|By Drew Hendricks||
|January 31, 2014 03:51 PM EST||
Back in the mid-seventies a popular TV series called The Six Million Dollar Man featured a badly injured astronaut who had both legs, one arm and an eye replaced by "bionic" enhancements.
At the time it all seemed pretty far-fetched, but forty years later medicine has made some staggering advances. Indeed such is the range of electronic and mechanically-assisted body parts available now, they probably surpass even the wildest of the program-makers' ideas!
From The Ground Up
Anyone who has watched paralympic sports can't fail to be impressed by two things: first, the huge disadvantages that humans are able overcome, and second the technology associated - both in terms of the specialist equipment for wheelchair athletes and the prosthetics for amputees. "Bladerunners" have now become commonplace and Alan Oliveira, despite having no lower legs, has used these advanced carbon-fiber limbs to run the hundred meters in a remarkable 10.77 seconds.
Away from the track, those blades are practically useless (it's extremely difficult to actually stand still), but there are many advances in prosthetic alternatives. Jozef Metelka is known as the man with 13 legs. Although that might sound a little bizarre - perhaps even overkill - there are good reasons for his many options.
Even with all the advanced science and technology at our disposal, we can't yet produce a leg that mimics the one most of us are born with. We can't replicate the tremendous strength and flexibility in a single unit. However, we can create them to suit specific purposes so, for example, when a titanium bolt was found to freeze in the cold conditions associated with skiing, a high-performance plastic was used instead. For mountain biking, a leg with a built-in shock absorber was designed. For road cycling, a streamlined carbon-fiber version, etc.
The same level of ingenuity and skill is being used for hands and arms. The tiny electrical signals that muscles produce can now be used to activate real-life bionics, opening and closing the hand and even allowing use of a pen or computer mouse. Currently, external sensors need to be used (normally attached to the skin), but work has already begun on the idea of brain implants.
Under The Hood
Of course it's not just outside the body where technology has gone hand-in-hand with medical advances. Hip replacements are commonplace. Heart pacemakers are now so small they can be fitted via the femoral artery - in around ten minutes - and without invasive surgery. Fantastic as that might seem, there are now entire plastic hearts available. Currently they are used as temporary replacements until a suitable donor organ can be found, but how long until permanent versions bring waiting lists down to virtually nothing?
And other body parts?Developments in artificial pancreases offer hope to Type 1 diabetes sufferers. Cochlear implants are helping people with all manner of hearing problems. Light sensitive micro-chips are bringing hope to blind and partially sighted. Deep brain implants are restoring motor functions to those who "freeze" due to Parkinson's Disease.
Facing The World
Sometimes it's just being able to face the world that's a challenge. Today's prosthetics can be electro-mechanical marvels, but often they still look like part of some weird robot.
Fortunately, advances in plastics and "fake" skin have made many items much more wearable - often difficult to tell from natural appendages. There are other less technological, but equally important advances, such as in wig technology for those with alopecia or recovering from radiation or chemotherapy. Human hair is carefully oriented to be truly naturalistic. Methods of attachment vary, taking into account increased skin sensitivity or allowing the wearer to take part in numerous sports.
The Real Six Million Dollar Man
The extraordinary advances in medical science, bionics and prosthetics is underlined by roboticists Rich Walker and Matthew Godden of the UK's Shadow Robot Co. In October 2013 they built what is claimed to be the world's first fully bionic man.
Created entirely from human prosthetics and replacement organs, he not only has working arms and legs but lungs, a heart, a spleen and even a working circulatory systems carrying blood. What's all the more amazing is that although inflation would make our original six million dollar man many times more expensive today, this experimental creation - arguably the closest thing to a human ever built - cost around $1 million.
We're may still be some way from seeing replacements for every part of our bodies, but little seems beyond us. It would appear it's no longer a question of if, but when.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective ...
Nov. 26, 2014 07:15 PM EST Reads: 782
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrateg...
Nov. 26, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 814
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will w...
Nov. 26, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 903
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happe...
Nov. 26, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 659
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water,...
Nov. 26, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 900
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nov. 26, 2014 05:45 PM EST Reads: 854
Want to enable self-service provisioning of application environments in minutes that mirror production? Can you automatically provide rich data with code-level detail back to the developers when issues occur in production? In his session at DevOps Summit, David Tesar, Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Microsoft Azure and DevOps, will discuss how to accomplish this and more utilizing technologies such as Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio online, and Application Insights in this demo-heavy session.
Nov. 26, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 512
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
Nov. 26, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 517
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
Nov. 26, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 542
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Nov. 26, 2014 04:00 PM EST Reads: 953
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device exp...
Nov. 26, 2014 03:45 PM EST Reads: 923
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect...
Nov. 26, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,449
High-performing enterprise Software Quality Assurance (SQA) teams validate systems that are ready for use - getting most actively involved as components integrate and form complete systems. These teams catch and report on defects, making sure the customer gets the best software possible. SQA teams have leveraged automation and virtualization to execute more thorough testing in less time - bringing Dev and Ops together, ensuring production readiness. Does the emergence of DevOps mean the end of E...
Nov. 25, 2014 11:30 PM EST Reads: 1,108
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
Nov. 25, 2014 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,196
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series dat...
Nov. 25, 2014 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,246