Can Miami Survive Tech Recession and Stock Market Crash, Become Next Silicon Valley

The music is always too loud in Miami, but tech workers seem to love it anyway.

As the tech industry fanned out across the US over the past two years, a geographically liberated workforce found itself in new and unexpected places — like frivolous, beachy Miami. Where other cities have spent billions of dollars on incentives, planning, and research parks over decades to lure startups, Miami’s inchoate community was tweeted into existence in a matter of months.

Right now, the US tech sector is on tenterhooks as markets tumble, startup valuations crater, and tech layoffs are announced daily. The industry’s uncertain future raises a question: Can Miami parlay its recent success into a status as a globally competitive tech hub to someday rival Silicon Valley? Or will it turn into a cautionary tale about placing all your bets on a bubble?

The Miami miracle of migration

Ed Glaeser, an urban economist who wrote the book “Triumph of the City,” once told an interviewer that “the most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.” Miami may not be the most obvious place to attract the type of people who would build a new Silicon Valley.

After all, as the venture capitalist Paul Graham wrote in 2006: “Most nerds like quieter pleasures. They like cafes instead of clubs; used bookshops instead of fashionable clothing shops; hiking instead of dancing.” Even some in Miami doubted the city could become a tech hub.

In 2013, the Knight Foundation, The Atlantic, and the urbanist Richard Florida held a conference to discuss the future of Miami’s economy. Named “Start-up City: Miami,” the gathering marked one of the city’s first attempts to brand itself as a transcontinental tech hub, but it was not well received by all the area’s leaders. Miami Beach’s mayor at the time, Phil Levine, unforgettably called the idea of a tech-driven Miami Beach “the dumbest idea in the world.” He believed that Miami Beach should play to its strengths: tourism and travel.

When Zappos’ CEO at the time, Tony Hsieh, the internet pioneer who helped revitalize downtown Las Vegas, took the stage during the conference, he asked the audience of Miamians, “How many opportunities do you have in a lifetime to help shape the future of a major city?” Nearly 10 years later, the city’s new contingent of tech disciples and policymakers are welcoming the challenge to create something in a place with no tech traditions.

“You could see the need for Miami to diversify,” Francis Suarez, Miami’s mayor since 2017, told me during an interview in March.

Suarez is one of the biggest reasons for Miami’s economic transformation. Using social-media buzz and livestreamed conversations with recognizable tech leaders over sugary Cuban espressos called cafecitos, Suarez called for investors, programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs to relocate to Miami’s shores. He has argued that the city has the ability to remake itself.

“We’re a relatively young city — 125 years old,” he said. “The modern Miami started in my lifetime.”

There’s no playbook for building a sustainable, long-term tech ecosystem using online publicity and peer pressure, but the early returns from Suarez’s constant promotion are encouraging. In the year following the start of the pandemic, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region had the greatest inbound migration of software and IT workers of any US metro area, at 15.4% year over year, while the Bay Area fared the worst.

Miami was aided in its efforts by the snowglobe-shaking disruption of the pandemic. “Part of what made this moment possible were macro factors,” Suarez told me. Remote work empowered people to find places with a cheaper cost of living, better quality of life, lower taxes, and less stringent health protocols. Sunshine and socializing in a Sun Belt city became a temptation for many in New York City and San Francisco. And the Magic City, similar to other warm-weather cities, became a “have-it-all hub.”

“You’re starting to see this decentralization of talent in tech. I think Miami is well positioned to come out of that era as a dominant player,” Suarez told me. “Many of the people I talk to are saying, ‘We’ll build here, but we may hire from all over the country.'”

Peter Yared, a founder of the software startup InCountry, arrived in Miami from San Francisco in September 2020 after briefly considering Los Angeles. “People think that you move for taxes, but you don’t upend your life for them,” he told me. For Yared, as for many others, it was a combination of factors including governance and crime that turned him away from San Francisco and the “monoculture that had distilled” the city.

More than a flash in the pan

To be sure, Silicon Valley wasn’t successful just because it was a suburban area with nice weather. What fueled its rise as the center of the tech world were its competitive research institutions, friendly business and labor laws, access to venture capital, and web of legal, financial, and accounting firms ready to aid eager entrepreneurs. Plenty of cities have tried to follow in its footsteps — from Atlanta’s “Silicon Peach” to Salt Lake City’s “Silicon Slopes” — but have mostly ended up as promising but pale imitations.

Miami’s most distinguishing feature as a startup hub is its status as an international city — a crossroads for a variety of industries, events, and people. Its network of domestic and international flights and its proximity to Latin America make it a gateway for people and globalized markets. In 2019, more than 54% of residents of Miami-Dade County were immigrants, and immigrants held 61% of STEM jobs.

The city can capitalize on its title of the “capital of Latin America” and its existing industries — namely hospitality, aviation, and healthcare — to provide an economic base for the tech sector that could spur recombinant urban economic growth. With its density of hospitals and treatment centers, it can build up its biotechnology reputation, which the University of Miami’s life-sciences-and-technology park and incubator has ventured to do. And the robustness of the region’s tech economy may depend on expanding beyond crypto projects and into traditional industries and newer sectors such as climate technology.

It also has the advantage of being a vibrant city that can draw entrepreneurs, business celebrities, and startup CEOs from across the country to events. Back-to-back tech conferences and large-scale events like Miami Tech Week, the Bitcoin Conference, and eMerge Americas have brought in powerful people. And the city has become an alternative to New York and Las Vegas for some of the most voguish nonbusiness events including Art Basel and the Formula 1 ​​Grand Prix in early May.

Now that the idea of Miami as a tech hub has caught on, startup founders, developers, and venture capitalists are flocking to be part of it. “There’s a vanguard of interesting people all showing up at the same time,” Yared told me. “It’s what makes cities boom.”

Miami is also rapidly drawing in venture capital. In 2021, the value of venture-capital deals for Miami-based startups nearly quadrupled, reaching $4.6 billion overall, up from $1.2 billion in 2020 and right behind Austin. While the city ranks 12th in the country in terms of venture-capital funding, representing only 1.4% of the total amount raised in the US, the year-over-year growth is substantial.

SoftBank grew its Miami fund to $250 million, while Founders Fund, Atomic, and Silicon Valley Bank opened offices. As more funds relocate or expand their offices to Miami, other venture firms will be drawn into this vortex. And this convergence of capital makes Suarez confident that Miami “will be the main aggregation center of capital.” The growing white-shoe network of legal and accounting firms within the banking and financial-services sector is also poised to support the city’s growing tech sector.

Despite the recent precipitous drop in tech stocks, momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing. So far this year, startups in the Miami area have raised over $1.15 billion, according to PitchBook. Nationally, a record-breaking year in venture-capital fundraising has given way to sobering expectations of an industry pullback as public markets get hit hard and startup valuations slump.

Eventually, the macroeconomic environment may drag down Miami’s nascent tech economy, but with newly funded venture-capital firms needing to deploy capital, the fallout could be minor.

To make sure this rapid boom doesn’t result in a just-as-sudden bust, Miami will need to couple the tech cheerleading with more sustainable development. The city has to invest in nuts-and-bolts infrastructure, the kind that helps keep housing costs, homelessness, crime, and poverty low. And it must face down its most existential crisis: climate change.

The higher-education brain drain

The most glaring roadblock on Miami’s path to challenging Silicon Valley is brain drain and the lack of top-ranking applied sciences and research universities. Regional experts such as Alejandro Portes, a sociologist who has studied Miami’s economic history, have highlighted that the region’s top young people often depart for Boston, New York, or California for college. Keeping these students near home — during and after school — requires South Florida to have a top-tier engineering university.

“Higher ed is ripe for disruption. We are looking at higher-ed partnerships or at creating something completely new,” Suarez told me. He’s heading up a free, tech-oriented charter school to encourage young people toward tech.

Local universities are also aware of this need. Florida International University is constructing a $48 million facility to expand engineering programs, and it says that in the past four years it’s grown its computer-science enrollment by 60%, to about 8,000 students. Even with all this, Miami’s tech education pales in comparison to the roughly 18,000 science and engineering graduates in and near Silicon Valley in 2016 and the thousands more in software boot camps.

Research facilities are also critical for developing an innovative ecosystem. The benefits of research and development are hyperlocalized, meaning research benefits the community through local commercialization of new technologies before spreading nationally and internationally. And research has suggested that university spin-off companies are more likely to attract venture capital.

In a report by the National Science Foundation ranking colleges and universities by the number of utility patents developed through their research from 1969 to 2012, the highest South Florida institution ranked 29th, behind institutions in areas with much smaller populations. To boost that number, Miami could follow the example of New York City: In 2011, the city partnered with Cornell University and the Institute of Technology to build an engineering campus on an underutilized piece of land.

As these tech-talent pipelines form, however, companies based in Miami can draw on their proximity to Central and South American markets and labor, setting up remote teams in places like Mexico City and recruiting more diverse talent from abroad.

Can Miami fight the housing crisis and rising shorelines? 

Only a few years ago, Miami’s cost of living was just above the national average. But thanks to a precipitous jump in newcomers, Miami has become the most expensive housing market in the US, a May report from RealtyHop said. According to Redfin, the average rent in Miami increased by 34% over 2021, hitting an eye-watering $3,020.

The consumer price index for Greater Miami increased by 9.8% over the year to February; that figure was nearly 2 percentage points higher than in most parts of the country. How can Miami avoid the pitfalls of growth that accompanied the Bay Area’s rise, a phrase that local newspapers have pejoratively called the “San Francisco-ization” of Miami?

Suarez is transparent about the challenges Miami faces and the looming crisis of unaffordability. “We are not perfect and we have all of the challenges of major cities but we are at historic lows in homicides, unemployment and taxes. Much work to be done on affordability and education,” he tweeted in February. Despite the hot market, more units are being built, offering a positive, if imperfect, outlook as many residents are uprooted.

“We have in our pipeline 47,000 units in construction. That’s a 25% increase in dwelling units that we’re going to see over a two- to four-year period,” Suarez told me. For now, the housing crisis has not translated into homelessness; rates are at a 25-year low.

What’s more, with the exception of the pandemic spike, the unemployment rate, currently at 3%, has remained low in recent years, and wage growth has surged by more than in other metro areas recently — things that, taken together, may help alleviate the cost of living.

Just as pressing as housing issues, the crescive tides accompanying the climate crisis may affect the city’s growth over the next several decades. In 2017, voters approved a $400 million “Miami Forever” bond to help protect against rising sea levels and flooding.

The city in recent years has embraced advisors from the Netherlands to help it adapt. Over the next two decades, the sea level is expected to rise by 11 inches around Miami, threatening billions of dollars in real estate if the city isn’t able to adapt effectively. Undoubtedly, the region will need to invest substantially more toward mitigation efforts.

It takes time to build

For Miami and its newly minted tech hub to continue growing at the current pace, the city will need to address these imminent risks and the challenges of responding to the climate crisis and the second-order effects of growth. Greater Miami, by various metrics, consistently hovers between 10th and 12th among US metros for economic output, number of knowledge workers, and annual venture capital, which together provide a picture of Miami’s tech economy: Miami is midsized, but it’s growing fiercely.

The city has embraced a talent-focused and place-based policymaking approach to building a tech hub. And it has many of the ingredients for a hub that’s perfect for a remote-work era: a high quality of life with many social opportunities to counteract the siloing effects of working from home. But the one factor in Silicon Valley’s success that Miami still needs is time.

“We’re a 10-year overnight-success story,” Suarez told me. That is far short of the decades it took for Silicon Valley to mature. It’s clear that Miami’s star is rising, but to become an entrenched part of the tech industry, the city will need to weather economic storms like what we’re seeing today. Reading the coffee grounds from cafecitos, there is a growing chance that Miami could very well become a superstar city with an international tech hub.

Emil Skandul is a writer and founder of digital innovation firm Capitol Foundry. He is working on a book about tech hubs.

Source: Can Miami Survive Tech Recession and Stock Market Crash, Become Next Silicon Valley

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Future Technology: 22 Ideas About To Change Our World

Technology is rapidly improving, offering new innovations and revolutionary projects every year. At any given moment, scientists, engineers and some very sharp minds are out there creating the next piece of future technology that will change our lives. It can feel like scientific progress is steady but we have lived through a period of immense technological improvement in the last half century.

There are innovations happening right now that are ripped straight from the pages of science-fiction. Whether that is robots that can read minds, NFTS, bionic eyes, smartwatches that are powered by your sweat or plenty of other mind-blowing technology, there is a lot to expect from the world of future technology. Below we’ve picked out some of the biggest and most interesting ideas.

Brain reading robots

No longer a science fiction trope, the use of brain reading technology has improved hugely in recent years. One of the most interesting and practical uses we’ve seen tested so far comes from researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).

Thanks to a machine-learning algorithm, a robot arm and a brain-computer interface, these researchers have managed to create a means for tetraplegic patients (those who can’t move their upper or lower body) to interact with the world.

In tests, the robot arm would perform simple tasks like moving around an obstacle. The algorithm would then interprets signals from the brain using an EEG cap and automatically determine when the arm had made a move that the brain considered incorrect, for example moving too close to the obstacle or going too fast.

Over time the algorithm can then adjust to the individuals preferences and brain signals. In the future this could lead to wheelchairs controlled by the brain or assistance machines for tetraplegic patients.

3D printed bones

3D printing is an industry promising everything from cheap house building through to affordable rugged armour, but one of the most interesting uses of the technology is the building of 3D printed bones.

The company Ossiform specialises in medical 3D printing, creating patient-specific replacements of different bones from tricalcium phosphate – a material with similar properties to human bones.

Using these 3D printed bones is surprisingly easy. A hospital can perform an MRI which is then sent to Ossiform who create a 3D model of the patient-specific implant that is needed. The surgeon accepts the design and then once it is printed, it can be used in surgery.

What is special about these 3D printed bones is that because of the use of tricalcium phosphate, the body will remodel the implants into vascularised bone. That means they will enable the full restoration of function that the bone it is replacing had. To achieve the best integration possible, the implants are of a porous structure and feature large pores and canals for cells to attach to and reform bone.

Lab-made dairy products

You’ve heard of cultured “meat” and Wagyu steaks grown cell by cell in a laboratory, but what about other animal-based foodstuffs? A growing number of biotech companies around the world are investigating lab-made dairy, including milk, ice-cream, cheese and eggs. And more than one think they’ve cracked it.

The dairy industry is not environmentally friendly, not even close. It’s responsible for 4 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, more than air travel and shipping combined, and demand is growing for a greener splash to pour into our tea cups and cereal bowls.

Compared with meat, milk isn’t actually that difficult to create in a lab. Rather than grow it from stem cells, most researchers attempt to produce it in a process of fermentation, looking to produce the milk proteins whey and casein. Some products are already at market in the US, from companies such as Perfect Day, with ongoing work focused on reproducing the mouthfeel and nutritional benefits of regular cow’s milk.

Beyond that, researchers are working on lab-produced mozzarella that melts perfectly on top of a pizza, as well other cheeses and ice-cream.

Hydrogen planes

Carbon emissions are a huge concern when it comes to commercial flights, but there is a potential solution and it has received a lot of funding.

A £15 million UK project has unveiled plans for a hydrogen-powered plane. This project is known as Fly Zero and is being led by the Aerospace Technology Institute in conjunction with the UK government.

The project has come up with a concept for a mid-size plane powered completely by liquid hydrogen. It would have the capacity to fly roughly 279 passengers halfway around the world without stopping.

If this technology could be actualised, it could mean a zero-carbon flight with no stops between London and Western America or London to New Zealand with a single stop.

Digital “twins” that track your health

In Star Trek, where many of our ideas of future technology germinated, human beings can walk into the medbay and have their entire body digitally scanned for signs of illness and injury. Doing that in real life would, say the makers of Q Bio, improve health outcomes and alleviate the load on doctors at the same time.

The US company has built a scanner that will measure hundreds of biomarkers in around an hour, from hormone levels to the fat building up in your liver to the markers of inflammation or any number of cancers. It intends to use this data to produce a 3D digital avatar of a patient’s body – known as a digital twin – that can be tracked over time and updated with each new scan.

Q Bio CEO Jeff Kaditz hopes it will lead to a new era of preventative, personalised medicine in which the vast amounts of data collected not only help doctors prioritise which patients need to be seen most urgently, but also to develop more sophisticated ways of diagnosing illness. Read an interview with him here.

Virtual reality universes

After making its dramatic name change, the company once known as Facebook has become Meta. This marks Zuckerberg and his huge team’s move into the metaverse – an embodied internet mostly accessed through virtual and augmented reality.

As part of this move, we will start to see Meta putting more time into equipment for accessing this new world – mostly in VR. Announced back in 2021, Meta has been developing a new headset under the title ‘Project Cambria’.

Unlike the brand’s previous VR ventures like the Oculus Quest 2, this won’t be a device for the average consumer, instead looking to offer the best VR experience they can make.

The Cambria has been reported to be focused on advanced eye and face tracking (to improve accuracy of avatars and your in-game movements), a higher resolution, increased field-of-view and even trying to make the headset significantly smaller.

Between Meta, Google, Sony and plenty of other big tech companies, VR is getting lots of funding right now and will be seeing drastic improvements in the next couple of years.

Direct air capture

Through the process of photosynthesis, trees have remained one of the best ways to reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, new technology could perform the same role as trees, absorbing carbon dioxide at greater levels while also taking up less land.

This technology is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC). It involves taking carbon dioxide from the air and either storing the CO2 in deep geological caves under ground, or using it in combination with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuels.

While this technology has great potential, it has a lot of complications right now. There are now direct air capture facilities up and running, but the current models require a huge amount of energy to run. If the energy levels can be reduced in the future, DAC could prove to be one of the best technological advances for the future of the environment.

Green funerals

Sustainable living is becoming a priority for individuals squaring up to the realities of the climate crisis, but what about eco-friendly dying? Death tends to be a carbon-heavy process, one last stamp of our ecological footprint. The average cremation reportedly releases 400kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, for example. So what’s a greener way to go?

In Washington State in the US, you could be composted instead. Bodies are laid in chambers with bark, soil, straw and other compounds that promote natural decomposition. Within 30 days, your body is reduced to soil that can be returned to a garden or woodland. Recompose, the company behind the process, claims it uses an eighth of the carbon dioxide of a cremation.

An alternative technology uses fungi. In 2019, the late actor Luke Perry was buried in a bespoke “mushroom suit” designed by a start-up called Coeio. The company claims its suit, made with mushrooms and other microorganisms that aid decomposition and neutralise toxins that are realised when a body usually decays.

Most alternative ways of disposing of our bodies after death are not based on new technology; they’re just waiting for societal acceptance to catch up. Another example is alkaline hydrolysis, which involves breaking the body down into its chemical components over a six-hour process in a pressurised chamber. It’s legal in a number of US states and uses fewer emissions compared with more traditional methods.

Artificial eyes

Bionic eyes have been a mainstay of science fiction for decades, but now real-world research is beginning to catch up with far-sighted storytellers. A raft of technologies is coming to market that restore sight to people with different kinds of vision impairment.

In January 2021, surgeons implanted the world’s first artificial cornea into a bilaterally blind, 78-year-old man. When his bandages were removed, the patient could read and recognise family members immediately. The implant also fuses naturally to human tissue without the recipient’s body rejecting it.

Likewise in 2020, Belgian scientists developed an artificial iris fitted to smart contact lenses that correct a number of vision disorders. And scientists are even working on wireless brain implants that bypass the eyes altogether.

Researchers at Montash University in Australia are working on trials for a system whereby users wear a pair of glasses fitted with a camera. This sends data directly to the implant, which sits on the surface of the brain and gives the user a rudimentary sense of sight.

Airports for drones and flying taxis

Our congested cities are in desperate need of a breather and relief may come from the air as opposed to the roads. Plans for a different kind of transport hub – one for delivery drones and electric air-taxis – are becoming a reality, with the first Urban Air Port receiving funding from the UK government.

It’s being built in Coventry. The hub will be a pilot scheme and hopefully a proof of concept for the company behind it. Powered completely off-grid by a hydrogen generator, the idea is to remove the need for as many delivery vans and personal cars on our roads, replacing them with a clean alternative in the form of a new type of small aircraft, with designs being developed by Huyundai and Airbus, amongst others.

Infrastructure is going to be important. Organisations like the Civil Aviation Authority are looking into the establishment of air corridors that might link a city centre with a local airport or distribution centre.

Energy storing bricks

Scientists have found a way to store energy in the red bricks that are used to build houses.

Researchers led by Washington University in St Louis, in Missouri, US, have developed a method that can turn the cheap and widely available building material into “smart bricks” that can store energy like a battery.

Although the research is still in the proof-of-concept stage, the scientists claim that walls made of these bricks “could store a substantial amount of energy” and can “be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour”.

The researchers developed a method to convert red bricks into a type of energy storage device called a supercapacitor.

This involved putting a conducting coating, known as Pedot, onto brick samples, which then seeped through the fired bricks’ porous structure, converting them into “energy storing electrodes”.

Iron oxide, which is the red pigment in the bricks, helped with the process, the researchers said.

Sweat powered smartwatches

Engineers at the University of Glasgow have developed a new type of flexible supercapacitor, which stores energy, replacing the electrolytes found in conventional batteries with sweat.

It can be fully charged with as little as 20 microlitres of fluid and is robust enough to survive 4,000 cycles of the types of flexes and bends it might encounter in use.

The device works by coating polyester cellulose cloth in a thin layer of a polymer, which acts as the supercapacitor’s electrode.

As the cloth absorbs its wearer’s sweat, the positive and negative ions in the sweat interact with the polymer’s surface, creating an electrochemical reaction which generates energy.

“Conventional batteries are cheaper and more plentiful than ever before but they are often built using unsustainable materials which are harmful to the environment,” says Professor Ravinder Dahiya, head of the Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (Best) group, based at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering.

“That makes them challenging to dispose of safely and potentially harmful in wearable devices, where a broken battery could spill toxic fluids on to skin.

“What we’ve been able to do for the first time is show that human sweat provides a real opportunity to do away with those toxic materials entirely, with excellent charging and discharging performance.

Self-healing ‘living concrete’

Scientists have developed what they call living concrete by using sand, gel and bacteria.

Researchers said this building material has structural load-bearing function, is capable of self-healing and is more environmentally friendly than concrete – which is the second most-consumed material on Earth after water.

The team from the University of Colorado Boulder believe their work paves the way for future building structures that could “heal their own cracks, suck up dangerous toxins from the air or even glow on command”.

Living robots

Tiny hybrid robots made using stem cells from frog embryos could one day be used to swim around human bodies to specific areas requiring medicine, or to gather microplastic in the oceans.

“These are novel living machines,” said Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont, who co-developed the millimetre-wide bots, known as xenobots.

“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artefact: a living, programmable organism.”

Internet for everyone

We can’t seem to live without the internet (how else would you read sciencefocus.com?), but still only around half the world’s population is connected. There are many reasons for this, including economic and social reasons, but for some the internet just isn’t accessible because they have no connection.

Google is slowly trying to solve the problem using helium balloons to beam the internet to inaccessible areas, while Facebook has abandoned plans to do the same using drones, which means companies like Hiber are stealing a march.

They have taken a different approach by launching their own network of shoebox-sized microsatellites into low Earth orbit, which wake up a modem plugged into your computer or device when it flies over and delivers your data.

Their satellites orbit the Earth 16 times a day and are already being used by organisations like The British Antarctic Survey to provide internet access to very extreme of our planet.

Coffee power

London’s coffee industry creates over 200,000 tonnes of waste every year, so what do we do with it? Entrepreneur Arthur Kay’s big idea is to use his company, bio-bean, to turn 85 per cent of coffee waste into biofuels for heating buildings and powering transport. Already the world’s largest recycler of coffee waste, the company collects coffee grounds from large chains and restaurants as well as smaller coffee shops, and transports them to its processing plant in Cambridgeshire.

There, the grounds are dried and processed before being used to create products such as pellets or logs for biofuel, bio plastics or flavourings.

Drown forest fires in sound

Forest fires could one day be dealt with by drones that would direct loud noises at the trees below. Since sound is made up of pressure waves, it can be used to disrupt the air surrounding a fire, essentially cutting off the supply of oxygen to the fuel. At the right frequency, the fire simply dies out, as researchers at George Mason University in Virginia recently demonstrated with their sonic extinguisher. Apparently, bass frequencies work best.

The AI scientist

Cut off a flatworm’s head, and it’ll grow a new one. Cut it in half, and you’ll have two new worms. Fire some radiation at it, and it’ll repair itself. Scientists have wanted to work out the mechanisms involved for some time, but the secret has eluded them. Enter an AI coded at Tufts University, Massachusetts. By analysing and simulating countless scenarios, the computer was able to solve the mystery of the flatworm’s regeneration in just 42 hours. In the end it produced a comprehensive model of how the flatworm’s genes allow it to regenerate.

Although humans still need to feed the AI with information, the machine in this experiment was able to create a new, abstract theory independently – a huge step towards the development of a conscious computer, and potentially a landmark step in the way we carry out research.

Car batteries that charge in 10 minutes

Fast-charging of electric vehicles is seen as key to their take-up, so motorists can stop at a service station and fully charge their car in the time it takes to get a coffee and use the toilet – taking no longer than a conventional break.

But rapid charging of lithium-ion batteries can degrade the batteries, researchers at Penn State University in the US say. This is because the flow of lithium particles known as ions from one electrode to another to charge the unit and hold the energy ready for use does not happen smoothly with rapid charging at lower temperatures.

However, they have now found that if the batteries could heat to 60°C for just 10 minutes and then rapidly cool again to ambient temperatures, lithium spikes would not form and heat damage would be avoided.

The battery design they have come up with is self-heating, using a thin nickel foil which creates an electrical circuit that heats in less than 30 seconds to warm the inside of the battery. The rapid cooling that would be needed after the battery is charged would be done using the cooling system designed into the car.

Their study, published in the journal Joule, showed they could fully charge an electrical vehicle in 10 minutes.

Artificial neurons on silicon chips

Scientists have found a way to attach artificial neurons onto silicon chips, mimicking the neurons in our nervous system and copying their electrical properties.

“Until now neurons have been like black boxes, but we have managed to open the black box and peer inside,” said Professor Alain Nogaret, from the University of Bath, who led the project.

“Our work is paradigm-changing because it provides a robust method to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail.

“But it’s wider than that, because our neurons only need 140 nanowatts of power. That’s a billionth the power requirement of a microprocessor, which other attempts to make synthetic neurons have used.

Researchers hope their work could be used in medical implants to treat conditions such as heart failure and Alzheimer’s as it requires so little power.

Floating farms

The UN predicts there will be two billion more people in the world by 2050, creating a demand for 70 per cent more food. By that time, 80 per cent of us will be living in cities, and most food we eat in urban areas is brought in. So farms moored on the sea or inland lakes close to cities would certainly reduce food miles.

But how would they work? A design by architect Javier Ponce of Forward Thinking Architecture shows a 24m-tall, three-tiered structure with solar panels on top to provide energy. The middle tier grows a variety of veg over an area of 51,000m2, using not soil but nutrients in liquid. These nutrients and plant matter would drop into the bottom layer to feed fish, which are farmed in an enclosed space.

A single Smart Floating Farm measuring 350 x 200m would produce an estimated 8.1 tonnes of vegetables and 1.7 tonnes of fish a year. The units are designed to bolt together, which is handy since we’ll need a lot of them: Dubai, for instance, imports 11,000 tonnes of fruit and veg every day.

Pleistocene Park

Russian scientist Sergey Zimov hopes to recreate a 12,000-year-old environment in a wildlife park for herbivores like wild horse and bison, with extinct megafauna like mammoths replaced by modern hybrids. Zimov will study the impact of the animals on environment and climate.

Source: Future technology: 22 ideas about to change our world | BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Here’s What a Pair of AR Sports Glasses Taught Me About The Future of Work

Despite the efforts of companies like Microsoft and Magic Leap, this grand vision is yet to come to fruition. However, the conversation around extended reality (XR) has become increasingly energetic since the metaverse entered public consciousness, and there are signs we may be on the cusp of a shift.

To see what all the fuss is about, I got hands-on with a pair of sports glasses from a company called Engo, which use ActiveLook AR technology to project information into the periphery of the wearer’s vision.

Although the glasses are neither as powerful nor feature-rich as the leading enterprise headsets, the core premise is largely the same. And they taught me more about the future of work than expected.

Surprisingly natural

The simple purpose of the Engo glasses is to improve the safety of runners and cyclists by eliminating the need to glance down at a sports watch or head unit to consult activity data, which means more time spent with eyes on the road.

The specific data projected into the lens of the Engo glasses can be configured by the user, but includes real-time speed, distance travelled, time elapsed, elevation gained and so on. By waving a hand in front of the glasses, the wearer can switch between two separate banks of data.

In a factory or hospital setting, AR glasses fulfill a similar purpose, serving up important data to workers whose hands are otherwise engaged, and improving safety standards in the process.

What was most striking, having never worn a pair of AR glasses for longer than a few minutes, was the speed with which I became accustomed to receiving information in this new way.

Initially, it was disconcerting to have an artificial source of light hovering in the periphery of the vision, and the temptation was to physically turn the head to consult the information in the lens. But the quick sideways shift of the eye necessary to get a clear look at the figures became second nature soon enough.

And although the additional technology makes the smart glasses heavier than a regular pair, they are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time, which will be a crucial factor if the technology is to achieve any real penetration. Admittedly, professional-grade AR glasses are even bulkier, but they benefit from extra strapping and support too.

The Engo glasses are also kitted out with photochromic lenses that adjust automatically to the light conditions, which in theory means the same set can be used at any time of day. In practice, I found the lenses performed well in full and partial sun and were a little dark at night, but they certainly weren’t unusable, and I can imagine a similar style of lens coming in handy for repair technicians and other workers operating in outdoor environments.

As for the data itself, the AMOLED display was plenty bright enough to ensure the information was legible on even the sunniest day.

So close, and yet so far

As enlightening as the experiment was, I still wouldn’t incorporate the Engo smart glasses into my regular ridewear. And for the same reasons, AR glasses like these will continue to find a comparatively limited audience in the professional sphere too, at least until a few kinks can be ironed out.

The most frustrating issue is that, unless the glasses are positioned just-so on the bridge of the nose, the data projected into the lens becomes blurred to the point of illegibility or slips from view entirely.

This field of view problem is far from ideal when hurtling down a descent on a bicycle, and would be even more irksome for someone performing a tricky repair on a piece of machinery, conducting a surgery, or doing anything else of the sort. And nor is the issue uncommon; the first-generation HoloLens had a notoriously slim field of view, which led to all manner of clipping and visual glitches.

The second problem was that the glasses would often misinterpret a glance down at the road or the shade of a passing tree as the hand motion that triggers the switch between data screens. It’s tough to draw a broad conclusion based on a quirk of a particular set of glasses, but it did highlight the need for all sensors to be functioning at full capacity for AR to deliver on its promise.

Lastly, but not leastly, there’s the vanity factor. Inevitably, the need to squeeze processors, lasers and mirrors into head-mounted device means AR glasses are bulkier than typical eyewear. Engo has done a decent job of concealing the hardware, but the glasses still give the wearer the look of a bluebottle fly.

Until AR glasses begin to look a little more sleek, I predict a general reluctance to wear them, regardless of the new scenarios they might enable. No one wants to be the next “Glasshole”.

Is the AR revolution inevitable?

The amount of investment flooding into the XR sector and major hardware contracts signed by the likes of the US military suggests the technology is making in-roads, at least in some sectors.

The industrial market will undoubtedly be the first to adopt AR, because the technology offers a novel solution to a long-standing problem, giving factory operators and repair technicians a way to access data and communications hands-free in difficult environments.

In an office context, AR glasses are more of a quality of life improvement, which means the expense is difficult for businesses to justify, irrespective of any potential productivity benefits.

However, as with all emerging hardware, AR glasses will come down in price and manufacturers will figure out how to pack more compute into a smaller, lighter form factor. We’ve already seen this process play out in the consumer VR space, with standalone headsets like the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus largely competitive with the PC-tethered models from years gone by.

When the sums begin to look a little more sensible for businesses, it’s easy to envisage AR playing a bigger role in all of our working lives, not just for factory workers, military and medical professionals.

Imagine a scenario in which remote workers trade in their multi-monitor setups for a combination of traditional, AR and VR displays.

While activities like editing documents and browsing the web might be better suited to a conventional business monitor, AR glasses could serve up email and Slack notifications and alert the wearer to upcoming calendar bookings. Ahead of an important event or meeting, workers might then switch into a lightweight VR headset that better simulates in-person interaction.

Until now, I’ve been relatively skeptical about this vision of the workplace of the future, peddled mostly by the manufacturers of XR hardware and other companies with skin in the game. We already probably have too many screens in our lives, without a pair of specs that lasers data into our eyeline, I thought.

But the experience with the Engo glasses, as much as it can only be considered a loose comparator, showed me that AR doesn’t have to be intrusive. And the potential use cases are compelling.

I may not be ready for AR just yet, but then, AR isn’t quite ready for me yet either.

Source: Here’s what a pair of AR sports glasses taught me about the future of work | TechRadar

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Airbus Flies A380 Passenger Jet on 100% Biofuel For The First Time

As part of a broader push on part of the aviation industry to reduce its carbon footprint, Airbus has conducted the first ever flight of its giant A380 jumbo jet using 100 percent biofuel. This is the third Airbus aircraft to fly using the sustainable fuel made up of primarily cooking oil, as the company works to certify the technology by the end of the decade.

The aircraft featured in the groundbreaking flight is the Airbus ZEROe Demonstrator, an A380 adapted for use as a flying testbed and one the company plans to also use to test out hydrogen combustion jet engines.


For this particular outing, the aircraft was loaded up with 27 tonnes of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made mostly with cooking oil and waste fats. This powered the A380’s Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine across a three-hour test flight out of the Blagnac Airport in Toulouse France on March 28, with a second flight then carrying it all the way to Nice Airport on March 29.

This demonstration follows successful flights of the Airbus A350 and the Airbus A319neo single-aisle plane using SAF last year. Using the biofuel to now power the world’s largest passenger jet marks another step forward for the testing program, as Airbus aspires to bring the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.

Airbus isn’t alone in pursuing cleaner aviation with the help of cooking oil. Way back in 2012, Boeing made the first biofuel-powered Pacific crossing in its 787 Dreamliner using a mix of regular jet fuel and fuel derived mainly from cooking oil. In 2014, it even opened up a biofuel production plant in China based to ensure a consistent supply.

In emphasizing the potential of SAF, Airbus refers to the Waypoint 2050 report put together by collaboration of aviation experts to outline how the industry can achieve decarbonization by midway through the century. That report identifies the deploying of SAF as the single largest opportunity to meet these goals, with the potential to deliver between 53 and 71 percent of the required carbon reductions.

As it stands, all of Airbus’ aircraft are certified to fly with a 50 percent SAF-kerosene blend. Airbus aims to achieve certification for 100 percent SAF use by the end of the decade.

12 Things You Should Know About Observability

Observability is the ability to measure the internal state of a system — an application, for instance, or even a distributed IT system) by examining its outputs, namely sensor data. While it might seem like a recent buzzword, the term originated decades ago.

(Fun fact: In-the-know types abbreviate observability to “o11y,” because there are 11 letters between the initial O and the final Y. Those are some cool m11s.)

Observability uses three types of telemetry data to provide deep visibility into distributed systems and allow teams to get to the root cause of a multitude of issues:

  • Logs — a record of events, e.g. what happened
  • Metrics — measured against a standard, e.g what changed by how much and over what period of time
  • Traces — where in the system did it happen

Now let’s take a look at those immutable rules to keep in mind when considering, adopting and improving an observability solution.

1. An observability solution uses all your data to avoid blind spots

The best way to solve a problem is to collect all the data about your environment at full fidelity — not just samples of data. Traditional monitoring solutions fall short when working with microservices-based applications because they randomly sample traces and often miss the ones you care about (unique transactions, anomalies, outliers, etc.).

When assessing observability solutions, look for those that do not sample and also retain all your traces, as well as populate dashboards, service maps and trace navigations with meaningful information that will actually help you monitor and troubleshoot your application.

2. Operates at speed and resolution of your software-defined (or cloud) infrastructure

Different use cases require different resolutions, depending on how critical they are (a.k.a. how many people are angry at you and/or how much it’s costing). As you start to collect data from more dynamic microservices running on ephemeral containers and serverless functions, you’ll need to collect data in different ways than you did in a virtual machine environment.

If you have microservices running on Kubernetes-orchestrated containers that spin up and down automatically in minutes, or serverless functions that instantiate for only seconds, you’ll need a much finer view. Plan for that need now, as you begin to adopt microservices, because it will be very difficult (and costly) to add it later.

3. Leverages open, flexible instrumentation and makes it easy for developers to use

Plan on using open, standards-based data collection from day one. Proprietary agents are difficult to maintain, degrade service performance and may be outdated before you know it. Choosing to rely on common languages and frameworks will give you the most flexibility not only in how you collect data, but also what cloud solutions you use.

4. Enables a seamless workflow across monitoring, troubleshooting and resolution with correlation and data links between metrics, traces and logs

Organizations manage multiple point tools. It’s not uncommon to find application owners flagging a performance issue with one tool, then contacting another IT operations team that uses a different tool to try to understand how the issue is impacting critical workloads and business performance.

Obviously, this doesn’t work when your actions are measured in seconds. Your observability solution should have all capabilities fully integrated, providing you with relevant contextual information throughout your troubleshooting.

5. Makes it easy to use, visualize and explore data out of the box

A completely fake statistic by a fictional analyst firm shows that most companies use only 12% of the capabilities their software systems provide. Now that’s a powerful made-up statistic. Observability should give you intuitive visualizations that require no configuration — like dashboards, charts and heat maps — and make it easy to interact with key metrics in real time. Your solution should also allow custom dashboards that can help keep an eye on particular services of interest.

6. Leverages in-stream AI for faster and more accurate alerting, directed troubleshooting and rapid insights

As much as we love humans, there’s no denying that cloud-native environments produce too much data for people to make sense of manually. Old-school alert triggers are often inaccurate, causing floods of alerts that frustrate on-call engineers. Observability solutions built with real-time analytics surface relevant patterns and deliver actionable insights before you need them. Look for solutions that are effective at baselining historical performance, performing sophisticated comparisons and detecting outliers and anomalies in real time.

7. Gives fast feedback about (code) changes, even in production

Observability is not just for operations and should be employed during development. Once code is deployed, teams need to understand what is happening within their applications as each release flows down the delivery pipeline. You can’t understand your pipeline, or correlate pipeline events with application performance and end-user experience, if you don’t understand what is happening inside your application. Observability delivers synthetic monitoring, analysis of real-user transactions, log analytics and metrics tracking, so teams can understand the state of their code from development through deployment.

8. Automates and enables you to do as much “as code”

The idea behind the “observability as code” movement is that you develop, deploy, test and share observability assets such as detectors, alerts, dashboards, etc. as code. Monitoring and alerting as code involves automated creation and maintenance of charts, dashboards and alerts as part of service life cycles. Doing so keeps visualizations and alerts current, prevents sprawl and allows you to maintain version control through a centralized repository, all without having to continuously manage each component manually.

9. Is a core part of business performance measurement

In the data age, you need to know what’s going on from development through delivery in order to measure business performance. Observability gives you a view into every layer of the stack, as well as key metrics tailored to your business needs. In cloud-native environments, small upticks in service usage can spiral, even creating increased latency for specific customers. It’s important to understand the KPIs by which your business is measured and how the teams within your organization will consume the data. Observability does that.

10. Provides observability as a service

Modern observability platforms provide centralized management so teams and users have access controls and gain transparency and control over consumption. Implementing clear best practices for observability across your business can not only cultivate a better developer experience, empowering them to work more efficiently and focus on building new features. It can also improve cross-team collaboration, cost assessment and overall business performance.

11. Seamlessly embeds collaboration, knowledge management and incident response

While incidents may be inevitable, a strong observability solution can mitigate downtime or even prevent it entirely, saving businesses money and improving the quality of life for on-call engineers. To respond to and resolve issues quickly (especially in a high-velocity deployment environment), you’ll need tools that facilitate efficient collaboration and speedy notification. Observability solutions should include automated incident response capabilities to engage the right expert to the right issue at the right time, all leading to significantly reduced downtime.

12. Scales to support future growth and elasticity

Have you ever heard the phrase “Duty Now for the Future”? It’s a Devo album from 1979, so it has nothing to do with observability. But the phrase does contain a relevant — immutable — truth. You need to invest now for your future needs and not just your current needs. The same is true for observability.

To meet the needs of any environment — no matter how large or complex — observability solutions should be able to ingest petabytes of log data and millions of metrics and traces, all while maintaining high performance. This ensures that your investments are future-proof.

Now that you’ve read about the benefits of observability and the characteristics of a modern observability solution, take the next step and find out more, including how to implement an observability solution that meets your needs now and in the future. Be sure to download 12 Immutable Rules for Observability.

Splunk Inc. turns data into doing. Splunk technology is designed to investigate, monitor, analyze and act on data at any scale.

Source: 12 Things You Should Know About Observability

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