Author Archives: Jeffrey Young

REPOST: NASA Taps Young People To Help Develop Virtual Reality Technology

The same way the Internet evolved into a major force for development, virtual reality will soon be a huge business and an important pedestal for economic progress. Here’s the latest in this technological breakthrough from NPR:

NASA has big hopes for virtual reality technology. The agency is developing a suite of virtual reality environments at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, that could be used for everything from geological research to repairing orbiting satellites.

One displays fiery ejections from the Sun. In another, scientists can watch magnetic fields pulse around the earth. A virtual rendering of an ancient lava tube in Idaho makes scientists feel like they’re standing at the bottom of an actual cave.

“I think, and I hope, this can be extremely useful for NASA scientists,” explains NASA engineer Thomas Grubb, who manages the program.

The goal, he says, is to scale up the use of virtual reality technology in NASA labs, and go beyond public applications like the Mars immersion program that allows users to explore the Martian surface. For example, NASA volcanologist Brent Garry is hoping that virtual visits to a rock formation in Idaho can help him plan research trips in real life. That same VR environment also allows users to measure distances and leave notes in the landscape.

“You know, it’s cheaper to have people go to a lava tube in VR than to actually fly them out there for two weeks,” says Grubb.

Another application in development could allow technicians repair satellites. People on earth could watch in real time as they manipulate actual tools in space. If the repairs are successful, satellites that would have died when their batteries did could keep working instead. “All of these things can save a lot of money or time, or just enable new things,” says Grubb.

And Grubb has stumbled upon a new talent source to help develop the pilot programs: young students, some of them still in high school.

Continue reading HERE.

The rise of data economy will transform every industry in the world

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to transform and modernize the way industries and even governments do business – and the significance of its impact will be felt in every country across the globe.

In definition, IoT is the connection of modern and day-to-day devices, not just computer and smartphones, to the internet. Imagine your house appliances, cars, security system and even your heart monitor connected to a bigger, grander system that is the IoT, enabling anyone who has access to gain control even if they’re miles away. More importantly, imagine how businesses and companies can use this technology to reach millions of people and totally create a whole new connected world through the Internet.

In the next few years, the IoT will be more advanced and unrecognizable from its early stages, and many devices are set to join the list.  In fact, a research conducted by experts predicted that come 2020, we’ll have over 24 billion IoT devices on the planet.

Image source: linkedin.com/peterbinggeser

As an answer to this outstanding innovation, many industries are starting to realize the potential of using data and its different types to more valuable applications. This optimistic approach to manage the rising data economy has left establishments to review their organization’s structure and how they can strategically respond to the changing times. So what can industries expect from this new revolution?

One example is how the emergence of data economy can transform organizations such as supply chains into more complex network of ecosystems. Another is how it can change customer expectations, forcing production and marketing strategies to shift. Furthermore, collaboration through the availability and easy access of data and connection can create smooth, open and unrestricted flow of information across industries.

However, not all companies can readily participate in this revolutionary wave of development—unless they start to reinvent themselves and redefine their role under the new data economy.

REPOST: Is Technology Really Going to Destroy More Jobs Than Ever Before?

It is a question most economists constantly have contrasting opinions on, but what is an absolute fact is that technology has a huge ability to transform the way we accomplish specific tasks. Will it ever replace human skills in certain roles? Perhaps… but not all. Read more on futurism.com:

You’ve probably heard that a robot is going to take your job. It’s an oft-repeated refrain, heralded in article headlines and speeches from luminaries such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Some experts predict that anywhere from 38 to 57 percent of jobs could be automated in the next few decades, depending on who you ask, and the jobs aren’t limited to any one industry. Automation threatens to eliminate or limit jobs such as waitstaff, truck drivers, factory workers, accountants, cashiers, and retail employees, according to a recent report from PBS.

But to other experts, these apocalyptic predictions are overblown. Even worse — they fear that the warnings themselves could slow the progress of innovation, leaving society worse off.

Two economists from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) decided to clear up the debate once and for all. In May, Robert Atkinson and John Wu published a report titled “False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015.” By analyzing data about occupational trends from the United States Census over the past 165 years, the duo concluded that those dark predictions of future employment are based on faulty logic and incorrect analyses.

For their report, the researchers focused on identifying increases or decreases in occupations that could be attributed to technological innovations. For example, the significant increase in the number of automobile repair workers following the production of the Model T and the decrease in the number of household workers following the invention of the washing machine were both identified as examples of technology-caused change. The researchers do admit in the paper that this method of determining whether technology affected the growth or decline of an occupation was “clearly a judgement call and subject to errors.”

Based on this methodology, Atkinson and Wu reached three primary conclusions. One: that the total number of jobs has changed very little over the past 20 years. Two: Growth in existing industries has made up for jobs lost to automation (example: a factory replaced workers with machines on the production side, but invested the money it saved into new jobs in sales and marketing). Three: Between 2010 to 2015, the U.S. lost the fewest jobs to automation.

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Can technology accelerate the death of the labor market?

Image source: techcrunch.com

When the advancements of technology started making their way to our own homes, drastically changing and improving our way of life through their offers of convenience and efficiency, many started believing that we are indeed, living in the future.

However, there are others who think that the comforts of technology go hand In hand with the tragedy of a totally different future that is no longer ruled and ran by humans, but by intelligent and flawless machines. One recent news seems to echo this concern.

According to a recent news report, cafeteria student-workers at a community college will soon lose their jobs as food dispensing machines will be assigned to replace human workers.

These self-serve machines may be far from its perfected and highly intelligent non-human worker but with the technology and knowledge that we have today, it’s only a matter of time until our concerns of robotic domination especially in the labor market can become a reality.

In contrary, many experts believe that human workers don’t need to worry, pointing out that only less than 5% of jobs can be fully replaced by technology. These are labors in structured environments with predictable and repetitive activities that can be easily replicated through automation.

In addition, jobs that include intuitive decision-making in complex physical work environments can be extremely challenging for machines since computers often struggle with tasks that rely on abstract and creative thinking.

Researchers who are studying on the possible effects of robots and technology in the job market predict that it will take 120 years, with a 50% chance, before machines can be finally capable of taking over the entire labor force.

REPOST: What is bitcoin, how does it work and what affects its price?

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, considered to be technological miracles, have posted massive gains in the past few months and created a phenomenon that even seasoned investors did not see coming. But what exactly are these virtual ‘currencies’ and are they a secure investment? This article on The Telegraph has the answers:

Few technologies have the ability to stir passionate online debate and baffle the vast majority of the population as bitcoin. The virtual currency has been a constant source of interest and confusion since it thrust itself into the mainstream more than five years ago.

But interest in bitcoin is now greater than ever. Its value has soared to above $4,000, a new high point, turning some people who hoarded vast amounts early on into millionaires.

But why? Is bitcoin the future of currency? Is it currency at all? What is it for? And should I buy some? Read on to have your questions answered.

 

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009 that uses decentralised technology for secure payments and storing money that doesn’t require banks or people’s names. It was announced on an email circular as a way to liberate money in a similar way to how the internet made information free.

 

How does it work?

Bitcoin works on a public ledger called blockchain, which holds a decentralised record of all transactions that is updated and held by all users of the network.

To create bitcoins, users must generate blocks on the network. Each block is created cryptographically by harnessing users’ computer power and is then added to the blockchain, letting users earn by keeping the network running.

A limit for how many bitcoins can be created is built into the system so the value can’t be diluted.  The maximum amount is just under 21 million bitcoin. There are currently 15 million in circulation, each of which was worth more than $4,000 ($3,080) at the time of writing.

 

What affects its price?

The price of a bitcoin has jumped up and down since it first entered the mainstream consciousness in 2013. That year prices rose by almost 10,000 per cent before the collapse of Mt Gox, the biggest online bitcoin exchange, sent it crashing.

Prices slowly crept up after that but have since surged again. This is largely put down to regulators appearing to warm to bitcoin and the rise of initial coin offerings – a way for projects to raise money by selling cryptographic tokens similar to bitcoins. Many sceptics believe we are in the middle of a new bitcoin bubble while advocates say we are just beginning to see the rise of bitcoin.

 

Continue reading HERE.

Tech homes beyond Silicon Valley: Top emerging startup hubs in the world

The rise of the new generation of startups have invited passionate, skilled, and creative people to redefine success and come together from different parts of the globe,  building digital and wired kingdoms in the most unexpected places. One perfect example is the tech haven, Silicon Valley, the prime destination for startups and tech wizards whose programs have shaped the world to what we know it today. However, the popularity of “the valley” is losing its charm as more countries have created their own technological hubs that are competitively winning the spotlight.

Let’s take a look at the rising stars in the startup ecosystem that you can only find if you look beyond Silicon Valley.

 

“Silicon Wadi,” aka Tel Aviv’s Startup Nation

Image source: inmygroup.com

Yes, you’ve read that right. Israel’s tech hub located in Tel Aviv is the home to growing companies. No one had expected that Israel could someday house the highest density of startups in the world, but this interesting country and its NASDAQ-registered 60 ventures feature an impressive pool of talents and boast an open business culture. Viber and Waze, among other tech success stories, were developed in Silicon Wadi.

 

Europe’s Atomico “deep tech” revolution

Image source: newmediaeurope.com

Europe used to be a tech laggard but the region is about to reintroduce itself as one of the pioneers of a complex artificial intelligence developed by Google’s DeepMInd, deep tech Atomico.  There is a growing demand for the continent’s tech talents and in fact, foreign firms such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google have announced massive expansion plans of their European bases. The revolution is being led by Europe’s newest tech hubs and it can be observed in different startup hotspots like London, Stockholm, and Berlin—encouraging a digital awakening in their once traditional industries.

 

Seattle, U.S.A.

Image source: bekinsmovingandstorage.com

Seattle, a city on the west coast of the United States, is a home to a large number of startups, thanks to its army of talented software engineers that’s securing this hotspots’ position as the number one when it comes to the highest population of software developers among all tech hubs in the world. What’s interesting about the city is its diversity and versatility in terms of startup size, making it accessible to both entry-level and high-net-worth entrepreneurs. Among the city’s biggest tech companies are Amazon.com and Microsoft, but many more are rapidly growing.

REPOST: What are semiconductor stocks trying to tell technology stocks?

If the SOX semiconductor index—which has been performing quite impressively since November 2016—rallies above its June highs, we may be able to see the technology sector as whole making another good run. CNBC has the full story:

Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Semiconductor stocks may be about to flash a crucial signal about the fate of technology stocks.

Unlike the XLK technology exchange-traded fund and the Nasdaq 100, the SOX semiconductor index has not moved above its June highs.

The XLK’s break above its own high, reached in early June, has just been a slight one; the fund is going to need to see some more upside follow-through if it’s going to confirm another leg higher in the tech space.

That’s where the semiconductors come in: The index could and should be a clue as to whether tech stocks can do this or not.

Why? The SOX has been a leader for the technology group since November. At its June highs, it had rallied over 41 percent since the U.S. election in November. Meanwhile, the XLK had rallied 24 percent by that time.

Therefore, we’d like to see the SOX break above those June highs in a meaningful fashion before we can declare that tech stocks are going to see another nice run higher.

Right now, the SOX is about 4 percent below those June highs, so it’s not like there is a major divergence. However, whether the semiconductors can break out to the upside — or roll over — in the next week or two could (and should) be important for the tech sector.

Expect a massive global shift to tech-driven economic models soon

Image source: which-50.com

History reminds us how technology not only changed our way of life but has also introduced new ways to increase and diversify production of goods or services. In turn, it has driven the economies of the world to new heights.

According to a recent study based on more than a million patents that we have seen in the past century, the positive impacts of technological feats to the economy have not only brought an optimistic future to this sector but also expanded it beyond recognition by fueling an increase in production for different industries. As a result, technology has contributed to the overall financial health of countries around the globe. One example is how it has boosted the annual U.S. economic output in the recent years. Analysis concluded that this growth correlated to the booming technologically innovative products that has been made available to the market in the past decade.

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As a response to this massive acceleration from a technology-driven change, experts have suggested that economic models should respond to the changes of its global environment by welcoming a newer phase beyond the 20th century economic models. One of these highlighted models is termed as the ‘programmable economy’ in 2014, and it is defined as a form of ‘smart’ economic system which aims to support and manage both goods and services’ production and consumption particularly catered to technology-driven scenarios.

In addition, the heavy spending on product development is naturally helping to pace economic growth. The good news is, innovation is now becoming a commonplace among industries and since technology-based advancements are happening globally, many sectors including industrial, energy, and finance can enjoy its benefits.

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Many of the world’s top investment magnets are tech stocks, particularly those that set new trends. The likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Oracle are favorites amongst investors and asset management firms—such as LOM Financial—because of their sustainable business models and booming market popularity. In some cases, such as that of Samsung, they are actually considered the prime movers of the national economies they are primarily involved with.

REPOST: A method to create alloys for future semiconductors

Outside major commodities such as crude oil and coffee, semiconductors are probably the most abundant in the trading world. Hence, efforts to continually develop and enhance this technology have never waned. An article on New Electronics gives us a clue on how semiconductors may be manufactured in the future:

 

A way to create new alloys could form the basis of next generation semiconductors, say a team led by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“Maybe in the past scientists looked at two materials and said I can’t mix those two. What we’re saying is think again,” said Aaron Holder, researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder. “There is a way to do it.”

A mismatch between atomic arrangements previously thwarted the creation of certain alloys. The research team, however, managed to create an alloy of manganese oxide (MnO) and zinc oxide (ZnO), even though their atomic structures are very different.

According to the team, the new alloy absorbs a significant fraction of natural sunlight, although separately neither MnO nor ZnO can.

Using heat, blending a small percent of MnO with ZnO already is possible, but reaching a 1:1 mix would require temperatures far greater than 1000°C and the materials would separate again as they cool.

The scientists – who also created an alloy of tin sulphide and calcium sulphide – deposited these alloys as thin films using pulsed laser deposition and magnetron sputtering. Neither method required such high temperatures.

“We show that commercial thin film deposition methods can be used to fabricate heterostructural alloys, opening a path to their use in real-world semiconductor applications,” NREL researcher Andriyr Zakutayev said.

Uses of petroleum you probably didn’t know

It was in 1859 when the first U.S. oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania. Unlike other sources of energy, this fossil fuel derived from rock produced what is now known to the world as “petroleum” – from the Latin words, petra (rock) and odeum, meaning oil

 

In 2015, the U.S. relied on 36 percent of its energy form petroleum. In fact, this “black gold” is a primary source of energy not only in the U.S. but also around the world. It is a major resource and many companies (and even entire countries) rely on it for their economic activities. As a result, it is one of the world’s most traded commodities and a major component (usually in the form of stocks) of many investment portfolios.

 

Image source: americancowboychronicles.com

 

In contrary to what most people believe, this type of oil is not only useful for fueling powerful transport vehicles and industrial machines, but it is also essential in numerous day to day applications. That is why volumes of petroleum being traded on a daily basis are often huge. Below are some of the several uses of petroleum you probably didn’t know:

 

Industrial and domestic heating/lighting

Central heating plants for homes, offices, and shops utilize heavier types of oils. In addition, the electricity produced from oil can be used for industrial purposes. The bulk of the world’s electricity supply is powered by thermal power plants, which mainly use hydrocarbons. Lighter oil grades like ‘kerosene’ is most suitable for domestic use.

 

Lubricating agent

Petroleum in the form of lubricants are useful for any type of transport and industrial machines. All greases and other lubricating agents are in fact produced from petroleum and help a wide range of complex machineries used in big factories and even small offices.

 

Petroleum by-products

Several oil refining process often produce other useful petroleum by-products that are used in a variety of applications for a wide range of users and consumers. For instance, the combination of petro-chemical products can give us plastic, grease, Vaseline, wax, detergents, aviation gasoline, asphalt, and many more.

 

Transport System

It’s a fact that the world’s entire transport system depends primarily on petroleum. Road, water, air, and rail transport has been modernized by the discovery of fossil fuels like petroleum. Diesel and petrol are the number one sources of energy for any type of modern transport machines and vehicles.