miércoles, 16 de enero de 2019

The inevitable rise of exoskeletons

According with the wikipedia, an exoskeleton (from Greek έξω, éxō "outer" and σκελετός, skeletós "skeleton") is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a human. However, technology is on the brink to introduce a substantial change on this definition, as in matter of years the so-called "powered exoskeleton" will be what we call simply exoskeleton. Soon, the wearable mobile machines that are powered by some kind of technology and provide limb movements with increased strength and endurance will be, at least, as popular as the crustacean shells.

Among the multiple fields of robotics development, exoskeletons look as an incomplete robots that in some manner can be fully and easily controlled by humans, and therefore raises less concerns. Perhaps, that is the rationale behind why exoskeleton sector is beginning to show its applicability in many fields. There are almost commercial projects for the usage in constructing areas and airports where are needed to move and lift big things or to practice demanding sports without tiredness, even for a less nice purpose as the usage at wars. Furthermore, these applications are thought to be the tip of the iceberg. According with ABI Research robotic exoskeleton sales will jump from $97 million globally in 2016 to $1.9 billion by 2025.

In the list of applications above, there has not been included one that raises may hopes: the usage of exoskeleton for therapeutic purposes, helping people with disabilities to walk and move again freely and by their own. ABI research predicts almost a quarter of the 100,000 exoskeleton suits sold in 2025 will be for people with disabilities. Nevertheless, the current prices, starting in 80,000 $ and beyond, makes that this humble forecast even quite high.

However, it looks that exoskeletons are beginning to enter in the health systems as another treatment in the list. In the USA, it looks it is starting its spreading, based as usual on the size of your purse. In a recent article, the wonders of the usage of exoskeleton in an American Hospital are combined with the description of the sad reality that the patient had to asked his mother for part of his inheritance in order to pay for it. In this side of the Atlantic, hopefully they will enter soon as part as the Public Health Systems. The German Government has already included an Exoskeleton model in the Official List of medical aids, which means a degree of obligation on insurers to pay.

Exoskeletons look as the ideal spearhead for the introduction of robotics in society and economy. They are not only multipurpose, but also they can be considered more as a tool to augment human capacity than a substitute and they appear as less autonomous than robots, decreasing the fears to automatisation. The needed State intervention to make them affordable in some uses would also act as a driver to boost their production beyond the current predictions, and therefore provoke a general affordability. Maybe I´am wrong, but all the signs point to the rise of exoskeletons.

miércoles, 9 de enero de 2019

An EU digital start up strategy to fill up the digital single market

Many years ago, you began to buy the flats of a building. One day, you noticed you have acquired the whole building, so you would like to invite the people you like to come in and move freely inside it. But nobody came, because the internal walls that remains from the former flats make the movement quite difficult.  You remove the walls but there's still few activity inside the building because there are less people than needed to develop relevant activity within the building.

The story above is the story of the EU Digital Single Market. The EU have worked hard to eliminate the digital legal fragmentation within the EU, but once the barriers are almost removed we have noticed that there's still few activity within the Digital Single Market. There are few EU digital companies that can take advantage of the new distribution of the building,. So the moment have just arrived to boost the creation of companies to fill up the building. And therefore, this should be one of the pillars of the EU digital policy for the forthcoming legislative period.

The foundations to build on the results of the current EU start up strategy, the "Europe's next leaders: the Start-up and Scale-up Initiative". The initiative has deployed some instruments that have helped to promote digital entrepreunership and its scale up, but more efforts should be done. To begin with, the so-called "one top shop" should be reinforced with a significant participation of the Member States. And this will not be possible without developing a feeling of ownership through the development of an EU start up strategy based on the synergies with the national strategies.

There are other instruments that has been deployed in the last years and could be used to attract and retain digital talent in Europe. For instance, we are on the brink on the renewal of the EU Blue Card scheme that among other features will introduce a single EU-wide scheme and new rights for its holders and the families. The exchange of practices of Member States in the use of  these new tools for the promotion of digital entrepreunership would be ket to its global success in the EU.

And other instruments could be developed for the creation of real EU digital start ups. One via to explore is the adaptation of the Societas Europaea scheme to the needs of the start up or the creation of a similar instrument for this purpose.

But also, there is a need for funding instruments for start up projects. And the the next MFF should be the source of the funds. On one hand, programmes like Digital Europe or Horizon Europe could fund projects where start ups may take part. On the other hand, InvestEU is the ideal instrument to fund the creation and scale up of digital start ups through the creation of specific funds for this purpose.

The end of the Digital Single Market Strategy provide the rationale for a reinforcement of the EU digital start-ups strategie that reaps the benefits of the new scenario. Because without EU digital companies, the build up of the Digital Single market will have been in vain. And as we do not have digital companies, we will need to promote its creation and scale up.

miércoles, 2 de enero de 2019

"El orden del dia" - Eric Vuillard

El orden del díaEl orden del día by Éric Vuillard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"El orden del día" es otro de los libros que figura en las selecciones de las mejores obras de 2018. La obra ha sido galardonada también con el prestigioso Premio Goncourt. Al autor hay que reconocerle el mérito de la selección de un tema, la habilidad para desarrollar un ritmo trepidante y la capacidad de mantener la atracción del lector, aunque el estilo resulte deslavazado en algunos pasajes.

Pero si algo destaca de la obra, es su trama, oportuna como pocas. Vuillard nos traslada a la Europa de los años previos a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, situándonos en dos momentos claves del nazismo: su asentamiento interno tras la ascensión de Hitler a la cancillería y la anexión de Austria y Checoslovaquia. El autor pone el foco en las responsabilidades de quienes están capacitados para ello no se opusieron, acusando con nombres y apellidos a quienes nunca pagaron por su falta de valor o por egoísmo.

Comienza y termina el relato recordando el papel de los grandes empresarios alemanes como aliados necesarios del nazismo. Primero, dando el apoyo económico para su máquina de propaganda. Después, participando en el esfuerzo bélico y obteniendo beneficios de la mano de obra esclava. Se disculpa con frecuencia al pueblo alemán de haber caído embrujado por la demagogia. Del mismo modo, hoy los populismos neofascistas aumentan sus votos con cantos de sirena, y podemos disculpar a sus votantes como víctimas de un engaño. Pero hoy, como ayer, nunca serán inocentes quienes les apoyan por el cortoplacismo de su interés personal.

En las páginas centrales, desfilan los cobardes. Vuillard pone en primer plano a aquellos políticos en Austria, Francia o Reino Unido que quisieron taparse los ojos. Todos ellos prefirieron pensar que al bravucón se le calmaba con una pequeña cesión, tampoco quisieron que esa cesión se prolongaba después en otra, y más tarde en otra. Hoy también vemos quienes apaciguan y contemporizan con los extremismos neofascistas, quienes también se darán demasiado tarde para todos que han sido devorados.

Una novela reseñable, pero nos deja el sabor agridulce de lo poco que se aprende de las lecciones de la historia.

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