Innovations in Asia  

As well as being at the forefront of expanding economies, Asia has long been respected as a hub for innovative business ideas. A lot of this is down to Asian customers being more receptive to ideas that are more innovative, and perhaps ‘quirkier' than those their conservative western counterparts would willingly take on-board.
Take the concept of the vending machine. Sure, in the UK they are fairly ubiquitous. You'll find one at your local gymnasium dispensing cool drinks. There'll be one at the railway station offering a range of chocolate bars or crisps. But they are not exactly the type of invention to inspire their customers with any sense of reverence. This is not the case in the Far East. In Singapore, vending machines can dispense a whole lot more than packets of crisps or fairly insipid coffee. You'll be able to order a carton of mashed potato smothered in piping hot, delicious gravy.
Korea is another burgeoning Asian economic power that treats its retailers with due respect. The Emart supermarket here has built-in three-dimensional QR (machine-readable) codes that will only work when the sun has arrived at a certain point overhead. The idea behind this simple but devilishly effective marketing ploy has been to ensure that sales are inspired at certain times of the day – previously it had been noted that sales tended to slump over lunch time.
These QR codes are one noticeable aspect of how innovation is being harnessed in Far Eastern markets. Mobile phones are another important tool. The technology is also filtering over to the west, with the Canadian grocery firm Sobey's using QR codes to provide information on products, such as point of origin. This helps customers in many ways – by hovering over items with their phones they can be taken to web pages with further data. This can also allow interactivity, or transactions to take place.
There are other incentives being offered to customers that make their shopping experience as pleasant as possible. In Sweden, the retailer ICA are allow about field communication. Shoppers buying their lunch at ICA can adopt contactless payment systems. Anyone taking regular advantage of this is rewarded with a free lunch.
Technology is increasingly being used in-store for the benefit of both retailers and customers. In Thailand, Tesco are growing lettuces in water, making for fresher food, and eye-catching displays. This is so much more appealing than the sight of rows of uninteresting green vegetables lined up on a supermarket shelf, slowly wilting beneath the bright lights.
Another revolutionary idea likely to pave the way for future Asian shopping experiences is ‘smart trolleys'. These will scan products the moment they are placed inside, allowing customers to keep a close eye on their goods and budget accordingly, as well as flagging up the fact they are still within the amount they originally wished to spend – so it is too early to stop!


How robots are set to evolve  

Seeing as we just saw a whole ton of different Robots at CES 2017 including Laundroid, Aristotle by Nabi, Emotech Olly, Ewaybot MoRo, Black & Decker Smartech Robot Vac, Ubtech's Lynx robot and many more. SkyLabs team and been talking robot ideas ever since. When most of us hear the word ‘robots', what probably immediately springs to mind are image from hundreds of science fiction movies, from Star Wars to Blade Runner. The fact is, far from being the stuff of futuristic fantasy, robots are all around us today. And their presence is only set to continue expanding.
Of course, the conventional notion is of a synthetic human or android, an artificially-engineered person who will walk around just like the flesh and blood variety. But robots come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, depending on the tasks they have been designed to accomplish.
At their most basic level, robots are already installed in offices throughout the World. Think of the vast plants churning out cars. Practically every part of the production process is now in the hands of robotic components – machines that have been specifically pre-programmed to handle feats of precision engineering. Although the figures are difficult to collate with 100% accuracy, there may be upwards of one million fully functional industrial robots that are an integral part of plants across the globe.
At the lower end of the scale, there are some half a million cleaning robots working in offices in various sectors in many countries. While these won't exactly resemble C3PO with a duster and cloth, they will come in a diverse range of designs. Each of these will be designed to cope with everything from desk areas and rest rooms to robots that will deal with areas containing sensitive equipment, such as telecommunications or server stores.
You only have to consider the boom in sales figures of toy robots in the previous decade. This is one area where robots are predicted to truly explode in functionality and popularity over the next 20 years or so. Entertainment robots will enter more and more households, allowing robotics will make the leap from a mainly service tool - for cleaning or working on factory production lines - and into domestic environments.
The nature of robot design will be greatly influenced, allowing the look of robots to become more streamlined, tending towards the classical image of synthetic humans rather than simple machines. Robotics will begin looking into dealing with practical considerations, such as facial features, color schemes, and dimensions, as well as fluidity of movement, robustness, and how the units are powered. One of our current favs is Asimo from Honda.
How to speed up your Mac  

Yes most of this weeks press is around the new MacBook Pro built on groundbreaking ideas. It's faster and more powerful than before, yet remarkably thinner and lighter. It has the brightest, most colorful Mac notebook display ever. And it introduces the Touch Bar — a Multi-Touch enabled strip of glass built into the keyboard for instant access to the tools you want, right when you want them. However if you have an older Mac this article could help you get some more speed out of it.
Undoubtedly, when you took your brand new Mac out of its packaging and got ready to work with your sleek new Apple apparatus, it felt as it you were clutching a piece of the future? But how do you feel now? After downloading all those apps and storing countless photographs, not to mention having filled your iTunes library to overflowing, your machine has probably transformed from a speeding falcon to a dodo.
The good news is that there are various ways in which you can boost your Mac, so that its position in your affections is faithfully restored!
Start Up
The longer it takes for your equipment to boot up, then the slower its performance will be once it does get up and running. How many times have you stared at the desktop waiting for the likes of Firefox or Chrome to stop all that irritating hourglass spinning so you can start opening applications, or browsing the internet?
What you want to do is to go to your System Preferences and then select Users & Groups. Here you click on your username, and then click on Login Items. Check the box of each program you don't immediately require at the moment your Mac starts up. By applying these simple amendments you should notice a considerable difference at start up time.
Understandably, a lot of users get cold feet when it comes to looking at ways of improving Mac performance by considering your operating system. But Macs are perfectly able to take care of themselves. The latest Apple software makes it very easy to speed up your machine. You can go online to check the latest version of the Mac OS (navigate to Now compare what you see with what is currently installed on your machine – by clicking the Apple icon on your screen, top-left, then clicking About This Mac. The main reason Apple provides these free upgrades is to improve speed and efficiency. There are many other benefits from installing the latest OS, so ensure you follow these simple steps.
Hardware upgrades are more time-consuming and costly than simply downloading the latest version of the OS. Certain machines won't allow this task to be performed anyway. However, a hardware upgrade is often the best option available. The best advice is to go online and stick the hardware upgrade question into your favourite search engine, and read up on the advice. If you don't want to tackle this yourself, seek counsel from your local computer repair shop.


Innovations in the retail sector  
The race to get men into space was once the principal driving factor behind the science and technology of the east and the west. Thankfully, the moon has been conquered, the USA and Russia collaborate on space station missions, and since the late 1980s the Cold War has been experiencing – for the most part – a prolonged thaw. If there is any part of the human experience that is still undergoing a race, it is in technical innovation, particularly in the retail sector.
Where Silicon Valley in California was once considered the most likely place on the globe for new business ideas to emanate, the fact is that it is now open season. New suggestions for technological excellent are coming from places as far apart as China and the Philippines.
One aspect that caused retailers to have a serious think about how they addressed their customer base was the great worldwide recession that kicked-off in 2008. The constraints that this placed on consumer spending power meant that management teams had to start thinking outside the box. Traditional retailing methods were out the window, and the ongoing search for innovative ideas became all the rage.
Most retailers embraced the need to think ahead and challenge the status quo. A simple example would be the Tesco Clubcard, awarding shoppers for continually returning to one particular store. Of course, there are now 1,001 outlets offering similar scenarios. But the key matter here is that the retailer and shopper relationship has entered a new phases. There is far more interactivity between the two. Gone are the days when you walked into a shop, paid your money over the till, then walked away with the product, completely switching off thereafter. Today's transactions are all about stoking and then rewarding customer loyalty. A raft of other innovations have been introduced by modern outlets, such as home deliveries, mobile scan-and-shop services and self-service tills.
As for innovations lurking on the horizon? There is no doubt that gadgetry is going to feature strongly. The mobile phone may well be most self-respecting inventor's target of choice these days. But there will be others. Research is currently being undertaken into smart fridges that will possess the capability to order items when they run low. Shopping trolleys will follow shoppers up and down the supermarket aisles, scanning items as they are placed inside them.
Retailers also appreciate a simple enough truth. All the gimmicks in the world are no substitute for simply grabbing customer attention, either through careful marketing strategies or gaining trust through branding. The retail landscape is growing more populated and ‘noisier' all the time. But a combination of originality, innovation and inspiration will still reap rewards.
Phone design innovations  

Here are some of the ideas currently being mooted for future phone design. Whether or not they ever become reality, they are still well worth taking a look at. If they ever do become available on the shelf, remember where you first read about them!
Mobile phones are getting more compact all the time. This means they are getting thinner, smaller and lighter. Designers are actually working on an ultra-thin phone with a centre-panel that pops out, so that it juts out from the main body. This is designed to fit snugly over your ear, enabling your phone to instantly becoming an earphone – without those annoying cables that are forever getting themselves twisted around each other in knots!
These phone are also being designed to march skin tones that will render them practically invisible when they are in use.
Foldable phones
With advanced design technology there is not need for any phone to be a rigid piece of kit. Instead, far more flexibility is offered by 'packet' phones. Their default state is as a 5cm square shape. But these will be able to fold outwards, as required, enabling the tiny phone to be utilised for a variety of different functions. This solves so many issues with phone size. As more and more of us get used to ever-smaller designs, this will allow us access to multiple functions within a tiny area of storage. The fact that the phone can be conveniently folded away between tasks will allow you to 'switch off' from the demands of carrying the phone around in your pockets.
Phones have traditionally been rectangular-shaped, for the most part, for a number of years. This is still the case with modern mobile phones. However, the phones of the future are being created in a host of different shapes and sizes, with aesthetic considerations equal to technological concepts. In this way, phones will become so much more than objects for conversations, or for interacting with software. They will become three-dimensional ornaments or jewels, which can take pride of place on your shelving when they are not actually in use.

Robot technology – advances on the inside  
While robots continue to be developed in terms of their appearance, growing ever more compact, the real advances are being made ‘under the bonnet'. The major technological breakthroughs in recent years have been down to innovations in telecommunication, electronic devices, computing and, of course, software.
The ability of designers to come up with ever more inventive solutions to reduce processor size had made mobile computing possible. This has also increased what we might consider the ‘brain capability' of robots. Other advances that are having a considerable impact on robotics include the transformation of robots to ‘wireless devices'. In other words, wireless communication protocol can make robots susceptible to receiving information from the internet.
While this has had a revolutionary impact on the web in general, it has really advanced the possibilities for what future robots will be able to do. Internet technologies will create intelligent devices. A whole new generation of embedded systems will be made available for use in complex applications. Robots will start using internet-plugged devices, greatly increasing their scope for activities.
A century from now, the area of science where there is the greatest potential for ‘intelligent', web-programmable robots to be used to their full advantage will be in hazardous environments. We can see very rudimentary version of these machine at the moment, trundling across the desert landscapes on Mars to send geological analyses back to base. Tele-operated robots will be increasingly deployed in outer space – and when the time comes to explore other planets and their satellites in our solar system, they will be indispensible.
As systems have evolved, the decision-making and reasoning that is possible has increased considerably. Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction plots, but is being built into state-of-the-art technologies. The word robot itself is often being superseded by terms such as ‘intelligent decision making units', or at the very least ‘intelligent robots'. This reflects the fundamental evolution of robots, from pure machines – albeit pre-programmable and with a degree of built-in tailoring – to advanced computer-driven units capable of reacting to situations and altering their behavior accordingly. These advances are particularly noticeable in areas such as voice recognition, or image processing. All this enables robots (to keep with the more simplistic terms for convenience) much more ‘human-like' in their communication interface with humans.
Robots will continue to explore the world outside the laboratory. Rather than being purely research tools, they will be used as museum guides, or information desk staff.
Technology and football  
Football has been the most universally appreciated spectator sport on the planet for some time, with World Cup finals commanding audiences of billions. So naturally, when it comes to attempting to put together a winning team, coaches and managers will go to various lengths. Utilising technology is one aspect that is becoming increasingly popular.
For the back room staff to begin improving their players' performances, what they first need to do is understand what they actually do during the course of any 90-minute game. Previously, a lot of the choices concerning strategies and tactics were made in real time. We've all seen images of coaches furiously scribbling into notebooks in their dugouts, analyzing aspects of fraught matches as they unfold. Much of what would then be suggested to players, either at half-time, or at subsequent training sessions, would be down to ‘gut instinct'. However, advancements in technology have allowed science to be applied to the process in ways that even World Cup-winning managers could only have dreamt of.
Many of the stadia of premier league sides throughout the world are fitted with sophisticated cameras. These unnoticed mechanical eyes dutifully record exactly what is going on, tracking every kick of the ball, every cross, every goalkeeping save, every dead-ball situation. Once these images are subsequently pored over, they can provide a wealth of information about how much jogging, sprinting - or just hanging around watching play unfold elsewhere – is carried out by the 22 players on the field.
Some consistent pictures emerge from these camera studies. On average, players cover between 10 and 12 kilometers in a 90-minute encounter. Sprinting make up considerably less time than ‘low intensity' activity, such as jogging, or walking. Nevertheless, the former are disproportionately more important attributes to perfect, because the mark the key points during any game. Frenetic penalty box activity is defined by strikers rushing in to meet crosses, or defenders having to back-track furiously after their own side's attack has broken down and they are facing a counter attack.
Film retrieved from this real-time coverage can also paint a picture of player skill sets, allowing coaching staff to decide whether certain players are being played out of their ideal positions. Or perhaps, where techniques need brushed-up.
Technology is also applied to training sessions. Global positioning systems and heart monitoring apparatus are being increasingly used to maintain healthy team members. The heart rate can reveal how bodies are responding to the bursts of action that occur during games. All this activity helps the coaching staff to gauge if training sessions are perhaps being too demanding for players facing strenuous games in a matter of days. But for everyone involved in running a successful premiership side, from the managerial team, to coaches, to physiotherapists, to behavioural neuroscientists, being able to analyze activity down to the level of players' heartbeats is an example of how technology is working to improve sport.
Television for the future  
The television at the corner of your living room, or attached to the wall of your bedroom, is a common feature in virtually everyone's home. Viewers in the Far East are just as enthusiastic about their ubiquitous TV sets as consumers anywhere else in the globe. But what sort of televisions will viewers be watching in the not-too-distant future?
What most commentators will agree on is the fact that while there is any number of trends going a long way towards predicting future technology, two main areas will undoubtedly have a major influence.
Social TV
The days where television companies were commissioned to produce programmes, which were then broadcast to their viewers according to strict timetables, have long gone. Video and then DVD recording technology saw the start in the shift towards increasing power being placed in the viewers' hands. This has exploded in recent years.
The fact that technology has evolved to the extent that people are just as likely to be watching their favourite shows on their laptop screens or phones has been another seismic shift. 'TV on demand' means that viewers can choose when they watch particular programmes. A further component that has had a major impact on the potential for different ways to watch television has been that true phenomenon of the early 21st century – social media. TV programme planners will want to keep one eye on the way that people are interacting with one another. There will be increasing opportunities for viewer-created content, as people choose to harness the technology that is making, for instance, video-making so straightforward and cheap. Friends will begin creating shows for their own little niche of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.
Parallel content
The remote control has had a revolutionary effect on how television is watched. Red buttons introduce a whole new layer of interactivity, enabling viewers to meander off in new directions half way through their favourite shows. This will be particularly effective with news bulletins. As well as possessing the ability to freeze the action, you'll be able to go off in study related images on extra screens – in much the same way as surfing the internet through a browser allows you to open multiple windows.
In tandem with this development for television viewing, there are many other ways for people to receive news content. The advent of social media has meant that people can pick up news instantly, as it happens. Tweeted stories and pictures can capture stories instantly, without the viewer having to wait for any laborious editorial process to be enacted.
As news consumers are presented with increasingly sophisticated touch-screen interfaces on tablets, television companies will devote more and more time to web-disseminated content – content that also allows for interactivity as viewers react to the news, by commenting on forums, or social media.
The future of mobile phones   
Mobile phones have come a long way. You only have to look at archive footage from the 1980s to see business people catching up on news while holding massive, unwieldy, brick-sized objects. Phones have become steadily more compact, sleeker in design and easier to pop inside a pocket or in a handbag compartment, even as the range of functions they are capable of continues expanding.
One of the all-pervading buzzwords of modern times is 'apps'. There are thousands of apps which can be downloaded to your phone, enabling you to do a whole range of stuff, from identifying and then purchasing snatches of overheard music, to real-time train timetables, to star-charts of the night sky.
With so much technology, literally, at your fingertips, what are the likely trends for the next decade or so? Phones are likely to get smaller still, as hardware designers keep on coming up with innovative ideas to compact those circuit boards and plastic shells. The multi-purpose aspect of phones will be covered – it is a long time since these items were purely used for telephone communication. Even the tiniest models will be offering increasingly sharp high-definition screens. When used as a picture frame, your phone will form a comforting focal point for you wherever you are, in the office or at home.
Phones will become increasingly customizable, allowing the customer to have greater input into how their own mobile phone will look. As well as a choice from a range of Perspex cases, you'll be able to purchase from a host of attachments. Advances in case designs will mean that your phone will offer a multi-sensory experience for the user. Even when it is not actually in use, it could be emitting scents, or radiating coloured lights. The latter aspect will be particularly useful for those occasions when your phone has annoyingly disappeared from your immediate field of vision!
With society becoming more and more fixated on being eco-friendly, your phone will ingather information in areas such as how much electricity and gas you consume, and how you dispose of waste. This data will be saved into your phone, with the incentive of free texts or calls the more environmentally friendly you prove to be.
Finally, new generations of mobile phones will use artificial intelligence that will allow them to tap into a user's emotions, such as anger or happiness. Phones will also recognise the voice of their owner, allowing for a much more streamlined interaction, particularly where voice-activated software is concerned.
The importance of industrial robots  
The world is becoming increasingly focused on ecological matters. The global marketplace is all about the better utilization of existing resources. Foremost amongst this is lowering energy consumption.
All of these considerations are having an impact on how industrial robots are employed. Eco-friendly legislation, as well as practicalities, means that industrial robots will require to have the appropriate built-in features. They will need to be built to integrate into any software-organized production line, along with other robots currently working in those environments. More importantly, they will have to be able to react independently – responding autonomously to changes that are made in production orders. They will also be required to co-operate with the work team where aspects of production are being reconfigured.
So the key buzzwords where modern industrial robots are concerned are ‘autonomous intelligence', ‘energy saving' and ‘miniaturization'. Light materials will be all-important, as well as sensor-less controls, and the ability to navigate fluently out-of-doors.
So, over the next decade or so, an industrial robots will be so much more than something that puts vehicles parts in place on a production line. They will become car navigation systems that will assist their driver in steering through foggy regions. Or they might be bulldozers on construction sites, working to a blueprint far more exactly than any of its ‘human co-workers'.
Industrial robots will continue to become more mobile due to enhancements to light manipulation, or haptic interfaces such as touch screens. The possibilities for making industrial robots more versatile are virtually limitless. Think of elderly people being assisted in their homes thanks to 24-hour support from robot assistants or nurses. These machines could monitor their charge's health status, as well as getting in touch with family or medical services in the case of an emergency.
Increasingly, robots are being designed with functionality that is based on replicating life. This is leading to what scientists are referring to as ‘biometric robots'. Emotion-controlled robots are being experimented with, in the hope that robots will become ever more adaptable to their environments. The new generation of industrial robots will be better able to cope with their operational surroundings.
Another area where industrial robots will develop is in ‘microrobotics', or ‘nanobots', These are tiny versions of artificially-intelligent devices for use in medical techniques, such as the clearing of blocked blood vessels, or the repairing of damaged tissue.
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