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Interface is our magazine about current and emerging technologies and markets

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Issue 57: Autumn 2014

Article summaries:

Don’t start with the device

The ‘Internet of Things’ is no longer about things. Nor, really, has it ever been about the internet. It is about us – you, me and the services we use. And it lays down a challenge to companies in every industry. What comes first – the device or the service?

Hoppy ever after?

Beer has had a taste of innovation in recent years and there’s a growing appetite for more. As consumers become more selective with how they spend their hard-earned money, they are demanding something special. So we decided to see what we could bring to the party, using our ‘science-led innovation’ approach.

A healthy balance

Personalised healthcare is the new frontier of the 21st century – and health-monitoring devices are at the forefront of this trend, with wearable devices becoming increasingly popular. The best devices look simple but require careful balancing of several design challenges to yield optimal results.

The missing link

The wireless link is the lifeline for all connected wearable devices. Its performance is crucial – both the battery life and the user experience will be poor if this link is unreliable. But radio connections are invisible – so how do you perfect something you can’t see or feel?

Turning ideas into reality

Scientific research has a crucial role to play in the fight against many of the major challenges facing the world. But too many promising innovations never see active service. So how can we bridge the gap from the laboratory to the front line?

Big Brother – but only when you need him

Nobody likes being watched. But for many young drivers it can be the only route to affordable car insurance. The cost of buying and installing a ‘black box’ in a car makes mass-market adoption unlikely. We are taking a different approach – with DropTagDRIVE.

Getting under the skin

Today’s therapies are often far from ideal – particularly when it comes to ‘malfunctions’ in the nervous system and the organs it contains. Enter neurostimulation – which directly influences the body’s regulation systems by applying electrical signals to specific nerves.

An emerging trend

The development of medical products for emerging markets is undergoing a transformation. The effects could be far-reaching – paving the way for a new approach to medical device design in Western markets too.

Life under the ocean waves

Although vast and inhospitable, the oceans are an active frontier for industry and commerce – such as the quest to exploit the last remaining reserves of oil and gas. We think the time is right to apply new techniques to the underwater world of acoustic modems in the oil and gas industry.

In the blink of an eye

The blink of an eye, a flash of lightning, the bursting of a balloon – all too fast for human eyes and brains to perceive and analyse. That’s why scientists and engineers often resort to high-speed photography and video to visualise fast-moving phenomena.

A sense of place

We may at last be opening the door to smart buildings. A communication technology which allows humans – via the ubiquitous smartphone – to effortlessly interact with their environment may finally enable our buildings to become truly intelligent.

A joint effort

Artificial joints have become a fact of life for many people. Computational modelling opens up new possibilities for training surgeons and planning surgery – and, in turn, improvements in the lifespan of articifical joints.

A channel for innovation?

Demand for radio spectrum is growing all the time, not least from television programmes, feature films and live events which increasingly rely on dozens – if not hundreds – of radio microphones. So can technology developments in radio equipment allow more efficient use of the spectrum available?

Up close and personal

Conventional molecular diagnostic platforms are struggling to cope with the demands of personalised medicine. The last few years have seen an emergence of semiconductor-based technologies in clinical diagnostics. But intelligent system design and development will be central to their integration.

The customer is always right…

Creating products that consumers desire – and therefore want to buy – comes from carefully listening to, and understanding, the needs of potential users. But how does a company that’s grown from solving technical challenges hold these fragile ideas aloft during the crush of engineering problem solving?

Seeing is believing – or is it?

The ‘observer effect’ describes how the observation of an event can affect its outcome. To tackle this challenge, we’ve developed a new ‘label-free’ system for analysing a range of biological molecules. It could even help researchers move away from the current model in life sciences of one instrument per test.

Issue 56: Spring 2014

Article summaries:

Waste of our time?

Waste is an inevitable part of the industrialised world in which we live – but the current scale of waste production should not be such a foregone conclusion. Waste will reshape the future of manufacturing and design – and, in doing so, will forge new and profitable ways of thinking and working.

Making a world of difference

The Nokia 1100 is arguably the world’s most successful phone. Although humble by today’s standards, this phone was the reference for a revolutionary new digital service that truly changed the world. M-PESA now handles a third of Kenya’s GDP and triggered a global revolution in mobile financial services.

Game changer

A handful of different models exist to explain the process of assembling unfamiliar movements into a finely honed skilful execution of some activity through practice. New technologies promise to be a game changer (literally) by delivering new forms of feedback, measuring factors that were not previously measurable, and making those measurements more accessible to non-elite athletes.

Stimulating developments

Today’s sleek and powerful smartphones have radically changed our personal behaviour by transforming the way we communicate with the world around us. If the successful track record of the mobile phone industry is any indication of the future development of smart implants, then the next 5-10 years will be stimulating.

What do you know?

A strong consumer insight is often the starting point for innovation. But knowing you have got as much intelligence as possible from the rich data source that is each and every consumer is a challenge. In the future, vast amounts of data could be collected ‘invisibly’ from the consumer.

Horses for courses

Understanding what is going on around us – particularly things we can’t actually see but need to control – can be an interesting challenge. That’s where the technique of analysis and modelling comes in. Computational fluid dynamics is a powerful tool – but is it the right one for your challenge?

Right first time

If at first you don’t succeed… it could cost you a lot of money. That’s why design for manufacture is a vital component of product development. Once a design is ‘complete’, throwing it over the fence to production and just expecting everything to run smoothly is rather optimistic.

Is less invasion more?

Treatment of cardiovascular disease is changing. Complex procedures are being replaced by more advanced – yet simple – therapies. But while there’s a need for simplifying surgical and therapeutic procedures, treatments also need to evolve to further reduce the risks of serious side effects.

Mix and match

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and it’s not surprising that, when something is done well, others decide there is no point starting from scratch. It’s what seems to be happening in the world of consumer electronics and connectivity.

Beware the curve ball

The classic bell curve of market adoption is well known – running from early to late adopters via the peak of mass market adoption. But less familiar are the ‘S’ curves which can be used to depict the progressive innovations which are required to maintain market share in the face of burgeoning competition.

Where now for white space?

The original idea of ‘white space’ was to create a new way of accessing under-used UHF spectrum for new services. So far, the concept of white space has spawned the idea of the Weightless open wireless standard – but it could be adapted for services ranging from machine-to-machine through to wideband mobile.

Our most precious raw material

The home computing revolution can be traced back to a handful of devices that captured the imagination of a generation. If the high-tech industries of the future are to have the human raw material that drives progress and innovation, we all need to enthuse the next generation to get more involved in the practical detail of technology.

Making the connection

The world is steadily moving towards realising the prediction made a few years ago of 50 billion connected devices – the so-called ‘Internet of Things’. Tomorrow’s world will be far more connected than yesterday’s – in ways we haven’t yet imagined. It makes you wonder how many businesses are truly ready for the connected world.

Rallying the troops

Companion diagnostics involves analysing how genetic make-up affects an individual’s response to drugs. This creates a strong opportunity for emerging DNA sequencing technologies. The future of companion diagnostics could be choosing not one but the right set of weapons at the right time for each person.

Designed to please

Creating a great consumer product today means producing something that people love. It has to be useful, look fantastic and delight the user when they interact with it. But that feeling of delight doesn’t happen by accident – the user experience is designed in from day one.