Sensing Advanced Data Flows

By Chance Murray

This panel at the FiRe conference brought together experts from different fields like digitizing smells,quantifying underwater sound travel, and discovering seismic explosions. They were brought together by the world of sensors, which is reaching new heights and depths.

“We’re trying to recreate a dog in a device,” said Chris Hanson, Founder and CEO of Aromyx.

Aromyx’s technology digitizes smell and taste by creating sensors that mimic biosensors in the human nose and tongue. The application of such technology is significant. Bomb dogs at security points could be complemented or even replaced by devices employing such technologies.

Noise pollution in the ocean has been on the rise to due increased movement of goods around the world. Roger Payne, Whale Scientist and Founder/President of Ocean Alliance, has been studying the physics of whale songs.

“In an unpolluted ocean, we determined that whale songs can reach as far as 13,000 miles due to the unique physics of such ocean depths,” said Payne.

Current sensors to monitor whale activity, commonly known as “critter cams,” provide only a static view of what whales see. Payne elaborated on a sensory device that would connect to whales and project a camera when sensors indicate another organism is nearby. This device would collect important information about the whales’ habits and environment, and would be powered by ocean currents rotating a small turbine incorporated into the device.  

John Delaney, Professor at the School of Oceanography, University of Washington, elaborated on a sensory device 400 KM off the Oregon coast that measures tectonic plate activity. The device sends 14 minutes of video, every 3 hours of each day. Among the highlights of data flow collected by the device is an underwater volcanic eruption, the audio of which Delaney played for the audience.

“We’ve never heard anything like this before,” said Delaney.

He then introduced a design for a series of sensors to be placed along the Pacific Rim that would provide flows of data regarding tectonic plate activity. The series would span the entire northwestern coast, a comparable technology to what Japan installed not too long ago.

“We can choose to invest in these sensors now, enabling us to capture valuable information about tectonic activity in the coastal region, or choose to incur the cost of reconstruction after a significant earthquake,” said Delaney.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.

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Promises and perils at the Bleeding Edge of Healthcare

By Shelby Cate

As an industry that is often bemoaned, highly regulated and endlessly complicated, it is difficult to be an entrepreneur in healthcare. BBC’s Ed Butler once again hosted Oren Gilad, Don Straus, Shawn Iadonato, and Caitlin Cameron, the CEO’s of the FiRestarter companies Atrin Pharmaceuticals, First Light Biosciences, Kineta, and OtoNexus Medical, respectively, to discuss their experiences and the future of healthcare innovation.

“It’s certainly a competitive landscape,” said Iadonato. “One thing that has evolved from the pharmaceutical industry is that they’ve largely gotten R&D, they are increasingly reliant on companies like my company, like [Gilad’s] company, to get the most attractive new technologies.”

Cameron sees the same story in the medical device industry.

“They look to young companies like us, but they want the angels and the ventures to take the initial risk,” she said.

Straus wondered the effect this trend has had on new ideas, and said he has seen a lot of good ideas wither and die on the vine because they aren’t developed enough for venture capitalists and angel investors, and yet can’t move forward without development money.

“Right now it feels like we’re on a great wave and things are working,” he said.

But he also said he has had periods of “sitting around waiting for a wave and it feels like maybe nothing is coming.”

Straus, whose company provides rapid diagnosis of infections also touched on the challenges that high profile failures on his industry, such as the recent Theranos bust.

“I talk to angel investors and every other one asks me ‘why are you not Theranos?’” he said. “We’re not Theranos, we have something real.”

According to Iadonato, the challenges of getting capital in pharmaceutical development in particular are that development is high risk, capital intensive, and takes a long time. This is in contrast to many technology ventures that are lower risk, require less investment and have quick development cycles.

Gilad, however, took on a more hopeful perspective, pointing out that there are now venture arms associated with pharmaceutical companies that are on the ground in academic institutions looking for very, very early stage opportunities.

“Capital is needed in the early stages where risk is high,” he said, “but it is out there.”

All four CEOs acknowledged the ups and downs of the being on the bleeding edge of this industry, but also the excitement that comes along with it.

“We’re part of this lunatic group of people that actually feel we can do something good,” said Gilad. “and it’s very fun.”
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.

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Investing in Climate Change

By Chance Murray

The evidence supporting climate change continues to rise, and the implications on environments and economics are too significant to ignore, according to Hans-Peter Plag, Director and Professor, Old Dominion University, Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute.

“Currently, emissions from worldwide annual energy usage is comparable to the Lake Toba explosion that occurred nearly 100,000 years ago,” Plag said.

Compared to the former 100,000 years, the past 100 years have had climate metrics change drastically. Carbon Dioxide levels have risen, coastal zones have moved, and water temperatures have risen. Data suggests that a 1 degree celsius increase in global temperature equates to a 25 meter rise in sea level.

The implications of Plag’s research are broad. City planners and environmentalists can take action to ensure coastal zones have adequate infrastructure and are free of waste and pollution that will wash into the ocean. Real estate developers can invest in properties outside exposed coastal zones or utilize mobile components that are capable of adapting to rising sea levels.

“It’s time to divest of exposed coastal areas,” Plag said. “Or, if you build in the coastal zone, invest in mobile infrastructure that can relocate with rising water levels.”

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.


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Invisible to you

By Arunabh Satpathy

Katia Moritz, has been undiagnosed for a long time. The director of the documentary Undiagnosed was motivated by her own illness and those of people like her. She was joined on a panel by Tristan Orpin, EVP of Clinical Genomics, Illumina, John Ryals, CEO of Metabolon, and Robin Y. Smith, CEO of ORIG3N. The session hosted by Doug Jamison, CEO of the Harris & Harris Group.

Upon introducing the panel, Sharon Anderson Morris spoke of “medical refugees” of undiagnosed diseases. The panel started with a clip of the film “Undiagnosed,” displaying the problems with people who have medically unexplained symptoms, and how they are often not treated for medical symptoms.

However, the documentary has quickly led to the formation of the UnDx, a consortium of five tech companies with providers and patients brought together by Moritz.

Moritz spoke of her personal story, and how she was working to give voice to the undiagnosed. She also spoke of the tragedy of not getting valuable data from people who the medical system refuses to treat and could offer something to the world.  

She got in touch with Dr. Isaac Kohani at Harvard and put together a database of undiagnosed.

The companies’ offered their respective products, including genome sequencing by Illumina.

With the gathered data and tech, they decided to continue looking for answers for families.

Moritz also spoke with Jamison, who put her in touch with 5 biotech companies who set up the UnDx Consortium.
“For the first time, all these companies who are working in different areas of biotechonology are working together,” he said.  

A big emphasis of the panel was on the fact that patients, providers, and companies were working together.

The prevailing theme was “new technologies plus collaboration equals hope.”

Taft spoke of his personal experience with a child of a friend with a family being undiagnosed.

There was further discussion of inflection points, including the fact that ,any patients were not diagnosed for five to eight years, and many would never be diagnosed.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.


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Digitalization, the Cloud, and the Transformation of the 21st Century

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

By Nick Fritz

The emerging trend of digitalization is blurring the line between the physical and digital world. The dramatic reduction in the cost of data collection, storage and analysis in the last several years has opened the door for this change, and it’s changing the nature of business. Greg Ness guided a discussion panel on the consequences of digitalization on Day 2 of the Future in Review 2016 conference. Preston McAfee, Michael Schwarz, Mark Sunday, Tim Fitzgerald, James Urquhart, and Edy Liongosari were also present as panel members. Their responses have been aggregated below.

So what precisely is digitalization, and what does it mean for large enterprise? Its definition has changed over time. The dramatic reduction in the cost of data services is impacting the way that we conduct business. Furthermore, the dramatic change in connectivity is driving change. This ability to capture data in real time from multiple sources enables us to react in real time. This increased flow of data between the physical and digital world is at the core of digitalization.

This increased flow has the potential to drastically change industries, some perhaps more than others. Potentially there is no limit to which industries can apply this idea. Agriculture is one example, where the monitoring of moisture levels can dramatically reduce water usage and increase relative yields. The mass collection of data will allow for macro-analysis, which can the be micro-targeted down to individuals based on their specific needs. These sort of “personal plans” will permeate many industries. Digitalization will also change the organizational structure of firms. To be used effectively, digitalization efforts will have to be embedded in all functional areas of a business, not siloed in one department. The bottom-line is this: digitalization is happening. Those firms that choose to get in front of the wave will prosper.

This begs the question: Who is working in this space now? General Electric is a great example of a firm who is adapting well. Seemingly overnight they transformed from a hardware company to a software company, and are now collecting enormous amounts of data on their equipment. Another consequence of this flow is cloud computing, which is being used to allow firms to fail fast in innovation. In this environment, the slow movers will be damaged quickly. Perhaps more quickly than ever before. It’s important to remember that although digitalization may spell big changes for the way that companies do business, it’s likely that consumers will not experience life changing effects.

Something that cloud computing allows is collaborative filtering, whereby data sets and patterns are developed by millions of users but are accessible at a personal level. This is the biggest change for consumers. Cloud computing and mobile connections enable this. Furthermore, machine learning applications in voice, picture, and video digitalization are changing the applications of cloud computing.

One form of digitalization not often mentioned is the digitalization of human assets. Through this process, it will become possible to select an ideal candidate for a job based on their digital profile, or to select the best customer type from a group of potential customers. Additionally, this process may have a “flow” effect, whereby the network created by human digitalization will allow us to seek out particularly useful contacts for a project or position.

This digitalization may drive longitudinal change through the rest of the decade. Thought to text and universal language translation will may be the biggest change makers, probably by the end of the decade. These technologies will change the nature of human interaction and increase the digitalization speed of human assets tremendously. The organizational structure of firms may begin to change as well.

Conway’s Law states that systems developed by organizations tend to mirror the communication practices of that organization. Digitalization will possibly reverse this trend, and organizational structures may begin reflecting the nature of the digital communication protocol.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.


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Population Flows

By Nick Fritz

Populations, like data, capital, and intellectual property, flows across borders. There are many drivers of population, which vary with time and region. This breakout session, hosted by Mike Winder, explored the nature and drivers of population flows in the 21st century.

Labor is one critical driver of current population flows, as demonstrated by the immigration debate here in the US. However, the nature of work in the future may be fundamentally different than it has been for the last hundred years. Automation is replacing human labor in positions across all industries. This displacement of traditional roles, which required attendance, by new service-based roles, which may be accomplished remotely, will necessarily change the dynamics of population flow with respect to labor.

Other drivers of population flow may be environmental. War, poverty and famine are historically common reasons for human migration. However, in the future, environmental collapse may be a driver of population flow. China, particularly in highly industrialized and populated areas such as Beijing, is already experiencing acute pollution issues that are causing real human suffering.

Populations will continue to flow as they always have. The drivers may be different in the 21st century, and understanding these trends will be critical to unlocking value in the coming hundred years.
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The CTO Challenge Continues

By Melissa Dymock

The CTO Team continued work on Thursday at the FiRe Conference to solve its two challenges: creating a flow computer system and a flow system that measures energy of the Earth in real time.

They met throughout the day in separate teams working on the two sides of the problem. The initial plan for this technology started out with piece of paper on an easel. Thursday’s evening session was about bringing the two teams up to speed on each side’s work and preparing a report of their progress for Friday’s session.

Nathanael Miller, an aerospace engineer at NASA, wanted to tie what they’ve done to the basic flow presented in the keynote of the conference, including friction, stock/capacitance, and attributes of flow.

Brad Holtz, CEO of Cyon Research and chief nexus officer of Coventry Computer said that they created many different views of the structure. They also went through the flow of the structure, and tried to answer the questions of what is in the system and what is not in the system.

Holtz said the flow process will be to authenticate, visualize, and interact with the data.

The working name of the Earth Monitoring System is currently “E2MS.”

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit


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HotSpots: Views of the Future

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

By Nick Fritz

The FiRe conference famously brings many of the brightest minds together to discuss the future of our world. On day 3 of the conference, Ed Butler solicited the opinions of five of those minds to answer a simple question: What is your view of the future? David Engle, Thomas Curran, Mike Winder, Michael Bartholomeusz and Mark Godsy each answered the question in their own way.

Education was the first theme to emerge from the discussion.

“The model for education needs to change and needs to change dramatically,” said David Engle.

He elaborated that the current model is stuck in the industrial age, and reconstructing it would likely be too painful to be practical. The answer is to start a conversation about education by focusing on what we want out of our students and our communities in the 21st century, and creating a new education system from scratch. This model will require a revamping of the current digital infrastructure as a support system and potentially an interface for the students.

Speed is another critical factor that will shape the future. Automating software is rapidly changing the way that we think about computing applications. Additionally, the rapid increase in software development, as catalyzed by open source tools and massive collaboration, is significantly shortening the innovation cycle in the software space.

The convergence between silicon and carbon based organisms will be a crucial event in the near future. One rung in the ladder toward this convergence is the decoupling of silicon organisms from the environment. Technologies such as those offered by HZO are in development and can “coat” sensitive electronic products at the nano level with moisture resistant materials. This advancement in materials is but one sign post on the road to singularity.

The fourth and final theme that emerged from this conversation is the need to accelerate entrepreneurial development. The New FiRe Fund was announced during the session. They exist as an advisory board to entrepreneurs to assist in product development, scaling, and most importantly managerial practices that shift the focus from technology ownership to technology stewardship.
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.

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Putting the Slave Trade Out of Business

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

By Nick Fritz

The slave trade is alive and well. Although invisible to most, millions of people are affected each year by human trafficking. Andrew Wallis, Founder and CEO of Unseen UK, and moderator Cynthia Figg met to discuss the efforts being undertaken in the UK to eliminate modern slavery.

Modern slavery is an illicit trade, subject to the economic principles of supply and demand. Globally, this business annually creates $150B in profit, exploiting more than 46 million people globally. Most of the people are migratory women and children who are fleeing war, famine or seeking economic fulfillment.

However, recently there has been a shift in the female to male ratio. More and more men are becoming victims of the slave network, driven by a global need for labor. This forced labor exists at the bottom of many supply chains, which are often so long and convoluted that the parent organizations have little idea of the injustice occurring.

“Supply chain is the wrong term,” Wallis said. “We should be calling them supply whips.”

In this way, the average consumer interacts with slavery on a regular basis. Many of the products bought and sold all around the world, especially cotton, electronics, and food, have a high likelihood of slavery in the supply chain.

The key to reversing this trend and putting slavers out of business is for commercial enterprise to get involved. Increasingly, firms are paying very close attention to their supply chains and in some cases are required by law to demonstrate supply chain transparency. In the UK, firms whose sales exceed £35M annually are required to submit a supply chain transparency report detailing efforts to eliminate social injustice to the lowest links of the chain.

The millennial generation is accelerating this change by rewarding socially responsible firms with their business and thereby incentivizing companies to undertake these efforts.

Additionally, a human trafficking help line is now live in the UK. The helpline can be used by anybody experiencing, witnessing or concerned about human trafficking incidents. The goal for the helpline is to eventually have one number recognized globally as the human trafficking hotline. In this way individuals are empowered to help end modern slavery.

Finally, big data applications are just now coming online to fight this problem. Law enforcement agencies, businesses and the hotline are all streaming large amounts of data to Unseen UK for analysis. Predictive analytics will begin to be useful in identifying individuals, companies and trade routes that are hot spots for violations.  

Andrew Wallis believes in the efficacy of these efforts, and is hopeful for the future. “Our mission is to put slavery out of business. I think we can do that in a generation.”
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.

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Quantum Computing is Coming Sooner than You Think

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

Kris Krug // Strategic News Service

By Shelby Cate

Brett Horvath, Head of Product at Scout, kicked off the session on the future of quantum computing by urging the audience to check out quantum computing if it’s unaccustomed to it, specifically referring to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s explanation of it.

Jonathan Carter, Deputy Director of Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab, agreed.

“I really urge you to check out that quantum computing explanation from Justin Trudeau,” Jonathan Carter said. “It’s a really beautiful explanation of quantum computing from a politician.”

The conversation between the two men revealed that a future that includes quantum computing may be closer than many may realize. Horvath asserted that not many companies are looking at specific applications for quantum computers, and instead are looking for general purpose computers. However, Carter said he was spotting a change.

“Some companies, Google particularly, think it would be great to have a near term win, as well as the long term goal of a quantum supercomputer,” Carter said.

In practical terms, this means a pairing traditional computers with currently available quantum components.

“Instead of waiting for the most powerful quantum computer, you build a quantum subprocessor,” said Horvath.

“We want to get to some usable simulation results in the near term,” Carter said.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit or our Medium blog.

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