2022: Cheap flights, more rail and hands-free cars

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/27/travel/future-travel/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

By Thom Patterson, CNN
updated 8:45 AM EST, Tue November 27, 2012
Bombardier's CS100 is expected to begin service in 2014. It follows aircraft design trends toward lighter materials and more efficient engines which allow significant fuel savings. Click through this gallery to see conceptual designs for fuel-saving planes of the future.Bombardier’s CS100 is expected to begin service in 2014. It follows aircraft design trends toward lighter materials and more efficient engines which allow significant fuel savings. Click through this gallery to see conceptual designs for fuel-saving planes of the future.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In 2022 airlines will charge for just about every possible option, experts fear
  • Low-cost carriers may create “super-elite” class of fliers
  • Get ready to share the road with driverless cars, automotive experts say
  • U.S. inter-city railroads are poised to expand, offering more travel options

(CNN) — Fliers, drivers and rail riders, heads up: the next 10 years will dramatically transform America’s traveling landscape.

Get ready to share the road with driverless, computer-controlled cars. Prepare to join millions of travelers who will start riding trains to nearby cities. Expect to be nickel-and-dimed (even more) by the airlines. Don’t be surprised to see sleek new airline designs that run cleaner and burn less fuel, thanks to new materials and innovative technology.

In the air, the trend toward low-cost airlines and so-called “a la carte” pricing will likely become the accepted norm, as fliers finally accept a business model that reminds us: nothing is free and everything costs. By 2022, say experts, the consumer war over having to pay for every airline perk and option from pillows to snacks to window seats to legroom will be over.

Number crunchers will win. Grumblers will lose.

“It’s the unbundling of services,” said airline analyst Mike Miller. “Passengers are choosing the airlines that have the most fees, most often. These carriers are the most profitable and the most full.”

More flight time for co-pilots?

787 Dreamliner airplane takes off

Southwest Airlines looks toward future

Driverless car now legal in California

Opponents fear the new hyper-itemized normal will create a group of “super elite” passengers who are treated very differently than the rest of us. More on that later.

On the ground, we’ll see amazing technological strides in the development of self-driving cars during the next decade. But America’s roads and bridges will continue to suffer from much needed repairs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. But hey, at least we’ll be able to multitask while our cars are dodging potholes.

Across the nation’s sprawling rail lines, experts anticipate several states from coast to coast will continue investing in trains that connect regional cities. And the future looks bright, analysts say, for the nation’s urban light rail and tramway systems. We’ll get to that in a minute.

First, let’s use four quick stats to remind ourselves what a big deal the transportation industry is:

Planes: By 2022, the FAA predicts more than a billion U.S. airline passengers.

Cars and trucks: Washington says registered passenger vehicles number above 250 million (for perspective, the entire U.S. population numbers more than 312 million).

Trains: Amtrak ridership set an all-time record this year: more than 31 million passengers.

The ‘race to the bottom’

Prospects for the airline industry look good, but still, some experts are worried.

Airline consumer expert Brett Snyder of crankyflier.com fears continued success of low-cost carriers could hurt consumers in the long run. Low-cost airlines are growing fast and raking in big profits by charging ultra-cheap fares while nickel-and-diming passengers to pay for even the most basic extras.

Europe’s RyanAir offers an extreme example. The airline’s CEO has talked about charging his passengers to use on-board toilets and creating standing-room-only sections on some flights.



How efficient is Japanese rail?

California high-speed rail to nowhere?

The danger, said Miller, is creating two types of fliers: the “haves” — “super-elite frequent fliers who get everything” — and the “have-nots” — passengers in economy “who get nothing.”

That business model sounds familiar, said Miller, of the American Aviation Institute. “CEOs are earning more money than ever and the average wage is not going up. Now we’re seeing that mirrored by airline service. That’s a little troubling because the coach passenger seems to be always getting less.”

By 2022, fliers will likely have accepted the idea that they must pay fees for every perk and service which, a generation earlier, was included in passenger fares.

Snyder is a fan of extreme low-cost carriers like RyanAir, but in general, he doesn’t want to see the entire industry using that model. He believes passengers want choices and, to some degree, a la carte provides that. It’s a system that allows passengers to choose the services they want. Some fliers may not be able to get their heads around it because they’re stuck in the past.

“A lot of people who don’t like this trend have in their minds the way it used to be,” said Snyder. “They think that’s how it should be.”

If the low-cost model becomes the standard for success, Snyder warns, other airlines seeking profits will follow, triggering a “race to the bottom,” as every airline tries to “slash and burn costs and do everything they can to make more money by cutting back. I think that would be really unfortunate.”

Denver-based Frontier Airlines “is the hope for the future,” said Snyder. “They’re trying to become a low-cost carrier, but they have more amenities on board, although you do have to pay for them, such as live TV and extra legroom. They’re trying to offer a bit more to people.”

Expect more air passengers to demand Wi-Fi and personalized entertainment choices in the coming years. Airlines may provide access to movies stored on a digital media server aboard the aircraft, or, a third-party website where passengers can watch video now or later after they de-plane. Power outlets for personal devices ought to become standard on all passenger seats, say experts, not just in first class.

New equipment

But some choices, such as seating, shouldn’t be limited to all or nothing. Regular carriers, say analysts, should offer more “in-between choices,” like Delta’s Economy Comfort or United’s Economy Plus, with more legroom and other amenities for a few dollars extra.

The coming 10 years will also affect airports. Some larger markets are developing additional airports which will ease traffic congestion. But smaller cities may be at risk. Many regional airlines may abandon some small towns, as tiny airports get squeezed by rising fuel prices and shrinking profits.

What can pilots expect? Changes in federal rules will require additional and more expensive training for new pilots, many of whom will earn a starting salary of about $20,000 a year, said Miller. Experts fear the result will be a temporary shortage of airline pilots, which might force airlines to take on the cost of pilot training. That expense likely would be passed on to consumers.

On the bright side, the coming decade will bring more fuel efficient aircraft. Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner started U.S. routes this month.

 

Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier’s much anticipated CSeriesboasts a variable speed, multi-gear engine that aims to save 20% more fuel than its competitors. The first CSeries plane is expected to begin service in 2014.

 

But what about a little further down the road? At NASA, experts asked a handful of top aircraft designers for their ideas on green airplanes of the future.

Firms like Lockheed Martin offered cool box-shaped wing designs while Boeing and Northrop Grumman played with fascinating “flying wings.” Although the NASA program was really just an idea-sharing brainstorming project, some of these futuristic design ideas could very well make the jump to reality by 2025 NASA said, if economic conditions allow.

Whether fuel savings from efficient airliners will be passed on to consumers in the next 10 years depends on a lot of factors. It’s possible, said experts, as long as passenger traffic is high and fuel prices are stable.

Letting go of the wheel

California and Nevada have passed laws authorizing driverless or self-driving vehicles, signaling the beginning of a new era.

These computer-controlled cars and trucks are coming, whether or not we feel comfortable about it. The idea is to allow computers to coordinate the safest and most efficient speed and route for each car, thereby reducing wrecks and traffic jams. Nevada and California require the cars to have a human behind the wheel who can take control of the vehicle at any time.

In five years or less, non-experimental self-driving cars areexpected to hit California’s public roads, says driverless car developer Google. Computer-coordinated vehicles could help cut the estimated 4.2 billion hours Americans spend each year stuck in traffic, according to the society of engineers. All that time costs $710 per driver.

Volvo is working with the European Union on what it calls Road Trains, several self-driving cars connected and coordinated by a wireless signal from a lead vehicle, which is driven by a human. The idea aims to cut highway congestion and save fuel. Bottom line: fewer traffic jams, less pollution, cheaper travel. Road Trains could hit Europe’s highways as soon as 2022, according to the European Union.

 

For Volvo scientist Jonas Ekmark, the driverless era began when he was testing the Road Train. He remembers what it felt like the first time he took his hands off the wheel, effectively putting a computer in the driver’s seat.

 

That was really a strange experience.
Jonas Ekmark, technical expert active safety, Volvo

“That was really a strange experience,” Ekmark recalled with a chuckle. “I let go and then after 30 seconds I was like, ‘and now what?'”

Eventually he felt comfortable enough to take his eyes off the road to read and answer e-mail on his smartphone. “After a while you adapt to it and you feel like you’re on an aircraft or a bus or something.”

Reading e-mail while sitting in the driver’s seat may be safe enough, said Ekmark, but sleeping is probably not a good option.

If something goes wonky during a Road Train trip, the system triggers a very loud alarm along with a “quite strong vibration” in the driver’s seat. The driver then has about 10 seconds to take control of the vehicle and leave the Road Train.

Road Trains could be a safe stepping stone toward the day when all cars are autonomously self-driven and not reliant on a lead vehicle, Ekmark said.

Rail riders

Americans are increasingly embracing train travel. Need proof? More passengers rode Amtrak this year than ever before in its 41-year history, the train company said. And there’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue, say experts.

Better rail service and increased funding offers America its best chance in generations to get off the highways and get on the rails, according to analysts.

Regional inter-city rail systems in California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere have been invigorated by 2009’s federal stimulus legislation, said transportation expert Yonah Freemark, who runs TransportPolitic.com.

“Those investments are going to be built out and people are going to see better service on inter-city rail lines across the country,” he said.” And you’ll see increasing ridership.” That’s good news for the nation’s energy situation. Rail travel uses 20% less energy than traveling by car, according to the ASCE.

Still, U.S. train ridership ranks very low compared with other nations. The number of passengers on Amtrak and commuter rail total about 500 million a year, Freemark said. Compare that to the United Kingdom, a country five times smaller than the United States, which counted 1.35 billion rail riders last year. Other nations where railroads carry more than a billion passengers a year include Germany, India, China, France, Russia and South Korea, according to the International Union of Railways.

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Legal Challenges Related To Crowdfunding: Volume 2

http://www.arcticstartup.com/2012/11/26/legal-challenges-related-to-crowdfund…

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Antti Hemmilä, a Specialist Partner at Attorneys at law Borenius Ltd.

While crowdfunding is not a new concept, it is getting a lot of media attention nowadays. Crowdfunding is evolving and new crowdfunding platforms provide an excellent tool for financing different projects, whether these are art projects, game or hardware/device development or even equity financing. Yet the use of these new platforms and practices needs to comply with the existing regulations, which sometimes causes conflict. The first guest blog published on 23 October 2012featured legal issues related to using donation/rewards-based crowdfunding platforms, and this second blog addresses equity funding and the use of equity crowdfunding platforms. 

Friends, Family … the Crowd?

 

Instead of VC or angel money, many startups are considering crowdfunding as a source of equity financing. We are also seeing an increasing number of equity crowdfunding platforms that help companies administer the process. It surely comes as no surprise to anyone, but the offer of shares is heavily regulated in just about every developed country in the world. Before organising a financing round, with or without using the crowdfunding platforms available, here is the least you need to know about the legal issues involved. Luckily, because of EU and EEA (European Economic Area) level regulation, the rules are surprisingly similar in all of Europe.

Navigating the Prospectus Rules

As a main rule, any offer of securities (meaning, among other things, shares in your company) requires that the issuer company publishes a prospectus, unless an applicable exemption exists. Prospectus is an information document that provides details about the shares and the issuer of the shares. In Europe, prospectuses are either EU prospectuses (regulated under the EU Prospects Directive and related rules) or national prospectuses (regulated under national rules).

Under EU rules, no EU/EEA country can require a prospectus to be prepared for rounds of less than 100,000 euros, and for rounds of 5 million euros or more, an EU prospectus is required (the euro amounts described herein are however calculated taking rounds for the previous 12 months into account). This means that in general rounds of less than 100,000 euros are good to go without a prospectus in all EU/EEA countries. As for rounds between 100,000 and 5 million euros, national prospectus rules need to be investigated. In Finland a prospectus under the national prospectus rules needs to be prepared when the size of the round is 1.5 million or more. In Sweden the limit is EUR 2.5 million, in both Norway and Denmark 1 million and in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 100,000 euros. It is important to remember that the company offering its shares must comply not only with the regulations of its home country, but also with the country or countries where the shares are being offered to the public.

In addition to the euro limits described above, there are other exemptions from the prospectus requirements. Most commonly used are the “private placement” exemptions, which allow offering of shares to qualified (or professional) investors or to less than 150 non-qualified investors per EU/EEA member country without a prospectus. However, for example in the UK financial promotions rules may lead to offering the shares to professional investors only.

Information Requirements Often Overlooked

Even though a prospectus exemption applies, a company launching a financing round must comply with the applicable information requirements. Under the Finnish Securities Markets Act, a company must make available sufficient information on matters that are relevant for evaluating the value of the shares, and there is general prohibition on misleading marketing of issue. Similar provisions are also included in other national securities laws. While there are no exceptions to the information requirements, the scope of the information requirements is usually dependent on the target group of the round. For example in crowdfunding rounds the amount of information required to be disclosed is higher than in closed investors only rounds.

While information requirements are often overlooked, they are occasionally enforced. For example in October 2012 the Finnish regulator (FIN-FSA) ordered a Finnish wind power startup to cease marketing of its share issue due to lack of sufficient information. Taking a quick look at the active companies in the various crowdfunding European platforms, it is fair to say that information available on these companies varies greatly and it is mostly marketing-oriented.

Role of Crowdfunding Platforms and Further Considerations

From the legal perspective, equity crowdfunding is nothing new but it needs to fit into the existing legal framework. So far, crowdfunding has not caught much attention from the authorities. But when crowdfunding and crowdfunding platforms gain more attention, regulator attention is inevitable.

For example, the current interpretation is that the crowdfunding platforms do not perform investment services as defined in MiFid (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) and they are thus free from being licensed and supervised by the local authorities. However, applicability of MiFid is eventually dependent on the role and scope of the services being offered by the crowdfunding platform, and amended MiFid rules (MIFID2/MIFIR, proposal available next year) seem to extend the applicability of MiFid to entities “operating an organised trading facility”. Should the new MiFid rules regulate the crowdfunding platforms, it would most likely kill most of the current players, or drive their operations to EU safe havens (where interpretation of the local regulator allows operations without a licence) or outside Europe. To avoid the grey area, at least one European crowdfunding platform, Seedrs from the UK, has taken a different approach and already applied for an investment company status, and it is thus regulated by UK-FSA.

In any financing round, the company should investigate the applicability of the relevant securities markets (and other) rules applicable to the transactions. When considering a crowdfunding campaign and accepting potentially dozens or even hundreds of new shareholders, the company should also carefully consider other practical matters. How do you manage shareholders’ meetings and voting with a very large amount of shareholders? How do you keep track of shareholdings and transfer of shares? Most importantly, in the case of a new financing round or trade sale of the company, how do you get all shareholders to execute the necessary documents required for the transactions? Many companies want to maintain investment or trade sale readiness, and a shareholders’ agreement or another agreement can solve many of the governance issues involved. Crowdfunding platforms can also provide tools for communicating with the shareholders. It goes without saying that a large shareholder base is also an asset, as shareholders gladly promote the products and services of the company they partially own.

Well executed, equity crowdfunding has the potential to be the missing link between early seed and VC money, making European startups more competitive with the US counterparts. For individual investors it provides an interesting new asset class in a market where the everlasting financial crisis may make stock market investing less attractive. As for the regulatory framework, the regulator guidance and new legislation should nurture, not kill, the crowdfunding revolution.

Antti Hemmilä

Disclaimer. There is massive amount of securities markets legislation and it is changing constantly. Thus the article discusses equity funding at very general level and cannot be deemed as legal advice in any particular case.

About the Author

Antti advises on venture capital, M&A, capital markets and general corporate law related questions. He has wide-ranging experience in advising small and medium-sized companies on numerous M&A and financing arrangements, representing both companies and finance providers. Antti has also worked on numerous capital markets transactions.

Antti Hemmilä on LinkedIn.

About Borenius

Attorneys at law Borenius Ltd is one of the leading law firms in Finland offering a full spectrum of commercial law services. Attorneys at law Borenius’ mission is to be the most hands-on, client-centred business solution provider. The firm’s approach to business challenges is team-oriented, combining its strong and diverse expertise with a thorough business understanding.

Attorneys at law Borenius Ltd is part of the Borenius Group network which consists of approximately 200 lawyers in four jurisdictions in Fenno-Baltic area as well as in New York. The member firms of Borenius Group are independent and separate legal entities practicing advocacy for their own account and following their respective local Bar rules.

Top image cc licensed by James Cridland on Flickr.

This is your ground pilot speaking: Autonomous civil aircraft could be flying before cars go driverless

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21567053-autonomous-civi…

WITHIN the next few weeks a twin-engined Jetstream will take off from Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire, England, and head north towards Scotland. Like any other flight, the small commuter airliner will respond to instructions from air-traffic controllers, navigate a path and take care to avoid other aircraft. But the pilot flying the aircraft will not be in the cockpit: he will have his feet firmly on the ground in a control room back at Warton.

Pilotless aircraft are now widely used by the armed forces, but those drones fly only in restricted airspace and conflict zones. The Jetstream mission is part of a project to develop the technologies and procedures that will allow large commercial aircraft to operate routinely and safely without pilots in the same skies as manned civilian flights.

Fasten your seat belts

To reassure those of a nervous disposition, the test flights do not carry passengers and pilots remain in the cockpit just in case things go wrong. In that way they are similar to Google’s trials of driverless cars, which have drivers inside them to take over if necessary while on public roads. Yet unmanned commercial aircraft are likely to enter service before people can buy autonomous cars. Modern aircraft are already perfectly capable of automatically taking off, flying to a destination and landing. These tests are trying to establish whether they can do those things safely without a pilot in the cockpit and at the same time comply with the rules of the air.

Progress is being made, a conference in London heard this week. It was organised by the Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (ASTRAEA), the group staging the British test flights. This £62m ($99m) programme, backed by the British government, involves seven European aerospace companies: AOS, BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales.

It is potentially a huge new market. America’s aviation regulators have been asked by Congress to integrate unmanned aircraft into the air-traffic control system as early as 2015. Some small drones are already used in commercial applications, such as aerial photography, but in most countries they are confined to flying within sight of their ground pilot, much like radio-controlled model aircraft. Bigger aircraft would be capable of flying farther and doing a lot more things.

Pilotless aircraft could carry out many jobs at a lower cost than manned aircraft and helicopters—tasks such as traffic monitoring, border patrols, police surveillance and checking power lines. They could also operate in conditions that are dangerous for pilots, including monitoring forest fires or nuclear-power accidents. And they could fly extended missions for search and rescue, environmental monitoring or even provide temporary airborne Wi-Fi and mobile-phone services. Some analysts think the global civilian market for unmanned aircraft and services could be worth more than $50 billion by 2020.

Whatever happens, pilots will still have a role in aviation, although not necessarily in the cockpit. “As far as the eye can see there will always be a pilot in command of an aircraft,” says Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, the director of ASTRAEA. But that pilot may be on the ground and he may be looking after more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time.

Commercial flights carrying freight and express parcels might one day also lose their on-board pilots. But would even the most penny-pinching cut-price airline be able to sell tickets to passengers on flights that have an empty cockpit? More realistically, those flights might have just one pilot in the future. Technology has already relieved the flight deck of a number of jobs. Many early large aircraft had a crew of five: two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator and a radio operator. First the radio operator went, then the navigator, and by the time the jet era was well under way in the 1970s flight engineers began to disappear too. Next it could be the co-pilot, replaced by the autonomous flight systems now being developed.

The flight over Scotland will test how well air-traffic controllers can communicate with the ground pilot through the aircraft. The project is also exploring ways to make the radio and satellite links secure and reliable. But engineers still have to prepare for the eventuality that the link breaks; the aircraft then has to have enough autonomy to operate safely until communications are restored or it can land using its own guidance systems.

Unmanned aircraft will, therefore, need a “sense and avoid” capability. This can be provided by transponders that bleep the aircraft’s presence (and, in the case of advanced systems, its course, altitude and speed) to other aeroplanes and air-traffic controllers. But not all manned aircraft have such kit. Some light aircraft and gliders operating at low altitudes in clear weather are not required to have even radios, let alone transponders or radar. Which is why pilots keep their eyes peeled when such traffic might be about.

ASTRAEA’s Jetstream, therefore, also uses video cameras to allow the ground pilot to look around outside the cockpit. Image-recognition software can warn of other aircraft. This is being tested against different backgrounds, such as a cluttered landscape or a hazy sky.

In other trials, different aircraft are being flown in the vicinity of the Jetstream, and some of them will be flown deliberately towards it on a potential collision course, to see if these “intruding” aircraft can be recognised by the automated systems and the appropriate avoiding action taken. These flights are taking place in an area cleared of other aircraft over the Irish Sea. “The results to date suggest you can do sense-and-avoid as well as a human,” says Mr Dopping-Hepenstal.

A pilotless plane must also be able to act autonomously in an emergency. In the event of an engine failure, for instance, it could use its navigational map to locate a suitable area to put down. But what if this was an open field that happened to be in use for, say, a fair? A forward-looking video camera might show a ground pilot that. But if communications were lost the aircraft would rely on image-recognition software and an infra-red camera to detect the heat given off by people and machines and so decide to try to land elsewhere.

The ASTRAEA researchers are carrying out a lot of their work using flight simulators and air-traffic-control data. But eventually they will still have to prove that their systems can work in the real world—even during emergency landings. In order to satisfy risk-averse aviation regulators, the researchers are working with Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority to certify a virtual pilotless aircraft for use in civil airspace. The intention is not to certify an actual aircraft, but for both sides to learn what will be required to do so.

Some of the technologies being developed are also likely to find their way into manned aircraft as a backup for pilots, and possibly for cars too. Systems that provide automatic braking and motorway-lane control, for instance, already feature in many types of car. These features take cars some of the way towards autonomy. But driverless cars, like pilotless planes, will have to fit in with existing infrastructure and regulations, not least insurance liability, before they can take off.

Solar-powered aircraft: The Wright stuff?

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21567052-enthusiastic-in…

 

An enthusiastic inventor hopes to sell sun-powered planes

 

 

THERE is something of the 19th century about Eric Raymond. Devoted to making commercial solar-powered aircraft, he would have thrived in the Victorian heyday of the private inventor. Most fell by the wayside; their ideas outran their ability or their money. But the names of the successes—Morse, Dunlop, Bell, Diesel and even, to stretch the era into the early 20th century, the brothers Wright—have lived on.

Whether Mr Raymond will join their ranks remains to be seen. His latest effort, known asSunseeker Duo, was taken out of its shed in June. It has yet to fly (as his website endearingly puts it: “Well, we couldn’t really roll it out, as the main gear is not finished, but here it is”). He has high hopes, however, that his solar plane soon will take to the air.


The most obvious difference from the previous efforts are two seats in the cockpit. That should make it easier to sell if Mr Raymond is ever able to go into full-scale production. There are lots of other differences, as well, though—ones that Mr Raymond hopes will bring the day of production closer.

Like its predecessor prototypes, Sunseeker I (which once flew, in stages, right across North America) and Sunseeker IISunseeker Duo looks like what it is: a glider with a propeller and lots of solar cells to generate electricity on the upper surface of its wings.

The Duo has a wingspan of 23 metres and a planned weight, when the main gear and any other missing equipment is on board, of 270kg. A 20kW electric motor will drive the propeller, but all of those watts will be needed only during take off and climbing. In level flight, at an altitude of 6,000 metres, the 5kW provided by the solar panels will be enough both to drive the propeller and to recharge the batteries.

One big difference between the Duo and its predecessors is that those batteries are lithium-polymer cells sitting in the wings, near the plane’s centre of gravity, and not nickel-cadmium ones scattered artfully around the airframe. Lithium-polymer cells are lighter.

The system will also run at a higher voltage—300V, up from 200V in Sunseeker II—in order to reduce transmission losses along the six metres of cables that carry power to the motor at the back, just above the rudder.

The Sunseeker project is still in many ways a sealing-wax-and-string operation. The lithium-polymer batteries, for example, were donated by Tian Yu, a Chinese businessman with whom Mr Raymond is collaborating on a non-solar electric plane. But one day, perhaps, the name of Raymond will be up there with the others. For who in their right mind would have believed in 1902 that a couple of bicycle-makers from Dayton, Ohio, would achieve immortal fame the following year?

INNOVATIVE IDEAS SOUGHT TO ADVANCE HUMAN RIGHTS

https://www.devex.com/en/news/blogs/innovative-ideas-sought-to-advance-human-…

 

In the health care sector, mobile phones are increasingly being used to deliver services in hard-to-reach areas. Now, a public-private partnership aims to tap the same technology to address and prevent atrocities.

 

The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention is a competition seeking new tools that can be used to document atrocities in conflict states such as Syria, or gather information from hard-to-access areas. While it isn’t confined to just mobile phones, a number of potential solutions could make use of the technology.

 

The challenge, a Humanity United and U.S. Agency for International Development initiative, is divided into five parts; the first two started accepting applications late last month and will run until Nov. 29. One of the challenges aims to find new technologies that can help collect and secure evidence of human rights abuses without putting a person’s life at risk.

 

The technology is important to bring perpetrators to justice, as well as for “truth and reconciliation processes,” USAID’s Mark Goldenbaum said in a Twitter Q&A days after the challenge’s launch. It can also benefit human rights groups, which may face reprisal in the course of collecting such information.

 

The challenge is open to individuals or groups around the world. Interested parties are required to submit a five-page concept note that should include a detailed description of the proposed idea, its potential impact, feasibility and scalability.

 

Applicants should also submit “any supporting information, publications, real-world use cases, or examples that reinforce the validity of the proposed solution,” Michael Kleinmann, director of investments at Humanity United, told Devex in an email.

 

USAID will grant $10,000 prize money per challenge, which could have up to three winners. Judges include Alex Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the U.S. Department of State, and Samantha Power, special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council.

 

The other three challenges will open in January, after winners for the first two challenges are announced.

CEOCI Revamps Website

NASA’s COECI has recently updated it’s website to make it more representative of the work NASA is currently doing RE prizes on it’s various online platforms. Check it out!

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/COECI/index.html

Established in 2011, the CoECI serves to advance the use of open innovation methods across the federal government, in particular, the use of prizes and challenge. The CoECI provides guidance to other federal agencies and NASA centers on implementing open innovation initiatives from problem definition, to incentive design, to post- submission evaluation of solutions.

Making Mountains, Not Molehills (NYT)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/us/17iht-currents17.html?smid=tw-share&…

 

NEW YORK — America just spent billions of dollars and man-hours on an election that basically returned the same players to the same roles, albeit with some significant tweaks. Perhaps those tweaks — and the realization that President Barack Obama won by stitching together a new coalition — are why the election is bearing unexpected fruit: There are flickers of deal-making in a gridlocked Washington. Compromise is in the air.

As yet, the compromises seem small, particularly when measured against the challenge — sparing the United States the fate of becoming a slightly less-than-first-world country.

Talking of Republicans perhaps willing to raise taxes on the rich (and not just tax rates) or Democrats willing to cut entitlement programs is less than inspiring to many Americans weary of the haggling ways of Washington. And without popular backing, leaders lack the mandate — or, more cynically, the cover — required to push through major changes or make significant pivots.

Washington’s afflictions have deep, complex roots. But a small part of the problem may lie in how it mentally constructs its work, fixating on tasks rather than causes.

Each issue — the payroll tax, health care, renewable energy — is imagined to be its own little island. Divisions over each island are straightforward, well-rehearsed and difficult to overcome.

What if Washington were to conceive of its work differently, as pursuing missions rather than the laws required to fulfill them, or building archipelagos, not islands?

Instead of the individual policy being the unit of analysis, the governing class might agree to pursue a few vast national projects that exploit what commonalities they have and are vital to the country’s health. It could commit to these initiatives up front, through congressional resolutions and presidential signatures, which would include agreed-upon metrics to judge success. Then it could work out the specific policies required to fulfill them.

What might some of these national missions be?

One might be an aggressive campaign on behalf of the equality of opportunity. For the left, it’s part of a wider pursuit of equality; for the right, it’s the only kind of equality worth pursuing and the logical foundation of its laissez-faire agenda. Importantly, while the two sides disagree vehemently on equality for adults, they agree substantially on equality for children and its corollary, social mobility.

Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, has said: “The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn’t exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all. That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time.”

This initiative might inspire a variety of policy responses — on schools, welfare, the estate tax, college loans. But the measure of success would not be the passage of any particular piece of legislation. It would be how well the talent-to-opportunity matching machine works for the poor, the middle class and businesses, and whether America stops being the rare rich country where parents’ income can be used reliably to predict one’s own.

A second national mission might be an effort to shore up the family. The complex weave of issues bearing on the family routinely are addressed piecemeal — gay marriage, the war on drugs, abortion, abstinence education, welfare requirements, contraception access, the marriage tax penalty, the child tax credit, mortgage tax breaks for homeowners. On this individual level, the arguments are familiar and often go nowhere.

But there is widespread acknowledgement among scholars today, from Robert D. Putnam on the left to Charles A. Murray on the right, that the American family is undergoing something of a collapse. Births to unwed mothers are soaring, without any of the social supports of, say, Sweden. What crack cocaine once did to black inner-city communities, methamphetamine and pills are now doing to rural and suburban white ones. Meanwhile, the quality of one’s early family life has been shown to be among the most important determinants of later success.

Liberals tend to blame social and economic structures for this breakdown, while conservatives often cite poor choices and moral failure. But there is enough agreement on the diagnosis for a grand initiative of family renewal. And that initiative could then encompass everything from updating marriage laws (Who gets to marry? What incentives, if any, should the married receive?) to deciding whether it hurts or helps families to require drug tests as a condition for receiving welfare.

You could dream up any number of such sweeping initiatives. Radical modernization of government, for instance, for the digital age. Increase cost-effectiveness but also impact; use the Web and mobile apps to empower citizens and to help them solve some problems without turning to government; copy the nonprofit sector by embracing its use of cutting-edge work in monitoring effectiveness and evaluating outcomes.

Or a big project to restore the American commercial spirit and the small-time capitalist striver. That embraces all kinds of policy questions: Should we grant visas to start-up founders? Break up the big banks? Ease regulations on small businesses? Favor job-creating companies over ones whose success is built on labor overseas?

The logic of this bundling is simple enough: It makes a forest of trees. It turns a handful of distinct policies into a single, animating cause. It frees politicians to go beyond the particulars of what they’re legislating, and to remember what they’re legislating for.