Be Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) ready at ITEX 2017

THE Malaysian government has long acknowledged that digitalisation will change the face of business sooner than we know it. Malaysia’s big push for digitalisation became evident when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) on 22 March, making it the first of its kind in the world. Joining hands with big names such as Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, Malaysia’s aspiration of creating a levelled playing field for SMEs and Startups in the digital marketplace became a lot more promising.

Currently, a whopping 97% of the Malaysian business scene is made up of SMEs and microenterprises. Despite being the backbone of the economy, their contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product stood relatively low at only 37%. Mostly, due to the lack of digital presence. With DFTZ, however, that figure is expected to grow exponentially up to 80%.

So, if your business hasn’t make its digital mark yet and you are looking for a place to start, come join us at ITEX 2017. Allow your business to be exposed to a myriad of possibilities from innovative business solutions to investment opportunities, and be up to date with what other budding entrepreneurs are saying about the DFTZ at the Startups exhibition area.

In the era of digitalisation, the longer you wait, the more you stand lose. So be DFTZ ready at ITEX 2017, happening from 11 – 13 May at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. CLICK HERE to pre-register and secure your entry pass today.

Growing Trees Into Furniture & Art

THE next time you sit on a wooden chair, don’t be surprised to discovered that the chair has been ‘grown’ and not manufactured in a factory. No nails, fixings or machinery are used in creating the furniture.

This novel way of creating or growing extraordinary household chairs and tables is the brainchild of British designer Gavin Munro who not only challenges the way we create products, but believes in letting Mother Nature do all the hard work.

As a young boy growing up in England, he noticed that his mother had a bonsai tree which was left to grow in its own direction. It eventually formed itself into the shape of a throne. He was intrigued by the idea of a chair being created directly from nature.

However, it was only when he moved to California – to get a degree in Furniture Design, an apprenticeship to a cabinet-maker and a long stint building with natural materials – that the idea of ‘growing’ furniture as a business took firm root. While in San Francisco, he spent his free time crafting furniture from driftwood, but the thought of his mother’s bonsai plant never left him. If a bonsai plant could grow into a chair shape, why not other furniture, he thought.

Returning to England, he founded his firm, Full Grown, in 2006, with one goal in mind – to create the world’s most eco-friendly furniture design company. “My chairs and tables are formed from one solid piece of wood. No joints, no nails, no weak points and no unnecessary waster.” he said in an interview recently in the Architectural Digest magazine.

How are these grown furniture made? He trains and prunes young tree branches as they grow over specially designed plastic moulds or formers. At certain points he grafts them together so that they object grows in to one solid piece.

 

The whole process of growing a chair can take between 4 and 8 years. Using this method, he’s already created several prototype pieces and has a whole field of willow trees in Derbyshire where he, his wife and their teams are currently tending a crop of 500 tables, chairs and lampshades which Munro hopes to harvest next year. It takes an immense amount of patience to get the job done. For every 100 trees, there are at least 1,000 branches that grow with them that must be shaped, coaxed and cared for. Also, the shoots must be trimmed at the right time to preserve the health of the tree while maintaining the desired shape.

‘Growing’ furniture is not a new concept. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Egyptians grew stools while the Chinese were known to dig holes and grow tree roots through the gaps of chair-shaped rocks.

As the first commercially-available chairs are expected to be ready for sale by mid 2017. Munro is in discussions with a few galleries. Other items such as geometric lamps and mirror frames, are expected to be available in the later part of this year.

As a final note to all Investors and Inventors, stay tuned for the latest inventions showcase at ITEX 2017? Haven mark your dates yet, fraid not! Pre-register now by CLICKING HERE.

 

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From Sci-Fi Dream to Reality

 

FOR many decades, science fiction films have often shown what they think the future could look like – some were ludicrous, some were realised. However, self-lacing shoes was a pipe dream for many futurists.

Welcome the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, the first performance vehicle for the company’s latest platform breakthrough, adaptive lacing. The shoe translates deep research in digital, electrical and mechanical engineering into a product designed for movement.

It challenges traditional understanding of fit, proposing an ultimate solution to individual idiosyncrasies in lacing and tension preference.

Functional simplicity reduces a typical athlete concern, distraction. “When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten,” said Tiffany Beers, Nike’s senior innovator and the project’s technical lead.

 

“Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.” For Nike, the innovation solves another enduring athlete-equipment quandary: the ability to make swift micro-adjustments. Undue pressure caused by tight tying and slippage resulting from loose laces are now relics of the past. Precise, consistent, personalised lockdown can now be manually adjusted on the fly.

“That’s an important step, because feet undergo an incredible amount of stress during competition,” said Tinker Hatfield, Vice President for Design and Special Projects of Nike. Beers began pondering the mechanics shortly after meeting Hatfield, who dreamed of making adaptive lacing a reality. He asked if she wanted to figure it out – not a replication of a pre-existing idea but as “the first baby step to get to a more sophisticated place”.

The project caught the attention of a third collaborator Nike president and CEO Mark Parker, who helped guide the design. The process saw Beers brainstorming with a group of engineers intent on testing her theories. They first came up with a snowboard boot featuring an external generator. While far from the ideal, it was the first of a series of strides toward Beers and Hatfield’s original goal: to embed the technical components into such a small space that the design moves with the body and absorbs the same force the athlete is facing.

 

Through 2013, Hatfield and Beers spearheaded a number of new systems, a pool of prototypes and several trials, arriving at an underfoot-lacing mechanism. In April 2015, Beers was tasked with making a self-lacing Nike Mag to celebrate the icon’s true fictional release date of October 21. The final product quietly debuted Nike’s new adaptive technology. Shortly after, the completion of the more technical, sport version they’d originally conceived, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, confirmed the strength of the apparatus. The potential of adaptive lacing for the athlete is huge, Hatfield said, as it would provide tailored-to-the moment custom fit.

“It is amazing to consider a shoe that senses what the body needs in real-time. That eliminates a multitude of distractions, including mental attrition, and thus truly benefits performance.

“Wouldn’t it be great if a shoe, in the future, could sense when you needed to have it tighter or looser? Could it take you even tighter than you’d normally go if it senses you really need extra snugness in a quick manoeuvre? That’s where we’re headed. In the future, product will come alive.”

In short, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 is the first step into the future of adaptive performance. It’s currently manual (i.e., athlete controlled) but it makes feasible the once-fantastic concept of an automated, nearly symbiotic relationship between the foot and shoe.

If you have gotten yourself a pair, share your shoe-experience with us in the comment box below 🙂

 

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Green Food – The Tesla of Food?

IMAGINE a plant-based hamburger patty that not only looks and tastes just like meat but bleeds as well. Or how about trying some meatless chicken strips with the same fleshy and fibrous texture as cooked poultry. There is a strong chance that the above scenario may soon become a reality.

Several Silicon Valley funded companies are on a mission to change the way people eat by creating new plant-based food that they say will be healthier, less expensive and tasty as real meat, egg, dairy and other animal-based products. More importantly, these healthier option all have a much lower environment impact.

One of a handful of tech startups that has embarked on a programme to develop animal products as well as cheese and eggs from plants is Impossible Foods. The company’s founder, Dr Patrick Brown says that its mission is to “give people the great taste and nutritional benefits of foods that come from animals without the negative health and environmental impact.”

The Standford University biologist and physician founded Impossible Foods because he knew that people would never give up the foods they love. Generally, many people are not keen on eating vegetables. They prefer to eat meat or dairy products. He believes that the answer is to mimic the taste of meat and other animal-derived foods with plants and take the animal out of the equation.

Animal farming, he says, is not only destructive but unsustainable. “Yet the demand for meat and dairy products is going up. What we are doing is reinventing the entire system of transforming plants into meat and milk.”

According to the United Nations, livestock uses about 30 percent of the world’s landmass and produce about 14.5 percent of greenhouse-gas emission. Furthermore, animal farming is also one of the biggest consumers of water. With the world’s population expected to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050, the demand for meat and other food production are expected to increase.

It is interesting to note that the crop of Silicon Valley funded startups are not targeting vegetarians and vegans but those who love meats and dairy products. This means, the companies have to replicate the meaty flavours and textures that meat lovers prefer.

 

The secret to a burger’s taste is haem, a compound found in all living cells, including plants. It is especially abundant in haemoglobin in blood and in muscle tissues as myoglobin. It also gives a burger its red colour.

During the cooking process, haem acts as a catalyst that helps transform the amino acids, vitamins and sugars in muscle tissue into numerous volatile and flavourful molecules. To create the meaty flavour in its burger patties, the company uses a heme protein equivalent to one found in the roots of legumes. According to Dr Brown, this is “the molecule that makes meat meat.”

According to a recent article in The Economist, a study by the Humane Research Council in the US states that about most vegetarians and vegans (about 2 percent of American’s population) go back to eating meat. As the article points out, this may not be an option in the future as there will come a time when it will be impossible for food production to meet the needs of the growing population, unless there is a change in the way we eat.

This being the case, there is a strong possibility the people may eventually shift to plant-based foods.

Lastly, we hope readers can share your good practices and let’s make the world a better place. Till then 🙂

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5 Top Inventions by Women That Changed The World

WOMEN are behind a large number of inventions than they are generally given credit for. In fact, the inventive spirit in women can be traced back hundreds of years. The first patent granted to a woman was in 1637. Here’s a sampling of women inventors and their inventions:

 

1) Mary Anderson – Windshield Wiper

Mary Anderson may be a name many of us have never heard before but all those who drive vehicles use her invention. 1903 was the year that brought about a change in how people travelled in frosty weather. That year, Anderson a native of Birmingham, Alabama, was visiting New York City via a trolley car. Her intention of catching a glimpse of the Big Apple turned into disappointment when the snowy weather became a nuisance. She not only had a hard time seeing through the windscreen that was heavily covered with snow but noticed that drivers were also having difficulty seeing through the sleet and snow. They would have to reach through the window to wipe the snow and sleet off the windshield by hand. She immediately put her thinking cap on. After getting her formula right, Anderson filed for a patent for the first windshield wipers in 1903.

 

2) Stephanie Kwolek – Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek saved an untold number of lives. A modern-day alchemist, she led the development of a synthetic material called Kevlar which is five times stronger that the same weight of steel. Many police officers owe their lives to her as Kevlar is a material used in bullet proof vests. The eureka moment came while Kwolek was working on specialty fibers at a DuPont laboratory in Wilminton. She is the only female employee of DuPont to be awarded the company’s Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement. She was recognised as a “persistent experimentalist and a role model.”

 

3) Margaret Knight – Square Bottom Paper Bag

When paper bags were first introduced to shoppers, they weren’t all that useful for carrying things. Shaped like an envelope, its use was limited. However, we have Margaret Knight to thank for the evolution of paper bags. Knight realized that paper bags should have a square bottom; when weight was distributed across the base in this way, more things could be carried in the bag. In 1870, she created a widen machine that cut, folded and glued the square bottoms to paper bags. She was granted the patent for the device in 1871. It’s interesting to note that Knight was awarded more than 20 patents.

 

4) Bette Nesmith Graham – Liquid Paper

In the 1950s the electric typewrite had just be introduced. Despite the convenience, secretaries often found themselves retyping entire pages because of one small mistakes. Bette Nesmith Graham was one of them and being a bad typist did not make the situation any better. An idea sparked when she watched workers painting a holiday display on a bank’s window. She noticed that when they made mistakes, they simply added another layer of paint to cover the mistake. She decided to put the idea to test.

Using her kitchen blender, Graham mixed a water-based tempera paint with dye that matched her company’s stationary. Unfortunately, Graham was fired from her job for spending so much time distributing what she called “Mistake Out”. Having more time on her hands, she tweaked her mixture, renamed the product Liquid Paper and received a patent in 1958.

 

5) Josephine Cochrane – Dishwasher

The real impetus for the invention of dishwasher was driven by the frustration over Josephine Cochrane’s servants breaking her heirloom china after fancy dinners. Her machine relied upon strong water pressure aimed at a wire rack of dishes, and she received a patent for the device in 1886.

Like any modern inventors today, she faced the same challenges back then. She claimed that inventing the machine was easier than promoting it. Undaunted, Cochrane sought appointments with large hotels and restaurants. Today, dishwashing machines are common in many homes as more women enter the workplace.

As a final note, wishing all readers a Happy International Women’s Day 🙂

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You Need to Know The Next Wave of Wearable Tech

WEARABLE technology has been around for a long time, even though it may not have been in the form that we are accustomed to. A prime example would be calculator watches which were hugely popular in the early ‘80s. Though the idea of combining two or more functions into one gadget did not catch on until much later, at the turn of the century to be precise, wearable technology has progressed a lot since the humble calculator watch.

Wearable technology is not necessarily confined to fitness trackers or smartwatches, it is more than that, given the technological advances with accelerometers, gyroscopes, altimeters, optical heart rate monitors, solar panels, superior batteries and the list goes on and on, you get the picture.

Wearable technology is advancing at such a rate that one would be able to monitor not only one’s physiological condition such as heart rates, movements, sleep patterns, thereby tapping into various biometrics enabling us to take a deeper look into our body’s physiological state but the future promises that we would also be able to monitor our body’s psychological condition.

In 2015, the French football team FC Nantes and French riders in the 2015 Road World Championship had tested an ingestible device, which was jam-packed with sensors that enabled the user to monitor changes in core body temperature from a computer, in real time. This technology could potentially assist athletes to work out the ideal recovery time before another intensive session and base their training plans around that data. It is especially useful to athletes as it does away with the need to wear anything whilst training intensively, thus enabling the athletes to focus on what matters the most, training.

There is another type of device that measures emotions through multiple sensors including a Galvanic Skin Response to detect something called Electrodermal Response, which is deemed to be a great indicator of emotional state. Again, this technology syncs up with your phone and you can monitor your psychological condition, in real time. Further, with the device syncing up with mobile phones, the device can then provide recommendations and advise on how to reduce stress and keep your emotions in check. Wearable technology is not only a means for the modern man to consume large amounts of data regarding one’s body or habits, it also provides real life application in the realm of medicine. Currently, the technology is out there with regard to micro sensors embedded into the single use silicone contact lens. The purpose for the contact lens is to be able to detect subtle pressure changes in the eye, specifically intraocular pressure changes.

This enables a doctor to identify the best time to take those measurements and the correct time to take those measurements are of paramount importance as elevated pressure changes in the eye is linked to optic nerve damage and can cause blindness. With this technology, ailments afflicting the eyes may be a thing of the past. Wearable technology does not stop at merely monitoring how the human body behaves but its applications are limitless. Wearables could be passive devices which are embedded into either clothing or accessories and such passive devices enable the user to interact with other items around them.

For example, a user could have a passive device embedded in an accessory and that passive device interacts with the security system of the user’s home or vehicle. Think about it, you will never ever be locked out of your own home or worry about losing your keys, ever again.

 

Whilst it is premature to predict specific features or form factors that will prevail in the future, wearable tech presents an interesting case study. Never before has computing been small enough to be worn relatively comfortably around the clock on the body, presenting opportunities for breakthrough medical advancements and unfortunately, marketing nuisances.

Battery life of any smart devices is by far the biggest obstacle that prevents broad market adoption and retention. Power consumption of key components like processors, radios, memories, and sensors are the primary culprit in draining our devices. More research would need to be put in in order for battery life to be extended to such an extent that we will only need to charge those devices once a month. The problem faced by wearable technology is that many still use mobile phone parts to make their product. Whilst those parts work wonderfully well for the mobile phones, those parts limit the full potential of wearable technology. Another big area to watch out for is what happens to your information which has been collated by the various devices around you.

You may think that the collation of data may not affect you but what could potentially happen is that the information collated could be used to target marketing campaigns towards you. Though the evolution of hardware for wearable technology is far from perfect, the market is developing software for wearable technology in a frenzy and in the hopes of keeping up with the appetite of the users. Therefore, developing permission based software would be of paramount importance to ensure that the data collated are either disposed of ethically and safely or handled with the utmost integrity. The future of wearable technology can be viewed as scary as it continues to challenge the traditional way we interact with devices around us but there would be no progress if we do not take that chance.

 
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Charge Your Devices As You Move Your Body

A GROUP of Chinese and American scientists recently developed a fabric that can power wearable devices by harvesting energy from both sunlight and body movements. It can also be made on a standard industrial weaving machine.

The fabric is based on low-cost, lightweight polymer fibres coated with metals and semiconductors that allow the material to harvest energy. These fibres are then woven together along with wool on high throughput commercial weaving equipment to create a textile just 0.32mm thick.

In the journal Nature Energy, the researchers described how they used a layer-by-layer process similar to those employed in the semiconductor industry. Using this method, they coated polymer fibres with various materials to create cable-like solar cells that generate electricity from sunlight and also so-called triboelectric nanogenerators.

 

The nanogenerators rely on the triboelectric effect, by which certain materials become electrically charged when rubbed against another type of material. When the materials are in contact, electrons flow from one to the other, but when the materials are separated, the one receiving electrons will hold a charge.

If these two materials are then connected by a circuit, a small current will flow to equalise the charges. By continuously repeating the process, an alternating electrical current can be produced to generate power.

The material could be used to create larger energy-generating structures, like curtains or tents. The fabrication process should also allow the energy generating materials to be combined with other fibre based functional devices, like sensors.

Next, the researchers plan to focus on improving the efficiency, durability and power management of the textile while optimising the weaving and encapsulation processes to enable industrial-scale production.

Our editors are EXCITED upon hearing this as we can soon ditch away our bulky power-bank. On a last note to all inventors, do share your UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION of your invention/ idea in one line in the comment box below.

More Tech-related posts will be up next week, stay tuned 🙂

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Lab-Grown Beef Patty – Yay or Nay?

THE very first lab-grown beef patty was unveiled three years ago and cost a whopping US$331,400. But its creator Mark Post reported that it would just ring in at US$10 a piece.

Post told Arkansas Online that the lab-grown burger would hit the market in five years. Its hefty price tag was attributed to the initial investment in lab equipment. He grew the meat in a petri dish using bovine stem cells and the animal tissue built protein and muscle fibre, similar to what it would do in a live cow.

The Dutch inventor has spent 10 years in his Netherlands lab to tweak the stem cell burger and he aims to introduce fat into the burger to enhance flavour. Traditional meat industry has come under fire in recent years for its questionable practices and footprint on the environment while meat alternative companies have been trying to develop plantbased products.

If Post successfully commercialises his stem cell burger, we can say goodbye to “meat is murder”.

As a final note, our editors are excited to have a bite on it 🙂 Don’t forget to shout out your thoughts in the comment box below.

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8 Hands are Better Than 2?

HARVARD University researchers have invented a small and squishy “octobot”. It is the first robot made completely from soft parts and doesn’t need batteries or wires of any kind, and runs on a liquid fuel.

The octopus-like robot is made of silicone rubber, and measures about 6.5cm long. The researchers say soft robots can adapt more easily to some environments than rigid machines, and this research could lead to autonomous robots that can sense their surroundings and interact with people.

Conventional robots are typically made from rigid parts, which makes them vulnerable to harm from bumps, scrapes, twists and falls. These hard parts can also hinder them from being able to squirm past obstacles.

The octobot has eight arms that are pneumatically driven by steady streams of oxygen gas. This gas is given off by liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel after it chemically reacts with platinum catalysts.

The robot is controlled using tiny 3D-printed networks of plumbing. Whereas conventional microelectronic circuits shuffle electrons around wires, scientists in recent years have begun developing microfluidic circuitry that can shuffle fluids around pipes. These devices can theoretically perform any operation a regular electronic microchip can, previous research suggested.

 

The octobot’s microfluidic controller is filled with the liquid hydrogen peroxide fuel. As the fuel gives off oxygen, pressure from the gas builds up in the controller and eventually causes some valves to open and others to close, inflating chambers in half the robot’s arms and forcing them to move. Pressurised gas then builds up once more, triggering valve openings and closures that make the other robot’s arms move.

So far, the octobot can only wave its arms. The scientists are now working on developing completely soft machines that are more complex and can propel themselves.

We had “Paul The Octopus” and now we have “Harvard The Octobot”. Can’t wait to see if it will be ready by 2018 FIFA World Cup 🙂 *kidding*

We want to hear from you, share your thoughts in the comment box below.

 

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Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon

IMAGINE eating Dulse, a type of seaweed that tastes like bacon when fried, minus the cholesterol and fats.

It seems too good to be true but researchers have quickly patented the seaweed that normally grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. The seaweed is actually a new strain of red marine algae called dulse and looks like red lettuce that is packed with all the good minerals. When fried, dulse tastes like bacon which is good news for vegans, vegetarians and health conscious people.

Aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented the new strain. Langdon has studied dulse, trying to figure out a way to make the nutritious algae grow quickly enough to become commercially viable feed for abalone, a type of edible sea snail. In 2004, he obtained a patent for a particularly fast-growing strain that can double its weight in just 10 days. However, a year and a half ago, Chuck Toombs, a business professor at Oregon State University suggested that Langdon might want to stop trying to grow dulse for abalone and start growing it for humans.

The succulent red marine algae is fast-growing and super nutritious plant that has about 16% protein by dry weight. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. “Dulse is a super-food with twice the nutritional value of kale.” said Toombs.

Seaweeds and sea vegetables are known for taking up vitamins from the water so minerals such as iodine, potassium and calcium are part of the goodness of eating dulse.

Several Portland chefs, as well as the Food Innovation Center in Portland, are experimenting with the new ingredient including adding it to peanut brittle and trail mix, and even candied dulse chips added to ice cream. It is interesting to note that dulse has, for centuries been harvested in the wild and used in northern European cuisine.

 

In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies or add flakes onto food. It’s an ancient snack in Ireland, where people living along the island’s northern shores have traditionally gathered it. Health food stores around the world sell it, too.

“I think the public is ready to have something that tastes good and is good for you. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form.” said Langdon.

Researchers say their dulse, when fried, smells and tastes like bacon. This is a big relief for bacon lovers who indulge in this treat but cannot eat bacon due to healthy reasons, as bacon is known to have excess sodium and can elevate blood pressure and raise risk of heart disease.

Langdon, recently said in an interview with CNN that he anticipates dulse becoming a more common bacon replacement for people who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or who do not eat meat due to other dietary or religious reasons.

Dulse’s quick growth time is an advantage that the seaweed has over other food sources, especially livestock, which is expensive and time-consuming to rear.

It can be cultivated where there is a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine. “The advantage of farming sea vegetables, like dulse is that it does not depend on freshwater supplies and ecologically benefits the marine environment by removing nutrients and dissolved carbon.” added Langdon.

He and his colleagues grow dulse in cultured tanks of seawater producing about 30 pounds of seaweed each week. Growing the dulse in cultured tanks allows them to fine-tune the nutrient content of the water and grow dulse year round, but it also constraints their ability to scale their dulse operation to a commercially-viable size.

Although there’s been no research done as yet into how well the crop could be commercialised, marketers are now working on a plan for a line of specialty foods, with the vegan and vegetarian markets to mind.