Biodiesel one slick solution, but more to come

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first_imgTeams of undergraduate students huddled quietly around the gray metal desks in the teaching labs at Harvard’s Science Center. Each group was creating a calorimeter out of a used soda can and scavenged Styrofoam cups to determine the energy density and efficiency of the biodiesel they had extracted the week before from waste fryer oil provided by Annenberg Dining Hall.The students’ research factors into both scholarship and institutional action as Harvard works to generate solutions to the challenge of climate change. They have joined the ranks of Harvard Kennedy School faculty member James Stock, who received one of the first Climate Change Solutions Fund grants for his research investigating market impediments to biofuels penetration. Institutionally, the students are looking at the University’s 2004 decision to fuel its shuttles with biodiesel, which emerged as an alternative fuel source for vehicles because it creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reduces pollution.“The biodiesel lesson definitely personalized the manner in which we utilize energy here on campus,” said Victor Agbafe ’19. “In many instances, when we are thinking about how Harvard as an institution is trying its best to set new trends in saving energy, it can be abstract, and we can’t often observe tangible examples of how this is implemented on a daily basis.”Students involved in the teaching lab’s biodiesel experiment said the work has given them new perspectives on the larger local, regional, and global issues of energy and sustainability.The story of how waste vegetable oil from Harvard’s freshman dining hall ended up being used in one of the College’s most popular chemistry classes began as a collaboration between the Office for Sustainability’s (OFS) FAS Green Program and Sirinya Matchacheep, Ph.D. ’07, the director of instructional programs in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Matchacheep, an active OFS Green Team member, wanted to incorporate lessons from the campus commitment to sustainability into the curriculum of the teaching labs classes she facilitates. She partnered with sustainability coordinator Anthony Michetti to identify several creative ways to do just that for the nearly 400 students taking the Chemistry Department’s entry-level PS1 and PS11 classes.,“Energy and sustainability are both interesting and relevant,” said Matchacheep. “By incorporating these topics and real-world examples from the campus into our classroom, students can walk out of the lab and understand what is being talked about in the news, and have the tools to make informed decisions.”Students heard directly from Michetti about Harvard’s Sustainability Plan and the goal set in 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016. They learned how blackberries and raspberries used as part of a solar cell lab were composted, providing additional insight into waste reduction efforts across campus. Tours of the University’s Blackstone Steam Plant and chilled-water facilities gave a hands-on demonstration of energy systems and the chemistry of the heating and cooling cycle.Harvard’s faculty and students are increasingly using the campus and surrounding community as living laboratories for understanding the multifaceted problems posed by global climate change and sustainable development. In the past year, the Office for Sustainability has increased resources and attention to facilitate a greater number of these projects to provide valuable experiential learning opportunities and inform the work being done on campus to reduce energy and enhance well-being.“Previously, I wasn’t very familiar with how what we usually consider waste on campus can be used for sustainable purposes,” said Jesper Ke ’19. “Participating in this lab and hearing directly from those at Harvard working on sustainability has made me more mindful of the role that we students can also play in helping with these efforts.”last_img read more

Novelist Perrotta headlines LITFest

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first_imgLITFest, Harvard’s celebration of the written word, returns this weekend with readings, panels, and workshops featuring literary voices in fiction, nonfiction, oral storytelling, poetry, and television. The festival begins Friday and ends Saturday in a conversation with novelist Tom Perrotta, author of “The Leftovers,” and Nick Cuse ’13, who writes for the adapted version of the work for HBO television with Perrotta. The talk will begin at 7 p.m. in Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall.The two authors, along with Bret Johnston, head of Harvard’s Creative Writing program, spoke with the Gazette about what goes on in a writers’ room, why writing isn’t a special-occasion activity, and what about the television show improves on the book.GAZETTE: How did you learn to write?PERROTTA: I’ve had much more of an old-school writing education. I took a lot of undergrad classes, and then got my M.F.A. at Syracuse in the mid-1980s with Tobias Wolff. I came out expecting to be a fiction writer full time, which I did for a number of years. I also taught creative writing at Yale and at Harvard Extension School for a number of years. My challenge was figuring out how to balance my life as a writer with life as teacher. About 15 years ago, I stopped teaching and switched to screenwriting, in addition to my work as a novelist.CUSE: My experience was different. I grew up making movies with my friends right when you could first get a cheap video camera and edit a movie on your computer. That was my hobby. We would conceptualize and write stuff down and film and edit all together. There was something appealing to me about going to school and studying that wasn’t directly continuing from that. I studied English, which was reading and analytical, but I also took fiction with Bret Johnston. A lot had been in my mind, telling stories through little videos that I had never thought of in a more academic way. I’ve been able to apply the way we discussed prose to what I do now, which is again making videos, although they’re a little more expensive now if they’re for HBO. It came full circle.JOHNSTON: When you’re watching a show like “The Leftovers,” you feel like you’re getting as much from literature as what you get from television because these writers have a background in fiction. It converges in a way that feels like where we are in the culture at large. TV is in such a great place because it has so many sophisticated writers making it. When I think back to Nick in class, I remember how incredibly astute he was in the way he read other people’s stories and offered suggestions on how things could be fixed. Week by week, I watched him inhabiting himself as a writer more and more fully.PERROTTA: That happened at the show as well. He started as the assistant in the writers’ room. It’s an entry-level and mostly silent position. In three years, he became a very important colleague in the room and changed the course of the show in very crucial ways. I was the oldest person in the room, and Nick was the youngest. In the end, I don’t think it mattered to either of us.GAZETTE: Tom, what was it like to take your novel from the solitary experience of author to a room full of writers who would define it as a TV show?PERROTTA: When I wrote the book, I knew I wanted to turn it into a TV series. It felt like the natural place where I didn’t have to shove my novel into a feature film format. I was coming from a realistic literary tradition, and Damon Lindelof (co-creator of the TV adaptation) is a very much pop-culture guy. It was such an act of faith on both our parts to find a voice that could include all of the influences we were bringing. It wasn’t always easy to do. There were moments of frustration — that’s what collaboration is. “The Leftovers” the show is very different from the book. Yet parts of the book remain strong throughout. Nick knows there were rocky moments along the way, but all the struggles were ultimately for the benefit of the show.The writers were such a revelation to me. Everyone had to explain his/her choices in real time. We’d reach a fork in the road [where] you could go this way or that way, and then someone might come in with a third way. I would be interested in making a class out of a writers’ room. People could learn a lot over watching other writers think and argue over choices.CUSE: People tend to leave out of their imagination one aspect of what a writers’ room is like — which is the time spent laughing and joking with each other. You feel very close to these people, which allows you to share and take risks with your ideas. I didn’t think of Tom as the writer of the book, which, I think, is a huge compliment. It requires a tremendous amount of generosity to not let people think of you as author of this book. It was a level playing field, which is why it was such a successful collaboration.PERROTTA: I did feel like I had to argue for my ideas the same way everyone else did. There were times people had great ideas that made me wish I could go back to the novel. I’ll give you one example: In season one, there were these “Loved One” dolls people use to grieve. They’re very accurate computer-assisted replicas of people who disappeared. In any case, they originated as a world-building exercise where we tried to imagine all sorts of social changes caused by the “sudden departure.” The “Loved Ones” were such a cool idea that we went back to them again and again over the course of the season, and used them prominently in the finale.GAZETTE: Where do you find emotional gravitas in a story?PERROTTA: Some writers live in their private worlds, but I am somebody who does try to react in real time to current events. The book “Election” emerged from the 1992 election, and “Little Children” was inspired by a national debate about sex offenders and their place in the community. “The Leftovers” had its roots in both public and private events. I was reacting to 9/11 and the economic collapse of 2008, while also dealing with the emotional fallout from my father’s sudden death in a car accident. I also write from obsession, things I can’t stop thinking about.CUSE: I’m a little more looking outward to inward. I’m a fairly curious guy, and I read and watch a lot of stuff, looking for things that are interesting and stick in my head. If they stick in my head, then I know they are personal to me in some way. The idea of them lingering compels me to put them in a story.GAZETTE: We are only days into the Trump administration, and these seem like surreal times. How are you thinking about events in terms of your art?PERROTTA: “The Leftovers” is, in one way, a critique of apocalyptic thinking. We have been obsessed that something terrible was about to happen, that there was a collective loss — of faith, of art, of climate, of viruses, all these artistic expressions — and our future was no longer guaranteed. Everybody feels the apocalypse is on the way, but the world looks the same. I feel the world has caught up with us.CUSE: I think about the Eden collapse myth — that there was a garden where everything was perfect, and we messed it up. There’s something so attractive about that story. The good times are over, and now it’s bad times. That story has always been a successful story to tell. And its magnetic pull is particularly strong now. But any version of the future is a story because we don’t know what it is going to be yet.PERROTTA: [President] Trump was telling it from another standpoint. Let’s go back to that perfect time. We’re all looking at the same narrative but from different places on the timeline. For Trump voters, that was their paradise. It was their mythical time that allowed you to take care of your family. Any story about a glorified past has deep roots.GAZETTE: What is your advice for young writers, especially when they are struggling with writing?PERROTTA: You can see it in the different paths we took. I would encourage young writers to not get too hung up on one format over another. There are all sorts of ways to be a writer right now, so jump around. Learn to treat writing as a job. Separate it from something you do on special occasions when you feel inspired. It’s work. It’s wonderful work, but the sooner you treat it as work, the faster you’ll become a real writer.CUSE: Schedule your writing in advance. If it’s in your schedule and you follow your schedule, it solves a lot of your problems, [including] writer’s block, which maybe wasn’t really there in the first place. It helps me to ask myself, “What do I really like?” or “What book or movie am I excited about when it’s coming out?” It gets me excited to think about what makes me more productive.last_img read more

Harvard Global Institute grants expand scope

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first_imgIn its third year of awarding grants, the Harvard Global Institute (HGI) will fund eight projects that engage faculty across six Harvard Schools and extend its geographic scope and research capacity.The Harvard Global Institute was established by President Drew Faust in 2015 to promote University-wide, interdisciplinary scholarship on pressing global challenges. With support from the Dalian Wanda Group and its chairman, Wang Jianlin, HGI is funding ambitious projects that bring together Harvard faculty and Chinese collaborators to research matters related to air quality, climate change, biodiversity, health, and urbanization.While three projects will focus on topics that are particularly relevant to China, five will address issues that are salient to India. Funding for the India research grants is provided by the President’s Global Initiatives Support Fund, established by alumni and friends on the Global Advisory Council.Both small and large categories of grants are awarded, at a maximum of $100,000 and $1 million per year, respectively.This year’s grant recipients:Eugene Wang, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art, proposes an investigation of the sources of human consciousness, meditation and mindfulness, and the relationship between art and technology by focusing on the experience of viewing the Buddhist caves of Dunhuang, China. Wang intends to “elucidate the mural and sculptural program of embellished Buddhist caves” by creating an educational film that demonstrates how the Buddhist mind works in caves.Peter Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and James Hankins, professor of history, propose a comparative study of the means used by various historical societies to improve the moral and intellectual quality of political elites via education, customs, culture, and institutions. They hope to use the insights of modern Confucian political philosophy to illuminate the issues involved, while also supplying theorists with the fruits of historical research, particularly which means for improving moral and intellectual leadership have proven most successful in past societies.In a project titled “A New Strategy for the U.S. and China: Joint Research on Air Pollution and Climate Using Innovative Airborne Instrumentation,” Professors James Anderson and Frank Keutsch propose developing a joint strategy for obtaining reliable observations of the key processes controlling concentrations of pollutants relevant to human health and climate. The work will lay the foundation for longer-term collaboration and launching future joint (airborne) field campaigns. Future advances in instrumentation will then contain contributions from both sides, as will defining and solving the key scientific questions within the context of air pollution and climate. Anderson is Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Keutsch is Stonington Professor of Engineering and Atmospheric Science and professor of chemistry and chemical biology.Co-investigators Sunil Amrith, Mehra Family Professor of South Asian Studies, and David Jones, A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine, will conduct historical research to understand the distinct but linked histories of air pollution and heart disease over the past decade in India. Their analyses of the shifting causes of air pollution, the ways in which it became a cause of public concern, governments’ responses to that problem, and the prospects for successful reform should provide valuable guidance for policy makers today — in India and other developing countries. The investigators will collaborate with the Public Health Foundation of India to make this connection between history and policy.Jacqueline Bhabha, professor of the practice of health and human rights, and Aisha Yousafzai, associate professor of global health, will research interventions that pre-empt and eliminate harm to vulnerable children by evaluating prevention strategies used by three innovative nonprofits in India. There is a clear and pressing need for evidence that supports such interventions to protect children. The project aims to further our practical understanding of what “prevention” entails and how it can be operationalized at the local level, providing an evidence-based case for increased investment in such programs. It aims to develop a methodological approach to “prevention science” that will spark further global research in this field.Daniel Nocera, Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy, and Rohini Pande, Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy, will bring Nocera’s clean-energy innovation — the “bionic leaf” — together with Pande’s policy research to inform the adoption of the clean energy generated by the bionic leaf in India. The collaboration will not only set the stage for the successful introduction and scaling of bionic leaf technology in India, but also create the framework to accelerate the adoption of greenhouse-gas-reducing innovations in the future.In her project “Coal-based Energy Generation in India: Managing Local and Global Environmental and Human Health Impacts,” Elsie Sunderland and her collaborators in India will test the hypothesis that health impacts attributed to coal-fired power plants have been substantially underestimated because they do not include damages associated with toxic heavy metal exposures. Coal-fired power generation accounts for approximately 70 percent of India’s energy demands, and is presently increasing at a rate of 3.5 percent per year to meet the needs of a growing population. However, most Indian plants still lack even basic pollution control technology. The proposed research will combine field measurements, modeling, and exposure analysis in two Indian cities that have large residential communities next to coal-fired power plants. Sunderland is Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering.Faust also awarded a grant to Emmerich Davies, assistant professor of education. His project, “Power to the Parents: Local Community Participation in Delhi Schools,” aims to test the impact of two separate interventions to encourage greater parental participation in school management committees. These interventions look to increase the diversity of parents who run for elected positions on school management committees, as well as encourage broad-based participation in these bodies, with the ultimate goal of improved educational outcomes.HGI will accept expressions of interest for the next grant cycle in December. Once again, there will be a small amount of funding available for projects in India. HGI will also welcome projects with a China-India comparative component. More information on grants and the upcoming grant cycle can be found on the HGI website.To read about 2015 and 2016 grant recipients’ projects, visit the HGI website.last_img read more

Hillary Clinton to receive Radcliffe Medal

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first_imgThe Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study announced today that former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will receive the prestigious Radcliffe Medal on May 25 during Harvard’s Commencement week.Awarded on Radcliffe Day, the annual gathering to celebrate the institute’s commitment to excellence and inquiry, the medal honors individuals whose lives and work have had a transformative impact on society.Radcliffe Dean Lizabeth Cohen called Clinton a “champion for human rights” and for the welfare of all, a “skilled legislator,” and “an advocate of American leadership to create a world in which states live up to their responsibilities.”A former first lady, Clinton served as a U.S. senator from New York from 2001 to 2009 before taking over as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. She was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2016, the first woman candidate for that office from a major political party.“Hillary Clinton’s life and career are an inspiration to people around the world,” said Cohen, who is also the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in Harvard’s Department of History. “We commend Secretary Clinton for her accomplishments in the public sphere as a champion for human rights and the welfare of all, as a skilled legislator, and as an advocate of American leadership to create a world in which states — to quote Secretary Clinton — ‘have clear incentives to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as strong disincentives to … sow discord and division.’ We salute her commitment to a life of public service and the resilience it takes to live and work in the public eye.”“Whether in Arkansas, Washington, D.C., New York state, or traveling around the globe as secretary of state,” Cohen said, “Secretary Clinton has provided a model of what it takes to transform society, often under scrutiny: tireless effort, toughness amid the political fray, and an enduring capacity to envision a better future.”Previous medalists include U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Prominent Civil Rights leader and congressman will address Afternoon Program Related Radcliffe Day will feature a tribute to Clinton from Albright, a global affairs trailblazer, followed by a wide-ranging keynote conversation between Clinton and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey ’92.The day’s program will open with a panel titled “Toward a New Global Architecture? America’s Role in a Changing World.” In 2009, Clinton outlined a vision for a global architecture with both incentives to cooperate and disincentives to cause friction. Nearly a decade later, the U.S. is still grappling with complex questions about its role in global affairs. Nicholas Burns, the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and undersecretary of state for political affairs, will moderate a discussion exploring these issues with the foreign-policy experts Michèle Flournoy, David Ignatius, Meghan O’Sullivan, and Anne-Marie Slaughter.The Radcliffe Institute is dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across all disciplines. Each year, the Institute hosts 50 leading scholars, scientists, and artists from around the world in its residential fellowship program. Radcliffe fosters innovative research collaborations and offers hundreds of public lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences, and other events annually.The institute also is home to the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, the nation’s foremost archive on the history of women, gender, and sexuality. Lewis named Harvard Commencement speakerlast_img read more

Novel cancer treatment gets major boost

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first_img Designed to target skin cancer, implantable vaccine opens door to treating many cancers, inflammatory diseases Cancer vaccine begins Phase I clinical trials Personal cancer vaccines show promise Tumor-specific peptides could help eradicate tumors and prevent them from recurring Cancer vaccine success Implant-based cancer vaccine is first to eliminate tumors in mice Related Unlike cell-based cancer immunotherapies that manipulate immune cells outside of the body and transferring them into patients, the implantable immuno-material approach activates endogenous immune cells inside a patient’s own body to launch an attack on his or her cancer. The novel technique was developed, incubated, and advanced at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) by David Mooney, Wyss core faculty member, leader of the Immuno-Materials initiative at the Wyss Institute, and Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.Made of the polymer that’s used in biodegradable sutures, this aspirin-sized device is designed to deliver immunotherapy agents that activate the immune system against tumors. Image courtesy of the Wyss Institute at Harvard UniversityThe Wyss Institute and SEAS announced Tuesday that Novartis will have access to commercially develop their therapeutic, biomaterial-based cancer vaccine technology that promotes cancer immunity. Under a licensing agreement spearheaded by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), Novartis will have worldwide rights, in target-limited applications, to develop and translate this treatment approach.The first-generation therapy consists of a porous scaffold made from a widely used biodegradable medical polymer infused with inactivated antigens from the patient’s own tumor cells, as well as immunostimulatory molecules that attract dendritic cells of the immune system to the immuno-material site and activate them to stimulate a host response. Once activated, the dendritic cells move to nearby lymph nodes to orchestrate anti-tumor responses throughout the body.“This work resulted from a remarkable cross-disciplinary effort using the combined expertise of bioengineers, cancer biologists, and immunologists,” said Mooney. “We have demonstrated that these biomaterials can be easily delivered to patients, provide sustained and local release of immune-modulating factors, and bypass the need for modification of cells outside the body. This concept has led to a very promising platform for cancer immunotherapy.”,In 2013, the Wyss Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) initiated a Phase I clinical trial at DFCI to test the safety of the first of these implantable, immuno-material-based vaccines in patients with melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer. The trial, led by F. Stephen Hodi Jr., director of DFCI’s Melanoma Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is still ongoing with many of its original patients.The trial followed extensive preclinical studies by a collaborative team headed by Mooney and Glenn Dranoff, who at the time was a Wyss Institute associate faculty member and co-leader of Dana Farber’s Cancer Vaccine Center. The team demonstrated that the vaccine could potentially shrink or eradicate multiple types of tumors, in addition to acting as a prophylactic, in various animal models. Dranoff is now global head of exploratory immuno-oncology at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. Novartis has also established a collaboration agreement with the Wyss Institute to further develop biomaterial systems for its portfolio of second-generation immuno-oncology therapies.“When we initiated this cancer vaccine program at the Wyss Institute, it was strike zone for what we wanted to pursue — a research project conceived by our visionary faculty that was high-risk and required a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary effort but had the potential to bring about a transformative advance in clinical care,” said Wyss Institute Director Donald Ingber, the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.“Then, with the vision and collaborative support of another institutional member of the Wyss Institute consortium, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we made the decision to co-fund a Phase I clinical trial inside academia, which was really pushing the envelope. Thus, this agreement is extremely exciting for us because it validates our innovation model, but even more importantly, it will bring an exciting new therapeutic modality into the clinic for patients with many different types of cancer.”In addition to Mooney, Dranoff, and Hodi, other collaborators include Wyss senior staff scientist Edward Doherty, Wyss Institute staff scientist Omar Ali, DFCI Executive Director Jerome Ritz, Dana-Farber surgeons Sara Russell and Charles Yoon, Wyss Institute scientist Alexander Stafford, and other Wyss Institute researchers and clinical research team members at Dana-Farber.The development and study of the cancer vaccine was funded by the Wyss Institute, DFCI, and the National Institutes of Health. The licensed technologies are owned or co-owned by Harvard University, DFCI, and the University of Michigan.last_img read more

Harvard ramps up focus on Europe

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first_imgIn the wake of Europe’s devastation in World War II, the close-knit relationship between the democracies of Western Europe and the U.S. has been so resolute, so foundational, that it became the dominant narrative of the liberal world order. The partnership has had its ups and downs — such as over the Vietnam War, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan — yet its importance and relevance was never in doubt.But now, as the U.S. and its allies prepare to meet in Brussels on July 11-12 for a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),  that bedrock bond seems increasingly shaky.Since President Trump took office, he has repeatedly questioned NATO’s value and spoken in lukewarm terms about U.S. defense obligations there. In recent weeks, he has threatened to impose stiff tariffs on European imports, saying the European Union (EU) was set up to “take advantage” of the U.S. President Trump reportedly urged French President Emmanuel Macron to pull France out of the union, dangling a favorable bilateral trade deal as incentive. He has spoken dismissively of German leader Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful head of state, while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, viewed widely as an existential threat to Eastern Europe and NATO.“I think there’s a pervasive sense in Europe … that this administration is drifting away from this rock-solid alliance that we’ve had for seven decades,” said Nicholas Burns, the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, M.P.A. ’10, who is from Germany and has studied and worked in European politics, agrees. Europeans are “nervous and anxious in a way that I haven’t perceived since the Cold War, because the maneuvers of the administration in Washington are making Europeans’ heads spin, and it deprives Europeans of a sense of stability that allows them to do other work,” she said.To help ease these tensions and expand an area of teaching and research, Burns and Clüver Ashbrook are overseeing a new academic program designed to further students’ understanding of the U.S.-Europe relationship and encourage them to dive into practical public policy issues and challenges in that arena.The Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship will dig into economics and trade issues; security policy, including cyber issues and threats; the challenges facing democracy, such as the surge of nationalist movements, terrorism, and transnational organized crime; and diplomacy as a tool for global problem-solving and peacekeeping. The program also will look at the role of regional players, including Russia, Ukraine, and former states of the Soviet Union.Students and faculty will focus on and try to work through big-picture questions about the vitality of democracy on both continents, taking on such concerns as what to do about immigration; Britain’s pending departure from the EU; the surge of well-financed populist political candidates; the viability of political, economic, and legal institutions in the EU and the U.S., including a free press and the internet; and how to address Putin’s relentless attacks on their democracies.“What is the West today; what does the West really mean; what is the life in what we define as our Western values — are we actually still talking about the same things? And what should define this relationship for the 21th century?” asked Clüver Ashbrook, the project’s executive director. She and Burns, its faculty director, will continue to run the popular Future of Diplomacy Project at HKS.The Europe project leadership team includes Karl Kaiser, co-chair of the European Union seminar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard and a former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Manuel Muñiz, dean of the IE School of International Relations in Spain and senior associate of the Trans-Atlantic Relations Initiative at HKS.In early July, the project will co-host a three-day conference in Spain with the IE School to discuss the current concerns confronting the trans-Atlantic relationship. The conference, which will feature Harvard faculty along with European policymakers and practitioners, is planned to become an annual event.In the fall, the project will begin offering three courses on Europe each academic year. Once a permanent faculty chair dedicated to European teaching and research is established, the slate of courses will expand. Each semester, fellows will lead intensive study groups on challenges or issues, and former European public-service figures will visit to debrief students about their experiences and weigh in on critical debates.Next year, Burns and former NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute plan to conduct a study reimagining NATO to coincide with the alliance’s 70th anniversary and to organize conferences in Cambridge and Paris to mark the centennial of the Treaty of Versailles.With many senior officials having left the State Department since 2016, Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and Greece who spent 27 years as a diplomat, says there’s a necessary professional and intellectual “passing of the torch” from the Cold War to the post-Cold War generation going on at universities and think tanks.“We do want to train the next generation of Atlanticists. We want young millennials to feel as connected across the Atlantic as we did, because it’s still vital,” he said. “This is not yesterday’s story.”Burns said the project is not a response to Trump’s often-hostile attitude toward Europe. The need to return European public policymaking and U.S. relations to the front burner goes back years, he said.Between Japan’s economic rise in the 1980s and China’s ascendancy as a global power over the last two decades, much of U.S. foreign policy that hasn’t centered on the Middle East has shifted toward Asia. And though that focus is logical, the U.S. sometimes seems to have forgotten how important its relationship with Europe remains. The continent is America’s largest trading partner and the largest investor in its economy. And NATO contains a large block of U.S. allies, said Burns.With the University home to the country’s first school of government, “We want Harvard to play a role in … promoting further understanding of the value of the trans-Atlantic relationship. There’s so much here. We ought to be teaching more about this, [have] more fellows, more intellectual firepower by our students and faculty trained on these issues,” said Burns. “It’s an academic effort, but it’s being produced in part because the relationship needs help.”Europe is under a lot of pressure and in a “battle of ideas” against Russia and its supporters, who rail against the very notion of Western democracy, said Burns.“We need to remind ourselves, through academic research, study, fellowships, training, why this is important — the future of the free world,” he said.last_img read more

Want to quit smoking? There’s the e-cigarette

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first_imgBy the second and third years of data gathering, daily e-cigarette users reported a higher rate of prolonged abstinence from cigarette smoking (11 percent) than nonusers (6 percent). Smokers who used e-cigarettes, but not daily, were not more likely than nonusers to demonstrate prolonged abstinence from combustible cigarettes.“This finding suggests that smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking need to use them regularly — every day — for these products to be most helpful,” said lead author Sara Kalkhoran, an MGH physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS).“Smokers who plan to stop smoking should still be encouraged to first use FDA-approved therapies rather than e-cigarettes,” said Nancy Rigotti, senior author of the paper and director of the MGH Tobacco Research and Treatment Center. FDA-approved therapies for smoking cessation include varenicline, bupropion, or nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges. “But this study suggests e-cigarettes may be helpful for some smokers who are not able to quit with these existing treatments,” she added.E-cigarettes contain nicotine but do not burn tobacco, which is responsible for many of the health problems associated with smoking combustible cigarettes. “For a smoker, e-cigarettes are less harmful to their health than continuing to smoke cigarettes,” said Rigotti, who is also a professor of medicine at HMS. “But e-cigarettes have become popular so quickly that many questions remain about how they can best be used to help smokers to quit and minimize any harm.” The third member of this MGH research team was Yuchiao Chang.Although the rate of smoking in this country has been falling, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 34 million Americans currently smoke cigarettes. Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year in this country alone, including more than 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure. E-cigarettes’ usefulness for quitting smoking uncertain Controversy over e-cigarette flavorings heats up Related New study looks at two chemicals that may damage cilia production Trend concerns Harvard analyst, though practice is preferable to smoking tobacco Teen vaping rising fast, research says A new study from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Tobacco Research and Treatment Center provides critical population-level evidence demonstrating that using e-cigarettes daily helps U.S. smokers quit smoking combustible (i.e. regular) cigarettes.The report, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research online, provides the first longitudinal data about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for cessation from a survey that reflects the U.S. population. The MGH team analyzed data from the first three years of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, a survey representative of the U.S. adult population that interviews the same individuals each year. The survey allowed the researchers to measure an individual’s change in tobacco use over time.Using data from more than 8,000 adult smokers, the investigators measured how likely a smoker was to quit smoking and stay quit, comparing daily and non-daily e-cigarette users with those who smoked only regular cigarettes. They found that smokers who used e-cigarettes every day, compared with e-cigarette nonusers, were more likely to quit combustible cigarettes within one year and to stay quit for at least another year. They also found that smokers who used e-cigarettes were no more likely to relapse back to smoking regular cigarettes than smokers not using e-cigarettes.At the start of the study 3.6 percent of smokers were current daily e-cigarette users; 18 percent were current non-daily e-cigarette users; and 78 percent did not use e-cigarettes at all “This study suggests e-cigarettes may be helpful for some smokers who are not able to quit with existing treatments.” — Nancy Rigotti Study supports need for randomized clinical trials to clarify the role of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation   last_img read more

Uncommon coinage

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first_imgAmong the Harvard Art Museums’ vast treasures is a miniature work that marked a murderous coup.Minted in the Roman Republic in 43‒42 BCE, the small silver coin features the head of Marcus Junius Brutus on one side, and two daggers, a hat often worn by a freed slave, and the Latin words Eid Mar (“Ides of March,” in English) on the other. It was struck by Brutus, who, along with several other members of the Roman Senate, stabbed the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to death on March 15, 44 B.C. Caesar’s assassination set off a scramble for power that would ultimately spell the end of the Roman Republic and inaugurate the Roman Empire under the reign of his adopted son and heir, Octavian, known to history as the Emperor Augustus.The imagery on the piece is unmistakable and “very powerful,” said Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, who recently retired after almost two decades as the museums’ first curator of ancient coins. During her tenure, Arnold-Biucchi helped bring roughly 2,000 other pieces to Harvard, small-scale works of art adorned with mythical creatures, ancient architecture, biblical references, important people, and poignant dates. Her acquisitions are key historical artifacts that augment the museums’ collection of more than 20,000 Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins. In some cases, in fact, they are among the few existing remnants of parts of the past.Arnold-Biucchi was teaching a seminar in Hellenistic coins several years ago when a student mentioned his interest in seeing the Greek world from another perspective. “Suddenly, I realized that we have very few ancient Jewish coins, which are extremely important,” she said, “because there are so few material documents for Jewish history left.” Arnold-Biucchi filled that gap by acquiring coins from the Hasmonaean and Herodian kings, from the first and the second Jewish revolts (under Titus and under Hadrian), and other coins connected to ancient Jewish life.The Swiss Italian native said she isn’t entirely sure what drew her to study classical archaeology, a field that includes coins, while she was a student at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Languages or medical school didn’t appeal to her, but history, and the study of ancient, tangible objects, did. And coins, which she eventually gravitated toward, were some of the most tangible artifacts around. Denarius of L. Plaetorius Cestianus for Brutus, Moving Mint. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins Related An unanticipated juxtaposition Radcliffe fellow heads a team helping preserve the ancient city of Nicomedia in modern-day Turkey center_img Uncovering an ancient world “Coins were meant to circulate and to be touched,” said Arnold-Biucchi, whose position was endowed as the Damarete Curatorship of Ancient Coins in 2009. Before arriving on campus in 2002 she spent 18 years at the American Numismatic Society in New York City. At Harvard she has organized, cataloged, and digitized the collection and promoted coins as important windows to history, teaching in the Department of the Classics and at the Harvard Extension School, and always engaging students directly with the collection. “They are among the few types of objects in the museum that people can touch,” said Arnold-Biucchi, “and that is very powerful. So when I teach, I always teach with the coins.”Also powerful is the fact that coins can shine a very distinct light on history. Created by the state, ancient coins often carry important information about a society’s economy, political history, trading patterns, culture, religion, and rulers through their images, materials, and the technologies used to create them. And because they were created in bulk — one pair of dies, notes Arnold-Biucchi, could strike 20,000 coins — and made from durable materials, they survive in large numbers. They also often contain information that ties them to a specific period or even an exact date, said Arnold-Biucchi,who calls them “original works of ancient sculpture in miniature.” Among her favorites at the museums is the dekadrachm of Akragas from the end of the fifth century B.C. Only 10 are known to exist, and Harvard’s is the only one in the U.S. Roughly the size of a silver dollar, it is one of the largest denominations of ancient coinage (originally worth 10 drachmas, the standard unit of Greek coinage) and its detailed engraving renders it an artistic tour de force. On one side two eagles peck at a hare (the eagle is a mark of Zeus), on the other a naked youth drives a four-horse chariot.,“Most of the coins of Sicily have a four-horse chariot with a victory on top,” said Arnold-Biucchi who noted the dekadrachm would most likely have been used to pay high-ranking military men. But the coin’s imagery didn’t honor a political victory, she added. “The Sicilian tyrants of the fifth century B.C. were very wealthy, so they would send their chariots to compete at the games of Olympia.”Arnold-Biucchi said she leaves Harvard inspired by her years at the museums, by her colleagues, and by a message from the University’s recent commencement speaker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who encouraged her listeners to embrace change. Near the end of her address in May Merkel told the crowd gathered in Tercentenary Theatre: “I believe that time and time again we need to be prepared to keep bringing things to an end in order to feel the magic of new beginnings.”“I will do that too,” said Arnold-Biucchi.The Harvard Art Museums has more than 150 coins on display in the ancient art galleries on the third floor. Online visitors can explore the coin collection via the museums’ website. Harvard Art Museum curators challenge expectations with new art pairinglast_img read more

Sustainability in Big Sky Country

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first_imgThe young Blake family left Boston and moved to Big Timber, Mont., in the early 1970s to try their luck at cattle ranching. Since then, Francis ’61, Sandi, and their sons, Peter ’93, Alex ’96, and Amory ’98 (who was born a few years after the move) have spent the better part of five decades turning a patch of unloved dirt into a ranch and nursery built for sustainability. Alex, who was just a month old when he arrived in Montana, now runs day-to-day operations with help from his father and younger brother, Amory. He says that his parents recognized early on that the long-term viability of the business would depend on embracing smart conservation practices. The Gazette recently spoke with Alex, who was an economics concentrator and heavyweight crew team captain at Harvard, about the business and his views on the future of regenerative ranching in Montana, and across the country. BLAKE: While we have a long way to go on this front, our long-term goal is to restore our rangelands to their historic potential. This would mean much greater plant diversity, increased soil organic matter, better wildlife habitat, and ultimately healthier, happier cows. Some of the specific goals and targets that we think about are increasing our livestock carrying capacity through better grazing management, further reducing the need for livestock (hay, protein supplements) and chemical (herbicide and pesticide) inputs, and developing a herd that’s a better fit for our environment (smaller-framed, better adapted to our harsh summer and winter climate). Through our involvement in a soil carbon program we’re taking a lot of baseline soil samples that will allow us to track organic matter and soil carbon levels. The program has a 30-year commitment, and we hope to see significant improvements over that time period. All of these goals tie directly to our bottom line. Considering the relatively small scale of our operation, we know that without making continuous improvements to our management skill set and on-the-ground practices we’ll have a hard time keeping this ranch economically viable.In the spirit of enterprise diversity, we’ve also developed a grass-fed beef program that will improve financial returns on our cattle herd. We sell directly to consumers who are interested in supporting our care for the land and animals. These animals are finished here on grass, never in feedlots, are handled using low-stress herding techniques, and have never received hormones or antibiotics, so we feel confident that we’re selling a great product. Ultimately, we would like to market all of our cattle through this program or a grass-fed beef cooperative that shares these management principles and values.GAZETTE: Talk about the climate of sustainable ranching, and your place, in the state of Montana.BLAKE: We consider ourselves fortunate to be working with many like-minded partners in the sustainable/regenerative ag movement. I work part-time with a great nonprofit called Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE) that’s providing resources to ranchers using regenerative practices, and there’s a great network of progressive ranchers spread across the state and region who are alumni of schools and workshops that promote sharing ideas and alternative management strategies. We’re still a very small percentage of the overall ranching community (and I want to acknowledge that many/most of the “traditional” ranchers care a lot about conservation and good management practices too), but I think the movement has been gaining a lot of interest as producers become more aware of the realities of climate change and resource scarcity.GAZETTE: What is the future of sustainable ranching more broadly?BLAKE: I’m really excited about the growing interest in understanding soil health and learning about how we can build and restore healthy soils on our native grasslands. A soil health conference held in Billings a few months ago drew close to 400 participants. That same conference drew only about 50 participants just a few years ago. We see similar interest in WSE workshops that address grazing management, low-stress livestock handling, and “drought-proofing” ranches, among other topics, so I’m optimistic about the future of regenerative ranching as younger generations see the imperative to be better stewards of our land, water, and wildlife resources.We know that consumers are also demanding more accountability in how land and livestock are managed, so being in a position to meet and document these expectations is important for the future of our industry. In my opinion, the potential for building soil organic matter and carbon sequestration though better grazing management is one of the biggest and most important developments in our industry. This is why we’re really excited to be one of the first ranches to sign up with a new grasslands soil carbon program, which will pay us for verified sequestered carbon. This program is unique because it also provides up-front funding for infrastructure improvements, through stock water and fencing, that will increase our ability to manage our grazing.Interview was edited for clarity and length. Q&AAlex BlakeGAZETTE: When did your family start thinking about the importance of sustainable practices?BLAKE: My parents realized soon after they moved our family here in 1973 that protecting our grasslands and conserving our precious soils and water resources was really important in making this ranch viable. In the early years they started fencing off riparian areas and adopting rotational grazing practices. They formalized their efforts to this end in the mid-1980s when my dad attended holistic resource management trainings, which promote “healthy land, healthy food, and healthy lives,” and further realized that there were some alternatives to the traditional practices that were in favor at the time.At the same time my mother, who started the nursery in 1977, was seeing increasing demand for native hardy plants and recognized that there were very few, if any, nurseries in the area that were growing and promoting their use in landscaping. There was a clear need for these types of trees, shrubs, and perennials, and she had a strong interest in them, so this was a clear business opportunity for the nursery. Native plants tend to thrive in harsh Montana conditions that can include extreme cold, difficult soil, drought, and heat, as they need a lot less water than many non-native species that are introduced, and which can at times outcompete, or even take over landscapes. My brother Amory now runs the nursery (with valuable support from our mother) and he has continued this emphasis on plants that will thrive in our challenging environment. GAZETTE: Environmental concerns were only beginning to catch on in the 1970s. So was there something about the ranch itself that made your parents so aware of the need for sustainable practices?BLAKE: Our ranch is not large by Montana standards, and we have had limited baseline soil and water resources from the outset, so conserving and hopefully improving what we had was important from day one. We want to give future generations the opportunity to continue living and working on this land. Considering changing climate conditions and uncertainties in our cattle markets, that may not be an option without good management practices. We also care a lot about maintaining open spaces and keeping ranch lands and farmland intact, so not getting ourselves in a financial position where we’d have to consider subdividing has also been an incentive to manage as best as we can. What will make our ranch sustainable in the long term is our ability to work together as family and pursue these passions of ours here on this landscape. I really like that I get to work cattle with my wife, Abby, and other family members, and now my 11-month-old daughter, Mabel, is often along for the ride. It is powerful to share these enjoyable and sometimes challenging aspects of ranching with people we love.GAZETTE: What are some examples of the sustainable practices you employ?,BLAKE: We use regenerative grazing practices that attempt to mimic how this landscape historically would have been used by bison. In practice this means short-duration, high-intensity grazing with an emphasis on long rest periods. Our native landscapes in Montana need grazing; the types of species of plant life that grow in Montana don’t always do well when left to their own devices. A limited amount of grazing can stimulate plant growth, clean up old dead grasses, and as this happens, encourage deeper root growth and nutrient cycling.We have also built a low-input cow herd that fits our environment (low annual precipitation, hot, dry summers, and, historically, cold and snowy winters) and have moved our calving dates to be in sync with our grass resources and more favorable weather. So instead of the traditional February/March calving season, we now calve in May/June when the cows are on better grass (which means there’s less need for feeding hay) and the calves aren’t potentially being born in the middle of a blizzard. As a result of these changes we have almost no sickness in our cows and calves, and we have drastically reduced the need for antibiotics. In addition, we don’t use any hormones in our cattle.GAZETTE: Have you also been able to incorporate new technologies?BLAKE: In terms of powering the farm and nursery, we’ve installed solar panels for tasks like pumping livestock and irrigation water and for powering one of the homes and several outbuildings on the ranch. The nursery has specialized in low-input (drought-tolerant, winter-hardy) and native trees and shrubs for years and we work hard to promote practical landscaping that fits our harsh environment. We have completely eliminated synthetic fertilizers from the ranch and have significantly reduced our use of chemicals (herbicides and pesticides) in both the ranch and nursery.Recently, we started using an app called MaiaGrazing that allows us to track livestock movements and forage resources in real time. We’re also doing more soil sampling that will allow us to receive payments for carbon sequestered as a result of our grazing practices. When we do have to reseed pastures, we now use no-till techniques; this means that, through timed grazing and the use of cover crops, we’re able to avoid disturbing the soil, and we’ve stopped using the herbicides that are typically associated with reseeding. We’ve also recently installed a center-pivot irrigation system that will significantly reduce our irrigation water use. And we’re waiting for my older brother, Peter, to deliver a drone (he works in the industry) to help us find missing cows and to better monitor our range conditions.GAZETTE: Do you have specific goals and targets that you try to strive for? “I’m optimistic about the future of regenerative ranching as younger generations see the imperative to be better stewards of our land, water, and wildlife resources.”center_img The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.last_img read more

How to Bring Order to IoT’s Spaghetti Junction?

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first_imgWhen I think about the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), just like pretty much everyone else, I get excited about its huge potential to transform our world through new efficiencies, reduced risk and enabling entirely new business models.However, I must admit that the second thought that springs into my mind is a picture of spaghetti junction. If you’re designing, developing and deploying IoT solutions, you know exactly what I mean. It’s like that massive highway interchange with so many twists and turns that it seems way too confusing simply to get from point A to point B. The  sheer volume of fragmented M2M and IoT connectivity protocols (both standard and proprietary), or “protocol soup”, as I also like to call it, is one of the most frustrating challenges in realizing the clear benefits from deploying IoT solutions.An inherently heterogeneous marketThe IoT is inherently heterogeneous – a growing collection of technologies, rooted in embedded systems and machine-to-machine communications across countless verticals and use cases. It’s a myriad of hardware types, operating systems and development tools, not to mention a plethora of connectivity standards, many of which are dictated by existing installations that require a gateway to bridge data from sensors and machines to a broader network for analytics-driven ROI. This diversity provides incredible richness but also huge complexity to contend with.Fragmentation is hindering adoptionIn today’s market, selecting technologies and developing an Industrial IoT solution that can quickly deliver ROI can be so complex that it becomes paralyzing. The current fragmented landscape is confusing and has resulted in a patchwork quilt of custom solutions that’s slowing down the overall rate of adoption and general growth of the industry. Ultimately, this is likely to stifle innovation.Unifying the villageSo how do we get to a common center of gravity that allows developers to quickly and easily deploy working Industrial IoT solutions – while still enabling hardware, software and services providers to differentiate and monetize their value-add? At Dell, we’ve always been big believers in openness, choice and driving standards. In fact, we’re members of several IoT alliance/standards activities like the OpenFog Consortium, Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the OPC Foundation.These organizations are doing important work to promote reference architectures, facilitate standardization and generally make the solution developer’s job easier. However, as much as we should all be focused on narrowing in on a more manageable collection of standards, the practical reality is that the IoT market is way too complex for there to ever be one standard to rule them all. We therefore need to find a way to help IoT-relevant standards, hardware, operating systems and development tools work together.Making sense of the spaghettiBack in 2015, Dell began to think about how best to resolve the problem of rendering all of these fragmented solution ingredients more interoperable. Our take was that in order to speed up market adoption we needed to address key interoperability challenges at the edge of the network, where data flows “north, south, east and west between both standard and proprietary protocols and applications in an intertwined, distributed IoT fog architecture.  Due to the aforementioned spaghetti, the edge is where most of the key challenges in IoT are today.The answer: an open source platform for edge computingFast forward two years and the newly-formed EdgeX FoundryTM Project, hosted by the Linux Foundation, promises to be a game-changer. Seeded by a code donation that was developed by Dell over nearly two years with feedback from hundreds of technology partners and end customers, the charter of this vendor-neutral open source project is to deliver a flexible, industrial-grade edge software platform that can quickly and securely deliver interoperability between things, applications and services across a wide range of IoT use cases.Similar to Cloud Foundry, the platform leverages a loosely-coupled microservices architecture but it includes a required interoperability foundation that comprehends both IP and non-IP based connectivity and is surrounded by reference services that can be easily replaced with preferred alternatives.Reducing the need to reinvent the fundamentalsImportant to note is that that this is not a new standard – there are plenty of great ones already in existence – rather it’s an industrial-grade software framework that’s purposely architected to be deployed on distributed edge nodes including embedded PCs, gateways and servers and help unify existing standards with plug-and-play commercial value-add such as analytics, security and system management tools, and services. The primary goal of the project is to reduce the need to reinvent the fundamentals while enabling technology providers and end customers alike to focus on value-added differentiation.Project launchThe project launches this week at the Hannover Messe conference with over 50 founding member organizations, spanning large enterprises to startups with expertise in silicon, sensing and computing infrastructure, analytics, security and system management, services and driving standards. The fact that this is the biggest project launch in the history of the Linux Foundation and that there are already many more companies interested in consuming the EdgeX code on the heels of the launch is testament to the project solving a real problem in the marketplace.I believe that the EdgeX project will help unite the fragmented IoT market as it quickly matures in the open source community and am proud that Dell planted the seed and has been a part of driving this collaborative industry effort from the very beginning.Win-winBig markets are built on interoperability and it’s in everyone’s interest to see a robust ecosystem of companies offering plug-and-play commercial offerings that can be easily combined to create secure and scalable IoT solutions. Together, let’s steer away from spaghetti junction and get moving! Join the conversation. I welcome your questions and comments. Tweet me at @defshepherdMeet me at Hannover Messe, April 24-28 and experience the official EdgeX Foundry demo at the Dell Technologies booth in the Industrial Internet Consortium Pavilion (Hall 8, Stand C24). There are multiple other demos at the conference hosted by other EdgeX project members, including ForgeRock, IOTech, Linaro, Opto 22 and SAP.To learn more about EdgeX Foundry visit: www.edgeXfoundry.orgFor more information about how the project will help bring together our IoT partner program visit www.delliotpartners.com/edgeXfoundryLearn more about Dell IoT Solutions: Dell.com/IoTKeep in touch about ongoing developments in the Internet of Things. Join our LinkedIn IoT Showcase page.last_img read more