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 The Future of the Internet (Web 3.0): Things Talk to Things

By Shlomo  Maital  

Internet of things 


 World Wide Web 1.0 brought us information through browsing for web pages.  Web 2.0 brought us heightened social interaction, through social media and buying and selling.  Web 3.0 will bring us something new – things talk to things.  The potential for innovators is huge.

   According to Nick Valery, writing in The Economist’s World in 2013, the number of identifiable things linked to one another through the Internet (NOT phones or PC’s or laptops)  will exeed one billion.  The number of connected devices INCLUDING PC’s phones, vending machines, fridges and electricity meters will exceed 14 billion, two for every living person.  And by 2020, some 27 billion unique objects will be connected.  They will then double every 5 years, reaching  a 14% constant annual growth rate.

    This creates an entirely new world, one in which inanimate devices suddenly are animate, in that they can communicate with other devices.  The possibilities are endless.  Write down a list of devices that we now use everyday.   Write the same list next to it.  Now randomly draw lines connecting a device on the right hand side to a device on the left hand side.  What will this connection mean? How can it create value?

  • ·          What if a car can communicate with another car?  We get driverless cars and accident prevention.
  • ·         What if a fridge can communicate with a store computer?  We get automatic shopping.
  • ·         What if an airplane engine can communicate with a Rolls Royce central computer?  We get a system that warns planes in flights of potential failure even before it happens.  This already exists and has existed for some time.

As always, science fiction is way ahead of us.  SF has envisaged such a world, and created scenarios in which things take over humanity.  It may not be so far-fetched.  Can we see an army of robotic vacuum cleaners taking over the world from polluting humans, and cleaning up the world ferociously?  Can we see an army of robotic Coke machines taking over the world and cloning humans who live solely on sugary Coca Cola? 

    I invite innovators to turn their imaginations loose on the Internet of Things.         


 How Science & Creativity Kills Cancer Cells

By Shlomo  Maital  

limpet mine      


A Limpet Mine

   In a recent blog (Nov. 26) I described the remarkable creativity of MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer and his Langer Lab, which has spun off countless inventions, especially regarding ways to deliver pharmaceutical drugs more effectively to combat disease.

     In The Economist’s The World in 2013 Langer and a co-author describe a remarkable breakthrough in drug delivery and anti-cancer treatment, using nanotechnology.  A startup called BIND Biosciences, founded by Langer and Harvard Pro. Omid Farokhzad, works the following magic: 

   An anti-cancer drug is placed in a tiny sphere 100 nanometers in diameter, with a coating that makes the immunological system ignore it (otherwise white cells would destroy it).  On this coating itself are “homing molecules” that attach themselves to proteins produced by cancer molecules, but not to healthy tissue.  BIND-014 spheres circulate until they find a tumor. Then they stick themselves to it and release their paylod of anti-cancer medicine.  The result is far more effective than concentional chemotherapy, which introduces toxic medicine into the body that damages healthy cells as well as cancer cells.

    The technology is not unlike that of WWII limpet mines. Naval commandos would carry these mines to enemy ships and then stick the mines to the ship beneath the water line.  The resulting explosion sank the ship.  The photograph shows such a limpet mine, as it would be carried by a naval commando (who probably did not wear a tie).

   Arthur Clarke said truly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Here is another piece of magic described by Langer.  A ‘micro-rocket’ containing anti-cancer drugs rockets through the blood stream, propelled by hydrogen (the zinc inside it combines with acid in the body to create zinc chloride and hydrogen gas). It travels at 0.3 meters per hour, and keeps moving until it finds the rare circulatory cells that cause cancer to spread.  The micro-rocket then kills the cells with its payload, much like an Iron Dome rocket meets and destroys an incoming enemy rocket.  Langer sais that these micro-rockets could be guided magnetically to specific sites where cancer tumors exist.   

Both these incredible ideas sound plausible, but both are exceedingly difficult to implement.  And Langer explains them using Isaac Asimov’s famous “Fantastic Voyage” concept, of a miniaturized submarine inserted into the body to heal an ill person.  Sooner or later, the best science fiction becomes fact, thanks to innovators like Langer.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
December 2012
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