Category: Disruptive Technology

31 Oct 2018
Manahel Thabet

AI powered device for Locked-In Syndrome patients available on NHS Supply Chain

EyeControl is an AI-powered, wearable eye tracking device that enables immediate communication for both emergency and social purposes with the first devices expected to be delivered to patients by the end of the year.

Or Retzkin, CEO of EyeControl said: “Since our launch in the UK in August we’ve received very positive feedback on our device. We’re thrilled to be officially working with the NHS to enable patients to once again communicate with their loved ones and carers in a simple, intuitive, and innovative way.”

Patients are said to be able use the device within 20 minutes. It consists of a head-mounted infrared camera that tracks the eye movements of a wearer and translates it into audio communication via a speaker. A bone conduction element that sits within the earpiece provides audio feedback to the user, allowing them to hear the communication before it is sent to the output speaker. The wearer can use predefined sentences or teach the EyeControl their own personalised syntax, as well as choose from a range of output languages and the device features Bluetooth wireless technology and works without a screen.

Helen Paterson, speech therapist at The Royal Hospital of Neuro-disability recently tested the device with a number of her patients and said: “The brilliant thing about The EyeControl over alternative communication devices is that it’s quite light and easy to wear and patients can communicate but they don’t have to have a big screen in front of them and they only need to move their eyes up and down and side to side. This means they don’t have to rely on having their device in front of them all the time, which obviously makes communication much easier for locked-in patients.”


21 Oct 2018
Manahel Thabet

Disruptive technology to play key role in changing UK energy sector

Law firm Addleshaw Goddard has reported that disruptive technology will be a key factor of the energy sector in Britain over the coming years.

The report, entitled Disruption in Great Britain’s Energy Market, cites two other factors as the carbon agenda and increased customer engagement.

It states that while $107bn (£82bn) was invested in renewable generation assets between 2013 and 2017, there has also been a surge in spending on new technology.

The ‘energy trilemma’ – affordability, safety and security – can be dealt with by the growth of renewables as well as improved electric vehicle infrastructure, demand-driven smart meters and blockchain, which contribute to the move toward a decentralised energy system.

However, increased renewable use will also present challenges, says Addleshaw Goddard, since while sources like wind and solar are stable, they can also be intermittent and less reliable.

Paul Dight, energy partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “The government faces a significant challenge in creating a dynamic energy market that can successfully move the country away from a top-down centralised system and fully accommodate the spectrum of green and disruptive technologies into the energy generation mix… If this is going to be achieved, innovative disruptors in the market have a key role to play.

“In much the same way technology and innovation has had a transformative effect on sectors such as retail, so it can have a similar effect in the energy sector. Indeed, it must do if we are to tackle the trilemma of providing the affordable, secure and sustainable energy generation the country needs.”

Speaking exclusively to Energy Digital, Dight added: “Disruption in the energy industry is happening at many levels, and the huge increase in renewables over recent years, innovations in technology and consumers taking a much more active interest, are going to have a huge impact on the sector.

“It’s a landscape that is shifting continually and the goal posts can change very quickly. Even milestones we believe to be set, such as the government’s commitment to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040, can prove to be indefinite.

“Yesterday, parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee called for the ban to be brought forward eight years to 2032 – and for investment into the infrastructure needed to incorporate the widespread use of electric vehicles to be prioritised. It’s seismic changes such as this that provide huge opportunities and challenges for everyone in the sector.

“It was great to see the Low Carbon Contracts Company confirm earlier today that almost all of the projects awarded contracts for difference in the second CfD allocation round have passed their first milestone. And whilst this is great news for Great Britain as we continue to build our low carbon future, this means there will be more intermittent renewable generation within the power mix, which will further disrupt the sector.

“As we look ahead, one of the most interesting developments to monitor in the sector will be how established suppliers respond to the gauntlet thrown down by challenger suppliers embracing smart disruptive technology. To retain their market share, traditional suppliers will need to innovate much more, investing in technology that shifts the way suppliers engage with customers – putting them at the heart of what they do.”

18 Oct 2018
Manahel Thabet

Auto Insurance: Disruptive technology brings changes in the sector

The automotive insurance industry is being disrupted continuously by technology. The physical sales-oriented industry has fast-tracked to digital-only channels and now, with the introduction of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain has completely shaken up th sector while disrupting the underlying business model itself. While all may seem to be well within the industry, large insurers are struggling with challenges primarily in how to price risk; how to decrease claim exposure; and how to fight unconventional competition.

Pricing risk

Insurers have priced risk based on the law of masses. This has worked at times and not so well at other times, but insurance companies did not have a way to look at the customer beyond their age, number of years behind the wheel, and location of car and driver. Now, by installing a simple telematics device in the car, insurers are able to collect and analyse data about driver behaviour and habits, vehicle performance, predictive telematics, and a whole lot more.

This data, along with new information on customer /car relationships has helped insurance companies to hyper-personalise and contextualise risk protection for individuals, rather than a segment. Europe
and the US, being early adopters in usage-based insurance (UBI), were able to build on these business insights to achieve greater value, while countries lagging in its adoption, such as in Asia, including India, just recently initiated flexibility in product design so as to offer individual insurance products to customers. This under-exploited market remains open to potentially enormous growth.

Telematics definitely is an incremental step towards better customer / product alignment by providing atomic insights about both driver and car. Some insurers and new entrants have leapfrogged in translating customers’ digital footprints before and after driving to their preferences and behaviour via virtual channels.

Decreasing claims exposure

To reduce claim settlement time, automotive insurance customers now are empowered to self-settle the claims by documenting the damage and filing for claims through smart devices. Insurers are now focusing on being able to prevent claim, rather than processing it. As we move towards mass adoption of connected car ecosystem, including fully or semi-autono-mous driving, it raises critical questions on insurers’ ability to define and assign liability.

Unconventional competition

Google and Amazon are quickly building an insurance portfolio. Both companies are working on building technology solutions that will provide simplified, high-quality, transparent, and personalised vehicle insurance at a reasonable cost. These giants definitely have the technological edge to outpace existing insurance power houses.

Start-ups, such as Jointly or Inspool in P2P insurance and Snapsheet or Guild for claims processing, are using AI-based, real-time risk profiling and disrupting the underlying insurance business processes from underwriting to claims. In fact, these and other insurtech start-ups are redefining the new way of pricing risk and processing claims for the insured.

It is evident that for large insurers it may not be possible to out-invest or out-innovate this competition. Therefore, rather than building these proprietary disruptive systems on their own, insurers need to look for innovative ways to partner with these tech giants or incorporate the new entrants into their business strategy for inorganic growth.

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13 Oct 2018

Disruptive innovation: The journey of a successful incubator

Disruptive innovation is a buzzword that many organisations strive to achieve in this day and age, but what does it actually mean and why do organisations place copious amounts of emphasis on it? The term, coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process of developing new products or services to replace existing technologies and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Disruptive innovations are often produced by start-ups rather than existing market-leading companies because digital innovations are oftentimes a huge risk and are mostly not profitable in the initial stages. The amount of risk involved may not sit well with these revenue-generating companies due to the organisation’s profitable nature, and as such, is not an undertaking that is common for them.

However, Media Prima realises that digital technology continues to evolve rapidly and capturing users’ attention on traditional media is not as easy as it used to be. Users are now looking for content on digital platforms, so it has to pivot from its traditional business model to one that is disruptive to continue its legacy as the market leader in the media industry in Malaysia.

This has led to the birth of Media Prima Labs, an incubator within Media Prima Digital that supports the development of content in the digital sphere. With the abundance of intellectual properties (IPs) owned by Media Prima, it only made sense for it to look into other avenues to reach out to its users, who are now more digitally savvy.

Making hay while the sun shines

With the introduction of cheaper mobile devices in the market and a reduction in mobile internet prices in Malaysia, mobile penetration is growing promptly and users are relying mostly on their smartphones these days. According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, mobile cellular penetration in Malaysia has reached an astounding 131.8% while smartphone penetration was at 70% in 2017.

These impressive statistics made it even more confident to invest significantly in the mobile sphere, and Media Prima Labs was tasked to further extend the group’s unique intellectual properties into the expanse of technology innovation and gaming, an area that other media companies had not ventured into at that point of time.

Media Prima Labs started by experimenting with one of the group’s oldest running IPs – Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan (JJCM). Malaysians are generally motivated by food and the question of where to eat, hence, converting the content of JJCM into a walking food directory where users could look for halal mouth-watering food nearby made a lot of sense. There were other food directory apps in the market; however, Media Prima Labs was looking to fill the gap for individuals looking for halal cuisine.

JJCM has established a strong brand name in Malaysian households and has become an integral reference point for foodies. Not surprisingly, the Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan mobile app was a hit with its viewers and recorded 65,000 downloads in merely three months and also ranked first under the “food and drink” category in the Apple app store.

Since there is a large population of Muslims in Malaysia, Media Prima Labs wanted to continue to tap into this market, and as such, incubated two religious apps – Waktu Solat and Raudhah.  The high engagement rate on both these apps was proof of success. Waktu Solat recorded average monthly active users (MAUs) of 1.5 million and Raudhah achieved an average MAUs of 62,000. The monthly average time spent for Waktu Solat and Raudhah was 165s and 371s respectively.

To further benefit users, it also partnered with Tripfez, a Muslim-friendly travel company to offer special Umrah packages in the Raudhah app.

With the success of these lifestyle mobile apps, Media Prima Labs hoped this would have a snowball effect on mobile games as well, and as such, partnered with the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to kick-start this vertical by organising its very first hackathon.

MDEC’s expertise in this area allowed Media Prima Labs to reach out to the best talent in the mobile game development industry and these developers were put together for 36 hours to conceptualise a mobile game for a new animation IP from TV3 – Ejen Ali. On top of the prize money, winners of the hackathon were given an additional sum of investment to further develop the game within a given time frame.

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07 Oct 2018

These Are The Disruptive Technologies That Will Affect Your Industry

Disruption is a hard subject to cover sometimes. The change, the intersections, the arguments about what is and is not disruption. Often it is helpful to step back and really see what is happening, where things are going and who is doing what. Richard Watson, a leading futurist and scenarios planner, is one of the best at this. Watson’s latest work sees a list of technologies with a timeline that is specific to different industries. If you are in the retail, finance, FMCG, food, transport, energy or health industry, knowing what is coming for you has never been easier.

Watson worked with the Tech Foresight team at Imperial College London and used an ex-BBC researcher to source the companies and was surprised by the dominance of the US; “It’s incredible. There is almost a total absence of UK companies…the multiple appearances of Apple, Google, Facebook and Musk is interesting.” The latter point may simply be doing to media reporting biases but still, the number of mentions is high even without Chinese and other startup hubs around the world seeing a look in.

The technology on the table is not all equal. Several of the ‘elements’ are already here (the bottom left corner). Technology like Delivery drones, they are more or less invented and “getting less silly by the hour’ according to Watson. Conversational machine interfaces (Google’s telephone booking interface is a prime example) are improving in leaps and bounds and even Lifelong personal avatar assistants – could this be the next generation of Echo or Alexa? The most interesting? According to Watson, it’s ‘DACs or Distributed Autonomous Corporations’. Not so far fetched if we think about Amazon’s warehouses and pokes at the questions; How far can automation go? How far might we let it?

Watson is most interested in “The Ghost Tech” or the edge or fringe to the table. These technologies (like zero-point energy, force fields, telepathy) are highly improbable but not actually impossible. Watson used science-fiction as the inspiration here and some of the overlaps are indicative of leaps rather than crawls towards success. The biggest issue around disruption, Watson believes, is that the small print gets missed; “This is all tech push and largely logical. It’s all corporate (some military and government) driven and much relates to efficiency, speed, convenience, profitability. What is not considered is a) the way one or more technologies might interact b) psychological factors (illogical and emotional humans), c) government/regulation/societal shifts (e.g. privacy) and d) other factors such as resources/environment and even historical inertia and the state of the economy (e.g. I’d say the future of bitcoin is economy dependent).”

Watson hopes the table is useful above all else but urges viewers and users of the table to look at the why behind the technology. “The other thing that isn’t really discussed is what’s all this tech for? What are we, as a society/world, searching for here? The big question is what is the role of us humans in the midst of all this? I think the big idea falling out of this and tech generally (especially AI) is what are we humans for? Does the human race need a strategy…?”

Source: Forbes


29 Sep 2018

The Spooky Genius of Artificial Intelligence

Can artificial intelligence be smarter than a person? Answering that question often hinges on the definition of artificial intelligence. But it might make more sense, instead, to focus on defining what we mean by “smart.”

In the 1950s, the psychologist J. P. Guilford divided creative thought into two categories: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking, which Guilford defined as the ability to answer questions correctly, is predominantly a display of memory and logic. Divergent thinking, the ability to generate many potential answers from a single problem or question, shows a flair for curiosity, an ability to think “outside the box.” It’s the difference between remembering the capital of Austria and figuring how to start a thriving business in Vienna without knowing a lick of German.

When most people think of AI’s relative strengths over humans, they think of its convergent intelligence. With superior memory capacity and processing power, computers outperform people at rules-based games, complex calculations, and data storage: chess, advanced math, and Jeopardy. What computers lack, some might say, is any form of imagination, or rule-breaking curiosity—that is, divergence.

But what if that common view is wrong? What if AI’s real comparative advantage over humans is precisely its divergent intelligence—its creative potential? That’s the subject of the latest episode of the podcast Crazy/Genius, produced by Kasia Mychajlowycz and Patricia Yacob.

One of the more interesting applications of AI today is a field called generative design, where a machine is fed oodles of data and asked to come up with hundreds or thousands of designs that meet specific criteria. It is, essentially, an exercise in divergent potential.

For example, when the architecture-software firm Autodesk wanted to design a new office, it asked its employees what they wanted from the ideal workplace: How much light? Or privacy? Or open space? Programmers entered these survey responses into the AI, and the generative-design technology produced more than 10,000 different blueprints. Then human architects took their favorite details from these computer-generated designs to build the world’s first large-scale office created using AI.

“Generative design is like working with an all-powerful, really painfully stupid genie,” said Astro Teller, the head of X, the secret research lab at Google’s parent company Alphabet. That is, it can be both magical and mind-numbingly over-literal. So I asked Teller where companies could use this painfully dense genie. “Everywhere!” he said. Most importantly, generative design could help biologists simulate the effect of new drugs without putting sick humans at risk. By testing thousands of variations of a new medicine in a biological simulator, we could one day design drugs the way we design commercial airplanes—by exhaustively testing their specifications before we put them in the air with several hundred passengers.

AI’s divergent potential is one of the hottest subjects in the field. This spring, several dozen computer scientists published an unusual paper on the history of AI. This paper was not a work of research. It was a collection of stories—some ominous, some hilarious—that showed AI shocking its own designers with its ingenuity. Most of the stories involved a kind of AI called machine learning, where programmers give the computer data and a problem to solve without explicit instructions, in the hopes that the algorithm will figure out how to answer it.

First, an ominous example. One algorithm was supposed to figure out how to land a virtual airplane with minimal force. But the AI soon discovered that if it crashed the plane, the program would register a force so large that it would overwhelm its own memory and count it as a perfect score. So the AI crashed the plane, over and over again, presumably killing all the virtual people on board. This is the sort of nefarious rules-hacking that makes AI alarmists fear that a sentient AI could ultimately destroy mankind. (To be clear, there is a cavernous gap between a simulator snafu and SkyNet.)

But the benign examples were just as interesting. In one test of locomotion, a simulated robot was programmed to travel forward as quickly as possible. But instead of building legs and walking, it built itself into a tall tower and fell forward. How is growing tall and falling on your face anything like walking? Well, both cover a horizontal distance pretty quickly. And the AI took its task very, very literally.

According to Janelle Shane, a research scientist who publishes a website about artificial intelligence, there is an eerie genius to this forward-falling strategy. “After I had posted [this paper] online, I heard from some biologists who said, ‘Oh yeah, wheat uses this strategy to propagate!’” she told me. “At the end of each season, these tall stalks of wheat fall over, and their seeds land just a little bit farther from where the wheat stalk heads started.”

From the perspective of the computer programmer, the AI failed to walk. But from the perspective of the AI, it rapidly mutated in a simulated environment to discover something which had taken wheat stalks millions of years to learn: Why walk, when you can just fall? A relatable sentiment.

The stories in this paper are not just evidence of the dim-wittedness of artificial intelligence. In fact, they are evidence of the opposite: A divergent intelligence that mimics biology. “These anecdotes thus serve as evidence that evolution, whether biological or computational, is inherently creative and should routinely be expected to surprise, delight, and even outwit us,” the lead authors write in the conclusion. Sometimes, a machine is more clever than its makers.

This is not to say that AI displays what psychologists would call human creativity. These machines cannot turn themselves on, or become self-motivated, or ask alternate questions, or even explain their discoveries. Without consciousness or comprehension, a creature cannot be truly creative.

But if AI, and machine learning in particular, does not think as a person does, perhaps it’s more accurate to say it evolves, as an organism can. Consider the familiar two-step of evolution. With mutation, genes diverge from their preexisting structure. With natural selection, organisms converge on the mutation best adapted to their environment. Thus, evolutionary biology displays a divergent and convergent intelligence that is a far better metaphor for to the process of machine learning, like generative design, than the tangle of human thought.

AI might not be “smart” in a human sense of the word. But it has already shown that it can perform an eerie simulation of evolution. And that is a spooky kind of genius.

Source: Theatlantic

26 Sep 2018

Disruptive technology switches sides

Disruptive technology has become a popular catchphrase since the term was coined just over 20 years ago. And, to be fair, it’s been said a lot in those 20 years, shaking up and dramatically reshaping the world around us. The world in which millennials have grown up looks very different to that inhabited by their parents and grandparents.

Semiconductors and computing are predominantly responsible for the changed landscape. The picture keeps changing, however. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the latest kid on the block. While there are many column inches devoted to that technology in the consumer press, it has also infiltrated and made heavy inroads into the world of business and increasingly, into the area of manufacturing.

That’s somewhat ironic – normally it works the other way round: business is the early developer and adopter of technology. The consumer market follows behind, adding volume sales and bringing down the cost through sheer economy of scale.

IoT moves to center stage

Earlier this year, respected market research company, Forrester, predicted: “IoT is likely to become more specialized in the coming year, moving away from generic hardware and software into platforms designed for specific industries.” The report added: “As the IoT industry continues to grow, you won’t need to be generic to achieve economies of scale” and that “more and more of IoT connectivity and integrations will happen in the cloud…. At the same time, however, in an effort to cut costs and trim latency, IoT data processing and analysis will also move from the core to the edge of the network.”

Of course, that’s precisely what’s already happening with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where lack of latency is vital and failsafe data transfer is key. LNS Research predicted late last year that 2018 would be the year in which “inter-cloud connectivity will become both a requirement and reality,” with each end user having “multiple platforms for multiple use cases.”

There’s no doubt that IoT has genuinely disrupted both consumer and industrial markets. From having traditionally been a marketplace in which technology was developed slowly and carefully, with plenty of time for testing new developments, the industrial marketplace is rapidly learning to become more consumer-like and consumer-based. This means that there’s increased pressure on manufacturers to develop lower-cost devices – and to develop them faster. That puts demands on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) too.

Disruptive technologies bring many benefits to those early adopters who are either smart or lucky enough to see what’s on the horizon. Increasingly the marketplace is favoring those who are quick on their feet. To derive maximum benefit, suppliers need to be flexible in terms of their engineering, responsive to the needs of their customers and to be able to keep development costs down.

Standard products are no longer necessarily the answer. There are now so many different variants of products required, depending on customer needs, that custom mixed-signal integrated circuits (ICs) will often fit the bill much better than trying to customize a standard product and for little if any additional cost. The picture is further complicated by the (frankly bewildering) range of wireless technologies and quasi-standards available, with the proprietary Sigfox and LoRa competing with LTE and other cellular offerings.

By choosing the right supplier, with a wealth of application expertise, customers can often reduce their bill of materials (BoM) significantly. S3 Semiconductors, for instance, offers the SmartEdge platform that allows customers essentially to mix and match their requirements.

It’s not necessarily easy to find a component off-the-shelf that will provide the right networking technology coupled with the calibration, control and security functions that your application demands. It can be much easier to have your own custom application specific IC (ASIC) made up for you. Overall performance will be better, power consumption lower and the device will occupy less space on the printed circuit board (PCB).

What’s not to like about that? You can be secure in the knowledge that you’re keeping ahead of the curve, as well as being fast to market.

Tommy Mullane is a Senior Systems Architect at S3 Semiconductors, a division of Adesto. He received the B.E. degree in Electronic Engineering from the National University of Ireland, Dublin (UCD) in 1997. He has worked in research in optoelectronic devices and received a master’s in technology management from UCD in 2006. From 2000 to 2014, he worked for a Dublin based start-up called Intune Networks – on next generation optical telecommunication systems, working in a variety of technical disciplines, from optics to chip design, software and systems. He holds 5 patents and has published a number of papers.


24 Sep 2018
Manahel Thabet

“Synthetic Skin” Could Give Prosthesis Users a Superhuman Sense of Touch


Today’s prosthetics can give people with missing limbs the ability to do almost anything — run marathons, climb mountains, you name it. But when it comes to letting those people feel what they could with a natural limb, the devices, however mechanically sophisticated, invariably fall short.

Now researchers have created a “synthetic skin” with a sense of touch that not only matches the sensitivity of natural skin, but in some cases even exceeds it. Now the only challenge is getting that information back into the wearer’s nervous system.


When something presses against your skin, your nerves receive and transmit that pressure to the brain in the form of electrical signals.

To mimic that biological process, the researchers suspended a flexible polymer, dusted with magnetic particles, over a magnetic sensor. The effect is like a drum: Applying even the tiniest amount of pressure to the membrane causes the magnetic particles to move closer to the sensors, and they transmit this movement electronically.

The research, which could open the door to super-sensitive prosthetics, was published Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics.


Tests shows that the skin can sense extremely subtle pressure, such as a blowing breeze, dripping water, or crawling ants. In some cases, the synthetic skin responded to pressures so gentle that natural human skin wouldn’t be able to detect them.

While the sensing ability of this synthetic skin is remarkable, the team’s research doesn’t address how to transmit the signals to the human brain. Other scientists are working on that, though, so eventually this synthetic skin could give prosthetic wearers the ability to feel forces even their biological-limbed friends can’t detect.

Source: Futurism

23 Sep 2018

Spray-on antennas could unlock potential of smart, connected technology

Drexel researchers develop antennas made from mxene ‘spray paint’

September 21, 2018
Drexel University
Engineering researchers report a method for spraying invisibly thin antennas, made from a type of two-dimensional, metallic material called MXene, that perform as well as those being used in mobile devices, wireless routers and portable transducers.

The promise of wearables, functional fabrics, the Internet of Things, and their “next-generation” technological cohort seems tantalizingly within reach. But researchers in the field will tell you a prime reason for their delayed “arrival” is the problem of seamlessly integrating connection technology — namely, antennas — with shape-shifting and flexible “things.”

But a breakthrough by researchers in Drexel’s College of Engineering, could now make installing an antenna as easy as applying some bug spray.

In research recently published in Science Advances, the group reports on a method for spraying invisibly thin antennas, made from a type of two-dimensional, metallic material called MXene, that perform as well as those being used in mobile devices, wireless routers and portable transducers.

“This is a very exciting finding because there is a lot of potential for this type of technology,” said Kapil Dandekar, PhD, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, who directs the Drexel Wireless Systems Lab, and was a co-author of the research. “The ability to spray an antenna on a flexible substrate or make it optically transparent means that we could have a lot of new places to set up networks — there are new applications and new ways of collecting data that we can’t even imagine at the moment.”

The researchers, from the College’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, report that the MXene titanium carbide can be dissolved in water to create an ink or paint. The exceptional conductivity of the material enables it to transmit and direct radio waves, even when it’s applied in a very thin coating.

“We found that even transparent antennas with thicknesses of tens of nanometers were able to communicate efficiently,” said Asia Sarycheva, a doctoral candidate in the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute and Materials Science and Engineering Department. “By increasing the thickness up to 8 microns, the performance of MXene antenna achieved 98 percent of its predicted maximum value.”

Preserving transmission quality in a form this thin is significant because it would allow antennas to easily be embedded — literally, sprayed on — in a wide variety of objects and surfaces without adding additional weight or circuitry or requiring a certain level of rigidity.

“This technology could enable the truly seamless integration of antennas with everyday objects which will be critical for the emerging Internet of Things,” Dandekar said. “Researchers have done a lot of work with non-traditional materials trying to figure out where manufacturing technology meets system needs, but this technology could make it a lot easier to answer some of the difficult questions we’ve been working on for years.”

Initial testing of the sprayed antennas suggest that they can perform with the same range of quality as current antennas, which are made from familiar metals, like gold, silver, copper and aluminum, but are much thicker than MXene antennas. Making antennas smaller and lighter has long been a goal of materials scientists and electrical engineers, so this discovery is a sizeable step forward both in terms of reducing their footprint as well as broadening their application.

“Current fabrication methods of metals cannot make antennas thin enough and applicable to any surface, in spite of decades of research and development to improve the performance of metal antennas,” said Yury Gogotsi, PhD, Distinguished University and Bach professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering, and Director of the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute, who initiated and led the project. “We were looking for two-dimensional nanomaterials, which have sheet thickness about hundred thousand times thinner than a human hair; just a few atoms across, and can self-assemble into conductive films upon deposition on any surface. Therefore, we selected MXene, which is a two-dimensional titanium carbide material, that is stronger than metals and is metallically conductive, as a candidate for ultra-thin antennas.”

Drexel researchers discovered the family of MXene materials in 2011 and have been gaining an understanding of their properties, and considering their possible applications, ever since. The layered two-dimensional material, which is made by wet chemical processing, has already shown potential in energy storage devices, electromagnetic shielding, water filtration, chemical sensing, structural reinforcement and gas separation.

Naturally MXene materials have drawn comparisons to promising two-dimensional materials like graphene, which won the Nobel Prize in 2010 and has been explored as a material for printable antennas. In the paper, the Drexel researchers put the spray-on antennas up against a variety of antennas made from these new materials, including graphene, silver ink and carbon nanotubes. The MXene antennas were 50 times better than graphene and 300 times better than silver ink antennas in terms of preserving the quality of radio wave transmission.

“The MXene antenna not only outperformed the macro and micro world of metal antennas, we went beyond the performance of available nanomaterial antennas, while keeping the antenna thickness very low,” said Babak Anasori, PhD, a research assistant professor in A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. “The thinnest antenna was as thin as 62 nanometers — about thousand times thinner than a sheep of paper — and it was almost transparent. Unlike other nanomaterials fabrication methods, that requires additives, called binders, and extra steps of heating to sinter the nanoparticles together, we made antennas in a single step by airbrush spraying our water-based MXene ink.”

The group initially tested the spray-on application of the antenna ink on a rough substrate — cellulose paper — and a smooth one — polyethylene terephthalate sheets — the next step for their work will be looking at the best ways to apply it to a wide variety of surfaces from glass to yarn and skin.

“Further research on using materials from the MXene family in wireless communication may enable fully transparent electronics and greatly improved wearable devices that will support the active lifestyles we are living,” Anasori said.

Source: ScienceDaily 

19 Sep 2018

What is disruptive innovation?

Disruptive innovation is an idea that goes against the norms, significantly changing the status quo of regular business growth and developing what is known as a new market that accelerates beyond the scope of existing markets.

At the beginning, it may not be as good as the technology it’s replacing, but it’s usually cheaper, meaning more people can snap it up and it can become a commodity fast.

The key differentiator between disruptive innovation and standard innovation is that what is considered to be a revolutionary innovation doesn’t shift the entire market. It may make a difference to some people, but if it’s not accessible to all or doesn’t have an effect on the entire market, it’s not considered disruptive.

Although the introduction of cars in the 19th century was a revolutionary innovation, not everyone was able to afford them and so they didn’t become a commodity until much later.

Horse-drawn carriages remained as the primary mode of transport for a long time after the introduction of motorised vehicles – in fact until the Ford Model T was launched. It was a mass-produced car that made vehicles more affordable for everyone and is therefore considered a disruptive innovation.

The history of disruptive innovation

The idea of a disruptive innovation was first introduced by Harvard Business School scholar Clayton M. Christensen in 1995. He wrote a paper called Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave and then discussed the theory further in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma.

This latter book examined the evolution of disk drives but formed the argument that its the business model that allows for a product to become a disruptive innovation rather than the technology itself.

The term is now considered ‘modern jargon’ by some thinkers and publications, although it’s still widely used.

Examples of disruptive innovation in technology

The iPhone Although products aren’t necessarily always the definition of disruptive innovation, the iPhone is one that had a huge impact on the industry. It redefined communication and although at launch had a pretty narrow focus, quickly became mainstream, mobilising the laptop and developing a new business model in the process – one that relied upon app developers (a new, revolutionary concept in itself) to make it a success.

The iPhone completely disrupted the technological status quo – as smartphones because a way to replace laptops and evolved into the iPad – even further eradicating the need for a laptop.

Video on demand The concept of streaming TV programmes at any time to your TV would have been completely insane probably a decade ago.

The ability to stream content using the internet direct to the TV has completely disrupted the market. According to a recent report by the Office of National Statistics, half of adults now consume content using streaming services.

But it’s also disrupted the advertising market, with an entirely new revenue stream for sponsors and advertisers, shifted the balance in rights and caused startups to overtake traditional TV networks in popularity and income.

Digital photography Digital photography is a solid example of disruptive innovation, because not only did it introduce a technology – and whole ecosystem of accessories that grew in popularity because of it (such as memory cards, photo printers etc.), but it also completely shifted the manufacturer market, knocking Kodak, one of the previous market leaders, into oblivion.

The concept of digital photography was actually developed by Kodak engineer Steve Sasson, but it wasn’t popularised by the firm because Kodak wanted to concentrate on film – its bread and butter. Unfortunately, other firms jumped onto the idea and it completely revolutionised photography, leaving film a hobbyist technology in many cases, rather than a commercial opportunity.

Source: ITPRO