Sunday, March 8, 2015

UPDATE - March 09, 2015


The hype surrounding “Big Data” does businesses a disservice by making it all look much too easy.

Data analytics and “Big Data” promise to revolutionise marketing. Most companies are sitting on tonnes of data from various sources: financial data, mobile data, transactional data, customer research data, behavioural data, social media data, etc. The combination of new analytical techniques, amped-up computer power and instantaneous online resources has resulted in incredibly powerful tools that have changed the game forever. So powerful, in fact, that analytics can go beyond merely lending support to unlocking new opportunities and strategies, as well as opening up possibilities never before imagined.

But the ease of analysing “Big Data” also has been overstated. In reality, harnessing Big Data is still a messy and very labour-intensive business. Take it from two people who do this work for real: Some of the hype is doing us a disservice, because it creates a false expectation of how easy this is going to be.

So that we can start getting real about Big Data, it’s time to put to rest these commonly heard myths.

Big Data isn’t “big”. It is diverse. “Big” is misleading. What we’re talking about is a large volume of data points, updated at high-frequency in real-time, from various sources. It’s very granular. It’s individual transaction data; it’s a certain credit card, paying for a certain amount of gas, at a certain gas station. Big Data is actually lots and lots of very small data. It’s not a landslide of data; it’s a sandstorm. And sandstorms can blind and disorient you. So, to help see in the storm, what other myths do we need to debunk?

Big Data Myth #2: You need to apply it right away
Most things in life that are important and worthwhile are difficult, and the analysis of Big Data is no different. The solution is to take small steps and start with very specific objectives. Think carefully about what you want to do with the information before you start stockpiling data.

Big Data Myth #3: The more granular the data, the better
Is real-time and granular data always better? No, it’s not. The first quarter of a football game doesn’t predict how a whole game plays out. Real-time can be too close to the action. Sometimes, you need to pull back for the long shot to reveal what’s really going on.

Big Data is encumbered by a huge amount of white noise. The noise as a proportion of the total signal increases with higher resolution, for example, data by minute rather than by week, or data at a town level rather than state. Do not confuse precision with accuracy. Big Data, in its raw disaggregate form, can be misleading. There needs to be an appropriate level of aggregation to cancel out all the white noise



Caterpillar digs in to data analytics—investing in hot startup Uptake

The mining and construction equipment maker wants a piece of the industrial Internet. Its strategy? Turn to the startup world for help.

General Electric isn’t the only industrial giant attempting to jumpstart its business with data and software services. On Thursday morning Caterpillar announced it has made a minority investment in Uptake, a Chicago-based data analytics platform co-founded by long-time entrepreneur Brad Keywell, who is profiled in the current issue of Fortune.

As part of the agreement, Caterpillar and Uptake will co-develop “predictive diagnostics” tools for the larger company’s customers. (Uptake says it is also working with other players in insurance, automotive and healthcare, though it won’t disclose other names.) The idea? To take the mountains of data spewing from bulldozers and hydraulic shovels and turn it into meaningful information that can help Caterpillar’s customers catch potential maintenance issues before breakdowns occur, minimizing downtime.

“We had some experience in this [data analytics] because of our our autonomous mining equipment,” Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar’s CEO, said in an interview with Fortune last month. “But we were really looking for somebody to help us jumpstart this. And that’s where the lightbulb went on between Brad and I.”



This Nuclear Reactor Eats Nuclear Waste. Nuclear power isn't going anywhere. But safer designs are sorely needed.

Nuclear power provides the promise of carbon-free electricity, but there are just too many "buts" for many people to accept. No one wants another Fukushima and the United States still doesn’t know what to do with more than 60,000 tons of radioactive waste that has accumulated at its reactor sites. Then there’s the issue of nuclear weapons proliferation and national security to worry about, not to mention the environmental toll of mining for uranium.

A startup—itself a rare concept in the nuclear industry—is working on designs for a new reactor that could address many of these concerns. Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor design could run on either spent nuclear waste (for countries like the U.S. that have a lot of it) or fresh fuel enriched to lower, cheaper, and safer levels of uranium compared to traditional reactors.

"We have a type of nuclear reactor that environmentalists can really get behind," says CEO Leslie Dewan, a 30-year-old graduate of MIT’s nuclear engineering PhD program and co-founder of the company.

Molten salt reactors aren’t new; designs for them have been around since the 1950s. They have advantages over the light water reactors in use today because they can be operated at normal pressures and shutdown safely even during a power failure. However, previous designs have required very highly enriched uranium to operate. Transatomic’s new design would require much lower-level uranium enrichment or could simply operate on radioactive waste. The reactor core would also be smaller and able to burn up to 96% of the energy from the fuel over long periods of time—a far higher efficiency than reactors today.

Dewan and her co-founder, Mark Massie, met at MIT in 2010 and decided to look for a project to work on together after they finished their grueling qualifying exams. With their hearts in their throat, they presented their concept for the first time to an audience at TEDxBoston. It was 2011, just after the Fukushima disaster had occurred, and they didn’t know how the audience would react. They received a standing ovation.



Beautiful but strange: The dark side of cosmology (Science)

It’s a beautiful theory: the standard model of cosmology describes the universe using just six parameters. But it is also strange. The model predicts that dark matter and dark energy – two mysterious entities that have never been detected — make up 95% of the universe, leaving only 5% composed of the ordinary matter so essential to our existence.

In an article in this week’s Science, Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel reviews how cosmologists came to be certain that we are surrounded by matter and energy that we cannot see. Observations of galaxies, supernovae, and the universe’s temperature, among other things, have led researchers to conclude that the universe is mostly uniform and flat, but is expanding due to a puzzling phenomenon called dark energy. The rate of expansion is increasing over time, counteracting the attractive force of gravity. This last observation, says Spergel, implies that if you throw a ball upward you will see it start to accelerate away from you.



Preparing for a Price on Carbon: Lessons from 3 Companies

ive months after the UN Climate Leadership Summit, with its unprecedented call to action for putting a price on carbon, low oil prices have provoked governments to look again at whether they have prices right and to consider how to exploit a golden opportunity to reset signals within their economies for lower-carbon growth.

Business leaders in closed-door and public sessions in Davos last month talked of the inevitability of effective prices on carbon and the need for an orderly transition to lower-carbon growth. There was a sense that business, not normally reticent when pointing out how policy can negatively affect operations, needs to use its voice to urge smart, early policy action on carbon pricing. The bottom line was that this price signal will be essential, if insufficient on its own, to steer economies closer to a pathway that can keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

The voices were CEOs, from all sectors of the economy and all regions of the world. They recognize the risks climate change poses to their supply chains and businesses.

Last week, we heard those arguments again as organizations that have come together since the summit into a Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) met to assess progress and plan for 2015.



For The First Time, A Manmade Spacecraft Is Orbiting A Dwarf Planet

At 7:39 EST this morning, the dwarf planet Ceres captured the Dawn spacecraft in its gravity. After a journey of more than seven years, the spacecraft will spend the next 16 months orbiting this tiny world 260 million miles away.

Dawn is not only the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet, but the first to orbit two different worlds. It visited the asteroid Vesta between 2011 and 2012, returning loads of data and some amazing pictures. The two-stop journey would not have been possible without Dawn’s unique ion engines.

Now the spacecraft is orbiting Ceres at a height of approximately 38,000 miles. For the time being, Dawn is making its approach on a side of Ceres that faces away from the Sun. But by mid-April, Dawn will emerge from the dark side, descend to a height of 8,400 miles, and start sending home visuals and data. At its closest, Dawn will orbit Ceres at just 230 miles, mapping its topography, composition, and gravity in detail.

Situated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is considered to be an embryonic planet whose development froze midway through. Scientists hope that studying it will provide clues as to how planets form, and what kinds of factors cause some planets to become icy like the outer planets of our solar system, or dry and rocky like Earth.

Until now, Ceres has been shrouded in mystery. But as Dawn moves in, we’ll see this tiny planet at a resolution 800 times better than we have before. Expect to see some surprises along the way—including, maybe, cryovolcanoes, moons, and a subsurface ocean.



Ikea to sell furniture that will charge your smartphone

Swedish furniture maker Ikea International A/S unveiled a new range of furniture that it says can wirelessly charge some mobile devices.

The collection includes tables, desks and lamps which have wireless charging pads in them. The wireless charging works through an energy induction transfer. The furniture itself needs to be connected to a power source. The collection will hit the shelves of Ikea shops in Europe and North America on April, 15, followed by a global roll-out.

Ikea’s introduction of wireless charging functionality on some of its new furniture heats up the battle for a global wireless charging standard, of which there are currently three, all struggling to become the global leader. Ikea will equip its new range of furniture with Qi-certified wireless chargers from the Wireless Power Consortium and has also joined the organization. The Qi-standard is supported by smartphone makers like Samsung, HTC and Microsoft.



Intel unveils Broadwell desktop CPU with Iris Pro graphics at GDC 15

When you think about overclocking, generally the first things that come to mind aren't mini PCs and all-in-one desktops. These form factors were developed for convenience first, and performance second, so they tend to receive lower-end or last-generation processors that won't exact satisfy hard-core PC gamers.
But that perception might be changing. For instance, the forthcoming arrival of Steam Machines for living room gaming is the most visible sign that small-form-factor PCs are starting to demand more performance. Intel, still the runaway leader in desktop processors (and creator of the NUC mini-PC platform), appears ready to respond, based on its announcement from this year's Game Developers Conference.

The company unveiled a new fifth-generation (or Broadwell) Core processor that will be notable for a couple of reasons. It will be the first Broadwell LGA-socketed processor to include Iris Pro Graphics, the integrated graphics solution that has been most notable to date for being included with Apple's recent iMacs and MacBook Pros. While it won't replace a high-end discrete graphics card, the Iris Pro graphics will perform far better than the integrated graphics of old.

Also of particular interest to tweakers is that this CPU will be unlocked, which makes it easier to overclock. Most consumers -- especially those buying all-in-ones -- won't be interested in that capability, but the fact that Intel is indicating that it's unlocked suggests there is interest in the feature, even in a lower-power (65W) processor. The company also announced that gaming utility Raptr (pictured above) will work with Intel integrated graphics, tweaking your hardware settings to optimize performance with just a single button.



You Are Being Judged By These 4 Things
Others make decisions about you in only a few milliseconds...with good information, you can ensure that you're able to make a great first impression.

Imagine that you're preparing for an important meeting. Everything seems perfect: Your hair looks great; your new suit fits well; your shoes are polished. You've done everything possible to make a great first impression.

But some things are beyond our control. Everyone we meet will make assumptions about us...and we will do the same. How quickly do people make decisions about others?

    33% of managers know within 90 seconds if they will hire you
    People will determine if you're trustworthy within 1/10 of a second
    Before the brain registers your gender, it has already decided if you are likable

"There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis." wrote Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-seller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell introduced the concept of "thin slicing," the lightening-quick process of deciding characteristics, from attractiveness to intelligence to financial success.



Are Consumer-operated Insurance Plans a Healthy Choice?

We’re into the second year of the Affordable Care Act, and the consumer-operated and oriented health plans (CO-OPs) provided in many stares as alternatives to the plans put forth by insurers are starting to get closer scrutiny.

Those CO-OPs were reviewed in a report just issued by the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In a recent interview on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111, Wharton health care management professor Scott Harrington, the author of the report, talked about what his findings.


Cisco’s John Chambers: Digital Disruption Is an Opportunity for CIOs

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said digital disruption facing companies is so intense that one-third of corporate leadership teams will not make the transition over the next three years.For CIOs, though, it’s an opportunity to elevate their roles. “It’s a chance for IT to be back in vogue,” said Mr. Chambers.



From Local Loops to Global Champions: Scenarios for Sustainable Lifestyles 2050

The fact that European lifestyles are not sustainable in the long term is hardly a surprise for anyone. However, there has been a total gap in through research into what kind of social structures and lifestyles can be disruptively more sustainable. In this scenario-report we present extensive and in-depth research on sustainable lifestyles into year 2050. The scenario’s are based on the two significant uncertainties. Future technology is either “pandemic” or “endemic”. Additionally future society’s governing principle is either humancentric or meritocratic. From these different viewpoints we have created four alternative scenarios for lifestyles in 2050. The scenarios are Singular Super Champions, Governing the Commons, Local Loops and Empathetic Communities.



An effective supply chain is the key to creating business value. This paper will help you benchmark your performance today and take a methodical organizational approach to improving your supply chain effectiveness.

. Orchestrating a Supply Chain Competitive Edge An effective supply chain is the key to creating business value. By understanding the four stages of supply chain maturity — from decentralization to orchestration — organizations can focus change efforts and maximize results.
2. 2 KEEP CHALLENGING January 2015
3. Executive Summary Your Supply Chain Matters Whether your industry is retail or manufacturing, transport or healthcare, your supply chain is the key to creating business value. An effective supply chain delights customers (internal and external, business and consumer), controls operational costs, and supports growth and expansion into new markets. But what makes for an effective supply chain? And how can you approach new initiatives and transformations to increase that effectiveness? That’s what this paper explores. We introduce a model for supply chain maturity that can take you from a standing start to the highest levels of excellence. We also provide the frameworks and questions to ask that will help you benchmark your performance today, and take a methodical organizational approach to improving your supply chain effectiveness. Throughout we have provided references to other publications that can help broaden your insight and get you started on your journey. ORCHESTRATING A SUPPLY CHAIN COMPETITIVE EDGE 3
4. Climbing the Supply Chain Maturity Curve Mounting Pressure to Excel The end goal of any supply chain is to be “capable to deliver” — having a full picture of the lead time and resources that must be committed to meet the customer’s delivery expectations. That has always been a challenge to achieve, and today a host of trends are putting even more pressure on organizations’ supply chains. In agriculture, for example, consumers are demanding to know where the food on their supermarket shelves has come from, with unbroken traceability from “field to fork”. In retail, customers expect stores to deliver a truly omni-channel experience, with same-day delivery and no compromise on quality. Breaking Down the Barriers Supply chains have many moving parts, spanning multiple organizations, and in reality they’re complex networks or ecosystems rather than simple chains. When looking to drive improvements in supply chain performance, it’s not enough to focus on one supply chain activity, one process or one entity in isolation. Arguably, that’s exactly what ERP systems have encouraged. Many organizations today have localized excellence, but processes and systems that are siloed. They’re held back by the constraints of legacy systems and fragmented organizational structures, and the experience they deliver is just as outdated and disjointed. Competitive edge arises from mastering the big picture: orchestrating the movement of goods and information seamlessly across functional and even organizational boundaries and building effective end-to-end value chains. Every industry has its own supply chain dynamics. But many are looking to reduce manual “touches”, improve cross-organization collaboration, and improve speed to market through careful orchestration of just-in-time component delivery and product pickup. Fast Food The food industry is one example of an industry looking to better integrate supply chains for speed, efficiency and traceability. Read more in “A Leap Toward Sustainable Development.” Quick Take 4 KEEP CHALLENGING January 2015
5. Four Steps to Business Value Evolution and Revolution There’s a continuum of supply chain sophistication and effectiveness. We’ve identified four landmarks on this continuum (see The Four Levels of Supply Chain Maturity), which can help you benchmark your current performance and identify what you can achieve in the future. This paper describes that model and provides some recommendations for how you can move your organization to the next level. The four levels represent different degrees of business value created by the supply chain — and different levels of business change needed to get there. • Level 1: Decentralized. Individual processes and regions are optimized for efficiency and performance, but there is little integration between elements of the supply chain. Each unit operates independently. • Level 2: Unified. Internal departments, such as procurement, finance and logistics, are integrated as one team to create a central supply chain organization. You have one supply chain across geographies. But this still leaves suppliers and customers on the outside. • Level 3: Networked. Integration creates a networked organization that brings in partners, suppliers and even competitors to share information and reduce the number of touchpoints. It will also see you develop a common language for all units, which means that payment terms and delivery timescales, for example, are standardized across your supplier ecosystem. • Level 4: Orchestrated. At this stage you have created a complete end-to-end supply chain that’s “capable to deliver”. Here everyone is working together to get the right product, to the right place, at the right time. The entire supply chain function is tightly integrated and synchronized, able to deal with huge complexity and dramatic fluctuations in supply, demand and participant behavior. There is a single view of customer demand across all channels of purchasing and fulfilment, shared by all supply chain partners in real time. Ultimately, the goal is to have a touchless supply chain, where the order is taken by the organization’s sales function or retail partner and fulfilled directly by the supplier. Among others, Gartner has proposed an alternative but compatible model, which it calls the “Demand-Driven Maturity Model”1 . During its five stages — react, anticipate, integrate, collaborate, orchestrate — organizations increasingly adopt an “outside-in” mindset, integrating business unit supply chain functions, customers and networks, benefiting from increasing levels of standardization, scalability and adaptability. By delivering more efficient and better quality service to customers even as demand and supply factors fluctuate, they maximize profitability. Evolutionary supply chain Increasing degree of business change Increasing degree of business value Revolutionary supply chain Orchestrated Uni?ed Networked Decentralized The Four Levels of Supply Chain Maturity Figure 1 ORCHESTRATING A SUPPLY CHAIN COMPETITIVE EDGE 5
6. How Mature is your Supply Chain? Most Supply Chains are a Long Way from Orchestration Although organizations today have more sophisticated systems available to support them than ever before, most still report low levels of supply chain integration. As you can see below only 10% report “high” levels of integration. We can map these tiers to levels 1, 2 and 3 on our model — very few organizations have attained level 4 today. Change is No Easy Task It’s no surprise that many organizations are still at an early stage on this maturity curve. A large retailer, auto manufacturer, food and beverage manufacturer or pharmaceuticals company may have thousands of outlets and depots, thousands of SKUs made from millions of assemblies, components and raw materials, and thousands of suppliers in dozens of countries. Dozens of related systems and processes around pricing, promotions, packaging, payment terms and more are also intimately connected. This complexity only functions thanks to layers of legacy systems, experienced practitioners, and large numbers of distributed physical assets, from retail point of sale systems to warehouse inventory and fleet dispatch applications. Changing these processes, people and systems is like steering an oil tanker: it’s slow going and has to be done with care if you’re to avoid a disaster. Maintaining the Status Quo is Not Enough Although change is difficult, every organization needs to establish a plan for advancing their supply chain competencies in order to maintain a competitive edge. According to PwC2 , CEOs are looking to supply chain leaders to support business growth in a range of different areas: • New product or service development — cited by 35%. • Organic growth in existing domestic markets — cited by 30%. • New M&A, JV or strategic alliance — cited by 20%. • Organic growth in new geographic markets — cited by 15%. Supply chain organizations are responding to these goals with advanced new capabilities. In our 2014 benchmarking study3 , 83% of supply chain leaders said that supply chain is heading toward real-time planning. 78% said that adaptive planning will become commonplace. 75% said that their planning function is becoming globalized. And 64% say that they will increasingly use new data sources, such as social, in their planning. 22% have a disconnected planning environment 55% have a “modestly” integrated planning environment 10% have a highly integrated supply chain planning environment Cognizant’s supply chain planning benchmark study 2014 found that Figure 2 Supply Chain Intelligence To find out more about the state of supply chain excellence, read the “2014 Supply Chain Planning Benchmark Study.” Quick Take 6 KEEP CHALLENGING January 2015



Microgravity rovers. A lightness of being. Space vehicles that can operate in the ultra low-gravity on asteroids and comets are having to employ novel locomotive systems

AFTER hurtling more than 6 billion kilometres through space for over a decade, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) probe Rosetta began orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last year. In November the mother ship released its lander, Philae, which appeared to descend to the surface successfully. But elation at the European mission-control centres soon turned to concern. Philae had bounced back up again due to a failure of the explosives-powered harpoons that were supposed to anchor it to the surface. The harpoons were necessary because a small body like a comet generates little gravity. So little, in fact, that if Philae bounced faster than 44cm per second it was in danger of exceeding the comet’s escape velocity, the speed that an object needs to be travelling to break free of a body’s gravity.

As luck would have it, Philae fell back to the surface and eventually came to a stop where insufficient sunlight could reach its solar panels. The craft managed to deliver some data until its batteries ran out of power 64 hours later. One day Philae might be revived if 67P happens to move into more sunlight. Even so, the difficulties the mission encountered help to explain why space agencies are putting so much effort into designing machines which are capable of not only landing on bodies with microgravity but also travelling around them without flying off in all directions.

Wheeled rovers have long trundled across the Moon and Mars, but their gravities are merely low—a sixth and a third, respectively, of that on Earth, which has an escape velocity of 11km per second. Wheeled and tracked rovers could probably be made to work in gravity as low as a hundredth of that on Earth, says Issa Nesnas, head of the Robotic Mobility Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. But in the far weaker microgravity of small bodies like asteroids and comets, they would fail to get a grip in fine regolith. Wheels might also hover above the ground, spinning hopelessly and using up power. So an entirely different system of locomotion is needed for rovers operating in a microgravity.



Concern over cyber threats has CEOs warming to government collaboration

With cyber attacks the new normal in business, CEOs from the biggest companies expressed the highest concern over cybersecurity. Compared to all other hindrances to growth, cyber threats caused the sharpest uptick in worry for US CEOs. And surprisingly, while CEOs see over-regulation as a growth impediment, a relatively large number say they welcome government-business collaboration on cybersecurity—signaling a shift for the sake of securing business ecosystems.



Apple, Google, eBay step up mobile payments arms race

Pulling out a wad of cash, or writing a check at the Whole Foods checkout counter, are already outmoded ways of paying for goods. And as mobile payment systems continue to evolve, that swipe of a plastic card outfitted with a magnetic stripe could soon be obsolete too.

Mobile payment systems are developing at a dizzying pace, after being kick-started last September when Apple Pay was introduced. In the six months since then, the likes of Google, Samsung, PayPal and others have scrambled to launch new systems and secure a slice of a rapidly-growing market.

It’s like an arms race, said Mark Ranta, a senior consultant at ACI Worldwide.

“We’re basically asking consumers to change what they’ve done for the last 20 to 35 years,” Ranta said. “The younger generation will adopt mobile payments much sooner, but for everyone else, it is going to take a while.”



This Solar-Powered Plane Is About To Fly Around The World (Very Slowly)

After endless years of planning (and a not-so-successful dry run), the Solar Impulse sun-powered plane is about to take off on its around-the-world voyage — provided it's not too cloudy, of course.

The Solar Impulse 2 isn't your average aircraft: it's been designed from the ground up with this mission in mind. Over 17,000 solar cells line its wings, supplying a series of electric motors and charging four on-board lithium batteries. It's designed to be entirely solar-powered, and, thanks to those batteries, able to fly through day and night. While we've certainly seen solar planes before, it's the first that can actually fly between continents — and, if all goes well, it'll soon be the first to fly around the world.

The trip is due to take place over five months. It's starting and finishing in Abu Dhabi, with around 25 full flight days split into twelve legs. As such, the craft is unlikely to be breaking speed records any time soon, but to the minds behind the project, Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, that's not the point. For them it's the energy efficiency of the project that makes it exciting. They're not so concerned with changing the aviation industry just yet, so much as changing the public perception about how exciting renewable energy can be. In other words, this is as much publicity stunt as technological milestone.



Foreign Banks in China Can Leverage Digital Expertise for Growth

Sushil Saluja is senior managing director (financial services) for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America of management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm Accenture. His expertise includes China and India; he was earlier senior managing director for financial services in the Asia Pacific region and oversaw Accenture’s financial services business in India.

Last month, Saluja was named chairman of TheCityUK’s ASEAN market advisory group. TheCityUK is a lobbying group for the financial and related professional services industry. He is also on the board of Heart of the City, a London-based charity promoting corporate and social responsibility among smaller companies in London.



Apple Loop: Apple Overtakes Samsung, Replaces AT&T, Doubles iPhone RAM, Delays iPad Pro

Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop covers Apple’s success in the smartphone sales table, replacing AT&T in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Android Wear on iOS, a potential MacBook Air announcement, doubling the memory in the next iPhone, iPad Pro delays, Microsoft Office’s preview app, and the $75,000 Apple Watch.

Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read our weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).



How to Manage Cellular Data Usage on iPhone, iPad With iOS 8

 When Apple introduced the iPhone, it also managed to get AT&T and then other carriers to offer unlimited data plans in the United States and in a few other countries. That didn’t last, especially as networks became congested with heavy data use.

There are still millions of people grandfathered into old plans that allow unlimited data use, but most of us—and all-new users and network switchers—are either on plans that have a fixed amount of data included in each billing period and then charge fees for overages, or on plans that allow “unlimited” usage, but after a certain amount of data is consumed, the connection is throttled from Mbps to Kbps for the remainder of the billing period.

I’m on a family plan with AT&T that allows 10GB of use per month among all our cellular-enabled devices, and then charges $15 per additional gigabyte. After many months on this plan, we haven’t exceeded our allocation.



Your next phone contract might be with Google…

our next cellphone contract could be with Google, after the search giant confirmed plans to become a mobile operator.

The project will be "small scale," according to Sundar Pichai, Google's Android chief, who was speaking at Mobile World Congress on Monday, but did not give any specific details about the company's plans.

"I think we're at the stage where we need to think of hardware, software, and connectivity together," Pichai added.

"We don't intend to be a carrier at scale, and we're working with existing partners. You'll see some of our ideas come to fruition in the next few months."
An employee walks through the lobby of Google's Washington headquarters, January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.
An employee walks through the lobby of Google's Washington headquarters, January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The news follows media reports last month that Google was looking to partner with T-Mobile and Sprint in the U.S. to operate their wireless service.

Pichai did not confirm this, but said the company is working with "some partners" on the project.

Google would sign a resale deal with a carrier, known as a mobile virtual network operator agreement (MVNO). This would allow it to essentially rent capacity from existing carriers and means Google won't have to build costly infrastructure.

Pichai said Google's service would not compete directly with the likes of Verizon and T-Mobile.



Five Cool Things Revealed at Mobile World Congress. This year’s Mobile World Congress was about everything except the mobile phones.
Smart watches got stylish, tablets got new software, and virtual reality goggles wrapped their tentacles around everyone’s faces. Some companies are deconstructing their mobiles into modules. And discussions of the next generation of mobile networks, 5G, centered on how useful it will be for the Internet of Things, not mobile voice or data.

Here is a look at five important tech developments from this week’s conference:

Deconstructing the mobile: the pieces come together for modular mobiles.

Smartphone maker Yezz showed off a prototype of Google’s Project Ara modular phone, which can fit up to 11 components onto its frame. The concept goes back to the PhoneBloks project, which has promoted modular phones as way of reducing e-waste. Also this week in Barcelona, Circular Devices announced at the parallel 4 Years From Now conference that its Puzzle Phone is also on the way.

A fresh operating system for tablets.

Jolla, a Finnish startup that crowdfunded its flagship tablet last year, has also experimented with separating the NFC-equipped back half of its smartphone and attaching keyboards via magnets. So far, that’s not too different from other external cases. But its tablet, which has a gestures-only operating system called Sailfish OS, won the Best Tablet award today at MWC. The firm also announced that a future version will be the first open security-focused operating system.



Mobile Phone Data Reveals Humanity's Reproductive Strategies

Combining old fashioned questionnaires with data mining techniques reveals increasingly detailed insights into the way young men and women allocate their time and resources.

The study of human behaviour has always been a difficult, time consuming and expensive business. Anthropologists have largely carried out their research with small scale experiments in the lab, field observations and questionnaires.

All this has changed in recent years with the mobile phone revolution. All of a sudden, social scientists have been able to study humanity cheaply and easily on an unprecedented scale. This data has revealed detailed patterns of commuting, rhythms in cities and even ways of measuring economic prosperity.

Today, Talayeh Aledavood at Aalto University in Finland and a few pals take this process to new levels of detail. These guys have combined the old and new approaches by gathering mobile phone data about when and where people contact each other and combining it with the information from questionnaires about the significance of the relationships people have with each other.

The results provide a unique window into human behaviour. They show how daily patterns of communication are remarkably robust to major life changes. It also reveals fascinating detail about the way in which gender influences the resources men and women allocate to communication strategies.


The rise and fall of cognitive skills. Neuroscientists find that different parts of the brain work best at different ages.

Scientists have long known that our ability to think quickly and recall information, also known as fluid intelligence, peaks around age 20 and then begins a slow decline. However, more recent findings, including a new study from neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), suggest that the real picture is much more complex.

The study, which appears in the journal Psychological Science, finds that different components of fluid intelligence peak at different ages, some as late as age 40.

“At any given age, you’re getting better at some things, you’re getting worse at some other things, and you’re at a plateau at some other things. There’s probably not one age at which you’re peak on most things, much less all of them,” says Joshua Hartshorne, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and one of the paper’s authors.

“It paints a different picture of the way we change over the lifespan than psychology and neuroscience have traditionally painted,” adds Laura Germine, a postdoc in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental genetics at MGH and the paper’s other author.



New detector sniffs out origins of methane. Instrument identifies methane’s origins in mines, deep-sea vents, and cows.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, second only to carbon dioxide in its capacity to trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere for a long time. The gas can originate from lakes and swamps, natural-gas pipelines, deep-sea vents, and livestock. Understanding the sources of methane, and how the gas is formed, could give scientists a better understanding of its role in warming the planet.

Now a research team led by scientists at MIT and including colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Toronto, and elsewhere has developed an instrument that can rapidly and precisely analyze samples of environmental methane to determine how the gas was formed.

The approach, called tunable infrared laser direct absorption spectroscopy, detects the ratio of methane isotopes, which can provide a “fingerprint” to differentiate between two common origins: microbial, in which microorganisms, typically living in wetlands or the guts of animals, produce methane as a metabolic byproduct; or thermogenic, in which organic matter, buried deep within the Earth, decays to methane at high temperatures.

The researchers used the technique to analyze methane samples from settings including lakes, swamps, groundwater, deep-sea vents, and the guts of cows, as well as methane generated by microbes in the lab.

“We are interested in the question, ‘Where does methane come from?’” says Shuhei Ono, an assistant professor of geochemistry in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “If we can partition how much is from cows, natural gas, and other sources, we can more reliably strategize what to do about global warming.”

Ono and his colleagues, including first author and graduate student David Wang, publish their results this week in the journal Science.



Lockheed Martin’s Laser Weapon Incinerates Truck

Lockheed Martin’s 30-kilowatt fiber laser weapon system successfully disabled the engine of a small truck during a recent field test, demonstrating the rapidly evolving precision capability to protect military forces and critical infrastructure.

Known as ATHENA, for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, the ground-based prototype system burned through the engine manifold in a matter of seconds from more than a mile away. The truck was mounted on a test platform with its engine and drive train running to simulate an operationally-relevant test scenario.

“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”



Infor Cloud PLM for Discrete Manufacturers: What’s under the hood?

Infor is widely known as an ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendor with its extended portfolio in CRM (customer relationship management), SCM (supply chain management) and other enterprise software products. Over the years, Infor has been expanding its PLM portfolio mostly by acquisition to serve specific industries. It acquired Formation Systems in 2005 that led to its Optiva PLM process solution and Lawson for fashion PLM.

The ION framework under the Infor’s PLM solution enables integration with core Infor ERP hubs such as LN, SyteLine, M3 and VISUAL. Customers also get social/collaborative support with Social Space and Infor Ming.le. Infor Accelerate from Aras is integrated with ERP and multiple CAD products. Users can expect the CAD integration to have same capabilities as offered by Aras. The ERP-PLM-CAD integration gives customers deep flexibility across engineer-to-order(ETO) and assemble-to-order (ATO) manufacturing. . Infor PLM Discrete uses Infor 10x technology to integrate with Infor solutions and third-party applications, including ERP and CAD systems.



Capitalizing on Asia’s digital-banking boom
Our new survey shows Asia’s finance consumers are rapidly switching to online banking, presenting risks and opportunities for companies.

Since 2011, adoption of digital-banking services has soared across Asia. Consumers are turning to computers, smartphones, and tablets more often to do business with their banks, while visiting branches and calling service lines less frequently. In developed Asian markets, Internet banking is now near universal, and smartphone banking has grown more than threefold since 2011. In emerging Asian markets, the trend is similarly dynamic, with about a quarter of consumers using computers and smartphones for their banking. And despite some structural obstacles, we believe this surge will continue—and incumbents and market entrants alike should prepare for the consequences.



Big Brother will get bigger in the wake of the Boston bombings

Video surveillance is big business but now it is expected to get even bigger… After law enforcement used closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to help identify the  Boston bombing suspects.  Lawmakers and surveillance advocates in the U.S  renewed calls for increased numbers of cameras nationwide.

Law enforcement officials in New York are almost certain to oblige. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kellywants to “increase significantly” the amount of surveillance equipment in Manhattan, which already has one of the country’s most robust systems.

According to Forbes the argument for greater surveillance is straightforward. Horrible events in places like Boston is a reminder that we’re vulnerable. The best way to limit events like the  bombings, the argument goes, is to accept 24-hour surveillance in public spaces. And when you see someone maimed by bomb shrapnel, privacy concerns sound coldly abstract.

No amount of security can completely eliminate risk, so it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. Are 10,000 cameras really twice as good as 5,000? In tragedy’s aftermath, it can be tough to have a serious conversation about how much to invest. But when the goal is to push risk as close to zero as possible, spending can asymptotically stretch into infinity.



Research suggests brain's melatonin may trigger sleep 

If you walk into your local drug store and ask for a supplement to help you sleep, you might be directed to a bottle labeled "melatonin." The hormone supplement's use as a sleep aid is supported by anecdotal evidence and even some reputable research studies. However, our bodies also make melatonin naturally, and until a recent Caltech study using zebrafish, no one knew how—or even if—this melatonin contributed to our natural sleep. The new work suggests that even in the absence of a supplement, naturally occurring melatonin may help us fall and stay asleep.

The study was published online in the March 5 issue of the journal Neuron.

"When we first tell people that we're testing whether melatonin is involved in sleep, the response is often, 'Don't we already know that?'" says Assistant Professor of Biology David Prober. "This is a reasonable response based on articles in newspapers and melatonin products available on the Internet. However, while some scientific studies show that supplemental melatonin can help to promote sleep, many studies failed to observe this, so the effectiveness of melatonin supplements is controversial. More importantly, these studies don't tell you anything about what naturally occurring melatonin normally does in the body."



Students launch desktop recycler that turns pop bottles into 3D printer plastic 

Three engineering physics students at the University of British Columbia have developed a desktop plastic recycler and extruder that turns plastic waste into the material needed for 3D printing.

Called ProtoCycler, the machine can grind plastic, such as pop bottles and Lego, and melt it into a filament that can be fed into 3D printers.

ProtoCycler began as a fourth-year engineering project for inventors Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce.

"We were concerned about the amount of plastic waste generated in our engineering projects, so we looked for a way to recycle that plastic back into usable filament," Oosterman said.

While there are other desktop filament extruders and plastic grinders on the market, ProtoCycler combines the two and is faster and easier to use. It can produce 10 feet of filament per minute – the fastest extruder on the market, says Oosterman.



Single ion shuttles the critical electron in fuel cell CO conversion

Not present when the reaction starts or ends, the driving force behind turning poisonous carbon monoxide into a benign form is a single atom that appears in the heat of action, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In the simulations, carbon monoxide binds with a gold nanoparticle on top of a cerium dioxide support. The carbon monoxide changes the surface; it spurs a single gold ion to leave the nanoparticle. The ion delivers an electron and returns to the particle.

"This is single-atom catalysis," said Dr. Roger Rousseau, a computational chemist at PNNL who co-led the study. "With a new twist—the catalyst is dynamically formed under operating conditions."

Clean air. Converting or oxidizing carbon monoxide is vital in fuel cells that create electricity without pollutants. It is also used in cleaning the air in firefighters' masks. Such oxidations could also apply to similar reactions used in manufacturing. Understanding exactly how the catalyst that drives this reaction works could open doors for improved efficiency and reduced costs.



Exploring new chemical paradigm with the theory of nonadiabatic electron
his volume offers a clear perspective of the relevant ideas and methodology relevant to the chemical theory of the next generation beyond the Born-Oppenheimer paradigm. It bridges the gap between cutting-edge technology of attosecond laser science and the theory of chemical reactivity. The essence of this book lies in the method of nonadiabatic electron wavepacket dynamic, which will set a new foundation for theoretical chemistry. The future direction of chemical reaction theory is clearly illustrated.

The Born-Oppenheimer framework to treat molecules have dominated the theoretical foundation of chemistry in the 20th century since their seminal paper in 1927 and even to date, which dynamically separates electronic and nuclear motions under an assumption that electrons can follow the nuclear dynamics almost instantaneously. This idea successfully leads to the static view of molecular geometry and the notion of electronic stationary-states that adjust themselves to any nuclear configurations in space. However, nonadiabatic interactions and associated quantum transitions arising from the breakdown of the Born-Oppenheimer separation are critically important in chemical reaction dynamics. This is because almost all the interesting chemical and even biological processes involve nonadiabatic transition events in them. Besides, the recent progress of laser technology makes it possible not only to track the real-time dynamics of ultrafast chemical reactions but also to control chemical reactions in terms of intense electromagnetic vector fields. These situations of are far from those of dates when the classic theories such as the Born-Oppenheimer approximation have been established.



The Digital Network 3.0 in the Services Providers of 2020: Creating Value from Disruption

 This paper presents an Open Systems Interconnection (OSI)-type layer model of the “Digital World,” combined with the different roles the provider can play and the key initiatives required in order to make the new model a reality.

Digital service providers are driving the digital transformation at the heart of today’s “Digital World.” Their software controlled network is an essential component in the globally interconnected world, and plays a vital role in driving the economic and social standards of society.

In recent years, disruptive players, ranging from over-the-top (OTT) entities to super platforms have frequently offered differentiating and competing services, while in many cases exhibiting a significantly leaner operating model through the use of IT operations paradigms. Given these circumstances, service providers and enterprises are being required to rethink their business and operating models. One of the key components of the provider’s and enterprise’s new thinking should be the accelerated phase-out of legacy networks in favor of a new network that will enable them to operate in tomorrow’s fragmented world, with its plenitude of players.

The new network, which will incorporate Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) in order to meet future broadband requirements, will enable high-quality services, lower operating costs, and a reduced time to market for new services, while also permitting providers to maintain a healthy margin.



How to back up a country. To protect itself from attack, Estonia is finding ways to back up its data 

WIPING a country off the map is one thing. Wiping its data is another. Estonians know what the former is like. They are determined to avoid the latter. Just as computer users back up their laptops in case they break or are lost, Estonia is working out how to back up the country, in case it is attacked by Russia.

Estonia has already shown notable prowess in putting government services online. It has pioneered the use of strong digital identities for every resident, enabling them to sign and encrypt documents, access government services, and conduct e-commerce.

But the latest project, termed “digital continuity”, is the most ambitious yet. It aims to ensure that even if Estonia’s government is sabotaged it will continue to function over the internet, providing services and enabling payments. The lessons will be valuable to any organisation concerned about disaster recovery.

Estonia, which regained independence in 1991 after being occupied by the Soviet Union, was the target of what many regard as the first instance of cyber-warfare. In 2007 its main websites were overwhelmed with traffic from multiple sources in a distributed denial of service attack during a row with Russia over a war memorial. The episode crippled the country’s online banking system and came within a whisker of disabling emergency services. Lately Russian airspace intrusions and propaganda attacks are a constant headache.



World's deadliest volcanoes identified. Indonesia's population most at risk from eruptions.

Swept away by mudslides, entombed in lava or suffocated under ash, nearly 280,000 people have died in volcanic eruptions during the past four centuries, but only now has humanity managed to quantify the risk posed by these fiery phenomena. The first detailed assessment of global volcanic risk — part of a larger international hazard assessment released on 4 March by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction — aims to save lives by providing better information for risk planners and by showcasing effective response measures.

“For the first time, we really have a shared understanding of volcanic activity at the global scale,” says Jean-Christophe Komorowski, a volcanologist at the Institute of Earth Physics in Paris, who contributed to the report. “This is a major turning point.”

Eight hundred million people live within 100 kilometres of a volcano that could erupt. But the hazards differ greatly from place to place. High in the snow-capped Andes, an eruption might melt ice and send floodwaters rushing into nearby villages. In southeast Asia, a powerful eruption might blast ash over a wide area, causing roofs to collapse under the weight.



Human Brain Project votes for leadership change. Controversial European initiative will disband three-person executive committee after anger from neuroscientists.

Shaking up the neural network: the Human Brain Project is changing its governance structure.

Europe's ambitious but contentious €1-billion (US$1.1 billion) Human Brain Project (HBP) has announced changes to its organization in a response to criticism of its management and scientific trajectory by many high-ranking neuroscientists.

On 26 February, the HBP's board of directors voted to disband the three-person executive committee that was running the European Commission flagship project, which launched in October 2013 and is intended to boost digital technologies such as supercomputing through collaboration with neuroscience. That decision is expected to be endorsed by the HBP’s 112 partner universities and research institutes by the end of this week.

The revamp comes eight months after more than 150 leading neuroscientists sent a protest letter to the European Commission, charging, among other things, that the committee was acting autocratically and running the project's scientific plans off course. Led by the charismatic but divisive Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), which is coordinating the HBP, the committee had stirred up anger in early 2014 when it revealed plans to cut cognitive neuroscience from the initiative.



The connectomics of brain disorders

Pathological perturbations of the brain are rarely confined to a single locus; instead, they often spread via axonal pathways to influence other regions. Patterns of such disease propagation are constrained by the extraordinarily complex, yet highly organized, topology of the underlying neural architecture; the so-called connectome. Thus, network organization fundamentally influences brain disease, and a connectomic approach grounded in network science is integral to understanding neuropathology. Here, we consider how brain-network topology shapes neural responses to damage, highlighting key maladaptive processes (such as diaschisis, transneuronal degeneration and dedifferentiation), and the resources (including degeneracy and reserve) and processes (such as compensation) that enable adaptation. We then show how knowledge of network topology allows us not only to describe pathological processes but also to generate predictive models of the spread and functional consequences of brain disease.



Google Researchers Make Quantum Computing Components More Reliable. Researchers from a university and Google demonstrate a crucial error-correction step needed to make quantum computing practical.

A solution to one of the key problems holding back the development of quantum computers has been demonstrated by researchers at Google and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Many more problems remain to be solved, but experts in the field say it is an important step toward a fully functional quantum computer. Such a machine could perform calculations that would take a conventional computer millions of years to complete.

The Google and UCSB researchers showed they could program groups of qubits—devices that represent information using fragile quantum physics—to detect certain kinds of error, and to prevent those errors from ruining a calculation. The new advance comes from researchers led by John Martinis, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who last year joined Google to set up a quantum computing research lab (see “Google Launches Effort to Build Its Own Quantum Computer”). Martinis now holds a joint position between UCSB and Google, leading work on superconducting aluminum chips that operate at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Most of the work behind the new results, reported today in the journal Nature, took place before Martinis joined Google.



Electronic Inks Make 3-D Printing More Promising. A startup called Voxel8 is using materials expertise to extend the capabilities of 3-D printing.

Three cofounders of Voxel8, a Harvard spinoff, are showing me a toy they’ve made. At the company’s lab space—a couple of cluttered work benches in a big warehouse it shares with other startups—a bright-orange quadcopter takes flight and hovers above tangles of wires, computer equipment, coffee mugs, and spare parts.

Voxel8 isn’t trying to get into the toy business. The hand-sized drone serves to show off the capabilities of the company’s new 3-D printing technology. Voxel8 has developed a machine that can print both highly conductive inks for circuits along with plastic. This makes it possible to do away with conventional circuit boards, the size and shape of which constrain designs and add extra bulk to devices.

Conductive ink is just one of many new materials Voxel8 is planning to use to transform 3-D printing.



New nanodevice defeats drug resistance. Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs.

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by MIT researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

The device, which consists of gold nanoparticles embedded in a hydrogel that can be injected or implanted at a tumor site, could also be used more broadly to disrupt any gene involved in cancer.

“You can target any genetic marker and deliver a drug, including those that don’t necessarily involve drug-resistance pathways. It’s a universal platform for dual therapy,” says Natalie Artzi, a research scientist at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of a paper describing the device in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 2.



MIT to launch three Institute-wide cybersecurity efforts March 12. New research programs will tackle technical, regulatory, and business challenges.

IT will launch three new research endeavors aimed at addressing the technical, regulatory, and business challenges of cybersecurity. Reporters are invited to attend the launch event, “Cybersecurity at MIT,” which will feature talks by and interview opportunities with key MIT cybersecurity experts.

Recognizing the importance of a more integrated approach to combatting data breaches and security failures, the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the MIT Sloan School of Management are spearheading three new interdisciplinary research efforts to tackle the growing problem of how to safeguard digital data. The three efforts are:

    Cybersecurity@CSAIL, a new CSAIL initiative led by Howard Shrobe, associate director of CSAIL, that will bring together experts in software, hardware, cryptography and other fields to address the technical challenges associated with preventing, working through and recovering from web-based attacks.

    The MIT Cybersecurity Policy Initiative, an interdisciplinary program funded by a $15 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation and led by Daniel Weitzner (former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy in the White House), that will draw researchers from across MIT to create the foundations for a smart, sustainable cybersecurity policy.

    The Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, (IC)3, a new consortium based at the MIT Sloan School of Management and led by Professor Stuart Madnick, which will address the need to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure through a focus on the strategic, managerial and operational issues related to cybersecurity.



High “return-on-learning”. “Business intelligence” software for schools links classroom technology and strategies to student achievement.

To see the impact of their investments, companies often use business intelligence tools — primarily data-analytics ­software — that analyze company data to link cash spent with outcomes.

Now MIT spinout BrightBytes has developed similar data-analytics software for schools that links the implementation of classroom technologies, and other strategies, to student achievement. About one in seven U.S. schools now uses the software.

The software combines academic research with collected data on students, teachers, and schools to create school-by-school analyses and action plans for implementing technologies and strategies. This lets educators and administrators know where to direct their funding.

“It’s a business intelligence platform written for schools,” says BrightBytes CEO Rob Mancabelli MBA ’12, who worked in the education sector for 15 years before co-founding the startup. “Instead of a return-on-investment, though, it’s a ‘return-on-learning.’”



Na-ion batteries get closer to replacing Li-ion batteries

As lithium resources continue to decline worldwide, the next generation of portable electronics will most likely be powered by something other than Li-ion batteries. One potential candidate is the sodium-ion (Na-ion) battery, which stands out because sodium is cheaper, non-toxic, and more abundant than lithium.

Currently, one of Na-ion's largest drawbacks is that the batteries take a long time to charge and discharge, and a slow discharge rate does not supply enough power density for high-power applications. In general, there is a tradeoff between the charge/discharge rate and capacity, so that attempts to increase the charge/discharge rate have resulted in severely reduced capacity.

Now in a new study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers led by Yong Lei, a professor at the Technical University of Ilmenau in Germany, have achieved a significant improvement in this area. The researchers demonstrated a Na-ion battery that exhibits charge/discharge rate and capacity values that are among the highest achieved for both organic Na-ion and Li-ion batteries. The large improvement may help pave the way toward the integration of Na-ion batteries in portable and wearable electronics.



Engineering: U.S. Must Take Action to Strengthen Manufacturing Innovation, Productivity, and Workforce Training

Globalization, technological advances, and changing business practices are dramatically transforming employment and operations across the board in manufacturing. U.S. companies, government and educators should partner to strengthen workforce training and improve innovation and productivity, says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering.

Manufacturing can no longer be considered separate from the value chain, the system of research and development, product design, software development and integration, and lifecycle service activities performed to deliver a product or service to market.  Businesses focusing on the entire system help make value for their customers and are less likely to be disrupted by new technologies or increased competition from emerging economies around the world.

While technological advances offer companies new ways to understand customers’ needs and in turn increase demand for their products, automation and streamlined operations are likely to supplant an increasing number of workers in a variety of occupations, the report says.  By some estimates, almost 50 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk for disruption.  For example, due to advances in automation and computer-aided design, engineering, and production, an automobile manufacturing plant can now be run by one-third as many people as in 1965, while the quality, sophistication, and timely delivery of vehicles have dramatically improved.