Saturday, May 23, 2015

Time's up for putting off IPv6 decisions

Time's up for putting off IPv6 decisions

With the Internet of Things, we're going to be needing a lot more IP addresses. That's exactly what IPv6 has in mind.

Computerworld | May 15, 2015 8:56 AM PT

As companies become used to the Internet of Things, they are assigning IP addresses to everything from printers and watches to refrigerators and garbage cans. If we're all going to be moving that much closer to recreating a Jetsons episode, we're going to be needing a lot more IP addresses. That's exactly what IPv6 has in mind.

IPv4 is expected to run out of new available addresses in a matter of months, forcing a truly near-term move to IPv6. How bad is the shortage? The Wall Street Journal offered some sobering stats. Back in 1981, IPv4 launched with 4.3 billion addresses. Today, barely 3.4 million are left. IPv6 is launching with 340 undecillion addresses. Yes, that's a real number. It's equivalent to one trillion times one trillion, which is roughly the length of my to-do list when I return from vacation.

On the one hand, that makes it sound like moving to IPv6 should be a no-brainer. Well, it is, but exactly how to do it — without abandoning the overwhelming majority of global systems that are still using IPv4 — is a lot trickier.

Also, despite the age difference between IPv4 and IPv6, companies are unlikely to see any meaningful performance improvements when making the switch, so this really is all about capacity.

"Early research at Akamai has shown sometimes IPv4 paths exhibit lower latency and sometimes IPv6 paths do. This suggests IPv4 and IPv6 perform similarly, but also vary similarly over time," said Arthur Berger, a principal research scientist at Akamai.

There are various ways of making the transition gradual, including middlebox translation, which is a good — but not universally available — option. "It's not supported in every network," said David Belson, a senior director for industry and data intelligence at Akamai. "Duct tape and chewing gum solutions are going to eventually wear out."

Dual-stack models supporting both v4 and v6 are going to likely be the more popular option.

When to start supporting both? Getting v4 addresses now is quite expensive, since the best source right now is to buy such addresses at auction from companies that already have more than they need — or that are going bye-bye. In retail, it was simultaneously sad and amusing that when the assets of the once-mighty Circuit City and Borders were sold at auction, the most valuable item they offered were their IP addresses.

Hence, companies need to make the move to v6 right away, admittedly without ditching v4. As for when to make the complete switchover, that could easily take years and quite possibly decades, as the last holdouts for v4 will likely be stubborn and fairly numerous. Here are some credible peeks at where IPv6 acceptance stands today, both by country and by telco. In short, this will take a while.

"There are networks that will run IPv4 forever," said Phil Roberts, the technology program manager at the Internet Society, where he specializes in IPv6 global issues. "The first thing you want to do is get your public-facing stuff on IPv6."

That's good advice, but in an Internet world, how is "public-facing" defined? Even the most internal systems — say, for example, an expense report app — are going to be accessible through an intranet for employees in locations across the planet. And inventory and ordering systems will have to be available for suppliers and resellers via a hopefully secure extranet. (Roberts clarified that he meant unrestricted content.)

Recrimination is rarely helpful, but seriously, isn't the running out of IPv4 addresses the most predictable IT problem since Y2K? Given that fact, why the delay? This is the latest example of the consequence of having enterprise CIOs as the highest-paid temp workers in the industry. The enterprise CIOs who stay in those roles more than six years is the extreme minority. This encourages avoidance when it comes to expensive and time-consuming projects that won't deliver near-term profit payback and also won't deliver near-term pain.

If there was ever a project tailor-made for "I'll let the next CIO worry about it," it's IPv6.

US Special Operators Are Using Rapid DNA Readers

Special Operators Are Using Rapid DNA Readers

May 20, 2015 By Patrick Tucker 

Conducting a midnight SEAL raid on a terrorist compound? Positive DNA identification is just 90 minutes away.

TAMPA — Fingerprints are so 20th-century. For special operations forces conducting midnight raids in places like Pakistan or Syria, DNA is becoming the gold standard.
On Wednesday, representatives from the U.S. Special Operations Command revealed that they were testing two rapid DNA readers in forward locations. The operators feed in a DNA sample, and the reader compares it against a database that matches DNA to identities. The machines weigh some 60 pounds, so they aren’t small. And they aren’t cheap: each costs about $250,000. But they can give a result in 90 minutes, a process that used to take weeks. 

“These things are downrange and we’re spending a year gathering data — on the utility, on how well is it working, the match rate, how well are the operators keeping them up and running,” said Michael S. Fitz, manager of the Sensitive Site Exploitation Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance & Exploitation program at U.S. Special Operations Command. He said that because the program was so new, “we’re saving it for the juicy missions.”

The devices are the RapidHIT 200 from IntegenX, a California-based company, and the DNAscan from Massachusetts-based NetBIO. Both are about the size of a copier, but compared to an entire DNA lab, require far less manpower. A single operator can get quick results. “In the past, when we captured DNA, the guy would put it in an envelope, send it back to the States and two or three weeks later, he would get a result on who it was that he had. By then, he moved on to other missions and he had forgotten who the guy was,” said Fitz.

What will they use them for? Verifying the identity of targets, either before raids or after the fact. “Our whole program is built around follow-on targeting. We don’t gather biometrics for criminal prosecution,” Fitz said. “Our primary objective is actionable intelligence for follow-on targeting.” Think back to the Osama Bin Laden raid, where the terrorist mastermind’s identity was confirmed via DNA analysis, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. In the future, virtually all terrorist suspects and insurgents killed by special operations teams could receive the same treatment.

The private market is actually full of interesting DNA-verification equipment. But most gear is too big, expensive, and delicate — hardly “designed for that forward-deployed location,” said Fitz.

Ultimately, he wants a rugged, battery-powered DNA reader the size of a cellphone, which will allow special operations fighters to “collect DNA right there on the site.” It should connect to a database to allow verification on location as well.

Such a device might be available for field-testing around 2019 or 2020. “It’s a ways out” said Benji Hutchinson, senior director of federal business for MophoTrust, a company that markets the IntegenX. It would “require a major lift,” he said.

Shrinking the technology is just one obstacle to a hand-held DNA matching system. Perhaps more important is growing the database of DNA samples to match against.

“Right now the database is a criminal database: U.S. people. We haven’t been collecting DNA, in part because it’s been a cumbersome and lengthy process to do that. There was no reason for the units to go out and collect DNA because the results were so slow,” Fitz said. He described Defense Department’s DNA database as “not robust; not populated with the people we’re interested in…Right now, rapid DNA is about where fingerprints were 10 or 12 years ago.”

During the height of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, the military fielded a device to take fingerprints, iris scans, and photos of people with whom troops came in contact. It was called the Biometrics Automated Toolset, and its data went on to populate the Defense Department’s Automated Biometric Identification System.

“When we first went out with fingerprints we got about a 5 percent match rate. Now we’ve populated the database, so we get 40 percent match,” said Fitz. He hopes DNA matching will show the same rapid improvement. “You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kerry: Internet 'Needs Rules to Be Able to Flourish and Work Properly'

Kerry: Internet 'Needs Rules to Be Able to Flourish and Work Properly'

Calls for more international Internet laws.

2:15 PM, May 18, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER

In a speech today in South Korea, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Internet "needs rules to be able to flourish and work properly." This, according to Kerry, is necessary even for "a technology founded on freedom."

Speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, Kerry said that Internet policy is "a key component of our foreign policy."

Kerry made his remarks in the context of talking about how international law is applicable to the Internet. "As I’ve mentioned, the basic rules of international law apply in cyberspace. Acts of aggression are not permissible. And countries that are hurt by an attack have a right to respond in ways that are appropriate, proportional, and that minimize harm to innocent parties. We also support a set of additional principles that, if observed, can contribute substantially to conflict prevention and stability in time of peace. We view these as universal concepts that should be appealing to all responsible states, and they are already gaining traction," said Kerry.

"First, no country should conduct or knowingly support online activity that intentionally damages or impedes the use of another country’s critical infrastructure. Second, no country should seek either to prevent emergency teams from responding to a cybersecurity incident, or allow its own teams to cause harm. Third, no country should conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, or other confidential business information for commercial gain. Fourth, every country should mitigate malicious cyber activity emanating from its soil, and they should do so in a transparent, accountable and cooperative way. And fifth, every country should do what it can to help states that are victimized by a cyberattack.

"I guarantee you if those five principles were genuinely and fully adopted and implemented by countries, we would be living in a far safer and far more confident cyberworld.

"But even with these principles, ensuring international cyber stability will remain a work in progress. We still have a lot of work to do to develop a truly reliable framework – based on international law – that will effectively deter violations and minimize the danger of conflict.

"To build trust, the UN Group of Governmental Experts has stressed the importance of high-level communication, transparency about national policies, dispute settlement mechanisms, and the timely sharing of information – all of them, very sound and important thoughts. The bottom line is that we who seek stability and peace in cyberspace should be clear about what we expect and intend, and those who may be tempted to cause trouble should be forewarned: they will be held accountable for their actions. The United States reserves the right to use all necessary means, including economic, trade and diplomatic tools, as appropriate in order to defend our nation and our partners, our friends, our allies. The sanctions against North Korean officials earlier this year are one example of the use of such a tool in response to DPRK's provocative, destabilizing and repressive actions, including the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. Now, as the international community moves towards consensus about what exactly constitutes unacceptable behavior in cyberspace, more and more responsible nations need to join together to act against disruptors and rogue actors.

"As we know, malicious governments are only part of the cybersecurity problem. Organized crime is active in cyberspace. So are individual con artists, unscrupulous hackers, and persons engaged in fraud. Unfortunately, the relative anonymity of the internet makes it an ideal vehicle for criminal activity – but not an excuse for working through the principles I described to finding rules of the road and working so that the internet works for everybody else. The resulting financial cost of those bad actors, the cost of cybercrime, is already enormous, but so is the loss of trust in the internet that every successful fraud or theft engenders."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

FCC refuses to delay net neutrality rules

FCC refuses to delay net neutrality rules

The ageny still faces seven lawuits challenging the regulations

By Grant Gross IDG News Service | May 9, 2015 9:30 AM PT

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has denied the requests of several broadband providers and trade groups asking the agency to delay its net neutrality rules.

The FCC, late Friday, denied petitions for a stay of its net neutrality rules from Daniel Berninger, founder of the nonprofit Voice Communication Exchange Committee, the American Cable Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, USTelecom, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, AT&T and CenturyLink.

Berninger asked the FCC to delay its entire net neutrality order, approved in February, while the trade groups and broadband providers sought a delay in the portion of the order reclassifying broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a regulated common carrier.

The groups had asked the FCC to delay the rules from going into effect while courts deal with seven lawsuits challenging the regulations.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights groups, praised the FCC for denying the request. Reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would enable the FCC to enforce several consumer protections, the group said.

"The argument of the cable and telephone companies hinged on the argument that respecting user privacy and requiring disability access -- as required under Title II -- would be too great a burden," Harold Feld, the group's senior vice president, said by email. "The cable and telephone companies will now go to [court] to argue that they will suffer 'irreparable harm' from all this privacy protection and the other consumer protections in Title II."

The Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group for the manufacturers and suppliers of broadband networks, said it was disappointed with the decision. The FCC refused "a fair and reasonable request to delay the imposition of sweeping new regulations of the Internet," the group said in a statement.

The net neutrality rules will hinder deployment of broadband, the group added.

The Human Upgrade: The revolution will be digitized

The Human Upgrade

The revolution will be digitized

Spearheaded by the flood of wearable devices, a movement to quantify consumers’ lifestyles is evolving into big business with immense health and privacy ramifications

Written by Ariana Eunjung Cha

Published on May 9, 2015


In San Diego

From the instant he wakes up each morning, through his workday and into the night, the essence of Larry Smarr is captured by a series of numbers: a resting heart rate of 40 beats per minute, a blood pressure of 130/70, a stress level of 2 percent, 191 pounds, 8,000 steps taken, 15 floors climbed, 8 hours of sleep.

Smarr, an astrophysicist and computer scientist, could be the world’s most self-measured man. For nearly 15 years, the professor at the University of California at San Diego has been obsessed with what he describes as the most complicated subject he has ever experimented on: his own body.

Smarr keeps track of more than 150 parameters. Some, such as his heartbeat, movement and whether he’s sitting, standing or lying down, he measures continuously in real time with a wireless gadget on his belt. Some, such as his weight, he logs daily. Others, such as his blood and the bacteria in his intestines, he tests only about once every month.

Smarr compares the way he treats his body with how people monitor and maintain their cars: “We know exactly how much gas we have, the engine temperature, how fast we are going. What I’m doing is creating a dashboard for my body.”

Once, Smarr was most renowned as the head of the research lab where Marc Andreessen developed the Web browser in the early 1990s. Now 66, Smarr is the unlikely hero of a global movement among ordinary people to “quantify” themselves using wearable fitness gadgets, medical equipment, headcams, traditional lab tests and homemade contraptions, all with the goal of finding ways to optimize their bodies and minds to live longer, healthier lives — and perhaps to discover some important truth about themselves and their purpose in life.

The explosion in extreme tracking is part of a digital revolution in health care led by the tech visionaries who created Apple, Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. Using the chips, database and algorithms that powered the information revolution of the past few decades, these new billionaires now are attempting to rebuild, regenerate and reprogram the human body.

In the aggregate data being gathered by millions of personal tracking devices are patterns that may reveal what in the diet, exercise regimen and environment contributes to disease.

Could physical activity patterns be used to not only track individuals’ cardiac health but also to inform decisions about where to place a public park and improve walkability? Could trackers find cancer clusters or contaminated waterways? A pilot project in Louisville, for example, uses inhalers with special sensors to pinpoint asthma “hot spots” in the city.

“As we have more and more sophisticated wearables that can continuously measure things ranging from your physical activity to your stress levels to your emotional state, we can begin to cross-correlate and understand how each aspect of our life consciously and unconsciously impacts one another,” Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun and investor in mobile health start-ups, said in an interview.

The idea that data is a turnkey to self-discovery is not new. More than 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin was tracking 13 personal virtues in a daily journal to develop his moral character. The ubiquity of cheap technology and an attendant plethora of apps now allow a growing number of Americans to track the minutiae of their lives as never before.

James Norris, in his 30s and an entrepreneur in Oakland, Calif., has spent the past 15 years tracking, mapping and analyzing his “firsts” — from his first kiss to the first time he saw fireworks at the Mall.

Laurie Frick, 59, an Austin artist, is turning her sleep and movement patterns into colorful visualizations made of laser-cut paper and wood.

And Nicholas Felton, 37, a Brooklyn data scientist, has been publishing an annual report about every Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and text message he sends. More than 30,300 people are following his life on Twitter.

Most extreme are “life loggers,” who wear cameras 24/7, jot down every new idea and record their daily activities in exacting detail. Their goal is to create a collection of information that is an extension of their own memories.

Even President Obama is wearing a new Fitbit Surge, which monitors heart rate, sleep and location, on his left wrist, as a March photograph revealed.

Tech firms are eagerly responding to the human penchant for self-perfectability by inventing more devices that can collect even more data, which the tech titans foresee as the real gold mine.

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, new gizmos on display included a baby bottle that measures nutritional intake, a band that measures how high you jump and “smart” clothing connected to smoke detectors. Google is working on a smart contact lens that can continuously measure a person’s glucose levels in his tears. The Apple Watch has a heart-rate sensor and quantifies when you move, exercise or stand. The company also has filed a patent to upgrade its earbuds to measure blood oxygen and temperature.

In the near future, companies hope to augment those trackers with new ones that will measure from the inside out — using chips that are ingestible or float in the bloodstream.

Some physicians, academics and ethicists criticize the utility of tracking as prime evidence of the narcissism of the technological age — and one that raises serious questions about the accuracy and privacy of the health data collected, who owns it and how it should be used. There are also worries about the implications of the proliferation of devices for broader surveillance by the government, such as what happened with cellphone providers and the National Security Agency.

Critics point to the brouhaha in 2011, when some owners of Fitbit exercise sensors noticed that their sexual activity — including information about the duration of an episode and whether it was “passive, light effort” or “active and vigorous” — was being publicly shared by default.

They worry that wearables will be used as “black boxes” for a person’s body in legal matters. Three years ago, after a San Francisco cyclist struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian, prosecutors obtained his data from Strava, a GPS-enabled fitness tracker, to show he had been speeding and blew through several stop signs before the accident. More recently, a Calgary law firm is trying to use Fitbit data as evidence of injuries a client sustained in a car crash.

More sophisticated tools in development, such as a smartphone app that analyzes a bipolar person’s voice to predict a manic episode, and injectables and implants that test the blood, offer greater medical benefit but also pose greater risks.

Des Spence, a general practitioner in the United Kingdom, argues that unnecessary monitoring is creating incredible anxiety among today’s “unhealthily health-obsessed” trackers.

“Health and fitness have become the new social currency, spawning a ‘worried well’ generation,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the April issue of BMJ, the former British Medical Journal.

“Getting the data is much easier than making it useful,” said Deborah Estrin, a professor of computer science and public health at Cornell University.

Constantly measuring heart rate may be helpful for someone heavily involved in sports or someone at risk of a heart attack. “But it’s unclear how important and meaningful it is for the everyday person,” she said.

After all, Estrin and other experts argue, Homo sapiens has survived for about 130,000  years without such technology because the human body already has a number of alarm systems built into it. Any mother who has been woken in the wee hours by a crying child knows that a gentle press of the back of the wrist to a forehead is fast, free and eerily accurate in diagnosing a fever.

Social sharing

Until about three years ago, it was nearly impossible for ordinary people to get a readout about the state of their bodies on a regular basis.

Now dozens of biosensing wearable technologies with names such as the Fitbit Surge, Misfit Shine and Jawbone UP have exploited the miniaturization of computer components and the ubiquity of cellphones to create an industry that is expected to reach $50 billion in sales by 2018, according to an estimate by Credit Suisse.

The research firm Gartner forecasts that 68.1 million wearable devices will be shipped this year. A growing percentage are being purchased by employers including Bates College and IBM as perks for their workers. A survey by Nielsen last year indicated that 61 percent of those aware of wearable technology for tracking and monitoring medical conditions use fitness bands.

The technology is inherently social. Many users share their body metrics with friends, family and even co-workers as readily as they would pictures from their travels to distant countries or their late-night bar adventures.

“When I talk to my parents, they are paranoid about their health data being stolen, but it doesn’t bother me,” said Halle Tecco, the 31-year-old co-founder and managing director of Rock Health. The digital health incubator in San Francisco is funding a number of next-generation wearables and monitors, such as a software program that assesses Alzheimer’s risk by analyzing eye movements with a cellphone camera and a band being tested as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder that analyzes skin responses.

Mollie McDowell, 26, marketing manager at Rock Health, openly talks online about how she has had a pain in her right hip for years and has tried several iPhone apps to try to find the cause and to track her mood and menstrual cycle.

“I think there is a lot of insight you can learn about yourself this way,” she said in an interview. In late April, she tweeted to the world, “Found out I’m Vitamin D deficient.”

Daniel Gartenberg, organizer of the Washington, D.C.-based meetups for Quantified Self, an international group of more than 29,000 self-trackers, has written several apps that helped track his own sleep that he has made available to the public. “I had mild insomnia,” said the doctoral candidate in applied cognition at George Mason University, “but have hacked it away.”

This openness extends to the citizen-scientists’ willingness to share information for the greater good. Thirty-four percent of health trackers share their data or notes with someone else, according to a Pew Research Center study.

In March, when Apple announced its ResearchKit initiative to allow people to share their information with researchers working on projects in asthma, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and Parkinson’s through various apps, more than 41,000 people volunteered within the first five days.

It’s unclear whether young adults’ open attitude toward sharing their data will remain when the next generation of more invasive biotrackers becomes commonplace., which was developed by data scientists from MIT, has created an app that can alert a provider if something is “off” — signaling the possibility of depression or a manic episode — based on how much a patient moves around or how many people they talk to that day so that counseling or other intervention can be offered.

Silicon Valley-based Proteus Digital Health has developed a prototype of an ingestible chip the size of a grain of sand that can be embedded in a pill. When the pill is swallowed, the chip sends a signal that’s logged on to central servers that you — or a loved one or doctor — can access on your phone or desktop.

The life sciences unit of Google X, the search company’s secretive research lab, is working on building a nano-size particle that will travel in the bloodstream. The particles would circulate throughout the body and attach to particular types of cells, such as cancer cells, or to enzymes given off by plaque in the arteries before they are about to rupture or cause a heart attack or stroke. If the particles found questionable cells or enzymes, they would send a signal to a device worn outside the body that would transmit the information to the patient or to a physician.

The innovation is outpacing the scientific and legal framework for testing and regulating such devices. The Food and Drug Administration in January indicated it would regulate devices that are invasive but take a lighter touch on wearables.

According to the agency’s draft guidelines, a wellness product crosses into the territory of a medical device, which requires a rigorous FDA review that is expensive for manufacturers, when its intended use refers to a specific disease or condition, or it presents an inherent risk to a user’s safety. That would essentially leave hundreds, if not thousands, of “low-risk general wellness” products — a category that presumably applies to the current incarnation of Fitbits — free from extra scrutiny under federal food and drug safety laws.

They would still be subject to monitoring by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has the power to recall products to protect the public against unreasonable risks from injuries or death from consumer products. In 2014, after thousands of users complained of skin irritations from Fitbit bands, the CPSC worked with the company on a recall that affected more than 1 million devices.

How the data that is generated from the devices is protected and shared is also murky.

Federal patient privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act don’t apply to most of the information the gadgets are tracking. Unless the data is being used by a physician to treat a patient, the companies that help track a person’s information aren’t bound by the same confidentiality, notification and security requirements as a doctor’s office or hospital. That means the data could theoretically be made available for sale to marketers, released under subpoena in legal cases with fewer constraints — and eventually worth billions to private companies that might not make the huge data sets free and open to publicly funded researchers.

“The mythology in this country is you can do whatever you want to your body, and a doctor will give you a pill to fix it. That needs to change,” says Larry Smarr, a computer scientist at the University of California at San Diego.

The data of a life

Larry Smarr’s journey into the data of his life began when he moved to California in 2000.

“I had spent 28 years in the heartland of the obesity epidemic in Illinois. I had gained a lot of weight and wasn’t exercising. I got to La Jolla and looked around and said, ‘Oh, my God, if I don’t get with the program, they are going to send me back,’ ” he recalled.

Smarr came to California as a computer science professor to head a $400 million multidisciplinary research institute for the University of California that has been called the West Coast equivalent of MIT’s famous Media Lab. Composed of scientists, artists and technologists, Calit2 (or the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology) aims to rapidly develop prototypes of technological innovations and test them in the real world.

Embracing the institute’s multidisciplinary philosophy, Smarr took a scientist’s approach to investigating himself. Although he had no previous experience in medicine, nutrition or biochemistry, he trained himself, he said, by reading more than 600 journal articles on monitoring and health.

“As we have more and more sophisticated wearables ... we can begin to cross correlate and understand how each aspect of our life consciously and unconsciously impacts one another.”

Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun and investor in mobile health startups.

He measured his way to lifestyle change: No coffee after 10 a.m., because he tested how long the effects lasted after his last drop; 40 minutes on the elliptical, because that was how long it took for him to reach his optimal heart rate; new vitamin supplements every few months, as dictated by his evaluation of his blood work.

“We are in a once-a-century period of discovery about the human organism,” Smarr said. Quoting science-fiction author William Gibson, he said “the future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Smarr’s mantra is that these devices and tests will help people take personal responsibility for their own health. And an increasing body of behavioral medical research has found that patients who track their diet, physical activity and weight achieve better results than those who don’t, suggesting that wearable monitors provide feedback that reinforces personal accountability.

“The mythology in this country is you can do whatever you want to your body, and a doctor will give you a pill to fix it. That needs to change,” Smarr said.

Few people may be willing to go as far as Smarr.

In 2009, when blood tests showed he was secreting excessive amounts of something called C-reactive protein, a substance found in blood plasma that is a marker of inflammation, he took the results to his internist: “There’s something terrible going on.” The doctor asked how he felt. “Fine,” said Smarr, and so the doctor laughed and sent him home, he recalled.

“This is when I began to realize there is a disconnect between science and medicine,” said Smarr, who countered by writing down how he was feeling in a diary. “I realized I could data-mine this information,” he said, on a spreadsheet with a scale for the severity of issue. He was surprised at all the things he had dismissed as minor: blurriness and stinging in his eyes for a short while — “like you touched jalapeƱo,” arthritis, swelling in his belly. The record-keeping didn’t yield a diagnosis, so in 2011 he decided to try to identify the organisms in several months of stool samples. With more than 90 percent of the cells in the human body made up of other organisms, the idea of keeping one’s “microbiome” healthy was just taking off; Smarr was curious about how that applied to him.

“You are an ecology, and the health of those bugs determine how you are,” he said.

Can you make it to 100 years or beyond?

He looked at all his data and had a eureka moment: He had Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease.

Last year, Smarr ventured farther in his quest for self-discovery. He got an MRI of his abdomen and used a 3-D printer to create a model of his own colon. But that didn’t lead to any new insights, and the model is now a paperweight on his desk.

One weekday afternoon in his lab, Smarr studied his life on an 18-by-8-foot monitor that spans most of the room. On the board were 150 key variables about his body over a 10-year period, displayed in colored rectangles. Most were green, meaning they fall within the expected, healthy range. But some were yellow (one to 10 times outside the healthy range), and a handful were red (10 to 100 times outside the healthy range).

According to the custom-built “future patient” program built by coders at the research center Smarr oversees, the scientist’s body was still in attack mode for some reason.

It has been nearly three years since Smarr discovered the issue, and he’s tens of thousands of metrics down the road, but he has yet to find a way to treat it. “People overestimate what knowledge can do for you,” he said with a shrug.

Microsoft's HoloLens may soon recognise when you're stressed with decorating - and offer help

Could augmented reality help you do DIY? Microsoft's HoloLens may soon recognise when you're stressed with decorating - and offer help

•     Patent describes a holographic headset with sensors to track stress levels
•     Sensors could include a heart rate monitor and a perspiration tracker
•     When the headset detects rising stress levels it would present help options
•     These options would be tailored based on the task or the wearer's location

By Victoria Woollaston for MailOnline

Published: 11:01 EST, 15 May 2015 | Updated: 11:02 EST, 15 May 2015

Microsoft's HoloLens has, until now, been mainly touted as an entertainment device.
But a new patent reveals the tech giant has much bigger plans for the headset, specifically combatting stress.

The filing describes a holographic headset fitted with sensors that would track a wearer's stress levels and offer personalised help based on the task they are doing.

Microsoft filed the patent in November 2012 and it was awarded this week.

Called 'Augmented reality help', the paper explained that the system would comprise 'a head-mounted display device including a plurality of sensors and a display system for presenting holographic objects.'


The filing describes a holographic headset fitted with sensors that would track a wearer's stress levels and offer personalised help.

A range of sensors would track heart rate, increased sweat levels, brinawave activity and blood oxygen to register a 'stress response'. 

Cameras on the headset would then determine what the wearer is looking at before attempting to identify that object and offer relevant help.

An example given in the patent involves building a bookshelf using flat-pack instructions.

If the user becomes frustrated with the furniture, their heart rate increases. The headset recognises the change and scans the wearer's field of view.

After spotting the instructions, and pieces of furniture, a help menu appears to offer support that could include a step-by-step guide or images of the finished product.

The augmented reality help program would be configured to 'receive user biometric parameters from one or more of the sensors, determine the user is experiencing a stress response and present default help content.'

Example sensors are listed as a heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen saturation of the wearer's blood, an EEG to monitor brainwave activity and a perspiration sensor to detect sweat levels.

An electrodermal response sensor could also track changes in the skin's electrical resistance.

Elevated levels in each area could suggest the wearer is feeling stressed, frustrated or angry.

Cameras on the headset would then determine what the wearer is looking at before attempting to identify that object and offer relevant help.

An example given in the patent involves building a bookshelf using flat-pack instructions.

If the user becomes frustrated with the furniture, their heart rate increases.
The headset recognises the change and scans the wearer's field of view.

After spotting the instructions, and pieces of furniture, a help menu appears to offer support that could include a step-by-step guide or images of the finished product.
'Numerous situations may arise in which a person may benefit from assistance in a variety of contexts' explained the patent.

'In some examples, assistance may be available via a mobile computing device using a search engine.

'However, depending upon the context, locating and accessing such information in a timely and convenient manner may prove challenging and in some cases impractical.'


The HoloLens uses a visor to project 'holographic' images onto the wearer's field of view.

It can project 3D images into the wearer's field of view - making it appear as if screens, games and even people are in front of them.

It uses sensors to track the wearer's head to ensure the hologram is in the same way.
A projection system then beams the holographic images into the wearer's eye, fooling the brain into thinking they are real.

The headset also has a camera to track the user's hands, allowing them to interact with the holographic images.

 The patent doesn't specifically reference HoloLens, but the gadget is a holographic headset unveiled by Microsoft in January.

It can project 3D images into the wearer's field of view - making it appear as if screens, games and even people are in front of them.

It uses sensors to track the wearer's head to ensure the hologram is in the same way.
A projection system then beams the holographic images into the wearer's eye, fooling the brain into thinking they are real.

The headset also has a camera to track the user's hands, allowing them to interact with the holographic images.

Microsoft has not revealed exactly how the technology works and has not confirmed the stress response sensors will be included on the device.

The headset is still a prototype being developed under the codename Project Baraboo, and Microsoft did not say when the HoloLens would go on sale. 

Microsoft has not revealed exactly how its HoloLens technology works and has not confirmed the stress response sensors will be included on the device. The headset is still a prototype being developed under the codename Project Baraboo and Microsoft did not say when the HoloLens would go on sale

A recent HoloLend demonstration shows a user converting his living room into a giant touchscreen

Stephen Hawking warns computers will overtake humans within 100 years

Zeitgesit 2015: Stephen Hawking warns computers will overtake humans within 100 years

The growing field of artificial intelligence is catching the eye of academics and technology leaders worldwide

By Sam Shead  | May 12, 2015

Stephen Hawking today warned that computers will overtake humans in terms of intelligence at some point within the next century.

Speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London, the internationally renowned cosmologist and Cambridge University professor, said: “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.”

Hawking, who signed an open letter alongside Elon Musk earlier this year warning AI development should not go on uncontrolled, added: “Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it.”

In the short term, people are concerned about who controls AI, but in the long term, the concern will be whether AI can be controlled at all, said Hawking.

AI can be defined as the intelligence exhibited by machines or software. It has the potential to have a profound impact on the world as people know and it’s an area being pursued by global tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

AI technology is already built into devices we use in our everyday lives. For example, Siri, an intelligent personal assistant that sits inside iPhones and iPads is underpinned by AI developed by Apple, while Google's self-driving vehicles also rely heavily on AI. According to the FT, more than 150 startups in Silicon Valley are working on AI today.

Hawking believes that scientists and technologists need to safely and carefully coordinate and communicate advancements in AI to ensure it does not grow beyond humanity's control.