The #WrapUps are posts that summarize the ins and outs of the startup & innovation and tech ecosystem. Stay tuned for more news on our blog!

 

Urban Drone Deliveries Are Finally Taking Flight.

Swiss cities will soon have delivery drones zipping through their airspace. Drone startup Matternet has announced that it will start using a network of robotic quadcopters to make deliveries to hospitals in urban areas across Switzerland later this year.

The scheme, which is claimed to be the first to fly such deliveries over densely populated areas, makes use of an automated landing station to accept packages and release them to approved recipients. Senders pop goods into a purpose-designed packing case, which is then sucked into the base and maneuvered by robot arm into the drone. After the aircraft has flown itself to its destination, at the other end users must scan a QR code sent to their phone to grab the goods. You can watch a (painfully corporate) video of it in action, if you want. Initially Matternet will deliver blood and pathology samples—not unlike the rural Africa service currently offered by Zipline that we’ve written about in the past. Other drone delivery trials have flirted with urban deliveries, but the closest that any company had really got until now was Flytrex, with its shipping of groceries across a bay in Reykjavik. Sadly for Americans, regulations still stand in the way of similar schemes on U.S. shores for now.

Source: MIT Technology Review


Governments Are Testing Their Own Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin-like money may emerge in countries where cash is in decline or financial networks need updating.
The people of Sweden are breaking up with cash. The number of banknotes and coins in circulation has fallen to its lowest level in three decades. Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, estimates that cash transactions made up only 15 percent of all retail transactions last year, down from 40 percent in 2010, thanks in large part to massively popular mobile payment services. But a cryptocurrency that’s available to all consumers “opens up a whole host of issues” and would pose new challenges for makers of monetary policy, says Rod Garratt, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

First, there’s the question of who, exactly, should verify the transactions and maintain the distributed ledger. Even if that’s solved, the new system would be, in a sense, too streamlined, making it easier for bank runs to occur in a moment of crisis or panic. In most current financial systems, large-scale withdrawals of funds are naturally slowed by the time it takes for a central bank to produce the paper money people are demanding. But if the currency is purely digital, no such brakes exist—a panicked citizenry could empty their accounts almost instantly, leaving an entire country’s banking system all but penniless.

Source: MIT Technology Review


In China, Robot Dentists Are Implanting 3-D Printed Teeth

Open wide, because the robots have eyes on your dental work. South China Morning Post reports that a robo-dentist has autonomously implanted two new, 3-D-printed teeth into a woman’s mouth. The procedure, which appears to have made use of a robot arm from Universal Robotics, was developed by a team from the Fourth Military Medical University and Beihang University.

The hardware first orients itself with the patient’s head, and is then programmed with the procedure it needs to undertake. It does a dry run to check that it’s got everything right, before the patient is given an anesthetic and the robot gets drilling. The team says that the robot works to tolerances of less than 0.3 millimeters, and can detect and compensate for movements of the person’s head. Don’t fancy the idea? Well, bear in mind that it’s hoped the robot will be able to make up for a shortfall in the number of practicing dentists in China, which often leads to unqualified practitioners performing questionable procedures.

Source: MIT Technology Review


This Cable Will Boggle Your Mind With the Highest Data Capacity Ever to Cross the Atlantic

The new undersea link, which stretches 4,100 miles between Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Bilbao, Spain, can stream 71 million HD videos simultaneously. Known as Marea, it was laid as a joint venture between Microsoft, Facebook, and telco infrastructure firm Telxius, and will enter operation in 2018.
The cable, which in total weighs more than 10.25 million pounds and is apparently the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic, can shuttle a bewildering 160 terabits of data per second. Microsoft explains just what a feat of engineering is required to lay such a cable.

The project required charting a course with average depths of almost 11,000 feet and hazards ranging from active volcanoes and earthquake zones to coral reefs. The cable, which is about 1.5 times the diameter of a garden hose, contains eight pairs of fiber optic cables encircled by copper, a hard-plastic protective layer and a waterproof coating. Some portions closer to shore are buried to protect the cable from fishing and ship traffic, but for most of its route, the cable lays on the ocean floor.

Source: MIT Technology Review


Wireless Gadget Charging Just Got a Range Boost

Your phone could soon get juiced over the air from a foot away. That’s thanks to the work of a new startup called Pi. Founded by two MIT graduates, it has developed a wireless charger that uses a honed version of inductive charging to send power further than previous versions of the technology.

For those unfamiliar, inductive charging is straightforward in theory. A system sets up an alternating electromagnetic field, and then an induction coil in (or attached to) a smaller device harvests power from it. Until now, commercially available wireless gadget charging has required you to place a device on something like a charging mat, but Pi has developed some fancy math that allows it to quickly detect a gadget then shape its magnetic fields to target power to devices up to 12 inches away.

According to TechCrunch the device, which is the truncated cone in the image above, can juice five phone or tablets at once (no laptops for now), with the rate of charge falling as a device moves away from it. It will cost under $200 when it goes on sale in 2018. Let’s hope it works well in the home: as we’ve reported before, other long-range wireless chargers have flopped before they’ve been launched as real products.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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