30 December 2008

DARPA Dollars ~ Fighting Words Over R&D Funds

Rick Merritt writes in the EE Times that DARPA chief reviews legacy: Critics call for new direction at $3 billion agency pointing out disagreements with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Director Tony Tether about funding directions and priorities. Point...
"Bill Dally, chairman of Stanford's computer science department, said in that report the amount of the university's computer research funded by DARPA dropped from 80 percent in the late 1990's to just 15 percent. At MIT, DARPA funding made up 62 percent of its computer science budget with the money aimed at 3-5 year projects in 1999, but it has declined to about 24 percent and aimed at shorter term projects, said Rodney Brooks, former chairman of MIT's computer science department, speaking in the 2005 article."
Counterpoint...
"Tether said he did not dispute those numbers, but they were not due to declines in DARPA funding for basic research so much as a lack from those universities of fresh ideas the agency was interested in funding. "A lot of places that are getting mature like computer science departments feel like they have an entitlement, but we don't have any entitlements, we just fund good ideas," said Tether."
Ouch.

Treegrove Timelapse ~ Lovely Seasonal Cycle...

Eirik's lovely treegrove timelapse. 1 second ~ 9 days...

29 December 2008

Pawnshops ~ A Resurgent Financial Service...

I've long been fascinated with financial service innovations. For instance, the peer-to-peer CircleLending venture founded by Asheesh Advani (now Virgin Money USA). In the developing world context, certainly much has been made of microcredit and microfinance innovations, for instance, Compartamos and Kiva. But variations on this theme are among the oldest financial services we know of, most especially Pawnshops, a lending institution that's more vital than ever. In today's WSJournal, Gary Fields writes People Pulling Up to Pawnshops Today Are Driving Cadillacs and BMWs. And this boom of pawnshops is not just a recent phenomenon as Richard Phalon wrote in his 2004 Forbes article Stake A Claim To Pawnshops. Phalon described it well when he wrote about the then three biggest publicly owned pawn chains Cash America International, EZCorp, and First Cash Financial Services...
"With fewer than 1,000 shops among them, the three have plenty of room to grow. They are a critical mass in a fragmented industry of some 10,000 to 12,000 outlets total, run mainly by mom-and-pop operatives with only tenuous links to an IT world. It's a preserve ripe for the sort of rollup that has brought the efficiencies of centralized management to a yellow book of other specialized retailers -- pizza joints, coffee shops, bookstores -- you name it. The strategies are familiar, too: Buy up existing outlets, open new ones, shut down losers, gussy up the marginal, and juice unit gross and margins by pumping huge amounts of cash into promising new products like short-term advance "pay day" loans..."
There's tremendous room here for additional transformations, including more peer-to-peer investment structures, ICT-improved efficiencies, lower-cost remittances and money transfers, bankless banking, and more. Stay tuned!

Carfree Cities ~ Lovable, Peaceful, Dense, Great...

I'm delighted to see that Carfree Cities by J H Crawford has a sister book, the Carfree Design Manual and a corresponding website about the theme, Carfree! Crawford answers the questions...
"What would happen if we designed a city to work without any cars? Would anyone want to live in such a city? Does it make social, economic, and esthetic sense? Is it possible to be free of the automobile while keeping the rapid and convenient mobility it once offered?"
Having cities completely Carfree is one end of a spectrum whose other end is Carnivorous -- i.e. overwhelmed and eaten alive by automobiles.

Sierra Guy ~ My Mythical Moniker at the Miracle!

Wow, it's not every day that you realize your true position in life! I've just been informed by bartender Morgan that I am "mythical" -- which turns out to mean that I'm known (by the staff) as the "Sierra Guy" -- at the Miracle of Science bar & grill here in Cambridge, MA! I'm sure that has rather a lot to do with my enduring preference for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale beer;-) Yes, it's quite tasty, as I first discovered at the Empire Tap Room in Palo Alto, CA back in the pre-dot-communist 1990's. Here in New England there are few places better than the Miracle to partake...

28 December 2008

Practical Cycles ~ Useful Everyday City Solutions

I've written recently about several human-powered cycle solutions (and the corresponding metropolitan support infrastructure), including on:
This cycle powered saga will only escalate going forward since bikes are absolutely key to future green, clean, sustainable, vital cities! It's important for us to look at the lead user cities and countries as testbeds for showing the way globally. In this regard, here's a survey piece from Reuters about the Dutch Quest for Practical Bicycles...
And here's a Cycle Copenhagen special report... And the first A Billion Bikes episode about Copenhagen... Finally, I'm posting again this wonderful piece on Cycling Friendly Cities by former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia Enrique Peñalosa...

Efficiency Innovations ~ Energy + Sustainability...

Much of the research and venturing efforts in energy technology have been towards the cleaner or cheaper generation of electricity or production of fuels. All worthy efforts. But as I blogged about earlier -- Ever More Efficient GDP -- there's tremendous room for new efficiency innovations. Towards this end, it's worth noting several compelling (albeit random) items:
Some graphs are instructive here as well. First, a very micro-level illustration of how rapidly consumer appliances can become more efficient. In this case, refrigerators (note how this appears to be in response to 1973 Oil Shock)... Second, a graph of change in Japanese industrial efficiency, also following the 1973 shock... And finally, a macro-graph comparing different country GDP-per-capita to energy consumption per-capita. Note the wide range of possibilities, even holding constant for variables like hot- or cold-climate places...

27 December 2008

Sammaan ~ Innovative Indian Rickshaw Venture

Excellent to see the xmas special Economist spotlight Start-ups in India: A suitable business all about...
"30 Indian enterprises shortlisted in a competition to find the country’s “hottest” start-up. The contest, which attracted over 500 nominees, is run by the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), which promotes the spirit of enterprise on India’s campuses, and the Tata group, an Indian conglomerate."
The contest alone is interesting, as are the concerns the article raises. (Entrepreneurship is the coming thing in India as Boston's own Vinit Nijhawan documents in his recent series of Xconomy posts.) I was especially interested to read the Economist focus on Sammaan, an innovative cycle rickshaw business founded by Irfan Alam... Alam...
"...remembers clearly when he first felt the thirst for entrepreneurship. Sitting in the back of a cycle-rickshaw on a parched summer’s day in his hometown of Begusarai, he asked his rickshaw-puller for a drink of water. He points out that India’s rickshaw-pullers earn only a pittance after paying the rent on their vehicles. Perhaps, he thought, they could make a bit extra by selling drinks, newspapers or even mobile-phone cards to their passengers. And since the average rickshaw covers 10km (six miles) a day, perhaps it could also courier goods around town and advertise them to passers-by. These ideas evolved into Sammaan (which means dignity)."
Here's a Sammaan promo video on how "Money Empowers Life"... And generally in India there's been a big push to bring more modern designs and methods to bear on the cycle rickshaw sector...

26 December 2008

Planet of Cities ~ Balancing Urban-Us & Nature...

Thanks to Daily Galaxy for asking What Will Happen to Biodiversity When the World Becomes A Giant City? and spotting a Nature Conservancy report asking Can Cities and Biodiversity Coexist? The trends are dramatic:
"Humans officially became an urban species in 2007, according to the United Nations -- with at least 50 percent of the world’s population currently living in cities. By 2030, that number will jump to 60 percent, with nearly 2 billion new city residents, many migrating from rural areas. Humans are building the equivalent of a city the size of Vancouver every week. But what does this staggering urban growth mean for nature and people? A lot -- including species loss and declining natural resources such as fresh water -- according to a new study co-authored by Conservancy scientists Robert McDonald and Peter Kareiva."
The need is urgent and the challenge ours to figure out how to boost energy efficiencies, increasing per-capita quality of life for All -- i.e. for everyone, everywhere -- while lowering our per-capita -- and cumulative total -- ecological footprint, and to properly value the rich vitality of our natural inheritance on Planet Earth.

Valuing Migrants ~ Supporting Ambitious Aspirants

In my Fall 2008 Development Ventures class at MIT, I was pleased to have several plans spotlighting urban innovations and especially tackling the challenges of boom cities. The PANAH Network plan especially stood out as it sought to support in-migrants to big cities -- first in Pakistan and soon elsewhere in South Asia, ASEAN, MENACA, and Africa -- but all through entrepreneurship and commercial means. They learned some lessons from past MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition D-Track winner CentroMigrante founded by Filipino Illac Diaz. And last year in Development Ventures we had the Essential Manpower venture proposing a next-generation employment agency for the GCC market. And Remesatel, a Development Ventures alum from several years ago, was centrally about enabling migrant remittances at lower transaction cost. There's tremendous need and growing opportunity here especially since migration pressures have never been higher with urbanization at record rates and several billion people expected to migrate to cities over the next few decades.

But in the short-term things are extremely stressful for migrants. The FT writes in a photoessay that Dubai’s 3m migrant workers feel the impact of the credit crunch where many have "been told to either take a nearly 40 per cent pay cut or be sacked, so many have chosen to go home." And Sabrina Tavernise writes in the NYTimes how Cash Flow From Tajik Migrants Stalls...
"The financial crisis that is in full swing in the world’s developed countries is only beginning to reach the poorest, and labor migrants, with feet in both worlds, are among the first to feel it. Flows of migrant money to developing countries, known as remittances, began to slow this fall, the first moderation after years of double-digit growth, according to the World Bank. The slowdown is expected to turn into a decline of 1 to 5 percent in 2009, when the full effect of the crisis hits. Some are already feeling it. Mexico, for example, is likely to have a 4 percent decline in the flows of migrant money in 2008, according to World Bank estimates. The biggest declines next year are expected in the Middle East and North Africa, because of economic slowdowns in the Persian Gulf and Europe."
Above and beyond the economic pressures, Carlos Conde in the IHT/Globe writes how Filipino migrant work exacts toll on children left behind. These migrants are really modern-day heroes who take on tremendous risks and burdens to ensure a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We need to support such ambitious aspirants in as many ways possible, including through the kinds of Development Ventures my students are forming -- but especially through proper civic and governmental policies and practices to actually protect their human rights as citizens of Planet Earth and not merely one nationality.

Bad To The Bone ~ Dog Shoplifts Rawhide;-)

25 December 2008

Curious Parallels ~ Memetic vs Genetic Pandemics

There are curious parallels between the geographic spread of non-rational ideas and biological parasitism -- or phrased differently -- between memetic and genetic pandemics. Consider two examples from European history -- the expansion of Christianity and the spread of the Great Plague (a.k.a. the Black Death) -- as shown in these two maps... Different timescales, points of origin, and mechanisms for transmission + replication + mutation, of course, but nevertheless parallel phenomena for humanity to apply scientific methods on, to ever more thoroughly understand, and to ultimately prevail over.

24 December 2008

First Earthrise ~ Humans Peer Back At Our Cradle!

Today the BBC reminds us that it's Happy Birthday Earthrise...
"Forty years ago, the biggest TV audience in history tuned in to watch humankind's first close encounter with another world, as the crew of Apollo 8 reached lunar orbit. Here, the Apollo historian and film-maker Dr Christopher Riley gives his perspective on the mission and how that Christmas Eve of 1968 changed the world..."
NASA astronaut Frank Borman grabbed a camera which...
"...only had a black and white film magazine in, resulting in the image above -- the first photograph of Earthrise taken by a human as he watched it happen."
FYI, earlier this year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) successfully captured an HDTV video of a full-Earthrise using their Kaguya lunar explorer satellite... Epic! The first baby steps in moving Beyond Our Cradle! (Be sure to see also Andrew Revkin's independent homage!)

23 December 2008

Waste Matters ~ Understanding Water & Sanitation

Thanks to TIME's Bryan Walsh for spotlighting Toilet Tales: Inside the World of Waste about the subject matter of Rose George's new book The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. Walsh writes...
"Toilets are a privilege that nearly half the world lacks. At least 2.6 billion people around the planet have no access to a toilet -- and that doesn't just mean that they don't have a nice, heated indoor bathroom. It means they have nothing -- not a public toilet, not an outhouse, not even a bucket. They defecate in public, contaminating food and drinking water, and the disease toll due to unsanitized human waste is staggering. George notes that 80% of the world's illnesses are caused by fecal matter... And it's all for lack of a toilet, which may be why George isn't one for toilet jokes. "I don't think 2.6 billion people without a toilet is very funny," she writes. But despite the horrific fate of the toiletless masses across much of South America, Africa and Asia, sanitation has never been high on the world's development agenda. NGOs and governments focus on making sure the poor have access to enough clean drinking water, but comparatively little funding goes into sanitation, even though the two are sometimes inextricable: Untreated sewage often ends up poisoning the available clean water in developing nations. In The Big Necessity, George makes a passionate argument for putting sanitation at the top of the global development agenda, profiling the efforts of redoubtable activists fighting a war for toilets."

22 December 2008

Immigration Dynamics ~ Into US From 1820-2007

Cool visuals by Ian Stevenson of immigration dynamics into US... Ian mentions he did this project for a contest at Flowing Data. Plus he points to Jonathan Cousins even more comprehensive immigration dynamics visualization!

More Robotic Storage ~ Danny Choo Spotlights!

Danny Choo spotlights GIKEN's nextgen robotic bike storage in his post Japan Bike Storage. GIKEN is a major Japanese construction solutions firm, with this Eco-Cycle: Automatic Underground Bicycle Parking System only one part of their portfolio... Danny does a nice job showing the system in action... And, of course, an in-use video... I blogged earlier about the innards of such systems.

Ride-Sharing 2.0 ~ Social Nets & ICT Enabled...

Interesting article in the NYTimes recently by Anne Eisenberg titled Need a Ride? Check Your iPhone, about Avego and Carticipate, two iPhone-enabled automobile ride-sharing ventures -- going well beyond classic hitchhiking, static carpooling, or analog ride-boards. This arena of social network-enabled and info & communication technology ICT-accelerated ride-sharing is another essential urban innovation making for ever more livable, sustainable, and vital cities. Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase and her fellow MIT-alum husband Roy Russell have created another contender here, GoLoco.org, an easy way to share trips with friends -- and the friends of friends. Using a system which alerts users about travel opportunities, they turn social networks into travel networks...

Active Transportation ~ Urban Fitness & Transit...

Duncan Mansfield of the AP reports that Leaner nations bike, walk, use mass transit. Seems obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be carefully studied to be taken seriously. In this case, David Bassett of the University of Tennessee and John Pucher of Rutgers University (and colleagues) write in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health that...
"Countries with the highest levels of active transportation generally had the lowest obesity rates. Americans, with the highest rate of obesity, were the least likely to walk, cycle or take mass transit, according to the study in a recent issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. The study relied on each country's own travel and health data. Only 12 percent use active transportation in the United States -- 9 percent walk, 1 percent ride a bike and 2 percent take a bus or train -- while a quarter to a third are obese, the study said. By comparison, 67 percent of commuters in Latvia, 62 percent in Sweden and 52 percent in the Netherlands either walk, bike or use mass transit. Latvia's obesity rate is 14 percent, the Netherlands' is 11 percent and Sweden's is 9 percent."
Here in Boston-metro, the cycling situation is on the upswing with MIT alumna Nicole Freedman, Boston's bike Czarina, becoming a candidate for the Bostonian of the Year. Nicole's...
"The Spokes Woman ~ Combining a tireless passion for cycling with an expertise in urban planning, Nicole Freedman is turning Boston into a bike-friendly city."

Behind The Big Picture ~ Mediacrafter Alan Taylor

A couple times now I've pointed to Boston Globe mediacrafter Alan Taylor's wonderful Big Picture imagery uberblog. So special thanks to Simon Owens of Bloggasm for pointing me to Big Pictures Help Tell Big Stories at Boston.com, a great piece about Alan by PBS's Megan Taylor. The Big Picture lets well-chosen photos tell stories and presents them as large and in as high a resolution as possible. As Alan puts it...
"These images have a tremendous amount of impact and it's very frustrating to see them in a tiny little slide show."
Here's the infovideo embedded in Megan's piece...

21 December 2008

Stunning Supernova ~ Imaging Cassiopeia A...

Stuck today here on Earth, in Cambridge, in the middle of a revolting snowstorm (and surrounded by incompetent snowplowing), I keep thinking how much we need to move Beyond Our Cradle and seek the stars! For now, anyways, the next best thing for most of us are the amazing images from NASA's Great Observatories, such as this one of supernova Cassiopeia A... Described on Wikipedia, this...
"...stunning false-color picture shows off the many sides of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. It is made up of images taken by three of NASA's Great Observatories, using three different wavebands of light. Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red; visible data from the Hubble Space Telescope are yellow; and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are green and blue. Located 10,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Cassiopeia, Cassiopeia A is the remnant of a once massive star that died in a violent supernova explosion 325 years ago. It consists of a dead star, called a neutron star, and a surrounding shell of material that was blasted off as the star died. This remnant marks the most recent supernova in our Milky Way galaxy, and is one of the most studied objects in the sky."

20 December 2008

Design That Matters ~ Innovations For The Poor

Very nice to see MIT alumnus Tim Prestero and his non-profit spinout DesignThatMatters (or DtM) featured together with CIMIT in a recent NYTimes article Looking Under the Hood and Seeing an Incubator by Madeline Drexler...
"The heat source is a pair of headlights. A car door alarm signals emergencies. An auto air filter and fan provide climate control. But this contraption has nothing to do with transportation. It is a sturdy, low-cost incubator, designed to keep vulnerable newborns warm during the first fragile days of life. Unlike the notoriously high-maintenance incubators found in neonatal intensive care units in the United States, it is easily repaired, because all of its operational parts come from cars. And while incubators can cost $40,000 or more, this one can be built for less than $1,000..."
This incubator was done by DtM with CIMIT, or the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology in Boston, which has a Global Health Initiative, headed by Dr Kris Olson. (Olson, btw, was spotlighted just recently in a nice Globe article by Billy Baker titled He is 'The Man' of life-saving devices.)

DtM has several other projects, including one of my favorites, Kinkajou, a low-cost, low-power info-projector for literacy and education... And check out Tim doing a general promo...

19 December 2008

Food & Drink ~ Mapping Coffee, Burgers & Fries

Braille Camera ~ A Clever Imaging Solution...

Kudos to Son Seunghee, Lee Sukyung, and Kim Hyunsoo for designing a Braille Instant Camera and winning a Red Dot design award!
"With a built-in Braille printer, the Braille Polaroid Camera is designed for the blind to record and print Braille images of the world around them."

Oh No, Snow ~ MIT Closes; Fears a Few Flakes;-)

No, it's nothing like a blizzard or nor'easter today in Boston, but nevertheless MIT declares it an "emergency" and closed at 1pm. You know your relative importance in the scheme of things when they email everyone and say "all nonessential personnel may leave";-) Feel the love! On a totally random, but in my mind obviously related note, here's some immortal snowy creativity from Calvin!

18 December 2008

Green Living ~ Inhabitat Spotlights the Eco-Licious!

One of my favorite greenscraper + vital cities + urban innovations websites -- inhabitat -- has several delighters recently. Click-on photos to explore further details...

Heavy Lifting ~ Shuttling Beyond Our Cradle;-)

Cool perspective on the NASA Shuttle-shift via 747! Be sure also to see the glorious prep photos and the launch photo I pointed to earlier;-)

Zipcar vs Hertz ~ Imitation = Sincere Flattery!

Ken Belson in today's NYTimes article Hertz Tosses Some Car Keys Into the Ring, Battling Zipcar describes Connect, the Zipcar-esque service from car rental giant Hertz...
"Like Zipcar, Connect by Hertz members can make reservations online and use swipe cards to open their cars, which will be parked at 10 lots in Midtown Manhattan. In a nod to Zipcar’s success in signing up young drivers, the Toyota Prius and the Mini Cooper will be among the first 35 cars that Connect by Hertz will offer in New York. Hertz has 40,000 cars in the New York area. By comparison, Zipcar has about 5,500 cars in 13 big cities, including 1,400 cars at 300 sites in the New York metropolitan area."
Zipcar is one of my favorite urban innovations -- co-founded by the ever-delightful MIT Sloan alumna (and multi-company entrepreneur) Robin Chase! Here's Robin's TED Talk.

17 December 2008

Matatus ~ Creative Minibus System in Kenya

Videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp tells the story of Matatus in Kenya and the decoration designers who spice up these minibusses... I especially like that Ruud spotlights a couple of the Kenyan designers and how their creative initiative is the basis for business and employment.

15 December 2008

Champion ~ Support, Defense, Enduring Devotion

The latest Economist article titled Champion is all about the key support and nurturing required to ensure that seemingly crazy organizational ideas thrive and endure. The article quotes legendary MIT Professor Don Schon...
"The new idea either finds a champion or dies ... No ordinary involvement with a new idea provides the energy required to cope with the indifference and resistance that major technological change provokes ... Champions of new inventions display persistence and courage of heroic quality."
And Dartmouth Professor James Brian Quinn...
"The champion is obnoxious, impatient, egotistic, and perhaps a bit irrational in organisational terms. As a consequence, he is not hired. If hired, he is not promoted or rewarded. He is regarded as not a serious person, as embarrassing or disruptive."
Finally quoting Spence Silver...
"You have to be a zealot at times in order to keep interest alive, because it will die off. It seems like the pattern always goes like this. In the fat times, these groups appear and do a lot of interesting research. And then the lean times come just about at the point when you’ve developed your first goody, your gizmo. And then you’ve got to go out and try to sell it. Well, everybody in the division is so busy that they don’t want to touch it. They don’t have time to look at new product ideas with no end-product already in mind."
He co-invented Post-It Notes at 3M;-)

This makes me think I'm not so crazy in championing Developmental Entrepreneurship & Development Ventures, Digital Anthropology & Systems Sociology, Neurotechnology Ventures, Imaging Ventures, Metro Ventures & Urban Innovations, Mobile Ventures, the greater MIT Campus as Living Lab + Technology Testbed + Market Microcosm, Understanding MIT & Changing MIT, Value Chain Roadmapping, Innovation Observatories, student-driven Entrepreneurship @ MIT, the Innovation Teams (i.e. iTeams), Action Labs, and many other elements of research, education, and extracurriculars at the Institute.

14 December 2008

Human Population ~ Longterm Growth 1800-2050

I'm very interested in the longterm, especially with an eye towards 2050. Interesting to note the changing time periods in which each additional billion are added to human population... (Sorry, it's very irritating, but the original higher-res graph is now lost to the aether).

Executive Suite ~ Why Do We Work? Pride!

Here's my favorite scene from one of my favorite films, Executive Suite, where the young VP R&D Don Walling (played by William Holden) prevails in a boardroom battle royale over VP Finance Loren Shaw (played by Frederic March). Asks Walling: Why do men work? Pride! (2013 update: Sorry, asshole lawyers have removed earlier links. Here's the latest available online.) Here's the 1954 trailer...

Reducing Child Mortality ~ On Achieving MDG #4

Gapminder's Hans Rosling shows progress over time in achieving Millennium Development Goal #4 -- Reducing Child Mortality: cutting by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate -- in this Gapcast #11... You can map your own combination of statistics over time through the Gapminder World tool. There's much more work to be done to accomplish MDG #4: over 25,000 children under five die each day, mostly from preventable causes. That's just appalling. This is a population the size of MIT dying -- unnecessarily -- every day. Here's UNICEF television report on progress...

12 December 2008

Beautiful Cities ~ Amenities Accelerate Growth...

My friend Pascal Marmier -- MIT Sloan alumnus and the Consul at the Boston swissnex -- pointed me to this great Knowledge@Wharton article on real estate, For Modern Urban Growth, Don't Forget the Ballpark and River Walk, which spotlights an article by Professor Albert Saiz and the Fed's Gerry Carlino on the Beautiful City: Leisure Amenities and Urban Growth. The key finding:
"...urban amenities -- like ballparks, aquariums and river walks -- help stabilize U.S. cities and improve their economic outlooks... spending public dollars on leisure and cultural activities may offer more long-range benefit than traditional economic development focused on job creation... "Beautiful cities" disproportionally attract highly-educated individuals, and experienced faster housing price appreciation... Investment by local government in new public recreational areas [...] is positively associated with higher subsequent city attractiveness."

11 December 2008

Necessary Angels ~ Essential Rural Healthworkers

In the latest issue of my favorite magazine, National Geographic, author Tina Rosenberg and photographer Lynn Johnson share the power of Necessary Angels, the rural Indian women who serve as community health workers and the Jamkhed program which orchestrates things. These women help the otherwise helpless and, in the process, move beyond their traditional caste limitations. This is a very nicely-done article weaving together cultural conditions, health challenges, rural issues, organizational concerns, the difficulties of scaling-up and more, all around the gigachallenge of global health delivery.

This is a theme we deeply care about at the Institute. I'm sitting now with my MIT colleague Jose Gomez-Marquez who is running D-Lab Health class in Spring 2008 as part of International Innovations in Health, one of the MIT IDI family of programs. He and his students will be deploying healthcare design kits to empower these local health care workers with appropriate medical technology. That means highly distributed, off-the-grid, simple but effective solutions. And both Rich Fletcher and Victor Grau are running an D-Lab ICT4D class where several of the projects are health + information technology oriented. And another colleague, Anjali Sastry, is spearheading the MIT Sloan G-Lab on African health delivery systems. Lots happening!

10 December 2008

MIT Nextlab 2008 ~ Mobile Phone Innovations!

I just saw the ever so nice finale projects presentations of the MIT Nextlab 2008 class run by Jhonatan Rotberg and Luis Sarmenta. The students shared their progress on several marginally compelling prototype solutions to design challenges posed by distributed partners, including...
  • NextMap ~ Disaster management and environmental monitoring (with CRS, India; Innovgreen, Vietnam)
  • Moca ~ Mobile Care and Diagnostics (with Centers for E-Health and Tele-Medicine in Southeast Asia)
  • Baby Blog ~ Boosting School Readiness (with Thrive in Five, Mayor's Office, Boston)
  • Giving Farmers a Fighting Chance ~ Fair Price Market-Making (with ITESM Zacatecas, Mexico)
  • Get New Money ~ Multilevel marketing for microfinance (with COBIS, Ecuador)
  • Mobile Commerce Interface ~ Informing Purchase Decisions (with United Villages, India)
  • Fellows Forum ~ A Mobile Social Network for Students (with Telmex, Mexico)
These MIT student team projects are alone interestingly nice, but despite this, my favorite aspects of the Nextlab class is the creative collaboration with fourteen Emerson students and recent alumni who shoot, edit, and produce videos to cast these MIT projects to a broader web audience. Even if the projects are lame, the promo is great...

ClickDiagnostics ~ Vote for USAID Challenger!

I'm delighted to report that ClickDiagnostics, one of our Development Ventures 2007 alum startup companies (and the MIT $100K Development Track 2008 winner) is in the running for the USAID Development 2.0 Challenge -- Vote For Them!
"ClickDiagnostics enables existing health-worker networks and micro-entrepreneurs to provide advanced medical consultation and to gather health data by connecting them to global health servers via mobile phones."
Just a few weeks ago, Click co-founder, MIT Sloan alumna Tania Aidrus was interviewed on Fox TV... And another Click co-founder, KSG alumnus Mridul Chowdhury produced this lovely explanatory video after his initial January 2008 market exploration trip to Bangladesh...

09 December 2008

MIT Neurotechnology Ventures 2008 ~ Top Plans!

Earlier today my colleagues Ed Boyden, Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, Barbara Barry, and I hosted the finale session of our joint MIT Media Lab - Brain & Cognitive Science - Biological Engineering - Health Science & Technology - Sloan School of Management Neurotechnology Ventures seminar. Neurotech is a theme which embraces a broad array of issues and opportunities including: Neuroimaging, Neurology/Psychiatry Diagnosis, Rehabilitation, Neurosurgery, Neuropharmacology, Brain Stimulation, Prosthetics, Sensory and Motor Augmentation, Gaming, Learning, Neuroveterinary Solutions, Regenerative Neuromedicine, and more. I'm quite delighted by and proud of the teams which pulled together some bold and even excellent new venture proposals, including...
  • Aivot ~ ePatch Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Quit Smoking
  • NeuroExtend ~ Veterinary Longevity Neural Implant
  • MindLight ~ Children's Autism Detection System
  • Vibraint ~ Learning Assessment Systems
  • BrainState ~ Image-Guided Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Data Driven Diagnostics (D3) ~ MRI Tests for Depression
  • StrokeDx ~ Stroke Diagnostic Imaging Systems
  • iSight ~ Vision Recuperation Solutions
  • Sight Beyond Sight ~ Retinal Implant Vision Systems
  • PsychCSR ~ Voice-Pattern Call Center QC Systems
And, yes indeed, we had a nice after-party at the Muddy Charles Pub, MIT's fountainhead of over-the-counter neuroceuticals;-) All told, a dedicated and diverse group of participants and newco proposals! The emergent Neurotechnology Ventures Cluster in New England continues to grow and -- I'll bet -- will soon rival Energy, Cleantech, and Games, and is poised to be a substantial element of our greater Boston biotechnology - life-science - healthcare megacluster.

Deep Dive ~ X-Prizes for Ocean Exploration?

My MIT colleague Erika Wagner -- who runs the X-Prize Lab connected with the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation -- is spearheading an Independent Activities Period workshop (for members of the MIT and Woods Hole community) around the theme of X-Prizes for “Deep Dive” Ocean exploration and development. As she puts it:
"In 1927, Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic to win the $20K Orteig Prize. In 2004, Burt Rutan launched SpaceShipOne to space twice in two weeks to capture the $10M Ansari X PRIZE. [Now the time is ripe for looking at how prizes might] "open up the oceans for revolutionary new exploration and science."
Besides the brain, the oceans are one of our last, vast terrestrial frontiers!

07 December 2008

Drink Jet Printing ~ Edible Art & Foamy Beverages

There's a long and glorious history of printing foods. Tim Anderson and Jim Bredt made their homebrew 3D printer in the bowels of MITERS in the old MIT Building 20 by hacking an ink-jet printhead out of a Canon 2D ink-on-paper printer and spraying water on layer after layer of sugar powder. Net result: 3D sugarcandy! They ended up spinning this technology out of MIT to co-found Z Corporation. And back in his MIT Media Lab days, Saul Griffith cooked up a 3D Chocolate Printer out of Legos, plans for which he later posted on Instructables. Now Scott Kirsner in his latest Innovation Economy column Art for the average joe, writes about OnLatte, the drink jet company spraying picture patterns out of edible caramel micro-droplets on top of foamy beverages like lattes and beer.

US in Debt ~ Mapping the Banks & Others Bailout

Yet another great graphic from the NYTimes...

06 December 2008

CNC Hexabot ~ Robo-Router Cuts 3D Face!

Imaging setting an army of these hexabots to work patterning wooden or other surfaces... More discussion at Hexapodrobot.com

04 December 2008

MIT Development Ventures 2008 ~ Great Plans!

Earlier today we had the finale session of our joint MIT Sloan-Media Lab Development Ventures seminar, part of the growing D-Lab family of classes in MIT's International Development Initiative (IDI). I'm very proud of the dozen student teams which pulled together several excellent new venture proposals, including...
  • Covalent Global ~ Philanthropic Micro-Grant Network (Kenya, Africa)
  • Civika ~ The "Facebook" for Civic-Sector Leaders (Africa, Philippines)
  • DuraAlok ~ Low-Cost Eyeglasses Distributor (India)
  • Global Cycle Solutions ~ Bicycle-Powered Businesses (Tanzania, Peru)
  • Fair Goods ~ Urban Retailer Delivery Network (South Africa)
  • LinqUs ~ Infonet Connectivity & Services for the Elderly (India, China, Japan)
  • SolSource / LocalSource ~ Rural Energy Product Distributor (Greater Himalayas)
  • Moringa Agri Products ~ Cooperative-Owned Exporter (Kenya, Africa)
  • One Sol ~ Condominial Urban Sewer Solutions (Ghana, Africa)
  • PANAH Network ~ Migrant Housing & Employment System (Asia, Africa)
  • PayGo ~ Mobile Phone Payment System (Pakistan, Mexico)
  • Prestige Incubator ~ Building Premium Import Brands (Latin America)
  • Vidya Vitta ~ Investor-to-SME Brokerage (Nigeria, Tanzania, Africa)
A really great group of newco's! Be sure to also check out our DV alumni ventures!

03 December 2008

Urban Gravity ~ What Cities Influence You Most?

The Hummus 2050 co-creator Lorenz Potocnik pointed me to a delightful set of maps by maestro Michael Baldwin, including this US map showing Urban Gravity -- i.e. what top city's influence dominates in a given geographic locale...

01 December 2008

Wheelmotors ~ In-Wheel Propulsion Retrofits!

I wrote a few weeks ago about Revopower and a while ago about Robot Wheels (and other vehicular innovations), but here we have a great homebrew retrofit DIY EV from Charles Guan -- one of the mens et manus here at MITERS -- who electrifies his Razor scooter! And here's the stand-alone test rig...