Hyperloop Comes To India

The Hyperloop is going on a roadshow to showcase their new transportation technology. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) to develop their own hyperloop system. The agreement is the result of talks which started in December last year.

The India project is important not only for HTT but also for the Andhra Pradesh province. The project itself has both private and public proponents and investors. The stakeholders will be concerned with the route, making sure that this will answer the needs of the two cities as well as the surrounding areas

The bold action will develop a 27-kilometer (16.7-mile) tunnel between Amaravati and Vijayawada in the Andhra Pradesh province. This will cut down the travel time between the two cities from one hour to around 6 minutes. The first phase of the project will be a feasibility study which is expected to last 6 months and will start by October. Construction will be the project’s phase two and is expected to employ more than 2,500 people.

Nara Lokesh, the Cabinet Minister for Information Technology, Panchayati Raj, and Rural Development for the State of Andhra Pradesh, says that the Hyperloop will spur the development of IT in the form of technology parks and software clusters in the Andhra Pradesh region.

HTT has not yet created a prototype, but the company asserts that the technology already exists. As far as the Andhra Pradesh government is concerned, this is enough for them to sign off on the new technology. There are other countries interested in implementing a hyperloop within their borders. These include South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and some European countries.

Sold on the Idea of Hyperloop

HTT’s rival, Hyperloop One, has already proven their capability by building a model of the pod, the track and the tube on which the pod glides over. They have also run the pod on the track. They had a 28-foot pod on a test run reaching up to 200 miles per hour. There are other hyperloop companies in the world, as well as in universities where they are researching to make the technology better. Elon Musk’s HTT is not an exception. It is estimated that there are more than 800 engineers and technicians working for HTT, some of them on their free time for a portion of the equity.

The India project is important not only for HTT but also for the Andhra Pradesh province. The project itself has both private and public proponents and investors. The stakeholders will be concerned with the route, making sure that this will answer the needs of the two cities as well as the surrounding areas. The involvement of the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board will help ensure that HTT will be able to meet all regulatory requirements. For the project to continue unabated, it is important that it have full government approval and support for the duration of the project.

HTT’s presence in South Korea is also on the same level as India but without any dates announced. HTT has signed a memorandum of agreement with other South Korean companies and agencies. The United Arab Emirates has been in the running to acquire their own hyperloop services as well. The country is interested in the hyperloop transport program in the same way that they have put up the highest office building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. They have put a lot of money in projecting themselves into the future.

The hyperloop is a bold idea that plenty of countries want a taste of, not just because it is fast and efficient, but also because it represents transportation in the digital age. Like the driverless cars and drone taxis currently being developed and tested, industrialized nations do not want to be left out.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/transportation/hyperloop-comes-india/

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Depressed? Google Knows

Tech giant Google introduced a bold idea to help those who think they may be suffering from depression but are not yet ready to go to a physician. On the Google page, whenever there is a search for “depression,” a question will appear asking users if they want to take part in a questionnaire. This is a 9-question test that can help determine if the person is potentially depressive or not.

Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people.

Depression is a condition that is still not well-understood by the general population. People casually drop the word, as if depression means merely being sad about something. In addition, there is a stigma to depression because it is a mental health condition. There are still some people who believe that if you can get up in the morning without anything physically wrong with you, then you are healthy.

Depression is not quite well-accepted yet because a mental health issue, something the majority of people do not yet accept or understand. Even those who may have depression would rather deny that they are suffering from it—they would rather keep the condition to themselves instead of going to a doctor to have it confirmed and diagnosed. For a lot of people, it is better to be in doubt yet live in comfortable silence than to have it confirmed that you are mentally ill and experience humiliation from peers, friends, and even loved ones.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in America, statistics show that one in five people will have a depressive episode in their lifetime. Of these, only half will reach out for support.

Paving the Way for Mental Health Tech

Google’s approach is discreet, yet it has the research to back it up. NAMI also believes that this is a big step forward in helping those who have depression. The test itself offered by Google is just a first step. It is recommendatory in nature, and is not binding—only a qualified doctor would be in a position to determine depression and to subsequently prescribe medication.

The assistance and support is the key. According to NAMI, it takes an average of seven years between initial onset of symptoms to the time that the patient receives treatment. During that time, there are a lot of hurdles to treatment. First off, those who have depression would usually not want to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Even after being diagnosed for depression, the patient would often still be in denial. The stigma of mental illness is deep, often preventing the patient from understanding that the condition is treatable.

Clinical depression can worsen and last for months or even years. Getting a proper diagnosis is hard enough when the patient does not want, or is afraid, to be diagnosed. Sadly, the results of depression can get ultimately damaging, with more than one out of every ten people with depression ending up committing suicide.

Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people. Objectively, this is one way for such a simple request for information can help an individual.

Doctors are also in a similar dilemma. Most times, the people who notice the symptoms for depression are friends and family; however, they cannot approach the general practitioner to ask about a person’s health, due to confidentiality issues. Family and friends can only ask that their loved one submit to a test from a general practitioner (GP).

Google’s simple questionnaire can streamline the process of diagnosis and subsequent treatment. While what they have is not a substitute for a proper psychiatric assessment, it could eventually lead to a person getting one. This bold idea can save more lives in the long run.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/health/depressed-google-knows/

Online Learning, Engine For Diversity?

Diversity is a big issue in the workplace, even more so today in the advent of social media and instantly sharing experiences online especially for those who are not afraid of taking bold actions regarding the topic. In fact, it has created its own momentum in efforts to bring a wider range and a more equal distribution of people, culture, sexual orientation, and race.

Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

In the past few years, there have been more discussion about race since the civil liberties marches of the 1950s and 1960s. The issue is not just equality in law, but equality in everything else, from the workplace, opportunities, education, law enforcement, and in all other aspects of life.

There have been efforts at more diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace but sometimes the causality is in question. Understanding what causes more diversity in education or in employment can help in creating more opportunities for people of color and minorities.

Recently, a story came out stating that there is more diversity in Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program compared to its residential program. The online degree program had 212 enrollees, while the residential program only had 64 students.

Although the disparity is obvious, what is not is the cause. Are there more enrollees in the program because it is online, or is it due to the lower cost? The online degree costs $6,600, while the residential program costs $42,000 per year. This is important due to the more diverse enrollees in the online degree program. This also relates to having more enrollees for underrepresented minorities and women: are these sub-populations enticed to enroll because these are online courses, or because the cost is much cheaper?

There is also the separate issue about online courses, on whether there is a difference in results or learning between studying online and attending in the classroom. The only way to test this is in the ensuing employment, whether those who attended online courses have had as much success as those who attended the residential program.

Scaling Up Online Education

Images of different races of workers.

The experience in Georgia Tech is important for higher education in general. The school scaled up its online program to lower the cost of matriculation. It has resulted in an expanded enrollment, with more diversity. This can be a point to the use of online learning as a tool to increase diversity in the academe.

With today’s social climate, the more pertinent issue is how to prove that online learning can help fuel diversity. Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

Although the question of which is the better program in terms of employment output should be a separate issue, what is clear is that more students enroll in online courses, and this has allowed more enrollees from underrepresented minorities and women to avail of the program.

What is clear is that for whatever reason, whether it is due to being online, or due to the lower cost, there are more enrollees across the spectrum. This program may end up to be an agent of diversity in higher education.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/society/online-learning-diversity/

Will AdhereTech Smart Pill Bottles Increase Compliance?

Noncompliance refers to the failure of patients to take the medications prescribed to them. This costs the industry an estimated $280 billion each year and results in a 10% increase in hospitalizations. In fact, his issue could already be classified as a major public health problem.

In a study conducted by Dr. Kevin Volpp of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives, patients with heart failure who were given Internet-linked pill bottles and a cash incentive for taking their pills on time failed to increase medication adherence.

Researchers in drug companies work for years, sometimes even decades, in order to develop highly effective drugs to cure several illnesses. These pharmaceutical companies conduct several clinical trials to establish the efficacy of every medication. After, they go through the tough process of getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For medication to work, patients need to take them. A patient’s failure to take the prescribed medication could result in a hospital admission (or readmission). Researchers found that failure to doctor-prescribed drugs have resulted in an average of about 100,000 preventable deaths each year.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common excuses given for not taking the prescribed medications is forgetfulness. As a result, several companies have come up with different versions of smart pill bottles. The bold idea aims to provide a solution to the “forgetfulness” issue.

To validate the notion that forgetfulness is the reason behind the problem of non-adherence, Dr. Niteesh Choudhry, a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, conducted a randomized trial of 50,000 patients who were prescribed cardiovascular medications or antidepressants. Each patient was given one of three tools: a standard daily pillbox, a digital cap that functions like a stopwatch, and a pill bottle with toggles marking if the medication has been taken for the day.

The expectation was that patients who used the pill bottle with the digital cap would improve their pill-taking habits, but it surprisingly was not the case. It appeared that a reminder was not powerful enough as there was no improvement in their pill-taking habits, regardless of the tool they were given.

Internet of Things Makes Smarter Bottles

A proposed solution to the problem came in the form of “smart” pill bottles. Riding on the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, several companies developed their own version of an Internet-connected pill bottle and caps that can send reminders, through email or text messages, to take the pills. Relatives, caregivers, and other third parties may also get alerts so they can remind the patient about taking his or her medication. The smart bottles could be purchased from the manufacturers or are given out by pharmacists.

Hands sorting pills.

AdhereTech currently leads the pack of smart pill bottles manufacturers, partnering with the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, and healthcare firms to make give patients worldwide access to the smart pill bottles. AdhereTech’s wireless pill bottles automatically gather and send adherence data, with the company’s robust software system analyzing the information in real-time. Missing a dose will result in the patients receiving customizable interventions such as automated phone calls, text messages, or personalized support.

AdhereTech’s CEO, Josh Stein, claims that patients’ adherence to the medication regimen increased by an average of 24%. However, large-scale evaluations of the smart-bottle technology showed less encouraging results. In a study conducted by Dr. Kevin Volpp of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives, patients with heart failure who were given Internet-linked pill bottles and a cash incentive for taking their pills on time failed to increase medication adherence. The expected reduction in hospital readmission and lower health care costs did not materialize.

Smart pill bottles, even when partnered with cash incentives, did not work in patients who kept on failing to take their medication. It is becoming apparent that the reason behind medication non-adherence is not forgetfulness. In many cases, patients do not want to take their medications every day as medication reminds them of the illness or illnesses they have, a negative thought they do not want to welcome.

Reminder technology in the form of smart pill bottles is a bold idea, and is a great part of the solution. However, it is highly possible that there may be something else needed to change the patients’ behavior.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/health/adheretech-smart-pill-bottles/

Senators Push Technology Booster For Transportation

While it may be true that politicians opt for the traditional and familiar, growing transportation woes brought about by an exploding population and dwindling urban space has pushed legislators to boldly embrace technology and all the flighty ideas that come with them.

The proposed law will expand the Smart City Challenge grant program and set aside funds for medium and large communities which will amount to $80 million total.

Recently, two legislators proposed a law that is meant to support and boost high-tech and very advanced transportation systems which make use of big data, cutting-edge technology and other modern solutions.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) proposed the law amid the realization that flying cars and self-driving vehicles are no longer a figment of the imagination. They are being tested, observed, and will soon be rolled out to the general public.

Their rationale is for more communities to become open to innovations such as the bold idea of Hyperloop transit system, autonomous buses, and flying drone taxis.

No Longer a Question of If, But When

“Our ability to harness technology and innovation is the key to overcoming the problems we face in the 21st century,” Burr was quoted in a report from The Hill. Cortez Masto on the other hand, noted that people’s quality of life will be significantly improved when technology is used to replace transportation systems which are no longer effective. Columbus Ohio Skyline at night.

In the US, antiquated and deteriorating transport systems are threatening the growth of urban centers. According to the Financial Times, trillions of dollars are needed to revive the country’s transport system and bring it up to speed. Advancements were expected when President Donald Trump assumed power, with him bragging of $1 trillion to earmarked for infrastructure projects. People had expected modern train systems or rehabilitated roads and bridges, but until now, there’s still no concrete sign of these programs.

The Burr and Cortez Maso legislation, for its part, will be building on a grant program first established during the Obama administration. This was called the Smart City Challenge, a project which gave federal funding for creative and innovative transportation projects. It covered mid-sized cities in the United States.

How Columbus, Ohio Turned $50 Million to $500 Million

Columbus, Ohio won the Smart City Challenge in June 2016 with the help of its local business community. The city was adept at pulling public-private partnerships, turning $50 to $500 million and cornering pledges and investments from angel investors. The city planned to use electric vehicles to dramatically reduce their carbon emission as well as modernize the transport system.

The government awarded them $40 million which allowed Columbus to deploy three electric self-driving shuttles. These are linked to a new rapid transit center which connects a greater number of the city’s residents to their place of work or business. The city also received an additional $10 million from Vulcan, Inc. Columbus bested 77 other contestants for the Smart City Challenge.

The proposed law will expand the Smart City Challenge grant program and set aside funds for medium and large communities which will amount to $80 million total. There will be two awards each year for medium and large cities.

At the same time, rural communities as well as regional partnerships will be getting two grants per year which amount to $20 million. The law also wants to make sure that 20% of the allotted funds will go to rural development projects. Applicants will also be eligible to apply for additional federal grant opportunities to help advance their tech projects.

These two politicians are clearly looking into future; they have come to the conclusion that other cities in the US must come up with their own transportation programs in order to not be left behind by highly advanced urban centers. More importantly, the bold move must be done now.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/transportation/transportation-tech-booster-proposed/

Bodega Internet-Connected Vending Machines Make A Splash

There are an estimated 16,500 bodegas in New York City. These are mom-and-pop owned convenience stores which sell pretty much everything from cigarettes, to food and water, to other obscure items such as lottery tickets. As such, bodegas are a distinctive part of the NYC landscape. Part of their appeal is the friendly neighborhood service with a personal touch to regular customers. Recently, the bodegas of New York were startled by a San Francisco startup which called itself Bodega.

According to Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there were 1.5 million internet-connected vending machines in 2015. Among the companies which operates vending machines, Shop24 has locations in Europe and in the United States.

Bodega made a bold action, launching a product and a concept which was basically a smart vending machine. These would be internet-connected and the customer would use an app to operate the Bodega. The app itself would be linked to the user’s credit card, creating a system where the Bodega vending machines would not be accepting cash.

The Bling and the Media Hype

The trouble with Bodega was the hype surrounding it. The company was founded by two former Google employees, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan; they brought their extensive experience and contemporary technologies into the project, with some tech already in use by other companies. The controversy started when Bodega’s vending machines were likened to the mom-and-pop stores and it was implied that these could replace the brick-and-mortar shops.

Bodega logo and bodega in background.

Additionally, it was considered in bad taste that a product which aims to replace an establishment would use the name of the older establishment. The chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce mentioned that for the startup “to compete with bodegas and also use the ‘bodega’ name is unbelievably disrespectful.” The organization represents a sizable number of bodega owners, as 85% of these stores are owned by Latinos.

The way the Bodega machine would work is fairly simple. A Bodega machine is, strictly speaking, not a traditional vending machine. It looks like a cabinet with clear glass doors, filled with office food essentials, or whatever product is appropriate for the location of the Bodega. To operate, all you have to use is your smartphone. There is neither card, coin, nor paper money slots. There is just a Bodega machine number on it, which you enter into the matching Bodega smartphone app.

Once you entered the number, the Bodega box unlocks and you can take whatever you want from it. Special cameras within the premises or the immediate area will monitor the activities around the Bodega, which will determine what you took out of the box. It will also calculate how much you have purchased and automatically deduct this from the credit card associated with the app.

Taking Cue from Amazon Go

This grab and go feature has already been used by Amazon in their experimental store called Amazon Go. Such a feature also makes buying from the Bodega that much easier. Since there is no physical money involved, there is no need to monitor the cash flow. Supply personnel only need to place new items for sale when they come to replenish the stocks.

The technology may yet stick. According to Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there were 1.5 million internet-connected vending machines in 2015. Among the companies which operates vending machines, Shop24 has locations in Europe and in the United States.

In terms of technology, Japan and South Korea have been using cashless payments for vending machines for some time now. The startup called Bodega may have raised some concerns in New York City, but the bold move should not be seen as a threat. If Japanese experience in vending machines is any indication, it would seem that the mom-and-pop stores have nothing to fear, and will co-exist with the vending machines.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/digital/bodega-internet-connected-vending-machines-make-splash/

Softbank Backs Plenty Vertical Farm System

San Francisco-based Plenty Inc. is taking bold action: they’re moving farms out of rural areas and bringing them to the heart of the city. Except that they’ve flipped the farms’ orientation – they’re doing it vertically to work around the problem or scarce arable land.

Barnard is already in talks with government officials from at least four continents as well as top honchos from Wal-Mart and Amazon.

Plenty Inc.’s CEO Matt Barnard is out to change how society grows and eats produce. Instead of growing crops in field, he advocates for planting vertically to save space and eliminate the need to have large parcels of land before one can grow food. This is an ideal scenario for people living in cities, where fresh produce needs to be transported from rural areas. Ferrying produce from the mountains or rural regions adds to cost and can cause delays when weather conditions aren’t favorable.

Plenty Inc.’s bold idea has received generous backing from Softbank, one of Japan’s largest telecommunication companies. Headed by mogul Masayoshi Son, the company bankrolled $200 million into Plenty’s coffers so it can further its plans of creating vertical farms in around 500 cities worldwide. This move is hailed by many as the largest agriculture tech investment in history.

With massive farms operating within the city, fresh produce can reach tables in a matter of hours rather than days. This significantly lowers food costs and stabilizes food supply for years to come. The idea is bold and definitely long term.

Bloomberg reports that Barnard is already in talks with government officials from at least four continents as well as top honchos from Wal-Mart and Amazon. The first farm in the Bay Area is set to start making deliveries to San Francisco grocers by the end of the year.

Unlike traditional farms, Plenty’s system uses 20-foot vertical poles where the plants shoot out horizontally. The poles are lined up next to one another with roughly four inches of space in between. These poles are surrounded with infrared cameras and sensors which enable the staff to monitor conditions periodically. There is a system in place which can adjust LED lights, air composition and humidity within the indoor farms.

There’s no need to use soil because water and nutrients are fed into the top of the poles and gravity takes care of the rest. The excess heat from the light also rises naturally to vents in the ceiling. Barnard says that working with physics rather than against has allowed them to save a lot of money.

Bridging the Global Nutrition Gap

Barnard’s company believes that growing rooms or vertical farms will be able to produce quality organic food at very cheap prices.

The idea of vertical farming isn’t exactly new, but where food is grown appears to be Plenty’s biggest advantage. Rather than growing produce far away from where consumers are, it will strategically place these fruits and vegetables within a few minutes of customers and grocery stores.

As the current scenario stands, fruits and vegetables grown in California and Arizona often need to travel roughly 2,000 miles before they get to the store. The produce then sits a couple more days before it is picked up and eaten. This leads to less than fresh fruits and vegetables and significantly more waste.

Backing from Softbank gives Plenty the funds they need to expand across the nation, as well as helps them establish a reputation as a company with a growth model that is to be reckoned with. Plenty’s enclosed system allows fresh organic produce to be produced almost anywhere, and that is a huge change that will have bold impact on how we grow and consume food.

Originally Published at: http://www.boldbusiness.com/food-nutrition/softbank-backs-vertical-farms/