Posts tagged could

Could driverless cars save lives during a hurricane?

Driverless car and autonomous driving concept and safety system symbol as a road with cars and one vehicle with human hands and arms waving up to the sky as a metaphor for hands free autopilot.

A recent CityLab report suggests that driverless car technology for evacuations might be a good solution for minimizing loss of life and the amount of destruction that occurs during hurricane season.

Referencing the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, the article points out that the level of destruction was much larger in the very poor neighborhoods.  It also discusses how the residents living in the more poverty stricken areas of New Orleans did not have access to transportation before Hurricane Katrina attacked the area.

John Renne, director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University, states that evacuation plans are nonexistent for 35 of the nation’s biggest cities; this is a problem.

See Also: Will autonomous vehicles cruise the factories of tomorrow?

According to the report, Matthew’s floodwaters rendered roads useless, and lethal in some instances, which caused traffic to back up for miles on highways. It questioned whether or not people may have been saved if they had reliable transportation and did not have to drive themselves.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently in the process of researching how car-to-car communications, an important part of the possible self-driving future, might assist evacuation procedures. Cars could potentially speak to one another, along with traffic lights and cameras.

These vehicles could then monitor road conditions, and offer alternate routes as needed during times of crisis.

How smart can autonomous vehicles be?

The founding director of the Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency at Louisiana State University, Brian Wolshon, says that even partly self-driving vehicles can help traffic flow, if enough of them are on the road.

“Here in Louisiana, we’re affected by a lot more than just named storms,” Kali Rapp Roy, executive director of Evacuteer, explains. “If we had self-driving city buses, that would be huge.”

Perhaps one day soon, this idea will be a reality and will help rescue many people from dangerous situations.

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How autonomous vehicles could lead to more jobs in Detroit

Detroit skyline at sunset

As autonomous vehicles make their way out of the pages of science fiction and onto the highways of the real world, the question remains exactly what type of impact this emerging technology will have on the workforce in Detroit.

In the city of Detroit, a city known for being the backbone of America’s auto industry, over 25% of its households do not own an automobile. To make matters worse, its public transportation system is described as one of the worst in the country. This makes going to and from work difficult, if not impossible for many of that city’s citizens.

Ready access to reliable transportation is essential to maintaining employment. If you live in the suburbs or just outside of the regular routes of the city’s bus lines, this is problematic.

Autonomous vehicles open the doors to more people in more areas gaining access to easy transportation. Commercial services like Uber are already testing autonomous vehicles in US markets with hopes to expand their efforts to additional markets as the results of these tests come in.

Detroit benefitting from other cities’ initiatives

From a municipal standpoint, some US cities are making plans for their own autonomous public transportation that can pick citizens up at specific addresses, eliminating the need for them to travel to designated locations such as bus stops. Autonomous cars don’t require drivers that are limited by eight-hour workdays and the needs to take breaks.

For the citizens of Detroit, a city with more available jobs in its suburbs than inside city limits for workers with a high school level of education, and not enough available jobs for its high number of unemployed citizens, having reliable transportation that extends beyond the central Detroit area and into these employment centers is critical.

Detroit is a perfect spot for companies to create a proof of concept for their low-cost autonomous vehicle services. By offering inexpensive, reliable transportation to its citizens and enabling them to access employment centers on the outskirts of the city, the results would not only be a great boon to the local economy, but a perfect public relations win for the technology as it gains the trust of drivers and passengers alike.

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Smart dog collars could be the next big thing in wearables


The wearables industry has been primarily focused on building devices for humans, but that could change in the next few years, if the excitement over dog wearables with the Link AKC is any indicator.

The smart collar, designed in collaboration with the American Kennel Club (AKC), comes packed with features you would find on a normal human wearable, including a fitness tracker and step count.

Seee Also: World’s second biggest wearables maker debuts new smartwatch

The fitness tracker offers analysis on the dog’s activity level and length. It also breaks down the activity by breed, so there will be varied amounts of daily exercise, depending on the needs of your dog.

Link AKC also comes with a few features built specifically for dogs, like a temperature tracker that warns you when the dog is too hot or too cold. Owners can also create a ‘virtual fence’, and will notify you when the dog’s collar leaves the zone.

Dog adventures can be shared

Owners can also share “Adventures” they have been on with their dog, similar to Facebook’s check-in feature. Photos can be added to the post, and we suspect users will be able to add the route walked.

For dog owners that want their pooch to be fit, healthy, and safe, this could be a good investment. However, it doesn’t come cheap, starting at $199 with a two-year $6.95 monthly contract.

That’s a big commitment, even for the most pampered pooches.

Design-conscious folks should be happy with the Link AKC. It looks similar to most dog collars, the buttons are well hidden, and the leather exterior is quite premium compared to plastic and metal collars that a lot of dogs wear.

Could this be the future of wearables? There’s enough overindulgent pet owners that it could become a trend, but we’ll have to wait and see as more pet wearables hit the market.

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Could better entertainment make us love autonomous vehicles?


A recent survey by AAA hinted that as much as 75% of all drivers are hesitant to hop in a fully autonomous vehicle in fear that the technology is less safe than a human driver. That’s a big hurdle for car makers working on their own self-driving technologies to overcome.

After all, what good are the billions of dollars worth of research and testing if you can’t convince three-fourths of the public to step into your vehicle – let alone purchase one.

Elliot Garbus, the general manager of the transportation solutions division at Intel, shared his thoughts about solving this problem in an SAE International event this past week.

“We need to be able to build trust with the passenger,” Garbus said. “Seeing what the vehicle is seeing builds trust.”

By improving the in-car console and including a lot more information about what the vehicle is seeing and basing its actions off of, the rider will become more aware of just how capable these automated systems are. Garbus believes that by giving riders more insight into the vehicle’s operation, they will be less nervous about handing over control.

Another great tool for easing tension is improved in-car entertainment. Airlines are already taking advantage of this fact by providing in-flight entertainment through private or shared screens playing movies and television shows throughout the flight. It’s a welcome distraction from the turbulence and discomfort that comes with commercial flying, and it could be the solution to solving the public acceptance riddle for autonomous driving.

Full autonomy may be entertainment enough

The day is quickly approaching when passengers will no longer be required to watch the road with their hands on a steering wheel. Instead, their attention will be placed elsewhere. Often on their phones, but also on the front of the vehicle where a lot of additional space will be freed up by the removal of a steering wheel, shifter, and pedals.

As we’ve covered previously, in-car entertainment is set to become a much bigger business as riders spend their commuting hours consuming content rather than concentrating on the task of driving. This includes audio, video, and interactive content such as Web browsing and mobile app use.

What would this in-car entertainment center of the future look like? Rolls-Royce unveiled a concept car this year that replaces the traditional console with an ultra-wide screen display enabling passengers to watch videos, interact with a Siri-like artificial intelligence, and navigate the Internet from the comfort of a plush leather couch.

Sure hopping in the back of an autonomous Prius and watching the steering wheel turn itself is unnerving and creepy by today’s standards, but in a future where steering wheels are an artifacts of transportation’s history, a much more welcoming entertainment experience awaits.

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Outdated thinking on wireless could cripple UK smart cities

Concept of fast or instant shipping, Online goods orders worldwide

The former head of U.K. mobile telecoms giant O2 warns an antiquated “analog” mindset among government could stunt the development of smart cities.

Ronan Dunne mused on the challenges facing smart cities in the U.K. He recently left his role as head of Telefónica’s U.K. mobile subsidiary O2 to take over Verizon’s wireless unit.

See also: Who are smart cities initiatives actually benefiting?

Dunne said that the U.K. government needs to make it easier to roll out next generation mobile communications infrastructure. The consequences of lagging in 5G advancements could hamper the development of smart cities and related technology like connected cars.

“In the longer-term, we will forget this stupid debate about rolling out fibre cables,” said Dunne. “The UK taxpayers have to pay BT for digging holes in the ground which doesn’t make a lot of sense in this day and age.”

Many mobile operators have pushed for changes to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) for years, and are lobbying for coverage in the impending Digital Economy Act.

The next stage of wireless

5G is the proposed next stage of wireless communications standards. Though it is currently in development, it is seen as a necessary evolution from the current 4G systems.

This is due to the massive increases in wireless data that are already flowing thanks to the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

IoT sensors form the backbone of smart city strategies, with everything from streetlights to manhole covers generating data that needs to be transmitted, analyzed and utilized.

Many telecoms experts have opined that 5G’s future role as IoT enabler will create new revenue streams for operators.

However, there have been doubts raised that the introduction of new the 5G infrastructure will be ultimately advantageous to telecommunication firms. New Street Research partner Andrew Entwistle warned earlier this year that 5G will not offer “any business case for a telecoms operator.”

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Could IoT nanoswarms be coming soon?

Graphene tubes model , 3d illustration

Long-time players of ’80s role-playing game Cyberpunk 2020 and the more recent Eclipse Phase are acutely aware of the potential uses and risks that come from swarms of intelligently-connected nano-scale machines. In science-fiction worlds commonly depicted in these games, as well as an entire genre of movies, books, and video games, nanoswarms are old hat.

But, what if nanotechnology could deliver these incredible small, wirelessly-connected machines? How would they communicate? What practical purpose would they serve in a real-world scenario?

As it turns out, there are scientists and researchers working developing this very type of technology. Devices that measure little more than 100-times the size of a single strand of human DNA that can navigate through, and transmit data from, your bloodstream.

This makes it an incredible useful technology for medical research and care. Patients would benefit from having real-time analysis of their body down to the smallest level. Tests that today require exposure to radiation and other potentially harmful elements could one day be performed by nano devices positioned throughout the body.

Nanoswarms could have many uses

Other uses for the technology would include environmental data gathering, inventory management, and industrial monitoring.

There’s even a dedicated, and well funded, government initiative for developing nanotechnology called the National Nanotechnology Initiative. This initiative, which has received over $22 billion in government funding since 2001, is tasked with providing the resources for the development and advancement of nanotechnologies as they make their way from concept to market.

In order for these devices to work efficiently, they will need to be able to transmit data between them in a type of nano-scale Internet of Things.

There are several different possibilities being explored by researchers, including a dedicated team at Georgia Tech

Because they’re so small, their ability to send and receive data will be very limited. They wouldn’t be able to, for example, connect to your wi-fi network directly. However, they could pass information between each other to a type of nano-router that is slightly larger than its individual nodes and more equipped to process and transfer information to a gateway.

Whatever the case will be, it’s going to be interesting to see the Internet of Things evolve over the next decade. As it continues to grow, its devices may well shrink.

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Could global smart cities be funded by U.S.-style muni bonds?

plants on piles of euro coins

While enthusiasm for smart city initiatives is not hard to find in India, project financing is. But a U.S.-style municipal bond market could be the solution.

In an article on The Wire, two economists argue that smart city plans in India desperately need to develop sources of private financing to become reality.

“One predominant feature of ULBs (urban local bodies) in India has been the lacklustre flow of private capital,” said Shamika Ravi and Ankit Bhatia from Brookings India and is a Research Assistant at Brookings India. “The improvement of smart cities in India, however, will essentially hinge on the ability of those cities to improve their own revenue, raise local finance and attract greater private investment.”

The researchers say that as India’s cities explore ways to fund the myriad smart city projects on the drawing board, municipal bonds offer a major source of both financing and citizen participation.

“Currently, India’s municipal bond market is largely untapped,” they say. “Because of severe constraints in both supply and demand, only a limited number of ULBs have the experience of raising funds through municipal bonds.”

However, in order to increase smart city infrastructure financing and deepen the Indian muni bond market, several key reforms of the existing legal framework are needed.

The researchers say Indian lawmakers should explore the regulations around the U.S. municipal bond market that enable it to remain such a strong source of infrastructure funding.

“The federalist Indian government can learn from the US and its highly advanced municipal bond market,” they said. “India’s ability to replicate the US general obligation bond model will largely depend on the ensuing capacity of local governments to pay their obligations with a good track record.”

US revenue bonds an especially good model?

In particular they say that India should examine the potential of revenue bonds which have proven so popular in America. They cite examples of revenue bonds issued by regional bodies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Bay Area Toll Authority.

Ultimately they say that municipal governments need diversify beyond the public purse and more vigorously explore private partnerships.

“Indian urban areas can no longer rely solely on public capital flows. Increased private sector engagement via public private partnerships, should be a paramount goal,” they say. “This requires a more active and coordinated leadership in project management, technical guidance and risk mitigation across different levels of the government.”

As well, they recommend Indian municipalities develop standardized review periods, predictable permitting processes and more dependable sources of information for project tracking.

This comes as Indian officials have recently been pushing greater smart city collaboration among BRICS nations.

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Next iPhone could double as a glucose monitor


To nobody’s surprise, Apple has merged audio into the Lightning connector on the iPhone 7, removing the 3.5mm audio jack. As evidence of the lack of surprise, DarioHealth unveiled a new glucose meter on Thursday, one day after Apple’s announcement, which works with the iPhone’s Lightning connector.

Previously, the DarioHealth blood glucose monitoring system connected via the audio jack. The new device offers the same functionality and design, the only difference is the connector.

See Also: How close are we to the robotic human heart?

“This news comes as no surprise to us, and we’ve been working on a solution for quite some time now,” said DarioHealth CEO, Erez Raphael. “Our team’s agility to navigate the complex mobile ecosystem showcases DarioHealth’s versatility and passion to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology in general, and the diabetes healthcare market specifically.”

Easier glucose monitoring could slow disease’s progress

DarioHealth provides the glucose meter to diabetics, letting them measure their blood sugar levels. The scan results are shown on the company’s iPhone app, alongside previous measurements.

Data is sent to a carer or physician, giving them a routine update on blood sugar levels and any issues. The app also gives patients an emotional and environmental log, and a list of food options.

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in certain parts of the world. In the U.S., 21 million people are diagnosed with diabetes, according to the CDC, with a further 8 million undiagnosed, totalling 9.3 percent of the population.

DarioHealth recently received approval from the FDA to sell its glucose meter in the U.S. It already sells the device in Australia, Canada, and parts of Europe. The new Lightning connector option will be available at the start of the next year.

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Could robots replace us in security jobs?


A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope has introduced a range of robots that eradicate the need for foot patrolling security guards in a range of workplaces and public spaces. These security robots are called the  K3 and K5 Autonomous Data Machines. The robots resemble a “Doctor Who” dalek, or maybe a large mobile rubbish bin depending on your point of view. This is not surprising as when the idea of a security robot comes to mind, you are inclined to think of robots like Robocop or Atlas rather than Pepper.

Knightscope was originally founded in response to the tragic events at Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon. The founders believed that with a unique combination of hardware and software, they could greatly reduce crime by as much as 50%. They explain their rationale as thus:

“The human attention span during monotonous, boring tasks is only 5-10 minutes. And with employee turnover rates as high as 400%, the security industry is rightfully seeking innovative solutions. Knightscope’s primary goal is to allow customers to utilize the best of Silicon Valley to put machines to work in those routine, monotonous and sometimes dangerous situations, thus freeing up humans to do the more hands-on and strategic activities. Corporate campuses, data centers, shopping malls and big-box retail stores are among the many customers already engaged today (think employee safety, corporate espionage, rogue networks and asset protection).”

They also state:

“This technology changes everything and is especially needed as the world continues to become more and more volatile.”

Utilizing numerous sensors, lasers and a significant amount of code, the K3 and K5 can roam a geo-fenced area autonomously either randomly or based on a particular patrolling algorithm. The K5 is able to detect a vehicle backing up or tailing the machine in a parking lot setting. Further, the robots are programmed to detect suspicious and unusual behavior and can recall up to 300 number plates a minute, whilst monitoring traffic. The robots are equipped with a panic button for emergency scenarios when a real person is required.


Your shiny new mall cop

Their clients including various shopping malls and Uber who rent the robots at a cost of $7 an hour, significantly less than a security guard would command in wages. However the robots are not without controversy with a recent case that a robot on duty knocked over a small child.  It’s claimed that Harwin Cheng, 16-month-old, was walking ahead of his parents in the Stanford Shopping Centre when the security robot bumped into and knocked him down. According to the toddler’s mother who witnessed the incident, the robot allegedly hit her son in the head which caused him to fall down face first. It then continued to keep moving along, running over the boy’s right foot, which left it swollen along with a scrape behind his knee.

The claim is contested by Knightscope who claim their robot veered to the left to avoid running into the toddler. It said that the young boy then ran backwards and consequentially directly in the front of the machine, which then caused it to knock him over. Knightscope quickly moved to apologize to the parents and is keen to avoid a repeat occurrence.


Should robots be used in emergencies?

The use of robots in safety situations requires some consideration before an extensive roll out, with a study earlier this year by Georgia Tech Research Institute revealing that people are too trustworthy of robots in an emergency. In a mock building fire, test subjects followed instructions from an “Emergency Guide Robot” even after the machine had proven itself unreliable in given previous directions – and after some participants were told that robot had broken down.

Engineer Paul Robinette said:

“We expected that if the robot had proven itself untrustworthy in guiding them to the conference room, that people wouldn’t follow it during the simulated emergency. Instead, all of the volunteers followed the robot’s instructions, no matter how well it had performed previously. We absolutely didn’t expect this.”

The researchers surmise that in the scenario they studied, the robot may have become an “authority figure” that the test subjects were more likely to trust in the time pressure of an emergency.

We’ve recently seen a scenario where a robot was used to detonate a bomb in response to a police killing, ultimately leading to the death of Micah Johnson who killed five police officers and wound seven others in Dallas. This makes it possible that robots will be deployed in future public emergency scenarios.

However it would be incorrect to surmise that robots will create unemployment. The need for skilled engineers, developers and control centre operatives to manage robots on the field and analyze the data they generate will create jobs, at least in the short term. The future will not be controlled by robots but rather, by humans with the assistance of robots.

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Could EyeSee’s eye-tracking tech help brands improve their pitch?


When AB InBev (Anheuser-Busch) announced plans to purchase SABMiller (MillerCoors) in a $107 billion deal, analysts went to work right away to figure out what impact this merger could have on the combined company’s bottom line. For innovative market research company EyeSee, the answer to that question could very well come down to how the brand utilizes its in-store shelf spacing.

EyeSee is a market research company that operates a bit differently than most. To start, much of its market research takes place in front of a computer screen, rather than in a room with a focus group of consumers. Survey calls are set aside in place of consumers actually looking at the different options before them online.

More importantly, EyeSee uses the subject’s own webcam to conduct much of its critical data gathering by tracking their eyes as they participate in the study. EyeSee’s technology can also track facial expressions, giving researchers a more big-picture view of the subject’s response to what they’re seeing.

This technology doesn’t just offer a unique insight into a shopper’s experience. It also enables a much faster turnaround than many other large-group surveys. On EyeSee’s website, it breaks down the process of initiating, conducting, and receiving results for a study. It all takes place in about a week’s time. This is an interesting proposal for companies that are interested in doing some a-and-b testing without going through the time and expense of actually conducting the live tests in a store.

So how do drinkers differentiate between common brews?

Where does this technology come into play for a company that produces alcohol? For one, it can help determine which shelf arrangement has the best chance of turning a better profit.

When it comes to AB InBev and SABMiller, these two brands each have a whole host of options in their product line – many of which are very similar to one-another. Since they’ll be working together rather than competing with one-another, the challenge is to find out what percentage of each brand’s products to place on the shelves, and in which arrangement, is most likely to entice a consumer to make a purchase.

EyeSee put these two brands to the test: combining their product lines in a display that was shown to 900 beer shoppers in the United States. The results are stunning. They tested three different display configurations:

  • Planogram 1: “As is” neutral shelf which is used as base case scenario,
  • Planogram 2: Shelf where AB InBev’s products are dominant
  • Planogram 3: Shelf where SABMiller is dominant.

Each configuration was tested with 300 of the 900 shoppers participating in the study. In the baseline planogram,AB InBev’s products were selected 59% of the time while SABMiller received a healthy 41% of the sales.

In the second planogram, where AB InBev’s products received the majority of the shelf space, overall sales increased 2% with AB InBev receiving 76% of sales to SABMiller’s 26%.

The third planogram did not perform as well. Giving SABMiller the dominant shelf space decreased overall sales by 8%. AB InBev received 45% of the total sales to SABMiller’s 47%.

This study one of several types of studies that EyeSee conducts to better understand shopper’s buying and browsing habits. If EyeSee’s methods begin to catch on, it may not be long before we start seeing cameras pop up in real-world storefronts. But, at least for the time being, this is another unique tool in the increasingly scientific world of marketing.

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India’s mass of small family firms could miss the IIoT revolution

MUMBAI, INDIA - 12 JANUARY 2015: Indian workers sew in clothing factory in Dharavi slum. Post-processed with grain, texture and colour effect.

Few of India’s myriad family businesses have adopted any advanced manufacturing technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). And worse, most don’t plan to in the future.

An article by Live Mint discusses the results of a recent survey by Tata Strategic Management Group and industry lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The study, which surveyed executives at more than 50 leading Indian engineering companies, focused on the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies such as IIoT, advanced robotics and additive manufacturing. The survey highlighted these three areas of advanced manufacturing because of their anticipated role as major drivers for future manufacturing growth globally.

The researchers found that only 10% of family run businesses have currently adopted any form of advanced manufacturing. However, future prospects for manufacturing are a bit better for family businesses, though these companies still will lag other types of businesses.

“More than 50% of family-owned businesses do not plan to adopt advanced manufacturing within the next three years, in comparison to both Indian and foreign corporations where less than a quarter plan not to adopt in the three years’ time frame,” the report said.

This economic backbone needs strengthening

Any numbers around family-owned businesses in India is especially significant as these types of companies form the backbone of the country’s economy. Such businesses comprise almost two-thirds of India’s GDP and employ nearly half of the country’s work force.

India’s governments are proving keen on adopting connected technology to develop smart cities, but studies like this raise questions that some economic sectors are not keeping pace with the new technological revolution.

Manufacturing remains a key sector of the Indian economy. It is responsible for employing nearly 12% of the country’s workforce and contributes almost 18% of India’s gross value-added production.

Many obstacles to the adoption of advanced manufacturing technology were identified in the study. Chief amongst these perceived barriers is industry’s difficulty in quantifying its return on investment once the technology has been implemented.

“The industrial internet of things definitely enhances ability of companies to receive real time information about plant equipment thereby reducing downtime and improving productivity,” said Forbes Marshall CEO Jehangir Ardeshir. “However, companies need to ensure that they build a solid business case and check feasibility before adoption.”

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Could LPWA trump 5G and Mesh for smart cities?

group of people talking in social network

Smart cities of the future will require a new way of thinking about city planning from construction to budgetary requirements. But one of the most important considerations is how these new technologies will actually communicate with one-another. One of the technologies that are in development today is referred to as low-power, wide-area (LPWA).

LPWA is one of several big communications network types with the potential to grant network connectivity to thousands of small sensors and other smart objects that power a smart city. One of the benefits of LPWA is that it enables small devices to operate, battery powered, for extended periods of time. Depending on the other demands of the device, small solar cells and other low-energy alternatives can enable them to run for extremely long times with minimal maintenance.

This is an important consideration for smart cities, where maintaining thousands of little battery-powered sensors can be costly and difficult.

LPWA networks work well with many small devices connected simultaneously, and the demands of these devices on the network are optimized for the type of use cases IoT applications require. Simply adding these devices to the same networks that will be occupied by consumer electronics such as smartphones means adding additional load to these networks, which could result in a reduction of reliability down the road.

There are also several downsides to the technology. Compared to 5G, the amount of data that can be transferred via LPWA is much lower. You wouldn’t want to use a LPWA network to monitor streaming security cameras, for example, but you could use it to monitor the status of garage doors in parking garages across the city.

Smart cities mean a significant increase in connected devices managed by the municipality. This is a gap that LPWA companies like SIGFOX are hoping to fill.

Will LPWA systems be scalable enough?

Whatever the network of choice becomes for the connected cities of the future, there are countless small considerations to take into account. For one, the rise of connected cars and autonomous vehicles means creating smart infrastructure that can support communication between these vehicles and the city’s transportation system. Data storage is another consideration.

For the citizens of these cities, having an LPWA network can have its advantages. For one, there is a potential for this type of network to host a growing number of wearables and other small IoT devices that have long depended on a nearby smartphone or tablet to communicate with the cloud. A network like this would enable them to operate independently, freeing the user to walk away from their smartphone without losing connectivity.

Indeed the city of the future may well be host to multiple network types tackling the wide range of needs tomorrow’s cities will have. Time will tell whether the technologies that power them are connected via 5G, mesh, LPWA, or a mix of all three.

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Research suggests sleep wearables could reduce PTSD risk


Wearables that are able to relax the brain could reduce PTSD, according to new research provided by Brain State Technologies and Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The research suggests that people suffering from insomnia, a sleep disorder that 10 to 30 percent of adults suffer from each year, are at a similar PTSD risk level as ex-military service members.

See Also: Can a wearable allergy-proof your child?

Brain State also claims that sleep disturbance is one of the hardest PTSD symptoms to treat, since medication for sleeping tends to have side effects like illness and addiction. With a wearable that relaxes the brain, it may reduce the chance of waking up in the middle of the night.

“We are excited about presenting this analysis to military health researchers, because prevention efforts tend to get too little attention. We think that focus on sleep quality could reduce PTSD not only in the military, but also in police, medical first-responders, and others who have high exposure to trauma,” said Brain State CEO Lee Gerdes.

Brain State provides a wearable, the Braintellect 2, which offers this type of brain relaxing functionality. The patient wears the device on their head and listens to rhythms of varying pitch, which reduce the amount of stress or excitement in preparation for rest.

The Braintellect 2 is quite an expensive piece of kit, at $1,195. It is also not the most compact design—it comes with the headband, a Bluetooth wireless control box (that connects to the headset through a wire), a pair of headphones, and a customized Windows tablet.

That’s a lot, but may be worth it for those suffering from insomnia or PTSD. Hopefully in the next few years, Brain State or some other firm can reduce the footprint of the device. Swapping the Windows tablet with an iOS/Android app and integrating the Bluetooth control box into the headband would be two smart moves.

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Intelligent alarm systems could reduce risks and costs


The alarm of the future may be able to warn workers about incidents before they happen and make sure only the people that can fix the problem are informed.

Instead of an alarm alerting the entire factory and creating lots of confusion, GE Digital senior product marketing manager, Alicia Bowers, sees a world where alarms are informative, preventive, and not annoying.

See Also: Huawei and General Electric team up to power industrial IoT

As part of GE Digital’s industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) push, it wants factories to install analytics for its machines. From there, the machine needs to be able to alert a centralized system, which will find the closest engineer able to fix the issue using geo-location.

GE Digital has built a system that does most of that, though more complex analytics, like machine self-assessment, is still in early days.

GE systems notifies engineers of needed fixes

Engineers may receive notifications on a mobile device from the system, detailing what machine needs repaired, how to fix it, and a risk assessment of the situation.

Having systems that can identify issues could save factories millions in repair costs over the years, not to mention the rise in productivity from a significant reduction in machine failures.

“Consider temperature monitoring on a piece of equipment. If the temperature exceeds the upper control limit, an alarm is activated. Traditionally, an operator would now react to the alarm. Analytics have made it possible to evolve from being reactionary to predicting when the event will occur and taking steps in advance,” said Bowers in Automation World.

Businesses are interested in IIoT, but only 25 percent in a recent survey are in the deployment stage. Many are worried that staff won’t understand the analytics, which will require the business to employ higher paid engineers.

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Could IoT be inviting malicious software into your home?

Hacker in the action on his laptop computer

It’s no secret that we here at ReadWrite love the Internet of Things (IoT). This is our focus, and one of the most interesting sectors of emerging technology today. However, it’s far from perfect. Security issues have long been a concern for IoT, and a recent speaker at the Black Hat technology and security conference shed light on exactly why those concerns aren’t just prudent, they’re often justified.

When you attend Black Hat, the devices you carry with you are about as insecure as they ever could be. A lot of attendees only bring systems with them that are sterile of private information and easily formatted afterwards. Connecting to a public network here is about as advisable as playing Marco Polo in a pool of sharks. Attendees carry cash instead of credit cards, notepads and pens instead of laptops, and often they even leave their driver’s license behind.

See also: Security expert warns of impending IoT disaster

But what about IoT devices? These devices have their own software baked in and, by design, give their users a very limited level of control over what they connect to and how.

When Eyal Ronen, a graduate student from Israel, has spent time researching the security of Philips Hue lighting systems. During his research, he was able to build a solution that tricked Philips lights into connecting to his network instead of the one they were presently assigned. He worked out a method to circumvent the 10-20 meter range limitations for controlling these lights and control them from 20-70 meters away – long enough to send signals from a passing car or drone.

He demonstrated this vulnerability during a session he presented at during Black Hat. His demonstration involved controlling a couple lamps located just off stage, but it offered attendees insight into just how easy it is to circumvent the security of some IoT devices.

The impact of an insecure IoT

The IoT is data driven. Information is continuously being shared between devices and most of them are doing this in a way that the human users never actually see on a screen. When our desktop computers are hijacked and become part of a bot net used by spammers and DDoS attackers, the evidence of this can be exceedingly difficult to identify.

If an IoT device is compromised, how would we know, and how would we be able to correct it? What would you do if your smart oven suddenly started sending spam on behalf of a scammer? These are problems that could cause a lot more heartache than light bulb flickering or baby monitor hijacking.

That doesn’t even take into account the possible implications of a smart door lock or a surveillance camera being hacked. Medical equipment is another big security concern, especially if malicious code running on the device(s) results in inaccurate measurements and/or action.

So, what does this mean for us? For one, it means that the Internet of Things still has some growing to do. For all intents and purposes, IoT solutions are in their infancy and have yet to be thoroughly tested.

Back in May, we published a two-part piece on the sorry state of IoT security. From this demonstration out of Black Hat, it’s clear that we still have a ways to go before we can fully immerse ourselves in a world of connected everything.

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Could this be the first smart car for quadriplegics?

Portfolio 15

In a time where the driverless automated car is becoming a modern reality, we are provided with great potential to make things previously improbable if not impossible suddenly possible.

My interest was piqued when I came across design plans for car that could be controlled by a driver with quadriplegia. At first the idea seemed mere fantasy but as I spoke to transport designer Rajshekhar Dass and learnt move about the control of technical devices through brain waves, facial gestures and infinitesimal movements the idea seemed more of conceivable.

Rajshekar Dass is a car designer from Mumbai, India currently based in Turkey. He has an impressive design history which includes fronting a winner team of the 2016 Michelin Challenge Design for the Google Community Vehicle and  Winner of the  Vehicle, Mobility and Transport Design 2014-15 A’Design Award for a Micro Taxi among awards. He’s interned for Volkswagen in Germany and worked in a range of car dealerships, so has seen car technology from a range of angles.

He detailed his rationale for a car designed specifically for people with quadraplegia, a cohort of people who until now have only featured in the automated cars of the future as mere passengers. Such a design is the first of its kind:

Audric Design basically was designed with a particular person in mind, Sam Schmidt, former Indy Racing League driver. He was made paraplegic due to a racing car accident in 2000.  He wanted to get back on the track but came back as an owner rather than driver. Everyone loves driving so my interest was how can we use today’s technology to solve these problems for an audience that are generally overlooked? How can today’s tech be used to enable the same driving experience that he enjoyed previously?”

It’s always interesting to learn how a designer approaches the design experience, Dass revealed:

“the first point of research is the capabilities of the human body when functionality has been impaired. In paraplegia the brain signals do not reach the human organs  bellow the neck, so the brain signals are basically lost. I thought, what if you could use today’s technology to enable the signals to be transferred to the computers onboard of a car instead, so you can give a rebirth to the whole driving experience?”

Dass explained that emerging technology like movement through brain wave signals,  gesture and facial recognition and sensor technology s along with  augmented reality made his design more than a well intentioned concept.

There’s precedence here. For example, in 2010  Emotiv released the Emotiv Epoch+, a commercial wearable device designed to enable users to play computer games on a screen through functioning as a brain-computer interface device (Admittedly the design was not without it’s challenges as this review attests).

Then in 2014, Ian Burkhart became the first paralyzed person to use neural bypass technology to pick up and hold a spoon using his own brainpower, with his abilities increasing overtime.


How could it work?

Dass stresses that the car would be completely autonomous in the first instance. But over time, the driver’s gestures and motions would be recorded by the car; for example, as the car is taking a right turn, the driver might be tilting his head. In this way, the car is learning from the driver instead of the driver learning from the car.

Dass explains further:

“There would be a series of levels which would be detected by the AI in the car, that slowly give the control to the driver. e.g. starting with audio and air-conditioning controls first. The next level could be controlling a little bit of the motion and slowly you’d graduate levels as you would in a game with the help of gesture recognition, eye movements and brain mapping. Once the car is confident as to the skill of the driver the complete controls would be available to the driver. but at the same time the car would still have the control over all the systems, as a built-in safety feature.

I’m aware that many people with paralysis experience involuntary movement such as spasms and jerking. I wondered if a car could be smart enough to distinguish these movements from voluntary actions.

Dass agreed:

It’s a good point. The car is completely autonomous and the AI is constantly monitoring the driver’s motions to learn his/her actions, and since the AI is specially developed for paralyzed drivers it can recognize such involuntary movements. Since the AI is also scanning the brain and can understand that the motion has no connection with the brain signals it can be tagged as involuntary action and not require a reaction”.

As well as its driving capabilities, the car would also be designed specifically with the needs of the driver in mind with a rear entry door suited to a wheelchair which would be specially designed to become the driving seat in the vehicle. Dass explained that the project has only been recently published online and he is keen to explore his ideas further with people with disabilities and associated organizations to enable further development.

In an era where ideas as seemingly bizarre as Google’s patent for“sticky” technology to protect pedestrians if they get struck by Google’s self-driving cars, a mind powered car doesn’t seem all that strange at all.

Dass is working on a range of diverse projects currently and judging by the ingenuity inherent in his design portfolio, this is simply an example of things to come.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 14.51.24

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German regulators could clear the road for self-driving cars

Three Bavarians in Traditional Clothing Drinking Beer and Celebrating in a Beergarden.

To suggest that global regulations around autonomous vehicles are murky, may be the understatement of the year. But Germany’s proposed regulations on self-driving cars could potentially let some daylight through.

As reported by Fast Company, the German government is updating its traffic laws to include self-driving car rules. If passed, experts say these regulations could provide some of the clearest guidelines for autonomous cars in any major world economy.

The proposed legislation stipulates that the new class of cars will still need to require a steering wheel and a conscious human sitting behind it. As well, driverless cars would need to have black boxes that record crash data to determine whether accidents were the fault of man or machine.

And while some argue the proposed rules are overly cautious, Germany’s decisive push for clear autonomous car regulations could give the country an advantage in the race to become global leader in developing the technology.

This follows chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments this spring that her government wants industry input and that all members of Germany’s ruling coalition are backing autonomous vehicles. This signaled to the industry that it could enjoy a harmonious legislative environment in the country, unlike other jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, industry pundits have raised fears that America could become a disjointed patchwork of incompatible and competing regulations for self-driving cars.

German regulations won’t get knotted like elsewhere

In California, which is arguably the most advanced U.S. state for autonomous vehicle testing, convoluted rules continue to create obstacles for companies seeking to develop these cars in the state.

Bird & Bird, an international law firm, discussed details of Germany’s proposed legislation. It noted that the biggest rule change is that the driver could transfer legal responsibility to the robot car, with their liability only triggered if the driver doesn’t react to the vehicle’s “wake-up” alarm.

“In other words, the driver may read, write, or watch TV to a certain extent, but having a nap will remain prohibited,” said Alexander Duisberg, a Bird & Bird partner.

If the black-box recorder proves that the driver did respond to the car’s warning alerts, the vehicle would be held responsible for any accident rather than the human.

“Whenever evidence is had that the manufacturer of the system is responsible for the accident, [it] will be liable without limitation,” he said.

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Facebook’s drone could bring everyone connectivity

group of people talking in social network

For remote offline communities, Facebook’s autonomous test plane moved another step closer to providing internet to Earth’s least connected places.

As reported in Smart Cities World, the social media giant recently ran full scale tests of its Aquila unmanned airplane. Facebook intends to use the solar-powered plane to provide regional web connectivity to billions of people living in Earth’s most remote communities.

Previously Facebook had argued that projects like Aquila are necessary to connect isolated communities where the economics of terrestrial web infrastructure are too expensive.

The plane, which was developed by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, faces significant technical hurdles before it is complete. As well, its chief engineer says the project needs to develop key partnerships between governments and other partners to enable it succeed in various locations around the globe.

“This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve,” said Facebook’s global chief of engineering and infrastructure Jay Parikh. “It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they’ll be most effective.”

The solar-powered drone has a wingspan of a normal airliner and flies at a high altitude of 60,000. Its hyper-efficient design will eventually allow it to fly for three continuous months.

Facebook says the plane still has a long way to go before it can stay aloft for months at a time, though the latest test exceeded expectations.

“It was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes — three times longer than originally planned,” Parikh said.

Facebook has now confirmed Aquila’s design

The drone uses millimeter wave systems and laser communications to beam down connectivity from above the clouds. Once fully operational, the drone will be able to circle a zone 60 miles in diameter, providing continuous internet to people living below.

Aquila is part of Connectivity Lab’s mission to connect people in far-flung locations through the use of drones, satellites and other communications systems.

In Aquila’s first functional low-level flight over Arizona, Facebook verified the plane’s overall aircraft design and operational models.

“In our next tests, we will fly Aquila faster, higher and longer, eventually taking it above 60,000 feet. Each test will help us learn and move faster toward our goal,” said Parikh.

In order for the robot plane to achieve three months of continuous solar-powered flight, its systems have been optimized to only consume 5,000 watts at cruising speed. This is equal to the electricity usage of three hair dryers.

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Digital trust could be the key to ensure personal health data


The transition into the era of electronic health records and health wearables has resulted in a plethora of electronic patient information including dates of birth, home addresses, social security records, insurance details and medical data. This data is highly desirable on the black market. But there are ways to prevent the risk for fraud.

I recently spoke to Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health at Accenture, to learn more.

Just how big is the problem?

Accenture recently released a report, The revenue risk of healthcare provider cyber security inactionIt reveals that in 2014, nearly 1.6 million people had their medical information stolen from healthcare providers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. Accenture  predicts that more than 25 million people—or approximately one in 13 patients—will have their medical and/or personal information stolen from their healthcare provider’s digitized records between 2015 and 2019

Kalis explained that what most healthcare providers don’t recognize is that as a result of cyber attacks on medical information, many patients will suffer personal financial loss. In contrast to credit card identity theft, victims of medical identity theft often have no automatic right to recover their losses.

According to the Ponemon Institute, these financial losses may take several forms. Not fully understanding their medical bills, some victims have unwittingly paid bills run up by others. Some have had to reimburse their insurers for healthcare services obtained fraudulently. Many have incurred substantial legal costs as they have sought to unravel the cyber crimes perpetuated against them. In fact, 65 percent of victims of medical identity theft pay out-of-pocket (OOP) costs at an average of $13,500 per victim.

It further shows that healthcare providers are at risk of losing $305 billion in cumulative lifetime patient revenue over the next five years due to patients switching providers because of medical identity theft. Almost half of patients said they would find a different provider if they were informed that their medical records were stolen.

What the blackhats are seeking

According to Kalis:

“Research has shown that there are multiple sources. overwhelming majority is coming from nation states and organized criminal groups, primarily because the value of medical records are greater than traditional identities on the black market, up to ten times the value of traditional credit/identity info. However there is also a high volume of employee internal responses such as the loss of laptops and usb drives, things that can be avoided through better risk management and  compliance measures”.

When you think healthcare data, the data for sale includes names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information, all of which can be utilised to create fake identification to buy medical equipment and drugs that can be resold or to lodge fraudulent Medicare claims  This is compounded by delays as data breaches and medical identify theft is not always immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Is “digital trust” an answer?

Kalis and many others place great credence in the notion of “digital trust,” a combination of cybersecurity, privacy and “data ethics.”  It extends beyond the notion of data security to an ethical viewpoint about “the  handling, control and providence of data. about making sure data is accurate and handled effectively. Digital ethics expands data security beyond pure safety to  the decisions and actions you take to ensure that you are using that information responsibly for the people you serve as a steward of that information.”

An everyday example of this is Apple’s Health Kit. After the consumer outcry from its iCloud breach in 2014, Apple came to understand the importance of trust.

According the Accenture report:

“Apple’s efforts to be transparent in how it uses and secures customer data is testimony to the value this leading brand places on trust. Its new platforms, such as Apple Pay and HealthKit, are clear beneficiaries of this trusted-by-design approach because the strong security and ethics that are ‘baked in’ give customers confidence that their digital footprints are secure and private, easing the transition to and adoption of the Apple ecosystem. This underscores the role trust plays as digitally powered companies look to disrupt their own markets and enter new ones.”

Kalis also notes that:

“What we’re seeing is the raising of security up to the board level, executive level response, so a lot of the ways of protecting it start with the leadership and overall aspect of making security of data a priority and then extend this philosophy to all the employees in practice. Then companies can move into more advanced ways of protecting the information internally, whether through using advanced analytics to detect both internal threats or misuses of information or external threats coming in.”

Blockchain could also be health data’s savior

Kalis also believes the blockchain can be part of the solution, as it shifts the model from centralized control to decentralized power that’s ultimately controlled by the individual.  He cities the example of Estonia where blockchain technology is utilized to secure over a million healthcare records.

Ultimately the issue of data theft and health care fraud is complex and challenging. There’s not a simple solution. It requires consumer understanding of the need to secure their health data. Healthcare companies to employ advanced data analytics and top-down cultural change from the healthcare professions to preempt data breaches and the legal system to provide appropriate detection and prosecution. As both IoT technology and criminals move quickly, the challenge will be to see if the security professionals and judicial system can keep up.

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Hi-speed Aussie railroad could spark new smart cities

Shanghai, China - March 16, 2015: A model of Shanghai Maglev Train in the Train Station. The line is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world.

Backers of a controversial $151 billion high-speed rail plan claim it will be funded by the creation of eight new Australian smart cities.

As reported by Australian newspaper The Age, long-sought details are finally emerging about a proposed high-speed rail line between Sydney and Melbourne. The proposed railway would cut travel time from the current 12 hours to less than three hours.

This comes as politicians have voiced greater interest in supporting smart city plans in Australia.

As part of the rail plan, proponents Consolidated Land and Rail Australia said it would create eight new smart cities along the magnetic levitation train route. The company says its smart cities would be kitted out with such beneficial aspects as renewable energy, low water usage, high-speed internet and affordable homes.

However, the Age raised concerns that the rail line may be a grand unattainable dream. Skepticism is partly coming from the idea of building eight entirely new smart cities from scratch, which is a monumental task by any standards.

High-speed rail but no new taxes?

As well, the claim that the entire project would be completed with no taxpayer money whatsoever also raised eyebrows.

The project proponents said they would finance the railroad and smart cities through real estate speculation of the land along the proposed train route. The company predicts that the cheap farmland they’ve already optioned on the train line would skyrocket in value as soon as residential developments were built.

The Age suggests that such a strategy makes this plan more a real estate play than an investment in transport or smart cities.

While Consolidated’s smart city-driven transport plan states that it will use not burden the public purse, an alternate high-speed rail plan already exists, which was developed at considerable public expense.

The $20 million federal study by AECOM was released in 2013. It projected that a high-speed rail line, which would cover the 1,750 km between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, would have cost $84 billion in 2012 dollars.

Considering the current economic conditions in Australia, such a hefty price tag essentially ensures that such a rail line would not get built using public resources.

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