10 Emerging Technologies

Technology Review lists technologies that will change our world:

– Universal Translation
– Synthetic Biology
– Nanowires
– Bayesian Machine Learning
– T-Rays
– Distributed Storage
– RNA Interference
– Power Grid Control
– Microfluidic Optical Fibers
– Personal Genomics

An excerpt about Bayesian Learning:

Daphne Kollers research using a once obscure branch of probability theory called Bayesian statistics is generating more excitement than skepticism. The Stanford University associate professor is creating programs that, while tackling questions such as how genes function, are also illuminating deeper truths about the long-standing computer science conundrum of uncertaintylearning patterns, finding causal relationships, and making predictions based on inevitably incomplete knowledge of the real world. Such methods promise to advance the fields of foreign-language translation, microchip manufacturing, and drug discovery, among others, sparking a surge of interest from Intel, Microsoft, Google, and other leading companies and universities.

How does an idea conceived by an 18th-century minister (Thomas Bayes) help modern computer science? Unlike older approaches to machine reasoning, in which each causal connection (rain makes grass wet) had to be explicitly taught, programs based on probabilistic approaches like Bayesian math can take a large body of data (its raining, the grass is wet) and deduce likely relationships, or dependencies, on their own. Thats crucial because many decisions programmers would like to automatesay, personalizing search engine results according to a users past queriescant be planned in advance; they require machines to weigh unforeseen combinations of evidence and make their best guesses. Says Intel research director David Tennenhouse, These techniques are going to impact everything we do with computersfrom user interfaces to sensor data processing to data mining.

Koller unleashed her own Bayesian algorithms on the problem of gene regulationa good fit, since the rate at which each gene in a cell is translated into its corresponding protein depends on signals from a myriad of proteins encoded by other genes. New biomedical technologies are providing so much data that researchers are, paradoxically, having trouble untangling all these interactions, which is slowing the search for new drugs to fight diseases from cancer to diabetes. Kollers program combs through data on thousands of genes, testing the probability that changes in the activity of certain genes can be explained by changes in the activity of others. The program not only independently detected well-known interactions identified through years of research but also uncovered the functions of several previously mysterious regulators. People are limited in their ability to integrate many different pieces of evidence, says Koller. Computers have no such limitation.

Cambodia’s Internet Village Motoman Project

WSJ writes:

In the hills of northeastern Cambodia, five men on motorcycles are connecting rural villages to one another, their government, medical specialists and the Internet.

Using wireless Internet technology and a storage-and-transmission device strapped to their motorcycles, the deliverymen drop off and pick up e-mail and Internet-search requests by driving near solar-powered electronic outposts along their rural route.

In Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province, the technology comes from a Boston start-up called First Mile Solutions LLC. Tests in Cambodia have been successful so far, says 27-year-old First Mile founder Amir Alexander Hasson, who hopes to roll out a commercial product to other rural markets in developing countries this year.

The Internet Village Motoman project builds on a continuing project called Cambodia Schools, which runs a network of more than 200 schools. Funded by a variety of donors, including the World Bank, American Assistance for Cambodia and Japan Relief for Cambodia, the schools are equipped with a digital camera, computers and solar panels for four to eight hours of computing power daily. But only a few of the schools have the funds to link to the Internet via satellite.

That’s where the Motoman project comes in. Since September, it has linked remote villages to a central satellite dish in the city of Banlung via a mobile device that stores e-mail messages and acts as an access point for Wi-Fi — short for Wireless Fidelity — a technology that lets laptops and other mobile devices connect to the Internet wirelessly over short distances.

Requiring little power to run — the solar panels can power the device virtually around the clock — the access point is linked to village computers through standard computer-network cabling. Its antenna is perched on the side of the school building and pointed at the road.

Traveling daily along five different routes throughout the province, the e-mailmen drive near the rural access points for a handoff with their onboard access point, powered by the motorcycle’s battery. Back in Banlung, the deliverymen hand off their electronic mailbag to the satellite dish that relays the messages to the Internet. Named for the Hindi word for post or postal, the rural network is known as DakNet.

Costs remain a hurdle. First Mile’s Village Area Networking Kit is expected to be priced at $500 to $600 when released, though that is a fraction of the cost of the electricity and communications infrastructure that would otherwise be necessary to deliver e-mail to the villages. But the biggest challenge remains simple access.

Some of this seems to be an offshoot of what was started as a Media Lab Asia project.

TECH TALK: India.com 2.0: The New Information Platform (Part 2)

The New Information Platform consists of:

  • Publishers: These can be news websites, corporate websites or weblogs. Each of them needs to put out an RSS feed. If they do not, then an RSS-ifier needs to take the content being updated and make it into an RSS feed. When content is updated, the Cloud needs to be notified.
  • Cloud: This manages information on the subscriptions of RSS feeds that users have, and when Publishers update their RSS feeds. Users who have subscribed to an RSS feed need to be notified when a feed has been updated.
  • Info Store: A users personal aggregator, which fetches the RSS feed when notified by the Cloud, and applies the appropriate filters and rules set by the user for notifications.
  • Subscribers: The users, who set up subscriptions on the sites they want to receive updates from. The Info Store manages the content received and arranges for it to be delivered to the users.
  • RSS Viewers: This is how users view the feeds that they receive. RSS viewers could be built into web browsers, integrated with email clients, or can be special applications on PCs and cellphones.
  • Weblogs: These are writing systems that can automatically generate RSS. Alternately, RSS feeds can be aggregated together to create weblogs. They can be publicly available, set up for private use, or be limited to groups.

    Creating the New Information Platform requires co-ordinating various entities. Information publishers need to be convinced of the need to add RSS to their websites, users need to be convinced to start using RSS viewers, service providers need to offer the Cloud services. All of these activities need to happen in parallel for a positive feedback loop to happen in terms of adoption. The challenge lies in bootstrapping the process.

    Luckily, much of this has already been happening in the world of weblogs. What is now needed is to take these ideas and apply them to the mainstream world of Indian content. There is very little legacy, so it should be possible to speed up a change in the way users consume content.

    In fact, Indian portals have little choice but to think of disruptive innovations which can help build out the new information ecosystem. Google looms as the ultimate competitor, offering a platform for small advertisers to connect to those who use the search engine. Google has shown that is it possible to create microcontent (its search results) which can be targeted to lots of small advertisers paying micromoney (a few cents per click). Unless the Indian portals think creatively, they will realise that the advertising revenues which will increase in the coming years will no longer be theirs when the time for monetisation comes.

    There are three ideas built around the New Information Platform which can help them counter-attack and launch the next generation of activity in the Internet space: NINE, PIN and STIM.

    Tomorrow: Three India Portal Ideas

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