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Infographic — “Wearables” Means Worn on Wrist

Chart: Wearables market

Click on image for full-size view (Statista)

22 September 2018. At Science & Enterprise, we’re reporting more and more about systems that can be worn unobtrusively by individuals as they go about their daily lives, known simply as “wearables.” As the recent titles and links below indicate, most of these wearable systems are designed to monitor one’s physical or mental health, which usually connect to mobile device apps that collect and sometimes share or transmit the data. The shared data can then be sent as alerts to caregivers, stored in electronic health records, or captured in databases for further analysis.

As the chart — and this weekend’s infographic — from our friends at Statista indicate, however, the term “wearables” in most cases means a device worn on the wrist. Data collected from the market research company IDC show smartwatches as far and away the most popular form of wearable with more than 72 million of the devices shipped this year. In second place are physical activity monitors worn as wristbands, with more than 44 million expected to be shipped this year. But the most growth in wearables between now and 2022 is expected to be in smartwatches, while activity-monitor wristband sales are predicted to remain flat.

While the numbers today are much smaller, devices worn as clothing or fit into the ear are expected to grow markedly between now and 2022, to about 11 and 12 million items respectively. The once ballyhooed Google Glass, however, barely registers on the chart today, with virtually no growth in shipments anticipated over the next 4 years.

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Image is (Almost) Everything — Social Media Images Support Messaging

– Sponsored content –

White smartphone

(kote baeza, Pexels.com)

22 September 2018. On the global social media langscape, Facebook dominates most other competitors, but sheer numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. To make social media work, businesses need to engage their audiences, and that requires engaging the psyches of audiences in multiple ways.

Data produced by the market research company Statista earlier this year — and featured earlier in a Science & Enterprise infographic — show Facebook well in the lead with more than 2 billion active users each month. In second and third places are WhatsApp and Messenger, both owned by Facebook, each with over 1 billion active monthly users worldwide. Both properties are designed for sending and receiving messages, with Messenger more tightly integrated into Facebook itself. In fourth place is WeChat, also with nearly 1 billion active monthly users, a messaging app based in China that also offers social media and payment functions.

In fifth place is Instagram, another Facebook property with 800 million active monthly users, but unlike the messaging apps, revolves around images and video. Instagram makes possible posting images and videos from mobile devices, capturing the immediacy of phones and tablets, with messaging. More importantly for businesses, Instagram allows for multiple images and videos in a single post, known as Instagram Stories. With Instagram Stories, businesses can construct more detailed, complex, and meaningful messages.

Building an audience with Instagram means not only attracting visitors in the traditional Internet sense, but using the additional emotional attractions of images and video to connect with current clients and customers, or expand your business’s message to prospects. At the same time, businesses can build organic Instagram growth by engaging third-party services, such as Rocket Social that specialize in Instagram. And this organic audience growth need not be enjoyed by businesses alone. Not-for-profit organizations and institutions can also benefit from using Instagram or other image and video social media.

More complex narratives can be constructed with text-oriented messaging apps, like Messenger or Twitter, but they require constructing collection of posts known as threads. While images can be added, the narrative still uses text as its basic means of communication. For many, if not most businesses, a successful social media strategy with combine text-based messaging with image and video services.

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Spin-Off Company Developing New Antibiotics

MRSA bacteria

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in brown spheres, surrounded by cellular debris. (NIAID, NIH)

21 September 2018. A start-up enterprise in the U.K. is commercializing research from a university lab that discovered a new class of antibiotics promising to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. The company, Amprologix Ltd., is a spin-off business founded by microbiologist Matthew Upton at University of Plymouth, and already attracting stakeholders from the country’s science-based industries.

Upton’s lab at Plymouth studies pathogens responsible for infections becoming resistant to current antibiotics. The problem, notes World Health Organization is global and growing. The organization says new mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics are emerging that threaten our ability to combat infections from pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, and foodborne diseases. Some of the problem is a result of overuse of antibiotics, with lifestyle and behavioral changes (e.g., vaccination, hand washing) helping to slow the rate of resistance.

Nonetheless, new classes of antibiotics are needed with different mechanisms for treating infections, with some 5,000 deaths per year in the U.K. alone attributed to ineffective antibiotics, according to a government statement. Upton’s lab studies genomic sequencing in bacteria with computational analysis to identify patterns that offer targets for new antibiotic drugs. From these findings, the lab discovered bacteriocins, antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria themselves.

One of those bacteriocins discovered at Plymouth, known as epidermicin, derived from natural skin bacteria. Epidermicin was shown in tests with lab rats to kill dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, bacteria often found in health care facilities, with a single dose, while multiple doses of other antibiotics are often required. Amprologix aims to further develop epidermicin as a topical cream to treat MRSA and other stubborn infections. The company also plans to create other antibiotic classes, and boost antimicrobial properties of bacteriocins with artificial intelligence and synthetic biology.

In addition, Amprologix plans to develop industrial-scale facilities for production of epidermicin and further antibiotics. The company’s partner in this effort is the Edinburgh-based industrial biology enterprise Ingenza, already a collaborator with Upton’s lab at Plymouth. Ingenza is taking an equity stake in Amprologix, as is Frontier IP, a research commercialization enterprise in the U.K., and UMI3 Ltd, the research commercialization organization at University of Manchester. Frontier IP’s stake in Amprologix is 10 percent, while the equity holdings by Igenza and UMI3 were not disclosed.

Amprologix is the second company founded by Upton. In 2014, he started Spectromics, based in Manchester, developing a diagnostic technology to determine appropriate dosages for antibiotics, and prevent overuse of the drugs.

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App Offers Fast, Inexpensive Urinary Tract Infection Test

Bacterial test app

(University of California, Santa Barbara)

21 September 2018. A system for identifying bacterial infections shows the system’s smartphone app and accompanying lab kit can detect urinary tract infections, including those with sepsis, in about an hour. The system developed by researchers at University of California in Santa Barbara and Stanford University is described in yesterday’s issue of the journal EBio Medicine.

The team led by UC-Santa Barbara bacteriologist Michael Mahan and Stanford bioengineering professor Tom Soh is seeking faster, less expensive, and more readily available tests for infections conducted at the point of care. Among commonly diagnosed infections are urinary tract infections, which occur most often in women, in the bladder and urethra. If left untreated, these infections can spread to the kidneys or beyond with serious consequences. National Kidney Foundation says urinary tract infections are responsible for some 10 million doctor visits a year in the U.S., with at least 1 in 5 women likely to have an infection in her lifetime.

To meet this need, Mahan, Soh, and colleagues developed their smaRT-LAMP system, short for smartphone-based real-time loop-mediated isothermal amplification. In the paper, the researchers used the system with urine samples, although its developers say it can also detect infectious bacteria in blood and feces samples. The samples are captured in vials, warmed with a hot-plate, and treated with sodium hydroxide, containing lye and caustic soda, then reactants that generate fluorescent signals indicating unique amplified copy numbers of bacterial DNA.

The smartphone app, written for the Android operating system and Samsung Galaxy S7, uses the phone’s camera to capture the fluorescent signals, recording images every 10 seconds over a 50-minute period. Built-in algorithms then analyze the signals to determine the type of bacteria present in the sample and calculate the bacterial burden quantity. The results are then matched against statistical curves for standard bacterial concentrations. The free app, called Bacticount, includes a step-by-step tutorial.

The team evaluated the test kit and app in the lab with 8 different bacteria and strains within those bacteria, followed by lab tests with whole blood, urine, and feces from mice, including bacteria associated with sepsis. The researchers then assessed urine samples from 10 patients at a Santa Barbara hospital with urinary tract infections. The smaRT-LAMP system successfully detected the infections in the patients, including patients who developed sepsis, when compared to hospital lab assessments of blood samples from those individuals. However, the smaRT-LAMP tests returned results in about an hour, while the hospital lab needed 18 to 28 hours.

The team says the test kit costs less than $100 to produce, which with the smartphone app offers a faster and inexpensive bacterial testing method for detecting a wide range of pathogens for point-of-care clinics. Mahan says in a UC-Santa Barbara statement, “We believe that this lab test holds exciting potential to bring state-of-the-art diagnostics within easy reach of non-expert users.” Soh adds, “We hope technologies like this offer new ways of providing better health care around the globe.”

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Four Keys to Success in the Retail Industry

– Contributed content –

Shopping cart

(Alexas Fotos, Pixabay)

21 September 2018. People often say that main street is dead. Online shopping has taken over and most people don’t want to have to go out to a physical shop to get the stuff they need. While that is true, there is still some value in traditional retail and there are some shops that are doing well. However, you are up against a lot of stiff competition from the online world so if you want to start your own retail business, you’re going to have to do something pretty special and make sure that you get every aspect of it right. These are the 4 keys to success in the retail industry.

A good location

This is absolutely essential. A lot of your business is going to come from foot traffic. You’ll get a certain amount of customers that come out with the intention of visiting your store, but the majority will be people that are just passing and decide to come inside. That’s why you’ve got to be choosy when you’re picking a business premises. Obviously, you need to consider the space itself and whether it meets all of your needs. But, more importantly, you need to think about the location. Does it get a lot of passing foot traffic? Is it close to public transport links? Are there any other competing shops nearby?

If you open a shop in the middle of nowhere, you’re never going to get any customers. Equally, if you open your shop right next to a major competitor that is already established in the area, you might struggle to win their customers unless you offer something a lot better.

Window displays

Now that you’ve found the perfect location and people are walking by all of the time, you need to do something to catch their attention. A window display is essential here because that’s what will grab their attention and get them to come inside for a look. Take all of your best products and arrange them in the window and use a lot of eye catching signs to draw people in.

A quick payment service

Buying stuff online is so quick and easy, that’s why people like it. That means that our expectations are a lot higher when we’re shopping. For example, if you can’t pay with card or the shop has a dated machine that takes ages to connect, it’ll put people off coming back. It’s best to use a modern payment service that works off your phone; you can accept credit cards with the Pay Anywhere app which is a lot quicker and easier than a traditional card machine. If you give your customers a hassle free shopping and payment service, they’ll come back again in future.

Good staff

The one thing that shops have that online retailers don’t is the personal touch. You might get an online chat feature but that’s not the same. A lot of people go into a shop because they like having an employee to help them find things. That’s why you’ve got to focus on that benefit and make sure that you’re hiring good staff with excellent customer service skills. It’ll make all of the difference.

It’s not true that the high street is dead but it is a lot harder to make it with a traditional retail business so make sure you nail these 4 aspects.

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Virtual Reality Therapy Company Gains $5.1M in Early Funds

Scene from VR program

Scene from “Now I Can Do Heights” virtual reality program (Oxford VR)

20 September 2018. A company in the U.K. developing automated treatments for phobias using immersive virtual reality is raising £3.2 million ($US 5.1 million) in its first venture funding round. The new funding for Oxford VR, a spin-off enterprise from University of Oxford, but based in London, is led by Oxford Sciences Innovation, a science and technology commercialization company affiliated with the university.

Oxford VR, founded in 2016, is commercializing research by Daniel Freeman, a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford in the university’s medical sciences division. Freeman studies mental health disorders, particularly delusions and hallucinations, and is considered a pioneer in applying virtual reality as a therapeutic tool. He established a laboratory at Oxford for studying virtual reality as a way to develop personalized therapies for people with persecutory delusions and phobias. The company, which Freeman co-founded, licenses and develops the technology to evoke similar experiences as those encountered in real life, and provide a safe way of coping with those experiences.

The lead product from Oxford VR is an automated virtual reality program called “Now I Can Do Heights” that provides coaching for people with acrophobia, or a strong, unreasonable fear of heights, a common condition that the company says affects 1 in 5 people during their lifetimes. While virtual reality has previously been used in psychiatric therapy, up to now the technique required guidance from a therapist. Oxford VR’s approach, however, uses an automated coach with voice-recognition to provide personalized therapy. The technology, says the company, focuses on evaluating threat predictions while removing defensive behaviors, to provide memories of safety that counteract fear associations.

The company assessed its virtual reality program in a clinical trial, recruiting 100 adults in the U.K. with a fear of heights, and participants randomly assigned to received the Oxford VR therapy or the usual behavioral treatments. Participants using virtual reality with off-the-shelf equipment spent a total of about 2 hours in 5 therapy sessions. The primary outcome measure was the standard Heights Interpretation Questionnaire, or HIQ, a 16-item scale that quantifies a person’s fear of heights. The results, published in July in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry show participants receiving virtual reality treatments lowered their HIQ scores by 68 percent compared to minimal declines in the usual treatment group, with the differences continuing in a follow-up test 4 weeks later. No adverse effects were reported.

Barnaby Perks, CEO of the company said in a company statement with the release of the trial findings, “Professor Daniel Freeman’s research, combined with the advent of highly immersive consumer VR, means that Oxford VR can develop treatments that are faster and more effective than traditional treatments, significantly cheaper for health services to deploy and, crucially, engaging and entertaining for users.” While Oxford VR’s first product targets phobias, Perks added, the company plans to address a range of psychological problems, such as social anxiety and psychosis.

The new £3.2 million venture funding is led by Oxford Sciences Innovation that provided Oxford VR’s seed financing, joined by University of Oxford, and investors Force Over Mass, RT Capital, and GT Healthcare Capital Partners. In addition, Oxford VR was part of a consortium that won the £4 million first prize in the the UK National Institute of Health Research i4i Mental Health 2017 Challenge to develop virtual reality therapies for psychosis.

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Electronic Skins Add Robotic Functions to Objects

Robotic skin

Robotic skin showing pneumatic actuator motors (Yale University)

20 September 2018. An engineering lab developed a way to integrate electronic sensors and motors into flexible materials, which can be added to inanimate objects to give them robotic functions. Researchers from Yale University describe their process in yesterday’s issue of the journal Science Robotics.

Robotic devices are being developed to perform a multitude of tasks, but these devices are usually designed for specific tasks or a collection of related purposes, with their functions determined in advance. A team from Yale University’s Faboratory lab, led by mechanical engineering and materials science professor Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio is seeking a technology that makes possible multi-functional robotics that can be applied and adjusted to meet different needs, rather than developing an entirely new device for each specific purpose. The Faboratory specializes in soft-material robotics that easily bend and flex.

The Yale team, with colleagues from Purdue University in Indiana, developed their solution as two-dimensional flexible surfaces. These surfaces, made from sheets of commercially-available plastics and fabrics have integrated electronic sensors and actuator motors that can be applied to the outside of inanimate but flexible objects, so the objects can sense conditions in the environment or respond to commands. As a result, objects originally designed to be stationary, can perform additional functions with these robotic skins attached. And the researchers also found that mixing different types of substrates, sensors, and actuator motors — pneumatic or shape memory allows that deform then return to their original shape — influence the actions carried out by the robotic skins.

To prove the concept, Kramer-Bottiglio and colleagues first added robotic skins to simple soft or flexible objects like stuffed animals. The researchers found, for example, that using the skins on different parts of an object will enable the object to respond in different ways. Also, using the same robotic skin on a different object, will also get different results indicating that the object’s original design and capabilities are key factors in the functions performed with the robotic skin attached.  In addition, combining different types of robotic skins to different parts of an object make it possible for the object to perform more complex tasks.

“We can take the skins and wrap them around one object to perform a task — locomotion, for example,” says Kramer-Bottiglio in a university statement, “and then take them off and put them on a different object to perform a different task, such as grasping and moving an object. We can then take those same skins off that object and put them on a shirt to make an active wearable device.” In fact, one of the prototypes developed by the team is a wearable robotic skin that responds to and corrects poor posture.

The researchers designed the robotic skin technology in partnership with NASA, which needs multi-functional robotic systems in space travel, where single-purpose devices would be too difficult to design and build in space, or resupply from earth. A long piece of foam with a robotic skin added, for example, could be configured into a robotic arm. Her lab recently received a 4-year $2 million National Science Foundation grant to develop a more programmable skin for adding robotic functions to objects when the desired functions are not completely known, or be able to respond to unforeseen and changing environments.

Kramer-Bottiglio tells more about the project and demonstrates robotic skins in the following video

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Four of the Best Places to Invest

– Contributed content –

Counting coins

(Rawpixel, Pexels.com)

20 September 2018. When you have some cash burning a hole in your wallet, it’s a smart decision to invest it instead of just leaving it sit in the account. You want to make your money count and the only way that you can do that is to put your money in the right places so that you can watch it grow. The problem? You haven’t got the first clue about investing money.

There is a huge list of potential places that you could put your hard-earned money, and you have to be sure that the decision you make is the right one. The key is to avoid paralysis by analysis where you spend so much time thinking about your options that you talk yourself out of any of them. The more you overthink it, the more you’ll put off what could work out to be the best investment that you ever make in your life. The cash that burns the hole in your bank? You’ll spend it, and then later wish you’d made the right call and invested it. It’s a big mess and you could avoid it all by simply checking out these four best places to put your money.

The stock market

You may not know much about brokers, but lists like Fx-List can help you to work out which broker would be best for you. You don’t have to invest every single dollar you have into the stock market, especially when it an be a volatile place to put your cash. What you can do, though, is speak to various brokers and take financial advice about how much to invest and when. They can walk you through the process until you learn to do it yourself.

Peer-to-peer lending

It may seem like a daft idea; loan out your money and risk not seeing it again, right? Wrong. Lending platforms like these can allow you to loan out some of your money to people and earn  decent rate of return on your investment. You are investing in people, here, which means that your investment is far safer than other investment options.

Real estate

It’s the goal for a lot of people to buy a home and use it as either a second home or a buy-to-let. Real estate is a tangible asset, and whether you want to wait around for the housing market to go up or you want to spend some time in the house yourself renovating it, it’s a good place to put your money. No matter what happens, you’ll have it until you sell it on.

You

Paying off debts can free up your cash better to ensure that you are spending it in the right places. You could also choose to invest in your education, to better your future and work toward a higher and more secure pension.

Investing your money doesn’t have to be complicated; with a little research you can stop that windfall from burning holes in your bank and let it work for you.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are the contributor’s and not those of Science & Enterprise.

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Yom Kippur 5779

Shofar

Shofar, a ram’s horn sounded during Jewish high holiday services (A. Kotok)

18 September 2018. We’ll be observing Yom Kippur tomorrow, the day of atonement and holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Regular posting will resume on Thursday, 20 September.

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Small Business Grant Supports Bone Fracture Technology

Philip and Stewart Low

Philip Low, left, and Stewart Low (Purdue University)

18 September 2018. An award from National Institutes of Health is funding development of a new injected drug that promises to repair bone fractures without surgery. The $1.7 million grant from National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of NIH, was made to Novosteo Inc. in West Lafayette, Indiana, a spin-off enterprise from Purdue University.

Novosteo, a company founded last year by Purdue chemistry professor Phillip Low and his son Stewart Low, a postdoctoral researcher at Purdue, licenses and commercializes research on techniques to improve treatment of bone fractures, a particular problem in older people. The company cites data showing the rate of hip fractures is expected to increase 160 percent by 2040. In addition, complications from hip fractures can be deadly, with one-third of adults over the age of 50 expected to die within a year after a fall that breaks one or more bones.

“Even with current medical therapies,” says Stewart Low in a Purdue statement, “the odds of making a full recovery are wholly unsatisfactory. Our goal is to provide a better solution for those who suffer and help them more quickly regain their mobility, significantly decreasing the life-threatening complications that besiege those immobilized by their fracture.”

The Novosteo solution uses a small molecule, or low molecular weight compound that limits actions of a protein, known as glycogen synthase kinase 3-beta associated with inflammation. The compound is combined with a peptide in a suspension that targets hydroxyapatite, a crystalline substance in bone exposed when fractured. Because the Novosteo compound reacts only to hydroxyapatite, limiting off-target adverse effects, it can be administered with a simple injection under the skin into the blood stream. When the compound reaches the fracture site in sufficient doses, it begins rebuilding bone tissue and increasing bone density.

In preclinical tests in lab mice induced with broken femur or thigh bones, mice receiving the test compound show more bone repair, with higher bone volume and density than untreated mice. The company says its tests so far show no toxicity of the treatments at dosage levels high enough to repair broken bones.

The Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant funds research for completing preclinical work by Novosteo to advance its bone-repair technology. SBIR awards are usually given in 2 stages, a first stage to establish feasibility and a second stage to build a working prototype. In this case, NIH awarded Novosteo a fast-track grant that combines the 2 stages, with the first stage optimizing the drug’s efficacy and determining any toxicities, and the second stage completing preclinical development for requesting permission from FDA to begin clinical trials.

Philip Low says Novosteo’s drug can be used to fix more than hip fractures. “We believe the targeted medicine,” notes Low, “may also have applications in dental implants, head and facial fractures, hip and knee replacements and complicated hard-to-heal nonunion or complex fractures and possibly spinal fractures.” Stewart and Philip Low tell more about their work in the following video.

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