Exhale and Drink Up! [Researchers accidentally turn carbon dioxide into ethanol]

Source: Researchers accidentally turn carbon dioxide into ethanol

And you thought that small molecule organic chemistry was already researched far and widely. What a surprise to find a catalyst with the capability to turn CO2 into C2H5OH.

Read the full article here: https://www.engadget.com/2016/10/18/researchers-accidentally-turn-carbon-dioxide-into-ethanol/

This would have very interesting industrial applications and could potentially partly solve the issue of Global Warming by “recycling” CO2.

Well who knows–one day we might even have a small gadget which turns the air we exhale into the liquid to spice up our drinks . . .

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Frightening!–Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway


Jeep driven remotely into a ditch

Car driven into the ditch controlled remotely. Picture from Wired article

A Wired journalist volunteered as a test dummy as hackers took complete control of his car remotely from a laptop:

Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It | WIRED.

When will we learn that security is not some frosting you can add to the top of the cake after making it. Security has to be architected in from the beginning!

This story clearly shows how deadly important cooperation between all trades in making a car became. It had been already difficult when the first anti-block breaks came into cars. The mechanical engineers did not trust the electronic guys (as I was told by a colleague in 1978 who came from the car manufacturing industry).

I just hope the car industry wakes up and acts before driving mom and pop cars into lakes becomes a large scale internet game.

Read the full article on Wired here.

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Great Book: Tim Cole, Ossi Urchs—Digital Enlightenment Now!

I met Tim Cole around 12 years ago when we discussed the need for digital identity for transactions on the Internet. We met at many conferences since and we became good friends. He asked me recently to review the book that he wrote together with Ossi Urchs (1954–2014). Here my five cents:

Book Cover of the book reviewed

Digital Enlightenment Now!–Book cover (source: amazon.com)

This book is a must read for everybody who has had electricity available during the last couple of years. The authors, Tim Cole and Ossi Urchs, take us on a philosophical, historical and sociological journey on innovation and the thing called Internet, shedding light on diverse aspects that are usually not discussed in a technology context.

In our society we usually witness a lot of technophobia and neophobia—eschewing the new and novel. The book gives us the tools to fence off the doomsayers.

The authors have analyzed the historic context (ancient Greek philosophers, Indian culture, etc.), looked into changes for society and commerce, discussed digitalisation leading to acceleration, pointed out how networking leads to change and predicted an end to the mass media market as we know it today.

The power of networking is explained using Metcalf’s Law and swarm intelligence. The Digital Native is being redefined and the behaviour of the young generation in light of the new technologies is defended—attention disorder (ADHD) might be a gift and not an illness.

Acceleration in network adoption (25% in 2000—85% now) went hand in hand with technical progress: In 20 years our internet speed went from 56 kb/s to 56 Mb/s.

National identity will lose importance, the young generation is pushing for a new understanding of democracy. This trend will affect business: a company that blocks Facebook is becoming “unworkforcable.” Turning into digital Bedouins we will let the border between work hours and off-time blur. Work 2.0 will make the 9—5 job disappear.

Having been a spokesperson for the international Liberty Alliance Project (2001—09; defining Network Identity, Federated Identity, Privacy Trust) I was very interested in the further chapters discussing the diverse aspects of privacy, anonymity and pseudonymity—again in a historical, ethical, societal and business context. These chapters alone are worth getting your hands on the book.

I enjoyed reading this book very much and I will come back to single chapters for re-reading. The authors have to be congratulated for writing such a rich encyclopaedia on the technology that drives our time and affects all aspects of our lives.

Highly recommended—a must read. Bet you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

Here the text from the back cover of the book:

During the Enlightenment of the 18th century societies in Europe threw off oppressive regimes, freed cities from the bondage of the medieval estate-based society, and defined a set of basic human rights that helped shape their sense of self to this day. Today, we as citizens of an increasingly digitized and networked world are in a similar situation. We, too, need the muster the confidence and creativity to rethink rules, values and categories that define our society and the courage to dare to think for ourselves, as Immanuel Kant, the father of modern Enlightenment, demanded in his famous dictum “sapere aude!”

Tim Cole is an expert on Internet, eBusiness, Digital Identity, Social Web and IT Security. Born 1950 in Washington, he has lived in Germany and Austria for over 40 years, pursuing a career as a journalist, book author, TV moderator and public speaker on technology trends and their impact on business processes and markets.

Ossi Urchs (1954 †2014), public speaker, moderator and TV expert, was the original German „Internet Guru“, not only because of his signature red dreadlocks. His formed a successful media production company, FFT, and joined Tim Cole as moderator of the TV show “E-Talk” on n-tv, the German cnn affiliate.

Links to the book:

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New Exoskeleton Lets Paraplegic Walk

Paraplegic walks with exoskeleton

Paraplegic Man strolls the streets in NYC with an exoskeleton. Image from IEEE.org (Eliza Strickland)

The article quoted below starts:

[On July 14th, 2015,] a paralyzed man strapped on a pair of robotic legs and stepped out a hotel door, joining the flow of rushing pedestrians on a sidewalk in midtown Manhattan. The user, Robert Woo, was demonstrating a new exoskeleton unveiled this week, the ReWalk Personal 6.0 from Israel’s ReWalk Robotics. He got a few curious looks as he strode forward in his sleek black gear, but the fast-walking New Yorkers didn’t slow down or clear space for him.

Read the full story here and have a look at the videos:

ReWalk Robotics’s New Exoskeleton Lets Paraplegic Stroll the Streets of NYC – IEEE Spectrum.

This is a nice follow-up on my last weeks post with the seeing cane for the blind.

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Smart Cane with Facial Recognition and GPS

Blind Cane User

Blind Cane User. Image Source: Birmingham City University web site

It is about time that contemporary modern technology is being used for the vision impaired beyond the mere usage of computers.

Students at the Birmingham City University packed a lot of brains into a cane turning it into a “smart cane.” The ‘XploR’ mobility cane, being developed by ICT students Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett, uses smartphone technology to recognise familiar faces from up to 10 metres away. The cane also features GPS functionality to aid navigation says the article on the university web site.

I like the fact that this project did not start–as usual–with a technology focus but that the students started with market research to find out what key features would be desirable in such a novel device. They came up with the following features for the XploR:

  • Detects faces 10m away
  • Uses facial recognition
  • Vibrates if it sees a known face
  • Will provide turn-by-turn guidance via earpiece/bluetooth to friends, family and other places
  • Warns about obstacles in the way
Face recognition diagram.

Face recognition diagram. Image source: DailyMail

We will need look into more areas to put technologies to good use for the functionally challenged and the growing rate of the elderly.

Read more here:

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Swiss ICT Awards 2014: The Winners


The much sought-after award trophy. Image from the official website.

On November 5th, 2014 the Swiss ICT Award ceremony was held in the KKL Lucerne. Many companies had applied for the prestigious award and the Jury earlier this year had selected the finalists for the last round. See the finalists for the Swiss ICT Award 2014 here and the finalists for the Swiss ICT Newcomer Award here. Everybody who had been nominated as finalist can consider himself a winner.

The objective of the Swiss ICT Award is to promote entrepreneurship and the acceptance of ICT entrepreneurs and companies in Swiss society. The winner serve as role models and motivators for the entire ICT industry.” (from the official Award web site).

This year again for the jury the decision was a difficult one to select the best of the best.

iart wins with “MegaFaces”

2014-11-05 19.30.40 sm

Reto Lipp the event moderator congratulates iart CEO Valentin Spiess. Photo by the author.

The Basel company iart took home the grand price for its project realized during the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year. The company combines mechanical, software engineering with design competence and art and thus combines interesting capabilities and expertise to tackle “impossible” projects.

From the official Award web site:

“The Mount Rushmore of the digital age”: with MegaFaces, three-dimensional objects (faces) can be scanned in a 3D photo booth developed by iart and graphically displayed as illuminated reliefs of up to 8 metres high. MegaFaces was developed for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

The jury’s verdict for giving iart the award: In addition to the complexity of the installation as a whole and the innovations inside it, the jury was especially impressed that the interdisciplinary solution, which combines software and hardware, was developed and realised by iart down to the smallest detail. In addition to the first three-dimensional, large-scale LED wall, the project utilised a specially-developed 3D photo booth and software previously never before seen on the market. iart is an outstanding example of what Swiss IT can be and the possibilities it offers.

See the company video here:

MegaFaces Pavilion and kinetic facade, Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 from Asif Khan on Vimeo.

Newcomer 2014: iRewind with “AirRewind – OnAirCamera”

Again, from the official Award web site:

iRewind's patented OnAirCamera system

iRewind’s patented OnAirCamera system

“iRewind convinced the jury as a result of its patented OnAirCamera system, which combines film cameras and software with a smartphone app and geolocation, and streams multi-angle HD recordings directly to smartphones without the need for a server or mobile data connection.

The jury’s justification for the award: Developments in the video market, rising connectivity and the ever growing use of smartphones are unmistakable signs that there is massive market potential to be tapped by combining these elements and that new solutions will stimulate and fundamentally alter the face of the market. This Swiss solution is a technically outstanding project in a hugely popular field and combines perfectly timed innovation with top-quality implementation.”

Special Award 2014: Martin Odersky, Professor of Programming Methods at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, founder of the programming language Scala

Prof. Martin Odersky

Prof. Martin Odersky, EPFL (picture from the official Award page)

The jury this year also decided on a Special Award and gave it to Martin Odersky for developing Scala, a programming language which unites the best facets from the worlds of functional and object-oriented programming. A paradigm shift is currently taking place in software development as functional programming comes to the fore. Scala is a typical pivot language: it supports functional programming, but combines it with classical object-oriented methods. Scala – on which platforms such as Twitter are based – is regarded by many as a possible successor to Java on the JVM platform. Odersky’s language is platform-independent, extendable and scalable, enabling it to develop alongside the requirements and users of the next generation of software.

Odersky, a citizen of Germany, teaches at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). As another scholar/inventor of international renown, he is representative of the innovative force and successful commercialisation of research projects in the industry in the best tradition of Swiss universities  (quoted from the official Award web site)

Public Award 2014: Federal Office of Topography swisstopo with map.geo.admin.ch

Image of map application

map.geo.admin.ch (image from the official website)

Again, from the official Award web site: The Federal Office of Topography swisstopo measures Switzerland, surveys and documents (geological, geodetic and topographical) changes in the landscape and produces maps of Switzerland. Version 3 of map.geo.admin.ch – Switzerland’s federal map viewer – makes geodata and maps faster, more mobile and more flexible thanks to open-source software, cloud computing and a mobile app based on HTML5. 

For these services, swisstopo was the popular favourite among all finalists in an online voting poll.

Note that last month this same team from that public office also won the CH Open Source Award (see my previous blog entry).

For me it is an honor to serve in this jury and to get to know so many interesting companies. My sincere congratulations to all the finalists and the winners!


The winners of the 2014 Swiss ICT Award on stage.

The winners of the 2014 Swiss ICT Award on stage. Photo by the author.

You can find pictures from this event on this page from the Swiss IT Magazine.

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CH Open Source Awards 2014: Here are the Winners

Award Ceremony Oct. 8, 2014 in Berne. Picture: Matthias Stürmer

For several years I have had the honor to have been serving in the jury for the Swiss Open Source Awards. This year the decision was a tough one. Entries were interesting and mature. But the jury had to come to a decision. Today the winners were announced in the context of the Open Source Business Forum in Berne/Switzerland.

The announcement had been made on Twitter pointing to the latest news page on www.opensource.ch. For the convenience of the English readership here an extract from that page in English:

The CH Open Source Awards honor companies, public entities, open source communities and individuals who have acted boldly and innovatively by developing or using open source software in a variety of ways. This year was the first time foreign open source projects were included in the selection process.

On Wednesday, October 8, 2014 the OSS Awards 2014 were awarded as part of the Open Source Business Forum in Berne. This conference brought together computer science experts of Deutsche Telekom, Swiss Re, Swisscom, green.ch, Visana, Rieter and other companies discussing how to use Open Source software in a professional environment. Moreover, the renowned Open Invention Network was introduced in Switzerland for the first time. This global industry consortium acquires software patents to Linux and other open source projects to protect from patent trolls. This week the Swiss Open Systems User Group “/ch/open” signed up as a member of the Open Invention Network.

And here are the winners:

OpenELEC is a media center based completely on free software. It is perfect for Home Cinema Systems and Media Center usage. By providing an optimized version for the very low-cost Raspberry Pi hardware OpenELEC became accessible to a wide user community  and has now more than 200,000 active users. Originally a developer from Germany, Stefan Raue has developed ​​a big part of the project from 2007 on in Switzerland. He currently lives and works in Germany. OpenELEC proves that the combination of free software with cheaper, also open hardware has enormous potential.

With Symfony CMF CMS functionality can easily be added to applications that use the popular PHP framework Symfony components. Symfony CMF was established in 2010 on a Hackday at the ETH and is developed by the company Liip AG in Zurich. The project has blossomed into a successful open source project with currently twelve active developers world wide. One of the most prominent users of the platform in Switzerland is the TV station Continue reading

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