Category Archives: Innovation and Technology

HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY IN OUR BATTLE WITH COVID-19

Tech companies are pumping out new services and products to tackle pandemic challenges. For all the misery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks certain to leave us with at least one benign legacy: technological innovation. Across sectors and industries, from medicine and biotechnology to logistics and communications, existing technology is being repurposed while new innovations are emerging within a matter of weeks in the battle against the coronavirus. n the race against COVID-19, getting technology innovation up to speed is key. Since COVID-19 laid siege to the Chinese city of Wuhan in January, one of us (Xian-Sheng Hua) has been heading an “intelligent healthcare team” – a kind of rapid response team – at Alibaba’s DAMO Academy to develop or repurpose technologies quickly to meet the specific needs of the epidemic response. The Alibaba team followed an Agile-like strategy, as solutions needed to be developed in a matter of days. From day one the team worked on multiple things simultaneously, such as data analysis, model definition, parameter modelling, parameter learning, verification and deployment. Increasingly, however, privacy is becoming a concern as technologies are deployed for a “new normal” of living with the coronavirus while the search for a vaccine or treatment continues. The epidemic response is very much inter-sectoral; it is not just a public health issue. Social media has enriched epidemic intelligence and become an essential channel for risk communication. The emergence of AI in medicine and health security today is sowing the seed of tomorrow’s technology for worldwide epidemic intelligence and global coordination of pandemic response.  Read More >>

HOW DISCOMFORT MAKES US MORE CREATIVE

Minor disruptions to the status quo, against a background of psychological safety, may be the best formula for creative cultures. Li Huang, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, pointed out that even the most innovative minds may expand, or contract, in response to environmental and cultural cues. “There was a time when Albert Einstein was attending a school that evaluated and tested students quite harshly, and he nearly lost his interest in science. It was only when he failed a test and moved to a different school that valued individual thought and creativity that he started to develop his interest further.” A little pressure can induce positive growth. “When plants are under a certain amount of stress, that’s when they go into an entirely different stage of growth – whether it’s from no flowering to flowering, or flowering to fruiting. It’s the same for human beings.”  Read More >>

DON’T LET YOUR OBSESSION WITH PRODUCTIVITY KILL YOUR CREATIVITY

Our current work world is obsessed with productivity.  But our relentless quest to be productive is undermining one of the most important abilities in today’s workplace: creativity.  First, gather raw materials as a stimulus. Draw together provocations and thought starters related to your area of interest.  Next, mentally digest the raw material.  The final step is to simply do nothing.  Most of us can probably identify with this time-tested approach. Our best ideas do seem to approach us in moments of disengagement.  Have a moment every day where you’re trying to achieve nothing. Giving your brain a moment to relax might lead to your best idea yet.  Read More >>

NEW ‘AIR FORCE VENTURES’ SET TO TRANSFORM TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY

The U.S. Air Force has adopted a three-phase strategy to select small, innovative companies outside the traditional defense industry to perform advanced development work and to tap Silicon Valley-style venture capital firms to help taxpayers finance the new technology. Acquisition chief Will Roper is implementing Air Force Ventures, a new method of attracting high-tech startups to the government. U.S. Air Force plans to make 50 large “bets” on technology. New acquisition training to be based on Fighter Weapons School. To prepare, the Air Force is sending acquisition officials back to school. Next year, a cadre of program managers will be enrolled in a six-month course at Stanford University, which will teach the Air Force to manage technology investments like venture capitalists.   Read More >>

LOSING SLEEP OVER THE QUEST FOR A PERFECT NIGHT’S REST

Sleep trackers worn on the wrist can actually be causing people to lose sleep. Sleep trackers have become increasingly popular. They come in the form of watches, wristbands, rings and even mattresses. The gadgets measure and crunch data on how one breathes, how fast one’s heart is beating, how much one is tossing and turning. An irony of the digital lifestyle, for some people, is that perfecting a sleep schedule becomes an end unto itself, so much so that people can lose sleep over it. This particular type of insomnia is called orthosomnia. It’s when one really becomes fixated on having this perfect sleep via tracker, and then start worrying about it, giving oneself insomnia.   Read More >>

3 WAYS THAT YOU CAN SUPPORT SUCKING EXTRA CARBON FROM THE AIR

Transforming the entire economy to get to net zero emissions is something that scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It will require massive and complicated transformations of nearly-every aspect of society. Acting on climate change as an individual requires pressuring the government and companies to make systemic changes. It is possible to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into a rock that can be stored underground. Reducing emissions is not enough; “negative emissions” solutions, which can remove carbon that’s already in the atmosphere, are also critical to get to a safe CO2 level. Firms from around the world are making innovative products to solve this wicked problem.  Read More >>

HOW B2B COMPANIES CAN UP THEIR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GAME

Most companies focus on their own sales targets instead of those of their clients’. Delivering a distinctive customer experience starts with a focus on the customer’s needs and wants, as well as an anticipation of the problems that customers may be unaware of. That focus is difficult with individual customers because everyone has their own desires and problems. Every company’s focus should be their customers’ outcomes, while paying close attention to the people, processes, and technology. Companies should start with their customers’ most critical issues first. It is important to pay attention to why the customers claim that they haven’t been able to solve a particular problem.   Read More >>

STARTUPS BET THAT LONELY FREELANCERS CRAVE COMPANY

Work clubs say productivity improves when you have a buddy.  This has become a problem from remote workers, who miss the interactions of nearby co-workers in the office.  There is a new trend of ventures coming into fruition: transforming remote work into a group activity. Many people get more work accomplished where there is no distraction at home, but feel more motivated in the workplace surrounded by peers.  Start-ups like Focusmate are trying to solve this problem. This start-up features fifty minute video sessions with randomly assigned partners. For $4 a month, users have unlimited access to the program, which can be an asset for people with deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Read More >>

Ready For Meat Grown From Animal Cells? A Startup Plans A Pilot Facility

Memphis Meats, a California based company, plans to build a pilot production facility to grow meat from animal cells. They have funds raised from high-profile investors including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Kimbal Musk, as well as two giant players in the animal protein and feed space: Cargill and Tyson Foods. The company says its latest funding round has brought in $161 million in new investment. Memphis Meats is still technically made from animals, but helps fight against the environmental impact of livestock agriculture. Read More >>

Think Universities are Making Lots of Money from Inventions? Think Again.

About $75 billion dollars is spent on academic research, and it makes way for little return on investment.  A very small amount of university research products ever makes it to the public market. Colleges and universities only provide a small proportion of the nation’s patents.  In 2016, academic institutions only produced 6,639 of the 304,126 patents according to the National Science Board. A possible reason for this is that faculty are awarded tenure and promotion based on measures such as how much research money they bring in and how many papers they publish, not their numbers of patents or start-ups or the licensing revenue they earn.  Obtaining a patent is a long process that can take seven years. It is easier for universities to calculate merit over papers instead of patents.   Read More >>