Top Industry News and Trends for the Coming Year: Our Predictions for 2015

Health and Wellness at the Office was our 2014 Story of the Year. Now it’s time for us to go out on limb and predict the top industry news and trends for 2015.

We picked a few industry sectors — ones that are well represented by Formaspace furniture customers — and polished our crystal ball. Let’s look toward to the future and see if we can predict what will happen next.

 

We look at our top predictions for 2015. Image from NASA showing extent of ‘Space Junk’ surrounding our planet.
We look at our top predictions for 2015. Image from NASA showing extent of ‘Space Junk’ surrounding our planet.

 

 

Aerospace and Outer Space: Predictions for 2015

First up is Aerospace. As we wrote recently in our article Outer Space is Back In: Enthusiasm for Space Exploration on the Rise, the intrepid little probe Philae sent to land on Comet 67P has electrified interest in space exploration in a way we haven’t seen since the NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars.

 

Philae Landing Site. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Philae Landing Site. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

We’re still reading through the papers being presented at the plenary sessions of the American Geophysical Union Conference taking place right now in San Francisco. Among the many reports being released, this one is particularly interesting: the water isotope found on Comet 67P doesn’t match up with what’s found on earth. This mismatch may indicate that if the water found on Comet 67P is typical of other comets, then comets probably were not the source of water on earth.

 

2015 is Shaping Up to be a Banner Year in Space Exploration

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is racing toward a rendezvous with Pluto, just woke up from its 18th planned slumber since it was launched in early 2006. The approach to Pluto begins in mid-January 2015 and it reaches its closest approach on July 14, 2015. The European Space Agency (ESA) will also be very busy in 2015. They plan to launch the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which will study gravitational waves by looking for “ripples in space time”.

ESA will also launch the ADM-Aeolus wind monitoring satellite in an effort to improve weather prediction on earth. There will be other space launches by private industry; we will touch on these below in the section Competitions, Crowd Funding and DIY. As we’ve mentioned before, NASA has announced its interest in pursuing mineral mining on asteroids and on the moon. They have entered into contracts with Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources.

 

So What’s Our Prediction for 2015?

We predict that a collision between an important satellite or spacecraft will occur during 2015. The collision may be from natural sources, but it’s increasingly likely that man-made space junk will be the root cause. We feel that once there is a space accident caused by such a collision, efforts will galvanize to recognize the problem of space junk and efforts to focus on Space Cleanup will begin. Our runner-up prediction is that Geo-Engineering of our atmosphere and outer space will become a commonly understood term, particularly in the context of space cleanup as well as engineering solutions to address global warming and climate change.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Space Cleanup

  • Runner-Up: Geo-Engineering

 

Energy Markets and Climate Policy: Predictions for 2015

We certainly didn’t see the drop in oil prices during the final quarter of 2014 coming, so this makes us even more leery about making predictions for energy markets and climate policy for 2015. But we do know following this month’s Climate Summit in Lima, Peru, there will be a major climate meeting in Paris next year: the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. It’s scheduled for the end of November through mid-December 2015.

The objective is to create a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change that serves as the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. When we look at future trends, energy conservation continues to advance through technology. European governments in particular are investing heavily in retrofitting residential housing to be more energy efficient. We are very intrigued by this article about the Dutch government practically bribing residents with brand-new IKEA kitchens in exchange for allowing them to install heavy duty insulation in their homes.

Our top prediction for 2015 is that Zero Emissions will become a widely understood concept in the coming year. And if the concept of Zero Emissions takes off, we may see its successor “Negative Emissions” come into widespread usage. What would we mean by negative emissions? This of course could apply to an electric car that also cleans the air as it runs, effectively reducing atmospheric emissions whenever it’s driven.

Sadly, we think the runner-up story really should be the top story for climate policy in 2015. We’re speaking about the continued widespread extinction of wildlife, particularly amphibians. Hopefully we will take greater action to prevent this but so far it has not become a top headline.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Zero Emissions

  • Runner-Up: Mass Extinction of Amphibians

 

Competitions, Crowdfunding, and DIY: Predictions for 2015

The do-it-yourself (DIY) trend will continue strongly in 2015, spurred by many high dollar prize competitions and crowd funding efforts. Google in particular has latched on to the competition bandwagon by funding numerous prize competitions, including its Lunar X Space Race, a $20 million race to put a robot rover on the moon. Do-It-Yourselfers can also build their own tiny space satellite and launch it in the space. The importance of 3-D printing, which we covered extensively in the past, continues to grow in importance. The UK’s Royal Mail recently announced that they will begin to offer their own 3-D printing services, so mail customers can order 3-D parts which the royal mail will print and then deliver.

 

Arduino single-board microcontroller, part of the open source hardware movement. Image courtesy Wikimedia
Arduino single-board microcontroller, part of the open source hardware movement. Image courtesy Wikimedia

 

Our top prediction for 2015? We think that the clever, collaboratively designed Arduino circuit board will finally get the respect it deserves as a key springboard for the do-it-yourself maker movement. It’s been a core technology in creating the first generation 3D Printers and its role is as important as the IBM PC.

We predict that Google will be the runner-up winner. Between its space competitions to put cameras in low Earth orbit and its efforts to improve balloon technology as a platform for providing Internet services to remote areas across the globe, such as unserviced areas of Africa, will capture the public’s attention in 2015.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Arduino Gets Respect

  • Runner-Up: Look up in the Sky, It’s Google!

 

Laboratory Discoveries: Predictions for 2015

Among potential laboratory discoveries, a cure for malaria would be among the top medical discoveries of all time. While the fear of the Ebola virus and other pandemic threats capture the news headlines, malaria was responsible for an estimated 207 million illnesses and 627,000 deaths in 2012 alone, according to be World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2013.

 

Formaspace-Ebola-Virus-colorized-TEM
Ebola Virus. Image courtesy CDC

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been instrumental in funding research to reduce the impact of the disease and eventually find a cure. The recent announcement that there has been a 50% reduction in malaria is welcome news.

But the story that caught our attention was a report of the potential systemic cure for malaria by a compound that destroys the parasite itself. If this proves to be an effective treatment for malaria, this would be the top laboratory discovery story in 2015. We’re also confident to predict that one or more of the seven different approaches to curing or preventing the Ebola virus will show promise in 2015.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Preventative Cure for Malaria

  • Runner-Up: Effective Ebola Vaccine

 

Furniture Industry: Predictions for 2015

Closer to home in the furniture industry, we have taken note that flatpack furniture sales are up worldwide in 2014. You may recall that during our review of the Neocon contract furniture show held in Chicago earlier this year, we identified some of the constraints facing today’s generation of furniture designers and that the need to design furniture to fit in a flatpack was now a primary consideration for many projects.

 

Formaspace-Materials-Handling-Allied-Electronics-2

 

What is Our Top Prediction for 2015?

We predict there is some Formaspace furniture in your future. Our technical furniture is designed for your research laboratory, healthcare facility, assembly line, distribution center, educational facility, or even a high-tech home workshop in your garage or industrial style kitchen in your home. All our furniture is made of the finest materials, manufactured in Austin, with steel sourced here in the USA. We back up the quality of our products with the longest guarantee in the industry: a full 12 years, even if you use it continuously with three work shifts.

 

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Formaspace in Your Future

  • Runner-Up: Flat Pack Furniture

 

 

Formaspace Wants to Help You Pursue Your Goals in Science, Engineering, and Manufacturing

Formaspace is here to help. Join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.

Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of stock, semi-custom and custom-made computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services. Our American-made technical furniture solutions are flexible, reconfigurable and long-lasting.

Outer Space is Back In: Enthusiasm for Space Exploration on the Rise

Philae, the intrepid probe that landed on Comet 67P, has electrified the public in a way that we haven’t seen since the NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars.

Renewed enthusiasm for space exploration couldn’t come at a better time for the American aerospace industry. We find ourselves in the middle of a transition from the government managed Space Shuttle-era to a brave new world of rocket launchers and spacecraft designed, built — and sometimes entirely funded — by private enterprise.

 

Formaspace-Rosetta-Philae-Lander-Comet-67B
Rosetta Philae Lander Comet

 

Transition from Sovereign Funded to Private Enterprise Space Travel Has Been Rocky

It’s probably fair to say the transition has not gone as smoothly or as rapidly as one would’ve hoped. At a time when international relations with the Russian Federation are sinking to frigid cold war levels, NASA is still dependent upon the Russians for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). At the end of October, the launch of an unmanned rocket by a NASA private contractor, Orbital Space Corp., exploded just seconds after liftoff from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The lost 4,883 pound payload included scientific experiments from schools as well as food and supplies for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

As it turns out, the core of the Antares rocket which exploded is based on a late 1960s Russian rocket. And we don’t just mean the design dates back nearly 50 years, we mean the rocket parts are literally vintage USSR productions from the 1960s. And purely private spaceflight suffered a blow later that same week as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up in midair during a test flight high over the Mojave Desert, killing one pilot. Despite Sir Richard Branson‘s enthusiasm, it’s unclear how many well-heeled enthusiasts will pop for a $250,000 trip into space to experience just a few minutes of weightlessness.

 

Who are the Space Pioneers of Tomorrow?

Given the setbacks of October, the success of the Rosetta and its Philae comet probe couldn’t come a moment too soon, as these are critical years for recruiting new young engineers into the field. But since we now live in a world where game apps like MineCraft, WarCraft and StarCraft top the charts, can actual spacecraft ever capture the attention of today’s digital generation? It’s a critical question as the very last of the old-school engineers retire in droves — and it’s uncertain if the talented minds of the new digital generation — just now entering university or starting their career paths — will pursue aerospace as a career with a similar enthusiasm and dedication.

 

Poster Child for a New Wave of Space Explorers

13-year-old Alyssa Carson from Baton Rouge, Louisiana may be the exception that proves the rule. With a passion that belies her young years, Carson has attended NASA Space Camps and has plotted out a career path, which she hopes will take her to Mars. Sensing a good PR story, NASA is fully on-board with their young protégé, whom they have given the call sign “Blueberry”. You can learn more about Carson by watching this short film by the BBC.

 

Alyssa Carson, image by Uproxx
Alyssa Carson, image by Uproxx

 

Philae Makes the Scene, Well Played and Well Marketed

Our spirits soared at the ambitious and improbable ten yearlong chase of Comet 67B across the solar system. Intercepting the comet itself is an astounding feat, but then to deploy the small Philae lander onto the surface really makes science-fiction come true. As we know now, there were problems with the landing of Philae. It bounced many kilometers back in the space at least twice before coming to rest on its side in the shadow of a crater, which blocked the rays of the sun for all but an hour of the day. But we really have to acknowledge what an accomplishment it was to get the lander onto the surface of Comet 67B at all. With the comet’s very weak gravity, Philae weighed the equivalent of a single sheet of paper! Now replay the landing in your mind and try to imagine landing a single sheet of paper onto the surface of a moving comet — it’s not that easy!

Fortunately, it looks like many of Philae’s scientific experiments were conducted using the main battery supply before the electricity supply on board ran out. Without enough sun to recharge the batteries, the probe went into a deep sleep. There’s still hope that as the comet comes closer to the sun, the sun’s rays might once again power up the solar collectors and allow Philae to wake up again. The European Space Agency (ESA) has teased us with some preliminary scientific observations. The first is the surface of Comet 67B is much harder than anticipated. As it turns out, the bounced landing (which precluded shooting harpoons to anchor Philae to the comet’s surface) may have been a blessing in disguise.

It’s quite possible that the harpoons would not have been able to penetrate the hard surface — and launching them might have resulted in sending Philae far out into space once and for all! Aside from an unfortunate incident caused by a racy shirt worn by one of the European scientists, the web team at ESA has conducted a pitch perfect media campaign around the Rosetta comet exploration project. The Philae lander’s Twitter account is a great example, with its gentle humor:

 

Gentle humor of @philae2014 Twitter account acknowledges the lander has run out of solar power.
Gentle humor of @philae2014 Twitter account acknowledges the lander has run out of solar power.

 

ESA’s Rosetta blog has also created a media firestorm with the tantalizing announcement that Philae may have detected organic compounds on Comet 67B. What does this mean exactly? We think it could mean that Philae’s COSAC detector discovered (or “sniffed”) some carbon ring-based molecules, presumably outgassing from the comet’s surface. Many news articles published today have extrapolated this to mean that organic life forms have been found — this is not supported by the information released by ESA to date.

 

When are We Going to Know Something More Concrete?

It looks like we’re going to have to wait until the the upcoming American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco! That’s when and where the European Space Agency plans to do their first in-depth debriefing on the mission. Mark your calendars for Dec 15-19, 2014. We will certainly follow up on this story as it develops. We will also look at NASA’s upcoming rendezvous with Pluto in January, a crowd-funded Lunar exploration mission organized in the UK, as well as the late-breaking news that Airbus will become a contractor working with NASA as part of a greater cooperation between the European Space Agency and NASA. We’re also interested in cleaning up space junk as well as the story behind a curious Russian spacecraft which has Western military experts concerned.

 

Space: The Final Frontier. Formaspace Can Help.

roche's sample processing laboratory furniture
Modular Sample Processing Laboratory

We’re proud to have NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin among our aerospace customers. Why not join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, Ford, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.

Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of stock, semi-custom and custom-made computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services.    

Meet Your New Lab Partner, the Robot

In the Brave New World of the Internet of Things, is there Room Left for Us Humans?

 

A New Robot Developed by EPFL Researchers, image by ScienceDaily
A New Robot Developed by EPFL Researchers, image by ScienceDaily

 

In recent weeks, we’ve taken a look at a wide range of new discoveries in scientific laboratories — ranging from drug discoveries from the pharmaceutical laboratory, high-performance thin film materials from the material science laboratory and new public health discoveries from epidemiological laboratories.

This week and next week we’ll take a look at new discoveries in the robotics research laboratory. Compared to scientific discoveries in other fields, such as new drug discovery or advances in materials science, there is something fundamentally different about how we feel about progress in robotics. It’s probably because robot technology can disrupt the way we think about ourselves as humans. We titled this article ‘Meet Your New Lab Partner, the Robot” not only becauseit’s a provocative headline, but it’s also a new workplace reality that’s looming on the horizon. We have to ask ourselves: as robots become more pervasive in the workplace, what’s our role?

Our Conflicted ‘Yin/Yang’ Attitude Toward Robots

One widely held view of robots is very positive. In this category, robots are a logical extension of traditional toolmaking — it’s said that what distinguishes humans from other animal species is we know how to make tools. Our long historical tradition of making highly-productive, labor-saving devices has led us, step-by-step, to the rise of our modern industrial society. And, as an industrialized society, we depend on tools and machines that can do things faster and more accurately than by hand.

We’re also fascinated by industrial technology: you don’t have to be a manufacturing guru or industrial engineer to be mesmerized by videos of beverage company assembly lines that fill countless bottles scooting along conveyor belts or videos of large textile power looms that weave bolts of cloth from long threads of cotton material. In this industrialized society world view, we see cute robots, like the Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, which sweeps our floors at home while we’re busy at the office.

The ‘Roomba’ type robot is not threatening to us at all. It just seems a baby step closer to a home robot like ‘Rosie the housekeeping Robot‘ from the animated television cartoon series The Jetsons.

 

Alternate View of Robot Technology: Darker, More Ominous

The alternative view we hold of robots is much darker and more ominous. Do our fears stem from the sinister world of science fiction where alien creatures land on Earth and take over our lives? Or perhaps we are afraid of robots of our own making, like the H.A.L. 9000 computer in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey.

 

 

Without question we live in a world where more and more of what used to be the stuff of science fiction is coming true. But why is a Roomba vacuum robot ‘cute’ and the fictional H.A.L. robot spacecraft computer, well, kind of creepy? Where do we draw the line? In the case of the H.A.L. computer, there’s an easy answer: the computer has taken it upon itself to decide if the astronauts on ‘his’ spacecraft live or die.

So maybe the answer is we cross the line from cute to threatening when we feel that machines have control over our lives. But is that true across the board? What about the flight computers that control modern fly-by-wire Boeing and Airbus jetliners? We know these computers make life or death decisions on our behalf every second we are in the air. Yet most people feel comfortable flying this way and the statistics show flying has becoming progressively safer as a result.

Our attitudes toward robots will become increasingly important as we consider what is our role as humans when we begin to work side-by-side with robots. Will we change them or will they change us? Let’s take a look at the recent burst of robotic technology news and ask some of these ethical and existential questions.

 

Look to the Skies: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Robot Drone with Wings!

Flying drones have made their mark as weapons of war, and they may never escape this association. Yet who has not dreamed of seeing first hand how the world appears to a bird flying over a park in the city? Helivu, a Montreal video company, uses drones to capture footage which would be impossible with a larger human piloted craft, like a helicopter.

Hollywood is eager to get permission to fly drones like this in the US to capture special effects footage for TV and movies. But drones also offer a practical solution to existing problems. Shown in the second half of the video is a very practical engineering role for drones: inspecting the condition of a bridge high up over the St. Laurence River. Ground-rules have to be set for the role of drones in aviation. In the past weeks there have been close calls where catastrophic accidents were narrowly averted as drones were found to be interfering with commercial aviation jet flyways in the New York City area and in Australia.

Question: Would You Fly in a Drone Airplane if the Pilot was on the Ground and Not in the Cockpit?

Our ideas of what’s ‘cute’ and what’s ‘creepy’ will be tested again as robotic technology advances. In the case of flying drones, once drones prove themselves, why couldn’t the pilot fly the drone aircraft from the ground? After all, this approach is standard operating procedure in military drones. Would you fly on such a plane? Looking further ahead — what if the drone passenger aircraft was only piloted by a machine? Would you board that aircraft? Probably not right now, but in a few years the idea may not seem so far fetched.

 

Is That a Butterfly or a Spy Camera With Wings?

Coming back to our question “cute” or “creepy”… How would you feel if you discovered the butterfly flying in your garden and around your house was actually an artificial flying spy drone equipped with video camera?

 

Both the U.S. military and Israeli Defense departments are rumored to be working on these projects. Cute no. Clever yes — and definitely very creepy.

 

Robot Flying Saucers in Development at NASA

More and more developments once found in the pages science fiction novels seems to be coming true… even flying saucers. NASA is reported to be testing a new-fangled robot spacecraft — the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) — whose landing configuration resembles a full scale flying saucer. Look for the test landing to happen in Hawaii either tomorrow (if the weather is good) or sometime in the coming week (if the weather is bad). You can watch it live on NASA television when it happens.

 

Catch Junk Flying in Space? There’s a Robot for That.

Robots are also being employed to solve a man-made problem: Junk in Space. Lockheed Martin has won a huge military contract to begin the process of cleaning up all the space junk that’s accumulated in the last 50 years. A robot that can catch objects traveling towards it at high speeds (see video below) might be a viable solution for ‘catching’ space junk.

 

Robot-Powered Driverless Cars? Creepy or Not?

If you drive a modern car, many of its key systems, including the power-train, brakes and steering are managed by a computer, whether you realize it or not. Computer security system experts are increasingly concerned that these systems could be vulnerable to hacking — as they were not initially envisioned as a comprehensive secure system with necessary built-in defenses required to defend against computer viruses or other intrusions.

Once these cars are connected to smart phones, there is potential for dangerous malware attacks, which could take over or disable some of the cars important safety systems, e.g. no brakes! Given the security experts’ alarm over existing automotive automation, what do you think about Google’s robot driverless car experiments? Maybe you’ve seen pictures of the cute Google car making its way about town; it doesn’t seem that threatening (its soft round design is on purpose of course!).

 

At the same time a different group has been testing a convoy of semi-trucks traveling across the Nevada desert at very high speeds. This close truck formation is only possible using robotic controls. What could possibly go wrong, wrong, wrong?

 

Robot Furniture in Your Living Room?

Perhaps no occupation or industry is immune from the invasion of robots–even our own here at Formaspace: the furniture industry. Another team of designers from the Biorobotics Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland caught our attention last week. They announced a prototype design study of furniture made of robots that can reconfigure themselves for different uses.

 

We are excited by the possibilities. As you may know, we already manufacture many kinds of modular technical furniture — with motorized moving parts — used on factory productions lines and shipping and packing stations, for example.

We also sell many kinds of variable height industrial workbenches and tables that allow the user to select the perfect height for their stature. We’ve also created a very flexible executive conference room desk that opens up (like a pair of scissors) to provide better sight lines when viewing a large wall mounted video projection screen. So the possibility of robot furniture seems plausible to us. Kind of cute actually. Not creepy.

 

Next week we’ll continue our survey of advances from world of robotic research laboratories.

In the meantime, if you are a robotics laboratory engineer or designer, give us a call at 800.251.1505. We can definitely help you build a custom furniture solution for your laboratory, research facility, manufacturing facility or office. We look forward to finding out what you are working on and how we can help.

What are Some Network Operations Centers and Video Wall Applications?

Who can forget that famous transmission “Houston we have a problem” sent from Apollo 13 back to NASA’s Mission Control Center? When you close your eyes, you can probably even visualize the grainy black and white television images of NASA engineers poring over their monitors at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Mission Control Center at NASA is a true cultural archetype, the granddaddy of our popular conception of a real live Network Operations Center (known as a NOC in the industry).

 

ATT Global Network Operation Center, image by Fortune
ATT Global Network Operation Center, image by Fortune

 

Of course today’s Mission Control Center is hardly the same as it was in the 1960s. Today’s version of NASA’s Mission Control Center, officially known as the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, has been remodeled and updated many times over the years. Each time it’s been equipped with the latest visualization and communication technology. But the current version doesn’t seem so unfamiliar to us nowadays.

That’s because Network Operations Centers — once reserved for the highest levels of government, military and Fortune 500 companies — are now considered standard infrastructure for many mission critical tasks, including:

  • Transportation traffic monitoring, including:
  • Air traffic control
  • Port and waterways traffic control
  • Industrial process monitoring, including:
  • Energy power plants
  • Chemical factories
  • Telecommunications monitoring, including:
  • Internet and private computer networks
  • Satellite and television communication networks

In fact, if you live in a medium-size American city, it’s quite likely your local law enforcement agency may have a Network Operation Center that is more capable than the original versions at NASA.

 

Developing and Manufacturing These Impressive, Technologically Intensive Network Operations Centers is an Exciting Challenge

As a technical furniture manufacturer, we find these projects to be an exciting challenge. They require the right combination of ergonomic workstation layouts and strong, configurable structures capable of holding and protecting large-scale video display hardware. Also, the workstation furniture (and associated support structures) needs to be manufactured in a modular fashion. This not only facilitates easy access to the electronic components (for faster maintenance), but also enables efficient equipment replacement or upgrades to newer, higher capability equipment.

 

Use of Video Walls has Expanded Beyond Network Operations Centers into Telepresence, Collaboration, Simulation, and Productivity Applications

While video walls used in Network Operation Centers were originally designed to help monitor mission-critical, high-availability systems, it didn’t take long for corporations, research institutions and military and government planners to leverage the visualization power video wall technology for other uses, like collaborative visualization and analyses in ‘Big Data’ applications.

 

Video Walls for Oil and Gas Industry ‘Big Data’ Applications

The oil and gas extraction industry, for example, has vast amount of geological data, which needs to be interpreted by geologists and upstream oil and gas engineers in order to pinpoint where to start their drilling operations. Today, the amount of geological data (“Big Data”) amassed for a particular project (or ‘play’ as it’s called in the business) requires extraordinary tools to visualize all aspects of the geological data. Because of this, the industry has invested heavily in improving their data analysis and interpretation capabilities. Video walls are now a standard tool in the oil and gas industry to help with visualizing and interpreting their massive data sets– an important step before committing to investing millions of dollars when drilling exploratory wells.

 

Video Wall, image by RGB Spectrum
Video Wall, image by RGB Spectrum

 

Telepresence Applications in the Supply Chain

Another industry that has leverage the power of video wall technology is the broad sector known as ‘telepresence’. Many people consider telepresence applications as just ‘souped up’ teleconferencing systems, but they offer much more. They provide a highly-realistic, virtual reality version of traditional face-to-face communication — without the time and expense required for extensive travel. Many corporations need to stay in close communication with their suppliers around the world.

For example, Boeing uses large-scale telepresence conference rooms to facilitate collaboration between engineers across the globe. The automotive industry as well has taken advantage of the collaborative nature of working with full-scale video imagery of automotive designs. In the early part of last decade, General Motors created large-scale interactive presentation centers for car executives and designers to collaborate and make decisions on future models, using PortfolioWall software from Autodesk.

 

Telepresence in Medicine: ‘Telemedicine’

Telepresence systems are also used for remote medical evaluation and treatment; this is commonly know as telemedicine. This sector is likely to grow in the United States as part of the expansion of Accountable Care Organizations, which bring healthcare professionals together to treat patients in a collaborative team. Here you can see a custom boardroom table built by Formaspace for a telemedicine client.  The boardroom is hinged at one end, allowing it to open up like a pair of scissors so that meeting participants can see the video projection screen more easily. However, when meeting face to face, the boardroom table closes back together, forming a conventional table.

 

The Market for Network Operation Center-style Furniture and Video Walls Keeps Expanding

As the price of video equipment drops, we find the market for Network Operation Center-style furniture systems and video wall installations is expanding. Not only are more and more enterprise-level customers asking us to create telepresence furniture solutions and ergonomic multi-monitor workstation equipment (for traders at brokerage houses, for example), we are also building high-end furniture solutions for home theaters, as well as personal workstations that include three or more large-scale monitors.

 

Video Walls Applications for Digital Out of Home (DOOH) Advertising Media

Large-scale analog green screen walls have long been a staple of weather broadcasts, but they can’t compare to the visual effects of giant interactive digital video monitors, such as those seen on CNN breaking news reports, the popular CSI crime solving television series and the film “Minority Report“. Advertisers and marketers have taken notice of the power that video walls have over us. Now we are beginning to see this technology expand to non-traditional locations. It’s part of a new advertising industry sector, known by the acronynm DOOH, which stands for Digital Out of Home media. It’s a compelling way to capture ‘eyeballs’ in a world where consumers have learned to ignore traditional outdoor advertising media, like billboards. If you haven’t flown through Los Angeles’s airport LAX recently, take a moment to watch this promotional video, which features creative branding by Montréal’s Moment Factory agency.

 

 

Audi, the upscale division of Germany’s Volkswagen, has in recent years made aggressive moves to attract more affluent consumers away from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But many of the urban markets where their prospective customers live, work and play (such as London) are simply too congested and too expensive to acquire real estate needed to house a traditional automotive sales showroom. The solution? A virtual Audi car dealer showroom complete with video walls that watch you as you watch the video. At the showrooms, you can interact by gesture, not unlike a Wii or Dance Dance Revolution.

 

 

 

When we return next week, we’ll take a look at the events happening at SXSW, the annual music, film, and interactive technology conference and festival that kicks off in Austin on March 7.

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s Holds Annual Convention in Houston

Billed as the world’s largest gathering for laboratory medicine, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) annual meeting, held this week at the George Brown R. Convention Center in Houston, is designed to bring together world exports in lab design and lab management, analytic and clinical chemistry and microbiology.

 

AACC Annual Meeting and Lab Expo

 

Houston is the Logical Choice for AACC Annual Meeting

Home to a broad range of laboratories designed to investigate scientific questions, ranging from cancer research and space medicine to medical applications for nanotechnology and pharmacological drug trials, Houston is a logical choice to host the AACC annual meeting.

As a city best known as the world’s energy capital, Houston has steadily diversified its technology base. While its economy was once highly concentrated in the oil sector, the Houston region now boasts a significant number of important scientific research laboratories designed to further research in key areas of healthcare, clinical medicine, toxicology and more.

 

Houston Skyline image by The Odyssey Online
Houston Skyline image by The Odyssey Online

 

Understanding Key Regional Research Labs

Let’s take a quick tour of some of the region’s key research labs, starting with Johnson Space Center, whose laboratory facilities are designed to support human spaceflight training, research, and flight control.

 

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC)

Located on the south side of Houston near Galveston Bay, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) is a key facility within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). First opened in 1963, JSC is perhaps best known as the home of ‘Mission Control’ for the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. Many of JSC’s laboratories are designed to train the astronauts for flight operations and Formaspace is proud to count JSC as one of its laboratory furniture customers. They seem to value our maple work surfaces for their high durability and easy maintenance, ideal for more industrial labs.

 

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Our next research lab stop is UTHealth, located in the renowned Texas Medical Center, whose fifty member institutions include hundreds of laboratories designed to advance medical research in clinical patient care.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is the cornerstone of medical education at the Texas Medical Center. UTHealth boasts six medical schools, including dentistry, medicine, nursing, biomedical informatics and biomedical informatics, with annual research expenditures exceeding $225 million annually. Its primary teaching hospitals are Memorial Hermann, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital. UTHealth is also a Formaspace laboratory furniture customer, purchasing c-arms based on a prototype we generated for them as well as epoxy lab benches.

 

Rice University

Adjacent to the Texas Medical Center is Rice University, known for its labs designed to discover new advances in pharmaceutical drug development, cancer research and nanotechnology science.

Rice University has a very strong focus on applied science, with sponsored research funding totaling over $115 million annually. Rice University is a noted laboratory research leader in the fields of materials science and nanotechnology, space science, cancer research and medical device development, including laboratory research on the design of artificial heart devices. And we’re happy to say they are a Formaspace laboratory furniture customer as well.

 

The University of Houston (UH)

Located nearby, the University of Houston is also home to an impressive number of labs designed to support biomedical science and space research.

Just east of Rice University is the University of Houston (UH), the third-largest university in Texas. In recent years, UH has invested heavily in research laboratories in an effort designed to solidify its position as a ‘tier one’ research university. Over $130 million is spent annually on research across more than 40 research centers and nearly 50 campus laboratories. Like the other institutions on our Houston tour, University of Houston is also a Formaspace laboratory furniture customer who values our phenolic resin lab benches and epoxy tables for its science and research labs.

 

Formaspace Wishes You a Great Annual Meeting

In close, we’d like to extend warm greetings to the lab design and clinical chemistry experts attending the AACC annual meeting. We look forward to learning about some of the latest scientific discoveries which will be presented this week.

This concludes our quick tour of Houston’s leading research lab institutions, although there are much more across the region which we hope to feature in a future article. Also, don’t forget that if you happen to be looking for a laboratory design partner, be sure to make contact with us here at Formaspace today. Our experts can help you design your laboratory and equip it with the exact modern modular or traditional casework lab furniture you want.

 

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