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Interface is our magazine about current and emerging technologies and markets

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Issue 61: Autumn 2016

Article summaries:

An eye for detail

Current surgical robots augment the precision with which surgeons can manipulate tissue during operations. But there are still parts of the body that remain out of reach due to their small size. We’re investigating micromanipulator technologies that could herald a new generation of surgical robotics.

The innovation squeeze

The ever-growing challenge to differentiate is causing ripples from the intellectual property vendor to the semiconductor manufacturer and through to the original equipment manufacturer. So here lies the challenge – to be busy doing more but also carve out time for innovation.

The appliance of science

The applied scientist bridges the gap between scientists and engineers – taking fundamental scientific understandings and applying them to the real world for everyone’s benefit. It’s a key ingredient of successful cutting-edge product development.

Global but local

The latest phase of our global expansion has seen Synapse Product Development join the Cambridge Consultants family this summer. We are able to offer our clients a combined set of skills and services that is unprecedented at the innovative end of the development market.

On your marks

Digital biomarkers present an as-yet untapped field of opportunity. Combined with user-centred services, they have the potential to make a significant impact on long-term health outcomes – and healthcare systems in general.

To boldly go…

Artificial intelligence (AI) has finally arrived. It can seem unfamiliar or even scary. However, it can be tamed. Only those who do not embrace AI – and so lose out on its game-changing potential – have anything to fear.

Bac(teria) to the future

The engineering of biological systems is set to be the next big disruptive technology, opening up entirely new ways of solving difficult problems. This new discipline – known as synthetic biology – is poised to revolutionise how products are developed and made.

Making the right connections

Applying connectivity to our ‘dumb’ devices can add huge value, by gathering insights and supplying services tailored to individuals. New services are emerging, spending habits are evolving and whole new business models are being created.

The bigger picture

Sensors are everywhere, creating a flood of data from devices ranging from smartphones to cars and smart inhalers to tractors. Effective data analysis and intuitive visualisation has never been so important in helping us to understand big data to support big decisions.

As a rule…

It’s often claimed that regulation stifles innovation. But you could argue that the opposite is true. Savvy companies can pre-empt regulations – by using them as a guide to where to focus their innovation efforts.

Making the switch

Medications that were previously only available on prescription are increasingly being sold over the counter – without any requirement to visit a doctor first. Technology is now opening up new options for unlocking other potential switches – bringing benefits to consumers, healthcare systems and manufacturers.

An injection of innovation

A need is emerging for advanced drug delivery systems for treating cancer patients with biologics. Commercially available injection pens or patch pumps will not offer a one-size-fits-all solution. A ground-up approach is needed to design new oncology drug delivery systems.

An eye on the future

Machine vision has been around since the 1960s – and the hardware is now ubiquitous. But users are finding that ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions can’t work effectively in an agricultural environment. A combination of multiple, well-developed techniques are needed to create a specialised solution.

Why bother?

Nudge is the art of affecting behaviours without near-term reward – making the natural and default option the one that is for the greater good. We’re becoming increasingly comfortable giving businesses permission to nudge us – but only if they can justify the benefits and engender our trust.

Emerging opportunities

More than 85% of the world’s population lives in emerging markets. Yet many of these people have no access to affordable, quality healthcare. The surgical device industry has unprecedented growth opportunities through treating these new – and very large – patient populations.

All under control – or is it?

As technology advances, the performance gap between modern, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and older production plants becomes ever more pronounced. But innovative monitoring and control – when applied appropriately – can have a dramatic effect on the performance of older production processes.

Issue 60: Spring 2016

Article summaries:

An engaging idea

Online and mobile purchases have reshaped the retail sector in recent years. But now a new generation of devices is transforming the way consumers interact with retailers and brands. It’s offering companies a new route to engage with customers in their own homes.

Lateral thinking

Monitoring and controlling how much water is produced from oil and gas wells is highly valuable. But existing techniques can be ineffective in wells with horizontal sections. So we’ve developed a novel approach, based on radio-frequency measurements.

Growing pains

The farming industry faces the challenge of having to feed 10 billion people on this planet by 2050. The answer may lie in the clever application of technology. We’ve developed a targeted spray device with the potential to reduce pesticide use by up to 99%.

To buy or not to buy?

Is it best to make or to buy, to develop in-house or to outsource? These are decisions many organisations are faced with when expanding or embarking on a new undertaking – and the best way forward is not always straightforward.

No margin for error

Surgery is one of the most dramatic examples of the importance of getting things ‘right first time’. That’s what makes the latest developments in navigation and visualisation techniques particularly exciting – they have the potential to transform the world of surgery.

A range of options…

We’re all familiar with the fact that there is a mobile phone in everyone’s pocket – and that, increasingly, watches, glasses and thermostats are all connected. But we’re still waiting for a technology to connect these devices directly to cloud, with no mobile phone or Wi-Fi router involved.

A smart choice?

Smart antennas are the future – or are they? Smart antenna technology is a strong candidate for the next generation of wireless communications standards. But validation of system performance may prove to be an impossible task.

Making the right connections

How can manufacturers stay competitive in the fast-moving consumer goods marketplace, where there are so many choices available? How do you build brand loyalty with a generation that demands personalisation and expects a ‘killer’ experience? Connectivity might just be the answer.

Are we nearly there yet?

The experts are confident that wireless networked audio is poised to take off. Yet the majority of consumers are not even really aware of it. So who is right? Is networked audio destined to end 2016 on a high note?

More for less

The future of cancer diagnostics is very promising, thanks to developments such as next-generation sequencing and the ability to detect circulating tumour cells. As our understanding of the underlying science increases, it will lead to more effective and reliable diagnostic tests – and enable patients to get the right treatment as early as possible.

Here’s the thing…

So you’ve decided that this ‘Internet of Things’ we keep hearing about really is a thing – and ‘big data’ isn’t getting any smaller. But what next? How do you go about creating a service for your thing that makes appropriate use of all that data – a service that is, by definition, digital?

Hacking product development

Hackathons originated in the late 1990s as a way of enabling groups of software and hardware experts to collaborate in an open and flexible way to solve problems or generate solutions of common interest. So how relevant are they to the product development process?

Staying ahead of the game

Breakthrough innovation is not something that always happens by accident. In fact, it can happen by design – if companies strike the right balance to create an environment where the culture, processes, organisation and systems encourage staff to push forward with radical ideas.

A catalyst for innovation

Developed healthcare markets face increasing costs, stringent regulations, technological and data complexity, and market saturation. Meanwhile, emerging markets offer strong growth potential but must overcome significant infrastructure, usability, economic and policy challenges. So how can industry capitalise on the emerging markets opportunity?

Learning a lesson

When technology trends emerge that cross different industries and different application areas, it’s often a sign something big is happening. And you can see the signs right now… We’re entering what is already being called the golden age of machine learning.