Innovation in India

[via WorldChanging] Science Magazine has an essay by Raghunath A. Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), a chain of 38 publicly funded industrial R&D institutions in India:

India can similarly become an innovation hub for global health. Its reputation as a low-cost manufacturer of high-quality generic drugs already is high. Now discovery, development, and delivery of new drugs to the poor is another area in which India is becoming stronger. By following alternative paths rather than beaten ones, India is aiming to develop drugs at prices that are more affordable to more of the world’s people. For instance, India is trying to build a golden triangle between traditional medicine, modern medicine, and modern science. By culling clues from traditional medical practices, researchers here are doing a sort of “reverse pharmacology,” which is showing great promise. Our recent program on developing a treatment for psoriasis through a reverse pharmacology path (presently in phase II human clinical trials) is expected to take 5 years and cost $5 million. If successful, the resulting treatment will be priced at $50, quite a step down from a new $20,000 antibody injection treatment developed by a western biopharmaceutical company! The opportunities that are unfolding are breathtaking.

As I see it from my perch in India’s science and technology leadership, if India plays its cards right, it can become by 2020 the world’s number-one knowledge production center, creating not only valuable private goods but also much needed public goods that will help the growing global population suffer less and live better.

Simplicity is More Critical than Complexity on Mobile Phone

[via Dana Blankenhorn] Slashphone has an item about a speech given by Nicholas Negroponte:

“The killer application in mobile service is decided by response time, Professor Nicholas Negroponte at MIT said during an interview in the middle of the LG Technology Forum.

In his keynote speech, “The Future of Wireless,” Prof. Negroponte emphasized the right direction of change for mobile handsets. He insisted that any new function of handsets should be downloadable, but phone makers are just adding new functions in the device like inserting new tools into Swiss Army knife.

About the power efficiency, he said, future mobile handsets should be designed to be inserted in shoes so that people can use their phone while they are running or the battery system should be simple so that users have only to shake their phones to recharge them.

He emphasized simplicity, saying the industry always talks about easy-to-use interface, but nothing has been done; the smaller the handset gets, the thicker the manual becomes. He cited Swatch as an instance of the way the future wireless devices should take. According to him, although Swatch is widely known as a famous watch brand, it is the concept of “second watch” that the company has pursued. Likewise, he recommended, the handset industry should try for the “second handset.” Selling more handsets at lower price will lead to large profit, the renowned professor added.

Dana adds:

Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.

A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They’re based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you’re bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.

Rather than thinking of a browser as something you look at and type at, as is done with even the best mobile browsers, how about a browser you talk to?

Talking to Programmers

[via Fred Wilson] Tom Evslin decodes the language programmers speak. A few excerpts:

Its ninety-five percent done,
Translation: The remaining five percent will take ninety-five percent of the elapsed time.

Its code complete.
Translation: Some code has been written. Features will be added later.

The code is 95% reusable.
Translation: Five percent of the source code is utterly and irretrievably lost.

Its Alpha ready.
Translation: A lot of code has been written; none tested.

Its Beta ready.
Translation: Its Alpha ready.

Ship it!
Translation: The Development team is sick of this and wants to move on to something else. The customers will test it.

5 Most Valuable Services Most Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford

Paul Allen writes about “five most valuable services that I absolutely loved that most entreprenuers can’t afford. But as your internet company grows, you should plan to invest in some or all of these services in order to improve your intellectual capital, your efficiency, and maximize your business potential. Used appropriately, these services can generate an incredible ROI and give a company a tremendous competitive advantage over companies that aren’t using them.” The services:

1. Jupiter Research
2. Audience Measurement Service
3. Web Analytics
4. MarketingSherpa
5. Affiliate Network

DIY Fab

The Economist writes:

Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre for Bits and Atoms, has built version 1.0 of the personal fabricator, and it is already being deployed around the world.

The fab lab, as Dr Gershenfeld has nicknamed his invention, is a collection of commercially available machines that, while not yet able to put things together from their component atoms, can, according to its inventor, be used to make just about anything with features bigger than those of a computer chip. Among other tools it includes a laser cutter that makes two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures, a device that uses a computer-controlled knife to carve antennas and flexible electrical connections, a miniature milling machine that manoeuvres a cutting tool in three dimensions to make circuit boards and other precision parts, a set of software for programming cheap computer chips known as microcontrollers, and a jigsaw (a narrow-bladed cutting device, not a picture puzzle). Together, these can machine objects with a precision of a millionth of a metre. The fab lab’s purpose is to endow inventorsparticularly those in poor countries who lack a formal education and the resources to implement their ideaswith a set of tools that can translate back-of-the-envelope designs into working prototypes.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Recent Developments

I had originally intended to complete this series on Search at the end of last weeks column. But a number of recent developments has prompted me to continue the discussion on the future of search. The past week has seen Barry Dillers InterActive Corp acquire AskJeeves for $1.85 billion, photo-blog Flickr being bought by Yahoo, three media companies took up a majority stake in Topix.net, and HP bought Snapfish. Just a short while ago, AskJeeves had purchased Bloglines. The consolidation in the content and search space has begun.

Ramesh Jain had this to say: The most lucrative thing is the increasing volume of advertisements on search engines. It is expected that this will keep increasing as more and more people go to search engines for getting information and as search engines become part of TV (or Video) space..Photos are becoming a mainstream business. In cyberspace so far, text was the dominant force. I see that slowly photos, audio, and video are going to challenge the total dominance of text. John Battelle added that search and television are going to merge.

News.com wondered if tagging (as propagated by sites like Flickr and del.icio.us) could upstage search in the future:

Given the billions of files available on the Web, tagging has generally been considered unworkable. Flickr has gotten around the problem by recruiting thousands of people to participate for free. Its loose social framework offers a community that lets people discover, quite serendipitously, interesting photos in the collections of strangers. Without a central body of editors controlling the index, the network also can reveal rare insight into cultural zeitgeists from the people using it.

Finding information in the vast and expanding sea of data online is one of the biggest problems to crack. Creating metadata, or tags, for describing files has long been thought of as a solution for hunting down a range of files on the Web, PCs and intranets, but it has remained an elusive goal. That could explain why tapping Web users’ desire to create addictive services or communities is an attractive solution.

Peter Merholz, a founder at Adaptive Path, a user-experience company, said the happy byproduct of Flickr and other “folksonomies” is that there’s this global categorization of information. “Flickr is valuable because its creators understood the opportunities on the Web in connecting people. It’s the same way eBay is all about leveraging the power of the network,” Merholz said.

Future applications for free tagging could include news, blogs, Web and enterprise search. “The future of folksnomies involves meshing these user-generated categorizations with more standardized categorizations, such as the Library of Congress or the Getty Thesaurus of place names, so you could start to connect data to allow more of these associations to be made,” Merholz said.

Innovation in and around the search space is happening rapidly. More and more relevant information can now be surfaced not just via results from search engines, but through the action of bloggers and taggers. The discussion around attention, events, subscriptions, tags, discovery and interfaces leading to the information dashboards is not complete. Information Dashboards are just the tip of the information iceberg. What happens when all these information dashboards start interacting with each other? But we are getting ahead of the story here.

Tomorrow: The Messy Web

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