Semiconducting nanonetwork could form the backbone of transparent, flexible electronics

Researchers may have found a “sweet spot” for organic electronics by fabricating a new 2D semiconducting polymer-blended nanonetwork material that simultaneously achieves excellent charge mobility, high flexibility, and nearly 100% optical transparency—a combination of properties that has so far been elusive for semiconducting materials. According to the researchers, the nanonetwork is the first truly colorless, bendable semiconducting material, as demonstrated by the fabrication of field-effect transistors with integrated LEDs.

The researchers, led by Kwanghee Lee, a professor at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, have published a paper on the new material in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“So far, there has been no semiconducting material that simultaneously achieves excellent optical transparency, high charge-carrier mobility, and real flexibility,” coauthor Kilho Yu at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology told “Metal oxides, such as ZnO and IGZO, have excellent transparency and high mobility, but they are brittle and show poor mobility if not treated with high-temperature (>200 °C) processes, which are not desirable for fabrication on flexible substrates. General semiconducting polymers are flexible, but show poor mobility without complex processes and are not very transparent because of their high optical absorption coefficient.”

The new polymer blend consists of about 15% semiconducting polymer called DPP2T integrated into an inert polystyrene matrix. The two types of polymers do not mix uniformly, but instead the DPP2T forms a web-like nanonetwork through the inert matrix, creating highly ordered, continuously connected charge pathways for rapid charge transport.

So far, transparency has been particularly challenging to achieve in semiconducting polymers because of their inherently high light absorption in the visible range. DPP2T belongs to a newer class of semiconducting polymers in which the light absorption peak is red-shifted to the near-infrared range, so it absorbs much less light in the visible range and has greater optical transparency.

However, DPP2T by itself still has a greenish tint. Only by blending the DPP2T with the polystyrene matrix could the researchers fabricate a material that is almost perfectly transparent throughout the visible range.

In the final analysis, the researchers showed that the individual materials in the polymer blend cannot achieve all three of the desired properties on their own, but only when blended together.

To demonstrate, the researchers fabricated prototypes of colorless, bendable field-effect transistors integrated on top of colorless, bendable light-emitting diodes. The devices could withstand 1,000 bending cycles with no severe performance degradation.


 Field-effect transistors integrated with LEDs, showing transparency and flexibility. Credit: Yu et al. ©2016 PNAS 


“The nanonetwork semiconductor can be made very easily and is solution-processable, and it needs no heat treatment or any other complex processes,” Yu said. “It simultaneously achieves excellent characteristics for future transparent, deformable electronic applications. The applicability of the nanonetwork semiconductor was proven by the fabrication drive of prototype FET/OLED integrated devices. In the paper, we also have shown a new paradigm for achieving facile charge transport in semiconducting polymers, which emphasizes the importance of clean charge pathways along the polymer backbone, rather than the degree of crystallinity of the polymer.”

The researchers expect that the results will pave the way for the development of a wide variety of applications, such as next-generation “see-through” bendable electronics and skin-attachable medical devices.

“We are currently investigating the intriguing charge transport mechanism of the nanonetwork semiconductor using various experimental tools and modeling,” Yu said. “In addition, we are applying this nanonetwork semiconductor toward various electronic applications, in order to make it a platform technology for deformable and transparent electronics.”

More information: Kilho Yu et al. “Optically transparent semiconducting polymer nanonetwork for flexible and transparent electronics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1606947113 


January 15, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , ,
A Woman in Nevada Died from an Unstoppable Superbug


Her death is a reminder that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are getting worse, even as they garner little attention.


A strain of bacteria resistant to 26 different antibiotics killed a woman in Nevada, a stark warning that humanity continues to lose ground in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

The woman, who was in her 70s and appears to have acquired the infection in India after she broke her leg, died in September, but a report on her case was just published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.India is known to have more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment than the U.S., in part because poor sanitation and water quality leads people to take hundreds of millions of courses of antibiotics each year for diarrhea. This gives the bugs ample opportunity to develop defenses against the drugs.

But the threat is global. A report issued last year by the U.K. government argued that if measures aren’t taken to stem the rising tide of antibiotic resistance, 10 million people a year could be dying from superbugs by 2050—more than currently die from cancer.

Many doctors say the crisis is already under way. The director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, has called the broad class of superbugs known as CRE (for carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae) “nightmare bacteria.” The bacteria that killed the woman in Nevada was a kind of CRE known as Klebsiella pneumoniae.

STAT spoke with James Johnson, a doctor at the University of Minnesota who studies infectious disease. He offered an even more dire appraisal of the situation. “People have asked me many times, How scared should we be? … How close are we to the edge of the cliff? And I tell them: We’re already falling off the cliff,” he said.

One of the main reasons for this is that developing new antibiotics is not a good way for drug companies to make money. The U.K. government’s report addressed that issue, suggesting that it would be well worth it to spend public funds on paying firms to come up with new compounds to fight superbugs—but the plan has yet to be implemented.

January 15, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , ,
Welcome to the new internet | Muneeb Ali | TEDxNewYork


We use the internet everyday, traveling from one website to the next, but most of us don’t know what happens to our data as we sign in and out of different sites. Blockstack Inc cofounder Muneeb Ali introduces his new web browser, which eliminates the middlemen and puts the power of the web back into our own hands.

Muneeb Ali is a computer scientist building a fairer internet with new ways for users to own their own data. He is the cofounder of the open-source software start-up Blockstack Inc.

January 15, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
Eight Ways to Launch a Successful Platform Business


Platform businesses inevitably face a “chicken-or-egg” start when connecting two sides of a market. There are eight ways to get around it.


Platforms are taking the world by storm. The open business models that allow for the exchange of goods, services or ideas are increasingly favoured as a low-cost, high value alternative to traditional “pipeline” companies that buy and sell and set their prices. But there is much to do when building a platform. As we described in our last post, there are numerous factors to consider from enabling smooth interaction to pulling users.

Understanding the importance of drawing users to a platform is a significant part of launching a successful one. But the dilemma that we call the “chicken-or-egg problem” looms for virtually all platform founders. How to build a user base for a two-sided market when each side depends on the prior existence of the other side?


Beating the chicken-or-egg dilemma

In our book, Platform Revolution, we observe eight strategies for beating the chicken-or-egg dilemma.

1. The “follow-the-rabbit-strategy” builds on an existing non-platform success by using a demonstration of the company’s track record. Consider Amazon, which, before becoming a platform business operated an effective pipeline business that used online product listings to attract consumers. Once it had a thriving customer base, it converted itself into a platform by starting Amazon Marketplace, opening its system to external producers, which enables merchants to sell to its customers, while Amazon takes a slice of revenue from every transaction.

If you’re starting a platform from scratch, however, you could consider “staging” value creation. The Huffington Post started out by hiring writers to create high quality blog posts to attract readers, who began contributing blog posts, which in turn fed a higher level of readership. The platform could also be designed to attract one set of users first; for example, making it easy for vendors to join, building a critical mass and then making it widely available to an audience that will discover the value.

2. The “piggyback strategy” is the platform connecting an existing user base from a different platform to the value units on offer on your platform. Justdial, India’s largest local commerce marketplace, did this by seeding its initial database by borrowing listings from existing yellow pages as well as collecting information by going to businesses door-to-door. With this information, it launched a phone directory service. When customers called in looking for a service, Justdial would pass on the lead to producers. Grateful for the leads, merchants became subscribers, building out the platform.

3. In “seeding strategy”, the platform takes the task of value creation upon itself by acting as the first producer. When Google launched its Android smartphone operating system to compete with Apple’s iOS, it seeded the market by offering US$5 million in prizes to developers who created the best apps across ten categories. Winners became market leaders, attracting large numbers of customers.

4.  The “marquee strategy” provides incentives to attract members of a certain type onto your platform. In 2009, the Swiss postal service transformed itself into a digital message-delivery platform using scanning and archiving technology from the Seattle-based company, Earth Class Mail. To attract holdout customers who stuck with traditional mail delivery, Swiss Post gave away thousands of iPads to households, encouraging rural communities to switch from physical to electronic messaging, greatly reducing its resources in hand-delivered mail.

5. The “single-side strategy” creates a business around products or services that benefit one set of users and later converts itself into a platform by attracting a second set to engage with the first. OpenTable, the restaurant reservation system, was in a classic chicken-or-egg situation. Without a large base of restaurants, why would customers visit the website? But without patrons, why would restaurants bother to participate? OpenTable solved it by first distributing booking management software to restaurants then once they had enough restaurants on board, they built out the customer side and started collecting fees for lead generation.

6. The “producer evangelism strategy” involves designing a platform to attract producers who can then persuade their customers to become users of the platform. Crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter thrive in this regard by targeting creators who need funding with the infrastructure to host content about their idea and manage the fundraising campaign.

7. The “big bang adoption strategy” involves using traditional opportunistic push marketing to attract attention. Tinder, a location-based dating app, achieved its breakout in 2012 by launching during a frat party at the University of Southern California. Already a hotbed of young men and women looking to connect, Tinder made it easier and in the process achieved critical mass during the party in a small, contained location.

8. Building on Tinder’s small start, the “micromarket strategy” targets a tiny market where members are already engaging in interactions, enabling the platform to prove its effectiveness at matching. Facebook’s decision to launch in the closed community of Harvard University was a masterstroke that enabled it to solve the chicken-or-egg platform. Attracting 500 users in the concentrated university community ensured the creation of an active community at launch.

Getting users onto the platform is one of the most crucial steps to success. But marketing a platform must differ from traditional pipeline businesses in one crucial respect: pull strategies rather than push strategies are most effective and important. Creating awareness alone doesn’t drive adoption and usage. Goods and services must be designed to be so attractive that they naturally pull customers into their orbit.

Sangeet Paul Choudary is an INSEAD Entrepreneur-in-Residence and the founder and CEO of Platformation Labs. He is also a co-author of Platform Revolution and is on the 2016 Thinkers50 Radar, a global ranking of management thinkers.  


January 13, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Turning Products into Valuable Platforms


Paying attention to the management of your company and nurturing customers is the key to transitioning a successful product into a robust digital platform.

By Nathan Furr.

Platforms can be a strong source of competitive advantage. But how do you build a successful platform if you only have products? Like riding a bike, it’s easy to describe the physics but hard to actually do. Feng Zhu, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and I recently studied 20 companies that aspired to become platform businesses to identify the fundamentals “best practices” of transforming products into platforms.

In our research, we found that platforms emerge and grow akin to companies, people, and products. They don’t just appear – they evolve. Thoughtful management on both the demand side and the supply side can smooth the transition.


Demand-side evolution

Creating a new platform out of a product involves attracting a large number of users, but our research suggests that user growth isn’t linear. It occurs in three stages:

1. Structuring an external product “love group”

When creating their 3D-printer platform MakerBot first attracted a group of devoted product fans, the “love group”, among the maker community and convinced them of the benefits of making desktop 3D printing accessible to all. MakerBot structured and expanded this group through a series of projects, conferences and events that built momentum for the product. For example, many of the early product fans helped build printers for MakerBot when demand began to overwhelm the company’s production capabilities.

2. Transforming the love group into early platform adopters

The enthusiasm of the love group propelled the growth of MakerBot’s then-new Thingiverse – an online platform where makers can post designs and users can download them to print.

3. Leveraging early adopters to accelerate platform adoption

With the early platform in hand, MakerBot leveraged the work and devotion of early adopters to create broader momentum for their platform, their product and for 3D printing.

MakerBot’s cultivation of its users as it moved from product to platform was immensely successful. As you consider the demand-side evolution, note the role of emotion and support: Companies nurture their users’ enthusiasm and support them through these different stages. Both familiar players like Google, Apple and Microsoft and lesser-known companies like Mojang, Valve and Id Software have worked through similar stages on the user side to get their platforms off the ground. MakerBot has faltered lately, however, due to the fact that its core product was difficult to defend – demonstrating one reason that so many product-to-platform attempts fail.


Supply-side evolution

As firms move from product to platform, the company also evolves through three stages:

1. Internal platform R&D + blended complementors + community management

During the first phase of company evolution, it is appropriate to have an internal development team focused on creating momentum for a great product through continuous refinement of the core product, inspiring customer adoption and enthusiasm. As companies start the move to platforms they often benefit from including outsiders in the process. For example, a Stanford graduate student saw the opportunities in opening up the code for Lego’s Mindstorm robots to create a platform, transforming a toy into a tool for schools for education and experimentation. In these early stages, firms don’t necessarily need to sweep out their development teams but they must engage external complementors to explore new opportunities in creating value through a platform.

2. Internal platform R&D + blended complementors + community management

In the second stage, firms typically have to expend a fair amount of internal R&D effort to create the platform itself from the initial seeds of ideas from complementors. Not all this effort is exclusively internally focused and platform project leaders will find themselves increasingly managing two key groups: complementors, who may be outside the company or transitioning to internal roles inside the company; and a growing community inside the company devoted to promoting and managing it.

Nest, the smart thermostat that has evolved into a home products platform, actively works with other companies to develop Nest-compatible products, deciding which complementors to keep outside the company (nurturing them without scaring them away) and which to bring inside. Nest recently acquired Dropcam, which produces cameras that allow customers to see and monitor their home,  ensuring that Dropcam would become a complementor to Nest rather than a competitor.

3. Hybrid business model management

In the final stage, companies embrace a hybrid business model and reallocate revenue streams to optimise for total value creation and capture, rather than focusing on either the product or the platform at the expense of the other. Qihoo 360, one of China’s most successful internet firms, started as a security software product that cross-subsidised the development of a new platform with products they gave away for free, creating more value in the end for the entire platform.

The real challenge is to create the business model flexibility to iterate on a well-established product and turn it into a platform. Several companies we studied appeared to have developed potentially viable platforms out of their products, but struggled to move from capturing value based on products to capturing value based on the combination of products and platforms through a hybrid business model that combined both product and platform elements.

Like many transformational strategic moves, the successful transition from product to platform should happen in stages that demand flexibility. The reward is that they are hard for others to imitate and create enduring growth.

A version of this article was first published on the Harvard Business Review.

Nathan Furr is an Assistant Professor of Strategy at INSEAD.

January 13, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Three Make-or-Break Factors for Tomorrow’s Start-ups

The skillset necessary for entrepreneurial success is changing rapidly.

There’s an irony to being a start-up founder these days. As the next generation of entrepreneurs emerges with disruptive designs on their respective industries, they’re entering a business world that has already been disrupted by start-ups that have gone before. The certainties of even five or ten years ago no longer apply. Because the rulebook is being extensively rewritten, we should expect start-up failure rates to remain high, even as the opportunities for the successful few have never been greater.

Every smart entrepreneur has to forge his or her own pathway to success, but there are common factors to keep in mind. At last month’s INSEAD Forum in Singapore, I moderated a panel discussion on innovative entrepreneurship where INSEAD alums shared stories and advice from the trenches. Three core themes united their diverse comments.


1. Expertise is becoming less important than experimentation.

It used to be that having a founder with deep industry knowledge and experience was a key differentiator for fledgling companies. Nowadays, like it or not, industry expertise has become commodified – you can easily buy or rent it. The skillset most essential to success these days has to do with experimentation: being able to learn by trial-and-error, adapt and move on to the next experiment faster than your competition. Panellist Will Klippgen ‘03D, an angel investor at Cocoon Capital and co-director of INSEADAlum Ventures, said, “It used to be about knowing a few things deeply, while it now seems that it is becoming just as important to learn a high number of things very fast. Learning has become a day-to-day activity.”

Any experiment carries the risk of failure. The need for rapid and repeated experimentation raises the stakes considerably, on the principle of what mathematicians and statisticians call the “gambler’s ruin” –  each roll of the dice increases the likelihood of financial wipe-out. To succeed, entrepreneurs will have to excel not only at learning from failure but also at designing experiments whose failure can be survived.


2. The gig economy makes for a daunting leadership learning curve.

The commodification of expertise that I referred to above is largely the result of the gig economy. Digital technology makes it possible to tap a global talent pool for the exact competencies needed at any given time, rather than having to commit to nurturing a co-located team. “You have access to incredible technical expertise immediately and cost-effectively,” said panellist Cameron Stevens ‘06J, founder and CEO of online peer-to-peer lending platform Prodigy Finance. “Start-ups can match huge multinationals for depth of resource and technical knowledge without the cost base and bureaucracy.”

But there are major challenges too. Without an enduring, personal, face-to-face connection with the other members of the venture team, inculcating a common corporate culture becomes no easy feat. As Stevens said, “Technology is still years away from enabling lifelike remote interactions. Distributed teams do not have the same cultural osmosis. They require a completely different leadership approach. Otherwise, you’re set up to fail.”

Every business that scales up has to face the problem of fraying cultural cohesion. Manufacturer W.L. Gore & Associates, for example, famously caps the headcount for each of its factories at 150 to maintain an atmosphere where “everyone knows everyone”. The difference is that today’s start-ups are facing this problem from day one, thanks to the gig economy. If you’re in California, how do you win the time and attention of an expert in London who may be working with ten other clients? The challenge is making sure that person is integrated into your organisation even though he or she is not a full-fledged “team member”.


3. You can’t afford to ignore social impact.

Panellist Xania Wong ’06D, CEO of Hong Kong-based recruiting platform JOBDOH, pointed out that in the developing world, entrepreneurs are filling in the social-welfare gaps left by corrupt and ineffective governments. The line between so-called “social enterprises” and conventional for-profit businesses is blurring. A new mind-set is gaining ground among start-up backers and conscious consumers: “A business ought to be financially sustainable, while incorporating social impact in its KPI,” according to Wong.

When I advise entrepreneurs on their pitches these days – no matter what the project is – I always tell them to prepare a backup slide detailing what the social impact spill over of their business would be. Investors and corporations often have their own formal sustainability programmes to think of, and will want to verify that potential partners are on the same page. “I don’t know, I hadn’t thought of that” as a response to the social impact question isn’t likely to further your cause.

Additionally, how your venture affects society may influence how the government views you, especially now that populism is on the rise in the U.S. and elsewhere. If you’re offering a fully automated solution with neither the potential to grow an employee base nor a net-positive impact on the community, you may be taxed differently than a business that is seen as a social asset.


The funding runway

If there is one overarching insight I took away from the panel, it is that a start-up’s possible worth can no longer be measured by the funding it has managed to secure, or the deep-pocketed companies it’s worked with. External support can lengthen the runway for a start-up, but it will remain earthbound without agility in adaptation and the other newly essential skills mentioned above.

Aloke Bajpai ‘05J, founder and CEO of leading Indian travel website Ixigo, summed it up well: “The fact that many hyper-funded start-ups are currently struggling comes as redemption for the 90 percent of start-ups out there that are daring to dream despite limited resources. There is still no price or substitute for that courage, irrationality, passion, perseverance and intuition about the market’s evolution.”

Philip Anderson is the INSEAD Alumni Fund Chaired Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD. He is also the Academic Director of the Rudolf and Valerie Maag INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship.


January 13, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Top 22 Trends in Digital Marketing for 2017


Google makes more than 500 algorithm updates a year. LinkedIn now offers more ways to connect with sales prospects than ever before. Keeping track of the changes in digital marketing can make your head spin.

Review this presentation to learn what works today and what you should be thinking about as we head into 2017.

Sheila Kloefkorn, of KEO Marketing Inc, named a top 25 Interactive, Social Media, SEO and Advertising Agency by the Phoenix Business Journal, will walk you through the most important trends you should be thinking about heading into 2017.

January 13, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
Scale up secrets of 7 Figure Entrepreneurs: Allison Maslan & Mary Simms


The impressive entrepreneurial force that is CEO Allison Maslan, founder of Pinnacle Global Business Coaching and Mastermind program, regularly hosts live events in San Diego, Calif., for established six and seven figure entrepreneurs. Maslan has successfully taken 10 ventures from start to 7-figure success. Her mantra could be “learn from those who have already done it!” To drive that simple point home, Maslan regularly brings together hundreds of business owners from around the globe to work out strategic roadmaps to move from talented entrepreneur to 7 figure enterprise.

January 13, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
3 key tech developments for your smart home from CES


While this year’s CES hasn’t necessarily born any great surprises in debuting home tech, it has revealed that smart home tech is becoming the norm rather than niche as more big brands reveal their connected home products to the masses. Last year we saw a lot of the first wave of smart home devices with a particular focus on the basics like smart lighting and home security. Now everyday home products are rising to the challenge. Here’s what has our attention:

1. Voice control and connectivity are key



A new survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate and Vivint Smart Homes found that smart home device owners overwhelmingly want voice control, particularly to operate entertainment devices. Since the huge popularity of Amazon’s Alexa, not to mention the increased functionality of Siri and the recent addition of Google Home, voice-controlled assistants are becoming an integral part of the connected home.

You can operate Samsung’s  VR7000 robot vacuum cleaner through voice controls and open and close simplehuman‘s voice activated garbage can with “Open can” or “Open sesame”. This extends to increased product capabilities. For example, the VR7000 has the ability to map out rooms and optimize its cleaning depending on floor type, whilst the simplehuman garbage can will be able to keep stock of your garbage bags and upon depletion automatically order more through Amazon’s Dash Replacement service.

The year at CES, Whirlpool announced the launch of 21 Alexa enabled devices in both the kitchen and laundry. For example, Whirlpool Scan-to-Cook technology sends cooking instructions and settings straight from a frozen food packages’ UPC barcode to the brand’s microwave, wall oven or range via the Whirlpool mobile app.

GE also announced a partnership with Nest enabling its’ smoke detector to turn off connected ovens if you burn dinner or notify you if an appliance remains on in your absence. GE is also pairing with the Drop Connected Kitchen Scale which will be able to communicate with smart GE ovens and tell them to preheat to the proper temperature at the appropriate time. Consumers have been asking for this kind of interoperability and it looks like it’s finally emerging.

2. Fridges are more than just cold storage



Samsung has released a new collection of smart fridges, expanding to 10 models under the name Family Hub 2.0 with a number of updates since it’s original predecessor in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the fridge can now also be controlled via voice commands and it can provide recipe suggestions based on the contents of your fridge and allow you to order food as images of the items you need can be added to the shopping list feature and ordered directly via the Groceries by MasterCard app.  Each family member can create a profile enabling individual calendars and lists as well as connected internet radio. That said, I’m still unconvinced of the value of a $6000 fridge in the home of most people, especially when we are either wearing or in close proximity to a suite of other connected devices already and I still prefer Smarter’s FridgeCam at a mere $149.


3. Devices are engaging with utilities



On first consideration, a smart shower head may seem like a rather surplus device. But if you’re in a period of drought, dealing with a roommate who takes hour long showers or wanting to save money on home utilities it’s are a practical addition to the home. Made by a French start-up, the Hydrao First lights up the water spray with different colors depending on the amount of water used. Powered by the shower’s natural water-flow, no external power supply is needed. It therefore, allows you to instantly control your water consumption and the energy needed to heat it. You can even track how much water you’ve used and how much money you’ve saved on your water and energy bills through a corresponding app or by (of course) asking Alexa.

In a similar vein, the Moen U smart shower includes a wall outlet and smartphone app that can change water temperature before use, set timers and automatically turn your shower on off after a specified time.

There’s also the Haiku L Series Fan that senses when you’re in the room, automatically changing to the preferred temperature. It syncs with Nest’s  Learning Thermostat and can provide insight into your usage, contributing to energy bill savings.

Home consumers are now focusing more attention on everyday living home products. They want a seamless user experience where products communicate with each other and information flows in ways that make life easier. The present price points make many smart home appliances prohibitive to all but in time they will drop in price and become more prevalent.

The challenges for the foreseeable future will be:  the problem of early adopters who make their allegiance too early (for example to Nest or Alexa) but may later wish to switch platforms; whether products over the next few years will have value over a sustained period of time as technology becomes more advanced and of course the ever present, challenges of cyber security. Perhaps next year’s CES will offer more insights.

[Source: Readwrite]

January 11, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
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