplified approach to image messaging, allowing users to send personal pictures or videos by tapping or holding their friend’s profile picture.

It has also been noted that Slingshot’s icon is strikingly similar to Taptalk’s.