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Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 mar 2020

Designers are utilizing their creative expertise to find innovative solutions to fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota designed a series of interconnected intensive care unit (ICU) pods from shipping containers. A prototype of the pods is now being built and is called Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA). Industrial design brand Dyson also announced that it has developed a CoVent ventilator after UK PM Boris Johnson requested the company to fulfil the hike in demand. Danish startup Stykka has created a design for a simple flat-pack workstation that can be easily assembled from three pieces of folded cardboard. Architectural designers Ivo Tedbury and Freddie Hong have developed a 3D-printed device that can be attached to door handles to enable hands-free opening. Ukranian architect Sergey Makhno forecasted the changes in living spaces in the aftermath of the pandemic that include people preferring houses over apartments, wanting to become self-sufficient with their own water supply and heating, and more attention placed on creating a workplace at home. Dezeen's editor Tom Ravenscroft predicted that the huge amount of people being forced to work-from-home will have long-term impacts on how companies approach remote working. Graphic designer Jure Tovrljan recreates iconic brand logos to highlight current situation. Cartoonist Toby Morris and microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles created playful animated illustrations and graphs to depict social distancing necessity. Read on...

Dezeen: This week, designers created objects and structures to help fight coronavirus
Author: Natashah Hitti


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 mar 2020

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's (GEM) 2019-20 Global Report, more than 40% of entrepreneurs in 35 of 50 countries agree or strongly agree that their motivations to launch a business are to make a difference in the world. Fifty economies participated in the GEM 2019 Adult Population Survey (APS) and more than 150000 individuals took part in extended interviews as part of the research. Entrepreneurs are trying to blend profits with social good and environmental sustainability, giving rise to innovative business models. In 2006 a company called TOMS popularized social entrepreneurship with a 'One For One Model' to provide a free pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. Jake Strom, co-founder of TOMS, now invests in and consults companies that intend to incorporate social business models into their existing businesses. He termed this as 'Profit + Purpose Model' that encourages for-profit ventures with deeply woven social benefits. Following are key takeaways from this approach - (1) Create Evangelists, not Customers: Company's story is key branding element. Emphasize the social good aspect to inspire customers to become brand champions. It eventually becomes a competitive advantage. (2) Popular Perception Has Shifted: The idea that a for-profit business could do well and do good at the same time has become substantially acceptable. Profit + Purpose model will further grow in future. (3) Purpose-Driven Brands Can't Take Shortcuts: Effective business planning is essential. Do whatever is needed to provide best products and services and work to gain profits. Purpose would provide added motivation. (4) Think Long-Term: Balance the demands of Profit vs. Purpose. Making a sincere effort to put people, planet and long-term sustainability before short-term gains. (5) There is Never a Perfect Timing: The great idea to do good shouldn't wait. Start with whatever knowledge, resources and expertise is available. Keep learning, growing and evolving along the way. Scale-up when the concept is proven in the market. Read on...

Entrepreneur: 5 Takeaways From an Entrepreneur's Profit + Purpose Social Business Model
Author: Jared Polites


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 nov 2019

Team of researchers from Poland's Łódź University of Technology (ŁUT) led by Prof. Katarzyna Grabowska, the dean of the Faculty of Material Technologies and Textile Design, have developed a textile charger, which allows to charge phones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices using the power generated by their users' physical activity. Monika Malinowska-Olszowy, the vice dean of the faculty and member of the research team, says, 'The textile charger for mobile electronic devices is an inseparable part of the fabric or knitwear from which it is made, such as clothing...This invention replaces heavy, large batteries and power banks that often contain toxic substances. It is shock resistant and weatherproof. The main purpose of this technology is to ensure its users with uninterrupted access to electricity to sustain the operations of their mobile devices. As a result, this will exclude various problematic processes related to frequent charging of mobile phones or tablets.' ŁUT research has focused on the development of innovative textile inventions. Some of the latest examples include textile clothing for premature infants that is to protect them against dehydration and ensure thermal stability through special layered textile systems, and a prototype textronics solution that allows the integration of muscle-stimulating electrodes within various types of clothing, such as underwear, wristbands and socks, and use it to treat patients with various diseases that require such stimulation, among others. Read on...

Innovation In Textiles: Polish researchers develop textile mobile device charger
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 nov 2019

Achieving global food security is a challenge that requires all humanity to participate and work together. It is imperative to improve food production and distribution, tackle environmental degradation and climate change, alleviate poverty and resolve conflicts through peaceful means. Prof. Miguel Altieri of University of California at Berkeley focuses his research on the concepts of agroecology. His group's research and publications aid in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. He explains that urban agriculture has potential to enhance food security in US cities. According to him, 'I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.' US Dept. of Agriculture estimates that for 1 out of 8 citizens food insecurity is a near-term risk. The current food distribution system in cities of Califormia, where large population resides, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Prof. Altieri says, 'The food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line - mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7% fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.' In the past 30 years, urban farming has grown by more than 30% in the US. Moreover, it is estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20% of global food demand. But, it is yet to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities. There are limitations and challenges. According to a survey, 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30% of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production. Prof. Altieri explains, 'Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.' Cuban model of urban farming can be applied, where local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces. In Cuba, over 300000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50% of the island's fresh produce supply, along with 39000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year. Access to land and unaffordable water for irrigation are critical challenges for urban farming in US. Discounted water rates and land reforms specifically for urban farming can provide a boost to the concept. Prof. Altieri says, 'Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.' Read on...

The Conversation: How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities
Author: Miguel Altieri


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 oct 2019

Visibility is critical for the success of business ventures. Public relations is what provides businesses just that when done right. Deborah A. Geiger, CEO of Geiger Communications, suggests a 3-step process to create winning pitches that provide meaningful coverage - (1) Introduce Yourself: Reporters need professional information and capabilites of those they cover in their stories. Provide them all the required details and make them confident about yourself. (2) Place Your News In Context: For the winning pitch place your news in geographical, historical and industry context to make your business and work stand out. Make your story truly unique and newsworthy. Do competitive analysis and differentiate yourself. (3) Consider The News Cycle: News cycle is predictable. Understand it and time your pitch accordingly. Select reporters who cover events and news related to your area of expertise. Keep communication with them helpful and positive, and offer your expertise for their future stories. The core of best PR pitches is simplicity and clarity in communication. 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.', said Albert Einstein. Keeping this in mind, with no confusion about who you are, what you do and how you can help, you will no doubt make a positive impression. Read on...

Entrepreneur: How to Write a Winning PR Pitch
Author: Deborah A. Geiger


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 oct 2019

Concrete is a preferred material, second-most used (about 22 billion ton annually), in the building and construction industry. But, it is also second-largest emitter of Carbon dioxide, as cement manufacturing accounts for 5-7% of annual emissions. According to Lucy Rodgers of BBC News, 'If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US.' In order to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, annual cement emissions must fall by 16% by 2030. This situation brings concrete at the cusp of innovation, encouraging architects and scientists to experiment with concrete and help evolve its greener variants. Most innovations in this regard focus on reduction of cement in the concrete mix. MIT researchers developed an experimental method of manufacturing cement while eliminating CO2 emissions. Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK unveiled a novel approach of using nanoplatelets extracted from carrots and root vegetables to enhance concrete mixes. Dr. Sandra Manso-Blanco's approach of 'bioreceptive concrete' has structural concrete layered with materials to encourage the growth of CO2-absorbing moss and lichen. Another alternative mixture becoming mainstream in construction is GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete). The material consists of a mortar made of concrete, sand, alkali-resistant glass fiber and water. Plasticity is one of the main qualities of GFRC, enabling the molding of thinner and thus lighter façade pieces. Another novel approach to concrete used by Zaha Hadid Architects is 3D-knitted shell. Termed as KnitCandela, it is inspired by Spanish-Mexican architect and engineer Felix Candela's inventive concrete shell structures. The knitted fabric for KnitCandela was developed at ETH Zurich. ETH Zurich has been at the forefront of a number of innovations concerning concrete. With the intention of maximizing available space and avoiding steep construction costs, researchers from ETH Zurich's Department of Architecture have devised a concrete floor slab that with a thickness of a mere 2 cm, remains load-bearing and simultaneously sustainable. The institute also showcased the potential of robotically 3D printed concrete. Read on...

ArchDaily: What is the Future of Concrete in Architecture?
Author: Niall Patrick Walsh


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 aug 2019

Research study, 'Onboard Evolution of Understandable Swarm Behaviors', published in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers from University of Bristol (Simon Jones, Sabine Hauert) and University of the West of England (Alan F. Winfield, Matthew Studley), brings development of a new generation of swarming robots which can independently learn and evolve new behaviours in the wild a step closer. Researchers used artificial evolution to enable the robots to automatically learn swarm behaviours which are understandable to humans. This could create new robotic possibilities for environmental monitoring, disaster recovery, infrastructure maintenance, logistics and agriculture. This new approach uses a custom-made swarm of robots with high-processing power embedded within the swarm. In most recent approaches, artificial evolution has typically been run on a computer which is external to the swarm, with the best strategy then copied to the robots. Prof. Jones says, 'Human-understandable controllers allow us to analyse and verify automatic designs, to ensure safety for deployment in real-world applications.' Researchers took advantage of the recent advances in high-performance mobile computing, to build a swarm of robots inspired by those in nature. Their 'Teraflop Swarm' has the ability to run the computationally intensive automatic design process entirely within the swarm, freeing it from the constraint of off-line resources. Prof. Hauert says, 'This is the first step towards robot swarms that automatically discover suitable swarm strategies in the wild. The next step will be to get these robot swarms out of the lab and demonstrate our proposed approach in real-world applications.' Prof. Winfield says, 'In many modern AI systems, especially those that employ Deep Learning, it is almost impossible to understand why the system made a particular decision...An important advantage of the system described in this paper is that it is transparent: its decision making process is understandable by humans.' Read on...

Engineering.com: Robots Learn Swarm Behaviors, Aim to Escape the Lab
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 aug 2019

Social enterprises tackle societal and environmental issues utilizing business concepts for the larger interest of the society and reinvest profits back to sustain themselves. They support in building inclusive economy. According to the most recent statistics, there are around 5600 social enterprises in Scotland with an economic contribution of around £2 billion, ranging from community co-operatives to housing associations, enterprising charities and more. Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager at Social Enterprise Scotland, explains how social enterprises are contributing to Scotland's economy and advocates collaborations between them and private sector for greater economic and social benefits. He explains why engaging social enterprises with private sector is win-win - 'Firstly, social failure is bad for business. Unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction and other issues negatively impact on businesses. People without work and opportunity don't have money to spend on goods and services. Social enterprises work at the frontline to solve these social problems. Private sector businesses should also engage with social enterprises because they bring real benefit in terms of opening up new markets and new business opportunities. Joint bids for public contracts and similar partnership working are options too. Businesses can contract social enterprises into their supply chains. This could be a catering contract, graphic design, meeting space hire or something else. It's also about private sector employees volunteering in social enterprises, in a skills exchange, for learning and personal development.' He advocates three key areas of partnership work - consumer demand, supply chains and contracting and procurement. He suggests that building mutually beneficial relationships between social enterprises and private sector businesses paves the way for knowledge exchange, positively influencing business culture and build an economy that benefits all. Read on...

The Scotsman: Social enterprise is good for business - Duncan Thorp
Author: Duncan Thorp


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 apr 2019

Gen Z is one of the most connected and socially aware generations to enter the workforce. But for the progress of businesses and society in the right direction, experienced leaders need to encourage young people to pursue social entrepreneurship. Seven members of Forbes Nonprofit Council provide following suggestions - (1) Rupert Scofield, FINCA International: Educate Youth About Market-Based Solutions. (2) Geetha Murali, Room to Read: Celebrate Social Impact Companies. (3) Tom Van Winkle, Hinsdale Humane Society: Befriend Socially Responsible Organizations. (4) Kimberly Lewis, Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc: Show Impact In Real Ways. (5) Gloria Horsley, Open to Hope: Describe The Value On Their Terms. (6) Steven Moore, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Invest In Communities That Bring Entrepreneurs Together. (7) Kila Englebrook, Social Enterprise Alliance: Leverage Media And Entertainment. Read on...

Forbes: Seven Ways To Encourage Gen Z Professionals To Pursue Social Entrepreneurship
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 15 jan 2019

According to the recent report published by the British Council and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), 'Developing an Inclusive and Creative Economy: The state of social enterprise in Indonesia', millenials are leading a surge in the creation of business that are working to create positive social and environmental impact. More than 70% of a surveyed sample group mentions that the social enterprises started in the last two years and about 50% of the social entrepreneurs are aged between 25 and 34 years. The reports estimates that there are more than 342000 social enterprises in the region. In Indonesia more than 1/5th of social enterprises work in the creative industries, contrary to other countries in Aisa-Pacific region, such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India, where agriculture, education and health dominate. Ari Susanti, a senior program manager for the British Council in Indonesia, says, 'Many young people want to work in an area where they can make change, not just earn a salary.' According to the World Bank, Indonesia is an emerging middle-income country that, over the last 20 years, has seen growth in GDP at the same time as poverty has been cut in half. These conditions are enabling the growth of social enterprises. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, executive secretary of UNESCAP, says, 'UN body would support the development of social enterprise as a key means of building an inclusive and creative economy. Social enterprise is an opportunity for Indonesia...This report provides a solid evidence base to inform future policies and strategies.' These social enterprises mainly support and benefit local communities, women and young people. Moreover, they have also become a substantial source of employment - the number of full-time workers employed by social enterprises increased by 42% from 2016 to 2017. The rise in social enterprises is also proving good for gender equality - the social enterprise workforce is estimated to be made up of 69% women and is responsible for a 99% increase of full-time female employees in 2016-17. Government, corporations and universities have all come together to offer their support to social enterprises. Bambang P. S. Brodjonegoro, economist and the Minister of National Development Planning of Indonesia, wrote in the introduction of the report, 'The government aims to be an active partner of social entrepreneurs and is committed to continue building and nurturing the social entrepreneurship ecosystem.' Read on...

Pioneers Post: Millennials lead social enterprise surge in Indonesia
Author: Lee Mannion


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 jan 2019

Autonomous shopping concept intends to bring brick-and-mortar and internet shopping into a unified and integrated retail experience. The grab-and-go smart shopping carts promote cashier-free automatic check-out eliminating wait in lines. TechSpot's contributing writer, Cohen Coberly, says, 'While it seemed like brick-and-mortar retail would be all but killed off following the explosive rise of online shopping, what we're instead seeing throughout the US is not death, but evolution.' According to a 2018 survey by RIS News, 'The leading new shopping option wanted by consumers was "grab-and-go" technology (in which customers can self-checkout using their smartphones). 59% said they'd like to use this, and 9% had used it.' In a global survey of 2250 internet users conducted by iVend Retail and AYTM Market Research, 'Roughly 1/3rd of respondents said they would like to make automatic payments using digital shopping carts.' Caper is a smart shopping cart startup. Josh Constine, technology journalist and editor-at-large for TechCrunch, reports, 'The startup makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, but it's finalizing the technology to automatically scan items you drop in thanks to three image recognition cameras and a weight sensor. The company claims people already buy 18% more per visit after stores are equipped with its carts.' Linden Gao, co-founder and CEO of Caper, says, 'It doesn't make sense that you can order a cab with your phone or go book a hotel with your phone, but you can't use your phone to make a payment and leave the store. You still have to stand in line.' The current Caper cart involves scanning an item's barcode and then throwing it into the cart. Brittany Roston, senior editor and contributor at SlashGear, reports, 'The smarter version will eliminate the barcode part, making it possible to simply put the items in the cart while the built-in tech recognizes what they are.' Chris Albrecht, managing editor at The Spoon, also reports, 'The future iterations, already in the works, will remove the barcode and will use a combination of computer vision and built-in weight scales to determine purchases. The customer completes shopping, and pays on the built-in screen.' The concept of scanless carts involves deep learning and machine vision. Cameras are mounted in the cart. The screen on the cart gives the shopper different kinds of information - store map, item locator, promotions, deals etc. It recommends items based on contents already in the basket. Read on...

Tech Xplore: Next-level autonomous shopping carts are even smarter
Author: Nancy Cohen


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 13 jan 2019

Team of researchers from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (Prof. Timothy F. Scott, Prof. Mark A. Burns, Martin P. De Beer, Harry L. Van Der Laan, Megan A. Cole, Riley J. Whelan) have developed a new approach to 3D printing that lifts complex shapes from a vat of liquid at up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes. 3D printing could by highly beneficial for small manufacturing jobs without the need for a costly mold. But the usual 3D printing approach of building up plastic filaments layer by layer hasn't been usable in that aspect. Prof. Scott says, 'Using conventional approaches, that's not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines.' The U. of Michigan innovative 3D printing method solidifies the liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens - and where it stays fluid. This enables solidification of the resin in more sophisticated patterns. The process can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections. The printing demonstrations from this approach include a lattice, a toy boat and a block M. Prof. Burns says, 'It's one of the first true 3D printers ever made.' By creating a relatively large region where no solidification occurs, thicker resins - potentially with strengthening powder additives - can be used to produce more durable objects. The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers. Prof. Scott adds, 'You can get much tougher, much more wear-resistant materials.' The research paper, 'Rapid, continuous additive manufacturing by volumetric polymerization inhibition patterning', is to be published in Science Advances. Read on...

University of Michigan News: 3D printing 100 times faster with light
Authors: Timothy Scott, Mark Burns, Nicole Casal Moore, Kate McAlpine

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