Archive for November, 2015

Cyber Monday gets a Boost from Robots and Drones

November 30, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Financial Trends

Delivery Drone Free PhotoUPS and FedEx both report that they anticipate delivering close to 1 billion packages in the next few weeks.  JUST in the United States alone. That’s a 10 percent more than 2014, and shows just how much more Americans consume.

The computer gurus at ZDNET say robots will play a huge role in fulfilling all those holiday orders:

Moving that much merch quickly and accurately would be impossible without the recent automation revolution in the logistics industry. Robotics technology developed by Kiva has enabled Amazon to fulfill orders same-day in many locations. Though human workers still play a vital (albeit controversial, according to recent reports) role in the picking, packing, and palletizing that go into dispatching goods to your doorstep, there can be no question that we’re getting ever-closer to a so-called lights-out shipping warehouse, one in which all the workers are robots.

One recent automation breakthrough (or job casualties, depending on your slant) is vision guided vehicles (VGV).


“Our robots run quite nicely in parallel with humans,” said Jim Rock, CEO of Seegrid, the biggest supplier of vision-guided vehicles to industry. “We can show up, drop off one of our robots, and in a few minutes it will be moving around a warehouse without any need for additional infrastructure.”

The working around humans part is important. Temporarily, at least, we’re in a transition period during which humans and robots will work side by side at the fulfillment centers responsible for delivering your last-minute Christmas shopping. Speed is critical, but so is safety, which is why autonomous robots with 3D vision are such a promising development.

Seegrid’s autonomous forklifts zip around carrying heavy pallets crammed with goods from trucking bays to robotic workstations, where the merchandise will be sorted for delivery. They can do this quickly and with far greater safety than human-operated forklifts, which are a menace to worker safety. According to Tools Of The Trade, there are 110,000 forklift accidents in the US every year and more than 100 deaths.

Seegrid’s autonomous vehicles rely on the convergence of two technologies: 3D sensing, which has become affordable in the last few years thanks to cheap cameras and increasing computing power, and evidence grid mapping, a newer strategy that enables autonomous navigation on the fly. Instead of registering objects, which is difficult to do in real time, robotic systems using evidence grid maps accumulate occupancy evidence for an array of spatial locations, slowly resolving ambiguities as the robot moves. (If you yearn for a more detailed explanation, check out this seminal paper, which introduced the idea to the world.)

“We’re buying very inexpensive cameras off the shelf,” says Rock. “That’s the least interesting part of what we do. It’s the evidence grid that’s very very complicated and that frankly took our engineering team decades to work out.”

Read the rest here

Will drones be under your tree?

November 29, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets
Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 12.32.02 PM

Syncro Radio Controlled Quadcopter drone

One of the hottest and most mysterious gift ideas for 2015 seems to be the Drone. It seems the drone is not just for government surveillance anymore.  I remember when my boys were fascinated by remote-controlled toys that could drive, fly and entertain them for hours. But times are different, and technology has made it possible for people to own and fly their very own drones.

For a mere $1,300, you could give your loved one a live video camera drone, that sends live video to a smartphone from up to one third-mile away. A 5.8 GHz radio remote controls the drone, displaying live video on an iPhone or Android smartphone connected to the remote’s dock. Drones can also be had for under $50, like the Syncro Radio Controlled Quadcopter being sold at Target, Fleet Farm and many other retailers.
But one U.S. Senator is telling shoppers to be careful about their purchases. The Hartford Courant newspaper reports that:
Richard Blumenthal, the former state attorney general, says the explosion in popularity of the flying drones could push sales as high as 400,000 in the upcoming holiday season.

This week, new proposed rules by the Federal Aviation Administration say that consumers would be required to register any drone weighing more than half a pound – a relatively low threshold.

Noting that drones should be flown only below 400 feet, Blumenthal says consumers should be able to see their drones at all times and “steer clear of planes, helicopters, airports,” dangerous weather and people.

“Before purchasing a drone this holiday season,” Blumenthal says, “consumers should make sure they understand the proposed registration process, and the straightforward steps to prevent a non-returnable legal headache or heartbreak. Recreational drones may be fun, but they are not toys—requiring close supervision. Following common sense safety precautions and obeying the law will help ensure that everyone is safe this holiday season.”

The World’s Most Innovative Universities

November 28, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation In The News

Reuters has released its Reuters Top 100 list of most innovative universities in the world. Based on academic papers and patent filings, and compiled by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters,  you may be pleasantly surprised by some on the list. Not surprisingly is the leader of the Top 100: Stanford University, which has built a reputation as a leader in innovating computer hardware and software.

The most innovative university in Europe, Imperial College London, ranked at No. 11 overall. Switzerland has three schools on the list and a population of just over 8 million people,  which means it has more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in the world.

Reuters says this:

Whether they’re in the top five or near the end of the list, all 100 universities in this ranking are among the best in the world. Thomson Reuters reviewed hundreds of universities to produce this ranking, and the ones that appear here are the most elite. Absence from this list does not indicate an institution is failing to innovate, however.

Check out the list here:

New Self-Driving Buses coming to Switzerland

November 22, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets
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Image via BestMile

Could driverless buses and other public transportation take off well ahead of driver-less cars?  Many think so. Here’s an interesting article about how that is happening in Europe over the next few months:

The Swiss city of Sion will begin a two-year trial of two autonomous buses beginning in spring 2016.

The buses come from startup BestMile and will be operated by SwissPost transport subsidiary Car Postal. The company’s name hints at the purpose for these small, nine-person shuttles. They are designed to cover the “last mile,” the gap between a regular bus or metro stop and the passenger’s own front door.

Unlike Google’s private self-driving vehicles, BestMile’s focus is public transport. It also takes a different approach suited to a network of vehicles running on known routes: the network controls the buses “the same way a control tower does in an airport,” writes BestMile. The company is also working with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne to improve the technology for better control and routing.

Read the rest via Fast Company

5 Habits Of Truly Disruptive Leaders

November 18, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Disruptive Innovation

bubble wikipediadisrupt: (verb dis·rupt \dis-ˈrəpt\) to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way; to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something).  -Webster’s Dictionary

In its November 9th report under Fast Company’s “Hit the Ground Running” series, Faisal Hoque reports that even though disruption and leadership might seem like opposing forces, the best leaders reconcile the two:

Disruptive leadership isn’t about change for the sake of change. It’s about integrating change into the modus operandi of the company—which, of course, is easier said than done. The truly disruptive leader doesn’t need to talk about disruption because it’s simply how they get things done. How? Here are five ways the most dynamic leaders embrace disruption and radiate it through their entire organizations.

1. They Relentlessly Pursue The Truth

Not telling others what you can see with your own eyes is the first step towards an early grave. When the business environment shifts and the accustomed approaches stop working, the last thing any business needs is a leader who suggests everyone keep calm and carry on.

Disruptive leaders are always testing to make sure their companies’ strategies are still effective—and say so when they aren’t. The more rapidly changes take place, the more crucial it becomes for leaders to take all their employees with them on the journey. The truth sometimes hurts, but it’s often the shock of that truth that prods people into taking actions and making decisions they might not have contemplated otherwise.

2. They Guide Others Through Chaos

Leaders need to be comfortable with the reality that in the face of change, the future is often hazy. Then they need others to be equally comfortable with that. As a company enters uncharted waters, it can be daunting for everyone involved. This is where the old “steady hand on the tiller” idea of leadership still has some force—not to guide an organization along a familiar course during difficult times, but to keep the ship steady as it steers in a new direction.

A big piece of that is communication. Leaders need to cut through the press-release palaver about “exciting new opportunities” and explain in concrete, practical terms how the changes under way tie into the business’s objectives: What new moves is the company making, and how come? Disruptive leaders empathize with their teams and involve them in their thinking. Chaos with a final destination is somehow a little less chaotic, even if you can’t map out in advance every move that will take you there.

3. They’re Decisive

The guiding principle of a disruptive leader is decisiveness. Leading by consensus has its place in the business world, but you can’t focus-group your way to an effective new playbook when the landscape changes abruptly.

Even if some decisions involves the most basic of “gut feels,” disruptive leaders need to tell their teams precisely what they want, when, and why—then help them to make it happen. Waiting too long to weigh countervailing opinions can spell doom.

4. They Break The Rules And Write New Ones—But Always Explain Why

The word “normal” doesn’t exist in a disruptive leader’s vocabulary—once something has become normal, it’s probably obsolete. The market is constantly changing, and the aim is always to be at its forefront rather than floundering in its wake. Sometimes that means breaking the rules; indeed, disruptive leaders nurture a healthy skepticism of best practices.

Still, a willingness to break the rules isn’t the same as cheering lawlessness. Embracing disruption means there’s always a new normal, and for as long as it lasts, it’s up to leaders to communicate what it is. If employees don’t know the current rules of the game, the organization can’t play by them as a team.

5. They Thrive On Uncertainty

Leading disruptive innovation means getting used to incredible levels of uncertainty. You never know how something will work until you try it. Modifying your assumptions and adapting your plans depending on your results is the standard practice of the most effective disruptive leaders.

But while such leaders might be called visionaries, they don’t have a crystal ball. There’s a certain method to the mayhem of navigating continuous changes, and disruptive leaders know that the key to success lies in using the insights from experimenting in order to chart a new direction.

Read more here

Great gadgets and social sharing

November 16, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized

These days inventors are turning to social media to help raise awareness of their innovative offerings. This video from Kaboost caught my eye on Facebook the other day, and has gone viral with more than 6,500 shares in the past week. How can social media boost your invention?

Therapy device uses fun, interactive music games

November 12, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized

I did not realize how common hand injuries are, and how limited the options are for those attempting to heal at home. Over 3 million individuals are living with hand impairment after stroke or other neurological or muscular injuries. Here is a glove that has helped patients who have lost function in their hands. MusicGlove is the world’s first FDA approved, clinically validated hand rehabilitation tool designed to help individuals regain lost function after an injury. The device senses the finger and thumb movements, allowing users to practice these movements while playing a fun, therapy-based music game.

The game also tracks performance over time, making it easy for users to reach their goals.
In this video, Flint Rehabiltiation Devices, LLC demonstrates use of the MusicGlove.

The device empowers individuals to regain their independence by delivering a motivating therapy regimen that is proven to significantly restore hand function after three weeks of use.

Nanotechnology will revolutionize security

November 10, 2015 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

Imaging using atomic-scale devices as security systems! No passwords required, and you can’t clone this authentication technology. Nanotechnology experts have discovered a way to authenticate or identify any object by generating an unbreakable ID based on atoms.

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Credit: Image courtesy of Lancaster University

Lancaster University provided this image of a key, which shows how electronically stimulating an atomically random system produces a unique pattern that can be used for authentication or identification purposes whilst being fundamentally unclonable.

The technology, which is being patented at Lancaster University and commercialised through the spin-out company Quantum Base, uses next-generation nanomaterials to enable the unique identification of any product with guaranteed security.

The research published today in Nature’s Scientific Reports uses atomic-scale imperfections that are impossible to clone as they comprise the unmanipulable building blocks of matter.

First author Jonathan Roberts, a Lancaster University Physics PhD student of the EPSRC NOWNANO Doctoral Training Centre, said: “The invention involves the creation of devices with unique identities on a nano-scale employing state-of-art quantum technology. Each device we’ve made is unique, 100% secure and impossible to copy or clone.”

Current aauthentication solutions such as anti-counterfeit tags or password-protection base their security on replication difficulty, or on secrecy, and are renowned for being insecure and relatively easy to forge. For example, current anti-counterfeiting technology such as holograms can be imitated, and passwords can be stolen, hacked and intercepted.

The ground-breaking atomic-scale devices do not require passwords, and are impervious to cloning, making them the most secure system ever made. Coupled with the fact that they can be incorporated into any material makes them an ideal candidate to replace existing authentication technologies.

Writing in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the researchers said: “Simulating these structures requires vast computing power and is not achievable in a reasonable timescale, even with a quantum computer. When coupled with the fact that the underlying structure is unknown, unless dismantled atom-by-atom, this makes simulation extremely difficult.

“While inhomogeneity in the fabrication of nanostructures often leads to unpredictable behaviour of the final device, which is normally undesirable, we have proposed and demonstrated a potential use for the quantum behaviour of atomically irreproducible systems.”

The reported Q-ID device, which uses an electronic measurement with CMOS compatible technology, can easily be integrated into existing chip manufacturing processes, enabling cost effective mass-production. The new devices also have many additional features such as the ability to track-and-trace a product throughout the supply chain, and individual addressability, allowing for marketing and quality control at the point of consumption.

Read the rest here.