With Graphene, a Smart Snap Bracelet?

29. January 2013

Date: 29-01-2013

Source: Technology Review

GraphenA billion euros’ worth of continental love for the up-and-coming “wonder material.”

What if your device could do this?


This wild vision of a morphing, versatile, snap-bracelet-slash-tablet-slash-all-purpose-smart-thing is made possible–or at least thinkable–by the graphene, a so-called “wonder material” discovered in 2004.

The European Commission today announced one billion Euros in funding for research into applications of graphene. Over 100 research groups will receive funding in an initiative led by Jari Kinaret, applied physicist and apparent fencing enthusiast.

What’s graphene? For a crash course in the material, look no further than TR’s own pages.

Graphene is pretty simple to comprehend: it’s an atom-thick sheet of carbon, arrayed like a honeycomb. Graphene is seen as a potential replacement for silicon, since it conducts electrons even faster. Recent years have seen researchers employing various types of chemical wizardry to improve processes of creating bulk graphene (see “From the Labs: Materials”). Read the rest of this entry »

Es hat sich bewährt …

21. January 2013

Alexander Schön

Serie Realitätsverweigerung #12

Alexander Schön, 21.1.2013

Die aktuelle Diskussion rund um die Volksbefragung pro und contra Wehrpflicht hat bei mir des Öfteren zu verständnislosem Kopfschütteln geführt.
Es waren schon sehr eigenartige Rechtfertigungen – auf beiden Seiten der Argumentation. Und wenn die Anerkenntnis, dass Dinge einfach so sind, wie sie sind, nicht so traurig wäre, wär’s schon wieder zum Lachen. Beispiele?
Da erklärt doch tatsächlich jemand, das System der Wehrpflicht habe sich seit 60 Jahren bewährt und es sei daher das Beste, es beizubehalten. Zieht man in Betracht, dass sich die Umwelten dieses Systems in diesen 60 Jahren mehrfach verändert haben, so ist diese Aussage ziemlich realitätsfremd. Zieht man sie nicht in Betracht, schlichtweg realitätsverweigernd.
Nach der Wahl haben Wahlforscher Leute gefragt, die gerade aus dem Wahllokal kamen, ob sie denn für die Wehrpflicht oder die Beibehaltung des derzeitigen Systems (sic!) gestimmt hätten. Sie ahnen es: Nicht wenige votierten entrüstet für den Status quo …
Die etwas seriöseren fragten nach den Motiven für die Entscheidung. Eines, das im Vorfeld kaum zur Sprache kam, war: „Ein bisschen Disziplin schadet [den Jungen] nicht.“ (In der Gruppe der über Sechzigjährigen stimmten mehr als 70 Prozent für die Beibehaltung der Wehrpflicht …)
Was bedeuten solche Verhaltensweisen für Organisationen? In Unternehmen ist ja quasi jeder Tag ein Abstimmungstag. Die Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen treffen jeden Tag die Wahl und geben Antworten: Bleibe ich dem Unternehmen verbunden oder nicht? Werden die richtigen Fragen gestellt? Und stehen dahinter nachvollziehbare Konzepte? Welche Möglichkeiten habe ich, mich einzubringen? Wie wird mit Veränderungen umgegangen? Sorgen die Führungskräfte als Vertreter des Unternehmens adäquat für notwendige Stabilität auf der einen Seite und für genügend Veränderung auf der anderen Seite? Werde ich ernst genommen (oder ist diese Befragung ein Anschlag auf meine Intelligenz)? etc.
Oder heißt es – wie nach wie vor beobachtbar: „Bei uns läuft das so.“ „Das haben wir immer schon so gemacht.“, eventuell mit dem Zusatz „…, weil es sich bewährt hat!“)?
Fast 20 Jahre ist es her, dass Hamel/Prahalad das wegweisende „Competing for the Future“ geschrieben haben. In dem Buch ist folgende Anekdote beschrieben:
In einem Experiment wurden Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Doesn’t Care About Profit Margins

9. January 2013

Date: 09-01-2013
Source: Businessweek

amazon fullfilment centerAn Amazon.com fulfillment center in Ridgmont, U.K.

January in retail is a little bit like the off-season of a professional sports league. Teams dust themselves off from the grueling holiday season playoffs, evaluate their coaching staffs, and assess the balance of power in their divisions. In this month’s period of exhausted self-reflection, one of the industry’s broad conclusions is clear: Amazon.com is on its way to establishing a dangerous dynasty.

Amazon recently said it had its best holiday season ever in 2012, selling 26.5 million products around the world at a record-breaking pace of 306 items per second. Earlier this week, Amazon stock hit an all-time high, buoyed by a Morgan Stanley report that predicted the global e-commerce market will hit $1 trillion by 2016, with Amazon poised to capture nearly a quarter of that. The company is madly adding such customer freebies as new movies and television shows to its Netflix -slaying Prime Instant Video program, and its commitment to having the lowest price anywhere is increasingly exerting a gravitational effect on the strategies of rivals.

On Tuesday, Target announced a new policy of matching competitors’ prices year-round—a tactic geared toward slowing the emergence of “showrooming,” the practice by which shoppers browse in a store and then buy online, often from Amazon. Target, whose stock is also near an all-time high, is the second-largest retailer in the country, behind Wal-Mart. But if current growth rates continue, it will soon lose that title to the upstart from Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Just because something has value doesn’t mean it has a price

9. January 2013

Date: 09-01-2013
Source: The Guardian by Cory Doctorow

If every last shred of incidental online value is given a price tag, we’ll never harvest the full fruits of our ingenuity
googleGoogle is a case-study in harvesting positive externalities.

When future economists look back on the dawn of the internet era, they will marvel that an age of such technological marvel was attended by a widespread, infantile mania for preventing positive externalities.

“Externalities” are the economist’s catchall term for the spillover effects experienced by the people who are affected by others’ activities. Most of the 20th century was spent locked in battle with the corporate vice of externalising negative costs. Companies are beholden to their shareholders, and so they are meant to save every penny they can, even when saving that penny might cost the rest of society several pounds. The classic example is toxic waste: processing industrial waste before it leaves the factory is a costly proposition, and so, whenever it is possible to do so, companies have defaulted to dumping their waste into the wider world. This is a much cheaper option — for the company.

For the world, it’s vastly more costly. After all, when the offensive sludge is all neatly gathered at the effluent pipe’s head-end, it is concentrated and handy, and can be gathered and fed into whatever decontamination or sequestration system is appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

Manufacturing in the Balance

3. January 2013

Date: 03-01-2013
Source: Technology Review
Inexpensive labor has defined the last decade in manufacturing. The future may belong to technology.  
Understand the technology and ideas behind the manufacturing renaissance.

When General Electric expanded manufacturing of home heaters and refrigerators at its facility in Kentucky last year, the reasons included big wage concessions the company had won from local workers and the advantages of being closer to its U.S. customers. But writing in the Harvard Business Review last March, CEO Jeffrey Immelt explained that one of the biggest factors in GE’s decision to bring back manufacturing from China and South Korea was the desire to keep appliance designers near its manufacturing and engineers.

“At a time when speed to market is everything, separating design and development from manufacturing didn’t make sense,” Immelt wrote. Now, someone who has an idea for a dishwasher that has fewer parts and weighs less can actually try to build it. These designs won’t be so quick to end up in knockoff products built by GE’s suppliers, either. “Outsourcing based only onlabor costs is yesterday’s model,” Immelt said.

At the turn of this century, manufacturing wages in southern China were 58 cents an hour, just 3 percent of U.S. levels. GE and many other manufacturers rushed to take advantage of so-called labor arbitrage by moving manufacturing overseas. In 2004, the Boston Consulting Group told clients the choice wasn’t whether to go offshore but “how fast.” Read the rest of this entry »