Looking Beyond The Horizon

Innovative Technologies & Services

Archive for May, 2007

Couldn’t let this go by – Bill Gates & Steve Jobs together

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 31, 2007

I just couldn’t let this go by… wanted to post the video of these two outstanding guys talking together under the same roof.

If you are unable to see the video, go to the link below:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid910498365/bctid958634947

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Sony’s paper thin video display – and with that a question

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 29, 2007

I was a day late to read the news. But the article on Sony’s paper-thin video display not only caught my attention but also made me ask few questions. Let me first talk a little bit about the innovative invention. Sony R&D powerhouse has once again delivered to a large investment on organic transistors and electroluminescent displays. They have created an ultra thin panel that is capable of displaying static color images as well as video. It’s like the one we saw in Minority Report. You will have an A4 size film that will deliver dynamic content and you will roll that up and put it in your pocket and walk away. Like a billboard in a paper.   In the race for ever thinner displays for TVs, cellphones and other gadgets, Sony may have developed one to beat them all: A razor-thin display, seen here, that bends like paper while showing full-color video.

Sony has been challenged over the recent years by Samsung and Phillips on flat panel displays and innovations in that field. They are now responding back. Sony R&D had been a great innovator from the days of walkman. Organic transistor is now a big area of interest and possible applications are boundless. Starting from dynamic newspaper and video wallpaper to video films embedded on T-shirts – endless options for marketing in the future. However, time to market and cost will dictate the product’s ubiquity. [Read the article] 

Last year I was reading some article on a startup called Eink who has acquired a decent amount of venture funding over last few years to come up with ultra thin video and dynamic image displays. They have had several buyers for their product as well. Now, when big giants like Sony and Phillips come up with competitive products and allocate their capital investment and resources towards a speedy development, and leverage their existing vendor relationships and marketing channels to enforce the product to the market, how do the startups fare? Obviously, the startups become tentative baits for buy-outs and acquisitions. But that kind of stops another innovation prospect since we never know what could come out from a development life-cycle of a new product. Collateral innovations are always the lucrative serendipities that change the world from time to time. Questions arise about possible ways to counter the mammoth while preserving a competitive advantage during the commercialization phase without being bought out.  

Will keep on thinking 🙂

Picture: Courtesy Sony via AP

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Portable biosensor for detecting food contaminants on the fly

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 20, 2007

Scientists at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), with the CSIC, have developed a new electro-chemical biosensor that detects the presence, in food, of very small amounts of atrazine –one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture and which also has very long lasting effects on the environment- as well as antibiotics in food. This portable biosensor is capable of detecting contaminants fast and cheap than the expensive and cumbersome laboratory methods used today by the food agencies. The sensor detects very minute amount of contaminants, much lower then the maximum amount allowed by the European regulations, and could be manufactured for industrial as well as personal, disposable use. Now the question is, how will the food agencies (government or certified, private) will accept the fact that such disposable units are available for consumer use. Government will have a big say in it.

  • If this invention has to reach the government agencies, will they replace the costly chromatographs? Or is this going to be a device which will be used in conjunction with the expensive testing methods? Will this be implemented with the inspectors for field testing purpose?
  • Another question arises if the governments decides to control the calibration of the device? What if you buy such an instrument and used it at home with a calibration that will just not let pass any food item currently in the market. Oh well… that will definitely create some level of panic across the consumer base. Who will then provide the standard of calibration for this device and how will that be settled?
  • Few months back there was a massive pet food recall in the U.S. The product was found to be contaminated from its origin with Melamin, used in plastics and fertilizer. How will the introduction of this device at the begining of the food processing process control contamination across the food chain? For foreign imports of food content, how will this device help detect food contamination from either the origin or the destination?

These questions will definitely dictate the business need of the invention and will eventually drive the commercialization curve of the product life cycle. If any start-up company wants to put this concept into the market, who are good investors to approach to? Cargill? Will huge food manufacturing companies (General Mill) be interested in bringing this device to the market? What are the stakes? The company will need to focus on the government approval factor considerably.

Here’s the link for the [aricle]. 

Addition [05/24/2007]: A news article came out in MSNBC today http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18841928/. I am wondering how these kinds of issues will affect the investment in food safety detection services.

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Thermoplastics for airliners?

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 15, 2007

While reading an article in MSNBC about Boeing 787 being built predominantly from carbon fiber composites, few questions came to my mind. The article discusses the advantage of thermoplastics and carbon fiber composites that are durable, lightweight, and extremely strong. The airliners of future days will be using more of these materials for the load bearing parts and structural components. The article discusses how these composites will enhance the design of the jets by allowing longer hauls, lower maintenance, and considerably lower replacement costs. In other words, the discussion foresees a nearly total replacement of aluminum. Boeing 787 Dreamliner landing

I dug into the subject a little more and found out that carbon fiber based thermoplastics are the new cutting edge composites. Longhaul flights require long-distance airplanes over different atmospheric regions – ranging from very cold, dry air to moist air over vast spans of oceans or tropical lands. These composites will not only be rust less, which in turn will save replacement costs, but will also create a lighter plane and hence less gasoline cost. Currently even the auto industry is looking at the prospect of using carbon fibers for its structural development.

One interesting aspect of adoption of carbon fiber in large scale is the ramification in the aluminum industry. With innovation comes replacement. Replacement of old technology. Efficiency and cost are the primary drivers. Thus, over a span of 10 years, if the industry undergoes a paradigm shift from Aluminum to fibers, Aluminum futures will definitely get hit. The industry will have to adjust accordingly.

An interesting study will be to analyze the impact of the paradigm shift on the metals industry. If the big buyers like automobile industry change their material requirements, then the Aluminum industry will need to adapt to the changing demands, find alternate areas of engagement, and develop more sophisticated alloys. 

Read the [article].

Posted in aviation, Innovation, investment | 1 Comment »

Just Needed A Break

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 6, 2007

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A picture of Tuscany – a place I would like to be sometime in the near future 🙂

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Powering your electronic gadget wirelessly?

Posted by evolvingwheel on May 6, 2007

Scientists in Japan have come up with a plastic sheet which can power nearby electronic devices wirelessly! Now that is something very interesting. Actually, there are three points of interest. First, that power transmission happening wirelessly, then the charging of devices by proximity to the sheet accurately, and finally the development flexible or organic electronics. The news has been out for few months, but managed to catch my attention recently.

Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo has highlighted on several aspects of organic power generating sheet and its usability. His plastic sheets are dual layered with one layer identifying the location of the receiver device (cell phone, laptop, etc.)  and the other sheet driving the power towards the exact location and generating the electromagnetic induction. This development has numerous implications – both from organic electronics and easy accessibility to wireless power in substantial quantity. I feel that the development will promote several business ecosystem drivers that are currently in nascent states. For example, wireless power generation and Someya’s vision of having power generating drivers as infrastructure. 070423-11.jpg

If you could have office desks having organic power generating sheets embedded, then the usage of power outlets and power chords will fall dramatically. Now, there has to be large scale acceptance, usability advantages, and 100% accuracy and reliability to adapt this infrastructure mode. Besides, this mode requires the receiving device to have a specialized coil and a power-harvesting circuitry. If big promoters want to implement this technology in large scale to consumer devices, then there has to be a tie up both in research and commercialization. This tie up will address the reliability and mass scale production, licensing of the technology to gadget producers, and capital investment for infrastructure level implementation of the organic charger sheets.

[Read The Article]

Picture: A lamp powered by a table top made of the plastic. Courtesy – Gizmodo

P.S. There was a nice comment thread in the article that I responded to. May be a good point to consider:

Guest: I really think they should interweave a layer of some form of data transfer into this system so essentially you could move a monitor around and be able to get power and data at the same time… among millions of other things. You can already transfer data over electrical lines, so it might even be easier than that. This type of transferring system has massive potential. I think it was what they had in mind in Minority Report with the MagLev systems seen in this link. –> http://uplink.space.com/attachments/514680-Maglev2cb.JPG

Evolvingwheel: The proposition of data transfer along with power sounds promising.. however any innovation is controlled by demand, implementation ease, cost benefit, and competitive environment. There is enormous amount of data being transfered (or in the research level) wirelessly. Huge amount of capital investments are in place for 4G wireless and etc etc. Gigabit level transfer is hitting over the air.. through cell phones, wi-fi etc. Besides, gadgets are already now equipped with the facilities and there are industry standards in place. So getting data through a pad which is being developed with a electrical purpose will not be a easy sell.. So ideas are often not feasible in the context of market commercialization.

Posted in Energy, hardware, Innovation | Leave a Comment »