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INTERFACE

Interface is our magazine about current and emerging technologies and markets

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Issue 58: Spring 2015

Article summaries:

Quality by design

If your washing machine suffers a mechanical failure, it’s annoying. But what if you’re a diabetic and your injector pen jams in the middle of your insulin dose? That’s why a ‘quality by design’ approach is crucial for product development.

No batteries required

Whilst processing power has increased dramatically, battery performance has stagnated. Enter energy harvesting – with devices powered by scavenging energy from the environment or from mechanical actions that are part of a product’s normal use.

Changing places…

When you add milk to your cornflakes, how quickly do they go soggy? This is just one example of ‘interfacial phenomena’ – and testing and understanding them adds an extra dimension to our product development activities.

I can see clearly now…

Globally, about 20 million cataract operations are carried out each year. But can we do better – and ensure all patients have glasses-free vision altogether? Imagine having your vision corrected to a degree that is better than you’ve ever had.

A retail revolution

Innovation is rapidly becoming a 'must have' for the market leaders in the retail sector. But knowing which technology solution to implement is critical to success. You need to consider what the right innovation path is for your company.

Dawn of a golden era?

Point-of-care diagnostics are about to be at the epicentre of two colliding sets of trends in the consumer and healthcare markets. But solutions need to seamlessly integrate into people’s lives – so putting the human at the centre is vital.

The wow factor

Make it smaller, lighter, lower power… oh, and don’t forget the performance improvement. That was the challenge from our long-standing client Northrop Grumman when it needed the ‘wow’ factor to stand out from its competitors.

A disruptive influence…

From connected cash registers to mobile payments, the financial sector is experiencing technology disruption at an increasing pace. A common theme is scalability – using the power of consumer volume to push the art of the possible.

It all adds up

There’s more to numbers than meets the eye – in more ways than one. Applying the right maths can give you a whole new perspective on things you thought you understood. It all adds up to great product development.

Part of the fabric

How a chat in the pub has led to the development of wearable technology that is truly wearable. XelfleX uses very low-cost plastic optical fibre embedded into a shirt to measure joint angles for things like sports training.

A marvel of science

The largely unseen optical fibre that we take so much for granted today is a marvel of science. When a fibre sensor system is implemented well, new users are astounded at the levels of performance that can be achieved.

A healthy dose of protection

Wireless communications are now pervasive in our lives. Just as smart homes are gaining a foothold, medical devices with communication capabilities are also becoming mainstream. But security measures need to be balanced against potential risks.

A new wave of innovation

We have created a glimpse of future disruptive technology – a radio built purely from computing power. Our first demonstration creates 14 simultaneous cellular base station signals. But it is the potential which is so exciting…

You know it makes sense

Current surgical devices make very limited use of integrated sensing, yet the potential for sensors to revolutionise surgery is huge. They could enable even non-surgeons to quickly understand how to execute (simulated!) surgery that is almost impossible today.

Every cloud has a silver lining

Recent years have seen a massive rise in the everyday use of ‘cloud’-based applications such as messaging and data storage. But the building blocks of this revolution can work equally well in other industries – such as communications networking.

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.