Tags Posts tagged with "technology trends"

technology trends

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Uber Technology Drives Into Portland

Uber technology and the company’s automobiles are making their way to Portland, OR. The company doesn’t have the best history with the city, but that won’t stop Portland from becoming the first U.S. market where Uber will push a set benchmarks for electrifying its fleet.

For the Portland version of Uber Electric, a program that the company rolled out to London last year, the ride-hailing company will team up with Drive Oregon, a partially state-funded nonprofit that seeks to get more electric vehicles on the road. With a combination of incentives and educational initiatives, Uber aims to make 10 percent of its Oregon fleet electric by 2019, statewide. Right now, the company says that 100 of the 6,000 active Portland Uber drivers use electric vehicles, so it has a lot of work to do.

To reach its 10 percent goal, Uber is pursuing a range of local collaborations. The company will work with Portland’s Black Parent Initiative to expand electric vehicle access to underserved communities, Cynergy E-Bikes to connect UberEATS couriers with electric bikes, and Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company. Uber is expected to use its auto-lease subsidiary Xchange Leasing to offer in-house deals to drivers wishing to get behind the wheel of an EV.

Uber stated about its mission in the city, “The City of Portland has also adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Uber Electric will help Portland and the state of Oregon achieve these important clean energy goals.” Uber isn’t the only alternative transportation company going electric in Portland. Late last year, the city became the second market for BMW’s ReachNow, a Zipcar-like service with a focus on electric vehicles, and a previous initiative by Car2Go sprinkled electric smart cars onto its rainy streets all the way back in 2012.

In a world where a quarter of cars could drive themselves by 2030, Uber’s decision to take two years to recruit a few hundred EV drivers is more incremental than revolutionary. Still, it shows that the company is implementing both long and short-term strategies for rethinking transportation, even in the midst of one of the worst PR crises the tech industry has ever known.

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water technology

Technology Turning Seawater Into Drinking Water

Technology / Researchers continue to examine the potential of graphene, the one-atom thin sheet of bonded carbon atoms that was created more than ten years ago after researchers first peeled a few layers off a block of graphite with some Scotch Tape, before going on to refine their technique until a sheet just a single atom thick was produced.

water technology

The nanomaterial has been posited for all sorts of potentially revolutionary uses; from faster, thinner and even transparent electronics, to biotech implants, to better battery capacity. Now researchers at the University of Manchester say they have come up with a method for controlling the permeation of graphene oxide membranes so they can act as a filter to remove salt from ocean water. By controlling the size of the pores in the membranes the team was able to prevent common salts passing through the material, turning seawater into drinking water.

While graphene has previously been demonstrated for filtering small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts, the challenge with common salts found in seawater is their small size. Graphene membranes also swell in size when immersed in water; meaning smaller sieves were required in order to block these common salts.

The team at Manchester say they used physical confinement to control the interlayer spacing within graphene laminates immersed in water, enabling them to achieve what they describe as “accurate and tunable ion sieving”, and to provide a sieve size smaller than the diameters of hydrated ions.

While they found that permeation rates for the membranes decrease exponentially with decreasing sieve size, they also report that water transport itself is only “weakly affected.” That means the filtered water flows through the membrane relatively quickly; an important factor if the aim is to develop affordable desalination technology. As well as potential uses for desalination, the team envisages wider industrial applications for “on-demand filtration capable of filtering out ions according to their sizes.” This study is detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Professor Rahul Nair, one of the scientists stated, “Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology. This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”

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technology heart

New Technology Grows Organs From Salad?

Technology / New research has found that spinach leaves can be used as a scaffold for beating human heart cells. Researchers grew beating human heart cells on spinach leaves by perfusing them with a detergent solution, which stripped them of their plant cells. This proof-of-concept study suggests that multiple spinach leaves could be used to grow layers of healthy heart muscle that could one day be used to treat heart attack patients, the researchers believe.

technology heart

Glenn Gaudette, the study’s senior researcher and a professor of biomedical engineering technology at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts stated, “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising. Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”

The researchers also said they believe they could deliver blood and oxygen to developing tissues by pouring fluids through the spinach leaves’ veins. Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student of biomedical engineering at WPI and the study’s lead researcher stated, “When I looked at the spinach leaf, its stem reminded me of an aorta; so I thought, let’s perfuse [the fluids] right through the stem.”

The scientists said spinach leaves make a good scaffold because once the plant cells are washed away, a cellulose structure remains. The researchers wrote in the study, “Cellulose is biocompatible [and] has been used in a wide variety of regenerative medicine applications, such as cartilage tissue engineering, bone tissue engineering and wound healing.”

In addition to spinach leaves, the researchers also removed plant cells from parsley, Artemesia annua (sweet wormwood), and peanut hairy roots. The researchers said scaffolds from these plants, and perhaps others, could be helpful for other types of specialized tissue regeneration.

Although spinach leaves have many veins, making them a well-suited scaffold for heart tissue, other plans show promise for other medical uses. Namely, the “cylindrical, hollow structure of the stem” of the jewelweed plant could be used as a graft for an artery. Additionally, wood from trees “might be useful in bone engineering,” due in part to its strength, they wrote.

Plants such as these may provide economic and environmental advantages to the biomedical field. The scientists wrote, “By exploiting the benign chemistry of plant tissue scaffolds, we could address the many limitations and high costs of synthetic, complex composite materials.”

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Scientists Are Hopeful Magnet Technology Will Replace Depression Drug Treatments

Most physicians will avoid technology to give patients a number of drugs to treat conditions like depression and anxiety, and up to two-thirds of patients won’t respond to their first medication. Another 10 to 30 percent of these same patients will never respond to drugs as therapy. However, NeuroQore hopes to replace medications with these magnetic pulses and believes it may be onto something with initial tests.


Co-founder Mehran Talebinjad stated, “We have an 87.5 percent remission success rate over drug-resistant depression. The startup is in the initial stages with only a small amount of subjects, but similar brain wave technology has been around to treat mental conditions since the 90s. Neurofeedback started up to help with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, different types of addiction, and impulse control. It is mainly used in clinics or social work professions where medications are not the first method of therapy, and works by stimulating parts of the brain to send a positive signal whenever a desired mood is achieved.

When an acceptable brainwave pattern occurs, the neurofeedback machine sends a cheerful tone (positive feedback) into the patient’s ears, which hopefully causes the brain to prolong that desirable brainwave pattern. Over time, the brain is trained to prolong a healthy brain wave pattern permanently. NeuroQore is based on rTMS technology. It works in a somewhat different way than other neurofeedback. Rather than sending cheerful tones through the ears to train the brain, it uses the magnetic pulses to send those tones directly into the brain to create positive feedback by itself.

NeuroQore also measures its results with biomarkers as physical evidence. Unlike with communicational therapy or medications, this takes out some of the guesswork of if and where the brain might be improving. According to NeuroQore and another source we asked who uses neurofeedback, there are also no side effects to these types of treatments. However, the downside is this type of treatment may also not work for everyone.

Talebinjad, who has a degree in biomedical engineering, came up with the idea after performing his first brain surgery. He stated, “Neuromodulation is super important and the brain is so complex. I realized during this surgery there wasn’t a lot of effective approaches out there.” NeuroQore is already approved in Canada, where its headquarters is in Ontario. The next challenge for Talebinjad and his team is getting FDA approval, though he says he does have a line out there. He anticipates setting up brain centers where patients can go and get the therapy throughout California soon.

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New Music Video Maker Technology App Called ‘OOO’

Technology for disappearing messages was a bright idea from Snapchat, and that the smartphone camera should be a toy. On a bit of a smaller scale, a new app called OOO is out and is meant to be a fun camera toy that lets you play with your video. Instead of trying to help you make the “perfect” shot, the app lets you zoom in and out on as slowly or quickly as you want with just a press of a finger, while you set your mini movie to one of the music tracks included with the app. Co-creator Brett Bergeron said the end result will be something that feels more like a music video.


The app comes across as kind of silly, but Bergeron insists there’s more going on, like camera stabilization and audio management. The app uses 3D Touch, which lets you press hard to more rapidly zoom your shot. Its only purpose is to make a specific kind of video, and it is easier to do this kind of zooming in the app instead of in iOS’s own camera. OOO is supposed to be “Zooom” minus the “Z” and “M,” and not “out of office,” as could be expected, comes from Brooklyn-based This Also, a design studio Brian Baker and Bergeron set up after leaving Google Creative Lab where they worked as designers.

The studio’s clients include startups, Xbox, Spotify, and Google. More noticeably, they worked on Google Identity and a redesign of the Google App for iOS. OOO is the first app they have created for themselves. The app works best on an iPhone that supports Force Touch. This way, you can press lighter or harder to control the zooming speed. You can also slide up to zoom or set your zoom level, then just hold down the button to have the app zoom for you smoothly. As to be seen in the settings are tools to disable or enable mute, stabilize the image, the flash, pick the music, reverse and more. The music tracks are originals made by the teams musicians, and are ideal for the video parodies this app will produce.

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Sounds crazy, right? Well, it is very common among employees to splurge on expense accounts because there has not been an incentive to be frugal until now. A new startup named TravelBank designed an application that can predict spending amounts for employees on trips, help with filing their expenses, and offer them cash rewards if they do not spend all their budget. TravelBank has raised a $10 million Series A round led by NEA and joined by Accel. TravelBank was co-founded by Duke Chung, who already created and sold a customer service startup, Parature, to Microsoft for $100 million.

“The way I look at entrepreneurship is that I like the categories that every company must have” says Chung. “And every company needs an expense product. It’s a basic function, and there’s huge opportunities to create something better.”

While there have been other products like TravelBank’s, the other company’s such as Concur have focused on designing these applications for Fortune 5000 companies. TravelBank is targeting small to medium businesses. At first TravelBank will be free, though it does have plans to monetize but no concrete plans on how to do this. The ideas that are possibly floating around are charging per-seat or a portion of savings.

“Expense management has been a very sleepy space. Maybe because it’s boring it doesn’t attract a lot of talent or innovation. It’s not perceived as a sexy category so there’s only a few competitors. I view that as an opportunity” Chung tells TechCrunch.

A large portion of the $10 million raised will be spent on marketing and sales for the newly launched apps. However, it benefits from the bottom-up distribution process like Dropbox and the fact that the app is starting free.

By simply taking photos and uploading them onto the app, any employee can sign up and use TravelBank to submit expenses and process their reimbursements. The app will integrate with business software such as QuickBooks, Bill.com, or NetSuite. TravelBank can export expenses as PDFs for easy use with some legacy expense systems.

One of the coolest features of the app is that if an entire company gets on TravelBank, their employers can trigger a rewards feature that estimates what employees should pay for flights, car rentals, hotels, and meals based on real-time prices. Therefore, if employees are economical, they can receive some of that unused cash as a thank you for saving the company money.

The second-biggest controllable spending item for companies is travel and entertainment globally. $1.2 trillion is spent on these categories each year.

“We found that people increasingly become more excessive when it came to business spending” Chung tells me. “When we knew all the employees and they knew us, they were more frugal, with the startup mentality. But as a company grows and you don’t get to know all the employees as well, you see some breakage and it gets worse of over time with abuse and excessive spending. There was no way to regulate that”, so Chung says he was inspired to build TravelBank to enhance management visibility.

Not to say that spending money to wine and dine a client is not valid and a smart strategy, and therefore the app lets you exempt spending on clients from your budget.

TravelBank can make employees more efficient. While before employees might have flown up to New York to have a single dinner meeting, now they end up holding breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings with the clients. They do this to exclude those costs which allows them to come in further under budget, and get a bigger reward while squeezing more value out of their trip.

TravelBank will have to convince small businesses to switch to this standardized app and ditch spreadsheets, emails, and haphazard receipt. It will be hard, but if it can address a business problem that other enterprise developers have not attacked, it could help companies apply their capital to important matters while turning employees from selfish spenders into thrifty team members.

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