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Insole Innovation: Catching Up With OrthoLite VP Rob Falken On Its Groundbreaking O-Therm Technology

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Insole Innovation: Catching Up With OrthoLite VP Rob Falken On Its Groundbreaking O-Therm Technology

OrthoLite’s O-Therm technology ushers in a new era of thermal protection, combining an open-cell PU-foam with aerogel’s weight savings and insulative properties—meaning feet stay warmer and more comfortable. 

SGB Executive caught up with VP of Innovation Rob Falken to dive into its latest foot-betterment technology.

What’s unique about O-Therm, and how groundbreaking is it? It’s the world’s first open-cell PU foam where aerogel particles are functionalized into the PU foam matrix. Incorporating an advanced aerogel into PU chemistry lets it block cold without loft, and it doesn’t lose its function when compressed underfoot. It’s a wonder material that makes use of the smallest aerogel particle size (well below 50 microns), which, when meshed with our PU foam, creates a dustless solution that’s safe, stable and scalable.

What is aerogel? It’s a broad term that defines a diverse class of materials where the liquid component of a gel has been replaced with a gas without significant collapse of the gel structure. The result is a solid material, in this case a precursor powder ingredient, that is exceptionally porous and composed of up to 99.98 percent air by volume. Different types of silica aerogels exist within today’s industry, albeit with larger particle sizes than we use. A few general examples include building insulation and automobile shock-absorption.

Is it really the world’s lightest man-made material? Yes. Weighing only three times the weight of air, aerogels are the world’s most lightweight solid materials with the lowest solid density, without question. An adult human-sized block of aerogel would only weigh around one pound.

And do feet stay warmer?Yes, but with a caveat: staying “warmer” is a personal perception since all people perceive cold differently. To date, countless wear-testers have reported nothing but positive feedback in our trials.

How did you quantify its thermal performance?  We subscribe to a testing methodology whereby a block of dry ice (-78˚C) is put in direct contact with an O-Therm insole. A simulated human foot with applied pressure is placed onto the insole, with temperature readings taken from the insole’s top surface and the ice block over time. This rules out variability, and we third-party validate all of our results with an accredited laboratory.

Is this a big deal in the world of insoles? To date, insole insulation has typically consisted of materials like wool, metalized foils or lofted fiber battings, each of which has strengths and weaknesses. O-Therm removes the need for loft while increasing the insole’s thermal properties exponentially. Shoe designers can now shed bulk from their designs while outperforming on insulation. Going lighter and thinner with better insulation is what makes O-Therm such a big deal. Imagine seeing a ski or snowboard boot where the boot liner is molded entirely from O-Therm. It can be thinner, increasing the range of motion while also being lighter to reduce swing weight while being the most effective thermal barrier out there.

How have sales been during the pandemic, and how are they looking for 2021?As a vertically integrated company, we’re fortunate to have redundant chemical systems-houses and foaming and manufacturing facilities to mitigate risks that might impact our supply chains. We were able to allocate and plan capacities to navigate the pandemic, delivering on time throughout China, Southeast Asia and beyond. Last year we equaled our recording-setting 2019 season, and 2021 so far is far outpacing 2020.

What else does OrthoLite have up its sleeve? We have more than 20 additional technologies in various development stages in all categories, from sustainability to performance, function and value. We’re also expanding beyond insoles, which we’ll introduce in the coming months. We develop and deploy leading-edge product technology that’s scalable and deliverable on time and on budget, anywhere in the world.

Photos courtesy OrthoLite

The post Insole Innovation: Catching Up With OrthoLite VP Rob Falken On Its Groundbreaking O-Therm Technology first appeared on SGB Media Online.

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Africa Could Become a Testing Ground for Tech-Enabled Social Engineering

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Africa Could Become a Testing Ground for Tech-Enabled Social Engineering

Within a year, much of the world has adopted the norm of wearing masks to protect against the COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding the political jostling that such face coverings have come to represent, it has become a social norm driven by circumstance.

Scholars have undertaken extensive work on the life cycle of norms to demonstrate how they cascade into society and eventually become internalised.

But to what extent does technology have a normative function – the power to shape human behaviour and deliver real-world consequences? In the absence of robust safeguards and in states with fragile democracies, could Africa become a testing ground for tech-enabled social engineering? Shaping norms or beliefs, governing how we vote, who we love and stirring up existing ethnic or religious cleavages?

Information disorders expert Eleonore Pauwels argues that the convergence of artificial intelligence and data-capture capability threatens to undermine institutions that form the bedrock of democracies.

The rapid emergence of artificial intelligence tech tools across Africa coupled with powerful social media platforms such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter has made data a commodity. Some commentators describe it as the new oil. These tech tools include biometric databases for tracking population movements at borders, registering voters before elections or documenting key life events (births, marriages and deaths).

Machine learning technologies have the potential to override or shape human judgement and political agency

Besides capturing human behaviour, likes and preferences, technology potentially has the power to shape it, Pauwels argued at a webinar on surveillance and information disorder in Africa last month. Artificial intelligence and data capture technologies together form a powerful alliance that enables micro targeting and precision messaging, she says.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research shows that the ‘digital exhaust’ we leave behind on the internet – and the personal biometric information captured on CCTV cameras in shops or from centralised databases when we register to vote or apply for a driving licence – provides the raw material for data manipulation in Africa.

According to Pauwels, human beings are rapidly becoming ‘data points’ or ‘digital bodies and minds’ whose exact location and biometric features can be matched in real-time. This can have profound implications for personal privacy and security.

She says that unless checked, machine learning technologies have the potential to override or shape human judgement and political agency. This is especially true in settings where democratic checks and balances are still fragile. For this reason, numerous African countries including Zimbabwe and Kenya have been the focus of her work.

The purpose of analysing our ‘digital bodies and minds’ is, among others, to manipulate group conversations and behaviours either for political or commercial gain. This can create chaos or assert control, particularly during election times or periods of national emergency such as a war or pandemic.

Policymakers need to consider the blind spots of mass capture technologies

The ISS has demonstrated how potent algorithms can help amplify xenophobic narratives. The South African case study shows how messages could find reach far beyond what might be expected in the ‘real’ (rather than virtual) world. Pauwels’s research builds on this idea, highlighting the use of botnets by those wishing to control a message for viral propagation and to optimise search engine and algorithmic content regulation.

Such potent social manipulation tools are being monetised, enabling data capture companies such as the now-disbanded Cambridge Analytica to identify individuals’ ‘deepest fears, hatreds and prejudices to influence elections,’ Pauwels asserts.

Using Kenya’s 2013 and 2017 elections as a case study, she documents how existing ethnic tensions in Kenya were exploited by similar commercial entities, explaining that ‘in 2017 WhatApp groups, including non-political ones, were inundated with incendiary ethno-nationalist rhetoric, mis- and disinformation.’

This raw material – i.e. personal data – was illegally acquired by political parties and deployed as part of their communications strategy. This practice is outlined in more detail in a Strathmore University Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law report.

Another form of social manipulation comes from technology’s ability to automatically ‘generate new content such as photographs, video and text’ creating so-called deep fakes. These have significant implications for the future of propaganda, deception and social engineering.

In the rush to develop centralised biometric databases, algorithms need to be open to inspection

They can also generate fake intelligence scenarios, paving the way to what some scholars have described as digital dictatorships and providing a pretext for social control and securitising legislation aimed at curbing its use.

Such fake scenarios can enable illiberal states to silence dissent. The shutdown of social media platforms has already been observed in Uganda and Ethiopia in recent months with the justification that national security is under threat.

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Social engineering may also take the form of determining what information citizens have access to via the internet. Freedom House argues that the system’s current weakness has played into the hands of less democratic governments looking to increase their control of the internet.

And the very existence of such data monitoring, using equipment provided by foreign entities such as China, can impose new surveillance norms on populations that host the latest technology. This ‘cyber nationalism’ potentially normalises pervasive digital surveillance, and there’s scope for much research to be done on the role of foreign actors in this sphere.

For all these reasons, policymakers need to consider the blind spots of such mass capture technologies. Although new data laws are coming on stream setting out strict rules regarding how data is captured, stored and limiting its reuse, the enforcement of new regulations will be severely tested.

In the rush to develop centralised biometric databases, algorithms need to be open to inspection and a new culture of ethical technology (possibly with incentives and sanctions) must be developed.

Karen Allen, Senior Research Adviser, Emerging Threats in Africa, ISS Pretoria

This content was originally published here.

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‘Building Back Better’ requires a new approach to US science and technology

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Over 60 years have elapsed since the Sputnik moment, the last major redesign of the U.S. science and technology enterprise. Those organizational and process changes included the establishment of the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and ushered in decades of U.S. leadership in scientific research and development.

Today, it’s questionable whether the U.S. still holds global leadership in technology areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, quantum computing and advanced manufacturing. China’s rapid rise and stated intentions are predatory to U.S. science and technology. The global spread of advanced technologies translates to potentially greater threats and risks of misuse by malign actors. North Korea’s rapid development of advanced nuclear and missile technologies demonstrates that playing defense through sanctions and export controls is not the answer either.

Internally, the United States S&T enterprise has also undergone important changes. In the Cold War, government spending on research and development was required for developing better weapons systems to counter the Soviet Union, and technology for national security concerns took precedence over that for economic prosperity. Today, the government-industry relationship has been inverted. Private industry now spends more than double annually what the government does on research and development, which now means industry largely sets the agenda on which new technologies are a priority to be developed.

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These recent changes in the technology development landscape have resulted in a crescendo of government insiders, experts and pundits alike offering recommendations on how the U.S. should respond. However, it is time to acknowledge the national science and technology enterprise needs more than a response. It needs a makeover.

Last May, Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Senate Republicans voice opposition to Biden on Iran Biden infrastructure proposal prioritizes funds for emerging technologies MORE (R-Ind.) introduced the Endless Frontier Act which would add a technology directorate to the National Science Foundation to fund work on AI, material science, quantum computing, robotics and more.

Think tanks and consultants have proposed a T-10/T-12 group of nations to serve as an international counter to China in the technology realm. Some have called for establishing an industrial policy that would allow the government to signal priorities and opportunities for investment. The uneven 5G rollout in the United States highlights such a need.

So far, President BidenJoe BidenSuspect in FedEx shooting used two assault rifles he bought legally: police US, China say they are ‘committed’ to cooperating on climate change DC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is MORE has elevated the Office of the Science and Technology Policy director’s role to a Cabinet-level position. His recent “Made in America” executive order intends to put $300 billion toward research and development, $700 billion for retooling American manufacturing and reinvesting in essential offshored areas such as microelectronics. The administration also has taken a tough stance on Chinese actions targeting American industries and intellectual property.

But a more fully reimagined U.S. science and technology enterprise should also identify issues on the horizon with economic or national security implications. For example, research and development as a percent of the federal budget has gone down from almost 12 percent in the mid-1960s to less than 3 percent in 2019. Is that enough to maintain U.S. leadership in critical technology areas? And what about the automation? How technology will reshape the future of work should be analyzed now so that the labor pool can be shaped appropriately.

Collectively these calls for change suggest that the current U.S. approach to science and technology is not working. Sorting through the ideas and building a coherent plan, however, needs to be more than a pick-up game. It should be high priority going forward. No less than our future economic prosperity and national security are at stake.

Daniel M. Gerstein formerly served as the undersecretary (acting) and deputy undersecretary in the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security from 2011-2014. He is an adjunct professor at American University and his recent book is “The Story of Technology: How We Got Here and What the Future Holds.”

This content was originally published here.

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Sleep apnea patients seek help from tech innovation

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Getting a good night’s rest can sometimes be elusive. It’s a struggle Emily Zilleox has faced since high school.

“By the time I was 17, I realized, ‘OK, this is kind of an issue,’” she recalled.

Zilleox was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a medical condition that interrupts your sleep cycle.

“While you’re sleeping, the inside of your throat closes on itself,” said Dr. Sanjay Athavale, a medical and surgical ear, nose and throat doctor, who treated Zilleox.

Zilleox tried everything from tonsil and throat tissue surgery to using a nighttime breathing apparatus called a CPAP.

Nothing worked.

“I just kind of felt like I was going to be living with this for the rest of my life and I was just going to be tired all the time, and I wasn’t going to be able to live like everyone else,” she said.

However, Dr. Athavale found success with Inspire, an implant approved by the FDA that first came to prominence in Europe a decade ago, but it is now starting to gain traction here in the U.S.

“There’s a sensor that we put on the lung that meets up with a generator, that meets up with a nerve stimulator,” Dr. Athavale said. “And so, the sensor on the lung says, ‘OK, he’s breathing,’ and then, the nerve stimulator opens up the inside of the throat at the same time.”

It’s a medical innovation covered by most insurance, which could potentially impact millions.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 22 million people in the country experience sleep apnea. About 80 percent of them are undiagnosed. If left undiagnosed, it can lead to other health issues, like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, strokes and even depression.

Last year, Zilleox decided to go for Inspire.

“I remember the day that I got my surgery: September 18, 2020. It’s my ‘sleep-a-versary,’” she said with a laugh.

Before the implant, sleep apnea caused Zilleox’s throat to close 35 times an hour while she slept. After the implant, it’s down to two an hour.

“I mean, she probably sleeps better than I do at this point,” Dr. Athavale said.

It’s a difference that Zilleox said she noticed.

“I have more energy to do things. I’m out and about with friends and my family and I love it,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to be my true self and be able to take care of myself 100 percent.”

She hopes it means she has finally put sleep apnea to rest.

This content was originally published here.

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