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Getting Your Voice Heard Online

– Contributed content –

25 May 2017. We all know that the internet is vast – but very few of us have a concept of just how huge it is. Since it was invented in 1994 it has expanded into the multi-faceted network we know it as today, and it is also suggested that the websites we can access freely are only a mere snapshot of everything that is actually out there. With all this in mind, it is clear that the online world is a pretty saturated one, with many companies vying for the attentions of the same customers. As internet users have such short attention spans, you have a mere few seconds to grab their attention with your online presence before they get bored and move onto one of your competitors. Therefore it is integral that you have a visibly strong brand on the Internet that clearly states who you are and what it is you do. So how exactly do you create such a presence? Read on to find out.

Social media keys on smartphone

(Wikimedia Commons)

Utilize the necessary platforms

If only one result comes up when you type your business’s name into a search engine, you are probably missing a trick there. Sure, you need a website or a landing page – but you also need to be linked up to all the necessary social media too. Social media is where customers come to interact with your brand, and you should make it your priority to create a narrative of sorts if you can. Spend some time putting your various profiles together, and then cross-reference them against each other. Remember that there should be clear brand continuity across all these facets, so make sure all your pictures, text and tone of voice are in line with each other.

Don’t neglect your SEO

So you might have a great looking website and some really innovative social media pages at your disposal – but what is the point in any of that if no one is looking at them? Sometimes, good content simply isn’t enough to pull people in (as unfair as that might seem). You will also need to be Internet savvy and follow this link to learn more about how search engine optimization can benefit your online presence. It might sound intimidating at first, especially if you are a bit of a technophobe. But in reality, there are plenty of tools that can help even the most novice users get themselves noticed online.

Laptop keyboard

(Pexels.com)

Convert visitors into customers

You may get a number of people passing through your website, unsure if they are going to invest in what it is you are providing. When they are already looking at your site this is your chance to pounce – so to speak. You need make it as easy as possible to secure a sale, using techniques such as a compelling call to action and a fuss-free ecommerce platform. Remember that the average client is typically unwilling to part with their money unless it is for a good reason, so you need to egg them on at every opportunity into interact with your brand.

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High-Resolution Surgical Brain Monitor Demonstrated

Micro-electrode grid

Micro-electrode grid used n brain surgery (David Baillot, UC San Diego)

25 May 2017. Biomedical engineers demonstrated a higher-resolution device for mapping the brain during surgery to highlight healthy and diseased tissue. The team from University of California in San Diego, with colleagues from Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals in Boston, describe the device in the 12 May issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials (paid subscription required).

The researchers from the labs of UC-San Diego engineering professors Shadi Dayeh and Vikash Gilja, and neuroscientist-radiologist Eric Halgren, sought a device that observes brain activity during surgery with more granularity and detail than those used today. Current devices, called electrode grids, are made of silicone or plastic and arrayed with electrodes, placed on top of the brain to capture neural activity. The device identifies regions in the brain where nerve cells are functioning and those with a likelihood of disease, which helps surgeons treat or remove only diseased tissue.

Current electrode grids, however, tend to be bulky and have not changed their basic design in about 20 years. “Our goal is to develop a tool that can obtain more reliable information from the surface of the brain,” says Dayeh in a UC-San Diego statement. Their design aimed for a thinner, more flexible device that packs in more sensors for mapping brain activity in more detail.

The team — including neurosurgeons, neuroscientists, electrical engineers, materials scientists, and systems integration specialists — created its micro-electrode grid from from a polymer known as PEDOT:PSS, short for poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrene sulfonate). PEDOT:PSS conducts electric current and is being used in a number electronic and energy applications. But the material is also transparent, as well as physically and chemically stable.

The researchers replaced traditional metal electrodes found in today’s electrode grids with those made from PEDOT:PSS, taking advantage of its its high conductivity and transparency. As a result, their micro-electrode grid is thinner, transparent, and more flexible, with more electrodes in the array to capture more detailed neural activity. “These electrodes occupy minuscule volumes, says Gilja. “Imagine Saran Wrap, but thinner.”

The engineering team asked their neurosurgeon colleagues to try out the micro-grid with 4 brain surgery patients at the UC San Diego medical center, as well as Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals. In their tests, the surgeons used the micro-grid as well as standard electrode grids in the same procedures and recorded the results. The two types of electrode grids were used with patients awake and unconscious. During epilepsy surgery, for example, both grids identified regions of the brain responsible for seizures, as well as normally functioning areas, but the micro-grid provided more detailed and higher-resolution readings. In another case, the micro-grid recorded activity in meninges layers of the brain in increments as small as 400 micrometers.

The findings overall show the micro-grid works as well or somewhat better than standard electrode grids, but with higher resolution and less noise. “In order to introduce a new electrode grid for clinical use,” notes Dayeh, “we first need to show that the device can yield the same information as that used in the clinic. Then we can build upon that work to make an even better product that can improve patient care.”

The next steps in the micro-electrode grid’s development are to increase the electrode density and test the length of time the device can operate safely in the brain.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Wearable Heartbeat Simulator Helps Reduce Stress

Doppel devices

Doppel devices (Team Turquoise Ltd.)

25 May 2017. A device that sends rhythmic vibrations resembling heart beats into the wrist helps reduce stress among individuals facing the prospect of making a public speech. A team from Royal Holloway, University of London and Team Turquoise Ltd., the London-based company that makes the device, published its findings in the 23 May issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

The team led by Royal Holloway psychologist Manos Tsakiris evaluated the doppel, a device worn on the wrist like a watch, which sends tactile pulses into the wrist similar to a beating heart to reduce stress. The device is also connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone app. The doppel’s developers at Team Turquoise, spun-off from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art in 2013, say the device is designed to provide a calming rhythm to which the body responds. Slower beats tend to produce a calming effect, while higher rhythms often induce physiological arousal.

Heart beats, note the authors, are probably the most familiar and ubiquitous natural rhythm people recognize. Tsakaris, a consultant to Team Turquoise, notes in a company blog post, “Not only high arousal is physiologically correlated with increased heart rate whereas calmness is physiologically correlated with lower heart rate, but we also intuitively associate higher and lower heart rate with anxiety or high arousal, and calmness respectively.”

The study recruited 52 individuals, mainly female and with an average age of 26, who were told the doppel measured blood pressure. The participants were asked to prepare a speech in 5 minutes on pros and cons of using animals in research, and then present the speech to a panel of 3 or 4 colleagues of the study leader. While all participants wore doppels, for half of the participants in a comparison group, the devices were turned off. For those who had working doppels, the device was set to provide heart beat pulses at a rate of 20 percent below their resting heart rate.

The researchers measured heart rates and skin conductance responses — ability of the skin to conduct electric current — as physiological measures of anxiety before and during the public speaking exercise. Participants also completed standard self-reported anxiety scales and questionnaires before and after the speaking task.

The results show participants wearing a working doppel exhibiting lower stress on most measures than the comparable group wearing a non-working device. Before the speaking exercise, participants in both groups recorded comparable scores on all measures. After the speaking task, all participants exhibited more stress than before, but doppel wearers had lower skin conductance responses and self-reported anxiety than individuals with a sham device. Average heart rates between the two groups were not large enough to be statistically reliable.

The company believes the doppel can fill a gap for people who want to control their stress levels, but without the time or circumstances for more intensive remedies. Company CEO Fotini Markopoulou notes, “While research shows that meditation and mindfulness can help to reduce stress over time, most of us don’t have this time to practice. Using doppel is a natural and distraction-free way to help the wearer to feel calmer, within moments, and when and where they want.”

Team Turquoise expects doppels to be on the market by summer 2017 in Europe and North America, selling for £125.00 in the U.K. and $US 179.00.

More from Science & Enterprise:

Hat tip: FirstWord Pharma

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How Tech Is Changing Business Processes For Good

– Contributed content –

25 May 2017. Whether your business has a physical store front or not; it’s more than likely to have an online presence. If you’re selling products or offering a service; it’s vital to stay up-to-date with your digital technology, which will ensure that you’re making the most of the business tech available, for you and your consumers.

Targeted marketing

You want your customers to be thinking about your company, even when they’re not on your website, or within your business space. Therefore, it’s important to be reaching them through specific, targeting marketing on a regular basis. Collating their contact details before, and during a purchase will ensure you have a way to reach them through an EDM, which can be tailored to what their shopping habits are, or their age group, and, more specifically, special offers on their birthday. By curating your customer’s details, and using them to send them personalized campaigns, will change how they see you and build customer trust and reassurance, through digital technology.

Once a customer is on your website, and looking at particular products; the technology is available to provide the patron with pop-ups of similar items, ensuring they will be less tempted to leave and look elsewhere. If they do leave, you have the ability to continue to show them your wares through specified ad spaces on pop-ups as they navigate through different websites. Technology allows you to stay ever-present in a consumer’s mind, which will keep drawing them back to your brand.

Tablet and laptop

(Pexels.com)

Consumer experience

Traditional methods of shopping and paying for services have changed with technology; people are using cash less often, and the introduction of paying by scanning your credit or debit card, is starting to remove the need for pin numbers. Digital technology, particularly apps, are starting to quicken the pace of gaining customer’s payment details, and any identity verification a company may need. Both customers and businesses are embracing these speedy changes, and it won’t be long before the new tech is what people expect and identify as a service.

By using fingerprints, smartphone scanning, and facial recognition; business processes are becoming quicker and more secure. Therefore, the new tech has a positive influence on a customer’s experience with your brand, as they will have saved valuable time, and will begin to recommend you as a trusted company.

Guys in jeans with phone

(Startup Stock Photos, Pexels.com)

Communication and care

If your business is solely based online; it’s important that the care and communication you provide to your patrons is friendly and easy to access. You need to be available to answer any queries, help them to make decisions by providing the correct information, and encourage them to invest their money with you. Technology means that now, you can be ever-present on whatever web page your customer is browsing on.

As soon as somebody visits your site, a pop-up and call-to-action should appear, so the customer knows that with one click they can engage in a helpful conversation within certain hours. If browsing out of hours, the consumer still needs to feel that communication and customer care is only a click away; so pop-up tabs can be used to email immediately also. For more information on the importance of online customer care, take a look here: https://www.techwyse.com/blog/internet-marketing/importance-of-online-customer-service/.

Woman with phone earpiece

(Picjumbo.com, Pexels.com)

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Broad Inst., Intel Make Genomics Software Open-Source

DNA in hand

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

24 May 2017. A new release of software that speeds and streamlines analysis of genomic sequencing variations is being released under an open-source license by the Broad Institute. The software known as Genome Analysis Toolkit version 4, or GATK4, is being developed by the Broad Institute, a medical research center at Harvard University and MIT, and Intel Corporation.

GATK is offered as a set of computational tools to help discover genomic sequencing variations, or changes in genes such as polymorphisms that affect an individual’s characteristics or mutations that may indicate a cause of disease. In addition, the GATK site recommends best practices for sharing, optimizing, and integrating genomic data. Among the changes identified by GATK are single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, that occur in the basic nucleic acid building blocks. The software also identifies indels, short for insertions and deletions, in genomes, second in number only to SNPs.

The new version 4 of GATK also highlights copy number variations, changes in the number of copies of a gene in a person’s DNA, as well as variations in the DNA structure, indicative of disease. These tools can be applied to germline variations — those transmitted to offspring — and somatic variants that arise spontaneously. The latest version also is optimized, say its developers, for performance-boosting processing engines, such as Apache Spark, available as well in open-source.

Broad Institute began partnering with Intel in November 2016 to develop better methods for integrating and processing the enormous amounts of data produced in genomic analysis, and formed the Intel-Broad Center for Genomics Data Engineering to make it happen. Not only are the amounts of genomics data rapidly expanding, the data sets reside on different types of server systems, with varying degrees of access through the cloud. The collaboration, say the partners, combines Broad’s work in genomic and life sciences research with Intel’s expertise in analytics and artificial intelligence.

GATK is still in “alpha” or early testing stage, but Broad says some 45,000 academic and commercial sites are already using the software regularly. A beta test version is expected to be released in June 2017.

“We wanted to remove traditional barriers of scale while offering the same high level of data quality our users expect,” says Eric Banks, a lead developer of GATK in a Broad Institute statement. “Thanks to the rapid adoption of cloud computing, researchers can finally do away with many of the infrastructure-related complications that have hampered progress, especially at smaller institutions and startups.”

In addition to release of GATK4 in open-source, Intel vice-president Jason Waxman announced the Broad-Intel Genomics Stack, or BIGStack, an overall systems architecture designed for genomics analysis. Waxman says BIGStack provides a five-fold improvement in genomics analytical capability at Broad. Waxman also says Chinese genomics company BGI is adopting GATK’s current analytical tools.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Device Simplifies Treatment for Child Ear Disorder

Clikx developer team

Developers of the Clikx device to treat otitis media with effusion, led by Lynne Lim, front left, and Tan Kok Kiong. (National University of Singapore)

24 May 2017. An engineering and medical team in Singapore created a new device that it says simplifies and speeds surgery for a leading cause of hearing loss in children. The device, called the Clikx, is a product of labs at National University of Singapore designed to treat otitis media with effusion, a condition also known as “glue ear” that affects as many as 709 million people, mainly children, worldwide.

Otitis media with effusion occurs when fluid accumulates in the middle ear of children, often between 6 months and 3 years old, as a result of cold, sore throat, or upper respiratory infections. The condition usually clears up by itself in 4 to 6 weeks, but if it persists can cause infection or hearing loss. Otitis media with effusion is caused by a malfunctioning eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the throat and equalizes air pressure in the middle ear and outside.

Treatments for otitis media with effusion, or OME, are limited to antibiotics to treat infections or, in cases where the condition extends beyond 2 to 3 months, a surgical procedure to prevent long-term hearing loss or speech disorders. The procedure, called a myringotomy, inserts a tube called a grommet in a hole in the eardrum to drain the fluid, relieve the pressure, and prevent fluid from accumulating, and allow hearing to be restored.

This procedure requires full-scale surgery an an operating room with a general anesthetic. The Clikx device, say its developers, makes it possible to insert the grommet with a quick process, in an out-patient facility and a local anesthetic. The device was developed in the lab of electrical engineering professor Tan Kok Kiong, working with ear-nose-and-throat specialist and adjunct medical professor Lynne Lim.

Clikx is a handheld device with a pistol-like grip that inserts the grommet in a child’s ear about 1 second. The device uses a sensor-controlled automated process and a simple eye-loupe scope to place the tube. In addition, say the developers, Clikx uses current commercially available grommets.

As Tan explains in a university statement, “Preoperative preparation and postoperative recovery time for patients are significantly reduced. At the same time, risks of general anesthesia are avoided. We expect costs, manpower and resources to be lowered substantially, and this in turn, would be welcomed by patients, health care institutions, and insurers.”

The researchers expect Clikx will be used worldwide. “In many underdeveloped areas where proper health care infrastructure and general anesthesia are not always available, many patients with OME do not have access to treatment in a timely manner, ” Lim notes. “Clikx can make a significant impact by making grommet placement surgeries more accessible to these patients most in need, and it simplifies the procedure for doctors and patients.”

The team expects clinical trials of Clikx to begin in Singapore in 2018, and is seeking partners to commercialize the device.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Chip Device Simulates Viral Asthma Attacks

Small airway chip

Small airway chip (Wyss Institute, Harvard University)

23 May 2017. A small plastic chip device that acts as a model of a human airway simulated a severe asthma exacerbation or attack caused by a viral infection. A team from Emulate Inc. in Boston that developed the device with the pharmaceutical company Merck, also in Boston, described its findings in a paper presented today at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Washington, D.C.

Airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. Asthma is chronic condition, where the airways become inflamed and narrow, causing people with asthma to experience wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and coughing for periods of time. Among asthma’s underlying causes are infections, pollutants in the air, and allergies to pollen, molds, or dust mites that trigger airway inflammation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2010 some 18.7 million adults had asthma, along with 7 million children.

Emulate Inc. is a spin-off enterprise from the Wyss Institute, a biomedical engineering research center at Harvard University, developing simulated human organs for lab research and drug testing. The company often commercializes basic research done by the Wyss Institute, including in this case a simulated human airway. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Wyss Institute researchers developed a prototype chip device having fine fluid channels lined with cells from human airway epithelium or surface layers, as well as specialized cell types.

The company advanced this prototype in partnership with Merck as a model for testing drugs for airway-related disorders, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. In their paper, Emulate Inc. president and chief scientist Geraldine Hamilton and colleagues report on simulation of severe asthma exacerbations brought on by viral infections, in this case human rhinoviruses responsible for most common cold symptoms. Among people with asthma, however, rhinoviruses are a leading cause of exacerbations, both for children and adults.

In their study, the Emulate-Merck team infected with rhinoviruses an Emulate Inc. small airway-lung chip induced with asthma. The surface layer cells responded with characteristic inflammation, and release of cytokines or signaling proteins associated with inflammation. These reactions also recruited neutrophils, or white blood cells in the immune system leading to leakage across the surface layers.

The neutrophil reactions suggest that drugs blocking the actions of specific signaling proteins associated with airway inflammation could treat the reaction. Merck makes a drug code-named MK-7123 that blocks one of these signaling proteins, CXCR2, and controls neutrophil activity affecting inflammation in the airways.

“Our Lung-Chip,” says Hamilton in a company statement, “has now achieved new levels of functionality to more accurately recreate human biology for airway inflammation and respiratory disease applications. Hamilton adds that they can apply the chip, “to potentially accelerate the discovery and development of better and safer drugs for patients with challenging inflammatory diseases of the lung, such as COPD, asthma, and respiratory infections.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

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How Working With Your Hands Can Equal Happiness

– Contributed content –

23 May 2017. Digital and online companies keep expanding, and people are often drawn to a business where they can work remotely, from their laptops or in an office space. However, the growing popularity of artisan brands and handmade crafts is leading another group of business owners to lease spaces, where they can physically create their products onsite. There has been a surge in meeting both customers and suppliers face to face, alongside manually working with your hands all day, resulting in an overall, happier work environment.

Hobbies becoming businesses

Many of the brands that pride themselves on their handmade wares began with love and passion for what they do. Pastimes and hobbies are turning into lucrative ventures, and people are using their talents to set up shop and step out of the office. Crafting and creating items often leads to a happy and balanced lifestyle within business, because people can physically do what they love, and are lucky enough to earn a living from it. By stepping away from screens, and getting their hands dirty, artisans can use both their brain and body; therefore, stress and its associated symptoms are often alleviated.

Carpentry

(Fancycrave, Pexels)

The power of machinery

By using tools and equipment, instead of computer technology, people are simplifying their daily intake of digital information; this can clear the mind and result in a straightforward routine and way of life. Choosing the correct machinery for their business can be an exciting and fulfilling experience. And, having the choice when to use their laptop or smartphone to research into more info about their equipment, reply to emails, and market their business, takes away the pressure of being tied to their digital technology all day. A great deal of happiness comes from keeping on top of your physical work and when your machinery has completed a task, instead of a day full of answering emails, while looking at a screen.

Metalworking

(David Herault, Pexels)

Feeling physically tired

So often when people get into bed, they struggle to switch off and fall asleep; the stress of office life and tasks that need completing can play on their minds and can cause a disrupted night’s sleep. When business owners have worked with their hands and equipment all day, they have had the time to process thoughts as they physically complete their tasks. Therefore, people often leave their workplace feeling bodily tired, and their mind is free from any digital stress; this enables them to relax and fall asleep more successfully. Surely everybody wakes up happier after a restful night’s sleep. If you’re finding sleep troublesome; here are some techniques that can help: https://psychcentral.com/lib/12-ways-to-shut-off-your-brain-before-bedtime/.

Asleep at the wheel

(Lechon Kirb, Unsplash.com)

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Laser-Produced Graphene Kills Resistant Bacteria

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH)

23 May 2017. A materials science and engineering team found a form of graphene produced by lasers can kill films of bacteria resistant to treatment, aided by a weak electric current. Researchers from Rice University in Houston and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, describe their discovery in the 18 May issue of the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces (paid subscription required).

The team from the labs of chemistry and materials science professor James Tour at Rice and Ben Gurion’s Christopher Arnusch who studies membranes for water purification sought inexpensive and readily available techniques for killing bacteria in water treatment plants, but can also be used in fighting biofilms that can cause infections in hospitals. Infections in health care facilities are a continuing problem in the U.S., and while the numbers of cases have decreased in recent years, in 2011 some 722,000 people acquired infections in acute-care hospitals, leading to 75,000 deaths.

Tour’s lab earlier discovered a simpler and inexpensive process for producing graphene with lasers. Graphene is a material closely related to graphite like that used in pencils, one atom in thickness and arrayed in an hexagonal atomic pattern. The material is very light, strong, chemically stable, and can conduct both heat and electricity, with applications in electronics, energy, and health care.

Tour and colleagues produce a from of graphene by sending laser beams through polyimide plastic film, a common polymer strong enough to replace glass or steel in many industrial applications. This laser-induced graphene, as it’s called, is made of interconnected nanoscale flakes, rather than the elegant atomic hexagons in pure graphene. But what laser-induced graphene may lack in elegance, it makes up in economics. Polyimide sheets are very inexpensive and this form of graphene can be made in everyday ambient conditions.

Arnusch’s group became interested in laser-induced graphene for its potential to eliminate bacteria in municipal water supplies, where microbial communities form into stubborn films that can foul water pipes. The researchers suspected laser-induced graphene has latent antibacterial properties, but they added a low-power (1.1 to 2.5 volts) to enhance those properties. The team tested electrodes made from polyimide plastic, exposed to infrared lasers to produce laser-induced graphene on their surface.

The researchers assessed the graphene-coated electrodes in a wastewater solution with Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, a cause of serious infections in hospitals, particularly among people with weakened immune systems. The graphene-coated electrodes, with a weak current, first attracted the bacteria, then killed them after coming in contact. In seconds, electrode surfaces with 1.5 to 2.5 volts of current, killed the bacteria, while uncoated polyimide formed biofilms. After 9 hours, the coated electrodes eliminated virtually all (99.9%) of the bacteria and resisted further biofilm formation.

The team attributes these results to the sharp edges on the nanoscale graphene flakes that resist bacteria on their own, as well as hydrogen peroxide produced by the electric current. “This form of graphene is extremely resistant to biofilm formation,” says Tour in a Rice University statement, “which has promise for places like water-treatment plants, oil-drilling operations, hospitals, and ocean applications like underwater pipes that are sensitive to fouling. The antibacterial qualities when electricity is applied is a great additional benefit.”

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Away for a Few Days

Timex watch

(Unsplash, Pixabay)

17 May 2017. We need to take some personal time for a few days, but Science & Enterprise plans to resume publishing on Tuesday, 23 May. We’ll see you then.

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