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Philly's parks mapped via Google Street View

A new Google Street View initiative -- launched in collaboration with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy -- will make it possible to visualize 200 miles of trails and visit various sites within the country's largest urban park system.

Launched in in 2007, the Street View feature of Google Maps has done wonders for misty-eyed nostalgia and real estate voyeurism. That is, the technology has made it dually possible to remotely revisit your childhood cul-de-sac and place yourself squarely in front of that fixer-upper of a dream home across town that might, fingers crossed, come on the market sooner than later.

More recently, Google Street View has embraced armchair adventure tourism and gone off-road, so to speak, with the addition of dozens of far-flung — and a few not all that far-flung — destinations ranging from the Galapagos Islands to Grand Canyon and the Pyramids of Giza. Does the fact that you may never have the chance to visit the Citadel of Qaitbay, the Wieliczka Salt Mine or Finland’s one-and-only Santa Claus Village in your lifetime keep you up at night? Now, you can visit all three in a single evening through the magic of 360-degree panoramic imagery...Philadelphia, home to Fairmount Park, will be the first city to digitally document its entire park system on Google Street View as part of the tech giant’s Google Trekker program...

Equipped with a 15-lens camera apparatus that snaps panoramic images every three seconds, the 50-pound Google Trekker backpack is on loan — so Philadelphia better work fast to capture every nook and cranny of its park system within the allotted six-month time frame. From the sound of it, the city hired the right gents to perform the task. Both experienced hikers, Conor Michaud is a gym instructor and Gint Stirbys is a professional mover. On their feet from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m., the roving documentarians will alternate duties — one will don the super-hefty camera-backpack while the other will walk ahead to clear the parks’ trails by removing any obstacles or litter.

Original source: Mother Nature Network
Read the complete story here

Growing local company Invisible Sentinel tackles food safety concerns

This Philadelphia startup gets a big spotlight in The New York Times. Their food-testing technology could help solve headaches for big companies like Chipotle who struggle with outbreaks of bacteria including E. coli or listeria that sicken customers. 

Troubles for one business can mean opportunities for others. And the competitive field of food testing is one. Companies big and small are looking for ways to make food testing faster, more accurate and less expensive. It requires sophisticated scientific and technological skills and is far from the easiest point of entry for a small start-up. But one Philadelphia biotech company led by a pair of entrepreneurs is hoping it has found a niche.

The company, Invisible Sentinel, has developed a patented technology called Veriflow that uses a hand-held device to detect the DNA of micro-organisms like E. coli, salmonella and listeria quickly and at a relatively affordable price. The technology has been approved by AOAC International, an association that sets standards for microbial food testing.

“It’s like a pregnancy test — one line negative and two lines positive — except that it’s amplified DNA that you’re reading,” said Benjamin Pascal, a co-founder of Invisible Sentinel.

Today, according to Invisible Sentinel, 114 companies in the United States and more than 50 internationally use the technology at more than 250 different sites in 18 countries.

Wawa Inc., which owns dairy and beverage manufacturing plants as well as 715 convenience stores in six states, tested Veriflow for about six months before signing on in March 2013. “Invisible Sentinel’s technology was two to three times faster than others,” said Chris Gheysens, the company’s chief executive.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

Universities and drug companies partner to tackle big diseases

New partnerships between universities and drug companies show promises for complex diseases. 

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is teaming up with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to start a research institute and a company aimed at curing H.I.V. infection and AIDS... The company and the university will each own half of the new company, Qura Therapeutics, which will have the rights to commercialize any discoveries... 

The arrangement is part of a trend in which pharmaceutical companies are working directly with university researchers. Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, are building a research center on the Philadelphia campus to work on ways to genetically alter a patient’s immune cells to battle cancer.

But while the University of Pennsylvania partnership is already producing striking remissions in some cancer patients, the attempt to cure H.I.V. is expected to take far longer and may fall short. The $20 million being contributed is a small sum for a company like Glaxo, which spent close to $5 billion on research and development last year.

Original source: The New York Times
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New tools for detecting cancer come out of Thomas Jefferson

New blood tests -- or "liquid biopsies" -- are making the cancer detection process more painless.

Telltale traces of a tumor are often present in the blood. These traces -- either intact cancer cells or fragments of tumor DNA -- are present in minuscule amounts, but numerous companies are now coming to market with sophisticated tests that can detect and analyze them.

While the usefulness of the tests still needs to be proved, proponents say that because liquid biopsies are not invasive, they can be easier to repeat periodically, potentially tracking the disease as it evolves and allowing treatments to be adjusted accordingly...

"You will have a chance to identify a treatment sometimes and sometimes not," said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, director of the breast care center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who is treating Ms. Lewis and is a leading expert on liquid biopsies. Still, he said, "you are certainly much more advanced than going blindly." 

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

High tech gadgets improve quality of life for urban dwellers

New high-tech solutions are changing the way renters and homeowners interact with their environments.

In San Francisco, a homeowner gave his house a Twitter account that posts an update when there is unanticipated movement on the first floor, and welcomes him home when he walks through the door. A tech-savvy renter in Philadelphia programmed a gadget to chart how often the temperature in his apartment changed, and proved to his incredulous landlord that the air-conditioner was not, in fact, functional...

Still, it seems that as long as consumers are on the winning end of the cost-benefit analysis, the Internet of Things will continue to bulldoze its way into America’s living rooms. Especially if the rest of us can make the technology work as well for us as it did for Thomas Murray, a tech-savvy designer who tinkered his way into a brand-new apartment.

Mr. Murray, 34, configured a rubber box filled with sensors to take the temperature in his home regularly, record the results on an online chart...For weeks he and his wife, Heather, watched as the chart zigged and zagged through temperatures in the low 80s and back down. The landlord sent maintenance workers in by the droves. But every time they declared victory, Mr. Murray showed them a chart bearing unequivocal proof that the apartment was still an inferno.

Eventually, the landlord gave up, and moved the couple into the apartment down the hall, which was almost twice as big as their old place, didn’t cost any more, and had a working air-conditioner to boot.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Inventing the Future: Researchers at Monell tackle the roots of obesity

Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in University City, is at the forefront of research into how eating habits during pregnancy and infancy impact obesity.

The Monell researchers have identified several sensitive periods for taste preference development. One is before three and a half months of age, which makes what the mother eats while pregnant and breast-feeding so important. “It’s our fundamental belief that during evolution, we as humans are exposed to flavors both in utero and via mother’s milk that are signals of things that will be in our diets as we grow up and learn about what flavors are acceptable based on those experiences,” said Gary Beauchamp, the director of the Monell Center. “Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Science reporter sparks tough conversation about women in STEM

This might not be as Philly-centric as our usual Buzz posts, but Flying Kite has written extensively about efforts to engage women in STEM fields, so we thought we'd share this awesome video from Emily Graslie. Speaking from the Field Museum in Chicago, Graslie addresses the strange internet conversationt that often errupts when women enter the conversation on scientific topics. As she demonstrates, we have a long way to go. From an NPR story on the video:

Many of the folks who write her, write not about the science, but about her body, her looks, her clothes, and do so without any apparent embarrassment. She's a science reporter who happens to be a young woman, and her woman-ness is the thing they focus on. The science, to her chagrin, often takes second place.

Original source: NPR
Check out the video here.

Philadelphia Magazine profiles the city's 20 'coolest' startups

Philadelphia Magazine put together a great list of the area's "coolest" startups. Flying Kite readers might recognize, well, most of them from our coverage of Philly's entrepreneurship scene.

Something big is happening. It’s not obvious, and it’s nothing tactile—but it’s most definitely a shift in the way we normally do things around here. It’s spurred on by a group of people who, above all else, want to create something that is their very own. With a whole lot of passion and tireless energy, they’re dreaming up new uses for technology, coming up with problem-solving products, and sketching out websites on napkins at coffee shops. Our research turned up more than 100 start-ups (whittled down here to the 20 coolest) that are happening right now. And while those companies may be small, what they’re part of is something huge: They’re changing the way business and culture look in Philadelphia. They’re ushering in an era in which our city is suddenly smarter, hipper, younger, more communal, more energetic and more creative than ever before. And this is just the beginning.
Original source: Philadelphia Magazine
Read the complete list here.

Philly company institutes 'zmail' policy to keep workers off the clock

Vynamic, a Philadelphia-based health care IT company, has instituted "zmail," a system that makes work email off-limits to employees on nights and weekends. Could this be the future of work-life balance?

The policy, which the company dubs "zmail," began after employees complained about stress in the annual engagement survey. Constant email contact played a role in that. Calista describes it this way: "You get an email. You're trying to sleep. You happen to look at it right as you fall asleep, and next thing you know you're up thinking about it. All it takes is that one." And so the policy began: "Let it wait until the morning."

The roll-out required some thought. Managers had to go first. After a month, they evaluated it, and "everyone became a believer in it," says Calista. So the email blackout zone went into the employee handbook. "We're not going to fire somebody if they violate it," he says. But it's pretty effectively self-policed.

Original source: Fast Company
Read the complete story here.

Inventing the Future: Penn's new Singh Center for Nanotechnology pushes the boundaries

Hidden City takes a deep dive into Penn's innovative new nanotech center. The architecture of the Singh Center for Nanotechnology inspires, while also showcasing a slate of high-tech bells and whistles. It was especially important to Penn that the building be integrated into the urban fabric, while also protecting intensely delicate work.

Penn officials wrestled with the project’s site, on the 3200 block of Walnut Street. They wanted the facility to be centrally located, close to scientists in the School of Arts and Sciences (co-developer and operator of the Center), biomedical researchers and engineers (at Penn and Drexel), and innovating firms at the Science Center. With only a handful of similar facilities on the east coast, Penn’s competitive advantage would be the city itself. “We planned to bring Center City to our door and create an urban context for the center,” says Glandt.

But nanotechnology research requires almost complete isolation. Even the slightest air current or vibration can distort the cellular or sub-cellular matter under the microscope. Nanotechnology fabrication requires a still more sanitized environment: the removal of all UV light waves. Fabricators use UV light to etch the strands of atoms and molecules.

Read the complete story here.
Original source: Hidden City

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Local scientists assist major genetic breakthrough

Penn scientists were instrumental in the recent discovery of the gene that causes fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare condition that causes the growth of a second skeleton. It's a fascinating and inspiring story.

The group’s members gave [Frederick Kaplan] more than their stories and DNA: they began raising money. Nick Bogard, whose son Jud had been diagnosed with the disease at age 3, organized a golf tournament in Massachusetts that raised $30,000. That money allowed Kaplan to host the first scientific conference about FOP, in 1991. Other families hosted barbecues, ice-fishing tournaments, swim-a-thons, bingo nights. In 2012 alone, Peeper’s organization raised $520,000 for research. That’s not much compared with, say, the $1 billion that the NIH distributes each year for diabetes research. But these funds were crucial for Kaplan, who sought to escape the rare-disease trap. IFOPA’s money—as well as gifts from other private donors and an endowment accompanying Kaplan’s professorship at Penn—made it possible for him to work single-mindedly on FOP for more than two decades.

Original source: The Atlantic
Read the complete story here.

Philly startup Curalate profiled in 'You're the Boss'

Philly startup Curalate is profiled in the New York Times' small business column, "You're the Boss."

But the idea that rose to the top was a platform that allows companies to measure the impact of Pinterest and other visual social media. They called the company Curalate, and they introduced it in beta in March 2012 and for real two months later. Mr. Gupta said the rise of Pinterest last year looked similar to Twitter’s early days with brands "falling over themselves to get on board but reluctant to commit until they had some way to measure their presence on the platform."

Enter Curalate, which created a way to listen and measure visual conversations. The company’s algorithm recognizes images using pixels and then matches it to a brand. "The platform tells companies the conversations people are having about their product," Mr. Gupta said.

For more on Curalate, check out this story in Flying Kite.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.

First Round Capital expands to New York City

First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund is going national, starting in New York City. The program funds student-run startups selected by students. Flying Kite reported on its local success in December. 

"We’ve heard from several entrepreneurs claiming that it was 'much harder to raise our first $25,000 then our next $2 million,'" wrote [founder Josh] Kopelman."Given this, I just wonder how many amazing companies we would be talking about today had they received that first small check. Instead, I hear stories about how amazing students, under the giant burden of college debt, abandoned their startup dreams and chose to take full-time positions at established companies."

Original source: The Epoch Times
Read the original story here.

ABC News praises developments at the Navy Yard

The Navy Yard earns some national attention from ABC News for its exciting work fostering business, entrepreneurship and green technology.

"There was a lot of uncertainty early on," said John Grady, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. "People weren't sure what we were going to do to replace this engine of activity that was there."

Last week, The Navy Yard marked its 10,000-employee milestone and unveiled an update to its 2004 master plan that is forecasting 1,000 apartments, more parks and open space, more new construction and continued adaptive reuse of Navy-era industrial buildings.

Original source: ABC News
Read the full story here.

PlanPhilly launches new website

PlanPhilly has launched a new website. They hope the fresh, innovative platform will help them better connect to the city's community of planners, designers, developers and residents.

"PlanPhilly gave us a chance to explore the relationships between organizations, issues, projects and people in a way that hasn't been done before," said Tom Boutell, lead developer, P'unk Avenue (punkave.com). "We also enjoyed pursuing responsive design, delivering a great experience across phones, tablets and desktops. Rich content is what we're all about, and finding the right way to showcase the depth and breadth of PlanPhilly's content challenged us in new and intriguing ways. We're also excited about the site's community-powered features, like professional profiles and the ability to submit new organizations for inclusion in the directory."
Original source: PlanPhilly
To visit their new site, click here.

183 Emerging Technology Articles | Page: | Show All
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