GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – NOVEMBER 2017

China Wants To Track And Identify All Of Its Citizens

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds.

The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy.

The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is now under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai.

The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project.

However, some researchers said it was unclear when the system would be completed, as the development was encountering many difficulties due to the technical limits of facial recognition technology and the large population base.

At present, similar systems operate on a smaller level, including police databases and city or provincial ID pools.

Using Apple’s Earbuds and iPhone As A Hearing Aid

 A Swiss start-up has developed an iPhone app called Fennex that works with Apple’s $159 AirPods wireless earbuds to create a hearing aid.

Alex Mari, CEO of the start-up, says that he chose Apple’s devices and mobile platform for the app in part because of their popularity, but also because he thinks an Android phone would result in more latency when processing sound.

The Fennex app, currently free though it may eventually charge for certain features, is still in its earliest days. Mari says today’s version functions like a “cheap hearing aid”: it simply tests your hearing in each ear and uses those results to act as a personalized, adjustable amplifier. If you’re having trouble hearing in a class, for instance, you could place your phone near the lectern while you’re sitting a few rows back and listening in on a pair of AirPods.

But upgrades are coming, Mari says: the app is slated to gain features that will help reduce unwanted noise and feedback. And beyond helping people who just want to hear better in some situations, the software could eventually work with with Apple’s hardware to serve as a viable alternative to a regular hearing aid for people who have moderate hearing loss, he believes.

“We want to get as close as we can to hearing aid technology,” he says.

Amazon Buys 3-D Body Modelling Company

 Amazon has acquired Body Labs, a company with a stated aim of creating true-to-life 3D body models to support various b2b software applications — such as virtually trying on clothes or photorealistic avatars for gaming.

One source suggested the price-tag Amazon paid for Body Labs could be $100M+. However a second well-placed source suggested it’s closer to $70M than $100M — so we’re pegging it at between $50M and $70M.

New York based Body Labs was founded in March 2013, according to CrunchBase, and had raised more than $10M across two investment rounds — closing an $8M Series A in November 2015.

The company says its AI, computer vision, and body modeling expertise stems from research started at Brown University and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.

Smart Bandage Controlled By Smartphone

Imagine if a wound dressing could release fresh doses of medication over time, or even different types of medication at specific times. Well, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT have developed just such a thing … and it could be controlled by a smartphone.

The bandage is made of electrically conductive fibers that are coated in a hydrogel. That gel can in turn contain medication such as antibiotics, growth factors or painkillers – this means that various medications could be present within one bandage, loaded onto different fibres.

An attached microcontroller (about the size of a postage stamp) sends voltage through select fibers at select times. When it does so, those fibers heat up, also heating the gel that covers them. This causes the gel to release the medication into the wound site.

The microcontroller could be triggered wirelessly, by a smartphone or tablet. It’s also conceivable, however, that thread-based sensors could be incorporated into the bandage. These would measure glucose, pH and other indicators of skin tissue health. As a result, the bandage could autonomously trigger itself to deliver medication as needed.

Apple and GE Partner To Create Internet of Things Platform

General Electric and Apple have announced a partnership aimed at bringing GE’s industrial Internet of Things (IoT) platform Predix to Apple’s iPhones and iPads.

The companies will provide developers a new software development kit to make industrial IoT apps for Apple’s operating system iOS. As part of the partnership, GE will standardize on iPhone and iPad for mobile devices, and promote Mac as a choice for its global workforce, while Apple will promote Predix as the industrial IoT analytics platform of choice for its customers and developers.

“Working together, GE and Apple are giving industrial companies access to powerful apps that help them tap into the predictive data and analytics of Predix right on their iPhone or iPad,” said GE Chief Executive John Flannery.

It’s a major announcement, but few people have yet realised its implications.