Living materials could grow products

27. March 2014

Date: 27-03-2014
Source: BBC

Living MaterialsHoney, I grew the fridge: living materials grown from bacteria could be used to manufacture future products

Living materials based on bacteria and grown in a Boston lab could point to a greener way of manufacturing.

In future, complex and interactive structures could be grown using cells programmed to assemble into intricate patterns, the researchers argue.

They describe patterned biofilms made from proteins tougher than steel, designed to incorporate semiconducting crystals and electrical wiring.

Their research is published in Nature Materials.

The living biofilms are the creation of synthetic biologist Timothy Lu and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They are a marriage of advanced techniques in genetic engineering, which reprogramme a cell’s function, and the kind of protein chemistry that underlies the biofilm gloss we find on our teeth.

Our vision is to create living materials, in which living cells grow, lay down biopolymers and control the inorganic compounds around them,” Professor Lu explained.

“Just imagine what we could achieve if we could grow physical devices and structures from bottom up using cells and minimal inputs, rather than manufacture and shape them from top down.”. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Big Data’ Doesn’t Yield Better Loans

18. March 2014

Date: 18-03-2014

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Consumer Group Says Crunching Such Numbers Doesn’t Make a Big Difference; Lenders Disagree

Can “Big Data” really help write a better loan?

That is a timely question, as startups backed by big Silicon Valley names employ big-data techniques to offer short-term, small-dollar loans. The companies want to reach the 68 million Americans who the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says struggle to get loans because they have either no credit history or a poor credit history.

Crunching numbers on everything from an applicant’s number of Facebook friends to how regularly consumers pay their cellphone bills to the number of minutes they spend completing a loan application, these companies say they can spot a good borrower without relying exclusively on information from conventional credit sources.

They say the data enable them to offer loans that are more affordable than payday loans, where annual interest rates average roughly 400%, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Now, a consumer group has looked at the loans these startups offer—and concluded that big data doesn’t make a big difference.  Read the rest of this entry »

The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky

4. March 2014

How we collaborate has profound implications for how we live and work. The author and New York University professor explains how social media has upended traditional norms.

March 2014, McKinsey & Co.


From the invention of the printing press to the telephone, the radio, and the Internet, the ways people collaborate change frequently, and the effects of those changes often reverberate through generations. In this video interview, Clay Shirky, author, New York University professor, and leading thinker on the impact of social media, explains the disruptive impact of technology on how people live and work—and on the economics of what we make and consume. This interview was conducted by McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui, and an edited transcript of Shirky’s remarks follows.

Interview transcript

Sharing changes everything

The thing I’ve always looked at, because it is long-term disruptive, is changes in the way people collaborate. Because in the history of particularly the Western world, when communications tools come along and they change how people can contact each other, how they can share information, how they can find each other—we’re talking about the printing press, or the telephone, or the radio, or what have you—the changes that are left in the wake of those new technologies often span generations.

The printing press was a sustaining technology for the scientific revolution, the spread of newspapers, the spread of democracy, just on down the list. So the thing I always watch out for, when any source of disruption comes along, when anything that’s going to upset the old order comes along, is I look for what the collaborative penumbra is. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Data Means Big Questions on How That Information Is Used

4. March 2014

Date: 04-03-2014
Source: The New York Times

John Podesta, a counselor to the president, said a goal of reviewing privacy and big data was to determine how the public and private sectors might maximize the flow of information necessary for innovation while minimizing potential privacy risks to individuals.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — With the success of its free open online course system, called MITx, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds itself sitting on a wealth of student data that researchers might use to compare the efficacy of virtual teaching methods, and perhaps advance the field of Web-based instruction.

Since its inception several years ago, for instance, MITx has attracted more than 760,000 unique registered users from about 190 countries, university officials said. Those users have generated 700 million interactions with the school’s learning system and have contributed around 423,000 forum entries, many of them quite personal.

As researchers contemplate mining the students’ details, however, the university is grappling with ethical issues raised by the collection and analysis of these huge data sets, known familiarly as Big Data, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cloud Grows Up

2. March 2014

Date: 01-03-2014
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Gartner’s Peter Sondergaard on the cloud’s role in helping CIOs achieve agility

The business applications of the future will be moving onto the cloud to improve their agility, says Gartner Inc. Senior Vice President and Global Head of Research Peter Sondergaard. He speaks at The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network conference in San Diego.

As head of research at Gartner Inc., Senior Vice President Peter Sondergaard sees the big picture: where global technology is heading, and how trends such as cloud computing and business analytics are revolutionizing business.

Mr. Sondergaard discussed how companies are responding to these trends in a conversation with Michael Hickins, editor of The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal. Edited excerpts of their discussion follow.

Applications Shift
MR. HICKINS: In a Gartner survey late last year, one priority that global CIOs ranked very high for their companies was enterprise resource planning [the suite of systems used to store and use the data necessary to run a business]. But here at the conference, CIOs ranked ERP much lower. Why is that?

MR. SONDERGAARD: I think we are early in a phase of revisiting our applications, in particular our ERP infrastructure. We’ve spent 20 years building a platform that has consolidated itself around virtually two players: SAP and Oracle. But I believe cloud is going to drive a revisiting of our ERP platform. I think we will move to a federated, more loosely coupled ERP environment that enables us to select applications that are not on-premise but that end up being cloud-based. Read the rest of this entry »