With only 11 sleeps to go, this edition of Our Week in Digital begins our two week sign off to 2018!  This week, we are getting into the festive spirit and covering a few stories that may make you smile…ones a little more light-hearted in nature.

So, put the wrapping to one side for 10 minutes, pick up a mince pie, sit back and scroll…

The smartest jacket on the street….it’s SO next year!

 

What’s on the top of your Christmas list this year?  If the thought of leaving your house without your phone replaces your joy and cheer with dread and fear then you may want to send Santa an edited copy!  

It may seem like an unlikely partnership, but Google and Levi Jeans have teamed up to introduce a new feature to it’s Jaquard Smart Jacket.  Designed to stop you from leaving your phone behind, Always Together (as it has been named), emits an automatic alert if the jacket strays too far from the paired device.  Notifications of the separation happen at both ends of the partnership. Your phone receives a notification, whilst the jacket sleeve vibrates and flashes.

The jacket itself is already pretty smart!  Earlier releases have allowed touch inputs to control things on your smartphone.  Music controls, for instance and navigation pings within Google Maps.  Furthermore, earlier this year, an update in the Jacquard platform introduced a variety of other features. Safety concerns for bike commuters saw it pair with Bose to launch Aware Mode.  Surrounding traffic sounds can be picked up and sent through to the user’s ear through supported headphones.  Additionally, it launched support for ride-sharing alerts along with pin drops on a map to save locations.

All this doesn’t come cheap though.  You’d have to be on the Nice list for sure!  This latest smart jacket has a $350 price tag, but if it means that you never forget your phone again….? Maybe that’s a price worth paying?

Bumblebee backpacks act as a living data collection platform.

Our Week in Digital has included a lot of drone development news in recent editions.  This week is no exception, but comes with a little sting in the tail!

Engineers from The University of Washington have designed the “Living IoT backpack”; a tiny wafer device loaded with electronics and sensors designed to be worn by an army of bumble-bees!  This swarm of Cyber-Bees will be fitted with the device and gather data on the sites they visit. They will collect environmental information on their travels; temperature and humidity for example, as well as watching for signs of rot or distress in the crops.

The team were quick to note that the welfare of these stripy little scientists was at the fore front of their minds as they created the tech.  Throughout, they were careful to “follow best methods” for their care and handling. An integral part of this was, of course, the design and weight of the pack.  The chip itself has sensors and an integrated 7 hour life battery. Remarkably though, it weighs just 102 milligrams. For comparison, an adult bumblebee, could weigh anywhere from two to six times that.   Indeed, these little soldiers are total winged warriors! They can carry three-quarters of their body weight in pollen and nectar when returning to the hive. Whilst these packs would be noticeable, carrying them is well within their considerable capabilities.

In a news release, the lead scientist on the project Shyam Gollakotta explained why they picked bees as their ‘drone’ of choice.

“We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries.”

The benefits of such a project are wide and various.  The results could have a direct impact on arable farming and the farming methodologies of the future.  The international plight of the bee has also been well documented. It is thought that the study could even help keep the bees themselves healthy.  The backpacks are not pre-programmed. They go where the bees go, allowing scientists to discover the preferred location and crop of the insects.  Information such as this could prove vital if we are to continue to produce sufficient food to feed the growing global population.

The tech is in prototype form at the moment.  Other experiments have put RFID antennas and such on the backs of bees and other insects in the past, but this tech is much more sophisticated.  One can only imagine how it might be deployed by farmers and environmentalists in the coming years.  

Bringing Fossils out of the dark…scientists create a “Digital Museum”.

Museum archives are much like the proverbial iceberg…there is so much more hidden away than what we can see on the surface.  

In a bid to bring data out of the dark, researchers and scientists from eminent institutions such as London’s Natural History Museum and The Smithsonian in Washington DC have been working tirelessly to create a ‘digital museum’.   This incredible concept would mean that valuable specimens currently hidden away could be studied by any scientist, anywhere across the globe.  

This is an ambitious plan and one that will take decades to complete.  It is thought that to digitally record the 40 million fossils held at the Smithsonian alone will take an estimated 50 years to accomplish.  However, the reward will far outweigh any work load – no matter how large.

Could a digital image ever be better than the real thing though?  

The answer appears to be, yes!

This is perhaps best explained by Prof Emily Rayfield from the University here in Bristol.  She uses CT scans of dinosaur skulls and other bones to build computer models for research. In an interview with the BBC, she states; “We can actually use the digital data to test how these animals functioned”.  

It would be difficult to physically lift and manipulate the real, fragile and heavy skull of a diplodocus, for example.  However, the digital image allows Prof Rayfield and her colleagues to twist, turn, compress and stress her digital dinosaur bones.  She can investigate how the animals would have moved, what they ate and how they interacted with their environment.

The project is already bearing considerable fruit.  The study of digital marine fossils is already enabling researchers to understand how marine life has responded to sea levels and ocean temperatures.

In essence, the huge digitisation project will require each museum to capture high-quality images of each fossil and record all of the key information; age, species and where the specimen was discovered for example.  All this data would then be collated and made available online.

The collaborative possibilities of such a scheme are endless.  Scientists would be able to work together. The information they may once never have had access to could be the key to assembling the jigsaw of pre-historic life.

The considerable workload would not end once the project is complete.  In fact, quite the opposite. Considerable care would need to be taken to maintain and grow the database over the coming generations.  Prof Philip Donoghue, Rayfield’s colleague in Bristol is also using digital scans of ancient, fossilised microorganisms in his research.

In the same BBC report, he warns “We need to ensure …that a digital museum is properly and consistently recorded and curated so that the data is of the highest possible quality.”

His warning could not conceal his excitement at the potential of the project, however.  He went on to say that a digital database would transform the ability of scientists to study life on Earth.

Apple and Tesla…Are Apple really planning to buy the Car company??

2018 has seen a host of tech team-ups.  IBM secured Red Hat.  Oracle bought SD-WAN specialist vendor Talari Networks AND business intelligence experts, Datafox while Adobe acquired software maker Marketo back in September.  These are just some of the most recent highlights, and it appears that 2019 may have some equally exciting pairings to offer.

Investment bankers, Saxo Capital Markets made what is known as an outlier prediction this week.  In it they suggest that we may bear witness to possibly THE most Herculean of partnerships next year…that of Apple and Tesla.  Would it be too outrageous to suppose that Apple may make a bid for the electric car giants??

Saxo speculate that the offer would set Apple back around $86 billion.  A price tag that it could meet after just 12-months of cash flow. These types of figures are somewhat unfathomable to us here at Ignite HQ!  To put it into some sort of context though, Apple could fund the deal without a second thought! They would be able to restore its $237 billion cash hoard in a year.

As part of their prediction, the bankers project an offer of $520 a share.  This is $100 a share more than Elon Musk suggested had been secured to take Tesla private in his infamous tweet earlier this year.  At the time of writing this, the Tesla share price is at $355, a figure which is up 66% since the beginning of October.

An Apple/Tesla merger may be an outrageous prediction, but the odds of it occurring are not so outrageously low.  Indeed, analysts have suggested that the match may be one made in Silicon Valley heaven! Apple clearly have deep pockets.  It has also been suggested by some that they have given up any solo efforts into entering the auto market. Tesla, on the other hand, have lots of ideas and an insatiable quest for money!  

The two also have a common focus on both design and engineering in hardware. As such, an Apple-Tesla acquisition would provide Tesla with the funds it needs to build new gigafactories in Europe and China.   Saxo have stated that this would ultimately see them “dominate the future of the car industry.”

Who would you love to see partner up next year?  No suggestion is too outrageous! Leave your comments below!

About the author: I work hard to find the best opportunities for my candidates and the best talent for my clients. My honest and pragmatic approach helps me to build lasting relationships and deliver real value.  I have extensive experience helping organisations overcome their critical challenges in the digital environment, and have worked with everything from start-ups to major global brands.

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