Thursday, December 04, 2014

Invention of the Day: the Tea Bag

In our book, Scalable Innovation, Max Shtein and I introduce the concept of Packaged Payload, an element of the system that encapsulates an essential ingredient — mass, energy, information — that moves within the system. The Packaged Payload is critically important for the functioning of the system.

Paradoxically, most people don't see it in their everyday lives because engineers do a good job at hiding the functionality. For example, we can't see AC electricity because it's securely insulated within the wires. Also, we can't see data packages because they are transmitted over wireless connections. We can't see ocean shipping containers either because we buy products in retail, not in bulk.

Explaining the Packaged Payload to students and inventors can be a challenge; therefore, Max Shtein and I are always on the lookout for good examples. Today Max sent me several pictures — a Packaged Payload galore, as he called it — that make the concept easier to grasp. For example, in the picture above you can see chocolate milk and tea packaged in single-shot bags.

Remarkably, the tea bag was invented more than 100 years ago (US Patent 723, 287), but it got popular relatively recently when a new system of fast-food establishments, e.g. McDonald's restaurants, Starbucks Coffee shops, and others became a common place.

US Patent 723, 287, issued March, 1903.

The tea bag represents the Packaged Payload in a food distribution system. Similarly, many other food items are available for one-time use. All of them are standardized for mass production, delivery, and dispensation (see below).

Thank you, Max!

tags: packaged payload, distribution, system, example

Lunch Talk: Adopter's trade-off – expensive is better (Stanford Entrepreneurship)
Christine has been President of Humane Society Silicon Valley for the past 13 years.

Whether you're running a for-profit or non-profit enterprise, the price point is crucial - and cheaper is not always better. The less people pay, the less value that's attributed, discovered Christine Benninger, President of the Humane Society Silicon Valley, and her organization decided to raise the prices of animal adoption four-fold in the hopes that clients would feel they're getting a better product, and that they'd be more likely to keep it. Did customers take their business elsewhere? Hardly. Despite having the highest adoption prices in the county, the HSSV showed a ten percent increase in adoptions, with half as many returns.

tags: trade-off, lunchtalk

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lunch Talk: Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner (Ben Horowitz)

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz shares which entrepreneurial skills truly matter, and why learning to manage well may be the most critical skill of all. Horowitz, a founding partner of Andreessen Horowitz, discusses the value of learning inside a large company, some of the exciting technology frontiers ahead, and the purpose and philosophy of his firm, in conversation with Stanford Engineering Professor Tom Byers.

Quote: The basis of a good company is to figure out something about the world that nobody else knows, and the secret becomes the company.

tags: lunchtalk, entrepreneurship, innovation

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Invention of the Day: Wine

In 2007, a team of Armenian and Irish archeologists discovered a 6,100-year-old winery in the Areni cave near a small Armenian village.

The discovery meant that people started producing wines in significant volumes thousands of years ago. More importantly, our ancient ancestors had specifically selected and cultivated grapes because of their high sugar content. That is, since grapes contain up to 20% glucose by volume, when fermented, they produce a large amount of alcohol (ethanol).

Although we know that even wild animals enjoy an occasional doze of alcohol feasting on fermented fruit, wine is different.

The significance of the invention of wine thousands of year ago becomes apparent when we compare it to the invention of large scale food production, e.g. grain cultivation, domestication of animals, irrigation, etc.

It [the invention of wine] completely defies the common wisdom "Necessity is the mother of invention." The proverb implies that people invent or solve problems when they are compelled to do so. But, unlike food, water,  and shelter, wine is not a necessity; one can survive without it. Moreover, certain cultures and religions explicitly forbid alcohol consumption.

Therefore, wine is not a necessary, but, rather, an opportunistic invention; something that makes life more fun (when taken in moderation). Here's how an ancient Greek poet Eubulus (4th century BCE) describes  the effects of wine:
Three bowls do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first; the second to love and pleasure; the third to sleep. When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar; the sixth to drunken revel; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth is the policeman's; the ninth belongs to biliousness; and the tenth to madness and the hurling of furniture.
Wine is like modern computer games: you can live without it, but life would be less enjoyable.

As human inventors, we create necessities by coming up with novel ideas and making them useful to other humans on a large scale. Based on thousands of years of ever-improving and ever-increasing wine production, I would say that "Invention is the mother of necessity."

Friday, November 07, 2014

ArborLight startup wins 2014 Next Generation Luminaires (NGL) competition

Congratulations to my co-author Max Shtein! The startup he co-founded won a national competition for innovative energy efficient indoor lighting fixtures.

<blockquote>Arborlight is virtually inventing a new lighting product category: daylight emulation. We all love daylight. It makes us feel good, be more productive, have more energy, the list goes on and on. Yet, the reality for many is that to work, learn, shop and generally go about our daily business, we are forced to spend most of our time indoors with little or no access to daylight. The aim of Arborlight’s Solis is to remedy that situation. The Solis product allows you to create an indoor environment that simulates daylight in where it would be otherwise impossible, literally mimicking the sun. It’s Wi-Fi enabled, has the appearance of a traditional skylight, emulates daylight conditions, and autonomously adjusts color, intensity, and directionality throughout the day to match outdoor illumination. Essentially, it provides people with the ability to experience morning, high noon, and evening light conditions in a windowless space.</blockquote>

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Internet of Things: malware threat to US energy infrastructure

Destructive "foreign" software is becoming a weapon of choice for covert international operations. For example, according to today's ABC report:

National Security sources told ABC News there is evidence that the malware was inserted by hackers believed to be sponsored by the Russian government, and is a very serious threat.

The hacked software is used to control complex industrial operations like oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, wind turbines and even some nuclear plants. Shutting down or damaging any of these vital public utilities could severely impact hundreds of thousands of Americans.

In our book, Scalable Innovation, Chapter 3, we discuss in detail one of the system security inventions I made back in 2000, while at Philips Research. The invention, US Patent 7,092,861, aims to detect novel viruses that can target networked equipment in the home, office, or industrial cite (the patent is now owned by Facebook).

More than a decade ago, it was clear to us in the labs that the emerging Internet of Things creates new types of threats. Unless such threats are addressed through a broad, consistent industry and government efforts, our critical infrastructure will be highly vulnerable to vicious attacks that could dwarf in their destructive power the events of 9/11. Ideally, all existing industrial software has to be upgraded - a difficult, but essential task for the next two decades.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Invention of the Day: the Integrated Circuit

During the Nobel Prize week it's only appropriate to remember Nobel-worthy inventions that changed the world. Today it's almost impossible to imagine our lives without some kind of use of the Integrated Circuit (IC) because the technology has become a fundamental building block in modern computing, communications, data storage, power supply, sensor, and many other applications. (see the Wiki article linked above).

In 2000, Jack S. Kilby received 1/2 of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1958 invention of the IC. Here's a picture and diagram of his original invention:

When I read Kilby's Nobel Prize lecture, several of his passages strike me as remarkable because they show how difficult it is for contemporaries to recognize a great innovation:

Note that one of the core objections was that the new system doesn't use the best individual elements (resistors and transistors). Similarly, many years later — in the early 1990s — people doubted that video was ever going to be streamed over the Web because the Internet Protocol was poorly suited for synchronous data transmission. As innovators, we often have to remind people that the system is greater than a simple sum of its parts.

Kilby's speech also gives us a new perspective on the Moore's law. Here's what Kilby says:

Just one year later, Gordon Moore published his now famous article where he formulated his "law", stating that the density of elements in ICs would double every 18 months:

The chart from that article promised exponential performance riches to the "few adventurous companies" that were willing to bet on the new technology. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that tiny, unknown Silicon Valley startups, rather than large established companies, took full advantage of the opportunity and eventually created a new reality that we all live in today.

tags: invention, innovation, technology, market, 10X, cinderella

Saturday, September 27, 2014

(BN) Apple Seeks to Defeat Wi-Lan’s Patent Claims Before Trial

(Bloomberg ) Apple Inc. (AAPL) asked a federal judge to rule that its iPhones and iPads don't infringe two patents owned by Wi-Lan Inc. (WIN) ahead of a trial scheduled in November on the Canadian technology licensor's claims.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego didn't issue a decision at a hearing today on Apple's request. The judge told the companies' lawyers he will issue a ruling in two to three weeks.

Today's hearing comes almost a year after Wi-Lan lost a jury trial in Texas in which it sought $248 million in royalties from Apple for alleged infringement of another one of its patents. The companies have been in court in California, Florida and Texas for seven years over Wi-Lan's claims.

Apple, which this month unveiled its new, larger-screen iPhone models, has said in court filings that Wi-Lan has a history of asserting patents in bad faith and hasn't prevailed against Apple in any of the five lawsuits it has brought so far, the latest in June.

If Sabraw finds that Apple's products don't infringe the two Wi-Lan patents, the case will effectively end before it goes to trial. Apple said the patented technology pertains to prioritizing connections for allocating bandwidth and isn't relevant to its products because they don't have multiple connections that require prioritizing.

Wi-Lan Attorney

Dirk Thomas, an attorney for Wi-Lan, told the judge that Apple is deliberately misconstruing the specifics of the patents in order to avoid allegations of infringement.

"There is no requirement for multiple connections," Thomas said at today's hearing.

Ottawa-based Wi-Lan, which gets all its revenue from licenses for its patents, fell 23 percent the day after it lost the Texas verdict last year.

In that case, the judge in March threw out the jury's findings that two Wi-Lan patent claims weren't valid and declined to throw out the non-infringement verdict. Wi-Lan appealed in April.

The company said after that loss that it would explore "strategic alternatives" including a sale of the company.

The case is Wi-Lan USA Inc. v. Apple Inc., 13-cv-00798, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

Monday, September 15, 2014

(BN) Why Musk Is Building Batteries in the Desert When No One Is Buying

(Bloomberg ) Tesla's planned 5-million-square-foot 'gigafactory' wouldn't just be the biggest battery factory in the world. It would be one of the biggest factories in the world, period. But hours before CEO Elon Musk took the podium last week to tout the $5 billion facility came August sales numbers for electric vehicles and a spate of news stories about how U.S. interest for electric cars has stalled.

So what gives? Why would Tesla build capacity for half a million car batteries a year if no one is buying? Four charts below tell the story.

First the bad news.

August brought another month of electric-car sales that came up short of previous highs. Interest isn't falling, but at four percent market share for combined sales of hybrids and plug-ins, people aren't exactly clamoring for them. The dark blue shows hybrids, the light blue shows anything with a plug; stack them together and you've got what's known as the electrified-vehicles market.

But here's the thing: the "stall" is happening entirely in the category of plugless hybrid vehicles (shown above in darker blue). These are gasoline engines backed by fuel-saving battery drive systems. The batteries are primarily nickel-metal hydride like those found in the standard Toyota Prius -- not the high-efficiency lithium ion batteries that Elon Musk wants to crush the market with.

Here's what's happening in the smaller subset of cars that don't require liquid fuel to roll:

Time to plug in.

The rise of the plug-in has been fast, but the category is still diminutive. Most car trackers put plug-in sales at a fraction of a percent of U.S. vehicles sales. But just as it's misleading to lump in growth with hybrid gas cars, comparing plug-ins to all vehicles on the road isn't apples to apples. Plug-in SUVs are only just starting to hit the market.

Quiet, but with great acceleration.

For 2014, plug-ins average 1.5 percent of cars sold in the U.S. That's still not a lot, and the trendline for market share appears more incremental than exponential. At this rate, plug power wouldn't be the dominant form of fuel until the end of the century.

And that excludes the ever-popular SUV category. The BMW i3 and the Mercedes-Benz B Class are still rolling out. Tesla and Toyota recently ended their collaboration on a $50,000 plug-in version of a RAV4 after just 2,000 units sold in two years. Like the Nissan Leaf, the RAV4 was hampered by a limited battery range: 100 miles. Musk told reporters in Tokyo last week that he envisioned a larger project with Toyota than the RAV4 "maybe two or three years from now."

Tesla's first SUV, the Model X, is set to go on sale in the first half of next year, complete with a third row, space-age falcon doors (pictured above), all-wheel drive and little compromise on the Model S's 265-mile range. Here's a sneak peak of pre-orders for the Model X, based on self-reported waitlist numbers tracked on a Tesla Motors Club forum (Tesla doesn't release pre-order tallies). A reservation for the luxury Model X requires a $5,000 deposit.

Americans heart SUVs.

These reservation numbers are significantly higher, and picking up faster, than reservations of the Model S prior to its June 2012 ship date.

Still, to justify the gigafactory, it would take additional market forces to bend the curve skyward on plug-in market share. That's exactly what Tesla is working on. The biggest obstacles to plug-in adoption are availability of charging stations, range, charge time and cost. Here's where those things stand:

Charging stations: By the end of the year, there will be more than 5,000 electric charging stations operating in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Department. In the first half of 2014, more stations were opened than from 1970 to 2011 combined.

Range: Drivers want to know they can make their daily commute, get stuck in unexpected traffic and stop by the store for some emergency pickles without having to worry about being stranded. The best-selling Nissan Leaf, at $30,000, leaves room for worry with its 84-mile average range. The high-end Tesla Model S, at more than twice the price, has an EPA-rated range of 265 miles. That's a lot of pickle stops.

Charge time: Home charging of a Tesla is still a commitment at 58 miles per hour of charge. The Tesla Supercharger stations, on the other hand, get 170 miles in 30 minutes. Musk has opened up the system's design for other carmakers to adopt.

Cost: Tesla hasn't released the official price tag for the Model X, but it's expected to be in the same luxury range as the Model S, which starts at $60,000 for a version with smaller battery. Bringing down the cost of batteries will be key to plans for a more-affordable Model 3, still years away from market. Musk estimates the gigafactory will reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery capacity by 30 percent.

Musk's diamond factory.

Last week, Tesla released sketches of the future plant. It's powered by renewable energy and shaped like a diamond. So why has Musk designed a gigafactory to produce batteries for half a million cars a year (twice the number that's been put on the road by all companies combined)? Because it's increasingly looking necessary.

Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache last month increased his estimate for sales of the Model S and Model X to 129,000 units in 2017, from a previously estimated 83,000. Tesla can reach its 500,000 annual run rate before the end of the decade, Lache said, in time to put the gigafactory to full use.

Tesla's growth will be "much steeper, their mix will be much richer, and their costs will ultimately be much lower than we previously assumed," Lache wrote in a report on Aug. 11.

This doesn't mean you should rush out and buy Tesla stock. Just 11 out of 20 analysts tracked by Bloomberg give the company a "buy" rating, and the stock price is 261 times estimated earnings, compared with a 12.5 estimated P/E for Ford Motor Co. Even Musk admitted last week that the stock price is "kind of high" right now.

Still, it's easy to get caught up in Musk's vision for the future of cars. Defying skeptics, Musk has established the biggest U.S. solar company by market value, built a private space company that's making deliveries to the International Space Station, and has conjured a $35 billion car company out of thin air. 

(BN) Google Driverless Future Vision at Odds With Automakers

(Bloomberg ) Google Inc., with its vision for a future where cars drive themselves, is putting itself at odds with an auto industry that shares its desire for safer, less-congested roads -- yet won't abide the "driverless" part.

The clash pits the Internet giant, public for barely a decade, against companies that spent a century building the machines that put people behind the wheel of autos. As Google works to perfect a system in research labs and road tests to minimize the involvement of drivers, automakers spend billions of dollars annually on ads to do the opposite. Think BMW and its claims to the Ultimate Driving Machine, or Volkswagen and its Drivers Wanted sales pitch.

The differences are more than philosophical.

Google is sweeping up top talent and research, powered by an almost $400 billion stock-market value that tops those of Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. combined. It's also keeping a tight grip on its mapping data and potential marketing plans for cars while helping to create what many in the auto industry consider unrealistic expectations for how quickly cars can safely become wholly driverless.

"Clearly there's some sort of tension there," said Richard Wallace, director of transportation systems analysis at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Google's splashy displays of technology "lead to expectations creep that's probably unrealistic in some ways," he said.

Google's aloofness was on display at last week's Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit. The search giant had minimal presence at the annual event where automakers hash out standards for the technology that would keep, at the center of it all, the driver.

The 'G-Word'

Within the industry, Google is sometimes the unmentionable presence in the room -- the "G-word," as Wallace jokingly called it at a conference last month in Traverse City, Michigan.

Among the advancements automakers announced at last week's conference in Detroit was GM's "Super Cruise" system for 2017 Cadillacs, which will let drivers take their hands off the steering wheel and feet from the pedals for periods of highway driving. Like technology being developed by Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and other companies, GM's system hands control back and forth between driver and vehicle.

The approach that Mountain View, California-based Google is taking is, literally, much more hands-off. In May it unveiled plans to deploy at least 100 fully autonomous, two-seat, egg-shaped test cars with a top speed of 25 miles (40 kilometers) per hour and no steering wheel. Google has since said it will include one, as well as brake and gas pedals, as California requires.

Google Talent

Aided by early staffing with top Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University scientists who won a U.S.-backed driverless vehicle challenge in 2005, Google recruited dozens of robotics and artificial-intelligence researchers, and is adding more.

Google has won or applied for 96 autonomous-driving patents since 2011 and has hired talent from Toyota, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and even Silicon Valley upstart Tesla Motors Inc., according to LinkedIn profiles. For high-level advice, Google can turn to former Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, now a board member.

It's also backed by more than $60 billion in cash, more than any individual automaker can muster.

"When you're at Google's scale you do plenty of things that disrupt or change the environment," said Frank Gillett, analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "We now have a race for who's going to build the software and services platform that operates driverless cars."

Societal Benefits

While the effort is still in an early phase, executives including co-founder Sergey Brin have committed Google to making driverless cars a reality. They tout societal benefits of robotic cars, such as a transportation option for the blind and elderly.

To traditional manufacturers, anything that makes human drivers superfluous is automotive heresy.

"Driving is essentially very fun," Ken Koibuchi, general manager of intelligent vehicle development for Toyota, said in an interview in Detroit this month. For that and reasons including liability issues in the case of an accident and yet-to-be-set regulations, the world's largest carmaker isn't planning a driverless car even as it adds automated features.

"Rather than making it seem like the driver can simply take a nap while sitting at the wheel, we need drivers to understand that there will be task-sharing involved, handing controls back and forth, and that overconfidence must be avoided," Koibuchi said.

Nissan Motor Co., Mercedes and Tesla are among those that have said they'll add self-driving features by end of the decade. None has said how much it's spending to do that.

More Investment

"They've kind of shamed the automakers into investing more money into this," said Egil Juliussen, research director for advanced driving systems for IHS Automotive. "R&D budgets for all major auto companies have jumped a lot since this started. They're literally being forced by Google to invest more to show they aren't falling too far behind."

While Google's cash pile tops that of individual automakers, Toyota's $41 billion, Volkswagen's $44 billion and GM's $29 billion ensure they can fund technology advances.

That gives manufacturers the resources to provide a counterbalance to Google, said William "Red" Whittaker, director of the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

"No one has a monopoly on this technology," Whittaker said. "The big global OEMs, they run deep, they run strong, and they aren't fooling around."

Accelerated Efforts

To speed its efforts, Toyota in January created an intelligent-vehicle system group that Koibuchi manages to bring automated driving features to market as quickly as possible.

Toyota is also among the automakers and suppliers funding the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center in Ann Arbor, intended to be the largest research center in North America for automated driving systems.

GM, Ford, Honda and Nissan are also MTC backers, as are parts-makers Delphi Automotive Plc, Denso Corp. and Robert Bosch LLC, Verizon Communications Inc. and Xerox Corp.

Google so far hasn't joined that effort. It also hasn't specified whether it will build and sell driverless cars; create a service using such vehicles; or supply its driverless technology to the auto industry.

'Low Margin'

Producing its own vehicles would "be silly," Juliussen said. "The car industry is a low-margin business. The best companies get 10 percent profit margin," he said. "Why would they want to enter the business even if the revenue may be tremendously high?"

Google declined to comment on industry criticism or how its driverless program will evolve. Brin said in May at the Re/code conference in Palos Verdes, California, that the company "will work with partners in the future, including automotive companies," without elaborating.

Google drew some criticism at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco in July from audience members who said it's not sharing mapping data with carmakers designing their own systems and has made some academic research on driverless vehicles inaccessible.

Standardized maps are needed as robotic vehicles advance, Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota's chief technology officer secretary, said in Detroit.

"It's better to have maps that are industrywide, rather than just individually owned and operated," Kuzumaki said.

Automakers' efforts to find software talent is also affected by Google's speed in hiring, Toyota's Koibuchi said.

"Computer vision or artificial intelligence are needed, and that kind of technology is not familiar to us for now so we need to hire new people," he said. "To hire new people in each area is more difficult."

(BN) Paper Clip-Sized Heart Devices Open New Industry Markets

(Bloomberg ) A heart monitor the size of a paper clip may help keep Fred Schakel alive.

Schakel, a 46-year-old Indiana dairy farmer, had a stroke in November, just when he thought he was in the best shape of his life. Doctors couldn't identify a reason, so Schakel now wears the tiny monitor, dubbed the Reveal Linq, inserted under the skin of his chest as he goes about his daily life.

The $5,000 device records heart abnormalities that can occur monthly or crop up less than once a year, and is in constant electronic contact with Schakel's doctor's office. Made by Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc. (MDT), it's part of a drive to develop consumer-friendly heart devices for an aging and image-conscious boomer population that don't require troublesome and inconvenient electric wires and halters.

The new monitor "is a game-changer in this niche field," said John Day, the medical director at Intermountain Health Care's heart rhythm services in Murray, Utah. "From the patient's standpoint, it's a tremendous win."

It also adds a new horizon for a device industry that's been battered by recalls and questions about safety and overuse, leading to years of falling sales. Medtronic isn't alone with its strategy. St. Jude Medical Inc. purchased Nanostim Inc. last October to acquire its miniature pacemaker.

Medtronic fell less than 1 percent to $65.02 at 9:38 a.m. New York time, after jumping 22 percent in the past year through Sept. 12.

Fastest Growing

The Medtronic monitor was approved in the U.S. and Europe in February. Its ease of use, coupled with an ability to transmit a large amount of data without much effort from the patient or doctor, has made it into one of the company's fastest-growing products, Medtronic executives said. They declined to provide precise sales figures.

"In June we thought this market, which was near nothing before, could be a half-a-billion dollars in a three-year time frame," Medtronic Chief Financial Officer Gary Ellis said in a telephone interview. "The reality is that we are going to get to a half-a-billion market much quicker than we expected. It's going to be a big driver in the years to come."

Medtronic began its miniaturization initiative a decade ago, purposefully keeping it separate from its conventional research group because officials knew it had the potential to disrupt the company's current product pipeline.

First Out

The Reveal Linq is the first product to emerge from the program. A pacemaker now in final human trials may be the second. That device is small enough to be threaded into the heart via an artery, according to Medtronic, and it has the battery power inside it to be left there for a decade.

"Our engineers have gotten very good at being very stingy with power," said David Steinhaus, the medical director for Medtronic's heart rhythm unit. "We have been able to shrink down the size of the electronics and make the power consumption of those chips a lot less."

While U.S. baby boomers are one target for the miniature devices, their simplicity may also open a broad swatch of the world where patients could benefit from the technology but doctors don't have the training to implant the older, more complex models.

The Reveal Linq monitor has been embraced by doctors and patients with certain hard-to-diagnose conditions, according said Intermountain's Day. The risks remain rare, including infections where it is inserted and potential failure with the battery, electronic circuits or remote connections.

Pooling Blood

While an erratic heart beat may be infrequent, just one episode is enough for pooling blood to form a clot that can move to the brain and cause a stroke.

A slowdown or pause can cause fainting, leading to head injuries, car crashes and fear.

"The real benefit of implantable monitors is to spot something that doesn't happen frequently, maybe once or twice a year, especially for someone who is passing out," Day said.

Unexplained episodes of fainting affect about 1 million Americans each year. The trigger can be a drop in the heart rate, which is easily controlled with an implanted pacemaker to ensure a proper rhythm. It can also be caused by other, non-heart related conditions and metabolic problems, making it difficult in some cases to pinpoint the cause.

The fastest growing area of use is in people with cryptogenic strokes, those such as Schakel who suffer a stroke with no clear cause.

Erratic Rate

While doctors can pinpoint causes for about two-thirds of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year, many of the rest may be linked to erratic heart rates, a condition known as atrial fibrillation. Once the condition is diagnosed with monitoring, the risk can be cut with blood thinners or a procedure to fix an electrical defect.

To make the tiny products, Medtronic's engineers consulted with Swiss watchmakers, known for the precision and small size of the watch movements.

"We knew we could make a tiny device, but we didn't know if we could do it in a high volume production facility," Steinhaus said. "We had to learn to do things small, with specialized machinery. Human hands aren't able to do it."

Micra, the pacemaker that is the company's second product from the initiative, doesn't have the traditional wires used to connect to a canister that houses the battery and electronic circuitry. The company is still studying it to identify possible complications, which may include difficulty inserting it through the femoral vein, problems latching it onto the heart wall, infection or a breakdown in its operation.

Less Power

The pacemaker, expected to hit the market in Europe within a year and in the U.S. by 2017, uses less power when turned on than a mobile phone uses when it's off, Steinhaus said.

"Anything that can make it easier for the physician to implant these devices, reduce complications and do it in a cost effective manner -- check," said Joanne Wuensch, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets in New York. "That's the wave of the future. These are both really important evolutions in terms of how technology is being delivered."

Schakel, the farmer from Wheatfield, Indiana, hasn't had any heart problems since his Reveal Linq was implanted in May, he said by telephone. He also hasn't had another stroke.

Reassurance from the constant monitoring has helped him return with confidence to his normal, active life on the farm.

"No news is good news in this situation," he said. "I am fully active again as far as exercise and work. I haven't had any events."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Quote of the Day: information vs data

Seek truth from facts.

- Deng Xiaoping

tags: information, data, quote, tool

(BN) Apple, Batman, Pokemon, DuPont: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg ) Apple Inc. (AAPL), the maker of the iPhone and iPod, received a patent on an invention that could be used for wrist-shaped wearable electronic devices.

Patent 8,808,483, issued Aug. 19, covers a method of making a curved touch panel. The panel is created by depositing a touch sensor pattern on a flexible substrate and curving it to conform to the shape of a covering surface.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said the curve will leave room underneath for other components of a computing system that communicate with the touch panel.

The company applied for the patent in November 2010, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Vringo Says It Will Seek Full Court Review of Patent Decision

Vringo Inc. (VRNG) said in a statement yesterday that it will ask the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to take a second look at the court's Aug. 15 ruling in a patent case against AOL Inc., Google Inc. (GOOG) and others.

In November 2012, a Vringo unit won its infringement verdict and was awarded $30.5 million. That trial court then awarded another $17.3 million in damages and, in January 2014, set an ongoing royalty rate for continued infringement of two patents.

The defendants appealed, and the appellate court determined Aug. 15 that elements of the patents at issue were invalid.

Vringo, a patent licensing firm, said it has until Sept. 15 to file its request for an en banc review and, if the court grants the New York-based company its requested 30-day extension, can file the petition until Oct. 15.

In dispute are patents 6,314,420, and 6,775,664. The patents cover filtering technology to determine placement of advertisements on search results.

The appeal is I/P Engine Inc. v. AOL Inc., 13-1307, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower-court case is I/P Engine Inc. v. AOL Inc., 2:11-cv-00512, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk).


Warner Brothers Defeats Software Company's 'Clean Slate' Appeal

A victory by Time Warner Inc. (TWX)'s Warner Brothers Entertainment unit in a trademark suit involving an Indiana-based software company was affirmed by a federal appeals court.

Fortres Grand Corp. of Plymouth, Indiana, filed the suit in September 2012, claiming that the use of a fictional piece of software in Warner Brothers' Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" caused the company harm and lost sales.

Both Fortres Grand and the film used the name "Clean Slate" for the software. In the film, the fictional product could be used to erase a person's past, while the Indiana company's product scours a computer's hard drive, according to court papers.

Fortres Grand said sales of its product declined after the film's release and blamed the drop on negative associations consumers made with the fictional product. A federal judge disagreed, and in May 2013 dismissed the case. Fortres Grand appealed.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court, saying the two products -- the film and the software -- are dissimilar and Fortres Grand failed to argue facts that would "make it plausible" the public would mistakenly think both came from the same source.

The case is Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., 12-cv-00535, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana (South Bend). The appeal is Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Brothers Entertainment, 13-2337, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.


Pokemon Tells Company to Halt Sale of 3-D Printed Planter

Shapeways Inc. got a cease-and-desist notice from Pokemon Co. International demanding that it quit selling a 3-D printed planter which Pokemon said infringed its copyright on the Bulbasaur character, Anime News Network reported.

Although the planter wasn't labeled a Pokemon character, the Shapeways website listing did refer to Pokemon, Anime News said.

South African Documentary Makers Misunderstand Fair-Use Rights

Because of documentary filmmakers' lack of understanding of South African copyright laws, they are making and distributing fewer documentary films, Screen Africa reported.

The Documentary Filmmakers Association and the South African Screen Federation met with the University of Cape Town's IP unit and American University's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property Aug. 18 to resolve the problem, according to Screen Africa, a trade publication.

Researchers told meeting attendees that the country's filmmakers weren't aware of user rights with respect to quoting copyrighted material, according to the publication.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Former DuPont Engineer Seeks Leniency in Trade Secret Case

An ex-DuPont Co. (DD) engineer who was convicted of economic espionage, trade secret theft and witness tampering should get a three-year prison sentence, federal prosecutors said.

The engineer, Robert Maegerle, was convicted in March. The government made its sentencing recommendation in a sentencing memo Aug. 19. The day before, Maegerle, who turns 79 next month, said in a filing that in view of his age, medical condition and ties to the community, he should be given home confinement.

His offense was related to the misappropriation of DuPont trade secrets for making white pigment used in paint and plastics. The secrets were transmitted to a Chinese chemical company.

The government said in its sentencing memo that despite the "many good things" Maegerle did as a DuPont employee, and the small amount of money -- $370,000 -- he received for the purloined data, a prison sentence was appropriate and "promotes respect for the law."

"A 36-month sentence for a 79-year-old man with no criminal history who made $370,000 sends a strong message that the United Stated takes corporate espionage seriously," the prosecutors said.

The case is U.S. v. Maegerle, 11-cr-00573, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Facebook's market power

The Facebook patent I briefly discussed yesterday points to a business and technology revolution, similar to the one that made Chicago a major commercial center in the United States in the 19th century. Back then, the proliferation of railroads helped move grain and cattle from small, scattered farms to large grain elevators and slaughterhouses. As the result, Chicago merchants benefited enormously from the new economies of scale. Similarly, Facebook enjoys enormous economies of scale by aggregating and processing huge amounts of scattered pieces of user preferences data. 

Furthermore, Chicago merchants developed a new standardization system that
...partitioned a natural material — a steer or a bushel of wheat into a multitude of standardized commodities, each with a different price, each with a different market (Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, by William Cronon).
The new partitioning system allowed the merchants to sell their commodities to those consumers who were interested in a particular grain variety or beef cut and willing to pay the right price for the right commodity.

Similarly, Facebook has the ability to partition their user social graphs (and even individual users like you and I) into a multitude of parts that can be sold to advertisers and content providers for the right price at the right time and in the right place. The only difference is that instead of the Beef Chart of the 19th century they have the User Interest Chart of the 21st century.

tags: innovation, technology, control, packaged payload, distribution, scale, facebook, social, advertisement

Lunch Talk: The Magic of Story

Storytelling is an essential leadership skill. It will enable you to be more influential and persuasive and less technical and boring. It will set you apart and make you and your ideas memorable.
Doug Stevenson is a former actor who has brought lessons from the theater and great storytelling to the corporate world. He has translated these techniques into what he calls The Story Theater Method for Strategic Storytelling in Business. While he has no intention of making you into a great actor, he does want to make you a “star”.
In this interactive session, Doug will model effective business storytelling and show you how to apply his storytelling technology to your role in Google. He’ll even coach a few people on their stories to illustrate how you can be a better storyteller. If you want to be more engaging, interesting and convincing, Doug Stevenson will show you how.
tags: lunchtalk, google 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to help a group of teenagers to achieve a creative peak

Russian writer and teacher Dmitry Bykov shares his method of helping teenagers maximize their creative potential:

(Russian version) Есть два способа добиться от детей абсолютного творческого максимума: во-первых, умеренная невротизация (все зависит от вас, доверяем только вам, больше никто не справится и т.д.). Во-вторых — сопутствующее ей, идущее в ногу с ней повышение самооценки: вы лучшие, вы сможете, вас собрали не просто так.

(a shortened English version)

To get a peak creative performance from a group of teenagers, tell them:

- everything depends on you (the children); nobody else can do it.
- you are the best; it's no accident that we included you in this elite group.

Bykov's recommendation aims at producing among the group members a moderate level of neuroticism and raise their self esteem at the same time. We know from a recent study that elevated neuroticism helps increase creativity, by stimulating divergent thinking. Most likely, adding high self-esteem to the psychological mix  extends idea generation into the realm of "impossible", further increasing the divergence and extra effort.

Should work for adults too.

tags: psychology, creativity, brainstorming, divergent

Facebook patents user tracking for advertisers and content providers

Today, August 19, 2014, USPTO awarded Facebook patent 8,812,591 titled Social networking system data exchange (Inventors: Kent Schoen and Gokul Rajaram)

The patent covers a technology that tracks users across multiple service providers by matching service provider ID and social network ID. The match results in an aggregated user profile that determines user eligibility for content and ad targeting. The system uses a tracking pixel instead of the web cookie, which makes it suitable for mobile applications.

The technology breaks the wall between different publishers with regard to what they know about the user. As the patent says:
...a publisher may know very limited information about a user visiting the publisher's web page or the publisher's application. Thus, a publisher is unable to effectively target content item and advertisements to the user based on the user's interests and characteristics. The exchange server aggregates a user's information from several sources, including a social networking system, publishers, retailers, content item providers, etc.
The exchange server matches advertisements to users based on whether users' characteristics as provided by the aggregated social graph match the advertisements' targeting criteria. Additionally, the exchange server selects one or more advertisements to display to the user based on expected revenue to be generated from displaying the advertisement to the user.

tags: patent, invention, innovation, facebook, social, networking, graph, content

(BN) BlackBerry, Rightscorp, Vuitton: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg, by Victoria Slind-Flor - Aug 19, 2014)

BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) the maker of the BlackBerry mobile devices, has established a separate unit to hold technology assets including its 44,000-patent portfolio, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a regulatory filing.

The unit, to be known as BlackBerry Technology solutions, will also hold its embedded software, Internet application platform, cryptography applications and radio frequency antenna tuning, the company said yesterday.

Sandeep Chennakeshu, a named inventor on 73 patents, will lead the new unit, the company said. He has previously served as president of Ericsson Mobile Platforms and chief technology officer of Sony Ericsson, it said.

Twenty-First Century Fox Sued Over Homer Simpson Holograph

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA)’s television production unit was sued for infringement by the holder of patents related to 3-D holographs.

According to the complaint filed in federal court in San Diego, the alleged infringement occurred July 26 at the Comic-Con International convention. Hologram U.S.A. Inc. of Beverly Hills, California, holder of the exclusive license to the two disputed patents, objected to a Homer Simpson appearance at the convention that was achieved through a holographic projection.

The use of its technology was unlicensed and unauthorized, Hologram claimed in its Aug. 14 pleadings. A video clip from the Comic-Con presentation has already received more than 850,000 viewings on YouTube, according to the complaint.

Hologram U.S.A. asked the court to bar further infringement of the patents and to award it money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

In dispute are patents 5,865,519, issued in February 1999, and 7,883,212, issued in February 2011.

The case is Hologram U.S.A. Inc. v. Twentieth Century Fox Corp., 3:14-cv-01915, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).


Rightscorp Seeks Internet Disconnection of Rights Infringers

Rightscorp Inc. (RIHT), which polices online copyright infringement, is asking service providers to disconnect infringers from the Internet, the TorrentFreak anti-copyright news service reported.

The Santa Monica, California-based company said many of the infringers it’s targeting are receiving multiple notices for repeated infractions, according to TorrentFreak.

Rightscorp enforces copyrights on behalf of Bertelsmann SE & Co.’s BMG catalog and for artists such as Beyonce and Kanye West, TorrentFreak reported.

So far, Rightscorp says it has settled 75,000 copyright infringement cases, bringing the rights holders as much as $10 an incident, according to TorrentFreak.


Vuitton Not Yet Responded to Suit by Luxury-Sneaker Maker

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, which was sued for trademark infringement by a maker of men’s sneakers that sell for as much as $1,200 a pair, has yet to file a response to the June 30 suit.

New York’s LVL XIII Brands Inc. -- pronounced “level 13” -- sued in New York federal court, claiming the metal toe plate it uses on its sneakers is infringed by Vuitton’s use of a toe plate on its “on the road sneaker” line.

LVL XIII, which makes sneakers from exotic leathers, said Vuitton, the Paris-based luxury fashion house, began copying the toe plate after the high-end sneakers were “becoming a significant force in the market.”

“The lawsuit is entirely without merit and the company will vigorously defend itself,” a Vuitton spokeswoman, Molly Morse, said in an e-mail.

The case is LVL XII brands v. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC), 1:14-cv-04869, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Firestone Walker Persuades N.Y. Brewer to Drop ‘Double Barrel’

Firestone Walker Brewing Co., a craft brewer based in Paso Robles, California, persuaded a small brewery in Syracuse, New York’s Eastwood suburb to change its name, the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper reported.

Double Barrel Brewing Co. is changing its name to Eastwood Brewing Co.

Firestone Walker said the old name infringed a trademark it used for its Double Barrel Ale, according to the Post-Standard.

The dispute was resolved amicably, Eastwood’s owner, Pete Kirkgasser, told the newspaper, saying Adam Firestone, co-owner of the California brewery, is “a good guy, very polite, very businesslike.”

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

North Carolina Sets Public Hearing on Hydraulic Fracturing

North Carolina’s Energy and Mining Commission’s hearings on proposed rules covering hydraulic fracturing begin tomorrow in Raleigh, North Carolina, the News & Observer reported.

The hearings will give the public an opportunity to comment on environmental issues related to fracking, including trade-secret provisions that protect exploration companies from revealing the chemical makeup of the fluids used in the process, the newspaper reported.

The commission is accepting written public comments through Sept. 20, to be sent to the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, the News & Observer reported.

Hydraulic fracturing is a gas-exploration process through which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into wells to open rock structures to enable release and collection of trapped gas.

Invention of the Day: The Helicopter

Igor Sikorsky (1889 - 1972) invented the world's first vertical lift apparatus - the helicopter. Inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci, Sikorsky started thinking about creating a flying machine when he was a boy of 12.

According to the US National Inventors Hall of Fame:
From 1925 to 1940 he created a series of increasingly successful aircraft which won numerous world records for speed, range, and payload. The famed Sikorsky flying "Clippers" helped transoceanic commercial passenger services. Sikorsky continued to study the helicopter; he filed for a crucial patent in 1931. In late 1938, United Aircraft (now United Technologies) approved his experimental helicopter, and in 1939, the VS-300 made its first flight.

The patent above covers a major improvement in helicopter design: a mechanism for controlling the pitch of the rotor. The invention made the helicopter a highly maneuverable flying machine.

Here's a Hitchcock documentary about Igor Sikorsky, the inventor who made Leonardo Da Vinci's dream an everyday reality.

tags: invention, innovation, lunchtalk

Monday, August 18, 2014

(BN) Too Many Cancer Screening Wasted on Those Facing Death

(Bloomberg ) Older patients who aren't expected to live more than another decade are still being screened too often for cancers, causing more harm than good, a study found.

More than half of men 65 and older who had a very high risk of dying in nine years were screened for prostate cancer, a slow-moving disease, according to research today in JAMA Internal Medicine. Almost 38 percent of older women with a similar life expectancy were screened for breast cancer and 31 percent were screened for cervical cancer despite some having undergone a hysterectomy, which means they often had no cervix.

The findings raise concerns that older, sicker patients are being screened for diseases that won't cause them harm over the rest of their lives, raising health-care costs and the potential for unnecessary complications, said Ronald Chen, a senior study author. Doctors and patients should discuss when to use the tests based on life expectancy, which includes age, how functional a person is and health status, he said.

"Cancer screening is a pretty controversial topic these days," Chen, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology Oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a telephone interview. "Everyone would agree that patients who have limited life expectancy do not benefit from screening."

While screenings have saved lives, they can also detect tumors that can lead to invasive biopsies and toxic treatments in people who may never have any symptoms, he said.

Potential Savings

"There's a potential to actually save the health-care system a large amount of money if we stop doing screenings on patients who might not benefit," Chen said.

Chen said it may be hard for some patients in these circumstances to accept an end to screenings. More studies are needed on how to best measure life expectancy and how to limit testing for patients who may not have long to live, he said.

Millions of cancer screening tests are performed each year. More than 38 million mammograms for breast cancer are done in the U.S. each year, while about 30 million pap tests for cervical cancer were ordered by doctors' offices in 2010, according to the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

When screenings should end, depends on which medical advisory group is providing the recommendations.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent medical advisory group to the government, recommends against a prostate screening test for all men, while the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Cancer Society suggest stopping once someone is expected to die within 10 years. For breast cancer screening, the Preventive Services Task Force recommends no mammograms starting at 75, while the American College of Radiology suggests stopping when someone is expected to live only another five to seven years.

Study Data

The researchers in the study looked at rates of screening for cancers of the prostate, breast, cervix and colon in patients ages 65 and older from 2000 to 2010. They used data from the National Health Interview Survey that included 27,404 people. The people were divided into four categories based on their risk of dying in nine years from low -- less than a 25 percent chance -- to very high, classified as a 75 percent or more chance.

Of those who had a very high risk of dying, 41 percent had a colorectal screening in the past five years. For women who had a hysterectomy and were at a very high risk of dying, 34 percent were screened for cervical cancer within the past three years. About half of women who had a hysterectomy and a low or intermediate risk of dying, underwent cervical cancer screenings as well, the researchers found.

The study is the first to look at the screening patterns for all four cancers by life expectancy, the authors said.

Debra Monticciolo, chairwoman of the American College of Radiology's Quality and Safety Commission, said in a telephone interview that doctors need to consider how the treatment for the cancer they are screening for will affect the patient.

"If someone is too sick to be treated for the condition you are screening them for then it may not be beneficial to put them through the screening," she said. "Doctors have to look at the whole picture for that individual patient to make a decision."

Second Report

A second study released today by the journal found that Medicare patients who got colonoscopies more regularly than recommended -– every five years instead of 10 years -- had a slight reduction in colon cancer-related deaths with increased complications. The findings show that policy makers and doctors should discourage more frequent screening, said the authors from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Cancer screening is "losing its luster," said Cary Gross, a professor of medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who wrote an accompanying editorial.

"Now we wonder whether screening tests are helping or hurting our patients," he wrote. "We wonder what harm we may have caused through broad marketing campaigns that strongly promoted screening. It truly will be a new era when providers will be evaluated, in part, by their ability to refrain from ordering cancer screening tests for some of their patients."

(BN) Biggest Solar Project Falls as Australia Reviews Policy

(Bloomberg ) 

Plans to build the world's largest solar power plant of its kind have been scrapped in Australia after the developers raised concerns about the government's commitment to clean energy.

Solar Systems Pty Ltd. said it suspended plans for a 100-megawatt plant in the Australian state of Victoria. The plant, which would have used concentrating photovoltaic technology to intensify the power of the sun, would have been three times larger than any currently commissioned projects, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Australia has assigned Dick Warburton, a former Reserve Bank of Australia board member who has expressed doubts about human contributions to global warming, to head a review of the nation's clean-energy goals. The current target is to get 20 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020, up from about 15 percent in 2013.

The project in Mildura was scrapped because of the review into the target along with lower wholesale power prices according to a statement from Solar Systems, a unit of New South Wales-based Silex, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Funding for A$75 million ($70 million) of conditional support from the renewable energy agency was terminated, the statement said.

Economic Hurdle

"After careful consideration of project economics, we have decided to reassess plans for the Mildura 100MW Solar Power Station," Silex Chief Executive Officer Michael Goldsworthy said in the statement.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked Warburton to considering doing away with Australia's clean-energy targets, the Australian Financial Review reported, citing unidentified people. Abbott also has scrapped Australia's levy on carbon dioxide and sought to dismantle institutions set up to help the country limit the pollutants blamed for global warming.

Clive Palmer

Any changes to the renewable energy target would need to pass Australia's Senate, where the balance of power is held by a party led by mining magnate Clive Palmer.

Other clean energy developers have expressed concerns about Abbott's program. Miles George, a managing director at renewable energy project developer Infigen Energy, said the moves would amount to "economic vandalism, pandering to the climate skeptic minority," and that the prime minister is misreading the views of voters on the environment.

Conditional funding of A$35 million for the Mildura project from the Victorian government under the Energy Technology Innovation Strategy Fund also was terminated, Silex and ARENA said in today's announcement.

"ARENA enjoys a good working relationship with Solar Systems and remains open to considering any new or revised project opportunities that are ready for testing and demonstration," ARENA Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht said in the statement.

Concentrated Solar

The Mildura project was designed to use concentrating photovoltaic technology. Known as CPV, it involves lenses and mirrors that concentrate sunlight on solar panels, multiplying the power they can generate.

The largest CPV plant to be fully commissioned is a 30-megawatt facility in Colorado operated by Cogentrix Energy LLC, Bloomberg New Energy Finance data show.

A 44-megawatt plant has been partially commissioned in South Africa and a 50-megawatt project in China obtained financing and began construction in 2012, according to London-based BNEF.

A 1.5-megawatt demonstration project in Mildura began feeding electricity to the grid in June 2013. Solar Systems is exploring alternatives to develop the Mildura site on a smaller scale, according to the statement.

Earlier this year, the Silex unit completed a CPV project near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the first outside of its home country of Australia.

The 1-megawatt solar facility at the Nofa Equestrian Resort comprises 28 large dishes supplying electricity to an internal grid, replacing diesel generation, Solar Systems said in an e-mailed statement at the time.

(BN) Talking-Car Plans Advance as U.S. Says Lives to Be Saved

(Bloomberg ) The U.S. Transportation Department moved forward on writing rules that may mandate automakers' use of talking-car technology, saying more than a thousand lives a year might be saved on the nation's roadways.

Two of the most promising crash-avoidance technologies warning drivers of oncoming vehicles may prevent 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in rulemaking notice today on so-called vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

"By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety," said David Friedman, the agency's acting administrator. "V2V technology is ready to move toward implementation."

Technology companies including Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) are among those vying to build the architecture for the connected car of the future. Google Inc. (GOOG) and Tesla Motors Inc. are among companies looking at employing automated systems that may be precursors to self-driving cars.

The technology lets cars automatically exchange safety data such as speed and position 10 times per second, and sends warnings to drivers if an imminent collision is sensed, the Transportation Department has said.

A research paper backing U.S. rules looked at two technologies. Left-turn assist warns drivers not to turn if an oncoming vehicle is approaching. Intersection-movement assist alerts motorists to stop short if there's a high probability of a collision.

Airwaves Needed

Automakers and technology companies have skirmished over whether the radio spectrum that's been reserved for research into automotive communications should be shared for other uses, such as Wi-Fi. Carmakers such as General Motors Co. (GM) have said more research needs to be done to show that sharing the airwaves won't interfere with safety.

Google, Microsoft Corp. and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) announced an advocacy group earlier this year, WiFiForward, to push for more access to airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission has been weighing such a move.

Automakers say they've spent tens of millions of dollars developing technology, using the airwaves, and the results represent a safety advance on the magnitude of air bags and seat belts. The systems may be installed in new cars, at a cost of about $100 a vehicle, or sold for installation after a car is purchased.

"The country is well on its way to deploying this life-saving technology," John Bozzella, president and chief executive officer of Global Automakers, a Washington-based trade group, said in a statement today. "More than ever, we need to preserve the space on the spectrum that these safety systems rely on to operate. There is no better use of this spectrum than to save lives."

(BN) Google, Angelina Jolie, MediaTek: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg. by Victoria Slind-Flor. Aug 18, 2014)

Google Inc. (GOOG) won its bid to overturn a $30.5 million patent-infringement verdict won by Vringo Inc., a reversal that sent the patent licensing firm’s shares down as much as 79 percent.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington held Aug. 15 that the Vringo patents in the case were invalid. Vringo, which reported $1.1 million in revenue last year, claimed that its filtering technology for determining advertisement placement in search results was being used in Google’s AdWords and AdSense for Search products. It won a November 2012 trial against Google and some of its customers over infringement of the patents, which had belonged to defunct search-engine company Lycos.

Google argued that the patents combined well-known filtering methods without coming up with a new invention.

“We agree and hold that no reasonable jury could conclude otherwise,” the court said in a 2-1 decision.

The case is I/P Engine Inc. v. AOL Inc., 13-1307, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The earlier case is I/P Engine Inc. v. AOL Inc., 11cv512, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk).


Jolie Calls Non-Infringement Appeal Unfounded and ‘Emotional’

Actor Angelina Jolie has responded to an appeal of a lower court ruling that her war film “In the Land of Blood and Honey” didn’t infringe the copyright of a Croatian journalist.

In a lawsuit he filed in June 2012, James J. Braddock had claimed Jolie’s film contains “similarities so substantial” to his Croatian-language book “The Soul Shattering” that his copyrights were infringed. The court disagreed and in March 2013 dismissed the infringement claims.

Braddock then filed an appeal claiming the court found no infringement because it wasn’t using a correct translation of his work from the Croatian language. Jolie filed her response Aug. 13, saying that Braddock’s “emotional” appeal contained “virtually no analysis” of the lower court’s infringement standard.

The lower court case is Braddock. v. Jolie, 2:12-cv-05883-DMG-VBK, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The appeal is James Braddock v. Angeline Jolie, 12-55703, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Chinese National Indicted in Boeing Trade-Secret Theft Case

A Chinese national already charged with hacking into Boeing Co. (BA)’s computer system to steal information on military jets was indicted on additional trade-secret theft and illegal-export counts as part of a U.S. investigation into industrial espionage by China.

Su Bin, 49, owner of a Chinese aviation technology company with an office in Canada, conspired with two unidentified individuals in China staring in 2008 and continuing until as recently as May to hack into computers, download defense-related trade secrets and export data on military jets, according to an Aug. 14 indictment in Santa Ana, California.

Su is in custody in British Columbia, Canada, where he is being held under a provisional arrest warrant submitted by the U.S., prosecutors said in an Aug. 15 statement.

Su’s alleged co-conspirators claimed to have stolen 65 gigabytes of data from Boeing related to the C-17 military cargo plane, according to a criminal complaint filed in June. They also allegedly sought data related to other aircraft, including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.

Su owns an aviation technology company called Lode-Tech and is in contact with Chinese military and commercial aerospace entities, according to the complaint. The two unidentified Chinese individuals are “affiliated with multiple organizations and entities” in China, according to U.S. prosecutors.

The case is U.S. v. Su Bin, 8:14-cr-00131, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Sana Ana).

Ex-MediaTek Worker Questioned, Released in Trade Secret Probe

Taiwan prosecutors questioned and then released on bail a former employee of MediaTek Inc., (2454) a semiconductor company based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, the WantChina Times news website reported.

Mediatek had filed a report with Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau claiming 10 of its ex-employees took the company’s trade secrets with them when they left the company for new jobs, according to WantChina Times.

Eight other ex-employees have also been questioned in connection with the alleged theft, WantChina Times reported.

Cognizant Awarded Attorney Fees in McAfee Trademark Suit

Internet entrepreneur John McAfee was ordered to pay $130,341 attorney fees in a trademark infringement case brought by Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., a business and software consulting firm.

Cognizant sued in March, claiming McAfee was offering an application for mobile devices and tablets named Cognizant.

McAfee is the founder of McAfee Associates, creator of anti-virus software. That company was acquired by Intel Corp. (INTC) in 2010 and has since been rebranded.

According to the fee-award order, Teaneck, New Jersey-based Cognizant made repeated efforts to serve McAfee with the complaint and he failed to appear in court. In June, the court issued a default judgment against him.

Cognizant sought attorney fees and costs of $158,678. U.S. District Judge William Orrick cut that award to $124,906 and $5,435 in costs. He said Cognizant’s counsel did good work and achieved desired results, and the premium rates they charged were “justified by their education, experience and the quality of work performed.”

He made cuts because some of the requests failed to describe the work performed and because some of the work done by partners could have been handled by a junior attorney or non-attorney.

The case is Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (CTSH) v. McAfee, 14-cv-01146, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Worry is the mother of invention

A recent psychological study from Singapore Management University has found that being worried can help one's creativity:
By systematically manipulating the experience of emotional states, those who actually experienced worrisome emotions produced creative designs that were rated as being more creative by their peers (Study 2) and were more cognitively flexible in generating unusual uses of a common object under high cognitive load (Study 3).

Note that the study uses divergent thinking as the proxy for creativity. Taking this into account, we can say that being worried makes one to consider a greater range of options. This may also explain why in times of uncertainty and trouble people generate many conspiracy theories. It's not clear what emotional state helps separate good ideas from the bad ones.

tags: creativity, psychology, thinking, cognition, research

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Invention of the Day: SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language)

SGML is the second great invention (that I know of) by an American lawyer; the first one being the Cotton Gin, by  Eli Whitney.

The Cotton Gin (1793) revolutionized the cotton industry in the US and, arguably, triggered the Industrial Revolution in England. Similarly, the SGML, co–invented by Charles F. Goldfarb, revolutionized the way we work with electronic documents. For example, the World Wide Web would be impossible without HTML, a simplified extension of SGML. Another extension of SGMIL is XML, a critically important document format used extensively in modern web and mobile applications.

In 1969, together with Ed Mosher and Ray Lorie, Goldfarb invented the SGML to make electronic documents compatible between different computing systems. Before SGML, a document would have instructions on how to handle it — procedural markup — embedded into the text. Since different IBM computer systems had different command sets, moving documents with procedural markup created a problem, because the same document would not "work" on a different computer. To solve the problem, the inventors came up with a language that could describe the contents of the document independently from the application or computer system that stored or processed it. Here's how Goldfarb wrote about the breakthrough in a 1971 paper:
The principle of separating document description from application function makes it possible to describe the attributes common to all documents of the same type.
20 years later, this feature of SGML turned out to be highly useful for the World Wide Web, a system designed for a seamless exchange of documents from networked computer systems around the world. HTML, a simplified version of SGML, allowed web enthusiasts to put together simple web pages that could be rendered in browsers on all kinds of machines. With the web, the invention turned into a great innovation.

tags: invention, innovation, separation, internet, web, packaged, payload,  

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Privacy is Dead, the Russian edition

The Russian Government has decreed that access to public Wi-Fi can be given only to those who submitted their passport data —name, address, DOB, etc. — to the service provider. The service provider is responsible for storing the personal information, including device identification and communications data, and forwarding it to the Russian Secret Service (FSB). 

Just imagine your local Starbucks or McDonalds tracking and recording their customers' personal info. That would be of great help to identity thieves. As if they need any.

tags: privacy, security

Left Brain, Right Brain - no difference!

In 2013, a group of scientist from the University of Utah decided to test the popular hypothesis that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for different cognitive functions than the right hemisphere. "Left-brain" people were supposed to be more logical, while "right-brain" ones more spontaneous.

The scientists ran a number of experiments by analysing their subjects' — 1011 individuals between the ages of 7 and 29 — on various tasks, while observing their brain activity using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). No significant difference was found.

Source: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

The study is "old news", so why do I write about it now? Mainly, because I just found the study, but also because I deal with human creativity issues on an everyday basis. To me, there are two important points to that relate to the study:

First, a person's creativity is not confined to a specific portion of the brain. Therefore, conclusions like "I'm a left-brain person and I can't be creative" are wrong. Creativity is about having created something new and useful to other people, rather than pigeonholing yourself into a "creative vs non-creative" categories. In many ways, creativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, the study highlights the difference between science and entrepreneurship. Science moves slowly, by creating insights, postulating hypothesis, then testing and re-testing them. Initial scientific results can be invalidated much later, which only adds to the value of science. The brain study from the University of Utah is good science.

On the other hand, entrepreneurship requires us to move fast, act on incomplete or even wrong information,  take huge risks, and make outrageous claims in order to gain advantage in the marketplace. For example, Christopher Columbus was not a good scientist because his calculations assumed that the Earth was 3 times smaller than it turned out in reality. Scientists of his time already knew that and were highly skeptical of his idea!

Nevertheless, he was a great entrepreneur because he not only convinced the king of Spain to give hime ships for discovering a new way to Asia, but did succeed in discovering a new continent, although by mistake. Eventually, scientists proved him wrong, but it didn't diminish the value of his accomplishment.

One of the most striking aspects of Silicon Valley's success is its reliance on an entrepreneur's desire to discover a new business "continent", rather than do perfect science. Most remarkable examples would be the Moore's Law, Computer Games, the Web, Social Networking, and the iPhone.

tags: creativity, innovation, science, entrepreneurship,

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Lunch Talk: Focus and Attention

Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to survive in a complex world.

Goleman boils down attention research into a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. Drawing on rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business, he shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, and explains how those who rely on Smart Practices—mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery, positive emotions and connections, and mental "prosthetics" that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain greatness—excel while others do not.

tags: psychology, lunchtalk

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Invention of the Day: Kindergarten, learning by playing.

In 1837 Friedrich Fröbel, a German educator, founded care, playing and activity institute for small children in Bad Blankenburg. Three years later he came up with a short name for his creation - Kindergarten. Fröbel's idea was based on an insight that young children learn best while playing, rather than working on specific tasks assigned by the teacher in a formal school environment. Remarkably, Fröbel himself was an orphan and never had children of his own. His entire life was devoted to educating other people's children.

Although today the concept of "learning by playing" seems obvious, in the 19th century it seemed revolutionary and even subversive. In 1851, the Prussian government banned all Kindergatens as “atheistic and demagogic” for its alleged “destructive tendencies in the areas of religion and politics”.

Most societies in the developed world have adopted the Kindergarten model as a key part of formal elementary school education. In the US, kindergarten education is compulsory from age 5 or 6. Kids must learn by playing!

From an innovator perspective, the Kindergarten education "technology" succeeded because it 1) leveraged young children's natural ability to learn by playing; 2) helped parents, especially working women who didn't have neither time nor educational background, to prepare their children for school. As education became a critical element of a person's social success, the market for Kindergarten expanded worldwide.

tags: invention, innovation, education, gaming, dominant design

Monday, August 04, 2014

Invention of the Day: Electrocardiography (EKG)

Today we take medical sensors for granted. Most recently Digital Health, a combination of sensing and wireless networking technologies, has become one of the fastest growing areas for innovation. For example, electronic hand bands from FitBit can track your sleep patterns, continuously collect your physical activity levels, calculate calories burned during exercises, and transmit the data to your smartphone, which relays the information further to the cloud. Ultimately, Digital Health should help us improve our lifestyles, prevent cardiovascular diseases, and reduce healthcare costs.

CardioMEMS wireless heart sensor compared to a dime. (Photo credit: IntelFreePress).
A large portion of the modern sensing technology is based on detecting weak electric signals from the heart and other organs. Medical researchers became aware of the hearts electric activity during the second half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, it was hard for them to come up with a practical application for their knowledge.
As late as 1911, Augustus Waller, who was the pioneer of electrocardiography, said, “I do not imagine that electrocardiography is likely to find any very extensive use in the hospital. It can at most be of rare and occasional use to afford a record of some rare anomaly of cardiac action.”
While Waller struggled with his imagination, a Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven developed the first practical EKG device that was based on his newly invented string galvanometer.

In 1906, unknown to Waller, Einthoven demonstrated clinical usefulness of the electrocardiograph (EKG). In 1924 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his invention.

Over the last 100 years EKG has become one of the most common techniques for heart monitoring and diagnostics. Since then, many generations of inventors improved upon the original idea, with micro-electronics, networking, and cloud computing being the latest additions to Einthhoven's breakthrough. Most likely, innovation in this area will continue well into the 21st century.

tags: invention, innovation, detection, healthcare, medicine, control