IBM research scientists appear to be about as busy as the WestJet corporate communications and video crew! (See last post.)
For the first time, IBM scientists have demonstrated a complex quantum mechanical phenomenon known as Bose-Einstein condensation, using a luminescent polymer (plastic) similar to the materials in light emitting displays used in many of today’s smartphones.
Now, before you go all GoldieBlox on me, allow me to elaborate.
This discovery has several potential applications in developing novel optoelectronic devices, including energy-efficient lasers and ultra-fast optical switches — critical components for powering future computer systems to process massive Big Data workloads.
In other words, for me to ever fully evolve into Borg-dom, we’re going to need these types of advances.
And there are economic issues in play: The use of a polymer material and the observation of BEC at room temperature provides substantial advantages in terms of applicability and cost.
IBM scientists around the world are focused on an ambitious data centric exascale computing program, which is aimed at developing systems that can process massive data workloads fifty times faster than today.
Such a system will need optical interconnects capable of high-speed processing of petabytes to exabytes of big data. This will enable high-performance analytics for energy grids, life sciences, financial modelling, business intelligence and weather and climate forecasting.
The complex phenomenon IBM scientists demonstrated at room temperature is named after the renown scientists Satyendranath Bose and Albert Einstein who first predicted it in the mid-1920s, and which was only later experimentally proven in 1995.
A Bose-Einstein Condensate is a peculiar state of matter which occurs when a dilute gas of particles (bosons) are cooled to nearly absolute zero (-273 Celsius, -459 Fahrenheit). At this temperature intriguing macroscopic quantum phenomena occur in which the bosons all line up like ballroom dancers.
In 1995 this was demonstrated for the first time at these extreme temperatures, but today in a paper appearing in Nature Materials, IBM scientists have achieved the same state at room temperature using a thin non-crystalline polymer film developed by chemists at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.
The next step for scientists is to study and control the extraordinary properties of the Bose-Einstein Condensate and to evaluate possible applications including analog quantum simulations. Such simulations could be used to model very complex scientific phenomena such as superconductivity, which is difficult using today’s computational approaches.
The research was funded under the European Union’s FP7 Project named ICARUS. The goal of ICARUS is to create and characterize new hybrid-semiconductor systems and then implement them in photonic and optoelectronic devices.
This research was conducted in the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center at IBM Research – Zurich, and you can learn more about the work here.
So I was trolling through my allegedly new and improved, algorithmically-enhanced Facebook wall when I awakened this morning, and was surprised Santa Facebook had left this video from WestJet airlines under my tree
(Actually, to be perfectly honest, it was a colleague from work who posted about it, but if you’re read any of my recent posts about Facebook, you know of which I speak).
Anyhow, I’m not going to say a thing in advance about the video, save for you’d better get a box of Kleenex before you watch it.
So many companies try so hard to “break through” with advertising, but rarely do they either move us or surprise us.
For me, this one did both.
The breakthrough converted common plastic materials like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into non-toxic and biocompatible materials designed to specifically target and attack fungal infections.
The research was published today in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Comm.
The Big Bug Picture
Over a billion people are affected by fungal infections every year.
These range in severity from topical skin conditions like athlete’s foot to life-threatening fungal blood infections.
Such infections are more likly to occur when the body’s immune system is compromised due to an illness like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or even when receiving antibiotic treatment.
So there is a pressing need to develop efficient and disease-specific antifungal agents to mitigate this growing drug resistance problem.
Traditional antifungal therapeutics need to get inside the cell to attack the infection, but have trouble targeting and penetrating the fungi membrane wall. Also, since fungi are metabolically similar to mammalian cells, existing drugs can have trouble differentiating between healthy and infected cells.
Recognizing this, IBM scientists applied an organic catalytic process to facilitate the transformation of PET, or waste plastic from a bottle, into entirely new molecules that can be transformed into antifungal agents.
This is significant, as plastic bottles are typically recycled by mechanical grounding and can mostly be reused only in secondary products like clothes, carpeting, or playground equipment.
Turning Plastic Into Nano Ninjas
These new antifungal agents self-assemble through a hydrogen-bonding process, sticking to each other like molecular Velcro in a polymer-like fashion to form nanofibers.
This is important because these antifungal agents are only active as a therapeutic in the fiber or polymer-like form.
This novel nanofiber carries a positive charge and can selectively target and attach to only the negatively-charged fungal membranes based on electrostatic interaction.
It then breaks through and destroys the fungal cell membrane walls, preventing it from developing resistance.
Leveraging IBM Research’s computational capabilities, the researchers simulated the antifungal assemblies, predicting which structural modifications would create the desired therapeutic efficacy.
The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the nanofibers, which is the lowest concentration that inhibits the visible growth of fungi, demonstrated strong antifungal activity against multiple types of fungal infections.
In further studies conducted by Singapore’s IBN, testing showed the nanofibers eradicated more than 99.9% of C. albicans, a fungal infection causing the third most common blood stream infection in the United States, after a single hour of incubation and indicated no resistance after 11 treatments.
Conventional antifungal drugs were only able to suppress additional fungal growth while the infection exhibited drug resistance after six treatments.
Additional findings of this research indicated the nanofibers effectively dispersed fungal biofilms after one-time treatment while conventional antifungal drugs were not effective against biofilms.
The IBM nanomedicine program — which started in IBM’s Research labs four years ago with the mission to improve human health — stems from decades of materials development traditionally used for semiconductor technologies.
This advance will expand the scope of IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology’s collaborative program, which already includes recent breakthroughs in fighting diseases ranging from breast cancer to MRSA.
This allows the scientists to simultaneously pursue multiple methods for creating materials to improve medicine and drug discovery.
You can learn more about this new breakthrough in the fun video below, and you can learn more about ninja polymers here.
I feel for those of you in the American northeast.
Those cold temperatures swooped deep into Texas starting around Friday, and north Texas, where I’m originally from, got walloped with 4+ inches of ice.
My friends and relatives haven’t been out of their homes in days, and it’s starting to show in their communications!
I used to live in NYC, so I know the havoc that such storms can wreak.
But I also enjoyed watching the Lions and the Eagles play football in a raging snowstorm yesterday (even if the Eagles did win). That’s some of the best kind of football there is.
More NSA surveillance stories have been revealed, and this time, there’s revelations that Uncle Sam has been snooping around virtual worlds, including Second Life.
To which I thought to myself, “Second Life,” that’s SOOOO 2006!
On the other hand, how forward thinking of them to suspect amidst all those “griefers” might be lurking the next KSM.
I just hope all those brave digital NSA agents are earning ample conquest and valor points for their efforts. That’s a lot of…ahem…work.
And let’s be real, not all arms of the U.S. government are thus digitally enlightened.
The Washington Post reported just this morning in “The Switchboard” newsletter that the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government, still distributes information on 3.5-inch floppy disks, better known around my house as “coasters.”
On the other hand, our own President Obama has issued a call to arms for software coding.
Through Code.org’s new “Hour of Code” initiative, five million students at 33,000 schools across 166 countries have agreed to participate.
Check out today’s Google-toon on the Google search page, featuring programming pioneer Grace Hopper, and highlighting the “Hour of Code” program.
This formally kicks off “Computer Science Education Week,” whereby major technology companies, celebrities, government officials and others are working to drive that number to 10 million plus.
“If you can create technology,” explains the video, “you can change the world.”
Well, what are you waiting for??!
The IBM cloud continues to expand.
Today, the company announced it had signed an agreement with Dexia, a Franco-Belgian financial institution, and several major major financial institutions in Europe to build and manage their IT infrastructure.
As a result of this agreement, IBM takes a controlling share in the organization which previously managed this infrastructure, Associated Dexia Technology Services (ADTS).
Signed sourcing contracts amount to a total value of U.S. $1.3 billion, and through this agreement, IBM will implement a cloud infrastructure to expand the new “Innnovative Solutions For Finance” (ISFF) unit into new markets and optimize the efficiency of its existing information technology management.
ADTS was founded in 2006 to deliver IT services to financial institutions formerly within the Dexia Group, including Belfius Bank, Belfius Insurance, and Banque International à Luxembourg.
The agreement enables Dexia and the ISFF clients formerly within the Dexia Group to segregate themselves as customers and pursue their own business and IT investment strategy.
The new cloud based infrastructure will deliver significant benefits for each financial institution, including fast access to new and innovative services that meet growing demand in Europe. The private cloud environment will enhance risk management, improve service delivery levels and reduce operating cost.
IBM will leverage its market and technological expertise, as well as research capabilities to transform the IT infrastructure of these institutions, gaining significant levels of efficiency and competitiveness.
You can learn more about IBM cloud offerings here and follow IBM cloud-related news on Twitter @IBMCloud.
If you follow the realm of social business and media, this one might be of interest.
HootSuite, the consumer and enterprise social analytics provider, has just announced a private beta integration with IBM Connections.
HootSuite currently has over 7 million users of its social media management system, and IBM Connections is the worldwide enterprise social marketshare leader according to IDC for four years running.
So why don’t you two get together and see if you can’t make a little social management and analytics magic?
Our own Luis Benitez has a nice rundown of the integration here, but suffice it to say with this direction, soon Hootsuite and IBM Connections users will be able to integrate content from IBM Connections into the HootSuite dashboard so that it can be viewed and actioned just like other public social data, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.
If you’ve been checking your Facebook wall lately and wondering what the —- (insert your own favorite four letter expletive here) is going on, you’re not alone.
I’ve been using Facebook for a good six years now, and like many folks, I use it primarily to keep track of what’s going on with my family and friends.
Early on, I liked the fact that in one quick scan, in the morning or evening, I could scroll through my wall (or newsfeed, or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days).
When Facebook got more aggressive with their advertising, working to "monetize" the "stream" with personalized ads, I figured my seeing ads for new Calloway drivers was the price of admission.
No worries, that’s a fair "exchange" in value.
But with the most recent changes to the News Feed algorithm, I feel as though I’ve entered into a living, breathing version of that movie, "Memento."
If you never saw the movie, check it out.
Guy Pierce stars as a character named "Leonard Shelby," a man with anterograde amnesia. The movie is told chronologically, but interspersed with scenes told in reverse chronological order.
I won’t give away too much about the plot, but suffice it to say it involves a murder, and Leonard resorts to consulting Polaroids, notes, and tattoos to try and put the story back together in his mind.
It’s very confusing and disconcerting, and only at the end does the story all start to come together.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I would characterize the "new and improved" Facebook wall, only in the real Facebook world, nothing is really coming together.
Like Leonard, I went in search of answers to find out what was going on, only instead of resorting to tattoos, of which I have none, I started looking around on the Web (and *outside* of Facebook!).
Two of the changes announced in August centered around what were referred to as "Story Bumping" and "Last Actor."
Story Bumping involved bring to the fore stories that you hadn’t yet seen because they were "below the fold" (or, not on the top of your Wall.
The second, Last Actor, involved a weighting of the last 50 engagements of a user, giving more weight to people and pages the user had recently interacted with.
But as Ezra Klein recently observed in his Washington Post "WonkBlog," this seems to have had some unintended consequences, ones that are making me feel more and more like Leonard from "Memento" every day.
Klein writes that "There’s so much more viral content being launched and so much more competition to one-up the last viral headline that the emotional pitch of the news feed has been cranked to 11."
People then hit the "Like" button on this content, which only makes it MORE popular, and suddenly Facebook becomes a harbinger of real-time sensationalism, instead of allowing me to find out that the freckled kid Fred from high school recently bought himself a new rattlesnake.
It kind of reminds me of CNN, which once upon a time aired actual news.
In any case, maybe I don’t want to "like" Fred’s new rattlesnake news — maybe I just want to be informed that Fred HAS a new rattlesnake.
Remember that old marketing campaign that MCI ran for years, "Friends and Family"?
That’s what I want my Facebook wall to look like again.
Not the latest from Kanye and Kim.
If you’ll excuse me now, I need to run down to one of Austin’s finest tattoo parlors and get some tattoos so I can try and put together what’s actually going on on my Facebook wall.
Oh, and don’t forget to "like" this blog post on Facebook, whether you did or not!
IBM’s cloud services continue to expand along with its overall cloud computing capabilities.
Today, the company announced the expansion of its Cloud Consulting Services portfolio with a customizable cloud strategy offering for industry and line of business buyers. The company is also developing a catalog of fast-start industry solutions delivered as a service for cloud-based applications.
To date, the IT industry has primarily focused on “one size fits all” approaches to migrating workloads and applications to the cloud – scalable computing purchased on a usage model.
This shift extends the value of cloud to line of business leaders as an engine for growth that can accelerate business outcomes.
In fact, a recent IBM survey reports that during the next three years, the cloud’s strategic importance to top decision makers, from CEOs and CMOs to HR, finance and procurement executives, is poised to double from 34 percent to 72 percent – surpassing their IT counterparts at 58 percent.
In order to fully realize the benefits of converting to a cloud environment, enterprises need to build a solid business-based cloud strategy and clear implementation roadmap. IBM utilizes a proven methodology and assessment tools tailored to each client’s desired business outcomes.
For instance, IBM offers a unique cloud adoption framework and the IBM Cloud Workload Analysis Tool to analyze an existing environment and determine the cloud computing model best suited for the business model.
Using the tool, IBM consultants help the client identify and prioritize the business areas and workloads that, when migrated to a cloud computing model, deliver the most benefit by reducing costs and improving service delivery.
To further jump-start a client’s deployment to the cloud, IBM is developing a catalog of pre-integrated solutions that address priority business needs industry by industry, while making cloud easier to adopt and consume for line of business leaders.
Fast-Start Industry Solutions
The IBM fast-start industry solutions, which are hosted on a private cloud using SoftLayer and offered as a managed service through IBM Global Business Services, are designed to meet the growing demand from clients for rapid deployment, implementation and experimentation.
This as-a-service model enables clients in vertical industries – such as banking, insurance, retail, telecom and energy and utilities – to have key business applications up and running very quickly without the need to provision additional infrastructure and compute power. This advantage significantly reduces the time it takes to deploy new applications from weeks or months to a matter of hours or days, and accelerates time-to-value for their business.
The solutions draw on the deep expertise of IBM business consultants in vertical industries, domain and business processes, open standards and IT infrastructure to help clients build, execute and manage their applications and systems on the cloud.
Today’s announcement follows a recent independent evaluation by IDC that named IBM an industry leader in cloud professional services in the IDC MarketScape on cloud professional services. IDC forecasts the worldwide cloud professional services market to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.8 percent between 2012 and 2017.
To meet the growing global demand for cloud consulting services, IBM is expanding its portfolio of offerings to address the full spectrum of today’s client requirements, from fast and simple entry with a single application to the most advanced enterprise-wide implementations of cloud.
IBM’s fast-start industry solutions join its growing portfolio of cloud services and capabilities, including the recent launch of it Cloud Suites for the C-Suite, a fast-growing catalog of 110 roles-based SaaS applications that help C-suite leaders and their departments drive better business results from cloud offerings tailored to their functions.
I’ve already reported that consumer electronics was a big winner for e-retailing during “Cyber Week” over the long holiday U.S. week/weekend.
Boston-based analytics firm Localytics examined the user of mobile devices during the holiday period and discovered that the iPad Air, in particular, seemed to take the prize for “Most Used New Mobile Device,” growing at 51 percent during the period.
The iPad Mini came in a close second, at 26 percent growth, tied by the iPhone 5C.
Only then did an Android variant enter the picture, in the form of the Kindle Fire HD 7″ (up 23 percent), one which, this blogger is reasonably confident, was not delivered via drone.
Next up, the Samsung Galaxy S IV (20 percent), followed by more iStuff, including the iPad mini 2nd gen (17 percent, and the iPhones 5s and 4s (15 and 10 percent, respectively).
Notably, the Kindle Fire HD 7″ had a “temporary” price drop of $50, one that expired on Cyber Monday. Apple, conversely, had very limited price drops, suggesting that, in spite of the higher cost, the price premium for Apple products was still apparently not an inhibitor.
Put another way, of the 9 products that saw demonstrable growth in usage during the period, 6 of the 9 were Apple products.
IBM’s own Digital Analytics Benchmark indicated that iOS traffic was 22.4 percent of all online traffic on Cyber Monday, while Android’s was 9.1 percent. When it came to actual sales, however, iOS pulled away by a factor of nearly 6, with e-commerce sales in mobile reaching 14.5 percent for iOS and 2.6 percent for Android.
So, not only were consumers buying more stuff via Apple devices during Cyber Week, they were buying those devices overwhelmingly using Apple devices (when compared to the ‘Droid).
Stay tuned for a Droid e-shopping campaign coming to your Apple device soon!
Phil Gilbert, the General Manager for IBM Design, is responsible for “design thinking” across the entire span of IBM, and formerly was the CEO of Lombardi Software, which IBM acquired three and a half years ago.
As Forbes contributor and IBM alum Rawn Shah highlights in his introduction to the meaty interview he recently conducted with Gilbert, IBM’s new endeavor requires “Thinking across the entire company, its global span across all industries, countries, and, most of all, 1000s of products.”
Shah digs deep in his interview with Gilbert, and reveals that this new effort is as much about culture change in a large organization as it is about what ultimately gets revealed “on the glass.”