Creating Generational Legacies

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Innovation in Africa


From mobile money to cargo drones and rugged portable wifi hotspots, Africa’s innovators are generating new technology to tackle consumer needs and development challenges.

New data charting investment activity flowing into Africa’s tech start-ups shows that international investors are taking notice. According to Disrupt Africa, a portal for start-ups and accelerators across the region, tech start-ups on the continent raised more than $129m in 2016.

Overall, 146 start-ups raised investment, a 16.8 per cent rise in the number of funding rounds compared to 2015. 

Financial inclusion remains a challenge across Africa, where only a third of adults have access to any kind of basic financial services, according to the IMF. It makes sense, then, that financial technology – or “fintech” – innovations attracted the most start-up funding in 2016.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Singapore raises close to a billion dollars in 77 deals in 6 months


Offerpad raises $260m

This should be done in Oz! 

GILBERT, AZ -- (Marketwired) -- 01/25/17 -- OfferPad, the premium onlineplatform changing the way homeowners sell their homes, has secured a $260 million investment of combined equity and debt to continue expansion in additional markets throughout the US. Terms of the investment were made mid-year 2016, with the final tranche of equity about to be finalized. With the injection of capital from private funds managed by LL Funds, LLC., an investment management firm based in Philadelphia, OfferPad will bring this experience to more homeowners.

Founded by real estate industry leaders Brian Bair and Jerry Coleman, OfferPad is reinventing how people sell their homes by eliminating the hassle and uncertainty of the home selling process. Bair was formerly the second highest-selling real estate agent in the US, according to an annual ranking report by REAL Trends, Inc. and The Wall Street Journal. Coleman is one of the founders of Invitation Homes LP, a Blackstone Group company and the largest owner of single-family rental homes in US history with an investment of over $10 billion dollars. Through their experience acquiring approximately 100,000 homes across the country, the team recognized the needs of homeowners have evolved, while the traditional model has remained stagnant.

"Since teaming up almost a decade ago, the number one goal for Jerry and I has been to improve the experience for customers selling their homes," said Brian Bair, co-founder of OfferPad. "The idea came from a concierge service our firm offered, designed to take most of the hassle out of selling a home with us. The one thing we couldn't provide was control over the sale or the closing date. Now we can."

OfferPad buys homes directly from homeowners through an online platform -- allowing them to skip the painful traditional process millions experience each year when selling a home. The company utilizes technology, in unison with local real estate experts, to make the entire process convenient and stress-free.

"OfferPad is already providing a revolutionary solution in the single-family home industry. With the support of LL Funds, we can now continue to scale the business, offering a better option to tens of thousands of additional homeowners this year, and we're just getting started," said Jerry Coleman, co-founder of OfferPad.

Customer reception to the OfferPad model has been very encouraging, and the company is expanding rapidly. Soon to hit 100 employees, OfferPad has realized substantial revenue growth since launching in 2015, and it plans to increase operations and home purchases significantly. OfferPad is currently in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Tampa Bay and Orlando. The company will officially launch in Los Angeles this month, and already has plans to expand into additional markets soon thereafter, with a broader goal of taking the service nationwide in the coming years.

"We were impressed by the OfferPad team's insight and experience in the residential real estate market," said Roberto Sella, managing partner of LL Funds.

"Their passion for providing a great customer experience, combined with the opportunity to use technology, data and analytics to impact a market that's ready for a change, attracted us to this opportunity," added Shivraj (Raj) Mundy, partner at LL Funds and OfferPad board member.

"We believe this market will grow dramatically in the next five years and OfferPad is leveraging our industry knowledge to best support homeowners," said Bair. "We've optimized the customer experience without losing the personal touch required when people are putting their largest asset up for sale. We want to provide incredible customer service and the best purchase price to give homeowners confidence in our intent to offer a fair alternative to traditional home selling."

About LL Funds, LLC.
Founded in 2009, LL Funds, LLC. is an independent investment manager focused on identifying opportunistic investments with substantial positive return asymmetry. Currently LL Funds manages $1.4 billion for endowments, foundations, individuals and family offices through multiple private-equity and fixed-income investment vehicles.

About OfferPad
OfferPad is real estate reinvented, making buying and selling a home convenient and hassle-free. Created by technology and real estate experts, customers get the best of both worlds -- a fair and competitive offer all at the click of a button. OfferPad is a privately held company headquartered in Gilbert, Arizona, with markets in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Tampa Bay and Orlando -- with additional cities coming soon. For more information, visit

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The best is yet to come


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Are we ready for Artificial Intelligence


Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds the key to a new human-augmented era. A new world is being shaped, where computers work intelligently on our behalf and with us, rather than under our direct input. Immense opportunities are created by the combination of almost limitless cloud computing power and the digitization of our physical world, with the Internet of Everything. 

The new era has started: cloud and machine learning technologies are making our collaboration with “computers” more intuitive, more conversational, more intelligent, and ultimately much more embedded in all our lives. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already centered around advancements in AI. And all companies are becoming digitally AI-enabled, or they will soon be.

An amazing future is therefore ahead of us, where AI will create new businesses in ways previously unimaginable and will help us to solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges. It is just amazing, wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming, but… are we ready for Artificial Intelligence?

I see at least three top priorities we should all share, in preparing for an inclusive, trusted, and socially positive AI-augmented world. And these three priorities are centered on “democratization”.

1) Democratizing MISSION of Artificial Intelligence

A profound question we collectively need to ask is: “what are the design principles we need to follow in developing Artificial Intelligence, considering the unprecedented impact it will have on us?”. The way we interact with “computers” will profoundly change. The notion itself of a “computer” will radically transform. Together with AI, cognitive services, mixed-reality, and new human-machine interfaces, we will redefine how we and “computers” interact, collaborate, and ultimately complement each other. 

In this respect, it is vital that ethics and design go hand in hand. We (Microsoft) have published our thoughts on a set of core AI design principles to ensure that this technology is transparent and secure, and sets the highest bar for protecting privacy, while also being inclusive and respectful to all. At its core, the role of AI must be not to replace but rather to enhance human skills and drive growth. This is the mission we must give to any Artificial Intelligence: augmenting our life and our capabilities.

2) Democratizing ACCESS to Artificial Intelligence

It is crucial securing that AI lead to an inclusive growth rather than just lining the pockets of the few riches. For this reason, we are developing tools that will enable every person and every organization in the world to benefit from AI. We need to evolve AI from centralized local data centers to mobile and cloud, making it accessible to all. Solutions like Microsoft TranslatorCortana Intelligence Suite, and our Bot Framework are already empowering anyone to both use and build on AI.

We must eventually secure access to AI tools to all businesses, public sector organizations, and people, empowering them to build their own augmented -intelligence capabilities. Ultimately, everyone can and should benefit from the great promise of artificial intelligence, as its potential is just enormous

3) Democratizing USAGE of Artificial Intelligence

We must prepare for the future, including the jobs of the future. This applies to all governments, schools, public organizations, businesses, and individuals at large. Without a deliberate and proactive focus, we’re at risk of leaving people behind in the explosive growth driven by this new technology. Collectively, we need to share this priority for a growth that must be beneficial for everyone, with a strong focus on augmented education, inclusive innovation and encouraged usage of technology.

It is not humans versus machines, it is about humans with machines, each of which excel at different things. Therefore, we must (all of us) learn to work with AI, bringing our creativity, empathy, emotion, and judgment (as humans) together with the fast computation and ability to reason over large amounts of data of machines. Together, humans and machines can complement each other and help society forward in enhancing our experiences and quality of life,

Ultimately, AI can make jobs “more human” by taking advantage of our “essential human skills” and leaving all the rest to computers. We should learn how to augment our performance with technology (and yes, some of the technology will be very smart), but then add human elements to provide higher levels of customer value and services, with our very human touch.


Considering Artificial Intelligence will impact all of us, I look forward to any feedback you may have on this post. I strongly believe our human ingenuity and values will harness this technology to transform our world in ways previously unimaginable. Ultimately, AI can give us back more and more of our most precious asset in life, i.e. qualitative time with our loved ones. 

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Best comment on Henry Ford's comment wins a prize


Robots and the future of work


Robots are about convenience, so why do we fear them? They bring us a better life and freedom from repetitive tasks.

When I have children one day, I want them to grow up with helpful robots. What can Alexa or Pepper or Kuri be in ten years time?

Alexa is my conversational partner of choice. Amazon knows me better than Google, probably better than Facebook (okay definitely better than Facebook).

Like fellow LinkedIn #StudentVoices writer, Cole Felder puts it, The "end of work" is our opportunity to be human. I really do believe that, because robots are a big way for artificial intelligence to see her way around the world and learn to be companionable.

Human beings might be the "mother of robots", but what can robots build one day? Can they build me the world where the work I do as a human being is meaningful, creative and has a higher chance of being impactful? That's the world I want to live in.

I'm fine with drivers, cooks, manufacturers and retail workers being replaced, we can do better things. We have to do more, to build a fair, ethical and just future for all. In the future I'm dreaming of, human beings don't have a right to exploit each other or pretend that one person is more important than another.

Let's Make the Future Love-able

McKinsey&Company, tell us that robots will soon be able to do a lot of what we do now. You might fear change, but I embrace it. That's the world I will live in, I just started University.

It's important to make things that are able to make other things, just as it was important for our economy to automate agriculture so instead of 40% of us doing working just to feed ourselves, now only 2% of us need to work in agriculture to provide for our food needs.

The positive impact of intelligent robots is so far-reaching, it touches on every field of human activity and endeavor.

  • Manufacturing (factory robots, 3D-printing, automated factory)
  • Transportation (self-driving vehicles)
  • Healthcare (too many to name)
  • Education (cute robots at home, smart coursera robot, smart speaker, IoT apps)
  • Construction and urban maintenance
  • Shopping and drone delivery
  • Cook and household work
  • Elderly care and companionship
  • Customer Service

Rather than being resistant and stuck in our ways, maybe we should embrace the better world that will be due to robots. If we already know 45% of human activities can be automated, shouldn't we strive for that as soon as possible to benefit the greatest number of people on the planet? This isn't just about you or me, we'll survive and learn, this is about creating an economy where new jobs can be created that ennoble the human experience.

Let's Give the Robots a Job

Let's employ robots so we can build an artificial intelligence that will make the digital world less of a vacuum and lonely place and give our relationships the priority the deserve. Do you really believe in the future we'll think sixty hour work weeks are the best way to live?

Letting automation do more is the self-checkout from the past. Letting go of the past is the job of every new generation. It's our responsibility, it's my duty as a young person who will inherit civic membership, to be forwards looking. For every blue and white collar job displaced, new ones will take their place that is better suited for human beings.

The Race for Robots is Real

Whoever makes the best robots owns the future of work. There will be so many kinds of robots, there are already quite a few. Will it be China, Japan or can we too make useful, adorable and importantly, robots able to learn? It's more important than everything else, it's how AI, IoT, Big Data and 3D-printing reach the next level of sophistication.

Robots like Ethan, from the show Extant. Robots will enable us to understand the human condition in new ways, and help us take greater custodianship over the material world, we have so unconditionally exploited.

Robots will be our children, but also our slaves and we'll learn to love our robots until robots themselves can become something else.

Please  do not fear Robots and the future of work, they are our saviors and our extended hands to do good in the world. Automation will prevent people from suffering, lift countries out of poverty and increase global productivity. 

Disagree with me? Why not add your two cents in a comment, I'll always read them. I like the future that technology can bring, but I love my robots.

I'm ChingChing Wang, and these are my student thoughts as I set to enter the world of data science, technology and marketing.

#StudentVoices #Technology #FutureOfWork #Robots #ArtificialIntelligence #BigIdeas #Education #Entertainment #Alexa #Pepper #Amazon #Kuri #Tesla #China

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Part-time, projects, portfolio careers: What workers can expect in 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Tech House of the future - have a look around

Grab the keys and get set to unpack your boxes. It’s time to move into the future. But before you cross the threshold and command your robo-butler to get the kettle on, take a moment to stand back and admire this feat of engineering.

First off, traditional clay bricks are out. Future houses are likely to be eco-friendly, eschewing CO²-heavy manufacturing processes. Your home might incorporate building blocks constructed from natural cement churned out by bacteria (1), or be fashioned from fungi – indeed several companies including MycoWorks and EvocativeDesign are exploring the potential of mushroom-based materials. Alternatively, if retro-chic is your thing, super-insulating straw-bale panels appear to be in for a renaissance, while new developments with aerogels also promise a well-insulated abode.

Roofs, too, will be working hard. Among the innovations that could take off are super-reflective tiles for those in scorching climes and, for the rest of us, biosolar roofs that combine habitat for pollinators with energy-generating panels (2). Self-cleaning finishes, already on the market, are in for an upgrade too.

Building on the well-established grime-busting properties of titanium dioxide, researchers are developing paints to keep your exteriors glistening even when scratched, scuffed or grazed (3). That sweeping driveway, by the way, is not going to be made of crunching, scrunching gravel. Oh no. 

Taking inspirations from Dutch plans for highways constructed from plastic waste scooped from the sea (4), your drive could be heated to avoid winter snow-shovelling and have charging stations for your electric self-driving car (5).

The path to your front door, meanwhile, could be embedded with tiles like those by Pavegen (6) that can turn your visitors’ footsteps into electrical power. Although with companies such as Google promising deliveries by drone (7), and Starship wheeling out dumpy-looking free-to-use delivery bots, the postman won’t be beating a path to your front door for much longer.

Your garden is also likely to see a fusion of tradition and technology – devices such as Blossom already monitor weather reports to regulate the watering of your lawn, while robot lawn mowers will keep it neatly trimmed – but the burgeoning field of digital art could finally allow you to jettison the ugly water feature and augment your lawn with beautiful and changeable statues and soundscapes created in virtual spaces (8).

For the flower lovers, multi-sensor gadgets such as the strangely shaped Parrot Flower Power and the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor will keep tabs on everything from soil acidity to temperature, although, given that plants have coped on this planet for more than 700 million years without them, you might be as well served with a trug and a cup of coffee. And if you are still worried about keeping up with the Joneses, at least you can stop rustling the net curtains: firms like Sonte claim their WiFi-enabled digital shades can be switched from opaque to transparent at the push of a button (9).

The kitchen


Technology in your kitchen will help you cook, and clean up after. Illustration: Janne Iivonen

Sometimes it seems our appetite for tech knows no bounds. So perhaps it is small wonder that kitchen innovations are moving swiftly on from a lightbulb in the fridge and softly, softly closing drawers.

Pop in the raw meal and stand well back as its intelligent systems recognise the dish and know exactly how to cook it.

One thing that’s certainly on the menu is a spare pair of hands to wield the pans – be that a fully robotic chef like Moley (1) that can, by motion tracking, replicate your Jamie Oliver impression to a T or the fetching-and-carrying Care-O-Bot4 by Fraunhofer. Not only can the latter turn up with a colander but it can also do the laundry and, apparently, garnish your breakfast tray with a red, red rose. If you are so inclined.



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And it’s cheers all round as be-splattered recipe books and pastry-flecked screens get the boot in favour of hygienic upgrades. Among them is a nifty vertical recipe projector, suggested by Wan-Ru Cin for the James Dyson award and an even smarter system dreamed up by students at Lund and Eindhoven Universities that not only projects recipes onto the work surface but also uses a canny array of cameras to detect ingredients and offer culinary suggestions accordingly.

The kitchen is occasionally the domain of the muppet chef, but there too technology has the answer to lobbed tomatoes, dropped cheese and mishaps involving flour. Enter, on all fours, the Instinct Vacuum cleaner. The as-yet unmarketed brainchild of Australian Berty Bhuruth, and resembling a bull terrier with a vacuum for a head, it’ll 3D-map the room before hoovering up the mess (2).


Future of food: how we cook

Not every kitchen aid will have limbs. Taking Amazon’s Dash button (3) to its logical conclusion, smart fridges brighter than the recent Budlight offering seem probable, although given the LG ThinkQ is no longer available it seems having your fridge in cahoots with both your phone (for notifications of low supplies) and your favourite supermarket (to reorder) might not be the way to go.

Ovens, however, are in for a renaissance. Electrolux’s upcoming ProCombi Plus Smart oven (4) will offer cooks the chance to cadge a sneaky peak on a rising cake without making the rookie error of opening the door, while smart oven June isn’t leaving anything to chance. Just pop in the raw meal and stand well back as its intelligent systems recognise the dish and know exactly how to turn out a perfect result.

Of course the one appliance we are all hoping to see upgraded is that bastion of the 1960s, the Teasmade. And, behold, it shall be done. Budding technologists have devised a smart coffee machine (5) dubbed the (app controlled, of course), while innovation has been brewing on Kickstarter with offerings such as the Qi Theteamaker that adjusts temperature and steeping time to the leaves used. Teforia, meanwhile, has just launched a robot that can adjust antioxidant caffeine levels to taste, although the price tag of $1,300 might be harder to swallow.

With a kitchen bursting with such intelligent devices, there is always the chance your microwave might actually become your best friend. But beware. As Simone Rebaudengo’s cheeky design for Brad – the toaster with self esteem issues – reminds us, you don’t want your appliances getting jealous.

The bathroom


In the bathroom, gadgets will help you look your best, while reducing your carbon footprint. Illustration: Janne Iivonen

Morning ablutions might seem a private affair, but that could all change as technology finds its way into the smallest room in the house.

Among those vying to keep an eye on your vital statistics is Withings, whose “Smart Body Analyzer” (1) makes your old nemesis – the bathroom scales – look positively friendly. Claiming to measure your weight, body fat, heart rate and BMI, it will not only terrorise your tiled floor, but take to your phone: an accompanying app tracks your activity and adjusts your calorie budget for the day to meet your health goals. Think that teatime biscuit looks good? Think again.

Even that most benign of bathroom essentials, the humble loo, is in for an upgrade. Smart toilets (2) have already hit the stores, with American firm DXV anticipating what it somewhat alarmingly terms a “contemporary movement” through its heated seats, night lights and remote controls. But alternatives are already in the offing that can monitor your bodily extrusions better than an over-competitive parent. Japanese company Toto has unveiled its Flowsky toilet that keeps tabs on your rate of gush, while MIT SENSEeable City Lab is working on a loo that can not only recognise the be-throned, but analyse their excrement to shed light on the state of their health and microbiome.

The bathroom might well become the domain of Big Mother. Water-wasters will be chivvied by warning lights thanks to devices like Drop from Qonserve Technologies that displays a red light when the taps have been left running, while bathroom hoggers will be ousted by “water pebbles” (3) that can be programmed to flash red when bathtime’s up. Baths and showers too will be cleaning up their act, with Orbital Systems developing filters to recycle water as it is used and Nebia offering a water-saving shower based on an intense mist of water rather than a traditional deluge. And our towels might even be cleaned without H2O: designer Leobardo Armenta envisages a nifty device that eschews the washing machine for a doughnut-like contraption with a fan to dry the towel and UV light to kill bacteria.

Not that every bathroom gadget has the eco-system at heart. Pampering 2.0 will be based on a range of hi-tech devices from OKU (4) – a handheld gadget that scans your face and recommends a personalised skin care regimen to state-of-the-art hair dryers, like the simple and stylish idea “Column” concept that allows you to shout: “Look no hands!” while heating up your barnet (5). IOdigital meanwhile is hoping to corner the market for a home “digital spa” offering an interface through which you can programme your ideal bath or shower – although if you’re after some musical accompaniment to your washroom serenades you might prefer Moxie’s shower head with integrated Bluetooth speakers.

The mirror, mirror on the wall, might finally talk back too if AI holds true to its promises. A suite of tech companies are devising prototype smart mirrors (6) to offer advice on everything from wardrobe choice to makeup, together with news and weather updates. Let’s just hope they’re smart enough to know when to tell a little white lie.

And for those who aren’t content with merely embracing the future, but want to own it as well, Transylvanian designer Kovács Apor has the answer on his drawing board with a wall-mounted contraption that turns plastic bottles into stylish togs.

Indeed in the future it seems your conscience, as well as your body, could be squeaky clean at the push of a button.

The living room


Virtual-reality will allow you to enter new worlds from the comfort of your lounge. Illustration: Janne Iivonen

The living room is all about kicking back and enjoying yourself, so why not start your weekend wind-down with a cool glass of something festive, ferried to your side by your very own Robo-Carson?

Android helpmates are already being used in hotels around the world, such as the Cupertino Aloft Hotel in California, where two “ALO Botlrs” deliver items to guest rooms, such as extra towels or room service items. Such robot helpers (1) are likely to become ever more sophisticated, capable not only of fetching the port, but also having a jolly good natter.

But you might still want to run interviews for the job: RobotButler Inc’s creation – described by the company, somewhat bafflingly, as being “beyond intelligent” – looks positively sinister.

Perhaps a more endearing companion is the robo-pet. The ultimate conclusion to a trend kicked off by the Tamagotchi of the 90s, these zippy creatures – such as the long-awaited Miro (2) – will not only zoom around like their flesh-and-blood counterparts, but also incorporate machine learning so that they adapt to understand your commands with nary a doggy treat in sight.


Virtual reality gym brings all the benefits of a strenuous workout

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Also keen to hang on your every word will be AI systems – building on devices like Amazon Echo (3) – that will not only give you a running commentary on news headlines, answer your questions and carry out a host of admin tasks but also let you know what the weather is up to. Although we’re pretty sure the house of the future will still have windows for that. Not every advance will be artificial, however. Hoping to clear the air, as it were, designer Ankit Kumar puts the aspidistra in its place, envisaging an interior bedecked with grass panels (4) to purify your lungfuls, while innovation company Hyve is planning to get your blood pumping with its interactive virtual-reality gym platform (5). Dubbed Icaros, the contraption “combines your workout with a unique flying experience”. Which makes the humble exercise bike seem remarkably pedestrian.

With VR headsets (6) becoming cheaper all the time, even the most benign night in could be transformed.

Couch potatoes could become globetrotters, as digital devices transport them to a wild expanse of David Attenborough’s latest vista, while immersive sound recordings, ultrasound haptic devices and internet connected scent cartridges (7) turn a visual feast into a multi-sensory smorgasbord.

Not that your telly will bear much resemblance to your current black box in the corner. Ultra-thin OLED displays – like LG’s flexible “wallpaper” (8) – will allow us to attach, or peel off, our screens from mounted magnetic backing while holographics, fuelled perhaps by devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens (9), will bring characters and objects into your living room through augmented reality.

But beware. Much as we would all like to meet Mr Darcy in the flesh, advertisers will no doubt be quick to spot the benefits of letting customers get up close to their wares.

The bedroom


Bedroom tech will monitor everything you do between the sheets – and also make the bed. Illustration: Janne Iivonen

Technology and sleep are unlikely bedfellows: for years scientists have been wagging their fingers at those who go to bed in the company of the dazzling blue lights of their connected devices. But when it comes to hitting snooze-mode, technology need not be a nightmare.

White noise generators such as those produced by Ectones are already available, offering the chance to drown out frisky foxes, chirpy birds and bickering kids with the comforting sound of a fan or pattering rain. But that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what the future could hold.

Rather than one speaker tucked in the corner, why not drift off into an immersive, self-sculpted 3D soundscape – waves lapping at your feet, palm trees rustling above your head, your left ear caressed by the caw of a parrot while the beat of a hummingbird’s wing flutters in your right? It might sound heavenly but, as installations by sound artists such as Martyn Ware have shown, it’s also practically possible. Better still, with the advent of directional audio devices, like those by Dakota Audio (1), able to beam sound with laser-like precision, your companion could simultaneously be transported to quite a different setting, be it a blustery Arctic tundra, bucolic pasture or the inside of their dream smart car.

The smart mattress cover will also inform you if you have not had sex for a while…

And if all that makes you want to take a nice deep breath, then you’ll be glad to know that air quality is set for an upgrade too: smart monitors such as the Foobot and Birdi (2) are already for sale, able to track everything from toxic gases to pollen and even volatile organic compounds (although whether they can sniff out musty socks yet isn’t clear). Quite when these will be hooked up to purifying systems is still up in the air but, while you’re waiting, why not ditch those 60-watt bulbs in the bedside lamp? 

Bioadaptive lamps (3) are already planned – one system was recently installed at the Technology & Innovation Centre of the University of Strathclyde. Tuned into your body clock, or “circadian rhythms” as those in the known call them, they could gently lull you to sleep, or wake you without a jolt.