A smart home mega sensor can track what goes on in a room

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Creating a smart home currently requires either linking every connected device one-by-one or adding sensor tags to old appliances to make a cohesive IoT network, but there might be an easier way. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon developed a concept for a hub that, when plugged into an electrical outlet, tracks ambient environmental data — essentially becoming a sensor that tracks the whole space. With this in hand, savvy programmers can use it to trigger their own connected home routines.

The researchers introduced their sensor nexus — dubbed Synthetic Sensors — this week at ACM CHI, the human-computer interaction conference. As the video demonstrates, just plug it into a USB wall port and it automatically collects information about its surroundings, uploading it to a cloud back-end over WiFi.

Machine learning on the device parses results into recognizable events, like recognizing a particular sound pattern as "dishwasher is running" — making them "synthetic" sensors. Folks can use them as digital triggers for other IoT behaviors. For example, one could use "left faucet on" to activate a room’s left paper towel dispenser — and automatically schedule a restock when its supply runs low.

There’s one sensor missing from the device’s suite, though: A camera. Its creators are sensitive to privacy issues, which is also why raw environmental data isn’t uploaded to the cloud — just the analyzed results. The Synthetic Sensor is still in a prototype phase, but it’s a promising replacement for the jumble of individual tags needed to hook up old appliances or proprietary smart devices.

Source: Wired

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The $400,000 GT is the greatest car Ford has ever built (F)

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Ford GT Drive

Ford is officially delivering the production versions of the its $400,000 Ford GT supercars. Ever since the GT’s jaw-dropping debut at the 2015 Detroit auto show, anticipation for the car has been running high.

Fans saw what the racing version of the GT could do last year, when the car competed in North America and Europe and won the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, repeating history: it was 50 years to the day that the Ford GT40 went 1-2-3 at Le Mans, forging a legend.

That was a spectacular, against-the-odds triumph, with Ford once again dueling Ferrari (as well as Corvette, Aston Martin, and Porsche). It raised the expectations for the road-car to a fever pitch. Both vehicles were developed at the same time — that was the only way to get the race car on the track and satisfy the regulations to have a road car also in development.

Ford slowly teased us with glimpses of the GT after its 2015 debut. In 2016, a white GT appeared at the Detroit auto show. Then in 2017, a red GT was the centerpiece of Ford’s booth in Detroit, sharing space with the battle-scarred Le Mans-winning racing car.

Earlier this year, Ford brought a GT to New York and we got to push the start button for the first time.

Then Ford invited us to drive the car, on the road and the race track, in Utah.

Here’s what we thought:

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When the Ford GT was revealed at the 2015 Detroit auto show in January, it blew everybody’s minds. With its elegant flying buttress wings, bold hood scoops, and razorlike edges, the supercar was breathtakingly beautiful. But its existence raised a question …

Would Ford build a race car to make a run at repeating history? In 1966, the Ford GT40 went 1-2-3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the toughest race in the world. Would Ford return to glory in France in 2016, 50 years later?

That question was answered a few months later when Ford pulled the cover off the racing version of the GT.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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AI-equipped Apple Watch can detect the signs of a stroke

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The Apple Watch may become a useful tool in detecting an abnormal heartbeat, according to a study by heart rate app-maker Cardiogram and the UCSF Health lab. They determined that the wearable, when paired with neural network algorithms, is 97 percent accurate in detecting paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of heart rhythm problem. With further work, the Watch and other wearables might help prevent strokes in susceptible patients.

Apple has been pitching the Watch with ResearchKit to doctors and scientists as a serious health tool. Cardiogram initiated the research last year to figure out whether it could detect the signs of a stroke, a quarter of which are caused by irregular heartbeats.

The study drew 6,158 Apple Watch users via the Cardiogram app — most had normal EKG readings, but 200 had an existing AF condition that made their hearts beat erratically. Engineers used those subjects to train a deep learning system to discern patients with arrhythmia versus those with normal heartbeats.

They then tested the system on 51 patients scheduled for a procedure to restore normal heart rhythms. All used an Apple Watch and 12-lead ECG prior to and after the procedure. The AI algorithm and Apple Watch were able to identify AF with 97 percent accuracy and 98 percent sensitivity, according to the study.

The research holds a lot of promise, especially since the algorithm is just an early version and could easily be made more accurate. Two-thirds of strokes can be prevented with cheap drugs, but the onset of one is difficult to detect — so doctors could save the lives of susceptible patients with just an off-the-shelf wearable.

The team plans to tweak the algorithm and validate it against "gold standard" EKG tests. It will then incorporate it into the Cardiogram app, and "investigate the ability to detect health conditions beyond atrial fibrillation," Cardiogram says. With that test a success, it could also push more hospitals and research groups onto ResearchKit and other wearables for patient monitoring and research.

Via: Techcrunch

Source: Cardiogram

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Belgian scientists turn polluted air into hydrogen fuel

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To save the environment, humanity needs to do two things: reduce harmful gases and produce more energy from "green" energy sources. While plenty of research projects have tried to tackle these independently, few do both at the same time. Scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium are developing a device that cleans up the air and generates power at the same time. It relies on a process called ‘heterogeneous photocatalysis,’ which uses light and a special catalyst (typically a semiconductor) to trigger a chemical reaction.

Heterogeneous photocatalysis has been used before to siphon hydrogen from water and nullify gas-based pollutants. Rarely are the two used in combination, however. The research team has solved this with a "photoelectrochemical cell," which uses a solar cell to produce hydrogen in a similar manner to electrolysis water-splitting. It has two "rooms," according to Professor Sammy Vergbuggen, separated by a membrane to isolate the two processes. Air is purified on one side with a photoanode, while the hydrogen is generated from "a part of the degradation process" with a cathode tucked behind the solid electrolyte membrane.

It’s the team’s choice of catalyst that makes the machine so effective, Verbuggen says. "In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air," he added. The hydrogen can be easily stored and used later as fuel. It sounds like a wonder machine, although the team is quick to stress that it’s only a "proof-of-concept" with "ample room for improvement" in its research paper. The current device, for instance, is only a few square centimeters — hardly enough to counterbalance carbon emissions or power the lights in our cities.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: KU Leuven

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50 floating screens will clean the Pacific garbage patch next year

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The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch foundation that aims to deal with plastics polluting our seas, says it’s finally ready to put its technology to work. In a statement released today, the organization has revealed that it plans to start cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in early 2018 using its newly redesigned cleaning system. That garbage patch is the biggest collection of debris in the ocean, a massive soup of visible and microscopic plastic particles poisoning marine life. The ship captain who discovered it in 2003 said he "never found a clear spot" in the week it took to cross the region.

While Boyan Slat (the organization’s founder) originally envisioned trapping plastic trash with one large screen tethered to the ocean floor, the new design is smaller, sturdier and can save the group a ton of money. Instead of deploying a 60-mile stationary screen, they plan on releasing 50 smaller ones that measure 0.6 miles in length. They’ll weigh the floating screens down with anchor, so they can move with the currents like plastics do, albeit a bit slower in order to trap debris.

Slat told FastCompany that he expected the original design to clean up half of the massive garbage patch in 10 years for $320 million. Now, he expects the new design to cut that timespan in half and to cost the group significantly less than that amount. Since he and his team still need to fund the project, though, they plan to use the plastic they collect to make items they can sell, such as sunglasses, chairs and car bumpers.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

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Belgian scientists turn polluted air into hydrogen fuel

Standard

To save the environment, humanity needs to do two things: reduce harmful gases and produce more energy from "green" energy sources. While plenty of research projects have tried to tackle these independently, few do both at the same time. Scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium are developing a device that cleans up the air and generates power at the same time. It relies on a process called ‘heterogeneous photocatalysis,’ which uses light and a special catalyst (typically a semiconductor) to trigger a chemical reaction.

Heterogeneous photocatalysis has been used before to siphon hydrogen from water and nullify gas-based pollutants. Rarely are the two used in combination, however. The research team has solved this with a "photoelectrochemical cell," which uses a solar cell to produce hydrogen in a similar manner to electrolysis water-splitting. It has two "rooms," according to Professor Sammy Vergbuggen, separated by a membrane to isolate the two processes. Air is purified on one side with a photoanode, while the hydrogen is generated from "a part of the degradation process" with a cathode tucked behind the solid electrolyte membrane.

It’s the team’s choice of catalyst that makes the machine so effective, Verbuggen says. "In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air," he added. The hydrogen can be easily stored and used later as fuel. It sounds like a wonder machine, although the team is quick to stress that it’s only a "proof-of-concept" with "ample room for improvement" in its research paper. The current device, for instance, is only a few square centimeters — hardly enough to counterbalance carbon emissions or power the lights in our cities.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: KU Leuven

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How a Nintendo superfan turned his Switch into the perfect Super Nintendo throwback

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Nintendo’s new video game console, the Switch, is a major hit. It’s sold out in many stores, and demand doesn’t appear to be slowing down. It’s Nintendo’s fastest-selling console in history.

Nintendo Switch

That’s saying a lot considering how remarkably popular some of Nintendo’s past consoles have been. From the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo has an impressive legacy of making hardware that people want to buy in droves. 

That level of enthusiasm just as often translates to rose-tinted nostalgia. Look no further than the explosive sales of the NES Classic Edition console this past holiday for evidence:

NES classic edition

Nintendo smartly plays this nostalgia to its advantage, re-selling its games and hardware over and over in slightly re-packaged form. But Nintendo can’t possibly keep up with fan demand for 30 years of nostalgia. And it’s moments like this when fans take that nostalgia into their own hands.

Behold, the Super Nintendo Switch:

Nintendo Switch (SNES)

The beautifully nostalgic Nintendo Switch above is a custom job, care of a man named Andreas Wallin.

He painted both of his Switch console’s controllers — the so-called "Joy-Con" gamepads on either side of the Switch’s tablet screen — and swapped out the standard buttons for Super Nintendo-themed buttons. 

Super Famicom (gamepad)

He posted his custom-modified Nintendo Switch to Reddit’s Nintendo Switch forum yesterday, and was immediately flooded with positive responses. More than just excitement, people were curious about his creation: How’d he do it? How long did it take, and how could they do it themselves?

So we got in touch with Wallin, who explained his work as complex but possible. 

"The internet is a great resource for modding," Wallin said in an email. "I’ve been following the Switch and the great mod/remix culture that it has started around it. So I followed a few articles and videos about what to do to pick the Joy-Cons apart."

Indeed, there are even videos specifically made for how to replace the buttons on the Switch. Like this one:

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Wallin took apart each of his Joy-Con gamepads so he could paint them (Tamiya AS-16 Light Grey [USAF]).

He wasn’t aiming for a perfect re-creation of the Super Nintendo’s grey color scheme. "The color is a tad lighter than the SNES base grey," he said. "Grey enough to homage, but still light enough to seem more modern."

Nintendo Switch (custom)

But, even more impressive than the grey paint job is the SNES-themed, four-color button layout. For this, Wallin turned to another Nintendo handheld — the 3DS — which used such a button setup in a recent variation.

"I ordered a set of replacement buttons for the New 3DS off eBay," he told me. But there’s an issue, of course — "the bases of the buttons are different," he said. In so many words, the 3DS buttons don’t directly fit in the Nintendo Switch. "You need to either mod the 3DS button bases, or sand the Joy-Con buttons down and substitute the bases by gluing the pieces together."

Nintendo Switch (SNES mod)

This complication would be enough to deter most fans, but Wallin persisted. And in his persistence, he found encouragement for other would-be modders. 

"Once I had all the tools and materials, painting took most of the day on/off (since each light layer of paint needed some time to dry sufficiently)," he said. "The button mod I did in-between; it took less than an hour, and then I had the disassembly and assembly which didn’t take too long either. I spent my Sunday doing the complete mod, and let the topcoat cure the night over."

Interested in doing something similar? You’ll need a handful of tools (a tri-point screwdriver, a fine-tipped Phillips head screwdriver, and a pair of angled tweezers at minimum) to start. But let’s not kid ourselves: You’ll also need free time, obedient patience, and a lot of drive. Wallin said it best:

"I’m pretty sure most people who are industrious enough to find the relevant tutorial videos online, and feel they are able to follow those videos, can do this!"

Good luck!

SEE ALSO: Nintendo could be making another mini version of a classic game console: the Super Nintendo

DON’T MISS: Here are all the games coming to Nintendo’s new console, and when they arrive

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Unboxing the Nintendo Switch — here’s everything you’ll get with the new console

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11 books the world’s most influential people think you should read

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woman reading water beach

The world’s most influential people still make time for a good book.

Earlier this year, Facebook asked 62 such people — from Arianna Huffington to Richard Branson to Newt Gingrich — for the books they’d recommend. More than 230 titles came Facebook’s way.

After some careful tallying, the social-media site narrowed down the most recommended books to a list of just 11 titles.

We can’t guarantee they’ll bring you the same level of success, but they’ll move you in the right direction.

SEE ALSO: 5 books the head of MIT Media Lab thinks you should read

"Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari

Harari, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian, traces humanity’s roots in what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls "a big history narrative of human civilization."

Zuckerberg selected "Sapiens" as one of the titles for his book club in 2015.

The book examines our early hunter-gatherer societies all the way through our modern conception of community, which often lives inside a screen.

"Freakonomics" by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt

Published in the summer of 2009, "Freakonomics" is the duo’s first dive into bewildering social and economic trends.

In plain language, Dubner and Levitt break down complex topics on parenting research, death rates, and crime. They challenge conventional wisdom with compelling, if eyebrow-raising, examples to back up their claims.

"Freakonomics" helped spawn a genre of publishing that takes advanced concepts and distills them for a lay audience, usually with a sideways perspective.

"Originals" by Adam Grant

Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other pioneers all have a number of things in common, argues Grant, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist.

In "Originals," Grant takes the reader from an idea’s inception, through its (inevitable) backlash, and all the way to implementation and acceptance by a wider audience. He reveals how novel ideas are formed, how to advocate for those ideas, and how adults and kids alike can learn to be original.

 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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7 Things to Consider Before Launching a Fintech Startup

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The impact of technology on the financial industry has been powerful. Traditional financial institutions, such as banks, have discovered that new technologies are indeed disruptive. This epiphany has forced age-old financial institutions to develop their own tech capabilities, and to stay ahead of the game, many have partnered with fintech startups or acquired promising new companies.

However, the shorthand, “fintech,” has become a buzzword, encouraging budding entrepreneurs to believe that they can simply hitch their ventures on to the bandwagon in order to make a quick buck. As with any endeavor, this isn’t the case. New businesses, especially in an emerging industry such as fintech, require careful planning and thought. Here are seven things that you need to consider before launching a fintech startup.

1. Regulations

Regulations are why financial services can be a tough industry to break into. Laws have been put in place in order to safeguard financial systems from abuse. In addition, the amount of compliance that is required of institutions often involves the need for accountants and lawyers.

Related: 12 Top Fintech Companies to Watch

However, fintech has ushered in new ways of viewing and handling money and has become a gray area for regulation. This is something that has been drawing the attention of lawmakers, especially in fintech companies’ charter applications to be “special purpose national banks.” This isn’t as straightforward as it seems since some fintech services such as peer-to-peer lending operate using new models.

In addition, these regulations may vary per market depending on the state, country or region in which you seek to operate. In Europe, there’s the impending implementation of the Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). While this directive actually opens up the market for fintech in Europe, know that venturing into fintech will require you to know and fully understand these regulations and comply to whatever the territory demands.

2. Competition from institutions

While banks have acknowledged the disruption fintech has created, this doesn’t mean that they will just accept defeat and step aside for the new guys. It isn’t exactly banks as institutions that are under threat as much as it’s the way we do banking.

Banks still hold the assets, and many of them have the capability and clout to either partner up with fintech companies or buy them out. In fact, this is already happening. Bank of America is investing $1.5 million in fintech efforts in Charlotte, N.C. In Europe, Santander has started a fund to develop fintech startups. As a venture, you have to decide if you’d be determined enough to take on the big guys on or if you’d rather explore greener pastures.

Related: 4 Things You Should Know About Cashless Payments

3. Customer trust

Security has come to the forefront of all tech ventures today. Data breaches and cyberattacks are still rampant. With the nature of the information fintech companies handle, they are becoming an optimal target for cybercriminals. Getting attacked and having customer data stolen is a surefire way to lose customer trust quickly.

Customer trust is key in the financial industry and it is becoming a rare commodity these days. A survey by the National Association of Retirement Plan Participants in 2016 indicates that only 8 percent had faith in their financial institutions.

Many will be skeptical of any new services and most people would be wary of the risk sending out financial information or handing over their money to fledgling fintech services. The challenge lies in putting safeguards in place and convincing prospects that your system is robust and secure enough.

4. The need for a strong team

This might seem obvious, but fintech isn’t exactly an area where there are turnkey tools and free scripts one can use to come up with an app or service. This isn’t like some other tech ventures where barriers to entry are relatively low. Financial, technological and business expertise are all required to develop fintech. Then, there are compliance requirements that may require you to bring in legal help.

Building a strong team means that you must attract talent in various areas of competence, as it truly is a multidisciplinary effort. Fintech is still in a state of flux, at least in the foreseeable future, so the ability to deliver or change direction quickly is essential.

Related: How Fintech and Payments Innovations Will Disrupt Global Ecommerce

5. Unique and valuable service

The fintech industry is starting to get crowded now that many pioneers have done enough for new ventures to follow. Still, a key entrepreneurial question to ask is if your venture will be able to offer something unique and high value.

All segments related to money are fair game for fintech. We can now see fintech startups enter personal finance, budgeting, payments, lending, investments and insurance. All are trying to find solutions to consumers’ problems and offer new ways to do things. The danger for startups is to be a “me-too.” Copying can be a bad strategy, especially if there are already similar services that are established in the niche.

That said, there are verticals worth considering. Many of fintech’s early adopters are millennials who want to integrate their financial matters with their mobile lifestyles. Stock trading app Robinhood’s users have an average age of 26. This may mean that other age groups are untapped markets for now, even if communicating a novel value proposition to older and more traditional age groups may come as a challenge.

6. Technology choices

There are also a number of new technologies that are hyped in fintech. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are now figuring in the area of investments in the form of robo-advisors. This data and algorithm driven approach to investing is even challenging age-old financial wisdom. Banks are also experimenting with using chatbots that would allow customers to check account information within Facebook Messenger.

Other hot ticket technologies in fintech include blockchain and distributed ledgers. Blockchain, the technology powering the digital currency Bitcoin, is a decentralized way of exchanging value online. It is arguably the biggest threat to banking.

As a startup, you may have to bet on technologies that would power the service. On the plus side, technologies such as machine learning and analytics engines are now being offered as a service by cloud platform providers like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, which lowers the barrier for development. However, these technologies have yet to fully mature. You should be prepared for growing pains and hiccups when using them.

Related: Regulation is Strangling Fintech Startups: 4 Ways VCs Can Help

7. Funding

Forming a tech startup isn’t cheap. If your venture isn’t a partnership between experts who can develop the entire product and business development, then be prepared to shell out a good sum for talent. As traditional institutions try to assimilate fintech talent for themselves, startups would surely face competition in the hiring.

There are also the typical capitalization and operating expenses associated with starting a business. What further increases the expense for fintech startups are integrations with traditional institutions such as banks and brokerages.

Still, many are optimistic since funding for fintech is at a high. Global venture capital investment was $17.4 billion in 2016. However, this excitement only means that competition for funding is also increasing. VCs are getting more selective, seeking out companies with truly game changing offerings, thus making your value proposition all the more important.

Focusing on Innovation

Fintech isn’t for everybody. It demands expertise, creativity and frankly a lot of grit to launch a startup in a volatile and competitive industry. There are arguments highlighting the supposed disconnect between the slow-changing realm of finance and the fast-changing world of technology. The pressure for tech companies to deliver huge results rapidly can also be immense. Still, if you believe that you will be able to solve financial issues for your users through innovative means, go ahead. Fortune favors the bold. Just be smart with how you do it.

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Snap is the new stubborn, slow-growing Twitter

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Twitter fell apart in 2013 when its growth slowed signficantly in the face of competition and copying from Facebook, and users found it too hard to find the best content due to its unsorted reverse chronological feed. Its share price fell 18 percent a quarter later as the growth troubles continued.

Snapchat fell apart today when its growth slowed significantly in the face of competition from Facebook, and users found it too hard to find the best content due to its unsorted reverse chronological feed.. Its share price fell 24% as its growth troubles continued.

4 years later, Twitter is finally growing again because it accepted that it had to abandon one of its core product characteristics, the unfiltered feed. Twitter finally moved to an algorithmically-ordered feed that surfaced the best content at the top from the people you care about most. In Q1 2017, it posted its first big growth in years, adding 9 million users.

Now it’s time for Snapchat and CEO Evan Spiegel to learn from history. Snap’s anti-Facebook philosophy has helped it develop disappearing messages and the Stories format by discarding the permanence of Facebook’s email-esque messaging and profile timeline. But now the unsorted Stories list is causing people’s best friends to get lost amongst the acquaintances and celebrities they follow.

While adding extra creative tools like yesterday’s Magic Eraser and the recent 3D augmented reality World Lenses are nice, they don’t make Twitter fundamentally more easy or useful for more people. Snapchat may need to be willing to challenge some of its most deeply-held product philosophies to become attractive to all teens around the globe or a wider range of demographics.

 

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