Kevin Lepton

I am the writer, editor and publisher behind this future technology blog and I predict you will keep reading to see what is coming right around that metaphorical corner.

Aug 172017

Science fiction and fantasy has created a world where injuries are healed in a flash using certain devices and spells. What if that could be possible in the real world? That might well be the case thanks to a technology developed at the Ohio State University called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT).

TNT is just a small silicone chip the size of a coin which delivers genetic code into skin cells, which are then transformed into a different kind of cell needed to treat a particular condition.

The technology clearly has the potential to save lives given what it can do. A car crash victim’s chance of survival is increased if their wounds can be tended to straightaway. There’s also a higher chance of saving a wounded soldier’s life if this technology is available in the battlefield.

Proof that it works

Of course, any new technology, including a breakthrough such as this one, needs to be tested. The Ohio State University team has so far conducted lab tests and all of them have been positive.

The device works by mounting it on the skin where it delivers genes to the tissue underneath it with the help of an electrical field.

In one test, TNT was able to completely repair the injured legs of mice in just a few weeks. After just one touch, active blood vessels started showing on the mice’s injured legs. By the second week, the mice’s legs look to have been healed.

TNT in this case reprogrammed the mice’s skin cells into vascular cells needed to regulate blood flow throughout the body.

Works on more than just skin cells

Chandan Sen, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies, said that TNT can restore any kind of tissue. A mouse that suffered a stroke regained brain function when it was treated with TNT, which grew brain cells on its skin.

The technology, according to Sen, can transform skin cells into elements of a different organ with just a single touch.

A breakthrough technology

The use of TNT marks the first reprogramming of cells on a live body. Many scientists are working in ways to reprogram cells in order to repair the body, but this one is different. What makes it stand out is the elimination of the step where pluripotent stem cells, which can convert into different cell types, are created.

A study published in Nature Nanotechnology notes that the current methods of cell therapy are risky because they involve introducing a virus and take too many steps.

With TNT, no laboratory or hospital is needed to perform the healing. The use of the technology in lab tests also showed no side effects. Plus, it will only take a second to treat a patient.

TNT weighs less than 100 grams and has a long shelf life.

Waiting for approval

Chen has been working on the project for four years and expects the technology to be carried out on human subjects within the year. For now, TNT is still awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.



Swiss Drawn to Cryptocurrency

 Cryptocurrency, Future Security  Comments Off on Swiss Drawn to Cryptocurrency
Jul 252017

Twenty miles south of Zürich is a small town called Zug. It looks just like any other affluent Swiss town, but one that has managed to attract entrepreneurs specializing in digital currency – meaning you can pay for things without needing physical money. By 2014, it was dubbed by those in the financial world as Crypto Valley.

How did this happen?

The 2008 global financial crisis led the U.S. to take severe measures when it came to offshore accounts. With low taxation of foreign corporations and individuals, it was no wonder that Switzerland became a preferred tax haven. UBS and Credit Suisse were fined millions of dollars by the US Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service in 2009 for allowing tax evasion.

An end to its status as a tax haven forced Switzerland to look at other options to remain relevant in the banking sector. The answer came in the form of a cryptocurrency and digital payment system called bitcoin.

In 2016, bitcoin received a global investment of $1.4 billion and hot a ton of money flowing through it. This offered an opportunity for Switzerland to set itself up as a cryptocurrency hub. To do that, they had to create regulations allowing companies dealing with cryptocurrencies to flourish – a process that has caused headaches for other governments weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the technology.

Bitcoin protects the identity of users which led some to use that advantage for nefarious purposes. For instance, it was used on Silk Road, a site that was engaged with a number of illicit activities such as drug dealings and unlicensed firearms.

The troubles concerning bitcoin don’t seem to bother a number of Swiss citizens who have a mind for technology along with some libertarian views. For them, bitcoin provides an opportunity for them to make payments without the need of a bank or credit card company.

The aim of a decentralized financial system is what drives Johann Gevers, a South African financial entrepreneur. Gevers came to Switzerland in 2012. His company, Monetas, provides a digital system that allows any currency, including bitcoin, to be transferred around the world at low rates. He believes that too much power resides with just a few hands which can result in massive suffering, citing the 2008 financial crisis as an example.

The reason Gevers chose Switzerland was simple: it has the most decentralized political system in the world and efforts like his are seen as opportunities rather than threats. He was soon followed by other cryptocurrency startups who liked the idea of a country that is open to non-traditional ideas about currency.

Zug, the small town where Monetas and a number of other cryptocurrency companies are based, is embracing the technology. The local government lets its citizens pay for services using bitcoin.

This open-minded adoption of the technology is not restricted to Zug alone. Bitcoin Suisse has installed 10 bitcoin ATMs across Switzerland that accepts euros and Swiss francs then returns a slip of paper with code representing the corresponding bitcoin value; scanning the code using a smartphone gives the user their “money.”

While other world governments are trying to figure out ways to regulate bitcoin technology, the atmosphere in Zug is forward-looking: companies are looking for ways to use the technology beyond banking.


What You Must Know About Google TensorFlow, and Why It Could Be AI’s Future

 Artificial Intelligence  Comments Off on What You Must Know About Google TensorFlow, and Why It Could Be AI’s Future
Jun 282017

If you’ve been reading updates about the Google I/O conference (which took place on May 17 to 19, 2017), you’re probably impressed at the announcements that were made during the event. Google Assistant’s real-world analysis, Google Home’s call-making abilities, Google Photos’s new shared libraries — these are some of the new and exciting features that the tech giant has revealed.

But, if you take the event as a whole, you might notice two things: 1) Google is no longer hyper-focused on mobile technology since 2) it’s now setting its sights on artificial intelligence.

AI isn’t exactly a newcomer to Google. Many of the tools and features offered by the company, such as image search and speech recognition, are powered by artificial intelligence. However, Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai point out that AI isn’t just a tool to provide better services to users — it’s actually the foundation on which the company’s future (and the rest of the world’s) will be built. The fact that the Menlo Park-based tech giant readily admits this should make the tech community stand up and take notice.


Google’s AI Powerhouse

Google has already started to make artificial intelligence a central part of its service offering. One of the biggest steps it has taken so far is to make TensorFlow an open-source software back in 2015. By doing this, Google has made it easier for developers and software engineers to incorporate AI into their projects.

But what exactly is TensorFlow? Technically, it’s a software library that makes machine learning a quicker and faster process. It stemmed from DistBelief, a machine learning system that was built by Google Brain in 2011 to assist Google engineers in their research and product development tasks. Several computer scientists worked on DistBelief to make it faster and more robust, eventually turning it into TensorFlow.

The library was made open to the public on November 9, 2015. It can only be deployed single machines as of the moment, which is one of its few limitations, but users are hoping that Google will improve this in the feature. Thankfully,  TensorFlow supports multiple CPUs and GPUs and can be used on 64-bit Windows, Mac, and Linux computers as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.


Leading the Way

It’s important to note that TensorFlow is not the only machine learning library available. There are several other options out there, such as Swiss-built Torch, Facebook-supported Caffe (and its newest version Caffe2), and Keras (whose creator has become a Google engineer).

Despite these options, many developers and businesses decide to use TensorFlow because of several reasons. Some like the fact that TensorFlow promotes quick scaling, while others love that it easily integrates with the rest of Google’s services (which makes it easier for developers to push their products). Another good thing about TensorFlow: you can either build and customize your own algorithms or purchase off-the-shelf components if you’re squeezed for time or don’t have enough resources to go the DIY way.

With these in mind, it’s clear that TensorFlow is the future of Google’s foray into artificial intelligence. In fact, the tech giant has recently released a new version of the library called TensorFlowLite, along with an API that’s designed to interface with future AI-powered smartphone processors. These are just the beginning, though: we can expect to see more developments that will expand Google’s AI empire and help it dominate the artificial intelligence platform.