GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – AUGUST 2020

We’ve Been Seriously Underestimating UK Productivity

 The UK Office for National Statistics has said it will revise its flagship measures of the UK economy after it made huge errors in the measurement of prices and output in the telecoms industry during the past two decades.

Rectifying the mistakes will increase the growth rate of the UK economy over 20 years, change the diagnosis of the country’s productivity crisis and raise serious questions over the measurement of inflation.

But improvements in the measurement will not be introduced into the national accounts until the autumn of 2021. The statistical agency said recently that a three-year investigation revealed that it had failed to take account of technological improvements in the telecoms and internet sector.

New Non-cuttable Material Will Make Bike Locks More Secure

Researchers claim they’ve manufactured the world’s first non-cuttable material — with a mere 15% steel’s density — which they say could be made into a lightweight armour or indestructible bike lock, according to a paper recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Named Proteus, the new material consists of ceramic spheres arranged in a cellular aluminium structure to resist angle grinders, drills, or similar brute-force cutting tools. Stemming from the U.K’s Durham University and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the novel material takes inspiration from the durable and cellular skin of grapefruit, in addition to the rock-hard, fracture-resistant aragonite shells of molluscs.

Proteus’ outer plate will give way to drill bits or angle grinders, but when either reaches the embedded ceramic spheres, the material begins to vibrate in a way that blunts the tool’s sharp edges as fine particles of ceramic dust fill in the gaps of the matrix-like structure of the metal.

These, in turn, make it even more difficult to cut — since the faster one grinds or drills the harder cutting gets “due to interatomic forces between the ceramic grains,” and “the force and energy of the drill is turned back on itself, and it is weakened and destroyed by its own attack.”

But what happens when you use if for a bike lock and then lose your key?

Your Robot Will Massage You Now

 You can now get a massage without having to rely on another human being or leave your home, thanks to newly developed robot masseurs.

French company Capsix Robotics and researchers at the University of Plymouth in the UK have both created robots that can give personalised massages.

The Capsix model has a robotic arm with sensors and a camera that allow it to adapt to the individual user’s body shape. It has been programmed with a range of massage protocols developed by physiotherapists, and users can choose which programme suits their needs.

Japan’s New Bullet Train Can Run Through An Earthquake

 Japan’s latest record-breaking bullet train doesn’t only run faster and smoother — it’s also able to transport passengers to safety in the event of an earthquake.

The N700S — the ‘S’ stands for ‘Supreme’ — entered into service July 1 and serves the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which links Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka.

It can run up to 360 kilometres per hour, a new record set during a test run in 2019, making it one of the fastest trains in the world. The operating speed, however, will be capped at 285 kilometres per hour.

It’s the first new bullet train model to be added to the Tokaido Shinkansen line by the Central Japan Railway (JR Central) in 13 years, a launch that was originally timed to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 — now postponed to 2021.

Coincidentally, Japan inaugurated the Tokaido Shinkansen line in 1964, connecting Tokyo and Osaka, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo that same year. It was the world’s first high speed railway line.

Forget 5G!  What Will You Do When 6G Arrives?

 Just as the earliest 5G networks began to go live two years ago, a handful of scientists were eager to publicise their initial work on the next-generation 6G standard, which was at best theoretical back then, and at worst an ill-timed distraction.

But as 5G continues to roll out, 6G research continues, and now top mobile hardware developer Samsung is weighing in with predictions of what’s to come. Surprisingly, the South Korean company is preparing for early 6G to launch two years ahead of the commonly predicted 2030 timeframe, even though both the proposed use cases and the underlying technology are currently very shaky.

Given that the 5G standard already enabled massive boosts in data bandwidth and reductions in latency over 4G, the questions of what more 6G could offer — and why — are key to establishing the need for a new standard.

On the “what” side, Samsung expects 6G to offer 50 times higher peak data rates than 5G, or 1,000Gbps, with a “user experienced data rate” of 1Gbps, plus support for 10 times more connected devices in a square kilometre. Additionally, Samsung is targeting air latency reductions from 5G’s under 1 millisecond to under 100 microseconds, a 100 times improvement in error-free reliability, and twice the energy efficiency of 5G.

Microsoft Analysed Its Remote Workers – More Productivity!

 In a study across Microsoft’s workforce on the effects of remote work, it was found that employees have been communicating more efficiently and working more varied hours.

There were more meetings, but meetings were shorter. Managers were impacted the most by the shift to remote work, with significant increases in meeting hours and messages sent.

In the Microsoft team a trend cropped up very quickly after the shift to remote work: virtual social meetings. Responding to the lack of natural touchpoints — grabbing lunch in the cafeteria, popping by someone’s desk — employees found new ones. In one group, these ranged from group lunches to happy hours with themes such as “pyjama day” and “meet my pet.” Overall, social meetings went up 10% in a month.

At the same time, scheduled one-on-ones among employees went up 18%, showing that people would sooner add meetings to their schedules than lose connections

NASA Is Going Back To The Moon – With Japanese Partners

 Last month the USA and Japan signed a formal agreement regarding further collaboration in human space exploration. It gives NASA a much-needed partner for its Artemis moon programme—without which the agency would find it much more difficult to meet the long-term goals of establishing a sustainable permanent presence on the moon.

The US-Japanese space relationship goes back a long time, says John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University: “Japan has been basically our best international partner over the last 40-plus years.” It may have declined to work on the space shuttle program in the 1970s, but it reversed course in the early 1980s and signed on with the International Space Station program.

Since then, Japan’s space capabilities have progressed rapidly. The country found a reliable launch vehicle in the H-IIA rocket, built by Mitsubishi, and JAXA, its space agency, has found success in a number of high-profile science missions, like HALCA (the first space-based mission for very long baseline interferometry, in which multiple telescopes are used simultaneously to study astronomical objects), Hayabusa (the first asteroid sample return mission), the lunar probe SELENE, IKAROS (the first successful demonstration of solar sail technology in interplanetary space), and Hayabusa2 (expected to return to Earth with samples from the asteroid Ryugu in December).

U.S. Venture Capital Funding Falls Because Of Pandemic

 Venture-capital funding for U.S. start-ups declined in the first half of the year, threatening a key source of information-technology innovation for larger companies.

Start-up founders and executives say the pandemic is prompting investors to shy away from risky bets on nascent firms and untested technologies, and instead channel cash into proven ventures.

“Now is just an atrocious time to be looking to raise money,” said Domm Holland, chief executive and co-founder of Fast, an online-checkout software developer.

Mr. Holland said the list of issues giving investors jitters includes a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, mounting economic uncertainty and an inability to meet potential backers face to face.

 

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