Category Archives: Engineering

Behold the IoT Invasion: Eight Reasons to Plug In (Slideshow)


John McDonald, CEO, ClearObject | Mar 12, 2019 for IndustryWeek

An IoT integrator shares what big trends to capitalize on in the next few years

 

By 2021 consumer spending on digital products and services is predicted to double, and the Internet of Things (IoT) space grew just as fast in 2018. Every industry is looking for new, advanced ways to meet production and consumer demands in a world of instant gratification. These trends are some of the things we see as an IoT systems integrator that will continue in the forefront of 2019 and beyond.

IoT and data are critical for today’s operations in any industry. It’s no longer feasible to ignore the benefits for efficiency, productivity and customer satisfaction that are results of using advancements in IoT and data. Each and every industry must adopt new and inventive methods like IoT and machine learning to analyze transactions and data in any form whether it’s a car that can detect driver fatigue, preventive maintenance sensors, or nanotechnology to monitor food sources.

Click on Start Slideshow for eight areas that should see serious growth in the next few years:

Start Slideshow

John McDonald is the CEO of Fishers-based ClearObject and chair of the Indiana Technology and Innovation Policy Committee.

The power of “and”

Former GM executive Larry Burns discusses how Detroit and Silicon Valley both look to have critical roles in the future of mobility

By Dennis Pankratz, Research Manager, Center for Integrated Research, Deloitte Services LP for Deloitte Insights

Auto executive and adviser Larry Burns sees the future of mobility filled with driverless cars, with a wide range of customers, uses, and market segments—and plenty of room for innovation in both Detroit and Silicon Valley.

Few people are as deeply familiar with both the automotive industry and the technology community as Larry Burns, who spent more than three decades at General Motors, ultimately serving as corporate vice president for research, development, and planning. He is also an academic and a longtime adviser to Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car program. Burns’ recent book, Autonomy, offers an inside account of the efforts to develop self-driving vehicles.1 In a wide-ranging discussion, he shared his views about the future of mobility.

Derek Pankratz: You’ve been thinking about changes in transportation for a long time. Looking back at what you believed or expected 10 or 15 years ago, what has surprised you?

Larry Burns: There were a couple of really big surprises. When we finished the [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA] Urban Challenge in 2007,2 we asked the head of DARPA, “What’s next?” And he said, “Well, you’ve proven this is viable. It’s really up to the commercial sector to run with it.” So all of us expected that everyone would be knocking on the doors of these young engineers to go make driverless cars happen—and quite honestly, except for Google launching its self-driving car program in 2009, very little happened. I was really surprised that the commercial sector didn’t jump at it. So I’d say my biggest surprise was how long it took for a lot of people to accept that this was real and was possible, especially the auto industry, which is so significantly impacted by what’s going on. And now there’s this stampede. Suddenly everybody’s an expert.

One other thing in terms of my own journey. When I left GM, I went to Columbia University and led a program for sustainable mobility. We looked at what you could do with a driverless, electric, shared vehicle model, and the results were pretty remarkable in terms of the number of vehicles required and the cost per mile.3 But the reality is there are almost 200 million cars and trucks in the United States,4 and a lot of people who want to have their own. So I’ve given thought to the idea of an autonomous vehicle that can be personal-use as well as shared-use, because I think the future is going to be both of those.

DP: It’s an interesting challenge. I know Deloitte’s surveys suggest that the biggest reservation people have about shared mobility is exactly that: It’s the issue of personal space and not wanting to share a confined area with somebody else.5

LB: I don’t think people will be owning their car like we do today—I expect it will be more like a lease or subscription. If you have an autonomous vehicle for your own personal use, you’ll likely want to be picked up at your door and dropped off at your door. And you won’t want to be hassled with parking your vehicle—you’ll want that vehicle to be smart enough to go somewhere and refuel or recharge and wait for you. I think that vehicle would get a lot more usage than my personal car now: When I arrive at work, it drops me off at the door, and then I could dispatch it in the middle of the day to go pick up my dry cleaning, and I could dispatch it again to go get takeout dinner and then go pick up my kids and then pick me up at work and take me back home. This whole world of a robotic personal valet is very intriguing to me; I think it’s going to eliminate the need for owning a second and third car initially and, ultimately, owning a car altogether.

Some worry that additional road miles from both shared and personal usage will cause more congestion, but for those people who are taking trips they couldn’t before—due to their age or a disability, for example—and are now able to participate more in society and the economy, that’s a good thing. We should be celebrating those miles. It’s also worth keeping in mind that if vehicles are operated as a fleet, you’re going to be optimizing the use of that fleet. Ride-hailing providers don’t operate like a fleet—they are a bunch of individual agents trying to get matched up with a ride. Our work at Columbia showed that you want to simultaneously have very high fleet utilization and very low empty miles—miles with no passengers in the car. The business reality of fleet management will help us on the congestion front.

DP: I think about that personal-valet model a lot. I live in a fairly rural area in Colorado where a shared fleet model doesn’t seem to make sense. There are all of these small and medium towns where it’s hard to see how you get the utilization to make it worthwhile, so the dedicated-use approach seems natural.

LB: Fifty-three percent of Americans say they live in suburbs, and 21 percent in those rural towns that you’re talking about, which is a nontrivial slice of the population. And that’s what’s so exciting about the future autonomous electric vehicle market. There are going to be a lot of market segments, and that provides great opportunities for innovative companies to define their brands, find their niches, and deliver real value tailored to those opportunities.

DP: You briefly mentioned electric vehicles. When you were working on the AUTOnomy concept car at GM in the early 2000s, you built around hydrogen fuel cells.6 My impression today is that there is a lot more activity around battery electric vehicles. Any thoughts on the pros and cons of those two different types of power sources and their future prospects?

LB: If I could change one thing in my public rhetoric in my role at GM, I probably would never have uttered the words fuel cell. I would have called it a hydrogen battery instead, because to be honest, they’re very similar. And progress on hydrogen storage, production, and distribution and fuel cells has been very impressive. Germany just announced that it’s going to have trains operating on hydrogen fuel cells,7 and there are over-the-road trucks being developed that use hydrogen fuel cells.8 So I think this is not battery or fuel cell. I think it’s an and. You’re going to have a lot of synergy in the propulsion system around that and; depending on which market you’re dealing with, hydrogen and fuel cells are going to find their role.

DP: That and point is really interesting, because it’s always presented as one versus the other.

LB: One of my biggest lessons is the power of and. A lot of business leaders get trapped thinking they have to select between A or B. And they forget to ask the question, “What about A and B?” What I have found over the years is that “A and B” often beats A or B by themselves. I think it’s hugely important to find the power of and.

DP: Another topic that’s often posed as a dichotomy: the role of vehicle-to-vehicle [V2V], vehicle-to-infrastructure [V2I], and vehicle-to-everything [V2X] communication. Some people say it’s critical and we’ve got to have it in some form. Others say it’s actually superfluous, or that it would be nice to have but is too expensive and takes too long to build out, so we’re going to keep everything onboard the vehicle.

LB: It’s another beautiful example of the power of and. For two cars to talk to each other, both need to have enabling hardware and communications technology. For V2I, the infrastructure is pretty expensive to deploy. But in time, as we get to Gen-2, Gen-3 autonomous systems, I think you’re going to see V2V and V2I become a way to reduce cost and perhaps even improve performance. I’ve learned to never rule out any technology. I dedicated my book Autonomy to engineers. Engineers make what’s possible real; that’s what we do.

DP: Let’s talk about yet another apparent binary choice between developing advanced driver assist features like automatic emergency braking or lane departure correction, and aiming for “fully” autonomous systems that don’t anticipate a human taking control. How do you see Level 2 and 3 automation playing into this whole picture?9

LB: I’ve been an adviser to Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, since January 2011, and they made a really important decision that they were going to develop autonomous systems for only where there’s no human involved at all. If our goal is to eliminate over 90 percent of crashes, we really need to go for Level 4 and Level 5, full autonomous. I believe the right thing to do is to get the driver out of the loop altogether: The situational-awareness challenge of asking someone to reengage in the driving task when they’ve been sitting there not driving for 20 or 30 minutes is a tougher problem to solve than getting the system to autonomously handle 99.99 … percent of the stuff that happens in the world. With that said, I think it’s useful to be developing emergency braking systems, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, stability control. That’s been good for safety purposes. But at the end of the day, I believe the objective should be to get to Level 4, starting in a geo-fenced area that’s big enough to have commercial value.10

DP: It seems safe to say that you’re a believer in the opportunities around autonomous vehicles. What do you see as the biggest hurdles to widespread adoption? Is it technological, social, regulatory, or something else?

LB: My biggest fear is that people will make premature judgments about what we’re doing, whether out of fear or just not knowing. Have you had a chance to ride in a driverless car?

DP: I have.

LB: So you have a different experience than someone who hasn’t. My first ride on public roads was in late 2010. I engaged the system. My hands were shaking over the steering wheel. My feet were nervous over the pedals. But within five minutes, I was relaxed; I realized this car was doing everything I would do as a driver and even better. And I suddenly realized I had no desire to change lanes and try to get ahead of somebody in front of me because I had my time to myself. I think this is all about people understanding what’s possible in their lives and what’s possible with the technology. I worry about people coming to a premature judgment and therefore resisting. And I very much worry about players who have a strong vested interest in the existing roadway transportation system.

I’m not worrying about the technology—I have not seen anything come up yet that says we’ve hit the wall and that we can’t keep finding solutions to those driving challenges that are the most difficult that we face today as humans.

DP: It’s another and moment, although maybe one that could slow progress. You can imagine hesitance or uncertainty by the public combined with a variety of vested interests that are able to capitalize on a moment where there’s no broad popular support.

LB: It’s going to play out with a tipping point. There’s this tendency to want to look into the future to know how big it’s going to be and when, to predict market shares and penetrations. That’s impossible. I focus more on that magical moment when market value exceeds price and price exceeds cost. The technology is proven, the customer value is proven, the business opportunity is proven, the regulatory barriers are not there, and it becomes clear this is now just a question of scaling through a series of generational deployments. That magical moment is within a three-to-five-year window, unless these vested interests push back so hard that they slow things down.

DP: Related to the hurdles, I’m personally very interested in the psychology or sociology of car ownership, particularly in the United States. Car culture is deeply embedded in a lot of places. The car is more than just a way to get around—it’s a longstanding symbol of who we are and who we want to be.11 Is that a significant barrier?

LB: Another very good question. I think about it through the lens of my two daughters, who are 30 and 27. My coming of age was when I got my driver’s license and my first car. Their coming of age was their first cellphone, not their first car. Over the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve asked them what would you give up first—your cellphone or your car? And they say they’d give up the car before they’d give up their handheld device. Younger generations are expressing themselves in a much different way than just through car ownership.12

DP: What about some of the nightmare scenarios or unintended consequences of these new mobility innovations? Many cities are already dealing with an influx of ride-hailing vehicles, and you mentioned sending your self-driving car to pick up your dry cleaning. You’ve done detailed modeling on a number of cities looking at what shared autonomous vehicle adoption could look like. Any insights?

LB: At Columbia, we asked the question: “To make all the one- or two-person trips that automobiles currently make, how many tailored-design driverless electric vehicles would you need?” In city after city that we studied, you could replace all of the cars with a fleet that’s 15 percent the size and still make all the trips that are being made. In simulations, those vehicles were picking people up in two to three minutes. We had empty miles on the order of 5 percent of loaded miles. How? It has to do with population density. In cities like Ann Arbor, the probability that somebody is requesting a trip nearby just as I am being dropped off is pretty high. So a properly managed, optimized fleet would take a lot of cars out of the system.

Now, not everybody’s going to want to share a car. I accept that. Let’s say I’m at home cooking dinner for friends, and I realize I forgot to buy wine. I dispatch my personal robotic valet to the wine store to pick up the wine and come back. Would you call that an empty mile? I still would have made that trip driving my own vehicle. Today we have a system that is not optimized for fleet utilization. It just isn’t. But if you’re in the fleet business providing transportation services, a penny per mile really matters.

DP: We’ve largely been focused on the movement of people, but there are big changes happening with the movement of goods as well.

LB: There are really two big opportunities with goods movement, and we may see commercially viable businesses at meaningful scale sooner with goods movement than people movement. The first opportunity is in long-haul trucking. The most recent numbers from the American Trucking Association indicate that an average driver makes about 73 cents a mile, wages and benefits.13 That’s 47 percent of the cost per mile for over-the-road trucking. But not only would self-driving trucks save the 73 cents a mile—you have the opportunity to expand your daily service area because you don’t have driver work rules; an autonomous tractor could conceivably go 24/7 or 23.5/7 based on maintenance. That’s really important for e-commerce. And when you think about all of the parts on a tractor that are there because there’s a driver—the windshield, doors, side windows, seats, air-conditioning, heating, driving controls—it’s easy to convince yourself that the pile of parts you no longer need will cost more than the parts you’re going to add to make the tractor autonomous.

On the other side is package delivery, and it becomes even more interesting when the vehicles doing local package delivery can be the same vehicles you’re using for moving people around, and they can have different temporal patterns throughout the day. Maybe more of the packages are getting delivered at night. That might improve fleet utilization and congestion in urban areas.

DP: Speaking of urban mobility, we talked about autonomous vehicles and changes to the car. We’re also seeing other kinds of micro-mobility popping up: bikesharing, e-scooters, micro-transit vans. How do you see those fitting into a world of shared autonomous fleets?

LB: Well I think it’s that key word again: and. This isn’t about picking one winner to replace the more than one billion cars in the world. I’m very excited by all of those modes that are cropping up, and I think they’re going to be enhanced by the ability to seamlessly interface with them via apps. My long-term vision is for one totally integrated transportation system where you’re able to coordinate the movement of people and goods using these different modes in a seamless way. Deloitte is doing some important work on that, and I think that’s where this is headed.

DP: We’re pretty bullish on the idea of digital mobility platforms for cities.

LB: I think you should be.

DP: We’ve talked here about some pretty momentous changes unfolding. What does all of this mean for players in various industries? You’re in a somewhat unique position in that you’re a longtime veteran of the automotive industry and also been closely involved with one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent projects in this area.

LB: The original subtitle for the book Autonomy was “The race to build the driverless car and how it will reshape our world.” Our editor suggested we change the word race to quest. It seems like a simple change, but we kicked off the book with a sense of Silicon Valley versus Detroit, and by the end of the book it’s Silicon Valley and Detroit. The tech community has brought enormous insight and value; they have been the catalysts to bring this change about. But in those early days, those tech players were not fully appreciating how hard it is to design, engineer, validate, and manufacture a car at the scale at which the auto industry operates. What’s reassuring to me now is that the auto industry is working with Silicon Valley on their autonomous R&D. And Silicon Valley has turned to the auto industry for the kinds of vehicles they need to keep learning. So I think you’re seeing it as an and.

People ask me a lot, “Who’s going to win?” I think you’re going to see an ecosystem emerge not unlike the one that emerged with the internet. I’m not at all convinced that there’s going to be a single vertically integrated player that emerges from this that can do the driving system, the vehicle, the transportation system operations, the brand building, and all of that. I think you’re going to see quite a bit of codependency emerge. But those who become dominant in certain parts of that ecosystem could do really well.

DP: And does seem to be the theme of a lot of things happening in mobility. Let’s focus in on the automotive industry. If you were in an automaker’s shoes today, what do you think they should be doing to be ready for the future to best position themselves?

LB: They’re in a tough position because they have to continue to keep their legacy business viable while trying to pivot to these new businesses where they don’t have the core competencies and they don’t have infinitely deep pockets. That’s a really, really tough puzzle to solve.

With all of that said, autonomous vehicles won’t work without the vehicle, and the vehicles are hard to do. I think the big concern for the industry is that those vehicles are going to become more commodity-like. The engineering of the vehicle becomes much simpler down the road when it’s electrically driven, doesn’t require a human driver, and you get most of the crashes out of the system. And I don’t think the differentiator in the market is going to be chrome and fenders and fascia and the shape and the color. It’s going to be very much the overall experience that customers have, and that experience is going to be determined more by software and data and analytics than the traditional basis of competition in the auto industry. There are going to be some really tough portfolio decisions. Which parts of the traditional business do I want to hang with? Where is the profit? How do I pivot to this future of mobility that we’re talking about today? Can we attract the best talent to play in that race? Bottom line: The traditional players in the century-old roadway transportation system, including auto, energy, insurance, and finance companies, must get in front of the inevitable and make hard choices on “where to play” and “how to win” in the future.

DP: You’ve neatly framed the challenges of balancing today’s business with tomorrow’s needs. When you think about the future of mobility, what’s your greatest hope?

LB: My greatest hope is that we realize what I call the age of automobility—a convergence of autonomous electric vehicles deployed in transportation services—as fast and as soon as we possibly can with appropriate risk management. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to simultaneously deal with 1.3 million fatalities worldwide per year on roadways, to deal with congestion, to deal with dependence on oil in transportation, to deal with the land use that comes with three parking spots per car in the United States, and to deal with equality of access. The deaths and injuries from crashes alone—it’s epidemic in scale. If I just created a cure for cancer and it held promise to save a lot of people with cancer but some could still die from the treatment, I think we’d get on with it; we’d find a way to manage that. We ought to look at autonomous vehicles as a cure for the roadway transportation epidemic and think about their deployment the way we test and deploy vaccines.

So I have this fixation: I want to get to the anticipated benefits. This convergence of technology and business models really can have a significant, meaningful impact and bring more transportation services at lower cost to more people. There’s an opportunity to have radically better services at radically lower consumer and societal costs.

Endnotes
  1. Lawrence D. Burns with Christopher Shulgan, Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—and How It Will Reshape Our World (HarperCollins, 2018). View in article
  2. The Urban Challenge was a 2007 competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in which teams had to construct an autonomous vehicle able to navigate an urban environment, including merging, passing, parking, and crossing intersections. DARPA, “Urban challenge,” accessed October 15, 2018.  View in article
  3. For instance, see Benjamin Zhang, “This study revealed the staggering potential of self-driving cars,” Business Insider, June 2, 2014. View in article
  4. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Number of U.S. aircraft, vehicles, vessels, and other conveyances,” accessed December 10, 2018. Number cited is for light-duty vehicles, short wheel-base, 2016. View in article
  5. Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study 2019, forthcoming. View in article
  6. “AUTOnomy” was a GM 2002 concept vehicle built around hydrogen fuel cell motors, drive-by-wire technology, and a skateboard-like chassis. See Burns and Shulgan, Autonomy. View in article
  7. AFP, “Germany rolls out world’s first hydrogen train,” France 24, September 17, 2018. View in article
  8. Kristin Lee, “Toyota’s new hydrogen fuel cell truck has a 300-mile range,” Jalopnik, August 1, 2018. View in article
  9. The Society of Automotive Engineers has identified five levels of vehicle automation, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) subsequently adopted. See the NHTSA, “Automated vehicles for safety,” accessed December 12, 2018. View in article
  10. David Roberts, “Here’s how self-driving cars could catch on,” Vox, May 9, 2018. View in article
  11. Robert Moor, “What happens to American myth when you take the driver out of it?,” New York Magazine, October 17, 2016; Brandon Tensley, “How will pop music adapt to autonomous cars?,” Slate, March 15, 2018. View in article
  12. Millennials may be only delaying car purchases rather than eschewing them, but their attitudes toward driving do seem distinct from those of previous generations. See Henry Miller, “How traveling by car is changing under millennials,” Matador Network, January 22, 2018; Mary Wisniewski, “Why Americans, particularly millennials, have fallen out of love with cars,” Chicago Tribune, November 12, 2018; and Kevin Drum, “Raw data: Kids and their cars,” Mother Jones, May 12, 2018. View in article
  13. American Transportation Research Institute, “An analysis of the operational costs of trucking: 2018 update,” October 2018. View in article

How do folding phones adapt to users, and vice versa?

By James Sanders in Mobility, TechRepublic on January 31, 2019 8:00 AM PST

Oblong CEO John Underkoffler discusses the burgeoning folding phone trend, how users will take advantage of the form factor, and how cases would work on a folding phone.

 

Video

TechRepublic’s James Sanders spoke with Oblong Industries CEO John Underkoffler about the burgeoning folding phone trend, how users will take advantage of the form factor, and how cases would work on a folding phone. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

 

James Sanders: I’m here with John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries. 2019 is widely expected to be the year of folding phones as rumors indicate Motorola, Samsung and Xiaomi are preparing models with foldable strains. In terms of user experience, what’s the make or break factor for folding phones?

John Underkoffler: I think there’re actually two make or break factors and one is physical and the other has to do with the pixels in a sense. The physical one is ergonomic. And this may sound a little weird, but for me it comes down to can you open the thing with one hand? Does it have a really kind of fantastic feel as you open it? I mean, of course the precedent here is anyone having been down to the planet opening their Star Trek flip phone and there should be that similar kind of gestural feel, a similar kind of satisfying ergonomics to the simple motion of getting the phone to open into a usable mode. The other make or break factor as far as I’m concerned is of course the experience or the experiences. We know that what’s going to make these valuable in a raw sense is the fact that when they’re unfolded, there’s more display area that opens up the kind of field for the kinds of applications and the kinds of work and information that you can undertake and understand in the context of a folding phone.

But what those are is going to make all the difference and how software designers decide to use that larger space will make really all the difference. If it’s simply a matter of scaling up existing apps to fit into a bigger screen, I don’t think anyone has got much of anything to sell.

James Sanders: Samsung’s prototype shows only one hinge, meaning one flex point, making it more of a brochure. Leaks of a Xiaomi prototype show a two fold pamphlet design. How will increased fold points impact that user experience? And how are more complex designs likely to be more fragile?

John Underkoffler: Well, there’s the physical aspect is having two hinges mean that the thing can get smaller, probably not, but it does mean is that it’ll likely be able to get bigger. In a way, I feel like the folds and the introduction of insides and outsides where historically, of course the smartphone is only ever had an outside, actually introduces the opportunity for new kinds of designs and new user interactions. Like for example, is there a thing you can do? Is there a new swipe that actually takes information you were looking at on the display, on the outside of the phone and kind of swirls it around to the inside. And when you have two hinges or two fold points instead of one, maybe there’s literally a new kind of fold semantics that extends our UI language for using smartphones. Maybe the act of folding and unfolding itself is part of the interface instead of simply part of the physicality of getting the phone ready to use. I think that would be really significant. I’d love to work on it.

James Sanders: Because of the emotional connection that people have with their phones, everyone I know has a case on their phone. How are you going to do that with a folding phone and without a case? How is it going to be that these aren’t just scratched the day after they’re taken out of the box?

John Underkoffler: Yeah, the case issue is a really good one. I think that historically smartphone manufacturers have gotten away without having to adequately, let’s say physically safe guard the devices that they sell you using the devices that they sell you, which is why there’s such a burgeoning market for cases. You get your new pixel or whatever phone it is and it’s unbelievably elegant and slender, and then you’ve got to put it in the case. As you pointed out, the case isn’t really an option or as easily an option in the new foldable phone world. Although I guess I’m driven to recognize that if you buy nice used books. Books, some people have heard of them. Sometimes the original book’s cover will come in a kind of foldable, mylar encasement that’s sturdy and not unattractive and keeps the thing safe. So maybe there’s something that can come along like that.

However, I really feel as if the onus is now on the smartphone manufacturer itself to make sure that the device is sturdy in a way that anticipates that, “Yes, of course it’s going to fall out of your pocket or your shirt pocket or your pocket book.” Or wherever it’s going to fall from. There’s physical hazard to being in the world and the phones are not immune and the phone itself should anticipate that.

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Sports Science and Technology Trends

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By Doug West, Contributing Author to How They Play – Updated on August 24, 2018

 

Technology and science play central roles in major sports around the world. Teams and individuals are constantly hunting for an extra performance boost, or a technique that speeds injury recovery. While there is sometimes resistance to new methods from established coaches or team doctors, sports science still makes a huge difference to what athletes eat, how and when they train, how they recover from injuries, and how often they are rested from competition.

Athletes are some of the fittest people in the world. But they also push their body to the extreme on a regular basis. Whether an athlete is attempting to get faster or stronger, or they just continue playing and training despite fatigue, they are taxing their muscles, joints and the whole body to the extreme. In the past, teams had a harder time understanding when an athlete was suffering from fatigue or exhibiting early signs of an injury.

Sports science has changed things in a big way. Teams and athletes can now get real time data on performance, endurance, flexibility, technique and more. They can compare that data with previous benchmarks to understand their body’s condition. And new medical techniques mean recovering from training sessions, games and injuries is better than ever.

The sports science trends receiving prominence over the past few years include using analytics to prevent injuries, the use of new injury recovery systems, sweat analysis, and wearable technology.

Analytics to Prevent Injuries

The risks of picking up an injury while training or playing sports is common. Many athletes suffer serious injuries that keep them out of action for three months or longer. In fact, it is very rare to encounter a professional athlete who did not have at least one or two serious injuries over their career.

Injuries not only rob players of time they could be spending on the field or court, but they also cost their teams money. The estimated cost of player injuries in the four major soccer leagues in Europe – English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A – came to roughly $100 million in 2015. In the American NFL, injury totals are trending upward, despite all the moves the league makes to boost the sport’s safety. Sports teams and athletes want to use technology and data to help understand why athletes are picking up specific injuries, and how to prevent them.

An example of such technology includes VU, by Pivot. VU is a device that uses Pivot’s sensors to understand an athlete’s body and performance in real time. The tech is capable of analyzing player landings, cuts, sprints and other movements to understand an athlete’s performance and technique.

By using such technology, teams and individuals can understand whether specific techniques are causing injuries, or if they are merely suffering because of excessive fatigue or strain. VU is also usable for helping athletes rehabilitate from a major muscular or bone injury, as their movements are tracked and analyzed during each step of their rehab.

It is not possible to understand how each athlete is impacted by different activities or fatigue by applying a “one size fits all” approach. That is why some are taking a very personalized approach to understanding the bodies of elite athletes. Kitman Labs asks players to go through a Microsoft Kinect station daily, where they move different muscles the same way each time. Trainers get the information instantly, allowing them to compare a player’s flexibility and range to other days. If a discrepancy is noticed, further tests can be done to determine the issue.

Some injuries are difficult to prevent, such as contact injuries. But muscular problems are preventable through analysis and rest. If the Kitman Labs system notices a player is moving their left leg differently to previous days, they may be able to spot a hamstring or thigh problem in its very early stages. The player could rest for a week and be back in top condition. If the issue was never noticed, the athlete would keep playing until they tweaked or tore their muscle, which is a much longer and more complicated problem. Per Kitman Labs, they see anywhere from 20 to 33 percent reduction in injury rates among their partner teams.

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“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

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Injury Recovery Systems

Cryotherapy is an incredibly popular practice in sports, and it is gaining a lot of attention in the past few years. The concept of cryotherapy is to expose parts of the body to freezing or near-freezing temperature. While it is not the most fun experience, especially for those who hate the cold, it is said to help with recovery during the sports season.

With cryotherapy, it is possible to submerge most of the body into a cryotherapy booth, or target specific areas such as the arms or legs. It helps athletes deal with muscle pain, joint pain, soreness, and it promotes faster healing from injuries. While cryotherapy booths can be expensive, many teams and athletes use ice water baths to achieve the same result. The athlete sits in the ice bath for three to five minutes.

Hyperbaric therapies, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, are becoming increasingly popular among sports teams. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is said to repair and regenerate tissue, limit swelling, stop infections, and aid in muscle soreness after intense training sessions.

The process for hyperbaric oxygen therapy is straightforward. The patient breathes pure oxygen in a pressurized room, or through a tube. When in a chamber, it is possible to set the air pressure to three times the regular levels. The increase in air pressure causes the lungs to get even more pure oxygen than is otherwise possible. The pure oxygen is then carried by the blood throughout the body, where it can help muscles, stimulate growth factors, promote healing and help in other ways.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is very good for treating head injuries, such as serious falls or concussions. It is being used at an increasing rate in sports such as American football, where head injuries are a serious concern. But it also helps with other injuries and soreness throughout the body.

There are some risks associated with the therapy, such as middle ear injuries, temporary nearsightedness, lung collapses or seizures. But the risks are not an issue if the therapy is being performed under the continual supervision of a medical expert. When athletes attempt to buy and use equipment to breathe pure oxygen on their own, it can be an issue, as it may result in overexposure that could trigger a lung collapse or a seizure.

Athletes involved with sports that tax their legs can benefit immensely from technology like the NormaTec leg boots. NormaTec combines sports science and technology to create leg compresses that assist athletes in recovery and injury prevention. The system comes with a control unit and attachments that can go on the legs or arms. Compressed air is used to massage limbs and mobilize fluid around the area.

The attachments mold into the exact body shape of the athlete’s legs. Then it begins to compress the area where it is attached, with the compressions going in a pulsing manner to mimic a massage. Athletes can use these attachments after each training session and game, with additional use during moments in the year where they are experiencing increased fatigue. American basketball star LeBron James uses the NormaTech attachments regularly.

Recovering from injuries is not just about the body, but also the mind. Athletes who suffer bad injuries, such as complete muscle tears or broken bones, may face mental obstacles when they are set to resume training. Many teams are beginning to understand the mental and psychological impact of injuries on athletes.

It is common for athletes to feel sad, isolated, angry, depressed, frustrated and disengaged while injured. It is especially true when the injury keeps the athlete from training for three months to a year. Athletic trainers, team doctors and coaches are beginning to understand the issue and take it seriously. Many teams now employ therapists so that athletes can have someone to talk to regarding their emotions when they suffer a bad injury.

Hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Sweat Analysis

Teams have begun using smart patches, such as the ECHO Smart Patch, to help analyze a player’s sweat as they train and compete. These patches are useful for monitoring health signs, gathering data to boost recovery, and eventually improving athletic performance. Sweat analysis can provide information about the many solutes in a person’s body, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, ammonium, lactate, proteins, peptides and alcohols.

Since sports teams have benchmark numbers for these solutes on each athlete, the data they gather after every training session and game helps them understand a player’s physical condition, whether they need a rest, and what foods and/or drinks they could use to replenish the body and aid in recovery.

Some of these smart patches can even monitor player vital signs, like their heart rate, respiration, skin temperature or the heart rate variability. Instead of relying on how an athlete feels, or what a coach is seeing out on the field, teams can use real data to shape their decisions on how their star athletes train and recover.

Each individual is different in how they respond to the rigors of sports. Some may have greater natural recovery, while others need more rest in between training sessions and games. By analyzing sweat, teams can put real data next to everything else they know about their athletes.

How Technology Is Taking Over Football | Sports Vests Explained

 

Wearable Technology

Wearable tech plays a huge role in how athletes are evaluated in real time, and after games or training sessions. For instance, coaches can use wearable tech to understand how an athlete is performing compared to their previous training sessions or games. A reduction in physical output could be a sign of fatigue or an injury. Many muscular injuries are the result of overtraining or playing, which is easily remedied by tracking player performance with wearable technology. Coaches have the information at their disposal using laptops or smartphones, and they can make real time decisions about whether to keep a player on the field or make a substitution.

Examples of successful wearable technology include the Catapult OptimEye S5. The device came to prominence when used by English soccer team Leicester City, as they defied 5000/1 odds to win the 2015-2016 Premier League title. Leicester used the OptimEye S5 to track a player’s acceleration, positioning, collision impact and much more. The data arrives instantly, meaning coaches and team doctors always have data to provide greater context to what they are seeing from a player during games.

The product gives information about volume, intensity and explosiveness during games and training sessions. Teams around the world, such as the Denver Broncos, Sacramento Kings, Brazil national soccer team, Newcastle United and Ajax use the OptimEye S5.

Tennis professionals are incorporating products such as QLIPP into their training regimes. QLIPP offers real time data from within a tennis racket, as it attaches to racket strings. The device offers information about the intensity and position each time a player hits a tennis ball with the racket. Coaches can see the information in real time, and tell the player when they are hitting the sweet spot.

Zepp’s Baseball and Softball offering provides players and coaches with real time data regarding bat speed, swing technique, attack angles, and more. Players can use the Zepp Baseball and Softball kit to methodically improve every aspect of how they are swinging their bat and hitting the baseball.

With each iteration, wearable technology improves its accuracy and the type of data it can offer to sports teams and athletes. Wearable tech is useful to understand performance over time, improve technique and prevent injuries.

We have merely scratched the surface of how much science and technology can help sports teams and athletes. As more coaches and sports doctors begin to see the benefits of combining their old methods with new technology, players will be fitter, exhibiting better technique, performance, and less likely to suffer muscular injuries due to fatigue.

Zepp Baseball

 

References

“Five trends for 2017 in sport science and medicine” https://www.globalsportsjobs.com/article/five-trends-for-2017-in-sports-science-and-medicine/ Accessed March 26, 2018.

http://vupivot.com/ Accessed March 26, 2018.

“How Analytics Can Prevent Sports Injuries” https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/how-analytics-can-prevent-sports-injuries Accessed March 25, 2018.

Villines, Zawn. “What are the benefits of cryotherapy?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319740.php October 17, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2018.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy” https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/about/pac-20394380 Accessed March 26, 2018.

“About the NormaTec Pulse.” https://www.normatecrecovery.com/how-compression-works/how-and-science/ Accessed March 28, 2018.

Putukian, Margot. “Mind, Body and Sport: How being injured affects mental health” http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/mind-body-and-sport-how-being-injured-affects-mental-health Accessed March 27, 2018.

https://www.catapultsports.com/products/optimeye-s5

 

When will we have flying cars? Maybe sooner than you think.

After decades of promises, personal air vehicles are finally getting close to commercial reality—but you still probably won’t own one

By Gideon Lichfield, Editor-in-Chief, MIT Technology Review – February 13, 2019

Two weeks ago I would have said flying cars were still firmly in the realm of techno-utopian fantasy, as they have been for decades. Now I’m not quite so sure.

In the coming few years nearly 20 small airborne vehicles are supposedly hitting the market (see table below). Some are drone-like, with anywhere from four to 18 rotors keeping them aloft. Most are fixed-wing craft with propellers that point upwards for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and tilt forward for flight.

Some are also more realistic than others. While both Airbus and Boeing have projects under way, a raft of smaller companies are pushing aggressive time lines as well. Germany’s Volocopter plans to start trials this year of a flying taxi in Singapore. Uber has claimed it will start test runs next year for a service between Frisco, Texas, and the Dallas–Fort Worth airport,and that it plans to start commercial flights in 2023; it has five flying-car makers as partners.

But will they ever be safe, let alone affordable for anyone who isn’t mega-rich? At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, I moderated a panel of experts who made a persuasive case that they could be—though, to be fair, most of the speakers had an interest in doing so.

The panelists were Dirk Carsten Hoke, CEO of Airbus; Ross Perot Jr., a Texas real estate mogul who is helping Uber start up the flying taxi service in Dallas; Liu Fang, director-general of the International Civil Aviation Organization; and Ion Yadigaroglu, a managing partner at Capricorn Investments , which has a stake in Joby Aviation. The panel was under the Chatham House rule, which means I can’t report specific statements, but this was the gist.

Flying cars currently in development
Name & manufacturer Type First manned flight* Expected delivery
Aeromobil 4.0 Folding-wing STOL 2014 (3.0 model) 2020
Aeromobil 5.0 Folding-wing VTOL N/A 2025 or later
Pop.Up Next (Airbus/Audi) Quadcopter 2018 (scale model only) ?
Vahana (Airbus) Fixed-wing VTOL 2018 2020
Aurora (Boeing) Fixed-wing VTOL 2019 2023 (for Uber)
Ehang 184 Quadcopter 2018 2019?
Volocopter 18-rotor copter 2016 Trials in 2019
Joby Aviation Fixed-wing VTOL N/A ?
Lilium Fixed-wing VTOL 2017 Before 2025
Moller Skycar Fixed-wing VTOL 2003 ?
Pal-V Single-rotor gyrocopter 2012 2020
Terrafugia Transition Folding-wing STOL 2009 2019
VRCO NeoXcraft Quadcopter with tilting rotors N/A 2020?
Kitty Hawk Cora (formerly Zee.Aero Zee) Fixed-wing VTOL 2016 ?
Opener BlackFly Fixed-wing VTOL 2018 ?
Karem Butterfly Fixed-wing VTOL N/A 2023 (for Uber)
Bell Nexus Hexacopter with tilting rotors N/A 2023 (for Uber) or 2025
Embraer X Octocopter with rear propeller N/A 2023 (for Uber)
Pipistrel Fixed-wing VTOL N/A 2023 (for Uber)
* Where known, first flight of a pre-production model

 

Why are so many flying cars launching in the next few years?

Lighter composite materials, better communications and guidance systems, and software that could enable the vehicles to fly themselves (probably essential if there’ll be a lot of them in the air) have all played a part. Above all, battery technology is on the verge of making electrically powered flight feasible. We’re still some way from the energy density needed for flights of any length, but short hops aren’t completely out of the question.

But wait—are these literally flying cars?

Not really. A few, like the Aeromobil and the Terrafugia Transition, are cars you could drive on the highway, but most are more like personal flying vehicles  .

So, um, helicopters?

Nope. Most have wings that generate lift, like ordinary planes. A few have multiple rotors, like drones. Either way they are, theoretically at least, safer than choppers (see below).

When can I buy a flying car?

Sorry, you probably won’t be able to. At least for now, you’d need  to be a certified pilot (or employ one) to fly it, and besides, where would you park it? They’ll mostly be owned by firms such as ride-sharing companies and run on fixed routes.

Will flying cars be autonomous?

Ultimately, they probably will be; human pilots are expensive and might not be reliably safe in a really crowded sky. Autonomous flying is an easier technical problem than autonomous driving: obstacles in the sky are few and can be detected with simple radar, whereas a self-driving car needs multiple sensors and heavily trained algorithms to recognize people, other vehicles, traffic signals, lanes, and so on. An automated air traffic management system in constant communication with every flying car could route them to prevent collisions, with human operators on the ground ready to take over by remote control in an emergency.  Still, existing laws and public fears mean there’ll probably have to be pilots at least for a while, even if only as a backup to an autonomous system.

Where will flying cars fly?

Places where demand is high and road traffic is bad—within large cities or from city centers to airports. Rural or intercity travel probably won’t make economic sense.

Where will you catch one?

At “vertistops” and larger “vertiports” on the tops of buildings, which will bring the building owners some extra revenue. (There’d also be chargers or battery-swapping stations there.) That’s how we’ll deal with the problem of finding space in crowded cities .

Won’t rides be insanely expensive?

Again, most of these aren’t helicopters but winged aircraft,   so all the propellers’ energy goes into pushing them forward after takeoff, not keeping them aloft. An electric VTOL vehicle’s energy use per mile is theoretically comparable to that of an electric car. Mass production should eventually bring down the prices of the vehicles themselves. The real cost problem might be the pilots (while we still have them, at least).

Still, our panel speculated that a trip of a few miles might cost passengers as little as $40 or $50—a bit more than a ground taxi, but in a congested city you’d get to your destination much more quickly. In a 2016 white paper, Uber had some sunny projections (pdf, p. 1 and p. 95) showing that for certain routes at least, it will actually be much cheaper, as well as several times faster, to take a flying car than a wheeled one.

Is it safe to have hundreds of flying cars buzzing above packed urban centers?

To make vertical takeoff possible, these vehicles need multiple engines that can produce far more power that what’s required for steady flight. That means that if one or two of them fail, the vehicle can still fly or glide to safety. New air traffic management systems will probably rely more on algorithms than humans to manage the routing—another reason why it’s better if the aircraft flyautonomously .

Okay, but what about a terrorist taking over a flying taxi and crashing it into a building?

As on planes, you could separate the pilot’s cabin from the passenger cabin to make a hijack harder. Failing that, maybe there’d be a system for letting ground controllers take over remotely, locking out the pilot, if the craft deviates from its planned route. In any case, one of these small craft probably can’t do enough damage to make it an attractive target for terrorists.

And how about hackers taking control?

That’s a more credible threat. Good cybersecurity is going to be essential.

Won’t flying cars be noisy?

Again—they’re not helicopters , so they don’t have huge blades to disturb the air. Also, the engines will be electric.

Countries are already going crazy trying to regulate drones; how will they regulate flying cars? 

These are pretty different problems. Since drones are cheap and anybody can buy one, regulators must stop  people from doing malicious or stupid things with them. VTOLs and their pilots, on the other hand, could be certified for safety much like regular aircraft, so existing regulations might not need to be modified much. A bigger question will be whether individual cities decide to allow them in their airspace.

So how long before flying taxis are a common sight in major cities?

Estimates on the panel ranged from “two to five years (but more likely five)” to “10 years.”

Is that plausible? Assuming a big leap in battery capacity, the biggest hurdle is likely to be regulatory. If flying cars are licensed and flown under the same rules as other aircraft, they could start to appear in a few places pretty soon, but managing large numbers of them will require a whole new approach to air traffic management. That, as a somewhat less boosterish panel of experts warned last year, is going to be a struggle.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly gave the year of the first manned flight of the Opener BlackFly as 2017.
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The next destination for the aerospace industry

Cargo Launch Rocket Takes Off. 3D Scene.

A Syncroness blog entry by Chip Bollendonk, Mechanical Engineer, Syncroness

Although large, cumbersome projects have traditionally dominated the aerospace industry, the NewSpace movement has forever changed the face of space travel, research, and commercialization. With the emergence of newer, leaner, more commercially-oriented ventures within the industry, many aspects of the processes and materials used in the aerospace industry are rapidly evolving to include “riskier” technologies.

These include 3D printing, on-orbit manufacturing and the use of small, inexpensive components that can be combined to make a functional – and profitable – spacecraft. Working in tandem, these new manufacturing techniques are facilitating “NewSpace,” a movement toward an increasingly leaner, more profit-driven business model for aerospace manufacturers.

Lighter and leaner: Interchangeable parts and 3D printing

In the past, space missions have required custom-built parts, which has limited the ability of smaller companies to break into the aerospace market. The trend toward interchangeable parts represents a massive shift in the industry and should allow smaller companies to break into aerospace manufacturing, making the market more competitive.

The rising popularity of 3D printing, a relatively new, untested technology, is also causing a massive shift in the aerospace industry and is helping drive the NewSpace movement. While smaller, interchangeable parts have made the development of smaller spacecraft possible, 3D printing is improving the process of building larger vessels by enabling companies to manufacture several smaller components as one piece, reducing their weight and bulk. Several aerospace giants, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus utilize parts manufactured this way, and as the technology continues to develop and mature, 3D printing promises to become even more vital to the aerospace industry.

Exciting developments in aerospace

Other exciting developments that have arisen from the NewSpace movement include SpaceX and Blue Origin reusing their first-stage boosters, on-orbit satellite servicing, and NGSO satellite constellations. These developments represent a leaner, more cost-effective approach to aerospace that will change the face of the industry.

While there will always be big-budget space programs with huge “wow” factors” (such as the James Webb Space Telescope with its whopping $9 billion-plus budget), the aerospace sector will continue to look more and more like other commercial industries. Like automotive, medical, and consumer product markets, aerospace will increasingly be driven by fast innovation, sexy products, and bold engineering companies wanting to make a difference in the world.

The future of the aerospace industry

Heading toward 2020, the theme of aerospace is cost- and fuel-efficiency through lightweight, inexpensive materials. The future of aerospace will be centered less on giant corporations and more on smaller companies that are willing to take risks and think outside of the box. This shift will open up opportunities for companies such as Syncroness to leverage their experience across multiple industries to find cheaper, more efficient solutions to the challenges faced by the aerospace industry.

 

Chip Bollendonk is a mechanical engineer with a passion for aerospace and product design. His professional interests include incorporating DFx principles throughout the design process, user-centered design, and rapid prototyping technologies.