Working together against COVID-19

This post was prepared by Anna Pellizzone, a science writer and an independent researcher at the Bassetti Foundation.

Makers

As many of us face lockdown and restricted movement, it is certainly worth thinking about what we ourselves might be able to do from our homes to help in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plenty of initiatives around that are pushing technology into new fields, with 3D printing certainly one of the most prominent technologies.

News of respirator valves produced using 3D printers has spread across the world. Thanks to the meeting of three minds, a journalist (Nunzia Vallini, Giornale di Brescia), a Maker from Milan (Massimo Temporelli, FabLab Milano) and an entrepreneur (Cristian Fracassi from Isinnova), pieces required for the machines used in the Intensive Care Department of Chiari Hospital (Italy) are being produced in the hospital itself.

The “3D Printing Unite for COVID-19” forum is another interesting collaboration. Through the forum, makers from across the world share ideas aimed at responding to the emergency. You can read more about the Chiari story there. This is an open-source initiative headquartered in Ireland which aims to resolve the problem of the shortage of  ventilators, learn more here in Forbes.

And there is plenty more. João Nascimento runs the OpenAir project, with the aim of finding new, fast, open-source and accessible ways to produce much-needed medical equipment. Lots of interesting stuff here too.

If you are the competitive type (and well set up), the UBORA project, has launched the UBORA design competition 2020, with the title “Open source medical technologies for integral management of COVID-19 pandemia and infectious disease outbreaks”.

Play Your Part

You too can play a role though without technical expertise and home technology by participating in Coronaselfcheck, a platform that works to map data on the spread of COVID-19 through a personal self-check. Check out the privacy and descriptions of aims before you make a decision, but everything is anonymous and helps through mapping contagion.

And of course fold.it, a platform many of you will know, where users who play have been able to help researchers to discover new antiviral drugs that might be able to stop the coronavirus. The most promising solutions will be tested at the Institute for Protein Design of the University of Washington. We are all citizen scientists at heart.

Remaining in the area of protein folding, another contribution that we can all make is to offer our own PC’s computational capacity by downloading and running folding@home – similar to BOINC projects.

There is also a lot of open-source software available that allows the sharing of useful research data. Nextstrain is an open-source application that works to track the evolution of viruses and bacteria, while GISAID is a free open-access platform that promotes the sharing of the genetic sequences of virus genomes such as influenza, bird flu and COVID-19.

And finally check out this article from Wired and you will be in self-isolation heaven.

Keep us informed if you find any others please: anticovid19(at)fondazionebassetti.org
Replace the (at) with an @

Let’s all push and show them what we can do if we all work together.

Some bold predictions for 2030

Hello all!

I’m back!

Just in time to see the year (and decade) out! 😊

I’ve been working on a series on electric vehicles, which I’ll start to publish in the new year. Today though, I’m going to look into the future and make some predictions on what the world will look like 10 years from now.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten” ― Bill Gates

In 2019, 2030 may seem really far away, but today, we’re closer to 2030 than we are to 2009.

Here are three bold predictions I believe stand a very real chance of coming true over the next decade.

95% of Global New Car Sales Will Be Electric

A decade ago, there weren’t any serious electric cars available on the market. If you played golf or delivered milk, you might use a short-range electric vehicle, but if you wanted to drive 400 miles at 70mph, it just wasn’t possible.

In 2012 the Tesla Model S arrived, as did the Supercharger network, which meant you could drive for 250 miles, stop for forty-five minutes on a 72kW charger and then drive another 150 miles, powered 100% by electricity!

This seemed like a breakthrough at the time, although today cars are available with almost 400 miles of range, and charging takes a fraction of the time, with some networks offering speeds of 350kW – juicing up at well over a thousand miles per hour!

Range has been creeping up, charging speeds rapidly improving and prices have dropped significantly. It’s now possible to pick up a second-hand 100-mile range Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf for less than £7,000! Alternatively, the 2020 Renault Zoe will have a 200-mile range and cost around £25,000.

EVs require less maintenance than petrol and diesel-powered cars, and are significantly more efficient and cheaper to run – reducing the total-cost-of-ownership. It’s this, coupled with the push for cleaner air and global climate concerns that lead me to believe that the tipping point for electric cars is coming very soon. By 2025 I believe more than 50% of new car sold in Europe, North America and China will be powered solely by electricity. 🔋⚡🔌🚗

Humans Will Set Foot On Mars

In the 1960s there was a great race for space – with Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon in 1969. Since then, the dash for extraterrestrial exploration has slowed somewhat, which fewer advances and less drive from governments to get into space.

A notable exception is the ISS, which is celebrating 20 years in orbit – having been permanently manned since November 2000.

NASA has plans for a sustained lunar presence from 2028, something that’ll be much easier thanks to booming interest from the private sector. Rocket Lab, SpaceX and Blue Origin all have ambitious space plans, and a proven track-record of success.

Arguably the most iconic moment of the decade for space travel came as private enterprise SpaceX launched of its Falcon Heavy, simultaneously landing two Falcon 9 boosters.

Mars and Earth are close (in space terms!) every 26 months, meaning roughly every two years, there is an optimal launch window open for a trip to the red planet. The 13th of October 2020 is when the two planets will next be closest, although it’s highly unlikely a manned mission will be launched by then.

The last window of the next decade will the March 2029, which is when I’m guessing the first human will set foot on the red planet – 60 years after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

While the first human to set foot on Mars will probably go straight from Earth, I believe a permanent lunar base will mean that most missions to Mars post-2040 will launch from the Moon, not Earth. This is because it’s likely to be far cheaper to conduct smaller launches from Earth and bigger ones from the Moon – due to the lower gravity.

If the moon has the resources needed for rocket fuel (ice at the poles which can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen) and to make materials – via 3D printing – in future it could become the springboard to space! 🚀

10 Countries Will Be Cashless

More and more transactions are moving online. When you check-out your virtual basket of goods on the internet, you don’t have the option to pay with cash – one example of how notes and coins are less useful than they once were.

Sweden is expected to go cashless in 2023 and in many developed nations, the use of cash as a means of paying for things is dropping. In the UK, cash was king, accounting for 60% of all payments in 2008 and remaining the single most popular way to pay until 2017 – since then debit cards have been the most popular way to pay.

By 2028, UK Finance believes debit cards, direct debits and credit cards will all be more common ways to pay than cash, with cash accounting for only 9% of payments. The drop from 60% to 9% in two decades shows the scale of the decline.

Singapore bus with a contactless payment reader

On a recent visit to Singapore, it struck me just how far ahead it is in terms of payment methods. Everywhere I visited supported some form of virtual payments; from contactless on the MRT and in-app payments for taxis, to online payments for the hotel and card payments at a 7 Eleven.

Mobile banking, cryptocurrencies, online shopping and contactless technology all offer convenience and are alternatives to support a cashless future.

Naturally, in many parts of the world, lack of development and technological literacy, as well as nostalgia, habits and cultural preferences, mean cash will remain on the global stage for a while yet.

I do think around 5% of the world (10 countries) will become cashless in the next decade though – with Singapore and Sweden both likely candidates. 💷💳

Happy New Year! 🎆🎇✨🎉🎊

Thanks for reading and taking an interest in Technology Bloggers, we really do appreciate it 😊

Let me know your thoughts on my predictions and if you’ve got any of your own!

Happy New Year! 😄

Responsible Innovation in Technology

I would like to open this new season of posts with a series on recent developments in technology development from the perspective of responsible innovation. The idea of responsible innovation (RI) has been around for about 20 years and is easy to understand: Innovation processes can be steered towards certain goals, and the technological products that come to market also.

A Bosch employee controls a deep field robot called “BoniRob” at a field in Renningen near Stuttgart, Germany July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle – RTSL1NO

Examples are easy to find in our everyday lives. We all have a computer that we cannot upgrade because we can’t get into it. Talk of built in life spans, telephones without changeable batteries, systems that are no longer upgraded leading us to have to spend money and dispose of working machines that are full of hazardous materials.

On the other hand the development of open source software and large scale collaboration by experts in related fields seems to demonstrate a different approach. Sharing of data has helped in developing treatment for Eboli, human genome sequencing and across a host of other fields.

If we take a look at these examples it seems that their development processes were slightly different to those we are used to, and this is where the central idea of responsible innovation comes in. The aim was to arrive at a product or conclusion that would help to resolve a pressing problem, and not only to make a profit.

So the underlying idea is that innovation processes should work towards solving what the European Union call the Grand Societal Challenges. There are many of these, but looking after an ageing population, food security, climate action and smart transport technologies are just a few.

In order to promote this approach the European Union have placed the concept within all of their calls for funding until 2021. This means that anyone applying for funds to conduct research has to address the issue and to run their project within these aims. To give you an idea the last 7 years funding budget was of 80 billion Euros, so there is the possibility of pushing real change via this approach.

Part of the idea involves the open publication of data, and any project that is funded receives money to pay for articles to be placed in paid publications on open access or to be freely distributed. Information is power after all, the power to make a profit, with technology companies across the world fighting to be the first to announce their new developments and carefully safeguarding their data and processes. And this is one of the great sticking points, because this approach is inefficient both in terms of development and positive return for society.

Technology develops faster if everyone working in a particular field shares their data. But in a world based on profit how can this sharing come about without leading to loss of possible profit? There are plenty of examples here too though, ASUS collaborate with gaming company Tencent in order to produce a telephone designed with particular specification that will enable its user to make the most of their games.

So why not in other important fields? Data sharing seems to present a wealth of opportunities and advantages.

Next week I will offer an overview of some of the recent publications within this field.