We rely on plastics for nearly everything. From the decor in our homes to the machines we use at work (many of which might be made using the reaction injection molding process of combining two liquid components in a mold), this material is ubiquitous in our world. But unfortunately, it's also doing a lot of damage to the planet we call home. As a result, there's a need for more sustainable alternatives -- particularly biodegradable ones, as plastics can sit in landfills for a thousand years before ever breaking down. Now, a group of researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico think they've found the answer: the prickly pear cactus, which is the very species featured so prominently on the country's flag.
Global plastic production grew from 225 million tons to 311 million tons between 2004 and 2014. While this is excellent news for the plastics industry, it's not a positive development for the environment. Data shows that 8 million metric tons of plastics end up in our oceans every year -- and that's in addition to the 150 million metric tons that are already affecting our marine life. It impacts humans, as well, seeing as the plastic in our waterways and in our landfills makes its way into our food supply. In fact, we ingest more than 50,000 pieces of microplastic each year.
That's a startling statistic for many, but there may be hope. According to lead researcher Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, Mexico's popular prickly pear cactus could hold the key to creating an eco-friendly plastic that safely and quickly breaks down. Ortiz explained in a statement that the cactus pulp is strained into a juice, which is then combined with natural, non-toxic additives and stretched into sheets. The sheets could then be colored with pigments and used to create packaging. If the product ends up in a landfill or on the ground, it would dissolve in a month; if it comes into contact with water, it would take only a few days to break down completely. And if animals or humans happen to ingest it, there would be no negative health effects.
Although Ortiz admits her invention would not be the answer to all environmental issues, she hopes that it could potentially replace all other kinds of single use plastics being used. Tests are still being conducted and the process is currently restricted to the laboratory, but Ortiz hopes to have her patent request join the other 500,000 applications that will be received by the USPTO this year. She plans to look for development partners in early 2020 in order to pursue large scale production in an industrial facility.
Already, a number of companies have expressed their interest in supporting the venture, which means it may not be too long before we see this plant-based plastic on the market. But for now, you might want to keep reducing your single use plastic use and find additional ways to become more sustainable in your everyday life.
Technology is advancing at an incredible rate. Already, Americans can see the power of 5G networks on the horizon; considering the fact that wireless and mobile traffic is predicted to account for more than 63% of total IP traffic by the year 2021, the switch to the revolutionary speeds of 5G networks will be a boon to both businesses and their consumers. That being said, 5G can't operate alone; these remarkable download speeds (which are estimated to top out at 10 gigabits per second, or Gbps, a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology) and reduced latencies will place huge demands on wired infrastructure. Let's take a look at the give and take between the two.
Where Fiber Comes In
Fiber optic cables rely on specialty gases — specifically helium — of ultra-high purity (99.995% and above) to transmit data. They are able to offer improved speed, security, and bandwidth over traditional copper systems. In the past, fiber optic was preferred due to its ability to travel as far as 40 miles without losing signal strength; data fiber optics have been found to transfer around 15.5 terabits per second, or Tbps, which is far beyond what 5G is capable of wirelessly.
The relationship between fiber optic and 5G can be compared to the human bloodstream; 5G plays the role of the capillaries in a city's networking system -- but internet traffic will travel nearly its entire journey in the veins or arteries (fiber backhaul). Ultimately, the quality and reliability of wireless networks will depend upon the wireline, or fiber, network.
Now that we know how fiber optic cables serve to enhance 5G networks, let's examine the benefits that businesses can expect to see.
- Massive device connectivity: With such amazing speeds and almost no downtime, devices throughout the world will be connected to 5G networks, greatly improving communications. In fact, the International Data Corporation predicts that more than 30 billion devices will be connected to networks globally by 2020.
- Ultra-low latency: This is where businesses will shine. Latency describes the time interval between the stimulation and response. If a company website takes too long to load or respond to an inquiry, your customers will lose interest and move on. The industry expectation for 5G latency is less than 5 milliseconds; when you take into account the fact that between three to 10 website visitors out of every 100 "convert," ultra-low latency rates will be able to boost those numbers.
- Better capacity and coverage: Finally, 5G will offer more connection points within a smaller area. You'll be able to reach all of your customers in no time -- no matter where they're located.
The future is upon us. Although many changes are coming (like the ability to download a two-hour movie in just a few seconds), the backbone of a 5G network can only be supported with fiber.
Facebook has become one of the most influential organizations in the entire world. Founded in 2004 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the website grew from a college social networking service to a global leader in advertising, media, and so much more. Though Facebook has certainly come under scrutiny for account privacy, "fake news," and company governance, they still have upwards of 2.3 billion monthly active users.
Facebook isn't going anywhere.
According to Venture Beat, Facebook has announced numerous new updates that will improve the user experience for both personal and professional accounts.
Ahead of its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, Facebook announced Project LightSpeed, which is a completely rebuilt Messenger app that will be more than two-thirds smaller than the existing program -- with the ability to launch in less than two seconds.
These new updates are great for the average user, but marketers will be able to use to interact with their employees, network, and engage with customers. Since up to 20% of the population moves each year, companies have 20% new customers to attract via local and digital advertising.
Currently, there are 40 million active businesses and 300,000 developers on Facebook's Messenger app, up from 200,000 developers a year ago. The revamped version will allow users to book appointments, collect information through lead generation chatbot templates, and provide customer service to verified customers. The ability to offer quality customer service is crucial since 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
"We believe you can build practically any utility on top of messaging," said Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook's head of Messenger. "All of the engineering behind it is has been redone. Utilities will be more powerful, more functional and more desired if built on top of a system that’s interoperable and end-to-end encrypted."
Additionally, since video sharing is vital to Facebook's success, the new app will feature improved video services for users. In a 2017 report, 81% of marketers said they optimize social videos for mobile. The new Messenger will enable video co-watching, meaning users can select videos to watch at the same time with friends, coworkers, customers, and influencers.
"We are working to be world class for our community for the primary things that people expect in a messaging app," added Asha Sharma, director for Messenger consumer products. "We will make Messenger fast, private, interoperable, and a space for close friends and family."
The company hasn't given a specific launch date for Project LightSpeed but users can expect this new messaging program sometime in 2019.
Apple is showing off the power of the iPhone XS — specifically, when it comes to video. In honor of Earth Day, the tech giant showed off some new footage by Camp4 Collective, all shot using the iPhone XS. "Don't Mess with Mother" features stunning nature imagery set to Megadeth's "Last Rites," a song taken from the band's 1984 debut album, Killing is My Business... and Business is Good! The album has been reissued, remastered, and enhanced several times over the years, most recently for last year's "The Final Kill" edition — released on Century Media Records.
The energy sector is a large and all-encompassing term that describes a complex and interrelated network of organizations directly and indirectly involved in the production, storage, and distribution of energy. As technology rapidly advances, virtually every industry has to adapt accordingly. Simply adapting, however, isn't always enough and officials in the energy sector have to constantly find ways to actually change the energy landscape.
Thankfully, there are up-and-coming startups that are working tirelessly to improve and reshape the future of energy storage and energy generation. Here are some of the startups to look out for in the energy sector:
Breezi -- In most commercial buildings, HVAC systems account for between 40% to 60% of energy consumption. Breezi is focusing on making these HVAC systems much more efficient by providing a low-cost solution for filter maintenance and repairs. Breezi's innovative approach utilizes audio sensors and AI to determine what is going wrong within an HVAC system.
Constructis -- Constructs is leading the kinetic energy revolution with a zero carbon emission roadway power platform -- Roadway Energy X (REX). This innovative startup can harvest over 1,100 watts of electricity for every two able car pass, which is enough energy to power three family homes with just four roadway lanes.
Kite Power Systems -- Steam turbines have been utilized for energy production since the 1880s. Though there have been all sorts of new advancements within the turbine power industry, using kites might actually be one of the most creative and efficient. Kite Power Systems have developed a way to generate energy using kites. Each pair of kites pulls a tether that turns a turbine and generates electricity to provide a continuous energy source.
Nostromo Energy -- Nostromo Energy is an energy company attempting to replace Lithium-ion batteries with water for storage solutions.
"While everybody is talking about global warming and Li-ion based energy storage, we have found a way to use water as a highly potent capacitor and solve the most crucial problem of electrical grids: high peak demands, which are wholly subjected to cooling demands, e.g., commercial chillers. We have developed the cleanest, safest, most cost-effective energy storage system available today and in the foreseeable future," said a spokesperson for the company.
HST Solar -- This startup isn't exactly new on the energy scene, since they've been in the sector since 2013, but they are gaining some serious momentum. HST Solar builds solar software, include an app that uses AI to design utility-scale solar farms. With this platform, a solar developer can design the entire layout of a large solar farm, which could have thousands of solar panels onsite, across various landscapes and terrains.
As tech becomes more advanced and readily available, startups are going to be doing everything in their power to improve the energy sector both across the U.S. and the entire globe.
French car manufacturer Citroen has developed a simple pair of plastic glasses that they claim can reduce or eliminate childhood car sickness. It's possible that with these £89 (or roughly $113) glasses, motion sickness on long road trips could quickly become a thing of the past.
These simple specs are designed specifically for children at the moment, but there's no reason that these couldn't be developed for adults in the near future. The "Seetroen," as they have been called by manufacturer Citroen, are made of plastic for a durable, cost-effective solution that's reasonably inexpensive to produce. Today the world makes and consumes about 600 billion pounds of plastic yearly, and the market is still growing about 5% a year.
The lenses are large enough to be worn over any corrective eyewear, making them accessible to the one in four U.S. children that has a vision problem that could interfere with learning and behavior. This makes them perfect for young children who enjoy reading or playing video games on long road trips but typically are unable to due to motion sickness on the road.
How Do They Work?
The trick of these glasses isn't, as one might suspect, in the lenses at all. Instead, the secret to these innovative lenses lies in a small tube of colored fluid that rests in the edges of the frame. This colored liquid supposedly creates the illusion of a horizon, helping the brain to regain its sense of direction. This tackles one of the primary causes of motion sickness, particularly for passengers in the backseat of a vehicle or passengers looking downward at reading material where the horizon may not be immediately visible.
While originally designed to help sailors avoid sea-sickness, these creative lenses are perfect for long road trips with your little ones. Citroen claims that these glasses are able to correct motion sickness in as little as twelve minutes in up to 95% of users. Currently, the frames are available for £89, or roughly $113, but if this creative solution to motion sickness takes off, it's possible the price will be lowered in the future. It's possible that these unique lenses could make motion sickness a thing of the past, so get ready for easier road trips with your family very soon.
Do you or your kids experience motion sickness in the car? If so, do you think these odd lenses might help them on longer road trips?
Each day, more than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 throughout the United States. And while many seniors benefit from certain financial and medical protections, that doesn't always safeguard them from harm. But one tech startup is hoping to help seniors stay safe.
One of the biggest physical risks for many seniors is the seemingly simple slip-and-fall incident. According to recent data, nearly 9,500 fatalities among older Americans are attributed to trips and falls every year, with approximately 20% to 30% of those who fall experiencing severe complications and even disabilities as a result. And because over 50% of all falls take place within the home among older adults, one company is vowing to take action to ensure the home is truly a haven for many seniors.
Cherry Labs created an in-home alarm and surveillance system, known as Cherry Home, that's powered by artificial intelligence to do just that. It can detect and track residents using microphones, compasses, vision sensors, and complex algorithms. Its creators claim that the AI system can actually distinguish different people by their faces, limb lengths, hair colors, clothing, postures, and gaits.
The idea here is to be able to prevent a fall before it actually occurs, so the information captured by the system is transmitted in real time through video footage and audio recordings (which can include instances of stumbles, cries, shouts, and other activities) over a Wi-Fi network to a separate PC equipped with a backup battery. The computer saves and analyzes that data before delivering it to caregivers and medical professionals so that they can ascertain whether the seniors in question might benefit from further treatment. If and when a more serious fall or other incident occurs, the system will send an alert to family members, nurses, and other caregivers to ensure the individual can receive help.
Although police respond to 38 million alarm activations every year, an AI system like this would probably be more precise -- or at least more helpful -- than a false alarm notification through a home security system. Backers evidently felt the same way, as Cherry Labs announced they'd received $5.2 million in funding from GSR ventures. That funding will allow for a pilot program partnership with TriCura, a mobile app platform geared towards information sharing between caregivers and agencies, and TheraCare, a service that provides caregivers for those in need.
While it isn't clear whether the average senior or familial caregiver will be able to afford the Cherry Home System (its tentative costs can range up to $2,000 for coverage of six rooms, plus a monthly subscription fee), the startup isn't the only one developing similar tools to help older populations. They are, however, providing services that other platforms currently aren't. For one thing, the video captured is processed locally (meaning it never leaves the premises) and the identity of the seniors in these videos will be protected through unique means. It's also one of the only tools that could monitor changes in behaviors, rather than just major falls, to help caregivers be more effective at their jobs and ensure seniors receive the care they need when no one else is around.
Max Goncharov, CEO and co-founder of Cherry Home, noted in a statement: "Understanding human behavior has a long list of applications, from home security to in-home senior care to the overall goal of making smart homes totally autonomous. But improving senior care is arguably one of the most important areas for technological improvement."
This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
When I last wrote about starting our "smart home" with Amazon Devices, I was pretty excited to have the Echo Plus as our central hub and was just starting to experiment with things like smart lighting. This, of course, is just a tiny, tiny silver of what can be done with the power of Alexa. In just a short time, our home has become more efficient and entertaining. I've fallen in love with Alexa to the point where I've begun to expand our smart home - having since purchased an Echo Dot, smart plugs and additional lighting. As I mentioned when we got the Echo Plus, our girls were also becoming enamored with it as well - using it in unexpected ways, like helping out with spelling, checking the weather and even calling upon Alexa to serve-up some jokes. Now they've got their own devices as we've just added an Echo Dot Kids Edition and a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet to the mix. There's a lot to love with these, and parents (especially those concerned with screen time) should take note of just how good the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is.
This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
When the "smart home" movement started a few years back, I set up a few devices here at our house... and quickly removed them. At the time, the concept was solid, but the technology wasn't quite there yet and it seemed that the experience was lacking a central hub to pull it all together. Then Amazon came along with Echo and Alexa and all of that changed. Now, with the all-new Echo Plus, we're establishing a smart home as it should be - one that works both with and for our family, seamlessly integrating with technology and people in increasingly unexpected and very much appreciated ways.
Hurricanes, with their wind speeds of over 160 miles per hour, can absolutely destroy entire buildings, communities, and even nations. Year after year, we’ve seen massive storms devastate areas, ruin infrastructures, and take hundreds of lives. At the time of this writing, the rare (and dangerous) Hurricane Lane is bearing down on Hawaii.
The iPhone has truly changed the world in millions of ways. On our smartphones, we can pay our bills, communicate with anyone across the globe, order anything we want, and, perhaps most importantly, pass the time.
According to Data company Inrix, the typical American commuter wastes 42 hours in traffic each year. There was a time where the average commuter would have to just power through the traffic jams by listening to morning radio, a CD, or just the background noise of other frustrated drivers. Now we can simply look at our phones.
The world of Alexa is still somewhat foreign to me as our family does not yet have an Alexa enabled device. For those that do, however, there's some fun new content - particularly if you have kids who are Disney fans. Launched this week, Disney Dailies is a new kids skill for FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa with jokes, fun facts, and all-new sketches set in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ award-winning film Zootopia. Disney Dailies delivers new content every day, building an amazing collection of voice-enabled experiences. Kids will hear knee-slapping jokes with Mickey Mouse and Daisy Duck, learn brain-teasing fun facts that intertwine Disney stories with science, art, and history, and will be treated to a huge suite of all-new sketches and stories that show kids “What’s up?” with their favorite characters. But that's not all...