October 2013

Science & Technology
  • The FT published an interesting article looking at the application of drones across a multitude of industries including law enforcement, logistics and agriculture. Interestingly, it points out that the development of cheaper and smaller cameras, sensors and tracking devices for smartphones has paved the way for proliferation of drones. Devices under development include a Boeing solar-powered drone capable of staying airborne continuously for five years and a  BAE systems design that incorporates a 1.8bn megapixel camera capable of identifying a 15cm object, located anywhere within a medium sized city, from an altitude 17,500ft .
  • The Human Brain Project, a ten year neuroscience study that involves 135 institutions and aims to enhance our understanding of how the human brain works, got underway this month. The project could lead to a better understanding of diseases affecting the brain and the development of ‘neuromorphic computers’ that can mimic human brains to undertake complex analysis with manageable energy requirements. More.
  • Scientists at the National Ignition Facility in California reported that they have achieved an important milestone in harnessing nuclear fusion, when an experiment conduced in September yielded a net output of energy from hydrogen fuel for the first time. More.
  • Japanese company NTT Docomo released an app that augments reality with written translations via a pair of smart glasses. More.
  • Scientists at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research unveiled the world’s first digital laser, which can change the shape of its own beam. Such lasers could potentially increase bandwidth in communications applications. More.
  • GigaOm ran a profile on mOasis, a start-up developing a hydrogel (a highly absorbant polymer that can absorb up to 250 times its own weight in water) which can reduce water cosnumption and boost yields in agriculture (through absorbing excess irrigation and releasing it over time). Future versions of the technology will also be able to absorb fertilisers and soil additives. More.
  • Researchers at the University of Idaho are developing a process that uses bacteria to turn manure form cows into biodegradable plastic. More.
  • A team of UK-based scientists has developed a new radar system, inspired by the process employed by dolphins to identify prey, that could deliver improved detection of explosive devices and buried earthquake victims. More.
  • US-based Nanostim has received Europan regulatory approval for its wireless pacemaker, which is one tenth of the size of standard pacemakers and can be implanted intravenously into the heart. More.
  • An interesting article in the FT looked at the growing trend of ‘innovative companies’, such as Zappos and Disney, hosting representatives from other companies (often in different sectors) that are looking for new ideas that can be applied within their own organisations. Such initiatives can also create learning for host companies and open doors to new opportunities, with the application of parallels from other industries a common basis for innovation. The article suggests that visits to existing customers or suppliers may be easier and provide the best opportunities for collaboration.
  • A new £50m fund, managed by Cambridge Innovation Capital, was launched in Cambridge to back technology-based university spin-outs. The fund is backed by Cambridge University and ARM, among others.
  • SAP Ventures launched a $650m fund. More.
  • Tesco announced plans to deploy cameras to scan customer faces and display adverts based on the gender and age profile that is returned.
  • Bytelight raised $3m to develop its indoor positioning system that uses mobile phone cameras and LEDs to determine the location of a user within a building, accurate to 1m. The company is targeting information delivery in retail but there are several applications in other public buildings. More.
  • New York-based Happify launched to translate research undertaken by leading neuroscientists/psychologists into games and exercises that promote happiness and mental well-being. The company has reportedly received around $4m from investors and claims that its techniques are effective in 85% of users.
  • Lingua.ly raised $500k to integrate language learning into everyday online tasks. More.