How Online Savings Accounts Work

Banking habits continue to evolve as consumers are given more and more choices of where and how they bank. While traditional banking still has its loyal fanbase, it’s hard to compete with the convenience of being able to manage your bank accounts from a computer or smartphone.

The appreciation for face-to-face human interaction that comes with the best banks and credit unions may never go away, but the reputation that traditional banks have for charging high fees and paying low interest rates might leave you wondering how exactly you’re benefiting from keeping your money there.

When compared with traditional brick-and-mortar banks, online savings accounts often offer better interest rates, giving your savings a chance to grow. This is especially true if you open a high-yield online savings account. Learn more about these types of accounts and how you could benefit from one.

What is an online savings account?

An online savings account is a savings account with a financial institution that usually doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar branches and operates fully online. Even though they’re completely digital, online savings accounts must follow the same banking regulations as traditional banks, such as Regulation D of the Federal Reserve limiting the number of withdrawals each month to six.

Since all of your interactions with your account take place digitally, you have the freedom to manage your savings when and wherever you like, without the hassle of having to add another stop to your schedule or having to wait for the bank to open. The websites and mobile apps for online banks are essentially storefronts, so online banks often devote lots of resources to make sure they’re optimized and easy-to-navigate. This allows you to skip the lines at the bank and seamlessly move your money around with just a few clicks.

The absence of physical locations also means online banks don’t have to pay the typically associated costs, such as maintenance or real estate costs. These savings are often passed on to online bank customers in the form of higher interest rates, lower fees, no monthly maintenance fees, and no minimum account balances. This gives customers more flexibility and freedom to do what they want with their money. This means they can be a good fit for financial goals like building an emergency fund.

Online savings accounts do have their drawbacks when compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar bank, however. If you regularly deal with cash, for instance, you might find yourself without any means of depositing into your account. That’s because some online banks don’t provide ATM access. This might require a separate checking account just to handle these sorts of transactions. For those who don’t want accounts spread across multiple institutions, this could be an inconvenience.

On the plus side, there are online checking accounts that provide debit cards that can even earn you cash back or that provide budgeting tools in their mobile apps. So it’s important that you shop around to see what each bank offers and to find the account that fits your needs.

How do deposits and withdrawals work in an online savings account?

Most online banks offer several ways to make deposits and withdrawals, though they might vary from bank to bank. Here are the most common ways to fund and get money out of an online savings account:

Depositing funds into your account

  • Transfer funds from a linked account, also known as an ACH (Automated Clearing House) Transfer (usually takes one to three business days)
  • A check, either by mail or mobile check deposit
  • Direct deposit from your employer
  • Wire transfer

Withdrawing money from your account

  • Transfer money to a linked account
  • Request a check
  • Outgoing wire transfer
  • ATMs, if your savings account is linked to a debit card

Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to depositing cash because of the lack of physical branches. While there are some online banks that have a few retail locations, like Capital One cafes, these are few and far between. If you find yourself needing to deposit cash, you can try one of these options:

Cash deposits

  • Deposit locally into an account with a physical branch and transfer the funds electronically
  • Buy a money order and deposit it like you would a check
  • Load cash onto a reloadable prepaid debit card, such as the American Express Bluebird card, and transfer the money electronically to your online savings account
  • Deposit into a ATM that accepts cash deposits (if available)

Top savings accounts for June 2022

With so many savings account options to choose from, it can all be a bit overwhelming. Factors like a high APY (annual percentage yield), minimum balance requirements, and fees are incredibly important when making your decision. You could get stuck with a low yield or hidden fees. Luckily, we’ve made it easy for you to pick the best option to start earning interest today. Check out our list of the best savings accounts for June 2022.

How to open an online savings account

If you decide that an online savings account can help you meet your savings goals or other personal finance goals, then you may be ready to open an account. The process for opening an online savings account is pretty straightforward. It should only take a few minutes and usually involves completing these steps:

  1. Fill out the application Here you’ll submit your personal identifying and contact information, including your name, date of birth, address, phone number, email, and tax identification number (such as a Social Security number).
  2. Choose your account typeYou’ll need to decide whether you want to be the sole account owner or if you want a joint account. If you choose to have a co-owner, you’ll need to enter the personal information of each account holder.
  3. Designate beneficiaries In this section, you can choose who will receive the money from your account in the event you pass away.
  4. Fund the account How much you must deposit depends on the bank — many require just $1, but others may require a larger minimum deposit to open the account. Once you decide on the amount, the most common methods to fund the account are by bank transfer, sending or depositing a check, or using a wire transfer.
  5. Set up your login information Since access to your savings account is online, you’ll need to set up a username and password to complete the setup of your account.

What kind of interest rates can I expect?

Higher interest rates are one of the major benefits of online savings accounts, though they vary from bank to bank. An account with Capital One 360, for instance, will give you an interest rate of 0.70% (as of June 3, 2022), while the Aspiration Spend & Save account offers up to 5.00% APY with Aspiration Plus (as of June 3, 2022). Online banks are generally a good place to look for a high-yield savings account with a competitively high APY.

How can online banks offer such good interest rates?

Because online-only banks don’t need to pay the employee wages, maintenance, and real estate costs associated with brick-and-mortar branches, they can charge fewer fees, require no minimum balance, require a low or no minimum opening deposit, and usually offer better interest rates.

What is the typical minimum balance for an online savings account?

The minimum balance requirement for an online savings account is usually structured one of three ways:

  • No minimum balance, which is typical for many online banks
  • A minimum balance to keep the account open, which could be as little as $1 or as much as several thousand dollars
  • A minimum balance to earn the advertised high interest rate, with anything less earning a lower APY

Is online banking safe? Is my money insured?

You’ll want to make sure your new bank has the words “member FDIC” somewhere on its website or marketing materials. The FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, is an independent agency of the United States government. If you deposit money at an FDIC-insured bank and the bank later fails, your money is protected (typically a maximum of $250,000 is covered) by that FDIC insurance

However, banks are not mandated to be FDIC-insured, so it’s always important to make sure the bank you’re considering is. To see if a bank is FDIC-insured, you can go to the FDIC BankFind page. If you are banking with a credit union, you’ll want to be sure they are covered by the NCUA.

Even if the account is insured by the FDIC, you want to make sure the bank you choose uses robust technology to protect your money because the FDIC does not provide reimbursements for fraud perpetrated against accounts.

Most banks offer some type of security guarantee and limited liability protection for its customers. Ally Bank, for example, offers a security guarantee, which states “that you will not be liable for any unauthorized Online or Mobile Banking transaction as long as you report the unauthorized transaction…within 60 days from when your statement is made available.” Ally also offers a range of security measures, from account monitoring to free anti-virus software that can protect up to three devices.

There are also measures you can take yourself to help protect your account from such events, such as setting up multi-factor authentication and text alerts, using difficult passwords, avoiding public Wi-Fi when accessing your bank information, and installing anti-virus software, to name a few.

Is your money stuck in an online savings account?

No. Just like a traditional savings account, your money is accessible to you when you need it. With just a few clicks, you can move money in and out of your savings and into another account.

Transfers to an account within the same bank are usually instant, while transferring to an account with a different bank might take a few business days before the funds are made available.

By Matt Miczulski

Source: How Online Savings Accounts Work | FinanceBuzz

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The Future Of Sales And The Pervasiveness Of Technology

I was recently a guest speaker at the Sales Leadership Conference organized by Dr. Karen Peesker, Co-Founder of the Sales Leadership Institute, a department at the Toronto Metropolitan University (formally Ryerson University) in Toronto, Canada. The conference was hosted by IT World Canada, Microsoft, DHL, Rogers and other community leaders. The conference goals were to bring university professors, students, industry leaders, and academicians to share their learning programs, identify gaps and requirements to advance the sales profession and most importantly, tackle a vision for the future of sales.

The strongest theme of the conference was the business imperative for advancing digital literacy, data literacy and ensuring that technology was firmly embedded in all sales learning programs. Digital literacy is best defined as an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and clearly communicate information and knowledge through using diverse digital platforms. It is best evaluated by an individual’s interaction skills with technology and includes: grammar, composition, typing skills and the ability to produce text, images, audio and designs using technology.

This point was acutely reinforced by Fawn Annan, the CEO of IT World Canada (ITWC), with her high impact video conference address, where she identified how pervasive technology is in shifting the global sales landscape. Her panoramic and rich perspectives highlighting how diverse technologies – AI, analytics, IoT, driverless cars – are collectively impacting the world of a sales professional at work, and in society.

Annan quoted Gartner Group’s research stating that “a seller’s decision making is now based more on data, analytics and AI, versus intuition and experience” – prior stable hallmarks of a sales professional. This means that sales professionals will need far more digital literacy and data literacy training to be able to function in a far more data centric world. Other key takeaways from this video included:

1.) Hyper automation is advancing a buyer’s sales journey, and that a seller only has 26 moments to engage and influence a buyer in his /her purchasing journey. In other words, finding the right moments is even more important in following the customer data crumbs.

2.) Consumers check their cell phones on average 47 times/day and these frequent check-in’s, according to Google, are referred to as micro-moments. Hence the increased value of AI driven advertising as well the increasing intrusion consumers feel in invading their privacy.

3.) Over 76% of consumers transact and ship on mobile devices, and this number is increasing year-over-year. Hence, sales professionals’ primary interaction devices must be mobile and portable.4.) Sales applications exist throughout the sales buyer’s journey and increasingly, they are AI applications. According to McKinsey, the fastest growing companies invest more in AI sales digital tools than slower growth companies. A major contributor of sales performance success is having a robust sales software infrastructure. Hence, companies must accelerate their investments in sales intelligence software toolkits for advancing competitive advantage.

5.) Annan profiled two companies in her video address: SalesChoice and RingCentral. SalesChoice’s focus is on accelerating the growth of sales professionals and is a comprehensive AI platform well known for its proven sales use cases. Solutions include:

· Predictive Opportunity Scoring (focusing on the best deals with highest probability of a win outcome),

· Predictive Sales Forecasting that are securing prediction levels of up to 95% accuracy,

· Monitoring your data to ensure the AI predictions are on solid foundations,

· Relationship intelligence, with their new alliance partner, IntroHive, to bring even more win or loss signals to the attention of sales professionals. Who would not want to buy software that can predict your future outcomes at the top of your funnel and predict a win or a loss on every sales deal outcome, and identify the depth and breadth of your customer relationships across your enterprise?

· Mood and Health Intelligence: SalesChoice is active in innovation research with the Ontario Center of Innovation (AVIN program) and Purolator, propagating the importance of health in advancing employee productivity, and reducing attrition. Did you know that according to Payscale, sales account management was ranked as the second most stressful job, with 73% of respondents rating the role as “highly stressful.” Salespeople are under a lot of pressure to meet quota, convert quickly, and keep approval rankings high.

So increasing health approaches are critical to ensure sales talent don’t burn out or give up. Estimates of annual turnover among U.S. salespeople run as high as 27%—twice the rate in the overall labor force. In many industries, the average tenure of a sales professionals is less than two years. Given that the costs to recruit a sales professional is 20% and the time it takes to ramp up a sales professional is around 9 months, you can see how expensive it is to not retain your sales talent.

AI can act like a crystal ball. With good data, the mathematical genius in an AI algorithm and computational power is like the holy grail to guide sales professionals to greater deal outcome success and hopefully to happier behaviors and positive win outcomes as well.

The second company profiled was Ring Central, where Annan highlighted their collaboration and call center solutions, using AI methods to optimize building more productive customer interactions. Leaders like Sheevaun Thatcher, are advancing sales modernization programs at Ring Central, integrated diverse disciplines from: Adult Learning, Interactive Design, Strategic Planning, Collaborative Leadership, Diversity and Inclusiveness and always connecting the dots seamlessly. If there is a leader to watch advancing the field of sales and learning enablement, it is Sheevaun Thatcher.

Annan consistently highlighted that having advanced AI solutions can make a major difference to your digital conversion success, and reinforced that the old tools of looking in the rear view mirror are simply yesterday’s approaches. Due to the rapid speed of our world’s changing footprint, having smarter and forward looking (predictive AI analytics) toolkits is the only way that companies can grow faster, and more importantly, survive.

Increased AI Sales Toolkits Knowledge and Competency is Key.

Educating sales professionals to be ready for a smarter AI focused workplace will require skills, knowledge and proficiency in using modernized toolkits. So sales training must offer hands-on and practical skills development in universities to hit the ground running and bring value to a company immediately upon hiring.

Companies that use AI for sales in pre-sales have seen a 50% boost in leads, a 60-70% reduction in call time, and a 40-60% cost reduction. Numerous toolkits are in the market identifying the ideal buyer prospect and even knowing the propensity (density) of a buyer’s interest in your solution. Knowing where you customer is in their buyer journey is an inflection point for engaging in a micro-moment. Leading solutions advancing leads using AI are profiled in this blog.

In addition to pre-sales, other AI approaches can be used in opportunity scoring, predictive forecasting, and even mood / health indicator correlated to win rates. These are all areas that SalesChoice, a former ITWC Digital Transformation Award recipient, has been pioneering in.

According to the 2021 Buyer Experience Study, 80% of SaaS buyers report the buying process has too many steps and results in frustration for both the buyers and sellers. Hence, what this means for developing sales training programs is that skills not relevant to technology will need to be balanced with those that are. For example, empathy and two-way listening is key. Strong sales professionals understand that a buyer comes to solve a specific problem and not to buy your product. Understanding your buyer’s need is key in order to find a path for resolving it rapidly and reducing buyer and seller friction.

Research has shown that identifying the needs of your buyer can shorten sales cycle by as much as 65%. Customers (buyers) are coming into sales cycles far more informed from online sources. Hence, sales professionals need to learn more consultation skills to unravel the customer’s needs using relevant problem solving skills, enabled with as much prior information on the buyer as the buyer has on the seller.

Increase Training on Collaboration and Selling Virtually

With continued reliance on working virtually, the sales professionals will need to use a variety of online sales toolkits, ranging from a leading CRM (HubSpot, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, etc.,), calendar management system, and collaboration system (like Zoom, or Microsoft Teams) etc. Expertise for effective collaboration will need to include skills in emotional intelligence, written skills, video presence (posture, smiling vs frowning), and voice skills (how you sound impacts how people want to listen). Other key skills like relationship development are increasingly valued in our network economy as building trust online must be mastered in seconds to capture a conversion in a micro-moment exchange.

Increase Digital Literacy Skills

There are many skills in digital literacy – from being able to use software, operate a digital device, to the ability to manage complex cognitive, social, emotional and motor skills to function effectively in digital high-tech environments. Key areas in digital literacy for a sales professional will need to include: the ability to understand reading instructions in digital environments, create or analyze simple to complex graphical displays in user interfaces, use diverse visualization methods, extract knowledge from non-linear, hypertextual navigation, and ascertain the quality and the validity of the information that is being presented.

Increase Data Science and AI Skills

In our data rich world, it is imperative for sales professionals to develop stronger data literacy skills. Data literacy skills include the ability of a sales professional to identify, understand, operate on, and use data effectively. Gartner Group defines data literacy as “the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied, and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.

Further, data literacy is an underlying component of digital dexterity — an employee’s ability and desire to use existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes.” Gartner Group is predicting that by 2023, data literacy will become essential in driving business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs.

However, traditionally sales professionals possess stronger skills in relationship building, listening and understanding people’s emotional states. A recent survey found that out of over 7M sales professionals on Linkedin, only 0.4% indicated they had studied math. This mirrors my experience as well leading sales teams or building software for sales professionals. Data literacy is a major gap in sales and to bridge this gap, companies will need to invest in training sales professionals in math, statistics and AI general concepts. This also will shift the hiring profile as increasing digital literacy and data skills are imperative to lead in the changing data rich world.

Conclusion

The Sales Leadership Institute and the leadership of Dr. Karen Peesker is an excellent initiative that requires government and industry support, as close to 5% of the North American labour population is comprised of sales professionals. Sales is an important profession focused on selling a company’s products or services, and also one that manages the customer’s relationship from an account management perspective.

Skill development in digital literacy, data literacy, relationship intelligence, and not losing sight of the softer skills (communication, written and oral, and listening) are all critical to advance the sales profession and be prepared to compete in a world that, as Annan shared in her video address, is increasingly technology centric.

SalesChoice, an AI SaaS company focused on Ending Revenue Uncertainty and brining more Humanity to Sales to avoid attention deficit disorder using AI and Cognitive Sciences. A former Accenture, Xerox and Citicorp executive, she bridges governance, strategy and operations in her AI initiatives. She is also a board advisor of the Forbes School of Business and Technology, and the AI Forum. She is passionate about modernizing innovation with disruptive technologies (SaaS/Cloud, Smart Apps, AI, IoT, Robots and Cobots), with 14 books in the market, with The AI Dilemma just released. Follow her on Linked In or on Twitter or her Website. You can also access her at The AI Directory.

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Source: The Future Of Sales And The Pervasiveness Of Technology

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Bybit Boosts Crypto Trading Capabilities with MetaTrader4

Cryptocurrency believers can look forward to even better trading as Bybit, one of the world’s fastest-growing crypto exchanges, completes its highly anticipated MetaTrader 4 (MT4) integration. With this upgrade, Bybit is bringing its users the advanced technical analysis, flexible trading system, and algorithmic trading tools that mark MT4 out as the current gold standard for forex (FX) and contract for differences (CFD) trading.

Developed by MetaQuotes, MT4’s functionalities on Bybit are available to all users. The platform enables 24/7 trades of USDT perpetual contracts — all with Bybit’s low spreads and deep liquidity. Bybit users can also activate Expert Advisors for an automated trading experience that allows them to integrate their trading scripts from other providers offering MT4. Equipped with MT4’s widely popular and trusted functionalities, Bybit’s innovative, streamlined platform makes trading even more intuitive than ever before.

Faster, Simpler, Smarter

With the MT4 integration, Bybit users have top trading and analytical technologies at their fingertips and can implement trading strategies with ease. Users on Bybit MT4 will be trading off Bybit’s order book and liquidity prices, facilitating direct peer-to-peer buy/sell transactions with minimal slippage granted by the platform’s deep liquidity.

For an enhanced trading experience, MT4 also comes with informative technical indicators and algorithmic trading tools. Key features include the ability to automatically copy deals of other traders, as well as various support functions for users at all stages of their trading journey.

In addition, MT4 has a range of customizable layouts, complete with an intuitive interface and interactive charts that make planning and managing trades a breeze. Whether for longtime crypto believers or the newly crypto curious, Bybit’s MT4 integration delivers advanced trading features along with a hassle-free user experience.

A World-Class Platform

Since it was founded in 2018, Bybit has rapidly made a name for itself as a provider of innovative online spot and derivatives trading services, mining and staking products, an NFT marketplace as well as API support to both retail and institutional clients around the globe. Bybit has emerged as a next-level exchange for digital assets thanks to a smart and robust system that underlines speed, security, transparency, and market depth.

Liquidity is arguably the be-all and end-all of asset exchanges, and this is a leading quality of Bybit’s derivatives trading platform. With abundant liquidity and the tightest spread, Bybit guarantees that traders have the best quote and execution on the market even during periods of extreme volatility.

What’s more, with a 99.99% up rate, Bybit has proven to be the most reliable, stable, and usable crypto exchange of the bull run. The platform had no overload or downtime throughout the year — a unique attribute among major exchanges.

With a whole host of retail-focused products and customer-centric services (including multilingual support), Bybit’s platform is designed to help lower the entry threshold to digital assets trading, inviting people around the world to enjoy easy and immediate delivery of crypto transactions. With MT4, Bybit is furthering its mission to become a fully integrated trading powerhouse with a stellar, user-friendly interface.

“As one of the most advanced and convenient trading solutions, MT4 is an excellent tool for our users to elevate their trading experience,” said Ben Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Bybit. “We are excited to bring our products and services to the next level with this integration with MT4, and we look forward to our users benefiting from its functionalities and navigating the rise of digital assets with us.”

Source: Bybit Crypto Trading Capabilities MetaTrader4

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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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Industry Reborn: How Tech Is Changing The Way We Make Things

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As information technology remakes the modern factory, forward-looking companies are creating virtual worlds to optimize real-world manufacturing. The rewards include improvements in business value and sustainability that would have been almost unimaginable just a few years ago.

Among the most important domains in which data-driven approaches are helping manufacturers boost innovation and performance are:

A digital twin is a computer-based replica of a physical object or system.

More specifically, it’s a digital representation of the information embedded within the system. And it’s something that industrial managers can easily study and comprehend—in a way that they can’t, say, a functioning container ship or sprawling manufacturing plant. Managers can use digital twins to predict problems before they occur or to run experiments, exposing the twin to stresses and different inputs without disrupting the real-world system.

The use of duplicates to manage systems dates back to NASA’s Apollo program—more precisely, to 1970’s ill-starred Apollo 13 mission, which almost ended in disaster. The space agency deployed mirrored systems to diagnose the imperiled spacecraft’s problems and devise a plan to get its astronauts back to Earth.

The combination of model-based systems that represent the attributes and behavior of business processes in manufacturing with the recent ascendancy of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is letting digital twin technology come into its own. The IIoT uses sensors and smart components embedded in machines to allow those machines to communicate with other systems—and to feed data back to managers for analysis. That data and the model, together, constitute the material from which the digital twin takes shape.

Digital twins can also guide sustainable manufacturing, letting companies test out different approaches in a virtual environment. That lets them see how they can best eliminate potential waste, whether in inventory, energy use, equipment efficiency or anywhere else.

A digital twin’s most powerful application, however, may be in the design and planning of manufacturing processes and even entire factories. Eric Green, vice president at Dassault Systèmes, cites the case of a company that Dassault Systèmes helped to create a digital model as a starting point for a new plant.

The company realized that it could improve quality and reduce costs by self-manufacturing parts that it had long outsourced. Working with the digital simulacrum, the company simulated different production volumes and flow rates for the parts it wanted to make in-house.

The state-of-the-art plant worked efficiently from day one—the digital twin eliminated the need for a shakedown period. As a bonus, the company now has nearly identical virtual and real environments. This allows managers to more efficiently shift production around various lines.

“They can simulate and optimize for production rates as they grow their business and understand what they need to do before they actually make changes on the factory floor,” says Green. “They’ve now saved a lot of money and become very efficient.”

Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE tech goes further. A 3DEXPERIENCE twin is a virtual model of business processes, with digital continuity from engineering to manufacturing. It’s generated from a single data model on a unified platform—an advantage no other twin can claim. A 3DEXPERIENCE twin also ensures unmatched accuracy and fidelity. When these powerful simulated environments are used for analysis in real time, the result is an unparalleled ability to experiment in the digital world. That in turn creates a flawless experience in the real world.

Organizations are also putting twin-based IT platforms to work to create more value within their supplier networks. A supplier may notice, for example, that a different material is more suitable for a component and suggest its use. The twin can then confirm whether that alternative will meet expectations.

The drive to squeeze more value from networks often starts with a market opportunity. A company might detect a shift in the marketplace, and want to capitalize on it. By mapping a network’s complexities in the virtual realm first, managers can model the entire value network—determining how best to acquire and distribute resources before taking real-world steps.

Ultimately, Green says, a company wants to “maximize the profit mix and the product portfolio mix on a global level, and in a sustainable way.”

“Suppliers in certain parts of the world might be more efficient or better than others,” he says. Impacts will vary “based on total landed costs, which include product costs, transportation costs, labor costs, environmental costs, taxes and tariffs.”

Companies are also using collaborative platforms to create sustainability throughout the value network. A platform such as 3DEXPERIENCE lets firms capture, standardize and analyze data to evaluate a business activity’s environmental and social effects and communicate what’s been learned. Beyond their own operations, companies can collaborate through the value network to reduce waste and increase efficiency—from upfront product and packaging design and raw-material sourcing, to end-stage disposal and recovery of materials.

Designing work environments using virtual twins can make them safer, more efficient and more collaborative. Digital twins can help identify workflow bottlenecks or other process flaws.

Augmented reality and virtual reality systems are proving their utility as part of the worker-training process. Dassault Systèmes designed a system for one manufacturer that uses computer-aided design to create an immersive and interactive environment in which trainees manipulate holographic 3D images. New employees can more quickly grasp complex concepts and gain new insights into processes.

The system also improves safety outcomes and efficiency as workers arrive ready to handle the tools, technologies and procedures the factory will throw at them. The risk of human error falls dramatically. And with less need for shop-floor training and shadowing, the arrival of a new employee can have little or no negative impact on production rates.

Needless to say, when life is easier for shop-floor employees, the whole company benefits. In the United States, an aerospace firm was looking for ways to decrease the two full years it was investing in training incoming engineering graduates. With assistance from Dassault Systèmes, the company created a learning program that gave new hires experience with 3D design and digital transformation software. The new employees became productive team members at the company’s aircraft manufacturing sites that much faster.

Collaborative platforms and augmented or virtual reality systems are also providing a mechanism through which experienced workers can share knowledge and know-how—or what Green calls their “DNA”—with younger colleagues.

Then too, collaborative platforms are easing the ability of existing employees to share knowledge across teams or groups.

Green asks us to imagine a worker helping assemble an aircraft. If the engineering team modifies the assembly process and the worker notices that a key procedural step is lacking, that worker needs the ability to raise a red flag and make sure the appropriate people notice it.

Incorporating digital twin technology into these platforms lets companies test out changes that workers have suggested and identify whether it might make sense to formalize some of their on-the-spot work-process improvisations. The result might be more efficient and improved business processes, fewer wasteful steps and less risk of injury. That, in turn, will boost productivity, empower employees and promote wellness—things crucial to leading companies.

By Tom Clynes

Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE® Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations.

Source: Industry Reborn: How Tech Is Changing The Way We Make Things

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