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Imagine the future

future

Imagine the Future: Then Crowdfund It

The world is changing so rapidly that much of the information we are given remains an abstraction. How many people is 9.5 billion? Oh, wait, now the number is 11 billion. This is the estimate of the world population in 2050. What does that mean, exactly? Probably a great deal, but the ideas are so abstract it is difficult to picture what it means. But for anyone considering starting a business today, or next year, consider that you will still be in business in 2050, and that number will matter a great deal to you and your business.

While it is hard to imagine 11 billion, or to form a picture of this number in our minds, we can form pictures of cities, and there is no question the people of the near-future will almost all live in cities. Cities we can picture. We have some experience with them; we all have ideas about their challenges and rewards. In thinking about your business, many people have a grand idea, and they work from the grand idea down to the details that will impact and influence how that idea is brought to life. It might be a good idea to think up from the grand idea, to place it firmly into the city of the future. This sort of thinking will require us to imagine the future- to imagine supply chains, transportation, methods of payment, energy use, and a number of other variables that could, from the beginning, impact how we will do businesses.

If there is one word to describe humans, it is variety. We all need socks, but when we think about socks, some of us will fantasize about the perfect long-lasting sock fiber, a mix of silk and nylon and maybe a touch of yak, or bison down; this person may be found standing in a field, studying a herd of bison and thinking about how to get some of that fiber. Another person, faced with the idea of socks, gets out the needles and silk and begins to knit a design of spiderweb delicacy and beauty. Another person imagines a drone, flying through the air, a pair of socks clutched in a mechanical claw. Another thinks of a way to use suit-buying behavior to design a sock subscription service that automatically matches socks needed to suits purchased, and even gives a yearly pair of athletic socks, though Sunday afternoons are most often spent taking naps rather than playing ball in the park. Another person designs a hybrid sock-shoe; another a sock with an exoskeleton for fitting prosthetic feet. Someone designs a 3-D knitting printer, with franchise capabilities, so people can walk down the street, stick their foot into a booth, and have a perfectly fitting sock knitted for them at once. One sock at a time, because only one gets that first hole in the toe, right? The only thing we can know without a doubt is that sock-people somewhere are thinking about socks. Imagining the future.

And when we imagine that unique idea, we need to find our tribe. There are a multitude of handspinners across the world who are experimenting with a precious supply of bison down at this very moment, plucked from barbed-wire fences in the American West, spinning and plying to make the magical fiber that will never wear out and will also smell fresh as a daisy when you take your shoes off after work. For these folks, socks means the fiber, and they can talk about and think about fiber, make samples and send test yarn to knitter friends, and some of them are going to figure it out and they will probably share the idea with everyone, though the sheer excitement of the moment. If one of those fiber folks finds her idea, and wants to develop that yarn, she is going to have a tribe ready to crowdfund the business.

Many of us tend to be magpies, and the ideas and challenges of the future-world give us so many ideas the inside of our heads looks like the sky, full of stars. To successfully imagine the future, and then crowdfund it, it helps to focus in and find your tribe. It is difficult to follow more than one dream at a time. Perhaps the biggest challenge for those who imagine the future is to narrow the field of vision down to the one small piece of it you are going to change. But if you can, you can crowdfund the future.

For more information about crowdfunding, please contact us.

 

wearables

Smart Clothing for Woman

The dress works like this: it’s made of efoil, a new textile that is engineered to change opacity, and connected to an integral heartbeat monitor. When the wearer’s heartbeat accelerates, such as with the approach of a lover, the dress turns transparent. Part of an ongoing collaborative series about intimacy, technology, and fashion, the Intimacy 2.0 dress is the work of FashionTech designer/engineer Anouk Wipprecht and Dutch Studio Roosegaarde.

The majority of Anouk Wipprecht’s  FashionTech clothing, a wonderful mix of robotics, artificial intelligence, and wearable electronics, features a fierce beauty, like powerful exoskeletons, clothing that is ours to command. This FashionTech isn’t designed to make us pretty, but to make us powerful, a wearable host-system that can poke the eye out of any stupid bastard that approaches us with evil intent. The fierceness of most FashionTech, clothing that will bring a smile of delight to the eyes of powerful women everywhere, is why the Intimacy 2.0 dress has it backward.

Imagine this. You walk into a party, dressed to the nines in your new efoil dress, and naturally you feel a bit nervous, a bit excited, so your heart is beating excitedly, and then, just as you always knew it would, your clothing betrays you, turns translucent, and you stand naked in front of a crowd of strangers.

Your heart beats faster with the approach not just of a lover but of an enemy. A heart beats faster with challenge, dread, excitement, and what we need our clothing to do when our heart beats faster is to protect, not reveal. Continue reading

femtech

Female startups rising

The last years have seen a number of exciting startups securing venture capital and developing innovative products that include healthcare wearables. FemTech is the name for the women-led, women-designed new product startups, and the success of these traditional and consumer health care products can be summed up in two words: market potential.

Women’s healthcare has been underfunded by the research and development world, but the last few years have seen a number of innovative products brought to market. While much of femTech is focusing on reproductive technology and sexual health, such as fertility startups that are helping young women harvest and save their eggs for later childbirth decisions, to a birth control telemedicine and delivery model, to apps that are as sensitive as the birth control pill for contraception, not all the focus is on reproductive health.

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women worldwide, and Bloomer Tech is developing a number of wearables with biometric sensors to collect and analyze heart heath data. The data can be used to guide real-time medical decision making, while collecting big data amounts of women’s heart health data for research. The material developed has flexible, washable circuits embedded in textiles, a technology that will allow a number of interesting developments in the ability of wearables to collect biometric data. Their first product is a bra with the flexible circuits embedded to collect data on heart disease risk factors. It communicates to an app on a smartphone via Bluetooth. Most important, the user decides on how much and what data can be shared with a medical professional, researcher, or other person.

Bellabeat, the maker of LeafUrban jewelry, is leading the jewelry/design/health monitoring pack. The beautiful leaf-shaped jewelry looks nothing like a fitness tracker, and provides several important tools for women hoping to find a better tool to monitor health: it helps track menstrual periods, so women can keep track of fertility and contraception, and it monitors signs of stress and offers guided meditation. Like other health and fitness devices, it monitors activity and sleep, and gives the user data.

However, the largest amount of VC funding remains with startup companies focusing on a product that has both cachet and market potential. Many, or most, new products focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Elvie raised $6 million for a small device to help women do Kegel exercises properly. Women’s health care startups in FemTech have raised, to date, over $1.1 billion for research and development. Continue reading

payments

Trends in banking industry

For many banks the thought of integrating modern technologies feels like a minefield. Claudia Hauser, EMEA financial services lead at Microsoft, believes that financial institutions need to proactively embrace technological innovation. As the market becomes more transparent, customers are using online price-comparison services to shop around. The digital revolution has also given customers the option to seek other businesses if their current providers do not offer services on multiple channels. Banks are creating user-centric experiences for customers to differentiate each other from the competition (smartbanking solutions). However, this is still a challenge for most financial institutions.  A recent survey reported that 53% of millennials in the U.S. do not see any difference between banks. Anytime, anywhere banking is essential, but it is also the norm.

There is a lack of “human touch” between banks and their customers, and this is one of the reasons why people only visit a branch when they have to, and their relationship to banks is mostly transactional. Fintech companies like Venmo and Sqaure Cash are serious competition for banks. These platforms mimic the natural flow of people when it comes to sending money, which banks are unable to do because of legal regulations and obsolete IT structures.  However, these fintech companies can only provide bank-like services but not a complete holistic financial model.

Banks can offer great help to their customers by providing personalized feedback based on their spending habits and offer smartbanking tools. In today’s technologically oriented culture, the opportunities for banks to integrate this information are endless. Banks are in the enviable position to know every financial touchpoint of their customers, from where they prefer to shop to their credit capacity.

What will the financial world look like in fifty years? Everything will change, except human nature. (Or, nothing will really change.) The financial and banking sector is embracing the new opportunities of emerging technology. Data mining and machine learning platforms, and the rapidly developing world of artificial neural networks, are having significant impacts on the global financial world. Continue reading

ecommerce

etailers vs retailers

In the etailers versus retailers war, the etailers are winning. Market shares for everything ecommerce are growing. Tech solutions have concentrated efforts on customer management and marketing software for ecommerce platforms. Consumers have responded by shopping online in their pajamas in the middle of the global night from every possible corner of the world.

Big data analysis and trend and pattern prediction using deep neural networks will continue to form a growing part of planning and market analysis. Human-AI hybrid management teams will become more common. We may see something similar in the way stakeholders are planning and implementing complex infrastructure development now. Business may find itself regularly collaborating with government, education, and the private sector to plan, manage and fund business projects. This collaborative organizational model will allow the heavy burdens of regulatory compliance, funding, public opinion, environmental impact, and other challenges to be met by a team with a variety of skills. This new collaborative model can reduce the risks associated with the digital transformation of business.

There are, however, some limitations and challenges that remain. Some industries are very well suited to ecommerce, and some are less so. Who are the winners so far?

Medical and Legal Ecommerce

Consultations with experts–doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other specialty information brokers are very well suited to ecommerce applications. In the US, the federal government recently passed a bill allowing insurance reimbursement through Tricare, one of the federal insurance programs, for telemedicine. This bill signals tacit approval for these services, and they have responded by developing very workable systems for both medical and mental health visits. Tech such as video conferencing allows face to face meetings, and systems have been put into place to limit the possibility of diversion or misuse, such as the restriction on prescribing controlled substances through a teleconference. Tech which allows interstate prescribing electronically to drug stores who are in the system, such as the chain drug stores and those registered with the large insurance providers, means medicines are available immediately after a visit. New technologies allow home-bound patients to deliver results of weights, blood pressure readings, and blood samples to the medical provider through electronic systems.

Continue reading

security

Overcoming The False Hope of a Ransomware Attack (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second half of our two-part article on how ransomware is built to deliver false hope in order to scam businesses harder than hackers have ever scammed before. While ransomware was once grudgingly praised for the innovative integration of cryptography into malware, as it turns out, this is mostly just an illusion. Last time we talked about the rising threat of ransomware, how malware has a long tradition of destroying files, and the way ransomware works once it attacks your computer. Join us again today as we pick up right where we left off with encryption, how it works, and why ransomware uses it.

Ransomware Encryption

The big confusion about ransomware is the use of encryption. At first, it was lauded as one of the cleverest upgrades to malware since email attachments but in reality, the only reason encryption is used instead of full-on deletion is to create false hope and the possibility that companies will pay up.

Here’s how it works: Encryption relies on a key, the thing that determines how the files will be encrypted. One of the simplest encryption keys is the backward alphabet where A=Z, B=Y, C=X, and so on. A more complex version might use a specific page of a specific book where A=first letter, etc. The point of the encryption key is that as long as it is sufficiently complicated or impossible to predict, you cannot decrypt anything that has been encrypted without the original key.

When your files are encrypted through ransomware, it’s important to understand that modern encryption software can randomly generate one-time nonsense keys that cannot be decrypted and, if the key is lost, so too is anything that was encrypted with it. This means that unless you get the exact key used to wreck your files, there’s simply no way you’ll be able to get them back. Some hackers will promise to give you the key and a decryption tool but experience has revealed the majority of these promises to be outright lies.

Trusting Hackers

Continue reading

stratecta - ransomware security

Overcoming The False Hope of a Ransomware Attack (Part 1)

Every modern business deals with a certain amount of technology. From tech companies that consist internally of nothing but professionals at computers to minimally technical industries that still rely on databases and business software to keep everything running smoothly, the need for a secure network and backups of archived business data is universal. When your data is in danger and it looks like there’s a chance of recovering anything that has been lost, most companies will jump through flaming hoops for any either planned or, worse, unplanned recovery method. That is exactly why ransomware is so terrible. The hope of getting your files back after a disaster is often more powerful than the fear of losing them in the first place.

While you may think that your files are being held hostage, your disaster recovery plan is much more reliable than any hacker’s “promise” that you’ll see your files again.

Malware Has Always Wiped Files

To understand the innovation of ransomware, it may help to have a better grasp on the history of malware as a whole. Ransomware is just one of the most recent innovations in a long chain of malicious, invasive software. In fact, while there has been a significant rise in the ability of malware to actually do something like steal credit card numbers or extortion, malware has traditionally been almost completely pointlessly evil. Worms have roamed the web since before the internet unification seeking out vulnerable systems and often infected websites are simply left up to hurt anyone who comes across them.

When an infection is successful, whether it was targeted or random, the malware’s goal is simply to cause pain. Spamware makes your system unusable with constant pop-ups, spyware steals your login information and uses it for fraud or more spam, and many forms of malware despite the name will simply explore your files, deleting or corrupting them as it goes. Hackers have always deleted files for fun and there’s no reason to assume that they’re going to stop now just because they’ve also figured out how to make a little side cash.

What Ransomware Does

When ransomware gets onto your computer, it’s first act is usually to lurk around for a while. During this time, it may finish installing itself, spread from the first computer into the local network, and map all your files. These processes usually happen quietly using background resources and the delay often masks the true infection point, whether it as a bad website, a phishing email, or an actual hacker security breach in which the ransomware was placed on your computer. Continue reading

e-cars

3 Revolutions: Transportation, Climate Change, and the Future of Cars

In one future world, we will live in the less expensive suburbs or rural areas, and come into the city for work in our driverless vehicles. To avoid expensive parking fees, we’ll send our vehicles out to roam around, hang out at the mall and grocery store and come pick us up when work is over. The possibility of hoards of driverless and riderless vehicles on the streets and in parking lots, hovering, just waiting for instructions, seems like the opening scene of a movie where you know things are about to go terribly wrong.

This scene of the zombie vehicles taking over the parking lots and streets of urban centers is quite possible. But a University of California professor is working to save us all.

Lewis Fulton’s 3 Revolutions Policy Initiative

A professor at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, Fulton has been publishing work on a mobility program for the future world. He says, and back up his claims with science, that three things have to change simultaneously for the future of transportation and climate change to work: electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and ride-sharing. The Paris Agreement in 2015 hopes to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees. Some estimate this means 100 million new electrical vehicles on the road by 2030.

The snake in the woodpile is the lithium-ion battery, and the extensive mining for raw materials that is needed to supply the battery power for electric vehicles. There is concern that the current levels of energy use to produce these batteries means they will have a higher carbon footprint for much of their life, compared to current petroleum-based internal combustion engine vehicles. We can hope that the scientists who are working on this technology can continue to improve methods and materials used in manufacture, and lower the carbon footprint of these batteries.  Continue reading

stratecta

Digital Transformation: Things a Digital Document Can Do that Paper Can’t

When companies are wondering whether or not to go through the most basic stage of the digital transformation, moving from paperwork documents to digital document management, there are often a lot of fears about how implementation and unfamiliarity with the new system will slow down productivity and potentially confuse the staff. However, the same things can be said about any major change, including drastically altering the catered lunch menu. The real thing that administrators and business owners should be considering about the digital transformation is all the ways that digital document management can enhance the efficiency of your business both in predictable and unpredictable situations.

To help you understand the drastic difference between a business run on paper and a business run through digital documents and software, let’s narrow the focus down to the humble document. All the things that can be done with a digital document, but on for which the original and every copy is paper.

1) Same Document Form for Drafts and Final Copies

The first thing to realize is that no one writes their documents on typewriters anymore which means that nearly 100% of modern documents and paperwork start in digital form on a word processor. That word processor saves a digital document which is then printed out. Though many companies who work with paper still think of a paper copy as ‘the original’, in truth, the originals of all but historical documents are now digital. The paper is the real copy and every time an edit is made or a new version is drafted, the document is created in digital form, printed to paper, and then interacted with.

Why not just skip the paper stage? When you work with digital documents, there’s no need to print unless a client needs a physical copy for a specific reason like pen-and-ink signatures or they request a hard copy for their own private records. Otherwise, you can receive, develop, work with, and submit documents all in a single digital form.

2) Infinite Editing of a Single Document

When you’re working primarily with physical copies of your paperwork, edits are not just challenging in that they must be done carefully and neatly. Every old copy will need to be tossed in favor of new print-outs of the edited work. Edits on paper are permanent or, even with hand-written documents done in pencil, require wear and tear on both the eraser and the paper.

Digital documents, on the other hand, can be edited an infinite number of times, revised, corrected, and collaborated on without an eraser white-out/liquid-paper, or constant printing and re-printing because digital edits are easy and cost nothing. Along the same lines, the edited document and the original can be the same file, ensuring that everyone who has access now has access to the updated version. Continue reading

Stratecta

Crowdcasting to Drive Innovation and Manage Customer Relationships

Crowdcasting is the newest use of the crowd to change the paradigm of two important functions of business: innovation and customer relationship management.

Innovation is being moved from the realm of experts to the crowd via problem-solving platforms like Hero-X. Incentives include contests and other forms of interaction, including cash prices, and problems that range in complexity are presented to the group. This use of the crowd as a group of out-of-field experts has produced some innovative and quirky thinking on knotty problems. Unlike university and other expert-based methods of traditional problem solving, issues of intellectual property and royalties for this work are managed by participants trading off their ideas for a possible prize.

This type of crowdcasting works to find innovative solutions to both business problems and complex social problems. Businesses can bring a problem to the crowd, where groups of unusual and esoteric specialists can collaborate. Non-profits can bring the complexities of social change and social justice to individuals and groups who bring off-center and out of the box thinking to multi-faceted issues.

One of the benefits of the crowdcasting model is the open-source ethos of shared problem solving. With the understanding that unusual solutions can be shared across industries and communities, the ideas and work are regularly published for use by others, with their different problems to solve.   Continue reading

stratecta

Gender Identity for AI

Artificial neural networks have given AIs the functionality for complex problem solving and pattern recognition, and they have entered the workforce, particularly in areas of big data analysis and global finance. As we begin to interact with and study these new learning machines, interesting questions arise. Are they going to take on human behavioral and gender distinctions (gender identity), because they have been programmed with data sets that have unconscious bias? Will those who are giving the learning machines feedback to focus their problem solving allow behavioral constraints into the teaching? If we give the AIs a woman’s voice, and a woman’s name, will we interact with her as if she was a woman? And does that mean she will in turn internalize those social expectations and become more female?

Naturally we are interested in all things having to do with gender. It is the first sentence the world places upon us, when the midwife announces boy or girl. We love gender. We give our teddy bears genders, and can describe in detail why we think-no, why we know that our little darling is a boy or girl. We give our cars genders, names, and personalities. It’s just because we’re human, and we want to humanize the things we love, and that surround us. And part of humanizing inanimate objects is to give them a name, a gender, and shower them with affection.

Part of our fascination with gender has led to some poor science, the popularity of which has trickled down into our collective consciousness. The idea that male brains and female brains are different in a significant way is probably not true, though the debate rages. Structure follows function, and hormones affect the developing brain. But even with minor structural and functional differences in the brains that are most probably hormonally-based, there is very little difference in boys and girl’s brains. There is a much wider variance between individuals than can be measured than between generalized groups based just on gender. We are more complicated than can be described in pop-science about hardwired aggression and nurture vs nature.

What is different between genders is communication, how we use language, and there the gender differences are significant enough to be measured. If we think of communication as the way we input data into our brains, we grow our biological neural networks with the complex range of human communication to which we’re exposed. And there are differences between male and female communication.

So with the science showing that biological neural networks- aka human brains- are more complex than can be measured, but are influenced by hormones, language, biology, and the wide range of human culture, we are left to consider if artificial neural networks will also be influenced by language and human culture. (This is assuming that the artificial neural networks that are biology and hormonally mediated are still a few years in the future.) Continue reading