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Hybrid Supercar from Aston Martin

Supercar maker Aston Martin has announced that it will produce an “electrified lineup” and use hybrid tech over the next ten years. This bold idea follows hot on the heals of Volvo announcing that they will have an electrified lineup by 2019, and signals a lean toward an environmentally-friendly future.

2017 TESLA Model S has a range of 210-315 miles, but with a price tag of $68,000 is unlikely to be the industry game changer.

Aston Martin’s CEO Andy Palmer said that the firm is making the technology optional rather than standard. “We will be 100 percent hybrid by the middle of the 2020s,” Palmer told the Financial Times recently.

Aston Martin’s first hybrid vehicle will be the Valkyrie hypercar, which is scheduled for launch in 2018. This will be followed by an electric version of its Rapide sedan in 2019, which will be a special edition. Their first regular hybrid will be part of the DBX SUV range, entering production in 2019.

According to Motor Authority, the fact that governments around the world are now committing to a ban on gas fueled vehicles within the next 30 years, including the US and UK governments, vehicle makers are already leaning toward electrified offerings.

“Due to toughening emission standards and potential bans on cars powered solely by internal combustion engines, even low-volume exotic marques like Aston Martin are turning to electrification,” the website states.

“Rivals Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche are also treading down the electrification path. The good news is that the technology can enhance the driving experience. Electric motors are great for low-end torque, for example,” it adds.

Electric Cars May be the Answer

As we revealed earlier this year, electric cars have been hailed as the answer to the smog producing internal combustion engine that heavily pollutes the atmosphere. Car manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in increasing production and bringing prices of electric vehicles down recently.

 

The Nissan Leaf became the first all-electric, family automobile produced for the mass market by a major manufacture in 2010. This car had a range of 82 miles with one full charge. Today things are very different. The Chevy Bolt EV has a range of 238 miles, and the price tag of around $30,000 is affordable for many people. The 2017 TESLA Model S has a range of 210-315 miles, but with a price tag of $68,000 is unlikely to be the industry game changer.

Electric cars, opposed to hybrids, are dominating the market and remain the popular choice among young adults over gas. Both hybrid and electric car sales are improving monthly and prices have come down in a supply and demand culture.

There’s no doubt that electric powered vehicles have made a bold impact on society and the environment. It means consumers will purchase fewer gas guzzling vehicles which pollute our atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Koniku Kore – The Computer Chip That Can Detect Smells

Most researchers developing artificial intelligence are focused on creating machines that simulate the human brain. To accomplish this, they are using silicon-based chips for processing power.

The biggest obstacle the team must overcome is keeping the neurons alive. In the lab, neurons have been kept alive for up to two years.

Emulating human brain capability requires an incredible amount of computing power in a relatively small space. Chip manufacturers are working to reduce the size of silicon-based chips, but many believe we’re approaching the physical limitations to how small we can make a transistor.

Oshiorenoya Agabi, a Nigerian neuroscientist, had a bold idea—rather than mimic the brain, why not use actual brain cells (neurons) to manufacture a chip. “We believe biology is the most advanced technology platform on the planet. Instead of copying the neuron, why don’t we take the neuron and put it in a chip?” Agabi said in the very first session of TEDGlobal, held in Tanzania in 2007.

Putting together a team of scientists, including geneticists, physicists, other bio-engineers, and molecular biologists, Agabi applied his Ph.D. in bioengineering to form a startup company, Koniku. The team reverse-engineered biology to develop the “Koniku Kore,” a modem-sized computer consisting of a neuron and silicon processing core, sensors that recognize smells, and an electrode. The electrode reads and writes information inside the neurons. The prototype of this biological chip stores 64 neurons.  Ten years after Agabi’s first announcement, he unveiled the prototype at the  August 2017 TEDGlobal conference, fittingly held once again in Tanzania.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the device, the team chose a problem difficult for silicon-based technology to solve—smelling a gas. The Koniku Kore “breathes” in air and “smells” it to determine whether the air contains a particular volatile substance.

Significance of the Neuron-based Chip

The Koniku Kore smelling a rose.

The merging of biological and digital systems is unprecedented and has tremendous possibilities. Think of situations currently using trained sniffer dogs. Airport security could quickly scan for explosive substances, eliminating the need for long lines at the security checkpoint. Law enforcement could quickly scan crowds, buildings, or vehicles for explosives and drugs. In the medical field, the device (or a smell-enabled robot) could detect diseases such as cancer. Drones could hover over pipelines and natural gas processing plants to detect methane leaks.

In addition to the security industry, the technology has garnered much interest from a diverse group of large corporations like AstraZeneca, Boeing BA, and Cisco. Agabi was able to raise $1 million startup money for his Silicon-Valley based company and currently claims he has made $10 million in profits. He expects $30 million in profits by 2018 through deals he has made with the security and other industries and projects the actual size of the market for his technology to be $145 billion.

Agabi’s Goal

Agabi’s ultimate goal is to “build a truly cognitive system” using artificial neurons (a combination of a neurological and biological material and silicon) within the next five to seven years.  To create such a system, Agabi believes his team will be able to expand the number neurons in their device from 64 to millions of neurons per chip.

The biggest obstacle the team must overcome is keeping the neurons alive. In the lab, neurons have been kept alive for up to two years. However, in the device, the neurons last for at most two months.

Agabi has no doubt his team will overcome the neuron longevity problem. He knows that by achieving the first major step of his bold idea, he’s made a new leap for AI: computer chips that can smell.

Laser Tech Gets $17 Million for Defense

The US Defense Department is investing $17 million into high-tech military laser technology that has the power to disrupt communication systems, destroy enemy drones and eliminate mortars. The energy lasers also provide the military with portable, less costly weapon options on the field.

Another $200 million has been requested…[for] a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.”

This bold idea may be an important asset to America’s defense capabilities and help improve military firepower in case of war.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supporter of directed energy research, made the announcement at Boeing HQ where the lasers are produced. He revealed that the United  States already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons but it’s expensive. The latest laser tech options are a more affordable and practical solution.

“High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time,” he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” he added.

According to Review Journal, Boeing has been behind the creation of the latest laser technology. The company has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. They have already devised a billion-dollar project to equip a Boeing 747 with a highly sophisticated laser cannon that can destroy missiles in the air.

Future of Military Laser Technology for Defense

Early laser systems, like the 747 cannon mentioned above, had to be built to large sizes to cater for the tech. However, thanks to the latest technological advances lasers can now fit into a small suitcase and have the same destructive power as the large ones from several years ago.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site, said.

Laser weapons on a ship shoot down missiles.

The new compact laser systems have already undergone testing by the military and engineers have also created a higher-powered version which will be tested next year. Scientists have said that what’s most exciting about the compact laser is that it is almost ready to go out on the field.

Review Journal adds that testing has become so successful that “another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.”

Laser technology is certainly a bold idea, it’s like taking a scene from a Star Wars movie and making it a reality. Although our military will benefit from sophisticated technology like this, it throws up many debates about the use of such destructive power on the enemy. The consequences it could reap have yet to be determined, and the jury is out on how this could affect humanity.

Blockchain for Pentagon Cybersecurity

The sophisticated blockchain technology behind bitcoin transactions could soon be adopted by the Pentagon to prevent cybercrime.

(DARPA) has recently signed a deal with Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) to develop a “secure, non-hackable messaging and transaction platform for the US military.

According to News Factor, the online currency could be drafted by the Pentagon as a way to mask US military technology, communications and purchases.

Analysts say that using blockchain could dramatically improve online security across the military which will prevent megahacks, tampering and cyberhijackings of aircraft, computer systems, vehicles or satellites.

“Particularly alarming to US defense analysts are Chinese intelligence collection operations aimed at commercial transactions, which have been highlighted as a growing threat to US national security with the American military personnel, national security decision-makers and critical infrastructure entities increasingly targeted,” the website writes.

A recent research memo published by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies states that “our dependence on foreign supply chains is a reality that policymakers will have to contend with in an increasingly open global economy.”

Reports suggest that the military has already begun experimenting with blockchain to combat threats, “essentially a decentralized digital ledger system, or database, stored in multiple copies across a large group of users.”

Over recent months, the military’s interest in blockchain technology has caught the eye of investors. The market for blockchain tech vendors accounted for $75 billion in 2017, and analysts predict that in 2019 it will reach beyond $108 billion.

Pentagon Recognizes Need for Cybersecurity

In recent months, the Pentagon and US NATO allies have been moving forward in a discreet fashion to develop military focused programs and apps that use the capabilities of blockchain to increase security.  The US military is one of the first militaries in the world to start using the technology, and so is NATO who are reportedly testing the technology to improve efficiencies across logistics, procurement and finance.

 

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently signed a public/private partnership deal with Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) to develop a “secure, non-hackable messaging and transaction platform for the US military.”

Blockchain technology will ensure that the data being sent is hack proof by decentralizing messages from the point of data. According to sources, DARPA is a government test case for blockchain which if successful will extend out into other government agencies. Joel Neidig, Director of research and development at ITAMCO, said: “We are excited to work with DARPA to develop the latest in military grade encryption software using blockchain technology. We look forward to offering an enterprise solution for secure messaging to the industry.”

Cybercrime has become one of the most important topics in the United States over recent times. There were rumors that the Russians hacked the US elections last year, and the FBI stated earlier this year that they would make fighting cybercrime one of their key goals.

Blockchain is a bold idea introduced nearly a decade ago. It is the system behind Bitcoin and various cryptocurrencies. Now it is creating impact beyond those original test cases, to provide secure records across cyberspace.